Author Archives: Sandra Schwab

Writer’s Desk, 2 November

A picture of Sandra's desk
I had to finish doing my taxes today, but I did manage to squeeze in some novel-planning: I leafed through all the notebooks that contain the WIP and made a plan to see which scenes are still missing (= red).

Of course, I then started to worry that my Roman romance might be utter crap.

In other words: The same procedure as every year. *sigh*

Fall Back in Time

Fall Back in Time selfieAre you ready to fall back in time?

Today the Historical Romance Network celebrates historical romance with a big social media party, where authors and readers and, I hope, you, too post selfies with their favorite historical romances, using the hashtag #FallBackInTime. Check out the event page here. I myself will be posting selfies on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ throughout the day because I simply couldn’t decide on just one historical romance.

And you can also win things! Oodles of authors are giving away e-books or signed paperbacks to randomly selected people taking part in the big party. I will be giving away a signed paperback copy of the old Dorchester edition of THE LILY BRAND.

Fall back in time giveaway

Writer’s Desk, 25 October

Writer's Desk: preparations for the re-release of The Lily Brand
I’m still working on The Lily Brand: I’m now proofreading the final file, cleaning up typos and grammatical errors as I go along. It has made me strangely happy to realize that the rhythm of my prose hasn’t much changed in the course of the past ten, eleven years: I can easily pick up where my original text was changed and edited. These are just small things, mind you: a word that was cut, a sentence that was slightly expanded, but in many cases I’m still changing them back to my original text.

My ability to just do so pleases me to no end. πŸ™‚

Writer’s Desk, 22 October

On Sunday, there will be a post by yours truly on the Queer Romance Month blog, where I will briefly talk about my motivation for including a gay couple in The Lily Brand. Writing the post served as the proverbial kick to the butt, for it finally made me knuckle down and start making The Lily Brand ready for re-release. It should be back up by Sunday, at the latest.

I hope.

*fingers crossed*

Anyway, I spent last Sunday fiddling around with the cover design, and this is the result. I hope you like it as much as I do. πŸ™‚

the new cover for The Lily Brand

Writer’s Desk, 14 October

A picture of Sandra Schwab's desk (with lots of notebooks!)Today’s writing desk includes centurions, all the Roman legions, a Roman cookbook, and notebooks. LOTS of notebooks. At the moment I’m digging the slim, black Moleskines (you can buy them three a package). Blank, no lines. They fill up quickly, and each filled notebook gives you a nice sense of achievement. I’ve now reached notebook #7, and at least three of the books are filled with scenes of my characters having … um … fun.

Clearly, three sweet romance novellas with nothing more than kissing make for one very hot romance novel with rather lusty main characters. πŸ™‚

(But never fear: I will tear their happiness apart in the course of the novel and make them suffer quite dreadfully before they can have their happy ending!!) (says the evil author)

With this new story (and if you look at the picture above you can probably make out its title) I’m reminded more than ever that in a good romance novel love scenes aren’t there for the sake of the sex, but are part of the exploration of the hero & heroine’s relationship. They are meant to push the relationship forward and to reveal to the reader (and perhaps even to the characters themselves) something new about this relationship. Ideally, they are also part of the character arcs, and as such play an important role in the characters’ journey / development.

In this novel the love scenes are particularly tricky because of the extreme imbalance of power between my main characters: Marcus, the hero, is a centurion and a free man while Lia, the heroine, is a slave.* But how do you navigate the realms of desire, affection, and love, when one of the characters, thanks to her social status, doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter?

As I said: tricky.

It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the further you go back in history, they higher the stakes are stacked against your characters and against their relationship. Of course, that also means that you can make the happy ending so much sweeter! πŸ™‚


* I don’t particularly like slave romances, so imagine my surprise when this story turned out to be one! (I blame Spartacus & @holundergeist!) (Especially @holundergeist: she tweeted me a link to a Nagron video – and that was that….)

Writer’s Desk, 12 October

A picture of Sandra Schwab's deskSometimes, writing is a bit like archaeology: you dig around and find the most amazing and unexpected things. Yesterday I thought I ought to have a scene in which Marcus, my centurion, says goodbye to his mother. And lo and behold, not only did that scene become rather long, it also produced an unexpected piece of jewellery and, with it, an unexpected link between different stories:

It was an old piece, Marcus saw, the shape somewhat rougher than was fashionable now. A golden snake which would wind around the wearer’s arm. It must have been modified at some point because something had been inserted between the two rounds in the middle.

Marcus’s mother slipped her hand through the circlet and eyed it with a soft smile. “It is said that your grandfather many times removed gave this to the Cheruscian girl he took to wife as a token of his love. See?” She held out her hand. “He had his own signet ring set into it.”

Now that Marcus knew what it was, he could indeed see that the set-in piece was part of a rather battered man’s ring.

“The engraving on the stone?” he asked.

“Some kind of large fish. I’ve always thought of it as a dolphin – a harbinger of luck.” She took the armring off. “Ever since your forbear took home his Germanic wife, it has been a tradition in my family that the eldest son would give this piece to the woman he married. As the Gods did not bless my parents with sons, my mother gave it to me to give to my son.” She held out the armring to him. “And so I do.”

Marcus frowned a little. “But I’m not the oldest. Shouldn’t this go to Primus by rights?”

His mother gave a short laugh – and not a pleasant one. “My dear, can you imagine your brother’s wife wearing an old piece such as this? Besides, this has always been a token of affection, if not love. The only affection there is between your brother and Cordelia is for her family’s old name on his side and for our wealth on hers. I don’t think the dolphin and the snake would be happy with them. But perhaps your wife will find joy in wearing it?” She gave him a soft smile. “From the sounds of it, the armring would once again be a token of affection, wouldn’t it?”

Marcus indrawn breath seemed rather loud in the small room, and for a moment he could not speak. “Of love,” he finally said rawly. “It would be a token of love.” He felt the same desperate helplessness that had gripped him earlier in his father’s study rise inside him once more. He spread his hands. “In all honor, I cannot accept the armring, mother. I don’t know whether I will ever win her. I…” His throat worked.

His mother eyed him shrewdly. “Does she not love you then?”

He gave a bitter laugh. If only it was as easy as that!

Writer’s Desk ~ 9 October

A picture of Sandra Schwab's deskThe past few weeks were rather ghastly as I scrambled to catch up with work, but since the weekend I’ve finally had time to return to my Roman novel. As you can see I’ve taken to write by hand – at the moment the story seems to flow easier this way. I just need to make sure to keep track of all the scenes because – as always – I’m writing the story out of order.

I can already that much: three and a half sweet Victorian novellas make for one very hot Roman novel. πŸ˜€

Rather dark & angsty, too. But to make up for all the angst, the ending will be very sweet. I promise!

Here’s a snippet from today’s session (raw & unedited, straight from the notebook #5):

She shuddered a little – from the way he was looking at her, from the urgency with which her body clamored for release, but most of all because she had exposed herself to him like this.

All at once, she felt vulnerable and inexplicably close to tears.

She raised her chin. “You may call me Lia,” she informed him haughtily as if she were the Queen of Egypt rather than a slave, his to do with as he wished.

Castle Sooneck and the Adventure of a Lifetime

a sketch of Castle Sooneck

Castle Sooneck

Have you ever imagined what it would be like to live in a castle? (I certainly have! But if you’ve read Castle of the Wolf that can’t come as much of a surprise. πŸ™‚ )

And now you actually can live in a castle: the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is looking for somebody to live in Castle Sooneck (link leads to a German site) and blog about the area, the people, and the whole experience of living and working in a castle.

The Upper Middle Rhine Valley, that stretch of the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen, is one of the most beautiful areas in Germany and one that is rich in history and legend. Indeed, it is an area where you cannot throw a stone without hitting a castle, a ruin, or some other kind of historic building β€” or a tourist.

British tourists discovered their love for the Rhine in the late eighteenth century. For a few years, the Napoleonic Wars put a stop to traveling, but as soon as soon as Napoleon had been banished to his little island, the tourists were back and descended in droves on the banks of Father Rhine. In 1840, the writer Thomas Hood remarked somewhat acerbically,

“It is a statistical fact that since 1814 an unknown number of persons have been more or less abroad, and of all the Countries in Christendom, never was there such a run as on the Banks of the Rhine. It was impossible to go into Society without meeting units, tens, hundreds, thousands of Rhenish tourists. What a donkey they deemed him who had not been to Assmannshausen!”

Many tourists from Britain would drag a copy of Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage along on their travels to marvel – like Childe Harold – at the sights that greeted them:

. . . Maternal Nature! . . . who teems like thee,
Thus on the banks of thy majestic Rhine?
There Harold gazes on a work divine
A blending of all beauties; streams and dells,
Fruit, foliage, crag, wood, cornfield, mountain, vine,
And chiefless castles breathing stern farewells
From gray but leafy walls, where Ruin greenly dwells.

The Rhine continued to be a popular tourist destination, and so it is not surprising to find the most iconic Victorian tourists, Richard Doyle’s Brown, Jones, and Robinson, the trio he created for a series in Punch, enjoying the sights along the banks of the Rhine as well – or at least, they try to.

from The Foreign Tour of Messrs Brown, Jones and Robinson (1855)
And tourists still pour into the Upper Middle Rhine Valley to admire the beautiful scenery of green hills and vineyards, to gaze in wonder at the many castles and ruins (not all of them medieval, btw), and to get shoved about by other tourists in the famous Drosselgasse in RΓΌdesheim.

But if you look closer, if you look beyond the pretty scenery and nice castles, you’ll soon find that the ravages of time haven’t spared this valley: It’s part of one of Europe’s major transport routes, and hundreds of trains rattle through the valley each day – with the noise being amplified by the hills on either side of the river. Indeed, the noise and the shaking and rattling has become so bad that cracks have appeared in some of the houses in the valley and people have started to move away. And it’s not just the trains: there are also surface quarries which have changed the face of the valley forever.

To explore this area, with all its history, its legends (Remember that story from Castle of the Wolf, about the Mouse Tower of Bingen and the bishop who got eaten up by mice? – Yeah, we’re talking about that kind of legend *g*), and all its problems will certainly be a fascinating project for whoever gets to move into Castle Sooneck (and yes, of course, I’m going to apply for the job!)