Category Archives: Travel

In Pursuit of the Perfect…Soap


Sandalwood is my favorite fragrance. I rarely use perfumes. To me, most of them smell too sweet, too floral, or down-right icky. Instead, for the past half dozen years or so, I buy a vial of sandalwood oil at my local Annual Renaissance Festival and use that in lieu of perfume. One 1/2 oz vial usually lasts me an entire year.

A few years ago I discovered another marvelous sandalwood item: bar soap. The all natural, no animal by-products, cold-processed, etc. type of bar soap. I was in aromatic heaven!

Lately, though, the places I previously could find sandalwood bar soap in abundance seem to have stopped carrying it. Instead I’m seeing sandalwood mixed with patchouli (which I’m not particularly fond of, but bought anyway because of the SANDALWOOD ingredient), or fragrances like tomato or mint. I want to smell mysterious, not edible.

So while in Europe the end of September, I was on the look-out for soap stores or shops that sell soaps, in hopes that EUROPEAN stores would stock the elusive sandalwood bar soap. Alas, all my efforts came to fruition in the form of one small bar of sandalwood/ylang ylang soap. (Sigh.) Yes, I bought it. Still haven’t decided whether or not I’ll actually use it…

Upon returning hoPlantlife sandalwood soapme, determined NOT to mourn sandalwood bar soap, I tracked down the company (Plantlife) that makes the soap I like the best. It’s in stock!! YES!! I will be ordering several bars come payday.

I’ve decided that while on future vacations, whether in the USA or overseas, I’ll continue to be on the lookout for sandalwood bar soap. Because while it’s good to know I can order it online, I still prefer the joy of discovering said bar of sandalwood soap on the shelf in a store, picking it up and deeply inhaling the wonderful musky aroma. 🙂

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(Fantasy) Research – Part I


If you want people to read what you write, you have to make it believable. Even in fantasy, your story has to be plausible, even if only within the realms of your readers’ imaginations. If they can suspend their belief for the time it takes them to read about your wild magic, supernatural creatures, zombies or vampires, then you’ll be successful.

To that end, if your fantasy takes place in a specific time and place in history – as mine does – then research becomes a big part of your writing process. And fortunately for me, and my story, I LOVE research!

Though I’m writing a Jewish medieval fantasy (currently writing the second book in a series), the events take place in a world that actually existed – Eastern Europe – so research was necessary. My protagonist’s story starts out in the second half of the 11th century in Silesia, Poland. She and her companions travel to Kievan Rus (modern day Russia) via modern day Ukraine, which was at that time divided between Poland and Kievan Rus. Since Silesia doesn’t exist as such anymore, and Ukraine is now an independent country, I had to research period maps to be sure that where I chose to place my characters was an actual land mass within Poland or Kievan Rus.

I had the opportunity in the summer of 2010 to travel to Eastern Europe to follow this path. Even though it’s almost a millennium later, research of the medieval landscape in those areas led me to believe that it’s not extremely different today – at least not in the rural areas or the heritage sites. So while very few medieval settlements still exist as anything other than well-preserved ruins, I was able to “get a feel” for the people and their environments, simply by visiting the countries in their modern incarnation.

Since my protagonist is not only Jewish, but a healer and archer facing annihilation of her home, my research extended into medieval Judaic practices, mysticism, medieval medicine, Eastern European medieval clothing, and medieval warfare.

The most difficult of these to track down were the medieval Judaic practices and daily life as pertaining to women, and Eastern European daily costumes. Quite often, valuable information can be found in fiction, as well as historical/non-fiction references. Maggie Anton’s RASHI’S DAUGHTERS trilogy and Michelle Cameron’s THE FRUIT OF HER HANDS were especially helpful with regards to describing the daily lives of Jewish women, textiles and styles of the era, and providing other historical references.

My own research is extensive and almost fully half of it is from fictional sources. Should you be interested in seeing my bibliography, you can read the ever-growing list by clicking on the “Research” tab at the top of this blog.

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