Monday, 19 February 2018

#7 #Monday Meanders with #Keira Drummond

Today I’m hogging my #Monday Meanders slot to take you on a little trip with my fictional friend Keira Drummond, to Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.  

I love visiting Edinburgh, thoroughly enjoy the culture, the sights, its history. The streets teem with tourists all year long though there are obvious times when it’s even busier than normal and that would be in August when the Edinburgh Festival is in full swing. Yet Edinburgh also has many other festivals throughout the calendar year, so it’s easy for tourists to tune into what’s on whenever they arrive.

unicorn,  Abbey Strand, Edinburgh
As a born and bred Glaswegian there was a kind of rivalry when I was growing up in the 1960s that meant Glasgow was considered to be the city for the manual labourers and that Edinburgh was the place for the banking and white collar workers. The reality was, of course, something of a mixture in terms of occupations though Glasgow did have the edge on having more of the dirty manual labour jobs in manufacturing, shipbuilding and engineering works. I wasn’t very familiar with Edinburgh when I was a schoolgirl but enjoyed my few trips to the capital. I was in my twenties before Edinburgh became a more regular venue for going to the theatres; museums; eating out and even pub crawling. It was a fabulous city for all of that and more and it still is.

When I planned out my contemporary mystery Topaz Eyes I wanted to add a Scottish dimension to it. In deciding to make my main female character Keira Drummond be from Edinburgh it meant I could add in scenes which take place in the capital city of Scotland as well as all of the other fantastic European and US locations.  

In my aim to be realistic, as I am with my historical novels, I went sleuthing to find a name for my lead female that would ‘fit’ Edinburgh. The Keira aspect was because I knew of a Keira who came from Edinburgh and Drummond is a name that has historical associations with Edinburgh city- though it's a clan name that's found in the Outer Hebrides and across much of central Scotland and the borders.

(Colinton 19th century engraving - public domain)

I then decided on where Keira would be from, as in which part of Edinburgh. I’m only a little bit familiar with approaches into Edinburgh from the west—the Corstorphine, Newtown, Princes Street and Royal Mile areas— but I wanted somewhere for her to live that was quite old. I chose Colinton.

Colinton dates back to approximately the 11th century and is around six miles south west of the city centre. However, as the centuries progressed the city grew outwards and by the twentieth century it became a suburb of the city. It still has a range of architectural styles reflecting its age, the ruins of Colinton Castle (not available to the general public as far as I know)  being from the 15th century, Oliver Cromwell having destroyed most of it during his occupation of Scotland in 1650. The author Robert Louis Stevenson spent summers at the Manse in Colinton where his grandfather was the parish minister.  

Although more of the action in Topaz Eyes takes place in other gorgeous locations I’m delighted that I also featured Edinburgh. If you go to the city today there are so many recommendations to fit every pocket and every preference.

  • Like castles and historic houses? Edinburgh Castle; Palace of Holyrood House; Holyrood Abbey; the Scott Monument
  • Enjoy outdoor green spaces? Climb Arthur’s Seat; Princes Street Gardens; Royal Botanic Gardens
  • Love Museums? National Museum of Scotland; Scottish National Portrait Gallery (video above-see below for details) ; Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
  • Like Visitor Experiences?: Dynamic Earth; the Edinburgh Dungeon; Underground Vaults; the Real Mary King’s Close
These are only a tiny handful of many, many things to see and do!

All of this talk makes me want to pop down to Edinburgh for another visit. ( A 3 hour drive/coach ride, a little shorter by train)

The video above is of the fabulous front foyer area of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The frieze was designed and painted by William Hole c.1897 depicting notable historic figures important to Scotland. It begins with a seated figure of Caledonia then pans left to Stone and Bronze Ages man and then for the Iron Age it's Calgacus, the Caledonian leader named by Tacitus in 'The Agricola'. The helmeted figure next is Agricola, who 'almost' conquered Scotland for the Ancient Roman Empire c. A.D. 84 - **my Celtic Fervour Series of novels.

Meanwhile, Keira and I are off to have a cup of coffee in Princes Street Gardens. 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

#Saturday Shorts – with #Anne-Marie Ormsby

 Saturday has dawned bright and beautiful!

It's wonderful to start a fresh new day with an unblemished blue sky above me - quite rare in my part of the world. It's also lovely to welcome new people to my blog and Anne- Marie Ormsby is one of the newer authors with Crooked Cat Books. 

Without more ado, welcome and please take a pew Anne- Marie. Let's get to know you a little bit better in this Saturday Shorts! 

Please give us a little introduction to you...

In real life I work in administration in a busy secondary school in East London and I live with my husband and our tiny human.

Nancy says: I used to teach in a small primary school and know how much admin staff do to keep the whole place oiled and greased. It's not a job for anyone who wants regular breaks and to file their nails all day!  

When is your best time to write?
I have found that I can write pretty much anywhere these days apart from when my daughter is with me. My favourite way to write is alone, with specific mood setting music and a bottle of wine.
Anne- Marie Ormsby

Which social media platforms do you find most comfortable to use?
I use Facebook, mainly for personal use as I live far away from most of my family and friends, but I do have an author page which is fun, Instagram (a lot because I like taking photos) and more recently got into using Twitter which I wasn’t too interested in before but got into the swing of it during my book promo stuff.

 Aargh! I've still got so much to learn about Twitter after years of joining. 

Please tell us what your latest book is about and its genre.
Purgatory Hotel is about a girl who wakes up dead and cant remember how she died or who she was. She also isn’t sure what she did wrong to end up in Purgatory which is a creepy old Victorian hotel with endless corridors and a library full of books that are the stories of peoples lives.  Our mysterious heroine must dodge the inhabitants of Purgatory and re live her life in order to repent for her crime.
It’s paranormal fiction but I prefer the title Paranormal Whodunnit.

 Oh, that sounds a really interesting read.  

Did anything in particular influence you to write it?
I was inspired by lots of different things, various songs, books and movies played a part in the inspiration, but I think I was deep down inspired to examine what people will do in desperate situations and what bad relationships will do to people.

Did it require any specialised research?
No, not really as most of it is pure imagination. I did spend a bit of time reading old newspaper stories about a series of murders called The Babes in the Woods murders which I tied in with one of my less savoury characters.

I confess to being a research junkie and I'm sure if I chose to write something purely imaginative I'd still find something I'd need to research just for the thrill of it. 

Who is your main character?
Her name is Dakota Crow and shes in her early 20’s

What’s your main character’s greatest weakness?
A man called Jackson Shade.

Now that's an evocative name!

What does the character do to overcome this?
I cant say……


Do you enjoy editing your work?
Not at all…I read and re read the book so many times I was blind to it all eventually. I was very grateful when my editor Miriam stepped in and took over!

What’s your favourite occupation? (apart from writing!)
Working in a bookshop.

Do you have a favourite place to ‘hide’ out from life?
I have a toddler. There is no hiding place.

Too true! I've been a regular grandchild minder these last few years and not even the bathroom is private. It's even worse with two! 

Favourite food and drink?
Cava, olives and cheese.

 I can definitely identify with all  of that!

Find Anne -Marie at the following : 

Thank you for being a great guest today, Anne- Marie. Best wishes with Purgatory Hotel. I've still got some Crooked Cat Books to catch up with reading, yours being one of them, but I will! Also best wishes for your future writing. 


Friday, 16 February 2018

# Someone to #Lean on- #Felipe from Revolution Day

Friday means it's time to give those supporting secondary characters a bit of the limelight!

Today, I'm joined by Tim Taylor, a brilliantly versatile author of contemporary novels, historical novels and poetry, who has chosen to feature an accomplished character from his novel Revolution Day. It's a little while since I read this fantastic 5* novel  so it's brilliant to be reminded of what a sensible, steady and calm character Felipe is, at least that's how I read him to be. Though  Revolution Day is a contemporary novel it has a historical novel feel to it as various memories are interwoven as the story progresses.

Welcome to my Friday series, Tim I'll let you explain a bit about Felipe so that my readers can get to know him better!16th Feb

T. E. Taylor 
Hello, Nancy, it’s lovely to be visiting you again!  I have to say that when you said you were inviting guest posts about supportive secondary characters I jumped at the chance. It is always the way with supporting characters that they don’t get a fair crack of the whip whenever we’ve only got a few words in which to talk about a novel (in the blurb, for example). They often play an important part that is not easily summarised in half a sentence.

Nancy says: I totally agree and you put that so much better than I have!   
So it is with Felipe, private secretary to ageing dictator Carlos Almanzor in Revolution Day. Because the main storyline of the novel revolves around Carlos, his estranged wife Juanita and ambitious vice-president Manuel (who is plotting to seize the presidency for himself), Felipe tends not to get mentioned in straplines and soundbites. I have often felt this to be unfair to him, and am glad of this opportunity to give him his moment in the sun!  
It’s lonely at the top, and Carlos is increasingly depressed and insecure. He is a deeply flawed man who has done many bad things in his long career, but he is not a monster. Felipe sees this, and does his best to steer Carlos towards the light. By doing so he will come to have a significant influence on the events of the novel (though I’m not going to reveal exactly how!) But how does a lowly, gay secretary in his mid-20s influence an elderly, irascible autocrat? Not overtly, for sure, but indirectly, by understanding his boss, earning his trust and knowing what buttons to press.  
Here is an example of how Felipe operates. He has been trying to get Carlos to show a more human face to the world via an informal video blog. However, on discovering an obscene parody of his blog, Carlos angrily threw away his laptop. This passage shows us Felipe’s first step towards getting him to change his mind.    

“What the hell is this nonsense?”
            On the previous half dozen occasions when the President had confronted him at his desk, Felipe’s face had turned red and he had almost lost the power of speech, such words as did emerge being rendered unrecognisable by the return of a stammer that had been largely eliminated in his childhood. Today, however, his face remained its usual agreeable shade of light amber and his reply was measured and clear.
            “I am sorry, Presidente, I should have put a label on the cover of the folder. It is a digest of material about you that has appeared on the internet during the last few days. I thought that, since you have decided not to use a computer, you would wish me to monitor the relevant sites on your behalf.”
            “Do you think that I have time to read through pages and pages of scurrilous drivel every week?”
            “I do appreciate, of course, that your time is heavily committed, Presidente. So I have prepared the digest in such a way that it is not necessary to read it all. See, there is a two-page executive summary here at the front that highlights the main themes. It gives page numbers, in case you want to see more detail on any particular item.”
            Unsure what to say in response, the President expressed his continuing anger in the form of a succession of grunts and growls, allowing his secretary to maintain momentum.
            “Do you not recall, Presidente, that in our discussion last month, you expressed your concern about defamatory material that was appearing on the internet, and your dissatisfaction that neither I nor the Ministry of Information had kept you informed about this? I was merely seeking to rectify that omission. Was I wrong to do so?”
            “I…I am not sure that I recall the discussion.”
            “If I may refresh your memory, Presidente, you were upset when you discovered a parody of your blog. When I said that parodies and other uncomplimentary material about public figures such as yourself were not unusual, you enquired whether the Ministry of Information monitored the internet for such material, and asked me why I had not informed you about it before.”
            The President did not yet look convinced, but he did not challenge what had been said. Felipe took this as an invitation to continue.
            “So the digest is, as I have said, my attempt to find an appropriate way of keeping you informed. Of course, if it does not meet your needs, or if you have decided that you do not require this information after all, I will not trouble you with such a document again…”
            Carlos opened his mouth to speak, but unusually, Felipe did not give way until he had finished what he was going to say.
            “…But might I be so impertinent as to suggest that, before you decide, you at least take a brief look at the executive summary. It will only take a few minutes, and there is no urgent business in your calendar for the day. Then I will be happy either to continue with the digest or to discontinue it, or to modify it in any way you wish.”
            The President opened his mouth once more, left if open for a couple of seconds, then closed it again. He snatched the purple folder off the desk, turned, and walked away, closing the oak door behind him.

If your readers are intrigued, they can find out more about Revolution Day here:

Links for Buying and reading about Tim's work: 

Revolution Day on Amazon:

A bit about Tim: 

Tim ‘T.E.’ Taylor was born in Stoke-on-Trent in 1960 and now lives in Meltham, near Huddersfield, with his wife Rosa. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford, and some years later did a PhD in Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London. He spent a number of years in the civil service before leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing. Tim now divides his time between creative writing, academic research (he has published a book, Knowing What is Good for You, on the philosophy of well-being), and part-time teaching in ethics at Leeds University.

Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome, is set in Ancient Greece and follows the real-life struggle of the Messenian people to free themselves from Sparta. His second, Revolution Day, is about an ageing Latin American dictator who is clinging to power as his vice-president plots against him. As well as fiction, Tim writes poetry: he won the 2016 National Association of Writers Groups open poetry prize. He also plays electric and acoustic guitar, occasionally in public, and likes to walk up hills.

(You can also find more about Tim's previous visits to this blog by using the 'Search' facility on the right sidebar to access my review and posts where Tim's been my guest.) 

I remember Felipe a lot better now (I read so many novels every year that the details tend to get lost in my memory banks, although I always remember when I loved reading the book as with Revolution Day). 

Thank you for coming today and sharing him with us, Tim. My best wishes for the next steps in your writing, whichever genre that might be in.