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A (Yorkshire) Rose by any other name

Welcome to Yorkshire Rose Writers

It is my great pleasure to interview Yorkshire Rose Writers on my blog today. There are so many questions I wanted to ask but had to limit Sharon and Jessica to just FIVE because of space and time. But I advise anyone who wants to know about them to go over to their wonderful blog, or to follow them on Facebook.

So, who are the Yorkshire Rose Writers ?

We’re the Yorkshire Rose Writers, also known as Sharon Booth and Jessica Redland. We met through both being members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme. As we both live in Yorkshire, love Yorkshire, write contemporary romance/romantic comedies set in Yorkshire, and are good friends, we decided to join forces online and become the Yorkshire Rose Writers. They say two heads are better than one so we’re looking forward to seeing where our partnership takes us. So far, Sharon has published 13 books and Jessica has published 9 with her tenth due out in spring.

Way to go Sharon and Jessica, tell us more !

We both set our novels in Yorkshire although, funnily enough, neither of us started with a Yorkshire setting…

Jessica: The idea for my debut novel, Searching for Steven, came from a real-life event. At the time, I was living in Reading, Berkshire, but I moved back to the north the following year to be nearer my family and that’s when I started writing. The book was initially set in London with the protagonist moving to the north but ‘the north’ was a very non-specific setting and, the more I wrote, the more I realised my lack of setting was really letting me down. A couple of months later, I met my husband and he was from Scarborough on the North Yorkshire Coast where I now live. I found the love of my life but I also found my setting as all my books are set in a fictional version of Scarborough (with a bit of Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay thrown in there) called Whitsborough Bay. I wanted to keep the setting fictional to give me the flexibility to change things and create parts of the town that don’t exist. Anyone who knows Scarborough will recognise certain parts, though, which are very much inspired by the real setting.

Photo by Lukas Hartmann on Pexels.com

Sharon: I’ve set books in various parts of Yorkshire, including the Dales and Moors. My first series of books, however, are set in the fictional Kearton Bay, which is based on Robin Hood’s Bay. When I first had the idea for what became There Must Be an Angel, we were on our way down to Somerset for a holiday, and while we were there, we visited Glastonbury. I started plotting during that week, so when I returned home, I initially set the story in Glastonbury. It wasn’t long, however, before I realised that the characters who were talking to me had Yorkshire accents …

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Please share your top five writing tips

  • Keep everything! No work is wasted work
  • Write what you love. If you’re not passionate about your characters/setting/plot, readers probably won’t be too
  • Always have a notepad (or even the notes function on your phone) handy for when inspiration strikes
  • Keep a spreadsheet or similar of all the key details of your characters and settings, particularly if, like us, you write a series. This makes sure you don’t name two streets the same, move businesses, or keep calling all your secondary characters Dave
  • Don’t forget your character arc. By the end of your book, your protagonist needs to have changed in some way/learned something. At the start, decide on your arc and how you’re going to achieve it.

Tell us how the writing process works for you –
plotter or pantser

Sharon: I’m very much a plotter, although in ‘real’ life I’m quite disorganised and everything is ‘last minute’ with me. I use a fantastic book called Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody to make a plan before I start writing. Having said that, I do veer off course quite often, but I’m like that clever Sat Nav lady – I just correct the route and carry on.  

Jessica: I’m the pantser which surprises me because, in ‘real’ life I’m actually very organised and a big planner. When I wrote Searching for Steven, I just wrote. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing and I learned my craft along the way. Because it took me a decade to write on and off (including some significant breaks where I didn’t write at all), I think I developed a habit. I tried to plot the sequel, Getting Over Gary, but my characters didn’t like it. They kept doing their own thing – which was not what I’d plotted – so I now just write. I do spend some time developing my characters first, though, including their arc. I know what the plot will be about and how it needs to end but how that unfolds is very much driven by my characters as I go.

Social Media – help or hindrance
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Great question! If we’re honest, probably a bit of both. Writing can be a lonely business so social media is great for engaging with other writers, making friends, and building a ‘community’. But, let’s be honest, if you’re having a tough time it can really knock your confidence to see a Facebook newsfeed full of writers celebrating amazing news – even though you really like them and are genuinely pleased for them. Sometimes we forget that most people only post about the good bits of their lives! Social media can be great for promoting your work, of course, but that also has a downside, because we know that nothing is more likely to alienate potential readers than constant ‘buy my book’ posts.

It’s hard to strike a balance between promotion and remembering the ‘social’ bit of social media. It’s a huge time suck if you let it be. No one can procrastinate quite like a writer, and it’s funny how appealing a video of a cat watching television can be if you’ve reached a tricky part of your WIP. (And yes, we have watched that video!)  It’s part of the reason we joined together. We figured that, if one of us is having a busy week/month, the other one might not be under quite so much pressure, so we can ‘share the burden’. It’s also often easier to promote each other than it is to promote ourselves!

Blurb and link(s) to your current book

Jessica: My current book is a Christmas one, but a Christmas book isn’t just for Christmas is it? And it starts on Christmas Day one year but then is mainly November/early December the following one so not entirely Christmas. Have I convinced you?

Christmas at The Chocolate Pot Café  –

A few minutes of courage might change your life…

Emotionally, Tara Porter finds the festive period a challenge. Christmas Day is a reminder of the family she lost, and New Year’s Eve holds bitter memories of the biggest mistake of her life: marrying Garth Tewkesbury. Shunning invitations to celebrate, she seeks refuge in her flat with only her giant house bunny, Hercules, for company.
Professionally, though, it’s the best time of year. Tara’s thriving café, The Chocolate Pot, is always packed. With the café hosting a wedding and engagement party, it’s shaping up to be the café’s best Christmas ever.
When former nemesis, Jed Ferguson, threatens the future of The Chocolate Pot, Tara prepares for a fight. The café is everything to her and she’s not going to let anyone or anything jeopardise that. 
Tara badly misjudged ex-husband Garth and, since then, has refused to let anyone in. After all, if you don’t let them in, they can’t hurt you. But has she misjudged Jed too? Is it possible that he’s not the arrogant, deceitful man from whom she bought the café 14 years earlier? Can she find the courage to find out for sure?

Sharon: My latest book is the first in my new The Witches of Castle Clair series, set in a fictional version of Knaresborough in North Yorkshire. It’s suitable to be read at any time of year.

Belle, Book and Christmas Candle

Do you believe in magic? 

Sky St Clair doesn’t, and growing up in Castle Clair, a small town renowned for its mystical past and magical legends, she never felt she belonged.
Sky got away from Castle Clair as soon as she could, but when a run of bad luck leaves her homeless and jobless, she has little choice but to accept her sister Star’s invitation to return home for the festive season.
When Star has an accident, Sky finds herself running the family’s magical supplies shop. Wands, crystals, pendulums … really? It’s a tough job when she doesn’t believe in the products she’s selling, but how can she? Magic isn’t real, no matter what her deluded siblings think.
Jethro Richmond doesn’t believe in magic either. In fact, he doesn’t believe in anything much anymore, which is proving to be a bit of a problem for a writer of fantasy novels. With a self-constructed wall around his heart as high as Clair Tower, and his dreams as ruined as the town’s ancient castle, he’s lost all hope of repairing his tattered career. The last thing he needs is to get involved with a family like the St Clairs, and no matter what a certain little black cat seems to want Jethro has no intention of spending any time with Sky or her unusual sisters. 
But this is a strange little town and, as the residents prepare to celebrate Christmas, Sky and Jethro might just discover that in Castle Clair, anything is possible. Even magic



Finally – what are you working on ATM?

Sharon: I’m writing the second in The Witches of Castle Clair series, plotting the fourth and final Kearton Bay novel, and starting to jot down ideas for the fifth Bramblewick book.

Jessica: I’m trying to find a home with a publisher for my tenth novel. I’m being very selective about where to send it, though. I’ve had some superb feedback, no offers … yet. I’m waiting to hear back on a couple of others, but will indie publish it in spring if they’re a no. I’m also part-way through another two books. I hope one will be ready for summer and another for autumn. In theory. Reality is that I’m in the final year of a Masters in Creative Writing through Open University, and I have another five assignments to go on that which will have to take priority. My final big assignment will be 15k words of a new novel and I’m excited about that because I’ve decided to do something a bit different as a challenge. If it works, that may be a 2020 publication.

Thanks so much for inviting us onto your blog, Lizzie. We really appreciate it.  It’s been great fun having you here, I hope we might meet up soon.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Yorkshire Rose Writers

Blog: http://yorkshirerosewriters.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/yorkshirerosewriters/

Twitter: @YorkRoseWriters

Instagram: yorkrosewriters

Sharon Booth:

Website/blog: https://sharonboothwriter.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sharonbooth.writer/

Twitter: @Sharon_Booth1

Instagram: sharonboothwriter

Jessica Redland:

Website: http://www.jessicaredland.com

Blog: https://jessicaredlandwriter.wordpress.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaRedlandWriter/

Twitter: @JessicaRedland

Instagram: jessicaredlandwriter

My Writerly Year 2019 #part two

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.

Here we are at Exeter Service Station, with a signed copy of TMIY

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.

A Kilted Bongo Man
I’m sure I say this in my sleep!

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:

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.

If you like superbly written #Hisfic, check out June’s Amazon page.

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 –

Scottish Romance Book Blitz

November 30th is St Andrew’s Day and to celebrate I’m offering my Scottish-themed romances for 99p/99c per download – for one week only – December 1st – December 8th.

Want to know more about my books? Read an extract? Download a copy? Be my guest………

where the men wear kilts and the women are glad of it (1)

Tall Dark and Kilted my debut novel. The story begins in Notting Hill then moves to Wester Ross where the sparks really fly.  You can read an extract here

_. . you had me at . . . (1)Fliss Bagshawe longs for a passport out of Pimlico where she works as a holistic therapist. After attending a party in Notting Hill she loses her job and with it her dream of becoming her own boss. When she’s offered the chance to take over a failing therapy centre, she grabs it with both hands. But there’s a catch – the centre lies five hundred miles away – in Wester Ross, Scotland.  Fliss’s romantic view of the highlands populated by hunky Men in Kilts is shattered when she has an up close and very personal encounter with the Laird of Kinloch Mara, Ruairi Urquhart. He’s determined to pull the plug on the business, bring his eccentric family to heel and eject undesirables from his estate – starting with Fliss. Faced with the dole queue once more, Fliss resolves to make sexy, infuriating Ruairi revise his unflattering opinion of her, turn the therapy centre around and sort out the dysfunctional Urquharts. Can she find the happiness she deserves? 

Copy of photo courtesy of scotweb.co.uk

Next up – Scotch on the Rocks  #1 bestseller in its genre – runner up in the Exeter Novel Prize. Read the opening chapters – and enjoy this short blurb . . .

ISHABEL STUART is at a crossroads in her life. Her wealthy industrialist father has died unexpectedly, leaving her a half-share in a ruined whisky distillery and the task of scattering his ashes on a Munro. After discovering her fiancé playing away from home, she cancels their lavish Christmas wedding at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh and heads for the only place she feels safe – Eilean na Sgairbh, a windswept island on Scotland’s west coast – where the cormorants outnumber the inhabitants, ten to one.
When she arrives at her family home – now a bed and breakfast managed by her left-wing, firebrand Aunt Esme, she finds a guest in situ – BRODIE. Issy longs for peace and the chance to lick her wounds, but gorgeous, sexy American, Brodie, turns her world upside down.

1-1-1-what readers have said about SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS (1)

 

Readers mention that they like the multi-generational themes running through the novel, the close knit highland community and a naughty parrot called  Pershing.

 

And, finally, Girl in the Castle 

I especially enjoyed writing this one as I was able to weave my love of history into every page. It reached #3 in Scottish Highlands and islands when first published, rubbing shoulders with Jenny Colgan and Peter May in the Amazon charts.

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Her academic career in tatters, Dr Henriette Bruar needs somewhere to lay low, plan her comeback and restore her tarnished reputation. Fate takes her to a remote Scottish castle to auction the contents of an ancient library to pay the laird’s mounting debts. The family are in deep mourning over a tragedy which happened years before, resulting in a toxic relationship between the laird and his son, Keir MacKenzie. Cue a phantom piper, a lost Jacobite treasure, and a cast of characters who – with Henri’s help, encourage the MacKenzies to confront the past and move on. However – will the Girl in the Castle be able to return to university once her task is completed, and leave gorgeous, sexy Keir MacKenzie behind

So, those are your choices. It takes about a year to write a novel and another four/five months to polish, shape and format it for Amazon. I hope that you agree that 99p/99c is a bargain for each of my Scottish novels and decide to download one. Oh, and one more thing, they’re all available in paperback, and on Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited, too.

What next for me? I’m about to start writing #6 – another Scottish themed romance, this time with a bit of a difference as the hero and heroine (who can’t stand the sight of each other, natch) have to combine forces and go chasing after two runaways – his son and her niece – all the way from Cornwall to Scotland. Lots of fun, angst and hilarious encounters ensue . . .

New Novel – Take Me, I’m Yours – a Wisconsin love story

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. IMG_1975(1)

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. 

Untitled design - Copy

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 . . .

Sip and have fun!

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 bookjames-kresser-598017-unsplash
  • 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.

mara-ket-504242-unsplashI 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.

The first stages of my planning sheet for #6

Planning sheet for #6 which I started while in Scotland in June

Finally, from  the 15th – 21st of September, Take Me, I’m Yours will be on tourIMG_1919(1)

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

Girl in the Castle

IMG_3558[3]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. 

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‘Castle Tearmannaire’

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 –

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 If you’d like to read the latest reviews for Girl in the Castle, here’s the link

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

Welcome – Gwen Kirkwood – author

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.

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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

http://www.amazon.com/GwenKirkwood/e/B0034O410Y

http://www.gwenkirkwood.co.uk

http://www.twitter.com/GwenKnovels

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/790765.Gwen_Kirkwood

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(c) oscarmcwhite – 123rf.com/photo_9723089.html

If you write Scottish-themed romances would like to appear on my blog, get in touch via email – but, in the meantime … keep writing!

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Bloggy McBlogface #2 – Rosslyn Chapel and the Royal Yacht Britannia

This post is part #2 of our tour of Scotland this summer, from Edinburgh to Balnakeil in the north west corner of Scotland and back to Glasgow.

I’d always wanted to visit Rosslyn Chapel – and the Royal Yacht Britannia, and that’s exactly what we did.

I was intrigued to compare the actual chapel to the scenes from the movie – but was disappointed to discovered they only filmed the scene in the crypt there. So no cabalistic signs, Knights Templar or hidden symbols connecting the chapel to the Virgin Mary, but lots to see, otherwise.  The chapel is full of the most  amazing  carvings, including a frieze of maize or Indian Corn surrounding a window. This was constructed fifty years before Columbus discovered America in 1492 – so, go figure, as they say.

(sadly, no internal photos so you’ll have to go to the website for those.) Here are my photos . . . click on each one for a description.

If you arrive before 11am you can join the FREE guided tour, which is well worth it. The guide said that the chapel was falling down around their ears and they prayed for a miracle. God sent them one in the shape of Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code. Now the chapel is being preserved for posterity. Great cafe, too, in case you wondered.

The Royal Yacht Britannia – well worth the money

We spent a very happy three hours looking round the RY Britannia. With our headsets we explored the yacht at our own pace and you really do have ‘access to all areas’, including HM’s bedroom.  Parking is free and the tour cost £13.50. Amazingly, the yacht is moored at the end of the Britannia Shopping Mall, Leith and, if at the end of your time you still have energy, there’s a great shopping centre there, too.  Here are the pics . . . click on each one for a description. Of course, being us, the tour started in the restaurant where we had tea and scones (not silly prices, either).

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tea and scones, anyone?

We spent a lot of time practising saying: The Leith Police dismisseth us, in order to prove we were sober, so we felt we’d earned our tea break.

We’ve spent many summer on the Isle of Wight and the ferry took us past the Royal Yacht moored off Cowes in the Solent. It was sad to see this grand old lady moored next to a shopping centre, IMHO, but at least we had a chance to look round which otherwise would have been denied to us. Of course, we were interested to see the bedroom and sitting rooms and they were all of show, along with boiler rooms etc.

Everything is very simple and pared back. Apparently, Her Maj rejected for the first set of plans for being ‘too grand’, she wanted a ‘country house interior’, and that’s what she got. As I was peering into Charles and Diana’s bedroom – the only one with a double bed, which Charles ordered specially for their honeymoon – the ladies behind me were quite vocal on their opinion of ‘how he done her wrong,’ even after all this time.

The yacht had to be functional as well as ceremonial and it had its own laundry, dentist’s surgery, operating theatre and sick bay. You can see why everything has to be ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion,’ can’t you?

The lone figure at the end of the pier is an Antony Gormley sculpture (creator of the Angel of the North et al) and was is life-like that, apparently,  people keep ringing the police thinking someone’s about to throw himself into  the Firth of Forth.2016-06-18 12.16.25

I hope you’ve enjoyed my second blog post and that you may be tempted to visit Edinburgh and East Lothian for yourself. Scotland is a fascinating, beautiful, mystical country and has something for everyone. Next time, we’ll travel across the Forth Road Bridge and head for Inverness, Culloden and the Black Isle. I hope you’ll travel with me. In the meantime, do check out my novels on Amazon and feel free to sign up for my newsletter.

 

 

I can’t leave Edinburgh without sharing the last four photographs taken by author Helen Barrell who took Tall, Dark and Kilted back to its roots in Scotland. Thanks Helen!

HOW TO WRITE A REVIEW AND HELP YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHORS

Authors know how difficult it is to build a following of loyal readers and to gently persuade those  readers to review their book once they’ve read it. To help redress that, August 2016 has been decreed Write An Amazon Review Month! By @TerryTyler4 #AugustReviews and we’re going to do our bit to help.

On Monday 25th July, book blogger Rosie Amber wrote this post encouraging readers and writers alike to post a short review on Amazon for any book they’ve read and enjoyed ~ following this up, Terry Tyler is starting this initiative along with other writer-bloggers including Rosie, Cathy from Between The Lines, Barb Taub, Shelley Wilson and Alison WilliamsThe idea is that, from August 1st, everyone who reads this uses their Amazon account to post just one review on one book that they’ve read (but feel free to carry on if you get in the swing!).  You don’t even have to have read it recently, it can be any book you’ve read, any time.  The book does not have to have been purchased from Amazon, though if it is you get the ‘Verified Purchase’ tag on it; however, if you download all your books via Kindle Unlimited, as many do these days, they don’t show the VP tag, anyway.

Remember, this isn’t the Times Literary Supplement, it’s Amazon, where ordinary people go to choose their next £1.99 Kindle book

No one expects you to write a thousand word, in-depth critique; I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to read one short paragraph or a couple of lines saying what an average reader thought of a book, than a long-winded essay about the pros and cons of the various literary techniques used.  Yes, those are welcome too (!), but no more so than a few words saying “I loved this book, I was up reading it until 3am”, or “I loved Jim and Vivien and the dialogue was so realistic”, or whatever!

Why should you write a review?

  • They help book buyers make decisions.  Don’t you read the reviews on Trip Advisor before deciding on a hotel, or any site from which you might buy an item for practical use?  Book reviews are no different
  • If the book is by a self-published author, or published by an independent press, the writers have to do all their promotion and marketing themselves ~ reviews from the reading public is their one free helping hand
  • The amount of reviews on Amazon helps a book’s visibility (allegedly).  If you love a writer’s work and want others to do so, too, this is the best possible way of making this happen
  • It’s your good deed for the day, and will only take five minutes

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Off we go, then!  A few more pointers:

  1. If you need any help with writing your review, do click on Rosie’s post, above.
  2. A review can be as short as one word.  The shortest one I have is just two 🙂
  3. You don’t have to put your name to the review, as your Amazon ‘handle’ can be anything you like.
  4. No writer expects all their reviews to be 5* and say the book is the best thing ever written; there is a star rating guide on Rosie’s post.

Would you like to tell the Twittersphere about your review?  If so, tweet the link to it with the hashtag #AugustReviews ~ and thank you!  2015-08-14 08.14.06

 One last thing . . .  if you haven’t read any of my books but like well-written romantic comedies with lots of sassy humour, great characters, fabulous locations and heroes to swoon over – give one of them a try. And don’t forget that review (!)

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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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