Venice, Publishing, and My Paper Lion

May 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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IMG_6830Who doesn’t love Venice?  Oh, I know, if you visit in the hot summer when the crowds are clogging the Piazza San Marco–and even buying a scoop of gelato can set you back ten bucks–you might not fall in love with the city as passionately as my husband and I have.IMG_7286    And yes, having espressos at Café Florian where Hemingway reportedly consulted his writer’s muse when staying there set us back $40 (and that was in October, no less!), but hey! I’m a published writer and I absolutely, positively had to sit in those chairs and look out at the same stunning vista he did.

IMG_7300We were blessed with cool weather and went to all the tourist attractions as early as they opened and thus had a perfectly delicious time during our week in Venice last year, even as the Agua Alta was rising.imgres

The city swiftly and expertly put up the boardwalks, and besides, I was reading a gripping Donna Leon mystery novel, Aqua Alta, in my Pensione Accademia each evening before the gently sloshing water in the canal outside my window lulled me to sleep.  Long term, the city is in peril, but on this particular visit, it was an experience I’ll remember always…

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It was also the perfect way to commemorate 35 years of marriage and a very BIG birthday for both my husband me last year.  “A celebration of lions” I called it, adoring all the images of these regal creatures we saw everywhere throughout this water-laced city.  We learned that if the lion had his paw on an open book, the Renaissance City State of Venice was at peace; if the lion’s  paw was on a closed book, Venice was at war.

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Our writer pal, Michael Llewellyn had been this route before us and eventually sent us wonderful images of lions that he’d captured with his “real” camera, in contrast to my iPhone 4.

Image 1When we got home from our Grand Tour last fall and decided to launch our own, independent publishing enterprise, the idea of using the concept of the Venetian lion as our colophon (i.e. “logo”) to signify our company instantly appealed to everyone involved.

So we sent a couple of photographic images to our designer and look what Kim Killion came up with…our magnificent Lion’s Paw Press “King of the Beasts” has his foot on three books, not one. And author Llewellyn gave us the best compliment of all. “I wish I’d thought of doing that!”Image 5

The icing on the cake is that Book 3 in my “Four Seasons Series” ( Book 1: That Summer in Cornwall, published in Feb of this year; Book 2:  That Autumn in Edinburgh, due out next Fall) will be That Winter in Venice, set during the celebrated Carnivale season of exotic costumes and mist rising from the canals…

Venice - Carnevale di Venezia - Venice Carnival 2011It’s tough duty, but it seems we’ll just have to head back to La Serenissima in February of 2014 to witness Carnivale for ourselves. Research, you know…

Dateline: 200 Years Later…

May 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Island of the SwansI’ve realized recently, preparing for my trip to Scotland in June to research the second in the 4 Seasons Series ,that the next book—That Autumn in Edinburgh—may be the “ultimate sequel.”  That’s because the story it continues, Island of the Swans, left off at the end of the eighteenth century. The new books starts in 2013!  Crazy idea? Here’s how it happened…Image 2

Not too long ago, my husband and I were driving the two hours from the Bay Area to Sacramento to see our Godchildren and tossing ideas back and forth as the California scenery sped by.  During the previous twenty-five years, I had written the words –The End–on seven 130,000 word historical novels, along with two weighty nonfiction books and was feeling, as my late novelist father Harlan Ware was wont to say, “that the well may be running pretty dry.”

Image 3Like my dad, (seen on the right in a portrait by Donald Teague) I love reading as well as writing fiction, but producing historical novels to the standard I think the reading audience deserves takes a commitment of a couple of years, each, and I had hit a very significant birthday recently.  To launch into another big project like one I’d been mulling over in the middle of the Great Recession would require living with no income during the time it took to produce the book, to say nothing of the expensive and extensive travel required to truly do the subject justice,

SAMSUNGAnd then there would be the huge struggle to get it traditionally published in today’s ever-changing and tumultuous media industry, not to mention the effort required to promote an historical novel set two hundred years earlier to audiences who were less and less likely to have studied history prior to World War II!IMG_6140

“I’m running out of runway,” I recall complaining to my writing pal, Michael Llewellyn. “The readers who like my stuff are as old as I am!  Maybe I should hang up my spurs?”

Then a thought struck:  why not write some sequels to those same historical novels, but set them in contemporary times?  I was yearning to try a new direction in my writing life, but as a practical matter, the good news was that I already “knew the territory” of each book’s setting; knew the characters from whom their modern-day counterparts descended, and I grew excited to accept the challenge to develop stories that echoed down from the distant past.

Ware Family, circa 1915I have long been interested in the idea that events far back in a family’s line filter down and affect later generations.  I’d seen this in my own family where my ancestors had originally sailed across the Atlantic from various parts of the United Kingdom to settle in the American colonies in the eighteenth century, pushing West in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  My father, who’d never traveled to Europe, was nevertheless about as British as they come, serving tea each day, promptly at four o’clock.  Why was that, I’d always wondered? Could having a cuppa be encoded in one’s DNA?300px-Battle_of_Shiloh_Thulstrup

On my mother’s side, her four-times great grandfather and his son had been officers in the American Civil War on the Union side, captured at the Battle of Shiloh and put in a prison camp, and returned to Missouri broken, self-medicating men, with repercussions that were felt down through the generations—even to my own day.

03_Duchess_JeanSo, I wondered, why not tell the uncompleted story in my biographical historical novel, Island of the Swans.  Reveal to the readers what ultimately happened much later in their lives between Jane Maxwell, the 4th Duchess of Gordon, and the “lost lieutenant” Thomas Fraser who had been reported killed in battle and came back to Scotland to claim her as his bride shortly after she was married to the Duke.  How had Jane’s losing the love of her life impacted the Maxwell-Gordon-Fraser children?  (Yes, there is quite good evidence that one of Jane’s offspring was not by the Duke!)

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What if two descendants of the star-crossed lovers happened to meet in Edinburgh, Scotland in the first decade of the twenty-first century and–

And thus, as with That Summer in Cornwall a modern-day sequel to an historical novel is born: That Autumn in Edinburgh. So watch this space…

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