Since I became an author over ten years ago with the publication of my first book it has been a dream of mine to attend the Bologna Book Fair in Bologna, Italy. This book fair is the largest children's book fair in the world and after attending in April it is no exaggeration to believe the hype. There were 78 countries in attendance with over 1,800 children's book publishers manning the many booths. Countless speakers from around the world presented their books and media to a captivated audience.
Although I was attending as an author the media fair intrigued me even more and I was able to travel as an assistant to Richard Barrett of Richard Barrett Productions and see and experience some cutting edge technology. We were delighted to find software to help us prepare the e-book that will soon be on-line. Pubcoder is magical and will work wonders for our project.
The fair lasted four days from April 3-6 and we attended three days and then took in the sights of Bologna including some world class gelato along the way. It was truly an experience I will not soon forget.
So our trip to Granada and Southern Spain has given me a lion's fountain overflowing with ideas for my third novel about the Relic Hunters. Describing the Alhambra has challenged many more able writers than myself down through the centuries. Images of the intricately molded facades surrounding the palace can be seen on many websites but to actually stand below them and gaze upwards into the starry ceiling is an experience that one will remember for a lifetime.
And let's not forget the sumptuous gardens that would make a Master Gardener envious. Yes, it was an adventure that will forge its way into my final novel about Rodrigo, Rene, Farid and Anne, but today I am eager to post a short section of the story leading up to one of the most exciting scenes in the novel. Working with an artist who is designing an action filled cover I began to realize how important images and exciting scenes are to a novel for young readers. The artist loved my battle scene and the sketches are going along well. I will be posting the cover here and on Author's Den along with the accompanying chapter in the future.
Last month I traveled to Austin for two reasons. First to continue my research on Ima Hogg and second to witness the Franklin Graham Decision America tour. Both were very successful adventures.
What I wanted to talk about today is the discovery of 18 of Ima Hogg's travel journals and the surprising facts that have given me even more information to fill in the blanks on my research to write about her travels around the world.
The first journal that interested me tremendously was the one where she writes of her adventures aboard the troop ship Arizona as it takes her and Governor Hogg to witness the annexation of Hawaii in 1898. After their arrival on Honolulu she and a friend named Kate are introduced to the king and queen of the island paradise. Later she writes on page 7 that 'if I could live any other place besides Texas, it would be Hawaii.'
I can only imagine how spectacular the island was one hundred fifty years ago when Ima viewed the tropical paradise and rode horses around the volcano.
My first MG historical novel in the 'Dear Texas' series is about Ima Hogg and her adventures with the famous Mollie Bailey circus. The family circus famous throughout the Southwest traveled to small Texas towns regaling country folks with their own brand of family entertainment. A few old timers in Montgomery even remember seeing the circus train coming down the tracks into town and Mollie Bailey welcoming citizens to her well appointed train car. Articles about her show appeared years ago in the Montgomery County News with details of her generosity and kindness to Civil War veterans and her adventures as a Civil War spy.
My second book in the series will follow Ima Hogg to Hawaii aboard the troop ship Arizona. The final book in the series about Ima will follow the plucky heroine all the way to Versailles to view the gardens where she will foil the plans of a couple of tulip thieves and begin to make plans for her own famous Bayou Bend Gardens in Houston.
The 'Dear Texas' series will include along with Ima Hogg, a series concerning the life of Birda Bailey, the daughter of Mollie Bailey and her many amazing circus adventures. The last Texas heroine in the series will be Cynthia Ann Parker, the mother of Quanah Parker.
I am hoping with this series young readers will come to understand that each of these young ladies had their own special brand of gumption and impacted our Texas heritage in a positive way.
Twelve years ago my first book about Ima Hogg of Texas was published after years of research and submissions to publishers. After researching the indomitable Texas heroine who was the daughter of the governor I became intrigued with her Texas mettle and adventurous spirit of travel in a time when single Victorian women rarely escaped the confines of their homes, much less boarded trains, planes and steamers to travel around the world to exotic locales.
Thus began my personal travel odyssey to retrace her ambitious steps around the world. And this is where American Airlines came in.
In March of 2007 a wonderful flight on American took me to Paris, France to visit the famous Versailles gardens and stroll in the 100 year old steps of Miss Ima. Her gardens in Texas, now a part of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, were modeled after Versailles. Then in 2013 American helped me trace Ima's footsteps to Hawaii where the thirteen year old Texan meet Queen Liliuokalani and witnessed the annexation to the U.S. In April of this year I flew from Frankfurt to Amsterdam and on to Germany where Ima Hogg studied music and later founded the Houston Symphony.
My final Hogg bucket list will be to Egypt where Miss Ima rode a camel around the pyramids and thoroughly enjoyed herself. Ima excited to plan this next trip and know that American airlines will be a big part of it.
As I mentioned in my last post I was so intrigued by an image that I discovered in a cathedral in Siguenza, Spain that I proceeded to do extensive research on it. Sometime in the future I will be posting his picture here but in the meantime I would like to tell you a bit about how I was introduced to him. I was working with Joanne and Kevin Wood, some missionary friends living in Siguenza. They were hosting an English camp for Spanish speakers in the hill country around Siguenza and I had been volunteering as a conversation partner for that weekend. At the end of the weekend they told me they had something to show me. They knew I was a a librarian and an author and I had done an author visit to their daughter's school reading a story that I wrote about Ima Hogg of Texas.
I was very excited when Joanne took me to the local cathedral in the center of town and led me to a musty alcove. Pointing to a large crypt in the back of a private burial chamber she began her story of El Doncel, the nobleman knight of Siguenza. I was fascinated by his story but when I viewed the marble figure atop his crypt I was enchanted even more. He was elegantly dressed in his full chain mail and boots. No helmet covered his stony gray pageboy haircut. A red cross ending in a sword signifying the order of Santiago-the Order of Saint James of Compostela was emblazoned on his mail covered chest. He was Martin Vasquez de Arce of the noble house of de Arce. His countenance was dreamy as he lay on his side, his elbow propped on a large pillow, gazing down at an object in his hands.
Of course, I was curious to know about that book he seemed so intent on reading. After all what book could have been so important that his likeness would be carved atop his crypt with it in his hands?
As a librarian I have always been intrigued by novels with lost manuscripts and mysterious books as their themes and Joanne knew I would be curious about this nobleman knight and his codex.
The painting that was posted earlier was part of the Hermitage Museum collection in St. Petersburg, Russia. We visited the museum while on our Baltic Sea cruise. As a former librarian and lover of books I had decided that I would take pictures around a theme and one of people reading was the natural result. You will be seeing more of these bookish masterpieces soon from all corners of the Baltic Sea, but my most favorite image is not from the Baltic Sea at all, but from Siguenza, Spain. In fact, I was so infatuated with this image that I wrote an entire novel about him and have been wrestling with the idea of posting it as part of my blog, so stay tuned in to see when it might appear.
These posts will appear every Thursday when I hold court with my critique group that meets at Lone Star Montgomery college in the Woodlands. Keep reading and posting and soon you might catch a glimpse of my knight in shining armor reading his illustrated manuscript that once belonged to a famous monarch of Spain.