Four rather edgier stories than our earlier collections for Hallowe’en and your kindle.
Ghostly goings on from Kate Blackadder, Jennifer Young and from Me, Anne Stenhouse. A thought provoking Bonfire Night story from Jane Riddell completes the number.
In those halcyon days when one could meet friends in a properly organised local restaurant, Black Ivy, for an evening meal, conversation turned to other local writers. One of my friends asked whether I was aware of David Muir’s series of diary-type books about our local area – and everything else under the sun.
I wasn’t – but I am now. Going Nowhere Slow – Autumn into Wonter is on my coffee table.
Muir is a retired science teacher and regular contributor to the New Scientist. He’s also had some imposed time taking life slowly after knee surgery and perhaps out of that comes these books.
As they are a retirement project and teachers do often retire at the end of the summer term, the first book is valid now. Therefore, I’m bringing it to your notice while you might still find the mushrooms, or are they toadstools, growing in your own back green. What purpose a review when it’s time to move onto vol 2 Winter into Spring?
This sort of book fills the Non-fiction slot I referred to in this month’s Round Robin admirably. It has sound science, it’s conversational in style, the writer doesn’t take himself too seriously while not falling into the overly chummy/silly brigade. I’m reading the diary entries as October rolls through – Lockdown needs this type of light in our growing darkness.
By the way, talking of darkness, a new anthology of Hallowe’en shivers is coming from Capital Writers – live, or dead, on 31st, for your kindle.
For regular diary readers – he won the scrabble last night. I was left with three ‘i’s and the ‘z’. Honestly – where does one go with that? Am re-reading Cousin Kate – that’s scary enough. What a brilliant writer Heyer was.
October’s Round Robin question is: What is your favorite book(s) of all time in
your favorite genre(s)? (You can include children’s books or non-fiction
or even magazines).
Sometimes a question seems to be easy-peasy and then, STOP PRESS, it’s anything but. What is my favourite book in a favourite genre?
How do we define ‘favourite’ for starters? Is it shown by the physical state the book has descended to? If so The Conceited Lamb must be high on my list. It was a ‘prize’ for perfect attendance so I’ve owned it for well over 60 years and clearly read it over and over when younger.
Also in this photo is a copy of JM Barrie’s Quality Street. The last time I appeared on stage was as a seventeen-year-old in the first act of Quality Street. It was a school production directed by the incomparable Dr MacQueen and great fun. This copy has wonderful pen and ink illustrations by Hugh Thomson. I always enjoy them.
The copy of Pride and Prejudice has lost its dust cover, but it, too, was a school prize. In 1960-61 it was considered suitable reading material for a primary age pupil. I wonder how it fares now? Was it responsible for my life-long attachment to and love of the Regency novel? Or was that the author of the other book here, Georgette Heyer. Difficult to tell. I love Jane Austen as it’s the moment when English becomes modern and, some slang aside, understandable to a twentieth century reader. Georgette Heyer’s work is so rich in detail and history. It is unflinching in the portrayal of the female state and its opposite, the male state.
However, it is funny. Many of the characters are unforgettable for reasons stretching from ‘charming’ to ‘diabolical’. Her language takes us into a world of its own. And, by and large, everyone has grey eyes. So much simpler to deal with when instructing the cover illustration.
Okay, here’s the shock horror moment: while I love a good story, and I do read modern writers as well as the comfortable old favourites, my preferred choice is often a non-fiction book.
I recently read Lara Maiklem’s wonderful Mudlarking. There are a lot of dropped pins in it, and a lot of which stairs are safest at low tide, but there’s so much more. In an easy, conversational style, she takes us along the shores of the Thames and brings in so much of the river’s history. I will read this one again.
Charge of the Parasols by Catriona Blake was recommended to me by medical friends when I said I was wrting about the Edinburgh Seven. I had to source it online, but I hope someone might reprint as it’s a joy.
I simply love information.
And so to my own books. Rosalie, above, is the most recent. It’s a contemporary story, but it’s set in a David Bryce house of my imaginining. Who was David Bryce? A Victorian architect who worked in the country house market. I used to visit one of his mid-century houses as a guest and developed an interest in his work. His signature was often a small, round tower-like flourish. In the house I visited, they contained the loos.
I bought a catalogue from the Christian Aid book sale of works by him and other Victorian architects. Like so many things I’ve read, it came into its own as research material in due course.
A new adventure set in Maldington House will be released by My Weekly on 10th December. Title not yet known, but it is Christmas themed.
In the meantime, check back here for a fresh anthology from Capital Writers. It’s for Hallowe’en so there will be spooks.
My fellow Robins are below. Who are their favourites?
Are we out of Lockdown – no, not really. Avoiding shopping, buses, eating out and friends, relatives and neighbours is becoming all too familiar. Three cheers for Zoom, the telephone and knitting. DH and I couldn’t get slots for the Botanics at the weekend as they had all gone. While that is very good news for the Botanics, it’s a bit disappointing for us. We contented ourselves with a walk up to the local cemetery where the size and variety of trees in their autumn colours is good. Also collected some free cooking apples from a kind gardener – who’d posted both a notice and a bag of carrier bags. Thank you.
And the knitting? Nearly finished a child’s cardigan and making good progress with a sweater. Also doing some charity knitting. Crisis at Christmas will be operating differently this year as dormitory accommodation won’t do. Consequently the people who knit for them on a regular, year by year basis have been asked for blankets as well as socks. A younger relative has blogged about this and I’ve downloaded the details. Several of my friends are stepping up and we should manage a 20 square blanket in time.
These lovely ladies are my partners in Capital Writers. Together we’ve published
Separately, there are many more titles. But, drumroll, there’s another joint effort planned for Hallowe’en. Darker, grittier and altogether appropriate for sparklers and baked potatoes…
Call back for details.
I’ve said before that I don’t see people walking through walls – but hey, it’s a Hallowe’en story I’m in need of inspiration for. Who might have walked through the walls above or even entered by the doors?
If you’ve enjoyed Capital Writers’ short stories before, then look out for our upcoming collection for Hallowe’en. Details to follow.
That apart, I’m working on a serial set in mid-nineteenth century Edinburgh. 1869 was a year like no other. From the People’s Friend to Sainsbury’s the world changed.
Most novels have an easily understood point to make to the reader, do your stories ever have more subtle or intuitive themes?
This month’s question contains an assumption – Novels have an easily understood point.
I’m not 100% sure that they do. Occasionally you’ll read a novel where the author constantly reminds you of the hero or heroine’s reason for being unlovable/depressed/hyper and very irritating they are. My preferred read is one where it slowly becomes clear that the hero or heoine struggled through a difficult or inadequate childhood or relationship or period of employment.
In my early work there were one or two characters whose inadequate childhood consisted of being given too much. Having no boundaries can be as difficult to surmount as having too many, I think.
Daisy in Daisy’s Dilemma is one such. She wants to marry John Brent and when he falls into her hands discovers, actually, that would be a great mistake. It’s the discovering she’d be in the wrong that makes Daisy’s story.
Coming up to date, my most recently published novel is contemporary and it deals with less flighty issues – bankruptcy, alcoholism and a life’s passion (for cooking). Here, I would agree I’m making use of subtlety and intuition. Why did Rosalie fall under Steve’s spell? She discovers why when she sees how he brings savvy businesswoman, Agnes, into line, too.
I think when you’re writing romance the reader might expect either a happy ever after or a happy enough for now – and I don’t disappoint on that score. The journey, however, does contain those more subtle and intuitive themes. Mariah (of Mariah’s Marriage now available in some libraries) has a strong social consceince and fights to save her apparent enemy from domestic abuse by her brother. It’s the below the surface themes that add colour and depth to characters.
My fellow authors, below, also have thoughts on this subject and you may like to read theirs.
I walked out this morning because from around lunchtime my online life is pretty full.
Firstly, and sadly, there’s the funeral of one of my late Mum-in-Law’s indomitable cousins. It’s a generation that keeps on going: keeps on giving and this lady isn’t the last of them in our family.
Then there’s the Badminton chat.
Then, YAY!, the Edinburgh Writers’ Club re-starts. Looking forward to identifying familiar faces and perhaps some new: and to hearing Mason Cross talk about life and writing.
The walk this morning displayed Rosehips rather than roses. They are lovely, but also yet another reminder of a year in so many ways lost. Also heard but not seen, were the local children out enjoying their morning playtime break.
How, regular readers may ask, is the GH project going? Well, I’m now at the stage of looking to buy the remaining ones for kindle. Will probably start with These Old shades.
The virus is very much out there and DH is cancelling yet another 2020 family event. We are all in this together, but the togetherness looks a bit separate from here.
The power of the sea is awesome but, as this picture tells us, can take time. How many years would it need for the waves to carve this bridge from the bank?
I’ve been on a holiday. First vsit for me to the islands of Tiree and Coll in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Tiree week blessed by wonderful weather, Coll more mixed, but “We weren’t kept in…”
The depth of this wall indicates that Tiree’s weather isn’t always benign. However, the modernised thatched cottage was a delight and very comfy. A lot of reading was done, but not so much writing – I was on hols. However, the endless beaches, the history implicit in the surviving thatched cottages, the opportunity for skullduggery in the excellent bird hides (we saw a male hen harrier) and the more modern story-lines underpinned by paddle-boarding expeditions, whale-watching boats and arriving in a small plane were rich fodder indeed.
Coll is more undulating and has ‘Big Hooses’ – called castles in fact. As I’ve said before, place haunts my subconscious. I really enjoyed walking among the castles and their outbuildings – some of the most extensive I’ve encountered and much of the complex now turned into holiday accommodation. The castles are both still privately occupied so tours weren’t an option. Sigh!
New Breachacha Castle, Coll
Boswell and Johnson were entertained in this one, though, so I might be able to learn a little about the interior from them.
Our actual berth on Coll was in the newly extended Isle of Coll Inn where we were blissfully content in a re-furbished room and so well-fed. Excellent local seafood and fish formed the mainstay of the menus and as I enjoy both, but don’t really cook seafood, that was also a delight.
Many of us will by now have taken tentative steps back to pre-Covid normality. I feel priviliged to have made this trip and mentally both rested and stimulated by it. I hope all of you will find the confidence to start going out again. Scary, I know. We did find the hotel very safety conscious, the ferry operators likewise and there was the wonderful Mhor 84 to break the journey where social distancing was also much in evidence.
The Lockdown Experience has made many of us confront and do things we hadn’t previously thought of: or achieved, if we had thought of them. In my own case, I’ve kept up this daily diary for 140 posts. That’s 20 weeks, folks!
I think it’s time to let it go now, although I may note anything major that comes along and of course my intermittant writing blog will be here.
For those following daily/weekly, we scored 10 in the Guardian Quiz. It may be our highest ever score. I walked out yesterday afternoon and notice that agapanthus is now competing with crocosmia (other name of Mombretia) as the dominant garden flower. DH has one flower on the smaller magnolia so it may be over its huff with the stonemasons. Courtesy of a friend, I have watched several Olive and Mabel shorts. Go and see, folks. We watched the Festival’s light show in the night sky last night. We’ve been tuning in to their online 2020 Festival. We saw many family members last week and some close friends over the w/e. Still a long way to go. Off to buy more masks this morning.
I have enjoyed the diary hugely. My thanks to the regular visitors such as Kate Blackadder, Anne Stormont, Joanne Baird, Ann Burnett, Gill Stewart, Rae Cowie, Rosemary Gemmell who have left comments. Also, I know there are others whose visits went unrecorded here, but who mentioned the diary elsewhere or to me personally. Thanks to them, too. It’s been great to have companionship on this adventure which was an unknown quantity to us all.
Writing the posts was a purpose for the day and meant I did go out to see what could be commented on, I did read what could be alluded to and I noted the local businesses in need of a mention. Sadly, not all of them survived.
Keep buying local folks.
I took this picture in Granton-on-Spey as we were awaiting the start of a Strathspey Ball. Alas the 2020 Ball is yet another victim of the Covid-19 outbreak and this year, there’ll be nae birling.
However, folk are trying their best to have socially distanced fun and celebrations. We’ve been to a couple of distanced 70ths and the celebration online of the Edinburgh International Festival.
In addition, we had a great morning yesterday with family – outdoors. The weather was very much onside. Is it going to be quite as much fun into the Autumn and Winter?
Courting the Countess continues to be free – go here
A Debt for Rosalie is now off the shelves, but still available from the DC Thomson shop:
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