Choosing settings

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I’m here for a purpose. I have a story in mind that takes place in the south of France. I’ve been researching the area and had made some decisions about how things were going to go. But the purpose for being here was to check things out, to learn what’s actually here. The difference between reading a map and walking the path.

There’s also knowing something and, well, KNOWING something. Avignon was not part of Provence during the 15th century. It was a Papal territory. I knew this. And yet, I’d been planning on setting my story in Provence because of the presence of King René and so I’d use Avignon. And then I toured Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. This is an interesting city to set my story in! Actually in Provence, unlike Avignon. But I knew that.

Entrance to the walled, fortified city of Villeneuve-lès-AvignonGardens in the former Abbey there.Looking across to Avignon and the Palace of the PopesA chapel for one of the saints that predated the abbeyRelaxing in the gardens after the tour

Not going to be a setting, at least, not a primary one. But so cool! Two thousand years of history and this hand built bridge that also worked as a life source providing water for cities for a thousand years. Man, just cool.

Pont du Gard. I’m sure I’ll have to use this bridge because, cool!

This is a tunnel cut — by hand, remember — through solid rock to help carry the water towards Nîmes

Looking Forward to 2018

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Last year, I accomplished some big things. I published my first novel to Amazon, A Call of Moonhart, I finished one draft and one rewrite of a book I’m calling Harmony in Three Voices, and I began the research for my next novel series.

It’s possible that I’ll get Harmony published in 2018. It’s pretty rough and a lot will depend on what my writing group says about the story. It would be great to have another novel out there but publication will depend, in large part, on my ability to split focus between researching, rewriting, and editing.

I would also like to do more on this blog. I have a new camera and have been taking pictures. I’d like to get some of them up on the site. I’d also like to get a different WordPress templated going. Neither of those  things — going through photos or updating WordPress — are simple tasks. Wish me luck!

I’ve written about that new series before and about my trip to France. The trip is on. I’ve bought the tickets and I’ve arranged lodging. I’m landing in Bordeaux and will travel across the south of France, checking out castles, medieval cities, monasteries and convents, and just getting a sense of the place until I fly home from Nice.

I have a number of goals for the trip. Research for the novels is the biggest aspect, but I’m hoping that the trip itself will lend itself to other writing goals while I’m there. One of those goals for the trip is a travelogue. I’ll used WordPress to get words and some photos up on the blog while I’m traveling. It will be limited only by what I can do with the app as I’m not taking a computer with me. Look for that to begin in early summer. Another goal is material for other sorts of travel writing. The notes I have on the trip itself could lend itself to articles in various publications. What and when will be a function of the adventure itself!

This is a business trip and I hope to get a number of “products” out of it. But it is also an adventure! I’m anxious and excited for that adventure to begin. It starts in just a few months and there are MILES to go before takeoff, in terms of research and my own education. These next months will fly by.

Stay tuned.

Update on the Historical Novel(s)

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This has not been an easy summer, in any number of ways. Obviously, blogging has been one of those elements that has suffered over the summer. But this is a good forum for me to discuss the current project and what my plans for it are. So, here goes:

I’ve previously mentioned that I’m researching what will be a series of historical novels, set in Provence in the 1440s. Probably mysteries, possibly thrillers, maybe “just” historical fiction. It depends on whether the puzzle takes my fancy, the chase, or the milieu itself. It has been pointed out to me that, of the elements that make up the MICE of fiction (Milieu, Idea, Character, Event) that for me, the milieu often battles it out for first place over the Idea.

I’m fascinated by the time period I’m working in. It is a time where the western world is recovering from the Plague that swept ravaged Europe not even a century earlier, during which more than of the population perished.1 The disruption caused by that event may be what led to people looking to the past for answers, with the Humanists prising old books out of monasteries and convents in order to learn how the Ancients thought of the world, searching their past for answers to their present. In the same way, both the Renaissance Humanists and the fracture in social norms that came with the eradication of millions of people from the plague meant that this time in the West was the last century in which Europe would be united by religion instead of fractured by it.

My summer has been taken up by two major decisions. The one personal.2 The professional one is that I am going to travel to Provence next year to do research on-site. I’ve been looking over travel guides; thinking in terms of not one, not two, but three books in the series so as to maximize my time there; oh and considering the idea that I might want to spend a day or so doing something just for fun.

To make it most worthwhile, this summer has been spent improving my French reading skills. They have improved. But will it be enough to do the research I think I need?

Is any of this going to be enough? The amount of things I’m not finding is daunting. The amount of French I’ve learned has been gratifying, until I try to write in French or try to read something not aimed at new learners and I find myself stumped, or going to the translation dictionary time and time and time and time again.

But as it is good to have goals, this goal will spur me on to continuing to improve my language skills and my research skills. I may bring in help for all of it. And then next year, I’ll spend some part of the spring in Provence and even if I fail at learning anything new (er, old, but seriously, how could I not learn anything?) I will still spend the spring in Provence and that sounds pretty good.

My hope is to keep making blog posts as I prepare for the trip. Initial decisions will have to be made soon (like in the next month), so I have to start locking in dates and locations. Flights soon, hotels soon after that. I’m going to push ahead with research through October, lock in those locations to visit … and then set aside the Historical and go back to Harmony. I discovered that I can’t split my focus in such a way as to work on two, but by November I’ll need to take a break from the 15th century and get back into the 21st, at least for a bit. I figure two months for the re-write and then back to Provence in my mind come January and in the flesh come spring.

Allons-y !


  1. Can you imagine? Within the span of a summer, half the people you know are dead. Or maybe more than half if your area was hard hit (averages can be a bitch that way). Look around your home, your workplace, the highway as you commute and imagine taking away half and leaving piles of dead. 
  2. And by personal, I mean, not the subject of this blog or post. 

A Failure of Google-Fu

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I’m running into an issue with my research for the medieval murder mystery. Not everything I want to know is online! Or, if it is, it isn’t in English! I know … shocking.

I’m working on the language aspect. My French reading skills are getting better so, if I can find documentation in French, I may even be able to read it. Someday. Soon. I hope.

More worrisome, my google-fu is failing me. I’m just not discovering important things, like where the heir to Burgundy was to be found in 1418 (he wasn’t lost. I just can’t find him). I have no idea of the name of the mistress of Chateau Montbrun in 1427, or the list of convents and/or monasteries to be found in Guyenne, Provence, or Burgundy in the fifteenth century. How hard should that be, really?

One of the benefits to writing historical fiction is that I can use my imagination to fill in the blanks. But when do I decide that the information is not out there and it isn’t just that I’ve failed to find it?

Adventures in Indie Publishing

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I must admit, I totally missed how many people still want to read print books. Apparently, I made the move to ebooks so decisively that I hadn’t realized I’d made it! So when I went to publish my first book, based on cost (to me) and cost (to the reader), I expected that making an ebook available would be the best approach and reach the most readers.

I was quickly disabused of that notion. Not just from my parents or that generation, for whom iPads and Kindle devices may still seem something of a new-fangled novelty. No, I heard from a wide range of folks that still prefer printed books to the electronic kind. “I like books,” a friend told me (ironically enough, using electronic messaging). “Real books.”

Well, okay then.

So I got to work creating a print version of the book. There are a number of steps needed to create a book that’s ready for the public. If I had managed to catch the eye of an agent, then other folks would have done the work of editing, cover design, interior design, registration, etc. In order to pay all of those people, my portion out of the cost of the book would have been less (far less) but my time to do other things — like more writing — would have been far greater.

I knew I needed to treat this part of the process like the business project it was. First thing I did was go in search of information that delineated for me the steps of the process. I found Bookplanner.com and rejoiced. It was exactly what I was looking for. It provides a project management focus to the work needed to publish and gave great information supporting each step of that process.

The downside to BookPlanner is that it is single focus. But I’m not doing only one thing, not even from a writing standpoint. At the same time I moved one book towards publication, I had another book in the initial writing stage (now in first rewrite) and another book in the research phase. This doesn’t even take into account my study of French as well as, you know, the rest of my life. I needed something bigger than a single-project tool.

I’ve been using ZenDone for awhile now. It using the “Get Things Done” (GTD) methodology and — best of all! — it integrates with Evernote. So now the work I’m doing on, say, writing an author bio, is checked off the list in ZenDone while the information itself is captured in Evernote for reference later.

That digression is just by way of getting to the fact that I learned that interior book design is a thing and it’s a thing I needed help on. There are professional book designers and I’ve heard of a good program for the Mac, but I don’t use a Mac. I found (most likely through BookPlanner as I think they are sibling companies) a company called Book Design Templates where they sell — you guessed it — templates to use towards interior design. They have created a large number of designs for a wide range of book types/moods/genres. When you purchase a design, you get Word, Pages, and InDesign templates with the guarantee that the style will work for both ebook and print. Port your text into one of those and start applying the styles provided.

I’m very familiar with Word styles and it wasn’t difficult (only tedious) to port from Scrivener to a Word file and then go through and clean it up, using the styles provided in the template. Even though I only planned on doing ebook now, print if called for, once I started hearing the calls for print I was half way there. I created a copy of my Word document so that I could modify things for the print edition, such as the new ISBN1 that goes with this different edition of the book.

In addition to the ISBN I needed an expanded cover, because the one I’d purchased originally was only the “front” of the ebook and I needed a full wrap cover. That and the purchase of an ISBN barcode so that it could be sold in actual, real bookstores.
The best part of this process is that, in working with CreateSpace to get the book ready to print, I’ll be able to review it in a different format and have an actual physical proof in hand to check over, playing the role of copy editor as well as author. Any issues I find I can correct for both physical and ebook format if necessary.

What this means is that I plan on having both an ebook and a print book ready for publication on May 15th.


  1. You can allow KDP or CreateSpace to provide you with an ISBN but I decided to purchase and manage my own. You get them from Bowker Identifier Services and the cost is significantly cheaper when you buy in bulk. They will happily sell you everything (and more) that you could need for self-publishing your book. 

The Irons in the Fire

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I have a number of writing projects on going right now and it is a learning process to discover just how to keep them all moving forward. These projects are in various stages and I’m trying to learn how it will work for me to keep moving back and forth between them, to keep work up on all of them.

The most noticeable one so far is the one I’m about to publish. Self-publish (he says, self-consciously). I think it is a great story, I think I have some really interesting characters and concepts, and I’m glad it is getting out into the world. I wish it would have been through the traditional process for one very big reason.

There is a lot of work that goes into putting a novel into print!

Cover design. Interior design. Editing and proofing. Getting the paperwork done so that I can sell it. Creating the site on Amazon and then uploading the book to it (there is so much that I don’t know about that process that I should add “Learn about Amazon” to the list). But by May, the bulk of work on that one is done and it is all over but the shouting. 1

Then I have the book Harmony that is in the first re-write. The bulk of the writing work has been done, now it is editing and revising. I need to make sure there is a story there that is worth reading. 2 I haven’t opened it in nearly 3 months and so will do a re-read starting next week. Then read it again, this time with notes. Then chopping, hacking, squeezing, and the blood, dear god all the blood! 3

Finally, I’m continuing with the research of the “Book Hunters” historical mystery. The things that I don’t know about Provence in the early 15th century could fill several books. Do fill. And I’m trying to find them, and read them, now. Information, thoughts, notes, copies are being collected and at some point the real work of the outline will happen. [^4] I’m hoping that I’ll have that first draft created during NaNoWriMo this year.

I’m actually doing pretty good at keeping all of these moving. Harmony is about to come out of cold storage at the time that Moonhart as about to be completed. I’m not sure if I have three novels at a time in me. I have my day job and my paid writing job of my Union’s newsletter. Oh, and a social life. It should be an interesting summer.


  1. And by “shouting” I mean social media promotion, or as I like to think of it, “shouting in to the void.” 
  2. It was totally worth writing, even if I don’t ever offer it for sale. But it may be of no interest to anyone but myself. This next stage is going to be about me deciding if as anything but a very long writing exercise. 
  3. Figuratively speaking. I’ve rarely actually bled during a rewrite.