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!

Monday, 28 October 2019

Reading Nostalgia

Although I have over 100 e-books on my kindle and loads of paperbacks still to read, now and then I feel like an old favourite; a comfort read perhaps.

One evening, my glance fell on a smart little hardback edition of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express that I'd bought in a charity shop long ago. It was exactly what I wanted to read as I've always loved her books.

I'm sure there must be few people who have never seen at least one version of the film, even if they haven't read the book, and I was hoping it wouldn't be too familiar to read it again. I needn't have worried. I enjoyed every page, and there was something more satisfying in reading about each clue as Poirot put his famous 'little grey cells' to use.

It was also a good lesson on structure, if read as a writer, but for me it was pure pleasure reading one of the crime queen's most famous novels. It helps if you enjoy fiction set in the golden age of crime, while the setting of course doesn't come much more glamourous than the Orient Express.

I was lucky enough to travel on it some years ago and had no problem imagining I was part of the set for a 1930s mystery. Gorgeously decadent, with delicious food, ornate d├ęcor and a grand piano. I need better photos, so I'm still trying to convince husband we should have another journey and blow the retirement fund! The first photo is on the Pullman coach on the UK part of the journey and the one above is of our Steward on the Venice-Simplon Orient Express.

Incidentally, I remember seeing an updated version of the film on TV a few years back, with David Suchet as Poirot ( my favourite in the role). It was a bit darker than previous versions but it was very close to the book. I must look out for it if it's shown again.

My 'must-read' is usually Jane Eyre, or perhaps Rebecca. I might revisit one of those after I catch up on some new books!

Do you sometimes have a yearning for reading nostalgia, or a favourite book you like to revisit?


Sunday, 20 October 2019

Autumn Break

As usual, we've had a little autumn break while the schools have been off, especially when we had no grandparent duties this time (although I always love going on outings with my wee granddaughter)!

On one of the best days, we went further into Fife, to the lovely harbour town of Anstruther, famous for its fish and chips. With all that daily fresh fishing catch, we had to sample it of course. I went for the special recipe battered haddock while husband prefers breaded fish. A calorie-loaded treat!

Another day trip we had was to Edinburgh, when we then walked for miles and miles to Leith. I didn't even know there was such a big shopping mall at the Ocean terminal, where the (former) Royal Yacht Britannia is berthed. We passed on the ship but had a delicious Italian meal before getting the much-appreciated bus back up to Edinburgh for the train!

Sometimes all we need are days when we can decided to do nothing much in particular, rather than rushing out each morning. All in all, it was a good break and gave us time to take stock of our respective work loads.

Now, it's full-speed ahead getting all my e-books updated and putting them all into print. A laborious but enjoyable task which will take a while yet. Can't wait to get my hands on the brand new paperback version of them all.


Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Trick or Treat October Book Bonanza!

Trick or Treat! October is the month to celebrate all things paranormal, supernatural, suspenseful and mystical. If you’re like me, you’ll want to accept this very special invitation to join the festivities at N. N. Light’s Book Heaven’s first annual Trick or TreatBook Bonanza.

35 authors share what they’d dress up as for Halloween as well as 42 books featured plus a chance to win one of the following:

Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $50 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $25 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $15 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card
Enter to win a $10 Amazon (US) or Barnes and Noble Gift Card

I’m thrilled to be a part of this event. My book, Highcrag, will be featured on October 3rd. Wait until you read what my Halloween costume would be. 

Bookmark this event and tell your friends. It’s open internationally and runs October 1-31

Drawing will be held on November 1. 

Friday, 20 September 2019

Book Launch and New Website!

Today is the day! My new Scottish full-length novel, Highcrag, is being launched on Facebook. Please come and join the fun, if you can. Lots of virtual food and drink, film clips, music and competitions.

Highcrag is available in e-book at the moment but the paperback will follow soon.

Amazon US

New Website

I've been forced into creating a completely new website, after having my original one for so many years I can't remember when. Way back in the days when websites were becoming popular.

I'm delighted with the new company and have been having fun (!) setting it all up from scratch. It's still a work in progress as I'll no doubt be messing about with it for the next week or so but at least it's taking shape. You can see it here, if interested.


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!