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.
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.
If you do find yourself in Brora consider visiting Dunrobin Castle. (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.
I 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.
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.
My week in retrospect – blogging, writing, Goodreads Giveaway, fabulous presents – and surviving the dreaded lurgy.
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.
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.
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.
In the meantime . . . a fabulous present arrived from the Diva from DumbartonWe 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.
Hi everyone – I’m delighted to share my news with you.
GIRL IN THE CASTLE has been long listed for the Exeter Novel Prize.
Click on the arrow to watch this promo.
I’ve got my fingers and everything else crossed that I make the short list.
💕Perhaps you’d like to read Girl in the Castle or buy a paperback copy for someone for Valentine’s Day? 💕 Here’s the blurb to whet your appetite –
Her academic career in tatters, Dr Henriette Bruar needs somewhere to lay low, plan her comeback and restore her tarnished reputation. Fate takes her to a remote Scottish castle to auction the contents of an ancient library to pay the laird’s mounting debts. The family are in deep mourning over a tragedy which happened years before, resulting in a toxic relationship between the laird and his son, Keir MacKenzie. Cue a phantom piper, a lost Jacobite treasure, and a cast of characters who – with Henri’s help, encourage the MacKenzies to confront the past and move on. However – will the Girl in the Castle be able to return to university once her task is completed, and leave gorgeous, sexy Keir MacKenzie behind?If you want to read an extract from Girl in the Castle, you can do so here.
I’m also offering a #GIVEAWAY of a paperback copy of Girl in the Castle on Goodreads (US only, sorry). You have until February 15th to enter.
Two years ago I was shortlisted for the Exeter Novel Prize with Scotch on the Rocks. If you would like to read about that occasion, here’s the link –
Finally . . . yesterday, New Romantics Press travelled to London for the launch of Adrienne Vaughan’s new novel – That Summer at the Seahorse Hotel. We had a fabulous time. If you’d like to see the photos and read the blog post, here it is . . . Have a great weekend and keep on writing, reading and reviewing.
It doesn’t seem possible that almost five years have passed since we launched New Romantics Press. At the time, we each said: “We’ll be happy just to see our novel in print.”
Since then, we’ve been bitten by the writing bug and gone on to write further novels, win accolades, reach the finals of a prestigious book award and achieve bestseller status (historical romance>Scottish) on Amazon. Not to forget, hosting a wonderful book launch at Waterstones in Kensington. Between us, we’ve written ten fabulous novels and gained a host of readers who are hungry for more! With four new novels in the pipeline, we thought it time to thank our wonderful readers/supporters and to celebrate our achievements by uploading a Kindle book, containing the first two chapters of each of our novels to share with you.
The Kindle is almost a novel in its own right – almost forty thousand words in all!
So . . . if you have never read any of our novels, now’s the time to
TAKE A CHANCE ON US
Within the pages of the Kindle you will find: romantic heroes and heroines aplenty; men in kilts, cowboys, Victorian Misses, Twenties Girls, Wild Irish actors who bear more than a passing resemblance to Pierce Brosnan, feisty heroines who live on remote islands in the Atlantic, academics, priests, enigmatic heroes – and women ‘who love not wisely, but too well.’ In short, ten ideal summer reads to take to the beach with you – a book for every mood. Click here to read an extract/buy/share
Since publishing Take a Chance on us, Adrienne and Lizzie have written Fur Coat and No Knickers – a collection of poems and short stories and Girl in the Castle – fall in love with a Highlander
click here to download a copy of Take a chance on us
and, from all of us – thank you very much – have a great summer!
Lizzie, Adrienne, June and Mags
Hi, I’m RAPHAEL FONSECA-FFINCH – 38 – campaigning journalist and adrenalin junkie, born of dual Scottish-Brazilian heritage. Hence the name. Despite what is says in my passport I’m a citizen of no country and travel the world alone in search of the next scoop, the next headline-grabbing story. My life is solitary and often dangerous, but that’s my choice. I have a driven personality and that makes me hard to live with. I have no time for emotional entanglements and that, conversely, makes women eager to ‘be the one’ to tame my free spirit.
I’ve staked out a Boot Camp for Brides on the Norfolk marshes which I believe a Columbian cartel is using to smuggle drugs into the UK. I need to gain access to the camp, and for that, I need a ‘fake fiancée’. I’ve found one in the shape of rookie journalist Charlie Montague. However, I’m a lone wolf and concerned that taking on a partner will slow me down. Worse still – that shaking her off at the end of the assignment will prove harder than dodging the cartel’s bullets.
Acquiring a phoney fiancee will enable me to enter and leave the boot camp without arousing suspicion.
On paper, Montague seems ideal – keen to learn, smart enough to accept any terms and anxious to work alongside me. So far, so good; so why do I have the uneasy feeling I’ve caught a tiger by the tail? That, given half a chance she’ll go off-piste and do her own thing? There’s something about her which attracts me. God forbid that she will be the one who succeeds where others have failed. Bringing me to my knees and forcing me to admit that, underneath the hard-bitten exterior I’ve cultivated, I’m as lonely and emotionally vulnerable as the next man.
At the end of the assignment, will I be able to walk away from the Boot Camp Bride?
If you like what you’ve read, please vote for me, Rafael Fonseca-Ffinch by emailing email@example.com
You can also hop to all the stops on the Book Boyfriend Blog, collect the candidate’s name at each stop, then submit all 30 names to the same address in order to be entered into the GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY. This giveaway includes a Kindle Paperwhite + 30 e-books, one from each of the authors participating in the hop. Entries for the hop will be accepted until Sunday, May 21st at midnight – EDT.
A winner will be chosen on Monday, May 22nd.
I’ll be gifting Boot Camp Bride so you can read how Charlie and Rafa’s love story unfolds.
If you can’t wait that long, Boot Camp Bride is currently on Kindle Countdown at 99p/99c
And the winner of our Grand Prize is Kathy Davis. I have already contacted Kathy and her new Kindle Paperwhite is on the way to her. As soon as she receives the e-reader and sets it up, we can each gift her a copy of the e-book we promised.
Here are all the participating blogs
Tracie Banister http://traciebanister.blogspot.com/
Becky Monson https://www.beckymonson.com/blog
Hilary Grossman http://www.feelingbeachie.com
Glynis Astie http://www.glynisastie.com/blog
Jayne Denker http://jaynedenker.com
Jennie Marts http://www.jenniemarts.com/blog.html
Barbara Valentin https://barbaravalentin.com/blog/
Beth Labonte http://www.secretary4life.com
Victoria Cooke https://victoriacooke10.wordpress.com/
Holly Kerr http://hollykerr.ca/my-blog/
Meredith Schorr http://www.meredithschorr.com
Stacey Wiedower http://www.staceywiedower.com/blog/
Laurie Baxter http://lauriebaxter.com/blog/
Jennifer Farwell http://jenniferfarwell.com/#blog
Natalina Reis https://catarinadeobidos.wordpress.com/about/
Celia Kennedy http://www.womanreinventsself.blogspot.com
Beth Carter http://banterwithbeth.blogspot.com/
Ellyn Oaksmith http://ellynoaksmith.com/
BJ Knapp http://bjknapp.com/blog
Lizzie Lamb https://lizzielamb.co.uk/lizzies-scribbles/
Sylvia Ashby http://sylvia-ashby.com/?cat=64
Karen M. Cox http://karenmcox.merytonpress.com/blog/
Lindsay Detwiler http://www.lindsaydetwiler.com/
Kirsty McManus http://www.kirstymcmanus.com.au/category/blog-news/
Melissa Baldwin http://www.authormelissabaldwin.com/news.html
Geralyn Corcillo http://thingsthatmakemegommmrrh.blogspot.com
Cassandra O’Leary http://www.cassandraolearyauthor.com/blog/
Cat Lavoie http://www.catlavoie.com/blog
Kate O’Keeffe http://kateokeeffe.com/blog
Monique McDonell http://www.moniquemcdonellauthor.com/blog
Today I’m welcoming author Rosemary Gemmell onto my blog, close on the heels of Gwent Kirkwood, another Scottish writer I featured. Are you detecting a theme, yet?
Thank you so much, Lizzie, for inviting me to your lovely blog. I enjoy reading about your travels around Scotland now and then!
The setting in any novel is often one of the most important aspects of the story, for the author and the reader. This has never been truer than it is for The Highland Lass, my Scottish dual-timeline novel, as it is mainly set around my own hometown in the west coast of Scotland, an area of natural beauty, rich with history.
The old Greenock cemetery’s ancient and elaborate gravestones, winding paths and overhanging trees provided much scope for my childish imagination. This was where my mother first introduced me to the gravestone of Highland Mary, who was a brief but important love interest of Robert Burns, our national poet. This early memory and a fascination for Mary Campbell was the inspiration for the short historical chapters in The Highland Lass.
Inverclyde enjoys an envious position right beside the River Clyde, and across from Gourock sits the small seaside town of Dunoon in Argyll. From my side of the river, we can see the entrance to the Holy Loch, bordered by the towering Argyll hills, where the American Navy was based from the 1960s until the early 80s. This provided another thread in the story, as Eilidh is seeking the identity of her father, who may have been an American officer. Dunoon is also where Highland Mary was born, where her statue forever looks across the Clyde.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing slipping in a couple of my photos of the Clyde and Dunoon, Rosemary, including this video of us sailing Doon the Watter to Dunoon aboard a CalMac ferry. We were on the lookout for submarines, but didn’t spot any.
After researching Burns, from a book published in 1838, to more modern accounts and Burns’ own poems, songs and letters, I formed a real feeling for Highland Mary and her effect on the poet. I had an article published about the couple in The Highlander Magazine in the USA some years before but I kept coming back to the idea for a novel. So I carried out further research in the Gothic-style Watt Library in Greenock, with its access to microfilm copies of the old Greenock Advertiser and the later Greenock Telegraph, where I found several interesting facts that I incorporated into the story and the epilogue of The Highland Lass. The Greenock Burns Club (the Mother Club) kindly allowed me to sift through their archives for any relevant material I may have missed.
The other main setting for this novel, in the present and past, is Ayrshire, known as Burns country. Highland Mary and Robert Burns met and plighted their troth there in the 18th century and the small villages have hardly changed at all. The inn where Burns and his cronies met, Poosie Nancie’s, is still in the same street in Mauchline. When I stepped inside the snug, low-beamed room, it took no imagination at all to picture the poet sitting at the table near the fire range with his ale. Ayrshire is also where the blossoming relationship between modern heroine, Eilidh Campbell, and handsome Scot, Lewis Grant, takes a major step forward.
Another inspiration for my Scottish novels is our famous Loch Lomond, one of the largest freshwater lochs (or lakes) in Britain, now part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. One of my favourite places is the fairy-tale village of Luss, where Lewis takes Eilidh one day. The tiny cottages with their abundance of flowers in summer months line both sides of the narrow main street which wanders right down to the edges of the loch.
Luss and Loch Lomond – stunningly beautiful.
In my most recent romantic suspense novel, Return to Kilcraig, I feature two different areas of Loch Lomond. One is at Conic Hill through which runs the Highland Boundary Fault that separates the highlands from the lowlands. This is also part of the famous West Highland Way. The other area in this novel is known as Loch Lomond Shores, with its aquarium, shops and water sports right by the loch side.
But it is around my own Inverclyde where all the story threads in The Highland Lass come together and where Eilidh finds the answers to her past. In Return to Kilcraig, the contemporary village setting of Ross and Christy’s story is a fictional blend of several country villages around this part of the west of Scotland.
Many of the large cruise ships now visit the port at Greenock but you can still watch out for the oldest sea-going passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world, The Waverley, which sails down the Clyde during the summer months and maintains our links to the steamers of the past. Scotland is so rich in history, myth and legend that I look forward to setting another novel somewhere along its shores.
More about Rosemary Gemmell – A prize-winning writer, Rosemary Gemmell’s short stories, articles, and poems have been published in UK magazines, in the US, and online. She is now a historical and contemporary novelist. She has also published historical novels and contemporary novellas with a touch of mythological fantasy as Romy and two tweens books as Ros. Rosemary has a post-graduate MA in Literature and history and is a member of the Society of Authors, Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Scottish Association of Writers. She loves to dance!
The Highland Lass
Eilidh Campbell returns to her Scottish roots from America with one main aim: to discover the identity of the father she never knew. But her mother’s past in Inverclyde is a mystery with family secrets, a book of Robert Burns’ poems with a hidden letter and a photograph link to the Holy Loch at Dunoon when the American Navy were in residence. Staying with her childhood friend, Kirsty, while searching for answers, Eilidh begins to fall in love with handsome Scot Lewis Grant, but just how free is he? Together they trace the story of Highland Mary and Robert Burns, with its echoes to her mother’s story. In short alternate chapters, Highland Mary tells her own story from 1785-6. From Dunoon, to Ayrshire and culminating in Greenock, Eilidh finds the past is closer than she realises.
Return to Kilcraig
The legacy of her beloved grandmother’s cottage in the Scottish village of Kilcraig seems like the ideal solution after Christy Morrison’s recent trauma. Until the threats begin. Can she trust her heart and allow herself to fall in love again? When Ross McKinley reluctantly welcomes Christy back to the village, he has hardened his heart against love, until they begin to renew their childhood friendship. But someone is determined Christy should go back to London. Will they find the culprit in time?
Social Media Links
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.