I love autumn, and am always happy when I spend it in Scotland. And, if I can combine a trip to my favourite part of the country with a little research for my next book, I’m even happier. The air seems crisper, the vistas clearer, the sunrises, and sunsets more stunning. I don’t mind the darker mornings and evenings, which give me the impetus to sit down and write, or finish the knitting projects that were abandoned in spring when longer days meant time spent in the garden.
I’ve just returned from two weeks staying on the Mull of Galloway, that ‘hammer head’ part of southwest Scotland that juts out into the Irish Sea. Part holiday, part research for my next book, it turned out to be two weeks full of beach walks, ancient stone circles, and stunning gardens hewn from hillsides.
The fictional village in my current manuscript is based on the town Portpatrick, a former port for transportation to and from Northern Ireland. The ferries have long gone, and Portpatrick is now a holiday resort and the starting point for the Southern Upland Way, a long distance path that stretches to the east coast some 212 miles away.
A little further south, lies the village of Port Logan, created by Colonel Andrew McDowall, the Laird of Logan in 1818. The Bell Tower at the end of the harbour was designed by Thomas Telford, better known for designing bridges and the Caledonian Canal.
I’m fascinated ancient carved stones, and was surprised to find a fine example of bothat Kirkmadrine Church. It is home to a collection of the oldest Christian monuments in Scotland.
While driving back from Wigtown, I also came across the Standing Stones of Torhouse, a Bronze Age stone circle consisting of 19 granite boulders. The three central stones are known as King Gladus’s Tomb, a legendary and probably mythical early Scottish King. While the dumpy granite boulders are not as impressive as the stone pillars of Callanish on the Isle of Lewis, it was nonetheless interesting to read that the circle was probably erected between 2000-1500 BC as a religious centre.
And no post would be complete without a photo of the weather forecasting stone from the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse.
I am now home, armed with a camera full of images to inspire and a notebook full of ideas, it’s time to knuckle down to finishing the next book.
I am delighted to announce that I am taking part in the first UK Indie Literature Festival being held in Bradford, West Yorkshire, on the 23rd July. Organised by Follow this Publishing in conjunction with Cillian Press, this aims to be an annual event. Readers will have the opportunity to take part in workshops, in addition to meeting authors, purchasing books, and entering competitions. Over 25 authors, including International best selling author Kendare Blake, will be in attendance, both in person and via Skype.
It is free to attend, but you will require a ticket which are available from Eventbrite. So, why not join me and my colleagues for a great day out?
Although it is some time away, I am pleased to announce that I am taking part in a multi-author signing in event at the Red Rose Steam Society Ltd, Astley Green, Manchester, on Saturday 13th August 2015.
Authors of all genres will be in attendance. So, if you are an avid reader, why not make a note in your diary and come along? I shall be posting more details, including how to obtain tickets, nearer the time.
In the meantime, visit the Facebook page for readers.
On Saturday the 5th September, I had the pleasure of joining over ninety fellow romance authors and members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association at an Afternoon Tea held in the fifteenth century York Guildhall.
Organised and hosted by the Yorkshire Terrier Chapter of the RNA, this was the first time such an event had been held outside of London.With a glass of Prosecco in hand it was time to circulate and chat with friends old and new, assisted by our name badges, before taking a seat at one of the tables.
Grace was said by Kelvin Woolmer, husband of RNA Chapter Liaison, Jean Fullerton. Then tea was served on delicate vintage china. The caterers did themselves proud, supplying copious amounts of tea, sandwiches, savouries, and cakes.
Multi-published author, Milly Johnson entertained us with an hysterical talk on the habits of ‘The Northern Bird,’ and how she differs from her southern sister. Milly concluded with her own variation of the well-known Robert Burns poem, with her ‘Address to the Scone,’ after which we appropriately tucked into scones with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam. Yum!
It was a lovely afternoon, spent in great company.
What is it about Scotland that draws writers and readers alike? Is it the rugged peaks, hidden lochs and glens, great Castles and stone circles? Is it because the Highlands are teeming with heroic men and equally brave women? The harsh climate and rugged landscape certainly make an ideal backdrop for adventure. Add a history that is also seeped in legend, and you have the basis for some very engaging plots. However, that still doesn’t explain the allure of Scotland in fiction.
My longstanding interest in Scotland began many years ago, not from reading novels, but primarily from childhood holidays in the Highlands. Such was my love of the country that I chose to make it my home for twenty happy years.
I wish I could explain why Scotland inspires me to set my novels there, but I can’t. Whether this is because I can trace my mother’s ancestors back to 1697 Scotland, I don’t know. I only know that the moment I cross from England into Scotland, there is a song in my heart and a spring in my step.
Scotland, it’s people and landscape continues to be popular with novelists and readers. Sir Walter Scott, Nigel Trantor, Iain Rankin, Gavin Maxwell, Rona Randall, Anne Maybury, Dana Gabaldon, Lin Anderson, and Linda Gillard, to name but a few, have all used Scotland’s landscape and it’s history for settings of their novels.
To me, Scotland is magical. The way sunlight casts shadows on the waters of a loch, a ruined castle, or the sight of a solitary croft house in an isolated glen seem to kick-start something in my brain and the ideas seem to flow.
It will therefore comes as no surprise that my next book will also be set in a place that I think of as home.
I am a little bit late announcing this, however, I am delighted to say that my novel, The House on the Shore has now been released as an audio book. Narrated by the wonderful and very talented Ruth Urquhart, it is available from Audible, Amazon and iTunes.
Terror haunts a Scottish glen:
Heartbroken Anna MacDonald leaves Edinburgh to find peace at the edge of a Scottish loch. Safely ensconced in her late grandmother’s cottage, she can finally heal her heart and write the novel that has burned inside her for years.
Her peace is short-lived. When debonair artist Luke Tallantyre’s yacht gets stranded in the loch, he seeks help at the nearest residence – Anna’s croft. She finds him annoying. He instantly dislikes the stunning but cranky hermit.
But there’s indisputable evidence that a hit man is on the prowl in the village. Is he after Anna? And what is Luke keeping from her that could deepen the danger? Against their wills, they join forces and embark on an adventure neither ever imagined…including a chance at true love.
July was a busy month; hence the lateness of this update.
Over the weekend of 11-13 July, two hundred and fifty novelists gathered in glorious sunshine for the annual Romantic Novelists’ Association conference at Harper Adams University. Set in the heart of the Shropshire, Harper Adams is an agricultural college complete with cows, pigs and sheep, and yes, all the associated farmyard aromas.
As usual, the conference content was superb, with a mixture of workshops and talks on traditional and self-publishing, as well as technique. My main problem was choosing what to attend. As workshops run concurrently, I rushed from one to next, only pausing for a quick cup of tea and chat with a friend.
The highlight of the weekend was the gala dinner on the Saturday evening, during which Janice Preston was presented with the Elizabeth Goudge Prize for the best short story written by a conference attendee.
The following weekend, I took part in the Penistone Literary Festival, along with my friend and fellow novelist, Milly Johnson. Arriving early, I had the opportunity to listen to Michael Fowler talk about his crime novels and life as a former police officer.
As for the rest of the month – I’m pleased to say that the audio book version of The House on the Shore is underway and will be available to download from Audible, Amazon and iTunes later this year!
I’m also involved in an interesting project with fellow American author, Brenda Hill, but more of that later.
In the meantime, it’s back to working on the next book. Are you curious what it’s all about…? Well here’s a small clue…
A full programme of events has now been released for the inaugural Penistone Literary Festival. Headlined by one of the best poets of his generation, Simon Armitage, and best selling author, Milly Johnson, supported by Andrew Macmillan, crime writer M J Fowler, and other local poets and authors, it promises to be a fun-filled two-days for young and old alike.
There are events for children, Penny the Sheep Children’s exhibition, a vintage tea room, a Bookshop and the chance to purchase a Penny the Sheep Mug!
It’s been a while since I posted, I know. I can’t even use working in the garden as an excuse, because on the whole, the weather has been cold, grey and rather miserable.
But I had some very good news this month – I’ve been invited to speak at the 1st ever Penistone Literary Festival on Sunday 20th July! Ceri Worman and Edana Guest, are working hard to bring the event together.
There’s a stellar line up of writers and poets including, Simon Armitage, Barnsley’s best selling novelist Milly Johnson, Michael Fowler, and Andrew McMillan. There are events for children and even a poetry walk.
I feel very honoured to have been asked to take part and am looking forward to meeting everyone who attends. Once the full programme is announced, I’ll put the link up on this site.
So, if you are in Penistone on Saturday and Sunday, 19th and 20th July, you really should treat yourself and pop along to St John’s Community Centre for a chance to hear about their work.
I’ve also been invited to talk to Springfield Ladies, a local group based in Hoyland, in May.
And finally, I’m planning to turn The House on the Shore into an audiobook, if I can find a narrator who can perform an authentic Scottish accent and who’s not afraid to try pronouncing or learn a few Gaelic words! So, if you or someone you know has what it takes to be a voiceover artist and can speak Gaelic, why not sign up to Audiobook Creation Exchange and submit your audition?
More details to follow!
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