A Wee Something to Wet Your Thrapple*

* to wet your thrapple – to have a taste of something

An extract from Festival Fireworks before the blog tour which starts next week:

Andrew turned to her and took hold of her hands.

‘I want to thank you for arranging an absolutely fabulous party and to apologise for my bad-temper, my bad behaviour, and anything else bad about me that you don’t like.’

Jill stared at him, open-mouthed. He was apologising to her? Mr. Bossy Big-boots was actually saying sorry? 

He must have seen her shock. ‘I really do mean it. It was one of the best parties we’ve ever had, and there were some interesting and hopefully lucrative contacts made. Some people will owe you a great vote of thanks.’

Jill nodded, still shocked. ‘Sam,’ she said. ‘He said he might get a contract from tonight.’

‘Exactly. And it’s all thanks to you.’ 

‘Not entirely. You made up the guest list, I just did what you asked. Well, after a fashion,’ she added, remembering the fiasco about the venue.

‘But the party wouldn’t have been so relaxed, and people wouldn’t have mixed so well if we’d had it where you booked it originally.’

‘Then, thank your neighbours. They really got things going.’

Andrew smiled at her. ‘You’re determined not to take any credit for it, are you? But I’m thanking you… like this.’

He pulled her towards him and bent his mouth to hers. Jill closed her eyes as his lips met hers. They were warm and sweet tasting, soft and tender, and kissed just the way she liked being kissed. She sighed gently and let herself draw even closer into his arms. Their kiss deepened, their mouths opened to each other, their bodies fitted themselves into each other, adjusting till closeness and warmth were satisfied. Heaven could not be any more perfect. 

Their lips parted, their eyes opened, and they looked at each other in a new way; a new recognition taking over from the old. Mr. Bossy was gone, Mr. MacCallum-Blair was gone, only Andrew was left. Her Andrew. Jill smiled up at him and moved to kiss him again.

A loud buzz sounded.

Andrew drew apart from her. ‘Who can be wanting in at this time of the night?’ he said. He walked into the hall, flipped the switch on the entry phone, and said sharply, ‘Yes?’ into the speaker. 

‘Police,’ came the tinny reply.

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Upcoming Blog Tour!

I’m delighted to say that I’m having a blog tour in a couple of weeks for my book, Festival Fireworks. The Edinburgh Festival may have been cancelled this year because of coronavirus, but you can still read about the festival and sense the atmosphere in the book, and be hooked by the fireworks in it!

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How to Cope With Coronavirus!

So you’ve stocked up on toilet paper, packets of which are decorating every available space, you’ve got your tissues to hand and the fridge is full of ready meals. You’re ready to self-isolate for as long as it takes for this latest plague to go away. But wait! Haven’t you forgotten the most important item?

Books! How else are you going to while away the hours and days until you can surface like a mole blinking in the daylight? You don’t want to dwell on the awful updates on news channels and social media; instead you want to be able to escape into other worlds, far away from reality. And what better than to curl up in a comfy seat with a book, a cuppa and hours of uninterrupted reading. Bliss!

Here are some of the books that I can recommend for you to enjoy. This selection are all set in Scotland:

Catherine Czerkawska’s The Posy Ring is set on an imaginary Hebridean island but the atmosphere rings true. Daisy Graham, an antiques dealer, has inherited an old house on the island, filled with old furniture and items of interest to her. Cal Galbraith is also interested but are his motives what they seem? Their story runs in parallel with that of two cousins who are survivors from the Spanish Armada and who end up on the island. The Posy Ring links their stories,

Motherwell by Deborah Orr is a memoir of growing up in Motherwell, a former steel town in Central Scotland. She became an award-winning Guardian columnist before dying prematurely from cancer in 2019. She was renowned for outspokenness and she writes frankly about her family and early life and the lasting effects their views and values had on her. It’s a great read.

Something completely different from Ambrose Parry, aka Christopher Brookmyre and his wife, Dr Maris Haetzman, The Way of All Flesh. Medicine meets crime in 19th century Edinburgh with anaesthetics just being introduced to ease the pains of childbirth as well as other nefarious uses. Just be grateful medicine has improved since then.

The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating by Nina Kaye is an ebook again set in Edinburgh, but this time it’s very up to date, full of laughs and sighs as we follow Liv in her quest for a job, a man and gin, not necessarily in that order. A light-hearted tale to enjoy.

And I couldn’t not mention my own novel, Festival Fireworks, also set in Edinburgh but with a visit to Australia in it as well. Jill and Andrew get off to a very bad start and it doesn’t seem to improve as he’s not only her boss but her next-door neighbour as well and Jill somehow can’t get things right.

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So sit down, switch off all your devices, and enjoy some peaceful escapism.

I’ll post another selection in my next blog so you won’t run short of reading material. And keep well!

Susan Ferrier, the Scottish Jane Austen

I am thoroughly enjoying reading Marriage by Susan Ferrier. I had never heard of this author, yet she was a very successful writer in the nineteenth century and her books were much admired by Sir Walter Scott. In fact, she earned far more from her writing than Jane Austen herself. But her name has disappeared from readers’ minds.

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Thanks to the Scottish writer, Val McDermid, that, hopefully, will change soon. She is publicising Ferrier’s work by having it illuminated across buildings in Edinburgh, Susan’s home town. Follow the link to read all about it.

Marriage is set in Edinburgh, the Highlands and London and follows two generations of women, mother and daughter, with very different views of life and love. Lady Juliana elopes with her lover, whom she marries and almost instantly regrets it when she meets up with his family in the Highlands. One of her daughters, Mary, is brought up by her aunt there while Lady Juliana returns to London and life, as she sees it. Mary eventually joins her there but is not enamoured of her mother and her behaviour.

Throughout, Ferrier’s wit and humour enliven the story and her telling little details of Scottish life in the capital and in the north, as well as her knowledge of London society, combine to produce a story to rival that of Austen at her best.

I can’t tell you the ending as I’m not there yet, but I wouldn’t spoil it for any of you potential readers even if I did.

Janus – looking both ways

The Roman God Janus is always depicted as looking both ways – back to the past and forwards into the future.

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So, looking back: 2017 was quite a year. I self-published two books, A Drop of Rainbow Magic for children and an illustrated memoir,A Scottish Childhood; Growing Up a Baby Boomer.

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On top of all that, I spoke and adjudicated competitions at a couple of events, ran several workshops on various aspects of writing, attended conferences and lunches organised by the Scottish Association of Writers and the Society of Authors in Scotland, did readings and sold books at book fairs, as well as writing a children’s book (rejected but still trying!) and revising a novel which was accepted by a publisher.

And in 2018? I’ve finished the first round of editing for the novel, Festival Fireworks, so it’s on to having the cover designed ready for its launch in the spring. I’m 22,000 words into another novel, thanks to the push of NaNoWriMo, and I want to get a move on with that this month.

Who knows what else I’ll get up to? It’s exciting looking forward but also there’s a bit of trepidation too. Anything can happen.

Janus was also the god of beginnings and endings, of gates and portals; in times of peace his gates were closed and only opened in times of war.

Let us hope that in 2018 his gates remain firmly closed to war and that he heralds new beginnings for us all.

A Happy New Year to all my friends and followers!

 

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Society of Authors Christmas Lunch

It was off to Edinburgh on a clear, very cold morning for the Society of Authors Christmas lunch. As the train travelled up the coast towards Glasgow, I could see the Isle of Arran glittering in its light dusting of snow. The quiet, peaceful scene was soon shattered when we reached Glasgow and its hordes of shoppers already out looking for Christmas bargains.view arran

The train to Edinburgh was packed. Were they all going there to shop? What was wrong with the Glasgow shops? Or were the trains going the opposite way also packed with people coming to Glasgow to shop? I sat beside a lovely young Polish family, the two girls practising their knowledge of the language while writing and drawing. They were very talented young artists so I couldn’t resist handing over a couple of my bookmarks and suggesting they buy A Drop of Rainbow Magic where they could be the illustrators of the stories. Never miss an opportunity – that’s my motto!

Edinburgh is a city of stairs and steps and we climbed the Scotsman Steps, all 105 of them to reach our venue in the Royal Mile, the Radisson Blu hotel, reputed to be haunted!royal mile

Lunch was a constant babble of voices as we chatted and caught up with friends, but not a ghost was to be seen, fortunately.hotel

Two of my fellow Tirgearr authors were there and they filled me in on what to expect as I went through the processing of editing, launching and publicising my book. (Festival Fireworks in case you’re asking, out in March 2018. And set in Edinburgh too.)lunch 2

Self-publishing, virtual book launches and book and craft fairs were other topics I learned a lot about from speaking to other authors and I came away with plenty to mull over and swot up. lunch 1

And Scotrail decided that after all that lovely food and drink, we would need some exercise to walk it off. So after climbing down the Scotsman Steps again to Waverley Station, we crossed and recrossed the station trying to find a train going to Glasgow that wasn’t cancelled. Third time lucky, we squeezed into a carriage and set off home.

Why is it that the trains to and from Ayr to Glasgow are long, comfortable with plenty of seats and lovely views while the trains between the two main cities in Scotland are much smaller, cramped, packed out and liable to be cancelled there and then? Or is that a question for another time, another blog?

But we all had a lovely day and many thanks to the President Linda Strachan and her committee for organising it all. Here’s to the next one!

 

Confined to a Garret? No Chance!

This week has been celebrated as Book Week Scotland when writers all over the country have left their garrets and travelled the length and breadth of the country talking about books and writing and more books and more writing.

My friend Michael J Malone has been touring the west coast talking about his new book, House of Spines. (Cracking great read! I recommend it.) He’s been to Rothesay, Dunoon, Millport, Tobermory and …er…Wishaw. Definitely not on the west coast, that one!

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The Pencil, Largs

For my part, I was in Largs, not as part of Book Week but to do some research for my next novel. It was a beautiful sunny clear day with the temperature just hovering above freezing as we walked along the shore to the Pencil monument commemorating the Battle of Largs in 1263, and then on to the Marina, filled with yachts of all shapes and sizes, mainly parked up until the spring. And there was a very welcome restaurant where we had coffee and Danishes and thawed out before we walked all the way back.

Then it was to Perthshire, and past the Ochil Hills just tinged with snow, to the Auchterarder Book Fair, part of their celebration of Book Week. We set up our stalls, or rather tables, in the hall with our books on display. I was surrounded by historical novels, crime, science fiction and fantasy, and did I detect an element of competition as we tried to attract customers to look at our books and hopefully buy one?books

I was one of the authors who gave a short talk about their writing life, starting with my five years with Postman Pat and moving on to the present day and A Scottish Childhood, and the future with my novel Festival Fireworks.24255073_1980255258879716_3265096166631918755_o

And all this gallivanting doesn’t stop there. Next weekend is the Society of Authors Christmas lunch in Edinburgh where there will be many friends to catch up with and have a jolly, merry afternoon.

Can’t not mention the success at the Imprint Writing Awards of members of Ayr Writers Club. Six members were shortlisted and the club scooped 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the poetry section, (one member winning two prizes) and 1st and 2nd in the short story.  It’s a sign of a very vibrant and talented club and one I’m pleased to belong to.

Shortlisted for Imprint 2017

Shortlisted for Imprint

 

A Breath of FreshAyr

FreshAyr opened with a rollicking start last week aided and abetted by various members of Ayr Writers Club, Scottish Screenwriters and many friends and associates.coffee

There were readings and sketches, music and coffee and it all went down a treat. Even the sun shone to help it on its way.

Robert Singer, the powerhouse behind it all, is hoping to develop the area into a creative arts centre showcasing the work of local artists, musicians and writers.general view

Herborg Hansen, the project coordinator, commented that,

the event showed a lot of support from creatives and set an example of what can be achieved by collaborating in reviving Ayr’s culture and town centre.

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Some of the actors in a sketch

FreshAyr is still in its very early stages and is run as a voluntary organisation. But we are expanding and recruiting and before long we hope be a charity organisation that turns café profits into creative action. But we depend on the collaboration from the community and urge people to get in touch regarding future exhibitions, performances or even if people want to get involved in supporting the project going forward.

janiceThere was a lot of enthusiasm and interest shown by the Saturday shoppers in the town who ventured in to see what was afoot.

I did a couple of sessions for kids, one a deliberately noisy session with Miss Hullaballoo  who insisted that everyone, including parents, join in a singalong of Rock-a-Bye-Baby and Sing  Song of Sixpence as loudly as they could.me FreshAyr

For the grown-ups, among others, Jennifer read her award winning story, Magda, Carolyn read a monologue and I met Robert Burns in heaven in my piece. Martin Bone, Douglas Skelton and Gail McPartland read extracts from their recently published novels while other members read short stories and poems.

And we even sold quite a few books!20170805_123554

my booksFreshAyr’s Facebook page is here for further information on upcoming events.

 

The Eyes, Black or Otherwise, Have It

I’ve mentioned before the importance of letting other writers read what you’ve written, of having another pair of eyes peruse your work, and I can’t stress it enough.

I’ve been working on revising a novel I wrote a few years ago  which is set in Edinburgh, and which I really didn’t do much about after I finished it, before I moved on to something else instead. (Bad habit of mine!) Recently, I dug it out from my extensive ‘back catalogue’ and sent  it to a friend who happens to live outside of Scotland for her to read and comment on, and I’m very glad I did.

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Steps leading up to an Edinburgh Close

Firstly, factual things in the book that were clear to me as I’d visited Edinburgh often and know it well, didn’t make much sense to her, particularly where people live. Tenements, several storeys high, have a common entrance which leads up stairs to two or three apartments on each landing. These are common throughout the city (and in fact, much of Scotland) and are often beautiful buildings with a long history dating back in some cases in the Royal Mile to the seventeenth century. They are very desirable properties indeed and change hands for large sums. But all this I’ve now had to explain much more in my book, especially as I’m aiming at an American publisher.

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Even the back of Edinburgh Castle is built as a tenement!

And then there was the question of motivation for the male protagonist’s behaviour. That set me thinking. Why exactly did he waver in his feelings for my heroine? What had happened in his past to make him behave in such a way? I needed to know much more of his backstory to justify it. So I’m intent on sorting that problem out too.

I was also working on a synopsis for the book which I took along with me to the latest club read-around. Reading it aloud to an experienced audience was illuminating. Not only did I ‘hear’ what was wrong, the group were quick to pick up on points that weren’t clear as well. More for me to improve before I even think of sending it off.

I was sporting an extremely fetching black eye at that meeting, having tripped and banged my face on the pavement outside my home. I spent a night in the Accident and Emergency department to ensure I didn’t have a head injury before I was sent home to recover.

Food for thought again, this time very thankful that I live in a country where, when illness or accidents happen, we don’t have to worry about the cost of care, drugs, operations and tests. It is all provided by our wonderful, if much maligned NHS. Yes, it’s short-staffed and underfunded and sometimes in danger of collapse but as an idea, a concept, it is the best thing that this country, or any other, has ever put into practice.

So the eyes have it, whether black or my normal colour, and I’m very grateful too!