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Monday 14 December 2020

CHRISTMAS BOOK FLOOD - a special Christmas giveaway

Have you come across Jolabokaflod?  At first glance it might look a bit like the result of an explosion in a Scrabble factory, but in fact it's the Icelandic tradition of giving books as gifts on Christmas Eve.  In English, it means "Christmas Book Flood". 

This December, members of the Historical Writers' Forum are celebrating this lovely tradition by offering free or discounted copies of our books.  Make sure you're following our Facebook page to keep up to date with all the offers and giveaways - or click here to see a complete day-by-day list.

Today it's my turn, and here's my gift to you.  

Heathcliff (from Emily Bronte's classic Wuthering Heights) must surely be one of literature's most famous and most mysterious anti-heroes.  But have you ever wondered what might have happened to him during the three years when he disappeared from the original story?  

Here's your chance to find out.  For today only, the Kindle edition of my novel Heathcliff: The Missing Years is available to download COMPLETELY FREE.  

Click on the link above, or go to Amazon and search for "Heathcliff: The Missing Years." In the meantime, here is a short snippet.

The following scene takes place shortly after Heathcliff returns to Yorkshire, and a few months after his beloved Cathy has married his despised rival Edgar Linton.  John Burgess and (Matthew) Trelawney, who are mentioned during the extract, are characters Heathcliff had met during his three-year absence.

December 1783

It is now almost three months since I returned to The Heights, and Christmas is upon us.  The weather has been cold, wet and windy, and I heard from Nelly that Cathy has been quite unwell.  As a result, I have not been to The Grange for several weeks.  But Cathy and Linton have invited both Hindley and myself to join them for Christmas luncheon.  I am sure that in both our cases, the invitations were more her doing than his.  Linton has almost as low an opinion of Hindley as he has of me, but he would hardly be in a position to refuse hospitality to his own brother-in-law.  I have no idea what kind of ruse Cathy would have employed in order to have the invitation also extended to me.  Maybe she just did it without telling her husband.  That would not have surprised me in the least.

When we arrived at The Grange and Nelly bade us enter, I took the opportunity to enquire after Cathy's health.

"She is much improved, thank you, Mr Heathcliff, considering her condition," Nelly answered - though I could not help but think she appeared a little embarrassed.

Her condition?  What could Nelly mean?  I was puzzled, but my question was soon answered.  As Cathy threw herself into my arms and I held her close, I could not fail to notice the gentle swelling of her belly as it pressed against me.

Recalling what I had learned from John Burgess, I was consumed with jealousy.  Here was real proof, if any were needed, that my darling had given Linton what by rights should have been mine.  And I wanted that child to be mine.  I wanted to watch her grow, month by month, with the fruits of what we've always been to each other.

But as she drew back and looked into my face, I read the message in her eyes.  Then I knew I could take some small comfort from the knowledge that, although Linton might have possessed her body, he would never have her heart, her soul or her spirit.  Those would remain mine for ever - not merely in this life, but also in whatever might lie beyond.

In the meantime, I must harden my heart yet again.  Trelawney's rule has served me well during the past three years.  I had hoped I would not need to call upon it again, but it seems that fate has conspired otherwise.

Revenge, I believe, is a dish which is best served cold...

Wednesday 25 November 2020

WHAT'S MINE, I KEEP - an interview with Alison Knight

Today sees the publication of Alison Knight's novel Mine.  I had the pleasure of working with Alison as editor of this story, and she joins me today to talk about this truly amazing tale.

Welcome, Alison! 

Mine is a very moving and powerful story, based on real events from the late 1960s.  What first prompted you to write it?

There are a number of reasons why I felt compelled to write Mine:

Firstly, I was a very young child at the time and my memories are those of a ten-year-old – filled with confusion and with no understanding of what had led my ordinary family into this extraordinary situation. I wanted to write about it to help me understand it from an adult’s perspective. In that context, it was excellent therapy and helped me to come to terms with things I’d previously never understood.

Another reason I wanted to write about it was that I wanted to show the people involved – people that I loved – as I remembered them. It’s too easy for people to look at the stark facts of an incident and assume that someone must be fundamentally bad. These weren’t bad people. They were like you or me – human, with faults. But they were basically good people, and I wanted to show that.

Finally, after my sister died a few years ago, I realised I was the only person left who could tell this story. I wanted to write it for my children and my nieces and nephew so that they would have a chance to get to know the people they never got a chance to meet.

How much of the story is based on your own memories?

The scenes featuring Caroline are my memories. Some of the dialogue, particularly between Jack and his brother Fred, is made up from snippets of conversations I overheard as a child (including the swearing). It’s amazing how adults sometimes forget that little ears are around!

The reason that Mine is offered as fiction is that there are so many gaps in the story, and the people who could fill those gaps are no longer around to tell us what happened. It’s therefore my imagining of what might have happened, based on memory, research and pure speculation.

What other sources did you use?

I put together pieces of the story from conversations with aunts and uncles, my sister and cousins. However, although they were all supportive of me writing this book, it was difficult to get some of the family to talk about it as they found it quite upsetting, even decades later, so I had to be sensitive to that.

I spent some time at the British Library’s Newspaper Archive, as there were several reports in national and local newspapers. As well as looking at specific articles about what happened, I was fascinated by what else was in those papers, from news reports to adverts and the personal columns. It all gave me a flavour of the time.

I was also given access to inquest files that are usually closed for seventy-five years. That was one of the hardest things to do, but it gave me information that I wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else.

All this still left me with a lot of gaps in the story, so then I decided to look more closely at the culture of the time – attitudes to women, the class system, the fashions and music and things that were happening in those days. This gave me an insight into how people might have reacted to different situations and what society expected of them.

Did you find any aspects of the writing process difficult or upsetting?

Yes. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever written about. While some of it made me laugh out loud as I remembered happier moments, at other times I could barely see my computer screen through my tears.

On a lighter note, I found it very difficult to imagine and write about my parents having sex!

Now that the book is published and “out there”, how do you feel?

I have mixed feelings. I’m proud and pleased that my publisher loved the book so much. I’m excited because I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. But then I’m slightly terrified. I’m exposing my family to the world.

I remember having a discussion with my sister about our mother years ago. It quickly became clear that we each had very different view of her. It seemed as though we were talking about two completely different people rather than one woman.  I realised then that we each have our own truth about another person or a particular situation. Once I began my research, I realised that even witnesses who were standing next to each other gave differing accounts of the same scene. Each was sincere, and their statement was their own truth about the matter. As a result, Mine can only be described as my truth. My worry therefore, is that some of my relatives may have different memories of that time and may have a different truth about it. I’ve tried to make it clear to everyone that this is my imagining of what happened – a mix of memory, research and pure fiction – and that I haven’t set out to change anyone else’s truth.

Thank you for asking such interesting questions!

Thank you for giving such interesting answers!  I wish you every success with Mine.  It deserves to do well.


MINE by Alison Knight:

"What's mine, I keep."

London, 1968.

Lily's dreams of a better life for her family are shattered when her teenage daughter refuses to give up her illegitimate child.  It doesn't help that Lily's husband, Jack, takes their daughter's side.

Taking refuge in her work at a law firm in the City, Lily's growing feelings for her married boss soon provide a dangerous distraction.

Will Lily be able to resist temptation?  Or will the decisions made by these ordinary people lead them down an extraordinarly path that could destroy them all?

Mine - a powerful story of class, ambition and sexual politics.

Kit de Waal, award-winning author of My Name is Leon, said this about Mine:

"A heartbreaking account of love and loss told by a great storyteller.  Alison takes you into the heart of the tragedy with compassion, wit and even humour.  A beautiful story."


INVITATION TO AN ONLINE BOOK LAUNCH: On Saturday 28th November 2020, Alison will be joining four other authors for a joint event via Zoom called Darkstroke Defined.  The five writers will talk about their new books, read extracts and answer questions.  The event starts at 8pm UK time.  For your free ticket, go to:

Sincere thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Monday 26 October 2020

STAIRWELL TO HEAVEN - an interview with Dean Bryant

My guest today is my friend and fellow-author Dean Bryant, whose novel The Stairwell will be published by Darkstroke Books this coming Friday (30th October 2020).

Welcome, Dean!  What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I've always loved to write.  I had a very inspiring English teacher when I was in primary school (about ten years old).  He always read anything I wrote, whether it was homework or just for fun.  I still remember when he wrote "Another cracker from the pen of Dean Bryant" at the end of one of my stories.  He also prompted me to enter a nationwide poetry competition.  One poem from each school would be published in a compilation book.  I never thought it would happen, but I won, and still have a copy of the book.  Thanks, Mr Casson, wherever you are!

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

The Stairwell is a horror/paranormal thriller, following two characters as they both begin to experience nightmarish visions that bleed into reality.

What was the inspiration for this book?

Mainly the work of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.  They both have such a unique writing voice, and it inspired me to find my own with The Stairwell. 

Did you do any research for the book?

Honestly, not much. I did research some procedural things regarding emergency services work, but I feel horror and paranormal fiction allows the writer such freedom. Each writer, when trying to scare their readers, will come up with their own unique way to do so. 

What does a typical writing day involve for you? 

Most of The Stairwell was written with my father.  He lives on the other side of the country, so once every other month we'd get together for a few days.  We'd get up in the morning, have a nice English breakfast, then get to writing.  By the end of the day we'd realise we'd each written thousands of words.  Without him it would have been harder to stay motivated.

How do you decide on the names for your characters? 

There are a couple that are named after people I know.  The others are completely made up.  I tried to stay clear of names I've read in some of my favourite books, to keep them separate in my mind and help me to flesh out their character.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?  

A bit of both.  I planned out how many chapters there would be, plus the main event and the ending.  I wanted each chapter to end on a cliffhanger.  My intent was that the reader would finish reading a chapter about Brandon, then when the chapter about Alice came up they'd be dying to find out what happened to Brandon next - and vice versa.  But the rest of the writing wasn't planned, and flowed onto the page as I wrote it. 

Which writers have influenced your own writing?  

Mainly Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Mark Edwards.  I think that anyone who reads one of their books would be able to tell that they had written it without their name being on it.  Their writing styles are so brilliant and unique.

What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst? 

The best parts were spending more time with my dad, and exercising my creative muscles.  I'm not creative in any other way - I can't draw, sing or play an instrument, so it's good to have an outlet.  I'm not sure that there are any processes that I dislike, but perfecting the ending was probably the most challenging.  I always knew how I wanted The Stairwell to end, but putting it together can be tricky.

Now the book is about to be published and ‘out there’, how do you feel? 

I'm still quite surprised.  I mainly wrote it for the enjoyment, and didn't expect to get published.  But now, it feels like a dream come true.  I feel that somehow I've been working up to this ever since I was that little ten-year-old boy who'd rather spend his free time writing than playing football.

Is there a message for the reader? 

Firstly - thank you for reading.  I'm incredibly excited to hear what you think, and I'd love to listen to what readers have to say about the ending.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

I would say write what you love to read. Some genres might be more popular, or easier to write, but if you are passionate for your genre it'l show in your writing.  Also, to begin with don't worry too much about editing, a cover, or anything other than writing.  Write the story you want to write, and the rest can wait.

I'm with you there!  My first novel was written in response to the prompt "Write the book you want to read".  What can we expect from you in the future?

I'm currently working on an as yet untitled paranormal thriller, which will be the first in a new series.  It follows a detective in the London Metropolitan Police as he uncovers, and hunts, supernatural creatures.

OOH, that sounds like a great project!  Good luck!

Dean has always loved writing, ever since his primary school teacher wrote "Another cracker from the pen of Dean Bryant" on his English homework.  He loves writing horror and dark thrillers as they allow him to be as imaginative as possible.  He won a nationwide poetry competition when he was 11, and went on to never write another poem.

He's a huge fan of the classic horror authors Stephen King and Dean Koontz, with Midnight being his favourite book of all time.  He studied Psychology at university, which made him the friend everyone goes to for advice.

Dean lives in London with his partner of ten years, who also doubles as a beta-reader and critic.  He is a Type 1 diabetic, which hasn't stopped him eating cake - he just has to do a lot of mental arithmetic first.

Find him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Monday 19 October 2020


Today it's my turn on the Historical Writers' Forum blog hop, in which we talk about our favourite historical characters and the reason for our choice.  For those of you who know me at all well, it will come as no surprise that my chosen subject is William Shakespeare - the Bard of Avon.

William Shakespeare, the eldest surviving son of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, was born in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, in April 1564.  Information about his early life is sketchy at best (even the exact date of his birth is not known for certain), but he probably attended the local grammar school, and in November 1582 he married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years his senior and three months pregnant.  Their daughter Susanna was born in May 1583, followed in 1595 by twins Hamnet and Judith.  Hamnet died of plague just eleven years later.

From this point onwards, nothing is known about Shakespeare until 1592, when he appeared in London and joined a company of actors called The Lord Chamberlain's Men.  He became the company's principal playwright, producing on average two plays per year for nearly twenty years.  His total works include 38 plays, 154 sonnets and and 2 lengthy narrative poems.  He died aged 52 on 23 April 1616, and is buried in Holy Trinity Church in his native Stratford-upon-Avon.

My first encounter with Shakespeare was at secondary school.  Then, as now, studying his works was a non-negotiable part of the English Literature curriculum.  Like most stroppy teenagers I found it very hard to understand the plays, and even harder to understand why anyone in their right mind would ever want to read them.  Faced with a few hundred pages of solid text written more than three centuries earlier, and in a near-incomprehensible style into the bargain, the class's collective response was “What on earth is the point of all this?”  (That, at any rate, was the gist of our collective response…)

What we stroppy teenagers had totally failed to appreciate, at least at first, is that the plays were never meant to be read in the same way that one would read novels.  They were written for performance.  It’s only when the text is translated into speech and action (on stage, screen or radio) that it really comes alive – and nowhere is this more apparent than in works which consist entirely of dialogue.

In an attempt to keep us interested, our wonderful English teacher allocated the main parts in the play to members of the class, and the key scenes were acted out at the front of the classroom.   Our efforts were hardly RSC standard, but they did serve as an early lesson in the basic principle of “show-don’t-tell”. And after this, Shakespeare did begin to make some kind of sense.

Whatever their original contexts or settings might be, the themes of many of his plays (love, power, war, rivalry, jealousy and betrayal) are still relevant today, and some of his works have formed the basis for modern theatre, musical and film productions.  West Side Story is an updated version of Romeo & Juliet, Kiss Me Kate and Ten Things I Hate About You are both based on The Taming of the Shrew, and The Lion King owes much of its basic plot to Hamlet.

Shakespeare has also contributed a huge amount to the everyday English language. A surprisingly large number of words and phrases in common use today were first penned by the Bard himself.  If you're on a wild goose chase and find yourself neither here nor there, feeling faint-hearted (having not slept one wink), waiting with bated breath for the naked truth, and all of a sudden find yourself saying "Good riddance" as those who have eaten you out of house and home whilst playing "Knock, knock, who's there?" vanish into thin air - you are quoting Shakespeare. The world is [your] oyster, but for goodness sake, don't wear your heart on your sleeve and end up looking a sorry sight in a fool's paradise.  Truth will out, and it's a foregone conclusion that you can still have too much of a good thing.  Click here to see the lovely Rob Brydon telling us more about this.

The Bard of Avon has certainly inspired much of my own writing.  One of my first successes as a poet was winning a limerick competition, in which I summed up the plot of Macbeth in five lines:

On the strength of a witches' conjection 
a regicide's planned to perfection, 
but revenge is prepared 
by a tree-moving laird 
who'd been born by Caesarean section.

One of my long-term projects is to produce a limerick for each of the plays.  That's still very much a work in progress, but in the meantime, two of Shakespeare's other plays - Romeo & Juliet and Julius Caesar - have formed the basis of two of my novels.

The Ghostly Father takes a new look at Romeo & Juliet, and asks the question "What might have happened if the events of the story had taken a different turn?"  If, like me, you love the original story but wish it didn't end so tragically, here is your chance to read an alternative version - one with a few new twists and a whole new outcome.

The Unkindest Cut of All is a murder mystery set in a theatre, during an amateur dramatic society's performance of Julius Caesar, the play I studied for O-Level (the equivalent of modern-day GCSE). What really happened to the actor playing the title role, during the final performance on the infamous Ides of March?

So if you were put off Shakespeare by less-than-perfect experiences during your formative years, do consider giving him another try.  You might be pleasantly surprised!

To find out more about the other fascinating historical characters featured in this amazing blog tour, check out the sites listed below:

Thursday 15 October 2020



My dear friend and fellow-Ocelot author Nancy Jardine is delighted to announce that Beathan The Brigante, the latest addition to her 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!

Look forward to that **FREE** copy on the 15th October 2020 and enjoy reading about young Beathan of Garrigill!

Link for Beathan The Brigante

You can find out more about the Celtic Fervour Series   HERE


Nancy Jardine writes historical fiction, time travel historical adventure and contemporary mysteries. Research, grandchildren, gardening and reading novels all take up non-writing time. Interacting with readers is a joy at Craft Fairs and larger venues where she signs/sells paperback versions of her novels. She enjoys giving author presentations on her books and Ancient Roman Scotland, though these activities are presently curtailed due to Covid 19!

Tuesday 1 September 2020



"Gratitude is the wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk." (Rumi)

Being grateful is easy - when everything goes according to plan.  But how do you keep at it, no matter what life throws at you?

Enter 365 Days of Gratitude, the undated daily journal that will help you stay on track.

After years of barely surviving her own emotional minefield, writing coach Marielle S Smith discovered the transformative power of practising gratitude. But, like no one else, she knows that cultivating an attitude of gratitude is easier said than done.

Complete with inspiring quotes, daily prompts, and recurring check-ins, the 365 Days of Gratitude Journal encourages you to create a sustainable gratitude practice too.

Ready to commit to the life-changing power of gratitude? Order your coy of the 365 Days of Gratitude Journal now.


Purchase Links  

Get 50% off the printable PDF until 6 September 2020 with the following discount code: HAPPYLAUNCH. 

Go to gratitude 


to claim your copy.

My thoughts:

This 365-day journal is therapeutic, uplifting and easy to use.  The pages are undated (so the journal can be started at any time of the year), and there are prompts for each day, week and month, with a three-monthly overview at the end of each quarter.  Each page prompts the readers to focus on the positive aspects of their lives – something which, in the current climate, we all need more than ever.

I found that taking just a few minutes each day to reflect on the prompts made me realise that a glass which might have appeared half-empty was indeed half-full.  As an added bonus, there are regular inspirational quotations such as the one above.

Highly recommended.


Mariëlle S Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, and a (ghost) writer. Early in 2019 she moved to Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, where she organises private writers’ retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count.

Social Media Links –




There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. (Albert Einstein)

Sincere thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Thursday 20 August 2020

BEATHAN THE BRIGANTE - a guest post by Nancy Jardine

Today is a very special day for my friend and fellow-author Nancy Jardine: it is publication day for Beathan the Brigante, Book 5 in her highly-acclaimed Celtic Fervour Saga series of novels set in Roman Britain. 

Welcome, Nancy! Please tell us more about Beathan.


Hello Sue, and thank you for inviting me here today.  It’s been a nail-biting and stimulating few weeks for me getting the book ready for publishing. And now, I really can’t believe how excited I am that Beathan the Brigante officially launches today with Ocelot Press! It’s available in e-book and paperback from Amazon, and in paperback format via Ingram Spark for bookstore and library ordering.

Something different for your early readers is that the e-book versions of Books 1-4  in the Celtic Fervour Saga series are reduced to only 99p/99c/0.99euros each, for the 5 days prior to launch day in a Big Bonanza SALE! That offer might still be available, if your readers are quick. The link for my Amazon author page (to get access to the ebooks) is included below.

I’ve been excited about all of my book launches, but Book 5 brings one of the main themes of the series to a full circle. The birth of a son to Nara of the Selgovae, a son destined to become a famous tribal leader, happens at the end of Book 1. He is named Beathan, which means ‘life’. As the series progresses, book by book, Beathan grows into a young lad who is very responsible for his age, that maturity sculpted by the events and dangers that he lives through.  

Beathan cannot be found after the defeat of the Caledonian allies at Beinn na Ciche, a battle fought against the Ancient Roman legions of General Agricola, though his mother Nara knows in her heart he isn’t dead (end of Book 3). Choosing that event for Beathan was a pivotal point since I could ‘foresee’ making him into a famous rebel leader in a subsequent book of the series.

Though doing that in Book 4 was too soon, since a 13-year-old seemed unlikely to become a renowned ‘Celtic’ warrior. History, fortunately, has indications that it was not an impossible feat at a later teens stage. Another reason for Beathan’s tale not to be told in Book 4 was my desire to expand the Ancient Roman viewpoint. General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola needed some of the limelight in Book 4, since the genuine Ancient Roman Agricola was immensely important regarding the Roman expansion of Caledonia (present day Scotland).    

The research for my whole Celtic Fervour Saga Series has been a compelling study. Every Ancient Roman fort that Beathan visits was thoroughly investigated for me to glean some tiny, unusual, detail I could add to the tale. That process, naturally, became unwieldy! At one point the manuscript was sitting at upwards of 140,000 words. It was full of what I regarded as necessary, descriptive prose with lots of dangerous incidents happening to both Beathan and Agricola. But… like the Ancient Roman war machine destroying the tribes of Britannia, I did a high degree of ‘slashing and burning’ during my self-edits and whittled the manuscript down to a size compatible with the other books in the series.

Other themes of the series are further explored in Beathan The Brigante – honesty; loyalty; justice; fair-mindedness – sometimes these coming to the reader in surprising ways. Family love, friendships and less than usual ‘relationships’ are important across the series and Book 5 also features these aspects. Reuniting with family not seen for 5 years is a burning a desire for Beathan, but it’s equally balanced with a yearning for revenge against his Roman tormentors. 

Romance, too, plays a role to different degrees and in different ways across the books of the saga. After such a difficult time, Beathan deserves to have some passion in his life. However, enduring happiness rarely comes easily for my Garrigill warriors. Torrin is a feisty Brigante warrior-woman who has her own agendas. When creating her character, I found myself feeling a desperation to live life to the full seems realistic when young lives are likely to be cut short in what is essentially still a war-torn situation.

I do hope that readers of Bethan The Brigante enjoy reading about Beathan’s journey to ‘fame’ and about Agricola’s predicaments, since even a high-ranking Roman general can have enemies.


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 Beathan 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.

Nancy Jardine writes historical fiction, time travel historical adventure and contemporary mysteries. When not writing or researching (a compulsion she can’t give up), she’ll be with her grandchildren, gardening, or reading novels. She loves to interact with her readers when regularly signing/ selling paperback versions of her novels at local Craft Fairs, and at larger event venues. She enjoys presenting author talks and gives formal presentations on her novels, and on Ancient Roman Scotland, to groups large and small.

She’s a member of the Historical Novel Society, the Scottish Association of Writers, the Federation of Writers Scotland, the Romantic Novelists Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She’s self-published with Ocelot Press.

You can find her at these places:




email:  Twitter

Amazon Author page

Buy Links:

Beathan The Brigante

Paperback KDP

Friday 7 August 2020

A NOVEL APPROACH - a guest post by Jennifer C Wilson

Tomorrow marks a very special day for Ocelot Press: the launch of its first non-fiction title.  A Novel Approach is an excellent book, whether you're just setting out on the writing journey or are already an experienced writer.  And I'm thrilled to welcome the author - my great friend and fellow-Ocelot Jennifer C Wilson - to tell the world more about it.

Welcome, Jen!

Hi Sue.

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog today, to talk about A Novel Approach, my first foray into non-fiction!

I’ve said many times how much I love attending writing workshops. It doesn’t matter whether they’re on poetry or prose, on a particular skill, or a range of prompts to go off in any direction, I just love being surrounded by other writers, learning from them, and improving my own writing. It was from that place then, of finding workshops a great writing environment, that I decided to run a series of my own last year, and early into this one.

I called the series ‘A Novel Approach’, after a LOT of brainstorming, because I had the idea of walking attendees through some of the key elements of writing long-form fiction, starting with generating ideas, creating characters etc., building scenes each workshop, so that, although there wouldn’t necessarily be a finished novel at the end of things, there would be enough of a roadmap that they could see where it was going.

I’ll be honest, and admit that I don’t tend to get my actual story ideas from writing workshops. For me, the initial stories usually strike me as I’m wandering around a historical site, or reading a snippet of trivia about a place which sparks a thought to go and explore. However, once that idea has formed, I love workshops and prompts to keep the words flowing. For example, in the middle of April, a new historical romance idea came to me, but I was really struggling to put pen to paper. I signed up for a month of daily writing prompts, and following my synopsis, wrote a scene a day using the daily exercises. By the end of May I had ~15,000 words, and without the prompts, I don’t think I would have got anywhere near that word count.

It's often said that the most terrifying thing to a writer is the blank page. Whether in a notebook or on screen, having all that white, empty space starting back at you can be daunting. Especially when there’s an idea in your head that just won’t make that jump onto the page. I think this is where writing prompts are particularly useful. I used to use one at the start of a writing session, for an ‘easy way in’ and to get the words flowing, without having to think too much! As with the month of prompts above, when you have a scenario or set of characters in your head, but aren’t quite sure what they’re going to get up to, having somebody give you a scene to put them in, or something to think about, can be really helpful in getting those first few paragraphs down. Quite often, once that’s happened, you’re away, which is always the most important thing.

That’s what I’m really hoping people can get out of A Novel Approach, then; to find the prompts and exercises I’ve included a useful jumping-off point to get the ink flowing, whether on screen or on page.

A Novel Approach

Is there a novel in you? Let me help you find out...

Based on my series of workshops held throughout 2019 and into 2020, this book is designed to help writers work through each of the key stages of their story, including:

-          Idea generation;

-          Creating characters;

-          Describing your settings;

-          Showing vs telling; and

-          Keeping the words flowing when you find yourself stuck.

As well as the above, I have also added sections on hooking your readers in, leaving them wanting more, and useful resources as a writer, including how to dip a successful toe into the world of social media.

The workshops were fun, helping writers of short stories and novels alike, and I hope these exercises can help you too!

A Novel Approach:


About Jennifer

Jennifer C. Wilson stalks dead people (usually monarchs, mostly Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III). Inspired by childhood visits to as many castles and historical sites her parents could find, and losing herself in their stories (not to mention quite often the castles themselves!), at least now her daydreams make it onto the page.

After returning to the north-east of England for work, she joined a creative writing class, and has been filling notebooks ever since. Jennifer won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014, and in 2015, her debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Books. The full series was re-released by Darkstroke in January 2020.

Jennifer is a founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, and has been running writing workshops in North Tyneside since 2015. She also publishes historical fiction novels with Ocelot Press. She lives in Whitley Bay, and is very proud of her two-inch view of the North Sea.

You can connect with Jennifer online:






Tuesday 21 July 2020


I'm delighted to be taking part in this summer's Historical Writers Forum Blog Hop on the theme of Momentous Events. My chosen topic is that unforgettable moment in July 1969 when humans first set foot on the Moon.

Although the Moon Landings might feel like comparatively recent history – particularly in the minds of those who, like me, are old enough to remember them – the concept of space travel is not by any means a modern phenomenon.  As long ago as the middle of the 19th century, the idea had been anticipated by the French author Jules Verne, in his novel De la Terre à la Lune (1865) and its sequel Autour de la Lune (1869).  It was further developed by the English writer H G Wells in his story The First Men in the Moon (1900-1901), and by the pioneering French film director and magician Georges Méliès in his short film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), which was inspired partly by Verne's stories.  The film, featuring Méliès himself in the main role of Professor Barbenfouillis, can be seen here

Just over half a century later space travel became a reality, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 – the world’s first artificial satellite – on 4th October 1957.  This was followed on 3rd November 1957 by Sputnik 2, the first spacecraft to carry a living creature.  The passenger was Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow.  But Sputnik 2 was not designed to return to Earth, and consequently (and controversially) Laika died in space.   A memorial to her can now be seen in Moscow.

The first successful USA satellite was Explorer 1, launched on 31st January 1958.  The space race had begun in earnest.

On 25th May 1961, four months after his inauguration, US President John F Kennedy announced to Congress: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”  You can see footage of his original speech here.  Because the Soviet Union was well ahead of the USA in the space race at this stage, having already sent a man into space (Yuri Gagarin, in Vostok 1) just over a month earlier, Kennedy’s bold challenge was exciting news for Cold-War-era America.

Sadly, John Kennedy did not live to see his goal achieved.  Less than three years later, an assassin’s bullet brought his term of office to a sudden and brutal end.  It is said that everyone who is old enough to remember the events of 22nd November 1963 can still recall what they were doing when they heard the sombre announcement: “President Kennedy is dead”.

But work on the USA space program continued, and in 1966 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted the first (unmanned) Apollo mission.  The first manned flight was Apollo 7, which began in October 1968 and lasted for 11 days.  During the flight, the three astronauts (Walter Cunningham, Donn Eisele and Wally Schirra) made the first live television transmissions from inside a manned spacecraft – a feat which later earned them a special Emmy award.   

 Schirra & Eisele on board Apollo 7 (photo: NASA)

In December of the same year, Apollo 8 transported astronauts William Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell to the far side of the moon in an iconic figure-of-eight orbit which became the mission’s logo:

This was followed in March 1969 by Apollo 9, which tested the lunar module whilst in orbit round the Earth, and in May 1969 by Apollo 10, which performed a dry run of the route for the forthcoming lunar landing mission two months later.

Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Canaveral (re-named Cape Kennedy in honour of the former President) on 16th July 1969, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin (“Buzz”) Aldrin  and Michael Collins.  

Photo: Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The 230,000-mile (395,000-km) journey to the moon took just over three days, after which Armstrong and Aldrin moved into the lunar module (known as the Eagle) and detached it from the command module to prepare for descent to the surface of the moon. 

The descent took around two hours, of which the final minutes were particularly fraught – both inside the Eagle and on the ground at Mission Control in Houston.  As the Eagle approached the lunar surface, and with its fuel supply almost exhausted, Armstrong realised that the craft’s auto-landing program was about to deposit them in the middle of a crater full of boulders.  A veteran test pilot, he swiftly took over manual control and skilfully manoeuvred the craft towards a clear spot beyond the crater.  The module came to rest in the Sea of Tranquility with just thirty seconds’ worth of fuel left.

The staff at Mission Control waited with bated breath until they heard Armstrong’s voice: “This is Tranquility Base.  The Eagle has landed.”

Roger, Tranquility,” came the response from Houston. “We copy you on the ground.  You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue.  We’re breathing again.”

Ten minutes later, Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.  He stepped off the ladder on to the lunar surface, uttering the now famous words: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Aldrin followed him down the ladder and the two men spent two hours on the moon, collecting soil and rock samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs.

Buzz Aldrin on the moon, photographed by Neil Armstrong (photo: NASA)

A plaque left on the moon bore the inscription:

JULY 1969, A.D.

together with the signatures of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin Aldrin, and US President Richard Nixon.

 (Photo: Buzz Aldrin on Twitter)

America had now achieved Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon, but the second half of his promise had still to be fulfilled: returning him safely to Earth.

This, too, was fraught with danger at every stage.  The Eagle first had to take off from the moon, then successfully re-engage with the command module in orbit.  And if the Eagle’s single ascent engine failed, there was a very real prospect that Armstrong and Aldrin could find themselves stranded on the moon.  It is a sobering thought that President Nixon had a condolence speech already prepared for this eventuality.  The speech began: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace…”

Thankfully, Nixon’s speech was not needed.  Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins survived all the perils of the return journey: taking off from the moon, docking with the command module, and re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.  Apollo 11’s capsule, with the three astronauts safely inside, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, 800 nautical miles south-west of Hawaii, on 28th July1969.  They remained in quarantine for 21 days before returning to their families.

All three astronauts went on to live to a ripe old age.  Neil Armstrong died on 25th August 2012 at the age of 82.  At the time of writing, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins (aged 90 and 89 respectively) are still living.


  • It used to be thought that the full moon caused madness.  The words “lunacy” and “lunatic” are both derived from luna, the Latin word for moon.
  • Sputnik 1 was the size of a beachball.
  • The Apollo astronauts’ spacesuits were designed by Playtex, a company better known for manufacturing ladies’ underwear.
  • The astronauts on Apollo 11 ate cereal (mixed with fruit and packed into cubes), but couldn’t have it with milk in case it floated out of the bowl.
  • The average smartphone today contains a more powerful computer than the spaceships which sent the astronauts to the moon.
  • Surprisingly, even today, some people apparently still believe that the moon landings were an elaborate hoax!  I wonder what they think could have happened...