I am almost at 10,000 posts since I began blogging four years ago and at least half of those are book promotions. It is one of the reasons that I began blogging four years ago as I wanted a platform to promote my own work as well. When I look at those posts in retrospect, […]
I doubt that many would argue that some of the great stories grow from real-life situations. It’s also true that some of my best writing in particular comes when I allow my thoughts to explode and race through my fingers to the keyboard or notepad.
Here’s a true short-story from my travels in Turkey with a couple of fictional characters you may have heard of.
‘This place is incredible; it’s a fairy-tale land and really ought to be in a Disney movie.’
Ben gently ran his fingers through Catharine’s hair making her shiver despite the thirty Celsius heat from the July sun in the sky of infinite possibility, not a cloud in sight.
‘I don’t think Disney filmed here but Marvel has. Just a couple of years ago they filmed parts of “Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance”. Cool, huh? Nic Cage has walked here; we may walk in his footsteps.’
‘Yes really cool, I will watch out for Nic’s footprints.’ Catharine laughed and turned to hug Ben. ‘It’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen though and I can’t wait to stay in that hostel in the rock and visit some of those ancient churches with the frescoes.’
A mini bus with an exuberant driver took them to the hostel on the edge of Göreme.
‘We have had a lot more interest in our beautiful town since we became a UNESCO world heritage site. There is 2000 people living here and those who have hotels, shops and restaurants are doing very well during the tourist season. There is farming of course, bee-keeping too.’
‘What’s that crop in the field over there?’
The driver looked behind to his left where Catharine leaned forward pointing. The minibus swerved briefly until he brought it under control laughing.
‘Oh that’s something for their personal use. I don’t know what you call it in English.’
Catharine slid across to the empty seat behind the driver focussing her camera on the field where two women collected the crop into wicker baskets. Fiddling with the zoom menu to get a closeup of the shot, Catharine’s eyes widened when she realised what it was.
‘Ben look at this.’ He joined her behind the driver and adjusted the screen angle to get a better view. The driver carried on with his impromptu tour guiding but only a young French couple seemed to be listening. One translated when the other missed something.
‘Well if you took that enlarged image and printed it on a T-shirt, everybody would know exactly what it was.’
‘I thought it was illegal here?’
‘So did I and look what happened to the American who tried to smuggle some back to the USA.’
‘That was a bit before our time, Ben but I have seen the film.’
‘At least he did get a film deal out of it; great soundtrack too.’
Catharine glanced out of the window and quickly back at Ben. A jaw-dropping moment if ever there was. She blushed slightly, Ben noticed but fell into the beauty of her eyes; average brown but stunning with natural cognac and orange rays radiating from the iris.
‘The landscape is so,’ she paused, a smile playing on the corners of her lips, ‘it’s so, phallic.’
‘Catharine I’m shocked,’ Ben laughed. ‘But hey, you are right and, they are enormous. Look, that one has a door and windows.’
The driver continued imparting his knowledge of the area but none of the eight passengers heard a word. They were chatting and giggling in four languages; no translation was required. They tuned back into his words when the minibus slowed and turned into a circular area surrounded by two large, albeit phallic structures with a connecting single story wooden shack that served as reception, bar and restaurant.
‘Here we are, “The Göreme hotel for backpackers,” I know the manager personally and I can assure you that you will be well looked after.’
He wished each individual a good stay as they alighted and headed toward the reception where a young man and woman seemed to be running everything.
‘Couples or singles?’ The man asked and, after a series of nods and gestures confirmed in his soft Australian accent that they were all couples. ‘No problem, we have space for you all in the second dorm, that’s second on the right when you go outside. Just hand in your passports before you go over there and choose your space.’
With some reluctance, everybody gave him their passports and filed across to the assigned building. Well it hadn’t been built exactly; it was a leftover from prehistoric volcanic eruptions when layers of soft rock were covered in volcanic ash and limestone. Regardless of first impressions, these structures struck awe into the minds of visitors. They were extraordinary and people had made them their homes or hiding places from religious persecution for over 3000 years.
Catharine had already started making friends and was animatedly chatting to the French woman. Ben and her partner followed behind with the bags. Catharine turned to face them, laughing.
‘It seems we have dirty minds my love. The French call these structures demoiselles coiffées.’
Ben look puzzled.
‘Ladies with styled hair,’ Luc, the Frenchman at Ben’s side translated. The two couples enjoyed their varied descriptions and bonds began to form. None realised how close those bonds were going to be until they followed the internal staircase carved into the rock to the first floor and found three open chambers with two zipped together sleeping bags laid out in one.
‘Well, this takes shared accommodation to a new level,’ Ben joked. ‘Is that hole in the floor the toilet?’
‘Ben don’t be so crude. You had better remember where it is because you might find the fast lane to the bathroom if you get up during the night and forget it’s there. The bathroom is on the ground floor. Didn’t you notice when we came in?’
‘OK, noted thanks my lover. Although, there may not be much loving going on here It’s rather, public and very cosy.’
In a happy, we’ve been friends for year’s atmosphere; the two couples chose their respective chambers and lay their sleeping bags on roll mats, collected everything of value and went back to the bar where they ordered a beer each before sitting at a table on the veranda to watch the sunset and consider whether to have a kebab or a bean burger and salad for dinner.
Lost in the sunset that turned the landscape with its accentuated demoiselles coiffées into a glowing orange otherworld, they missed the closing time of the restaurant and after two half litre bottles of beer each decided to sleep their hunger away. Catharine hardly slept.
Images of screaming soldiers and the silent running of the pursued flashed through her mind. A man held her hand, pulling her forward when it would have been easier to lie down and let fatigue and the end of a spear give her respite. She saw somebody fall behind and moments later that final scream and pre-out-of life cry urged her forward again.
‘Run my love, run. We will reach the tunnel to Derinkuyu soon. We will be safe then, they will never find us.’
The man was a Greek Christian named Thycho, his wife Melitta. They had been running from the Muslim invaders since early afternoon, six hours dodging arrows, hiding in small caves, running. The heat was unbearable but they had no choice but to live or die. Death wasn’t an option yet, they had to run, even though they didn’t agree with Christian or Muslim. They lived with Christians so they had to run for their lives, all because followers of each religion found the others distasteful.
They found the tunnel and disappeared into the labyrinth of the underground city, exhausted and bruised but alive.
‘It’s only taken me a minute to tell you about that dream, Ben. But I was there, I know I was. Running from those soldiers on the white horses, six long, exhausting hours when I should have been sleeping, instead I was running for my life and I remember every fall and the screams of those who were not so lucky. It was hell, Ben.’
Over a plate full of flatbread, cheese and honey, Ben looked sympathetically at Catharine. It wasn’t unusual for her to make connections with Spirit but lately, her connections had become extremely vivid. Compared to Catharine, Ben was an absolute amateur and he was never sure how to offer help other than by listening.
He reached across the table and took her hand. ‘I understand that you’re exhausted but let’s go with the plan of the day and visit Derinkuyu. Just go with the flow, it might help.’
Many times during the visit Catharine stopped in her tracks and looked around an underground passage, room or chapel. Her eyes far away as though transported elsewhere. She drifted around dreamlike and found that she couldn’t distinguish past from present when she and Ben talked about the incredible underground city while they travelled back to Göreme with the enthusiastic driver from the day before.
Back at the Göreme hotel, they joined the French couple and another from Germany on the veranda and politely declined sharing the joint they were passing around.
‘We saw plenty growing in the fields not far away,’ Ben commented to Luc.
‘It’s very cheap too,’ Luc added, ‘the manager sells it, you should talk to him if you need some.’
The manager was leaning on one of the roof support posts smoking a Marlborough cigarette.
‘I gave him a packet of Marlborough for two joints; that’s all.’
Ben and Catharine eased into the relaxed atmosphere and made sure they ordered food before it became too late like the day before. Chat was pleasant they learned a few French and German phrases from their companions until two police cars with blue lights flashing and full beamed headlights blinded them and destroyed the sunset.
Four dark shadows got out of the two cars and in twos went directly to the French couple. The manager walked across nodded at the officers and handed them two Bordeaux-red French passports. Without a word, the officers, one on each side of the French couple forcibly removed them from their seats, collected their belongings from the manager and forced one into the backseat of each car. Closed the doors and drove away, blue lights still flashing.
That was the last they heard of them and no information was forthcoming. Catharine was violently sick.
© All Rights Reserved – Steve Costello, 2017
Thought for the day…
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. – Maya Angelou
I was asked by an interviewer who would play the starring role if Beyond The Pyre was made into a film. Cate Blanchett was my immediate choice although if she said no I would go for the wonderful actress, Nicole Kidman. Well, he did ask but I must admit that choosing between them was difficult and I don’t envy those who choose to work in casting.
The true star of Beyond The Pyre is Catharine and no, there is no spelling error. Thanks to flexible family values the beautiful young woman with incredible eyes was allowed to explore her world-view until she eventually settled as a practising Wiccan and Spiritualist. She had a natural ability to connect her mind to Spirit where she met her thirteenth century self in the cell of the abbey of Saint Marie in Lagrasse, France.
Spoiler alert . . . An unsettling time with a doppelganger and brutal interrogation by Les Deux, the duo nasties, tested her moral and physical strength almost to break point until their arrogance enabled her to take pity on the doppelganger and run. Sadly, Catharine didn’t see the barrier across a farm track. Her doppelganger perished when Catharine’s car crashed and her body, comatose in a local hospital. Her spirit stayed strong and her links to the thirteenth century noblewoman lived on. Not even a coma could keep Catharine from playing a crucial role in Beyond The Pyre.
Next Blog . . . Meet Les Deux
Hole in The Wall – Random Fact
The world’s first ATM was installed on 27 June 1967 in Enfield,
London, England. John Shepherd-Barron invented the ATM and successfully pitched it to
the British bank, Barclays.
Inspiration for Beyond The Pyre . . .
I am lucky to live in the south of France, surrounded by amazing historical sites that fuel stories. The following guest post by James McDonald added fuel to the fire that was already burning inside. If you want to know more, follow the links inside the article and immerse yourself in a fascinating history.
Cathars and Cathar Beliefs in the Languedoc
The Cathars were a religious group who appeared in Europe in the eleventh century, their origins something of a mystery though there is reason to believe their ideas came from Persia or the Byzantine Empire, by way of the Balkans and Northern Italy. Records from the Roman Catholic Church mention them under various names and in various places. Catholic theologians debated with themselves for centuries whether Cathars were Christian heretics or whether they were not Christians at all. The question is apparently still open. Roman Catholics still refer to Cathar belief as “the Great Heresy” though the official Catholic position is that Catharism is not Christian at all.
The religion flourished in an area often referred to as the Languedoc, broadly bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, the Pyrenees, and the rivers Garonne, Tarn and Rhône -— and corresponding to the new French region of Occitanie.
As Dualists, Cathars believed in two principles, a good creator god and his evil adversary (much like God and Satan of mainstream Christianity). Cathars called themselves simply Christians; their neighbours distinguished them as “Good Christians“. The Catholic Church called them Albigenses, or less frequently. Cathars.
Cathars maintained a Church hierarchy and practiced a range of ceremonies, but rejected any idea of priesthood or the use of church buildings. They divided into ordinary believers who led ordinary medieval lives and an inner Elect of Parfaits (men) and Parfaits (women) who led extremely ascetic lives yet still worked for their living – generally in itinerant manual trades like weaving. Cathars believed in reincarnation and refused to eat meat or other animal products. They were strict about biblical injunctions – notably those about living in poverty, not telling lies, not killing and not swearing oaths.
Basic Cathar Tenets led to some surprising logical implications. For example they largely regarded men and women as equals, and had no doctrinal objection to contraception, euthanasia or suicide. In some respects the Cathar and Catholic Churches were polar opposites. For example the Cathar Church taught that all non-procreative sex was better than any procreative sex. The Catholic Church taught – as it still teaches – exactly the opposite. Both positions produced interesting results. Following their tenet, Catholics concluded that masturbation was a far greater sin than rape (as mediaeval penitentials confirm). Following their principles, Cathars could deduce that sexual intercourse between man and wife was more culpable than homosexual sex. (Catholic propaganda on this supposed Cathar proclivity gave us the word bugger, from Bougre, one of the many names for medieval Gnostic Dualists)
In the Languedoc, known at the time for its high culture, tolerance and liberalism, the Cathar religion took root and gained more and more adherents during the twelfth century. By the early thirteenth century Catharism was probably the majority religion in the area. Many Catholic texts refer to the danger of it replacing Catholicism completely.
Catharism was supported or at least tolerated by the nobility as well as the common people. This was yet another annoyance to the Roman Church which considered the feudal system to be divinely ordained as the Natural Order (Cathars disliked the feudal system because it depended on oath taking). In open debates with leading Catholic theologians Cathars seem to have come out on top. This was embarrassing for the Roman Church, not least because they had fielded the best professional preachers in Europe against what they saw as a collection of uneducated weavers and other manual workers. A number of Catholic priests had become Cathar adherents (Catharism was a religion that seems to have appealed especially to the theologically literate). Worse, the Catholic Church was being held up to public ridicule (some of the richest men in Christendom, bejewelled, vested in finery, and preaching poverty, provided an irresistible target even to contemporary Catholics in the Languedoc). Worst yet, Cathars declined to pay tithes to the Catholic Church. As one senior Churchman observed of the Cathar movement “if it had not been cut back by the swords of the faithful I think it would have corrupted the whole of Europe.”
The Cathar view of the Catholic Church was as bleak as the Catholic Church’s view of the Cathar Church. On the Cathar side it manifested itself in ridiculing Catholic doctrine and practices, and characterising the Catholic Church as the “Church of Wolves”. Catholics accused Cathars of heresy or apostasy and said they belonged to the “Synagogue of Satan”. The Catholic side created some striking propaganda. When the propaganda proved unsuccessful, there was only one option left – a crusade – the Albigensian Crusade.
The head of the Catholic Church, Pope Innocent III, called a formal Crusade against the Cathars of the Languedoc, appointing a series of military leaders to head his Holy Army. The first was a Cistercian abbot (Arnaud Amaury), now best remembered for his command at Béziers: “Kill them all. God will know his own“. The second was Simon de Montfort now remembered as the father of another Simon de Montfort, a prominent figure in English parliamentary history. The war against the Cathars of the Languedoc continued for two generations. In the later phases the Kings of France would take over as leaders of the crusade, which thus became a Royal Crusade. Among the many victims who lost their lives were two kings: Peter II King of Aragon cut down at the Battle of Muret in 1213 and Louis VIII King of France who succumbed to dysentery on his way home to Paris in 1226.
From 1208, a war of terror was waged against the indigenous population of the Languedoc and their rulers: Raymond VI of Toulouse, Raymond-Roger Trencavel, Raymond Roger of Foix in the first generation and Raymond VII of Toulouse, Raymond Trencavel II, and Roger Bernard II of Foix in the second generation. During this period an estimated half-million Languedoc men, women and children were massacred, Catholics as well as Cathars. The Crusaders killed the locals indiscriminately – in line with the famous injunction recorded by a Cistercian chronicler as being spoken by his fellow Cistercian, the Abbot in command of the Crusader army at Béziers.
The Counts of Toulouse and their allies were dispossessed and humiliated, and their lands later annexed to France. Educated and tolerant Languedoc rulers were replaced by relative barbarians; Dominic Guzmán (later Saint Dominic) founded the Dominican Order. Within a few years the first papal Inquisition, manned by the Dominicans, was established explicitly to wipe out the last vestiges of resistance.
Persecutions of Languedoc Jews and other minorities were initiated; the culture of the troubadours was lost as their cultured patrons were reduced to wandering refugees known as faidits. Their characteristic concept of “partage“, a whole sophisticated world-view, was almost destroyed, leaving us a pale imitation in our idea of chivalry. Lay learning was discouraged and the reading of the bible became a capital crime. Tithes were enforced. The Languedoc started its long economic decline from the richest region of Europe to become the poorest region in France; and the language of the area, Occitan, began its descent from the foremost literary language in Europe to a regional dialect, disparaged by the French as a patois.
At the end of the extermination of the Cathars, the Roman Church had proof that a sustained campaign of genocide can work. It also had the precedent of an internal Crusade within Christendom, and the machinery of the first modern police state that could be reconstructed for the Spanish Inquisition, and again for later Inquisitions and genocides. Chateaubriand referred to the crusade as “this abominable episode of our history”. Voltaire observed that “there was never anything as unjust as the war against the Albigensian’s.”
Catharism is often said to have been completely eradicated soon after the end of the fourteenth century. Yet there are more than a few vestiges even today, apart from the enduring memory of Cathar “Martyrdom” and the ruins of the famous “Cathar castles”, including the spectacular castle at Carcassonne and the hilltop Château of Montségur.
Today, there are still many echoes of influences from the Cathar period, from International geopolitics down to popular culture. There are even Cathars alive today, or at least people claiming to be modern Cathars. There are historical tours of Cathar sites and also a flourishing, if largely superficial, Cathar tourist industry in the Languedoc, and especially in the Aude département.
As we see the eight-hundredth anniversary of important events, more and more memorials are springing up on the sites of massacres, as at Les Casses, Lavaur, Minerve, and Montségur. There is also an increasing community of historians and other academics engaged in serious historical and other academic Cathar studies. Interestingly, to date, the deeper scholars have dug, the more they have vindicated Cathar claims to represent a survival of an important Gnostic strand of the Earliest Christian Church.
Arguably just as interesting, Protestant ideas share much in common with Cathar ideas, and there is some reason to believe that early reformers were aware of the Cathar tradition. Even today some Protestant Churches claim a Cathar heritage. Tantalisingly, weavers were commonly accused of spreading Protestant ideas in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, just as their antecedents in the same trade had been accused of spreading Cathar ideas in medieval times.
It can even be argued that in many respects Roman Catholic ideas have shifted over the centuries ever further from the Church’s medieval teaching and ever closer to Cathar teaching.
If you want to cite this Guest Post in a blog, book or academic paper, you will need the following information:
Author: James McDonald MA, MSc.
Date last modified: 8 February 2017
For media enquiries please e-mail email@example.com
Coming Soon . . .
- Beyond The Pyre, character pen portraits – Les Deux
- Forthcoming novels by Steve Costello
- Guest Posts
- Apps that help
As the storylines developed and were woven together I was drawn deeper into the historical fabric of this carefully researched book. The strongly drawn characters, shades of fantasy and dramatic action overlaying the real history of the Cathars made for an enjoyable and interesting read. David Berkshire (Amazon.co.uk)
I thought the characters were brilliant, and I loved the link between the different centuries, as well as the switch between perspectives and the interesting use of setting. Eleanor Jones
Direct from the publisher, Austin Macauley or Amazon and your local book store, this exciting new novel moves seamlessly between the 13th and 21st centuries. An absorbing read and the second novel from author, Steve Costello. Steve is nearing completion of a third novel, set in very ancient times and the present. Exploring our timeless position in the universe while following some of the BTP characters.
Beyond The Pyre is set in the south of France and within the human mind. Two young lovers reach out to their future selves. Their task; to help protect an ancient secret that humankind must never see. Two quintessentially evil characters stand out but there are hundreds of others with a different motivation. Some seek to destroy everything; others only want the power of the secret. The flame of the human spirit leads characters living across the centuries down many paths. Find out if their spirits truly connect or was it wishful thinking brought about by hope and fear motivating creative ways to survive.
From the darkness beyond the pyre,
two young lovers reach out to the future.
A malevolent force lurks in the shadows,
seeking to destroy them
and expose their closely guarded secret.
Published by Austin Macauley, Beyond The Pyre is available in Digital, Hardback and Paperback formats.
In this exciting new novel . . .
. . . past, present and future collide. Things the characters never thought about come to life. Pulling them into startling events set in the 13th and 21st centuries. BTP isn’t a ghost story. It is as real as the words you are reading now.
In 13th century France during the time of the crusades against the Cathars, two young lovers call out to the 21st century from Beyond The Pyre. Catharine, an adept spiritual traveller hears the call and realises her connection with Elionor, a 13th century noblewoman. There is a treasure that must survive the centuries and stay out of the human domain. The women are central to the survival of the treasure and they must keep it out of the hands of Les Deux, servants of a dark master.
Historical fact merges with fiction which merges with Spirit and mysticism. This story is as much about the Steve’s spiritual journey as it is a gripping story about survival. BTP is about new relationships, loss of loved ones and the tenacity of the human race to make sense from chaos.
Order a copy from . . .
Don’t forget your local bookstore. If they don’t have it in stock, they can order for you.