#Publication day looms…

This post is by Nancy Jardine

Tidy Up Time!
Some people are compulsively tidy, though others are of the ‘It’ll get done soon’ category. I confess to falling into the latter. When I’m at the work-in-progress writing process, my hand written references and notes tend to be a bit of a muddle. I’ve a habit of scribbling on the nearest bit of paper to hand, if something needs to be noted elsewhere later on, in better detail. That means that a home-made map or diagram might have random bits and pieces added which probably only mean something to me.

I’m presently doing my ‘tidy ups’. My contribution for the Ocelot Blog Anthology – Doorways To The Past – is done and dusted, and I’m eagerly awaiting the publishing date of 30th July for that one. I’ve been learning some new book trailer video skills and have created a little promotional video to share with you and the world. You can view the video on the Ocelot Facebook Page HERE.

I’m also at the final stages of completing the e-book and paperback versions of Beathan The Brigante, Book 5 of my Celtic Fervour Saga series (publishing date 20th August 2020). Having finished the manuscript, and having gone through beta reader advice and changes, I really don’t want to find something in my mess of notes that I feel compelled to add to my story, but I always feel duty-bound to re-read the scribbles – just in case.

Very exciting news is that Beathan The Brigante is now available for Kindle Pre- Order from Amazon HERE

I love this stage of the process of getting a story ready for publication. I really enjoy putting together the Historical Context for the book, since not all of my readers are familiar with the complexities of Roman Britain history. I like organising my Glossary sections, adding brief information on things like the gods or goddesses mentioned by my characters – Roman and Celtic. This time around for Book 5, I’ve included a longer section on Roman Army terms that appear in the story, and I’ve added an explanation of the interior of an Ancient Roman fort. Readers who already have some knowledge of Roman Army history will gloss over the sections, but I’ve learned during the process of producing the first four books of the series that some of my readers really appreciate the extra information that helps them understand how my characters operate in their environment.

My plan of Eboracum Fortress c. Nancy Jardine

I particularly like creating the map pages for adding to my historical series. After the first book was published, it was a revelation to find a Canadian reviewer had mistakenly thought that the story had mainly taken place in the Caithness area of Scotland. I had written that Brigantia was the northernmost area of Britannia to be invaded by the Ancient Roman legions  in AD 71. The reader had envisaged a current map of Great Britain, and had decided that the northernmost part was Caithness, and thus that was where Brigantia had been. It was then I decided that adding maps to all of my Celtic Fervour novels, even ones created by me, were a necessity rather than an indulgence. I heartily thank that reviewer for pointing out the problem, even if it was done in an inadvertent fashion.

Beathan The Brigante, Britannia Locations c. Nancy Jardine

Making final versions of my maps has become a part of my ‘tidy-up’ routine, and any hand drawn maps and plans, like those shown, are scanned before being added to my stored files. Here’s a sneak preview of what is likely to be one of my final maps for Beathan The Brigante!

What about you? Are you a messy worker who eventually does ‘tidy ups’, in your writing… or in daily life?

And, in case you haven’t seen it yet, here’s the blurb for Beathan The Brigante.

AD 85 Roman Empire

How can young Beathan of Garrigill – held hostage by General Agricola and dragged in chains to Rome – escape and wreak vengeance on his enemies?

Torrin is a strong-minded Brigante warrior-woman who forges her own future. She willingly takes care of him in a time of need, but her own plans are paramount.

Agricola’s career is in tatters. Attempts on his life are plentiful, having lost favour with Emperor Domitian. His gods have abandoned him, though assistance comes from a surprising source.

Will Beathan gain his freedom to return to his kin in Caledonia? Will Torrin be by his side? And how will Agricola survive without the emperor’s benevolence?

Beathan the Brigante is the fifth in the bestselling Celtic Fervour series.

Wishing you an excellent reading week to come!

An announcement, and a birthday offer!

What’s new? Well, this week, for me, quite a lot… Two things in particular, that I’m excited to share with you. 

This week, I’ll be celebrating my birthday in Lockdown, and as I type out this post, I’m very aware that I should have been out in town, celebrating with friends, and having a general giggle about all sort of things. Happily, I am lucky enough to have a very good friend living just a couple of hundred metres from my flat, and I’m hoping, weather-permitting, to pop around to her front garden, and enjoy a slice of cake and glass of fizz, all from a safe distance.

The Raided Heart

I did still want to celebrate though, and so I’m also offering you all a gift from me. For a limited time this week, I’m delighted to be sharing The Raided Heart, free as an ebook! Click here, to be taken to your local Amazon domain, and download your copy today…

And to tempt you in, here’s what reviewers have been saying so far about The Raided Heart:

Exciting, passionate and ultimately the ending keeps the spirit of true love alive.”

The Raided Heart is a Story of forbidden love, a marriage of convenience, heartache, survival and hope.”

A beautiful, realistic romance with dark undertones…”

And the second thing? Well, I’m thrilled to announce my first non-fiction title is now available for pre-order!

JenniferCWilson-ANovelApproach-Cover

A Novel Approach brings together my 2019/20 series of writing workshops, and a talk I delivered during Swanwick 2019. Have you ever thought about writing long-form fiction? In A Novel Approach, I’ll talk you through every step of the process, from generating ideas, creating believable characters, and tackling the ever-thorny issue of ‘showing vs. telling’, all the way through to developing your presence online.

The book itself will launch on the 8th August, and I’ll be sharing more details as we get nearer to the date.

I can’t wait to share this with you!

 

A goonie…and a broonie!

Nancy Jardine bringing you another update from a sunny North-East Scotland. On Friday last, the 29th May 2020, I was scheduled to board a train for York, England. I love walking the wall and wandering the Shambles. I adore visiting the museums, and doing general tourist pursuits. Five years ago, I had a wonderful seminar weekend with some of my co-authors at Ocelot Press, in York. Though, back then, we were published authors with Crooked Cat Books.

York Museum grounds- c. Nancy Jardine

My visit this time was to join the fun at the 2020 Eboracum Roman Festival, organised in the main by York Museums. Loads of Roman themed events and activities were organised – some indoors, though many of them outdoors in the streets of central York. I had planned to fill my camera with amazing photos, but the highlight of the ‘Friday through Sunday’ event was joining a lovely line-up of authors in a ‘pop-up’ bookstore, all of us selling our Roman themed historical novels. I imagined lots of impromptu information being shared with customers, and me getting to know the authors I’ve only met ‘virtually’ via Facebook. In 2019, the author tables were set up in the ‘Hospitium’ in the grounds of the York Museum and I was hoping for the same venue this year. Sadly, COVID 19, changed the plans. Like other major events, it was cancelled.

Though not compulsory to wear re-enactment outfits, I had noticed that a number of the authors got into the swing in 2019. I’ve always meant to make myself a Late Iron Age outfit, so going to York was a brilliant excuse.

In January (2020), I researched possible cloth. The ‘Celts’ used standing looms to weave their cloth which is thought to have been either plain, or with fairly sizeable checks (though not Tartan). Textiles do not survive well in the ground, but there are a few excavated examples that have been found across the Ancient Roman Empire. The fragments found indicate an open weaving technique was used, and they also give an idea of what might have been used to dye the wool. 

Dark green commercial dye.

I fancied a mid-green colour for the long dress and a checked material for a bratt (shawl). York in late May can be pretty warm, so a pure woollen cloth sounded very hot and scratchy. I wanted to be as authentic as possible but suitable green cloth eluded me. I opted for light grey which, I imagined, could be dyed to my preferred colour. The cloth arrived but it wasn’t the open weave I expected from the little photograph. (It must have been a very high magnification)

And it didn’t dye. Not at all!

I tried a deep green commercial hand dye which dulled down the checked material I had bought for the shawl, but the grey for the dress was still grey.

I then thought maybe if the suiting material (supposedly 55% wool) had a mordant process done to it, it would accept a natural dye. Using beetroot might make it a pale dusky pink – which I could live with, instead of green. Beetroot is a more recent variety of the Beta Vulgaris species, but 2000 years ago the Iron Age Tribes would probably have eaten a variety more like chard. However, it’s also possible that the Ancient Romans introduced to Britain the forerunner of the modern sugar beet that we grow and eat today, since Ancient Romans ate a number of Beta V. varieties.

The Beetroot Broonies!

The mordant treatment, a boiling in (vinegar and salt) for an hour was pretty stinky, but the soaking in the cooked beetroot juice was even more so. 24 hours later, the indestructible cloth was STILL grey but a machine wash, thankfully, got rid of the pong. The dyeing processes were useless, but all was not lost – I used some of the boiled beetroot to make beetroot brownies, which were yummy, and the remainder is pickled.

My ‘goonie’ is a bit boring so I used some of the shawl material to give it a lift. Is it authentic for Northern Romano Britain? Since we don’t really know what styles they wore, I can only imagine that any embellishment to dresses was of a practical nature!

What do you think of it? It’s surprisingly comfortable and I will wear it when selling my paperback novels, or for author talks etc.

I’ll be putting my name on the 2021 list of authors selling at the next Eboracum Roman Festival…and who knows what I’ll be wearing.

p.s. I’m thinking that when the COVID 19 situation eases and I can shop again, I might look out for some more exciting cloth that I don’t need to dye!

My stock for the Festival, available in paperback and kindle formats from: Amazon Author Page

If you’re quick, you’ll find that Books 1 and 2 are at #99p/99c across Amazon for a limited time in early June!

Book 1 The Beltane Choice

Book 2 After Whorl: Bran Reborn

Celtic Fervour Saga Series

Pizza? Yes, please!

This post is by Nancy Jardine.

Social distancing has recently been making the process of normal food shopping a much longer one than usual, during the current ‘COVID 19 pandemic’ lockdown situation, though this post isn’t about our current global health crisis. It’s about a very ancient issue of feeding people when the supply chain is either interrupted, or needs to be established.

I bake quite often so my larder generally contains baking supplies, though not a sufficient amount for many months. Re- stocking has become an issue, of late, because flour became scarce almost overnight as a result of panic buying and stock-piling, at the end of March. (And we’ll not talk of toilet rolls! … till maybe later 😉)

Being mindful of waste, quantities for bread making, pizza dough, shortbread – and even my breakfast porridge – have been scrutinised more than normal. And in an odd way, this fits in well with my current fiction writing, since I’m often considering what my characters might be eating some 2,000 years ago in Roman Britain.

My usual breakfast is porridge, topped with whatever fresh fruit I need to use up. Many of my Ancient Roman military characters are also eating some form of porridge, though not only for their breakfast. Ancient Greek writing refers to the soldiers of the Roman Empire as being ‘pultiphagonides’ – meaning porridge eaters – and evidence proves that the Roman Army marched effectively on a high carbohydrate, low meat diet. There’s textual evidence of soldiers complaining of being fed too much meat, which might seem strange for some people today.

My 1/3 cup usual measure as opposed to 500 g worth of rolled oats.

My porridge, made with a 1/3 of a cup measure of rolled oats (113g/4oz.) to 200 ml of water, sustains me in energy over the morning hours much better than any other cereal. And it worked well for the average Roman soldier, though the estimated quantity of grain each soldier consumed per day is pretty huge in relation to my tiny plateful.

I’ve read a few sources which estimate the typical daily grain ration for a Roman soldier was in the region of 1 – 1 ½ kg, though the amount varied depending on whether on campaign, or barracked in a Roman fort. My scale pan can’t hold much more than the 500 g worth you see in the photo above, but that amount of oats may have been tripled per day and consumed in a limited variety of ways, depending on circumstances.

Roman grain supplies tended to be of hulled wheat. Emmer (triticum dicoccum) and Spelt (triticum spelta) were carried as grain to prevent mould, and then milled using a small portable quern stone when required. Other grains were oats, millet and barley, though the latter was often considered to be a ‘punishment’ ration. (Perhaps because of digestive results and no toilet paper to hand! 😉 ) The grain was cooked as porridge, bread, hard-tack biscuits, and even in a sort of pancake form when mixed with oil or wine – edible, or not, depending on who cooked for the basic contubernium squad of 8 men. Some lucky squad might have had a poor enslaved captive to do this for them.

In Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Saga, my Romans are mainly on campaign in A.D. 84, marching northwards in Caledonia. They expect to receive the higher end of the above estimate of grain but, sadly, the general supply chain is somewhat hampered by the successful guerrilla incursions of my local Iron Age tribes. General Agricola’s army consists of upwards of 20, 000 soldiers on the march, so a regular grain supply – sourced from around the Roman Empire and sent to point of need – is critical. The Taexali local tribes grow and rear enough food for their own small communities, but even if Agricola requisitions every last morsel from them, it will only make the tiniest dent in the amount needed for his army. And to add insult to injury, as they say, the cool Scottish climate hasn’t changed much in 2000 years. Wheat doesn’t grow so readily – though barley does very well! (Where’s a dock leaf when you need one? 😉 )

In my current writing, Book 5 of the series, the Romans are mainly fort-based so their daily amount of grain is adjusted and supplemented by some meats when locally sourced, or foraged. My garrison at Vindolanda Roman Fort have reasonable regular supplies arriving at the gates, evidence for this found in the many fabulous Vindolanda tablets that have been excavated.

My writing is set during the very first garrisoning of the Vindolanda site, so the supplies of A.D. 90 may have been a bit less varied than on some of the tablets which were written a little later than that date. There are mentions of pickled and preserved products, olive oil, garum fish sauce, olives, garlic paste. Salt, pepper, various spices and herbs are available to those who can afford them – perhaps the fort commander and the officers? There are seasonal fruits and vegetables mentioned like apples, plums, blackberries, onions, leeks, a kale-type cabbage and various nuts. Common food items listed on the Vindolanda tablets, over the centuries of Roman occupation, are impressive and would not be out of place in a kitchen today.

Vindolanda Tablets- Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I used up the last of my 00 Bread flour to make pizza. My favourite is fully-loaded. Smeared with tomato-based passata, it’s then topped with mushrooms, capsicum peppers, sliced onions, olives, chorizo, artichoke hearts, anchovies, at least one type of cheese and olive oil. YUM. Would the ‘pizza’ eaten by my Ancient Roman soldiers be similar? 

No, to tomatoes since they came to Europe from the Americas long after my Roman era. The Romans did have a kind of sausage, though maybe not quite chorizo. Yes to mushrooms, maybe no to capsicum peppers. Artichokes and anchovies are very possible. Definitely olive oil and maybe a form of cheese. Some of these may have been added to round ‘flat’ breads made at Vindolanda Fort.

My tagine which resembles a clibanus type of cooking pot.

There’s evidence that some Romans cooked using a dish named a clibanus, a flat pottery plate which was covered with a domed lid, similar to my Moroccan tagine in the photograph. Rounds of bread, and flat bread, were baked in these when set upon a fire.

In the village of Kintore where I live, in north-east Scotland, there’s evidence of an Ancient Roman temporary camp used by General Agricola c. A.D. 84. When excavated in 2004, it yielded more than 180 ‘Bi-Partite Roman Bread Ovens’ which were used for the campaigning Romans to make their ‘flatbread and pizza’, with or without a clibanus. The design of the keyhole-shaped ‘fire’ meant that slow cooking could be done on the flat stones adjacent to the burning fire.

Roman Bi-Partite bread oven at Kintore.

Maybe the Roman soldiers in the ‘Deer’s Den’ camp at Kintore were lucky enough to have both ‘pizza’ and porridge for their evening meal, once their temporary camp was built!

You can read about my Romans and the avenging local Celts in the Celtic Fervour Saga Series. (Click to access the novels on Amazon)

Whatever you are reading during the COVID 19 lockdown period- enjoy! And if you have some flour, will you be baking? Tell me about your favourite ‘lockdown’ recipes, please.

Or why not make some Roman bread or Roman flat bread ? I made some bread with spelt flour a few years ago.

Read about it on my own Blog It was delicious- and highly nutritious. Now where will I get spelt today?

Slaìnthe!

Remembering Richard, and The Last Plantagenet?

Despite the current situation with coronavirus causing events to be cancelled this year, the end of March is an important one now, for Ricardians. As well as remembering birth, death, marriage, coronation, we can also mark reburial. Five years ago, all eyes were on Leicester, as one of England’s most famous kings was laid to rest for the second time.

And one of our authors was lucky enough to be there for part of it. So, for Jennifer’s first post in our regular series taking place on the Ocelot Press blog, do forgive a bit of indulgent personal nostalgia, and tell you a bit about the beginnings of The Last Plantagenet?

LeicesterUni-CoffinAtUni

When I put my name into the ballot for a place at one of the events that week in Leicester, I only did it to say I had, to be a part of things, but then, then arrived the envelope… I was going to Compline, the service during which the coffin of Richard III would be brought into the cathedral. And more than that – there was a full Saturday of lectures to attend, and the particularly moving service on Sunday morning at the University of Leicester itself, as they bid farewell to the remains they had studied so carefully, and preserved so well, since they found him in that carpark. Walking down the street behind the hearse for a few moments was a very strange sensation, then heading back to my hotel room and watching the rest of its journey on the BBC news channel.

JCW in Leicester Cathedral

It was a beautiful day all round, and being in Leicester Cathedral to watch the service of Compline is something I shall never forget. There was an odd sense to the day. Yes, it was a funeral, so of course everyone was suitably respectful and sombre in their attitude, but equally, although people had hoped to find King Richard III, it’s not as though anybody was expecting to find him alive, so there was also a sense of celebration to things.

They were even letting people take photos, once the service was over.

That night, after strolling back from the cathedral through the rose-strewn streets of Leicester, I sat in the hotel bar (the smartest-dressed Travelodge clientele I have ever seen!), and pulled out the notebook I’d had in my bag all weekend. I had been playing with an idea for a while, a timeslip novella featuring Richard III, but however hard I tried, couldn’t make it ‘work’. Sitting there, absorbing everything that had happened over the two days, the words flowed. I got my ending, and other than some minor tweaks, the plot was sorted!

The Last Plantagenet? was born… 

CoffeePotBookClubReviewGraphic-TLP

It’s had an exciting journey, first being self-published in October 2017, then joining Ocelot Press in October 2018. And I was thrilled to bits when it was awarded not only a five-star review from the Coffee Pot Book Club Award, but also an Honourable Mention in the blog’s 2019 Book of the Year Awards.

CoffeePotBookClubAward-2019TimeTravelHonMention

Special Offer!

To celebrate the fifth anniversary of this important event, and the night I can pin-point as the start of when everything starting happening for me, writing-wise (I got back and began editing my Kindred Spirits series too!), The Last Plantagenet? ebook is free to download for a limited time.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!