My books had been working so hard to sell and promote themselves that I felt they needed a holiday. Where to go? Why – Bonnie Scotland – where else? After upgrading our caravan to one with a fixed bed, we set off for in June to tour Scotland, writing and finding inspiration for my next novel(s). Here are some interior shots of caravan #3 – no more making and unmaking the bed every morning before we could have breakfast.
Did I mention that the parrot came, too? Here he is, surveying his wide domain (thru the rain) and telling anyone who walked past us that they SHOULDN’T COME TOO CLOSE – this is Jasper’s house.
First stop – Auld Reekie – Edinburgh
We camped at Davidson’s Mains just outside Edinburgh and took the shuttle bus into Auld Reekie. I wanted to take a literary /historical tour of the city and notable writers and characters associated with it – Walter Scott, Ian Rankin, JK Rowling, Grey Friar’s Bobby . Sadly, the Elephant House was too busy and we couldn’t get in or add to the graffiti in the toilets (permitted) – next time maybe.
An Edinburgh ‘Close’ just off the Royal Mile – couldn’t you just imagine Inspector Rebus looking for clues to a murder in its narrow confines?
We spent quite some time exploring Greyfriars churchyard and stood on the spot where the Covenant was signed in 1638 as a protest against the rule of bishops. It’s a part of history which has largely been forgotten, however, you could easily spend half a morning looking round the church and the exhibition and absorbing the incredible atmosphere.
Next, we walked the Royal Mile to a Clarinda’s Tearooms, (bit of a theme developing here!) a cafe recommended by Facebook friends/readers. Clarinda is buried in the nearby Canon Gate cemetery and is alleged to be the lover referred to in Burns’ Aye Fond Kiss.
One of the next sites we visited (oh, our aching feet) was the Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile. It is said that while the artillery was being prepared before the Battle of Flodden (1513), a demon called Plotcock read out the names of those who would be killed. Edinburgh is such an ancient city, it’s hard NOT to believe such stories when you’re there.
And finally – what of my books? Well, lovely author friend Helen Barrell (check out her debut novel via this link) went to Edinburgh earlier this year and took a copy of Tall, Dark and Kilted with her. Here are some of HER pics. If you’ve enjoyed following my adventures (with novels and parrot) watch out for Bloggy McBlogface #2 when I tell you all about touring the Royal Yacht Britannia and our visit to Rosslyn Chapel (the Da Vinci Code).
One of the great things about living in Leicester – apart from The Foxes winning the Championship League, and finding The King in the Carpark (Richard III), is being on the main line to London.
Yesterday, fellow New Romantic – Adrienne Vaughan – travelled with me to London for the best event of the summer, so far. For a mere £5 we bought a ticket to Romance in the Court, a fabulous event organised by David Headley’s Goldsboro Books.
The event was held in historic Cecil Court on a beautiful summer’s evening.
There, amidst a fabulous gathering of romance writers, readers and supporters, I met old friends, made new ones and got down to the all important business of networking. As a writer, I’m never sure if the time I spend away from the WIP is really productive, so it was reassuring to meet new readers who said they knew me from a variety of social media: Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. And, as a result of ‘getting my name out there’, one reader had downloaded all my books. RESULT!
However, before I upload more photos, let me digress and share our bit of good fortune with you. En route to the event, I popped into Aspinalls in St Pancras (as a girl does) to buy the Swarovski ‘bag hook’ I’d been promising myself as a reward for working hard on #4. In a scene reminiscent from Love Actually , the manager wrapped my present in an four different types of gift wrapping. He also put four boiled sweets in the bag. I know, I know it should have been a cinnamon stick, but I’m not complaining for the best was yet to come!
He asked us what we were doing in London. Quick as a flash we handed him our business cards. Mightily impressed, he asked if we would come down to his store in the autumn to an author event which he would organise: prosecco, nibbles, book signing etc. He also mentioned that he liked to’ take care of his girls’, which made Adrienne think (optimistically) that she would be getting a set of matching Aspinall luggage. A girl can dream, can’t she? So, before we get ahead of ourselves,here are the rest of the photos.
And there’s more. Click on each photo to see who’s who !
And, finally, a great photo of David Headley with Carole Matthews (courtesy of Carole and Kev). Many thanks to them for allowing me to use one of Kev’s photos at the top of this blog.
As you can see, a fabulous time was had by all. The best five pounds I’ve ever spent. I’m hoping that David will host a similar event next summer . . . no pressure, obvs.
And, just before I sign off, keep your eyes peeled for an exciting announcement coming from New Romantics Press this summer. But, hush, hush, it’s top secret . . . for now!
As some of you may know, I was a teacher for thirty four years before I became a writer. Now that I have co-founded an indie collaborative, published three novels, (one of which became a bestseller in its genre), reached the final of the prestigious Exeter Novel Prize, and written 52,000 words of my fourth novel – it seemed a natural progression that I should share what I’ve learned with other writers.
Over the last year and a half I have given talks to writers’ groups, Ladies’ Luncheon Clubs, RNA chapters, third year Arts students at De Montfort University, Leicester and organised self-publishing workshops. I am very excited about my latest venture – outlined above – a four hour talk on how to self publish one’s novel. It wasn’t until I started planning my talk that I realised how far I’d come and how much I’d learned since publishing Tall, Dark and Kilted in November 2012.
SELF PUBLISHING IS NOT FOR SISSIES
So what will I cover during my talk?
here’s a brief outline –
- what to do now you’ve finished your novel
- where to have your manuscript critiqued, edited, proofread, formatted for kindle
- where to buy stock images/ have front cover images professionally designed
- Amazon ISBN vs Nielsen ISBN – which is best for an indie author?
- point attendees towards two ‘how to’ self-help books available in the kindle library
- explain the difference between formatting a ms for Kindle and Paperback
- how to negotiate your way round CreateSpace and create your ‘free’ paperback
- Tax witholding for non-US publishers
- explain how KDP Select/ KNRP/Kindle Unlimited works for indie publishers
- to preorder or not?
- how Scotch on the Rocks became a best seller within two weeks of publication
- how to form an indie collaborative
Many thanks to Alison Knight, fellow member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association for inviting me to give this talk. Here’s Alison’s latest novel – Rosie Goes to War..
If you are interested in attending this workshop, book a place by contacting the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre on: 01249 705500
- I also present workshops on how to sell books through social media
- readers – where to find them and how to keep them!
- how to write contemporary romance
- I am available for Weddings, Christenings and Bar Mitzvahs (just kidding)
Just leaving for Devon where the Exeter Novel Prize ceremony will take place on Saturday 12th March – the day after my birthday. I’m a finalist for the award and have beaten hundreds of other writers to get here. I’m the only indie author to have made the final. Even better, the short list has been drawn up by fabulous agent Broo Doherty. Woo hoo. Go me! The novel which has been short listed is my #1 best seller – Scotch on the Rocks. If you want to find out more about that novel, read this blog. I’ll report back next week, hopefully clutching one of the prizes.
Lovely blogger and huge supporter of indie authors – Rose Amber – reads her review of SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS
If you’d like to read about the locations I use in my novels – then check out this fabulous blog post by Barb Taub
And finally . . . a heart warming review by Sharon Booth
My favourite bit? This . . .
“Romance? The best kind. It starts off with mistrust and doubt, sparks fly, passion ignites and then…Well, some romances are forever. There’s nothing so romantic as a hero who vows never to hurt the heroine, never to leave her, and to love her forever. Especially when you just know he’s speaking the truth.”
Many thanks to Luccia Gray for interviewing me on her fabulous blog and for reviewing Scotch on the Rocks. Since then, Scotch on the Rocks has been shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize The first novel by an indie author to reach the final six . . .
Here is a link to Luccia’post . . .
I am really getting stuck in with my new novel – working title, This Highland Magic and love meeting my new characters and writing about them. Here’s the blurb. Doubtless it will change through the course of the novel being finished! Those characters have a way of ‘taking over’. Here’s my up-to-date word count, too . . .
Dr Henriette Bruar travels to Wester Ross to catalogue the library of an ancient castle set in the middle of a remote Highland loch. The laird, Sir Malcolm MacKenzie, of that Ilk, is pressed for cash and is selling off the estate’s assets, including the library to subsidise his extravagant life style. This doesn’t please his son, Keir, who fears there will be nothing of the estate left to inherit. To all outward appearances, Henriette seems like any run of the mill academic, unremarkable even. However, in her heart of hearts, she sees herself as a cross between Indiana Jones and the Relic Hunter and dreams of someday finding a precious manuscript, a hidden treasure or unlocking family secrets. At Castle Treamannair, she sets out to do just that. By the end of the novel, Henri learns that treasure comes in many guises and, sometimes, family secrets are best left undisturbed.
My spring newsletter will be coming out in March and I’ll be giving away a paperback copy of Tall, Dark and Kilted and other prizes. If you haven’t already subscribed, sign up here – and join in the fun . . .
Bye for now,
Read Adrienne’s fabulous blog post about her trip to the BIG APPLE last year to cover this event for Romance Matters – the RNA in-house magazine.
This is me with the bag she bought me because she thinks I’m an old hippie. (she could be right). She also put a ‘cent’ inside it, for good luck.
For the record, (no pun intended) I don’t only listen to Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, I have Simon and Garfunkel vinyl LPs, too.
I couldn’t resist posing for her !!
One day It’ll be our turn to step up onto that stage and get an award.
With three novels under my belt we headed to Bonnie Scotland in July to research number four. No rest for the wicked, eh? Having just watched the Outlander Series (based on the novels by Diane Gabaldon), I was interested to visit some of the locations where filming had taken place.
Then it was on to Ballachulish and a tour of Castle Stalker by the owner. The castle in my next novel, Castle Tèarmannair, is loosely based on Castle Stalker (see below). Check out the fabulous tour buses designed by Gary Walker.
In September Bongo Man was 65 and we celebrated in style.
We are real nerds and the highlight of that summer was having a pair of Jays take up residence in our garden. They disappeared from September until November but have now returned to delight us every morning with their antics and are becoming much tamer.
In October managed a week away in the Cotswolds and I was able to give a copy of Scotch on the Rocks to Maggie. We’ve been friends since 1978 when we met at an Open University summer school and the book is dedicated to her. Her only complaint about my writing is that there aren’t enough murders in my books. No wonder the Kelpie is laughing.
In October I became a member of Carole Matthew’s Chocolate Lovers’ Club team and hosted an evening with my girlfriends to celebrate the launch of her latest book – the Chocolate Lovers’ Christmas. I received free copies which I distributed to my book club, a tiara, chocs and an advent calendar. I also received an advance copy of The Chocolate Lover’s Wedding – Carole knows how to do things in style. #myguru
Tall Dark and Kilted received its 100th review in December and I felt that was worthy of celebration. And, out of the blue, I had a wonderful shout out in the Scottish Daily Record – the icing on the cake this year. I’ll be writing a blog post about that in 2016.
Looking back over the second half of the year I realise that I’ve been promoting more than I’ve been writing and I’ll have to rectify that. But it hasn’t all been about books and writing . . . I’ve also spent time with my family, have welcomed a great nephew – Leonidas Daniel Alexander – into the world and had a wonderful Christmas with Bongo Man and Jasper.
In between doing all of the above I have managed to find time to create a newsletter! Do subscribe to it while you’re on this page . . . I hope to host giveaways, sneak previews of my new novel – including cover reveals – and the odd chapter or two. I’d love you to be part of it.
So, what does 2016 hold for me?
I’ve been asked to give a talk on self-publishing to third year creative writing students at De Montfort University and I’m very thrilled about that.
I’m also co-hosting two charity events with Adrienne Vaughan: one in February and another in June And, of course, I have a novel to write – I’m currently on 12k words; only another 90k to go. Simples.
Do let me know how 2015 panned out for you and what 2016 holds in store. Be Healthy and Happy and – as they say in Scotland – LANG MAY YER LUM REEK.
Friday 25th December to Friday 31st December my novels will be on Kindle Countdown promotion at 99p/99c
After that, they will revert back to full price
HERE ARE THE BLURBS
Fliss Bagshawe longs for a passport out of Pimlico where she works as a holistic therapist. After attending a party in Notting Hill she loses her job and with it the dream of being her own boss. She’s offered the chance to take over a failing therapy centre, but there’s a catch. The centre lies five hundred miles north in Wester Ross, Scotland. Fliss’s romantic view of the highlands populated by Men in Kilts is shattered when she has an upclose and personal encounter with the Laird of Kinloch Mara, Ruairi Urquhart. He’s determined to pull the plug on the business, bring his eccentric family to heel and eject undesirables from his estate – starting with Fliss. Facing the dole queue once more Fliss resolves to make sexy, infuriating Ruairi revise his unflattering opinion of her, turn the therapy centre around and sort out his dysfunctional family. Can Fliss tame the Monarch of the Glen and find the happiness she deserves?
BOOT CAMP BRIDE
Take an up-for-anything rookie reporter. Add a world-weary photo-journalist. Put them together . . . light the blue touch paper and stand well back! Posing as a bride-to-be, Charlee Montague goes undercover at a bootcamp for brides in Norfolk to photograph supermodel Anastasia Markova looking less than perfect. At Charlee’s side and posing as her fiancé, is Rafael Ffinch award winning photographer and survivor of a kidnap attempt in Colombia. He’s in no mood to cut inexperienced Charlee any slack and has made it plain that once the investigation is over, their partnership – and fake engagement – will be terminated, too. Soon Charlee has more questions than answers. What’s the real reason behind Ffinch’s interest in the boot camp? How is it connected to his kidnap in Colombia? In setting out to uncover the truth, Charlee puts herself in danger … As the investigation draws to a close, she wonders if she’ll be able to hand back the engagement ring and walk away from Rafa without a backward glance.
SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS
Where the men are men and the women are glad of it!
ISHABEL STUART is at the crossroads of her life. Her wealthy industrialist father has died unexpectedly, leaving her a half-share in a ruined whisky distillery and the task of scattering his ashes on a Munro. After discovering her fiancé playing away from home, she cancels their lavish Christmas wedding at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and heads for the only place she feels safe – Eilean na Sgairbh, a windswept island on Scotland’s west coast -where the cormorants outnumber the inhabitants, ten to one.
When she arrives at her family home – now a bed and breakfast managed by her left-wing, firebrand Aunt Esme, she finds a guest in situ – BRODIE. Issy longs for peace and the chance to lick her wounds, but gorgeous, sexy American, Brodie, turns her world upside down. In spite of her vow to steer clear of men, she grows to rely on Brodie. However, she suspects him of having an ulterior motive for staying at her aunt’s B&B on remote Cormorant Island. Having been let down twice by the men in her life, will it be third time lucky for Issy? Is it wise to trust a man she knows nothing about – a man who presents her with more questions than answers?
As for Aunt Esme, she has secrets of her own . viewBook.at/scotchontherocks
IT ONLY REMAINS FOR ME TO WISH YOU A HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND A HEALTHY 2016
Here’s the blurb for Boot Camp Bride . . .
Take an up-for-anything rookie reporter. Add a world-weary photo-journalist. Put them together . . . light the blue touch paper and stand well back! Posing as a bride-to-be, Charlee Montague goes undercover at a boot camp for brides in Norfolk to photograph supermodel Anastasia Markova looking less than perfect. At Charlee’s side and posing as her fiancé, is Rafael Ffinch award winning photographer and survivor of a kidnap attempt in Colombia. He’s in no mood to cut inexperienced Charlee any slack and has made it plain that once the investigation is over, their partnership – and fake engagement – will be terminated, too. Soon Charlee has more questions than answers. What’s the real reason behind Ffinch’s interest in the boot camp? How is it connected to his kidnap in Colombia? In setting out to uncover the truth, Charlee puts herself in danger … As the investigation draws to a close, she wonders if she’ll be able to hand back the engagement ring and walk away from Rafa without a backward glance.
Some of the locations featured in BOOT CAMP BRIDE