Sunday 25 November 2018

Launch Posters!


Here is a selection of my recent launch posters designed to encourage people to BUY my ebooks at incredibly cheap prices. They are added in no particular order...

Going with the 'launch theme'...

This one would be the Eagle of Rome theme...

This is a have you remembered to get your copy theme...

This one is the Rome versus the barbarian theme...

Which of the four designs do you liek the best? 


Launch Update!

Agricola’s Bane has definitely launched and I’ve been so busy I’ve realised I've not yet updated anything here!

Nancy Jardine with Nora Radcliffe/ Garioch Heritage Centre
Thursday evening, 22nd Nov, was the official paperback launch but it wasn't just a regular book signing session. Since the launch week coincided with Book Week Scotland, it was possible to combine two events. I gave a PowerPoint Presentation on Roman Aberdeenshire to the members of the Garioch Heritage Centre, Inverurie, Aberdeenshire and afterwards there was the opportunity to buy a signed copy of Agricola's Bane.

I, naturally, in the way of a trader these days, had a large selection of all of my books available for purchase. 

Somewhere between 20 and 25 hardy souls turned up in the pelting November rain and were a fabulous audience. Nora Radcliffe gave a short introduction and off I galloped since I had some 35 slides and around 45 mins for a presentation before a plenary questions session. My audience asked some really excellent questions and gave me a few great pointers for researching - all grist to the mill.

As well as feeling accomplished in having enlightened many of the locals that thousands of Ancient Roman Soldiers had trodden the byways around Inverurie, I was delighted to have come home with 15 fewer books than I went with. It was also fabulous to be invited to leave some copies of my Celtic Fervour Series, and The Taexali Game, to be sold in the Garioch Heritage Centre's little Bookshop - and you can imagine I definitely said YES, please!

What’s next? As well as promoting my latest novel on Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else I can think of, I now look forward to the pleasure of getting back to writing Book 5- Beathan and Agricola stories continued. Though, first I have to get my three mysteries self-published with Ocelot Press. That job is underway and will hopefully be done in the coming weeks. 

Some champagne? Yes, I did have a glass or two. 


Tuesday 20 November 2018

The launch tour Ali Bacon's blog!

It's Tuesday,

and the launch tour for Agricola's Bane continues. Today I'm  a new visitor to Ali Bacon's blog where I'm divulging some of the difficulties of researching an era that's got little written about it.

Catch that post HERE.

Meanwhile you can still get Books 1-3 of the Celtic Fervour Series for only 99p during this launch week for Agricola's Bane.

You'll find the links for the other books in the series on the Agricola's Bane page on Amazon

And after reading them it really will help with my visibility on Amazon rankings if you could write a short review comment after you've read the books. My thanks...


Sunday 18 November 2018

A letter from Jaques Foret!

Good morning!

Angela Wren
This is a Sunday with a difference since I've a just had a very lovely letter pop into my box. The character who wrote it  probably got my address from my good friend, Angela Wren, who was a fellow Crooked Cat Books author when I was a Crooked Cat. She still is, by the way!

Living in France, Angela knows a fair number of people from the local area. I've had the very great pleasure of being introduced to some of her local 'neighbours',  having read a couple of books in her detective series and I've a feeling she knows the person who sent me this missive very well...

I don't often share my personal correspondence but just this one time, I'm itching to share this with you.

Chère Madame Jardine,

Thank you for taking an interest in my work.  I think you might find that the work of a private investigator is not as glamorous as everyone thinks, so I hope you won't be disappointed by my response.

I'm juggling a number of cases at the moment.  That is quite normal for a PI.  My most important case - for the sake of ease of reference I'll refer to it as the Montbel case - concerns a disparate family.  My client - no names I'm afraid because client details are confidential - contacted me by letter a few days ago.  My client asked that I undertake a detailed search for a missing son.  At 18 years of age he walked out of the family home following an argument and no one has heard from him since.

We get a lot of requests like this.  I have a small team who work with me and we have a number of websites that we use as well as our own social media pages and our own website.  Maxim, who handles all of that work, has details of the missing person listed on all the sites and pages that we use.  He also regularly updates the listings as new information comes to light and he constantly checks all responses.  In addition he has placed a discreet ad in the local newspaper.  So now we wait.  There's always a lot of waiting involved for PI's.

We are also following up on other possible leads and possible sightings.  So we meticulously check everything very carefully.  Not every report of a sighting of the missing person is accurate.  Sometimes it is a mistake and that can happen for a number of reasons.  The individual making the report may have misremembered what they saw or may have lied because they have their own agenda.  It takes a lot of patience and careful questioning to get to the truth.  And on the Montbel case, we are not there yet.

As we have a number of live cases running alongside the Montbel case, and as there are four of us working on different aspects of the case, we have to make sure that we are all kept up to speed with new developments.  We have a weekly detailed catch-up meeting and we have daily information exchanges.  The weekly meetings are a thorough examination of where we are on each case.  The daily exchanges are much shorter and relate to one case at a time.  We also have a suite of technology that is linked across the team.  All of our mobile phones are linked, as are our computers in the office.
We also have a number of other people - investigators, security experts etc - who will work with us on an ad hoc basis, as we need them.  This means that we can concentrate on interviewing people with possible useful information whilst others undertake the time consuming duty of tailing a suspect.  A 24-hour tail on a suspect actually requires 3 investigators to be successful.

Where necessary we will use local archives, newspapers and magazines if we need to.  There's a plethora of information available to us and our job is to bring that all together so that we can further our case.

I hope this answers all of your questions.

Yours sincerely,
Jacques Forêt
Principle Investigator, Vaux Investigations, Mende 48017

Nancy says: What a lovely and informative letter, Jaques. It may have clarified some things but it only whets  my appetite for reading more. Montbel is sitting waiting on my kindle for me to have lots of spare time for leisure reading. I'll definitely catch up with you soon! 

A clear-cut case? 
A re-examination of a closed police case brings investigator, Jacques Forêt, up against an old adversary. After the murder of a key witness, Jacques finds himself, and his team, being pursued.
When a vital piece of evidence throws a completely different light on Jacques' case, his adversary becomes more aggressive, and Investigating Magistrate Pelletier threatens to sequester all of Jacques papers and shut down the investigation.
Can Jacques find all the answers before Pelletier steps in?

A little bit about Angela Wren

Having followed a career in Project and Business Change Management, I now work as an Actor and Director at a local theatre.  I’ve been writing, in a serious way, since 2010.  My work in project management has always involved drafting, so writing, in its various forms, has been a significant feature throughout my adult life.
I particularly enjoy the challenge of plotting and planning different genres of work.  My short stories vary between contemporary romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  I also write comic flash-fiction and have drafted two one-act plays that have been recorded for local radio.  The majority of my stories are set in France where I like to spend as much time as possible each year.

Find Angela at the following: 

Amazon : AngelaWren
Facebook : Angela Wren
Goodreads : Angela Wren
Contact an author : Angela Wren

Thank you so much for visiting the blog today, Angela, and to Jaques for writing to me. I've really enjoyed reading your series and look forward to reading my copy of Montbel - which I'm sure will be as entertaining and great to read as your other novels. 


Saturday 17 November 2018

#blog launch tour stops

Happy Saturday! 

Today, I've spent the best part of it at a FOCUS Christmas Craft Fair in the town of Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, where I've been selling  my novels and enlightening customers about the fact that almost 2000 years ago there were around 20 to 25 thousand Ancient Roman soldiers tramping around near the town of Stonehaven.

Many customers are surprised when I tell them that there is evidence that the Ancient Romans invaded the territory around the present-day city of Aberdeen. I tell them, in Stonehaven, that they only need to walk a little out of the centre of the town to reach a Roman Temporary Camp that probably housed about 20-25 thousand Ancient Roman soldiers.

But.. as well as having some wonderful and enlightening conversations, and selling some of my  novels, I was also out and about virtually during the blog launch tour for Agricola's Bane. Today, I was hosted by my lovely friend Anna Chant and you'll find my post on her blog HERE

Please stop by and say hello!

And tomorrow, I'm out early again to go to the AWA (American Women's Association ) Holiday Fair in the city of Aberdeen. I'll be at the Double Tree by Hilton, Treetops Hotel, Aberdeen- open to the public from 10 a.m till 3 p.m.

ps. My bestseller of the day wasn't the brand new Agricola's Bane but it was The Beltane Choice,  Book 1 of the series. A number of customers decided that, although they wanted to read the new one hot off the press, they'd be better starting from the beginning. Here's hoping I've got some return customers.

Friday 16 November 2018

Launch tour for #Agricola's Bane

#FridayFeelings are that I'm very, very busy!

Today I'm at the blogs of Sue Barnard and Kate Braithwaite...and maybe later today, Columbkill Noonan. 

If you missed them yesterday, I popped over to Cathie Dunn and Alice Castle , but you'll still be able to catch the posts by clicking the links just above. 

#Agricola's Bane ebook launched yesterday, and it slowly climbs the Amazon charts - thank you to those who have already bought their copy!

Today, as well as posting launch promotions on my Facebook pages and on Twitter, I'm preparing for two different Christmas Craft Fair events this weekend.

Just a little reminder that you can keep checking my blog launch tour for Agricola's Bane by using the sidebar on this blog to track where I'm likely to be in the coming days. Not all of these posts are general promotional posts - some are interviews and others are unique posts about the historical era.

Saturday 17th Nov will see me down at Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire at the FOCUS Craft Fair where I'll have paperback copies of Agricola's Bane for the very first time!! That really will feel like an achievement since I've been saying for weeks, even months, that it's on the way.. and NOW it's HERE!

Sunday 18th I'll be attending the AWA Holiday Fair in aberdeen. The American Women's' Association have been running a Christmas Fair for decades now and it's one of the best loved venues to go to for a very wide selection of gifts. There are generally more than 100 crafters in attendance with extremely varied goods for sale. During the last few years there tends to be other Fairs on in other venues at the same time as the AWA Fair but it's still generally very popular. Last year I came home with 25 fewer novels than I started off with so I've got my fingers crossed for a good event on Sunday.

I have a wee dilemma, though. I presently only have 30 paperback copies of  Agricola's Bane and my official presentation and book signing launch is on the 22nd of Nov. I've ordered another 25 which are due to arrive Tues - Thursday next week . The big question is - How many should I take to my weekend fairs?

That's a brilliant dilemma to have and I'm sure I'll work it out!

I'm off now to plan my 'Christmassy' table.


Thursday 15 November 2018

#Agricola's Bane ebook launches!

Launch Day - Cheers! 

The day really has arrived (15th Nov 2018)  and Agricola's Bane officially hits the ebook shelves on Amazon!

I've waited so long for this to happen that it really doesn't seem all that real. Getting all the ducks in a row to get the manuscript eventually finished, then professionally edited, and then the time I took to get the formatting correct for self publishing seems to have been endless. That said both the ebook and the paperback are unleashed and now just waiting for my readership to build and build... and build.

If you've bought a copy already, please review it on Amazon or Goodreads, or on your Facebook page, or your blog, because your comments really do matter. Sharing your choice of reading is so valuable to every author and helps to make a book stand out from the Amazon list of millions of other books.

I haven't reduced the price of £2.99 today (the same as the pre-order price) but if you haven't read the other books of the series (x3 others) you'll find them at a ridiculous sale price of #99p (reductions on other Amazon sites). That means that in the UK you can get all x 4 ebooks for ONLY £5.96!!!

Enjoy the reads, and tell other people who might be interested if you love the stories of my Garrigill warriors.


Wednesday 14 November 2018

#Book Week Scotland - I'm confirmed!

Book Week Scotland runs from the 19th to the 25th November 2018.

It has been running every year for  number of years and and is a celebration of books and reading. the organisers encourage people to participate in a multitude of different kinds of events  so long as they are in some way book related.

Since becoming a published author in 2012, I've tried to do a 'book event'' every year during Book Week Scotland. Some have been in front of the public but others have been online. This year I thought to tie in my local paperback book launch for Agricola's Bane with Book Week Scotland Week since the launch event was conveniently happening that particular week- i.e. when the facility was available for me to be booked in to the Garioch Heritage Centre, Inverurie.

The venue- Garioch Heritage Centre - tried to get the event listed on the Book Week Scotland listings but failed to manage. I tried myself and was fairly despairing when nothing seemed to have been added to the listings. I emailed the contact name and asked if the problem may have been because my event isn't a standard book signing event. Since I'm giving a Powerpoint historical background before the signing event, it didn't fit the tick boxes on the site's form to add an event. I'm not giving an author talk about my books, and I'm not delivering a 'spoken word' poetry reading. I'm not doing a book reading from my new novel prior to sighing and selling either. I had listed my event on the proforma for 'spoken word' and not on the author 'chat' section. Days passed with no communication and no listing...till today!

To my delight, my event is still added as a 'Spoken Word' event and that's more than fine by me! It means I can officially say that I am doing something 'bookish' for 2018 as well! As an ex-primary teacher who knows the crucial value of reading and the love of books - it's of very personal importance to me.

If you don't live in the vicinity and can't come to the launch, please keep your eyes open for the special promotions that are currently ongoing during the launch weeks.
( Blog: 2 e-copies of Agricola's Bane and
(Facebook a signed paperback copy on my Facebook author page  )


Tuesday 13 November 2018

Agricola's Bane - 1 day and a bit #countdown!

Happy Tuesday to you! 

Domestic duties have taken up a lot of my time today- baking a raisin and apricot loaf  & shortbread; looking after my grandkids from 7 am till 5. 30 pm; out and about to a local playbarn for them to burn off some of their boundless energy -  but I have also added a little to my promotional spree for the launch of Agricola's Bane.

I've just created a Facebook Event to publicise the physical launch event at the Garioch Heritage Centre, Inverurie on 22nd November. It's £3 at the door and all are welcome!

Here's the posterI made and the link.

Join the Facebook Event HERE and SHARE if you can!


Monday 12 November 2018

3 day countdown, #reviewsmatter, and an offer!

Monday means 3 days to the ebook launch of Agricola's Bane!

Read on to find out how to WIN an ecopy of Agricola's Bane! I have x2 e-copies ready for some lucky winners! (Details below)

I'm really looking forward to selling lots of paperback copies of this novel locally and getting oral feedback on it, because that's what my local return customers tend to do after buying paperback copies at author presentation events, or FOCUS Craft Fairs. Those customers buying directly from me tend to only read paperback versions of novels and are rarely online. That means I can never expect a written review from them to be posted on Amazon or Goodreads (though it's an incredibly lovely surprise when that has happened once or twice). I always value their feedback very highly but sadly, I can't add their compliments to Amazon reviews which really DO affect the sales of e-copies of my novels. 

So, it's back to that issue of do REVIEWS really matter? 

The answer is YES! the the amount of reviews a book receives can be crucial to a book taking off after its launch or just dawdling along. They only need to be a few lines long; a couple of sentences and a title which can be as little as 'I enjoyed this'. 

When it comes to ebook customers of my novels, sold from online retailers, it is so important that they write post a short review on  Amazon or Goodreads because it enhances the profile of the book and myself as the author (though admittedly I've never been good at encouraging/harassing people to do this.)

Do I review book I've bought on Amazon? Yes, I do. I post a review here on this blog; on Amazon and on the Goodreads sites. It may not happen immediately after I complete the reading of the novel, but I do it when the best moment for writing it arises. I've reviewed the novels of many authors of different authors (though with Amazon cracking down on reviews they think are not impartial reciprocation is now a very tricky thing!) 

What is it that an author (like me) would like a reader to say in a short review? 
There are many possibilities you could give a brief mention to. Such as... 
Did you enjoy the characters and think they are realistic for the plot? 
Did you think the story had a good pace and suitable action at strategic places throughout the novel? Did the setting seem real to you, whether it was a historical novel in a set time period, or a contemporary setting?
Did the plot of the story resonate as something that could happen without being too fantastical? 
Did you empathise with characters who weren't the main ones? 
Did you feel you were living the situation with the characters?  

I have x 2 FREE e-copies of Agricola's Bane ready for 2 lucky people to *WIN*. 
(Of course, I'll be looking forward to all reviews posted after launch day)

What you need to do to enter the DRAW is:
  • Leave a comment about  - Why you like to leave a review (on Amazon, Goodreads, or your own blog) -  in the comments section below this post, to enter you into the draw. 

  • The offer remains open till the 29th of November 2018 when the  draw will take place. 
  • The name of the winner will be announced in the comments section below on November 30th  2018.

Good luck! And I look forward to reading your comments. 

Of course, if you can't wait that long, click to get your own e copy HERE 


Sunday 11 November 2018

4 day #countdown

4 days to go till the launch of Agricola's Bane!

It's now a really exciting time for me, even more so because my blog launch tour is revving up now. Today you'll find me visiting my old friend Tim Taylor (Crooked Cat Books)  who has kindly offered to share my launch information for Book 4.

Tim has been one of the few readers to have read all three books of the series and who has written excellent reviews on them, for which he has my unending thanks. Since Tim is also a historical author, I appreciate very much the constructive comments he has given me - helpful in the manner that all reviews should be.

Meanwhile you'll also find that on my Facebook Author page there's a #competition going on for a SIGNED copy of Agricola's Bane to one lucky winner who shares the post with the Pre-Order link.
You'll find that post pinned to the top of the page HERE

See you over at Tim' blog HERE today.


Friday 9 November 2018

#6 day count down


They're fantastic! I've been beavering away, preparing more things for the launch of Agricola's Bane - the eBook next week on the 15th, and the local paperback launch the following week on the 22nd Nov.

I've got a fabulous Blog Tour organised with 16 lovely Bloggers helping me to spread the word. I'm about to add them to a sidebar to make it nice and easy to see where I'll be appearing during the coming weeks.

Yesterday, I emailed off 10 Press Releases to local newspapers and another few to local radio stations. It's time consuming but in only a matter of hours I've had a tremendous response but I'm keeping that first one a nice little secret for a whiley. :-)

I'll send off a few more Press Releases to other Scottish Newspapers this afternoon, and then it'll be time to get some excerpts all ready to use for publicity. To start the ball rolling here's one to whet the appetite for my lovely young female warrior- Enya. If the image at left makes her look intense- it's true, she can be!

When Enya reached Colm, the soldier she had poled to the ground squealed and bleated as he squirmed to free his upper arm from the entrapment, his attempt to break the shaft unsuccessful. Frantically swinging it in her direction, the young auxiliary whirled and bucked to avoid the slashes of her blade. As she raised her long knife anew, the end of the spear walloped against her jaw, the impact splintering the tip, the sudden pain excruciating. The blow was not sound enough to knock her over, but the jarring sent the man sprawling. Landing heavily on his side, he yelped when the pole cracked asunder, the spear tip still stuck firmly in his upper arm. Forcing him onto his front with one well aimed boot roll, Enya clipped away the shallow helmet neck-guard with her knife.
She had him at her mercy but she would give him none.
Striking repeatedly at the freed flesh with her long blade, which was not much shorter than the Roman’s gladius, a white hot rage engulfed her. Blood spattered and bone cracked.
Would her Celtic lands never be free of the Roman scum? The next cut was for Ruoridh. Another hack was for her cousin, Beathan, and more for Feargus’ dead kin from Monymusk. Her blade continued a repetitious slashing. Her brother would be found or avenged. Either way, she vowed to remove as many of the Roman usurpers as she could.
Fergus’ noisy reprimand eventually penetrated her frenzy. Lowering her blade she stared at him, the thudding inside her chest almost engulfing her.
It was his palms cradling her shoulders and his soft voice at her ear that reminded her to breathe properly. “Enough. He will trouble Colm no longer.”


Wednesday 7 November 2018

#Agricola's Bane launch prep


#WhatsHappenedWednesday is a hashtag on a Facebook group that I've joined, used for displaying what an author has been up to, and for sharing the latest news. 

I've been very poor at posting on here recently, but I claim many valid reasons for that. For the last umpteen weeks, I've been getting my Agricola's Bane ebook and paperback versions ready for publication. That took up plenty of hours in my day but I'm delighted that progress is right on track now. 

Another fabulous reason is that I went on a little jaunt down to Liverpool, spending time with old friends, some of whom I met when I was 7 years old. When the group of 6 of us were about 12/13 years old we went to see The Beatles in a live performance at the Odeon, Glasgow. The reason for us going to Liverpool last week was a pure nostalgia trip, down Penny Lane, if you like. We've been talking about going for years but eventually got around to it last week. More of that trip soon. 

Back home now it has been back to normal for me, with 2 days grandkid minding on Monday and Tuesday of this week, and today was a solid writing day, though not of new work. Today, I completed the last half of the blog promotional posts for the launch of Agricola's Bane, Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series. The posts have all been sent to those very kind authors who have agreed to host me on my little launch tour. I'll be adding a sidebar notice about the tour very soon. 

Tomorrow, I'll be dedicating some time to writing and sending a Press Release to the local newspapers etc. Busy, busy! 

I made the advertising banner above to use on Facebook and Twitter. Agricola's Bane is AVAILABLE NOW in paperback from Amazon and the eBook can be pre-ordered before the launch on the 15th Nov. 2018.


Friday 26 October 2018

In #Desperate Times...

It's Friday ... 

My Friday historical theme of "Aye. Ken it wis like this..." has now run its course but Friday will probably still be a day when something historical will be posted. 

Today, I've a few more details of a very intriguing novel that was mentioned some weeks ago in a post by Ethyl Smith. My congratulations to Ethyl because Desperate Times, the third book of her series,  was launched this week! 

In Desperate Times it is July 1680. Richard Cameron is dead, and John Steel and Lucas Brotherstone have only just escaped capture by government forces. With compelling writing Smith brings to life this infamous period of history that culminated in William of Orange coming to Britain in 1688, the consequences of which are still felt in Scotland and Ireland today.

It is part 3 of a 5 part series focusing on the consequences of all this for ordinary people who turn out to be quite the opposite.

I've not yet had the opportunity to read Ethyls' series but it's definitely on my  To Read list of Scottish Historical novels.

My thanks to Ethyl for sending along the information. Best wishes for its launch! 


Wednesday 24 October 2018

#Agricola's Bane #pre-ordering #amazon

#Wednesday Wisdom,

That's a hashtag I might be using later on Twitter, but I'm not entirely sure I qualify for using it.

I've been fairly quiet on this blog, of late, and haven't done all that much on Twitter or Facebook either, but that's because I'm almost there - eventually - with Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series Agricola's Bane. 

The edits for it have, again eventually, been done bar one last sweep (to be clarified by my editor Stephanie Patterson). I've been blearie doing the formatting for days but I'm absolutely over the moon to say that the ebook format is now on Amazon for Pre-ordering!

I've never had a novel in the pre-ordering state so that's very very new for me. The paperback version is in Draft stage awaiting me checking the Proof copy. I truly live in hope that it's a wonderful in my hands as I hope it will be. This will be my first time using KDP Paperback Publishing. Since Createspace have moved over to Amazon they are no longer available.

I'm expecting the Proof copy to arrive within the next couple of days and tenterhooks don't cut it.

I'm now in the stages of arranging for a Blog tour, organised by myself, but have also made enquiries of one of the best blog tour operators out there just now to see if she can accommodate me sometime soon. This means my head will be back down again big time as I'll be writing the special posts for all of my visits. My grateful thanks to those who have already agreed to host me and i hope for some more later tonight and maybe even tomorrow when other authors check in to Facebook.

As to the #Wednesday Wisdom aspect? I sometimes wonder what has made me become such a hard taskmaster because, just sometimes, all of this marketing of books is exactly that. Deeply exciting though!

YES! YES! It's up on Pre-order. Check out his link HERE to take you to the Amazon pre-order page for ...Agricola's Bane 


Friday 12 October 2018

#Aye. Ken it wis like this...with Ethyl Smith

Series image- Dunkeld Cathedral

I can hardly believe Friday has come round again, so soon. 

It's time again for another wonderful contribution to my Friday "Aye. Ken it wis like this..." historical series, and today I'm joined by a new visitor to the blog- Ethyl Smith

Ethyl's sent some fabulous (and some disturbing) images with the excellent 'potted history' background to her writing set in 17th Century Scotland, so take a deep breath, get comfortable and enjoy! I have to confess that part of my Open University History degree some decades ago included a course on 17th Century England, Oliver Cromwell being a leading player, but my knowledge of what went on in Scotland during those troubled times was woefully lacking. I'm now glad to be addressing that.
Welcome, Ethyl. Please tell us a bit about the historical setting of your main character...

Thanks Nancy for allowing me the space to share my passion for a particular time in Scottish history. At speaking events I find people know little but want to know more which is encouraging.
So here we go as I try to spike your interest.
17th century Scotland was a strange place, fascinating but more than a little disturbing. The lust for power and political intrigue has aye been. Today 'nowt seems to have chainged'. One review says of my Time series … ‘this reminds us that the past is neither as distant nor as complete as we might think.’
It was not a happy time to live through but one that makes a good story.

My writing is fiction based on fact. It covers 1679-89, a ten-year period within all the mayhem. This is because my main character John Steel was on the run from the law for this length of time, never caught and lived to tell the tale. To have the law on his tail for ten years … wow … to never be caught … well he has to be a special kind of person.

To understand where he’s coming from, to have a believable setting has meant extensive reading, research, site visits etc to try and gain a handle on the full picture.
Nancy says:I can't imagine not doing heaps of research before writing historical fiction. 
An unexpected bonus has been contact from Steel descendants both here and abroad.

Courtesy of Ethyl Smith
Along the way many interesting people have been willing to share their knowledge, expertise, and enthusiasm for this period. Those involved in re-enactment are particularly helpful telling me about everything from the difference between a Flintlock musket and a Matchlock musket, to how a surgeon operated, how people dressed, what materials were available, how they were sewn. And don’t forget what was cooked and eaten. So what was available? Underlying it all was how might a 17th century mind tick, their beliefs, where they came from, who influenced them, the social strata?
Hope you’re beginning to get the idea.
Courtesy of Ethyl Smith

It all starts with the Stuart kings and their belief in the Divine Right of Kings, that God has given them the right to rule and preside over all matters civil and temporal. Scottish Presbyterians believed, and still do, in a direct line to God with no need for an intermediary. Such opposing views can cause trouble … And they do.

In 1637, Charles 1 tries to bring the Scottish Kirk and the English church closer together. With no consultation he replaces John Knox’s Book of Discipline for Kirk organisation then orders the English Book of Common Prayer to be used.

Outraged Scots see this as an attempt to destroy their national identity and a movement gathers momentum across the country. February 1638 men from all classes sign a National Covenant and the trouble begins.

Meanwhile Charles falls out with his English parliament. Civil war starts. King loses war and his head.
Cromwell and the Corpse of Charles I- Delaroche

The Scots turn to the next Charles who declares his approval of the Covenant and is crowned at Scone in 1651.
Leader of parliamentarians, Oliver Cromwell reacts, invades Scotland, Charles retreats to France leaving Cromwell in control of Scotland till his death nine years later.

Charles invited to return as king and thereafter ‘the baw is on the slates.’
He wastes no time in re-introducing Episcopacy in England, renouncing Covenants and ordering Scotland to do likewise.
Kirk ministers resist, over 400 are expelled from their parishes and begin preaching in open air which become known as ‘conventicles.’
Armed rebellion is attempted, fails, resentment deepens when attendance at Conventicles becomes treasonable and actual preaching a capital offence.

Courtesy of Ethyl Smith
By 1679 enough is enough. Covenanters kill an archbishop for his persecution of the kirk. Declarations against king and government follow. Things hot up when John Graham of Claverhouse’s platoon disturbs a field-meeting only to be seen off in disgrace. A few weeks later he has his revenge at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge. Prisoners are marched to Edinburgh, imprisoned in Greyfriars Kirkyard before many are shipped off to the colonies as slaves.

Resistance is forced underground. Rebel preachers travel the wild spaces and attract huge congregations. Ministers such as Alexander Peden, Donald Cargill, Richard Cameron, James Renwick keep the resistance alive and pay the ultimate price when caught … They all were caught except Peden who died of natural causes only to be dug up again … But that’s another story.

Courtesy of Ethyl Smith

The crown tightens control. Life becomes very difficult for ordinary men and women with the Oath of Abjuration which means allegiance to the crown or be declared a traitor. 
Many refuse. Terrible repercussions follow. What is known as the Killing Times begins.

Charles 11 dies in 1684. His brother James, a Roman Catholic, is next in line. More protests follow, Earl of Argyll attempts another rebellion which again fails and he is quickly executed.

Torture-Courtesy of Ethyl Smith
James now offers Scotland an Indulgence of Toleration. This allows religious freedom provided individuals swear allegiance to king. But how can any Covenanter swear allegiance to a man who believes in the Divine Right of Kings?

English nobles are not happy either, especially when James’ wife gives birth to a son. A Catholic heir to the throne.

They contact the Protestant prince William of Orange, who just happens to be married to James’ eldest daughter Mary who is also a Protestant. He is offered crown, accepts, sets out with an armada to land at Torbay and be welcomed. James flees to France then asks his main supporter John Graham to rally Scotland for his cause.

The faithful Graham does his best and gathers considerable sympathy in the highlands where many are Catholic. A further battle follows at Killiekrankie where Graham’s men win decisively but he is killed.  A 2nd battle at Dunkeld gives Prebyterians the upper hand.
The long awaited ‘Glorious Revolution’ happens. William of Orange restores Presbyterianism to Scotland.

After all this is Scotland now a happier place? Not really. But as they say this is another part of the story for another time.

This is very much a heavily edited version of the background to my series, much has been left out but I hope it gives you some idea of the twist and turns. Main one being that the so called great and the good of Scotland, who’d been avid persecutors of the Covenanting Cause, turned their coats with William … Like I said at the beginning ‘naethin hus chainged.’

Ethyl Smith 
Incase you might be interested I dae daft snippets fur readers on
Can also be found wandering through twitter  @ethylsmith

Thank you for reading.

Thank you for visiting today, Ethyl. My very best wishes to you with your series and for all future writing.


Monday 8 October 2018

#historical research #Trimontium Roman Fort Melrose #Scotland

Monday Moments! 
There may well be some memorable moments this Monday, but right now I'm writing about my fabulous trip last Friday to the... 

Trimontium Museum 5th Oct 2018

I could not have picked a better day to drive the roughly 180 miles down to Melrose on the Scottish Borders. The sky was almost uniformly blue all the way from Aberdeenshire (NE Scotland) down to Edinburgh. The traffic was fortunately light and I managed to negotiate the Edinburgh City Bypass, even though it was my first time on that particular stretch of road.

I had two route choices leading south to Melrose. The A7 was not the route Google Maps directed me on – Google Maps suggested the A68. I wasn’t too keen on the A68 because the map showed signs of two areas of major road works but it was less clear how to exit onto the A7.

I’m a map person with no GPS system in my car, so I prepared my journey with print outs and lovely little post-it notes with the routes marked in large letters, easy to read  along my dashboard without taking my eyes off the road for more than a second as I was driving.

Fortunately for me, the A7 was easy to access so I ventured south. I didn’t know till afterwards that the railway that was often to be seen at the side of the road was the newish Borders Railway line. The drive was stunning, the autumn colours absolutely breathtaking but sadly it is not a road where it is easily possible to stop and take photographs. Driving down through the endless valleys and hills was exactly what I needed to get a feel for the layout of the land since one of my main characters in Book 5 spends time in the area some 2000 years ago. The current trees and vegetation might be relatively newly planted but the actual contours of the valleys is mainly unchanged except for the fact that a paved road was carved into the area a long time ago, and latterly the new railway line.

My 4 hours estimate to drive to the small town of Melrose was pretty accurate. Having left my house at 8 a.m., I arrived at Melrose a little after midday. I found a local Baker’s shop with an integral coffee shop and spent a short while having lunch and a rest.

The main street in Melrose isn’t large so it was easy to find the Three Hills Ancient Roman Heritage Centre sometimes known as the Trimontium Trust Museum (Newstead). The actual Roman fort currently named Newstead (named Trimontium by the map maker Ptolemy) was situated a short way out of Melrose and was established by General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, Commander of the Britannic legions and Governor of Britannia from C. A.D. 77-84. 

Agricola is a main character in Agricola's Bane , Book 4 of my historical fiction series and he will play an important role in Book 5 (work in progress and currently named Beathan the Brigante)   

Eildon Hills , Melrose (Trimontium) 
It’s almost easy to see why the Romans named it Trimontium - two of the three hills are backdrops visible from within the town of Melrose and from outside the town all three are a stunning and arresting geographical feature.

The Trimontium Parade chamfron (replica)
-Trimontium Trust Museum, Melrose 
The Museum is the old- fashioned kind that I love to visit. The relatively small space is jam packed with display information; glass cases; tightly packed reconstructions- the finds from the Newstead fort absolutely amazing. I personally am so glad that the Museum Trust was formed in the 1970s to ensure that some of the wonderful objects uncovered at Newstead remain on view in the area of Melrose. It was a huge undertaking to set up the original museum and remains the same as the Trust currently raises funds to pay for a new extension which will allow them to modernise (hopefully not too much) and display items that have been decades in storage.  

The bulk of the finds from Newstead Roman Fort are either on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh or in their main storage facility. I visited the National Museum of Scotland in June 2018 and was suitably impressed by the items excellently displayed there, in very modern museum style.

I took almost two hundred photographs which I need to process and label – expect to see a trickle of them since I cannot post all of them.

The whole experience of visiting the museum and of driving around the area was exactly what I needed for imagining Beathan (Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Series) in the locality of Newstead in A.D 85.

Given time, look forward to further posts about the importance of  Trimontium Roman Fort! 


Friday 5 October 2018

#Aye. Ken it wis like this...with Wendy H Jones

Dunkeld Cathedral

It's Friday and "Aye. Ken it wis like this..." time again. 

Today, I welcome versatile author Wendy H. Jones who has come to this blog series with yet again something a little bit different. Wendy writes a very successful crime series for adults but she's here today to tell us about some of her work in other genres - historical novels for older children. The second book of the series The Haunted Broch has recently been launched.  

Welcome to the series, Wendy. Please give us the historical background to your recently published historical fantasy fiction for teens.  

Bringing History to Life for Children

Thank you for inviting me to join you on your blog, Nancy. It is an absolute honour and privilege to be here. I’m even more thrilled that I’m able to talk about three of my favourite subjects – crime writing, history and Scotland.

At first glance, I may not seem the ideal candidate for this historical fiction blog but let me explain. The first series I wrote, The DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, was contemporary crime with only the odd hint of history. A little bit of ancient Greek salted with a liberal dose of Dundee through the ages. Yet, contemporary none-the-less.

This all changed when I was asked by a publisher to pitch a series of mysteries for ten-to-fourteen-year olds. This was my chance to have a bit of fun and I fully intended to do so. I wanted these books to be a rip-roaring adventure but with some history and learning thrown into the mix. I came up with the idea of mixing fact and fiction, using a contemporary mystery based on what could have been historical fact. It is fair to say that whilst much of the history is true to life, some of it has been embellished to allow the contemporary story to be developed.

Nancy says: That's very similar to my aims for my Rubidium Time Travel Series for teens. My adventure is paramount but with a sound historical backdrop that I want my readers to appreciate and enjoy as they learn. 

The first book in the series was based around the idea of Ancient Egyptian Curses. My research was thorough to ensure that the Kings and Queens fell into the correct era and that the names of any historical characters were correct. I also researched tombs, ancient artefacts and even the cost of buying these artefacts in contemporary society. Hieroglyphs were researched in detail and used as the basis for codes used in the contemporary mystery. I alternated chapters with the historical setting and the modern-day story. This led to a couple of teens saving Dundee from a curse which has been laid on Dundee following the theft of an ancient Egyptian Dagger. The dagger itself made an appearance at the book launch, fully sharpened and with its own personal security guard.

Broch of Gurness, Orkney - Wikimedia commons 
For the second book, The Haunted Broch, I moved nearer to home with the historical context. Not Dundee but Stirling in Scotland. Brochs, iron age, dry stane, round dwellings, are found only in Scotland. There are around 500 of these, some of which have been excavated and others which are still in the process of being excavated or can only be seen by x-ray. There is one Broch which has a particularly interesting history and is known as Scotland’s Lost Broch. It was recently discovered, and funds are being raised to commence excavation.

Nancy: There are so many new exciting archaeological developments happening all over Scotland just now. I try but can't possibly keep up with them! 

Christian Maclagan
Why is this Broch of so much interest and why was it lost in the first place? Both good questions deserving of an answer. The answer is a fiesty Victorian lady called Christian Maclagan (1811-1901). Coming from a wealthy family she was a woman of independent means and is widely credited with being Scotland’s first female archaeologist. She catalogued many of the prehistoric sites of prehistoric Scotland and also devised a method of doing rubbings from sculptured stones. Due to the fact she was a woman, the establishment refused to take her seriously. She was refused Fellowship of The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Therefore, in what I assume was a fit of pique, she sent all her documents and rubbings to The British Museum of London. One of her major discoveries, Livilands Broch in Stirling, was overlooked and remained undiscovered. This became known in the last few years as Scotland’s Lost Broch.

Keir Hill by Christian Maclagan
Christian was also a great philanthropist and played a major part of clearing the slums in Stirling and providing habitable housing for the poor. This, and her interest in archaeology, helped me to shape her character in the historical sections of the novel. The Book itself finds our intrepid fourteen-year-old detectives on an archaeological dig at Scotland’s Lost Broch. However, like all good detective books there are dastardly deeds and strange happenings. One would almost think the Broch was haunted. Is Christian exacting revenge on those who dare to disturb her Broch?

This was so much fun to research, and it was even more fun to weave the contemporary mystery with the historical facts in a way which educates whilst entertaining. It is such a privilege to be able to write these books and to weave fact and fiction together in one big madcap adventure.

About the Author

Wendy H Jones is the Amazon Number 1 best-selling author of the award winning DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries. Her Young Adult Mystery, The Dagger’s Curse was a finalist in the Woman Alive Readers’ Choice Award. She is also The President of the Scottish Association of Writers, an international public speaker, and runs conferences and workshops on writing, motivation and marketing. Wendy is the founder of Crime at the Castle, Scotland’s newest Crime Festival. She is the editor of a Lent Book, published by the Association of Christian Writers and also the editor of the forthcoming Christmas Anthology from the same publisher. Her first children's book, Bertie the Buffalo, will be released at the end of October 2018. / others public domain images

Thank you so much for contributing today, Wendy. It's so great to feature yet another aspect of historical fiction. Best wishes with all of those exciting new projects.