Diary of a Writer – March Writing Prompt

dsc01314This picture was taken just over a month ago in Trinidad, Cuba. The horse or pony was much in evidence as a means of personal transport and as a draught animal.

Travelling between Havana and Trinidad by bus, we saw many pony and cart combos not only in the fields, but on the highway. Occasionally, they were driving against the traffic! There wasn’t a lot of traffic, but some of it travelled fast.

What does this picture ask of you? I see the light and shade. I see the interesting local houses. I see an animal taking its rest when it can.

And I wonder. Who left it there? Will it be the same man (didn’t see any female riders, folks) who comes back to it? What if a different man rode off?

Currently re-thinking the W-I-P, but still in Regency Edinburgh although on the High Street for this one. Courting the Countess still at 99p.

Also deeply involved in the Romantic Novelists Association’s Awards Night. If you’re there, I’ll be on the front desk. Come and say Hello, why don’t you? Ponies should be tethered outside.

 

November Writing Prompt

dsc00870This month’s writing prompt:

as the world awaits the result of some major elections

as we prepare for a ‘hard’ winter in the West

as the vibrant colours of summer give way to the softness of autumn and the starkness of winter

What does this flower mean to you? The picture was taken in Italy.

COURTING THE COUNTESS buy from amazon here

Roll Up, Roll up! Courting the Countess Freebie

Greyfriars Bobby - a capital landmark

Greyfriars Bobby – a capital landmark

Publishers Endeavour are offering my Scottish Regency COURTING THE COUNTESS as a free download between 10th and 14th October.

‘I finished it a couple of days ago after reading it greedily fast, and feel bereft!’ From the five star review by Mrs K Brock.

Is romance, a twisted fairy tale and murderous mayhem your kind of read? Then look no further – and Courting the Countess is FREE for Five Days.

And maybe, just asking, maybe you’d like to leave a review, too? Please.

Amazon

UK      US      DE    CA  AU

COURTING THE COUNTESS

courting-the-countess

It’s such a pleasure to introduce my latest book to you all.

COURTING THE COUNTESS from Endeavour Press went up on amazon platforms this morning.

Courting the Countess is my take on the Beauty and The Beast myth and features Melissa, Lady Pateley who has lost her beauty in a fire. She has become an object of desire, however, for many unscrupulous men who would marry her and use her wealth. Falling back on loyal servants and her own innate strength, Melissa responds to Colonel Harry Gunn, a retired army doctor. Can he, handsome and charismatic, persuade Melissa life will be worth living again? Can he overcome his own uncertainties along the way?

Courting the Countess is available here for UK buyers and here for US.

Did you know? A beginners guide to reblogging on #WordPress

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

i-blog-therefore-i-am

I’m no technical genius and when I first started blogging, I needed to learn my way around the WordPress system. It is pretty much common sense and easy enough to set up. If you get stuck, there are plenty of helpful articles and forums that show you how to do pretty much anything. Just type the question into your search engine.

The one thing they cannot do, though, is answer questions you didn’t know you should ask. Over the past few days I have become aware of how many of those little tweaks and tricks we learn about, then just take for granted. Reblogging was one area I found frustrating for a good while. It is a simple process, the press of a button, until the button is not there…

1. Can’t see the reblog button?
This took me ages to work out! Many blogs, including this one, have their…

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No author is an island …

Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing

I finished reading a book on marketing that, while good, worthwhile, and filled with lots of ideas and information (much of which I already use) to get your book out there and selling, it fell short, in my estimation.

Yes, it discussed the importance of building a fan base and giving fans what they want, and it also suggested one way of developing your career as being to call on others more experienced in your field and essentially “use” them and their influence to get ahead (something I didn’t particularly agree with).

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But where the book fell short was in not once mentioning the importance of “promoting the writing and books of other authors” or in working with other authors to create a community in which all can thrive. Authors who read and follow the advice in this book will come out looking like lone wolves grasping after sales alone…

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Winter Wonder – a Story for the Darker Days

And today sees the Scottish Regency short story – Winter Wonder – draw to a close. I hope you’ve enjoyed following Lady Mary Calder’s return to her senses after the dastardly attempt on her life and might read the story of another lady in distress, Bella Wormsley.

BELLA’S BETROTHAL an entertaining romance with humour and a touch of thematic mystery.

Winter Wonder concludes:

“You shall hear from me, Rintoul,” Lennox said in a low and deadly voice. He leant into the doorway and dragged his mama out without any ceremony. Mary had to move quickly to catch the hessian bag in which Lady Grizel hoped their jewels were secreted as it dropped from the older woman’s hands.

“Lennox!” Lady Grizel squealed, but her distress did not impress her son.

“Silence, Mama, I think you have caused enough damage to the family and one must now wonder how much disgrace this story will bring down on its name.”

Rarely had Mary heard her lord so angry and she could almost feel a twinge of pity for her mama-in-law, but then that lump on the back of her head throbbed and she knew Lennox was in the right.

Rintoul sent a man claiming to act as his Friend. This scruffy individual was not versed in the language or practice of duelling and it became abundantly clear to them all that Rintoul had no intention of meeting Lord Calder, but had probably left town. Lennox sent Red Will out after the second and he soon came back with the information that Rintoul had boarded a coach for Glasgow.

The night passed in gloom and misery. Lady Grizel did everything possible to deny the accusations Lennox presented to her. He dragged the wretched doctor, Wilson, from his house in George Square, and questioned him hard about the events leading up to Mary’s assault and his unethical treatment of her thereafter.

It was a sorry tale of loss, gambling, bigger losses, money-borrowed, money owed and theft from families and friends. Lady Grizel fainted away when their man of business brought a jeweller to the house. McCallum confirmed Lennox’s suspicions – the jewels were fake.

“I see you come round, Mama. Did you truly believe the money lender would simply hand back your sureties?” Lennox spoke wearily and Mary knew the heat had gone from his anger when he learned Rintoul had fled any gentlemanly resolution. She was a little glad her husband would not be fighting illegal duels in his tired and weakened state.

“It was in his interests,” Lady Grizel said at last. Beside her, Wilson fussed and brought salts to aid her breathing. “I told him you would most likely call him out and he is a cowardly individual.”

“Indeed,” Lennox agreed. He allowed the maids to come in then and take Lady Grizel to her chamber. Mary knew he was plotting, but waited until the outsiders had left, too.

“Lennox, you are too calm. It cannot be simply because Duff is recovering and Rintoul has gone. I believe you’ve arranged something.” Mary challenged him and watched with satisfaction as a flush covered his face.

“I cannot escape your intelligence, my love. Donal and Red Will are galloping hard to reach the first stop on the Glasgow road.”

Mary lifted her brows in puzzlement and then smiled as realisation seeped into her exhausted brain.

“You gave Red will the bag after the jeweller examined the paste copies. Are the men going to…”

“Plunder Rintoul’s baggage?” Lennox interrupte. “With a fair wind and some luck, they will find the originals in his baggage strapped outside the coach. If not, at the next stop, they may distract him and swap bags in the tap room.”

“Gambling debts are often considered inescapable, are they not?” Mary asked tentatively.

“My mama stole those jewels, my love. If we go to the law, she would go to the gallows. I cannot countenance that.”

Mary gasped. He was right, of course.

“But, equally, I cannot countenance that man living on the profits of your jewellery gained from my mama in her miserable pursuit of distraction. If we succeed, I do not foresee Rintoul making any kind of fuss.”

It was into the afternoon before the horses came wearily to a halt in the street outside. Lennox’s wild whoop brought Mary fully awake from her doze in the drawing room. She smiled contentedly and stroked back Alfie’s curls.

The End

BELLA’S BETROTHAL an entertaining romance with humour and a touch of thematic mystery.

Winter Wonder – a Story for the Dark Days

Mary strained her eyes trying to see in the gloom. Her cloak slipped from her shoulder and she had to release Lennox’s arm in order to catch it. He waited while she knotted the ties at her throat.

“I think Red Will has caught one of the thugs Rintoul uses to guard his door,” Lennox said.

Mary heard the excitement and satisfaction this caused her husband, but she quailed. Memories crowded in now and she knew a man had taken hold of her person and lifted her bodily from the flags. His strength had been too great for her and despite thrashing her feet and screaming, she’d been subdued. She let a hand stray behind her head to where a small lump gave testimony to the vicious nature of the encounter. What if this was one of the men who had knocked her out and carried her to the waste ground where she was found unconscious beneath Duff? She bent and lifted a large stone. Curling her fingers around the makeshift weapon steadied her nerves.

“I have issue I want to take with him, if it is,” she murmured, and felt her husband’s breath hot in her ear.

“No, my love, leave this to Red Will, and to me.”

Mary bridled, but kept behind Lennox as he crept forward. Red Will grunted some words that caused him to pause and study the door of Rintoul’s house. Donal came out of the shadows and trussed the prisoner. They gagged him, too, and settled back among the detritus on the street to wait. Mary supposed that was what the thug had been persuaded to reveal – Rintoul or a visitor was about to leave.

Just as the cold seeping through her boots and up the muscles of her legs caused Mary to think she might never walk again, the door scraped inwards. Illuminated by a wall sconce, Lady Grizel stood trembling in the entrance. Behind her a thin and angular male leant against the entry.

Lennox moved swiftly forward and would have laid hands on his mama to pull her out of his firing line, but she spoke.

“Lennox! Unhand me, sir. I have here the family jewels and a paltry set of rubies and garnets your wife prizes.” Mary heard the imperious tones which were much at odds with the circumstances Lady Grizel must find herself in. “Mister Rintoul has been kind enough to guard them for me. When a dastardly plot became known to me, I turned to him in your absence.”

“Really, mama?” Lennox said. “And when we return to Queen Street, will we find the jewels in this leather pouch – or a set of paste replicas?”

It was impossible to make out Lady Grizel’s expression, but Mary watched the shadows dance macabrely and knew she must be shaking.

“Come, Calder, you would hardly call your own mother a liar, would you?” the man in the doorway spoke with such sneering insolence, Mary knew Lennox was right. The jewels his mama held were fakes.

“Would I not, Rintoul? Then let me send that title to you.”

“It is an insult, sir. My man will call on you in the morning.”

BELLA’S BETROTHAL an entertaining romance with humour and a touch of thematic mystery.

Winter Wonder – a Story for the Dark Days

If Lennox was going out into the city after his mama, she would accompany him.

Mary watched Lennox scramble to his feet without trying to assist him. She thought that if he could do so on his own and then stand, he would be able to negotiate the paths and alleys between here and his quarry in the Old Town. He pulled himself upright and took a few shaky steps.

“I cannot think your presence will be beneficial, my love,” Lennox said fixing his beloved gaze on her. “As you see, I am a little shaky and will need to devote much energy to my own safety without I have to have a special care for you.”

“I will accompany you, sir,” Mary said with greater force than she was accustomed to use even when in good health. This, she thought was no moment to simper and plead or whinge either. “I know now where I saw mama-in-law head off the main street into the Grassmarket. Even in the dark, my sense of smell will take me there.”

She watched Lennox raise his brows at this unwonted display of assertiveness, but his answer surprised her.

“Sense of smell, my love? Surely my mama’s rose brier will not override the pot pourri of the Old town?”

“Be sensible, Lennox. I was walking near a tannery and an hostelry. As the man’s arm came around me, I smelled your mama’s soap. The door beside me was labelled Rintoul,” Mary said , and quickly realised she’d give away her advantage.

“He is the man,” Lennox growled as he took his pistols from Malcolm. “Very well, we waste time arguing. Red Will, can Duff be left?”

The stable-man muttered something in his mix of Gaelic and Scots that Mary found incomprehensible, but Lennox was satisfied and with that they set out into the dark toun.

Donal was standing guard on the threshold, but at a nod from Red Will, he pulled the great door of the house closed behind them and fell in with the party. Mary struggled to keep up. The men were intent on their quarry and paid her little heed. Once in a while, Donal paused to allow her to catch up, but then set off again behind the others. She was grateful for the flare he carried as it was often the only thing showing her where the others were.

Soon enough the Grassmarket sank below them beneath the great castle on its rock. Mary breathed deeply and moved forward  beside her lord. He would need to know she was there when they found his mama. His mama – who appeared to have stolen Mary’s jewels to pay her money-lender. Was it not bad enough for families whose men gambled away fortunes? What was it going to be like for them when it became known, as it surely would, that Lady Grizel had done such a thing?

Rintoul’s door came into view and the rank smells of leather and stables, fires and rubbish hit them hard. Mary reached out and grabbed Lennox’s sleeve. She was little prepared for this sortie. Weak from lack of food and illness, she knew the coming confrontation with the woman she had called mother would drain her reserves.

“There’s movement ower yonder,” Donal hissed. Red Will scrambled ahead and within seconds, they heard a low  moan of pain.

“Guid man,” Lennox said, “He’s got one of them.”

Guid, indeed, Mary thought, but which one of them?

BELLA’S BETROTHAL an entertaining romance with humour and a touch of thematic mystery.