Friday, 15 September 2017

Inspiring Short Break

Now that we're well settled here, we took the chance of having a short break across in the Kingdom of Fife, one of our favourite places in the east of Scotland. We've been many times before but are so much nearer now which allowed us to drive over the new bridge, the Queensferry Crossing, then all the way up the East Neuk.


Most of the fishing villages are still as picturesque and traditional, with their fishing boats, creels and fresh lobster and crab for sale at various small booths. This time, we found a new-to-us village where the empty long sandy beach and wild sea and cliffs was only enhanced by the cold windy day! Most exhilarating.

Before heading home on the Monday, we stopped at historic Culross, where much of the Outlander series was filmed. It is one of the most intact 16th/17th century villages in Scotland and I could picture the past with ease - even the streets are mostly still cobbled.

I'll let the photos do the talking on this post!


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Welcome to Autumn!

It's the time of year I most love: summer is more or less over, the days are fresher and the nights are drawing in! I haven't quite got as far as rearranging clothes and footwear yet but it won't be long before the cosier tops and tights, and boots, take a more prominent place. Already I can feel my energy levels increasing and look forward to a more productive time without the lethargy of summer.

Fortunately, we're more settled in our new house and area, with only a few small things still to fix or change. I'm enjoying seeing more of granddaughter and helping out with the school run a few times a week - it's a privilege to hear about this exciting new time in her life. Her parents are grateful too, as it takes a bit of pressure off them.

I've now started an inspiration (or vision) board that sits at one side of my desk as a reminder of what I enjoy or want to achieve. It's a work in progress and it's good fun, looking for images or quotes to add. As a visual person, this suits my work space very well so hopefully it will inspire me!

Since yesterday was probably one of the best days for getting out and about up here, sunny at times but with a lovely fresh breeze, we headed off by train to the beautiful east coast town of North Berwick. I've never been before but have heard so much about it that it was the perfect distance for a whole day out without having to drive. And I was not disappointed. I expect this was the first of many such trips and I'm not surprised that many people spend longer breaks there.


Bass Rock

As well as lying along a very pretty stretch of coast, the town is full of those small shops that entice passers-by to browse. Then there's the attractive harbour with the Scottish Seabird Centre overlooking the rocky area down to sea and beach. And one of the most impressive sights is the famous Bass Rock which hosts the world's largest colony of Northern gannets. I definitely need to go back to take one of the boat trips on offer as they also cruise around the Isle of May to see the biggest colony of puffins on the east coast of Britain - and I'm sure there are many more interesting sights along the coast.


I was intrigued to see the remains of an ancient church sitting near the Seabird Centre and of course I went in to investigate. The photo is shows most of what is left of the chapel but I took note of its interesting history - the area was one of pilgrimage in the past. Being right on the Firth of Forth, fresh seafood is available in many of the eating places - there's even a little lobster hatchery at the end of the harbour where you can find out exactly how they grow (I won't be eating any of them!). It was certainly good for the soul being in such beautiful natural surroundings and I can't wait to return.

All I need to do now is get stuck into redrafting the novella so I can return to another project that needs completing! Hope you're feeling inspired wherever you are.


Sunday, 27 August 2017

Author Helena Fairfax and Bargain Books

There are some good e-books on sale over the next few days, if you’re looking for a new read. One that I’m very much looking forward to reading is the new novel from Helena Fairfax, Felicity at the Cross Hotel. This has had excellent reviews and I can guarantee that Helena is a wonderful author, with feel-good stories and characters. Here is a little about the book (great cover!) – can’t wait to see what happens!

Felicity at the Cross Hotel

A romantic hotel in the Lake District. The Cross Hotel is the perfect getaway. Or is it?

Felicity Everdene needs a break from the family business. Driving through the Lake District to the Cross Hotel, past the shining lake and the mountains, everything seems perfect. But Felicity soon discovers all is not well at the Cross Hotel …

Patrick Cross left the village of Emmside years ago never intending to return, but his father has left him the family’s hotel in his will, and now he’s forced to come back. With a missing barmaid, a grumpy chef, and the hotel losing money, the arrival of Felicity Everdene from the notorious Everdene family only adds to Patrick’s troubles.

With so much to overcome, can Felicity and Patrick bring happiness to the Cross Hotel … and find happiness for themselves?

Felicity at the Cross Hotel is only 99p (99c) until 31st August! You can buy it from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

All new subscribers to Helena's newsletter receive a free novella. You can subscribe here: 

You can also connect with Helena on her website; Facebook, Twitter; Pinterest and Instagram.

Helena Fairfax is a British author who was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She's grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings. Helena's novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize, the Global Ebook Awards, and the I Heart Indie Awards.


One of my own publishers, Crooked Cat Books, is having a sale from 28th to 31st August when most of their vast array of great books are only 99p (99c)! My Scottish dual-timeline novel, The Highland Lass, is included if you haven’t already read it. It has amassed lots of 5-star reviews for which I’m very grateful – here are snippets of reviews below!

“This is an accomplished novel, where the dual romances are deftly and sympathetically handled.”

“The vivid descriptions of the locations took me there and I could see the landscapes/cityscapes unfold before my eyes.”

“The snippets of Burns’ poetry and the fictionalised account of his lesser known romance with Highland Mary set this book apart from your average romance and added poignancy to the plot.”

“A most enjoyable read with lovely character descriptions, history, and present day all beautifully intertwined.”

The Highland Lass is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Recipe for Success

It's now the time of year I most enjoy - summer is almost over, the schools are all back and the shops are quieter! The great excitement here was granddaughter's first day of school. Where have the years gone? It's also one of the best times to get organised - making plans and trying new hobbies perhaps. We're planning to get back to at least a weekly swim and of course, I'm looking forward to knuckling down to proper writing again.

Meanwhile, I've still been getting out and about at weekends, something the husband and I hope to continue as long as possible. The Recipe for Success of the post title was on the wall in what is one of the prettiest cafes and sweet shops I've come across, appropriately called Once Upon a Time - yet another attraction at South Queensferry. The wallpaper has scenes from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory  and the whole shop is a delight, as well as being child-friendly of course.

In case it's not easy to read, the Recipe is as follows:

For best results dream big

2 cups of effort; 1 cup of kindness; 1 handful of curiosity; 3 tablespoons of honesty; 2 cups of teamwork; 2 cups of imagination; 1 cup of excitement; 1 handful of fairness; 1 sprinkle of pride in your work. It ends:
*Note: Success is always better when shared, so pass it around!

I was also at the Society of Authors (in Scotland) AGM and lunch in Edinburgh last week which is always an enjoyable occasion, not least to catch up with old and new friends. It was held in the elegant Bonhams Hotel this year and the two course lunch was simple yet delicious. The photo below is me with two of my writing buddies, Joan and Myra - one of the young waitresses insisted on taking it just before we left!


Many of us are excited about the weekend conference the SoAiS has organised for the first time, ScotsWrite, which is taking place in September this year in a wonderful hotel just north of Glasgow. The programme is excellent, partly thanks to a generous grant from Creative Scotland and includes Joanne Harris (Chocolat), online guru Joanna Penn and Charlie Higson, as well as other fabulous speakers and events, plus a ceilidh after the Gala Dinner on the Saturday evening (hope I can still manage to dance by then).

Needless to say daughter and I, plus several of my writing friends, are going and I'm very much hoping to be inspired by it all. It's open to non-members now too and there might be a few places left if anyone wants to investigate! You can find the details and programme on the Society of Authors in Scotland website.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Out and About

It's been a while since I posted anything and can't believe how quickly the summer is rushing through - though I always look forward to autumn! We've had a lovely few days with sister-in-law and her husband visiting us from Wales and it's a great opportunity to get out each day to explore and sample coffee shops and restaurants in between the sights.

We're so used to having all the seasons on one day here that we just dress for any eventuality and it stayed dry for some of the time at least. Although we can venture further afield next time, this visit was all about seeing us, the new house, family and easy to reach places of interest. Needless to say, much chatting and eating had to be slotted in.

I'm so concerned with taking photos of the scenery and so on that I tend to forget to take more of the people. Our wee granddaughter loved the attention of another aunty and uncle on their day out with us and drew a special picture of the day as a souvenir for them. Children always add such fun to an outing and we enjoyed watching a seal that kept popping its head out of the water to nosey around. Unfortunately I didn't fetch the camera quickly enough to snap it.

Now that we're getting back to normal, apart from a few small things to fix in the house, I need to get back into work mode very soon - in between lunch with a friend yesterday and the Society of Authors in Scotland AGM and lunch next week! Does anyone else find it hard to concentrate at this time of year?


Monday, 24 July 2017

Writing on Trains

I've mentioned more than once on here how much I enjoy writing with pen and paper while out and about, usually while enjoying a coffee and cake in one cafe or another. I also love writing on trains which is fortunate as I now have a forty minute journey each way when I want to meet friends in Glasgow.

With a couple of recent Afternoon Tea outings for friends' birthdays and exploring different places to lunch with another close friend, I've been in the city roughly once a week since we moved. It's a great way for me to get on with the current novella I'm trying to finish. Somehow, the words flow better with pen and paper, or because I'm away from the desk.

The only problem now, is actually getting it typed onto the computer! I was supposed to be doing that this morning and have sorted out so many other things that it's now almost lunch time. However, at least the words are written down and I'm pretty sure it must be close to a thousand in my notebook - at least I'm hoping it's that far on. It's also a good way to do a first edit while typing the handwritten version.

We had a lovely walk in the drizzly rain at Cramond yesterday and it was all the more atmospheric for the dull day, as well as being quieter. Also discovered there is a cosy little village inn which looked most appealing - we'll time it better so we can have lunch there next time!


Monday, 17 July 2017

New Scottish Collection

Now that we're more settled here again after all the decorating, new carpets and deciding where all the pictures were going (too many!) we're making a point of visiting interesting places on at least one day at the weekend. Also getting the garden a bit more manageable and very grateful it's easier than our previous one, although some of it has grown a bit out of control!

I'm trying to get my writing projects gradually organised, although I always work better in the autumn and winter. The first to be completed is my new Scottish Collection of historical non-fiction articles. I've been a contributor to The Highlander magazine in America for many years and I thought it a bit of a waste having all these articles lying in a computer file. I've just had another article accepted by the editor (not in this collection) so will probably write more in between the fiction.

I have now put together fifteen articles, many of them previously published, in the hope that others might find some of them interesting. They are all about different aspects of Scottish heritage and history, from Robert Burns and James Watt, to castles and steam trains and such like. More than one has inspired my fiction, or ideas for future stories.

I always provide my own photographs as illustration for the published articles and I've used one of those, Dumbarton Castle, for my cover. Some of the other photos are now on my website, if you want to have a look at them. I might add more once I've reduced the high resolution they had needed for the magazine print. The kindle Scottish Collection is now available on Amazon worldwide and I might eventually get around to publishing a print version if I think anyone would want to read it.

Now it's a matter of keeping up the momentum and trying to finish the next couple of projects, both of which have been badly neglected of late. At least I'm sorting all the outstanding work into some kind of order and only need the discipline and time to finish them!


Sunday, 9 July 2017

Joan Fleming and the Magic of Mull Series

I’m delighted to welcome friend and writing colleague, Joan Fleming, to the Reading and Writing blog again. Joan’s lovely books are set on the beautiful Scottish island of Mull and are an ideal read for summer. The third in the series, Daughter of Mull, is now available and Joan is kindly sharing the inspiration behind them. First a little about the book.

Daughter of Mull

Anna Ballantyne is devastated when her hopes of meeting her birth mother are dashed. Determined to discover the reason for her mother’s refusal to meet her, Anna decides to track her down on the Scottish Island of Mull, where she lives. As a freelance researcher, she is able to use a commission to investigate the story of The Lords of the Isles as cover for a trip to Mull, and she leaves the flat in Glasgow that she shares with the owner, Roddie Fraser, to journey to the island.

But complications soon follow. She finds herself falling under the spell of Finn Ericson who works on the island as an unofficial guide. When Roddie turns up, he makes it clear that his feelings for Anna are more serious than she realised.

With her personal life in turmoil, torn between Finn and Roddie, and confused about the value of pursuing a mother who does not want to meet her, Anna has to make some important decisions.

Captivated by the island, she wonders if there is a future for her with Finn on Mull? Or is she ignoring the whispering of her heart that it is Roddie she truly loves?

Daughter of Mull is available from Amazon and in all e-formats via Tirgearr Publishing

Thank you, Rosemary, for inviting me onto your blog today to write about the inspiration for the novels in my Magic of Mull series. Daughter of Mull, recently published by Tirgearr Publishing, is the third book in the series.

So why have I set these books on the Scottish Island of Mull?

I was born, brought up and educated in Edinburgh, and it was not until I met my husband at university that I developed an interest in Mull. My future father-in-law was born on the island, which gave him the right to call himself a Mulleach. Although, like many of the local men, he went to sea and became a ship’s captain, his twin sister, my husband’s aunt, remained on the island. We visited often, and I gradually fell in love with Mull and also with her smaller sister, the Isle of Iona. The family lived in Fionnphort, from where we could look directly across the Sound of Iona to the famous Abbey a short distance away.

As I had married into a Mull family, over the years, I met many of the islanders and was invited into their homes. Their life-style was so different to that of the people of the cities of Edinburgh or Glasgow (‘There’s no hurry in Mull.’), that I felt I wanted to capture that contrast in my writing.

Not only was I charmed by the inhabitants of the island, however, I was also captivated by its haunting beauty: the landscapes – and the seascapes – are breathtaking to see. A new, awe-inspiring vista meets you every time you change direction as you travel round the island. Added to the friendliness of the people and the magnificent views on Mull, there is a certain something in the air which I can only describe as magic. It is a combination of the way in which this island affects your senses – the scent of burning peats, the taste of salt in the air, the call of the birds circling above the sea which at times can barely be heard as the waves dash against the shoreline.

Of course, like all islands, it has its myths and legends, but perhaps this ‘magic’ is better appreciated by its absence. When you return to the mainland after a visit to Mull, you are aware that something you captured on the island is no longer available to you: that’s the magic of Mull.

In my books, I hope to convey this magic, and show how it interacts with the characters I have created.

It’s been a pleasure to be on your blog, Rosemary. Thank you once again.

You’re very welcome, Joan, and thank you for sharing such an evocative post!

About the Author

I was born and educated in Edinburgh. After graduating in Modern Languages at the University of Edinburgh, I became a teacher of French and German, mainly in schools in the West of Scotland. Since leaving teaching, I now have more time to devote to writing.

I’d been writing for pleasure for many years, and decided to join Erskine Writers, a supportive group which has members at all stages of their writing development – from published novelists to complete beginners. This group is affiliated to the Scottish Association of Writers. I am a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) and also of the Society of Authors.

I write short stories, children’s stories and articles. My first novel What the Future Holds was published in 2014 by Tirgearr Publishing. I had submitted it to the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA and in 2015 it was a finalist for their Joan Hessayon Award. It became the first book in a series (Magic of Mull) when my second novel, Spirit of the Island (Magic of Mull series #2), was published in 2015.

Daughter of Mull (Magic of Mull series #3) followed in June 2017.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

From Calm to Chaos

Well, I was obviously a bit premature with one of my previous posts about resuming normal service! From the relative calm of getting everything into some kind of order after the big move, we then descended into absolute chaos. First it was five days of the painter, and that wasn't even every single room (but most of them), then he was followed the next week by the carpet fitter - again not every room as some are laminated, thankfully. But it did involve shifting furniture and clothes twice more.

To say we were exhausted and floundering between rooms is an understatement but husband kept assuring me it would be worth getting it all done at once. I seem to remember that happening many years ago in our previous house when we had an extension built, new kitchen and bathroom and new windows all happening at the same time. I didn't like it then and still can't stand all the disruption. I was going to say the only room not disrupted was my lovely study but it became one of the dumping rooms and I could hardly get near the computer.

Anyway, husband was right and we're on the final stretch (I hope) with the new bed coming this week. Can't believe all the little things we need though, plus some other small jobs to be done, then it will be the garden... It's partly because we had held off renewing things long before we moved so now have to renew lots of it all at once. Then there was my new desktop computer (after years of husband's old laptop) - thought that would be straightforward but ran into one problem after another, most of which are now sorted, hopefully.


As if that wasn't enough, our d-in-law had some very bad family news in the midst of it all. So glad we've moved nearer now, which was the whole idea, as it's been an absolute pleasure seeing more of our lovely wee granddaughter and being of help when needed. Yesterday, we managed to have a great family morning out together when they introduced us to pretty Cramond. We'll definitely be back there as there's a good beach, and a causeway to walk across to the small island at low tide. Saw a few other places on the way home that we'll start exploring.

My only regret is that I didn't manage to meet up with blogging friend Patsy this time as it was right in the middle of our worst week, but I'm sure there will be a next time!


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Organising Books and Writing

I did mean to update the blog once a week but I'm running to catch up now! At least moving house and area is a good excuse and with the painter starting mid-week, we're having to move things around a bit. Can't wait until life becomes more settled again, although we're definitely enjoying exploring some of the interesting venues around our new area at the weekends.

Most of my books are now happily ensconced on their new bookshelves in my lovely bright study. I've had to hide a lot of my OU study books and information magazines and such like in the cupboard but they are very accessible and that allows me to use the shelves for the books I want to keep near me. I have a lot more books downstairs in an old fashioned bookcase in the lounge and some small hardbacks waiting for their special shelves to be attached to a wall somewhere.

I'm also needing a new computer which hopefully will arrive by next week and then I can get new Office and anti-virus installed. Meanwhile, I decided to organise all my writing. I don't know if anyone else has so much in their files, some of mine going back to when I first started writing and submitting in the early 1990s! Honestly, I get fed up seeing some of the same old 'rubbish' - at least those I've never managed to rewrite or place.

So I've started a new A5 notebook for recording everything and hope to sort the wheat from the chaff and delete anything that is unusable - such as a few files with nothing but random sentences that are definitely not worth keeping. I expect it will help me to feel more in control once it's done, especially before I have to transport everything to the new computer - and to Windows 10 (gulp) instead of Windows 7 that I love at the moment.

But will it help me to actually get on with the writing? Watch this space. I struggle at times with having too many works in progress instead of concentrating on one at a time so perhaps dealing with any finished work first will free my mind for the rest!