Following on from my announcement of changes to my blog, this post links all three themes of my blog: writing, social anxiety and living in Israel.
I get it when women say they need to talk problems over with women friends. There’s something about the conversations that makes them different from conversations with men. Yet, for most of my life, I didn’t have any women I was close enough to to confide in. Social anxiety caused that. It told me to keep my distance from women… from everyone… because while I needed them, they didn’t need me or want my friendship and I shouldn’t cling to them.
I still don’t meet other women very often, but I’m getting better at it. There’s one I often meet. We write together and talk, too. And two days ago I met up with someone I haven’t seen for many years. I even initiated the meeting and travelled all the way to Haifa for it. Well, for this country it’s a long way. The bus journey from Jerusalem to Haifa takes all of two hours.
We had a pleasant and interesting chat together. She also gave me a brief but fascinating tour of Rambam Hospital, where she works. In particular, I saw how the underground carpark can be turned into a whole hospital in times of emergency. Amazing!
As I was in Haifa anyway, I did a bit of research for a novel I began in November and plan to return to. I wandered around The Technion Institute of Technology and found some details to add or change in the novel. It was hot and humid and the paths of the campus, up there on the Carmel mountain, are very steep, but I’m glad I went.
The title of this post also has a different significance for me and connects to the exciting news I hinted at in my last post. Along with another author – the lovely Emma Rose Millar, who appears again at the end of this post – I have been working on two novellas based on the painting The Women Friends by Klimt. The first, which will be published early in 2017 by Crooked Cat, tells the story of Selina, a country girl, desperate to escape the demons of her past and searching for solace in the glittering city of Vienna. The second novella follows Janika, who is Jewish. It begins when the first novella finishes, in 1938, a time when Vienna wasn’t a good place for a Jew to be in, to say the least.
So that’s my big exciting news. If you’re interested, you can also read about how I’m spending the summer over on Nancy Jardine’s blog. How are you spending your summer? Or winter, if you’re in the other half of the world?
Author of the Day
Today, I highlight two authors – the two who appear in the post.
Emma Rose Millar writes historical fiction. Five Guns Blazing, set in the eighteenth century and written together with Kevin Allen, follows a convict’s daughter from London to Barbados. More information is on Emma’s blog.
Nancy Jardine is a multi-talented author, who writes historical romantic adventures, intriguing contemporary mystery thrillers and YA time travel historical adventures. Her published novels are too numerous to list here, but can be found on Nancy’s blog.
Today I’m happy to welcome Nairn Malcolm to my blog. Nairn is an escapee. He’s had a hard time getting away from that evil author, Nancy Jardine. But I’ll let him tell his own story.
Hello Miriam. I’m glad to come and visit you because I’m quite intrigued about these CATS that my creator, Nancy Jardine, often speaks about. There are loads of you CATS who write for Crooked Cat Publishing out there in the real world, but it’s just as well for me that this is a virtual visit since Nancy Jardine has made sure that I’m not at my mobile best. Actually, she’s not my favourite person right now, because of the way she’s treated me, so it’s great to escape from her clutches for a little while—otherwise who knows what she’d do to me next.
And please don’t dare ask if you can take a photo of me for your blog because that answer is a definite NO. I’m not usually a vain guy but she’s really done a number on me…at least at the beginning of my story. I mean, come on! What guy wants to meet the most gorgeous woman he’s ever seen when he’s looking like a splodged advert for a hospital emergency department?
I generally like to make a good impression when I meet new clients, or potential business contacts, but Nancy Jardine made that darned near impossible. In fact, I’ve more than one bone to pick with her…and said bones are presently about as sensitive as my ego.
I thought that the guys in contemporary romantic novels were all about making the lassies swoon with their dashing good looks and impeccable stylish dress but that’s not what Nancy had in store for me. Oh, no, I had to be the untypical highland hero in her novel Take Me Now. Granted, she gave me a restored castle and all of those lovely methods of travel for the debonair contemporary hero —like my floatplane, jet and catamaran— but she also made sure I couldn’t manoeuvre any of them. Though, I guess it could have been worse if she’d popped me into my kilt. That would have made me into a real spectacle if it had fallen off. Ahh! Forget I said that in case she writes a new scene into my story, thinking it would amuse Aela Cameron.
I just bet she had great fun writing those first chapters where she made me seem like a comatose idiot in front of Aela when she came for an interview. Making Aela the only person I could employ as my general factotum—office help and general driver of all my vehicles— was cruel when I wasn’t in any shape to complain about it. And you know, I don’t even think Nancy Jardine realised just how embarrassing it is for a guy to meet a woman who is so dazzling when he’s not at his best.
Though I guess towards the end of my story Nancy at least made the situation a bit better for me, because by then I’m a lot more like myself. It’s just as well that Aela Cameron has a great sense of humour, isn’t it? Did I mention that Aela’s also the best DIY detective ever who helped solve the mystery of my unknown saboteur?
Mmm. I think it’s time to say goodbye to you in case I divulge all of my secrets in Take Me Now. It’s been nice to meet you, Miriam.
Lovely to meet you, too, Nairn. So glad you were able to get away for a bit!
About Take Me Now
Patience isn’t Nairn Malcolm’s strong point when he finds himself and his business mysteriously under attack. He needs a general factotum immediately— someone with exceptionally varied skills who can ferry him around, help him keep his business running smoothly and be available to him 24/7. He doesn’t expect the only candidate who arrives at his Scottish island castle for an interview to be so competent… or so incredibly attractive.
Aela Cameron’s range of talents is perfect for Nairn’s current predicament. She loves transporting him all over the globe, adores his restored castle, and is thrilled with his hectic lifestyle. Dangerous situations don’t faze her, in fact they make her more determined to solve the mystery of Nairn’s saboteur. She’s not into passing flings—yet how can she resist her new boss as time runs out on her temporary contract?
Can Nairn persuade Aela she’s the woman for the long haul as the mystery is solved?
(who really isn’t evil at all. I know – I’ve met her.)
Nancy Jardine writes historical romantic adventures (Celtic Fervour Series); contemporary mystery thrillers (Take Me Now, Monogamy Twist, Topaz Eyes-finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE 2014); & time-travel historical adventures for Teen/ YA readers (Rubidium Time Travel Series). All historical eras are enticing and ancestry research a lovely time-suck. She regularly blogs and loves to have guests visit her blog. Facebook is a habit she’s trying to keep within reasonable bounds. Grandchild-minding takes up a few (very long) days every week and any time left is for reading, writing and watching news on TV (if lucky).
So you’ve done your research, you’ve asked experts and still there are things you don’t know.
Why did Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) fall out with the Liddell family?
How did the cliff dwellers of Montezuma Castle manage their days?
You need to answer these questions, but no one knows the answers. What do you do? You make informed guesses based on the information you have been able to discover. And there’s nothing wrong with doing that, because this is fiction.
I asked Nancy Jardine, whom I interviewed here and who writes – amongst other genres – historical novels set in Celtic/Roman Britain, for one example of when she had to make an informed guess. This is her response:
I’ve had to do a fair bit of that in my Celtic Fervour Series, the reasons being that the only source materials for the times are Greek or Roman – and biased at that. The Celts left no written evidence at all – save what’s found on stone inscriptions. In Book 3 of the series, I have a large battle at a place named Beinn Na Ciche (Gaelic for a hill range that’s nine miles from my home). Bennachie, as it’s currently called on the map, is only one possible site earmarked by historians for a battle between Romans and Celts that the Roman historian Tacitus wrote about. The thing is that Tacitus may only have been attempting to make his father-in-law Agricola seem like a greater general than he really was. None of the other Scottish contender sites – for what was later named the Battle of Mons Graupius by early Victorians – have provided conclusive evidence. I made my ‘informed’ choice and decided that the topographical information given by Tacitus matched the landscape around Bennachie, but even more important for me was that in 2006 local archaeologists decided that the Romans had had some 30,000 soldiers in Durno – a marching camp opposite the fooothills of Bennachie. The number of soldiers (which is drawn from archaeological evidence and not written evidence) was sufficient for me to use the site in my novel. In fact most of what I’ve written as historical facts on Celtic life is drawn from purely archaeological sources and is therefore all interpretative.
Thank you for this, Nancy. It shows a lot about what a historical novelist has to do – research, decision-making and more – before starting to write.
Nancy also sent me this photo, which “was taken from near the Durno camp looking over to the hilltop named ‘The Mither Tap’ – the most distinctive part of Bennachie range.”
She’s back to tell us about not one but two novels of hers that are about to be published.
Take it away, Nancy!
Hello Miriam. It’s lovely to come back so soon to update on my next book launches. First of all, I’d love to say that I’m absolutely delighted with both of my cover designs – each is perfect for their intended market.
I mentioned during my last visit that I was waiting for my cover design from graphic designer, Neil Saddler, for The Taexali Game, my time travel adventure for middle grade/ early teens. That was revealed recently so I’ve rescheduled its launch to April 2015. I’m so pleased to now be virtually ready to self-publish this adventure novel since it’s been waiting on my writing shelf, in various draft guises, for a long time. Soon my readers will be introduced to the intrepid trio you see on the cover – Aran and the twins, Brian and Fianna. In this first book of the Rubidium Time Travel Series, the adventure takes place in their own Aberdeenshire back yard – except that they are time travelled back to the year AD 210. I hope you can see the Ancient Roman legionaries in the cover design because AD 210 was an era when Roman Emperor Severus and his vile son, Caracalla, invaded northern Britain with multiple legions in a show of Roman strength. My teen protagonists have a set of tasks to fulfil, but how do they work out how to help both the ‘baddies’ and the ‘goodies’ when some of the Celtic chiefs they meet are as foul as Severus and Caracalla? Dicing with death becomes the norm in this Roman/Celtic Britain adventure but my trio need to stay alive! The main reason I’m not self publishing The Taexali Game sooner is… because I’ve another launch to attend first!
My Crooked Cat edition of Monogamy Twist, my contemporary romantic mystery, is launching on March 27th 2015 and I’m absolutely delighted with the quirky cover design for this, too – created by Laurence Patterson of Crooked Cat. Monogamy Twist is a mystery with historical aspects but very different from my Celtic Roman Britain historical novels. The plot for it is based on a recognisable Dickensian theme – that of the bequest of a decaying stately home. Luke Salieri finds himself the recipient of this strange inheritance – except the house can only be his if he fulfils certain weird and quirky conditions. To eventually become the owner Luke needs a woman to help him but not just anyone will do. Rhia Ashton seems perfect for the job since she’s a family history researcher but Luke finds she has a few conditions of her own before she’ll take him on and find out why Luke has been chosen by Amelia Greywood to receive the house. Compromise is the name of the game in Monogamy Twist. It’s a read that will appeal to those who like a bit of history with a few twists in their mystery, or those who like a good solid story in their romantic reading. I extend a warm welcome to the Facebook Launch Party on the 27th March. Goodies can be won and lots of information on my protagonists will be divulged.
Thank you for the update, Nancy. I was in awe of you before; I’m even more in awe of you now.
Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She currently shares a home with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, 3 year old granddaughter and 1 year old grandson. It’ll continue to be a busy household till late summer of 2015 when the new build home will be completed for the young ’uns on what was Nancy’s former back garden. The loss of that part of the garden won’t be missed since there should now be more writing time available this spring and summer! Childminding is intermittent over the day and any writing time is precious. (If interested in how a new house is built these days, follow my blog posts named ‘Gonna build a house’ )
All matters historical are a passion; Ancestry research a lovely time-suck. Nancy regularly blogs and loves to have guests visit her blog. Facebooking is a habit she’s trying to keep within reasonable bounds! Any time left in a day is for leisure reading and the occasional historical series on TV.
Are you doing the challenge?This April will be my fifth go at the A-Z Challenge. It’s fun but hard work. I didn’t think I’d do it again this year, but then I had an exciting idea for a theme.
In 2011, I didn’t have a theme. I posted mainly on the themes of this blog: writing and social anxiety.
In 2012, I wrote about places in Jerusalem.
In 2013, my theme was memoir writing. I learned a lot that year. One day, I might put that knowledge to use.
In 2014, I highlighted authors, including some of my new friends all published by Crooked Cat.
In 2015, ….
Yes, I have a theme and I’m excited about it, but it’s not quite time to reveal it. However, as well as signing up for the challenge itself, I have also signed up for the A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal on 23rd March. That’s in just two weeks.
As it happens, 23rd March is also a birthday. Six years ago, this blog published its first post. A lot has happened since then!
In other news, I have another interview hosted by the lovely Nancy Jardine. Her questions have been giving me ideas.
I’m delighted to welcome Nancy Jardine, Scottish author of historical romantic adventures, contemporary mystery thrillers and YA time travel historical adventures. As you’ll see, I’m rather in awe of Nancy and I’m hoping she’s about to provide some useful advice.
Nancy Jardine: author
Nancy, I am amazed and very impressed by all that you manage to do. You have published a number of books in various genres and are working on several more. You post regularly on your blog, thrilling readers with interviews, wonderful scenery and updates about you and your writing. You appear on other blogs in guest posts and interviews. You are active on social media. You do author events. And on top of all that you have babysitting duties. Do you have a secret stash of daily hours that mere mortals like me can’t access? How do you fit everything in?
I don’t feel I do fit everything in. I have ‘things’ I want to achieve in a day but often the domestic side overtakes everything else and the priorities shift. Your readers can read more of my domestic situation in my bio below, so I won’t repeat here. An exciting update would be that…the foundations for the new house were started only yesterday [now a few days ago] and I’m sure you can imagine that there was a lot of celebration in our house after all the red tape issues were finally over. I’m about to begin a BLOG DIARY about ‘My lost back garden’. Anyone interested can follow the progress on my blog – Nancy’s Novels.
Apart from lack of writing time just now, I know that I have too many manuscripts on the go. I want to work on them all – but that is way too fanciful. My writing targeting plans, made in January on my blog, need a lot more effort to be fruitful! The procrastinator’s way (mine) is to do more blogging which makes me feel that I’m still writing – just different writing. I’m weaning myself from Facebook, which is just too enticing sometimes.
Don’t I know it! Can you tell us about the settings of your novels? How important are the locations to the stories? Do you think it’s possible to write about a place you’ve never been to?
All my settings are carefully chosen for particular reasons that fit with my plots. In Topaz Eyes – my contemporary Award Finalist for The People’s Book Prize 2014 – I used a number of different destinations in the mystery thriller that’s also a treasure hunt with deadly consequences. I’ve been to every place mentioned and I selected them very carefully for use in the novel. When I wrote Topaz Eyes in 2011, it had been some time since I’d visited Vienna and Heidelberg. I used the internet to check that some mentions were still reasonably current. Checking was paramount because the colour of the tram system in Vienna changed in early 2011 from red to yellow. Checking was even more important for Amsterdam, because a place I’d remembered fondly from when I lived there in the early 1980s had been demolished. The Poffertje Stall which sold tiny Dutch pancakes near the centre of Kalverstraat – a main Amsterdam pedestrian street – had gone when I visited in April of 2011. I had a minor panic because I’d included the stall in Topaz Eyes. The manuscript was at first edit stages with Stephanie Patterson of Crooked Cat Publishing but when I got home from my holiday, I emailed and asked to make some changes to the story. Although it wasn’t likely that many readers would have picked up on this, I knew about it and it would have bugged me to leave it. There’s still a scene involving Poffertjes, for a significant reason, but it now fits with contemporary Amsterdam.
Crooked Cat is re-launching two of my other contemporary mysteries – Monogamy Twist and Take Me Now. There are a few locations which feature in these novels that I haven’t been to. I used the internet for information but I also got other handy tips from my daughter, who had visited them during her ‘year-out world trip’ after university. Therefore, I personally believe it’s possible to write about places you’ve not actually been to.
How do you set about writing a historical novel? Do you have the whole story in mind before doing any research, or does the story form itself as you discover details? Do you have any tips for an author planning to explore this genre for the first time?
I think that historical work always needs thorough research. Readers of historical fiction can be very disappointed if they find anachronisms or something that’s just wrong for the era – and I count myself among that readers group. I try very hard to give an accurate portrayal of my chosen era of first century AD Roman Britain in my Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures, even though historical details for the era are scant and much is gleaned from interpretation of archaeological data. If the epoch is completely new to an author, I’d suggest a good consolidation time of research would be necessary to get a real feel for the times. In my case, my teaching of Celtic/Roman Scotland gave me a great background to feed from. Book 1 of the series evolved from a basic plot and grew and grew. Books 2 and 3 of the Celtic Fervour Series took a lot more research since I knew very little of the Roman military infiltration of Britannia. Once I’d learned about the campaigns of Agricola, Governor of Britannia in AD 78-86, I was able to plot out the movements of my characters. However, I found that using the writings of Tacitus (a Roman historian) was misleading. He is one of the few prime source writings of the era but it’s long been known that his writing is somewhat biased towards a Roman slant, his summation of events not particularly reliable. Tacitus’ dating of events is now seriously flawed by a number of years, according to the latest twenty-first century archaeological findings – recent dendrochronology (wood deposits) findings now dating the construction of Roman forts and fortresses much more accurately. Agricola was credited with making early campaigns into northern Britannia (Scotland) but dendrochronology dating is now putting those first Roman footsteps, in Scotland, back to the times of previous Roman governors, like Cerialis and Frontinus. My tip to an aspiring historical author would be try to keep abreast of recent developments in your chosen era because things can surprise you part way through the writing of a novel and, if you’re like me, you’ll want to make changes for better credibility.
I enjoyed hearing (and seeing) you read from After Whorl: Bran Reborn in this video, although I didn’t understand every word due to the quality of the recording and being unaccustomed to your gorgeous accent. Do you think being a teacher provided good experience for readings and other author events? Was there anything else that prepared you for life as an author?
That’s an interesting question, Miriam. The answer might be perhaps. The funny thing is that during my 25 years of teaching mostly 11-12 year olds, I could stand up in front of them and just get on with whatever I’d planned. The same was not the case when I was in front of adults and my teacher colleagues. For some reason adults made me nervous and doubt myself. I was extremely tense just before my first author talk in 2013, but as it happened the audience was small – I think only about seven people – and I wasn’t nervous once I got started. I’ve not been in front of any more than 15 people so far with author engagements but I’m hoping that a bigger audience won’t make me nervous in the future. At present, I’ve no planned author talks but I’m hoping to arrange some soon for my YA time travel historical novel, The Taexali Game, which I intend to self-publish soon. I’m presently waiting on my cover design and when that’s decided on, I think I’ll be good to start promoting it. However, I’m quite anxious about the self-publishing process – even though I know that thousands of other authors have done it themselves.
What other author events do you take part in? Which events have you found most useful for selling books?
Apart from my author talks at local public libraries, and women’s groups like the Women’s Rural Institute, the only other events I’ve attended have been when selling my books at local craft fairs. My first foray with this ‘public selling’ technique was when a friend agreed that my books are my ‘produce’ and that I could take a stall and sell at our Farmers’ Market in the local county town. These markets happen one Saturday morning every month, under canvas awnings, and are held in almost all weathers. (We are talking north-east Scotland!) At first, I was uneasy about being ‘out there’ and on show as an author. As it happened, I thoroughly enjoyed coming across new people to talk to about my books; potential readers; and people from my teaching past – fellow colleagues and some parents of kids I’d taught. The downside is that wind and rain are NOT good for paperback books or for printed publicity material. After a few of these outside markets, I was very fortunate to be invited to join FOCUS, a local crafters group who have bookings for their Craft Fairs in public Halls across Aberdeenshire, Scotland. (FOCUS means Festival Of Crafts Unique to Scotland.) FOCUS events are all held indoors, so weather isn’t a problem and my table display doesn’t blow away!
Between September and December 2014, I sold a total of 140 of my paperback novels at Craft Fairs and Author Talks. That’s not huge sales compared to some authors, but it was a thrilling start for me. I intend to sell at fairs this coming 2015 season which begins in April. The most exciting thing about selling at Craft Fairs, so far, is that I’ve had a few return customers who liked the first book they’d bought and they then bought more of my work. The only minor drawback to selling at these fairs is that I spend around 7 hours on a Saturday that could potentially be new writing time. Nevertheless, as published authors, we all now know that promotional time must be spent and is a huge time suck!
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Miriam.
Thank you for coming, Nancy, and for your interesting and helpful responses.
Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland – currently with her husband, daughter, son-in-law, 3 year old granddaughter and almost 1 year old grandson. It’ll continue to be a busy household till late summer when the new build home should appear on the back garden for the young ‘uns. The great thing about that is Nancy now has less of her original garden to tend, and any garden jobs that side of the property will soon be someone else’s! Child minding is intermittent over the day, so writing time is precious – the tendency is for it to be between 9 p.m. and 1a.m.
Her published work to date has been two non-fiction history related projects and six novels. Three of the novels are contemporary mysteries, the others historical romantic adventures set in northern Roman Britain, late first century AD – published by Crooked Cat Publishing. By spring 2015, she’ll have published The Taexali Game, the first of her Rubidium Time Travel series for a Middle Grade/ YA market.
All matters historical are a passion; Ancestry research a lovely time-suck. She regularly blogs; loves to have guests visit her blog; and Facebooking is a habit she’s trying to keep within reasonable bounds! Any time left in a day is for reading, though her TBR list of books on her kindle is now huge.
What’s the point of school? Why are children sent to school? What do we hope they’ll get from it?
I think a good school should show children what’s available to learn and encourage them to discover as much as they can. It should make them excited about all the possibilities and hungry for knowledge.
My school did the opposite for me. Looking back now, I can recognise that some of the teaching was less than inspiring. But I think the main problem was that I was made to learn things I wasn’t ready for.
I received a mark of 29% for my first History exam. Although I worked at it and revised before the exam, that was all I managed, and later on I came to the conclusion that history before the 17th century is just too boring to remember. But my poor grade was also the result of not being used to thinking and writing fast, because that’s what you have to do in a History exam.
And then, in English, we had to read a book called Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. This historical adventure novel is set in Roman Britain in the 2nd century and I hated it. Looking back, that could be because I didn’t understand it, because I wasn’t ready for it. Maybe if I read it now I’d enjoy it. All it told me then was that ancient history was boring. I was happy to be able to leave ancient history and move on to times that made more sense to me. Whether that was because those times were closer to modern times or because I’d matured in the meantime and was more able to follow, I don’t know, but I haven’t returned to ancient history since then.
Until now. I won an ecopy of Nancy Jardine’s novel, The Beltane Choice, which is set in Celtic/Roman Britain in the year 71. I started reading it with some apprehension and I did find it a little slow at the beginning. But the writing was good enough for me to keep going and soon I became involved in the story of the two main characters, really hoping they would be able to overcome all the odds.
This is such a beautifully told story that even I could put my preconceived notions aside and immerse myself in the lives of the Celtic warriors. Even the sex scenes, as I mentioned in a previous post, are described with passion and sensitivity and just the right amount of detail.
Maybe, one day, I’ll have another go at art – another subject I hated at school. But I can’t see myself ever playing hockey again!
Some of the things we think of as bad can also be good.
Cholesterol isn’t all bad. There’s bad cholesterol and good cholesterol.
And traffic isn’t all bad. There’s bad traffic.
And there’s good traffic.
According to Totsy, traffic comes to your blog if you write about politics and sex. Hmm. How many times have I written about politics on this blog? Well, I did mention voting once. You can see me posting my ballot. And I wrote an ode to the PM’s wife. As far as I remember, that’s as far as it went.
And sex? Nothing. Zilch. But I can put that right, right now. Are you ready? Don’t you dare scroll down if you’re under eighteen or feeling squirmish….
Yes, I know squirmish isn’t a word. That’s why you’re still here, isn’t it? So, about sex…. I’ve never written a sex scene. But in the novel I’m reading, The Beltane Choice by Nancy Jardine, the sex scenes are written beautifully. Just the right amount of detail, shown with passion and sensitivity. I will write more about this novel when I’ve finished it.