Saturday, 10 December 2016

Fire and Ice. Can they ever mix?

A new Regency tales adventure.

             Set in Constantinople in 1811, SCANDALOUS LADY   is the story of a top ranking, ice-cold diplomat who encounters a fiery, rebellious artist  and thereafter, nothing goes to plan - for either of them!
Published by Endeavour Press               
Experience the city together with Olivia as she discovers the exotic mix of past and present, east and west in Constantinople, the " city of the world's desire ". 
                                                             Related image

                                     Dusk on the Golden Horn, 1845 - Ivan Aivazovsky

The Ciragan Palace, summer residence of the Sultan and his court. 

A narghile, a water pipe. In the coffeehouse she visits, Olivia takes only one puff but Lady Hester Stanhope is constantly smoking hers.

Image result for amadeo preziosi
Turkish Café -Picture by Amadeo Preziosi

Image result for Turkish food

The bewildering variety of food   [picture by TooIstanbul]


                             The splendid goods such as carpets

        and jewellery

     Transport - on land


  -and on water      [Transport pictures by Giovanni Brindisi, 1845]

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Interview with Regency Author, Beth Elliott by Lynette Rees

Interview with Regency Author, Beth Elliott

Hello, Beth, welcome to my blog. 
Hello Lynette. Thank you for inviting me. It’s lovely to have a chat.
You write Regency Romance and have recently had a book published by Endeavour Press called, ‘April and May’, could you tell readers a little about your book?april-and-may
Four years earlier Tom and Rose met and fell in love but both families disapproved and they were parted. They meet again in Constantinople. Circumstances force them to work together on a secret project. Rose now has a new admirer, handsome Kerim Pasha, the Sultan’s chief minister. Back in London, Tom and Kerim Pasha carry out their secret mission, with threats of violence never far away. Both wish to win Rose but it takes her a long time to understand her own feelings.
Is this your first book? Do you have any plans to write and publish any other books?
I’ve written six stories set in the Regency period. April and May has just been published as an e-book by Endeavour Press. It’s my first story using Constantinople [now Istanbul] as a setting, although the plot moves to London later on.
My next story, Scandalous Lady, is set entirely in Constantinople. That’s the story of an ice cold diplomat who meets a rebellious artist and thereafter, nothing goes to plan.
Who was your favourite character in ‘April and May’? And why?
I love all my main characters – no favourites, although I do have a soft spot for Sebastian. There’s a plot all ready for him to have his own story soon.
Is there any sort of theme throughout your book?
Very simply: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Did you learn anything from writing the story?
In terms of crafting the story there’s always more to learn. I feel pleased with some of my scenes but conveying character, events and setting while keeping the story flowing is a never-ending process.
Where do you usually write?
I have a small study [very untidy with books and papers in heaps] and prefer to write on the desktop, then edit on printed out pages. It gets messy!
Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever written?
When I stay with my long time French friend, she puts me in her study to write while she carries on with her endless DIY. [She has an enormous old farmhouse]. Every now and then she sticks her head round the door and asks ‘Are you writing?’ As she’s always holding either a hammer, an electric screwdriver or a saw, you bet I’m writing. It’s like that cartoon on Facebook where the stick figure with the gun says ‘Just write the damned novel’.
Tell me a little about your writing day…
I’m a night owl. In the day I may do research but the actual writing starts about 9pm and goes on until I run out of ideas or the characters get stroppy. They normally cooperate until at least midnight.
Do you have any writing advice for would be authors?
Writing is not easy but don’t get discouraged. Never throw anything you have written away. In a few days you’ll find something in there that is worth developing.
Which authors have you been influenced by?
I always loved tales of long ago and far away. As a child, Robert Louis Stevenson’s stories fired my imagination, and in a completely different vein I enjoyed Jane Austen. Then I sneaked my mother’s Georgette Heyer stories. I also like Louise Allen, Nicola Cornick and Loretta Chase. Then there’s Mary Balogh and Diane Gaston and, again showing an inclination for travel and adventure, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe stories – after watching the delectable Sean Bean in the TV films of them.
Can you tell readers something about yourself that would either amuse/interest/or surprise them?
I studied French and Italian [in England] and went to teach at a university in France. There I met my Turkish husband. He had also studied French and Italian [ in Turkey]; so we had two languages in common but then we both had to learn each other’s own language to speak to the members of our families.
If you could be anything other than an author, what would that something be?
An archaeologist. It involves history, travel and breathless excitement when you discover unexpected items from so long ago. You’ll notice there’s a whole family of archaeologists in April and May.
Finally, can you tell readers where they can find your books and where they can find your website/social media links online?
The best way to find my books is via my website
There’s a link there to my Amazon page as well as to Endeavour Press
I have a Blog called Regency tales – It’s mostly a well illustrated scrapbook of research for my stories, with a few interviews and travel notes.
I’m also on Facebook as Beth Elliott and on Twitter as @BethElliott.
Thanks for answering my questions and good luck with your new book! 
Thanks to you for the invitation. Your questions have made me think hard.  And in my grandmother’s language I’ll end by saying Diolch yn Fawr Iawn to you, Lynette.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The splendid Palace of Schools, Coimbra.

From 1544 the University of Coimbra has been situated in the Royal Palace of the Alaçova,
 at the very top of the hill in the city of Coimbra. The splendid setting has enhanced the  sense of identity and tradition in this very special place of study.
The vast courtyard of the university, looking towards the main entrance to what
 was originally the Throne Room of the palace.

The Grand Staircase leading to the Latin Way

The crowning glory of this impressive site is the Joanine Library. This was built in 1724 and is a marvel of Baroque architecture. It houses 30,000 books as well as thousands of manuscripts.

 The decor is highly ornate with red, green and gold everywhere. To protect
the books from damage by insects, especially moths, a colony of bats is allowed to live in
the library.

                               File:Biblioteca Joanina.jpg
The ground floor stacks and credenzas
Photo: By Trishhhh - Flickr: DSC_5156, CC BY 2.0,

The upper stacks
Photo By Ernesto von Rückert [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Historical author Lynette Rees is my guest

Multi-published author Lynette Rees writes stories set in her native South Wales.

Hello and welcome, Lynette. 

You’ve just published another novel. Could you tell us something about it?

Yes. My latest novel is called, The Workhouse Waif. It’s the story of a young girl called Megan Hopkins, who has to enter the workhouse with other family members after her father dies. Once inside, the family are all divided which is difficult for Megan to cope with, but even so, she tries to keep an eye on the youngest members. Cook, at the workhouse, sometimes sends Megan out to the town on errands for her. One day, Megan passes The Temperance Hall, where she hears the most beautiful, melodious voice, she has ever heard in her life. Little does she know she will soon encounter the lady who has ‘the voice of an angel’. Their paths are about to cross and what happens next is pure magic.

What led you to write about this theme?

I have a strong interest in local history. It all began around twenty years ago when I had to help the children with school projects which involved some research about this historic town of ours – Merthyr Tydfil. I enjoyed the projects so much, I found myself reading more into the history of the town, borrowing books from the library and taking photographs. St. Tydfil’s Union Workhouse is a building I’ve always been familiar with. When it closed as a workhouse, it later reopened as a local hospital. I was even born there! In later years, I worked for various organisations which held meetings there and even once worked there as a young nurse many moons ago! It’s a building I’ve often thought about over the years.

 What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The editing and revision. It’s not my favourite part of the writing process to be honest, but a necessary evil I have to accept! I think part of my dislike for this part of the process is because I’m so keen to see my work in print, my impatience if you like!

 And what was the most enjoyable part?

I think the most enjoyable part for me is always the first draft. It’s then I allow my imagination to run free. Although I researched thoroughly for this book, I’m a very character-led author in that the characters themselves dictate the story. I rarely plot all that much.

 You’ve already published a series of stories set in Wales at the turn of the last century. What motivated you to write about this period?

The series you mention is called, ‘The Seasons of Change’. I wrote about that particular time period from 1865 onwards because it tied in with some of my own family history. I discovered that I was a descendant from a wealthy family from Merthyr Tydfil – The Harmans. Many converted to Mormonism. They preached on the streets in this town and got stoned for their efforts, but still their faith remained strong. I was particularly inspired by William Harman’s story. He was a pioneer Mormon who left Merthyr to travel to his ‘Zion’ – Great Salt Lake in America. A wealthy uncle who was childless, offered to leave him all his money in his will, even though there were several other nephews who should have been benefactors, but William said, “No. I choose Zion and my faith.” Well words to that effect, so the other nephews eventually received all the wealth instead.

William left behind a wife and son in Wales. His wife would not convert to the faith. He remarried a Welsh widow in Utah and went on to have more children. He helped build the Mormon Tabernacle Church in Great Salt Lake (as it was known back then) and had a good living out there.

The man I’m directly descended from, Lewis Harman, my 3 x great grandfather, forged a very different path. He was a coal miner who was excommunicated from the religion for drunkenness. I often wonder if that hadn’t happened, would I be a Mormon myself today? Or maybe I wouldn’t even exist!

Also, as well as the family history which forms part of the story (fictionalised), there was a big (real life) accident in the village of Abercanaid where I live, in 1865—a pit explosion killed 34 men and boys. It happened just before Christmas that year, which got me thinking, what would Christmas have been like for the villagers that year?

And so, Black Diamonds was born. There are another 3 books in this saga series: White Roses, Blue Skies and Red Poppies. And who knows, I might even write another!

 What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Before beginning a book of this nature, I tend to read up on things beforehand, look at old photographs, maybe even visit the library, examine old maps and building locations, etc., then I write and research as I go along.

 How do you choose names for your characters?

I’m very fussy about character names, they have to suit the character themselves. Sometimes, I even change a name by the time it gets to the final draft if I think it’s not strong enough. One of my favourite characters in Black Diamonds is a gossipy Irish lady called, Maggie Shanklin. She’s my favourite all-time character in any of my books! I thought the name of Maggie sounded a bit Irish and maybe I came up with Shanklin from the Shanklin Road in Ireland, who knows, but I thought it fitted her character well! Although the Shanklin Road is in Northern Ireland and I see Maggie as being Southern Irish.

Another character in this book is an Amercian man called, Cooper Haines. I have no idea why I choose the name other than to me, the name Cooper seemed American to me. It seems to fit his personality well too and I could imagine him speaking in an American drawl.

You also write contemporary novels. What kind of subject inspires you in this genre?

Now that’s an interesting question! I’ve got ideas from my contemporary novels from all sorts of places! For example, I came up with the idea for the plot of ‘The Honey Trap’ after reading a newspaper article about honeytrappers! Those women who set up cheating men for their partners to see whether they will take the bait or not!

Other places I get ideas from are countries/places I’ve visited, even conversations, plotlines in soap operas [yes, I sometimes steal an initial idea and make it my own, but the story is always a different one!]

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

I think I’d like somewhere rural like Southern Ireland as I’ve never been there or stay in a Wooden cabin in Scandinavia. I have been to Sweden and loved it there but that was years ago!

 Which authors do you choose to read for pleasure?

One of my favourite authors at the moment is Dilly Court. Though this year via a reading group, I’ve also enjoyed the works of some new authors like, Nadine Dorries and L. J. Ross.

 What do you do when the inspiration falters?

Take a break from writing. I always think this recharges my batteries and then the writing flows freely again, rather like turning off a tap and turning it back on again.

How do you make time for writing?

Well if it means switching off the television, then I do so. So many people make excuses when it comes to writing, but over the years I’ve written just about anywhere and everywhere, on planes, buses, cars, doctors’ waiting rooms, cafes, etc. I’ll always make the time somehow.
What are some ways in which you promote your work?  Do you find that these add to or detract from your writing time?

I use Twitter and Facebook a lot as well as my blog -- which automatically posts to several social media accounts at the same time. I also find talking about my books at online forums and in real life at book signings etc., helps tremendously.
 What projects are you working on at present?

I’m just finishing off writing a crime fiction novel. Yes, I write that too, under the name of Lyn Harman. Then I plan to write another historical fiction novel about the match girl strike of 1888.

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

Keep going, you’ll get there in the end!

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

I must be getting faster! My last book, The Workhouse Waif, from first draft to publication, took just two months which has to be a record for me! Sometimes it takes six months or longer!

Thank you for interviewing me, Beth. I’ve really enjoyed answering your questions. 

Thank you for sharing your writing ideas and methods with us, Lynette.


Lynette Rees on Twitter

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

A new appearance

April and May by [Elliott, Beth]
                April and May 

has a new appearance. edited and with a new cover,
         thanks to  Endeavour Press

When they met in London in 1799, Rose Charteris and Tom Hawkesleigh fell instantly in love. 

But disapproving families and misunderstandings came between them, and the romance was over as quickly as it started. 

Five years later, Tom is working for the Turkish ambassador in Constantinople and he runs into Rose once again when they cross paths in the ambassador’s residence. 

Now a widow, and a fiercely independent woman, circumstances mean that Rose has no choice but to work with Tom on a top secret and dangerous document for the Sultan. 

Work in Constantinople becomes increasingly perilous, with spies from all sides desperate to find out what is planned. 

Even back in London, danger is not far away. 

Rose also has the burden of finding her place in high Georgian society, as well as trying to decide between the increasing charms of both Tom and ambassador Kerim Pasha. 

Will Rose be able to evade the increasing threat to her well-being that her work has led to? 

And will she succumb to her desires and give Tom back her heart? 

Spanning the magical lands of Constantinople and the traditional streets of London, April and May is a heart-warming tale of a love that knows no boundaries. 

You can find the book by clicking on this link

Looking across the Golden Horn from Pera.

File:John Cordrey - A Gentleman with His Pair of Bays Harnessed to a Curricle - Google Art Project.jpg

Tom's curricle, when he returns to London.


The Rosetta Stone

Yes, these all belong in the story...........

Monday, 22 August 2016

Tepelena : Ali Pasha and Lord Byron

From Gjirokastra a good road leads north to Tepelena, a distance of about twenty miles. The wide valley is fertile and peaceful, with the mountains rising slowly to the east. The river Vjosa meanders through wide sandbanks along the valley floor to the right of the road. 

At the entrance to the town is a large statue of Ali Pasha Tepelena, Governor of Southern Albania from 1788 - 1822. 

His reputation made Lord Byron curious to meet him. In 1809, Byron and his friend John Cam Hobhouse, travelled up to Tepelena and stayed as guests of the Pasha for a while.
They were received in the mighty castle, which was partly rebuilt and fortified by Ali Pasha. It overlooks the river valley, controlling all approaches and offering splendid views. 

The main square in front of the castle is now called Lord Byron Square
 - Sheshi Lord Bajron, with a large plaque showing the poet in Albanian dress.

In a letter to his mother, dated November, 1809, Byron wrote a description of his host:

His Highness is sixty years old, very fat and not tall, but with a fine face, light blue eyes and a white beard, his manner is very kind and at the same time he possesses that dignity which I find universal amongst the Turks. He has the appearance of anything but his real character, for he is a remorseless tyrant, guilty of the most horrible cruelties, very brave and so good a general, that they call him the Mahometan Buonaparte. Napoleon has twice offered to make him King of Epirus, but he prefers the English interest and abhors the French as he himself told me. He is of so much consequence that he is much courted by both, the Albanians being the most warlike subjects of the Sultan, though Ali is only nominally dependent on the Porte. He has been a mighty warrior, but is as barbarous as he is successful, roasting rebels etc. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

The fascinating city of Butrint, Albania

In the very south of Albania lies the extraordinary site of Butrint. It is about 24 km south of Sarande [just a mile across the sea from Corfu ] and is almost totally surrounded by water.

Butrint is a microcosm of Mediterranean history, with traces of all the great civilisations of the region represented there. Legend says that the city was founded by exiles fleeing from Troy. The site was inhabited in the 8th century BC. 

The Lion Gate

In the 4th century BC a healing sanctuary was created, dedicated to the god Asclepius. 


The theatre was part of the complex, as watching drama was considered to be a good treatment for illness. When the Romans conquered the city in the 1st Century AD, they added a frontage to this structure. Concerts and plays are still performed here.

 When we visited in May, the area was partially flooded, due to a week of intense rain in the Balkans. Flooding was the reason the city was eventually abandoned, with the people moving north to Sarande.

It is a delight to wander through the eucalyptus groves, with nightingales singing overhead. The peaceful atmosphere of the whole site makes a visit a special experience. From Greek theatre to Roman bath-house to Venetian watch tower or Byzantine basilica, the remains are all worth viewing. And all around are glimpses of the blue water of the Vivari Channel, where fishermen are at work as they have been for thousands of years.
Since 1992 Butrint has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a Wetland Site of International Importance.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Gjirokastra [Part 2] The city of stone

The finest example of an Albanian Ottoman house, built in 1813

Cascading downhill from the castle to the valley floor, the stone houses of Gjirokastra are unique. The tall buildings range from a simple tower structure, three or four stories high, to houses with one or two wings, as in the beautiful Zekate House near the top of the hill.

                           The finest example of an Albanian Ottoman house, built in 1813

The ground floor was for storage and defence. Living quarters were on the higher floors, with one room having a large chimney hood over a fireplace. this was the winter room. In the larger rooms there were balconies for life during the heat of summer.
                View across the town and the Drinos Valley from the summer balcony.
 The ‘guest room’, where visitors were received, was always the most ornate room, with carved and sculpted ceilings and fine rugs and cushions. All around the walls are divans, covered with kilims or rough linen sheets. These served as seating during the day and as beds at night.
Across the whole town the roofs of the old houses are made of thick, stone tiles. This gives the city a uniform appearance when viewed from above.

 From below, there is a mix of white, Ottoman style walls, with the local grey stone. It is an attractive city. However, while the Museum zone of the town is protected, illegal building work goes on. In addition, every year some houses collapse beyond repair.
The house of the writer Ismail Kadare is under restoration after being destroyed by fire in 1999. 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Gjirokastra, hauntingly beautiful. Part 1, The Castle.

Gjirokastra is another picturesque Albanian city, which grew and spread out gradually from its imposing castle towering over the town. The castle is an enormous defensive fortification, brooding and watchful on top of its hill. It controls the Drinos Valley and the passes through the Lunxheria Mountains, a jagged mass topped with snow even in May.

The area inside the castle walls is vast. About half the internal area is currently closed for restoration. The main gallery that is open houses a display of cannon from various times.  

There are several large parade grounds, one of them enormous enough to house the staging for the International Festival of Folk Music.
In 1929, King Zog had the vaults turned into a prison for his enemies, with punishment cells. There is a brooding atmosphere about the place, which may be lightened when all the planned restorations are completed.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Aunt Emily and The Rosetta Stone

It was on 19th July in 1799 that the Rosetta Stone was discovered near Cairo in Egypt. It soon fell from the hands of the French to the English and was brought to the British Museum in 1802.  The stone bears an inscription written in three alphabets: hieroglyphics, Demotic and Greek. Many scholars attempted to unravel the hieroglyphs over many years before Jean-François Champollion
 succeeded, helped in part by the work of Thomas_Young_(scientist)
    Rosetta Stone
Rosetta Stone
 April and May deals with an eccentric couple who devote their lives to Egyptian archaeology, while their niece, Rose, tries to keep the family in good order. In the following excerpt, they put on an exhibition of treasures they have brought back from Egypt at the British Museum. Rose, bored by the event, looks at the Rosetta Stone and wonders what the ancient language sounded like.
The exhibition was a success. Visitors had crowded in from the moment it opened. Two hours later, Rose could see her aunt and Helena still talking busily to a crowd gathered round the table where they had set out the papyri, together with sheets of paper showing some of the symbols. Judging by the noise in that part of the hall, everyone was excited by this ancient writing.
She glanced over to where her uncle and Max were escorting a group of gentlemen round the vast hall. She could hear animated talk and much laughter so it seemed they were enjoying their tour. All the artefacts found by the expedition had been set out, together with a number of statues and stone plaques brought back a few years earlier.
Rose’s task was to explain facts about the pots and figurines. She had a constant stream of young ladies and their mamas attracted to these fascinating items. She also kept an eye on the table where all her drawings of the pyramids at Giza were displayed. It made her smile to hear the exclamations of wonder at the grand scale of these buildings. To Rose’s secret surprise, Ancient Egyptian civilisation seemed set to become a fashion.
When at last there was a lull in the crowd, Rose wandered over to the Rosetta Stone with its perfectly chiselled lines of text in three languages. One day, perhaps, her aunt and Helena would work out the meaning of the hieroglyphs. She stroked a finger over the carved symbols, smiling a little as she wondered what that language would sound like.
Then a voice spoke behind her. She went rigid with shock, her finger still on the line of hieroglyphic text. Surely it was not possible… and yet, she knew that deep and mellow tone. Her heart began to beat faster.                                         

April and May
             April and May