Back in the Saddle for a New Year!

Happy New Year!.jpg

Happy New Year! Melissa here, Community Manager for Time Traveler Tours. Sarah is story hunting in Cuba at the moment and therefore offline.

While she's away, I thought I'd take the opportunity to log in and update everyone on some news and upcoming awesomeness we have in store for the next couple of months of 2017!  

Mary Hoffman's story tour coming to App stores in March 2017! But first...

...let me start with the status of the app release. During beta testing, we discovered that our instructions, weren't grabbing the attention of our users enough to convey all of the really important information that was there. As it's our goal to ensure that our product is always engaging -- whether title, instructions, hunts, or story -- we decided to fine tune the user experience the minute you open the app.

I think the update is much more striking and readable this way. When you see our final product on your own device, I hope you check it out and let us know if it is indeed clear, and captures your attention. All of our changes have our users in mind.

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Title Change?

In other news, we're considering changing the app title from In the Footsteps of Giants to Buried Alive or Buried Treasure, with the tagline: The Secret Michelangelo Took to his Grave.

Let us know what you think. Here's a shot of our working iteration of the new cover. And here's a pdf of the story for your review. We hope you'll be ready to review the eBook when it, too, launches. Soon.

Sarah interviewed by talkRADIO UK's Martin Roberts!

talkRADIO UK's Martin Roberts interviewed Sarah live on December 27 and got a wonderful response to our mission and products! Martin spoke with Sarah for 10 minutes about travel ideas and trends for 2017, including how to stretch your money when choosing a location. They also discussed our apps and the TTT&T value add to the family tourism industry!

Have a listen! 

"History Heroes" Campaign Starting Soon!

We're developing a new campaign, called "History Heroes," so we want you to think of yours. What person from history do you admire the most, and why? Keep it in the back of your mind for our upcoming news!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are enjoying the start to a new year. We'll be in touch soon when Sarah is back to update us on her Cuba adventures!

Best Wishes,

Community Manager for TTT&T



Putting the Past in its Place

A year ago this month, Mary Hoffman delivered her initial story treatment for Time Traveler Tours & Tales launch title, In the Footsteps of Giants. That's when our treasure hunting, Round 1, began!

I’ve written about cracking the character code of our Time Traveler Tours, and about their unique voice, as well as about finding the device that enables them to talk from the past.

But the key ingredient to any Time Traveler Tour is transporting you to a particular place and time, and not just any place and time, but one you walk through, immerse yourself in, and be a part of.

Writers of all genres focus on setting. Even if a story is the stuff of total fiction, authors will draw from what they know to paint as vivid a picture of place as possible, in words. Authors of historic fiction must know their story location intimately -- not just as it is today, but as it was then.

A successful Time Traveler Tour must fold the story into a location in a way that makes sense both logical and logistical sense.

The Ultimate Challenge

In February 2016, I was in Florence, figuring out how best to weave Mary’s story into the city as it was 486 years ago, in 1530. That's when Michelangelo went into hiding in fear for his life, unsure whether he would live or die at the hands of a trained assassin funded by the mighty Medici.

Fortunately, Florence is Mary’s home-away-from-home, and her knowledge of Michelangelo’s era is encyclopedic, so she set me off on a good start. With her story treatment in hand, I walked the city, and walked it again. I wore out a pair of shoes (luckily Camper was having a sale that week so I stocked up on more). What’s more, I wore out my hips (you’ll recall I’d had major surgery only six months before, and was still recovering).

I visited every museum and site Mary suggested…and then some. I befriended a Michelangelo scholar, Paola Angelini of Guided Florence Tours, who took me into the mind of the great sculptor as we visited each of his masterpieces. She helped me jump queues and got me past the gatekeepers into off-the-beaten-track places little known to tourists. I visited every work by Michelangelo that Florence can claim. I drank a lot of espresso. I ate a lot of pasta.

Then I started to play with Mary’s tale, rearranging a bit here, removing a bit more there; expanding on this, cutting back on that. The raw materials were so good, a great city turned into my sandbox; Mary’s storyline became my magic wand.

This is why I love what I do. It’s not without effort, but what a pleasure to become so intimate with a place, story, and character. You have to in order to somehow inhabit their time and voice. You have to steep yourself in their place. Mary had already done so, and now it was my turn.

From the conclusion of the Kickstarter campaign in June 2015, and throughout my convalescence, I read everything I could get my hands on about Michelangelo, The Medici, and David. Most of my references were recommended by Mary, so I jumped right in, building on the knowledge she had developed over years.

In April, the two of us were back in Florence, walking to story tour together in the company of Kickstarter backers (and, as our great luck would have it, tech developers), Jo and Luke Chilone. Not only were we there to verify that the story and tour did indeed weave together logically and logistically, but even more fun, we were now digging deeper into Renaissance Florence to look for the historical artifacts and trivia challenges that would enliven our tour all the more.

Now as we find ourselves hurtling toward the holidays and the start of a new year once again, we’re thrilled to be mere weeks away from sharing the story tour of In the Footsteps of Giants with you. We’ve also developed the eBook; we’re working on the audio book; and the print book, too, is in forward motion.

Our first full title suite is soon to be born.
And it's all thanks to You!

We couldn’t have done it without you all. We are grateful for your support; for the time you take to read these missives; for your on-going comments and encouragements; for being at our backs as we moved through this effort, from fundraising to creative collaboration to production.

Thank you for helping us #TurnHistoryOn. Because #HistoryMattersNow!

With gratitude and holiday cheer,

Tell us in the comments why


From now until January 2017, we will be sharing your wise words on our social media channels.

Also in January, we’ll be announcing a writing contest
sponsored by Time Traveler Tours & Tales

Stay Tuned!



Bombing Berlin with Candy and Kindness

As I write this post, Team TTT&T’s Oliver Latsch is in Utah, USA, interviewing Gail Halvorsen, aka “The Candy Bomber,” aka “Uncle Wiggly Wings,” aka “The Chocolate Pilot.” He's the post-WWII US military flyer who, in 1948, came up with an ingenious idea for delivering treats to the children of Berlin, then trapped by Soviet Russia's blockade of the city. Gail's story is the inspiration for Oliver’s upcoming Time Traveler Tour to Berlin, slated for publication in 2018.

When the Soviet blockade of the western sectors of the German capital began, the city only had 36 days worth of food for its 2 million inhabitants. Coal for energy and medical supplies were running perilously low as well. Neither train nor automobile nor river barge could penetrate the Soviet sphere of influence that surrounded Berlin. The only way into the city was down – from the air. 

It took a joint allied military operation to save Berliners and to keep Berlin from falling into Russian hands. The Berlin Airlift, officially called "Operation Vittles," could be considered the first battle of the Cold War. But rather than a battle of weapons, it was a battle of wills. One the allies eventually won, at least in part.

The airlift – and the stand off it represented – lasted 10 whole months and spanned a harsh German winter. In addition to “lifting” food and supplies, the allies looked for ways to lift the spirits of the people as well. The key was to give them hope as they struggled to stay warm and stare hunger in the face.

It was Halvorsen who, after meeting a group of kids through a fence at Berlin's Tempelhof airport, came up with the idea of using handmade miniature parachutes to send them candy, bubblegum, and chocolates. He and his crew fully expected to be reprimanded for this action was unauthorized. But by the time the generals found out, they’d already received sacks full of letters, cards, and pictures expressing gratitude for the kindness. Even the tiny parachutes were returned, to help with the next run. The people didn't want it to stop!

The military government quickly realized this was a public relations coup and let Halvorsen and his friends continue the drops. Their “Operation Little Vittles” would go on to shower 23 tons of treats over the Berlin landscape. Each time the Candy Bomber delivered his sugary payload, he would rock his plane, left-right-left, several times to wave at the waiting children. With this gesture, Uncle Wiggly Wings reminded them that they were not forgotten; he encouraged them to hang on. And they did.

Through this story, we will bring Gail's amazing story to life while providing young people a window into the complex and devastating ideological conflict that divided Berlin, Germany, and the world for 45 years, until 1989, when Berliners, using hammers, axes, even their hands, broke down the wall that separated former neighbors, family, and friends.

Oliver is now trying to “crack the character code” for this story, a process I explained in last week's newsletter. But his task is more complicated than it would seem…

To create a successful Time Traveler Tour, it’s not just about who the main character is, but how he or she is able to speak from the past in an authentic and believable way today. It’s what we term “the time-traveling device.” Though Gail looms large in this historic tale, Oliver must determine if he is the best 1st person narrator for the story and tour.

Maybe someone close to him would be more effective, like another pilot? Or someone charged with making the tiny parachutes? Or one of the hungry children whose life Gail so sweetly touched?

Indeed, the right choice of character might actually turn on the device: Will the story be better told from the air? Or the ground? During the Soviet blockade? Or once it’s finally broken? Will it be best recounted from the cockpit of a C-54? Or from the city streets daily littered with candy? Or perhaps from the point of view of a young Russian conscript powerless to stop the kindness (and hungering for a little vittle himself)?

In researching Charlotte’s story, Beware Madame la Guillotine, I discovered that she spent the day leading up to her twilight beheading writing letters. In a desperate bid to explain and justify her act of murder, she wrote not only to her father and sister, but to the citizens of France as well. This became my time-traveling device, and so Beware Madame la Guillotine acts as Charlotte’s memoir written from prison on the day of her death.

To lend dramatic tension to Michelangelo’s tale, Mary Hoffman placed him in his self-imposed exile of 1530 where he waited out possible arrest and execution not knowing whether he would live or die. To pass the time, and probably keep from going mad, he drew with charcoal on the walls of his cold, stone cell, whose location was lost to history until 1976.

Now, with Gail's help, Oliver searches for the time-traveling device that will bring The Chocolate Pilot’s tale of the Berlin Airlift to life for 21st century kids, who know nothing of Cold War and fallout shelter drills, while tying that story to histories being made today.

Check out this message from the Candy Bomber himself!

Do you have an idea for a story, character,
and time-traveling device?

Click COMMENTS and let us know!



Cracking the Code on Characters

In my last post, I wrote about how I found the voice of Time Traveler Tours thanks to a perceived failure. But the learning did not end there. Not by a long shot. It took another misstep en route to preparing our newest title, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS, to make us realize we had not yet cracked the code as to who our characters should be, and what stories they should tell.

It was another lesson learned by trial and error on our way to developing our mission and vision for Time Traveler Tours & Tales...

What happened was this...

When Mary Hoffman first pitched me her idea for a Time Traveler Tour to Renaissance Florence, her intention was to rewrite her book, DAVID: AN UNAUTHORISED AUTOBIOGRAPHY, to a size better suited to our condensed format. But this was more easily said than done.

David is an 80K-word work of historical fiction. TTT wanted a factual tale of 8-10K words. Not only is that a lot of darlings to kill, but Mary’s narrator, Gabriele, was an invented character. Although the research suggests he could have been, he is the stuff of fiction.

By this time, I had already written and published BEWARE MADAME LA GUILLOTINE, but my next two stories – to Versailles in the era of monarchy and Napoleonic Paris – were not tripping easily off the proverbial tongue. In both cases, I had invented the narrators and plopped them in non-fictional settings. One editor suggested this might be the problem: that by using characters who had not actually lived through the events they were narrating, I had compromised the authenticity of each tale.

But I’d poured years into each of these stories already. I was attached to my darlings and convinced they should work to capture my readers’ imaginations. Perhaps the problem was with me. Perhaps a more experienced writer could work the right magic.

That’s how I came to give Mary the thumbs up to let Gabriele, her imagined model for Michelangelo’s David, narrate our factual tour through Renaissance Florence. Fortunately, she realized much more quickly than I did that Gabriele really wasn’t up for the task.

Thus began the hunt for the perfect tour guide for

It is a little known fact that Michelangelo went into hiding in fear for his life in August of 1530. For 446 years historians knew that he’d fallen on the wrong side of the Medici family; they knew that he’d gone underground to escape possible execution; they knew that he was missing for between three weeks and three months. But no one knew where, nor how he'd managed to survive.

Then, in 1976, 10 years after the historic 1966 flooding of the Arno River, the mysterious hiding place was found. During a cleanup effort to finally shovel away what remained of the drenched and ruined coal supply stored beneath the Medici Chapel’s New Sacristy, a worker struck one of the walls of the room with his shovel. All at once, a four-centuries-old layer of plaster fell away, revealing drawings and doodles that were very clearly by the hand of Michelangelo!

This was obviously the best dramatic hook for the story. But once he’d been pardoned and allowed to come back into the light, Michelangelo covered the evidence of his imprisonment to protect his protectors. He took his secret, and theirs, to the grave. That’s why for 446 years we only ever knew that he had been hiding, not where.

There was only one person, therefore, who could divulge the details of the master artist’s 1530 plight: Michelangelo himself!

As with Charlotte’s story, IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF GIANTS practically wrote itself once we’d discovered the right character to tell the tale. That’s when we realized that our Time Traveler Tours are best led and narrated by real historical figures – whether well-known, like Michelangelo, but with a new story to tell, or less-known, like Charlotte, who played a key role of one of history’s most seminal events.

Real people telling factual tales through 1st-person storytelling.

This is our mandate, and our foundation. It is how we aim to ensure that no one says, "History is boring!" ever again. It is how we promise to be the media brand that parents, teachers, and readers can trust.

That’s why, in February of last year, I was back in Paris and Versailles story-hunting for new characters for LEGEND OF THE PLANT HUNTERS and EMPIRE OF THE DEAD. And why TTT&T Rights & Opportunities Agent, Oliver Latsch, spent two days in Berlin just this week – prior to attending the Frankfurt Book Fair – searching for the voice of our Cold War tour and tale to come.

More on that journey – and story – next week.



Finding Your Voice in Failure

Did I ever tell you the story about how I met Charlotte Corday? How she came to be the narrator for Time Traveler Tours’ first title: Beware Madame la Guillotine?

Did we ever disclose how Mary Hoffman came to choose Michelangelo as her guide for In the Footsteps of Giants when she thought that job would fall to the model that stood for the David?

These stories are core to our burgeoning media company for they form the foundation of our model and Voice. They also both stem from potential failures that – were it not for our tenacious spirit and a willingness to pivot – resulted in twin successes.

First the story of my discovering Charlotte Corday…

It was a rainy day in Paris, 2009. I’d been working on an interactive history of the City of Lights for teens and tweens for more than three years. At that point I had written three sample chapters that took readers to

  1. Versailles in the era of Absolute Monarchy;

  2. Paris in the throes of Revolution; and

  3. Underground Paris in the age of Napoleon.

I had researched the market and competition and crafted a 70-page book proposal expounding on all the reasons why every editor would be crazy NOT to produce my book. That's what you have to do to sell a book of nonfiction. 

My family loved my sample chapters, as did the members of my critique group. But I wanted the validation of my future target readers – youth – before seeking the agent and/or editor of my dreams. As Lily and her friends were then 13 and 14, beta readers were not too hard to find.

“It was great,” they told me, handing the manuscript back just pages after cracking it, well before reaching the end. That, and their body language, betrayed the truth: 

They did not find the story compelling. 

I tried adding more gruesome details. That didn’t work.

I cut the story down to half its original size, making the writing as economical as I possibly could. That didn’t work either.   

Now on my 100th revision, literally, I was on the brink of despair, convinced it was time to put the MS in a locked drawer and throw away the key; certain I’d wasted three years of my life, that it was all a failed experiment and that I should give up writing all together.

I grabbed my umbrella and headed out to one of my favorite Paris places: the Palais Royal, birthplace of the Revolution and where Charlotte Corday bought the knife she used to murder Jean-Paul Marat. I walked to the location of the infamous cutler that sold her weapon and there, on a stone pillar dating to 1784, I found a chalk picture portrait of the murderess herself, just at the point of being washed away by the rain.

As I stood there watching it disappear, it was as if Charlotte reached through the ages and shouted in my ear: “Let me tell the story,” she said. "Let me speak through you as I was never able to speak in life.”

I ran right home, pulled the story out of the proverbial drawer, and dusted it off again. I had not yet thrown away the key, thank goodness, because out of my 3rd person nonfiction tale emerged the 1st person tale of historical fiction you know today: the one that went on to win industry accolades. The one still being discovered by teachers and parents today.

It took me three days to re-write the entire story from Charlotte’s point of view. It was easy, as if the story wrote itself. As if, indeed, Charlotte spoke through me as I wrote.

As it turned out, the problem had not been with the content or the writing. The problem had been with the voice. Like most historians, I'd resorted to the 3rd person, which creates a distant point of view, when I'd needed to get right up close and personal.

This time, when I asked the same teen readers to review the manuscript once more, they refused to give it back until they reached the end. I observed as each and every one of them was hooked and drawn in from the earliest paragraphs. They loved Charlotte, flawed though she may be. Her story resonated with them at last.

“Great!” they said, handing the paper draft back to me. And this time I knew that they meant it.

That’s why we’ve made a commitment to 1st person storytelling voice for our Time Traveler Tours & Tales. We given the job of turning history on to the historical characters themselves.

But Mary’s challenge was a different one. She began her process in the right voice, but she’d picked the wrong narrator. Stay tuned for that story next week as we continue to reveal the foundational pillars of the Time Traveler Tours mission and model.