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Sunday, 18 June 2017

What I learned about the Picts?

Researching BLOOD FEUD was great fun. The Isle of Skye is a fascinating setting and the history and culture of the Picts was one I loved immersing myself in. 

As well as gaining a lot of info online, I got out library books on the history and culture of the Picts. A friend also loaned me a book on Pictish symbols, which she'd bought during a visit to Aberdeen. All helped me add depth and color to my story.

Here are some of the discoveries I made about the Picts (specifically those who were likely to have lived upon the Isle of Skye in the 4th Century):

  • The early Picts were a tribal society, formed by hunting (boar and stags mainly), fishing and farming (sheep, goats and cattle). They were also a warrior people and their would have been a number of feuds and battles between tribes. Ironically, the only time the Picts ever truly united together was against a common enemy: the Romans.
  • The Pict chieftains lived in fortified stone forts (duns) upon headlands—the heart of the fort would have been a brochs: a stone round-tower.
  • Pictish houses tended to be dug into the earth and circular in shape with alcoves around the edges for sleeping. They had cone-shaped thatched roofs, giving the inhabitants room to stand up inside. The dwellings would have been built in this way to make them warmer and protect from drafts during the cold winters.
  • The clan (the word comes from 'clanna' which means 'children') came much later in Scottish history. Instead, the early Picts could have easily been grouped according to animal names (according to the many animal symbols they used). i.e. the People of the Eagle.
  • The word 'mac' meant 'son of' so a warrior's name: Galan mac Muin meant 'Galan son of Muin'.
  • Many historians believe that Pictish chieftain descendency came down through the female, rather than male line. There is some debate about this, but the fact remains that Pictish women enjoyed considerable independence and rights (compared to some of the later British cultures). Pictish women were also warriors, and could be as formidable as their menfolk in battle.
  • The Picts didn't wear kilts or tartan (that came centuries later)—however, it's likely they would have worn clothing (leggings or skirts) made of plaid.
  • Despite the cold climate the Picts often went barefoot, and the men barechested. What clothing they did wear would have been minimal, with leather foot wrappings to protect their feet during the coldest months of the year.
  • They bore blue (woad) tattoos on their bodies (depicting the tribal markings and symbols of their people) and would have painted their bodies for special occasions and before going into battle.
  • The Picts took pride their appearance, the men and as well as the women—they wore beautiful jewellery and hair accessorys, and both sexes generally wore their hair long.
  • They were a pagan people, who would have believed in more than one god—rather a host of gods and goddess to represent different times of the year and different stages of life.
  • The passing of the year was celebrated by a number of fire festivals (as with all Celtic peoples).
  • The Pictish were highly artistic—they left behind a number of symbols and carvings on standing stones, buildings and jewellery.
  • They were a culture that believed in magic and superstition—they believed in fairies (called the Aos-si or 'Fair Folk') and in magical creatures such as selkies (half man, half seal), kelpies (water horses), brownies (a type of pixie) and wulvers (men with heads of wolves). 
  • Druids were an important part of Pictish society, and highly respected.
  • When the Picts wed, they did so barefoot and standing outdoors in nature.
Those were just some of the bits and pieces I gleaned during my research, and which I wove into my story. 

Piecing together Pictish culture when we have so little recorded history on them means that an author has to fill in a lot of gaps herself! As there is no existing map to show us what 4th Century Isle of Skye would have looked up, I have delved into the realms of fantasy and created my own—complete with four warring tribes: The People of the Stag, Wolf, Eagle and Boar. Here's the map which appears in BLOOD FEUD.


Grab the first three chapters of BLOOD FEUD for FREE off Instafreebie and see what you think!

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Goodreads giveaway contest: BLOOD FEUD

She has only ever known war. Now she must make the ultimate sacrifice for peace. 

Enter for a chance to win one of two paperback copies of BLOOD FEUD (Book #1: The Warrior Brothers of Skye—a Scottish Historical Romance set in Dark Ages Isle of Skye! Just click on the banner below to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Blood Feud by Jayne Castel

Blood Feud

by Jayne Castel

Giveaway ends May 28, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BLOOD FEUD is available on Amazon!

Book #1 of The Warrior Brothers of Skye has been released on Amazon.

Welcome to 4th Century Isle of Skye—a world of feuding tribes and forbiddable warrior men, and women.

What's BLOOD FEUD about?

They come from warring tribes—but can their love overcome generations of hate?

Dark Ages Scotland, the Isle of Skye. Far north of Hadrian's Wall—beyond the shadow of the Roman Empire—the daughter of a Pictish chieftain prepares to wed her enemy. To forge peace, Tea's brother has promised her to the leader of a neighboring tribe that killed their parents.

Dark and brooding--but committed to peace—Tea's new husband isn't what she expects. Unlike her, Galan mac Muin is determined to end decades of bloodshed between two warring tribes, even if it means sacrificing his own happiness.

Tea isn't what Galan expects either. A statuesque, embittered beauty, she hates him and his people. Yet neither of them can deny the powerful attraction between them. Together, Galan and Tea have the chance to forge a new future--one that will ensure lasting peace--if only they can only let go of the past.

BLOOD FEUD is the exciting first book in THE WARRIOR BROTHERS OF SKYE series. Follow the lives and loves of three warrior brothers: Galan, Tarl and Donnel. Fans of Historical Fiction, Scottish Historical Romance and Historical Action & Adventure, and those who enjoy Kathryn Le Veque, and who loved Donna Fletcher's Pict King series, should enjoy this series set in Dark Ages Scotland.

Take a journey into Dark Ages Scotland

Read the Prologue and first three chapters for FREE on Intafreebie.

Or get your copy on Amazon!

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Teasers from BLOOD FEUD - new release

BLOOD FEUD is now available for preorder on Amazon—and will be released on May 18 2017.

In the pre-release period for the novel, I'd like to share some of my favorite passages from the novel. Hope you enjoy them!

Monday, 1 May 2017

BLOOD FEUD - new release!

I've wanted to write a novel set in Dark Ages Scotland for ages—so here's the first in my new series set amongst the mist-shrouded mountains, wild shores and desolate moors of the Isle of Skye. 

These books delve into the history of the Picts, an enigmatic warrior people who were the predecessors of the Highland warriors.

If you're into bare-chested, tattooed Barbarian heroes, lots of action and adventure, and some steamy romance, BLOOD FEUD (Book #1: The Warrior Brothers of Skye) is for you! The series follows the lives and loves of three Pictish warrior brothers: Galan, Tarl, and Donnel.

Preorder BLOOD FEUD now for the 18 May 2017 release!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Book review: Silver Hammer, Golden Cross (Book Six of The Circle of Ceridwen Saga) by Octavia Randolph

A sweeping, epic novel that picks up around a decade after Ceridwen and Sidroc's story. This is the tale of Ceric (Ceridwen's son) and Ashild (the daughter of Aelfwyn and Yrling). Like the earlier books in this saga, Octavia Randolph uses real historical events to bring her story to life. The peace forged by King Alfred and Guthrum has ended, and war sweeps across England once more.

The characters are great - well rounded with flaws that make them feel like real people. I particularly loved Ashild. A young woman of independent spirit, she struggles with the role that she must play; to marry to strength alliances and wealth. She and Ceric are childhood friends, and both their families wish them to wed. However, despite her attraction for him she wishes to choose her own fate.

Likewise, Ceric is a young man coming to terms with his own place in the world as he reaches manhood and must fill the gap left by his uncle.

Unlike the earlier books in the series, this one is told in third person narrative (rather than first person). This creates quite a different tone - less intimate, more epic. We move from Four Stones (in what is now Lincolnshire, I guess) down to Kilton on the south coast of England, and then across the water to Gotland in Scandinavia. Ceric and Ashild are the main POV characters, although we also spend some time again with Ceridwen and Sidroc, which I enjoyed.

What I love most about Octavia Randolph's books (apart from the memorable characters) is the way she brings 9th Century Anglo-Saxon England to life. She has done vast amounts of research and it shows, not in an 'info-dump' way but in a rich, detailed tapestry. She really brings you there. I particularly loved the descriptions of the food!

The story also highlights the conflict between the paganism and Christianity at this time, hence the title of this book. Ashild carries the silver hammer of Thor from her father, Yrling, and a golden cross from her mother, Aelfwyn, around her neck.

There are quite a few battle and fight scenes in this book that were really well done. There are some great action scenes toward the end of the book - but I'll say nothing about those as I don't want to spoil the story for readers!

I look forward to reading the next installment in the Ceridwen saga - highly recommended five-star read.


Buy a copy of Silver Hammer, Golden Cross on

Thursday, 6 April 2017

My favorite Historical Romances list

I read (almost) as much as I write—and there have been a number of historical romance novels over the years which have inspired and enthused me. I thought I'd share my list of absolute favorites here. Some you'll recognize, others might be new to you—some new books for you to discover! 

Of course, I read far more widely than historical romance. I love historical epics, fantasy and the classics. Although I haven't mentioned them above Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, George R.R Martin's The Song of Fire and Ice, Jean M. Auel 's The Clan of Cave Bear,  Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, Stephen King's The Stand, and Bernard Cornwell's Warlord Chronicles/Saxon Chronicles, have had a huge influence on my writing (and life!).

Back to Historical Romance though... 

In no particular order, here are my keepers:

The Conquest
Elizabeth Chadwick

This is one of Elizabeth Chadwick's earlier books - but easily one my favorites. It's actually two love stories, set at the time of the Nortman Conquest. Poignant, and at times very sad, this isn't a traditional romance, but it's well-worth the read. Chadwick brings this time to life so vividly you feel as if you're there with her. It was after reading this novel that I decided I wanted to set my novels in the Anglo-Saxon period!

Daughter of the Forest
Juliet Marillier

This book is actually Historical Fantasy Romance but I had to add it here. A beautifully written story of courage, strength and slow-burning love, Daughter of the Forest is a compelling tale.

Read my review of Daughter of the Forest on this blog.

The Warrior's Game
Denise Domning

Get past the awful cover and discover an exciting story set at the time of King John and the Magna Carta. The characters in this story—a fiesty English widow and a sexy French mercenary—is what made this novel a keeper for me. This well-researched story really brings the 13th century to life. It's the third in a trilogy (although they can all be read as stand-alones), and my favorite of the three.

The Wolfe
Kathryn Le Veque

Kathryn Le Veque has written a huge number of door-stopper epic romance novels set in the Middle Ages. Her earlier works are definitely my favorites; they're page-turning adventures with exciting characters and lots of intrigue. My other favorites by Le Veque are: The Dark One, Spectre of the Sword and The White Lord of Wellesbourne.

Read my review of The Wolfe on Goodreads.

Diana Gabaldon

This series needs no introduction. It has everything, romance, adventure, intrigue and real history—with a bit of time travel thrown in. Jamie Fraser is the ultimate romantic hero, who can blame Claire for falling for him!

Circle of Ceridwen Saga
Octavia Randolph

This is a fabulous series of books set in 8th Century England and Scandinavia. Randolph draws you right into the period and brings it to life so vividly you can almost smell the burning peat, the crunch of rushes under your boots and the jingling of chain mail! Not a traditional romance, the love-story is a slow burn through the first four books, with a stand-alone fifth book. I'm now half-way through the sixth book which tells the story of the next generation. A fabulous historical epic that I can't recommend highly enough!

Read my review of the first book in the series on Goodreads.

The King's Man
Elizabeth Kingston

A fabulously gritty historical romance about a brutal English soldier and a wild female Welsh warrior. Kingston is an original voice in this genre. She writes realistic stories about flawed characters. The second book in this (Welsh Blades) series is also excellent.

Read my review on this blog.

A Knight in Shining Armor
Jude Deveraux

Before Outlander there was this book. This is the original historical romance time-travel novel—the story of a frightened and insecure young woman on holiday in England and a young, arrogant Elizabethan lord, whose paths cross across time. A compelling, fun read that's really well researched. A first read this book many years ago but recently re-read an updated version—even better than I remembered!