A Repost Of A Beta Reader Article – And In Search Of A Beta Reader

Since I’m currently preparing Book 6 in ‘The Council of Twelve’ series to be published, I contacted all my Beta Readers, and this year I’m not as lucky as I was before. Life changes, and apparently, it has changed for a few of my supporters, my Beta Readers. I’m happy for them, and I wish them all the Best! But right now, I secretly wish Beta Readers could be bought in a supermarket… or knitted. HAHA

If you have fun Beta Reading, please, let me know. It would be a pleasure to complete the group again and send out my new manuscript..

And since the subject ‘came up’, here’s the blog post I published 2019 about Beta Readers. It’s still valid! Enjoy the read, and please, don’t forget to contact me at aurorajean.alexander@aol.com. I look forward to hearing from you.


It seems there is the one or other author around who either don’t know what the job of a beta reader is. Also, some authors don’t want to pay for an editor and therefore try to ‘use’ the beta reader to get the editor’s job done.

From what I learned in my ‘long’ career of two published books (and a few lined up)… my order of ‘writing and publishing’ is the following:

  1.  Drafting
  2.  Copying out
  3.  personal editing #1
  4.  personal editing #2
  5.  professional editing (proofreading)
  6.  filing for copyright
  7.  sending the manuscript out to the beta readers
  8.  having the book cover done
  9.  possible corrections when getting the manuscript back from beta readers
  10.  publishing

At times the corrections, added paragraphs or even pages, demand a second round of proofreading or editing.

Now, what does the beta reader do?

Beta readers are helpful people around you – can be friends, co-workers, family members. They are asked to read the book pre-release. Often they are asked to review the book online, just after release. Most beta readers are very happy to do so in exchange for the book.

Every beta reader works differently. Some return a paper manuscript with scribbles all over the place…, some send an email with a few ideas, suggestions or remarks, some send texts whenever they discover something. When I beta read, I write a list and later send that list by email. So far, I never discovered a huge plot hole, but I found the one or other ‘thing’ that bugged me and that I had to let the author know about. Many other beta readers do the same thing.

There is one thing beta readers don’t do: they don’t correct typos and grammar. That’s what’s the editor is for. I’m not saying they always are perfect, and should I catch a forgotten typo, of course, I will tell the author about it. But I’m not actively looking for them.

I am lucky enough to have a beta reader who is sweet enough to actively look for typos and grammar problems that escaped my editor’s attention. The one or other author might be just as lucky. But generally, beta readers are not here for editing!

They should return your manuscript with a bit more than ‘I liked it.’ You want to get their notes. You want to hear about their feelings… when did they laugh? When did they cry? What scared them or amused them? Did they enjoy the read, and would they recommend the book? According to them, what age range is the book for (if you’re writing Young Adult), and what did they not like so much?

Did they discover something about the plot they didn’t like? Do they have questions about the story, the plot, or the characters? Is there anything they discovered that isn’t right?

Let me give you a couple examples. One of my last beta readers told me that she loves my book, and she finds ‘Sundance’ as a character very interesting. However, she misses Katie, the ‘Soul Taker’ and wishes her back. She is an exceptional beta reader and informed me about several other things that I later corrected. (I did not write more ‘Katie’ into the second book since that is ‘Sundance’s’ story).

When I was beta reading for a male author, I discovered a wardrobe flaw with one of the female character’s ‘undergarments.’ I told my fellow author about it, and he corrected that.

We all were grateful to have our beta readers. It is important to us having people with open minds paying attention to our stories. And we always hope we don’t ask too much.

Thank you, beta readers, for helping us with your time, your efforts, and your honesty. We need you!

The Passaic County Book Festival

June 10, 2023

11.00 am – 4.00 pm

Weasel Brook Park, Clifton, NJ


I can be found at the book festival in ‘roughly’ three weeks. I will not be a participant, though! I will meet fellow authors, check out how the program is structured and what is expected from the authors, listen to some public speaking, wander around between the tents, and meet authors from my friend list and new ones.

Since I am an HSP, as addressed in an earlier post, I particularly picked a smaller event to look into rather than being surrounded by a vast mass of people and noises.

However, would you mind letting me know if you will be there? I’d be delighted to meet you in person!

Are ‘Old Sayings’ Too Cliché For Todays’ Writers?

Lately I was sitting in the car, signing along with a great Country song, and here it is, that old expression: ‘You can’t fit a camel through the eye of a needle’.

I heard that expression before, and finally decided to go and research where it comes from… and here it was, in the bible:

Mark10, verse25: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God

During my research I found about one hundred and one explanations what this could mean, from interpretation, over misinterpretation to misunderstandings, to mistranslation… But basically, it call came to the same. If you are rich, you’re not passing the Pearly Gates, not even if you danced naked on a quarter…

Now, can we go into the deeper meaning of that saying? Yes, we could… do we want to? Not today. This is not the purpose of that article.

We’re actually trying to determine, if generally old saying is actually still used, show up in books, or are even suitable nowadays.

Why don’t we look at a few more expressions and see?

_____________________________________

“The Walls Have Ears”

Meaning: Be careful what you say as people may be eavesdropping.
Origin: The face Louvre Palace in France was believed to have a network of listening tubes so that it would be possible to hear everything that was said in different rooms. People say that this is how the Queen Catherine de’Medici discovered political secrets and plots.

“Bury The Hatchet”

Meaning: End a quarrel or conflict and become friendly.
Origin: During negotiations between Puritans and Native Americans men would bury all of their weapons, making them inaccessible.

(Well, some people bury their hatchets in the back of their enemies, but that’s a chapter for another post)

Picture courtesy of BoredPanda.com

“Raining Cats And Dogs”

Meaning: Rain very hard.
Origin: This idiom has two stories that try to explain its origin. The first explanation says that the origin of this phrase comes from Norse mythology, where cats would symbolise heavy rains and dogs were associated with the God of storms, Odin. The second version says that in 16th century England, houses had thatched roofs which were one of the few places where animals were able to get warm. Sometimes, when it would start to rain heavily, roofs would get slippery and cats and dogs would fall off, making it look like it’s raining cats and dogs!

“Blood Is Thicker Than Water”

Meaning: Family relationships and loyalties are the strongest and most important ones.
Origin: Even though many might think this saying means that we should put family ahead of friends, it actually meant the complete opposite. The full phrase actually was “The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,” and it referred to warriors who shared the blood they shed in battles together. These ‘blood brothers’ were said to have stronger bonds than biological brothers.

“Born With A Silver Spoon In Your Mouth”

Meaning: Be born into a wealthy family of high social standing.
Origin: It is an old tradition for godparents to gift a silver spoon to a christened child. However, not everyone was able to afford this type of luxury gift so those who did receive the spoon as a gift were considered to be wealthy, sometimes even spoiled.

“Steal One’s Thunder”

Meaning: Win praise for oneself by pre-empting someone else’s attempt to impress.
Origin: You think that you’ve done something awesome and unique, but someone got in there first and took your credit! Spare a thought for playwright John Dennis who, back in the 18th Century, made a machine that could nicely mimic the sound of thunder for his play. Sadly, his play wasn’t a success, but somebody had taken note of his clever invention. When, later on in another theatre, Dennis found somebody had copied his thunder machine and was using it without credit, he got mad. Really mad. Somebody had stolen his thunder!

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There are many more old sayings, I just picked a few of them. Over 60 old expressions and sayings and their meanings can be researched over at the ‘Bored Panda’ Website.

But, without knowing exactly where these sayings and expressions come from… should we writers even use them? Are they still timely?

I still use the one or other… but then, my fantasy books are partially situated in older eras. However, I’m not sure, if these expressions would go well with SciFi Anno 2765?

Please, let us know what you think in the comments. We are curious!

Soul Taker Secrets: Archangels Must Be Swiss – They LOVE Cheese

Katie, Raphael’s consort, is not the only one cooking for her Archangel. This recipe is one that Koyu recommended, Santanael’s wife. She knows her Archangel well, and she’s well aware of her husband being a big cheese lover. She, therefore, often prepares a little cheesy appetizer, or a cheesy midnight snack for him, when he has to work long hours and comes home exhausted and hungry.

Let’s see what Archangel Santanael can expect:


Baked Brie With Pecans

Ingredients

  • 1 (8-oz.) Brie round
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sweetened dried cherries
  • Apple slices, crackers, and/or toasted baguette slices for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a small baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Unwrap cheese, and place on prepared baking sheet. (Do not trim rind from cheese.) Bake until cheese is soft to the touch, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven; cool on baking sheet 5 minutes.
  2. Place honey, salt, and five spice powder in a small saucepan. Heat over medium-low until honey “melts,” about 2 minutes. Stir in pecans and cherries; cook until warmed, about 2 minutes.
  3. Carefully transfer cheese round to a platter; top with pecan mixture. Serve warm with apples, crackers, and/or toasted baguette slices.

A New 5-Star Review For Dream Walker

This morning Janny C posted a 5-star review for the 5th book in ‘The Council of Twelve’ series, Dream Walker.

I’m very proud of it! See how it starts:



Koyu thought she had done her duty, but deep inside she knows it will never be over. She is bound to her master forever and will have to execute his every command. But when he demands she’ll invade his sworn enemy’s dreams, she chooses to rebel.
Koyu risks her existence to help the ‘other side’ by purposely disobeying her master's orders.
Koyu knows she'll pay with her life for her impertinence. Is there, indeed, no hope for her?
AVAILABLE NOW ON  Amazon  Barnes & Noble and Apple Books

REVIEW

Having followed the series since book one I am ecstatic for book five! Each book is a stand-alone book on its own though so it doesn’t matter where you start (though starting at the beginning does make it more enjoyable.), either way, you are going to get hooked and want to go back and read the rest.

In book 5 Dream Walker we have introduced Koyu, a succubus demon with a heart of gold. She actually distastes her duty, her existence. When her master calls upon Koyu with a mission to seduce one of the Council of Twelve Angels, she is horrified. Unable to say no though she unwittingly says she will take the challenge giving her an upper hand. Not wanting to do it, Koyu bravely reaches out to the Council of Twelve to warn them. 

When Koyu is whisked up to heaven to talk to the Council of Twelve and Koyu sees her target, a strange feeling starts to stir in Koyu. You can take a demon out of hell, but can you take the hell out of a demon?

Alexander takes the sexy succubus demon creature in a direction I didn’t know could be so tastefully done. She strikes gold again in her 5th book of the series.

Reading is my escapism. I want to be whisked away from this reality and into another and Alexander does not disappoint you. For a moment my troubles are gone and I am in heaven, or at least A.J.’s re-imagining of it. In every book she takes you on a delicious journey into her world which she lays out in a sweet poetic song of words. Lovely!

My Rating is 5 out of 5 stars⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE

Thank you, Janny C. I’m enthusiastic!

Book Trailer

A Dark Piece Of History – Flipped Over To The Modern World

Let me start by saying that this is a topic I use in my current need to write blog posts that give us a bit of information about how things really were in the ‘good old days’… I wrote about Historical Romance and Hygiene, I wrote an article describing Historical Health and Ladies Fashion, and their part in Historical Romance… now, let’s go to another piece of history, a dark, very dark part, that we nowadays rather ignore…

But let me ask you a question:

How did we get from THIS:

Picture courtesy of Pinterest.com

to this:?

Picture courtesy of Google.com

In these days of storytelling, authors enjoy the wonderful freedom that ‘fiction’ gives them. With the genre of ‘Historical Romance,’ ‘Paranormal Romance,’ ‘Chick Lit,’ ‘Sexy Romance,’ ‘Erotica,’ ‘Fantasy,’ and others, we are given the possibility to turn our characters into whatever we feel like… And it happens that some of these women become witches.

I admit, it wouldn’t be very romantic (or sexy), if the ‘lady’ from the first picture were our protagonist’s love interest, while nobody has problems seeing the young ‘witch’ being the chosen one.

In many cases, our young and sexy girl is often a witch with unmeasurable power. Of course, remove the pointy hat and the broomstick, but I think you get the drift.

But how did these accessories even come up? How did witches ‘become’? What happened to these women, and why is this part of history so dark?

Let’s have a look at that:


Partially to filming, movies, TV, illustrators, and artists (one of them the creators of ‘The Wizard of Oz’), the expression ‘witch’ has become stereotyped with a certain outfit, long ripped, ugly, unwashed flowing dresses, boots… black cats, broomsticks, and a pointy black hat.

After a few hours of intense research, I admit, I’m at the end of my wits. Despite all the information I got, I’m as helpless as I was before I started looking for the origin of that hat. History is full of pointy hats. Medieval noblewomen wore the ‘Hennin’, a long conic hat, often covered with a veil… Phrygian caps were worn by French revolutionaries (dwarves and smurfs), but the truth is, nobody knows truly when the pointy hat became associated with dark magic.

And then, I seemed to be lucky: I found an article describing the discovery of three female mummies in China. (Three female mummies uncovered in the Chinese region of Subeshi [PDF]) They became famous as the “witches of Subeshi”. Each of them had covered her hair with a large funnel-shaped black hat.

Until the early 18th century, witches were shown bare-headed and nude, until in England, illustrations of old crones in pointed hats started showing up.

Gary Jensen, a former professor at Vanderbilt and author of ‘The Path of The Devil, Early Modern Witch Hunts,” the pointed hat became an easy way to recognize dark magic. Witches showed up on postcards from the American colonies. Later, Victorian storybooks picked up on the theme and continued to develop the myth.

After all the interesting information I gathered, I still didn’t know about the origin of the conical hats and why there were supposed to represent evil. There were rumors that witches were trying to gather universal power with the hat, who supposedly served as the ‘catcher’ and vessel of said power. But other than that rumor, I didn’t find anything that would point me in that direction.

I also read about a theory, which Jensen described, how the ‘Fourth Council of Lateran in 1215 demanded all Jewish people to wear this so-called ‘Judenhat’ (Jewish hat) to show their religion. By then, this hat stood for Anti-Semitism. What surprised me was that Jews had been followed, hated, and bullied as early as the medieval by connecting them to the devil.

Another wild guess pointed me toward Quakers and the ‘commoner’s’ prejudice against them. This would partially explain the hatred and fear people had against this sect in colonial America, but it wouldn’t tell anything about the horrible hatred and Witch-Hunts in Europe. Also, Quakers wore hats but nowhere near pointed.

One more theory I read about, in a short, rather insignificant article, was the one that doctors set the rumors of ‘witches’ into the community when women started working as midwives and were much cleaner and more successful than the often dirty and careless medical ‘experts’ back in the medieval times. The midwives’ pupils had a much higher chance of surviving delivery, and the mothers-to-be felt more comfortable in their presence. And we are talking about a time, centuries before Lister’s Theory of Antisepsis, which he published after 1867. This theory is quite interesting but had nothing to do with the pointed hat.

After all that research, we know that witches use cone hats with wide rims, and we still have no clue where this began.


However, there are more ‘accessories’ witches have, one of them the infamous black cat. How did that start? I found a website, ‘Solidgoldpet,’ that told me in a few words, what I wanted to know:

Back in the 14th century, black cats were actually worshiped as gods, but as time went on, their reputation quickly changed. During the Middle Ages, the black cat became affiliated with evil. This stemmed from them being nocturnal animals.

Witchcraft also played a big part of the cat’s evil image. Since being one with nature was an important part of witchcraft,  it was common for them to have a cat as a companion. Cats are also nocturnal and roam the night, which lead to the belief that they were supernatural servants to witches. When the black cat was linked to the devil, it lead to many of them being killed during the Black Death pandemic (although the cats were actually helping to kill the rats that spread the plague). The term witchcraft has a negative connotation, but it actually means “craft of the wise.” When witches claimed to be able to perform magic, they were actually brewing special potions that helped heal the sick. That is when the Christian Church spread propaganda that their magical powers came from The Devil. (Source: Solidgoldpet)


A third distinctive accessory for witches is the ‘broomstick’ on which they fly around. I found an amusing and very interesting article about this on ‘History.com’, which actually blamed a priest for practicing witchcraft and flying around on a broomstick, and he confessed. (Under torture, but still…) If you would like to read the entire article, it can be found here. At this time, I decided only to implement a part of the post here.

Anthropologist Robin Skelton suggests the association between witches and brooms may have roots in a pagan fertility ritual, in which rural farmers would leap and dance astride poles, pitchforks or brooms in the light of the full moon to encourage the growth of their crops. This “broomstick dance,” she writes, became confused with common accounts of witches flying through the night on their way to orgies and other illicit meetings. (Source: History.com)


So, when and where did the witch hunts start? It is unclear, how it started, the theory of ‘doctors’ starting them, accusing midwives of witchcraft, is as ‘good or bad’ as any other wild guess. Again, the ‘History Channel’ helped me. In limited, clear and simple words it explained the suspected origin, the wide spread witch hunts in Europe, and even touches the Salem Witch Trials. (For the entire article, please click here)

Witches were perceived as evil beings by early Christians in Europe, inspiring the iconic Halloween figure.

Images of witches have appeared in various forms throughout history—from evil, wart-nosed women huddling over a cauldron of boiling liquid to hag-faced, cackling beings riding through the sky on brooms wearing pointy hats. In pop culture, the witch has been portrayed as a benevolent, nose-twitching suburban housewife; an awkward teenager learning to control her powers and a trio of charmed sisters battling the forces of evil. The real history of witches, however, is dark and, often for the witches, deadly.

The Origin of Witches

Early witches were people who practiced witchcraft, using magic spells and calling upon spirits for help or to bring about change. Most witches were thought to be pagans doing the Devil’s work. Many, however, were simply natural healers or so-called “wise women” whose choice of profession was misunderstood.

It’s unclear exactly when witches came on the historical scene, but one of the earliest records of a witch is in the Bible in the book of 1 Samuel, thought be written between 931 B.C. and 721 B.C. It tells the story of when King Saul sought the Witch of Endor to summon the dead prophet Samuel’s spirit to help him defeat the Philistine army.

The witch roused Samuel, who then prophesied the death of Saul and his sons. The next day, according to the Bible, Saul’s sons died in battle, and Saul committed suicide.

Other Old Testament verses condemn witches, such as the oft-cited Exodus 22:18, which says, “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Additional Biblical passages caution against divination, chanting or using witches to contact the dead.

‘Malleus Maleficarum’

Witch hysteria really took hold in Europe during the mid-1400s, when many accused witches confessed, often under torture, to a variety of wicked behaviors. Within a century, witch hunts were common and most of the accused were executed by burning at the stake or hanging. Single women, widows and other women on the margins of society were especially targeted.

Between the years 1500 and 1660, up to 80,000 suspected witches were put to death in Europe. Around 80 percent of them were women thought to be in cahoots with the Devil and filled with lust. Germany had the highest witchcraft execution rate, while Ireland had the lowest.

The publication of “Malleus Maleficarum”—written by two well-respected German Dominicans in 1486—likely spurred witch mania to go viral. The book, usually translated as “The Hammer of Witches,” was essentially a guide on how to identify, hunt and interrogate witches.

“Malleus Maleficarum” labeled witchcraft as heresy, and quickly became the authority for Protestants and Catholics trying to flush out witches living among them. For more than 100 years, the book sold more copies of any other book in Europe except the Bible.

Anna Göldi (Switzerland, 24 October 1734 – 13 June 1782) was probably the last person in Europe to be executed as a witch. She was beheaded in Glarus in 1782. She confessed under torture, and despite many people believing her innocent, she had to die. You can read about her life in ‘The Story of Anna Göldi‘.

In March 2007, 225 years after her execution, the government and the church of Glarus refused to admit that Anna Göldi was a victim of justice. They said that in the minds of the people of Glarus, she was already rehabilitated long ago.

However, the case was taken further, and finally, on September 20, 2007, the Swiss parliament decided that justice was wrong in Anna Göldin’s case. As a representative for Glarus in the Swiss parliament, Fritz Schiesser called for Anna Göldin’s exoneration. (An interesting view on things, because, in my opinion, an exoneration 225 years after her death gives the word ‘delay’ a whole new dimension, doesn’t it?)


Now, what are we doing with all our information about witches? I would say it depends on what kind of authors we are. We can write about sexy, breathtakingly beautiful women practicing witchcraft and having a happily-ever-after moment with their beau… or we write about the numerous poor women who had to die, innocent, after being tortured and accused for no reason, just because someone didn’t like them?

Or… we write a dark, dark fairy tale, where old hags eat children…”Nibble, nibble, gnaw, who is nibbling at my little house?”

A Broken Angel Heart (Anghariel’s Past)

It was late in the afternoon when the teenage angel returned home… He had spent a wonderful romantic afternoon and expected to have dinner and then meet a few friends, pretending to do homework together.

What he did not expect, was his father standing behind the door, his fists stemmed into his hips, his impressive frame of 6’4” stretched out, his handsome face showed overshadowed eyes, lips, pressed to form one thin line of anger, and he radiated power, tension, and rage.

The young angel stood there, lowering his head. He knew, there was no way out of punishment.

His father stared at him: “Have you been skipping classes, son?” Anghariel lifted his head and looked right back into his father’s eyes. He would not lie. He would take responsibility for his decisions and actions. So, he simply replied: “Yes, Father.”

The older angel just nodded, then ordered: “Come with me. We will fly.” Anghariel was surprised but followed directions without another word.

It did not take long, and Anghariel lost his father, somewhere in the Alpes, between the ‘Schilthorn’ and the ‘Allmendhubel’, how they would be known in later times, after the founding of the ‘Confoederatio Helvetica’, later known as Switzerland. After searching for over two hours, Anghariel found his father peacefully resting on the ‘Griesalp’, between cows grazing. He did expect his father to yell at him, but the older angel just got up, grinning widely. “Not too bad, my son.” He greeted him amused.

Anghariel frowned. He had hardly ever seen his Father this chipper, not, when he seemed to be so brooding dark and enraged, only a few hours ago.

Aquilo smiled. “Sit down, Anghariel. We need to talk.” The younger angel nodded and sat on a boulder. Aquilo stood there, shook his breathtaking orange wings with the silver-gray tips and folded them neatly behind his back. Anghariel waited patiently until his father was ready to talk, when he finally did, it was like a shock to the boy.

“When I was your age, maybe a tiny bit older, I was a womanizer, son. I know, you would not think so now, that I’m happy with your mother and our family. But back then, I was craving for the attention of women… or, let’s say, ‘girls’, since for real women I was far too wet behind the ears.” He took a break before taking a deep shaky breath…

“And then I made a horrible, horrible mistake, that nearly cost the lives of several teenage angels, one of them myself, and a few of my closest friends. – I fell for a human girl.”

Anghariel swallowed. “You… you did?” Aquilo nodded. “Yes, son. And believe me. It was not easy. I had to sneak out, not only our house, but Heaven… I had to lie to see her, to cheat, and to lie again. I loved her with all my being, and she did not even know who the boy was, who visited her night after night…” He took a break, the silence in the air was only interrupted by his hasty breathing. Then he continued.

“One night, I snuck out again, I was followed by a few other young angels, who couldn’t bear that I refused to tell them where I was going, when I disappeared. They followed me carefully, to see where I went, and on the way, they were attacked by a group of demons who happened to be at the wrong place, at the wrong time. My friend’s careful distance to me was a curse, since I couldn’t hear what happened behind me, and they barely made it out alive, my best friend was injured so badly, it took him months to heal. We remained best friends to this day, but I still have nightmares, that it could have been my fault that he died. It speaks for him that he never held it against me. But he was hurt for a long time to find out, that I refused to tell him my secret and made a mere human girl more important in my existence, than he was.”

Aquilo took another break and his breathing sounded shallow and hasty. His hand seemed to wipe his face, but Anghariel couldn’t discover anything that needed to be wiped off. He remained quiet until his father decided to pick up where he left off.

“I had to think hard about what happened, and I felt guilty. But also, I was in love. And even though I loved my best friend like a brother, I still was addicted to that human girl. I was young and didn’t know any better. I was with her whenever I could. We were teenagers, I was, in angel years counted, barely older than her fifteen years… and one night, she told me, trembling with fear, that she expected my child…” I knew, right then and there, that rule breaking always has a price. This one could cost me my spot in Heaven.”

He shook his head and snorted. “It was a different time back then, and I loved her. I never, for one second, considered to run, or to hide what I had done. There were consequences, and despite only being little more than a boy myself, I would take responsibility. What I did not know, was that no matter what my intentions were, they were doomed.”

Aquilo turned around to look at Anghariel. “Son, this is going to be very, very painful for you. To listen, and to take your own responsibility on your path.” Another break before he added: “I went to my father, Angel Commander Rezakiel in Archangel Raphael’s Army, stood in front of him and told him of my rule breaking, my young love, the child, and that I would give up my angel future to be with her and my baby, stand with them, work for them and with them, and make sure they had a decent life. I expected an outburst of rage or despair from my father. What I did not expect was his laughing fit. When he recovered, he told me: “Well, son. I admit, I am impressed, by your impertinence to stand there, tell me, what is going to happen, and your alleged sacrifice – without having the slightest clue that things are never as easy as they seem. The only reason, why I am not going to beat you into a clump is, that you have a spine, and the guts to come to me and confess about your wrongdoing.”

Aquilo smiled a little, sad smile… “Then he grabbed me by the neck and dragged me to Archangel Raphael, which scared the living daylight out of me, and I had to confess a second time that day. Before Raphael said anything to me, he sent my father out of the room. Then he sat down with me on a bench and told me calmly: “Your father is right to bring you here, young Aquilo. You need help, our help to be precise.” He got up and suggested: “Let’s go for a walk.” And that we did. After a while Archangel Raphael asked me: “Do you know the difference between the human and the angel spiritual anatomy?” To my utmost shame I did not. I had to skip classes to visit my human girl, and these were the ones I would have learned about this. Raphael explained me that my human girl would not survive carrying an angel baby to full-term. This was only one of the reasons why physical relationships between Humans and Angels were taboo. The very few so-called ‘Nephilim’, offspring from Angels and Humans, were often neglected, ejected from society… instead of doing what they swore to do, protect humans, they ever so often turned over to the dark side. To a certain extent that is understandable. Who would want to stay with a crowd that is notoriously nasty?” He saw his son’s face and nodded. “Right, I thought so too.”

Then Aquilo’s eyes darkened, as he added. “Archangel Raphael made me swear that I would never meet my human girl again, neither in this, nor in the next world, and I stood true to my oath. He assured me that she would be fine, and even though I never forgot who and what she was for me, I was told, she never forgot about the ‘youngster’ who wanted to take responsibility for a horrible ‘error’… Indeed, I do not know what had happened, but she passed away when she was in her 90s, old and white haired, after a long and happy life. She gave birth to five children, and none of them looked like me.”

Aquilo turned around, a sad smile on his face. “I want you to turn around, son. Do not repeat my mistakes. It is a tragedy to be separated from the one you love. You cannot protect her, you cannot look out for her, you cannot be with her – unless you give up everything you have at this moment, separate from Heaven, your friends, your family – and live a lifetime with her, or not, depending on where life will take you. You would have learned about the Nephilim, if you had not skipped school, son. I admire you did not try to find excuses or lie to me, and I acknowledge that everyone can make mistakes, even the best of us. But this needs to find an end or demands your full dedication – and sacrifice. And believe me, son… this girl is not worth it.”

Anghariel looked at his father and frowned. Then, unexpectedly he asked: “Father, does your name have a meaning?”

Aquilo stared at his son with disbelief in his eyes, then he chuckled. “It means ‘North Wind’ in Greek. Why? Is this important?” Anghariel nodded. “Probably… see… I always admired you for your flying abilities. I am scared I could never live up to your expectations, become as tall as you, as good as you, as good a flier as you are… and here I am, so different from you, and I am making the same mistakes as you do.” Aquilo remained silent. He knew his son.

After a while Anghariel shook his head. “You said, she is not worth it… why would you say that? She said, she loves me.”

Aquilo shrugged. “I said ‘I love you’ to a thousand girls and women before I met your mother, and these words meant the moment for me, not more. When I hug your mother, in one moment of overwhelming connection and love, I tell her, ‘you mean the world to me’, because that is what it is, not less than the world. What, if these three words, who have such an enormous meaning to you, do not mean the same for your girl?”

Anghariel thought about it for a while, then he said. “It would break my heart.”

Aquilo nodded. “I understand that. Your mother told me, that despite all your humor, your good mood, your laughter, there is something deep inside of you, which gives you the extraordinary ability to love, deeper than the ocean, and about as strong. Mothers can sense something like that, much better than we men can… and I believe her. I am not surprised, that a heartache is what you expect to experience. But also, son, do not forget – it will pass… This might not be the first, only, and last heartache you will face. It will just be the first of many… do not forget… you are a strong, very strong young angel… stronger than I was and ever will be. And you are immortal. Remember her, son. But leave her be… please.”

Anghariel shook his head. “Now I want to know everything. Father, please.”

Aquilo shrugged. “There is nothing more to tell, son. I rather leave it like this. Here, as we are now, it is good… remember her as she was…”

Anghariel interrupted his father. “What happened?” Aquilo took his time, and several times tried to say something, only to close his mouth again, and take another few minutes to think what to say next. The young angel did not try to force his father. He just waited.

Finally, Aquilo turned around, held his hand out and waited for his son to grab it… the older angel covered his son’s hand with his other one and then started to submit pictures and memories to Anghariel, who held his breath for a moment… closing his eyes, and smiled… until within a few minutes, the smile died, and was replaced by tears collecting in his eyes and softly and silently rolling down his cheeks. His handsome face was a mask of terror and pain…

…” I understand you’re meeting with my son on a regular basis?” Aquilo’s voice asked. The girl replied: “And your son is…?” Aquilo frowned. “You meet more than one boy?” The beautiful girl laughed. “Of course, I do. I need to find a future husband. The youngsters are out of the race before they even start. I want a man who can offer me a house, servants, money, nice clothes… you get the drift. Only an older man can give me that. The young ones are for fun.” Aquilo frowned. “My son would easily be the most handsome one you’re seeing.” She chuckled. “Yes, sure. The one with the weird name, who is helpless and hopeless, when it comes to physical intimacy. Too shy… I need a bit more than holding hands and a few kisses.” Aquilo shook his head. “Didn’t you tell him you’ll wait for him, never leave him, and love him?” The girl could not hide her amusement any longer. “Of course, I did… he is like a puppy dog. He needs love. He needs the feeling of being adored. And I need some good amusement. I barely laughed as much as…” Her voice trailed off, when she investigated Aquilo’s beautiful face, and suddenly her entire expression changed from defensive to seductive. “But why should I put up with the unexperienced son, if I have someone here, who clearly can give me what I want?” – Aquilo’s face grimaced in disgust. “Do not bother, please. I have someone home, who gives me what I need, and believe me… you are not even considered ‘competition’.” Her pretty face got angry, and even dark and ugly, when Aquilo finally said: “You will never see my son again. You might have had a chance, maybe, one day, to become his one and only, his consort, his love… But you do not have what it needs to fulfill this task.” Her voice eagerly asked. “And what would that be?” Aquilo simply replied: “A pure, loving and caring heart.” Then he turned around and left her there, with a dumbstruck expression on her face…

Anghariel opened his tear wet eyes… “She used me?” Aquilo nodded. “In the worst sense of the word. She used you to her own amusement, to satisfy her need to be adored, she never considered you seriously as a partner… unless, she had known you are an angel, of course, then you would have been her status symbol, something that had elevated her over all and everybody in her limited little world. She mocked you and laughed about you, son, while she had other men…” He took a deep breath, wishing he would know his son better, praying he would know if Anghariel would be comforted by a fatherly hug… So, he decided to wait.

What he did not expect, was Anghariel’s face switching from one expression to another within nanoseconds: embarrassment, humiliation, sadness, anger, rage, and finally, total emptiness… Anghariel was crushed, even Aquilo, who rarely permitted himself to show emotions, which helped him in his daily professional life, but was a limited success with his family, could see that his son had lost all hope that might have lived within him.

After quite some time, Anghariel looked over the mountains and hills and smiled. “What do you think, Father? Do we have time for a little race between these snow-covered peaks and mountains?” Aquilo laughed. “I would say, let us just take the time before going home, son. I will give you a little head start.” His son chuckled. “I doubt, that will be necessary. I know my wings.” On Aquilo’s sign, they both shot up in the air and shot through the mountains like bullets, using the wind and every advantage they could find to be victorious. And finally, Aquilo won, but only by a hairbreadth.

He turned to Anghariel and laughed, surprised to see his son standing proud with a wide smile on his face. “You’re growing up, my son.” Aquilo said proudly. “I better start working out more, if I want to delay an embarrassing situation in the near future.” His son laughed loudly. But because Aquilo did not know his son well enough and was not overly adept in the recognition of emotions, he did not hear the high pitch of underlying sadness, and the trace of despair, that Anghariel would never lose again, for a very, very long time.

Picture courtesy of Google.com

A Medieval Nightmare

Don’t we all know the wonderful romantic History Love stories, situated in medieval England, where when royalty was still royalty… and every noble family was more or less related to the king, a few direct blood lines, but most of them from illegal descendants…

All these princesses and princes, dukes, lords, and ladies were always beautiful, images for health and happiness, slim, ‘muscular’ or ‘full-breasted’, depending on the gender identification…

And they kept falling in love – ALL THE TIME! Lowly servants never fell in love… only noble people did… and everything was always beautiful (except the old and evil villain, of course, who threatened to unjustly rob the young ladies’ virtue). And they lived happily ever after.

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Okay, time for a bit reality!

The ‘Middle Ages’, or ‘Medieval’ began after the collapse of the Roman Empire, around the late 5th century and lasted until approx. the late 15th century, which means, they span around 1,000 years.

After the fall of Rome (End of the 4th century, Roman emperor Theodosius divided the empire between his two sons, one of them located in Rome, the other one in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul in Turkey). The Eastern Roman Empire lasted until the Ottoman conquests of the 15th century. The Western Empire, governed from Rome, ended by late 5th century, succumbing to repeated invasions from the Goths, marking the early medieval era.

During the first approx. 500 years, agricultural technology and farming techniques improved, and increased food crop supported the rapid population growth.

During these times, the early middle age kingdoms experienced a surprisingly interconnected world, spreading many cultural, religious, and economic developments.

The rise and dominance of the Catholic Church was a hallmark of the medieval epoch and formed the High Middle Ages significantly.

Between 1000 and 1250 AD the church sanctioned the military pilgrimages known as the ‘Crusades’ during which thousands of Europeans traveled to the Middle East to conquer former Christian holy sites from Muslim ‘invasion’.

During these times, the Catholic church was sanctuary for many common people across Western Europe as peasants faced bad education and poor medical support. They turned to their church for support, comfort, and help.

During the High as well as the Late Middle Ages, numerous military conflicts, invasions, and wars were fought, one of them the infamous ‘Hundred Years’ war between England and France from 1337 to 1453. Uncountable royal families demanded control of Europe’s borders, hoping for income through passageways, customs, leases, and taxes.

At the same time that England fought against France, they also faced a series of battles against the Kingdom of Scotland, including the later famous King of Scotland Robert the Bruce, and the famous ‘Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, where Scottish armies led by Sir William Wallace defeated the English Armies.

Also in the same time span the plague haunted Western Europe, with the Black Death seeking the lives of an estimated 150 million people across Europe and Asia between 1347 and 1351.

The life expectancy in these times were at around 31 years… This number, however, demands a small explanation. The high mortality rate of newborns and toddlers lowered the general life expectancy significantly. Statistically seen: if a landowner and superior made it past the childhood, they could sometimes see the sun go up on their 60th birthday… but as a peasant, due to poor life conditions, low hygienic standards, and insufficiently prepared medical support, they barely made it past 30.

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Generally, to fall in love under these circumstances was probably not the best idea, however, noble people did it all the time…

Beauty standards in these times were trending to the fuller figured women, since they signaled the presence of money. (How? Because if they had the chance and time to just sit around and eat while their servants, maids and chefs did all the work, there was wealth and power involved). However, a man had to be slim to signal his ability to fight (and protect his family) and fulfill his marital duties, while a overweight man was considered lazy.

Brides at the age of 13 or 14 were no rarity, normally given away for an enormous bride token. Women were subordinate to men, every ‘big’ decision had to be made by the man/husband, while women were responsible for the smooth running of the household.

The diet and comfort were quite limited, and the lack of hygiene facilitated the unrestricted spreading of germs, bacteria, and viruses. Diseases like dysentery, diphtheria, typhoid, smallpox, and leprosy were quite common during these times, among peasants and noble people.

Fleas, lice, round- and whipworms were common among peasants and noble people. Often intestine parasites were killed by ointments like ‘mercury’, which, of course, is extremely dangerous… the tiniest overdose, and you did not see the next morning…

Regular bathing and washing were a rarity in the medieval. Common lavatories and bathrooms were not planned in houses. The lack of possibilities to wash up and bathe, of course, facilitated the spread of parasites and diseases.

The dirt and illnesses helped big time to limit life expectancy… under these circumstances, how high were the chances to survive an open battle wound?

In these times, even a small cut with a knife could end up in a horrible infection which cost the person’s life without fail.

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Now, considering all this information… how likely is the ‘true love and history-charged’ romance in ‘Medieval England’ in these “Historic Romance” books we all love so much?

Let us say… if my above-mentioned harsh reality of these times hasn’t ‘cured’ you from adoring ‘Historic Romance’, a genre, which is read by, statistically seen 82% women… how about this:

How would you like to perform the ‘Act of Sin’ or ‘Fulfill Your Marital Duties’ with a man, who constantly drinks alcohol, mead, wine, and beer, barely eats much else than meat and Apples, which turn his bowels into a never-ending gas-production-site… constantly sweats and overheats, before, during and after a strong and male workout and exercise with a sword… rides horses, has lice and fleas, diarrhea caused by worms, never brushes his teeth, grabs any willing maid around the castle to roll around in the hay with her… and: despite all this: NEVER bathes?

And to the 18% male fans of the genre: How would you like to engage in ‘mattress-sports’ or ‘perform your marital duties’ with a woman who drinks wine, and liquor, eats little more than meats, fruit, and dairy, constantly snacks on sweets, while not doing anything else than produce embroidery and farts, never brushers her teeth, rarely changes her clothing, carries lice, fleas, and worms, and despite all this, NEVER bathes?

Exactly…

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And here I am, admitting now to you, that I love a good Historic Romance now and then – and I just pretend I do not know anything about the harsh times in these dark times… and try to enjoy… until something happens in the book – my knowledge hits, and I’m bursting into laughter.

Wasn’t it more fun when you did not know about the truth?

(Royalty Free Image courtesy of Depositphotos.com)

Flutterbies In My Stomach

It’s been a couple of days back that I experienced romance at its finest… and since that day, I’m a bit ‘upside down’ at times… Of course, reading the title of this blog post, you’ll probably think I lost some of my marbles… but I assure you, I’m fully here. Still, there’s no denying: I got ‘Butterflies’ in my stomach, and not ‘flutterbies’, but I never thought I’d hear anything cute and sweet as what I was told not too long ago…

We’re talking about a conversation over the phone, which I think is remarkable since, nowadays, kids are mainly texting, ‘PM’-ing, ‘Messeng’ing, ‘WhatsApp’-ing, and a few other ‘-ing’-thingys. But my conversation partner that day and I keep talking on the phone, generally once a week (even though I’d love it to be more often… I’m still working on that)…

That day I heard him say, “Whenever I dream about you, I don’t want to wake up, because I don’t want to lose you.”

I was speechless (and believe me, that doesn’t happen very often)… I think I blushed, which is remarkable, over the phone… I had no idea I would hear something romantically wonderful like that… in particular at my age.

Isn’t romance something that you write in capital letters? ‘ROMANCE’, that happens to couples in their twenties? Sweet words, whispered in the secret hours between waking and dreaming, in the secret places between hearts, where the harshness of reality has no place to stay?

And here I was, hearing these sweet words that made my heart miss a couple beats… my breathing paused for a moment, and after a slow start of my ‘engine’, I could feel myself smile…

Sometimes I would love to use these words in one of my books, but then, I’m selfish… these are the words I got as a present… a gift I appreciate beyond measure! Why should I share it with one of my characters? (One of the only answers to that question is that these very same words would be written down in one of my books, kept for eternity, and read by readers who might enjoy them…)

But right now… I just keep them in my heart and memory, and I’ll carefully store them forever because they’re unique, extraordinary… and mine!

When you ask me who the man is, who said these words to me, I will answer: That is my secret, and that’s how I want it to be.

Don’t think he doesn’t exist… because he does… very much so. He’s dear to my heart and someone very special.

(And of course, him being that romantic, I’m going to do hell and send competition his way! I might be a bit confused at times, but I’m not completely stupid.)

Sometimes I wish, what to do or say next… For a writer I’m remarkably limited in romantic expressions… *sigh* Any suggestions? Let me hear them in the comments!

Picture courtesy of Google.com

Soul Taker Secrets: After A Hard Archangel’s Work Day

At times Katie invites her entire family, namely, the ‘Council of Twelve,’ a dozen of the most powerful individuals in existence with their respective consorts, for dinner in hers and Raphael’s house.

Despite Katie’s progress in the kitchen, it’s become a ‘running gag’ that she had no clue about cooking at the time of her and Raphael’s wedding. And even though she liked to cook, the results could be disastrous. Some of the other Archangel consorts gave her a hand at times, and with their help, and the support of a few excellent angelic chefs, Katie’s cooking improved visibly.

This is one of the recipes she cooked, this time with Koyu’s and Simin’s help.



Ingredients

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  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1.75 pound white fish fillet, Best Choices in your area
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon dry thyme, or 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • pinch nutmeg
  • ¾ cup dry white wine* See sub note below
  • 2 slices bread, crusts removed preferably sourdough or multi-grain
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup shredded Emmentaler, Gruyere or Swiss cheese

Instructions

  1. Grease 9 by 13-inch casserole dish with softened butter. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Arrange fish fillet in the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring often (adding 1 to 2 tablespoons water if necessary to prevent the onion from darkening too much) until the onion softens and starts to brown, 6 to 9 minutes. Stir in thyme and nutmeg. Spread the onion mixture over the fish. Pour wine into the casserole dish.
  4. Pulse bread in food processor until coarse crumbs. Drizzle on the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and add paprika and garlic powder. Process to combine until the bread is evenly red and moist. Sprinkle crumbs over the onion.
  5. Top the casserole with the cheese and place in the oven. Bake until the fish is cooked through and the crumbs are browned, 18 to 22 minutes. Serve warm.

Notes

Instead of wine you can use broth (or clam juice) plus one tablespoon lemon juice for a non-alcoholic option.


Nutrition

  • SERVING SIZE: 1/6th casserole
  • CALORIES: 270 calories
  • SUGAR: 2 g
  • SODIUM: 443 mg
  • FAT: 11 g
  • SATURATED FAT: 5 g
  • CARBOHYDRATES: 10 g
  • FIBER: 1 g
  • PROTEIN: 28 g

(Find it onlinehttps://www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com/fish-casserole/)