Wednesday 26 July 2017

Like scary stories? Try The Helland Reckoning!

Novels Read Recently Update 1! 

Are you able to read paranormal horror easily? I really don't think I'm very good at it because The Helland Reckoning by Adrian Martin (published by Crooked Cat Books) was really not a comfortable read for me but it was totally rivetting- at least once I had plucked up sufficient courage. I'm certainly no expert at paranormal, or horror, but get the feeling some people might not find it as scary as I do but might love it for the absorbing storyline. 

Here's what I thought of it,  the review I posted on Amazon and Goodreads...

I have to confess to beginning this novel and then doing something most unusual for me. Once started I normally read through a novel right to the end, even if not all in one sitting.  With The Helland Reckoning I got to around 10% and put down my kindle. Reading this kind of novel in bed and around midnight was way too scary for me. I decided to only read the novel during daylight hours.
I’m glad I eventually plucked up the courage to read on (definitely during the day and not alone) because it was totally engrossing though I’m not really sure why some of the bloodiest bits happened! Closer to the end I was piecing together the interweaving character threads but definitely not the entire plot - there were still some surprises that the author kept under wraps till the end.

Paranormal horror isn't my most favourite genre but if you gravitate to that kind of story then I'm sure you'll love The Helland Reckoning.

Happy reading!


It's a Summer Surprise from Columbkill Noonan!

Happy Wednesday greetings to you!

As part of my Summer Surprises for You theme we continue with a visit from a fellow Crooked Cat Books author Columbkill Noonan who has a very exciting day today. Her novel Barbnabas Tew and the Missing Scarab launches today, the 26th July. Congratulations, Columbkill!

Columbkill Noonan
Columbkill's come to share something very different and entertaining with us,today. It's not often I get to have the publisher, the author and someone who will soon become a very famous person all on this blog at the same time sharing what was a fabulous surprise for all of them.  Grab yourself a drink, get comfy and get to know a little about how today's launch came about.

p.s Pay Barnabas some special attention because he's quite a character!

Welcome to the blog Columbkill- it's exciting to have you stop by and share these moments of sheer joy with us because I know how busy it is for you today. Being nervous about a launch is pretty normal, though not too many of us think about our characters feeling a tad nervous as well. And thank you so much for really giving us lots of other surprises as well as we read on beyond the conversation with 'the publisher' and Barnabas! (I wonder who that publisher is? Wink, wink)

“Surprise!” says the Publisher. “We’ve got a launch date!”
“Ahhh!” says Barnabas, the earnest, responsible, and slightly high-strung detective from Victorian London. He turns a bit red in the cheeks, and shifts nervously from one foot to the other. “And when is this ‘launch date’, I wonder?”
“Why, it’s this coming Wednesday!” says the Publisher. “You’ll be coming out July 26th. Isn’t that wonderful news?”
“Wonderful!” says Me, the Author. “Exciting!”
“Errr….” mumbles poor Barnabas. The red has now spread out from his cheeks to color his face entirely, giving him the complexion of a nearly-ripe tomato. It is a most alarming sight, really.
“Why, what’s the matter?” I say. “You look as though you’re having an apoplexy.”
“It’s just I’m not certain I’m quite ready,” says Barnabas. “I’m not even properly dressed.”He pats awkwardly at his billowing white robe. (Don’t ask why he’s wearing such a ridiculous thing, please; you’ll only upset him and besides, it will all become clear somewhere smack in the middle of “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab”. Poor Barnabas would never forgive me if I spoiled his story!)
“Now Barnabas,” says Me. “We’ve talked about this. You’ll be fine. You’re completely ready.”
“I suppose,” says Barnabas. “It’s just such a…, well….”
“Yes?”I prompt.
“It’s just such a surprise!” he sighs.

And isn’t that the way of surprises? They can be good, or they can be bad, or they can seem good to one person and bad to another. It doesn’t really matter what the surprise is, it’s how you view it.
I personally love surprises. I think the most magical moments in life are unplanned, unforeseen, and therefore, unforgettable. There is beauty in chaos; a field of wildflowers growing every which where, or a rocky seashore with the waves flinging themselves wildly upon the cliffs. And there is so much to be learned in the unexpected.

Once I was in Frankfurt, all by myself. I don’t speak German (excepting that I can sing all the words to 99 Luftballons, which is, of course, not very useful when one is trying to navigate around a foreign country by oneself. “Hast du etwas zeit fur mich?”is not something one says normally in the course of a day, is it?) Anyway, I decided on an impulse that I wanted to go to Heidelberg, so I walked to the Frankfurt train station (which is enormous) and somehow managed to buy the ticket (I knew the words for train, and which track, and so forth. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know numbers (which are incredibly important when one is looking for a particular train track and there are what seems to be half a billion different tracks), so when the ticket seller told me which track to go to, I was more than a little uncertain.

I ran around in circles for a bit, then found what I thought was the right track, that happened to have a train sitting on it pointing in what I thought was probably the right direction. So I got on the train, and sat there…and started to worry. What if it’s the wrong train? What if it doesn’t go to Heidelberg? But then it hit me: so what? I might not be going to Heidelberg, but I am going somewhere, and maybe I’ll like that place too. So I just sat there and happily waited to see where the train would take me.
Turns out I went to Heidelberg after all, and it was fabulous, and I loved it, and I kind of wish I lived there now.

Nancy says : I've been through Frankfurt Station enroute to Heidelberg as well and know exactly how enormous it is. I also adore Heidelberg, so much so it features in one of my mystery novels! 

Barnabas, of course, is a bit more British about things; he likes everything neat and orderly and predictable. He likes to know where he is, and where he is going. He would be most decidedly unhappy to be on a train with a destination unknown. He thinks roses are their most beautiful when they are trimmed and arranged just so, so that each one is in its proper place. He likes for people to behave the way they are supposed to (in a civilized sort of way, that is to say). 

Of course, fiction doesn’t usually behave in an orderly, predictable sort of way, and “Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” is no exception. Indeed, beginning almost straightaway, Barnabas (together with his loyal assistant Wilfred, who is just a tad more resilient about things) finds himself in the most unexpected and terribly surprising circumstance. To be stolen from a museum in the middle of
London and thrust into the very strange (and rather frightening) Egyptian Afterlife is about as unexpected and surprising as it gets. But our Barnabas, distraught though he may be, has a job to do, and he knows that it isn’t terribly polite to let one’s feelings interfere with the discharge of one’s responsibilities. 

But I’d better stop talking about that, before I give away too much. I don’t want to spoil all the exciting surprises that are in store for the readers!

Nancy says: Absolutely, no spoilers please because I'm sure I'm going to love reading about Barnabas Tew. 

So, back to the topic of surprises and chaos and order. Isn’t life (and fiction) just a wonderful mix of all of these? And, as the Fibonacci sequence shows, wildness and order are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Maybe Barnabas and I are not so different, after all. We are merely looking at the same thing from opposite sides, we are two sides of the same coin, the yin and the yang, yada yada yada.

I am excited for the launch date, and can’t wait to see what will come from it, what people I’ll meet, which adventures I’ll have. But when I think about it, I am nervous (just like our dear, earnest Barnabas). People will read the book. I hope that they will like it, but of course not everyone will…nothing is universally liked by every single person on the planet. 

So, whilst I tend to be a happy, excited sort of person (the kind who loves surprises!), Barnabas really is a reflection of my more anxious, worrisome side. Really, both sides are required for everything to stay in balance, and to work out the way they should. Sometimes one needs to plan, and sometimes one needs to just go with the flow.

So….Surprise! Chaos and order are both necessary, at the same time.
But, really, what does one wear to something like this? 

Nancy Says: Something cool and comfortable might just do the trick!

“Barnabas Tew and the Case of the Missing Scarab” is now available on Amazon!

Connect with Columbkill: 

Twitter: @ColumbkillNoon1

Thank you for coming today, Columbkill. Congratulations again. Wishing you the very best of launch days and continued success with your writing. 


Monday 24 July 2017

#The Battle of Harlaw 1411!

Monday Moments Greetings to you! 

I tend to write a lot about the pre-historic Ancient Roman Invasion of the Garioch area of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, but my local Garioch area has been invaded at other times within historical memory.   

The Battle of Harlaw 24th July 1411
One of these times occurred in 1411 on July 24th. This battle was recorded though some details vary according to sources and allegiances of the clans who came to fight at Harlaw, around 1 mile away from the present county town of Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. The actual details may be hazy but the occasion has been remembered for centuries in the Ballad of The Battle of Harlaw.

Words to the Ballad are HERE

This is a great wee video accompanying the Old Blind Dogs version of the ballad. I urge you to watch it  through to the end where you can see the present day monument to the Battle at Harlaw. The footage is an amalgam of shots from various films but I think it gives a credible idea of what they may have looked like- though I'm certainly no expert in medieval Scottish warfare.

Aberdeenshire in this instance wasn’t being invaded by a totally alien army like it was when the Romans invaded in A.D. 84. The Battle of Harlaw of 1411 was a rift between opposing Scottish forces. By the early 1400s, Scotland had been a unified country for approximately five and a half centuries, the first king Kenneth MacAlpin having united the east and the west in A.D. 843 but that didn't mean all was peaceful. 

By 1411, there was huge strife between Donald of Islay, Lord of the Isles (head of the Clan Donald) and the Duke of Albany (Robert Stewart of the Royal line) who had taken control of the Earldom of Ross. In 1411, the Clan Donald  had been a worthy adversary of the Clan Stewart for decades, the Stewart dynasty of Kings having ruled from 1371.  

The Stewart take over of Ross was contested by Donald, Lord of the Isles who was married to Mariota, Countess of Ross. Donald, on his wife's behalf, laid claim to the Earldom of Ross. ( Marriages at this time tended to cause dissention as well as sometimes uniting families and clans) Donald set forth from the west with an army of supporters and invaded Ross (shire) in northern Scotland

A battle was fought and won at Dingwall (north of Inverness) by Donald who then continued south with his army, said to be 10,000 clansmen (probably an over inflated count), his intention to control the city of Aberdeen. By 23rd July, Donald’s army had almost reached Inverurie, approximately 20 miles from Aberdeen.

Harlaw Monument - Wikimedia Commons 
The Earl of Mar, the local ‘guardian’ of Aberdeen and the surrounding area, mustered a force of between one and two thousand men at Inverurie (though this was more likely to be several thousands with some highly equipped mounted knights among them). The details of the actual battle are scant but it’s said that Donald lost some 900 of his men in the fierce pitched battle that took place at the fields of the Harlaw on 24th July. Mar is said to have lost some 600 men but by the end of the whole day of fierce battling with swords, bows, axes, long knives and targes (round shields) no clear winner was obvious.

Donald chose to retreat overnight back to the west coast via the north of Scotland. 

Though the Earl of Mar could claim no positive victory in the battle, the city of Aberdeen was saved... and the rest became infamous history in ballad form.


Thursday 20 July 2017

A Warrior Poet

Thursday Already? 

This week is flying by for all sorts of reasons. My leisure reading has been limited but I have managed to read something light and easy. 

When I'm in the mood for a simple historical read I often reach for historical romance and the one mentioned today has been on my kindle queue for a little while. 

I've read other novels by Kathryn Le Veque and have enjoyed them so I thought I'd try this one with the intriguing title of The Warrior Poet. I was also interested after reading about the background research for the story having come in part from the poetic writing of a Sir Christian St. John pf the mid 1200s.

The Warrior Poet was enjoyable but less so than other novels by Kathryn Le Veque, like Lespada. The detail is as well researched as her other novels but there seems a slightly more relaxed style to the writing, and some language use that took me out of the medieval period.    

The Warrior Poet by Kathryn LeVeque 

It’s hard to equate a hulking medieval warrior as also being someone who writes the finest of poetry but Christian St. John is just that – and being the most handsome of warriors puts icing on his cake!  Some medieval knights had chivalrous streaks and without adding spoilers some of the St. Johns come across like that. A feud lasting decades between the St. John family and the neighbouring deGares seems to me to be a very believable concept in the northern England of 1266 A.D.

I enjoyed the tale of how Christian and Gaithlin’s romance develops though there are some aspects which didn’t gel with me so well. The use of ‘Honey’ as an endearment didn’t work for me (though, I believe, there’s documentation on its use from the mid thirteenth century). There were also some viewpoint changes that jolted me from what was mostly an absorbing read. 


Wednesday 19 July 2017

Summer Surprises with #The List

Its a Wednesday Summer Surprise for you!

Today, I'm delighted to introduce you to a new guest to this blog who has come with the kind of Summer Surprise that I absolutely love since it means me making a new purchase to add to my kindle queue. 

Graham H Miller
Graham H. Miller is a fellow Crooked Cat author who has a very exciting and busy day since his novel 'The List' launches today! I'll be popping into his launch party on Facebook  (19th July 2017) which is happening HERE 
and I'm sure he'll be delighted to have you pop in, too. (That's a cool hat Graham!)

Welcome to the blog, Graham. I love reading mysteries. I love writing them and although it wasn't my original intention some crime has crept into my contemporary mystery novels- though, unlike yours, mine cannot be termed crime novels. I've yet to read The List but it sounds just like my kind of story.

Can you tell us a little bit about what led to you writing The List?  BTW- Brilliant cover design! It's eerily mysterious...

The List is a crime novel with a mystery at its heart. My main motivation for becoming a writer was always asking myself “what happened next?” when I finished a book. This question really fuelled this book – each section begins with a short scene that takes place twenty years ago. 

The main hero is Detective Sergeant Jonah Greene of the South Wales Police. He feels his career is at a dead end when he returns from stress related sick leave and is pushed sideways into the role of coroner’s officer. His first body is that of a homeless man who froze to death. His bosses want the case closed but he is handed a list of seven names that the man wrote before he died. As he investigates the names, he becomes aware that something terrible happened in the mid-nineties. As he investigates, his career, relationships and finally life are put at risk.

As long as I can remember, I’ve had ideas for books. When I was at university I played role-playing games (the old-fashioned way with paper and dice) and graduated from there to writing stories. As I said, I’ve always been fascinated with the aftermath of big events, even if those events are usually the climax of a novel. 

One of my favourite TV programs of recent times was Broadchurch. Firstly they focused on one crime and studied it in detail, examining its effect on the whole community. Then, when they’d had the big climax with Olivia Coleman and David Tennant finding the murderer, they came back for a second season. This satisfied all my logical cravings as it exposed the faults in police procedure in the original series. It really was a “what happened next” plot.

So, when I was writing The List, I started with The Big Event in the nineties and worked out what would have happened as a consequence. From there I went to the crimes that would happen and finally how Jonah would solve them!

Law Courts, Cathays Park, Cardiff. 
My publisher, Crooked Cat, said that in my book, the location acts like a character. It’s set in Cardiff and the surrounding area in South Wales. In the last few weeks I’ve been visiting locations for this book and the next one to take photos and I’ve always been impressed. It’s such a fertile landscape for a writer to set a story in. 

Cardiff was a small town in 1800 and still has the energy of a city that is newly arrived. It has the old Victorian and industrial heritage side by side with modern areas which were developed less than twenty years ago. Outside the city are the valleys – a place all of their own – together with the coast and the countryside. Really, the possibilities are endless!

Thank you, Graham. That sounds like lots of books set in Wales are set to follow The List! There are so many places I need to revisit in Wales and Cardiff is one of the many that I need to explore a lot better sometime in the future, Graham. 

Your approach to writing The List sounds so 'planned and organised' compared to me since I essentially started off writing as a 'pantser' author. Well done with your organised strategy because I belatedly learned when I wrote one of my mysteries that being organised from the outset was a whole lot better than having to backtrack to tidy up at the editing stages! 

Graham H Miller can be reached at his website on Facebook at and on Twitter @grahamhmiller 

The List is available from Amazon HERE

Thank you for popping in today, Graham. Best wishes with your launch today (which is already looking very promising on Amazon at before 8 a.m.) and for the future success of your writing.


Tuesday 18 July 2017

Another #Discovered Diamond for Book3 #Celtic Fervour Series!

Tuesday continues the smiles! 

After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks, Book 3 of my #Celtic Fervour Series has also received a 'Discovered Diamond' Review from Discovering Diamonds.

Once again the reviewer has some very rewarding things to say about my writing which has given my confidence a real boost.

Saying this in the last sentence puts a rosy glow to my face today that's nothing to do with the continued sunshine- "...the entire series is set firmly among the very best of early Romano British novels."

The rest of the review is also very complimentary in that the reviewer has captured the essence of the story with these words:   " a vividly compelling view of life as it may have been after Rome had swept into Britannia and taken everything for their own gain – except they never managed to conquer the hearts and minds of the Celtic people they conquered."

Her saying that the book is "thoroughly exciting" an "enjoyable read" and "wonderfully researched and elegantly written" brings me a lot of joy!

If you've not yet read my series you can pick up a copy from Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, KOBO, Itunes,  and other ebook stores.

If you'd like a signed copy of my series  - send me an email and we'll discuss how that can be arranged!

Enjoy the day.


Monday 17 July 2017

Monday... sMiles today with a Discovered Diamond Award!

Happy Monday wishes to you! 

The sun has been shining today. Yes, believe it or not in my part of Scotland it really is a pleasantly warm 20 ish Deg C. with a light balmy wind.

Even better to make me smile was reading a beautifully insightful review of After Whorl: Bran Reborn, Book 2 of my Celtic Fervour Series posted on the Discovering Diamonds website.

There's such delight for me as an author when a reader, or official reviewer,  writes that they enjoyed my novel and also highlight the most salient points about the work! It's not simple to do that in a few paragraphs but it has been done very well today for After Whorl: Bran Reborn.

After Whorl: Bran Reborn has received their Highly Recommended category and is a Discovered Diamond.

My sincere thanks to Anna Belfrage ( reviewer) and to the team at Discovering Diamonds. It's an amazing feeling when a reviewer says that they find the history vividly portrayed and when added to my "accomplished writing" there's a "delightful and most satisfying read!" 

It's smiles all round for me today.

Please click onto the site HERE  to read the full review...


Sunday 16 July 2017

Ah, juniper ...and a Sunday Snippet!

Sunday Surprise!

About Juniper... and if you read on there's a bonus Sunday Selection from my current writing. (not edited) 

Juniper -Scotland,  Wikimedia Commons

As I write my current manuscript, I’m wondering what kind of tree or bush growing in north east Scotland 2000 years ago would still have berries in October- Berries that are edible by humans.

One such possibility is Juniper berries. I’m mildly surprised to find that berries can be found on junipers pretty well the whole year round and even more interesting is that juniper berries can be ready for picking at different stages of the year. This is possible because they can develop at different times on the same plant. Initially slow to germinate they tend to take at least two years before they are established enough to set fruits and the fruits are often on the bush or tree over a two year cycle as well. That means, as int he photo below, that the current crop ripe and ready for picking are deep blue but the new ones set that season are green and will take another year to ripen. 

Botanically, junipers are dioecious meaning that individual plants are either male or female. (

Juniper berries, I now find, have been used for ritual, medicinal and for general eating purposes for thousands of years.

Culinary Use
Juniper berries- Wikimedia Commons (blue ripe/ green next years berries) 
A very interesting fact is that juniper berries were used by the Ancient Romans as a substitute to black pepper. I can definitely use that fact in my current writing! 
Similarly used in crushed form, juniper berries were added to sauces, and to dishes for cooking game in Scotland in historic times, the recipes handed down through the last centuries. Juniper berries were used in England to flavour bread and cakes so it may be that some similar use was also made of them on Scotland.  

Medicinal Use
The earliest known recorded medicinal use of juniper berries is found in an Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1500 BC. The potion ingredients included juniper to cure tapeworm infestations. 
Juniper berries have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs though some of the varieties of juniper are not known to have been grown in Egypt.  A type of juniper was found in the tomb of Tutankhamun but it’s likely that the berries would have come from Greece.  And it’s possible that the Greeks may have used juniper berries to increase the physical stamina of the Olympians (athletes).

The Romans were known to have used juniper berries for stomach ailments and for clearing out the digestive system.  Culpepper, a medieval herbalist, prescribed them for the treatment of flatulence among other complaints (Juniper oil is still used for digestive tract ailments today).

It’s known now that chemicals in the berries stimulate contraction of the uterine muscles and could potentially be administered during labour which comes as no real surprise because in south eastern Scotland during medieval times if someone gave birth ‘Under the Savin’ it meant the woman was having a juniper induced abortion/ miscarriage (savin being an old name for a type of juniper).

Ritual Use
Juniper when burnt produces limited smoke but it highly aromatic. It was popularly used in ancient times for the ritual purification of temples. The smoke was said to aid clairvoyance and to aid contact with the otherworld. Juniper burning was used in Central Europe to cast out witchcraft and to cleanse places of evil spirits.

Alcoholic Use
The illicit stills of the Highland whiskey distillers were powered by juniper fuel. Hidden away in the glens the smoke produced from the juniper was minimal and the outdoors wafted away the aromatic fragrances which meant detection by the Excisemen was a harder task. 
Today, some whiskey distillers still use juniper berries during a first distillation of  a new ‘still’ though this may be more for traditional and ritualistic purposes than purely for flavouring the casks.

Use in gin
Highland juniper berries were collected for centuries and were carted to the markets in Inverness and Aberdeen to be sent on to Dutch gin distillers.
Though not so plentiful nowadays juniper berries are still used in many different drinks worldwide.  

Herbal and Aromatherapy Use 
Along with natural juniper oils, the berries and other parts of the plant are used in the production of herbal medicines, aromatherapy oils and for other ‘antiseptic/bathroom’ related products.

Current studies revolve around the fact that juniper possibly releases insulin from the pancreas (hence alleviating hunger) and could be used for some types of medical complaints, like particular forms of diet related diabetes.

Here's an added bonus today! Enjoy a Sunday Selection from my current writing and in particular look out for that juniper:

It's A.D. 84. Location: north east Britannia (current Aberdeenshire). Enya, Nith and Feargus are seeking news of Enya's brother and cousin who have not been seen since the disastrous battle against the forces of General Agricola at Beinn na Ciche. Their task is not an easy one as they have to avoid the marauding patrols of the Roman legions. 

Nith returned to the dilapidated roundhouse late the following morning. Sending her a warning call from a little distance away he waited for her reply before entering the decaying dwelling. Regardless of the bad news he had to share with Enya, he could tell from her concerned expression that Feargus could not travel that day.
“The north bank of the river is crawling with groups of Roman auxiliaries. Enya, I cannot be sure that a patrol will not come this way.”
The hint of tears welling in her eyes were dashed aside as she fussed about adding some more wood to the low burning fire in the centre of the room. Her words were venomous, grimly delivered to the weak flames she produced with the wooden switch used to poke the embers. “I detest those bastard invaders more and more come every new dawn!”
He looked over to the makeshift bed where Feargus lay asleep. Placing his spear and sword near to hand he slipped down onto one of the logs he had brought in to sit on the previous night. “We are too near their new encampment to be safe from foraging patrols.”
The look she sent him was one of weird satisfaction. “Then they will find as little, or as much, as I did. This farmstead has been abandoned for many seasons. There are no wandering hens or pigs gone wild and they will find no grain stores either.”
Enya passed him a handful of juniper berries and hazelnuts. “I can pick plenty of these when I find them but you, as well as anyone, know that my hunting skills are only good for killing men and not beasts for the spit.”
Nith swallowed down a smile before popping some of the berries into his mouth.  He knew too well that when hungry Enya could be very snippy. He glanced over to Feargus. “How is he?”   
“His leg swelling is much worse this morning though I have re-wrapped it with a different herb poultice and I have prayed, and prayed some more, to the goddess Rhianna to ease his pain.”
“He has a fever?” Realising he was starving, he grabbed up another handful of berries and nuts from the batch she had piled onto a bit of cloth that lay on a flat stone next to the fireside. It was poor fare but he knew that those particular berries were always good for staving off hunger.
“Aye, he has that too, though I managed to get a feverfew infusion into him.”
Biting down on some nuts he mumbled around them. “He looks peaceful enough. Has he been sleeping since I headed out at dawn?”
Enya nodded before she padded over to the cot. “He is peaceful now but earlier he was very restless, his sleep disturbed.”
After a quick spread of her open palms to Feargus’ cheeks Enya continued her whispering when she settled back down beside him. “He feels much cooler now.”
He looked askance at her. The words made her grey eyes look less anxious as she absently clutched at his arm. A tiny smile curving her lips brought warmth to him that he knew was nothing to do with the flames in front of him. Animation quickened her next words.
“Nith. After you left, I realised Feargus was fevered. Leaving him alone was risky but I went back to the woods. I remembered trampling around some feverfew plants last night when I walked around those bodies. I picked some of the feverfew this morning. The leaves were past their best now that it is after Samhain but I think they were worth a try.”
“If you knew how to use the plant then it will surely help, Enya” He was not in all honesty convinced, knowing very little about which plants the healers used, but Enya clearly needed reassurance.
Her sparkle continued. “I looked again in the daylight and came to the same conclusion as we made last night. Those people were definitely not killed by a Roman enemy. The murderous coward who felled them did not look them in the eye.”
“Do you still think it was only one warrior?”
Her eyes glittered and the clutch at his arm intensified. “From the tracks around the area, including our own, I can only think it was one other person who was in that glade.”
He curled his palm over hers and returned a gentle squeeze. “Enya. That means he, or she, may not be far away. We must be very careful when we meet strangers.”
He hated to see the doubt clouding her soft gray eyes and did not want to make her even more insecure but he could not hold back his words as he looked over to their friend who was stirring in the corner. “We really should move on.”
“Aye, we should but I will not leave him.”
Her expression softened while he held her gaze for a few moments before she rose to check on Feargus.

For as long as he had known her, Enya had always been loyal to those she loved and on this occasion she was no different. He was not sure how that acknowledgement made him feel but regret was part of it. The rest he was not ready to think about. Instead practicalities were more important. “I will watch from the crest of the knoll. That should give me ample time to warn you if they come anywhere near here.”


Thursday 13 July 2017

#carmel flan and other goodies

Thursday travels!

I'm over at Isabella May, today, talking about all sorts of things important to me. Come and join us


Wednesday 12 July 2017

# in the name of Mercurius!

Wednesday wishes to you in the name of #Mercurius!

In Scotland, before we had 'Wednesday' (our mid week day whose name was acquired from Wodens Day of the Anglo/Saxon era) I'm not sure what it would have been called in the pre-historic Celtic language of my characters in my Celtic Fervour Series. 

The current Scottish Gaelic for Wednesday would be Diciadain ( ji-KAY-den) . Sadly, I don't speak Scottish Gaelic so can't corroborate this translation. However, it's believed that the current Scottish version of Gaelic is linked to the modern Irish version, and to the Manx version  - all of which have evolved from the old Irish version of the Celtic language - as in the Goidelic basis sometimes referred to as Q-Celtic. 

On the other hand, the P-Celtic or Brythonic Welsh version of Wednesday is  Dydd Mercher.  It's possible that my Celtic characters would have said something closer to the Welsh version because it's thought that what was more likely to have been spoken in north east Scotland would have been a P-Celtic version, as in a Brythonic version, back in AD 84.

Further south in the Britannia of AD 84 some of the already Romanised and educated tribes people would already have been speaking some Latin and would have been referring to the mid-week day as being dies Mercurii, the day of  Mercury (current French  Mercredi and other Latin based languages similar).

As I write my current WIP, questions for myself to answer are regularly thrown up which lead to nice little coffee-time digressions. Presently writing scenes with Gnaeus Julius #Agricola as the main character, I'm thinking about how he would have referred to his days of the week in Latin and would he have known how his Gaulish ancestors would have named the day?

It's easy enough now to find the Latin for Wednesday but the earlier Celtic form is much harder to deduce.

It's also important for me to think about which which gods or goddesses #Agricola might be appealing to in order to sort out his current predicaments and this leads me to some lovely research. I might think I have a general gist of some basic functions of some Greek and Roman gods but there's always more to learn and sometimes that little bit of extra detail can lead to interesting additions to my story. 

Since today is Wednesday, here's a little about... Mercury...a multi-function god who must have done a fair bit of multi-tasking!  

Mercurius (essentially the same as the Greek god Hermes) has the acclaim of being one of the major Roman gods.

He is the patron god of financial gain and commerce (the name Mercury possibly connected to the Latin derivation merx as in merchandise).

He's also associated with trade, particularly the grain trade which made him popular in places like Gaul and Britannia where he was also teamed up with commercial success and abundance.

As god of eloquence he is linked to the art of poetry and in music the invention of the lyre  is attributed to him (originally as Hermes).

The fastest of the gods, he is god of messages, communication (including divination), travellers and boundaries.

Being a trickster, he is also the god of luck, trickery and thieves.

A darker aspect to Mercury is that he is the guide of souls to the underworld, though he does this in the role only as a guide rather than with any judgmental input. It was through this role that he was asked to guide Larunda to the underworld but he fell in love with her and the result was that she gave birth to twins named the Lares. 

In general terms, lares were invisible household gods who protected the local environment (usually inside the house). The lararium, a small dedicated household shrine area where statues of deities could be placed, was very important in daily Roman life.

Creating a lararium was not confined to the interior of a house. It's believed that in forts along Hadrian's Wall niches in the plaster walls of the contubernium barrack rooms were used as a lararium, tiny statues of favoured gods and goddesses having been placed there for praying to, possibly on a daily basis as well as in times of extra need.  (contubernium rooms housed approx.  8 men, some of whom guarded on a rota system so not all used the beds at the same time)

In my WIP, perhaps my Roman soldiers on campaign in northern Britannia and staying in contubernium tents in temporary camps also laid out a tiny area of the tent as a lararium- even though space would have been extremely limited. I think it would have been much easier for Gnaeus Julius Agricola, or his senior officers, to do this if they had larger tents though it's a big question for me to decide who of the army would have been the most devout. Would it have been the educated officer class or the lowliest of soldiers whose life was gruelling and a strong faith kept them going?

More about Mercury

The messenger god Mercury is generally described as wearing the clothes of a shepherd. He has winged sandals and most often wears a winged hat. He generally carries a caduceus, a staff entwined with two snakes. (There are plenty of stories available about the two snakes!)

The Unicode Astronomical symbol for Mercury

may represent the caduceus staff. The circle might be Mercury's head and the two "horns" might be the wings on his head.

In classical art he is often accompanied by a cockerel (herald of the new day), a ram or goat (symbolizing fertility), and a tortoise, referring to Mercury's legendary invention of the lyre from a tortoise shell.

In the Bellini painting, I'm not entirely sure about the helmet which to me (Philistine that I am) looks a bit like another upside down bowl with no obvious wings. The sandals don't look entirely practical for a shepherd and the wings seem to flown off? However, in this painting Mercury is clothed, appropriately or otherwise, which is not the case for many others.

Corregio's hat does have interesting wings but the detail of the helmet and the sandals might be overlooked as the viewer takes in the tender scene between Mercury and Cupid.
Venus' thoughts seem to be a little bit elsewhere though if I looked at the classical symbolism of her stance and demeanour it'd probably tell me something else. She exhibits a sensuality that Correggio seems to find easy to portray. For modesty she does have a cover draped at hip level but it leaves almost all exposed. Similarly Mercury's drape covers the important bits of a physique that seems very realistic for a young man.

This one by Dosso Dossi (1490-1542) is an interesting scene. Jupiter painting butterflies, Mercury and Virtue. Jupiter seems uninterested in the goings on between Mercury and Virtue but what Mercury is shushing Virtue about just might be very interesting to know. Is Virtue begging for something less than virtuous? I don't know but I don't personally think she's particularly alluring or sensuous. Mercury, on the other hand, does have quite a feminine face on a fairly robust male body.

I think I just might have to find out more about the symbolism of Jupiter painting butterflies means beyond the idea of him as supreme deity bringing them to life through painting them. Perhaps the scene is quite empty because as he begins a new one the previous ones are becoming more lifelike and flying free from the canvas?

Mercury, according to this link , is shushing Virtue saying that creativity is much more important than virtue is.

Jupiter definitely seems to have put aside his more ferocious tendencies and looks very comfy as he creates.

What do you think Mercury is telling Virtue to be quiet about? 

This one I like for its realistic portrayal of a young man. I can see this Mercury being a lot more capricious and mischevious than the statue at the top of this post. Note the cockerel at bottom left looking quite chirpy as well. The winged helmet is a great shape but the lack of winged shoes just might mean this Mercury doesn't fly so swiftly as the messenger of the gods!

How fast do you think he will fly?


Friday 7 July 2017

#Nonae Caprotina!

Friday Felicitations! 

The Ancient Romans loved their festivals and sometimes, over the decades and even centuries, they had so many to celebrate that it seems they forgot what they might need to celebrate. The beginning of July was such a time.

From the 5th onwards, for eight or nine days, citizens (and sometimes servants) were celebrating Poplifugia, the Ludi Apollinares (solemn games honouring Apollo), Nonae (Juno) Caprotina and the Ancillarum Feriae (Festival of the serving women).

Poplifugia is a largely obscure festival on the 7th July, which was named on a calendar found in Nero’s villa at Antium (Anzio).

Thought to mean something like ‘Flight of the People’ historians haven’t yet identified what they might have been fleeing from.

The writer Varro thought it commemorated the Roman retreat after the Gallic invasion of 387 B.C.

The Plutarch theory (Plutarch’s Lives) is that it is in honour of the fact that Romulus, one of the twin founders of Rome, disappeared (or was spirited away) on the 7th July 714 B.C.

A third theory is that Poplifugia is in the plural form and refers to more than one ‘flight’ – like the Regifugium (King’s Flight) and that the festival covered more than one day and perhaps incorporated the Juno Caprotina festival!

Juno Caprotina

The Roman goddess Juno as Caprotina was worshiped for different reasons. As a fertility goddess she is associated with goats and figs. Symbolic of fertility the goat is said to be a ‘randy’ animal and the fig is a fruit which has many seeds.

The Nonae Caprotina was held on the nones, or 7th day of July. This festival was thought to have been exclusively celebrated by women, and especially slave women.

One origin (though there are other possibilities) of this festival may be that in the 4th century B.C. Rome survived a siege by the Gauls though considerably weakened by the event.  Some of the neighbouring tribes took the opportunity of making demands on Rome, demanding women in marriage or they too would sack the city of Rome.

In usual Roman fashion, the Senate debated what to do. During this debate time a slave woman, Tutela, took the initiative. Along with other female slaves, they dressed as free women and approached the enemy ranks. As though celebrating a wedding, they encouraged the enemy to get drunk. When the enemy soldiers fell asleep, the women snatched their weapons. Tutela climbed a wild fig tree (caproficus) and waved a torch as a signal for the Romans to attack. As a result of the victory against their enemies, the Senate gave each participating slave woman her freedom and a generous dowry.

In remembrance of the triumph, the Nonae Caprotina were celebrated. As an offering to Juno, fig branches and the milky sap of the fig tree were presented. The festival rites were celebrated in the fig grove of the Campus Martius (the Plain of Mars).

You’ll find more information here:

Whatever the reason for them, would you like to have festivals every other day?


Thursday 6 July 2017

The Isle of #Mull...

Daughter of Mull: Magic of Mull Series, #3 by [Fleming, Joan]

Thursday Reading update!

In 2015, I went on a Coach Trip to the west coast of Scotland islands of Mull, Iona and Staffa and loved it. It wasn't my first visit to Mull but it was to Iona and Staffa. It was, therefore, lovely to re-visit via a contemporary story set on Mull.

Here's my thoughts on Daughter of Mull by Joan Fleming, #3 of The Magic of Mull Series, published by Tirgearr.

This was a lovely revisit for me to the island of Mull and Iona. I was last there in 2015 and the memories are still fresh of some of the spots mentioned in Daughter of Mull.

There are a number of themes running through the book which are generally relevant to lots of people: like making new friends quickly; enduring love; deep friendships; failed and broken relationships; and various causes of indecision during the transition from friend to lover. There can be many reasons for holding a person back from committing to a long time relationship or marriage, and this is true for Anna and her mother Janet. The question remains undetermined till the end about who is the one for Anna—is it her new friend Finn or her old friend Roddie—and even then I wasn’t entirely convinced that Anna’s heart was totally engaged. The theme of adoption is central to the story and for Anna it’s an all round successful ending with all parties happily reconciled to a meeting between Anna and her birth mother. 

The pace of the novel is steady and the writing and editing neatly done - a simple story and a quick read.

If you love tales set in west coast of Scotland backgrounds, you’ll enjoy reading Daughter of Mull! 

On Iona


Wednesday 5 July 2017

Merle launches today!

Summer Surprise for the beginning of July! 

I love it when my Summer Surprise is about a brand new novel and today is one of those days. My return guest today is Angela Wren whose newest novel Merle is published today, 5th July 2017.

Angela Wren
Angela visited in July 2016 to tell us about about the first book in her series where French policeman (gendarme) Jaques Foret finds himself more of a detective than a country policeman in Messandrierre. I very much enjoyed Book 1 and wrote a short review of it, so I'm looking forward to reading this new one as well. (apologies for the lack of circumflex- I don't know how to do it with my latest keyboard)

Today, Angela has sent along an excerpt for me to share with you to give you the flavour of Jaques Foret!

Welcome back, Angela, and settle in with a cup of coffee while my readers enjoy your extract. I'm picking some strawberries to make strawberry tarts later today, so hang around and I'll tell you when they're ready!

Thanks for inviting me to your blog today.

I thought I'd let you see one of my favourite scenes from my new novel, Merle, published on July 5th.
Lake Col du Rieutort  - courtesy of Angel Wren 

This is the second book in my Jacques ForĂȘt series of mystery stories set in the CĂ©vennes and featuring my lead character and investigator, Jacques ForĂȘt.  Although Jacques is now working in Mende, a major city about 30m kilometres south of my fictional village, Messandrierre, he still keeps in touch with the villagers and his close friend, Gaston, in the village restaurant.  Beth Samuels, his love interest, is also back in her chalet in the village and Jacques calls in to see her when he can.

The local farmers are still giving Jacques a few headaches but he finds ways of dealing with them… as you will see in the extract below.

"I want an explanation and none of you are leaving here until I get one." Jacques, unshaven from having being woken so early and dressed in a pair of creased jeans and a jumper, paced back and forth in the bar as he waited for someone to respond. "This find has to be called in. There is no question of that. But you will have to explain what you were doing up in the north pastures at four in the morning. It's a very odd time to be mending fences, Rouselle." His tone hardened. "What were you doing?" He stopped and looked each one of the men in the eye in turn.
"Rouselle?" he prompted.
Rouselle shifted in his chair and looked away. Gaston and Pamier glanced at each other but said nothing.
"Right." Jacques pulled out his phone. "You leave me no option and the charges I will be suggesting to my old colleagues in Mende will be trespass, concealment of a body and obstruction of a police investigation. I'm sure I can think of a couple more, but those will suffice for now." He began to dial.
"Tell him, Rouselle." It was Gaston who broke the silence. "Damn well tell him, man."
Jacques pulled up a chair from a nearby table, pulled his notebook from the back pocket of his jeans and sat down. "Any chance of some coffee?"
"Of course," said Gaston as he got up and moved across the room.
"It's not trespass, Jacques." Rouselle blustered, "I was taking back what was mine." He sat upright, his hands placed on his thighs, defiance in his eyes. "I was taking back my land."
"And do you have documentary proof of where the boundary between your land and Delacroix's actually sits?"
"So, if I were to ask for those documents so that I could pass them on to a surveyor, he will be able to tell me that your new fence is in exactly the right place. Is that correct?" Jacques watched the farmer's face as a smidgen of colour suffused his cheeks.
"I'm just a simple farming man, Jacques," he said, his tone more moderate and respectful. "I understand cattle and the land. How do I know what a surveyor will find?" He shrugged off his evident lie.
Jacques tapped his notebook with his pen. "And why did this…reclaim of your land have to be undertaken now? It's 4.37am, it's still dark. Moving fences is not the sort of job that I would normally expect to be done at this time in the morning." He accepted the coffee that Gaston handed to him and sat back in his chair, left ankle resting on his right knee.
"I've a very busy day today and I wanted to get the job done and out of the way early." Rouselle placed the coffee he was handed on the table next to him.
"I see. You have such a busy day today that you can afford to keep lying to me, can you? No-one is leaving until I get to the truth, Fermier Rouselle. The whole truth."
"Delacroix owes me," he shouted. "And I'm not giving up on my land. I'm doing my bit for the community by taking care of his cattle, as requested by Monsieur le Maire, even though the compensation for those two beasts of mine that he injured and Clergue killed is still outstanding. I want my land back." He stared at Jacques.
"Then do it legally, Rouselle. What you've been doing here tonight is highly suspicious. I have no doubt that your new fence will be more or less in the right place, Fermier Rouselle. But, more or less is still not exact and still not legal."
Before the farmer could remonstrate more, he turned his attention to Gaston. "And your involvement is what?"
"I was just helping out a fellow villager, that's all, Jacques." He finished his coffee and took out his cigarettes and lighter.
"Fermier Pamier, your reason for being there?"
"The same as Gaston." The both exchanged a look.
Jacques drained his cup and placed it on the table behind him. "And what about the body. Do any of you know who it is?"
"No," the three of them chorused.
"Is that so?" Jacques stood and began to pace, his instincts sharpened by their response.
"So, none of you knew the body was there before you found it?"
"No." Another unified response.
"You don't seem very surprised that there is a body on what you claim to be your land, Fermier Rouselle?"
Rouselle opened his mouth to speak but paused and closed it again.
"Nothing to say, Fermier Rouselle?" Jacques waited. "That's not like you, is it? Always voluble. Always to be relied upon for an appropriate opinion. But today, when a body is found on your land, you say nothing."
Rouselle stood. "And you're not a gendarme any longer, this isn't Paris and you have no right to interrogate me."
Jacques turned to face him and shouted. "That may be so, but you sent for me, so sit down. You've involved me in this very suspicious escapade that you three are undertaking and I have to be absolutely certain that I am not implicated in any way. My reputation as a gendarme and investigator is at stake and you three seem to think that you can just brush that aside behind a wall of silence." Hands on his hips he towered over them. "I'm calling this in, I expect it will be Magistrate Pelletier who is assigned to this enquiry and I expect the three of you to be absolutely open and honest with him as you seem to be incapable of being truthful with me."
Leaving his notebook on the table he marched out of the bar, phone in his hand and dialled.

That is very intriguing, Angela. I'm picturing Jaques striding out into the sunshine and imagining what he'll be pretending to say!...Or maybe he will be saying? I've got my copy now, so I'll find out soon.  

Universal link for buying  Merle

Jacques ForĂȘt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.

The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.

When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it. 

Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

Merle – the second in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques ForĂȘt.

You can find Angela at the following places: 
 website  Facebook  Goodreads   and her blog James et Moi

Thank you for coming in today, Angela. Best wishes for a great launch of Merle and for continuing success with it.