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!

Quiet Rome – 5 Special Places in the Eternal City

Rome has been a destination for visitors for centuries, but in the midst of all the glamour and bustle, it is possible to find quiet spots where the mind can wander.

Palazzo Spada

Palazzo Spada – a game with false perspective

Palazzo Spada
While many tourists visit the colourful Campo del Fiori fresh food markets, just around the corner is the Palazzo Spada. Stepping into the grand rooms is like being in your own Rococo apartment (the Palazzo was once the home of “two wonderfully eccentric 17th century cardinals” according to the DK Guide). The gallery has paintings by Rubens and Durer. In the courtyard is a colonnade which seems much longer than it really is, due to false perspective.

Spanish Steps in Rome

Early morning on the Spanish Steps in Rome

Keats-Shelley Memorial House
In the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Grand Tour became the thing to do, the streets of Rome were full of aristocratic and arty travelers from Northern Europe. The English favoured the area around the Spanish Steps. The house where the romantic poet, John Keats, lived (and tragically died) is next to the steps, and is now a house museum open to the public, where you can indulge your overwrought literary side and learn more about Keats’ time in Rome.

Photo

Goethe goes Pop

Casa di Goethe
Germans on the Grand Tour stayed further along Rome’s main street close to the Piazza del Popolo. Writer and all-round Renaissance man Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived in an apartment above the Corso during his Grand Tour of Italy in 1786-1788. Wandering through the rooms, you can imagine life as an aristocratic traveler in the 1700s*. Also on display is Andy Warhol’s Goethe portrait, establishing Goethe’s reputation as an unexpected pop culture icon.

Gran Salone in Palazzo Barberini

Hidden Treat – the Gran Salone in the Palazzo Barberini

Palazzo Barberini
The tranquillity of the grounds of the Palazzo Barberini is a welcome respite from the crowds on the busy Via delle Quattro Fontane. Crossing the wide courtyard, you will find the entrance to the galleries up a staircase designed by the famous sculptor Bernini (of Piazza Navona fame). Look out for the breathtaking Caravaggio painting and the ornate ceiling of the Gran Salone. After taking in the art, the gardens behind the Palazzo are a pleasant place to stroll.**

The walls of the Non-Catholic Cemetery Rome

The walls of the Non-Catholic Cemetery Rome

Non-Catholic Cemetery and Piramide
Even in a city where two-thousand-year-old ruins stand in busy streets, the sight of a pyramid in the middle of a suburb still surprises. Rome’s only pyramid is the tomb of a wealthy Roman magistrate who died in 12BC. Alongside the pyramid is the Protestant (and Non-Catholic) Cemetery (established in 1738) where many famous visitors to Rome are buried, including Keats and Shelley. Do check the opening hours – I arrived too late and had to wander beneath the walls, proving that the journey is not always the destination! You can reach Piramide on the Blue Metro Line.

* * * * *

*Casa di Goethe is the basis for Albert Price’s apartments in “The Alchemist of Rome”

**There is one painting you won’t find in the Palazzo Barberini, although it plays a major part in the sequel to “The Alchemist of Paris”. Read “The Alchemist of Rome” to find out which one!

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?

Cover Reveal: The Alchemist of Rome

The Alchemist of Rome

Cover Design by Adriana Hanganu, adipixdesign.com

Beware when magic crosses your path. You may live, but you will live to regret it.

Almost one year ago, on 31 March 2017, I first set pen to paper on The Alchemist of Rome, the sequel to The Alchemist of Paris.

There’s some familiar characters and some new ones. The mystery begins in Rome, and then moves to the Amalfi Coast and Malta – I always love a book where the characters travel.

This wonderfully atmospheric cover was designed by Adriana at adipixdesign.com

The Surprising Difficulties of Photographing #Booksandmacarons

The Alchemist of Paris

Coffee, macarons and The Alchemist of Paris

#Bookstagramming on Instagram combines three of my favourite things – taking pictures,  microblogging and discovering new books. With hashtags such as #booksandnature, #booksanddogs #booksandcafes #booksinthewild etc etc, it all looks so chic and simple.

However all those artful pictures are not as easy as they look, as I discovered when I decided to photograph ‘The Alchemist of Paris’ (which is finally a real, “hold in your hands”, “put in the bookcase”, “throw on the backseat of the car” book!) and a box of macarons (a popular hashtag being #Booksandmacarons).

I set aside Saturday morning for this task, which progressed as follows:

9.30 a.m. Consider taking the book to the patisserie to colour coordinate with the macarons. True, I have never seen anyone else do this, but how else do you select the right colours?

9.42 a.m. Trusting my judgment, I visit the patisserie and make my selection by eye.

(In case you are a macaron enthusiast, my selection was: red velvet, strawberry, chocolate, cookies and cream, salted caramel and nutella).

9.50 a.m. Returning to the “studio”, aka my apartment, I get the props ready.

The Alchemist of Paris

The props are ready

10.05 a.m. I realise macarons need to be photographed on their side. Otherwise, they look – kind of round.

10.10 a.m. Line macarons up in the box, then try to get them to artfully stack on top of each other.

The Alchemist of Paris

The macarons aren’t lining up straight

10.16 a.m. Consider the merits of the book cover v. open book page shot.

10.21 a.m. Worry about the colour combination – is the bright pink strawberry too jarring?

10.22 a.m. If the strawberry macaron is too bright, should I eat it?

The Alchemist of Paris

The macarons are becoming distracting…

10.26 a.m. Salted caramel is melting. The top has slid sideways. Get some filling on my finger and seriously tempted to eat entire macaron.

10.30 a.m. Wonder if the white table or wooden tabletop looks better.

10.45 a.m. Very tempted to eat the props.

10.50 a.m. Should I stand on a chair to get a better shot? The chair is kind of wobbly.

10.51 a.m. How will I explain to people if I am injured falling off a chair while photographing a box of macarons?

10.52 a.m. It’s getting hotter. Salted caramel is sliding sideways again and not going to make it.

10.53 a.m. I’m feeling very hungry.

The Alchemist of Paris

Okay, that’s it – I’m hungry

11.00 a.m. Find a few pictures I am happy with – casual and relaxed, like I spend my days in a cafe reading books.

11.09 a.m Can’t believe I’ve spent over an hour and a half doing this.

11.10 a.m. Impressed at the skill of bookstagrammers.

Leaving Paris

Paris had never looked more beautiful than on that last run through the city. I had forgotten the squalor and smells of the narrow streets now and saw only the grandeur of the rooftops against the sky. Gerard guided me out of Le Marais and along the broad boulevards near the Louvre Palace. We ran through arcades and before churches, past statues and under stone carvings. We passed the scaffolds and skeletons of the new Paris that was being built. We saw sudden vistas of the Seine and the hills above the city. I had no idea why I thought this city frightening when the carriage had first rolled through the city gates. Paris was my city now and I knew all its lanes and colonnades and bridges.

– Elise flees across 19th century Paris in ‘The Alchemist of Paris’

Having left her idyllic country home, Elise has found herself in a web of greed, betrayal and deceit – and magic. Can she escape in time?