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.