Robbing the dead

 

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Next February, it will be 30 years since my mother passed away. It was a particularly cold month, and a large amount of snow was on the ground in the small village where she lived, in the Central Highlands.

Because of the house’s remote situation, and my mother’s health, she had help in the house, and there was more than one local keyholder. After the immediate trauma of the funeral was over, I had the task of clearing the house. I’m an only child, so all of that task fell to me; my youngest son was under two years old, so all of the house-clearing had to be done with a toddler in tow. Due to the distance from my home and my other three school-age children, and the weather, for the first month or two I could only be at the house occasionally.

That’s when I discovered that, even in rural Scotland, people think nothing of robbing the dead.

Of the several things that had vanished, there are two I have never quite got over. The first was the inscribed gold watch given to my father when he retired after spending all his working life in J&P Coats’ Glasgow office. Because ours was a somewhat dysfunctional family, I really knew my father very little (he died when I was in my early twenties), and I have very, very few things that belonged to him. Having the watch would mean a lot to me, and no doubt its fate was to be melted down anyway, because of the inscription.

The second stolen item that haunts me still was the small brass figure of a sleeping, nude woman, lying on her side. Although she was nude, there was nothing immodest about her. She was, quite simply, exquisite. My stepfather (who was also my grandmother’s cousin, and therefore a blood relative I’d known all my life) had brought her back from France, where he had a most distinguished service record in WWI. She had no identifying marks, and would hardly have been worth melting down for all the metal that was in her. I’d like to think that at least she is still intact, somewhere, and that whoever stole her, or whoever has her now, appreciates her as much as I did, and my mother did, and my stepfather did.

Little things mean a lot.

 

On not plugging books

img_1422.jpgWhen I started this blog, I was bewitched by the idea that every writer has to have an “author platform”, and that therein (thereon? Must be “on” if it’s a platform) lies the only path to selling books. ‘And don’t ever mention politics on your author page,’ I was warned.

I’m sure an author blog is a great idea if you’re one of the writers who’s good at blogging about themselves, and their books, and their astounding successes. I’m not. That probably explains why I spend hours a day (literally) communicating on Facebook (about politics, 99% of the time) and only post here every few months.

So to hell with “author platforms”. This one hasn’t seen a train go through in years, so no point in waiting for one.

I aim to post about anything and everything from now on, and have set myself a target of AT LEAST one post a week.

When I have a new book out, I’ll mention it once (because I am a writer, after all), but apart from that it’ll be random anecdotes, memories, stuff about cats & dogs & gardens – oh, and probably a bit of politics after all, because as well as being a writer I’m a political animal. A very political animal. And the antics of most of the creatures we pay to represent us (ha!) in Parliament makes me angry most days. Very, very angry.

In fact, just about the only thing that makes me angrier at the moment is having succumbed to buying a couple of the current crop of magazines that are trying to cash in on fashionable ideas of ‘Mindfulness’. I’m very annoyed at myself, because they are (in my view) mind-numbing, faux-positive-thinking, EXPENSIVE crap. Very fertile territory for my friend Frank who does an excellent line in repurposing particularly naff quotes from Rumi that appear on Facebook.

Later this week, I mean to post about the low-lifes who pinched stuff from my mother’s house after she died.

See ya!

This entry was posted on September 25, 2017. 1 Comment

Judging a book by its cover…

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BY HEART is now republished with a fantastic new cover, designed once more by Jessica Bell. The feedback I’d had since the book was published in 2015 was that the original cover was too misleading: the theme is anything but romantic.

I love the new look – interested to hear what readers think. It’s available as an ebook on Amazon meantime, and I’ve newly signed off on the printers’ proofs for the paperback today.

This entry was posted on March 10, 2017. 1 Comment

Back to writing: at last!

Although I managed to get ‘A Way of Knowing’ through to publication stage last year, I hold my hand up to the fact that I’ve done very little new work since last summer.

Two reasons. Firstly, the dratted EU referendum. I’m passionately pro-Europe, and although I’ve had well-intentioned advice in the past that I should keep the “author” side of my social media posts quite separate from the “real me” side, no can do. If I tried, the “author” part simply wouldn’t ring true. I’m a political animal, and I freely admit that I’ve spent hours almost every day since June on FB, 90% of that time spent on anti-Brexit groups & topics.

SDSCF5488econdly – and more importantly – since last July we’ve lost two of our beloved cats and one of our dogs. It’s meant a long gap in feeling like writing. However, in the last week or so, I’m slowly getting back into the writing routine, and still hope to get the sequel to ‘A Sensible Woman’ out by the end of this year.

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New book published a week early!

I’ve had some great pre-publication feedback on ‘A Way of Knowing’,awayofknowing-ebook so it’s out today on Kindle, just in time for the equinox (I’ve always believed the equinoxes and solstices are very propitious times).

Like ‘The Swan Widow’, it’s a story with a strong and independent main character who’s a woman in her sixties (I hesitate to say “love story”, but one reviewer has called it “a fascinating and unusual love story, and a story about the nature of love and of identity”, so I won’t argue!). It has a dark side too, and deals with uncomfortable topics.

The paperback version will be available within the next few weeks. Thanks, as ever, to the people who helped me get to this point: Helen Baggott, Helen Sedgwick, Linda White, Jessica Bell, Leigh Anne Aston. Couldn’t do it without you, ladies!

My hero! What do female readers relate to in male characters?

As I completed my latest novel (‘A Way of Knowing’, due to be published shortly), it struck me that I’m guilty of giving my male leads one common characteristic: they all love to cook, and/or are competent cooks. awayofknowing-ebookI also have a theme running somewhere in my head about the ironing of shirts.

My first short story to be published, back in the 1990s, hinged on the theme of a woman (clearly in a very unhappy marriage, with an over-controlling and critical husband) who finally recognises that her marriage is a sham when she fails to iron one of said husband’s shirts to his satisfaction. The same scenario crops up in ‘The Swan Widow’. When I realised I’d incorporated another reference to this is the latest book, I promptly hit the delete key!
So I’ve been asking myself: why do I have a ‘thing’ about men who can cook, and want their shirts ironed to perfection by the women in their lives?
Probably a combination of wishful thinking and autobiography. I’m not one of nature’s enthusiastic cooks. My family members have never starved or gone down with food poisoning, but I’ve always regarded cooking as a necessary evil – and have never managed to marry a man who can do much more than wield a tin-opener. My father was probably at least as competent as my mother in the kitchen, but hardly a role model for all my fictional men who can whip up cordon bleu meals without breaking a sweat. So very much a case of ‘Oh, I wish…’!
The recurring theme of shirts is more obscure. Again, I regard ironing as something to be avoided except in dire necessity, and when I inherited a household that had ‘a woman in’ to iron everything – and I mean EVERYTHING: she even ironed socks – I soon put a stop to that. ‘Minimum care’/’non-iron’ are my favourite labels. Needless to say, I raised my sons to iron their own shirts if they needed ironing (as did my father – he even ironed my school blouses). So not quite sure where this trope originates.
My modern-day knight in shining armour can clearly handle the griddle-pan and the iron as competently as the sword (and keep his own armour polished, by the way). His skills in the kitchen and utility room are possibly as important as his skills in the bedroom, as far as my female characters are concerned.
I realise that this puts me beyond the pale as far as many readers of mainstream romantic fiction are concerned, but hey, it would be a tedious and monochrome world if we all lusted after the same men.
Vive la difference!

This entry was posted on September 14, 2016. 1 Comment