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Hawaiian Luaus to California Dreams

This has been an incredibly busy spring consisting of several trips, book releases and exciting news to come.

Events began in April with a trip down to San Diego, California for the Pacific Cultural Association/American Cultural Association national conference where I was a presenter on a panel concerning the works of bestselling novelist Anne Rice.

 

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Along with three other presenters, we discussed the nature of Rice’s work on the field of gothic literature and the evolution of the vampiric figure in contemporary novels. The panel was an enthusiastic group of scholars from all over the world; Romania, England and Ireland, just to name a few places. The panel created a lively discussion on not only Rice’s work, but the vampiric figure. While we may not agree on all aspects of literature, we did come to one conclusion, Rice’s work has had a profound and last influence upon the gothic field.

The conference itself was an amazing event. It showcased a wide variety of topics, running multiple panels on a multitude of subjects dealing with popular and American culture. When I was not engaged with the vampire panel, I also attended several presentations on Tolkien, mythology, film, television, creative writing, and children’s literature.

 

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In addition to the conference, I also had an opportunity to spend a wonderful afternoon visiting with dear friends and fellow artists, including the always amazing Becket, author of the Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl series, his incredible wife Christina, and artist-extraordinaire Raven Quinn, the illustrator for the map in both my Black Rose Guard and Rise of the Temple Gods series.

 

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We had a fun afternoon visiting and discussing upcoming projects, and testing different flavors of ice cream on what turned out to be a beautiful sunny afternoon.

 

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I was also fortunate enough to have my brother accompany me on the California trip, so we took  day off to have some fun visiting some both theme parks and vineyards in the Temecula Valley.

 

 

In addition, I also had the opportunity to meet one of my narrators, Cassandra Richardson, in person. We have worked on multiple audiobook projects together, including all three of the books in the Rise of the Temple Gods series, the recently released Shadow of the Rose, and the upcoming audiobook version of my science-fiction novel, Indoctrination. It was wonderful to meet her in person and I cannot recommend her amazing talent enough!

 

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In June, I took a vacation trip to Hawaii, a gift from both of my grandmother’s for my birthday. Though it was my second time visiting the islands, the pervious trip had been nearly a decade before.

 

 

My grandmothers, who visit the islands almost ever year, graciously showed me around, taking me on a road trip to see the important sights, namely the Pearl Harbor and the U.S.S Arizona. While I had been to this site previously, it was no less a humbling and beautiful memorial.

 

 

The rest of the trip consisted of stunning beaches, a look into Polynesian Culture, and a trip to the Dole factory for Pineapple Whips!

 

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And course, as always, we visited the Hard Rock Cafe.

 

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For those unaware, I am an avid pin collector and visit the cafes everywhere I go.

Both trips were incredible experiences, and I had an amazing time.

Next week, I will be traveling to San Diego Comic Con! I am very excited to be attending, and will be posting about the trip upon my return!

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Witches, Vampires & New Orleans – Undead Con 2015!

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For Halloween this year, I returned once again to the city which had so thoroughly captured a large piece of my heart, my beloved New Orleans. It was my third time visiting this wonderful city and second as an invited author of the Undead Conference and Vampire Lestat Ball. The experience was a delightful adventure of seeing new places and revisiting past favorites, sharing my love for the Gothic with fellow enthusiasts and seeing friends both old and new.

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The trip began with two fun nights at the Hotel Monteleone, a historic hotel in the French Quarter. After arriving rather late on the first night, we enjoyed a relaxing morning before having lunch at a local bistro called Mr. B’s. If anyone is looking for an excellent restaurant in the area, I would highly recommend it. From the meals to the mouth-watering desserts, everything was excellent and it offered a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere.

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This wonderful meal was followed by a a few hours of relaxation in the spa before meeting my brother, who had also flown in for the events. With him, we spent the evening walking down the streets of the French Quarter and enjoying the unique feel that is New Orleans.

Thursday was when the real fun began. It started with an excellent breakfast between a group of talented artists and writers who also have the privilege of calling each other the most incredible of friends. With great discussion of art, literature, films, upcoming projects and life in general, we had an amazing and fun morning just getting to spend time visiting, a rarity in our collections of busy lives.

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After breakfast, we headed off to the Hilton Garden Inn, where the Undead Con was being held for registration and, more importantly, a reunion of #TeamGregWilkey. For those who do not know, Greg Wilkey is not only a great friend but an author I greatly admire. Last year, after the vampire ball in the wee hours of the morning, #TeamGregWilkey was born as we awaited the world’s slowest pancakes, a group of six friends who decided to find a new and exciting way to promote his work. (I also wrote one of the introductions to Greg’s newest edition of his Mortimer Drake Vampire series, which can be found here if you have not read his work yet) http://www.amazon.com/Life-Undeath-Mortimer-Drake-Omnibus/dp/0996662804/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447368170&sr=8-1&keywords=greg+wilkey

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This year it was the same great group and friends…plus t-shirts! It was awesome to see our friend again and with him, reuniting our group to explore New Orleans with the same love and wonder as the first time we walked the streets together.

Later that night, we went to the Q&A with bestselling author, Anne Rice. Though I have had the honor of meeting her several times now, I still cannot help but feel the giddiness of a star-struck child every time I get to see her. Especially when she greeted me with a hug at the entrance of the church where the event was to take place!

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Ms. Rice spent her time at the event greeting guests and answering questions about her writing, both past works and upcoming. Then the rest of our time was spent visiting with old friends and making new ones!

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The next day I attended the “Ghost” panel, of which Greg was a participant. The panel answered questions from the crowd and spoke of their spiritual and supernatural experiences, from both personal experience for some, and in the work of fiction for others. It created a unique group and a very interesting discussion for the attentive audience.

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After the panel, we grabbed a quick lunch and then got ready for the 27th annual Vampire Lestat Ball, this year titled Gathering of the Ancients. A few hours later after a trip to the saloon and getting tied into my gown, we were ready for the ball. As a featured author, along with other members of my group, we had VIP upstairs access and were escorted past the line directly to the ballroom. The venue was massive, featuring multiple open bars, dance floors, and live bands.

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I enjoyed the event, visiting my friends, taking photographs in our formal wear and dancing to the gothic tunes which filled the ballrooms. Then, I also had the privilege of again seeing Anne Rice, who was kind enough to take photos with fans during the party.

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However, one of my absolute favorite photographs was this one, standing with friend and fellow authors Greg and Becket (author of Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl series). It was so wonderful to see them both that night.

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The next day was my own panel, which I shared with Greg Wilkey, Sarah M. Cradit, Alys Arden, and Dawn Chartier. We had a fun panel with great questions covering everything from our writing methods, to our favorite villains. We had a wonderful time and great discussion with both the audience and each other.

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From there, we attended the book release party for another fellow author, Eric Shaw Quinn, whose new book, Write Murder, had just been released. Hosted by the guest of honor and Christopher Rice, the party was rather intimate with an open bar and excellent food.

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Every attendee was surprised by a free copy of the novel which was subsequently signed by the guest of honor. Attendees were also greeted by author Christopher Rice, who was there supporting Eric.

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We had a great time at the party visiting with the various guests and enjoying the time with friends.

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After that, it was straight to the Witches Ball. My second time to attend, it was a wondrous gathering at the Elms Mansion in New Orleans.

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Though a touch on the rainy side, the ball organizers did a great job of covering the outdoor section of the party enough to allow people to enjoy, despite watching it rain. I had a great opportunity to see and visit with some dear friends who I had not seen since the last ball.

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The next day and after several tearful goodbyes, the majority of the events ended and people began to return home. However, we had booked several additional days to simply explore and enjoy the city. We spent the next few days visiting the French Quarter, visiting others who had booked additional days and simply hanging out together. I also was delighted by the opportunity to meet Trisha Baker, author of the Crimson Vampire series which begins with Crimson Kiss. I have been a long-time fan of her work and was very excited by the chance to meet her.

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New Orleans is definitely among my favorite cities that I have ever visited. Everything from the food to the laid-back atmosphere to the friends who gather every year at this wonderful series of events makes the trip completely worthwhile and one that I have been honored and privileged to attend and hope to continue to be a part of for many years to come.

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Vancouver BC & the Gothic Conference

“Every [living] scholar you have ever studied, is probably in this room,” a favorite professor stated at the first event of the International Gothic Association (IGA) Conference. And, with a few exceptions — he was right.

This post is a little late, (and I promise that a recap of New Orleans will be posted soon) but in August of this year, I had the pleasure of speaking at the IGA biannual Conference in Vancouver BC, Canada. The trip started great, as we located the conference hotel with relative ease and proceeded to check in the night before events were to begin, giving a touch of time to recover from the long drive.

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The first day was wonderful as I spent the afternoon both visiting with friends and making new ones. There was also a meet and greet that night which featured an impressive gathering of Gothic lovers from students to writers to professors who came together to celebrate their mutual love of dark landscapes, creatures and literature.

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The conference itself was an exciting array of papers, covering topics from the oldest of gothic myth of the victorian era to the most modern of supernatural portrayals ranging from the the supernatural television shows Vampire Diaries and True Blood, to the 2014 release, Prince Lestat to (my personal favorite) Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl, the most current of which was released only a few months ago. It also covered zombies, ghosts, victorian literature and all manner of Gothic tales.

I loved getting to meet everyone and stood in awe as a few of those whose work I have studied, quoted and (though I’ll never admit it) worshiped walked by with kind hellos, willing to indulge endless questions pertaining to student’s favorite themes and topics.

My own paper came on the final day of the conference, at a panel hosted at 8 o’clock that morning. Given the early morning status, I was slightly worried that few people would show. However, to my surprise and delight, almost the entire ballroom was filled with interested people. I had never presented a paper to a crowd quite so large before and was a touch nervous walking up to the podium, however after a few moments of speaking, my nerves had (mostly) vanished and I was able to deliver the speech, which seemed well-received by the listeners. A wonderful introduction to the IGA conference overall, as this was the first time I had ever had the pleasure of attending.

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Vancouver was a fun city to visit, though I must admit it is often difficult to truly explore in the middle of a long conference. However we did get to visit some great restaurants, a lovely park and a few other places as we went through town. The greatest night that we had to explore, was the last night of the conference, when we took a river boat tour which doubled as the official dinner for the conference.

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It was a fun boat with live music and beautiful settings against the background of the Vancouver sunset. The food was surprisingly good (some conference dinners leave a touch to be wanting) and a good time was had by all.

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Overall, it was a great experience and I am very much looking forward to attending this wonderful event in the future.

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London, Oxford & the Monster Conference

In July of this year, I attended the 13th annual conference on Monsters and the Monstrous held at Mansfield College, the University of Oxford.

To begin the trip, flew first into London, where I spent the first two days exploring one of my favorite cities in all of Europe. Though I have been to many countries and had many wondrous adventures, there is likely no place on Earth has has even held my heart so captivated as England. Such a blend of culture and history. Modern and ancient. The land of Shakespeare, Tolkien, Harry Potter, Kings and Queens…

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With my grandmother at Hampton Court.

I started the trip by taking a trip to Hampton Court Palace, the court of King Henry VIII, among others.

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The palace was massive, elaborate and beautiful. Featuring massive paintings, large bedrooms, dazzling staircases.

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Despite having lived in England for several years, I had never been to the palace before, so I was very excited to get to explore. I was also joined there by my friend and writing partner, Jonny,

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Who assisted me in the very important mission of finding the centre of the Hampton Court Maze. Here we are, after surprisingly only one wrong  turn!

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We had an wonderful time!

I also spent an evening at the Queen’s Theatre, where I saw Les Miserables.

It was an emotionally moving masterpiece.Everything from the music, to the voices, to the theatre itself were exquisite. It is definitely up there with the best I have ever seen. (Though I must add here, that Phantom of the Opera is and probably always will be my favorite.)

Then I was off to Oxford.

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It was my first time there as well, and I was very excited to not only see the numerous buildings which compose the university, but also to arrive there as a conference presenter. The conference, run by inter-disciplinary.net is a gathering of scholars from beginning post-graduates to full-fledged professors from multiple fields of study who gather to discuss topics they love – in this case, monsters.

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My paper was titled:

The Child Who Kills: An examination of the Dionysian Child through John Linqvist’s Let the Right One In

Though it also focused on several other novels featuring child vampires, including Becket’s Key the Steampunk Vampire series (with illustrations by Raven Quinn, Trisha Baker’s Crimson series and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles.

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I was very excited to not only be presenting it at Oxford but also among such a distinguished group of my peers. The paper went very well and lead to much discussion and debate.

I also managed to see a few sites in Oxford. I was very excited to grab a drink at the Eagle and Child pub,

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A place where both J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis once met.

They were members of the same writers group known as the Inklings.

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I also visited the University of Oxford Christchurch campus where I saw one of the famous dining halls, which was one of the influences for the hall featured in Harry Potter.

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And the library where I saw a journal written in Mary Shelley’s own handwriting.

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Truly amazing!

After Oxford, I returned to London again for another full day before leaving. I spent most of the afternoon at The Globe Theatre. The Globe, which features Shakespeare’s plays, was built to be a replica of the original theatre which existed in Shakespeare’s lifetime.

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People who attend performance there have a choice between being seated or standing beside the stage during the performance. It is a token to Elizabethan theater (1500 & 1600s) where the cheap ‘seats’ were actually simply standing and people paid extra to actually sit during a performance. I opted for a seat myself and watched the play from the upper levels. I saw Richard II, and it was very well done.

After that, it was time to say goodbye to England. Though I am certain it is a place I will return to in the future.

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Germany, Romania & the Dracula Workshop

Last week, I attended the International Conference Beliefs and Behaviors in Education and Culture in where I was a presenter in the workshop titled: Where’s the Place of Dracula: (De)constructing Stereotypes in the Study of the Mythical Space in Literature and the Arts.

The conference was held at the West University of Timișoara, Romania. Everything from the actual conference to the tour of the Romanian countryside was absolutely amazing! And what better place to hold a Dracula conference than in Romania, where Stoker set his famous novel.

However before I went to Romania, I first decided to spend a few days in Munich, Germany, a country I had always wanted to visit. After landing in the city, my first full day was spent exploring downtown. Sights included: Marienplatz, which is a plaza showing several beautiful examples of Gothic architecture. It was referred to by one local I spoke with as the ‘Heart of Prague’ and a glance at the magnificent structure which forms the center of he Plaza, I could easily see why it would be referred to in such a way.

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We also went to the Residenz Munchen. composed of a series of elaborate buildings consisting of the households of important figures, elaborate artwork, to an opera house which was by far, my favorite of the buildings I was fortunate enough to view.

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And of course, and perhaps most importantly, the Hard Rock Cafe! (I am an avid pin and shot glass collector)

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We met my friend, Hans, for lunch. He is photographer, fellow writer and Dracula scholar, author of several Dracula research books including the Dracula Bram Stoker Travel Guide, a project he is working on with fellow author, Dacre Stoker.

We also went to Nymphenburg Palace, which was nothing short of breathtaking from the elaborate rooms (which reminded me a lot of the Strahov Monastery in Prague):

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Outside photograph of Nymphenburg Palace

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Inside photograph of Nymphenburg Palace

To the garden which featured statues of the Greek Gods. It was a special site for me, as a lover of classical Greek and Roman history and literature.

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Altogether, we spent three wonderful days in Munich before heading back to the airport for a thankfully much shorter flight, to Timisoara, Romania. The conference organizers were kind of enough to arrange transportation, so all of the conference attendees had rides awaiting them to their respective hotels, which was very much appreciated.

The conference itself was filled with speakers on various subjects dealing with various issues concerning everything from the education system, to contemporary issues facing Romania and surrounding countries, to what I had been invited to speak on – Dracula. The key note speech on Stoker’s Dracula was given a Prof. of Gothic literature. The speech would begin the discussion for the workshop which took place the following day. The workshop itself was a wonderful gathering of vampire enthusiasts; from professors in the field to graduate students to a few select authors and independent researchers. Topics covered included, but were certainly not limited to: The possible location of Dracula’s Castle the impact of vampire texts upon actual locations; family dynamics in vampire film; to people who self-identify as ‘real’ vampires in one form or another. Each speaker was amazing and had something very unique to offer to the building group discussion and I was honored to be a part of it.

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Speakers of the Dracula Workshop – photo credit to: http://benecke.com/

The last day of the conference was a group tour into Transylvania where the highlight of the visit was a castle which serves as a possible contender for a might have inspired Bram Stoker when he sat down to write the story of the now famous Transylvanian count. It was an impression, imagination-inspiring place, to say the least.

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I absolutely loved getting to explore Corvin Castle, but to have the opportunity to do so alongside a group of people who love the vampire story as much as I, made it absolute magic!

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In front of Corvin’s Castle, Romania

To see more photographs, visit my Facebook page:

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Prague and the Evil Conference

I spent the last week in Prague, Czech Republic to attend the 15th Global Conference: Perspectives on Evil and Human Wickedness.  I was a presenter in the first panel, presenting a paper titled: Dark Side of a Hero: The Villain in the Role of the Protagonist.  The conference was excellent and inter-disciplinary in nature, featuring papers on everything from fictitious villains such as the Wicked Witch of the West, to a panel of speakers who spent three weeks in Rwanda researching the lasting impact of Genocide, to a creative piece on the impact of war.  Each speaker brought something truly unique to the conference from an international community, as over 11 different countries were represented this year from numerous disciplines of study.  It was my second time attending the Evil conference and I can truly say it is one of the more fun conferences I have had the pleasure of attending.

Prague itself was amazing!  The city was beautiful; one could hardly turn a corner without seeing a magnificent Gothic or Baroque building.  This was found on everything from the National Museum to the casual restaurant and offered amazing views of absolutely gorgeous buildings.  However, for me personally, the highlights were the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutna Hora, just outside of Prague and the Strahov Monastery in the city.

The Ossuary, also known as the Kostnice Sedlci.  It is a small Roman Catholic Chapel and contains approximately 40,000 human bones.

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According to my tour guide, the monks started gathering bones from the cemetery surrounding the chapel in the early 1500s.  From these bones, they created six pyramids.  They did so as a demonstration of equality – to show that, in the end, all people end up exactly the same.  Then, in the 1870s, a man by the name of Frantisek Rint was hired to rearrange some of the bones into decorations which include a chandelier, candle holders and the family crest of the Schwarzenberg family.

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It was both thrilling and a little surreal to stand within the chapel.  I felt a great sense of reverence standing among those piles of indistinguishable bones and I would highly recommend anyone who has the chance to visit the Ossuary.

The tour I took also included a visit to the Church of St. Barbara which was one of the best examples of Gothic architecture I have seen to date.  From the towering arches to the numerous painted windows it was both intimidating and awe-inspiring. A walk around the church lead to a bridge lined with statutes intended to be Kutna Hora’s answer to the Charles IV Bridge in Prague.

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The next day, I went to the Strahov Monastery which was equally amazing.  Its library, featuring both a Theological and Philosophical Hall, was recently ranked among the top libraries in the world, and for good reason.  In addition to an impressive collection of books, some of which date as far back as the 1200s, the ceiling of the library is what I can only describe as breath-taking.  Housing over 18,000 theological and over 40,000 philosophical texts, the two halls are painted with various depictions of what they represent, with the Theological Hall including depictions of scenes from the Bible, from Adam and Eve to Jesus while the Philosophical Hall begins with scenes from Greek mythology to depictions of famous philosophers.

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It reminded me of work I had seen in the Sistine Chapel in terms of both beauty and history.  The layout of the books, particularly in the Theological Hall, really reminded me of the Old Library at Trinity College.  I was also fortunate enough to have enjoyed dinner there which was excellent and served with wine and beer from the monastery’s own winery and brewery.

Overall, the trip was excellent and I enjoyed both the conference and the city.  It was a great experience and I look forward to the possibility of returning for next year’s conference. For any who might be interested, check out the conferences hosted by Interdisciplinary at: http://www.inter-disciplinary.net/

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