Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Are you a Crooked Cat Reader yet?

The delight in being a Crooked Cat Reader

Generally my posts are to do with the fact that I'm a Crooked Cat author rather than a Crooked Cat Reader but this is the other way around.

I joined a Crooked Cat Author Webinar recently and the fun pre- Christmas task was to prepare something to talk about for a 3 minute slot. Since I was late to be added to the attendees, I had to think of something quick and the fact that I'd just started to write a short review of the last Crooked Cat book that I'd read gave me the impetus for my topic.

To narrow my talk/slot down to just less than 3 minutes, I had to do a bit of slash editing but what you read below is more like the original pre-edits. Since it's an important topic and very dear to me, I'm sharing it with you all!

Why I love being a Crooked Cat Books READER

Would you believe me if I said it’s because I love reading books written by people who are becoming familiar to me, some through virtual channels and others that I've met in the flesh? Is it solidarity to support fellow authors at Crooked Cat?  

Or...is there a deep subliminal reason for me liking CC novels?

Like in the ‘My Fair Lady’musical  “By George! I think she’s got it!  
This is where I sing: The Crooked Cats are truly Crooked Categories!

Crooked Categories. Exactly. - but what’s the subliminal deal?

I'd like you to Time Travel with me back to 1957. 
I’m 5 and reading everything I can lay my hands on. Cereal boxes, HP sauce bottle, Sunday Post Children’s Page. What's that? Get our coats on? We're off to the local library with my Dad. He goes every week and loves his reading as well. For him it's an escape to adventures that happen way beyond our Glasgow City streets. My tomboy sister, 4 years older than me is a very good reader, but she prefers playing outside, on her bike or with her friends. I'm too young for my own ticket but her ticket gets me 2 books every week. Yay! I’m already a reading junkie! 

I’m 7 now and reserving Enid Blyton books to make sure I read all 150 plus books that she wrote. And I love fairy tales; myths and legends of Ancient Greece, Rome and Egypt. I’m a happy bunny in the book neuk!

I’m 9 –and I'm still reading Enid Blyton but I'm onto the much bigger fatter books like her Adventure Series. I love adventures! The Chalet School books are great too and Nancy Drew mysteries. Girls books, boys books, everything in between & I’ve got weekly comics as well- my Bunty, Judy, Diana, June & School Friend. (No idea who her friend was!) 

Looking back I think maybe Wee Slavey – the drudge of the Victorian Kitchen - probably introduced me to historical fiction and Sandra of the Secret Ballet kept my interest in mysteries going as well. 

Big Sis is too old for her comics now, at 13,  but mum still buys them for me - Dandy, Beano, Topper and Beezer. I devour the boys stuff as well…though I don’t think Desperate Dan and his Cow Pie introduced me to Western romance – the jury’s still out on that one! 

I'm often reading under the covers with a torch… illicitly since I still share a room with my sister, and mum complains if the lights on too late. Books are doable under the blankets but comics make a hell of a newsprint mess. Mum wonders if I’ve been kissing the coalman!

I’m 12 and reading absolutely every spare moment. Rider Haggard adventures; classics…I have to wait till I'm 14 before being allowed to get out adult books from the library but my dad lets me read ones he's read and thinks are okay for me.  

I’m 17 and gobbling up heaps of genres for my Higher English Certificate at school and lots of others for the sheer hell of it.

19 already! Sugar! For my Glasgow University English course I’ve got 23 texts to study, as well as all of my Education stuff and my French course is punishing! AARGH! I've got zero time for personal genre choices now.

Skip to the Year 2000.  Being a full time primary teacher and a mum of 2 first year University students means I’m brain dead by 9 pm… but I still need my reading fix!  Phew! Just as well that I can cope with historical fiction, mysteries and romances. What's regarded as the best of literary fiction leaves me cold - I just don't have the energy for it. I dissect novels with my 11 year old Primary 7s in class but in my leisure reading I don't want to read anything that needs that level of concentration.  

Roll on to 2011. It's no surprise that I’m writing historical adventure and contemporary mysteries. But having read countless over those decades, I want my work to be different! The Ancient Roman invasion of northern Britain is bloody hard to research so I’ve mixed the genres of romance, historical & adventure but find that publishers aren’t so keen on hybrids.

2012! Yipee! Crooked Cat love to publish something different that crosses genres.  

YAY! Now I'm back to reading all kinds of genres. mainly those published by Crooked Cat (but I am reading other authors as well) 
Crime; Fantasy; Paranormal; Romance; Chick-lit;  Dystopian; Horror; Political Thrillers; Spy Thrillers
...and you've guessed it -  Mysteries and Histories!

What’s not to like? 

So...that's mine but what's your favourite genres? 


Monday, 5 December 2016

Monday Moments at Arbeia

Monday Moments at South Shields


Sadly, no, I’m not having a flying visit to the River Tyne near Newcastle, England, but I have been delving into its past as part of my FutureLearn #FLHadrian’s Wall course. At the Arbeia Roman Fort and Museum there are some very fine reconstructions that I must get back down to see because when I last visited, sometime around the millennium, I remember seeing the ground layout of the fort but I don’t remember much about the Gateway.

And what have my moments been about today? Finding out about the changes to the fort made by the Emperor Septimius Severus somewhere around AD 208-211, though I now read that there’s a possibility that the new construction of the time just might have been instigated for Severus by the then Governor of Britannia, Alfenus Senecio.
Septimius Severus 

Today’s main puzzle has been to make an estimate of how far the stocks of the granaries could go when feeding Severus’ Legions of the AD 208-211 period. Given the dimensions of the granary, and the amount a sack of grain would weigh, and the fact that a soldier’s daily ration was about 0.8kg, and that Severus probably had 4 Legions plus another 10 cohorts- how many days would they get out of that granary?

Well, my maths is a little shaky but I gave it my best shot. Of course, I did have to add comments on that being a very basic estimate and had to think about what might have made the grain stocks last less than my basic estimate, and I should have added what might have made the stocks last longer than my estimate.

Are you following?

Well, I did add that not all legions were an exact 4,800 soldiers. And a Cohort wasn’t always exactly 480 men. The mice and rodents would have had a fine time nibbling the stock and lots of it would have gone mouldy because northern England is just about as damp as Scotland is, and it rains a lot there, too. Don’t forget the mist that’s also very damp! And then there would have been all the other attendant people of the regiment who would have eaten some of the grain, some immunes and slaves and wives and children and the ‘bidie-ins’ (as in non married women and maybe children) who may or may not have been transient. And then there would have been accidental dropping of grain and maybe poor measuring of rations. And someone else on the course quite rightly suggested other kinds of damage like accidental fire ...or theft! Heavens forbid if you were found trying that trick.

And then I added a suggestion that if the horses got any grain then that’s another whack gone.

I’m really loving this course and honestly…I’m not being glib to poke fun of the course…not at all— but my maths is perhaps a trifle lacking and today was fun! 

Just click the link and make your own estimate. I dare you! 

Meanwhile, I'll try to squirm some of this new knowledge into my current WIP but it will be to do with General Gnaeus Julius Agricola's stores rather than that of Severus. 


Wednesday, 30 November 2016

St. Andrew's Day? Yer Aye learnin'

Happy St. Andrew's Day to you! 

The 30th November is St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland and I've blogged about various stories about St. Andrew on previous posts. (To see them use the 'archive' box on the right sidebar of this blog and type a search of 'St. Andrew') 

I'm not repeating those posts but I will add something new because there is always yet another snippet associated with St. Andrew, Patron Saint of Scotland. I find something different every year! 

This year's browsing led me to a new observation, one which I find extremely modern yet flattering to Andrew of saintly reputation! The Scotland dot org site has an article which suggests that St. Andrew had exceptional people skills -  as in him being the person who brought many strangers to the meetings of Jesus and also one of the disciples who was very good at coercing the people around Jesus to share their food! Someone very good at 'working the crowds'. Thus, the suggestion is that he could become the Patron Saint of Social Networking! 

St. Andrew's patronage extends to maidens, old maids, and women wishing to become mothers as well as those with gout, sore throats and are fishmongers!

Today, you'll find that I've also posted on the Wranglers Blog about St. Andrew's day where there's a little more explanation. Since I researched for a really good painting I'm including this one here. I like this 17th Century depiction of the Crucifixion of St. Andrew by someone anonymous. The canvas (I believe) can still be found in the Scottish College in Paris.

Though not religious, I find the imagery of this one interesting and in the way of a lot of medieval and renaissance painting historically inaccurate. The buildings in Patras, the city where St. Andrew was said to have been crucified might have had stone buildings. I'm not sure that the style here is accurate but the type of ship in the background is probably not accurate for AD 60. It doesn't look like a trireme to me but I'm happy to be put right. Exactly how the poor man is managing to hang there with such loose ties is quite an amazing feat. Again, please feel free to enlighten me.

Paintings aside, in honour of St. Andrew's Day 2016, I'm intending to make some stovies for dinner, served with oatcakes and beetroot. 

HERE  is the source of the photo above and using corned beef is one of the fastest recipes for making stovies. The texture of the stovies in the photo here is not actually the easiest thing to acquire but the real taste needs the whole stew to become a sort of mush to qualify!  Today, I'm using sausages instead of left over beef which is usual in the north-east of Scotland, though I've made stovies with lamb, mince and pretty much any kind of meat. 

Nicola Sturgeon, the first Minister of Scotland has made a St. Andrew's Day video, one which matches very well with the aspirations of the SNP party in Scotland, as in one of inclusion but sadly, I can't work out how to share it here except by this method.


Other news of the day is that I'm pacing on with my #FLHadrian course.

1.    Those who are friends of mine on Facebook might have seen that I’ve made a few mentions about doing a 6 week course right now, via Newcastle University…and I’m loving it! I'm now into Week 4 of the course and so glad that I decided to do it!
I thought I already knew a reasonable amount about the famous Hadrian’s Wall structure that was built by the Ancient Romans from west to east across northern England but I live with the adage that ‘Yer Aye Learnin’ and there’s always something more to absorb.

The time period of the building of the wall at c. AD 122 sits nicely between the two eras that I’ve written about in my historical adventures. The Celtic Fervour Series for adults is set in Agricolan northern Britannia of AD 70s - 80s. My Time Travel Adventure for Teens is set in Severan Scotland in AD 210. Bridging that historical gap is a very good thing!

So again, Happy St. Andrew's Day to you.