Friday, September 28, 2007

Gone with the Wind

Margaret Mitchell’s classic novel Gone with the Wind has won the hearts of fans the world over. The classic tale of romance and tragedy is widely thought of as one of the greatest literary works of our time so it’s no surprise some fans can’t get enough. Many fans want to get a little closer to the characters and scenes from the novel and thankfully for them they can.

It is often said that Mitchell’s tale was based on a true story. In a letter Mitchell apparently wrote in 1936 she claimed all incidents in the book are true. This has only fuelled fans desires to witness the places the book features and learn more about the characters in it.

The Gone with the Wind tour is set in Jonesboro, Georgia in the US. Your tour guide will help you get into the spirit of things by wearing full costume and reminding you of some of the most famous chapters while you travel.

The tours take place at 1pm every day and take in some of the most famous settings in the book. They last about three hours. You’ll visit Mr Kennedy’s store, Margaret Mitchell’s playhouse and Shantytown. You’ll also learn the true identity of Melanie Hamilton, Prissy and George and Ellen O’Hara along with loads more. The tour also includes admission to the Road to Tara museum which is the largest Gone with the Wind museum in the world.

If you can’t resist getting a little closer to Scarlet O’Hara and want the chance to relive some of the events in her life then be sure to check out the Gone with the Wind tour.

Russ Pooley writes for Drake & Cavendish who provide a luxury hotel research directory featuring over 5,000 luxury hotels in over 700 resort locations around the world. As a content provider we are committed to developing entertaining and informative travel related information. You can read further articles and details at

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

How to critique

The golden rule of critiquing is it is better to give than to receive. By critiquing the work of others, you will become better at self-editing.

I own two critique groups.


I can honestly say that I wouldn't be the writer I am today without the help of my critique partners. The mutual learning exchange is outstanding within a good group of members who are writing novels in the same genre.

To do a good critique takes time and effort. Here are some tips that I share with my critique groups on how to complete a thorough, helpful critique.

Often an author will request critiquers to focus on a specific problem, line edits, content edits, or if they wish to concentrate their critiquing efforts in a different direction. Please take the time to assist the author in this regard.

When suggesting changes or adding comments to a document, please use a different color font or use the track changes feature so changes are easier to spot.

Be aware of the internal and external goals, motivation, and conflict of both the hero and the heroine. In historical novels, sagas, or single title historical romances, the author must still establish these, but has more words and more sub-plots in order to do so. Therefore, it may take longer.

Are the characters believable, interesting, or multi-dimensional? Can you picture the hero/heroine? Do they have a unique dialogue that the reader can identify without a dialogue tag?

* Do the characters have their own voices?
* Is dialogue smooth and natural, unstilted?
* Is it appropriate to the sub-category?
* Is there a good blend of dialogue and narrative?
* Is the narrative pertinent to the story?

What about the setting and overall flavour of the novel?

* Are the scenes and environment and mood believable?
* Does the chapter capture the essence of the genre/time period it represents?
* Did the author use the five senses?

Take the time to point out what you like. It's very important. You might insert a :-) when you smiled, or LOL (laughing out loud). These GOOD points help an author as much as your corrections.

Be constructive in your criticism.

* Flag any passages that confused you
* Make note of information that may be repetitive.
* Indicate where you wish more information was given.
* Indicate places you had trouble understanding
* Indicate when you wish the scene had been longer or shorter.
* Point out improper spelling, grammar, and punctuation

Talk with your critique partners. In order to trust someone's opinion of your own work, getting to know them helps. This is a very important part to critiquing someone's words.

Always try to make your comments helpful and friendly. Critiquing is difficult because we are forced to be critical of the author's most inner thoughts and feelings. No matter how hard we try and no matter how much we claim, "I can take it," there can be a feeling of hurt when a critter doesn’t love the work. Remember, your critique partners are only trying to help you.

A critique partner should never attempt to rewrite the story. You might make suggestions on how sentences should be re-written because of awkward sentence structure. But major story suggestions or ideas should be in the form of commentary at the end of the chapter or brainstormed directly with the author through dialogue email).

Always remember to thank your critique partners! Feedback both ways is critical so that members can hone both their critiquing and writing skills.

Giotto Bondone - Italian Renaissance Artist

More than six hundred years ago, in 1276, a child was born in Italy in a small village called Vespignano, close by the city of Florence. The baby's father was called Bondone, and though he worked long, hard hours in the countryside, he was never able to bring much money back to the family table. He called his little son Giotto.

Life was tough and hard in the village of Vespignano, and Giotto soon grew into a strong, hardy boy. He was no stranger to hunger and cold. The hills surrounding the village were grey and bare, relieved only by the silver glint of olive-trees in the sunlight, or green corn shoots in early spring. In summer, the barren hillside offered little protection from the blazing sun, high in the sky, and the grass which grew among the grey rocks was often burnt and brown. The sheep of the village were turned out onto the hills to find what food they could, tended and watched over by one of the village boys.

When he was ten, Giotto was sent by his father to look after the sheep on the hillside. In those days there were no schools or lessons for country boys, and Giotto spent many happy days, in sunshine and rain, following the sheep wherever they could find enough grass to feed on. But Giotto was sometimes not as attentive as he should have been - sometimes he forgot all about the sheep, and had to search to gather them all together again. There was one thing he loved doing more than anything else: drawing pictures. He drew pictures of everything he saw, with such concentration that he forgot everything else around him.

Out there, on the barren hillside, under the blue sky, his keen eye fashioned pictures in his mind of the white clouds changing from one form to another. With time he came to know the exact shape of every flower, and how it grew, he noticed the patterns made by the olive trees' silvery leaves against the deep blue sky, he observed how the sheep looked as they lay down in the shadow of a rock, or stooped down to munch at the grass.

Nothing escaped the young Giotto's keen, watchful eye. Drawing pictures was no easy matter for him - he had no pencils or paper, and had probably never seen a picture in his life. But that didn't matter to him. He would sharpen a piece of stone, find the smoothest rock surface he could, and etch onto it all the wonderful things he saw. The flowers, birds, olive trees, sheep. Above all else he drew sheep - they were his friends and companions, and he could draw them in a thousand different ways.

Find out how Giotto's genius was discovered by chance by the great artist Cimabue: Giotto Bondone. Give your child a gift for life - awaken their interest in art: lives of the great Italian artists, told for children: Renaissance Artists.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Book Review - Vita by Melania Mazzucco

“The image of that city rising from the water and aiming straight for the sky will stay with him for the rest of his life - so near and yet so unreachable.”

This novel written by Melania Mazzucco became an international publishing sensation with the rights were sold in 11 countries, 300,000 copies were sold in Italy, and it won the prestigious Strega Award in Italy.

Melania Mazzucco brings to life the Italian immigrant experience, the journeys of hopes, dreams, illusions and disillusionment that many made at the turn of the century to escape poverty.

Historical fact is melded with fiction as Mazzucco reveals the story of Vita (aged nine) and Diamante (aged 12), two cousins who immigrate to New York City in 1903. After clearing customs at Ellis Island, the two children try to locate Vita’s father who lives in a boardinghouse located in the Italian Quarter.

Mazzucco’s prose is powerful and she breathe life to the horrible conditions the poor Italian immigrant was subjected to. It is a struggle merely to survive as Vita and Diamante try to assimilate into.

From squalor to the brutal conditions of labor; from lack of essentials to starvation, from disease to death, from the threats of the notorious Black Hand letters to murder and chaos - the reader experiences all the darkness of the times through the eyes of these two children and the various characters in the story. Out of the darnkess of their lives, Vita and Diamante discover an enduring love.

Diamante becomes trapped working as a waterboy for a railroad - the more he earns, the more he owes. Disillusioned, he escapes to the west. Their separation affects the two youths in many ways, with both good and bad influences. Shattered dreams, discouragement, toil and struggle change the immigrants.

Mazzucco tells this history of her family with passion and pain. Each word is to be savoured and understood and by the end of the novel, the reader is left with a lasting impression of what thousands of Italian immigrants struggled with to rebuild their lives in a new world.

Brava Melania Mazzucco.

An Introduction to Historical Research

If you ask any author of historical fiction, they will tell you the most important aspect of writing novel steeped in history is the research. Readers of historical fiction want the authors to transport them to another time and era. They want to visualize and experience everything about a particular century or country of long ago.

Historical research seeks to discover the connections between the literary work and the historical time period in which or about which it is written. The basic materials from which historians gain their vision of the past are the artifacts and documents preserved from earlier historical eras.

Because these resources are in its most basic form, they are referred to as "primary sources." All good historical research begins with a careful analysis of the best primary sources obtainable. Therefore, before taking up any serious historical project of your own, you need to know what primary sources are, where to obtain them, and how to make the best use of them.

Historical Research – A necessary evil

You will either love researching history or hate it. Regardless of which pertains to you, if you want to write an historical novel, you must do your research thoroughly.

Why? Because unlike other genres, readers of historical fiction demand it. They love particular eras or settings and many read novels from that time voraciously. They will spot an inaccurate detail immediately. Not only does this jar the reader from your story, but you will lose credibility with your audience if you haven’t done your research. So you must get the facts straight. Did they drink tea in 10th century Europe? If your book is set during that era, you must know this. It is not unusual to see authors of historical fiction seeking information about the minutest details.

Successful authors write what they know. We’ve heard that phrase time and time again. Research helps aspiring authors know a topic intimately. Think of research as an investigation or putting together a great puzzle. Piece by piece, research helps complete a picture, the mystery unfolds as facts resurface.

Take your research seriously. It is the most critical aspect of writing historical fiction. It is the foundation of your story. In historical fiction, you cannot establish your setting, your characters, and the details of your story without it.

Before you begin to write, research. It is not unusual for authors to spend years researching. Immerse yourself in that era and understand it fully before you begin to write. And even when you begin to write, you must continue to research.

If you want to write an historical novel, you must accept the fact that research is ongoing and all encompassing. Embrace it and learn to love it. It will show in your work. Your readers will appreciate and respect you for it.

I will be exploring all aspects of historical research in this topic - everything from where to find resources to actual research. So I hope you visit this site and topic often. There is a lot we can learn together.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Italian, a most romantic language

One of the most romantic languages on earth is Italian.

There is indescribable quality to the Italian language that makes it sound so florid and expressive – two qualities that lend itself well to missives of love and passionate feelings.

But what could have made the Italian language become so associated with feelings of love and romance?

One very important factor could be the culture. The rich culture of Italy and its storied history could have brought about a subconscious association of anything romantic with the Italian language.

Italy’s culture is loaded with romantic imagery and a pervasive atmosphere of passion. Case in point are the many artworks and architectural wonders that the country possess. The art of such masters Leonardo da Vinci and Michaelangelo may be firmly rooted in the Classical school but you still could not help but feel the passion that emanate from their works. From the virile yet delicate features of David to enigmatic smile of La Gioconda -- the celebration of the human form and its emotions and passions are all too apparent. The religious iconography and artwork that is one of the centerpieces of the Vatican (located in Italy) may be not necessarily be associated with erotic love. But the images of saints, Jesus, and of the Virgin Mary convey a different kind of love altogether – divine, pure and aspirational.

Italy’s old world architecture has also contributed in making the Italian language synonymous with love. Every person who has toured the country and visited its old buildings and churches all describe the feeling of awe upon seeing majestic works of beauty that have been wrought by the hand of man. Who wouldn’t be filled with the feeling of love upon seeing St. Peter’s Basilica, the old Roman monuments and statues as well as the old world buildings that dot the quaint streets of Italy?

Italy’s other cultural contributions also convey love and passion. The opera is one fine example. The passion conveyed by this exquisite art form is hard to surpass. From the first notes of any opera piece – whether it be a comedy or a tragedy – is enough to transport the listener to another world that is pure sensation and emotion. The listener is like a boat buffeted by the waves of passion and love, happiness and wistfulness that each aria conveys through melody and words.

Italian literature also brings this kind of fervent passion to paper. From poetry to novels the Italian language has been used to great effect in conveying feelings of love.

But probably the biggest reason why the Italian language has such a strong association with love is the country itself. Italy is such a romantic place that millions of honeymooners, couples and married folk go to the country to soak up the fabled romantic ambience of Italy. There are so many things that couples do in Italy that have become synonymous with romance and love – riding a gondola through Italy’s canals, wine tasting in the countryside, having coffee al fresco, and even walking through Italy’s narrow cobblestone streets.

With all of these reasons it is no wonder the moment you hear someone speak Italian the first thing that comes to your mind is love and romance. delivers a variety of quick language learning programs right to your desktop including Italian and French e-courses.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Espresso Coffee - The best thing about Italy

One of the things people think of with Italy is it's coffee. In fact Italian roast coffee is perfect for bringing a touch of Europe to your home. Can 50 million plus Italians all be wrong? Well, with Italian roast you can't go wrong either.

Generally speaking, Italian Roast coffee is darker in colour than most roasted blends of coffee and consequently develops an intense, full-bodied flavour from the blend of Pacific and Latin American origins. It seems to be richer and fuller and has a bit of a bite to it. The aroma is balanced and complex.

Why the name Italian Roast when coffee comes from Brazil?

As is known, most of the coffee we drink today originates from Latin America or the Pacific, so where does the name Italian Roast come from?

Well, the name Italian Roast derives from the dark roasted blend style that is commonly used in Italy. And do the Italians know a thing or two about their coffee? I think they do. Naturally it goes without saying, if you grind your own, Italian roast coffee is perfect for making authentic espresso. If served in Illy Collection cups, for instance, you cant go wrong.

There is espresso coffee and espresso coffee, but with an Italian roast blend the difference is clear

In fact, most of today's household names, such as Gaggia, Lavazza and Illy are Italian family companies that have conquered the world with their particular blends of coffee, targeted marketing and wonderful coffee making machines. Gaggia, for instance started business in the 1940's, not so long ago, but they are recognised as a well respected coffee-company in most of the world.

Similar with Lavazza, started in Turin, not only famous for its coffee, but also a prestigious calendar, similar to that of Pirelli. And what espresso lover isn't familiar with the Illy Collection; neat espresso cups with exclusive designs produced in limited numbers.

Do you think all this could have been possible without a deep knowledge and respect for coffee? Italian roast must deserve some of the success of these companies.

Nicholas Webb is a successful author and publisher of Coffee is a passion to be shared. Info from coffee beans to coffee making machines can be found by clicking over to this great resource site.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis

Review by Mirella Patzer

Mona Lisa Gherardini, is the only child of a wealthy wool merchant and his frail wife, Lucrezia. When her astrological charts are constructed, an ominous prophecy is foretold that Lisa does not understand at first, but that will have a tremendous impact on her life.

Lucrezia is somehow connected to the famous Lorenzo de Medici who rules Florence and is a decadent art collector and patron of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.

A radical monk by the name Savonarola arrives in Venice and begins preaching against the sinful decadence of the de Medici family. Lisa's father becomes a dedicated follower of the monk and his preachings.

When Lisa's mother, Lucrezia, dies a horrible death influenced by Savonarola, Lisa meets Lorenzo de Medici and is introduced to his handsome son, Giuliano. She also meets the mysterious, but charismatic Leonardo da Vinci. Unbeknownst to Lisa, both these men will have a profound impact on her life.

As Savonarola rises to power, and Lorenzo de Medici meets his death, Florence is thrown into chaos and Lisa faces danger at every turn as she slowly discovers the dark secrets that haunt her past.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Mighty Roman Military

Warfare, it is always to be remembered, was a central preoccupation of Roman society, a normal part of life. There was the interval between 241 when the First Punic War ended after twenty-three years of protracted agony and monstrous casualties, and the outbreak of the Second Punic War in 218 as a period of peace, briefly interrupted by Illyrian wars in 229-228 and 219 and by a Gallic invasion in 225.

Despite the meagreness of the sources for this 'interlude' there are only five years in which active warfare is not positively attested. Roman forces were repeatedly employed in the conquest of Sardinia and Corsica and against the Ligurians and the Gallic tribes of northern Italy, as well as in the two Illyrian campaigns; and at least thirteen Roman commanders celebrated public military triumphs. Nor were these the remote activities of a professional Army.

The Roman governing class itself was in no small measure a military aristocracy, in which long service as a junior officer was a prerequisite for a political career, and in which the major public offices combined civil and military functions. This was the class into which Cato was to make his way. Military prowess counted for much, and it was no irrelevance when he boasted of the martial qualities of his father and great--grandfather; but more relevant still were those of Cato himself, and there was no lack of opportunity to display them.

When Hannibal had crossed the Alps he defeated the Roman armies at the Ticinus and the Trebia. The massacre at Trasimene in 217 was followed in 216 by the catastrophe of Cannae, which to all appearances brought Rome to the brink of total disaster. Recovery was slow and arduous. Roman armies toiled and fought in Italy and Cisalpine Gaul, in Spain and Sicily, and ultimately in Africa.

Cato first enlisted, as he himself stated, 'at the age of seventeen, at the time when Hannibal, enjoying the favour of fortune, was setting Italy aflame'--perhaps in 217, more probably in 216, and possibly at the emergency levy held after Cannae. By 214 he was in Campania during the operations of Q. Fabius Maximus and M. Claudius Marcellus, probably in Marcellus' army. Later in that year Marcellus took his army to Sicily, where Cato served as a military tribune in a protracted campaign dominated by the siege of Syracuse. When he left Sicily is not known: the most likely guess is in 211 with his commander, but the legions which had accompanied Marcellus stayed on until 209 and Cato might have remained with them. On the other hand it is quite possible that in 209 he was present in the army of Q. Fabius Maximus at the recapture of Tarentum.

The article was produced by the writer of Sharon White has many years of a vast experience in personal experience essays and persuasive essays writing consulting. Get free samples of essays, coursework and philosophy essays tips.

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Italian Charm Bracelets

I don’t know about you, but the toughest part of my morning routine is deciding what to wear. That’s right: I have no trouble hopping out of bed early…but I rarely get to work on time–all because I spend precious morning minutes pondering the perfect outfit. And it’s not even the big issues—like which top or what pants to wear—that take up all my time. I don’t even hassle over matching my socks: no, it’s the accessories that always get me. I blame my mother. She has always been great at accessorizing - a real natural! Some how her skills were lost on me.

Fortunately, I recently discovered the ideal accessory—it goes with every outfit!—the Italian Charm bracelet. This little accessory has rescued me from fashion oblivion countless times. And, lately, I’ve even managed to get to work on time! Italian charms meet every one of my criteria (and even several of my mother’s) for the perfect accessory: they match any outfit (very important factor!); they are unique; and they attract attention (especially on all-important date nights).

Italian charm bracelets are the popular new style of charm bracelet made of small flexible metal links, each with a unique image. They have become popular for their sleek style and because of the great variety of charm links—there are links for each and every style. Italian Charm bracelets are the perfect solution to any accessory problem because they go with any outfit.

The best thing about Italian charms is that they’re removable and interchangeable, which means that they can both fit your fashion needs and express your unique personality. Charms come in all styles—from serious to silly. You can choose to put your Italian Charm bracelet together with letters, to spell your name, or with images, to tell the story of who you are and what you like to do. For everyday use, you may choose to wear fun, personal charms that express your identity.

There are thousands of charms to fit your personality: charms that reflect your favorite pastimes and activities, charms that indicate your favorite travels or artists; you can even have Italian Charms made with photos of yourself or your friends! And, on those special occasions when you have to dress to impress, you can unlink a few of your personal charms and replace them with some more elegant ones such as flowers, classic paintings, or just sophisticated designs. And all the charms come in a sleek silver color, so you can be sure that they will match any outfit you choose.

Italian charms are just the accessory you have been looking for: they will flatter both your outfit and your excellent sense of style! No more wasting precious minutes before work or that big date digging through loud scarves and gaudy jewelry—just pull out your Italian charm bracelet and consider yourself a fashion accessory success!

While I can’t guarantee that it will be easy to pick out your outfit next time you’re preparing for that hot date, you can rest assured that you will at least have the perfect and unique accessory: your Italian Charm bracelet. When you’re on your date, you’ll be sure to impress him with your beautiful outfit accented by a gorgeous bracelet. Plus, if you include a few of your personal, fun charms, you’ll create a perfect conversation starter for your date. Who knows, maybe on your next date he’ll be wearing one as well!

Find a wide selection of Italian charms and Italian charm bracelets at where Greg Scott is a writer.

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The Evil Eye

The Evil Eye has been around since the beginning of time. It simply means sending someone a thought that seems intrusive or invasive or has the power to hurt him or her. The bad fortune that results is considered to have been caused by envy. The evil eye is not necessarily considered to be intentional or associated with witchcraft or sorcery. Oddly enough, this thought form could actually be complimentary in nature. The origins of the Evil Eye are Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean. The concept was introduced into the Americas, South Pacific Islands, Asia, Africa and Australia by European explorers.

Sending someone the evil eye comes from the concept that we all have a Third Eye, located in the center of our forehead. Blinding, fogging or obscuring the third eye is often the intent of the energy’s sender. Most of us have experienced the weird power of the phenomenon. All it takes is a gaze that seems to be unfriendly, indifferent or blank and seems to a couple of seconds too long. We think about it for a few minutes afterwards or perhaps an image of the person staring at us preoccupies our thoughts occasionally for the rest of the day. Perhaps that is why the British and Scottish term for the “evil eye” is “overlooking.” It implies that a gaze has remained too long upon the coveted object, person or animal.

The evil eye is also known as the envious or invidious eye. In Italian it is called the malocchio and in Spanish the malojo (loosely translated as the bad eye) The evil eye is known as ayin horeh in Hebrew; ayin harsha in Arabic, droch shuil in Scotland, mauvais oeil in France, bösen Blick in Germany, and was known as oculus malus among the classical Romans.

The original belief is that any person can harm your children, livestock, fruit trees or any other evidence of prosperity just by looking at the spoils of all your good will and hard work with envy. Ironically, the curse of the evil eye is thought to be provoked by inappropriate displays of spiritual pride or excessive beauty. There is a theory that very famous people and celebrities suffer more personal misfortune than others simply because they are subjected to more “overlooking” and envy than others.

This superstition might have some grounding in evolutionary psychology as usually one animal is thought to dominate or be aggressive to another simply by staring at it for too long. Psychologically speaking, staring or glaring at someone is officially considered an intrusion into your affairs. Apparently, there is a fine line between casting a glance to casting a spell. In these post Celestine Prophecy times, this kind of stare could be compared to a kind of etheric laser beam or amoebic arm that rips open your aura. Others would describe the infliction of the evil eye as the projection of an image (such as the image of the person you have offended or hurt) so that you see only that to the exclusion of all other sight. In other words, you see that person wherever you go or feel that your life’s events are always colored by your dealing with that person. Another symptom is the inability to proceed with ordinary, daily events without feeling somehow compelled to make things right with the person you have often unknowingly offended with your grandiosity.

It is common folklore that the evil eye has a dehydrating effect on its victim. It is thought to cause vomiting, diarrhea, the drying up of the milk of nursing mothers and livestock, problems with the blood, eyesight lack of rain, the drying up of wells, the withering of fruit and impotence in men. Clumsiness, stomachaches, dry coughs, diarrhea, itching, hair loss, dry skin are all thought to be physical symptoms of an evil eye attack e. On the astral level it is thought to cause the drying up of prana, chi, life force and the easy flow of prosperity in life. Part of this image might derive from the idea also, of muddy, murky or poisoned vision that is somehow attached to the victim’s third eye.

Almost everywhere that the evil eye belief exists, it is said to be caused accidentally by envy or praise. Thus the phrase “Pride Goeth Before a Fall” In certain Mediterranean and eastern cultures, one is careful not to praise a child too much, lest it invite the subconscious balancing effect of the evil eye. A classic situation would be the barren woman who praises the newborn baby of a new child. Such praise would be considered inappropriate and thought to bring the evil child. One of the remedies for this would be for the mother to spit, to symbolically “rehydrate” the situation. Also, she may speak ill of the child OT counteract the effects of the praise, which might have malefic effects on the child later.

The belief that individuals have the power to cast the evil eye on purpose is more idiosyncratic to Sicily and Southern Italy, although the belief has certainly spread elsewhere – to the Southern United States and the Latin Americas. Such people are known as jettatore (projectors). They are not necessarily considered evil or envious, just born with an unfortunate embarrassing talent that causes others to avoid them. In ancient cultures, if you were thought to be the possessor of an evil eye, you were often negated by the rest of society and went unrecognized on the street without meeting anyone’s eyes.

Perhaps one of the most familiar preventative measures against the evil eye is the hand gesture. The Mano Cornufo or “Horned Hand” involves extending the first and index fingers from a fist. The Mano Fico or “Fig hand” involves placing the thumb in between first and second fingers. Historically there have been many cures for the evil eye:

In Italy, the evil eye is diagnosed by dripping olive oil into a vessel filled with water. If the oil conglomerates into the shape of an eye than the victim is considered officially cursed. Prayers are recited until the droplets of oil no longer create an eye shape.

In Eastern Europe charcoal, coal or burnt match heads are dropped into a pan of water/. If the items float then the person is considered to be the victim of a curse.

In the Ukraine, a form of ceromancy or candle reading is used to diagnose the curse. Melted wax is dripped from a candle into a pan of water. If the wax spits, splatters, or sticks to the side of the bowl then the “patient” is considered to be under the influence of the malefic eye. Usually the patient is cleansed with Holy Water. He or she is pronounced cured when the dripped wax sinks the bottom of the bowl in a round ball.

In Greece Mexico and other places, the official cure is to invite the culprit responsible for the evil eye to spit in a vessel of the holy water that is consumed by the victim.

In Mexico, rolling a raw egg over the body of the victim is the antidote. Afterwards, it is cracked open and if the metaphysician or healer divines the shape of an eye in the yolks then the person is considered to be cursed. Several eggs may be repeatedly rolled over the person’s body until an egg without an eye if found. Sometimes the egg is placed underneath the person’s bed overnight and cracked open in the morning.

In China the remedy for the evil eye is the Pa Kua mirror, a six-sided mirror that is hung on the front door or placed in the front window to reverse bad energy back to the sender. Some of these mirrors are convex to reflect back the bad “poison darts” or “arrows” of multiple ill wishers and some are concave to reflect energy in a definite direction back at, for instance, a nosy neighbor, whose gaze may have lingered on your garden of tulips for too long. In Feng Shui, mirrors are often used as a cure all to reflect negative energy back at all kinds of things – people, bad architecture, traffic, neighbors, physical obstructions such as trees or rocks or anything else that might considered to be a conductor of Har Shui (negative vibrations).

In India the mirroring back of the evil eye takes the form of small mirrors that are sewn, braided or crocheted into clothing. This mirroring back of bad energy is also familiar to practitioners of Wicca and Lukumi or Santeria. In India, the human eye is also considered to be a mirror of the soul. Indian women wear kohl or heavy black makeup to emphasize their eyes not only to shield themselves from evil eye but also to prevent themselves from accidentally inflicting it on others. In India cords strung with blue beads are placed on newborn babies. When the cord breaks and the beads are lost the child is considered to have a strong enough aura to protect him or herself from the evil eye. Red cords worn upon the wrist or neck are thought to have a powerful effect against ocular malevolence. A silver charm called Eye of Buddha which references the Gautama Buddha is also worn against astral attack.

In Italy, gold, silver or gems carved or cast into the shape of the Mano Fica or Mano Cornufa are used to repel the evil. The most coveted ones are made of red coral, but many versions exist today made of gemstones and plastic. They are worn by men to protect against the withering of the genitals thought to be caused by the bad eye. Also Italian in origin is the Corno or horn or devil’s horn amulet that is thought to protect against the same dysfunction. The women’s version is made from a twig of red coral.

In Arab cultures, superstitious types wear an eye in the form of a stone cast in the center of a hand shaped bone or metal charm A common Egyptian charm is the Buckle of Isis which represents the menstrual pad of the Goddess Isis who was the Mother of all living things. Stuffing a little prayer or spell inside a locket that is hung around the neck is the common European custom for protecting oneself against deadly gazes.

A light worker such as myself might advise you to protect yourself in the following contemporary ways:

Always maintain the belief that nobody has the power to hurt you with a look. This in itself is a very powerful thought form.

Before you go out, imagine that your third eye is actually covered by something that looks like a small pocket mirror. If you are a psychic or a healer then simply close your third eye and don’t open it unless you want to look.

If you are feeling haunted or upset as the result of a “look”, press your thumb hard into the center of your forehead and imagine your third eye quickly flipping. Flick the energy away with your thumb and snap your fingers.

Always remember that what you resist often persists. The phrase “Oh, so what!” is one of the most powerful chemicals in the universe that you can use to dissolve negative energy.

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Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick

VIVALDI'S VIRGINSBarbara Quick, Harper Collins, 2007, $24.95 USD / $31.00 CND, hardcover, 284 pages, ISBN: 978-0-06-089052-0

Anna Maria dal Violin was abandoned as a baby and lives as an orphan in the foundling home and cloisters of the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. From an early age, she was taught to play the violin and became part of an elite orchestra of orphan girls. Antonio Vivaldi, the "Red Priest" composed many of his pieces for them.

Anna Maria longs to learn who her parents are. Sister Laura instructs Anna Maria to share her most inner thoughts and aspirations into letters to the mother she has never known. She soon rises to become Vivaldi's favorite and he composes challenges pieces for her to play.

But Anna Maria longs to learn who she is and longs to see Venice. On more than one occasion, she manages to escape from the orphanage. Each time she is caught and punished. A small golden locket and chain is presented to her by a Jewish seamstress. Anna Maria knows it holds the secret of her parentage. Eventually, Anna Maria does learn the truth about herself and some of the other characters.

Behind the masks of Carnivale and the musical scores of Vivaldi, 18th century Venice comes brilliantly to life. In this passionate novel, Vivaldi is seen through the eyes of Anna Maria. The plot takes several twists and turns that enthrall the reader. The details of history are well researched and the imagery sensational.

The prose is lyrical and mesmerizing at times.
Quick has included a glossary at the end to help the reader with Italian words and phrases. At the end, Barbara Quick describes what is historical fact and what she created from her imagination. This is a complex tale and will appeal to lovers of Italian history as well as fans of Vivaldi and his music. Barbara Quick has written a truly enduring coming of age story.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Editor's Creed

The Editor's Creed
Copyright K.M. Frontain, 28 August 2007
Permission to reprint granted to all

1. I’m not here to be your fan, but I will be your first fan the day your story is published. I am here to see the flaws in your submitted work. It’s my job. Author, try to understand this when you get back your first revision, your second, or any of them. Flaws hurt and create upset, but it’s not about hurting and upsetting you. It’s about fixing a story. If I’m honest, if I’m any good at my job, you’re going to hear about the flaws in your story. There’s no getting around this.I’ll try saying things as politely as I can, but I must say the truth. Author, try to remember blunt does not mean I want to hurt your feelings. Blunt merely means I’m working as hard as I can while being honest about what I see. I will not waste time writing advice full of apologies for doing so. Expect honesty from me. Expect directness. I do not go out of my way to attack you, the human being, when I make a request, say a character isn’t sympathetic, give you a suggestion, tell you more than once to fix the same flaw. This is about getting a story edited and that is all.

2. My tools of the trade are words and grammar. Definitions, usage, punctuation, POV. I require knowledge of all these things and a skill for seeing the difference between a style choice and bad writing. Author: I will do my best to explain why something is bad writing. Please listen. I’m not here to change your style, but if I point something out, calmly look at your manuscript again and check for what I discussed. What if I’m right? You’re the one who must live with the end results of your revisions. The editing process, a real editing process, can result in growth for an author. Try to welcome it.

3. Author, your tools of the trade are words and grammar. Definitions, usage, punctuation, POV. I expect you to use these properly. If I discover you require relearning the rules for any of them, I’m going to say so. I will insist that you learn to use them properly. Only when you truly understand the rules can you work the tools of your trade in a manner that defies the rules. When you reach that point, I will smile as I read your work, because I will admire that you arrived at that pinnacle.

4. Revision work is not my work. It’s the author’s. My work is looking for flaws. Flaws are misuse of the tools of the trade, misleading or unclear writing, mistakes in the plot, characters that aren’t believable, poor story flow. Once I find these and point them out to the author, the author is the one that must do the work of patching, covering up, weeding, replacing. If I do the revisions for the author, it’s unfair to me. It’s unfair to the author. It’s unfair to every other author waiting for me to spend time on their story.It’s not my story. Author, the story belongs to you. Take pride in being professional and do your revisions. Don’t expect me to fix the story for you.

5. Editing isn’t about my vision of a story. It’s about the author’s. Author, remember that when I make suggestions, they are suggestions. The story is yours. The characters are yours. Tell me how you see your characters and your story, and I’ll do my best to help you meet your vision.

6. Editing is about teamwork. I am a human being. I am like you. I make mistakes. I don’t know everything. I miss things. I sometimes need things pointed out. Author, I won’t take offence if you teach me something new, offer me a different way to view an idea, send me a link that shows you did your homework, or highlight a paragraph I may have missed that backs up the plot twist a few pages later in your story. Teamwork is about listening to each other. I listen.

7. I have a standard to live by as well. So does my publishing house. Author, remember that when you decide you disagree with my advice. People will know who edited your story, and if it leaves my hands in bad shape, shame on me. And that’s why I’ll insist on logic when we discuss fixes. Logic trumps opinion. I’ll insist you explain your reasons so I can understand them, but if those reasons don’t make sense, I’m going to say so.

Author, if you have a good reason, I’ll see it and agree. Author, if you don’t have a good reason, I’ll keep showing you why it isn’t good. If we come to an impasse, I can consult other editors belonging to my publishing house. If they agree with you, I don’t mind.

Remember: I’m a human being. I don’t expect to be perfect, but I do expect you to treat me fairly and to remember we are discussing a point about a story, not arguing to hurt each other personally.

Author, I will do my utmost to be fair to your perspective. I promise. But I won’t lower my standards. Expect to work and work hard. I want to see a story published that we can both be proud of.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

How to Research that novel

How do you start writing a novel?

The first thing I do is decide the genre and the setting.

I suppose you saw some version of Back to the Future. Here the setting is changing not because of location, but because of time period. Flashing back or forward changes the appearance of the same location. The setting is new, isn’t it?

Genre is the type of novel you are writing. That could be a western, action, romance, detective, mystery, gothic, or what ever you decide to dream up.

Science fiction would be another genre.

Did you notice a possible change in the genre in one version of Back to the Future? The kid on the skateboard changed to a gun-totting westerner. Well, it was still science fiction.

The setting is where the action takes place. If the action is in the present, you will not have a great deal of research to do on the time period of the action. However, if the action takes place in 1850 or 130 B.C., you must do research on that time period as was done in Back to the Future.

Once you have decided where the action is to take place and in what time period, you can define your characters. Here are some things to consider:


Does the name of each character fit into the location and time period?

Don’t call your Viking raider, Joe.

Try Eric the Mad or some such.


What would the language be of your character?

If he lived in 1750 in London, what phrases would he use?

What would he sound like?

That will depend on his class won’t it?

A London cobbler would not sound the same as the Captain of the King’s Guard would he?

What about the King himself?

How would he sound? What vocabulary would he use?

Here is a Warning:

Don’t write a period novel if you are not willing to obtain the education and knowledge you will need to write it.

The key to good writing is to write about things you know and understand.

Of course, if you are writing science fiction, you can do anything you darn please as long as it “rings true” to science fiction readers.

That’s why the advice often given to writers is to read heavily in the genre in which they intend to write.

That’s one way to get an education, isn’t it?


If you met a man in Walgreen wearing a silver body-tight jumpsuit and having antenna sticking out of a gold helmet, you would think: That guy isn’t from here!

If your character walks into a Wild West bar in 1850 wearing a green suit, you will have some explaining to do. My guess would be that he is Irish and will be asking for a Guinness. Note: Guinness started in 1759 but I doubt that you would find it in the Wild West in 1850.

Dress must be consistent just as language is important. You need to know the local dress, not some stereotype dress you saw in a “B” movie.

Dress is also characteristic of vocation and class. A banker, a blacksmith, a millwright, etc., would all be differently dressed in the same location during the same time period.

Early settlers from Texas in Arizona could be told by their hats.

Other Factors:

If your character is a nurse, you must know something about how a nurse performed at her location and during her time period.

Don’t have that soldier shoot someone with a Winchester during the War of 1812. Oliver Winchester was born in 1810.

Each character needs a history. A person’s history at least in part determines his or her actions. You may never mention such a history in your novel, but you must know it.

Each character needs characteristics. You may never mention most of them but you must know them. These are the things that in combination make your character distinct from all other characters in the world. Take Superman for instance or Henry the Eighth.

The bottom line is that all things must be consistent and logical if you want your novel to fly.

If something is strange, you have some explaining to do.

How to do Research

The easiest way to do your research is by reading in your genre.

I don’t like reading most novels. Therefore I do research on the time and place.

I like to start with a map of the area. Then I like to read the history of the area even before the time period determined. I read history books, old magazine articles, Internet articles, etc. I like to visit the area and visit museums and historical societies. I like to talk to the people, especially the old timers that have significant tales to tell.

Go into book stores, yard sales, book sales, junk shops, antiques shops, and other places you can pick up magazines and books for a song. Look at the stuff they are selling in antique shops and ask about the history of unusual items. The way you do that is to say this: What is that thing?

In a way, it is much like being a newspaper reporter. I like to search old newspapers for interesting stories to see what other “reporters” have done.

Look in old encyclopedias, catalogs, and almanacs. You will be surprised what you can learn.

When I was writing Revenge on the Mogollon Rim, I decided to read one of Zane Grey’s novels, the settings of which was in the areas near my home in Arizona.

I knew something about Zane Grey because I was a guide and worked on exhibits for the local museum.

I expected to help in the rebuilding of his cabin that was destroyed in the Dude Fire. However, I moved from the area (Payson, AZ) before that task was started.

Anyway, I was reading his novel and came up on a phrase that didn’t seem right to me. It was a view his character saw from the Mogollon Rim. I didn’t think he had it right. I drove to the Rim and parked very near the place he described. Then I saw that Zane Grey had described the view perfectly. Mountains don’t move that fast.

It’s a good idea to know your subject, your location (setting), and your characters before you start writing the novel. Well, don't let that stop you. You can fill in the blanks later.

Just don’t let some bold character take over your book.

Writing, how to write, setting, characters, language, characteristics, history, time period, research

Article Source:,_Ph.D.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

How to write a short story

Everybody knows writing a story is not easy. Like the drama or the poem, it is imaginative literature that should appeal to the emotions of the readers. Since it communicates the writer's interpretation of reality, there must be an artistic use of language to signify human experience. But how do we write a great short story? What are the things to keep in mind in order to come up with a short story that works? Here's a quick guide to get you started:

1. Read

Reading is essential to anyone who wants to write. In order to be able to write a good short story, you must read other short stories first. This will not only give you the motivation and inspiration for your own story, but it will also help you learn how other authors made an impression on the reader and use their style as basis to create your own style and impression.

2. Get inspired

For seasoned professionals, there is no need to obtain inspiration because thoughts naturally flow and they only have to put them into words on paper. But for novice writers, it is important to have one because it will not only help you begin your first paragraph but also keep you going throughout. Your inspiration may take the form of an object. a person, or an event that you just can't seem to forget.

3. Conceptualize your story

Think of something you want to talk about with your readers. Let's say you want to relate a story about a couple who fell in love with each other. What about the couple? What is it about them that you are interested to let your readers know? Focus on this idea and think of other concepts that you want to associate with this couple. Suppose the girl's parents discommended their relationship. What about the parents? What did they do to stop the two from loving each other? This could signal a good beginning for your story. From here, you would have the notion what to write down.

4. Map out the scenes

In order to keep your writing aligned with your pre-conceived story events, it is good to briefly map out scenes of your story on a different piece of paper. Write down the possible characters of your story and list the main events in order. You don't have to put so much detail on them because this only serves as a rough sketch of how your story will look like.

5. Chooose your point of view

Who tells the story and how it is told is very critical for a short story to be effective. The point of view can change the feel and tone of the story radically. Hence, you must decide carefully before finally resolving with the angle of vision to use for your story. But whatever it is you decide to choose as the point of view, make sure it stays constant throughout your story to maintain consistency.

6. Conceive your characters

For a short story, create a maximum of only three main characters. Too many main characters will make your story confusing since each new character will provide a new dimension for the story. Each character should be more than cardboard caricatures. Make your characters speak naturally in proportion with their traits. Make them believable but mysterious.

7. Furnish a good introduction

When you have everything planned out, start scribbling your first paragraph. Introduce your main characters and set out the scene. The scene must be some place you know much about so that you'd be able to supply the necessary snapshot for a clearly described setting. Make your introduction interesting to hold the reader’s interest and encourage them to read on to the end. It is also important to hold back significant details and the greater part of the action at this point so the mystery is kept.

8. Build up a great plot

From your introduction, draw out events that will eventually create a problem or a conflict for the main character/characters. After that, begin laying out an array of clues to keep the reader interested, intrigued and guessing. Intensify the conflict as the story moves forward. This will not only make your reader enthused to read more but will also keep them riveted to your story.

9. Show don't tell

The characters should be the ones responsible for expressing the story through their actions and dialogue and not the writer telling the reader what is being expressed. Rather than saying, "Annette was really mad at her bestfriend Christina for stealing her boyfriend", say "Annette felt an ache in her stomach and a strong pang of betrayal as Christina approaches her and flashes her with a sweet smile. She breathed hard trying to calm herself as she speaks with suppressed anger: "I hope you're happy now that you've proven yourself as a friend."

10. Use active verbs

Put as much life into your story as you can. In order to do this, employ verbs in the active voice in your story. Instead of saying,"The flower was picked by Johanna", say "Johanna picked the flower."

11. Use some dialogue

Dialogue is important in bringing your story to life. Don't just use it to pad out your characters. Use it to convey your characters to identify with the reader. Use it in direct quotes like "Go there!" instead of indirect quotes as "She told him to go there."

12. Keep references handy

A good reference such as a thesaurus or a dictionary is crucial in creating a good story. You can use them to check your spellings and to find the words which best fit your description. Instead of using one lengthy sentence or paragraph, you can utilize one or just a few words to convey what you want to say. Oftentimes, one strong word has a greater effect than a paragraph full of fancy language.

13. Conclude briefly

Conclusions are tough sledding. For a good ending, it is advisable to experiment and to add a little twist. Make your ending unique but not hanging in a loose end. Make it satisfying without making it too predictable. Keep in mind to keep it short but concise and lingering so that the reader is left with a feeling of resonance. Your conclusion should wrap up everything from start to finish.

14. Edit and revise

After fashioning the last words of your story, it is time to begin the editing cycle. Carefully go through your work and fix all your mistakes regarding sentence construction, word usage, formatting. punctuation marks, diction, spelling, grammar, and descriptive analysis. Scratch out words, phrases and even paragraphs which don't seem to contribute to the basic elements of the story. After you're done, let it sit for a while for days and even weeks, then edit it again. Reread your story over and over again at different occasions. This will make you see various things you may want to change to make your story shine at its best.

15. Let others proofread

Have your friends take a look at your work. They may just be able to see mistakes which you have missed. For instance, they may be distracted with some words or lines which you adore dearly. In this case, you have to decide on changing it or cutting it off completely.

Writing a short story may not be easy but it can surely be done. With some knowledge on the basic elements and some passion and patience, it's effortless to pull together a story with just a few ideas. Just keep in mind that you're writing not because you have to, but because you want to. Give it a go now!

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

What is a romance novel?

When most of us think of a romance novel, we think of the racy covers, the buffed out hero and the half dressed woman on the front, looking like she's just been rescued by a handsome cowboy, a randy pirate or a handsome doctor. But weren't you ever taught not to judge a book by its cover? A romance novel, with the pen of a gifted writer, can be so much more than that.

A good romance novel has, at its base, a conflict or challenge that must be overcome by either hero or heroine, and it's getting there that's half the fun. Most popular romance writers know how to craft a novel that incorporates action, character building, suspense, mystery, and yes, even a little sex or a lot, but that depends on personal taste.

A romance novel can be filled with hot and steamy scenes or gentle persuasions that cause readers to fall in love with heroes while the heroine stumbles around, blind as a bat, to all his good qualities. On the other hand, many a novel heroine waits impatiently for the hero to get it through his thick, stubborn head that she loves him.

The romance novel has been around since the first books were printed and they go through various fads as the decades go by. Most popular novels today are either historical or mystery and suspense.

The characters found between the pages can be heroes or Regular Joe's, wearing business suits or leather chaps. Pirates seem to be favorites of many readers, as are cowboys and medical personnel. If written correctly it has the ability to transport readers into a different place and time, away from the worries and concerns of our daily, humdrum lives.

These novels, or at least a majority of them, are so much more than sex and innuendo. A true romance novel will capture the reader in the thick of the plot and entice the reader to care about the characters and not just what happens between the sheets.

When looking for a good novel, forget the cover art and go directly to the synopsis written on the back of the book. An exciting plotline, a challenge and a hero or heroine that can connect with the reader will provide hours of enjoyable reading entertainment for fans of this genre.

The romance novel genre has gone through ups and downs in the past thirty years, but is still going strong today. The heroes on the covers are just as buff as they were thirty years ago, and the women are still beautiful, if a little more toned and tanned.

Women don't typically play weak roles, but often offer the main male lead more than they can handle. Oftentimes, it is nothing more than a battle of wits between male and female leads who are desperately fighting their attraction to one another.

Sound familiar? Fact is supposed to be stranger than fiction, but in a romance novel, you never know what's going to happen... well, most of the time.

Still looking for the perfect romance? Try visiting, a website that specializes in providing romance advice, tips and resources including information on the romance novel.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Short Story ideas - How to have them

Hopefully, when you want short story ideas, you don't sit there waiting for inspiration. It's better to write anything, and do it right now. English writer Graham Green attributes much of his success to a simple habit: He forced himself to write at least 500 words daily, whether he felt like it or not. Perhaps creative inspiration can strike at any time, but it strikes more often when there is work instead of waiting.

What do you write though? Here are a couple new ideas for generating new short story ideas.

Explain This

I once created a car travel game called "Explain This." Someone suggests an unusual scenario in a sentence or two, and then each player explains it in a plausible way. It's an entertaining way to pass the miles, but also a great way to come up with short story ideas.

Just start with an odd scene, anything that pops into your head. You might start, for example, with "Todd handed out the dollar bills to the people as they walked by, trying to distribute as many as he could quickly, before the police could stop him." Now explain that. Our minds insist on explaining things, so you'll find an explanation if you try. If it's interesting enough, you have your next short story.

As I look at the scene in my mind, I imagine the dollar bills are signed or otherwise identifiable, and they can be traded at a big seminar for a gift worth even more. A person could spend it and get a soda - or get something truly valuable for it. Maybe this will go in the marketing ideas file instead of the short story ideas file.

Maybe Todd is handing out the last of his money as per the instructions of his spiritual leader. Could it be a "get rich quick" cult that requires all members to start from zero? A religious movement based on getting rich? Someone could make it into a plausible story.

Short Story Ideas From Combining Stories

Here's a fun technique that is hopefully useful, but is at least worth a few laughs. Just combine old stories into new ones. The less similar the stories you start with, the better. The story of Adam and Eve combined with "I Robot," for example, could lead to an interesting new story. Maybe a pair of robots start a new world. "Original sin" might be the arising of their own consciousness, or their rejection of man as their master.

Hmm... "The Miracle Worker" and "Gorillas In The Mist?" Struggles of an ape that learns at last to speak and be independent? "Star Wars" and "Cool Hand Luke?" The story of a man who livens up the deathly atmosphere of a penal colony in space? "Frankenstein" and "Gone With The Wind?" The possibilities are endless. Start cranking out those new short story ideas.

Steve Gillman has been exploring new ideas for decades. Visit his site for invention ideas, business ideas, story ideas, political and economic theories, deep thoughts, and more. Get a free gift too: New Ideas (

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Sunday, September 2, 2007

Mirrors - An ancient history

The history of mirrors starts in the III Century B.C. Most ancient mirrors were made from metal and had a round shape. The back side of the ancient mirrors was beautifully embellished with ornamentation. Mirrors were made from highly polished bronze and silver. The first glass mirrors were invented in I Century by Romans.

From ancient times special qualities had been given to mirrors, that no other object had. The Greek philosopher Socrates gave advice to young men to look at themselves in the mirror, and those who were handsome should focus their life on keeping their souls clean and stay away from the temptations of life that could take them on the wrong path. If a young man would find that he is not handsome, he should compensate for his look from his heart, and get known for doing a lot of good things.

In Medieval period glass mirrors completely disappeared, because during those times religious confessions stated that devil is looking and watching the world from the opposite side of a glass mirrors. Poor fashionable ladies had to use a polished metal mirrors or special water bowls instead of glass mirrors.

Glass mirrors came back only in 13th century. This time they were bended slightly outward. The method of attaching tin to the flat surface of the glass wasn't invented yet. Using available technology master glaziers poured hot tin into glass tubs, and then, after the tin was cold, they would brake it into separate pieces. Only three centuries later Venetian masters invented a "flat mirror technique". They figured out how to attach tin to a flat glass surface. Venetian masters invented another trick. They created a special reflective mixture in which gold and bronze was added. Because of this "magical" mixture all objects reflecting in the mirrors looked much more beautiful than in reality. The cost of one Venetian mirror then was comparable to the cost of the large naval ship.

In a city of Nuremberg (Germany) in 1373 the first mirror manufacturing plant was open. Mirrors were then aggressively integrated in all aspects of life. In the 16th century mirrors become a part of mysterious rituals and witchcraft. Also, for 200 years mirrors were used by Spanish and French spies for coding and decoding secret messages. This secret coding system was introduced in 15th century by Leonardo da Vinci. The scriptures were coded in "mirror reflection" and without the mirror it was impossible to read the message. Mirrors were part of another big invention of the time - the periscope. The opportunity to discreetly spy on ones enemy by using a system of interactive mirrors saved a lot of lives during wars. During the famous Thirty Year war, mirrors were used by all sides to blind the enemy during military actions with bright reflection of sun light. It was very hard to take aim when your eyes are blinded by thousands of tiny mirrors.

Starting with 12th century no respectful lady left her house without a small mirror. Handheld mirrors and pears mirrors became a must have items for every woman. Ladies wore gold embellished mirrors on a chain around their neck or waist, inserted mirrors in to the fens. Mirrors were treated just like precious jewelry, and were incased in specially crafted exotic materials like turtle shell or elephant bone frames. Some of the mirror's frames were made from gold or silver with an elegant miniature engravings.

In the 15th century the Venetian Island of Murano become the center of glass making and was known as the "Isle of Glass". They officially created the "Council of Ten" with a special mission of vigorously protecting the secrets of there glass making techniques. Masters glassmakers were secretly transported to the island of Murano undercover as a firefighters. The "Council of Ten" generously supported glassmakers and at the same time kept them isolated from the rest of the world. The profits from the mirror making monopoly were too large to take any risks. European monarchs at whatever it cost tried to find out the Venetian glassmaking secrets. They accomplish this goal in 17th century, when Colbert (the minister of Ludwig XIV) bribed with gold three Murano masters and transported them in to France.

The French happened to be a good students, and very quickly they not only mastered Murano glass making techniques, but invented they're own. While mirror making techniques used by Venetian masters was based on a glassblowing, French masters started manufacturing mirrors using casting techniques based on pouring glass into the cast molds. The glass was poured directly from the dome into perfectly smooth surface of the cast mold, and then, as the glass was cooling, it was rolled with the special rollers achieving a perfect consistency and smoothness of material. Immediately after this invention, in Versailles the construction of the Mirrors Gallery began. The Mirrors Gallery was 220 feet (73 meters) long and embellished with 306 huge mirrors.

On the end of 16th century, following the high fusion style, French queen Maria De Medici decided to create for herself a Mirrored office. For this matter, 119 mirrors was purchased from Venice. Maybe because her purchase was so large, or for some other reason, Venetian masters created a special gift for the queen of France - a unique large mirror generously incrusted with precious stones. Till this day this mirror is preserved and kept in the Louvre in Paris.

Mirrors become a popular valuable collectibles among royals. English King Hendry VIII and the King of France Francis I were the most known mirrors collectors of there time. Trying to catch up with kings, nobles in France had to have an extravagant mirrors in any cost. There is a knowing facts that some of them had to sell one of they residents in order to purchase a single beautiful mirror. Mirrors were extremely costly. For example one mirror cost more than an Rafael's painting of the same size.

In 17th century Russia, mirrors were considered a sin. In 1666 the Orthodox Church in prohibited the possession of mirrors by its priests. From this time on a lot of superstitions surrounded mirrors. Those superstitions seems to us funny and naive, but back than people took it very seriously. Breaking a mirror, for example, was sign of bad lack for seven years. That is why when a mirror was broken the person who broke it should apologies to the mirror for clumsiness, and had to carefully and respectfully bury it. Solders took mirrors-talismans to reflect away death.

Mirrors have had a long and colorful journey throughout history. In our days there is no home without a mirror. Mirrors have become part of our everyday routine, often unappreciated. We always should remember "reflect" and respect the historical aspects of mirrors and appreciate more not only mirror's functionality, but incredible esthetical value of the mirrors.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The History of Soap

In the course of writing my novels, I have had to research nearly every aspect of medieval life, and still, I sometimes either get it wrong or find myself digging even deeper. So I thought it would be interesting to share my research with my readers.

In chapter 15 of The Treasure of Bloodstone Castle, I have a scene where the hero and heroine argue while she is in the bath. A bar of soap becomes a weapon between them. One of my critiquers questioned whethere there was such a thing as soap in medieval times.

Yes, there was soap. Here is its history.

The origins of personal cleanliness date back to prehistoric times. Since water is essential for life, the earliest people lived near water and knew something about its cleansing properties - at least that it rinsed mud off their hands.

A soap-like material found in clay cylinders during the excavation of ancient Babylon is evidence that soap-making was known as early as 2800 B.C. Inscriptions on the cylinders say that fats were boiled with ashes, which is a method of making soap, but do not refer to the purpose of the "soap." Such materials were later used as hair styling aids.

Records show that ancient Egyptians bathed regularly. The Ebers Papyrus, a medical document from about 1500 B.C., describes combining animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to form a soap-like material used for treating skin diseases, as well as for washing

At about the same time, Moses gave the Israelites detailed laws governing personal cleanliness. He also related cleanliness to health and religious purification. Biblical accounts suggest that the Israelites knew that mixing ashes and oil produced a kind of hair gel.

The early Greeks bathed for aesthetic reasons and apparently did not use soap. Instead, they cleaned their bodies with blocks of clay, sand, pumice and ashes, then anointed themselves with oil, and scraped off the oil and dirt with a metal instrument known as a strigil. They also used oil with ashes. Clothes were washed without soap in streams.

Soap got its name, according to an ancient Roman legend, from Mount Sapo, where animals were sacrificed. Rain washed a mixture of melted animal fat, or tallow, and wood ashes down into the clay soil along the Tiber River. Women found that this clay mixture made their wash cleaner with much less effort.

The ancient Germans and Gauls are also credited with discovering a substance called soap, made of tallow and ashes, that they used to tint their hair red.

As Roman civilization advanced, so did bathing. The first of the famous Roman baths, supplied with water from their aqueducts, was built about 312 B.C. The baths were luxurious, and bathing became very popular. By the second century A.D., the Greek physician, Galen, recommended soap for both medicinal and cleansing purposes.

After the fall of Rome in 467 A.D. and the resulting decline in bathing habits, much of Europe felt the impact of filth upon public health. This lack of personal cleanliness and related unsanitary living conditions contributed heavily to the great plagues of the Middle Ages, and especially to the Black Death of the 14th century. It wasn't until the 17th century that cleanliness and bathing started to come back into fashion in much of Europe. Still there were areas of the medieval world where personal cleanliness remained important. Daily bathing was a common custom in Japan during the Middle Ages. And in Iceland, pools warmed with water from hot springs were popular gathering places on Saturday evenings.
Soapmaking was an established craft in Europe by the seventh century. Soapmaker guilds guarded their trade secrets closely. Vegetable and animal oils were used with ashes of plants, along with fragrance. Gradually more varieties of soap became available for shaving and shampooing, as well as bathing and laundering.

Italy, Spain and France were early centers of soap manufacturing, due to their ready supply of raw materials such as oil from olive trees. The English began making soap during the 12th century. The soap business was so good that in 1622, King James I granted a monopoly to a soapmaker for $100,000 a year. Well into the 19th century, soap was heavily taxed as a luxury item in several countries. When the high tax was removed, soap became available to ordinary people, and cleanliness standards improved.

Commercial soapmaking in the American colonies began in 1608 with the arrival of several soapmakers on the second ship from England to reach Jamestown, VA. However, for many years, soapmaking stayed essentially a household chore. Eventually, professional soapmakers began regularly collecting waste fats from households, in exchange for some soap.

A major step toward large-scale commercial soapmaking occurred in 1791 when a French chemist, Nicholas Leblanc, patented a process for making soda ash, or sodium carbonate, from common salt. Soda ash is the alkali obtained from ashes that combines with fat to form soap. The Leblanc process yielded quantities of good quality, inexpensive soda ash.

The science of modern soapmaking was bom some 20 years later with the discovery by Michel Eugene Chevreul, another French chemist, of the chemical nature and relationship of fats, glycerine and fatty acids. His studies established the basis for both fat and soap chemistry.

Also important to the advancement of soap technology was the mid-1800s invention by the Belgian chemist, Ernest Solvay, of the ammonia process, which also used common table salt, or sodium chloride, to make soda ash. Solvay's process further reduced the cost of obtaining this alkali, and increased both the quality and quantity of the soda ash available for manufacturing soap.

These scientific discoveries, together with the development of power to operate factories, made soapmaking one of America's fastest-growing industries by 1850. At the same time, its broad availability changed soap from a luxury item to an everyday necessity. With this widespread use came the development of milder soaps for bathing and soaps for use in the washing machines that were available to consumers by the turn of the century.

The chemistry of soap manufacturing stayed essentially the same until 1916, when the first synthetic detergent was developed in Germany in response to a World War I-related shortage of fats for making soap. Known today simply as detergents, synthetic detergents are non-soap washing and cleaning products that are "synthesized" or put together chemically from a variety of raw materials. The discovery of detergents was also driven by the need for a cleaning agent that, unlike soap, would not combine with the mineral salts in water to form an insoluble substance known as soap curd.

Household detergent production in the United States began in the early 1930s, but did not really take off until after World War II. The war-time interruption of fat and oil supplies as well as the military's need for a cleaning agent that would work in mineral-rich sea water and in cold water had further stimulated research on detergents.

The first detergents were used chiefly for hand dishwashing and fine fabric laundering. The breakthrough in the development of detergents for all-purpose laundry uses came in 1946, when the first "built" detergent (containing a surfactant/builder combination) was introduced in the U.S. The surfactant is a detergent product's basic cleaning ingredient, while the builder helps the surfactant to work more efficiently. Phosphate compounds used as builders in these detergents vastly improved performance, making them suitable for cleaning heavily soiled laundry.

By 1953, sales of detergents in this country had surpassed those of soap. Now detergents have all but replaced soap-based products for laundering, dishwashing and household cleaning. Detergents (alone or in combination with soap) are also found in many of the bars and liquids used for personal cleansing.

Since those early achievements in detergent and builder chemistry, new product activity has continued to focus on developing cleaning products that are efficient and easy to use, as well as safe for consumers and for the environment. Here's a summary of some of those innovations:

Automatic dishwasher powders
Liquid laundry, hand dishwashing and all-purpose cleaning products
Fabric softeners (rinse-cycle added)
Detergent with oxygen bleach

Prewash soil and stain removers
Laundry powders with enzymes
Enzyme presoaks

Liquid hand soaps
Fabric softeners (sheets and wash-cycle added)
Multifunctional products (e.g., detergent with fabric softener)

Detergents for cooler water washing
Automatic dishwasher liquids
Concentrated laundry powders

Ultra (superconcentrated) powder and liquid detergents
Ultra fabric softeners
Automatic dishwasher gels
Laundry and cleaning product refills
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