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My Review of 2016 #2 July – December

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Castle Stalker, Argyll © Lizzie Lamb

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?

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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.

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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.bab13063-f055-4138-8324-23ee43bee1e72

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.14642163_10154045011707843_1225004116375522132_n

 

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.

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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.img_3271-collage1Thanks 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.

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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.

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The Exeter Novel Prize – and a fabulous birthday weekend

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Many thanks to Isabella Tartaruga for making this collage. Isabella is one of my beta readers and helped me with the Italian in SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS, which reached the final of the Exeter Novel Prize. I named a character in the novel after her –  hence the plaque in the top left hand corner.

Here’s my report of the Exeter Novel Prize

& fabulous birthday weekend

First up – The Exeter Novel Prize, organised by Creative Writing Matters. Check out their website if you are just starting out on your writing career. Their slogan is: WHAT’S YOUR STORY and you’ll find lots of advice to help you achieve those famous words at the bottom of your manuscript THE END!

Exeter Novel Prize  the award ceremony was held in St Stephen’s Church, Exeter High Street. There were over 300 entries from all over the world and I was thrilled to be one of the six finalists. The  prize is held in high esteem by writers and comes with the added bonus that the short list is commented upon by respected agent Broo Doherty. 

 

Here’s what she said about SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS 

The novel opens with Ishabel Stuart racing across a Scottish causeway to her aunt’s house seeking comfort and solace, having discovered her fiancée has been unfaithful. She has the added burden of her recently deceased father’s ashes in her car; he has requested that his ashes be scattered from a Munro and Ishabel is expected to know how to organise it. 
Her aunt, Esme, a life long protester, runs a B&B on the island, and inevitably the hotel is full when Ishabel arrives.  Not only full, but full of an unwanted American who is going to stay on in the hotel while Esmee heads down south with her ancient hippy dippy friends to protest about fracking in Manchester.
This is a lively and amusing opening to a romantic novel. The setting is authentic, the characters original and the stroppy parrot who has the perfect answer for every situation certainly raised a smile whenever he appeared. 
2016-03-12 17.55.28Pershing – the parrot in the  novel is based on our parrot, Jasper. Here he is with my award. Or should that be, his award ?!

Although I wasn’t overall winner, it was still a great day and a validation of me as a writer. Many thanks to Margaret James, Cathie Hartigan and Sophie Duffy for all their hard work. Now all I’ve got to do is write the next one. Simples.

If you’d like to see a full report and more pictures of the event, go to the website

Here are some snaps of what I DID NEXT

 

  • Opened some birthday cards and had breakfast of croissants and bucks fizz in bed (!)
  • Had lunch at the Oxenham Arms, South Zeal, touched the lucky standing stone – and sat in the VERY place where David Bowie ate lunch.
  • Met up with friends  Sharyn Farnaby and Lin Tredgold
  • Returned to Exeter, had coffee in Patisserie Valerie and went on a birthday shopping spree
  • went home to find a lovely shout out from Amazon for SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS

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