MuseTracks Guest – Blythe Gifford – The Muse Will Always Be With You. Always

March 1, 2013

She’s at it again. And we here at MuseTracks couldn’t be happier! Blythe Gifford has returned with another great post, excerpt and GIVEAWAY!

Blythe Gifford – The Muse will be with you.  Always.

TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, the third in my Brunson Clan trilogy from the Harlequin® Historical line, is out this month.  In writing the final book, I faced a new challenge.  (Yes, every book is different.  No, once you have written one, or three, or five, the rest will NOT be easier.)

In this book, my heroine’s character was shaped by a mysterious event in her childhood.  I left it deliberately mysterious because part of my point was that the stories our families tell us are more important than the truth.  My editor, however, saw it a little differently.  She thought we needed to reveal what really happened.

Cover_TBBR WebThe problem was, I hadn’t a clue.

But as I pushed and poked and prodded, I had an epiphany.  It was obvious what HAD to have happened.  And it was something that wrapped up not only that book, but a thread woven through all three books.

Let me stress I did not plan this consciously.  I think it is a perfect example of the way in which the Muse leaves her tracks.

Most of the time, we think of the Muse as the lightning bolt of inspiration.  We pray for the Muse’s help and expect an “aha!” moment so we can type furiously without stopping and turn out page after perfect page.  My experience is that the Muse is much more subtle.

And devious.

She will hide in snatches of scenes, bury herself in ponderous prose we put down in order to just keep going, and reveal herself only after the writer turns around, looks back on the path, and discovers she has ended up in exactly the right place without knowing how she got there.

I always say that I show up at the keyboard at the same time every day so the Muse knows where to find me.

The Muse demands we meet her more than halfway, but if we do, and if we are faithful, she will be there, always.

Even if we don’t always recognize her.

The Brunson Clan trilogy is set on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era and centers on a family of Border Reivers.  Here’s a glimpse of TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL:

TORMENTED BY HER INNOCENCE

As leader of his clan, Black Rob Brunson has earned every dark syllable of his name. But, having taken hostage his enemy’s daughter in a fierce act of rebellion, he is tormented by feelings of guilt and torn apart with the growing need to protect her—and seduce her!

Stella Storwick feels Rob’s disdain from the first. Then slowly she starts to see behind his eyes to a man in turmoil. Something he has no words for, something that can only be captured in a heart-wrenching kiss….

**

In the excerpt below, from Chapter One, Black Rob Brunson has been out inspecting his land, looking for signs that the family’s blood enemies, the Storwicks, may be planning a raid, and pauses at midday in the hills overlooking his valley.

Something shifted.  The wind.  A scent.  A sound.  He stiffened, alert, and turned his head.

Above him and to his left, sat a woman, silent and stiff, eyes fixed on him warily as if he were a Storwick.

He fashed himself for not looking carefully before leaving his horse.  What if he’d been surprised by the enemy?

Neither spoke, looking.

Dark hair tumbled across her shoulders, but he would not call her beautiful.  At least, not from this angle.  Eyes and lips fought for control of her face.  Her nose was too strong.  Her chin too sharp.  She looked vaguely familiar, but he had seen every far-flung Brunson at one time or another.  Still, he could not summon which branch of the family was hers.

“You’re far from home,” he began, still trying to place her.  The Tait cousin lived nearest, but he had no daughters.

She drew herself up into a crouch, like a wary animal ready to run.  “Nay so far.”

He raised and lowered his shoulders, sorry he had frightened her.  He motioned his head uphill, toward the border.  “Storwicks are no more than five miles away.”

Not taking her eyes from his, she stood slowly and took a step back, as if nearness to the enemy had just occurred to her.  The blush on her cheek paled.  “Have I crossed the border then?”

“Nay.”  He rose to his feet, uncomfortable that she stood while he stretched on the grass.  What was the strangeness in her accent?  “It’s just over there.”

Her eyes widened.  She turned to look over her shoulder.  Then ran.

That was when he recognized her.

Stella Storwick didn’t look back, praying for her feet to run faster.

But the Brunson kept coming, strong as a charging ram, trampling the grass behind her.  Then he was in front of her, cutting off her escape as if she were no more than an unruly ewe.

She dodged.  Left.  Right.  Thinking she could confuse him.

He was a broad man.  She could be quicker.  More steps, her skirt and the grass holding her back.  If she crossed the border, she would be safe…

But next she knew, he grabbed her arm, whirled her around, and both of them tumbled to ground.  She on her back, pressed to earth, he straddling her legs.

She lifted a clawed hand to scratch his eyes, but he caught her wrists and held her arms tight against the dirt without effort.  Even when she shut her eyes against him, he surrounded her, warm and smelling of leather.

“You’re Storwick.”  He did not ask a question.

She opened her eyes.  His were brown.  And murderous.

“And you’re Brunson.”  Close now, she knew him, the man she had seen near half a year ago at Truce Day.  Fool she was, not to have recognized him immediately.

Not just a Brunson.  The Brunson.

A flash of heat crackled through her body.  Hatred, no doubt.

He was one of the Black Brunsons.  Broad of shoulder and brow, dark of hair and eye.  Yes, he had the brown eyes that marked all his cursed clan.

“You’ll not take me.”  She braced herself, stiff armed and legged, as if that would stop him.  “I won’t let you.”

He froze, then turned to spit in the dirt in contempt.  “Brunsons don’t treat women so.”  Disgust now, in his eyes.  “It’s your kind who do that.”

One villainous kin of hers who had done that.

She knew the truth of the whispers about him, though the man had never dared touch her.

No one dared that.

“That’s not what I’ve heard.”  A lie, but one she hoped would keep him off guard.  She tugged against his hold.  An iron manacle would have given way more easily.

He released her hands with a look that warned her to keep them quiet.  “You’ve heard wrong.”

She pushed herself up on her elbows.  “Then let me go if you don’t mean to take me.”

He sat back on his heels and crossed his arms, his very silence ominous.

She held her breath to stop her speech.  He had not guessed which Storwick she was.  Or that she had come to the hills to spy on his precious tower.

Blythe Gifford Photo“How far behind are the others?”  He stood, pulling her to her feet, keeping his hand on her wrist while he gazed toward the English side of the border.

“No others.”  Foolish admission.  She had told no one her plan when she left this morning.  Perhaps that had been unwise.

He turned back, sweeping her with a glance head to toe.  One that said she might be daft, but he wasn’t.  “You wander the hills alone with no horse?”

She shrugged to hide the shaking.  “Sun doesn’t often come like this.  I wandered too far.”  And had hoped to wander farther.  A horse would draw attention.  “Let me go.  I’m of no use to you.”

“Oh, you’re of use to me.  You’re going to serve as a hostage for the good behavior of the rest of your people.  If they ride to rescue Hobbes Storwick, you’ll be the one to pay.”

She blanched.  Thank God.  At least her father was alive.

They had not even been sure of that.

A lucky reader who comments on today’s blog will be randomly selected to win a signed copy of (your choice) RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, Book 1, CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, Book 2, or TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, Book 3.  To start the conversation, do you have an example of the mysterious workings of the Muse to share?

Congratulations, Hellion, winner of Blythe’s giveaway!

Blythe Gifford has been known for medieval romances featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Now, she’s written a Harlequin Historical trilogy set on the turbulent Scottish Borders of the early Tudor era.  The books are RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, November 2012, CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, January 2013, and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL in March 2013.  The Chicago Tribune has called her work “the perfect balance between history and romance.”  Visit her at www.blythegifford.com, www.facebook.com/BlytheGifford, www.pinterest.com/BlytheGifford or on Twitter @BlytheGifford.

Author photo by Jennifer Girard.  Excerpt Copyright © 2013 by Wendy B. Gifford.  Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.  Cover Art Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited.  Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.


MuseTracks Guest – Blythe Gifford – On the naming of characters – GIVEAWAY!

January 4, 2013

MuseTracks is delighted to welcome back our special guest Blythe Gifford! And she’s brought along a gift! Take it away, Blythe.

Happy New Year!

Mine kicks off with the release of CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, second book of The Brunson Clan trilogy.  I call this one the Cinderella story, in which Bessie Brunson, youngest sibling and only sister, goes to court.  She is at the mercy of a man who is definitely NOT Prince Charming.  In fact, Thomas Carwell may have betrayed her family, something Bessie is determined to prove along the journey.

We writers are often asked about how we select character names and nowhere was a name more important than on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era.  Family was more important than king or country.  As Alistair Moffat wrote in THE REIVERS, “Names were what made the Border Reivers who they were – in all important senses.”

Many of those Border names are still with us:  Armstrong, as in Neil, first man to walk on the moon.  Nixon and Johns(t)on, as in United States Presidents.  Maxwells, Scotts, Kerrs, Elliots…these families and others rode the Borders and we have historical accounts of each.

That meant I did not want to use one of the real Border Clan names for my family.  I was inspired by them, but my tale is not historical truth.  A real name would confuse the reader.  But how to choose a name that would sound authentic without being so?

For my Brunson clan, I went back even farther in Borders history.  Centuries before my story, Vikings invaded the land.  One of them, a brown-eyed man, was the founder of the clan.  “Brun” is Old English for “brown,” so the name carries the memory of that ancestor down through the years.

First names presented a different challenge.  To be historically accurate, you only have twenty or so given names to choose from.  Take out the ones you need for the real historical personages (King James) and the ones that are not heroic (Archibald), the ones so similar as to be confusing (Janet/Jean) and those I’ve used in other stories (Duncan, Gavan) and the list shrinks considerably.

Border folk used to differentiate with nicknames.  Sim the Laid vs. Sim of the Mains or Nebless Clem vs. Clem the Clash helped sort out which individual you meant, much more than adding a surname.  At that point, there were no doubt a dozen men named Robert Armstrong.  I was sparing with nicknames, except with secondary characters.  However, Bessie’s brother, clan leader, earned the moniker “Black Rob.”

Here’s an excerpt from CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD.  The heroine’s brother is celebrating his wedding and the hero has followed her into the kitchen, where she needs to replenish food and drink.  Suspicious of his reason for coming to the celebration uninvited, she has just asked him bluntly why he is there.

***

Captive of the Border LordCarwell kept a smile clamped on his lips.  He was learning not to underestimate Bessie Brunson, but it was hard to keep that in mind when he looked at the woman.  Red hair tumbled over her shoulders, her brown eyes sparked with suspicion, and her lips were full and soft and ready…

He stopped his thoughts.  “Leave this night for celebration.  I’ll speak to your brothers tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?  When Rob’s head is double its size because of the wine he’s drunk this night and Johnnie is comfortably abed enjoying his new bride?”

He swallowed a sour retort.  “They’ll be ready to listen when they hear why I’ve come.  It’s a matter for men’s ears.”

She looked to Heaven before she met his eyes again.  “You’ve no women in your household.”

He blinked.  He hadn’t.  Not for years.  “No.  Not…now.”

The memory cramped his heart.  He would never take a woman for granted again.  A twinge, a weary sigh, these could signal the threat of something worse.

He set the thought aside.  That was not to be shared with anyone, least of all with this stranger.  Yet for a moment, he had imagined she would understand.

“If you had,” she said, “you would know that we do not need to be protected from the truth.”

Looking at this woman, he doubted that her family had protected from anything at all.  “Then you’ll know it when they do.  And it will be tomorrow.”  The king had no more patience than that.

Despite his offer of help, she asked for nothing as she moved around the room, effortlessly scooping up oat cakes and putting another batch near the hearth.  When she finished her sweep through the kitchen, she shook the girl awake and told her to watch that the fire did not burn the kitchen down.

Finally, she joined him at the door.

“You wanted to help.”  She set down her cakes, filled two flagons with ale from the barrel, and shoved them at him, her eyes flashing with anger.  “Carry these.”

Silent, he followed her into the cold, proud that he had refrained from pouring her precious ale into the dirt.  The woman was stubborn as the rest of her kin.  Maybe more so.

But as he watched the sway of her walk, he remembered the way she had leaned toward him in the dance, following his lead through the unfamiliar steps.  For those few moments, there had been nothing but music and movement and the two of them.

Well, her hatred would be back in force tomorrow.

Just as soon as she discovered he was here to take her brother hostage.

***Blythe Gifford Photo

So, do any of the Border family names sound familiar to you?  How about your own family’s name?  Is there a story there?  Or maybe you had a nickname you can share.  A lucky reader who comments on today’s blog will be randomly selected to win a signed copy of (your choice) RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, Book 1, or CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, Book 2, of The Brunson Clan trilogy.  Book 2.  And look for TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, in March.

Winner! Mary Anne Landers. Congrats!

Blythe Gifford has been known for medieval romances featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Now, she’s set a trilogy on the turbulent Scottish Borders of the early Tudor era:  RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, November 2012, CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD, January 2013, and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL, March 2013.  The Chicago Tribune has called her work “the perfect balance between history and romance.”  Visit her at www.blythegifford.com, www.facebook.com/BlytheGifford, or http://www.twitter.com/BlytheGifford.

Author photo by Jennifer Girard.  Excerpt Copyright © 2013 by Blythe Gifford, Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.

Cover Copyright © 2013 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited

Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited

® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.


MuseTracks Guest – Blythe Gifford – Movie as Muse

November 9, 2012

We have a special, special guest today. Please help me give a warm welcome to Blythe Gifford, author of medieval romance.

Blythe Gifford – Movie as Muse

Thanks for having me today.  I’m talking movies, so chime in at the end for a chance to win a copy of my new book.

Recently, an enthusiastic new friend asked when my book was going to be made into a movie.  I resisted the opportunity to launch into all the business reasons that was unlikely, because the truth is, I must be one of the few writers on the planet who does not long to see her book on the silver screen.

That’s not to say the inspiration doesn’t run the other way, though.  Every book of mine has a playlist and movie soundtracks can be perfect for sweeping me away into the world of the story.  When I first crossed the border to set a story in Scotland, I leaned on the emotional power of music from the iconic movies, “Braveheart” and “Rob Roy” to get me in the proper mood.

The actual story on the screen, however, rarely triggers anything in my work, but I must admit a buried movie inspiration for the excerpt I’m going to share today.  “The Mask of Zorro,” 1998, has a wonderful swordfight between Catherine Zeta-Jones and Antonio Banderas.  It comes early in the film, when they are immediate antagonists.  The confrontation crackles, as a romance writer would say, with sexual tension.

While my hero and heroine and story share nothing else with those characters, I think that fight must have served as an unconscious muse for following scene.

First, a little setup.   RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, a current release from Harlequin Historicals, launches my trilogy about the Brunson Clan, a family of Reivers on the Scottish Borders during the early Tudor era.  CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD follows in January 2013, and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL in March 2013.

RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR is the story of John, the youngest son, who returns home after years of serving as a “big brother” to the young Scottish king.  John is a man with something to prove, both to himself and to his family.  As the only blue-eyed Brunson, he’s always felt as if he didn’t belong.  Now, he no longer wants to.  As soon as he enforces the king’s command for peace, he plans to return to his life at court and leave the valley of his birth for the last time.

But first, he must persuade Cate Gilnock to release his family from their promise to avenge her father’s death.  Cate is a woman fierce as a warrior, but behind her eyes John senses vulnerability and secrets she refuses to share.  Bit by bit, he falls in love with her, and with each step, he is drawn back into the life he thought he had left behind forever.  Because of Cate, he discovers he is more like the rest of his family than he thought until, finally, he must decide:  Is he truly a Brunson?  Or is he the King’s man after all?

In this excerpt from Chapter One, John has come across Cate, practicing her sword fighting against her own shadow.  He thinks to play with her, easily besting her sword with his dagger, but the woman proves more capable than he imagined…

He jumped just in time to escape a touch.  Now was not the time for distractions.  He had expected a playful joust.  Instead, he faced a warrior.

He swung high, but she held up her sword, turned sideways, to block his stroke.  A clever move, but lifting the two-handed sword had strained her strength and when she lowered it, her arms shook.

Seizing on her weakness, he attacked and they crossed blades again.  Prepared now, he leveraged his strength against her sword.  Though she kept her grip, he pushed the blade away, coming close enough to feel her chest rise and fall, nearly touching his.

Close enough that his mind wandered, careless of the blades, thinking that under her tunic and vest, she had breasts.  Now he could see her face, the angles of it, sharp and cleanly sculpted as her sword.  Yet thick lashes edged her brown eyes, disguising some of the hatred there.

“Surrender now?”

Panting, she shook her head.  Yet her lips parted, tempting him to take them.  She was, after all, a woman.  A kiss would be mightier than a sword.

He pushed her sword arm down, pulled her to him, and took her lips.

She yielded for a breath, no more.

But it was long enough for him to lose his thoughts, to forget she held a sword and remember only that she was a woman, breasts soft against his chest, smelling of heather…

In a flash, she turned stiff as a sword and leaned away, though her lips did not leave his, so he thought she only teased.

When he felt the point of a dirk at his throat, he knew she did not.

“Let me go,” she said, her lips still close that they moved over his. “Or you’ll be bleeding and I’ll leave you to it, I swear.”

He eased his arms from her back and she pushed him away, wiped her mouth, and spat into the dirt.

He touched the scratch she’d left on his neck, grateful she had not drawn blood.

Her eyes, which he had thought to turn soft with pleasure, narrowed, hard with fury.

“It’s a Brunson you’re facing,” he said, trying a smile.  “Not a Storwick.”

She raised both sword and dirk, the larger wobbling in her grip.  “It’s a man I’m facing who thinks what I want is of no consequence if it interferes with his privileges and pleasures.”

Had he imagined the echo of the bedchamber in her voice?  No more.

He raised his eyebrows, opened his arms and made a slight bow.  “A thousand pardons.”  Words as insincere as the feelings behind them.

She frowned.  “You are a stranger here, so you know no better.  And because you are a Brunson, I’ll let you keep your head, but I’ll warn you just once.  You will not do that again.  Ever.”

She lowered her sword, slowly.

You are a strangerShe was the Brunson, besting him with a sword, displacing him at the family table.  His temper rose.  “And what if I do?”

The blade rose, this time, not pointed at his throat, but between his legs.  “If you do, you won’t have to worry about bedding a woman ever again.”

He swallowed, gingerly, his body on fire.  Only because she had challenged him.  Nothing more.  No man could desire such a woman.

“Then have no worries on that score, Catie Gilnock,” he said, flush with anger.  “When next I bed a woman, it most certainly will not be you.”

So, talk about movies!  What are your favorites?  A lucky reader who comments on today’s blog will be randomly selected to win a signed copy of RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR.  

The lucky winner randomly chose is Cynthia! Congrats!

Blythe Gifford has been known for medieval romances featuring characters born on the wrong side of the royal blanket. Now, she’s launching a trilogy set on the turbulent Scottish Borders of the early Tudor era, starting with RETURN OF THE BORDER WARRIOR, November 2012, Harlequin Historical.  CAPTIVE OF THE BORDER LORD will follow in January 2013, and TAKEN BY THE BORDER REBEL in March 2013.  The Chicago Tribune has called her work “the perfect balance between history and romance.”  Visit her at www.blythegifford.com, www.facebook.com/BlytheGifford, or http://www.twitter.com/BlytheGifford.

Photo credits.  Cover used with permission.  Author photo by Jennifer Girard.