Sunday, 15 January 2017

Alphonse Mucha Exhibition

Last weekend, I finally got to the Alphonse Mucha Exhibition, ‘In Quest of Beauty’, at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. I’d almost forgotten about it and it ends mid-February. As many of you will know, I love art as well as music and literature, and it often inspires my writing, plus I’m always happy to visit one of my favourite venues in Glasgow.

Czech-born Mucha became famous in the latter part of the 19th century when he began designing advertising posters for the famous actress Sarah Bernhardt. The exhibition has a wonderful selection of Mucha’s art which inspired the beautiful Art Nouveau style of images and design.

After returning to Bohemia in 1910, he started creating his many paintings that made up his Slav Epic, some of which are on show. I was surprised to discover, however, that his work was hidden away during WWII and Mucha was largely forgotten until rediscovered in the early 1960s.

As well as the art work hanging on the various walls, a few glass fronted cabinets contained other items from the period, such as original perfume phials and a Houbigant perfume bottle from 1899. I was fascinated by this as I remember loving Houbigant Quelques Fleurs many, many moons ago, although I don’t remember the actual scent now!

Another cabinet held an original copy of Mucha’s Documents Décoratifs portfolio from 1902 which contains 72 plates of his decorative art, showcasing his varied design work. But it is his tall Art Nouveau images of beautiful women that draw the eye, such these four paintings that each depict a different flower: Rose, Iris, Carnation and Lily. They were seemingly inspired by the popular Victorian book, The Language of Flowers.

There was even a little fun boudoir-style area where visitors could don some of the clothes and jewellery and recline on the sofa. I thought it perhaps resembled the kind of dressing space Sarah Bernhardt once enjoyed. Unfortunately, my husband had gone off for a wander outside so I would have felt mighty silly dressing up with no one to photograph or laugh at me. Shame as I love dressing up when I get the chance!

All in all, it was a lovely start to our 2017 weekend outings as husband then took me into Glasgow for a delicious Chinese meal at one of our favourite restaurants. Hope the year continues as it began!


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Motivation for 2017

I can’t believe we’re already a week into the New Year and I suspect the rest of 2017 will fly by as quickly. So all the more reason to get organised and decide what takes priority work-wise over the next few months. I’m still trying to decide on my plan of action in readiness for tomorrow's writing session, but first I think we all probably need a little motivation to get started and keep going.

Amongst the various newsletters and videos I watch now and then, a few usually stand out and offer such wisdom and motivation that they are worth sharing. Here a few of my recent favourites.

Laura Vanderkam: Find the Time for What Matters - absolutely worth watching for an excellent approach to using our time wisely.

Joanna Penn: Planning for 2017 - my favourite writing guru and this Pdf contains very helpful advice.

Writers Helping Writers:  a fantastic blog with endless resources for all aspects of writing.

All the very best for all you hope to achieve this year!


Saturday, 7 January 2017

Happy New Year

Just a quick post to change it for the New Year while tweaking the blog a little before writing my first proper post of 2017!

Wishing you all a productive and successful year ahead.


Saturday, 31 December 2016

Happy Hogmanay and a Guid New Year

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. I had a great time with family and I’m now over-stocked up with chocolate, amongst other welcome goodies.


Today is our traditional Scottish Hogmanay and although I've probably written about this before, some may not have read it! These days we enjoy the main part of the evening with a final meal of the year at the cosy village restaurant before ‘bringing in the bells’ at home. 

At one time, however, this was an even bigger annual holiday up here and the 2nd of January is still a day off for most Scots. When I was a child, each housewife, including my mother, cleaned her home from top to bottom, curtains were changed, everyone in the family had a bath and hair wash (if they hadn't already) and the ashes from the open fire were taken out, ensuring we met the New Year as clean as possible. I’m afraid I didn’t follow that housewifely tradition for long, apart from the shower and hair wash!

Living beside the River Clyde, we used to open the back doors at midnight to hear any ships on the river toot their horn to welcome the New Year. One tradition that still thrives in some places is the dancing. Many halls up and down the country host a ceilidh for Scottish country dancing. The best have a live group with fiddles and accordion – the most toe-tapping sound you’re likely to hear all year!

We usually watch the late evening entertainment on TV brought from Glasgow or Edinburgh, with singing and Scottish dancing and the huge fireworks display at Edinburgh. As twelve o’clock approaches, the ‘bells’ are counted down until the stroke of midnight when we wish each other Happy New Year with a handshake, a kiss, and a toast. And of course Auld Lang Syne is sung all over the world at this time .

Another old tradition must be observed if possible. Each home should have a ‘first footer’ – a tall, dark and handsome man as the first person to enter a house any time after midnight on Hogmanay. He should bring a lump of coal for luck (not so common now!) and some shortbread or cake. Anyone visiting homes over the New Year period will always take something for the host. And of course, it wouldn’t be Hogmanay without the ‘wee dram’ of whisky to toast the New Year.

Wishing you a Happy, Healthy and Successful 2017!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Crooked Cat 3 Day Sale!

Crooked Cat Books are having their special 3-day Not Christmas Sale of all books at 99p (99c) on Amazon from 28-30th December. A great variety of genres and themes, and it includes my dual-timeline novel, The Highland Lass.

Grab them while you can and fill up any new e-readers!


Thursday, 22 December 2016

Season's Greetings

Thank you for visiting my blog over this past year. It has been lovely interacting with so many people and I hope to continue once the festive season is well under way. Whatever you plan to do over Christmas and with whomever you share your time, I wish you much joy and peace.

Rosemary x

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Celebrating the Winter Solstice

The shortest day of the year, normally December 21st, is known as the Winter Solstice and is still a magical time for many people in the northern hemisphere. 

This is the day when the sun appears to stand still, as the earth’s North Pole tilts the furthest away from the sun, before the days will begin to lengthen again until reaching the longest day on the Summer Solstice. The word solstice is thought to stem from two Latin words: sol, meaning sun and sistere, to stand.

The days leading up to the Winter Solstice were known as Saturnalia in Roman times, marking the moment when the sun was reborn after the shortest day and longest night. To celebrate the occasion and to welcome the coming of light, most people left aside their work to enjoy as much merriment and feasting as possible.

Another important part of the festival was the winter greenery brought inside to decorate homes around this time, such as ivy, holly, laurel and mistletoe, all illuminated by the light from candles. The evergreen ivy and the holly with its bright red berries have had many myths and legends attached to them over the centuries, often to do with new life and rebirth.

Here in Britain, there is a wealth of carols and poems celebrating the place holly and ivy have in our December traditions, both pagan and Christian, from Advent, through the twelve days of Christmas to Epiphany, such as this poem by Robert Herrick from the 16th century.

The darling of the world is come,
And fit it is we find a room
To welcome him. The nobler part
Of all the house here is the heart.

Which we will give him, and bequeath
This holly and this ivy wreath,
To do him honour who’s our King,
And Lord of all this revelling.

Many people still celebrate this special time at the Winter Solstice and it is especially sacred to the Druids and some pagan beliefs. Stonehenge in England is one of the most significant ancient spiritual sites where hundreds of people will gather to watch the sun set on the shortest day this December and will welcome the new sunrise after the longest night of the year. 

The Winter Solstice partly forms the background for Midwinter Masquerade which is set in Edinburgh and the Scottish countryside during the Regency period of 1816. This was such a dark year in many ways that it was known as ‘the year without a summer’.

For the rest of December, Midwinter Masquerade is on sale at only 99p (99c) from Amazon UK and Amazon US!


Sunday, 11 December 2016

Free Story Collection and Newsletter

If you're quick you can still download one of my short story collections, Beneath the Treetops, FREE today on Amazon UK and Amazon US. It's been edging its way to the top of the free charts since yesterday!

And for the younger reader, or young at heart, The Jigsaw Puzzle is on an Amazon countdown at 99p (99c) until Wednesday when it reverts to its usual price. It's also available in paperback (at normal price).

My Christmas newsletter has now left the building and here's a wee photo of the prize for the giveaway competition. You still have time to enter if you sign up for the newsletter by adding your email address to the little box on the side of the blog by the middle of the week!

Hope you're enjoying the lead-up to Christmas!

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Christmas Childhood Memories with Kate Blackadder

I’m delighted to welcome writing colleague and fellow Scot Kate Blackadder to the Reading and Writing blog today. I’ve long enjoyed Kate’s lovely short stories in women’s magazines over the years, as well as a couple of her serials. Now it’s a special pleasure that her debut novel, Stella’s Christmas Wish, is now published by Black and White in Edinburgh.

Kate is sharing some Christmas memories with us but first let me introduce her heart-warming novel. You can catch her other posts on the blog tour below.

Stella’s Christmas Wish

Six days before Christmas, Stella must rush home to Scotland when her grandmother is taken to hospital. As she reconnects with her past, old flames are rekindled, and as Christmas fast approaches, Stella begins to wonder if her most heartfelt wish can come true?

Uprooted from her life in London and back in her childhood home of the Scottish borders, Stella is soon faced with relationships which have lain dormant for years. New opportunities present themselves, but will Stella dare to take them...

Stella’s Christmas Wish is set in Edinburgh and the Borders and is published as an e-book by Black and White Publishing at 99p - click on the book title to buy!

Thanks for sharing these delightful memories, Kate!

When Christmas trees were tall … five childhood memories

1) A budding writer from an early age (although it took me rather a long time to get past the budding stage), one year I asked for a typewriter. I’m sure my disappointment showed – sorry, Mum – when I realised that instead of a keyboard it had a dial that you set to a letter before hitting a button. It would have taken months to write a list for Santa, never mind the stories that filled my head.

2) We lived on a large country estate and every year there was a Christmas party for the employees’ children in the village hall. We played The Farmer’s in his Den, In and Out the Dusty Bluebells – all the old, well-loved games. But don’t let it be said that the Swinging Sixties didn’t reach the north of Scotland – there was also a Twist competition (with Chubby Checker on the record player) and I won!

3) Family friends and relatives soon realised that they needn’t ask my mum what I would like for Christmas – the answer was always books. It’s lovely to still have hardback copies of Little Women, What Katy Did and lots more, with inscriptions from some of my favourite people.

4) My dad had Canadian relatives and two of them, unmarried women, worked in Eatons, a department store in Vancouver. There was my sister and brother and myself and around a dozen cousins on that side of the family, and these lovely ladies bought and sent carefully chosen Christmas presents to all of us. The Eatons’ packaging and the contents seemed so glamorous but it’s the cousins’ thoughtfulness I appreciate now.

5) One afternoon in the Christmas holidays my mum had asked another family round – three children and their mother. As usual, Mum made a huge amount of savouries and cakes and after we’d finished scoffing she cleared the large load of kept-for-visitors-china through to the kitchen and she and the other mother settled down for a chat by the sitting-room fire, telling us to go and play.

Well, the older girl in the other family was, it has to be said, a Miss Goody-Two-Shoes. No hide-and-seek or Ludo for her. No. Her idea of ‘playing’ was that we should give our mothers a nice surprise by – doing the washing up. And we – all six of us under the age of ten – went along with it. My mother was certainly surprised …

Thank you for having me on your blog, Rosemary. I hope all your Christmas wishes come true.

And yours, thanks Kate! I really enjoyed Stella's Christmas Wish

About Kate Blackadder

Kate lives in Edinburgh and has had around fifty short stories published and three magazine serials (two now on Kindle). Stella’s Christmas Wish is her first full-length novel.

You can connect with Kate on her Blog and Facebook and  on twitter as @k_blackadder

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Reviews and Interview

As any author knows, nothing warms the heart more than receiving lovely reviews, or a reader taking time to post a message on Facebook to say how much she loved your book. I'm as guilty as anyone for forgetting to leave reviews so I do appreciate the effort required.

This is the latest comment from a lovely reader about Return to Kilcraig, and she has already reviewed The Highland Lass and Summer of the Eagles as she loves books set in Scotland:

"Just finished reading this book by Rosemary Gemmell - a great read - full of mystery and intrigue and a bonus of lovely descriptions of the surrounding locations. I'm not familiar with the Loch Lomond area but made me want to visit."

Now that makes the writing all worthwhile!

I'm also delighted to be interviewed by the lovely Helen Pollard on her blog today where I'm partly talking about Scotland as a setting. Just click on Helen's name to find it.

Both of these have made me realise why I should be setting more stories in my own country!

Do you use your own part of the world as a setting in stories?