Sunday, 30 June 2013

SUNDAY SURPRISE -There's a Crooked Cat Books SALE for the next few days!


 77p!

CROOKED CAT have announced a surprise SUMMER SALE of all their ebooks. 

There's a fantastic selection available to choose from. All ebooks are priced at ONLY  77p on Amaz UK!

BUY from:

Amazon UK


From Amazon.com at 99c






 



My ancestral mystery- TOPAZ EYES is also available at 77p.



BUY from:
Amazon UK







TOPAZ EYES on Amazon.com  at 99c


Saturday, 29 June 2013

In and out those dusty... spent bluebells




Well, what do you expect to do of a Saturday afternoon?

Me? I have a nice job to do and that is clearing out the dead foliage and ‘blown’ stems of my bluebell plants. They grow in many places in my garden and I love them for more than one reason. When the first leaves begin to appear they tend to fight for space with the yellow aconites. This can be good and bad. The good being the aconites tend to flower first but some years, depending on the late winter/ spring season, they flower concurrently. Then the contrast between the strong yellow and the vibrant blues and lilacs is very pretty.

They both have a ‘good’ factor in that they prevent other weeds from flourishing in those spaces but the bad is that both aconites and bluebells are very invasive and have to be ‘culled’ quite drastically some years.  


Again, depending on the spring weather, my bluebells might have a spell contrasting with my yellow ‘Welsh’ poppies (Meconopsis Cambrica) and my spectacular large red poppies (Papaver).

Hyacinthoides non-scripta (formerly Endymion non-scriptus or Scilla non-scripta), the common bluebell has been in my garden for decades- possibly even since the 1820s. It is the bulbous perennial plat that is found in woods all over the UK and parts of mainland Europe (northern Spain)
It is protected under UK law in the wild and I would never completely remove it from my own garden, though I do have to limit its growth at times.

Unless I really investigate my species (possible plural in my garden) what I have may be a hybrid version - Hyacinthoides massartiana - which is a cross between the H. non-scripta variety and the Spanish variety (H. Hispania)

Whatever it is/them – I like it/them.  

So, the task today is to remove the considerable still slightly fleshy leaves and the spent stalks and dump them on my overfilled compost heap.



Papaver

Meconopsis
If I’m not writing anything else for a while today you’ll know why! 

However, I'll leave you with two bluebell poems by two of the famous Bronte sistes, Anne and Emily. 

Slainthe!  


The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit's care.

There is a spell in purple heath
Too wildly, sadly dear;
The violet has a fragrant breath,
But fragrance will not cheer,

The trees are bare, the sun is cold,
And seldom, seldom seen;
The heavens have lost their zone of gold,
And earth her robe of green.

And ice upon the glancing stream
Has cast its sombre shade;
And distant hills and valleys seem
In frozen mist arrayed.

The Bluebell cannot charm me now,
The heath has lost its bloom;
The violets in the glen below,
They yield no sweet perfume.

But, though I mourn the sweet Bluebell,
'Tis better far away;
I know how fast my tears would swell
To see it smile to-day.

For, oh! when chill the sunbeams fall
Adown that dreary sky,
And gild yon dank and darkened wall
With transient brilliancy;

How do I weep, how do I pine
For the time of flowers to come,
And turn me from that fading shine,
To mourn the fields of home!

Emily Bronte

The Bluebell
 
A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.

Yet I recall not long ago
A bright and sunny day,
'Twas when I led a toilsome life
So many leagues away;

That day along a sunny road
All carelessly I strayed,
Between two banks where smiling flowers
Their varied hues displayed.

Before me rose a lofty hill,
Behind me lay the sea,
My heart was not so heavy then
As it was wont to be.

Less harassed than at other times
I saw the scene was fair,
And spoke and laughed to those around,
As if I knew no care.

But when I looked upon the bank
My wandering glances fell
Upon a little trembling flower,
A single sweet bluebell.

Whence came that rising in my throat,
That dimness in my eye?
Why did those burning drops distil —
Those bitter feelings rise?

O, that lone flower recalled to me
My happy childhood's hours
When bluebells seemed like fairy gifts
A prize among the flowers,

Those sunny days of merriment
When heart and soul were free,
And when I dwelt with kindred hearts
That loved and cared for me.

I had not then mid heartless crowds
To spend a thankless life
In seeking after others' weal
With anxious toil and strife.  

'Sad wanderer, weep those blissful times
That never may return!'
The lovely floweret seemed to say,
And thus it made me mourn.

Anne Bronte

Friday, 28 June 2013

Familiarise Friday meets Brennus of Garrigill



Familiarise Friday is delighted to interview Brennus of Garrigill. Brennus plays a minor role in my first historical novel  - The Beltane Choice.

Readers of The Beltane Choice adventure romance will be happy to know Brennus' own story is almost complete-another exciting adventure in Celtic/ Roman Britain AD 71 -84. 

(See below a first ever image of this handsome young warrior who is Garrigill's Tribal Champion.)

Welcome to Familiarise Friday, Brennus, and thank you for taking time to talk to me. 

Describe yourself using only 6 words.
Funny, large, brave, loyal, unbeatable, handsome 
I have to agree with the handsome! Where are you currently living?
I live at the hillfort of my father, Tully. He is the chief at Garrigill.
Have you live there all of your life?
Aye! I have, though when I was younger my father’s roundhouse was not so large, or impressive, as it is now. Since he built his current huge one he can accommodate many more people at a gathering. Tully is a very hospitable man- except to our tribal enemies when he has a biting tongue.
What’s your main occupation just now?
I am the Tribal Champion which means I excel at one-to-one combat. None can beat me or surpass my strength and height. And since I am the most worthy warrior I also have the job of training our stripling warriors at combat. I teach them to wield their long Celtic swords and shields as well as I do- though none can beat me just yet!
Does that occupation make you happy?
Aye, indeed! I love being Tribal Champion and many say I can weave a good story about my skills as well. They like to hear my singing and flute playing too.
As a youngster did you think you’d end up with this particular occupation? If not, how did you view your future?
I am the fourth son of Tully, with none of my older brothers much older than I am, so it was not so likely I would be chosen as chief of the tribe for many long years to come - though a tribal chief is chosen by merit, not just because we are the sons or daughters of a chief.
My brothers Aran and Lorcan, the oldest two, grew up also as fine warriors but neither grew as tall as I did. I have much sadness just now as it is not long since Aran passed over to the otherworld. He was slain by our tribal enemies, the Selgovae, but we made sure to retaliate in proper Celtic fashion. Lorcan, next oldest born, has the tongue for being a negotiator and tribal representative. That job is not something I would wish for. I am not sure how good I would be as an emissary. That takes a different sort of dedication and I am not sure that skill lies in me- I am too hasty and too wanting to use my sword first!
The brother just older than I am is Gabrond. He is the finest animal handler I have ever encountered. If Gabrond cannot win over an untamed horse, then that horse will never be ridden. So in my youth, with those fine brothers all older than I am, I had to ensure that I was stronger and more skilled with my sword to earn my rightful place in our tribe!
What’s your favourite reading material?
I do not fully understand this concept. The Celts’ learning only transfers by word of mouth. I know many stories, and can recite them around a hearthside, but we do not write them down. However, the Roman scum who have infiltrated our lands - they scribble all day on little wax tablets and I have heard they scratch marks on a kind of rolled skin. I have not yet seen these rolled messages, but someday I probably will.
To avoid a dull life what would you change first?
I have no need to change my life. I can do no better than be tribal champion. Though, perhaps in a while I may need to answer your question if someone eventually learns to best me. Since I am only one and twenty winters, that time - I hope - is long away.
Who, or what, is the love of your life?
If you mean a woman I have not yet met the woman who will claim all of my heart. I do, however, love to bed any woman who chooses me at Beltane! And in between those festival times I find myself quite a poplar mate. Otherwise my sword is my love, and my task as Champion is my passion.
What is your favourite way to travel?
We Celts walk a lot but I do love to ride a fine stallion when possible. Our Celtic horses tend to be small for a large man like me but Gabrond has some larger stock in the animal pens and I love to travel on them. Rowan, the Roman chestnut stallion, which came to us through our capture of Nara of the Selgovae is a very fine horse to ride. It is much larger then most of horse stock and is a fine spirited animal. Otherwise I also love the exhilaration of chariot riding. There is little better then holding the reins as a little wicker sided light chariot flies across the terrain. 

What is your next biggest challenge?
That has to be to defeat the Roman turds on our lands! They creep north into our Brigante countryside and battle will be the only way for us to repel them from this island they have named Britannia!

Thank you so much for joining me today, Brennus of Garrigill.



Familiarise Friday wishes you well in your future tasks and looks forward to sharing your own story soon.
 













Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Expected? Oh yes...

Welcome Wednesday meets Sarah England, just two days before the release of her first Crooked Cat novel - Expected. 

Sarah is a fellow Crooked Cat author that I'm just getting to know. She's very kindly answered some of my nosey questions so that I could share more about this very busy lady, so settle in and let's get started. There's also a fantastic little book trailer you don't want to miss... and the blurb for Expected.

It's a fantastic cover, Sarah - really eye-catching!


How long have you been a published writer?

I’ve been working as a short story writer for magazines for around 7-8 years – mostly women’s magazines like My Weekly and Take a Break; most recently a 3 part detective serial for Woman’s Weekly. Then just this year I had had my first collection of thrillers published – ‘3am and Wide Awake’ with Alfie Dog Fiction; and 2 months later my first novel – ‘Expected’, a comedy, will be published this week by Crooked Cat.

That's wonderful. You're definitely in the swing of story writing. How many pieces of work have you published so far?

‘Expected is my first novel, but my short story collection has also been published this year. Overall, however, I’ve had over 140 short stories published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies.   

What an impressive list, Sarah! Can you tell us about your latest release…

‘Expected’ is a comedy based on the life of Sam Sweet – a working class girl who’s got herself into a bit of a mess. Sam is terrified of childbirth yet all her mother wants is grandchildren; and she’s with the wrong man but her mother has the wedding booked…oh, and she’s a failed psychiatric nurse who now injects facial fillers but it’s going lumpy and clients are suing. Poor Sam is coping by shopping and eating chocolate…. With desperately low self-esteem she’s going to have to do what is expected of her… or so it seems… but then she meets gorgeous Joel Madison – every girl’s fantasy cowboy. Only now she feels too fat to um….take matters further. Oh, and that wedding with the wrong man is getting ever closer!   

What’s the genre/ subgenre of Expected? 

Comedy in a chicklit style.

Can you give us a hint about the main character of the story?

Sam Sweet is the heroine for all working class girls who want to find their own voice and control their own lives. She’s also a good laugh and hopefully the kind of mate other girls would enjoy a good night out with. She’s a red-headed, busty 24 year old with the world at her feet – and yet like many a lass these days, she feels inadequate - in Sam’s case - fat and ginger, and lucky even to be treated shoddily by her doctor boyfriend, Slimy Simon…  
I hope readers will be rooting for her to stand up and be counted.

Do the names for characters just pop into your head as soon as you start a book?

I ‘see’ my characters and names often suit them from the off. Sam Sweet was Sam right away. Joel Madison, the gorgeous American businessman/cowboy, was definitely Joel. He couldn’t be a Rupert, could he?? Ha ha ….Oh and Sam’s mother was Vera. I did have to think about some of the other names and in the end plumped for as near as dammit to the real life people who ‘inspired’ me!

Now that sounds scary for some real live people who might 'read'  themselves in the novel! What does your heroine think when she first meets….Joel.

Sam has the most staggering reaction to Joel, when she first meets him. He is the new managing director who has flown in from the States to sort out the ailing company she is working for. He is probably going to fire her and she’s ready for a fight. So she’s rooting in her bag for a lipstick because she had a bad night and feels rough, when he walks into the meeting room…and…..well….it’s a cataclysmic moment – I think that’s the right word! It is also a very embarrassing one – only that would be giving too much away.

Pity! I love sneaky little tidbits! What's Sam's biggest challenge in Expected?

Sam has to stand up to her mind-game playing, superior fianc√©, Simon; and her manipulative mother; and gossip mongering, devious colleagues. She has to find her voice and have the courage to be herself. Go against convention and stop hiding from/coping with what is inflicted on her. Basically Sam has to morph from doing what other people expect into being the person she really wants to be. How many young women still do what’s expected of them rather than develop their full potential?


Most of all I would say that although ‘Expected’ is a comedy and Sam is funny and self-deprecating – that is after all, how she gets by – there are some life experiences in here I really wanted to pass on…Sam Sweet is not Bridget Jones with parents in the country to fall back on. Sam is from a sink estate and has a single mother who is not exactly on her side. She is naturally unlucky and makes horrific mistakes – tragedy never being too far away from comedy – as it is in real life. I hope so much that it is an enjoyable read – that’s all I want to do – entertain the reader!  
More about ‘Expected’ by Sarah England

Sam Sweet is a failed psychiatric nurse from a sink estate in Weston Super mare. Her mother, whose husband ran off with another woman 20 years ago - although you'd think it happened only yesterday - has only one ambition and that is to be a grandmother.


But Sam is terrified of giving birth. She is easily traumatised and has no ambition to return to the sink estate and have dozens of children. She just wants a chance to do something with her life first, to fall in love, to see a bit of the world. Alas, in a drunken stupor she meets Simon - the psychopathic surgeon, who promises her a wonderful life and she believes him - because she is a dingbat and has a lot to learn. 


Her latest job is injecting facial fillers and clients are suing because it’s going lumpy. And her best friend, also her boss, is sexually jealous to the point of blind rage because her boyfriend fancies Sam and does little to hide it. 


Sam is coping - by shopping and over eating chocolate. But soon piles on weight and sinks deeply  into debt, at which point Simon the surgeon starts playing serious mind games; and by the time it dawns on Sam just what a horrific mess she's in - well might as well pass her the JCB because she keeps on digging.


Then as the company spirals downwards and all knives are out for survival - a new MD is brought in from the states – Joel – WOWEE - Madison! Sam and he instantly fall for each other but...her mother is now going bonkers - has booked the wedding....with the psychopathic surgeon....oh it's getting worse.......fireworks? You bet....but that would be telling......

Buy Expected on Amazon 



That sounds like a recipe for success, Sarah!  Thanks for answering my questions and for letting me share them. Here's a sneak peak of her fantastic trailer...


and more about Sarah...

Sarah originally trained as a nurse in Sheffield (UK) and then went on to work as a medical representative for nearly 20 years, specialising in mental health.


She had always wanted to write fiction, but did not begin until around 8 years ago, prompted by a house move and relocation to the South coast. 
Since then she has had around 140 short stories published, mostly in national magazines and various anthologies; and most recently a 3 part detective serial in Woman’s Weekly. 


‘3am and Wide Awake’ was released in May 2013 by Alife Dog Fiction - a collection of 25 thrillers, many supernatural or medically based - two of her predominant themes.


‘Expected’ is Sarah’s first novel - a comedy launched by Crooked Cat Publishing on 28th June, 2013.

She lives in Dorset with her husband, Don, and spaniel, Harry.

Sarah can be found at: 
Twitter: @sarahengland16
Smashwords: free download of short comedy: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/328849
(Please use the coupon code:  SP93M)
Buy ‘3am and Wide Awake’ – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00CLFRFHS
 


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Something New... for you today!

I've got a special surprise today and it's called Something New by Sharon C. Cooper.

Let's find out what this story is all about!



Entrepreneur, Simone Edwards, did what any intelligent woman with a ticking biological clock would do: she asked her longtime boyfriend to marry her. Devastated when he turns her down, and fed up with dead-end relationships, Simone swears off men … and takes a vow of celibacy. How hard could it be? She soon learns it’s harder than she thinks when the most irresistible man in the world, Tim Hollister, shows up at her job. She hasn’t seen him in over ten years, and quickly realizes he is a temptation she doesn’t want to resist. But isn’t there some rule about dating your friend? Simone must decide if a romance with Tim is worth risking their friendship, and her reclaimed virginity.
Betrayed by his supermodel ex-girlfriend, who happens to be the mother of his child, Tim Hollister has placed a padlock on his heart. But when Simone, an old high school friend falls back into his life, he soon forgets his promise to stay clear of beautiful women. Simone was always like a sister to him, but he discovers that his feelings for her aren’t very brotherly. He’s captivated by the woman she’s become and wants to take their friendship to the next level - despite her resistance. Tim can’t avoid their new-found passion, and sets out to prove he’s the man for her.
 

Something New on Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashword

Bestselling author, Sharon C. Cooper, lives in Atlanta with her husband and enjoys reading, writing, and rainy days. She writes sweet and contemporary romance, as well as romantic suspense. Sharon is a Pro member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), board member and member of Georgia Romance Writers (GRW), and a member of the Page a Day Writers Group. To read more about Sharon and her novels, visit www.sharoncooper.net


Sharon's Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads



Coming from rainy Scotland, I'd love to trade you some of my rainy days for your lovely sunny ones, Sharon, but since that isn't going to happen today we'll just share a fantastic little excerpt from Something New! 

....


God! Can this day get any worse?

Simone Edwards hobbled to a wall in Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, dodging swarms of people in the ever-crowded terminal. She didn’t have to look down to know the left heel on her favorite pair of black pumps had broken. It had already been the day from hell. No. Make that the week from hell. So why would the trip home be any different?

She propped herself against the wall, pulled her suitcase close, and took off the shoe she feared was ruined. “Oh, this is just great,” she mumbled at the three-inch heel. Isn’t it enough I have to return home from the Bahamas still single?

Not only had Glen Wallace turned down her marriage proposal, he’d left the island two days early to attend some stupid “emergency meeting at work.” Most men would be flattered their longtime girlfriend asked for their hand in marriage, wouldn’t they? Not him. After spending all their free time together, he suddenly couldn’t get away from her fast enough. And the insensitive jerk left her with the hotel bill! How could I have wasted all those years on him?

Sadness hit her square in the chest. Of all her asinine ideas, proposing to Glen had to be the worst. Tears filled her eyes, and she blinked rapidly to keep them at bay. The last thing she wanted was to have an emotional breakdown in one of the country’s busiest airports. Spotting a bathroom a few feet away, Simone slipped on her shoe and limped toward it.

She passed a custodial worker near the hand dryers, who looked as if she’d rather be someplace else, and found a quiet corner where she could go through her carry-on bag. What I wouldn’t give to be at home in my bed right now. She was at the point of being afraid to do or say anything for fear ofsomething else going wrong.

After finding another pair of shoes, she placed everything back in her suitcase and hurried out of the bathroom. She had barely made it out the door when she ran dead smack into a hard body, lost her balance, and came close to making a total fool of herself. An explosion of pain from the sudden impact shot through her shoulder, but thankfully, a large set of hands grabbed her around the waist before she hit the floor.

“Whoa, are you all right?”

“Oh my God, I am so sorry. I wasn’t paying attent—” she started, but stopped when she looked up and recognized the handsome man holding her. “Tim? Tim Hollister?”

He laughed as recognition showed on his face. “Yeah, it’s me. Simone, girl, I haven’t seen you in years. How are you?”

“Besides clumsy, I’m fine.” She chuckled and rubbed her shoulder. As she adjusted her clothes and righted her suitcase, a sense of calm surrounded her. Tim had always had that effect on her back in high school, before life got complicated.

“Wow, I can’t believe it’s you. It’s been, what, ten years since we’ve seen each other?”

“Yeah, something like that.”

They both noticed they were in the way, and Tim took her by the elbow and maneuvered them out of pedestrian traffic and into a waiting area where there weren’t as many people. Simone took that opportunity to get a better look at him. With the height of a basketball player, the brother was still fine. His smooth toffee skin and intense dark eyes were his best features, but those sensual lips accented by that smile could make a girl forget they were friends.
They’d hung out in high school, without crossing the friend line, and Simone was okay with that. She never wanted to risk their relationship for a temporary fling.

“So what’ve you been up to?” he asked.

Her disaster of a vacation came to mind, but no sense in boring him with the details. “Not much. Like everyone else, trying to survive. What about you? Are you still in New York?”

He nodded. “Yep, but I’ve been in Atlanta for the past few days on business. Of course, Milwaukee will always be home, though. As a matter of fact, I’ll be there in a few days to meet with a potential client. What about you? Where are you headed?”

“Home.” The one word almost made her cry all over again. This past week had not turned out as she’d planned, and emotionally she felt like balling up in a corner. She should be heading home with her fianc√©, excited about getting married in the summer, but instead she was going back the way she came—single, with no prospects of getting married. 

Best wishes to you, Sharon, on your Something New launch day.

Slainthe!





Monday, 24 June 2013

Monday Moments presents What A Texas Girl Dreams

Yes, it's Monday again and Monday Moments welcomes an author I got to know via The Wild Rose Press  - although Kristina Knight has work published by other publishers, too. 

She's brought along her fabulous new book What A Texas Girl Dreams from her Crimson Romance series to share here with us.

Great cover, Kristina! So, what is this story about?


Monica Witte has life the way she likes it – she comes home to be babied every few months and the rest of the time she has no strings holding her back. But after her horse is injured in a rodeo performance, Monica knows it's time to come home and face her family – warts and all.

Trickett works best on his own. A world-renowned large-animal vet, he likes his quiet life in the Texas countryside. When Monica Witte blows into town, demanding a quick fix to her horse's big issues, his life is turned upside down. Trickett doesn't understand Monica's need to perform before perfect strangers or why she wants to keep the truth from her family. And the more he gets to know her, the more he wonders if he really is better off on his own.

What a Texas Girl Dreams is available from  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes



Once upon a time, Kristina Knight spent her days running from car crash to fire to meetings with local police - no, she wasn't a trouble-maker she was a journalist. When the opportunity to focus a bit of energy on the stories in her head, she jumped at it. And she's never looked back. Now she writes magazine articles by day and romance novels with spice by night. And any toddler-free, five minute break she has. She lives on Lake Erie with her husband and 4 year old daughter. Happily ever after.

Kristina can be found at:  Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest

Here's a tantalising excerpt to keep you going till you can read more of this great story:
Trick followed and was barely inside the trailer when Monica launched herself into his arms.

“Did you miss me?” She whispered the words against his mouth, nibbled his lower lip. Trick knew it was a rhetorical question. He knew Monica would go running into the Texas afternoon if he answered with one hundred percent honesty. So for the first time today he kept his big mouth shut—figuratively speaking—and fell into the moment.


Her mouth was hot on his, demanding. Mad at her or not for risking her life in that bull pen, he couldn’t resist her. Trick dug his hands into her hair, breaking the elastic at her nape in the process. Monica wrapped one leg around his, pushing herself against him, as if their bodies might become one hot, writhing unit. Trick pushed his tongue between her lips, wanting to taste more of her.


Their teeth clicked together and Monica chuckled. “God, I’ve missed you.”


Trick pushed her against the side of the trailer. “Really? Because you didn’t even want a handshake ten seconds ago,” he said between kisses. He smelled coconut in her hair, bananas on her skin, and despite the overpowering aroma of cooped-up horse, the trailer was suddenly a tropical paradise.


“You know the rules.” She panted and kissed her way along his jawline. He lifted her up by the hips until her legs were wrapped around his waist.


Yeah, he knew the rules. No deep feelings, no firm commitments, no family involvement. They drove into Austin or San Antonio for dates, she stayed over at his place, and he was never invited to the Diamond for more than vet checks. On the occasional long weekend or during a break from the rodeo, he’d go to her place in Austin. Easy.


Up until two weeks ago, it had been enough. Then he asked her to take a long weekend and she balked. Pride made him throw down the ultimatum that she stay. After seeing her in the ring with the bull, easy wasn’t nearly enough. He wanted more. He wanted to take her to dinner in town. Wanted to wake up with her wild hair spread over his pillows every morning. Wanted to come home to her every night.


“This isn’t exactly the safest place in the world for hot, sweaty sex.”

Best wishes with your writing, Kristina, and especial wishes for great sales of What a Texas Girl Dreams.  
Slainthe! 





Sunday, 23 June 2013

Cheesecloth or not? What did the Romans use?


wikimedia commons

Sunday Sidetrack

Okay ... I admit to spending loads of time procrastinating yesterday. I got sidetracked by a teensie little reference I made in my current writing in progress.   

Cheesecloth?  Did the Romans actually use cheesecloth to separate the curds and the whey? 

I knew already that the Romans made cheeses and that a version of the hard cheese called Pecorino Romana was made in Roman times. I was guessing that a similar form of it was likely to be made in Roman Britain. 

Off I went to investigate.

Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella, a Roman writer (AD4 – AD 70 approx.), provides us with a history of Roman agriculture in his ‘De Re Rustica’ 12 volume treatises. It is the most important work of its time, with many pieces of detailed information including the production of Romano cheese. 

 
wikimedia commons
          
Since he was writing in ‘my time period’ his information is very valuable, and I’m presuming what he describes was a general practice throughout the empire.

A translation provides us with useful information that describes the temperatures needed during the processes and the ‘rennet’ used. He details the separation process of extracting the whey - i.e. when the milk is curdled it must be transferred to ‘wicker baskets, cheese-vats or moulds’ to allow the whey to run free. Columella then describes the pressing processes and the salting processes - that is of salt being added to the outside of the cheese after it is in its first moulded state. He also gives description of how the cheeses need to be set out to dry, not touching each other, in a shaded area, and then how they may be stacked for further storage.




The types of cheese he is describing, the hardest varieties, were also able to travel overseas, meaning a longer lasting cheese that had been stored for months before consumption.

I am guessing that this would have been the kind of cheese which probably made its way to Britain via the Roman Classis. (Navy). The technology of making cheese would also have been known in Roman garrisons in Britain and the production of it an improtant function since it was part of the basic rations doled out to every regular soldier. I like to think that the cheeses made in the larger garrisons would have been sent out on baggage trains, to be included as part of the rations of a soldier on campaign.
Pecorino Romano - wikimedia commons


Sadly what seems to be clear from my searches is that Columella made no reference at all to the use of cloth for binding the cheese, even though an appropriate cloth of suitable weave was available at that time. From that I have to deduce that cloth was probably not used and I have removed the reference from my novel.  

Of course, it is also known that the Celts made cheese. Some of that may have been of a softer mroe 'cottage-cheese' texture but other cheese may have been harder and kept cool in underground storage chambers called souterrains.  

If you can add anything to my researches I'll be most grateful. Drop me a line if you have ever read of cheesecloth being used in ancient times.

Types of Romano Cheese:
Pecorino Romano - This cheese is made solely from the milk of a sheep, the resultant colour being very white. It has a sharp salty tang, and has a granular texture which is good for grating.
Vaccino Romano/ Vacchino Romano – Cow’s milk is used for this and the colour is a creamy yellow.
Caprino Romano – this is made from goat’s milk.

There are numerous useful sites on the internet to explore this topic.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pecorino_Romano
http://eithni.com/ReferenceDesk/RomanCheese.pdf
http://www.cheesemaking.com/Romano.html

I'm off for a cheese sandwich for lunch.
Slainthe!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Cats do.. travel!

Those cats just get everywhere! The first Crooked Cat author get-together was in Edinburgh on the 16th June 2013.

Below are Crooked Cat authors along with the co- owners of Crooked Cat Publishing  - Steph and Laurence Patterson -having had a great meal and wonderful chat at 'The Living Room'!


My visit to Auld Reekie was fantastic from start to finish. My 3 hours 20 min journey (coach) was delightful during which I read a chunk of a novel written by a fellow Crooked Cat author.

The lunch time meet- up was as fluid as expected, and I do not refer to the glasses of wine or other alcohol imbibed. We braved sitting ouside The Albannach Bar (Albannach meaning scotsman)  on the Royal Mile, the Scottish weather being as variable as we expected- a bit sunny at times, a bit windy, a bit chilly, BUT NO RAIN!

A highlight of the afternoon was a visit to 'Mary King's Close' with Laurence Patterson and Mark Patton. I'm a sucker for the entertainment value from these tours and was surprised how much history I 'think' I absorbed about life in 1630 when Mary King inhabited the Close. To have these rooms now available for public viewing is quite amazing after them being 'unavailable' for so many decades.

The blocking off of such historic areas just would not hppen nowadays - I'm sure!

I knew very little about the 'Close' except that it had been effectively blocked off during a time of renovations on the High Street (The Royal Mile). I had been unaware that it was the building of the Royal Exchange in 1753 which had caused a number of closes and alleyways between the tenement buildings to be partially cut off and effectively 'buried', what remained being used as foundations for the Royal Exchange building.

Ghost stories, murders and evil deeds abound about Mary King's Close. Some of the spooky tales are about victims of the plague and other deadly happenings like biogas (marsh gases) escaping from the nearby Nor Loch (a stagnant marsh of putrid waste products) into the buildings. Some of the hauntings are attributed to plague victims being boarded up and left to die when 'quarantine' rules were enforced.
 




Was I affected by the trip?

Well, you can see it turned my hair white! (Isn't infra-red just great?)



Some more of the gathering - authors and friends.



and....Steph having a great time 





as did we all! 

Many thanks to Steph and Laurence for their efforts in arranging the event- they are wonderful people to be associated with and know how to extend fine hospitality!

Slainthe!

 






Monday, 17 June 2013

Monday Moments presents Cutie and the Cowboy Trucker



Is it Monday? Then it has to be a Monday Moments spot. 

I've got Mickie Sherwood with me today to tell us about her novel called- Cutie and the Cowboy Trucker. Mickie has been absolutely fantastic about featuring my novels on her 'Blurbs in Bloom' slots so I'm delighted to welcome her here today.

Hi all,
I'm Mickie Sherwood. I'd like to thank Nancy for the opportunity to share one of my loves, Cutie and the Cowboy Trucker.
  
Blurb:
Widow Veronica Torres needs something desperately—invisibility. Escaping the clutches of her conniving brother-in-law and traveling incognito in the RV she traded for online sets her on a collision course with her new destiny, and a barreling fiery-red 18-wheeler.



Trucker Mike Masterson steams at the close call. First, he nearly sideswipes her. Now, she ends up at the same rest stop with mechanical trouble. Maybe, she deserves to sweat it out in the June heat since she has the attention span the size of a pea. But, the child in her company deserves better. What else can Mike do besides cart them to his garage for repairs?



Will their burgeoning relationship ignite more fireworks than the upcoming Fourth of July celebration? Or will the sparks of six nights and seven days of summertime sizzle—fizzle to an end?


Here's a little snippet to read with your coffee...

Veronica Torres and Trucker Mike Masterson meet again when he comes up on her broken down RV on the side of the highway.

“I can tell someone’s been under your hood. I just wondered how long ago. That’s all.”
Veronica answered politely with a hint of uncertainty. “I’m sure those things were done before I picked up the RV.”
Not wanting to hurt her feelings, Mike chose his words with care. “You’re probably right.” An inaudible preposition sneaked into his comment.
“But?”
“It’s really a good idea to have those things done by someone you trust so close to departure. Look.”
He braced for her wrath. Who was he to scold her?
Her shoulders slumped as she noticed a belt hanging near the engine. “You’re right. I do remember being told that by—” Her sentence went unfinished.
“Mama?”
“I’m right here, Sammy. Mama won’t leave you.” She backed up a few steps so he could see her through the glass as she continued her conversation. “I called for assistance. But, that was hours ago.”
“The middle of nowhere probably has something to do with that.” He swiveled to bury his hands in the belly of the motor home. “I can fix this for you.” He rose to look down at her, clapping his hands together to rid them of dirt. “I just can’t do it here.”
“I understand, Mr. Masterson. I’ll wait for the tow.”
“Tell you what.” He began to bargain. “I’ll cart you to Jacksonville. That’s the closest big city that’ll probably have a shop open in the late hours of the day.” He noticed how she studied him. “How does that sound?”
“I don’t know,” she hedged. “I mean, we were going in that direction. But, that’s putting you out of your way, I’m sure.”
He sensed exactly what she meant. She didn’t know about him. “I live on the other side of Jacksonville. So, this would be no imposition. Plus, how many big trucks has Sam ridden in?”
“Not just Sam,” she admitted. “Okay, Mr. Masterson. I accept.”
She stunned him.
“It’s Mike, by the way.” He slammed the hood. Veronica extended her hand. A quick swipe of his hand down the front of his jeans cleaned them for the shake. His grasp swallowed her soft hand as he wrapped his fingers up her wrist. He still held firm when her grip loosened.
“I know you need that hand to get us on the road.” She mocked him, to his surprise.
“A good observation. Sorry.”
“No need to be, Mr.—uh—Mike.”
Mike threw himself into scoping out the best way to handle the job. “We need to get you on level ground. Think you can steer all tires back to the median if I give you a nudge?”
“You mean with that monstrosity?”
He looked at his purring red-hot truck.
“It’ll only be a tap.” When that doubtful look remained, he added, “Promise. All you have to do is put it in neutral and stay off the brake until you’ve coasted far enough to see the entire front of my grill in your side mirrors.”
He watched her scan his features, wondering what went through her mind.
“I’m sorry to be such a bother.”
“You’re not.” Having been so engrossed in settling things, Mike now realized the spectacle they made on the roadside. She was definitely a cutie. And him—he was just a cowboy trucker. “What do you say? Let the travelers have both lanes back?”
“Oh!” A trickle of laughter spilled out. “I say let’s do it.”


I say Veronica is in for the ride of her life. What do you think? You just might be right about that, Mickie.

Buy links:

Discounted*

Mickie Sherwood's Bio:
I'm a cruise-loving, people-watching, picture-snapping baby boomer with time on her hands. So, I write sweet and spicy relationship-based mainstream contemporary romantic love stories.

Stop by Mickie's Mutterings anytime if you love recipes with pictures. You'll drool over the Louisiana cuisine.

Mickie Sherwood
~~Sweet, spicy romance – a heartbeat away! ~~

Mickie Sherwood
~~Sweet, spicy romance
a heartbeat away ~~                          

Best wishes with Cutie and thanks for featuring today, Mickie. 

Slainthe!