Thursday, 23 August 2012

Guest Blog with Nancy Jardine

I'm delighted today to introduce my fellow author, Nancy Jardine, who will tell you a little about her book, The Beltane Choice. I'm currently writing about this period myself, so very much looking forward to reading Nancy's book!

Why Celtic Britain?


I’m delighted to be with you today, Mark, to explain a little background to my first historical adventure-The Beltane Choice-released yesterday by Crooked{Cat}Publishing.


Why did I set The Beltane Choice in AD 71 when the Romans were invading Britain? Researching for a Regency, or a Victorian, novel might have been easier, but the truth is my Celtic and Roman studies weren’t undertaken for writing a novel.


During my teaching career I taught 11-12 year olds who typically learned about World War 2, and The Victorian Era-though on rare occasions I taught about the might of the Roman Empire swooping onto the shores of Celtic Britain. Since I live in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, ancient history is on my doorstep. I used local archaeological evidence; collected information from public library sources; bought suitable books to use with the kids, and scaled it down for classroom use. Those were my first Roman /Celtic researches.


Archaeological digs, at the Deer’s Den site, in my home village of Kintore during 2002 to 2004 sparked my imagination further. The digs had been funded because the Victorian built village school was being replaced by a brand new building. The foundations for the new school would encroach on land long-designated as a historical site of Roman occupation, and no building work could happen till the digs were undertaken. The results were spectacular. Evidence of more than one Roman occupation of the area was uncovered- over two hundred and fifty bread ovens unearthed a stunning amount. The findings from Neolithic times were numerous, too.


Since I live opposite the school building, I was involved as a village resident and as a teacher. We were invited to view the excavations a few times over the duration of the dig. My class worked on stories where an invented character lived in a Celtic roundhouse village near the Deer’s Den site when the Romans attack- a short story of my own having been drafted as an example for the kids. Though an avid reader, I hadn’t been serious about writing fiction before then. That dig was the catalyst!


My fledgling writing career began, though it had a very shaky start. I wrote the first draft of a time-travel novel where contemporary children travel back to the Kintore of AD 83/84, and are involved in the battle of Mons Graupius – Romans against the Celtic tribes of the north. I sited the battle at Bennachie, a range of hills with a distinctive conical peak which lies 9 miles away from our village.  Sadly, that draft was abandoned since non-fiction writing projects took up my vacation time for the next few years.


In 2008 I wrote the first draft of a Celtic/Roman adventure. That eventually evolved- I’m delighted to say- into The Beltane Choice now published by Crooked{Cat}Publishing. Though, instead of setting my historical novel in Aberdeenshire, I set it in the border areas between Scotland and England, at an earlier time of AD 71. Any knowledge of Celtic life I’ve used in the writing of The Beltane Choice is my own interpretation of historical facts I’ve learned through my teaching. My hero and heroine are, respectively, from Brigante and Selgovae tribes. I used the Roman mobilisations around Eboracum (present day York) as a reason to bring what were warring Celtic tribes together. This scenario is a total fabrication on my part, though I have made a conscious effort to make the novel appear as authentic as possible.


However, I have started a sequel to The Beltane Choice which will take the protagonists on to the Battle of Mons Graupius…


Some readers may be interested to know my children’s novel has also been redrafted, but now covers the Roman Severan Campaigns of AD 210, in north-east Scotland-the action happening around Kintore and Bennachie. I’m hoping to see that work published some time, too.


I’d be very interested to know what might have been the catalyst that spurred other authors to take up their pen. What was your trigger?

Blurb for The Beltane Choice:

Can the Celtic Tribes repel the Roman army?

Banished from the nemeton, becoming a priestess is no longer the future for Nara, a princess of the Selgovae tribe. Now charged with choosing a suitable mate before Beltane, her plan is thwarted by Lorcan, an enemy Brigante prince, who captures her and takes her to his hill fort. Despite their tribes fighting each other, Nara feels drawn to her captor, but time runs out for her secret quest.


As armies of the Roman Empire march relentlessly northwards, Lorcan intends to use Nara as a marriage bargain, knowing all Celtic tribes must unite to be strong enough to repel imminent Roman attack. Nara’s father, Callan, agrees to a marriage alliance between Selgovae and Brigante, but has impossible stipulations. Lorcan is torn between loyalty to his tribe and growing love for Nara.  


When danger and death arrive in the form of the mighty Roman forces, will Nara be able to choose her Beltane lover?


Buy links for The Beltane Choice: Book Trailer for the Beltane Choice:


Tags: historical, romantic, Celtic, adventure


Author Bio:

Nancy Jardine lives in the picturesque castle country of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband who feeds her well or she’d starve! Ancestry research is one of her hobbies, as is participating in exciting events with her family which drag her away from the keyboard. In her large garden she now grows spectacular weeds, which she’s becoming very fond of! She cherishes the couple of days a week when she child-minds her gorgeous granddaughter.

Other books by Nancy Jardine:

MONOGAMY TWIST Book Trailer for Monogamy Twist:

TAKE ME NOW  Book Trailer for Take Me Now:



Monday, 6 August 2012

Why Paulo Coelho is wrong about Joyce's Ulysses.

Paulo Coelho is one of the World’s greatest living writers. He deserves his place alongside Homer, Dante, Shakespeare and (at the risk of offending him, but risk has always been my friend), James Joyce.

On the subject of Joyce’s Ulysses, however, I believe that Coelho is, quite simply, wrong. He says that it has “harmed literature.” How can any book do this? Bad books (history alone will judge whether any of mine, or Paulo’s, fall into this category) fade into obscurity and harm nobody. Occasionally one of my postgraduates unearths one, and uses it to make some comment on the time in which it was written. Will people still be reading Ulysses in a thousand years’ time? I don’t know, but if there are bookmakers in Heaven (or in Hell), I will put a few pounds on it (as I will on Coelho’s Aleph).
Ulysses is, according to Coelho, “pure style,” by which, presumably, he means that it has no real substance, just, perhaps, some sort of literary eloquence. Well, I accuse Coelho of literary eloquence, and would even like to claim some measure of it for myself! But there is substance, also, in Ulysses, an attempt to create an epic from the mundane: to say that, in the lives of the most ordinary people, there hides an Odysseus, a Telemachus, a Circe. If this does not ennoble the human spirit (which I think is what literature ought to do), then I don’t know what does.   

One of my friends, a fellow writer, commented recently that she would have to live 142 years in order to read all the books she would wish to read. My response was that it would take me far longer. But perhaps, if I were immortal (which, of course, I’m not), I could spend 142 years or more just reading and re-reading Ulysses. I’ve read it, I think, six times now, each time discovering new and different things. The Irish-American writer, Frank Delaney, has a fantastic podcast ( which puts a new gloss on it, even for me. He is taking his time, as the book deserves, aiming to finish, I think, in his hundredth year. At that point, I think I might just be ready to take on his mantle, and do something similar with Finnegan’s Wake.