Sunday, 22 April 2018

#Self-publishing is easy?


What more can I say? After weeks of re-writes, professional re-edits, and the formatting processes done for all three of my Celtic Fervour Series in both ebook and paperback versions there is progress!

By about the 10th April, I thought I had my three files all ready for paperback publishing in Createspace templates (Microsoft Word) but decided not to go through the publishing processes till my ebooks versions were ready. A few more days took me to roughly Friday 13th April when I was confident my ebook versions were complete and checked.

Next stage was to check that the PDF versions were converted in the programme Calibre to .MOBI files so that I could check them on my Kindle for PC. Disaster! What seemed to be perfect files in .PDF versions were all over the place on my Kindle reader on my PC. There was no proper run on of words on a line, and large gaps between paragraphs.

Sheer panic ensued last weekend, and days were spent re-doing the Word files in case I hidden formatting issues remained. In some cases I did have problems, formatting of paragraph issues. Some paragraphs had 'keep lines together' checked and others not. Laborious checking eventually cleared that up.

It was only by Tuesday 17th that I also realised I was using an old Kindle for PC prog, and not the proper Kindle Previewer!! Once I had that downloaded, the only concern was that my maps were not sufficiently high enough resolution. That problem was solved fairly quickly using my scanner.

Off to KDP I went, and I'm delighted to say the actual publishing process wasn't too bad at all.

Yipee! So all 3 novels are now available on Am US and AM UK as ebooks- the other Am network to follow.

You can get them for a bargain price of 99p ($ equivalent) till after Beltane (2nd May).

Bk 2 

The saga continues on Createspace since I don't quite have the paperbacks up and running, yet. Hopefully soon.


Friday, 20 April 2018

#Aye. Ken it wis like this...with Louise Turner

Aye, ken it wis like this...

My Friday series continues, where guest authors are invited to share a post with us about the historical background to their writing. Today, I'm delighted to welcome another new guest, Louise Turner. She has yet another time period for us to enjoy today, and she's sent an excellent post and some great images to share with us.

Louise's path to writing is one that I find really interesting and, for me, is a prime example of the fact that authors all have different stories to tell about their writing journeys, and what might have come before publication- but I'll let Louise tell all!

Louise Turner
Hello Louise! It's fabulous to have you visit. Can you please tell us what inspired you to write about your chosen era?

I stumbled across the late 15th century quite by accident.  My interest in creative writing led me  to study Archaeology at university, because I thought it might give me ideas and inspiration.  I then became a professional archaeologist,, but perhaps it was inevitable that eventually I’d try my hand at historical fiction.

But – what should be the subject matter?  Perhaps I should have checked out what was selling commercially before putting pen to paper, but that never even occurred to me.  I wanted a story.  A good story.

Nancy says: I think probably most historical authors don't consider what might sell. They just get on with writing the stories that are bursting to come forth

I was unemployed at the time, so for financial reasons I stuck close to home.  I live in the west of Scotland, where everyone knows the Wars of Independence and Robert Burns. The stuff in between is pretty much ignored.  But there are some impressive historic buildings and monuments round here which really should be better known, so I used them as my inspiration and decided to look into the stories behind them.

The Collegiate Church of Castle Semple, Lochwinnoch,
Founded by John 1st Lord Sempill in 1504
Courtesy of Louise Turner
It was while reading a local history book about Lochwinnoch (the Renfrewshire village where I now live) that I came across John, 1st Lord Sempill.  He featured just briefly, but piqued my interest. His father, Sir Thomas Sempill, was Sheriff of Renfrew, and he died defending King James III at the Battle of Sauchieburn in June 1488.  James III was murdered that night, and succeeded by his eldest son, James IV, who fought against his father.

John Sempill took up his inheritance during the regime change, and in the worst possible circumstances, but managed to become a peer just a few years later. How on earth had he engineered this transformation in fortunes?
Answering that question meant researching late medieval Scotland, its important historical events, its principal characters. Thankfully, there were some masterly works available which put the 1st Lord Sempill’s life into context, in particular Norman MacDougall’s book James IV (Tuckwell Press, 1989).

Slotting everything into place, I learned that Sempill was a remarkable man.  His was a very minor role, but seen against the broader political landscape, his actions are way ahead of their time. Late medieval Scotland was notorious for its feuding, where escalating tit-for-tat reprisals play out in response to insults or offences, real or imagined, between groups or familties.  The west of Scotland in Sempill’s time was typical in this respect: it saw the germination of a particularly vicious feud between the Montgomeries and the Cunninghames which culminated in the murder of the 4th Earl of Eglinton more than a century later.  There’s no mystery behind these feuds: they are symptomatic of a society which has absolutely no faith in the ability of the official legal system to settle grievances fairly. In the case of the Cunninghames and the Montgomeries, the Cunninghames used the minority of the future-1st Earl of Eglinton to obtain certain lucrative offices which had previously passed through marriage to the Montgomeries. By the time the future 1st Earl reached maturity, the Cunninghames were hand in glove with James III; naturally, the future 1st Earl threw in his lot with James IV, who went on to reign Scotland.

As the Montgomeries victimised the defeated Cunninghames, so the Sempills found themselves under attack by another local family: the Darnley Stewarts. Historic documents tell of burnings, hardship and destruction on Sempill’s familiars and tenants, and on Sempill himself, during the winter of 1488-9.  Sempill could have fought back. Instead, he acted with great forbearance, negotiating his way back into a secure position and eventually getting rewarded with the return of his hereditary sheriff’s office and a Lordship.  His actions arguably had implications at a national level.  All over Scotland, those who’d seen defeat at Sauchieburn were making life difficult for James IV and his government.  We always think of James IV as the accomplished, secure Renaissance Prince, who led Scotland onwards to great things until his premature demise at Flodden in 1513. But at this stage in his reign, his coat was – as the popular saying goes – on a very shoogly peg indeed.  His support of Sempill came at a crucial time: by defending him with the full force of the law the unrest was contained, in time allowing James to become established on his throne and to engage in the cultural achievements he should be remembered for.
Linlithgow Palace,
A Favourite Residence of James IV-
Courtesy of Louise Turner

Historians can only follow the evidence so far. But inference is rich fare to the historical novelist: when I was writing my novels, the lack of historical evidence was in a way liberating, because it meant that inference played a major role.  Inference must be reinforced with facts, and so I read copious works which chronicled the allegiances and notable exploits of all the various local families during this time. So far, I’ve found enough source material for two books: Fire & Sword deals with the winter of 1488-9 and how John Sempill negotiated his way back from the brink of annihilation, while The Gryphon at Bay explores the Montgomerie-Cunninghame feud and the murder of the Lord Kilmaurs by Hugh, Lord Montgomerie in 1489. 

Scotland during the late 15th century was as full of intrigue as Renaissance Florence or Tudor England.  It was also a time of change, which must have had a profound impact on those who lived through it. The role of the knight was eclipsed by the rise of artillery; government was increasingly the role of professional lawyers and notaries. Did this give a certain nostalgia to the chivalric past, embodied by the popularity of Malory’s Arthurian tales? Urban centres were becoming increasingly important, and literacy was becoming widespread, leading to a more robust legal system and, ultimately, challenges on the authority of the Church.  Despite having all this going for it, it’s a period which in Scotland remains ignored, because it just isn’t on the commercial radar. Which is a great shame, I think, because it has much to offer both readers and writers, and it should certainly be better appreciated by those interested in Scotland’s past.

Nancy says: I so agree that many aspects of Scottish history have largely been ignored in the past. However, I'm now delighted to say that there is a growing interest in making more of it available to the general public via fiction, but also in non-fiction publications. 

A little about Louise Turner
Born in Glasgow, Louise Turner spent her early years in Scotland where she attended Greenock Academy and later, the University of Glasgow. After graduating with MA (Hons) in Archaeology, she went to complete a Ph.D. in the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent. She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management. Writing has always been a major aspect of her life and at a young age she won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF competition with her short story Busman’s Holiday.  Her second novel, The Gryphon at Bay, which follows on from the events described in her first novel Fire & Sword, is set in late 15th century Scotland and was published by Hadley Rille Books in March 2017.

You can buy Louise's ebook version from:
Amazon UK: 

Amazon US

Find louise at the following places: 


Thank you for contributing to my series, Louise, and for sending along such a very good post. I've recently read a little about the Cunninghames, and the Montgomeries, but there's always so much more to learn about that era. Best wishes with all of your current and future writing projects. 


Friday, 13 April 2018

Aye. Ken it wis like this...with Anna Chant

Aye, ken it wis like this...

My Friday series continues, where guest authors are invited to share a post with us about the historical background to their writing. Today, I'm again delighted to welcome a new guest, Anna Chant. I love learning about what makes someone choose a particular time period, and hope you like that, too.
Anna Chant

I also love being part of a community of authors who enjoy the mystery of research and the pathways that some piece of information may lead to. I'm totally steeped in my own chosen period of Scottish history, but I'm also fascinated by other eras that are in a wee box in my head that's labelled "some day soon".

The period Anna writes about is also one of those that's not easy at all to find out about- yet there is evidence out there on the ground...but I'll let Anna tell you about that!

You're very welcome to my blog, Anna. Please tell us what the catalyst was for your historical choices.

How the series began

Women of the Dark Ages is the series I never intended to write. Although I have always loved medieval history, I preferred the later period, so when I first decided to write a historical novel, my subject was a fifteenth century Scottish queen.

A historical novel has to start with a lot of research. I love the research stage. To me, this is like a treasure hunt as I never know what I will find. And if you start clicking internet links on Scottish royalty, sooner or later you find one man – Cinaed (Kenneth) Mac Alpin.

Being a great procrastinator, it was far more interesting to read about this warrior king, than to continue my actual research and what I found out was fascinating. The more I read, the more obvious it became that my fifteenth century novel was not to be. My new idea was a series on Scottish queens, beginning at the beginning with the wife of Cinaed Mac Alpin – Kenneth’s Queen.

Dunadd Hillfort
Courtesy of Anna Chant
My next task was to find out more about her. But here I met a major stumbling block. Virtually nothing is known about her. Not even her name. She might never have existed at all except Cinaed had four children he could not have produced alone! I nearly abandoned the idea but something about the unknown woman intrigued me. How could a woman who helped to found one of the most important dynasties of the era be simply erased from history?
Looking back, this was the moment Women of the Dark Ages was born, from my wish to tell the stories of the often forgotten and uncelebrated women of the era. There are currently five books in the series, each one a stand-alone novel. They span the sixth to the tenth centuries, Scotland to Rome, celebrating the part these women played in the tumultuous events of the era.

The background to Kenneth’s Queen

In the ninth century, Scotland was not known as Scotland. Instead there were smaller kingdoms such as the Pict realm, taking up the bulk of the land, the Kingdom of Dal Riata in the west, ruled by the Gaels, while to the south was the Kingdom of Strathclyde. With little in the way of written records we get glimpses into their lives in the form of archaeological finds and intricately carved Pict stones. There are also remains of their dwellings such as Dunadd Hillfort, one of the settings of ‘Kenneth’s Queen’.
Dunadd Footprint
Courtesy of Anna Chant

There you can still see enigmatic carvings, including a footprint in the rock, hinting at an ancient coronation ritual where the king became one with his land.

Between these kingdoms there would have been fights, probably mostly in the form of skirmishes and cattle raids but at times there would be alliances. The legend of the Battle of Athelstanford tells of how the Picts and the Gaels were fighting against the Angles, when the cross of Saint Andrew appeared in the sky to unite them, bringing them victory against all odds. Leading the Gaels was King Eochaidh the Venomous and fighting alongside him, it is said, was his grandson, Cinaed Mac Alpin. But these were not the only people fighting over the land, for ninth century Scotland, like elsewhere in Europe, was under Viking attack.
Iona Abbey Courtesy of Anna Chant

The Isle of Iona today is a scene of idyllic tranquillity but in those days of Viking raids it was a very different story. The Abbey of Iona was raided several times by Vikings as were other locations along the west coast and the northern islands. But again, there were also alliances. There are hints Cinaed was in such an alliance. His son, Causantin (Constantine I) definitely was. Cinaed’s brother, Domnall, (Donald I) is described as ‘the son of a foreign wife’ suggesting he may have had a Viking mother and was therefore Cinaed’s half-brother. In ‘Kenneth’s Queen’ this provided an additional level of drama to the family with tensions and rivalries which go beyond the normal sibling dynamics.

Terrifying as the Viking raids were, it was only to get worse, culminating in a devastating Norse attack in 839. This battle wiped out huge swathes of the Pict and Gael nobility, including both kings, but it was from this catastrophe that Cinaed Mac Alpin climbed to power.

Cinaed the Hardy, the Conqueror, the Uniter is a historical figure, although not completely so. He appears to have been a respected and successful leader with his death in 858 recorded with grief in the Annals of Ulster

Because Cinaed with many troops lives no longer
there is weeping in every house;
there is no king of his worth under heaven
as far as the borders of Rome

Yet his place as Scotland’s founding father owes at least as much to legend as it does to history.
Graveyard at Iona Courtesy of Anna Chant
possibly the resting place of Kenneth MacAlpin
Among the legends of valour there are also dark tales of trickery and bloodstained treachery.  This was, after all, the birth of Scotland, bloody and brutal as births often are. But although her descendants sit on the British throne to this day, on the life of his Pict wife, both history and legend are silent.

Kenneth’s Queen is her story.


Anna- Thank you for sharing this great post with us today. You've reminded me so much of my visits to both Dunadd, and to Iona, made not so long ago (2016)
Like you my climb up to Dunadd Hillfort was a memorable one. Whether, or not, the footprint in the stone was made for kingly coronation rituals seems immaterial when your own foot is right beside it. While walking that pathway into the fort, as in your photo above, it was easy to imagine a thriving community inside the walls. It's a place with an amazing outlook across the landscape, though I believe in the Dark Ages it was pretty swampy, and not as accessible as it is now.

And it's also easy to see why Iona is such a well visited place. I'm not a at all religious, but I was filled with a sense of long history and reverence that potentially many of those ancient kings and monarchs are buried in that graveyard.

Thank you so much for coming today, Anna, and very best wishes with your series. It's one that I'll be making a start on soon, since I've now got Kenneth's Queen loaded and onto my kindle queue! 

My own post about a very nice but windy Dunadd visit is here: 

and for Iona (And more of Dunadd if you scroll down) try here

p.s. Here's another photo Anna's sent along for us to enjoy! 

Dunadd Hillfort