Jennifer C. Wilson’s ‘The Raided Heart’ launches today!

Today is an exciting day for us here at Ocelot Press, since we’re adding another wonderful title to our stable of historical fiction reads. The Raided Heart, Jennifer C. Wilson’s 15th-century historical romance, set in the Scottish Borders, is published today. It’s available on Amazon Kindle and in paperback.

Read on to get a glimpse of the story:

Continue reading “Jennifer C. Wilson’s ‘The Raided Heart’ launches today!”

MEET THE OCELOTS: LORENZO and IAMO

Today marks the halfway point in the Ocelot Blog Hop. 

This interview first appeared in June 2014, under the heading Brothers in Arms.

The Ghostly Father is available to purchase here.  Ailsa’s books should be coming to Ocelot Press at some point in the future.  Believe me, they are well worth waiting for.

Whilst recently chatting over a glass or three of wine, I and fellow-author Ailsa Abraham realised that our male lead characters (Lorenzo in The Ghostly Father and Iamo in Alchemy and its sequel Shaman’s Drum) have a great deal in common.  They come from similar backgrounds, they’re both monks, and they’re both somewhat unorthodox in their outlook on life.  So we decided to get the two of them together and ask them a few questions.

Let’s start at the beginning – what made you enter a monastery in the first place?

LORENZO – I had no choice.  I was told by my father that this was what I must do, and he threatened to disown me if I did not obey him.  To say that this was a shock does not even come close to describing how I felt; he was a kind and just man, and for him to behave thus was completely out of character.  I did not find out the real reason for his actions until almost twenty years later.

IAMO – I had felt a sense of vocation from my early years and studied with the Temple while I was at university. It was a natural progression for me to take my vows as soon as I finished my studies.

Did you have a happy childhood? Had it always been your ambition/vocation?

LORENZO – My childhood was privileged.  My father was a Venetian count and we lived in a palazzo.  All our needs were taken care of by our servants.  I had one brother, three years my senior.  Sadly I never knew my mother, who had died at my birth.

It was never my ambition or vocation to enter Holy Orders.  My one desire was to become a physician.

IAMO – Not particularly. Like Lorenzo I was born into an aristocratic family but I found myself unable to take an interest in the things expected of me and I became interested in the Path very early on. I had almost no contact with my parents but adored my Nanny. It was probably through her that I found my vocation.

Were you not bothered about the vows of chastity etc that you had to take? Did you give those a lot of consideration before making your decision?

LORENZO – Having lost the love of my life before I entered the order, the vows of chastity did not cause me any problems.  I knew that I could never replace her.

IAMO – in my Order we were only required to take celibacy vows after a certain time and by then I was so set on my career as a priest that I gave it very little thought. I had never been in love and felt that the pro outweighed the con inestimably.

Once in the order, were you happy?

LORENZO – To my great surprise, yes.  I am sure this is due in no small part to the influence of Fra’ Roberto, the Father Superior who became my own “ghostly father.”  He displayed a level of kindness, sympathy, compassion and good sense which I had never anticipated of a monastic.

IAMO – Probably less so than Lorenzo. I became the assistant to the High Priestess of our Order and my responsibilities were onerous. I failed in my duties several times. Although Scribe has never said so, I think she has hinted that I was itching for adventure.

Did you ever envisage leaving the order?

LORENZO – Never.  Indeed, I did not imagine that it would even be possible.  I had always understood that the vows were for life.

IAMO – As far as my past life was concerned, I had burned my bridges. All contact with my family had been cut and they were furious that I was not going to return to give them the heir they wanted. Not having considered any other way of life, I never imagined anything else.

Did you have much of a life on the outside “in the world” before taking your vows?

LORENZO –- I was eighteen when I first entered the friary as a postulant, but for the year before that I was apprentice to an apothecary.  This is where I learned the skills which prepared me for my later tasks as herbalist and infirmarian.

IAMO – Yes. Like all privileged little boys of my class I went to prep and public school. My studies were then pursued at university because I wanted to study under Professor Oliver, so I had the life of a student with all the attendant excesses. Also, in an effort to marry me off and dissuade me from the monastic life, my mother had shoved various prospective brides at me. Yes, I think it’s fair to say I had my share of “real life”.

How did you decide on your monastic name?

LORENZO –- My real name is Sebastiano Lorenzo Matteo Giovanni Battista Da Porto.  I was always known as Sebastiano, but when I came to take my vows I was asked to choose another name because there was already a Fra’ Sebastiano in the friary.  I chose Lorenzo because it is my second given name.

IAMO – I would rather not reveal that as I have been Iamo for so long now and will stay that way. Perhaps if I just say that it is composed of my initials.

When you entered the order, what did you miss most of your earlier life?  How did you cope without it?

LORENZO – It was all so different from what I had previously known that for a long time I was not comparing like with like, so the question did not arise.  Once I had accustomed myself to the new way of life, the biggest difference was being a servant rather than a master.  But that was the way of the Franciscans – their task was to serve.

IAMO – Nothing. Oh yes, the occasional cigarette. Mostly I was very happy in the Temple.

Was there anything you were glad to leave behind when you entered the order?

LORENZO – Unhappiness.  I had just had to bid farewell to the love of my life.  And also (I am ashamed to say this), following my father’s inexplicable change of demeanour, I was glad that I should not have to have any further contact with him.

IAMO – Yes, killing. My father belongs to the “hunting, shooting, fishing” brigade and such things leave me cold. I cannot bear the taking of sentient life for no reason. I’m vegetarian and the only things I kill willingly are demons, but that is a moot point. Are they in fact “living” in the first place? I was glad to get out of a world I didn’t fit into.

From what we can gather, neither of you seem to have had much difficulty about bending the rules when it suited you.  Do you feel guilty about that?

LORENZO – I had to (as you describe it) “bend the rules” on one particular occasion – which was to help a desperate person out of a desperate situation.  I have no feelings of guilt about that – but I cannot even begin to imagine how I would feel if the outcome of my actions had been different.

IAMO – I have to agree with my brother monk here. I didn’t just bend the rules, I broke them, threw them on the ground and jumped up and down on them. I had to pay for that but no, I do not regret it for a moment because I did it for the finest of motives – love.

Thank you both, gentlemen – this has been a fasinating discussion!

This post is also available on Ailsa’s blog here.

Get Ready for Ocelot Press Characters to Spill the Beans

We’re gearing up for an exciting 10 days or so at Ocelot Press. Our character interview blog hop starts tomorrow, when each of us will interview a character from another Ocelot Press author’s novel.

Tom, from Jennifer C. Wilson’s The Last Plantagenet?, starts the line-up. Sue Barnard will be interviewing him on her blog tomorrow, 29th October.

See the graphic above for the full list of interviews and where they will be posted.

Our series of Meet the Ocelots posts last week introduced the characters and their backgrounds, but from tomorrow you’ll learn a lot more about them: what makes them tick; their hopes and fears; and the major formative events in their lives.

That’s not all: to celebrate the blog hop some of the ebooks will be at a reduced price for a short time, so snap them up while you have the chance.

Jennifer C. Wilson’s time-slip novella, The Last Plantagenet?, is reduced to 99p.

Cathie Dunn’s historical mystery, Love Lost in Time, to be published on November 28th, is on pre-order on Amazon for 99p or equivalent. Order it now and pay nothing until it’s downloaded to your Kindle on publication day.

Other titles will be reduced during the blog hop, so visit the character interview posts to get further information on those.

You might get some other surprises!

We hope you’ll enjoy our blog hop.

Meet the Ocelots: The Ghostly Father

Today it’s my turn to introduce the character who will feature in my part of the Ocelot blog hop.  Dear readers, meet Fra’ Lorenzo, whom some of you may already know as Friar Lawrence.

Over the years I’ve seen many different performances of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, on film and on the stage, and on each occasion I’ve been increasingly fascinated by the character of the Friar.  His actions are, to say the least of it, unorthodox. Not only does he devise an elaborate and ingenious deception to help save a desperate young woman from an unwanted arranged marriage, he also helps a convicted killer to escape justice.

Why would a man of God, who has taken vows of poverty, chastity and (particularly) obedience, behave in such a way?

Clearly there is much more to this man than first meets the eye.  Where did he come from originally?  Why did he become a Friar?  What happened to him before he took holy orders?  And (perhaps most intriguing) how did he know about the sleeping potion, and why did he conveniently have a supply of it to hand when it was needed?

By giving the Friar what I hope is an interesting and thought-provoking backstory, I’ve tried to offer some possible answers.  His story is told in my novel The Ghostly Father, which is set mostly in late 15th/early 16th-century Venice and Verona.

lorenzo

Fra’ Lorenzo will be interviewed here on the Ocelot blog on Tuesday 5 November.  In the meantime, here is a portrait of him tending his herbs, drawn by my dear friend Kay Sluterbeck.

Meet the Ocelots: Love Lost in Time

I’m thrilled to be part of the fabulous Meet the Ocelots event. I hope our readers will enjoy discovering our books and our characters!

Prepare to meet the heroine in my upcoming release, Love Lost in Time, a dual-timeline tale set in beautiful Carcassonne. 

But first, a little teaser:

A tale of love, death and redemption…

AD 2018

Languedoc, south-west France

Madeleine Winters must live in her late mother’s old stone house in south-west France for one year before she can claim her inheritance – and sell it! Reluctantly leaving her life in England, she begins to renovate the house. But she’s not prepared for all the discoveries…

Is it her imagination when she hears a woman’s voice? Or when the ground shakes?

When ancient human bones belonging to a female are found beneath the kitchen floor, the mystery deepens. How did the woman end up buried, without a sarcophagus and all alone, in that particular spot in the Cabardès hills? 

And why were her bones broken?

AD 777

Septimania, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea

17-year-old Nanthild attends Charlemagne’s court with her father, where she is introduced to Bellon of Carcassonne. Unimpressed by the blustering young warrior, Nanthild is shocked when Charlemagne and her father arrange their wedding as a gesture of ensuring Bellon’s support in the king’s conquest of the volatile southern region of Septimania. 

Despite his Visigoth origins, Bellon is installed as Count of Carcassonne, and he soon has to face challenges to Frankish rule that often keep him away from home – and his family.

Bellon’s absences make it easy for Nanthild to keep her calling as a healer and wise woman from him, and she continues to visit those in need of her help. 

But dangers lurk on her journey…

~~~

Nanthild is the daughter of a Frankish count in the late 8th century. Her path takes her from Francia to the sunburnt southern region of Septimania, as part of the Franks’ expansion. A hotbed of fighting between Visigoths, Moors and Franks, the area along the Mediterranean Sea has seen much suffering, but a newly appointed count of Carcassonne, Bellon – of Visigoth descent – should bring much-needed stability. And a link to the Frankish king, Charles – who would later become known as The Great. That link is Nanthild.

But not everyone at Charlemagne’s court is content with the king’s choice…

Nanthild leaves the cooler north-east behind for life in a volatile area, with a man she has only met once. But fortunately, he turns out to be a good husband, who is also often away. This makes it much easier for her to keep a secret – she is a Pagan. But she is also a wise woman who knows about herbs and potions, and she uses her skills to help those who need it. 

As the years pass, she bears Bellon two healthy sons, whilst still continuing with her calling, and she manages to keep her beliefs secret. She faces political and personal challenges, but fate always smiles on her.

Until one day, when she is on her way home from helping a young woman give birth with her companion and her escort…

Septimania was a sunny, dry region in south-west France which was until recently called the Languedoc-Roussillon, but it has since merged with the Midi Pyrenées to become the large new Occitanie region. Parts of Septimania were held by the Moors, who often allowed Christians and Jews to practice their religion openly, though they still had to submit to Moorish rule. However, not all was peaceful, so when the Franks arrived from the north, the fighting began anew.

Carcassonne was inhabited in Roman times, when the first walls were built. You can still see remnants of those ancient walls, and of those built by the Visigoths and later conquerors. In the 8th century, it was a crucial defensive site on the border to Iberia, then ruled by Moors and Visigoths.

Mountain tribes such as the Vascones (the modern Basques) dealt Charlemagne a massive blow when they ambushed his train in Roncevaux in the western Pyrenees. And the Moor and Visigoth rulers of various cities didn’t give in easily either.

Whilst Bellon is a real person, the first count of Carcassonne, Nanthild is my invention. Nothing is known of his wife, and the only certainty about his offspring is two sons, Guisclafred and Oliba. Other name of potential sons appear in some records, but are likely in fact Bellon’s grandsons. 

Nanthild’s disappearance is the key moment in Love Lost in Time

Love Lost in Time will be released on 28th November 2019, and the Kindle version is now available on pre-order at Amazon. 

Exciting times for Nancy Jardine’s ‘The Beltane Choice’ – and chances to win a giveaway!

The Beltane Choice, Book 1 of Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour Saga series is off on tour with Rachel’s Random Resources Blog Tours!

Rachel organises such wonderful opportunities for authors to have their novels featured at many different book bloggers and thus, hopefully, those blog posts are read by lots of that blogger’s followers who will be new readers of the series.

Continue reading “Exciting times for Nancy Jardine’s ‘The Beltane Choice’ – and chances to win a giveaway!”

Nancy Jardine’s Roman General in the Spotlight

General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola had a thankless task trying to subdue the rebellious Caledonians and gain support from his indifferent Roman emperor. He tells us all about it today in the latest Historical Writers’ Forum “Interview my Character” blog hop.

Agricola is one of the main characters in Ocelot author Nancy Jardine’s Agricola’s Bane, the fourth in her exciting Celtic Fervour series.

Book giveaway

And there’s a giveaway to go with the interview. Nancy is offering one ebook copy to a lucky winner. So go and have a look at this fascinating interview and leave a comment and you might be that winner!

Other Ocelot Press characters taking part

Marie-Thérèse Vernhes, the main character in Vanessa Couchman’s Overture, has already been interviewed in this blog hop series. You can read that interview here.

And coming up on Wednesday 17 July is the interview of Cathie Dunn’s character from Dark Deceit, Geoffrey de Mortagne. He’s a a man torn between an oath and his duty. Watch this space for the link to the interview.

Copyright Ocelot Press 2019. All rights reserved.