Wednesday 30 September 2015

#Welcome Wednesday meets Sallustius Lucullus

Today’s #Welcome Wednesday slot is a little different. I’m welcoming a fairly shady character, not shady as in his traits are legally questionable (none that I know of, anyway), but it’s more that the historical character Sallustius Lucullus is a virtual unknown who was doing what I think was an unenviable job.

As an author of contemporary mysteries, I really love getting stuck into ‘what if’ scenarios and I love creating the situations to work around my mystery plots. The choice of first to third centuries northern Roman Britain, as my particular historical focus, throws up more mysteries and questions than I can find answers for—which is why it’s a fabulous time to write about. I crave archaeological evidence and interpretation to make sense of the thin-on-the-ground details that have been written about the period in northern Britain.

Sallustius Lucullus hovers in the background in my manuscript for Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series and plays a small role as Governor of Britannia from the beginning of AD 85. His tenure as Governor of Britannia isn’t actually known, but he plays his part in my novel till his 'execution' in AD 89.  

Lucullus is a mystery character, except from a reference to his death written by the historian Suetonius, but here’s a little historical background to what came before him…

Autumn AD 84 northern Britannia. (date approximate)

Gnaeus Julius Agricola—in command of the legions of Rome who were stationed in Britannia and also as the Governor of Britannia—marched his legions to northeast ‘Scotland’ where a large battle was fought against the barbarian Caledons. This ‘Battle of Mons Graupius’ was said to have taken place at an unnamed location—though if you’ve read After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks, Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour novels, you’ll know I favour the Aberdeenshire range of hills named Bennachie as the prime contender for the battle site. According to the only source for this, written by Cornelius Tacitus, the Roman death count was 360 and those of the Caledonians 10,000.

Soon after this fantastic victory, if the battle actually did happen, Agricola was recalled to Rome. If the battle details were accurate, Agricola would indeed have merited the honours given to him on his return to Rome in late AD 84, or early AD 85. Though not a ‘triumphal entry into Rome’, since it’s written that he entered Rome under cover of darkness, Agricola was awarded triumphal decorations and a statue which were still regarded as notably high honours, whether or not they were grudgingly given by the Emperor Domitian. (Tacitus’ opinion indicates that Emperor Domitian was jealous of Agricola’s achievements in Caledonia and he believes Domitian recalled Tacitus to Rome so that Agricola would no longer be a successful military rival in the troublesome spots of the Empire.)
Wikimedia commons - Domitian

Whatever Domitian’s reasons, having recalled Agricola to Rome, he had to appoint a successor as Governor of Britannia. Agricola had served an unusually long term of office having served some 6 years instead of the more normal 4 years as Governor, and also as Commander of the legions, in Britannia.

The Governor of Britannia (even with no direct military command) was a prestigious position.

Between AD 43 and Agricola in AD 78-84, the Governors of Britannia were all men who had served in some high capacities for the Roman Empire, either in the stricter military sense or as non-military officials in senior organisational employment. They had experience and varied skills and the post of Governor was a highly sought after job. From the limited texts available for the era, there were some names in Rome who may well have been hoping to be the next appointment for Britannia but that doesn’t seem to be what happened. The most likely, and, as yet, only known successor to Agricola is the enigmatic Sallustius Lucullus—a man with, as far as I can tell, no known background in Rome. That in itself is very unusual, I think. The circumstances of Sallustius Lucullus' death in AD 89 pr 90 are also highly interesting if the rumour put about by Suetonius (?) was true that Emperor Domitian had Lucullus put to death because he had dared to name a new type of lance after himself. 

At the same time as Agricola was recalled to Rome, a good quota of the legionary troops of Britannia was also redeployed in mainland Europe, sent to quell the unrest that was closer to Rome. So Agricola’s successor as governor had the job of maintaining peace in northeast Caledonia but he also had fewer troops at his disposal to do this. The remaining legions in Britannia had to spread a lot more thinly to ensure that southern Britain really was ‘Romanizing’ in a peaceable and successful manner, many recent civic reforms in the south having been started by Agricola. Maintaining control was especially true in the territory of the Ordovices and Daecangli (Wales) since they had recently been subdued to the point of almost annihilation by Agricola around AD 79, and it had taken considerable pressure from Agricola, and his predecessors Cerialis and Frontinus, during the years AD 71-80 to control the Brigantes of northern ‘England’. A reasonable degree of manpower was needed to maintain stability.

Recent archaeological evidence is pointing towards some (small forces) occupation of the north-east of Scotland for a few years after Agricola's northern campaign of AD 83/84, perhaps till around AD 90. It seems that if Agricola was immediately succeeded by Sallustius Lucullus, then Lucullus continued a small Roman presence as far north as the Moray Firth. The huge garrison fortress at Inchtuthil (Tayside) was intended, it's thought, to be a supplies base for any troops going further north and this appears to have been garrisoned till about AD 86/AD 87 after which a strategic withdrawal was made. If Lucullus was in post at this time, the gradual withdraw of the Roman presence from the north may have been because he decided the territory wasn't worth expending any more effort on. 

Though, in my Celtic Fervour Series book 4 manuscript, I have a few different ideas... 

And there is also the question of which governor built and maintained the Gask Ridge forts in Perthshire...but that's a topic for another day. 

However, Lucullus seems to have managed to continue to have some reduced Roman presence in the central belt and southern areas of Scotland, possibly by the Tungrian and Batavian auxiliaries who were said to have been the pivot for success at the Battle of Mons Graupius. (Later Vindolanda tablet evidence indicates the area was garrisoned by Tungri and Batavian troops.) 

Therefore when Lucullus (or another governor) withdrew all troops from the Aberdeenshire areas, perhaps the hope was that the Caledonians and 'Taexali' tribes ( name from Ptolemy's map approx AD 150)  wouldn't cause any trouble if left to their own devices.  

I think that the battle-crushed Caledonians of the north were left a lot less guarded than Agricola would have intended when he first set out to conquer the whole of the island of Britannia.

But back to Sallustius Lucullus. The supposition that Domitian chose a man who had some ‘native’ blood/ background as successor to Agricola as Governor of Britannia, is highly interesting and makes me wonder (and no doubt many before me) if Domitian had long since decided to focus Roman effort only on Romanising already firmly-held territory and that he had largely decided to abandon northern Britannia anyway. If Lucullus did have some blood connection to former Celtic nobility of southern Britain, then his attention would perhaps have been to deal with those territories he knew he'd be successful with and to give up on the 'barbarians' of the north who didn't even have large tribal centres (oppida/ cities) where he could impose Roman civic life, as was the case in southern Britannia. There is, so far as I know, no evidence of any really large Celtic forts in northern Scotland which would have been suitable centres of habitation  to be Romanised as easily those in southern Britain. 

By putting in a Governor of unknown background and ability, Emperor Domitian may have been more than testing Agricola’s successor. Perhaps the emperor believed that the smaller forces would be sufficient to control those who remained alive in the north. Or it may be that all that Domitian was prepared to agree to was to have the remaining troops in the north of Caledonia march their way as far north as they could, if not challenged too much by any remaining natives. Perhaps Domitian didn’t think that there was anything worth continuing to fight for in those northern areas and left any decisions to Lucullus. 

Again, whatever Domitian's reasoning, I suspect that the enigmatic Sallustius Lucullus wasn't in Domitian's favour in AD 89 (ish), when it seems Lucullus met a pretty nasty end under orders from Domitian.


Monday 28 September 2015

#Monday Moments with Insectipids!

Good morning, Monday!
(If you're inclined towards arachnophobia you might just want to read this very, very quickly. -  Just joking!)
My #Monday Moments are with a fellow Crooked Cat author, June Gundlack. June's a witty lady who has more than her fair share of difficult things to contend with in daily life, but she's taken time out to share her Teen/ YA science fiction/ fantasy novel Insectipids with us today.

I don't know about you, but I'm generally okay with spiders when they're in very small numbers. I can handle a wolf spider, or two, without taking off down the street screaming my head off. I even once had to hold a tarantula when 'The Bug Man' came to visit my class of nursery kids, back around 2011, but if there was a marching army of those spiders? I'm just not that sure.

So what's June's Insectipids all about? ...

It’s only a fly… 

Often ridiculed for being different was normal for young James Allen. 

He was used to it – until he found himself on the receiving end of a happy-slapping incident. This turned out to be the spur he needed to change his life and, in doing so, for him to make a difference to the rest of the world. 

Inspired by his secret childhood friend, Zoga, his decision takes him on adventures far and wide, introducing him to challenges most adults would cringe at or shy away from. 

A short while before his 16th birthday, James develops an increase in physical and mental powers. Energised by his drive and ability to think and act faster than most, he saves the world from the nemesis known as INSECTIPIDS. 

“It’s only a fly.” Those four simple words will forever be a reminder that ‘only’ could mean far worse… 

Insectipids - an inter-galactic adventure for young and young adult readers!

Buy from AMAZON UK

Here's a little about June:
June has enjoyed an interesting working life beginning as a medical secretary (which lasted for 24 years) before moving into legal and finance. 
During the day, June works in London. By night she scribbles stories.
Some of June's short stories have appeared in charity anthologies - 100 Stories for Queensland, Shambelurkling and Shambelurklers Return.
The Weekly News published her short story, Freddie Smith's Win. 
June writes about many day-to-day events, with a leaning towards humour and these often appear on the Letters pages in national press.
Inspiration for June's first novel, 'Insectipids', came from her nephew Ben and his friend James. Her love of adventure, mystery, challenge, theatre and music all play a part in the novel.

Find June at theses places: 
Thank you for sharing Insectipids today, June. Best wishes!

Saturday 26 September 2015

10 writing soars and 10 writing idles


Today is my 'every second Saturday' turn at posting on the Writing, Wranglers & Warriors Blog but since the post I've written for it is very dear to my heart...not to mention my nerves... I'm re-posting some of it here on my own blog. 

However, as I write this post it's one of those serendipitous (use of word as in unexpected) moments. I'm over the moon because THE BELTANE CHOICE, Book 1 of my Celtic Fervour Series, is a BESTSELLER again - currently storming back up the Amazon genre charts -Historical> Ancient World.   

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,976 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
But...Last night I wasn't feeling quite so elated as pondered what to write about: 

(A Reblogged variation of today's  Writing Wranglers and Warriors )

Wikimedia Commons- CC licence
...“What am I to write about for this Wranglers Blog?” Last night the muse hadn’t exactly fled but the topic I’d written about just wasn’t coming out right, so I did what all sensible authors do - I flicked TV channels as a distraction. Now, I have to say I watch almost no live TV, apart from news and local Scottish politics. Film watching is pretty rare but it just so happened that I flicked to the very beginning of a film I hadn’t seen before. “Olympus Has Fallen” was an interesting title, though it had zilch to do with my historical obsession about Ancient Romans... and sometimes Greeks! 

However, I’m quite partial to my fellow countryman Gerard Butler - even though films he’s in are pretty varied in quality and deliverance. I sat down to watch “Olympus Has Fallen” and it definitely had its moments.

Gerard Butler as Mike Banning (a disgraced member of the Presidential detail who has been sidelined to a desk job at the Treasury) almost one-handedly rescues the President and his son from an invasion of serious ‘baddies’ at The White House. My Paisley Buddy Gerard downplays the bloody, frenetic, shoot em’all dead action…just a tad, when he’s on the phone to his OH giving her an update. (I'm sure I can say my Paisley Buddy *wink, wink*  since I'm from just across the River Clyde from him) 

Try to picture this if you haven't seen the film: Banning’s slumped on the floor amidst a littering of dead bodies in the corridors of The White House. He’s having a catch-his-breath moment before he jumps up to complete his avenging rampage and this classic line comes forth after his worried OH asks something like “How has your day been, dear?”. Can you hear his breathy gravely voice saying
Wikimedia Commons

“Paperwork’s backing up…”

* smiley face here* At this point, I was grinning like a typical Glasgow eejit, and collapsing with a fit of the giggles. It really was a most memorable shoot em' up action flick! Full of dips and troughs, highs and lows...though mostly highs since it was an all-action thriller. (BTW I always like Morgan Freeman as well, who provides more of the calculating, slowing down the action dips or lulls in the film)

So, here are my... 10 soars and 10 idles of writing

10 Soars first…flying free and in no significant order.

  1. Procrastination (self-)Pats on the back: in other parlance…engrossed by new information, some of it useful but most not immediately relevant, though later on is another story. RESULT: Celebrate, but NO MORE coffee…
  2. Cheshire Cat Condition: the new WIP writing is flowing, building and you’ve written thousands of words and don’t care if it’s complete rubbish or not. RESULT; ICE CREAM TIME- with toffee bits…
  3. Free Fall excitement:  having written some really memorable phrases or paragraphs written (the ones you think you’ll remember forever but probably won’t!) RESULT: NEEDS real chocolate…and that means Cadbury's for me!
  4. Character Drool Disease: Falling in love with your characters as they develop into real live (on paper that is) people. RESULT:  PINTEREST gets a good airing…
  5. Final First draft eu(F)phoria:  eejit whooping, ear to ear grins, flinging the sheer exhaustion aside with that final flick of the finger. RESULT: TIME for wine…
  6. Edit Enjoyment: Yes…some authors actually like the nit picking of edits— at all stages. RESULT: NEEDS everything non-alcoholic…
  7. Cover Design revelations: Vague concept morphs into a design with massive impact. RESULT: DEFINITELY any/all of the above…
  8. Launch Day Live-it-up: Virtual or real book launch exhaustion. Keep a party going when you’re a typical recluse. RESULT: BREAK OPEN THE BUBBLY!
  9. Marketing Mania; find some stamina, frenzied anticipation when new marketing strategies seeing ebook sales rising RESULT: Bubbly if affordable!
  10. Parting with Print: delights of  selling paperback copies to customers at my craft fair venues RESULT: Post event celebrating with any/all of the above

And now for 10 niggly idles… Readers- please add your own 'RESULTS' and tell me in the comments box.
  • Wrist slaps: you’ve researched all day and not done ANY new writing.
  • Doldrum Diddling and lost at sea: AARgh – real life got in the way of the writing process; breakers too massive for surfboard riding and backward flips are as endless as the waves are predictable.
  • Baddies ain’t all bad syndrome: creating the balance of conflict in the WIP but even baddies can have some nice traits
  • Way past the sell by date: dissatisfaction over length of time to write 1st draft
  • Timeline Shock horror: painstaking tying up of unmatching loose cannons
  • Terror time: Is the MS really ready? Gut wrenching doubts before sending to the publisher
  • Design Dilemma: knowing what isn’t working for a cover design but not knowing what might
  • Balloon Burst Book Launch Blip:  soaring in the Amazon charts followed by the depression dip
  • Social media Sucks: that 80% social media drawdown on reserves—emotional and time drains
  • Book Sales Despair (i.e. lack of) : that nothing seems to make a difference feeling. 

So, what can you add as soars and idles during the writing process? I'd love to know...


Wednesday 23 September 2015

#Welcome Wednesday's guest is Nik Morton!

On my #Welcome Wednesday slot, I'm delighted to open the door to my return guest - Nik Morton. 

Nik Morton
Nik- a prolific author of different genres- has got some very wise words to share today and has also brought his varied, vibrant covers for us to get a feeling of those different types of stories.

I've read a few of his novels, some of those published by Crooked cat Publishing, and really enjoyed them. For me, those stories have a timeless quality about them that's explained very well by Nik in his post below. 

One of these days when I squeeze even more time into a day, I'll be reading one of his Western adventures because I'm sure I'll enjoy them, too- as well as the couple that I've also got waiting for me on my kindle.

I've no hesitation in recommending Nik's work as really engrossing and entertaining reading.

Over to you, Nik...

About character versus plot

One of those perennial questions I get is ‘do you prefer plot over character’ and my response is invariably that one without the other does not work.

A plot without character rarely holds a reader; it’s just an outline of events with no reader empathy. A character without a robust plot might interest the reader, but it will probably prove tedious unless the character is drawn very well indeed, such as by Jane Austen: her books are more about character than plot.

‘As in most of my writings I insist not on the events but on their effect upon the person in the tale.’ – Joseph Conrad’s note to Typhoon and other stories

I’m a bit old-fashioned. I like my stories (whether short or novel length) to have a beginning, a middle and an end. That is not to say I always start a story at its chronological beginning – it may start some way through a dramatic event, thrusting the protagonist into a dilemma straight away; that’s the hook for the reader to read on; then the beginning comes along in a quiet moment of exposition. The middle has to contain developments that create problems for the protagonist, getting in the way of her or his goal. And then there is the denouement – though that too can leave it open to sequels, so long as the main storyline obstacle has been overcome or resolved.

All of the foregoing requires plotting. I’m a believer in using a plot-plan. I expend a 15-page chapter on it in my book Write a Western in 30 Days. That doesn’t mean I know everything that is going to happen – only the characters are privy to that! It does mean I have a road-map to a destination.

Having said that, the plot-plan is nothing without engaging characters. Part of the fun in writing a novel is developing characters and writing back-stories for them. Some will interact (in the past as well as in the story), while others may have only minor but crucial walk-on roles.

The adage is ‘write about what you know’. There are several interpretations of this. One is: get to know your characters. I don’t always know them too well when I begin, though I’ve sketched out their physical descriptions and a few personal traits to make them distinctive. As the story moves forward, however, and the characters get involved with each other, fresh traits materialise – and I update my character list.

Throughout the story, characters ‘do things’. But that falls into ‘tell’, not ‘show’. Even a minor character has to have motivation for doing whatever it is they do in the story – whether that’s payment for work, pay-back for a past insult, revenge, jealousy, hate or even for altruistic reasons. Motivation is ‘show’ through their point of view, their inner self.

Cause and effect; that’s Joseph Conrad’s purpose, to show how his characters respond to events. That helps pose useful questions while writing: Why is she doing this? Why did he say that? What can be gained from him doing this? Is that logical? Of course, not every action and reaction made by an individual is logical – but if it isn’t, then there must be a personality trait to explain the illogicality.

Whether I’m writing about half-English half-Spanish private eye Leon Cazador (Spanish Eye), the 1970s psychic spy Tana Standish (The Prague Papers and The Tehran Text), Laura Reid and Andrew Kirby (Blood of the Dragon Trees) or Catherine Vibrissae, the ‘Avenging Cat’ (Catalyst and Catacomb), I have built up a file on each individual character, their descriptions, traits and connections, and as their series stories evolve the details accumulate further, as in life.

I’ve admired a few classic illustrations of authors, surrounded by their many creations – Charles Dickens and Edgar Rice Burroughs spring to mind – and I can empathise with that image. Some of these characters are in stasis, waiting for their next adventure, one or two more impatient than others. If the men in white coats don’t pay me a visit, perhaps I will stop to hear what these insistent characters have to say.

Nik’s second ‘Avenging Cat’ novel, Catacomb is due out from Crooked Cat Publishing on October 20, 2015.

Twitter - @nik_morton

Amazon UK links to Nik’s books

Amazon COM links to Nik’s books

Thank you, Nik, for sharing your post today. I'm a bit old fashioned, too, in that I like to read a story with the parts you've outlined where the whole plot weaves around some great characters. I read Catalyst a few months ago and I'm eagerly awaiting the next book in the series- Catacomb. Best wishes, and please come back again when it releases to share some details about it. 


Tuesday 22 September 2015

Cassius Dio’s Crazy (?) Maths

Wikimedia commons
The Taexali Game whisks 3 teens back in time to AD 210, to north- east Scotland during an era when the Ancient Roman Emperor Severus marched approximately 30 thousand soldiers in his legions all the way to the north east of Scotland.

I set the number to around 30,000 in my novel based on the estimated sizes of the marching camps at Kintore (44 ha/hectares) and Durno (58 ha). During the invasion of Agricola, and probably also during the era of Emperor Severus, those camps were very large—Durno being the largest Roman camp in Scotland that’s ever been found.

The ancient historian Cassius Dio’s version is that the Emperor Severus lost a ‘full fifty thousand’ troops during guerrilla warfare skirmishes with the northern barbarians (Maeatae and Caledonians) though no major battles occurred during those northern campaigns of Severus. Losing 50,000 soldiers en route north seems a tad unrealistic since that, to me, would entail Emperor Severus having had a lot more than that to start with on his northern Britannia campaign. 50,000 men would have been more than 8 legions lost to those guerrilla war faring Celtic tribes.

The total quota of legions across the Roman Empire during the Severan era, also according to Cassius Dio, was 33 legions, encompassing around 198,000-200,000 men. That would have meant that Emperor Severus would have had to have deployed around a quarter of the whole Roman Army to be in Britannia to engage in quelling the Caledonian barbarians.

From most sources we have to go on, the general amount of legions stationed in Britannia (post-AD 43) was 4—approximately 24,000 men. It seemed that deployment in Britannia demanded those 4 legions to quell the natives on the western fringes of the Empire. It appears to have been a constant need, but when there was trouble in Europe some of the troops were often redeployed elsewhere. That situation seemed to have happened during Agricolan times because General Agricola, and probably his successor, had barely begun to settle the natives of the north-eastern area (Scotland) when the troops were withdrawn, possibly to fight in Germania.

The Caledonian barbarians were a troublesome bunch, indeed. Emperor Septimius Severus came to northern Britannia to teach them a lesson they’d not forget in a hurry. Having been a constant thorn in the side of Rome those Maeatae and Caledonians were probably decimated when Severus did march to the Moray Firth. His policy was brutal …but more of that another day.

If you're quick you'll be able to grab an ecopy of The Taexali Game for 99p this week, during the special promotion (99c / 0.99 Euros on Amazon)

Monday 21 September 2015

#Monday Moments are with The Taexali Game in Roman Scotland

Good Morning Monday!

My #Monday Moments slot this week focuses on my time travelling trio who go back to AD 210 in The Taexali Game. 

When the story opens, the three thirteen year olds—Aran, Brian and Fianna—believe they're playing a virtual adventure game and have to work out the mystery of where they have travelled to, as well as cope with what's happening around them. 

The target location of the game is northern Britannia, AD 210. It's a topographical location they know very well- once they work out the differences that many, many centuries can make. They soon find out that the main threat to the landscape isn't a 21st century one of man destroying the ancient environment with chemicals or bombs; or with over-population in urban areas; or with building programmes which build over archaeological remains laid down millennia ago. 

The threat back in northern Britain, in AD 210, is one of Ancient Roman expansion. It's a time when the ancient Emperor Severus is determined to extend the boundaries and frontiers of the Ancient Roman Empire. His indomitable plan is to conquer the last bastion of resistance on the western front of the Empire- that of the Maetae ( Miathi) and Caledonian tribal federations. 
(Roman Emperor Severus - under CC licence British Museum)

In The Taexali Game, the three time travellers find that the Roman Emperor Severus has marched his legions northwards and have reached what is now called Aberdeenshire, his intent being more than to dominate the local Celtic tribes. His policy is that of slash and burn—leave the land so damaged the locals can gain nothing from it…for decades, or maybe even centuries.

Everyone loves playing advanced interactive computer games, don’t they?

Callum Fraser’s games are totally awesome but when his Rubidium Time-Leap flips Aran Bruce and his best friends—Brian and Fianna Fraser—back to AD 210, the reality is incredible. They have a task list to fulfil, which includes solving a local mystery, but it’s a nightmarish business when Ancient Roman Emperor Severus and his legions heap death and destruction on the Taexali Celts of northern Britannia.

Giving help to Celts and Romans alike becomes a lethal assignment—some Celtic chiefs are as foul as Severus and his beastly son Caracalla. Dicing with death becomes the norm for the time travellers from Kintore, Aberdeenshire.

Will they complete the mission and return to Callum unscathed?

The Taexali Game is on special offer just now for ONLY 99p/ 99c/0.99 euros across the AMAZON network. 

 Click HERE to buy.


Friday 18 September 2015

#Familiarise Friday meets LiDar Surveying

My #Familiarise Friday slot is quite different today.

LiDar Surveying used by archaeologists is still relatively rare in Scotland but I was fortunate to go to a talk last night by Gordon Noble at the Bailies of Bennachie AGM in Inverurie, north-east Scotland. I now know what great potential such surveying has—though it still needs the methodical archaeological hand and footwork on the ground to 'prove' what appears in the high definition 3D imaging.

I had thought LiDar to be a newish technique but found out it has been around since the 1960s, though not used in the archaeological sense at that time. In the 1960s, LiDar was developed to detect submarines from aircraft.

Today, a LiDar system would generally consist of a LiDar sensor, a GPS receiver, onboard computer and data collection systems - sometimes with an IMU inertia measurement unit as well. A very simplified version of the technique would be that a laser beam is pulsed onto a mirror and projected downwards to the ground, the mirror generally on a fixed wing of an aircraft- aeroplane or helicopter. As the aircraft flies over the area to be surveyed, the beam scans from side to side so quickly I can’t really relate to—some 20 thousand to 150 thousand points per second. When the beam hits an object on the ground it is reflected back to the mirror. The resulting data is processed and a high resolution 3D map/model of the surveyed area can be made.  

This site HERE has a more complex explanation. 

LiDar wasn’t used in the 1976 survey the north-east of Scotland but regular aerial imagery/photography was. At the time, the more simple aerial photography produced some fantastic new evidence for ancient forts and enclosures. The summers leading up to 1976 had been particularly dry in the area and it was as a result of this that crop marking seen in the aerial surveying was so successful in 1976 for identifying ancient uses of the land.

This was great news for me in my current field of study because it highlighted more about the Roman temporary camps than had been detected by archaeologist on the ground, prior to the surveying of north-east Scotland in 1976. taken 1976
One of the faint lines in the image above isn't a field area marker, but is the line of the ditch/rampart of the Roman Marching Camp at Deer's Den, Kintore. Just above the first 'h' of the URL for the Canmore site ( my thanks to Canmore ) is the south western corner of the very large 44 hectare Roman temporary camp.

The difference between the above type of regular aerial photography and LiDar surveying is that LiDar beams can show what has been ‘happening’ almost everywhere on the ground surveyed. Even in dense forestry areas it indicates where earth has been disturbed because the LIDar ‘blocks out’ any buildings or structures of some height. To be able to detect ancient uses of land UNDER forestry areas is amazing and the potential therefore, I believe, has to be higher for the archaeologist studying such areas.

I can't provide an image yet on this blog (Copyright restrictions)  but HERE is a site where you can see more of the archaeological use of LiDar,

Cost is always a factor in any archaeological surveying, but if that could be organised there might be a wealth of information which could be uncovered, details which will make us understand much better how the people lived hundreds, and even thousands, of years ago.

The implications for me as an author is that I'll be keenly watching out for more information on the local LiDar survey results. So far, Gordon Noble and his team have identified structures (hillforts)  in the Rhynie area as being post Roman era in north east Scotland of 5th/6th century AD. Since I'm presently more interested in the period of 1st to 3rd centuries AD, I'm eagerly awaiting knowledge from any further LiDar surveying of northeast Scotland which might provide new information on the late Iron Age eras.

I'm always happy to re-write parts of the draft of book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series should anything interesting crop up!


Thursday 17 September 2015

Book Launch advice from Catriona King!

Happy Thursday, everyone.

I've another guest this week - a fellow author from the Crooked Cat cattery. Catriona King's here to share some excellent tips for those embarking on a debut book launch, or even for other authors who maybe haven't tried a virtual launch, as yet. With a lot of novels published in a short time, Catriona knows exactly what preparation can be done. 

Welcome back, Catriona! 

Hi, Nancy. Thank you so much for inviting me on your blog.

To paraphrase William Shakespeare: to book launch or not to book launch, that is the question. And here’s another question; should you have a real life launch or a virtual one?  This is a topic particularly close to my heart at the moment, having just released two new novels, The Sixth Estate and The Sect.

In my time I’ve released a total of twelve novels; eleven featuring the detective Marc Craig, and a standalone thriller. For all of those novels I’ve had a launch, an event that says to the world “here it is, my new baby” subtext “please buy it” (often while completely forgetting to mention where people could do so!). Here’s what I’ve learned.

I’ve had real life book launches; hiring a venue, inviting everyone I know and their friends, organising drinks, nibbles and goodie bags with an excitement previously reserved for children’s birthday parties (except with different goodies of course). They were fun, but nerve wracking. Stressing about having enough books, a pen that actually worked to sign them with, an ample supply of alcohol and, of course, whether anyone would actually turn up or I would be left with a mountain of glossy covered pages crying into my Shiraz, with just a sympathetic waiter to sob to. It was a constant anxiety trip for the week beforehand!

Thankfully things worked out well and once people had arrived they were chatty, lively evenings spent surrounded by old friends and new, the only stressful part being when I was asked to actually read from my books! So real life book launches can work but they’re nerve wracking and expensive, even with the support of your publisher, and sadly your readers from far away are unlikely to attend.

Compare that to virtual or online book launches. What are they and how are they even possible? Can you really engage people properly in a virtual world, when you’re competing with television, radio, movies, their kids, the need to cook dinner and feed said offspring, the siren call of the wine bar etc.? After so many launches I would say the answer is a resounding yes, but there are definitely things that can help make an online launch a success.

Advertise: Spread the work about your launch on social media for the couple of weeks beforehand or no-one will remember to come. Make sure your readers from far and wide are alerted. The joy of an online launch is that everyone, irrespective of geography, can attend.

Timing: I used to run all day launches; my advice would be not to. You wouldn’t stand in a wine bar all day hoping that people would drop in; if you did your liver could suffer. So I now confine my online launches to four hours. I can focus and give it my all for that long, I don’t get writer’s cramp, dry eyes and a sore back from hunching over a computer, and I don’t get blamed for hogging the broadband.

Also on timing; pick your time of day and the day of the week carefully. Research has shown that the end of the week is best for holding people’s attention online and that launching in the late afternoon/early evening helps, although of course if you have readers in different parts of the world that can be challenging, so if you pick a median time range that’s best.

P.S. Don’t forget to post the time of the launch in different time zones. You may be a UK or USA based author but your readers elsewhere can feel left out if you don’t refer to their time zones, e.g. 4pm GMT is 12pm WST and 9am PT, and so on.

Content: How can you engage people effectively online? My advice would be to make your launch visual, musical and interactive. Post trailers, videos, pictures and songs, but check the copyright before you do. Make it fun for the people who drop in. I’ve found that quizzes with decent prizes engage people best, so plan ahead, get decent questions (your readers are very smart and they will get bored if the questions are too easy) and reward your readers with worthwhile prizes, however small.

Sense the mood of the launch; speed things up if it’s lagging, slow it down if things are running too fast and, above all, stick to timings, people have busy lives and they’re giving up their time to support you. Also, remember to leave the launch page open for a few days to pick up on any commenters posting late and respond to them. If you’re offering prizes post the list of winners within a few days.

What not to do: Don’t start late, if you’ve said 4pm stick to it. Try not to go on and on about your books during your launch, unless someone asks you a specific question. People already know about them; that’s why they dropped in. Similarly, don’t talk about how many copies you’ve sold, where you are in the Amazon rankings etc. etc. By all means post snippets and trailers but parties aren’t about the hard sell.

Above all, remember that your launch is meant to be a party. So relax, enjoy it and have fun. And remember, with virtual launches you won’t have to do the dishes when your guests have gone!

Links for Catriona 
Amazon UK 

Catriona King is a doctor/ manager who trained as a police Forensic Medical examiner. She has worked closely with the Police on many occasions. In recent years, she has lived in Belfast, basing her Craig Crime Series of novels there.

'A Limited Justice', her first novel, was released in August 2012 in paperback and eBook to five star reviews. A second novel in the Craig thriller series 'The Grass Tattoo' was released in December 2012. The third in the series, 'The Visitor', was released in March 2013, a fourth 'The Waiting Room' in May 2013 and the fifth book in the Series 'The Broken Shore' was released in December 2013. Books six and seven in the Craig series called 'The Slowest Cut' and 'The Coercion Key' respectively were released in June and August 2014. Craig eight 'The Careless Word' was released in November 2014 and book nine 'The History' in April 2015.
Two new Craig novels, 'The Sixth Estate' and 'The Sect' were released on 11th September 2015.
Catriona has also released a standalone thriller set in New York City called 'The Carbon Trail'. An action packed espionage thriller with adventure, intrigue and romance.

That was great advice for those new to book launches, and for some authors who might not have tried an online virtual one. Thanks for visiting, Catriona, and best wishes for great sales of your latest Craig Crime novel. 


Wednesday 16 September 2015

#Welcome Wednesday guest is Shani Struthers!


Shani Struthers
#Welcome Wednesday hosts a return guest Shani Struthers. If you've not read Shani's work, I'm sure you'll enjoy her exciting paranormal mysteries - I certainly did. She's here to explain what she's made up and what she's found useful, so over to Shani... 

The Fact and the Fiction
     They say write what you know, that way you write with authority. And I adhere to that adage, to a certain extent, but I also mix fact with fiction. Yep, not everything I write is spawned from the realms of imagination!

In my Psychic Surveys series – exciting paranormal mysteries – I talk about real-life psychic cleansing practices, the crystals that are used, the herbs and oils, the frame of mind you must be in before attempting to send a spirit into the light, as well as the once living and breathing members of the Occult, some well known, some more obscure. Cynthia Hart, who haunts Highdown Hall, is also based on a real-life character, a film star from the golden age of movies and the house she once lived in in East Sussex. A friend of a friend inherited her house and I learnt of his ‘dark’ experiences a few years ago. Experiences I knew would one day make a great story! 

     In Rise to Me, there is reference to Aleister Crowley – the notorious Beast of Britain, who died in 1947; Dion Fortune, a prominent occultist, author, psychologist, teacher, artist and mystic, who also died in the 1940s, as well as Alexandra David-Neel and her work with tulpas – thought forms made manifest. Not only integral to the plot, these people moulded the plot, particularly Fortune’s work during World War II, whereupon she and white witches up and down the country entered a battle on psychic planes against the Nazis – sending thoughts out across land and ocean to repel them and keep the shores of Britain safe. Their tireless work was held responsible in part for Rudolf Hess’s plane crashing in Scotland in 1941 after he journeyed here in order to broker a secret peace deal between Germany and England. Researching this, I was surprised to find out just how much the Occult was involved during World War I and II, for the practice of both good and evil.

     In the prequel to The Haunting of Highdown Hall and Rise to Me – Eve – due out in November 2015, I have also drawn from real-life events, this time the sad case of the many miners and their family members who died in the upper rooms of a market hall on Christmas Eve when false shouts of ‘fire’ from below caused widespread panic culminating in a stampede for the exit. At the time, there was strife between the miners and the management and the finger of blame pointed firmly towards the management. Nobody was ever found guilty, however, and no one ever came forward to confess – all this took place in the early 20th century. Whilst writing Eve – setting it in Yorkshire rather than America – I had to decide if my ‘perpetrator’ was to remain a mystery too, after all, the power is in the writer’s hands to change, manipulate and twist the truth. You’ll have to read the book to see whether I did or not but there are definitely times when fact is much stranger than fiction and you think to yourself “I couldn’t have made that up if I tried!

Click to buy: 

Coming soon…

Find Shani Struthers at these places:  
Facebook Author Page:

Thank you for your guest post today, Shani, and best wishes for great success with all of your writing. 


Tuesday 15 September 2015

#Win a signed paperback

Good morning Tuesday!

As promised on Sunday, the opportunity now begins for you to ENTER to #WIN a signed paperback version of my time travel novel The Taexali Game. You'll have until noon (UK time) Friday 18th September to enter. The option is worldwide. 

All you need to do is 

  • Sign Up to my Newsletter on the right sidebar of this blog

and 'Like'  my 

After doing the signing up and 'FB liking', please leave your name and a way of contacting you in the Comments section of this blog to be entered into the Random Draw which will take place on Friday 18th September 2015 at noon (UK time).

Good luck and ...

Monday 14 September 2015

Monday Moments shares Alchemy and Shaman's Drum.

Monday Moments are with Ailsa Abraham! 

Even though she's presently on a wonderful jaunt around Europe, visiting exciting parts which I've personally never been to yet, Ailsa Abraham has sent on information for this Monday Moments slot. 

Ailsa's a very welcome return guest on this blog and, in case you missed her work before, you can read about her two Crooked Cat novels. These are classified on Amazon as in the science fiction /low fantasy genre. I think there's more to them than that- but you'd need to read them yourself to decide what you'd call them. If you click the link below, you'll also find that Ailsa's published in various flash fiction and short story anthologies - if you prefer a shorter read in between reading your novels. 

Book 1 Alchemy 
...we learn about a discovery that will change the world. It's used as a bargaining chip for solving modern problems but this arrangement backfires, leaving two lovers from opposite sides of the spiritual track to battle on with the forces of evil. 

 A world without war? Professor Sawhele Fielding stumbles across an invention that would change the world; something so monumental, it could spell the end of environmental disaster and conflict. With the help of her father, a shadowy figure in the world of international banking, she begins to set into motion the biggest upheaval the planet has seen.  But in a changed world, dark forces are threatening the fragile peace. Where modern technology is proving useless, old magic from a bygone era might just save the day. Adrian Oliver, expert in ancient religions is skeptical until faced with incontrovertible proof that ancient evil is abroad once again. How could a Utopian dream of free fuel and peaceful co-existence turn into a nightmare? Iamo, a priest of the Mother Goddess and Riga, a Black Shaman assassin captain, are thrown together - reluctantly at first - to face a threat that nobody could have imagined before "The Changes". ALCHEMY is the prequel to Shaman's Drum which features the adventures of Iamo and Riga through their world in the near future, where the established religions of our own days had been banned. 

Book 2 Shaman's Drum
...England in the near future. Mainstream religions have been outlawed, and the old gods rule again. Iamo has been a priest of the Great Mother and is sworn to celibacy, but his love for Riga, a Black Shaman, a magical assassin, caused him to break his vows. After being imprisoned apart from each other for three years, Iamo accepts an offer to earn them both a pardon and the possibility of marriage. If they survive. Iamo and Riga must discover why demons are breaking through from the other side. Which of the cults are renegades who allow the demons through? Who can they trust? Combining their powers, they face the ordeal with the help of a band of eclectic pagans, spirit creatures, Riga's Black Shaman brothers, an undercover Christian granny, and three unusually energetic Goths. It's a tough assignment, but the hope of a life together keeps them fighting.

Click the link to buy
 - Ailsa's  books on your Amazon site automatically!

Bio Ailsa Abraham has worked at more jobs than she can remember, finally ending up teaching English in France over twenty years ago. Now on early retirement due to health problems she can devote herself to her passion for writing.

Her other interests include campaigning for animal welfare, motorbikes and studying ancient and modern religions. Her passion for genuine ritual practices are reflected in her writing.

Working under two pen-names she has published six books.

Thank you for sharing with us today, Ailsa. Best wishes for great success with all of your writing. 

Sunday 13 September 2015

#99p this week for The Taexali Game!

Happy late Sunday wishes to you!

I've been very busy today:
1. Popping in to give a tiny bit of help at a birthday party which included around 24 kids aged 4 months to about 7 years, most of them around 4 years old. All beautifully behaved kids, certainly when I was around!
2. Finishing off my PowerPoint presentation for a local author talk.
3. Doing some overdue garden tasks
4. Cooking the dinner, which I don't often do these days.

That's all very domestic information but...
in honour of me doing the first of my Ancient Romans in Scotland author talks tomorrow night, I've reduced the price of the ebook version of THE TAEXALI GAME on Amazon UK to a bargain price of 99p for the whole week.

Check the link here and please let me know if it works for you, regardless of which Amazon outlet you're buying from (though, of course,  the others will not be 99p)

If you're anywhere near Kintore, Aberdeenshire pop inot my talk at the Kintore Library 7 p.m. It's FREE and I can guarantee that it's full of amazing information. 

****Look out for a competition on Tuesday 15th September to WIN a signed paperback version of THE TAEXALI GAME! ****


Saturday 12 September 2015

Blog guesting!

Happy Saturday wishes to you.

It's been an extremely busy week during which I've been transferring files from my old laptop to an external hard disk before loading up some things onto my shiny new laptop! 

As well as disentangling loads of facts and files, I've been writing a series of author talks for local bookings. This has meant reminding myself how to create a PowerPoint Presentation, something I've not done since around 2007/8.

I was also guest blogging at 2 places on Friday 11th Sept. - different posts about the plot and characters in TAKE ME NOW. Hop on over and read about them at Miriam Drori and Claire Stibbe 's Blogs.

I'm also out today at my every second Saturday Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog where that new laptop is the subject! Read that HERE.


Monday 7 September 2015

#Monday Moments with Shani Struthers

My #Monday Moments are with my Crooked Cat author friend Shani Struthers - a great way to kick off the day and the week to come. 

Shani's been on a lovely holiday to the U.S. but she's given me plenty to share with you about The Haunting of Highdown Hall. The banner above's an impressive one- don't you think?

The sun's shining here in my part of Scotland and there's not a spooky cloud in sight, but that's no problem because today's featured novel will immediately plunge you into the depths of the mystery. 

Having read this entertaining novel I can thoroughly recommend it because Shani has a very neat way of introducing the psychic into the mystery of the novel. Pick up a copy - you won't be disappointed!

Here's what it's about: 

'Good morning, Psychic Surveys. How can I help?’ 
The latest in a long line of psychically-gifted females, Ruby Davis can see through the veil that separates this world and the next, helping grounded souls to move towards the light - or 'home' as Ruby calls it. Not just a job for Ruby, it's a crusade and one she wants to bring to the High Street. Psychic Surveys is born. 

Based in Lewes, East Sussex, Ruby and her team of freelance psychics have been kept busy of late. Specialising in domestic cases, their solid reputation is spreading - it's not just the dead that can rest in peace but the living too. All is threatened when Ruby receives a call from the irate new owner of Highdown Hall. Film star Cynthia Hart is still in residence, despite having died in 1958. 

Winter deepens and so does the mystery surrounding Cynthia. She insists the devil is blocking her path to the light long after Psychic Surveys have 'disproved' it. Investigating her apparently unblemished background, Ruby is pulled further and further into Cynthia's world and the darkness that now inhabits it. 

For the first time in her career, Ruby's deepest beliefs are challenged. Does evil truly exist? And if so, is it the most relentless force of all?

Buy Links

Facebook Author Page:

Author Bio
Born and bred in the sunny seaside town of Brighton, one of the first literary conundrums Shani had to deal with was her own name - Shani can be pronounced in a variety of ways but in this instance it's Shay-nee not Shar-ney or Shan-ni - although she does indeed know a Shanni - just to confuse matters further! Hobbies include reading and writing - so no surprises there. After graduating from Sussex University with a degree in English and American Literature, Shani became a freelance copywriter. Twenty years later, the day job includes crafting novels too. Writing both contemporary fiction and paranormal mystery, she is the author of The Runaway Year and The Runaway Ex, both published by Omnific Publishing. Her paranormal work is published by Crooked Cat Publishing and includes Jessamine and the bestselling Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall and Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me. All are available on Amazon.
The Return - published June 2015 - is the third in the Runaway series but can also be read as a standalone.
Coming soon: Eve: A Christmas Ghost Story.

Thanks for sharing it with us today, Shani! Best wishes with your Psychic Surveys series.