About Me

My photo
I write well researched but readable historical and contemporary novels and some non-fiction. I live in a Scottish country cottage with my artist husband. I love gardening and I also collect the fascinating antique textiles that often find their way into my fiction. This blog is about all these things and more!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Orange Blossom Love and other stories ...

Another lovely cover image from Michael Doig
I've been so busy with all kinds of writing over the past few weeks that I've hardly had a spare moment to update this blog. Here in the West of Scotland, we're in that time between seasons when the trees are beautiful - especially the rowans - but the days are shortening all the time. Soon our clocks will be going back an hour and then the nights will seem very long - and very dark.

BUT I've been cheering myself up with working on the first in a series of unashamedly romantic novels, set largely in the beautiful Canary Isles. And really wishing I was sitting on the deck of a catamaran in the sunshine. But if I can't do that, then the next best thing is to write about the islands, and dream about them. And share some of those dreams with readers.


This all began many years ago as a short story called Sardine Burial which - coincidentally enough - has just been republished in eBook form by the excellent Hearst Magazine Company: one of four short stories in a new mini collection of my stories, available on all ebook platforms - but you can find it here on Amazon in the UK and here on Amazon in the US. I love the way Hearst are embracing short stories in this form - mainly because I'm a big fan of the short story myself, not just as a writer, but as a reader.

I experimented with Sardine Burial as a radio play - it was actually produced on BBC R4 years ago - but I really wanted to write it as a novel. Its first incarnation was published and pretty much sank without trace. I'm quite glad, because it wasn't ever the way I really wanted it to be. It's a romantic story, no doubt about it. And why not? But what I really wanted to write was a novel about two people from quite different backgrounds, who fall in love and marry in haste. What happens next? Do they repent at leisure, as the old adage would have us believe? So I went back to the beginning and began all over again. Especially with my hero - lovely Luis - who plays the guitar and sings - and cooks, too. OK, OK, he's a man in a million. But he has his faults. As you'll find out if you read the book.

That's what I've been writing about in Orange Blossom Love.  (Try THIS LINK  instead, if you're in the US!)  This is one of the more sensuous and unashamedly romantic pieces of writing I've ever done. It's a very grown up love story. And I'm afraid it does end on a bit of a cliff-hanger. There was no way round it. You'll see what I mean when you get there! But I'm hoping to be able to get Part 2, Bitter Oranges, out on Kindle in time for Christmas. Or very soon after.

My only worry is that there is an important - and quite different - project which might just possibly get in the way. I'll tell you a bit more about that later because it's very exciting too and it will have to take priority for a while.. But if I manage my time properly, I should be able to do both. And maybe winter in Scotland will be a very good time to visit the gorgeous, sunny Canary Isles, even if it's only in my imagination! On the other hand, Bitter Oranges is set partly in Glasgow. So I might just have to make do with Luis, who brings his own brand of sunshine with him! Always has. Always will.


Monday, October 07, 2013

The Curiosity Cabinet on Pinterest


I've been a convert to Pinterest for a while. It's a lovely, easy site to use, and I can never visit it without a little lifting of the heart.  Maybe because it's good displacement activity. (Well, it is!) Maybe it's also because I have a very visual imagination. When I'm working on a novel or a play, I tend to surround myself with all kinds of inspirational images, pictures that help to fire my imagination, even when I'm feeling in the doldrums. Pinterest is a nice addition to those resources: pictures of landscapes and food, textiles, interiors, costumes and all kinds of things. Pictures of heroes, too.

I now find I use it quite a lot when I have a work in progress - I'm using it with my Canary Island trilogy at the moment. One of the good things about the site is that it isn't very time consuming, or it needn't be. You can just go there briefly, have a little browse, pin a picture, be intrigued or inspired and get back to work.  Or you can spend hours on it, especially if you follow the pictures back to their original websites. But you don't have to.

Sometimes, like now, I've been moved to create a Pinterest board for a work that was done and dusted some time ago - purely for fun. I've just done it for my novel The Curiosity Cabinet and you can see the board here. Most readers will have their own ideas about the landscape of the novel - and the embroidered box of the title. But all the same, I thought it might be nice for readers to see some of the images that inspired it.

The Curiosity Cabinet is a novel which has had a long and complicated life. It started out as a trilogy of radio plays, was totally rewritten as a novel, shortlisted for a book prize, published by Polygon, and then went out of print but not before it had been released as an unabridged audio reading and abridged (without the sex and swearing - not that there is a LOT of it - but very nicely done!) for the People's Friend. It had been so well reviewed, had so many readers who had taken the time and trouble to tell me how much they liked it, that it became one of my first Kindle books. It had a new and very beautiful cover by my friend, textile artist Alison Bell. And in 2014, I plan to re release it in paperback, via Amazon's Createspace.

I've been visiting the little Hebridean Isle of Gigha for many years now - I even wrote a history of the place called God's Islanders for Birlinn - and I love it. The Garve of the novel isn't entirely Gigha and other islands are certainly available! Coll, for instance. But the landscapes of Gigha definitely inspired the landscapes of Garve, past and present, in the novel. They went on to inspire the landscapes of the anonymous Scottish island in Bird of Passage too - but differently. Maybe I'll do a dedicated Pinterest board for that novel too, in due course.

I'll be adding a few more pictures to the Curiosity Cabinet board over the next few weeks. This is the landscape of the novel - when I visualise the film of the book in my head this is the kind of thing I see. Well, a girl can dream, can't she?