Tag Archives: Sandy’s World

Castle Sooneck and the Adventure of a Lifetime

a sketch of Castle Sooneck

Castle Sooneck

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live in a castle? (I certainly have! But if you’ve read Castle of the Wolf that can’t come as much of a surprise. πŸ™‚ )

And now you actually can live in a castle: the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is looking for somebody to live in Castle Sooneck (link leads to a German site) and blog about the area, the people, and the whole experience of living and working in a castle.

The Upper Middle Rhine Valley, that stretch of the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen, is one of the most beautiful areas in Germany and one that is rich in history and legend. Indeed, it is an area where you cannot throw a stone without hitting a castle, a ruin, or some other kind of historic building β€” or a tourist.

British tourists discovered their love for the Rhine in the late eighteenth century. For a few years, the Napoleonic Wars put a stop to traveling, but as soon as soon as Napoleon had been banished to his little island, the tourists were back and descended in droves on the banks of Father Rhine. In 1840, the writer Thomas Hood remarked somewhat acerbically,

“It is a statistical fact that since 1814 an unknown number of persons have been more or less abroad, and of all the Countries in Christendom, never was there such a run as on the Banks of the Rhine. It was impossible to go into Society without meeting units, tens, hundreds, thousands of Rhenish tourists. What a donkey they deemed him who had not been to Assmannshausen!”

Many tourists from Britain would drag a copy of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage along on their travels to marvel – like Childe Harold – at the sights that greeted them:

. . . Maternal Nature! . . . who teems like thee,
Thus on the banks of thy majestic Rhine?
There Harold gazes on a work divine
A blending of all beauties; streams and dells,
Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine,
And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells
From gray but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells.

The Rhine continued to be a popular tourist destination, and so it is not surprising to find the most iconic Victorian tourists, Richard Doyle’s Brown, Jones, and Robinson, the trio he created for a series in Punch, enjoying the sights along the banks of the Rhine as well – or at least, they try to.

from The Foreign Tour of Messrs Brown, Jones and Robinson (1855)
And tourists still pour into the Upper Middle Rhine Valley to admire the beautiful scenery of green hills and vineyards, to gaze in wonder at the many castles and ruins (not all of them medieval, btw), and to get shoved about by other tourists in the famous Drosselgasse in RΓΌdesheim.

But if you look closer, if you look beyond the pretty scenery and nice castles, you’ll soon find that the ravages of time haven’t spared this valley: It’s part of one of Europe’s major transport routes, and hundreds of trains rattle through the valley each day – with the noise being amplified by the hills on either side of the river. Indeed, the noise and the shaking and rattling has become so bad that cracks have appeared in some of the houses in the valley and people have started to move away. And it’s not just the trains: there are also surface quarries which have changed the face of the valley forever.

To explore this area, with all its history, its legends (Remember that story from Castle of the Wolf, about the Mouse Tower of Bingen and the bishop who got eaten up by mice? – Yeah, we’re talking about that kind of legend *g*), and all its problems will certainly be a fascinating project for whoever gets to move into Castle Sooneck (and yes, of course, I’m going to apply for the job!)

Today I give you….

a sketch of a pear, done by Sandra Schwab
Went to the supermarket yesterday and they had these boxes of lovely green pears. Green pears always remind me of the IASPR conference in Brussels, where I discovered (much to my surprise) that I actually like pears (as long as they don’t taste too much like pears *g*).

Quick sketch before I sat down and started grading this morning.

Fiction vs Reality

There’s a scene in Mercedes Lackey’s MAGIC’S PRICE where Stef, one of the main characters, plays the harp for too long and ends up with terrible, bleeding blisters on his hands. I’ve always thought this was some kind of dramatic exaggeration.

Eh…. not quite. In this case fiction seems to be uncomfortably close to reality.

An hour with the sweet thing in the picture up there and I have the beginnings of a fiendish blister on my index finger. As a (former) piano player, I’ve never fully appreciated the physical problems players of stringed instruments have to deal with.

But isn’t it a pretty thing? It’s a concert ukulele from Luna

Out and about with the Doggie Sister

I’ve taken over doggie-walking duties for a few days, and today was just perfect for going down to the river.

On the way back, we passed the car park where my Mum usually parks her car when she takes Tinka down to the river. Tinka was utterly flummoxed that today THERE WAS NO CAR TO TAKE HER HOME! Wait, wait, what? I actually have to walk home???? She just couldn’t believe it. *g* 

Throwback Thursday

Not a lot going on at the moment besides grading papers. So I thought I’ll give you a picture for #ThrowbackThursday: this was taken when my family lived in the Black Forest – I must have been five or six years old. Beside me you can see a mechanical organ. In the nineteenth century Waldkirch, the town where we lived, became famous for the production of mechanical music instruments, especially huge fairground organs.

Writerly Beginnings

I’ve just put some material together for a short interview. One of the questions was when did I start to write, which, naturally, made me think of all those early writing projects of mine.

I’ve always invented stories to amuse myself, and I started to write as soon as I could write. My very first novel was called “Dicki und Tomi” and was about a little cat and a little dog, who became friends (this would be the pink writing). During my late teens I started to write poetry (the kind of emotional, angst-filled poetry you write when you’re seventeen — this phase is represented by the upper right image), and finally I turned to fantasy fiction. I wrote everything by hand back then. For one of my novels I made the DIY paperback you see above: I photocopied the whole manuscript, folded the pages, pasted them together and gave them this pretty cover. It was a monstrously big (BIIIIIG!!!!) book, but I was so happy that I could hold my own book in my hands. πŸ™‚ 

I wrote “Wolfswald” when I was 21, and around this time I also began to think seriously about publication. After submitting my manuscripts (now all nicely typed up) to more or less every publishing house in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland and receiving umpteen rejection letters, I almost despaired of ever finding a publisher. Eventually I had to face fact; I would never find a German publishing house that would buy one of my novels. As a last-ditch effort I decided to start writing in English. I not only changed languages, I also changed genres: my first novel in English was called “Highland Love” and was a contemporary romance set in Scotland — this was 14 years, and I haven’t looked back. πŸ™‚

A Saturday in the Life of an Indie Author

Today’s accomplishment’s so far: Bought and downloaded Jutoh.

Plan for the rest of the day:
1) Run final spell check over “Springtime Pleasures”
1b) Make (& drink) cup of tea.

2) Try to get internet connection on new notebook
2b) Make (& drink) another cup of tea.
2c) If things get desperate, eat some chocolate. Also, don’t cry.

3) Install Jutoh
3b) Make (& drink) more tea.
3c) Eat some chocolate as reward.

4) Build ebook
4b) Tea.
4c) More chocolate.