Wednesday, November 20, 2019

An Ode to Venice, by Rhys

RHYS BOWEN: It's always an emotional time for me when I'm about to start a new book. Anticipation? Fear? Dying to get started but not daring to put those first words on paper?  Is this the same for all writers?  I toy with the first sentence in my head for weeks. Then the first paragraph. I write out time lines and character descriptions and relationships and things that have to happen. Oh, and I have been doing my background research for months--lots of notes and photographs.
Then one day, I write that first sentence. And then I feel that the book is real.

In the case of my new book--working title THE VENICE SKETCHBOOKS--it was an idea I have toyed with for several years, but never had an opportunity to write it. A story that takes place in Venice over many decades... 1928, then 1938, then 39-46 and then 2001. A story of a woman's secret life that her family never knew about and will only be revealed if her great niece can unlock the secrets of two sketchbooks and a box of keys.

So I did what any good writer has to do: I went to Venice last summer. I stayed at the Pensione my aunt always favored: The Pensione Accademica. I spent a day in the library of the Correr museum, surrounded by stacks of books (all in Italian!) . I walked up and down certain areas, traversed them by boat, looking for the house where my heroine will live, and the palazzo where the man she loves lives, and the places they will meet.

Venice is not new to me. When I was a teenager my parents rented a small villa in Treviso, about half an hour outside Venice. Every day they drove to the Venice parking garage, handed me and my brother some money and said, "See you at five o'clock". And the world was ours. We wandered, tried every gelateria, ate pasta and watermelon and had a great time. I took my eldest daughter when she graduated from high school. John and I have been back three or four times since. But every time I find something new, I try a new dish... spaghetti cooked in octopus ink? veal with tuna? 
This time all my senses were fine tuned. What am I hearing? Seeing? Smelling? All fodder for my book.

So I was about to start in earnest when the the latest aqua alta struck last week. Second highest ever. And I realized with a jolt that I might be writing an ode to something that will not be there forever. A somber thought. I hope I bring it to life for my readers. I hope I do it justice.

Here is a snippet from the prologue, which is as far as I have come so far:



May 21, 1928
I was awoken by more bells. It seems there are an awful lot of churches in this city. Nobody is allowed to sleep late! I went to the window and opened the shutters that Aunt H had insisted on closing against mosquitos. The sky was a perfect pale blue and the sound of bells echoed over the whole city. Swallows darted and swooped across the sky like tiny Maltese crosses, while seagulls screeched and below on the courtyard pigeons strutted and cooed. A city of bells and birds.
After a breakfast of rolls, cheese and fruit as well as coffee instead of tea, we went out exploring. Luckily Aunt H has visited several times before and knew her way or I should have become hopelessly lost in minutes. It is a complete maze of alleys, canals, bridges. Nothing is straight or straightforward. Some streets end at canals with no way across. To go right one must first go left. But Aunt H. led us unerringly to St Mark’s Square. Gosh. I think for the first time in my eighteen years my breath was taken away. I had never seen anything so magnificent as that great open space with the church at one end and the bell tower rising impossibly tall on one side. There were outdoor cafes with a small orchestra playing but Aunt H. declare we had too much to see to waste time with pastries


RHYS: So, dear friends, I need help. I need a title! It has to do with Venice Secrets, a Venice inheritance, Venice long ago... I've toyed with so many. Any flash of brilliance will be warmly accepted and I'll thank you in the dedication page!

59 comments:

  1. Oh, this is lovely, Rhys. I can’t wait to read the whole story! Thank you for sharing it with us. [And I think your working title is perfect for the story you’ve described.]

    I’ve seen the flooding in Venice on the news . . . it’s terrible to think of all that might be damaged or destroyed there.

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    1. Agreed that the working title sounds excellent!

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  2. Intriguing, Rhys.

    Thank you for being the reason I finally got to Venice three years ago. My daughter Holly and I had talked about going there for several years, and could never get a trip together, until your workshop. We met there beforehand, and I'm so glad we did.

    For a title, how about The Secret Venetian Legacy?

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  3. Sounds like a good beginning to me.

    And I am jealous. I'd really like to visit Venice someday.

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    1. If you are a fan of walking, then Venice is excellent! I loved that there are NO cars in Venice.

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  4. I am terrible at titles, so I won't even venture one, but I WILL read the book! I was in Venice many years ago for a weekend with a lover. It was magical and bittersweet, since it was our last weekend together...

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    1. Edith,

      How did you come up with great titles for your Quaker Midwife novels? I loved Venice too.

      Diana

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    2. Edith, only you could toss off a phrase like "I was there for a weekend with my lover!" I'm so envious!

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    3. LOL, Rhys. Just being honest about my wild and checkered past...

      Bibliophile: Thanks, but three of those titles were from Midnight Ink. Turning the Tide and Judge Thee Not are mind, as is title for book six (next September): Taken Too Soon.

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  5. I will be seeing Venice through your eyes, as I did with Tuscany. So sad to see a wonderful city in peril. Thinking of things that are hidden, I nominate "Venice Palimpsest" as a title.

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  6. Ooh, Rhys, I'll be so excited to read this book when it's finished!! I've only been to Venice once, years ago with my parents, but it made an indelible impression. As for title, I loved your "city of bells and birds" line. How about "City of Bells?"

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    1. Deborah, I loved Venice too. I am excited to read this book. Great title "city of bells"

      Ann, is Capane di Venezia the Italian translation of City of Bells?

      Diana

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    2. Ann, you have to have a title that everyone can pronounce. I learned that years ago. People don't like to be embarrassed in a bookstore by pronouncing something incorrectly!

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  7. Rhys, I can hardly wait to read this book. I haven't had enough caffeine this morning to this of anything brilliant like Deborah's idea: City of Bells and Birds.

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  8. Love your remembrances of Venice - and what a wonderful inspiration for a book. We were in Venice two years ago, and ten years ago, and forty years ago. The flooding makes me so sad. I like Deb's CITY OF BELLS.

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    1. Third or fourth-ing CITY OF BELLS , although as queen of the loooong title, I also like the full phrase CITY OF BELLS AND BIRDS. I'm not sure you have to convey secrets and inheritances in the title - Venice itself is so alluring (which, apparently, is part of the environmental problems they're having now) I think that title plus a great cover image would have readers snatching it up.

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    2. Hallie, I remember your post about your visit to Venice here at Jungle Reds.

      Julia, I love that title too. I loved Venice when I was there.

      Diana

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  9. Your snippet is totally charming, and I can hardly wait to read the book! I was lamenting to my husband a few mornings ago, as we listened to NPR and prepared for work, how much I fear that Venice will not survive.

    I like the ideas already given, and will also say that your phrase "A Venice Inheritance" caught my ear in a very good way as it went by.

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    1. The Pollyanna in me thinks that Venice will find a way to survive. Love that title "Venice Inheritance" too.

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  10. The Bells of Venice (if they play a role in the book), or Secrets of Venice in Italian. Lovely idea for the most magical city in the world!

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    1. Secrets of Venice sounds excellent! I agree with you that "Bells of Venice" works if they play a role in the book.

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  11. Rhys, I've never been to Venice, but somehow the city has always captured a place in my imagination as if I'd been there. Your writing brings it to life, and I sincerely hope that it won't be lost to the rising seas.

    I like your working title and also Susan's suggestion above, and I liked the idea of finding the keys, but not sure how to put that in a title. 'The Keys to Venice' doesn't seem to capture the mystery.

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    1. Keys to Venice sounds like an excellent title too.

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    2. I think the Keys to Venice is wonderful, but I'm wary because there has been a book called The Paris Key. We'll see what marketing says. They are the law!

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  12. Wonderful! You are a treasure, Rhys. And I know we can come up with a title!

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  13. And the winnah is -- something to do with bells!

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  14. I'm too bad with titles to even try, but the pictures are wonderful. I saw the ones of the latest flooding. So sad. I hope it lasts until I'm able to get to Italy.

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    1. Just saw the news about the floods yesterday. Hope that Venice can recover.

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  15. Venice has always sounded otherworldly to me. I’d love to visit! I’ll think about a title and pop back in if anything hits me.

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  16. Don't think I can come up a better title than those offered. Can't wait to see Venice through this book. Why am I thinking that "Too Much to See in Venice" sounds sort of interesting, maybe not.

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  17. Rhys, I loved Venice when I was there. I visited once in late September or was it early October? I loved that there were NO cars. I can imagine what Venice was like in 1928 before fast food chains. When I was there, my roommate wanted to eat at a fast food place. We were with a tour group and I had two different roommates for each leg of the European tour. I remember sharing a pizza with several people in my tour group.

    Trying to think of titles for your novel. I like VENICE SKETCHBOOKS. VENICE SECRETS. JOURNEY TO VENICE. VENICE INHERITANCE. VENICE MEMORIES.

    You came up with many wonderful titles. Would your eldest daughter have some ideas for a good title for your book?

    So looking forward to reading your novel about Venice. Please let us know when it is time to pre-order because I really want to pre-order this novel.

    On another note, your Twelve Clues of Christmas and Away in the Manger novels are on my list of Christmas reading list. I love to gather novels that fit the season like Royal Blood for Halloween and the two novels for Christmas.

    Diana

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  18. A City of Bells and Birds. That's your title, IMHO. LOL. Beautiful post, Rhys, and I have no doubt that you will render Venice pitchers perfectly to the delight of you avid readers, of which I am one!

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    1. No. It’s Italian and can mean dark, hidden, enigmatic, and so on.

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  20. The title that seems appropriate is My Venetian Legacy or replace my with the.

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  21. Rhys, the new book sounds like a wonderful love letter to Venice, a special place to you and sure to be a special book because of that (well, and your amazing writing). I'm sure the current flooding is distressing to you. My sister-in-law and her husband were there in October, and the pictures are so beautiful that I would now love to go, too.

    There have already been some great title suggestions. I'll add A Venice Memory or Venice Memories (oops, been suggested). I also like the suggested Venice Secrets, but I want to add a bit more to it, not sure what. Has Venice Legacy been suggested?

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  22. Hahaha! After I clicked to post, I read the last comment with My Venetian Legacy, which is like Venice Legacy I suggested, so apparently, we are all on the same page here with titles.

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  23. Thank you for all the suggestions. I really like City of Bells or Bells and Birds but I think marketing will want Venice in the title. Great buzzword, like the TUSCAN child.

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  24. kozo8989@hotmail.comNovember 20, 2019 at 2:36 PM

    Secrets of Venice?

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  25. I'm intrigued by the time frame of the story. Two sketch books and a box of keys...so mysterious! I love Deb's suggestion, City of Bells and Birds, because your phrase is so lyrical. But if you need Venice in the title...did the great niece inherit the sketchbooks? Venice Inheritance, or then perhaps: A History in Venice? Whatever the title, the story sounds great.

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  26. Venice of Bells and Birds or Find It in Venice. The book sounds intriguing.

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  27. Why not go simple and just call it "La Serenissima" --anything foreign can lend an air of mystery

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  28. Rhys, I started working backwards from a bookcover that might have a millefiore broken vase. Then you could simply say 'Venice Lost'as the title.

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