Wednesday, July 29, 2015

D is for Dalkey

Paula’s characters visit the small town of Dalkey in Ireland.

In ‘Irish Inheritance’, Guy and Jenna visited Dalkey to meet with a friend of their benefactor. I chose Dalkey because it’s a place I know very well. It is now considered  to be a suburb of Dublin, but it was originally a town in its own right and still retains a ‘small town’ feel about it. Its main street houses a variety of shops, serving both the locals and the tourists. There are plenty of pubs and restaurants too.

Here are some extracts from ‘Irish Inheritance’ – with photos to illustrate them.

As they reached a road junction, Guy peered through the windscreen. “Gee, they put so many different signs on every signpost here.”
Jenna pointed. “Town centre, turn right. No, not here, it’s a one-way system. Next right—now right again—and now left.”
Guy laughed as he drove around the small block of houses and shops, and turned into the town’s main street. “For a moment I thought we were going around in a complete circle.”
They found a parking place on a side street and Guy held her hand as they strolled along the main street. When they reached a bookstore, he stopped. “Want to go in here?”
She grinned. “I was about to say the same thing.” It was another example of how attuned they seemed to be.

A familiar sight in Ireland - so many signs on one signpost!
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dalkey's main street with the bookshop on the right -
as it was a few years ago, but sadly no longer a bookshop now
 
* * * * *
 
“Where to now?”
“The man in the bookstore mentioned Lily’s café. It would be fun to go in there like Helena did.”
They continued along the main street, but didn’t find the café.
“Let’s ask in the castle type building across there,” Guy said. “The sign says it’s an information centre.”
Jenna rolled her eyes. “Guy, what you call a castle type building is a real castle. It dates from the fifteenth century, according to my guide book.”
He grinned. “Even better.”
They went into the ground floor room of the square stone tower, which contained a small souvenir shop as well as an information desk.
The middle-aged woman at the desk smiled at them. “Welcome to Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre. Can I help you?”

Dalkey's main street (photo taken from the castle)
 
 
 
The 'castle-type' building, according to Guy
* * * * *

An hour later, they leant on a low stone wall overlooking the small harbour, which was surrounded by rough-hewn walls with a narrow outlet to the sea. It was high tide, and half a dozen sailing dinghies bobbed about, while gulls wheeled and dived above them, filling the air with their raucous cries. Several hundred yards out from the coast, a long narrow island, its greenness broken by rocky outcrops, provided the background.
“I guess Helena sat over there to paint her picture,” Guy said, pointing to the opposite side where a flight of stone steps led down into the water, “and she probably came here on a summer evening to get the light and shade. She obviously had a great eye for balance and composition.”
Coliemore Harbour with a view of Dalkey Island
* * * * *
They reached the large white Victorian house midway along a terrace of similar houses, and he squeezed Jenna’s hand as he pressed the old-fashioned brass doorbell. “This is going to be interesting.”
She grinned. “Fingers crossed.”
His heart sank slightly when a twenty-something woman with long auburn hair opened the door.
“Ms. Connor?” he said.
She laughed. “No, no, I’m Kate Leary, Maeve’s granddaughter. You must be Guy and Jenna. Grandma’s looking forward to meeting you. Come in.”
Kate led them into a conservatory at the back of the house where a petite white-haired woman with bright blue eyes rose from one of the wicker chairs.
“Guy and Jenna. I’m so pleased to meet you.”
After they’d shaken hands, Guy glanced through the wide window of the conservatory. “What a spectacular view, Mrs. Connor.”
Maeve smiled. “Call me Maeve, and you’re not the first person to say that, Guy. Helena always said she bought this house solely for this view of Killiney Bay. It’s been compared with the Bay of Naples. Some folk say it’s even better.”
Guy let his gaze travel along the sweeping curve of the bay to the rounded headland and two peaks on the far side. “Were those two mountains once volcanoes?”
 Maeve laughed. “If they were, they’re extinct now. We call them Great Sugar Loaf and Little Sugar Loaf. In winter, when they’re covered with snow, they do resemble piles of sugar. Anyhow, do sit down and Kate will make us some tea.”
Sorrento Terrace, otherwise known as Millionaire's Row
(where Maeve Connor lived)

 




View of KIlliney Bay - similar to the view from
Maeve's conservatory!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

D Is For Deception

Jennifer talks about conflict in her stories...

At the RWA Nationals conference that I attended this past week, one of the best workshops I went to was on conflict by Sarah McLean. There were lots of great pieces of advice, but the easiest way to describe conflict was this: and then…and then…but! “And then” is how your story progresses, “but” is how the story is interrupted by the conflict.

There are many ways to show conflict, both internally and externally. When I was thinking about it, however, one of the internal conflicts I use often is deception.

Deception isn’t always on purpose and it isn’t always for nefarious reasons.

In The Seduction of Esther, Samara tries to hide her quirky personality from Nathaniel because she’s not sure he’ll like her if she shows him the real her. And Nathaniel wants to hide everything from everybody because he’s had enough of life in a fishbowl and wants to just blend into the background.

In Miriam’s Surrender, Josh hides his poor background from the world. He’s made a success of his life and doesn’t want to dwell on his past.


No matter what happens externally to keep the heroes and heroines apart, it isn’t until Samara and Nathaniel are able trust each other enough to reveal their real selves, and Josh is able to give up control as well as trust Miriam, that they can be together.




Monday, July 27, 2015

Dinan, France, one of the settings in Ana's time travel romance

Ana chose Dinan as the setting for her time travel romance



I did lots of research before I started writing my time travel. When the Romans conquered England, bands of Celts relocated to Brittany, where their culture and language flourished. I am intrigued by Celtic history, of which there is scant knowledge, as it was an oral, not a written, culture. Lots of room for magic spells, which is how my modern heroine can be pulled back into her past life.

At the time of my story, the Little Duchess Anne (she was under 5 feet tall) was forced into a political marriage to King Charles of France. She hoped to save her province; Charles and his successors intended to conquer it. Modern French governments continued this policy, and Bretons still fight to preserve their heritage--even the right to teach their language in their local schools.


"The back of Dinan castle was embedded in the ramparts, the massive earthwork wall that surrounded the 900-year old city and had defended its inhabitants from hordes of Romans, Franks, Gauls, and most recently, the English. Dozens of round stone guard towers were spaced along the fortification, but those on the bluff overlooking the river had fallen into disuse as tenuous treaties and assassination had supplanted sieges and battlefield slaughter as the way wars were waged. 

Shaggy rows of hazel and berry brush thrived in the grassy yard between the sheer face of the castle and the armory. Once, this and all other arable tracts inside the fortress had been cultivated to guarantee a food supply when the city was besieged by attackers or by quarantined by plague.

Curbing his impatience, Jermande (my hero and the last Celtic priest in Brittany) meandered through the patch checking the ripeness of the bramble fruits. When he was certain that no one followed, he slipped behind the windowless armory and stepped through the shielding illusion he had set seven years ago around the guard tower that was now his home. It was an elementary legerdemain, but simple spells were often the hardest to break."



       Arwydd cantare, Jeanne Marie Maximillian Valois.” A deep, educated voice drowned out the prelate’s tirade and reverberated off the thick granite walls. The heraldic banners rippled in obeisance.
         Jermande de Montfort stood in the ceremonial entryway at the far side of the reed-strewn hall. The shiny gold torque around his neck declared his unassailable rank as a Brehon master, an arbiter whose judgments were law to all who followed the old ways. It was whispered that his brooch held the power to spark a sacred fire or bring a soul back from the dead.
          The embroidered hem of his scarlet robe billowed out behind him as he strode past the long tables and benches. Both his thigh-high black boots and his golden, knotted hair glistened with dew, as if he had just charged out of the Fôret de Brocéliande like one of good King Arthur’s knights. 
         “Arwydd cantare. Keep heart and cease not your prayers.”
         Jeanne wailed and sank to her knees.

         With a silent groan, he hoisted Jeanne to her feet. Time was precious as Angelique hovered between life and death. For his own reasons he wanted the girl to survive. “Your daughter's spirit still lives, but we must hurry."

Friday, July 24, 2015

C is for Characterisation

Margaret explains how she brings her characters alive.

One of the hardest things for a writer is making our characters come alive for the reader. I’ve heard people talk about cardboard characters and I know what they mean. The secret is getting right inside your character’s head. Knowing that person as well as you know yourself.

I invariably do a character study. For instance in the book I’m currently working on, as well as knowing what my heroine looks like, I know her age, her birth sign, her temperament. I know what boyfriends she’s had in the past, why they haven’t matched up to her ideal. Some of her ex’s would say she’s cold and unemotional, that she will probably remain a spinster all her life because no man wants a woman who doesn’t have feelings.

The truth is her parents are divorced, as is her older sister, so she thinks it’s fatal to take men at face value. She does want to get married, though mainly for security reasons. She thinks true love is idealistic but not probable. She would like to meet Mr Right but really doesn’t think it possible.

My hero on the other hand has declared he will never get married. He loves women, what man doesn’t? But a man in his possession (rich and successful) has to be careful. He can attract women without even trying and finds this disappointing. Most of them want something, and it’s usually marriage. Or simply someone to take them to places they could never afford. He’s become a good judge of character, usually able to tell what a woman wants within the first few minutes of meeting them.

Although he’s an only child he wasn’t spoilt by his parents, they made him work for whatever he wanted which has made him into the man he is today. He’s very proud of what he’s achieved and the only thing missing in his life is a woman. He’s begun to think there isn’t one out there who will accept him for what he is and not who he is.

So, I had all this information before I began to write my story. It made everything so much easier. It actually feels like I’m writing about people I know instead of those cardboard characters I was talking about.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

C is for (The) Corral

Debra tells the backstory of the bar for her series.

I met my hubby at a country bar. A mutual friend introduced us and eventually we started to hang out in the same 'circle' there. We learned to two step together and eventually that grew into something more. The bar has been renamed now (several times in fact) and the dance hall is used as a banquet facility and for large parties. We rarely go there. But for me, the spot will always hold special memories. Not only is it the place where I found true love, but it's the place where many of my heroes and heroines have found love as well.

The real-life bar was the inspiration for The Corral, where I've set my series.

Let me take you on a tour:

As soon as you walk in, the entry hall will take you to do the restaurant/steak house. As you make your way to the hostess stand, you'll pass several doors off of the hall. One leads to Logan's office. You might find him in there going over schedules or looking at the books. Another leads to Sharlie's office. Or what used to be Sharlie's office when she was the manager of The Corral. Now she spends most of her time at home with the kids. Jessica often uses this office to work on updating The Corral's website.

Once you get to the hostess stand, she'll be glad to seat your party. Since Zach took over as head chef, customers flock to the steak house for a taste of his fabulous cuisine, so during peak dining hours, it's best to make a reservation. A long bar stretches across the back wall. Leather booths line the remaining walls in the room, and tables and chairs are scattered throughout the center. Waitresses (Amber might even be working a shift) scurry around taking orders and delivering food.

Upon exiting the steakhouse portion of The Corral, if you take an immediate right, you'll be in a small hallway leading to the bathrooms, locker area for employees, and the kitchen. Off of this hallway you'll also find the double doors leading downstairs into the bar proper. At the bottom of the steps you might run into Jake checking IDs. The large space boasts three bars: two side bars and the main island bar. A dance floor dominates one side of the room. High tables and chairs - usually filled to capacity - surround the parquet, where couples two step or line dancers whirl, stomp, spin, and turn in intricate patterns. A stage sits in the corner of the dance floor. For those not in the mood for dancing, pool tables can be found in the back. Cowboy paraphernalia (boots, hats, chaps, spurs, rope) hang from the raftered ceiling, and one wall even sports a moose head.

For Sharlie, Logan, Zach, Jessica, Jake, and Amber, The Corral is a home-away-from-home. It's a warm, welcoming, friendly type of place, and I hope my readers grow to love it as much as they do.

When I finished my three-book series, I found I wasn't ready to leave The Corral behind, so I've started a spin-off series (Holidays at The Corral) so I can go back and visit. The first story, Christmas at The Corral, will be released November 4.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!

Debra
www.debrastjohnromance.com


The Corral Series: A small town where good friends gather and rugged cowboys fall in love.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

C is for Connemara and Clifden

Paula loves writing about her favourite part of Ireland.

When I first had the idea for Irish Inheritance, I deliberated where to set the story. It needed to be somewhere I knew well, because I’m not comfortable using locations with which I’m not familiar, and it didn’t take me long to decide on Ireland. More specifically County Galway, and even more specifically the western area of County Galway, known as Connemara.
 
On my first ever visit to Connemara about eight years ago, I was fortunate that it was a beautiful autumn day, and I fell in love with the wild countryside, the dozens of small loughs (pronounced like the Scottish ‘lochs’), and the Twelve Bens, a range of steep-sided bare mountains.

Although I’ve been to many other areas of Ireland since then, Connemara was the place that captured my heart, and I’ve visited it several times in the last few years. Most times I’ve been very lucky with the weather, except for my visit in May this year, when there was usually more cloud than sun, and a lot of rain too- as you can see here!

Clifden, on the west coast, is the ‘capital’ of Connemara. It’s a small town with a population of about 2,500 which is swelled by tourists, hikers, cyclists, and water sports enthusiasts during the summer months. It has two main streets which are lined with shops, cafes, and of course lots of pubs!

 
A short drive out of the town takes you along a scenic drive above Clifden Bay and to the end of a narrow peninsula with a  view of the wide expanse of the Atlantic.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Historically, Clifden’s main claim to fame is twofold: in 1907 Marconi set up a radio station near Clifden, transmitting wireless signals to a receiving station in Nova Scotia, and in 1919 John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown landed their biplane near the Marconi station, after completing the first non-stop transatlantic crossing. The ‘green field’ in which they thought they were landing turned out to be an Irish peat bog, and the plane ended up ignominiously nose down in the boggy ground. One of the pubs in Clifden has a fascinating display of photos and copies of newspapers from this time (which I mentioned in 'Irish Inheritance').

When I was writing Irish Inheritance and Irish Intrigue, I had to rely on my memories and my photos (and Google streetview of course!), so it was fantastic to return to Connemara and Clifden this year. Mentally, I was imagining where the veterinary surgery was, as well as Mist na Mara House, and of course I had to revisit the pub that I called 'Murphy's' in my stories.
 
For those who have asked me where the village of ‘Skelleen’ is (which featured in ‘Irish Intrigue’), you won’t find it on any map, as it’s a figment of my imagination, or rather an amalgam of several small villages. Here is one of them, which some visitors to Connemara might recognise.

 
And this is 'Connolly's' Bar in the middle of 'Skelleen'.
 
I’ve loved setting my stories in Connemara because it allows me to re-live my visits there. Another bonus has been that a shop in Clifden actually offered to stock my books!
 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

C Is For Claire

Jennifer talks about children in her book...

In my first book, A Heart of Little Faith, I gave my heroine a six-year-old daughter named Claire. Actually, her original name was Ally, but I changed it because her mother’s name was Lily and my critique partner thought there were too many ‘ly’ names used together. She was probably right.

While I don’t write about real people, Claire is based upon my oldest daughter, who was six at the time I wrote the book. No, she isn’t my daughter and she doesn’t look like her or act like her, but her mannerisms and her likes and dislikes are taken from my daughter. I loved writing her and some of my favorite scenes in the book are those that feature Claire.

Children are great to include in romances, because they often provide windows into the hero or heroine’s souls that would be difficult to do otherwise. They enable our adult characters to show vulnerability and compassion and a softness that they don’t ordinarily show. Sometimes, they help the author explain something—when a character explains something to a child in the book, the reader gets the benefit of the explanation as well.

In A Heart of Little Faith, Claire introduces the hero and heroine. Here’s a brief excerpt—Lily, the heroine, asked her neighbor, Melanie, to watch Claire when she was delayed at work. Melanie’s brother was visiting and hung out with Claire. When Lily walks in, they are playing a board game:

“He was coming for dinner, so I invited him over early when I heard I’d be watching Claire. He loves kids. The two of them have been playing all afternoon.”
“Oh wow, then I’d really better go rescue him.”
“Leave them be, Lil. Seriously, they’re fine. He’s having a ball with her.”
Lily walked back into the living room and despite her earlier misgivings, she smiled. Claire danced around waving her hands in the air, while the man groaned, supporting his head in his hands. Lily sympathized. Six-year-olds had neither empathy nor tact when it came to winning. She should know. The two of them spent hours every weekend playing this latest passion of Claire’s.
“Claire, honey, what are you doing?” she asked with a smile as she approached them.
“I’m beating the pants off Gideon, Mommy,” she yelled with a grin. Lily looked at Gideon to see him staring with amusement at Claire.
“Oh yeah, this is the fourth game, and she’s beating me again,” he affirmed as he began to put the game away.
“Hi, I’m sorry. I didn’t introduce myself before. I’m Lily Livingston, Claire’s mom.”
“Gideon Stone, Melanie’s brother.” As he leaned over to shake her outstretched hand, his dark blonde hair fell over his forehead. Wire glasses framed kind, hazel eyes with creases at the corners. Firm handshake, warm hands. As she pulled her hand away, she noticed his broad shoulders, muscular arms and that he sat in a wheelchair. She looked back at up at his face.
“I hope she behaved well. Claire, you were a good girl for Melanie and Gideon, right, sweetie?” She leaned down and kissed the top of her daughter’s brown head.
“Yes, Mom,” she answered in an exasperated six-year-old voice.
“She was great, Lily,” Gideon replied. “We had a good time, didn’t we, Clairebear?”
“You bet!” Claire ran over and gave him a hug. Lily stared. Claire didn’t usually hug strangers, especially men. “Thanks for playing with me!”
“Next time, I’m going to beat you!” he answered with a smile.
“No way!” she yelled as she headed toward the door. “C’mon Mom, I’m hungry.”