Thursday 31 October 2019

Samhain greetings plus a #FREE Excerpt...

Samhain greetings to you on this the 31st October.  

The 31st October is an exciting time for my grandkids who love to dress up and pop over to my house where we 'dook fir aipples'. I'm not sure if that's happening this year, since their time for visiting me now competes with visiting friends' houses. Whatever happens, there are enough left of the apples from my garden to indulge them in the traditional ‘dook’, or to just eat them instead along with the nuts and special shortbread shapes that I usually make for Halloween. This year the shortbread will be pumpkin shaped, so long as I stop my formatting for Ingram Spark publishing for a while and get around to baking the shortbread!

But what would my characters in the Celtic Fervour Saga Series be doing on Samhain? Samhain is the Celtic word for the quarter year beginning of winter festival. Samhain is traditionally a different festival from the other three and has more spooky associations. At Samhain, when the land is asleep and unproductive and the weather has turned cold and often frosty, the veil between the living and the dead is thinner. At Samhain, during the long hours of darkness till the first rays of the new dawn of the 1st November the dead can mingle with the living…

Hence the modern commercial concept of Halloween with its ghouls and ghosts and witches and warlocks.

In After Whorl: Bran Reborn, Book 2 of the Celtic Fervour Series, At Samhain in A.D 73, Ineda is not experiencing anything like the commercial Halloween that pervades western society just now, and neither is she able to observe her tribal traditional Celtic Samhain. Why is this? Ineda has been captured by an Ancient Roman Tribune and kept as his personal slave, a bed slave and more.

In the following extract Ineda has already found that not everything is the same between her Celtic worship of multiple deities and those of the Romans. If Ineda wants to pray to her goddess Rhianna, or Brigantia, she needs no trappings around her. Tribune Gaius Livanus Valerius is different…

After Whorl: Bran Reborn is currently on a fantastic blog Tour organised by Rachel Gilbey of Rachel's Random Resources and will be visiting around 21 Blog during the coming week! Look out for the special competition if you've not yet read the Celtic Fervour Saga Series!

Inside the wooden temple building were many cubicles separated by simple wooden walls to a little above head-height. Ineda had not seen what lay in each niche as Tribune Valerius used only one when he dragged her along. Whether, or not, he prayed to other gods or goddesses when he was alone, she could not say. At present she could detect only the murmurs of a few other worshippers.
That seemed to be how he preferred it. For reasons unknown, he always waited if the building was full of worshippers. She guessed he wanted his deity to have no confusion over who might make a plea.
She knew the drill, could have slipped to the floor, but preferred to make him do the ordering – that way she accommodated her forced capture better.
The niche he had towed her to, dedicated to the goddess Etain, had a small altar just of sufficient height for the average soldier to top when kneeling with bent head. As Tribune Valerius knelt down beside her she could not fail to notice that the bowl set in the stone showed traces of dark brownish-red, indicating a sacrifice had not long since been offered. Attempts had been made to wipe it clear, but the smears across the rim, and the drips to the side, coupled with the acrid blood tang that lingered in the air, told it was a recent event.
It mattered little to her, and did not surprise her; she was now well used to the frequency of the rituals. The aedes was a temple used by the whole garrison, and the altar she faced was only one of many.
“Etain hear my plea…” Tribune Valerius’ words were low, suffused with zeal.
He had never had a sacrifice conducted in her presence, though to her knowledge, his secutore organised it often enough for him. His main scribe, Pomponius, was a bustling little man full of his own importance, yet she knew Gaius Livanus Valerius relied heavily on the man to carry out his duties faithfully and competently.
She understood Tribune Valerius’ need for privacy at such times, but wondered why. Bloody sacrifice was a ritual she had witnessed often enough to her own goddess Rhianna and to Taranis before battle, the Celts being no stranger to the proceedings. He understood that about her.
Sacrifice was denied her, but in this frequent ritual he now conducted she was included. Roman ways were definitely strange, and the tribune was a very perplexing man.
“Worship, Ineda!”
Fierce. He sounded fiercer than she had ever heard before.
She joined his low mutterings, praying to Etain, the goddess not unfamiliar to her. He murmured feverishly alongside, his pleas louder than hers, never appearing aware of what she always asked for. Her request never varied, but if he ever heard her murmurs he never acknowledged it.
“Freedom, my lady, Etain,” she whispered a repeated refrain. “I beg my freedom. I hate him, hate him…” She made her usual pleas though added a new one, whispering it so that it was not overheard. “Give my King Venutius the means and the opportunity to overcome this Roman dung horde, and make Agricola and Cerialis capitulate like they make the Celts do…and…expel the Roman oppressors from our land!”
She never had anything personal to offer the goddess in turn for the favour, but she prayed, nonetheless.
Directly behind the stone focus of the altar was a representation of the horse goddess in carved wood. It was a crudely-made image depicting Etain riding a horse, the beast’s forelegs high in the air. Etain was partially naked, breasts proud and bountiful, her open bratt flying wide to her sides. Contemplating the goddess Etain drew her attention for a while.
Tribune Valerius’ mutterings grew louder, more harried, too fast for any comprehension.
She allowed her head to dip further, surreptitiously checking to see if the fool tironis remained in place at the door. Too bad that he was; he had no wit to disobey and wander off.
“Etain, lady, hear my pleas…” Tribune Valerius was so intent.
Ineda scoffed silently. Etain was not heeding any of her pleas for freedom.
His murmurs continued. She knew this bit, since he always chanted it very slowly, nearing the end of his ritual. Why he towed her along every now and then to the aedes she had not yet worked out. Perhaps the frenzied part of the prayers concerned her? If so, she never ever detected her name as part of it. To discover all of his ritual she knew she would need to learn a lot more of the Latin tongue, though learning more of the Latin tongue was something she wanted to do anyway – regardless of the tribune’s instructions.
As his intonation tapered off, she tried to read the letters that decorated the pedestal, but knew only the part which stood for Legio XX.
He held on to her shoulder as he rose to his feet. Not because he was in poor health or incapable: it was more that he was somehow claiming her in the sight of his deity. Turning back to his assistant his voice seemed much calmer now, though she felt a great tension in his fingers as his full power seemed to fall on her through his heavy squeeze.
“The herbs.”
Tribune Valerius gathered the bunch proffered by his secutore. Splitting the greenery to each side of the focus, he went on to the next part of his ritual, the conclusion.
The mumbling coming from behind her was usual as his scribe made his own prayers.
Monosyllabic orders from Tribune Valerius were the norm in the aedes.
Towing after him, she side-stepped the scribe who went to lay down an apple to each side of the stone basin before kneeling at the altar. The underling always produced something of his own for the focus, but only after his superior officer was completely finished.
“Take her back to my quarters!”
The tironis outside the door acknowledged the order accordingly before Tribune Valerius turned away from her without any further speech.
Deep, deep anger simmered. Ignoring her as though her value was again redundant was a habit she could well do without, his treatment constantly exasperating her. Desperation to escape surfaced to swamping level at such times as these.
She sensed Tribune Valerius was desperate to get along to Antonius Pulis Praefectus Castrorum – the camp commandant – who was the third most senior soldier at the garrison fortress and a man who did not ever like to be held up. She had seen him before, and he was a formidable veteran soldier. Pulis was not one she would want to cross – except if it gained her the freedom she sought every single day. 
(Chapter Nineteen – After Whorl: Bran Reborn)

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Happy Samhain / Halloween!


Wednesday 23 October 2019

Meet the Ocelots- Bran Reborn!

 Bran Reborn? Who is Bran?

It’s my turn today on the Ocelot Blog to introduce you to some more Ocelot Press fiction! Since I can’t directly reblog to this page from a Wordpress site, this is the core of it with a more of the historical detail added on below.

To answer my own question above I need to separate the Fiction…some Historical Facts of A.D. 69-71…and give an Outline of the Events that come before Bran is reborn!

After Whorl: Bran Reborn is the second book of my historical fiction Celtic Fervour Saga Series. Zoom back to A.D. 71, to the territorial area of the Brigantes Federation of tribes.

The After Whorl part of the title refers to the Battle at Whorl which takes place during the last part of Book 1 of the series, The Beltane Choice.  At Whorl, my Brigante warrior clan from the Hillfort of Garrigill fight against the Ancient Roman Legio IX and Legio II Adiutrix – led by General Q. Petilius Cerialis, the Governor of Britannia and commander of all of the Roman Legions stationed in Britain – and Gnaeus Iulius  Agricola Commander of the Legio XX.  During the battle at Whorl many Late-Iron Age warriors are killed, many are injured and some remains are never retrieved from the battlefield. Brennus of Garrigill doesn’t return and is presumed dead!

Fact: (with a good dose of interpretation!)
A lot was happening in A.D. 68/ 69. Across the Roman Empire there were dire rumblings and a very nasty civil war raged amongst different commanders of legions in different area of the Roman Empire. This time was later referred to as the Year of the Four Emperors (I’ve written about this elsewhere in this blog) when one after another took charge of the throne but didn’t last. After Nero’s death, Galba grasped power, followed by Otho, then Vitellius, and finally Vespasian took firm control after which Vespasian reigned as emperor for around ten years.

The possibility of less firm control across Britannia in A.D. 68, probably spurred King Venutius to finally act more forcefully against his former wife Cartimandua in Brigantia, discord also having rumbled there for some years prior to A.D. 68. But, as well as fighting against Cartimandua’s loyal followers, at least some of Venutius’ confrontations also included soldiers of the Roman Empire.

Ancient Roman writers like Cornelius Tacitus wrote that Roman soldiers of General Cerialis engaged in pitched battles against the followers of Venutius, King of the Brigantes in Brigantia. The exact dates of these full-on battles are not known but it’s likely they occurred between the years of A.D. 69 and 71 for the following reasons.

Till c. A.D. 68, Queen Cartimandua had had ‘Client Queen’ status with the Roman Empire, a situation which had probably lasted for more than a decade. It’s thought that in exchange for bribes from the Roman Empire, Cartimandua restrained her warriors from attacking encroaching Roman forts and installations in the south of Brigantia during her ‘Client Kingdom’ status. That situation was not to last, though, because having divorced her husband Venutius, Cartimandua found herself fighting against rebel forces across Brigantia led by Venutius. Cornelius Tacitus recorded that the Ancient Roman Army came to Cartimandua’s aid during one such battle against Venutius and she had to be spirited away from the battlefield.

It seems that this unstable political turmoil in Brigantia gave the Roman army a good excuse to intervene on her behalf. However, in approximately A.D. 69, the records for Cartimandua cease, perhaps meaning she died during one of the civil war skirmishes against Venutius, or she was secreted away by the Roman Army for a subsequent time. I’ve read references that she perhaps then spent the remainder of her life in the safety of obscurity; possibly even in Rome itself as it wasn’t unknown for Rome to harbour exiled persons of high status from Britannia.

By c. A.D. 71, King Venutius also fades into obscurity possibly because he was no longer in a position to gather sufficient men to have further pitched battles with Rome. Or maybe it was because the situation in Rome had stabilised under the new Emperor Vespasian who assumed the throne in A.D. 69 after the Roman Empire’s own tumultuous civil war and Venutius cut his losses and disappeared. However, another likely scenario is that Venutius was killed during one of the battles which raged in Brigantia.

There is sufficient archaeological evidence to show that around the A.D. 69-71 period there was a significant expansion in Roman fort building throughout southern and central Brigantia, which was a considerable geographical area. More evidence is being uncovered giving credence to the fact that under General Cerialis that expansion of Roman domination also covered parts of north Brigantia and maybe even into what is now Southern Scotland.

After Whorl: Bran Reborn locations cover rugged Cumbrian hill country; flatter landscapes near Eboracum (York); coastal north-west England (Deva/ Chester); and Shropshire where the fourth largest Roman city in Britain was located (Viroconium Cornoviorum/ Wroxeter).

  • My clan warriors are entirely fictional characters.
  • Garrigill, a village in Cumbria, is an ideal location for a Late Iron Age (Celtic) hillfort.
  • An Ancient Roman temporary camp was sited at the nearby town of Alston.
  • Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, as Commander of the Legio XX (a genuine historical figure who plays a large role later in the series), campaigned in the area c. A.D. 71
  • In Book 1, my Garrigill warriors fight against the legions of General Cerialis and Commander Agricola at a place called Whorl.
  • The village of Whorlton is in County Durham and topographically is an ideal site for a Celtic/Roman battle. 
  • General Q. Petilius Cerialis, the Governor of Britannia and commander of all of the Roman Legions stationed in Britain (also a genuine historical figure) engaged in battles against the Brigantes Federation of tribes in Brigantia in approximately A.D. 71.

  • Brennus, younger brother of main character Lorcan of Garrigill of Book 1 doesn’t come home after the Battle at Whorl and is presumed dead! However, since I really loved creating Brennus, and since he’s such a lovely man, I couldn’t possibly let him die. Brennus becomes the main male character in Books 2 and 3, though lives for some years under the alias of… Bran of Witton.

  • After Whorl: Bran Reborn (Book 2) begins with Meaghan, an elderly healer, ensuring that Brennus survives the battlegrounds of Whorl but it’s a hard-won task. When thrashing around a raging temperature, Brennus imagines himself being cooled down by the cascading waters of the waterfall near the hillfort of Garrigill.

Fact: This image is the authentic waterfall named Ashgill Force near the village of Garrigill.

  • Visibly maimed, Brennus can’t resume duties as tribal champion and instructor of the younger warriors at Garrigill. How could he with part of one hand lopped off, a dragging leg, and having lost the sight of one eye?
  • He lets Meaghan believe his name is Bran, and as Bran he forges out a new life for himself. Brennus’ original sunny personality becomes deeply buried. Bran is dour, bitter and hard to live with! In modern terminology, the man is suffering from something akin to PTSD.
  • Bran dons the mantle of a spy aided by Ineda, Meaghan’s granddaughter. Their spying careers develop with ease but their romantic entanglement is sluggish! And… in the nature of a family saga, there are many pitfalls and highly dangerous encounters with the Roman invaders before a happy ending is eventually reached for both of them…but that doesn’t happen till Book 3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed creating all of my Celtic Fervour Saga characters but I have a real soft spot for my lovely Brennus of Garrigill aka Bran of Witton. I’m hoping that (if you’ve not already read my series) you’ll join the list of other readers who enjoy Brennus’ transformations!

Here are a few useful sites, references used when choosing sites and information to use in my series.

Happy Reading. 


Monday 21 October 2019

Meet the Ocelots of #OcelotPress!

It's a happy Monday but it's also the beginning of the 'Meet the Ocelots Week'! 

This week there's an opportunity to meet some of the authors of #Ocelot Press on the Ocelot Press Website/Blog.
Use this link HERE to see what's happening today and keep visiting because each participating author will be featuring one of their books.

This week we'll be giving you the background to the novel and then during the following ten days there will be an Ocelot Blog Hop where characters from our novels will be interviewed - a super way to really get into the heads of those very characters!

During the Ocelot Blog Hop, you'll find out details of special prices for the featured novels which will be a great opportunity for you to get an ebook copy of any novels you've not yet read. I'm looking forward to reading 2 of them...and maybe even re-reading 2 others.

Here's the line up this week and the novels we are putting in the spotlight.

Remember to pop in to the Ocelot Blog where you'll find out about the special deals for you during this promotion. Happy Reading!


Monday 14 October 2019

Publishing update!

It's Monday Again!

The day started off in deep gloomy mist but thankfully it improved by mid-morning, so that was a very visible progress.

What's a less visible progress is that my formatting of all of my novels is progressing slowly. To improve the chances of getting paperback versions of my novels into local, and global, bookstores requires them to be published by more than just Amazon. As such, I'm currently working my way through new versions using the necessary formatting specifications for Ingram Spark publishing. 

Unfortunately, my formatted templates used for Createspace don't quite fit the guidelines for Ingram Spark so making suitable ones has become my present focus. That does mean an interruption, yet again, to my writing in progress - Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Saga Series. 

I've so far done 4 out of 8 novels and would have done a bit more yesterday and today had I not spent some time at my very first SNP political conference. I don't often post about my political leanings on this blog but the political climate in the UK is hugely problematic, so I'm bending my usual today.

I'm always of the opinion that there's always something new to learn every day and I've certainly added a few new pieces of knowledge as a Visitor Member at the conference. The most important thing so far has been that I have been walking next to/ standing next to/ and even sitting on the tiered seating in the conference hall right beside people who represent Scotland in the Scottish Parliament and in the Westminster Government.

Since Tommy Sheppard (M.P.)  greeted me as I stepped in the main doors of the new P&J live arena in Aberdeen I have felt very much at ease with those people who day-in day-out are on our TV screens keeping the impetus up for Scottish Independence
(B.T.W.I'm inclined to ignore that said Tommy Sheppard was handing out leaflets encouraging people to vote for him because he greeted me with a huge smile and a very polite Good Afternoon) 

This afternoon's speech from Education Secretary John Swinney went down extremely well as did the incredible impassioned speech from a 'Catalan Scot' who spoke so stirringly about solidarity with Catalonia. to be updated about the imprisonment for the leaders who organised the referendum in Catalonia almost two years ago was a shocker. The sentences meted out, whether calling it sedition or rebellion, were incredibly harsh. 

So to more formatting tonight for me, and then to me listening to the speech tomorrow from our First Minister of the Scottish Parliament , Nicola Sturgeon. There are a few other sessions I intend to join to get updates on as well.


Friday 4 October 2019

New #Banner time!

Happy Friday Greetings! 

This will be a very short post compared to that of last Monday. After publishing my Monday post about Inchtuthil Roman Fortress, I decided it was time to design (and buy) a new advertising banner- one that wasn't going to break the bank. I found a website which allowed me to create a banner on their site using my own .jpgs, necessary since I can't create the PDFs that other sites insist on. I think it's turned out very well, though it's fairly similar to my last one.

This new version is all in the detail! Instead of including an image of all of my current novels, I focused on adding some Amazon review quotes this time. It's also a little bit taller than the previous one at 2 metres so, since I'm only 5 feet 2, it's going to be a challenge getting the banner up and down. I think the cassette at the foot is a little lighter that my previous one but the attachment for the pole is added to the pole itself this time. That was the main problem with previous banners in that the pole fitted into a bracket that was integral to the top bar. After around 10 months of almost regular fortnightly use the plastic fitting had a hissy fit of fatigue and snapped with the tension that's required to keep the banner in position.

We'll see how long this fabulous new one lasts! 

I've also been preoccupied since Wednesday of this week trying to get my novels onto the Ingram Spark publishers site. I found opening an account quite a lengthy process and then jumped in too quick in downloading a template to create a new front and back of paperbaook book 'jacket'  to the IS specs. Unfortunately, creating the PDF cover is beyond me, so expert help has to be paid for!

But... I then found a technical hitch in that the formatted PDF I have for the Amazon paperback KDP interior version/(s) doesn't suit the IS requirements. I will now need to spend time away from my new writing to reformat all 8 novels before I can be sure of the new pages counts. The page counts are critical to getting the spine width correct, so I have to beaver away at the reformatting processes, with suitable IS margins set, during the coming days.

That will be after Saturday, though, since I'll be attending a Craft Fair at Stonehaven (Scotland) tomorrow (Sat 5th Nov) where I'll be signing and selling my books. My new banner will be getting it's first airing! 

Updates on my attempts to publish with Ingram Spark will follow in due course. Some may ask why I want this option for my paperback publishing?  The answer is that Ingram Spark are the ones who can distribute globally to bookstores and to libraries which isn't so easily done with Amazon published novels. The effort, and heartache, and expense will hopefully be worth it!