Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Out and About

It's been a while since I posted anything and can't believe how quickly the summer is rushing through - though I always look forward to autumn! We've had a lovely few days with sister-in-law and her husband visiting us from Wales and it's a great opportunity to get out each day to explore and sample coffee shops and restaurants in between the sights.

We're so used to having all the seasons on one day here that we just dress for any eventuality and it stayed dry for some of the time at least. Although we can venture further afield next time, this visit was all about seeing us, the new house, family and easy to reach places of interest. Needless to say, much chatting and eating had to be slotted in.

I'm so concerned with taking photos of the scenery and so on that I tend to forget to take more of the people. Our wee granddaughter loved the attention of another aunty and uncle on their day out with us and drew a special picture of the day as a souvenir for them. Children always add such fun to an outing and we enjoyed watching a seal that kept popping its head out of the water to nosey around. Unfortunately I didn't fetch the camera quickly enough to snap it.

Now that we're getting back to normal, apart from a few small things to fix in the house, I need to get back into work mode very soon - in between lunch with a friend yesterday and the Society of Authors in Scotland AGM and lunch next week! Does anyone else find it hard to concentrate at this time of year?


Monday, 24 July 2017

Writing on Trains

I've mentioned more than once on here how much I enjoy writing with pen and paper while out and about, usually while enjoying a coffee and cake in one cafe or another. I also love writing on trains which is fortunate as I now have a forty minute journey each way when I want to meet friends in Glasgow.

With a couple of recent Afternoon Tea outings for friends' birthdays and exploring different places to lunch with another close friend, I've been in the city roughly once a week since we moved. It's a great way for me to get on with the current novella I'm trying to finish. Somehow, the words flow better with pen and paper, or because I'm away from the desk.

The only problem now, is actually getting it typed onto the computer! I was supposed to be doing that this morning and have sorted out so many other things that it's now almost lunch time. However, at least the words are written down and I'm pretty sure it must be close to a thousand in my notebook - at least I'm hoping it's that far on. It's also a good way to do a first edit while typing the handwritten version.

We had a lovely walk in the drizzly rain at Cramond yesterday and it was all the more atmospheric for the dull day, as well as being quieter. Also discovered there is a cosy little village inn which looked most appealing - we'll time it better so we can have lunch there next time!


Monday, 17 July 2017

New Scottish Collection

Now that we're more settled here again after all the decorating, new carpets and deciding where all the pictures were going (too many!) we're making a point of visiting interesting places on at least one day at the weekend. Also getting the garden a bit more manageable and very grateful it's easier than our previous one, although some of it has grown a bit out of control!

I'm trying to get my writing projects gradually organised, although I always work better in the autumn and winter. The first to be completed is my new Scottish Collection of historical non-fiction articles. I've been a contributor to The Highlander magazine in America for many years and I thought it a bit of a waste having all these articles lying in a computer file. I've just had another article accepted by the editor (not in this collection) so will probably write more in between the fiction.

I have now put together fifteen articles, many of them previously published, in the hope that others might find some of them interesting. They are all about different aspects of Scottish heritage and history, from Robert Burns and James Watt, to castles and steam trains and such like. More than one has inspired my fiction, or ideas for future stories.

I always provide my own photographs as illustration for the published articles and I've used one of those, Dumbarton Castle, for my cover. Some of the other photos are now on my website, if you want to have a look at them. I might add more once I've reduced the high resolution they had needed for the magazine print. The kindle Scottish Collection is now available on Amazon worldwide and I might eventually get around to publishing a print version if I think anyone would want to read it.

Now it's a matter of keeping up the momentum and trying to finish the next couple of projects, both of which have been badly neglected of late. At least I'm sorting all the outstanding work into some kind of order and only need the discipline and time to finish them!


Sunday, 9 July 2017

Joan Fleming and the Magic of Mull Series

I’m delighted to welcome friend and writing colleague, Joan Fleming, to the Reading and Writing blog again. Joan’s lovely books are set on the beautiful Scottish island of Mull and are an ideal read for summer. The third in the series, Daughter of Mull, is now available and Joan is kindly sharing the inspiration behind them. First a little about the book.

Daughter of Mull

Anna Ballantyne is devastated when her hopes of meeting her birth mother are dashed. Determined to discover the reason for her mother’s refusal to meet her, Anna decides to track her down on the Scottish Island of Mull, where she lives. As a freelance researcher, she is able to use a commission to investigate the story of The Lords of the Isles as cover for a trip to Mull, and she leaves the flat in Glasgow that she shares with the owner, Roddie Fraser, to journey to the island.

But complications soon follow. She finds herself falling under the spell of Finn Ericson who works on the island as an unofficial guide. When Roddie turns up, he makes it clear that his feelings for Anna are more serious than she realised.

With her personal life in turmoil, torn between Finn and Roddie, and confused about the value of pursuing a mother who does not want to meet her, Anna has to make some important decisions.

Captivated by the island, she wonders if there is a future for her with Finn on Mull? Or is she ignoring the whispering of her heart that it is Roddie she truly loves?

Daughter of Mull is available from Amazon and in all e-formats via Tirgearr Publishing

Thank you, Rosemary, for inviting me onto your blog today to write about the inspiration for the novels in my Magic of Mull series. Daughter of Mull, recently published by Tirgearr Publishing, is the third book in the series.

So why have I set these books on the Scottish Island of Mull?

I was born, brought up and educated in Edinburgh, and it was not until I met my husband at university that I developed an interest in Mull. My future father-in-law was born on the island, which gave him the right to call himself a Mulleach. Although, like many of the local men, he went to sea and became a ship’s captain, his twin sister, my husband’s aunt, remained on the island. We visited often, and I gradually fell in love with Mull and also with her smaller sister, the Isle of Iona. The family lived in Fionnphort, from where we could look directly across the Sound of Iona to the famous Abbey a short distance away.

As I had married into a Mull family, over the years, I met many of the islanders and was invited into their homes. Their life-style was so different to that of the people of the cities of Edinburgh or Glasgow (‘There’s no hurry in Mull.’), that I felt I wanted to capture that contrast in my writing.

Not only was I charmed by the inhabitants of the island, however, I was also captivated by its haunting beauty: the landscapes – and the seascapes – are breathtaking to see. A new, awe-inspiring vista meets you every time you change direction as you travel round the island. Added to the friendliness of the people and the magnificent views on Mull, there is a certain something in the air which I can only describe as magic. It is a combination of the way in which this island affects your senses – the scent of burning peats, the taste of salt in the air, the call of the birds circling above the sea which at times can barely be heard as the waves dash against the shoreline.

Of course, like all islands, it has its myths and legends, but perhaps this ‘magic’ is better appreciated by its absence. When you return to the mainland after a visit to Mull, you are aware that something you captured on the island is no longer available to you: that’s the magic of Mull.

In my books, I hope to convey this magic, and show how it interacts with the characters I have created.

It’s been a pleasure to be on your blog, Rosemary. Thank you once again.

You’re very welcome, Joan, and thank you for sharing such an evocative post!

About the Author

I was born and educated in Edinburgh. After graduating in Modern Languages at the University of Edinburgh, I became a teacher of French and German, mainly in schools in the West of Scotland. Since leaving teaching, I now have more time to devote to writing.

I’d been writing for pleasure for many years, and decided to join Erskine Writers, a supportive group which has members at all stages of their writing development – from published novelists to complete beginners. This group is affiliated to the Scottish Association of Writers. I am a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association (RNA) and also of the Society of Authors.

I write short stories, children’s stories and articles. My first novel What the Future Holds was published in 2014 by Tirgearr Publishing. I had submitted it to the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA and in 2015 it was a finalist for their Joan Hessayon Award. It became the first book in a series (Magic of Mull) when my second novel, Spirit of the Island (Magic of Mull series #2), was published in 2015.

Daughter of Mull (Magic of Mull series #3) followed in June 2017.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

From Calm to Chaos

Well, I was obviously a bit premature with one of my previous posts about resuming normal service! From the relative calm of getting everything into some kind of order after the big move, we then descended into absolute chaos. First it was five days of the painter, and that wasn't even every single room (but most of them), then he was followed the next week by the carpet fitter - again not every room as some are laminated, thankfully. But it did involve shifting furniture and clothes twice more.

To say we were exhausted and floundering between rooms is an understatement but husband kept assuring me it would be worth getting it all done at once. I seem to remember that happening many years ago in our previous house when we had an extension built, new kitchen and bathroom and new windows all happening at the same time. I didn't like it then and still can't stand all the disruption. I was going to say the only room not disrupted was my lovely study but it became one of the dumping rooms and I could hardly get near the computer.

Anyway, husband was right and we're on the final stretch (I hope) with the new bed coming this week. Can't believe all the little things we need though, plus some other small jobs to be done, then it will be the garden... It's partly because we had held off renewing things long before we moved so now have to renew lots of it all at once. Then there was my new desktop computer (after years of husband's old laptop) - thought that would be straightforward but ran into one problem after another, most of which are now sorted, hopefully.


As if that wasn't enough, our d-in-law had some very bad family news in the midst of it all. So glad we've moved nearer now, which was the whole idea, as it's been an absolute pleasure seeing more of our lovely wee granddaughter and being of help when needed. Yesterday, we managed to have a great family morning out together when they introduced us to pretty Cramond. We'll definitely be back there as there's a good beach, and a causeway to walk across to the small island at low tide. Saw a few other places on the way home that we'll start exploring.

My only regret is that I didn't manage to meet up with blogging friend Patsy this time as it was right in the middle of our worst week, but I'm sure there will be a next time!


Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Organising Books and Writing

I did mean to update the blog once a week but I'm running to catch up now! At least moving house and area is a good excuse and with the painter starting mid-week, we're having to move things around a bit. Can't wait until life becomes more settled again, although we're definitely enjoying exploring some of the interesting venues around our new area at the weekends.

Most of my books are now happily ensconced on their new bookshelves in my lovely bright study. I've had to hide a lot of my OU study books and information magazines and such like in the cupboard but they are very accessible and that allows me to use the shelves for the books I want to keep near me. I have a lot more books downstairs in an old fashioned bookcase in the lounge and some small hardbacks waiting for their special shelves to be attached to a wall somewhere.

I'm also needing a new computer which hopefully will arrive by next week and then I can get new Office and anti-virus installed. Meanwhile, I decided to organise all my writing. I don't know if anyone else has so much in their files, some of mine going back to when I first started writing and submitting in the early 1990s! Honestly, I get fed up seeing some of the same old 'rubbish' - at least those I've never managed to rewrite or place.

So I've started a new A5 notebook for recording everything and hope to sort the wheat from the chaff and delete anything that is unusable - such as a few files with nothing but random sentences that are definitely not worth keeping. I expect it will help me to feel more in control once it's done, especially before I have to transport everything to the new computer - and to Windows 10 (gulp) instead of Windows 7 that I love at the moment.

But will it help me to actually get on with the writing? Watch this space. I struggle at times with having too many works in progress instead of concentrating on one at a time so perhaps dealing with any finished work first will free my mind for the rest!


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Pleasure of Random Books

I've been a fan of choosing random books by authors new to me ever since reading several great novels from cruise ship libraries - in fact I make a point of avoiding authors I already know while on holiday. However, at home I generally make a more considered choice, either authors I love or new books that appeal in some way.

Then on our latest visits to areas around our new home, I came across two excellent little bookshops that I will certainly revisit occasionally. The first was in historic Queensferry, where we managed to explore more of this interesting place which sits at one end of the Forth Railway Bridge. The bookshop is right at the other end of the narrow, cobbled main street and I vaguely remembered seeing it once before when visiting from a holiday in Fife.

The Ferry Fair Bookshop is one of those fascinating little second hand shops that contains a great selection of fiction and non-fiction, and everything else in print. It's a great idea as it's run as a charity, providing funds for the annual Ferry Fair Festival. Book lovers can leave a donation for any books chosen and can donate their own books to the shop. There is usually an interesting volunteer to chat to while browsing, if nothing appeals that day. I resisted taking any books this time but I'll need to make sure to give away some more of mine before visiting again!

The other, more traditional little bookshop is in Linlithgow, another town rich with history, not least because Mary Queen of Scots was born in Linlithgow Palace. I'll write more about the history another time, when I've had more chance to explore. On this occasion, I was looking out for the bookshop as I knew it had a good reputation. It pulled me right in, especially when I saw it was called Far from the Madding Crowd (a Thomas Hardy book I like), then I noticed it had been awarded the title of best little bookshop in Scotland!

I didn't have enough time to devote to serious browsing on this occasion, and husband would have run out of patience eventually even though he liked it too, but what a great shop. I immediately felt at home and will certainly return. What did catch my eye, however, was something I've never come across before. In front of the desk was a large basket filled with brown paper-wrapped books. Some were hardback, some paperback and the only clue to what lay beneath the brown paper was a hand-written snippet of blurb on the front.

How exciting! All the hardbacks were one price and the paperbacks another, regardless of size. Of course, I had to buy one. I've never been so intrigued at choosing a random book before and it was such fun reading the blurbs. The blurb is usually more important to me anyway so I didn't mind in the least not seeing the cover or author's name. I do agree with the friendly girl at the desk that many people probably choose books by their cover, especially one as pretty as this.

I handed over the very reasonable cost and chose my book, excited to keep the anticipation going until we got home. I was not disappointed. The blurb immediately drew me in and I loved the cover when it was revealed. I haven't heard of the author (Denis Thériault) and the story, The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman, is set in Montreal - unusual, but it happens to be a place we've visited. So this is an experiment I'm keen to repeat sometime. I'm greatly enjoying the story and the little Haiku scattered throughout the pages are an added bonus as it's a poetry form I love.

Only problem now? I definitely have to keep an eye on how many new books I bring into the house, now that most of the boxes I brought with me have been emptied and the contents are on my new bookshelves! I have been warned...


Monday, 22 May 2017

Normal Service Resuming

Well, we're now getting settled into our lovely new home and already enjoying the change. Not only are we getting used to a new house but also a new area and one that has taken me some distance from my beloved River Clyde! However, I'm a positive person and have adapted well to being more central. There is lovely countryside within close distance and lots of new places to explore, as well as being a short stroll away from a very good cycle path for bikes or walking. Might get a bit fitter at last.

The main benefit, of course, is being nearer to our grandchild and her parents - we've already appreciated the joy of that and look forward to seeing more of them, and being of use in their busy lives. Another plus is feeling more connected in every way - near shops and transport, within easy train journey to Edinburgh and only slightly longer to Glasgow. Our internet connection is also super fast compared to what we suffered in our previous small village at the top of a hill!

Needless to say, we've been spending most of our time getting the house organised, but neither of us has slackened with that and it now looks like home. Only some decorating and a few minor things to do and we'll be able to concentrate on work again, or enjoy getting out and about in my case.

At the weekend, we had our first outing from here and called at South Queensferry for a walk only to discover the car parks full since a charity abseiling even was taking place. We've visited here before and can now more easily return on a quieter, sunnier morning. I managed to get a snap of part of the newest road bridge (not quite finished yet) from further along - the one above is the famous Forth Rail Bridge.

We drove on to Hopetoun House - one of the top venues on my list of places to visit. I'll be going back to explore the house and gardens another day but we did have coffee and cake in the converted Stable Tearooms then stopped at their amazing Farm Shop where much of their own produce is on sale. Can't wait to learn all about this magnificent 17th century stately home and I'll no doubt write a proper post about it eventually. Couldn't get a decent photo of the whole house as they were clearing the grounds after a huge outdoor event the evening before.

Surprisingly, I even managed to send off two short stories in the midst of everything and, thanks to husband and son, my new study is up and running with most of the bookcases in place (and their contents). Been feeling a bit guilty about the number of heavy books I brought with me but they've been really good about it!

I hope to get back to blogging at least once a week again from now on and can't wait to get all my writing and ideas organised at last - at least that's the plan. Watch this space...


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Around the West of Scotland

We’ve been enjoying visiting some of our favourite places around parts of the west coast of Scotland before the big move a little further east. Having grown up beside the River Clyde, my heart will always belong to this particular area and we shall certainly return now and then. Some of it will continue to feature in my stories and articles – in fact sometimes a little distance helps to focus on the details lodged in memories and photographs.

I might manage another short post before we lose the Internet while we get connected in our new abode. Fortunately, I have lots of interesting and scenic places lined up to visit in our new area so I'm looking forward to the adventure!


Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Scottish-themed Novels with Lizzie Lamb

I’m delighted to welcome popular author, Lizzie Lamb, to the Reading and Writing blog today. Lizzie originally hails from Scotland which is very evident in her entertaining Scottish-themed novels, and I love the humour she brings to each story no matter the stakes for her appealing heroes and heroines. Lizzie tells us a bit more about her settings and inspiration below as she introduces her new novel, Girl in the Castle - available now to pre-order from Amazon worldwide.

Why I write Scottish-themed novels

Thank you for having me on your blog, Rosemary, I hope your followers will enjoy reading my post about why I write Scottish-themed contemporary novels. (It’s a pleasure, Lizzie!)

My interest in kilted heroes began as a child, reared (courtesy of Saturday morning cinema) on the exploits of highlanders in such movies as Rob Roy, Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Ghost Goes West and, sob, Grey Friar’s Bobby. After the movie (or fil-um, as we pronounced it) we’d re-enact Rob Roy’s leap and subsequent escape through the waterfall, or the scene from Kidnapped, where Davie Balfour is almost murdered by his evil uncle. Our dogs were dragooned into being "Bobby", loyally guarding his master's grave in Grey Friar's kirk, Edinburgh. And I longed to be Flora Macdonald, helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape over the sea to Skye and away from the Redcoats. Tales of brave Covenanters and Jacobites stayed with me as I grew older and read Scottish-themed novels: The Jacobite Trilogy by D.K. Broster (falling in love with Ewen Cameron), The Lymond Chronicles (who could resist Francis Crawford?) 

More recently, the Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon featuring uber-hero Jamie Fraser has fired my imagination. For me, he is the ultimate kilted hero and has it in spades – looks, sense of honour, loyalty, is sex-on-legs and can speak Gaelic. I’ll even admit to subscribing to Amazon Prime so I could watch the TV Series: OUTLANDER.

Readers, I have discovered, are drawn to the mystical, dreamy highlands of Scotland as the backdrop to contemporary romance. As a writer, born and bred in Scotland, I heartily agree with that sentiment. Tall, Dark and Kilted, features a sexy laird Ruairi (Roo-ary) Urquhart who has to fight to safeguard his land and inheritance. In Scotch on the Rocks, kilt-wearing American, Brodie arrives on Eilean na Sgairbh on the back of a storm wind and turns my heroine's life upside down.

In my latest novel Girl in the Castle the heroine - a disgraced academic - hides away in a castle in the highlands while she sorts out her life. There’s a phantom piper, a lost Jacobite treasure and a love affair to keep my readers interested. Here’s the blurb in the form of a book trailer.

Romance readers simply love a novel which features a man in a kilt. The element of ‘costume’ (ie the kilt), especially in a contemporary setting, removes the hero and the reader from the everyday and transports them into the realm of fantasy and romance. And, in the case of a kilted hero, there is also the tease of whether he’s followed tradition and gone ‘commando’, or not! My novels seem to hold a particular resonance for ex-pat Scots in USA, Australia, New Zealand and Canada and sell well in those countries. Born in Scotland, I try to write with complete authenticity about Scotland - the land and its people.

The kilted hero in my novels is, generally, aristocratic – a laird, at the very least. And, while he does not have to work to earn his daily crust, he carries the weight of his inheritance and the welfare of his tenants and family on his shoulders. He often has emotional scars which only the heroine can heal. My novels have a happy ending and readers can close the book with a satisfied sigh knowing that all the obstacles which have prevented the hero and heroine from leading a happy life have been resolved.

I hope you have enjoyed learning a little about what drives me to write Scottish-themed romances. You can learn more about them and me on my website and via my other links. Do get in touch as I love hearing from my readers.

Thanks for a great post, Lizzie!

After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided it was time to leave the chalk face and pursue her first love: writing. In 2006 she joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, honed her craft and wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed a year later by Boot Camp Bride (2013) and Scotch on the Rocks (2015). Girl in the Castle is released this month.

Scotch on the Rocks was a finalist in the prestigious Exeter novel prize. Lizzie is a founder member of the New Romantics Press along with three other members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

If you have a dream - go for it. Life is not a rehearsal.

Find out more about Lizzie and her novels on her Amazon Page, Goodreads and twitter: @lizzie_lamb