Pantomime Deprivation

Is Pantomime Deprivation a ‘real’ thing?

Certainly in this house there are twitchy people wondering when, when, when we’ll be back in the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, on a more normal footing. Hats off to all our creatives who are working so hard to keep their venues, staff and art going.

My next Pocket Novel for My Weekly is published on Thursday 10th December and it contains – a Pantomime.


Genni escapes for some much needed recovery after a death on her television show. She meets Paddy and directs a pantomime. Love of live theatre rekindled, will she return to the brighter lights of London?

Publication is 10th December and as always available from newsagents, supermarkets and online or by phone from the DC Thomson shop.

Meantime the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh has some wonderful Christmas Tales for us. Go here 

Scroll down to find the instructions for the 8 free tales.

Keep Safe, folks,



Round Robin – In What time period do set your stories?

Topic: In what time period do you prefer to set your stories – past, present, or future? What are the problems and advantages of that choice? Would you like to change? 


Unequivocally, I like to set my stories in the past. I do write short stories in the present, but I don’t remember ever having a go at the future.

THE PROBLEMS of writing in the past are two sides of the same coin, On the face of it is the problem created by not having been there. On the reverse is the problem created by having been there.

Dancing shoes with medals

Scottish Regency I wasn’t around in the latter years of George the Third’s reign and his son’s extended regency, but there is ample research material. Books, papers, art, furniture, the laws made, the laws enforced and, the real glory, the Georgian buildings still standing in many British cities. Edinburgh has its magnificent New Town and outriders like George Square where Bella’s Betrothal is set. I can look up the street directories and find out who lived in which house and what their occupation was. You can’t do that today!

One problem that creates difficulties for me in trying to woo some readers is the sheer cliff-face of the shift in attitudes since 1819. Some readers might be turned away by the strictures of life for a woman in that period. They may not wish or aren’t able to get into the mind-set. As a writer I love the challenge of working out how a woman would have made the best of it and, in the case of one’s heroine, bested the hero, her papa, the local lothario…

Midlothian 1950s

I was there and many, many of the thousands of folk who read my debut serial in The People’s Friend last year, A Traveller’s Life, were also there. Memory is a tricksy business. The facts may well be indisputable, but their interpretation most certainly is not. I have two friends from my early schooling who grew up in the village I did and the neighbouring one. Consulting them helped enormously because the sister of one not only remembered the nature of the District Nurse’s uniform and the blue lamp at her gate, but also her name. Another friend had worked as a District Nurse and provided me with the wonderful insight: “And you kept your hat on – no matter the procedure being undertaken.” A little thing, but annoying to the many wonderful ladies (I think that’s right, only women) who undertook such essential work, if you get it wrong.


For me, the principle advantage of writing in the past is perspective. As a writer of fiction I do have a ViewPoint character and the story will be skewed to show that person’s perspective. Writing years after the type of event in the story allows me to have read and thought about what might have happened in those circumstances and what might have provoked it or even resolved it. I may have to give a particular VP, but I can at least allow the others to break the surface of memory’s pool.


Maybe. I do have one or two stories I want to tell in the present rather than through the lens of the past. It is, however, very difficult when living amidst the glories of Edinburgh’s New Town and visiting on a fairly frequent basis the wonderful sweeps of London’s great Georgian streets and their magnificent parks, to drag myself into our world of ‘normal’.


It’s a mixture. I’ve got a Scottish Regency on the go having been primed by writing a short story for Capital Writers (more on another occasion). I have a scatty heroine and a set of loveable rogues poised on the threshold of adult responsibility. I’m also, the Fiction Editor mentioned it in her blog two weeks ago, writing a contemporary serial for People’s Friend.

If you want to read others’ views on this month’s topic, here’s the list of great participants:


Marie Laval
Anne de Gruchy
Skye Taylor
Dr. Bob Rich
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire
Judith Copek
Victoria Chatham
Beverley Bateman
Heidi M. Thomas
Marci Baun
Helena Fairfax
Diane Bator
Rhobin L Courtright

Winter Wonder – a Story for the Darker Days

…and the story continues

Lennox set Mary down on the tiles in their vestibule, but she knew his attention was all on the deerhound which hadn’t followed them back as ordered.

“He’s caught a scent,” she said, but it sounded fearful and didn’t sit well with her wish to instil a little light into their dark days. “Probably a rat has stayed out too long after the sun rose.”

“It’ll be a rat, I’m sure,” Lennox said. His teeth ground and gave his face a fearsome expression that made even Mary quail. “Please, my love, go into the parlour and eat. I will return as soon as may be.”

“But, Lennox…” she began before realising she was talking to an empty hall. She stretched a hand out to correct her balance and then moved slowly into the breakfast parlour.


Mary heard noon strike on the hall clock and fidgeted with the book lying open on her lap. She’d remembered something else and was anxious to share it with him. The dank smell of the morning that had so unsettled her, made sense when she saw the shadow moving in the trees. There had been a shadow before. Only, it hadn’t remained a shadow, she thought.

She stood and crossed her drawing room to gaze out over the north of the city. The Forth lay sparkling in winter sunshine. The thriving city went about its daily business. Carts and carriages, beggars and Dukes thronged the streets.

One o’clock, two struck. But, Lennox and Duff did not return. It was looming dark at around three when she heard the confusion downstairs. Rousing from a doze in her chair, Mary crossed the room and when Agnes came pelting in from the landing, stopped.

“Agnes, your frighten me,” she said.

“It’s the maister. ma’am,” Agnes wheezed out the words. “Lady Grizel says ye mon wait here.”

Winter Wonder – a Story for the Darker Days

“Oh Lennox, until these last few moments, I don’t think I knew I was ill and in need of getting better,” Mary said. She flinched as her husband’s expression clouded with pain and his bright eyes remained dark. What had caused this huge disruption in their lives? Whatever it was, she decided, enough was enough. She could see her family had suffered, too, and she must make some effort to shake it off.

“Then that is good,” Lennox said, interrupting her thoughts. “The doctors asked us to keep you as quiet and untroubled as we could.” He shifted his weight and she watched the long ripple of muscle beneath his shirt. He was carrying her carriage cloak and within seconds had it draped around her, lifting her with ease to slide the thick wool beneath her thighs. The movement, the feeling of being in someone else’s power, caused a shiver along her nerves.

“Thank you, but you, sir, will be ill shortly. What devil possessed you to come out of the house wearing no coat?” Mary was surprised by the pleased glint of amusement on Lennox’s face.

“Now that last dose of tincture has worn off, your tongue is as to the point as ever.”

Mary dropped her gaze and studied her hands. Why, she wondered, was there a ring of red marks on the back of her right? Had someone bitten her?

Where do You Get Your Ideas From? No 4 The Natural World

Where do you get your ideas from must be the question that most puzzles the non-creative. I watched a programme recently featuring a female artist whose technical skill is taxidermy – Polly Morgan. The works of art she creates have a strange quality as they are a mixture of the dead bird or animal and her setting of it. Not pieces I had thought I would like, but I was wrong. They are in many cases both beautiful and mysterious.

The anne feb 2013 220natural world is not simply animals. Place, the sense of a place is a strong prompt for me. My first ever published story was inspired by an over-grown garden just up the road. I took several photographs of the laundry at a big house outside Manchester and they have evoked story-lines and characters in ways I didn’t foresee, but wasn’t surprised by. There was a shiver of recognition when I walked around. I wrote about the photos, below at Pictures.

Many writers have made natural features the basis or even the star of their output. I’m thinking of a moor – Wuthering Heights; a built environment – Sex In The city; a county – Dorset in Thomas Hardy; a river – the Thames in much of Dickens – to name a few. You’ll have your own ideas and your own favourites.

As a late teen and young adult, I was enthralled by the quiet fiction of Black Isle author, Jane Duncan. She wrote a long series of books with titles starting, My Friend… Even as I write, phrases and scenarios from those books pop into my head. I’ve always been delighted to visit Scotland’s Black Isle in a vain attempt to spot the fictional places in the real world.

My recent guest, Kate Blackadder used her knowledge of Scotland’s far north west for the fictional background of Family At Farrshore. Ian Rankin has Edinburgh, Michael Malone Glasgow, Chris Longmuir, Dundee. Regency writers use London, but also Bath. American writers have long exploited the far south – William Faulkner, New York – many, the West – many more and Theodore Dreiser used Chicago.

Landmark creation

Landmark creation

In many cases, the writer leaves the reader with the belief that the story could not have taken place anywhere else. In lots of the stories the nature prompts or causes the events to the extent it is a character in the work. Think about the hot, hot summers lived in a NY brownstone or southern slave hut. Walk the cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s old town in a gale. Are these weathers malevolent? Struggle through a London fog. Listen to the fog horn on a battered cliff-edge. Think how the writer is heightening your emotional experience by making you live through physical discomfort.