Manitoba Book Week was fantastic!

This photo was taken by reporters from The Brandon Sun
This photo was taken by reporters from The Brandon Sun

I had a fabulous time travelling around Manitoba for Book Week 2016, and I cannot thank all the fans, librarians, teachers and students enough for that.

I got the opportunity to meet students at Crocus Plains School, Ravenscourt School, Wellington School, Samuel Burland School, MacGregor Elementary and Yellowquill, and many other fabulous students along the way at libraries and events.

Thank you so much for the memories!

TD Canadian Book Week 2016
Brandon, Winnipeg & Portage la Prairie
Coles Book Store
Shoppers Mall, Brandon, MB
6:30 – 8pm
Brandon Branch Library
Brandon, Winnipeg
10:30 – 11:30am
Neepawa Branch Library
Neepawa, MB
2 – 3pm
Portage la Prairie Library
Portage la Prairie, MB
11:15am – 12:15pm
Whodunnit Bookstore – 165 Lilac Street
Winnipeg, MB
7pm
Pinawa Library Branch
Pinawa, MB
2:15 – 3:15pm
Coles Bookstore Kildonan Place
Winnipeg, MB
12:30 – 2:30pm
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From Scotland Yard to 10 Downing Street

I was writing a scene where Portia hops in a cab to get from Scotland Yard to Downing Street, but it occurred to me that those locations might not be far apart – glad I checked!

On the road again….


I can’t help it that anytime I think of that song, I hear it in Donkey’s (Eddie Murphy’s) voice from Shrek.
Anywhoo, we are off on another road trip my little family is, and we’re headed out to the East Coast of this lovely country we call Canada (don’t ask me why I am writing like this, I must be excited).

Google map
The road-trip!

I intend to FINISH writing the first draft of Principessa on this road trip, so wish me luck!
In the meantime, enjoy the rest of the summer my friends, and don’t worry, I’ll be following your blogs on the road, so leave a light on for me!

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

Writing in Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele

Hard as it was, I left Rome yesterday and am home in lovely Toronto.

I made my coffee extra strong this morning and pretended it was a heavenly cappuccino from Venti 10 where I spent my mornings for the last week.

So how was it you ask? Heavenly. Just perfect.

I walked, ate well, drank wine, laughed, shopped, hitched rides on scooters with friendly Italians, saw everything I wanted to see, and yes friends, I wrote quite a lot. It is a lot easier to imagine dialogue in a different language when you are in the country you are writing about, so I think Portia’s scenes here have benefited from my immersion.

Rome is a beautiful city, and I can’t wait to go back, but Florence remains my favorite city in the world, and I maintain, 10 years after first walking her cobbled streets, if I get to pick the place where I will spend my last days on this earth, it will be Florence.

That is all friends, catching up on your blogs later tonight to see what I missed in the last week!

 

..by the time you read this…

Plane taking off in the sunset
Leaving’ on a jet plane!

dun dun duuuuuuun!

That title sounds way more ominous than ‘Leaving’ on a jet plane’ so forgive me (I’m a writer), but by the time you read this, I will be leaving on a jet plane.

To where you ask, kind readers? Why to do some research for the latest case book: Principessa.

Ok, not entirely true, but I had this trip to Rome booked back in January to meet up with my good friend Quade for a week of food, fun, and catching up. As I was planning the trip, I started writing casebook 7, and lo and behold, Portia Adams has found herself travelling to Italy! What a happy coincidence. Maybe someday if I ever make a few bucks off this venture, I can claim the trip as research?

We’ll see.

Regardless, it is off to Rome I go, and hopefully I will come back with some great stories to share and some beautiful scenes committed to paper!

The Italian Job

Coat of Arms of the King of Italy
Coat of Arms of the King of Italy

As you probably know if you read one of my earlier posts, Book 7 centers around a royal client – the youngest of the Princesses in the House of Savoy. In 1931 when this latest book is set, Victor Emmanuel III is the King, Elena of Montenegro his wife and Maria Francesca Anna Romana (1914–2001) is their youngest daughter.

Castle of Racconigi
Castle of Racconigi

There are quite a few Residences listed as part of the Royal House of Savoy, but after reading through many of them, I think Castle of Racconigi is the best choice of setting for the majority of the book.

Unlike many of the other residences I read about, it had not been donated to the state (a rampant habit of Victor Emmanuel it seems!) or used as a barracks for World War One.

Racconigi is a town in Piedmont, Italy located in the province of Cuneo, 40 km (25 mi) south of Turin, and 50 km (31 mi) north of Cuneo by rail.

How does one travel from London to Italy in 1930? So glad you asked!

Well, Portia would have to travel by train from London to one of the ports (Folkestone for example) and then take a boat across to Calais, France. From there she would take the train towards Turin, Italy through France.

The train system in Italy was very well developed by the 1930s (you can read all about it at Wikipedia here)

Google Map
The train trip through France to Turin

I updated my Google Map (called Portia’s London – click on the map on the left there to see the full GoogleMap) to include this trip.

The idea is that you can take the train straight through (except for the English Channel of course).

The distances are:

Train from London to Folkestone: 64.8 mi
Boat from Folkstone to Calais: 31.23 mi
Train from Calais to Lille: 57.92 mi
Train from Lille to Paris: 126.72 mi
Train from Paris to Chambéry: 283.77 mi
Train from Chambéry to Modane: 43.75 mi
Train from Modane to Turin: 50.37 mi

For a grand total of about 750 miles.

Trains at this time traveled at about 70-80 mi/hour, so I’m going to say a total of two days of travel for Portia to get from London to Turin. She could surely get from London to Lille in one day, and then spend the entire next day traveling from Lille to Paris, but let’s assume that there were wait times etc.

How the heck and I going to get THAT fact-checked? Where is Marty McFly when you need him?

A challenge for clarity

A poster advertising the reintroduced first class service in 1924 -- the image was also used on the covers of the passenger lists of the day (Swann Galleries)
A poster advertising the reintroduced first class service in 1924 — 
 (Swann Galleries)

I was separating out my first ten pages of Book 1 today to start submitting to potential publishers (yes, it is time to start praying for me friends) and I was challenged for details on how Portia left New York by ship and landed in London.

So, to clarify, she took the S.S. Minnetonka II from NY to London on January 18, 1929. How can I be so exacting with my times? Glad you asked, because you wouldn’t BELIEVE the detail you can get from the internet.

This is a listing of ships that left New York bound for London in 1929 and this is some photos and details about the Minnetonka!

Read more about the Atlantic Transport Line here.

It is amazing how much information you can find at the tip of your fingers!

Back to editing… yes, I’ve read these ten pages 100 times, yes, I must read them 100 more times…

 

 

More mapping

Screen cap modification of a Google Map
Portia's London

Still working on learning about Portia’s London, so I started a map (available here).

In Book 4 she makes her way out to a farm that has recently been burned to the ground. I need it to be in Sheep-farming land, so I picked Sussex county as a location where Southdown sheep grazed. Read more about Sussex county on Wikipedia here.

The Chalk Downlands (also called the South Downs) area seems to be decent farmland for sheep farming.

The Amberley railway station was built in 1923, so she could have taken a train from Victoria station in London to Amberley to get to the Coombs farmhouse. It would have taken about an hour to get there.

For the church in book 6, i’m thinking about All Hallows by the Tower http://www.ahbtt.org.uk/history/