Where to now?

I started this blog to share my experiences travelling Europe as a writer in search of story, and researching for two novels that I'm writing. One, an historical coming-of-age and quest story set in Venice in the 18th Century is for for older children and any readers who like historical novels and/or books about feisty girls who must follow their dreams against the odds. The other is a book for younger children, an historical quest story of a young boy who lived 15,000 years ago in the Dordogne region of France - yes, a prehistorical book, but not as far back in time as my first novel, Secrets of Eromanga (from millions of years ago in the Cretaceous period). My research trip to Europe prove

#29 A taste of Caterina's story

The Four Seasons of Caterina Extract.... Chapter 7 The next month passed without incident – no ruffianos to worry about and no red-haired stranger staring at her across the Piazzetta. It was as if Venice was drawing breath in anticipation of the Fèsta de ƚa Sènsa when Venetians celebrated their links to the sea. Some days, hardly a soul walked the Piazzetta so Caterina sat beneath the heron pillar thinking about what Signora Rizzio had let slip about her mother. What a pity old Angelo had died before she’d talked to him. One sunny morning, Caterina left the Rizzio’s courtyard gate and headed towards a different begging place. The first boatload of foreign visitors had arrived for next week’s

#28 The story ... back to the grind

The past seven weeks have gone like a flash ... and now I'm home and rearing to finish my novel. This was the main reason we travelled to Italy and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to follow my instincts about going to the source - Venice. The Four Seasons of Caterina (or whatever this novel will end up being called) will benefit as much as I did. I learned many useful things during my research - some aspects I will definitely use. But much of what I discovered you won't see in the story as such. Why not? you might ask. Have you ever read an historical novel where the author gives you a history lesson in a dialogue? Or tells rather than shows important information (tricky one that). I'll

#27 Rome ... pleasure amongst the gloom

We wake up here in Rome to the news Trump is to be US President ... and like most others I have an opinion on that turn of events. But I don't want to dwell on the dark fear filling many hearts in America and across the world ... that's why this post focuses back on my writing and the making of a story set in the past, the world of Caterina the Claw, and Antonio Vivaldi. I want to share with you my secret weapon on researching the setting of my story ... in particular, the visual setting of Venice during the Baroque, the 18th Century. Many writers collect images ... of how they imagine their characters and settings look. It really does help. I do that too - for this story set in 1715, I have

#26 Florence ... inside the Vasari Corridor, another story

I knew it was a special place to visit, but early this year when I booked the small-group tour of the famous Vasari Corridor, they closed it because the Florence Fire Department considered it a risk to life and art ... art, because its walls are filled with a priceless art collection. They're correct ... a kilometre long enclosed passageway high overhead the hoi-polloi, over the Ponte Vecchio, with no method of escaping half way along? It was opened again in September, but will shut permanently at the end of this month. But who knows what will happen? This is Italy! In 1565, the Medici family paid for Giorgio Vasari to build the corridor, in only five months, for the wedding between Francesc

#25 Florence today ... many stories

Today was a good day to be in Florence ... the 50th Anniversary of the terrible floods of 1966. Like Venice's destructive huge tide on the same day fifty years ago, Florence's Arno River burst its banks, rising 11 to 12 metres above its level. Across the region, floods destroyed homes, people lost their lives, livestock perished, and in the centre of Florence's historic city, the putrid, polluted water level rushed through Florence's streets, and into the famous Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia and the Duomo (the Cathedral di Santa Maria del Fiore). Priceless art works were destroyed. Marble pillars in the Duomo soaked up the oil from the polluted flood, and sewage-filled water filled cellars,

#24 Arrivederci, Venice.

Arrivederci means we will see each other again ... and so we will. Venice has offered so much for my story, in all the senses, as well as historically and musically. I'm so glad it was our home for almost two weeks. This morning, under bright, clear blue skies, we catch the number 1 vaporetto to the Ferovia stop (Santa Lucia Railway Station), and then Trenitalia's Frecciarossa (the Red Arrow) to Florence. Instead of saying any more about how much we've seen, tasted, heard, smelt, read and experienced, the history, the brilliant art and architecture, and the multicultural melting pot of tourists and residents, I'm sharing a collection of some of my favourite images below. Click to see full im

#23 Searching for Vivaldi and Caterina ... pt 2

In the grand lobby of Hotel Metropole where I meet Micky White, researcher and archivist of Antonio Vivaldi's years at the Ospedale della Pietà, there are four, white limestone pillars. They are the original columns of the Ospedale (ospedale in this case meant 'hospitality' not hospital) on this site back in the 1700s, when Vivaldi was their music master. Surrounded by hanging kimonos, the four pillars are an incongruous part of a fashion show in this exclusive hotel on Venice's prime waterfront position. I spot them immediately because Micky White had pointed them out in a documentary I'd seen. She lives here in Venice, speaks and reads Italian, and has been searching through the Ospedale a