Progress – or Not?

What do the Traprain Law Treasure, Susan Ferrier, Vaclav Jicha, the first Nursery School in the world and Christian Maclagan have in common?

No idea? I’m not surprised as this random collection of topics are all subjects I’ve written articles about recently and which have all been accepted for publication in a variety of magazines here and overseas.

The Traprain Law Treasure is the largest hoard of Roman silver ever found in Europe and which was uncovered 100 years ago in East Lothian. At present, some of it is on display in Haddington. It is quite stunning and hard to believe that it spent almost 1500 years buried on a hillside.

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Traprain Law Treasure

Susan Ferrier was a best-selling author in her day (the 19th century) and a good friend of Sir Walter Scott while the first nursery school in the world was set up at New Lanark, near Glasgow, by Robert Owen in the 1800s.

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Susan Ferrier’s bestselling novel

Vaclav Jicha was a World War II flying ace killed in a plane crash near Haddington in 1945.  Jicha Street is named in his honour in the town where he is buried. Many years after the war, his Czech fianceé discovered where he was laid and visited his grave every year till her death in 2010.

Jicha-portrait1

Fl Lt Vaclav Jicha DFC AFC

And Christian Maclagan was the first Scottish female archaeologist and a feisty woman to boot! She was unable to read her papers on her research to the Society of Antiquaries or be recognised for her work on Scottish prehistory because she was a woman.

Maclagan_-_Keir_of_Gargunnock

One of Maclagan’s drawings of a broch

 

 

Circumstances mean that at the moment articles are what I am writing rather than longer pieces. I can’t commit to the long-term tunnel vision I require to write novels but I don’t want my writing muscle to atrophy so article writing suits me fine. It also means we can have days out to research and visit places associated with my topics; these so far have included the National Museum in Edinburgh, a graveyard in Haddington and a lay-by on the A1!

I have also met and corresponded with some lovely people who have helped me in a variety of ways with photos and insights and pointed me in the right direction when I wandered off topic.

But I have realised that there are many more advantages to the type of writing I’m doing at present. I send the articles to the editors of the various magazines I’m contributing to and I receive a yes or a no and that’s all I have to do. No hassling people for reviews, no checking Amazon rankings to see where I appear, no constant feeding of social media to keep me in the spotlight, no blanket flooding of Facebook and Instagram and Twitter in the hope of a few sales. All that time I would normally have to spend on such activities I can spend WRITING!

Recently when I was totting up my earnings versus expenses from my writing, I realised that I had spent more on advertising my ebooks than I had actually earned from them. I know I only have two published and that I’m not the most dedicated of self-promoters but I would need to have many more ebooks out there to make it worthwhile. For articles, I sit back and wait for the cheque to arrive when the magazine publishes my piece. Simples!

There has been a change however. Perhaps the pendulum is swinging back again; apparently ebooks are losing their popularity compared with ‘real’ books and independent bookshops are making a comeback though they will never be as cheap as Amazon. However there is nothing more pleasant than browsing in a good bookshop, especially if there’s coffee to be had too, and there’s always the serendipitous chance of coming across a book that speaks to you, that you’ve never heard of, would never have thought of buying but which touches something in you. Until Amazon can give the browser an experience similar to that, then bookshops it is.

Maybe magazines are also due to rise phoenix-like from the ashes of their purported demise. There are still many out there which seem to defy all the odds and continue selling, if not as many copies as before, then enough to keep them viable. And the good old People’s Friend has just celebrated its 150th birthday and takes around 1000 feature articles each year.

I certainly hope magazines start to flourish again. I much prefer to read from a magazine or book rather than from a screen. A hard copy is there when you need it, you can flick backwards and forwards at will, and it won’t interfere with your reading pleasure by changing font size or page when you inadvertently stick a finger in the wrong place. And the batteries in a book or magazine never run out.

Sometimes, progress needs to take a step back now and again when we realise that the new ways are not as good as what we had before.

Books to Buy for the Holidays

This is shameless advertising but how else can I tell you about what’s on offer? Big publishers have budgets for promotion and advertising and events and giveaways but us lowly authors (and that’s most of us in the writing game) have to do it all ourselves.

So, to paraphrase that old rhyme,

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat

Please put a penny in the poor writer’s hat

If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do

Please buy a book by me and  God bless you!

 

So what have I to tempt you to buy?

Contemporary ebook romances

Love Begins at 40

LoveBeginsAt40byAnnBurnett200

Set in Largs, a small Scottish seaside resort, it tells the story of Maisie, a successful businesswoman approaching her 40th birthday and wondering what’s missing from her life. Will she find it in the quiet town of Largs or is Glasgow a better bet? Is James the answer or is Lenny?

Festival Fireworks  FestivalFireworksbyAnnBurnett200

Young Aussie lass Jill arrives in Edinburgh in Festival time, keen to explore the city and the country. But her next door neighbour, Andrew, seems set on spoiling her plans, especially when she discovers he’s also her boss. Can she still achieve her goals despite Mr Bossy, as she calls him, apparently out to thwart them?

Memoir

A Scottish Childhood; Growing up a Baby Boomer book cover2

My father, a keen amateur photographer, took loads of photos of us as children. I’ve collected the articles I wrote for the late, lamented magazine, Scottish Memories, on growing up after the Second World War and put them together as a snapshot of life in the West of Scotland in the 1950’s and 60’s.

Writing for Children

A Drop of Rainbow Magic 9780955854057

This is a collection of stimulating and vivid stories and poems originally written for the BBC children’s programmes, but with a difference. The children, themselves, are the illustrators. There are pages for them to do their own drawings of what happens in the stories. It’s so important nowadays to give children the opportunity to develop their own imaginations rather than have it fed by computer games, TV and animations.

Short Stories

Take  Leaf Out of My Book leaf-cover-09-16

A selection of prize-winning short stories which illustrate my tagline ‘writer of many things’. From a war-torn country to a city in the near future trying to survive economic disaster, to an inept Glasgow private eye, and a fantasy concerning Scotland’s Robert Burns and a determined fan in a pleated skirt, there’s something for everybody in this eclectic mix.

So buy a book and make everybody happy this Christmas!

 

 

 

My Granny Went on Holiday…..

When I was a child we used to play a game, My Granny went on holiday and in her suitcase she packed... each person would add an item, the sillier the better, to the list for the next person to remember. Eventually, as the list grew longer and full of unusual things, people would get knocked out of the game as they forgot items or had them in the wrong order.

I am at present, living out of two suitcases, while we wait for our new home to be ready. Their contents closely resemble those of the game. I packed those suitcases at the end of April just after the storm nicknamed the ‘Beast from the East’ because of its Siberian origins, had covered the country in feet of crisp white snow and ice. The countryside was quite beautiful if you didn’t have to go places, had plenty of food and heat and were not in need of medical assistance.

In my mind as well, was last year’s disastrous summer with heavy rain, temperatures far below normal and little sunshine. On top of all that, we had a wedding in Iceland to pack for, with the service taking place outdoors at the foot of a glacier.

suitcase

Not required at this stage of the journey.

So, in my suitcase I packed… thermal underwear, numerous thick woolly polo neck sweaters, two heavy jackets with hoods, knitted hat, scarf and gloves, waterproof trousers, sturdy walking shoes, a rain poncho and a hot water bottle. And what happens? We have the longest, driest, hottest spell of sunny weather in decades!

I had to head for the sales and buy a couple of cheap t-shirts so that I had something to wear without dying of heat exhaustion.

My Work in Progress (WIP) is in a similar state to my suitcases – full of stuff that I don’t actually need at the moment. I have written around 10,00 words and have ground to a halt. Why? Because I have crammed in loads of situations and backstory and details I might use at a later date but which are simply tangling up the story at the moment. I don’t know what direction to take my WIP next. Should I follow A’s problem which involves B not knowing about C but has a mystery at its source? Or what about Z who hates C but is in love secretly with W although he is married to B? And what of M who has suddenly appeared on page 19 but fits in nowhere that I can envisage?

All this is going on and I have only reached chapter 4.

When I finally move into our new home, I shall unpack the contents of my suitcases and hang them in wardrobes or stash them in cupboards until such time as I need them again. I’ll know where they are and can easily bring them out to use when the weather requires them. Similarly with my WIP I shall cut away all the extraneous complications, but won’t consign them to the trash can. I’ll keep them safely in a file marked KEEP until I reach a point in the story when I know they will have the maximum impact and will earn their place in the book. Then I shall introduce them into the action and watch while my characters react to the new situation I have created to stir them up.

No doubt at that time my woolly sweaters and hats will also be called into service as the year creeps towards its end and the hot weather is far in the past.

As my granny used to say, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.’

To everything there is a season….

Publication Day

 

It’s exciting when Publication Day arrives. After weeks, months, even years of hard work the great day comes at last and The Book is finally out there! Will it sell? Will the reviewers like it? Where will it be on Amazon rankings?

The important thing for an author to remember is that people’s tastes differ – fortunately – as what one person loves in a book, another hates. And I’m the same. Some books I devour with a great deal of pleasure, others I give up on after only a few pages. So some reviewers will give it a resounding 5 stars while others, more circumspect, award 3 or 4 and there’s always some idiot that you’ll vow to hate for life who hands out a measly singleton.

So what of Love Begins at 40? It’s about Maisie, approaching her fortieth birthday with some trepidation. She’s a successful businesswoman in Glasgow, who, in order to have better life-work balance, buys a holiday flat in Largs, a seaside resort on the west coast of Scotland. There she meets James dealing with his own difficulties in life. But they are attracted to each other. Can they overcome their problems, make some hard decisions and end up happily ever after?

Read it and see!

LoveBeginsAt40byAnnBurnett200

Catching up!

I met up with an old friend in Edinburgh this week.

bernagh

No, we didn’t plan to wear identical outfits!

Bernagh was my producer when I was writing for BBC Northern Ireland. She produced the radio series One Potato, Two Potato which was aimed at children from 7-9 years but actually reached a wider age range than that. I started off by writing stories for her to use in the programmes but ended up being one of the scriptwriters.

It was a very successful series as, when it celebrated its 25th anniversary, a group of us Scottish writers flew across to Belfast for the celebrations. It was good to meet up with the presenters, Libby and Michael, as well as some of the other writers, and of course, Bernagh.

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Bernagh with the presenters of One Potato, Two Potato Michael and Libby

Bernagh was asked to produce a series of radio programmes for pre-school children and she wanted me to be the scriptwriter. We took ourselves off to a holiday house in Ballantrae in south-west Scotland where in, of all places, a beer-garden, we put together the series Hurley-Burley.

HB TV 1Initially, there were only going to be six programmes but the series was so successful that we did another three series, 24 programmes in all. From there, it transferred to TV and I wrote the scripts for all the 12 programmes.

But times move on and when Bernagh retired from the BBC, they decided in their wisdom to finish with children’s radio. I think that was a great shame for where else do children have the opportunity to develop their listening skills as well as their imaginations if not from listening to the radio? As the cliché goes, the pictures are better on the radio.

However, we enjoyed our catch-up and our afternoon tea and time flew past as it usually does when you’re enjoying yourself.

Love Begins at 40!

I’m delighted to say that my latest novel, Love Begins at 40, is on pre-order for kindle at 99p/99c.LoveBeginsAt40byAnnBurnett100

It’s set in a small seaside town on the west coast of Scotland, Largs, which I know well, and where I spoke last year at the local writers’ club. So they can take a share of providing me with the inspiration for it as I had a delightful day there.

It’s about Maisie, a successful business woman in Glasgow, who, as she approaches her fortieth birthday, has doubts about where her future lies. She has some rather difficult decisions to make that impact not only her, but other people in her life. Can she make the right choice? And what is the right thing to do?

But then tragedy strikes a double blow, and she’s forced to make those important decisions about what she really wants from life.
I hope you enjoy it. Please let me know what you think.

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!

pub

Down by the River