Sunday, 16 November 2014

Meeting with Other Writers

One of the pleasures of being a writer is getting to know others who are equally engrossed in putting words in the right order in an imaginative way. It especially helps to have writer friends if those nearest and dearest have no idea what compels us to spend our time this way - have to admit mine are all very understanding and one of my best friends couldn't be more supportive. But I also feel particularly blessed with a host of writing friends and colleagues and greatly value any time spent in discussing writing-related matters.

I was very lucky to find a good writing group many years ago when I was starting out and the various members over the years have proved inspirational and encouraging, several of them becoming close friends. A few of us regularly meet up for coffee or lunch and a chat and we all feel ready to go home and write afterwards. An offshoot of this is that we all belong to the Scottish Association of Writers and get to meet people from all over Scotland at the annual conference each March.

This past week, I had the pleasure of meeting two new writing acquaintances at the Willow Tearooms in Glasgow, along with one writing friend from Edinburgh whom I've known for several years, and it was very motivating hearing how everyone is doing with writing and publishing novels. At the end of this coming week I’ll be out to lunch with three other writing friends and at the beginning of the following week, there’s a Christmas lunch in Glasgow for the online Scottish Writers group I belong to – although we also try to meet up in person a few times a year.

On Tuesday past, we had the writing group’s annual Dinner and Awards at a local Equestrian Centre and, as always, it was a most enjoyable day. We begin with an afternoon meeting, which this year included judging of a Flash Fiction competition (which I was proud to see my daughter win!) and it was followed by the Awards for the 2013/14 session. I was honoured and delighted to win the Betty Munnoch Poetry Award this year. The unique carved ‘book’ contains an individual plaque on the inside cover with each winner’s name over the years, and a copy of the winning poem is put inside. It is named after a very dear friend and wonderful poet who sadly passed away many years ago.

The day ends with our dinner in an adjoining room when we get the chance to socialise along with the eating and drinking! It’s especially good for chatting to newer members, as we might not have the opportunity during or after our weekly meetings. It’s a lovely tradition of our group now and one which we all look forward to each year.

So if anyone is thinking of joining a writing group, either online or at a real venue, or even if you can only meet up with a few writing friends, I’d encourage you to give it a try. Yes, the quality of groups can vary as people are different personalities, but you just might find lasting friendship and unexpected inspiration.


Monday, 10 November 2014

A Star in the Heart

I was delighted to receive my copy of the new anthology, A Star in the Heart. I saw a call for submissions through the Federation of Scottish Writers earlier in the year and I sent in little story of 800 words called 'The Christmas Visitor' - a warm-hearted story about a nurse in an old Glasgow hospital and her ghostly little visitor. I was subsequently very pleased when it was accepted!

A Star in the Heart is a lovely paperback and is filled with seasonal poems, amazing winter images and a few short stories. It's been produced in aid of The Christ Church Community Centre Development Fund in Henley-on-Thames. I feel honoured to be in such a beautiful book - from away up in Scotland!

At the moment, the book is only available in print. If anyone wants a copy, you can let me know and I can arrange for one to be sent to you, or you can order direct from: - it costs £9 plus £2 postage for up to 2 copies.

If anyone lives around Henley, they're having a launch with Advent Supper, music and so on and readings from the book, at 7.30pm on December 6th at Christ Church, Henley. Wish I could be there!


Friday, 7 November 2014

A Midwinter Bargain!

In case anyone fancies a romantic winter read, my Scottish-based Regency novel, Midwinter Masquerade, is now on a special offer of 99c on Amazon US and 77p on Amazon UK. I always forget to put reviews anywhere so I've included a short sample from Amazon reviews at the end!


Edinburgh 1816: young widow Lady Lenora Fitzallan receives an invitation that might change her life.

At his Scottish country estate, Edward Montgomery awaits the arrival of the woman he should have married seventeen years before, while his niece Annabelle begins to fall in love. But is it with the right man?

As they all prepare for the Masquerade Ball on the Winter Solstice, new arrivals cause uncertainty and reveal past secrets. But who will win Lenora’s love in the end?

Sample Reviews:

"Romy Gemmell keeps a whole basket of balls in the air as her large cast of characters gather for a midwinter ball. As always, Romy writes with assurance and brings deft touches of period and humour to her story. The juxta-positioning of two romances keeps the reader guessing all the way to the end and is a clever device to allow both an older couple and their younger counterparts to shine."

"The characters are well delineated, subtly defined and engaging. I particularly liked Annabelle with her rather scatterbrained approach to life in general and men in particular and the underlying humour adds an extra dimension to the novel."

"Midwinter in the Scottish countryside is a perfect setting for this historial romance. I enjoyed the clever threads of stories running through this book, with the widowed Lenora's romantic turmoil a nice contrast to the more whimsical escapades of the younger Annabelle."


Monday, 3 November 2014

Art Inspiration

I've always loved art, along with literature, music and film and every now and then I enjoy visiting an art gallery. We're lucky to have two very different types of gallery in Glasgow and both are housed in the most magnificent buildings.


The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is in the west end of the city, near the illustrious Glasgow University area. It's one of my favourite venues and I've had great visits there over the years but never tire of another and find the wonderful range of paintings such an inspiration for writing ideas. A story I wrote from studying the woman in one picture became a big prize-winning story a couple of years ago and at least one other set of paintings inspired an article published in a UK magazine. The museum displays are a great hit with children who are encouraged to interact with some and are educated by others.


The other building is the Gallery of Modern Art, known locally as GoMA, which is situated right in the middle of town within easy walk of the stations. It's a wonderful neo-classical building with huge amounts of space inside and amazing architectural features. As its name suggests, this art is very modern and includes exhibits in different mediums and from different nationalities. It might not immediately inspire story ideas, but my friend and I enjoyed the artistic vision of some of them. Outside sits the statue of Wellington on his horse with the now famous traffic cone on his head - Glasgow humour which has made it onto postcards and was made world-famous during the Commonwealth Games!

Pictures in magazines or online often inspire writers but there's nothing like walking around an actual gallery, enjoying the works of art in reality. It's a great morning or afternoon out too as there's a cafe in both venues for a much needed refreshment!

Monday, 27 October 2014

A Book of Memories

Well, I've just had a wonderful weekend celebrating my birthday and entering a new decade - just as well we're all meant to be ten years younger than our real age these days! But it's certainly true that age is just a number and we're as old as we feel. My daughter paid me a great compliment by telling me I have a youthful attitude and a few people mentioned my enthusiasm and positivity, so long may these attributes remain.

Saturday began enjoying a lovely morning with my gorgeous wee granddaughter, son and daughter-in-law in Glasgow. One of their most original gifts was a beautiful book of original watercolour paintings of heroines from fiction by Samantha Hahn - on the facing page across from each painting is a quote from the book in which they appear. Something to treasure always.

The evening saw a gathering of my family for a wonderful meal in our local restaurant. Many of us don't see each other for far too long and it was truly lovely to celebrate with my sister, two brothers, three sisters-in-law and two nephews, along with my husband and daughter. The photo of us all at such a happy occasion will be a great memento - we've already lost two brothers and a brother-in-law over the years and it's important to see each other while we still have that privilege.

Yesterday, my actual birthday, was a quieter day when my dear husband took me out to lunch at one of my favourite venues - over the other side of the river to Loch Lomond. It doesn't matter what the weather is like over there (it was raining) as it's such stunning scenery. Then I enjoyed chilling out and catching up on my favourite programmes while indulging in far too many chocolates.

But it doesn't end there... I have lots more treats in store: lunch out with my good friend on Wednesday, posh Afternoon Tea at a luxury hotel with three friends on Friday and about four other lunches with various people, plus a concert with another friend yet to be arranged! I am truly blessed with lovely family and friends.

In amongst all the wonderful, generous gifts I received was this brilliant, quirky Scotty dog which doubles as a door stop from my great friend, Catriona - just had to give him a star role here!

As well as contributing to the fabulous gift of a mini iPad from my husband, the most touching and memorable gift of all has been the Memory Book my lovely, talented daughter put together for me - all in secret. As well as writing beautiful messages to me herself, she collected photos of me and family and friends over the years as well as written messages from many of them which she pasted into the book. I read it while on my own through tears of joy all the way through, especially when I reached the one from my husband and then my son. As anyone who knows Victoria will expect, she has adorned it with little touches of creativity throughout. Could anyone receive anything more precious than such a Book of Memories?

I'll end before I get too sentimental by thanking many of my lovely blogging friends for your good wishes here and on Facebook. The Internet has certainly made the world a smaller place and enabled virtual friendships that enhance our lives.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

(Almost) a Cover Girl and Birthday Bargains

I mentioned this event in late July, but isn't this a lovely photo on the cover of the new issue of Romance Matters from the RNA! This was taken at the Friday morning event some of us took part in at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire. Since we were historical novelists, many of us dressed up, to some degree or other. Must admit I had a surprise to see it on the cover - you can just pick me out about a third from the left at the back holding my parasol aloft! A lovely memento of the day.

At the end of this coming week, it's my milestone birthday (I'll let you guess which one) so I decided to put some of my books on special offer during the whole week, where possible, in celebration of the event. Here's the schedule, in case you're tempted - the short stories are under my full name, the others are as Romy:

Reshaping the Past: eight previously published short stories
FREE on Amazon UK and Amazon US on Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st October

Beneath the Treetops: eight published or commended short stories
FREE on Amazon UK and Amazon US on Wednesday 22nd and Thursday 23rd October

Mischief at Mulberry Manor: Victorian novella
Reduced to 77p on Amazon UK and 99c on Amazon US from 20th to 26th October

Dangerous Deceit: Regency novel
Amazon US countdown at 99c from 20th to 26th October
(Unfortunately a pricing problem prevented me doing it on Amazon UK at the moment)

Hopefully, my publisher Tirgearr, is going to put my two Aphrodite and Adonis novellas set on Cyprus at a special price of 77p on Amazon UK and 99c on Amazon US for the week:
The Aphrodite Touch and The Adonis Touch

This is only the beginning of my birthday celebrations which start next Saturday and Sunday and will evidently go on for a few weeks afterwards! It's at times like this that I greatly appreciate my lovely family and friends.


Monday, 13 October 2014

Social Media

Over the past few months, I've been wondering about the popularity of blogging and if it has decreased a little. I get the impression that fewer people follow blogs now and that many prefer to interact on Facebook these days. Have to confess to feeling that way myself sometimes. I still enjoy posting when I can think of something to say or have new information, and I still enjoy reading the blogs of those I follow. Yet I don't seek out new blogs now, unless someone has recommended a link. Maybe I just need a break from it every now and then!

I enjoy Facebook for the regular interaction with friends and writing colleagues, and Twitter for the short, concise messages and making new contacts. I haven't signed up for LinkedIn yet and still can't decide if it's necessary (let me know what you think!). Goodreads I visit infrequently but use it both as an author and reader. I do like Pinterest as it's a fun, visual media - great for creating boards for writing projects or anything else of interest.

This past week, however, I was at two real book launches (as opposed to online) and there's still nothing like social interaction in person. As well as hearing a few excerpts read by the authors from the books in question, it's good to get a signed copy of the paperback and then to mingle amongst other guests while enjoying a glass of something or other and a few nibbles. I'm glad such events still happen and I'm looking forward to another one in November.

But the world has certainly changed and I'm happy to embrace as much of the online technology and activity as is comfortable and useful. One advantage of a virtual book launch is that no one has to leave home and people from all over the world can interact on Facebook or wherever. I'm really glad to have a number of choices these days and I hope that long continues.

What does everyone think about social media and what do you find the most useful as a writer?


Thursday, 9 October 2014

Author Spotlight: Kathleen McGurl

I'm delighted to welcome author Kathleen McGurl to the Reading and Writing blog today. Her alter ego owns the famous Womagwriter blog which has been a great help and source of information to short story writers for many years. Now Kathleen has joined the ranks of novelists with a two book deal from Carina and her latest book, The Emerald Comb, is now available. First a little about the novel.

The Emerald Comb
One afternoon, Katie takes a drive to visit Kingsley House, the family home of her ancestors, the St Clairs. She falls in love the minute she sees it. It may be old and in desperate need of modernisation, but it is her link to the past and, having researched her family tree extensively, she feels a sense of belonging to the crumbling old estate.

When it suddenly comes up for sale, she cannot resist persuading her family to sell up and buy it, never telling them the truth of their connection with it. But soon the past collides with the present, as the house begins to reveal the secrets it has hidden for generations. Does Katie really want to discover what she has come from?

The Emerald Comb is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US

This story sounds fascinating, Kath, and it’s on my TBR list. Welcome to my blog and thanks for answering the questions!

You were a short story writer first – how did you make the transition to novels?

I began writing about 11 years ago and actually, the first thing I started was a novel! I tried and failed at a couple of novels before I got into writing short stories. But I always wanted to write something longer, just to prove I could if nothing else. My aim with the first one I wrote was simply to get to the end and edit it, for the experience. It wasn't wasted though – part of that practice novel became my novella, Mr Cavell’s Diamond.

Your plan obviously worked!

Do you find a big difference in the way you write now? Do you have a preference between the two forms of story?

I love the way with novels you can get totally immersed in the story, and really know and understand your characters. I love the depth you can add, and the space and freedom there is to properly develop plot, characters and theme. So these days, I definitely prefer novel-writing. Having said that, there’s a real joy to be had in crafting the perfect short story where not a word is wasted.

Did you have to do a lot of research for this novel and how did you go about it?

I already knew a lot about how to research your family tree, as I've done it myself. I read a lot of historical books – novels, non-fiction and Victorian authors – and I think you absorb a lot of general knowledge through wide reading. I did have to do bits of specific research, e.g did Brighton have a prom in 1840, when was the railway line to Winchester opened, etc. Google is brilliant for this sort of thing!

It certainly is a boon to writers!

What is the most difficult part about starting a new book?

I don’t think starting is particularly hard – it's finishing it that's the problem! However I do like to work to a plan, and that can take time to put together, which is difficult when you are itching to start writing chapter one.

I admire writers who can work to a plan and I imagine it must help with the plot process.

How do you feel about print versus e-books?

I think there's a place for both. I have a kindle and love it, and use it on holidays and long journeys. I love the way the ebook revolution has opened the doors to shorter novels and novellas which wouldn't be cost-effective as print books. But for certain books – e.g those written by friends, those I know I’ll want to keep forever or lend to others – I prefer having the print version.

Roughly the way I think about them too!

How do you promote your book and does it work?

I've been promoting The Emerald Comb like mad over the last few weeks! I contacted a number of book bloggers who kindly reviewed it and posted about it. I've tweeted several times a day, and my fellow Carina authors amongst others have been kind enough to re-tweet. I have a short blog tour coming up at the end of October. And then there are other blogging friends, like yourself, who've hosted me for guest posts or interviews. Does it work? Well, I'm getting some lovely reviews, which will certainly help sell the book!

Do you have a favourite writing place?

I sit on the sofa in what we still call the playroom, with my laptop on my lap and notebooks and papers strewn across the seat beside me, and a cat on the arm of the sofa. If I really need to concentrate away from all noise, I go up to the spare bedroom and curl up on the sofa in there, with a pink knitted blanket over my knees.

Do you find time for hobbies?

Until I got my two book deal from Carina I would have said writing was my main hobby. Now it has moved beyond being a hobby and I sometimes refer to it as my second job. One I love, I hasten to add. I try to keep fit, through running, swimming, zumba. And I have just (one hour ago as I type this) bought a new bike, so better add cycling to the list. Finding time to do everything you want to is always hard, but it’s a matter of priorities. What do you really want to achieve each day – what’s most important? Prioritise that, and make everything else fit around it!

Wise words and I'm awed at your fitness regime and the fact you work full time!

What are your current writing plans?

I am editing my second novel for Carina. It’s another timeslip, this one with a ghostly element. It should be published some time in 2015. I also have an idea for a non-fiction book which I’ll self-publish, part of the ‘womagwriter’ brand if you like, and am desperate to get started on it.

I love a ghostly element!

Any tips for new writers?

When you start, try lots of different genres until you find the one you're best at and most comfortable with. Write what you would like to read. Seek feedback from other writers. And write, write, write!

Thanks so much for taking time to join me here, Kath, and we wish you much success with your novels. And thank you for all the information you've provided on your womagwriter blog.

Kathleen McGurl lives near the sea in Bournemouth, with her husband, sons and cats. She began her writing career creating short stories, and sold dozens to women's magazines in the UK and Australia. Then she got side-tracked onto family history research – which led eventually to writing novels with genealogy themes. She has always been fascinated by the past, and the ways in which the past can influence the present, and she enjoys exploring these links in her novels.

When not writing or working at her full-time job in IT, she likes to go out running or sea-swimming, both of which she does rather slowly. She is definitely quicker at writing.

You can find out more about Kathleen at her website, Facebook, or follow her on Twitter @KathMcGurl

Friday, 3 October 2014

The Pleasure of Reading

I don't know about everyone else, but the popularity of e-books has given me far too many books to read and they've been piling up on my kindle while I slowly get through one at a time. And that's not to mention the shelves full of print books I'm working my way through. It gets slightly overwhelming sometimes and, if I'm honest, it began to spoil my pleasure of reading for its own sake. Of course, I want to read books by friends and colleagues (and I do enjoy them), and hope they might read mine one day, but the sheer number of writers I know means a wealth of books that accusingly call to me!

                                                                     My Victoria Holt Collection

At one time, I could hardly wait to reach the library for my stack of new books to read, by authors such as Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart, or I longed for a visit to the book shop to choose a new title to grace my shelf at home. These days, as much as I enjoy reading, sometimes it feels like a chore to get through as many books as possible. I must emphasise here, however, that I love my kindle and its 100 plus books, as that's the only way I read in bed before sleeping, and I also like having unread print books on my shelves. But...

As the dark nights are drawing in, I've been less inclined to stay online as long as before, so I started a huge print book, The Host by Stephenie Meyer, that my daughter bought me a while ago. We went to see the film before I read the book so I knew the storyline. But I quite enjoy reading a book after the film as (strangely) I like to know the outcome and then enjoy reading all the details. As usual, I began reading it for the half hour or so before going to bed, when I then switch to the latest kindle book I'm reading.

Then, as I got really into the story, the old magic of reading for pure pleasure took over, that escape into another world, and I started thinking of the book at other times. Eventually, I had to finish it over a couple of afternoons as it was keeping me up too late at night! It doesn't really matter which book it happened to be, I was just delighted to feel that same urge to get on with the story that I used to experience all the time when younger. Perhaps it's partly a question of allowing more time to enjoy a book, rather than reading it in short bursts? Or maybe some books appeal to me more than others now? During autumn and winter, I'm looking forward to reading a little more than usual, rather than staying online too long, and hope to rediscover my old joy of reading as a pastime rather than a chore!


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Short Story Collection

Well, I've definitely got back into the writing zone this week and I'm sure it has something to do with autumn arriving - and holidays being over! I love this period when the nights draw in and my imagination begins to stir again.

So before I get completely into the next couple of projects, I thought I'd put together another small collection of my short stories on kindle: Beneath the Treetops and Other Stories. I chose eight about relationships or choices that have a bit more emotional depth. They are either previously published or have been mentioned in competitions.

I decided they might as well be out there rather than sitting on my computer. The first collection, Reshaping the Past, was my very first experiment on kindle a few years ago and it's still out there - it also has eight stories, mainly published, with a couple of prize winners. I might put all sixteen together in a print collection eventually as that's handy to have for talks, conferences and so on.

I've never forgotten the kind comments from the late Ian Sommerville, editor of My Weekly, when he bought my very first short story at the Scottish Association of Writers Conference many moons ago. He told me I should always write stories with such emotional depth as that first one. Although I write a great variety of story themes now, I think he was probably right as the novel coming out next year has more emotion than my other novels. But it's also good to experiment with writing!

If anyone wants to have a look, Beneath the Treetops is on Amazon UK at only .77 pence and on Amazon US at around $1.

Now I'm off to start putting together the next newsletter. If anyone wants a copy emailed to them, you can subscribe to it in the box on the side of the blog - I usually try to feature at least one publishing opportunity, market and competition as well as news.