photo: Robert & Mihaela Vicol at publicphoto.org
The Dark Ages fascinate for many reasons. First of all, they were really, really dark. Imagine living without street lights to show your way or a lamp to read by--not to mention a computer screen.
I once read a book about the dark and how it felt to live in those times. Some of it was interesting, describing how people feared the night's sinister possibilities and used ritual to protect themselves from what they couldn't see. Some of the book was obvious: of course you'd trip over stuff. Of course you'd bump into things.
Still, I like picturing it.
Research helped me set Camelot & Vine around 500AD. My goal was to tell the story of a modern woman's visit to King Arthur's war camp and make it as believable as possible, which meant I wanted to show what it was like to live then. They used torches and small fires for exterior and even interior use, as long as the smoke could be properly directed to an escape route. Candles were made from animal fat, which was stinky and messy but easy to recycle. Oil lamps were reliable as long as nobody knocked them over.
I kept track of where the moon was while Casey was in the Dark Ages--which nights it waxed, which nights it waned. Minor pollution from the fires of the smithy might have blocked some light but not much. The full moon would have been bright. The new moon would have been extra dark. Except stars--stars like a woman from Los Angeles has never seen.
My favorite thing to imagine was the wide Salisbury Plain at night. This wasn't easy for me to picture. Yes, your eyes would adjust after a while, but what about a night when clouds shroud the moon? Why would you be out there alone in the first place? How far ahead could you see the road as it unfolded before you? What if you had to ride horseback on that overcast night, alone across the open plain, to save a life?
You might have to listen for the brook that burbles alongside the road and let its sound guide you. You might have to stop to hear the hoof-beats of other riders, not knowing if they're friends or foes, your own heart pounding loud enough to interfere with the sound. Something might cross your path in the dark. You'd better trust your horse.
If you can't, and all you have left is ritual you don't believe in and a pair of expensive, painful boots to walk in, you had better figure out how to believe in yourself.
The Camelot & Vine ebook is on special at $3.99 until January 1st, 2014, and today I'll be giving a free ebook to a random commenter (comment deadline midnight, Los Angeles time, 12/22/13). So say something! (And remember, books make great gifts!)
Many other authors are participating in today's blog hop! I encourage you to check them out and see what they did with the theme. Many have included contests and giveaways with their posts.
1. Helen Hollick : A little light relief concerning those dark reviews! Plus a Giveaway Prize
2. PrueBatten : Casting Light....
4. AnnaBelfrage Let there be light!
5. Beth Elliott : Steering by the Stars. Stratford Canning in Constantinople, 1810/12
6. Melanie Spiller : Lux Aeterna, the chant of eternal light
7. Janet Reedman The Winter Solstice Monuments
8. Petrea Burchard : Darkness - how did people of the past cope with the dark? Plus a Giveaway Prize
9. Richard Denning : The Darkest Years of the Dark Ages: what do we really know? Plus a Giveaway Prize!
10. Pauline Barclay : Shedding Light on a Traditional Pie
11. David Ebsworth : Propaganda in the Spanish Civil War
12. David Pilling : Greek Fire, Plus a Giveaway Prize
13. Debbie Young : Fear of the Dark
14. Derek Birks : Lies, Damned Lies and … Chronicles
15. Mark Patton : Casting Light on Saturnalia
16. Tim Hodkinson : Soltice@Newgrange
17. Wendy Percival : Ancestors in the Spotlight
18. Judy Ridgley : Santa and his elves Plus a Giveaway Prize
19. Suzanne McLeod : The Dark of the Moon
20. Katherine Bone : Admiral Nelson, A Light in Dark Times
21. Christina Courtenay : The Darkest Night of the Year
22. Edward James : The secret life of Christopher Columbus; Which Way to Paradise?
23. Janis Pegrum Smith : Into The Light - A Short Story
24. Julian Stockwin : Ghost Ships - Plus a Giveaway Present
25. MandaScott : Dark into Light - Mithras, and the older gods
26. Pat Bracewell Anglo-Saxon Art: Splendor in the Dark
27. LucienneBoyce : We will have a fire - 18th Century protests against enclosure
28. Nicole Evelina What Lurks Beneath Glastonbury Abbey?
29. Sky Purington : How the Celts Cast Light on Current American Christmas Traditions
30. Stuart MacAllister (Sir Read A Lot) : The Darkness of Depression