Believe in Love at First Sight. It’s a Real Thing.

I have been gorging my brain on historical romances these past weeks, with the dog days of summer bearing down on us and nowhere to go. Nowhere we can go. As of August 1, Massachusetts’s travel ban makes vacations more than 190 miles (the width of the state) illegal.

*Sigh* Good thing for books.

Since I read (as well as write) romance, the recurring theme I see in many of the stories is “Love at First Sight.” A very romantic notion but has to be fictional, right? We would all like to believe there is a knight in shining armor waiting to kneel at our feet, right?

Well, is it real? Here’s what some researchers who published this article in Psychology Today concluded:

“In sum, science favors the romantics. Love at first sight actually is experienced by people, but it’s not so much “love” or “passion.” Instead, it’s a strong pull or attraction that makes someone particularly open to the possibilities of a relationship (Zsoks et al., 2017). Love at first sight can happen multiple times, and maybe the instances where it fizzles or simply never translates into a relationship are forgotten. But when love at first sight does launch a sustained relationship, the story is a great one.”

Hmm. So scientific studies back the notion. No wonder it’s the favorite trope of romance novels. You know, that spark when two people’s eyes meet for the first time. The electricity when they shake hands (get out the hand sanitizer). That invisible magnet, drawing you to another person without any real rhyme or reason…

Do you believe in love at first sight? Do I? Oh, yes indeedy. And it doesn’t always happen at the most expected times.

Rewind fifty years or so. I am in the seventh grade of what they then called Jr. High School. I am a nerdy, overweight, painfully shy transfer from Catholic school. Thirteen years old and WAY less farther along maturity-wise than any teenager today.

I hated math. I particularly hated my math teacher, Mr. Brown, who was overbearing, rude, full of himself, and took every opportunity he could to embarrass me. I couldn’t stand the man and dreaded the hour I had to spend in his classroom every day.

Until the day he knocked into me and caused my brand-new box of colored pencils (we were map-making in Geography class) all over the floor.

It was an innocent mistake. He was deep in conversation with the school principal and I tried to slip past him when class was over. I was fat, remember? My generously proportioned body + a stack of textbooks half as tall as I was (I was short too) = a tight fit between desks.

Mr. Brown’s elbow came back and knocked into my books. I managed to hold onto the texts, but the box of colored pencils (brand-new, remember?) went flying. When they hit the floor, they scattered everywhere.

Through tears of frustration and embarrassment, I went to my knees to gather them. My fingers were getting stepped on by other kids trying to leave class when I suddenly realized I had help. It was Mr. Brown, down on one knee (I tell you no lie), helping me to gather my colored pencils. When our eyes met, lightning struck. I felt . . . something.

From that day forward, I had a crush on Mr. Brown. An impossible dream. He was fourteen years older than me and married. With kids. I cried myself to sleep many a night pining over Mr. Brown. I got over it, moved onto high school, and heard he had moved away to another state.

He gave me a “C” in math, by the way. The lowest grade on my entire transcript. I have never forgiven him for that.

Fast-forward six years. I am in college, dating a guy in my chemistry class. He was a very nice fellow. Okay, so I was dating him mostly because I sucked at chemistry and he was very good at it.

Billy was a car guy. Months earlier, I had crashed my car into a deer on a dark country road. I’d had it fixed, but the body work and paint job were terrible. He said he had a friend who painted cars on the side. He took me to the guy’s house on a Friday night.

Was I surprised when who came stomping out of his massive, three-car garage, covered in grease but . . . Mr. Brown–who was now divorced.

Spark . . . flicker . . . flicker . . . flame. Whoosh!

Four months later, we were married. That was almost forty-two years and three children ago. Very happy years. Ridiculously wondrous, fictionally romantic years!

So the next time you read about love at first sight in a romance novel and think “what a crock of bull,” think again. Science backs it. And I lived it. I continue to live it, every single day.

“…when love at first sight does launch a sustained relationship, the story is a great one.”

#NationalWingDay, #Historical #Romance, & a #Giveaway

In celebration of National Wing Day, I thought this was a fitting topic to raise.

When you order your wings today, you will be asked this question: sauce or no sauce? Mild, hot, or super spicy?

I’m going to ask the same question about #historicalromance novels. I’m writing one set in the Middle Ages, before the age of feminism and in a world where men literally took what they wanted, whenever they wanted. Love did exist, however, as did chivalry. That’s the kind of story I’m writing.

There will be naked heroes and heaving bosoms, but sex comes as an expression of love, not solely for lust.

In the books I’ve been reading lately, the “heat level” when it comes to sex scenes ranges from very mild to quasi-erotic. Some stories feature a graphic sex scene every few pages–sometimes in lieu of development of a real plot! Others sit on the other end of the spectrum, with lots of kissing, a little fondling, but the actual “act” happening off-camera. There are, of course, variations all along the spectrum.

I personally enjoy the kind of love story that emphasizes the emotional development of the relationship over the physical. These are the ones that spend lots of time showing us the sexual tension between the hero and heroine, but not as much in the way of the sexual act.

My question to my readers is this: how spicy do you like your romance novels? Do you order them up dripping with super-spicy hot sauce, or plain with a little sauce on the side?

When I first started writing romance novels, I was told by numerous sources in the industry that the audience expected a sex scene by a certain point in the book–say, a third of the way through. If the couple wasn’t naked by the halfway point, readers would put the book down.

Is that true? Is no one out there reading romances for the ROMANCE and not just the sex?

A medieval romance I recently read by a VERY successful author featured no sex scene at all until the very end–when the couple was married. It actually appeared as an Epilogue. But that was okay! The relationship was so convincingly developed throughout the novel that it kept me turning the pages. What kept me reading was the throbbing of my heart, not so much my other body parts.

This is the kind of romance novel I like to read. Tastefully written sex scenes are fine, as long as the couple doesn’t shed their clothes and go at it every five pages. Sorry, folks, but as stimulating as these scenes can be, they can, after awhile, become repetitive and even boring.

I have found myself skimming the sex scenes when they present too often. There. I’ve said it. I must be getting old 😦

So my question to you is this: as you order your wings today, how will you order them? Then think about the kind of romance novels you like to read. Which ones do you gravitate towards? Mild, spicy, or super-hot?

I will select one commenter to receive a free Kindle copy of the new release by Bambi Lynn, A Knight in Rusted Armor. In my opinion, Bambi hits the sweet spot, right in the middle of the mild-to-spicy spectrum–plenty of spice, but a heart-melting romantic relationship as well.

Tastefully, done @BambiLynn! And congrats on the new release.

Vacationing . . . Across an Ocean & Six Centuries in the Past #HistoricalRomance

The decision wasn’t hard to make. In fact, with all the chaos and mayhem going on in the world right now, it made perfect sense. Physical travel is risky, hazardous even. So how does one “get away”?

For me, ’tis simple. I climb into a story. Whether it’s one I’m reading, or one I’m writing, the result is similar. I can leave my home (which, in the past few months, has become somewhat of a prison) and go anywhere I want to go.

Even if that place is across an ocean and almost six centuries in the past.

Which, in writing the first book in my series, takes me exactly here: Flanders, 1436. The Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, reigns. Life is reasonably peaceful, compared to what it’s been like for the past hundred years, even though the Hundred Years War is still going on.

But they didn’t call the man Philip “the Good” for nothing. He was a generous and mostly peaceful ruler, and treated his subjects well.

https://thefreelancehistorywriter.com/2017/09/15/the-wedding-feast-of-philip-the-good-duke-of-burgundy-and-isabel-of-portugal/

Philip also loved opulence in all things, from his clothing to his many residences (he had either a castle or other elaborate home in almost every major city of the region), to celebrations. The Duke was known for his decadent feasts, which he often opened up to all, nobles and peasants alike.

If ever there was a time for the romantic notion of knighthood and chivalry to flourish, ’twas then. Philip even established his very own group of esteemed knights, The Order of the Golden Fleece. The twelve virtues of chivalry–faith, charity, justice, wisdom, prudence, temperance, resolution, truth, liberality, diligence, hope, and valor–were Philip’s established guidelines for members of his Order.

Not that all the knights lived by these virtues to the letter. At least not some of the characters of the first book in my new series, Forgotten Flowers of Flanders.

Take the captain of Philip’s Royal Guard, Sir Engel Knape. His captain gets a free pass in living by the rules because of his loyalty and ferocity on the battlefield.

Mathieu of Flambre, the ostler (horsemaster) at Coudenburg Castle, doesn’t agree. ‘Tis why, even though his father was a warrior, and Mathieu started on the road to earning his spurs and sword, he’s decided knighthood isn’t the life for him.

Too bad the maiden who’s captured his heart has hers set on a marrying a knight.

“An Imperfect Rose,” Book I of Forgotten Flowers of Flanders, coming soon.

Kindred Spirits #Medieval #HistoricalFiction

Kindred Spirit (noun): a person whose interests or attitudes are similar to one’s own.

We stumble across people like this all the time, don’t we? We used to rely on luck or fate or serendipity to meet “our peeps.” It’s easier now than ever with the Internet, since we can “virtually” seek out those whose interests run along the same lines as our own. There are Facebook groups, and Twitter hashtags, and Youtube channels where we can connect with kindred spirits.

I am what they call a “Rennie,” i.e., one who is obsessed with the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods of history. I have a literal library of nonfiction books on the age. I am currently working on the first of a new series set in 15th Century Flanders (present day Belgium and the Netherlands), so I have been doing lots of research (again, yet, still).

Why haven’t I started writing medieval romances earlier? I am a stickler for historical accuracy, and up until now, I just didn’t think I was good enough to do the tales justice. I hope perhaps now I am.

I’ve been Googling all sorts of medieval subjects, such as jousting, medieval warfare, what it was like to live in a castle, and what did it take to be a knight. One channel kept surfacing time and again: Modern History, a channel starring a certain Jason Kingsley. Jason hails from and lives in the U.K.

Even though we are an ocean apart and have never met (virtually or otherwise), I feel I have honestly found in him a kindred spirit.

I became curious about the man in the armor, the one who shares my obsession for the Middle Ages as well as for horses. Jason rides as if born in the saddle. Some further research revealed that Lord Kingsley (my title for him) is actually the CEO of a gaming company called Rebellion. Along with his brother, Chris, the Kingsleys have built Rebellion into a multi-million-dollar company, employing hundreds of people and having produced more video games than I can count.

Kingsley lives in front of a computer monitor by day, in the barn with his fifteen horses after hours, and suits up in custom-made armor on the weekends to participate in jousts. I was particularly intrigued by this blog in The Mane Quest, where Jason talks more about his love for horses and dedication to training them in the classical way.

In this interview, I discovered that for Rebellion’s video game, “Joust Legend,” Kingsley had a very personal investment in the creation of the game.

“The movements of the horse and rider in the mobile games were motion captured from Kingsley himself and (his horse,) Warlord.”

Wow. Double wow. Can you say, “the perfect modern knight in shining armour”?

In this interview by Jimi Famurewa of The Evening Standard, Jason, when asked about his rather “flamboyant” pastime, says,

“For me, wearing armour and riding a horse is actually a form of time travel. I know what it feels like to close your visor in the heat of summer, pick up a lance and gallop past somebody, trying to hit them.”

Oh, I can SO relate to this. My first visit to a Renaissance Faire at the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida happened when I was in my twenties (many, many moons ago). When I paid my ticket fare and stepped through the gates, I felt as though I’d been transported back in time. Strangely enough, it was like coming home. I am only truly in my element when the sights and sounds of the Middle Ages surround me.

Jason doesn’t know it, but he is very actively participating in helping me write this book. It’s one thing to read about a historical time period—it’s quite another to see life as it might have been lived on the screen, in real time, with a real man and real horses. I’ve viewed dozens of Modern History’s videos, watching Jason gallop with a lance aboard his Lusitano gelding, Warlord, practicing his aim at a quintain (a medieval practice target for jousting). I’ve watched him visit a raptor aviary and learn about how falcons and hawks were (and are) handled, trained, and used for hunting. I’ve watched him try his hand at shooting arrows from a longbow, with amazingly good results for his first go at it.

In short, Jason has become, in my mind, the model hero for my planned series of medieval novels.

Interestingly, Jason has applied the knight’s codes of honor to his business practices as well, as he explains in this BBC interview where he is described as the “Boss in Shining Armour.” Jason believes that the chivalric principles of bravery, honesty, and kindness are key components for achieving success in any business venture.

With my obsession for the Middle Ages, as well as for falconry, archery, and horses—and dressage, in particular—I can’t imagine how much Jason and I might have to chat about over a glass of ale or mead. As far as the game development? Not so much. Mayhap he could help me, though, in figuring out how to format my manuscripts more easily–a process that now takes me many frustrating days at the keyboard!

My “dream trip” up until now has been to return to Belgium and the Netherlands, a part of the world I have been inexplicably drawn to all of my life–thus the choice of setting for my new series. I visited once—my only trip overseas.

I may have to rethink my plans, now. I may be aiming to travel to the U.K.

Echoes from the Past ~ And a Giveaway Winner

Once upon a time there was a shy, introverted little girl who was growing up in a strict Italian, Catholic family. She was the only daughter. They lived out in the country, in a place where there was little to no opportunity for her to make friends.

So she read books. In this way, the little girl found a way to make new friends and travel to faraway places. She even found she was able, by diving into the pages of a book, to travel back in time.

Unfortunately, her mother couldn’t drive, and trips to the library were few and far between. The private school she attended had a very small library. So once a month, the town library sent a box of books. Each child was permitted to select a book from the box for that month.

She was in the second grade when, due to her shyness, she again found herself at the end of the line to pick out her book for the month. There were few left. One, a very large picture book with a glossy paper jacket, caught her eye. The name of the book, the teacher-nun helped her to read, was “Early Netherlandish Painting.”

The pictures in the book were strange, and the little girl didn’t understand them at all. But for some reason, they fascinated her. The images embedded themselves in her mind. Sometimes it was as though she felt she had seen all of these paintings somewhere before.

Perhaps she had.

~~~

The little girl was me. At the tender age of eight, I became fascinated with the history of the Middle Ages–the Netherlands, to be more precise. The images in that picture book haunted me all through my childhood until researching that place, and that time, became a verifiable obsession.

There was no Internet. Research meant requesting books through inter-library loans, or spending hours in the special collections room learning how to read microfiche. Once I was old enough to drive and had a little money from my job, I began buying used books on the history of the Middle Ages.

My early forays into the world of writing were nonfiction essays on Medieval history. I’ve been published in a number of magazines, including the History Magazine, and was a regular contributor for Renaissance Magazine.

When I was in college, I took a course on Medieval Manuscripts. I also took more Latin courses than they offered–I was assigned a private instructor to complete Advanced Latin Level IV. I couldn’t read or write in any other language than English, but Latin came to me as though I’d known it since birth.

Or perhaps before.

Do you believe in reincarnation? For obvious reasons, I do. That’s why reading, and now writing, historical, medieval romance feels like coming home.

~ THE GIVEAWAY ~

Last week I was honored to have interviewed one of my favorite authors of medieval romance, Jayne Castel. I invited people to comment on the blog, and intended to select one lucky person to receive a free digital copy of the first of Jayne’s Brides of Skye series, The Beast’s Bride.

We only got three comments. So guess what? I’m going to gift Jayne’s book to all three of you. I want to hook others on this amazing author’s stories as I have been.

So please, commenters frass521, Kami, and Barb–email me at gem.writer@ yahoo.com so I can gift you all a Kindle copy of The Beast’s Bride.

It’s an addiction, I’m warning you. Once you start reading Jayne’s books, you won’t be able to stop. And they have an incredible power to transport you back to the Middle Ages–no masks required.

Medieval Magic & A Giveaway #Historical #Romance

Of late I have discovered some “new to me” authors, some of whom I am obsessed with! One of these talented writers is Jayne Castel, author of Historical & Fantasy romance, most set in the Dark or Middle Ages. It’s amazing to me how much research has to go into producing a credible novel set in these times. I’m in the process of writing one now, and believe me–it’s a labor of love.

Today I am more than thrilled to have Jayne as a guest on my blog to talk about her books and her writing process. This is yet another place where the internet is such a blessing–Jayne lives, literally, on the other side of the world from me, on the south island of New Zealand. Yet I was able to interview her as if she were sitting beside me enjoying a cup of tea (six feet apart, wearing masks, of course) 🙂

I got hooked on Jayne’s book reading the Sisters of Kilbride series. When I finished those, I went on to Brides of Skye. I started the Kingdom of Mercia series last evening–I find I simply cannot get enough of Jayne’s stories!

I kind of did this backwards, since the Brides of Skye comes before the Sisters of Kilbride in time. Let me stress, however, that every one of these books stands alone beautifully, and they definitely do NOT have to be read in order.

Since I’m such an avid new fan of Jayne’s, I want to hook all my own fans as well. That’s why I will choose a random commenter from this blog who will receive a gift from me: a free Kindle copy of Book I from the Brides of Skye Series, The Beast’s Bride. So be sure to leave a comment below!

Welcome, Jayne, and let’s get started getting to know you better.

Claire: What does your writing process look like? Are you a plotter or pantser? Morning or nighttime writer?

Jayne: I’m a morning writer and try to stick to a routine these days. If I write all day I get drained, so I try to do around 3,000-4000 words each morning from 8.30am-12pm. I write in 45 minutes sprints – I only just started doing this recently, and have found it’s really upped my word-count, while ensuring I take regular breaks. I’m more of a plotter than a pantser, although I don’t tend to do lengthy outlines. I do a couple of pages outlining my story (I use a four-act structure) and then I do some work on my main characters: their motivations, flaws, origin stories, which makes the story come together well. I always leave some room for discovery in my stories, but I still need to know where I’m heading!

Claire: I envy your ability to outline. I tend to be more of a pantser, which definitely leaves me at times lost, wondering where to go next. 😦

What inspired you to write within the medieval era?

Jayne: I started of writing books set in the Dark Ages (7th Century Anglo-Saxon England and 4th Century Scotland), but realized that there was a real ‘hunger’ for medieval romances – especially those set in Scotland. So I decided to use a setting I was already familiar with in previous books (The Isle of Skye) to set my two Medieval Scottish Romance series. The Medieval era is great to write in – and because it lasted a few centuries you have quite a lot of scope as an author!

Claire: You have chosen some fascinating times and locations, and your ability to transport the reader back into those is simply amazing!

Do you have a goal for how many books you publish each year?

Jayne: This year I’m planning to have 7 full-length novels out, and a novella! This is quite a lot for me … usually six is perfect.

Claire: You set the bar high, no doubt! But that’s okay–I’m reading your books as fast as you’re writing them . . . maybe faster =/

What is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? The least favorite?

Jayne: My favorite part of the writing process is getting lost in a story I’m writing – I love those moments when the characters and story just take over and I feel as if I’m living it all right there with them! The least favorite part is when I first sit down to work on the structural edits on a manuscript. I’m alright once I get going, but always takes so much concentration!

Claire: When an author gets lost in the story is when magic appears on the page. It must happen to you a lot!

How much time goes into the research end of producing the wonderfully portrayed settings for your books?

Jayne: A lot of research goes into each of my books. However, I try not to get lost in the research rabbit hole as knowing ‘too much’ can actually make it hard to start writing. Often, I highlight bits and pieces as I write, and then go back after the draft is finished and research specific details. You have to be careful with how you use all your historical knowledge though – I like to think of the details I share in the books as the ‘tip of the ice-berg’. The reader should always feel that you know more than you’re revealing. You don’t want to bog them down.

Claire: You are so right–there is a fine line between portraying a vivid historical setting and delivering a history lesson. You have definitely found the right balance.

Do you write full-time or do you have a “day job”?

Jayne: These days I’m fortunate to write full-time. It’s a dream come true and I sometimes have to pinch myself! 🙂

Claire: Tell us about your current project, The Immortal Highland Centurions? Where did the idea come from? (And here’s a peek at the awesome cover!)

Jayne: I got the idea for this project when I was watching the historical action movie, ‘Centurion’, which is about a group of Roman soldiers who end up fighting for survival in the wilds of Caledonia after their legion was ambushed and destroyed. Watching the movie I was fascinated by the myths associated with the disappearance of the Ninth Legion – and I thought ‘What if three Roman centurions survived … only to be taken captive and then cursed with immortality?’ The idea for the series was born!

Claire: I can’t wait! Maximus is available for pre-order on Amazon now.

Thank you so much for chatting with me today, Jayne. It was an honor!

Readers, I want you to know how much respect I have for the caliber of Jayne’s novels. As many of you know, I am a professional reviewer, and so tend to be a bit overly-critical. I also possess an “eagle eye” for typos and grammatical errors. Jayne’s books are pristine. I even tried to steal her editor, but alas, she has first dibs on Tim Burton, her “personal” editor 😉

Be sure to leave a comment to be entered for a free Kindle edition of the first Brides of Skye, The Beast’s Bride. I will announce the winner next week on this blog, so check back! I’ll need to contact the winner via email to gift the Ebook.

About Jayne:

Award-winning author Jayne Castel writes epic Historical and Fantasy Romance. Her vibrant characters, richly researched historical settings and action-packed adventure romance transport readers to forgotten times and imaginary worlds.

Jayne is the author of the Amazon bestselling BRIDES OF SKYE series–a Medieval Scottish Romance trilogy about three strong-willed sisters and the men who love them. An exciting spin-off series set in the same story-world, THE SISTERS OF KILBRIDE, is now available as well. In love with all things Scottish, Jayne also writes romances set in Dark Ages Scotland … sexy Pict warriors anyone?

When she’s not writing, Jayne is reading (and re-reading) her favorite authors, learning French, cooking Italian, and taking her dog, Juno, for walks. She lives in New Zealand’s beautiful South Island.

BLURB FOR MAXIMUS (Book 1: The Immortal Highland Centurions)
Set to release on October 1st, MAXIMUS is Book #1 of my new Scottish Medieval Romance series about three immortal warriors and the brave-hearted Scottish women who will change their lives forever.

A Roman centurion doomed to an immortal life. A strong-willed woman running from her mistakes. One night of passion that changes everything. High adventure and epic love in Medieval Scotland—with a touch of fantasy.


Preorder links:US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08BNH6LM5
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08BNH6LM5
CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08BNH6LM5
AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08BNH6LM5

Social Media links:

Website: www.jaynecastel.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jaynecastelromance/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JayneCastelRomance/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.nz/jaynecastel/pins/

BookBub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/jayne-castel

Something New on the Horizon #Historical Romance #Medieval

As many of my friends and fans know, my writing life has taken a back seat over the past months due to an injury to my right arm–my writing arm. It’s been almost a year now, and although I still may be facing surgery to repair the damage, I have managed to figure out a way to put words down on the screen.

My writing, though, has taken a slight detour.

Lately, I’ve become enamored with historical romance. I’ve always been a lover of history. All of this time on my hands (can anyone say “quarantine”???) has allowed me so much more time to read. I’ll bet I’ve read fifty books in the last three months alone. I have some new favorite authors, and my goal at this point, while I’m working on a new novel, is to invite some of these authors to be interviewed on my blog.

There’s no doubt Kathryn LeVeque has medieval romance down to a science. I recently read the first in one of her latest series, Wolfeheart, and let me tell you, it hits all the right beats. Just the right combination of historical accuracy, action, and heart-melting romance. What I particularly love about this book is that the author introduces a mature heroine with children. Watching the hero, Markus, interact with and bond with Amabella’s very rambunctious, very realistically described family is a rare and delightful treat.

And then, of course, there’s the romance. *swoon*

Another author I’ve fallen for hard is Jayne Castel. I’ve read all of her Sisters of Kilbride Series, and am into the second Brides of Skye. Jayne has a wonderfully accessible flow to her stories. Her descriptions literally transport you back in time to medieval Scotland. And again, her characters are very real, with problems and flaws we all as humans can identify with. Her love scenes are sizzling but tastefully portrayed.

So, here’s my wish for the “reboot” of my writing career: When I grow up, I want to write medieval romance like Le Veque and Castel.

Am I dreaming? Probably. But every writer needs a goal, a pinnacle to shoot for, and that’s mine. I’m going to give a shout-out to both Kathryn and Jane and see if they might be willing to be guests on my blog for an interview. I would absolutely love to get to know them better–and also spread the news to readers of historical romance everywhere how wonderful their books really are.

As for the book–actually new series–I’m working on, I’m keeping it quiet for now, except to say that it will be set in the 15th Century and take place in my very favorite part of the world, Belgium and the Netherlands. I’m well into Book 1, and hope to have it ready for the world’s eyes by early fall.

Life for all of us has been challenging of late, so what better time to step on a virtual time machine and escape into another place, another era? Check out Kathryn and Jane’s books–you won’t be disappointed.

Quarantined with Creativity

2020 certainly has been a banner year, although I can’t quite pinpoint what the headline should say. I believe the universal theme has been CHANGE. Our world is radically different now than in most of our lifetimes. It’s difficult to imagine us ever really going back to the “old world,” the way things used to be.

Up until now, my “thing” in the world called “Author” has been paranormal romance, with ghosts. I was recently interviewed by Alida Winternheimer on her podcast, StoryWorks/Roundtable, to discuss that genre. If you’d like to see me with bad (quarantine) hair filming this podcast, check it out here.

I “met” Alida after reading her fantastic book on character development. I believe she is at least partially responsible for knocking down the wall I was facing in my attempts to write my next book. Please do check out The Story Works Guide to Character Development.

So, lots of changes. All of this time at home has given me the opportunity to really think about my writing, and I believe that a CHANGE is coming in that venue as well.

As my readers well know, my ghostly stories are always set in a haunted location, one that bears quite a bit of very real history. Research has always been my favorite part of the writing process, and I am obsessed with history–especially of the Middle Ages. Over these past months, I’ve been able to branch out from my normal reading favorites and venture more seriously into reading historical romance.

medieval-3668888_1280

I believe that’s where Claire Gem is headed.

Actually, I more than believe it–the first book of a newly created series is already well underway. I am unwilling at this point to reveal much more than this:

  1. The books will be set in the Middle Ages.
  2. They will definitely be romances.
  3. The stories will be set in an entirely different location than the current historical romances on the market.

That’s it. That’s all you get for right now. Over the next few weeks I will be rolling out the Series name, the title of Book One–I might even reveal a sneak peek at the cover.

Sadly, for those of you who are waiting for another ghost story, I regret to say there will be no haunting in this new series. There will be, however, a just as intensely emotional love story with lots of conflict, along with setting details it has taken me a lifetime to collect.

You see, at the tender age of eight, I stumbled across a painting in a picture book of art history. After years of nightmares associated with this image, I decided to research the artist, the area, and the era in which it was painted.

My bookshelf looks like a library dedicated to Medieval History.

So I guess, in a way, you could say my new series is based on a haunting–but one that’s lived inside my own head. Up until now, I’ve never felt my abilities as a writer were “good enough” to do these stories justice.

Now, I believe, is the time.

steampunk-3222894_1280

A Bracelet of Tiny Coins

Sometimes you just have to trust in your dreams

About a week ago I had a very vivid dream that seemed significant. Nonsensical, as most dreams are, but it seemed important. Something I remembered and felt I needed to act on.

In the dream, I looked down at my left wrist (NOT the arm that is broken and fairly useless these days) and saw a bracelet. I do like bracelets, but have not been able to wear any jewelry since my accident almost four months ago.

With a badly broken right arm, it’s just too difficult to attach the clasps, etc. I can barely get dressed by myself, for heaven’s sake! I can’t put on makeup due to my arm’s limitations, so what’s the point in trying to adorn myself in any other way?

In my dream, I was wearing a bracelet made of very shiny, very tiny gold coins. They were strung on a leather strip. I remember these details vividly. I could even feel and hear the jingling of the metal against my skin.

“Tiny coins?” I asked of whomever else was in the dream (I remember not who.)

“Yes. Tiny, gold coins,” came the ethereal reply.

Okay, so even if I wasn’t struggling along on a portion of my regular salary, there is no way I could afford one gold coin, let alone a bracelet full of them. Even tiny ones.

What did it mean?

No matter. I set out to find replicas of the coins I’d seen in my dream and ordered two packages from Amazon. I went to Michael’s and bought a leather bracelet blank and links to attach the coins.

Total nonsensical investment? Less than twenty bucks.

With the questionable “assistance” of my furry muse, Adam (as well as the hindrance of a right hand that is numb most of the time and doesn’t work like it’s supposed to) I managed to get all 72 coins attached this afternoon.

It has a nifty magnetic latch, so I can actually put it on by myself (unlike many daily life tasks I cannot do without help). I finished it, and put it on.

It feels wonderful.

I have no idea why. It’s gaudy and cheap and fake, I know. But there is some reason the universe wants me to wear this bracelet of tiny coins.

I will wear it, and see where it leads.

In the meantime, Adam, scolded one too many times for his stealing of my fake gold coins, lost interest.

Wanna Swim in the Sea of Love?

Today I’d like to welcome Alice Renaud to my blog to talk about her “A Sea of Love” Series novels. Welcome, Alice!

Claire: How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?

Alice: Names are very important to me. I always start my planning process by finding the characters’ names. For fantasy characters (my mermen, mermaids, warlocks and witches) the name always has a meaning and links to something in the story. For example my hero’s name in Music for a Merman is Rob Regor. Regor Island is one of the islands where the mermen live. The name is based on a real island off the coast of Brittany, in France, where I grew up. I use a variety of resources: real place names, baby naming websites, and dictionaries. Words from ancient languages like Latin or Welsh make good names for fantasy characters.

Claire: Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?)

Alice: This is my second published book, Book 2 in my fantasy romance series Sea of Love. The first book in the series, A Merman’s Choice, was published in January 2019 by Black Velvet Seductions. Before I got published, I wrote 3 children’s fantasy novels, 3 contemporary romances, and 2 paranormal romances. None of them are published, but I am planning to revisit some of them for future books.

Claire: What are you working on now? What is your next project?

Alice: I am working on the third book in the Sea of Love series, Mermaids Marry in Green. It’s about a feisty mermaid called Caltha, who travels to London to help a warlock save the city from a water monster. Of course, she falls in love with him! I would also like to write more short stories. I have a short story in the BVS supernatural romance anthology Mystic Desire, which is out now. The story, The Sweetest Magic of All, is about an apprentice witch and a hot warlock who go back in time to locate a magical amulet, and find more than they bargained for! It was great fun to write.

Claire: Do you dream? Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?

Alice: I dream a lot. I have several recurring dreams. My favourite is the one where I am a member of a guerilla group and I am fighting an oppressive dictatorship using magic. Once, I learnt to move between dimensions by a) taking my clothes off b) plunging through a guitar c) turning myself sort of inside out and back again. Sometimes I’m quite tired when I wake up!

Claire: Real settings or fictional towns?

Alice: I like to use real settings, but transform them by changing the names and introducing magical elements. Music for a Merman is set on the Morvann Islands, a fictional archipelago based on a group of small islands near the seaside village where I grew up. The islands are called Roger, Durand, and Benetin. They became Regor, Dooran, and Benetynn, in the books. A Clan of mermen lives on each of the islands, and they’re named after them. So the hero of my first book, A Merman’s Choice, is called Yann Benetynn, and the hero of the second book, Music for a Merman, is called Rob Regor.

Fantastic, Alice! Tell us a little more about Music for a Merman!

Blurb

Rob Regor knew that humans were trouble. All the shape shifting mermen of the Morvann Islands knew it. And human women were double trouble… especially when they were lying on the road in front of a digger.

Rob has a mission. Go to the mainland. Work as a policeman. Spy on humans. Report back to his father, the head of the Regor Merman Clan. It should be easy. Until he has to arrest Charlie. Rob can’t fight his attraction to the sexy eco-warrior, and it puts him on one hell of a collision course with his family and his Clan. Will he break the rules – or break her heart, and his?

Love ‘em and leave ‘em, that was Charlie’s motto. It had served her well until now. But Rob is different… Can she open up her heart to Rob – when a secret buried in her past surfaces and changes her completely?

Buy Links

https://amzn.to/2ZkU5wR

https://books2read.com/u/mdG7Bw

Alice Renaud’s Bio

Alice lives in London, UK, with her husband and son. By day she’s a compliance manager for a pharmaceutical company. By night she writes fantasy romance about shape shifting mermen, water monsters and time-traveling witches. Her first book, “A Merman’s Choice,” was published in January 2019 by Black Velvet Seductions. It is the first book in a fantasy romance trilogy inspired by the landscapes and legends of Brittany and Wales. The second book, “Music for a Merman,” is on pre order now. Alice has also written a short story, “The Sweetest Magic of All,” included in the BVS “Mystic Desire” anthology, out now.

Alice loves reading and writing stories, and sharing them with anyone who’s interested!

Excerpt

Rob’s scream reached Charlie as she was squelching through a puddle. Fear caught her chest in its jaws and bit down hard. She stopped. Where were the mermen? She squinted. Was that a moving shadow, at the very edge of her field of vision? She retraced her steps, pushing against the panic that threatened to crush her.

As if to mock her, a cloud covered the moon. All she could see now was the coal-black night, thick and pitiless. Her breath rasped in her throat. Every nightmare she’d ever had came back to her. She was a child again, in the creaking, ancient Fitzwilliam castle, hiding under the covers from the many ghosts that loomed over her bed. The instinct to scream for help almost overpowered her, and she pressed her hand to her mouth to stifle it. She was growing dizzy. Her legs buckled, and she sank to her knees into the soft, oozing silt.

Water sloshed over her hands and thighs. The gentle, cooling touch reached through her anguish and brought her back to reality. It was as if a friendly animal were licking her, comforting her. She breathed in and out a few times. She had to stay calm and fight. It was her only chance. She scrambled in the mud for something to use as a weapon. Her fingers scraped against a sharp rock and the vice of fear relaxed its grip a little. She picked up the stone and got to her feet.

Somehow she felt that one merman, at least, was near. She forced her body into perfect stillness, hoping that the invisible enemy wouldn’t hear the frantic beating of her heart. Unless he had infrared vision, he couldn’t see her any more than she could see him. Maybe he’d walk right past her.

The merman hissed at her out of the darkness. “I can smell you, human.”

Terror tore into her. She was in every fairy tale, facing every monster. Alone. She tried to inhale, but no air got in. Crushing pain radiated from her lungs into her limbs.

A tiny wave lapped over her feet, though there was no breeze. A mysterious voice whispered in her head. The monsters won’t win. Run to the sea. I will protect you.

Maybe she was going mad. But if so, it was a helpful sort of madness. Strength was rising through her body, easing the pressure on her ribs. Wherever the voice had come from, she’d follow its advice. She gripped the stone harder and put her hand behind her back. She had to buy some time, until the damn moon came out and lit her path to freedom.

“What do you want?” she asked.

A suction sound informed her that her enemy was moving through the mud, but he wasn’t coming any closer to her. Maybe he too was waiting for light. Or maybe he was wary of her. The thought comforted her. He was right to be careful. She could be dangerous too.

“I’m not going to hurt you,” the merman said. “I want to help you.”

Charlie almost sniggered. He must think I’m stupid. She’d play along, until she saw an opportunity to escape.

“That’s good,” she said, trying hard not to sound sarcastic. She put on her best “lost little girl” voice. “Can you help me get out of the marsh?”

“Sure!” The merman sounded eager, almost enthusiastic. She heard him move forward, but slowly. “I’ll give you a ride on my back, if you want.”

The voice murmured in Charlie’s head. She couldn’t tell if it was real, or a childhood memory. An old fisherman had told her that story once, when she was holidaying on the Morvann Islands with her parents. And she had read the same story, in the old book she’d found in the police station. The Water Horse offers the unwary traveller a ride on its back, only to throw him off and drown him in the marshes.

***

Thanks for visiting with me today, Alice, and best of luck with your upcoming novel, Music for A Mermen!