Saturday, 30 April 2016

Mayday in Scotland

Have you ever washed your face in the early morning dew on May 1st?  This is just one of the traditions surrounding this day when the Mayday dew has the supposed power to improve the complexion or even wash away freckles. I have to confess that a friend and I in our first year of high school agreed we would do this though we waited until we got to the hilly green area above the hockey pitch to pat our face with whatever dew was left! No doubt being the west of Scotland, there would be drops of rain on the grass.

Arthur's Seat - Pixabay
A couple of old books I have mention the tradition being carried out on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh and one contains an extract from a letter in 1826 which outlines the custom:

“About five o'clock in the morning there is an unusual stir; a great opening of area gates and ringing of bells, and a gathering of folk of all clans arrayed in all the colours of the rainbow… in the course of half an hour the entire hill is a moving mass of all sorts and sizes. At the summit may be seen a company of bakers and other craftsmen, dressed in kilts, dancing round a Maypole.”

What a fascinating picture it conjures up, though needless to say, it won’t be a sight you'll see today!

In Scotland, Mayday Eve (30th April) is also the ancient Celtic festival of Beltane, from the Gaelic Bealltainn, when bel-fires were traditionally lit on the hill-tops. Edinburgh has revived this tradition when you might be lucky enough to obtain a ticket to watch the torchlight shenanigans, drums and magical procession around Calton Hill which goes on until an hour or so after Mayday arrives.

No doubt we've all used the expression “Never cast a clout till May is out.” Some people think it means don’t cast off too many clothes until the end of May (sensible with our British weather), while others think it means until the May blossom is out, which is another name for Hawthorn.

Hawthorn - Pixabay
Around the UK, various Wells have long been connected to special powers and never more so than on Mayday when they are at their most potent and magical. I love the legend about the Schiehallion, a mountain near Loch Rannoch in Tayside, which is said to contain one of the largest faerie kingdoms. Locals used to visit Schiehallion Well on Mayday with offerings for the occupants. A place I'm aiming to visit one day, as long as I don't disappear with the faeries!
  
I'm sure you’ll know of other Mayday traditions and legends wherever you live, so please feel free to share them in the comments.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Happy Birthday Shakespeare

As the whole world most likely knows, today is Shakespeare's birthday and the Bard is being celebrated on the Internet and on TV. I've long been a fan of his poetry and plays. As well as the usual required reading at high school, I studied a few more of his plays as part of my literature degree and I have a beautiful book of his sonnets which was a gift from a friend many years ago. My family also bought me a beautiful huge volume containing all of his works.

A few of my favourite dramas are A Midsummer Nights Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth, Othello and Much Ado About Nothing, but I would sit and watch any of his plays. I must admit I wasn't so keen on a stage production of King Lear I saw a couple of years ago - not because of the acting but because it was so gory and depressing!


One of my favourite memories was watching an outdoor production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Rougemont Gardens outside Exeter one evening. We'd been on holiday to Exmouth with the two teenage children and it was too good an opportunity to miss. A very enjoyable production, partly transported to Edwardian times (when the gardens were first opened). Amongst the films I have on DVD, I love the sumptuous production of Much Ado About Nothing with Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thomson as Benedick and Beatrice - the music and scenery are an added bonus. Another great was Rufus Sewall and Shirley Henderson in the fabulous BBC Shakespeare Re-told episode of Taming of the Shrew. It doesn't surprise me that this episode was written by the amazing Sally Wainwright.

I've always admired Portia's speech in The Merchant of Venice when she dresses as a young male lawyer and pleads with Shylock for mercy. In my first novel, Dangerous Deceit, which is set in the Regency of 1813, Portia is the inspiration for my character, Lydia, when she dresses as a boy for her dangerous journey to Brighton with her friend. In my other Regency, Midwinter Masquerade, sonnet 56 is significant for heroine Lenora, when she finds a sprig of rosemary (for remembrance) within the pages of the book Edward has left for her to find.

Many authors have been inspired by Shakespeare's plays and some have reworked them into a novel. One I greatly enjoyed is by fellow Crooked Cat author Sue Barnard. The Ghostly Father takes the priest from Romeo and Juliet as the main character and through his eyes, we see a version of the famous story that ends in a different way. Using the actual Italian locations and period of the play, Sue has woven a wonderful story around the Shakespeare version. In film too, Romeo and Juliet was given a fabulous update by Baz Lurhmann which starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes - no doubt to appeal to a younger audience, although the original text was maintained. You might remember this photo I took of Juliet beside her balcony in Verona.


I'm sure everyone has memories of reading or watching Shakespeare and I'd love to hear some of them! Look out for the BBC tribute this evening and over the weekend.

Rosemary

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Indie Author Fringe


The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) is running their brilliant free online conference on Friday 15th March. I registered for it last year and discovered a wealth of information and advice about everything to do with self-publishing. Even if you're a hybrid author, I guarantee you'll learn something new about the publishing, marketing and promotion business.

This first online event will be held in association with the London Book Fair. All the information will be available afterwards on the Author Fringe Website as there will be too much to take in all at once. I'll certainly be dropping in and out whenever I can. You can register now on the site to be kept up to date with all the ALLi events.

Enjoy!
Rosemary

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Drama in Life and on TV

We've been having a busy time and it hasn't quite stopped yet. In between enjoying the conference and wedding, daughter has been moving into her new house. As she was staying with us since before Christmas, with her accumulated possessions, you can imagine the removal plus back and forward trips between the houses!

It was a pleasure to be able to accommodate Victoria while she bought her new abode and although we all need our own space again, I'll miss her company in lots of ways. So will husband, although he's glad to get the bathroom back to normal. The new house needed some cosmetic hard work but it was worth it to see a happy home taking shape. And now we're getting our house rearranged again, especially before our wee granddaughter arrives for a 2-night stay. Always a pleasure, and I'm looking forward to seeing her and my son and daughter-in-law. No doubt I'll be shattered by her energy!


The last couple of evenings, we've been enjoying catching up on the final episodes of The Night Manager. What a brilliant drama. Not only for the James-Bond like thriller, the characterisation and acting, but we loved the locations, music and opening graphics. I was on the edge of my seat during the last episode, not least because the very pregnant Olivia Coleman character was in danger too. The above photo is Istanbul which I took from the ship we were on - it was one of the locations used in the drama.

Now, I'm hoping to catch up on Indian Summers. I enjoyed the first series and have always been interested in India, though it's one place I've never been. Not so keen on the Colonialism but it's part of the period. I also like Grantchester for the period, mystery element and the two main characters as portrayed by James Norton and Robson Green. One drama we loved was the new Maigret last week with Rowan Atkinson in his first straight role (as opposed to being the funny man). We expected to find it difficult to take him seriously but were pleasantly surprised, so hoping they make some more. Here's my photo of one area of Maigret's Paris.



And where is the writing in all this, do I hear you ask? I am actually working on finishing a couple of things, as well as the short story adjudication I'm doing and helping a friend put together a collection of articles. Maybe next week, I'll get back into a proper routine again but I won't hold my breath!

Rosemary

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Scottish Wedding

Just came back yesterday from another great weekend - celebrating the marriage of my friend's eldest son on Easter Sunday. Wonderful location in a country house type of hotel down by the Ayrshire coast. The wedding itself was lovely from start to finish and it was so relaxing to stay overnight at the end of all the eating and dancing! 

 

Right from our arrival, the piper was there to play the guests into the hotel, as well as tunefully escorting the bridal party into the wedding feast. One of the finer sights at a Scottish wedding is the number of men in kilts and this was no exception! My friend had made one of the cakes (rich fruit) which was served at the late evening supper and of course I still had space to sample a slice, before dancing it off again.


With two consecutive weekends enjoying myself, it's going to be difficult to get back to work but I'd better get on with the adjudication I'm doing for a writing group before thinking about anything else. 

Hope you all had a lovely Easter break,
Rosemary


Monday, 21 March 2016

Inspiring Writing Conference

I returned last night from our annual Scottish Association of Writers weekend conference tired and inspired after all the chatting, eating and concentration. What a great weekend in the company of writers from all over Scotland, as well as an agent, a couple of publishers and plenty of professional authors as speakers, workshop leaders, or as some of the general delegates from all the various writing groups.

Westerwood Hotel
I've been attending for many years and never fail to be inspired by at least one of the workshops - daughter Victoria also goes. This year it was even more relaxing not to be adjudicating any of the competitions myself, which allowed me to enter a couple of different competitions from those I have in the past. I'd decided this would be the last time I entered any and was only seeking the written critique that every judge has to provide on all entries. So I was absolutely delighted to win third prize in both the Under 7s (picture book) story and the non-fiction book competition (first 15,000 words)! It lets me now consider whether or not to take these two ideas further.

Misty view form the car park
Two of the workshops I attended provided added inspiration and lots to think about. The first was Picture Books - what makes them different? This was run by well-published author, Linda Strachan, who did an excellent power-point presentation of all the different types of books available for the various ages of childhood. She emphasised how important it was to structure a story suitable for babies, toddlers and read-alone for instance and how the words work together with the illustrator's pictures.

Another workshop I found inspiring was Writing a Dramatic Monologue run by professional writer, Catherine Czerkawska who has written many plays for stage and radio as well as novels and short stories. It was particularly interesting to hear how writing a monologue can be very effective for fiction writers - or using short monologues to get to know your characters' voices. Although I've watched one of Catherine's plays and heard another on radio, I was completely absorbed in her advice and short excerpts, one of which was very powerful and emotional as it was about the Chernobyl disaster. I wasn't surprised to hear some of the audience had been in tears when it was performed on stage!

Coffee Break!
The hotel itself is a few miles north of Glasgow and they do us proud - fabulous rooms, facilities and food. Their pastry chef provided scones with jam and cream one afternoon during our quick coffee break and little chocolate brownies yesterday morning, as well as a variety of non-alcoholic cocktails! We were all surprised on Saturday afternoon to find a wrapped bar of rocky road chocolate in each of the rooms. These little touches enhanced the enjoyment of the whole weekend.

The SAW committee also made a special effort on the Saturday evening by arranging a Gala Dinner for us, complete with Candelabra on each table! Our president, Marc, mentioned Hogwarts in his welcome before dinner was served. We'd been encouraged to glam up that evening, so I did. Any excuse for a little bit of glamour and drama!

Victoria and me at the candlelit dinner
Now it's back to reality and catching up on all the things I left behind, including another competition to judge. But we're all inspired to get on with our writing and each conference encourages new writers to try all the wonderful ways in which to use words. Roll on next year!

Rosemary

Saturday, 12 March 2016

New Short Story Collections

Many of my blogging friends and fellow writers began with writing short stories, as I did myself many years ago, and it's always a pleasure to discover new collections. The following are from three very different authors and each offers delights for the reader.

Weird Tales by Jack Hastie

Jack is a fellow member of my writing group whose entertaining, satirical and sometimes disturbing short stories have long left us enthralled and I'm delighted that he now has put fifteen together in this first collection. They are described thus:

Here are fifteen stories of the weird and wonderful, the tragic and the vengeful, with a Scottish flavour. Sometimes satirical, sometimes lyrical, the collection makes some scathing comments on commercialisation and political correctness in contemporary society. Don`t read on unless you are prepared to accept “a willing suspension of disbelief” in things that should never happen.

Available on Amazon UK and US. Soon to be in print.




Three's a Crowd by Kate Blackadder

I've known Kate for many years through the Scottish Association of Writers and have enjoyed many of her published short stories in women's magazines. She has recently been a guest author at the People's Friend short story workshops in various parts of Scotland. This is Kate's first collection of family stories previously published in The People's Friend, Woman's Weekly, and Woman's Day (an Australian magazine). A reviewer said the following:

These are superbly written, with great characterisation, and I found myself immediately drawn into the story, which is always the sign of a skilful writer at the top of their game.

Available on Amazon UK and US and also in print.





When Planets Slip their Tracks by Joanna Campbell

Joanna has been a blogging friend for many years and I've been following her writing career ever since first reading her wonderful stories published in various women's magazines and Writers' Forum. She has since won several prestigious prizes and this is her first collection of short stories. This is part of the description on Amazon:

Tracing the fragile paths of people who desperately want to belong, Campbell catches her characters in the moment where they find themselves floundering. These are characters at the edge of their endurance, experiencing the moment when life threatens to tip out of their control. With a light comic flair, Campbell follows them through the twists and turns of their experiences.

Available on Amazon UK and US and also in print.


Enjoy!
Rosemary

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Publication Day!

Today sees the release of the third novella in my Aphrodite and Adonis series! The Aphrodite Assignment is again set on Cyprus and features the mythological goddess and her most beloved Adonis. The human couple this time are not actually together when the heroine, Bryony, arrives on the island. But she and Richard do have some shared history and she’s not sure how to behave towards him. She has five days to find out!


Here’s the blurb and a short excerpt to get you in the mood for sunshine and romance in the Mediterranean.

The Aphrodite Assignment

Bryony Marshall has the assignment of a lifetime: to check out the new apartments on Cyprus, Aphrodite’s island, for her travel company. But she hadn’t reckoned on her contact being Richard Harrison, former teenage crush and her older sister’s ex-fiancĂ©, nor her renewed feelings for him.

Aphrodite and Adonis plan to encourage the budding romance between Bryony and Richard but the goddess Athena brings them unwelcome news: Aphrodite must return to Olympus with the other gods for a council with Zeus. Can the mythological couple bring the humans together within the limited time left to both couples?

**** 

“Here we are. This is one of my favourite hotels, and your boss was happy to agree as they’ve used this hotel for clients in the past. I’ve booked you a room for your stay on Cyprus. I’m staying here, too, while you check out the new building. I can be your chauffeur so you see a bit of this area.”

Bryony glanced at his amused hazel eyes and was about to protest. But the words died as he touched her arm.

“Before we get out, may I ask if we can start again, Bryony? Pretend we’ve only met and put the past behind us while you’re here? It’s a beautiful island and I want you to enjoy it.” He held out his hand. “Hello, I’m Richard Harrison, and I look forward to showing you around.”

Could she so easily forget the hurt he’d caused her sister and her own devastation at his leaving? As she met his eyes again, Bryony remembered the man she’d spent restless nights dreaming about, and she shook his hand.

“Bryony Marshall. Pleased to be here, and looking forward to seeing the apartments.” She didn’t smile but when her hand disappeared inside his, she unexpectedly felt a jolt of warmth and pulled her hand away.

“It’s a start,” he said, and turned to open his door. “Let’s get you settled.”

****

The Aphrodite Assignment is available in all e-formats, including kindle on Amazon UK and Amazon US. You can also access the other platforms on the Tirgearr site.

I loved Cyprus when we visited many years ago, partly because of its history and mythology. We stayed in the Greek side and enjoyed exploring the Troodos Mountains as well as the coastal area around Paphos. These days, it’s so much more built-up and no doubt far more commercial but the warmth of the people and the beautiful, traditional villages make it an ideal destination most of the year round.

Do you have a favourite island that you’d like to revisit, or one that you’ve always wanted to see?



Rosemary (or Romy for this book!)

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Tirgearr Birthday Bash

One of my publishers, Tirgearr, is having a huge Birthday Bash to celebrate their fourth anniversary. This year will be their fifth as an independent publisher whose varied list of authors and books has continued to grow.


If you're looking for books to replenish your e-reader, you might something in this great bargain list to fit your taste! The sale will run from (and include) Friday 26th to Monday 29th February. If you click on the graphic, it will take you to the Tirgearr page where you can check out the individual authors and their books. It includes my first two novellas in the Aphrodite and Adonis series and full length historical, Midwinter Masquerade (all under my Romy name).

Happy reading!
Rosemary

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Reflection

We've had a busy time recently and it is going to get even busier in March when daughter gets the keys to her new house and makes the transition again from here to there with all that entails. But it's a happy busyness. Yesterday, we said goodbye to yet another member of our family after an older sister-in-law finally lost her tremendous fight against cancer over the last few years. As always with funerals, we got the chance to see lots of extended family members we hadn't seen for many years and shared lovely memories. It also reminds us of the other close family who passed away too soon and of making the most of our own lives while we may.


Later this morning, we're heading up to Perth which is the sort of entrance to the Highlands as I'm speaking at the writing group there this evening and delivering the results of the short story competition I've been adjudicating - and a great pleasure it has been. I've also been judging another, different type of competition and it's always a privilege to get to read so many great entries. Now I'm looking forward to a very short break and hoping to see some wonderful scenery, if the rain stays away!


It's when we're at our busiest that we need to take time out to reflect and enjoy a peaceful interlude if possible. We took advantage of the lovely cold, sunny morning at the weekend to enjoy one of our favourite walks down by the river. It never fails to lift the spirits and remind us of all the natural beauty in the world, often right on our doorstep. The first photo is of one of the lochs we visited ages ago and the one above is where we walked at the weekend.

Rosemary