Most of January 2020 was spent planning a six week writing/research trip to Scotland. Then Covid-19 struck and it became clear that we’d have to put our plans on hold. The first casualty was the Braemar Highland Games organised for the day before Dave’s 70th birthday. They refunded our money without a quibble. Sadly, our lunch at the Fife Arms, Braemar celebrating Dave’s BIG BIRTHDAY had to be cancelled, too.
The master plan had been to set off for Kendal on August 8th and wake up on the shores of Loch Lomond at Malarochy on August 11th – our 47th wedding anniversary. However, to quote Rabbie Burns – the well laid plans of mice and men gang aff a gley. Everything went pear/shaped and we had to cancel all our bookings. So, rather than put all that planning to waste, I thought I’d take you on a virtual tour of Scotland. In this post we’ll be travelling from Lockdown Leicester via Kendal to Loch Lomond.
So, make yourself comfortable and journey to Bonnie Scotland without leaving your favourite armchair.
First stop – the Caravan and Motorhome Club site in Kendal built on the site of a 19th century gunpowder mill. Sounds horrendous, right? Wrong. It is a haven of peace and tranquility with a river running through it. There are lots of parking bays surrounded by woodland and you hardly notice the other campers because there is so much space and you park in tree-covered bays. I’d love to spend a week there writing and visiting the surrounding towns but, inevitably, Kendal is a stopping off point on the way north.
Two years ago we unexpectedly met Sharyn Farnaby and husband Rod on the campsite. Sharyn was one of the proofreaders of Take Me, I’m Yours so I was able to share the cover with her. (I’ve since changed the cover but you can read an extract of Take Me, I’m Yours/share and download here.
Although we weren’t able to wake up to a view of Bonnie Loch Lomond on August 11th, we derived great pleasure from reading the 200+ comments from friends and followers on Facebook. Forty seven years together – how did that happen? Loving’ the hairstyle, Dave, by the way.
Much as we love Loch Lomond it is another stopping off point on the way to the highlands and our all-time favourite campsite -Bioran Dhub- overlooking Castle Stalker. The thrill of waking up to a view of the castle every morning (see below) is spine chilling. If you ever rock up in Fort William check out Castle Stalker’s website and book yourself on a guided tour. Monty Python fans might recognise Stalker which featured as Castle Argh in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Visiting Castle Stalker a few years ago inspired me to write Girl in the Castle which is one of my best selling novels. Check it out here to read an extract/share/buy.
Over recent years, while staying near Fort William, we’d been keen to discover the exact location where some of SKYFALL had been filmed. Previously, it had been a closely guarded secret and we’d travelled the length of Glen Etive trying the find where the iconic shots had been taken. Last summer we found the GPS coordinates and set off bright and early to get ahead of the crowds.
Here is Dave standing by THE VERY STONE where Bond and M had posed a couple of years earlier. Dave has an electric screwdriver for raising and lowering the caravan wheels, not a Walther PPK. But a boy can dream, can’t he?
If you ever find yourself staying near Fort William, consider taking the Scotrail train to Mallaig. It crosses the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct (aka the Harry Potter Bridge) and follows the same route at the Jacobite Express for a fraction of the price. The train is only in Mallaig for a couple hours, so buy the best fish and chips you’ll ever taste and eat them sitting on the harbour wall as you watch the boats going in and out.
What next from Lizzie Lamb?
I’ve finished my sixth romance – Penhaligon”s Highland Bride – and I hope to publish it very soon. You’ll be the first to know when I do.
March -and there’s more . . .
April- come she will (click here for a song)
May – she will stay
June – will change her tune (we head for Scotland)
July – she will fly – research for #6 Plockton
August – the Isle of Wight
December and beyond …
Looking ahead . . . 2020
What does 2020 hold for us? More trips away in the van, certainly. Have tickets for the Braemar Highland Gathering in September to celebrate Dave’s BIG BIRTHDAY. Other than that, we’ll take life as it comes and touch base with as many friends as possible. Keep in touch and let us know what you’ve been up to. Love from Lizzie and Dave
The highlight of the year was publishing my fifth novel – Take Me, I’m Yours. For this one I abandoned Scotland and headed for Wisconsin where I spent a glorious five weeks a few summers ago. However, fear not, there is a Scottish connection as the hero – Logan MacFarlane and the heroine India-Jane Buchanan are of Scots descent – natch. You can read about it here. Within a few weeks it reached #1 in its genre –
If you’d like to read the first three chapters – follow this link – And if any readers think I’ve abandoned Scotland, read to the end of the blog for details of my next novel . . .
July was a busy month. Adrienne Vaughan and I arranged a Literary Lunch at the Belmont Hotel, Leicester which raised £300 for MIND. It was also a great chance to showcase our books and to thank people for supporting our writing. We are lucky to have such generous friends and readers.
It’s funny how good things happen when you least expect them. I was overwhelmed when Simon Whaley of Writers Magazine contacted me and asked if I’d like to contribute to a piece he was writing on BLOG TOURS. Having taken part in two blog tours in as many months I felt qualified to comment.
June saw Bongo Man and me heading for Scotland with our caravan for a month – writing, touring, kicking back. I don’t know what it is about Scotland but it feeds my soul and my imagination. We’ll be returning there this summer, too. This time, we’ll be staying on a site overlooking Castle Stalker which was the inspiration behind Girl in the Castle.
For me, writing is all about making friends and sharing my work with others. Through Facebook and Twitter I’ve made many friends who have gone on to become readers and reviewers of my novels. I never take their support for granted. On our way up to Scotland, by an amazing coincidence, one of my proofreaders was staying on the same campsite in Kendal so I was able to thank her in person for all her help. Later in the summer, on the way to Cornwall in July we were able to meet up again at Exeter Service Station where I gave her a signed copy of Take Me, I’m Yours. Who says writing isn’t romantic? LOL.
In March I attended the RONAs with La Diva, Isabella Tartaruga, who is always first to read the rough draft of my novels and give me honest feedback. I also met fabulous JILLY COOPER – cue fan girl moment. And, in case you’re wondering, Jilly is even lovelier than you could ever imagine.
If I was to choose an author whose books put me on the path to writing, it would have to be Jilly and books such as EMILY, IMOGEN etc. And who could fail to fall for her hero Rupert Campbell-Black in her bonkbuster(s) Polo, Ride and Jump?
We’re getting close to the beginning of the year and Burns Night, which we celebrated at our Danish neighbours’ house. Go figure. As for my obsession with Men in Kilts, I encourage my husband Dave to wear his as often as possible. Purely for inspiration you understand. Here he is on his way to the Burns Night supper, looking quite the part. For those who are wondering, we belong to clan LAMONT (pron: Lam’NT, not La Mont). It’s motto is: Ne Parcas Nec Spernas (Neither spare nor dispose). Not quite sure what that means . . . but I do know that I wouldn’t have achieved half of my success without Bongo Man by my side.
I was lucky enough to be featured on other writers’/bloggers’ posts this year. Here’s a selection (including two blog tours ) if you want to take a look:
- A Night in with Linda Hill
- Books in my Handbag – A Wee Dram with Lizzie Lamb
- Rosie Travers – Comfort Reads
- Being Anne – review of Take Me, I’m Yours (blog post)
As for 2019, the events are stacking up
Carole Matthews Book Launch (February), States of Independence (March), Self publishing Conference (April), Deepings Lit Fest (May) RNA Conference (July), RNA York Tea (September), Narberth Book Fair (Wales), return to DMU to give talk on self-publishing. In addition, there’s monthly Belmont Belles meetings which I organise with mu oppo and great mate, June Kearns.
All that remains now is for me to wish you a healthy and happy 2019. I’m about to pick up the threads of the next novel which I started just before Christmas and to get stuck in. What is it about? I’ll let this tweet and the video do the talking –
I hope you’re having a great summer and enjoying these endless days of sunshine. It reached over 35 degrees in SCOTLAND (Motherwell) when I was there this summer researching my next novel. However, I turned my back on the glorious sunshine and spent time in the caravan putting the finishing touches to Take My, I’m Yours.
For some of the time, I was working with my formatter, Sarah Houldcroft of Goldcrest Books almost 600 miles away in Leicestershire. In one hilarious incident I had to travel across north-west Sutherland to find a phone signal in order to finalise the last details with her. Then I was forced to sit in the car park of the Fisheries Dept in Lochinver to check through and upload the final version of the novel.
See how I suffer for my art?
Anyhoo, here’s the blurb – I hope it’ll tempt you to download a copy of Take Me, I’m Yours, or buy a paperback for yourself or a friend.
You’re probably wondering why I have deserted the highlands of Scotland for Lake Michigan. If you download the novel you’ll find the answer in the dedication. In Take Me, I’m Yours the hero Logan MacFarlane quotes Robert Frost, saying that he has ‘promises to keep’. I promised my friend Dee Paulsen that when I left the teaching profession to become a full-time author, I would write a romance set in Wisconsin. Take Me, I’m Yours is that novel.
Many years ago we stayed in Door County, Wisconsin. On our last day, we went to Egg Harbor and Cana Island to explore the lighthouses there. Images of that day stayed with me and when I came to write Take Me, I’m Yours, I had no trouble imagining Aunt Elspeth’s dilapidated house with its ancient lighthouse looming over it. The story almost wrote itself because I’d spent many years thinking about it and having conversations with the characters in my head.
Here’s how the novel begins . . .
The first reviews are in – Goodreads – and here’s what they say:
- From the moment that Logan MacFarlane roars into view on his vintage Triumph motorcycle and India Buchanan grabs her monkey wrench to defend herself for their first skirmish, I knew I was going to love this book
- I fell in love with Scotland reading Lizzie’s books, and now with Wisconsin, too!
- As usual Lizzie’s characters leapt off the page and I felt as if I knew them; loved some and despaired of others. A very satisfying read.
- Be ready for 19 chapters of pure escapism where witty, ironic dialogues mix skilfully with top romance.
If you’d like to read some of Take Me, I’m Yours click here. TMIY is also free to read for Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime subscribers.
I am proud of this novel and everything I’ve achieved over the last five and a half years as an an indie publisher. I could rest on my laurels but I am burning to start novel number 6, a ‘road-trip’ romance which will take readers from Cornwall of Scotland on the trail of two runaways.
And, of course I have another gorgeous hero waiting in the wings to meet you . . . and a less-than-impressed heroine who will keep him on his toes.
Finally, from the 15th – 21st of September, Take Me, I’m Yours will be on tour
footnote: I received an email this morning from Amazon inviting me to enter Take Me, I’m Yours into the Kindle Storyteller Award 2018 judged by Lorraine Kelly and readers. Will I do it? Of course I will – as Del Boy once so famously said: she who dares, wins. It would really increase my chances of being shortlisted if you downloaded a copy and left a review.
Thank you very much , Lizzie x
Finally – the work in progress is finished, and is available for kindle download, to purchase as a paperback and to read FREE on kindle unlimited. Thank you to all readers, writers and friends who’ve been on this journey with me. Tada, drum roll – I proudly present – Girl in the Castle
Here’s the book trailer
If you’ve followed over from my newsletter – here’s the opening chapter.
There it was, again—a lament; the kind played from the parapet of a castle high above a loch, the piper hidden by swirling autumn mist and fading light. Unable to ignore it any longer, Henriette Bruar ended the podcast—Five Historic Hauntings for Hallowe’en—and, ears straining, glanced half-fearfully over her shoulder in case some madman had got on at the last station, hell bent on making it plain that here was no place for Sassenachs.
No place for lone, female travellers either, come to that.
However, the train was empty, as it had been for the past half an hour. For who, in their right mind, would take the last train out of Fort William on a wet autumn afternoon and travel up the line to MacKenzie’s Halt?
Only her, of course. Henriette Bruar, lately studying history at Saint Guthlac University, Hexham, in the north of England, until—well, until she’d screwed things up so badly that she’d been forced to come high-tailing it up to this remote corner of Scotland until the heat died down.
‘Stop imagining things!’ she admonished herself, her voice unnaturally loud in the empty carriage. That had the desired effect of banishing the piper and restoring her grip on reality. Her iPhone, she reasoned, must have picked up a transmission from a nearby radio station—Highland FM, or similar. That, coupled with the spooky podcast, was enough to make her imagine things.
Yes, that was it.
However, just in case, she cast another look around the carriage. As she did so, the feeling of presentiment which had dogged her since setting foot on Scottish soil returned, accompanied this time by pins and needles and the shivery, shaky feeling which usually heralds a virus. Physical sensations which no amount of foot-stamping, arm swinging or cups of lukewarm coffee could banish.
‘You need to get your blood pumping, Bruar,’ she said in the no-nonsense tone of a games mistress. ‘You haven’t got time for flights of fancy. You’re here for one reason, and one reason only—to undertake a commission on behalf of the university. Keep reminding yourself of that, and how lucky you are to have been given a chance to restore your reputation. Right now, an overactive imagination is an extravagance you simply can’t afford.’
Spectral pipers, indeed!
After further foot stamping and curling and uncurling her toes, she sat down, unfolded her itinerary and read it through for the hundredth time. The train would stop at MacKenzie’s Halt, where she was to get off. The train terminated further up the line but few, if any passengers, went beyond MacKenzie’s Halt. Upon leaving the train, she should cross over the footbridge and make her way to the edge of the loch where she would be taken across to Castle Tèarmannair.
taken across . . .
Forgetting her earlier resolution to stop daydreaming, fancy took flight once more. She saw herself as a Jacobite heroine, plaid wrapped tightly around her to ward off the wind, a white cockade pinned to her hair, being taken across the loch by clansmen loyal to the exiled Stuarts. In her imagination, she saw a castle in the middle of the loch where her lover was waiting, piper by his side, to welcome her home.
Then she shook her head and dismissed the image.
Time she remembered that she was no Highland heroine, she was Castle Tèarmannair’s newly appointed archivist—hired to catalogue the contents of the laird’s library, prior to auction. Most likely it would turn out to be the usual collection of old estate papers, books on the best technique for blasting game birds out of the skies, or catching the salmon with a fly of the laird’s own design. There would be no first editions, illuminated manuscripts, or lost family trees proclaiming the laird the Last King of Scotland for her to discover
‘Castle Tèarmannair.’ She experimented with the unfamiliar Gaelic. ‘Meaning Guardian, or Protector,’ she read from her guide book. ‘A gift from the Lord of the Isles to MacKenzie of MacKenzie for fighting alongside him at the Battle of Largs in 1263.’ Releasing a pent up breath, she put the itinerary in her bag and, getting to her feet, walked the length of the carriage, holding on to the back of the empty seats for balance, and peered through the windows into the late afternoon gloom.
A thick autumn mist had followed the train out of An Gearasdan—Fort William, obscuring the stunning view promised by the guide books and, in a cinematic moment, the train appeared to ‘float’ above the rails. Nothing was visible on either side—not even the lights from the small settlements flanking the loch. Henri wondered, a little self-pityingly, if the mist was a metaphor for the current state of her life, which was mired in gloom and despondency.
She pulled herself up sharp. ‘Positive thinking, Bruar. Remember?’
She was halfway back to her seat when a lilting Highland voice announced: ‘We are approaching MacKenzie’s Halt. Please remember to take your belongings with you when you alight from the train.’ With no more time for introspection, she swung her tote bag over her shoulder, and collected coat, rucksack and suitcase out of the luggage rack as the train came, briefly, to a halt by the short platform.
I hope this extract has made you want to buy a copy of Girl in the Castle and read on –
If you’d like to read the latest reviews for Girl in the Castle, here’s the link
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
Gwen and I both write Scottish-themed novels and I thought my readers/followers would like to know more about Gwen and her novels.And, how could I write a blog post in January without mentioning Robert Burns?
Lizzie, thank you for inviting me to write a blog telling you why I set most of my books in Scotland. Robert Burns’ birthday is on 25th January and this year it happens to be my granddaughter’s twenty first birthday. My grandfather was a great Burn’s fan. When he was in his nineties, even though he had lived most of his life in Yorkshire by then, his two favourite books were still Burns poetry and the bible. I do enjoy traditional poetry myself. When I first began writing fiction I included a poem at the beginning of each book. My first sagas were the four Fairlyden books and they all have a poem by Robert Burns in the front.
Although I was born and went to school in Yorkshire, I had three Scottish grandparents and a yen to come to Scotland. When I finished college I came to Dumfriesshire to work, visiting the dairy farms. I loved the countryside from the beginning, and also the buildings of local red sandstone. Later I met and married my husband, a Scottish dairy farmer and breeder of Clydesdale horses. Consequently I have lived most of my adult life in Scotland and have no regrets. We have lush green fields, hills and glens, woods and rivers, and a few lochs too, although the south west of Scotland is often overlooked in favour of the Highlands.
Authors are often advised to write about what they know but I’m still amazed when I hear of people wanting to read my books about everyday life with families and animals, the ordeals and triumphs, usually related to farm or country life.
I like modern history and often set my books around 1900 and move forward, although Dreams of Home began with a young soldier returning from the Second World War and desperate to farm. This is the only series in which I wrote five books and continue to present day with Darkest before the Dawn, and the introduction of milk robots. I like to include the changes and developments in farming and wish I had listened more to the stories my grandparents could have told me.
Some of the letters I have received have been from readers reminiscing and sharing memories, or tales, of times past. Also one reader had been an evacuee to this area and lived in a rambling, bitterly cold, manse. It is now a hotel. I do mention some local towns by name but the villages and farms are all fictional, as are my characters.
Gwen, it has been fascinating learning more about your books and the background to your writing. What a fabulous collection of books for readers to get their teeth into. I’m going to start with Return to Bonnybrae, it wounds right up my street. Here’s the blurb –
“It is the start of 1919 and Miss Rina Capel, granddaughter of the Laird of Stavondale has one ambition – to set aside her life of privilege and become a nurse. But when she is summoned back to the Bonnybrae to see her dying grandfather just before her eighteenth birthday, he reveals to her family secrets which turn her world upside down. In love with a man she can’t have, and facing marriage to a man she has never met, Rina must draw on all her reserves of strength and female guile to escape a fate to which her dissolute parents would condemn her. And what dark secret is it that her father harbours, and which threatens the estate itself? Set in the wilds of a Scotland looking to recover from the most terrible war in human history, this is a gripping tale of one woman’s attempt to give her life meaning, and to be a force for good against terrible odds. Can Rina chart a course in a world torn asunder, and can she protect the Estate from the awful consequences of her parents’ actions? And can she find love, and find a way for happiness to return to Bonnybrae?”
If you’d like to know more about Gwen and her books, follow these links
If you write Scottish-themed romances would like to appear on my blog, get in touch via email – but, in the meantime … keep writing!