Sunday, March 29, 2009
Guest blogger - Carol Townend
Thank you! It's good to be here!
I love history, particularly the medieval period. Wherever I go, it seems that the past is lying just below the surface of the present. It is waiting to reappear, it wants to be seen.
Ancient cities like Carcassonne in France are not simply stone museums: there are soldiers in pointed helmets patrolling the ramparts, if one looks very carefully one can still see them. It is easy to imagine that the tourists thronging the narrow streets of Carcassonne today are the merchants, peddlers and townsfolk of yesterday. The rooms in the castle are not just empty stone chambers, they are warmed by roaring fires. Colourful tapestries decorate the walls. In the great hall a handsome lute player is eyeing up the serving girls, while up in the solar a lady is quietly sitting in a window embrasure, pretending to do her embroidery while really she is looking down at one of the knights as he practises in the lists below. It’s all there in the buildings.
Here is a view of the lists as seen from a window in Carcassonne:
At home in England Winchester, in what used to be known of as Wessex, has been a particular source of inspiration, it has so many layers of history! The original layout was Roman and later the Saxon kings made it their home - King Alfred repaired the old Roman walls.
Winchester is the focal point for my Wessex Weddings series. The books are all set in the early Norman period, just after the Battle of Hastings. It is a moment in English history when the Saxon aristocracy is being forced out by the interlopers from Normandy and this transition period is full of conflict. The newcomers are desperate for honours and land while, for their part, the Saxons do not want to give up one inch of ground. This is where the hero of His Captive Lady comes in. His name is Saewulf Brader.
His Captive Lady was unplanned, in the sense that Saewulf, aka Wulf, jumped into my mind and demanded that I tell his story. I had just finished An Honourable Rogue and the idea was that Sir Richard of Asculf who features in that should have his story told next.
The plotting of Sir Richard's story was going rather well (or so I thought, given how much I struggle with plotting!). Sir Richard (a Norman) was going to be sent to East Anglia to deal with Saxons intent on overthrowing King William. But then I came across Richard Fletcher's book, Bloodfeud - Murder and Revenge in Anglo-Saxon England and all my plans fell apart. I had heard about Saxon bloodfeuds and knew they could last for years, but hadn't realised that they could last for generations.
The idea of the bloodfeud gripped and wouldn't let go. So when Wulf informed me that it was he and not Sir Richard who was being sent to East Anglia, I realised it would be he who would be dealing with this particular rebel band.
The heroine, Lady Erica, is the daughter of a Saxon thane killed by the Normans. She and her father's housecarls are dedicated to overthrowing King Williams’ regime. Erica knows that their cause would be strengthened if she could only persuade her men to unite with another band of Saxon rebels, but at once she runs into difficulties because of a long standing bloodfeud with the other Saxons. Initially, her men dismiss her idea out of hand.
But Lady Erica is very determined…
Here's the cover blurb for His Captive Lady, which is published by Mills and Boon in April:
Captured by the Warrior!
Lady Erica had tried to bring peace to her people, so that they could join forces against the Normans. Instead she became captive to the Saxon warrior, Saewulf Brader!
Wulf was, in truth, a Norman captain spying on the enemy. Chaste yet fearless Lady Erica wasn’t part of his plan. Her beauty was as disarming as it was captivating, but Wulf knew that once she discovered his deception, their fragile bond of trust would be destroyed…
Thanks, Carol, that was fascinating!
To find out more about Carol and her books, visit her website at http://www.caroltownend.co.uk/ by clicking here and her (occasional!) blog at http://www.caroltownend.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Austen Effusions gets a new look and a Competition!
Aimee Fry, the talented website designer, has done a beautiful job, I think. She was a pleasure to work with and she was so fast I found it hard to keep up! You can find her at Site Amigo and she also has a website selling some vintage-inspired gifts Brown Paper Package. I am absolutely thrilled with the website - thank you so much, Aimee!
To celebrate the launch I have a copy each of Lydia Bennet's Story and Effusions of Fancy to give away. All you have to do is go to the Austen Effusions website, and drop me an e-mail through the contact page. I shall put the names in a hat to select the winner - the competition is open to all wherever you are! Please put Competition in the subject line. The winner will be announced on Friday March 26th. Good Luck!
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Musicals and Jane Austen
So when I read on Austenblog that there will soon be a musical of Pride and Prejudice on Broadway I was very excited, and when I listened to one of the songs I was even more excited because it's absolutely beautiful. I'm not sure if it's OK for me to put it on our blog so instead I'm giving you a link to Austenblog so that you can go over there and listen to it yourself.
Now I'm just hoping they bring it to the UK.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
1414 Emails and Nine Months Later - Regency Silk & Scandals is born
Now, of course, more fun starts when the editors dissect them for the continuity points that we’ve missed and we all find ourselves reworking bits to make the entire overarching story flow perfectly.
And we’ve got a name - Regency Silk and Scandals - although no titles yet for the individual books within the continuity.
I was lucky enough to get numbers 1 and 7 to write, so I had the fun - and rather scary - job of getting the story rolling and then gathering up the threads to hand over to Chris Merrill who has brought it home to its conclusion. Although I used to write with a partner as Francesca Shaw I’ve never worked like this before, with five people of whom I knew only one slightly - and with all of us hundreds of miles apart and on several different time zones.
I doubt we could have done it without email and our own Yahoo group. I looked this morning and the email file for the continuity was up to 1414 messages.
We had fun and headaches coming up with the overarching story - which in the beginning was a little like trying to bottle fog while we batted ideas back and forth across the Atlantic.
At first the publication date of 2010 seemed an age away and then the reality of deadlines began to bite. But despite some panics we got there in the end with very supportive editorial guidance and by August we had our characters and our 8 individual plotlines worked out. We've been writing - and emailing - flat out ever since. For anyone else lucky enough to try this, I strongly recommend lots of spreadsheets and family trees!
What is it all about? Well, very flippantly I described it at one stage as “The Scandals of the Murdered Baron’s Mystery Gypsy Lovechild’s Forbidden Revenge Quest Involving Virgins and At Least One Earl” and that is still true - but it misses out the French spy, the smuggler, the outrageous marriage service at St George’s, Hanover Square, one very respectable young lady on the battlefield at Waterloo, the love child of a high ranking English lord, a feisty milliner with a pistol - and more.
Above all it is eight very different love stories linking characters who move from one book to another in a way that we hope will have readers absolutely hooked.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Bits and Pieces
I'm thrilled with this cover for the large print edition of Devil's Prize published by Magna on the 15th March.
Life has been really hectic lately. Normally I take about ten to eleven months to write a book of 100,000 words. But for the one I'm working on at the moment, I've only had five months, and the deadline is looming over me like a dark and threatening cloud! This came about because my agent asked me to prepare a pitch package for the book after this and that preparation involved a mass of research, a outline of fifteen pages, biographies for the two central characters, and the first four chapters. By the time I finished you could have packed the bags under my eyes. Then I plunged straight into the current book.
It's a great story full of drama, tension, and the developing love and trust of two people who for different reasons are outcasts. I'm loving it. Then I hit a problem.
An earlier blog talked about naming characters, and I know my characters don't come to life unless they have the right names. My heroine was called Saranne - a combination of Sara and Anne. But at a meeting with three writer friends a few weeks ago, one of them said I would have to change it because my books are sold in the US. Yes? So? I asked blankly. She explained that what we in the UK call clingfilm the US calls Saran-wrap, and no reader would be able to identify or empathise with a heroine whose name reminded them something you use to pack sandwiches. She was right. So my heroine is now Sarah. And to my surprise and delight, she has developed far more depth since her name change.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Extracts at last!
This is especially to tempt my UK fans, including the ones who have complained in (very polite) comments here on the blog that they are waiting too long for books 2 and 3.
US readers can buy book 2 (His Reluctant Mistress) next month and book 3 (His Forbidden Liaison) in May, but UK readers have to wait till June and July. Sorry, folks. If I'd been responsible for the scheduling I'd have tried to make it earlier.
You can reach the extracts on my books page, here.
Friday, March 13, 2009
Location, Location, Location
This picture was taken in the 1940's, but is one of the few that shows the house, on the far right of the picture.
I based Arabella's house on the gem of a manor house, Belgrave Hall, which is now in the city but in Georgian times lay in the countryside outside the city wall. It's still there, but has been refurbished to reflect the Victorian occupants, instead of the earlier Georgian, which is how I remember it. The gardens are especially beautiful, and they house ghosts, famously caught on film. I think TAPS has been there! But if I could choose a house to live in, it would be something like that, not too large, not too small. Perfect.
If you want to buy Tantalizing Secrets, go here:
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The Carstairs Conspiracy
Let me know what you think of it.
Monday, March 09, 2009
A Reluctant Bride
I'm also delighted to be able to tell you that I've sold a ninth book to Robert Hale, Two Gentleman From London; this will be released at the end of October.
At the moment I am struggling to complete the formatting of a Jane Austen retelling, Miss Bennet and Mr Bingley. The stunning cover is almost ready, Jane Odiwe has kindly done this for me. If I can just work out how to remove the page numbers from the information pages that go at the start of the book, I should be able to get the ISBN number put on and it will be available on the web.
A Reluctant Bride is available on Amazon and can be ordered from UK libraries.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
A new adaptation of Emma
Everyone has their own favourite Emma adaptation so far. Mine is the Gwyneth Paltrow film, which I thought was perfect. I loved the acting and the screenplay, and it was a treat to look at. But I know there are other people who are just as strongly convinced that the Kate Beckinsale / Mark Strong is the best version. Let's hope this new 4 parter gives us all something new to love.
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
We're visiting the US!
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
One of the most exciting things about starting a new book is picking the names. It is very important to have a name that suits the character but authors are also influenced by fashion – current trends as well as something that represents the period. For example with first names, Albert conjures up for me the Victorian era, while Kylie and Wayne are very much more modern! (My Regency heroes tend to be called Richard, Luke or Adam, etc).
Surnames can be a problem, too and I tend to make good use of a map for these. Years ago I was travelling on the motorway and saw a road-sign to three towns. It read "Milton, Chilton and Didcot" . I knew that one day I would use this and they ended up as a firm of solicitors in Moonshadows, (my e-book published by Samhain).
Sometimes the characters seem to appear ready-named. In The Highclough Lady the heroine was always called Verity Shore and in Lucasta, well, I created the character around the name in this instance.
In More Than a Governess, my first novel writing as Sarah Mallory, the hero is called Major Damon Collingham – because his reputation is "A devil on the battlefield and in the bedroom", I decided a name beginning with D would be appropriate. In the end I chose Damon, which I think is a good, strong name, suitable for a good, strong hero!
There is another little point about More Than a Governess which I think makes it very suitable for the "On Mothering Sunday" publication which is out in the UK now: for Juliana's brother and sister I used two first names that are very dear to me but which I doubt I would ever use as hero and heroine, those of my parents!
Melinda Hammond / Sarah Mallory
"On Mothering Sunday" featuring two novels by Sarah Mallory and Kathryn Albright is published March 2009and is available in supermarkets & bookshops throughout the UK.
Sunday, March 01, 2009
Do we lead our characters or do they lead us?
This is the fabulous new cover for The Loveday Conspiracy. It was a constant inspiration to make the story as dramatic and emotive as possible. It will be published in hardback in June and paperback in October.
I have just delivered THE LOVEDAY CONSPIRACY to my editor and it has been my most challenging novel in the series. Throughout the books the themes have been multi-faceted and there was more than one conspiracy the family were involved in. One male thought he could outwit the women’s moral outrage at his conduct only to find that when they band together they are formidable opponents. Both Adam and Japhet Loveday have their own plots to bring an enemy to heel, and when they work together to serve their country in a conspiracy to bring a traitor to justice, they discover their own lives are in danger.
As with all intricate plots the drama must be kept tense and the high action plausible at all times. The unfolding of the story is carefully choreographed and the characters given their motivation to act out the events on the page. Yet in the heat of the plot with emotions from the characters running high, do we strictly adhere to the storyline we have created, or do we allow our characters to dictate their next move. I believe that if you know your characters as well as you know your best friends they follow the necessary plan mapped out for them. However, like even best friends, there can be a hidden agenda they had not previously shown to us, or a side of their nature they had kept firmly in check until circumstances bring it bursting forth.
With the wild blood governing the emotions of the Loveday men, the unexpected is always possible. The dramatic conclusion of the final conspiracy in this novel was fast paced and action packed. Then suddenly without warning the characters are no longer acting out the scenes as I had intended. They interceded to mould the events in their own irrepressible fashion. All the time I tried valiantly to keep them on track, the scenes did not work to my satisfaction, and with the deadline looming this was very stressful. One morning they just took over. For most of the last three chapters I had to sit back at the end of my writing day dominated by the shock of how they had reacted, yet knowing that this was the only course that they would have taken. What emerged was an even more suspenseful and a greater page-turner. The price I paid for this was I was left each evening in a state of semi-panic thinking ‘how do I get them out of that scenario?’ and also keep everything plausible and achieve a satisfactory and inevitable conclusion for the reader. The Lovedays had literally dictated how they would have reacted to the danger they faced, which was far more emotive that all my careful plotting and I knew I had to follow their lead.
That is the joy of our writing and the challenge. It was also amazing how after several sleepless nights how little I had to edit previous chapters for the resolution to be exactly right for an exciting and unexpected ending.
I believe most of our writing is done on a deeply subconscious level, the depths of which even we as the writer are not always aware.
I also announce that following our exciting invitation to contribute to the Risky Regencies blog that the winner of my competition was Pamela Bolton-Holifield.