Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Computer Problems

For the past few months I've been having computer problems - not what a writer with loads of work and hundreds of photographs wants to deal with! The worst of it is, the desktop computer itself is under a year old though fortunately still under guarantee.

After the ongoing saga of a new motherboard and several hours on the phone while Microsoft tried and eventually managed to fix the subsequent Windows problem (phone call at their expense), it broke down again.

Today, after the company where we bought it intervened, we've been told it will be taken back and our money refunded. Hurrah! Although I'm currently using husband's old reconditioned laptop, I need to decide on a new one for myself to keep this laptop as a back-up.

So... do you have any suggestions as to what make of computer you're happy with, whether desktop or laptop? I realise we might have been unlucky with this new one but I'll be more careful what we buy this time.

Any advice will be gratefully received, even if we end up with something completely different!


P.S I'm purposely not naming supplier or computer make on here, except to say it's not a Mac.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Snippet Sunday Post

I recently joined the Facebook group, #snippetsunday, but this is the first time I've actually posted a snippet from one of my books to take part! A good idea as we might find some new authors (to us) amongst those posting.

I'm going to post a snippet from The Highland Lass over the next few weeks as the rights have now reverted to me and it has always been the 'book of my heart'. As it's a dual-time story, I'll post a snippet from one of the historical chapters from 1785 today.

>Risking another glance, I see he has turned away to look at the preacher. His dark hair is smooth and curls in below his neck, his profile is strong. He is smart in jacket and neckerchief and he has not the air of a farmer. Just as I remember I’m still staring, he looks up and our eyes meet again. This time I smile shyly and briefly before returning to my open Bible. He must not think I admire him too well. I’ll not become one of the silly lasses who cast longing glances at him in the hope he will dally with them. I have too much pride for such behaviour. However, I cannot help one final glance as we stand to end the service. He smiles and my heart tells me it is too late. But I still do not realise that this man, Robert Burns, will have anything to do with my destiny.<

You can find other authors snippets on the Snippet Facebook group.


P.S. Happy Earth Day!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Finding a 'Lost' Mary Stewart Book

Like many other modern romance writers, I adored the romantic suspense novels of Mary Stewart. I no sooner finished one than I was desperate to read the next. As well as being mysteries set in interesting locations, the titles always grabbed my attention: Airs Above the Ground, Nine Coaches Waiting, Wildfire at Midnight, The Gabriel Hounds, to name a few.

I was therefore delighted to discover by accident what is seemingly one of Stewart's 'lost' books while browsing in my favourite independent bookshop. The Wind off the Small Isles is a small, very short book and the story is set on the island of Lanzarote. Apart from being written by one of my all-time favourite authors, the hard cover is so pretty I would have bought it anyway!

I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering if an author has stood the test of time and I was a little apprehensive about reading this, especially since it's little more than a fairly short novella. However, I didn't put it off for long and as soon as I started reading it, I was strangely transported back to my late teenage years when this type of book was my most relaxing escape from everyday life.

Yes, it's a bit too short which gives it less depth and makes the hint of romance less believable, but the author still had the power to take me to another place and involve me in the characters' lives for a couple of days. Moreover, she also managed to add in a little mystery and danger that is such a feature of her novels. I think this is a little book I'll treasure as a special, unexpected treat.

Did you read Mary Stewart?


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

SAW Weekend Writers Conference

Once again, I had a fabulous time at the annual Scottish Association of Writers weekend conference. It helps that it is held in a lovely hotel where the food is plentiful, including the cute little glasses of juice along with the tea, coffee, cakes and pastries at the mid morning and afternoon breaks!

In addition to meeting up with old friends and new from all over Scotland, the speakers and workshops provided much inspiration for all aspects and genres of writing. The highlight of the weekend had to the after-dinner talk from the amazing Simon Brett who had us all in absolute stitches. He's also the acclaimed author of around 100 books and delivered an interesting workshop in the afternoon!

I only entered one of the various competitions this year and was delighted to take home a Highly Commended certificate for my article, Frankenstein and the Modern Prometheus, in the General Article Competition. I had been keen to write this piece and hoped for written feedback (which is given to all entrants) so this was a bonus.

As well as meeting up with some old friends from my previous writing group, I was especially pleased that my dear friend Catriona came along for the first time now that she's writing fiction. It's such a friendly conference that everyone is soon part of the SAW family. Roll on next year!


Saturday, 17 March 2018

Cobh in Ireland

In celebration of St Patrick’s Day (since one set of grandparents were of Irish descent), I thought I’d share this post I wrote some years ago on my other blog. We had a great visit to Cobh and hadn’t known of its interesting history.

A pretty fishing and harbour town, the most impressive sight on the approach to Cobh is the 19th century Gothic St Colman’s Cathedral which sits on the hill overlooking the harbour. Situated on the Great Island near Cork, the harbour town of Cobh has links with many famous ships, including the ill-fated Titanic.

Developed during the eighteenth century, when the natural harbour was used to assemble the fleets during the Napoleonic wars, Cobh (pronounced ‘Cove’) became a health resort during Victorian times. In honour of Queen Victoria’s visit to the town in 1849, Cobh was renamed Queenstown and thus it remained until it reverted to its Irish name in 1920.

Cobh was in an ideal position for Irish emigrants who wanted to escape their poverty and sail to the new world across the Atlantic, in hope of a better life in America. The terrible potato famines between 1845 and the 1851 left many unable to survive and during this period, over 1,500,000 Irish people emigrated to America. It was also one of the great ports for transatlantic liners at the turn of the 20th century.

One hundred and twenty three people boarded the Titanic at Cobh (Queenstown) on 11th April 1912. The story is told of a young priest, Father Frank Browne, who had sailed on the ship from Southampton. On reaching Cobh, his Bishop told him he was now to leave the ship. Just three days later, as it sailed in the Atlantic, the Titanic struck an iceberg shortly before midnight. Two hours later, the ship had sunk with the terrible loss of 1500 lives.

Housed in the restored Victorian railway station, the Cobh Heritage Centre tells the Queenstown Story, an excellent multi-media depiction of the history of Cobh, the Irish emigration from the town, and the Titanic. There is now a genealogy service available, which offers an online facility.

Happy St Patrick's Day!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Snow and Creativity

Like most of the country, we've been snowed in since last Wednesday, unable to move cars from the drive. Although we're used to cold, frost and snow in Scotland, this has been the worst and longest we can ever remember. Fortunately, we no longer live at the top of a hill in a small village without shops! When we did feel like venturing out, we at least could trudge through the snow for a short walk - not that we wanted to until later in the week.

You might have seen these photos on Facebook, taken just fifteen minutes apart - the blizzard kept up all day, hence the enforced stay at home.

We're lucky we work from home and the schools were all closed so we didn't even need to do granddaughter's school run and could remain cosy and warm, watching the heavy snowfall from the window. As I've often said, I like winter and still find the landscape beautiful but even I am looking forward to a proper spring now.

One advantage writers have when forced to stay indoors is our creativity and the chance to concentrate on writing projects - or that's the theory. I was very pleased to receive the acceptance of another Scottish article from The Highlander Magazine in the US, in which I've been published many times, as well as a new poem accepted by the Wild Musette journal, a first for me. I also sent away a new short story and I'm writing another non-fiction essay.

Before feeling too self-righteous, I keep feeling guilty at not getting on with the actual longer fiction I'm supposed to be trying to finish, but that's normal behaviour for me - much easier to concentrate on the shorter lengths! Yet, it's when I'm feeling most creative that I'm drawn to writing poetry and shorter fiction or articles so perhaps it's not only laziness.

I've also been redrafting The Highland Lass as the rights have only just reverted to me and I wanted to tweak it a little before it reappears on Amazon. A very enjoyable couple of days revisiting what has always been the book of my heart and I was relieved that I was still happy with the story! My lovely publisher, Crooked Cat Books, have even allowed me to keep the original cover which I didn't want to change.

What have you been doing if snow has kept you at home?


Saturday, 17 February 2018

Hawes Inn's Literary Connection

We had a lovely lunch out at the atmospheric 17th century Hawes Inn at South Queensferry today, a former coaching inn which is tucked under one end of the Forth Bridge.

As well as the cosy ambiance in such historical surroundings, I was intrigued with the eating area next to ours: The Robert Louis Stevenson Room. The famous Scottish author evidently stayed here in the 1880s where he seemingly wrote part of Kidnapped, even mentioning the Hawes Inn in the story.

Of course, I immediately went to look at all the pictures and information on the walls while waiting for my lunch and took a photo of the view from the window as seen today. Sir Walter Scott also knew the inn, referring to it in his ‘Antiquary’. I particularly liked the drawings depicting Stevenson’s story Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and I could easily imagine the author sitting at one of the tables in the 19th century.

Don't you love a day out which is also very interesting for a writer!


Saturday, 10 February 2018

Valentine Countdown

A quick post to mention that my Victorian novella, Pride and Progress, is now on Amazon UK and US countdown until Wednesday at 99p (99C) if anyone fancies a sweet historical read for Valentine's Day.

Miss Emily Morton is content with her village life as a teacher in the north east of England in the 1870s, until the new railway arrives along with the handsome Scottish station master, Arthur Muir.
Emily detests the railways, while it is Arthur's passion.

Each is challenged by the other but will pride allow for progress?


Sunday, 4 February 2018

A Fleeting Touch of Spring

Apologies for not updating the blog since Burns Night! I seem to be having trouble remembering it as I'm pushing ahead with lots of writing projects at the moment, trying to keep to some kind of order instead of flitting about from one to the other without finishing any of them. So far, it's working... then I add another opportunity to the mix and get sidetracked again.

The weather has been so bad this year that we've not been out and about as much as usual, especially after being unwell for so long. Today, however, there was even a touch of spring in the air, if you ignored the chilly dampness and concentrated on the fleeting sun. We had a delicious lunch out then a very pleasant walk by Linlithgow loch, where the birds, ducks, swans and even a couple of geese were all enjoying themselves in the freezing water.

I warned husband not to get too excited about the sun since we're evidently due more snow and ice for the first part of this week - it's even trying my love of winter a bit far this year! At least I can get on with the writing in between and tick a few more items off the list I've made at last.

Here's an opportunity from Harlequin for anyone writing romance that stays outside the bedroom door but you'll need to be quick as you can only submit the first chapter between 1st and 14th February. At least we're promised feedback within a week of the closing date, so it's worth a go if it's the kind of thing you write.


Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Robert Burns Wisdom

On Thursday 25th January, Scots all over the world will be celebrating Burns Night again when our national bard is remembered at many a Burns Supper in song, drink and food, as well as poetry of course. From the moment the haggis, that Great Chieftain o' the Puddin' Race, is piped in, through the immortal memory and various toasts, a great night is promised to all who attend.

One of the reasons I appreciate Burns today is the wonderful wisdom contained in many of his verses. He might have been known as the 'farmer-poet, but he was a very well educated man who mixed with the best of Enlightenment society in Edinburgh in the 18th century. It's the often profound insight into his fellow man, and beast, that sets his poetry apart, whether in Scots dialect or 'correct' English.

The Selkirk Grace, given before the sumptuous feast begins, is cleverly succinct:

Some hae meat and cannae eat;
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
And sae the Lord be thankit.

I used lines from some of his poetry at the top of the contemporary chapters for The Highland Lass, some of which loosely fitted the subject of the chapter. Here are a few of my favourites.

'Follies past, give thou to air,
Make their consequence thy care.'

'How wisdom and folly meet, and unite;
How virtue and vice blend their black and white.'

'Some sort all our qualities each to its tribe,
And think human nature they truly describe.'

And finally, one of my favourites:

'Then gently scan your brother man,
Still gentler sister woman;
Though they may gang a kennin' wrang,
To step aside is human.'

The alternate chapters of The Highland Lass tell the story of Robert Burns and Highland Mary, one which fascinated me since childhood since Mary was buried in my home town. It also gave me an excuse to pay homage to my beloved west coast of Scotland and some of the places I most loved to explore.

Here's the trailer I made when it was published - might as well give it another outing!

Happy Burns Night, if you celebrate it.