Monday, 26 November 2012

The Next Big Thing #thenextbigthing

The Next Big Thing:
 Scandalous Lady

The latest game for authors in the blogosphere is to tag each other for The Next Big Thing. Once tagged, an author answers a few questions, then tags other writers, with their permission.

This time I was tagged by Jane Risdon.
You can read a wide variety of items by Jane at

Jane loves books as magical things and of course I would agree with her that the smell and feel of them is the first part of the spell. Once inside a good book, you are in another world, one that is always there for you to go back to. Jane's WIP is about the sleuth Lavinia Birdsong, retired from MI5 to live in an Oxfordshire village. But when mystery and murder occur, she has to go back to solving the crimes. We are waiting eagerly for Lavinia to complete her first adventure, so we can read it….

Now for.......The Next Big Thing.

What is the working title of your book?

          Scandalous Lady

Where did the idea come from for the book?

For me, things start by looking at pictures. I have a large collection of faces and buildings, gathered from magazines, etc. One or two faces suddenly seem to have a story attached and a few scenes of their story are immediately clear to me, although I'm not sure where in the tale these events take place. It's as if the story is already complete, but I must work to uncover it, little by little.
This time, my hero looked gravely out at me and his character was evident: proud, subtle and determined, yet he also liked to tease. His dark colouring indicated an exotic setting, so Istanbul, a city I love, seemed to be part of his story. Lady Hester Stanhope spent some months in Istanbul in 1811, when things were settling down after a period of great turmoil. And setting the tale in that year allowed me to add in a few details about Sultan Selim III, whose life fascinates me. Another photo of a sultry young lady with a fearless look completed the basic mix. She was going to challenge my gorgeous but arrogant hero to the limit.

What genre does your book fall under?

Historical romance with a dash of adventure.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

The hero's looks are based on Santiago Cabrera. It was the actor's thoughtful pose that initially inspired me. I also think he has the right voice to play Selim / Henri, who is part French, part Turkish. Olivia is a redhead and very lively. Carey Mulligan would provide a wonderful, impish contrast to my rather serious Selim / Henri.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

No matter the obstacles, love will find a way through them.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I hope to find a publisher to take the story. Agents are not keen on Regency set stories, although the public like them.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About eight months writing time but before I could complete it, I needed to go to Istanbul and to the Pyrenees for research - so just over a year altogether. But eventually it took longer because my first draft is always very different from the final version of the story. And the chateau in the Pyrenees was so wonderful I went back for a second visit.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I feel very presumptuous even to mention myself in the same sentence as such a prestigious author but the closest would be Loretta Chase's Mr Impossible - because both stories are about an English person coping with life in a very different culture. It's also clear that both she and I like exotic settings.
Here is a view of Istanbul / Constantinople from Pera, where the European community lived, looking south across the Golden Horn.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I love to read about intrepid women travelers. For a long time I was looking for an opportunity to put Lady Hester Stanhope into a story. As she spent time in Istanbul, that settled both the time and place for me. Her independent lifestyle makes her a role-model for Olivia, my heroine. In addition, I have to confess to a special interest in the Ottoman Sultan, Selim III, the gentle musician monarch. He tried to reform his empire but he was murdered by reactionary soldiers in 1808.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It is an Ottoman Regency story and opens the door on an exotic world. As this is mainly seen through Olivia's eyes, the reader can share her experience of dipping in and out of a very different way of life and then return  to more familiar customs. Here is the kasir [pavilion, part of a royal palace] where Selim stayed while working for the Sultan. This little gem is situated on the north shore of the Golden Horn. It was the favourite palace of Sultan Selim III, and is now the National Music Museum.

Now I'm tagging Cindy Nord to tell us about her latest stories on The Next Big Thing. There is a lot of fascinating information about Cindy, her writings and her interest in the American Civil War Reenactment Society on her website at :

Cindy writes a luscious blend of history and romance with fast-paced action and emotionally driven characters. She has been a finalist or won many times in chapter competitions, including the Romance Writers of America National Golden Heart Contest. Her latest novel, "NO GREATER GLORY" is a love story set against the tapestry of the American Civil War.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Istanbul live

  The Galata Tower

                             Aynalikavak Kasri - the Pavilion of the Mirrored Poplars

Click on this link to view various parts of Istanbul. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Where's the Bear?

When speaking of bears in the Pyrenees, people always say 'the bear' in the singular. Sadly, that is almost the truth.
The brown bear was once present in every region of France. Over the centuries, hunting, poisoning, deforestation and poaching led to a massive decline in the bear population. Their last refuge was in the Pyrenees. Here the bears were both loved and hated. They were hunted for their skins and, in a poor region where any meat was acceptable - badger stew and crow pie figured in local recipes - for their meat. The forests nearly disappeared as miners used the wood for charcoal, new roads crossed valleys where the bears had previously been able to live undisturbed. The local farmers were always hostile to the presence of bears who could kill as many as twenty sheep in a single attack. Bear cubs were taken from their mothers and trained to perform. This was a tradition in the Couserans region, where the living was particularly hard.

And there were always the hunters, eager to shoot a bear for sport. When a hunter shot Cannelle [Cinnamon] the last native Pyrenean female bear in 2004, the population was reduced to just five male bears. Brown bears from Slovenia have been brought in, and the bear population is currently about twenty. There is violent opposition from the farmers of the Ariege region, who want the bears to disappear permanently. During the summer months, their animals - cows, sheep, goats and horses - are taken up to roam freely in the lush upper valleys. This is called "Estive". As the bear is an opportunistic hunter, the farmers risk losses to their stock. The struggle over the bear is far from over.

Safety leaflets for walkers in the central Pyrenees offer the following advice:

-- If you come across a bear at less than 50 metres, help it to realise you are there by moving slowly and speaking softly. Never shout.

 -- Move away gradually, keeping away from any path the bear might use to escape.


They state that if the bear rears up on its hind legs, it is not being aggressive, only curious.

How brave would you feel at such a moment?

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Saint-Lizier in Couserans, Ari├Ęge.

 Once this was an important bishopric but the town was gradually deserted for the town of Saint Girons further down the valley. The old town has been restored and is an absolute gem, gently slumbering on its hill. There are arcaded squares and quiet streets following the line of the massive medieval walls of the two cathedrals.

The cathedral of Saint-Lizier is an example of Pyrenean Romanesque style. It dates from the 12th Century and contains 12th century frescos, discovered behind plaster during restoration.

It also has a two storey cloister with marble columns, some of which have carved capitals. This is a wonderfully peaceful place to sit on a hot day.

Next door to the cathedral is a hospital and pharmacy, still equipped with its surgical tools and medicines as it was in the 18th century.  [see later post].

[Thanks to Lucie Rochelle for the photos]