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December 20, 2008

My Private Odyssey

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The Lipstick Chronicles is known for its dignified tone. That's why we're  pleased to present award-winning author Dana Cameron. Dana managed to mention Euripides and quick-dry travel panties in the same sentence. If you only come here for the sex, there’s some of that, too. Dana, like her protagonist, Emma Fielding, is a professional archeologist. You’ll really dig (sorry) her mystery Ashes and Bones, which won the 2007 Anthony for Best Paperback Original.

My Own Private Odyssey

By Dana Cameron

My husband, Mr. G., and I are looking forward to a trip—a family wedding—to Greece in the spring. Having first congratulated the happy couple, we both set out to prepare, each in our own way: I bought copies of the works of Aristophanes, Thucydides, and Euripides, as well as several pairs of quick-dry travel panties. He bought a GPS and a DVD of Frank Miller's "300," a movie based on a graphic novel.

Clearly, we have different approaches to gearing up for travel. He wants to know how my panties are going to find us our way home if we get lost. I wonder how helpful that GPS will be when the laundry runs out.

I’ve written about how reading Homer saved my life for the Femmes Fatales, but I’ll be reading some of these classics for the first time (and posting about them on my blog; for me, it’s just not a vacation without homework).

The thing that absolutely slays me is the antiquity of fart and penis jokes. As an archaeologist, I’m over the notion that people in the past were somehow more serious, more noble, but when one settles down to soak up classical wisdom and history, it takes one aback to be confronted with the "we’ll end the war by withholding sex from the men" plot of Lysistrata. I mean, honestly. I could have watched The Flintstones or Seinfeld and been equally elevated. But since The Flintstones doesn’t have helpful contextual footnotes, I’ll stick with it. Maybe Medea will have more sophisticated humor.

Another conundrum was raised when a friend asked why I was trying to learn some modern Greek: how, she asked, am I going to read temple inscriptions without ancient Greek? I have more pressing concerns: how will I order a zesty cocktail if the modern waiter doesn’t appreciate my knowledge of temple inscriptions? Homer discusses wine, of course, and perhaps "I can haz Cosmopolitan?" is universally understood, but I’m not taking any chances.

Semper paratus,

that’s me: I may get lost, but I’ll have my quick-dry panties and the ability to order all the Cosmos I want. I wonder if that GPS will keep us from ordering offal stew when we’d rather have fish, hmm, Mr. G? Better stick with me, kiddo.

I’ll also stash a couple of notebooks among the black leather Speedos I’m packing for the menfolk (they’ve been marching around at family gatherings shouting "Sparta! Sparta!" in gravelly voices; since they’re threatening to do the same on the trip, I figure they’d better look the part. We don’t want to come off like tourists). The notebooks are for my vacation research assignments: in the novel I’m working on based on my short story, "The Night Things Changed," which appears in Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner. My werewolves and vampires have connections to ancient Greece and I’m writing an archaeological thriller featuring a bad-girl archaeologist, literally and figuratively a world away from Emma Fielding.

It’s shaping up to be a busy winter, but what better way to ignore the wind-chill factor than to dream about sunnier climes? What are your favorite travel reads? And how do you get ready to travel?

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Dana, your blog made me laugh out loud several times. And your reference to Seinfeld, which I was reading while Jerry himself was on Letterman, was funnier than his monologue.

I love to travel, but I'm convinced, and even more so after reading your blog, that traveling with men is not nearly as much fun as traveling with other women. Unless you drag them along for sheer entertainment value, that is. Black leather Speedos, indeed. Now that would be entertaining.

Best travel reads for me have to do with wherever I am heading. But there are so few novels on Omaha, Nebraska. A shame, really.

In my Wild & Misspent Youth (age 13 to 40), packing for travel meant tossing on extra set of clothes in my backpack along with the basics (razor, toothbrush, etc) and maybe a camera. That was it. Everything else was in my pants pockets.

Nowadays, my wife and I pack up everything except the dogs, the television and our bed...and believe me, if my wife could take our Select Comfort bed with us, she would.

Part of our traveling burden is all the friggin' electronics we can't seem to live without. Laptop...backpack full of laptop support stuff...still camera...video camera...PDA...cell phones...I'm pretty sure that when they start making C3PO type droids, we'll buy one. To carry all our stuff.

Finally, if we are going to a games convention, like GenCon in Indianapolis, you can add about 3 boxes of roleplaying, boardgame and card stuff to what we pack. Someday, either our car will explode from being overstuffed or we'll have to ship the filled car and take a plane.

As for travel reading material, my wife typically takes 326 fantasy or sci-fi paperbacks on even an overnight trip. I might take 1 paperback (subjects might range from a pulp reprint to horror to mystery to humor), unless I just opt to read local newspapers.


Karen - what about Willa Cather?

How do I get ready for travel? I head to the bookstore on a carefully arranged trip with the whole family. On a date close to departure, or we'll read everything too soon and have to start over. Mysteries and poetry for me, fantasy for 11-yr old, funny things for 7-yr old, history/classics for hubby (and they say engineers are narrow minded). Then I spend a lot of time explaining to 11-yr old that a huge new hardcover D&D rules book is not what he wants to carry around, and I'm not giving it room in my carry-on.

Thanks for the Greek suggestions - hubby read epics over the last couple of years - I'll suggest branching out into classical drama.

Great blog! I'm going to have to follow your travel prep on your blog.

Cannot wait for the photos!

Thanks, Karen! I guess the only thing better than reading novels set in the place you're heading is to read books by the folks you'll see when you get there--and Mayhem in the Midlands, in Omaha, always has wonderful writers.

Doc, I'm with you! It used to be a toothbrush, change of knickers, and a paperback, but now the cables, adapters, etc. take over! Let me know when you find that droid!

Anna C., those D&D books ARE heavy, but if it keeps him occupied.... On Monday, I'll post my whole reading list on the blog on my website: www.danacameron.com. It's great, because I've never studied this branch of history and archaeology before.

Thanks, Kathy! I'll definitely post pics on my site when I get back. Watch out for those Speedos as we slink elegantly down the streets of Athens. Oh, yeah, we'll blend.

I want pictures of the Speedo event.

First I overpack. Then I weigh the blinking suitcase, curse, and remove three items, and try to figure out if the rest is worth the airline surcharge. One of my lifelong dreams is to hop on a plane on the spur of the moment carrying nothing but a well-worn duffle bag. Hasn't happened yet.

One of my favorite travel memories: I was in Paris, years ago, and ran out of reading material (incredible, no?). I went to the local bookstore and bought The Three Musketeers in French, and sat in my hotel garret room with a view of the palaces on the Seine (if you hung out the window) and read the entire book.

Sheila, a friend of mine goes to Paris every year for a couple of months, bringing nothing more than a single carryon bag. She is amazing. But then, she does not wear any makeup but lipstick once in awhile, and has very short hair that does not need much more than a smoosh with her fingers. Since she wears nothing but black and red, everything she takes goes together.

Thanks for the Nebraska author hints; I have read Willa Cather, and the Little House books. But I was really just kidding.

Has anyone been to the Shakespeare Bookstore in Paris? Owned by an Englishman (and now his daughter), it's been a hangout for tourists and ex-pats for almost 70 years, if I remember correctly. Although I'm terribly impressed that Sheila read Dumas' classic in French, it's possible to buy English versions at this amazing store.

Also, TTM takes place in Paris, and in the story the king's men are quartered on Rue de Vaugirard. There is a lovely little hotel there called Hotel Luxemburg (right down the street from the Jardin de Luxemburg), and the description in the book makes me think it's the same place. The manager told us that the soldiers were quartered there during that time, and they kept the horses in the grotto downstairs, where they now serve the wonderful included breakfast.

Sheila, a friend of mine goes to Paris every year for a couple of months, bringing nothing more than a single carryon bag. She is amazing. But then, she does not wear any makeup but lipstick once in awhile, and has very short hair that does not need much more than a smoosh with her fingers. Since she wears nothing but black and red, everything she takes goes together.

Thanks for the Nebraska author hints; I have read Willa Cather, and the Little House books. But I was really just kidding.

Has anyone been to the Shakespeare Bookstore in Paris? Owned by an Englishman (and now his daughter), it's been a hangout for tourists and ex-pats for almost 70 years, if I remember correctly. Although I'm terribly impressed that Sheila read Dumas' classic in French, it's possible to buy English versions at this amazing store.

Also, TTM takes place in Paris, and in the story the king's men are quartered on Rue de Vaugirard. There is a lovely little hotel there called Hotel Luxemburg (right down the street from the Jardin de Luxemburg), and the description in the book makes me think it's the same place. The manager told us that the soldiers were quartered there during that time, and they kept the horses in the grotto downstairs, where they now serve the wonderful included breakfast.

Getting ready for a trip as we speak. Lots of paperback mysteries - check! all my knickers (so I don't have to worry about laundry) - check! Black sweater - check! Black pants - check! Wash cloth (seems we Americans are the only ones so attached to washing our faces with fabric) - check! Extra socks (see knickers above) - check! Comfortable shoes - check! List of fabulous places to eat - check! Ok, he's taking the GPS and a backup GPS, just in case, and all the cords, plugs, electronic devices that keep us plugged into home. It's a vacation, he says. My only worry about weight in the suitcase is the books. I've made my book order from MLB and hoarded my paperbacks from my tbr stash. Unlike Sheila, I can't get by without my English language mysteries. I'm ready. Bon Voyage.....

Getting ready for a trip as we speak. Lots of paperback mysteries - check! all my knickers (so I don't have to worry about laundry) - check! Black sweater - check! Black pants - check! Wash cloth (seems we Americans are the only ones so attached to washing our faces with fabric) - check! Extra socks (see knickers above) - check! Comfortable shoes - check! List of fabulous places to eat - check! Ok, he's taking the GPS and a backup GPS, just in case, and all the cords, plugs, electronic devices that keep us plugged into home. It's a vacation, he says. My only worry about weight in the suitcase is the books. I've made my book order from MLB and hoarded my paperbacks from my tbr stash. Unlike Sheila, I can't get by without my English language mysteries. I'm ready. Bon Voyage.....

Getting ready for a trip as we speak. Lots of paperback mysteries - check! all my knickers (so I don't have to worry about laundry) - check! Black sweater - check! Black pants - check! Wash cloth (seems we Americans are the only ones so attached to washing our faces with fabric) - check! Extra socks (see knickers above) - check! Comfortable shoes - check! List of fabulous places to eat - check! Ok, he's taking the GPS and a backup GPS, just in case, and all the cords, plugs, electronic devices that keep us plugged into home. It's a vacation, he says. My only worry about weight in the suitcase is the books. I've made my book order from MLB and hoarded my paperbacks from my tbr stash. Unlike Sheila, I can't get by without my English language mysteries. I'm ready. Bon Voyage.....

For those of you having trouble posting a comment - please check back!

Mr. Typepad is psychotic - and we apologize for any difficulty.

By the way, Dana - I'm not sure simple photos will do for the parade of the black speedo Spartans. I think we need the complete audio-visual experience. Because the natives are going to just love the chanting, I think..

I blame Mr Typepad for my 3 duplicate posts. Sorry......

My travel reads? Depends on what I have on my 'to be read' bookshelf, although I always carry "Illusions" by Richard Bach--it's my security blanket. The books are paperbacks though and usually mysteries or thrillers (keeps my mind off the flight and the snoring guy next to me).
As for getting ready to travel, my daughter calls me the queen of the packer-repacker nation. I swear I stress over what I'm going to wear and take clothes for every weather situation (yes, when I know it should be cold, or warm or whatever the whole time I'm there). I am getting better---have learned to wear my heaviest shoes, not pack them. I also love travel books, especially the City Guides and Top 25. I like to know what to expect :o) Of course when I travel with Catherine, we get off the beaten path and I end up having a blast. If I could just wiggle my nose ala Samantha and transport myself and my stuff instantly, I'd be a happy traveler!

JodiL, good shoes are a must! Black goes with everything, but books are always a problem: some for the plane out, plane back, etc. I like the idea of passing along a great paperback to other travelers, but sometimes it's too hard to let them go!

Sheila and Karen, TTM is one of my favorites! J'adore Dumas!

Kathy: video? It may be on CNN!

Maryann, those Top 25 guides are great! I'm not above tearing out the relevant section of cheaper and larger guides (AFTER I've paid for them), to save on weight and space. And I like what Tina Fey said about her "travel wish": to be "crated and sedated like a dog." That's the way to travel, barring transporter or magic!

When we went to Australia for two weeks last year I looked into getting an electronic reader. It's such a good idea for traveling; you can take countless numbers of books and other publications with you. But they are still too pricey for me, especially to take with on a long trip. I wouldn't mind leaving a single book behind, but would be devastated to lose something that held lots of books, and that cost as much as my flight did.

I'm in awe of those who not only pack books but also read while travelling. Regardless of destination or length of trip, I almost never read whatever I pack, nor anything much beyond the local paper at destination . . . I tend to purchase an airport book (The Tipping Point) or magazine nostalgia (Texas Monthly--old roots never die) on the return trip, and then have a great conversation with seatmates and neglect to read it until a few days or weeks after I reach home. The world out there is just too fascinating to read while it is available--the majority of my reading takes place at home. Dana, I do like your notion of advance 'homework'--this might work for me. Thanks for your fun entry!

when I packed for Bouchercon this year I didn't take a single book. I only had my Kindle. I felt naked. Or like I was wearing a black speedo.

It was WEIRD. Weird but great! I'm a total evangelist for e-readers now.

Karen and Janet, the e-readers sounds fabulous-- maybe next year.

Laraine, thanks for stopping by! I know what you mean about not reading while traveling; it usually ends up being just on the plane, trying to wish my way there.

Lariane, I read on the plane, in bed, while waiting for everyone else to be ready to go out but it never stops me from experiencing the wonders of new places. I always have a book with me tho, just in case.

BTW, as I reread my comments, I realize it could seem like I'm saying that those who read while travelling are ignoring or somehow not engaged with the wider world--no and no, not my intention. Just that I seem less able when travelling than at other times, to slip into the world of a book--even my favorite authors can't catch my attention. Travel attention deficit, perhaps?

Being under the weather today, not much has made me smile or laugh. BUT, the black speedos and the group of men marching around in them yelling "Sparta! Sparta!"...well, that did it! LOL

I want a Kindle (Amazon's ereader) so bad. I take WAY too many books with me on trips. I have a "need to be in the mood" to read this book kind of mentality, so I never know what to take! And yes, I have taken 10 books, decided none of them would do,and gone and bought more. Shhhh, don't tell hubs.

Dana! Dana! Take me with you! I've not only read The Iliad, I wrote about it! I qualify! TAKE ME!

Definitely wants the Speedo and Sparta video, Dana. I travel with paperback mysteries, unless it's going to be a really rough trip (bad weather or rough skies). Then I treat myself a hardback. A comfort read has no calories.

I am a chronic over-packer, and thanks to the airlines' creativity, I can now rack up baggage charges higher than the price of my airline ticket. Now I always travel with a little handheld device that allows me to weigh my bag -- that way, I can switch items back and forth between bags (or, when necessary, load them into my carry-on) until I reach the absolute highest limit of 50 lbs per bag. (Watch out for American Airlines, they start the baggage shake-down at 40 lbs for carry-on luggage.)

Have a fabulous trip!

Best

Lisa Daily

ArkansasCyndi, I'm so glad I gave you a chuckle! And I totally get about certain books for certain moods. Thanks for stopping by.

Harley, was it the Fagles translation of The Iliad? And I propose a TLC cruise--can you imagine it?

I'm starting to worry, Elaine, that the menfolk will actually take me up on my suggestion, and find spears and shields, too. I shouldn't give them ideas.

Lisa, that device that weighs your bags sounds BRILLIANT! Clearly, I'll have to add it to my electronics droid. Thanks for the good wishes!

My niece carried her days-old and very heavy copy of _Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows_ on our Hawaii cruise. I had managed to finish all but the last 20 or so pages before we left, and I knew she'd relinquish her copy long enough for me to read those. All through that trip that book was being carried and discussed by fellow travelers. It was a wonderful conversation starter.
I prefer lightweight books for travel (though _Pride and Prejudice_ went with me to England), and I love to leave paperbacks behind, in ship's libraries or wherever they seem useful. I overpack with clothing and allergy meds, so I need to lighten up somewhere.
I've held off until Christmas week for _Murder with all the Trimmings_, and Elaine, I am loving it!! (and wanting to smack several people already . . . . ;-)

Dana, how delightful to see you here! My husband and I went to Greece and Venice last fall, and the pre-trip reading was delightful. (We became hooked on Donna Leon.) We had a day in Split, Croatia, and wow--it's the only place that brought back Caesar's travels, which I translated from the Latin back in 8th and 9th grade. All those legions! All that "gathering" of water!

Thanks for being our guest, honey. Great to see you here.

Storyteller Mary, there are some hardcovers you just can't leave behind (that's why I brought that GINORMOUS hardback of The Odyssey with me to England--the full story on my website's blog). It sounds like you put it to wonderful use.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello and chat, and thanks to TLC for having me! I had a blast!

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