Friday 29 September 2017

At Aboyne on Royal Deeside!

Friday greetings to you!

What an odd sort of week it has been. I've been looking after my grand kids a few days as usual but I've also managed to do some of my new writing as well as organise promotions for my current novels.

My writing is kind of cyclic but it'll come right soon, I'm sure. Time and effort should do the trick.

I've come to a halt with my research of 'Roman Roads in Aberdeenshire' having had official confirmation from Aberdeen University Archaeology Dept that there probably were none. None that have been officially identified as 'properly laid down' roads. Though, it's been fun to pour over the oldest maps of Aberdeenshire ( from the 15th century onwards) to see what the earlier residents of Aberdeenshire thought about those dastardly ancient Roman armies who invaded their territory and left traces of temporary marching camps. 

The Taexali Game promotion is now ending for this latest duration but if you're very quick you'll still manage to pick up a copy at 99p/99c across Amazon.

For those who've grabbed a copy this week, it'll be fabulous if you could leave a review on Amazon and tell me what you think of the read. A few sentences is all that's needed. Thank You!

The weekend looms but for me it'll be a mixture of 'work' and play. I'll be signing/ selling paperback versions of my novels at the Victory Hall, Aboyne, Aberdeenshire tomorrow (Sat 30th of Sept) with my lovely crafter friends FOCUS Craft Fairs. I love the conversations I have with people who are interested in my chosen historical period or in the locations of my contemporary novels and look forward to some tomorrow.

I can hardly credit that the month of October is coming so soon but if you're anywhere near tomorrow, please call in at the Victory Hall, Aboyne, and say hello!


Monday 25 September 2017

What people are saying about...The Taexali Game- 99p!

Monday Moments!

It's Monday and for no particular reason The Taexali Game will be on SALE for a few days across the Amazon network.

Here's what people have written about it so far...though I admit to needing a LOT more new reviews for this novel!

If you grab a copy at 99p/99c please consider writing a short comment about it on Amazon when you finished. Thank you!

Just click this link HERE

The Taexali Game is sends three teens back to northern Britannia (current Aberdeenshire) during the invasion of the Ancient Roman Emperor Severus c. AD 210.

"This combination of fantasy and history, linked by an interactive computer game, is sure to appeal to a wide audience. The geographical location of the story is used well in this tale of the attempts of the Romans to subjugate the peoples of the North and though there is little historical evidence of events, the writer skilfully creates a most believable world."

"The historical research rings true, especially as I had just read another book that featured the Ancient Roman Emperor Severus and his sons, so had done some research of my own. (The other one, however, was a mystery set against a movie about Severus.) Aran and his friends, the twins Brian and Fianna, depend on the knowledge gleaned at school about the period. The author uses this to weave interesting but relevant facts in, in a way that Henry Treece would be proud of."

"As usual, Nancy's characterisation is fantastic and the action never stops. You are gripped and have read the next chapter.

Although this is sort of aimed at teenagers I would recommend this for all lovers of historical novels... " 

"An entertaining romp, with a combination of time travelling, gaming and "real life" action. Enough to satisfy the desires of any techno addict. I'm no gamer and was out of my depth at first, but soon became drawn into this fast-paced quest with a strong sense of history, and can only admire the skill of grandmother Nancy Jardine in using a meld of fiction, research and fantasy to educate the young of today in the world of ancient Roman Britain."

Wishing you a happy read! 


Sunday 24 September 2017

Underneath the The Queensferry Crossing #9 Cruise Diary

Cruising GreenlandIceland and Norway #9

Continuing my cruise diary...

Victorian built Forth Railway Bridge
Sunday 3rd September

It seemed all too soon for the cruise to be over but I awoke knowing that The Black Watch was cruising into the River Forth estuary, Scotland.

My husband was desperate to take a video of the ship sailing under all three bridges that straddle the River forth. I was less inclined to go down to the deck below at 5.40 a.m. to get a better view but was happy to throw on a fleece and take some shots from our tiny balcony.
Directly under the Forth Railway Bridge

It was quite magical to be out in the pre-dawn, just as the first tinges of purplish red were lighting the sky. I slipped out onto the balcony at just the right time since The Black Watch was almost under the Victorian Forth Railway Bridge.

It only took minutes to sail under that then on to the Forth Bridge and then under the brand new Queensferry Crossing. Stunning since it was also the beginning of a day that promised to have some sunshine, something lacking from our days at sea and at our destination ports.

Our timing was a little bit off on Sunday the 3rd September for being able to drive northwards over the newest Queensferry Crossing on our journey home. This was because the bridge had been open for only a very short time to traffic the week before and then closed again. It would be a few days till it officially opened to traffic on a permanent basis. From the 6th of Sept the bridge was destined to become a motorway crossing with the existing Forth Road Bridge becoming available to pedestrians, cyclists and used as a local transport corridor.
Approaching the Forth Bridge (opened 1964)

BUT...Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd September were designated days when pedestrians could have the amazing 'once in a lifetime' opportunity of walking across the bridge. The new Queensferry Crossing bridge was not built with a pedestrian lane. Once permanently opened, the bridge is only constructed to take vehicular traffic northwards on the M90 motorway. It’s the longest three tower cable stayed bridge in the world at 1.7 miles and the largest to have cables which cross mid-span, providing extra strength and stiffness to the bridge. It rises as high as 48 double-decker buses stacked on top of each other.

Looking back to both the Forth Bridge and the Forth Railway Bridge- courtesy Alan Jardine

The above photo is so much better than mine!

The bridge was built to improve congestion into and around the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh but also because the existing Forth Road Bridge (opened 1964) has been dogged with structural issue caused by a much heavier volume of traffic during it’s approx. 50 year lifetime, the use being much greater than was anticipated back in the early 1960s when it was conceived. 

As we sailed under the bridge just after dawn it was too early for the special  ‘once in a lifetime’ pedestrian access so the bridge was eerily quiet.
Queensferry Crossing taken from my balcony on The Black Watch
(structure to left is The Black Watch tender for ship to shore transfers)

The new Queensferry Crossing is a beautifully stylish bridge that twinkles in the early sunlight, a majestic shape that blends in rather than being intrusive given the very different styles of the Victorian Railway Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge.
Looking back to Forth Bridge and Queensferry Crossing - courtesy of Alan Jardine

Our cruise was at an end when we docked smoothly at Rosyth around 7 a.m. By approx. 10.30 a.m. we had disembarked The Black Watch and were headed back into Edinburgh by taxi over the Forth Road Bridge. By this time we could see some pedestrians having fun making their historic crossing of the new Queensferry Bridge.

Looking back to view all 3 crossing over the River Forth- courtesy of Alan Jardine

p.s I found out later that my nephew and his family were among the few thousand lucky people who managed to get the well prized tickets to make that pedestrian crossing. It’s an event that I think my great-nieces will remember for the rest of their lives.

All credit goes to the organisers of that pedestrian access because it seemed to be a very well run event with buses ready and waiting, ‘hop on hop off’style,  to transport the pedestrians back to the other side if they only wanted to walk across one-way.

All kudos goes to The Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party administration for their historic achievement! 


Saturday 23 September 2017

#Loen Skylift! #Mount Hoven #8 Cruise Diary

Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway #8

Continuing my cruise diary...

Friday 1st September

Sailing to our next port at Olden, Norway, meant cruising along a very long fjord. I’m sure we were told our route was along one of the longest fjords in Norway. Entering the first part near Maloy we cruised along the sea opening to Nordfjord > to Innvikfjorden and >along to Olden at the head of the fjord. The end of the fjord doesn’t culminate in one bay, it’s actually like there are ‘2 heads of the loch’ with Olden to the south and the town of Loen to the north.

Most of the sail was done overnight but I was awake to see the ship make its slow way to the harbour at Olden. The views to either side were fantastic and it was easy to believe that the cruise along it would have been stupendous in daylight.

We booked the Loen Skylift—a short cable car trip—for our Olden trip knowing it came the day after the long trip at Alesund and because it was yet another method of travel to view the panoramic sights of Norway from on high. 

Loen Skylift, Norway
Travelling to the mountain tops by coach would have meant another long day so the cable car was an excellent way to do it in a few minutes. The coach ride from the harbour to the cable car stop at Loen was quick mainly due to the tunnel connections between the fjord ends.

Loen Skylift, Norway
The Loen Skylift was the most amazing cable car ride I’ve eve had so far and I’ve taken a lot of rides in many different kinds of cable cars. The Loen Skylift  claims to be one of the steepest cable car rides on the globe. 

Brand new, the engineers had to create a new type of ‘lifting mechanism’ because nothing that existed was capable of coping with the slope of Mount Hoven. The ride takes about five minutes and up to a height of 1011 metres (3316 feet). A comparison might be going straight to the top of Liathach (Carn Eige, Torridon, Scotland) or Snowdon in Wales.  

It was the smoothest, the most silent and incredible ride I’ve experienced and so close to the surface of the mountain near the top that someone tall with a long stretch could have put their hand out of the top ventilation window and touched the rock wall. That may be the tiniest exaggeration but only the tiniest! There was no lurch over the sections of the cable just a beautiful glide to the top.

Unfortunately, it was very misty with light intermittent rain. That meant the view from the top of Mount Hoven was seriously restricted when we exited the cable car at around 10 a.m. It wasn’t as cold as I expected but my ski jacket was perfect for taking a wander on the top of Mount Hoven. However, the wind was so shrill I didn’t linger on the pathways. Because the mist was so low the cliff edges were difficult to see and the top pathways close to the restaurant had no perimeter edging (that I could detect).

I loved the huge horseshoe at the summit and wondered if it was good luck for those who had taken the opportunity to ride to the top by the cable car or…was it good luck for a safe cable car ride back down!  I have since found out that the horseshoe is there because ‘Hoven’ means hoof. The mountain is named Hoven because Sleipner, the horse belonging to Odin in Norse Mythology is said to have kicked one of its hooves into the mountain at Loen and left the characteristic hole that lies at the peak.

The two cars of the lift are named Hugin and Munin. In Norse Mythology they were a pair of ravens who flew daily over Midgard (human world) and Asgard (the gods' world) watching what was happening and listening to what was said. On the approach of dusk they returned to Odin's shoulder and whispered their findings. In this way Odin was credited with being the most knowledgeable and wisest god. We travelled on Hugin both ways.  

This site gives information on the official opening ceremony of the cable car in May 2017.

We lingered in the restaurant drinking excellent coffee and ‘Norwegian’ doughnuts for an hour or so in the hope that the mist would clear and we’d get a better view. It thinned a little but we gave up and went back down since the prognosis by the informed staff was that it might be 2 p.m. before it properly cleared. On a good day I’m sure it has to be absolutely stunning. The whole trip for us cost around £50 each but we still reckoned it was worth it to have experienced the brand new ride!

I loved the way the surroundings of the building at the top were exposed to reveal the rocks that the builders had had to excavate to prepare the flat foundations. 

The striations of the rocks were impressive perhaps showing up even more in the damp mist than they would on a fine day. Sadly the neat little outside cafe area was deserted though it's easy to see why.

I made a short video of the ride back down but it's apparently too large a file to be shown here. However, I did manage to post it to Facebook from the ship while it was still in port at Olden so you might be able to catch it HERE , scrolll down to find a post of the 1st September. 

We saw a little more of Olden on our coach tour back to the ship. It was too late for lunch on board so we opted to eat in a café near the harbour. Olden beer, made just a few yards along the road at the craft brewery, was too tempting not to try. Being late for lunchtime the only hot food left was ‘pizza’ – not a traditional Norwegian dish like we’d thought to try but it was freshly made pepperoni style and was delicious with the Olden brew.

Regardless of the intermittent rain and mist, it was a lovely day but our cruise holiday @Fred.Olsen The Black Watch was almost over. Only a day and a half sail left to reach our destination at Rosyth.

Look out for my next and last cruise diary!


Thursday 21 September 2017

Rauma Railway & Trollstigen Mountains #7 Cruise Diary

Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway #7

Continuing my cruise diary...

Thursday 31st August, 2017

Alesund, Norway
By the time we reached the coast of Norway the weather had slightly improved. It was still showery to start with but very much better than the gales of the previous days at sea. Our approach into the fjords of Norway near Alesund was very early in the morning so, being a slugabed, I missed the views. My first sight was of the apartment buildings by the harbour in Alesund.

The tour we had booked was entitled Rauma Railway & Trollstigen Mountains expected to last 8 hours. Everything went according to plan on this tour and we set off by coach along the very pretty route along the Storfjord and into the equally stunning Romsdalsfjord valley. Thankfully any rain was light,  the day mostly dry and even at times a little bit sunny!
near Trollveggan

Our stop at the Trollveggen picnic area was short but the views were stupendous. The mountain tops around are quite spectacularly jagged, Trollveggen being Europe’s tallest vertical, overhanging rock face at 1000 metres high. The thought of climbing up and abseiling down is quite alarming but paragliding (or whatever) from it (now banned by law) was a story I wasn't sure I wanted to hear. 

The tour continued by coach along beautiful valleys to the railway station at Bjorli where we picked up the next Rauma Train (The coach driver’s timing was excellent because we had no more than a 5-10 minute wait which considering the bending single track route we had just driven on was very skilled driving!). The Rauma Railway is a regular train so we struggled to get seats for the approximately 1 hour train ride. The train carriage was very comfortable if not designed to take loads of luggage which must cause some difficulty during the winter months since the area around Bjorli is a busy ski-centre. One other thing to note about the train was the large vending machine between carriage sections which sold drinks and snacks- useful since the train passengers might have come from a lot further away than us.

The Rauma river meanders around the valley floor so attractively with pretty little bridges across it and in some parts it's a stunning green colour. I wanted to come home with some amazing images but ...sadly my view was restricted from the train as I avoided getting shots of the woman opposite and my photographic skills are just not that good.

Rauma River

The ride from Bjorli to Andalsnes was beautiful and gave me a different perspective from the coach ride to Bjorli as the train sometimes crossed the Rauma River. It was very relaxing on the train though photos were hard to take since the speed was probably around 60 or 70 mph in parts.

Our lunch venue in the town of Andalsnes was very efficient the main course a local dish that resembled a meat loaf. The mushroom and stilton soup to start with was very creamy and tasty!
Norwegian Mountaineering Centre, Andalsnes, Norway 
The image above of the Mountaineering Centre was just one of the modern archetectural styled buildings we'd seen on our cruise. I think it looks a bit like a whale from this perspective but it was an incredibly designed building which made a huge impact on the senses.

Back on the coach we journeyed back to Alesund via a slightly different route and passed through many long tunnels which, for the locals, have cut out long sails around the fjords.

Along the  Rauma Road from the Rauma Railway. 

On the way back to Alesund
The tour gave me a really good flavour of the mountainous interior around the area of Alesund, Norway. It was a great way of demonstrating how the road builders, and those who laid the Rauma train track, coped with cutting through the bare rock to shave off a lot of distance and time along the route. None of those measures diminished the grandeur of the valleys we passed through or the fjords we bent around.  

Map indicating the location of a couple of the many tunnels we went through.

I've so many lovely photos but can't include them all here. When I can make more time I'll make new Pinterest boards. 

The Cruise Diary so far:

The gist of it here as well!

Yesterday, 20th September 2017, 
was my day to post at the Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog but I forgot to mention it here as well. Since I spent some of my writing time creating it yesterday I'll re-post some of it here, though the images might be different! I've already posted some of my holiday images on this blog so I'll try to avoid repetition.


Full length novel completed. Own edits thoroughly done. Manuscript is ready for next stage. What might that be for you?

Me? I’d be focusing on finalising:
1) Title
2) Tag Line
3) Blurb
4) Synopsis… before submitting to a publisher. 

I find it incredibly difficult to do those last stages even though, by then, I know my story inside out. So how do I decide on what is the gist of it? gist:   main points; general ideas; general picture; substance of the thing…

I want the person who reads my submission to immediately know the essence of my story. I want the main highlights to be pointed out but not the full happenings. I want to get across the impact of certain developments in my story and strategic moments within it where my characters are faced with situations that they love being in/ hate being in/ or perhaps need to change to reach the finale of the events.

Like my story writing I’ve been realising that my recent cruise holiday to Greenland, Iceland and Norway was very similar. Sailing to those places meant a lot of water to cross before setting foot on the land. The days spent at sea were part of the preparation for the on-shore events and were the background to strategic and particular moments.

Reykjavik, Iceland
My last post on this Wranglers blog mentions what led to my husband choosing our cruise. Those details can be found here: However, part of our advance planning was also booking our on-shore trips. From a wide range of options, we chose on-shore activities that would allow us to experience the essence of Iceland and the parts of Norway that we visited by using different travel methods.

In Reykjavik, Iceland, we booked a Tuk-Tuk ride to experience the old city. Actually the old city is neither large, nor very old, but Tuk-Tuk  is a novel way to ride the cobbled streets.

At Akureyri, Iceland, we booked a 4x4 ride across terrain that a normal coach wouldn’t be able to travel on, the idea being to see hidden waterfalls and ancient ‘ghostly’ places. At Eskifjordur, Iceland, we booked a coach tour that would take us to tiny seaside towns where we could visit a small fishing museum, and a rocks and minerals museum.

At Alesund, Norway, we booked a long coach tour to the interior where we would take a short train ride on the famous Rauma Railway which goes past the incredible Trollstigen Mountains.

At Olden, Norway, we booked a short coach ride to the brand new Cable Car which goes to the top of Mount Hoven Loen (opened spring 2017).

There was only one port of call on Greenland to the tiny coastal village of Tasiilaq. For this shore trip we opted to just take the tender ashore and wander around for a while to explore on our own. This was a good choice since it was around 4 deg C/ 40 deg F, a little windy and showery, so a short visit was just fine.

Like writing a novel those were our original on-shore plans but plans have a tendency to be derailed. Thankfully, not literally - the Rauma train was a lovely little ride! But… due to horrendously bad weather as we sailed from Greenland eastwards to Iceland the captain had to seriously change our plans. We experienced 36 hours of continuous Force 9 Gales with intermittent gusts at 10 and 11. That means Force 9 winds around 55 mph; Force 10 storm gusts of up to 63 mph; and Force 11 violent storm gusts of 72/73 mph. Those Beaufort scale numbers of wind speed sound insignificant when compared to the hurricane winds recently experienced in the Caribbean area but at sea even violent storms are pretty scary.
Trollveggen near Alesund
I’m so glad my husband and I are very good sailors so the huge swells didn’t affect us at all, though that wasn’t the case for some cruisers. It also became clear that although those gales are a nuisance to all on board, most of those who return again and again to cruising are good sailors. At mealtimes, the restaurants were still pretty full and the wait staff carried on regardless and as though shifting floor wasn’t happening. They still carried trays at their shoulder stacked with 9 heavy and full dinner plates and the beautifully presented haute cuisine never slipped a fraction on those plates. During the whole cruise, I was highly impressed by the quality and presentation of the food and professionalism of all staff, including the ‘turn down’ room service.

But back to those Force 9s…As I battled with my camera on our tiny balcony on Deck 8 the Bridge Deck, I thought about the driving force our little ship needed to plough through those huge breakers. Later that night, after dinner, as I watched some of the breakers splash up to the windows of the Observation Lounge on Deck 9 of 10 decks on board it also made me think of the exhilaration needed to drive forward the plot of an adventure novel. I knew that my current WIP was lacking some of that exhilaration and I resolved to change that when I got home. I’m now working on that every chance I get.

The impact of the storm force winds meant huge delays to our arrival on Iceland, so in essence we experienced a much longer sail time. We missed our scheduled ‘slots’ for berthing at the ports of  Akureyri and Eskifjordur. The best our captain could do was to get us a late berth at Akureyri, half a day late. That meant changes to all the various on–shore tours that had been booked but we were so lucky that Icelanders are very resilient and adapt well to whatever weather is thrown at them. Instead of tours beginning at 9 a.m. with lunch included, they shifted tour times to start at 2.30 p. m. just after we docked. The longer tours included dinner instead with a very late arrival back to the ship which was now booked at port overnight (This ‘overnight stop’ was not on the original itinerary but meant less battling of the continuing high seas for the captain and bridge crew).
Dimmuborgir, Iceland (home of the Troll Gryla and her family) 
My husband and I didn’t get our 4x4 trip because the poor weather on Iceland meant off road driving was too skittery and dangerous. We went on an alternative long coach tour that proved very good considering it rained all day and the mist lay low across the landscape so visibility was vastly reduced.

I was gutted; I admit it, when our captain informed us that we had to totally miss out our stop at Eskifjordur. The knock on effect of waiting for a new berthing slot at Eskifjordur would have made us too late to stop at 2 places in Norway. The weather was expected to be better in Norway so it was a ‘no brainer’ for the captain to make his decision. He had to ‘cut out’ what wasn’t going to be viable. And…that’s exactly what I’m going to have to do fairly soon in my writing—there will be a lot of slash and burn and removal of unnecessary scenes.  

The gist of my cruise experience? Be adaptable. Be prepared to make changes. Be flexible about the outcomes that are achievable.

Those things apply just as much to my writing.

How about changes to your writing or to your ‘life/leisure/vacation’ plans?



Monday 18 September 2017

Namaskard ...#6 Cruise Diary

Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway #6

Continuing my 'Jewels of the North' tour on Iceland. 

28th August 2017

Namaskard, Iceland
The last stop of the 'Jewels of the North' tour was at Namaskard  - an other worldly steamy scene in a landscape that makes the word barren somehow wrong. Barren for me in Scotland means very little vegetation covering the landscape and what exists clings low on the soil, whether sloping or flat.

Over the area approaching Namaskard the limited vegetation petered to none and what we drove into was an area of bare, grit covered rocks. Reddish, light brownish, greyish - it was a sort of sludgy sandy rock covering slight rises but the upland was nothing at all like Dimmuborgir, and nothing at all like the pseudo craters at Lake Myvatn either.

Namaskard, Iceland

The land beneath my feet was literally bubbling, steam rising from cracks on the surface with little rivulets a bit like you sometimes see on a sandy Scottish beach after the tide has receded. There the similarity ends because there was going to be no paddling in this water since it was literally boiling hot water and the drifting vapours around the area were pure, smelly steam. 

There was a slight drizzle dampening me from above which may have contributed to the natural heat of the area being less than it would have been on a sunny or clear day but any bubbling water around Namaskard wouldn't entice anyone to have a dip here. 

Namaskard, Iceland

Mud pots, steam vents, sulphur deposits, boiling springs (solfataras and fumaroles if you are geologically minded) are part of the description for this tourist stop.

Going to Iceland really shouldn’t be done without seeing some of these fabulous geological wonders. But make sure you're wearing decent boots or shoes because the warm sludgy grit clings like mad in the same way that concrete and mortar mixes do on a building site. 

Again, the area covered by this tourist stop is small and is constrained by where it is safe to tread. Very basic low rope barriers indicate the best pathways around the mud pots. These indicated routes are changed daily, according to the tour guide, and probably even within the day, to ensure the safety of the wandering sightseers.

The colours and smells at Namaskard are so different to those at Dimmuborgir.

Yes- the sulphur smell is definitely potent like a hundred stink bombs have simultaneously gone off and the muddy colours are like another world.

The stop at Namaskard was fairly short, thankfully because it wouldn't have been too healthy to breathe in the delightful sulphurous air for too long!

I’ve seen lava flows and bubbling lava ‘pots’ on Mount Etna, Scicily but they were on what was essentially a green clad mountain. The area around Namaskard is a barren, low rise rocky surface with a totally different vista.

Our ‘Jewels of the North’ tour was quite a long one but very well worth it!

Check in soon for #7 Cruise Diary- Norway -first stop Alesund which was immensely different from Namaskard but that's what travel is all about. It's about appreciating the huge differences that exist across our planet. 


Sunday 17 September 2017

Lake Myvatn and Dimmuborgir ...#5 Cruise Diary

Cruising Greenland, Iceland and Norway #5

Continuing my Treasures of the North tour…

August 28th 2017

Lake Myvatn, Iceland
After the delights of the Godafoss Waterfall we drove on to Lake Myvatn. The volcanic mounds which rise up from the lake bed are very impressive and would be even more so on a fine day. Sadly for us, the bird life that’s said to be plentiful and colourful all seemed to be hunkered down and in hiding. The rain continued to drizzle and the cloud level being very low meant that vision across the lake was severely restricted. Thousand of years ago at Lake Myvatn, during the formation of Iceland, bogs were heated to extreme temperatures which turned the water to steam. The resultant explosions from the expansion pushed up volcanic ash and created pseudo volcanic craters.
Lake Myvatn, Iceland

I’d love to explore them on a much better day sometime in the future and the rest of lake Myvatn. (Some of the cruise guests went to the Myvatn natural baths for a geo-thermal dip. Although they experienced it in the rain it didn’t seem to diminish their enjoyment. One interesting comment was that though there are separate showers for men and women at the lake those showers are communal and have to be taken before donning a bathing suit.)

After a brief lunch stop we moved on to what was a fabulous little place.
Dimmuborgir, Iceland
Dimmuborgir – the Dark Fortress/Dark Castles/ Dark forts – is a small but impressive site and almost totally unique in the world (only one similar that under water off the coast of Mexico). Thought to be the remains of a lava reservoir which cooled and formed above a lake all that’s left now are the spectacularly bizarre structures I visited. A lava field of giant pillars, chimneys and twisted towers are there for scrambling around and across. These incredible formations are one of Iceland's most popular tourist destinations. 

Icelandic folklore tells that Dimmuborgir was the home of a homicidal female troll named Gryla. She shared the area with her third husband Leppaludi and their mischievous sons, neatly named the Yule Lads. 

Can you see her in this photo, here at left? 

The Icelanders used the threat of the Yule Lads and Gryla to keep their naughty children under control. If the kids didn’t behave then rotten potatoes would be left in their shoes instead of nice gifts. There has been a merging of the ancient Norse aspects of gift giving with Christian Santa Claus traditions.  

‘Game of Thrones’ viewers might recognise some of the area as it was used for filming some of the scenes.

The tourist board have made access easy in the quarter mile of pathways and it was so brilliant to appreciate the home of the trolls!
Dimmuborgir, Iceland

One step onto the pathway I felt the atmosphere of the tourists change. There wasn’t a collective sigh but there was a hush as everyone turned the first corner some ten steps along. I personally named him ‘Big Daddy’ but having learned the myth I should maybe have been calling her ‘Big Mama’. I’d not dare to be rude to any Icelander and name the rock such to their face, and certainly not to my tour guide, but I really could see a dramatic troll face in the volcanic rock.

She/he was the first of many as I wandered the quarter mile of twists and turns. The whole area only measures about one kilometre in diameter but it does include some very nifty little caves. One in particular, a fairly large step-inside one was a main feature for tourists. A tiny scramble up some very conveniently laid stone steps gives a humorous inkling into the life of a Dimmuborgir troll.

Those Yule Lads must be sweeping from dawn till dusk to keep this place dust free! 

I loved this stop and paid due attention to giving my thanks to ‘Big Mama/Daddy’ as I left the area. 


Just Haven't Met You yet by Cate woods

Happy Sunday wishes to you!

It's dreich and miserable, the rain pouring down at times but a good day for getting on with mmore writing and later some more reading.

Here's my thoughts on a chick-lit/ women't fiction book just finished. I think I bought this via 'Book Hippo' but if not via them it was from another of the many sites which I've signed up to for book recommendations. If readers are not buying my books in droves when sent recommendations I'm certainly using their services to fill my kindle. Having read  'Just Haven't Met You Yet' I might well be tempted to read more by Cat Woods if I'm in need of something simple and an easy read- and being romance I'd know what kind of ending I'd be expecting.

If you're into reading chick-lit type novels, or just want an entertaining light hearted novel to curl up with this might be suitable.

The trials and tribulations of falling in love! There are a few twists in this fun read that made me wonder exactly what might be going on and how Percy’s story would turn out. There were just enough clues to work out who she would end up with but there were still a little surprise right at the end. Well written with very likeable characters, the plot rolls on at a steady ‘must read what’s on the next page’ pace.  Very entertaining. 

This was a 5* read for me. 


Friday 15 September 2017

Merle by Angela Wren

Happy Friday to you! 

One of my tasks today was to get caught up again with posting reviews of books I've read recently. Some I had popped onto my blog, and onto Amazon during my recent cruise holiday when the internet connection wasn't too slow but it was impossible to post them to the Goodreads site. That's now done today along with a review for Merle by Angela Wren which I was still currently reading during the holiday.

Merle - a Jacques Foret French Mystery is Book 2 of the series. Here's my thoughts on reading it...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Merle, Book 2 of the Jacques Foret series. Messandrierre (Book 1) introduced the main characters of Jacques Foret and Beth but it also introduced many of the secondary characters who appear again in Book 2. For that reason I was very glad to have already read Book 1.
The French setting is well described and the characters are neatly drawn, making it so easy to love Jacques. Beth grew on me a lot more in Book 2 than Book 1!

It’s interesting to read how Jacques has branched out on his own as a private detective but still maintains contact with the French police force, especially useful when he needs to use their ‘facilities’. Following the plots and developments within Vaux Enterprises was a nice challenge though there were a couple of situations that threw me off a bit– one near the end which I won’t mention since it would be a spoiler. It did make me wonder about Book 3 of the series…

This was a 5 * read!


Thursday 14 September 2017

The Godafoss Waterfall…#4 Cruise Diary

Cruising Iceland, Greenland and Norway #4

My cruising diary continued...

Monday 28th August - The Jewels of the North tour stop 1. 

By 2 p.m. (Monday 28th August 2017) we had docked at the port of Akureyri, Iceland, and the tour guides had us signed in and ready for a swift disembarkation from Deck 3. By 2.30 p.m. my husband and I were on the coach which stood ready for us at the quayside and we were off to visit the first stop on our Jewels of the North tour.

We didn’t see much of the town of Akureuyri, which is named as the Capital of North Iceland as we headed east but learned a few details about it. Akureyri is an important port and fishing centre which tends to remain ice free due to its relatively warm climate, the fjord where it is situated at the southern tip being a very long fjord. Technically Akureyri is said to be a sub-polar oceanic climate! Its winters are cold but not severe and it has mild summers. It also has the reputation of having a lot less rain than southern Iceland gets, though that is balanced by it being a very cloudy area with fewer days of sunshine than in other parts of Iceland.  
Godafass Waterfall- Iceland
The day was definitely cloudy and it was raining when we set off through fairly barren countryside to the Godafoss Waterfall. The farming I saw along the route was done on a smallish scale, the population of the land we drove over very slight. The grazing animals were mainly cattle, sheep, pigs and horses which I believe are very old breeds, from stock which came to Iceland with the earliest settlers. Poultry wandered around in large penned areas close to the farmsteads, confined but definitely not battery farms. I don’t remember seeing food crop fields but since the growing season is so short that may account for me only registering the cut hay for animal fodder. The information given was that currently only 1 % of the terrain of Iceland is arable fields and something like 5% of the population farm the land, though around 20% of the total land is grazed by animals. Farming was much more widespread and over larger areas from Viking 12th century times to the late 19th century but the repercussions of the deforestation and land 'exhaustion' on what is essentially volcanic soil means that little is arable farmed now. More recently, geothermal heat has been harnessed to provide heat and artificial light for the growing of some vegetables and fruits but a visit to these farms were not on my tour. Iceland with a current population of some 334,000 is self sufficient in the production of meat, dairy products and eggs.  

Some parts of our drive to Godafoss reminded me of the Fenwick Moors of East Ayrshire, Scotland and in some parts the bleakness of Caithness, Scotland.
Selfies are rubbish but Godafoss inpressive! 

The Godafoss Waterfall was an unexpected surprise! My experience of spectacular waterfalls in Scotland and in the western North American continent (U.S. Oregon and Washington State and Alberta, Canada)  has been of really deep falls creating a magnificent water drop. The Godafoss Waterfall seemed all the more impressive since the water tumbles over from a fairly flat origin.  

What I really loved about the waterfall was the story behind it along with the impressive rock strata and the little caves that border the falls.
Godafoss, Iceland

Godafoss- the Waterfall of the gods derives from the time of Thorgeir Ljosvetningagodi Thorkelsson who was a law speaker of the ancient Icelandic Althing (Parliament) A.D 985 to 1001. Around the year 1000 the parliament was debating whether the country should remain true to the old Norse gods or become Christian. Thorgeir (by then around 60 years of age and a pagan priest and chieftain) decided in favour of Christianity being adopted by all, after a day and night spent meditating under a fur blanket. When he publicly declared he had taken on the mantle of the Christian religion he threw his carvings of the old Norse gods into the falls. From that point onwards Iceland was to be a Christian nation though it was still possible to worship the old gods in private and some old pagan traditions were retained. Thorgeir’s story is recalled in the works of the Íslendingabók- the Book of Icelanders. The original was written by Ari Thorgilsson, the most well documented Iceland chronicler of the 12th century. (

I'm afraid I didn't find any of his ancient carvings much as I wanted to find them (no doubt along with the crowds of tourists at the site) but I did wonder if his shade was sitting watching us from one of the little caves on the far side of the River Skjálfandafljót.

This site has a fabulous image of the waterfalls with a 'northern lights' backdrop and is spectacular!

Stay tuned for my next places on the 'Jewels of the North' tour. 


Wednesday 13 September 2017

Oh! What a Pavlova

My Wednesday 'Summer Surprise' is  Oh! What a Pavlova.

Today I'm welcoming a new guest - Isabella May - who is extremely busy across the internet since it's getting closer to the launch of her debut novel Oh! What a Pavlova (published Oct 3rd 2017 by Crooked Cat Books).  

Isabella - What a fantastic eye-catching cover design for an enticing title! 

Isabella's debut novel is published by Crooked Cat Books and her second will be following on soon... 

Welcome to my blog, Isabella. I've been seeing some of the pre-launch publicity on Facebook about Oh! What a Pavlova and look forward to reading it. But since that won't be for a wee while, why don't you introduce my blog readers to some of your characters from Oh! What a Pavlova?

Thanks for inviting me onto your blog, Nancy!

Today I am going to share a wee character interview with Steph. She’s one of the main characters in my debut novel, and works closely with Kate Clothier, the protagonist of the story. But first, to put everything into context, here’s the book blurb for ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’:

Kate Clothier is leading a double life: a successful jet-setting businesswoman to the outside world, but behind closed doors, life with Daniel and his volcanic temper is anything but rosy.

Some days – heck, make that EVERY day – cake is her only salvation.

Slowly but surely, the cities she visits – and the men she meets – help her to realise there IS a better future.

And the ley lines of Glastonbury are certainly doing their best to impart their mystical wisdom…

But will she escape before it’s too late?

Steph, would you describe your friendship with Kate for us?
Narcissistic (laughs)… no, no, I’m only joking, you can’t write that! Look, Kate is beautiful too. In her own unique kind of a way. She just needs to… well, get some goddamn self-belief for want of a better way of putting it. Whereas I learnt long ago that just because you have curves, it doesn’t mean you can’t carry your slightly more voluptuous frame a la Nigella Lawson… and still eat men for breakfast, spitting them back out by elevenses. I just wish Kate could openly adore herself in the same way.

Hang on a minute… you’re asking about my friendship with her, aren’t you? Right, yes, excuse me for going off at a tangent there. I guess you could call me her idol, her icon. Well, somebody needs to take her under their wing and show her how to walk the walk – and definitely how to talk the talk when it comes to the guys. Purlease.  If I had a tenner for every occasion that I could have rescued her courtesy of a hidden mic whilst I’m drip-feeding essential one-liners to her, hiding around the corner in one of those white vans…. I’d be so minted by now that working in this excuse for an office would be a thing of the past. I mean she visibly shakes like a leaf if she fancies someone, comes out with all the wrong stuff. Only a Campari and blood orange can take the edge off her nerves. Mind you… there’s something not quite right about any of this incessant mission to flirt with men in the first place. She’s in a relationship for god’s sake. Practically married. None of it quite adds up if you ask me…

Right (interrupts)… shall we get onto a different topic now for a bit, perhaps? I understand that Kate and yourself both share a passion for cake?
Oh yes, I’m the undisputed Queen of Desserts. Everybody knows that. I mean, Kate can knock up some pretty nifty rustic-style cupcakes, but if it’s something with a little more finesse that you’re after, I usually take orders around the 3pm lull: cheesecakes, fancy iced triple-tiered birthday cakes, croquembouche – you name it, I can make it. For a price of course… or some kind of office-related bartering.

That’s… yes… I’ll um… I’ll bear that in mind. What I was really trying to establish is: what are your favourite kind of cakes in terms of the eating?
Well, I’m not quite as uncouth as Kate. She’s always bringing things in and leaving them on The Cake Table, which is clearly just an excuse for her to pig out herself. Crikey, you should have seen her the other day when Hayden… or somebody… was on the phone. Daisy nearly had to give her the Heimlich Manoeuvre to dislodge the flapjack she’d got stuck in her throat. And do you know recently when we were in Venice, of all the delicious and refined things she could have chosen, she went for a lurid green muffin style thing, wedged into the corner of a bakery window. Me on the other hand, well, it could only be the Venetian Zabaglione. When in Rome

Tell me a little about Singapore… did you notice any change in Kate after that particular trip which you made together?
She seemed to be perpetually jealous of my pulling ability, but hey, what’s new? (Laughs before resuming a serious face). I don’t get what this is all about? Should I have noticed anything? She was her usual Shrinking Violet self at times, and then a bit more fun at others when she decided to let her hair down. I do remember there was a call on her mobile she had to suddenly run off to take outside. Probably her boyfriend, Daniel, who seems to need to know her every move; I’ve never met him you know. Don’t you think there’s something a little oddball about that? I mean she’s never even brought him into the office, or to pick her up from any of the Christmas parties. But anyway, no, there was nothing especially untoward with her behaviour on this trip. Don’t get me wrong, she was fuming the morning after our night out with Hayden. For some reason he’d had an overnight personality transplant… probably not helped at all by the slagging match his Singaporean girlfriend dragged into the office with her. Now you come to mention it… perhaps Kate did react in a slightly more hostile manner to his announcement that we weren’t just there on a ‘jolly’, that we needed to muck in and tidy up the showroom to ‘pay our keep’. Hmm… then again, if anyone makes her feel small she’ll react the same way. Me on the other hand, well, I know my worth, I’m street-wise like that. There’s little any man on his high horse can do to diminish my self-respect.

And what about your own behaviour in the pizzeria in Copenhagen? Kate said you looked like you’d seen a ghost when she came back to the table…
She what? (shakes her head and looks particularly miffed). I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. All I was doing was adjusting my erm… my boot buckle… that’s the only reason I didn’t raise my head to greet her for a few seconds. No big deal…  Don’t forget, we’d just been whizzed around at 200 kilometres an hour by that idiot manning the waltzers at Tivoli Gardens. And it was a school night… so we were the only ones on the ride… and that was before the flippin’ things ascended into the air at a 180 freakin’ degree angle. What do you expect? Of course my buckle would have flown loose… and… and… of course my face would have looked pale when I’d finished re-fastening it. The same pale it was before I bent down. I was dizzy, disoriented; we’d drunk wine before the ride too. Honestly, these questions. It’s like being in the Spanish Inquisition or something…

We’re almost done, Steph. Thanks for your co-operation. But I’d like to return, if I may, to Kate’s relationship with Daniel. Why do you think all is not as it seems?
Good. I’ve had enough of being interrogated by the Stasi. Yes, back to Kate, please… Why do I think all is not as it seems behind closed doors? That’s pretty obvious. If you’re in a relationship, you are committed, to each other. You don’t feel the need to drive around in a red convertible Audi with its top down, fluttering your eyelashes at the traffic lights in case your dream man pulls up next to you… well, doing your best to flutter them anyway… nobody pulls that little gem off better than me. From what I have heard about Daniel though - and his preference for a quiet country life, maybe it’s just that… that they’re a mismatch… he’s looking in all the wrong places for his housewife… they got together young and Kate’s scared to break his heart and leave him. But there’s no way he could be beating her, if that’s what you’re implying. God no! Did I tell you about my NVQ in Psychology? That I’m a dab hand with the tarot cards? I’d have sniffed out domestic violence the moment I met Kate, if that’s what you’re getting at. Trust me, it couldn’t possibly be that. The signs would be far more prominent… black eyes and bruises for starters. I mean, he wouldn’t even let her come to work, let alone jump on a plane to book fairs, or to visit her customers. Nope. I’m not even going there with that suggestion. Forget the idea now.

I didn’t say anything to suggest Kate was being abused, Steph. But thank you. Thank you very much indeed. This has been… enlightening, for want of a better word.

Nancy says: it has indeed been intriguing, Isabella. The elusive Daniel needs to be met! 

Isabella May
Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. When she isn’t having her cake and eating it, sampling a new cocktail on the beach, or ferrying her children to and from after school activities, she can usually be found writing.

As a Co-founder and a former contributing writer for the popular online women’s magazine, The Glass House Girls - - she has also been lucky enough to subject the digital world to her other favourite pastimes, travel, the Law of Attraction, and Prince (The Purple One).

She has recently become a Book Fairy, and is having lots of fun with her imaginative 'drops'!

Oh! What a Pavlova is her debut novel... and her second novel has already been submitted to her publishers: watch this space...
You can follow Isabella May on her website and social media here:
Twitter - @IsabellaMayBks
Instagram - @isabella_may_author

To pre-order Oh! What a Pavlova click HERE 

Thank you for popping in, Isabella. My very best wishes for a great launch for Oh! What a Pavlova. My copy is on order...and I look forward to answering my question about the elusive Daniel and his relationship with Kate. Steph will also be interesting to get to know because I suspect a darker character than she portrays herself- but, of course, I could be very wrong!