Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Mascherari

Hard at work on my second novel with a rigorous self-imposed deadline. The first draft must be finished by mid-May in time for my joyous trip to France (family reasons) and Venice (research purposes).

I have, for now, abandoned the sexy sci-fi adventure I spoke of over a year back, to pen a historical mystery set in Renaissance Venice.

The Mascherari, is the plural form of the word, "mask maker" in Italian. It is the title of my second novel. Mask makers, as artists, along with their creations have always been a fascination of mine. I have a Pinterest wall devoted to masks which I have called "Los Occultos". It more or less means, "The Hidden". I am intimate with the hidden. It inspires and revives me. You could say I am a vampire for what is secret. And what a feast it is to dwell in 'hidden' Venezia. I can't tell you how much it thrills me. I am in my element.

I will situate this novel with just a few boring facts.

The year is 1422, months before the election of the conquest minded Doge, Francesco Foscari, a significant turning point both politically and economically. But for now, there is prosperity. The Venice Republic rules Padua, Verona and a gaggle of other colonies in the Mediterranean including Cypus, Santorini, Mykonos and Crete. It has long defeated Genoa, its main military rival and is in an on-off alliance with Florence with which it remains for the most part, cordial. It trades heavily with Constantinople and  is happy to ignore the Catholic Church if this one interferes with its trade and its ability to draw profit from the Muslim lands. It is a peaceful time for the ruling patricians. 1509 is far. The League of Cambrai has not yet arrived at the Republic's doorstep to bring the Venetians to their knees. We are in a golden age.

But a series of gruesome murders is about to take place on the eve of Carnivale. Enter Antonio da Parma. Tuscan, newly widowed, appointed by the Consiglio dei Dieci to investigate these grizzly murders involving a wealthy and not-so virtuous group of senior patricians. One of them, Giacomo Contarini, has an especially dirty past. And judging from the rumours abounding, the Contarini name is doomed to be soiled. Things are not going too well for Antonio da Parma. As an inquisitor, he is known for being susceptible to occultic beliefs, something which we learn has tainted his past investigations. And the Consiglio dei Dieci want none of that.

Antonio da Parma is a captivating man. He says so little about himself in his letters and in his diary. Incidentally I should mention the epistolary form of this novel. Yet we discover so much of his yearnings and passions through the voices of others. We could say that he is the novel's true mystery. Antonio da Parma is also a mystery to himself until he finally discovers the real reason for his being in Venice.

I am having way too much fun writing The Mascherari and describing all the masks, both material and psychological, that I come across. It is a real pleasure. If you think I am writing for myself, you are right.

There is much to keep me enthralled. There is child kidnapping. There is much feasting and Carnivale reveling. There are secret denunciations and sbirri attacks. Sleazy visits to San Cassiano's red-light district. There is an old crone near the Arsenale who sells protective charms. A foreign witch with a beauty so enchanting that she becomes, despite herself, the downfall of a once happy marriage. There is Magic. Encrypted messages. Endless jealousy, Treason, Murder and my favourite part, true Friendship.
Most of all, there is a mystery behind which lies a conspiracy so evil that you will never see Venezia in the same way again...

But I must say this. Even as I paint it with a darkened colour, I love the Republic. She has stolen my heart, that witch. I love everything I have learnt about this early Renaissance period. I love being in the recesses of my mind and speaking with the voices of my characters, being them, dressing like them. Ah, Velvet... Give me Velvet! I love all my characters with their faults, their strengths and their weaknesses. I know that my complete immersion into this world would not have been successful if I had not made a decision to quit my day job. Business analysis, you are far.
But wait for me.

Unfortunately I will find my writing and editing interrupted after the mid year. Still it is a fantastic cause as I will be moving to Sydney, a place where I have long wanted to live. You can say this is a dream come true in a sense. Hard work in another. I will need to return to the 21st century, busy myself with finding the basics of life: shelter; a new day job; and hopefully re-integrate myself into my new city as much as possible.

But if it all goes well, if the artwork progresses as expected, and if I do not fall ill from the jettatura, then The Mascherari should be released by mid-2014.