The highlight of the year was publishing my fifth novel – Take Me, I’m Yours. For this one I abandoned Scotland and headed for Wisconsin where I spent a glorious five weeks a few summers ago. However, fear not, there is a Scottish connection as the hero – Logan MacFarlane and the heroine India-Jane Buchanan are of Scots descent – natch. You can read about it here. Within a few weeks it reached #1 in its genre –
If you’d like to read the first three chapters – follow this link – And if any readers think I’ve abandoned Scotland, read to the end of the blog for details of my next novel . . .
July was a busy month. Adrienne Vaughan and I arranged a Literary Lunch at the Belmont Hotel, Leicester which raised £300 for MIND. It was also a great chance to showcase our books and to thank people for supporting our writing. We are lucky to have such generous friends and readers.
It’s funny how good things happen when you least expect them. I was overwhelmed when Simon Whaley of Writers Magazine contacted me and asked if I’d like to contribute to a piece he was writing on BLOG TOURS. Having taken part in two blog tours in as many months I felt qualified to comment.
June saw Bongo Man and me heading for Scotland with our caravan for a month – writing, touring, kicking back. I don’t know what it is about Scotland but it feeds my soul and my imagination. We’ll be returning there this summer, too. This time, we’ll be staying on a site overlooking Castle Stalker which was the inspiration behind Girl in the Castle.
For me, writing is all about making friends and sharing my work with others. Through Facebook and Twitter I’ve made many friends who have gone on to become readers and reviewers of my novels. I never take their support for granted. On our way up to Scotland, by an amazing coincidence, one of my proofreaders was staying on the same campsite in Kendal so I was able to thank her in person for all her help. Later in the summer, on the way to Cornwall in July we were able to meet up again at Exeter Service Station where I gave her a signed copy of Take Me, I’m Yours. Who says writing isn’t romantic? LOL.
In March I attended the RONAs with La Diva, Isabella Tartaruga, who is always first to read the rough draft of my novels and give me honest feedback. I also met fabulous JILLY COOPER – cue fan girl moment. And, in case you’re wondering, Jilly is even lovelier than you could ever imagine.
If I was to choose an author whose books put me on the path to writing, it would have to be Jilly and books such as EMILY, IMOGEN etc. And who could fail to fall for her hero Rupert Campbell-Black in her bonkbuster(s) Polo, Ride and Jump?
We’re getting close to the beginning of the year and Burns Night, which we celebrated at our Danish neighbours’ house. Go figure. As for my obsession with Men in Kilts, I encourage my husband Dave to wear his as often as possible. Purely for inspiration you understand. Here he is on his way to the Burns Night supper, looking quite the part. For those who are wondering, we belong to clan LAMONT (pron: Lam’NT, not La Mont). It’s motto is: Ne Parcas Nec Spernas (Neither spare nor dispose). Not quite sure what that means . . . but I do know that I wouldn’t have achieved half of my success without Bongo Man by my side.
I was lucky enough to be featured on other writers’/bloggers’ posts this year. Here’s a selection (including two blog tours ) if you want to take a look:
- A Night in with Linda Hill
- Books in my Handbag – A Wee Dram with Lizzie Lamb
- Rosie Travers – Comfort Reads
- Being Anne – review of Take Me, I’m Yours (blog post)
As for 2019, the events are stacking up
Carole Matthews Book Launch (February), States of Independence (March), Self publishing Conference (April), Deepings Lit Fest (May) RNA Conference (July), RNA York Tea (September), Narberth Book Fair (Wales), return to DMU to give talk on self-publishing. In addition, there’s monthly Belmont Belles meetings which I organise with mu oppo and great mate, June Kearns.
All that remains now is for me to wish you a healthy and happy 2019. I’m about to pick up the threads of the next novel which I started just before Christmas and to get stuck in. What is it about? I’ll let this tweet and the video do the talking –
As a writer of Scottish romances, I thought I’d blog about a halloween party featured in my Girl in the Castle –
I hope you enjoy the extract. I’ve also added some photos taken at a recent Halloween party I attended to celebrate Halloween. Make a note – Girl in the Castle is 99p from today for a VERY limited time. You can download and read FREE if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited.
Extract – When Henri entered the Great Hall, it had been completely transformed by the purple gloaming outside the windows, strategically placed candles and the roaring twin fires. A harpist was playing a selection of melodies on a clarsach, and in another corner, children were dookin’ for apples in a barrel of water, supervised by nannies or older siblings. The young guisers, dressed as ghouls, spirits or favourite superheroes, took great delight in frightening the grown-ups with turnip lanterns hanging from sticks and fake Dracula fangs.
Henri had dressed so as not to draw attention to herself, however, the other guests showed no such restraint. They were celebrating Samhain in style; the men in kilts, ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ jackets over matching waistcoats, dress shirts, black tie, and brogues. The women in long plaid skirts/kilts, silk blouses with lace jabots or, like herself, in simple black dresses worn with clan tartan in the form of a shawl or a sash. Clearly, this was an evening for showing off, because heirloom tiaras, necklaces and bracelets had been taken out of the bank vault. The jewels caught the candlelight and added extra glamour to the evening. One man stood apart from the rest, and it took several seconds before Henri realised that it was Keir. She’d never seen the Master of Mountgarrie other than in his work clothes. But this Keir, wearing full Highland dress with unconscious grace and style was every inch the laird she’d dreamed about in the library. In her dreams. Grasping her silver caman for good luck, she stepped out of the shadows and into the hall.
If you’d like to read the opening chapters of Girl in the Castle on your kindle, click on this link. You can also buy a paperback for your bookshelf.
Here are the hallowe’en photos – (thank you, hostess with the mostess, Adrienne Vaughan)- lots of spooks and demons, but not a kilt in sight. Unfortunately. You might also catch a glimpse of fellow New Romantics Press’s June Kearns hiding behind one of the masks (!)
If you like spooky stories then check out the best selling anthology Adrienne and I contributed to.
Alternatively, check out my blog post about a real life spooky event which happened to me and my siblings in the sixties.
Just to bring you up to date, Adrienne and I have published a new novel apiece since this blog post was written. Check out TAKE ME, I’M YOURS and That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel . As for June, she’s finally come out from behind that mask and hopes to publish her new novel summer 2020.
July saw us taking a month long research trip to Scotland. We started at Edinburgh, visited Rosslyn Chapel and Britannia . We called in at Whitburn to visit my family and discovered that Uncle Archie is a great fan of caravaning, too – I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Here he is with Auntie Nellie; they are my dad’s last remaining siblings. When I was talking to them, I lapsed into an East Lothian patois I hadn’t spoken in many a year. Good to know I haven’t lost it, ye ken?
In August we visited Bletchley Park and found a connection there to WHITBURN, Winkie the carrier pigeon who saved the lives of a WWII Bomber crew. They even had Winkie’s ‘parachute on display.Here’s Dave sitting at Alan Turing’s desk . . .
While we were at Edinburgh we visited Doune Castle where many scenes from OUTLANDER (Castle Leoch), and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL were filmed.
I drew inspiration for the Samhain feast in GIRL IN THE CASTLE here.
We then camped at Culloden and travelled as far north as Balnakeil, Cape Wrath, (research for romance #5). We popped into Balmoral but Herself wasn’t in, so I met up with fellow writer Rae Cowie at Banchory for a coffee and presented her with a copy of Scotch on the Rocks. (thanks for reviewing, Rae)
You can’t visit Inverness without going Nessie hunting, so we called in at Urquhart Castle, but Nessie was taking a coffee break. You can see why, inspired by the mist, romantic landscape and mysterious wakes on the loch, how the legend of the monster first arose.
We moved on to Ullapool and, although it rained (a lot!), at least we weren’t bothered by midges. It has long been an ambition of mine to visit the Craft Village at Balnakeil , and we did just that – calling in at the fabulous Cocoa Mountain Cafe for the BEST hot chocolate EVER. If you visit nearby Durness, you’ll see the John Lennon memorial garden; John, Yoko and the kids used to holiday there in the late sixties.
The road from Ullapool to Durness was stunning as we passed through North-West Highlands Geo-Park on a twisting one track road with passing places. Castles, white sand beaches, mountains, mist and small lochs (lochans) covered in water lilies. Can’t wait to return.
During that month New Romantics Press published a tapas selection of our novels for reading on Kindle. At the end of each extract a link takes the reader direct to Amazon to download the novel and ‘read on’. Take a Chance on Us.
Once I returned home, it was straight to East Midlands Airport to pick up Isabella Tartaruga. Isabella and I met through Facebook and have become firm friends ever since. I named a character in Scotch on the Rocks after her. We took Isa to our local pub for a cider and I organised a tea party in her honour – with a little help from my friends.
Talking of friends . . . In August we travelled to Brighton and had a super lunch with writer June Tate, and exchanged books. Later in the autumn, we met up with lovely Carole Matthews; I received her latest book later on in the year and am looking forward to reading and reviewing both. I learn so much talking to such brilliant writers – I hope some of the fairy dust rubbed off.
To ring the changes, New Romantics Press attended the Historical Novel Society‘s annual conference. I like to include lots of history in my contemporary novels – if that makes sense. One sad footnote: the conference was the last time I spoke to agent Carole Blake, who died unexpectedly in October. A great loss to readers and writers alike.
October saw me giving a four hour talk How to Self Publish your novel, at Stamford Arts. Thanks to Rachel Henry of WriteStars for inviting me. Dave was my wing man and worked the pc while I blathered on.
The highlight of November has to be the author event which Adrienne Vaughan and I presented at Aspinall, St Pancras, London. We sold books, talked to customers about writing – and met Tom Parker Bowles (name dropper!) in Fortnum’s, across the way! We’re hoping to be invited back again this spring to give author readings and to talk about the art of writing – watch this space.
It was a great November for Adrienne as she launched Fur Coat and No Knickers, a collection of short stories and poems.
December went by in a whirl, the highlight was meeting Book Blogger, Rosie Amber and her team of reviewers and writers at the Belmont Hotel with the Leicester Chapter.Thanks to Rosie, Scotch on the Rocks was read by her review team and short listed for the contemporary fiction award (silver). It was also one of Book Blogger Cathy Ryan‘s TOP READS OF 2016.
And finally . . . deep breath. I finished my latest novel – GIRL IN THE CASTLE and it is currently with beta readers. I have booked my proofreader and formatter and, with good luck and a following wind, it should be ready for pre-order by the end of March.
Cover reveal and blurb, coming soon.
This is a true story, verified by my sisters –
Ellen Humber and Phyllis Fell.
KNOCK, KNOCK, WHO’S THERE?
– Leicester circa 1964
In 1962, my family –including Granny and the dog all moved from Scotland to live in Leicester in a rambling palisaded villa. Apart from my Granny, all the adults went out to work – Mother in one of the many shoe factories dotted around Leicester and Dad on a building site as a scaffolder. I was thirteen years old and my siblings ranged below me at eight, six and four years of age respectively. We were rarely alone in the house as Granny was there to welcome us home from school and to give us our evening meal before the adults arrived in from work.
There was something spooky about that house in College Avenue, it had a long dark corridor which led from the front door to the breakfast room, scullery and kitchen at the rear. Other doors opened off the corridor giving onto a sitting room and a gloomy dining room in turn. Once, the house must have been splendid, in a Gothic sort of way; high ceilings, marble fireplaces, deep cornices and even bells to ring for the servants in each room. But to us kids it was a scary place and we didn’t like to be left on our own. In fact, there were certain rooms which the dog wouldn’t enter – without its hackles rising.
One day Granny decided to visit her brother in London which meant leaving us alone for several hours until Mother returned from the factory. Granny was very unhappy with this arrangement, but eventually agreed to visit her brother – albeit with the proviso that all four children, plus dog locked ourselves in our parents’ bedroom and stayed there until Mother came home.
Granny left, and I locked us in our temporary prison with food, drink, comics, toys, radio, the dog and a chamber pot in case of emergencies! We watched Granny walk to the end of the street and then settled down for a boring couple of hours until Mother arrived home. Time passed slowly and we tried to guess where Granny was on her journey – Luton, Bedford, St Pancras, the underground . . .
Then, the strangest thing happened.
We heard Granny’s footsteps climbing the stairs and coming along the landing towards the bedroom. The door knob turned once and then sprang back to its original position. Being kids we thought nothing of it. Ours was an old house and things were always sticking and jamming. Then, stranger still, we heard Granny calling out my name: ‘Betty. Betty,’ in her unmistakable Scottish accent. I looked at my sister Ellen for confirmation of what I’d heard and then walked over to the bedroom door and tried the handle. The door was still locked and the key was on our side, just as I’d left it. I went to unlock the door, but remembering the promise I’d made to Granny to stay put until Mother came home, I changed my mind.
My sister and I sat down on the bed and looked at each other, more puzzled than frightened. When Mother came home, we were simply glad to be allowed to run outside and play and didn’t tell her about Granny’s voice, the footsteps or the door knob turning.
Years later I brought up the subject with my sister.
‘We did hear Granny’s footsteps and her voice, didn’t we?’ I asked.
‘We did,’ my sister Ellen replied, emphatically. ‘She called out your name, twice and the door handle turned.’
We exchanged a look and shuddered, knowing that, as adults, we were only just beginning to comprehend we’d seen and heard that day. Had Granny been so worried about us being in the house alone, that she’d projecting her anxiety across the miles from London to Leicester? Or was it something ‘else’; something which wanted us to leave the safety of the bedroom and venture out on to the landing where it was waiting?
The same nameless terror which made us run down the long dark corridor to the safety of the kitchen every time – and the dog refuse to enter the large cupboard under the stairs where we played? Or, was it the old lady my father (the least fanciful of men) purported to have seen on several occasions standing at the foot of his bed looking distracted and mournful?
My sister considers herself a ‘wee bit psychic’, while I consider myself a complete pragmatist. My other sister, Phyllis, told me recently that she’d seen the door handle turn on a couple of other occasions and had been too scared to leave her bedroom. I know there must be a logical explanation for what happened and I’d feel a whole lot better if someone experienced in this field could explain it to me.
Then I could finally lay this story to rest – where it belongs.
Thank you for reading this story. Next year, maybe I’ll tell you another true story … the one where my great-grandfather (who was ‘laid out’ in his coffin on the dining room table) ‘woke up; and joined the mourners toasting his memory with whisky in front of the fire in the next room . . .
Just for fun – work out what your Hallowe’en name is and leave it in the comment box below. Mine is . . . ICY RUNER!!