Tuesday, 8 June 2021

The Corsican Widow is BOTM at Ocelot Press!


Good Morning! 

The sun is shining in my part of the world, has been for a few days, which makes is so much easier to imagine being at the beautiful location that my very good Ocelot Press author friend - Vanessa Couchman- is talking about today! 

Her novel The Corsican Widow is Book of the Month for June at Ocelot Press. It's a super story that I can readily recommend to you, if you've not already read it.

Welcome to the blog today, Vanessa, it's lovely to have you visit again! 

Just for fun, Vanessa's given us some interesting facts that we might not know about the island. I've been to a few Mediterranean islands, though not Corsica so it's a lovely wee challenge for me. I wonder how many you might know of?

Over to you, Vanessa...

Fun facts about Corsica

I have visited the Mediterranean island of Corsica six times, and I was hooked from the very first visit! The island has a fascinating history and culture and has inspired me to write historical novels and short stories set there.

Here are 10 facts you might not know about Corsica.

1.  Corsica is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, after Cyprus (1st), Sardinia (2nd) and Sicily (3rd).

2. This mountainous island has 20 peaks that are higher than 2,000 m (c. 6,500 ft). The highest of all is Monte Cinto at 2,706 m (nearly 9,000 ft).

courtesy - Vanessa Couchman
Nancy says: Those peaks are so jaggedly impressive!

3. One of the most challenging long-distance hiking trails in Europe, the GR20, runs from the Northwest to the Southeast of the island.

4.  Corsica is French, although geographically closer to Italy. The Corsicans rebelled against their Genoese rulers in the 18th century and established an independent republic in 1755 under Pasquale Paoli. Genoa called in French military help but ran up a huge debt and ceded Corsica to France in 1768 against repayment of the debt within 10 years. It was unable to repay it, and Corsica became French.

5. Corsica once had a king, a German adventurer named Theodor van Neuhof. He arrived in March 1736 during the Corsican rebellion against Genoa, promising money and foreign support. His promises were empty, and he fled in November, having reigned for only eight months.

6.  Corsica belonged briefly to Britain, 1794-96, and King George III appointed a Viceroy, Sir Gilbert Elliot. Britain had few resources to invest in Corsica and abandoned the turbulent and faction-ridden island in 1796.

7.   Captain (later Admiral) Horatio Nelson lost the use of his right eye on 10th July 1794 during the British and Corsican siege of Calvi, a French-held fortress.

Calvi- Citadelle

8.  François Coty, the founder of the Coty perfume empire, now worth $9 bn, was born in Ajaccio, Corsica’s main town, in 1894.

Ajaccio- Old Town

Nancy: I loved Coty l' Aimant when I was a teenager. It was a popular perfume that was inexpensive and affordable!

9.  Corsica provides ideal conditions for winemaking, producing about 49 million bottles per year. 80% of the production is consumed on Corsica or in France.

10. The conditions are also ideal for growing citrus fruits, including a giant variety of lemon, the cedrat, which can be up to 25 cm (c. 10 in) long and weigh up to 4 kg (8.8 lb). It’s mostly used for jam-making.

The Corsican Widow is Book 2 in the Tales of Corsica series and is set mainly on Corsica and also partly in the French port of Marseille. The story takes place during the mid-late 18th century, a time of great upheaval for the Corsican people. A young woman must fight her own battles against the strict rules of Corsican society.

The Corsican Widow is available in Kindle and paperback editions from Amazon. It is also available in paperback from many bookstores and online retailers, including Bookshop org, Barnes & Noble and The Book Depository.  

Vanessa has lived in Southwest France since 1997 and is a self-confessed history nut. Quirky true stories often find their way into her fiction, and she likes nothing more than pottering around ruined châteaux or exploring the lesser-known byways of France. She is very attached to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, which has provided the inspiration for some of her novels and short stories.

The Tales of Corsica series are standalone novels set in the same house on the island: The Corsican Widow (18th century) and The House at Zaronza (early 20th century) are published so far.

Vanessa is also writing a trilogy set in France between 1880 and 1945.

Sign up to Vanessa’s monthly newsletter for book news, background info about France and Corsica and book recommendations and get two free Corsica stories.

Amazon author page: http://author.to/VanessaCouchman

Website: https://vanessacouchmanwriter.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/vanessacouchman.author/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Vanessainfrance

Thank you for the facts today, Vanessa. I vaguely remember some of the naval aspects about Corsica from the British History course I learned at secondary school.

Best wishes with The Corsican Widow as Book of the Month for June at Ocelot Press.  


Saturday, 29 May 2021


Ambarvalia festival 29th May-sometimes!

Ambarvalia- Suovetaurilia sacrifice

The Ancient Roman Ambarvalia festival seems to have been one that was dependent on the year being an even or an odd one and the actual date dependent on which district and part of Italy. On even years it may have been held on the 17th, 19th or 20th and on odd years it was likely to have been the 27th, 29th or 30th May. In the countryside, it was an immovable feast day (feriae stative). There are a number of classical references to Ambarvalia e.g. Vergil; Cato; Strabo but the scholarly interpretations provide some ambiguity and differences of opinion over what may have happened.

Ceres- Vatican Museums

In honour of Ceres and Dea Dia the Ambarvalia was a Roman agricultural fertility rite which purified the crops. Ceres was the goddess of agriculture, fertility, grains, the harvest, motherhood, the earth, and cultivated crops. Dea Dia was the goddess of fertility and growth, sometimes named the ‘Bright goddess’ or the ‘goddess of Daylight’. 

The Ambarvalia could be a private or a public affair.

The private celebrations related to the farms outside Rome where the pater familias led the ceremony. A suovetaurilia sacrifice was conducted after a bull, a sow and a sheep had been led three times around the field boundaries, the servants and field hands singing and dancing in praise of Ceres. Offerings to Ceres could be milk, honey and wine.  The name Ambarvalia may have come from the verb ambiō ‘I go around’, and arvum meaning field.

The public Ambarvalia ceremonies were held around the city boundaries. The 12 fratres arvales (Arval priests) led a procession of the citizens who owned lands and vineyards around Rome. The ambervale carmen (poem/song) was chanted.

(See information on Fratres Arvales and suovetaurilia elsewhere in this blog)

Happy ambarvalia and happy reading! 




Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Fortuna Primigenia

This is my second post for today but it's actually a day late and should have been done yesterday, the 25th May! 

May 25th was the day named in honour of the goddess Fortuna Primigenia. Fortuna, like many of the 12 main deities, came in many different disguises and on May 25th as Fortuna Primigenia she was revered as the ‘first mother’.

Fortuna - British Museum

Said to be the first-born offspring of Jupiter, Fortuna is often depicted carrying a cornucopia (a horn of plenty) though may also be seen bearing a gubernaculum (a ship’s rudder) or a Rota Fortunae, a ball or wheel of fortune.

The comments on the above statue are interesting but not unique. She carries a cornucopia but the gubernaculum is no longer attached to her fist. The head may have been replaced at some time in the past and may not have been the original for the body.  

Blind Fortuna- Tadeusz Kuntze 

She seems to have brought both good and bad luck and may also be represented as veiled and blind. Fortuna brings no balance and as a goddess of fate the result could be of a whimsical nature.

There were many temples, altars and dedications to Fortuna but as Fortuna Primigenia the most impressive sanctuary was said to have been at Praeneste where a small boy was used to make a selection from various possible futures that were written on oak rods. I just hope that the lad made good choices which satisfied the oracle at the temple in Praeneste.

There’s an abundance of statues and dedications to Fortuna to illustrate this post but since my character Governor/ General Agricola (Celtic Fervour Series Books 4 & 5) believes that Fortuna has abandoned him, I’m going to highlight some wonderful remains found in Scotland.

Fortuna- found at Castlecary
Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

In approx. AD 80, Agricolan forces built a Roman Temporary Camp at a place called Castlecary (near Cumbernauld, Central Scotland) when Agricola was fortifying the territory between the Rivers Clyde and Forth. Some of those Agricolan defences/ sites were later used in the building of the Antonine Wall some 60 years later (AD 140’s), a number of the original camps or small wooden forts,  as at Castlecary, later enlarged to house around 1000 men.

Fortuna-found at Castlecary

Skip forward many centuries to when the Forth and Clyde Canal was built in approx. 1769.  The remains of a bathhouse with a hypocaust system was uncovered, and evidence found for other buildings. Small objects were found along with a wonderful alter dedicated to the goddess Fortuna. Unfortunately, the excavations were not properly conducted in the way archaeologists would do nowadays, so it’s likely artefacts were damaged during the process. Subsequent excavations in 1902, under stricter circumstances, were undertaken and additional remains were uncovered.

Some of the artefacts can be viewed at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow University. I visited the museum decades ago when I was a student, but at the time knew very little about the Roman occupation of Scotland. During another more recent visit, in approx. 2013, I was again amazed at the artefacts on show, but was still unable at that time to fully appreciate the finds from the decades of Roman occupation of Scotland. I’ve learned a lot since then and can now ‘fill in the gaps’ in my knowledge much better. 

Happy Reading! I'm off to do more research...