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 summer I spent a month touring Scotland, getting the vibe for my fourth novel which I am currently 87% of the way through. It was a fabulous holiday and I was able to touch base with friends, en route. The weather behaved itself while we were in Inverness and so, feeling ‘gallus’, we erected the awning and put out our sunloungers.
On this stretch of our road trip we planned to visit Culloden, Loch Ness and Castle Urquhart. I’m a great fan of Outlander and DK Broster’s Jacobite Trilogy. And, IMO the Broster novels give a more balanced view of the conflict and there’s less of the #highlandersgood/ #Englishbad subtext found in the Outlander novels. After all, many clans fought on the side of the English at Culloden and had no wish to see the Stuarts back on the throne. For them, the battle provided an opportunity to settle old scores. The downside of the Highland Trilogy is, no Jamie Fraser!
(click over each image to read the caption/copyright details)
If you’ve never visited Culloden, here’s a video to give you a sense of the place. The battle site has a haunting and mournful quality and it’s sad to reflect that, after Culloden, the clan system disintegrated and wearing tartan was punishable by seven years hard labour in the colonies. George IV) visited Edinburgh in 1822, and everything “Scottish” became acceptable once more, a tradition continued by Victoria and Albert who bought Balmoral as their highland retreat.
Sadly, by then many of the tartans had been forgotten and those which we see today are a recent reinvention.
(Above- a fragment of Thomas Fraser of Struy’s plaid said to have been worn at Culloden in 1746) image –
Next, we visited the Prisoner’s Stone where seventeen highlanders were taken out and shot, after the battle. Legend has it that one survived and lived to tell the tale. If you do not feel the weight of history pressing down on you when you visit the site, you have no soul. It’s hard not to stand there and weep for those on both sides who lost their lives.
I found it very poignant that clans from the same highland region fought side by side at Culloden – the Stewarts of Appin and the Camerons of Lochiel, for example. In my mind, this was an echo of WWI when adjoining villages joined the Pals’ Regiments and marched off to war together. (click over each image for further details)
Of course, Outlander – the books and the TV series have helped to reignite visitors’ passion for this beautiful part of Scotland. While we were there, many Americans were visiting the site, anxious to find the cairn erected to Clan Fraser and to lay flowers there. I still don’t understand why the Outlander series hasn’t been shown on UK television and why so few of my (UK) friends have heard about it. Here’s a link to my OUTLANDER pinterest board . . .
It’s interesting to reflect how differently things could have turned out had Bonnie Prince Charlie pressed on to London instead of turning round and heading back up north after reaching Derby – just miles from where I live in Leicester.
On a more personal note, one highlight of our trip was finding ourselves camped right next door to Facebook friend Sharyn Farnaby. Here she is with a copy of Tall, Dark which I gave to her to thank her for reading and reviewing my novels.
I have been inspired by the Battle of Glenshiel (1719) to write my next #contemporary Scottish romance which I hope to publish in March 2017. It contains history, a lost treasure, a gorgeous hero (Keir) and a heroine fighting to regain her reputation after an unfortunate incident at university, (Henriette).
In the meantime, here is my current selection of novels. Something to help you cope with the long, dreary winter days, perhaps? See you soon when I’ll be writing about visiting Balmoral and Royal Deeside and meeting up with another friend.
Many thanks to Emma for joining me on my blog and allowing me to share this fabulous post with you. If you like Men in Kilts and novels about Scotland (good or bad), read on . . .
One of the advantages of a Kindle is that the moment you’ve finished a good book, you can download the sequel, or more by the same author, right away. E-books can also be dirt-cheap, or even free, which gives me the impetus to explore genres and authors I wouldn’t previously have tried.
One of the downsides of the Kindle is the amount of (often self-published) weirdness out there…
I’ve been addicted to Diana Gabaldon’s fabulous ‘Outlander’ series since a friend recommended them last year. They hit every button for me – amazing settings, suspenseful plots, masses of fascinating historical detail, a strong-minded heroine and a frankly swoonworthy hero. The first book has just been made into a TV series (available on Amazon Prime) and though at first I had doubts about the casting of the book’s iconic Jamie Fraser, I’ve loved every minute. I’ve been saving the last (8th) book in the series to read later, because I’m pretty sure that either Jamie or the heroine Claire is going to die, and I’m not ready to lose them just yet… so I recently decided to browse on my Kindle for something similar.
Well, I have to say, I didn’t realise ‘Men in Kilts’ were such a big thing, if you’ll excuse the innuendo… I’ve always had a sneaking fondness for a man in plaid, ever since the Highlander film in the 1980s (my husband does a pretty good Christopher Lambert impersonation), but I had no idea that Gabaldon’s books had sparked such a surge of hormone-fuelled fantasy.
There are novels in every genre – from ‘Outlander’ time-travel copycats (though I haven’t found any as good as the original) to bodice-ripping drama and contemporary romance. As you’d expect, the quality varies hugely – I soon abandoned the ‘historical’ romances, which were often unreadably awful, with hideous ‘Forsooth, ma brae lassie’ dialogue and paper-thin characters. Authors, please note: a hero with a kilt, an accent and an improbably large sword does not make up for lousy writing.
Speaking of large swords, there is a frankly incredible amount of ‘Scottish erotica’ out there (don’t tell the Scottish National Party about this – they’ll only get ideas). It seems the Highlands are positively awash with passionate Celts who will tear off their tartan at the sight of a heaving bosom.
It’s not just ladies who like the idea of a laird – kilted gay erotica is particularly popular, though queerly enough, much of it is still written by women – for women?
There’s even a sub-genre of ‘Scottish Historical BDSM Fertile Erotica’, which is a very niche interest. Dearie me.
The contemporary women’s fiction scene is generally more wholesome (and rather better-written). Lizzie Lamb’s “Tall, Dark and Kilted” is a good, fun read with likeable characters, making great use of the romantic Scottish setting. I’ve also read a couple of entertaining supernatural stories where the kilted Highlander appears in ghostly form, to break a curse or charm the repressed English heroine.
If you’re more interested in the ‘real’ history of Scotland, you’ll find literary fiction re-imagining every era from the Picts to the 1960s, or you could venture into the murky realms of crime with Scottish Noir (though, to be fair, there’s not a lot of hot kilt-action in those).
There’s so much kilted-ness to explore – I’m quite intrigued by the sound of the ‘Kilts and Quilts’ cosy mystery series, and more so by the probably dreadfully-chafed Cowboys in Kilts (c’mon guys – even Jamie Fraser wears trousers on horseback).
I’ve found Vampire Scots (do they bleed Irn-Bru?), Scottish Fairies (harking back to the magic of the standing stones in Outlander), Scottish Dragon-Shifters (Oi! Bob! Help me shift this bloody great dragon!) and even Footballers in Kilts (now that would REALLY liven up Match of the Day).
Still, I think the prize for ‘freakiest kilt-related fantasy’ and possibly the oddest book title ever, must go to “Men in Kilts with Tentacles – and the women who love them”.
I am NOT going to download that one, BTW – some things are definitely best left unexplored…
Emma Seaman lives in Devon with her young family, and is a freelance Marketing & Social Media professional. She has been writing fiction for ten years, winning awards including the Jeremy Mogford Food & Drink writing prize and the Wells International Literary Festival Award.
Her short stories have featured in eight anthologies published by Legend Press, Exeter University, The Yeovil Prize and The Harrow Press (USA), with another due this October from the Bath Short Story Award.
She finds inspiration in long walks on Dartmoor, lazy days at the beach, from the people she meets and the fascinating minutiae of everyday life.
While we’re on the subject of Men in Kilts, dear reader, let me lead you gently by the hand towards my latest Scottish themed novel – Scotch on the Rocks which is available over on Amazon as a kindle download and as a paperback.