Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Highland Lass Launch Party!

A huge welcome to the online launch party for my new Scottish novel, The Highland Lass, which is released today by Crooked Cat Publishing and is now available in e-book first across Amazon. The launch party is also happening on Facebook today, if you're on there.

This is the 'book of my heart' as it is mainly set around my own area in the west coast of Scotland and I've rewritten and redrafted it many times over the last few years until I was happy with it. It also received a very good report from the RNA New Writers' Scheme before I was a full member, but I rather neglected it for a while. However, it's been worth the wait to see it now published by Crooked Cat!

First of all, pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable and enjoy a cup of coffee and a yummy pastry while you have look at what's coming up.

Here's the trailer I made which you might enjoy as an alternate blurb - at least it has pictures!

And if you prefer a slightly fuller blurb, here it is:

Eilidh Campbell returns to her Scottish roots from America with one main aim: to discover the identity of her real father. But her mother’s past in Inverclyde is a mystery with family secrets, a book of Robert Burns’ poems with a hidden letter and a photograph link to the Holy Loch at Dunoon when the American Navy were in residence. Was her father the American naval officer in the photo?

Staying with her childhood friend, Kirsty, while searching for answers, Eilidh begins to fall in love with handsome Scot Lewis Grant, but just how free is he? Together they trace the story of Highland Mary and Robert Burns, with its echoes to her mother’s story. In short historical chapters, Highland Mary tells her story from 1785/6 in her own fictionalised voice. From Dunoon, to Ayrshire, with a couple of scenes in Glasgow and Loch Lomond, and culminating in Greenock, Eilidh finds the past is closer than she realises.

I'm going to be giving away a few small Scottish prizes today so let's start with the first question to win a packet of Scottish wild flower seeds (two winners).

Question 1: What is the national emblem of Scotland? (Hint: it's not whisky or tartan!) leave your answer in the comments to be in with a chance.

How about a little snack? These are the famous Tunnocks Tea Cakes - delicious mallow covered in milk chocolate on a biscuit base! Have a glass of juice with it while I look out some Scottish music.

Amongst the venues Eilidh and Lewis visit during the course of the story, one of the most significant for them as their relationship progresses is Loch Lomond. This is a beautiful song to go with the beautiful scenery.

Time for another question to win a tartan pen from Glasgow or a ladies tartan handkerchief - and neither is the tartan in the question!

Question 2: What are the two main colours in the Black Watch Tartan?

For those who are ready for something stronger, how about raising your glass with a wee dram, or sparkling Champagne. And maybe some chocolate to go with it, or a piece of home made fruit cake.


While you imbibe, here's a short excerpt from the modern part of the The Highland Lass when Eilidh first meets Lewis Grant:

Finding the memory box had only added to her questions. Apart from the old black journal handed down through the years, and the photograph of her mother with an unknown naval man, it was the note hidden inside a small book of Robert Burns’ poems that had convinced her she must come back to Scotland. Part letter, part verse, the words were branded on her mind.
To my own Highland Lass,                         

Although I loved you deeply, I never loved you wisely,
And though we now must part, you are ever in my heart.

I’ll never stop thinking of you, or loving you both. It was never meant to happen this way. You are so much stronger than I am.

Yours for aye and aye,
At first, she thought she had found a rare letter from Robert Burns. Then the flowing black script made her hesitate. It was too modern and the verse too amateurish. But there seemed little doubt that whoever wrote the letter may well have been her natural father.
    “You do know we’re in the air now, don’t you?”
    Hearing the amused, rich Scottish tone, Eilidh frowned and opened her eyes. She hadn’t paid much attention to her travelling companions, apart from a cursory glance to acknowledge they existed; she’d been too busy worrying about take-off. She glared at the owner of the voice, indignant at her thoughts being interrupted. For all he knew she might have been in a deep sleep.

And now for another question to win one of two Celtic bookmarks.

Question 3: Which famous Scottish writer wrote The Waverley novels?

Talking of the Waverley - this is the name of our famous paddle steamer that sails up and down the River Clyde in summer, and further afield. Lewis mentions it to Eilidh at one point as it sometimes leaves from Greenock on its way to Dunoon or Rothesay or other island. One of the other elements in the novel is the mystery surrounding Eilidh's mother and the father she has never known.

During the 1960s and 70s and beyond, the American Navy was based in the Holy Loch and the families descended on the small seaside town of Dunoon. Lots of young men and women, like Eilidh's mother, enjoyed the touch of glamour with the dances both sides of the river - and this provides an improtant strand in the story.

While you imagine sailing on The Waverley, you can listen to some rousing Scottish pipe music.

Do we need some more cakes yet? Here you go.


Alternate short chapters of The Highland Lass are set in 1785-6 and are told in Highland Mary's own fictionalised voice. She is one of Robert Burns' great loves, partly because their love was short-lived. I've always been fascinated by her story as she's buried in my home town, Greenock.


Here's a short excerpt from the historical part of the novel, when Mary is living in Argyll before she goes to Ayrshire where she will meet Burns:

They say our land is so green because of the vast amount of rainfall but that’s a small
price to pay for such perfection. Besides, I love the rain and its softness against my skin.
One of my favourite games, when I have time, is to kirtle up my long skirts and run against
a light downpour, letting it finger my hair until the strands lie flat against my scalp. Ma
thinks I am soft in the head for liking the rain so much, but it makes me feel clean inside
    “You’ll be catching your death of cold one of these days, my girl. I’ve never seen such
nonsense. I’ll be finding you more work to do if you have a notion for wasting time.” That’s
what Ma says most days.
    There is always more work to be done. With milking the cows, cleaning out the byre,
feeding the pigs and hens, or helping Ma with the baking or looking after the little ones, it is
a rare thing to find a bit of peace. Is that not the trouble with families? Maybe it would be
good to escape for a while, to see what it is like somewhere else. My brother, Robert, is to
go away soon, to the town of Greenock away down on the side of the River Clyde where he
will learn his trade in the great shipyards. At least distant family members live there and
he’ll be glad to be doing men’s work in a busy town. Perhaps I’ll be able to visit him once
he is settled, and become part of the busyness for a time.
    “Mary! Where are you, lass? We have need of you in here for a moment.”
    There! I am summoned to be told my fate. What shall it be? A dairymaid or such like, I
have no doubt.
    “Yes, Ma, I’m here.”
    They are sitting at the big wooden table in the kitchen where Pa is drinking his wee dram
of whisky and Ma is sorting through her sewing cotton and needles for the never-ending
mending. We all grow so quickly that hems are always being taken up for the younger ones
or let down for Robert and me.
    “Pa has secured a post for you, Mary, at a big house in Ayrshire, where a Mr Hamilton
has need of a nursemaid for a while. It will be good for you to get away from these small
parts and mayhap you’ll make a life for yourself down there.”
    Ma’s voice is brusque, but I’m not deceived. That’s her way when she does not want to
show too much emotion, and I hear the slight wistfulness in her voice as though she wished
she could have such a chance to escape.

Each of the modern chapters in the novel is headed with a couple of verses from different Burns poems. One of the most beautiful songs with such lovely sentiments is My Luv's Like a Red, Red Rose. This video is particularly good as it shows a variety of images of Burns and some of his loves.

Time for another question to win a copy of this little book of Robert Burns poems.

Question 4: Who did Burns eventually marry?

I think I've made you work hard enough, so here's a fun quiz that even has answers. To win the final prizes of a magnetic notebook (two winners) or a fridge magnet with one of our Scottish dialect words - Dreich - tell me what the dialect word for child is. Click on the link for the easy peasy quiz!

Easy Peasy Quiz

I'm also featured on Terry Odell's Blog today - please drop by if you have time and find out which new colour I would be!

Well, I hope I've stirred your interest in The Highland Lass. If you should wish to find out what happens to all three women in the three different periods: Eilidh, her mother (Mary), and Highland Mary, you'll find the book available on Amazon UKUS, Canada and Australia and elsewhere and I'd be very grateful to hear what you think of it!

Don't forget to leave the answers to the questions in the comments along with your email address and tell me which prize you would like to win - I'll get my husband to choose the winners at random.

Thank you so much for helping me to celebrate the launch of my new novel.


Joanna said...

I've thoroughly enjoyed this lovely post, Rosemary, especially the beautiful music and your stunning trailer.

I know I'm going to enjoy The Highland Lass enormously - the excerpts make it really enticing. Highland Mary comes across as a very intriguing and distinctive character - I do love historical chapters interspersed with present day narrative.

Enjoy every minute of your launch party and here's to the certain success of The Highland Lass! xxx

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Joanna - I really appreciate all your support and I do hope you enjoy the novel!

Patsy said...

I popped in earlier, but didn't want to speak with my mouth full of yummy pastries. I see you have meringues out now, reckon I could manage one of them. They're mostly nice clean Scottish air anyway, aren't they?

Wishing you lots of success with The Highland Lass.

The answer to 4 is Mrs Burns!

Dreich is one of my husband's favourite words, can I give you an answer from him to go in the draw for the magnet? He reckons it's bairn as that's what his Scots mother called him. Mind you, I've heard the things she calls his dad and I don't think they're dialect for husband.

Patsy said...

btw, I got all of the easy peasy quiz right except for being 1 million out for the population. I've awarded myself some shortbread.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Hi Patsy - thanks for the great comments! Yes, of course I'll enter your husband for the Dreich magnet - it's one of my favourite Scottish words too. Haven't put that one on FB just yet.

Oscar said...

I enjoyed your book launch. Very creative.

Maria said...

Sorry, I'm really late, tough day, but I'm here now, is there any cake left?

Congratulations on launching your latest book, you've made it sound enticing, I'll certainly check it out in the next few days. :-)

Wendy's Writing said...

I am mortified that I missed the party! Let me stay and help clear up and I wish you all the very best for The Highland Lass. I've leRnt a lot this morning - fabulous photos.

Patsy said...

Don't suppose there's any fruit cake left?

Frances Garrood said...

Congratulations, Rosemary, and all the very best of luck with the new novel. That was some party!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thank you very much, Oscar!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks, Maria - good of you to comment!

Thanks for coming over, Wendy - and for helping with the clearing up!

Many thanks, Frances - you should have seen it on Facebook where the official launch party was held!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Thanks, Maria - good of you to comment!

Thanks for coming over, Wendy - and for helping with the clearing up!

Many thanks, Frances - you should have seen it on Facebook where the official launch party was held!