Finding Inspiration: Secret Gardens

In “The Alchemist of Paris” the heroine, Elise, has special knowledge of herbs and medicines, which leads to her being sent to Paris, to be a maid in the house of the mysterious scientist, Albert Price.

Although a small part of the story, I wanted all the descriptions of the medicine gardens to be as authentic as possible. What would a medicine garden look like in 1820? How would it feel to wander through the garden? What sort of plants were in use in those days?

Although I found much of this information in books, I also wanted to experience being in a real historic medicine garden.

The first herbarium I was aware of when I was growing up, was the Victorian-era Herbarium in the Botanic Gardens of Sydney, Australia (established 1853). (Side-point: “Herbarium” is one of those words which is so intriguing I knew I wanted to work it into a story one day!)

Herbarium

Last year, when I was traveling, I went to two historic gardens.

The Chelsea Physic Garden, in the heart of Chelsea, London, UK, was created as an Apothecaries’ Garden in 1673. It’s the second oldest botanical garden in Britain, after Oxford. Today, there’s a fabulous ‘Garden of Medicinal Plants’ and a ‘Garden of Edible and Useful Plants’. Surrounded by high walls, with meandering paths and old greenhouses to discover, the Chelsea Physic Garden, although small, is a wonderful place to explore.

The Chelsea Physic Garden, overlooked by the tall townhouses of Chelsea

The Chelsea Physic Garden, overlooked by the tall townhouses of Chelsea

Next I visited the Jardin des Plantes in Paris, which was founded in 1626 as a medicinal herb garden for Louis XIII. Today this is a botanic garden open to the public and a great place to stroll and escape the city (and right next door to the Paris Zoo, which was founded in 1795 from animals of the royal menagerie at Versailles!).

Garden beds of the Jardin des Plantes glimpsed through an avenue of trees

Garden beds of the Jardin des Plantes glimpsed through an avenue of trees

In “The Alchemist of Paris”, I imagine 1820s Paris as a place of mystery and intrigue. Albert Price sends Elise to collect herbs from a wealthy recluse on the Left Bank, who has a secret garden behind his house. I based this garden on the Musée Delacroix – in addition to research, there’s also scope for imagination!

The private garden behind the Delacroix Museum, Left Bank, Paris

The private garden behind the Delacroix Museum, Left Bank, Paris

When you are writing, do you visit historical locations to soak in the atmosphere? Where is the most interesting place you’ve been?

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‘The Alchemist of Paris’ is released July 14!

P.S Happy July 4 to all US readers!

Cover Reveal – The Alchemist of Paris

 

Cover design by adipixdesign.com

Cover design by adipixdesign.com

I am very excited to reveal the cover design of ‘The Alchemist of Paris’, created by the wonderful Adriana Hanganu of adipixdesign.com.

‘The Alchemist of Paris’ is a gothic mystery set in modern day and 1820s Paris.

A young woman searches for a forgotten mansion in the heart of modern Paris. The only clue to its location lies in an extraordinary nineteenth century diary, which reveals a tale of deceit, magic, betrayal and immortal love.

More to come in the coming weeks!

Flash Fiction – Social Media Anxiety

A sweet tale for this Valentine Day’s Month.

*  *   *   *   *

Tim wants to be your friend.

Natasha sat before her computer. Sunlight peeked through the morning clouds outside her window. She sipped her coffee and stared at the screen.

Tim was the cute boy she had met at the party the night before, whose smile made her heart soar and whose shy eyes made her swoon.

Did Tim really want to be her friend?

HER friend?

Her FRIEND?

Did he WANT to be her friend?

Did he want to be MORE than friends?

Natasha tucked her hair behind her ears nervously. It was only a Facebook friend request, for crying out loud. How could such simple words cause such social anxiety?

Okay. Tim wants to be my friend. So what should I do?

I don’t want to accept straightaway or he’ll know I like him.

But I don’t want to wait because he’ll think I thought about him.

I’ve got to be cool, Natasha decided.

She hit accept, pulling her finger away as if the laptop was on fire.

She rested her head in her hands. It probably meant nothing. He just wanted to be Facebook friends. It wasn’t like it was the start of something.

*  *   *   *   *

Tim sat in a cafe across town. Should he have sent Natasha the friend request so soon? He only met her the night before. Maybe he shouldn’t have sent it at all.

What would he do if she ignored him?

He shouldn’t have done it. He was an idiot. He was always an idiot.

A message appeared.

Natasha wants to be your friend.

Tim broke into a wide grin.

The day suddenly seemed brighter.

© 2016 M. C. Dulac

Flash fiction logo

Your Novel Stinks! Including all the Senses in your Writing

The quickest way to immerse a reader in your character’s world is for the reader to experience that world through your character’s senses.

Most writers are familiar with the “show don’t tell” rule. The closer we are to the character’s actions and reactions, the more gripping the story becomes.

Sight and sound are easy to write. But what about including the other senses in your work – what does your character touch, taste and smell?

Scentsandsmells2

Here are three writing tips I have developed on how to include all the senses in my writing:

  • Use smells to build atmosphere. There’s positive smells (scents, perfume, aromas) and negative smells (stinks, odours and fumes). Layer the smells with what your characters see and hear to create a mood. A dark swamp becomes more sinister with the stench of rotting foliage. An apartment becomes more alluring with the sweet scent of fresh cut flowers.
  • Use smells to tell us something about the character. What is the character used to and what might they notice if they go somewhere different? Your character might be living in a medieval village next to a pigsty. Surrounded by these smells since birth, they probably never notice. But how would they feel if they went to a castle and breathed in the perfume of beeswax candles for the first time?
  • Think about scents and smells that you remember personally and the feelings they evoke. Do you remember the overpowering scent of fields in summer? Or the strong smell of seaweed on a beach in a heatwave? Work your memories and feelings into your character’s experiences.

© 2016 M. C. Dulac

Character Sketches

I am surrounded by creative projects in various stages of completion. Here are some character sketches from an ambitious plan I had to write an illustrated novel.

Our beautiful heroine has been captured…

 

The Heroine

The Heroine

By a mean and pompous vampire-hunter…

The Villain

The Villain

And held captive in a terrifying prison, where the guards keep watch…

Imprisoned!

Imprisoned!

Due to her association with the vampire with the smoldering eyes…

The Hero

The Hero

There was an airship and other plot twists too…

Proposed drawings

Proposed drawings

I hope you enjoy the pictures!