Slow Travel

I’ve been circling around this concept of slow travel a lot lately.

It’s not shocking to anyone who has spent literally even one day with me that I am a bit of a doer. Chilling is not my thing.

I’ve got lists and then lists for the lists.

I survive on accomplishment alone.

It’s my insecurity, I get it.

To do is to have a purpose. To chill is to, well . . .

Yet, upon reflection, I’ve begun to understand how my urge to do, do, and then do some more is based almost entirely in the fear that I will somehow be thought of as less, miss out, that I only get one shot at things, and that everyone else is staring at me thinking I’m an idiot unless I am superwoman mounting the to-do list like the queen of everything.

This leads me to France and THIS ARTICLE from Quartzy.com.

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I am taking myself to France in October to, well, chill.

No, do.

No, chill.

No, do.

See, it’s a problem.

I am taking myself to France in October to research The Woman On The Wall. For those of you who don’t know, I’m writing a novel about the true identity of the Mona Lisa that is half epistolary love story and half Indiana Jones-style thriller.

I know, in my head, I am going to Paris and Amboise to chill and get to know the places where the novel is set as well as possible in 14 days. I’m not going to play tourist.

Then, the other part of my head goes bananas. I have like a billion to-dos in Paris in my Google Maps. I can do 12 hours a day in the first two days I get off the plane, right?

This article killed all of my need to do Paris (in a good way), giving me permission to just wander through my quick 72 hours there.

Yes, me and La Gioconda are hooking up.

We’ve already texted.

She’s expecting me.

However, I have now basically just thrown my crazy to the wind and decided that everything else in Paris can just happen.

We’ll see how I fare.

Did You Know The Mona Lisa Has A Twin?

It’s true, the Mona Lisa has a twin who lives in Spain.

The Prado in Madrid has been home to what many considered a knock-off for years.

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Until it came down for restoration a few years ago, no one even knew that there was scenery behind a layer of black paint.

Now, it turns out M.L. has a sister.

Or, is there something even more interesting going on?

Learn more about this twinning HERE

I have my theories about how it’s possible that two of these beauties exist. Time to go finish what may be like the twentieth book on the Mona Lisa that I have read since I started researching her for Woman On The Wall.

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My plan is to go hang out with her in person this Fall on a solo research trip—first stop, Paris. After that,  I’m headed for the bucolic hills of Amboise to hang with da Vinci himself and see if I can discover some of my own answers about our La Gioconda.

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Day 36 – Scouting Locations

I’ve spent the last few days building out the beats for a larger project about the Sibylline. One of the big holes was an ancient, mystical location in Ukraine.

Scouting story locations is one of the most fun parts of writing despite the fact that it inevitably leads me down rabbit hole after rabbit hole of spooky, weird, and mystical places, until I look up and realize I’ve been swallowed up by ancient sites of power for like eight hours straight and really have to pee.

Anyway, welcome to my afternoon.

The following sites ended up in my top three. One is dramatic. One is a remote pile of rocks giving off meditation-level radio pulses. The last is a witch forest in the middle of Kiev.  Check them out and tell me which location you’d like to see as the setting for a story about the ancient oracular race of the Sibylline.

Here is the blurb from The Ukranian Week that drove me to this location:

Alim’s Ravine stretches along the Kacha Canyon shaped by the turbulent stream Kacha in the soft substance of the inner ridge of the Crimean Mountains. The Kacha Canyon is believed to be one of the most difficult places to reach in Ukraine. The rocky slopes of the marlstone and limestone canyon are dotted with stone capes hanging over numerous natural grottos. Many thousand years ago, these caves sheltered primitive humans. Another ancient site in the Kacha Canyon is a medieval cave monastery town called Kachi-Calyon founded in the 5th century by monks who fled from Byzantium.

Alim’s Ravine stole the spotlight in the 1950-1980s after researchers discovered a human settlement from the Middle Stone Age and unique petroglyphs created there over 5,000 years ago.

Despite its numerous natural, historical and archeological attractions, Alim’s Ravine has long been quite infamous due to the large number of people who get lost there, even though the route is a piece of cake for novice hikers. According to numerous tourists who have lost their way there, some unknown force made them wander for hours around one spot. There is a cave in the ravine called Alim’s cave that, according to legend, is home to the spirit of Alim, a Crimean Tatar version of Robin Hood. A few decades ago, people began to disappear there. As a result, the entrance to the infamous cave was closed down. 

Today, Alim’s Ravine is extremely popular among mystery hunters. Psychics claim the ravine is a center of powerful energy that can do both good and harm to an unprepared tourist.

The Stone Tomb near Melitopol is a bit less dramatic in looks but read on to learn about the history behind this place of extreme magic.

This extremely mystical place is an ancient site that is part of the world cultural heritage located on the right bank of the Molochna river near the village of Terpinnia (“patience”) in Melitopol County, Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

The Stone Tomb covers nearly three hectares and features rocks reaching up to 12 meters in height. This large and mysterious stone hill was a cult location for many ancient peoples and tribes who lived or crossed what is now Southern Ukraine. The Stone Tomb was used as a temple by hunters during the Bronze Age, as well as by Cimmerians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Huns, Goths, Pechenegs, Khazars and the Cumans (called Polovtsi in Ukrainian). Years of research have revealed several thousand petroglyphs in the site’s many grottos and caves. They are unique samples of primitive art, some dated to the Stone Age by researchers. Some Ukrainian and foreign archeologists have interpreted the petroglyphs as proto-Sumerian writing, which has helped the place to attract so much interest. Debates about the samples of the oldest writing in the world at the Stone Tomb still continue.

The Nazis considered the Stone Tomb to be the oldest site of the Aryans.From 1942-1943, the site was studied by the founder and leader of Ahnenerbe, a mystical Nazi organization focused on unearthing the occult experience of past civilizations. According to some data, the Nazis did not leave the place empty-handed, taking a few dozen tablets containing the oldest writing ever found on Earth. In addition to this, the Stone Tomb possesses a special energy. The area around it radiates pulses at a radio frequency of 5Hz! Energy bursts this powerful appear on aerial photographs of the Earth’s surface as circles. Geologists and physicists refer to them as mantle canals “drilled through” by what look like small tornados in the gravitational field radiating out to the planets from the Sun. Numerous electric devices have detected a super-powerful energy field there. Video devices often break and turn on and off on their own in the area of the Stone Tomb. All this is only a small portion of the mysteries hidden there.

According to an ancient Slavic legend, a serpent is twined around the earth and Lysa Hora, or Bald Mountain, is the spot where the serpent bites its tail.

Since ancient times, Lysa Hora has held great spiritual meaning for our ancestors, who had a pagan altar and shrine there. Even after Christianity was violently imposed on the Kyivan Rus, Lysa Hora remained a shrine for the followers of ancient beliefs. Later, part of it was annexed to the Pechersk Monastery to host the apiaries of Christian monks. Municipal authorities bought the land in the mid-19th century and began the construction of the Lysohirsky Fortress there in 1872. It was planned as part of a complex fortification system called the Kyiv Fortress. In the late 19th century, the Lysohirsky Fortress lost its defensive function and was turned into a prison where “state prisoners” would later be executed. In the 1930s, Lysa Hora became an underground military plant and a tank base during the German occupation. Retreating, the German army destroyed it. A missile unit was located here until the mid-1970s. In the early 1980s, the mount  was granted natural park status.

However, the park is a rarely visited part of town. The cautious Kyivites are afraid to venture far into the dense, dark forest, and with good reason. Those who dare to step foot on Lysa Hora claim that they feel extremely uncomfortable there. It feels like dozens of eyes are watching from beyond the park’s trees, and the stares are almost palpable. During the time of the Lysohirsky Fortress, the unit commander issued a strange instruction ordering officers “to warn the soldiers who go on guard to not be afraid of strange noises; they come from the wind and night birds.” Researchers claim they have found many reports from German soldiers describing abnormal and paranormal phenomena they witnessed. Soldiers would often go insane or commit suicides there. The infamous Lysa Hora deserves its evil reputation.

Day 31 – Productivity& The Collapse of Time

Productive days are the best kind. The total absorption into material and storytelling becomes meditative.  The devotion to ideas and evolution of that story sparks a magic. When it was all over, I couldn’t even remember which Writer’s Studio day it was.

In the midst of it all, my brother and I even managed to fit in an Insta chat on living magical lives.

Both seekers, we’ve dabbled—or even more than dabbled—in a wide range of ideas, practices, and philosophical perspectives. He just relocated to the remote island of Wrangell, Alaska, and the world is on fire for him right now. The conversation took on its own personality, moving through fishing, friends, lost civilizations, myth, the spirit of the land, and our own sense of self.

I realized that days in which articles are read, poetry is shared, a friend leaves you a sweet voice message, your brother answers the call when you have something bizarro to share with him, are true source magic.

From that, the construct of time drops away and all that lives in that space is a direct channel to the imagination.

Words hold the greatest of power.

Here’s a quick wrap-up from my crazy-productive day:

 

Day 20 – In The Writer’s Studio

More research. Where does it all get stored? (obvs, not my brain. That would be dangerous.)

First stop, Pinterest.

Go peek inside my Pinterest boards at https://www.pinterest.ca/robinmrivers/boards/

Watch the video on Insta. Be sure to like and comment. Tell me what you want to know about the writing process.

 

Day 17 – In The Writer’s Studio (Part 2)

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Day 17 in the writer’s studio. Overcoming my fears about sharing my work and the process that writers go through to get the stories inside of them birthed into the world. This is the beginning of regular updates on my #wip The Woman On The Wall along with writing thoughts and random musings on all of the weirdness that is my inner world. Jump over to the next video to see more as I didn’t get the timing right today, and I’m so far behind on writing because of this video diversion that I could not bring myself to delete and re-record. Thanks for jumping in with me. RR #amwriting #amresearching #novelistsofinstagram #writersofinstagram #davinci #thewomanonthewall #writingprocess #video

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New Aesthetic for My WIP

My husband keeps telling me that I need to take a mental break after the last couple of months working my face off to get The Maiden of Gevaudan in the shape it needs to be for contests and, shortly, querying.  I took that break from the manuscript after entering it in Pitch Wars in September. But, anyone in even semi-regular contact with me understands my overtly obsessive nature, which includes a constant need to world build. No way would I full stop in the writing department.

Instead, I launched full-force into researching and plotting out a new novel I have deemed The Woman On The Wall. After a few research setbacks and plot idea deviations, I worked through a majority of the initial pre-production to get to a clear premise and start writing.

While I’m not going to reveal the whole concept for a bit, I’m all about the visual plotting. So, this is the first of many aesthetics and a few teasers for you:

  • The mystery to be solved: The true identity of the Mona Lisa.
  • Setting:  Geneva, Switzerland, and Amboise, France (modern timeline); Amboise, France (Renaissance timeline).
  • Genre: Historical Fantasy (That’s code in my universe for “A whole lot of magical realism”).

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Thanks for dropping in to check this new project out.

My goal is to post updates and teasers every few weeks as I work through the writing process.

Let me know in the comments what you think!

 

 

Casting The Players – The Men

One of my favorite pieces of plotting out a novel is the process of “casting” all of the parts. A dear friend of mine, BC film writer and YVR Screen Scene maven Sabrina Furminger and I once even cast an entire novel full of Canadian actors. Some may call it procrastination, we called it character study!

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I’m a visual writer, using maps, story boards and an unholy amount of photo reference for building out my worlds. So, it’s no surprise that I prefer to spend the year or so I invest in writing a book with a clear picture of what my characters look like.

The Maiden of Gevaudan is no exception. It’s men are brooding and broken, flawed yet furiously determined to prove themselves. There are six in the primary cast whom I have fallen madly for over the course of writing the novel. Even the nefarious Bishop Jean-Arnaud de Castellane and the beautiful yet languid Marquis d’Apcher have won me over.

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When it comes to finding the right look for a new character I don’t usually go for the current A list actors, preferring those who have unique, defining characteristics that make them worth investing in. Twelve months later and I am still blushing a bit every time the duplicitous Bishop de Castellane enters a scene and my mind races to actor Peter Eggers.

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As for the men whose hearts rule amidst the bloody chaos of the Gevaudan, I’m entirely smitten with Berlin-based actor Karim Cherif whose level of brood matches Michel Antoine’s with an eerie perfection. Could he have been an 18th century gamekeeper who preferred wolves to warmongering? It only needs to work for me. 😉

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Of course there is always Croatian actor Stipe Erceg, who I imagine to be hanging out right this very minute at a posh club sipping Lagavulin with fellow Berliner Karim Cherif, which is ideal since their characters have long walked the forests of the Gevaudan together, clearing out the dead and caring for what remained of the living.

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Finally, I could not have spent the last year writing anything at all if I hadn’t known the face of Count Sergei Saltykov, the broken Russian soldier who lost his daughter and his soul in the Gevaudan. Big props to Ukranian actor/dancer Sergei Polunin for executing on that task with true grace and ease even if he didn’t realize he’d been pressed into service.

So, there you have them, the men who helped shape The Maiden of Gevaudan. Next up, the women (of course). I”m saving the creatures for last. 🙂

 

Maps of The World

I spent a lot of time in the early months of this project mapping out the historic time lines and building the Sibylline storyline through many, many (did I say many) versions of story maps like this one.

The trilogy spans a history of more than 2,000 years and dialing in time periods, historic events and characters that made sense proved more than a little tedious.

These were an amazing way to pile everything into one place, then start moving, throwing out, adding, redefining and finally determining the story.

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Mapping the Sibylline world.