Sunday, 27 September 2020

#AncientRoman roadbuilding 1

Tramping the Roman roads

Over the course of writing the five books in the Celtic Fervour Series, I’ve had my characters travel on many different roads. Most of those are in Roman Britain, but in Book 5 a few are further afield in the wider Roman Empire. The reasons for travel vary, depending on who the character is and the events in the books.

In Book 1, The Beltane Choice, most of the travelling done by the main characters - Lorcan and Nara - in AD 71, is on what I’d term tracks rather than roads. Though, the Garrigill warriors who go to battle at the site named Whorl might well have travelled on some sections of paved or gravelled road laid down by the Ancient Roman invaders. If the Ancient Roman occupation of mid-Brigantia took place during the late AD 60s, under the governorship of Vettius Bolanus, then by 71 it's very possible some road construction was already in place, though not the lovely smooth cobbling that you see on the image below of the Via Appia leading to Rome. 

A strategy employed by the occupying Roman forces was to quickly create routes that would facilitate the fastest transportation of both soldiers and goods. In the first instances, these are likely to have been trackways cleared of vegetation to accommodate a marching legion. The width would probably have been as wide as needed for baggage wagons to trundle along with the necessary items for a temporary camp, perhaps something like four and a half feet for the wagon width, plus more at each side for safe passage. Over some stretches the width might have allowed the soldiers to march four-abreast, a half-contubernium grouping. I'm still investigating to find out how quickly those occupying soldiers had them stone-paved.

Via Appia Rome  -

Known Roman roads vary in width but an average seems to have been around 15-24 feet wide. A width within those parameters would possibly have accommodated two vehicles travelling in different directions when passing each other, plus military personnel on either side, either cavalry or infantry. Though, the remains of some Roman paved roads indicate deep ruts in the middle of the road indicating the vehicles might only have moved towards the cambered edges when passing each other.

Permanent roadbuilding in stone, which would have suffered less from the vagaries of weather conditions but would have taken some time and immense amounts of manpower to create, was probably mainly undertaken after the Ancient Roman legions considered an area to be under control.

After Whorl: Bran RebornBook 2 of the Celtic Fervour Series, was long published when I read that remains of a Roman road were discovered in northern Yorkshire (England) during the upgrade of the A1 trunk road. The Roman road is in one of the geographical areas I chose for Book 2. Reading the details of the excavation, when it eventually hit the media headlines, was such a buzz and it made me feel that my location decisions were well-determined. The dig also clarified that stone roads seemed to have been a big priority once the decision was made to settle in an occupied territory. 

Scotch Corner  - Yorkshire Post

Delving further into excavations regarding Roman roads in Yorkshire, I read that it’s estimated that Yorkshire had an estimated 1000 plus miles of interconnecting Roman roads during the Roman period spanning more than 300 years. And probably some more not yet detected!

I’ve recently read theories that a Roman road was maybe not built to directly connect the forts along its line. The topical thinking is that after the road was constructed, to link two far-flung major forts or fortresses, the smaller forts were then built at roughly a day's march apart, their intention being to ensure that the flow of traffic (goods and military personnel) traversed safely and unhindered. An example might be the road usually referred to as Ermine Street which runs from Londinium all the way north to the Hadrian's Wall area (though the wall was not built for another forty plus years c. AD 122). Ermine Street linked the fortresses of Londinium and Lindum (Lincoln) in the AD 60s and then by c. AD 71 it had wended its way northwards to the new fortress at Eboracum (York). From Eboracum it went further north to link up with the major supply base at Corstopitum. (Coria). Both of these sites feature in the Celtic Fervour Series. 

Map created for After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks

By Book 3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks which covers the decade spanning AD 74 to 84, my Garrigill Clan of 'Celtic' characters are refugees and are mainly on the move northwards. They are using the ancient trackways that the local Late-Iron-Age populations (Celtic tribes) use to get from place to place across Caledonia (Scotland).

The Roman characters who feature in the novel are traversing newly formed Roman roads, though I only imagine some of those roads being fully-paved.  Creating a nice flattened and smooth surface was easy when the Roman army was on the move during the Caledonian invasion campaign because the tramping of Agricola's approximately twenty thousand soldiers would have very quickly compressed the soil and totally squashed any vegetation!

Tribune Gaius Livanus Valerius is in charge of overseeing the safe journeying of metal supplies and other essential supplies that are needed at the permanent Roman installations which have recently been built in southern and central Caledonia. When the tribune and Ineda of Marske, his personal slave, journey into southern Caledonia they are using the Roman roads from Corstopitum to Trimontium Fort  that have been in place for a few seasons. These might well have been fully-paved by then since they were part of the main route north and a continuation of Ermine Street. Likewise, when Ineda and the tribune travel further north towards the huge Pinnata Castra supply fortress the roads are a few seasons old and might have had some form of surfacing to ensure wagons and the draft animals could move more easily. 

In Book 4, Agricola's Bane, almost all of the action for General Agricola is in temporary marching camps in Taexali territory, north of modern-day Aberdeen. He and fellow officers are often found lamenting the deplorable state of the roads around, because they are definitely only at the flattened earth, dirt-track stages.  The winter season isn't conducive to easy transportation of goods, personnel and most of all food. Supplies of grain are dire and Agricola's soldiers don't take kindly to half-rations! He is in the process of subduing the truculent natives and permanent road build isn't yet his priority. 

In Book 5, Beathan The BriganteBeathan has very different experiences from his family after he is captured by the Roman army at the battlegrounds of Beinn na Ciche. He has been used to travelling on roads in Brigantia and in Caledonia but he is to experience a whole lot more during his years of captivity. 

Look out for a second post coming soon on Roman roads travelled in Book 5! 


Monday, 21 September 2020

Strong #Roman Iron Age Women

Were strong women common during the Roman Iron Age?

My image of Nara 

Since first writing about 1st century AD Roman Britain, I've often pondered the question of what women were capable of at that time. Because it’s a pre-historic era, we have no written evidence documented by the local Late-Iron-Age Britons themselves regarding any 'strong' female leaders. However, from the writings of Ancient Romans and Greeks (e.g. Julius Caesar, Tacitus) we are told that some Late-Iron-Age tribes were led by females. Examples would be the widely known Cartimandua of the Brigantes Federation, and Bouddica of the Iceni. 

Exactly how those women were proclaimed tribal leaders is a question I would love to be definitely answered. Some theories veer towards the women having been elected as leaders due to their intellectual superiority and physical prowess, having been presented as candidates alongside males. If a meritocracy was the norm amongst the tribes of Late-Iron-Age Britain, then there were probably many more women who became tribal leaders and whose names were never recorded. Speculation is a wonderful thing for an author fiction!

When I wrote The Beltane Choice – Book 1 of my historical Celtic Fervour Series saga which begins in A.D. 71 – I created a strong warrior-woman who has temporary, inhibiting, vulnerabilities. Nara of the Selgovae is the daughter of a chief and as such is eligible to be nominally named 'princess'. She also has links to the Druid priestesshood. Both of these situations would probably have given her a position of some power in a Celtic tribe but what could make such a privileged woman temporarily vulnerable? 

Nara is introduced after some momentous events have befallen her which have shaken her to the core and have forced her to embark on a whole new lifestyle. She has grown up with one future ‘career’ ahead of her, which she’s been training for from the age of seven. During fourteen apprenticeship years, she’s acquired many different skills. She's learned spiritual and religious training; leadership skills; the practical knowledge of a tribal healer. And she’s a fully-fledged ‘branded’ warrior. However, as an acolyte for the priestesshood, she’s been prohibited from certain aspects of normal life. There has been no sex with men and no prospects of child-bearing.

Highly superstitious and deeply spiritual in their druidic faith, the people of Nara’s tribe have always regarded her as different, untouchable, and chosen by the gods and goddesses for a special destiny. As such, her contact with the tribe has never been casual, familiar, or normally inclusive.

In one awful proclamation, the High Priestess declares the goddess has decreed that Nara must follow a different future path. The final steps to becoming a priestess are denied her. She’s expelled from the island home of the priestesses and sent to live in the tribal hillfort with a father who deems her a failure. Her confidential ‘doctor/patient’ importance as a healer is zapped. Available now to mate with males of the clan, the women are superstitiously wary of Nara’s new status. In short, she’s shunned, friendless and threatened in her new role From being a strong, well-trained woman she’s a square peg trying to fit into the proverbial round hole.

Nara is emotionally vulnerable from the outset, yet still able to demonstrate that her innate warrior-capabilities and learned judgements are largely unaffected as the story unravels and develops. When she’s captured by Lorcan of Garrigill, an enemy Brigante, it’s yet another dent to her highly-bruised pride. Though she wounds him during an attempted seduction, Lorcan doesn’t kill her as is his right, having been attacked by her as an enemy Selgovae ‘branded’ warrior. Instead, she’s dragged southwards to his Brigante hillfort.

Uniting normally warring Brigante and Selgovae tribes, so that they can confront the Ancient Roman invaders as a larger fighting force, is a laudable idea but as a bargaining chip Nara knows she’s useless when Lorcan hatches a plan.

Unable to escape from Garrigill Hillfort, it may seem as though Nara is capitulating too easily but…only a reader of The Beltane Choice will unravel how her innate warrior strengths don’t desert her, and she casts the insecurity aside to become that feisty female-warrior once more.

Amazon Kindle and FREE to read via KindleUnlimited

Also available to order in paperback from bookstores. 


Sunday, 20 September 2020

Beathan is out blog visiting!

Happy Sunday to you! 

I'm delighted to share that Beathan the Brigante is featured on the Magic of Worlds blog today. My huge thanks to Stefanie for posting. 

You can find the promo post and an excerpt from Beathan The Brigante 

Pop over, have a read and then tell me if you think Beathan is happy to meet General Agricola for the second time! 


Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Aliter Dulcia Piperata #Apicius

Food for the gods? 

Not if it turned out like mine! 

Authors who write about life during recent centuries probably have less of an issue describing a meal eaten by their characters than authors - like myself - who write about people eating in ancient times. I recently read an early-Victorian set novel where the protagonists were partaking of a sumptuous multi-course meal. The food described was extravagant, in the ingredients used, and in the presentation. I've not been able to include anything like that, to date, in my Celtic Fervour Saga series set in the 1st century AD because even my ancient Roman characters have not been eating banquets in Rome!

The full diet of the indigenous Roman-Iron-Age tribes of Britain is subject to some conjecture. Staple cereal foods that were grown locally, fruits and nuts that were foraged in the environment, and animal products can be attested to from scientific soil sampling, but that tells me little about how the food was actually presented. There are some metal Iron-Age artefacts which relate to the cooking of food over a wood fire. There are examples of pottery used for storage of foods. There are, amazingly, examples of wooden items used in cooking. However, interpretative imagination is needed for describing the actual eating of the food around the communal central fireplace in a Late Iron-Age roundhouse.

The fingers were perhaps more likely to have been used for most foods rather than the cutlery that is common today. A small knife for spearing and cutting any meats would probably have been a luxury for most ordinary people to own, the actual iron used to form it a prized commodity for some (if not most) tribes. Metal spoons have been excavated, though these may have been used more for preparation of food than for the consumption of food by an individual. Wooden spoons might well have been easy to produce and in common usage, though they don't preserve so well after two millennia. 

I confess that I’ve spectacularly failed at eating porridge from a wooden bowl with my fingers! Only when so thick that it can stand up on its own, have I found it possible to scoop it out. When it's thin and more like brose or gruel, then it can be supped like soup from a bowl without the need for any utensils.

Oats and barley would have been staple ingredients in the diet of my Celtic Fervour Series Garrigill clan and would probably have been eaten in the ways mentioned already, or baked as a flat bread or 'oatcake'. Additions of dried fruits, herbs, nuts and perhaps seasonal honey would have varied plain breads. I imagine anything to hand would have been added to broths and soups, vegetable-based or from a meat-sourced stock when possible. Perhaps a piece of bread might have been used for the scooping up of some concoctions, with the soggy remnants devoured before they completely disintegrated?

I've written about Roman and Celtic' consumption of porridge and bread on this blog before and won't repeat, but today I am moving on to something a little sweeter! 

Preparation for Dulcia Piperata 

It's a little bit different when it comes to describing what my Roman characters were eating in various locations in Britannia. The Ancient Roman writer Apicius wrote 'recipes' of foods eaten in Rome during 1st century AD. There are other ancient writers who make mentions of emperors and Roman citizens gorging on luxurious meals, though most of those foods would not have been appropriate for my characters to eat in Britannia. I imagine that Roman military personnel in Britannia could only indulge in particular ‘Roman cuisine’ if the basic ingredients could be acquired locally, and the more exotic ingredients added from a preserved state. Fresh figs and grapes would have been common items in Rome when in season, but transportation to Britannia – even at the fastest possible speed – would have taken too long for that type of item to arrive in a fresh condition. It was fortunate that the Ancient Romans were quite good at preserving foods in vinegar and wine. 

Two of Apicius’ lists of ingredients refer to Aliter Dulcia, which is interpreted as a sweet honey cake, though he’s economical on details of the method of cooking.  I have to assume the mixture would have been added to a pan and either suspended over a low-burning wood fire, or perhaps more likely warmed to final cooking state on the 'flat stones' (hotplate) - the heat having been fed through a series of channels underneath ,or from the side of the main heat source. (hypocaust-type engineering?)

1. 'In a chafing-dish put honey, pure wine, raisin wine, pine nuts, nuts, cooked spelt, add crushed toasted hazelnuts and serve.'  

2. 'Crush pepper, nuts, honey , rue, and raisin wine with milk and cook the mixture with few eggs well-worked in, cover with honey, sprinkle with crushed nuts etc, and serve. 

The mixing stages of Dulcia Piperata

I've been intrigued by these recipes since I first encountered them, but thought long and hard about whether it would have been appropriate for my Ancient Roman characters to be eating either of the above concoctions in Britannia. Would the ingredients have been available to them in AD 84?
Recipe 1 cooked with spelt (a variety of wheat) would have resulted in a more-cake-like consistency. Recipe 2 without a binding agent would have ended up more like a custard. 

Research from Vindolanda Fort (near Hadrian's Wall), from wooden tablets and other excavation information, indicates quite a surprising variety of foods were eaten, though the fort site of some nine different forts was occupied over centuries rather than years. So far, I haven’t been able to determine if the earliest forts would have been so well-stocked to have had all of the ingredients available.

In Book 5 of my series, Beathan The Brigante, Beathan spends time at Vindolanda in AD 87. This would probably have been during the time of very first fort that was built on the site. However, I’ve been cautious about what foods might have been on offer to the fort commander that I’ve named as Verecundus. (Evidence attests there was a commander in those early days named Verecundus, though dates of his actual tenure are not precise.)

The beautiful texture of my Dulcia Piperata

Pepper was very expensive but was definitely eaten at Vindolanda. Nuts sourced locally (e.g. hazelnuts) would have been possible, though perhaps not pine nuts. The wines may have been available at Vindolanda, especially the sweetened wine which might have survived longer in amphorae than a regular wine. A watered-down variety of vinegared-wine seems to have been the staple issue to the general fort soldiers. In season, honey would have been available. Milk and eggs were likely everyday commodities. (Hens were raised for eggs, but the eating of chicken seems to be rarer, though bones don’t always survive well in the ground as evidence of them being eaten)) Rue is native to Britain, and was used as an ancient herbal treatment, so it was likely to have been available. Spelt wheat has been recently re-introduced by farmers in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, as a trial commodity but it is not a regular crop (use the search facility for a previous blog post)  Spelt could, however, have been grown in Britain though around Vindolanda the soil type might have made that a challenge. Wheat and other cereals, were regularly sent around the Roman Empire to feed the troops, it being the greater part of their staple diet.

In Book 5, Beathan The Brigante, I decided that my character General Agricola would eat some Dulcia Piperata - honey cake. A temporary camp in Taexali territory, in north-east Caledonia was an unlikely setting for that.  I almost had Agricola presented with it at Trimontium Roman Fort, near what would have been a 'border' area between Caledonia and southern Britannia but decided to wait till he was journeying through Gaul, en route for Rome, with Beathan dragged along in chains. 

But what would Dulcia Piperata taste like?

I found a recipe on the internet for Dulcia Piperata (there are a few) and set to work. The one I chose takes into account modern baking techniques and is an amalgam of the two above-mentioned recipes by Apicius.

My list included: flour; baking powder and baking soda; salt’ pepper (3 tsp); coriander (fresh); 2 eggs; 1 egg yolk(no white); olive oil; honey ( a whole jar!) ; sweet white wine; chopped almonds and hazelnuts; chopped toasted hazelnuts for the topping.

My Dulcia Piperata 

The mixing was easy and the cake texture was perfect BUT it was far TOO peppery. One bite and I was reaching for thick cream to douse itmore honey… and more maple syrup… and ice cream… !

p.s. I intend to try it again but without so much pepper and less fresh coriander.


Friday, 28 August 2020

Whatdymacallit? #Historical Romance v Historical Fiction


This post will be part of a series of blog posts to reflect on my journey to publishing The Celtic Fervour Series during the course of the last nine years. (Gosh, has it really been that long?) My memory has always been of the type that can dredge up facts when the topic is current, so, since I intend to move on to the Victorian era from my next work in progress, I'll need memory jogs for the Celtic Fervour Series. 

When I wrote The Beltane Choice – Book 1 of my Celtic Fervour Series saga – I had priorities for my characters and the setting of the story, though at the time I wasn’t really aware that my choices might prove difficult at the classification stages. I was an avid reader. At that point of 2011, I had retired from upper primary teaching and as such had always been writing something. However, 2011 was the point when I decided to become serious about novel writing with a view to becoming published.

My intention for The Beltane Choice was to write a tale of a relatively ordinary clan, set in an era of great turmoil when armies of the invading Ancient Roman Empire were decimating any Britannic tribes who were resistant to adopting Roman rule and daily ‘Roman’ lifestyles. The setting was northern Roman Britain, chosen because I’d rarely come across published novels set during the first invasions of the barbarian north of Britannia. (Ancient Romans termed everywhere that was not included in their empire boundaries as barbarian)

 Research gleaned virtually nothing written about Brigantia (present day Cumbria/Yorkshire/Northumberland), and even less about over the high hills into the barbarian territory of the tribes of Caledonia (modern-day Scotland). I discovered Brigantia had had a ‘Client Kingdom’ status during the rule of the Brigante Queen Cartimandua, who made deals with the Ancient Roman Empire (somewhere after the Claudian invasion of A.D. 43 and A.D. 69). But since I’d read at least one novel which included Cartimandua as a main character, I decided not to write about her or any ‘documented’ northern King, like her ex-husband Venutius – though they are mentioned in the story. Not having a historically-known main character means there are some who would not regard my novel as traditional historical fiction.

The Beltane Choice would be about tribes who would normally be at war with each other. They would need to unite to fight the Ancient Roman invading scourge together as a stronger force, though what might unite them?

In A.D. 69, the Brigante federation of tribes was enduring a civil war where forces loyal to Queen Cartimandua were fighting against forces of her ex-husband King Venutius. The Roman Empire itself was also in the turmoil of civil war, but when General Titus Flavius Vespasian became emperor (A.D. 69) he took firm control. By A.D. 71, Vespasian’s Britannic empire expansion was well underway and Brigantia was invaded with gusto!

A.D. 71 became my start point for The Beltane Choice but who would be my Celtic clan? I got out a current Ordinance Survey map and looked at the area that would have been northern Brigantia in A.D. 71, the territory which most likely would have bordered the tribes of southern Caledonia. (The only mention of tribal names for these locations wasn’t actually documented till around A.D. 130-150, when the mapmaker Claudius Ptolemaeus wrote down his map references) Ptolemy’s information records the tribes to the north of Brigantia (i.e. those in Caledonia) as being the Novantae, Selgovae and Votadini from west to east, north of what’s currently named the Cheviot Hills. I decided my main female character would be of the Selgovae tribe and the main male character a Brigante.

I searched current north Yorkshire and Cumbria for suitable remains of a Celtic hillfort and settled on the name Garrigill for my Brigante clan. Similarly my O.S. map indicated a Celtic hillfort in the vicinity of Tarras, so that was to be my Selgovae hillfort.

My inclination was to write a historical fiction novel, but when I did some internet research I could see that if  The Beltane Choice have strong elements of romance, it might be more publishable. It turned out that when I sent that 2011 written-manuscript to a US ebook publisher it wasn't 'romancy' enough. 

The first published version of The Beltane Choice was by Crooked Cat Books and it is heavier on the romance/sex than the current Ocelot Press published version. 

However, even with the addition of those more explicit (though not erotica) romantic elements the 2012 published version was still too heavy in historical detail, with too many important secondary characters ,to be termed a historical romance. The first publisher of The Beltane Choice marketed it as a historical romantic adventure. The reader needs to decide for themself what the classification should be…

Meanwhile my current problem with The Beltane Choice, and indeed all of the novels in The Celtic Fervour Series, is what categories should it be listed under on Amazon. Some dedicated romance readers absolutely adore the novel and the characters in Book 1, but seem to find the reduced romance levels in Books 2 onwards less satisfying. I've had reviewers of the series tel me in reviews that they like Books 2 onwards because they are less romantic. 

Readers are so interesting for the very reason that they can have such variable likes and dislikes!


Sunday, 23 August 2020

Anniversary of the death of Agricola!

Today is the 23rd August and on this day in AD 93 General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola died.

Bath, a Victorian representation
The information we have about Agricola's death is according to his son-in-law Publius Cornelius Tacitus. The writing of Tacitus, referring to his father-in-law Agricola ,is sometimes regarded as biased but it's virtually all that's a known original source. 

Whether, or not, Tacitus in his 'Agricolae' is exaggerating is difficult to prove ,but his hints indicate that Agricola died at his Narbonensis estates on the 23rd Aug AD 93 (present day Frejus, fairly near Marseilles)  His death occurred when Agricola was only 53. It had been approximately eight years since his tenure as Governor of the Province of Britannia was terminated, and Agricola had been recalled to Rome by Emperor Domitian. 

Tacitus, and subsequent ancient writes who probably used Tacitus' information, hint that doctors of Domitian visited Agricola prior to his death. If that happened ,it may have been for positive reasons but the inference in Tacitus's work is that the reasons were more likely to be nefarious. 

Even the idea of that is interesting because we know almost nothing of what Agricola did after his job in Britannia was over. Tacitus claims that Agricola was offered a post in the province of Africa but exactly what is not known. What Tacitus says is that Agricola refused the offer. Either because it was dangerous to his life, or that it was an offer that was beneath him. Agricola probably should have been lauded for 'conquering' a lot more of Britannia than his predecessors had done. However, that accolade seems to have not been conferred on Agricola whose tenure as Governor of Britannia was probably the longest during the early part of Roman occupation. 

In my recently launched novel, Beathan The Brigante, General Agricola is somewhat nervous about returning to Rome, having been recalled by Emperor Domitian. He reluctantly makes his way south from Taexali territory in northern Caledonia,in no great hurry to get to Rome. 

Here's a little taster from the novel. At this point of the story Beathan has managed to be free of Agricola's clutches in Rome only to find that back in Britannia he is captured again and held in custody by Agricola's second in command, the Judicial Legate Gaius Salvius Liberalis.  

Beathan felt the power of the man when Liberalis stood before him fully armoured. The man’s polished helmet poised on top of the uniform stand drew his gaze, and his awe. The metal ornamentation was even more impressive than Agricola’s, and though more battered the general’s helmet had been stunning.

“You have given me a problem I could well do without, Brigante Beathan.”

He stared. It was not a question, so he gave no response. He had plenty of problems of his own.

“Rome gives men frequent marching orders.”

Beathan absorbed the terse tones and tried to interpret the legate’s words. Although the room was cleared of his staff, it was possibly not a totally private conversation.

“You mean that the Legio II Adiutrix has been recalled to Rome to go to fight a…less cunning enemy?”

Liberalis almost smiled. “The emperor demands their presence.”

He nodded since Liberalis’ expression seemed to indicate it was necessary.

He dared to add a little more. “I have heard that the Legio IX, and the Legio XX, have also been withdrawn from Caledonia. From all of the northern forts.”

The legate’s expression was calculating. “You learn the most fascinating information, Beathan the Brigante. Perhaps General Agricola was correct and that you do need to be handled very carefully.”

He chose not to reply. Handling was something he had plenty of experience of.

“You have seen many of our forts but not, I think, Pinnata Castra?”

He had heard about that one from Ineda of Marske, his Uncle Brennus’ hearth-wife, but he chose to only nod.

“Agricola was very proud of that fortress.” Liberalis sounded reflective. “I believe he would have liked to show you it.”

He found he could not hold back. “It has also been abandoned?”

Liberalis’ chuckles were bitter. “I am glad he was not there to see his beloved Legio XX leave.” The legate’s smile became snide. “You, on the other hand, might have been impressed by the situation.”

The glare that came his way made Beathan refrain from asking any more questions.

Liberalis’ tone dipped again. “Like General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, past Governor of Britannia, I am also recalled to Rome. Though unlike Agricola, I will be embarking a ship well before Londinium, to take me to the shores of Gaul.” Liberalis’ voice quietened to a rasping whisper, as intense as his stare. “Agricola and I share a friendship and probably the same fate. But presently, I have no desire to leave any unravelling threads which he saw fit to loosen.”

Beathan felt his throat seize up. What was the man talking about?

The reference to withdrawal from Pinnata Castra (present day Inchtuthil Roman Fortress, Perth and Kinross, Scotland) is also written about in my short story involving a different Garrigill Brigante- Ruoridh, who is Beathan's cousin. If you'd like to read about my fictitious withdrawal from Pinnata Castra you'll find the short story - The Pinnacle of Achievement-  in the Ocelot Press anthology 'Doorways to The Past'.'s the link for Beathan The Brigante.

Enjoy the reading! 


Thursday, 20 August 2020

A book reading for #Beathan The Brigante launch day!

Today really is the official launch day for Beathan The Brigante! 

As something different to celebrate it, I 'put myself out there'  even more than normal and made a video of me reading Chapter 1 of Beathan The Brigante. 

For anyone who doesn't know me, the video is how I sound and how I am. It was really exciting to read from my brand newly launched novel - once I got the technology working, of course. 

Yesterday, my intention had been to do a Facebook Live video , to practise with it last night, but the technology got me stumped and I couldn't unlock the Camera! Not to be daunted, I borrowed my OH's relatively new USB webcam and plugged it in to do a 'less than live' reading. The USB webcam video quality is much better than the camera on my laptop but there was no sound. It took one sleep, and a lot of trial and error today o get the sound working.

It seems that the setting I need to have sound to listen to a video / film/ movie via  my laptop  isn't the same 'output and input' needed for the webcam, but so long as I remember which is which, and reset as needed, I'll hopefully cope in future. 

I googled the best length for a Facebook Live production and it said a minimum of 10 mins. Once I got the sound organised on the USB webcam, I timed a reading of Chapter 1 of Beathan The Brigante. It was about 10 mins, so there's a few minutes before and after taking the video to around 14 minutes. 

Unfortunately, that's too long for Blogger so I can't share it here ,but it did go on to my profile and author page on Facebook. Swings and roundabouts! Maybe tomorrow I'll work out how to upload the video to Youtube (they've changed the rules since I was last there and I've changed my laptop) It can be viewed more easily form there. 

Since I started to write this post, Facebook has done one of its 'for the better' changes which means spending lots of time tomorrow  working out what is what. The 'classic' version that I was on is disappearing by September ,so I might as well learn the new one right away. 

An author's life is an easy one. Ha, ha! 


Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Mini launch tour for Beathan The Brigante!

Hello and a happy Wednesday to you!

My blog writing 'mojo', as it is sometimes called, has been AWOL for a little while but I'm pleased to say it is returning! 

Beathan The Brigante promotion continues and another aspect of it is that there will be promotional posts in a few blogs during the few days before, and for a couple of days after the official launch day of the 20th Aug. My wonderful Ocelot Press fellow authors are kicking off the process for me, for which they have my huge thanks, and will be each posting slightly different promotional posts. I've highlighted something a tiny bit different for each post.

The link details of these blogs will be updated as the days progress.

18th August - Jen Wilson

19th August - Cathie Dunn

20th August - Sue Barnard

21st August - Yvonne Marjot

22nd August - Vanessa Couchman

My intention here on this blog will be to post some random things from my Beathan The Brigante research, to be sure I don't forget about it. Tidying up my scrawled notes is a fine business indeed and not the work of an instant because... as in when I do the original research, I tend to want to refresh the details and find out more before I complete the write-ups of the notes! I just love research and have literally hundreds of papers now to read on the Roman Empire via . 

The offer of Books 1-4 for e-books at 99p each still continues! I'm incredibly biased, but it is SUCH a great offer if you haven't yet red them all. 

My author page for selecting them is HERE. 

Till later,


Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Beathan The Brigante officially launches in 2 days!


It's been a very busy time for me of late. I've been writing promotional blog posts and creating lots of promotional posters for the launch of Beathan the Brigante in 2 days time. And I've made a video, not the music I wanted, but I'm learning! 

I've sent off some press releases to local newspapers and hope for good responses, assuming Covid 19 restrictions don't make that difficult (i.e. some reporters not working full time) 

I've not been able to organise any form of local physical launch for the 5th novel of my Celtic Fervour Saga Series and have only been able to make some mentions on Social Media platforms. 

To mark the e-book launch event - the official Ocelot Press launch date - in a small but generous way, I have reduced the prices of all 4 published e-books to the incredibly low price of 99p/99c equivalents across Amazon. 

If you've not yet read this award winning series then now is a great time to get an e-book set! 

#1 The Beltane Choice

#2 After Whorl: Bran Reborn

#3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks

#4 Agricola’s Bane

#5 Beathan The Brigante


Enjoy the read and tune in for more information soon...


Monday, 10 August 2020

#A Novel approach by Jennifer C Wilson

Good Morning!

I'm absolutely delighted to be joined by my Ocelot Press friend and fellow author - Jennifer C Wilson.
Jen has popped in today to tell us about her latest venture that was published with Ocelot Press last week on the 8th August. This is something we're very excited about at Ocelot Press since it's our first non-fiction book!

It's on my kindle and there are some really great tips in this helpful guide book, information Jen has used in directing her creative writing groups and workshops. I have a hunch that the huge collection of notebooks that she keeps was well-thumbed-through to decided on which materials should be contained in A Novel Approach.

My huge congratulations to Jen, and I'll pass over to her to give us some details. 

A Novel Approach

Everyone has a book in them, isn’t that what they say? Well, that may well be the case, but it doesn’t always mean they’re easy to get out of your mind, and onto the page. That’s where my first non-fiction title, A Novel Approach comes in.

One of my favourite things about the writing community is meeting and helping other writers, and through being a co-host of the North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, including setting monthly prompts, I realised that running my own set of workshops would be another really fun way of doing both. We held six workshops in total, covering the topics outlined below, and they were all really good fun. With all that material gathered, I knew I wanted to do something else, and so, at the start of Lockdown, I decided to see if I could form it all into an ebook.

I’m really chuffed with the result, and hope other writers are too – whether you’re at the very start of your writing journey, or looking for a bit of a nudge to get your existing idea down on paper, there’ll be an exercise to help you out.

I hope they enjoy using the prompts as much as I enjoyed setting them!

The blurb:

Based on my series of workshops held throughout 2019 and into 2020, this book is designed to help writers work through each of the key stages of their story, including:

-        Idea generation;

-        Creating characters;

-        Describing your settings;

-        Showing vs telling; and

-        Keeping the words flowing when you find yourself stuck.

As well as the above, I have also added sections on hooking your readers in, leaving them wanting more, and useful resources as a writer, including how to dip a successful toe into the world of social media.

The workshops were fun, helping writers of short stories and novels alike, and I hope these exercises can help you too!

A Novel Approach:


About Jennifer

Jennifer C. Wilson stalks dead people (usually monarchs, mostly Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III). Inspired by childhood visits to as many castles and historical sites her parents could find, and losing herself in their stories (not to mention quite often the castles themselves!), at least now her daydreams make it onto the page.

After returning to the north-east of England for work, she joined a creative writing class, and has been filling notebooks ever since. Jennifer won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014, and in 2015, her debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Books. The full series was re-released by Darkstroke in January 2020.

Jennifer is a founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, and has been running writing workshops in North Tyneside since 2015. She also publishes historical fiction novels with Ocelot Press. She lives in Whitley Bay, and is very proud of her two-inch view of the North Sea.

You can connect with Jennifer online:





Thank you for visiting, Jen, and best wishes with A Novel Approach.


Sunday, 9 August 2020

Beathan The Brigante in #paperback!

 What a wonderful Sunday! 

The sun actually is shining in my part of the world which lifts my spirits so well. But even better, I can proudly announce today that Beathan The Brigante is now available as a paperback version from Amazon. You can purchase it HERE 

That means you could have it in your hands and have read before the official ebook launch on the 20th August. (Which is currently still on Pre-order HERE

And if you've done that, you'd be able to boost the status of the novel on Amazon if you pop on a review as soon a possible. 

I'm still awaiting the go-ahead from my upload to Ingram Spark (the site seems to be incredibly slow just now) for Beathan The Brigante in paperback but in the fullness of time, it will be available via their distribution service, as well. 

Today's writing time will be spent making a promo video for Beathan The Brigante...and I'll get some fresh air and exercise when I do my regular garden weed patrol stint!

Enjoy your day! 


Thursday, 6 August 2020

The #publishing process!

Hello again!

A whole week has gone in a flash, some of which went with joyous celebrations of Doorways To The Past Anthology having been published on the 30th July. Yipee! Time to relax a little bit on that one. 

The rest of it went with blearie eyes and some very frayed temper as I got the final files ready for publishing the paperback versions of Beathan The Brigante. 

My cover designer Karen Barrett did a fabulously quick turnaround with the paperback cover files when I gave her the eventual page counts. They were duly labelled and saved in an appropriate file on my laptop. 

I've written before about my trials and tribulations with publishing on Ingram Spark and the fact that I've found (in the past) that publishing on Amazon was easier. Not so this week!

Beathan The Brigante , Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Series, has been on Amazon Kindle Pre-order for a few weeks now, with the official launch on the 20th August 2020. This week I spent my writing time pouring over my MS Word 'KDP' manuscript to make sure it was perfect. I'd looked at Amazon KDP guidelines to see if anything was different from my last publishing foray in Nov 2019, that I needed to address before uploading the new files. Based on what I read, I decided to change my margins a little bit from previously published books and double, even multiple checked the formatting of the whole ms after making the inside margin a little bit more than the minimum suggested for my page count.

I checked that my word.dox file was acceptable to upload... and KDP declares it is an acceptable format. (I had sent up a Word format to Createspace, and I thought to KDP last year) 

A couple of days ago, it was time to load up my data!

Problem number 1: My interior file was all wonky and instead of 305 pages it was something like 356 pages. An error report said my margin for the page count had been selected wrongly and the inside margin was too small since I had left in a gutter of 0.33 cm.  ???

My cover file was also rejected as not being the correct size for a 5 X 8 inch book. 

Try 2 that my designer sent was still wrong, although that was accounted for as a 'bleed' problem which my designer sorted on Try 3.

My formatting change to a wider inside margin sounds easy enough but anyone who has done formatting knows it's a labour intensive, tedious job to ensure all bottom lines of the pages are matching and at full use of the page. And it has to be said that the more often an author reads their own work (definitely me), the more chances there are of wanting to make tiny little changes to what was there. 

My KDP interior file was rechecked, again multiple times, and uploaded as a PDF file this time with Try 3 of the cover file. They seem to have passed first stages of quality control and I'm very very hopeful that the proof copy I've ordered will prove that the publishing/ printing is acceptable for my KDP paperback.  

I dreaded sending up the files to  in case there would be issues. There were! 

But hopefully NOT with the cover file, or with the interior file- though as I write this I am awaiting the checks before they email a proofing check. The problem with the Ingram Spark setup of files was getting the site to accept my data (pricing and discounts etc). On the IS set up process you cannot input information for a subsequent page until the previous page is accepted. I have fingers crossed that both interior and cover files are 'good to go'!

Update to come on that, but since I've been forgetting to promote Beathan The Brigante, which I have loved to write, I need to do lots of that in the coming days!


Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Book #launches are fun!


Gosh! Is it Wednesday again? They seem to be coming round so quickly. This week is particularly busy since tomorrow (30th July) is the launch of the Ocelot Press Anthology which I've been so excited to be a contributor to. 

Putting the Ocelot Press collection together has been really engrossing, the only other time I've added a short story to an anthology being the one named Crooked Cat Tales. That time around all I had to do was choose some characters from one of my (then) published Crooked Cat titles and write a short story. Back then in 2015, I chose to use Topaz Eyes for the inspiration for the off-shoot story. 

This time around, when the short story was requested, it was so much easier to write since I was in the final throes of deciding which huge chunks of Beathan The Brigante could be removed from the too-long manuscript. As it happens, I did slash a lot from the Beathan the Brigante  word count, but the short story for Doorways To The Past is an entirely brand new write, using a character who didn't get much to say in Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Saga Series. 

Also this time, I've been involved in lots of decision making around the production of the anthology - none of which happened with Crooked Cat Tales. It's so rewarding working collaboratively with my Ocelot author colleagues and great fun when all the decisions come to fruition. 

I've been preparing my ideas for my personal 20 minute slot during the short Facebook Launch event for Doorways To The Past. There's still time to join us, if you read this blog post quickly enough! 
Click HERE  to join us. Find out more about the writing and enter some of the competitions to win ebook/s! 

And...I've been beavering away to ensure I could send on the paperback version pages counts to my Cover designer so that she can get the PDFs ready for publishing Beathan The Brigante with Amazon KDP and with Ingram Spark. 

Note: My garden is also growing beautifully so I'm out there as and when I can, and it's not raining, to collect the produce that's ready for eating. So far, I've had a fabulous crop of strawberries and rhubarb. I now collecting early carrots and cabbage. My radish are all done now and my onions are at the 'spring' stage - great for salads. Yum.

So, where are the days going?


Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Repost of Tidy Up Time!


It was my turn to post on the Ocelot Press Blog yesterday, but since the post is very relevant to what I'm currently doing, then I'm sharing some of it here.

When I’m at the work-in-progress writing process, my hand written references and notes tend to be a muddle. I scribble on the nearest bit of paper to hand if something needs to be noted elsewhere later on in better detail. Often my home-made maps or diagrams tend to have random comments added which probably only mean something to me. Hence the title of Tidy Up Time! 

My contribution for the Ocelot Blog Anthology Doorways To The Past is done and dusted, and I eagerly await the publishing date of 30th July for the anthology. Being a participating author has been an excellent way to give some of my Celtic Fervour secondary characters some extra limelight. My story features Ruoridh of Garrigill, who played a small role in Book 4. He is one of the two main reasons for Enya and Nith to go journeying after the battle at Beinn na Ciche, searching for Beathan of Garrigill being the other. I have no current intention of writing a whole book featuring Ruoridh, or Judicial Legate Liberalis who is my interviewed character. Therefore, this is a great way of sharing them with readers. 

The e-book of Beathan The Brigante, Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Saga series is on pre-order (publishing date 20th August 2020) and I'm finalising the paperback versions for publication very soon.  Back to that aspect of tidying - Having finished the manuscript, and having gone through beta reader advice and changes, I really don’t want to find something in my mess of notes that I feel compelled to add to my story, but I always feel duty-bound to re-read the scribbles – just in case.

I love this stage of the process of getting a story ready for publication. I really enjoy putting together the Historical Context for the book, since not all readers are familiar with the complexities of Roman Britain history. I like organising my Glossary sections, adding brief information on things like the gods or goddesses mentioned by my characters – Roman and Celtic. This time around for Book 5, I’ve included a longer section on Roman Army terms that appear in the story, and I’ve added an explanation of the interior of an Ancient Roman fort. Readers who already have some knowledge of Roman Army history will gloss over the sections, but I’ve learned during the process of producing the first four books of the series that some of my readers really appreciate the extra information that helps them understand how my characters operate in their environment.

I particularly like creating the map pages for adding to my historical series. After the first book was published, it was a revelation to find a Canadian reviewer had mistakenly thought that the story had mainly taken place in the Caithness area of Scotland. I had written that Brigantia was the northernmost area of Britannia to be invaded by the Ancient Roman legions  in AD 71. The reader had envisaged a current map of Great Britain, and had decided that the northernmost part was Caithness, and thus that was where Brigantia had been. It was then I decided that adding maps to all of my Celtic Fervour novels, even ones created by me, were a necessity rather than an indulgence. I heartily thank that reviewer for pointing out the problem, even if it was done in an inadvertent fashion.

Making final versions of my maps has become a part of my ‘tidy-up’ routine, and any hand drawn maps and plans are scanned before being added to my stored files.

What about you? Are you a messy worker who eventually does ‘tidy ups’, in your writing… or in daily life?

I'm not sure that I've shared it yet, so here’s the blurb for Beathan The Brigante.

AD 85 Roman Empire
How can young Beathan of Garrigill – held hostage by General Agricola and dragged in chains to Rome – escape and wreak vengeance on his enemies?
Torrin is a strong-minded Brigante warrior-woman who forges her own future. She willingly takes care of him in a time of need, but her own plans are paramount.
Agricola's career is in tatters. Attempts on his life are plentiful, having lost favour with Emperor Domitian. His gods have abandoned him, though assistance comes from a surprising source.

Will Beathan gain his freedom to return to his kin in Caledonia? Will Torrin be by his side? And how will Agricola survive without the emperor's benevolence?

Beathan the Brigante is the fifth in the bestselling Celtic Fervour series.

Look out for details coming soon on paperback publishing progress.  


Wednesday, 15 July 2020

Doorways To The Past #launchevent #news

Hello! It's a (nearly) sunny Wednesday, again, in my part of the world.

And even better, I have lots of great news to share in the coming weeks.  Doorways To The Past, the exciting venture I've been involved in creating with fellow authors at Ocelot Press is now on the home run. The anthology of short stories and character interviews is now available to Pre-order in Kindle at 99p/99c from Amazon. 
(Details of a paperback version will follow in due course.)
To get that cheaper pre-launch Pre-order price you can click this link now and the ebook will pop onto your Kindle very early on the launch day of 30th July. 

Click HERE

I've been very busy doing some pre-launch promotion, making a video for the excellent anthology which I'm delighted to share with you. I hope you enjoy this little taster of what's through 'our' doorways.
(p.s. It's been a while since I made a book trailer video and I really enjoyed the new software I have on my new laptop!)

Please join us at the short Facebook launch (Thursday 30th July 2020 5-7 pm UK time (UCT +1hr) where the participating authors will be highlighting themselves and their novels. We're similar in that we all write historical fiction but we tend to cover different times periods and have different writing styles. You're sure to really enjoy the short stories and those characters really are something else! Doorways To The Past is very entertaining and very varied. 

Please join us HERE 

Now for some more video making...though, maybe I should finalise the end matter for my own forthcoming Beathan The Brigante, Book 5 Celtic Fervour Series, launch? Details of it to follow almost immediately...