Wednesday 11 October 2023

At the Edinburgh Women's fiction Festival!

Wednesday already!

It's now a few days since my wonderful weekend at the Edinburgh Women's Fiction Festival.

The weather was atrocious! Serious flooding occurred across many parts of Scotland during the past weekend but I'm pleased to say that the venue - Morningside United Church - was dry and warm. Only when I nipped out - to grab a coffee from the nearby Costa shop, or when I ventured further down Morningside Road in Edinburgh with Julie George, to pick up a sandwich for lunch  - did I get very wet in a very short time. 

The venue was a bit strange in that sitting on a traditional bench pew for hours and hours was a novelty, listening to various authors talk about their own books, or the main topics of their writing. Thankfully there was a cushion to stave off serious bottom ache! Nevertheless, the organisers of the festival did extremely well to source the use of the venue whilst keeping the cost down to a bare minimum for the attendees. There was a small bookstore available in the front foyer run by The Edinburgh Bookshop (Bruntsfield), their main store being located only a few doors up the road. The groaning tables in the church foyer were naturally geared towards those authors who were participating in the discussions. 

I don't read many fiction paperbacks these days, mainly reading fiction via my Kindle, but I did come home with a couple of new books. One is by Danielle Devlin. 'Burnt Offerings'  is set in Scotland 1589, and my interest was piqued after a 'Witchery' session with two writers Anya Bergman and Stacey Thomas (whose novels I may likely read as well).

The other paperback is by one of my fellow Romantic Novel Association Scottish Chapter members, Nina Kaye, her novel being titled 'One Night in Edinburgh'. I bought my copy after the Friday night inaugural session and began it on my return to my hotel. The choice of Braid Hills Hotel was a very good one (once I found it on the Friday afternoon) since it's on a main Lothian Bus Route which linked the hotel to the event venue, and to Princes Street in central Edinburgh. 

Braid Hills Hotel

My lovely RNA Scottish Chapter author friend Mairibeth MacMillan picked me up from the hotel after I checked in, and we went for a quick dinner in a restaurant very close to the venue. After the evening session, I headed back to my hotel by bus, the service absolutely excellent compared to transport in the Aberdeenshire boondocks! 

Jackie Fraser, Milly Johnson, Eva Verde

'One Night in Edinburgh' was an entertaining engrossing read, perfect for my long journey home from Edinburgh to Aberdeen by coach on Sunday. The excessively heavy rainstorms had crippled a lot of transport across Scotland and I was glad to have booked my coach ticket in advance, since many disappointed rail travellers were trying to find an alternative route home. My train journey northwards from Aberdeen was cancelled but an Inverness-bound coach got me to my nearest county town where my lovely son-in-law collected me in still-dire weather and got me home. 

The main point of the last rambling paragraph is that I spent some of the travel time reading my new novel and actually finished it by Monday. 

And the festival itself? It had as many as possible hour-long discussion sessions crammed into Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. though it was surprising how quickly the day passed. The authors and their 'interviewer' were well organised, responses to the prepared questions seamlessly answered. I knew it was going to be mostly geared to romcom/ chick-lit/ feel-good fiction - not my usual writing genres - but it was great to hear what drove the authors to write what they do, whether newly published authors or those of long-standing like Jenny Colgan and Mike Gayle whose session wound up up the event. All in all, it was great to just sit and listen and not need to do any presentation myself, or talk about my own writing.

Catherine Hokin and Karen Swan

Where I was seated meant taking photographs was very difficult so, sadly, I had to delete most of what I'd hastily snapped. 

Another lovely aspect of the whole event was that in addition to meeting up with members of my RNA Scottish Chapter group, I met a new author friend Julie George who had come all the way to Edinburgh from Cornwall. Another far-flung attendee who joined our little RNA group for a short time was a young writer from Georgia, USA, who was on her honeymoon. Both of these attendees indicate the power of advertising on behalf of the organisers! 

Would I attend next year? Absolutely!... and I might sign myself up for some of the workshops if available, which I chose not to do this time around. 

Well done to all who organised the Edinburgh Women's Fiction Festival


Tuesday 3 October 2023

Edinburgh Women's Fiction Festival!


The next big event on my 'writing' calendar is a brand new, inaugural event named the Edinburgh Women's Fiction Festival which will take place in a few days on Friday 6th October, and Sat 7th October 2023. 

Some of my Roman Britain selection

As seen in its title, this event will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, the venue being Morningside United Church. I've booked transport and a hotel for myself and I'm really looking forward to attending the talks. 

The ones I'm really interested in will be with authors who are speaking about writing saga fiction and historical fiction in general. I'm hoping that I'll learn more techniques about polishing my current writing which is set in Victorian Scotland. I'm envisaging my whole story will cover three books in a series. At my current stage, with Book 1 about 3/4 finished and a tiny part of Book 2 already done, I'm still not entirely sure if I'm writing a saga or if it fits into some other niche. I hope to glean ideas on how to resolve my category dilemma! 

I'll be meeting up with a number of my Romantic Novelist Association Scottish Chapter author friends in Edinburgh who are an extremely supportive bunch of ladies. As well as looking forward to the series of talks (a pretty full-on programme) I'm also going to enjoy having a meal out with above mentioned friends after the conference is over.

Updates, as and when, to follow! 

p.s. oops!...I clearly need to create a Victorian Scotland source book image. 


Saturday 15 July 2023

Eboracum Roman Festival York 2023

 Eboracum Roman Festival was fabulous fun!

This year of 2023, my train travel to York proved to be on time and, thankfully, not disrupted.

L to R- Me, Graham Sumner,
Jacquie Rogers, Simon Elliot,
Jason Monaghan, Linda J Trafford,
Alison Morton, Ruth Downie,
Kate Cunningham, Simon J Turney

It was a brilliant short trip. I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to get down there and meet up with lots of lovely authors [some new, some met last year], some of the re-enactors, and the browsing/buying public who came to talk to us at our Bibliotheca (author tent).

My thanks to Jim Butler, Event Manager, and the team of organisers at Yorkshire Museum for giving us an excellent pitch for our marquee. The marquee had no frontage which meant we could be easily seen but was a tad short at the sides to fit in x 10 author tables. I’m so very thankful that the light rain was fleeting and that my books weren’t damaged, always a problem with open air venues.

Fraternising with the enemy!

Deciding how many books to take was driven by the size of my wheelie suitcase though more so by what weight I could lug up and down staircases in train stations (lifts not always available). Since I was only spending an extra day in York on the Friday, my changes of ‘civvies’ clothes were minimal, and not weighty, but my new re-enactment Celtic outfit is quite bulky and certainly heavier than a normal dress. I packed 27 books, and I’m utterly delighted to say that I sold 21 of them and gifted x 1 book for our Prize Draw. Hardly any to bring home, yet I’m still mystified that my case remained heavy!

Fortuna favours the brave!

Meeting up with an ex-Crooked Cat author friend Angela Wren on the Thursday night for dinner and a chat was marvellous. Since Angela is reasonably familiar with the area, being a Yorkshire lass, she booked a table at a fabulous French Bistro which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Look at your fabulous phalerae!
Meeting the Legatus-
legion commanding officer

My Friday was taken up by a good wander around the central area of York, unencumbered by any luggage, and I spent about 3 hours in the Yorkshire Museum. I’d not visited since 2016 and took plenty of time to view, and photograph, the Roman exhibits. I don’t recall on any previous visits to the Yorkshire Museum spending time in the upstairs library but I had the room mostly to myself this time for a good browse. There were some fabulous early copies of non-fiction published about Roman Britain, amongst many other interesting topics. The evening was delightful in the company of new-to-me author Jacquie Rogers. A few drinks and dinner set us up for the Saturday!

With the
supreme commander! 

Saturday was mostly dry, just the lightest of showers sending visitors to the event scurrying under umbrellas or trees along the main pathways. The event was busy right from the opening of the Museum garden gates at 10 am, which was great for us at the Bibliotheca because the interest was constant as the day wore on. Many people just browsed, many bought from all ten of us (9 authors plus Graham who is an illustrator), and some were return customers from previous years. I sold a few copies this way though my neighbour Simon J Turney sold many. Simon has an impressive fan following who come to York Eboracum Festival every year just to buy his latest novels – signed, of course.  

Our Saturday evening was super-convivial, meaning we had a few drinks in the Eagle and Child pub before wandering along the few streets it took to reach the restaurant that Tracey Turney (our spectacular special author event planner) had booked. The Ask Italian restaurant is in the most spectacular building which was in former days the Assembly Hall of the regency era. (I'm not sure if there was more than one).  

Sunday was a repeat though a hotter day with no rain. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversations with potential customers and signed a fair-few books myself. When it was time to change and head for my train home it was bittersweet. The experience was made so much better by the excellent and congenial company of my fellow authors.

I was naturally very delighted to meet some impressively kitted-out Romans and I also got a glimpse of Queen Cartimandua and her Druid (didn’t quite talk to them but next time for sure)

Queen Cartimandua and her Druid,
with a legionary soldier! 

My thanks also go to Tracey Turney, Simon J Turney's wife, for keeping us all in the loop and very organised. She's a star!

Tracey Turney on the right! 


That was my far-flung book signing/selling event but I’m gearing up for another few large events in Aberdeenshire this summer.

On Saturday July 22nd I’ll be at the Banchory Agricultural Show, a fair which I’ve not attended for some time. I’m looking forward to donning one of my Celtic outfits for the day, but which one is yet to be revealed. (This might well be a late decision depending on whether it is hot or cool)