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A little bit of this…

This summer I have been doing quite a bit of this…

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while admiring this…

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a bit of this…

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while listening to this…

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plenty of eavesdropping in places like…

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a little of this…

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and this…

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which was all inspiration for this…

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and this…

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When it rained I was very happy to do this…

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When the sun shone I did more of this…

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Took the mickey out of…

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at…

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but underneath it all, I was ever aware of this …

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which lead me to feel…

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and continued to write 30,000 words of another

Launch 12

but this time it will be about …

a different person altogether…

 

 

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Call to all colleges and schools of Higher Education

I’m offering two workshop sessions to schools and colleges inspired by my latest novel FOR MY SINS, a historical novel about Mary, Queen of Scots, sitting in her prison cell at the end of her life, a prisoner to Queen Elizabeth, stitching her tapestries while being haunted by the ghosts of her past. It’s receiving 5 star reviews and has been quoted as “a masterclass in historical fiction.”

The first workshop – TENSIONS IN SCOTTISH HISTORY – will be a talk on Mary, Queen of Scots, and this period of Scottish History (1542-1587), the conflicts and tensions, together with a Q&A session. This is suitable for History students at Higher, Advanced Higher, and University level to help with engagement of the subject and bringing the topic to life in a memorable way.

The second workshop HOW TO WRITE A HISTORICAL NOVEL is suitable for Higher, Advanced Higher, and undergraduates and graduates of English and Creative Writing, and will explore the pleasures and pitfalls of writing historical fiction, offering 5 inspirational ways to make it work for you.

As well as being a writer I am also an experienced English teacher. I teach and mentor English students at Higher and Advanced Higher.

Please be in touch if you would like to arrange either or both of these workshops for your students.

Launch 12

 

 

 

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The Return of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots

It has been a busy couple of weeks launching my latest title FOR MY SINS, a historical novel for adults about Mary Queen of Scots. And Mary herself appeared at my first launch in Blackwell’s, Edinburgh. She sat very demurely to one side like a pale ghost (courtesy of Artemis Scotland) while I talked about the writing of FMS in front of windows that rattled and shook in a storm. We were yards away from the scene of Darnley’s murder at Kirk o’ Field.

The next stop was Waterstones, Byres Road, and tonight it will be my local library, Dunblane. I’ve been taking my audience on a mental journey into the past. I am the curator of that journey, guiding them into that distant realm which we can only imagine, where darkness held sway, where death was an everyday occurrence, and there was definitely no WiFi… Here are some pics of me flapping my arms about.

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Inspirational Moments: Writer in Residence 2017 #2

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Here are some photos of what we’ve been up to over the past few weeks.

And the pointers or lessons?

Writers care about the world & what is happening in it. It’s just not about escapism.

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You can imagine other people’s lives…

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Even if it makes you feel uncomfortable.

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Keep a journal or diary.

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You can write about what is familiar… or unfamiliar.

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Writing can be used as a Way of Healing too.

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You all have a story to tell… either the one you are living now, one from the past, or one that you have yet to live…

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In which I share with you the blurb…

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So… why Mary? Well, because she had a talent for escaping, through tunnels and graveyards, on horseback, via boat, across silent lakes, through forests, across moorland. And, she was accused of murdering her second husband in order to marry her third…

The question is – is she or is she not the culprit of one of history’s unsolved murder mysteries? I think I know the answer to that one… and (just like most things in history, past, present and future) it’s not clear-cut.

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In which I talk about Mary…

01-for-my-sins-20mm-spineThis has been a pure labour of love, begun when I was 22, living in Edinburgh in a bedsit on Buccleugh Street, tramping the cobbles, in search of inspiration. That’s when my first drafts of this novel were written. Even back then in 1990 I called it FOR MY SINS, a quote from the very last letter of Mary, Queen of Scots (which I photographed in the museum), and I knew exactly who my Mary was – what her voice sounded like, what her insecurities and fears and hopes were, and her bravery. I knew what she felt, what she thought, what she regretted. I never thought I would see this novel published. I revisited it in later years, then my son Micah was born, then Martha, and life moved on. I didn’t forget about it – I knew it was a novel which should have seen the light of day and sat on bookshelves. I believe in it immensely even now – especially now. Two years ago, I opened a cupboard and it literally fell at my feet. Bouf! Don’t forget me. Now I have a cover I love, I’ve just sent off the dedication and acknowledgements to Fledgling, and it’s to be released in February. My first novel for adults – the first I ever wrote! I simply cannot tell you what this means to me… apologies for outburst of emotion! It’s been rewritten and rewritten, and this is its final form.

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Newcastle is Nice!!!!

Yes it is. I had a fantastic day out yesterday with fellow author and obsessive drinker of tea, Kirkland Ciccone. Here we are on the train feeling very excited about our booked seats down to Newcastle from Edinburgh. Literally one second later we were escorted off the train. Not literally… exaggeration. Our seats were double-booked so we politely conceded to a group of elderly ladies, but not before Kirkland accidentally upset one of the strident-looking members of the group by calling them ‘pensioners.’ She didn’t like the word, but we all laughed it off in good cheer, while helpful members of the public showed us where we had gone wrong with our tickets. on-our-way

Then we had to walk through the drunk carriage (I ask you, it was 9.30 am!!!!) Then we found seats where we could cause less trouble.  Arrived in Newcastle and was amazed at how beautiful it is. The buildings showing its mercantile and industrial heritage, the buzz, the sunshine. My father’s forebears were shipbuilders on the Tyne in Newcastle, came over from Ireland, and one of them – great grandfather Chris Gollaglee died saving another man’s life. His younger friend slipped and fell, so he reached out and saved him, but lost his own life. It took him six weeks to die in hospital and he was in all the papers in Newcastle, and I still have the letter his descendant wrote to my dad saying “No greater love hath man than to lay down his life for his friend.”

Kirkland was very excited to be down in England, and I felt quite at home amongst my own again, after 25 years of living north of the border amongst all ye Scots and Pictish people… aye…

Here we are at the UKYACX in Newcastle. The Two Ronnies.cskeubtxyaaoqn2

Had a fabulous time listening to lots of authors, eating cake. This was our panel. I really enjoyed being on stage again, I think I mentioned Wuthering Heights a few times (and Kate Bush), how Chill was chosen for First Minister’s Reading Challenge, (thank you Nicola), and how I won the Royal Mail Award (before it was privatized). They laughed, they listened, they looked keen, while I was mean and lean (or not so lean, after eating 5 of their cakes). I had a sugar rush afterwards. Kirkland upstaged us all with his cat-walk, where he took the audience by storm and showed them what a real fake fur looks like. He’s a born performer…

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Out into the sunshine, and I saw fellow author Lindsey Barraclough , author of Long Lankin, sitting outside reading my book – so had to beg a photo. Love it when fellow authors soak up books – especially when they’re your own… but seriously, we’re not just there to promote our own but to learn from others, so I now have a much longer reading list.

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Then it was home again on the train – booked seats this time – BUT… in the drunk carriage again with some football supporters who regaled us with loud and incomprehensible chants while I tried to nod off, and thought wistfully of the pensioners on the morning train. Kirkland and I wondered what it would be like if authors chanted when they’re on a day out.

I love Newcastle, and I’m going back again some day……..