Monday, 27 February 2017

Books I've been reading!

Monday has been full of gardening duties since it was a fabulous day today.

My pile of garden rubbish has been piled up since late autumn and today was the day it went onto the fire pit. Two well dried off Christmas trees, honeysuckle roots, pruning from my patio fruit trees, leycesteria formosa reeds, bamboo shoots and more! All gone now and the area they were drying off in is all cleared up. 

My garden sometimes has to take priority over my writing time since it's very weather dependent and has to be on days when I'm not on official grand kid minding duties. So although I managed no writing this afternoon the work made me remember to write a short review on books I've recently finished. My garden jobs today were much more onerous than those of Alice, the main character in Deborah Swift's The lady's Slipper, as Alice potters around in her potting shed trowel in hand. Here's a few observations about the novel. 

The Lady’s Slipper by Deborah Swift 

I enjoyed this book very much. It was full of rich detail of the era, the pace exciting and the character development very well done. The story line is intriguing and the subject matter of the aftermath of the Cromwellian revolution is well told where there was such division among families. Followers of the monarchy and King during the troubles had to ease back into a ‘normal’ life with the followers of Cromwell and the Parliamentarians- I think Deborah Swift has portrayed those dilemmas really well in The Lady’s Slipper. The characters are vivid, whether as a reader I admired them or not! A great read.


Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Whose point of view?


How it can possibly be Wednesday again  is a mystery. The days have flown past but I've not entirely been idle. My current manuscript slowly grows and I've written a number of guest blog posts and a guest interview.

You can catch the interview at the One Stop Fiction Blog HERE.

And today I've posted an article on the Wranglers Blog about how many characters are too many in historical fiction? How does the author cope with lots of characters having sections where it's their point of view that's presented? You'll find that partially re-blogged below.

Pah! Too many characters?

Yesterday I posted a question on two of my Facebook places where I appealed to those who are readers. I asked them:

What would you consider to be the maximum amount of main characters you'd be comfortable with in a historical adventure novel?”

I had some excellent and varied replies. It might just be the particular friends who replied but I was delighted to find that a good number said they felt comfortable with at least 3 main characters and a few others who play minor roles. Since I’ve currently got a good cast of characters in my ongoing manuscript, I’m totally relieved! 

Only one person categorically said they preferred a novel to have only 2 main characters. I wasn’t surprised by that response because I’m fairly sure that person tends to prefer Historical Romances which have a slightly different remit from general historical novels. Speaking broadly, I’d say historical romance needs to have 2 main characters, the whole story being constructed around their developing romance. Another element to historical romance is that it must have a happy ending and the expected norm is the happy ever after is for those 2 main characters who will love each other forever.
Historical Novels are something else and it’s a genre that’s harder to define. Again, this is a broad definition (and may easily be disputed by many) but I think a historical novel needs a setting that’s in a period of history (often no earlier than 50 years before the publication of the novel) and is a story which conveys the day to day elements of the political, social and living conditions of the time. It’s a story which has realistic detail, is credible and faithful to the era as is known. It’s often centred on identified historical figures, or a known historical situation.

Historical Adventure is probably even harder to classify. Taking the ‘adventure’ part first—broadly speaking, it’s a series of events and challenges which happen out with the daily norm for the characters involved. The protagonists find themselves in unusual, sometimes unexpected situations of danger. There tends to be a lot of physical action involved as characters resolve their predicament. The historical context generally places the protagonists in a known era where they battle their wits against the conditions they find themselves in. This might make the elements of historical accuracy become overshadowed if the action happens to characters that are not known figures in history texts.

Add a dash of romance into the historical adventure and that means you have to have at least 2 of your characters involved in their developing relationship alongside a whole gamut of other happenings.

I asked the question on Facebook because I’ve a lot of characters in my current writing—Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series. When I began Book 2, I wasn’t well-planned enough to have decided if it was just a follow-on novel to Book 1. I quickly realised, though, that what was developing was going to become a series where the initial main characters in Book 1 would make reappearances in later books as the series progressed, though other family members would ‘take their turn’ at being the main characters in the subsequent books. As I write Book 4, my Garrigill Clan members will be familiar to readers of Books 1-3 so I’m almost ‘not counting’ them as notable characters since they play a supportive but fairly minor role.

When I eventually finish this novel, my dilemma will be whether to keep my 4 main characters and 1 other very important character who might feature in a fifth book of the series.
I intend to include a ‘cast of characters’ at the beginning of the novel, as I had in Book 3. I might even draw a family tree structure for my Garrigill kin.

What would your answer be to the question? 

What would you consider to be the maximum amount of main characters you'd be comfortable with in a historical adventure novel?”


Sunday, 12 February 2017

Unexpected happenings this Sunday!

Hello everyone!

I thought that I'd have a mainly writing day incorporating a little drive for research purposes. That will happen but some unexpected book marketing tasks have taken up some time this morning.

Amazon is a fabulous vehicle for selling books on but they do seem to have their unexpected moments. It was brought to my attention that #3 of my Celtic Fervour Series - After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks was priced at £2.13 for the PAPERBACK version. That is seriously cheap since it's normally £7.99!

It probably won't stay at that price for long but grab a copy if you still love reading a paperback version.

I'm also out virtual visiting at the OneStopFiction blog where I've a post for the Writers Blog with some tips on my experience of writing pre- historical fiction. 

You'll find that post HERE 

Enjoy your Sunday!


Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Can a Romance #competition be any better?

Wednesday Welcomes to you!

It's that time of year when romance authors are hoping for lots of lovely people to read their books. And I'm no exception. I sometimes focus on the historical aspects of my writing and let slide the fact that I also write contemporary romantic fiction.

But don't worry- I've not forgotten it this February.

My Corporate Sabotage Humorous Mystery  - Take Me Now -  is in a month long competition run via the OneStopFiction website. There are fabulous prizes to scoop up and everyone is a winner! You can't not win if you enter. It's that crazy!

There are loads of paperback novels on offer; or $50; or a choice of 14 different ebooks to choose from, of which my Take Me Now is one of them.

Just click the link HERE to enter.

Good Luck.


Sunday, 5 February 2017


Sunday Greetings to you!

I haven't shared any of my work for a while so here's a tiny excerpt from my current writing.

At this point in the manuscript, my character - Gnaeus Julius Agricola - is making his first appearance. Something's not well at his camp near the Springs of Ythan...

I hope you enjoy it.

(The following is from my 'unedited' WIP)
image from :

Tribune Flavus was now visibly sweating, a trickle running down each temple. A fleeting memory came to Agricola of being a rattled junior tribune of the Legio II Augusta, when he was serving in Governor Paulinus’ staff. He, too, had weathered through some trying times when he had angered his superior.

The tribune’s gulp before answering him was suppressed but still audible. “Another patrol was sent out immediately after we found the beast to seek traces of them.”

“And?” he prompted, wanting the update concluded. He had so many more pressing decisions to make, like how many of the Caledon passes into the mountains to block. Although there was really no question at all about that since it was now clear that he needed to block every single one that could be found.

“No signs so far, sir.”

The approach of a new arrival at the entry gate again halted the conversation that he found irksome. He assessed the newcomer’s tunic. When the man got closer they shared a salute. “Manius Helva. Salve! You come from the Tungrian detachment sent to patrol the northernmost Taexali territory?”

“I do, sir.”

“What good news do you have for me?”

When Flavus made to step away he growled at him, “Stay. And learn!” Turning to Helva his nod gestured the Tungrian to continue.

“Due north of here there is one large river flowing from the northern Taexali coastline out into the Oceanus Germanicus.”

“You found no other rivers?”

Helva’s eyebrows flinched. The man carefully formed his reply, as though the question was a trick one. “No other rivers in Taexali territory on the northern coast, though we have been told there are more rivers to the west which flow into the Oceanus Germanicus, but they are in Vacomagi territory.”

“Your unit has not explored these other rivers?”

Again there was the tiniest flicker in the man’s expression. “No, sir. My unit was dispatched to investigate the extent of north eastern Taexali lands and was bidden to report back as quickly as possible.”

Agricola shook off the vague white coating on his crimson cloak before it seeped in and soaked the wool even more than it was already. He ignored the stinging chill at his cheeks and stared at Helva who appeared unaffected by the miserable weather. As well he may do since the lands of his origin were probably not so different from Caledonia. “Your unit has been on patrol for days. What took you so long?”

A trickle of melted hail slid off the Tungrian soldier’s nose though the man’s stance remained firm. “We established the route of the river that we found a short ride to the north west of here, till it reached its estuary to the sea. From the natives we confirmed that river is the western border of Taexali territory.”

“The natives were friendly?” The question had to be asked though the answer was no doubt a foregone conclusion.

What do you think Agricola is doing at this point in his Caledonian campaigns? 


Thursday, 2 February 2017

Literally out visiting and virtually out blogging today!

Happy Thursday to you!

It's been a busy day for me. In the virtual world I'm out guest blogging at Vanessa Couchman today being one of her 'History People. Just click the link to read that post.

I've also been out and about in Aberdeen, Scotland,  visiting the Deeside Golf Club to give a PowerPoint Presentation to the ladies of the Petroleum Women's Club of Scotland. 

I had a wonderful time speaking about my books and about Roman Scotland. They were a fantastic audience who asked some really excellent questions and even better some of the audience were from their book group which had read The Beltane Choice as their book for January. Their comments were wonderfully favourable.

I sold 18 novels to them and some of those were contemporary novels because the ladies had already read my Celtic Fervour Series. So rewarding to me as an author.

They won't be writing reviews on Goodreads or Amazon (sadly) but it's so wonderful to speak one-to-one with readers who love my writing,

It's been a long day so I'm off to bed in a bit. Sleep well.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Imbolc Greetings!


In the Celtic Calendar the festival of Imbolc begins on 31st January and goes into 1st February, the Celts beginning a new day at the end of each evening.

In my part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, today was a dreich, dreary,  misty day with miserable rain. Not an inspiring start to what is effectively the beginning of the spring season though, in all honesty, we have not yet had a 'proper' winter so it's hard to imagine spring just around the corner. the festival of Imbolc was thought to have centred around the lambing time and the first appearances of particular plants so it's hard, for me, to imagine it as a 'fixed' celebratory day.

As far as I've read, there's no fixed evidence that Imbolc was definitely celebrated in north east Scotland in Celtic/late Iron Age times but when parallels are made it's likely if there was a Celtic/ Druid culture lasting for centuries in this area of Europe, then they probably had something similar to what has come down to us in writing regarding Imbolc celebrations in Ireland.

Instead of a dreary photo of my garden, here's a lovely fresh image of a well-bloomed yellow rose.

In past years at Imbolc, the beginning of February,  I've had signs of spring in my garden. The yellow aconites pop out around this time and brighten up the otherwise dull and tired  flower beds. However, since I don;t have as much garden as I used to, and since aconites can be a wee bit poisonous to the unwary, I don't really expect any to flourish any more. If any appear, they'll have somehow self planted themselves but since it's a tenacious plant that might not be an impossible scenario. Since I can't quickly lay my hands on one of my own photos, here's an image from Wikimedia Commons.
Wikimedia Commons

The weather might not be spectacular but I have beginning of February compensations.

Tomorrow, the 2nd Feb., I'm off to present an author talk to a prestigious and well established group in the Aberdeen area - the Petroleum Women's Club of Scotland.

My PowerPoint presentation is all prepared and I'll be giving my brand new projector screen it's first proper outing along with my dinky little projector.

Before then I hope to do some writing....