It’s All About The Books – Book Week Scotland 2023 @scottishbooktrust

As it’s currently Book Week Scotland here in my home country, I reckoned now would be a good time for a post about my current favourite contemporary Scottish authors.

It wasn’t easy to pick only a few of the many wonderful writers who are either Scottish or based in Scotland so in the end I went with the ones who came immediately to mind. So here you go…

It will come as no surprise to regular readers of my blog that my favourite genre is contemporary romance so I’m going to start with that category.

Margaret Amatt: amazingly prolific and author of two wonderful series – one set on the Scottish island of Mull and the other set in the Scottish Highlands in fictional area of Glenbriar. I can’t wait to read her latest in the Glenbriar series Snowdown at the Old Schoolhouse which will be published in a few days’ time on the 18th November.

From the back cover:

Whatever happens this Christmas, they didn’t forecast this!

When charismatic and handsome weather presenter Marcus Bowman walks back into Willow Roxburgh’s life three weeks before Christmas, her quiet job as an admin worker at the Old Schoolhouse residential care centre in Glenbriar is shattered. He’s not only the man she used to crush on, he’s also the one who thwarted her TV forecasting dreams.

But she’s no longer the anonymous studio assistant; she’s secretly Scotland’s new favourite weather forecaster, Rocky Rainman.

With the Schoolhouse facing closure, Marcus is on an assignment to drum up festive support. However, he’s discovered the internet sensation Rocky Rainman lives somewhere nearby and is determined to expose him after Rocky’s recent damaging comments on social media. Seeing Willow, the girl he used to obsess over, shakes his priorities.

When a blizzard hits, Willow and Marcus are snowed in, and she discovers her perception of him wasn’t as accurate as her forecasts. Marcus isn’t convinced it’ll be a white Christmas, but he’s determined to win Willow’s heart. Can their new love weather storm if he discovers her secret? Because how can there be a future for Marcus Bowman and Rocky Rainman?

Author Website https://www.margaretamatt.com/

Nina Kaye: writes lovely standalone romantic novels. My favourite one is One Night in Edinburgh. The story starts at Hogmanay so it’s a good one to read over the coming festive season as the new year approaches.

From the back cover:

One night. But how many second chances?

Heartbroken on Hogmanay, Steph wanders through the Edinburgh street party until she bumps into Jamie. He’s funny, attractive and clearly interested. In a word, he’s perfect – but she didn’t get his number. All she remembers is his lime and mango beer.

Determined to be reunited, Steph tracks him by a milk carton style campaign, sticking a message to his favourite beer across local pubs. Although eventually reunited, Jamie is frequently uncontactable and evasive, and Steph worries she’s on the path to heartbreak once more.

There’s a fine line between being patient and being gullible, and Steph’s reaching her limit. When a chance encounter with Jamie reveals his secret, she faces an even tougher decision. Should Steph give love another chance, or was one night in Edinburgh all she and Jamie were meant to have?

Author Website https://www.ninakaye.co.uk/

Mhairi McFarlane: I’ve enjoyed all of this authors books very much. Her latest is Between Us and I loved it.

From the back cover:

 When Joe and Roisin join their group of friends for a weekend away, it’s a triple celebration – a birthday, an engagement and the launch of Joe’s new crime drama on TV.

But when Roisin sees secrets she shared with Joe play out on the TV screen, she knows that between us means nothing at all.

Roisin finds herself searching for clues to the truth – about her life, their history, and the man she thought she loved. And it’s then that Roisin finds the most unexpected plot twist of them all. Among those same old friends, there’s a surprising potential for new beginnings . . .

Author Website http://www.mhairimcfarlane.com/

Maggie Christensen: Maggie is Scottish born but Australia dwelling and she writes romantic fiction where the main characters are ‘mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them’.  Her books are so refreshing as they show that falling in love can happen past the age of forty and that you’re never too old for love and romance. I’ve very much enjoyed her latest series set in the fictional town of Bellbird Bay in Queensland and the latest one in the series Celebrations in Bellbird Bay is yet another great read.

Sandy Elliot is devastated when a fire destroys her new business and doesn’t know how she can go on. When she receives a call from her grandmother’s old friend seeking her help, a trip to Bellbird Bay seems like the answer to a prayer.

Rob Andrews is proud of what he has achieved with Bay Bikes, the business he set up when he returned from Afghanistan. But the memory of his time there still plagues him and has always prevented him from forming any close relationships, afraid his deep-seated guilt and recurrent nightmares would scare off any woman foolish enough to become involved with him.

Upon meeting, it’s certainly not love at first sight. Sandy hates his beard and tattoos while Rob, though attracted to Sandy, doesn’t believe he deserves to find happiness.

But Bellbird Bay is a small town, and their paths continue to cross, making it impossible for them to ignore each other or to deny the attraction between them.

With the festive season approaching, can Sandy and Rob overcome their pasts and enjoy a celebration of their own?

Author website https://maggiechristensenauthor.com/

As a writer of romantic fiction, it’s probably not surprising that it’s my go to genre for my reading as well. But I do occasionally need a break from all the kissing and cuddling and my go to genre when that happens is crime fiction.

Scotland has so many famous crime authors, it’s hard to pick a favourite but leaving aside the usual suspects (see what I did there?) … I have chosen just one author in this category and it’s one whose latest book is a wee bit different.

Helen Forbes: Author of several crime fiction novels, this writer’s latest, The Queen of Grime, is a refreshingly original take on this genre. The main character isn’t a detective or forensic scientist. She’s a crime scene cleaner and the story is gripping from the start.

From the back cover:

The Queen of Grime is about to pay. Big time.

Erin Flett is used to clearing up the sad debris of forgotten lives and tragic deaths. A crime and trauma scene cleaner from a deprived Edinburgh housing estate, she’s made a good life for herself and her daughter. But a secret from the past is about to catch up with her.

Ten years ago, Erin told a desperate lie with serious consequences. Now, someone else knows, and they’re determined to make Erin and her loved ones pay.

Following a terrifying late-night attack, the tension mounts until Erin doesn’t know who she can trust. As she struggles to keep her family safe, little does she realise just how close the danger is…

Queen of Grime is the first in a new series introducing Erin Flett, crime and trauma scene cleaner, and a rich cast of characters, set against the backdrop of the city of Edinburgh. With an occasional undertone of dark humour, it is a tale of family lies and family ties, friendships, secrets and loss.

Author website https://www.helenforbes.co.uk/

And finally, it’s an author who took me surprise and completely blew me away …

Doug Johnstone: This author writes crime fiction – great crime fiction that I can highly recommend BUT this year he strayed into science fiction and not only that, I read it, and also not only that, I LOVED IT.

Yes, you read that right. I read and loved a book in a genre I never read!

The book? It was The Space Between Us and it was just fabulous. It’s been described elsewhere as a cross between ET and Local Hero – and it is that – and then some.

From the back cover:

Connecting will change everything…

Lennox is a troubled teenager with no family. Ava is eight months pregnant and fleeing her abusive husband. Heather is a grieving mother and cancer sufferer. They don’t know each other, but when a meteor streaks over Edinburgh, all three suffer instant, catastrophic strokes…

…only to wake up the following day in hospital, miraculously recovered.

When news reaches them of an octopus-like creature washed up on the shore near where the meteor came to earth, Lennox senses that some extra-terrestrial force is at play. With the help of Ava, Heather and a journalist, Ewan, he rescues the creature they call ‘Sandy’ and goes on the run.

But they aren’t the only ones with an interest in the alien … close behind are Ava’s husband, the police and a government unit who wants to capture the creature, at all costs. And Sandy’s arrival may have implications beyond anything anyone could imagine…

Author website: https://dougjohnstone.com/

Whether or not you’re a Scot, have you read and enjoyed any Scottish based/authored books recently or in the past? Have you attented any Book Week Scotland events in person or in line? Please do feel free to share and comment below.

You can find out all about Book Week and the many events on offer (some of them online) here at their website https://www.scottishbooktrust.com/

Time Away From The Desk Is Vital #writing #nature #mentalhealth #health #exercise

Picture shows bluebell woodland path with beautiful sunrise through the trees and shafts of light

Word of the Month: Exercise

Now I’m no athlete, that’s for sure, but maintaining a degree of physical fitness is important to me. I’m fortunate and grateful to be in good health and of course I’d like to keep it that way. So taking time out of my working day at the writing desk for some daily exercise seems to me to be a no-brainer.

And my go-to form of exercise is definitely walking. I get out for a walk most days and usually walk for an hour or so. I’m lucky enough to live in a lovely Scottish village with woodland, riverside, hill and country track walks on my doorstep. So it’s no hardship to get out walking and I really don’t have to force myself to do it. In fact I miss it if other stuff gets in the way and I can’t get those vital steps done.

However, the walking thing isn’t only about getting my heart pumping and keeping those muscles and bones strong. It’s about my mental health and my creativity levels too.

For me, nothing beats a brisk walk for working off all those pesky stress hormones. Walking in the outdoors, hearing the birds sing, seeing the sky, the trees, and feeling the sun, wind, or even the rain (I’m in Scotland remember), all help to clear the head and lift the spirits.

But as well as the physical and mental benefits, I’ve found there’s a third benefit to be had. I’ve discovered that the creative part of my brain likes a walk too. I’ve lost count of the number of times when, while out for a walk, I’ve solved that pesky problem I’ve been having with the plot of the novel I’m working on at the time. Or I might have a light bulb moment about a character or a tricky piece of dialogue. And, I have to say, I’m rarely actively thinking about my writing when these breakthroughs and ideas pop into my head. It just happens.

So, yes, here’s to exercise and its multiple benefits.

Writing

And speaking of writing, I’m busy doing the final quarter of the current work-in-progress – and I’m loving how the story is unfolding. The working title is Happiness Cottage. It’s a contemporary romance – of course – and it’s set in a fictional village the Scottish Borders. I’m intending for it to be the first in a series of books all set in the same place with a different main couple in each. So although the books to come will all be able to be read as standalones, there will be a chance for series followers to catch up with characters they’ve met in previous books.

I’m enjoying the sparks that go off whenever grumpy farmer Aidan is with Australian visitor Lori and can’t wait to right the romantic ending.

However, setting up a series and inventing a whole community including a village and its neighbouring town is quite a challenge. But more about both these aspects in future posts.

Reading

Another great form of exercise in terms of our brains is, of course, reading. Along with the walking, and the writing it’s another thing I couldn’t do without and I always like to share the best of the books I’ve been reading here on the blog. And this month it’s a shout out for An Italian Island Summer by Sue Moorcroft, a favourite author of mine. Safe to say I loved it. I loved the Sicilian island setting, the two troubled main characters and the oh so romantic story. I can highly recommend this book as the perfect summer read.

From the back cover:

Will one summer in Sicily change her life for ever?

After her marriage falls apart, Ursula Quinn is offered the chance to spend the summer working at a hotel on a beautiful island off the coast of Sicily, Italy. Excited by a new adventure, she sets off at once.

At Residenza dei Tringali, Ursula receives a warm welcome from everyone except Alfio, son of the Tringali family. He gave up his life in Barcelona to help his mother Agata with the ailing business, and is frustrated with Ursula’s interference – and she in turn is less than impressed with his attitude. As they spend more time together, though, they begin to see each other in a different light.

But what with Ursula’s ex-husband on her tail, family secrets surfacing and an unexpected offer that makes Alfio question his whole life, there’s plenty to distract them from one another. Can she face her past and he his future, and together make the most of their Sicilian summer?

It’s available in paperback and ebook in bookshops and online.

Reflecting

So, yes, for me as writer and as a human being exercise in all its forms – whether it be for the body, mind or the imagination are all vital.

As always feel free to comment below with your thoughts on exercise or anything else you’d like to respond to from this post. And thank you for reading!

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My latest novel is contemporary romance Baby Steps.

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Publication Day Is Here. My New Book Is Out Today! #contemporary romance #romance #books #reading

Sparks fly in this love against the odds romance

My New Book is Out Today!

Yes, publication day is here and I’m so happy to announce that Baby Steps is out today.

You can get it online as a paperback or as an ebook HERE.

I really hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I’d also love it if you could leave a short review HERE

Keep on reading to find out more about Baby Steps and to read Chapter One.

WHAT’S THE STORY ABOUT?

Estranged from her mother, cheated on by her ex and grieving the loss of her brother, emotionally distraught Sophie Campbell decides she needs to focus on her career as a researcher for a TV and radio broadcaster. What she doesn’t need is a man in her life. And as for marriage and children – definitely not.

Honourably discharged from the British army following life-changing injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan, Steven Jackson is rehabilitated and embracing life to the full. Working as the manager of a support centre for military veterans brings him a great sense of pride and achievement. But he wants more. He wants to meet the love of his life, and to one day be a husband and father.

When Sophie and Steven meet through work, there’s an undeniable chemistry between the two thirty-somethings. But will Steven’s open, caring and patient ways be enough to break down Sophie’s barriers and allow a relationship to develop between them?

Set in the Scottish city of Glasgow, Baby Steps is a contemporary romance which tells a story of love against the odds.

**************

Baby Steps is a spin-off novel from Anne Stormont’s Skye Series of novels. Sophie is the daughter of Rachel one of the main characters in that series and features as a character in the supporting cast, as does Steven. However, Baby Steps can be read as a standalone.

Baby Steps

(© 2022 Anne Stormont)

Chapter One

Sophie

Sophie Campbell groaned when the alarm on her phone beeped. It was a Monday morning in early October and she felt like she’d only just fallen asleep. It had been another bad night, lying awake, tossing and turning, desperate for the morning to come but dreading it too.

After a few minutes of listening to the rain pattering on the bedroom window of her Glasgow flat, she forced herself out of bed. At least work would provide a much-needed distraction. She grimaced at her reflection in the mirror as she made her way to the bathroom. Her hair was a tangled mess and her pale face and strained expression made her look older than her thirty-three years.

Once in the shower she let her tears fall. The pressure of her grief had been relentless – with her every day for the past year – but its intensity had been easing slightly. Recently she’d had days and even weeks when she didn’t cry. But now, with the first anniversary of her brother, Finlay’s, death having just passed, it was back and it was full-on.

As she dried her hair and got dressed she wondered again what had possessed her to take on this latest assignment when her boss, George Brodie, the head of documentary research at BBC Scotland, had offered it to her at short notice on Friday morning. It wasn’t even as if it was in her normal subject areas. She mainly worked on the research for nature and science based programmes. And although she did have a bit of experience on social and cultural ones, she felt she was far from an expert in those fields.

She couldn’t help smiling when she recalled how George’s pitch had gone. He was at his persuasive best.

Usually when she was summoned to his office, the conversation was brief and to the point. The summoning itself had been normal with George suddenly appearing at her workstation and simply saying, “My office.” The offer of coffee and a pastry when she arrived was the first sign that George was going all in.

“Just a coffee, please,” Sophie replied, intrigued as to why George was making such an effort.

“Just over ten years now, isn’t it?” George said after he’d served up their coffees and they were sitting facing each other across his desk. “Since you joined us here in Research.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“You’ve done well, worked hard, learned a lot and displayed a lot of skill. You’re a real asset to the unit.”

“Thank you. That’s––”

“You keen to move on, get promotion?”

“Well, yes, yes I think I am,” Sophie said now even more curious. “If the right post were to—”

“Senior researcher job at BBC’s Natural History Unit in Bristol, could be coming up in six months or so. Someone like you with your Natural Science degree and all your experience in helping put together outdoor and nature programmes as well as your wider general experience, you’d be ideal. Happy to recommend you for it if you’re interested.”

Of course she was interested. And George knew it, but all he said was, “No need to respond just now. You can think about it. Let me know.”

“Right,” Sophie said, certain this wasn’t the real reason she was there, but she was interested, nevertheless.

“Good. Now the reason I needed to see you today is I want you to leave what you’re working on at the moment and take over another more urgent project.”

Sophie was in the middle of researching a feature on the growing popularity of allotments in Scotland’s cities for a long-running gardening series. She didn’t want to abandon it and besides that she had a deadline to meet.

But before she could respond, George added, “Don’t worry about the allotment project. It’s well on its way. And your trainee co-worker is proving more than competent, largely thanks to your excellent training and support, so she can take over.” George smiled knowingly at her.

Oh, he was good at getting what he wanted, she’d give him that. Flattery, the possibility of promotion, she knew she was being manipulated but she was also intrigued as to what exactly he was asking of her. So Sophie smiled back at him, in what she hoped was also a knowing way, letting him know she knew what he was up to.

George gave an almost imperceptible nod before going on to say, “So, this favour I need,” he leaned his forearms on the desk, clasped his hands and leant towards her, “we recently commissioned a documentary television series. It’s going to be broadcast UK wide. Obviously all the preliminary research work at a general level has been done. But now, of course, it’s down to specifics.” George paused to take a sip of his coffee.

“Of course,” Sophie said, wishing he’d just get on with it.

“Each programme will tell the stories of injured British military veterans making the return to civilian life. The first programme in the series is to be about a Glasgow-based veterans charity called Revive and some of the people who use its services.

“Unfortunately your colleague, Liz Maitland, who was originally tasked with series research has been signed off on sick leave. She should hopefully be back to work on the subsequent episodes but we need someone to step in immediately to do the research for this first one.”

“Right,” said Sophie. “And that someone––”

“That someone needs to be you,” said George. “You have the experience, efficiency and sensitivity to do this. It’ll look good on your CV.”

“Okay,” Sophie said. But she wasn’t sure it was okay.

Her boss then went on to show some uncharacteristic empathy when he said, “I acknowledge that the military subject matter could be tough for you. I haven’t forgotten that your brother died on active service in Afghanistan, so although I would like you to accept the work, I won’t think any less of you if you decline.”

“I … I appreciate that,” Sophie said before swallowing hard and then clearing her throat. She hadn’t expected that. Blunt, insensitive George was definitely easier to handle than this kinder version.

Though, she didn’t have to wait for the former version to reappear as he got to his feet, indicating the meeting was over. “Take an hour to think it over,” he said, “and then let me know what you decide.”

In the end, Sophie didn’t need the hour. She was nothing if not professional. This was work. It was nothing to do with her personal life. Besides, as George had said, it would be a good one for her CV especially as the intention was to base and transmit the series across the whole of the UK.

She was also tempted by the Bristol job and so she asked to be informed of any developments on that front. Maybe a fresh start in a new city hundreds of miles away was just what she needed – both professionally and personally.

Her boss, of course, had been delighted to hand over the military veteran’s programme brief to her, along with the research carried out so far, and she spent the rest of Friday and much of the weekend getting up to speed. As she did so, she admitted to herself that it hadn’t been an entirely head over heart decision to take on this particular job. It had occurred to her that it might make her feel a bit closer to Finlay.

But on that Monday morning as she applied her makeup, she felt a niggle of doubt as to whether that would really be a good thing.

She couldn’t face breakfast and settled for a glass of water instead. After she’d rinsed out the glass she glanced around the open plan kitchen and living room. At least with Rick no longer living there the flat was tidy, though there was still a load of his stuff in the spare bedroom. She should really give him a deadline for collecting it all, tell him she’d bin the lot if he didn’t.

She’d kicked him out a couple of months earlier, having come home early from work and found him in their bed with a woman she not only knew, but had up until then liked. She’d been shocked, hurt and furious when she found out exactly what her lying, cheating boyfriend had been up to. The boyfriend who she’d financially supported when he couldn’t make a proper living as a musician, who’d lived with her rent free for two years, who’d said he loved her. The boyfriend who it turned out couldn’t cope with her being distracted by grief. The boyfriend who, as he put it, ‘needed to distract and comfort himself’ because ‘she’d been so wrapped up in herself over the last year and had nothing left to give him’. The boyfriend who’d been having a months-long affair with Lisa, the talented and pretty singer from his band.

It still hurt but at least she could now concede she was definitely better off without him.

In fact, she reminded herself, as she slipped on her jacket, she was better off without any man. After the way things had ended with Rick, someone she’d truly believed she’d loved and who she had thought loved her, she was unwilling to entrust her damaged heart to anyone else ever again.

She was obviously a hopeless judge of character. Indeed, she’d recently decided the whole love, marriage and having children thing wasn’t for her. These things would only leave her vulnerable to yet more heartbreak and she was so done with all of that. She only had to look at her parents to know this was the right choice for her. No, from now on, she’d be keeping any sexual interactions casual and for fun only.

After all, she also reminded herself, in every other way her life was as good as it could be. She had her flat, a job she loved and good and loyal female friends – friends who she knew would always be on her side.

She took in a deep breath, rolled her shoulders and straightened her back. She was independent and she was strong. She’d proved she could take what life threw at her – including her useless ex, her estrangement from her mother, and even the loss of her darling brother. She was proud that she was still standing in spite of it all.

‘I’ve got this,’ she said to herself as she walked out the door.

With the rain having stopped and the sky clearing, Sophie would have preferred to walk from her flat in Glasgow’s Kelvinside area to the city’s Hyndland district where the Revive charity had its premises. But she would need to go into the office after her interview with the charity’s manager so she took the car for what was only a five-minute drive.

Hyndland was a pleasant, mainly residential area of the city, but even so, for reasons of cost if nothing else, she’d been expecting a charitable organisation like Revive to be housed in a utilitarian concrete box perhaps surrounded by other similar buildings and a gravel car park. But the single-storey, stone-built structure with its pitched and slated roof was much more attractive than that – and the grass and flower beds which surrounded it, along with the tree-lined perimeter, said parkland rather than business park.

As Sophie left her car in the small car park at the side of the building and walked up to the entrance, she realised that her earlier reservations had gone and she was keen to find out more. This was what she did and no matter how tricky the subject matter, this was work. It wasn’t personal and it wasn’t about her.

She was about to press the buzzer at the front entrance when the door opened and she was confronted by one extremely good-looking guy. He looked like he was in his early thirties, around the same age as she was, and he was the epitome of tall, fair and handsome and oh my what a lovely smile he had. “Miss Campbell, I presume,” he said extending his hand.

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