Saturday, 7 September 2019

Cover Reveal and Free Short Stories!

Summer has whizzed by me this year and I’ve woefully neglected this blog, and my newsletter. However, I’m delighted autumn has now arrived and I’ve come more alive! The newsletter is now winging its way to subscribers.

I’ve been working hard to get my new full length Scottish novel ready for publication and can now reveal the cover. This book is much more Gothic, with overtones of the supernatural in the lead-up to Samhain, or Halloween.

When Cate Stewart’s life falls apart, a job cataloguing the vast library at Highcrag on the Scottish east coast sounds perfect. Especially since she has a personal interest in the notorious Scottish witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth century.

But the house has a dark past that seems to affect the present. And an owner, Lyall Kinnaird, who unexpectedly stirs Cate’s damaged heart.

As the Celtic festival of Samhain approaches, when the veil between the living and dead is thinnest, who can Cate trust?

It’s now available for Pre-order on Amazon UK and Amazon US, or wherever you are. The launch party will be on Facebook on Friday 20th September. Lots of fun and a few competitions.

FREE Short Stories

Meanwhile, You can download my collection of short stories, Beneath the Treetops, for FREE 7th to 11th September. It was my first collection of fourteen stories, most of them previously published in magazines, some winning competitions.

Amazon UK; Amazon US

Happy writing!

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Trains, Writing and Inspiration

Where did the last month go? Seriously - I can't believe it's so long since I posted anything. However, I have been busy and haven't been looking at anyone's blog for ages. Not have I sent out a newsletter for too long. Thankfully, I have been writing, albeit not at home!

Lancaster University

First, it was my journey to Lancaster for the RNA Weekend Conference. What an excellent couple of days which began with Orion telling us they have now opened a digital-first imprint, Dash, and are accepting submissions. Most of the other sessions I attended were equally helpful, from Author Branding, to Cover Design and the Slush Pile Slam. As always, it was great to catch up with old friends and new, including meeting fellow blogger and writer Carol Bevitt at last!

St Pancras
Next, we had a family wedding in London which was a longer train journey but very comfortable. We took the chance to have a quick look at the amazing St Pancras Station and the hugely interesting British Library, both of which need far longer appreciation. It was wonderful to see some of my husband's family after so many years and our niece was a beautiful bride. The reception venue was interesting, in an old Victorian Pump Station right beside the river, and the street food served to each table was fabulous.

St Pancras Church

With all that travelling and busyness, you'd think I was hardly likely to get much writing done. However, with my love of writing on trains, it was perfect! I'm now almost through the much-needed second edit on my latest novel and can see how it is structured and if it stays consistent. I love this stage, once the whole story is actually written down. It's one of the disadvantages of being a pantster as I need to let the characters develop as they interact with each other. Look out for the cover reveal soon!

John Betjeman
I've also had an article accepted by the new Historical Romance magazine and will provide a link once its available. Now I'm waiting to see if a short story I sent out a while ago will be accepted or rejected and I want to get another article written for The Highlander magazine. I suspect I'll be raring to go with other writing and organising once we're into autumn, my favourite season, especially since the schools go back here in two weeks time.


Shakespeare at the British Library
Any travelling is inspiring, whether at home or abroad and I love picking up anecdotes, quotes or ideas from everything I see and this is where my camera is a necessity in case I don't have time to write it down, or just to remind me what something looked like. Some of the photos from London are dotted through this post and I'm sure one or two will provide an idea or two.

Hope you've had a good summer,

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Off to Conference!

That's me just about packed for the RNA weekend conference at Lancaster and hoping I don't keep changing my mind before I get away in the morning! The programme is brilliant so I'm expecting to come back with lots of inspiration, and perhaps advice from my agent one-to-one.

Thankfully, I love writing with pen and paper on trains so hope to write then read for a while. I'm almost finished the first draft of my latest novel then it's time to redraft and add, or take away, details as well as checking everything through. I also intend to crack on with the other full length which is a little different. That should keep me busy.

Last week, I had a chance to get out and about again. While meeting my friend for lunch in Glasgow, I found one of the braw Oor Wullie statues that are dotted around Scotland. I'm sure they'll make people smile. Then we had a great day out with daughter at the weekend to our favourite Fife coast. I was delighted to see the above quote before heading homewards. Isn't it so true?

Next time I update the blog, it should include some details of the conference and no doubt some photos, if they're good enough!


Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Half Way Through the Writing Year

Since we're heading towards the Summer Solstice, the longest day, we must be almost half way through the year. It certainly doesn't feel like summer, though I don't mind not having too much sun since I'm more of an autumn/winter person. I seem to be more creative in the darker months so I thought I'd have a look at what I've achieved so far this year.

I've probably posted this Recipe for Success photo before, from one of our favourite little coffee shops but I always find it inspirational!

Much-needed Encouragement to Persevere
  • Adjudicator of the Pitlochry Award for a Romance novel at the Scottish Association of Writers Conference in March
  • Ran a workshop at same event
  • One article accepted by The Highlander Magazine (USA)
  • Two other articles submitted to different journals (awaiting decision)
  • Several poems submitted to various places (not heard anything yet)
  • Four short stories submitted to magazines or competitions (not heard yet)
  • A couple of letters sent to magazines
  • Two children's short stories being accepted for an autumn/winter journal
  • Two novels to finish (at least)
  • Attending the Romantic Novelists' Association Conference in July - having agent one-to-ones
It's been quite useful writing this down as I always think I'm not achieving enough! I've also enjoyed returning to freelance writing and searching for markets and opportunities. Although I enjoy being a novelist, my first love is shorter pieces, whether stories, articles or poems.

I've discovered how much I need the variety as it helps me to stay focused on creativity. Strangely enough, all this other type of writing doesn't distract me from the novel but seems to flex the creative muscle to keep me going.

Anyone else find it helps to dabble in different forms of writing or creativity?


Monday, 27 May 2019

Weather for the Ducks

After the too-hot weather at Easter and a few good days between then and now, we're almost back to winter up here! In between the rain and wind, we managed an outing as usual to one of our favourite spots for coffee and walks.

Aberdour on the Fife coast is a truly magical little village, beach and harbour. We took the risk of driving across there as it was so dreich here. Yet, once at the famous Silver Sands, there wasn't a drop of rain and we were able to enjoy a good walk after coffee and scones.

I amused myself by watching the three ducks that had wandered up to the patio of the café - which is next to the beach but raised so we can look down on the sea and sand. Not content with their little conflab on the patio, they then waddled round to the door of the café. The photos aren't so good as they were taken with my old mobile.

I discovered from one of the staff that the ducks have been doing this for many years and one of the girls goes out and rewards them with a little snack. Perseverance pays! Must say, they didn't cause any bother whatsoever and were not allowed inside of course.

There's something about a beach on a dull day that I love as it's more atmospheric when not too sunny or busy. We certainly came home all the better for having spent the morning in such a lovely place.

Monday, 13 May 2019

Celebrating 150 Years of The People's Friend

I was delighted to attend the afternoon event with two friends at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh to celebrate 150 years of The People's Friend magazine. And what a celebration it was! So many of us fondly remember our mothers and grandmothers reading this when we were small, and many of us have gone on to read it ourselves, or even write for it. The centre is just to the left of John Knox House which makes a better photo.

The afternoon did the magazine proud and the staff who had travelled from Dundee were every bit as friendly as we'd expected. The Storytelling Centre is featuring The People's Friend Exhibition from 10th to 25th May so it's worth having a look if you're in Edinburgh. The event I was at on Saturday was held downstairs in one of the theatres and we were treated to a wonderful history of the magazine from its first issue in 1869. We were all given a replica copy of this edition and the writing is so tiny, it's a wonder it could be read!

The editor, Angela Gilchrist, introduced the programme before sub-editor Margaret Scott took us on a fascinating journey through the past, present and future. This was followed by an enjoyable reading from one of their story writers, Jane Tulloch. Assistant archivist, Barry Sullivan, then took us up to the break with his portrait of WC Honeyman, a man who deserves greater recognition.
We all traipsed upstairs to enjoy the Friend's hospitality with tea, coffee and a variety of muffins. This was also a chance to enjoy a read of the displays and a chat with some of the Friend's staff, as well as the readers and writers milling around. I was pleased to see Wendy Clark's photo and story featured and I got to meet Suzanne Ross at last, after being friends on the Internet for years.


The final sessions were equally fascinating. A young PhD student, Charlotte Lauder, presented a snapshot of what the magazine has meant to women over the years, uncovering some previously unknown information. I was amazed to hear about one of the first female journalists and editors and her support of women in the 19th century.

Another enjoyable reading was given by Edinburgh writer, Kate Blackadder. This was followed by a presentation from archivist David Powell who reminded us that the Archives don't stop in 1918! We had time for a couple of questions before we left satisfied with an informative and entertaining afternoon.

Thank you People's Friend for bringing so much pleasure to so many people 150 years on.


Sunday, 28 April 2019

Filling the Creative Well

It seems weeks since I've settled down to proper work, partly because the Easter break stretched even longer this year. However, it gave me a chance to get out and about exploring, seeing new places and filling that creative well of ideas and inspiration.

As well as having time with the husband, we had three days with granddaughter which was great fun. Younger children certainly do keep the oldies young. It was a great excuse to revisit the steam train (my favourite form of transport), have a paddle in the cold Firth of Forth and become a child again at a brilliant local outdoor heritage site.

In between, we visited the impressive calendar House in Falkirk, where I was fascinated by the Georgian kitchen with its fantastic cooking range, It evidently was the first place to use gas in the kitchen, in the early 1800s. The 'smoke-jack' (fan) turned the cogs to operate the spit! Otherwise, only candlelight was used throughout the house.

I was delighted to see the 150 year-old ice chest which used to be kept in the cellar. The 200 year-old ice house, which was apart from the house, kept ice from the loch frozen for up to eighteen months. The lady telling us about the kitchen was dressed in period costume adding to the fun and she had prepared a basket of coloured eggs since it was around Easter.

These were dyed as follows:

Yellow: from the gorse growing wild
Brown: from onion skin
Red/pink: from beetroot
Green: from spinach

There was even an original Georgian recipe for Simnel cake on display and tiny bits of the cake to try - baked recently, of course! It was slightly different from modern recipes but just as delicious with its taste of almond.

Yesterday, we unexpectedly happened upon a vintage car display at Linlithgow where we'd gone for coffee and a walk by the loch. I love vintage cars and was over the moon when the owner of my favourite 1928 Austin suggested I sit in the driver's seat. I needed no second bidding and it was as gorgeous inside as out. Pity I couldn't have had a wee drive. My second favourite was the open-topped white MG, although I didn't get to sit in that one.


All in all, I've come back from the Easter break inspired to get on with various types of writing again, as well as trying to finish the full length novel so I can go back through and make sense of it. My creative well seems to have filled up with lots of ideas, so I guess we all need that break now and then.


Sunday, 7 April 2019

Writers' Museum Edinburgh

Now that we're a bit nearer by train, there's no excuse not to start exploring Edinburgh a bit more since we don't know it that well yet. And what a lovely day we had visiting the Writers' Museum and Museum of Scotland, both of which were well worth the walk from the station.

The building in which the Writers' Museum is situated was as much interest to me as the contents. Built in 1622, it is known as Lady Stair's House and after renovation in 1895, it was presented to the City of Edinburgh in 1907 for use as a museum.

It is now dedicated to the works and lives of three of our famous writers: Robert Burns (1759-1796), Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832) and Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894). What a wonderful place for a writer to spend time exploring the artefacts on show, including the printing press on which Scott's Waverley novels were printed.

Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos inside but I tried to get shots of the outside of the building with my make-shift mobile camera. I loved the low doorways and uneven stairs, fine for a shorter person like me. What a great use for one of Edinburgh's ancient buildings. The Makar's Court outside contains a series of inscribed stones celebrating the achievements of Scottish writers ranging from the 14th century to the 1990s and it's good to know further stones will be added as the Makar's Court grows.


Monday, 1 April 2019

Venetian Interlude on Countdown

A quick heads-up - my sweet novella Venetian Interlude is on Amazon countdown until 4th April, if anyone fancies a trip to Venice!

Will it be third time lucky for old friends, Scottish art historian Olivia and half-Italian Sebastian, when they unexpectedly arrive in Venice at the same time? Their lives have already diverged after university, then a few years later after a friend’s wedding. 
Why should this interlude be any different? Apart from Livy’s realisation that Seb is the only man she can never forget.
Available in e-book and print.


Monday, 25 March 2019

Scottish Association of Writers Conference

What a great SAW weekend conference I attended from Friday until Sunday afternoon, an annual highlight of my year. Full of workshops, competitions, guest speakers, great accommodation, food and company, what's not to like! This year was the 50th anniversary which made it even more special. Isn't this a fabulous cake that was made for the special conference?

This time, I was adjudicating the Pitlochry Award for a romance novel (first 15,000 words plus synopsis) and very enjoyable it was too. I absolutely loved the winning entry and really hope the author finishes and submits it to a publisher. On the Saturday, I delivered a PowerPoint presentation on 'From Idea to Novel' in my workshop slot, which seemed to go down well.

Over the weekend, I attended an excellent workshop on poetry where Sandra Ireland had us creating our own poems (or ideas) from an object and a piece of text. On the Sunday, I sat engrossed at the fascinating seminar from delightful Robin Cutler of Ingram Spark. She had come all the way from America to join us, and was taking the chance to visit some of Scotland for the first time.

I had been looking forward to this, since the rights to most of my novels reverted to me and I'm deciding on whether to make them available only on Amazon, or to use Ingram Spark for their wide distribution. One of the most important changes they will be making soon is to offer authors an easier template in which to upload their books. Think I need to have a serious discussion with husband about the way forward, as you do have to buy your own ISBNs.

The weekend wasn't all work and competition results, however. On the Friday evening after dinner we had 'Bookaversity Challenge' where four teams competed in a University Challenge-type quiz all about books - with great hilarity at the not very loud buzzer on each table and shouts of 'we answered first'! Afterwards, those who could go the pace, went up to the clubhouse to hear the various talent on offer. Whisper... I rashly decided to sing one song. Fortunately it was a great, informal atmosphere and we had plenty of variety. More than half the delegates had also gone to bed by that time - or the bar.

With my writer daughter!
On the Saturday after the gala dinner, we had the presentation of all the competition awards. After that, we listened to an inspiring speaker (crime writer Alex Gray) whose serious writing career had begun at the SAW many years ago. The highlight of the evening was a fabulously funny drama: Carry on Sleuthing (an hour long), performed by four amazing writers who took the various parts, complete with accents and silly costumes.

Most of them are crime writers so we were given time at the end to come up with the solution to 'who was to blame for the murder on the ship and how was it committed'. Some guessed part of it correctly but there was even a twist at the end! What a great way to end the evening.

Roll on next year.