Posts Tagged ‘Tuscany’

Versatile Blogger AwardI want to extend my thanks to Medieval Otaku of Aquila et Infans for nominating Lady Blade Blog for the Versatile Blogger Award.  Be sure to check out their site as he and his partner in crime have interesting posts on writers and writing.

Here is a short list of the rules:

  • Thank the person who gave you this award. That’s common courtesy.
  •  Include a link to their blog. That’s also common courtesy — if you can figure out how to do it.
  •  Next, select 15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. ( I would add, pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent!)
  •  Nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award — you might include a link to this site.
  •  Finally, tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

So here goes. Blogs that are interesting and informative and that tickle my fancy. My list of nominees for the Versatile Blogger Award:

  1. Growing Great Writers from the Ground Up
  2. We Didn’t Come Here for the Grass
  3. The Old Foodie
  4. Know San Jose
  5. Interesting Literature – Yeah, that
  6. Parmenion Books
  7. Indie Authors and Books
  8. Blood Red Pencil
  9. Novel Rocket
  10. English Historical Fiction Authors
  11. Passages to the Past
  12. Writer’s First Aid
  13. Ja Konrath Blog
  14. Book Banter
  15. YA Highway

Okay, seven things about me in no particular order…

1. I was a competitive sport fencer for over ten years. It’s been a number of years since I wielded my foil, but I always play around with the idea of going back to it. Some day. The fencing Maestro in Lady Blade is based on my own fencing Maestro, John DeCesare.

italy-22. My husband Tom and I spent part of our honeymoon in Tuscany, Italy and I fell in love with the landscape and the decor. Hence, not only did I set the beginning of Lady Blade in Tuscany, I redecorated our house in a sort of “Tuscany meets Napa Valley” style. Lots of warm colors and dark wood moldings. It may not be a Tuscan villa, but it’s our little bit of heaven. (Or it will be ours in 30 years when the mortgage is paid off.)

3. I am a belly-dancer. I especially love sword dancing. Which means, not only can I beat most people with a sword, I can dance with it balanced on my head afterwards. (or before, I’m not particular.)

Map of Silidor Valley on Kickstarter4. Tom and I recently did our first Kickstarter. It was a great success, we reached well over 200% of the funding we asked for. I have a degree in art and I drew a map of Silicon Valley done in Lord of the Rings style. You can see the Kickstarter here –  including a video of Tom and me talking about the project. (We both hate seeing ourselves on film!) The map is now on sale on our website, Urban Realms and on Amazon. Currently I’m working on a map of Columbus Ohio for one of our backers, and we’ve got a new Kickstarter in the works. I’m not saying what that is since I don’t want to jinx it.

newurbanrealms5. Tom and I recently started a business selling Dungeons and Dragons related art and stuff called Urban Realms. (I did all the web design as well as creating most of the products.) Tom’s been a gamer for close to 30 years. I’ve been gaming for about 15 years. Some of my favorite characters to play; Bruinhilda, a tough-as-nails female Dwarf, Sapphire, a stealthy human thief with a penchant for long thin blades, Felazeal, a gay bard with a flair for the dramatic, and The Wall, (based on the Tick) who’s dense, both mentally and physically and who’s battle cry is, “Evil doer, you face, the Wall!”

6. I love power tools. I do a lot of work on our house including designing and building built-in cabinets and seating, remodeling most of our bathroom, and re-plastering all the walls. I own and use on a semi-regular basis a table saw, router, saws-all, miter, circular and saber saws, drill press, dremel, orbital sander… Okay, you get the idea. My pet peeve; when I go to Home Depot with my husband and the guy in the tool coral insists on talking to Tom instead of me. (He’s more of a car guy.)

Quest of the Faes

Catherine’s first book

7. I was a glass artist for over 15 years. I worked mostly in fused glass, firing it my kiln. I had a line of jewelry, sun-catchers, and yard sculptures called The Goddess Collection based of 15 goddess from around the world. You can still see my artwork at Bella Lumina.com. I closed down my business to go back to writing. I wrote my first book when I was eighteen. It is available on Amazon as well. It’s called Quest of the Faes. (Okay, that’s sort of two things.)

Probably a lot more than you ever wanted to know, but them’s the rules. 🙂

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Early-morning light on an Italian villa

Early-morning light on an Italian villa (Photo credit: Robert Crum)

As a historical fiction writer you never know what creative endeavor you’ll be called on to complete. I just finished designing my own Italian villa. What fun!

The prequel I’m working on is set in the hills of Tuscany in the early 1700s. The villa is home to my main character, Francesca DiCesare and her family. It also serves as Salle DiCesare, a famous Italian fencing school where Francesca’s father teaches young noblemen the art and science of the sword.

As a writer, I needed to know practical things, like, if Francesca is sneaking out of her room to her brother’s room, which way does she go? What could she see – or not see – from her bedroom window. Are there back stairs she could use to sneak to the basement? I needed a map of her home to post next to my computer while writing so I can keep these things firmly in mind.

But, where does one begin when designing a 1700s fencing school?

I want to send a big thanks to Rebecca Kohn, Associate Librarian at San Jose State University Library and liaison to Art, Design, and Philosophy for helping me with that very question.

I had hoped to start with floor plans of actual villas in Tuscany. You’d be surprised how difficult it is to find such a thing. Oh, there are tons of pictures, and I mean tons. After all, those villas are amazingly photogenic. And lots of descriptions.  But I couldn’t find actual floor plans and when I did come upon a rare floor plan it was generally only for the ground floor – the public spaces where parties were held and people were entertained. I could find nothing about the more private areas.

Rebecca was a lifesaver. She pointed me first in the direction of the King Library in San Jose, where on the 7th floor I found some beautiful old books that had floor plans – but still only for ground floors. Then luckily, somewhere she found an article published by the University of California Press about Pratolino, a villa six miles north of Florence that included floor plans of the first two floors.

Pratolino was built by Francesco I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany. The designer of villa and gardens was his court architect- designer- mechanician- engineer Bernardo Buontalenti, who completed it in a single campaign that lasted from 1569 to 1581.

Really, Pratalino was more of a castle than a villa in many ways. So using the floor plans as a base I was able to pare it down to a more moderate sized villa. I also used a free on-line translator program since the rooms were identified in  Italian. I’m still not exactly sure what some of the rooms were used for, like the one that the translator called the “cave of the sponge.” Was that a sort of washroom or perhaps a sauna of some sort? Indoor bathrooms did not yet exist, so that one has me a little stumped. Still, the book I had found at the King Library came in handy since it had rooms in other villas labeled in English so at least I could see what types of rooms would be included. Once I sorted out the difference between a drawing-room, a sitting room, a study, and a parlor, I was all set.

Now I have all three floors of my villa laid out – four, if you count the small tower. My rough drafts aren’t pretty. They are meant only to be a mental map for me. But if you’d like to see them, I’ve posted them here on my Lady Blade website. If I decide to use them in the book I’ll need to redraw them, or maybe find an architect student who’d be willing to draw some more accurate designs. And, of course, I still need to do the basement as well as the grounds – stable, servant quarters, smithy, gardens – both formal and kitchen, olive grove and vineyard.

Ah, the work of a historical fiction writer is never done. But sometimes it is a whole heck of a lot of fun.

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A tuscan Villa

A tuscan Villa (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As a historical fiction writer, it is enormously annoying when history does not cooperate with my story.

At the moment I’m contemplating writing a prequel to my yet-to-be-published novel LADY BLADE. I’m thinking of serializing the prequel and using it as a lead in to the novel. LADY BLADE begins when my main character Francesca DiCesare is eighteen, so the prequel would start when she is a few years younger.

The setting is one of my favorite places in  the world, a hilltop villa in Tuscany in the early 1700s. This particular villa serves as the world-famous fencing school, Salle DiCesare, where Francesca’s father teaches the art and science of the sword to young noblemen.

Now, I was hoping that history would provide at least a bit of a tumultuous background for Francesca’s formative years. After all, the Spanish War of Succession was going on and the Italian Inquisition was still around. But the Italian battles in the Spanish War all happened a few hundred miles north of Salle DiCesare  or off the coast, and the Italian Inquisition for the most part was giving people a slap on the wrists. Darn it.

Really, I should give history a break. It was enormously helpful when I decided to write about Francesca’s birth, supplying corsairs from Algiers to harass her family and kill her mother. But now history is being stingy. Oh well, you can’t get corsairs all the time. I guess the tumult with have to be a bit more local.

BTW, I’m looking for a floor plan of a Tuscan Villa from the 1700s to serve as a basis for Salle DiCesare.  If anyone has seen such a thing, give me a holler!

Happy writing,

C. J. Thrush

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Hi Friends,

Map of Italy showing the Tuscany region in red

Map of Italy showing the Tuscany region in red (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just found a great new app for historical fiction writers that I had to share. It’s called Google Books Ngram Viewer and it allows you to find out if a particular word was used in the time frame that you’re writing about. It does this by searching a database of books from that time period and letting you know if, and how often the word was used.

I learned about it in an article titled Historical Fiction: Get the Correct Words for the Era  in the Historical Fiction Daily. The author of the article had lots of good uses for the app.

For me, it has partially answered a long-standing question. My yet-to-be-published novel, Lady Blade, begins in Tuscany, Italy in the 1720s. Historically speaking, Italy was not a unified country until the 1800s. Before that time it was a collection of autonomous city-states. So, would someone from Tuscany refer to themselves as a Tuscan or an Italian? Did people have the concept of “Italy” before it became a nation?

The app has told me two things.

First, that English speakers tended to think of Italy as a whole. English books from that era referred to Italy.oo48 percent of the time whereas they referred to Tuscany only about .0001 percent of the time.

Second, in Italian books they were much more likely to mention Tuscany than Italy.

So what does that mean for my writing? That my main character would think of herself as a Tuscan, while her English crewmates would think of her as an Italian. A subtle difference perhaps, but interesting and valuable.

I’m sure I’ll find many more uses for this app!

Happy writing,

C. J.

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Hi Everyone,

Now that I’ve made it into the quarterfinal round of the Amazon Contest, the first two chapters of LADY BLADE are posted on Amazon for customer reviews. That means anyone can put in their two cents worth and the results go toward deciding who wins!

Sooo, if you have a few moments, I would be eternally grateful for some reviews – if you like it. It’s free to download the chapters to your kindle app.

Here is the link:


Thank you for your support!


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Hi Friends,

FrancescaBaronsSonGood News! My short story, Francesca and the Baron’s Son is now available in digital format for the Kindle. For the next five days it will be FREE to download.

Francesca and the Baron’s Son

In Tuscany during the 1700’s a girl had to know her place or there were consequences.

Try telling that to Francesca DiCesare, the eleven-year-old daughter of Maestro DiCesare, Europe’s most renowned fencing master. Francesca has more courage than common sense, and learns her lesson – just not the one they were trying to teach her.

Set amid the blushing poppies in the Tuscan countryside, this is the first in a series of coming of age stories.

This story introduces Francesca, the title heroine of my novel, LADY BLADE. The novel takes place when Francesca is eighteen, so this is a precursor. Personally, I’d like to keep the story for free, but Amazon frowns on that apparently, so after this promotion it will be for sale for 99 cents a pop. I’ll do more free promotions as often as Amazon will let me, which I believe is every 90 days. So feel free to download and share with friends. And if you like it, I would love a review or  “like.”

Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback on the cover picture! I think it turned out well!

I hope to have more stories soon!

Catherine Thrush

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