Friday, 26 October 2012

Everyone loves a party!

I'm delighted to take part today in Janice Horton's party to celebrate the launch of her new novella - a real Halloween treat.
Don't miss the opportunity to download this for free today from or from You won't be disappointed.
As part of this fun event, Janice asked us to conjure up a spell. Given the problems this morning, mine should have been one to make sure the internet didn't crash! And I did think of stealing an Anglo Saxon spell or charm - they seemed to have one for every occasion.
In the end, I decided some serious help was required with all the tasks looming between now and Christmas (not least because I've signed up for the 'Write a Novel in a Month' event in November).
So here's my spell for a Christmas pudding - to save me the bother of making one.If it works I'll let you know!
a flurry of snow
a symphony of spices
a crunch of sugar
three clouds of flour
a candy box of peel
a wealth of juicy sultanas and currants
a pinch of love
a blink of sunshine

Mix well with three kisses and a handful of dreams and bake in a warm oven until ready. Eat sparingly, unless it's Christmas Day.

                            A cold Christmas  Day on the Isle of Bute

Monday, 17 September 2012

Cosy or Cozy crime?

Is the notion of specific genres beginning to blur at the edges? For example, crime writing seems to offer so many possibilities these days and a number of books I've read lately seem to build on a mix of at least two kinds.
Readers appear to be divided on this. Some relish the cross genre plots( scifi and crime provide a particulary interesting combination), while others are more than a little upset if the book they have chosen doesn't keep to the advertised genre.
Yet in the end all novels deal with human emotions: no one life is curtailed by a single set of actions. Criminals and spies can have romance, lovers can be involved in crime (even murder), historical novels provide a fertile ground for crime, passion and intrigue at the highest levels and even in the future surely the human race will continue to suffer and enjoy the same passions as we do.
Perhaps there is an issue about the balance in novels. In a crime novel, readers don't want the bulk of the action to focus on romance: in romance readers won't be happy if the lovers seldom meet because the hero spends most of the time pursuing criminals.
I write cosy (or, as it's called in the U.S., cozy) crime set on the island of Bute where the emphasis is on the mystery and have learned it's very important readers of crime novels know what to expect. There's an excellent description on the website of an American blogger, Danna, ( and I've found the guidance there a great help.
As a reader I find the huge choice available to be one of the best aspects of the 'publishing revolution.'
In the end it probably all comes down to a good story and engaging characters, no matter what the genre!

                      Last days of summer on the isle of Bute

Monday, 3 September 2012

Books,books everywhere...

If I was following this take on Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem, it should read 'Books, books everywhere, nor any one to read...' but that's far from the case.
I have to reach a decision soon about what to do with the many books crammed in to every available space in the house: teetering bookcases, boxes in cupboards, on the shelves in the airing cupboard, on top of wardrobes.
Part of the problem is that when Iwas growing up, books were something of a luxury and, once acquired, were to be loved and cherished for ever.
Now, though I really enjoy having a Kindle, it's not quite the same as having something you can touch, can smell, can flick through. It's a bit like the difference between a love affair and a marriage : which are worth reading, keeping for a while and then discarding and which are those you want to keep forever?
Least you think this blog is a way of procrastinating about this yet again, be assured serious attempts have already been made. But am I the right person to decide? Who needs a copy of Advanced Accounts (published 1926) or Pelmanism (whatever that might be) in six volumes. Then there's that encyclopedia set (no longer needed with the internet easily available).
How did these books get on to my shelves? Do they breed in the night?Surely they can go? But wait a minute...1926 was just before the Big Crash - perhaps there's some historical value here? And Pelmanisim might be the way to solve any future problems, if only there was time to investigate.
And so it goes on. I'd love to be as disciplined as a friend who works on the principle of one in,one out, but alas that is not what happens.
Has anyone any suggestions?
In the meantime I'm off to Ikea to buy some more bookcases.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The value of reviews?

We all like praise and feel downhearted when we receive criticism, but as a writer it's something you have to learn to cope with. It's a bit like having one of your children criticised (well, your novel/short story/poem is your baby in a sense).The immediate reaction is to be defensive, to come back with some response, witty or otherwise.
A good review can inspire you, a bad review make you vow never to write another word. But that is to mistake what many reviews are about (ignoring those which are merely spiteful). Most are a statement of what the reader thinks of your book, rather than a full blown critique and not everyone likes the same kind of novel. This is very fortunate. If they did, there would be no mid-list authors at all, no possibility of success in an increasingly crowded market.
What is important, if you use sites such as Kindle, is to make sure the 'tags' for you book help the reader decide if your genre is likely to appeal to them. If readers like scifi they are going to be less than thrilled if the novel turns out to be a romance, or if they like a gritty thriller to find they've bought a cosy crime novel set in an English village.
With an increasing number of cross genre novels being published and as many e books are very competitively priced, the good news is that readers may be more willing to take a chance on something new.
The current writing and publishing market is so fluid,so unpredictable, we are all learning as we go. All the writer can do is produce the best book he or she can, send it out and move on.
Having said all that, I have to confess I'm delighted to be able to report my latest novel  Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion has had a great review in this week's Buteman so a big thank you to Karen Keith...and back to writing!

The front of the Rothesay Pavilion - the only other Art Deco building of this type is in Bexhill-on-Sea and is often used in episodes of Poirot.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The joy of small bookshops

A big thank you to the Print Point book shop in Rothesay on Bute for organising the signing event for Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion.
It was good to meet readers, some of whom knew more about the books than I did!
The Print Point is one of those small bookshops that provide a focal point for writers and readers in a town, always willing to help and give a personal service so often missing in larger establishments.
And it's much more than a book shop, with a huge range of goods and an excellent coffee 'shop' with very comfy sofas!
As many writers (and readers) will agree it's so important that these small bookshops continue to flourish in an increasingly difficult economic climate.
                               Book signing at the Print Point

Thursday, 2 August 2012

A Bute book event

Off again to Bute for a book signing at the Print Point in Rothesay on Saturday. It's always a pleasure to spend time on the island, especially when there's the opportunity to meet readers.
I debated a suitable time for this book signing and finally settled on 11-12.30. My choice last year of an earlier time was a little unusual, I suspect, for a Saturday on the island. After all, no one wants to rush at the weekend,do they?
Is there an optimum time/day for this kind of event? Does the season matter? Writers with more experience than I have may be able to offer some pointers. In the meantime here's hoping the sun shines, but with a few showers to tempt people indoors to the bookshop!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Summer Reading

Ah, the bliss of a rainy day with the excuse of staying indoors and reading some of the books in the large pile in the living room. As we've had plenty of rainy days lately I've had lots of opportunities to catch up.
I confess I like to read a variety of genres,though crime is my favourite and I've read two excellent debut crime novels so far this summer. Although both are set in Glasgow, each has an unusual slant on the usual 'police procedural'.
'Blackmail' by Bill Daly introduces DCI Charlie Anderson as the main character,but the crimes he deals with involve all strata of society.This is not so much a whodunnit or whydunnit as an exploration of the world of murder and drug dealing lurking beneath the shiny surface of the 'new' Glasgow. I'm already looking forward to his next novel 'The Key Question'.
'Blood Tears' by Michael J Malone is the first in series featuring DI Ray McBain, a man whose past underpins the events in the novel and the excitement lies in the gradual revelation of the reasons behind the dreams that haunt him. This is a gritty novel with a charged atmosphere, a format that bodes well for the follow up 'A Simple Power.'
A different genre, but with an underlying theme of crime, is '2312' by Kim Stanley Robinson. Billed as science ficton, it's much more than that - a thriller which gives us a bold vision of humanity's future.
And to round off this first set, I'm currently reading and loving 'The Etymologican',billed as ' a circular stroll through the hidden connections of the English language.' This is a delightful book, witty and erudite and a must for anyone interested in the derivations of words.
That's my choice to date...if the rain continues, I'll be able to start on the next pile.
What are you enjoying this summer?

Monday, 23 July 2012

Water, water everywhere.

Now I know how the Ancient Mariner felt!
The rain today..and yesterday... and many days before that set me thinking about how we use the weather in our writing.
One crime novelist always prefers setting her books in the autumn -the dying time of year. Others go through the all the seasons in the course of the narrative.
Does it matter what we choose? Does the weather in our writing affect the reader's perceptions about what is happening?
So far I've much preferred to set the Bute novels mostly in the summer, with an occasional winter chapter to capture the storms that can cut the island off from the mainland.
Winter on Bute

Summer on Bute

But summer is how I think of Bute and hope will give readers a picture of the magic of the various locations, in spite of the grisly events.
Mmm...perhaps the next one will have a winter theme.

Thursday, 12 July 2012


At last, inspired by so many other writers, I've joined Twitter. I must admit the first time I logged on and saw what looked like millions of tweets I had a mild panic.
However day 2 was better, including the realisation you don't have to reply to everything, nor do you need to follow everyone.
I can see why it becomes addictive and why discipline is called for - else it's all tweeting (and Facebook and blogging and actually talking to people) and no writing.
Looking forward to sitting out at Ettrick Bay on the Isle of Bute, tweeting about the marvellous weather ( well, we must have summer some time).
Can I add 'member of the Twitterati' to my author CV?

Monday, 25 June 2012

Time for reflection

Many thanks to great blogger, novelist and short story writer, Rosemary Gemmell (, for this Be Inspired award! Rosemary has given me an opportunity to reflect on my most recent novel as I await the publication of the third one ('Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion') in the Bute series. So here goes with Rosemary's questions!

What gave you the idea for your book, 'Last Ferry to Bute'?

My first Bute novel 'The House at Ettrick Bay' was very successful and I wanted to write a follow up.On one of my many trips to the Isle of Bute the thought came to me - what would happen if someone died on the ferry? And suppose it was a murder? It took off from there.

How long did it take to write overall?

About a year in total. I write quickly, then spend a lot of time on edits.Sometimes I wish I could write more slowly and then the editing process would be less painful. I've tried that,but it doesn't work for me!

What kept you going when you were half way through?

A lot of people had been asking when the next book was coming out and the knowledge there would be an audience for the new book helped keep me on track.

Are any of your characters based on real people, even though you have to say they aren’t?

That's a very difficult question. As a writer I suppose I subsume certain traits within my characters,but no, none of the characters is based on a real person.
At least I hope not! I wouldn't like to think I was quite as nosey as my main character, Alison Cameron.

Would you write in a different genre next time, or do you always stick with what you know?

I have other novels written, two of which are much more in the genre of general fiction. I hope to spend some time on them soon,but there's another Bute novel rumbling round in my head at the moment and I'm trying to postpone starting it.

Do you prefer writing a novel, or short stories?

I much prefer novels -I enjoy the opportunity to develop a plot and to get to know the characters well although I do write short stories and have had a number published.

Do you use everyday happenings in your writing?

The basic premise of the Bute novels is that Alison Cameron, the main character, is a very ordinary person who becomes involved in extraordinary events.

And the future?

As long as people want to read the Bute novels, I'll keep writing them! But I would like to see how I might fare in a different genre.

Thank you for the chance to reflect a little on my writing,Rosemary!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Death by a Thousand Cuts

The WIP has a glaring problem and it looks as if I'll have no option but to get rid of several thousand words.What should I do with them? Delete them? Or copy them to a new folder in the hope that one day they may prove useful?
What's worse, I'll have to dispatch a character I'd grown rather fond of, but as she's making absolutely no contribution to the action, she has to go. She's a sparky person and there's always the chance she'll fight back by cropping up somewhere else, so no doubt I should be ruthless.
Do others find this difficult to do - edit out chunks that at the time of writing the first draft you considered well written and pertinent?
Ah well, enough procrastination,here goes........

Thursday, 7 June 2012

What's in a cover?

Shakespeare's Juliet might have wondered 'What's in a name?' but for many writers one of the current preoccupations is the book cover.
It used to be so simple,but with the rise of indie publishing it's one more decision for the writer to agonise over. And that's before you even consider what the cover of your book might look like on Kindle as it struggles against the thousands of others in the same category. Do you use a photo? (I don't have that level of skill). Or have someone design it for you? (I certainly couldn't do it myself).
Where should the title go? And what about the font size for the author's name? Large size looks too boastful,too small and no one notices you.
Even authors with 'traditional' publishers are not immune. Some authors wait with bated breath to see what their publisher has decided on, worrying in case the book cover won't quite convey the content of the book accurately.
For 'Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion' I was lucky to have Mandy Sinclair who has designed several covers for Erskine Writers.( I wanted something with a strong Art Deco flavour and was so pleased with the result.

Perhaps the answer is to find someone you have confidence in.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Vikings are back!

On a day of glorious sunshine the Vikings returned last Saturday to Rothesay Castle. This time the islanders welcomed them as part of a weekend conference and fun day organised by Discover Bute.
This free event, with demonstrations of age old crafts, attracted people from Bute and beyond and provided entertainment for adults and children alike, especially as so many of the helpers were in costume.
The photos below give you some idea of the variety of the attractions, but for more photos go to


Some of the fair damsels

A young knight
A fiercesome warrior

...and another one

The Vikings fight to the death...over a melon!

Woodworking for beginners

Or perhaps basket making?

A coracle in case the ferry isn't running

..and instructions on how to make one!

Not forgetting the techniques of spinning.

The flag of the Stewarts at the time of the first Vikings!

And meanwhile the swans (and their ten cygnets) swim in the castle moat.

Saturday, 28 April 2012


Excuses for not blogging? I've been editing... and that's before the editor's report. As I haven't looked at Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion for a couple of weeks I decided to do a bit of revision, which turned into a lot of revision. And once I'd started, I couldn't stop.
At least it provided a good excuse for a trip to Bute last week and I thought I'd post some photos of the Ettrick Bay tearoom where some of the action takes place ( in all the Bute books). I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has read either of the first two Bute books if the tearoom is as you imagined it?

                                                            Inside the tearoom

                                                         The tearoom at Ettrick Bay

April at Ettrick Bay

Friday, 23 March 2012

Blog it!

A big thank you to Janice Horton for featuring me in her author showcase on her blog today. It all helps to keep the momentum going, especially towards the end of the week when ideas are slower than usual. I'm very pleased she has taken the time out of her own very busy schedule.
You can read the interview at

And thanks to everyone who has bought the latest book - Last Ferry to Bute. We went to Bute on Tuesday and did catch the last ferry -I was a bit apprehensive,but fortunately nothing untoward happened!

Suitably inspired, I'm back to Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Back to Work

After the great chat and excellent events at the Scottish Association of Writers conference last weekend it's most certainly back to work this weekend.
Everyone who was there enjoyed this action packed weekend and the three days of 'writing talk' was stimulating and thought provoking.
But of course it's easy to talk about writing and not so easy to settle down to doing it, in spite of all the good ideas I came away with. Conferences like the S.A.W. are a great boost for those of us who spend a lot of time closeted with imaginary friends - it's good to meet some real ones!
I was fortunate to receive several 'honourable mentions' including winning the Book Review trophy and the prizes were presented by Alanna Knight who always makes you feel special.
And there were many winners among friends at Writers Scotland and Erskine Writers -congratulations to everyone.
The photos below are by Chris Longmuir -you can tell I had nothing to do with them because none of the heads are cut off! You can find out more about Chris at her website  -she writes great fiction as well as being a very able photographer!

                 Receiving the Book Review prize from Alanna
                               The happy prizewinners!

Now to find out what the bearded man in Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion has been up to in my absence.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

One step forward.....

The blog has been neglected in favour of using any available time to progress the new novel. I suppose I should be pleased I've managed to avoid a number of distractions (though not all by any means).
As this story is also set on Bute, the research about what happened there during the last war has been very interesting. It's amazing how you think you know a place really well and then when you do some digging you find out all sorts of things.
The story of Last Dance at the Rothesay Pavilion concerns what happens when the Pavilion is being renovated and among other snippets I discovered that The Canadian Barn Dance, that stalwart of many a Scottish ceilidh, was first performed in the Pavilion,written by a young commando who was training on Bute.
And the Scottish Country dance evenings were so popular the doors had to be closed at 8.30 p.m.
I can now understand why some historical novelists find it so difficult to finish their books!

The Rothesay Pavilion at its busiest during the 'Big Man' event - when everyone turned out!

Sunday, 5 February 2012

A BIG thank you!

Thanks to everyone who commented on Rosemary's interview with me,either here or on the blog:

It's been great experience and very spite of what Alison had to say!
Last Ferry to Bute and The House at Ettrick Bay are now both available on Kindle,assuming there are no gremlins in the system. The 'special price' of £1.90 will be available all through February.

Something strange is going on at the Hereuse Nursing home on the Isle of Bute. One of the residents, Jessie McAdam, thinks her life is in danger. Alison Cameron, who is reluctantly arranging a college reunion on the island, agrees to find out what is causing her mother’s old friend, Jessie, such concern. Before long Alison finds herself involved in a series of mysterious deaths. Meanwhile Alison’s daughter, Deborah, has started a new job at the Regius Gallery, owned by an antiques dealer whose activities are suspicious. Can Alison find out what is happening before it’s too late?

                                                      THE HOUSE AT ETTRICK BAY

                                       When her friend Susie inherits a house on the island of Bute,
                                       Alison Cameron finds her decision to help involves her in a
                                       series of increasingly frightening 'accidents'.
                                       An archaeological excavation near the house leads to an exciting
                                       discovery, one which means Susie may have to change her plans.
                                       When the next 'accident' turns out to be murder, Alison knows she
                                       and Susie are in danger. There are people on the island who have
                                       an interest in Ettrick House - could one of them be willing to kill?

Back to the new Bute novel and keeping Alison in check!

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Over to you,Alison Cameron!

Hello Everyone,
For some reason I've been asked to write this blog today. This is something I've not tried before and I hope it's not going to become a regular feature of my life in the novels. As if I haven't enough to do.
Don't get the wrong impression -I don't go out looking for trouble, but it seems as if it comes after me.
Every time I go to the island of Bute, it's with the intention of having a rest, a break from the routine of working as a teacher in Glasgow. Simon (that's my husband) and I only went to Bute the time before last because my best friend Susie inherited a large Victorian house there. That seemed simple, but it almost ended in disaster.
And my most recent visit to the island was to help organise a reunion for my old college friends. 'Help' - that's a bit of a misnomer. I ended up doing most of the work. And if Deborah (that's my younger daughter) hadn't become involved wth a man who was much older than her, it might all have worked out. But then again, it might not. Betsie (the friend who came up with the idea for a reunion) wasn't quite the person I thought she was.
And now I find that in the W-I-P I'm no longer a teacher,but have had to take on a commission to write a history of the Rothesay Pavilion. I ask you! I'm not at all sure I'm up to that task, even though I have a great young research assistant,Tara. I was a bit dubious when I saw her at first -I think Goth describes her way of dressing- but at least she has good research skills. Though I'm very worried about the bearded man who is lurking about. I've no idea what he's doing and what's more, I suspect Myra doesn't know either.
That's probably enough for now. I have to find a way to get out of my latest difficulty and I'm getting little help from the author.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Bute in winter

January in Bute but this year the snow hasn't (yet) appeared. There's no more than a dusting on the hills.
Rothesay is quiet and it will be a long time till the summer visitors appear. Of course there are all kinds of activities that take place in winter and those who live on the island have plenty to choose from, but to the casual visitor the whole island seems asleep.
 Here's a reminder of  the weather on Bute last winter. It may have been cold,but it was lovely to look at.

I think I preferred the snow rather than the incessant rain and wind. The ferries have been off much more than I ever remember and the option of going round by the Rest and Be Thankful road doesn't appeal. It didn't acquire that name by chance!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Last Ferry to Bute sails in a new direction

A big thank you to  Sara Bain at the Dumfries and Galloway Standard for promoting Last Ferry to Bute in the Re:Vu section of this week's edition.

Here's the link to the article.

It's great to have this help with promoting the book. Sales are good...and I hope will get better now!

Meanwhile I'm busy with the third Bute novel and off next week to do some research on the island - that's my excuse anyway!Hopefully we've seen the last of the winter gales. At this time of year it's lovely to think of those summer days on the island.

                                                      Summer in the Kyles of Bute

Sunday, 15 January 2012


A quiet period of weather, much to be welcomed, especially by the islanders of Bute. The last big storm was bad enough on the mainland but Bute made the national news as it was virtually cut off for three days with no electricity supply.
An exciting time for those who had alternative means of cooking and heating, not so good for those, especially the elderly, who were relying on the electricity supply.
The weather was very unpredictable over Christmas and at one point we thought we might not make it. We did- just- but on the way back the ferry had to go to Gourock as it was too stormy to dock at Weymss Bay. Just a short stretch of water,but when anything goes wrong, the island might as well be on the other side of the world!
However Christmas was as usual well celebrated -even the ferries were decorated, though the view from the window was rather stormy.