Sunday, January 27, 2013

Charlemagne died January 28th 814

A reliquary of Charlemagne containing his head. This is found in the cathedral treasury in Aachen, Germany.

In honor of the 1199th anniversary of Charlemagne's death, and in anticipation of the major anniversary to be celebrated next year, I wanted to write a post in honor of that historic leader who changed Europe.

His date of birth is reported as April 2nd, but the year is in some dispute. Encyclopedia Britannica has it listed as 747? while his official biographer Einhardt suggests he died at age 72 making his birth year as 742.  There is not any dispute as to when he died. 

I have snapped pictures associated with Charlemagne ever since beaming a devotee of Carolingian legends.

I wanted to share some of them with my blog readers.

Staring in Paris, there is a statue of him in front of Notre Dame Cathedral.

Then on the Right Bank is Rue Charlemagne.

I was delighted to find that his street intersected with one named after his biographer, Rue Eginhard.

There was also a bookstore named after him a few blocks away.

Not far from the Musée Carnavalet is a street named after the famous poem Les Quatre Fils Aymon.

Then in Chantilly, a chateau north of Paris I found a painting depicting those four sons of Aymon riding on the back of Renaud de Montauban's coveted destrier Bayard.

Too bad the artist did not have Renaud sporting Mambino's golden helmet. Then we would know for certain which of the four brothers was Renaud.

In the Louvre you can find not only a reliquary containing one of Charlemagne's arms,

but a replica of his famous sword Joyeuse.

While in Amboise, I noticed Rue Joyeuse.

In Reims, the treasury for the cathedral had a statue of Charlemagne that had been taken down because it has deteriorated and needs a replacement.

Here is a closer look.

Here I am providing perspective as to its size. Plus, I wanted a picture taken of me with Charlemagne.

Here is where I believe it had been placed on the cathedral. You can see the empty pedestal.

It is not so obvious when you look at the cathedral as a whole.

Speaking of cathedrals, there is an entire stained glass window devoted to the legends of Charlemagne at the cathedral in Chartres.

If you are wondering how someone can tell that this window is about Charlemagne and not just any king, you can see if you look closely the word Carolus used in many of these insets.

During a trip to Italy in 2011, I arranged a tour of St. Peter's Basilica because I wanted to see where Charlemagne had been crowned as emperor of the Western Roman Empire on Christmas Day in the year 800.

Outside the entrance to St. Peter's stands a large statue of Charlemagne.

There is a companion statue of Constantine facing Charlemagne, but I never even looked his way. So I do not have a picture of that to share.

Inside the basilica, my tour guide showed me the very spot Charlemagne was crowned. It was upon a disk of red porphyry.

My guide stressed that red porphyry was expensive and had been mined from a single mine in Egypt, but had been long since been exhausted. This made the existing porphyry all the more valuable.

I then started taking pictures of red porphyry where ever I saw it.

Here is one in the Roman Pantheon.

And a close up of that disk.

Then in August 2011, I visited Aachen. The capital of Charlemagne's empire.

This time when I saw a disk of red porphyry inside his cathedral, I made sure to have my picture taken standing on it.

Here is his throne which was on the second floor in the cathedral. There are steps leading up to the throne and pilgrims used to crawl under it.

Here is a replica of his crown that is in the Rathause, a building where the current Aachen City Council meets and where Charlemagne's palace once stood.

He was originally buried in this sarcophagus that is now housed in the cathedral treasury.

However, when he was canonized, they removed his remains and placed several portions in small reliquaries (like the golden head at the top of this page and the arm held in the Louvre) and the bulk of his bones inside a golden reliquary inside his cathedral.

In Aachen, Charlemagne's influence can be found everywhere. Including his monogram found on the streets.

I hope to make it back to visit Aachen next year and see some of the festivities planned for such a significant anniversary of the death of an important leader in history. Perhaps I will be lucky to be asked to participate as an author whose work's purpose is to inspire a new generation to discover and enjoy the legends of Charlemagne.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop

The Next Big Thing Blog Hop is a viral campaign to help bring awareness to writers and their works in progress and hopefully find new fans to their work.

1. What is the working title of your book?

Fate of the Saracen Knight: volume two in the Bradamante and Ruggiero series

2. Where did the idea for the book come from? 

Recently I wrote an entire blog post on this subject about my participation in the online Harry Potter fandom debates (back when the series was incomplete).  I began researching the symbolic meaning of hippogriffs. That led me to read the epic poem Orlando furioso.

I was amazed to discover an intricate tale of medieval knights in battle, and was drawn to one storyline in particular that featured a warrior maiden in love with a virtuous knight who was on the opposite side of a holy war.  Part 2 of this answer will be finished in Question #9.

3. What genre does your book come under?

Epic historic fantasy or Carolingian legend.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

My hero Ruggiero needs to be young and handsome. I like the idea of Ruggiero being played by Ben Barnes, best known for his role as Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia films. Here is a publicity still from that movie.

For my heroine, I would love to have Jennifer Lawrence play the part of Bradamante. Her portrayal of Katniss Everdeen in the Hunger Games movies demonstrates the strong and determined nature of Bradamante as well as her beauty. The character is also tall, and Jennifer Lawrence is about 5'8" a good height to play the role.

©Harper Smith
From Jennifer Lawrence's Facebook page Consider this another share.

I do not want to spend too much time discussing other characters and respective actors, but there is one in particular I must mention. The famous Frankish warrior Orlando, I imagine being played by the popular French rugby player Sebastien Chabal. Perhaps once his rugby career is finally over, he will consider becoming an actor. He would be convincing as a ferocious Frankish warrior.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Ruggiero has two different prophecies of divergent fates and dueling magical forces attempting to influence which one will come to pass.

Now to elaborate a little and discuss his two different potential fates:   

He will either convert to Christianity, marry Bradamante, sire a line of heroes with her, but die tragically before the birth of his son OR he will remain a Muslim, bring about the defeat of Charlemagne and the fall of the Frankish Empire which will devastate Christendom.

6. Is your book self-published, published by an independent publisher, or represented by an agency?

Volume one was published by a small boutique publisher. Volume two will be as well.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Yikes, still going on writing the first draft of the sequel. Volume one was finished in one year, but it took me another five years to edit/wordsmith/finish obsessing over it.

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

A friend of mine suggested that my story reminded her of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series. I believe that is because both series are complex with a large cast of characters, interweaving plot threads, and multiple POVs. The tone in my novels is far different in that I strive to have a heroic classical style rather than Martin's grittiness. Comparatively I also have far fewer characters than he does.

This Bradamante and Ruggiero series is based on the legends of Charlemagne which are not all that well known today. It should appeal to fans of Arthurian legends. The source material is just as luxurious as Le Morte d'Arthur, but there is the added benefit that most people will not know what to expect next in the story.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Part 2 of Question 2. I was captivated by the tale of impossible love between Bradamante and Ruggiero.  While reading Orlando furioso, I kept asking myself why I had never heard of this incredible warrior maiden. I was astounded that a man wrote such a strong heroine back in the 16th century. I was also impressed by the depth of the love between Bradamante and Ruggiero was staggering, and the sacrifices they were willing to make for each other.

I remember reading the climax of the story and having tears run down my face as I sat on the patio during my lunch break. If a story can bring tears to my face while I read in a public place, it is something worthwhile.

I decided that I should not complain about the character of Bradamante in literature not being widely known. Instead, I would spend my time, talent and energy into adapting this story into one that is accessible for modern audiences.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Orlando furioso was originally published in 1516, so we are nearing the 500th anniversary of its publication. 

It was popular in its day and Ludovico Ariosto is still looked at as one of Italy's most famous poets. 

Queen Elizabeth I discovered that John Harrington had translated a passage for the amusement of some ladies in her court. It was a bawdy passage, and Queen Elizabeth commanded him to leave the court and not return until he had translated the entire poem. So that is how the first English translation came about.

People might be interested in hearing me read from my current novel, the first volume in the series. I was recently interviewed on a local National Public Radio affiliate and the interview is now available as an iTunes download. The host led me on a fun chat about fantasy writing, medievalism, chivalry, as well as prompted me to read several passages.

I am also uploading a video to Youtube of a reading at a Wine and Dine with Authors event from last night. It is currently uploaded on my novel's official Facebook page and I will embed the Youtube version here later once it has finished loading.

Now to tag next week's participant on this great viral experiment:

Rob Loughran, a prolific writer of novels and joke books.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The English Bookshop in Milan, Italy

Peter Panton's English Bookshop in Milan, Italy

I have been meaning on writing this post for quite some time now. With a new year, comes a fresh determination to spend more time posting to my blog.

In June of 2011, I was fortunate enough to spend a week in Italy. I was accompanying my husband on a business trip in Milan and Rome. We did not have much advance notice of this trip, but we did our best to make the most of our time while there.

On a Tuesday morning, while my husband was giving his business lecture, I was free to explore Milan by myself. I was on a mission to find anything that had to do with Ludovico Ariosto and his epic poem Orlando furioso.

I was happy to discover there was a street named Via Ariosto. While looking on the Streetwise Map of Milan, I saw a listing on that street of a store named The English Bookshop. Going on the internet, I found a website dedicated to English language bookstores in Europe called the  Bookstore Guide and their listing for that store. It was scheduled to open at 9:30 am, so I made my way to Via Ariosto with the intent of not only taking pictures of anything with Ariosto's name on it, but exploring the bookstore.


I was pleased to find several different styles of road markers.

This is my favorite of the markers.

Via Arisoto is a beautiful street with houses such as this lining it.
Imagine living in such a mansion in Italy.
I arrived at the bookstore shortly after it opened and introduced myself to the owner, a British gentleman by the name of Peter Panton. I had a lovely chat with him about writing, bookstores, and what it is like living in Italy. As I suspected, he had read Orlando furioso. I would have thought it almost a requirement for a bookstore owner on a street named for a famous poet to read the poet's work.

Several customers came in during the time I was there and I watched him converse with them in fluent Italian. His having lived in Italy for several decades, being fluent in their language would also be a necessity.

Peter Panton

Here is a description of the bookstore from the official Facebook page of Panton's English Bookshop:

Panton’s two-floor English bookshop, established since 1978, stocks over 60,000 titles and covers a wide variety of interests including: fiction, history, travel, children’s books, cookery books, art, cinema, theatre, poetry, biography, illustrated books, best-sellers, antiquarian books, as well as ELT, travel guides, maps, multimedia, software and hardware, DVDs and CD-ROMS. Mail-orders are welcome.

Panton’s is Milan’s first all English bookshop and lives up to its name with a characteristic British-style decor, a well-informed and helpful staff and a general warm and very friendly atmosphere.
The hours of operation are:
Mon: 3:30 pm - 7:30 pm
Tue - Sat: 9:30 am - 1:00 pm, 3:30 pm - 7:30 pm
 Ah yes, the European custom of closing a business during lunchtime and on Sundays. That is not something that happens often in the United States, but perhaps we ought to do it more often. It is a civilizing influence.

The address for the bookshop is actually 12 Via L. Mascheroni, but the store's front door is on Via Ariosto.

Here is a link to a map.

I will concur that the store has an English flair to it. I was drawn to the prominent image on the wall of a knight in repose. I tried taking several snapshots of it, this was the one with the least glare and the most color.

An etching made from atop a gravestone.
 Here is another picture of the bookstore from the outside and if you look closely you can see the street marker of Via Ariosto above the store's signage.

 There is even a video showing the inside of Panton's English Bookshop and highlighting his dog. I don't recall seeing the pooch in the store, but perhaps I was just so captivated with our discussion about writing and books, that I forgot about his furry companion.

In the video, the dog appears to be as friendly as his owner.

I tried uploading this video before using Blogger and it didn't work well. Here is a link, just in case.

I even purchased a copy of the book Medieval and Renaissance Treasures from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is hard for me to walk out of a bookstore with only one book, but I try to follow the edict of traveling light and a suitcase full of books can get quite heavy.

I hope that anyone who visits Milan takes the time to stop by Peter Panton's charming bookstore.

Note: there is another bookstore with a similar name and there might be some confusion. The other one is the American Bookstore and it is across from the Sforza Castle. I visited there as well, but I found the selection was generally travel guides and mass market paperbacks that you could find in any airport.

There was not the same sense of community and belonging. A large part of that is because one is in the heart of the tourist traffic and the other is in a neighborhood.

I much prefer places with character.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Changing the focus of my blog

Hello everyone,

I have been considering for a long time a change in the focus of my blog.

Particularly the title of my blog. I have decided to change from "Musings from a L.O.O.N." which reflected my influences from the Harry Potter fandom to what it has become which is now "Legends of Medieval France and Italy."

I will still reserve the right to write blog posts about anything else that moves me to want to share it with a larger audience, such as book or movie reviews, but the main focus is on medievalism, travel, and writing about medievalism and travel. Especially when it comes to the legends of Charlemagne.

I would also like to highlight the availability to hear an interview that was broadcast recently on my local public radio station. KRCB Radio has now made that interview available online as a podcast, both from their website and as a download from iTunes.

Here is the description of the talk:

The description of the talk:

Linda C. McCabe's historical novel Quest of the Warrior Maiden propels an entertaining conversation filled with blood, lust, fantastic adventure, and chivalrous romance.

Linda and host Gil Mansergh gab about those thrilling days of yesteryear when Charlemagne battled Saracen armies, sword-wielding knights Bradamante and Ruggiero fell in love at first sight, hippogriffs swooped in to carry one lover away to an enchanted island populated with seductive women, while his true love lopped off heads by the score with a swipe from her broadsword.


Gil asked me to read several passages from my novel and several people contacted me to tell me how much they enjoyed my dramatic interpretation.

I have been working to record the story as an audio book, but it will still be many months before that is ready.

So in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the interview and the sample taste of my reading style.