Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Ps & Ts

One of the worst things that can happen to a writer is a happy childhood, a functional family, an optimistic point of view. What can there be to write about with such poor resources, such fallow ground? And yet, we are driven, no less than our unhappy colleagues, to form words into sentences, sentences into pages, pages into stories.

When we start a new story, of these, what is the first element we create to work with?

  • People
  • Place
  • Plot


Cymru, the Triple Crown and Dewi Sant

Scott Williams Scores a Try for CymruThis St. David’s Day, Cymru is celebrating its win of the 6 Nations Rugby Triple Crown – the first time in history that the Triple Crown has been won at the English rugby field, Twickenham.

Scott Williams scored the try in an amazing run that left the English gasping.

If you don’t follow rugby, this may not seem significant but Cymru has taken its rugby very seriously for most of the late 20th and all of the 21st Centuries. Rugby is war. Beating the English is the ultimate goal. Winning the Triple Crown is the top prize of the four home teams: Cymru, Alba, Eire and England. Of the four, England is the team all the Celtic nations strive to beat – “As long as we beat the English” is the battlecry.


Fact or Fiction: Writing about Wales

Cwmgwili near CaerfyrddinI first began writing romantic fiction about Wales after my first visit. I little understood the country or the culture – definitely not the language – but I was inspired by the astonishing fact that, in a country which is so little known outside its borders, a vibrant culture in a Celtic language that has been thriving for many, many centuries and all in a very modern country. This is not a tribal community untouched by modern technology. This is a 21st Century land that has held onto its culture and language with so much success and yet, few people know that Wales exists.

I fell in love with the language and that led to falling in love with the people and their culture. I don’t write factually based historical fiction. I think the best way to describe my novels about 9th and 10th Century Wales is Cultural Romances – love stories based on cultural and social circumstances upon which I can build a fictional existence for my characters.


The Holly, the Ivy, the Yew

While researching for my family saga, Pendyffryn, I read several interpretations of The Mabingoi – including Gwyn Jones and Elizabeth Walton.

Yew Tunnel at Aberglasney

1000 year old Yew Tunnel at Aberglasney

My 1955 copy of Welsh Legend and Folk-Tales is tattered and spent but gave me a fresh look at one story I thought I knew until I read the source legend. I included this story in my contribution to Celtic Queens, Donna Goode and Lisa Campbell’s blog in June 2010.


The Red Lady and Bells of the Deep

Paviland Cave on the GowerIn 1822, on the Gower Peninsula, Daniel and John Davies, two of many 19thC Victorian archaeologists, discovered the bones of strange animals and a mammoth’s tusk in Goat’s Hole Cave. The following year, William Buckland (Professor of Geology at Oxford and Dean of Westminster Abbey) discovered the skeletal remains of a human who became the subject of nearly two centuries of speculation.

Buckland first suggested the remains were those of a customs official, murdered by smugglers.  Before he published his findings, he changed his mind and presented a woman of ill-repute, the Red Lady of Paviland. These remains have since been radiocarbon dated and DNA evidence has clarified much of the mystery but, for well over a century, the Red Lady of Paviland held an exulted position: the first human fossil to have been found anywhere in the world.


Something About Welsh

As you have no doubt noticed over the past months, I have a particular preference for any and all things Welsh. So, as a treat, I am going to give a short lesson on the Welsh language. I thought you might enjoy learning a few phrases to slip into your conversations when you visit this country so that you can impress your hosts.

One of my favorite idioms is dros ben llestri: literally, ‘over heads of dishes’. When someone goes dros ben llestri, they’ve gone over the top. Pronounced pretty close to the way it looks: drohs ben llestri – double L is aspirated: put your tongue at the roof of your mouth just behind your teeth and force the L sound out in a hiss.

Another saying is cadw cwn a chyfarth ei hun: keeps dogs and barks himself. This describes someone who won’t allow anyone to help him, has to be in control of situations. Sound familiar? This phrase is pronounced cah-doo coon ah chyvahrth eye heen – ch is as in loch – aspirated.

When it seems that all good things (or bad) seem to end up in someone else’s life, you could say i’r pant rhediff y dwr: to the gully runs the water. Sounds like ‘ear pant rhediff uh doer’. Rh is aspirated. In English, some of us say an H in front of the W in words like when, why, where. This is never a heavy sound, more like an exhaled sigh. It’s the same in Welsh. A soft H in front of the R.

These days, a lot of people around the world are ar y clwt, literally, on the rag – destitute. Remember that W and Y are both consonants and vowels in Welsh. In this case, the pronunciation is close to what it looks like: ahr uh cloot. 

Greeting people in Wales with Shw mae? is always acceptable. It’s like asking What’s up? or How goes it? Shw is a corruption of sut (sit) which means how. Mae is a form of the verb bod = ‘to be’. Shw mae (shoo my) means ‘how is’.

All Welsh vowels are Italianate – open and strong which is why Welsh is such a lovely language to sing. If you’d like to know more about Welsh folk music, the National Museum of Wales has a fantastic archive. You can also see examples of Welsh music at Cronfa. The American, Phyllis Kinney, has dedicated her life to Welsh folk music. She and her husband, Meredydd Evans, are renown for their academic work in Welsh traditional music

People always ask me if I found Welsh hard to learn. Since I’ve now spoken it on a daily basis, I have to answer No, but in my first days and weeks, I couldn’t get my tongue around words like rhwngwladol at all. One of the best ways to learn any language is to sing in it. In my forthcoming novel, The Gatekeeper, Gwennan teaches Jehan-Emíl to sing a simple song to help him learn her language. Learning Welsh for me was one of the most life-altering things I’ve ever done – for one thing, I would never have written Traitor’s Daughter

Trac is a good place to begin an exploration of Welsh traditional music and dance. This organization is also on Facebook so you can get to know the people who are promoting: The future of the tradition and the tradition of the future

Thank you for reading. If you have any questions, please let me know.