The Wolf Banner – A Review

The Wolf Banner – A Review

Today I am reviewing the much awaited book by Paula Lofting, entitled The Wolf Banner, to be published on 20th August 2016, and can be pre-ordered now through Amazon. It follows on from The Sons of the Wolf, the first in this series about the lead up to The Battle of Hastings.

Were to start? Well, I will start by saying that reviewing a book written from the heart, is not a task, but a joy, and something to look forward to. Paula Lofting writes from the heart, and her books show the evidence of this. Her knowledge of the era in which she writes, demonstrates this, together with a sympathetic understanding of the lives lived then, and those of  her characters populating her books, and this is an absolute gift for a reader.

Continue reading The Wolf Banner – A Review

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Getting Back into the Groove Mischievous Goblin Permitting

Hello one and all!

It has been two long years since I last blogged. Hard to believe, for me, at least. I have struggled with one illness after another, and have now decided that if I don’t take an active approach then I just won’t move forward.

Let me explain. I have glaucoma, and many would say, “So What! Many people have glaucoma.” I can say with all honesty that I had never given it much thought until I was diagnosed in 2006. I had my regular check up at the hospital every six months, and because it was all jogging along nicely, considering that I have the added complication of diabetes T2, my appointments went to once a year.

With glaucoma there are no noticeable symptoms. I certainly didn’t have any. It was at my regular yearly check up at the opticians that it was first discovered back in 2006. I had already got sight loss in one eye, but because the brain uses the ‘good eye’ to fill in the missing pieces of the picture, one just isn’t aware. This was June 2015, and my surgeon had told me that the operation was urgent, but, and it was a big but, there are only two surgeons in my area that do the operation, he being one of them, and that meant waiting 6 months. I know… I know…

So here I was, six months later, on my husband’s birthday, December 2015, having a trabeculectomy, an operation on the eye to make the pressure lower, and to help the eye drain properly. It’s the high pressure in the eye caused by the glaucoma that begins to kill the optic nerve, and it is only the release of that pressure that can help to save sight if caught in time.

So, life pottered on, I went to Inverness for the anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, for what was meant to be a week, but I came home early. I had visited Culloden Battlefield, which was an extraordinary and emotional experience. I had planned to see the Clava Cairns, too, have a trip on Loch Ness… but I decided to return home. It’s the first time I’ve gone home early. Usually I scrape as much out of a trip as I can manage, but it was bitterly cold, plus I didn’t feel well, nor did I feel ‘at home’ in the hotel, unlike the hotel where I stay in Edinburgh, which is literally like my home from home.

The Law of Sod and Goblin

Each time we reach a New Year, hubs and I, we wish one and all a happy and prosperous one. And each year either I get ill, or something goes wrong somewhere… you know how it is. Tickle the goblin under the chin and he’ll do his best to instigate The Law of Sod, and find something to make your life rocky. And that’s exactly what happened this year.

I had decided to try and get myself fit, walk more, maybe swim, and feeling enthused with my plans, started to walk around and about where I live, which is by the sea, so you can imagine, there are some really lovely walks.

I started at the beginning of February, and by the 22nd of February I was rushed to hospital with severe chest pain which turned out to be bronchial pneumonia in my right lung. No… I have no idea how I contracted it. But it’s been an absolute pig to bear. I was on antibiotics for four weeks to help clear it up, and after my third X-ray three months later, was told I was finally clear, but it would be months, maybe not until the end of the year before I felt truly fit and well again.

Meanwhile, in the middle of getting well from pneumonia, I had to have yet another sight-saving operation only on my other eye. After seven weeks of treatment, I have one more week of treatment to go, and then it’s back to see the surgeon. So far, so good, all appears well. But I’m telling you, though, once that dratted goblin finds himself comfy on your shoulder he’ll do his best to bring you all he has to offer.

Back at the beginning of the year I had booked another holiday to Scotland, self-catering with car hire, and had to cancel that, firstly because of the pneumonia, but would have had to cancel anyway because the eye operation would have come bang in the middle. I won’t be able to fly until the end of the year, because of the illness, so I’m erring on the side of caution, and not going away again until next spring or maybe next autumn.

We are now in July, and I can manage climbing the stairs without feeling exhausted. I’m not kidding. When I first had pneumonia it felt like walking and breathing, or talking and breathing was a feat of multi-tasking. It was, quite frankly, terrifying. So now I go forward with baby steps. And the first baby step, well not so baby, is to finish my book The Touching of Stones. This book was started back in 2014/2015. It is now my plan – and I shall say this sotto voce, so my personal goblin doesn’t here – to publish at some point later this year.

The lovely Dave Slaney, such a talented man, designed my book cover some time ago, and I am longing to see it wrapped around my novel.

My writing cabin has been redecorated, thanks to hubs, and I’ve thrown out stuff to make more room… for more stuff… Yes, I know… but some stuff matters, like books, and some stuff doesn’t, so it gets passed on.

So. It’s one step at a time, one day at a time, one week at a time and I’ll get there… mischievous goblin permitting!

 

Our Bitter-Sweet Month of June

Rob Rule – Forever Present

04.12.76 – 25.06.97

 

17th June 1967 Dave and I married after five years of courtship. I was 15 when we met, he, 19. We were friends before we were a couple. We were set to go through our lives, together, and being invincible, as we thought we were, we would ultimately conquer any troubles that we would undoubtedly encounter. We were strong. We were together, for always.

In 1969 we had our first child, a boy, 9lb 6oz. Steven. In 1971 we had our second child, a boy, 8lb 12oz. Martin. In 1976 we had our third child, (a surviving twin), a boy, 7lb 12oz. Robert. Our family was complete, and we worked our way through our busy lives, and enjoyed witnessing their inevitible transformation from boys into men.

In June of 1997 it was our 30th wedding anniversary, but it was tinged with the saddest of all things that had ever gone before.

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Rob at the Wight Mouse Inn, Isle of Wight, in March 1997

Our son; our Rob, had been diagnosed with a brain tumour, a diffuse astrocytoma to the left side of his brain. It was inoperable, and untreatable. He would die. We were told that he could have, perhaps, 5 – 10 years to live, and in that time, who knew what new treatments would be discovered.

Our lives changed. All our lives changed. Devastation overtook us, (devastation: to lay waste; destroy; to overwhelm; confound; stun), the one word, although a cliché, that attempted to cover all the emotions that we were experiencing.

Our 30th anniversary, however, was filled with hope, as Rob joined in our celebrations. He didn’t look as though he were sick. He made a supreme effort not to mar our day. He was being selfless, as usual. He laughed, he joked, he chatted. Only we, Dave and I, knew how much sight and hearing he had lost due to the tumour. This day was to be his last ‘normal’ day. From here he went into himself. He was no longer animated, no longer truly aware of what was going on around him. He was as a candle’s flame, flickering…

When he died on June 25th, at 08:50, just one week after our anniversary, the feeling of loss I can hardly describe. Just seeing him, as though asleep in his hospital bed; his lids closed, lashes laid gently on his cheeks; an ‘almost’ smile on his lips; a look of utter peace – and the interminable silence.

Each year we celebrate our anniversary, and one week later we become introspective as we mentally go though those final days. This year it was our 49th wedding anniversary, and Rob has been gone 19 years. It feels like a betrayal, carrying on with our lives without him, but I know that he would berate me for the thought. So I try to stay positive, and live my day. The night is another matter.

Next year Dave and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. A party will be planned. We will make our best efforts to enjoy ourselves, while in our thoughts will be Rob. He was 20 when he died, and next year it will be 20 years since he left us. A hard, almost incomprehensible, fact. He will have been gone as many years as he had lived. I cannot begin to describe the pain that cleaves through me, through all of us, with the thought of him. Special occasions always include Rob in one way or another, even if only in a voiced remembrance, an anecdote, a shared amusement. We laugh at the remembering, then we fall silent, seeing his smile…

In Rob’s honour, and, in some respects, for the retension of my sanity, and a hope to help others who have journeyed this fractured path, I wrote a book. It is a memoir of how we all dealt with his passing. The book is called, Future Confronted, and it celebrates Rob’s life; his fortitude; his selflessness; his amity; and above all, his joie de vivre.

June – a month of conflicting emotions – of memories both mixed with joy and anguish – a love so great for one person, that it surprises each one of us that our hearts are large enough to cope with its enourmity, and yet still find room there to overwhelmingly love everyone else.

When is Enough, Enough?

Researching salient points for an historical novel is a must.

But when is enough, enough?

I have just returned from my third research trip to Edinburgh, and, although I found out much that I didn’t already know, I was somewhat slack-jawed at the lack of knowledge in one particular area. I needed to know what Edinburgh Castle was like back in the late thirteenth century, and early fourteenth century, but could find no contemporary information of how it was back then.

I went to the National Library of Scotland, and could find nothing there, so then I went to Edinburgh Castle with the sure knowledge that asking at the source would bring forth the information required. It didn’t. Dumfounded, that made me stop in my tracks. What was I to do? I needed to be able to walk the metaphorical corridors of the castle, so that, in my mind’s eye I could see my characters playing their part. I asked this question in a group that I’m an admin in, The Review. Answers came thick and fast, and it was a great discussion, with suggestions on how to deal with the lack of information. All duly noted, and appreciated; and I will utilise their information. But, I was still perplexed as to why there was no information about the castle in the time period in which I was particularly interested.

I have a book, Fortress of the Kingdom – Archaeology and Research at Edinburgh Castle, by Gordon Ewart and Dennis Gallagher, Archaeology Report #7, and published through Historical Scotland. It’s a wonderful book, with pictures and diagrams of relevant archaeology done over time. There are drawings, which are colour coded to show which parts were built in which time. For example, a mustard colour shows what was built in the years 1050-1300, and a dark sage green shows what was built in 1300-1450; see image below. “Great!” says I, only to find no evidence for the first time period, and scant evidence for the second time period. Back to the drawing board. Continue reading When is Enough, Enough?

Louise Reviews

Interview Cafe header

Louise Reviews

Crocodile Legion: A Roman Adventure

by

S.J.A.Turney & Dave Slaney

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Egypt, 117AD

There was a clang as something glinting and worth more than a year’s pay hit the floor and rolled off into a corner,

    ‘Inkaef!’

    ‘What?’

    A figure, tanned by the blazing Egyptian sun and dressed in a simple white skirt, turned in the darkness of the chamber, his torch held high.

    ‘Do we take the coffin?’

    ‘We take everything, Pashedu.’

The second figure, dressed much the same as the first, nodded in the darkness of the chamber, lit only by the flickering orange glow of three torches and the dancing reflections of that light on the gold and the gems that filled the room like the richest treasury on Earth.

    ‘I don’t want to touch the mummy, Inkaef. How can I take the coffin from around it without touching it?’

The white-skirted leader rolled his eyes, unseen in the gloom. ‘You could grow up, stop acting like a frightened baby and just do it!’

Inkaef bent back to the collection of small gold and ebony wood idols of the gods and stuffed them into the sack he held, which was already weighed down with loot.

   ‘What if we get caught?’ came another voice from near the mummy’s coffin.

   ‘Who by?’ snapped Inkaef. ‘We’re not going to get caught. Just get that coffin free and carry it outside. It’s made of enough gold to buy a small town.’

And so begins the Crocodile Legion.

Like it, you will.

Enjoy it, you will.

    Simon Turney has written this wonderfully evocative story for children aged between seven and twelve, and has used language that is both appropriate for the younger reader as well as for the older reader. The story rips along, carrying the reader through an engaging tale of danger and fear, with many light, comedic moments. Continue reading Louise Reviews

Louise’s Interview Café

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Today I would like to welcome author, Simon J. A. Turney, and illustrator, Dave Slaney, to my Interview Café.

Thank you both so much for dropping by for a chat about your up and coming book, Crocodile Legion: A Roman Adventure, it’s really lovely to see you both here.

You are my first victims… er… I mean, my first interviewees…EmoticonIconX

Welcome!

I thought I would start with the quote which can be found on amazon for, Crocodile Legion: A Roman Adventure, to give our readers some idea of what lies in store for, Marcus and Callie, the sibling protagonists.

The prefect of Egypt needs money. And the men of the 22nd Legion must brave mazes and tombs and curses and crocodile gods to get to it.

 

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Marcus and Callie, orphaned in ancient Alexandria and taken in by their uncle, the standard bearer in the legion, are about to travel up the great river Nile with the legionaries in a tense and funny adventure to grab the gold of the Pharaoh Amenemhat.

Join the legion and discover ancient Roman Egypt.

If I may start with you, Simon; the Crocodile Legion: A Roman AdventureBook 1, is an inspired piece of writing for children between the ages of seven and twelve.

The two children featured in your book are your own children, though older than they are now. So, I think my first questions for you, Simon, are these:

What gave you the idea to write Crocodile Legion, and use Marcus and Callie as your child protagonists? And, why Crocodilopolis?

Heh heh. Actually, the initial draft of Crocodile Legion included no children at all! My ever-intuitive and horribly smart agent read the draft through and told me that it was good but could be better. That it needed more of a focus for the younger reader. And at the time, I had a photo on my desk of Marcus when he was 2, dressed up for fancy dress in a toga and laurel wreath. From there it seemed natural to take my kids and put them in the tale. How could I create characters more realistic than real people, after all? The personalities of the two in the book are my children to a tee. And why Crocodilopolis? Well while researching pyramids, completely independent of this book, for the record, I came across Hawara and Herodotus’ description of the labyrinth. A labyrinth built by a crocodile obsessed pharaoh, and a city that worships the scaly monsters? Sounded too good not to use. Everything just came nicely together. Continue reading Louise’s Interview Café

SO THE SAGA BEGINS

My First Journey

into

Writing Historical Fiction

When my first book, Future Confronted, a memoir about my son, Rob, was published in December 2013, I was stunned by the reviews, which were all positive and five star. I wrote the book, firstly as a memorial to Rob, who died from a brain tumour just a short forty-nine days after diagnosis, at the age of 20. Secondly, I wrote it in the hope that it would help others who had walked the fractured path that our family had done, and know that it is possible to come out on the other side, albeit different people; and to know that the journey continues.

In the spring of 2014 I started to write down ideas for my first journey into writing an historical fiction novel. My intention was to set it in Scotland, including both the Highlands and the Lowlands. Having started to learn Gaelic,
Continue reading SO THE SAGA BEGINS