The Romance Reviews

The Romance Reviews

A Spell in Provence

A Spell in Provence

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Taking the time to dream...



It is the time of year when most people look back on the past twelve months and think about their hopes and dreams for the New Year. I have been very lucky this year both personally and professionally. As a mother, I am thankful for the love and the immense joy my children and family bring to my life. As a writer, I fufilled my dream of having a novel published, and was lucky to sign a contract for the publication of another!

I hope 2013 brings yet new contracts and new adventures, because every story I write is for me a fantastic, thrilling adventure...but I am yet to complete any of the three new ms I started with great enthusiasm in 2012. The problem has been the lack of time - time to sit down and write, but more than anything, the lack of time to relax, think, wonder. Time to dream and work things out in my head before I actually write.

I know this is down to holding a full-time teaching post these past few months, but I am not the only writer who works full-time and has a family to look after! So what happened? I have developed this terrible anxiety to make every single minute of 'writing time' count. So when I finally sit down at the computer in the evening, I rush into the story because I feel I must make the most of the little time I have. The result is that more often than not, I'm dissatisfied with what I've written and delete everything. I then end up frustrated and even more anxious.What if I never complete another story?

So this has got to be my writing resolution for 2013.

To take the time to dream, even if it means not typing or writing a single word! To forget about the pressure to write so many words every day. To let my mind wander, follow improbable paths, enter a world of fantasy and infinite possibilities.

Because good things do happen when you follow dreams and improbable paths. At least sometimes.

If there's one thing I learned this year, it's that dreaming is never a waste of time. Rushing is.

Happy 2013! Bonne Annee.




Sunday, 23 December 2012

'Angel Heart' Holiday Teaser No2!

As promised, here is the rest of chapter one, from my historical romance 'Angel Heart'.  You can read the first three pages on the previous post!


.../...
He clicked his heels together and bowed his head.
"At your service, Madame."
"Please take a seat." She pointed to an armchair near the fireplace and sat opposite him.
"I have a letter from Malleval for you." He pulled a thick envelope out of the leather bag which was strapped to his belt, leant closer and handed it over.
She glanced at the red wax seal bearing the letters A M in the centre. She was eager to read Malleval's letter, but not wanting to appear ill-mannered, she dropped the papers in her lap.
"Did you have a pleasant journey, Capitaine?"
"Not really." He pulled a face. "The captain is unfamiliar with the waters in these parts. He didn't know about the currents and the reefs and our ship almost tore open on some rocks at the entrance of the bay. It was only by a stroke of luck we avoided disaster. A woman warned us from the cliff." His lips stretched in a condescending smile. "The crew said she was an angel descended on a ray of sunshine."
Marie-Ange cleared her throat, embarrassed. "It was no angel, I'm afraid, only me. The cutter was heading straight for the Devil's Tooth and I…"
Capitaine Saintclair narrowed his eyes to look at her. Her heartbeat quickened under his scrutiny and an awkward blush heated her face. 
A smile stretched his lips. "Well, thank you, Madame. I owe you my life."
She nodded but made no answer.
"When can you be ready to leave for France? The cutter is moored in Wellcombe harbour for now, but I want to sail back as soon as possible."
Robert raised his head. Marie-Ange was aware of him staring at her with pleading eyes and her heart twisted a bit at the pain her leaving would cause him. 
"I have been expecting you for some weeks," she said. "My things are ready. We can leave tomorrow if you like."
            "Not tomorrow! Not so soon!" Robert jumped to his feet, stormed out of the drawing room, and slammed the door behind him.
"A hot-blooded young male," Capitaine Saintclair remarked, arching his eyebrows.
Embarrassed by Robert's outburst, Marie-Ange looked down. The sight of her dirty boots met her appalled gaze. Whatever must the captain think of her? She shuffled her feet under her dark grey skirt, itself damp and splattered with mud, and sat upright. At least Saintclair wouldn't find fault with her demeanour and clothing. She still wore half-mourning clothes—her dresses mostly dark greys, browns and greens, with high collars and long sleeves.
"I apologise for Robert," she said stiffly. "He is very protective of me. He is also young and has lacked the presence of a man here. His brother—my husband—was a Royal Navy Commander and was reported missing after the battle of Corunna." She could never say Christopher was dead. She never truly believed it was so.
"I'm sorry." Saintclair sounded sincere.
She let out a sigh and stared out into the fire, her fingers playing with her wedding band. A tingling sensation on her skin soon made her glance up. The Capitaine was looking at her, his blue eyes serious and intense once again. Heat spread over her cheeks and throat.
"Please come with me," she said, standing up. "It is time you were shown to your room."
She rang the service bell and led him into the hallway where an elderly servant soon joined them.
"Make a fire in the green room, Francis, and have some hot water and tea brought up straight away for our guest," she told him. The green room was Norton Place's best bedroom—at least, it was the one with the least damp patches on the ceilings, mould stains on the wallpaper and draughty windows. 
As soon as the French officer disappeared up the stairs, Marie-Ange went back into the drawing room to read Uxeloup Malleval's letter.
After enquiring about her health, Malleval explained the documents concerning her inheritance were ready at Beauregard. He was researching the history of the chateau and asked her to bring along any old family papers she might have, especially regarding her mother's godfather, Count Saint Germain. Having heard of her mother's talent as a painter, he also wished to see her sketchbook.
Marie-Ange sighed. She didn't have any family papers. In fact, she knew next to nothing about her mother's childhood at Beauregard and the traumatic events she escaped from in 1791. She died when Marie-Ange was five years old, and her father only told her the bare minimum about the French side of her family. "What is past is past," William Jones would always say when she asked him about the Beauregards. Since his death, there was nobody left who could answer her questions. Would Uxeloup Malleval know anything about her family? The man himself was a bit of a mystery, and so was this bequest he promised her. Maybe Capitaine Saintclair would be able to tell her more.
She went up to her room to finish packing. Opening the drawer of her writing desk, she pulled out a hard leather pouch. Inside was a dagger with a finely carved bone handle Christopher brought back from his first voyage to the West Indies as a good luck charm. He had forgotten to take it on his last mission to Spain…from which he never returned. Thoughtful, she pressed it against her heart for a moment before slipping it into her bag.
Her mother's sketchbook was, as always, on her bedside table. Over the years, she had flipped so often through the pages covered with sketches and watercolours of Beauregard it seemed she already knew the place. It had all the charm of an enchanted castle with its round towers and walled rose garden, with its circular dovecote and the park surrounded by a dark forest. She traced with a finger the gold crest embossed on the book's cover—a unicorn surmounted by two Fleurs de Lys, Count Saint Germain's coat of arms.
"An extraordinary man," her father once said with unusual enthusiasm. "He was a philosopher, a scientist, and an outstanding statesman. Your mother was very fond of him."
She slipped the sketchbook into her bag too.
The mantel clock struck seven. She changed quickly into a dove grey gown and went to the drawing room. Capitaine Saintclair sat in front of the fireplace, holding a glass of whisky in one hand and stroking Splinter with the other. He rose when she came in, but she gestured for him to sit down.
She enquired after his needs and he assured her he was happy with his room. She cleared her throat and hesitated, suddenly shy. 
"I hope you will forgive my curiosity, Capitaine," she started, "but Monsieur Malleval's letter inviting me to Beauregard to collect a bequest from his father came as a great surprise. May I ask you how long you have been acquainted with him?"
He nodded. "About fifteen years. We met at the regimental barracks back in 1800 when we were both very young men. I joined the cuirassiers and Malleval, the Hussars. Since then our regiments have fought all over Europe together." He drank a sip of whisky.  
"So he was a Hussar…" She knew of the Hussars' reputation, both on, and off, the battlefield. "I hope he is not too seriously injured."
Saintclair looked up, puzzled. "Injured?"
"In his letter, he mentioned a battle wound which troubles him greatly. That's why he could not come here himself."
"Ah. Yes. His battle wound…well, it depends on…the weather."
The French officer's answer lacked of conviction. Maybe Uxeloup was more seriously hurt than he let on.
"In any case," she resumed, "it is very chivalrous of you to volunteer to escort me to Beauregard, and I much appreciate it."
            "It is my pleasure, Madame," he answered. "I was at a loose end anyway since our new king put most officers on leave. I believe you and Malleval are related, is that right?"
She nodded. "I am, in a way, his niece. My grandmother, Aline, married his father in 1791 after my grandfather, Philippe, was executed. She was Edmond Malleval's second wife."
"He probably had your grandfather killed to make way for him." 
She gasped. "Why did you say that?"
Captain Saintclair shrugged. "As a public prosecutor in Beaujeu, then as a representative of the Public Safety Committee in Lyon during the Revolution, the man sent hundreds of people to their death—not just aristocrats but commoners, too. Anyone he suspected of plotting against the Republic." He paused. "Or, some have said, of being in the way of his ambition."
Marie-Ange's nervous fingers played with her wedding band again.
"I had no idea he was one of the revolutionaries who terrorised France and turned the country into a giant charnel house. Thank goodness these awful times are over and France is at peace. Now Napoleon has been exiled and the king is back, everything will be all right, won't it?"
His jaw tightened and his eyes flashed with anger.
            "Spoken like a true royalist, Madame. You will get on well with the captain of our ship. He's a staunch Bourbon supporter. I think I should warn you however that there isn't much sympathy among ordinary French people for émigrés now flocking back to claim their estates and their fortunes. Neither is there much love for the British nation as a whole. Napoleon is still very much alive in French hearts."
She raised her chin, stung by his tone.
"I don't care what people think. I am a Beauregard and I have every right to visit the chateau of my ancestors." She stood up. "It is getting late. Shall we make our way to the dining room?"
Like the rest of the manor house, the dining room was austere, with a damp, frigid feel even with a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Robert was there already, a glass of red wine in his hand, which judging by his flushed cheeks, wasn't his first. She gave him a stern look which he answered with a shrug, and took her place at the head of the table with Robert sitting to her left and Capitaine Saintclair to her right.
Francis served a plain but hearty chicken and vegetable stew. Ignoring her disapproving frowns, Robert poured himself yet more wine. She let out a sigh and turned to Saintclair.
"Are you from the Beaujolais region, Capitaine?"
"No, I'm from Lyon," he answered curtly.
"That's a very large town, isn't it? Where is your estate?" Robert enquired.
"I don't have one," Saintclair answered. "My family isn't from the landed gentry, or any kind of gentry for that matter. My father owns a small silk workshop. He has worked all his life. He still does." He finished his plate and took hold of his glass.
"Then how did you get to be a superior officer? I thought these positions were reserved to gentlemen," Robert insisted.
The captain's eyes glinted with heat, yet his voice was calm when he spoke.
"Napoleon allowed all men, irrespective of their social standing, access to the highest levels of command. The only things that mattered were ability and bravery. Isn't that the way it should always be?"
Robert shrugged. "I suppose so," he muttered before drinking another gulp of wine.
"Unfortunately, our new king is reverting back to the old ways and promoting men according to lineage rather than merit," Saintclair carried on in sombre tones.
            "You must tell us all about the battles you fought," Robert urged, and he went on to question the French officer about his military career, exclaiming in wonder when Saintclair said he had fought at Jena, Wagram and Austerlitz, to name but a few.
"Did you ever meet Napoleon?"
"The Emperor reviewed our regiment regularly. I often saw him during campaigns but I never personally talked to him." Saintclair's eyes clouded over and Marie-Ange wondered if the emperor was still very much alive in his heart.
Francis brought in a final dish of rhubarb jelly and Robert reached out for the bowl. His face was flushed, his blond hair tousled.
"Look at you, always the first one for pudding." Marie-Ange laughed as she proceeded to comb his curls away from his forehead with her fingers, the way she had done since he was a young boy.
Saintclair leant back against his seat and looked at her, his eyebrows arched. Suddenly flustered by the intensity of his gaze, she withdrew her hand, pushed her chair back, and stood up.
"I hope you do not mind if I bid you good night, Capitaine, I still have a few things to attend to before our journey." Then turning to Robert, she said, "Don't be too long."
Robert shook his head. "Don't worry. I'll come up to your room shortly."
            A crashing noise startled them both. Marie-Ange whirled about to see Saintclair had dropped his glass of wine which shattered on the floor.
"Sorry," he mumbled. Bending down, he started picking the pieces of glass.
"Leave it, Capitaine. Francis will tidy up."
Once in her room, she undressed and wrapped herself in Christopher's large, faded blue dressing gown. Although it no longer bore his scent, she still wore it most nights to imagine his arms around her. While waiting for Robert, she set the draught board and pieces on her desk for their nightly game as well as sheets of paper and an inkwell for the French lesson she insisted on giving him while they played.
"I don't know why you still waste your time trying to teach me French," he said when he joined her shortly after. "You know how hopeless I am."
"You will find it very useful in the Royal Navy," she answered with a smile. "Not to mention at balls and parties when you want to impress young ladies."
But he was indeed so hopeless their lessons usually ended up in fits of giggles, and tonight was no exception.
"I shall miss our evenings," he said as he lingered in the corridor, long after midnight.
"I will soon be back. Hush now, we don't want to wake Capitaine Saintclair."
She gave him a kiss on the forehead and watched him climb the stairs to his room on the second floor. A noise at the far end of the corridor startled her. She froze and peered into the darkness, holding her breath, her heart beating uncomfortably hard. Was Capitaine Saintclair awake?
She shook her head. She was being fanciful. It was only the old manor house creaking and groaning in the blustering gale. She should be used to it by now.

  
Angel Heart is available from http://www.amazon.com/Angel-Heart-ebook/dp/B009YJT194
and http://www.amazon.co.uk/Angel-Heart-ebook/dp/B009YJT194
and of course directly from MuseitUp Publishing at https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage.tpl&product_id=462&category_id=60&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1

Next post will be about that fascinating character, Comte Saint Germain...

Saturday, 22 December 2012

'Angel Heart' Holiday Teaser

Here are the first three pages of 'Angel Heart'. I will post three more on Monday!



 
Chapter One

The cutter was sailing too close to the cliffs, heading straight for the Devil's Tooth. Marie-Ange's cloak billowed in the blustery wind, the hood blew back and her hair swirled like a golden veil around her. From the cliff top, she watched the small French ship dancing wildly on the waves, its tricolour and white ensigns flapping at the top of the mast.  If it carried on its course the ship would be ripped open by the reef. A man stood alone at the prow, oblivious of the danger ahead. He was too far away and the roaring of the waves crashing onto the cliffs was so loud shouting a warning to him would be useless. She unfastened her cloak, pulled her black shawl from her shoulders, and waved it above her head in the direction of the Devil's Tooth.
A ray of sunshine tearing through the clouds bathed her black-clad silhouette in a bright golden light. For a few seconds the sun was in her eyes, blinding her before the wind pushed the dark clouds across the sky and the sun disappeared once more. When she looked toward the bay again, the ship was steering east, back to the high sea. She heaved a sigh of relief. The crew must have seen her signals and spotted the reef in time. They were safe.
She resumed her walk on the cliff path to St Nectan's chapel, a small granite building sailors’ wives visited to pray for the safe return of their men. Or rather, they came to the ancient wishing well at the back of the chapel. Today, like so many times before, Marie-Ange wanted to pray for Christopher.
"Six years already, my love," she whispered, blinking away the tears.
Six years since her husband had been lost at sea when his ship was sunk by French artillery off Corunna. She searched in her pocket for the piece of wedding ribbon she had cut earlier that morning.
"Please, come back to me." She repeated the words like an incantation and kissed the white satin bow before leaning forward to throw it into the ancient well. It whirled as it flew down, becoming smaller and fainter as it was swallowed by the shadows.  
Her dream last night still felt so real. Christopher held her in his arms while she touched his face and gazed into his grey eyes…Then he melted into the mist, leaving her cold and alone.
* * * *
Damn this ship. Damn this weather. And damn Malleval. Hugo Saintclair clapped his hands together a few times and blew on them to keep them warm. Around him, the crew shouted orders and heaved on ropes in order to switch sails and change course before they hit the rocks.  The Angel warned them, the sailors said, heaven was on their side. Shaking his head with impatience, he listened to their nonsensical chatter. Angels didn't exist, but the woman who waved at them from the cliff top had saved them from a certain death. The black, fierce looking rock in the middle of the bay would no doubt have torn the ship open.
It was sobering to think that having survived so many bloody battles in Europe he might have drowned in the grey, stormy waters of the English Channel while carrying out an assignment which had nothing to do with the army, and everything to do with his own foolishness. 
He pulled a flask from his coat pocket and drank a swallow of rum to fight the queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. A grimace twisted his lips as the cheap liquor burned his throat and brought tears to his eyes.  The sooner they reached the shore, the better. He was a cuirassier officer, damn it, not a sailor. He tightened his lips, squared his jaw. Some cuirassier officer he was! Not only was he stuck on a ship in the middle of a storm, but he was about to play bodyguard to a rich noblewoman who would no doubt turn out to be every bit as spoilt, haughty, and demanding as the other aristocrats he'd had the misfortune to encounter so far.
Gripping the side of the boat, he took a long gulp of air. He had nobody to blame but himself. He should have held his liquor better and stopped gambling before it was too late.
* * * *
It was raining when Marie-Ange finally set off on the path inland. Soon the outline of Norton Place appeared in the distance—the grey, forbidding manor house crouched in a clump of trees. She walked through the gate and sighed as she stepped over several broken slate roof tiles dislodged by the storm. There would be more holes in the roof, as if the old manor house wasn't plagued by enough leaks and draughts already…
  She entered the hall, gave her wet cloak to Rosie. The maid whisked away to dry the sodden garment. Shivering and eager to stand near the fire, she opened the door to the austere oak panelled drawing room. Her fingers were raw and stiff after her long walk and she rubbed them hard over the flames.
"There you are! Any sign of our French guest?" 
She turned at the sound of her brother-in-law's voice and smiled. Bewilderment hit her as he strode toward her. With his tall stature, unruly ash blond hair and grey eyes, Robert was more like Christopher with every passing day. She shook her head.
"Not yet. Monsieur Malleval wrote that Capitaine Saintclair would be with us mid-January. I wonder if…"
She recalled the cutter that sailed dangerously close to the reef earlier in the day. It flew a French flag—two French flags, in fact—the revolutionary tricolour and the white flag of the newly-restored Bourbon monarchy. Maybe Capitaine Saintclair was on board.
"You don't have to travel to France alone with him, you know." Robert looked at her hopefully. "I'd be more than willing to come with you. Indeed, I believe that, as the man of the family, I should come with you."
Marie-Ange smiled. She had trouble considering Robert anything other than a younger brother. Yet at eighteen, he was almost a man, and she would do well to remember it. He would probably get married soon and leave her alone in this draughty old house on the edge of the moors.
"No, Robert. We talked about it before. Monsieur Malleval is unable to come for me because of his old battle wound but he wrote that Capitaine Saintclair would be a most reliable escort."
"Still, we don't know anything about him," Robert protested.
"We know he is a distinguished officer from the Second Cuirassier Regiment," Marie-Ange said, patting Robert's forearm. "And as much as I would like you to come with me, you must stay here and look after the estate. I won't need more than a few weeks to settle my inheritance at Beauregard."
Robert looked at his boots and frowned. "But…"
"You know what this bequest means for Norton Place and for you. I will be able to get the roof fixed at last and you will join the Naval Academy."
Robert pulled a face. His dream was to follow in his brother's footsteps and buy a commission in the Royal Navy but there had been no money for him to do so. Until now.
Two cocker spaniel puppies burst into the drawing room and jumped at her skirt.
"Rusty! Splinter! Calm down!" She laughed and knelt down to stroke the dogs' shiny coats. "Besides, who would look after my two darlings here?"
Robert still looked disgruntled.
"Cheer up." She grinned. "I heard there was jelly for pudding tonight."
This time there was something akin to anger in his eyes.
"I wish you would stop treating me like a child," he growled before storming out.
Her breath caught in her throat. What was wrong with him? Robert was the only family she had left. They had never argued before today.
"Come on, boys, let's go out," she called to them, hoping that taking the puppies out would cheer her up.
 She headed toward the cliffs once again. Her boots were soon covered with mud, the hem of her dress drenched, but she didn't notice the rain, the puddles, or the coarse tufts of grass. This time she followed the steep path down onto the pebbly beach, where the sea spray on her face and the roar of waves crashing onto the reef made her heart beat faster. She licked the salt from her lips and took a deep breath. How she would miss these walks along the coast during her time in France…Still, it would be worth it. Even though he didn't quote an exact figure in his letter, Uxeloup Malleval had promised a substantial legacy from her mother's family estate in the Beaujolais.
The sky was darkening by the time she made her way back. Her heart skipped a beat when she came in view of Norton Place and she quickened her pace. A carriage was stationed by the front steps. They had a visitor. Perhaps it was Saintclair?
She let herself in, slipped the cloak off her shoulders, and checked her reflection in the hall mirror. Lord, she looked wild. The wind had made her pale blue eyes sparkle and given her complexion a deep rosy blush. She combed her curly blond hair with her fingers, twisting it into a rough plait. It was far from perfect but it would have to do. She couldn't keep her visitor waiting any longer.
She pushed open the door to the drawing room and hurried inside. Splinter and Rusty ran under her feet, tripping her. Her cry of alarm died on her lips as two strong arms caught her. Surprised, she tilted her head up to look at the tall, dark-haired man holding her against his hard, wide chest. His intense blue eyes held her gaze and sent a shiver down her spine. One side of his weather-beaten face was barred by a long, ragged scar. The thin line of the mouth and the tightness in his jaw gave an impression of controlled anger. For a moment fear gathered in her chest. Then he smiled, a slow, confident smile, and he was transformed into the most handsome man she had ever laid eyes on.
The dogs barked at them furiously. Marie-Ange parted her lips to order them to stop but before she could speak Robert took a few steps forward, an angry scowl twisting his face, his fists clenched by his sides.
"Let her go at once, sir," he warned, "or I…"
"Or what?" The man arched his eyebrows, a mocking smile at the corner of his mouth, as if he dared Robert to come any closer. He shook his head and released her.
 "I will ask you to restrain your puppies, Madame. The three of them," he said as he looked down at her.
"How dare you call me a puppy?" Robert's face flushed a deep red, and he took another step forward.
Marie-Ange found her voice at last.
"Rusty. Splinter. Lie down at once." She pointed to the rug in front of the fireplace. The dogs whimpered but obeyed. "Robert. That's enough. Monsieur was just helping me."
Robert muttered an apology and crouched beside the dogs to stroke their wet, muddy coats.
"You must be Capitaine Saintclair," she said, tilting her chin up to look at him again.
 The papers had been full of sketches and reports about the famous French cuirassiers and she had no difficulty imagining Saintclair in a dark blue uniform, his chest covered with shiny metal plates and his helmet topped by a black horse mane, charging onto the battlefield. His current attire of black breeches and tall leather riding boots topped by a short brown coat did nothing to dispel the heroic image conjured in her mind.
He clicked his heels together and bowed his head.
"At your service, Madame."


Friday, 7 December 2012

A Little Winter Magic

Fairytale lights in Lyon this 8th December.



Tomorrow 8th December marks the start of the 'Fête des Lumières' in Lyon, the town where I grew up. The festival originally lasted one night only, but in recent years it has become an internationally acclaimed event which lasts three nights and is attended by thousands of visitors.

There is some confusion regarding the origins of the Fête des Lumières but there is no doubt that it was always dedicated to the Virgin Marie, under whose protection the city was placed in the Middle Ages. Even though some claim that the festival dates back from the Renaissance, when the Virgin Marie answered the prayers of the people of Lyon and saved the city from the plague which raged in the rest of France, the tradition really started on 8th December 1852. when a statue dedicated to the Virgin was inaugurated on top of the Fourvière hill. The celebrations planned for the event had to be cancelled because of a violent storm, so when the storm finally stopped later in the evening, the people lit up up candles they placed on their window sills and took to the street to celebrate. The tradition has carried on until this day.


I have lovely memories of the Fête des Lumières...

I used to help my mother light up the candles in the red, green or gold coloured 'lumignons' we kept year after year, and place them on all the window sills of our house. I loved watching the candle lights flicker until late during the night. The whole town looked magical, straight out of fairy tale.



Things have changed a lot since then and the Fête des Lumières has become a lot more spectacular. Colourful videos are projected onto the town's facades and fountains, and into the sky, illuminating monuments and the rivers.

I hope you will enjoy this little bit of winter magic...





And for the whole of December 'Angel Heart' is available at 40% off from Coffe Time Romance. Just click on http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/BookStore/pubs_product_book_info/museitup-publishing-c-98/angel-heart-p-8925 to order your copy!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Next Big Thing!

The Next Big Thing! ‘Dancing for the Devil’

I have been tagged by Addison James to do the Next Big Thing Blog Tour. Check out Addison James’ blog here and her own answers to the questions: http://addisonjwriter.com/

Here are her ten questions about my current WIP.


1. What is the working title of your book?
Dancing for the Devil

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
I wanted to continue writing about some of the characters of my historical romance, ‘The Lion’s Embrace’, which will be published in February 2013 by MuseitUp Publishing. I particularly wanted to explore the character of Rose Saintclair but wasn’t too sure of the storyline until I saw pictures of the far North of Scotland, and Cape Wrath in particular. I just knew then the Northern Highlands had to be the location of the story. What a great name Cape Wrath is, don’t you think?



3. What genre does your book fall under?
It’s a historical romance with a hint of paranormal.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I was actually stuck on that question for a while. I had a very clear picture of my hero, Bruce Hunter, in my head but couldn’t think of any actor for him…until I saw a picture of Anson Mount in the western series ‘Hell on Wheels’. I almost cried aloud ‘That’s him!’  I can't resist posting a photo of him here.


As for Rose Saintclair, I think Scarlett Johansson would be perfect.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A new bride travelling to McRae country in the far North of Scotland, Rose is taken hostage by Bruce Hunter, the dark laird of Wrath Lodge and her husband’s mortal enemy. Will she risk her marriage, her honour and her heart to help Bruce discover the truth about his past, solve the brutal murders committed on his land and mend his broken soul?   (Sorry, that’s two sentences!)

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I am hoping that it will be published by my current publisher but I haven’t submitted yet.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I am still writing it! I hope to complete the first draft for the New Year. What I really long for are a couple of weeks at home, with no work, no distractions and plenty of quiet, to immerse myself in the story. 

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I find it impossible to answer this kind of question, so I won’t even try!

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Pictures and music of the Scottish Highlands, and a very insistent voice in my head that keeps telling me to get the story written. 

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
At random: ‘Dancing for the Devil’ is a tale about love, passion and forgiveness; about ancestral clan feuds and the lost French gold of the Jacobites; about treason, revenge and bloodlines, about the magic of the Northern Lights and love that lives on throughout time. 


Thank you very much Addison for your questions about ‘Dancing for the Devil’.


Friday, 23 November 2012

Guest post by Kay Lalone and 'Ghostly Clues'

Today I am delighted to welcome MuseitUp Publishing author Kay Lalone whose novel ‘Ghostly Clues’ will be released later this month.


  1. Hello Kay and welcome. Can you tell us a little about Ghostly Clues?
 Ghostly Clues is about an almost 13 year old girl, Sarah Kay, who has just lost her grandma. Sarah Kay and her best friend, Mary Jane, love to read ghost stories and watch scary movies, but never thought they would see a real live ghost. Sarah Kay started to smell lilacs, Grandma’s favorite flower, and they weren’t in bloom at the time so Sarah Kay thought that was strange and weird things start to happen. The girls think Grandma is a ghost and is trying to tell Sarah Kay something.  Grandma needs to let Sarah Kay know that her father, who she thought was dead, might be alive. So Grandma’s ghost leaves Sarah Kay with clues to follow to discover the truth.

2.   How did you get the idea for the story?
 When I was a little girl a little bit younger than Sarah Kay, my grandma died and I had my first encounter with a ghost. It was a ghostly hand and I remember it taking a doll off my bed. The next morning the doll was way under my bed. I believe it was my grandma’s way of telling me I was too old to sleep with dolls. For some reason, that memory has always been with me and helped to inspire this story. Over the years I’ve added to the memory by asking what if questions.

3.   What or who inspired you to write?
When I was thirteen or fourteen years old, I read Halloween Party by Agatha Christy. After reading that book, I became inspired to become a writer. Over the years there have been many favorite authors who have inspired me. But what inspires me now to write is life, people and things around me, my family, and especially my three sons.  
  
4.   What is the best advice you ever received regarding writing?
Read, read, read, and write, write, write. If you want to call yourself a write, you need to write. I’ve been asked by people who want to write a book, what advice I can give them and I tell them to write. Just sit down and write. I think that is the hardest thing for a writer to do is find the time to write. You can always learn the things you need to write a good story, but unless you have the drive, the discipline to sit down and write, then learning how to write a good story is useless. Reading is entertaining plus gives you a sense of how other authors write.

5.    What is your writing environment like? Is music important to you, and what time of the day do you prefer to write? 

The best time of day for me to write is in the morning after I have my coffee, of course. I can’t function without coffee. I treat my writing time like a job. I have to be at work at a certain time. Usually, I like the house to be quiet when I write because it helps me focus and I’m able to read my stories out loud. Sometimes I even act out a scene, but I do that when I’m alone otherwise my family would think I’m crazy. I always carry a notebook with me to jot down ideas when they come to me otherwise I lose the idea and maybe a good story. So in my head I’m always writing, working out stories and ideas, and observing the way people act. 


Blurb

The sweet scent of lilacs permeates the air around Grandma’s gravesite. Only Sarah Kay can smell Grandma’s favorite flower, and they’re not even in bloom.

Sarah Kay and her best friend, Mary Jane, believe the lilacs are a sign from Grandma’s ghost. The girls follow one ghostly clue after another, uncovering a secret that Mom never wanted Sarah Kay to know.  


Excerpt

The smell of lilacs drifted in the air and I held the sneeze in, too afraid of the scene in front of me. My heart beat faster as the glow transformed into the shape of a woman. The lady had snow-white hair pulled back in a bun. A smile formed on her face and her familiar sky-blue eyes twinkled. The springs creaked as she lowered herself to the bed and the smell of lilacs greeted me like a hug.

“Grandma?” I whispered, sitting up and staring.

Grandma looked the same as when she was alive except her hair was grayer than I remembered.

She bent down to pick up the doll. As she handed it to me, her mouth moved but no sound came out.

“Grandma, what are you trying to tell me?” I whispered.

“Kay, darling, don’t cry. Your grandfather will be okay,” Grandma finally said. “It’s not his time to go home yet.”

“Wow.” My jaw dropped open. “I can hear you.” I wanted to wrap my arms around her and squeeze, but fear that any movement would cause Grandma to disappear stopped me. “How do you know Gramps will be okay?”

“He’s too stubborn. He just needs to take it easy. So make sure he does that. It’s not his time to be with me.”

“How can you be here?”

“That’s not important.” Grandma touched my hand.

The touch felt strange like a warm tingling sensation. I sat very still afraid this moment wouldn’t last long.

Grandma stared at me for a moment. Her form seemed to become more transparent. The cluttered dresser behind her started to appear clearer.

“Find your father. There are two sides to a family. I love you, Kay,” she whispered before she vanished along with the sweet flowery aroma





Thank you very much Kay, for coming on the blog today to talk about ‘Ghostly Clues’. I totally agree with what you say about the importance of self discipline and writing every day. I do try to do that too, but with a full-time job and three children, I don’t often get to sit down at my cluttered desk until eight or nine o’clock at night and then I fall asleep! 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

I got a cover for 'The Lion's Embrace'

I am delighted to share the cover for 'The Lion's Embrace', my historical romance which will be published in February 2013 by MuseitUp Publishing. Isn't it beautiful?


Blurb

Algiers, 1845
Arrogant, selfish and dangerous, Lucas Saintclair is everything Harriet Montague dislikes in a man. He is also the best guide in the whole of the Barbary States, the only man who can rescue her archaeologist father from the gang of Tuareg fighters that has kidnapped him. As Harriet embarks on a perilous journey across Algeria with Saintclair and Archibald Drake, her father’s most trusted friend, she discovers a bewitching but brutal land where nothing is what it seems. Who are these men intent on stealing her father’s ransom? What was her father hoping to find in Tuareg queen Tin Hinan’s tomb? Is Lucas Saintclair really as callous as he claims—or is he a man haunted by a past he cannot forgive? Dangerous passions engulf Harriet’s heart in the heat of the Sahara. Secrets of lost treasures, rebel fighters, and a sinister criminal brotherhood threaten her life and the life of the man she loves.

Does forever lie in the lion’s embrace?




Saturday, 10 November 2012

Author Zrinka Jelic is on my blog today!

Today I am delighted to welcome author Zrinka Jelic on my blog.

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Hello fans of romance and thank you, Marie for hosting me on your blog. I’m glad to be here today when we take time to remember those who laid their lives for the better future.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

As you can see from the poster and the first two verses of McCrea’s “In Flanders Fields” poem, I’m Canadian. But my home country is Croatia and therefore all my novels take place there, partially or in whole. My debut novel “Bonded by Crimson” is set partially in Croatia and the hero is a three centuries immortal from a well-known Croatian legend whose forbidden love ended tragically. It was only natural that the hero experienced a few wars along his long life.

Here’s a short excerpt:
“May, 1942 – Three weeks since we arrived at the underground hospital of Petrova Gora and Matthias immersed himself in the work. I am yet to get used to him carrying that blasted gun holstered to his belt. He is exhausted, and although he hides it well, I can see the sorrow on his face from the lost lives of those in his care. The supplies are running short, forcing him to relive the horror of when he had to operate without sedation. This war has made animals of the best of men, with brothers, willing to kill each other. What for, I ask? When will all this needless dying end?”
Kate shivered at the horrors of war and flipped to the next page. Matthias stared at her from a sepia photograph. She smiled and ran her finger over his image captured in time. Two large golden stars on the epaulets of his jacket indicated his rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. The five point star was displayed on the tilted wedge cap nestled in his thick hair. Then Emina’s diary took Kate to a different world once again, and she lost any sense of time until Matthias’s hand caressed her neck, sending sensuous shivers down her spine. She placed the diary on the table and looked up at his face. He held the phone pressed to his ear. Over sixty years ago, during the Second World War when her parents were children, the man she was about to marry fought as a Partisan. Would she ever get used to his real age?

Blurb:
Love isn’t in the cards for her…
After her short, failed marriage, Kate tries to rebuild her life and takes a position as a nanny to three small boys. She quickly grows to love them, but their father terrifies her, while igniting a passion she didn’t know she possessed. Disturbed by his distant manner with his sons, Kate struggles to make him more involved in the boys’ daily lives. Her efforts are mysteriously supported by an entity that cannot really exist. Or can she? And if she does exist, is she really trying to help Kate, or just take over her body?
But when he deals the hand, all bets are off…
Six years after his beloved wife passed away, Matthias Zrin is still trying to become the father she wanted him to be. Not an easy task for a three-centuries-old immortal. His search for the ultimate nanny ends when Kate Rokov stumbles to his home and into his arms. The immediate attraction he feels for her seems like a betrayal of his dead wife, a love he’s harboured for over three hundred years. But when Kate is stalked by a deadly stranger, the life he clung to in the past begins to crumble and break down. Can Matthias learn to trust and to love again in time to save his family from disaster, or will his stubborn pride destroy everything worth living for?






Biography
Zrinka Jelic lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and two children. A member of the Romance Writers of America and its chapter Fantasy Futuristic &Paranormal, as well as Savvy Authors, she writes contemporary fiction—which leans toward the paranormal—and adds a pinch of history. Her characters come from all walks of life, and although she prefers red, romance comes in many colors. Given Jelic’s love for her native Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, her characters usually find themselves dealing with a fair amount of sunshine, but that’s about the only break they get. “Alas,” Jelic says, with a grin. “Some rain must fall in everyone’s life.”
Website

Watch the book trailer here:


Also watch for my second novel “Treasured Chest” a pirate’s romance, coming out November 24th.


Thank you Zrinka for coming on my blog today. Good luck with the release of your latest novel.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

You've got the "LOOK" - ziggy zig zag tag!


Thank you so much Francine for tagging me today!


As part of this tag, I'm supposed to take my most recent work in progress or my current manuscript and search for the word, "look," then post the surrounding paragraphs/text. 


So here it is, an excerpt from the beginning of my current work in progress, 'Dancing for the Devil' which takes place near Cape Wrath in the far north of Scotland, in 1847.


****

‘I am Rose Saintclair… I mean Lady McRae.’ Using her married name for the first time felt strange, but then again the very idea of being Cameron's wife still seemed more a dream than reality.  

The man bent down toward her and held out his hands. 

‘Allow me.’

A little apprehensive, she put her hands in his. He lifted her up as if she weighed no more than a feather pillow and for a second she flew in the air… and straight into his arms.

He looked down at her. At first, she only saw his eyes, grey like the storm clouds overhead and framed with dark eyelashes. Then she took in his high cheekbones, straight nose and strong, unsmiling mouth. His hair flew around his face, the colour of a raven's wing. 

‘Well… Fàilte, my lady.’ His voice was deep, loud enough for everyone to hear.  ‘I think I should give you a proper greeting. What do you think of a welcome kiss? I promise I won’t tell your husband.’

The crowed erupted once again into laughter and cheers.



Now it's my turn to tag five more ziggy zig zag writers and let them know I tagged them so that they can share their work in progress with the blogging community....

Helen Fairfax    http://helenafairfax.com/

Zrinca Jelic  
Christy McKee     http://www.christymckee.com/home.html

Hywela Lyn    http://www.hywelalyn.co.uk/

Nancy Bell   http://www.nancymbell.ca/


Monday, 5 November 2012

A photo tour of some locations in 'Angel Heart'

'Angel Heart', my debut historical romance set in 1815, takes place mostly in France, in an area around Lyon and the Beaujolais region I know very well, having lived there for many years. Later in the story my heroin Marie-Ange also travels from Devonshire to Algiers and Malta.

Today I am posting a few photos of Lyon, particularly of Isle Barbe, of the Palais Saint Pierre and the famous 'traboules' which are long, secret passages in the old town...

I hope you enjoy the views...

Isle Barbe lies to the north of the city, on ther river Saône.




The 'traboules' are long passages linking houses and streets in the 'Vieux Lyon', the old part of the city.


There are over 500 of these passages in Lyon. They were first built in the IV century to allow people a quick access to the river where they could get water.

They were then used by silk workers to carry their wares when the weather was inclement. Lyon was, and still is, an important centre for silk. The 'canuts' (the silk workers) used their knowledge of the network of 'traboules' to organise their revolt in 1831.

They were later used by French resistants during the Second World War.

Walking down a quiet, empty 'traboule' is a great experience. You never quite know where exactly you're going to end up!
        
At last, the Palais Saint-Pierre... Located in the heart of the city, on 'La Presqu'île' - the area between the rivers Rhône and Saône - its secluded gardens offer a haven of peace and tranquillity. It was a monastery until the French revolution and is now an art museum.

I will be back soon with photos of the Beaujolais and of the village of Malleval in the Pilat...

In the meantime, please visit http://thebooksblurb.blogspot.co.at/2012/11/angel-heart.html, a great site where you can read the blurb for 'Angel Heart' and other novels. If you leave a comment, your name will be entered in monthly draw to win an Amazon gift card. Winners are announced on the first Thursday of the month.