Brora to Bettyhill – Coast Road 500

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When I was a child, my family would gather round the radiogram and play old 78’s. One of their favourites was Granny’s Heilan’ Hame sung by Kenneth McKellar and by the time the record finished there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

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I hadn’t thought about that song in years but when we left the Black Isle and headed towards Brora I saw a sign Granny’s Heilan Hame and it triggered some happy memories. I researched the eponymous granny ( Kate Mackay), and discovered more about her and the song, including a  photograph of her highland home.

Rain bucketing down we headed for Golspie and the campsite at Brora. The wind dropped enough to allow us to explore the sand dunes and we had the glorious beach almost to ourselves. We considered taking the single track rail journey to Wick the next day but were talked out of it by a fellow camper who said that most of the journey was between brown hills dotted with telegraph poles. Next time, maybe. panorama of beach at Brora

If you do find yourself in Brora consider visiting Dunrobin CastleDunrobin castle (2) - Copy(see turrets in photo on right) We’d visited years before so we headed up the A9 instead for Dunnet Bay and the Castle of Mey. We thought that touring Scotland in September the camping/caravan  sites would be empty – not so. The popularity of Route 500 meant that sites were very busy and it’s wise to book ahead.

That’s me pointing at a dead jellyfish on the beach (one of many!) and the view from our caravan window over Dunnet Bay. Bit stormy as you can see, but no midges.

 

Next day we drove into Thurso. Being used to large towns and cities I turned my nose up at the rather old fashioned shop fronts. Once inside the shops, I revised my opinion,   I found them to be well-stocked and the staff were very helpful and welcoming. So don’t drive past Thurse, take time to stop and look around. The following day we visited John o’ Groats. We hadn’t been there in twenty years so we were surprised to find it vastly improved, – fabulous cafe. cool gift shop, free wifi, and the best roast beef sandwich ever.

2017-09-16 12.40.23IMG_0450[2]was glad I was able to get on the internet  because there was a message from Amazon offering me a three month #PRIME deal on Boot Camp Bride. I had to reply before the end of the day. Did I accept? You bet I did.

We decided to visit the Queen Mum’s former home at the Castle of Mey and had a guided tour which made it well worth the visit. It’s a pity it wasn’t high summer because we were told that the rose gardens there are something else. The castle was very comfortable and I could have easily have lived there because it wasn’t too large – and it had central heating (!)

The next day, as we drove through Thurso, we were held up to allow a police convoy to pass us by at high speed. It consisted of outriders on motorbikes, and a couple of large vehicles packed with armed officers wearing SWAT gear and carrying machine guns. We never found out what the drama was, but we wondered if it was a drill or something similar. Anyhoo, undeterred, we moved on – past the former nuclear plant at Dounreay  and towards our goal, BettyHill.

 

I’ve always wanted to visit Bettyhill because that was  my maiden name, and I remember as a child wondering why a place in the remote north of Scotland shared a name with me. Just as we were travelling along the rather narrow road (sans caravan, obvs) we drove past over a thousand cyclists – luckily going the other way – on the last leg of the Lands’ End/ John O’ Groats Ride Across Britain . We stopped at the Bettyhill Hotel and had coffee and a bacon butty while we watched them swoosh past. Brave souls. Here are two stragglers . . . and a view from the hotel dining room.

 

Then it was on to Bettyhill. I discovered that the Countess of Sutherland had built it as a replacement village the to rehouse 15, 000 tenants removed from prime sheep grazing land as part of the Highland Clearances. The Countess (Elizabeth) named the village after herself and probably considered that she’d looked after her former tenants/crofters well.  We might have a different take on that nowadays. Read some of the first-hand accounts of the distress caused by the clearances and make up your own mind.

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74269077 – haunting remains of arichonan township, a cleared village in the highlands of scotland.

One of the places we would have loved to visit and camp overnight is Altnaharra but everything we read advised against taking a caravan to the site. So we pressed on the Durness and my favourite cafe – Cocoa Mountain – and the best hot chocolate in the world. But I’ll tell you more about that in my next blog post.

Meantime, if you haven’t read any of my novels, check out the blurbs and download one from Amazon. Paperbacks also available.

 

I’ve just finished proofreading my latest novel – Take Me, I’m Yours – which will be published July 2018. If you’d like to learn more about THAT, subscribe to my newsletter and be in with a chance to even win a signed paperback and other goodies.

Five Photos … with Lizzie Lamb

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Many thanks to Sharon Booth for hosting me and my photos on her wonderful blog. I hope you find time to read it and to search out Sharon’s novels, too.

 

Sharon Booth

My guest today is the lovely Lizzie Lamb. Lizzie was the first author I ever got in touch with, and she very kindly answered my questions with great patience. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to meet her in person, and discovered that she’s just as fabulous in real life as she is online, so it’s a great pleasure to welcome her to the blog today, so she can share with us her five photos. 

My Earliest Photo (just about)!

On the back it reads: Betty aged three, written in my mother’s hand. I lived with my mother, grandparents and two young uncles who teased me, stuck me up trees and then walked away, and thought it was hilarious to encourage me to stand on the dining room table and amuse visitors with a medley of Shirley Temple songs. When I was five, the Salvation Army came to our street…

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Writing Tip #5 – Plotters vs. Pantsters

Are you a plotter or a pantster? Read this excellent blog and find out. I think I’m a bit of both.

Writing, Work and Wine

Hello my lovelies,

where has the sunshine gone? In any case, we’re not worried, because you have better things to do than worry about the weather don’t you? Yes, it’s time to think about plotting and planning your book! In earlier posts we identified what genre you’re going to write in, along with what you know and love, and can therefore write about, so we made a good start. A quick disclaimer: This post isn’t about the technical aspects of writing a book = how to create a story arc, how many acts to use etc. it’s about your approach to plotting and planning… with my own experiences thrown in for good measure.

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Because guess what? As with many things when it comes to writing, plotting/planning is slightly different for everyone. There are as many ways of doing this as there are authors. Some people love to fly by the…

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A Chat With…Author Lizzie Lamb

Many thanks to Frankie Reviews at Chicks, Rogues and Scoundrels for featuring me on her blog and asking such great questions. I hope some of you might venture over there and see the whole post. Happy reading.

Chicks,Rogues and Scandals

Today I have the great pleasure of having Best selling contemporary romance author Lizzie Lamb visit Chicks, Rogues and Scandals, so take and seat and lets get to know a little about Lizzie…

After teaching my 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, I decided pursue my first love: writing. I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), followed a year later by Boot Camp Bride. Although much of my time is taken up publicising Tall, Dark and Kilted and Boot Camp Bride, I published a third novel SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS in July 2015. It achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon. I am a founding member of an indie publishing group – New Romantics Press and have held an Author Event at Waterstones High Street, Kensington, London.

The icing on the cake, as…

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Cutting, snipping, editing…

Happy to give a shout out to Jessie Cahalin’s new book and to share with bloggers her editing process via this blog post. Something rookie writers might find useful.

Angela Petch's Blog

I’m so happy today because I’ve waited for ages to have a long chat to Jessie Cahalin, brains behind the wonderful Books in My Handbag Blog.  Sundays are lazy days in Tuscany and here we are, down by the river, talking about her debut novel, ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’. I can’t believe my good fortune. waiting for Jessie

Handbag fever has overshadowed Jessie’s editing. Her book has been patiently waiting to come out of her handbag for a second appearance. However, some of the characters have been rather disobedient and refusing to go it alone. ‘You Can’t Go It Alone’ has undergone minor surgery. Jessie asked me to share the editing process to get her back on track and now her book is ready for a new handbag.

You Can’t Go It Alone waiting for a facelift

Bandaged BookJessie, I  read your first version and enjoyed it. How would you summarise your story?

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Updates to the (self-)publishing industry from the London Book Fair #AmWriting #LBF18 #BookMarketing

If you’re an Indie Author you might find the Statistics/ trends in this blog post very interesting. I did.

D.E. Haggerty

london book fairI arrived home late last evening from the London Book Fair with a notebook full of publishing notes, marketing ideas, and to-do lists. After three days of go! go! go!, I’m ready for weekend to start early – like right now. But I wanted to share some of the information about the publishing industry I learned at the fair before collapsing in my reading chair. *Please note: Facts and figures refer to the UK market, but I assume trends carry over to other markets as well*

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  • Volume and spending on books of all types was down by 3% in 2017, but overall the trend is upward.
  • Paperbacks are still the backbone of the industry with 71% of purchases.
  • The strong growth of ebooks has peaked. The volume and spending on ebooks fell dramatically.
  • Audiobooks are growing strongly. This is a fertile growth area!
  • Younger females and 55+ readers are moving…

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An interview with Colt McCall from “An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy”

A fabulous interview with June Kearns via LIz-Anne Lloyds blog. I loved this novel and am impatiently awaiting the arrival of June’s new one. No pressure, obvs.

Lost in a good book

My heart is pounding with excitement at the chance to interview the irresistible Colt McCall from June Kearn’s book.

CowboyWhat were your first impressions of Miss Annie Haddon?

First off? As if a scruffy dog had suddenly appeared and attached itself to me. Yeah, someone’s stray, a pampered pet – one that wasn’t particularly biddable, either. For such a small fry though, she seemed to have a pretty big mouth. A talker, too – mite too fond of her own opinions to my mind, at the time. No idea what she’d landed herself into, either. Not … a … single, solitary clue.

Annie called you intimidating and you certainly don’t suffer fools readily.  Would your life be easier if you were more diplomatic?

Let’s face it, shall we? Annie was white, English, opinionated. Not a hope in hell of understanding someone like me. As for diplomacy! Well, the West belongs…

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#BookReview That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel by Adrienne Vaughan #RBRT

Another good review for Summer at the Seahorse hotel via #RBRT – have YOU read Adrienne’s latest yet?

Christina Philippou

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Genre: Mystery, romantic fiction

Stars: 4

Links: Amazon UK and Amazon US

The Blurb:

Mia Flanagan has never been told who her father is and aged ten, stopped asking.

Haunted by this, she remains a dutiful daughter who would never do anything to bring scandal or shame on her beautiful and famously single mother.

So when Archie Fitzgerald, one of Hollywood’s favourite actors, decides to leave Mia his Irish estate, she asks herself – is he her father after all?

That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is a tale of passion, jealousy and betrayal – and the ghost of a secret love that binds this colourful cast yet still threatens, after all these years, to tear each of them apart.

My Review

Intrigue, mystery, tension, and some romance all woven together in this tale of love, betrayal, and, errr more betrayal…

Mia is the daughter of a famous actress but…

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Guest post – Eleanor Harkstead, new novel and Men in Kilts –

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It is my pleasure today to give a big shout out to Eleanor Harkstead fellow member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, lover of history, men in kilts and all round fabulous author. Some of you may remember that I interviewed Eleanor (aka Helen Barrell) back in June 2017. At the end of that post I asked her what she was working on and she said:

 

“With two non-fiction titles under my belt, I’m focussing on fiction for a while. I’ve recently started to write collaboratively with Catherine Curzon  – we have historical romance and romantic thrillers up our collective sleeves.” 

 

Their contemporary short story about feuding theatricals, ‘An Actor’s Guide to Romance’, is available on Amazon. The first installment in their Captivating Captains series, the historical novel The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper, will be published on 3 April 2018, and is available to pre-order. Both titles are published by Pride. If fancy reading ‘something different,’ give Eleanor and Catherine’s novel a try.

I met Eleanor through the Birmingham Chapter of the RNA and we discovered a common bond: writing, romance, a love of history and Scotland. To give you a taste of Eleanor’s work, I thought it would be fun to ask her to write a piece about Men in Kilts. Here it is:

The Ballad of the Scotsman in a Kilt

The first time I visited Glasgow with my Scottish partner, he assured me that I wouldn’t be seeing anyone in a kilt. “No one wears kilts in Scotland. Only bagpipers wear them, and old men in the islands.” Reader, I was disappointed. Until we got off the train at Glasgow Central and found ourselves in a swirling morass of Scottish footie fans who were off to see their team play an international match. Almost everyone was in a kilt. 

“I thought you said no one wears kilts in Scotland?”  “Erm….” was his reply

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On another trip to Glasgow, my partner decided to buy a kilt. The ground floor of the shop was full of shortbread and whisky, and knickknacks featuring lake monsters and West Highland terriers. We headed down into the basement to the kilt department, where the heavy tartans and tweeds muffled the sounds from the street above. First, to decide the tartan. Being a Wallace, my partner does have a tartan for his surname, but he found its red colour a bit brash. So he opted instead for the Wallace hunting tartan, which is mainly a dark green. Obviously, you’d startle your quarry if it you had a quantity of bright red fabric swinging about your thighs as you crossed the springy heather, so each tartan has a hunting variant. Also – each tartan has an “ancient” variant, where the colours are more muted. After choosing his fabric, my partner was measured up. A kilt should be worn high on the waist, not low-slung on the hips, and it should come above the knee. 

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When out and about in his kilt, my partner has had people comment that his kilt’s too short, but it is the correct length.

 

I’m sure you won’t mind me referring you back to the image of the heavy fabric swinging about the thighs as our Scottish chap strides up the side of a mountain – if the kilt is below the knee, that stride is going to be rather difficult. There’s an option to have a “sports kilt” – this involves less cloth (the pleats mean kilts are made from a vast amount of fabric), and they’re made from synthetics rather than wool. This makes them easier to move about in, whether you’re tossing cabers or heading off to a football stadium.

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Lizzie’s husband favours the Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket and Dockers t-shirt for a more casual look. The sporran is very handy for storing one’s iphone.

A sporran, next – my partner chose a plain leather one. You can get all sorts of designs on them, such as thistles or the St Andrew’s cross, as well as ones made from seal fur. If you must, you can have a ceremonial dagger – or sgian dubh – to tuck in one’s sock, then you have to choose your jacket. Does sir want a black “Bonnie Prince Charlie” jacket, or perhaps for that laird-striking-out-across-his-acres look, a tweed with buttons made from bone? And as for the shirt, will sir be wearing a plain white one or a Highlander-style billowing blouse? Whilst I evinced an interest in a shirt of the more billowing variety, my partner decided it would make him look like a jessie, so he wears one that he bought from Next. With a Wallace hunting tartan tie, of course.What footwear for a kilt? There’s traditional lace-up brogues, or you could go with a buckled shoe, or heck, why not go a bit punk and wear DMs or motorcycle boots?2017-09-27 10.33.23

A flutter of excitement went through my English family and friends once it became known that my partner had his very own kilt. He wore it when we visited my mum on her birthday in that most unScottish of English counties: Essex (well, apart from the Dagenham Girl Pipers).

 

My mum was exceedingly pleased with the kilt, and demanded she have her photo taken stood beside my partner in his Scottish finery. I am dismayed to relate that she told him it really suited his rear. Yes, it certainly does; that wouldn’t have passed me by, but mother – really. We went out for dinner on my mum’s birthday, so my partner decided to wear his kilt. On the way to the restaurant, my mum insisted we stop off in Sainsbury’s. The locals of Brentwood had never before seen a man in a kilt sashay through the aisles of their supermarket and my partner left a sea of astonished faces in his wake. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All except one local who came up to him to declare that he was wearing the Blackwatch tartan. My partner tried very politely to explain that he was wearing the Wallace hunting tartan, but she wouldn’t have it. Because of course, who could be more expert on kilts than someone living in Essex? “I know it’s the Blackwatch tartan – I’ve got it on a biscuit tin.”

Those better be shortbreads, or I’m having words.

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that no wedding is complete without a man in a kilt. We looked at the photos of a friend’s wedding to discover that a nice picture of my partner stood beside the bride was complete with women of a certain age in the background who were very obviously staring at his legs. At another wedding, he noticed that several female guests were deliberately getting their photos taken so that my partner and his kilt – and of course his legs – were in the background. 

 

He’s even received an invitation to a wedding purely based on the fact that he owns a kilt. Unfortunately, on the day my partner was at a loss to find the right shoes, so turned up in trousers. As disappointing as this may have been for the women who were so looking forward to staring at a strange man’s knees, he wore his tweed jacket and tartan tie with his trousers, so he still brought a suitably Scottish vibe to proceedings.

And what does a Scotsman wear under his kilt? Boxer shorts – in plaid, of course.

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Many thanks to Helen/Eleanor for writing that piece for the blog. If you want to know more about Eleanor and her work, here are the links. 

www.pride-publishing.com/book/an-actors-guide-to-romance

www.eleanorharkstead.co.uk

www.facebook.com/eleanorharkstead

 

 

My week in retrospect – blogging, writing, Goodreads Giveaway, fabulous presents – and surviving the dreaded lurgy.

Many thanks to blogger Linda Hill for inviting me on her blog to talk about Girl in the Castle. Linda is the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Media/blog star award of 2017.

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You can read the blog post here https://wp.me/p5IN3z-cRi

I’ve also been learning how to make animations on ripl.com What do you think?

If you’d like to share my tweet here’s the link

I spent quite a chunk of the week monitoring my ‘paid for’ Goodreads promotion. Here are the results. The promo was limited to the US and the winner chosen at random. I was able to mail the book direct to her via my Createspace account. Simples.

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Would I do it again? If I see a spike in downloads, yes; if not, no. I’ll be blogging about it in more detail in the near future. Tune in for more details in a couple of weeks.

I spent some of the week composing guest blog posts and sending them off to bloggers/writing blogs to go out in March.

The highlight of the last ten days or so was being long listed for the Exeter Novel Prize. Fingers crossed I make the short list.

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I have also been cracking on with my work in progress which I hope to publish late spring. I have two fabulous editors working on this with me and when it’s ready I’ll be zooming it over to my proofreaders. I have also recruited a new member to my team to check accuracy of location etc.  I think I’ve got all the bases covered. Cover reveal sometime after Easter – hopefully.

While all this activity was going on, my husband (code name Bongo Man), and I have been smitten by the dreaded lurgy –  equivalent of the American term, cooties – and had to cancel our proposed caravan trip to the Cotswolds. We hope to try again in March.IMG_7299 (Edited).JPG

In the meantime . . . a fabulous present arrived from the Diva from Dumbarton2018-02-17 09.10.48 (2)We can’t wait to find a space for the gifts next to the hand-crocheted blanket and cushion our mate Carole Matthews made especially for the new van. I have Carole’s new novel – A Million Love Songs on pre-order, something else to look forward to.

Well, I guess that about wraps it up. Must dash. Bongo Man, still laid up with the dreaded lurgy, has requested a slice of Battenberg cake to accompany his mid morning cuppa. Better head for our local co-op and hope they have some on their shelves. Laters.

Have a great week. Keep on reading, writing, blogging and reviewing.

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