Friday, 22 April 2016

All Roads lead to Rome... via the Celts

It's a Fantastic Friday for me!

I'm heading off for a quick trip tomorrow. My road will eventually lead to Rome, by way of Edinburgh, though I'm not quite intending to follow the exact route taken by the Ancient Romans who appear in my historical adventure novels.

Agricola- Wikimedia commons / Bath
In my Celtic Fervour Series Gnaeus Julius Agricola is mentioned as being superior to my character, Gaius Livanus Valerius, a tribune of the Legio XX.  The Taexali Game has Emperor Severus and son Caracalla as minor characters. Those real live Romans made their way to my part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, by way of the Roman roads that they laid down or on the rudimentary campaign trails that they also created all the way north in what for them was the island of Britannia. They all, probably, travelled the roads in reverse - except if they made use of the Roman Classis for part of their journey. Since the fleet played quite a role in the northern campaigns, I'm guessing it's possible that they may have used them in part.

Agricola returned to the Emperor Domitian in Rome after his campaign in north east Scotland and was awarded honours for his endeavours as Governor of Britannia, and for his part in the so called victory over the massed iron age tribes of the north at the 'Battle of Mons Graupius' (according to the writing of Tacitus).

There is no fabulous marble arch of Agricola for me to visit in Rome, since only an emperor got those structures, but there is the Arch of Severus for me to definitely visit and the Baths of Caracalla.
Arch of Severus -Wikimedia Commons

I can't say how excited I am to now go and see the ruins of what were absolutely magnificent buildings created at the time of the 'Romans' who are in my novels. Before I wrote my historical novels, I had a mild hankering to visit Rome but it never happened. Now I can't wait to see all of the splendours of Ancient Rome.

But first...before I even step on an aeroplane which will deposit me in Rome in a matter of 3 hours, I will be visiting another fabulous venue. I'm setting aside a few hours before I head off to Rome to visit the 'Celts' Exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. This is a spectacular event that I don't want to miss. My main sadness is that I won't be able to take any photographs at the exhibition (not allowed) but I'll work out something to remind me of what are the most exciting parts of the displays.

I'll not be on this blog for a while and I'll be having Facebook withdrawal symptoms since I don't intend to log on much - if at all! Updates to follow later...


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Stella Birrell visits!

My Welcome Wednesday guest slot has been silent for a while but I'm absolutely delighted to say hello to Stella Hervey Birrell today.

Stella Birrell
She's come to tell us about her writing passion and to share her new chick-lit novel with us. 
Stella's Crooked Cat published debut novel was launched recently - How Many Wrongs make a Mr. Right? 

It's a great title and it's sitting waiting on my kindle TBR pile since I bought it at her Facebook launch party. 

I'm off on a jaunt soon and hope to read it then. You know that I like to read...and write... of happy endings as well! 

Welcome to my blog, Stella, and over to you...

As a writer of chick-lit, even my own gritty brand of it, of course I’m a big fan of ‘happily ever after.’ Rainbows, sunsets, wedding bells, the whole lot.

When I first attended a writer’s group, they were scandalised. I had appeared with
a) commercial fiction, and
b) a story with a happy ending.

They are poets, short story writers, serious novelists, all lovely people, but confused: why would I want to write such a thing?
Happily ever what?!
courtesy of Stella Hervey Birrell

They say you should ‘write what you know,’ and since University I have read women’s fiction almost exclusively. My favourite authors draw you in, confuse you with multiple possibilities, but almost always wind round to a wonderful ending: Jenny Colgan, Isla Dewar, Katie Fforde, Jane Green, Helen Fielding, Sophie Kinsella. These guys are the masters of the rainbow, the sunset and the wedding bell.

Courtesy of Stella Birrell - her copy of Bookends
Here's my much-read copy of Jane Green’s Bookends.
And what is so wrong with a story with a happy ending, anyway? It does happen.

When I was in my mid-twenties I had all but given up. Men were a complete mystery to me, none of them behaved like the good guys in my books, they all behaved like the ‘other’ guys. The ones the heroine falls for, but eventually realises is already married/big headed/mean/not serious. I wasn’t even very good at working this out, regularly clinging on to dead-end relationships. I hated people who said ‘it’ll happen when you least expect it.’ Or ‘if it’s right, it’s right.’

Of course, it did happen when I least expected it, and it was right when it was right. There were sunsets and rainbows and wedding bells, and… well, maybe not as much romance as a novel, my husband is Scottish after all, and he hasn’t read any of the same books.

Now it turns out that love was the easy part.

There is a lot of laundry after sunsets. The house still needs hoovered even if there are rainbows outside. There are often children after the bells are silenced, and as lovely as they are, they don’t leave much room for all that canoodling that got them here in the first place.

Creating a life together, choosing each other every day, maintaining love, is even harder, but far from impossible.

I’m so lucky, and I know I am. When I started to write seriously, I had all the support I needed from my man. I’m out a lot, at writerly things. I’m in a lot, doing writerly things.

Here is the product of all those writerly things.

He’s the one picking up the slack, laundry, hoovering, childcare.
And there is nothing more romantic than that.

Thank you for reading! My debut novel, How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right?, is available from the following places:

Search ‘How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right?’ in the iTunes Store

How to find me: please come and say ‘hi’ in one or more of these places
Twitter is @atinylife140
I have a writer’s page on Facebook here.

I can also be found wandering the streets of various East Lothian villages.

Thank you for coming today, Stella and I wish you the very best for How Many Wrongs make a Mr. Right. 


Monday, 18 April 2016

Monday Moments with Lora Lee

My Monday Moments are with Bringing in the Thieves by Lora Lee. This Cosy Mystery sounds like a fun-filled read. Read on for some details and a tempting little excerpt!

About the Book

Bringing in the Thieves
by Lora Lee
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Books
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Bell Bridge Books
Release Date: December 9, 2014
Length: 168 Pages

Frankie Lou's back and Poppy's madder than a wet hen.
Create a church choir filled with teenage misfits?
Over Poppy's dead body.

Minister's daughter Frankie Lou McMasters has come back to Ruby Springs, Texas with her daughter, Betsy, eleven years after running off to marry the town bad boy. Her mild notoriety as a bad girl is prime gossip for her childhood enemy, Poppy Fremont, now choir director of Faith Community Church--where Frankie Lou's daddy, now retired to Florida, was the preacher.

When Frankie Lou comes to the deacons with a request to add a youth choir of at-risk teens she's been coaching, Poppy throws a fit. A few hours later, Frankie Lou finds her dead in the baptistery pool. And Poppy's not playing possum.

Frankie Lou sets out to clear her name as the main suspect, and tries to locate the real killer. Could he be sexy Joe Camps, the father of one of her teen singers? In the meantime, her momma shows up from Florida to take charge of Frankie Lou's life. Bless her heart.

Lora Lee also writes as Loralee Lillibridge. Learn more about her contemporary romances and keep in tune with the Joyful Noise at

Bringing in the Thieves- excerpt

Haste really does make waste, I quickly learned. When I yanked a lit­tle too hard on the door to the baptistery, the handle came off in my hand and the door flew open. I staggered backwards, teetering precari­ously to keep my balance with my arms flailing like a crazy windmill, and completely missed the first metal step. My foot slid on the second, wa­ter-covered one, and next thing I knew, I was airborne like the rock out of David’s sling-shot.
Before I could yell for help, my face slapped the water with a hard smack. The sting of the impact burned like fire on my cheeks. The rest of me made waves big enough for boogie-boarding. I shot up spitting water like a breaching whale and sloshed back toward the steps to give the faucet an angry twist. Whose inexcusable carelessness had caused this gosh-awful mess? I’d definitely be fixin’ to report the matter soon as I could get to my phone. Why, who knows when the disaster would’ve been discovered if I hadn’t come back for my tote? The entire church could’ve flooded by then.
I groaned and rubbed my stinging cheeks, bemoaning the condition of the dripping capris and shirt plastered to my body like I’d been paper maché’d with wet tissue paper. There was nothing to do now but stay soaked to the skin until I got home.
To add to the bizarre craziness of the evening, one of my sandals had launched in mid-flight when I hit the water and was somewhere on the bottom at the other end of the pool. Since buying new sandals wasn’t in this month’s budget, I was about to launch an underwater Search and Retrieve. Whoever left that faucet running owed me a new pair of shoes. Why was it turned on? I’ve never been a fan of water sports, certainly not in a baptistery, but I was not leaving without my shoe.
I shoved my stringy, wet hair out of my eyes, held my breath, and stuck my head under the water. Feeling like a mermaid in the supporting cast of Finding Nemo, I spotted the sandal not far from where I stood and reached for it. That’s when my blurry underwater vision snagged on another much larger object. I sloshed over to investigate. I choked on my watery scream.
Lord have mercy!

About Lora Lee

You can’t be a preacher’s kid and raise a little hob without some serious repercussions. Yes, ma’am, that’s the gospel truth. Lora Lee’s JOYFUL NOISE mystery series for Bell Bridge Books, sheds a little light on just how serious those consequences can be when Frankie Lou Birmingham McMasters returns to her hometown of Ruby Springs, Texas after ten years in hopes of putting some shine on her tarnished reputation, but finds herself in the middle of murder and mayhem instead.
Though author Lora Lee insists the series isn’t about her in any way, shape or form, she does admit to being a real-life P.K. (that’s preacher’s kid, in case you didn’t know.) She was born in Texas and her Southern blood runs deep. Her daddy told her any place below the Mason-Dixon line was part of the South, including the Lone Star State.
Since living in West Michigan most of her married life, she’s lost some of her Texas twang, but once in awhile, a might could and a y’all or two slips into her conversation with her critique partners. They love her, anyway. So does her husband of fifty-plus years and their children. With a current family count of twenty-three, get-togethers often resemble an old time revival when they all gather for fun and food.
Lora Lee is a member of Romance Writer’s of America, Mid-Michigan RWA, Sisters-in-Crime, RWA’s specialty chapter Kiss of Death and is currently published in contemporary romance. She is also a proud graduate of the Grand Rapids Citizens Police Academy.
When not writing or trying to keep up with her ever-growing family, she enjoys reading, music and travel. Come back and visit for more on the upcoming release of BRINGING IN THE THIEVES, the first book in the JOYFUL NOISE series, and other upcoming news.

The Giveaway

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Thank you for coming to visit today, Lora Lee, and I wish you the very best with Bringing in the Thieves. 


Saturday, 16 April 2016

What did Alexander de Burnard live in?

Happy Saturday to you! 

It's my time again to post on the Writing, Wranglers and Warriors blog today where I've added a little about taking my grandkids to 'Visitor Centres' at an early age. I've REBLOGGED that here, along with a lot more details of our visit to Crathes Castle. 
(our visit to Grampian Transport Museum to follow) 


"Culture’em early! and questions raised…

Our local schools have recently had their 2 week spring holiday. When I was teaching, those two weeks were avidly awaited. They were an opportunity to recharge my batteries and snatch a short break in cultural venues steeped in history like Vienna, Barcelona, or Mediterranean islands like Malta or Crete. The destinations never needed long haul flights, European cities being easily achievable in a couple of hours from a Scottish airport.  

Now it’s my grand kids who’re locked into the school holiday system so, as a regular carer, I’m back to taking spring holiday breaks. We’ll work up to a whole week away…but not just yet… that’ll take a wee bit of practising! At present it’s a ‘Day Out’.
Last week we picnicked at 16th century Crathes Castle, along with my daughter who had a day off work. After a long visit to a brand new soft play area, there was heaps of grass to play ball on and space to throw a Frisbee.

My 4½ year old granddaughter wanted to go into the walled garden having remembered the fountain and various other interesting features from previous visits, her recall of things quite astounding. My grandson, only just turned 2 years old, was convinced it was Tinkerbell’s Castle and wanted to go inside, though an inside tour hadn’t been on the original plan for the day. With two adults it was doable—one adult and two little kids not so much.

Aberdeenshire is coined as ‘castle country’. It has the greatest amount of castles per acre in Scotland and there’s a plethora of them to visit, some of them now administered by The National Trust of Scotland of which I’ve been a member for the last thirty years. The interiors are all distinctively different, well preserved, and full of ancient treasures so it’s with trepidation that I enter the portals with a two year old, but you’ve got to culture’em early! "

When the castle tour is a ‘no touch’ affair an adult has to have multiple extended arms and legs but to give little Riley his due, he was pretty well behaved (for that read contained). Annalise, at 4 ½, knows the routine already in such venues and gets a lot out of looking around seeking the answers to some quiz questions, whilst milking her time doing a tap dance on the noisy stone flagged floors on ground level. There’s a tiny corner cell that’s in one of the four rooms of the ground floor which was used to lock up offenders till the Laird could deal with him, or her. Not much impressed by it being the place of the ‘Naughty Stool’, our Riley wasn’t the least fazed as he birled around his fingers trailing the stones walls as he went his merry way, singing an echoing song. His antics, however, served to show a Japanese couple that it really was a very small, low ceilinged, prison cell. The ancient lineage of the castle and details of the family who lived in it are beyond the kids just now, but I think that introducing them early to local culture is very important.   

Crathes Castle is set in magnificent grounds of around 600 acres which are typical of other grand estates in Royal Deeside. Aberdeenshire castles have an impressive history that’s both documented but also shrouded in legend. The present Crathes Castle, completed c. 1596 and which took around 40 years to build, was the home of the Burnett family for many centuries and was only given over to The National Trust for Scotland organisation in 1959, when the new Burnett heir, resident in New Zealand, couldn’t maintain the property.

Originally the ‘de Bernards’ were Norman arrivals to Britain around 1066, some of them having settled first in Bedfordshire, England. Later on, their name appears as land owning in the border counties straddling the boundary between England and Scotland. It’s only when Alexander de Burnard, a follower of King Robert the Bruce of Scotland, was given a gift of lands that the name became known in Aberdeenshire. For his loyalty to ‘The Bruce’ during the early 1320s, Alexander de Burnard was given the post of ‘Royal Forester of Drum’, an area of Aberdeenshire near Banchory-Ternan where he was also rewarded with nearby estate grounds.

Legend plays a part in the story because it’s said that the most prized treasure of Crathes Castle is ‘The Horn of Leys’ which Alexander received as his badge of office as forester. ‘The Horn of Leys’ is a highly decorated carved ivory horn which now hangs encased behind glass in the High Hall at Crathes Castle;  the horn symbol also a part of the Heraldic Coat of Arms of the Burnett family.

Legend, however, also states that the Wauchope family ( a very interesting name) were the original owner dwellers of the lands but it was wrested from them when they refused to become followers of the ‘Bruce’. I’m not sure if there’s any written evidence for this, though appropriation of land by force was pretty common by Norman overlords of the 1300s.
(information on WAUCHOPE HERE )

typical crannog roundhouse dwelling
The first fortified residence that Alexander de Burnard lived in wasn’t the grand castle I visited with my grandchildren. Alexander de Burnard, and his descendants for the ensuing 250 years, were said to have lived in a wooden crannog fort.

A typical crannog dwelling in Scotland was a structure built on 'stilts' or on a small, completely man-made, island. Crannog dwellings are now known to have been fairly common on lochs throughout Scotland and I’m particularly interested in this part of the legend. I would love to find time to investigate further because typical crannog dwellings which have been excavated were built like Celtic roundhouse seen in this example.

In the above mentioned case, the crannog dwelling inhabited by Alexander de Burnard  was in the middle of the Loch of Leys (formerly named the Loch of Banchory), the dwelling locally referred to in documented memory as the Castle of Leys. That shrieks to me as being more of a tower house but that doesn't fit with the dwelling of a family of pre- Norman influence.

So this is where the questions arise…
I’m wondering if Alexander de Burnard would have been happy to live out his life in what would possibly have seemed a very primitive and pagan structure if the existing structure was a Celtic style roundhouse.

Alternatively, the Wauchopes may have lived in a more Norman styled dwelling even before Alexander de Burnard was given the land. This site HERE has a possible clue and may indicate that the Wauchopes had not been on Aberdeenshire land for all that long before being ousted by Robert the Bruce!

Unfortunately there is no documentation, at present, to prove what kind of dwelling Alexander de Burnard lived in.

Normans who gained land in Scotland tended to build wooden tower houses of motte and bailey style. During the era of Alexander de Burnard, other Norman ‘implanted’ overlords were building fortified tower houses on man-made hills (mottes) across Aberdeenshire.


Norman style tower on a motte
Questions which occur to me are:
Ø      Did  Alexander de Burnard tolerate living in a Celtic roundhouse only till he was able to replace it with a higher motte on which he could build a Norman style wooden tower?
Ø      Did he only live on the estate after he had replaced the original Wauchope dwelling if it was a roundhouse?

Or, was the original Wauchope dwelling of the Norman style he would have wanted to live in anyway?

I have all of those and even more questions, some of which are partially answered HERE

The first excavations of the crannog dwelling were done by resident James H. Burnett of Crathes in 1850 when the Loch of Leys was drained and sadly, as an amateur archaeologist of the era, most of the evidence he uncovered has been lost or destroyed during the process. However, that particular Burnett was the first documented historian of Scottish crannogs and, therefore, takes a special place in the archaeology and history of both Aberdeenshire and Scotland.

More excavation of the site might just satisfy my curiosity.

Meanwhile, I'm off to do more research...after I've had a wee rest since I've been out at a FOCUS Craft Fair selling my novels at...maybe you've guessed Banchory!


Thursday, 7 April 2016

4 stars for Monogamy Twist

A great find! 

While adding reviews to Goodreads today I thought to check my own and that was a very good thing! I found a very complimentary 4 star review for Monogamy Twist. Here's what the reviewer has written...

"With a gutsy heroine, ruthless hero, loyal wolfhound and an old country estate this book has the right ingredients to deliver a very entertaining story - and it didn't disappoint.
Luke Saleri has been left Greywood Hall, an estate in need of renovation. But there are some bizarre conditions that he has to fulfil before he can take ownership. Luke has no idea why he should be the beneficiary, but is determined to uncover his connection to the past owner. But first he needs the co-operation of neighbour Rhia Ashton and sets about it in a deliciously ruthless way. And if the wild Yorkshire landscape didn’t provide enough of a romantic setting, Luke whisks Rhia off to Brisbane and Rome before the mystery is completely unravelled. 
An excellent read to curl up with. Enjoyed it very much. "

My thanks to the reviewer.


Reading YA fantasy...

Hello and welcome to Thursday thrills!

Well, there are definitely some thrills in the book I've just finished which you'd appreciate a lot, I think, if you are in the 10 years plus age group.

I bought 80 A.D. The Jewel of Asgard by Aiki Flinthart thinking it would give me an idea of what The Taexali Game might be up against in the Amazon stakes. The book is doing pretty well in the rankings but as the first of a series of around 5 books it has been FREE for more than a year, or on and off FREE for long periods of time (I think) to encourage readers to get a feel for the series and for Aiki Flinthart's writing style.

The very general premise of the book isn't too different from The Taexali Game in that the two protagnists- Phoenix and Jade- become the characters in the interactive computer game that they're playing. The book is set in southern Britain, within a few days walk of Stonehenge. The characters have to evade a few ancient Roman soldiers. Gnaeus Julius Agricola is mentioned, but I'll not give the game away about his connections to the story, But apart tfrom that the actual detail of Roman Britain is scant. I can say the same for the Druids as well so this book is not for anyone wanting a well rounded feel of the society of Roman Britain 80 A.D. but I think kids will like the fantasy of it.

There were a few formatting errors which I noticed near the beginning  -  but perhaps I didn't notice any more because I was into the story and not noticing any more. If that's the case it's a very good thing!

Here's what I've popped onto Amazon and Goodreads.

The story is set in Roman Britain AD 80 which is why I bought the book. However, the ancient Romans don’t feature very much in this action packed fantasy story. There are some interesting twists, especially that regarding The Jewel of Asgard which they have to pick up from Stonehenge. At times it’s good to work out who the real baddies are and to get an idea of how the main characters will conduct themselves in the game that is their quest. Phoenix and Jade age a little in the story which gives them some more maturity to conduct themselves in a landscape that’s unknown to them, and it’s very handy that Jade has some special and pretty impressive powers to hand. They’re both likeable characters: it’s easy to identify with their initial self-doubts. YA readers who love fantasy might like this book but if you’re looking for accurate and thorough Roman Britain detail you might be disappointed. However, the rest of the series might provide that. 


Wednesday, 6 April 2016

5 extra minutes for - Review time!

It's Wednesday again and time for me to do short reviews of books that I read last week. 

I know just how important it is for the author's sales ranking if readers pop even just a few words on Amazon or Goodreads. I'd love some 3, 4 or 5 star reviews of my work but it's really hard to encourage people to spend a few more minutes after reading my books to help me in this way. Often when I'm penning a few thoughts on the books I've read, I want to be writing my own new work but it's really not that much of an effort to spend a few minutes to appreciate the pleasure (and sometimes the opposite) that someone has given me from their writing.

My first book to give thoughts on today is Sticks and Stones by Susie Tate. I got her first book from Amazon fairly recently, enjoyed it, and then spent £1.99 buying the second in the trilogy.

This is another fun novel. If you’re in the mood for some lighthearted romance then you’ll enjoy the tale of Dylan and Lou. I got more out of the story having read the first of the trilogy before this one and would recommend reading in that order but it can also be treated as a stand alone novel. There are some very funny parts, great phrasing and not just in Welsh (which is hilarious and makes me want to learn the language as much as I want to learn the other forms of Gaelic). However, there are poignant moments, too. Gregariousness often hides a sensitive soul and that’s what Lou is for much of the novel. Dylan is a rogue but very loveable. As with Book 1, I'd not want to be near them as a patient, oh no!- but their escapades as doctors and consultants are funny.

It was easy to give this 5 stars.

I'll be adding another quick review soon - when I can catch a few moments - today being a grandkid minding day!


Tuesday, 5 April 2016

A Friendly Engagement by Christine Warner

About the Book

A Friendly Engagement (Friends First - Book 1)
by Christine Warner
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Published by: Entangled Publishing
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Length: 298 Pages

What's a little engagement between friends?

Omar Esterly is married to his job. But when Omar sets his sights on a potential, family-oriented client, his confirmed bachelorhood becomes a problem. Fortunately, his friend and employee, Devi Boss, has the perfect plan...

Okay, so it wasn't exactly Devi's plan to become her friend's fake fiancée. Lies aren't her style. However, Omar offers her a big, beautiful raise - enough to track down the missing father she's never known - and Devi reluctantly agrees to the whole engagement hoax...

This was supposed to be a no-strings-attached win-win for both Devi and Omar, but when they cross the line between friendship and...well, something more, Devi realizes she's made a huge mistake that just might cost her both job and friend - falling for her fiancé.

A Friendly Engagement 

“You’re game for anything, right?”

Devi compressed her lips and studied Omar through a narrow gaze, taking in the way his overly bright eyes concentrated on her face as if memorizing every pore. Her gaze traveled south to the non-existent rise and fall of his chest and how he pushed his suit jacket aside as he placed his hands low on his hips. He’d stopped breathing while he waited for her reply. That made her more nervous than anything. “Normally I am game for anything, but considering the man asking the question, I’m a little nervous.” She licked her lips.

Omar shook his head, swallowing her hands in the warmth of his. “No. This is a great idea. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.”

“I’ll hold back on saying I’m glad I could help until I know what you’ve got pinging around your brain.” She tried to pull free of his grip, but he only grasped her fingers tighter. Her inner voice told her whatever plan he’d cooked up included her and she wouldn’t be thrilled with the role.

“Bartow wants a family-first firm. He wants a planner who is married, blah, blah blah.” He dismissed his unfinished words with the thrust of his chin.

Devi nodded, her mouth going dry. Was he planning to hire a wife, or about to propose?

“I might not be married, but what if I were engaged?”

She didn’t want to jump to conclusions about the proposal so she pasted on a tight smile. “Do you have a serious girlfriend hidden away I don’t know about?” The thought unsettled her, but she pushed aside the heaviness in her gut. Omar and relationships mixed like fire and ice. Not that women didn’t find him attractive and vice versa, but his true love would always be work. Most sane women wanted something more than a workaholic commitment-phobe.

He shook his head a bit too vigorously. “No. No.” His grip tightened, and she flexed her fingers so he’d loosen his hold. “Hear me out before you shoot me down.”

“I’m more curious than ever.” Again, she threw sand over that niggling feeling in her belly. She never jumped to conclusions. Living by the seat of your pants didn’t allow it, but…

Why start now? She rolled her shoulders in an effort to relax. Omar pulled her off to the side and out of the crowd moving past them on the sidewalk. His hands shook with excitement, and he swallowed hard before clearing his throat. Always calm and collected, his buildup unsettled Devi, and she tugged one hand from his grip and pressed it against the gurgle growing in her stomach.

“How about we announce our engagement? I could pull in some favors and have it in the press Monday morning. That’d still give Bartow enough time to invite us to the meet and greet. And—”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa.” Devi’s stomach did a nosedive, and she yanked her other hand from his death grip and stepped back. She twisted one of the bangle bracelets on her wrist. “Our engagement? First off, I didn’t even know we were dating. And second, I am not going to help you get ahead by lying.”

About Christine Warner

Christine Warner is living her dream in Michigan along with her family, three laptops (she might have a slight addiction, or maybe it’s a fear of one imploding from overuse) and a much loved assortment of furry friends.

Besides laughing and a good round of humor, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, reading, writing but no arithmetic.  A confessed people watcher, she finds inspiration for her stories in everyday activities.  She loves to read and write about strong heroes and determined, sometimes sassy heroines.

A girl gone wild, at least where social media is concerned, she enjoys meeting other avid readers and writers on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and her website.

The Giveaway

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Thank you for visiting today, Christine, and best wishes with A Friendly Engagement. 


Monday, 4 April 2016

Monday Moments with Jeff Gardiner

My Monday Moments are with Pica by Jeff Gardiner. 

I'm always delighted to host my friend Jeff Gardiner. He's a very talented author of different genres and he's also a very excellent editor.  It was via our links as Crooked Cat authors that I met Jeff. I hired him to edit The Taexali Game and I'm so glad I did, because it wouldn't be the same without his very perceptive input. 

Today, he's come to share his novel Pica with us, giving us an idea of what prompted the story. Make sure you read on to find the tempting extract after the post. 

I've got Pica on my kindle all ready and waiting and I'm sure I'll love it because I've really enjoyed the other books that are on there written by Jeff Gardiner! 

Over to you, Jeff, to tell us a  bit about Pica and your fantastic news about it...

PICA by Jeff Gardiner

I’ve always been inspired by nature. The times when I most feel alive are when I’m walking in a forest, on a hillside or by a lake.

Our relationship with nature as a human race is an odd one. On the one hand we are animals – part of nature. On the other, we often seem to be at odds with nature. We cut down forests and build concrete jungles; we pollute and urbanise as if we own the place. We seem to have forgotten our place in creation; our relationship with other animals and the wonderful world that is our home. How many young people go for walks and holidays in the countryside these days?

Although world politicians are now slowly moving in the right direction, most environmental experts agree that it’s not enough. We’ve done too much damage in such a short space of time. We are killing our planet. What a strange way to behave.

Pica picks up on this idea.

Luke plays violent computer games and hates the idea of a boring rural walk. One day a magpie taps on his window, and from then on he sees magpies everywhere he goes. A new boy, called Guy, joins his school, who is odd and soon a victim of bullying. However, Luke is drawn to this strange boy, and as he gets to know him everything he understood about his life is turned upside down.

I wanted Pica to challenge people’s perceptions about young people and about our relationship with the natural world. In the past we understood things that have been lost over the years. Luke begins a journey to rediscover that ancient ‘magic’.

I was also keen to make this novel – the first in the Gaia trilogy – a fantasy. Fantasy literature allows us to use our imaginations in our understanding of reality. Luke discovers powers that many of us can only dream about, so there is also a sense of wish-fulfilment alongside the serious environmental message.

The planning and writing of Pica took about a year. The novel went through a number of revisions, with one whole sub-plot completely deleted and rewritten. I sent off the synopsis and first three chapters to a few publishers and agents that accepted unsolicited manuscripts, but received standard rejections (the ones which don’t really indicate if anyone actually read it at all).

This led to further major revisions and rewrites, until Pica was eventually picked up by Accent Press. They have been brilliant, offering excellent editorial advice, and some wonderful opportunities.

Accent YA – their young adult imprint – are being rebranded and I was told that Pica would be one of the titles they were planning to launch at The London Book Fair.

So things are very exciting. I even have a cover quote from fantasy author, Michael Moorcock, who read it and wrote, “One of the most charming fantasy novels I've read in years. An engrossing and original story, beautifully told. Wonderful!”                    

Find Jeff here: 
Jeff’s website

Links to Buy Pica
Accent Press
Barnes & Noble
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Australia

About Jeff
Jeff Gardiner is the author of four novels (Pica, Igboland, Myopia and Treading On Dreams), a collection of short stories, and a work of non-fiction. Many of his short stories have appeared in anthologies, magazines and websites.
Pica is the first in the Gaia trilogy – a fantasy of transformation and ancient magic, which Michael Moorcock described as “An engrossing and original story, beautifully told. Wonderful!”
 “Reading is a form of escapism, and in Gardiner’s fiction, we escape to places we’d never imagine journeying to.” (A.J. Kirby, ‘The New Short Review’)
For more information, please see his website at and his blog:

PICA Extract

A magpie (Latin name – Pica pica) has been persistently knocking on Luke’s window, and everywhere he goes he sees magpies. One day he decides to let the magpie in…

As soon as I pushed the window outwards the waiting bird hopped in, making a sound that almost equated to a tut. That can’t be right. I was imagining things again. My first fear that the magpie would squawk and flap about madly was unfounded, but I still felt nervous in its unpredictable presence, and had to keep trusting it wouldn’t poo on my bed.

But it didn’t. In fact, it acted with excellent manners. What kind of bird was this? Wild birds don’t enter houses after knocking politely. If a bird does accidently get into a house it goes completely mental and craps everywhere. This one looked at me with eyes that gleamed with intelligent understanding. It knew me. I swear, it looked at me and knew I wouldn’t hurt it. In the old days I would have looked for a stick or a weapon. Now things were different, and I stared back at him with utter fascination. I moved even closer, confident I wasn’t in any danger.

‘You need to choose your friends more carefully, Luke.’

I stumbled slightly and had to grip the windowsill with my fingertips to hold myself up.

What the –?

The sodding bird had only gone and spoken to me. It snapped its beak, glared at me sideways, then flicked its tail.

Was that for real, or had I lost the plot? Being with Guy had obviously turned me into a nut-job.

Up to now, I’d witnessed some amazing sights – but they could all be explained in encyclopaedias. However amazing the creatures Guy showed me, each one existed in the real world. But a talking bird? Now we’d suddenly jumped into a different dimension.

And it had used my name.

Had Guy sent this amazing bird to me to blow my mind even further?

It had to be Guy’s doing – sent on a crazy mission … unless …


Now I felt really stupid talking to a bird.

‘Hello, Luke.’

Bloody hell. Take me to a padded cell. I’d lost it. Maybe I never had it!

‘Guy? Is that …’ This was crazy. ‘… is that you?’

I wish you all the best with Pica and thank you for coming to visit today, Jeff. I'm really looking forward to reading it. I'm not superstitious normally... but there are exceptions. I love to see the magpies return to my garden,  though only if there are at least 2 of them!  You, however, know that you're welcome anytime! 


Friday, 1 April 2016

The Journey Back- One Joy at a Time by Cherley Grogg

This Friday Feature is posted to help a blogging friend of mine who has a book available that's FREE for 1st - 5th April. Her short book is designed to help those who have a particular faith but who might need a little more impetus to strengthen it. 

I know if I need assistance with publicising my books on the internet, Cher'ley will be there to help me, and though I don't share her religious convictions, some of what she's advocating about bringing joy to life makes a lot of sense in a very busy world.  

Over to you, Cher'ley....

Cher’ley Grogg—Free Download of “The Journey Back—One Joy at a Time”

 Cher'ley writes different genres. "The Journey Back--One Joy at a Time" is a devotional book with lovely photos and exercises to strengthen your faith. "Stamp Out Murder" is a cozy mystery set deep in the mountains of West Virginia. "The Secret in Grandma's Trunk is a YA novel set along the Ohio River featuring a spunky Grandmother and a rebellious youth. She has a short Novella, “Four Moons and Fair Maidens”. Cher’ley has a contributing story in "Small Town America" and "West Virginia Memories". She edited and contributed to the anthology “Boys Will Be Boys-the joys and terrors of raising boys”. She has a story in the “2014 C3 Anthology”, and a contributing story in “Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico Anthology”. She drives an eighteen-wheeler, enjoys photography, painting, fishing, reading, walking, dancing, and long baths. Her artwork is in collections around the world, and in many parts of the US. She loves the Lord, her husband--Del, her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and her Carin Terrier, Tootsie.

     I figure the best way to let you know what the book is about is to share part of the first chapter. There is also a scripture verse and an activity at the end of each chapter and I have written several original poems, and taken original photos for this book. I hope you will find it helpful and that you will return to it time after time. 

   Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)  “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


This is the first activity. Try it and please let me know how you feel afterwards. My contact information is at the end of this blog as well as the link for the free download of The Journey Back—One Joy at a time. 

Joy for today: *Go outside, lay down on the grass (or lean way back in a chair) and look straight up at the clouds. What do you see?*

Chapter 1

You are broken. Something has happened in your life—to you—a good person. Things that happen to us are rejection, chronic disease, depression, loneliness, inadequacies, and the death of a loved one. Your problem may not be listed, however, travesties big or small are real, and they hurt. 
This is a book about coming out of a deep sorrow and some ways to handle life’s smaller problems, as well. I wrote this book for me, only in the process of writing “The Journey Back”, I realized how much we all need to instill or re-instill “One Joy at a Time”. 
Do you remember the first time you heard the “Serenity Prayer”. The first time I heard the poem was when President John F. Kennedy repeated it:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the knowledge to know the difference.

This little prayer can help us through many a trial and tribulation. Some things in our lives can’t be changed such as chronic illness and death. More things can be changed, the things that are centered in our emotions: rejection, depression, loneliness, and inadequacy. We have to learn the difference and ways to change the things we can. 
There is more to this poem and the words are not new. Written by Reinhold Niebuhr, and first used in the written form at the conclusion of his sermon in 1943.

The original attributed to Niebuhr is: 

God give me grace to accept with serenity
The things that cannot be changed.
Courage to change the things
Which should be changed,
And the Wisdom to distinguish
The one from the other.
Living one day at a time.
Enjoying one moment at a time.
Accepting hardships as a pathway to peace,
Taking as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to your will.
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with you in the next.

Recognize your problem. Listen to what others are saying to you. No matter how subtle the voice is, either of your friend, or in your own mind, there is an acknowledgement of what is going on in your life.
You may not need to be surrounded by others or a hands-on comfort, but you need to understand something has changed in your life.
Or you may need the hands-on comfort that can only be received from others. Hands-on comfort can help you heal.
There’s no right or wrong way to recognize your sorrow.
The important thing to remember is “I need help”. Even though, I can’t change all situations, or hurts or problems in my life, I can change some of them.

For a free Kindle download from April 1-5th 2016, click here The Journey Back—One Joy at a Time 

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Wishing you great sales, Cherley. Thank you for sending along your post today.