Monday, 24 December 2018

Stella's Christmas Wish

Stella’s Christmas Wish is set in Edinburgh and ….

… On her right-hand side a train glided into Waverley Station. Down in Princes Street Gardens water had been flooded in and frozen to make a skating rink and it was busy both with competent skaters and people holding on to each other, laughing if they fell over. That was a comic Christmas-card scene – but the wider picture showed the dull winter green of the gardens; stalls selling food and mulled wine; the wheel – Edinburgh’s equivalent of the London Eye over the Christmas period.

 … the beautiful Scottish Borders

The Eildon Hills were white on the top, like a snow queen’s tablecloth. It was said that fairies lived there and that long ago the Queen of the Fairies enticed a Borders man called Thomas the Rhymer away to fairyland. When he returned years later – thinking he’d been gone only a few days – he had the ability to see into the future. Alice read Stella and Maddie that story one winter when they were little and for years they imagined that their Christmas-tree fairy had come from that fairyland in the hills.

Wherever you are I hope your Christmas wishes come true.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Free book!

A Christmas present for you ...
In my previous post I told you about Capital Writers’ new anthology Capital Christmas Stories (you can read the beginning of my story here).

And, just for you, our first anthology, Capital Stories, which came out last year, is FREE for five days only, from 20-24 December.

You’re welcome.

Monday, 17 December 2018

Capital Christmas Stories

With Jane Riddell, Anne Stenhouse and Jennifer Young I am part of Capital Writers – four writers who live in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city.

Edinburgh, renowned for many things over the centuries, is now also famous for its Christmas/New Year festivities (anyone tried this year’s silent disco on George Street …?).

So it seemed appropriate that we produce an anthology of festive stories and here it is, available from Amazon at the very cheery price of 99p:

And here is a review by Joanne Baird of Portobello Book Blog

This is how my story begins:


Princes Street. George Street. Moray Place. Castle Street. Hanover Street.
Jessica blinked and looked again at the map she’d just been given in the tourist office.
Edinburgh was over 11,000 miles away, but in front of her were many of the same street names – albeit in a different configuration.
Sophie had only given her vague instructions about how to get to where she lived on Wallace Street, walkable she’d said from the centre of the city. Jessica had left home twenty-four hours ago, the time now a blur of airports and trying to sleep in cramped seats, and her head swam as she scanned the map for the street whose name was yet another reminder that Dunedin, New Zealand, was named after Scotland’s capital.
She took the map over to the assistant behind the desk. He swivelled it round towards him and made a pencil circle.
‘There,’ he said, marking a spot that actually didn’t look too far to walk and then helpfully pointing out the route. ‘Start here, at Stuart Street. About twenty minutes’ walk? Or there’s a taxi rank on the other side of the road.’
Any thought that a walk would clear her head – and postpone the moment of seeing her sister – was dispelled when Jessica saw that Stuart Street was vertical, so vertical she imagined herself having to scale it like a mountaineer while trying to hang on to her wheeled suitcase. Did people really live up there? Edinburgh was hilly but this was in a different league.
So, she wouldn’t walk. But she could still put off arriving at Sophie’s; she’d spotted a café when she got off the shuttle bus from the airport.
Over a long black coffee, which served to wake her brain up a little, she tried to think what she would say to her sister, what platitudes she could come out with this time to comfort her. And she wondered if Sophie would realise that Jessica herself might be in need of comforting.
Would Sophie remember what had happened to Jessica last Christmas? Would she wonder why her hysterical phone call home a month ago, crying that Logan had left her, had resulted in Jessica, uncharacteristically impulsive, saying she’d book a flight and come to New Zealand for Christmas? Just her, not David. No, she wouldn’t wonder; she would take it for granted that her older sister would drop everything – including her husband – so that Sophie wouldn’t be on her own over the festive season.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Five in November

I read five books in November.

As I said in last month’s reading round up I was lucky enough to spend October in New Zealand. And I forgot to mention one book I read while I was there so I’ll catch up on it now; it is set in NZ.

Read on Kindle. This is the first in a trilogy featuring Detective Ngaire Blakes, a half-Maori detective in Christchurch, in the South Island of New Zealand.

Magdalene Lynton died forty years ago, a vivacious teenager who fell victim to a grotesque, accidental drowning. Now someone has confessed to her murder …

I thought this was a terrific police procedural, very dark in places, and can thoroughly recommend it. (I have bought but not yet read the second one.) And you’ve got to love an author whose biography reads: ‘Katherine Hayton is a forty-two year old woman who works in insurance, doesn't have children or pets, can't drive, has lived in Christchurch her entire life, and resides a two-minute walk from where she was born. For some reason, she's developed a rich fantasy life.

My last week Down Under was spent with lovely cousins in Tasmania.

An anthology of stories from the ten finalists in the 2018 Tasmanian Writers’ Prize. And one of those finalists was my talented cousin Allison Mitchell with Keeping Quiet, a story inspired by family tales.

Read on Kindle. The book opens with the Richardson’s house, in a genteel American suburb, burning down and it’s discovered that a fire was made in each of the bedrooms. The suspect is the youngest of their teenagers, Isabelle; she has run away. We then go back to find out what led up to that moment. Totally engrossing.

Amy and Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout
I’ve come late to Elizabeth Strout’s party but I’ll be staying right to the end. So far her Olive Kitteridge continues to be in first place for me but Amy and Isabelle is a compulsive and unsettling read, with all the characters living on in my mind. Isabelle and her teenage daughter Amy live in a small American town – a quiet, uneventful life until Amy has an affair with one of her teachers.

News from Heaven by Jennifer Haigh
Another small-town America book – this time of short stories, some of which link with each other. Jennifer Haigh has written an award-winning novel which I haven’t read (yet) called Baker Towers, set in the fictional coal-mining town of Bakerton, Pennsylvania. This declining town is also the setting for the short stories. Loved them – she really gets under the skin of her characters, male or female, whatever age they are.

Murder at the Mousetrap by Helena Marchmont
And now for something completely different – the first in a series of short, cosy, countryside mysteries, with Alfie, a protagonist described as ‘Miss Marple meets Oscar Wilde’. And where cosier to have a murder mystery, laced with a good dollop of humour, than the Cotswolds? A fun read (on Kindle). Look forward to the second one.