Life imitates art imitates life

Last week I finally got around to doing a big chore, that I’d been putting off — namely, clearing out all the tv shows stacked up on my dvd recorder. Of course, the only reason I got off my arse and did it is because I had almost no space left. But hey. At least I did it. *g*

60 hours of history docos and whatnot later, and this afternoon (after finishing another chapter, woo hoo!) I finished labelling the recordings I couldn’t label at the time. And so I discovered one I recorded about Sir Flinders Petrie: The Man Who Discovered Egypt. Basically, Petrie invented modern archeology. It was his pupil, Howard Carter, who discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb. Everything we take for granted about modern scientific method in the field is because Petrie set it up that way. He was extraordinary. Also stunningly eccentric. No spoilers, just … wait till you find out what happened when he died!

The reason I recorded this doco isn’t because I’m a huge Egypt buff. Oddly enough, for all my fascination with various ancient civilisations, I’m not. But I did know his name thanks to the wonderful Amelia Peabody books, written by the late, great Elizabeth Peters. (The first book is The Crocodile on the Sandbank. It’s the most wonderful historical mystery series set in Egypt, starting around the late 1800s. It’s history and mystery and romance and humour rolled into one glorious procession of books. I can’t recommend them highly enough.) Anyhow, Petrie figures as a character in many of the Peabody books and today I finally got around to watching this doco about his life.

It’s fabulous. And it’s also extremely amusing, because now I can see where Peters, herself an archeologist, used a lot of stuff about Petrie and his wife as inspiration for the Peabody books.

So there you go. Read the books, and watch the doco about Petrie if you can track it down. Fabulous, fascinating stuff! And the next time I’m in London, I’ll be making a stop at the Petrie Museum! And going back to the British Museum to pay closer attention to the Roman mummies Petrie found. The portraits attached to the outside of the mummy casings – used instead of mummy masks – are breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything like them. The best of those are in the Cairo museum, so … yeah. Hopefully they’re being kept safe. But there are some in London. Wheee!

Researching people

Boiled down to basics, there are two kinds of research a writer does before and even during a novel. The first is getting the world building right. Even a contemporary thriller requires some research. The late great Dick Francis meticulously researched for his novels, because even though he’d lived all the horse racing stuff his books were set in disparate and fascinating worlds: merchant banking, luxury rail travel, the wine-selling business, the stock market. Writers of private eye or police procedural novels need to know the ins and outs of the law and criminal investigations. And of course those of us who revel in speculative fiction, be it space travel or how to mount a siege on a walled town, spend months up to our eyeballs in history books and documentaries.

Continue reading

Farewell York, and a reminder

Ah, York. What a truly astonishing city. Town. Whatever the technical term is. Place! I love it here, more than I can say, and will carry away some special memories. Possibly one of the most beautiful must be the glorious sound of Evensong sung in York Minster. By coincidence we arrived at the cathedral while the Evensong service was being conducted. Amazing acoustics and the piercing purity of those unearthly voices … shiver down the spine time. And of course, the minster, which is a fabulous building. If you get the chance to visit York, take it. A unique experience, with so much incredible history. And so my time here ends, after an enjoyable time at the British Fantasy Convention and a memorable second visit to magical York. Now it’s back to London and many day trips to cool places. Stay tuned for that!

Finally, can I please remind the winners of the giveaway for The Falcon Throne that not everyone has come back to me with their postal information. I need it by Monday September 15, or getting the signed books to you becomes infinitely more difficult. So chop chop!

Guedelon!

So, one of the reasons I wanted to research in France was so I could visit the amazing Guedelon — where they’re building a medieval castle from scratch, using only medieval tools, techniques and materials. The project started in 1998 and they anticipate the castle being finished in 2023. I’d love to come back for that.

It’s an amazing experience and I look forward to putting up some photos when I get home. Mind you, it’s not the most straightforward place to get to! We hired a car in Nevers and drove there. Cue the white knuckles — they drive on the wrong *g* side of the road in France and the sat nav was in French to boot and neither of us is fluent! But we made it. On the way back we detoured via St-Fargeau to see the amazing castle in that small town. The castle has a 1000 year history, but had been let deteriorate. Not all of it is open, but what we did see was amazing in a bizarre kind of way … plus there was something truly ick, but I’m not saying what because it is so going to feature in Tarnished Crown book 2! In due course I will post photos, when it comes time to talk about the book.  Less icky was the truly stupendous tartlette citron we enjoyed after our hours of tramping through the woods and half built castle, and then the chateau.

Tomorrow we sally forth to Angers, where there is another astonishing castle to explore. And then we head back to the UK, and part ways. But I catch up with Glenda Larke again then – so stay tuned for more whacky research adventures!

Last day in Paris … sniff …

First of all, it’s publication day in Australia/New Zealand! The Falcon Throne is officially let loose into the wild. If you do buy a copy, Oz and Kiwi readers, I hope I haven’t disappointed you!

In other news, Sharon and I had a wonderful morning stroll along the Rue de Rivoli then along the Champs d’Elysee, all the way up to the L’Arc de Triomphe. We may have perpetrated French pastry and bread along the way. Yes, all right, we did. I indulged in a small pistorale avec olives (yum!!! French bread! Yum!! It doesn’t make me unwell the way bread at home does. A good thing then that I don’t live here, or I’d end up looking like a baguette.) I also bought a beignet chocolate, petit, and a tartlet citron. The tartlet I will share with Sharon for dessert after our final dinner in Paris at Chez Claude’s.

Then we strolled back (in the rain, sigh) and enjoyed the wonderful artefacts in the Musee des Artes Decoratifs. Some truly beautiful pieces and many many stairs, which made up for the beignet and the bread.

Now I’m about to download all my photos, then relax until dejeuner. Tomorrow we bid adieu a Paris, and frolic our way to Nevers. Stay tuned!

And in closing, here’s a link to the Oz/NZ edition of The Falcon Throne, now available in trade paperback and ebook.

More information about it here, at this link.

 

 

Gargoyles!!!!!

If I had to pick one reason to love Paris, it would have to be the gargoyles. I don’t know why I love them so much. I just do. If it’s not the ones right outside my hotel window (courtesy of St Germain church) then it’s the ones that populate the exterior of Notre Dame. I got some wonderful photos of them today with my handy dandy emergency purchase camera (it’s brilliant, I’ll talk more about it later) and will post a gargoyle photo essay upon my return to Oz.

A couple of days in Paris just isn’t enough. There is so much to see and explore. But I had to choose between all Paris or chateaux in the countryside, so of course the chateaux won. But next time … more Paris!

The writing continues. Oddly enough, the weird sleep cycle helps. If I’m awake at 3 am, what else is there to do???  I’m already having lots of fun with it. Plus it helps take my mind off the fact that The Falcon Throne is released very soon now. Arrgghhhh! My knees, my knees, they are knocking!

Also? Apparently the French govt just fell over. I swear, it wasn’t me.

Paris!!!!!

How wonderful. I’m in Paris! And there are gargoyles almost close enough to touch right outside the hotel window. Around the corner there’s the Louvre. C’est magnifique!

Having a fabulous trip. Winchester and Canterbury were beautiful, with many photos and much inspiration. The writing for Tarnished Crown bk 2 continues, a little slow but good work, I think. Writing on the road can be a challenge! So can having a stupid bloody cold, but I’m fighting it with many remedies. I seem to be winning, just …

After Paris it’s Nevers, and then Angers. All too exciting for words. Can’t post photos while I’m travelling, but be warned — there will be many once I’m home again!

Checking in from Old Blighty

Well, the trip is proving terrific so far. Loncon was wonderful. Such a shame I couldn’t get there until Saturday, but even so … I had a lovely time signing books Saturday morning, then wandering and chatting. Sunday I had panels and a kaffeeklatsch, and had a blast. Monday I got to do more chatting and hugging and catching up and buying of books. Was recommended a new (to me) urban fantasy author, Tom Pollock, so I happily bought The City’s Son and look forward to reading it once I finish Ben Aaronovitch’s Broken Homes. Today was spent mostly in the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of my favourite places in the world. I had some trouble with camera batteries, though, so will have to return there once I’m back in London. So sad. And tomorrow sees me hieing myself to Winchester! Can’t wait. I’ve never been there and it’s fairly dripping with history. Then Canterbury, to investigate properly, and after that France.

If I can, I’ll post some photos of cool stuff while I’m on the road. Otherwise I’ll play catch up once I get home again.

And yes, I absolutely intend to write while I’m here. But tonight is the first chance I’ve had since I landed to stop and take a breath. And that means housekeeping tasks like uploading and labelling the day’s photos, sorting receipts, repacking the suitcase …

Also, I haven’t forgotten the Win a Copy of the Falcon Throne competition, either. There will be some juggling around sorting out winners, since everything’s happening while I’m on the road. But the deadline is drawing near, so if you haven’t entered, please go to the relevant post at the top of the blog. And spread the word to your friends if you think they’d be interested.