Saturday, 18 June 2016

Time for a Break

I'm winding down from social media for a while as I always do at this time of year. It's good to get away from the computer and interact in the real world, enjoying days out and seeing husband's family for a change. Then I'll have the RNA Conference to look forward to in July.

This morning when out for a short walk beside the river, we caught sight of the famous paddle steamer, The Waverley, sailing serenely down the Clyde, although it gets up quite a speed! I've photographed it many times over the years so I wasn't too disappointed it was a bit far away and I only had my mobile phone camera. This is a previous shot of it.

If you get a chance to pop over to the Writers Helping Writers blog, you can still enter their Rock the Vault fun to celebrate their new two Settings Thesaurus books.

Hope you're all having a good summer so far. If it's anything like here, you'll have sun one day and rain or wind the next but it's one of the reasons I like the British weather - all the seasons in one week!


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

The Setting Thesaurus Books Are Here: Help Becca And Angela Celebrate!

It is a writer's job to draw readers into the fictional story so completely that they forget the real world. Our goal is to render them powerless, so despite the late hour, mountain of laundry, or workday ahead, they cannot give up the journey unfolding within the paper-crisp pages before them.

Strong, compelling writing comes down to the right words, in the right order. Sounds easy, but as all writers know, it is anything BUT. So how do we create this storytelling magic? How can we weave description in such a way that the fictional landscape becomes authentic and real—a mirror of the reader's world in all the ways that count most?

 Well, there's some good news on that front. Two new books have released this week that may change the description game for writers. The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Spaces look at the sights, smells, tastes, textures, and sounds a character might experience within 225 different contemporary settings. And this is only the start of what these books offer writers.

 In fact, swing by and check out this hidden entry from the Urban Setting Thesaurus: Police Car.
And there's one more thing you might want to know more about....

Becca and Angela, authors of The Emotion Thesaurus, are celebrating their double release with a fun event going on from June 13-20th called ROCK THE VAULT.

At the heart of Writers Helping Writers is a tremendous vault, and these two ladies have been hoarding prizes of epic writerly proportions.

A safe full of prizes, ripe for the taking...if the writing community can work together to unlock it, of course.

Ready to do your part? Stop by Writers Helping Writers to find out more!  

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Newsletter and New Book

My summer newsletter should have arrived in inboxes last night. If you subscribe to it and didn't receive one, please check your spam folders! I've reduced it to every couple of months now so you're not too inundated with them - besides, I don't always have enough news to share.

I'm giving away a signed copy of one each of my short story collections, Beneath the Treetops and End of the Road in the little prize draw - only to newsletter subscribers. If you want to see how to enter, you can still sign up for the newsletter by adding your email address in the little box at the side of the blog. The draw ends on Sunday evening.

Meanwhile... my latest news which I can now share on here too is that I've just published a new collection of short stories on kindle, Two of a Kind and Other Stories. This one contains fourteen stories, many of them previously published in magazines and some of them shortlisted in competitions. They're mostly light-hearted romance and heart-warming relationships.

At the moment it's only available as an e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon US but I hope to have print copies eventually. They might as well have a new lease of life and maybe a few new readers!


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Inspiring Days Out

I've had another lovely week in between the writing, with two inspiring days out with friends. The first was last weekend, when Paisley Abbey had a Medieval Day around the area beside the River Cart. My good friend Catriona and I went along to enjoy the afternoon sunshine while absorbing some of the sights. The 12th century abbey is one of my favourite buildings and is always worth a visit.


Although not as lavish as one several years ago, it was especially fun for children with the mock sword fights, a man in the stocks, puppet show and various birds of prey. We enjoyed listening to the young man playing a harp (a replica of one from the past) and singing soulful medieval ballads. A few of the outside stalls were interesting, especially observing how the women cooked the food over the open fire and the type of utensils they used. Needless to say, we spent some of the time sitting chatting over a cup of tea and cakes!

On the Tuesday, I was off with three friends to another interesting venue which was new to me. Myra had the clever idea of treating Joan, Sandra and me to Afternoon Tea as a birthday treat instead of gifts this year (two of us have birthdays later in the year). Ocho is a lovely little cafe at Speirs Wharf, right by a small stretch of the Forth and Clyde Canal. I didn't even know this area existed, or that the old whisky warehouses are now fabulous flats.

I loved the quirky little corner of the cafe with its miniature shop, trunk and various pictures. It was a cute, old fashioned kind of tea, with different designs of china cups and saucers and a cake stand made from floral patterned china plates, topped with a cup! The sun shone the whole afternoon and after a delicious tea with sandwiches, scones and cakes, we wandered along by the canal, glad to be away from our desks for a while. I'm sure both days will provide much writing inspiration at some point.


In between, I've been putting together another collection of short stories - more about that when its ready!

Meanwhile, my latest Aphrodite and Adonis novella from Tirgearr Publishing - The Aphrodite Assignment - is on a special kindle promotion at only 99p (99c) all this week, if you fancy some romance and mythology on Cyprus!

Have a good weekend,

Friday, 27 May 2016

Garden Delights

Over the past week, we've had our annual writing group end-of-session garden party at a friend's lovely home. It's always an enjoyable occasion as we all bring different types of food for the buffet lunch and then socialise in the sunny garden, or indoors if it's typical Scottish weather. This year, the sun shone off and on so it was a 'real' garden party.


I usually take the photos for the writing group blog but somehow manage to get into one of them! My friend's garden is absolutely delightful, with an abundance of flowers and plants and a most enticing swing seat in a shaded corner in the lower area of the garden. As you can imagine, this day is a highlight of our writing group year when we can lay the pens and computers aside and enjoy chatting to each other over an alfresco lunch.

It was my gorgeous wee granddaughter's fourth birthday last week and I don't know where the time has gone. Although I take lots of photos of her, we don't post any online now as her parents are teachers and they tend to stay away from social media. We had great fun out on the decking for a while - we have to grab the sun when it appears. Then she showed me her sweet little fairy garden.

As well as having a few small items to amuse the fairies, they've planted herbs and flower seeds in it and a sun flower seed just behind it. Vikki bought her two beautiful little fairy doors which have still to be added. Now, my granddaughter waits in hope for the fairies!

Hope everyone is having a little sun now and then where you are.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Reading and Writing

I'm a bit behind with the blog this week although I've still been checking FB and Twitter regularly and I must admit I'm enjoying Instagram now and then as I love photos. I've also been catching up on various things at home - at the moment I'm clearing out another lot of drawers and trying to get writing notes organised (again!). 

At the end of the week, I'm speaking at a writing group so I'm enjoying preparing for that, especially so I could legitimately sit and read all the stories in recent copies of Take a Break Fiction Feast, Woman's Weekly Fiction Special and The People's Friend Special. Although I've long known the different types of stories they publish, it's a while since I've read these magazines right the way through. A fascinating and very enjoyable exercise, since many of the writers are lovely blogging friends. I even finished writing a short story of my own that I'd started ages ago!

It convinced me again how important it is to read as much as possible - not only for enjoyment but for inspiration and a little more understanding of what editors of magazines or publishers of books are accepting. As for books, I always have two on the go at a time - one on kindle for reading in bed and a paperback for reading downstairs, usually two different genres!

In my clearing out, I came across this interesting Idea to Release Writing. I hadn't taken note of where it originated so you may have come across it before. 

'Explore using your non-dominant hand for writing practice as it stimulates and strengthens the creative right brain hemisphere, freeing untapped fluency.' 

And here's a quote from American Brain Specialist Leonard Shlain:

'The right hemisphere is the realm of altered states of consciousness where faith and mystery rule over logic. It allows for spirituality, for musing, dreaming, imagining. Without it we would have no poetry.'

I love that quote! Happy writing.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Power of Social Media

No doubt we all have different views on the various social media outlets available to writers these days, but I have to say I've mostly found it a positive benefit in this digital age. I've often said that authors who are mainly published in e-book, no matter who is publishing the books, need a good online presence. Many of us don't have the luxury of seeing our books on book store or library shelves so we need to let readers know we exist in some way. Yes, it's a balancing act and most of us would rather not have to promote our own books but the online world isn't going away, so we might as well jump in and have fun where possible!

I've met many lovely people on Facebook and Twitter and I do try to engage with people as much as possible, but occasionally the power of social media becomes even more evident without seeking it out. Here are three occasions that worked for me recently.

The RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association) has a weekly tweet/retweet day every Tuesday. All RNA members on twitter can take part and we basically send a tweet of our own news with the hashtag #tuestnews @RNAtweets then retweet any others with that phrase. It means that we are all tweeting at different times of day to hopefully different people. Sometimes, I'm not sure if I want to be retweeted that much in case it looks like spam, but Tuesday is a recognised news sharing day on twitter and I try to make mine different each week. It obviously works on some levels because last week two people said they were going to download my book and I always gain new followers on a Tuesday. I don't often promote my books in between so I don't feel so bad doing it on a Tuesday.

On another occasion, I got into a short chat with an American book reviewer on twitter. The upshot was that she offered to mention my new novella, The Aphrodite Assignment, (and the other two) on her blog. She had too many reviews to get around to but she really did start promoting my book now and then on twitter! Needless to say I was extremely pleased, especially when the offer had come from her.

Much to surprised one day, I received an email out of the blue asking me if I would like to answer some interview questions about my writing for the Tiger Pens blog. He had seen me mention how much I enjoyed writing with pen and paper while out and about and wanted to interview me. I'm not sure whether he saw my comment on twitter or on my blog but I was intrigued. The first thing I did was to google the company to make sure it was genuine - it was! 

I duly did the interview as it was also going to promote The Highland Lass and he sent me a link to their sales page so I could choose a cartridge pen as a thank you gift. The interview is on the Tiger Pens blog and the photo shows my beautiful little gift. I chose a dinky one in this lovely egg shell blue colour and have now tried it out. Excuse the writing as I usually scribble everything now when not typing!

These are just a few instances of how effective social media can be and I'm sure there are many more. Please share any of your own as it might encourage those who haven't made the leap yet.


I've just seen this morning that daughter Victoria's novel, Follow Me, has had a wonderful new review on the Paisley Piranha blog!


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.


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.