Saturday, 21 October 2017

Do I read as well as write?

Happy Saturday wishes to you!

I'm not actually in the 'zone' for  Storm Brian- it's currently hitting other parts of the UK - but we are in Aberdeenshire having more of the persistent downpours that my country of Scotland is famous for. So, What's new?  Weather wise, I've got another excuse for sitting at my keyboard and the autumn leaf tidy will have to wait for a drier day. 

I'm continuing with my non-fiction reading which now includes anything I can glean on the earliest road building in Scotland. My latest book is 'Britain's Last Frontier A Journey along The Highland Line by Alistair Moffat. It's packed full of information, as I expect it to be, so I'm reading it fairly slowly.

Other research reading is anything that keeps apace with my current FutureLearn course on Rome: A Virtual Tour of the city. It's a fabulous course and I thoroughly recommend it for anyone who wants to go beyond the tourist information gathering stages but not nearly to the depth that a degree course would entail. It is designed to encourage interest in the subject and, for me, it certainly does. Now I want to amass as much as I can about the Rome specifically of the era from AD 70 - AD 95. Updates on my progress will hopefully follow after some new writing this weekend. 

On the fiction front, I've read a couple of very different novels during this past couple of weeks.  The first mentioned below is the second in a series by a fellow Crooked Cat author, Jennifer Wilson. Jennifer is a seriously dedicated historian ( a marine biologist in her real world of work) and gets to grip with thoroughly researching the time period she writes about. Her concept of intermingling historical fact with fantasy is an interesting one, her cast of ghosts interacting among themselves in  public places of historical and current significance. 

In Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, I liked reading about Scottish figures I had already read about and happily learned about new ones I hadn't encountered before but I have to confess to not really knowing the actual purpose of this well written tale. If I had had a clearer understanding of the story arc from start to finish as Queen Mary (Mary Queen of Scots) went through various scenarios, I would more likely have given it 5 * because the language of it is very well written, it flows easily and is a well edited novel. 

Here's what I've posted on Amazon and Goodreads.  

Knowing the Royal Mile in Edinburgh reasonably well, the next time I walk down it I’m pretty sure to be looking over my shoulder for all of Queen Mary’s ghostly retinue! Like Book 1 of the series, this well written novel is jam packed full of historical characters though they are now conducting ‘afterlife existences’- some in a different way from their mortal ones had been. An example would be the relationship of James V to Mary, Queen of Scots. The hierarchical strata, separating royalty from courtiers and commoners in real life, continue in this novel and these deferential roles emphasise the degrees of favouritism that once existed.  Darnley- what can I say? Is he getting a good deal in his ghostly life? No spoilers here, so you’d need to read yourself to decide.   


My next review will be on Reclaim My Heart by Donna Fasano. 


Happy Reading to you! I'm now onto a combination of a reread of Diana Gabaldon's 'Outlander' novels and I've also started one called 'Shieldmaiden' by Marianne Whiting

Slainthe! 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

What Did Those Ancient Romans Ever Do For Me?

Good morning everyone!

It's been a few days since I posted and here's a bit of why... 

Rome Aqueduct - Wikimedia Commons
I've decided that living in rainy Scotland isn't such a bad deal after all. Though we've had intermittent downpours and sometimes continuous drizzle for days and days we are lucky compared to many areas of the globe that are having horrendous wildfires, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and hurricanes. My part of Aberdeenshire just missed the effects of Hurricane Ophelia who was downgraded to a severe storm by the time she reached southern Scotland. For many of us in Scotland, a storm with winds of 70 mph was just  a wee blow, nothing special, and a 'good drying day' for the washing (laundry) hanging outside in between downpours! For sure, some roofs lost their coverings but not many, and those damaged were possibly not the best maintained anyway! Or, not built to last over the decades, or centuries, or even millennia...like the Roman aqueduct above! 

Enough of weather, and I'm not going near politics since that's something that's also taking up some of my precious day's reading time. Politics in the UK, and also in Europe, is a definite hot potato right now.  They say there is more than one way to skin a cat and what is needed now are sensible options being taken up by blinkered voters and incompetent governmental leaders in the UK.  

So, I'll return to my title topic What Did The Ancient Romans Ever Do For Us? and explain why it's been a great reason for me being too busy to post on here. 

I posted on my regular slot yesterday (18th Oct) at Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog about  What Did The Ancient Romans Ever Do For Us? but here I'll expand my notes a little further! 

That phrase in bold above might bring to mind many different scenarios. For me growing up watching UK television in the 1960s and 1970s, the first image would be of an irreverently funny show called Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The weekly show itself had many spin offs, one of which was a definitely irreverent feature film "The Life of Brian". In the film, a character (John Cleese) derisively asks “What have the Romans ever done for us?”  The answers from those assembled reply: err…sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system via aqueducts, public health…and our peace. 



From Youtube.

It's a very funny film though not to everyone's taste as it challenges some established theories of religion, dogma and the like...

Ancient Rome was an amazing place. It is a city that I’m learning more about every day during my FutureLearn Course - Rome: A virtual Tour of the Ancient City
Aqua Claudia by Pietro Sassi - Wikimedia Commons 

It’s only Week 2 of my course and I’ve already learned about some of the list above. It’s incredible to think of how inventive the original engineers of Rome were back in 312 B.C. when the first short aqueduct of 16 km (c. 10 miles), the Aqua Appia, brought a constantly running supply of fresh water into the city of Rome. The Aqua Appia was an underground channel but by 140 B.C. the Aqua Marcia (55 miles) had a about 6 miles of its total running over arches. By the first century A.D. there were around 11 aqueducts feeding the city’s 1 million inhabitants with fresh water. 

This site has information on another ancient Roman aqueduct built in the first century A.D.

The Ancient Romans didn’t only appreciate the fresh water coming into their city for drinking purposes. They also used it for:
  • continuous flushing out of their communal lavatories
  • supplying water to their communal bathhouses
  • for other domestic, trade and industry reasons
  • for sluicing down their streets and sewers 
  • and for feeding the many fountains around the city.  

 
Trevi Fountain, Rome -Wikimedia Commons
The famous Trevi Fountain in Rome is still partially fed from the Aqua Virgo which was initially constructed in 19 B.C. during the time of the Emperor Augustus. The Aqua Virgo brought in the fresh water from hills and streams some 18 km (11 miles) away from the city and was used as a source for 400 years till it fell into disuse around the time of the Fall of Rome in approx 397 A.D. during the ensuing 1000 years, some attempts were made to restore the aqueduct but it wasn’t till 1453 that it was properly restored to feed a fountain on the site of the present Trevi Fountain. 

By 1762 a fabulous new baroque fountain was created, the one we can view today in Rome known as the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi is famous for various reasons, one of which is the 1954 film “Three coins in the Fountain” that title song sung by Frank Sinatra, though he got no credit for it.  

This site has some info on where the name Trevi probably originates from and gives details of the fantastic sculptures around the Trevi fountain. 

BTW - I’ve also learned about the sewers of Rome but I'll leave that topic for another day! 

The architecture of the buildings of the Roman Forum are now holding my attention much more, although I confess to being fascinated that had the Ancient Romans settled in my part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, my surroundings might have been very different from they are now.




Aqua Claudia -Wikimedia Commons

The longest unbroken stretch of an ancient above-ground aqueduct near Rome is the Aqua Claudia. 

I'm off now to do a bit more of my FutureLearn Rome course and some very neglected writing. 

Slainthe! 
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Aqueducts_in_Rome.jpg



Sunday, 8 October 2017

Highways and Byways!

Sunday again!

I really can't believe it when someone tells me that their week has gone slowly past. I never have enough hours in the day to do all I want to. It's always a case of squeezing something in.

I do make time for non-fiction reading as well as my fiction slots and some of my recent reading has been quite enlightening. It's easy to see why rumours can grow and why local folklore is deeply embedded in what people believe of a an area. While doing some research on the possibility of Ancient Roman roads in Aberdeenshire, I got myself a copy of a book I'd been recommended some months back (probably sometime during 2016). 

The book is an 'out of print' hardback that was published in Aberdeen in 1985 and is titled Highways and Byways Round Kincardine. My second hand copy has no dust jacket and I've no idea if it ever had one but there are many interesting photographs,maps and illustrations within.

What I have in Highways and Byways Round Kincardine  is a companion volume to a first book entitled Highways and Byways Round Stonehaven and is the work of Archibald Watt who certainly (faithfully and lovingly)  had tramped many miles to gather up his information. The book I have is essentially a book of local driving routes which also take the hiker off road for much of the time- sometimes through public access land and at others over farmland or local private estate land.

I'm not local to Aberdeenshire and I have little experience of Kincardinshire or the Mearns area but the book is a little gem of Watt's knowledge gathered over decades which doubles as a history of the area as well.

Where his original information derives from is very varied -some from original textbooks, old maps,  and histories of the area; some from anecdotal material; some from the libraries of landowners of the area whom I'm guessing he was acquainted with.

The aim of Watt in writing the book of routes is to "stimulate public interest in the history, character and beauty of Kincardineshire, to further knowledge of and interest in our local heritage and to encourage the preservation of various ancient historical sites and buildings that mean so much to us and are of aesthetic and environmental importance."

The book was published just a few years before I moved to Aberdeenshire but I'm very ignorant of the area save when I drive northbound along the A90 to reach Aberdeen, or the opposite direction to drive south to Edinburgh or Glasgow.  Watt is careful in his book to make clear that some roads which were anecdotally and in the local oral tradition thought to be historically Roman are not attested by the Archaeological Department of Aberdeen University. That is not to say the Romans never laid down any proper roads in Kincardine, it just means thorough excavations have never been done to prove it.

In the following extract he writes about a Roman Camp near Kair House (Fordoun) It is believed by some historians to have been created by Emperor Severus around AD 210 rather then during the Agricolan expeditions of the first century AD (AD 84). Watt sounds pretty sure of his information in this book but the site has never been given official status because, like so many others, no formal adn positive excavations have been recorded.

An aerial survey led to this belief the aerial photograph taken in 1945. Watt's description is highly readable even if not proven!

"A Tired Roman Legionary's Earthen Wall
Now let us carry on up the hill to the steading of the Mains of Kair. Here we turn right and left again, past the dwelling house, until in just under a quarter of a mile in all we reach two small huts on the right. Between them you should stop again for you are parked on the site of the porta praetoria or general's gate, the main entrance to the camp, placed as was always the case in a slight re-entrant angle in the middle of the north-east side of the camp, the side facing the enemy. Between the two small huts can still be seen the remains of about 20 yards of the turf rampart or agger which, originally 7 ft high, had once surrounded the camp surrounded by a palisade (vallum) of sharpened wooden stakes. How fascinating that the earthen wall built by some tired legionary some nearly 1800 years ago should show today where the line of defence once continued for another 280 yards down the field on our left!" 

I'm particularly interested in the parts where Watt points out possible Roman sites but the general historical details are also very interesting for periods across all eras.

My next non-fiction 'book I've read' post is likely to be on The Military Roads in Scotland by William Taylor- also a fascinating, though not up-to- date, book.

Slainthe! 



Saturday, 7 October 2017

Review of Under Heaven's Shining Stars by Jean Grainger

It's still Saturday but this time I'm writing my thoughts on a book that I've just finished reading!

I've lately been getting daily emails from many different promotional sites like : Book Hippo; Booksends; Just Kindle Books; Bargain Booksy etc and some of those advertised have drawn my eye and I've done that 'Oh, So Easy' click though on Amazon. I can't remember which source I saw this one on but that doesn't matter because it was a great read. 

Under Heaven's Shining Stars by Jean Grainger 

This was a very engrossing book covering a number of themes.

The deep friendship of three very different young boys- Liam, Patrick and Hugo- from (or near to) the city of Cork, Ireland, continues to develop into adulthood, forming bonds that are unbreakable.

For a young devout Roman Catholic man entering the priesthood there are hurdles for Liam to pass and ethics to agonise over. For Patrick there are life changing events that it seems impossible to evade the consequences of. Hugo looks set to have the loneliest life, even though privilege sits on his shoulder, but fate has a way of balancing the sadness.

I'm not religious so I have no way of knowing how accurate the aspects of Catholicisms are but Roman Catholic religion is central to the story and how circumstances which don't fit the norm can be adequately accommodated.

Having money and the lack of is a theme that runs throughout. Death and the consequences to those left behind is a tragic theme that affects all three of the main characters but I’m glad to read that the story has favourable endings for all of them. 

I thought this was a 5* read!

Slainthe! 

Cracking new review for The Taexali Game!

Saturday surprises are fantastic!

It been a great few days into October for me getting new reviews for my novels. Topaz Eyes got two brand new 5* reviews on Amazon UK recently which takes it to 13 (5*) reviews!

And today is another wonderful day since The Taexali Game has a brand new cracking review on the Book Viral site.

The review begins with:

"A thoroughly absorbing slalom of a novel The Taexali Game proves a bold and imaginative melding of Historical, Fantasy and Science Fiction with Jardine delivering a maelstrom of action and intrigue in equal measure...."

Click the Book Viral link HERE to read the whole fantastic review which I very much appreciate as it has no spoilers of any kind but highlights the elements I wanted to write about in the action adventure. 

The Taexali Game is now entered into Book Viral's 'Crimson Quill' Award. To qualify for this award I need the endorsement of lots of my readers. Please consider clicking the link on the left sidebar of the review page and enter the details for me to gain your endorsement for The Taexali Game being a great read!  

Thank you - your support will be brilliant. 

It's also lovely that the site has a little promo of my other novels as well. 

Cheers and have a happy Saturday. 


Slainthe!

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Imagining ...or imaging?

Welcome to my first Wednesday in October post.

Today was my regular slot to guest post at the Writing Wranglers and Warriors Blog. Since I wrote about some of my writing and researching techniques I'm re blogging some of it here - with some different images.

***
...Sometimes I need a little bit of help to kick start my imagination when I’m writing. Once I get that little extra push, I’m right into the scene and then my characters can take over in their imagined setting.

When I write my contemporary mysteries my imagination is helped by my memories of a place where I want to scene set. But I also know that my memories can be fickle and a bit selective so in the interests of accuracy I use the internet to give me current photos of where I'm writing about. 

In my historical writing it’s not so easy to create visual images for my locations.  I want authenticity and credibility in my stories but I can’t look back at photographs of my places to see what that landscape was like 2000 years ago. The contours may be largely the same but the vegetation is unlikely to be similar since recent centuries of farming (since the 18th century) and forestry methods in north east Scotland have altered the original picture. That means I need to seek help from other places.

I can add ancient standing stone circles of the stone and bronze ages, or stone hillforts, or stone brochs but my imagination has to work double time on Celtic roundhouses and crannogs which have mostly deteriorated to nothing over the millennia.

What helps sometimes with my ‘scene imagining’ for 2000 years ago Scotland is looking at the artwork of relevant artists  like the famous Angus McBride, or from illustrated children's non-fiction history books of which I still have a large selection! 

But I need to remember it’s that particular artist’s interpretation. Other artists, archaeologists and historians may interpret things differently. And so do I!

In Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series, when writing about my character General Agricola thinking about the Emperor Domitian and the Senate being back in Ancient Rome, I find it a little helpful to look at ancient sculptures. The friezes, and the carved fascias of ancient buildings also give me clues as to what the environment was like. Things my character Agricola is remembering as they were almost 2000 years ago.

My visit to Rome last year helps me a bit but of course, what I saw last year is only what has survived and not the Rome of Agricola's era  in all it's colourful glory.

Virtual imagining processes of ancient places are fabulous and I love to see any that are shared with me on Social Media. Looking at Pompeii, or Portus (the artificial harbour of ancient Rome), or Athens or Ancient Egypt is fascinating.

So, last week, when I saw a FutureLearn course entitled ‘Rome: A Virtual Tour of the Ancient City being advertised I just could not resist enrolling. Click the link, scroll down to the little video window and see what's on offer. You might like it, too but there's not much time to enroll since it starts next week, 9th October! (I loved my last year's FutureLearn course on Hadrian's Wall'.)

I’m hoping this Rome course will give me some ideas for polishing my character named Agricola a little better, or that it’ll be useful for the next book in the series BUT—most of all I hope that it’ll be fun!

What are your thoughts on Virtual imaging? Do you like seeing the way gifted visual imaging creators present these ancient places?

Expect updates later when I start my course.

Slainthe! 


Monday, 2 October 2017

Some Monday moments have been amazing!

The first Monday of October has come and gone! 

Yay! I've just noticed 2 brand new 5* reviews on Amazon for my mystery novel Topaz Eyes. Reviews have been hard to come by so these are absolutely welcomed and very much appreciated. I thank all who take the time to read my novels and especially thank those who take time to write a short review and post it to places like Amazon and Goodreads, which in turn helps to sell more of my novels! 

Return customers are lovely as are new readers.

Here's what they have to day...

5 out of 5 stars 
Posted  29 September 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love reading Nancy Jardine's novels and this one was no exception. Her story telling is enticing, exciting and sensual as well as skillful as she weaves a plot of intrigue across Europe. The protagonist, Keira Drummond, is strong, determined and self-assured as she embarks on a mystery involving a family she doesn't belong to, jewels she's never seen, and Teun Zeger, a rather dashing American.

With a very helpful family tree at the start of the book, the characters with their unusual names are easy to follow as the mystery deepens.

This was the perfect holiday read; gripping and engaging with, of course, a romance which Nancy Jardine writes so well.


24 September 2017
Format: Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A velvety trip packed full of history, mystery and suspense. Nancy Jardine writes fluidly and skillfully to create a very unique novel that holds the attention until the very last page...


The day has been full of other sad news but I go to bed a happy author having noticed these accolades of my efforts. 

Slainthe!