Monday, 20 January 2020

In Celebration of Burns Night

This week, we’re leading up to Burns Night, which is celebrated all over the world on January 25th. Our national bard is one of the characters in the historical chapters of The Highland Lass. Although that's more about Highland Mary's story, Robert Burns does of course figure in it since he was Mary Campbell's great love. There's also a quote from Burns at the top of each historical chapter.

I’m a fan of his poems and songs, finding so much wisdom about human nature in them. As well as being a farmer and poet, Burns was also a popular figure of the Edinburgh Enlightenment, perfectly at home in the salons of Edinburgh in the second half of the eighteenth century.

When the crops on his farm failed, he also became an Exciseman in 1789, or a 'poor damn’d rascally gager', as he called himself. He had mixed feelings about such an unpopular post but needed a paying job, though it didn't stop him writing a song called The Deil's awa wi' the Exciseman. Here's a sample mentioning some of the popular dances of the time:

“There’s threesome reels, there’s foursome reels,
There’s hornpipes and strathspeys, man,
But the ae best dance that cam’ tae the land
Was the de’ils awa’ wi’ the Exciseman.”

It's remarkable to think that this humble farmer poet from Ayrshire is not only remembered in Scotland but is celebrated so well in other countries. I suspect that those who claim Scots ancestry probably make more of Burns Night than many of us do at home!

We might not all like haggis, although it's quite tasty with mashed potatoes and turnip, but I'm sure many a person will be willing to raise a wee dram to the poet's memory on Burns Night. And if you do happen to attend a Burns Supper, you'll no doubt hear the Address to the Haggis, after it's brought to the table on a silver platter accompanied by the sound of the bagpipes. It begins:

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, 
Great chieftain o the puddin'-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye worthy o' a grace
As lang's my arm.

Slàinte Mhath! Good health!

Monday, 13 January 2020

Highcrag in Print with Ingram Spark

I've been updating all my books so they're available in print on Amazon, using their very good printing service.

However, I'm also publishing my three Scottish novels, to begin with, through Ingram Spark as well. It's been a learning curve, trying to get them exactly the way they should be formatted before uploading to their site. I also had to get a paperback version of the covers absolutely correct in Pdf!

Although I have no problem doing kindle covers, the paperback version defeated me so I found a very good creator on who has been converting them to paperback covers for me. And now the first paperback from Ingram Spark is available!

Highcrag has its own ISBN (978-1-9162577-1-9) and can now be ordered from bookshops and through libraries. Ingram Spark distribute through a large number of UK (and global) companies such as Gardners and Bertrams in the UK, which should supply most bookshops and libraries.

This is quite an exciting development for me, although I don't know if it will be worth it in the end, but it's another way in which readers can access some of my books, especially for those who prefer print.

So now the paperback is available from Amazon UK, Amazon US and worldwide.
And from your local bookshop, or ordered through your library. I've just discovered it's on Waterstones website!

Return to Kilcraig will be available later this week and thereafter it will be The Highland Lass, though I still to have the paperback Pdf for that.


Sunday, 5 January 2020

Organising the New Year

Apart from after the summer holidays, this is my favourite time of year for getting organised for the months ahead. I don't make resolutions, or even concrete plans, but I do like to clear up and tidy out desk drawers, files and photos.

I also write a rough list of what I hope to finish during the year (it's usually finish because of all the things I start and don't complete!). This year, it includes the following (hopefully):
  • completing a novella for spring
  • finishing a novel by summer (to pitch at the RNA conference) that's been on the go too long
  • developing/continuing with the first of a new series of novels in a different genre
  • more articles for The Highlander Magazine in the US
  • more short stories for the PF and other markets/comps (if inspired enough)
  • sending out another couple of children's stories
  • rewriting/submitting more poetry
  • keeping up with promotion/marketing opportunities for the books already published
I've already republished just about all of my books now, with new website details inside and putting them into print - only a couple to go. I'd also like to make better use of the lovely Creativity Journal daughter gave me last Christmas as it fell by the wayside last year.

Obviously the novels (and even novella) take up the bulk of time, for writing, thinking and researching, but I do enjoy shorter forms of creativity in between.

If I didn't write with pen and paper in a café at least once a week, and on my train journeys to Glasgow or Edinburgh, I wouldn't get nearly as much done! It must partly be due to being away from the computer. I refuse to use a smart phone of any kind with Internet connection as I know myself too well (being tempted to look at social media instead of writing) so I'll hang on to my trusty old Nokia for a while yet - at least it has a camera.

Hope your own plans for the writing year ahead are taking shape.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Happy New Year!

Happy Hogmanay from Scotland! 

Wishing you a very 
Happy, Healthy and Peaceful 2020

Here's a good mindfulness quote to set us off on the right track!

'Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.'

Thursday, 26 December 2019

The Jigsaw Puzzle

My mystery for 8-10 year olds (and the young at heart), set in the Scottish countryside between Christmas and New Year, is only 99p (99c) for the next few days! 

Playing around with a little video this morning...

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Winter Solstice

To encourage some more visits to my new website, I've posted a piece about the Winter Solstice on the blog there. It's similar to one I've posted on blogger before, but you can read it here if you wish!

I also wanted an excuse to use this photo again that I'm rather proud of!


Tuesday, 17 December 2019

FREE Non-fiction Collection

A quick note to say that the e-book version of my collection of seventeen articles, Scotland People and Places, is FREE to download on Amazon until 18th December!


Sunday, 8 December 2019

Writing Encouragement

Now that my latest novel is out and everything is geared to getting ready for Christmas over the next couple of weeks, it’s a lovely bonus to see success in other parts of my writing. It also reminds me how much I enjoy the variety of shorter items in different genres, and I think this will always be my first creative love.

I’ve had many articles on Scottish history, people and places published in The Highlander magazine in the USA and I’m delighted that my latest one was published in the new issue  - the kind editor has also accepted another. The fact I get paid right away is another plus, compared to waiting to see if books sell for their royalties.

I’ve also started writing new short stories now and then and I’m so pleased to have an editor at The People’s Friend. He is passing on two of my stories for the next stage to be considered for publication. Can’t wait to see if and when they appear!

Another type of writing that I really enjoy is stories for children of different ages. I was delighted when online publication Smarty Pants published my Tin-Can-Man story in November. Now they’ve just published my little Fern’s First Winter story and I love the illustrations they provide!

So much encouragement to keep writing in whatever way inspires my imagination and creativity. When it also leads to payment, that’s even more incentive although, like most writers, I mainly want readers to enjoy my stories.

If you're interested in my collection of articles on Scotland people and Places, or any of my short story collections, you can find them on Amazon UK and Amazon US in e-book and paperback.

On with the Christmas preparations now!


Monday, 2 December 2019

Meet the Author: Melanie Roberston-King

A warm welcome to the Reading and Writing blog for Canadian author Melanie Robertson-King. Melanie’s second book in the series It Happened On… is set in Gastown, Vancouver, an area I visited some years ago. I’m very much looking forward to reading this!

Welcome Melanie and thank you for sharing an excerpt from your new book. First of all, here is the cover and blurb.

It Happened in Gastown

Trainspotting meets Hot Pursuit...

Hilary Dunbar is a uniformed constable with the Vancouver Police with an agenda to rid the streets of drugs, especially the bad ones the notorious dealer, Carlos Navarra, is trafficking.

Heroin addict, Erik Layne, has lived on the streets of Gastown for as long as he can remember, having left home and Toronto as a rebellious teenage addict. His and Hilary’s paths cross when she finds him unconscious in an alley after injecting a batch of the contaminated drug. He must fight for his life to keep from dying, not only from the tainted smack but also from the man who provided it.

A domestic disturbance call goes wrong, and Hilary suffers life-changing injuries as a result. As luck would have it, she and Erik are hospitalized in the same ward at Vancouver General Hospital. When she sinks into a deep depression, it’s he who pulls her out of her doldrums.

But will Hilary’s obsession with bringing down Navarra and others like him destroy their relationship and, more importantly, jeopardize their lives?


Out on routine patrol, Constables Hilary Dunbar and her partner Lukas Stephanopoulos drove north on Cambie Street towards the Gastown Steam Clock. As they passed the end of Blood Alley, she shouted, “Back up. Something’s down there.”
“Your imagination getting the better of you again?” He teased, but pulled over to the curb and slowly reversed until they blocked the mouth of the narrow passage. 
Originally they called the lane Trounce Alley. Some maps still referred to the laneway as that. Others labelled the back street Blood Alley. Given the appearance, Hilary thought the latter more appropriate.
Window down, she trained the beam from the powerful spotlight mounted on the cruiser’s mirror into the alleyway. “See, beyond those dumpsters.”
“Likely just garbage.”
“Wait here; I’m going to take a closer look.”
Before exiting the car, she plucked a pair of nitrile gloves and the naloxone kit from the glove compartment. Once out, she shoved them in the pockets of her trousers. With the fingertips of her right hand brushing her gun holster and gripping the barrel of the torch in her left, she sidled towards the object. 
Graffiti tags covered the walls of the buildings as well as the wooden hydro poles. The farther into the confined space she crept, the hairs on the nape of her neck bristled beneath the bun in which she styled her black hair. Whatever was down there wasn’t rubbish, as Luke said. The pong of stale urine made her eyes water.
Past the second dumpster, the body of a young man leaned against the wall. Dishevelled and filthy, his body odour was strong enough to make the foulest of skunk spray seem mild. At first glance, he appeared dead. His skin had a bluish tinge, and weeping sores dotted his face. Dark circles surrounded his eyes. Inching forward, Hilary squatted beside him. 
A blood-filled syringe protruded from his left arm. Flashlight held under her chin; she donned the synthetic rubber gloves she brought with her and felt his neck for a pulse. The rhythmic throbbing beneath her fingertips, barely discernible.
The naloxone. The kit had been made available to officers who wanted the medication. Luke was against carrying the opioid blocker in the cruiser, but Hilary persuaded him. Now was the time to use it. She took the package out of her other trouser pocket, peeled the wrapper open and placed the nozzle in the victim’s left nostril and pressed the plunger. 
She keyed the mic on her handset and started to speak. “Constable Dunbar.” As though on cue, the nearby Steam Clock began whistling — no sense in trying to outperform the contraption. Wait for the completion of its proclamation of the top of the hour — Westminster chimes followed by singular whistle blasts counting out the time. Soon relative quiet returned and Hilary tried again. “Constable Dunbar. Badge 8652. I need an ambulance at Blood Alley and Cambie Street. Suspected drug overdose. Have administered four milligrams of Narcan nasal spray. No response as of yet.”
By now, Luke had the cruiser’s roof lights on. Blue, red and white alternating then running from the driver’s side to the passenger’s side of the vehicle.
The wail of the siren grew louder. In minutes, paramedics jumped out and trundled a stretcher and medical equipment to the stricken person.
Hilary stood back, letting them do their jobs. “I gave him Narcan,” she said, handing the spent plastic bottle to one of them. 
“He’s alive ... just. You found him in time. We’ve bagged the needle so they can run tests on the contents at the hospital. Figure out what he shot into his veins.”

Sounds intriguing, Melanie!

It Happened in Gastown is available on kobo and kindle

About the Author

A native of eastern Ontario, during her 
pre-school years, Melanie Robertson-King lived in a winterized cottage on the shore of the St Lawrence River. Before starting school, her family moved to Brockville, where she received her education, including a post-secondary degree in Computer Programming.

Growing up as an only child, Melanie was an avid reader and remains so to this day. She knew then one day she would be a writer. When she wasn’t talking about her dream of becoming an author, she wrote stories and began honing her skills at an early age.

Melanie’s father was a Scottish national. 
He came to Canada as a ‘Home Child’ through the auspices of The Orphan Homes of Scotland. She promised herself that one day, her feet would touch the soil in her father’s homeland. That first trip was in 1993, and she’s not looked back since, having returned to the auld country many more times and is looking forward to her next trip, possibly as soon as 2020. On one of her many trips to Scotland, Melanie had the honour of meeting Princess Anne (The Princess Royal) at the orphanage where her father was raised.

Encouraged to study Highland Dancing, she competed locally. Her final competition took place during the summer of 1969, a few short months after her father’s death, at the 1000 Islands Highland Games. In that last event, she won the Silver Medal in the Sword Dance.

Melanie began her professional writing career in non-fiction. One of her articles graced the cover of an international publication. At the same time, she continued to develop her writing voice: short stories (both fiction and non-fiction) as well as novel-length work.

Since her debut novel was published in the summer of 2012, Melanie has written seven more books (including two for children) and released the second edition of her first.

It Happened in Gastown is Melanie’s ninth book, and the second in the “It Happened” series of sweet romances set in picturesque locations across Canada.

Her short story, Cole’s Notes, has been re-edited and is available as a free read through her website and blog.

When not sequestered in her cave writing, plotting or editing, you’ll find her out and about. Favourite haunts (pardon the pun) are cemeteries (the older, the better) since they have more character, and perhaps a few more characters. She also loves travel and photography.

Melanie and fellow authors, Wendy H. Jones and Chris Longmuir, make up the infamous trio – the Princesses of Pandemonium.

You can engage with Melanie on the following platforms:

Monday, 11 November 2019

Time for an Update!

This is not the first time I've updated some of my books but this time, I'm updating every single published e-book and creating a new print version of each.

Courtesy of Pixabay

It's a good idea to update every so often, especially if only using e-books as that's relatively easy to do. But I've made the decision to keep control of all my published books, now that I have all the rights back, and to do it properly.

So the 'front and back matter' of each is being updated to include my new website address, the full list of published books and anything else that needed updating. I've also bought my own ISBN numbers for the full length books and tween novels. At the moment, they are all being published as paperbacks on Amazon - as that's the most straightforward to do.

But I'll also be uploading them to Ingram Spark for wider distribution, once they roll out their new facility. I'll keep the novellas and short story collections only on Amazon at the moment, although they're also in paperback. With Ingram Spark, it allows the books to be ordered in bookshops, from suppliers and by libraries. Hopefully, I'll work out how to format the covers for I.S. by then!

As I go through them, I'm also updating a few covers, especially those I wasn't happy with before. The idea is that once I've done all this, I can forget about the published books, apart from promoting them now and then, and concentrate on what comes next.

I have at least two unfinished novels, one of which is a complete departure and would probably become a series. Once I decide which to tackle first, I still have the option of sending them out to an agent or publisher. At least all the other books will be available meantime. I'm still writing occasional short stories, articles and poetry as well, so I need to get more organised.

No doubt I'll post more updates when everything is ready. Meanwhile, I've blogged about the Joy of Reading Poetry Together (with my granddaughter) on my new website, if anyone is interested!