I’m currently six chapters into my next action-packed VanOps thriller and thought it would be fun to share a behind-the-scenes look into my writing process and some background on my current research subject. From what I can tell, every author has their own method, whether it’s flying by the seat of their pants until the very last words hit the page, or the other extreme, where the story line is completely planned out. I’ve discovered my process is somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.
For me, it all begins with an idea. I throw that initial tidbit onto the page and let it ruminate around for a few days. Often, that original idea gets thrown out with the trash, but new ones form and I layer them on like a bricklayer producing a wall.
My current work in progress has a number of titles. It started out as VISIONS, then became HOURGLASS, and could become THE MEDALLION OF NOSTRADUMUS. Which title do you like the best?
While I’m in the outline stage, I research all sorts of things. For this book, I investigated the current Taiwan/China geopolitical situation, looked into modern special ops techniques, and read two biographies on Nostradamus. Most everyone has heard of the famous seer, but I didn’t know many details about him.
Here are a few fun facts that I’m weaving into the story:
- During his lifetime, his name was a household word in France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, and England.
- Nostradamus gave his eldest daughter two walnut coffers that would have ‘clothes, rings and jewels’ no one else was ‘permitted to see or look at that which will be (found) therein.’ (My imagination went wild with this tidbit, thinking about what else might be in those coffers!)
- He wrote a booklet in 1555 called The Treatise of Cosmetics and Jams. Here’s a quote: “After my having spent the greater part of my youthful years…in pharmacy, and in the knowledge and understanding of medicinal herbs, I moved through a number of lands and countries from 1521 to 1529, constantly in search of the understanding and knowledge of the sources and origins of plants and other medicinal herbs-(exploring) medicine’s very frontiers.”
- He attended Montpellier, the best medical school in Europe. In his time, they would have studied Latin translations of Greek and Arab experts, along with botanicals. They had only a handful of cadavers, which were mostly fleshless skeletons. In his time, all medical understanding was founded in astrology. (Can you imagine trying to learn to be a doctor using only bones and stars?)
- This was his recipe to treat plague: Take some sawdust or shavings of cypress-wood, as green as you can find, one ounce; iris of Florence, six ounces; cloves, three ounces; sweet calamus, three drams; aloe-wood six drams. Grind everything to a powder and take care to keep it all airtight. Next take some furled red roses, three or four hundred, clean, fresh and culled before dewfall. Crush them to powder in a marble mortar, using a wooden pestle. Then add some half-unfurled roses to the above powder and pound the mixture vigorously all over again, while sprinkling on it a little rose juice. When all the above has been mixed together thoroughly, fashion it into little flat pastilles as you would pills and let them dry in the shade. They will smell good. (At least your breath would smell good when you died.)
- His first Prophecies were published in 1555. From the first quatrain:
Being seated by night studying in secret
In lone repose on the brazen tripod
A faint flame springs from the solitude
Causing to flourish that which is not to be believed in vain
- The Oracle at Delphi is known to have been seated on a tripod. The tradition was disbanded in the fourth century AD. (Hint: The Oracle plays a role in my novel.)
- The 1555 edition of his Prophecies had the first 353 of 942 quatrains. The quatrains are in no particular order and he smartly left out actual dates and said that all his prophecies came from God. He was also alive during the time of the Inquisition, so feared too much success. He made anagrams, such as Rapis for Paris and Elvas for Savole, or Savoy. He was poetic and cryptic, except for the Treatise mentioned above, which was written in a matter-of-fact style.
- In 1555, he was called to the French royal palace, a 500 mile journey that took about a month on horseback. It was probably his first visit to Paris.
- He created elaborate astrological charts for his clients, including royalty from Germany, Spain, etc.
- One of his more famous prophecies during his lifetime was Centurie X, quatrain 39, from the Prophecies published in 1568:
The first son on the widow, of an unhappy marriage
Without any children, two Isles in strife
Before the age of eighteen (will die) a minor
Of the nearest other even younger, there will be no accord
- It was generally translated thus: In November of 1560, Francois died two months shy of his 17th birthday. The young king had gone hunting with his brothers and came back complaining of ear pain. They lanced a tumor, but he died. He was the eldest son of widow Catherine de Medici and without children. His death caused strife for two isles as his wife was Queen Regent of Scotland as well as the Queen Consort of France. There was an accord that Catherine’s next son Charles, aged 10, would marry Princess Elizabeth of Austria. AND there was a line in that year’s almanac in that month: One most young will lose the monarchy because of an unexpected illness.
- Nostradamus was given the title: Councilor and Physician in Ordinary to the King
- The French army chief Blaise de Monluc, a practical and hard-headed general, spoke of Nostradamus with awe. Spanish King Philip II and his mariners deferred the sailing of their fleet on the advice of storm warnings. A German mining magnate, got Nostradamus’s advice on where to sink the next mineshaft.
- Nostradamus wrote King Henri II in 1557: “As time elapses after my death, my writings will have more weight than during my lifetime.”
Given the success Nostradamus had predicting the future, I found the idea of militarizing an oracle fascinating and am bringing the VanOps heroes back for a third installment to prevent an enemy from gaining the ability to see the future.
If you’re not familiar with my work, I write international thrillers full of intrigue, history, science, and mystery. The first two pulse-pounding thrillers in the series are available now, in all formats, wherever books are sold, and the first six chapters of VANOPS: THE LOST POWER are available from my website: www.avanticentrae.com.