Sunday, 8 December 2013

Fairytale Lights of Lyon 2013!

The Fête des Lumières is held every year in Lyon, the town I grew up, on December 8th.

Although originally held for one night only it now lasts three whole nights and has become a spectacular event. Gone the days when people lit up candles in coloured glass 'lumignons' and placed them on their window sills before going for a stroll in the old town and up to Fourvière, the basilica dedicated to the Virgin Marie on top of the hill.

Although there is some confusion regarding the origins of the Fête des Lumières, 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 affected the rest of the country, 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 candles they placed on their window sills and took to the street to celebrate. The tradition has carried on until this day.
Nowadays extravagant light displays are held throughout the town. Just look at these from the 2013 edition of the Festival!

It's just like being in a fairy tale, isn't it?

This one is called 'Le Petit Prince',  no doubt as a reference to the author Saint-Exupéry.
I would have loved to return to Lyon for the weekend and see all this for myself, but I can't help feeling a little nostalgic for the days when all we needed to be happy were little candles on the window sills. It was such good fun to meet up with friends, have a drink in cafés and stroll through the old town and try to avoid the flour and eggs people used to throw down at passers-by through their windows!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Childhood Memories...

The power of words and music, the power of memories and love...
The pain never goes away.
No one else could have said it better than Barbara.

Il ne faut jamais revenir
aux temps cachés des souvenirs
du temps béni de son enfance.
Car parmi tous les souvenirs
ceux de l'enfance sont les pires,
ceux de l'enfance nous déchirent.

Oh ma très chérie, oh ma mère,
où êtes-vous donc aujourd'hui?
Vous dormez au chaud de la terre.
Et moi je suis venue ici
pour y retrouver votre rire,
vos colères et votre jeunesse.
Et je suis seule avec ma détresse.

Pourquoi suis-je donc revenue
et seule au détour de ces rues?
J'ai froid, j'ai peur, le soir se penche.
Pourquoi suis-je venue ici,
où mon passé me crucifie?
Elle dort à jamais mon enfance

Saturday, 19 October 2013

October poems...

I can't believe it's one year today since I became a published author and my debut historical romance ANGEL HEART was released by Canadian publisher MuseitUp Publishing.

I dreamt of that day for so long, and at times despaired it would ever happen.

One year on, and I still have the same feeling of pride and disbelief when I look at the cover and tell myself that it is true, I have published not one, but two novels!

But if October now reminds me of the publication of my first novel, it is also melancholic...It's the approach of winter with dead leaves swirling in blustery winds and darkening skies.

Whenever I think of Autumn poems, Paul Verlaine's 'Chanson d'Automne' always springs to my mind first.

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur

I also love 'L'Automne' by Alphonse de Lamartine

Je suis d’un pas rêveur le sentier solitaire,
J’aime à revoir encor, pour la dernière fois,
Ce soleil pâlissant, dont la faible lumière
Perce à peine à mes pieds l’obscurité des bois !

Oui, dans ces jours d’automne où la nature expire,
A ses regards voilés, je trouve plus d’attraits,
C’est l’adieu d’un ami, c’est le dernier sourire
Des lèvres que la mort va fermer pour jamais !

But there is one song which above all others symbolises for me the melancholy of Autumn, and it's 'Les Feuilles Mortes' which was written by French poet Jacques Prévert in 1945. I always preferred Yves Montand's rendition of the song, even if many artists, including Edith Piaf, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra recorded their own version of it - and especially this clip from his concert at the Paris Olympia.

I remember showing this clip to my sixth-form French students one day we were talking about what they thought was 'boring old French music'. They were all in tears after watching this clip...

It always makes me cry too, but then again, I do tend to cry a lot!

I couldn't leave out the immensely talented Serge Gainsbourg, who pays tribute to the song in 'La Chanson de Prévert'

 So what is October for you? If you have any favourite October poems or songs to share, I would love to read them.

Monday, 2 September 2013

Fall Into Romance Hop with The Romance Rewiews!

Looking for answers about THE LION'S EMBRACE and ANGEL HEART in the Romance Reviews Blog Hop?  Looking for the Blog Hop article about my favourite romance novel, THE ANTIQUE LOVE by Helena Fairfax?

Then you are in the right place! Please scroll down for the blurbs for THE LION'S EMBRACE and ANGEL HEART where you will find answers to my multiple choice questions on The Romance Reviews Website.

And just a little further down, you will find the Blog Hop rules and my article on THE ANTIQUE LOVE, a great contemporary romance by talented author Helena Fairfax. The button you need to click is at the top of the scroll bar on the right-hand side BUT please read the article and the rules at the bottom of this post BEFORE clicking!

To answer the question on THE LION'S EMBRACE, please read this blurb:

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?

THE LION'S EMBRACE is available from

You will find the answer to the question on ANGEL HEART in this blurb:
Devonshire, 1815
A mysterious Templar relic.
A web of intrigue and lies.
A woman about to lose her heart.
Marie-Ange, the young widow of an English officer, accepts an inheritance in France only to find that everything in Beauregard is not as it seems. Why is the sinister Malleval so obsessed with her family? What exactly is this mysterious Templar Cross he believes Marie-Ange can lead him to? And could her darling husband Christopher still be alive?
Marie-Ange finds herself trapped in a dangerous web of lies, political intrigue and mystical possession, and the only person to whom she can turn for help is Captain Hugo Saintclair. Yet the enigmatic Hugo represents a danger of a different kind …ANGEL HEART is a lavish mix of romance, adventure and a hint of the supernatural, largely set in France against the turbulent background of Napoleon’s return from Elba and his ultimate defeat at Waterloo.
It is available from:  
If you leave a comment and follow this blog, you will be entered into the draw for a chance to win an ebook of either ANGEL HEART or THE LION'S EMBRACE! I will pick the winner and announce in on this blog after 21st September. Once you have left a comment, please scroll back up and click on the button on the right-hand side. It will take you to the next blog.
THE ANTIQUE LOVE is a wonderful and heart-warming contemporary romance that you won't be able to put down until the very last page.
When American Kurt Bold walks into Penny's London antique shop one rainy Saturday afternoon, everything about him immediately captures her imagination and makes her dream of vast spaces and campfires under starry skies. She couldn't be further from the truth.
Kurt may be from Wyoming, but he is no cowboy, and the name 'White River' printed on his business card isn't the name of his ranch at all. In fact, far from being a romantic hero, Kurt is the head of a large financial company, and has neither the time nor the inclination for dreams, love or romance. All he wants is a companionable relationship with a reasonable, level-headed woman - the total opposite of Penny. He only needs Penny to help him redecorate his new London house, certainly not to bring impossible dreams of passion and romance into his well-ordered life. 
Or does he? Will Penny's smile and romantic outlook on life change his mind, and his heart, before it's too late and he loses his gentle dreamer forever?
I absolutely adored THE ANTIQUE LOVE and the way Helena Fairfax draws the reader into the minds and hearts of her characters - her kind, artistic and deeply insecure heroin and her impossibly attractive, pragmatic and stubborn hero.
Buy links:  Amazon US ; Amazon UK  ; Barnes & Noble ; Kobo  ; Apple iBooks ; Muse Bookstore and all major e-tailersa
Thank you for your visit. I hope you enjoyed reading my article! Please leave a comment and follow the blog for a chance to win a copy of either ANGEL HEART or THE LION'S EMBRACE.

Now don't forget to click on the Hop button on the right-hand side of the scroll bar at the top of this page to visit the next blog! You need to be logged in in order to hop via the button. If you haven’t registered at TRR and/or logged in, please click on the button and go to the top right side of the page on The Romance Reviews to do so. Registration is free.



Wednesday, 28 August 2013

My Perfect Hero?

Misty grey, gunmetal grey or thunderstorm grey.  Clear like a dawn sky in summer, or the dark, rich blue of water irises. The warm amber of whisky or a deep, melting chocolate brown. What am I talking about? The eyes of my hero, of course! Dreaming up the hero of my story always starts with his eyes.
Alain Delon

I attended a romance writing workshop some time ago where the focus was on how to create the perfect hero. The workshop leader decreed that the hero of a romance novel should not be a nice man who wore a cardigan and who was happy with just holding the heroin’s hand whilst gazing at the stars. All these were definitely the attributes of an anti-hero, a man no reader in her right mind could ever fall in love with..
But what exactly did she find so unattractive? Was it the cardigan, or that the man was content with holding the heroin’s hand instead of ravishing her? Or again that he enjoyed gazing at the stars in her company?  
Jacques Dutronc

I remember thinking at the time that the most important quality a hero should have was to make me dream, to make me wish he was in my life for real. If it's true that I am not too keen on men wearing cardigans, they have actually become quite a fashion statement for younger men these past few years. Holding someone’s hand can be a most wonderful and romantic experience. As for star gazing, I only have to think of astronomy professor Brian Cox's soft voice, clever eyes and sexy smile for it to become the most exciting way of spending an evening!   

Brian Cox
So what kind of hero do I write about? I’m afraid he is rather predictable in that he is usually the tall, moody type. He is incredibly brave and confident, determined to carry out some important mission. If he is cynical at times, he does hide a dark, painful and haunting secret the heroin will, naturally, help him overcome. As I write historical romance, he is also a consummate rider and knows how to handle swords, daggers and pistols. And if there isn't a cardigan in sight, that's because they didn't exist in the time period I have chosen - honest!

He is the man I dream about, the man I write about and the man who lives in my head for weeks and months on end – in the case of my current work in progress, one year already!

But whichever country he is from, whatever occupation he has and whatever the plot, the background or the time period, the first and most important step is always for me to picture his eyes.

Robert Hossein
And of course, to get his name right. From the moment he has a name, he is in my life. But the choice of the hero's name is the topic of another post...
What about you? How do you create your perfect hero? And what type of hero makes you dream?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Haunted Prison Tour with Victoria Roder

Today I am delighted to welcome talented author Victoria Roder at the start of her exciting Blog Tour for her novel The Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary, which will be released on August 23rd by MuseitUp Publishing.

Hello Victoria and welcome. What can you tell us about your novel and the fascinating world of penitentiaries?

 Hello Marie and thank you for hosting me today.
Would you spend the night in an abandoned, haunted prison? Several, former penitentiaries offer tours with claims of paranormal activity. For my paranormal thriller, The Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary I researched prison history, former inmates and ghost stories of Moundsville, Alcatraz, Mansfield and Eastern State Penitentiary. 

The word penitentiary means to be repentant, and that concept was taken seriously. Before prison reform, penitentiaries were based on a system of separation and torture which is believed to have fostered an atmosphere of insanity. Tortures from The Iron Gage, The Water Bath and in later years, violence among inmates seems to have left permanent spirits in the former prisons.  

Paranormal experts believe that building materials such as slate, stone and iron have properties that are similar to tapes used for recordings. As living entities, we release energy in everything we do. When some people pass, the environment holds onto that energy and it is stored in the building materials around them like a recording. The recording of the event is played over and over throughout time, known as a residual haunt. The experts aren’t sure what causes the playback, but some of the paranormal gurus believe in a theory that weather conditions or a person’s sensitivity are contributing factors. The paranormal investigators believe that some spirits are able to communicate with the living, by moving inanimate objects or in some cases speaking, which is known as an intelligent haunt.

Please join me in the Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary’s, Haunted Prison Tour. I will be choosing one winner from all the comments on the tour for an e-book copy of Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary. Each time you comment on my tour, you earn an entry, so don’t forget to leave your e-mail address! Please visit me at
Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary,  Available August 23rd sign up to be notified

 Haunting of Ingersull Penitentiary, Blurb:

Converting the former federal prison Ingersull Penitentiary, into the “The Big House Inn” swallowed Hailey Price’s inheritance from her murdered mother and deceased father’s estate. But, with any luck, the rumors of the federal complex being haunted will boost interest of the Inn. The abandoned Penitentiary, cursed by a witch, is in a constant battle of good verses evil, an eternal struggle for the souls that enter the complex.

The residual haunts are the least of the frightening occurrences at the Inn. An electrical storm traps the visitors with a possessed Ouija board and the spirit of a condemned witch with an ancient curse. The visitors spend a heart pounding night in the battle of good verses evil. It might be Heaven checking into “The Big House Inn”, but it’s Hell checking out.
August 14th, Haunted Prison Tour Introduction

August 16th, Haunting of Alcatraz

August 23rd, Haunting of Moundsville

August 31st, Haunting of Eastern State Penitentiary
September 13th, Find Out How I Became a Writer

 Thank you so much Victoria, it was absolutely fascinating and very spooky! Good luck with your tour and the release of your novel.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Forever in Love...

Can love last a lifetime?  
I don't know why but I woke up this morning humming the melody of 'Nous dormirons ensemble', in my opinion one of the most beautiful declarations of love ever written, and have been feeling all romantic and nostalgic ever since...

 A poem by surrealist poet Louis Aragon, 'Nous dormirons ensemble' was set to music and by Jean Ferrat in the 1960s.
Louis Aragon in 1925
Aragon wrote it for his lover, wife and muse Elsa Triolet, among many other poems, and it was published in 1963 in the collection 'Le fou d'Elsa'.

Elsa was a Russian writer and poet, and the sister of Mayakovsky's lover Lili Brik. She left Russia at the outset of the Revolution after marrying a French cavalry officer she later divorced. After travelling to London and Berlin, she met Aragon in 1928 in Paris' Café de la Coupole, a famous haunt for artists at the time. Although they lived together straight away, they only married in 1939. They fought in the Résistance during the Second World War, travelled extensively after the war and stayed together until her death in 1970.
Elsa Triolet (she always kept the name of her first husband) was also the first woman to win the prestigious literary award Prix Goncourt in 1945 (when, by the way, women had just been granted the right to vote for the first time in France) for a collection of short stories 'Le premier accroc coute 200 Francs'.

Elsa Triolet

 I was unable to find an English translation for the poem. Sorry...

Nous dormirons ensemble

by Louis Aragon
Que ce soit dimanche ou lundi
Soir ou matin minuit midi
Dans l'enfer ou le paradis
Les amours aux amours ressemblent
C'était hier que je t'ai dit
Nous dormirons ensemble

C'était hier et c'est demain
Je n'ai plus que toi de chemin
J'ai mis mon cœur entre tes mains
Avec le tien comme il va l'amble
Tout ce qu'il a de temps humain
Nous dormirons ensemble

Mon amour ce qui fut sera
Le ciel est sur nous comme un drap
J'ai refermé sur toi mes bras
Et tant je t'aime que j'en tremble
Aussi longtemps que tu voudras
Nous dormirons ensemble.

Jean Ferrat

Jean Ferrat set many of Aragon's poems to music. He is one of my all time favourite French singers. And on a lighter note, what a moustache! I always thought he looked like a Mousquetaire!

I can't resist including an extract of poem Aragon wrote after Elsa's death of a heart attack in 1970.

L’adieu à Elsa

Son cœur a cessé de battre, foudroyé
Au milieu de l’allée du Moulin et de ses rosiers
Te laissant seul, éploré
Par le départ de ta bien-aimée

La fulgurance inouïe de la douleur
La déchirure d’un esprit qui se meurt
Aragon, tu as su malgré tout
Relever la tête et rester debout

Cette main qui ne se posera plus sur la tienne
Avec ce doux accent lorsqu’elle parlait…
Comme elle a dû être grande ta peine
De perdre celle que tu aimais

Tous ces mots jadis murmurés
Aux frontières d’une autre contrée
S’envolent avec elle, cher amour
S’envolent malgré toi pour toujours

They loved each other for over forty years, and he wrote beautiful poetry for her. They are one of my most romantic, most inspiring couples.

Who is your most romantic couple?

Elsa and Aragon

Saturday, 20 July 2013

What is the theme of your novel?

I was very fortunate to attend Julie Cohen's inspiring seminar 'Using Theme' during the RNA Conference in Sheffield last weekend. I am actually a little embarrassed to admit that I hadn't previously thought about the theme of my novels, whether the two historical romances already published, or in my work in progress. I just 'wrote' them! Having to focus on what was the theme - or themes - of my stories was a revelation, as well as an incredibly enjoyable experience!

So what is theme?
It can be the idea you are exploring, the emotional core of the book, or the question you keep returning to. The theme of a novel isn't the plot, but its underlying idea or problem, the pivot upon which the book turns. Identity, belonging, dealing with loss and justice are all powerful themes, but there are many more, and some authors find themselves drawn to the same themes over and over again.

There can be one or several themes in a novel. For example, one could argue that the themes in Pride and Prejudice are status, love and money, whereas Romeo and Juliet's themes could be love and hate, duality, or young love.

How does theme drive a novel and make it unique?
The theme of the novel can appear in the title or the very first line. It drives the characters' conflicts and desires and makes the resolution of the story more satisfying. It also helps design secondary characters and subplots which can then deal with the theme in a different way than the main plot, and with a different resolution. The theme of the novel also helps choose the setting, or settings, of the story. And, of course, it will be present in the writing style, for example with the metaphors and the symbolism used.

I found this part of the workshop absolutely fascinating. I realised that if I had not articulated before what the themes of my current project were, I had actually subconsciously used them to determine the title - 'Dancing for the Devil' -, the moods, conflicts and even the names of my two main characters, not to mention the setting - Cape Wrath in the far North of Scotland.

So what are the themes of 'Dancing for the Devil'?  Overcoming the past and self-discovery.

Of course, having now determined what the themes actually were, I have been busy rewriting the first chapter. All I have to do now is finish the story...

Sunday, 16 June 2013

For My Father: les gens du Nord...

Les gens du Nord
ont dans les yeux le bleu qui manque à leur décor,
Les gens du Nord
ont dans le coeur le soleil qu'ils ont pas dehors.

Because you were so proud to be from the North of France.
Because you absolutely loved that song.
Because I miss you today and always...

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Der Wundermann or the Original International Man of Mystery!

If you are interested in 18th century European history and the occult, in alchemy and secret societies, then you have probably come across the elusive and mysterious Count Saint Germain.

                                          The only known portrait of Count Saint-Germain

Why the lasting fascination for this character? Was he the illegitimate son of European royals or just a spy? Was he an alchemist who could 'make' gold nuggets and huge diamonds, a Rosicrucian who had mastered the secrets of eternal life or a charlatan? In his correspondence with Frederick the Great of Prussia, Voltaire called him 'Der Wundermann' and said that he was 'a man who knows everything and who never dies' (although the philosopher being known for his irony, we can presume that he was joking).

It is easy to understand why such a character has fascinated people for so long. Not only did Saint-Germain cultivate the mystery around his lineage, but his name was also linked to powerful secret societies - the Freemasons and Rosicrucian.

Were his parents Francis II Rackoczy, Prince of Transylvania, and Princess Violenta-Beatrice of Bavaria, like he confided to Prince Karl of Hesse-Kessel, or was he the illegitimate offspring of Marie-Anne de Neubourg, Queen of Spain? If no one knows for sure who his parents were, it is however established that he was raised in Italy by a member of the Medici family and attended the university of Sienna.

                                             Prince Francis II Rakoczy of Transylvania

He seemed to possess a vast fortune, was always immaculately dressed and had a predilection for precious stones. He spoke several languages fluently, had a charismatic personality. A virtuoso violin player, he composed sonatas and arias. He was also a talented painter and a scientist interested in new processes to dye fabrics. He mixed in the most exclusive circles, and travelled extensively under different names (he called himself Surmont in Belgium, Count Tsarogy in Bavaria, Count Welldone in Germany...)

It is during the Jacobite rebellion that the Count's name first appears in official documents. In a 1745 letter to Horace Mann, Horace Walpole writes that a man who calls himself Saint-Germain has been arrested, then released without charge although it is believed that he is a spy. Walpole writes that the man is 'mad' and certainly 'not a gentleman' despite possessing a vast fortune and playing the violin 'wonderfully'. He then comments about Saint-Germain never having 'any dealings with a woman or a succedaneum' (a substitute??). As for his appearance, it seems at odds with the only known portrait of him, since Walpole describes him as having 'extremely black hair' and a beard.

                                                              Horace Walpole

Saint-Germain reappears twelve years later in France when he is introduced to the French court by Maréchal Belle-Isle. He is granted quarters at the chateau of Chambord and quickly becomes a favourite of Louis XV and his mistress, Madame de Pompadour. The French King gives him a hundred thousand Francs and a laboratory to invent new dying processes for fabrics. More importantly, he starts using him as a secret agent, against the advice of his minister for foreign affairs, the Duc de Choiseul, who is deeply suspicious of the Count.

Things then become even more blurry. Desperate to discredit Saint-Germain, the duc de Choiseul hires an actor named Gauve to impersonate him. The fake Saint-Germain parades in fashionable salons, spreading ridiculous stories about being hundreds of years old, and having met Greek philosophers, Alexander the Great and even Jesus, to whom he predicted 'an abominable end'. When Gauve is found out, Choiseul's plan fails miserably. Instead of discrediting Saint-Germain, he only added to the man's appeal and mystery, and made him even more popular at court.

Soon people comment on how he never seems to age but retains the appearance of a man between forty and fifty years old. A Comtesse de Gergy tells Madame de Pompadour that he hasn't changed at all since she met him in Venice in 1710, where he supposedly gave her an elixir of youth (see below for receipe). The legend of Saint-Germain is born: does he really possess the secret of eternal life?

Although invited to many dinner parties, Saint-Germain is never seen eating in public. In fact, he  says he only eats a kind of oatmeal mixture he prepares himself, and drinks an elixir made of elderflowers, fennel and senna pods soaked in spirit wine (senna pods? Aren't they used in laxatives?) which he advises fashionable ladies to take if they want to retain their youthful appearance.

In 1760, Choiseul almost manages to arrest Saint-Germain after the King sends him on a secret mission in Amsterdam, but the elusive Count escapes to England. After a couple of years, Saint-Germain travels to Belgium where he buys land under an assumed name. He then goes back to France in 1775 where he is rumoured to have warned Queen Marie-Antoinette about the impending revolution which would put in place a 'bloodthirsty republic' instead of royal power.

After more travels, Saint-Germain finally settles at the court of Prince Karl of Hesse-Kassel in the duchy of Schleswig-Holstein. The Prince is so taken by Saint-Germain that he calls him 'Old Papa'. He buys a factory near Gottorp, on the Baltic sea, for Saint-Germain to experiment with various fabric dying processes. He even writes to Jean-Baptiste Willermoz, a silk merchant in Lyon and sends samples of the Saint-Germain's dyes in the hope of getting him interested in a joint venture. The project however never sees the light of day. Count Saint-Germain dies of pneumonia on 27th February 1784.

Or does he?

Even though his death is registered in St Nikolai church at Eckernförde and it is recorded that he was buried in tomb No1 inside the church, there are soon rumours that Saint-Germain is still alive. Over the following decades, people swear to have spoken to him. One of them, Comtesse d'Adhemar, one of Marie-Antoinette's ladies in waiting, claims she saw him in 1815 and again in 1821!

Count Saint-Germain is one of the 18th century's most mysterious characters. I was always fascinated by the many tales and stories surrounding him, so much so that he was my inspiration for my debut historical romance Angel Heart. In the novel, my heroin Marie-Ange, whose mother was Saint-Germain' goddaughter, has to retrieve a mysterious Templar relic of which Saint-Germain was made guardian and which is said to give eternal life...

 Angel Heart is published by MuseitUp Publishing and is available from:

Monday, 10 June 2013

Find out all about unicorns with Suzanne de Montigny

Today I am venturing into the world of children literature, and in particular the wonderful 'The Shadow of the Unicorn', a fantasy by Suzanne de Montigny which is aimed at children between the ages of nine and twelve years old.

So let's find out a little about her book, and about unicorns of course...

Hello Suzanne and thank you for coming on the blog today. What attracted you to unicorns and what can tell us about them?

Ah yes, unicorns. One of my most favourite topics of conversation. They’re beautiful creatures: pure white except for their hooves, and with a spiral horn that crowns their head. They’re smaller than horses and even have different hoof prints. They neigh, whinny, bray, and hee-haw. Plus they sing on beautiful nights. But it’s not regular singing like we human folk do. They create a cacophony of noises in rhythm. They whinny, sneeze, rumble and neigh. Even the other animals join in from afar. And did I mention they have healing powers in their horns? That’s why they were considered very valuable by the tyrant, Ishmael, many thousands of year ago when dinosaurs, mammals, and humans, dwelt the earth together.

They have healing powers in their horns?
Yes, one touch of the horn can cure bubonic plague, but their healing powers aren’t meant for constant use. They need time to recuperate, so when Ishmael captures one of the herds and exploits it, he becomes the town hero but at the expense of the lives of nine unicorns.

Nine unicorns? How terrible.
Yes, but he doesn’t want to stop there. He wants to harvest their horns to sell as a healing powder.

It almost sounds like what happens today in Africa where hunters poach elephants and rhinos for the ivory in their horns.
Exactly my point. You’ve got it! That’s the underlying message behind my story. Here, kids get to experience what elephants and rhinos live through from the point of view of magical creatures.

So is there hope for the unicorns?
Yes. Darius-the-seer, the last surviving dinosaur, teaches Azaria some tricks to outsmart Ishmael, but I won’t tell you what. You have to read the book.

I understand you give half of all your profits to the Third World Eye Care Society. How did this come to be?

I’m a great believer that everything happens for a reason. Last summer, I developed a frightening vision problem. For some reason, I had a wash-out spot in the middle of my right eye. It kept getting worse and worse and soon, I couldn’t read the newspaper without a magnifying glass. I was very quickly ushered into the office of one of B.C.’s top ophthalmologists who not only ran numerous tests on me, but also sent me to see several other specialists – all for free. And I got to thinking that in third world countries, many people can’t afford eye care at all. Many children go without the glasses they need to read. And so I became involved with TWECS.

 It sounds like a really worthwhile charity. What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on two novels right now – the second of The Shadow of the Unicorn series, and another very creepy middle grade/YA novel entitled: A Town Bewitched. It’s a story about a child prodigy in classical violin growing up in a small town. Her best friend is a girl adopted into a white family from China. As you can imagine, they have trouble fitting in and to make matters worse, Kira’s dad passed away from cancer. A strange guest attends his funeral – a red-headed fiddler with strange blue eyes, who takes over the whole town by bewitching them with her Celtic music.  When someone vandalises the town, leaving dead and gutted birds as a calling card, only Kira knows who the real perpetrator is. But will anyone believe her?

Well Suzanne, I wish you good luck with your two projects. Thank you very much for coming on the blog today. Where can we find your novel?
You can buy it at the following links:

Here the trailer for 'Shadow of the Unicorn'

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Helena Fairfax is visiting today!

Today I am delighted to welcome Helena Fairfax whose debut novel, The Silk Romance, was released on Friday 24th May by MuseitUp Publishing, which happens to be my publishing house too. What is exciting for me is that Helena set her novel in Lyon, the town I grew up in! Her novel is wonderful and I absolutely love the cover!

Bonjour Helena, and congratulations on the release of your novel. 

Bonjour Marie, and thank you so much for having me on your blog!  When I found out that a fellow Muse author was actually from the city of Lyon, I was thrilled.  It has long been one of my favourite cities, and forms the wonderful setting for my first novel, The Silk Romance.

I am very intrigued...Why did you choose Lyon for the setting of The Silk Romance?

You must be curious to know how someone from a small town in the north of England came to have this love for your city.  Well, when I was a student – many years ago now! – I spent a few months in Lyon working as an au pair.  (And by the way, I wish I had known you then, Marie.  It would have been lovely to visit you in your home town J )
As an au pair I lived with my family in the most romantic location, right on the banks of the river Saône, overlooking Lyon’s old town.  Right beneath my window was a large, colourful market, full of beautiful fruits, and bustling with sounds and smells. 

You can imagine the contrast for a young girl, coming from a bleak, grey town in England, to this wonderful, bright, sun-filled and vibrant city.   Everywhere there are cafés and people spilling out into the streets, and for a young girl, the night-life was wonderful.  The evenings were warm and it was possible to sit outside the bars and restaurants and relax with friends, in a way which is rarely possible in my chilly part of the world.
So you can understand that when it came to writing my first novel, I wanted this beautiful city to be the setting.  I also had another interest in Lyon.  Some time after I left university, I started work at a woollen mill in Yorkshire.  My home county of Yorkshire is famous for its woollen weaving industry, in the same way that Lyon is famous for its silk-weaving.

In fact, silk-weaving is literally built into the fabric of Lyon.  All through the city you will find little covered stone alleyways, called traboules.  These shadowy alleyways were used by the silk-workers, so that their rolls of cloth were protected from the rain.  You can walk through many of the traboules today, and they are a fascinating reminder of Lyon’s past.

I decided to set my novel in a silk-weaving mill – a mill which is owned by the gorgeous hero of my novel, Jean-Luc Olivier.  If you’d like to know more about silk-weaving in Lyon, I have written a post on the subject here on my blog:

And if you’d like to find out more about Jean-Luc, and my charming heroine Sophie, here is the blurb to The Silk Romance:

Jean-Luc Olivier is a courageous racing driver with the world before him.  Sophie Challoner is a penniless student, whose face is unknown beyond her own rundown estate in London.  The night they spend together in Paris seems to Sophie like a fairytale—a Cinderella story without the happy ending. She knows she has no part in Jean-Luc’s future.  She made her dying mother a promise to take care of her father and brother in London.   One night of happiness is all Sophie allows herself. She runs away from Jean-Luc and returns to England to keep her promise.

Safely back home with her father and brother, and immersed in her college work, Sophie tries her best to forget their encounter, but she reckons without Jean-Luc.  He is determined to find out why she left him, and intrigued to discover the real Sophie.  He engineers a student placement Sophie can’t refuse, and so, unwillingly, she finds herself back in France, working for Jean-Luc in the silk mill he now owns.

Thrown together for a few short weeks in Lyon, the romantic city of silk, their mutual love begins to grow.  But it seems the fates are conspiring against Sophie’s happiness.  Jean-Luc has secrets of his own.  Then, when disaster strikes at home in London, Sophie is faced with a choicestay in this glamorous world with the man she loves, or return to her family to keep the sacred promise she made her mother.
If you’ve enjoyed my taster of Lyon, please come and visit me some time on my blog, on my Facebook page, on Goodreads, or you can find me on Twitter @helenafairfax  I always love to meet new people J

The Silk Romance is available from the Muse bookstore, or from Amazon and most major e-tailers.

Merci beaucoup, Marie!  Thanks very much for inviting me to your blog.  It’s been great to meet you here, amongst so many reminders of my happy time in your home town.

À bientôt!
Thank you for being a guest today Helena and 'bonne chance' with The Silk Romance. I really enjoyed your novel and I must say that I fell in love with Jean-Luc...

Monday, 13 May 2013

Lyon's Incredible Trompe L'Oeil Murals

Lyon is the cpital of Europe for trompe l'oeil murals. There are more than 65 in the town itself and about 150 in the whole 'lyonnaise' conurbation. Here are a few of them I was delighted to see again when I went home during the Easter holidays.
The 'Mur des Ecrivains' was  painted by 'Cité de la Création' artists on a building on the corner of rue de la Platière and quai de la Pêcherie. It features references to about 300 writers who were born in Lyon or worked there. It isn't easy but if you look carefull you can see references to Frédéric Dard (the prolific crime writer of the San Antonio series), poetess Louise Labé, Rabelais and Voltaire, and to Saint-Exupery - French aristocrat, writer, poet, and pioneering aviator and author of  'Le Petit Prince'.

On the ground floor you can see three book shops and a postman leaning against the wall.


I couldn't resist including this powerful and passionate poem by sixteenth-century poetess Louise Labé. 

Sonnet II -  Your Cold, Appraising Eyes

Your cold, appraising eyes entice me still
And cause a hundred thousand sighs.  Again,
And yet again, I wait and wait in vain.
The night is dark, the way is all uphill.

And when I dream about you, I am filled
With ceaseless turmoil and long-stifled pain.
Then, on a sudden, flashing through my brain,
I see my fate, and it’s a bitter pill.

Into the deep of night, I speak your name.
My hard-fought struggle with the gentle art
Of making verses cannot long subdue

All passion and desire.  A fit of flame
Flares up, ignites, and burns within my heart.
Would that one red-hot spark might fly on you!

 Another very famous mural is The 'Mur des Lyonnais', also painted by 'Cité de la Création. Located on the corner of 49 Quai Saint Vincent and 2 Rue de la Martinière, it features 30 famous people from Lyon on a surface of 800 m2.

You will find there Sainte Blandine, one of the first Christian martyrs of Lyon, restaurateur Paul Bocuse, the Lumière brothers (who played a crucial role in the development of photography and the cinema), 19th century physician Claude Bermand, Laurent Mourguet who created the famous Canut puppet Guignol and many others.

I will also mention Juliette Récamier who was born in 1777 in Lyon and held an illustrious 'salon' in Paris in the early 19th century, just because she gave her name to the secondary school I attended!


The oldest, largest and most famous mural is the 'Mur des Canuts', located of course in the Croix-Rousse district of Lyon, where so many silk-workers lived and worked. It was the Cité de la Création's first mural and the one which made them famous all over the world.
Now, what is real and what is just a painting? I guess you'll have to go to Lyon to find out!
There are many more murals to discover in Lyon.
For more information, visit