Sunday, 19 November 2017

Love in la la land by Lynn Forth

Sunday Update! 

In between reading Books 1- 3 of the Outlander Series,  each of which are long historical time slip novels, I've sandwiched in a quick read. I'll probably do this between the next two novels in the series, as well, since my kindle queue is pretty large and some novels have been waiting to be read for a while already.

Here's my latest quick weekend read. 

Love in La La Land by Lynn Forth. 

This quick read would be good for taking on holiday, for someone who wants a ‘one-sitting’ read or if you want a sheer flight of improbable fantasy.  

The dialogue flows nicely and the main characters are likeable within an exceptionally ideal and slightly naïve situation. Others who are very fleetingly experienced by Jane display less pleasant characteristics but they don't impinge since their appearance is very brief.

Some of the plot seems so questionable as to be impossible to me but it was an entertaining jaunt from reality as, I think, the author intends it to be. 

Jane’s meteoric rise to fame and fortune as a novelist with her debut novel being turned into a film is definitely the food of fiction! 

Having been to Los Angeles, the setting is redolent of the hot balmy air and the luxurious plantings around the mansions of the rich. I haven't toured the film 'lots' but I have met a couple of Hollywood's 'thousands' of scriptwriters who live in LA. Some of them might eventually earn a reasonable living but it seems that very few of them ever find themselves in the seriously rich categories. LA is definitely a place for making connections though:  knowing who to speak to, and who else to speak to up a very long chain is their lifeblood. The scriptwriters I met were lovely people but they really do live in a kind of warm, sunshiney, Hollywood bubble of a La La Land. 

Jack? Jack Clancy has some great connections to start with. The author keeps him enigmatic and pleasant but I wanted to know a bit more about his current status, financial and domestic. More of what made him tick. There were a few situations where he was interacting with Jane that seemed undeveloped in the novel and left me wondering about what his normal working day would be like.  The author touches briefly on the hierarchy within Hollywood which definitely seems to exist making it very difficult to be in contact with 'the top People'. However, across Hollywood there have to be many genuinely nice people who can maintain friendships across the earnings levels- Jack being one of them. Does his final decisions in the novel mean a change in character development? I think so but I'm not convinced. I didn't really get inside his head to understand what Jane has essentially has changed in him, not enough clues being dropped for me, apart from the obvious one of losing her if she goes and he stays.  

Jane? At times, I wanted to shake Jane out of her gullibility. She's portrayed sometimes as being self-sufficient yet she's incredible naive- though if that was the author's intention then it really worked for me! She gets herself to LA with her agent but where is he when various things happen to her? LA hotels are hugely expensive, so I can see her not wanting to pay for one if its not necessary and accepting Scott's hospitality however, Scott's insistence that she be looked after by him rang lots of bells that Jane is too innocently deaf to hear. But that aspect of the plot confused me just a little. Her naivety over her previous lover taking her to the cleaners doesn't seem to have made her more savvy about how to handle the Scott situation. She's a nice person but when nice intelligent, as she is also meant to be, get their fingers burned they generally learn from their mistakes. Jane insists on being financially independent enough to help solve her sister's medical bills but she's not independent enough to get herself back to her hotel when she needs a change of underwear. As an author, and a successful one, she doesn't seem to have done her LA homework before embarking on her journey. 

I read on hoping to bond better with Jane but I'm afraid  it didn't really happen. 

Why did she have to go through the 'almost tourist' route to get into the film 'lot'. As the original author I'd have expected her to have much better communication with the script writer. Of course, maybe that depends on what sort of contract is signed! Note to self and other authors- beware of the 'tiny writing' clauses in your film contract! (*wink) and (* sigh) The sigh being that few authors find themselves in Jane's position!

Other minor situations jolted me out of what was a fairly predictable narrative. 

Could a flight for such a sick child be arranged so quickly- even if the grandfather has medical connections? If I had the time I might do some research.

Writing romantic comedy- being transported from the normal into the unrealistically abnormal - is the fun of the sub genre, and getting to know the characters an essential part of the ride. 

Slainthe! 

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Vespasian

Happy Saturday to you! 

and happy slightly belated birthday to Vespasian.  

Vespasian -Wikimedia Commons
I should have got this information posted yesterday on the 17th of November but new writing had me sidetracked and the day disappeared. Though perhaps not the most famous of the Flavian emperors, the one below started the family tradition of claiming emperor status. In a sense, though, he is the most important Ancient Roman Emperor for me as I write my Celtic Fervour Series. He was the emperor of the Roman Empire during Books 1 and 2, and for a part of Book 3. 

General Gnaeus Julius Agricola is mentioned in Book 3 but does not become a proper character till Book 4 of the series. However, what Agricola orders is very relevant to what my character Gaius Livanus Valerius undertakes. And, in turn, Agricola as general of the Brittanic armies and as Governor of Britannia is under orders of the Emperor Vespasian. 

Vespasian

Titus Flavius Caesar Vespasianus Augustus
Vespasian - Jewish Revolt 
Generally known as Vespasian, he was born on the 17th November A.D. 9 in Falacrinae, a village north east of Rome. His paternal grandfather, Titus Flavius Petro, elevated the otherwise undistinguished family when he became a centurion and fought for Pompey at the battle of Pharsalus. Vespasian’s father, Titus Flavius Sabinus, became a customs official and gained himself further status when he married Vespasia Polla whose father was a camp prefect and her uncle a senator.
As the second son, Vespasian was not expected to achieve much his elder brother, Titus Flavius Sabinus, having pursued the cursus honorum. His brother progressed through the ranks of being a military tribune serving in Thrace, then as quaestor in Crete and Cyrene. By A.D. 40 Vespasian’s brother was a praetor, favoured by Caligula.
Vespasian, like his brother spent time in Thrace and Crete but his route to high office was different from his brother. When Claudius became emperor in A.D.41, Vespasian was appointed as the legate of the Legio II Augusta which was then stationed in Germania but by A.D. 43 the Legio II Augusta was on campaign under the command of Aulus Plautius during the Invasion of Britannia.

Nero sends Vespasian to Jerusalem 
His military career was interrupted by periods as Governor of Africa Province but by A.D. 66 he was back in command of a couple of legions, supported by considerable mounted forces and auxiliary units. His success in suppressing the ‘Jewish Revolt’ earned him a reputation for being fair, perhaps ruthless at times, but mostly just.
When control of the empire collapsed with the death of Nero in A.D. 68, Vespasian was in a strong position to overthrow the third of the temporary leaders during the civil war Year of the Four Emperors in A.D. 69. Galba had taken control after Nero but was soon murdered by supporters of Otho. In turn, Otho was defeated by Vitellius. The natural next leader for the supporters of Otho to turn to was Vespasian.
The Senate in Rome declared Vespasian emperor in his absence since he was in Egypt securing the all too needed grain supplies.
Vespasian does not feature as a character in my Celtic Fervour novels but during his reign as emperor he was instrumental in what happened during the campaigns in  Britannia from A.D. 69 through to A.D. 79.
Vespasian - Ostia



The construction of many major building programmes were authorised under Vespasian, the Flavian Amphitheatre (Colosseum) being one of them. Before the foundations could be laid for the Colosseum the decadent Domus Aurea (Golden Palace of Nero) had to be demolished. The huge lake at the heart of the Domus Aurea was drained and the foundations for the Colosseum laid in its place. 

The Templum Pacis (Temple of Peace) was also constructed during the reign of Vespasian – a building that is briefly mentioned by General Agricola in my current manuscript.

Vespasian sestertius A.D. 71 reverse 'Judea Captured'



https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Vespasian,_from_Ostia,_69-79_CE,_Palazzo_Massimo_alle_Terme,_Rome_(13643233603).jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NAF-21013_f191_Vespasien_marchant_contre_les_Juifs.jpg
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sestertius_-_Vespasiano_-_Iudaea_Capta-RIC_0424.jpg

Slainthe! 

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Civilised Society? Polite, or what?

Wednesday already?

The weekend vanished in a flurry of preparing for and attending one of the largest Christmas Craft Fairs in Aberdeen, Scotland. The AWA (American Women's Association) has been organising very popular Fairs for more than 2 decades and generally have very high turnout of shoppers. Sunday past was one of the good days. I had a great time, sold 25 novels and maybe a few ebooks.

But to the matter in hand...

For too long I’ve been struggling to write Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series. There was the not being disciplined enough thing. Not allocating enough of my ‘free’ time to the task.  But my slow rate of progress hasn’t really been an inability to type lots of words. My not feeling satisfied with what I was writing, and the path that the story arc was taking, was the crux of the matter. Till recently, it just wasn’t working for me—my ‘dump’ bin being larger than the current manuscript of around 80 thousand words is a bit telling.

Is that civilised, I ask you?  Not being refined enough is exactly the problem!
A Roman Art Lover - L. Alma Tadema Wikimedia Commons

One of the main issues I’ve had to ponder (A LOT) about is what the Ancient Roman General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola found worthwhile during the invasion of Northern Britannia (Northern Scotland) in the autumn of AD 84, and what wasn’t worth bothering about. As a patriotic Scot, that phrase ‘worth bothering about’ is a hard one for me to swallow but the truth, in my opinion, is that Northern Britannia  i.e. the lands of the Caledonian allies, would not provide Rome with the revenues it needed for the territory to be part of the Roman Empire.
ww.123rf.com 

So what did Agricola actually do in Northern Britannia? He marched his armies to the current Moray Firth (reasonable ground evidence for this).
He maybe had a big battle at the elusively referred to battlegrounds of Mons Graupius (biased written evidence for this)… and then he left quite soon after to go back to Rome.
From written records we know Agricola was back in Rome by late A.D. 84 (or perhaps early A.D. 85). That, of course, does not necessarily mean his whole army retreated southwards with him because there’s ground evidence, as  at the supply fortress of Inchtuthil, to suggest the Roman legions remained in parts of the north for about a couple of years after Agricola was recalled to Rome.

Lovely questions loom. Was Agricola recalled because his efforts in subduing the Caledon allies were unsuccessful? Was it because he could find nothing worthwhile to send regularly back to Rome? Was it purely political in that the current Emperor Domitian didn’t like the success Agricola was having in Britannia? Those answers remain enigmatic but give me plenty of leeway for writing my fictionalised version!

Essentially what it boils down to is that northern Britannia was going to be far too expensive for the Roman Empire to deal with. To ensure that sufficient future revenues were going to pour into the Roman Empire coffers from northern Britannia, the Roman Empire was going to have to spend a huge amount of effort, and loads of money, in maintaining thousands of troops in the north. It is notable, though, that Agricola (or whoever organised the building of Inchtuthil) seemed to be making long term plans for using it as a campaign and supply base- probably for the invasion of the rest of the north and for maintaining order after such events.

Wikimedia Commons
For years, one of the touted reasons for the retreat of the Ancient Roman armies from northern ‘Scotland’ was that the Caledonian tribes and their allies were so fierce, and so good at guerrilla warfare, that Rome couldn’t handle them. That has to have been partly true, there’s enough written references and some archaeological excavations on the ‘Gask Ridge’ to likely back this up. But I believe that ‘Society’ or more specifically a lack of ‘Civilised Society’ was the reason for 'Rome' choosing to retreat.

Amalgamated Dictionary Definitions
Society: - the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community. Synonyms: the community, the public, the general public, the people, the population….band, federation, union, alliance,
Civilised society: - marked by well-organized laws and rules about how people behave with each other. A civilized society must respond to crime with fairness and justice; has a well developed system of government, culture, and way of life and that treats the people who live there fairly: A fair justice system is a fundamental part of a civilized society.

What the Caledons,  Taexali, Venicones and all of the other northern Late Iron Age tribes lacked was a ‘Civilised Society’. An already established society that Rome could plunder with relative ease, without huge expenditure of money, without entailing major  ‘military man hours’ of effort, and a society that could be forced to do Rome's bidding afterwards.

The Late Iron Age tribes (I use the broad term Celtic to describe them) of the north were not structured in a way that Rome would call Civilised Society. However, in no way were they barbaric.

In northern Britannia, the population of the tribes would have been relatively small compared to some of the tribes in southern Britannia (the south of England).  Approximately 2000 years ago, living off the land was a harsh life. If the farmers didn’t have sufficiently good harvests they starved,  especially if they had no other means of survival like stored commodities. An average lifespan was much shorter than now and early death from disease, or some other nasty reason, was common. Surplus stock, of anything, was probably a rarity.
Giovanni Panninni Wikimedia Commons
Attribution

And surplus stock was what Rome needed from the lands across its Empire because the City of Rome some 2000 years ago had a population of around 1 million inhabitants. The countryside around Rome could not provide enough for feeding the City of Rome so they needed stock from the wider empire.  A massive grain supply, and other foodstuffs were also needed to feed the thirty plus Roman legions stationed across the whole Roman Empire.

According to the most recent archaeological excavations in northern Scotland the iron age tribes lived in small communities, perhaps a half dozen roundhouses, farming a small workable area that had been cleared of forests and the boggy land having already been drained. (It seems that the north east was generally pretty swampy, mossy or unproductive scrub land.) There would have been rules of behaviour and a code of conduct but within what would have been mostly an extended family situation, any infringements being locally dealt with.

Did northern Scotland not have any larger settlements, larger than a small village or a hamlet? According to finds by recent archaeologists it seems that no large Roman era towns have been identified. There’s no dated evidence of ‘kingship’ or larger tribal centres in the north /north-east of Scotland till after the Roman period in Britannia.(post A.D. 400) Since northern Britannia seems to have had no 'Ard Righ' (high king) to establish Roman society, the only way to ensure that future production was plentiful and civilisation of the tribes took place would have been to leave a huge amount of soldiers in situ i.e. 'Rome' doing all the work of civilising the natives.

The Baths at Caracalla
The lack of a local ‘king’ or tribal leader of a considerable amount of people would have been a huge disappointment: a severe frustration for Agricola. In previous invasion campaigns, after a Celtic tribe was subdued and treaties signed, the Roman general would have appointed the tribal chief as the person responsible for conducting Roman Law in a proper and just manner. That same chief (along with Roman officials) would have been responsible for ensuring that Roman ways were adopted in a relatively peaceable manner, and they would have been responsible for collecting the taxes due to Rome (harvest products, goods, and slave labour rather than money).

I'm glad as an amateur history enthusiast that the Romans came to my part of Scotland...but in a way I'm also very glad they didn't stay!
  • Civilised: -behaving in a polite way instead of getting angry
What price civilisation? I'm not sure what they would have done to the local natives during their 'take over' bid would have been polite and I'm very sure some tempers would  have been raised -A LOT!

Of course, there might have been sumptuous baths like those portrayed here by L. Alma Tadema. Wikimedia Commons. Have I ever mentioned I love his paintings- even if they are not quite what would have happened at the baths.

Slainthe! 


Friday, 10 November 2017

The House at Ladywell is coming soon!

Friday Greetings to you!

Actually, I can hardly believe that I've not posted for days. Time has run away with me again and this week has been mainly spent focusing on completing Week 5 of my FutureLearn #FLVirtualRome course which was thoroughly enjoyable. It's now a 'done and dusted' deal with the certificate on the way but I'm sure it won't be the only Ancient Rome research that I do because there's still so much to learn about Ancient Rome. That took care of most of my research reading this past week. 

As for my fiction reading for pleasure that continues to be my re-reading of Diana Gabaldon's first 3 'Outlander' novels. I'd forgotten just how long they were back in the early 1990s when I first read them. 

After they're finished I've a kindle worth sitting waiting for me - an exaggeration, for sure, but I do have quite a few in my kindle queue. I also have a couple I can't quite access yet, and one of those is The House At Ladywell by Nicola Slade which is on pre-order just now from Amazon. I won't ahve too long to wait, though, since it's being published next week on the 14th of November 2017 by Crooked Cat Books

It sounds just a tiny bit scary but very intriguing. See what you think from the blurb and the very arresting cover! 

Here are the details: 




THE HOUSE AT LADYWELL
Nicola Slade

A hare carved in stone and the scent of flowers in a house full of echoes – can Freya’s inheritance help her to leave the past behind?


Had I gone completely crazy that first day? To open the door, take one astonished look round, and decide on the spot that I would live there?
To fall in love with a house?’

When Freya Gibson inherits an old, run-down property she has no idea she is the last in a long line of redoubtable women, including the Tudor nun who built the house. Unknown to Freya these women, over centuries, fought with whatever weapons came to hand – deception, endurance, even murder – to preserve their home and family.
Freya falls in love with the house but her inheritance includes an enigmatic letter telling her to ‘restore the balance’ of the Lady’s Well. Besides this, the house seems to be haunted by the scent of flowers.

 In the past the Lady’s Well was a place of healing and Freya soon feels safe and at home, but she has demons of her own to conquer before she can accept the happiness that beckons.
Pre-order and Buy Link HERE
Happy weekend reading.
Slainthe! 

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Busy, busy!

Saturday Greetings to you!

My week has been extremely busy writing wise, most of which has been out and about talking about and selling my novels.

On Wed 1st November, I spent a lovely evening with 30+ ladies from the Kinellar SWI who had asked me to give them a talk/ presentation about my novels. They wanted a mixture of my writing background; the novels I've had published to date; and a little bit more about Roman Aberdeenshire- all of which I was delighted to give them along with a PowerPoint presentations of relevant images.

They were an extremely appreciative and intent audience, some of whom asked brilliant questions afterwards. I sold some books and though I live only some 4 miles from the venue, the travelling expenses were welcome.

Friday and Today 3rd and 4th of November, I'm out selling (and signing) my novels at Thainstone  Centre Christmas Craft Fair. The durations are Friday 5 hours and today (Saturday) 6 hours, so a longer time away from the keyboard. The weather is fine so we're (the attending crafters) all looking forward to a good turnout. Yesterday evening, the Fair being from 3 p.m. till 8 p.m. we were in competition with the Kintore Bonfire and Fireworks night (only 2 miles away from Thainstone Venue) but today there will hopefully not be any other large event taking away the local custom.

Here's hoping it's a good shopping day because I'm hoping to sell a lot of my stock! Yesterday, and Wednesday evening, the popular one was Topaz Eyes. Updates later...


Slainthe! 


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Crappit Heid an 'a!

Welcome to my Wednesday post. 

Today was my turn to post at my regular x 2 per month Writing Wranglers Blog. Since Hallowe'en is now over and I have done a post on Scottish Hallowe'en already for them, I decided to post some interesting facts about Scotland.

Here's a bundle of random facts...

Loch Morar is Scotland’s deepest loch. As Loch Ness is home to the famous monster Nessie, Morar’s monster is named Morag. It might be new knowledge that sightings of Morag hit the headlines well before those of ‘Nessie’! I'd love to see Morag since she's said to be a lot more like a mermaid. 

Crappit Heid. They say that Scots are canny with their money and very practical people who hate wasting anything. I’d say that’s true for many and I personally hate waste but I wouldn’t go so far as to make and eat ‘Crappit Heid’. I love fish and seafood, eat them frequently but I’m not keen to try an out of fashion Scottish fish dish of ‘stuffed fish heads’. Like many other subsistence foods of yesteryear crappit heid is as nutricious as the other more edible parts of the fish- it was all about inventing a simple recipe with available staples to make every part of the fish acceptable for eating. BTW – There is a old Scottish word ‘crap’ which means to stuff or fill hence crappit heid being stuffed heads. I won’t offend sensibilities here by showing an  image but click this link if you dare… and see how Crappit Heid looks when ready.



Haggis will soon be available in Canada after a ban of some 46 years (not sure yet about the US regulations). This is because my favourite Haggis producer—Macsween of Edinburgh—have produced a recipe that tastes exactly like traditional haggis but without the banned bits of sheep’s lung. I love haggis and eat it throughout the year with mashed neeps (orange turnip/swede) and tatties. A wee dram doesn’t pass my lips because, would you believe it of me? I don’t like whiskey. However, Scotland also produces some nice gins!

Wikimedia Commons
The tallest and longest  hedge on earth is said to be a European Beech hedge at Meikleour (A 93 road, Perth and Kinross, Scotland). It is in the Guiness World Records as being 100 feet high and about 1/3 mile long. It was planted in 1745 by Jean Mercer and her husband, Robert Murray Nairne on the Meikleour Estate. Some say it reaches the heavens because Robert Murray Nairne and the men who planted it, as Jacobite sympathisers, were killed at the Battle of Culloden. (The hedge is trimmed approx. every ten years and I totally sympathise with that because I used to hate trimming the beech hedge that lined my driveway. That was about 9 feet high and took me a whole week of my school summer holidays!)

Wikimedia Commons
Staying with horticulture: The oldest Yew tree in Scotland  is the ‘Fortingall Yew’. Said to be around 5000 years old, there are many tales associated with the Fortingall Yew and its surroundings. Near Aberfeldy, Perthshire, it has connections with early Christianity in Scotland. In 1769, the circumference was measured at 52 feet but what remains are the relics of the original tree. In the field opposite the village of Fortingall there is an ancient cairn (pile of stones) known as the ‘Cairn of the Dead’. During the 16th century the Great Plague (Galar Mhor) ravaged Scotland and many in the area died. Legend has it that an old woman, unmarked by the plague, carried the plague victims on a horse drawn sledge to a mass grave and placed a cairn there to mark their resting place.


Skara Brae is the oldest village in Scotland inhabited around 3100 B.C. It’s the best preserved Neolithic settlement in Western Europe.
Step inside the reconstructed neolithic house and experience what it was like before you wander the ruins of the village.




The shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world is from the Orkney island of Westray to Papa Westray.  Given good weather conditions the flight is less than ONE MINUTE.



Braveheart was the name given to Robert the Bruce not William Wallace so in the film ‘Braveheart’ Mel Gibson was using a fair bit of artistic licence!

There are approximately 790 islands in Scotland but only c. 130 are inhabited. People pride themselves in Munro bagging across Scotland (climbing mountains over 3,000 feet) but so far I’ve never heard of anyone ‘bagging Scottish islands’!

Scotland may be famous for images of a red stag but the official animal of Scotland is the unicorn. The unicorn has been a Scottish heraldic symbol since the 12th century, the coat of Arms seen here the one that was in use from the 12th century (William I) to King James VI of Scotland 1603. 1603 was the year of the Union of the Crowns, when King James VI of Scotland became the ruler of both Scotland and England. In 1604 he decreed he’d be known as King of Great Britain. By 1606 he created a new flag combining the crosses of St. Andrew (Scotland) and St. George (England). It was named the Union Jack, the ‘Jack’ part being a reference to Jacobus the Latin version of James.

The image below was taken on Abbey Strand Edinburgh. 

Wikimedia Commons


Slainthe!