Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Christmas Childhood Memories with Kate Blackadder

I’m delighted to welcome writing colleague and fellow Scot Kate Blackadder to the Reading and Writing blog today. I’ve long enjoyed Kate’s lovely short stories in women’s magazines over the years, as well as a couple of her serials. Now it’s a special pleasure that her debut novel, Stella’s Christmas Wish, is now published by Black and White in Edinburgh.

Kate is sharing some Christmas memories with us but first let me introduce her heart-warming novel. You can catch her other posts on the blog tour below.

Stella’s Christmas Wish

Six days before Christmas, Stella must rush home to Scotland when her grandmother is taken to hospital. As she reconnects with her past, old flames are rekindled, and as Christmas fast approaches, Stella begins to wonder if her most heartfelt wish can come true?

Uprooted from her life in London and back in her childhood home of the Scottish borders, Stella is soon faced with relationships which have lain dormant for years. New opportunities present themselves, but will Stella dare to take them...

Stella’s Christmas Wish is set in Edinburgh and the Borders and is published as an e-book by Black and White Publishing at 99p - click on the book title to buy!

Thanks for sharing these delightful memories, Kate!

When Christmas trees were tall … five childhood memories

1) A budding writer from an early age (although it took me rather a long time to get past the budding stage), one year I asked for a typewriter. I’m sure my disappointment showed – sorry, Mum – when I realised that instead of a keyboard it had a dial that you set to a letter before hitting a button. It would have taken months to write a list for Santa, never mind the stories that filled my head.

2) We lived on a large country estate and every year there was a Christmas party for the employees’ children in the village hall. We played The Farmer’s in his Den, In and Out the Dusty Bluebells – all the old, well-loved games. But don’t let it be said that the Swinging Sixties didn’t reach the north of Scotland – there was also a Twist competition (with Chubby Checker on the record player) and I won!

3) Family friends and relatives soon realised that they needn’t ask my mum what I would like for Christmas – the answer was always books. It’s lovely to still have hardback copies of Little Women, What Katy Did and lots more, with inscriptions from some of my favourite people.

4) My dad had Canadian relatives and two of them, unmarried women, worked in Eatons, a department store in Vancouver. There was my sister and brother and myself and around a dozen cousins on that side of the family, and these lovely ladies bought and sent carefully chosen Christmas presents to all of us. The Eatons’ packaging and the contents seemed so glamorous but it’s the cousins’ thoughtfulness I appreciate now.

5) One afternoon in the Christmas holidays my mum had asked another family round – three children and their mother. As usual, Mum made a huge amount of savouries and cakes and after we’d finished scoffing she cleared the large load of kept-for-visitors-china through to the kitchen and she and the other mother settled down for a chat by the sitting-room fire, telling us to go and play.

Well, the older girl in the other family was, it has to be said, a Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. No hide-and-seek or Ludo for her. No. Her idea of ‘playing’ was that we should give our mothers a nice surprise by – doing the washing up. And we – all six of us under the age of ten – went along with it. My mother was certainly surprised …

Thank you for having me on your blog, Rosemary. I hope all your Christmas wishes come true.

And yours, thanks Kate! I really enjoyed Stella's Christmas Wish

About Kate Blackadder

Kate lives in Edinburgh and has had around fifty short stories published and three magazine serials (two now on Kindle). Stella’s Christmas Wish is her first full-length novel.

You can connect with Kate on her Blog and Facebook and  on twitter as @k_blackadder

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Reviews and Interview

As any author knows, nothing warms the heart more than receiving lovely reviews, or a reader taking time to post a message on Facebook to say how much she loved your book. I'm as guilty as anyone for forgetting to leave reviews so I do appreciate the effort required.

This is the latest comment from a lovely reader about Return to Kilcraig, and she has already reviewed The Highland Lass and Summer of the Eagles as she loves books set in Scotland:

"Just finished reading this book by Rosemary Gemmell - a great read - full of mystery and intrigue and a bonus of lovely descriptions of the surrounding locations. I'm not familiar with the Loch Lomond area but made me want to visit."

Now that makes the writing all worthwhile!

I'm also delighted to be interviewed by the lovely Helen Pollard on her blog today where I'm partly talking about Scotland as a setting. Just click on Helen's name to find it.

Both of these have made me realise why I should be setting more stories in my own country!

Do you use your own part of the world as a setting in stories?


Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Books, Reading and Libraries

Book Week Scotland is running all this week at libraries around the country up here, with a huge variety of events for all ages. My daughter Victoria and I were lucky enough to be invited to take part at a local library last night (Monday) and it was a very enjoyable event. It's the first time we've spoken as mother/daughter writers and were both delighted to have this opportunity.

While listening to Victoria's part of the talk and presentation, I was so pleased to hear how much early trips to the library had affected her life and made her the prolific reader she has always been. As a young mother, books were often what got me through difficult days, especially when our large Victorian semi at that time had dry rot on three floors! I've always loved escaping inside the pages of a story since my own youth.

Part of the display

It was this love of reading that encouraged us both to write and no mother could have been more touched to hear how my writing and a house full of books had inspired my daughter to write her own stories from a young age - complete with her own illustrations! It struck us both how much poorer many people's lives would have been without a local library and it's good to see so many still around and being used.

Of course computers are a valuable addition for many, but the librarian mentioned that three of the Inverclyde libraries have a book group each week. What an encouragement to readers, and writers. The library I spoke at last year also had a writing group and when a couple of them attended my talk they then asked me to go and speak at their group. Long may libraries and events like Book Week Scotland continue to encourage a love of reading.

And talking of books, I'm delighted that my latest novel, Return to Kilcraig, is included in this Holiday Gift Guide from Mrs. N.N.Light - with books for all ages.

Happy reading!

Monday, 14 November 2016

Afternoon Tea with Romantic Novelists

I've been a member of the Romantic Novelists Association for many years now and have always enjoyed reading about the various Chapters around parts of the UK in the quarterly magazine, albeit with a little envy now and then. These localised meetings of romantic novelists sounded so supportive and inspiring - something I've experienced with another group of authors who write in a variety of genres.

Edinburgh Castle

At the conference in July, mention was made again that there was still no Scottish Chapter of the RNA and I already knew a few writers who were keen to meet up north of the border. We also noticed an increased number of Scottish based writers coming to the conferences who perhaps didn't have the support of a local writing group of any kind. However, one of the problems up here is the sheer distance between many of the areas - stretching from the Dumfries area and Borders up to the wilds of Inverness and Orkney.

Then Jean Fullerton, who is the Chapter liaison person, suggested we might start a Facebook group first. A light bulb went on and shortly after returning from the conference, I set up the FB group for the Scottish Chapter of the RNA. At least that way we could find out who all the members were and what part of the country they lived in. Even if meetings were few and far between, we could interact and support each other online.

Scones and cakes

Most of us were surprised and delighted to find the numbers so high, reaching almost thirty on the last count, and soon talk turned to where and when we might try a first real meeting. So to make it a special event, on Saturday seventeen of us met for a posh Afternoon Tea at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, right next to Waverley station for ease of travel. It began with tiny bowls of delicious soup, followed by stands of finger sandwiches and amazing little savoury bites, finishing with the scones (plus jams and clotted cream) and exquisite wee cakes.


The luxury surroundings made our event that little bit out of the ordinary and I'm sure the hotel's Palm Court will feature in more than one romantic novel in future! You can imagine the level of chatter as we all got to know one another and it took me a while to realise the soothing background music at the beginning was being played by a harpist on a little balcony.

As always, not everyone in the group could manage to an event on the same day but it was a great turnout and a fabulous day. Jean even travelled up from London to join us at this first meeting and was delighted to see so many men in kilts, as Scotland was playing at Murrayfield.

Future meetings will be a little more down to earth and informal but what a memorable start to the Scottish Chapter. A few members already have great ideas for the group so I expect this is only the beginning of an exciting journey!


Saturday, 5 November 2016

Thank you and Winners

Thanks so much for taking part in yesterday's launch party. The main event was over on Facebook and I had absolutely loads of people interacting and entering the Giveaway Competitions! My husband has now randomly chosen the winners from all names in a hat.

Gail - I'm delighted to say that you're the winner of the Calendar! Please email me your address on ros_gemmell(at)hotmail(dot)com and I'll get it off to you.

The other winners happened to be FB entrants: Lol Barnes (Recipes); Joanna Campbell (Bookmark); Marie Laval (scarf).

I'm also delighted to see Return to Kilcraig climbing up the charts this morning and it even has its first review - 5 star! It makes this author's heart glad and the writing worthwhile.

Look out for the next giveaway competition for subscribers in my Christmas newsletter, which you can sign up for in the box on the right side of the blog. Many thanks.


Friday, 4 November 2016

Launch Party for Return to Kilcraig!

A warm welcome to the launch party of my new Scottish novel, Return to Kilcraig! Thanks for joining me in the celebration and fun. If anyone also wants to read the book (thank you!), it’s now available in e-book on Amazon and the paperback will follow soon.

Meanwhile, here’s the blurb, followed by a short trailer, just because I like putting words and pictures to music! Have a go at the competitions further down. I’ll leave them open until Saturday morning when husband will choose a random winner of each from the answers in the comments and from those on the Facebook Launch Party - they'll be put together for the draws.

Return to Kilcraig

The legacy of her beloved grandmother's cottage in the Scottish village of Kilcraig seems like the ideal solution after Christy Morrison’s recent trauma. Until the threats begin. Can she trust her heart and allow herself to fall in love again?

When Ross McKinley reluctantly welcomes Christy back to the village, he has hardened his heart against love, until they begin to renew their childhood friendship. But someone is determined Christy should go back to London. Will they find the culprit in time?

Amazon UK and Amazon US

Have a nice piece of fruit cake or pastry and a coffee while you watch the short trailer!


The setting of this novel is mainly around the fictitious west coast country village and the beautiful banks of Loch Lomond. Here’s a couple of the views Christy and Ross see on their first outing together to Conic Hill, one of my favourite places.

Giveaway Competition 1

Name another Scottish loch apart from Loch Lomond. The prize is this pretty little 2017 calendar the Scottish Highlands and Islands.

Musical Interlude

I love lots of different kinds of music, including Celtic, especially when writing fiction set in Scotland. A special kind of Scottish music is played at another significant outing for my hero and heroine and although this isn’t exactly what they hear, it gives a flavour! It's a bit long so you'll probably want to stop it after a few minutes!

You might be in the mood for more sweet treats by now. Help yourself to a Tunnock's teacake (yummy) or Bakewell tart - stop me eating them all!

Giveaway Competition 2

What is the name of the Scottish dessert containing raspberries, oats, cream and whisky? The prize is the little Scottish recipe book.

As well as music, I also love art and literature and the novel includes a few quotes form The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Christy is an illustrator and one of the scenes takes place in the stunning Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow.

Giveaway Competition 3

Who is the famous Scottish writer of the Waverley novels? The prize is this small Celtic bookmark.

Think it's maybe time for a stiffer drink. Have a wee dram of whisky or a glass of Champagne along with some healthy savoury nibbles.


Musical Interlude

In the lead-up to Christmas in Return to Kilcraig, there is grand county Winter Ball - Scottish dancing and kilts! Enjoy another some more Scottish music while you eat. Again - stop it after a few minutes if you wish. Have you ever been to a ceilidh?

Final Giveaway Competition

What do we call the Scottish New Year’s Eve? The prize is this warm tartan scarf.

Enjoy the rest of the food and music and if you happen to read the novel, I would love to know what you think!

Thank you so much for helping me to celebrate another publication.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Covers, Fireworks and Treats

What a lovely birthday week I’ve had, being thoroughly spoiled by friends and family, culminating in a wonderful Fireworks treat with my wee granddaughter, son and daughter-in-law last night! As part of their gift, they had booked tickets to the huge fireworks extravaganza in the grounds of Hopetoun House, one of the largest country estates in Scotland, dating from the 17th century. I’ll certainly return for a visit to the house itself at some point.

Amongst their other gifts, Iona drew me a picture of herself (you can just see her her long fair hair) surrounded by small roses and cut it carefully out so we could put it in the frame she gave me, along with a lovely big candle. Needless to say, we also had cake (chocolate) with candles and an enormous box of chocolates – no prizes for guessing what I like! Back to healthy eating soon…

In other news, I’ve now revealed the cover of my new Scottish novel, Return to Kilcraig, which will be launched on Friday 4th November! Please join me for the celebration party that day on the Facebook event or on the blog here. There will be fun, food, music and competitions!

I was very surprised to discover myself on the cover of the latest Romance Matters magazine from the Romantic Novelists’ Association, along with other writers (bottom right)! The editor kindly published my overview of the Conference in July and I’ve also set up a Scottish Chapter of the association on Facebook – first real-life meeting happening soon.

As you can see, it has been an exciting October and I’m looking forward to November and all the interesting activities to brighten up the darker days and nights.


Monday, 24 October 2016

Editing and Dining

This is turning out to be a busy couple of weeks, but for good reasons! I'm now going through the final edits and polishing of my new Scottish novel, Return to Kilcraig, which will be published in early November. I'm hoping to have a Facebook launch party on Friday, November 4th, but will confirm it nearer the time as no doubt the party will also take place on here, for those not on FB.

Look out for more details and the novel's cover in the next newsletter, as well as other news items. If anyone wants to subscribe to my newsletters and be in with a chance of winning any of the occasional competitions and giveaways, please pop your email address into the box on the right of this blog.

This is also my birthday week and my good friend, Catriona, has already taken me out for a lovely lunch at Bath Street Arches in Gourock, a small bistro offering a healthy and delicious menu. What an original taste experience it turned out to be, with a variety of small dishes in unusual combinations, all beautifully cooked and presented.

BBQ Pork, cucumber cannelloni and Pomegranate salsa
We both had different choices which allowed me to photograph some of the meals. I really enjoyed this way of dining - not quite tapas-size but small portions from a varied menu. It also left room for dessert: pear and ginger crumble for me (healthy with just a smattering of crumble and loads of fruit and ginger!) and mini pavlova with lime curd and fresh fruit for Catriona.

Hot smoked salmon and pickle
Mini pavlova
And here's the lovely box of peppermint creams my talented friend made for me - half dipped in milk or plain chocolate!

I have a few more treats lined up this week, not all involving food! At the weekend, I'm looking forward to an evening out with the family at a huge fireworks display set to classical music at a large country estate. If we're not rained out, I'll let you know all about it afterwards!


Tuesday, 18 October 2016

ALLi Indie Author Fringe

ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, is running a new online conference on Saturday 22nd October. Although it's to coincide with the Frankfurt Book Festival this time, you can start listening from 9am our time. Over twenty four hours, you will find a wealth of speakers, information and advice roughly every hour.

Once you register, you can then get access to everything when it suits you - after the sessions have taken place, if you can't listen at the time. The last one was excellent, with lots of great advice for any author whether self-publishing or not.

You can find out more about it and register here before Saturday. Look out for it being mentioned on twitter and FB.


Monday, 10 October 2016

From Perth to Fife

I'm just back from a lovely couple of days break which started with a speaking engagement at the Perthshire Writers 40th anniversary of their writing group - a great achievement! I was leading a workshop in the afternoon, and husband and I drove up to Perth in time for me to join them for a buffet lunch while he wandered into the pleasant little town. We couldn't have asked for a better few days for driving north (and later east) in Scotland, with the sun shining and the scenery as beautiful as ever.

On the road to Perth, near Dunblane
I've adjudicated a story competition for the group on a previous visit and it was great to be with such a lovely, enthusiastic group of creative writers, some of whom have seen great success with short stories, articles, poetry and memoir. It was such an honour and pleasure to be invited to their celebrations and a great excuse to revisit the north!

Keavil House
Afterwards, we headed east to a favourite hotel in Fife where I enjoyed a couple of nights being wind and dined. We've been to Keavil House near Dunfermline many times over many years (for short stays now and then) and never tire of being in such a wonderful building full of history. It has a brilliant leisure pool and is one the most relaxing 'retreats' without being in the middle of nowhere, A five minute drive takes us to the lovely Pittencrieff Park where we can park the car at the entrance and have a good walk through it straight into Dunfermline's historic town.

Dunfermline Abbey
The added pleasure this time was meeting up with wee granddaughter and her parents on Sunday morning as they can drive across the Forth Road Bridge and be in Fife in about half an hour. Great fun feeding the squirrels and exploring the nooks and crannies of the park. On the eventual walk up to the town, the first sight is the stunning Abbey, burial place of Robert the Bruce and others. Beside it is the remains of the monastery and the palace. My favourite medieval Abbot's House is currently changing hands and I can't wait for it to reopen soon.

Aberdour Harbour
Silver Sands
In the afternoon, husband and I drove up the Fife coast to the beautiful little village of Aberdour where a walk in one direction took us towards the harbour, while a walk on the other side of the cliffs took us to the award winning Silver Sands. What a bonus when the sun came out and we sat and had a coffee without wearing jackets.

It might only have been a couple of nights away but we certainly made the most of the break and hopefully can now return to work fully charged!

Hope you all had a good weekend,