Category Archives: Trobairitz

Trobairitz – a twenty first century female troubadour. She tells stories at overnight truck stops.

TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller

Publication of TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller goes ahead. Here’s the front and back cover.

Trobairitz the Storyteller

publication November 28th 2014

What does the cover of TROBAIRITZ tell you?

First, I want it to have  warmth. A satisfying, bread and butter sort of comfort. A cover that does something to your senses, even makes your mouth water.

A cover that says it’s not quite in the world you know. An imaginary world. Almost dreamlike.

I hope it makes you ask yourself questions.

Why is it a picture of a village?

Where is it? Does it look like England? No.

Why are there no people in the design?

What does the word Trobairitz mean?

( I wrote a post on who the Trobairitz were. Here is a link to that post. You can go to the Categories section on the right sidebar and in the drop down box choose Trobairitz for all my posts on this subject.)

So, the Trobairitz were female troubadours of the 12th and 13th centuries. What has that got to do with my new novel set in present day Languedoc?

Bringing the past into the present

Trobairitz were bringers of news and storytellers. They sang, too, to their own accompaniment and their themes were often about current affairs and romantic love as well as traditions and the place of women within values and attitudes of the times.

My 21st century Trobairitz is a truck driver. At an overnight truck stop in the heart of Languedoc, Weed tells a story. The themes of tradition and women and relationships are woven into the tale she tells but in her real life those are the very things that cause her problems.

The fact that Weed’s story is set in a circulade is also relevant. A circulade is built in the shape of a snail shell. Curving rows of houses surround and protect the church on top of the hill. They’re designed to confuse raiders. Even today it’s possible to lose one’s way in the maze of narrow streets and alleyways.

In TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller, the shape of the village is reflected in the stories Weed tells. There is a central theme, hiding under the archways, shrinking back into narrow passageways, revealing itself only gradually. I like that kind of a tease in books.

I decided to lighten the appearance of the cover for this first of the TROBAIRITZ trilogy. The original was too dark and didn’t give the right feel. You’ll see there’s still a bit of darkness hovering in the background and, as in real life, there will be episodes of darker happenings as Weed’s story progresses.

I deliberately chose not to have people and/or faces in the design. When I’m reading I like to make up my own images of what the characters look like. I especially don’t like those front covers showing ladies clad in silks and satins etc. which bear no resemblance to the actual story. You might want to read a previous post about book covers.

Why did I make Weed a truck driver?

Our resident teenage online gamer, aka Gollum Boy gave me the idea. We were eating dinner one night and I said,

‘What kind of a job would a woman have where she travelled about to different places all the time?’

‘That’s easy,’ he said. ‘She drives a truck.’

Volvo truck

Duh. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I love trucks. I think they’re the sexiest vehicles on the road. GB’s suggestion was perfect for the character I had in mind: a feisty lady who knows how to handle working in a man’s world, a woman who enjoys men’s company but has issues with commitment.

Why does she have issues with commitment? And why is she called Weed?

Ah. TROBAIRITZ the Storyteller – book one of the trilogy is available next Friday 28th November. Just in time for Christmas stockings!

New Volvo FM truck.Trobairitz has a new dream ride.

A new Volvo truck has recently rolled out: the Volvo FM. Oh, she’s a beauty. Oh, she’s sleek. One of the most beautiful trucks I’ve ever seen. She’s golden like ballet pumps and can turn on a dime, a euro, a ten pence piece. If you don’t believe it, watch this video.

volvofm1

newest Volvo truck

Before the official launch, Volvo held a competition. Two brand gleaming new FM trucks set out on mystery routes. The game was this: work out the mystery route; get yourself positioned with a camera and upload your photo. Prizes were awarded to best photos from various locations/countries en route. A trip to Gothenburg, no less, and the chance of a dream ride in one of these sexy beasts.

I knew one of these golden beauties was headed my way. I know how to read maps. I grew up in that era before Sat-Navs when you had to have some nous, some savvy about being out on the open road. You learned about things like landmarks; you watched the road, not a screen. You consigned routes to your memory. So, I was out there, looking, searching. If she showed up in my patch, I was ready to pounce.

I missed her. By the time I’d learned of the competition, she’d already passed through my neck of the woods. I’m still hanging around the truck stops with my camera, though.

I didn’t win the competition, but I can dream.

volvofm

come to Momma, baby!

Full frontal. Ah, I’m in love.

How do you write a novel? A bit at a time.

It seems you’re expected to answer this question of how do you write a novel. At some point, your followers are going to want to know. That’s lovely. That’s why I’m writing this blog: to reach people I’ll never meet in the flesh. I’m delighted to have some followers. I hope to have lots more.

writinganovel

the lady diarist at her desk

Other writers will be curious, too. We all have our own ways, what works best for us. There are probably as many different ways of setting about the writing of a novel as there are different kinds of books. I have a link here to tips from published writers. I read both Larry and Holly and I think their information is so valuable to new writers setting out on their journey.

I don’t beat myself up about targets. I write here about letting it happen. Sometimes, my plans take a day off and the page stays empty. Other days, an idea explodes out of nowhere and I have to drop what I was writing and scribble down this new idea for a short story. It isn’t a problem. I let it happen. Why would I want to shut out new ideas just because I’d been planning to edit chapter fifteen of something else?

So, I run with the sprint of a short story when it presents itself. Writing a novel, though, is a marathon. Planning is a must. I plan everything in great detail. I know my characters inside out and upside down. By the time I get around to writing their scenes, I’ve lived with them for weeks. I know exactly where they live and how it looks. I won’t use all that information, but it’s useful for me to visualize them when they’re walking along the streets of the village I’ve invented. I even draw maps.

map of Montalhan

my version of Montalhan sans Vents in the novel Trobairitz

Okay, so the drawing isn’t fabulous, but this is the village my Trobairitz is imagining when she tells her stories at the overnight truck stop. She knows where the vineyards are in relation to the housing developments. She knows where the river runs past the chateau on its way to the sea. She knows the narrow passages and steep steps linking levels of the circulade.

circulade

circulades are spiral shaped

In Trobairitz, the shape of the village is reflected in the stories she tells. There is a central theme, hiding under the archways, shrinking back into the alleys, revealing itself only gradually. I like that kind of a tease in books.

I plan a timeline, too, so I know how events from the three books fit into a chronological order, even if in the narrative I don’t treat them chronologically. The whole thing becomes a magnificent obsession, to borrow fromMagnificentObsess Douglas.

Now, there was a story. I wonder whether its themes would stand up today? That might be an interesting exercise one day; one day when I’m not obsessed with my own creations.

Sometimes, the short story I dashed down in between writing chapters of the magnificent obsession pops back, like indigestion. Erm, over here, it says, have another look at me. I’m not finished.

And I have another look, and it isn’t finished and, would you believe it? There’s enough there for a whole new novel. I’ll make that another post.

TROBAIRITZ. Who were they?

Trobairitz

Trobairitz songs were called cansos

Trobairitz were troubadours. Female troubadours. They sang songs and poems about love, tradition and current affairs. Their songs were called cansos. Their language was Occitan – the language that gave its name to the region of southern France where they lived and worked.

Langue means language.

Langue d’Occitan became Languedoc

The region of Languedoc stretches across southern France from west to east.

This where the Trobairitz came from.  This is the area they covered when they travelled in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Not much is known about them. Very few of their songs remain.

Trobairitz Azalais de Porciragues

Azalais came from Portiragnes

Azalais de Porciragues lived in the twelfth century. Her home town is called Portiragnes now and is a popular beach resort in the summer.

Women like Azalais were strong and independent. It’s thought they must have had their own means to support their lifestyles.

This is where I live. The departments might have slightly different names now, but the rivers are all in the same place and the mountains funnel the winds as they always did.

land of the Trobairitz

land of the Trobairitz

Languedoc is a land of tradition and superstition. Its people love the Arts: it’s in their genes. This is where I’m writing about a twenty first century Trobairitz. She has stories to tell. About love, tradition and current affairs. Her name is Weed. Like the Trobairitz of old, she’s strong and independent. She has her own means to support her lifestyle. She travels the land of the troubadours in her truck. She tells her stories at an overnight truck stop.

 

Edit: Book One – Trobairitz – the Storyteller is available on Amazon from Friday 28th November 2014.

Living the Dream.The power of characters.

Last night I dreamed I went to duMaurierLand again. (Sorry Daphne)

Let me explain. When I was younger and I might dream of living the life of a writer, I’d create for myself a room with a desk by a French window, beyond which there would be green swathe running down toward the sea and there would be bracken and paths through stands of trees. Indoors, I would have a log fire and tea in a bone china cup and I’d probably be wearing something quite figure-hugging and pearl earrings. You see, dear reader, I read everything Daphne published. The lot. All the novels. All the collections of short stories. I keep by my desk an old copy of Rebecca and every day, before I begin, I look at it. Sometimes, I pick it up and sniff it.

Daphne

my teenage heroine

There’s nothing like the smell of a good book. Kindles can’t do that. They can’t reproduce the touchy-feely thing about holding a favourite book in your hands. It would be sacrilege to read Rebecca on an e-reader. Wouldn’t it? Would I experience the same sense of connection with the woman who has inspired me for years?

first edition - I wish I had one

first edition – I wish I had one

Can you curl up with a Kindle?

Rebecca

a scene from Hitchcock’s 1940 film

Rebecca is my talisman. I keep it by my side to remind me of the power of characters. In du Maurier’s Rebecca there’s a character so powerful she controls everything even after she’s dead.  Rebecca, who Mrs Danvers adored, still occupies the thoughts and actions of the de Winter household to the extent that poor second Mrs de Winter doesn’t even get a first name all through the entire novel.

That’s power.That’s character. And yet . . . and yet.

I’m writing in the twenty first century. I might have a desk now AND a French window, ( I live in France; everybody has French windows) but Manderley it isn’t. My characters don’t wear pearls and dress for dinner.

My main character in Trobairitz drives a truck. This is where she spends most of her time.

Volvo Globetrotter cab

My character loves her cab

 

She hasn’t worn a skirt for years. She stuffs her hair under a baker boy cap when she’s driving and it’s so long since she had any fun with a man, she wonders if all her bits still work.

Daphne, as far as I remember, didn’t write about women’s bits or have a character admire the way a man fills his tee shirt.

But, if I can get my characters onto a page , whether on paper or a backlit screen, and readers remember them long afterwards, the way I remember Rebecca, I’ll be in du MaurierLand.

Passionate about Trucks

Volvo1

I love trucks. Especially ones like this. I hang out the car window to take pictures of them. I hang around truckers’ websites like a sniper, hitting on forums and stealing their conversations. I watch all the trucker TV programmes.

It’s no surprise then, that my novel Trobairitz features a mothertrucker as its main character. Trobairitz were female troubadours in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. My twenty-first century lady troubadour tells stories at an overnight truck stop. She doesn’t know she has it within herself to put back into her life the things she needs. She doesn’t even know she needs them yet.

Volvo2

She’s careful about getting too close to people. That’s why she tells stories instead.

She loves driving. She loves her truck.

She has another love.

 

 

Etype

powder blue – champagne leather seats

Her car.