Back to Work!

Now that we are settled in our temporary home – an old town house set over three floors with one room on each and doing wonders for our calf muscles as we trundle up and down – I have no excuse for not getting on with writing tasks.

The edits for my next novel for Tirgearr Publishing, Love Begins at 40, have arrived so I’m working my way through them. I have a great editor, Christine, who picks up on all sorts of details that I miss, like commas and other punctuation marks. I assume that in the heat of creation, I tend to miss them out but in reality, I’m not entirely sure when and what to use. And anyway, each publishing house has its own style so what is acceptable for one is a no-no in another.

Love Begins at 40 will be out in August, about the time when we finally move into our new home so a double celebration will be in order.

And in another success, I’ve just heard that an article I wrote on the Palaces in Kirkwall, Orkney has been accepted for an American magazine, the Highlander. I’ve sent loads of photos for it as well so I’m looking forward to seeing it in print.

Summer appears to be here at last, at least for a few days, and it’s brought everyone out into the sunshine. Long may it continue!


Down by the River


Killer Heels and Lunch to Die For

killer heels & lunch to die for 090617Is it off-putting listening to two lady crime writers read about a gruesome murder in Glasgow and digging up skeletal remains in Orkney while in the middle of a delicious lunch? Surprisingly no. In fact I immediately bought the books in question and had not a pang of indigestion either.

Alex Gray and Lin Anderson were the crime writers and they kept an audience of ladies who lunch (and one gentleman) enthralled over their starters and main course. It was an interesting experience but a great idea; have a starter, then listen to an entertaining speaker followed by the main course and another equally fascinating speaker.

Alex Grey read from her latest DS Lorimer book, Still Dark. Lorimer is traumatised by aalex gray scene he witnesses one Hogmanay and struggles to return to duty in order to solve his latest case. Glasgow is again the setting for this intriguing addition to the Scottish crime genre.

Lin Anderson‘s main character is forensic scientist Dr Rhona Mcleod, who travels to Orkney in Lin’s latest book, None But the Dead, to investigate the uncovering of human remains on the island of Sanday. As I’d visited Orkney recently I wanted immediately to read it and experience again in my mind those fierce winds which are a constant feature of Orkney life and which can make a forensic investigation more of a battle against the elements.Lin Anderson

But Lin and Alex have another claim to fame as well as being prolific and rightly celebrated writers of crime fiction; they were the founders, six years ago, of Bloody Scotland, a crime fest of magnificent proportions, celebrating the genre at its best. It is held in the historic town of Stirling and begins with a Gala Opening in the Great Hall of Stirling Castle, where many of Scotland’s kings and queens resided.bloody scotland

Over dessert and coffee, the audience could digest (along with the lunch) all the funny stories and information Alex and Lin had delighted us with in their talks. Their research skills are impeccable, both having studied for a Diploma in Forensic Science to enhance their knowledge of crime scene investigations. Both had been teachers at one point in their lives (Lin on Orkney) but had given up their careers to forge new ones as crime writers.

Killer Heels and Lunch to Die For was organised to raise funds for Hansel Village, a community for people with support needs. They are looking to expand their work with young adults and this lunch would go some way to achieving their aim.

lin and alex

Lin Anderson on the left and Alex Grey on the right.

Kirsty from Waterstones was in attendance to sell Alex and Lin’s books afterwards and she did a brisk trade. A thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an afternoon in aid of a good cause.

An Orkney Saga

viewNo, I haven’t forgotten about the website. We’ve been travelling again, but this time much closer to home though almost as far away as you can go in Scotland – the Orkney Islands. In just over an hour, we’d left our world behind and flown into a land of seas and skies and roaring winds and the friendliest people you could wish to meet.

We were on an Orkney Archaeological Tour with our guide, Dave, who has so many degrees and interests, he is a walking encyclopaedia of all kinds of knowledge. And over five days, he informed, enlightened and taught us so much about the islands and their history, geology, geography and lifestyles that our heads were fair birlin’ as we say on the mainland!

The islands are covered in Neolithic sites and we soon became adept at picking out mounds yet to be excavated. We visited neolithic settlements, including of course, Skara Brae and chambered cairns where they laid the dead, although only a few bones had been found there

We scrambled into them through stone tunnels or down rickety iron ladders to cairns, some in which we could barely stand upright.


The way in – and out!

Maes Howe is perhaps the best known but is now so popular that we had to go in groups of 20 with an official guide. We much preferred the lesser known ones that Dave took us to, where there was no-one else around and the atmosphere was decidedly more creepy.

The Ring of Brodgar was also busy, there being a cruise ship in the harbour but it’s so large and impressive that there was plenty of scope for everyone. The day was cool with squally showers as we walked around them, grateful for the occasional shelter those massive stones provided from the wind.


Ring of Brodgar

The Vikings had also left their mark on Orkney, often in the shape of runes found scrawled inside Maes Howe and in their longhouses, the remains of which we saw at the Brough of Birsay.

I can’t not mention the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral or the remains of opulent palaces built in mediaeval times and moving forward through time, the Hackness Battery on Hoy and of course Scapa Flow with the Churchill Barriers and the Italian Chapel from the second World War,


The Italian Chapel

This is just a scamper through a great week but I must praise the food – local Aberdeen Angus beef and fish fresh from the waters around the islands, marvellous home baking in some of the most isolated cafes we’ve ever visited and great hearty soups to keep us going through the days.

And of course, there are plenty of settings for stories; a murder in an isolated cairn anyone? Or dastardly deeds in an Earl’s palace? Spies at Scapa Flow? And romance of course – sailors loving and leaving the womenfolk. In fact, we saw a grave in unhallowed ground where a young lass had taken her own life after being deserted by her lover. I’m going to be busy, I can see!