Travels with Diane: Where Are the Beers for Men?

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Basilica de Santiago

I spent a chunk of time this weekend booking my husband and son’s walking trip on the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. Looking at photos of the spectacular landscapes, the ancient churches and monasteries, the weary pilgrims in their Tevas and backpacks, reminded me how much I LOVE to travel. (Not with Tevas and backpacks, but still.)

 

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Wall o’ Beer Labels in our apartment, Gent

I’ve been lucky enough to live in Belgium at three different times. Since Belgium is close to pretty much everything in Europe, during those years I visited as many places as time, energy, and budget would allow. I even created a travel blog during our last stint in Gent.

 

 

 

But there have been downsides to our travels.

 

 

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my error in France

 

We’ve endured bouts of food poisoning. Mussels in France. Something we never figured out in Belgium. Most viciously, in Greece, where I realized we were on the wrong ferry heading twelve hours in the wrong direction at the exact moment that my husband realized he should NOT have eaten that rabbit stew.

 

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happening accidentally on the Mass of the Presanctified in Split, Croatia

 

We’ve spent endless hours, even days, hopelessly lost — but often being lost led to wonderful discoveries.

 

 

 

 

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unheated youth hostel in Slovenia

 

We’ve passed nights in hotels without heating. We’ve shared rooms with insects I couldn’t begin to identify.

 

We’ve had more than one incident with a rental car that we survived but the cars didn’t. (Take the extra insurance!)

 

 

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hombres, with cervezas

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Servicios, for hombres

We’ve lived through humiliations beyond counting (asking for the “cervezas por hombres” rather than the “servicios” ranks pretty high — most bars have a men’s room, but for some reason they don’t think it’s funny when you ask, insistently and repeatedly, for the location of the beers for men).

 

 

But one of the best things about my travels is finding settings that I can use in my fiction. I’ve taken bits and pieces of places I visited for each book, and each location becomes more vivid in my memory as I work it into a story.

 

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Chateau de Chenonceau

 The castle in The Thirteenth Princess is based on the chateau of Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France. When I first saw this fairy-tale castle decades ago, I was completely entranced by it. The Loire River runs right underneath. In every room, you can hear the rush of water. I wanted to live there — so I did the next best thing, and made it the home of my main character, Zita.

 

 

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northern Norway

 

A True Princess is set in a fairy-tale version of Scandinavia. I’m half Norwegian, and I haveScan0013 family who live on a farm above the Arctic Circle in Norway. I visited them years ago. It was such a magical place — the mysterious forests, the fjords, the craggy mountains. So that’s where my character Lilia lives.

 

Glendaloch (ancient monastic site)

Irish countryside

My main character Meriel in Princess of the Wild Swans is Irish at heart. I’ve been to Ireland twice, once to Dublin, and once spending a week in a farmhouse on the Dingle peninsula. I loved Dingle.  The green of the Irish landscape and its contrast with the gloomy, lowering clouds, the uneven cobblestones I tripped over in every town, the sense that behind each mossy stone wall might lurk a magical being — this is the feeling I tried to bring to that story.

 

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cliffs of Normandy

The setting of Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters is, in my mind, the coast of France. I haven’t been to Brittany, where the chalk cliffs I describe in the book are. Not yet, anyway. But I spent some time in Normandy (before I ate the evil mussels that laid me low), so I mined my memories of those rocky beaches, those salty winds, those dark, choppy waters for details to use in Princess Aurora and Luna’s desperate journey.

 

I’m still traveling and still using what I see in what I write. I don’t know if taking part in a Lobster Quadrille in the Budapest baths will make it into a book, or if a character will ever sit in the Pickle Chair from our Belgian student apartment. But just the possibility gives those experiences a depth they wouldn’t have otherwise. (And, of course, it makes the trips tax-deductible.)

 

Here are some pictures of places that are making their way into what I’m writing now. Just a taste of setting, to make you wonder…

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MG work in progress

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PB work in progress

 

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YA work in progress

 

 

 

The Last Giveaway. Maybe.

It turns out you can do a Goodreads Giveaway for a couple of months after a book is published — so I am! This time, of course, it’s for a hardcover copy of Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters. And I’ll sign it, too. So click on the widget below and sign up. Good luck!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Sleeping Beauty's Daughters by Diane Zahler

Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters

by Diane Zahler

Giveaway ends October 18, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

Books of Wonder(ful)

The Books of Wonder Great Middle-Grade Reads event was so much fun! Joining me at the table were three other great middle-grade authors:

 

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Dan Poblocki, presenting his really scary new book, The Haunting of Gabriel Ashe. And Morgan Keyes, with the second book in her fascinating Darkbeast series. And, all the way from Australia, Catherine Jinks, presenting How to Catch a Bogle, set in Victorian England.

 

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Jennifer Dee (@rifflemg) live-tweeted the event — a first for me! — and my HarperCollins editor, Andrea Martin, stopped by.

 

And as always, owner Peter Glassman and the enthusiastic and well-prepared bookstore staff were the perfect 100_6880hosts. They made us feel just a little bit like rock stars — a pretty amazing feat, considering the real life of children’s book writers…

There Were Never Such Devoted Sisters

#31: Whatever it is ….my sister did it! – Anonymous

#30: To know a sister is to know a paradox. — Patricia Foster

#29: Between sisters, often, the child’s cry never dies down.  “Never leave me,” it says; “do not abandon me.”  — Louise Bernikow

#28: Lord, confound this surly sister, blight her brow with blotch and blister/cramp her larynx, lung and liver, in her guts a galling give her. — J. M. Synge

#27: How can an intelligent woman with any delicacy so humiliate a sister? — Leo Tolstoy
(Anna Karenina)

#26: Bless you, my darling, and remember you are always in the heart – oh tucked so close there is no chance of escape – of your sister.  — Katherine Mansfield

#25: Sister, dear sister, come home … — Jessamyn West

#24: For there is no friend like a sister/in calm or stormy weather/to cheer one on the tedious way/to fetch one if one goes astray/to lift one if one totters down/to strengthen whilst one stands. — Christina G. Rossetti

#23: Help one another, is part of the religion of sisterhood.  — Louisa May Alcott

#22: A sister can be seen as someone who is both ourselves and very much not ourselves – a special kind of double. — Toni Morrison

#21: Sisterly love is, of all sentiments, the most abstract.  Nature does not grant it any functions.  — Ugo Betti

#20: Be kind to thy sister. Not many may know the depths of true sisterly love. — Margaret Courtney

#19: There can be no situation in life in which the conversation of my dear sister will not administer some comfort to me.  — Mary Montagu

#18: The mildest, drowsiest sister has been known to turn tiger if her sibling is in trouble.  — Clara Ortega

#17: I would like more sisters, that the taking out of one, might not leave such stillness.  — Emily Dickinson

#16: Sisters is probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship. — Margaret Mead 

#15: We acquire friends and we make enemies, but our sisters come with the territory. — Evelyn Loeb

#14: We must stem the tide of malice, and pour into the wounded bosoms of each other, the balm of sisterly consolation. — Jane Austen

#13: Never let an angry sister comb your hair. – Patricia McCann

#12: My sister! My sweet sister! If a name dearer and purer were, it should be thine. — Lord Byron

#11: I had known, from the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me.  — Charles Dickens (Great Expectations)

#10: It’s a great comfort to have an artistic sister. — Louisa May Alcott

#9: Never praise a sister to a sister; in hope of your compliments reaching the proper ears.  — Rudyard Kipling

#8: With a sister, one can never fear that success will go to one’s head.  — Charlotte Gray

#7: Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of sisters? — Alice Walker

#6: Two scorpions living in the same hole will get along better than two sisters in the  same house. — Arabian Proverb

#5: You know full well as I do the value of sisters’ affections: There is nothing like it in this  world.  — Charlotte Bronte

#4: A ministering angel shall my sister be. — William Shakespeare (Laertes)

#3: Of two sisters one is always the watcher, one the dancer. — Louise Gluck

#2: Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life. — Charles Schultz (or Linus)

#1: Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister… — Irving Berlin (White Christmas)220px-Smithsnowred

 

Are you a sister? Do you have a sister? Have you ever longed for a sister — or longed to lock your sister in a closet so she would leave you in peace?

 

Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters is, among other things, a story about sisters. That’s always a complex relsisters2ationship, as you know if you answered Yes to any of the questions above. And since it’s one month until the book’s publication, I’ve decided to hold a contest dedicated to sisters. It will go like this:

 

 

♦Each day until August 27th, I’ll psisters3ost a quotation about sisters.

♦To be entered in the contest, you can post your own sister quote, or simply write a comment on this post.

♦On the 27th, I’ll pick a random winner for a SIGNED HARDCOVER copy of Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters!

 

(One caveat: I’ve only found about 20 good quotes so far. So if I like one of yours, I get to use it!)

For That Someone Special (Maybe You?)

oblongMy wonderful local bookstore, Oblong Books, is hosting a book launch party for Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters, about which I’ll write far more as the date (August 31) approaches. But if you can’t make it to the launch, you can still get a signed book — Oblong is accepting pre-orders for signed copies of all my books!

♦If you’d like to pre-order a signed copy of Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters, click here.

♦If you’d like to pre-order a signed copy of the paperback edition of Princess of the Wild Swans, click here.

♦If you’d like to pre-order a signed copy of the paperback edition of A True Princess, click here.

♦If you’d like to pre-order a signed copy of the paperback edition of The Thirteenth Princess, click here.

Thank you, Oblong!

 

Hurry Up and Wait

Look what UPS brought me this afternoon! 100_6501

 

The pace of publishing never fails to bewilder me. This book has been written and rewritten (and rewritten, and rewritten) over…well, over quite a long time. Between each rewrite, there was waiting. Lots and lots of waiting. I publicized Princess of the Wild Swans. I wrote other stuff. I went to Belgium for five months.

 

Then, suddenly, the cover was done, the manuscript was being copyedited, the galleys were proofread, and in a matter of weeks — ARCs!

 

Now we just have to wait until August.

Up and Running (More or Less)

I’m a person who swore she’d never blog…yet this is my third blog.

True, the first was a travel blog dedicated to a five-month period I spent in Belgium in 2012. Chocolate, waffles, and beer — did I really have a choice? And the second was just a sad little addendum to my sad little first website. But this one has its very own tab. It demands that I write something.

So…I think I’m going to use this space primarily to talk about what’s happening with my books.  If there’s something you’d like to hear about from me, please let me know. I’ll take all suggestions under advisement. But there are so many really great and useful blogs about writing already; I don’t want to add another. I’m NOT going to give writing advice or describe My Process, though I may rant occasionally about the value of the adverb. Or my opinion of people who are threatened by the term “literary fiction.” (Of course, I’m the person who swore she’d never blog, so don’t take my word for any of this. I’m a very unreliable narrator.)

At the moment, I’m in that strange in-between time with Sleeping Beauty’s Daughters when proofreading is done and ARCs are yet to arrive. A sort of literary suspended animation. So I’ll give you the gorgeous book cover, if you haven’t seen it already. Love it, love it, love it!SBDaughters HC C.web