A Happy Christmas!

 
What a year it’s been! I’ve been trying to settle into a new life on my own. Thought it would be easy, as I’m a loner by nature, but I was in for a shock.

In an effort to take my eyes off the past, I’d decided to set an objective. I would try and rise one step higher on the British Dressage judges list. I survived the initial one-to-one assessment and was considered a suitable candidate to embark on the prolonged journey of tests.

Next came the mock exam. There was a series of videos to assess – very different from previous experience. I thought I’d got the hang of it, so registered for two technical tests early in January. The first – a multiple choice paper on rules – was easy. But the second….. it wasn’t like me, I was stressed, I couldn’t see properly, I blinked an eye and missed vital clues flashing across the video clips.
What was I doing, trying to upgrade as a dressage judge? Why at my age did I want to put myself through such an ordeal? I’d been fairly content for the past 18 years on the bottom rung and had plenty of demands for my time. The results arrived: I’d passed the first paper with flying colours but failed the second by two marks. A hard lesson learned, especially as my mind was still acting erratically and even if I passed that test on a re-sit, the prospect of facing the final examination of judging while an adjudicator sat alongside filled me with dread. No.
Kenya beckoned. A whole month of escape from winter. It was wonderful setting foot on the tarmac of Nairobi airport for the first time in three whole years. Ten glorious days soaking up the sun on the pristine sands of Diani beach. A special night on the shores of Lake Naivasha, savouring familiar surroundings, spotting familiar birds. Then a taxi ride to Kajuki village in Embu/Meru District for a few days, experiencing how struggling villagers survive so cheerfully while operating their little businesses.

Back in Nairobi I treated myself to a bird walk at the racecourse with Fleur Ngweno. We had a hilarious trip to the Nairobi Game Park, when the roof of Dennis’s new car wouldn’t close in the middle of a thunderstorm. He popped an umbrella over us, which proved quite effective, but we didn’t see many animals. My final days were spent in a special place, Maanzoni, where we laid Roy’s ashes to rest under a thorn bush. Over them, Anthea had commissioned the map of Kenya in heavy slate, inscribed with the words: “Dad, this is your holiday camp…”

Back to earth in Eastbourne. Rounds of bridge, walks, dressage judging, and going through the agonies of editing my new book – Going It Alone – a handbook for those who want to start their own business; Mentoring new business start-ups at People Matter, my local charity, where I’m also Trustee; as well as marking IGCSE exam papers twice a year, a necessary top up to my income.

I started playing tennis again! My sciatica suddenly disappeared when on the suggestion of a physio, I stopped doing my early morning exercises. Amazing. I now rejoice in twice-weekly games with other geriatrics on the astra-turf of my local club. Just two sets, with a rest in between. Whenever the Masters tennis is on the telly, all else is abandoned.
And the climax to 2018: a wonderful five-day visit to Carcassonne, France, where my publishers live. I shared an Airbnb casa with one other author, while everyone else stayed in hotels. We got the better bargain. We enjoyed looking around this lovely place with its medieval city, including a day‘s conference at a lovely hotel in the Citadel. By the time we left, we felt really at home.

And now I’m preparing for another treat – three months in Australia basking in the bosom of my family, spread from west to east. And we’re taking a trip to Tasmania as well.

I must say, it will be nice to get away from all mention of Brexit, as well as the British winter.
Very best wishes this festive season
Jane

The best way to keep in touch is by subscribing to my Newsletter HERE!

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The Wilds of Tribal Scotland

Once again, I’m delighted to welcome good friend Nancy Jardin who has exciting news. I can’t wait to get my hands on the latest of her stories set in the wilds of tribal Scotland – even though some of the names are unprounceable, let alone unspellable.  I’m also privileged to have met Nancy in the flesh, and her methodical  approach to promoting her books is an example to us all.

Hello Jane!

It seems a while since I last dropped into your lovely blog but I’m absolutely delighted that during this return visit I can share that Agricola’s Bane, the 4th book in my highly acclaimed historical fiction Celtic Fervour Series (published with Ocelot Press), is now available to Pre-Order from Amazon! Paperback versions will also be available in November from Amazon. The official online EBook launch will take place on the 15th of November 2018, with a physical paperback book launch event on November 22nd at a local Heritage Centre in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

Agricola’s Bane continues the tales of my Celtic warrior clan from the Brigante hillfort of Garrigill (modern day Cumbria/Yorkshire border). As before in the earlier books of my series, my aim is always to tell the story of what happens to my relatively ordinary tribal folk who have been uprooted by the Ancient Roman invaders. My Garrigill clan’s refugee status persists since the Ancient Romans still dominate the landscape of the Taexali northern lands (Aberdeenshire), the Garrigill clan’s tough trek northwards in Book 3 sadly not leading to the freedom from the Roman yoke that they had hoped for.

Agricola’s Bane features second-generation Enya of Garrigill. The location is Caledon territory (Cairngorm Mountains, Aberdeenshire) where most of the tribal warriors, who have survived a recent battle, now take refuge. However, circumstances force some of them to venture forth from their relative safety at Ceann Druimin, the roundhouse village of Chief Lulach. Going anywhere near the Roman legions means risking a stabbing death under a Roman gladius but Enya and her warrior companions find the traitorous Vacomagi tribe can also be just as dangerous.

Roman General Agricola discovers that conquest of the Caledonian tribes isn’t as easy as he expected. The local warriors are very adept at guerrilla warfare and they behave in ways that both confuse and irritate him, much like his capricious Emperor Domitian. Time is running out for Agricola since he’s already on his seventh summer campaign season but he still wants to achieve so much more during his domination of Britannia.

Although my second generation Garrigill clan members are in their early to mid-teens, well-old-enough to be a trained warrior back in late first century A.D., Enya’s father and her uncles – Lorcan and Brennus – still have a small part to play in Agricola’s Bane as do the other female clan members of earlier books.

A reader new to the series can read Agricola’s Bane as a stand-alone novel, though they would most likely enjoy it even much more if they have read Books 1-3 of the series.

***

Blurb:

AD 84 Northern Roman Britain

Nith of Tarras aids Enya of Garrigill in the search for her kin, missing after the disastrous battle at Beinn na Ciche fought between the Caledon warriors and the mighty Legions of the Rome. Enya soon has a heartrending choice to make – should she tread Vacomagi territory that’s swarming with Roman auxiliaries to find her brother? Or head south in search of her cousin who has most likely been taken captive by the soldiers of Agricola? 

General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola – Commander of the Britannic Legions and Governor of Britannia – is determined to claim more barbarian territory for the Roman Empire, indeed plans to invade the whole island but finds not all decisions are his to make. It increasingly seems that the goddess, Fortuna, does not favour him.
The adventures of the Garrigill clan continue…

You can buy Agricola’s Bane via this Amazon Pre-Order Universal Link.

http://mybook.to/ABsherenow

Bio:

Nancy Jardine writes contemporary mysteries; historical fiction and time-travel historical adventure. Her current historical focus is Roman Scotland, an engrossing pre-history era because her research depends highly on keeping abreast of recent archaeological findings.

A member of the Romantic Novelists Association, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Federation of Writers Scotland and the Historical Novel Society, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.

She lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband but life is never quiet or boring since her young grandchildren are her next-door neighbours. She regularly child minds them, those days being cherished and laughter filled.

You can find her at these places:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk  Website: www.nancyjardineauthor.com/   Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG & http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com  Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine

Many thanks, Jane, for giving me the opportunity to visit you again. – Nancy

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Exquisite Sounds

Carcassonne – The End

Thurs. 27/9. Our day of departure. We weren’t due to fly out of Toulouse until late that night. After a lie in, and discovering we could leave our luggage in the casa until the afternoon, we wandered back across the footbridge to the Citadel. The slope was easier to handle than the steep steps, and it was good to find ourselves back in familiar surroundings as we emerged from the Porte d’Aude into the square bordered by the Hotel de la Cite and the Basilique Saint-Nazaire.

artworkI wanted to buy some postcards, and there were convenient public toilets nearby. The Theatre was closed, so we entered the Basilique and sat at the back of the empty church. Four Russian singers, dressed in sombre black, were performing, unsmilingly, against the background of the stained glass windows. Exquisite sound filled the building. A prayerful chant – the Kyrie Eleison – followed by Ave Maria solo in falsetto voce which made my spine tingle. We stayed to meditate for a few minutes, then emerged into the bright sunlight for a walk anti-clockwise round the little city. Cobbled streets, many eating places, intriguing touristy gift shops. The French are versatile in the variety of their trinkets. I restrained myself. I was here for the experience, not for the shopping. But I did buy a couple of keyrings for my daughter back home.

We passed by the two ancient wells and in no time were at the Porte Narbonnaise. We sidestepped the queues of tourists waiting to enter the Chateau and the inner ramparts; we’d been there for our wine-tasting.  We bought ice-creams at a highly recommended shop and sat on a low wall facing the Basilique, savouring our cornets. A gathering of people were trooping into the church so we followed, taking front pews this time. Carrie-Ann delved into her bag for her mobile, and she gasped. Her purse with the mobile was not there. She spilled the contents of the bag over the pew between us. Nothing.

“I must have left it on the wall; maybe someone picked it up and gave it in at a nearby shop.”

“You go and look for it,” I said. “I’ll keep an eye on your bag.”

The quartetThe gigantic stained-glass windows rose above me. The Russian quartet gathered in the front pew opposite. The church was almost full. Carrie-Ann had not returned. The man took their stand in a stolid line facing the congregation. Carrie-Ann came back, a broad grin on her face.

“You found it?”

She nodded. “Someone had handed it in to the nearby shop.”

“Thank God!”

Heavenly voices chanted in Latin and once more the Ave Maria filled the building. The men retired to the pews after a short appeal to the audience to buy their CD. I watched them. Not even when the tourists bought CDs, did they smile. We stayed on for ten minutes to listen again, this time to different pieces.

Not a quiver of emotion passed over their faces.

“They must be quite bored doing this all day, every day, every ten minutes – or maybe they’re immersed in the spirit of their performance…?”

We were hungry.

“Let’s give that pizza restaurant a chance,” I said. “The one which turned us away on Tuesday.”

We felt we belonged, as we easily found the place and ordered a pizza to share between us. The waiter was lethargic, and when it came to issueing the bill, he seemed reluctant. The pizza did not rise to the standard of Katy’s one in the Bastide the day before. Neither of us felt like tipping him.

It was time to go down the hill again, collect our luggage and trundle it to the station. On the way out of the Port d’Aude we saw the little train-shuttle crawling at snail’s pace down the rough pathway. I’d thought of taking it earlier, to save my weary legs, but was glad we’d decided to walk instead.

I needed to post my cards to the family, so Carrie-Ann used her mobile to guide me expertly to the post office. But the battery gave up as we headed towards the train station. She knew the way, she said, and I followed her blindly as we tramped an extra mile round three sides of a square…

Oh well – we caught an earlier train than planned and were in good time to take the shuttle to Toulouse airport. A seasoned traveller now, I checked my case into the handsfree bag drop, no problem, and we had a smooth flight home.

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“Diverse” Settings For Two Reasons

A warm welcome to my long-standing friend, Roland Clarke. We have much in common, and if you share a love of horses with us, you’re in for a treat! You can read my review of Roland’s Spiral of Hooves on the Amazon UK link below.

I must begin by thanking Jane for having me on her blog – or maybe I invited myself like an imposing friend.

7120_102388529776541_4135091_nSetting plays a key role in not only my writing as I met Jane wearing a different hat. Back in 2005, I was co-organiser of Borde Hill Horse Trials held at my family home which I’ve always felt was the right setting for horse events. Jane was part of our amazing team as one of the experienced dressage judges. Most eventing shows that I ever attended as a professional equestrian journalist and photographer were in glorious locations – the pinnacle being Badminton.

Nobody was surprised then when my debut novel, Spiral of Hooves used many of these locations, including Borde Hill and Badminton, for its mystery set against the eventing world I knew. There is a draft sequel written, set in France and the USA, that adds endurance events to the line-up – and Idaho where I now live is central.

SnowdonHowever, my writing focus is back where my wife and I lived last – Snowdonia. My mind and heart are there now. There will be some horses, although outnumbered by the sheep that are everywhere in North Wales.

Snowdon Shadows is a police procedural series that roams over much of the picturesque scenery that draws so many tourists to North Wales, from the mountains of Snowdonia to the beaches along the Llyn Peninsula.

What would have been Book 1, Fates Maelstrom was originally set on Dartmoor – until my wife and I moved to Harlech with its castle, and a view from our house of Snowdon. It didn’t take me long to create Craig-y-Niwl, a fictional village in the heart of Snowdonia, inspired by the villages we encountered as we explored the area.

Sadly, due to health and other factors, we left Wales in 2016 so my wife’s family in Boise, Idaho could help us. But that Snowdon view is above my desk and my characters need me back in Wales. Their interaction with settings beyond Craig-y-Niwl add texture and, sometimes, motivation. I have scenes on beaches, in castle ruins, pubs and restaurants that demand realistic details.

Some places I remember, but I always do additional research online using a variety of searches like Google Maps which I find opens other sources. For instance, for a short story that will be part of Fevered – the new Book 1- I used some standing stones at Porthmadog that we used to drive past. Using Google Maps, I could revisit the scene with views from the road and within the circle.

Sometimes, Google Maps will give landmarks with website links, although more often it’s more a case of doing a search on a place name. Yes, I admit that Wikipedia is often a starting point, but it can be a gateway. Photos have proved invaluable and allow me to visit parts of North Wales that I missed, and ideas occur that I can apply to my settings.

Confession: I never reached the top of Snowdon even though it is wheelchair accessible.

However, The Village below Snowdon in our view was one of our first destinations. To date, Portmeirion hasn’t featured in my series but that could be rectified. ‘Almost like a world on its own.’

When it comes to finding the right words to create a sense of setting, I strive to sketch enough details to create pictures in a reader’s head, and if the reader knows the place then I aim to evoke their memories. Whether that works remains to be seen when the first book emerges from Snowdon’s shadow.

Oh. I used the word ‘diverse’ for two reasons. First, the locations themselves are varied. Second, my series tackles ‘diversity’ issues. Is it wrong to make my MC a queer detective? It doesn’t change how she reacts to her surroundings – to that glorious Snowdonia vista.

To learn more about me visit:  

My website: https://rolandclarke.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/rolandclarkewriter/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/rrclarke53

Spiral of Hooves is available at Amazon including USAUK

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New Book Release – Jane Bwye – “Going It Alone: A Beginner’s Guide To Starting Your Own Business” (Non-Fiction)

It’s people like David who make the world go round…. thank you for “having me”!

toofulltowrite (I've started so I'll finish)

Hey there friends, it’s Author Interview time again.

I interviewed Jane Bwye a while back about her exciting Romance novels set in Africa and she has now come to back to us regarding a new Non-Fiction book that she has just published that is sure to take the business world by storm.

Before we cover that though, here is the link to our original Author Interview, where you can find out more about her African Historical Romance novels.

Author Interview – Jane Bwye – “Breath of Africa”, “Grass Shoots” & “I Lift Up My Eyes” (Historical Fiction/Romance)

And now let’s get chatting to Jane about her new business book and how her useful advice could help you with your business ventures.

Thanks for reading and as always have a good time 🙂

Hi there Jane, a sincere pleasure to have you back here with us again to chat about your…

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Slow Burners and Book Reviews

It is now November, so I trust you’ll forgive me for talking about Christmas – which reminds me: my good publishers’ SALE is in full swing, and if you’re quick, you’ll catch my two remaining books for £ / $ .99.

cchalloween3

There’s a host of quality books on their list, especially if you like cosy crime, romance, or historical fiction.

As a taster, here’s a link to the reviews I have written on Amazon. Many of them are Crooked Cat books.

My award-nominated best-seller, Breath of Africa is now out of print. Grass Shoots, the standalone sequel is burning slowly, and its fuel – in the form of reviews – has all-but stagnated. Going It Alone has barely left the starting stalls…

If you can find time to leave a review, that would be fantastic.

holly

HERE’S A CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR YOU!

If you sign up for my occasional Newsletter on MY WEBSITE

I will send you a FREE e-copy of BREATH OF AFRICA!

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A Spirit of Place!

I’ve at last managed to chase John Jackson down! It’s a privilege having him join me today, and learning more about the bogs of Ireland. Over to you, John – I thoroughly enjoyed your book (here’s my review of Heart of Stone), and I too, was brought up on Georgette Heyer!

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For me, writing historical novels based on facts and on, as much as possible, a known series of events, correlating the words on the page to the location is vital.

In Heart of Stone, the action takes place principally in Ireland, in the area aroundbook
Mullingar in County Westmeath, and in Dublin. If you look at a map of Ireland, County Westmeath is pretty well slap bang in the middle. It is a mixture of rich agricultural land and peat bog. Peat has been the fuel of Ireland for many centuries. Each household and farm would have access to the bog, and they would cut, stack, dry, turn (or “rickle”) their peat and then bring it in to be stacked near the dwelling. These days, there is still some cutting of peat, but its use as a power station fuel has stopped. Its agricultural use is also much reduced.

However, you can’t set a whole book in a peat bog! Heart of Stone is, for the most part, concerned with houses; Gaulstown, the old family home of the Rochforts, and now vanished, Belfield, the home of Arthur Rochfort, also vanished, Rochfort House, now a ruin and renamed Tuddenham House, and, principally, the manor of Belvedere. Fortunately for me, Belvedere House is still very much there, as is its famous Wall. They are national monuments and open to the public, and well worth a visit. I had the privilege of giving an Authors Talk and a signing actually AT Belvedere.

Anti-clockwise from the left: Belvedere Manor,  The “Jealous Wall”, and Tuddenham House, now a ruin. 

When I wrote Heart of Stone, I completed the first draft using existing photos and old maps, etc. This was fine, but I knew I HAD to visit the place to get that “sense of place”; to make sure that what I had written was reasonable and feasible. Even such trivial matters as the height of the hedges in the roads – can you see over them on foot? (No, not really, but you can from the back of a horse!) I also wanted to absorb and breath in a real part of the atmosphere of the whole area.

I also felt I needed to get a feel for distance. How far were the houses from one another? How long would it take a pony and trap to drive from Gaulstown into Mullingar?

The names of Gaulstown and Belfield are maintained as the names of the old farms, now sold and redeveloped. In Gaulstown you can still see the remains of the avenues of trees that radiated from the front of the house.

It’s not just maps and ruins though. So much depends on your feelings when you shut out extraneous noises. What can you small? What crops are they growing locally? Imagine there is no modern machinery. What would you still be able to hear?

My next book, tentatively titled Strange bedfellows, is mostly set in London, in the area of Stanhope Gate, Clarges street and May Fair! By 1770, the streets of London were set with cobbles, and – wonder of wonders, the main streets had pavements!

John Jackson

After a lifetime at sea and in ship management, I am now retired and living in York.

An avid genealogist, I found a rich vein of ancestors going back many generations. My forebears included Irish peers, country parsons, and both naval and military men. They opened up Canada and Australia and fought at Waterloo. My late mother’s maiden name was DUMARESQ, which is a Jersey name. It is so unusual, it makes it easy to find. It is through my mother that my family go back to Robert Rochford and Mary Molesworth.

I also have a Hare great grandmother, from Listowel, and a Jackson great grandfather, again on my mother’s side, from Clonmel, who became a railway contractor and worked on the Chester – Holyhead railway. He had 5000 navvies working for him at one time.

A chance meeting with some authors, now increasingly successful in the world of romantic fiction, both historical and contemporary, have led me to turn my efforts to setting down some amazing stories. I am a keen member of the Romantic Novelists Association and part of their New Writers Scheme. I am also a member of the Historic Novel Association and an enthusiastic conference-goer for both organizations.

I was brought up on Georgette Heyer from an early age, and, like many of my age devoured Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Austen, R M Ballantyne, and the like.

Modern favorite authors include Bernard Cornwell, Liz Fenwick, Simon Scarrow, Carol McGrath, Lindsey Davis and Kate Mosse.

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