Category Archives: Early Modern Italy

E is for Early Modern Europe

Someone should take me aside and gently advise me against pointing out the empty pages on my website.

You know, like that page that says Historical Bibliography.

I mean, it’s certainly not for a lack of historical reading that we find that page empty. But like my reviews and resources, I just find it hard to get anything up on there. You know, because of time and real life and jobs and family and all that nonsense.

Anyway, my first two time travel novels in The Journeymen series are partially set in Europe in 1578. Most people tend to describe that as the Renaissance, and since it’s a term people can easily embrace, I tend to go along with it.

But that whole “renaissance” thing kind of sets my teeth on edge. I consider myself a medievalist, and the idea of a renaissance as a “new birth” just seems like a big diss to the entire middle ages, which is undeserved and not helpful to understanding either period.

Renaissance is a bit nebulous as well. It, such as it is, happened at different times in different places. While many people like easy terms like renaissance that invokes images of Michelangelo and the Tudors, I tend to see the problems inherent with the oversimplification of historical periodization.

I’m pretty sure that last sentence just chased off half of my six blog readers.

Suffice to say, I’m adding a page of the books I’m reading to conduct my research in early modern Europe.

I like that term. Rolls off the brain very nicely, doesn’t it? Early Modern Europe

Think about it. We think of modern Europe as the society that has explored the world and colonized the Americas and has modern-looking commercial enterprises. One that has a printing press and Protestants and vernacular literature and realistic art. Early modern Europe is simply the beginning of all this. Makes sense, right?

All this blathering to say, I’d love to expand my empty Early Modern bibliography. If you do research in the area, I’d love to get your recommendation for good books and resources that go deeper into the period than your garden variety web page. I’m especially interested in Italy, the Council of Trent, and everyday life in the late sixteenth century. I’ll put up what I’ve been reading as well. At Home in Renaissance Italy

I promise.

Including this book that I just read that is absolutely revolutionizing my depth of understanding about Italian households in the sixteenth century. It not only discusses objects in Italian households, it tells the stories behind them, providing a depth of context that is proving invaluable as I put my characters in these same settings.

(I’ve quite forgiven the title. People like that “R” word. What are you going to do?)

I hope all these new pages will be something of a renaissance for my website. That would be a renaissance I can wholly embrace.




Filed under #AtoZChallenge, Book Reviews and Recommendations, Early Modern Italy

D is for La Dotta

Today, I’ll be sharing a bit about my second book in the Journeymen series, La Dotta. Even though I spend a lot of time yammering on about Shadow of the Portico, it’s only because it’s my first book and I’m nostril-deep in rewriting it. (I admit, I learned a lot about the writing craft after I wrote my first book. I’m putting some of that knowledge on the Writing Resources page. Eventually. And in Shadow. Now.)

Anyway, while Shadow is the story of Giovanni, an affable, charming, beta-male ex-womanizer with an inferiority complex, La Dotta is about Sarah, the entirely-more-complex woman he loves.

Sarah started off as someone kind of like me – interested in medieval history, fulfilling my own life’s wish of getting a PhD. But as the story went deeper, I decided to layer on a whole lot of complications.

She stutters badly. This is a problem for a woman who wants to be a professor. Giovanni has no problem believing she will be a fine professor, but Sarah never believes it, even though she vehemently protests that she could be. At some point, she’s going to have to end the delusion that she even wants to be a professor and figure out what she’s really going to do with her life. Perhaps something that doesn’t make her throw up the way lecturing in front of more than two people does.

As we get to know Sarah, we come to find out that being honest with herself is not one of her strong points. She’s even worse about handling disappointment. Especially when she manufactures that disappointment within herself by her self-deception. (Maybe she’s still kind of like me…)

Writing flawed people is fun!

The title La Dotta comes from one of the three nicknames given to the city of Bologna, where parts of my novels are set. La Dotta, the learned, refers to Europe’s oldest university located in Bologna. La Grossa, the fat, refers to the culinary tradition in the city. (It doesn’t refer to Sarah’s love of cooking.) Finally, Bologna is called La Rossa, the red, because of the red roofs that dominate the skyline. (Nothing to do with Sarah’s habit of blushing all the time.)

Giovanni calls Sarah la dotta as a safer nickname than dolcezza, which is more like sweetheart. She is his little scholar. But like Bologna, he will soon see Sarah as his heart’s home.

Not satisfied with pounding that metaphor to death, though, I carry it further. Sarah is going to discover the Commedia Dell’arte in La Dotta. This was more or less an improv theatre in early modern Italy. They had standard characters who acted out variations on a theme and created a comedy from it. One of the characters is an old man called Il Dottore, the doctor, a pompous, lecherous, overly erudite fool who is at cross purposes with the lovers in the story. At some point, poor Sarah is going to recognize that she is much too much like that guy, and she needs to make some important changes if she’s going to find happiness.

No spoilers, though. You have to read the book. Soon as I finish writing it. And the first book. I’d better get on it.



Filed under #AtoZChallenge, Bologna, Chatting with the Readers, Early Modern Italy, La Dotta