My hero is a caveman


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It was only when reading through the printed novel that I realised my hero is actually a caveman. Poor Arnaut.

When he first appears in the story, he walks out from the depths of a cavern. He’s hiding there for a very special reason [* see previous post]. The local people are familiar with the many ancient caverns in the region and use them from time to time for shelter. In this case, Louise and her local guide take refuge from a fierce storm and to escape a pair of Napoleon’s secret agents.

Arnaut is not at all pleased to see them and Louise would rather be anywhere than shut in the dark and eerie bowels of the earth.


Entry Gallery

Photo: Heinrich Wendel (© The Wendel Collection, Neanderthal Museum]

She is oppressed by being shut in and when at last Arnaut leads her back to the entrance, she’s overjoyed to see the blue sky and green hills.

Niaux entrance

Photo: Heinrich Wendel (© The Wendel Collection, Neanderthal Museum]

Louise sets off to complete her mission. As she rides away, she wonders what Arnaut has done for him to be living in such a bleak place. But Louise comes from London and everything about the Pyrenees is strange to her at this point in the story.

The endless steep mountains and deep valleys…..


the small, sure-footed Merens ponies….

the picturesque vistas….


 The mysterious Lake of Bethmale….

but she’ll learn…………..

…and my Caveman? Acually, he’s very charming.



The Heavenly Horse

Heavenly Horse

Akhal-Teke horses are well-known for speed and endurance, intelligence, and for the distinctive metallic sheen of their coat. Natives of Turkmenistan, the bloom on the coat acts as camouflage in the shimmering desert heat. Prized for their beauty as well as their strength and skill, they are known as the Heavenly Horses. These horses are thought to be one of the oldest existing breeds in the world.

No wonder Arnaut de Montailhac is so proud of his Akhal-Teke, Zephyre. [in Scandalous Lady ]

… Olivia was still fascinated by the shimmering golden horse.

‘Mademoiselle,’ said the newcomer, ‘I am delighted to meet you at last. And I agree with you,’ he waved a hand expressively, ‘ My horse is the most beautiful creature you ever saw, n’est-ce pas?’

She was obliged to laugh. ‘Monsieur. Truly, he took my breath away. I have never seen such a proud animal and his coat is extraordinary – like metal.’

He wheeled round to ride beside her as they turned back towards the city. ‘This is Zephyre. He is an Akhal-Teke, a horse from the deserts of Turkmenistan,’ he explained as she shook her head in puzzlement. ‘He is fleet and strong, hey, my Zephyre?’ He leaned forward to pat the animal’s neck and the stallion tossed his head proudly.

The gentleman had a pronounced French accent but he spoke English without any hesitation. Olivia studied him from under her lashes as they rode on. She had noticed that Richard merely exchanged a nod with this gentleman. So they had met before. When? Why had he appeared now? She felt darkly suspicious but what could happen? They were merely riding back home after all. Soon she would be shut up inside four walls for another day of heartache. Her throat closed up as the misery surged up again. Don’t think ahead, enjoy the rest of this ride. At least for the moment she could admire this superb new horse.

She studied at the shining golden stallion as he trotted gracefully along. At once, her companion smiled and nodded. ‘I see you truly appreciate him. But these horses only accept one master.’

‘How splendid,’ she said wistfully, ‘He moves so beautifully.’

That was enough encouragement. The gentleman launched into a list of all Zephyre’s qualities. By the time he finally stopped for breath, Olivia had caught some of his enthusiasm. She managed a smile.


Another day, another duel

Today I’m a guest on The Heart of Romance Blog, revisiting my story about Giles and Anna and the holiday in Brighton that came within a whisker of catastrophe..

A dreamy poet, a wheezy pug, eccentric Italians and very disreputable courtiers are among the cast of this “sunny, relaxing treat of a novel” Rachel A Hyde… and, of course, there is the experience of sea-bathing.




Ice and Fire – Scandalous Lady


Constantinople 1811. The Sultan seeks to end the long running war with Russia. Nothing must stand in the way of achieving this! His chief diplomat is ice cool, very skilled and in the midst of delicate negotiations.

Then a fiery, rebellious artist arrives in the city. Is she a spy? She is certainly a major distraction. In fact, nothing goes to plan.



Image result for ivan aivazovsky constantinople

View of Constantinople by Ivan Aivazovski





Composure or Agitation…?

“Men’s minds are constructed by the waving of that little instrument….our thoughts in composure or agitation according to the motion of it.”

Sir Richard Steele wrote these words in The Tatler in 1709. He was referring to a common object generally carried by ladies, although occasionally gentlemen also made use of them:  the FAN

Vernis Martin 18th century fan

File:Hand fan 1815 1820.jpg

Blond horn brisé hand fan with steel dots applied. Early 19th century

The language of the fan could be understood by both sexes and was an important means of communication. A quick gesture conveyed a silent message that could escape the attention of a chaperone or a jealous spouse. Thus, drawing the fan across your left cheek indicated ‘I love you’ or letting it rest on the right cheek meant ‘yes’. Touching the tip of the fan with one finger meant ‘I wish to talk to you’ but holding the closed fan with your little finger extended meant ‘goodbye’. There is a long list of what the various gestures mean – no wonder the gentlemen were in ‘composure or agitation’ at social gatherings as they sought to decide their ladies’ mood on that evening.


This link is to a video on the language of the fan by Historical author Brandy Vallance.


The lady ‘talks’ with her fan and the gentleman ponders his reaction. He seems composed…. but who knows?






In The Rake’s Challenge, set in Brighton in the summer of 1814, Anna is cornered by two courtiers who intend to take her to the Prince Regent’s private boudoir. In desperation, she signals with her fan to Giles for help. How fortunate she had spent some time learning the language of the fan.


The Crafting Characters Series #3 The Ultimate Character Sheet

Sacha Black

Red hardcover book with flipping pages

I have tried to avoid doing character sheets for a REALLY long time. It’s not that I am lazy. I’m passionate and excited about my stories and characters. So coming to the conclusion I need to go back and interview my characters has been a bit bitter sweet. It’s painful, taking ages, and I am reluctant to do it. However, doing it has led to some really awesome character tidbits, potted histories and development of juicy subplots. No one likes to admit they were wrong, I was desperate to just write the damn story. But I was wrong. The problem was, without the minute detail of a characters life, my story just wasn’t right. It was missing full, deep, rounded and detailed characters that bring texts to life. It’s those details, like the 50pence piece that reminds her of the summers she spent with her now deceased father. She carries that 50pence in her pocket everywhere she…

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In the south of Albania lies the extraordinary site of Butrint. It is about 24 km south of Sarande and is almost totally surrounded by water. Butrint is a microcosm of Mediterranean history, with traces of all the great civilisations of the region represented there. Legend says that the city was founded by exiles fleeing from Troy. The site was inhabited in the 8th century BC. In the 4th century BC a healing sanctuary was created, dedicated to the god Asclepius.

The theatre was part of the complex, as watching drama was considered to be a good treatment for illness.
When we visited in May, the area was partially flooded, due to a week of intense rain in the Balkans. Flooding was the reason the city was eventually abandoned, with the people moving north to Sarande.

It is a delight to wander through the eucalyptus groves, with nightingales singing overhead. The peaceful atmosphere of the whole site makes a visit a special experience. From Greek theatre to Roman bath-house to Venetian watch tower or Byzantine basilica, the remains are all worth viewing. And all around are glimpses of the blue water of the Vivari Channel, where fishermen are at work as they have been for thousands of years.Butrint

Since 1992 Butrint has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also a Wetland Site of International Importance.

Gjirokastra [Part 2] The city of stone



Cascading downhill from the castle to the valley floor, the stone houses of Gjirokastra are unique. The tall buildings range from a simple tower structure, three or four stories high, to houses with one or two wings, as in the beautiful Zekate house near the top of the hill.

The finest example of an Albanian Ottoman house, built in 1813

The finest example of an Albanian Ottoman house, built in 1813


The ground floor was for storage and defence. Living quarters were on the higher floors, with one room having a large chimney hood over a fireplace. this was the winter room. In the larger rooms there were balconies for life during the heat of summer. The ‘guest room’, where visitors were received, was always the most ornate room, with carved and sculpted ceilings and fine rugs and cushions.

The roofs of all these houses are made of thick, stone tiles. This gives the city a uniform appearance when viewed from above. From below, there is a mix of white, Ottoman style walls, with the local grey stone. It is an attractive city. However, while the Museum zone of the town is protected, illegal building work goes on. In addition, every year some houses collapse beyond repair.
The house of the writer Ismail Kadare is under restoration after being destroyed by fire in 1999.