Posted by Anna Campbell Jun 10 2012, 12:02 am in Anna Campbell, anthologies, Bandita Booty, Caulke Abbey, Ghost stories, Launch, Mammoth Books, National Trust, novellas, Secondary romances, Short Stories, The Chinese Bed, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Mammoth Book of Ghost Romance
by Anna Campbell
Hey, Banditas and Buddies!
Today is kind of a mini launch for a mini Anna Campbell.
Well, not that mini. It’s 13,000 words which translates to about 50 pages of a mass market paperback. Certainly enough to get your teeth into.
My long short story “The Chinese Bed” appears in the anthology THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE which is out on 7th June in print and digital format in the U.K., and as an e-book in North America. American readers can buy the print version on 7th August. But I’m pretty sure American Banditas can order it from the Book Depository who will post books without charging posting and packing anywhere in the world. I KNOW non-North American Banditas can order this great collection of supernatural love stories right now.
The Book Depository link is: http://www.bookdepository.co.uk/Mammoth-Ghost-Romance-Trisha-Telep/9781849014687 If you click on the cover at the top of this post, it will take you to Amazon.
Here’s a short excerpt to whet your ghostly appetites:
Marston Hall, Norfolk, 1818
Josiah heard the door open behind him. Odd how his senses remained so attuned to the world when he no longer existed as a physical entity. Then all thoughts but one fled his mind.
Isabella stared at him from the doorway.
“My love…” he choked out, stepping forward and reaching for her.
During their courtship, he’d inundated her with extravagant endearments. It had been a laughing game, how wildly he could compliment this woman he loved more than his life. He’d called her his treasure of Trebizond, his glorious angel of heaven, his exquisite diamond of Ind, his shining pearl of the Orient.
But all his playful words had meant only one thing. She was his love and he’d lay down his life for her.
Joy exploded with painful force. Surely he could touch her. If he could lift a book or open a door, surely he could touch this woman who turned his world to sunlight.
Still she didn’t speak.
He stepped closer, wondering at her silence, at her lack of movement toward him. She’d so rarely been still. It was part of the quicksilver brilliance of her character. She’d been endlessly fascinating, flashing like a jewel, his darling Isabella.
His darling Isabella who stared at him as though she beheld a monster.
Her expression made him pause before he reached for her. “Isabella?”
She was trembling and pale as she’d never been in life. He couldn’t mistake the terror in her beautiful black eyes. “Stay…stay away from me.”
Of all the shocks of the day, this was the worst. What the hell had happened on his wedding day? What the hell had he done?
“I don’t understand,” he said dully, lowering his hands to his sides.
“Don’t come near me.”
She sounded so frightened, his lovely girl who had never been frightened of anything in her whole life. This was the woman who galloped hell for leather at the most dangerous fences. This was the woman who faced down her ambitious father and insisted she’d marry no man but the Earl of Stansfield.
The Earl of Stansfield whom apparently she now loathed.
Questions jammed in his throat. Very carefully he stepped back, giving her space. He had to find out what was going on, but first he had to banish the dread from her expression. Her quivering fear struck him with painful force. He abhorred seeing it.
“I won’t touch you.” The words cut at him like razors. “Trust me, Isabella.”
A disbelieving huff of laughter escaped her as she retreated, preparing to flee.
“No…” He surged toward her again before he remembered she didn’t want him to touch her. Quickly he lowered his arm but not before he caught another flash of terror in her eyes.
Whatever he’d done, it set his intrepid bride quaking with fear. Good God, what was going on here?
She lifted her chin, a poignant echo of the woman who had led him such a dance. She still wore the beautiful dress of blue French silk she’d had made for the wedding. Delicate pearls and summer flowers twined in her coils of shining black hair. “You can’t hurt me anymore.”
He frowned. “Hurt you? I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Don’t lie to me, Josiah.” She backed off surreptitiously as if afraid he’d pounce on her if he guessed she tried to escape.
“I’d never lie to you.”
Bitter cynicism tightened her expression, although at least she stopped edging away. “Of course you would.”
With every moment, he understood less. Foolishly he’d imagined he’d understand everything if he could just find Isabella. Well, he’d found her and the mysteries became more bewildering than ever. “Tell me what I did, Isabella.”
Something in his tone must have convinced her to take his question seriously. A series of emotions crossed her face, fugitive as summer lightning. Puzzlement. Anger. Then a deep sadness that matched the stabbing grief he’d felt waking without her and realizing he and his beloved were both dead.
Grim premonition gripped him. “Isabella?”
Her black gaze settled upon him, somber and lightless as he’d never seen it. “You murdered me, Josiah.”
I had great fun writing this story. I got to play a bit outside my usual sandpit. There are paranormal elements (well, d’uh!) and two romances rather than my usual one. The first couple, Josiah and Isabella, were parted in dramatic circumstances on their wedding day in 1749 (they’re the ghosts) and the second couple, Calista and Miles, are alive and kicking but facing difficulties before their wedding day in 1818. Each find themselves under the malign and magical influence of a cursed Chinese bed, hence the title.
The Chinese bed is based on a real piece of furniture although I’m not sure if it was ever cursed. In 2007, I visited Calke Abbey, a National Trust property in Derbyshire, and saw this magnificent bed with its beautiful hand-embroidered Chinese silk hangings. When the Trust took over the house in 1984, they had no idea the bed was even there (the house was a junk fest – the family never threw anything out and would have probably appeared on HOARDERS if the TV show had been around at the time).
It seems the bed was a gift in 1743 from the royal family to the Harpurs but they never even unpacked it. Which given how glorious it is rather blew my mind. Because the hangings have been safely locked away in their cedar presentation cases since they were made, they are as bright and fresh as if they’d been sewn yesterday. The image of this spectacular, unused bed with its gorgeous embroideries played on my imagination and eventually turned into the Chinese bed in this story.
This is a slightly skew-wiff photo of Calke Abbey, a house that is definitely worth visiting. The other photos near the excerpt are also of Calke Abbey, the dome above the ruined orangerie and the beautiful peonies in the walled garden.
It’s a sad place in many ways (the family dwindled away from one of the richest in the kingdom to the point where the last owner lived in two dingy rooms while the building fell down about his ears) but haunting and extremely interesting. Here’s the website if you’d like to find out more: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits/w-findaplace/w-calkeabbey.htm
I’m giving away three copies of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE in my website contest right now so swing by and enter. Here’s the link: http://annacampbell.info/contest.html
Because I’m talking about ghosts, I couldn’t resist including a photo of my favorite ghost romance, THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR. Captain Gregg, you can come and haunt me anytime!
So do you have a favorite ghost romance? Have you ever had a ghostly encounter? Let’s talk about things that go bump in the night (hmm, bumping with Rex is kinda appealing – yeah, I’ll stop now!).
To celebrate the release of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE, I’m holding a mammoth giveaway. Well, a giveaway anyway. One commenter today will win a copy of THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF GHOST ROMANCE, which includes my story “The Chinese Bed.” Ghost romances never die!
Posted by Anna Campbell May 10 2011, 4:02 am in Anna Campbell, historical romance, National Trust, research, Seaton Delaval Hall, writing life
by Anna Campbell
As most of you know (because so many of you very generously popped over to support me on my blog tour and various other promo efforts – thank you!), I’ve recently had a book out. MIDNIGHT’S WILD PASSION hit the stands on 26th April and I’ve been talking to readers all over via interviews, blogs and in person.
One question that often comes up is where do I get my ideas. And I always answer (because it’s true) that I get ideas everywhere.
To give you an example, a couple of days ago I was reading the English National Trust magazine – I have a friend who very kindly sends them to me and they’re a goldmine of quirky social history – and I came across the sort of thing that might well spark a story idea.
The National Trust has recently bought a wonderful early 18th century (well, I say wonderful but it sounds a bit creepy, frankly!) house in Northumberland in the north of England called Seaton Delaval Hall. It was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh who designed the cold but very impressive Blenheim Palace which formed the inspiration for much of Cranston Abbey in MY RECKLESS SURRENDER. By the way, Vanbrugh combined successful careers as architect and playwright – not a double that immediately comes to mind! He was also a spy and spent time in the Bastille.
Hmm, I can see a blog coming up on him too! See what I mean about ideas being everywhere? Anyway, back to my piece on Seaton Delaval Hall!
When I read about it, Seaton Delaval Hall struck me as an unlucky house. They had a huge fire in 1822 because jackdaws nested in the chimney shafts (bit more dramatic than “I went to bed with the bar heater on,” huh?). The family line died out as a series of heirs fell off the perch (for example, the original builder, Admiral Delaval had no living son and his nephew inherited) much like jackdaws in a lit chimney. After the fire, the house wasn’t inhabited until the 1980s. There’s even a ghost – a white lady who apparently pines for a Delaval heir who couldn’t marry her.
Here’s a link to the National Trust site for the house: http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-seaton-delaval-hall
When I was reading this NT magazine, I came across a fascinating bit of history that really set my synapses firing. In the grounds there’s an impressive mausoleum (pictured below) containing the remains of John Seaton who died at the age of twenty. Here’s the quote:
“John, the heir of the Seatons, perished in 1775, having been kicked in a vital organ by a laundry maid to whom he was paying addresses. Thus died the last of the Delavals by the foot of a buxom slut. Over the broken remains of so much hope…his father raised a temple.”
Oh, dear! Ouch!
Not the way you want your aristocratic line to come to an end (I’d say ‘sticky end’ but that might be gilding the lily!).
Now these few lines are interesting for a whole stack of reasons.
Did she kick him where we think she did? I suspect she might have!
What happened to the maid? I haven’t been able to find out – I hope she wasn’t charged although given the power structure of 18th century England, she probably was.
Then there’s the very revealing language. Surely calling a lower-class girl defending herself against a predatory sprig of the aristocracy a ‘slut’ is a bit of a misnomer! Again, a sad indication of the position of women although I love the descriptive detail of ‘buxom’ – it gives you a vivid picture of her! More power to her left foot!
Was this action the tragic end of a long and loving relationship? Cue chance to put in a very nice picture of Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees in the POLDARK series.
Or was our heroic laundry maid like Verity/Soraya in CLAIMING THE COURTESAN before the start of her career as a courtesan? Preyed upon rather than preying upon?
More importantly, could our feisty washerwoman be the heroine of a romance novel?
You know, I think she’s got potential!
Or could our wincing would-be rake be the hero? He’d need to be a bit more robust but I could definitely imagine a bit of sparky dialogue over the washing line if we wrote him as a sexy beast.
Could our laundry maid be a runaway aristocrat? Charis without having enlisted Gideon’s help? Grace trying to make a living after they repossessed the farm? The laundry maid isn’t that far away from previous heroines I’ve written and she shares the strength of character which I like to give my girls.
At this stage, I have no intention of writing MY RECKLESS WASHING MACHINE or CLAIMING THE CLOTHES PEGS but you can see how a quirky incident like this sparks ideas that go on to spark other ideas and so on until you’ve got the basis for a book.
So while I’m digging around looking for inspiration, I’m turning to you! Do you have any quirky bits of family history – hopefully not a randy great-uncle who was done in by one of his squeezes! – that strike you as funny or strange or romantic or scandalous? Any ghosts in the family? Any skeletons? Any feisty laundry maids? Come clean, as they say in the best laundry romances!