Cinderella and the Birth of a Book…

December sees the publication of my latest Regency romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon. It is also the time of festive fun and pantomimes, so the Cinderella title is very apt, I think.

Cinderella and the Scarred Viscount

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Once upon a time….

Philip James de Loutherbourg, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The story is set in Regency England but its origins are much further afield. Spain in fact. The whole thing starts with the Spanish Armada!

Many Spanish ships from that ill-fated expedition came to grief around the British Isles, and the are many stories of survivors “leaving their mark” on the local population in the form of dark eyed, dark haired children. My heroine, Carenza, has this dark colouring, inherited from her mother.

Of course, she isn’t the first literary character to have such a heritage. The one that springs first to my mind is Jimmy Perez in Ann Cleeves’ Shetland series (not that the lovely Dougie Henshall, who plays Perez in the TV series is dark haired OR dark-eyed).

Then there are The Westray Dons

According to the antiquarian and folklorist Walter Traill Dennison, writing in 1889, Spanish survivors were welcomed to the Orkney Island of Westray, where they took local wives and formed a small settlement.

Ingo Mehling, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Such kindness, says Dennison, was very different from what happened on Fair Isle (Shetland).

There, shipwrecked Spaniards were initially treated kindly but as winter came on, the local population feared the food supplies would run out. They took to throwing off the cliffs any Spaniard they found wandering alone.

Which begs the question, what happened to the fictional Jimmy Perez’s ancestor?

blue question marks

But back to Carenza and Cinderella

George Henry Hall: Portrait of a Spanish Woman with a Lace Shawl and Rose,

I wanted a heroine who is not blond and willowy like her half-sisters. However, she does have a curvaceous figure, chocolate brown eyes and luxurious dark hair. Even her name, Carenza, sounds exotic. Not Spanish, though. In fact it is from the Cornish “Carenz,” meaning loving.

Carenza has been waiting for her story for a while. It is such a lovely name and she just arrived, ready formed, in my head, complete with history!

Carenza’s ancestor was a Spanish nobleman, one of the survivors of the Spanish Armada who was shipwrecked on the Cornish coast.

Unfortunately, Carenza has inherited no Spanish gold and her dark colouring puts her at odds with her beautiful half-sisters and her stepmother, who convince the poor girl that she is no beauty.

It takes a troubled and battle-scarred Prince Charming to discover her real worth, and value her as she deserves….

Meet Prince Charming

Only he isn’t. At least he is not your flawless handsome hero. Major James Rossington (Ross) is now Viscount Austerfield, but his experiences on the battlefield have left him with scars, emotional as well as physical. These days we would call it Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Marines from Arlington, VA, United States, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Getting serious for a moment

PTSD is a  condition that has only been recognised in recent years. Researching for this book showed me just how destructive and debilitating it can be. For the sufferers and those around them. However, it is possible for PTSD to be treated successfully, even many years after the trauma has occurred. The NHS website says “it is never too late to seek help”.  I  hope that anyone suffering from PTSD now can find help and support from the many agencies that are out there.

Back in the 18th century

Mercer’s Battery. Karl Kopinski.

There was little understanding of such conditions during the Napoleonic Wars, or even in the early 20th century. But it would be naïve to think people did not suffer from it then.

As a writer I cannot ignore the more unpleasant aspects of the past, but in a romance, I am also conscious that my readers want a happy and hopeful resolution to the story. So in this case, Ross is only suffering from a very mild form of the disorder.

That’s the characters, now for the plot

I am a pantser – that means I make up the story as I go along, with only a vague idea of what the plot will be. One thing I did know. This  was always going to be a Cinderella story and it is the characters who will drive the plot.

Cinderella character?

Thomas Sully, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Carenza cartoon villainhas a step-mother, and two half sisters who are spoiled and bullying. Consequently, my Cinderella has very low self-esteem.

Ross is similarly affected, for he has a wicked cousin. A pantomime villain, then, who knows Ross considers himself unlovable and plays upon the fact. 

Boo. Hiss.

Ross, the prince, rescues Carenza (naturally) but they also save each other from the evil characters around them. By facing danger together, they both show themselves to be strong characters and they blossom into the attractive, good-hearted people we know they can be.

So there you have it

My main characters have back stories and the scene is set for a tender romance, where Carenza’s loving nature can help to heal Ross’s scars and his kindness helps her to blossom. I think it wouldn’t be giving away any spoilers to say that they lived…

Happily Ever After

Happy reading!

Sarah

Sarah Mallory author image

Beau Brummell has lots to answer for…

  1. Special Licence Marriage — Heyer’s Research Failing?
  2. Heyer Heroes And Falling in Love With One
  3. New Heyer Stories? Guest Post by Jennifer Kloester
  4. Day 8 of 12 Days of Christmas : 8 Maids a-Milking & Heyer
  5. Beautiful heroines, handsome heroes : never ugly, never bald?
  6. Georgette Heyer Study Day
  7. The Romantic Hero Revisited — Essential Hero Qualities
  8. Heyer’s children : too young, too old, just right?
  9. Georgette Heyer: the problem of brothers (for sisters)
  10. Who made Georgette Georgian?
  11. Beau Brummell has lots to answer for…

This last week, I’ve been comfort-reading, which means Georgette Heyer. And the influence of Beau Brummell crops up an awful lot.

James Purefoy as Beau Brummell

James Purefoy as Beau Brummell

He is there, even in novels like Arabella that are set after his flight to France. Brummell might be gone from the scene, literally, but he’s still around, in spirit.

cartoon of Regency dandy 1818

Wadded shoulders and wasp-waist for the dandy

Until that moment [Arabella] had thought Mr Epworth quite the best-dressed man present; indeed, she had been quite dazzled by the exquisite nature of his raiment, and the profusion of rings, pins, fobs, chains, and seals which he wore; but no sooner had she clapped eyes on Mr Beaumaris’s tall, manly figure than she realized that Mr Epworth’s wadded shoulders, wasp-waist, and startling waistcoat were perfectly ridiculous. Nothing could have been in greater contrast to the extravagance of his attire than Mr Beaumaris’s black coat and pantaloons, his plain white waistcoat, the single fob that hung to one side of it, the single pearl set chastely in the intricate folds of his necktie. Nothing he wore was designed to attract attention, but he made every other man in the room look either a trifle overdressed or a trifle shabby. (Arabella, Chapter 6)

“Nothing he wore was designed to attract attention…” That could have been a description of Brummell himself. After all, Brummell was the one who said: “To be truly elegant, one should not be noticed.” Continue reading

Apologies, Real Life and Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day, Chelsea Pensioner in uniformToday’s blog is not only late but also shorter than usual — just apologies, a brief explanation (real life!) and a bowed head for Remembrance Day.

This picture is a photograph I took some years ago, of the West Gate to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea. This wonderful building by Sir Christopher Wren was built at the instigation of Charles II as a home for old and injured soldiers. And so it is still.

The two people in the photo are a serving policeman, and a resident Chelsea Pensioner. The latter is wearing his famous scarlet coat. When I bump into them in the local supermarket, they are generally equally smart but slightly less startling in navy blue.

I am really fond of that not very good photograph. I took it on a day in November — mist in the air, trees turning to gold before they started to lose their leaves. Very like today, indeed.

Real Life (Mine)

The reason the blog is late is that I have new member of the household.

After my dear Tom Kyd died in July I heard him about the house for weeks.

But then I began to smile more and weep less, when I thought about him. Then I started to feel I wanted to share all that love we generated between us.

The obvious course was to adopt a cat who had somehow lost their own family. So I have, thanks to the rehoming programme at the wonderful Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. Continue reading

Keeping a timeline for your book: why and how

timeline starts with "once upon a time" on typewriterWhat is a timeline? Why should you create one?

Actually, there’s no should about it. You might find it useful. You might not.

I do find it useful while I’m writing, but then I’m a pantser. If you’re a plotter or planner, you might not need it. And even if you’re a pantser, you might find it too much faff.

So, in this blog, I’m going to explain what a timeline is and the benefits I get from using one. Of course, you wouldn’t have to follow my approach. There are all sorts of permutations on a writing timeline. Once you know what’s what, you can make up your own mind, can’t you?

diverging paths, which to choose?

Image by PixxlTeufel from Pixabay

Timeline: an example

A timeline is simply a way of recording what’s happening in your book as you create it: plot, characters, timing, motivations, emotions. The lot. There are all sorts of ways of doing a timeline for your book. Continue reading

In Search of Svengali – Part One

Svengali, silent movie

Wilton Lackaye as Svengali (1905)

Looking for Svengali has been in my mind for a while now. I have a Project. (It’s medium term, no need to think I’m abandoning The Book I Need to Finish, Libertà hivies!)

When I realised that today would be Halloween, I thought  the time had come to share a little of my digging so far. After all, on Halloween the novelist’s imagination lightly turns to thoughts of spookiness. And Svengali is surely one of the most unsettling creations of any novelist.

As it happens, last year I got the Halloween brief too . It took me on a wild ride of serendipity. We went to 1938 New York, by way of my neighbours’ pumpkins and The Golden Bough.

So this year please follow me to the nineteenth century in Paris;  and London; and Australia; well all around the world really. Continue reading

In the flesh! With hugs!

hugging a tree but hugs between writers are betterSome of the Libertà hive, plus friends and supporters, have been on writing retreat this past week. In the flesh! With hugs!

And it was utterly wonderful.

Yes, I know that the image here is someone hugging a tree. We did that too, but the real joy was hugs with each other. Wine bottles may also have been hugged. Usually while still partly full.

Why Zoom can’t compete with hugs

Continue reading

World’s biggest signed book auction! Children in Read

Children in Read is the biggest signed book auction in the world. Libertà books suggests some books to bid for, and it’s for a great cause

Children in Read 2021

Children in Read mascotYou really won’t want to miss this year’s Children In Read Author’s and Illustrators’ Auction for BBC Children in Need.

There are fabulous signed books in every genre you can think of, all donated by their authors for this great cause.

All funds raised go to Children in Need, a great cause which supports children’s charities both in the UK and overseas.

If you were thinking of buying a book for yourself, or as a gift for a booklover you know this Christmas – or both! – the auction site is definitely worth a browse. You’ll be helping a very worthwhile cause and you’ll have your booked signed by the author.

More than 650 Lots…

This is the biggest signed book auction in the world and you’ll find donations from world famous, best-selling authors; familiar and much-loved names. Continue reading

October Day

This week has been generally frustrating and guilt-making – except for one glorious October day. Nothing went to plan. It was very exciting in one way but… Well, see what you think.

It started before dawn. I woke up to fog. Real Gothic fog.

Now, from my fourth floor window I normally look across a cityscape of roof and skylight and the odd church tower. The staircase of the nearest block of flats shows a searchlight beam all night. Fantasy-tall cranes in the distance carry a red warning light on skeletal antennae. In the pre-dawn, there are lights in a few attic windows.

But this morning early there was none of that. Just fog, swirling and eddying like sea fret.

I got up and went out. The lights were shifting and formless, like blobs of paint dropped in running water. I couldn’t find a lamppost I knew was there, until I was close enough to touch. It was cold; still and very quiet.

Gothic October Day

So, of course, I came home and wrote up a Gothic scene. A damn good scene, I may say. Good enough to  have had Wilkie Collins gnashing his teeth with envy. Continue reading

Finding appropriate images to use legally and fairly

glorious beach, north-west Scotland © Joanna Maitland

glorious beach, north-west Scotland © Joanna Maitland

How often, when you’re writing a blog or preparing something for social media, do you tell yourself you need to include an image? Most of the time, I’d guess. But finding appropriate images can be difficult.
Certainly time-consuming.

And even when you’ve found one, can you legally use it?

This one on the right, of a glorious beach in north-west Scotland, is fine because I took it myself. My copyright. No problem.

That’s my first tip.
Tip #1 Use your own pics whenever you can.
And if you’re worried about other people snaffling them, make sure you mark them as your copyright. (I don’t do that, normally, but in this instance, I have. Note to self: I probably should claim copyright routinely though I’m already partly covered by Tip #2 below.) Continue reading

Space Breaking Up Text, the Reader’s Friend

Punctuation was invented to help the Reader. And the very first invention was space breaking up text — so you could tell one word from the next. Seriously.

A couple of months ago I was putting the final touches to an online course on punctuation. Not a subject to rock them in the aisles, I thought. Mind you, I love the stuff. But I have learned that, as a subject of conversation, it doesn’t generally draw children from play and old men from the chimney corner.

exclamation mark in fireSo when I was preparing the course, I thought I’d throw in a bit of history for context.

Only then, of course, I had to check online whether what I remembered was a) accurate and b) still received wisdom. And found something new to me: Aristophanes, Head Librarian of Alexandria aged sixty. He was sitting there, receiving rolls in Greek, the language of the prevailing empire.

Most people then, of course, would be illiterate. So the purpose of these scrolls was to provide a text for someone else to deliver in the market place or to perform as an entertainment.

BUT they arrived with all the letters in a continuous line. Presumably to save papyrus and possibly time, as they were being hand-copied by scribes.

So Aristophanes thought of a way of marking up copies of the text to help the Poor Bloody Orator who had to read them out loud. Continue reading