Saturday 15 July 2023

Eboracum Roman Festival York 2023

 Eboracum Roman Festival was fabulous fun!

This year of 2023, my train travel to York proved to be on time and, thankfully, not disrupted.

L to R- Me, Graham Sumner,
Jacquie Rogers, Simon Elliot,
Jason Monaghan, Linda J Trafford,
Alison Morton, Ruth Downie,
Kate Cunningham, Simon J Turney

It was a brilliant short trip. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to get down there and meet up with lots of lovely authors [some new, some met last year], some of the re-enactors, and the browsing/buying public who came to talk to us at our Bibliotheca (author tent).

My thanks to Jim Butler, Event Manager, and the team of organisers at Yorkshire Museum for giving us an excellent pitch for our marquee. The marquee had no frontage which meant we could be easily seen but was a tad short at the sides to fit in x 10 author tables. I’m so very thankful that the light rain was fleeting and that my books weren’t damaged, always a problem with open air venues.

Fraternising with the enemy!

Deciding how many books to take was driven by the size of my wheelie suitcase though more so by what weight I could lug up and down staircases in train stations (lifts not always available). Since I was only spending an extra day in York on the Friday, my changes of ‘civvies’ clothes were minimal, and not weighty, but my new re-enactment Celtic outfit is quite bulky and certainly heavier than a normal dress. I packed 27 books, and I’m utterly delighted to say that I sold 21 of them and gifted x 1 book for our Prize Draw. Hardly any to bring home, yet I’m still mystified that my case remained heavy!

Fortuna favours the brave!

Meeting up with an ex-Crooked Cat author friend Angela Wren on the Thursday night for dinner and a chat was marvellous. Since Angela is reasonably familiar with the area, being a Yorkshire lass, she booked a table at a fabulous French Bistro which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Look at your fabulous phalerae!
Meeting the Legatus-
legion commanding officer

My Friday was taken up by a good wander around the central area of York, unencumbered by any luggage, and I spent about 3 hours in the Yorkshire Museum. I’d not visited since 2016 and took plenty of time to view, and photograph, the Roman exhibits. I don’t recall on any previous visits to the Yorkshire Museum spending time in the upstairs library but I had the room mostly to myself this time for a good browse. There were some fabulous early copies of non-fiction published about Roman Britain, amongst many other interesting topics. The evening was delightful in the company of new-to-me author Jacquie Rogers. A few drinks and dinner set us up for the Saturday!

With the
supreme commander! 

Saturday was mostly dry, just the lightest of showers sending visitors to the event scurrying under umbrellas or trees along the main pathways. The event was busy right from the opening of the Museum garden gates at 10 am, which was great for us at the Bibliotheca because the interest was constant as the day wore on. Many people just browsed, many bought from all ten of us (9 authors plus Graham who is an illustrator), and some were return customers from previous years. I sold a few copies this way though my neighbour Simon J Turney sold many. Simon has an impressive fan following who come to York Eboracum Festival every year just to buy his latest novels – signed, of course.  

Our Saturday evening was super-convivial, meaning we had a few drinks in the Eagle and Child pub before wandering along the few streets it took to reach the restaurant that Tracey Turney (our spectacular special author event planner) had booked. The Ask Italian restaurant is in the most spectacular building which was in former days the Assembly Hall of the regency era. (I'm not sure if there was more than one).  

Sunday was a repeat though a hotter day with no rain. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations with potential customers and signed a fair-few books myself. When it was time to change and head for my train home it was bittersweet. The experience was made so much better by the excellent and congenial company of my fellow authors.

I was naturally very delighted to meet some impressively kitted-out Romans and I also got a glimpse of Queen Cartimandua and her Druid (didn’t quite talk to them but next time for sure)

Queen Cartimandua and her Druid,
with a legionary soldier! 

My thanks also go to Tracey Turney, Simon J Turney's wife, for keeping us all in the loop and very organised. She's a star!

Tracey Turney on the right! 


That was my far-flung book signing/selling event but I’m gearing up for another few large events in Aberdeenshire this summer.

On Saturday July 22nd I’ll be at the Banchory Agricultural Show, a fair which I’ve not attended for some time. I’m looking forward to donning one of my Celtic outfits for the day, but which one is yet to be revealed. (This might well be a late decision depending on whether it is hot or cool)


Tuesday 4 July 2023

Eboracum here I come!


It's almost time for me to journey south for the Eboracum Roman Festival in York, England. The festival is held over two days : the 8th and 9th July 2023. 

Last year I went down by car since the rail strikes were on during the summer of 2022. This year the railway companies are still in industrial action mode but, I'm hopeful that the train I've booked will get me to York with no problems.

This year, I'm arriving at York more than a day early because once I'm in the Bibliotheca tent in York Museum Gardens with the other wonderful attending authors, who all write, or are graphically creative, in the Roman Era, I'll not have time to do any wandering of York and the Museum itself. Some attending writers will be old friends from last year but I'm also excited to be meeting some new faces. 

You can see from the timetable below that the York Museum organisers have a fantastic set of activities for those attending the festival. To enter the Museum Gardens is FREE, so if you are anywhere near pop in and ENJOY! Come and meet us and have a lovely chat while you browse the fiction, non-fiction and graphics books on offer.

There's even a PRIZE DRAW for you to enter to win a bundle of books.

Writers/ Artists attending are:

Alison Morton, SJA Turney, Ruth Downie, LJ Trafford, Jacquie Rogers, Simon Elliot, Joseph Chittenden, Graham Sumner, Kate Cunningham, Jason Monaghan, and me.

On Friday, I intend to revisit York Museum since my last foray was in 1016, and I didn't see nearly enough of the Roman section to satisfy my insatiable research curiosity. 

As well as meeting up with some author friends for drinks and dinners, I intend to have a really good wander around central York and reacquaint myself with the Shambles and York Minster area. I've visited the city a good number of times, even have a vague familiarity with the very city centre, but there will still be lots of new things for me to experience.

I have to get back to preparations now because the big quandary is how many books should I take in my suitcase? 


Sunday 2 July 2023

The Warrior's Prize- And what a lovely win it was for me!

Good Morning!

It's now July and time for a different kind of post. For various reasons, I've not been posting book reviews on my blog here for some time, but it's definitely a time for change. 

I'd like to share a little bit of my last read -The Warrior's Prize by Jennifer C. Wilson - a friend and fellow author with Ocelot Press. 

It's a really lovely romance set in Border country between Scotland and England. Historically, some people - who were born in and lived in the border areas - often thought of themselves as neither Scottish nor English. [Though, perhaps some people from the area feel like that today, as well!] The landscape of the Borders could be very harsh in places making it difficult to scratch a living growing crops, since it didn't boast the same fertility as the Scottish Lowlands, or that of England's very green, lush and level southern farmlands. Tough times made tough people and life was not always peaceful. Neighbours could be pleasant and agreeable, or quite desperately awful! Border reiving was rife, the theft of livestock not an uncommon happening which generally prompted some form of retaliation. 

The Warrior's Prize gives a nicely rounded flavour of what life was like back in the Borders in 1498.

The Warrior's Prize by Jennifer C. Wilson, beginning in 1498, is a story which definitely rings true of the times. When a woman was an heiress, she was generally regarded as chattel, a mere commodity through which a father, or guardian, could make alliances - trade-offs of money, land or property. If the heiress was unmarried and in sole charge of successful lands and keep, then she was an even more important bargain to be acquired. This is the situation for Lady Avelina Gordon who, from the outset, is reluctantly aware of her worth as a bride. Any marriage, she fears, will affect her status in her own home. She is determined to remain the competent mistress of her people at her castle named Berradane,  yet dreads the complete upheaval a marriage may bring. 

Lady Avelina appears to her own people, neighbours, and visitors as a strong woman of independent mind, privately suppressing any insecurities about overcoming circumstances presented to her that are not under her control. James, the current king, a man she regards as a platonic friend (in as much as one can be friends with a king), orders her to marry his trusted warrior Sir Lachlan MacNair. Avelina knows she must ultimately marry but finds it galling that she's given no choice over who she will wed, even though Lachlan MacNair is a man she is actually drawn to, like no other man before him. Avelina fears that on arrival, and after a relatively immediate wedding, Lachlan will take over the running of her lands and will make all the operational decisions, leaving her bereft. Giving way to her natural inclinations is something she also resists very successfully - for a while! I liked the gradual development of changes to her attitude regarding her initially unwanted husband's role at Berradane. Their relationship post-wedding is perhaps a tad unusual but Avelina slowly realises the treasure she has acquired in Lachlan. 

Lachlan is indeed a warrior suited to Avelina's cautious approach. Not only does he bear the fortitude of the well-tested soldier, but he has just as much resolve as Avelina to not cave in to the inevitable tumble into a deep, abiding love. His fears that a loss of control will diminish his overall performance as a protector of people and lands seem insurmountable, leading him to maintain a strained relationship with Avelina. There is a likeable innocence to his staunch resolve to let their relationship develop in its own time. He quietly and steadfastly eases himself into the role of landowner and meets challenges that could be deadly with thought and careful planning. One of Lachlan's great strengths is his ability to reason and to think through all eventualities, which lead him to the correct conclusions. Acting on gut feeling isn't always a successful way forward for a warrior and Lachlan knows this only too well.  

Historically, it seems so many marriages during the middle ages were for dynastic and political supremacy and it must have taken more than a touch of Cupid's arrow for the relationships to become more than a mere duty. This lovely story highlights the possibilities that with patience and endurance, between two people who are virtual strangers, an initially strained relationship can develop into a harmonious, fulfilling and lasting love.

Yes, there is a baddie in the story, who is a thoroughly nasty specimen, but it is via his machinations that the author presents situations for both protagonists to confront their true feelings. 

I thoroughly recommend this heart-warming story to any readers who enjoy immersing themselves in an era fraught with dangers and dastardly dealings. 



Stirling Castle, 1498
Visiting court for the first time since her father's death, Lady Avelina Gordon finds herself drawn to the handsome warrior, Sir Lachlan MacNair. But as a woman who has seen too many of her friends lose everything for 'love', she keeps her heart guarded.

Castle Berradane, 1502
Lady Avelina is unceremoniously told to expect her new husband within the month. The man in question: Sir Lachlan.
Lachlan arrives in Berradane carrying his own secret, and a determination to control his heart. As attraction builds between the couple, they find themselves under attack and fearful of a traitor in their midst.
Can the teamwork they've shown in adversity so far pull them through one final test, and will they find the strength to risk their hearts, as well as their lives?

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