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Bones of the Titans (NaNoWriMo Project 2016)

Confession: I love Ghost Trilogy and its characters, I’m still working at shaping the story as best I can and at finding a home for it, but this year my NaNoWriMo project will be a brand new one.

Kind of…

In fact, the protagonist is someone I created a couple of years ago, and you may have come across her if you have been around this blog long enough. She’s Ombretta Vivaldi, and I created her in quite an unconventional way: for a treasury challenge on the Etsy site.
It’s quite strange, really, I wasn’t going to create a character, but one of the groups I was part of came up with a very cool idea: creating a series of treasuries that would tell a murder mystery story. If you think I could resist that, you don’t know me well enough.

This is the sequence of treasuries.

Ombretta came to me absolutely naturally, as characters sometimes will, and by the time I finished the challenge, I knew I’d write about her sometime soon.

But the story never really came to me. I wanted it to be set in the 1920s, just like Ghost Trilogy, but since Ombretta is Italian, I wanted the story to be set in Europe. Slowly, some ideas congealed: the story would be set in Berlin (Weimar Berlin is an exceptionally exciting place); it would involve European mythologies in some way; like Ghost Trilogy, it would have a multiethnic/multicultural cast.

I tinkered lazily with the story for a couple of years until last summer, as I finally decided Berlin was going to be my setting. I thought that should be my next NaNo project and started brainstorming more actively.

So, here’s the idea:


BONES OF THE TITANS by Sarah Zama - She went to Berlin in search of a Viking dagger, she had to face her darkest gift

When a very unique Viking dagger the British Museum has just acquired shows up at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Ombretta Vivaldi doesn’t think it’s her concern: she’s just a secretary. But her boss Ross Harding can’t speak German – among the numerous other things he can’t do – so she doesn’t really have much choice but follow him.

When she sees the dagger the first time, Ombretta wishes she never came. The dagger stirs the gift she forsook many years ago, the gift to see a future, a future she seems to have no power to shape. She senses the evil inside the artefact awaken.
That night, the director of the museum is murdered, and the dagger disappears again.

As the police investigate, Ombretta realises the troubled times of the young Weimar Republic, with its resentment for the war, the rising of nationalism, and the fear of a much uncertain future is the perfect place for such evil to grow. Navigating among brazen politicians, rebellious kabaret artists, war veterans and people who have more than one secret to defend – including Ross – Ombretta tries to bridle that gift she has never been able to muster. She must get to the dagger before the police, so to put it to rest before something truly horrible happens.

I know, I know, the blurb is lousy. But I’m terrible at writing blurbs when the story is written and revised. You can’t pretend that I write a good blurb before I write the story…

And the blurb doesn’t even mention a couple of things that I’m really fond of.

First, this story is going to feature my first queer character. Now, this is vastly outside of my comfort zone, but I can’t ignore that – except during the Third Reich – Berlin has always been a very queer-friendly city: Still is. And besides, kabarets will be a prominent setting.

It doesn’t even mention Wolfgang Neumann, who’s shaping up as one of my very favourite characters. He’s a WWI veteran, now involved in politics. He has a very strong sense of duty and justice but is nonetheless a ruthless man (can’t expect him to be too subtle after the war experience, now can you?).

The dagger is where European mythology comes into play, if probably quite subtly. It is made of a shard of the Titans’ bones – hence the title of the novel. The dagger keeps the hate of the Titans towards everyone alive and gives huge self-confidence to everyone who possesses it. Therefore, people who own it tend to become self-confident beyond their normal character, but they may fall to hate with disastrous outcomes.
I’m thinking about the classic tale of Zeus defeating the Titans (who were powerful but wild and violent and primordial) in order to become master of the Olympic people. But also about Ymir, the giant of the Scandinavian mythologies, from whose bones earth was created.

BONES OF THE TITANS by Sarah Zama – A #dieselpunk novel set in Weimar Berlin #WIP #WorkinProgress #historicalfiction Share on X

It’s just sketchy ideas at the moment, but I am researching, and I’m loving it. You know I’ve always said that the 1920s sound so much like our times. This is undoubtedly true for Europe, but there’s even more. Enzo Traverso, an Italian historian of the two World Wars, theorizes that there weren’t two world wars separated by a period of uncertain peace, but there was just one 30-year-long war. It makes a lot of sense to me. What I’m learning is that what went into the war in 1914 was Old Europe, with its old Victorian ideas and ways of life. The young people, who went into war enthusiastically thinking that would renew their old world, were weirdly right. Of course, they couldn’t foresee the extent of that change and how long it was going to take, or how brutal it was going to be, but Europe, as it came out of WWI, was really a new place, with new ideas and ways of life. In good and bad, it was Europe as we understand it today.

To me, Weimar Berlin was the place where everything started.

Banner - Ghost Trhough the Cracks by Sarah Zama - A historical fantasy novella

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BONES OF THE TITANS - A historical fantasy work in progress - The shards of the Titans' bones and hatred disperse in troubled post-WWI Europe.


  • J Lenni Dorner
    Posted October 29, 2016 at 16:42

    Sounds like a really great concept! Happy writing.

    • Post Author
      Posted October 30, 2016 at 00:14

      To you too, Lenni.
      Can’t say I’m ready, but I’ll go anyway ;-)

  • Tiyana Marie
    Posted October 31, 2016 at 00:38

    Interesting mix! Can’t wait to read more about this project. Nothing like a good ol’ cursed artifact tale. ;) (So dieselpunk!)

  • Sara C. Snider
    Posted October 31, 2016 at 14:33

    Very cool idea! I love reading about your NaNoWriMo progress, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out. Good luck! :D

    • Post Author
      Posted October 31, 2016 at 20:45

      Thanks. I think this year I need quite a bit of luck. I’v enever felt so unprepared in years… but maybe it’s because I last wrote a first draft during NaNo years ago ;-)

  • Sara L.
    Posted November 1, 2016 at 14:44

    Great idea, Sarah! I like the combination of historical Germany (I’m assuming it’s set during Hitler’s time?) and Greek mythology, the latter of which I have a soft spot for. Good luck during NaNoWriMo!

    • Post Author
      Posted November 1, 2016 at 18:17

      It’s the time right before Hitler, when the Nazi party was still a regional phenomenon. I’ve chosen 1924 because that year Hitler was in prison (it’s when he wrote Mein Kampf), so I’m kind of relieved of his present on the scene ;-)

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