Something for the Weekend with Tim and Kimm!

Shani Struthers

It’s lovely to have fellow Crooked Cat authors, Kimm Walker and Tim Taylor on my blog today, telling us about how they met, and talking candidly about the process of writing and making a sale. Here we go…

twitter picture.jpgTim and I are both Crooked Cat authors and met at Holmfirth Writers’ Group many years ago. We thought it might be interesting to do a head-to-head interview, as a change.

Tim: We’ve missed you recently from the writers’ group. I hope you’ve been able to work through the writer’s block you were suffering a while back?

Kimm: It’s true, I’ve turned away from “Writing” and given up some of the groups I used to regularly attend. Having poured whole years heart and mind into writing two books, Once Removed and A Life Less Lost, I was disappointed they didn’t go out and sell themselves, as per my romantic fantasy. Self-doubt is…

View original post 728 more words

In the Company of Poets

A few weeks ago, in one of the posts I did as Kirklees writer-in-residence (also reblogged here), I talked about the Poetry Days held at Huddersfield University on the first Saturday of every month.  I let slip there that the Poetry Day group was in the process of producing an anthology, In the Company of Poets.  I’m starting to get very excited now about the fact that it is going to be launched on 5 March in Huddersfield Library, as part of the Huddersfield Literature Festival!

This is an anthology with a difference, in that every poem it contains was begun at one of the Poetry Days and thus inspired, directly or indirectly, by one of the many great poets we have studied at these events.  These range from Homer and Sappho, through Donne and Shakespeare, Keats and Emily Dickinson to modern writers such as Sharon Olds and Simon Armitage.  Studying these poets stimulated us to write in many different ways.  The starting point might be some aspect of the chosen poet’s life; a theme that features in their work (perhaps just a single poem); or a particular form or style that they are associated with. Sometimes it is just a single image, or even a single word, that sets someone off in a new direction that will eventually result in a poem.  There is nothing like being immersed in poetry for a couple of hours to get your own creative juices flowing!  The anthology showcases some of the best work that has emerged from these sessions, from sixteen members of the group including established poets such as Alison Lock and Elspeth Smith.  I guess I’m biased, but I think it’s really good!

But you don’t have to take my word for it.  If you live within range of Huddersfield, why not come along to the launch – 1pm on 5 March in Huddersfield library.  It’s free, and if you like what hear, you can pick up a copy of the anthology (normally £6.99) for a fiver!   Earlier in the day you can also get a taste of Poetry Day, at a workshop on the poetry of Shakespeare at 9.30 in Room HWG 06, Harold Wilson building, Huddersfield University (also free).  All are welcome, from beginners to experienced poets.

I guess I should leave you with a taster of the anthology.  This poem came out of a Poetry Day session on Sharon Olds. It was not directly inspired or influenced by any particular poem of hers, but her poems about her father made me think of my own, and in particular the black depressions he frequently suffered when I was a teenager.

The Cloud

He carried a cloud with him, so thick

that if we tried to pierce it

with little spears of laughter

they came back blunted, broken.

There was no evading it.

Inside that house

the cloud pervaded everything:

made raindrops on my mother’s cheeks,

brought shadows into sunlit space.

We crept around as if through fog,

afraid of what we might stumble into,

or hid from it in upstairs rooms

that slowly filled with cloudlets of our own.

If he went out, the cloud and I would follow.

There was a hill on which, after a while

you might just see a little sun upon his face.

There is nothing like the wind, for shifting clouds.


[ First published in The Lake, December 2015. ]


Costume Drama

As anyone familiar with this blog will be aware, I sometimes share here things I’ve written in response to an exercise at one of the two writers’ groups I’m in. This little piece was written at Slaithwaite Writers in response to a fairly random selection of words, two of which were “ridiculous” and “smile”.


“What the ….” It took her a few seconds to realise that it was me inside the giant frog costume.

“What on earth are you playing at, Paul? This is ridiculous!”

“Is that such a bad thing? I mean, yesterday you were mocking me for wearing my grey suit. I seem to remember you saying – and I quote – ‘why do you have to wear the same drab clothes every day, you dull little man. Why can’t you wear something less boring once in a while?’ So I did. I thought you’d be pleased.”

“Oh, for Christ’s sake! I don’t know what kind of game this is, but I don’t like it. What is all this about?”

I composed myself for a few moments then tried to speak in as measured and thoughtful a manner as is possible for a person dressed as an unfeasibly large amphibian.

“What it’s about, I suppose, is an attempt to coax a smile from that stony face of yours. Clearly this is not going to be an easy task, but I am not a man who gives up easily. If the frog doesn’t do it for you, what else should I try? They have a nice chicken costume at the shop, but I thought that would just be silly.”

She uttered a peculiar noise that actually would have sounded quite appropriate coming from the frog.

“This is so typical of you, Paul. Instead of dealing with the issues between us, you just retreat into pathetic, infantile stunts, like a little boy.”

“I tried to talk to you about those ‘issues’ a couple of days ago, don’t you remember? And within five minutes you were shouting and throwing things at me.”

“That’s because you are completely impossible, Paul. Nothing you say or do makes sense. So why did you get it into your head that the solution to our problems was to be even more impossible. I mean – look at you! How could you possibly think this was going to help?”

I made no reply. It seemed the least worst option. But she was having none of it.

“Well, what have you got to say for yourself?”

I thought for a moment.

“Ribbit,” I said.

At this, she screamed and punched me on my green froggy nose. A little speaker in the head of the costume began to play “The Frog Chorus”.

She stood there, red faced, quaking with rage. And then, little by little, she began to laugh.

Romans in Scotland


Today I welcome fellow Crooked Cat historical novelist Nancy Jardine, who writes – and talks – about Celtic/Roman Britain (among other things).  

Welcome Nancy – nice to see you again!

Hello, Tim. It’s been a while since I visited your blog and I’m delighted to come again today.

‘Ancient Romans Raikin’ Aroon The ‘Shire’

Something is happening this coming Sunday that I’ve not done before. Yes, you might imagine all sorts of scenarios for that, however…you probably know that authors get into all sorts of ploys to promote their books? Well, what’s happening on Sunday is that I’m doing an ‘author talk’ at a special lunch venue.

I’ve done plenty of author talks and power point presentations during the last couple of years but so far I’ve only been invited to imbibe a cup of tea or coffee, and eat some delicious sandwiches or homemade cake. By way of a change, on Sunday, I’m invited to eat lunch at an award ceremony in the city of Aberdeen before I do my short talk and this just might set a precedent that I’ll have to surpass in the future. Except I’m a slow eater and might be too nervous to either eat at all, or present my talk properly afterwards!

How did I come to be invited?

In 2015, I sold a lot of my paperback novels at various craft fairs around my home area of Aberdeenshire. At The Aboyne Highland Games, a very nice chap (let’s call him AL) and his wife stopped at my table to talk for a while. The man asked a number of questions about my books, in particular my Celtic Fervour Series of historical romantic adventures covering AD 71-84. He was very enthusiastic about my choice of subject matter and the time period and wondered what made me choose to write about northern Britannia during the late first century. I think I just may have indicated that I’m quite enthralled, even obsessed, with the ancient Roman expansion into northern Britain and in particular the Agricolan and Severan campaigns in Scotland. Contrarily, I’m almost as fascinated by what the Roman Empire didn’t do in Scotland, since their presence was fleeting compared to other areas of the Empire.

We chatted about the fact that the ancient Romans left no stone buildings of note in northern Scotland. And that in central and southern Scotland there’s nothing like the villas and public buildings to be found in southern England…but there are stone remains of bath houses and some other fort buildings. I may also have made it clear that I find it very exciting that there’s still a whole gamut of possible remains, in wood traces especially, to be uncovered across Scotland. Many sites earmarked as that of Roman temporary occupation have never yet been properly excavated, so who knows what may still be uncovered there. I’m currently writing Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series and the bug to learn even more about Roman Scotland still grips me!

The Taexali Game, my teen time travel historical adventure had been recently published and that also caught AL’s eye. For a local, it’s easy to recognise the distinctive hilltop, Mither Tap of the Bennachie range, that’s visible on the cover. When I explained to AL that The Taexali Game is set in AD 210 during the northern campaign of the Emperor Severus, again pertinent questions came my way.

Final Nancy Jardine x 488

Whilst selling my books at craft fairs around the region, I’ve found it’s fairly common that many people have no idea that the ancient Roman army marched its way more than once to the Moray Coast of Aberdeenshire. There have been some who know that Roman armies came with General Agricola in AD 84 and had a battle in northern Scotland, later called The Battle of Mons Graupius, at an unnamed place that just might be at Bennachie. However, almost no-body knows that in AD 210 the Roman Emperor Severus and his son Caracalla marched northwards in Aberdeenshire with around 30,000 soldiers. I’m aware that some historians doubt that Severus came north since he was not a well man, being plagued with severe gout or painful arthritis and already in his sixties. However, there are sufficient other experts who don’t believe that Severus would have allowed his somewhat wayward son Caracalla to venture all the way north on his own. I also just might have mentioned to AL that I had a lot of fun including Severus and Caracalla as minor characters in The Taexali Game.

Though Books 1 and 2 of the Celtic Fervour Series are set mainly in Brigantia (present day Cumbria, Yorkshire and Northumberland), I emphasised to AL that Book 3 After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks follows the travels of my Brigante warrior, Brennus, as he makes a long and circuitous journey into present day Scotland. Brennus wends his way all the way to the Garioch (pronounced Gee-ri) , the part of Aberdeenshire where I live. By then it’s AD 84 in the novel and my battle at Beinn Na Ciche is looming. I don’t name the battle in my Book 3 as the famed Battle of Mons Graupius but for me the location at present day Bennachie is a very possible battle site. The Roman marching camp at Durno, on the opposite side of the valley from Mither Tap of Bennachie, is thought to date to Agricola, and maybe also Severus. At 58 hectares it’s sizable enough to have held upwards of 30, 000 troops. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, Agricola probably had at least 23,000 men available at what was later named the Battle of Mons Graupius and Severus set out to march north with some 50,000 troops but probably lost around 20.000 of those in guerrilla warfare before reaching the Bennachie area.


I have a notice at my selling table pointing out that I am available for author talks and presentations on Roman Scotland and it was this which caught AL’s eye, hence the invitation to speak at the Luncheon

My main problem with my talk entitled ‘Ancient Romans Raikin’ Aroon The ‘Shire’ (raking around Aberdeenshire) is knowing when to shut up after some 20-30 minutes. How can I possibly tell all the assembled company all about my obsession?

If you’ve any hints…please tell! Leave a comment for me!

Many thanks, Tim, for the opportunity to share my news.

You are very welcome, Nancy – thanks for visiting, always fascinating to hear your insights into the early history of our island!  Good luck with your lunch talk – in response to your question, what I suggest is that you tell them “I’m sorry, that’s all I’ve got time to say – but you can read the rest in my books!”   

CFS words

Bio: 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). She finds all historical eras are enticing to research about and ancestry research is a lovely time-suck. She regularly blogs; loves to have guests invade her blog; and being on 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 gardening, reading, writing and watching news on TV( if lucky). Oh, and catching the occasional historical T.V. programme.   Twitter @nansjar  Facebook: and (for The Rubidium time Travel Novels.) email:

Amazon Author page for books and to view book trailer videos:

Most novels are available in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble; NOOK; KOBO; W. H.;; Smashwords; TESCO Blinkboxbooks; and various other ebook stores.