Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Beth Barany: Inspired by Gargoyles

I've been looking forward to this blog for weeks! Gargoyles! Nobody does gargoyles! What a fantastic idea! While I'm busy with mermaids, here's Beth Barany and her partners with a trio of romantic fantasies and a really different focus.  

My love of time travel, France, and gargoyles combined recently into a fun anthology project called Gargoyle: Three Enchanting Romance Novellas by me and two other awesome writers, my critique partners, Kay Keppler and Patricia Simpson.

Here’s how our collection of three stories came about. Sort of. I’ve always been fascinated by the medieval cathedrals of France. I love everything about them: the flying buttresses, the stone work, the rose window that lets in the south or western sun; and of course the gargoyles. Granted most of them are hard to see from the ground, and I have to admit I haven’t climbed to the top of my most favorite cathedral of all, the Notre Dame of Paris. (Embarrassing, I know!) But it wasn’t until I stumbled upon a gargoyle within reach—only ten or twelve feet above me—that I realized I wanted to write a story about them. On a whim. The way story ideas sneak up on me.

There I was circling this strange looking cathedral in the small French town of Beauvais, north of
Paris. I was stunned to see a white-stoned gargoyle perched on the edge of a short building butted up against Beauvais’s medieval cathedral. In my research for my story I never did discover the purpose of the little building. I mean, who puts a gargoyle on the edge of a building and who creates a gargoyle that stands upright with no water spout? I discovered in my research that this type of gargoyle—with no water spout—is called a grotesque. I also discovered in the research for my novella, “Touchstone of Love” in Gargoyle: Three Enchanting Romance Novellas that in the Middle Ages, creating gargoyles and other creatures for the cathedrals was honored work.

I was actually more interested in  who made the cathedrals and how, including the stone work, than I was in the myths and background of the gargoyle. Whereas Patricia Simpson uncovered the origin tale of gargoyle and wrote a romance retelling of that in her novella, and Kay Keppler wrote a fun end and beginning of a love story from the perspective of a modern-day garden gargoyle connected to the Roman gods Venus and Mars in hers, I had my heroine fall back in time to thirteenth century France. She gets stranded in the Middle Ages and is essentially rescued by Julien, a stone mason. In my story I explore what it must have been like to work for the honor of becoming a Master Mason. My hero Julien strives for this with his special gargoyle, the touchstone of love around which my story circles.

A few other discoveries I made when researching my story: Materials for cathedral building and other stone work was limestone, at least for the cathedral of Beauvais; also the materials for creating a gargoyle are quite simple. A stone worker would only need a chisel and a mallet. We modern folk can only speculate, but people think that gargoyles were created on gothic cathedrals to scare evil spirits away, bring in the pagan believers, and did have the water spout function, to keep water off the walls of the cathedrals.

I was so inspired by the white-stoned gargoyle I saw in that small town in France that I posted a picture of on Facebook and asked if anyone had written a story about a gargoyle. My friends suggested I do it. So here we are.

The Books

The mysterious lives of gargoyles. They don’t just hang out on buildings. They right wrongs. They wreak havoc. And they change the lives of unsuspecting people who never see them coming.

ON A WING AND A PRAYER BY Kay Keppler (Humorous Contemporary)
The hero...
Craig knows that Bea is in trouble. But Craig can’t do anything about it—because he’s a garden gargoyle and Bea can’t hear his warnings. When unexpected visitors arrive to help, Craig finds the power he had all along. Now the neighborhood will never be the same.

TOUCHSTONE OF LOVE by Beth Barany (Time Travel)
The touchstone...
When a thunderstorm transports software expert Rose Waldman to thirteenth century France, she meets hunky stonemason Julien, who is secretly creating a gargoyle in defiance of his master mason. Can independent gadget loving Rose trust her life and heart to Julien, and can she really never go home again?

THE MILLER’S DAUGHTER BY Patricia Simpson (Historical)
And the freak just trying to get along...
Sentenced to burn at the stake for sorcery, Merofled volunteers to help jaded warrior Alaric kill a gargoyle that threatens her village. But Merofled soon discovers the gargoyle is not a monster at all. It’s a misfit just like her. Can she persuade Alaric to spare the gargoyle–and herself?

Excerpt from  “TOUCHSTONE OF LOVE” by Beth Barabny

Julien of Beauvais stomped through the edge of town, through the fields and the stormy dark. He didn’t care about the wet and wind. He needed to find peace, he needed to find inspiration. It was time that he showed Master Stonemason Bernard de Chantilly all of his skill and artistry and present his master work to the community and get his approval, even if the master stonemason said Julien could not present his work at Michaelmas in five days.

The master stonemason didn’t like him and had not allowed him to present the previous year. But this year would be his. It was time he showed Master Bernard that he was ready to become a master mason and travel as a free man. His training was complete. He’d become a journeyman and done a short trip to Paris with Master Bernard a few years ago. Yet, most men at his age of twenty-six years had already started their own houses and were busy at work on the new cathedrals sprouting all over France.

He wanted to travel to Amiens, or Rennes, and direct his own house, with a woman at his side, and his own apprentices, and a passel of children. The time was now. His time. Oblivious to the cold and the wet, Julien stomped through the field in anger.

Not only was Master Stonemason Bernard a barrier to his dreams, but so was also Marie-Jeanne, his intended. She’d betrayed him with that farm boy from the count’s household. How was he going to create a home when his betrothed was ready to run off with another?

That was why, in his anger, he’d messed up the day’s stone carving work and had been relegated to sorting and breaking granite blocks for the other apprentices.

The rain pelted his face as Julien stumbled over something. He lost his footing and slipped to his knees. He put out his hands to brace himself and felt something soft. Soft and warm.

As gently as he could, as if he were handling a new-born lamb back at his parents’ farm, he felt for the shape of the soft and warm, and unmistakably touched a breast. A woman fallen in the fields. In the cloudy night with no light of the moon or stars, he reached out to learn more about her. She was alive by the warmth of her, and by the strong pulse at her throat, and not long outdoors, as her skin wasn’t completely chilled. He couldn’t leave her, so he scooped up her unconscious, naked form and headed for his workshop hidden in a copse of chestnut trees outside the walls of the town.

Once inside his small workshop, he stoked the fire under the cook pot. He rushed to cover her with his blanket and rubbed the hands and feet of the woman, something he’d seen the old midwife do to women who sometimes fainted in the fields. The woman breathed deeply, but remained asleep.

She was naked, curved in all the right places. Clearly well fed, luscious, but quite improperly dressed for a fall night, as if she’d been bathing and wandered off from her task.

Maybe she was under some spell that made her sleep. While he was a god-fearing man, and worshiped Mother Mary, he knew magic was in the land. He felt it when he worked the stone every day, but never talked about it.

The woman appeared calm, even peaceful as she slept. Definitely a woman, not a girl. Her long golden locks had come loose from her tie. She had rosy cheeks, pink lips, an angular nose, and a long column of a throat. Her chest rose and fell with even breaths.

What color were her eyes? He pulled the wool blanket up under her chin, and tucked it around her body to keep her warm. A tiny waist, a warm shapely rump, long legs, strong feet—he noticed all that as he chastely tucked the blanket around her. He’d noticed that her palms were strong, with callused, long fingers, almost as big as his. She must be a farmhand from a neighboring village, but he didn’t recognize her.

She was almost angelic in how she slept. His troubles forgotten, he made for his worktable on the other side of the one-room shed and picked up his chisel. 

He’d found the inspiration he needed to start his work of art.

For more, please go to Amazon: 

About Beth Barany

Award-winning author, Beth Barany has been making up fantasy and adventure stories all her life. She writes magical tales of romance and adventure for women and girls to transport them to new worlds where anything is possible. To learn more about Beth and her fiction, visit her site: .

No comments:

Post a Comment