Sunday, 16 September 2018

Taking Stock

Sorry for the big gap in blog posts - I keep forgetting to update it this year and can't believe it's so long since I posted. It also means I've been neglecting to regularly read all the blogs I follow.

Dryburgh Abbey

We did go away for a couple of nights to the Scottish Borders which was exactly what we needed since not having a proper holiday for a couple of years. Now, I think I need to take stock of what and how often I'm going to post here, always much easier to organise when autumn has arrived.

I also have a few writing talks/adjudications coming up, which I need to prepare for!

So watch this space...


Saturday, 25 August 2018

Catching Up

I'm always full of good intentions about keeping the blog updated then soon fall behind again! Last weekend, I was really pleased to get the chance to meet up with online blogging and writing friend Patsy Davies and her husband Gary. My other half and I enjoyed coffee, cake and a natter at Linlithgow with them before they went off to explore this historic town where Mary Queen of Scots was born.

Linlithgow Palace from the Loch

During the week, I was at the Society of Authors in Scotland AGM and lunch in Edinburgh where it was great to catch up with many writing colleagues and hear what's happening in the society as a whole. The SoA works hard behind the scenes for authors and they'd even sent a young representative from London to update us with recent events.

Book Festival at Charlotte Square

Today, I was back at Edinburgh, at the International Book Festival, meeting up with some colleagues from Edinburgh Writers' Club for an informal get together at lunch time. The festival is a hugely popular event and, unfortunately, the spiegeltent was being used for talks so we had to find any space at all to grab a snack lunch. Hope we didn't miss too many members who might have been there. At least the sun was shining so the walk to and from Haymarket station was most enjoyable. Love this old church that's now a bar and restaurant called Ghillie Dhu.

Now I really have to knuckle down and try to finish the first draft of my new novel over the next few weeks, when I stop procrastinating!


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Peebles, Books and The John Buchan Story

Road to the Borders

We had a great day out in Peebles, a Royal Burgh since 1152, in the Scottish Borders at the weekend. It was just long enough to do it in one day before driving back home, but we're planning to make a longer visit to explore the other Border towns later in the year.

River Tweed

Peebles is a lovely friendly town on the River Tweed, with smaller interesting shops along the High Street. Down one side street, I discovered Priorsford Books where I could happily have spent the rest of the day. I've never seen such a fabulous collection of second-hand children's books, as well as every other kind - all in good condition. I think they must have the whole set of The Chalet School books for instance, plus annuals of all kinds. Even the old magazines were beautifully preserved inside see-through covers.

How did I resist? Partly because there was so much choice that I didn't know where to start plus the small matter of having got rid of many books when we moved. Don't think husband would have appreciated me carting home lots more. However, I'll know where to buy a particular book if ever the need should arise.

After a very welcome lunch, we discovered the John Buchan Museum, which we hadn't realised existed. Both the husband and I have loved every film version of The 39 Steps, Buchan's most famous novel, published in 1915, so we were interested to find out more about him. And what a story it turned out to be about this popular Scottish writer.

Isn't it a shame that an author often becomes famous for only one book? We were amazed to discover Buchan was also a biographer, poet, historian, journalist, publisher and statesman with over 100 books to his name. And he became Governor General of Canada in 1935!

It was a fascinating half hour in the small museum where we even watched the short trailer for one of film versions of The 39 Steps. I hadn't realised his sister, Anna, was also a successful novelist with the pen-name, O Douglas, and that she and her other brother, Walter, were well-known residents of Peebles.

This is a only a little of the remarkable man's achievements, from his days at Glasgow University, to Oxford and his great sense of adventure that took him to South Africa, as well as Canada where he died in 1940, aged 65.

Looking forward to what we might discover in the other Border towns when we eventually get there!


Thursday, 9 August 2018

Introducing Author and Enterpreneur Wendy H Jones

A very warm welcome to author and marketing entrepreneur, Wendy H Jones, who has kindly agreed to share the inspiration behind her new series, Cass Claymore Investigates. I’ve already enjoyed the trademark humour in Wendy’s Killer crime series and I have no doubt there will be even more in this one. 

Wendy has also put her marketing knowledge into book form in her Power Packed Book Marketing – something many authors have been grateful to read! First a little about the new book.

Antiques and Alibis

Cass Claymore, a red headed, motorbike riding, ex-ballerina inherits a Detective Agency, and accidentally employs an ex-con dwarf and an octogenarian. Hired by a client who should know better, Cass has no leads, no clue and a complete inability to solve a case. Still a girl needs to eat and her highbred client’s offering good money.

Join her as, with bungling incompetence, she follows a trail littered with missing antique teddies, hapless crooks, a misplaced Lord of the Realm and dead bodies. Will Cass, and Scotland, survive?

The first Cass Claymore book, Antiques and Alibis, is available from Amazon and other platforms.

Inspiration Behind the Stories

Rosemary, thank you for the invite to your blog. It really is a pleasure to be here.

You’re very welcome, Wendy!

Today I would like to talk about inspiration in the hope it will help others on their writing journey. I also hope readers will find the post interesting and informative.

The saying goes that inspiration is slow in coming. In my case the opposite is true – my brain is so stuffed with stories it’s a job to decide which to follow first. My first series, the DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries, was inspired by a dream, or rather a nightmare. Yes, I know you shouldn’t start a story with a dream, and I didn’t. Honest guv. The book which arose from this, Killer’s Countdown, actually starts with a stand-off in a frozen Scottish wood. This has led to six books in the series, with the seventh, Killer’s Curse, being written as we speak.

On 1st August 2018 I launched a new series – Cass Claymore Investigates. Where the inspiration arrived for this one is anyone’s guess. I am a huge fan of Janet Evanovich’s comic crime series. I wondered if I could write a Scottish version of this, with less exploding cars of course. Dundee isn’t that big and if cars keep exploding there would be none left.

I brainstormed the most unlikely Private Investigator that Dundee could ever come across. I ended up with a red headed, motor bike riding ex-ballerina. A principal dancer with the Royal Ballet no less. Or at least she was. This Cass Claymore was born. Then the fun started. In strolled another character called Crammond McQuillan, an ex-con dwarf. The conversation went something like this.

Quill: Crammond McQuillan at your service. I’m your new character.

Me: No, you’re not. Shove off.

Quill: I’m afraid that’s not possible, I’m here to stay.

Me: Fine. (Through gritted teeth) I suppose you might come in useful.

Quill: Dear Lady, I’m one of the main characters.

And what a character he turned out to be. I’m so glad he turned up and is now Cass’s assistant. Sometimes the best ideas present themselves in the strangest of ways.

This series is not intended to take itself seriously. It’s comic crime where the laughs come thick and fast. A madcap caper through Scotland where the reader hangs onto the shirt-tails of the story and comes along for the ride.

My final words, when it comes to inspiration, let your imagination run wild.

Too true, Wendy. Thank you!

Wendy H. Jones is an award-winning Scottish Crime Writer who lives and sets her books in Dundee, Scotland. She is also an International Public Speaker talking about writing and marketing. Killer’s Crew, the first book in her DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries was the Winner of the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017.

The Dagger’s Curse, the first book in her Young Adult mystery series, was a finalist in the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Award 2017. She has signed a publishing contract with Malcolm Down and Sarah Grace Publishing for the first book in a children’s picture book series, based on a true story about a little Buffalo in Scotland. The first, Bertie’s Great Escape will be released late October 2018.

When she’s not writing, Wendy spends her time travelling the world. She is also President of the Scottish Association of Writers and co-founder of Crime at the Castle, a Scottish literary festival held at Glamis Castle Scotland.

You can find out more about Wendy on her Website; Twitter; Facebook; BookBub

Monday, 6 August 2018

Writers & Artists Children's Story Competition

I thought I'd bring this competition to your attention, in case anyone is particularly interested in writing for children. It's a little different, in that they are looking for a 'high concept', unique world setting - as opposed to a domestic, realistic story.

Courtesy of Pixabay

The other difference is that we only have to write around 2000 words maximum (aimed at 10 year-olds) to show we can bring the characters and situation to life - so not a beginning, middle, end type of submission! The closing date is 30th September.

I really like the idea as I've written a couple of books for this age group before (Summer of the Eagles and The Jigsaw Puzzle) and would love to give it a go. Only trouble is coming up with a good enough idea as mine are usually set in the real world with just a touch of fantasy! If you'd like to enter, you'll find the details on the Writers and Artists website.


Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Introducing Scottish Author Ann Burnett

A very warm welcome to prolific writer, Ann Burnett, whose second novel with Tirgearr Publishing, Love Begins at 40, is now released. I’ve known Ann for many years and have always enjoyed her other writing, so I’m delighted to see her new novels. I loved the first one, Festival Fireworks, set in Edinburgh and Australia, and I’m already enjoying the new one set in one of my favourite coastal towns, Largs. Ann is kindly sharing the inspiration behind this second novel.

Love begins at 40

Maisie McLelland spent ten years building up McLelland Events in Glasgow and has just bought a holiday home in the relaxing small seaside town of Largs on the west coast of Scotland. She immediately befriends her elderly neighbour, the widow of a local fisherman.

When Elizabeth is in need of rescue, Maisie steps in to help. Elizabeth’s grateful son, teacher and lifeboatman, James, takes Maisie to dinner to show his appreciation. Maisie’s not looking for a relationship and neither is James, as he’s still reeling from the loss of his son. They’re both surprised at the instant connection.

Over time, Maisie and James become friends and their closeness continues pulling them toward each other until emotion leads to intimacy. She agrees to help with the organisation of a Viking Festival he is planning in the town.

But as Maisie approaches her 40th birthday, tragedy strikes a double blow, and she’s forced to make some important decisions about what she really wants from life.

Love Begins at 40 is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US, or wherever you are.

Inspiration Behind the Story

It all started with a visit I made to Largs Writers Group one morning. It is a beautiful drive up the coast from where I was then living, with views across the Firth of Clyde to Arran and the Isles of Cumbrae and beyond on a clear day. And it was just that. The sun was shining on Goatfell, the highest mountain on Arran, the sea with its puffs of white caplets, was a mix of turquoise and deeper green and blue, and I was looking forward to meeting old friends at the group.

Largs is a small seaside town on the Firth, once one of the many resorts to which Glasgow holidaymakers would flock for their annual break. Now it's quieter, more 'douce' and attracts perhaps more of the older generation and families than those looking for a livelier  time.

It has a long history, most famous perhaps for the Battle of Largs in 1263 when the possibility of a Viking invasion loomed large. The weather, however, came to the rescue of the townspeople and a storm blew up, sinking many of the Viking longships. It is celebrated as a great victory and the Pencil along the shore, is a memorial to this event.

I gave my talk, had tea and buns with the group and answered as many questions as I could, then joined some of them for lunch. And all this time the magic of Largs was seeping into me. What if I were to use Largs as the setting for a book? Who would come to the town to live? Would it be a permanent home or a second home? What kind of home would it be?

And so I built up a picture of my protagonist, Maisie McLelland. Unlike most female characters in romances, she would be that bit older, approaching her fortieth, a successful business-woman looking for a better work-life balance and feeling that something was missing from her busy life. 

This being a romance, who would be her leading man? I don't like determinedly alpha males, all hulk and muscle and no character, so James, like Maisie, has his own back story, his difficulties, his heart-break. His mum, I decided, would live across the landing from Maisie's flat, so convenient for getting them together, but like all good stories, I placed many difficulties on the way to an ending. I'll leave it up to the reader to find out if it ended happily!

The town of Largs plays its part in the book, as do the Vikings and the glorious Firth of Clyde. I've taken several liberties with its layout and festivals but hope that the locals don't mind too much.

I hope you enjoy reading Love Begins at 40 as much as I enjoyed creating my story.

Thanks for sharing that interesting background, Ann – love the setting!

Ann Burnett was born in Scotland where she now lives but has travelled extensively and lived in Canada and Australia.

She has published short stories, articles and children’s stories, as well as writing a novel, Loving Mother, as part of her Masters in Creative Writing. She is an experienced Creative Writing tutor and adjudicator for the Scottish Association of Writers.

Her short stories have been published in New Writing Scotland, Glasgow University Creative Writing anthologies, My Weekly, That’s Life (Australia), Woman's Weekly and the Weekly News. Her collection of short stories, Take a Leaf out of My Book, is available on Amazon.

Her memoir, illustrated with her father's photos, A Scottish Childhood, Growing up a Baby Boomer was published this year. But perhaps she is best remembered for writing Postman Pat stories for a children's comic every week for five years. A labour of love indeed!

You can connect with Ann on her Website/Blog, Facebook, Twitter (@annburnett3) and Instagram (ambur66)

Monday, 30 July 2018

Free Summer Read!

One of my Aphrodite and Adonis novellas, The Adonis Touch, is currently FREE to download through Tuesday 31st. This is my own personal favourite of these three books. Romance, mythology and renewal on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus. 

The Adonis Touch

Katie and Mike go on holiday to Cyprus, in separate rooms. After the untimely death of her first husband and only lover, can Katie put the past behind her, let go of her inhibitions and learn to love again?

Mischievous Aphrodite and sexy Adonis watch the influx of tourists to Paphos, choosing the next couple to benefit from their special help. Will Adonis work his magic touch on Katie so that she finds a deeper love with Mike?

Rosemary Gemmell

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Introducing Philip Paris

A very warm welcome to versatile author Philip Paris on the Reading and Writing Blog today, who shares the inspiration behind his writing and latest novel. Effie’s War is an atmospheric, exciting wartime story set against a backdrop of real-life incidents. First a little about the book.

Effie’s War

In a remote corner of Scotland something momentous is underway. When Effie’s father receives a government notice to quite Kirk Farm, the lives of the Ross family and those of the whole community are utterly disrupted.

But for Effie – irrepressible, beautiful, vital – wartime changes bring her close to Toni, an Italian prisoner of war sent to work on the farm. Before long, the young couple are planning a future together when the war is finally over.

It’s a future that’s under threat from the start, for there are those among them who cannot quite be trusted. Someone is determined to find out what lies behind the upheaval – and to pass those secrets into enemy hands. To stop them will create devastation beyond anything anyone could have imagined.

Based on true events of the Second World War, this evocative novel captures the emotions, dangers and atmosphere of the days when the world faced its darkest hour.

Effie’s War is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US in e-book and print.

Writers and Ideas

I’m fascinated by how writers obtain ideas and how both can be affected by time. Here’s a personal example of what I mean. In the late 1970s I had the idea to write a stage play about domestic abuse where the victim was male. Goodness knows where this came from as it was an era when you simply didn’t read or hear anything about these matters. The timing was poor. At the age of 20 such a drama was way beyond my ability and I doubt that any theatre company would have touched this topic.

Fast forward to 2011; I was made redundant and suddenly found myself with a great deal of spare time. I began to think again of the idea I had back in the seventies and the result was that I used the concept as the basis for a novel. Men Cry Alone was published the following year. So, that idea had a gestation of more than 30 years.

All my books have had completely different ‘beginnings’. My wife, Catherine, told me years ago about how hundreds of people living locally, in the Highlands of Scotland near Tain, had been evicted from the land during WW2. At that point I had a busy day job and was involved in other writing projects, so I tucked away the details in the mental filing cabinet that writers have, without considering doing anything with the information.

Following the publication of my novel Casting Off towards the end of 2016, I had intended to spend the next 12 months attempting to write short stories (not my genre and I didn’t know if I could do it). However, Catherine and I visited the Tarbat Discovery Centre in Portmahomack and I was reminded about the enforced mass evacuation in WW2. On this occasion the timing was right. I was immediately consumed by the desire to use these dramatic, real-life events as the backdrop to a novel. The short stories were returned to the filing cabinet.

So what were these events? On 11th November 1943 around 900 people living in the Tarbat peninsula were given four weeks to leave their homes, crofts and farms. They were told that the military wanted the land for battle practice. This wasn’t the full reason – they wanted a stretch of beach to rehearse for the D Day landings, scheduled to take place in Normandy the following year. Of course, this was one of the Allies’ greatest secrets of the war. The farmers in the affected area had little option but to sell all their livestock, which was heartbreaking for many. To help process crops, Italian POWs were bought in from the camp in Kildary about five miles away.

These events provided a fantastic backdrop to Effie’s War, which was published by Black & White Publishing on 6th June to coincide with the anniversary of the D Day landings. It’s a book about love and loyalty, betrayal and, finally, forgiveness, with most of the action taking place within those highly-charged four weeks of November/December 1943.

The characters are entirely fictitious, unlike my WW2 historical fiction The Italian Chapel, where I set out to tell the amazing true story behind the creation of Orkney’s famous Italian chapel and in doing so wrote about the real artists involved. With Effie’s War I wanted complete freedom as regards characters and I have to admit to enjoying the feeling of ‘liberation’. Even so, I had to do a fair amount of research to understand life in the Highlands during the 1940s and this required interviewing many retired folk to get a grasp on subjects as diverse as farming to funerals!

Readers have ranged from a twelve-year-old girl to a ninety-eight-year-old lady. Interestingly, of all the comments made at the many launch events I’ve managed to cram into the diary since the book’s publication, the most perceptive came from that young girl.

Thanks so much for that fascinating post, Philip. Wishing you great success with all your books!

You can find out more about Philip's other books on his website.

Author, playwright and journalist Philip Paris lives in the Highlands of Scotland with his wife, Catherine. He is best known for his books about Orkney’s famous Italian chapel, built by Italian POWs during WW2. 

However, his work is diverse, ranging from a contemporary novel about domestic abuse against men to a humorous novel about residents in a Highland care home who, desperately trying to meet rising fees, set up a chat line for men who want to speak to mature women ‘in a particular way’!

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Rain and Writing

Please forgive my delight that we had a little relief from the relentless hot weather yesterday! It was wonderful to see the rain and feel the coolness, although it seems to be short-lived. The poor garden and flowers are also suffering and I could almost sense their gratitude when I went out to take a couple of photos.

I always find it more difficult to write during the summer, even without such extreme temperatures, so it was great to see a couple of pieces of writing in print. I can't remember if I mentioned before that one of my poems, Where Kelpies Sing, was published in a recent Wild Musette Journal. They have now published it online so anyone can read it. If you're interested, you can find it by clicking the link on the poem title.

The other published piece was a new article in the latest edition of the US magazine The Highlander. This one is about the Vikings' last battle on Scottish soil and is the second to be published this year. I love this magazine of Scottish heritage and have contributed to it for many years. Some of my previously published articles are in my Scottish Collection of non-fiction.

Now, I'm trying to add more words to my next Scottish novel, as well as various other projects - if only it would become cooler to let me concentrate!

Hope your own summer is going well.


Sunday, 15 July 2018

Introducing Debut Author Fiona Lindsay

A very warm welcome to d├ębut Scottish author, Fiona Lindsay, who is paying a first visit to the Reading and Writing blog (or any blog, I believe)! Fiona is the first guest in my new series, introducing new writers or those new to my blog, and she has kindly agreed to share some of the background and inspiration for her writing.

I’ve recently finished reading The Consolation Prize and enjoyed it very much for its wonderful setting and descriptions of the Scottish Highlands, as well as its cast of interesting characters. A feel-good escape for summer! Fiona also used her artistic skills to design the cover and some lovely cards illustrating the Highland scenery.

The Consolation Prize

Londoner Heather McAndrew has a funky flat, a plum job, a glitzy social life, great friends and, best of all, she has ad exec, Aidan.

When Aidan betrays her and returns to his ex, she is heartbroken and takes refuge in her great aunt’s cottage in her second home: the village of Kirklochy in the Scottish Highlands. Heather settles into a tranquil existence, returning to her first love, painting.

But her new home is full of intrigue and tangled relationships. Heather is drawn to two very different men: troubled artist, Sean, and childhood friend, Euan. But Sean is in love with his late wife’s memory and Euan with his stunning, bitchy actress girlfriend. Will Heather find true love, or will she forever be the consolation prize?

Thank you for writing a post for my blog, Fiona. All the very best with your first novel and its successors!

Fiona’s Writing Inspiration

I was lucky enough to grow up in a house full of books. My dad had literally (in the original sense of the word) thousands – he even had a bookcase in our downstairs loo. Sometimes, one or other member of the family would get carried away, having plucked a book from the nearest shelf, and spend a couple of hours in there. My mum was a primary school teacher, and encouraged us to read, so I’ve loved books since childhood, and ended up studying English Literature at university. During this time, I was inspired by some writers whom I particularly enjoyed to try it for myself – I’ve always been drawn to novel writing, rather than short stories or poetry.

The inspiration for my series, The Kirklochy Chronicles, arose from a jokey conversation with a writer friend. We asked ourselves if we had it in us to write a Mills & Boon book (I suspect that the answer to this question is a resounding “no” – and that it is very much harder than it would seem). However, the idea of writing a romance must have appealed to me, as, one Saturday afternoon, I sat down at my PC and typed the first chapter of what would become The Consolation Prize. I was doing it just for enjoyment, and found myself putting in some touches of humour. To my surprised pleasure, my writer's group liked it, even the men, I think because it was light hearted and good fun. Much lighter, and it could float away on a strong breeze.

The story is about a heartbroken young woman, Heather, who runs away from London to the Highland village of Kirklochy (which, unfortunately, is fictional, but, if it existed, would be near to Ullapool). Heather had spent all her summer holidays there as a child, with her dad’s family, and sees it as a place of refuge. This was inspired by my own father, whose family was from Tarbert Loch Fyne and who loved the Highlands – so we would go there every year as children. The setting is important as Heather finds it soothing and healing and begins to enjoy a simpler lifestyle.

After I had finished the first book, a friend suggested that I write a sequel, again based in Kirklochy, and this became Do Not Disturb, which is set in a hotel, and brought in some new characters while retaining some of the original cast. My rule is that, once someone has met Mr (or Ms) Right, his or her story is told, and it is another character’s time to find love.

This second book ends with Lewis, who has been something of a bad boy, leaving the village for London in disgrace. I get my own back on him in the third book of the trilogy, A New Flame, and he goes on an emotional as well as a physical journey, where he falls deeply in love and must become the man whom his beloved wants and deserves.

Look forward to reading the next two in the series, Fiona!

The Consolation Prize is available in e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon US at an introductory price of 99p (99c) just now.

Fiona has been an avid reader since childhood and studied English Literature at the University of Glasgow. She is an active member of a local writer's group and has had work included in two anthologies. Her job, in HR in social work services, provided much inspiration: in such a large organisation there were people of all ages and walks of life, many of them strong and vibrant characters, and many powerful human-interest stories.

Her debut novel, The Consolation Prize, the first in a trilogy entitled The Kirklochy Chronicles, was published in March of this year by Clochoderick Press, which had arisen from her home town of Paisley’s bid to become City of Culture. Fiona also regularly performs her work at local spoken word events.

You can connect with Fiona on Facebook and Twitter