Expanding Your Cast of Characters

20160618_183444a (3)As a fiction writer, I am sometimes asked by readers “where do you get your characters?” Usually that question is followed by “are they based on real people?” My answer is “I make them up.” Followed by, “I would never use a real person that I know as a character.” However, all of my characters are based on the sum total of my knowledge of humanity. I build my characters’ appearances, personalities, speech patterns, and behavior based on humanity as I know it or can imagine it. The limitations on my ability to create characters, then, are the limits of my own experience plus my ability to imagine and extend my knowledge to its extremes.

Part of my job in writing fiction is to create fully formed, believable characters that people can recognize, identify with, or at least be able to envision as a functional being. The more types of people I can imagine, the wider will be my casts of characters. So how do I improve and increase my casts of characters? I have to improve my knowledge of humanity as a whole by increasing my knowledge of the unique individuals whose quirks and personality extremes exemplify the wide variations in human behavior. I have to read. I have to read widely on varied topics, particularly about people who aren’t like me, people who live in places I would never live, doing things the I can’t imagine doing. This means reading histories, biographies, memoirs, news stories, and magazine articles about people from all walks of life.

For example, I am a reader and writer of mysteries. Mysteries are what I prefer to read most of the time. However, a diet of strictly mysteries wouldn’t be enough to help improve my writing, so I  read a lot of nonfiction in an effort to broaden my horizons. I read Red Platoon by Clinton Romesha, American Sniper by Chris Kyle, and 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff. These books gave me glimpses into the lives of ordinary soldiers, special forces soldiers, and former soldiers working in dangerous parts of the world. They also illustrated the varying responses of people, both trained and untrained, when pushed to their absolute physical and emotional limits.

books on bookshelves
Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

I read Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches by S. C. Gwynne. Only the most stubborn, most fanatical people were willing to settle on the Texas frontier in the 1800s, an area that saw 300 years of territorial conflict. The brutality of modern warfare could be matched blow for blow by what was historically referred to as the ‘depredations’ of the Comanches in Texas. That people, like Quanah Parker and special forces operators, can go from the visceral brutality of killing in warfare and step into lives as businessmen says a lot about the plasticity of human nature.

I also read The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis about the work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, a pair of Israeli psychologists whose work developed the field of behavioral economics. I read The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb about the random, unpredictable events that impact our lives in huge ways. And I read Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larsen about a meteorologist’s failure to predict the 1900 Galveston hurricane. These three books include the issue of scholarly hubris. They discuss how wrong scholars and scientists can be when they think they have all necessary data, but don’t, and the damage to society as a whole that this overconfidence can cause.

Writers, be diligent readers, particularly of nonfiction and particularly of subjects that aren’t already familiar to you. See the world through someone else’s eyes. Expanding your reading horizons will expand your ability to imagine new, unique characters to populate your own stories. Many people live in neighborhoods that are socioeconomically homogenized, work with people who do similar work, volunteer with others who support the same causes, and participate in hobbies, sports, or social activities with those who enjoy those same activities. When you look beyond your own circumscribed lives and interests, you may find personalities that you never knew existed and a range of people you never could have imagined. Step outside your own world and into a wider one to improve your writing.

Let me know your suggestions for great nonfiction books. I’m always looking for more great characters.


N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her debut novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).


A Positive Spin #writerslife #amreading

By Ronel Janse van Vuuren

I’ve had an interesting month thus far. Well, “interesting” is putting a positive spin on things.

Tony spent a week at the vet’s: he was listless and losing weight for no apparent reason. After numerous tests (mostly to rule out the really scary stuff like cancer), it finally turned out to be a rare form of Addison’s Disease. And it’s treatable. Yay! He still needs ‘round the clock care by mummy (I have to watch his temperature, make sure he eats, make sure that what comes out looks healthy, give him his meds, keep him calm, etc.), but he’s home and looking a lot better.

Here’s a pic from last week at the vet’s:

Yesterday he barked at the neighbours! Fabulous improvement. I can only hope that he gets back to being my mischievous boy who always asks “why not?”.

I couldn’t write at all, of course. So I read. A lot. (I have reviews for Goodreads ready until end of September…)

One of the best non-fiction books I read was Jane Friedman’s “The Business of Being a Writer”. I only gave it four stars, but the reasons are explained within the review (see link).

The reason I really like this book is because I learned something new about my own published works:

“Short story collections are distinctly literary work.” And literary work doesn’t sell as well as commercial work.

Wow. And here I thought I was just a dark fantasy author. But it does explain the odd sales, amazing ranks on the different Amazon stores during launch week and glowing reviews

The book also gave me hope for the future:

“Committed writers succeed: recognise that most careers are launched, not with a single fabulous manuscript, but through a series of small successes that builds the writer’s network and visibility, step by step.”

Though the month hadn’t gone as planned – neither did last month – I feel positive that things can only improve from here on out.

On a side note: Tony is actually currently as grumpy as a faery dog character I’d based on him. Seems I know my boy a lot better than I thought.

Have you had any surprising revelations about your writing?

Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase on Amazon and other online retailers.

Connect with Ronel:

Amazon : Twitter : Pinterest : Google+ : Goodreads : Ronel the Mythmaker : Instagram : Newsletter


Return Journeys — by Helen Currie Foster

 Posted by Helen Currie Foster

Some write left-handed, some right. Some rise early, some stay up late. And in another human dichotomy—some read, and some re-read. We recidivists return over and over to favorite books. Why, when new books abound, waiting to be discovered (here I mention David Malouf’s Ransom), do we rummage the shelves for a book we’ve read and re-read?

Sometimes we want bedtime reading, or, as the Dowager Duchess puts it in Busman’s Honeymoon, disappointed by a recent book, “…will fall back on Through the Looking Glass.

I too “fall back.” I plead guilty to reading and re-reading favorite children’s books and books for adult children. Books that gripped me the first time I read them: Kim, by Rudyard Kipling. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The Fellowship of the Ring, The Dark Is Rising trilogy by Susan Cooper, thumbed and re-thumbed. And then mysteries, sagas and spies: Dorothy Sayers, Reginald Hill, James Clavell, John Le Carré—especially Smiley’s People. Watching George Smiley retrace the desperate steps of old Vladimir across Hampstead Heath until he finds the hidden cigarette packet: Moscow rules! Mei-Mei and Struan, dodging pirates while steering a bullion-laden junk down the Pearl River: flaming arrows! Kim, caring for his Tibetan lama, learning the jewel trick in Simla, shouldering the Himalayan foothills as he embarks on the Great Game and with the lama finds the River of the Arrow. Hurree Baba reminding Kim not to use Muslim expressions when wearing Hindu disguise.

Why? One confirmed re-reader says, “I revisit these little worlds. I can’t change the endings. I have no responsibilities.”

Not that these tales teach no lessons. Kim learns love and responsibility. Lucy and her siblings learn hard lessons: stick to instincts, stay loyal and tell the truth—in order to save Mr. Tumnus. Young Will Stanton in The Dark Is Rising bears the responsibility of the four signs on his belt and feels the power of the dark as well as the light.

Happy endings?

Not totally. Children must leave the wardrobe, Struan must await the worst typhoon, Smiley must watch Karla toss Ann’s gold lighter at his feet. No, not happy. Loose ends remain, future threats loom. But we feel again the empowering of the characters as they become equipped for what they must face. We’ve felt again the power of a special world we loved.

But the fellow re-reader says he takes a different journey in re-reading what we call a great novel: “Each time I read a great book, it’s a different book. I see things I didn’t hear before, hear voices I didn’t hear before, experience something I didn’t experience before.”

I re-read To the Lighthouse at least every other year, always captured by Virginia Woolf’s ability to catch in two sentences the very heart of those characters and their relationships. This May I re-read The Waves, where she pushes the novel to a new form in her quest to understand human consciousness. This time Virginia Woolf made me ask myself the same question that Bernard keeps asking in The Waves, about individual consciousness and our collective lives. More on that next time, maybe.

Meanwhile, on to David Malouf’s Ransom. Malouf re-imagines Achilles’ furious grief over the death of his childhood soulmate Patroclus, his retribution on Hector, and then the visit King Priam makes to Achilles, seeking return of his son Hector’s corpse. Maybe Malouf brings this story to such vivid life by showing us how Priam chooses to make the visit in a mule-driven cart instead of a chariot, and learns from the simple mule-driver how to taste an olive, a griddle-cake, how to cool dusty royal feet in a small stream. Maybe he also does it by letting us see childhood through Achilles’ eyes. But no spoilers here.

New books abound, and this one, rooted in one of our oldest shared stories, is so worth reading. Now back to my waiting mystery draft.


Helen Currie Foster is the author of the Alice MacDonald Greer mysteriesGhost Cave, Ghost Dog, Ghost Letter, and Ghost Dagger. She practices environmental law in Austin and lives in the Texas Hill Country, where her books are set.


Donate a Book–Save a Life

Today Writing Wranglers and Warriors
welcomes a new blogger,
Renee Kimball.

Posted by Renee Kimball

Imagine being unable to read or to read at such a low level that you cannot understand a simple receipt, a renter’s lease, or your child’s homework, complete a job application, or learn a basic skill set.  If one is functionally illiterate – unable to read and comprehend the simplest of materials -daily life is a monumental struggle.

One of the largest populations of the functionally illiterate are found within the criminal justice system of the United States. The U.S. prison population is now at 2.2 million, and according to The Literacy Project, 75 percent of these are functionally illiterate. This number however, does not include the number of individuals on parole status–currently over 3 million.

Inmate illiteracy will remain a road block to social integration unless educational opportunities are provided – most importantly– reading skills.  Without educational support the recidivist cycle is a revolving door back to prison.  The Rand study found prisoners who are provided educational support “had a 43 percent lower odds of recidivating than those who did not.”

There are however, many who believe that providing reading materials – books – are a way to break the hopeless cycle of recidivism.

In Texas, The Inside Book Project, ISP, responds to prisoners’ requests for reading and instructional materials and providing over 35,000 books yearly to Texas inmates.  ISP’s site provides a listing of inmates’ most requested books, where a dictionary is the second most requested item.  They also list books that are not allowed by the Texas correctional system (each state has specific requirements as to subject matter allowed in their system).

If you happen to be a lover of books and are considering donating the books you no longer need, consider researching which local organization in your state provides books for prisoners– you might just possibly change  a life.

2018-03-21-RENEE 2 -WWW



A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is active in rescuing dogs from shelters and placing them in forever homes.

Bad Men, Lawless, and BSP

 Posted by M. K. Waller

I turned on my Kindle today to find Laura Oles’ Daughters of Bad Men, had appeared in its library, overnight, as if by magic. That’s a perk of pre-ordering. Laura is one of my critique partners in Austin Mystery Writers, and Daughters of Bad Men is her first novel.

I’ve been in AMW for six or seven years–can’t remember exactly–but membership is one of the best things that’s happened since I began writing for publication.  Examining others’ work and hearing their comments on mine has made me a better writer. Members have become my friends. Together we’ve enjoyed workshops and lunches and weekend retreats.

And I’ve acquired a new virtue: I’m genuinely happy when other members get their work published.

My skin turns Shrek green, but I’m happy.

Offsetting today’s greenish tinge over Laura’s debut, I’m also happy to announce that AMW’s second crime fiction anthology, Lone Star Lawless, was released last week by Wildside Press. 

Twelve years after Karen MacInerney founded the critique group, AMW published its first anthology, Murder on Wheels. The idea, like the anthology, grew out of collaboration. Kaye George, facilitator of the group after Karen left, describes it in the Introduction:

The genesis was a ride my husband and I took a couple of years ago on the Megabus (a double-decker bus that makes express runs between major cities with very limited stops). I started thinking that the bus would make a good setting for a murder: isolated setting, finite number of suspects, possible amateur sleuth. There was one problem–where to hide the body. So I asked the group, Austin Mystery Writers, for suggestions…. Once we got started, the Austin Mystery Writers came up with murder scenarios on vehicles, then expended that to included all sorts of wheels…

Somewhere in the brainstorm of titles–Assaulted in an Automobile, Batted on a Bicycle, Conked in a Cart–Kaye said, “We should do an anthology.”

So, after inviting two accomplished writers, Reavis Wortham and Earl Staggs, to contribute, we wrote, critiqued, revised, re-critiqued, submitted to an independent editor, queried, and signed with Wildside, and Murder on Wheels: 11 Tales of Crime on the Move came out in 2015.

Kaye was an established writer with several novels and a zillion short stories to her credit, but the rest of us–Gale Albright, V. P. Chandler, Laura Oles, Scott Montgomery, and I–had never published any fiction. We were officially Pleased With Ourselves. When Wheels received the Silver Falchion Award at the 2016 Killer Nashville International Writers Conference, we tried to remain humble but couldn’t.

One anthology led to another. This time, AMW are joined by eight friends–Alexandra Burt, Mark Pryor, Larry Sweazey, Janice Hamrick, Terry Shames, George Wier, and Manning Wolfe–for Lone Star Lawless: 14 Texas Tales of Crime.

I would like to say, in a tone dripping with sophistication, “Been there, done that.” But I can’t. As with Wheels, I want to put Lawless in a baby carriage and, in a flagrant fling of Blatant Self Promotion, roll it up and down Congress Avenue and so everyone can see my magnificent creation.

Wouldn’t be prudent, though.

But if Laura wants to borrow my baby carriage to roll Daughters of Bad Men up and down Congress Avenue, I’ll be more than happy to chaperone.


Note: Kaye George’s first book, Choke, is the funniest mystery novel I’ve ever read. My review on Telling the Truth, Mainly begins,

Question: If you combined Lucille Ball with Inspector Clouseau, what would you get?

Answer: Imogene Duckworthy, amateur P.I. and main character of Kaye George’s new mystery, CHOKE.

Here’s the entire review. Everything I say in it is the truth.


M. K. Waller, aka Kathy, 
has published stories 
in Austin Mystery Writers’
crime fiction anthologies

and in Mysterical-E.


Reading Life

This post is by Abbie Johnson Taylor.


Thanks to StephJ for inspiring this. Since I love to read as much as I love to write, here are my answers to some questions about how I read.


Do you have a specific place for reading?

Because of my visual impairment, I prefer listening to books, either in recorded or digital print formats. For this reason, I can read while eating, doing dishes, putting away laundry, etc. Most of the time, I prefer to read in the recliner that once belonged to my late husband Bill or in the back yard where he also enjoyed sitting. I like reading in these places because it makes me feel closer to him.

Do you use bookmarks or random pieces of paper?

The devices I use are capable of keeping my place when I leave a book and return to it later. They have bookmark features, but I rarely use them.

Can you just stop anywhere or must it be at the end of the chapter?

I try to stop at the end of a chapter, but some authors end chapters with cliffhangers, so that can be more easily said than done. Also, some chapters are lengthy, and if I start nodding off, forget it.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Whether I’m reading or writing, I’m always drinking water. In mid-afternoon, I drink Dr. Pepper. Occasionally, I’ll listen to a book at the kitchen table while eating.

Do you listen to music or watch TV while reading?

Since I listen to books instead of reading them, this can be tricky, so I usually don’t.

Do you read one book at a time or several?

I read one book at a time. I finish it, or not, then move on.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

With my portable devices, I can read anywhere, but I prefer to read at home.

Do you read out loud or silently?

Most of the time, books are read to me, either by a human voice on a recording or by my device’s text to speech engine. Sometimes though, especially when reading poetry, I read material aloud to myself with my device’s Braille display.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

It depends on the book. With a novel, I don’t dare skip anything because I don’t want to miss an important plot twist. With a book of essays, short stories, or poems, I skip material that doesn’t appeal to me.

Do you break the spine or keep it like new?

Most of the time, I’m not dealing with spines. Occasionally though, if I really want to read a book and can’t find it in an accessible digital format, I’ll buy a hard copy and scan it. When I do this, I try to keep the book intact.


Now it’s your turn. You can answer any or all the questions above, either in the comments field or on your own blog. If you do this on your blog, please put a link to your post in the comments field here. In any case, I look forward to reading about your reading life.


Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.



Painting with Words

Post (c) Doris McCraw


This post is about painting with words, letting the words do the work that pictures usually do. We all use them, it is how we communicate. Still many can’t or don’t read. There are those who can’t write, let alone write cursive. If we don’t use words correctly, misunderstanding occur.

April as most of you know is National Poetry Month. It is a month to celebrate words. While I enjoy most poetry, I prefer the challenge of the haiku form. I haven’t been posting as many this year, and that is by choice. I’ve decided to let the well fill up again. Still I can’t let this month get by without some form of poetry.  Here then is a poem a CENTO if you will, of life, love and…. It is composed from lines of some of my favorite paintings with words.

Only I can change my life

Let go of the life you planned – To feel freedom

Don’t wait for something outside yourself – Darkness cannot drive out darkness

Reality is better than your dreams – Being deeply loved gives you strength

Loving deeply give you courage – Love those who can smile in trouble

Dreams are more powerful than facts – Culture is the intersection of people and life

Cowards die many times before their death – Death is not to be feared if one has lived wisely

You cannot feel comfortable – Without your own approval.

Immortal Twain said:

” Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone

You may still exist, but you have ceased to live.”

So I leave you with a painting taken from the words of many. May the picture be one that speaks to you in its own way. Have a wonderful Spring and remember to paint pictures in your mind from the words you read, speak and hear.

Doris McCraw also writes as Angela Raines and is an  Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in Colorado and Women’s History.

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

Every step you take should be a prayer.
And if every step you take is a prayer then you will always be walking in a sacred manner.
Oglala Lakota Holy man.


Edgar Lee Masters-Poet?

Post by Doris McCraw/Angela Raines


I grew up not far from Galesburg, Illinois, the setting for Edgar Lee Masters classic. Why is that important? The small rural community I spent time in was much like the town that Edgar Lee Masters wrote about in his classic “Spoon River Anthology”. Masters told stories, without varnish or sweetening. Reading this work you know the heartache, secrets, joys and pains of these people. Much like my other favorites, I have more than one copy. I’ve shared some of these works before, but I feel revisiting, as the daylight fades into winter, is the thing to do. These works and other authors such as Tennyson, Bristow, Hunt, and others should not be allowed to molder away. So here for your enjoyment, some stories of the people who lived in Spoon River.

Six miles northwest of Farmington, Illinois. Uneroded upland, nearly flat. Illinoian drift area.

Knox County Illinois, where Galesburg is located U.S. Geological Survey (Data Owner), Alden, William Clinton (Photographer)

Hod Putt

Here I lie close to the grave
Of Old Bill Piersol,
Who grew rich trading with the Indians, and who
Afterwards took the Bankrupt Law
And emerged from it richer than ever
Myself grown tired of toil and poverty
And beholding how Old Bill and other grew in wealth
Robbed a traveler one Night near Proctor’s Grove,
Killing him unwittingly while doing so,
For which I was tried and hanged.
That was my way of going into bankruptcy.
Now we who took the bankrupt law in our respective ways
Sleep peacefully side by side

Amanda Barker

Henry got me with child,
Knowing that I could not bring forth life
Without losing my own.
In my youth therefore I entered the portals of dust.
Traveler, it is believed in the village where I lived
That Henry loved me with a husband’s love
But I proclaim from the dust
That he slew me to gratify his hatred

Dorcas Gustine

I was not beloved of the villagers,
But all because I spoke my mind,
And met those who transgressed against me
With plain remonstrance, hiding nor nurturing
Nor secret griefs nor grudges.
That act of the Spartan boy is greatly praised,
Who hid the wolf under his cloak,
Letting it devour him, uncomplainingly.
It is braver, I think, to snatch the wolf forth
And fight him openly, even in the street,
Amid dust and howls of pain.
The tongue may be an unruly member—
But silence poisons the soul.
Berate me who will—I am content


And lastly,

Mrs. George Reece

To this generation I would say:
Memorize some bit of verse of truth or beauty.
It may serve a turn in your life.
My husband had nothing to do
With the fall of the bank—he was only cashier.
The wreck was due to the president, Thomas Rhodes,
And his vain, unscrupulous son.
Yet my husband was sent to prison,
And I was left with the children,
To feed and clothe and school them.
And I did it, and sent them forth
Into the world all clean and strong,
And all through the wisdom of Pope, the poet:
“Act well your part, there all the honor lies.”

I would recommend, it you have not done so, pick up a copy of “Spoon River Anthology” and give it a try. To me this book, along with so many others, has influenced not only my reading, but my writing and the way I look at and live my life. As Lucinda Matlock says in the book :

What is this I hear of sorrow and weariness,Anger, discontent and drooping hopes? Degenerate sons and daughters, Life is too strong for you  –  It takes life to love Life.

You can find the book online at: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1280

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page:  http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL



your Profile PhotoThis post by Jennifer Flaten

As you know I love reading. It is one of my favorite things to do. There is nothing as satisfactory as losing yourself in a book. For me reading a good book can turn hours into minutes. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started a book at 8pm and then stayed up until 2a to finish it.

So it is probably no surprise that I get a little thrill when I find new book I’ve been waiting for on the library shelf. Actually, since I don’t pay much attention to when an author has a new book coming out I like it even better when I happened upon a new book by my favorite author. Seriously, it can turn a ho hum what shall I read trip the library into a wish I had a self driving car so I could start reading on the ride home.

As much as I love discovering new authors there is something so comforting about reading a book with familiar characters. Or if the author doesn’t do a series, it is the joy of reading someone who can make you laugh, or cry. Whose words jump off the page at you and encourage you to stay up way past your bedtime reading that final chapter.

Of course, on that rare occasion you get a book that is a dud. For whatever reason, your favorite author has let you down. Maybe the plot didn’t work for you, or this time that little quirk the main character has isn’t that charming (perhaps it reminds you of an annoying co worker), it’s downright irritating.


Sometimes this can be remedied by putting the book in a time out. Other times it is necessary to skip the end and call it a day. There is always another book on the pile.

Browse my jewelry on etsy

Research? Or sheer indulgence?


This post is by Nancy Jardine.

Tomorrow, I’m embarking on a journey part of which was roughly trod by the Ancient Roman Armies of General Agricola in AD 83/84, and of the Roman Emperor Severus in AD 210, when they came to explore my part of north-east Scotland.

inverurie to kyle of lochalsh

The route shown on the map follows the current rail line from Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland to Kyle of Lochalsh on the west coast. I’ll be making a return journey by train from Inverurie all the way to Kyle of Lochalsh—though how far the Ancient Romans marched beyond Inverness is still anyone’s guess.

Archaeologists have confirmed evidence of Ancient Roman Marching Camps at regular intervals from Aberdeen to Inverness. These camps lie roughly along the same route as the railway, some being only a few miles from the rail lines. Between Inverurie and about 16 miles south of Elgin (the angle change on the map above) the camps were large enough to shelter upwards of 20,000 men. After that ‘angle change’ (Camps of Muiryfold and Auchinhove) the Roman camp sizes get smaller, meaning they sheltered fewer and fewer Roman soldiers, as they progressed along the coast of the Moray Firth towards Inverness. Why they got smaller is open to conjecture and I’m having a lot of fun writing my version of the advances of Agricola’s forces in Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures.

CFS wordsCurrent archaeological digs are underway to find out if there’s any evidence of further Roman Camps beyond Inverness and I’m very keen to hear the updates of these because it might be important when I eventually get around to writing Book 5!



I’ve driven the same route to Inverness and beyond many times, since the main trunk road (A 96) also roughly follows the rail lines, but naturally I’ve not been able to appreciate the landscape in the way that I hope to do tomorrow. From the comfort of the train, I’m really looking forward to seeing the terrain in a more detailed way and doing a bit of imagining of what it was like some 2000 years ago – during the eras of my historical novels. Now, you might be asking yourself -Why isn’t she just taking the train to Inverness? Why go all the way to the west coast?

SRPS Maroon Mark 1 coaches

Tomorrow’s train journey isn’t on just a regular service train. I’ll be journeying in a vintage railway carriage that’s probably almost as old as I am!

In Scotland, like many other countries, we have many heritage societies. One of them is the Scottish Railway Preservation Society. This was formed in 1961 at a time when many rural railway services were being axed by the government and the enthusiasts who formed the society were determined to preserve as much of Scottish railway history as they could. By the mid-1970s, my husband and I were enjoying the society’s special tours all over Scotland, some of which were steam hauled on shorter routes and some by diesel engines for longer treks.


Tomorrow’s special tour will use a restored diesel engine and the restored carriages will be Maroon Mark 1 stock, which were probably built in the 1950s. The return journey is expected to take approximately 12 hours with a stop at Kyle of Lochalsh of 1 ½ hours. Just enough time to stretch our legs and have a wee wander, though it might include a coffee stop since the inevitable Scottish rain is forecast for the west coast!  I’m looking forward to having an elegant lunch and dinner on the train as we ply forth and back along the spectacular Kyle Line – named as ‘One of the Great Railway Journeys of the World’ passing moorlands, mountains, rivers and lochs.

More about SRPS HERE if you’d like to see some more images.

I’ll also be having a wee read since I’ve just stocked up my kindle with new books. My publisher, Crooked Cat, has a SUMMER SALE going on this weekend (7-10th July) All Crooked Cat ebooks are 99c/99p across the Amazon network  – including my own, so if you fancy reading about the Romans who trod that pathway noted above, you can get my Celtic Fervour Series for less than $3! Or if you’d like to try my stand alone mysteries you can get them for the same price if you’re really quick! Just click the link HERE to reach my amazon page or type in Crooked Cat on Amazon to choose from around 150 multi-genre titles.

all cc books

Have you ever taken a rail journey like the one above – for pleasure and more? 

Whatever your weekend is like- happy reading!

Nancy Jardine also writes time travel historical for Middle Grade so if you know any good readers of approximately 10 years and above they can enjoy an ebook version of The Taexali Game for only $1.99!


Nancy finds all historical eras totally fascinating: research a delightful procrastination! Her week is taken up with grandchild-minding, gardening, reading, writing and blogging. Catching up with historical programmes or TV series and watching the news is a luxury – as are social events with friends and family but she does a creative job to squeeze them in.

http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk   http://nancyjardineauthor.com/   Twitter @nansjar  Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG and http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G (for The Rubidium time Travel Novels.) email: nan_jar@btinternet.com

Amazon Author page for books and to view book trailer videos:   http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

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