Breaking up is hard to do

Me in my 'Man Cave' on a rainy September 2017 morning.

Me in my ‘Man Cave’ on a rainy September 2017 morning.

I dedicated Eboracum, No Turning Back to the recent Brexit decision. Brexit is controversial, to say the least, but it is history going full-circle. After more than sixteen hundred years, Britain will free itself of rule from Europe for the second time. As with most break-ups, it won’t be easy. There will be tears and fighting and lots of red tape. Perhaps an author in a couple thousand years will use it as fodder for a historical saga in the same way I’ve used the Roman invasion of Britain in my own Eboracum stories.

All my Eboracum books differ from what is usually found in historical (Roman) fiction and No Turning Back follows the same pattern. Yes, the books stick to the historic facts and are well researched (like most historic fiction); yes, there are conflicts and battles and crises that take place; and yes, there are complicated relationships and individual stories and a certain amount of romance. However, the characters’ stories are told with a pragmatic, realistic edge to them, to which you, reader, can ready relate. There are no stalwart heroes, no nasty, evil villains, but more the average person(s) for the most part – people like ourselves who struggle to get things done despite our flaws and idiosyncrasies and the odd ‘screw up.’ I feel that my characters are people you might still know today: people who mess up, and have their plans go awry; women who have moods and minds of their own; and men who are just as likely to go sideways as forward. The results often take place with that dark, ironic humour that surpasses time.

The ebook version of Eboracum, No Turning Back  is available now. It was just released today. I hope you’ll download a copy, curl up in a corner and spend time with some people in the past. They might have different names and hygiene habits but they’re just like you and me. As well, while you’re being entertained, you’re also getting a history lesson and learning about Eboracum…York…my home town.

Eboracum, No Turning Back  is also available in hardcopy and can be ordered by clicking here. Looking to start with Book I? Click here for the entire four book series.

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No Turning Back

Well, dear reader, you’ve been with me through the founding of  Eboracum (York) and through the struggles of the families on both sides of the war for Northern Britain. I thought our time in ancient Eboracum was finished, but apparently, it’s not.

As you know, the Eboracum trilogy is a first century saga that spans the first thirty-five years of Eboracum’s history, from its founding as a fifty-acre timber fortress, to when it was completely rebuilt in stone. It was a story that followed three generations of both a Roman and a Brigante family, people of two vastly different cultures who, for the most part, accepted, if not necessarily assimilated, over a fairly short period of time. As the trilogy’s original characters reached old age, their stories had been certainly told. It was a good time to stop and move on to other things.

So I did.

I wrote three other books with absolutely no relation to ancient times. I wrote about federal politics using fiction to highlight the need for reform. I wrote about an accountant who is caught up in an interesting state of “affairs.” I wrote a memoir. But with every story I brought to life, Eboracum was demanding I give it more time too.

The old Roman fortress was always there at the back of my mind. However, where could I go with the story? My characters had done enough in their lives and deserved a rest. I needed someone and something fresh to write about. Then, an idea came to me. I had centuries of history to pull from and I had started at the beginning – writing about Eboracum’s founding by the Romans. What about writing about the inevitable Roman abandonment?

I skipped forward three hundred years for the ‘rest of the story’, and last week released Eboracum, No Turning Back.

The background: Rome finally withdrew all troops from Britain in AD 407 because she was stretched to the limit at home by treachery and violence, both internal and external. By AD 476, the Western Empire would collapse. The abandonment of Eboracum was a big story along the way, one that was likely just as traumatic as the original invasion, though, of course, not as well documented. Just over three hundred years after arriving at Eboracum, in AD 387 the Romans began withdrawing troops. Twenty years later, they were gone.  However, they left behind a fortress and town that, by the time of the Renaissance, had grown to be England’s second city.

Roman floor mosaic illustrating the Romulus and Remus myth.

Roman floor mosaic illustrating the Romulus and Remus myth. Discovered at Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum) near Leeds, North Yorkshire (formerly West Riding), UK. Exhibited at Leeds City Museum. Photo Credit: By Linda Spashett Storye book (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

For an author, there are many threads here to pick up and start weaving into stories. In terms of time, Rome left over a relatively short period—twenty years.  I wanted to write about that. How did the locals deal with this? What about their families, both Roman and Briton. Who were they, who stayed, who left? What dangers did they face? How did they get by? And, of course, how did the ever-expanding Christian church fit in with all this? (Oddly enough, the archeology around York shows more signs of a continuing ability to function after the Romans left, than most other parts of Briton.)

The Roman withdrawal must have been an interesting time; a momentous time to create two more families.  As before, one would be that of a Roman, the other would be that of a Briton.  One would stay behind…with no turning back; and the other that of a Briton, who manage to prevail, and keep going.  Beset on all sides, a new era was starting…  Another trilogy?  Hmm…  Eboracum, No Turning Back, might just be the first volume of three. The second book has already been started…

May the fourth be with you

Roman reading a book roll.I’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on the latest installment of Eboracum (the fourth book). The writing phase is almost easier than what is to come… my editor’s comments and suggestions. However, if I was an author in ancient Roman times, I would be writing and re-writing everything by hand.

Today, we have the computer. I can move words, sentences and even pages around with a flick of my wrist. Computers are also far easier than typewriters and I’ve used a few of those in my time too. (I wonder what the next installation of the writing mod con will be?)  Romans didn’t have books either, they had book rolls: papyrus (paper made from a water plant) rolled on rods. The Romans were fastidious in how they read their book rolls and there were certain manners that had to be followed. One thing has remained the same throughout the ages; authors are always looking for readers.

Roman authors of yore did have philosophy and theorizing book roll launch parties to publicize their accomplishments. Perhaps writers even started with, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.” (I’m joking of course since that line was borrowed from Mr. Shakespeare, who lived a few hundred years later.) I’ll be looking for your eyes this March 2017. This is when I plan to be done my Eboracum edits and the fourth will be with you. Until then, tell me what you’ve been reading or what kind of novel you’ve been working on recently.

Cutting grass and growing words

GrassIt’s summer and while for some people that means holidays and rest, for me it means work… and I’m retired! I’m mowing the grass today around our place. It takes two of us to get the job done. I get on my mower, my wife gets on her mower, and then we go around and around for three hours until the green grass has been tamed. (Okay, not tamed – it’s not a wild animal but it is less unkempt.) The yard is about four acres and it looks like a manicured park after we’re done.

I’m still in the midst of writing Eboracum IV.  It has reached the 120,000 word count and I now think I know where I’m going. I may  start the first rewrite by September 1. Just like the grass though, I’ll have to do some cutting at some point. 😉

The long and short of it

Sound of Silence at the Little Free Library in Calgary.

Sound of Silence at the Little Free Library in Calgary.

Sound of Silence didn’t make the Whistler Independent Book Awards’ short-list. However, I was honoured to be in esteemed “long-list” company. Independent publishing is increasingly being taken seriously by the publishing industry and I’m glad the Whistler Independent Book Awards is recognizing indie published authors. All the best to those on the short-list.

Anybody have another view on the indie book market? I’d love to hear from you.

Silence in Whistler

Whistler in the summer.

Whistler in the summer. A good time to read when the slopes are green.

Sound of Silence was ‘long-listed‘ in the Whistler Independent Book Awards non-fiction category. This is the first year for the awards and I’m happy to have made the first cut. I find out if my memoir moves on to the short list next week on Monday, July 18.

The awards recognize excellence in Canadian independent publishing. There are prizes for four categories: fiction, non-fiction, crime fiction and poetry. The inaugural Independent Book Awards will be handed out in October.

I’ll keep you posted on how my book does. Meanwhile, what are you reading this summer? Let me know.

In or at London?

IRoman_writing_tablet_01 read an interesting article last week and posted it. It was about the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) translating the oldest hand-written document by Roman Britons found in the UK. The wooden tablet and others were found during an archaeological dig in the middle of London. This is all fascinating enough but what also piques my curiosity is the spelling of London found on one of the tablets.

MOLA deciphered a tablet to read “Londinio Mogontio” – “In London, to Mogontius.” I’ve been using Londinium in my Eboracum series. It’s a matter of noun declension: Londinium
(which is neuter) means ‘to London,’ as opposed to Londinio, which would mean ‘at London.’ The modifier, like pronouns in front of verbs, was actually part of the Latin word itself. Hmmm. Something to ponder.

Tablets have been found at other places around the UK too, although these are not as old. At Vindolanda, a supply base located south of Hadrian’s Wall, stacks and stacks of documents were found also preserved in sodden conditions. Archeologists quickly learned that unless the tablets were handled correctly (freeze-dried), the things quickly fell apart. The London tablets as well have been freeze-dried after being cleaned.

Eboracum or Eboracvm?

Roman writing.

The Vindolanda tablets: discovered at the site of a Roman fort in Vindolanda, northern England. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Eboracum is the Roman name for York, U.K. The Romans spelled Eboracum with a ‘v’ as in Eboracvm and this causes some modern-day confusion over the name. Of course, it’s pronounced with a ‘u’ but to keep my Eboracum series books truer to the actual way it was, I use Eboracvm on the covers. I use both Eboracum and Eboracvm on the electronic titles.

Thank you, ladies

Graham Clews.

I’m currently in Arizona writing the fourth installment of the Eboracum series.

I was delighted to discover another review on Eboracum, The Village. This one was by Cathy W, on Goodreads, and it left me with a hearteningly warm glow. It’s such a wonderful feeling when someone really seems to like and enjoy your work. There is an irony to be found here, though.

When I began the Eboracum series, I thought it was being written as what I’d often called ‘a male read.” Any romance in the book was pragmatic, as were characters of both gender. The conflicts pulled no punches, and I did my best to research and convey the reality of the times. As such, I was completely blindsided with the enthusiastic response from my female readers: the reviews and even letters and cards were most appreciated.

Thank you, ladies.