Okay, so maybe picking a Latin phrase, Locus Amœnus, with its weird spelling, for the title of my latest novel might make it a little hard for people to recommend it to friends. (If you order now from Amazon you can get 13% off.) Locus amœnus can be pronounced in English, Low cuss a men us, with stresses on “low” and “a.” In Latin you want to make “amœnus” sound more like “a moin us.” I have also heard amœnus pronounced “uh mean us.” Any of these are acceptable. This is America, after all.
Locus Amœnus means “pleasant location,” and it’s used in poetry to describe a restful place where nothing bad ever happens. It also happens to be the scene of the crime in many of Ovid’s tales, an idea which fits well with the theme of my novel. I couldn’t pass up this phrase for my title, despite its awkwardness, because the story is set in the rural upstate town of Amenia, a would-be pastoral paradise where I own a sheep farm. The name “Amenia” of course comes from the same Latin word as amœnus. Amenia is, by the way, variously pronounced as “Uh many uh” or “Uh meanie uh.”
The cover for Locus Amœnus, my new novel which will be out this spring, will feature the painting Silo Ridge by Tarryl Gabel. Gabel is an award-winning local painter, inspired by the Hudson River School, who continues to paint landscapes of this beautiful valley. Silo Ridge is the name of the old farmland (now a golf course) that is the town of Amenia’s claim to fame. It is one of the most, if not the most, beautiful views in the whole area. When my husband and I were looking for land to purchase, we drove all over the Catskills and Harlem Valley. When we went round the hill and were presented with this scene, we knew we wanted to make this area our home.
Here is the final cover design for Locus Amœnus, which will be released at the end of April. The novel is a dark comedy/tragedy, a revision of Hamlet set in rural upstate New York in 2009. I requested a graffiti font for the tile to add a bit of irreverence to contrast the pastoral scene. The designer chose to use a bullet-holes-and-blood font to make it look like a thriller. The story does involve an old murder, two accidental deaths, some bloody noses and an allusion to Shakespeare’s heap of bodies at the end of his play, but no one actually gets a mob-style hit in Locus Amœnus.