Beathan The Brigante is *FREE* 15th Oct.!

Ocelot Press is delighted to announce that the eBook of Beathan The Brigante, the latest addition to Nancy Jardine’s highly-interlinked Celtic Fervour Series, is *FREE* on the 15th October 2020 across the Amazon network!

(Psst! And if you’re quick, you should find that some of the other books in the series have a reduced price during this special promotion.)

Book 5, Beathan The Brigante, features young Beathan of Garrigill, but it also depicts the interlinking of his life and that of the Ancient Roman General –  Gnaeus Iulius Agricola who is a main character in Books 4 & 5.

Having been captured by the Ancient Roman legions, after the battle at Beinn na Ciche in north-east Caledonia, we pick up Beathan’s story in AD 85 at Trimontium Roman Fort where he is used as a menial fort slave. General Agricola, having been summoned back to Rome by Emperor Domitian, collects Beathan and some other high-ranking hostages at Trimontium Fort and drags them all off in chains.

During the long trek to Rome, Beathan learns surprising things about General Agricola. In turn, Agricola finds aspects to grudgingly admire in young warrior Beathan. Escape from, and revenge against, his captors doesn’t come quickly for Beathan. However, by AD 89 he is back in Brigantia – the land of his birth – where revenge blazes for him at Vindolanda Roman Fort. It’s gratifying that by then he is closer to a reunion with his much-missed Garrigill kin ,and it’s even better that romance with a young Brigante warrior-woman named Torrin has lightened his eventful life, even though he is still only seventeen.

Moving from place to place is a regular feature for the Garrigill Brigantes in the Celtic Fervour Series novels, especially as they become refugees fleeing from Brigantia to Caledonia, but young warrior Beathan can truly say that he is the most widely-travelled across the Roman Empire!

It’s a reasonable assumption that youths matured into men much faster in 1st Century AD, especially if they were subjected to the treatment that’s meted out to Beathan of Garrigill!

Link for Beathan The Brigante

Amazon UK HERE

Amazon Universal HERE

You can find out more about the Celtic Fervour Series HERE

Wishing you a happy time reading this week!

Ocelot authors write about their favourite historical figures

Who’s your favourite historical figure? There are plenty to choose from! Some are eternally famous, while others might have been prominent in their own time but have slid from recognition today.

Starting today, the Historical Writers Forum is organising a blog hop over a fortnight, in which seven historical fiction writers choose their favourite character from history and tell us why they find the person so fascinating.

Four Ocelot Press authors are involved:

Jennifer C. Wilson will write about Mary Queen of Scots, whom she has admitted to stalking before moving on to Richard III. Mary was imprisoned by Elizabeth I after she was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son James. Mary was held in captivity for more than 18 years and then executed, having been found guilty of plotting to assassinate Elizabeth.

Nancy Jardine shines the spotlight on General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, a Roman general who was responsible for much of the conquest of Britain, but who seems to have fallen out of favour later in his career. Nancy’s atmospheric Celtic Fervour series focuses on the struggles between the Northern tribes and the Roman conquerors.

Sue Barnard’s choice is William Shakespeare – a name that people can’t fail to be familiar with! The Bard of Avon’s plays Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar are the inspiration behind two of Sue’s Ocelot Press novels: The Ghostly Father and The Unkindest Cut of All.

Vanessa Couchman is on a mission to rehabilitate Pasquale Paoli, an 18th-century Corsican leader, who attempted to rid the island of Genoese rule. He headed the short-lived Corsican republic from 1755-1769, and combined the roles of statesman, lawgiver and general. He has a cameo role in Vanessa’s novel The Corsican Widow in her Tales of Corsica series.

Don’t miss our authors’ insights into their favourite historical characters.

Here’s the full programme of articles.

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!

Book Blog Tour Rewards!

This post is by Nancy Jardine

In September 2019, I booked the services of a Book Blog Tour organiser for the first time, any previous tours for launches of my novels having been organised myself. Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources came highly recommended and I am delighted with what she has achieved.

The tours I’ve booked include potential reviews, though these can never be guaranteed because the bloggers and not paid for any services rendered. The bloggers give up their own time and effort which I greatly appreciate – whether it’s a simple promo post, an author interview, an author guest post or a promo and review. I’m absolutely delighted to have had 21 bloggers do some kind of feature, a whopping 12 of them having done a review for Book 1 The Beltane Choice (Sept 2019) and 12 reviews also garnered for Book 2 After Whorl: Bran Reborn. These reviews have not all come from the same bloggers, though many of the 12 wanted to read further into the series.

The comments on the reviews are so varied which is fabulous because it gives me as the author an insight into which aspects have appealed to particular readers and why. This helps for creating future novels.

Here are some of the comments from the November After Whorl: Bran Reborn reviews:

  1. “The narrative is bursting with facts and the author’s attention to detail is admirable. All this, wrapped around an intriguing narrative with fascinating characters.”
  2. “I am really enjoying reading about a new era of British History. There is a lot of detail is being put into the progress of the Roman invasion and what is being done by the early Celtic tribes to try to repel them! I haven’t read anything like it before, so I am looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series pans out!”
  3. The events, plot twists, world-building … Everything was awesome as the first book if not more.
  4. “I’ve already said it in my review of the first book and I will say it again Nancy Jardine Writing style is different; her words are amazing and you should read her books.”
  5. “As with the first book, the author gives readers a map with locations in the book and a list of characters which helps understand the book and the timeline better. I always love the historical context she includes at the end of the book. It really put things in perspective for me. I will anxiously be awaiting the next book to see where Jardine takes us next.”

Tours have been organised for Books 3 & 4 and the bloggers and readers can look forward to these in December 2019 and January 2020. I’ll be keen to see what my new ‘fans’ think of the rest of the series.

Don’t forget to look out for the newest Ocelot Press novels that are launching this November 2019. They are fabulous stories!
Wishing you very Happy Reading.

Click HERE to buy After Whorl Bran Reborn – http://viewbook.at/heritis