Thanks, Ancient Rome. I Now Have a Research Hangover.

Hey, psst. You there. Don’t freak out, but I’ve decided that I’m going to break my own rule about keeping my current writing projects secret and tell you something about the YA novel I’m working on. Hurry up, lean in before I change my mind. Okay, here goes. I’m just going to blurt it out.

The book takes place in ancient Imperial Rome.

Exciting right? It would be, if I didn’t find myself doing hours of research and struggling to retain every bit of information I can about what many consider the greatest civilization in history. I’ve been researching the time period heavily in the last few months, and to me, everything about Ancient Rome is so fascinating that I can’t stop reading and following tangents and buying more books and spending hours pouring about ridiculously minor historical details. I even went on a specific tour of the Forum and Colosseum in Rome last week to take notes for my book. I’m pretty much obsessed.

This is good, I guess, since my torrid love affair with Caesar, Gladiators and the Roman Legion keeps me committed to the project itself, but it certainly seems to hinder the actual writing process. I spend almost all my time that I’ve dedicated to the project researching, leaving very little time to write. And I have another worry – I tend to get swept up in the details in my research and I’m afraid I’m losing track of the big picture.

That’s where you come in. Yes, you.

I want to know what you remember about Ancient Rome from when you learned about it in grade school or middle school. What facts stick out in your mind? What were you most taken by – was it the mass-scale architecture, the giant statues of dieties or gladiators fighting to death in the arena?

I have two distinct memories from 5th grade history class. First, I remember learning that the ancient Romans worshipped a large number of gods and goddesses, which I thought sounded stressful. Sitting in church for a couple of hours on a Sunday just for one God was boring enough to me. How much church did these people have to sit through if there were hundreds of Gods? That is a lot of grape juice and saltines. A silly thought, but an authentic one from a 5th grader.

The other memory I have is from the final week of our Ancient Rome lessons, when a snobby girl that used to pick on me pointed to the big earrings I was wearing and said, “You know, in ancient Rome, the only people who wore earrings were barbarians.” Then she turned around and laughed with her snobby little friends. When you’re ten, that stays with you. But now I know better – earrings were very popular in Ancient Rome, thank you very much. The Romans even invented the hoop earring. So take that, Cassie Stevenson, you bitch.

Sorry, apparently that cut was deeper than I realized.

Anyways, the point is that if we’ve remembered some fact about Ancient Rome from our school years, it is because we connected with it in some way. That’s why I want to know what about the time period connected with you, if anything. From all the facts and history that I’ve assembled in my research, I want to choose to incorporate the bits and pieces that will connect with my characters and the reader in that same memorable way.

So please, help me out. Dig into the recesses of your brain and tell me what you remember learning about Ancient Rome. Don’t make me regret letting you in on my secret!


Back To Real Life

Well, I am back in LA, back at work, down from the glorious cloud that I lived on for 2.5 weeks as I trounced around Europe. I’ve technically been back for 4 days, but only now has my body and mind recovered and started to settle back into the saddle of work and everyday life.

I don’t want you or me to get bogged down with recounting every part of my trip with my mom, so suffice it to say that this trip was most definitely the most unbelievable vacation I’ve ever been on. Here are a few highlights:

Countries & Cities I Visited:
UK – London, Spain – Barcelona, Valencia, Palma de Mallorca, France – Marseille, Saint Tropez, Monaco – Monte Carlo, Italy – Portofino, Florence, Amalfi, Sorrento, Rome

Portofino, Italy from Brown Castle

Favorite new place: Portofino! I had a perfect moment there, sitting by the little port drinking wine and soaking in the sun. The castle on the hill was worth the hike and the view was incredible.

Biggest Disappointment: Saint Tropez. It may have been the rainy weather that day but I just didn’t get it – snotty people and everything was way overpriced.

Best Discovery: An amazing hidden English book store in Palma de Mallorca run by a delightful British man I wanted to put in my pocket. Inside, it looked like what I imagine Flourish and Botts did in the Harry Potter series. There were books, old and new (mostly old) piled to the ceiling in 4 levels of small rooms packed with shelf after shelf of pages and treasures. The smell of the place alone nearly brought me to tears. I bought a 100-year-old book on Spanish Literature, resisting the urge to buy a copy of Don Quixote that was even older for 30 euros. My mom had to literally drag me out.

2nd Best Discovery: A setting on my camera called “Magic” which I can use to take pictures with the incredibly enhanced and vibrant colors. It took amazing photos, like the one above of the Duomo of Florence I snapped at the Piazzale Michelangelo.

Biggest Regret: Getting so drunk in a bar in Amalfi with some of the cruise ship crew that I apparently missed a really nice sunset. Luckily I did make it back to the boat in time though!

Mom and Me in MONTE CARLO

Biggest Surprise: My mom and I got along wonderfully! And she totally put up with me dragging her around to an endless amount of churches, museums and monuments while going on and on about history and art. We spent some amazing quality time together that I’ll never forget.

Biggest Revelation: It was my second time visiting Rome, and I decided that it has surpassed London as my favorite city in the world. I decided I want to live there at some point in my life, if only for a few months. The mixture of history, art, and low-key lifestyle is unrivaled, at least anywhere I’ve ever been, and I feel like I could never finish exploring the city.
The Best Part: I didn’t think about work or relationship worries the entire trip for the most part, which for me hasn’t really happened for about 3 and a half years. It was amazing and completely unexpected, and it helped me gain the clarity I need to tackle this next year of work, both in my job and with my writing goals. I feel amazingly refreshed and ready to put in the effort it will take to get where I want to be this time next year.

I hope this high never goes away, though I have a feeling it will probably start to fade shortly – I’m about to check my bank account for the first time since I left! Yikes…