Islands in the North

Orkney oneChristina here and I have once again been travelling in search of inspiration for my stories – this time to the Orkney Islands! These are situated in the far north of the UK, in between the Scottish mainland and Shetland, and the journey involved a 12-hour road trip by car with another hour and a half by ferry. It was worth every second!

As always, I was on the trail of the Vikings and they settled in the Orkney Islands during the 8th and 9th centuries (possibly before that). If you sail in a straight westerly direction from the southern part of Norway you end up either in Orkney or Shetland, and it was an easy journey in a Viking longship, only a couple of days’ sailing. Therefore, it made sense that it was one of the first places the Vikings went to when they set off on their adventures.

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Hidden in the Mists

Hidden In the Mists mediumAnne here, and today I'm interviewing Christina Courtenay about her new book, HIDDEN IN THE MISTS (released yesterday 18th August). As expected, this is a Viking story — and just as an aside, Christina's Viking stories have brought me happily back to this genre, after I'd thought I'd given up on Viking stories. Hers are fresh, original and really well researched. But this time Christina has departed from the time-slip plot and written a dual timeline story, one set in Viking times and the other in modern times.

Here’s a short summary: Skye Logan has been struggling to run her remote farm on Scotlands west coast alone ever since her marriage fell apart. When a handsome stranger turns up looking for work, it seems that her wish for help has been granted. But echoes of the distant past wont leave them alone, and it seems that the ghosts of the past have secrets … and they have something that they want Skye and Rafe to know.

Anne:  Christina, what inspired this story?

22 ViewChristina:  HIDDEN IN THE MISTS was written during the Covid pandemic when we were in lockdown here in the UK. Usually I like to travel to the places where my stories are set, but as we weren’t allowed to go anywhere I decided I had to use a location I’d already visited. Scotland is one of my favourite places and it seemed ideal as I wanted to write a dual time narrative that was partly about Vikings. They raided and settled along the west coast of Scotland and the islands there quite early on. It helped that I happen to have a very good friend who lives there and she was able to assist me whenever I needed any precise details. As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, the spark for this book also came from the Galloway Hoard, the fabulous Viking treasure found in 2014. The plot grew from there and the various elements came together in my imagination.

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All that glitters …

Poster… isn’t gold – but sometimes it IS!

Christina here. Next week my latest book will be released and the idea for this story was sparked by the Galloway Hoard, a magnificent treasure found in Scotland in 2014. As soon as I heard about it, I was fascinated. I could only imagine how amazing it must feel to discover something like that. Despite having bought myself a metal detector a few years ago, I’ve never found anything other than a few rusty nails and a piece of iron pipe, so I decided I would have to fulfil this dream in my imagination instead. Add to this the fact that the hoard was of Viking origin and it seemed like serendipity! That’s when Hidden in the Mists started to take shape in my mind.

BirdThe hoard was probably buried around 900 AD and consists of various gold and silver items, as well as other more ordinary things. It’s one of the most incredible treasures ever found in Scotland and the richest one from the Viking age. I read all the articles about it when it was first revealed and couldn’t wait for it to go on display. That took a while as obviously the items had to be conserved and assessed first. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to see it in person, and I was enthralled by the many precious objects. My absolute favourite was a little gold pin in the shape of a bird which I had already used in another story, Whispers of the Runes. The hero of that book is a silversmith/jeweller and I had him make a pin just like this. I saw it as a bird of prey or a raven judging by its curved beak, but archaeologists felt it more resembled a flamingo. Most probably it’s a fantasy bird but either way, I just love how intricate it is, despite being so small!

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A Kiss of Fate!

Image002by Mary Jo

A Kiss of Fate, Guardian Trilogy #1

I'm delighted to finally be re-releasing my Guardian paranormal historical trilogy, the last of my backlist trilogies that were still in the closet The stories are set in the 18th century Georgian era and the main characters are Guardians, people who have magical abilities and are sworn to use them to help others.  But being sure of when that's the case can be a challenge!

The heroes and heroines are strong, the romances are intense, and the stories are woven around real, powerful history.  All three show what happened behind the scenes to make history turn out the way we know it.

If you enjoy the intelligent, honorable characters who star in my traditional historical romances, I think you'll love these stories as much as I do. (I use M. J. Putney for all my stories with fantasy elements so readers can tell which are straight historical and which have some magic.)

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New Experiences

Baden and Nicola on the beachNicola here, back home after a couple of weeks in Scotland and reflecting that it’s never too late to have new experiences. This was the first time that we had taken Guide Dog puppy Baden on a holiday with us, which meant that our itinerary needed to allow plenty of opportunities for him to do some training as well as for us all to have a good time. So this was a new experience for all of us.

The first thing that was new for Baden was long distance travel. Guide dogs need to be adaptable to new situations and be good at travelling on different modes of transport. Baden is used to the train and the bus but when he goes in the car, he normally travels in the special dog compartment in the back. Not this time! The dog compartment was full of two weeks’ luggage and Baden was on the back seat in his dog harness. He rather liked his “throne” and the view it gave him out of the windows, and he took the 9-hour journey to the east coast of Scotland in his stride.

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