Wednesday 30 July 2014

Making the plot flow better...

I have no Welcome Wednesday guest today but there's still plenty for me to do!

This time of year, I look forward to being cheered up by my front garden beds of montbretia which are interspersed with what was a low lavender hedge when I moved in to the garden years ago. The variery I have is probably the most standard type. I don't believe I have ever bought any of the crocosmia corms, more like my garden invasion started from a small clump given to me by my brother-in-law who loved to have them in his garden.

Part of the genus of the iris family, my corms set new bulblets every year and they have spread more than I really want them to. At times, when the long blades of the leaves overlap the edges of the grass they make it harder to mow the lawn, but I rarely have the heart to howk them out since I love the riot of colour when they flower.the fact that they are winter-hardy means they do survive the wet autums and cold winters that I can have in my garden- often the temperature difference in one day in winter being quite spectacular.

In the US, they are commonly known as coppertops or, I believe, sometimes 'falling stars' . In the UK we generally call them montbretia. They remain in flower for a few weeks around August, but when the leaves die back, a bit, I will have to dig up the clumps and separate them since they are now too well established. It'll be hard effort but worth it to give my lavender plants some more room alongside the montbretia.

Meanwhile, my writerly task today are to centre my mind on the new additions I need to make to get my time-travel novel for early tens up to scratch. At the moment it's a bit like my lavender which is being outshone right now. By that, I mean that there are parts of my time-travel novel which are too vigorous and not needed. A bit of culling of words is necessary to make the plot flow a lot better.

I'll let you know how that works out soon.

this photo is from autumn 2013 when both lavender and montbretia had ceased to flower
Enjoy your Wednesday.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

The House at Zaronza launches!

Today I'm absolutely delighted to welcome Vanessa Couchman, a fellow Crooked Cat author. 
It's an exceptionally happy day for her since her debut novel officially launches today. It's an incredibly exciting time and one I'm glad to share with her is this small way.
Vanessa's come today with information about her novel, which is set in Corsica, but she's also taken time out of her very busy launch schedule to share a guest post with us.
She sounds very much like me when I agonise over trying to place people in authentic settings in my historical novels, and try to work out what they might be thinking depending on what might have been the moral code of the times.
So over to Vanessa...
Setting in fiction
Novels are about people – or sentient beings in sci fi, anyway – and what happens to them. Just about everyone agrees on that. But characters are also the product of their environment. Their setting profoundly influences their actions, whether they love it or rebel against it.

It’s impossible to dissociate Dickens’ novels from the bustle, grime and undertones of Victorian London. Or to take the harsh but majestic landscapes of Afghanistan out of Khaled Hoseini’s books.

Those authors experienced these settings at first hand. It didn’t take a great leap of imagination for them to describe them. Doing it as effectively as they did is, of course, another matter.
But what about historical settings: Tudor London (Hilary Mantel); or a medieval village (Jim Crace); or occupied France (Alan Massie)? Bringing alive the spirit of a place as it was is no easy task. It’s not only about what it looked like but also about how people experienced living there.  

My own novel, The House at Zaronza, posed me some challenges. It’s set in early 20th-century Corsica and at the Western Front during World War I. I know Corsica quite well. Many of its villages are remarkably unspoilt and you can imagine how they would have looked in the past.

But what was it really like to live there? Corsica might be part of France, but it has always had its distinct culture and beliefs. Surprisingly little was written about it in English until the pioneering books of Dorothy Carrington, who “discovered” the island just after World War II. My novel owes a lot to her meticulous research and quest for the authentic Corsica.

My main character, Maria Orsini, is the daughter of a bourgeois family. She has had a strict and sheltered Corsican upbringing that is challenged when a new schoolmaster comes to the village. Maria’s later experiences as a nurse on the Western Front also test the strict Corsican codes of honour and conduct.

In the extract below, Maria and her friend Sophia discuss the place of women:

A little adventure in my life would have been nice but that seemed unlikely. I would live quietly with Maman and Papa, the well brought-up daughter of a respected family, until they found someone suitable for me to marry…

“I thought I’d find you up here, Maria. What are you doing?” Sophia asked. “Dreaming about princes and maidens again. It won’t do you any good. Life is simply not like that, above all not for women. We do as we are told, we marry the men our parents choose for us, we bear children, some of whom might live to become adults…Do you know, I heard a story about a woman in a village near Corte whose husband allowed her to leave their house only three times during their marriage. Can you imagine it? Being a prisoner in your own home with your husband as gaoler!”

What the book is about:
The past uncovered. Rachel Swift travels to Corsica to discover more about her forebears. She comes across a series of passionate love letters and delves into their history. The story unfolds of a secret romance at the start of the 20th century between a village schoolteacher and Maria, the daughter of a bourgeois family. Maria's parents have other plans for her future, though, and she sees her dreams crumble. Her life is played out against the backdrop of Corsica, the 'island of beauty', and the turmoil of World War I. This is a story about love, loss and reconciliation in a strict patriarchal society, whose values are challenged as the world changes. Love gained and lost.
Buy the book from Amazon:
About the Author
Vanessa Couchman is a freelance writer and author who has lived in France since 1997. She is passionate about French and Corsican history and culture, which inspire much of her fiction. Her short stories have won and been placed in creative writing competitions. The House at Zaronza is her debut novel and she is working on a sequel.

My best wishes to you for a great launch, Vanessa, and for a very happy day. 

Monday 28 July 2014

Paying It Forward

It's Monday Moments time again!

I hope your Monday has dawned as beautiful as mine has.

I've had a long break from promoting the novels of other authors, but I'm picking up the practice again.  Today on my FEATURES blog you'll find Zanna Mackenzie and information about her Contemporary Romance - If You Only Knew - published by Crooked Cat Publishing.

Someone close to me recently asked why I spend the short time I do setting up such a post, instead of using that 15 minutes for my own writing. It's a very good question and the answer is simply that I like the idea of 'Paying It Forward'.

When I first heard the phrase I hadn't a clue what it meant and had to learn. A little help here and there from a fellow author can go a long way. One way to provide that help is to spend those 15 minutes, or so, to set up a simple promotional blog post in the hope that you can increase visibility for the writing in as many places as possible. In reciprocal form, I hope to advertise my own writing by guesting at other blogs, as well.

Since Zanna's post is already up and 'live', the rest of my day is set out quite clearly. It's a lovely sunny day so I have to make both outside and inside progress. My outside progress will be tackling my side of the 12 feet high beech hedge which borders my back garden.

The good news is that my son-in-law is about to tackle it instead of me...though I need to set it up and show him the 'how to'. I have a number of other garden tasks to do since there's a bit of garden clearance going on at present and the need for that will hopefully be divulged in a bit. My lavender, top photo, needs to be collected before the bees and wasps have complete fill. I don't collect and dry it for 'pot pourri' every year but today is the day!

My inside writing jobs have to encompass making a better list of my twitter contacts since I've, admittedly, never learned how to tweet properly and need to do that asap. It's easy to post on twitter but not so easy to use it socially and reciprocate. I also need to learn to use Hootsuite, which I joined over the weekend. My promotional tasks only increase rather than decrease, but that's the name of this writing game.  

Since my re-writes of my contemprary romances are done I'm moving on to the editing of my novel for early teens ...and some NEW writing! I'm so looking forward to that since Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series has been neglected of late.

Itching...I'm itching... but first I'll be itching from the tiny insects on that beech hedge which I love and hate in equal measures. It's a fabulous screening between gardens but it's a b...bind  to cut.

See you later, but please pop over and visit my FEATURES and read about  Zanna's - If You Only Knew.

ps I'm just like Zanna in that I've got her novel on my  knidle but haven't managed to find the itme to read it yet. 


Sunday 27 July 2014

Sunday Snippet of Beinn Na Ciche (Bennachie)

Happy Sunday to you!

It's been  a while since I posted a Sunday Snippet. Since I've been writing about Bennachie, here it is from Ineda's point of view in Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures - After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks. Ineda is trudging northwards seeking some Brigante Celts that she has heard have also been moving northwards, keeping themselves out of reach of the invading Roman Army. 

See if you can recognise anything in my descriptions...of Bennachie... from the last few posts. 

AD 84 After Imbolc – Balbithan, Taexali Territory

“Will we see Balbithan soon?” Ineda’s question broke the silence.
            She trudged up the long gradual incline, near the head of the snaking group of people. With five others like herself, all displaced people, she journeyed north – three of them adults and two older children. The day was bitter cold, a light wind at the summit whipping up the edges of her bratt, the cool draught of air seeping into her backbone and sending chills all the way through her. It did little to encourage her to keep moving but she had been told they would reach the settlement of Balbithan within a half day. The days were lengthening but daylight hours were still limited, it being only a se’night after the festival of Imbolc. It had been well after daybreak when they had left the last village and she feared they would not reach the shelter they sought before nightfall.
            The guide answered when he stopped at the crest of the hill. “Stand alongside and follow where I point.”
            Ineda slid next to the lad. Though extremely cold the sky was a clear blue well into the distance.
            It was a fine sight to behold the valley that spread below. Gentle undulations broke up the landscape, the view clear all the way to a rise of hilltops straight ahead. To her left, far in the distance, were much higher white peaks, the snow cover extensive.
            The lad pointed to those far hills first. “The mountains of the Caledons lie there, but they are many days walk away in winter.”
            Ineda looked to the peaks ahead. “And there?”
            “The last peak to the right of Beinn na Ciche is The Mither Tap. The dark shadow that rings just below the snow tip is the old hillfort.”
            Ineda suppressed a groan but had to ask. “Is that where we are headed?”
            “Nay!” The lad’s laughter gurgled. “Balbithan is not nearly so far.”
            “Oh, look! I can see smoke rising way over there.” One of the children almost jumped with glee as she pointed to the thin column of smoke rising above a deep clutch of trees, not too far to Ineda’s left.

            “Balbithan!” The other child joined in the shout.
            “Nay!” Her guide corrected the assumption. “That is only a hamlet over by Skene water.”
            Ineda followed as his arm swung to the right in an eastwards direction till it settled, pointing to a heavily forested area. “Beyond that wood lies Balbithan. You cannot see it from here but the river from Obar Dheathain runs through those trees.”
            There were some columns of smoke rising from there as well and, though it would still take a while, it was cheering to see their destination.
            She slid into motion behind the guide as he started down the hill. “Have you heard of these Brigantes who are said to dwell at Balbithan?”
            “Aye! Most folk hereabouts have heard tell of the one who sings and plays so well. I was not at our settlement when he visited but he proved very entertaining, or so the tale goes.”
            Singing and playing? Ineda could not help but think of Bran. It had been some time since she had thought of the man she had given her love to so long ago. Bran had been such a fine entertainer. He had been so fine in many other ways too but she could not let herself dwell on that. Why she felt the need to find the Brigantes made her pause for thought. She decided it must just be a yearning for her origins, yet, something more seemed to drive her onwards.

In my writing of After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks I've used some recognisable names which are in existence today as written above. I'll write more about why I've done that in my next 'Bennachie' series post.

Have a lovely Sunday! 

Saturday 26 July 2014

Saturday Bennachie Visiting

It's a sunny Saturday here and a perfect day for climbing the hill range I described on yesterday's blog post - Bennachie. 

Since I'm sitting at my desk writing, what am I missing at Bennachie? 

At Bennachie there's a great little Bennachie Visitor Centre. Inside the centre there is a permanent exhibition, which is family friendly, telling a little about the history of the area. The geological formation of the hill range is explained and there's a bit about its first settlers. Those were hardy people who scratched a living from the soil on its lower slopes. You can also learn about the wildlife which inhabits the area. There are some small interactive devices to educate through entertainment. From the dedicated hide you can watch the wildlife in its natural habitat.

You can walk along beautiful trails and not fear getting lost since there are plenty of markers to keep you on track.

Should you be thinking of doing one of the hill climbs, you can find out about the predicted weather conditions. This is particularly useful for some of the longer trails in a landscape where weather conditions can change very rapidly, deteriorating to such an extent- especially in winter- that it becomes dangerous to be out without proper protection from the elements.

These just a few more resons for why I love to include Bennachie in my writing- even though I have to do a bit of imagining of what the area might have looked like some 2000years ago. 

Enjoy your weekend. 

Check the sidebar for buy details for my Celtic Fervour Series- Book 3 of which includes the land around Bennachie. 

Friday 25 July 2014


Bennachie - Beinn Na Ciche

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday 23 July 2014


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

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

About little about the author first…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday 22 July 2014

That writing process revisited

Welcome to my ‘Writing Process’ - Part two.

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

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

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


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


Monday 21 July 2014

Sworn to Silence

Happy Monday to you!

Today, I'm delighted to help a Facebook friend - Philomena Callan  - who is helping to promote the recently published book of a friend of hers from Dundalk, Ireland. The account which is featured today is sadly a true one and is named -

Sworn to Silence
A Young Boy. An Abusive Priest. A Buried Truth.
By Brendan Boland, Darragh MacIntyre

One boy who bravely speaks up. A church determined to keep him silent. 
     Brendan was an eleven-year-old altar boy when he first met Father Smyth. When the abuse began, he didn't know what to do -- surely he should trust a priest? But he knew he wasn't the only victim, and his worst nightmare was that his sisters would be next. 
     It was three years before he plucked up the courage to tell another minister. An inquiry was quickly called, in which Brendan was sworn to secrecy. But the abuse didn't stop. Instead, Father Brendan Smyth continued to prey on other children for two more decades until he was finally convicted.
     This shocking memoir tells how, for years, a priest's abuse was ignored by the Catholic Church -- and how one brave small boy stood up for justice. 

   • Co-written with BBC investigative reporter Darragh MacIntyre, this is a powerful exposé of the Irish church

About the Author
BRENDAN BOLAND grew up in Dundalk, Co Louth, Ireland. Today he lives with his wife and childhood sweetheart Martina in the UK, where he works with a multinational media group.

DARRAGH MacINTYRE is an award-winning investigative reporter with BBC Panorama, as well as a published author. He was the reporter and the presenter of the BBC Panorama programme, The Shame of Catholic Church, broadcast in May 2012. Originally from Celbridge, County Kildare, Darragh now lives in Belfast with his wife and two daughters.

Get your copy via these buy links:

p.s. You'll find me out guesting at my friend Francine Howarth's blog. She's asked me some brilliant questions, but also surprised me today by adding her excellent 5* reviews for all 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures! Catch the post at  (I really think she likes my writing *winks*)

Sunday 20 July 2014

Yep! It was a soaking day out!

Here's my account of my wet day, yesterday.

I rolled out of bed at seven o’clock - average for me, yet late for the organisers of the event I attended. Indeed, I know that some people involved in the event had camped out since Friday night (18th July).  

The main spectacle was ‘Roman Chariot Racing’ supported by other displays. There were demonstrations of Gladitorial Combat, Roman vs Medieval Battle tactics, Archery, Fire Performances, Costume Parades, Birds of Prey and much much more at my local National Trust for Scotland castle – Castle Fraser. 

Castle Fraser is only 4 miles from my home. It’s a fabulous little castle built in the Scottish baronial style and I visit it often to just walk in the grounds. I wanted to see all of the exciting activities planned for the event so  my family decided to make it a day out. 3 generations – granddad, my daughter and her husband and my 2 grandkids. As it happened I didn't join them for the whole time. Why not?


I set up a stall to sell my novels which are about Celtic warriors who are upended when the Ancient Roman Empire sends its forces to conquer all of Britannia- including my own part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. I’d been beavering away from Thursday making sure my Gazebo would look beautiful- my promotional materials self-printed and ready. The problem wasn't being unprepared – it was that Scottish weather thingy! Rain was predicted. On. Off. Light. Heavy.

As I left my house, it was cloudy, reasonably warm and dry. Stay positive, I thought -maybe it wouldn't be too bad.

Oh, oh. We arrived at the field where the stalls were being set up. I tried not to believe it but that insidious kind of moist low cloud – we call it haar in Aberdeenshire- had just started and was gravitating into fine misting rain. 15 minutes was all we needed to get the ‘Summer Gazebo’ up, and another 20 minutes for me to pin on my signs and set up my table. We all mucked in and a very nice brawny steward, Logan, helped my husband and son-in-law to set up the gazebo. I was so glad the rain seemed to have stopped during the erecting period. The anticipation was building since the 'gates' were about to open to allow in the attendees. 

I guess positive body language wasn't being thought of when my husband snapped this shot.  *smiley face  here*

The event began and visitors milled about but those thundery downpours that were predicted? They arrived good style. Inside my gazebo the first drips started.  Arrrgh!

Out came the plastic cover to go over the books because – guess what? My gazebo being shower proof does NOT mean real Scottish pouring proof. 

The planned events carried on regardless but the expected turnout didn't arrive. The Roman Gladiators did  their bit out in the rain and weren't bothered a hoot! The period costume through the ages display was wonderful. They got really wet but sadly were only seen by a few hundred people, not thousands. The display of horsemanship was being cheered by the spectators, though it was a thinner noise than was hoped for. I’m really glad the field wasn't too wet under-hoof since a cancellation of the display would have been so disappointing.

The eagles are flew beautifully and the handler was really pleased with his birds but while that was happening I was watching the fire eating duo, who were amazingly talented and funny. 

The rain went off again and it seemed a few more people appeared though the huge areas were still empty. I didn’t want to miss the Roman Chariots so my husband manned my stall. It was a great display from a professional company who are currently being filmed for ‘Game of Thrones’ series and other exciting films soon to hit the silver screen. I really enjoyed the chariot racing which is both skilled and hilariously entertaining.

The day seemed quite short, but that was because my family stayed all day to spell me at the stall so that I could see some of the action. Sadly, no matter how much I tried to be positive books do tend to get damp and wet and curl at the edges. Even worse is that people who are damp and wet are less inclined to linger to view the material sold at the stalls- and those who came in to shelter from the downpours only wanted to hang around and not buy.  My sale of novels wasn’t as great as might have been on a warm and sunny day. 

Would I go back today since the event runs for two days? The weather prediction was for rain/ heavy rain all morning till around 2 pm.

When we took down the gazebo last evening, it was showery damp and had to drip in our downstairs shower. Using a hairdryer to dry it off sounded just a bit too much effort so Day 2, for my stall, was abandoned. It was asking just too much of my paper books. Of course, the stallholders who are a bit more savvy have acquired themselves the heavy duty sort of shelters which can withstand the best of Scottish downpours! 

Nonetheless it was a great experience and I didn't want to miss the Chariot racing. 

Selling books at indoor events sound very pleasurable.  More on that later.


Friday 18 July 2014

Romans ride north!

Hurry - they're coming! 

Well, they are but I don't know exactly who, or how many, but the Roman Chariots are coming to Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, this Saturday- 19th July 2014.

I was going to go for a Fun Day Out to watch the spectacle of Roman chariot racing and all the other exciting displays that are planned, but instead I'm going to have a fun day in my gazebo. And the really exciting thing is that my gazebo will be pitched right alongside the Circus Fraserus - or whatever they name the chariot racing arena!

Since I aim to sell tons of books at the fair, I've been doing a bit of preparation. The stall is going to look tremendous and I'm going to totally forget the threat of rain, thunder and lightning.

I'm very anal but I actually like making bookmarks and busines cards and posters and signs and flyers- not all in the photo yet, but this isn't quite my complete stall layout. That's still to come.

Selling my Celtic Roman adventures, at a Roman Chariot Racing event at Castle Fraser, was just too good to pass up on. Especially since the castle is a stone's throw from Beinn Na Ciche (Bennachie), the mountain where my battle takes place between the Roman armies of Agricola and the Celts led by Calgach. Yes- it is largely following the Annals of Tacitus but I really do believe the battle was on Beinn Na Ciche (Bennachie).


Wednesday 16 July 2014

One size fits all?

One size fits all?

Not really and definitely not when it comes to designing author interview questions.

There are a number of different techniques that can be employed for creating the questions which might be asked during a guest author interview. 

I’ve a couple of sets of questions which are incredibly general and which I dip into when I will be meeting the author for the first time. In such a case, what questions might be the most interesting for me to pose? 

I'll be wanting my readers to get a general 'feel' for who the author is and what genre they write in. If the author writes science fiction, then I might be wanting to focus a bit more on where the author gets ideas from and perhaps if they are influenced by others who write in the same genre. My questions might also include:

What's your target audience?
What character traits does your favourite character have? 

Those questions often appear and reappear on numerous blogs - along with questions like: 

What is your hero's biggest challenge?

If the author writes romance only then the questions might include:

What does your heroine think when she first meets the hero?

Sometimes questions are repeated around the blogsphere because they are good questions, but at other times it’s because they are like DIY - they're ready to use.

Writing takes up a lot of time and takes up many forms across the day if you are an author. Creating new interview questions can be a challenge and can take longer than other tasks, especially when the blog host seeks some new slant on the questions or seeks to be more entertaining for the blog readers. If the questions are tailored to the author, or the work being promoted, then it can be even more time consuming – yet the rewards are in the interesting answers that come back.

I’ve written many guest author interviews over the last two years and some of the questions have been very difficult for me to answer. Sometimes that’s because they really haven’t suited my writing style or my pathway to publication, and others perhaps because my mood hasn’t been focused enough.
Today I’ve written 4 sets of interview questions which fall somewhere in between the types already mentioned. I have geared them to fit what I have learned about the author’s voice but unless I’ve actually read the book being promoted (if that is the reason for the guest appearance) I can’t be really as personal and targeted as I’d ideally like to be.

Sadly, it’s impossible to read all of the excellent books I’ve promoted on my blogs and I don’t try anymore, though I do still read a lot of them. 

What I've tried to do today is to encapsulate as much as possible of what I’ve learned of the author’s work- a snapshot within some general questions.

Look forward to some interesting interviews coming up soon.