Friday, 31 January 2014

Reviews are so welcome!



Hello!

I've been super-occupied with various domestic things this last week but it's a true delight to receive a wonderful review of your work. This 5* review for The Beltane Choice, Book 2 of my Celtic Fervour Series, has been posted today at The Book Maven I'd like to take the opportunity to give a huge thanks to the reviewer.

Book Maven says: 
"...As I wrote the synopsis for this book, it really hit me how much of this story can be compared to Romeo and Juliet.  Most readers love a good will they or won’t they story and this one set in the early dawns of AD definitely will entice readers.  Nara and Lorcan’s love story is one for the ages.  I adored their chemistry, but with Nara’s fiestiness and Lorcan’s obstenance they are wonderful.  It’s not just Nara and Lorcan though.  Their story would be mundane if it wasn’t for the historical elements of Roman invaders and rival clans.  I think Nancy Jardine did an excellent job in illustrating the historical climate of the time and also adding in the additional socioeconomic customs of the clans.  Things would be very different for both Nara and Lorcan if they weren’t born to who they were born.   Overall, this is a great historical romance that will captivate the reader.  I can’t wait to pick up Nancy Jardine’s  next novel.  I’m sure it will be equally romantic and historically captivating."

Wishing you a great Friday - I know it's already great for me.
Slainthe! 

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Meet Brennus-my Celtic Warrior



I don't have an author guest on Welcome Wednesday today, so instead I've invited someone from my novels to be featured.  

www.123rf.com
If you haven't already had the pleasure, meet Brennus of Garrigill who features in my Celtic Fervour series- in Book 1 The Beltane Choice and in Book 2 After Whorl: Bran Reborn, which is in the running for The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. 

The following is taken from notes made during my launch tour for After Whorl: Bran Reborn.

Kick-start your imagination and whizz back to AD 71 with me, to join Brennus as he faces the disciplined soldiers of the IX Legion of the Roman Army. You may be wondering that the novels are historical romantic adventures and say what's romantic about that, but romance does feature in my novels as well!

Where is Brennus doing battle? If you've read the first book of the series, The Beltane Choice, you'll recognise that my battle between the Roman Empire and the Celts of Brigantia is named Whorl. book 2 is entitled After Whorl: Bran Reborn.  The third book of the series, which will be launched in spring 2014, is entitled After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks - so what’s Whorl about?

Historically speaking was there a battle at Whorl? Not that I know of, but Latin historians like Tacitus and Livy wrote that in AD 71 the Celtic tribes of the Brigantes waged war in many battles and smaller skirmishes against the Roman Empire- unwilling to have the Romans dominate them.

Whorlton is an actual town in North Yorkshire, England, and isn’t so far from a place called Stanwick. Stanwick is very important in Celtic British history since the Brigante King Venutius’ oppidum was there - his very large roundhouse settlement populated by many congregated warriors in AD 71 (according to Tacitus). An oppidum equates to the closest description of a town in Celtic terms.

After Whorl: Bran Reborn begins on those bloody battlegrounds. So, join me please to meet Brennus, my Garrigill warrior. What does he look like? 

Wikimedia Commons- Gledel

Acquiring free use images isn't simple, but I can imagine my Garrigill warriors being dressed on a daily basis somewhat similar to the warrior on the right in this image. The sash seen here might possibly be a cloak draped thus for ease of carrying during the day when not yet needed. 

The helmet worn by the left warrior is more appropriate to those worn by continental European Celts, at a much earlier era from Brennus. This style of helmet was copied by the Roman Army from an early Celtic style and was adopted by the Republican Army much earlier than AD 71. I don't imagine my Garrigill warriors wearing these. 

Some interpreters of the classical references of Livy and Tacitus, and of some ancient marble statues, have decided that Celts went to battle completely naked. While the idea is quite stirring, I have to say that, as a Scot used to the vagaries of harsh weather, I imagine that would have been far too cold in October, in northern England. The men may have been hardy specimens but their attention needed to be on battle fervour and not on the disabling physical discomfort of numbing cold.

I prefer to have my Brennus wearing braccae - the typical loose, patterned, woollen trousers kept tight at the calves by thongs, though the things are not displayed in the above image. Flapping trousers hampering battle success doesn't seem practical, so my Brennus has his tight and snug against his calves. 

His powerful torso would be naked from the waist up; a tattoo here or there softening the starkness- though I think his skin would be well weathered and tanned. His hair would be spiked, the expression of battle fury on his face making his handsome features blur with a ‘terrifying aspect’ (Tacitus). It’s thought that, no matter the hair colour, Celtic warriors used a paste which included lime on their hair to make the shorter strands on the crown stand upright - proud and fierce – giving rise to the image that they were all light or fair haired. However, genetically speaking, this doesn’t seem to be the case and some re-enacters have claimed lime paste is far too abrasive and burns the scalp very badly. Nonetheless, as the practice of liming has been commented on by Roman historians, I believe something would have been used to spike the hair.

Brennus is a Garrigill prince, meaning he is the son of a chief. As such, his elevated status would give him the right to wear a golden torque around his throat, the round finial stops of the wide band sitting just below his collarbones. A matching wide gold armband might also be worn around one bicep. Both would be intricately wrought, the patterning impressive. 

I had to think long and hard about whether Brennus and his brothers of Garrigill would wear their badges of regalia in battle at Whorl, and have decided that they probably would, as it was an excellent way of identifying a corpse after the event - if the body hadn't been scavenged by any maurauding Romans first. Brennus, however, has not left from Garrigill to do battle since he had gone to visit the Crannogs of Gyptus. I don't see him wearing his gold for what was meant to be a short visit to gather information from Gyptus. His torque and armband would have been left safe at Garrigill in the roundhouse of his father, Tully. Conversely, I do think Brennus' brother, Lorcan, would have worn his torque since he was an emissary of his tribe and would perhaps have constantly worn his.

A long oval Celtic shield, brandished in front of Brennus, provided protection for most of his torso. The long spear held aloft was always just ready to launch, after which he would whip out his long Celtic broad sword from its scabbard.

In The Beltane Choice Brennus is described as being very tall, a colossus of a warrior, and his shock of blond hair attractive, so I imagine Brennus to be something around the six and a half feet mark. When Brennus does battle at Whorl, he is flanked fellow Brigantes - though not his brothers - as circumstances have decreed they all go to battle at Whorl from different locations.

The Celts liked to have a low hill to amass their warriors on, with flatter ground below them for their many war chariots. Brennus' brother Gabrond was the most skilled charioteer of Garrigill and was the one responsible for the horse handlers of Garrigill. As such Gabrond would be on the flatter ground amongst the many gathered two-wheeled, two person chariots: the chariot driver accompanied by a super skilled spearman. This flatter area also accommodated mounted warriors to the left and right flanks of the charioteers. The main Celtic foot warriors were stacked up on the rising ground behind the mounted forces.

Brennus' brother Lorcan would normally have been amongst the mounted warriors of Garrigill as the highest ranking one, but since Lorcan did not leave for battle from Garrigill he is with the warriors from the north-east coast where he had gone just prior to battle.  Brennus would also have been mounted had he been fighting alongside his brothers, but as he has approached the battleground at Whorl with Grond from the Crannogs of Gyptus he is on foot.

Here’s a little peek from the beginning of After Whorl: Bran Reborn:

Fóghnaidh mi dhut! I really will finish you! I have you now, invading scum!”
            Another couple of whacks would have the shield gone. The Roman auxiliary’s arm already showed signs of fatigue as Brennus slashed below the man’s chain link protection, his full power backing each blow of his long Celtic sword. The man was brawny, a practised opponent at the edge of the tight cluster of Roman bodies, but was much smaller than he was and rapidly weakened. Brennus knew the advantage he had. A drained grin slid into a grimace of pain as his sword jarred on the Roman gladius when the soldier’s stab interrupted another of his blows, the impact juddering his weakened elbow, an injury sustained with a previous combatant.
            Diùbhadh! Scum!”
            The gladius flashed upwards. To reach his head the angle of the auxiliary’s attack had to be higher than the usual, demanding a different force to succeed, and the Roman just did not have the strength any more.
            A cry of frustration emerged from the Roman, the clenched teeth an indicator of the man’s tenacity as the gladius prodded forward yet again. Brennus understood none of the man’s tongue, the battle ground not the place for meaningful talk, but the intent was clear.
            “Come! Come forward! A ghlaoic! You fool!” Brennus’ hollering taunts and crude ridiculing gestures gained him a little ground as the auxiliary broke free of the rigid formation, desperate to gain conquest over yet another Celtic adversary, the shorter gladius slashing and nipping at his chest but not quite breaking the skin.
            The tight group of Roman soldiers had been almost impossible to breach; their raised cover of shields an impenetrable barrier. He had been toying with and provoking this particular soldier for long, long moments. Yet, even with his superior strength, he knew he could not sustain such weighty combat for much longer either, before he would need to retreat to regain his reserves of vigour – though only a little more wearing down of the man’s resistance should be enough. He knew that from an earlier experience. Drawing breath from deep inside he slipped back a pace, and then another as if giving up the pursuit.
            “Come forward, you piece of Roman horse dung! You demand the blood of the Celts? Let it be so! Have mine!”
            Powerless to resist the lure the Roman soldier surged at his bidding, his shield swinging, his gladius jabbing. One last twisted swipe of Brennus’ longer Celtic sword detached the blade-nicked shield from his foe and sent it sailing aside. Abruptly unguarded, the auxiliary pulled his gladius in front of his rippling mail in a futile attempt to cover his chest.
            “Too late!” Brennus’ snort rang out as he whacked the soldier’s fist with his shield when his opponent readied his blade for another stab. It was enough: all the leverage needed to topple his foe. Witnessing the Roman’s slithering attempts to right himself he allowed an exultant smirk to break free, knowing victory would be his over this particular rival. “Death to all of the invaders!”
            The sounds of battle all around him seemed all the sweeter as he slashed his blade towards the Roman’s vulnerable neck, the man’s cloth wrap having unfurled from under the chin during the tussle. It was the weakest part of his well equipped adversary that was uncovered above the waist. He knew that a blow to the head was wasteful since the glinting copper-flapped helmet fit tight around the Roman’s skull.            His first swipe was met with the flailing gladius, the clang and screeches of blade on blade an exhilarating challenge. Triumphant warmth flashed through him, the sweat of the combat a bitter taste in his mouth as it streamed his face. The auxiliary was doomed as Brennus spat through his teeth, “I hate every last one of you!”
            The shrieking, the neighing and squealing behind him he ignored, the battlefield noises a tremendous din all around. The stench – of heated combat; of the blood tang and of faeces of man and horse; of the already putrid reek of entrails; of the stale sweat and battle lust essences – he also disregarded. His attention was only on his quarry as he felt the edge of his sword slice in under the man’s chin. He prepared himself for the spurt of warm blood that showered on him as he angled his neck away from the first gushes.
            What was totally unexpected was the crushing mass that slammed into his back, so powerful it lifted him off his feet and propelled him onto the blinking gladius he had successfully parried.
            “By Taranis …” His yell muffled into a spluttering squelch. “An cù! The bastard!”
            Down he went, onto the slippery blood drenched grass, his sword sliding fully through the auxiliary’s neck. His dead opponent softened his fall only partially since the horse that had slumped into him followed on at his rear. As the agonised cries of men and the squealing of the horse echoed around, his fist relinquished the grip on his sword, the blade having snapped on skidding impact with the ground. The frantic, writhing animal that pinned him to the Roman gladius totally overpowered him. Devastating agony seared at his back; blood filled muck crammed his mouth. A blinding white-red haze gave way to darkness.
            Felled by a mighty powerful beast, and not that Roman blade, was Brennus’ last thought.



Slainthe! 

Monday, 27 January 2014

Happy haggis Monday to you!



Hello and a happy Monday to you! 

Haggis is my topic of the day but not a repeat of my recent Burns Supper haggis- this time I'm referring to Ancient Roman haggis.

Yes! The Ancient Romans really did eat haggis! 

Okay! Maybe not quite the variety seen in this image but to me, as a history geek, I get a real kick out of equating something like haggis as being a Roman invention. 

It’s fantastic!



 
My Roman Tribune - Gaius Livanus Valerius – who appears in Books 2 and 3 of my Celtic Fervour series might well have been eating haggis almost two thousand years ago when he was in northern Britannia.

I love haggis. I admit it, but the fact is there are many people like me who love being Scottish, yet they hate haggis. They hate the taste of it. They hate the ‘mushed-up’ look of it. They hate the peppery smell of it. They hate that it might be a ‘cheap-option’ meal. They just plain hate the idea of it. There’s just something about haggis that appeals to some, and not to others.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Soay_sheep_lamb.png
Now, if I was eating a gorgeous little lamb, that lovely little creature, would it make any difference to me that it gambols around the field? I doubt it. Baby sheep can be cute, but I’m a bit of a carnivore - I am quite partial to a lamb chop but equally happy to eat other bits of the sheep as well as you’ll find out. I have someone who is very close family, and very dear to me, who can’t bear the thought of eating anything ‘lamb’ but would eat chicken or a big fat steak at the drop of a hat.  Personally, I can’t understand that philosophy.

The type of sheep, of the Soay variety,  is thought to be similar to those which were farmed 2000 years ago by the Celts of northern Britain.

 
But… back to haggis and my Roman Tribune!

The world over, haggis has had the reputation of being a Scottish dish but, sadly, it’s a myth. In reality, in my part of north-east Scotland, forms of haggis have been around since the ancient Romans marched their troops northwards all the way up Britain. Perhaps the Celts, who lived in Scotland, pre-Roman invasion, also cooked some form of haggis but sadly, we have no Celtic written sources which would categorically prove that.

What is definitely known from written sources is that the Ancient Greeks and Romans made a form of haggis, as have other ancient cultures. The Ancient Romans were lovers of the sausage, their form of haggis being to them ‘just another sausage’ – a mixture of meat and grains bagged up and cooked in the gut of a sheep, or cow, or pig. 

What is haggis? Why might the Roman soldiers who feature in After Whorl:  Bran Reborn have brought it to Scotland?

Preservation of useful animal products is essential in communities who have no form of refrigeration. Traditional haggis is basically animal offal mixed with cereals and some seasoning, tightly wrapped in a skin- the usual in Scottish recipes being the stomach of a sheep. Sheep breeds in northern Britannia AD 71 would have been more like the Soay sheep that are still found on some Scottish islands. They tend to be smaller than contemporary breeds but would have produced adequate ingredients for haggis.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scotland_Haggis.jpg
Offal deteriorates very quickly and must either be consumed almost immediately or preserved in some way to keep it healthy for human consumption. Haggis was a perfect way of extending the ‘shelf life’ of the offal from a couple of days to more like a couple of weeks.

Years ago when I first prepared haggis it was in a real sheep’s stomach. In Scotland, nowadays, they are more often sold in a plastic skin, the contents already cooked so that it’s more of a reheating process that’s necessary. 
 
What would the cook for my Roman tribune in After Whorl: Bran Reborn have used, if not the products of a sheep? 

If not sheep, he may have used chicken, or veal, or perhaps young deer instead to make a roman version of a sausage haggis. I imagine that garlic would be added by my Roman chef since there’s evidence that garlic was shipped to Britannia. And along with salt and pepper, he would likely have added some herbs – perhaps a hint of rosemary, sage or thyme. Bag it up and take it on campaign? I rather think the Romans would have done that, too! 

My tribune, Gaius Livanus Valerius, would not have eaten the tatties (potatoes) you see in this photo as they didn't arrive on Britannia's shores till many centuries later. Root crops were grown by Celtic farmers though whether, or not, they had the 'orange fleshed' neeps (turnips) that you see here is a question I'd love a definite answer to. Maybe the Romans introduced the orange variety to Britannia as well as other vegetables? 

Slainthe!


 





Sunday, 26 January 2014

Burns Day - One day late...

Yesterday was 'Burns Day'.

Nancy Jardine
In my house, while I was growing up, Burns Day wasn't celebrated with haggis, neeps and tatties- though we did ocassionally eat that at other times throughout the year. However, Robert Burns, the poet, was celebrated in meaningful way throughout the year when my father sang his songs.

Sometimes, it didn't take much for the singing mood to come upon my dad and he would sing away as he worked at something, like polishing his boots- something that was repetitive and needed no actual thought.

Dad had a fine tenor voice, eminently suited for the Burns' songs he loved to sing. On the occasions when he was just whiling away the time of day it didn't matter if he faltered with any of the words of the songs, he'd just keep going with mouth music till he remembered another line or verse. On occasions, when my mum and dad had a gathering of family, or neighbours, in the house- for a special occasion or just a 'get together' - his forgetting of the words was more crucial. He'd get annoyed with himself when he faltered and would look to my mother who prompted him, sometimes singing along with his solo for a few bars. Mum always remembered the words and her contralto voice matched his - albeit in much deeper tones.

He loved all the songs he sang, but his favourites were 'Ae Fond Kiss' and 'My Love is like a  Red, Red, Rose'. Naturally, 'Auld Lang Syne' got a good airing at New Year as did this one...



Nancy Jardine
A Man's A Man For A' That
By Robert Burns

Is there for honest Poverty    
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave—we pass him by,    We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.    
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,    
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,  
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;    
A Man's a Man for a' that: For a' that, and a' that, Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,    
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,    
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Wikimedia Commons
Alexander Naysmith (1758-1840)
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,    
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,    
His ribband, star, an' a' that;
The man o' independent mind    
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,    
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,   
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,    
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,    
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,    
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,    
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,    
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,    
Wikimedia Commons
Shall brothers be for a' that. 



One of my favourite Burns songs is John Anderson My Jo. As a child I learned
a traditional tune version of it, and have always thought it a most poignant, lovely song. Only much later, as an adult, did I learn that some people claim Burns took a well know bawdy song of the time (probably around the 1780s) and put his own loving version to it. (The bawdy version can be accessed elsewhere on the web but not on this blog.)

People have made differing interpretations on what the poem is about. Some think it refers to a love that is everlasting, right to the grave, as a couple age. Others have thought it was written to celebrate the friendship and camaraderie shared by ‘boozing’ buddies. Whatever, I love the words…and I love the old traditional tune.

John Anderson My Jo
Wikimedia Commons

John Anderson my jo, John,
  When we were first acquent,
Your locks were like the raven,
  Your bonnie brow was brent;
But now your brow is beld, John,
  Your locks are liked the snaw.
But blessing on your frosty pow,
  John Anderson, my jo!

John Anderson my jo, John,
  We clamb the hill thegither,
And monie a cantie day, John
  We’ve had wi’ ane anither;
Now we maun totter down, John,
  And hand in hand we’ll go.
And sleep thegither at the foot,
  John Anderson, my Jo.

The edition here of the works of Robert Burns was given to me as 'The Headmaster's Prize' for Girls' Vice~Captain, school session 1969-1970. I chose this book as my prize sensing that I would use it in the years to come...and I was definitely correct. It is a well used source!

The wall plaques seen above are plates which I inherited from my mother, who in turn had acquired them via family sources. They are made by Staffordshire potter 'Ridgeway'. They may have been made around 1910 but till someone can verify that, I can only guess. The image of Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr,  is as it was back then and now quite how it looks now. It's now part of the buildings overseen by The National Trust for Scotland and is quite spruced up for the many visitors who come to see it every year. 

They were two of a collection of Burns plaques but I have no idea how many different images Ridgeway produced. One of those unanswered questions over the years. I only ever remember there being two of them in my mother's house. 

Sadly, the plates are not in perfect condition since they have been hanging on one wall, or another, for many many years! The Burns image has a noticeable chip and the glaze on both is a bit crazed. Nonetheless they have hung on my present kitchen wall for the last 25 years and I have no intention of removing them anythime soon!

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PG_1063Burns_Naysmithcrop.jpg
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Geburtshaus_RobertBurns_3_10x15.jpg
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Burns_on_Ayr_Postcard_1899.jpg

Slainthe!

Friday, 24 January 2014

AFTER WHORL: BRAN REBORN is entered for THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION!

Hello, and very happy Friday wishes to you!


Surprises can sometimes seem unsettling and at others they can be so overwhelmingly exciting. I just heard, yesterday, that Book 2 of my Celtic Fervour series of historical romantic adventures- AFTER WHORL: BRAN REBORN - has been entered for THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION and that is definitely overwhelmingly exciting! It's the biggest competition for historical writing in the UK (not to mention the ultimate prize of £25,000!)

Unlike The People's Book Prize, which has a result driven purely by the amount of votes from the public that a book receives (my Topaz Eyes is entered for this), the Walter Scott Prize has a judging panel of people involved. They read the books (I've no idea how many they start with); whittle the pile down to a shortlist of around 6; and then a winner and 'runner-up' are chosen.

Crooked Cat Publishing has entered three historical novels for The Walter Scott Prize and the competition we'll meet will expectedly be fierce. My congratulations to Mark Patton, and Carol Hedges, for also being entered!

The judging has begun so we wait now till sometime in April when the next stage happens - a shortlist announcement.


Nothing ventured - nothing gained! I'm fairly terrified but also very pleased and highly excited that my publisher has deemed my novel sufficiently good to enter this competition.It means that I'm 'in the running' for it!

There's only one thing which is marring my joy today and that is that I've picked up a sore throat, have a disgusting headache and tickly ears. More coffee won't get rid of the cold symptoms, but my second cup will perk me up for more writerly tasks.

 I'll leave you with the linky for The Walter Scott Prize Details... Just in case you might be interested in seeing what it's all about. *smiley face here*

http://www.bordersbookfestival.org/walter-scott-prize

Wishing you a good Friday.

Slainthe!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Kindle Daily Deal - Her knight in Black Leather 99cents on Amazon US

J. M. Stewart has popped in, today, with 'Her Knight in Black Leather' which is having a very special day. Here's Joanne to explain...


Her Knight in Black Leather is today’s Kindle Daily Deal! That means for TODAY ONLY it’s only 99 cents on Amazon!

For fun, because it’s also the one year anniversary of the book, I’m sharing a never before seen excerpt. During the submission process, I submitted the book to Harlequin Desire, who requested revisions (obviously, they rejected). So, the snippet below is part of the original plotline, before I made the changes the editor requested.

Blurb:

Cat Edwards has spent her life playing the wallflower in an effort to escape the repressive weight of her mother’s tarnished name. Dragged to a bar by her best friend in an effort to forget a broken heart, the shy bookworm is determined to be someone else for the night, but quickly gets in over her head. She discovers chivalry isn’t dead after all when a mysterious stranger comes to her rescue. He’s wearing black leather and a mischievous smile that promises to be exactly what she needs.



When his terminally ill father suffers a setback, Michael Brant returns to the town he swore ten years ago he’d never return to. He’s come back this time determined to make peace with the past, but being home brings up memories he doesn’t want to remember anymore. His first night in town, he’s captured by a damsel in distress. Cat’s beauty is made all the more alluring when he realizes she has no idea who he is. He can’t resist spending a single night in her arms. With her, he’s only a man, disconnected from his family’s name and the past that haunts him here.



As the town erupts with the news of his return, Michael’s dark past comes back to haunt him, putting Cat in danger. Someone is threatening her life and the life of her family. Desperate to keep history from repeating itself, Michael offers her his family’s name in order to keep her safe. When the lie spirals beyond their control, can they stop their hearts from becoming entangled as well?

Excerpt:

Twenty minutes later, Michael stared at the gold numbers adorning Cat’s apartment door. Taking a deep breath, he knocked then shoved his hands into his jacket pockets. Anxiety twisted in his stomach as he waited. He had no idea what the hell to say to her. He only knew he had to try.

A minute later, the door opened. A small blonde appeared, wearing a pair of cut-off jeans and a halter top a size too small. Cat’s roommate, Lisa. He remembered her from the first night he met Cat at the bar. Cat pointed her out on the dance floor, but they’d never met. He’d known Cat a month now and never managed to meet her roommate. Somehow that felt wrong.

He opened his mouth, to voice the question seated on his tongue, the entire reason he’d come over, but Lisa shook her head. “She doesn’t want to see you. I’ve got strict orders not to let you in. I’m sorry. She said she thinks it’s better this way.”

She wouldn’t see him. He blew out a heavy breath.

Lisa wordlessly turned from the door, padded across the room and plucked a small box off the kitchen table then rejoined him and held it out to him. “She also said to give you this.”

The engagement ring.

He could only stare at her outstretched hand. He should’ve expected it but somehow its significance still managed to hit like a punch to the gut. Over the last month, he’d felt closer to Cat than any woman he’d ever known. Now he might as well be in L.A. for as far apart as they felt. He’d hurt her and he hated himself for it. The question was, would she forgive him for being a complete fool? Some small part of him hoped she would.

Lisa stared at him, her gaze hardening. “She loves you, you know.”

Hope swelled to life in his chest. “Did she say that?”

Lisa shook her head. “No, but she doesn’t have to. She wasn’t this miserable when she found out about Nick. You’re leaving and it’s breaking her heart. It’s why she gave the ring back. She doesn’t want any reminders of you when you’re gone.”

She folded her arms across her chest, her brow furrowing.

“Just because she won't leave her dad and fly halfway around the world with you, doesn't mean her heart doesn't feel it. Men. You're so damn blind sometimes. She's doing this because she loves her father, because she has more reason to trust him right now than you.”

Michael sighed. He wasn’t surprised by Lisa’s reaction. “Look, God knows I’m doing this all wrong. When I asked her to go with me and she refused, I was prepared to leave it at that. I thought maybe it was for the best. The last thing I wanted was for her to have to leave her home.”

“You could have stayed, you know.”

Michael looked at his feet for a moment, the truth swirling like acid in his gut. “Haven’t you ever been afraid of anything?”

“You’re afraid of her?”

Michael drew a deep breath and looked up. “What I feel for her scares the hell out of me.”

Lisa arched a disbelieving brow. “So, why are you here?”

“Because the thought of leaving her makes my gut ache. I have something I need to tell her. It might not get me anywhere, but I have to say it. I’d rather not do it over the phone or through the door.”

Lisa’s features relaxed a fraction, but the distrust didn’t disappear from her eyes. “What is it you have to tell her?”

Michael shook his head. “That’s for her and her alone. I’d rather say it to her face.”

Lisa dropped her arms to her sides, her stiff posture relaxing. One corner of her mouth twitched with her effort to hold back a smile, but amusement brightened her eyes, giving her away. “You’re in love with her.”

Michael smiled. He hadn’t intended to tell anyone but Cat. She ought to be the first to hear the news. That Lisa figured it out had a knot in his chest unraveling. “Very much. I’m not sure I know how to live without her. At this point, I don’t expect her to want to see me. I might as well have told her she wasn’t worth staying for. So, whether or not she even wants to see me has to be her decision. If she does, tell her I’ll be at the bar until nine. Will you tell her?”

Lisa finally allowed the smile to take over her face. “Tell her yourself, cowboy. She’s at the bookshop.”

Michael playfully rolled his eyes. “You couldn’t have told me that from the beginning?”

About the Author:
JM writes sweet and heartwarming contemporary romance with a touch of passion. She’s a wife, a mother, a spiritualist, and lover of puppies, and happily addicted to coffee and chocolate. She lives in the Great Rainy Northwest with her husband of sixteen years and their two sons. She’s a hopeless romantic who believe everybody should have their happily-ever-after and has been devouring romance novels for as long as she can remember. Writing them has become her passion.

99 cent buy link on Amazon: http://amzn.com/B00AWWZVBE

Buy links elsewhere (my apologies. I don’t mean to exclude anybody, but Kindle Daily Deal is an Amazon exclusive sale and I have no control over pricing):
Barnes and Noble
iTunes
Kobo
All Romance ebooks
Crimson Romance
Where you can find her on the web:
Website: http://authorjmstewart.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/JMStewartWriter
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Author-JM-Stewart/129990420383155
Blog: http://jm-stewart.blogspot.com/
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3159044.J_M_Stewart


Thanks for popping in today, Joanne. I really enjoyed the above excerpt! Best wishes with 'Her Knight in Black Leather' and its special daily deal.  

Slainthe!

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Jane Bwye is interviewed on Welcome Wednesday!




Today, I'm delighted to welcome Jane Bwye. 

I know Jane as a fellow Crooked Cat author, but didn’t get much time to speak to her at our Crooked Cat author Edinburgh gathering in June 2013 about what fills her days. We can now get to know her better...

Hello, Jane. Novel writing tends to be fitted in around other daily life. Can you tell us if you have any other work that demands a lot of your time on a daily, or weekly, basis?

Over the past year, Nancy, I have tried to fit in novel writing with doing too many other things, and ended up rushing from one to another without do anything properly. The days seem to get shorter every year – not only in winter. So, for 2014 I’ve resolved to say no more often and cut down where possible. Writing will be my principal occupation. My charity work takes two days a week, and I judge dressage at weekends. The rest is play, and I’ve even cut down on that.

I understand and appreciate your plan, Jane. My own intentions are to somehow fit in more time for writing in 2014 - though the needs of my family will also remain a very important part of my days. Some authors rise really early to fit in some writing time, others write in the evenings after their main work day is over. I, personally, have to fit in my writing time around two main occupations which are fixed and regular childminding days, and gardening ad hoc when the weather is good.  I don’t feel I have any particular ‘productive’ time of day, but what about you? Do you have a time slot that you feel is your most fruitful writing one?
I think I’m a bit like you, Nancy. I have done some fruitful writing early in the morning, but find it difficult to wake up on a regular basis, and then feel so tired by early evening. After 5pm the muse just does not work. I can spend a whole day writing (punctuated by a walk in the fresh air), and edit piecemeal whenever there’s a spare couple of hours. But my life is not geared for a regular daily schedule.

Since the official launch of your debut novel, Breath of Africa (a book I really enjoyed), I imagine you’ve learned a thing or two about what an author needs to do next. Can you tell us what you have found has been of the greatest personal satisfaction to you, amongst all the different strategies you’ve recently learned to market your novel?
Only once have I had the pleasure of talking about myself as an author and reading excerpts from my novel. I wish I had more opportunities, for the questions and interest gave me a  real buzz. But next time (yes, there will be one next time, in January 2015 – would you believe it!) I’ll make sure to bring enough books with me.

I'm going to try for more author talks/ readings, too, in 2014. What else have you felt you needed to try with regard to publicity and marketing of Breath of Africa?
That’s a very big question!
Most of my sales have been the e-book version. I have become fairly comfortable networking in Facebook groups.
I made an effort to “work” at Twitter on a regular basis for a while, but after an experiment tweeting every hour for a couple of days, to absolutely no effect, I lost interest. Although when I took the time to cultivate like-minded tweeters with apt remarks and attempted witticisms I did attract a few hits on my website. But it is a great time waster, and I’d rather spend the time writing.
Press releases (I’ve achieved two!) have generated little flutters of interest, and may even lead in unexpected directions (Our local MP is on at me about forming a gathering of ex-East Africans!)
Advertising in a local magazine was absolutely not cost-effective.
And taking part in a pop-up shop was little better, although it was exciting to rub shoulders with famous authors.
I enjoyed my two book-signings, but despite notices and advertising (free and paid for) the turnout was disappointing.
I’ve made myself some “bookmarks” with blurb about Breath of Africa, and always have some in my handbag. I’m becoming quite adept at handing them out to casual acquaintances who ask what I do: saves me droning on as their eyes mist over. I leave 4-5 every week at a Fair Trade market stall which sells gift items from the tropics. I even gave them a paper copy once, and it was snapped up immediately. They said the cover went well with the theme of the stall.
I belong to several clubs and societies, and am on the Committee of a couple. I am convinced the little blurb I’ve put at the bottom of my emails have generated a few sales, certainly when sending out Christmas messages.
Oh, yes – I donated a book to a couple of raffles, which generated a few sales to the unlucky ones.
Finally, in desperation at the tardiness of my local library, I have donated four copies to them. But their computer system has been changed, and there’s no manual, so everything is delayed until they can figure out how to work it! Oh, well – I suppose it will come right eventually.

I think we have to think very positively about the little successes we might make with regard to our marketing strategies, Jane. As you indicate with your Library situation- not all will happen immediately! Which marketing tasks are you managing to do on a regular basis?
I’ve had a regular Tuesday blog for over a year now, which has turned into a platform for guest bloggers. This month, in keeping with my resolution to act as a “real” writer, I have added a Friday travel blog, covering my Round-the-World Walkabout in 2001-02, which generated a record number of hits on my website with the first episode.   

Excellent idea using a travel blog! (It's so good I might even pinch it and do a travel blog myself, since I try to include places I've been to in my novels.) 

I know of a few self-published authors who have changed the categories that their work has been labelled under across Amazon, because they feel they’ll make more sales that way. What genre niche do you think your novel fits into? And do you feel it’s listed in the best ‘category’?
I wish there were an African Historical Fiction category in amazon.co.uk – like there is on amazon.com. On the few occasions when I’ve sold 1 or 2 e-books on .com, I find I’m up there rubbing shoulders with the likes of Wilbur Smith in the top 50’s and 60’s!

You’ve managed to get a good clutch of reviews on Amazon UK for Breath of Africa, something that not many of us, as authors, are able to do – Do you have any advice to give on how that has transpired?
Networking with other authors and book lovers, Nancy! And buying their books and writing reviews. I guess I’m lucky – I feel bereft if I haven’t got a book to hand, and it’s no hard labour to jot down a few notes as I read. I really loved your book The Beltane Choice!
But several people who have been to Africa have also felt the urge to write about their nostalgia when reading my book, so I guess it’s the subject matter too.

Well done, Jane! I'm delighted that you're getting good results with reviewing other authors and receiving reviews. I'm finding that my reading slot has dwindled to a fraction of the reading I used to do - blogging, marketing, and writing sucking up my time! Yet, I'm enjoying the blogging - though, in all honesty, not all of the marketing.

2014 has just dawned. What have you on the plans for continued marketing of Breath of Africa? Will you aim for more internet publicity; or will you aim for presence that is more physical at local bookstores, for signing or author talks?
Once Breath of Africa is on the Lightning Source distribution list, Nancy, I’ll aim for a more physical presence, and attend more ex-African get-togethers. The majority of my potential readers struggle with the internet, and even I prefer to hold a real book in my  hands.

Your answers have been fantastic, Jane- candid and very helpful. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.
What a lovely conversation we’ve had, Nancy. I have enjoyed being your guest, and look forward to meeting you again some time.

Maybe later this year, Jane? It will be a pleasure to have more time with you. 

You'll find Jane at these places:

Website: http://janebwye.com/

Best wishes with all of your book sales, Jane, and thank you so much for visiting my Welcome Wednesday slot. 

Slainthe!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sunday Share

Sunday again, and since I'm busy visiting relatives I'm posting a Sunday share from my first ancestral tree based mystery - MONOGAMY TWIST.


Luke Salieri has been bequeathed a manor house in Yorkshire, England. The state of it is slightly dilapidated but that's the easiest part of the problem for him. He had never met, nor ever heard of, Amelia Greywood - wonders why she has left her precious property and contents to him, but more importantly he wonders why she has set such Dickensian conditions to the bequest.

This novel was inspired from me watching a then current BBC serial and me beginning my Ancestry researches.





“Rhia!” he snorted instead. “Of course it will. How could I ignore such a valuable property?”
Rejection and then disappointment flashed across her lovely face before she answered, “You’ve lost me.” Her gaze drew away. “Do you want it or not?”
“Rhia, please take heed,” Luke sighed, his voice enticing her to turn back. He didn’t dare touch her. And he did want it…but knew that wasn’t what she meant. He didn’t dare use his fingertips to turn her delectable little chin toward him, for he knew one fingering would never be enough. “It would be a crying shame to leave that house to rot for another fifty years. It’s a valuable house and valuable land. It could be converted to multiple uses for corporate business, or as a hotel facility.”
“Ah…future revenues?” Her eyes held that astutely impressive derision again.
His face crept closer, his lips only a pout away. “Rhia, you wouldn’t want to be responsible for that house to fall into even more disrepair, that house you’ve already professed to love? Would you?”
She was floundering like a non-swimmer in a forest puddle, indecision hovering over her gorgeous eyes. He was confident she couldn’t resist him. His libido kicked in triple time, but his resolve quadrupled.
“Would you want that on your conscience? Knowing it was your fault it happened?”
My fault?”
He knew his propinquity was keeping her spellbound, but by her glower she wasn’t taking the flack. Her disgusted expression informed him in no uncertain terms what she thought about his last words.
Slainthe!