Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Inspiration: what sets the process in motion?


In her monthly column "The Ideas Store" in Writers' Forum, Paula Williams examines how fellow writers find inspiration. 

For the issue No 192, published on 14th October 2017, I was one of the three featured authors. 


Each one of us has a different method of finding that initial spark to set a story forming in the mind. Here is the way I get drawn into creating another story, as recounted by Paula.

Historical novelist Beth Elliott writes stories of adventure, intrigue and romance, set in the time of Napoleon. Her late husband was a Turkish poet and linguist, and Beth has lived in France, Turkey and England, so she has a great mix of backgrounds and experiences to weave into her stories. Her latest publication is Scandalous Lady, published by Endeavour Press in December 2016.

 'For me, inspiration for a story always begins with a picture, maybe from an advert in a magazine or even a fashion catalogue' she says. 'That’s where I saw Olivia with her red curls piled high and a provocative look - the rebel! And soon her opposite appeared, leaning over a railing, his huge dark eyes calm and steady, but from the little smile I could tell he liked to tease. It was definitely a tale of ice meets fire.
Somehow the whole setting and the plot appeared so quickly, so easily, it felt as if I was simply recording events, rather than creating them. Even the year came quickly: 1811, the year Lady Hester Stanhope spent in Istanbul -or Constantinople, as it was called then. This real-life socialite and adventurer would serve as a model for my Olivia. It was also the year the Turkish Sultan was negotiating with the Russian Tsar to end a long-running war, so my hero was a diplomat. He suspects Olivia of being a spy, and sparks soon fly between them.'

    

                                                               Scandalous Lady        


[Beth adds: Scandalous Lady is the first story in the series about the Montailhac family. The next story,  The Rake and His Honour, is also available from Endeavour Press ]
                                                                                         
                                    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 PAULA WILLIAMS is a writer, speaker, workshop leader and tutor.

You can see her wide range of writing skills by following this link







Tuesday, 31 October 2017

"Over the hills and far away..."



Fans of the Sharpe TV series will perhaps hear an echo of the melody as they read that title. It kept sliding into my head during a recent visit to the wilds of north-east Portugal, in the Peneda-Geres National Park. The landscape of sharp [sorry] hills, winding roads and mighty rivers is breath-taking. 



                     View across the River Lima from the Roman bridge at Ponte da Lima


St Barbara's Garden in Braga

 and the main square with several sets of fountains








There are frequent festivals and feast days in Portugal. The picture above shows the square being prepared for the festival of Braga Branco, a 24 hour festival of dancing and music.

File:Casarotas.jpg


Dolmens at high altitude in the Serra Amarela. A suitable landscape to imagine a troop of British soldiers scouting for signs of the French army in an episode of Sharpe. As we didn't see any such thing, here's a couple of pictures to fill that missing link.

                  Richard Sharpe and his faithful sidekick, Sergeant Harper





Related image


         All in all, plenty to set the imagination working on a new tale set in Portugal.

Friday, 8 September 2017

A magic carpet

My latest visit to Turkey involved stops in Istanbul, Bursa, Ankara and finally in Adana.

Image result for small map of turkey




The first activity was visiting family in the leafy suburbs of the Asian side of Istanbul. It is such a pleasant area, with parks full of flowering trees and shrubs, and hydrangeas in bloom spilling out over their garden walls into the streets. As always, the cats of Istanbul are peeping out from the bushes, hoping for treats.

A few days later I took the Sea-bus across the Sea of Marmara to the outskirts of Bursa. Even though it was mid May, the peaks of Uludag, the Turkish Mount Olympus were still covered in snow. 
 In the foothills, the vast olive groves were a delight. The olive trees were a mass of frothy green tops on gnarled trunks, with drifts of red poppies stretching out under them. The region is famous for its delicious olives, called Gemlik olives from the name of the nearby town.

Related image


The next stop was Ankara for lots of warm hospitality and the pleasure of joining in a wedding celebration. The family breakfast was a remarkable feast each morning and a time to exchange anecdotes, jokes and news as we helped ourselves from the heaped dishes of fruit, olives, cheeses, conserves and pastries.




All too soon it was time to move on again, this time to Adana, where the weather at last relented and the sun made an appearance. Again I received a heart warming welcome from dear friends and family. 

So far my travels had been by boat, car and train, but one afternoon in Adana a very special carpet made an appearance. It was made by the great-grandmother of our hostess. She had woven a Turkish samovar as part of the design. The colours were absolutely fresh and vibrant and when it was spread on the floor,it did seem we could have flown off on it. However, nobody dared to put a foot on such a precious heirloom.



 I spent a pleasant afternoon talking to the Turkish-American Ladies English Reading Group in Adana. The members had read my story, Scandalous Lady, and invited me to explain why I chose to set the tale in Constantinople in the year 1811.

We had an interesting discussion on what fires a writer's imagination and how a story develops from things seen, from memories and how the plot can change due to the characters taking over the story. And, as always when a group of ladies gets together in a Turkish home, the event ends with a splendid feast. The kind hospitality of everyone on this occasion made it truly an afternoon to remember with pleasure.






Saturday, 22 July 2017

My hero is a caveman

my hero is actually a caveman. Poor Arnaut.

When he first appears in the story, he walks out from the depths of a cavern. He’s hiding there for a very special reason [ *see older post about The Heavenly Horse]. The local people are familiar with the many ancient caverns in the region and use them from time to time for shelter. In this case, Louise and her local guide take refuge from a fierce storm and to escape a pair of Napoleon’s secret agents.
Arnaut is not at all pleased to see them invading his hideout  and Louise would rather be anywhere than enclosed in the dark and eerie bowels of the earth.
Entry Gallery
Photo: Heinrich Wendel (© The Wendel Collection, Neanderthal Museum]
She is oppressed by being shut in this warren of rough and uneven areas, with unexpected columns of rock jutting up from the ground or dipping down from above to bump against her head. When at last Arnaut leads her back to the entrance, she’s overjoyed to see the blue sky and green hills.

Louise sets off to complete her mission. As she rides away, she wonders what Arnaut has done for him to be living in such a bleak place. But Louise comes from London and everything about the Pyrenees is strange to her at this point in the story.
The endless steep mountains and deep valleys…..



The small, sure-footed Merens horses
The mysterious Lake of Bethmale    
but she’ll learn…………..
                        …and my Caveman? Acually, he’s very charming.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

The very nicest rake in France and England


For charm - and kindness, Arnaut has no equal.


The Paperback edition of  The Rake And His Honour  is now available at this link

https://tinyurl.com/y9e25cto


In the window embrasure near the door of the boudoir, Arnaut was waiting. He turned to watch her approach, his smile growing wider as she came near. It was like being a fish on a hook. In spite of all her warnings to herself, she could not resist those gleaming almond eyes, that charming smile. You must not, her mind screamed, but her heart screamed back, Just this once.... Fool, fool! her mind warned even as she quickened her step.
‘Alone at last,’ he breathed, seizing her hand and turning it over to press a kiss on her wrist. The last shreds of her common sense vanished at the sensations this caused. To hide her hurried breathing, she made a show of turning him towards the window. Taking his right hand, she examined it thoroughly. The puckered scars were paling but still very obvious. She shook her head sadly. ‘I fear you will carry these marks always.’
His mouth curved in a grin. ‘No matter, it still works properly.’ He reached the scarred hand up to stroke her hair. ‘See?’ His face softened as his dark eyes dropped from hers to focus on her mouth. He glanced quickly up again then slipped his free hand to the back of her neck, drawing her closer. The fragrance of his cologne added to the sensory pleasure of his touch and the caressing murmur of his voice. She was lost. Her breathing quickened and a quiver ran through her. She clutched at the lapel of his jacket.
He angled his head. His lips were about to touch hers when there came the pounding of feet on the stairs.

Monday, 24 April 2017

The Heavenly Horse



Heavenly Horse

Akhal-Teke horses are well-known for speed and endurance, intelligence, and for the distinctive metallic sheen of their coat. Natives of Turkmenistan, the bloom on the coat acts as camouflage in the shimmering desert heat. Prized for their beauty as well as their strength and skill, they are known as the Heavenly Horses. These horses are thought to be one of the oldest existing breeds in the world.
No wonder Arnaut de Montailhac is so proud of his Akhal-Teke, Zephyre. [in Scandalous Lady ]
… Olivia was still fascinated by the shimmering golden horse.
‘Mademoiselle,’ said the newcomer, ‘I am delighted to meet you at last. And I agree with you,’ he waved a hand expressively, ‘ My horse is the most beautiful creature you ever saw, n’est-ce pas?’
She was obliged to laugh. ‘Monsieur. Truly, he took my breath away. I have never seen such a proud animal and his coat is extraordinary – like metal.’
He wheeled round to ride beside her as they turned back towards the city. ‘This is Zephyre. He is an Akhal-Teke, a horse from the deserts of Turkmenistan,’ he explained as she shook her head in puzzlement. ‘He is fleet and strong, hey, my Zephyre?’ He leaned forward to pat the animal’s neck and the stallion tossed his head proudly.
The gentleman had a pronounced French accent but he spoke English without any hesitation. Olivia studied him from under her lashes as they rode on. She had noticed that Richard merely exchanged a nod with this gentleman. So they had met before. When? Why had he appeared now? She felt darkly suspicious but what could happen? They were merely riding back home after all. Soon she would be shut up inside four walls for another day of heartache. Her throat closed up as the misery surged up again. Don’t think ahead, enjoy the rest of this ride. At least for the moment she could admire this superb new horse.
She studied at the shining golden stallion as he trotted gracefully along. At once, her companion smiled and nodded. ‘I see you truly appreciate him. But these horses only accept one master.’
‘How splendid,’ she said wistfully, ‘He moves so beautifully.’
That was enough encouragement. The gentleman launched into a list of all Zephyre’s qualities. By the time he finally stopped for breath, Olivia had caught some of his enthusiasm. She managed a smile.
                                                                                        scandalous-lady
                                                                             

Friday, 7 April 2017

Regency author Vonnie Hughes is my guest



Hello Vonnie. Thank you for accepting my invitation to talk about your latest book.

Could you tell us something about the subjet?

DANGEROUS HOMECOMING was originally titled COMING HOME. It is a Regency historical and was aimed at the British market, but I have since discovered that the majority of my readers are American. Under the circumstances, when my U.K. publisher closed down, I retitled the novel, made some alterations and self-published it. The audio rights to the original are with another British publisher.
                        
                                                                      
What led you to write about this theme?

Most of all I like the theme of redemption. The only fairy tales that called to me were ones where the hero or heroine attained redemption after struggling through great adversity and they were redeemed by the strength of their character(s).

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

It entailed the usual heavy research which is essential when writing in the historical genre. But as I come from the Antipodes and did not have information at my fingertips such as a British writer would, I had to make doubly sure that my facts were correct.

And what was the most enjoyable part?

Doing the editing! I love editing; writing the story not so much. But as you edit it all falls together and you can think, “I like this book.”

What motivated you to write about this period?

The Peninsular Wars are a favourite setting for me. After reading Georgette Heyer in my teens, I subsequently married a man with an antique arms collection which included various swords, duelling pistols and shotguns from the Regency era. Recently we travelled to Spain and saw a couple of the 1809-1812 battlefields for ourselves. 

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

Our family owns many history books and that is where I start. Sure, there are great references online, but you have to remember that much of the information online is uploaded by people with an axe to grind. Whatever I read online I then verify from library books or more importantly, personal diaries.

How do you choose names for your characters?

Now I must admit that with the contemporary romantic suspenses I write, deciding on names is much easier! I can even invent one or two if I like. But when you write historicals you must use era-appropriate names and it is surprising how narrow the field is. There are only so many derivatives of Elizabeth and Mary and Henry. It can be a real challenge to name characters appropriately, particularly if one is perhaps the villain or anti-hero and needs a darker name.

What elements do you consider make a character believable?

I am not sure. Some authors have a gift for making the most improbable characters sound authentic. I’m referring to writers such as Sandra Brown (contemporary suspense) and Amanda Quick (historical romance). I think the depth of a character’s emotions make them believable more than anything else. A lacklustre characterisation makes for a light-weight hero or heroine.  

If you could go somewhere for a few months to write, where in the world would you go?

Italy, Italy and did I say – Italy?

Which authors do you choose to read for pleasure?

I re-read Georgette Heyer – not just her historicals but also her detective fiction. Other authors I love to re-read are Mary Stewart and Beverly Barton. Authors still writing whose work I enjoy and learn from are Tami Hoag, Lisa Gardner, Jayne Ann Krentz, Michael Connelly and J.D. Robb. Those are well-known writers. But I also number favourites among less known writers such as Maris Soule, K.M. Rockwood and Daniel Silva.  

What do you do when the inspiration falters?

Get angry with myself! I read and read and read and watch mindless T.V. And I people-watch. Eventually my faltering imagination fires up again.

 How do you make time for writing?

Lock out the world and put fingers on keys.

What are some ways in which you promote your work?  Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?

Oh, I hate, hate marketing. My blog site remains vacant for months at a time. But I belong to many online Yahoo groups and Facebook groups and I try to do a soft sell on those. I absolutely detest that “Hey, look at me!” stuff. Occasionally I get asked to do talks at one of the local libraries, and I quietly leave my personalised pens lying around on the shelves at bookshops or in libraries. I also belong to a lot of writing groups generally.

What projects are you working on at present?

Almost finished a romantic suspense (with the emphasis on suspense) for the Lobster Cove series at The Wild Rose Press. I also have a few bits and pieces of half written historicals and I’m going through them at the moment discarding some ideas and developing others.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Take your writing more seriously. You would have succeeded better if you’d not looked on it as a hobby but more of a career. Shove other distractions aside.

How long on average does it take you to write a book?

Depends on the book. Two Regency historicals (one named THE SECOND SON and a Regency novella called ENTANGLEMENT) took only four months each. But mainly my books take a good year to write.

Do you find Social media useful?

Useful? She grinds her teeth. Yes and no. It can waste your time, but it does help to get the word out there.

 Do you use elements from your day job in your plots?

Yes, definitely (in my contemporary suspenses I mean).

Thank you, Vonnie, for sharing your ideas and writing tips with us. Now let's look at the details of how to find your novel.

                           
On April 2  I self-published a Regency re-release. It was originally called COMING HOME, but if you look at Amazon you will see that there is a plethora of books all with that name.  I altered some of the text to a more universal standard since the original publishers were British and upgraded the title to DANGEROUS HOMECOMING

It is available here:


They are both scarred by war; she because of the shattered men she nurses; he because of the loss of friends and the horrors he must endure daily.

Colwyn Hetherington has a chance to put it all behind him and return to England. Juliana Colebrook desperately wants to go to England to seek out her relatives. They take an almighty chance and travel together, setting in train a series of events that neither could have anticipated.

With only their love to sustain them, they clash head-on with the reality of England, 1813.