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.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Back to Work

The Cobbler at Loch Long

After a wonderful holiday on the Riviera, then a new contract for my full length novel, we were brought back down to earth here in Scotland this week! My poor husband had his birthday on that historic day which many of us had never asked for in the first place, but we did manage to enjoy a lovely meal out with our daughter. I was going to say I'm glad it's all over but I suspect the repercussions of 'the vote' will go on into the future for the whole of the UK. And that's all I'm saying on that subject.

Anyway, I'm now trying to concentrate on getting back to work - more difficult than I expected - while waiting for the editing process to begin on my novel. I think we're going to move my desk and computer into what is the dining room at the moment as it's warmer there in the winter than the extension 'study' I'm in at the moment. I've often said how much I enjoy writing in a cafe once a week and on trains with pen and paper, so I'm pretty sure it might help to do more longhand writing when possible. Then I enjoy redrafting while transferring it to the computer. I'll let you know how I get on with that over the next few months.

Very pleased to see daughter, Vikki, had another great flash fiction story, Once Ours, published - this time in Word Bohemia. Coincidentally, we had a very good workshop on writing Flash Fiction from Myra Duffy at the writing group on on Tuesday - informative and fun. Do many of you write this form of fiction? There certainly seems to be quite a lot of markets for it these days, although it's a difficult (but satisfyingly creative) type of short story.

Better plan my writing priorities for tomorrow and the rest of the week, or I'll end up dithering without anything to show for it!


Saturday, 13 September 2014

New Contract!

It's been an exciting week since my return from holiday. I've now signed a contract with Crooked Cat Publishing for my full length Scottish novel, The Highland Lass! I had submitted it during their recent two-day submission window and was thrilled to be invited to send the full manuscript. Then came the nervous period we all experience when awaiting a verdict.

The Highland Lass is scheduled for a spring 2015 release and I'm so delighted this book will soon be published. It's really of the book of my heart and is a little different from my other lighter romances so it will be under my full name. It's mostly contemporary with family secrets, love, betrayal and forgiveness set around my own birth area of Inverclyde with a bit in Dunoon and Ayrshire. But alternate short chapters trace the story of Highland Mary and Robert Burns in Mary's own fictionalised voice in 1785/6.

I had an article about the legendary couple published in The Highlander Magazine in the US some years ago and their story has fascinated me for a long time. But the novel is very much about the contemporary story involving Eilidh and Lewis.

No doubt you'll be hearing more about it nearer to publication - or when the cover is designed by the publisher!


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Return to Reality

Well, I did indeed have a complete rest from social media for over a week - and from everything else in my normal everyday life! Husband, daughter and I just returned from a week's cruise of the Riviera yesterday and had a fabulous time visiting beautiful ports in Italy, France and Spain. It was a sort of pre-celebration for my special birthday coming up in October and I thoroughly enjoyed being spoiled onboard and enjoying an interesting city or town each day. It was full on, so I got plenty of exercise to counteract the fantastic food. Here's a quick impression of the ports.

Civitavecchia, Italy

We've been to this port of Rome a few times now and this time we stayed overnight as the ship sailed from there. It has a beautiful long promenade and a wide seafront and the view from the very basic hotel was a lovely start to the holiday, even though it turned cloudy on the morning we left. There's a brilliant statue on the prom, of a sailor greeting his girl, or saying goodbye (you decide).

Livorno, Italy

Again, this was one port we've visited before and many passengers go on the tours to Florence. We always do our own thing on cruises and couldn't face the long trip in the heat so stayed in the elegant town for the morning. There's a great outdoor and indoor market selling every kind of fresh vegetable and fruit, as well as clothes and gifts.

Portofino, Italy

Easily our favourite place as it's just so pretty, clean and interesting, with narrow cobbled (and hilly) streets leading up from the colourful harbour. I'd happily live here for a week, soaking up the creative atmosphere. There's a quirky sculpture park rising up from the port entrance and a very tiring, hilly walk up to the church and castle.

St Tropez, France

I was looking forward to seeing this legendary place, and enjoyed walking along the harbour front and exploring a few of the back streets, as well as the art gallery and a very good exhibition about the famous French actor who starred in the film, The Gendarmes of St Tropez. But I did think it all had an aura of shabby chic, or faded luxury, about it (though it was full of luxurious yachts and we saw a fashion shoot taking place) and it wasn't nearly as pretty as Portofino. Partly due to the nuisance traffic allowed along the front.

Monte Carlo, Monaco

The whole cruise was fairly luxurious, onboard and off, but this has to be the ultimate millionaire's paradise. We saw some huge yachts and boats in many of the ports but Monte Carlo is in a class of its own, not least for the Casino that sits up on the town square. In the morning, we took the train along to one of my favourite places, Villefranche, and enjoyed a stroll along its pretty promenade and narrow streets. In the afternoon, we walked miles to Monte Carlo's old town and caught the little tourist train which conveyed us around the famous sites.

Marseilles, France

We've never been here before and couldn't believe how beautiful it is, as it's the second biggest city in France, next to Paris. The harbour area is huge and truly lovely to walk round, with the impressive Cathedral visible on top of the hill. The old town is full of atmosphere and historical walls, fortress and Romanesque church as well as quirky little shops.

We took Le Petit Train and it turned out to be the best way to reach the Cathedral - taking us on a rickety journey round the coast and right up to the top of the hill. I managed to get a photo of the Chateau D'if lying just off the coast, which was the inspiration for The Count of Monte Cristo. We're definitely hoping to have a holiday in Marseilles another year.

Palma, Majorca

Our last port of call before sailing to Barcelona for debarkation. It's many years since we holidayed on Majorca when the children were young and it was great to be back. Palma's stunning cathedral sits right beside the beautiful long promenade. After a walk along the front, we wandered through the old part of the town as we only had an afternoon here.

We were grateful to have a morning on the ship at last and I stayed out of the heat in its wonderful library! It was a glorious holiday and we had some memorable meals onboard, not least in the Red Ginger Restaurant, one of the speciality choices where the whole evening became an experience in Asian dining.

No wonder it's taking me a while to get back to reality, but I only have to look at the mountain of washing and endless emails to bring me down to earth. I'm just grateful to have had the chance to make so many more great memories with my lovely husband and daughter.


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Short Break Before Autumn

I’m so pleased we’re coming into autumn, as my energy levels usually start to rise from now until the end of the year. As long as we have some fresh, sunny days and not the awful drizzly, muggy weather we often get up here – we call that dreich which sums it up very well.

First of all, we’re having a short break and I’m taking time off from all social media while we visit some interesting places. I also need to think about where my writing is going next and hope to get a bit more organised as I seem to waste too much time dithering between one project and another. I know I’m not the only person who enjoys taking stock during September – must be something to do with the new academic year for schools and colleges!

Meanwhile, if you’re quick, you can download Gwen Kirkwood’s book, Heart of the Home for FREE until Sunday 31st August.

Daughter Vikki has a flash fiction story, Ghosts, being published in Scottish journal The Grind – hopefully you should be able to find it here, once it’s online on Monday.

For any aspiring crime and thriller writers out there, you have the chance to submit your completed novel to Killer Reads, the new e-imprint from Harper Collins, between 29 August and 14 September.

See you in a week or two,


Sunday, 24 August 2014

Blog Award and Memorable Reads

Many thanks to Diane Mannion who kindly awarded me the One Lovely Blog Award. Since I've done a few of these before and have probably listed all the interesting things about myself that you'd want to read, I'm going to list seven books that have made an impression on me since I've been nominated to do something similar on Facebook (although it's ten on there!)

Obviously, I've read hundreds of books over the years and have lots of favourite authors, including Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt, but I think we all probably have a few books that are either perennial favourites or that made more of an impact than usual. These are some of my Memorable Reads.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
From the first sentence to the dénouement of the mystery, I was hooked on this author

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Mr Rochester was the first fictional hero with whom I fell in love and I loved Jane Eyre's Victorian character

Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh
A wonderful philosophical novel I read many years ago, questioning nature over nurture  - must read again

Possession by A.S. Byatt
A literary split-time novel that has continued to engross me - love the Victorian section (and the film version)

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Absorbing futuristic tale - yet it also incorporates ancient Biblical influences

Green Darkness by Anya Seton
A fabulous split-time story that explores the idea of reincarnation - love the medieval sections

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
One of my literature degree novels that made me look at African culture in a whole new light

Rather than nominate specific blogs, as I know many of you will have done this before and I don't want to single any out, please feel free to accept the award and give your own list of seven things about yourself , or any other kind of list you prefer!


Monday, 18 August 2014

Time for Reflection

I love visiting favourite places on the spur of the moment, especially when in a reflective mood rather than work mode! So I was delighted to revisit the wonderful Pollok House in its country park on the outskirts of Glasgow this weekend. The Georgian house itself never fails to impress me, no matter how many times I see it while the grounds and gardens are ideal for a walk in pleasant surroundings.

Although it's now partly looked after by the National Trust, from October until April it belongs to the people of Glasgow and is free to explore during this period. It's a lovely idea as the house is worth seeing more than once. You can take a leisurely walk around the inside by yourself to view the graceful furnishings and wonderful art collection, or let one of the friendly guides explain its fascinating history.

On this occasion, we only went down to the former servants' quarters in the lower floor for coffee and cake in the café housed in the old kitchens with its copper pans still on display. A couple of small shops are now in other former work rooms. On one occasion, the cook's tools were nicely laid out as though for imminent use!

As well as being inspiring, the whole country surroundings of the house are so good for a reflective type of walk and I came home refreshed in every way. Let's hope such a lovely historical setting continues to inspire my writing again.


Monday, 11 August 2014

The Write Focus

I mentioned on twitter last week that I sometimes have trouble focusing on which project I should be writing or finishing first and received a few replies from fellow writers, empathising and agreeing that it happens to them too. Maybe it goes with the job, or perhaps it depends on personality type and that old question if we are we plotters or pantsters. I still can't plot or plan in advance, much as I think it might help at times!

Perhaps it's more to do with the seasons. Summer is my least favourite season because I don't like too much heat, or the expectation I should be outside more often, so I find it more difficult to concentrate on a writing project at this time of year. Conversely, I actually get quite excited about the thought of autumn arriving soon (though it's quite autumnal here today) and I'm sure my eagerness to work will increase as the days and nights become darker and cooler.

Right now, I have the following to finish - these are all at various stages:

  • Middle grade time-slip book to Ancient Egypt
  • Contemporary novel set in Scotland
  • Two contemporary novellas
  • Victorian crime novel (eventually)

This is not including the half dozen or so other ideas (at least) that have a few paragraphs here and there, or all the short stories, articles and poetry that I want to go through and try to use, or all the ideas that are only a title and line or two in my notebook. You can see why I need to organise my writing time more effectively!

So that's my aim for the middle of September onwards: finish what I've started and find a consistent way of working. Meanwhile, I'm waiting for news of one novel's fate and, strangely enough, that's also interrupting my concentration, as this one is important to me.

If anyone else is struggling with writing focus, you might find this article interesting, How to Create a Writing Schedule that Works for You.


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Debut Author Spotlight: Frances Evesham

Today, I'm delighted to welcome to the blog author Frances Evesham, whose début novel, An Independent Woman, is set in the Victorian period, one of my favourite eras. I only recently started the novel as my TBR list is toppling over, in print and e-book, but I can’t wait to continue it from a great beginning that conveys the period very well. Frances has kindly answered the questions I put to her but first, here’s a little about the book.

An Independent Woman

With nothing left from her childhood except a tiny portrait of a beautiful woman and the knowledge of a dreadful secret, Philomena escapes the dangers and fogs of Victorian London, only for a train crash to end her quest for independence and freedom.

Trapped between the upstairs and downstairs occupants of the great country house, she hears whispers of the mysteries that lurk in empty corridors and behind closed doors. Her rescuer, the dangerous, enigmatic Hugh, Lord Thatcham, wrestles with his own demons and makes Philomena’s heart race, but she must fight her passion for she can never marry.

Haunted by her past, Philomena’s only hope of happiness is to confront the evil forces that threaten to destroy her.

An Independent Woman is available from Amazon UK and US, Amazon Universal and the Wild Rose Press
For UK residents only, signed print copies are available from Frances Evesham’s author website and blog.

Here's the lovely trailer to whet your appetite!

A warm welcome, Frances, and thanks answering the following questions!

Hello Rosemary. I'm very proud to be interviewed by you on your blog. I've admired your progress as a writer and used your success as a prompt for myself when I wondered whether I would ever find a publisher for my first novel.

Oh, that’s such a lovely thing to say - thank you so much! It’s great to see your first book published.

Please tell us a little about how you became a writer.

I wrote my first story sitting on the floor of my bedroom. It was about horses, because every book I read was about horses when I was ten. I think the world is better off without that book.

I don’t think I would ever have completed a full-length novel except for the invention of the word-processor, or at least the type-writer. I love the idea of writing with a beautiful pen on silky paper, but my handwriting is so bad that anything not typed is indecipherable. I truly envy anyone who writes in longhand.

I aim to write mystery stories with a strong plot, plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing and a little feel-good romance. I want my reader to keep turning the pages until the end, then sigh with pleasure.

Is there a particular reason why you chose the Victorian period?

When I was a child, I met my two tiny great aunts, Annie and Winnie. They were Victorian ladies living in a village post office in the Cotswolds. They wore lace collars, their manners were perfect and they expected me to behave properly, too. They kept a caddy of tea in a special corner cupboard, hung on the wall in the parlour, for visitors.

True Victorians, they were interested in everything I had to tell them, even though they were over 90.  They’d worked all their lives, one as the post-mistress, the other as a teacher. They never married. I loved their active minds and they would have adored the internet.

Passionate curiosity about the world led the Victorians to build railways and bridges, construct sewers and invent photography for all. They even designed special hidden cameras for spying.

The world was changing fast in the 19th Century and I found it exciting to set a novel in that time, when people believed anything was possible.

Your aunts sound lovely!

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

An Independent Woman moves from the London slums to a great country house, so I had to understand both these settings. Fortunately for me, there is a wealth of information available about the Victorians, both on line and in print.

I have a shelf of books, including the wonderful London Labour and the London Poor, by Henry Mayhew, which includes rich verbatim conversations with people on the streets of London. “Gander,” for example, was a crossing sweeper, proud of being “the fust boy as ever did ornamental work in the mud of my crossings,” drawing anchors and laurels in the black mud.

Mrs Beeton is a great source of information on the ways of the Victorian middle classes.

I think one of the challenges of setting a story in the past is avoiding the trap of modern expressions without resorting to convoluted “historical” speech. I'm constantly amazed to find the Victorians talked much like us. I was part of a project a few years ago, editing some of Charles Dickens’ journals as they went on line, looking for errors in the scanned versions and I often look at the Old Bailey Online to read the witness statements.

Sometimes I find surprises – like the woman who described how she “tea’d” with her aunt, in the same way we would say we “dined.” I hadn't come across “tea” used as a verb before.

Great resources and fascinating snippets!

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

It’s hard to marshal all the ideas buzzing around in my head into a single narrative. There’s so much that has to be left out.

An Independent Woman took shape first when I found out about a real event, the Sonning Cutting train crash on the Great Western Railway, that happened on Christmas Eve in 1841. That event became the catalyst that threw Philomena, a poor, working girl, into contact with the aristocratic Lord Thatcham.

Once the hero and heroine became real, they took hold of the story and it moved into areas I hadn't expected when I began. It’s very strange how characters take on a life of their own. They become part of the family!

How do you promote your book and does it work?

Like so many other writers, I find this the hardest part. My great aunts would have been shocked at the very idea of marketing or promoting themselves. They would think it very vulgar! On the other hand, I've met plenty of interesting people through social media.

I do have a written strategy and plan for marketing, because I spent many years working as a project manager so I like to know where I think I'm going. It’s long term, because I'm planning to write a good many more books, so I don’t yet know whether it will work. It’s based on identifying exactly who likes to read my books, growing my Twitter presence and building an email list, so I can talk directly to readers.

I love Twitter, because I can talk to anyone about anything, whenever I want to. It’s great to meet other writers there and it’s also full of people who do other, equally exciting things.

I do have a Facebook account and a separate author page, but I spend less time there. I like writing guest posts and have hosted one or two on my blog. I think that’s one of the best ways writers can help each other.

I write snippets of Victorian trivia on my blog, and I even made a video trailer for An Independent Woman, mainly because I took your advice, Rosemary. I used iMovie on my iPad. It was enormous fun and I’d recommend everyone to have a go, so thanks for that great tip!

I also followed your example and held a Facebook launch party. I held a Victorian tea party, the sun shone, it lasted for just three hours and was tremendous fun. I’ll certainly do that again next time.

Wow – you’re much more organized than I am and it sounds as if you’re doing all that you can to succeed. And I enjoyed that tea party!

Do you have a favourite writing place?

I'm not sure it’s exactly my favourite place, as it’s the tiniest bedroom in the house, available now that my three children have grown. I searched high and low for the smallest desk in the world, so it fitted in. I write with my nose inches from the monitor!

The truth is, once I'm writing, I don’t even notice where I am, so I keep the garden views for coffee breaks.

Do you find time for hobbies?

I'm truly lucky. Writing feels like a full-time hobby because I love it so much. I live in beautiful Somerset, within reach of both the beach and the countryside, so I walk when I need to untangle a messy plot.

I enjoy good food and wine and I like to try out new recipes, though really I'm happiest with pasta and cheese!

What are your current writing plans?

I've returned to Thatcham Hall for my next novel, with a new hero and heroine who have to untangle a different mystery. Along the way, they meet some old friends from An Independent Woman. I'm hoping to get that off to my editor in the autumn and then start work on the next story.

Thatcham Hall is beginning to turn into a sort of Midsomer, where anything can happen!

I also write about communication. I worked as a speech and language therapist for many years, and I've written books for parents on helping their child learn to talk. I've got a non-fiction idea that keeps tapping me on the back and asking me to write it, but at the moment I'm having too much fun in Victorian England.

Lots to keep you busy there!

Any tips for new writers?

I read everything I can get my hands on to help me write, from Stephen King’s On Writing to writing blogs. I also read advice from publishers on how to write query letters and synopses.

I wrote one draft of An Independent Woman, then went back again, and again … The story that came to publication was version 13.

I think the best tip of all is to keep going, learning from rejections. I truly did not believe I would find a publisher, but one day, after hard work, disappointments, despair, nail-biting and vast quantities of Earl Grey tea, I found someone who liked my book. It really can happen.

Great answer – and it shows the necessity and power of perseverance!

You can connect with Frances on her website, Amazon Author Page, Facebook and twitter

Frances Evesham writes historical romances and books on communication, leaving her enough time to enjoy bad jokes and wish she'd kept on with the piano lessons.

She collects grandsons, Victorian ancestors and historical trivia. She likes to smell the roses, lavender and rosemary, cooking with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chillies in the other. She loves the Arctic Circle and the equator and plans to visit the penguins in the south one day.

She's been a speech therapist, a professional communication fiend and a road sweeper and she's worked in the criminal courts. Now, she walks in the country and breathes sea air in Somerset.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Children's Encyclopedia

We've been clearing out again at home and can’t believe how much we've already given away to local charity shops – everything from clothes to small items of furniture. Far too much kept and accumulated in this modern detached house since we moved here well over twenty years ago from a large four-floor Victorian semi. We’re hoping to eventually downsize again, sooner rather than later, hence the reason for our continuing efforts at getting rid of as much as possible before then.

As all writers and readers know, parting with books is one of the hardest decisions. I've so far managed to empty one tall, narrow book case (out of nine!) but despair of ever emptying even one more. What to keep and what to let go? It’s easier with paperbacks that I can replace if necessary, or read on kindle. But this weekend, I've been rediscovering my precious set of The Children’s Encyclopedia edited by Arthur Mee.

We didn't have a lot of spare money for books when I was a child and I haunted the library as soon as I could get there by myself. However, my father bought a complete set of The Children’s Encylopedia for us and I discovered a whole world of learning, imagination and wonder. Much as I enjoyed playing outdoors, I loved rainy days sitting at the table in the cosy living room with one of the huge volumes open in expectation.

From these, I grew to love Aesop’s fables, nursery rhymes and fairy tales that my mother hadn't already read to us, legends, art history, French, history, literature and a passing interest in dozens of other subjects. I don’t think it's a coincidence that French was always one of my favourite subjects and that I eventually went on to study literature, history, philosophy, art history and music in the first year of my Open University degree. Not content with that, I then did the MA in literature with history as a mature student.

These encyclopedias, which were brought into my ordinary, large family in a working class area in the west coast of Scotland, built the foundation of my life-time of curiosity, learning and imagination. They are now rather the worse for wear and one of the ten volumes is missing, but one look through a few pages this morning convinced me these must stay. And I think I’ll be spending some of the winter gradually skimming through them again. They may be out of date as far as modern thinking is concerned, but those pages contain worlds of knowledge that can never be replicated by the Internet. More importantly, they’re testament to a wonderful childhood and a priceless introduction to education.

Does anyone else have a set?