Shelburne Falls, Mass.
Winter

Stay Warm

That’s what I’ve been telling people these days. As I write this post, the weather app says it’s minus-5, but it feels like minus-19 in the Western Massachusetts village where I live. Well, it is winter, and staying warm is on everybody’s mind these days.

So, I say “Stay warm” to the clerks in the stores where I shop, the person pouring my tea, and frankly, whomever I meet wherever I go.

I’m as prepared as I can be for this weather. Long johns and wool socks are now part of my everyday costume, well, except when I went for a job interview. (I suffered a bit wearing a suit, nylons, and dress shoes.) I wear a hat, scarf, and gloves when I venture outside. I don’t fool around.

As I write this, I can hear the furnace cranking. We have one of those programable thermostats so we have variable temps throughout the day and night. The thermostat’s set at 55 degrees at night because we like sleeping in a cool home. You know it was cold last night when the furnace had to kick in to maintain that level. That and the cat slept with us under the covers.

And then there’s the wood stove in Hank’s workshop, which is off my office. We’ll keep a fire going in there.

It’s good weather to work on the final edits of the next book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series — Checking the Traps — which has a March 22 launch. I also just received the next history book to copyedit for a university.

Still, we might just venture a walk down to the village for hot beverages and just to see how tough we are.

In this weather, I feel fortunate that I have a warm place to live. That’s not true for everybody, and this is where this post turns serious. I see homeless people whenever I visit a nearby city. During the last cold snap, a man and woman died in a tent in the woods. While the cause of their death hasn’t been officially determined, the weather must have been a factor.

I will admit to being a bit hard-hearted in the past when I was approached by panhandlers. Although I often don’t have any cash on me, I didn’t give when I did. My justification? They’ll spend the money on something other than food or a place to live.

But after those deaths, I’ve changed my mind. I plan to keep singles in my bag, and if someone is holding one of those cardboard signs, I will give what I can. I may not have a lot, but I certainly have a lot more than they do. How they spend it is their business.

“Stay warm.” I told that to the homeless woman huddled on the sidewalk when I gave her money the other day. She said, “I’m trying.” And, you know, I believed her.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: The frozen village of Shelburne Falls, where I live on the Buckland side.

 

 

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Author Interview, Building Character

Meet Enya of Agricola’s Bane

This post launches a new series I call Building Character, in which authors write about a character in their novel. Nancy Jardine is the first with Enya of Garrigill, a young warrior in her Celtic Fervour Series. Historical fiction fans can find the fourth, Agricola’s Bane, on Amazon: Nancy Jardine books

But back to Enya of Garrigill, I like this description: “Enya has strong features which are in keeping with her resolute determination.” She may be young, but she’s tough.

Here. I’ll let Nancy do the talking.

Who is your character?SONY DSC

Her name is Enya of Garrigill. Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of the Celtic Fervour Series, opens with Enya having passed fourteen summers and she’s already a well-seasoned Late Iron Age Celtic warrior.

What does she look like?

Enya has strong features which are in keeping with her resolute determination. Her wide brow is softened by arresting eyes the colour of a changeable grey winter storm, eyes which sometimes betray her tender years and physical immaturity. Strong cheekbones flank a long nose that sits above front teeth which overlap slightly. Her chin is neat but often used with great effect to display her single-mindedness. The light brown soft-textured hair that has a tendency to escape her lengthy hair braids feathers the edges of her oval face and lifts her to comeliness, especially when her rare humour surfaces. The circumstances she inhabits are highly dangerous, but when Enya gives her wholehearted trust and love, it softens an often stern appearance.

What is your character’s back story?

Enya is a second-generation Garrigill warrior, a clan member who as a small child fled from Brigantia (Book 1 of the series), her family’s flight northwards being to avoid inclusion into the Roman Empire when the Roman legions dominate Brigantia (currently Cumbria and Yorkshire, England). By the end of Book 3 of the series, the Garrigill clan have migrated to Taexali Territory (current Aberdeenshire, Scotland) where they fight a pitched battle alongside the Celtic warriors of Calgach against the Ancient Roman legions of General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola.

The battle is disastrous for the Celtic warriors of the north who flee to the safety of the Caledon Mountains when the battle turns in the favour of the Romans. Enya bloodies her blade at this Battle of Beinn na Ciche: her warrior status elevated. In the chaos of the final moments of the battle she becomes separated from most of her family members, though days afterwards she finds them sheltering in the foothills of the Caledon Mountains.

What is your character’s role in your novel?

Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of the series, opens with Enya determined to find her slightly older brother Ruoridh and her younger cousin Beathan who have not been seen since the Battle at Beinn na Ciche. Ruoridh and Beathan are not believed dead – there’s been no evidence of their corpses even ten days after the battle – and Enya is convinced she will be able to find them. The difficulty is that Taexali Territory is now flooded with Ancient Roman soldiers who are moving from temporary camp to AB 1000x625temporary camp in a north westwards direction. It’s hazardous for anyone to be moving around anywhere since the locals have mainly fled to the mountains after the battle. Along with Nith of Tarras and Feargus of Monymusk Enya sets out to find her kin; establish they are dead; or prove the lads have been taken as slaves by the Romans which is a distinct possibility. Along with her companions, she also has the perilous task of gathering information about the movements, and future military campaign intentions, of General Agricola’s legions. A spy captured can expect inevitable death!

Why should readers care about this character?

Enya isn’t only battling with separation anxiety from her lost kin, who are both very dear to her and in fact can be named among her best friends; she’s also a prisoner of her own developing physical emotions. She’s not yet chosen her first lover even though she’s reached childrearing status and battles with her developing sexual emotions. She finds herself torn between her developing romantic feelings for Nith who has been an almost foster-brother for the last couple of years, and her other travelling companion Feargus who now seems to be an orphan, his family having been decimated by the Roman usurpers. Her physical warrior strength is counterbalanced by her growing emotional maturity.

Give a brief excerpt featuring your character.

This scene is near the beginning of Agricola’s Bane. Enya and her scouting patrol encounter some Roman auxiliaries while on surveillance duty in woods near Ceann Druimin where her family have taken shelter.

When Enya reached Colm, the soldier she had speared to the ground squealed and bleated as he squirmed to free his upper arm from the entrapment, his attempt to break the shaft unsuccessful. Frantically swinging it in her direction, the young auxiliary whirled and bucked to avoid the slashes of her blade. As she raised her long knife anew, the end of the spear walloped against her jaw, the impact splintering the tip, the sudden pain excruciating. The blow was not sound enough to knock her over, but the jarring sent the man sprawling. Landing heavily on his side, he yelped when the pole cracked asunder, the spear tip still stuck firmly in his upper arm. Forcing him onto his front with one well aimed boot roll, Enya clipped away the shallow helmet neck-guard with her knife.

She had him at her mercy but she would give him none.

Striking repeatedly at the freed flesh with her long blade, which was not much shorter than the Roman’s gladius, a white hot rage engulfed her. Blood spattered and bone cracked.

Would her Celtic lands never be free of the Roman scum? The next cut was for Ruoridh. Another hack was for her cousin, Beathan, and more for Feargus’ dead kin from Monymusk. Her blade continued a repetitious slashing. Her brother would be found or avenged. Either way, she vowed to remove as many of the Roman usurpers as she could.

“Enya!”

Fergus’ noisy reprimand eventually penetrated her frenzy. Lowering her blade she stared at him, the thudding inside her chest almost engulfing her.

It was his palms cradling her shoulders and his soft voice at her ear that reminded her to breathe properly. “Enough. He will trouble Colm no longer.”

Synopsis of Agricola’s Bane:

A.D. 84 Northern Roman Britain

Nith of Tarras helps Enya of Garrigill in the search for her kin, missing after the disastrous battle at Beinn na Ciche fought between the Caledonian warriors and the mighty Ancient Roman legions. Enya soon has a heartrending choice to make. Should she tread Vacomagi territory that’s swarming with Roman auxiliaries to find her brother? Or, should she head south in search of her cousin who has probably been enslaved by the Romans?

Commander of the Britannic Legions and Governor of Britannia – General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola – is determined to claim more barbarian territory for the Roman Empire, indeed plans to invade the whole island, but finds not all decisions are his to make. It increasingly seems that the goddess, Fortuna, does not favour him.

The adventures of the Garrigill clan continue…

You can find Nancy Jardine at these places:

Blog: http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk

Website: www.nancyjardineauthor.com/

Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG& http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G

email: nan_jar@btinternet.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/nansjar

Amazon Author page http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139590.Nancy_Jardine

 

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Winter

A Wintry Mix

It is -5 as I write this post. That’s -20.5556 Celsius. The weather app on my phone says “feels like -27” (-32.7778 C) because of the wind. Yeah, that’s cold. And the frigid temps are only a part of a wintry mix these past few days. How about snow, shoveling, and sourdough bread?

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Our driveway

First, I’m not complaining since this weekend’s snowstorm was the first significant one the village where I live has had this season. The ground wasn’t frozen during an earlier storm when a few inches fell, and the only hard part was the wet snow was heavy to shovel. Then, it all melted. And following that puny snowfall, the cycle of weather was cold temps when clear and relatively warm temps when it wasn’t, so we got rain instead.

The bulk of this weekend’s snow — I’d guess a foot — fell from Saturday night to Sunday morning. Hank and I grabbed our shovels to clear paths, the large deck, in front of the garage — and the biggest part of the job, the rather steep driveway. We were out there after breakfast although it was sleeting. We had to get the job done before the temps dropped.

As I tossed shovelfuls of snow above the driveway’s high banks, I was envious of our neighbors’ snow blowers. Should we get one? Sounds like a good idea. Well, we don’t have one today.

Shelburne Falls, Mass.

Shelburne Falls Village, Mass.

The job took two hours.

Afterward, we treated ourselves to a walk downhill to the snowy village for hot beverages. Chunks of snow filled the Deerfield River that runs through its middle. Thankfully, Mocha Maya’s was open, as was Keystone Market across the street. But that was it. Downtown was deserted.

Then there was bread. Since early morning, I began prepping dough to make sourdough bread using Michael Pollan’s recipe. For a couple of days, I had fed the new starter I bought, so it was ready to work. In between shoveling and other chores, I was in the kitchen pulling and folding the dough in its bowl, then letting it rest for a while — a process that takes several hours.

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Sourdough bread I baked.

I was more than pleased by the end result. That night, we ate slices of bread with a potato leek quinoa soup I made along with a good Portuguese wine.

And except for another trip outside to scrape new snow off the driveway, I stayed put inside — working on the fourth in my Isabel Long Mystery Series. I’m up to 20,000 words. I usually aim for 500 words in a day and I’m chuffed, as my UK friends say, if I go more. I answered questions about the third from my editor in Israel via email and worked on promotional stuff.

The furnace in the basement, which is set to a timer, just kicked in. Hank’s got the wood stove going in his shop beside my office. Soon, I will open the door to steal some of its heat. I am guessing that later we will bundle up in long johns and other suitable clothes before we venture outside for a walk. But pretty much, it will be a reading, writing, and a talking with family on the phone kind of day.

Yeah, it’s all about keeping warm these days.

ABOUT THE PHOTO ABOVE: Snow in the Deerfield River.

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Checking the Traps, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Checking the Traps: Full Speed Ahead

As mentioned in a post last week, things are moving faster toward the release of my next mystery, Checking the Traps. We now have a release date, a cover, and I am working with my editor to get the novel in the best shape possible. Read on for the details.

For those new to my blog or just need a gentle reminder, Checking the Traps is the third book in my Isabel Long Mystery Series set in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Isabel is a longtime journalist turned P.I., who is handling cold cases in her neck of the woods. Her clients tend to be on the country gritty side. Her 93-year-old mystery-loving mother is her sidekick.

First: March 22 is the official launch date of Checking the Traps. That’s when the Kindle version will be released. (The paperback version will be earlier.) I will let you know when pre-orders begin.

Second: Above is the cover created by Laurence Patterson, co-publisher at Crooked Cat Books. The other two book covers feature the back view of a woman outside in black and white. This cover matches that theme well while capturing an important element of the book: a bridge.

Third: My editor, Miriam Drori, and I are going over the manuscript very carefully. It’s great having someone who has fresh eyes — and mind — give my book a close read. Certainly, I’ve read it a gazillion times. We are on round two.

However, for this book, I have a not-so-secret weapon: the “read aloud” mechanism of my newly purchased Word program. Alas, my old version stopped working, so I was forced to upgrade, and I’m glad I did. I click on “read aloud” and a man reads my book aloud. It’s slow and I can only take listening for so long. (I am amused at some of “his” pronunciations.) But in the process I have found missing words, typos, and overused words. Dang, I wish I had used this for my other books.

Finally: I want to say congrats to anyone who picked up the Kindle version of Chasing the Case, the first book in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, which was free this past weekend. By my standards, it did well, including reaching #7 in the popular Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Crime Fiction > Murder category in Amazon US.

Of course, this is for free books. But as I explained in my last post, I’m hunting for readers who will get hooked by this series. It’s all part of the publishing game.

 

 

 

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Chasing the Case, Isabel Long Mystery Series

Yes, My Book Is Really Free

Such a deal. The Kindle version of Chasing the Case, my first mystery, is free for two days but only this weekend, Jan. 12 and 13. Here’s the link on Amazon: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase. And for those who think I must be nuts giving away a book I worked so hard on, let me explain.

Actually, let me back up a bit and express my gratitude to those who bought the Kindle version at the $2.99 price. I appreciate your support.

But what I’ve learned is there is writing, and then there is the business of writing. And like any business, I have competition. Lots of competition when you consider the books being pushed by big and little houses, plus the gazillion people who are publishing themselves. How do you get your book to stand out? Good question.

I have been flattered by what people who have read Chasing the Case and the sequel, Redneck’s Revenge, have had to say. Some have even left reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. (Hint, hint, if you haven’t, please do!) Having people enjoy my books is exactly what I — or any author for that matter — want. I loved writing them. I want people to love reading them.

Ah, but first they have to know about my books.

So for two days, I want to catch mystery-loving readers who will be swayed by a freebie. They hopefully will read the book, get hooked and want to pay for the second and the third, Checking the Traps, which will be launched officially March 22. And, yes, the fourth, is in the works.

Here’s a brief synopsis of Chasing the Case: How does a woman disappear in a town of a thousand people? That’s a 28-year-old mystery Isabel Long wants to solve.

Isabel has the time to investigate. She just lost her husband and her job as a managing editor of a newspaper. (Yes, it’s been a bad year.) And she’s got a Watson – her 92-year-old mother who lives with her.

To help her case, Isabel takes a job at the local watering hole, so she can get up close and personal with those connected to the mystery.

As a journalist, Isabel never lost a story she chased. Now, as an amateur P.I., she’s not about to lose this case either.

That’s it in a nutshell.

Know a mystery lover? Then please spread the word. I thank you very much. And I will make it easy. Here’s the link again: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

 

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