10 September 2023

Woodhenge - in the Stonehenge Sacred Landscape

20th century concrete pillars at Woodhenge. White, light blue, & red tops showing. Image by (c) Linda Acaster

What happened to August? In fact, where’s September disappearing to?

Normally regarded as ‘high summer’ in the UK, in late August Summer finally arrived. Friends visited, the vegetable and flower beds went into true English Country Garden mode (and with them the weeds), and we did a bit of travelling – back to Wiltshire.

This time we visited Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, both longstanding on my must-see list. They proved as fascinating as I’d hoped, as much because of the little that is known against what has been gleaned from recent archaeology. Both are within the World Heritage Site of the Stonehenge Sacred Landscape, and yes, we went to Stonehenge, too – in thick drizzle.

Woodhenge is the least known and most enigmatic of the three. It was discovered only in 1925 when early aerial photography showed rings of concentric darker spots in the dry vegetation not noticeable at ground level. Maud Cunningham, born 1869 and a pioneering archaeologist in the area, undertook the first investigation. She and her husband promptly bought the site to preserve it, in turn giving it to the nation.

Woodhenge, as it became known, is 160ft (50m) in diameter, though not quite a true circle. Within its outer bank and inner ditch (the henge) were found six rings of post holes which would have supported individual oak timber uprights. Different rings had posts of different thicknesses. At its centre was found the grave of a child about three years old.

Today, knee-high concrete pillars, in equivalent thicknesses, stand in place of the long-decayed oak posts, their tops painted in different hues for ease of visitor recognition. It gives the site a somewhat questioning appearance.

Despite of a corresponding age - 2500BC - to the raising of the first sarsen stones at Stonehenge a mere two miles distant, the site was no blueprint test. Were the posts open to the elements? Were the post heights uniform or as irregular as their diameters? Did they support wooden lintels? Did they support a massive roof, long gone? The questions seem endless. What’s more, it wasn’t the only one in the area, just the largest. Or largest found so far.

One thing is certain, it wasn’t a giant building providing shared accommodation. Durrington Walls close by was the contemporary place of settlement. Its enormous bank and inner ditch, most of which remain visible, was some 1500ft (470m) in diameter, making it, in modern classification terms, a super-henge.

More on Durrington Walls in a future blog

31 July 2023

Escaping Into History

Part of the Ring of Brodgar, Orkney. Author's image and draft cover of a digital publication.

It's been quite a July. On the one hand, the weather has been anything but summer-like. On the other, and after much procrastination, I've finally taken tentative steps in opening my own digital publication on the Medium platform.

For those who have not come across it, for a fee (monthly US$5 or annual US$50), Medium hosts posts behind a paywall; writers are paid via a post's views. Posts - referred to as stories - can be any length on just about any subject. Publications take stories on a theme and are usually group-edited to share the workload. A publication can also be owned by a single individual and used as a repository for his/her own stories on a theme.

I've been writing for Medium for a couple of years, on a variety of subjects. But my true enthusiasm is for History, particularly historic places in the British landscape, and I'm at the stage where it would help to have these stories in one easy-to-find spot, my own publication. The picture above is its cover image.

Despite Medium's copious Help pages, getting the back-end to work as I want is less intuitive than here on Blogger, but there is always a learning curve to negotiate with any new venture. The first stories are up, and I thought I'd share a Friend Link which opens the paywall to a specific story. 

History in my Landscape explains the event that led to my interest. Enjoy.

1 July 2023

It's the Great July Ebook Sale - 50% Discount!


Smashwords - the Ebook distributor I use to reach Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Scribd - starts its Summer Sale today running throughout July. As well as epub format, it offers mobi for a Kindle.

Great news! Many of my titles are included, offered at 50% discount.

Link to my Smashwords Sale Page:
(50% Discount automatically applied at checkout)

The Mythic Time-Spanning Romance trilogy Torc of Moonlight is offered as separate novels, or if you want even more savings, as the complete trilogy in one long ebook.

For who prefer their reading with a little more of a shiver, there's plenty to choose from within my Chillers.

Thinking about writing your own fiction? How about a guide which does what it says on its cover - no waffle, full stories explained: 

Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought to Finished Story

That's enough to keep you going for ages. Check out my personal Smashwords Bookstore, and enjoy your reading:


2 June 2023

Of Amazing History and Annoying Tech

One of the immersive World War II exhibits at Eden Camp

Early May was full of the Coronation of King Charles III. The Union flag bunting saw another airing, the Pimm's stood ready, and smoked salmon & cucumber sandwiches were indulged. I sat glued to the TV throughout, not so much awed by the pageantry, but by the weight of history behind it. 

I'd chosen a good channel to follow, hosted by a softly spoken, highly knowledgeable presenter, and that day's newspaper had the entire service, and what it represented, laid out six columns wide and three pages deep - now safely stored in my research files. Whether I'll ever get to use it is hardly the point. And it was a very good day. Especially the Pimm's.

Another good day was experienced mid month at Eden Camp Modern History Museum in North Yorkshire. We were there to chat to the curator regarding a section of the extensive exhibits. 

Dubbed Eden Camp because of its proximity to Eden Farm, Prisoner of War Work Camp 83 was built in 1942 during World War II, first for Italian and later German prisoners. It closed in 1948 when the last of its 1,200 inmates were repatriated, and was purchased in 1985 by local businessman Stan Johnson, ostensibly to level the site for a factory. He found 35 of the original huts almost intact, and while he was deciding what to do with them, the site was visited by a group of Italian gentlemen eager to share fond memories of their stay. The rest is... history. 

A "Doodlebug" / "Flying Bomb". A V1 rocket - the first drone. Click for larger image
Eden Camp suggests allotting three or four hours for a visit; I'd say visitors will be lucky to see it all in a full day. We certainly didn't. The collections of photographs are fascinating. So was clambering on the Sherman tank (ahem...). The focus isn't only on World War II, but on all the conflicts since. It is sobering to realise just how many there have been.

No sooner had our photos been uploaded to the computer than we were off to Wiltshire to meet up with friends and collect 50 old CDs used to archive yet more historical data but without accompanying documentation. Our job is to clean them up, discover the contents, transfer to an external hard drive for safety, and create some sort of catalogue. Mmm, not a two-day job, then.

We'd decided to make the most of the trip south, and crossed to the east of the country into Essex for, you guessed it - shopping! No, more history.

Medieval Templar Barns at Cressing, Essex. Click for larger image

During the late 1100s, Cressing was the hub of a Knights Templar estate just outside the village of Coggeshall. The village lies on the highway of the period, Stane Street, built during the Roman occupation of Britannia which ceased when the legions were withdrawn in around 410AD. This was just before the East Saxons took over the area, hence 'Essex'. History always comes in layers. 

Of the estate buildings, only the two medieval barns remain (118ft x 45ft and 36ft high). Dendrochronology points to the main timbers of the Barley Barn - oak of course - being cut 1205-1230, and the Wheat Barn 1257-1280. Both had expensive tiled roofing from their initial construction (4,500 tiles each), weighing around 55 tons. They are a phenomenal sight, and currently much sought after for weddings, though probably not during winter.

The barn bays held produce from the estate, its sale helping fund Knights Templar operations in the Crusader states of the Middle East.

Which finally brings me to the question of annoying modern tech. With so much history still operational, why does our tech cause so many problems?

We arrived home to find a Windows update had caused the laptop to refuse to acknowledge the existence of the integral optical drive it had happily connected to before we went away. Two days of frustration later, with 50 disks to read, it became easier, if highly annoying, to purchase an external drive.

And who noticed my website had been off-line for a week? The host had no idea what had changed, and neither had the domain registrar. Thank goodness for YouTube videos, or this post might never have seen the light of day. 

I am hoping June proves just as inspiring with its history, but less annoying with its tech. Fingers crossed.

30 April 2023

Spring has finally sprung with Covid, Orwell’s 1984, and King’s Fairytale

One of our front borders. Spring has sprung while I've been busy coughing.

Hello! Yes, I know it’s been a while. Despite rumours to the contrary we haven’t emigrated, we have had Covid. And no, it wasn’t me who brought it home. Omicron is supposedly endemic now, so I guess we’ve done well getting this far before embracing our first bout.

Was it bad? Not particularly. I’ve had worse influenza in the long distant past. I could have done without the “pressure head”, a very odd feeling -  certainly not a “headache” - which lasted about four days, and the mucus from Hell which lasted for the rest of the month. I didn’t fight when the need to sleep descended, just doubled my vitamins D & C, Magnesium and Zinc. And watched YouTube videos, and read when the fancy struck. 

The dusting could go hang, again.

It was great to read without the prick of guilt that I should be creating, which was well beyond me, though my choice of material might seem odd. George Orwell’s 1984 headed my list, gained from the library the week before I was laid up. As I started to recover, I opened it up.

I’d not read any of Orwell’s work, but particularly wanted to read 1984 because for months social media has been alive with the likes of Ministry of Truth, Doublethink, and Big Brother.

What can I say? Two Minutes Of Hate [social media pile-ons], cancel culture, screens which gush propaganda 24 hours a day and listen in to conversations [hello Alexa]… Orwell must have had a crystal ball. That, or his view of the world under a Stalin-like totalitarian regime, which was still in power when the book was published in 1949, has edged close while we’ve been otherwise distracted, doubtless by insubstantial 'shiny things'. Orwell wrote 1984 as a warning; it seems some are using it as a handbook for life.

Stephen King’s Fairytale, a 600 pager he wrote during the Covid pandemic “to make him happy”, I started reading via Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature sometime around Christmas. On its strength I clicked through to buy, and immediately stopped myself. Why any publisher would think I would shell out £13 for a Kindle copy I couldn’t own, while the hardback is £11… 

Words don’t exactly fail me, but are unrepeatable in polite company. The publisher’s profits could go hang; I logged on to my area’s library catalogue and reserved it: I was 24th in the queue. I wonder why?

Of course, notification it was ready for collection arrived in my Inbox while I was incommunicado. I managed to pick it up on its last day on the waiting shelf and am currently a third of the way through. Like Orwell’s novel, it is a very readable book. But cripes, I’d forgotten how unwieldy 600 page hardbacks are.

So, is any writing of my own on the horizon? Short articles for the Medium platform, certainly, and there’ll be a long overdue update in my health series on this blog, but nothing long of note in the fiction stakes. At least not yet. There are, of course, projects on a back burner. There are always projects on the back burner.

As the saying goes, watch this space. Even better, subscribe to my blogposts. It’s less hassle.

Enjoy May.

10 February 2023

Valentine's Promotion on TWO Romances


For the love of Romance, from 10th until 15th I have stepped price promotions via Amazon UK and Amazon USA on both my Historicals.

Beneath The Shining Mountains
is set in the region now known as Wyoming and Montana in the USA; the date the early 1800s. For the Apsaroke people, the place is Apsaroke lands; the time, the good years between the coming of the horse and the arrival of land-hungry settlers. Game was plentiful; the creeks ran clear. A man could prove his worth by his military exploits – and a woman, if she wanted, could ensnare herself her chosen husband. But why would a man with so many lovers want to take a wife?

...loved learning about their customs and rich culture...

Hostage of the Heart is set very much in Britain, on the Welsh Marches, during the autumn of 1066 when the destiny of both Wales and England hung in the balance because of outside forces.

With the northern militia hurrying to York in support of the new king, Rhodri ap Hywel, prince of the Welsh, sweeps out of the forest to reclaim by force stolen lands, taking the Saxon Lady Dena as a battle hostage. But who is the more barbaric, a man who protects his people by the strength of his sword-arm, or Dena’s kinsfolk who swear fealty to a canon of falsehoods and refuse to pay her ransom?

...a historical that really grips the reader with lots of twists and turns...

The novels are clean Romantic Suspense, and between them carry over 90 review ratings. Promotional prices start at 99p / 99c today rising back to full price late Wednesday evening. Grab them while you can, and snuggle down with a Valentine’s read of Romance and Adventure!

Global Links:      Beneath The Shining Mountains        Hostage of the Heart


31 January 2023

Nothing New About Story-TELLING


Here we are at the end of January with the first blogpost of the month. If Christmas was quiet, January has been manic for all the wrong reasons. Despite this, I actually managed a few non-fiction shorts for Medium and attended a couple of writer events.

The Romantic Novelists’ Association

Halfway through the month was a digital meeting of the Northern Chapter of the RNA – Romantic in name now, rather than genre action, as many of us have spread our wings over the years. Zoom meetings were inaugurated during the pandemic, and the group decided to continue running them when the monthly face-to-face meetings re-started. It has helped a few far-flung members and those who can no longer travel so far. We keep meetings to Zoom’s free 40 minutes so as to focus the mind.

One of the subjects covered was revamping promotional material for our individual titles – hence the image above, which is for a Horror novella, the antithesis of Romance, which I use for marketing on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a bit grey, a bit flat, the text is bigger than the title. Yes, it needs a rethink.

Humber SFF

A few days ago I attended an Open Mic event at Humber SFF, reading – you guessed it – an excerpt from The Paintings, though in truth it was more of an edited excerpt. I had a 2,000 words limit, but had to find a standalone scene which would both make sense and not give too much away. Not easy. Horror relies on pacing and tone to build anticipation, something which can’t be achieved in half a page. I found my ending and worked backwards to its start, some 3,500 words distant. Ouch! It took four condensing edits, but on the night read well.

It was while I was in the act of reading, an ear on the reactions of the audience, that two things came to mind: The Paintings is a first person narration, and the narrator is female. This could work for self-read audio.

I’ve dabbled before, under duress and a short lead-time. I had to download Audacity, learn its software, and produce a short story, when a local in-person SFF convention had to go digital at the start of the pandemic. I recognised the merits of self-audio then, but life had other priorities.

National Storytelling Week

Tonight, I’m off to another writers’ meeting – often there’s a dearth, but sometimes they pile up like this – and the call has gone out for links to audio stories in recognition of it being National Storytelling Week.

The idea behind the dedicated week is to promote the “oldest artform in the world”: audio performance. The week came into being in 2000 and, although its original remit was firmly aimed at children, it has blossomed to embrace a wider audience, hence the call for links. Well, I have a story ready to go, but it’s no use on my harddrive. Alas, it needs to be hosted somewhere.

A list of this year’s face-to-face events can be found HERE, but there is absolutely no reason why a digital event, even a single author event, can’t contribute. Something to consider for next year if not this.