Christmas Blog Hop

Starting today, and running throughout December – writers from the Historical  Writers Forum share Christmas stories, from a multitude of eras! (Note Christmas in 1181, on the 17th 🙂

6th Dec Jen Black

8th Dec Derek Birks

9th Dec Jen Wilson

11th Dec Janet Wertman

12 Dec  Margaret Skea

13th Dec Sue Barnard

14th Dec Cathie Dunn

15th Dec Lynn Bryant

16th Dec Samantha Wilcoxson

17th Dec Nicky Moxey

18th Dec Nancy Jardine

19th Dec Wendy J Dunn…/

20th Dec Judith Arnopp

21st Dec Tim Hodkinson

22nd Vanessa Couchman

23rd Christine Hancock

24th Paula Lofting

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General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola

AB 1000x625My turn to interview someone for the Historical Fiction Writers’ Forum “Interview my Character” Blog Hop! This series is proving to be a seriously good read – if you’ve missed any, I’ve included the links towards the end of this post.

Today I’m interviewing Nancy Jardine’s character General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, from the fourth book in her Celtic Fervour series, Agricola’s Bane. I’m a bit nervous about it – the Governor of Britannia doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and has been known to bite; I have the distinct urge to call him “Sir”!

Me: What was your childhood like?
A nostalgic question! I never knew my father, Julius Graecinus, a senator of great integrity who refused to impeach an innocent man. Did you know that the Emperor Caligula was not amused and ordered my father’s execution? My mother, Julia Procilla, already pregnant with me in the womb, could no longer stay in Rome. She returned to the city of her own equestrian upbringing, the Forum Julii in Gallia Narbonensis, where she gave birth to me. Unlike most Roman matrons, she remained a univira, choosing not to remarry. She was a strong woman of high principles who brought me up herself, ensuring that I understood her justifications.

Though my mother was my main instructor, my paternal grandfather ensured I had a good degree of male influence. A man of profound knowledge, he taught me about the earlier Greek culture of the province, yet also versed me well in the vibrant new Roman architecture built under the auspices of the Emperor Tiberius. My first visit to the new amphitheatre, with grandfather, is an indelible memory – so vast, noisy, colourful…and bloody. I was hungry to learn all things new, even the harshest. And, when I was old enough, my mother dispatched me along the coast to Massalia, to receive the more-rounded education worthy of a boy of my equestrian status.

Me: In what way did it prepare you for high office?
I have been asked if I was lonely, growing up without siblings. I never felt alone but it certainly made me learn to keep my own counsel, my decisions and their consequences were mine to own. Of course, I missed my mother when I first went to Massalia but there were so many things to learn: it was a time of great wonder for me. Much larger than Forum Julii, Massalia was so lively and energetic. Massalia’s harbour was even busier than the one at Forum Julii and, when not being tutored, I spent many hours watching the flow of ships in and out of the port. I learned things about sea travel from ship captains that my tutors had no knowledge of, all of which gave me a great craving to experience unknown lands for myself. At the forum, I pondered many truth-seeking questions with the more learned of my tutors and I acquitted myself well in philosophical areas. I ultimately learned that moderation of spirit and conscientious considered actions were most likely to gain lasting success during my forthcoming military career.

Me: You have little sympathy for your Tribune – did your own tribuneship go smoothly?
Certainly more smoothly than that of Titus Sicinia Flavus – that boy is a baronis, a dunce of the first order! It was inevitable– my mother being such a strong willed character – that my career would be military and political rather than that of a philosopher. But if I had grown to be as naively stupid as Flavus, I am certain my mother would have found some other avenue for me to pursue than a potentially deadly occupation in the legions. The first rungs on my cursus honorum, my career ladder, were as a junior tribune in the direct service of Suetonius Paulinus in Britannia. There was no easy entry into that post since the infamous Queen Bouddica was causing havoc in southern Britannia. Thrust into the perils of battle, my prompt execution of duties was essential. I had to learn on the hoof. It turned me rapidly from boy to man, but Flavus…?

Me: What have been the best/worst bits of your Governorship so far?
Such a question! I am a realist. Marching my legions deep into the lands of the Caledonians is undoubtedly the best of my military accomplishments. The worst part is accepting that Emperor Domitian could not care a fig about any of my successes in Britannia.

Me: Do you have any sympathy with the tribespeople opposing you?
Not at all. Why should I? Conquered tribes must accept that being Roman is a better future for them. Being absorbed into the Roman Empire, and being accorded the status of Roman citizenship, is a reward worth having and the loss of their nationhood is a small price worth paying.

Me: Do you see any value in the tribespeople’s way of life?
What value could there be in living in a primitive wooden hut like a snuffling pig? The barbarians have no culture, no written language, and no education. Those in northern Caledonia do not even have any form of citizenship. They have no cities and not a hint of civic structure. These Caledonians need Rome to civilise them and teach them a better way of governing themselves. Rome will bring them structure and show them the value of being prosperous.

Me: How much do you know about it?
By that question, do you mean how much of the local way of life do I have experience of? If so, then my answer is less than none. Those cowardly Caledonians and their allies skulk in the high hills and we only see them when they mount their sneaky little forays to attack my troops. Though, I have been in Britannia long enough to know the traditional Celtic way of life elsewhere on this large island.

Me: What are you going to do to get back in Domitian’s favour?
Ha! You are certainly naïve if you think that is even a possibility. Nothing I do in Caledonia will garner Domitian’s favour. He is not even sufficiently interested in the excellent progress we make in southern Britannia. Fortresses of stone and surrounding settlements are being built with forums that will excel many others across the provinces. But Emperor Domitian is far too obsessed with his own failures in Germania, though he naturally claims ample triumphs to add Germanicus to his titles. He is currently too fearful of the closeness of insurrection in Dacia which is why he has bled me dry of troops, month after month. How can I possibly continue my Caledonian success with my legions and vexillations stretched far too thin across the north?

Me: How far would you go?
Do you mean how obsequious would I be prepared to be? Do you really have to ask me that? The goddess Fortuna no longer favours me, either. The way to satisfy my irrational emperor presently eludes me, though I have pondered the problem long and hard.

Me: How much influence does politics in Rome have on your day-to-day decisions?
That is a very good question! Generally, I would say it matters greatly what happens in Rome but being at the boundary of the western empire does mean some decisions do not have the same immediacy in Caledonia as they would if they were taken closer to Rome. I forge ahead and make my own decisions, till Domitian’s orders can no longer be ignored.

Me: Is there any action that you regret, from your Governorship?
Caledonia is not yet fully under my control.

Me: What would have changed if you had chosen differently?
Domitian’s father, the Emperor Vespasian, was a military man of great experience who knew the value of full strength armies. Had I pressed for more legions from him when I first became Governor of Britannia, those damned Caledonian barbarians would have been brought to heel long before now!

Me: What’s next for you?
Rome. And you may have already realised that returning there is a double-edged sword. I am now weary of my overly-long tenure as Governor of Britannia and would happily spend domestic time with my wife Domitia Decidiana. Though, not being in Emperor Domitian’s favour probably means I must temper my tongue in order to stay alive long enough to enjoy that time with my wife.

Me: Thank you, Sir – uh, General. Ave atque vale!

General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola decrees that he has authorised his creator – Nancy Jardine – to make available one ebook set of the Celtic Fervour Series (4 books) to be given to one #Winner worldwide. To be entered into the draw for this #FREE ebooks#WIN simply leave a comment in the ‘Comments Box’ on this blog, and post a hello on the Facebook Historical Writers’ Forum Blog Hop Page . The draw will take place on 10th July.

Author Bio:
ccnancyjardineNancy Jardine writes contemporary mystery thrillers and romantic comedy; historical fiction and time-travel historical adventure. Her current historical focus is Roman Scotland – an engrossing pre-history era, her research depending highly on keeping abreast of recent archaeological findings. She lives in Aberdeenshire where life is never quiet or boring since she regularly child minds her young grandchildren. They also happen to be her next-door neighbours, her garden creatively managed by them, though she does all the work! Her husband is fantastic at providing regular cups of coffee and tea…excellent food and wine! (Restorative, of course)

A member of the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland; Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Independent Alliance of Authors, her work has achieved finalist status in UK competitions.

You can find her at these places:

Facebook: &
Amazon Author page
Universal Amazon link for Agricola’s Bane  
Celtic Fervour Series 


“General Agricola?”
He turned back on hearing his name, the saluting eques bearing a pile of wooden boards inexpertly wrapped in a cloth, to protect them from the elements.

“Where have these come from?”

“Pinnata Castra, sir.”

He acknowledged the man’s exhaustion, realising that the soldier had jogged up the Via Praetoria to catch up with him.

“Did you stop at our last camp?”

The rider nodded. “Only long enough to learn that you were here, sir, and to rest my horse.”

The arrival of his junior scribe from the direction of his tent was a timely one, though Agricola knew it would have been at Crispus’ behest.

“Deal with these, Lentulus.” He passed over the wax tablets from the Durno camp and accepted the wooden boards from the latest dispatcher, a flash of something he had heard recently bringing forth a fleeting upward-turn to his lips. One of the enraged captives, taken after the confrontation, had called his last temporary camp site Moran Dhuirn. When translated, he was told it meant many fists. Durno was a good enough name.

Dismissing the dispatcher, the first proper smile for a long while broke the freeze at his cheeks as he uncovered the pile. Keeping the one that had cheered him, he handed Lentulus the others. “Crispus can deal with those.”

Lentulus cradled wax and wood gingerly. Dropped onto wet muddy ground would be as harmful to wax messages as to the flimsier wood, if one smudged and the writing on the other disintegrated into a soggy mess.

A measured pace gave Agricola time to absorb the document again as he continued back to his tent, with Lentulus in his wake.

The smile became a grin. Emperor Domitian should be appreciative that the Venicones territory was fully under control now and that it could sustain good farming yields, so long as some effort was put in to drain more of the marshy flatlands that lay between the mountain passes and the waters of the Mare Germanicum – though he knew the emperor probably would not be. It was reassuring to have some positive news during this ominous campaign into the northern reaches of Caledonia.

Conditions in Caledonia

1. Rollo Mire

Rollo Mire 1

It’s thought by soil experts that large swathes of the landscape of ‘Aberdeenshire’ were covered in boggy ground. Rollo Mire is an area in my village of Kintore that is a protected “semi-natural wetland ecosystem- which receives sustainable management via the ‘Greenbelt Group’ This belt of land sits within the rampart boundary of the Roman temporary marching camp at Kintore of approx. A.D. 84,  and was possibly similar 2000 years ago. Rollo Mire was never drained, although during recent centuries it was surrounded by tilled farmland.Rollo Mire 2

Anecdotal Statistical evidence of the late 1700s states that it was given the name Rollo Mire after a man named Rollo. Rollo, according to the oral tradition, was given the surrounding ‘estate’ (a massive swathe of ‘Aberdeenshire’) sometime after the Normans arrived, post Norman Conquest of Britain when ‘Britain’ was divvied up between the Norman overlords. If correct, then the area has been boggy for at least one millennia, and it’s unlikely it was much different during the invasion of Agricola around A.D. 84.

2. Blanket Bog – Forest of Birse, Aberdeenshire Wikimedia Commons

This is also what much of the landscape may have looked like since a lot of it had already been deforested by the time of the Agricolan Roman invasions. Soil sampling experts (ScARF) think blanket bog extended across much more of what are now drained lower hill slopes of northern Aberdeenshire, so e.g. the bogs were a lot closer to the Moray coast than today.

Me: Thank you, Nancy – I thoroughly enjoyed talking to the Governor, and I now have a much better idea of the challenges he faced!

Blog Hop Dates:

Wednesday 5 June Jen Black  interviews courageous, Byrhtnoth, of the Byrhtnoth Chronicles by Christine Hancock

Saturday 8 June – Sharon Bennett Connolly interviews wild and beautiful, Eleanor Elder, heroine of the Rebels & Brothers series

Saturday 15 June Lynn Bryant handsome, wily, Matho Spirston of Jen Black’s, The Scottish Queen trilogy

Wednesday 19 June Judith Arnopp interviews the intriguing, fiercely ambitious, Edward Seymour of the Seymour Sagaseries by Janet Wertman

Saturday 22 June Derek Birks interviews the courageously defiant Nicholaa de Haye of Sharon Connolly’s Medieval Heroines

Monday 24 June Vanessa Couchman interviews the wily, intrepid Saxon in a Norman’s World, Wimer, from Sheriff & Priest, by Nicky Moxey

Wednesday 26 June Nancy Jardine interviews Paul van Daan, Lynn Bryant’s gorgeous young officer from The Penisular War Saga

Saturday 29 June Stephanie Churchill interviews Marie Therese, talented singer of Vanessa Couchman’s historical novel, Overture

Monday 1 July Christine Hancock Wulfhere,  flawed but heroic thegn of Horstede from Paula Lofting’s Sons of the Wolf series

Wednesday 3 July Paula Lofting http://www.paulaloftinghistoricalnovelist.wordpress.cominterviews the conflicted, yet honourable, Prince of Agrius, Casmir, from Stephanie Churchill’s Crowns of Destiny trilogy

Saturday 6 July Nicky Moxey interviews General Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, exceedingly determined soldier from Agricola’s Bane, Book 4 of the histfic saga – Celtic Fervour by Nancy Jardine

Monday 8 July Janet Wertman steadfast and resilient Margaret Pole from Faithful Traitor by Samantha Wilcoxson

Wednesday 10 July Cathie Dunn https://cathiedunn.blogspot.comInterviews Aldaith, the long-haired, muscular Viking Warrior from Sarah Dahl’s Viking saga The Current, Bonds, and Battles

Saturday 13 July Alex Marchant interviews Joanie Toogood, the rough, tough, but kind hearted street girl from Judith Arnopp’s The Winchester Goose

Monday 15 July Samantha Wilcoxson interviews the tormented and conflicted Munro from Turn of the Tide and the Munro Scottish Saga by Margaret Skea

Wednesday 17 July Margaret Skea http://www.margaretskea.cominterviews Alex Marchant’s young loyal page to Richard III, Matthew Wansford, in The Order of the White Boar series

Sunday 21st July Sarah Dahl Geoffrey de Mortagne, a man torn between an oath and his duty, in Cathie Dunn’s, Dark Deceit



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Limes, all full of the mumbling bee…

One of my favourite poems EVER is Real Property by Harold Monro. I think I learned it by heart age about 15, and it’s been a comfort, a pleasure, and an inspiration ever since.

Today I came upon a most wonderful literal incarnation of it, just a few hundred yards from my house. I was out for an early evening walk, looking out for wildlife, when I became aware of that unmistakable sound of many, many bees, and started looking for a swarm instead. Then I realised that the noise was coming from a line of pleached limes, and each little flower cluster had its own visitor!

The whole tree was covered with all kinds of bees and bumbles, loving the lime flowers – and there is a whole avenue of trees!

The noise was wonderful – almost as amazing as the scent. Apologies to anyone in the village who then heard me mumbling along the road myself, trying to get the whole poem straight in my head; saying it out loud was the only way it would come out!

Real Property, Harold Monro

Tell me about that harvest field.
Oh! Fifty acres of living bread.
The colour has painted itself in my heart;
The form is patterned in my head.

So now I take it everywhere,
See it whenever I look round;
Hear it growing through every sound,
Know exactly the sound it makes —
Remembering, as one must all day,
Under the pavement the live earth aches.

Trees are at the farther end,
Limes all full of the mumbling bee:
So there must be a harvest field
Whenever one thinks of a linden tree.

A hedge is about it, very tall,
Hazy and cool, and breathing sweet.
Round paradise is such a wall,
And all the day, in such a way,
In paradise the wild birds call.

You only need to close your eyes
And go within your secret mind,
And you’ll be into paradise:
I’ve learnt quite easily to find
Some linden trees and drowsy bees,
A tall sweet hedge with the corn behind.

I will not have that harvest mown:
I’ll keep the corn and leave the bread.
I’ve bought that field; it’s now my own:
I’ve fifty acres in my head.
I take it as a dream to bed.
I carry it about all day….

Sometimes when I have found a friend
I give a blade of corn away.


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Lovely review to wake up to :)

I’ve been having some success selling Sheriff and Priest (my first historical novel, telling the story of a real Saxon man who rose to a position of power in Norman England) in the US, but sales don’t often turn into reviews.

And reviews can definitely drive sales, as people feel comfortable about investing their money in a decent read. [Hint – PLEASE review anything you read. It doesn’t need to be long or deep; a sentence or two saying what you liked is fine.]

So I was very pleased to find this on today; thank you, Francophile 🙂

June 25, 2019

Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase

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Interview My Character Blog Hop – Sheriff and Priest: Wimer the Chaplain, by Nicky Moxey

A thoroughly enjoyable interview of my Wimer character, and a lovely review – thank you, Vanessa!

Vanessa Couchman

Today it’s my turn to interview a character in the Historical Writers’ Forum “Interview my Character” blog hop. This event has been going on throughout June and will continue through July. I have the great good fortune to be interviewing Wimer, a real-life character who had an interesting – if turbulent – career during the 12th century. He is the main character in Nicky Moxey’s Sheriff and Priest. You can read my review of the book beneath this interview.

And there’s a giveaway! The author has kindly offered a paperback copy of Sheriff and Priest to a UK winner, or an ebook to a winner elsewhere in the world. To enter, simply leave a comment below this post or on the post about this interview on the Facebook page. The draw will be made on 28th June. Good luck!

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Interview my Character: Eleanor Elder

The next instalment of the Historical Fiction Writers’ Blog Hop. These are turning out to be a cracking read – and this one has a giveaway too!

History... the interesting bits!

Today it is my stop on the Historical Writers’ Character Blog Hop, where we interview historical characters, both real and fictional. Watch out for Nicholaa de la Haye coming later in the tour!

And there’s a giveaway! the author has kindly offered a paperback copy of the book to a UK winner, or an ebook to a winner elsewhere in the world. To enter, simply leave a comment below or on the Facebook page. The draw will be made on 12 June. Good luck!

I would like to welcome Lady Eleanor Elder to History…the Interesting Bits. Lady Eleanor is one of the principal characters in Derek Birks’ wonderful series of books, The Craft of Kings, the latest instalment of which, Echoes of Treason was released in May.Ever since I first read Feud, about 5 years ago, Lady Eleanor has become something of a heroine of…

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Character blog hop!

The Historical Writers’ Forum has got a real treat for you over the next few weeks, an interview every couple of days of a character from a novel! (Wimer is in there too, later.)

The process kicks off today; author Jen Black interviews Christine Hancock‘s youthful and courageous ealdorman, Byrhtnoth, of the Bright Axe and Bright Sword books.

Many more to come over the summer!

blog hop overview

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The Indie Showcase Presents, Nicky Moxey

I had the opportunity to talk about my beloved Wimer on my author friend Richard Dee’s blog today…

Source: The Indie Showcase Presents, Nicky Moxey

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No distance at all from the Iron Age…

On Friday I treated myself to a visit to the British Library’s Anglo-Saxon Exhibition. If you’re in a position to go, I’d urge you to – it’s spectacular.

One of the more jaw-dropping items is the Alfred Jewel, on loan from the Ashmolean ( Now I’ve visited this wonderful object many times; but for the first time on Friday I wrenched my eyes away from the striking image, the marvellous crystal, the sheer astonishment of the pierced instription running around the sides – and looked at the business end, where the pointer would have fitted.

This is the classic view, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, source Dresses and Decorations of the Middle Ages, by Henry Shaw, 1843. Isn’t it gorgeous?

But the pointer end isn’t anything particularly amazing.

Now look at this photo, which is how close a look you can get at the exhibition. (This from a user called Richard’s Flickr feed, marked for non-commercial reuse. Thank you Richard! –


What does it look like to you – a boar? A bear? Scroll back up and look at the left-hand picture, showing the top of its head; maybe a great cat? The Ashmolean sometimes calls it a dragon. Not your usual Christian icon, in this sumptuous jewel comissioned by a deeply Christian King. Alfred’s passion was the translation of religious texts into Anglo-Saxon from Latin, and the British Library’s exhibition holds manuscripts which might be his translation and written in his hand (another shiver-up-the-spine moment!).

The speculation is that the jewel was one of many pointers made to accompany such a text and sent as a gift alongside the book. That kingly assocation would explain its richness and beauty – but certainly not its iconography; it simply makes it more of a puzzle. Until, perhaps, you consider who the recipients of such a gift might be – possibly missionaries going out into the perilous wild lands of 9thC Britain, with the Danelaw all up the Eastern side of the country, and tribes not acknowledging Alfred’s rule to the North and West of him.

I’ve been lucky enough to handle several Iron Age coins in silver and gold, and that’s the strongest association I have – that this Christian jewel is also using the power, imagery, and deep, deep roots of the Celtic world to get its message across.

Magical! Do you agree?


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Author Interview – Richard Stephenson Clarke


Just for a bit of fun, I thought I’d have a go at interviewing other authors. Richard Stephenson Clarke’s beautiful book of shaped poety – Presents of Mind – launched last month, and he’s agreed to be my first victim!

I’ve decided to go with a riff on Desert Island Discs – interviewees get to choose 5 music tracks and answer 5 or 6 vaguely literature-related questions, and choose one book and one luxury item to take to their island. As always, they get the Bible and the Complete Works of Shakespeare thrown in.

Me: So, Richard – the important things first; what’s your favourite writing food?

Richard: Oh, cake! Coffee and walnut, preferably.

Me: Good choice! And drink?

Richard: Hmmm. Vintage port… or coffee. Black, no sugar, please.

Me: Is there a coffee-related theme building here? Perhaps we should move on to the music. What’s your first track?

Richard: This is terribly difficult, you know!  it’s like being asked to choose which is your favourite child! Let’s start with the 3rd movement of Beethoven’s Archduke trio.

Me: Lovely! I hate to lower the tone – but what’s your favourite TV show?

Richard: Ah, that’s easy! The Big Bang Theory!

Me: No thought required on that one! And your next track?

Richard: How about anything by Supertramp?

Me: Coming right up! Here’s a “Best of” compilation:

Me: Let’s get back on books – what’s your favourite book ever?

Richard: Anything by PG Wodehouse! I could read those till the cows come home.

Me: And some music to go with that?

Richard: Let’s have Schubert’s Shepherd on the Rock. Ideally with Dame Janet Baker, if possible.

Me: I couldn’t find a recording with Janet Baker. Here’s Beverley Sills singing soprano instead.

Richard: Oh yes, that’ll do!

Me: Now, what’s the last book you read?

Richard: I’m just finishing The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil.

Me: That’s a war book, isn’t it? What music would you like to follow it with?

Richard: Hahn’s L’Heure Exquise; I like the Julian Lloyd Webber recording. It’s just such a wonderful evocation of moonlight. The book is about Clementine’s journey through the displacement & horror of war, and I think music like L’Heure Exquise speaks of enduring hope, peace & beauty that transforms the dark.

Me: That is gorgeous. All right, nearly at the end. You can choose one book to take with you to your desert island – what will it be?

Richard: Something silly like The Adventures of Asterix, please. I’d need a good laugh on a desert island!

Me: – good choice! And your luxury?

Richard: A really good Hi-Fi system, please – and my music collection!

Me: All of it? Oh, all right! What would you like to play us out with?

Richard: Anything from the countertenor Philippe Jaroussky – he has the most amazing voice!

Me: Super! One of my favourite artists too. Would you mind if we had one of my favourites? Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater.

Thank you, Richard – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your choices!
Presents of Mind is a collection of shaped poetry: reflections on psychotherapy and the creative energy and healing power of the mind, in a tapestry of metaphors and forms. It is written for anyone who finds life a challenge, for clients and students of therapy, for counsellors, psychotherapists, and others concerned with mental health.

Presents of Mind is available as an A4, full-colour paperback from Etsy

Or as an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon US

Richard discusses the book, its imagery, and his process on his blog.

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