Category Archives: Castle of Dreams

The Rose

A gift from my daughter this year was ‘The Rose’  The history of the World’s favourite flower with classic texts and beautiful rare prints. Written by Brent Elliott, Historian, Royal Horticultural Society the society shares the best in gardening.

The Rose

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Audrey Hepburn, an icon of class and beauty, had a rose named after her. The rose named after Audrey is a soft apple-blossom pink hybrid tea rose. The blossoms are a deep pink in bud, but when they open they become a softer pink and then almost white. She grew them in her garden and in a bouquet you have different hues of colour.

Audrey Hepburn

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow . . .

The Audrey Hepburn Rose

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My mother was a gardener and my daughter has inherited the gardening gene and also my son.  I enjoy writing about gardens! In my novel Castle of Dreams I wrote about the rainforest plants and trees and in my WIP I am writing about all things botanical. My protagonist in the modern day is a botanist and my protagonist in the past collects wildflowers and paints botanical pictures. I have written about a medieval garden, a herb garden, an orchard and a vegetable garden. And of course a rose garden. There are dark family secrets and the past impacts on the present. But are some secrets better never to be discovered?

Gardens are a recurring motif in my novels.

Monet’s Garden at Giverny

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Audrey Hepburn:

If I’m honest I have to tell you I still read fairytales and I like them best of all. 

Have a wonderful day, writing, reading, dreaming . . .

Elise

 

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Castle of Dreams

Photos I used as inspiration in writing the historical narrative in Castle of Dreams.

Robert Shine and Vivien Blake                    Vivien typing a letter


Rose Blake


Paronella Park aka Castillo de Suenos 


Jacaranda trees in Brisbane

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I was wondering how I could weave the Pacific War through my story when I discovered by a serindipitious happening that Australian and American Service personnel visited the castle for rest and recreation during the war years. They came out to the Saturday night dances, went canoeing on the lake with their Cairns and Innisfail girlfriends.

Castle of Dreams will be published in Norwegian in April 2017 and re-printed in Australia in June 2017. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I loved writing it!

Elise

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Gremlin Special Crash

Readers of  my novel Castle of Dreams often ask me about the Gremlin Special crash which was the inspiration for part of the narrative.  It’s a fascinating story and one I’d like to share with you.

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Excerpts.

Stella, Rose’s granddaughter. 

I scribbled all the details down in my notebook. Nothing I could have imagined about Nan’s past was as fascinating as the true story of her lost love: a soldier who died in a fiery plane crash. No matter how many years had passed since then, her story was tragic. I felt a deep sense of sadness as I watched her squint to pick up a dropped stitch. I could only guess the effort it must have taken to talk about Robert’s death. As if to confirm my thoughts, she finished the row, wrapped her knitting around the needles and put it down in her lap. 

*******

Tom, Robert’s friend who survived the plane crash.

‘I was woken by birdsong. In the dim morning light I unwrapped myself from the tarpaulin slowly and painfully, as if from a shroud, and stood up. I’d heard a search plane during the night and saw what I thought was the light of a flare, but the plane had flown on, not noticing the still-smoking wreckage under the thick jungle canopy. I put if out of my mind. I had to focus on staying alive and not give in to despair.

I bent down and gently shook Robert’s shoulder. He didn’t move, so I knelt and pulled back the canvas. Believing him sleeping soundly, I touched his cold face, shook him harder. He didn’t respond. It was only when I saw the dried blood on his neck where it had trickled down from his ear that I knew he was dead.’

*******

The Gremlin Special was a Douglas C-47 Skytrain that crashed during a sightseeing flight for U.S. servicemembers over the Baliem Valley (‘Shangri-La Valley’) in New Guinea in 1945. The recovery of the three survivors from an isolated valley surrounded by mountains, enemy troops, and native inhabitants was incredible.  There were 5 crew and 19 passengers and only 3 people survived the crash.

The New Guinea jungle is the biggest graveyard for crashed planes in the world and the recovery of the three survivors from an isolated valley surrounded by mountains, enemy troops, and native inhabitants made worldwide news at the time.

The three survivors were spotted on the ground during an air search. Two medical paratroopers were deployed to the site, followed by 10 other support troops. A journalist, Alexander Cann was dropped into the site to document the rescue attempt. The high-altitude rescue was performed using Waco CG-4 gliders towed by a Douglas C-47 Skytrain. Three separate rescues were performed by towing a glider with single pilot into the valley. The glider was then loaded and configured for a live capture by the tow plane which recovered the survivors, towing them back to a base in Hollandia.

This is the original video of the rescue.

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Sergeant Kenneth Decker, Corporal Margaret Hastings, and Lieutenant John McCollom. 

I’ve enjoyed sharing some of the research I did for Castle of Dreams with you.

Cheers, Elise.

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Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

15078865_10153930399541712_887778448076687684_n.jpgDual timeline stories are a favourite of mine and I have discovered the novels of Diana Gabaldon. I am reading Outlander (published in the United Kingdom as Cross Stitch in 1991) the first in a series of eight (so far) historical multi-genre novels.

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The main narrator is Word War II nurse Claire Randall, married to Frank Randall, who steps through a stone portal in Scotland and travels back in time to 18th century Scotland and finds romance with dashing Jamie Fraser.

The Outlander series is several genres: historical fiction, romance and fantasy. Outlander won the Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award for Best Romance of 1991.

It was through the Outlander series on Netflix that I found my way to the books.

Diana Gabaldon is the New York Times bestselling author of the wildly popular Outlander novels—Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes (for which she won a Quill Award and the Corine International Book Prize), An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood—as well as the related Lord John Grey books Lord John and the Private Matter, Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, Lord John and the Hand of Devils, and The Scottish Prisoner; two works of nonfiction, The Outlandish Companion, Volumes 1 and 2; the Outlander graphic novel The Exile; and The Official Outlander Coloring Book. She lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband.

Courtesy: Penguin Random House

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Go Tell the Bees that I Am Gone is the ninth book in the Outlander series.

It’s an old Celtic custom to talk to your bees.  I wrote about bees in my recently published novel Castle of Dreams:

‘ . . .  We have an orchard and there’s an old apple tree with a low branch and a bees’ nest stuck fast into it. We have several hives. They keep us supplied with honey.’

     ‘I like bees,’ said Vivien. ‘My mother has beehives and tells them every significant event– every birth, marriage and death that occurs withing the community.

Old folklore.’ said William. He turned to Robert with a knowing smile. ‘My wife’s parents live in a strange falling-down castle in far north Queensland. Superstition came from Ireland with Vivien’s mother. She’s an unusual woman. 

     Vivien frowned. While what he said was true, she wondered why he’d told a stranger about her mother’s eccentricities. ‘The bees foretell death when they abscond from their hive,’ she said stubbornly. She knew William didn’t like it when she referred to her mother’s beliefs.

     ‘Vivien, surely you can’t believe that,’ William said coldly.

     ‘If the bees become hurt by neglect, you will suffer the consequences,’ she continued.

     Robert nodded, his expression serious. ‘I remember returning from my grandfather’s funeral and finding that the bees had absconded from their hives,’ he said.

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So plant lots of bee-loving flowers in your garden and if you have bee hives remember to talk to your bees.

My work-in-progress is another dual timeline story and I am writing about all things botanical. For this reason I’m sure there will be a few bees flying around pollinating all the blooms on Wallcliffe and the yet-to-be-named rambling estate in the Tumut Valley. It’s a story that includes all the things I love: mystery, romance, history and how the past  influences the present.

Good reading and writing,

Elise

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Charlotte Bronte

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Charlotte Bronte was born on 21st April 1816 at Thornton, West Riding of Yorkshire, England.

‘Since 1857, when Elizabeth Gaskell published her famous Life of Charlotte Bronte, hardly a year has gone by without some form of biographical material on the Brontes appearing—from articles in newspapers to full-length lives, from images on tea towels to plays, films, and novelizations,’ wrote Lucasta Miller in The BronteMyth, her 2001 history of Brontemania.

I read Jane Eyre when I was eleven. I reread it constantly that year and it is still on my bookshelf and  read every year. I read Elizabeth Gaskell’s Life of Charlotte Bronte some years later having found it in a second hand book shop in Sydney. To me it was the definitive book on Charlotte Bronte’s life.

Yet now, after reading reviews of Charlotte Bronte written by Claire Harman for the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth I might have to change my views when I read it. ‘It does not have new truths to impart but instead gathers up the best of what has been written before’ says a review in the Guardian on 31 October 2015.

I enjoy Victorian literature for it’s often gothic tropes and the gothic has informed part of the narratives in my own writing.

As a child I read about Scottish heroines locked up in castles, dark and gloomy and cold. Castles are more often thought of as being in Europe or the Middle East but I discovered one in the far north Queensland rainforest of Australia. This led me to writing Castle of Dreams. I’m sure the books I read in childhood have been absorbed by osmosis for when I visited the castle ruins at Paronella Park I also imagined a graveyard (perhaps similar to the graveyard at the parsonage) and a tower covered in rambling vines and I included both in my story.

The Bronte Parsonage 

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Storytelling has always been part of every culture since the beginning of time and I look forward to exploring the Dreamtime stories in our Australian Aboriginal culture. What a wealth of magic and mystery waiting for me to read about.

Chapter 38 Conclusion which includes one of the most famous lines in literature.

CHAPTER XXXVIII 

Reader, I married him. A quiet wedding we had: he and I, the
parson and clerk, were alone present. When we got back from church,
I went into the kitchen of the manor-house, where Mary was cooking
the dinner and John cleaning the knives, and I said –

‘Mary, I have been married to Mr. Rochester this morning.’  . . .

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Charlotte Bronte died 31 March 1855 (aged 38)
Haworth, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Notable works: Jane Eyre, Villette.
Spouse Arthur Bell Nicholls (1854–1855; her death)

Have a wonderful week of writing, reading and magic.

Elise

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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get ideas for novels?

This is a copy of the Poe I found in a second hand bookshop. I refer to it in my WIP. The other is a copy of a book with pressed flowers.

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I typically find ideas in different ways: old books I come across, stories from family or friends, places I visit, research I do for stories that lead to other interesting facts I can use in a novel, historical events. The inspiration for my WIP came from a book my daughter found in Elizabeth’s Bookstore in Perth, WA. Someone had pressed flowers between its pages and that led me to create a botanist in my story.

Where do you write?

I write at a desk facing the window. I can happily listen to music while I am writing or have complete silence, it makes no difference to my creativity.

Where do your ideas for characters originate?

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They mainly come from my own imagination. I research whatever it is that defines each character: a talent, a hobby, a job. By a character having something that defines them it makes them come to life in the story. One character in my WIP is botanist another a painter another a housekeeper who runs a tight ship. One makes cheeses, another restores antique books, even a minor character is a good seamstress.

What authors do you like to read?

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My reading tastes are a broad church:

I read popular fiction: romance, historical, crime, and literary novels if they tell a good story. To me the essence of a good book is its story.  My books are character driven but I also try to write an intriguing story; one that will keep my readers turning the pages.

A few of my favourite authors.

Australian: Henry Handel Richardson, Kate Morton, Lucy Treloar, Geraldine Brooks.

British: Daphne du Maurier, A. S. Byatt, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Mary Stewart, Nancy Mitford, Sebastian Faulks, Pat Barker.

American: Edith Wharton, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pat Conroy, Anais Ninn.

I come from a family of book lovers and have inherited the reading gene. Nothing beats opening a new book, reading the first line and knowing the book will stay on my bookshelf forever.

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Have a great week, reading, writing, and dreaming.

Cheers Elise

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First Day of Spring

Today is also publication day for Castle of Dreams in the UK. September the first is the first day of spring in Australia and the first day of autumn my favourite season in the UK.

Thanks to those of you who have reviewed Castle of Dreams and have written about it on social media and have enjoyed reading it. Writers are a supportive bunch!

Photos taken by my son of the wildflowers on the acreage around our house up north in Western Australia. The house faces the Indian Ocean and the wildflowers in spring are beautiful. 

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Happy First Day of Spring

Elise

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A Paris Apartment Lost in Time

When I was writing my first novel Castle of Dreams I came across an article about a Paris apartment that had been lost in time. I filed the article away knowing I would use parts of the story and some of the images in a future story.

My work-in-progress is a dual narrative story set in World War One and its aftermath and in contemporary times. The story of the Paris apartment easily transposes to early twentieth century Australia where one narrative is set.

The locked Paris apartment has all the things I love: an abandoned home, images of what was left behind, a romantic story, a mystery.

 

In my files I have an unpublished story I wrote some years ago in which one of the characters is an artist so it wasn’t difficult to gather the threads of that story, reread my original research, and use this in my WIP. I always give my characters a particular profession or hobby that defines them throughout a story and in the past narrative of my WIP one of my characters is an artist. So when I looked again at the photos of the Paris apartment and noticed the abandoned paintings I knew I’d have to include these in my story. Perhaps one of the found paintings will be of a young woman as beautiful as Marthe de Florian.

Marthe de Florian, the apartment owner’s grandmother who was a Belle Epoque socialite, theatre actress, and Boldini’s (the artist who painted this picture) muse.

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The Paris apartment has all the elements of a fairytale including another of my favourite things: love letters from the past. They were found in the apartment, wrapped in different colored ribbons and scrawled in the hand of, among others, Boldini and 72nd Prime Minister George Clemenceau.

In the present day narrative my protagonist is a botanist who seeks the secrets of her family’s past. My mother was a keen gardener and loved to be outdoors and my daughter inherited her grandmother’s love of nature and gardens.  I didn’t.  Yet now I have started to research this subject I’m fascinated. Biblical references to plants and flowers is something I will use in my story: the healing properties of herbs, perfume, and more.  Botany is a wide church.

Jasmine Flowers

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Have a wonderful week, dreaming, writing and reading.

Elise x

 

 

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Dual Narrative Stories

My first novel Castle of Dreams is  a dual narrative story set in two time periods. It has  family secrets, love, and betrayal and I explore how the past impacts on the present.  I love to read stories written in two time periods and I like writing them. Castle of Dreams has a present day story set in 2008 and an historical thread set against a backdrop of WW2. It has secrets that unfold throughout the novel like a nest of Russian dolls.

My work-in-progress is a dual narrative story of loss and remembrance set against a backdrop of WW1 and its aftermath and the present. I am interested in how war impacts the people on the homefront as well as those who left their homeland to fight in distant lands. A generation was robbed of family members, lovers and in the case of many women the loss of their own future as wives and mothers. I have often wondered how these men and women ever found peace of mind after the war ended. Did they disappear from the fabric of a society which could never be the same again? Did they seek resolution? Did they mourn a lost generation for the rest of their lives? Or did they come to terms with their destiny?

These are the things I will be writing about in my new story. I am progressing slowly: I wrote an outline on three large sheets of butcher paper (it has changed along the way as I write) and I have a timeline for important happenings in my characters lives and also historical events. I am getting to know my characters and the secrets they keep.

I have always loved closed doors and shut gates as I wonder where they will lead to. Yesterday one of my characters from the present opened a gate that will lead her to many secrets from the past. Of course this will impact on her life and change it forever.

It was the sort of day she loved. The sky was blue and the air was drenched with the familiar scent of eucalypt. She had parked her rental car on the public road close to the iron gate that swung open at her touch.

I found the perfect gate in the image below and used it as the inspiration for the gate in my story. This scene is set in Australia while the gate below is in another country so I had to change what my character sees as she walks along the driveway to reflect the Australian countryside: birds, plants, trees, geography.

Image for the gate I used as inspiration for a scene in my story. 

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Last night I went to a friend’s birthday party in a city hotel. I knew most of the other party goers and they moved me as always with their sense of comaraderie and interest and support in each other’s work.

I fell in love with Steampunk which was the theme for the party. Like Alice in Wonderland I ended up in another place. Alice fell down the rabbit hole and I fell into the 19th century!

I had a spider tattooed on my arm (temporary) at the party.

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Have a wonderful week, dreaming, reading and writing.

Cheers Elise

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Telling the Bees-Mythology & Folklore

In my book Castle of Dreams I have a short scene where Vivien and Robert discuss bee folklore. Bees are prelevant in mythology and folklore and in my WIP I have created an eight acre orchard and my working farm has beehives. While researching bees I have become fascinated with these mythical insect that are  often thought of as having a direct route to heaven.

Honey Bee

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St. Gobnait

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The Irish saint is known for her care of the sick.Her name is the Irish equivalent of the Hebrew name Deborah, which means ‘Honey Bee.’ She used the properties of honey in the treatment of illness and healing of wounds.

These piece of information has led me to create a character called Deborah,which is a truly beautiful name, in my WIP.  I am sure she will wear a honey bee brooch!

Winter Bees

Bees prepare for winter by gathering a winter reserve of honey.

Honeybees head to the hive when temperatures drop. They have one main job in the winter — to take care of the queen bee. This means they must keep her safe and warm. As the weather becomes cool, the honeybees gather in a central area of the hive and form a ‘winter cluster’. The worker bees then flutter their wings and shiver. This constant motion and continuous use of energy is how the bees keep the inside temperature of the hive warm.

Bee lore, grounded equally in modern science and ancient tradition, is a fascinating study.

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The telling of the bees is a traditional European custom, in which bees would be told of important events in their keeper’s lives, such as births, marriages, or departures and returns in the household. If the custom was omitted or forgotten and the bees were not “put into mourning” then it was believed a penalty would be paid, such as the bees might leave their hive, stop producing honey, or die.The custom has been most widely noted in England but also recorded in Ireland, Wales, Germany, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, and the United States. (Ref. Wikipedia)

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I admire beautiful book covers and I have sometimes bought a book just for its cover. I recently started a Pinterest board for special covers. Here are a few book covers with images of bees.

Bee Book Covers.

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Have a wonderful week, writing, reading and dreaming.

Cheers Elise

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