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. 


Tuesday 2 October 2018


Tuesday thoughts...on Amazon pricing

I transferred the printing of a number of my paperback versions from Createspace over to Kindle Direct Publishing on Sunday past, as requested. The process seemed to go easily, and I thought I had successfully managed to ensure that the ebook version and the paperback version of each title appeared on the appropriate page as one item.

Just by chance, I looked at Amazon again today to find it's a bit of a BARGAIN day, Instead of my new Ocelot Press paperback versions showing, it seems they must have 'found' some of the previous edition paperback copies and are flogging them off at very cheap prices even though the previous Crooked Cat Books stock seemed to have been sold weeks, if not months, ago.

So its... Bargain prices today!

A Paperback version of Book 3 is  @£1.52

and weirdly the ebook version is also @£1.52

There just might be an old copy of The Beltane Choice going for even less than a £!

Try this and see...

And here's a latest version of my Twitter add for the series. Especially good if you're on KindleUnlimited since you can read it for #FREE.