Saturday 31 August 2013

Anniversary freebies!

One whole year! I find it hard to believe that my novel - THE BELTANE CHOICE - had its e-book launch one year ago. My historical romantic adventure is a story which is very dear to me, so I was ecstatic that it was eventually going to be read. Since its launch it has garnered reviews on Amazon and Goodreads - mostly of 5* stars. I would appreciate many more, but for me getting that story published was so exciting.

If you haven’t yet read it, then read on and find out how you could have a celebration SIGNED print copy, or one of two ecopies of The Beltane Choice!

I blogged about the story behind the writing of the book last year, but if you missed those posts this is a recap. 

The Agricolan or Severan era? England or Scotland as the location?  Those were decisions I had to make when writing The Beltane Choice.

What was so appealing about the subject?
I really love reading and learning about Celtic Britain, especially at the time of Roman Invasion of the island. As a Scot, I'm naturally more inclined to want to write about what the Roman Army did in my neck of the woods- though I do also love to read about all archaeological developments.

What in particular sparked the idea of me writing The Beltane Choice, my first historical novel for a more mature audience?
It’s a convoluted story, but it was the notion that some 10,000 Roman soldiers were encamped a few hundred yards away from my house and garden in Kintore, Aberdeenshire. Since I live so close to where those earthen boundaries were, I imagined that some of those soldiers must have tramped over my own garden to reach the fresh water of the River Don, my soil lying in between the temporary camp site and the water supply.

my photo of around 2002
During my studies of Roman British history, I discovered that choosing the site for a Roman Marching Camp depended on a few particular things. To provide fresh water for around two legions - some 10,000 soldiers - took a good-flowing, local water supply. The men of a contubernium unit of around eight to ten men also needed a fuel supply to light a cooking fire. The site required to be easily defensible and able to be encamped within about an hour or so of turf removal- the ditches dug to a particular extent set out by the agrimensor (land engineer) and dependent on how many soldiers and/or mounts had to be enclosed in it.

The archaeological digs of 2002-2004 at Deer's Den, Kintore, uncovered evidence of some 250 bread ovens/ fire pits which were used by Roman soldiers to prepare their unleavened bread and ubiquitous porridge which were staple fare for the ordinary soldier on campaign.

When I first looked at the preliminary digging as in the photo above I found it hard to see how the archaeologists could tell anything at all, but over the duration of the dig I was allowed to visit the site with my primary school class. The Roman Marching Camp site at Kintore was on what had been our former village primary school grounds. It was being investigated since the school was being relocated to that very site. During those structured 'walk abouts' with the archaeologist, the processes were explained and up to date information given to us. The thinking at that time was that the number of soldiers occupying the site had to be more like 10, 000 rather than the much earlier figure of 4,000 men, and that the evidence leaned more to the Agricolan times. Deer’s Den was good site for a temporary camp and it was definitely used by the Roman Army more than once.
 (Some inforamtion on the 2002 - 2004 dig is here:

It was an exciting time at school, some of our studies based on the Roman cccupation of Kintore. My class of 11-12 year olds wrote fabulous work so I had to write about it, too! The question was which era should I write about.
Agricola - wikimedia
That the writing of the Roman historian, Tacitus, is somewhat biased is not in dispute. Tacitus writes of a battle in northern Scotland in which his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, defeated the Caledonian tribes under the leadership of a man named - Calgacus 'The Swordsman'. Tacitus makes vague reference to topographical information but the actual battle site is not known.

The distinctive hill top of 'Mither Tap', on the Bennachie range of hills in Aberdeenshire, is one of the possibilities for that battle, later named Mons Graupius -  though no actual evidence has been found around Bennachie, or any other contender site, for such a battle.

Mither Tap is only about nine miles from my house at Kintore. Compelling evidence, in my opinion, to back up the idea that the battle of Mons Graupius took place on the foothills of Bennachie is that there is an even more extensive marching camp at a site called Durno which directly faces Mither Tap.

Taken from the Durno site
Recent aerial and ground investigations have put the Durno site as being a very significant one- some 30,000 soldiers possibly camped there. Though, like the Deer’s Den site at Kintore, the one at Durno has had more than one period of habitation. The encampment numbering to 30,000 is more realistically during the Severan times, but there likely was an occupation of a smaller number in Agricolan times at Durno, as well.

Tacitus cites a number at the battle of 'Mons Graupius' much more in keeping with that number which was encamped at Kintore. Moving the Roman army the nine miles from Deer's Den, Kintore, to Durno, would have been an easy day's march  for them. Why they only moved nine miles, in late summer or early autumn, according to Tacitus, has to be significant, otherwise I feel they would have moved on further north. The Roman Army certainly did have marching camps further north, but I'm of the opinion that the Agricolan ones might have been after the followers of Calgacus fled from the battle fields having been routed by the Roman Batavian and Tungrian contingents. Establishing marching camps further north after a large battle, ensuring the locals around were subdued, seems a realistic tactic that Agricola would have used.

I loved the idea of both sites, Kintore and Durno, having had Roman occupation and wanted to write my own fictional version of what happened. My first novel - Dabbling With Time - was not intended for adults, but was for the best readers of my current Primary Seven Class at Kintore School. That time-travel novel is set in Severan times, in AD 210, in Kintore and its surroundings in Aberdeenshire. In Dabbling With time the site at Durno, opposite Mither Tap of Bennachie, is a place of confrontation in the novel between the Roman Empire and the Maetae confederation of northern Celtic tribes. Fiction, definitely, but my idea of why Lucius Septimius Severus had so many soldiers encamped there around AD 210, during what was to prove the very last invasion of the Roman Empire in north-east Scotland.

Since I wanted no confusion about my romantic adventure for a more mature audience, I set The Beltane Choice in a different location and different era. AD 71 was decided on, since it was a period of systematic subjugation of the Celtic tribes of Northern Britain  - the location being the north of what is now England rather than northern Scotland. To introduce a ‘Scottish’ element to The Beltane Choice I chose my main characters as coming from warring Celtic clans which straddled the area now termed the borders between Scotland and England. (roughly that at the bottom third of the image below)

The Brigante Federation of Celts occupied a very large area which stretched from the border hills down well down what is currently northern England. The Selgovae Celtic tribe occupied an area in southern Scotland.

The timing of The Beltane Choice adventure in AD 71 was prior to the battle of Mons Graupius AD 84, as written by Tacitus, but it has been perfect for leading into the follow on novels recently completed and which are now submitted to my publisher, Crooked Cat Books, for consideration.

During the period AD71 to AD 84 the Roman Army made advances north of the border hills mentioned in The Beltane Choice, Agricola marching his troops all the way up to Kintore. (Deer's Den would be the number 9 white square if counted from the top left)

My follow-on novels to The Beltane Choice begin in AD 71 in northern ‘England’ and culminate in AD 84 at my Battle of Mons Graupius, my battle site on the foothills of Mither Tap of the Bennachie range. In the first follow-on novel much of the action happens in Brigantian lands. The second novel includes many of those 'white' forts you see in the image of the Agricolan Campaign in North Britain.

                              ****Celebration time****

If you would like a signed print copy of THE BELTANE CHOICE , or an ecopy of The Beltane Choice, leave me a comment about this post in the box below to enter the draw. The first name drawn on Monday 1st September 2013 at noon (UK time) will receive the print copy, the second and third names the e-copies. 
(unless the preference is for an e-copy)

Please add a contact FB or email address in case you are my winners!

Good luck and have a happy weekend.


Friday 30 August 2013

Familiarise Friday meets Toni Lynn Cloutier

Happy Friday to everyone!

My guest on Familiarise Friday is author Toni Lynn Cloutier who has been on an extended blog tour for her novel The Patriot Girl

Toni Lynn is also an author of Word Puzzles and games - things I love doing when time permits - but so far have never met anyone who creates them. I just might have been doing some puzzles Toni Lynn has made and didn't know she was the person who put them together.

She's here today as a contemporary romance author, though, and has been game to answer some questions so that we can get to know her a little bit.

There's also a fantastic prize on offer in her GIVEAWAY so read on for those details.

Describe yourself using only 6 words. Honest, content, self-taught, happy, petite, funny

Where are you from? A small New England town. (Sounds lovely.)

Where are you currently living? Still in the same town in Rhode Island

What’s your main occupation just now? Stay at home mom.

What makes you happy?  During a storm when the power goes out and my son, husband, and I sit and talk and laugh. We pause and watch the pouring rain or listen to the thunder as the lightning flashes and catches our attention. Then we continue to talk until the power returns and life begins as usual.

You've been granted a whole week where you can choose every single thing you want to do. What would that be? I pretty much do whatever I want now! Now if money was no object, then we can talk! (Mine would be a whole lot different!) 

What’s your favourite reading material? Non-fiction reference books. I love to learn and teach myself new things.(I can empathise with that, Toni Lynn. I seem to be reading a lot more non- fiction research reading just now, and find little time is left for fiction which I used to devour.)

You’re going to begin a new hobby. What would it be? Actually, I just started counted cross-stitch again and remembered how much I enjoyed it. So it really has become a new hobby these days.( That's great. I used to do a lot of crossstitch when my kids were little and loved the relaxation I got from it- but that was well before I started writing.)

Who, or what, is the love of your life? My husband has and always will be the love of my life. We met when I was nineteen and have been together ever since. I knew the first time I set eyes on him that he was the one.

What is your biggest goal for 2013? To complete book two of The Patriot Girl. I know people are looking forward to reading Jesse’s story. I’ve written two novels and a short story since TPG so now I have to buckle down and finish this. (It's not always easy to get back into the groove if other projects fall in between. At least that's what has happened with me.) 

Toni Lynn can be found at these places: 

Twitter: @ToniLCloutier

Great answers, Toni Lynn. Now we know you a little better, we'll find out a bit about The Patriot Girl. 

MaKayla Adams has always been curious about the wild side of life. Making love with her late husband wasn’t exciting, and she never could understand the big deal…until hunky nightclub owner Dustin James hires her as a public relations consultant. His touch arouses feelings she’s never known, and his kiss tempts her to cross the line between business and pleasure.

Dustin doesn’t remember the car accident that put him in a coma three years ago, but since his recovery, he’s pushed his own needs aside to be a single father to his young daughter. When MaKayla offers to help publicize his country nightclub, however, she ignites deeper feelings he can’t ignore.

But there is more than mutual attraction between MaKayla and Dustin—there is a shared past connected to her husband’s death. Will the truth bring them together or tear them apart?

Here's a very  tiny teaser from The Patriot Girl....

She tilted her head toward his touch. “We do have an unusual chemistry, but anything more between us would complicate things.”

“In what ways?”

“Alex wouldn’t understand. Not to mention Paul’s parents.”

“What about what MaKayla wants?”

A loaded question she didn’t know how to answer. She wanted what she couldn’t have—not to be alone, the noises in her backyard to go away, a husband to spoil, and another child to mother.

“It doesn’t matter what I want. What matters is doing the right thing.”

“For who?”

“For everyone.”

“Even if it means being unhappy? When was the last time you did something for MaKayla without worrying about consequences?” He rolled his tongue and smiled.

“There was liquor involved. Otherwise, I never would have growled at you.”

“Why not?”

She shrugged. “Because it’s inappropriate.”

“A tease?”


He cupped her cheeks between his palms. “I find you sexy as hell and I’m going to kiss you. The time to stop me would be right now.”

                      ***GIVEAWAY ***

Comment or ask a question and you could win an ebook copy of THE PATRIOT GIRL.

The more you follow throughout the year, the more chances you’ll have to win the grand prize. 

See Toni Lynn's website for more details. 
(Please remember to leave a way of contacting you in case you're the winner!)

Thank you for visiting  Familiarise Friday, Toni Lynn. My very best wishes for great success during your tour for The Patriot Girl. 


Thursday 29 August 2013

20 little questions

I'm out visiting today! You can find me answering 20 little fun interview questions over at Dee Little.Revealing those seneaky little secrets...

20 questions

Tuesday 27 August 2013

It's Western day today!

Today, I'm having the pleasure of featuring an author whose work I certainly have read before(Some of the many novels stored in my cellar have her name on them!)

Linda Conrad brings along her Harlequin Romantic Suspense - Last Chance Reunion.

Best selling author Linda Conrad writes for Harlequin-Silhouette Books. Her novels have been translated into sixteen languages and are sold in over twenty-two countries! 

Linda’s sensual characters and passionate stories have brought her numerous awards and raves! Over the years her workshops for RWA chapters and conferences have helped many writers learn new skills and techniques.

Growing up in south Florida, Linda made up stories and read everything she could get her hands on. After college, she taught first grade in Miami and tried to give the children as much love for the written word as she’d always felt. When her own true-life hero came along and whisked her away to five cities in seven years, Linda became a sales assistant, a quality control supervisor, a ninety-unit apartment manager and finally a stockbroker and Certified Financial Planner in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

When her mother suffered a disabling stroke, Linda moved to southern California to be close. “Mom couldn’t focus well enough to read anymore. So I began reading to her,” Linda recalls. “Eventually, my sister and I started making up stories to keep her entertained. Mom remembered my high school writing attempts. Before her death, she asked me to stick with story telling.”

Today Linda is back in south Florida, living with her husband by the sea and telling the stories in her heart.

Two Lone Star stories from bestselling author Linda Conrad!
Linda can be found at the following places:

Website | Twitter  | Facebook | Goodreads

Determined to solve the cold case of his mother’s murder,  Colt Chance returns home to Texas. Turns out the new deputy sheriff is the woman who broke his heart. But when someone targets Lacie, Colt’ll have to decide between the vengeance  he seeks and protecting the one he still loves….

After witnessing a murder, firefighter Nina Martinez finds an ally  in medic Josh White. On the run, they discover that Nina is the long-missing Chance sister, Cami. Will Cami embrace the love  from Josh and her real family before it’s too late?

Buy Last Chance Reunion at Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Harlequin

There's a chance to ***win*** 3 signed copies of Last Chance Reunion, and/or an Amazon gift card of $10. Click on this link here to ENTER the rafflecode.

Linda is sharing a great excerpt with us so settle in and enjoy...

Fire exploded up the forty-foot cedar, snapping and cracking like a whip as it raced to chew off every living thing in its path.

Hotshot fire-fighter Nina Martinez struggled with the urge to hold still and ogle the magnificent flames—a   firefighter’s worst nightmare.  Dropping your guard during a blaze, for any reason, could get you killed.
A little while ago she’d gotten caught behind the fire-lines while stamping out hot spots on orders from her superintendent.  But when they’d first arrived on site in Texas, her super gave his crew the coordinates to safety zones and added tricks to finding natural escape routes.  No need for her to be overly concerned yet.
Tearing past dry cactus and mesquite not yet aflame but heating fast, she had to shift direction to miss a huge rattler in her path.  After that scare, she hesitated at the top of a mesa, checking coordinates for the best course for rejoining her crew.  But as she gazed to the east, she spotted a ranch house directly below her that lay in the current route of the now reigniting blaze.

Giving the house a thorough once-over with her binoculars, she tried to determine if the place had been evacuated.  Thankfully it looked deserted.  But as she slowly swiveled her head to find a different heading, two people standing close to a barn came into view.  The male and female appeared to be having an argument and not paying any attention to the spreading smoke and flames.

Keeping them in her sights, she started downhill, prepared to give them a lecture about evacuating when told to do so.  When she reached their position, there wouldn’t be a lot of time left to move them out of harm’s way.
She used her radio to raise her team, asking for ground evacuation support for the civilians.  Her super was not happy about her situation and said to keep moving, in and out of those coordinates as fast as possible.  The fire was spreading from the west toward her position.  But he agreed to spare someone to help with the evacuation if it came soon.  The fire was moving fast.

Crackling fire echoed at her back, while swirling winds showered her with stinging embers.  It was difficult not pausing to dig at hot spots.  Her training wanted to overrule her conscious mind.  But the two civilians had to be first priority.

She closed in while continuing to keep watch on the couple, but all of a sudden a shovel appeared in the man’s hand.  Before Nina could yell, he used it to bash at the woman’s head.  The female dropped to her knees.

“Hey!” Nina screamed at the top of her lungs.  “Stop.”

Ignoring the steep decline, she picked up her speed and raced toward the couple.  “Put it down!”
The man hit the woman once again and the force of his blow laid her out on the ground.  Only then did he look up toward the noises Nina was making.  By that time she’d closed the distance to where he stood to a few yards.  His gaze locked with hers and the deep anger in the man’s eyes nearly caused her steps to falter.
But concern for the woman kept her going.  Without pausing, Nina reached into her pack for a fusee, preparing to use it if necessary in her own defense against the man. But after she fisted her hand and took a few more steps in his direction, he finally turned and disappeared around the side of the barn.
Closing in on where the woman lay, still and unmoving, it was apparent to Nina that the female was already beyond help.  The pool of blood surrounding her head seemed like more than any human could lose and still survive.

Nina’s stomach rolled as she swiveled and made an effort to chase the man down.  After turning the corner of the barn, she expected to see a car or truck pulling away.  Instead, she found an open field full of boulders and mesquite.

She spent a moment wondering what direction the murderer had gone when a bellowing roar, sounding just like a freight train, captured her attention.  The winds howled, switching direction, and at that moment a sight she’d only heard about greeted her disbelieving eyes.

fire tornado developed within half a mile of her current position and headed straight at her.
Too late to get out of its way.  Within seconds the whirl was fifty feet tall and moving fast.

After dragging her face shroud across her nose and mouth, she grabbed her portable fire shelter by its handles and shook it out.  Protecting her lungs and airways was the most important lesson to remember.  Another lesson that could keep her alive was to strip off her pack.  She pitched her gear as far away as possible, relying on years of training to do things by rote.

She tried to put as much distance between herself and the fire devil as possible in the few seconds remaining. How she prayed to find a good spot to hunker down as she leapt a few more yards away from the barn and into the boulder field.  But the intensive heat soon became unbearable.  No time left.

Diving for an indentation next to a huge boulder, Nina pulled the shelter over her body and curled up in a fetal position inside it.  Face down, she buried her nose and mouth in the air pocket at the base of the rock.
The ferocious shriek from above roared in her ears as the whole world narrowed down to her tiny space between the shelter’s walls.  The tiny space that might just save her life.

She should have known something like this would happen in Texas.  For years she’d stayed away, only thinking about the God-forsaken place in her nightmares.  If her team hadn’t been called in to give the Texas firefighters added backup during the worst firestorms in the state’s history, she never would have set foot inside the Texas state lines.

But wherever the team was sent, she went too.

Mind pictures of the little bit she remembered of Texas from her early childhood came unbidden as she closed her ears to the wailing firestorm outside her shelter.  Horses and saddles.  The smell of hay.  Kind eyes and soft hands. A woman calling her “Cami, love.”  A male voice cooing: “Easy, little girl.
That was always as far into the dream as she ever got before the memories disintegrated and turned to ash.  Warm eyes turned cold as ice.  Soft hands turned hard as steel.

Pulling herself out of that particular pit of depression, she tried turning her thoughts to something far more pleasant.  Her Hotshot unit team.  The only reason she’d agreed to this temporary deployment in Texas in the first place.

Her crew: Superintendent Ralston, the strongest man she’d ever met; her fellow firefighters Mad Mike; Geek; and Alabama.  And Doc, real name Josh White, the crew’s medic with the sensual bedroom eyes.
As the walls of her shelter overheated, she allowed herself the luxury of concentrating on mind pictures of Doc and his sexy eyes—something she usually wanted to stop.   Lustful thoughts of him had already invaded far too many of her daydreams during fire season.  But she would never have let him get an inkling of how often she thought of him.

Simply picturing those eyes, green as spring grass and so full of expression, could make her melt with unfulfilled longing.  Even in the middle of heavy training.  Luckily, thoughts of his rip-cord lean body, all muscle and strength, usually came into her mind during slow times and instead of the nightmares, despite the fact that their relationship was nothing more than a nodding acquaintance.

Her imaginative thoughts now brought a frisson of awareness shooting through her.  Being in the middle of a fire tornado was anything but normal, but those feelings for Josh were as familiar as breathing.  She gave up trying to get him out of her mind now and focused on the memory of his eyes, ignoring as best she could the extreme heat and gas-filled haze filtering in through her fire shelter’s walls.

Tightening her grip on the shelter’s handles, she refused to consider her situation dire. Don’t think about it.  Thoughts of the sexy doctor Josh White were as good a way as any to spend her last seconds on earth.

Thank you for visiting today, Linda. My best wishes for great sales of 'Last Chance Reunion'. 


Monday 26 August 2013

Monday Moments showcases New Adult Romance

Monday Moments welcomes Dakota Madison. She's brought along her New Adult Romance - After Alex Died -  to share with us, so let's find out a little about Dakota and her new novel published on the 12th July, 2013.  

Dakota Madison has been writing since she learned to read and fell in love with books. When she’s not at her computer creating spicy new romances, Dakota is traveling to exotic locales or spending time with her husband and their bloodhounds.

Dakota’s  Website | Twitter | Goodreads

“Don’t be someone who defines her life by someone else’s death.”
Dee Dee DeMarco’s brother, Alex, was funny, free-spirited and creative. He was also gay. Tormented by bullies, Alex killed himself on his 15th birthday.
Two years later, and now in college, Dee Dee believes getting a summer job working with a college-prep program for disadvantaged high school students is a stroke of luck, until she discovers that the guy assigned to co-lead her group is Cameron Connelly, a star basketball player and one of the bullies who tormented her brother to death. How can Dee Dee possibly spend the entire summer working so closely with one of the boys she blames for her brother’s death?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: I think this is a little story with a lot of heart. I hope you think so, too!

After Alex Died on Amazon

We've also got a little of the novel to share today so settle in and enjoy: 

We were told to meet at 9 a.m. and by that time it was just a few minutes after the hour, there were 10 of us assembled, five guys and five girls. I recognized two of the girls from my Shakespeare class. They were English majors like me but I didn’t know their names. They were a year ahead of me and were in a sorority. Sorority girls didn’t associate much with non-Greeks like me and especially non-Greeks who looked like me: hair dyed multiple colors, tattoos on both wrists and heavy dark eye makeup. My mom liked to say my drastic change in appearance my senior year of high school was about me putting up a wall not only to keep other people out but to keep my emotions in. She was probably right on both counts.
I scanned the rest of the group, which was a mass of unknown faces until I hit upon a face that was forever burned in my memory. Cameron Connelly. He was one of three people who I hoped to never see again for the rest of my time on Earth.
Cameron looked different than I remembered him. He was still tall and muscular, with messy blond hair and sea green eyes. But he looked older and harder than the carefree basketball player everyone in our high school adored.
I was overcome with a plethora of emotions: fear, dread, anger, hatred and every other negative emotion I had been harboring for the last two years. The feelings were so strong, I couldn’t breathe. I tried to relax but the harder I tried, the more tense I became and I nearly passed out. Luckily, Sofia grabbed my arm before I fell to the floor.
“Are you okay?” Concern covered her face.
I tried to speak but the words got stuck in my dry throat. I just shook my head.
“Are you hot? Do you need some fresh air?”
What I needed was to get away from Cameron Connelly—forever.
Before I had a chance to respond, Sofia led me toward the front doors and pulled me outside.
“Take a deep breath,” she ordered. I got the feeling she had younger siblings who she mothered. She had that way about her.
I inhaled a deep breath of humid New Jersey air. New Jersey wasn’t known for having the finest air quality and the summers could be hot and sticky. This summer was already proving to be no exception.
Sofia narrowed her eyes. “What’s going on?” I felt like she could see right through me into the deepest recesses of my soul. She was the first person who had ever looked beyond my so-called daunting appearance and dark clothes (my cloak of gloom as my mother called it) to even truly see me at all.
“Nothing,” I replied even though I had the distinct feeling that Sofia wasn’t about to let it slide. I was right.
“Come on. Do I look stupid to you? I’m from Newark. I’ve not only been around the block a few times, I’ve been up and down it, too. Now, I’m going to ask one more time and this time you’re going to give me a real answer. Got it?”
“Yeah, I’ve got it. I don’t think you’re going to have any trouble handling the high school kids, that’s for sure.”
That got Sofia to smile. I already figured out that she didn’t smile much but when she did, it was genuine.
“Seriously, what’s got you so freaked out?” she asked, her tone softened.
“There’s a guy in the group, Cameron Connelly. Let’s just say we have a history. From high school. He’s not someone I ever wanted to see again.”

Thank you for coming to visit, Dakota. My best wishes for your success with 'After Alex Died'. 


Sunday 25 August 2013

Supplying the Ancient Roman Sawbones

Sunday Selection- Roman dentistry...or what might have passed for the dental surgeon. 

Last week I had a scheduled visit to the dentist. Going to visit doesn’t bother me as it might do some people. I can’t say I love someone poking around at my teeth, but my dental surgeon is excellent and does quality work.
On my last visit, I knew I was in for some repair work since my teeth - two of them - had broken off around previous fillings (probably that age thing). I wasn’t worried about any pain –except that of the huge bill that lands in my lap nowadays!

Why was I not worried about the dentist drilling out a previous filling and on into my cavity to ensure it was decay free? 

Well, there is that wonderful administering during such visits of effective anaesthesia. Decades ago, I had to ‘steel’ myself not to flinch when a huge syringe came my way, but that isn’t how it is today. The needle is tiny and almost not felt at all, the freezing almost immediate - unlike years ago when it took some 10 minutes or more for the numbing effect to take place. (I now seriously rap my knuckles for neglecting my teeth back then.)
My visit was short and painless. I now sport one excellent reconstructed filling and the second filling is a ‘hope that it will work' or the future alternatives will be extraction, or a horrendously expensive programme of root canal work and the insertion of a ‘crown’.

It made me think of what might have happened to the characters in my recently completed historical Celtic/Roman Britain novels. Were there any documented dental practices in Celtic times that I could find? 

I haven’t yet come across specific Celtic references, but Roman and Greek documentation for general surgical practice is more available. Were the Ancient Roman and Greek tools for work on teeth nice and shiny like this set on the right?

Maybe originally they had a nice shiny patina but the likelihood was they were made from a more crude iron or steel and looked a bit like this:

wikimedia commons

Amongst this amazing array of surgical tools found in Pompeii there must be a few which were used for teeth extraction. Or for repair work to damaged teeth, perhaps to set a loose tooth back into place? Archaeological evidence exists that indicates some early civilisations used drilling techniques in teeth, and I recently saw a mention that someone had had a tooth 'rammed/hammered' back into place after it had fallen out. I dread to think what that was like, but if it ultimately helped the patient- then no more requires to be said! 

Dioscorides - wikimedia commons
I wondered what my new 'friend' Dioscorides - the Greek physician who was practising around the same era as my novels- would have prescribed, or have done to patients who had teeth issues. He travelled extensively around the Roman Empire with the Emperor Nero's Army some years before the time I'm writing about.  He collected a wealth of information about medical practice, herbs and the use of herbal remedies which he recorded and shared. 

Would he have used some of the pliers you see above to extract teeth long past any palliative remedies? There are a few that I think look pretty suitable. Would he have used herbal pain killers to dull the agony during any procedure that was undertaken? What might he have used? Poppy juice? Something else?

Perhaps if extraction wasn't necessary he would have prescribed the use of clove oil to ease the pain of toothache. Or maybe he would have used a clove of garlic or a piece of onion, both with known antiseptic properties to help with pain control and reduction of inflammation?

In his writings, Dioscorides detailed over 600 herbs for varying uses. Many copies of his works were made over the almost 2000 years since his initial writing of them, his practise used as standards of medical care for many centuries by physicians.
In my own writing would Gaius Livanus Valerius, my Roman tribune, have gone to the camp surgeon if he had dental issues? I rather think he would – if he trusted the man.

What have I discovered about Roman Army medical practice from written evidence?  

It seems there is a good deal of it and investigative research made me take a lot of diversions. What was established practice in the fortresses of southern Britannia during my time period may have varied a little with that in northern Britannia- the area covered in my published novels and new manuscripts. Yet, I'm sure it did not take the Roman Empire very long to get the usual standards 'up and running' in those northern forts. My tribune, Gaius Livanus Valerius, has specific duties which include ensuring the safe passage of 'metal' supplies to the new forts and fortresses set up by Agricola on his Northern Britannia campaign. I'm convinced the wherewithal to replace damaged medical instruments would have come under his remit.

I've mentioned the immunesof the Roman Army quite regularly in my two follow-on manuscripts to The Beltane Choice which have been submitted to my publisher for consideration. The immune class of soldiers were soldiers who had specific training, specific jobs to conduct, and were generally exempt from combat unless they found themselves needed for defence.

In my second manuscript, I have some scenes which include the Roman Army surgeon at the Roman Garrison Fortress of Deva. It’s likely that he would have had a reasonable selection of tools as seen in the Pompeii collection, since my surgeon was a contemporary: the eruption at Pompeii being AD 79 and my manuscripts spanning the years between AD 71 and AD 84.

Where might the surgeon be found at the Fortress of Deva? I expect at the valetudinarium - the hospital.

It’s known that established forts and fortresses in Britannia had a specific hospital site, according to layout plans for Roman forts- the options for those plans being few in number and with minimum variations to those found elsewhere in the Roman Empire.  The typical plan was for barrack-like wards to surround a central courtyard. Rooms could be isolated, the patient kept as infection free as possible. Fresh water was piped in from as clean a source as could be found nearby and running water was laid to carry the waste away - the plumbing and drains laid in typical Roman fashion.

The surgeon worked in an operating room with that amazing array of tools. They may seem rudimentary, in comparison to modern surgical techniques, but they must have been highly sophisticated for the time. If you look at the two larger tools central in the 'Pompeii' range, the methods for clamping and hinging were finely wrought and must have taken excellent smithing to create. The picks, tweezers, and hooks must have been very effective and searingly sharp when new.

The instruments, it appears, were boiled before use. After the necessary treatment, cleaning wounds with vinegar was customary, before stitching.  Within the hospital, there were kitchens, baths, and latrines. A mortuary would have been used till funeral arrangements were made, the body generally being cremated. Within the hospital complex, there would have been herb gardens- the doctors using herbal concoctions as anaesthetics- like poppy juice (morphine), and henbane (scopolamine).
Depending on local supplies, it’s known that a starch mix pasted over bandages was used to immobilise broken bones and sometimes traction was effected by the use of heavy weights to pull on the damaged limb to keep the realigned bones in place.  

A medicus legionis or medicus cohortis would have been the chief medical officer in a legion or auxiliary unit, respectively. Those chief medical officers would have reported to the Camp Prefect- the Praefectus Castrorum. The medicus would likely have been assisted by a team of immunes of differing ability and experience- those men paid according to rank and experience.

When the garrison fortress of Deva was fully established my surgeon might have been assisted by an optio valetudinarii – a hospital administrator. During the Augustan era, and perhaps later on at the time of my novels, there may have been a grade of doctors named the medicus duplicarius. These were doctors who earned double pay while milites sesquiplicarii earned one and a half times the normal pay. The term medici vulnerarii seems to indicate the main type of surgeons: the medici ordinarii being the lowest ranking physicians. There’s scant written evidence for medical orderlies but there had to have been many of those who did the general caring after the surgical work was over.

When my tribune, Gaius, was out on campaign, it would have been a different situation. During a battle, near the field headquarters and close to the standards would likely have been a ‘medical’ area. Initial first aid would have been administered by soldiers, or corpsmen, in the field. Capsarii were soldiers who carried bandages (fascia) in their bag (capsae) and they would tend to minor wounds at the scene. If the patient needed more complex treatment, there might have been mounted soldiers who ‘picked up’ the wounded and rode them back to the ‘medical aid station’. Depending on the nature of the wounds the patient might have been transferred to the permanent base camp by horse drawn transport/wagon.

As with other areas of the Roman Military machine, the hospitals and medical force were well structured and effectively supplied by soldiers like my Gaius.

I've found this research quite fascinating and would love to have it added to- or even corrected - if my interpretation is for some reason inaccurate. Please feel free to comment!


Added extra! - facebook friend has given this update on the tools found at Pompeii-  
"the big one in the middle is a retractor used in abdominal surgery to hold everything open. The one to the right is similar but I have also seen it described as a vaginal any rate it allows the surgeon to see better. The other instruments are skin hooks, bone rongeurs and forceps for removing bone fragments and missles like arrow heads or other foiegn bodies, a urinary catheter and a lot of skin probes, currettes and spoons for scraping and exploring wounds ..all very similar to what we still use today. They are NOT devining rods."
 My thanks to Thomas!

Saturday 24 August 2013

Prepare to be charmed....

Today is another of my twice a month blogs at
where I'm continuing with another of my 'memory keeper' blogs. (aka nic-nacs/knick-knacks however you wish to spell it)

Tichnabruaich? Where? What?

Join me to find out about this charm of a bracelet! Sail with me to Tichnabruaich on a Clyde Paddle Steamer like the Waverley...

Friday 23 August 2013


More of those lovely nic-naks that have surfaced during my recent tidy-ups.

One persons rubbish is another person's treasures....

Exactly when I received this item I'm not entirely sure but my guess is that it was around 1959 or 1960. It was probably the 'up to date' version which was available in the UK at that time.  I think that probably puts it into the VINTAGE category now.

It would have been a birthday or Christmas gift since, for me, that would have been a substatial item to have received. I'm guessing that it was my Aunt Nan who probably bought it, or helped to pay for it, since she was the one who taught me to sew. 

What I do remember is that it was definitely used to make many clothes for my dolls. Sadly, I have none of those clothes, or my dolls, since all such items were passed down to a neighbouring family of 3 girls whose father was dead and whose mother was struggling to buy toys for her kids. At that time I was around 19 and was at Teacher Training College and I thought it was time my doll collection was used again! Selfishly I would love to be able to handle my dolls right now. I have no photos but I do remember my favourites. 

I've not threaded up the sewing maching but imagine it is still in working order. Though the polystyrene packaging has separated with age it is the original protection and the original box. I imagine there might be a collector out there somewhere who might snap up this lovely item!

Another vintage sewing item that has been in continuous use is my needle case. This was made at school, by me, and was a compulsory item in my sewing class. I have vague memories of taking out that yellow edge stitching a number of times to get it to as near perfect as possible. Back then the whole class of girls would make the same item- the boys off elsewhere doing 'boy things'. 

It was not my own teacher who conducted those knitting and sewing classes. On a particular day each week we would be sent down to the infant department when the 'little ones' had been sent home. The teachers of the infants were then deployed in instructing the older girls to sew and knit. The basic design for everyone was the same. The only difference would have been the colour of the exterior material, the interior patterned material and the choice of threads used. My 'three tulips' design would have been of my own choice, but I can't remember what designs another girl might have made. 

Who knew back then, maybe around 1962, that I would still be using it now? 

Button boxes were something I loved to play with. My mother's was fairly boring but I could sort the buttons by colour and size when I was quite little. My aunt Nan, who was a kilt maker and seamstress, had a fantastic button box. Her selections were much more interesting- the gilt and metal ones a pleasure to sort. She also had large belt buckle buttons I loved to handle since they were often of materials other than bone or early plastics. Some were leather, some were metal. 

I've inherited the button collections of my mother and two of my aunts. I've always thought of displaying them in some form of a collage, but have never made time to get around to that. The tins they are stored in are also pretty vintage, though I remember some different containers that were used in my youth, and ditched when the hinges got broken. 

Lots of memories!