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Today is the anniversary of the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii in 79 CE. It’s also my eldest nephew’s birthday, so doubly an important date for me. On this day, one of the most evocative places on earth was frozen in time for us to explore two millennia later — plus I first got to stick out my tongue at a newborn and see him mimic me (as I’d hoped). He has been a quick study ab ovo. :)

Vesuvius, from House of the Centenary, PompeiiVesuvius’s most famous eruption was a horrendous tragedy when it happened, but the trove of information it left us about daily life in a Roman town is invaluable — so much more fascinating than written history, which is mostly just about war. For example, the fresco here from a household shrine in ancient Pompeii apparently shows the volcano as it looked before the top blew. This is the only known depiction during the 500 dormant years that lulled the residents of the region into a false sense of safety. Some of those living on the slopes must have seen evidence of charring, steam vents and bubbling mud, but the last eruption had long passed from living memory.

The guy dressed in grapes next to the volcano is Bacchus (aka Dionysus), god of wine, present because the volcanic soil was (and is) excellent for vineyards.

If you’re curious about life in first-century Italy, please check out a fictional exploration in my time-travel romance, Templum. My contemporary mystery/romance The Five-Day-Dig also taps into the unparalleled mystique of this setting.

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Being pretty much obsessed with ancient Rome and especially Pompeii, of course I saw the new movie about the star-crossed city on its opening weekend. The action/adventure film follows Milo (Kit Harington), a gladiator enslaved in Pompeii, as he befriends his fiercest competitor in the arena (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), catches the eye of a rich but sympathetic beauty (Emily Browning), and then finds himself fighting for his life and theirs during the eruption that we all know buried the town in the year 79.

Kit Harington as Milo--the paintings on the arena walls are a nice, historically accurate detail.

Kit Harington as Milo–the paintings on the arena walls are a nice, historically accurate detail.

The director (Paul WS Anderson) is best known for sci-fi horror pics — not usually my thing — so I wasn’t sure the story would appeal to me, but I enjoyed this movie. All three protagonists have integrity and compassion, so you want to see them overcome both the bad guys and the wrath of nature. As a woman and a romance novelist, I would have preferred more emphasis on the realm of Venus than that of Mars, but the romance we get is satisfyingly, if quickly, developed, and so is the “buddy” relationship between the two main male characters.

Having visited the ruins of the real Pompeii, I also loved seeing the amazing town alive again on the big screen. The filmmakers made a good effort to depict the streets, amphitheater and villa interiors in a realistic way. While reading or watching fiction, I’m happy to suspend disbelief over details, but nitpickers will probably find most fault with the way the eruption plays out.

Compared to my new time-travel novel Templum, set in the same time and place, Pompeii has much more violence and much less sex. :) Since Templum is primarily a romance, it follows that the love story in my book is more deeply explored. If you watched the Showtime cable TV series “Spartacus,” well, Pompeii has both less gore and less sex, but more likable characters and more romance. All in all, worth seeing — and best seen in the theater to do justice to the scenery and action sequences.

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Templum, my new time travel, is up on Kindle and Nook! (Print edition coming soon.) Check it out:

Cover for TemplumAfter losing her job, her boyfriend and her best friend, Brit Colladay thinks she’s hit rock bottom. Then while touring Roman ruins, she’s accidentally transported to the first century. Living as a slave near Pompeii, she fakes a gift of prophecy, but when she predicts Vesuvius will erupt, her owner doesn’t believe her.

Nicomachus, a Roman priest renowned for the “miracles” he engineers, knows a fraud when he sees one, but Brit’s brains and beauty intrigue him, and he’d rather join forces than expose her. In exchange for sharing her tricks, she wants help escaping the upcoming eruption, but helping a slave run away could get him executed.

As time runs out, they try to forge a plan. Is the answer fleeing, traveling through time, or even changing history? And can they stay together, or will survival mean living apart?

Links to Amazon and Barnes and Noble below the cover pic on left. (How do you like the cover? :) )

To find on Amazon, go here.
For the Nookbook, click here.
For the UK Amazon page, use this link;
Amazon Australia, click here;
Amazon Canada, here.

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My husband and my dad both vehemently denounce ghosts, but my mom and I have both seen them. Now, intellectually, I think ghosts can probably be explained away by mundane phenomena like drafts causing creepy noises in old houses or maybe carbon monoxide causing hallucinations — but I’m still superstitious enough to be freaked out whenever I hear about a “haunting” and have even written a ghost story myself.

Is that a ghost looking out that window in the middle?

Is that a ghost looking out that window in the middle?

A poll conducted by Gallup showed that around 40% of Americans and Brits believed that houses can be haunted. Interestingly, the poll showed that in the countries surveyed more women than men believed spirits visit us. (Almost half of British women said they did.) And twice as many women than men believed that people can communicate with the dead.

This prompts the question: Are we women just nuttier than men, or are we more in tune with the supernatural, just as we’re generally thought to be more oriented toward interpersonal relations among the living?

What do you think?

For more details on the Gallup poll, click through to the the report here. For a description and sample chapters of my not-too-creepy haunted romance novel Eternally Yours, please check out the book page here.

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Hubby and I gave up cable TV a few years ago, so when we channel-surf, we depend on old-fashioned free-to-air entertainment. Recently, on Cozi TV, an old Rock Hudson movie called Come September caught my eye, because it was set in Rome, and you know how I love Rome. ;) In one of the opening scenes, Gina Lollobrigida was even speaking Italian.

Picnic at Ostia Antica from the Rock Hudson film Come SeptemberHudson’s character is a filthy-rich American who owns a villa outside of Rome that he only visits one month out of the year (September). Lollobrigida is the Italian girlfriend whom he neglects as much as his villa. One year he shows up in July, surprising both the girlfriend, who’s about to marry another guy, and the villa caretaker, who has been running the property as a hotel eleven months out of the year. Adding to the fun, a group of college co-eds that includes Sandra Dee is staying at the hotel, and a group of young guys whom Hudson won’t allow in his house decides to pitch tents outside the gate. (Take that as you will.)

If you’re an archaeology buff like me, the key scene is when practically the whole cast stops to picnic among Roman ruins. The setting looked familiar to Hubby and me, and at first we thought it might be the Palatine Hill, but we soon recognized the area as the main Forum at Ostia Antica outside of Rome near Fiumicino airport. They also show a little (we think) of the baths area off the Forum of the Heroic Statue.

If you’ve read my archaeological mystery/romance The Five-Day-Dig, you may remember that in it Chaz wants to get to Ostia to study temples there for his PhD thesis. I’ve also posted here before about the ancient city, which is almost as well preserved as Pompeii, though not quite as extensive. Ostia doesn’t have bodies like Pompeii, but unlike its more famous rival, some of its multi-story buildings have survived the millennia.

To learn all about Ostia, visit ostia-antica.org. (I’ve spent hours on this site, clicking around the interactive map of the city, which the site somewhat confusingly calls a “Topographical Dictionary.”) For Come September on DVD, click here. Lollobrigida won a Golden Globe for her performance.

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