Thursday, 12 March 2015

Le Patou, the Great Pyrenees Sheepdog

The "patou" is a large white dog used as a guard dog for the flocks of sheep and goats in the Pyrenees. It's role is not to herd the sheep but rather to guard them from predators, such as bears and wolves.

 The word patou derives from pastre, meaning shepherd in old French.

The patou walks at the head of the flock, checking out the land before the flock starts to spread out and graze. Then he establishes his zone of protection and watches out for the approach of any intruder. If any threat [bear, wolf or human stranger] comes close to the flock, the patou will bark to alert the sheep and shepherd. He will not attack unless the sheep are physically threatened.

These dogs have been used in the Pyrenees for many centuries. They are handsome, have a pleasant temperament and are tall and sturdy. In the 17th Century they were in fashion at the court of Louis XIV at Versailles.

Photo by Jérome Bon

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Author interview with Creative Frontiers

Author Interview at Creative Frontiers

‘Yes! Yes! Oh Yes!’

Beth Elliott
Beth Elliott
The other day, CF powdered its wig and attended an eighteenth century salon (as you do).
Whom did we find there?
None other than Beth Elliott who writes Regency Tales, full of adventure, intrigue and romance: The Wild Card, set in London; In All Honour, set in Bath; April and May, set in Constantinople and London;The Rake’s Challenge, set in Brighton; all published by Robert Hale and available from Amazon, etc. From behind our fan, we whispered the following questions to her.
CF: Tell us a bit about yourself
BE: When not writing, travelling or attending to Wellington, the cat, I do bead embroidery pictures, where everything must gleam, shine, sparkle or glow. It helps me indulge my love of bling. In addition, I spend hours in museums like the Topkapi or the Louvre, gazing at the huge jewels and sighing with adoration at their beauty.
CF: What subjects or genres do you like to read?  
BE: Because I always love to hear about other places and other times, my favourite reading matter involves travel mixed with adventure. I’ll try any historical period, set anywhere in the world. Perhaps I can include Arthurian and Celtic legends in that. I incline towards romance, mixed in with the adventures. Military tales are ok but I’m not keen on murder mysteries. Any story with a quest or about righting a wrong appeals to me.
CF: Who are your favourite writers?
BE: Jane Austen has to be the first on this list. I reread her books and always discover something else to enjoy in there. Voltaire for style, Loretta Chase for witty adventure romance, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe stories to while away plane journeys, Wilkie Collins is the most suspense I can take. For travel, books by Patrick Leigh Fermor, Jason Goodwin and William Dalrymple enthrall me. I’m also a closet Tolkien fan, for the pleasure of his rich language.
And I do love all Arthurian legends written by whoever and whenever. I’m developing a story about Lancelot, inspired by my particular bit of mid-Wales.
CF: What subjects or genres do you like to write?  
BE: It seems like my other home to slip into the wider Regency era. So mainly I write tales of intrigue and romance set against a background of the Napoleonic wars. But I come at this from a different point of the compass, setting my stories in Constantinople, France or Portugal, for example. Earlier this year I visited Albania and found there was a lot of contact between Ali Pasha Tepelena and the British officers on Corfu, which has inspired another plotline. Travelling is one of my hobbies and as well as using the places I discover as settings, I write travel articles.
CF: How did you know you wanted to write? 
BE: I always told stories, from before I could read and write. Maybe it’s the Welsh in me – I’m the only member of the family who can’t sing but I love listening to the spoken word, with its infinite range. I hear my characters speaking before I write their tale down.
CF: How did you get the confidence to start?  
BE: It was more a matter of knowing when to stop. Even aged 8 or 9 I wrote long letters to relatives and huge stories for English homework. In my teen years I contributed to the school magazine and was editor in my last school year, as well as winning regional Essay prizes. My English teacher put me in for those competitions. Writing was always a big part of my life.
CF: If you can remember the day you went from non-writer to writer, how did that feel? 
BE: If by this you mean learning that my first novel was accepted by a publisher, I jumped up and down for most of the day, exclaiming ‘Yes! Yes! Oh Yes!’ And it’s still a thrill to remember that moment.
CF: Do you find novels or short stories easier to write? 
BE: I can write short travel articles but find short stories very difficult to construct. A novel is much easier, because it allows time to develop characters and create scenes, whether dramatic, pastoral or romantic. And to lay a few red herrings.
CF: How (and where) do writing ideas come to you? 
BE: Inspiration strikes any old time. It’s like a curtain being drawn back to reveal another place. That’s why a notebook and pencil are as essential as clothes. But to start a novel, I set out a range of pictures of people and houses [collected from any and everywhere]. In a little while, one face will dominate and from the expression on that face, the person’s name and character come to me. Then other pictures will attach themselves, as family, friends, enemies, homes. And episodes of a story start to appear out of a mist, although at this stage, I have no idea where in the novel they go.
CF: What writing methods and discipline do you practise?
BE: Research about the places, the events of the period and an accurate timeline for my characters are the essential first items. Research often involves travel. For instance I walked the walk round Bath, London and Brighton to be sure of realistic times for characters to get from A to B. I visited the little palace in Istanbul where my hero stays while in that city, and so on. I have a few books on writing that help me with technique.
For me the best time to write is in the evening and I aim for a minimum of a thousand words a day. It may be rubbish but that’s easier to revise than a blank page.
CF: How much do you edit and polish? 
BE: My first draft is more telling than showing, as I want to set down the details of who was where with whom, when, why, and what they did. Then when I reread it, or go back to adjust events in the light of any subsequent change in the plot, I convert it to dialogue and add in as much emotion as I dare. I do like to polish, and would do so even after the story is published, if I could.
CF: Which do you find easier: constructing characters or building a plot? 
BE: The characters seem to appear fully formed, but revealing their development as the story unfolds is as much pain as pleasure. The plot seems simple at first but soon the characters take on a life of their own and hold me up by refusing to act as I wish. So, on this question, for me, both get harder as we go along. But we always get there in the end.
CF: What’s the hardest thing about writing for you? 
BE: Maintaining self-belief. Some days what I’ve written seems total rubbish. But I’ve learned not to erase anything – a week later it will seem better and it can always be revised in some way.
CF: What do you most enjoy about writing?
BE: Writing is an escape into the world of my story, which is a place I want to be in. My characters are totally real for me. And another pleasure is the actual words, using language to craft scenes that my readers can see. I love it when I read a bit out at my writers’ group and get the comment, ‘I saw that as clearly as if it was a film’.
CF: Do you fall into writing ‘dumps’ and, if so, how do you get out of them? 
BE: Sometimes nothing can awaken the muse. The frustration is enormous but that’s the time to stop exhausting myself. I read a gripping novel or watch a DVD to forget my woes. This can last days at a time. If I can’t get on from the point where it all stalled, I go back to the beginning of the story, rereading and editing slightly, to get back on track. By the time I come to that dreaded blank page, there’ll be a thread that needs more development or some fresh ideas to try.
CF: If you’ve suffered rejection, what works for you in dealing with it?
BE: It’s very crushing to be rejected but it helps to keep on writing the current WIP. After a few checks on stated requirements at an agency, I’ll send out the story again. I know it’s fierce competition among editors to get any story accepted for publication, so the only motto is: Never give up.
CF: What are you working on at the moment? 
BE: A quest set in 1813. The hero is the second Montailhac brother, the charmer, who longs to have a role where he could excel, like his older brother [in Scandalous Lady]. Through a fast paced chase battling Napoleon’s secret police, he develops into a more mature person – helped of course by a young woman of courage and determination.
CF: What further ambitions do you have for your writing?  
BE: To do better, in terms of depth of plot and more complex characters, so as to write a totally compelling story. I’ll get there by the time I hit 100.

Beth Elliott on Facebook and @BethElliott on Twitter

  4 comments for “‘Yes! Yes! Oh Yes!’

  1. susanjones
    January 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm
    Yes yes yes I must read your stories, Beth. Keep on jumping up and down.
    • January 14, 2015 at 10:23 pm
      I keep on writing, Susan and hope to have more ‘Yes, yes,’ moments. I hope you enjoy my stories. The pleasure is in the journey through the adventures, with the expectation of a happy ending.
  2. January 23, 2015 at 2:15 pm
    Beth, you know I am a huge fan and love anything you write, especially with all that research. I love your blog and all the photos and I can see how much hard work you’ve put into your books. Most impressive. I love adventures and you seem to be on one all the time. Long may the lust to have an adventure last. I shall be there. :)Thanks for finding me too. Have a wonderful and successful 2015 and beyond.
  3. January 28, 2015 at 9:25 pm
    Thank you for your kind words, Jane. your own fizzing energy gives me a boost. Soon another hero will complete his quest and be out in the world, looking for readers. He’s taken a long road and a lot of research but he’s worth it.
    Lovely to see your post up here. You have so many stories in your head and thankfully, some of them are now available to read. Good luck to you also.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

A taste of the Pyrenees

 The Montailhac family who feature in my current stories, live in the Pyrenees. For them, the rugged scenery and the harsh climate are their normal setting. But some of the other characters in the story are amazed at the new world they discover within the tumbled mass of this mountain range.

The plunging mountains mean any journey is long and arduous. The local breed of short legged horse, the Mérens, are the best for travelling in this terrain. [My story takes place in 1813].

Villages are small and situated by one of the many fast flowing streams.

The weather changes suddenly. Sunshine gives way to violent thunderstorms with plenty of snow in winter.

  One of the towns along the river  Garbet, [whisper it low] is Seix. The picture above is the castle, now a museum of local life. A range of recipes for such things as badger stew and crow pie, suggest a degree of poverty in the area in days gone by.

The magical Lake of Béthmale, with water of a striking blue-green. 

A local house with the typical 'stepped' roof, which is a defence against heavy snow.

Water is everywhere, adding movement and sound. This is a backstreet in Seix.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Exotic jewellery? Bring it on!

In Scandalous Lady, Olivia arrives in Constantinople and at once visits a merchant with a large store of luxury goods, from carpets to jewellery. The mix of styles, from Byzantine to Ottoman, means she is dazzled by the range of items in his shop.

She really goes there intending to buy a few carpets to make her new home more comfortable. However, Mr Arapchian has such stacks of carpets that she goes a bit mad...

And then he shows her the jewellery. She is dazzled by the exotic splendour of it all.

If you like REALLY exotic gems, click on this link to see some of the famous jewels from the Top Kapi Museum

            On this occasion, Olivia opts for a delicate filigree pendant.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The *One Lovely Blog* Award

One Lovely Blog Award


I was nominated by fellow writer Judith Arnopp for the One Lovely Blog Award
The award recognizes newer or up-and-coming bloggers who share their story or thoughts in a “lovely” manner, giving them recognition and helping them reach more viewers. 
In order to “accept” the award the nominated blogger must follow several guidelines.

The Rules for accepting the Award(s):

    1. Thank and link back to the awesome person who nominated you.
    2. Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to your post and/or blog.
    3. Share 7 things about yourself.
    4. Nominate up to 15 other bloggers and comment on their blogs to let them know.

So, first, thank you Judith Arnopp for this wonderful compliment and opportunity. I love your blog and am sure others will too. 

Now then, seven things about me.

1 First things first. I keep house for Wellington, a gentle black cat [but he's boss, as cats always are.]

2 When not engaged in cat duties, I write travel articles, and tales of adventure and romance set in the Regency era. Here's my first story, which was shortlisted for the RNA Romance Prize. In a way, I combine both types of writing as research for a story often involves travel. 

3 I'm a closet Queen Fan. There could only ever be one Freddie * * ~~**~~ [that's my little rhapsody] and his songs are silk and steel.

4 I learned to embroider in silks from my great-aunt. I'm not sure she'd approve of the way I developed this into bead embroidery with lots of sparkle and glitter. This one is inspired by a Turkish folk song about the mountains and the town far below.

5 My mother's family are Welsh and they all sang in choirs. My aunt was a trained opera singer - but to everyone's consternation, I can't sing a note.

6 Perhaps the Welsh side comes through a bit as I love voices and never know anyone until I know their voice.

7 I love exploring small, out-of-the way countries, that still maintain their old traditions. Recently I went to Albania and was delighted by so many picturesque places from Shkodra in the north to Sarande in the south. Here's a photo of Mount Tomorri, taken from the massive citadel of Berat.

And now, it's my pleasure to introduce these Bloggers whose delightful blogs deserve the same kind of recognition.  Writer of romantic comedies.

http://elizabethcaulfieldfelt.wordpress. : reading, writing and no arithmetic Writer of contemporary romance Nicola Slade's Winchester mysteries Jane Risdon  Alys Einion Elaine Everest  Suzie Tullett Marilyn Brant Elizabeth Hanbury

Saturday, 5 July 2014

An unusual hero

The hero in Scandalous Lady is an enigmatic man, a diplomat and accustomed to command. The inspiration for his character came from a photo, which implied a serious personality yet at the same time someone who liked to tease. Of course, that is merely my interpretation of the photo. But I am grateful to Santiago Cabrera for inspiring a truly gorgeous hero for my tale.

Below is a small extract to show the hero at the beginning of the story, which is set in Constantinople in 1811.

She unplaited the tight braids, swearing as the string of pearls snagged repeatedly in her hair. At last she worked it free and pushing the pearls into her thick sash, she combed her fingers through her hair, relieved to feel it flowing free down her back and rising into its usual mass of curls.
            'Hah!' she muttered, encouraged by this small act of defiance, 'now perhaps I can smash a window.'
            She looked around for a suitable tool. Maybe a chair…? Feverishly she rushed to pick one up. Then froze as one of the doors opened and a tall, black-haired man appeared. He was dressed in a gorgeous tunic over silken oriental trousers. Gems winked on his chest. The door closed behind him and he advanced into the large room. He surveyed her with huge dark eyes. Olivia clutched the frame of the gilded chair as if it could hide her. She suddenly remembered her flimsy clothes and crossed her arms over her bosom.
            He came closer. 'Why so modest all at once?' he drawled. 'I know your reputation, Olivia Hartford.'
Olivia stared at him in shock. This was the man who had saved her from the snake, the man whose eyes mesmerised her. She had longed to meet him again. But now he was revealed as just another arrogant rake, like Lord Craybrook who had tried to compromise her and who had told such wild tales about her in the newspapers. She felt a surge of anger that everywhere in the world, men were always the same, intent on seduction and their own pleasure.
            He watched her face, his mouth curved in an ironic smile. Olivia felt her stomach churn. How could this man know what the London papers wrote in their gossip pages? Her knees shook as she realised why he had kidnapped her, and why she had been perfumed and dressed in these garments. At least he spoke English. She raised her chin defiantly. 'How dare you do this to me! I demand to be taken home at once.'
            He gave a short laugh. 'Oh, not at once. Later perhaps - after we have talked.'
            She was not going to ask what he meant by 'talk'. She glared at him to disguise the rising sense of fear, knowing that she was completely in his power. As if to confirm this, he strolled up to her and put a finger under her chin, forcing her face up. His large eyes were closer now than ever before but Olivia did not waste a second admiring them. She thrust her knee up but he was too quick and moved back, laughing.
            'You have spirit,' he admitted, 'I like that in a woman. But I guessed it when I saw the colour of your hair.' He frowned. 'I gave orders that your hair was to be braided with pearls. The effect would be pretty against the red. Why did they not obey?' His tone implied there would be a severe punishment.
            Olivia blinked in shock. So every detail of her appearance was due to his orders. 'But why - ' she began when the door opened again. To her astonishment a procession of servants appeared, bearing covered dishes. A huge brass tray was set upon a low frame and cushions placed by it. The tray was soon completely covered with exotic looking food. A delicious savoury aroma came to Olivia's nostrils, making her stomach rumble in protest at its emptiness.

            While these preparations were going on, she retreated to one of the windows and stood with her back to the room. Reflected in the glass she saw the man walk over to give some order to the doorkeeper. Her eyes widened as she watched how the folds of his heavy silk trousers shifted against the muscled contours of his long legs with each movement. It was incredibly alluring. Her mouth went dry.

( C) Beth Elliott 2014

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Captain's Dilemma by Gail Eastwood

Through a recent competition on The Risky Regencies Blog, I joined in a conversation with Regency author Gail Eastwood. And after the competiton closed, Gail informed me I had won a copy of her story, set in 1813, The Captain's Dilemma


by Gail Eastwood

Gail Eastwood’s story is a delightful Regency romance with a twist. It brings together two people who should be enemies – a French Captain and an English girl. From the dramatic start, we are drawn in to share the danger and the excitement of helping this escaped prisoner of war. Merissa is under pressure to accept her lifelong friend as a husband.  He has grown into a stodgy and predictable young man and she fears life with him would be secure but dull.
The French Captain may be the enemy but he quickly reveals himself as a man of honour and courage in the face of difficulties. Once Merissa meets him, she senses a kindred spirit and soon falls desperately in love with him. The dangers of aiding an enemy in a time of war add another layer to the story, with interesting details on the treatment of prisoners. And the villain is a constant and growing threat who so nearly succeeds in wrecking everything. This is a good and satisfying read, which will take you into the England of 1813. An additional bonus is the lyrical description of the slowly changing seasons, creating a wonderful sense of rural life in that era.

For more information about Gail and her books, see