Monday 29 February 2016

#Monday Moments & mentions of Broken Heart Syndrome

My #Monday Moments are about Broken Heart Syndrome by Susie Tate.

In between heavier research reading I've been romping through easy reads. Broken Heart Syndrome by Susie Tate is one of these chicklit books that's a breeze.

There’s a lot to love about this book, though I’d not want to be admitted to any hospital that Frankie works at for fear of a mis-diagnosis by her doctor friends! The shenanigans in the hospital are humorous reading, though would be pretty unsettling in real life. 

Frankie is very professional yet emotionally screwed up: her friend Dylan is less professional and also emotionally wrecked in a different way. The dialogue is witty; sometimes Lou is definitely laugh out loud funny.  Ash might quote ‘to err is human’, or some other wonderful epithet from his magnificent store, to lighten sensitive situations—he’s a great character though a bit repetitive. Tom, the main male character is a lovely man, an easy protagonist to like even if he is a bit dense and arrogant times. 

I don’t warm so well to the character of Frankie, the main female protagonist. Her lack of self confidence doesn’t change much over the course of the story yet she’s more empathetic to the awkward patients. 

Some aspects are not very believable – and as an ex primary teacher I’d have been sacked on the spot for something that’s mentioned in the story, though I realise it’s part of the humour. 

This is not what I'd call an intense hospital romance but it is an amusing one. I rated it with 4 stars. 

Saturday 27 February 2016

7 strategies for avoiding Info Dumping

Happy Saturday to you!

It's my every-second-Saturday post at the Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog but I'm re-blogging most of my post here since it's something that's been plaguing me for quite a while in my current manuscript. 

Information dumps—Aargh!

Balancing the scales is a tricky business. 

Explaining what the reader needs to know in a novel, without major info dumping, is an acquired skill. At least, that’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it. When you’re the author of a series of novels the techniques needed are subtly different for each book—though exactly why it’s marketed as a series is also a key question to address because the links throughout a series may be presented in different ways.

In my Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic adventures, the three published books are about the horrendous toll on members of a Celtic warrior clan when the Ancient Roman Army makes war on their territory in northern Roman Britain during AD 71-84. 

Book 1 features Lorcan of the hillfort of Garrigill.


Lorcan's brother Brennus features in Books 2 & 3. His adventures are spread over a number of years as the Roman war machine continues to infiltrate northwards. 

In books 2 & 3, the resistance strategies of my battle-hardened Celts change to information gathering, i.e the life of a spy, till AD 84 when full scale battle happens yet again against the Romans. By AD 84 the location is now the far north of Britannia (North east Scotland).


But as I write Book 4, my main female character is the 14 year old daughter of a third brother, Enya being of the next warrior generation. Most of the Garrigill characters of the first three books reappear in Book 4 and contribute in a more minor role, so their history seems just as relevant as that of my new generation of protagonists. 

A large hold up in my writing of Book 4 is avoiding the tendency towards major info dumping because my publisher also requests that each book should be able to be read by a brand new reader of my work as a stand-alone novel.

I'm FULL of questions as I write…

Ø      How much do information dumps matter in a series where each book is also designed to be a stand-alone story?
Ø      When is too much information being given?
Ø      How does the reader get just the right amount of info for the background to the story to be clear?
Ø      At what point is the author’s urge to give information going to slow down the action of the story to the point of boredom for a new reader?
Ø      Can that perfect place be found where the reader has sufficient information for the progress of the action throughout the novel?
Ø      Is there just enough information to make a reader still ask themselves a question or two but they’re not in the dark about something important?
Ø      Is there sufficient information to avoid the reader from being confused when subsequent action occurs as a result of something that’s happened in a previous novel in the series?
Ø      Many writing sources will tell you that it’s best to spread your information throughout the novel and that seems sound advice.  A strategic smattering of necessary detail at key points in the novel works best for the reader but my question, and quandary is, how is this achieved when writing a series?  
These are 7 strategies that I’m using, but I’m sure there are many others to add to the following:

  • Working the information into dialogue is a technique I favour— when it fits naturally into the story progress. Giving the reader necessary information but also having the characters moving the action forward at the same time is a great aim, though I find that it’s not always achievable without a bit of repetitive tweaking and re-editing to get it just perfect. The information given, I feel, has to really matter to the characters to make it be relevant.
  • I strive to make sure that the information is coming from the correct POV and feel that’s an important part of the task. My series is written in third person so I’m constantly checking to ensure that I’ve not jumped out of my character’s head and that an omniscient POV hasn’t sneaked in.
  • I’ve been constantly re-doing the beginning to make sure my story is starting at the right place—with immediate action rather than pages of info dumped narrative.
  • I’ve axed passages that haven’t moved the action of the story forward to the extent that my ‘dump’ file is almost greater than my manuscript!
  • Character Development is important for my new characters and yet my ‘earlier’ characters are also aging and their emotional reactions should reflect this.
  • I’m highly aware of different aspects of tension in the storyline— my new characters being themselves in new situations of terror, and yet moulded by the past horrific circumstances that the whole family found themselves in.
  • I need to ensure that any info dumping tells its own relevant story and adds depth; the cause and effect being relevant to the immediate situation. 
How many more strategies can you add to help avoid Info Dumping? Please pop any suggestions in the comments box- they'll be much appreciated! 

Useful sites for information are: 

Friday 26 February 2016

More thoughts on books read recently...

I have 2 more updates today, on books recently read- both in the romance genres. 

The first one is Only a Hero Will Do by Susan Lodge - a regency romance.

This is a delightful story set in the early 1800s. The scrapes that Hettie gets herself into are highly entertaining, yet she manages to remain an innocent. The different themes in the novel all play out very nicely as Robert Withington becomes the best ever protector. Regency romances tend to have their villains and this book doesn’t disappoint. It’s as easy to take an instant dislike of Hettie’s brother as it is to like Robert Withington. Getting herself out of a detestable betrothal isn’t so easy but Hettie’s ways and means are inventive. If you want a quick easy read set in Regency times, I recommend this amusing novel.


Lawful Escort by Tina Folsom 
 3 stars

The second is one which has been on my kindle for a very long time, one which I thought I'd read but realised I hadn't till a couple of nights ago. I don't remember how this was recommended to me but it was the kind of book I could easily skim read in a short time.

I’ve read a number of romances with a similar theme though the mistaken identity part of it plays out quite well since Daniel Sinclair doesn’t care what Sabrina Palmer does, so long as she becomes his girlfriend. It’s a quick read at 150, or so pages, and the plot is very simple. The bad guy gets his just desserts and the good guy…well, he gets the girl!  


The Dream Shall Never Die by Alex Salmond

Happy Friday to you!

Once again, I've managed to squeeze in quite a bit of reading this week and I'm writing short reviews on the books read. My first update for today is on The Dream Shall Never Die by Alex Salmond. 

I was given this book as a Christmas present (2015) and it sat on the coffee table shelf for many weeks. This wasn't because I didn't want to read it. It wasn't because I didn't appreciate the gift from my daughter, because I wholeheartedly did. It sat there for a while because I wanted to be sure that I could give it my almost undivided attention.

Since Christmas 2015, and in fact before then, I've been spending my non- fiction reading slots on publications about Roman Scotland. I waited till I was in a lull - a period when I had just taken delivery of a new paperback on Roman Scotland and another one was ordered but not yet arrived. 

It was with some trepidation that I opened The Dream Shall Never Die because I know how utterly disappointed I was at the Scottish referendum result and I had difficulty comprehending the pain Alex Salmond must have harboured when he knew Independence just wasn't going to happen as a result of the referendum of 2014. I'm glad that the book isn't only about the referendum campaign because that isn't why I admire Alex Salmond as a politician. In my view, he is a politician who has great integrity. He may be a workaholic and driven but it's clear that he has boundless energy - something easily discerned from watching him on T.V. moving from place to place. I agree with the strategies in this book because it isn't just about Alex Salmond the leader of the Scottish National Party. 

No matter your political leanings I think you can get a gist of what a premier politician has to do as part of their job. I do have to say that it's just as well that Alex likes golf! Though, I can see that any politician in a high profile post would need to find other venues for the all too necessary 'out of office' discussions that are part of the political processes. 

Here are my thoughts on the book.  

There aren’t many people who could write a book about what they did during a 100 day period and make it varied, interesting and compelling reading- yet, that’s what this book is. It’s a diary of snapshots of each of those 100 days with Alex Salmond in the lead role as First Minister of Scotland, not just as the leader of the Scottish National Party. That’s what makes it great reading for me because it gives me an idea of the kind of planned hours a prominent politician might have organised for him or her, but those hours in a day have to be flexibly organised to accommodate the crises or unplanned events which must be dealt with immediately in the form of impromptu phone calls, or visits, or time spent gaining information of the relevant subject matter. Another interesting part of the writing is the sheer volume of transport arrangements which needed to be made, and often remade during the 100 days because of weather conditions, or the need to divert to make talks elsewhere before arrival at the planned venues. In giving a snapshot of some of the events of each day it’s clear that each day was full of other happenings and of decisions which had to be made. If he had written a campaign diary for the SNP it would have been full of many of those other campaign trail bits he squeezed into one of those single 24 hour periods. As an SNP supporter for decades, I followed the SNP campaign trails on T.V. and on the internet and I know that a huge amount of walkabouts happened which don’t get a mention in this book. It is about the jam packed days of a driven and committed personality; it’s about the hope for the future of Scotland; and it’s about the massive surge in interest prior to any political event in Scotland.

The groundwork done during the referendum massively affected what happened at the following General Election… the dream shall never die. 


Tuesday 23 February 2016

Fabulous review for Take Me Now

Tuesday thanks! 

Yesterday, I laid out some woes about clicking onto a 'bad' Google Alert. Today, I am delighted to have Google Alerts flag up a very good thing

Take Me Now has had a lovely review from The Book Maven - a lady who reads a lot of novels! 

My thanks to her for this excellent review. 

….another wonderful book for me to share with you.  Take Me Now is a contemporary romance with a suspenseful twist.  This wonderful story takes one part stubborn alpha, one part sassy heroine and one part danger to make a sexy romance with suspense on the side.

Nairn is a workaholic.  Even after he is injured in an accident he insists on interviewing for his open PA position.  What Nairn doesn’t bank on is the no nonsense way Aela first deals with her incapacitated prospective employer.  As Nairn and Aela learn how to work together they become closer than normal employer and employees should.  But, when danger comes into play all Nairn can think is to protect Aela and send her away.  What he doesn’t expect is a woman that will do as she pleases.  Can the two of them survive the people determined to hurt them? Can they even survive each other?
This was quite a ride.  It had some very funny moments, sexy moments and don’t forget the suspense.  Nairn and Aela’s relationship was a memorable one.  it was fun watching it develop even if it started off stranger than most.  It was the development and growth between these two characters that propelled the story.  Through them they discover what is really happening to Nairn’s company.  Along the way they discover things about each other that brings them closer.  Nancy Jardine manages to weave a romantic story with the added rush of danger and intrigue.  I would recommend anyone to pick up this book just to meet your next broody book boyfriend, Nairn Malcolm.


Monday 22 February 2016

Monday Moments rant about pirates

My Monday Moments are about regrets.

Regrets? I have more than a few. Pirates make me sick!

My Monday Moments would be popular with my two year old grandson if I were talking about the kind of pirates that go along with Captain Hook and his lovely plastic pirate ship toy.

Unfortunately, I'm not. I'm referring to the pirates who purport to give access to multitudes of free PDF versions of novels without the permission of author, or of publisher. Yet again, I clicked on my email mailbox to find a Google Alert about The Beltane Choice, #1 of my Celtic Fervour Series. I appreciate very much  when Google Alerts send me a message, but I HATE it when the alert is about a pirate site, or one which is affiliated and seems to be giving my work away for FREE- naturally, only after a user has signed up to the site.

The site flagged up today is the first which features The Beltane Choice in a tiny 6 second 'Youtube' type video where they have used the old cover of the book- a cover not used since December 2013.

This below is my current cover...

I really do want people to read my books and enjoy them but it cuts me to the quick that these sites deny the author the tiny royalty that one sale would bring. I don't sell all that many of my copies but it's galling to know they are being touted FREE around the internet.

I'm sure my publisher, Crooked Cat Publishing, agree that it's also their hard work in presenting my book to the public that is being denied due credit. Legitimate sales of the novels on their portfolio are about more than the money collected for one book.

Whether an author is published by one of the big publishers; is published by a smaller independent publisher; or is self-published  - gaining interest in your new book is a vital sales technique. To that end, and in the pursuit of the all too elusive reviews which help with future sales, copies of a novel can be sent out for review purposes or used in a publicity competition. If those copies are then 'sold on or given to' the pirate sites then it makes me feel even worse about my generosity, in the case of a prize, or my trust that a review copy will be accepted in the spirit in which it's given to a reviewer.

Wondering over long about who might have 'sold on ' The Beltane Choice is a futile waste of my time.

If a genuine sale transpires from an associated publicity site then I am pleased.

I just wish it were easier to tell about such sites without compromising or wrecking my laptop!

Rant over. I'll go back now to my hard won time for new writing.

Should you wish to buy my multiple 5* rated historical romantic adventure please click HERE or buy from Smashwords, B&N Nook, ITunes, KOBO... and other legitimate ebook stores. Thank you.


Sunday 21 February 2016

Love Walked In by Francine Howarth

Happy Sunday wishes to you!

My leisure reading is continuing just now and my latest fiction read is Love Walked In by Francine Howarth.  

Here are my thoughts on this gripping, fast paced romantic suspense, which I'd also classify as a  5* political thriller. 

From page one there was an urge to read on to find out what Cassie’s recently assassinated husband had been up to. The world of the spy in 1992 was probably not too different from that of today – the details of this novel highlighting the never ending struggle of resisting evil in the drugs and arms trades, and in the political machinations between high profile countries. Mac is an interesting character, his background and relationship with Cassie's ex-husband eventually unravelling as the story comes to a conclusion. There are multiple well-depicted characters in the novel who all play important parts, though the reasoning behind some of their deeds was sometimes hard to fathom- as was an occasional piece of information a bit flummoxing. The different themes and interconnections within the storyline kept me on my ‘reader toes’ as I guessed how their ultimate part would play out at the end.  The dialogue is believable; gritty and earthy at times. The developing romance between Cassie and Mac isn't smooth sailing. There's a good degree of mistrust which takes time and unusual situations to resolve. I'll now be looking out for more of Francine Howarth’s contemporary novels as well as her historical ones.

I definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a bit of politics within their romance reading. 


Tuesday 16 February 2016

#Tuesday Topic...Alternate history

My Tuesday Topic is alternate history.

I think I may have mentioned it once or twice...I love history. All periods but I'm just a teensy bit obsessed by Ancient Rome and in particular the legacy of the Romans in Scotland. It's an intriguing idea to do the 'what if' thing about the Romans and wonder what my country of Scotland would have been like if the Romans had settled here after the Agricolan Campaigns. 

It's very interesting to wonder what it would be like if a small nucleus of Ancient Roman society had remained intact, occupying a small territory for the ensuing centuries after A.D. 395. How changed would they have become by contemporary times? 

In the case of Scotland being so far away from Rome, or so far even from Constantinople at the time of Theodosius in A.D. 395 which was the centre of the Roman Empire for a while, I can envisage that Roman society could have remained almost intact in Scotland for centuries afterwards-especially if they had conquered the Highlands.  However, in my studies about Ancient Rome, it seems reasonable to say that there would also have been some sort of merging of local 'Celtic/Pictish at A.D 395' customs with Roman ones (I say this since it's what they did regarding local gods and festivals). Though, keeping the borders of the country free of outside attack and outside influence is quite a challenging concept. 

Although the Ancient Romans didn't, in reality, settle in Scotland they have passed down a legacy to the country via other influences. Christianity; the law; a single kinship rather than the rule of lesser princes of tribal structure, and education being the most obvious ones- though these have been established in Scotland via outside influences and acquired and adapted as other domination of the country has occurred. 

In Inceptio, #Book 1 of the Roma Nova series, Alison Morton sets out her concept of what Roma Nova would be like in the 21st century. She states in the foreword that Roman Nova's continued existence has been based on 3 things: 
  • exploitation and trade of high grade silver from their mountains 
  • efficient technology
  • and their response to any threat. 
Not without problems over the centuries, Roma Nova has recently survived a major male-dominated coup (some 2 decades before the novel starts) but now retains its female led leadership. 

The first point above, I think would have generated a considerable amount of trade and as such Roman Nova would have been influenced by other countries as they developed and changed. 

The second point about having efficient technology would also have been acquired via outside influences and education. 

The third point would have required a strong defensive force to maintain some degree of autonomy and repel any invaders. As such the Ancient Roman Army was very good at defending its territory but ...the Ancient Roman Empire was also such an aggressive force that I can't seen how retaining Roman ways would not have included some of this Roman expansion over the centuries. 

I read the foreword with anticipation and looked forward to reading about what Miss Morton envisaged as 'Still Roman' aspects of Roma Novan society. I maybe wanted too much because I found little of Ancient Rome in her story- even of the Theodosian era - and a lot of the current US or western societies of today. 

I've read a lot of contemporary romantic thrillers over the last years where the feisty heroine becomes a crack FBI agent, or Special Forces Operative in order to fight the darker side of society. I've thoroughly enjoyed those stories if they've been well written - even those which have been 'over the top' believable. Inceptio has Karen Brown who becomes everything in an amazingly short time. She even sets up the capture of an EUS led drugs ring and prevents what could be a serious drugs flow into Roma Nova- all done in an incredibly short time in what was a totally foreign country to her. As a contemporary thriller the plot is fast paced, exciting and entertainingly imaginative.

If I want to suspend belief and read a thriller novel of pure escapism then I'd read Inceptio very happily. Calling the tiny European country Roman Nova is fine, but unfortunately I can't grasp any alternate history aspect to Inceptio apart from Latin being the spoken language. I don't read or speak Latin but knowing what I do about Scottish Gaelic (which is limited) when I watch Gaelic TV the language is now peppered with almost as many modern English words, used because the English language is constantly acquiring new words to accommodate the technological advancement of today and Gaelic uses the same words.

I'm thinking I might need to read more of what is called 'Alternate history' to see if I can work out how it varies from 'new worlds' fantasy, or the genre of political thrillers in a fictitious country, or an Army/ Cop action adventure. 

Maybe alternate history just isn't the genre for me! 

Here's what I wrote on Goodreads. I've given it 3 and 1/2 stars because it's a well written novel. 
(And though I didn't mention it on Goodreads, I love the cover! )

Inceptio (#1Roma Nova Series) being an alternate history was an intriguing concept for me to try, but sadly it didn’t work for me. The story was certainly fast paced where the heroine finds herself in all sorts of deadly scrapes which she recovers from remarkably quickly. She’s an amazingly quick study at learning languages, the law of Roma Nova, becoming an undercover cop and at morphing into a tough special ops agent as well. In fact, in a matter of months, her total immersion means she’s fluent in everything about her new country which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Ancient Rome at all, apart from the inhabitants speaking Latin and having Latin names. The US and Roma Nova don’t seem much different and have amazingly aged over the centuries to be very similar places. Readers who are looking for a feisty James Bond type heroine in a fast paced thriller would probably love this book- the setting is immaterial to that. 

I'm off to do some personal WIP writing now...


Sunday 14 February 2016

#Sunday snippet from Take Me Now

I've not done a Sunday Snippet for ages so... here's a little snippet from Take Me Now

This excerpt comes from Chapter Seventeen and it's the first time Aela has heard Nairn mention Paris...


“Two short hops to organize for tomorrow.”
Nairn was, as usual, succinct.
Well, they had stayed put in the London office for a couple of days, Aela reckoning it was par for the course that they were off again - and truth be told she was excited by the prospect of being on the move. Nothing untoward had happened yet it seemed the whole office, and warehouse staff, were walking on eggshells since knowledge of the earlier incidents had affected everyone. Unfortunately, no evidence had been uncovered.
“The Netherlands first for a meeting in Rotterdam with a hot air ballooning company representative. I’m negotiating to add ballooning to our repertoire of European activities. Ever done any balloon trips?”
Her smile was huge. “Just one. Floated over Ayers Rock and the Australian desert for a bit out at Alice Springs. It was one of the highlights of my Australian leg of the world trip. I splurged out a heap of dollars, but it was so worth it! Can you imagine drifting up in the hazy grey-blue alongside the MacDonnell ranges? Then, when the muted colours of pre-dawn seep into the oranges of sunrise, the kangaroos start bouncing across the rugged landscape.” She sighed dramatically with the recall of it. “The birds were pretty fabulous too.”
“I’ve got to say that in Europe ballooning is more at the vagaries of weather conditions, but I’d like to get my fingers in that particular pie, as well.”
She shared Nairn’s amusement since he was showing he remembered lots of things she had said or done when she’d first met him. “You’ve done some ballooning?”
“A bit like you. A totally memorable trip over the Kalahari in Africa, but I’ve ballooned in other places, too.”
Her pencil was poised ready for details. “Ah…the joys. But back to organizing. Rotterdam then fly back to London?”
“Not quite.” Nairn was back to an enigmatic expression and mischievous tone. “When the Rotterdam meeting is over we’re moving south to Paris, to meet with a guy who is looking for investors to support a new facility he wants to build.”
Paris?” Her squeal of excitement could probably have been heard all the way to L’Arc de Triomphe. Nairn grinned at her enthusiasm.
“Ever heard of Bun-J-Ride?”
“Can’t say I have.”
“It’s a cross between a bungee jump and skiing- or cycling - off a ramp over a valley, or a canyon.”
“Wow! Sounds scary.” Her eyes goggled at the vision: her one and only bungee jump had been a bit daunting. “And then back to London tomorrow night?”
Disappointment probably peppered her gaze but she couldn’t help it because Paris was such an exciting prospect to visit.
“No. We’ll stay over in Paris since the second meeting isn’t till four p.m. and I’ve no idea how long I might want to thrash that one out.”
She’d spent three days in the Netherlands, mainly around Amsterdam and Den Haag, managing to zip through quite a number of the tourist attractions, adoring the quaint style, including the canals. She’d love to see more, though, and another fleeting visit appealed a lot.
But Paris? That was even more attractive.

Click HERE to read more on Amazon


Facebook Ads- work? or not?

Happy Sunday wishes to you - oh, and it's Valentine's Day as well! 

I decided after a pretty useless attempt at doing a Facebook Ad Campaign during 2015 that I'd probably not try again. That didn't last because I've got one going right now- in fact for the two days from Sat 13th to Sunday 14th Feb. I've tried harder to narrow down the targeted audience but have to admit that it's still baffling using the Facebook Campaign process. What I want to do doesn't seem to be an option. It tells me that my target area is pretty broad but dropping that balloon on a map is unbelievably difficult. It makes suggestions for the best audience to aim for, but then doesn't have the boxes to tick for a romantic suspense or for a romantic corporate sabotage mystery. However...

I'll be watching the numbers on Amazon to see if they change at all. If not, I'll have wasted a lot of my money, again.

Practically speaking, I also realise that there are huge amounts of romances that have been seriously discounted, and many are FREE for the weekend, so gaining any sales is a huge challenge. Maybe my covers will be fresh in reader's minds and that might be good for later...

We authors live in hope. Meanwhile, here's another of my recent Valentine posters.

Should you be so inclined to want to boost my sales of these 5 * rated contemporary romantic mysteries, just click HERE and HERE

Saturday 13 February 2016


Paying it forward

I'm still of the same conviction that reviews really do matter to an author and I'm trying to review each read as I complete a book- whether it be fiction or non-fiction.  

Here's another that I lust read recently. I've read Jen Black before and I have to really thank her because in the first instance she offered up her novel for a FREE day on Amazon and I snapped up the chance. I'll be reading a lot of her books, methinks, since I'm enjoying their entertainment between my heavier non-fiction Roman Scotland books. 

Fair Border Bride by Jen Black

This is a lovely read, taking us back to Northumberland in the early 1500s. Alina is a very forward lass for her time who has an immediate fancy for a new lad in town. The story isn’t that simple, of course, and there are very amusing moments – even though they probably shouldn’t be since they’re almost deadly ones for the main male character, Harry. Harry is a young man to whom a lot of unusual things happen but he’s got a really think skull and he can take a bit of roughing up! He’s a likeable chap, as is Alina a likeable lass. I didn’t think anyone was a real baddie but there are some dastardly deeds happening in them borders areas- the reivers are out but they’re not the only ones who are pretty nasty at times. The path to Harry and Alina becoming a wedded couple is full of pitfalls and hitches. The wedding scene wasn’t exactly predictable but it was easy to picture it since the writing is very well portrayed. Some of the speech seemed a little modern for me but it was a quickly read, highly enjoyable tale. 

Here's to happy reading. I'm still wading through my kindle TBR pile with a few paperbacks also in the queue. How about you? 


Fit Like? reblogged

Hello! Happy Saturday to you. 

It's my every second Saturday post at Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog. I've written about the awesome Fierce Beer that I tasted last night and added a wee bit of Doric on the side.

You can catch that post HERE or read a little more in this REBLOGGED version.

Fit Like?

I’ve said before on this blog that I love words. I love the diversity and elegance of the English language; I love to use really expressive words in my writing, even though they may not be easy everyday ones. What I don't often do is give my readers a teensy wee glimpse into the dialect that’s used by the indigenous north-easters of Scotland. That’s probably because even after 27 years of living in Aberdeenshire, I still canna spik a’ Doric!  (Can’t speak Doric)

Fit’s this aa aboot en? (What’s this all about then?)

Doric is a very strong dialect that’s spoken in the city of Aberdeen, and in Aberdeenshire, but in the way of things they are actually slightly different in inflection and even some of the actual words differ between city and shire. The term Doric is thought to have originated from the Greek word for ‘rural’ or ‘rustic’. If you’ve seen the Disney movie ‘Brave’ Doric is spoken by one of the characters Lord MacGuffin, but it’s pretty easy to follow the film without understanding a single word of what he says! 

 So back to the title Fit Like? That’s a daily greeting in the north east of Scotland whaur a bide (where I live) and is Doric for ‘How are you?’ My answer would be Nae bad…aye chavin awa (I’m doing fine, thank you) 

Now that’s about the extent of my Doric spikkin though I can understand a little more of the spoken words so it’s with some trepidation that I venture out into places where Doric might be spoken. The combination of me being fairly clueless about the dialect and having a hearing problem makes for a fun situation. Last night’s gaein’ oot intae toon (visit into the city) wisnae sae bad (wasn’t too bad), in fact it was fine wee nicht (a lovely night) considering it was the start of Valentine’s weekend.

My husband and I have never been into the ‘Valentine’s Day’ commercialism during our nearly 42 years of marriage but Valentine’s weekend is still always a special time for us. My younger daughter was born on Friday 13th February so we try to catch up with her at some point during her birthday weekend—though that’s not always easy since she has an incredibly energetic social life. Today, the 13th Feb, wasn’t going to be convenient to meet up with her, though last night was.

Since we’re aa’ teuchters (all rural dwellers in Aberdeenshire) we met up with my daughter, her husband and some of their toonser freens (city dweller friends) in the city of Aberdeen at the newest Brewdog Pub which opened just weeks before Christmas 2015.

The Brewdog Pubs are special in that they serve craft beers and have become very popular throughout the UK and beyond… since they were started up by 2 guys from North East Scotland in 2007.

I confess to not being much of a beer drinker but I made an extra special effort last night because we were celebrating more than my daughter’s birthday. My son-in-law has recently ventured into being a part owner of a new craft/designer beer company named ‘Fierce Beer’.

Fierce Beer had arranged to do a ‘Take Over’ last night (that is what they call the process) at the Brewdog Pub. It’s a bit like when authors talk about ‘Paying it forward’, when we help other authors by reposting blog articles, or sharing posts on Facebook or Twitter. The Brewdog Pub ideology is much the same in that they are very willing to allow new local beer companies to promote their new brews in the Brewdog premises. Last night Fierce Beer had 6 of its new brews available alongside the usual quantity of Brewdog options.

When we got there at 6 p.m. the pub wis aready affa thrang (already really busy), fair loupin (lively, jumping, wall to wall people) and helluva lood (very noisy).

Fit ye haein’? (What are you having?) Aa’ll hae a Ginja Ninja! Cheers mim! (I’ll have a Ginja Ninja. Cheers man, and thank you!)

I’m totally glad that although there was Doric to be heard aroon an’aboot  (around us) it’s also a  place filled with the young business crowd of Aberdeen so any Doric tends to be used in one-to-one chat and English used in the general conversations since Aberdeen is a very multi-cultural city these days. My answer to my daughter’s question of what would I like was ‘I haven’t a clue—surprise me!’ My son-in-law presented me with a ‘Fierce Beer Cranachan’ which is a pale ale made with raspberries and cream and oats and it did taste like the Scottish dessert named Cranachan. I’m very partial to Cranachan the food and now the beer! The Ginja Ninja is like a ginger beer with lemongrass and would be perfect on a hot summer afternoon. I also tasted the ‘Peanuts!’ a dark and delicious porter made with…you’ve guessed it…peanuts. I’m still sitting on the fence regarding the Dirty Sanchez which is a dark porter made with chipotle smoked chillies! 

If my hubby and I hadn’t needed to go and find a restaurant to fill our bellies I’d probably have tried the other Fierce Beers and maybe some Brewdog ones as well. The Italian restaurant we went to rounded off our night. And guess what? There was a very young couple (maybe late teens) sitting next us on a Valentine’s date. The hesitant Doric conversation and long pauses with no conversation at all indicated they didn’t yet know each other very much, but I hardly understood a word. I tried not to watch them pouring over their bill, quietly whispering over who was paying for which part. The man paying for the Valentine’s meal might not be the norm any more but the bouquet of roses he had the server present to the girl was very touching.

I was quite chuffed when my hubby paid our bill and the waitress asked Ye gaan doon a’ steers tae a’ cabaret? Were we going down the stairs to the nightclub with a cabaret? Err. No. I could have replied No yer aaricht. A’hm wabbit!  (No thanks. I’m exhausted.)

We ordered a taxi.

Too many beers followed by a delicious bottle of merlot!

Have a fun weekend—Valentine’s dates or otherwise. 


Tuesday 9 February 2016

What the Dickens? - Monogamy Twist
What the Dickens?

In my contemporary romantic mystery Monogamy Twist my character, Luke Salieri, might well have said that…but he didn’t. 

What he does think is that the situation he finds himself in is as though he’s been planted into one of Charles Dickens gothic inspired novels where a slightly dilapidated house is at the centre of the tale. Luke is told he’s the recipient of a once beautiful old mansion house in Yorkshire, but has no idea why he has been chosen as the sole beneficiary to the property which is not yet ruined, but is in need of a great deal of renovation. 

He also cannot fathom the weird conditions he must fulfil before he can finally claim the inheritance.
Wikimedia Commons - Charles Dickens 1852

I haven’t taken an exact situation from a particular Charles Dickens novel and used it as my whole plot but the image of the Dickensian dilapidated mansion—as Miss Havisham inhabited in Great Expectations—was a powerful one and inspired my writing.

In Monogamy Twist my contemporary lawyer, Luke’s friend John, is a nice guy but like Mr. Jaggers in Great Expectations—or indeed probably any other lawyer mentioned in Dickens’ stories—he must ensure that the letter of the law is obeyed. Minor twists might just be allowable though, because Luke is such a good guy, with his heart in right place with regard to intensions for Greywood Hall.

The conditions of properly inheriting Greywood Hall are worthy of the machinations of Dickens in his novels because they are quirkily intrusive in Luke’s life. Dickens set out to be a social commentator and became a worthy one. What he often highlighted in his novels was some sort of social injustice or an antiquated situation which required a change of law to be improved upon. Sometimes the letter of the law is an impenetrable thing, a pain in the butt, and just cannot be altered.

Luke Salieri has found this to his annoyance and needs someone to help him improve on his circumstances. Rhia Ashton, as a professional family history expert, is the perfect person since she is utterly competent at unearthing ancestral details and in sifting through a whole time capsule of fabulous historical artefacts in Greywood Hall.

Often in the writing of Charles Dickens we find that the romance in his stories is unrequited love for much of the story (sometimes all in the case of Miss Havisham), or that a great love is lost, or that an eventual happy ever after romantic ending is a hard won thing. Monogamy Twist is a romantic mystery so I’ll leave you to work out what kind of ending I’ve achieved in it!
Wikimedia Commons
Dickens was famous for the serialisation of his stories and his readers eagerly waited for the next instalment in the periodicals he wrote for. 

When I wrote my mystery Monogamy Twist, I aimed for my readers to experience that ‘What the Dickens is going to happen next?’ sensation from chapter to chapter. As in the dreaming Charles Dickens in the painting above I want my readers to do a bit of dreaming themselves. Personally, I rather love Luke and really enjoyed creating him- flaws and all. Rhia was also fun to write and like in some Dickens books there is a wonderful companion for Rhia in her lively Irish wolf hound Thor.  

Click on the above fabulous cover for Monogamy Twist and read the beginning...

Snatch a copy this week and give yourself a Valentines surprise or read it just because it’s a great price at c. £1.99 for a quirky ancestral based mystery!

Available from Kobo; ITunes; Smashwords; B & N Nook; Amazon.


Monday 8 February 2016

A 'Whodunnit' with a great ending!

#Monday Moments with 3rd Degree Olga Swan

This was an entertaining story with well rounded characters- some of whom are very colourful. there are a few that I wanted to stamp on their feet or give them a smack in the face, and I'm a pacifist!

Here are my thoughts on this interesting 'who dunnit'.

Behind the scenes at the university in 3rd Degree Murder, the goings on make me glad to have been on the student side. There were lots of references to the admin processes which were poignantly reminiscent to me, however, what makes the book a good read is how the ramifications of good and bad decision making in the upper echelons affects both students and administrators. Revenge, post decision making, is sometimes also moulded by religious traditions in the book, the characters coming from a range of religious backgrounds.
It’s clever to have chosen the experienced student situation that Maliha is in which gives her more freedom of movement compared to a first year who would typically be in the larger class situation. I also like how another of the main characters, Jenny, is in a more basic admin job because it gives the author the opportunity to demonstrate how not all of the lecturers are capable of doing the whole job properly—and can even be a charlatan. The home life of the main characters is well done as it gives the person a background which has created who they are in themselves and how they interact with others. There are other characters who give you pause for thought when it comes to revenge on Professor Axel Sloan.  Did the only baddie get what he deserved? A read of the book is the only way to find out!

Something jarred with me regarding the verb tense structure – though on a second reading that may not be a problem. 

I gave this book 4 and 1/2 stars on Amazon and Goodreads. 


Saturday 6 February 2016

Will I read them all? I'm trying!

Happy Saturday to you!

The Last Frontier The Roman Invasions of Scotland by Antony Kamm

I'm at that stage again of having read yet another Roman Scotland textbook but as you can read below I'm not quite thinking that's what it was. 

I'm not disappointed, though, because what I haven't got yet is the properly 'joined up' thinking of what went on on the Roman Empire before Julius and Claudius decided to invade Britain. I also don't have a proper grasp of what went on after the Roman withdrawal from Scotland, so this book will be useful for that in the future. I can't absorb everything on one read, the brain cells are slow to respond to the machinations of the Roman Empire and especially when it fragmented into Eastern and Western Empires but this book will join the growing set on my Roman History Shelf. 

Here's what I wrote on Amazon and Goodreads:

The book is a wonderful ‘go to’ book for reference as a broad overview of the Roman Empire, with a partial focus on the history of Roman Britain. However, I was hoping for more of the book to cover the few hundred years of Roman occupation in Scotland and that isn’t what I found. For that reason I think the title is a bit misleading- though having read a number of other texts on Roman Scotland, I realise it’s a difficult job to fill the pages purely on Roman Scotland finds. That said, I will be dipping into the book again and again, since I can’t absorb all Kamm has written in one read.

I gave the book 4 stars - mainly because of the content being general rather than specific.

What I didn't add in the short review:

The maps will probably be very useful to me in the future as will the timelines at the back of the book. What I forgot to mention in the review was that the book was very well written, well edited and readable for the non-expert, i.e. an interested dabbler as I am. I liked the inclusion of the translated sources from the ancient historians. 

I'll now focus a little more on my ~TBR fiction pile of books till my next Roman Britain book pops through my letterbox. No, I can;t stop buying more and more information on the subject of my obsession.

Friday 5 February 2016

‘Ancient Romans Raikin’ Aroon The ‘Shire’ REBLOGGED

Hello #Friday Friends!

I'm out blogging at my friend Tim Taylor's blog.

 You can find out my news and forthcoming events HERE where I'm talking about 'talking' on Sunday 7th February!

You'll probably have guessed that my subject might be something dear to my heart like my books...and you'd be absolutely correct. My little obsession over Roman Scotland is the hot topic!

Updates on the visit to come later but meanwhile here's a REBLOGGED version of my visit to Tim.

‘Ancient Romans Raikin’ Aroon The ‘Shire’

Something is happening this coming Sunday that I’ve not done before. Yes, you might imagine all sorts of scenarios for that, however…you probably know that authors get into all sorts of ploys to promote their books? Well, what’s happening on Sunday is that I’m doing an ‘author talk’ at a special lunch venue.

I’ve done plenty of author talks and power point presentations during the last couple of years but so far I’ve only been invited to imbibe a cup of tea or coffee, and eat some delicious sandwiches or homemade cake. By way of a change, on Sunday, I’m invited to eat lunch at an award ceremony in the city of Aberdeen before I do my short talk and this just might set a precedent that I’ll have to surpass in the future. Except I’m a slow eater and might be too nervous to either eat at all, or present my talk properly afterwards!

How did I come to be invited?

View outside my tent at The Aboyne Highland Games
In 2015, I sold a lot of my paperback novels at various craft fairs around my home area of Aberdeenshire. At The Aboyne Highland Games, a very nice chap (let’s call him AL) and his wife stopped at my table to talk for a while. The man asked a number of questions about my books, in particular my Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures covering AD 71-84. He was very enthusiastic about my choice of subject matter and the time period and wondered what made me choose to write about northern Britannia during the late first century. I think I just may have indicated that I’m quite enthralled, even obsessed, with the ancient Roman expansion into northern Britain and in particular the Agricolan and Severan campaigns in Scotland. Contrarily, I’m almost as fascinated by what the Roman Empire didn’t do in Scotland, since their presence was fleeting compared to other areas of the Empire.

We chatted about the fact that the ancient Romans left no stone buildings of note in northern Scotland. And that in central and southern Scotland there’s nothing like the villas and public buildings to be found in southern England…but there are stone remains of bath houses and some other fort buildings. 

I may also have made it clear that I find it very exciting that there’s still a whole gamut of possible remains, in wood traces especially, to be uncovered across Scotland. Many sites earmarked as that of Roman temporary occupation have never yet been properly excavated, so who knows what may still be uncovered there. I’m currently writing Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series and the bug to learn even more about Roman Scotland still grips me!

The Taexali Game, my teen time travel historical adventure had been recently published and that also caught AL’s eye. For a local, it’s easy to recognise the distinctive hilltop, Mither Tap of the Bennachie range, that’s visible on the cover. When I explained to AL that The Taexali Game is set in AD 210 during the northern campaign of the Emperor Severus, again pertinent questions came my way.

Whilst selling my books at craft fairs around the region, I’ve found it’s fairly common that many people have no idea that the ancient Roman army marched its way more than once to the Moray Coast of Aberdeenshire. There have been some who know that Roman armies came with General Agricola in AD 84 and had a battle in northern Scotland, later called The Battle of Mons Graupius, at an unnamed place that just might be at Bennachie. However, almost no-body knows that in AD 210 the Roman Emperor Severus and his son Caracalla marched northwards in Aberdeenshire with around 30,000 soldiers. I’m aware that some historians doubt that Severus came north since he was not a well man, being plagued with severe gout or painful arthritis and already in his sixties. However, there are sufficient other experts who don’t believe that Severus would have allowed his somewhat wayward son Caracalla to venture all the way north on his own. I also just might have mentioned to AL that I had a lot of fun including Severus and Caracalla as minor characters in The Taexali Game.

Though Books 1 and 2 of the Celtic Fervour Series are set mainly in Brigantia (present day Cumbria, Yorkshire and Northumberland), I emphasised to AL that Book 3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks follows the travels of my Brigante warrior, Brennus, as he makes a long and circuitous journey into present day Scotland. Brennus wends his way all the way to the Garioch (pronounced Gee-ri)  , the part of Aberdeenshire where I live. By then it’s AD 84 in the novel and my battle at Beinn Na Ciche is looming. I don’t name the battle in my Book 3 as the famed Battle of Mons Graupius but for me the location at present day Bennachie is a very possible battle site. The Roman marching camp at Durno, on the opposite side of the valley from Mither Tap of Bennachie, is thought to date to Agricola, and maybe also Severus. At 58 hectares it’s sizable enough to have held upwards of 30, 000 troops. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Agricola probably had at least 23,000 men available at what was later named the Battle of Mons Graupius and Severus set out to march north with some 50,000 troops but probably lost around 20.000 of those in guerrilla warfare before reaching the Bennachie area.  

I have a notice at my selling table pointing out that I am available for author talks and presentations on Roman Scotland and it was this which caught AL’s eye, hence the invitation to speak at the Award Luncheon.

My main problem with my talk entitled ‘Ancient Romans Raikin’ Aroon The ‘Shire’ (raking around Aberdeenshire) is knowing when to shut up after some 20-30 minutes. How can I possibly tell all the assembled company all about my obsession?

If you’ve any hints…please tell! Leave a comment for me! 


Monday 1 February 2016

#Monday Moments with the ancients

My #Monday Moments don't feature any author, or any novel written by someone else.  


Today, I had the pleasure of going to Daviot, a small village in Aberdeenshire, where I sold 6 copies of The Taexali Game, my time travel historical adventure, to the head teacher at the local primary school. 

It was total blast from the past because I used to teach at Daviot Primary School during the early 1990s and I've rarely been back since then. 

The visit was a delight as I was given a tour of the school-the actual buildings only slightly different from my earlier visits. The interior was bright and  interesting: colourful work of the pupils displayed around the premises. 

After my successful sale, I decided to treat myself to a visit to the Stone Circle at the Loanhead of Daviot, about a half mile from the school, since I'd not been there for a long time. The Neolithic monoliths now stand in a view also dominated by the towering structures of wind farms across the short valley but I, personally, don't find that jarring to the eye. I see it as ancient technology blending with new technology.

Erected nearly 5000 years ago the stone circle at the Loanhead of Daviot is a magnificent example of a recumbent stone circle. The distinction for this category is a large recumbent horizontal slab set on its edge, flanked by two upright stones (one of which has a broken off top). Though it is clearly a finely preserved example, the north-east of Scotland has around 99 stone circle sites officially documented.

The site comprises of two concentric circles with a central cairn. The outer circle is formed of 10 monoliths, the size of them increasing from the north-east towards the recumbent stone. Prior to excavation in 1934, five of the uprights had fallen over. They were re-erected in the upright position.  The site provided evidence of Neolithic beaker Age, Middle Bronze Age burials and Iron Age burials and occupation.

Evidence of cremated remains was found at the base of the upright stones.

At some time following its construction the interior was burned, possibly before the site was used for burials, the area was later filled in with a cairn of smaller stones bordered by larger boulders.

It’s thought the recumbent stone circle was used as a religious site during the Neolithic period some 4-5 thousand years ago, perhaps used for observing the moon. The seasons would have been noted by the way the moon was visible thorough the parts of the circle. One of the stones flanking the horizontal recumbent stone has twelve cup marks on it, which are thought to have been carved out during some religious rite performed there.

The land around the stones was farmed by the local people - some of their tools and other burials have been found in adjacent fields.  

An adjacent circle of low stones denotes the area used as a cremation cemetery much later than the stone circle was erected - perhaps c. 1500 B.C. This cremation circle cemetery is similar to some found in southern Scotland. It’s thought that a small ditch was made around the area during medieval times but that has eroded over the centuries and the area now marked by small boulders. In the interior, cremated remains were found of upwards of 30 people of varying ages, the burial site having been used till the late Bronze Age c. 500 B.C.  The ashes of some were found in beakers; some other in laid out graves. One partially cremated male was found holding a stone pendant.

Somewhere around the Middle Iron Age, approximately 500 B.C., the area was used for metal working.

I'm not writing about anything during the above time periods but it was interesting to remind myself of just how visible Mither Tap of Bennachie is from the stone circle at Daviot, Mither Tap of Bennachie featuring highly in The Taexali Game and in After whorl: Donning Double Cloaks (Bk 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series). It's hard to spot Mither Tap in the distance the photo below because of the tree cover but it's the curved shadow directly behind the gate at the centre of the photo.

Having walked down the track back to the car park, what confronts you is this view of Bennachie from the edge of the woods.

 I'm inspired now to incorporate the location into my current WIP- Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour series. It's easy to imagine either my Celts using the site to spy on the troops at the Roman army camp at Durno, or the Romans occupying the location knowing it to be a revered local site.