Blog Archives

Boot Camp Bride – Book Birthday Blitz

Boot Camp Bride is five years old this month. Recently I re-visited Norfolk and the sites which inspired the novel. I’d love to share them with you and, hopefully, remind you of what a great romcom Boot Camp Bride is. There’s a chance to win a paperback copy (UK only) or a mobi. download (worldwide) – details at the end of this blog, so join in the fun and you could be a winner.

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Blurb? I’ll allow one of my latest reviews to do the talking for me –

“Charlee is forced to attend a boot camp to get a scoop for the magazine she works for. I adored the situation set up for this story – such fun! The author is very clever at painting her characters and adding poignant brushstrokes of humour and vulnerability. Oh my, Charlee’s anecdotes will chase away the winter blues! Charlee guided me through her adventure, and I could not stop laughing. How does Lizzie Lamb manage to combine humour, adventure and romance? Charlee was feisty, fun, intelligent and clumsy – perfect. Undeterred by the alpha male, she managed to fight him with wit and stubbornness. Lizzie Lamb’s characters and style of writing sparkle in Boot Camp Bride. This romantic comedy is classic gold: it is the equivalent of comfort food and a good night out with friends.” 

As the tagline says – meet Charlee Montague – your new best friendThis is how I imagined her and delicious alpha hero, Raphael Fonseca Ffinch (aka Rafa)  . . .

Noel Coward was not a great fan of the county and quipped: awfully flat, Norfolk. That’s what I thought the first couple of times I visited Thornham where the novel is set. But after a time, I started to understand the appeal of this beautiful landscape. Here’s what Charlee thinks as she looks out across the marshes for the first time, Rafa at her side. windmills on the fens 2018-09-26 14.23.31

Now she was out of the wind and the sun had come out, the marshes didn’t look so grim after all. There was a stripped back beauty to them, she could see that, and the flocks of birds heading for the feeding grounds down by the shoreline ensured the view was ever changing. And she had to admit, just sitting there, eyes closed, face soaking up the weak January sun, was the perfect antidote to the last couple of manic weeks. When she glanced at Ffinch he was scanning the marshes through his binoculars, his cup of hot chocolate untouched on the bench beside him. Why did she get the impression it wasn’t the birds he was watching so intently? ‘What’s out there?’ Charlee asked, slipping on her sunglasses against the almost overwhelming expanse of bright blue sky that filled three quarters of the landscape. ‘The Wash. And over there you can see the wind turbines on the shoreline at Skegness.’ Charlee followed his pointing finger and squinted at the distant shore where almost a hundred huge turbines were turning like quiet ghosts.

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Boot Camp Bride is set in Thornham, near Hunstanton. The Lifeboat Inn, an alleged haunt of smugglers, doubles for The Ship in the novel. This is where Rafa and Charlee  spend their first night together – strictly business, natch – very much aware of a growing physical attraction.  lifeboat stairs.jpg

“Charlee and Ffinch climbed the stairs to their respective bedrooms. Charlee was rather unsteady, a combination of vertiginous heels and the quantity of wine she’d consumed. She pulled a face and groaned, thinking of the hangover she would wake up with and the windswept salt marshes dashing ice-cold rain and sleet into her face. Ffinch walked up the stairs behind her, his hand resting lightly on her waist as if keeping a loving eye on her, whereas in reality he was holding her upright. Bidding the other guests goodnight, he whispered in her ear. ‘Smile, for goodness sake. You look as if you’re going to your doom, not a night of passion in The Ship’s best room. Stay in role.’ ‘I’m concentrating on my balance, if you must know, and,’ Charlee whipped round as his words sank in, almost falling backwards into his arms. ‘A night of passion, now hold it right there, mate. It’d take more than two glasses of champagne -’ ‘Half a bottle of Rioja, a sticky with your pudding and cognac with coffee – to do what? Make the thought of sleeping with me more palatable?’ Although he kept a straight face, Charlee detected banked down humour there.”

My friend Joan and I sitting in the hall of The Lifeboat Inn. It was at her and husband Roger’s place in Thornham that the idea of Boot Camp Bride first took shape.

It was easy to imagine Thornham Manor as the phoney Boot Camp for Brides – the front for drug smuggling on the marshes. At high tide it would be easy to land contraband on the nearby quay without arousing suspicion. jlnbqYou can also read an extract HERE

Boot Camp Bride is also available as a paperback and would make an ideal Christmas/ birthday present for someone who enjoys reading romance with a light sprinkling of humour and quick fire dialogue. Oh, and there’s a classic VW Camper Van featured in it, too. What’s not to like?

If you’d like to enter Boot Camp’s Brides Birthday Competition, all you have to do it FOLLOW my blog and/or share this post on any of the links below. The winner will be notified by email.

And, finally – If you’d like to read more about Rafa and Charlee’s adventures, download  a copy of Boot Camp Bride – It’s 99p/99c from Wednesday 21st November for one week.  

Guest Blog Post – Rosie Travers – Theatre of Dreams

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It’s a pleasure to welcome Rosie Travers to my blog today. 

If you don’t know Rosie or her novels, here’s your chance to find out – 

Welcome Rosie, tell us a little about your background

I grew up in Southampton on the south coast of England and loved escaping into a good book from a very early age. As a teenager I landed my dream job working in a book shop, and spent much of my spare time scribbling numerous short stories and novels, none of which I was ever brave enough to show anyone. Sadly, the real world took over and my writing habit was put on hold for marriage, mortgages and motherhood. In 2009 I moved across the Atlantic to Southern California when my husband took up a three year overseas work assignment.  Life as an ex-pat wife wasn’t quite as glamorous as I’d first envisaged, so to fend off the loneliness and homesickness, I began a blog about our life in Los Angeles, which re-ignited my creative juices.

When I returned to the UK I undertook a creative writing course and boosted by a couple of short story competition successes I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers’ Scheme. My debut novel, The Theatre of Dreams, was published on 1 August 2018.

Tell us about Theatre of Dreams. Great cover and it sounds an intriguing read. 

Rosie Travers Theatre of Dreams

Rosie said: The wonderful thing about being an author is being able to rewrite history – my inspiration for The Theatre of Dreams is the historic Lee Tower which was once situated on the seafront at Lee-on-the-Solent in my native Hampshire.  The Art Deco complex was constructed in 1935 and originally comprised a cinema, ballroom, restaurant and 120ft observation tower. The buildings were demolished by the local council in 1971 and the site is now a car-park – a travesty in a town with so few amenities. I spotted a commemorative notice about the tower and my imagination was captured.

The Theatre of Dreams is a story of new beginnings, laced with romance, tragedy and intrigue. Set in a fictional south coast resort,  a devious octogenarian, a disgraced actress and a bankrupt architect form an unlikely alliance to save an iconic local landmark,  but each has a very different motive.

I was so intrigued that I searched for Lee Tower on Google and here’s what I found – Sadly, the images are copyrighted, but you can look for yourself. 

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Official Blurb

Musical theatre actress Tara is down on her luck and in desperate need of a job. When terminally-ill octogenarian Kitty invites her to take over the running of her former dance academy in the old-fashioned resort of Hookes Bay, Tara thinks she’s found her guardian angel. But it soon becomes very clear Kitty is being far from benevolent. Too late, Tara realises helping Kitty will signal the end of an already tarnished career, unless she can pull off the performance of a life-time.

The Theatre of Dreams is published by Crooked Cat Books

Here’s what some reviewers have said about The Theatre of Dreams

“a true pleasure to read from first page to last….I challenge anyone to read this book and not become completely enthralled with these characters. The character development in this book was just simply stellar!”

“This is a highly enjoyable book with just the right balance of all the elements needed to make it a satisfyingly great read. it really does deserve 5 big shiny, glittery stars!”

The Theatre of Dreams is available on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Official Blurb

Musical theatre actress Tara is down on her luck and in desperate need of a job. When terminally-ill octogenarian Kitty invites her to take over the running of her former dance academy in the old-fashioned resort of Hookes Bay, Tara thinks she’s found her guardian angel. But it soon becomes very clear Kitty is being far from benevolent. Too late, Tara realises helping Kitty will signal the end of an already tarnished career, unless she can pull off the performance of a life-time.

The Theatre of Dreams is published by Crooked Cat Books

If you’d like to read an extract – click on this link:

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If you’d like to learn out more about Rosie, here’s where you need to look –

Website: www.rosietravers.com

Twitter @RosieTravers

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rosietraversauthor

Instagram: rosietraversauthor

STOP PRESS * Rosie’s second book, Your Secret’s Safe With Me, will be released next year.   

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North Coast 500 – part #1- Inverness to Brora

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North Coast 500 is the UK’s answer to Route 66 and I am proud to say that we have covered every mile of it – with one exception. More of which later. If you decide to make this journey, you will find these two books and map invaluable. The books make great armchair reading when you’re planning your route and Charles Tait knows his subject well.

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These boots are made for walking ……

Our adventure started in Jamie’s Italian, Edinburgh where we met up with four friends to celebrate my husband Dave’s 66th birthday. Who could fail to fall in love with Auld Reekie? Although we have visited many times, it never fails to enchant and amaze.

 

 

To get ourselves into the mood, we toured the city via open-top bus and, on a separate day, visited the Jacobite exhibition at the National Museum. IMG_5970 (Edited)There we saw (shudder) the chopping block where Lord Lovat met his end on Tower Hill. That sent us on another quest, to track down the mausoleum where, allegedly, his remains were laid to rest by his family. As luck would have it, Dan Snow, the TV historian was also on Lord Lovat’s trail; here’s a wee snippet of the programme he will eventually produce. In the fictional Outlander series on TV, Lord Lovat is the hero Jamie Fraser’s grandfather.

While in Edinburgh, I met up with Nick Fiddes, owner of Clan.com. Nick, and his co-director Adele, allow me to use photographs from this site for the front cover of my books. IMG_5306[1]My published novels

Leaving Edinburgh we crossed the newly opened Queensferry Crossing and I managed to get a shot of all three bridges. Not easy from a moving camper van!

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Then we were on our way to Inverness with a stopover at Blair Atholl, where a piper IMG_5362.TRIM.MOV[2](video link) greeted us on the steps of the castle, a fitting start to our tour of the highlands.  The Duke lives in South Africa, but Dave  stood in for him on this occasion.

Unable to resist some retail therapy I spend some time at the nearby House of Bruar . The heroine of Girl in the Castle is Dr Henriette Bruar, so a pilgrimage made sense. Well, that’s my excuse, anyhoo.

At Inverness we camped at the Caravan and Motorhome’s site at Culloden. We’d visited the battlefield on two previous occasions and decided to give it a miss this time. If you’ve never visited the site, make a detour and take your tissues with you, it’s an incredibly atmospheric place, haunted by ghosts. If you’re a fan of Outlander, it’s a must. I had my fingers crossed that Outlander #3 was downloading onto Amazon Prime in our absence.

 

 

This time, we satisfied ourselves with a photograph of the Prisoners’ Stone as our objective was Chanonry Point on the Black Isle (photo below with rainbow) to watch  the dolphins chasing salmon up the Moray Firth when the tide turns.  You can just see the dorsal fin of a dolphin in the photo on the right. I don’t know why, but seeing dolphins in the wild – not jumping through hoops as part of a show, affected me almost as much as visiting Culloden.  Anyone would think I was a writer for goodness sake.

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click here to see my Youtube video of dolphins in the Moray Firth

 

Check out this website for when to see the dolphins, They can also be spotted across the firth at Fort George – well worth a visit on its own account, as is Inverness which has great shops, museums and cafes.

We planned to spend all of September touring Scotland and although we were hardly ‘roughing it’, standards had to be maintained at all times (cough cough). I started off trying to dry our clothes in the caravan, then bought a portable washing line. 

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More importantly. I also brought a variety of outdoor wear with us to cope with changes in the weather . . . including boots, gloves, long mac (previously used for playground duty!) and sunglasses – it didn’t rain all of the time.

 

 

Turning our backs on Inverness we headed for Brora and the north east of Scotland.

You can read all about that in #2 of my Coast Road 500.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, check out my Scottish-themed novels 

Blogger and author Sharon Booth has written a moving and comprehensive review of Girl in the Castle which totally captures the mood of the novel. Thanks, Sharon. 💟

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Welcome to Helen Barrell – author

On my blog today I’m very pleased to welcome Helen Barrell. They say that the truth is stranger than fiction and Helen’s book Poison Panic, described as ‘A clever mix of family history and true crime’ – Angela Buckley, is a great read if you’re looking for something ‘different‘. But  I’ll let Helen do the talking . . .

Tell us something about yourself, Helen

Librarian by day, and author by night; I’m surrounded by books all the time. I’ve always written, but it’s my non-fiction Victorian true crime which has been published, while my fiction lingers on in a drawer. I live in Birmingham, with my partner and two cats, and drink far too much tea. I dress up in historical costume when the mood takes me. And I didn’t intend that to rhyme. Sorry.

 

Who or what has inspired you the most/ to become a writer?

My grandad, who used to sit me and my brother on his knee, and make up stories as they came to him. My favourite ones were about his time in France and Belgium during WW2 – he used to turn his adventures into ghost stories. Haunted, abandoned chateaux were his speciality, as well as his retelling of the haunting of Borley Rectory. Some people have commented that I write how I speak, and perhaps it’s that storytelling courtesy of my grandad which is behind that. There were always books in our house when I was growing up, and I loved going to our local library. At some point, I made the connection between the stories that people tell with their voices, and the stories people tell by writing them down.

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Being a modern author, Helen has used the power of the internet to bring her stories alive for her readers. Click on this link to watch her fabulous book trailer for Poison Panic.

If you’d like to hear Helen reading from Poison Panic, click here.

 

When you’re not dreaming about poison (!) describe your typical writing day I fit my writing around my job, so I tend to write in the evening, heading up to my desk as soon as I get home from work. I manage to fit in two hours of writing that way. I spend chunks of my weekends writing as well. I’m a bit of a hermit, really! I will sometimes write during my lunch hour or if I get an idea that wakes me up early, I’ll give up trying to get back to sleep and spend some time writing early in the morning. I commute to and from the day job on foot, and I find walking a wonderful way to get lost in my thoughts. So “writing” happens then, too. When deadlines loom, I take holiday from work to write. Recently I took a day’s annual leave in order to work on my book’s index – yes, an index. Such are the woes of the non-fiction author.

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I love Ripper Street so this is all beginning to sound right up my strasse. Helen, you seem very media-savvy, having produced your own  videos etc, so, here’s my next question:

Social Networking – a help or a hindrance? I’m never entirely sure how well social media helps to sell books, but I will say that it’s an excellent way to get in touch with other writers. Getting to know other writers is an excellent way to share your pain! Twitter is even worth using purely as a writing tool: that focus required to fit what you need into the character limit is good discipline for saying much with little.

Tell us a little about your new book- Fatal Evidence –  A surgeon and chemist at Guy’s Hospital in London, Professor Alfred Swaine Taylor used new techniques to search the human body for evidence that once had been unseen. A toxicologist, he could also identify blood on clothing and weapons, and used hair and fibre analysis to catch killers. He gave Charles Dickens a tour of his laboratory, and Wilkie Collins owned copies of his books. For Dorothy L. Sayers, Taylor’s books on forensic science were ‘the back doors to death’.

 

Fatal Evidence is available for pre-order here

Tailcoat and waistcoat by Walker Slater of Edinburgh

. . . and finally, Helen – and tips for fledgeling authors? There’s no point sitting about not-writing, telling everyone “I’d really like to be a writer,” or “I can picture myself musing at a typewriter by a picture window.” Just get on with it! Whatever it takes – fire up your laptop, open “notes” on your phone, grab a pen and paper, the back of an envelope, or a clattering old typewriter if you really must, and write. Even if it’s a few lines of conversation, a description, a plot outline. Something.Get some words down. They might not be amazing words, but get them down. And then you’re not not-writing, you’re writing, and you’ve set your foot on the path to being an author.

I hear you, sister ! Thank you for coming onto my blog, it’s been fascinating and, who knows, I might be knocking on your door for advice if I give up writing romance and go over to the ‘dark side’. (Helen kindly took these photos of Tall, Dark and Kilted when she visited Edinburgh recently.)

 

Some reviews of  Helen’s work

Reviews for Poison Panic  “A clever mix of family history and true crime.” – Angela Buckley, chair of the Society of Genealogists.” “These scandalous true stories are as compelling as any crime fiction.” –All About History magazine. “Poison Panic is an intriguing read that brings a forgotten history to light and reveals past attitudes to women – and a national fear that gripped Victorian Britain.” – Family Tree magazine

Finally – what are you working on ATM?

With two non-fiction titles under my belt, I’m focussing on fiction for a while. I’ve started work on a 19th-century police procedural series, set in the riverside village I grew up in.  I’ve recently started to write collaboratively with Catherine Curzon  – we have historical romance and romantic thrillers up our collective sleeves.

 

From One Heilan’ Lassie to Another !

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!

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Strone – Holy Loch

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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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 fothumbnail_poosie-nansie%27sr 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.

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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.

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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.5-thumbnail_the-waverley-on-the-clyde

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.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00TOTER6Q

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00TOTER6Q

 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?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01MFGEQLT/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01MFGEQLT /

 

Social Media Links

Website: http://www.rosemarygemmell.com

Blog: http://ros-readingandwriting.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RosemaryGemmell

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Romy-Gemmell/1422387704702586

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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Bloggy McBlogface #3 – Culloden

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.

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sunloungers getting an airing at  Banchory, Royal Deeside.

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.

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Balmoral Castle 2016 (c) Lizzie Lamb

2016-10-11Sadly, 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 –

http://www.scottishtartans.co.uk

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 . . .

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Prince Charles Edward Stuart – Battle of Prestonpans memorial

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 2016-07-02-09-25-09-2 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. 21-author-page

Bloggy McBlogface #1 – Edinburgh

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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.

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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.

2016-06-21 15.21.53-1An 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.

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As you can see, the history of this incredible churchyard stretches back into the 16th century

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Memorial to the original Covenanters and those who lost their lives fighting for their beliefs

 

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.2016-06-21 13.24.03

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.

 

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A view looking down the Royal Mile towards the Firth of Forth and Leith

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My ‘snap’ of the St Giles Mercat Cross didn’t show up very well, but this one is close by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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).

 

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