Tuesday, 22 April 2014

BEYOND REASON plus a little about the background to the story

Beyond Reason is completely fictional although it is set between the towns of Annan and Dumfries in South West Scotland. I have used the principles of the first Savings Bank to illustrate how important it was to people at that time to preserve their pride and independence, how they dreaded the poor house, and how much they valued education.
Below are a few facts about the Ruthwell Savings Bank which was established by the Reverend Doctor Henry Duncan in the Village of Ruthwell for people with little money but who wanted to save. Anyone interested in the facts of this great enterprise will find many interesting articles and books written about the Rev.Henry Duncan. 
He believed in the dignity of the ordinary working people and he encouraged thrift. Despite the appalling poverty at that time, he was against the introduction of a poor rate and fostered a spirit of pride and independence whenever possible.
The cottage which was the Meeting
 House where the world's first
Savings Bank started.
It exists today as a small museum
He used his knowledge,
gained during the three years he spent working in Heywoods Bank in Liverpool, but he believed a savings bank could only succeed if it were self-supporting and based on business principles. He gained the backing of the landowners – possibly because they welcomed the idea that the poor might no longer need their support.
The plaque on the wall.
As writers we all know the value of marketing and publicity to sell our books. The Rev Duncan had the same idea when he founded a local newspaper, The Dumfries & Galloway Courier, and published his proposal for a parish bank in Ruthwell.
On 10th May 1810 in the Society Room in Ruthwell he explained his ideas for a parish bank to his parishioners. Established banks needed £10 to open an account.(A small fortune to working people at that time). Sixpence would be enough to have an account in the Ruthwell Savings Bank. The deposits were placed with the Linen Bank in Dumfries and received 5% interest. Members received 4% interest - on whole pounds. The surplus provided a charity fund, increased interest for long-term savers, and a sum for administering the bank. The administration in Ruthwell was done by the Rev Duncan himself but he did not take any remuneration. Instead he used the money due to him to build another school in the parish. During the first year £151 was deposited in Ruthwell and there were savings banks throughout the UK within five years of the bank opening. The movement spread to Europe and the United States.
The Ruthwell Cross does not feature in my novel but it would be a pity to mention Dr Henry Duncan and Ruthwell and not include a little about it here in this blog post. The Cross is reputed to be late seventh or early eight century and is one of the finest Anglo-Saxon crosses in Britain. The Rev Duncan rescued it from the manse gardens where it had lain broken for many years after being cast out as idolatrous by previous Church of Scotland officials. Rev. Duncan restored it and it now stands in the Ruthwell Church where visitors can see it. The Savings Bank Museum can supply more information about it and the man who was minister for almost fifty years.
Although he was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland the Rev.Doctor Henry Duncan also played an active part in the Disruption of 1843
published in hardback by Robert Hale Ltd £19.99 and will be available to download to digital readers in May 2014.
shortened link to Amazon  http://amzn.to/RHGHfr  

 Janet Scott loves books, and learning, and is happy living at the schoolhouse where her grandfather is the dominie. When tragedy strikes, and her grandfather dies suddenly, everything changes, and she is sent to work for farmer, Wull Foster. Life with no one to protect her is tough, and Janet experiences first-hand the dangers which can befall a young woman. So, when philanthropist, Josiah Saunders, an old friend of her grandfather's takes her in they both enjoy the companionship, but Josiah's avaricious relatives resent his generosity and are furious when he encourages Janet to stay at Crillion Keep. He considers ways to thwart their scheming. Janet loves Fingal McLauchlan but while he is only a lawyers' clerk he is unable to offer the help she needs to keep her promise to her brother and care for their mother. She faces a difficult dilemma when Josiah offers her marriage, and security, but even worse problems arise when Josiah's relatives devise an evil plot to be rid of her.




Friday, 7 March 2014

Secrets in the Heather now available as an e-book

I am please to say Secrets in the Heather is now published by Accent Press and is available to download at a very affordable price. It is the first in a series of three Heather books which were first published by Severn House in hardback, available from libraries and book shops. It is also available as an audio book for those who like to listen while they work or drive.

Victoria MacLauchlan was orphaned at birth and raised in a cottage on the Darlonachie Estate by Jane McCrady, whom she believes is her great-grandmother. When Jane dies Victoria is given a job in the Castle kitchens and offered a home by the Pringle family, also tenants of the Laird of Darlonachie. They are a kindly couple with four sons. They have known Victoria all her life but they have never guessed there is a long buried secret in her past. 
The First World War is over and times are changing. A new generation has taken over, both above and below stairs, making life difficult for Victoria, especially as she is growing into a capable and beautiful young woman. She must make difficult choices and come to terms with the secret which is accidentally revealed and which will have far reaching consequences, not only in her own  life.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

COMING HOME - a FREE download for 5 days

 I am pleased to say this book is now available to download and it will be free from Wednesday 19th February 2014 until mid-day on Sunday. 23rd.

It is the first in a series of 5 novels beginning at the end of the war.

Steven Caraford  longs for the day he can return to Scotland and continue the life he loves, farming at Willowburn with his family.
After the death of his best friend, Tom Oliphant, Tom's sister, Meg, has continued corresponding with Steven. She was a schoolgirl when the two young men were recruited into the army but Steven returns to find she is an attractive young woman about to go to college and embark on a promising career as a teacher. She also has several admirers.
      Steven is dismayed and disheartened to find he is no longer welcome at Willowburn. His future seems bleak, but he is determined to try for a small farm of his own. Will Meg wait for him, or even want him? Then a crisis almost tears their world apart.
Original title and cover
This book was originally published in hardback as Dreams of Home so some readers may have read it from libraries. It is also available as an audio book.

Amazon links - full and shortened

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Writing Progress Blog Tour

I was invited to take part in the Writing Progress Blog Tour by Sue Dawson, writing as Jodi Taylor, the creator of the 'Chronicles of St Mary's'. This is a series of books about the adventures of those time-travelling disaster-magnets - or historians as they like to be known! Full of history, love, romance, adventure - and reservoirs of tea, the latest - A Second Chance - should be published around March and will be available on Amazon and through Accent Press.

You can read more about Jodi on her Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJodiTaylor

 Or  her blog: www.jodi-taylor.com

These are the four questions I am required to answer. 

What am I working on at present?

 I am presently writing about the Border Reivers and the feuds between the Scottish and English during the 1500’s, moving to the early 1600’s, when King James 1st of England (James V1 of Scotland) wanted his two kingdoms to live in peace. There were a great many hangings at this time and my heroine, Isabella offers her own life in place of her brother’s because their father is dead and her mother and sisters need him. The clan chief admires her courage. He wants grandchildren with character so instead of taking her life he decides she should be a wife for his son, but  Henry only wants to be a monk and a healer.


This is an earlier period than usual for me and it is involving a lot of interesting research re the Border Towers, living arrangements, food, crops available at the time (Neither turnips nor potatoes were available then and I believe early carrots were white). Herbs were used for medicine.

 How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My next novel - Beyond Reason – will be published in April 2014. It is set around 1840. This, and my current novel, are single books and earlier periods than usual so they are not my normal style of family sagas. My family sagas are different from many others because they are written in series of 3, 4 or 5 books, each series following different generations of the same family. They may be set any time from 1900 to present day. As an example my last series began at the end of the war with Dreams of Home and a young soldier desperate to start in a farm of his own. Darkest Before the Dawn, is the fifth in the series and the first time I have brought the generations up to present day.
It concerns a young man due to start at university, but he is also keen to farm. He is convinced milk robots will enable him to carry out his ambitions in spite of his injuries but his father does not agree.

 Why do I write what I do?

I have always had a vivid imagination, quite scary sometimes, but I suppose you could say I write about what I know and that happens to be farming. My family have been farmers for several generations. I went to agricultural college against all the advice of my teachers, and to the disappointment of my mother, who thought I should go to university and be a teacher. I have only one regret and that is my mother did not live to see me write a book. It would have pleased her greatly because she was a great reader herself, as was my grandmother. (Incidentally I think some things must be in the genes as my daughter also went against advice and attended agricultural college and this year my granddaughter is doing the same.) Maybe some things are meant to be.

Since marrying a Scottish dairy farmer I have lived most of my adult life north of the Border so most of my books are set in Scotland, with an odd foray back to my Yorkshire schooldays. I have also written seven shorter, lighter romances but even they usually have some connection with animals or country life. The latest of these is called  A Question of Love – an e-book, recently published by Endeavour Press, about rare breeds, animal thieves, and of course, romance.

How does my writing process work?

I am not a plotter so my characters are the most important part of my story. I fix  the main characters first and usually I have a rough idea who will come together at the end, but I never know what their journey will involve, who they will meet, or what problems they will encounter. I wish I could write a rough outline but I can’t, it has to be a full first draft. This is the most difficult stage for me. I enjoy the second draft and often a third, especially if I have had to take a break in the middle.

When I begin a novel I keep a loose leaf folder beside me and I write down the names of the characters, their ages, colour of hair, eyes, build etc. and anything outstanding. Also names of places. This is more essential than most people realise, especially if the novel is part of a series. As I go along I get to know the characters and their traits, their strengths and weaknesses – as in real life. Whenever a new character appears, however minor, I make a note of them too, plus the chapter numbers where they first appear. I try not to use names which are similar, but I still make mistakes sometimes, as I believe most people do. I would not like to be published, or to self publish, without a copy editor, even if I do not always agree with some suggestions. Most of us believe we see what we intended to write.

Computers have made writing far easier than it used to be with typewriters and Tippex, re-writes and carbon copies, but for as long as I can remember I have loved the feel of a pen, or freshly sharpened pencil, and a new sheet of paper. This probably accounts for my old fashioned use of paper notes beside me.

Now I shall hand over the baton for the next Writing Progress Blog Tour to Janet Gover. I have read some of Janet’s stories and she makes the Australian countryside come alive and creates an atmosphere which makes you feel you are actually there.  

Janet grew up in Australia – but now wanders the world in her day job which involves something to do with very large and complex computers – there are times when even she is not sure exactly what. In between trips, she writes romantic adventures – mostly set in Australia. She has a passion for dark and damaged heroes. Despite her childhood love for knights in shining armour on big white horses, racing to rescue damsels in distress – in her books, it’s just as likely to be the heroine doing the saving.

She’ll be blogging next week, 27th January, about her writing process at  http://janetgover.com/?page_id=54 . You’ll find her website at www.janetgover.com . Her facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/janetgoverbooks and you can follow her on twitter @janet_gover




Friday, 13 December 2013

An interview with Jo Thomas - author of The Oyster Catcher

Hello Jo it is a pleasure to welcome you to my blog and to learn a little about your latest bookThe Oyster Catcher. Please tell us about yourself.

My name is Jo Thomas and I live in the Vale of Glamorgan with my husband, who’s a writer and producer, our three children, three cats, and our black lab Murray.

Why did you start writing?

I had 3 children under the age of 3. Writing was my ‘me time’. I could go to that place in my head and make it as lovely and special as I wanted it to be while around me there were toys to be tidied, piles of washing, and play dates to organise. In fact, more often than not, I’d drop the eldest at school, the next one in nursery, and then the baby would fall asleep in the car and I’d stop wherever I was, park up, pull out my laptop, and start writing. I got some very funny looks from passers-by though.

So writing was something you really wanted to do and you clearly enjoy it. Tell us a little about your latest book.

 The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas

According to a champion shell shucker, when learning how to shuck an oyster from it’s shell, first you have to understand what’s keeping it closed.

When runaway bride Fiona Clutterbuck crashes the honeymoon camper van, she doesn’t know what to do or where to go.

Embarrassed and humiliated Fiona knows one thing for sure, she can’t go home. Being thrown a life line, a job on an oyster farm seems to be the answer to her prayers.  But nothing could prepare her for the choppy ride ahead or her new boss the wild and unpredictable Sean Thornton.

Will Fiona ever be able to come out of her shell and find love again?

As the oyster season approaches, will there be love amongst the oyster beds of Galway bay? Or will the circling sharks close in?
Buying links:

Can you tell us a little about the heroine?
Fiona is a jilted bride who hides away on an oyster farmin rural Connemara, despite being terrified of water and her wild and unpredictable new boss. Cutting herself off from everywhere she knows, she learns about oyster farming and the art of shucking oyster shells. She finally learns to come out of her shell but along the way she has to battle oyster pirates, pearly princesses, and loan sharks before eventually finding love amongst the oyster beds of Galway Bay
Oyster farming is an unusual choice for romance. Was there a reason for this?

My husband was offered a job on the west coast of Ireland, in Galway, to work on an Irish-language soap opera there. We went over to see the place to decide if we would go as a family. From the moment we arrived it poured with rain. I’ve never known rain like it, and that’s after living in Wales. You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. I decided that it wasn’t going to work, until that night when we went to a restaurant; a wonderful place called O’Grady’s. It’s an end cottage in a row of terraced cottages, painted light blue. You walk in and the fire is going, the candles are lit, and you look out over sea. And there I ate pacific oysters. I looked out of the cottage window and thought, OK, I get it. If this is what Galway has to offer, I’m in. And from then on I had some of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had, from wild foraged food, saffron sorbet , and the oysters, just wonderful. I thought, ‘this is sexy’. But it’s such a precarious business.  And an idea began to form.

You obviously have a love of food and cooking as well as writing?

Yes, I love cooking. I love feeding people. Sunday lunch is one of my favourite times of the week. My brother is a chef and I’m always picking his brains for ideas.  One of my favourite times of the year is Christmas morning when he and I hole up in the kitchen, listening to Radio 2 with a Buck’s Fizz on the go, and cook Christmas dinner together. Actually I love it because he has to be the commis and I’m Chef!

My son loves cooking too and that’s becoming a really lovely and special thing to do together. I think that families and food and love go hand in hand.

I love the memories that food can bring back. The taste of something can take you right back to a special place, a special moment. Like bangers on Bonfire Night, or peppery mussels in a bikers lay-by in Brittany. Maine lobster on my honeymoon and toasted marshmallows on a Saturday night with the kids, watching X Factor.

I’m a cook and for me the pleasure is about sharing the food I’ve cooked, the wobbly three-tiered chocolate birthday cake, or the homemade pizzas on a Saturday night in front of the telly. Food is my way of saying, ‘I love you’.

Thank you Jo. You create a delightfully warm picture of romance and food and happy family life. I wish you every success with The Oyster Catcher. 
  Shortened link for twitter   http://amzn.to/1j037E5



Friday, 22 November 2013

A Question of Love - a new e-book romance

A QUESTION OF LOVE is a 50,000 word modern romance - shorter and lighter than my usual Family Sagas. 
It is published as an e-book by Endeavour Press

Roseanne Fairfax is young, beautiful and ambitious.

As a partner of Kershaw & Company, Roseanne has a very clear plan for her career and for her life. She is fiercely independent and has built up walls to stop herself from falling in love. That is until she meets Euan Kennedy - the nephew of her business partner, Mr Kershaw.

Euan is funny, warm, charming…. and drop dead gorgeous. And Roseanne soon finds her hard exterior melting as they become closer.

Will Roseanne realise that there is more to life than work?  Or will she fail to open up to A Question of Love?

‘A Question of Love’ is a moving contemporary romance about finding a work/ life balance and learning to let someone in.

‘A charming new love story for the modern, independent woman’ - Holly Kinsella, author of ‘Uptown Girl’.

Amazon link

Shortened link http://amzn.to/188jB8G
Price £2.99

Friday, 4 October 2013

Concluding the Lochandee Series and the Home Series with digital publications


usual price £1.91

usual price $3.08 

This is the final novel in the Lochandee Series.

It is the 1980’s and there is a new generation of Maxwells eager to farm at Wester Rullion. Young Paul Maxwell and his cousin Ryan are determined to work together to restore the farm’s prosperity, depending on support from their grandparents. But they had not bargained for the bureaucratic hurdles of new farming regulations and the introduction of milk quotas to curb their ambitions and their income.
They have promised to be business partners for life but problems arise when Ryan sets his heart on marrying Molly Nairne, daughter of a prosperous local farmer, while Paul – abandoned by his mother as a young boy – is adamant that he will never fall in love. Can a new arrival at the farm cause him to change his mind and slay the spectres from the past? 


See previous blog for details of story and hardback publication
                                This will be available to download from 31st October2013

 http://amzn.to/1ev5mwZ £4.99 and £19.99 hardback.

 http://amzn.to/164QNac $6.69