Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Caught up short!

Tuesday Woes!

Not much time for new writing today. Had a little domestic issue with my whirley- more formally known as a 'Rotary Washing Line'.

Sometimes metal can snap if it's too worn, rusted, or moved around too often. Such was the case with my whirley. The bottom snapped off in brisk winds and this is what I was left with yesterday.

Time to send off the troops- aka my husband - to buy a new one since my domestic laundry pile is huge every day.

Bit of time spent erecting the brand new one and hey presto- it's ready for the next wash.
But guess what? It's almost too high for little ole me. Attaching those knickers for a three year old was a bit of a stretch, but I'll get used to it.

The metal fatigue made me think of my Roman soldiers, especially the Legionaries who had to keep their armour - Lorica Segmentata - in good condition, free of rust with the plates of the armour neatly overlapping.

It also made me think of the hapless Celt who perhaps ended up with a very old sword, one that was maybe too worn to take the strain of battle and where one large swipe lopped not only the arm off a Roman auxiliary but also left part of the blade on the ground along with the blood and gore. It seems quite clear that blades in those days needed to be fit for the purpose.

In my time travel WIP for early teens, my characters find themselves back in a Celtic Hillfort in AD 209. An unexpected attack by Roman troops creates some havoc...

Aran headed for the armoury, remembering that it wasn’t far off: weapons of some kind a must. The sounds of battle deafened his ears, but he knew from the way the noise carried in the night that the action took place in the direction of the main entrance. In no time at all, he’d located a suitable long knife, as the first swords he found were too heavy for him. Then he grabbed up a few small rapier-like knives and a bunch of spears that he could fist tightly in his grip - because, as Tuach had ordered, all of the useful weapons lay in ready piles.

I doubt you'll be polishing up your sword but whatever you're doing- enjoy.


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Those lovely Roses

Happy Sunday!

It's almost over and I forgot to post that I'm out guest blogging today at The Roses of Prose. http://rosesofprose.blogspot.co.uk/ 

Their September theme was FALL... is coming, with many interpretations of this. My contribution is "Falling Crushing Disappointment..."

Pop on over to the Roses blog find out about my 'Falling, crushing disappointment' and that of Brennus in After Whorl: Bran Reborn. Read a fantastic excerpt from #2 of my Celtic Fervour Series.


Saturday, 27 September 2014

Time-travel reblog

Happy Saturday to you! 

Please note: This is almost a reblog of the post I've personally written for my slot today at Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog. 

(http://writingwranglersand warriors.wordpress.com)  

My day is planned out as a mixture of heavy-duty gardening (ie re-doing a patio)  and writing - now that my guest blogging is live at Wranglers. My internet connections are awful, so I'm taking the opportunity now to give you a taste of my thoughts on time-travel writing- in case you don't see it elsewhere.

Time-travel adventure allows for…?


It’s an amazing thing. A dictionary definition of hindsight will give you something like this: - understanding after the fact; retrospection; observation or perception of what was.

In my early teens, I loved reading H.G.Wells’ novel – The Time Machine. Fantasy isn’t my most favourite genre normally, but reading The Time Machine took me back to Victorian Britain and then on to the adventures the time traveller experienced.  With hindsight, I realise I loved the Victorian historical aspects almost as much as I loved the adventures. The couple of film adaptations I’ve seen, based on the book, have been entertaining interpretations – but for me it’s all about the mind-sets of those Victorian characters and about the historical settings of their ‘normal’ time that appeals the most.
More details are to be found here about The Time Machine if you haven't read the novel.

Over the years since that first reading, I’ve read other time- travel novels and realised the amazing variety that has been produced. There are ones which are more firmly in the sci-fi category, where the characters time-travel to other planets on purpose, or set definite courses for other worlds or alternative earths.

There’s currently a plethora of time- shift plots of the Outlander/ Diana Gabaldon type where a character time-slips- and not necessarily because they want to, but because some event makes it happen. In this type of novel, the character must make decisions which will affect their life when they return to their own time. In effect their future will be set according to what they achieve for themselves in their past.
( http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cross-Stitch-Outlander-Diana-Gabaldon/dp/0099911701/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1411812945&sr=1-1)

There are the time-slip novels like Audrey Niffenegger’s ‘The Time Traveller’s Wife’ where the main character, Henry, finds himself popping in and out of his own life, making appearances as a younger or older man, finding his circumstances confusing till he realises where he is in time and with whom. There are many varieties of this parallel time idea.

There are also those where the adventure takes place firmly in a past time where the protagonists are whisked back either to a pre-set time, or to one which is randomly chosen. The time adventurers spend a while, generally with a quest to fulfil, and then return to their own time enriched by their experience but their futures are not dependent on their actions in that past time, because they have generally done nothing to ‘change’ time.

I can't think of any particular example right now, but maybe you can? 

The mechanisms of the time-travelling are fascinating and can vary so much, as can the ultimate purpose of the novels. There are time ‘portals’ in the form of a mirror (there are lots of time- slip romance novels using this mechanism just now), or a wardrobe as in the ‘Narnia’ novels, or a physical vehicle as in Dr. Who’s Tardis or H.G. Wells’ time machine.

I’ve, so far, only written the one time-travel novel for early teens but I’ve really enjoyed being able to have my characters use the value of hindsight in different ways. Whisked back in time to 209 AD, my trio of kids find themselves in an adventure which scares them silly, confuses them, shocks them and makes them alternatively frustrated and desperate. Sometimes these emotions are produced because they feel physically threatened, but often it’s because they feel a huge responsibility- with the benefit of hindsight they know what’s about to occur but have to be so careful of their involvement in that it makes no major changes to the course of history. To fulfil their demanding mission they use hindsight knowledge, facts gained about the era they are plunged into. 

In this type of time-travel novel I’ve really need to have my historical details sharp as the tacks on the hob-nailed Roman sandals of the advancing Legions. 

After my garden slot today I'll be continuing to polish this little guy's armour.

Have a lovely weekend! 



Friday, 26 September 2014

Mystery, thriller or adventure writing?

Deepening the mystery into a thriller…or making it an adventure? 
Friday felicitations to you!

I'm sitting writing at my desk looking out at the sunny aspect through my window. It looks lovely but the wind is sneaking up again and is set to create havoc like it did overnight. A day with afternoon temperatures of 22 Deg Centigrade yesterday was followed by some very strong overnight winds. Strong enough to again blow over that plastic pink house in my garden. Wind was expected, but maybe not so gusty: I certainly was surprised by it. 

And surprise is an element which makes for interesting writing...

Friendly inquirer at a recent book signing/sales event: “Oh, you’re the author? What kind of books do you write?”

That sounds like a perfectly acceptable second question but the answer isn’t always a simple one. Having now completed seven novels, one would think I’d be able to give a quick-fire reply, but the fact is that like many authors I can’t do that.

Three of my stand-alone novels are considered Contemporary Mysteries - two of which have thriller elements. Since they all have romantic aspects, and they have happy ever after endings for the main characters, they can also be considered as Romantic Mysteries, or Mystery Romances.

The three books in my Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures have sound historical detail, varying degrees of romance and heavy adventure elements – any mystery threads in these three books are overshadowed by the other aspects.

The time-travel novel for an early teen audience has a sound historical setting and a lot of clues for the reader to unravel, so it’s definitely a Time-Travel Mystery Adventure.

You can maybe now see that a rapid reply to which ‘kind’ of books I write isn’t really possible.

However, the innocent enough question had me thinking about aspects of the novel which make them appropriate for different sub-genres. These are my thoughts on elements which I’ve used in various ways in my novels- though definitely not all in every novel!

Guidelines on the writing of an adventure story, in general, are likely to indicate an author should include elements where a main character will enter into a situation that would not be normal in daily life for him or her. The character will find they are in circumstances which involve danger and probable risk to life as they work through a series of puzzles in order to reach a main goal or achievement, or perhaps are engaged in a drive to explore new places or find new answers to seemingly unanswerable questions. The locations involved are also likely to be somewhat different from what they are used to which can present challenges to the characters as the story progresses. The plot in an adventure story needs a fast pace to keep the reader hooked, balanced out by the development of the main characters which enriches the reader experience. Of course, it’s very possible that other suggestions for an adventure story could be added to that basic list. 

The elements for mystery writing are often summarised as requiring an event that may, or may not, be a crime which has already happened yet which has scant details available for it at the outset. Good mystery writing is plot driven where the reader will have as many chances as the character detectives have, to sift through to the solution - the detectives being amateur or professional sleuths. These ‘chances’ are what will engage a reader and will keep them hooked till the very end. The denouement of the details of the event, fed piece by piece to the reader, is generally thought an important progression with the occasional red- herring added to throw the reader off the scent before a believable solution to the mystery is revealed at the end. In mystery writing, good triumphs over evil. For that to happen the author needs to inject neat doses of both good and evil into the plot. Punishment of the evil villain, to some degree, is generally required at the end. The author of mysteries often chose to have one protagonist which allows them to move onwards from Book 1 into a series - the reader having become drawn to the main character in book 1 and wanting to read more stories about him or her. The mystery genre is very accommodating though, as it’s also possible to have more than one main character.

What of thriller writing- sometimes labelled suspense? Thrillers are about a crime or disaster that is just waiting to happen unless the protagonist can prevent it from occurring. The most important elements of thrillers can vary from author to author. Some may favour the ‘ticking time bomb’ to be their greatest focus where the main characters must resolve some situation within a very short timescale. This can be used to advantage when the action is very condensed in a particular location or series of places in a very short time and which keeps the reader thoroughly engaged. The pace is fast and furious, with lots of action which may include danger or death occurring to some secondary characters- characters which the reader has already been able to empathise with. It may be that the reader knows, or has some suspicion of the villain from the outset of the story. Interweaving scenes giving the villain’s point of view can enhance reader involvement and build up the suspense. A red herring or two is also generally good in thrillers.
Topaz Eyes (Crooked Cat Publishing) – one of my contemporary mysteries - is marketed as a mystery thriller. In chronological writing order, this is the second mystery I’ve written which is plot driven around an ancestral family tree.

I loved working out the details of the trees so much that I made the one for Topaz Eyes fairly complicated, drawn to third generation levels, my aim being to keep the reader very engaged with a good number of strong secondary characters. The third generation cousins who are brought together in mysterious circumstances from the outset are requested to solve a family mystery which dates back from present time to the family matriarch of the 1880s.

The reader, like the main character detectives, is presented with scant photographic evidence of what the quest is. Unravelling the details of the mystery involves my main characters travelling to some fabulous world locations, danger and death dogging their footsteps. Who the evil villains of the family are keeps the reader guessing throughout the whole novel- a few of those red- herrings making the reader do some doubting and second guessing. I wanted to write a complicated mystery so I added an extra mystery within the mystery element in Topaz Eyes which can also be considered a treasure hunt. I was delighted when Topaz Eyes became an Award Finalist for The People’s Book Prize 2014 Fiction Category.

You might be able to tell by now that I like variety in my reading and in my writing.

What about you? What preferences do you have as a reader? What genres do you feel comfortable writing in as an author?  

ps *Celtic Fervour Series – 3 full length reads for less than £5 on amazon UK and less than $10 from Amazon.com.*


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Coughing up the WIPS.

Welcome to Wednesday everyone! 

Looking forward to the spring of 2015, and what that will entail.

The image on the left might not look very inspiring yet but come the spring I'll be expecting a lovely display of diverse daffodils along the wall and will be hoping for a cheery colouring of pansies. The pics of daffodils are from the packets to indicate what I'll be looking out for come March or April of 2015. 

It's been a slow start back to my writing but with three blog articles in the bag on general writing topics; one blog post that was written earlier in the month and revived; and some new WIP writing done over the last couple of days, I'm happier than I was last week.

I'm totally ignoring the head cold and nasty cough which has been developing slowly since last Thursday - it's really happening to someone else...ie pretty well all of the five other inhabitants of my household.

I've heaps of emails to reply to and catch-up with promotional tweets etc need done before more polishing up of the current writing but the afternoon looks set be spent outside since it's quite warm for the end of September and not raining! I'll just need to remember that my ear to ear blockage of catarrh means I'm a bit staggery.

Some preparation for my October blogs is also in the offing. Details of those historical gems soon.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

Clinging roots and free soil

During the last few weeks, my blog has been silent. My main preoccupation has been the run up to last Thursday (18th) the day of the Scottish Referendum on Independence. It’s no secret that I am wholly in favour of Scotland taking up the reins of running the country in every way but sadly, that is not to be. 

However, that almost 45% of the electorate was in favour of Scotland being Independent of the UK was impressive – as much as the turnout to vote which was in excess of 80%.


Now it’s time to see what the Westminster Parliament comes up with during the coming months to give more powers to the Scottish Parliament, as they blatantly promised late in the pre-election campaign. 

For some of the 55% NO voters who wished to remain in the UK, the roots of dependence on the Westminster Parliament are too deep for them and they still cling too much- a bit like those last roots above in my garden which were tenacious and difficult to free from the soil.

My focus now has to be domestic matters, garden matters and getting back into my writing flow which has been disrupted this last week. Don’t ask me why I couldn’t write because I couldn’t understand it myself. 

Today, the low cloud and haar which has dogged the last few days has rolled away and the weather is set to be dry. The bags of daffodils bought last Tuesday need to be planted into my empty bed now devoid of the conifers which inhabited it for around three decades.

Change is good - even if not the kind I wanted for my country.


Sunday, 7 September 2014

Fair enough!

Happy Sunday to you!
As planned, I was selling my books yesterday at the FOCUS  (Festival of Crafts Unique to Scotland)  Craft Fair in the Town Hall of the seaside town of Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. 

A fair to middling day, weatherwise, the blinks of sunshine had a few people out and about before lunchtime, though not the tourist traffic that is sometimes seen in Stonehaven in early September, I'm told. Sadly, it bucketed down after that and made for a very soggy wet afternoon, not many people wandering around so traffic into the fair was poor. I'm booked to attend a number of these fairs between now and Xmas, though in the process I'm doing a little experiment as well as selling books. 

On this blog on Friday last, I posed a question about the popularity of Historical fiction and if it isn't popular for readers - why not? I tried to ask the same questions at the Craft fair whenever I had a suitable opportunity.
  • Do you enjoy reading historical fiction?
  • What don't you like about reading historical fiction ( if the first answer was negative).
If the person said, and a few did, that they got bored reading about old kings and queens, I then asked - 
  • What if you were reading about ordinary people during eras of long ago, people who had the same issues as today like being displaced during/ or in the aftermath of war? Or people who had their livelihood removed from them by someone who settled on their land by means of force? What if the history in the story was there for authentic background knowledge and the story was more about how relationships fared during troubled times? Or the daring exploits, though relatively peaceable, that some people get involved in to thwart a take-over bid of their culture and daily life?  
The answers to the last questions were quite revealing. A few browsers bought a book on the strength that what was happening in my novels wasn't really so different from thing sthat happen today to ordinary people- and I stress relatively ordinary characters.

Overall, the answers yesterday were about 50/50 in favour of those who liked to read historical novels. I have to be realistic, though because the results were possibly skewed by my presentation materials. It may have been that more of the browsers were people already curious about history who stopped to talk.

The photo above is what my stall looked like. It was fairly cluttered but full of information. I think it worked in terms of being eye-catching enough for people to stop and spend some time with me (those who wanted to/ were curious). The printed images, second and third left on the photo, drew the attention to the fact that ancient Romans featured in my series and many noticed the iconic shape of the Bennachie range of hills in the photo second left. 

I had a number of conversations with browsers over the course of the 6 hours of opening of the fair. A few customers claimed they DO like to read historical novels but read ebooks rather than print. It was no problem to give them my business card and leaftlet with sufficient places to buy ebooks. One customer tried to buy the books in situ using her phone app and my set of Q R Codes. Unfortunately, the signal in the Town Hall was awful but I hope she was able to maintain it long enough to buy when she got a better signal outside. I live in hope.

One lady on holiday at the caravan park in Stonehaven, up from England, said she'd buy the ebooks when she got home to her laptop, since she didn't have a phone app to buy over the internet. When I explained the books are available from various places like Amazon and Crooked Cat Bookstore where she could get bonus points added to her account she flabbergasted me by saying she'd try Blinkboxbooks- the Tesco online store for ebooks, CDs, DVDs etc. I only found out about that option last Wednesday but was able to tell the woman she'd get 100 points for each of Books 2 & 3 if she was quick off the mark! I was amnazed that she knew of Tesco selling books.

Speaking to a couple of tourists from Virginia, USA, was lovely. They didn't want to buy print books since the weight factor is now very important for flying requirements, these days, but hopefully one of them will buy later on. One lady was quite knowledgable about Roman British history and I was glad to be able to pull out some facts about the Romans in Scotland that she asked for. I was able to give her the Roman tribal name for the place her 'Scottish' forebears came from since she couldn't quite remember it. Her ancestors came from western Scotland, north of Glasgow. In Roman Britain, this area was likely to be of the tribe of the Damnonii.    

A couple who lived near Stonehaven -though originally from Ripon, Yorkshire, England- were a pleasure to talk to. Both interested in Historical novels they had a nice basic knowledge of the Roman advances in Scotland.

 "Yeah, Agricola came here, ground the 'Scots' to pulp and then what happened? "said the man, or words to that effect. 

A stirring conversation developed. I was able to tell him a bit about the first 2 books of my Celtic Fervour Series being set in what would be modern day Yorkshire/ Cumbria. I also got the opportunity face to face to explain why I chose to use place names in those books which appear on current OS maps. He knew of some of my references and was quite taken when I told him my choice of battleground was Whorl. On today's map the hill area of Whorlton, which they recognised, was ideal for Celtic battle having sloping ground and a flat plain below for galloping horses and chariots. After a lengthy discussion, the man said he was convinced and would try out my writing. Yipee! I thought he'd take just Book 1 but to my delight he bought my wrapped pack of 3 books! 

My day was also made worthwhile when a lady asked if I'd be interested in talking to her Women's Guild. I'll await some developments on that one. She didn't buy my books but did say that if a booking is made she'd buy if I had stocks with me. Intentions are good, so we'll see. 

Of course, if interested, readers want to buy ebook versions they are available from many places. See the sidebars of this blog. 

How to spend a Saturday.   



Friday, 5 September 2014

Fantastic Friday?

This is my Familiarise Friday slot...but I'm posing this question first - is it a Fantastic Friday? 

I don't think so if you look at the weather outside, yet it will be inside. I'm determined to complete my rewrite of the current WIP since I'll be too busy selling my books at a Craft Fair tomorrow in the lovely seaside town of Stonehaven.

I'm asking a big question though, on twitter today:
Who likes to read historical novels set in Celtic Roman Britain? If not, why don't you think you'll enjoy them? 

Someone reading this post here can maybe tell me?

Till I get some answers I'm going to introduce you to someone in my current WIP-Fianna. Fianna, and her twin brother Brian, are secondary characters, aged thirteen. The time travel novel for early teens is written from the viewpoint of another teenager named Aran, who is almost a year older than the twins- thus Aran is the 'he' of this piece of writing. The trio find themselves time-travelled in this section, but having just 'landed' they have no knowledge of to where or when. Today I'm asking you for your opinion on what sort of character you think Fianna is?

This part of the novel is still subject to change at final edits but this is how it reads at present:

A different whooshing sensation made its way through Aran’s armband, tingling all the way round his arm, billowing over his whole body and set him to tumbling, yet again, though this time it was backwards flips. It didn’t seem like it happened as many times as before, or maybe he was just becoming used to the weightless flipping over when he slowed to a halt.
The sounds of a softly plucked harp rippled around, a mysterious harmonious hum. Dense woodland blossomed in front of him, building up from the tiniest image, becoming clearer and clearer till it was all around him.
“Ugh. Something hit me. Get it off me now!”
He heard Brian squeal beside him as his mate flapped and slapped at his face and jumped around like a lunatic. Grey-green velvety leaves from a silver birch sapling feathered over his cheeks when he moved forward. The plucking of the harp became fainter replaced by birds chirruping above him. Both noises were accompanied by a soft soughing of the wind as it ruffled through the branches. Woodland noises. Realistic noises and woodland smells. He sniffed hard, and then wished he hadn’t.
“That’s absolutely mingin’!” Fianna gasped. She shielded her nose with the fingertips of one hand when her feet squelched in the muck she’d just churned up as she plopped into place beside him. With her other palm, she scrubbed leaves and tiny mites from her fringe.
The stench of rotting foliage on the forest floor, and something much more obnoxious bombarded him. Whatever he’d stepped on hadn’t been left by one little animal. They were in a forest but it wasn’t too dark since the shrubbery close by was mainly of saplings and scrubby ferns.
“What on earth’s happened to us?” Fianna squeaked. “Look at you two.”
Instead of ragged jeans and thin T-shirt, Brian wore a faded red tunic with baggy mucky-yellow trousers underneath. He looked down. He was even more gaudily dressed.
“Cool clothes, Aran, I love the checks.” Fianna giggled at his elegance.
 A dull brown tunic covered his chest and breeches of brown and green checks clad his legs. Draped around his shoulders a long cloak hung to just below his knees. Brian’s cloak was roughly woven dark-grey wool that tied round his neck with a woollen cord, but his was different. It was newer looking wool of a dark mossy green colour and of a finer weave with a large and very ornate gold brooch fastening it in place at his right shoulder.
“Very fancy.” Brian laughed as he fingered the brooch.
Fianna’s dress was a simply joined pale lilac rectangle of material with openings for her head and arms to slip through, reaching half way down her calves, drawn in at the waist by a twisted rope, the knotted ends dangling down from the middle.
“Look, you two. I’ve got a real knife.” She whooped as she pulled it free of a stiff leather sheath that was threaded through her belt but in her enthusiasm, it got caught on her cloak. “Eugh! How come my cloak’s the yucky one?” She stopped complaining pretty quickly though, when she realised the blade had ripped a fine slice in the coarse wool. “Friggin’ heck! It’s really sharp. Watch you don’t lose a finger.” Using her knife she pointed to Brian’s before sheathing it.
Fianna’s cloak was much longer. It almost reached the ground, was made of a cow-pat-brown weave and felt like a coarse potato sack.
He and Brian had sheathed knives, and all three of them had a leather bag which dangled from a cord angled across their chests, but the most magnificent thing of all was the metal band around each of their throats. He peered down. Around his neck was a heavy circlet of dark gold formed like a twisted rope. Brian bore a very dull thin silver band, but Fianna’s was a tubular bronze choker.
Pushing her fringe of hair back from her brow Fianna whistled as she fingered her neck ring. “Get a look at these. Have you two noticed they match our armbands?”
He hadn’t, but she was right.

What are your thoughts on Fianna?


Thursday, 4 September 2014

A nice deleted passage?

Another Thursday is upon us!
The day promises to be good in the afternoon but presently it's one of those grey mornings that we seem to get a lot of. If the haar ( low lying mist) clears we'll be in for a treat. 

There are tidy up jobs for me to do in the garden and a bit more digging of the raised bed that's minus most of the conifer roots from last year. I need to get going with the last root removals, and get some spring bulbs planted before I miss that seasonal slot. 

On grey mornings there's not a huge amount that looks cheery and sundecked but here's a plant I like because of the contrast. My zebra grasses stand tall and firm against the cheerier montbretia flowers. 

Apart from intermittent childminding, my intention is also to complete more chapters of my already infamous time-travel for early teens. It was named Dabbling With Time ( and that's an irony sonce it's taking me so long)  but even that is under reconstruction. I've an idea for the title (again) which I'll be sharing soon...and perhaps get your views on it?

I'm liking my novel a lot more as I make a lot of changes - though I still quite like some of the out-takes. Here's one of them. 

Wikimedia Commons - Gledel

In a line, they easily crossed the ford, given that the stones in the water were fairly flat. Striding after Gypta, they followed the riverbank. A short while later Aran dared a glance behind him. His height, being more of a match, made carrying the carcass a lighter burden for the warrior. Tyrnan now strode along with a smirk on his face rather than the determined grimace he’d worn when he’d borne most of the load.
“Duhlain!” Gypta’s voice startled the silent progress as she shouted back to him. “Your father, Mogran, will be very proud of you. You have taken another step nearer your warrior’s mark.”
Aran looked back. Duhlain’s face glowed with pride as he muttered his thanks.
Gypta kept talking although she continued to reel forwards. “And Fingal also acquits himself very well. His sword expertise on the mock battle field becomes legendary. You must be very proud of your step-brother, because he has the makings of a mighty warrior.”
Tyrnan’s loud laugh boomed out heartily behind Aran, the first sign that he had a human side. “Aye, Gypta. Fingal has yet to best me in the wrestle, though he is good, very good.”
“We all know how much you strive to remain our tribal champion, Tyrnan.” Gypta’s laugh rang out. “But some day you will meet your match. The first sons of Mogran are a force to be reckoned with.” Turning around she looked to the back of the file, to Duhlain. She winked. “And Maga is shaping up well too. She bears arms very well for her twelve summers.”
Very much to Aran’s surprise Gypta explained her information. “Maga is Duhlain’s older sister and she is now very good on the practice field. She was bitterly disappointed this morning when she was left behind with her mother to do domestic duties. She has been itching to go out on the observation treks with the warriors, but her time for that is still to come.”
The talk turned to the training ground, of other people and their prowess with new weaponry. Aran knew it was idle chatter and certainly nothing of defensive importance that strangers could use to their advantage. Their talk was of practising mock battles - though with real weapons, real chariots and shields. He’d felt Tyrnan’s blade prick into his neck. That had been real! He was edgy in case it happened again, though fascinated at the same time.
Gypta and Tyrnan discussed great battles to come. Who would they be fighting? Aran wondered if it was neighbouring Celts. Was that why they were so suspicious? Did they think he and the twins were spies for a rival tribe? On balance, Tyrnan’s distrust of them indicated that might just be why he was so suspicious.
“Tasca learns well with her pony now, Princess Gypta.” Tyrnan’s face held a hint of pride.
“You would say that, Tyrnan. Your sister was in the race the day of my tumble and went on to win.” Gypta sounded really vinegary as she turned back to Tyrnan, her eyes flashing fire. “She has learned well, but the credit must go to the master charioteer who drills us with a will of iron.
“My sister does not yet control her chariot as well as you do, Gypta.” Tyrnan’s answer was low and consoling acknowledging that Gypta was by far the more skilled driver. “But she learns quickly.”
Aran absorbed their chat thinking it’d be really brilliant if he could be in a chariot race. He’d organised more javelin lessons as part of an athletics programme during his school summer, though maybe before then he’d get some practice here - with real spears? A beaming smile broke free. That would be really cool!
Brian, on the other hand, looked apprehensive as he glanced over to him. Aran knew his best mate wasn’t keen at all on the weapons training: not his cup of tea at all for Brian was useless when it came to throwing things. Brian’s skills definitely lay in playing musical instruments and in brain power, but rarely brawn - except of his own chosen kind. He wasn’t a wimp. He was actually very fit, though mostly he avoided anything that resembled team games. Aran chuckled; well aware Brian would resolve to avoid the training ground at Balbath if he could.
As they continued their walk along the riverbank the three from Balbath talked a lot, yet never questioned Aran or the twins. Aran thought that a bit odd, yet realised Tyrnan took him at his word when he’d said he’d only talk to Tuoch.
Gypta suddenly asked if they had already journeyed far that day.
Brian answered. “Yes indeed, Princess Gypta. We’ve travelled for a very long, long...err…time…today.”
Aran looked at him quickly, alarmed in case he was about to give the game away. Fortunately, Gypta assumed it meant that they had walked for miles and miles. “Then you will appreciate some rest when we reach Balbath.”
Flat ground beyond them looked like heavy marsh land peppered in places by a few rounded shapes, smoke billowing from their tops. Celtic roundhouses? Aran was sure they were. Shapes moved about, some human, though others were herded animals being driven into wide enclosures next to the buildings.


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Come learn about Maggie Secara

On my Welcome Wednesday slot I'm delighted to be interviewing a fellow Crooked Cat Author - Maggie Secara. Maggie mingles the genres of historical and fantasy in her Harper Errant Series- but that's only part of her writing to date. Settle in for a great read because I asked her these questions...

Having read Book 1 of your Harper Errant series -The Dragon Ring - I know that your writing style can also be said to encompass time-travel and fantasy. Which other descriptors would you use to explain the genre-mix of your series to a potential reader?
Oh, so many things! The existence and impact of Faerie magic on the mortal world provides a mythic element as does the deep influence of fairy tales and folklore. Each book begins in the modern, mundane world, but it‘s a world with strong magical potential. The only magic is what already exists in imagination, but particularly in music. But in Faerie, which is always no more than a step away if you know how to take it, music and magic are the same thing.

So let’s see, the series is historical in that to accomplish their mission, my heroes must spend time with people in England’s past—some famous, but mostly not—and I’m a stickler for historical verisimilitude. The people they deal with all have stories of their own, too, so it’s more than just a setting. There’s an element of urban fantasy, except that the cityscape of London might be Roman, Victorian, Elizabethan, Restoration as well as modern. In one part of King’s Raven, it even crosses into steampunk. You could almost call it Charles de Lint meets the Time Machine.

Which would be your preferred Amazon listing for your Harper Errant series?
I would be happy with historical fantasy if it weren’t already so crowded. It’s so hard even to get people to see your cover if it’s buried too far down. 

Do you think where Amazon places your novel is crucial to potential sales?
I suspect it is, at least for readers who search for new books that way. I have no idea how many people actually type “historical fantasy” into the search box.

I wish I knew the answer to that, too, regarding my novels being  'historical romantic adventure'. 

Raven was my favourite character in The Dragon Ring. What do you think makes him a well liked character?
I love that he’s so popular, although I suppose I should be annoyed that the sidekick has a stronger following than the main character. I think that happens a lot, actually, in all kinds of stories but particular in adventure. The main character, the hero, has the burden of command, the burden of the quest or whatever. He’s the one who has to survive each test only to face a greater one and learn as he goes. The sidekick gets to be the class clown, the flirt. He’s generally more playful, and god knows Raven is playful, but he also has a hard edge. His rare anger makes him dangerous, and that makes him romantic.

Ben is more even tempered, more ordinary. He has to make a living, he loves his wife, he worries about his kid. He’s not dull or boring, in fact, he’s actually more courageous of the two. But he’s definitely more like someone the reader might know, or maybe even the reader themselves. He’s the ordinary guy among extraordinary people in fantastic circumstances. Someone has to be.

You have a lot of sound historical content in your novels – do you enjoy the research necessary for this? Is time spent on research something you don’t mind doing, even if you get sidetracked?

I do love it. And getting side-tracked is a danger, but so is promotion and doing interviews and writing blog articles. Of all the distractions, the research is the most fun! My stories don’t generally deal with the great moments in history, but with ordinary people which means I need details of ordinary life: how they dressed, or ate, or did their hair. Some of that is painstaking, some is simply spot research. When I had Susan reading a Dickens novel, I had to make sure it was one that was published before the time of her story, not 10 years later. An easy google and I’m back to work, or it would be till I discover that Dickens also wrote for the paper that Ned Donovan works for, and now I’m researching mid-Victorian journalism. The current work in progress would have been started much sooner except I am bringing it much closer to home, London during the Blitz, and that took a lot more prep since it’s an era I don’t know as well. But it’s all worth it for the final effect.

Yes! I completely understand about getting those fine details correct and ensuring some reference that's made isn't out of the historical time sequence. I'm a stickler, as well, for making details fit properly. What do you think was the hardest aspect to focus on during the writing of your three Harper Errant novels? 
Each book got progressively more complex, with multiple viewpoint characters and timelines. Keeping track of each thread, and simply not forgetting (or contradicting) something significant has been a serious challenge.

I understand that, too, and personally find that eliminating errors is down to lots of re-reads and scrupulous self-editing. Do you use a number of beta readers before you get to a final draft stage, or are you a go it alone author who goes straight to your publisher/editor?
On the first book, I just kept working, revising, editing, revising, adding more, filling in the plot holes and then trying to find an agent. Once Crooked Cat found me, there was no time for beta, since it was already with the publisher! Since then, I’ve made time for a beta review at some stage. I don’t write for the committee, though.  For a short story, I trust myself to see what needs to be seen, for the most part. 

What do you find is the most rewarding thing that you get from spending the effort and time on your writing?
Applause! No, seriously, people read my books and tell me how much they like them. I just wish there were more of them, so I could quit my day job! But fantasy is one of the smallest genre audiences in the publishing world, and my books don’t slot neatly into any one category of it. So I take my rewards where I find them.

Ah, indeed! Pleasing the reader is such a tricky one, Maggie. Finding readers to publicly show appreciation via a review, I find, is extremely difficult, especially if the work  is 'slightly outwith' genre niches. How the work fits is a vulnerable thing, in my opinion, because a reviewer might like one aspect of the story eg. the historical detail but not the romance...another might enjoy the developing relationships/ romance but not enjoy the historical detail about a battle or the current political influences which cause situations to occur. Like you, following a standard genre formula isn't the kind of writing I want to produce.

What do you think is the value of a site like Wattpad? Do you use it for ‘airing’ writing that will appear verbatim in a new novel? I ask because although I've joined, I 'm not yet sure of what to add to the site for fear of causing copyright issues for myself at a later date
I’m still uncertain about the value, but it does give me a place to publish small things and, hopefully, to expand my audience. But like any social media, it takes attention! In fact, I should add something this week. Mainly I’ve been posting what I call my Spared Darlings. These are snippets of perfectly good writing that had to be left on the cutting room floor for one reason or another. I can also post short or experimental pieces, or stories that haven’t found a market. I also have a fan group on Facebook. If nothing else, I think it keeps the readers from wandering off between books. I know I’ve lost track of a series before because of the time it takes to get a book to print. This way, my fans always know where to find me. It also gives me a place to share events, related materials, links, and interviews like this one that they might otherwise miss! My online following is still rather small, but I’m hoping that word will get around and it will grow. If it does, at least there’ll be something for them to read.

Can you share what you’re working on just now?
I’ve been trying to write some short stories this year, a skill I was never very good at in the past. In fact, I have a story coming out in a new anthology this week called A Forest of Dreams, edited by Roy C. Booth!

The new book I’m working on is called The Face in the Wall, and it will take Ben and Raven to London during the Blitz, Scotland after the battle of Flodden, and a mysterious island of echoes somewhere in the ancient past where the queen of Faerie is held hostage by dark rivals to Oberon’s mastery of the Twilight Realm. It has taken a while to get started properly, and it’s definitely a challenge, but I’m very excited about seeing it through.

Great answers Maggie, thank you.
From The Crooked Cat Publishing website: 
As a writer, Maggie Secara loves to explore the heroic ideal, to find the mythical in the every day, and discover the places where the realms of Faerie intersect the mundane. As a historian, she calls herself a gossip who just can’t stand that someone might have done something 400 years ago without her knowing about it, who else was there, what they had for dinner, and what they were wearing at the time.
Maggie’s poetry has appeared in a variety of little magazines on- and off-line since 1995. In 2011, she finally published the romantic pirate adventure that has been haunting her since college. Most recently, her interests in history, folklore, and music have combined in a series of fantasy novels with a historical twist of which The Dragon Ring is the first, she hopes, of many.
Having traveled in her youth through great swathes of Great Britain and Ireland by bicycle, train, and thumb, she hopes to get back one day soon. In the meantime, Maggie and her very understanding husband live with their cats in suburban splendor in Los Angeles, California.
Website: Maggie Secara’s Writing http://maggie-secara.com
Twitter @maggiros

Thank you for coming today, Maggie. Best wishes for fabulous sales of all of your writing.


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tesco ebooks!

Good Morning!
They say you learn something every day and I believe that to be true. Sometimes, it might be so insignificant you don't even realise it and sometimes it can be so late in the day you think it can't be true.

Last evening, I spent some time loading the details of all of my Crooked Cat books onto a site named AuthorsDen. This process is quite time consuming since they keep a lot of  information about each novel on their site. While trying to find the URL for something else, I came up with something VERY interesting.

There is a site called  


When I went there I found it to be a TESCO ebooks site and the fantastic thing about it is that if you collect TESCO Clubcard reward points you get 100 CC points for every ebook purchased that's over £2. 

I know lots of people who convert their rewards from TESCO to   CC points and they use them for all sorts of things like Weekend Holiday breaks; buying Theatre tickets...everything that's in the regular update brochures from TESCO Clubcard.

They also have my contemporary mystery novel - TOPAZ EYES - with a fabulous little sticker 'BEST BOOK - FINALIST THE PEOPLE'S BOOK PRIZE 2014.

I love it. 

What do you think?   

Click the links to see my other books:



Happy shopping.