Choosing settings

Standard

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

Reading a place

Gallery

There are things that I needed to know before traveling that I didn’t realize I didn’t know. Language plays a huge part in this, I realize now. How often does one go into a restaurant, a shop, and listen to the other people around to learn how the place works. Do they want you to take a number? Will they call your name? Do you ask for a place, whether at the bar or at the table? Are there different rules for different types of places that might otherwise seem similar? And can you discover those rules if you don’t understand what people are saying?

I thought I knew enough French tho “get by.” I’m doing great with the reading of placards and historical notices. But I’m not picking up on the speech. There’s a French phrase that I’ve used for years: L’esprit d’escalier. It’s the act of coming up with just the right phrase, the bon mot when you’re already halfway up the staircase, when it’s far too late to use it. That’s where I’m at, but it is happening at every interaction. I realize the correct phrase I should have used, about 2 minutes after when I should have used it.

On another note, I’m going to have PTSD from driving over here. Some of the roads make sense but those are the big modern freeways. The rest? I drove on roads today that were no bigger than the bike paths in Madison but were expected to allow drivers on both sides of the road (hah! “Road”) doing 70 or even 90 kph (about 45-55 mph). No shoulders. In fact, on the sides of the road are ditches about two feet deep. Let’s just say it would be bad to fall into one of those. Most likely, more of those tomorrow.

But I’m here in Sarlat, alive and well, loving the flat I’m renting for the next bit. Now, have some pictures from the Limoges area. And a selfie. Next time I’ll even smile.

Not the start I had hoped for

Aside

Let’s just say I’m off to a slow start. Two days in France and I accomplished driving to Limoges. In a minivan. Diesel, manual transmission, but where I was hoping for a small car I got “upgraded” to the minivan. European-sized mini van, but still.

I stopped one place for pictures near St Emilion but by the time I got there it was closed for their lunch break. Given the time of day, I decided to drive straight to Limoges and not stop in St Emilion itself.

Seriously, I’ve spent most of yesterday getting to the hotel in Bordeaux and most of today looking for a SIM card. As it was, I ended up just adding International travel on to the plan I have and I just have to hope it doesn’t cost me that much more. 19,000 steps, much of it in the rain, looking for an Orange store in either of two cities. When I finally did find it, they told me the SIM I’d shopped for was at the “other” Orange. wha?

Too late now for anything but eating. I’ll find something and then tomorrow will be another day, one that, I hope, will be the actual start to the research part of the trip.

Fly, by night

Standard

Moon rise, thoughtful eyes

Staring back at me from the window beside

No fright, or hindsight

Leaving behind that empty feeling inside

Start a new chapter

I find what I’m after

Is changing every day

The change of a season

Is enough of a reason

To want to get away

Almost there…..

Image

Medieval Commerce.jpgI’m now in the final stages of preparation for my trip. Tickets and lodging were secured before 2018 even began but the big work of the last 4 months has been taking my list of things to do that is THAT LONG and getting it down to something that might, possibly, sort of, be close to manageable.

I’ll never do all of the things I’m looking to do and I’m starting to be okay with that.  There are two thousand five hundred years of recorded history in the areas I’ll be visiting but I’m only interested in the now and the Middle Ages. That still leaves me much to see and experience and that’s exactly what the trip is for.

I plan on updating this blog with something at least a few times a week. Not promising daily, I have things to do! Maintaining the blog will be, itself, an adventure. I’m not hauling a bunch of tech with me so I’ll discover just how hard/easy it may be to work with a camera and an iPad. What? It’s an adventure!

Ready? Set?

Allons-y !

Looking Forward to 2018

Standard

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)

Standard

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 half 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.