In November, posting will be spotty at best. I urgently need to finish writing and translating “Crowned by Fire”, the last volume of my High School Dragon trilogy. I’ll be using NaNoWriMo for that.
For those who’ve never heard of that, the National Novel Writing Month (November) is dedicated to writing at least 50K words in a single month. Thousands of writers all over the world participate and also communicate with each other. It’s not only fun, but also productive.
If you’re a writer, feel free to join. If you’re a reader, you can follow my progress here (strangely enough you’ll need to sign up for seeing the participants. That used to be different. I contacted the organizers about that). I’ll see you all in December. 😀
And another one of those … But this time I’m better prepared. I’ve got all my NaNoWriMo-stuff lined up (more about that tomorrow). And I’ve got a good Halloween-ish story for this Bloghop (I hope you’ll agree it’s good; it’s surely not for everyone). I sent this in to the best writing related podcast I’ve ever listened to: “Alone in a Room With Invisible People“, AND IT GOT ACCEPTED. YAY! So you will hear it on the podcast some time soon.
Here’s my story. Happy Halloween for those who celebrate it:
Satisfied with the makeup that made her look like a deathly pale Victorian vampire, Anne closed her compact mirror and walked through the doors of the golf club. Tonight she would mesmerize her future husband, someone with money. No man in his right mind could resist her allure. Scanning the crowded room for unfamiliar faces, she hoped none of the regulars would notice she was wearing the same costume as last year. The hairdo had eaten up the last of her money.
She dismissed guys with expensive wedding rings, for she needed someone unbound. Two well rounded buttocks in an Armani suit swaying to the music caught her attention. The hands were unadorned. The face, when her potential husband turned, was nothing spectacular but would do. She wasn’t looking for Mr. Universe anyway.
It only took a few heartbeats to draw his attention. With a smile, he asked her to dance. Pressing her body close to his, Anne felt his erection through their clothes. Hook, line, sinker! They didn’t talk. When she looked up, her lips moist to invite a kiss, his eyes glowed a dull red.
“You’ve been tantalizingly close all this time.” His voice was husky. “Come with me. I’ll give you everything you’ve dreamed of.”
He limped, and she lost her synchronicity. Something seemed wrong with his leg, but her eyes were glued to his face. His smile hardened her nipples with arousal and fear. He had promised to fulfill her dreams, hadn’t he? Her gaze fell past him, and she frowned.
People around her had changed, wearing dull colored brocade clothing adorned with golden threads, and so did she. Where were they? Or was it when?
“You could be mistress to a pope.” Her partner pointed to a fat man with a hooknose in a red cloak. Countless jewels studded Hooknose’s fingers. When he smiled, his teeth were twisted black stumps. She shivered.
“Well, if Roderic de Borja is not to your taste…” Her partner whirled her around and the scene and their clothes morphed again. Now he wore a stiff necked suit, and her bosom fought a dress with a whale-bone crinoline. He nodded to a portly man she had once seen in a history book—a king of England or some such.
“Interested? He’ll make you his queen.” His eyes sparkled.
Wealth and power! All she’d ever wanted. That one was Mr. Right. But a question remained, “Why can’t I stay in my time?”
“Because death awaits you tonight.” The red glow in her partner’s eyes intensified. In them, she saw herself lying in a puddle of blood. She swallowed hard.
“What will it be, pope or king?”
She didn’t ponder for long. As queen, she’d be rich and powerful. No man would dare to object to her advances even when she grew old. Also, the king wasn’t as fat as the pope.
Before she could voice her answer, her dancing partner bowed, kissed her hand, and said, “Fair thee well, Anne Boleyn. We’ll meet again.” Bowing once more, he faded away.
One of the shops we visited was a smithy. I was surprised by the tiny size of the fireplace (that’s the little gridiron in the middle of the red painted wall). I think in winter, it must have been quite cold for those people who didn’t have floor heating. After all, Germany was colder, wetter, and all in all less comfortable that Italy. I’m sure many of the inhabitants wished they’d stayed in Rome.
The smithy worked with silver if I remember correctly. For an iron forge, the furnace is too small. Not too far from the recreated houses were the remains of a iron forge, and it had three furnaces and ground heating. However, it hadn’t been reconstructed, so one had to use one’s imagination.
Everyone who owned a little shop worked and sold their wares from home (on the other side of the bellows, outside the picture, is the room-wide wooden counter for selling wares; the whole front of the room could be opened to the street). There was no separation between small and medium sized businesses and the owner’s living quarters. They were mostly in the same house. Only big industries (like the dockyards, farming, or stone masonry) had their work-spaces outside the city.
Romans loved luxury, and those who could afford it, wanted to celebrate like in Rome. So there were restaurants with bed-sofas. Each of the little rooms (see picture) could hold nine men (no women allowed there unless they were whores). It surprised me to learn that Romans didn’t always lie down for eating. That was only done for feasting. At home, they had wooden tables with chairs or stools. The children often stood while eating.
Romans also insisted on cleanliness. Bath houses were spread throughout the city so every citizen had access. There was a really big one for the higher classes near the town center, but the park’s owners had built the museum on top of it. Still, there were enough foundations to understand the basic layout. Also, they had reconstructed on of the bath houses.
The genders bathed in different facilities. The first room a customer entered was a cold room for undressing. The next one was already quite warm and had basins with warm and cold water. It as often used for shaving and washing before one went on to the last room. Upon one’s return it also served for cooling down slowly. It was heated extremely well and the water was as warm as it is in one of today’s bathtubs. The main point of this room was relaxation (and surely talking business as well). The big bathhouse had some smaller rooms at the side for massages or whoring or simply for resting, but the reconstructed bathhouse didn’t have those.
I was most delighted by the colorful designs of the houses. The archeologists used historical finds from other areas to recreate the rooms, and they were much more colorful than what I’d anticipated.
Truly spectacular was the reconstructed housing complex. The new houses were built over the foundations of the original Roman houses but with a security layer so the originals wouldn’t get harmed in any way. The whole complex was surrounded by roof covered sidewalks. The ground of the sidewalks differed from one property to the next since every home owner had their preference. They were allowed to use different sorts of paving or stamped earth.
Visiting the houses brought to life the way humans have lived so long ago. Each house had a little garden with a shed or another small building on it. The outhouses usually contained the toilet and rooms for the slaves, equipment, and provisions. In the main house the family rooms were on the first floor. The ground floor consisted mostly in a shop that was open to the paved road outside. Only a wooden counter separated the shop from the sidewalk.
The houses were built of tamped loam and decorated prettily with bright colors. The roofs were mostly tiled, only a few of the sheds were shingled. An interesting fact is that none of the houses had chimneys, even though every room had a small fire place, and the houses of the richer people had floor heating. The view from a rear window or balcony resembles those of a serial house today: long, narrow garden, walls (today it’s fences) between the properties, and grass (often with a few bushes) on the ground.
The rooms of the family on the first floor were beautifully decorated but sparsely furnished. Romans were very fond of bright colors and regular patterns. The room in the picture would have been the bedroom of a whole biological family (there was a crib in the other corner but it didn’t fit into the picture and I didn’t dare move it), most likely the home owner’s. The parents would sleep in the double bed, the children in the spare bed, and the baby in the crib. Servants slept on the same floor in rooms with less decoration. Everyone owned a trunk for their belongings.
Only the slaves did not stay in the houses over night. They had a separate platform above important equipment and/or provisions. All slaves slept on the platform in bedrolls.
I found it surprising how much comfort the Romans already had. Their lifestyle wasn’t all that different from ours. When one thinks of the Iron Age, one doesn’t expect this kind of lifestyle. The recreated houses impressed on me how much the Germans missed out on when Arminius defeated the Romans. True, they weren’t exactly easy masters, and freedom is important. However, the kind of civilization they would have brought might have changed my home country in a way that would still matter today.
Eventually we came to the reconstructed houses and the part that interested my husband a lot: the toilets (after all, he’s head of a waste water disposal facility). As we already knew from books, the Romans used toilets with more than one seat and no separations between (see photo). They often met in toilets to talk business. Below the wooden (or sometimes stone) seats, there was running water that took the feces away. The Romans used sticks with a cloth wrapped end that they dipped into the water to clean their private parts.
No one was offended by using a toilet with other people. There were toilets for men and for women but also toilets where men and women went together. As our guide said, toilets were a favorite place for whores to hang around.
Interesting enough, the proverb ‘money does not stink’ (pecunia non olet) does not come from a tax on multi-people toilets as I’d thought. It is ascribed to the Roman emperor Vespasian who put a tax on the distribution of urine from public urinals (the Roman lower classes urinated into amphorae which were emptied into cesspools). The urine collected from public urinals was sold as an ingredient for tanning, for laundry, and for cleaning and whitening woolen togas.
The Romans also knew that waste water for more than a handful of people needed to be taken care of (after all there were ca. 5,000 people living in that town). Therefore, they build a deep, covered canal (the Cloaca Maxima, see photo) with sidearms to every block of houses. Smaller canals came from the individual houses to these sidearms. The water that ran constantly through the toilets flushed the Cloaca Maxima and the feces ended up in the Rhine that took them away.
In some places there were access hatches indicating that there were people who took care that the Cloaca Maxima didn’t get clogged. Imagine the stink in the tight place there (the height of the Cloaca Maxima in Xanthen was barely 1.5 m), and you know how miserable a person had to be (or how high the pay) to take that job. 😀
Clean drinking water did not come from the Rhine (and for very good reasons, imho) but from a spring in the nearby mountains. An aqueduct brought it directly into the city where it was distributed to the houses, to the bath houses, and especially to the toilets. However, for washing and other water-consuming tasks, Romans often used rainwater collected in cisterns. In other towns there were also water supply wells but not here.
After a chaotic week filled with appointments and tight deadlines, I’ve been to the best book fair in the world, a small festival dedicated to Fantasy and SciFi. It’s my favorite. The organizational team is incredible. If I can, I’ll return next year.
However, the day had 20 hours for me including 6 hours car drive. When I returned I was knackered and spend the Sunday resting. Therefore I ask your pardon for not getting the third part of my Roman travels up in time.
Already filled to the brim with interesting facts and marvelous sights, hubby and I traveled onward to Xanthen. The medieval part of that little town is fascinating. It even has two windmills, one directly in the town, the other a bit outside. However, the crowning jewel is the archeological park with the partly reconstructed Roman buildings. Right after entering, there’s a three-dimensional map that shows the reconstructed buildings in dark grey and the areas that still need to be examined in light grey. In the Photo, I colored the Rhine in blue so you can see how close it was to the city. These days. the bank is a lot wider since the river has moved in the last 1500 years.
Xanthen was founded as a Colonia, which means it was a civilian city with a lot of privileges. It was designed by (or more likely the design was approved by) Emperor Traian. It was destroyed around 275 and abandoned. There also was a permanent military fort nearby, but that wasn’t the focus in the museum park.
Naturally the town had everything a Colonia had to have: a Colosseum, temples, bathhouses, houses for living, houses for governing, waste water disposal, fresh water pipelines and so on.
My husband and I were particularly fascinated by the partially reconstructed Colosseum. Look how symmetric the supports were. It was absolutely great to see that the original supports were still partially visible after more than 1500 years when most of the stones from the other buildings had been taken away and used for building the new town in the Middle Ages.
It wasn’t a particularly big Colosseum but there was room enough for all the people in town (roughly 1500 Romans). The sandy arena was big enough to watch wild boar and bear fights as well as Gladiator fights. It was not big enough for horse and cart races.
Although Gladiators were mostly slaves, they were often the center of a lot of admiration. Sometimes they were set free for being really good in the arena. There were strict rules as how the “game” had to be “played” with the armament dictated down to the last buckle. Also, there were rules as to who could fight whom (sorry about the quality of that photo. It was pretty dark where I took it and brightening it up dissolved the descriptions. But you can find more information about gladiators here).
They also had several display dummies arming up as Gladiators. But I think they didn’t proportion them well. Gladiators must have had a lot of muscles because their equipment was pretty heavy AND they were training and fighting on sand (have you ever run on a beach? Then you’ll know how exhausting that is). The average fight lasted only a few minutes, said our guide.
Since the birth of my grandson, I’m having problems to keep my blog up to date. I know you don’t mind (much). However, it’s not only his fault. I couldn’t think of anything beside “buy my books” (naturally you may do that but I don’t want to be reduced to that). So I came up with two themes that have been on my mind recently and decided I’ll post about them.
First, there’s all this cool and weird stuff I do for research. I discover so many interesting facts that it’d be a shame not to share. I’ll start with the Romans, because hubby and I were lucky enough to be able to go on a journey through parts of Germany. During that trip we visited many historical sites with remains from the Romans (you see, immigration happened 2000 ago too). I’l try to post these regularly on Mondays from the beginning of October on (I need to build up a buffer).
Closer to the end of a week, maybe on Fridays, I’ll talk about my path toward a cure or at least a betterment of my Diabetes Type II. In a first step I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing the last three years since diagnosis and what helped. After that, I’ll post a fortnight worth of data collected from a healthy person (I couldn’t find those on the Internet, and hubby graciously agreed to be my guinea pig) and then, I’ll post my progress. Maybe that way I can help people with similar problems.
If there’s still time (or just in between), I’ll point out new releases like my Upper Middle Grade or Lower Young Adult book “Beasthunter”. It can be pre-ordered as an eBook already and will be delivered on October 21.st, the day the paperback will be available on Amazon too.
Here are the blurb and the cover:
To turn his ghostly sister back into a human, twelve-year-old fraidy-cat Tom must fight the Beast, a century old demon stealing kid’s souls.
Tom is afraid of his own shadow. What if it turns into a monster and attacks? Luckily his older sister, Sally, protects him from everything that scares him: classmates, teachers, shadows…
One night during a heavy thunderstorm, a real monster attacks Tom in his very own bed. At the last moment, their new neighbor’s dog saves him from the Beast. But even the Beasthunter and his not so doggish dog can’t stop the creature from turning Sally into a ghost.
Will Tom find the courage to confront the Beast to find out if he can rescue his beloved sister? He has no effective weapons. All he can count on are his ability to see through the Beast’s disguises and the imagination that has given him scares for all his life.
And another one of those… I seem to be too busy in between the bloghops to post much. Pleas forgive me. The latest in a row of catastrophes was the death of my youngest’s pet rat and a second pet rat injured himself when he fell out of the cage. Somehow my days fly past and I don’t get much writing done. Only translations (English-German) are feasible and cover art for some clients.
That’s the reason why my entry today is only the beginning of a story. The rest is still in my head. Enjoy, and don’t forget to visit the other participants too.
Under the Bridge
The water fifty meters below me was black as tar as it flowed toward the sea. This high up in the crisscrossing steel beams of the bridge’s construction, it looked like tarmac. A strong breeze tugged at my breeches, carrying the scent of salt, seaweed, and crustaceans with it. Instinctively my long, flexible toes dug deeper into the steel. It groaned. Together with the thrumming of the passing cars, the sound reminded me of a lazy jazz piece.
I smiled, glad I didn’t have to hide my tusks. As necessary as it was, I was tired of lying about what—who—I was. But down here, there was less light than in the shady bar my human friends and I—naturally in my human disguise—frequented. I enjoyed my true shape.
Hoicking up a considerable amount of snot and spit, I let it fly into the night … never saw or heard it hit the water. I sat and dangled my feet over the gray steel balustrade, marveling at the size of the rivets—also gray and bigger than the palm of my hand. And I did have a big hands all things considered.
It was surprising that humans, these frail creatures, had created something so … so solid. I stroked the metal disregarding a few splinters of rust and paint digging into my green flesh. What’s a little pain if you know you’re doomed no matter what.
Not caring one bit (after all everybody was doomed one way or the other) I spat at the river again. It looked like the road to hell.
And on nights like this it was.
Been there, done than. Only Hell doesn’t do T-Shirts—especially not my size. My low laugh shook the steel beams, but then I shuddered. It hadn’t been the best of times. And now I was waiting for an old … well, you couldn’t exactly call someone from hell a friend, but he’d been the closest to a friend I’d had at that time.
Maybe I’d take him to that shady bar. With his horns and cloven hoof hidden, he’d clean up much nicer as a human than I ever would, and he’d smell nicer. Not of rotting meat and dumpster like I did.
But who cared? I was the one who collected the bridge toll which meant I was the one with enough cash to pay for drinks.
It didn’t matter how good my disguise smelled, only that I had one. What innkeeper in his right mind would let an eight foot troll with a three foot devil in tow into his establishment, even when all customers were lying with their heads in pools of vomit and stinking of alcohol and piss?
Don’t forget to visit the other participants. Enjoy their stories:
I’m sure you’ve heard of GDPR (German DSGVO) that became enforceable law on the 25th of May. This law has been issued to better protect the data of Internet users (like you and me). Unfortunately it went unnoticed for the longest time, and now many site owners are frantically trying to the their sites compliant. I was incredibly annoyed that none of my hosting companies pointed me to that law with enough time to act. After all it’s been around more or less since 2013!
I’ve always been careful to gather as little data as possible. Therefore I’m all in favor aof the GDPR even though adjusting to it was a lot of work. For more than a month I did nothing but change websites (mine and those of friends) to make them compatible with the new law. I was quite amazed (and not pleasantly) where data was transfered without me even knowing (e.g. When showing share-buttons; I knew that data gets transfered when you click, but already while showing? Well, I found a plugin and the trasfer of data before you click a link is no longer possible.). In that regard especially, the new law is good.
I also used the opportunity to clean up behind the scenes. I also added the books I published in the last two year but never got round to add to my website. Now, everything is up to date again.
Soon, I’m going to change my hosting service. Tigertech is incredible when it comes to service, however they don’t issue data usage contracts as required by EU law. Until I can move my pages, they disabled the collection of data completely. This means that no IP-addresses are stored and no other data either. That makes my sites compliant with GDPR but unfortunately it leaves me without statistics about my visitors that I can analyze to improve my web-presence. When I move my sites, there might be some bumps along the road but I don’t expect any major crashes.
And now that everything here is spiffy again and I got used to the chaos in my life, I promise I’ll blog more often again. 😀