Unveiling …

… the cover artwork for the upcoming,

To A Strange Somewhere Fled

(sequel to A House Near Luccoli).

Cover Artwork To A Strange Somewhere Fled smaller for blog post

Copyright 2014 by DM Denton

 

     She had just begun to feel relaxed at the big house, not as if she belonged there but a little less intrusive each time she walked up its long crunching drive in sun and shade until the oaks had greened and dropped their catkins and the horse chestnuts lifted into candle flowers. It was odd but quite helpful that it never rained on those days. If her mother wasn’t with her and the Captain hurried ahead in hopes of meeting Roger, Donatella would take little detours that didn’t change her destination, although there was a sense of getting lost in the grazing sheep and naturalness around her. She felt her legs tighten up the banks for she had walked so little in her life and run even less. Looping her sagging satchel of books and papers around her, she took off like a kitten moving faster than it knew how to. It felt good to leave the ground and swing her arms, to trip and even slide as she thought no one saw. ~ From To A Strange Somewhere Fled

 

In the excerpt above, ‘she’ is Donatella, the female protagonist of A House Near Luccoli, the ‘big house’ is Wroxton Abbey and ‘Roger” is the Honorable Roger North. The setting of the novel is late Restoration England (1682-1683).

Have a way to go to transform the image into an actual book cover, but hope you enjoyed this preview!

 

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

 

Meet My Main Character: Donatella: Beyond A House Near Luccoli

I was kindly tagged by the fine historical fiction author, Kim Rendfeld, to participate in the ‘Meet My Main Character (of a work in progress or soon to be published novel)’ blog tour. I highly recommend Kim’s published novel, The Cross and the Dragon (my review), and encourage you to read about her soon-to-be-released second novel, The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar.

Great Hall Wroxton Abbey

Great Hall Wroxton Abbey

I can report that the sequel to my literary historical fiction, A House Near Luccoli, is nearly finished. The story continues for its fictional protagonist with her arrival in England. Before long, she encounters the residents of Wroxton Abbey, both active in the Court of Charles II: Lord Francis North, Keeper of the Great Seal, and his younger brother, Roger, who is a member of the King’s Council. Roger North is a major player in the novel, a fascinating young man who left a wealth of written material on a wide range of subjects and offered great insight into the intellectual, cultural and political changes taking place in the England of his time. Donatella finds a quiet but not uneventful life in the pastoral setting of Wroxton.  Of course, she is haunted by past possibilities (and impossibilities), the lure of music and its masters not done with her yet. The divine Henry Purcell and a few other composers and musicians of the time make appearances, including one (or two) Donatella first encountered in the house near Luccoli.

 

Duck Pond & Cottage, Wroxton, England

Duck Pond & Cottage, Wroxton, England

 

Here are my answers to the questions that are a part of this blog tour: 

1)      What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

The central character of the novel I’m currently working on is the fictional Donatella, who first appeared in A House Near Luccoli, published by All Things That Matter Press, which imagined her friendship and collaboration with the brilliant but ill-fated 17th century Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella.

 

2)      When and where is the story set?

The timing of the novel is late Restoration England, May 1682 – June 1683. It’s predominantly set in Wroxton, a small village in Oxfordshire near Banbury (of “Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross …” nursery rhyme fame) that is rich in history:

From wroxton.org.uk:

Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the village probably takes its name from “Wroces Stan” meaning buzzards’ stone.  In ancient times the village was crossed by various trackways, including the Saltway, the route from the Worcester salt works to London.

It was in the Middle Ages and the establishment of Wroxton Abbey, however, that the village began to flourish.  

In 1537 the lease was obtained by Sir Thomas Pope who held various positions at the court of Henry VIII including that of Guardian to the Princess Elizabeth.  Sir Thomas, who founded Trinity College Oxford, bestowed the estates to Trinity, although he reserved the rights for the Pope family and their descendants to remain tenants of the estate.  During the reign of James I the original Priory was razed by fire.  In 1618 Sir William Pope, Earl of Downe, built the main part of the present “Abbey”.  In 1668 upon the death of the Fourth Earl the estate was inherited by his sister, Lady Frances, who married Sir Francis North (later Lord Keeper of the Great Seal).  Sir Francis purchased the outstanding shares of the leases and was subsequently created the 1st Baron Guilford in 1683.  The Abbey remained the residence of the Norths for the next 270 years.  Perhaps the most famous Lord North was the 2nd Earl of Guilford who was Prime Minister during the loss of the American Colonies.

The novel also ‘visits’ a few other locations, including nearby Broughton Castle, a medieval manor house that was and still is home to the Fiennes family (yes—actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes are part of that clan) and Oxford, which is about 30 miles south of Wroxton. I might add that I lived in Wroxton from 1974 until 1990, including in the Abbey itself.

 

3)      What should we know about Donatella?

donatellawquillunshadedShe’s a reserved spinster but at the same time imaginative and curious: a quiet rebel with covert passions and artistic sensibilities, all of which stir her to write and paint. She was born and bred in Genoa where she lived with her maternal and musical side of the family until her mid-thirties. Part of the back story to A House Near Luccoli is that Donatella’s mother had left Genoa with her father when he returned to his native England after retiring as a merchant seaman. Donatella decided to stay behind to care for her beloved grandmother who was once a fairly successful singer and, even while slowly dying, expressed her unconventionality and love of life’s intrigues and intimacies. Donatella is much more controlled and cautious than her nonna,  but, through one novel and then the next, her story is shaped by similar longings and motivations.

In reviews of A House Near Luccoli, others have described Donatella as: “restless”; “a nerdy cat lady”; “a sweet woman with the soul of an artist”; a lovely, loving woman”; “her longings war with her own simple reality”; “a timid woman with an artist’s fiery spirit inside, who has somehow managed to lose her life to her own daydreams.”

 

4)      What is Donatella’s main conflict?

It would seem her main struggle is with the 17th century constraints on a woman pursuing intellectual and creative interests, and the stigma of one who has never married. My sense in developing her character and storyline was that such external societal limitations and judgments only accentuated the internal struggles she would have had in any period of history, even present times; caught, as she was, between the practical and artistic, compliant and willful, reclusive and receptive, fearful and intrepid sides of herself.

 

5)      What is Donatella’s personal goal?

Initially, she feels that she wants to disappear again, not so much to heal from grief but to be companioned by it, not to regret the past but be defined by it. Eventually, she discovers that her passions have not died with what encouraged and excited them; and that she isn’t haunted by what might have been because she should discard her hopes for the future, but to reinvent them.

 

6)      Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title of the novel is To A Strange Somewhere Fled, taken from the poem/song, The Despair, by Abraham Cowley, first published in 1683:

No comfort to my wounded sight,
In the Suns busie and imperti’nent light,
Then down I lay my head;
Down on cold earth; and for a while was dead,
And my freed soul to a strange somewhere fled.

 

You can read more about To A Strange Somewhere Fled and keep updated on its progress towards publication on my blog, bardessdmdenton, website, dmdenton-author-artist.com and, also, on my Facebook pages, DM Denton and A House Near Luccoli.

 

7)      When can we expect the book to be published?

My hope is for it to be published later in the year or by early 2015.

So, if you haven’t yet read Donatella’s adventures with the inimitable Alessandro Stradella in A House Near Luccoli, there’s plenty of time to do so before the follow-up tale of how she moves on is available.

I’ve tagged five other wonderful authors. In breaking a little with the rules of this particular blog tour, they come from a variety of genres and one will be posting about their very recently released novel. They will be making their main character posts in about a week.

*Marina Julia-Neary: author of the recently released Never Be at Peace 

Marie Laval: author of The Lion’s Embrace

Maggie Tideswell: author of Dark Moon

Ina Schroder-Zeeders: author of poetry anthologies (Veritas and Amore), and many novels in Dutch. She is currently writing her first one in English.

Mary Clark: author of Tally: An Intuitive Life

*Marina Julia-Neary’s post will appear in about a week right here on my blog.

 

Thank you so much for visiting!

 

donatellasmallest©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Words and Music

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

Copyright 2012 by DM Denton

I am listening to The Plaint: O Let Me Weep by Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695), playing it over and over, a mantra while I’m writing. Even vocal music doesn’t distract me if it’s fluid and expressive, like the current under a boat, sending a narrative on its way. In the liner notes of soprano Nancy Argenta’s Songs and Airs CD, Adelaide de Place writes that “Purcell liked to compare music and poetry with two mutually supportive sisters.” The 17th century Italian composer, Alessandro Stradella (1639 – 1682), the focus of my novel, A House Near Luccoli would’ve appreciated the comparison, perhaps smiling mischievously, preferring to create a little rivalry. Never discord. Even his Italian “sisters” would have bowed gracefully to his designs, side by side, arms entwined, differences reconciled as their voices blended into one sound so beautiful no man could put asunder.

English lawyer, biographer and “Renaissance man” Roger North (1653 – 1754), who figures prominently in the sequel to A House Near Luccoli, wrote that “poetry called” his grandfather, the 1st Lord North, “to music.” For me it was the other way around, music expressing almost everything I couldn’t until I picked up a pen like a violinist lifts his bow and interpreted it into something so personal, beyond thought and emotion. Without music I may never have written a word, never realized I had to write, never lost track of time until I found myself alone in its company having forgotten how to speak – except silently.

Both words and music are about playing with silence, like birdsong or breezes or rain or thunder, our breathing or someone else’s, heartbeats and heartaches, love-affairs and loneliness. As with the chicken and the egg, their collaboration employs a circular cause and consequence, no way and no need to answer the question of which came first or is more important. As music inspires me to write, I desire to make music of my writing.

As I write now I am thinking of ghosts and not minding the melancholy, for it sounds so pleasing I question there is anything more joyful. It’s as if I’m enveloped in a prayer. O let me weep … or smile … or dream … or despair as I please; let me never be at a loss for words and music. Amen.

The above is a repost from July 2011, the early days of my blog.

Although I knew the following article about my authorship of A House Near Luccoli was going to appear in a local newspaper, I was astonished by the beautiful layout. I share it here and greatly appreciate you taking the time to read:

A Literary Note
Batavia Daily News
December 15, 2012 

A Literary Note ArticleEAST PEMBROKE – The first time Diane Denton heard the music of Alessandro Stradella, she knew she was listening to something extraordinary.

She didn’t realize as she drove to work at a media consultant firm that morning in 2002 just how big an impression it would make on her life, or that she would spend years researching the artist and another three years writing a book about him.

A fan of the classics, Denton was listening to CBC Radio 2. The show, In the Shadows, highlighted the lives and works of artists – mainly musical – who for a variety of reasons had been largely ignored or forgotten.

“On this particular morning, a 17th century Italian composer, whom I and obviously many others had never heard of, was featured,” Denton said. “His music was stunning — fluid and melodic, with clear expressive vocals and distinct instrumentations.

“Set in 17th century Genoa, Italy, A House Near Luccoli is the story of the little-known, but brilliant 17th century composer named Alessandro Stradella. She described his story as “replete with romance and intrigue, triumphs and tragedy, like an opera drawing on the divinity and failings of gods and men.”

“The fictional Donatella in the book is a lot of me, although it wasn’t a conscious thing while I was writing the novel,” said Denton, who lives with her mother in East Pembroke. “I did want to express a point of view of a woman who is very self-contained, but rather insecure, perhaps too sensitive, artistic and talented, but who unvalues her life in a resigned sort of way. Donatella was a fictional female protagonist stepping out of my own hopes and disappointments.”

Denton said she has been writing since she was 12, but her mother remembers the first poem Denton wrote for Thanksgiving when she was only 6 – about a family Thanksgiving gathering and being grateful their family was all together.

Denton was born in Buffalo and grew up in Tonawanda. During her junior year, she studied in England, where she met a young man, married and stayed for 16 years.

“I lived, for better or worse, right off the pages of Fielding, the Brontes, Austin, Hardy, DH Lawrence and even Dickens, surrounded by the beautiful hills, woods and fields of the Oxfordshire countryside,” Denton said.

In the meantime, her parents moved to East Pembroke, where Denton returned after her father Carmen died in 1986.

Although she has always been interested in history, particularly European history, Denton said her participation in and appreciation of music was encouraged through memories shared about her maternal grandmother Marion DiCesare (ne Allers), who was a concert pianist in Chicago.

Denton also shares artistic talent with her mother, and their paintings hang side by side on the walls of their home. Denton did the illustrations for A House Near Luccoli herself.

One reason Denton was intrigued with Stradella’s music is because his story reminded her of a modern-day musician she knew who, in many ways, sabotaged himself and the potential he could have achieved.

“By the time I pulled into the parking lot at work, I knew why I was listening,” Denton said. “I ‘knew’ Alessandro Stradella. I recognized his distinct voice, his swaying form, his infectious smile and his wandering heart.”

Denton spent the rest of that morning and many more hours in pursuit of Stradella. She said her writer’s urge “to do something with him” was easier stirred than accomplished. There was so little about him on the pages of Google searches and music histories, Denton’s desire to create something out of her interest in the man was soon frustrated and abandoned.

It wasn’t until 2005 Denton returned to her work on Stradella.

“The timing must have been right, for suddenly resources, although still not in abundance, were easier to find,” she said. “As I read my costly copy of Alessandro Stradella, the Man and his Music by musicologist Carolyn Gianturco, I found an opportunity for imagining my way into his story, focusing on his last fateful days in Genoa.”

Her intention, Denton said, was not to change history, but quietly humanize it; not merely to appreciate a great musician, but personalize him; to reveal the ordinary in the extraordinary and the significance of the insignificant.

The title and main setting of Denton’s novel reflect the strong possibility Stradella last lived in a house owned by Giuseppe Maria Garibaldi, just off the via Luccoli in Genoa. Records indicated this was where his possessions were inventoried after his tragic and untimely death in his 40s.

Although talented and cultivated, Stradella was something of a vagabound and messed up many opportunities to become rich and famous. He had a reputation for making messes, but also masterpieces, Denton said.

Copies of A House Near Luccoli are available at Present Tense Books, 101 Washington Ave., Batavia (NY); The Book Shoppe in Medina (NY); and online at amazon.com in paperback and Kindle edition, and at barnesandnoble.com as a NOOK book.

Denton already has two more works in progress. She has been asked to write a sequel to A House Near Luccoli, which she hopes to have completed in late spring. The sequel will take Donatella to England and the small but stately Oxfordshire village of Wroxton, where she hopes to settle with her Italian mother and English father, a retired seaman.

“Another thing about my Donatella connection is, I am also of Italian and English heritage,” Denton said. “So I have lived a long time with the personality contrasts, even the struggles that come with that combination.”

Another work is a book of poetry based on journals she kept about the flowers and gardens in England and their changes through the seasons. That book is expected to be released in early spring.

Article written by Batavia News Correspondent, Virgina Kropf

Read article online

img002©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.

Words and Music

I am listening to The Plaint: O Let Me Weep by Henry Purcell, playing it over and over, a mantra while I’m writing. Even vocal music doesn’t distract me if it’s fluid and expressive, like the current under a boat, sending a narrative on its way. In the liner notes of soprano Nancy Argenta’s Songs and Airs CD, Adelaide de Place writes that “Purcell liked to compare music and poetry with two mutually supportive sisters.” Stradella would’ve appreciated the comparison, perhaps smiling mischievously, preferring to create a little rivalry. Though never discord. Even his Italian “sisters” would’ve bowed gracefully to his designs, side by side, arms entwined, differences reconciled as their voices blended into one sound so beautiful no man could put asunder.

English lawyer, biographer and “Renaissance man” Roger North (1653 – 1754, who figures prominently in my new novel) wrote that “poetry called” his grandfather, the 1st Lord North, “to music.” For me it was the other way around, music expressing almost everything I couldn’t until I picked up a pen like a violinist lifts his bow and interpreted it into something so personal, beyond thought and emotion. Without music I may never have written a word, never realized I had to write, never lost track of time until I found myself alone in its company having forgotten how to speak – except silently.

Both words and music are about playing with silence, like birdsong or breezes or rain or thunder, our breathing or someone else’s, heartbeats and heartaches, love-affairs and loneliness. As with the chicken and the egg, their collaboration employs a circular cause and consequence, no way and no need to answer the question of which came first or is more important. As music inspires me to write, I desire to make music of my writing.

As I write now I am thinking of ghosts and not minding the melancholy, for it sounds so pleasing I question there is anything more joyful. It’s as if I’m enveloped in a prayer. O let me weep…or smile…or dream…or despair as I please, let me never be at a loss for words and music. Amen.

©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.