Sunday 29 September 2013

Sunday Surprise Sneak Peek - The story continues

Monday December 16th is a diary date to make a note of.  

After Whorl - Bran Reborn, the first of two follow-ons to The Beltane Choice will be published by Crooked Cat Publishing, just in time for your Christmas holiday read.

I hadn't set out to be a 'series' writer when The Beltane Choice was published in August 2012. I was so cock-a-whoop that Crooked Cat Publishing gave me a contract for it, since it was a story that was very dear to me, but I wasn't really thinking beyond that launch date. I've blogged before on the reasons for writing my Celtic/ Roman Britain romantic adventure, so I'm not repeating them here, but the idea of writing a follow on story was only a very vague notion at that time. In the back of my mind, I had thought of moving on to the next generation of Garrigill warriors and would maybe set a story around Bethan, eldest son of Lorcan and Nara - the son who was conceived on that fateful Beltane night in The Beltane Choice.

Seriously getting down to writing a sequel only came after a comment was made by one of my readers who asked; 'When will the next one be published? I can't wait!'.

I had no answer for her back then, about a year ago, but her question made me set aside the family saga I was writing and launch into what is now named 'After Whorl - Bran Reborn'.

Writing a sequel isn't something I'm familiar with but I sat down and began to plan Bethan's story. Incidents when he was a child would be the beginning, but the bulk of the action adventure needed him to be an adult warrior. That meant setting it around AD 85-AD 90. I was only a little into his story when I realised there was something not workable about the date. Too much had happened in northern Britannia between AD 71 and AD 90.

There would be too much history left out! Choices indeed.

Writing another story about Lorcan and Nara's trials and tribulations as envoys of the Brigantes, involved in negotiations with the Roman Empire during those years AD 71 - AD 84 was a possibility, but any romantic element wouldn't be 'fresh' romance. I wondered if I should invent a totally new character who arrived at Garrigill? Then I thought about the secondary characters that I'd enjoyed creating in The Beltane Choice. Was there someone who needed to have his/ her own story told?

My researches indicated that a lot had happened in northern Britannia before AD 85 which would be great fodder to write about. The expansion of some 80 Roman Forts and Fortresses in northern Brigantia, probably during the period that Quintus Petillius Cerialis and Sextus Julius Frontinus were Governors of Roman Britain, was alone worthy of a novel. Gnaeus Julius Agricola's return in AD 78 as Governor of Britannia, and his tenure right through to around AD 84 was also begging to be included.
Bennachie - Aberdeenshire
The campaigns of Gnaeus Julius Agricola took the Roman Army up through what is now northern England, all the way north into Scotland, to the Inverness area. The main battle attributed to Agricola is named Mons Graupius (though that exact name is not in original Roman sources). The references to Agricola being involved in a battle with the Caledon leader, Calgacus, is in the 'AGRICOLA' written by his son-in-law, Tacitus -  and though no battle site is actually named, the Bennachie range of hills is a prime contender. Bennachie is only 9 miles away from my doorstep. Other Agricolan Roman Activity in my part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, was too tempting to miss out on.

I just had to include something about Mons Graupius in any new follow-on novel.

Those thoughts led to me developing a whole new story about one of my lovely characters, Brennus, who didn't really get a chance to shine properly in The Beltane Choice. All the historical possibilities outlined above meant that one novel wasn't enough. Brennus' story needed two parts... or two distinctly separate novels, each a 'stand alone' story. 

After Whorl- Bran Reborn, and the next one After Whorl- .... (the full title of this one yet to be confirmed) are two 'stand alone' stories about Brennus. I hope my readers who loved The Beltane Choice will love the stories of Brennus of Garrigill.
Here's a sneak peek at what I think Brennus looks like. My After Whorl blogs and book trailer videos need someone who looks just like this! 

If you haven't yet read The Beltane Choice but have read about it, now might be a good time to give it a go.

I'd love you to join in the FaceBook launch for After Whorl- Bran Reborn - everyone is welcome. Just click on this  link and join the party!

Keep a watch out for lots more blog posts about After Whorl - Bran Reborn before December the 16th 2013. 


Saturday 28 September 2013

Commaphiliac- that's me!

 Slinky sneaky wormy little commas.

It's been quite a day for me! I've just sent off my first round of edits for After Whorl- Bran Reborn, the first of two follow-on novels to The Beltane Choice

I have a little problem with the use of commas, though, and added in even more. The trend nowadays is to use fewer commas and be sensible about their use but sometimes I really want to put them in. We'll see what heartbreak it may have given me when my editor sends her reply!

That doesn't mean the only edits- I'm realistic enough to know that, but it's another stage forward in the publishing process.

I'm blogging about the commas involved in them, among other things, at my usual every second Saturday post at Writing Wranglers. Join me there and see my neat analogy with another love of my life - my garden.

Want a sneak peek at the photos I've used?

Errr....maybe I didn't use this one?

Gladiolus Murielae- I used one very similar to this one.  

Nope! Didn't use this one, either.

Pop over and see what I did use.


Friday 27 September 2013

Familiar? Yes, I know Diane Burton!

Familiarise Friday has a treat today since I'm totally delighted to have a good friend, Diane Burton, paying a return visit. Diane is a fantastic virtual friend who spends a good lot of time helping to promote the work of other authors, including me. 

She’s just released a brand new novel -  One Red Shoe -  and is currently doing a launch tour for it. I’m looking forward to sharing her newest heroine in this Wild Rose Press Crimson Rose Suspense novel. 

There's a $25 Amazon gift Card, from Diane, waiting for some lucky person. Read on and find out how you can be Diane's winner from her tour. But first...
On past visits Diane was in the process of launching Sci-fi Romance, but today the sub-genre she's writing in is quite different- Romantic Suspense. 
Some months ago, we were discussing how ancestry played a big factor in my last published book -Topaz Eyes- and we sometimes trade some family updates when we cross paths on Facebook. Today, Diane's beginning on a similar topic. So, hello again,  Diane...  

Thanks, Nancy, for having me back on your blog. I like to tell my friends I’m visiting Scotland whenever I come here. Wishful thinking on my part. Someday my husband and I will cross the “pond” and visit the land of his ancestors (his mother was a Burns) and mine (a lot higher on the family tree).

Hubs and I started searching our roots in the 1970s. Back then, you had to go to a large library that housed microfilm reels with a mind-boggling amount of data—unindexed. You sat in front of a huge machine to read the film. Starting at the beginning of the reel, you cranked page after page hoping you didn’t miss a mention of your ancestor’s name. When you finished, your eyes glazed over, you returned the reel to the librarian, exchanged it for another one, and hoped someone hadn’t taken your machine in the meantime. It’s so much easier now. You can sit at home in your easy chair and just go online.
Before we began our search, we asked our parents and any relatives who might have some stories to tell that would give us a lead. To this day, Hubs regrets that his grandfather, orphaned as a boy, never talked much about his family in Glasgow. With all of our parents and grandparents gone now, we are the keepers of the stories. Often I tell my grandchildren little stories of things their mother did when she was a little girl. Or I show them ceramics my grandmother made. Or tell them the “Poochie” stories my mom used to tell about her hero dog. Interestingly, a Scottie.
Family has always been important to me. I’m the oldest of seven children. My father was also the oldest of seven. My mom had one brother. I have lots of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Over the years, I’ve found that listening to the stories are not enough. Memories fade. Writing doesn’t.
Family is important to Daria Mason, the heroine of One Red Shoe. She’s the baby, overprotected by her four brothers. When their parents died, Daria was thirteen. Her older brothers gave up their independence to take on the responsibility of being her guardian. Comforting when she was a teen. Not so good at twenty-nine. Lately, she’s been vicariously living the adventure she longs for through writing mysteries. Her kick-butt heroine is everything Daria isn’t. Until now. When she sets off for a writers’ conference in New York City, eager for adventure, she gets more than she bargains for.

 Here's what One Red Shoe is all about:
Wannabe writer rescues wounded spy while risking her heart.
Daria Mason’s life is too predictable. Nothing ever happens in her small Iowa town where everybody knows everybody else. But when she travels to New York City looking for a little excitement, she never expects to bring home a wounded spy.

From the moment agent Sam Jozwiak steals intel vital to US security from a Russian Mafia kingpin, Murphy’s Law takes over. No matter how he covers his tracks, the kingpin’s assassins find him. What’s worse than getting shot in the butt? Accepting help from an Iowa tourist.

Sam and Daria flee cross country with the assassins right behind them. Sharing danger and excitement—and a few kisses—with Sam soon has Daria convinced he’s the man for her. He thinks she’ll be better off once he’s out of her life for good. With their lives on the line, can she convince him they belong together?
Diane's sharing a great little sneak peak at One Red Shoe with us today:

For the second time in her life, Daria Mason came face-to-face with a man pointing a weapon at her. A pervert, with unzipped jeans, wielded a green box knife. Because she’d raced into the restroom without checking out the situation, he now stood between her and the exit.
She was at the end of the proverbial rope. After walking in circles, she finally found a restroom and nobody was stopping her from using it. Especially not someone playing copycat with that guy in the movie who wore one red shoe.

“I am having a really bad day,” she declared in the don’t cross me voice she used on her brothers. As soon as her words echoed off the hideous pink and black tiled walls and floor, she lowered her voice. “You are in the wrong place, mister. Now zip up and get out.” She pointed straight-armed toward the door.

The man shook his head and set the flimsy knife on the counter. “Lady, you have more guts than sense. You are in the wrong place, at the wrong time.” His voice was even softer than hers. He eyed her with a look so dark and intense it paralyzed her like a hawk freezing its prey. She swallowed past the fear in her throat, certain it sounded like a gulp.

Oooh! That sounds so... intriguing, Diane. How is she going to get out of that!

One Red Shoe is available at Amazon for Kindle.

Thanks again, Nancy, for helping me celebrate the release of my brand new book.

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing science fiction romance. Besides the Switched series, she is the author of The Pilot, a series about strong women on the frontier of space. One Red Shoe is her first romantic suspense. She is also a contributor to the anthology How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in Michigan. They have two children and two grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website:

Connect with Diane Burton online:
Diane is giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky commenter. To enter, click Diane's Blog

My very best wishes to you for a successful launch tour, Diane.


Wednesday 25 September 2013

Sign Of The Throne... and the bogeyman

Welcome Wednesday says hello to Mellisa Eskue Ousley, author of Sign Of The Thrones which was recently published by Castle Garden Publications on the 14th September 2013. 

There's a fantastic *GIVEAWAY* - read on for the details. 

Melissa's come armed with great information about her writing. I don't know about you, but as a child, I was warned to beware the bogeyman or dire things would happen. Here's what Melissa has to add about that...

In Sign of the Throne, Abby Brown has a close encounter with a terrifying shape-shifting creature that first appears as a shadowy goblin boy and then changes into a black cat. She later learns that this bogeyman is one of the Kruorumbrae, vicious monsters that feed on the fear and life force of other living creatures. The inspiration for the Kruorumbrae, or Blood Shadows, came from Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious and the idea that mythology is very similar across various human cultures. In researching mythology, I noticed that monsters in legends from all over the world share similar traits. I imagined these stories were reflections of the same creature, one that originated from another world.

There are many legends about bogeymen, some of which have shape-shifting abilities. The phooka is a hobgoblin that often appears in Irish folklore as a trickster that can appear in a number of forms: a shadow, smoke, or animals with black fur, including cats, rabbits, goats, and bulls. Although it can be dangerous, it is generally considered benevolent, warning humans of impending danger and pulling harmless pranks. In South America, there are similar myths about shape-shifting creatures that appear as jaguars. In Western history, the black cat was said to have the power to shape-shift, taking on human form as a spy for witches or demons. Another shape-shifter, Oude Rode Ogen, or Old Red Eyes, from Belgium, can change from human form to that of a black dog, and is thought to be cannibalistic. A similar monster can be found in Mexico. El Cucuy is thought to kidnap and eat children who won’t go to bed. Many of these creatures seem to take up residence in dark places. The talasam from Bulgaria prefers making a home in places where it is less likely to be disturbed, such as basements, attics, or even caves. 

In almost all of these stories, the message is cautionary: behave or the bogeyman will steal you and eat you.  It’s a nightmarish idea—to be harmed when you are at your most vulnerable in a place where you should be safe, sleeping in your own bed. It speaks to our common fears as humans, combining our dread of the dark, strangers, and the unknown, manifesting in a shape-shifting shadow. In writing Sign of the Throne, I asked myself several “what if” questions. What if all of these bogeyman legends weren’t just stories? What if there is something more to these tales than our collective human fears? What if the creatures are real, and the reason they seem so similar is that they all originate from the same place? The answers await discovery in the magical parallel realm of Cai Terenmare.

Melissa Eskue Ousley is the author of The Solas Beir Trilogy. “Sign of theThrone,” the first book of this young adult fantasy series, will be released on September 14. She is currently working on the second and third novels in the trilogy, “The Rabbit and the Raven” and “The Sower Comes.”
Melissa lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family and their Kelpie, Gryphon. When she’s not writing, Melissa can be found swimming, hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, or walking along the beach, poking dead things with a stick.
Before she became a writer, she had a number of educational jobs, ranging from a summer spent scraping roadkill off a molten desert highway to years spent conducting research with an amazing team of educators at the University of Arizona.

Melissa’s Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads

Abby is an ordinary girl haunted by dreams of an ivory castle, blood-thirsty monsters, and a striking stranger. Working as a babysitter for a family of mythology lovers in wealthy Newcastle Beach, California, she struggles to define herself among the elite class while trying to make sense of her strange visions. Upon meeting David, the doppelgänger of the mysterious young man in her dreams, Abby’s life is changed forever.
Encountering the queen of Cai Terenmare, a magical kingdom in a parallel world, Abby learns of an evil lord hell-bent on usurping the throne, the murder of Cai Terenmare’s king, the Solas Beir, and the kidnapping of the Solas Beir’s infant son.
As the kingdom struggles to endure, the queen shows Abby the full extent of her destiny. She must convince her mysterious crush, David, that he is the lost heir. While braving attacks from the dark lord’s sadistic minions, David must realize his true identity and return to Cai Terenmare to claim his throne before time runs out, lest the evil that was temporarily locked away be unleashed, threatening to destroy both the kingdom and all of humanity. 

Sign of the Throne  Amazon {Paperback} | Amazon {Kindle}  | Redroom
$15 amazon or B&N gift card.
10 x winners of a signed copy of The Sign Of The Thrones 

                                           ENTER GIVEAWAY HERE


Gail's sharing a teaser excerpt for us today: 

Abby spent the next evening babysitting for Cassandra and Riordan. She put the kids to bed and laid out her homework on the coffee table downstairs. She was immersed in her work when she realized—the house was quiet. Eerily quiet.

She was used to the familiar creaks and groans of the old house, and night ushered in the occasional chirp of a cricket or flutter of moth wings around the antique sconces lighting the room. Tonight she heard nothing—there was only dead silence. She felt a prickle at the back of her neck and realized she was shivering. The room had gone unnaturally cold, and she had the distinct sense that she was not alone.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shadowy presence, someone standing still, watching her. She turned to look, but there was no one there. She felt a terrible unease twisting in her gut. Something was wrong.

Responding to her intuition, she got up and climbed the stairs to check on the children. Ciaran was snoring, perfectly at peace. He had wriggled out of his covers in his sleep. Abby tucked him back in.

Leaving his room, she walked down the hall to the twins’ room. The nightlight in the hallway began blinking erratically. She entered the room and froze. Perched monkey-like on the corner of Rowan’s crib was a shadowed figure the size of a small boy, leaning over the sleeping child. Sensing Abby, it turned its head, blood-red eyes meeting hers.

Abby gasped with horror as the creature leapt with unnatural agility from the crib and crouched like a spider high on the wall, staring down at her. Slowly, it smiled, revealing rows of pointed narrow teeth, sharp as razors. And then…it pounced.

Abby raised her arms to shield herself, scrunched her eyes shut, and screamed. But there was nothing. She heard a low chuckle behind her and saw the creature near the door. The shadow boy laughed and ran out. The smoky form changed into a large black housecat before disappearing through the hallway wall.

Abby ran to the twins’ light switch and turned on the lights. She checked to make sure Rowan and Siobhan were unharmed, and then hurried to Ciaran’s room, flicking on lights as she ran. Ciaran was still fast asleep—her scream had not disturbed him at all.

She jerked open his closet door and found his aluminium baseball bat. Then, scooping him and the quilt up from his bed, she ran back to Rowan and Siobhan’s room. She shut the door and nestled the five year old into a make-shift bed on the floor. Sitting against the dresser next to him, she hummed, trying to reassure herself. Armed with the bat and the adrenaline coursing through her body, she waited.

Thank you for visiting, Gail. My very best wishes for a successful launch tour.


Sunday 22 September 2013

Sunday Surprise - Some September Stunners

Happy Sunday to everyone.

Once upon a time there was a little girl called...oh no! not that one. 
Once upon a time there was a brand new fruit tree with such beautiful rosy red apples...  

The patio apple tree above was given to me as a gift in March (2013). The Gala variety has produced four spectacular fruits this year, and what a stunning colour they are.

It's such a beautiful day in my part of north east Scotland. The sun is shining, it's warm for a late September day and the wind is a balmy, though strongish breeze.

In my garden, most of the blooming season is now over and the plants which flower are winding down to autumn. That doesn't mean there is no colour at present, there is, though what is there is likely to be damaged quite substantially by any overnight frosts. We had a couple of colder nights last week, with a hint of ground frost, so this is probably the last really good colour I'll see for a while. To celebrate a good year of colour in my garden I'm posting some sunny September photos today.



Since I wasn't sure how much growth I'd get from my 5 new patio fruit trees, I planted begonias and bellis in pots and set them around the base of each new tree. It took a long time for the begonias to become established and spurt into growth, the spring being a cold and poor one, but as you can see the colour now is really stunning. 

 The fuchias dotted around the base of the patio fruit tree containers have also taken time to become established, but recently they've provided me with fantastic colour. Since they are set right outside the window where my desk is, I see this view every day as I sit here and type.


I love geranium and zonal pelargonium, even if I can't really tell the difference betwen them at times. These ones above have been a cheery sight to walk ouside to every day at my back door.


I'm particularly pleased with the 'bargain buy' gladioli which my granddaughter and I bought one day in spring. We had fun planting them in some empty spaces, with me not really expecting much from them, but they have proved me wrong!


The conifers in this raised bed were planted as miniature, slow growing conifers before I came to the garden some 25 years ago. Though reluctant to remove the Thuja, and various other ones, they were threatening to break down the granite wall and have had to go.

This has left me with a bit of a job for autumn.

The soil of the raised bed is a gnarled, and knotted mess of roots, some of the trunks and stems of the conifers having much larger root bases than others.

Any good ideas on getting rid of this huge one above- without undermining the telephone pole behind it? 

It might be a lovely day, but I won't be lounging around sunning myself. I've got a little root removals to get on with.


Friday 20 September 2013

Familiarise Friday meets Felicity Hughes

Familiarise Friday has been a bit unpredictable of late, but we have a fantastic interview for you today. I'm delighted to welcome Felicity Hughes from Chapters of Life by Tina K. Burton.  

I've recently bought my copy of Chapters of Life. I haven't managed to read much of it, yet, but I'm loving it so far.  

Felicity has very kindly agreed to be scrutinised (very briefly, though) so that we can get to know her.

I give you 6 words to describe yourself. What would they be?  Gregarious, amusing, spoilt, rich, fun, impulsive.

Oh, that must b e lovely, Felicity! Where are you from? Oxford.

I loved Oxford when I visited some years ago. Where are you currently living? With my parents in Oxford.

Oxford aside, which is a beautiful old city, name your most favourite place in the whole world. Aboard a yacht somewhere rich and fashionable like Monte Carlo.

Who would be your ideal holiday companion if you took off on a sudden unplanned trip, by yacht or otherwise? Daddy as he’s loaded, so he would buy me everything I wanted!

Oh, Felicity! May I come too, please? Or, at the very least, can I get to meet your fabulously rich Daddy? No? You don't think he'd like to meet me? Oh, well, back to more questions then....

What’s your main occupation just now? I work at the headquarters of our local animal rescue centre, which Daddy isn’t too amused about because I dropped out of law school.

I can imagine how that went down like a lead balloon. It does sound a very different direction to take from law school, but I guess you have your reasons. Are you a gadget freak, or a technophobe? Gadget freak, I simply must have the latest phone and tablet.

Personally I have neither, but that's because I don't tend to phone anyone very often, and I'm quite happy with my basic kindle. However... if you were not at the rescue centre, what would you do if you were granted a whole week where you could choose every single thing you want to do. What would be on your plan?  Spend a couple of days catching up with my London friends, shopping and lunching at The Ivy – great for celebrity spotting - then fly to New York for more shopping.

Ah! Shopping. Sorry. I can't abide shopping. One of the reasons the internet is great for someone like me, with an aversion to shopping, is that I can 'buy with one click'! 

I avoid shopping like the plague but who, or what, are you trying to avoid most just now? Michael, one of the members of the reading group I attend, he’s such a nerd.

I guess Michael is either making a very big impression you don't want to admit to, or he's absolutely ghastly, and Daddy wouldn't like him. Just supposing Michael was the best date ever, and he took you out for dinner. What new cuisine would you like to try? Moroccan.

I've only tried a little Moroccan food. Do you like apricots with lamb? The dish my hubby made in his new tagine was lovely, but he found the apricots a bit too sweet for him  - though I thought it was really tasty. If you don't really like fruit in cooking, Felicity, I'd make sure to know what's in the dish you order.

One word answers, please, to the following, Felicity:

Night IN or OUT? Out.
(Sounds very predictable, though you did say you were gregarious)

(Oops. Thought you might be a little adventurous, but I'm guessing you probably wouldn't want to spoil a new hair-do.)

VIENNA or MAGALUF?  Oh Vienna darling. Sorry that’s three words!
(Good choice. I absolutely adored Vienna and my readers of Topaz Eyes know all about that.)

I'll forgive the 3 words and thank you for all of your great answers. We're going to love getting to know you, Felicity, in the novel. Thank you for visiting Familiarise Friday and best wishes to you and to your friend, Tina K. Burton, for great sales of Chapters of Life

Tina started her working life as an assistant buyer in the purchasing department of a big television manufacturer, but then changed direction and trained as a youth counsellor. She’s also worked with homeless people, and in the funeral profession, which she gave up eight years ago to write full time.
She feels that her previous jobs have given her an insight into people’s emotions and she’s able to draw on that for her characters. She writes short stories, articles, fillers and letters, which have been published in various magazines and newspapers in the UK and overseas.
Chapters of Life is her first novel. She’s currently working on the sequel – Pieces of Cake – as well as a thriller – Born to Love Me – and has ideas for a romcom set around a dating agency.
She lives close to her family in Devon with her husband Paul, where she likes to go for walks across Dartmoor.

 Buy from:
Amazon UK paperback
Amazon UK Kindle
Crooked Cat Books -

Amazon author page

ps If you're really quick today, 20th September 2013, you might catch the last day of the Crooked Cat Sale on Amazon and only pay 77p/99c for Chapters of Life.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

A Celtic Hillfort

wikimedia commons

Imagine this scene with me from my historical adventure -THE BELTANE CHOICE.  Nara of the Selgovae has been taken captive by an enemy Brigante warrior who has decided to take her back to his father's hillfort of Garrigill. The roundhouse of Tully of the Brigantes might be something like the one above, though considerably bigger since he is an important Brigante Chief.

There did not seem to be very many settlements of large proportions in northen Brigantia, but this is how I have imagined Tully's settlement itn The Beltane Choice:

Emerging from the tree line they were still high enough to survey the land around. Casting her eyes across the landscape she appreciated the earth mother’s creation. It truly was a magnificent sight.
In the distance lay the largest hill fort she had ever seen. The valley floor and hillside fringes were well cleared of trees, the lower slopes heavily cultivated, tilled ready for planting. Many people would need to work in the fields below to sustain the huge community. The defensive position of Garrigill was perfect–for the Brigantes who lived there.
Not for an enemy.
Looking to rescue a captive.
A large adversary force would have great difficulty sneaking in undetected anywhere around the valley. Hills surrounded the huge basin, densely forested to the tree line, above which were heather clad peaks–excellent vantage points for protective scrutiny. She had no doubt Lorcan’s band had already been spied by sentries.
A wide meandering river snaked along the valley floor providing a source of water and no doubt plentiful fish. The sun, now breaking through the clouds, made the recent downpour sparkle on the verdant green below, the heathers above the tree line a contrasting vibrant purple. The varying browns of the roundhouse wattles and thatched roofs contrasted with the grey-white smoke gently drifting upwards.
“Do you see peace and productivity below, Nara?”
A serene haven, aye, but it was not hers. The thought of no home was wearying, of a sudden she was physically and spiritually in need.
The closest hamlet of roundhouses, minimally fortified with a single palisade of upright timbers, were the homes of nearby field workers. Repetitions of such hamlets dotted themselves around the fringes of the valley, but the main settlement of Garrigill lay centrally, built on a low hillock.
“Garrigill’s triple ditches and mounds are well constructed, do you not think?”
Nara deemed them virtually impenetrable. Sturdy timber palisading completely encircled and protected the inner living areas. Roundhouses of differing sizes, perhaps hundreds of them, lay behind the timber walls. Each one would house a large family. Garrigill was three times as large as Tarras and much more difficult to breach with a raiding party.
Her harsh laugh made Lorcan look at her uncertainly. “Very few of Tully’s enemies would be so foolhardy to attack such defences. I am of a mind to think if combat goes on here, then it must only be between the champions of the tribes involved?”
“That does not happen often.” Pride in Garrigill shone like a high sun on a hot summer’s day.
At this point Nara accepted her lot. Yet, to despair was futile: a waste of her valuable energy. No Selgovae would rescue her easily, if they ever chose to come at all, and the likelihood of her making a successful escape attempt, very bleak indeed.
Still, she could not forget a few Selgovae warriors had recently breached one of Garrigill’s outposts, had breached and killed Arian, who had been riding the outskirts ensuring all was well with the outlying Garrigill Brigantes.
The high ditches of the main hill fort slowed their access progress when they aimed for the entry tunnel where Lorcan held Eachna still. She bristled thinking he meant to humiliate her by leading her horse in. Those sensuous deep brown eyes of his looked so serious. Why did the man have to confuse her so much?

More on Celtic roundhouses soon- maybe even tomorrow...

The Crooked Cat SALE continues during the 19th and 20th of September 2013. THE BELTANE CHOICE ebook is available at the bargain price of 77p/99c.  Grab a copy while you can!

Of course, if historical isn't what you're intersted in, there's plenty more to choose from at Crooked Cat Publishing - including my ancestral mystery -  TOPAZ EYES- ALL AT 99C/77P.


Tuesday 17 September 2013

Wonderful! Ink still wet...

I'm absolutely delighted to say that Crooked Cat Publishing has offered me contracts for my two follow-on novels to my historical adventure -The Beltane Choice. 

The next two books continue the story of one of the characters in The Beltane Choice. The first of those will hopefully be published before Christmas - details on that later! .

At present, they both have a 'pre- publication' title of After Whorl- but the subsequent parts to name each book will have an additional identifier, still to be confirmed. I'm also looking forward to working with a new editor- Maureen Vincent Northam.

In the meantime, I'll just have to contain myself by continuing with my family saga which begins in Kinross-shire, Scotland, in the 1840s. Since I found some really interesting information during researches, yesterday, that will be no hardship. Look out for both Celtic/ Roman posts and some Victorian Scotland ones as well!

If you've not yet read The Beltane Choice, this would be a very good time to grab a bargain of the first in the series since it's only 77p/99c across Amazon - till September the 20th.

Also available at:

My book trailer video will give you a taster of the era...


Sunday 15 September 2013

The Awsomeness of Westminster Abbey

Monday 16th September
you'll find me visiting  2 places today- Words In A Jar and Micki Peluso

Grab a copy of  5* rated THE BELTANE CHOICE/ TOPAZ EYES for ONLY 77p/99c 

Wikimedia-Westminster Abbey, London 
Girl Guides - Part 3
Westminster Abbey
I loved all the outdoors events during my Girl Guide career. Except... that's a big fat lie, because I hated failing my camper badge, and I hated rainy, cold, windy weather that literally put the damper on things and spoiled some of my Guide trips.

Yet, there were a few other Girl Guiding times that totally surpassed the usual. They were memorable for me, but were shared by hundreds of other girls of my age from around the UK.

In 1966, I was a member of the Glasgow Girl Guide Choir, made up of girls from all over the city of Glasgow. We made our way from all parts into the city centre, to the Girl Guide Association Shop and Headquarters on Scott Street for 10 am, for choir rehearsals. We practised and performed in various places around the city throughout the year - Paisley Cathedral and, I think, also Glasgow Cathedral were venues, but we also attended a venue that was very far way from Glasgow.

In 1966, it was the 900th Anniversary Year of the founding of Westminster Abbey in London. There were many special events held in the Abbey that year, one of which was a Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication for the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides Associations.

I remember very little of the weekend. I believe we travelled down there by overnight train and spent only a little time in the city, yet when I returned to visit Westminster Abbey many years later I had that sense of recall of being there. The pomp and ceremony of the occasion returned, the shivery feelings of hearing the awsomely impressive Westminster Abbey organ flooded me. I love the magical sensations I get when I hear a hugely impressive Catherdral organ and the one in Westminster Abbey is just so huge and uttely amazing. I knew where I had been seated as part of the alto section as I walked along the aisles. 

According to the inside of the programme, the Scout and Guide Choirs led the singing, but before that happened there was a great procession of people moving towards their places from the Great West Door- a procession which included the Lord Mayor of London and Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret (who was then patron of the Girl Guides). The Scout and Guide Choir preceded the Scout and Guide flags, which were then followed by The Chief Scout and the Guide Chief Commissioner. Bach (Toccata in F), Handel (Aria-Concerto Grosso No.11), and other glorious music, accompanied the procession, with fanfares played by Scout Trumpeters.

I can't provide an exact recall of that day for you, but this Youtube video might help to set that incredible scene.

The processional walk I have vague memories of, and I'm glad to say the weather was fair since we had to wait outside the church for a long time before it was our turn to enter. When we did it... 

was very solemn and grand indeed!

Originally named St.Peter's Abbey, that church had undergone a rebuild in the time of King Edward the Confessor, the intention of the fabulous new Abbey to be a resting place for kings. It was the first church in England to be build in the Romanesque style and was consecrated on 28th December 1065. By the 5th of January, Edward the Confessor was dead and was buried in the not quite finished church. The whole rebuild wasn't completed till about 1090.

My visit to Westminster Abbey was during that 900th year from its consecration. 

Glasgow City Chambers

Continuing the theme of my Girl Guiding Pomp and Ceremony the issue of my Girl Guide Queen's Badge was on Thursday 21st November, 1968 at 7.30pm. (I wouldn't remember any of this without the documentation!)
wikimedia-City Chambers, Glasgow
The ceremony took place in the Banqueting Hall of the City Chambers in Glasgow. The City Chambers is a really impressive building to visit, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone interested in architecture.

There were a good number of us receiving our Queen's Guide badge that evening, though I've no way of knowing exactly how many. 

my slightly dog-eared Queen's Guide Certificate

Afterwards there was a formal 'Tea' - a bit late in the evening, but very welcome.

London Again
The third memorable time during my Girl Guiding career was another visit to London. This was for the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations of Girl Guiding. I was a performer at The Empire Pool, Wembley, London, where I was involved in a creative dance act - Images and Reflections - as part of the celebrations of Aug 31st - 5th September 1970. By that time I had been part of a Ranger/Venture Scout troop for a couple of years and along with my friends were delighted to have a nip down to London for the event.

I have no evidence, but think I stayed in Holland Park, in something that may have been a College Residence block, during the few nights we remained for my performances. The rehearsals were somewhere other than Wembley and we were moved around from place to place by coach. It was a hugely exciting thing for me, as an 18 year old, to travel those 500 miles to London for the occasion. 
To be in the vibrant city of London in 1970 was amazing and I visited Carnaby Street for the first time!

I've shared all of my Girl Guide badges on a Pinterest Board.  Girl Guide Memorabilia    There are lots more badges to see there, if you're interested

Were you a Girl Guide during 1965 -1970? What do you remember? I'd love you to share your memories with me and put me straight if anything isn't quite accurate. 

My Guide memories are happy ones- I hope you've enjoyed this series of posts, too! 

Some more music...


Saturday 14 September 2013

Girl Guide Stalker badge? Such a changed word!

First Class
Girl Guides - Part 2 more of those Vintage Badges!

I'm naming my posts Girl Guides even though I know it's a very old fashioned term and that the terminology for the following has changed since the 1960s. The formal title at that time, I believe, was The Girl Guides Association. Since this amounts to a series of history posts with Vintage badges on show, please bear with any anomalies to what might be found today.

My First Class badge on the left took quite a lot of effort to achieve, but I was only one of many thousands of guides who made choices which led to that same achievement. 

I don't remember exactly what the requirements were to pass the First Class badge but I do have my Record Card. Inside the card is a little confusing, since what has been authorised appears to overlap with what I thought went towards my Little House Emblem.

On the Record Card there is authorisation at Company level for achieving my Second Class though I can't remember what that entailed.

At Division level Sections A and B, I've been signed off for various items but I'm blowed if I remember the Life-Line (I do, however, remember throwing a rope in the swimming pool to aid someone who was supposedly drowning) and the Expired Air Demonstration (I did First Aid Emergency resucitation but I don't think that matches. Rather, I think that this might be holding my breath under water?) Can someone please remind me what they were about?

There were various outdoor activities for that First Class certificate, but also an indoor project that I spent quite some time on. The hoarder in me means I've still got the "The Life of Baden Powell/ Guiding Through The Years" science notebook that was filled with text and relevant cut-outs from magazines. 
Though I didn't realise it, I relished these writing tasks, and spent more time than I needed to in compiling my data for my 'Guide' notebooks. Inside the above book, there is a lot on the history of Guiding; things about what was current in guiding across the world in 1966, and some fabulous handy hints for camping! Re-reading the cut-outs from some Girl Guide magazine, it brought back some mixed memories of ADORING camping, of being FRUSTRATED during camps, and of hating SCOTTISH WEATHER!

I now remember some of the things I had to do to pass my Camper badge. All was not instant success in my guide career! In my little bookie above, it reminded me that our food had to be placed in a net and hung from a nearby tree, so that the predators wouldn't eat it before I did. Great advice, but in Scotland the predators aren't grizzly bears, (more like tiny ants) so some of the high climbing to drape the net was great fun but wasn't really needed! The tent pegs were wooden, so there's advice on scraping the pegs free of mud and how to insert them into the ground safely and securely. HAH! Flooded campsite conditions banjaxed that! Using the ash from the fire first thing in the morning to disinfect the latrine pit was somehting EVERYBODY knew about-didn't they? More of latrines soon.

Camper badge
Camper was my greatest failure as a Girl Guide. I had to sit to sit my Camper Badge 3 times. It was the only badge I actually failed, though I do have to confess to giving up with Scottish Country Dancer when I missed some lessons and didn't take the test. (I wouldn't have passed anyway since dancing by numbers doesn't work too well with Eightsome Reels and 2 left feet!)

As I recall to pass my Camper badge, as well as keeping a canvas tent for 5 or 6 of your patrol members in tip-top condition (flaps up/ flaps down) clean and tidy inside and out, the Camper badge also required the leader (me) to feed the squad. 

On an open campfire, lit with a maximum of 3 matches, you had to cook a three course meal for everyone in your tent. The soup was easy- I was allowed to boil water and add packet soup granules. The main course tended to be mashed potatoes (reconstituted mash with boiled water), fried sausages and a vegetable (generally baked beans). For the dessert it was home made custard with added fruit (usually tinned). My patrol were expected to help, under my direction, but when things are going haywire that's not always easy! Try cooking all that in Scotland when it pours the whole camping weekend! Soggy firewood. Listless fire. Endless meal cooking which resulted in lumpy potato, half burned- half cooked sausage and yet again lumpy custard! Hungry, moaning patrol-  FAILED!

Apart from the cooking and feeding of my patrol, I was easily able to do all the other HAPPY CAMPER tasks. Never give up was my motto. On try 3 I PASSED.

My Guide Camp weekends tended to be at the dedicated Girl Guide Campsite called Achachairdies (not far from Glasgow) where we camped in a field under those real canvas tents. It was the duty of the patrol leader to organise the erection of the canvas ridge tent for six, which in 1967 had a loose groundsheet. Another task I remember needing to organise was lashing trimmed branches together (collected from local woods) to make structures to raise any stored items off the ground. That meant our rucksaks containing our spare clothes, bedding, toiletries etc. had to be kept dry. Our footwear also had to be raised overnight. WELLIES! Yes, those waterproof boots had to be kept dry too.

Sadly, when the rain dripped inside the tent from inadvertant brushes against the canvas nothing stayed dry.

Maybe that's why I've got a Certificate for a badge named All Round Cords- though I've no cloth badge for it!

All Round Cords
Floating out of the tent on a wash of water, when asleep in a soggy sleeping bag made of flock-filled cotton, was not uncommon.

Well, you know, we learned to laugh about it!

Digging the latrine pit was not a fun job, either. The clearing out of the latrine pit was even worse but in some ways was a better job than emptying the 'Dry chemical' portable toilets, that were supposed to be an upgrade on the latrine pits. the sme;ll of that chemical lingers and I won't tell what images come to mind!

Personal washing was a bit limited but we were expected to keep clean and to spruce up for the DREADED DAILY INSPECTIONS.

You might ask why did I suffer all that? It was something to master and to achieve. The highlights of it were extremely rewarding and there really was a lot fun to be found along the way.  Singing around the campfire might seem tame now, but it was fun out in the great outdoors and for want of a better word it was sisterly.

'Land of the Silver Birch, Home of the beaver, There where the mighty shores wander at will, Blue lakes and rocky shores, I will return once more, Boom diddy ay-a , Boom diddy a-ya, Boom diddy ay-a, Boom.' ...
comes to mind, and I'm singing that song right now, though not at all sure if those really were the words of it.

Woodcraft Emblem

My Camper badge was part of a group of badges which led to my achieving my Woodcraft Emblem.

I'm not sure, but the ones I've achieved which seem to match Woodcraft skills  are: Camper; Pioneer; Hiker; Map reader; and wait for it...STALKER!

YES- I really do have a badge named STALKER which just goes to show how the use of a word can change so much over time.

Girl Guide Stalker certificate
Girl Guide Stalker badge
For my hiker and stalker badges I also had to keep a LOG BOOK.

In my log book for the Hiker part (the writing of this very humdrum I'm afraid) I've detailed 8 different hikes, one of which was during a Youth Hostelling week over the school Easter Holiday break in 1967. Along with 5 of my friends, most of them Girl Guides, we trekked around the west coast of Scotland. We WALKED between Youth Hostels and had planned our trip so that our maximum daily hike should be no more than 12 miles.

Sounds easy peasy? It rained almost all week and this time we had to carry the 2 canvas ridge tents that we all piled into, as well as our food, and all our gear in our heavily laden rucksacks which were nothing like those on the market today. Waterproof gear, in 1967, was only affordable by people like Sir Edmund Hilary, or continental mountaineers. My metal framed canvas rucksack had been bought for my older sister who is some four inches taller than me. That meant the rucksack was incredibly uncomfortable and didn't fit me at all. Sore Back! Ouch! I can still feel it...  Sopping canvas tends to sag just a wee bittie.

One great memory, though, of that hiking week was of being at LUSS, near LOCH LOMOND when there was a mini Folk Festival going on! Needless to say the dripping rain didn't stop us from standing in that mushy field, listening to bands like Billy Connelly's 'Humblebums'. You don't want to know what else went on at that camp site since it wasn't very Girl Guidey! (Hey! It wasn't a guide camp and it was 1967)

For my STALKER badge, I've detailed 4 different 'stalking' of animals experiences.
The inside of the little log book is incredibly basic and highlighted by my own very poor illustrations- but I guess what I wrote about was sufficient, along with the oral examination.

Commonwealth Knowledge

Another component of my work for my First Class, or towards my Queen's Guide badge (not sure which), was achieving my Commonwealth Knowledge badge. The data I collected for that is truly historical as part of the badge was writing about current affairs in the Comonwealth. I remember having to buy The Glasgow Herald broadsheet to get the data- the newspaper still my newspaper of choice. Another element of that badge was to write a book about a Commonwealth country and I chose Australia.

The science notebook is completely full of text and pictures cut from Australian magazines. There are also some postcards sent to me by relatives who lived in the Melbourne area. Again, it is a historical document with the history of Australia covered, and what was current in 1967 now history, too. I confess to cheating at the end having filled the pages with mainly photographs since I'm guessing I ran out of research material to cover. Was I a WRITER back then? Yes, I was of sorts -  though I didn't really consider myself one.

The pinnacle of my girl Guide Career was achieving my Queen's Guide Badge. For that I had to earn a good clutch of achievements, not all of which ended up as individual mementoes in physical badges. I don't remember all the things I did for my Queen's Guide badge but I do know that I almost didn't achieve it. If it had not been for my very tolerant Guider I would not have had all my paperwork signed off.

Out of the woodwork indeed...

I think the last part of my Queen's Guide badge was that I had to fulfill a church service attendance requirement. At that time, I was having some serious issues with committing myself to that duty since I had been questioning the concept of God and no longer believed. In all truth, I had been attending Guide Parades in church but had not been a church attendee for a long while. 

My Guide leader talked to me, and after a lengthy discussion sought a way of my fulfilling the committed duty without me attending a church service for the number of weeks required. Instead I did a Service to the Community duty.

For many weeks, I got up very early on  Sunday and made my way to a Children's Home in the countryside where I spent time from pre 8 am to past 1 pm helping to prepare and serve the breakfasts and lunches. I read stories to the kids (not the Bible ones I would have done at the Sunday School), and organised and played morning games with them.

To get to that Childen's Home I had to leave my own home very early in the morning and walk some 20 or 25 minutes to get to Bearsden where I then got a bus to Mugdockbank near Milngavie (Pronounce that MIL-GUY!). The bus service was not frequent, and I could never afford to miss the bus taking me there. I got home around 3 pm and did that duty for many more weeks than if I had done my simple church attendance. It was a different commitment I fulfilled and I loved being with those kids.

 I don't regret the choices I made back then and feel I achieved something I was proud of. Though the church was not part of my future from 1967 onward, I look back on all I did at the Girl Guides, and afterwards in a Ranger/ Venture Scout group for a while, as activities which enhaced my learning curve as a teenager.

Queen's Guide enamelled pin badge
I think this Queen's Guide enamel pin was worn on my hat, but I'm not sure. At the time I earned the right to use this, the uniform was changing in style and the hat was a different shape from pre 1967 ish.

I've put all my Girl Guide badges on one of my Pinterest boards to share with everyone. You can find them at   then look for the Girl Guide Memorabilia board

Were you a Girl Guide, or do you know anyone who was one?

The next blog post is about 3 memorable occasions during my Girl Guide career.  Please pop back and read Part 3.