The Alchemist of London – Plot Teaser

 

The Alchemist of London cover reveal

Pre-order now – release date 17 April 2020

Well, 2020 got off to a rocky start. I thought March had turned the corner, but now I don’t know what’s happening. Stay safe and healthy everyone!

Now for some good news and escapism. The Alchemist of London is finished and the ebook is available for pre-order. Add it to your want-to-read list on Goodreads or find your pre-order copy here.

The Alchemist of London will be published on 17 April 2020. In the meantime, if you haven’t read the first book in the series,  The Alchemist of Paris, the ebook is currently on sale for 99 cents (and also free on Kindle Unlimited). 

Spoilers ahead…..

The Alchemist of London follows the story of Elise’s years in London and follows on from the events in Paris.

In Victorian London a young woman hides a book in a library, hoping it will never be found…

In modern day London the same book appears at an international auction…

The pages contain priceless secrets which will obsess and transform all those who read them.

Haunted by the fire in Paris, Elise has at last found peace in the English countryside. 

But her idyll is broken when a ruthless gentleman learns of a book by the elusive Albert Price – and uncovers Elise’s secret.

The book is hidden somewhere in Victorian London. Elise must not only find it before her enemies, but also face her own destiny – in a world where the secrets of alchemy are in greater danger than ever before.

Meanwhile as auction day approaches in modern London, and the book is in peril again, can Ellie unravel the Victorian mystery in time?

Have a hot cuppa and take care!

The Alchemist of London Cover Reveal

The Alchemist of London book cover

The Alchemist of London – Cover Reveal

The Alchemist of London, the next book in The Alchemist of Paris series, is coming soon! Here is the wonderful cover designed by Adriana Hanganu of Adipix Design.

The Alchemist of London follows the story of Elise’s years in London (for all the Elise fans out there) and is full of more century-hopping mystery!

In Victorian London, a young woman hides a book in a library, hoping it will never be found…

… in modern day London the same book appears at an international auction.

The book contains priceless secrets which will obsess, inspire and transform all those who read it.

You can find a copy of first book, The Alchemist of Paris here (small spoilers ahead). Here is a preview of the plot of The Alchemist of London:

Having fled Paris after the fire, Elise has found sanctuary in a garden in the English countryside. But her idyll is broken with the discovery of century old letters, revealing the existence of the only book ever written by the alchemist, Albert Price.

With the book hidden somewhere in Victorian London, Elise must face her fears and plunge into the new century.

As ruthless adversaries pursue the book across the centuries, can she unravel the mystery in time and keep the secrets of alchemy safe?

***

Happy 2020 everyone!

Flashback – A never published scene from The Alchemist of Paris

The Alchemist of Paris

When I was sorting through my papers, I found this scene from an early draft of The Alchemist of Paris. 

Young housemaid Elise and her mysterious master are walking through the pre-dawn streets of 19th century Paris. Although there are familiar points, this scene has an alternative plot line. Can you spot three changes from the final novel? (Answers below!)

* * * * *

The sun had not risen and the sky over Paris was a dim blue. In the narrow lanes of the Île de la Cité, shadows obscured the path, although the promise of dawn was not far away.

Elise gazed wistfully at the sky, wishing the sun would rise. There was something uneasy about that morning, something troubling about her employer who walked beside her in his fine cloak. But there had been something troubling about him from the first moment she had entered his employ, this tall brooding figure with a smooth young face but old eyes. Then there was the strange mansion in Le Marais and the Englishman who had followed her, wanting to know more about the master of the house – almost as though he were hunting him down.

“I miss the sweet light of dawn,” her master murmured as a golden glow seeped over the rooftops.

They descended into the deep shadows by the Seine. He stopped, glancing around quickly, “Elise, I need your help. I know you are clever, which is why I summoned you from the orphanage. I will be leaving Paris soon and I need you to look after my affairs.”

“I do not understand, Monsieur.”

“Here is the address where you must take refuge tonight.”

“Will I not return to the house?”

“After your errands, yes. But you must leave before evening. We may meet again,” he raised his hand and gently brushed away a lose strand of her hair, “Goodbye, Elise. You will understand everything soon.”

Her eyelids lowered. When she opened her eyes she was all alone by the river. The crumpled note was in her hand – that night she was to go to Père Lachaise Cemetery, Rue de Repos.

* * * * *

Three changes:

In the final novel, it is the aristocrat Jean-Louis Champillon, not the alchemist, who finds Elise in the orphanage.

There is no English alchemist hunter in The Alchemist of Paris (although maybe this is a character for a future story). In the final novel one of the other characters assumes part of this role.

The alchemist doesn’t ask Elise to go to the cemetery, although this too is intriguing!

Map Monday – Ancient Egypt

 

Map Monday

Map Monday, Ancient Egypt

 

“In Egypt, I met a man who called himself Albert Price. And that man has intrigued me ever since.”
– Jean-Louis Champillon reflects on past journeys in ‘The Alchemist of Paris’

The book in the picture above was published in 1888. It was found in a book sale in a barn many years ago. It is beautifully typeset and illustrated, although the prim Victorian-era interpretation of Ancient Egyptian history is now quite out-of-date!

Maps can set out fictional lands or historical places, or even give real places an amusing twist. Do you enjoy tracing the characters’ footsteps when you are reading? And if you write, have you ever sketched out your own map, so that you know where your characters are going?

Alchemy, Magic and the Origins of Modern Science

I remembered a word I had heard the monks say, a word spoken with disapproval, a word as bad as a deadly sin. A word that was rich and alluring, a word describing something I knew to be wrong, but which I knew was exactly what lay in the pages before me. Alchemy.

– Elise starts to suspect something strange is going on in the

‘The Alchemist of Paris’

Alchemy is a word as alluring today as it was in the Middle Ages. But what exactly is alchemy?

Basic alchemy is about transforming natural elements into something new. The creation of bronze from mixing copper and tin must have seemed magical in ancient times.

Alchemy

The practice of alchemy dates back at least to Ancient Greece (the word derives from the ancient Greek (chumeia) meaning the casting of metals). Another great centre of alchemical learning was Alexandria. Alchemy was also practised in China, India and the Arab world, where the term ‘al-Kimiya’ derived from the Greek, gives us the word ‘alchemy’.

Did alchemist build the Cathedrals of Paris? Some believe so, including the mysterious scientist, Albert Price in ‘The Alchemist of Paris’

Did alchemists build the Cathedrals of Paris? Some believe so, including the characters in ‘The Alchemist of Paris’

As soon as people learned they could transform basic metals, the quest to create precious metals began. The rumour that alchemists had discovered the formula for gold, added to the mystique of alchemy in the Middle Ages. There was also a belief in the existence of the mysterious ‘Philosopher’s Stone’, a substance that could transform any metal to gold.

The study of alchemy led to many real discoveries and laid the foundation for modern chemistry and medicine. By burning, distilling, melting and condensing substances, scientists discovered phosphorous and nitric acid. Sir Isaac Newton and Phillipus Paracelsus were two scientists who studied alchemy and made many scientific breakthroughs.

Paris was said to be a centre of alchemical practice

Paris was said to be a centre of alchemical practice

In addition to metals, many alchemists also explored the medicinal possibilities of alchemy. One of the most potent rumours was the existence of aqua regia, the elixir of life, a drink that could convey not only eternal youth, but even immortality on the drinker….

However the writings of the ancient alchemists contained many warnings on the limits of the science. The dragon symbol often appeared in alchemical texts, representing the metaphorical ‘monster’ which could appear at any time during an experiment. Many alchemical experiments involved highly volatile mercury. Modern scientists wonder if the ancient alchemists were warning of the dangers of splitting the atom.

Alchemy lay the foundations for modern chemistry and medicine. But with its promise of gold, immortality and defying death, it has never ceased to capture the imagination.

If you want to read more about the history of science and alchemy, some great books I came across in my research are:

‘The Book of Alchemy’ by Francis Melville, 2002

‘The Elements: A Very Short Introduction’ by Philip Ball, 2004

Plotting my Way across the City (from a Writer’s Perspective)

One of the most evocative books I have ever read is “The Vampire Lestat”. Anne Rice made me want to run down the Paris boulevards with Lestat and Nicholas, sit in the smoky theatres and opera houses, and descend into the catacombs with Armand. Frankly, it even made me want to be a vampire, had the occasion presented itself.

The Conciergerie today

The Conciergerie today

The lush late eighteenth-century Paris described in “The Vampire Lestat” is before the modernisation plans of Haussmann, when many of the landmarks of modern Paris were built. The Paris of today is not quite the same Paris that Lestat and Armand roamed, but through Anne Rice’s brilliant descriptions and emotional writing, the city came alive.

Creating historical fiction is always a feat of imagination, with some research thrown in. The settings must fit the plot and be filled out from the imagination of the author. Sometimes an understanding of the lives and times of people of the era is enough. Other times, more detailed knowledge of geography is needed.

When my character Elise arrives in Paris in 1820 to work as a maid for the secretive Albert Price, in “The Alchemist of Paris”, she soon finds herself being sent all over Paris on mysterious errands to obtain items for Price’s experiments.

Price’s house is in Le Marais. As the plot progressed, I began to wonder, was it actually possible for Elise to go to all the places I wanted her to go?

The beginnings of my research

The beginnings of my research

I soon learned that people did not often travel between districts in Paris in the past, as we are accustomed to now. But as Elise is a servant, she would have been one of the many maids and workers walking unnoticed through the streets. As I planned out the story, Elise’s errands took her to:

  • A strange shop on the Île de la Cité
  • The house of a scientist and collector of Egyptian antiquities in Saint-Germain des Prés
  • A fancy store near the Pont au Change.
  • The side streets of Le Marais.
  • A forge by the river.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in Paris. I began to build up Elise’s world, making sure she could go on foot to the places she was meant to be.

I started each day from Le Marais walking: through the Place des Vosges toward the Seine; then across the Île St-Louis and the Île de la Cité; then on to Saint-Germain des Prés. Looping back to Le Marais each time, the geography of the story became possible.

Each walk revealed more locations and inspired more ideas. The older buildings could be included in the descriptions. The house in Saint-Germain des Prés was soon based on the Delacroix Museum.

When the plot took the characters further afield to the Tulieries Gardens or a cemetery on the edge of the city, I made sure they had a carriage at their disposal.

She might have been tired, but Elise could do what I made her do. After all, working for an alchemist isn’t easy.

*  *  *  *  *

Do you use maps when you plot your stories? Have you ever placed your characters in an impossible location?

“The Alchemist of Paris” is released on July 14, 2016. There are some Advanced Review Copies (PDF or .mobi) available through Choosy Bookworm along with some other great historical fiction reads! 

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