Friday, 25 July 2014


Bennachie - Beinn Na Ciche

Someone asked me what the mountain was in my blog and website header. It's a photograph of the Mither Tap, part of a range of hills in Aberdeenshire named Bennachie. Bennachie is the contemporary spelling associated with the name but in Scottish Gaelic it is Beinn Na Ciche - meaning the hill of the breast. Mither Tap being the name for the most distinctive peak is pretty appropriate.

When people from the area look at my header image, they would all recognise it as Bennachie and yet many of them might not be able to name the highest point of the range. The highest peak is actually named Oxen Craig, around ten metres higher than the Mither Tap yet the Mither Tap is the one which seems to be the highest. Why is this?
Wikimedia Commons

The photo on the right shows the range of hills taken from the River Don, close to the Monymusk area. From this angle it's clear that there are actually a number of summits but it seems as though there is only one real peak- the one on the far right- due to the pointed nature of the summit.

The range as seen on the right is not the usual view that a traveller would get if they were journeying north in north-east Scotland. Travelling north from the city of Aberdeen today, what you see would be more like the image immediately below. After you crest the hill named the Tyrebagger, just north-west of the city, you see the distinctive knobbled peak far across the valley floor. From that angle it appears there is only one pointed hill in the distance, though that is not actually the case. It se4ems as though it is the only high hill for miles around, but appearances can be deceptive.

The summit of the Mither Tap has a distinctive knobbly shape, partly due to natural geological formations but it’s also largely affected by the ruins of a Celtic Hillfort that used to dominate the highest levels. The tumbled stones of the hillfort give the peak a distinctive bumpy frill.

The range isn’t high compared to other Scottish peaks, the Mither Tap only being 518 m (1,699 feet) as opposed to Ben Nevis - the highest peak in The British Isles - which is 1,344 metres (4,409 ft). However, the Mither Tap seems high due to the largely flat lands around the range. From the top of the Mither Tap, there is an astonishingly good view of the surrounding area all the way west to the Grampian Mountains and east to the North Sea. It’s a superb vantage point and one which I intend to write more about very soon in Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures.

It's those stones of the hillfort which make the irregular bumpy shape to the peak, seen differently from all angles across Aberdeenshire, but how old the hillfort is is questionable. Some experts have put it at around 400-800 AD or perhaps earlier. I veer towards the earlier but it's a question that many people, like me, would love answered.

The end of Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series - After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks – takes place in AD 84. At this point in history, I'm not sure that there was a fort at the top of Bennachie but I’m beginning to believe there were good reasons for local Celtic tribes to begin to build the stone fort soon after this point.

The photograph above that is taken from Monymusk is an area mentioned in both Book 3 of my series and I'm presently writing about it in Book 4. Look out for more on Beinn Na Ciche in my novels but also in posts coming soon about the contemporary Bennachie.

I'm not a born and bred Aberdeenshire quine (girl) but the area's history has certainly inspired me for all of the 26 years that I've lived here. Where am I talking about? Maybe this map will help explain where the Bennachie range of hills lies in Scotland.

Keep tuned becasue Book 4 of my series might just have some conjectural theories about the hillfort on the Mither Tap!

My Celtic Fervour Series, from Crooked Cat Publishing, are available from AMAZON and are a snip at less than £5 pounds for the 3 full length novels. Yes - that is Bennachie behind the books.

Amazon US author page
Amazon UK author page 
They're also available from SmashwordsBarnes and Noble and  Crooked Cat Bookstore


Wednesday, 23 July 2014


It's Welcome Wednesday again and today I'm absolutely delighted to welcome a gifted new author friend whom I met, via Facebook, some months ago. During the last months, I've learned that D.E. Royce doesn't only write beautifully, she also paints fabulous pieces to add to her impressive gallery. More about that later! Today she's here to interview about her writing...

D.E. has recently launched her debut novel onto the market. Whom Evil Touches is a gripping read. I had the pleasure of sampling this novel prior to its launch and really enjoyed the complicated plot and the large cast of colourful charcters who interact in it. Look forward to her answers but don't forget to pop across to my features blog HERE where you'll find my review of the novel and some excerpts from Whom Evil Touches

About little about the author first…

D.E. Royce was born and raised around the bay area of Quincy, Massachusetts. After graduating from nursing school she married, raised two children, and devoted her time to family and learning the art of landscape and still life painting. After earning a BA in Communications she began writing short stories and spent the remainder of her nursing career as a clinical liaison and composing health care related documents.

“I was one of those children who loved to draw and write. For most of my life, I’ve held some type of tool in my hands related to creativity, including cooking utensils, gardening tools, pencils, paper, books and paint brushes. Living around Quincy Bay and the marshlands is inspiring and I’ve spent many happy hours sketching and landscape painting there. In fact, it was the marshlands that provided the inspiration for Whom Evil Touches.”

Ms. Royce continues to live in Massachusetts, exhibits her paintings in several galleries and is working on her second novel.
And now for those questions... 

Have you always wanted to be an author?
No, but I’ve always enjoyed playing with words. As a child I spent hours writing short poems. As an adult, with a nursing license and BA in Communications I do a lot of job related public speaking, so I learned that words need to pack a punch to be effective.   
Was there any particular prompt which made you write your first novel?
Yes. I was doing some landscape painting alongside a marsh. Suddenly the police showed up and began searching the area. I learned that they were looking for a woman’s body!  
I think that might trigger a few different responses, D.E. ! What's the genre/ subgenre of your debut novel?
Whom Evil Touches is a murder mystery wrapped in a bit of romance.
Can you tell us a little about it?
Whom Evil Touches is about murder and deceit, love lost – love found, and redemption.
Will Kennedy’s life is pretty miserable; he’s been trapped in a loveless marriage with Judy for years. When bits and pieces of her body begin turning up, investigators arrest him. As the secrets of Judy’s twisted life begin to emerge, a series of revelations bring with them a K-9 handler and his detection dog to shed light on who murdered Judy - and why. And for Will it will bring a long lost flame to his side and just maybe free his spirit once and for all.
There are a number of strong characters in your story. If asked who the main protagonist is, who would it be?
Although Will spends most of the story in a jail cell, I believe that by weaving his past struggles and present difficulties throughout the story, his character remains front and center. In fact, I expanded on several scenes and added meaningful dialogue to ensure his star quality!
Do the names for characters just pop into your head as soon as you start a book?
Choosing names for characters is fun, fun, fun! I try to match names with personality types, occupation, or character flaws. For instance, in Whom Evil Touches, I gave the bank president the last name of Locke – to denote security. The murdered Judy’s name was derived from the name Judas, a name most associated with deceit.
I like to make my names meaningful as well and I get a kick out of choosing them, too. Did your novel entail a lot of research?
Thanks for asking Nancy. Whom Evil Touches involved several months of research that I really enjoyed doing because I learned so much. It all began with wanting to learn more about marshlands. From the comfort of my easy chair, I was immersed in the Atlantic Ocean which rose over 350 feet after the Laurentide Glacier melted, or found myself shivering on the deck of a rum-runner’s boat and headed for France! Most of the historical information is in the prologue, and weaves a thematic thread throughout the story. The second phase of research involved leaning about K-9/bomb sniffing dogs. I spent hours speaking with their handlers and watching demonstrations. It was very interesting.  A sniper who I interviewed put an assault weapon in my hands, it was chilling!
That sounds very up front and personal research, D.E.- different from my usual kind. What are the greatest challenges your characters face?
Facing reality and finding a way to move forward during and after life changing events.
What about settings? Do you tend to write about places you’ve been to…or just ones you would like to visit?
I write about places that I understand and where the culture is familiar.
Do you have plans for writing a sequel or for anything else at present?
 I am on chapter four of a new murder mystery with a character - a dysfunctional psychiatrist  - who may develop into a good sequel character.
What goals do you see yourself facing during the second half of 2014?
Hmmm…I need to learn how to market through social media, finish my second novel, and build relationships with my readers and other generous spirits such as yourself.
Thank you Nancy, and best wishes to you.

Best wishes to you too and good luck with the promotional marketing, which is often a minefield to negotiate- in my opinion.

Murder. Deceit. Lies.
Judy Lydon Kennedy led two lives. One her husband Will knew about, the other protected by her constant gamesmanship and smoldering anger. But when the police discover bits and pieces of her body, it's her husband the detectives finger as the prime suspect until they begin to dig deeper into her hidden life.
It turns out that Judy had a very special relationship with a fellow employee at the bank - a female who just happened to dump her shortly before Judy's disappearance and grisly return. Now the investigators must sort through those connected with Judy: a misguided, pathological liar who was in love with her, the bi-sexual lover at the bank, and the blackmailed bank president who had every reason to shut Judy up for good.
As the secrets of Judy's twisted life begin to emerge, a series of revelations bring with them a K-9 handler and his detection dog to shed light on who murdered Judy - and why. And for Will, it will bring a long lost flame to his side - and just maybe free his spirit once and for all.

A sensitive and thought provoking, first rate murder mystery filled with surprising twists and inventive turns. Whom Evil Touches is a top-notch page turner of whodunit that will keep you guessing until the final, shocking, revelation.

You'll catch D.E. Royce at her WEBSITE 
Buy from   Amazon

You'll also enjoy some of her fantastic still life artwork at her Finearts site.
shown with permission from the artist -Paula Darois

Please hop on over to my features blog HERE and read my 5* review of Whom Evil Touches, grab a coffee and enjoy some excerpts from the novel. 
Best wishes with  your sales of Whom Evil Touches,  D.E. and thank you for coming to be on the interview chair!


Can't resist sharing this one, too...
shown with permission from the artist -Paula Darois

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

That writing process revisited

Welcome to my ‘Writing Process’ - Part two.

Back in February of this year, I was tagged for this writing process game by Mark Patton. This time I said yes to another Crooked cat Author- Jeff Gardiner - since things are a bit different for me.  Read about Jeff's writing process HERE 

What am I currently working on?
Currently I’m spending most of my time writing blog posts on anything and everything, though these are sometimes related to my novels. I’ve also been re-editing but only doing a little new writing. Since my two Wild Rose Press novels had exceeded their contracted time, I requested back the rights to the novels. I have spent time in May and June rewriting them to versions that are more like the original mysteries with romantic elements. I thought removing the heady sensual romance that was required for The Wild Rose Press, a romance only publisher, would be an easy process but actually, I found it wasn’t. Thankfully, I had saved an earlier version of the novels (pre submission to TWRP) and have used these to make new versions. They are still the same basic plots but have a different, less romantic slant and are now for a general ‘mystery-loving’ audience.

What makes my writing distinctive?
My historical work has elements of romance and adventure, but they are also incredibly steeped in authentic detail. My readers’ comments reflect that they appreciate just how much effort I put into achieving this ‘stepping into Roman Britain’ and experiencing it as my characters do.  
Writing in both historical and contemporary mystery genres means a nice refreshing change for me but it is also hard to maintain the publicity aspects of promoting in different places. I am on far too many Facebook groups to properly manage them but need a presence on some of the mystery thriller groups and in the historically inclined ones. Since romantic elements also feature in my work, I’m in those circles as well.
Why do I write what I write?
I have a great need to write about the past, and since I love the researching processes involved, that’s a fantastic thing. I can spend far too much time trawling n the internet or through my source books, but I never regret the time spent learning something new and relevant. My contemporary mysteries tend to also have something to do with ancestry or they are a way to write about fabulous world locations that I’ve visited and want to remember in my own way.
How does the writing process work?
Not always well. Some days hardly more than a few words are written for a blog article and very little on my new writing as I’m lucky to snatch a few minutes here and there. My daughter, her husband and her family (an almost 3 year old toddler and a 4 month old baby) are living with me till they have a new house built. That’s quite an accommodation for many different domestic reasons. Enough said about constant washing!
I find that I can’t resist interacting with my daughter and grandchildren during the day but I am learning to snatch time for my writing in the wee small hours, when they are all abed.
That situation won’t change for some months to come, so I am accepting my writing output has lessened. Rather that than a nervous breakdown! Shutting the door and not allowing entry to my writing cave just isn’t something I can do, because I love them all and don’t want to miss this precious growing up time that a lot of grannies don’t have the opportunity to get.
What next?
Re-publishing of my two romantic mysteries, and initial publishing of my time –travel novel for early teens are my total priority just now. My deadline for completion is the middle of August, after which I’m only working on new work. That will be continuing Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series, interspersed with my family saga which has been totally abandoned for months. Oh, and continuing with blog post writing which I really enjoy. 


At the moment I have no-one to tag, but should I get volunteers I will add their names.
**Update** I now have D.E.Royce and Lisa Dyer to tag.