Friday, 31 July 2015

Monogamy Twist's Skipton...

My romantic mystery settings...

Choosing the settings/locations for any novel can be one of the most exciting aspects to consider. In my contemporary novels, I’ve been able to let fly the opportunity to use beautiful locations I’ve enjoyed visiting, sharing some of their exciting details with my readers—yet the choice of these has been easier for some of my novels than for others.

The plot for Monogamy Twist came about as a result of watching a current serialisation of a Charles Dickens novel on TV, whilst I was doing ancestry research for my own family background. I hankered to try writing an 'easy read' contemporary novel as a break from my historical work and it was such an effortless decision to settle on a simple plot along the lines of a bizarre Dickensian style bequest of a substantial, yet dilapidated, house to a very surprised recipient. The mystery would be in the ancestral details and the romance would blossom as a result of the ridiculously archaic bequest conditions. The humour would transpire as a result of the outlandish details of the will. 

But where, I wondered, would be a suitable setting for all that to be credible in a contemporary novel?

Some of the locations Dickens used in his novels were very remote, often almost deserted. Sticking to the traditional, I decided I wanted somewhere in the UK for my novel that could be considered relatively isolated in the twenty first century and still a reasonable trek from London the 'people hub'. I thought of somewhere in Scotland—Caithness perhaps? You don't get much more remote than that on the mainland but I rejected that location pretty quickly because the ‘Dickensian-ness’ (if such a word can be coined) of the plot, I felt, needed the setting to be in England.

After pondering and dithering, rightly or wrongly, I thought that if a substantial house was left in a time warp for many decades it would probably be more credible in the north of England than in the south.

Skipton Castle  -Wikimedia commons
Some vague memories of coach travel in the picturesque rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales during the 1960s resurfaced. The perfect place!

An unspecific setting was settled on: a rambling estate on the periphery of the Yorkshire Dales. I make mention of a few towns which are considered to be not far away from Greywood Hall (Monogamy Twist's bequeathed house). Some of those places are real and some imagined, but in my mind’s eye they were ideal town settings in contrast to a rather 'emptier' very rural estate.

The Rowley collection
Skipton (one of the authentic places mentioned ) is a lovely town with a long history going way back, in fact it’s recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. I couldn’t study images of Skipton back then, but I was able to access images of Skipton during the lateVictorian and Edwardian eras. Those decades play a reasonably major part in the plot as Rhia delves into the history of Greywood Hall and into the ancestry of Amelia Greywood who has bequeathed the Hall to a very surprised Luke Salieri who had never heard of the woman.

In describing some of the Victorian and Edwardian furnishings in the house, I could imagine the occupants of Greywood Hall in both the interior settings and in the surrounding locale.

1911 The Rowley Collection
One of the minor, yet crucial, characters is from Skipton. Though he barely gets a mention, his part is extremely important to the reliability of the mystery.

Getting the timelines correct in an ancestral based mystery is quite painstaking but absolutely essential because the mystery is solved via the tiny details and those ducks have to be perfectly in the row.

In Monogamy Twist, 1911 features as a year when many pivotal things happen to the family of Greywood Hall. 

In reality, 1911 was the year of the Coronation of George V. In the Rowley Collection of photographs, there are some lovely shots taken in 1911 of the market town of Skipton. Browsing through collections like this one is just one of the diversions I've been known to take during the writing of my novels. 

I really enjoyed the mix of writing a contemporary novel which included historical details—even though I had originally set out to write a contemporary story as a break from historical writing! 


Thursday, 30 July 2015

Thursday Spotlight- Eat Crow and Die by Maris Soule

Hello! Today I'm spotlighting Eat Crow and Die by Maris Soule. Maris is a new guest on my blog, so I extend a hearty welcome to her. She's sharing information on her mystery suspense novel Eat Crow and Die (Book 3 of her P.J. Benson Mystery Series). There's a great excerpt to read and a chance to WIN a $15 Amazon Gift Card. Look out for those details later in the post. 

The plot of the novel sounds a really intriguing one...but first, a little about Maris:
Writer, teacher, artist, wife, mother, dog trainer, horse rider, boater. Maris Soule can list an array of occupations and avocations. Even as a writer her 29 published books span a variety of genres and subgenres, ranging from short stories to romances, romantic suspense, and mystery. A two-time RITA finalist, Soule has placed in and won several writing contests. Born and raised in California, Soule and her husband now spend their summers in Michigan and their winters in Florida.

Maris's Media LinksWebsite | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Newsletter | Amazon Author Page

P.J. Benson knows Sheriff’s Detective Wade Kingsley wouldn’t blow up his own boat to kill his ex-wife and her new husband, Michael Brewster. Sure, Wade wasn’t happy that his ex was taking their six-year-old son, Jason, to live in California, but Wade and Jason were also onboard the boat when it blew up. Wade would never have endangered his son that way. Nevertheless, the investigating detectives consider Wade their prime suspect, and Wade’s ex in-laws loudly accuse him and threaten to file for custody of Jason.

Under the circumstances, P.J. is certain this isn’t the right time to tell Wade she’s pregnant, but bouts of morning sickness give her away. Wade is upset by the news. P.J. wonders if it’s because he’s afraid he’ll be put in prison for a double homicide he didn’t commit, or if he’s afraid the new baby will cause P.J. to become schizophrenic, as was the case with her mother. Even P.J. is worried about that. Although Wade doesn’t want her playing detective, P.J. soon discovers that Michael Brewster wasn’t as great a guy as everyone thought. But did anyone hate the man enough to kill him?
 Eat Crow and Die (A P.J. Benson Mystery - Book 3)
by Maris Soule
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Google Books
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Published by: Five Star Publishing
Release Date: May 20, 2015
Length: 281 Pages

Here's an excerpt to savour: 
As I headed for the room number Ginny had given me, I thought back over the four months I’ve known Wade. The first time I saw him, he reminded me of Nicolas Cage and Tom Cruise wrapped up in one man. He certainly didn’t look like a homicide detective. Back then he thought I’d murdered someone. That or I was crazy, like my mother. We've had a couple more misunderstandings since then, but for the most part we’ve gotten along quite well—in bed and out. On the other hand, there are times when he can be stubborn, irritating, and unreasonable. As I neared his room, it sounded like he was being all three.

“I’m fine,” he bellowed. “I do not need to be in bed.”

“Until the doctor releases you,” a feminine voice said, “you need to stay put.”

“Damn the doctor. I told them downstairs I need to get back to South Haven.”

“Are you giving the nurse a bad time?” I asked as I entered the room.

Wade made a grunting sound as he looked my way. “They’re treating me as if I’m sick. I hit my head, that’s all.”

The poor nurse looked at me and shook her head. “He’s supposed to rest.”

“Be a good boy, Wade. Do as she says. Put your legs back up on the bed and rest.”

He glared at me—at both the nurse and me—but he put his legs back up on the mattress and allowed her to pull a sheet up to his waist. He didn’t lay back, so I asked, “Can he have the bed cranked up, so he can be in a seated position?”

“If it will keep him in bed, I guess so.”

She didn’t make a move, and neither did Wade, so I stepped closer and pushed the button that raised the back so Wade could be in a fully seated position. “That better?” I asked.

He grumbled, but gave a slight nod, then winced.

He had a four-inch square bandage on his forehead, and I could see some discoloration along the side of his face, but it wasn’t until he went to lean back against the pillow behind him and grimaced that I knew it wasn’t just his forehead that had been injured.

“If you need anything, press that button,” the nurse said, indicating the red one on the corded remote.

Wade grunted, and she quickly left. I’m sure she was glad to leave him to me. He clearly wasn’t in a good mood.

“You seen Jason?”

“I just left him. He’s with Ginny.”

“He’s okay?”

“He seems fine. They’re waiting for the results on a couple of tests, then, Ginny said, she’ll bring him by your room.”

“That or I’ll pick him up as I leave.”

“I don’t think they want you leaving today.”

Again the glare. “I’m fine. I hit my head, that’s all.”

“Uh-huh. And how many stitches?” I asked, pointing at the bandage on his forehead.

“I don’t know.” He gave me a crooked smile. “Maybe fifteen.”

“And the back of your head?”

“I have a little goose-egg, that’s all.”

I reached behind his head, but I’d barely touched his scalp before he let out a yelp. From what I could feel, his “little goose-egg” was more like an ostrich egg. “How did you hit both the back and the front of your head?”

“I don’t know.” He let out a deep sigh. “I don’t remember anything from the time Linda and that arrogant bastard she married finally arrived at the boat with Jason until I found myself on a stretcher, being lifted into a helicopter.” He narrowed his eyes. “I don’t even remember that very well. It wasn’t until they poked my head with a needle that I really started focusing on what was happening.”

“You don’t remember taking the boat out on Lake Michigan?”

He started to shake his head, but immediately stopped. “Not a thing.”

The pupils of his eyes were dilated, and since Wade doesn’t do drugs, and it was fairly light in the room, I figured the doctors were right, he did have a concussion. I’d heard how people who had concussions often couldn’t remember what happened before or even after the accident. Some lost entire days. Sometimes the memories came back; sometimes they never did.

“I do remember Linda said they didn’t want to fish,” Wade grumbled. “Here she insists she wants to go on this fishing trip with Jason and me, that both she and Brewster want to go along, and then as soon as she arrives—an hour late, at that—she starts making a fuss about going fishing. I’d even brought fishing poles for the two of them.”

“But they did go out on the boat with you? With you and Jason?”

“They must have.” Wade looked out beyond the end of the bed, and I could tell he was trying to remember.

“Do you have any idea where you and Jason were when the boat blew up?”

“No.” Wade looked back at me. “You haven’t heard anything about Linda?”


“So they’re not here, not in the hospital?”

“I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think so.”

From his expression, I knew what Wade was thinking. If Linda and her husband were on the boat and had been thrown to safety, Linda would be with Jason now. The woman had become paranoid since telling Wade that she and her new husband were moving to California and taking Jason with them. She was sure Wade was going to do something to stop her.

“If she was on the boat . . .” I started to say, but didn’t finish. The thought of what might have happened to Linda—to both Wade’s ex and her new husband—caused my stomach to lurch.

Well, that's got me wanting to read more. How about you?

Thank you for being in the spotlight today, Maris. Best wishes with your blog tour for Eat Crow and Die. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway  

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Wednesday Welcomes to Claire Stibbe!

My Welcome Wednesday slot returns with some fabulous interviews for you. That means both you and I to get to know authors not met before, and the first of these is Claire Stibbe.

Claire Stibbe
Claire is somewhat similar to me in that she has published a couple of historical novels and is now enjoying the freedom from heavy research and writing contemporary thrillers.
Crooked Cat will be publishing The 9th Hour, written by Claire, in a few months time.
Welcome to my blog, Claire. Please tell us 3 things about yourself.
Hi Nancy, thank you so much for interviewing me. I’m originally from Berkshire, England. My father was a housemaster at Bradfield College for many years before becoming Head Master of the King Edward School in Norwich. I think it was his courage to survive a war, his stories and his love of English literature that inspired me to write.

I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1995 and I have been here ever since. They call New Mexico ‘the land of enchantment’ and for those of us who have never found our way home, ‘the land of entrapment.’ My husband is American and my son is half Navajo.

I work from home as a wife, mother and part-time author. My first two books Chasing Pharaohs and The Fowler’s Snare are novels of ancient Egypt published in 2014. The research alone took two years before putting pen to paper. Having taken a slight hiatus from Historical Fiction, I am enjoying the freedom of writing thrillers set in a modern era.

I can totally understand and appreciate that about historical research, Claire, and needing a break afterwards. Regarding new Mexico, I almost got to Santa Fe a few years ago when my brother-in-law had a holiday home there...but one thing and another prevented our visit. I'm sure I'd have loved it.

If you’re a reader, (and I can’t imagine any author who isn’t) what’s your favourite genre? Or, do you tend to read anything that comes you way?
One of the first novels I read was Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, a Victorian poet who wrote about a declining rural society in Wessex. I was fascinated by the way Hardy made his characters so life-like, how we could easily resonate with their suffering and sadness―a theme so central in his work. C.S. Lewis was a friend of my father’s and much of my childhood was taken up lying on a blanket in the afternoons on a lazy hazy day, hearing my father read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. J.R.R. Tolkien was also a big influence and I think that’s where the fantasy genre began to take root.

What genre/s do you prefer to write in?
I love historical fiction (with a little fantasy), mystery-thriller-suspense.

What made you want to write your first novel?
My father was a writer and a teacher of English Language and Literature at Bradfield College. He instilled the importance of writing at least one English composition in the summer holidays. Writing quickly became a passion.  I think one of the rewards of writing is being able to make up your own characters, living with them, and watching them endure the most lethal conditions and coming out of it better than they went in.

Can you tell us about your new book The 9th Hour?
This is the first in the Detective Temeke series where the central character is a man of Ethiopian and British descent. It gives just the right mix of character to spice up the plot and for readers to enjoy the cultural differences, especially here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. With a background in Behavioral Research (BRIU) Temeke is a detective well versed in violent crimes against children. 

The Duke City Police Department is no stranger to gruesome murders but the new serial killer on their block keeps the body parts of his eight young victims as trophies and has a worrying obsession with the number nine. The suspect is incarcerated in the state's high security penitentiary but Police Chief Hackett is faced with a dilemma when another teenage girl vanishes.

Temeke and his new partner, Malin Santiago, are sent to solve this baffling crime that weaves ancient Norse legend around the dense forests of New Mexico’s Cimarron State Park. Time is running out. Can they beat the 9th Hour killer before he dismembers his ninth victim?
Publisher: Crooked Cat Publishing - fall/winter of 2015.

Genre: Psychological Thriller, mystery, suspense (hardboiled)

Pages: 323 (approximately)

That sounds like an intriguing series, Claire. Is there one main location, or are there multiple places mentioned? If multiple, did you need to research the places for the novel?
Yes. Location is extremely important and often becomes a character in itself. I think the most gratifying part of writing this story was taking photos of a desiccated desert surrounded by mesas - not to mention palisade cliffs, Pondorosa pines, ancient Anasazi Indian ruins, rivers and strange rock formations which make a marvelous backdrop for all these books. With the help of local detectives, researching files and videos, I enjoy driving to the bleak forests scattered around the state and finding the right mood and place for Detective Temeke’s crimes to occur. Albuquerque is predominantly Hispanic, named in honor of Francisco Duke of Albuquerque, viceroy of New Spain (1653 to 1660) and derived from the Latin albus quercus meaning "white oak."

This first book takes place just before Christmas in the snowy mountains of Cimarron State Park. Winter’s coming . . .

Oh, get the winter coat and gloves out... *wink, wink*!  What are you working on right now?
The second book in the series Night Eyes is set in Carson National Forest. One of Albuquerque’s highest government officials loses his twelve-year-old son to a kidnapper. Temeke can’t make head or tail of his witnesses or the statements he receives. He must rely on his gut and the rantings for a former prisoner.    

You are having a break from historical work! Now for some fun time short answer questions:

Favourite place to visit for a short weekend break? We love going to the art galleries in Santa Fe and the many historical buildings and churches. Taos Resort and Ski Area and the Bandelier monuments which are the homes of the Ancestral Puebloans.  
Favourite colour? Blue
Favourite drink? Coffee
Favourite sport or leisure activity? Hiking, reading, swimming, sailing and travelling. We often go to different states to my husband’s model airplane competitions. He flies. I write!

To find out more about CMT Stibbe’s books, visit her website at

Claire has also written short stories for Breakwater Harbor Books, a publisher of anthologies. The collection won Best Anthology of 2014 in the Independent Book Awards hosted by eFestival of Words.

Thank you for such a great interview, Claire. It's lovely to get to know you a little better...and Albuquerque sounds so gorgeous and warm just now, Scotland being so grey and rainy.  

I'll look forward to doing a cover reveal when it's time for The 9th Hour to be launched!


Monday, 27 July 2015

Monday Moments with The Highland Lass by Rosemary Gemmell

Happy Monday to you! 

Not everyone is cheered by Monday mornings but we can be cheered by Rosemary Gemmell's warm smile. Rosemary's an author who hails from another part of Scotland, an area I know quite well. Today, she's sharing information about her contemporary novel The Highland Lass and there's an excerpt at the end for your enjoyment. Though a contemporary novel - the story of The Highland Lass is neatly interwoven with historical episodes which feature a certain well known Scottish figure...

A prize-winning writer, Rosemary Gemmell’s short stories, articles, and poems have been published in UK magazines, in the US, and online. She is now a historical and contemporary novelist and The Highland Lass is the first novel under her full name. She has also published historical novels and contemporary novellas with a touch of mythological fantasy as Romy and two tween books as Ros. Rosemary has a BA (hons) in European literature and history and a post-graduate MA in Humanities and she is a member of the Romantic novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Scottish Association of Writers.

You'll find Rosemary at the following places:


Rosemary Gemmell's first Crooked Cat novel - The Highland Lass - was published in March 2015 and it's a great read which I can thoroughly recommend. 

Eilidh Campbell returns to her Scottish roots from America with one main aim: to discover the identity of the father she never knew. But her mother’s past in Inverclyde is a mystery with family secrets, a book of Robert Burns’ poems with a hidden letter and a photograph link to the Holy Loch at Dunoon when the American Navy were in residence.

Staying with her childhood friend, Kirsty, while searching for answers, Eilidh begins to fall in love with handsome Scot Lewis Grant, but just how free is he? Together they trace the story of Highland Mary and Robert Burns, with its echoes to her mother’s story. In short alternate chapters, Highland Mary tells her own story from 1785-6. From Dunoon, to Ayrshire and culminating in Greenock, Eilidh finds the past is closer than she realises.

Book Trailer Video

Buy Links

This excerpt is from one of the historical chapters...

The lasses glance after him longingly and the women warn against him, for his reputation is well known. Yet there must be other sides to him, for he sits in the Kirk and listens to the word of God. And I’ve heard my
Nancy Jardine's copy
master talk of him with admiration at times. How the young man struggles to keep his farm going along with his brother, and of his writing and verses that are filled with intelligence and wit and such insight into human nature. I admire him long before I ever properly meet him.
   Risking another glance, I see he has turned away to look at the preacher. His dark hair is smooth and curls in below his neck, and his profile is strong. He is smart in jacket and neckerchief and he has not the air of a farmer. Just as I remember I’m still staring, he looks up and our eyes meet again. This time I smile shyly and briefly before returning to my open Bible. He must not think I admire him too well. I’ll not become one of the silly lasses who cast longing glances at him in the hope he will dally with them. I have too much pride for such behaviour. However, I cannot help one final glance as we stand to end the service. He smiles. And my heart tells me it is too late. But I still do not realise that this man, Robert
Burns, will have anything to do with my destiny.

Thank you for sharing with us today, Rosemary, and best wishes for a good second half of 2015. 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

#8 Gonna Build a House.

Update to Gonna Build a House...about two months late.

29th April 2015
It's now July 26th and the house is done. 


A few things are still to be delivered like some downstairs window blinds, and some furniture items, but that never stopped anyone from moving in before and hasn't stopped my family from moving over to the new house tonight.  

What a weird situation it is, but we'll get used to the new housing arrangements pretty quick!

On my last blog about the house, we were at the 'getting finished on the outside' stage. The interiors took shape as oiled as clockwork and things like this photo below were hand crafted in situ.

29th April 2015
What is it? 

The spiral staircase...

This was created in what is the family living room of the downstairs open plan area and was then moved into position. How the joiners/ builders managed that I don't know, because the house was a 'no entry' place at that time.

Upstairs, the bedroom built-in wardrobes were also being constructed and all mirrored doors were in place. 

The whole house was really looking great, the joinery work an impressive thing to see coming to life.

By the 13th May the plasterer was in to do the joins in the plasterboard walls and to get the place ready for the final paintwork.
13th May 2015

The outside of the actual house might have been almost done but the landscaping wasn't. That was underway by the 15th May 2015. 

Tons of granite chips were delivered for the hard landscaping around the house. 

15th May 2015


A few days later, on the 19th May, turf was laid around the back and down the side of the house. There was still plenty to do, though, to improve on the front of the house and to the inside.

19th May 2015

The 20th May came and the stairs to the upper floor were completed with hand rails, bannister and top railing.

Things were happening on the driveway, i.e. more channels dug, for the gas to be laid in though by then the othe services were up and running.

The kitchen and utility areas were built in with only some finishing tasks to be completed. 

20th May 2015

The first coats of paint had been applied to the interior walls but it was to take around 5 coats for most walls to be covered properly. Since the painter was only scheduled to work on Friday and Saturdays, that job took a few weeks to complete with drying stages in between.

The house was looking stunning.

The builders had moved out - their job done to perfection.

By the 6th of June, it was beginning to look like the images you'd see on an estate agents brochure. The outside was spectacular, not a trace of building materials had been left around and the original driveway had been scrubbed clean. The workmanship was superb both inside and outside.

What followed to the interior is too private for me to blog about since it isn't my house, and it's not my garden either.

The purpose of this series of blogs was to highlight the stages it takes to create a new house which meets the required specifications for energy saving and local government requirements.

The last comment will be to add that the beautiful red bloc paving outside the front of the house wasn't the first way that area was finished . The level laying of granite chips up to the front door had meant a step up into the house via the front door and the patio doors. That step- up wasn't sufficient for the current local authority regulations. Since a wheelchaor user would have had some difficulty to enter the house, the planning department insisted that a concrete ramp be laid into the front door.

The planning department then compromised and agreed to a gradual slope being created with lok-bloc pavers leading to a level area directly ouside the front of the house, with easy access for a wheechair user.

With all the services in, and all of the red tape and legalities tied up, the house is now ready for entry. I hope any readers of this blog will join me in saying congratulations to both my daughter and family, the builders and the contracted tradesmen for a job fabulously well done!

Welcome to the new home... 


Banchory Show howler!

Happy Sunday to you!

The skies are light grey here but's not raining, so I'm smiling. My bearded irises are looking beautiful just now and brightening up both me and the garden.

Yesterday, at the Banchory Show it showered heavily on and off, but since I was inside a large marquee it didn't matter to me, or to my books. The part of the canvas I was stationed under had no leaks, though a few of my crafter friends weren't so lucky because they had the odd drip or two over the day. Not good for any craft products and disastrous to paperback books since they never recover their newness, even if the paper dries out. 

The howler of the day was when... 

A browser came to my table. She scanned it quickly and then said, " All these books are by Nancy Jardine, don't you have anything by anyone else?" She then looked up at my very obvious banner and a bit sheepishly squeaked, "Oh, you're the author?" The conversation then revealed she liked to read historical fiction so she bought a copy of The Beltane Choice. Result - one happy author :-)

Otherwise, the 194th Banchory Show was a hopping affair! The traffic inside the marquee was constant, though many of those people were merely browsing- especially those who arrived just after the start at 9a.m. Some of those browsers seemed interested in my books but a few actually told me that they had just paid £10 entry fee (£2 more than last year) and that their disposable funds had to last the whole day. They weren't buying anything so early in the day. Seeing what else were possible purchases was their plan before spending their cash. I guessed that watching the pennies was the order of the day.

One customer was lost since I don't have a credit card machine. Unusually, the signal on my phone was actually quite good, even though I was in a public park so when I can justify the cost of a reliable machine, I'll get one organised. I need to watch those pennies, too. If I can generate a hike in internet ebook sales maybe that'll happen. If wishes were horses...

The highlights of the Banchory Show?

I sold 14 of my paperback books. I've a potential 'after lunch' speaking engagment at one of the busiest activity parks on Royal Deeside. That was an intriguing conversation with Cilla Wood- the Sales and Marketing Manager of Deeside Activity Park. I'll be emailing her later today to see what can transpire.

I also talked to loads of lovely people. They were great conversations - even though they didn't buy my books. It's amazing how fast the day went, though I was almost literally on my feet for 12 hours, give or take an hour's driving time.

I'll be aiming to do some writing- after I cut the grass... and clean out the boxroom... and do the odd spot of childminding as the house move progresses for my extended family.

#8 of Gonna Build a House coming up soon.

And now I see that the sun is coming out, so I best get dressed and get on with the day! 


Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Banchory Show

Happy Saturday to you!

Today, I'm off to the Banchory Show to sell my books. This will be the first time I've attended as a stallholder - though I have gone before as a browser. 

So, where is Banchory and what is the 'Banchory Show' about?  

Banchory is a town about 18 miles west of Aberdeen. I can reach it by going across country in around 25 minutes, or longer if I get stuck behind any of the multitude of farm vehicles that slowly ply the small country roads. To be fair, I will be using the direct accesses they have between some of their fields.

The Banchory Show is held every July at the King George V Park. There are likely to be many different events at this prestigious show since it will be the 194th of that ilk! 

The programme of events is impressive , though as a stallholder I'll not manage to see any of it.

If I had the time, I might have submitted my entry to the 'Stickmaking' competition. ;-)

I'll blog more about it after the event!


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Why Taexali?

Why Taexali?

A couple of Saturdays ago, a woman came up to my stall at a FOCUS Craft Fair and browsed the books for sale. She had a daughter with her whom I guessed to be around ten years of age. That was encouraging since The Taexali Game was potentially suitable for her— depending on the girl's reading age and language capability.

“That’s a lovely word,” says the mum, pointing to Taexali, “but how do you pronounce it?”

My answer was honest as always. I told her I can’t read Latin so my pronunciation is a guess at best. I say it like TAY ZAL I the last letter rhyming with 'i' as used in the word ‘in’.

I’d recently asked archaeologist Mark Patton, a friend at Crooked Cat Publishing who can read and speak Latin, and he’d said something similar but more like TESSALI , his accent being different since he’s from Jersey. The truth is that no-one really knows and even Latin scholars have been known to quibble about the pronunciation of Classical Latin.

As for the actual local ‘Celtic’ tribal name – that seems to be gone for ever since nothing survives to clarify it.

I went on to explain to the woman that I’d lifted the word Taexali from the map of Britain which Ptolemy made sometime during the second century. 

According to Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus; c. AD 90 – c. AD 168), the Celtic tribes who inhabited a large swathe of land which now encompasses Aberdeenshire and part of Tayside in Scotland were named Taexali. (The River Tay near Dundee in Scotland was referred to as the TAVA, though other variants appear as well)

I love looking at representations of Ptolemy's map because of the quirky skewed version of Scotland, his co-ordinates at a weird

90° turn. 

Map from Wikimedia Commons:

However, it's not so easy to read this map but subsequent redraws of Ptolemy's original are.

I like this one by Spruner 1865 since it's more the image we relate to in the twenty first century. His spelling dipthongs the 'AE' from Ptolemy. In primary school, I was taught to pronounce an 'ae' dipthong as the sound of an 'a' in the word 'day' which is why I favour the pronunciation I use.

I've zoomed in to north-east Scotland to show the area Ptolemy regarded as being inhabited by Taexali tribes. 

There are other reprints of Ptolemy maps to browse out there on the internet and if I had £8200 to spare I might buy the map listed HERE!

Although Ptolemy died some 50 years before the era I’ve written about in The Taexali Game, I think it’s reasonable to use the same name for the tribes who lived in that area in my novel since linguists would generally agree that names lingered for decades without much change in bygone eras.

From what I’ve read in various sources, clan names survived unchanged till some awful catastrophe occurred which altered the balance of the local population. Annihilation of the clan would have been one example of a name suddenly disappearing, and a new name being used for those who came after. As far as historians can tell, after the massive invasion of some thirty thousand troops of the Roman Emperor Severus in c. AD 210 there were probably no further major invasions of the north-east of Scotland.

I could have changed the Latin spelling to something like TAYZALI but chose not to. I'll be absolutely delighted if any of my readers get back to me and say that they bought the story purely because they matched the name to the Ptolemy reference on his map of Britannia.

I like the word Taexali- don’t you?


Thoughts on Nox Dormienda by Kelli Stanley and The Unkindest Cut of All by Sue Barnard.

I love reading novels of many types but my main downfall just now is finding time 
A) to do the reading
B) to write a short note on how I've found the book 

Today is one of those catch up days. 

Nox Dormienda by Kelli Stanley was recommended to me by an American friend because he knew I love to write about first century Roman Britain. I'm absolutely glad it was recommended because I enjoyed the story for more than one reason. Here's why...

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel set in an era I love to read and write about. Southern Britannia AD 83 was a time when Rome’s influence was well entrenched and many of the southern Celtic tribes had already adopted the culture of Rome as is the case with Gwyna and her father. Arcturus, the main protagonist being of the blood of both Roman and Celt has a good sound foot in both camps. A lovely twist in the Roman Noir detective story is that the half-native Arcturus is a doctor- trained by the renowned physician and herbalist Pedanius Dioscorides. Such training has enabled Arcturus to become the doctor of General Agricola, the Governor of Britannia, and has given him the opportunity to see to more than Agricola’s physical welfare.
The book has a credible setting; the language flows beautifully and it’s very well edited. The style reminded me of Lyndsey Davis and David Wishart though others have also compared the 'Detective Noir' style to the novels of Philip Marlowe. It’s an amusing read without being overly frivolous. The mystery is only revealed in the final pages and I found that the perpetrator wasn’t easy to detect and be sure of till the very end.  

I'd no hesitation in giving this book 5 stars 


An entirely different kind of read that I've recently read, yet still a mystery novel is, The Unkindest Cut of All by Sue Barnard.   

This was yet another great story from Sue Barnard, her knowledge of Shakespeare used in an intriguing way. The Castlemarsh Players amateur dramatic performance of Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar, provides a wonderful backdrop to the tragedy which unfolds on the ides of March, the last performance of the run. However, the tragedy of Sue Barnard’s story isn’t confined to the stage.  The author plunges the reader straight into the action, the dialogue an easy flow as the first night opens and then continues till the run reaches the inevitable last and devastating performance. There are sufficient twists which kept me engaged throughout the read, and only close to the end was I able to hazard a guess as to what might happen on the last pages. The main characters in the story are very likeable as they work out how the incidents occurred during that final performance, romantic developments strengthening as they solve the mystery. 

This is definitely another 5 star read for me...and most likely for you, too!




Monday, 20 July 2015

Monday Moments with - Templet's Tasty Tails by Mickie Sherwood

My Monday Moments slot features Templet's Tasty Tails by Mickie Sherwood.

What seems like a long time ago, but in reality is just a couple of years, Mickie Sherwood opened her blog to me to do spotlights on my first published work. I'm delighted to return the favour today to spotlight her latest sweet romance which looks a lovely read. I've had no time to read it, yet, but it looks like a lovely, heartwarming read and I'm sure you'll think so, too. 

So what's it about?

Loss…life…love. What a difference a year makes!
Web Designer Erika Washington's contract with her childhood best friend covers all possibilities about her pregnancy. But, one unpredictable event redirects her future. As a donor-surrogate, what does one do when fate changes the plan and claims the lives of the intended parents? If you're selfless, strong-willed Erika Washington, you mount a defense to keep your baby.
Entrepreneur Booker Templet, owner of Templet's Tasty Tails, secretly agrees to help his first cousin. However, unfortunate circumstances change the course of his life. After he learns the identity of the other donor, Booker plans to be a part of his child's life. No matter what.
Will Erika and Booker battle over custody of the baby? Will their horrible loss help them find consolation in each other's arms? Or will fate intervene yet again?

Scene: After Booker becomes her client, Erika accepts his invitation to have a firsthand look at his business operations.

Enjoy a little excerpt:
An hour after crossing the Atchafalaya Basin, Erika slowed when she received the GPS alert, looking out for the drive to Booker's place. Just like he’d told her, an orange cone marked each side. She maneuvered the tight turn with finesse.
Two of the largest dogs she had ever seen bounded out of the woods. They loped beside her car, barking in competition with each other. When the shady, treed lane widened, they took off. Exposed in the clearing, a sloped-roof, Acadian-style house shimmered white.
She guessed the dogs served as Booker's alarm system. He watched her advance while standing in the screen door, his hands braced on the doorframe above his head. "You made it."
Erika coasted to a stop as he moved his propped, silver-tipped cowboy boot and closed the wooden door behind him.
"You had doubts?" She exited and his pets surrounded her before Booker's whistle sent them racing across his property. To get her camera, she flipped her seatback forward.
"It can be difficult to find." Booker came down the stairs. He jammed his fingers into the pockets of his jeans.
Slamming her door, she strolled in his direction. "Your place is lovely."
"Obviously, this isn't where you operate your business."
"Only the administrative part of it. We'll go to the paddies in my truck." Booker beckoned with his head.
Enticed by his move, Erika took a one-handed shot with her camera.
"Hey. This excursion is to get shots for the website."
"People like to see the person with whom they might do business."
"I'll take your word for that." He grasped her elbow, directing her to the side of the house.
"Booker, before we go. May I use your bathroom?"
He tilted his head and did that ear-pull thing.
"I tend to go more frequently these days." Erika rested her hand on her stomach.
"No need to explain." He veered back to the house. "I should have offered after that long ride."

Curious about what happens next? I'll tell you where you can find a clue on Wednesday at my blog.

Only $3.99


Mickie Sherwood is an author and novice photographer who takes nature pictures right in her own backyard. She loves to engage in her favorite pastime which also incites her creativity. Combine that aspect of her life with the enjoyment of spending time with her family, and cruising vacations, and the development of interesting characters who encounter intriguing circumstances is not very far behind.

Check me out.

Best wishes with Templet's Tasty Tails and with all of your future writing, Mickie.