Stepping back in time

It does feel like going back in time, stepping onto the site at Vindolanda or any of the fort sites available to view on Hadrian’s Wall. Tomorrow I will be there again as I mentioned in last week’s blog.

vindolanda_apr14

Seeing this photo brings to mind thoughts of my first three published novels, now known as the Starling Hill Trilogy. I really hadn’t expected to write a trilogy. Starting Over, my debut novel, was complete in itself. But when I thought about what to write next, it was clear to me that there was more to explore… particularly in the development of the budding relationship between Professor Kathryn Moss and the journalist, Denise Sullivan.

They didn’t get off to the best of starts in the first book, and although they both claimed they were fine with a long distance relationship, when I started writing the second book it was obvious that wasn’t an arrangement Den was going to be happy with for much longer.

I’ve been told that the second book, Arc Over Time, hasn’t proved to be as popular as the first book because readers didn’t like Kathryn. I’m sorry about that, not because I desperately crave more sales, but because I have a soft spot for her. She’s not the easiest person to get along with and she doesn’t even have the only child excuse for not having learned at an early age how to socialise. Archaeology was a good career choice for her, dealing with the detritus left behind by people who lived thousands of years ago.

finds1

It was after I had taken part in my first dig at Vindolanda that I wrote this for inclusion in the story, to give some explanation as to why Kathryn did choose her profession:

Deciding to use her free Sunday for a busman’s holiday, she had made the hour-long journey from her hotel to visit some of her favourite archaeological sites. From Vercovicium it was only a mile or so to Vindolanda. The ongoing excavations there were always fascinating as each year they uncovered more artefacts from the second and third centuries and incredibly, more of the writing tablets that had given historians valuable insights into the everyday lives of the soldiers and their families here on the furthest frontier of the Roman empire.

Walking amongst the ruins she was reminded of the many Sundays during her childhood spent roaming the moors above Sheffield with her father, often venturing into the Peak District. Her first sight of a stone circle had inflamed her imagination and she was hooked then. Luckily her father shared her passion for the early history of the British Isles. She had moved through the ages and finally settled on the Roman period as her favourite. When it came to choosing a future path, it was archaeology that beckoned.

Later on, in the third book, Carved in Stone, Kathryn and Den’s relationship is still in a state of flux. Den proposed to Kathryn at the end of Arc Over Time and in book three she moves to Durham to live with her. It’s a period of adjustment for both of them and at one point Kathryn attempts to explain her unease with the situation:

They stood facing each other. As usual, Den was finding it hard to gauge Kathryn’s mood. The professor broke the silence after a few minutes.

“Den. I’m sorry. This marriage thing. It’s going to take me some time to get used to the idea. I just never thought this was something I would have to even consider. I always thought it was one of the bonuses of being a lesbian. And now, just because we can, it doesn’t mean we have to. Lots of straight couples just live together…”

“I know. I never thought about getting married before either. When it wasn’t an option, I didn’t think it was important.”

“What’s changed?”

“I’ve met someone I want to spend the rest of my life with, and I want people to know. To show the world that our relationship is just as valid as anyone else’s.”

Kathryn twisted the ring off her finger. “I want to be with you, Den. But we both know I’m not ready for this step. Take this and ask me again at Christmas, if you still want to by then, that is.”

Den tucked the ring away to an inside pocket of her jacket. She pulled Kathryn close and whispered, “I will always want you.” Their lips met and Den was overwhelmed by the intensity of Kathryn’s response, her teeth opening to accept her tongue.

I enjoyed writing the second and third books of the trilogy, and I hope in time, they may appeal to a wider audience.

Meanwhile, it’s back to digging into the past for the next two weeks.

lastday


books17

Buying options for ebooks:

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books /Smashwords Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes

Christmas at Winterbourne is in print…available on Amazon: Amazon UK / Amazon US


 

The Vera Effect

There comes a point in the books I’ve written so far, which I’ve named “the Vera effect” after the detective in the TV series set in Northumberland.

vera

DCI Vera Stanhope (photo credit)

In most episodes, Vera and her sergeant will have spent three quarters of the allotted two hours talking to various people and trying to make connections that will lead them to the killer. Eventually she tells her team to gather round in their very nicely appointed squad room. They sit on the couch and stare at the crime board they’ve built up during the case and Vera will say: “What are we missing here?”

crimeboard

Crime board (photo credit)

Very often it is a minor detail that they missed early on. One of the detectives will make a comment that seems insignificant or off the wall, and it switches on the light bulb. Vera and her sidekick (it was Joe, now it’s Aiden) charge off to apprehend the right person, finally—usually in the last five minutes.

So, I find this relates to my writing. I’ve set up the situation, the characters and their backgrounds and have gotten a fair way along in the story when it hits me. What am I missing here?

It’s time then to step back and look at the whole picture. This means re-reading what I’ve written so far, checking through any notes I’ve made. And then something will stand out. When I was almost at the finish line with my first novel, Starting Over, I made a discovery that led to writing a sequel, and then a third book to complete the trilogy.

I could keep you all guessing and when there was only the one book this would have been a spoiler. But as anyone can now read the back of the book blurbs and look at the cover of book three, the revelation is out there. (But if you really don’t want to know, stop reading now!)

When two complete skeletons are discovered on Starling Hill Farm in Starting Over along with a lot of quality bling, I decided that my archaeologist, Dr Kathryn Moss, had made the discovery that would be the envy of anyone involved in searching for British antiquities. One of these set of bones had to belong to Cartimandua, leader of the Brigantes tribe at the time when the Romans came back for a second go at adding Britain to its empire. (Her final resting place hasn’t been discovered, so I was able to take some historical liberties here.)

Not a lot has been written about Cartimandua. However, Roman historians, writing a century or so later, clearly had a way of keeping their readers interested. One of the things they do say about the queen of the Brigantes wouldn’t be out of place in a modern soap opera. She, apparently, had an affair with her husband’s armour bearer, Vellocatus. So, it seemed to me, that when she disappears from historical record, she could have gone somewhere with her lover. And then came the light bulb moment. Why couldn’t Vellocatus be a woman?

I’m sure it would have been very difficult to pass as a man in the first century, particularly amongst Britons who had adopted Roman habits, such as communal bathing and bathrooms. However, I’m writing romantic fiction, so I didn’t feel it was necessary to worry about such details.

So, if you like the idea of a lesbian tribal leader in the 1st Century, take a trip into the hills above Huddersfield, West Yorkshire…and read all about it in The Starling Hill Trilogy.


books17

Buying options for ebooks:

The Starling Hill Trilogy:

Starting OverAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books /Smashwords Apple iTunes

Arc Over TimeAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

Carved in StoneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella BooksSmashwords / Apple iTunes

The Circle Dance: Affinity eBooks /Amazon US / Amazon UK / Barnes & Noble / Bella Books/Smashwords / Apple iTunes

Christmas at WinterbourneAffinity eBooks / Amazon US / Amazon UK /Barnes & Noble /Bella Books / Smashwords /Apple iTunes

Christmas at Winterbourne is in print…available on Amazon: Amazon UK / Amazon US