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!