Friday 29 April 2022

Find out about life in the time of Nancy Jardine's fabulous book – Before Beltane (Celtic Fervour Series) #HistoricalFiction #RomanBritain @nansjar

Before Beltane 
(Celtic Fervour Series)
By Nancy Jardine

Publication Date: 29th April 2022
Publisher: Nancy Jardine with Ocelot Press
Page Length: 268 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

Two lives. Two stories. One future.

AD 71 Northern Britannia

At the Islet of the Priestesses, acolyte Nara greets each new day eager to heal the people at Tarras Hillfort. Weapon training is a guilty pleasure, but she is devastated when she is unexpectedly denied the final rites of an initiated priestess. A shocking new future beckons for Princess Nara of the Selgovae…

In the aftermath of civil war across Brigantia, Lorcan of Garrigills promotion of King Venutius is fraught with danger. Potential invasion by Roman legions from the south makes an unstable situation even worse. When Lorcan meets the Druid Maran, the future foretold for him is as enthralling as it is horrifying…

Meet Nara and Lorcan before their tumultuous meeting of each other in The Beltane Choice, Book 1 of the acclaimed Celtic Fervour Series.

Life in the times of…northern Britannia (AD/CE) 71


Time travelling to Brigantia (north England) and Selgovae territory (South Scotland) in 71 (AD/CE) would be utterly stupendous.

However, since that’s a pipedream, grasping elusive details and making some sense of them helps me to depict settings in Before Beltane, a Prequel to the Celtic Fervour Series. Worldbuilding rises from the tiniest particles of research and is built on, layer upon layer. Before Beltane is a book of two halves about the very different lives of Lorcan (Brigante) and Nara (Selgovae) before their tumultuous meeting in Book 1 of the series. So, what is the Late Iron Age landscape they each inhabit at the beginning of the year 71?

What does Lorcan see around him? – Roundhouses.

Step inside. Sit down by the central fireside, encircled by flat hearthstones set on a beaten earth floor strewn with brackens and mosses for extra warmth. Low walls nestle under a high conical roof of stout elm beams covered with a weatherproofing reed thatching. The walls are hurdle frameworks of hazel, or another pliable wood, packed with mosses and insulated by a daub of clay, soil, straw and manure. Construction materials are governed by what is locally sourced.

Inside it’s dim, but a glowing fire and reed torches set in iron wall brackets, help dispel the gloom. It’s surprisingly cosy when a fire is lit. It’s not too smoky since the fumes drift upwards, hover at the roof point before slowly dissipating via the thatching. Beds are simple mattresses of brackens and loose fillings, with blankets of woven cloth or furs, to keep the sleeper cosy. Seating might be a pile of furs, a cloth draped hay bale, or perhaps a comfortable log.

Nara sees crannog dwellings. – What’s a crannog?

A single roundhouse is built on top of a wooden platform, its supports driven deep down into the bed of a loch creating an artificial island. Walls have a double layer of woven panels packed tightly with reeds, sheep’s wool, bracken or mosses, renewed during the summer months as needed to combat the perennial dampness that seeps up from the loch waters. Notwithstanding, this insulation means the crannog house isn’t quite so dark inside. The flooring is multiple layers of tree trunks (alder) laid parallel to each other and strewn with brackens and mosses. The clay base of the central firepit is topped with piled hearthstones which prevents sparks from the flames from setting fire to the wooden floor. Access to and from the shore is by a substantial log-walkway. Nara, however, lives in the crannog village of the priestesses of goddess Dôn. There, the sacred-nemeton roundhouses are built on a more substantial man-made island, a true crannog that lies further out in the lochan.

Inside the roundhouse, woven panels draped with animal skins or woollen cloth separate living and sleeping areas. Domestic animals may be housed in small enclosures next to the doorway, especially during the winter season, providing more warmth to the house and creating…delightful aromas that Iron Age people don’t even notice.

Items hang from crossbeams: for food preparation; for herbal remedies; or are drying clothes. Across northern Britannia there are the single roundhouses of outlying farms; elsewhere small clusters form a hamlet. Iron Age hillforts with multiple roundhouses are also dotted across the Brigantia landscape, the king or a chief inhabiting the largest house. Wealth is evident in the amount of decorative detail worn in iron or silver jewellery, or on weaponry. Cookware can also indicate wealth. Gold items are rare in the north, as is coinage which is unlikely to be locally produced. Bartering is the norm rather than commerce based on money exchange. Nonetheless, gold is sometimes acquired through tribal interactions and…via Roman bribes!

What do they talk about? – Gossip and Politics of the day.

News travels at the speed of a walk, or a horse ride, though some updates take a long while to reach outlying places. Hot topics around the firesides are about how the civil war across the Roman Empire, which occurred in 68/69, affects everybody now. The civil war across Brigantia, that culminated in 69, is also still worth plenty of grumbles!

On a lighter note, what continues to provide the best laughs?

Emperor Nero’s suicide (assisted or not?) which, in 68, prompted the beginning of the civil war across the Roman Empire. With no nominated heir for Nero, the serious ‘tussle’ to declare the next Roman emperor provides endless gossip. Brigantes are learning that members of the Senate in Rome hold power and sway, though in not nearly as violently a method as those in control of the Roman legions. Being Roman ‘top dog’ needs the backing of Senate, and the ability to maintain allegiance from the bulk of the legions across the empire.

The Brigantes still find amusement in the three men who tried and failed to become Roman emperor between early summer 68 and the summer of 69. Galba who ‘forgot’ to name Otho as his successor is ridiculed, since Otho quickly had Galba ‘eradicated’. They chuckle about Otho being replaced nearly as swiftly by Vitellius. However, the fireside mood changes when talk turns to Vespasian, the soldier who ousted Vitellius. Vespasian has maintained his fierce grip on most of the Roman Empire for more than a year and a half.  The tribesmen are learning that Vespasian will not be satisfied till Brigantia is within the province of Britannia!

Less laughed about in 71 – Cartimandua and Venutius.

Many Brigantes are heartily glad that the civil war between Queen Cartimandua and King Venutius is eventually over. Some acknowledge that as a ‘client queen’ of the Roman Empire, from around the year 50, Cartimandua’s arrangements (bribes) with Rome kept the invaders out of Brigantia. Regrettably, old habits die slowly. Some still hanker after the semblance of stability that Cartimandua provided. Others gripe about whether Cartimandua is alive and living-it-up in Rome, having been secreted away from her last battle against the forces of her ex-husband Venutius. Many couldn’t care less about her fate. People like Lorcan strive to make all Brigantes believe that King Venutius will repel the Roman invasion that’s imminent. Very disturbingly, some small Roman forts have already popped up on Brigante territory.

Talk at Selgovae firesides.

While civil war talk goes back and forth across Brigante territory, just a little further north Nara’s tribe are highly aware that if Brigantia falls to Rome, and is officially absorbed into the Roman Province of Britannia, then Selgovae territory is next under threat! Roman navy ships looking for places to land on the shores of the Selgovae firth (Solway) is a nightmare that they’re already having to confront.

Who do they have faith in?

Brigante and Selgovae tribes follow the druid faith, even though the Roman usurpers have systematically tried to eradicate the druids from Britannia. Druid power has been diminished since the fall of Mona (Anglesey), but there are still some priests and priestesses left to continue the traditions. Lorcan, like all around him, constantly pays homage all day long to his favoured deities, both local and universal. It’s a part of daily life, and not so different from the Roman soldiers across Britannia who worship their own deities. Worship of multiple gods is generally accepted by Rome, but the political power of the druids is not – whether in Gaul or in Britannia.

Lorcan fears the power of the druids, especially in the Sacred Groves. Nara, on the other hand, has been raised to become a druid priestess.

How do I know the information above is correct?

Actually, I don’t. P. Cornelius Tacitus is the main ‘go-to’ writer for historical details of early Roman Britain, written from his Roman perspective and with a disputable degree of bias. There are no Iron Age writings to give balance so, as an author of fiction, I have to delve deeply  into the archaeology that’s been uncovered. Archaeological interpretations can vary, so keeping up to date with them is a delightful challenge. Living History museums, like the Scottish Crannog Centre, are ideal for visualising interpretations of archaeological data and I love visiting them! The many scientific disciplines used in current archaeology present educated guesses, and it’s those subtle details that I pounce on for worldbuilding in my writing.

“Leave your horse here, Lorcan. It will go nowhere on its own. Come up alongside me, now.”

While Lorcan did the druid’s bidding a different voice boomed a greeting from the far side, though no one was visible in the shadowy low-lights the brands provided. What they did emphasise were the twisting branches of an impressive time-aged elm. A weighty branch had dipped to the ground and had sprouted a new trunk, in the process forming a natural waist-high platform between the mother-tree and its offspring.

“All is ready for you, Lorcan of Garrigill. Step forward.”

The disembodied greeting was personal, but was definitely not one that gave Lorcan any reassurance. Breathing normally became incredibly difficult as he stumbled towards the table alongside Maran.

Without warning, the pathetic bleating of a goat broke the near silence around the area. At almost the same time, Lorcan became aware of one figure emerging from the side of the mature tree trunk while another appeared from somewhere behind it, dragging the protesting animal towards the table.

The figure who trapped Lorcan’s full attention was the one who had stepped from the tree-hollow, holding a slighter torch brand. He was well-used to seeing a masked druid officiating at important ceremonies, but the headdress that confronted him was the most awe-inspiring one he had ever laid eyes on. He felt he was facing the god Cernunnos himself.

A pair of glittering eyes were the only human like characteristic, since the carved headdress – dripping with ivy and similar greenery – flowed down over the shoulders of the figure and seemed rooted to the very ground beneath him.

A living tree stood before him!

“I am Irala! Chief Druid of these Sacred Groves. Lorcan of Garrigill, your fate will now be revealed.”

Nancy Jardine lives in the spectacular ‘Castle Country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Her main writing focus has, to date, been historical and time travel fiction set in Roman Britain, though she’s also published contemporary mystery novels with genealogy plots. If not writing, researching (an unending obsession), reading or gardening, her young grandchildren will probably be entertaining her, or she’ll be binge-watching historical films and series made for TV. 

She loves signing/ selling her novels at local events and gives author presentations locally across Aberdeenshire. These are generally about her novels or with a focus on Ancient Roman Scotland, presented to groups large and small. Zoom sessions have been an entertaining alternative to presenting face-to-face events during, and since, the Covid 19 pandemic restrictions.

Current memberships are with the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland, Romantic Novelists Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She’s self-published with the author co-operative Ocelot Press.

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Tuesday 26 April 2022

Blog Tour: Cragside: A 1930s murder mystery by M J Porter #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalMystery #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @coloursofunison

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club on tour with…

Cragside: A 1930s murder mystery
By M J Porter

July 18th – 22nd 2022

Publication Date: 14th April 2022
Publisher: M J Publishing
Page Length: 234 Pages
Genre: Historical Mystery

Lady Merryweather has had a shocking year. Apprehended for the murder of her husband the year before, and only recently released, she hopes a trip away from London will allow her to grieve. The isolated, but much loved, Cragside Estate in North Northumberland, home of her friends, Lord and Lady Bradbury, holds special memories for her.

But, no sooner has she arrived than the body of one of the guests is found on the estate, and suspicion immediately turns on her. Perhaps, there are no friendships to be found here, after all.

Released, due to a lack of evidence, Lady Ella returns to Cragside only to discover a second murder has taken place in her absence, and one she can’t possibly have committed.

Quickly realising that these new murders must be related to that of her beloved husband, Lady Merryweather sets out to solve the crime, once and for all. But there are many who don’t want her to succeed, and as the number of murder victims increases, the possibility that she might well be the next victim, can’t be ignored.

Journey to the 1930s Cragside Estate, to a period house-party where no one is truly safe, and the estate is just as deadly as the people.

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MJ Porter

MJ Porter is the author of many historical novels set predominantly in Seventh to Eleventh-Century England, as well as three twentieth-century mysteries. Raised in the shadow of a building that was believed to house the bones of long-dead Kings of Mercia, meant that the author's writing destiny was set.

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Tour Schedule

Blog Tour: The Wistful and the Good (Cuthbert’s People, Book 1) by G. M. Baker #HistoricalFiction #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @mbakeranalecta

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club on tour with…

The Wistful and the Good 
(Cuthbert’s People, Book 1)
By G. M. Baker

June 13th – 17th 2022

Publication Date: 4th April 2022
Publisher: Stories All the Way Down
Page Length: 341 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction

The mighty are undone by pride, the bold by folly, and the good by wistfulness. 


Elswyth's mother was a slave, but her father is a thegn, and Drefan, the man she is to marry, is an ealdorman's son. But though Elswyth is content with the match, and waits only for Drefan to notice that she has come to womanhood, still she finds herself gazing seaward, full of wistful longing.

From the sea come Norse traders, bringing wealth, friendship, and tales of distant lands. But in this year of grace 793 the sea has brought a great Viking raid that has devastated the rich monastery of Lindisfarne. Norse are suddenly not welcome in Northumbria, and when Elswyth spots a Norse ship approaching the beach in her village of Twyford, her father fears a Viking raid.

But the ship brings trouble of a different kind. Leif has visited Twyford many times as a boy, accompanying his father on his voyages. But now he returns in command of his father's ship and desperate to raise his father's ransom by selling a cargo of Christian holy books. Elswyth is fascinated by the books and the pictures they contain of warm and distant lands. 

But when Drefan arrives, investigating reports of the sighting of a Norse ship, Elswyth must try to keep the peace between Drefan and Leif, and tame the wistfulness of her restless heart.  

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G. M. Baker

G. M. Baker has been a newspaper reporter, managing editor, freelance writer, magazine contributor, PhD candidate, seminarian, teacher, desktop publisher, programmer, technical writer, department manager, communications director, non-fiction author, speaker, consultant, and grandfather. He has published stories in The Atlantic Advocate, Fantasy Book, New England’s Coastal Journal, Our Family, Storyteller, Solander, and Dappled Things. There was nothing much left to do but become a novelist. 

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Monday 25 April 2022

Have a sneak-peek between the covers of J R Tomlin's fabulous book –The Douglas Bastard (A sequel to The Black Douglas Trilogy) #HistoricalFiction #Scotland @JRTomlinAuthor

The Douglas Bastard 
(A sequel to The Black Douglas Trilogy)
By J R Tomlin

Publication Date: 26th April 2022
Publisher: Albannach Publishing
Genre: Historical Fiction

The Black Douglas is dead. With Scotland's greatest knight no more, the throne is up for grabs as enemies try to devour the kingdom.

An orphaned youth returning from exile, Archibald, the Black Douglas's bastard son, fights for a land being torn apart from within and without. If Archibald is to survive, he must learn to sleep with a claymore in his hand and one eye open because even his closest friend might betray him...

This is an adventure set in the bloody Second Scottish War of Independence when Scotland's very survival is in question.

“Rest eternal grant unto her, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon her.” Friar Walter Blantyre crossed himself.

The chamber I shared with my mam smelled of the flux that had drained the life from her. Staring at her, I tried to see in her thin face the mother who had sung to me and told me stories of my father. I choked down the sob that threatened to force its way out. But hot tears dribbled down my cheeks, half-blinding me. I bolted and stumbled into the door jamb. The friar put a hand on my shoulder to steady me, but I jerked free. A madness swept through me, and I ran out the door, down the stairs, and barreled through the side door of the keep into the walled garden.

The garden was quiet in the lazy, late summer afternoon, a tapestry of greens and pinks and yellows with splashes of white and crimson, all bathed in slanting sunlight and purple shade. How could the sun shine and the flowers smell sweet when my mother was dead? I wiped my wet face on my sleeve, ashamed to be weeping, and looked around, wondering what I should do now.

"Archie," a low-pitched voice called to me. I turned.

King David was sitting on the ground propped against the wall, head tilted back to catch the sun, arms resting on his bent knees. 

Quickly glancing around to be sure no one was near, I whispered, "Are you hiding, Davie?”

We were not supposed to call him Davie, but he had never cared when we used to play out of earshot of the grownups. But now, the King was fifteen and almost a grown man, too old to join in children's games.

He grinned. "I'm tired of my Latin lessons translating Caesar, so I'm avoiding Abbot William." His voice went squeaky, then deepened again. Blushing, he coughed. "He will look in the stable and the practice yard, but he won't think to look for me here." He was thin and long-legged, a strand of auburn hair falling over his forehead. His face was long, and he had a bit of fuzz for a beard. He cocked his head and looked me over. "Your mother. I heard she was . . . Did she . . . die?”

Cold passed right through me. I bit my lip hard enough to taste blood and said nothing.

"I'm sorry, Archie. That was nae tactful. Sir Malcolm says even a king should be tactful." He frowned. "And now you don't have anyone to look after you, and you a love-bairn.”

I stiffened and lifted my chin. "I will be a great knight like my father. I ken that I will.”

"Mayhap." David smiled as he studied my face. "They say he was dark-haired and dark-skinned like you.”

My chest swelled with pride, but I tried not to let it show on my face. 

"It is hard being without parents. I dinnae remember my mother and barely remember my sire. But I can hear his voice sometimes," the King mused. "You will need a foster father like Sir Malcolm is for me, but I don't think there is anyone in my court who can do it. You're old enough to be a page, though. Until we figure something out. I will talk to Sir Malcolm about it.”

In no mood to think about a new parent, even a foster one, I answered, "I dinnae need a foster father.”

"We all need someone to belong to." He favored me with a wry smile. "As I have learned the hard way. I thank the Blessed Mother that the French king was willing to take us in when we had to flee Scotland, and Sir Malcolm came with me." He rose, stretched, patted me on the shoulder, and then strolled back into the keep. He said over his shoulder, "But I will talk to Sir Malcolm anent you, and he will ken what to do. For now, I suppose I should let the abbot find me.”

This was the fourth year of our exile in France. It was the ninth year of my life.

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J. R. Tomlin is the author of nineteen historical novels.

She has close ties with Scotland since her father was a native Scot, and she spent substantial time in Edinburgh while growing up. Her historical novels are set for the most part in Scotland. Her love of that nation is traced from the stories of Robert the Bruce and the Good Sir James her grandmother read to her when she was small, to hillwalking through the Cairngorms where the granite hills have a gorgeous red glow under the setting sun. Later, her writing was influenced by Alexander Dumas, Victor Hugo, Nigel Tranter, and Sir Walter Scott.

When JR isn't writing, she enjoys hiking, playing with her Westie, and killing monsters in computer games. In addition to spending time in Scotland, she has traveled in the US, Europe, and the Pacific Rim. She now lives in Oregon.

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