The Death of an Inspiration

From time to time, I’m asked if my work is inspired by other writers, and I usually list several authors whose work I admire. Anita Shreve is high on that list. I love her books and was saddened by her death on 29 March from the cancer she’d been fighting for a while. So sad to lose such a fine novelist so young, only 71 – not old these days.

She was a wife, a mother and a grandmother as well as a teacher, journalist, non-fiction writer, and a novelist. She may have worn other hats for all I know, but these are the ones I know of. She was a reclusive writer though there are a few radio, tv and newspaper interviews you could delve into.

Anita Shreve wrote eighteen novels, most of which I have had the pleasure of reading. I am sad that there will be no more because her books are all so beautifully written, so well plotted and crafted. I learned a lot about how to write a novel from reading hers.

 

 

 

 

Dancing in Drumnadrochit


On a writers’ week up in the North of Scotland with our writing group, we were doing a work session broken down into 30 minute pomodoros, timed on my phone. Every time the session ended and the timer went off, this seemed to happen! Toilet paper flowers in my hair á la Mirabelle, the MC of The Reluctant Detective series.

The following excerpt of Searching for Summer should help to explain the allusion.

Having promised her daughter a treat and promised she’d get back from work in time to enjoy it with her, Mirabelle is late, as usual, and discovers her daughter, Summer isn’t home. Having looked in every room, including ridiculous places …

… she sets about decorating the flat, stringing toilet paper across the rooms, draping it over the many pictures, round the sagging sofa, round the mis-matched comfy chairs, a big soft bow finishing it off on each one. She made a huge toilet paper flower and stuck it on the lid of the toilet cistern. Dancing to the reggae music she’d put on the CD player, she gyrated to her bedroom and back, lipstick in hand, to write ‘Well Done!’ and ‘Congratulations!’ on the mirror, on the fridge, even across the doors, with no thought as to how it would be removed tomorrow.
“Party dress,” she decided, searching through her chest of drawers, scattering underwear, socks, scarves and gloves around her like the flutter of autumn leaves. Finding what she knew was buried in the depths of one of the drawers, she threw the bright pink feather boa round her neck on top of the strings of beads she already wore, made some soft, floppy toilet paper flowers, clipping them into the tight curls of her black hair, and added some more bangles to the ones already jingling on her wrists.
Dancing through to the kitchen, she dug out a box of little flower candles, designed to float on a lake in a bowl, and sat them on top of a sponge cake from the freezer, unable to resist scooping some of the frozen cream from between its layers with her finger. It felt icy on her teeth, sweet on her tongue.
Confident Summer would be accepted at Edinburgh University, she had bought an iPad thingy from a catalogue and it had been delivered, wrapped and hidden days ago. She brought it out and gave it centre stage on the kitchen table in front of the cake, sweeping the resident clutter off onto a chair from which most of it cascaded onto the floor.
There were some sparklers in the drawer beside the matches and she stuck them in the cake, ready to light at the first sound or sight of Summer.
“She’s gonna love this,” Mirabelle sang, her finger scooping out more cream. “She’s gonna love it.”
She looked at the clock. Half-past nine. The film would be over by now. The cinema was only at the top of the road. She draped herself in the deep, old armchair they kept in the kitchen, turning it so she could see the look of delight on Summer’s face as she came through the door.

http://mybook.to/SearchingforSummer

 

 

She Was a Red-headed Woman

Do you enjoy writing prompts? When we meet together in our writing group, we enjoy doing short, timed prompts. Sometimes five minutes, sometimes ten, or even fifteen if the subject seems to merit it.

A few weeks ago, we had one that we all enjoyed and had a bit of fun with. Perhaps you’d enjoy it too. Why not tell a story in just ten minutes, using the prompt:

She Was a Red-headed Woman

I’d love to read what you come up with, and invite you to post in the comments.

One of our members wrote this one that I find quite good fun. I feel there is a story under the story, that the word ‘today’ invites the readers imagination to fill in the blanks.

She Was a Red-haired Woman

By Sharon Scordecchia

She walked into the restaurant and sat at her usual table. Hans, the waiter, approached her, an apologetic twist on his face. He sighed, bowing his head towards her.
“I’m very sorry Madam, this table is reserved.”
She put down the menu and looked up at him, her head tilted to the side. Slowly she lowered her sunglasses with both hands till they perched on the end of her nose. She paused. “It’s me, Hans,” she said.
Hans stared at her. “I’m sorry madam, I don’t believe I am acquainted with you. And this table is reserved for one of our regular customers.”
“Oh, for goodness sake, Hans,” she said, taking her glasses off completely and slapping them on the table.
Oh, Madam! I didn’t recognise you.” He stopped, his mouth open, aghast. Today she was a red-headed woman.

~~~

Why not visit me in my new FaceBook group for readers – though I know there are a fair few writers among the members too.

You’ll find us here Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist Of Stories

A Date in Drumnadrochit

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Meet me in Drumnadrochit.

I’ll be there. Will you?

For those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting Drumnadrochit, it’s a delightful village by the shores of Loch Ness in Scotland, about 30 minutes west from Inverness.

“Situated at the head of Urquhart Bay on the northern shore of Loch Ness. If anywhere could be classed as the home of the Loch Ness Monster mystery, this would arguably be the spot. Drumnadrochit is the home to the Loch Ness Centre whose five star exhibition is endorsed by Scottish Natural Heritage as a ‘portal to the unique phenomenon that is Loch Ness’. Here, the real inner secrets of Britain’s greatest lake are revealed, shedding some very unexpected light upon the mystery for which it is so widely known. And if you’re really keen, you can even go for a monster-spotting cruise on the Loch with one of the excellent cruise companies sailing each day. Just down the road you find Nessieland with its informative and entertaining Loch Ness presentation, a great day out for all the family!” – quoted from Visit Loch Ness 

You may not have the opportunity to meet Nessie, but on Wednesday, 21st March, at 7pm, you have the opportunity to meet and greet me,  Christine Campbell, Author – in Drumnadrochit. I won’t be talking about the monster, but about my books and writing process, and you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions and have a book signed in the delightful Cafe Eighty2.

Cafe Eighty2, sits just off the A82 as you drive through the village, and among its many charms are a terrific selection of homebaked cakes and speciality teas.

So if you are anywhere in the vicinity, why not come join us in Drumnadrochit.

If that’s a bit of a stretch, another option would be to meet us in Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist of Stories – a new group on FaceBook. A great opportunity to talk to the author about a book you’re reading, taking the ‘Author Meet and Greet’ to a whole new level.

Just click on the link and ask to join the fun.

 

Christine’s Kist of Stories

Are you familiar with the word ‘kist’?

It’s origin is from the Old Norse kista, meaning chest.
The word appears in several countries and, in the Scots language, it’s the name for a large chest or coffer often used for storing linen, such as a new bride’s trousseau.
Also used for storing treasure. And it’s in that context I’d like to introduce my kist to you.

My hubby wrote me a beautiful song for our 50th wedding anniversary – about my ‘Kist of Stories’, describing my stories as treasure. How cool is that? Well, I felt so honoured by this I want to honour him in return by using the song as my ‘brand.’

So I have started a Book Group on FaceBook, called Lifting The Lid Off Christine’s Kist Of Stories. The aim of the group is to allow readers to interact with me about my books. So, if you’re interested in learning the stories behind the stories, you’re welcome to join. The group is designed to take the ‘Author Meet and Greet’ to a whole new level.

My daughter has recorded the song and I’d like to share it with you here. To help you understand it, since it’s written in the style of an old Scots song, here are the words written out. I’d be happy to explain any that are unfamiliar to you. Just let me know in the comments which words puzzle you.

Christine’s Kist O’ Stories

Sparkling there, tae love and share,
Gleam tales o’ pains and glories
Of lovers kissed, and children missed
In Christine’s kist o’ Stories

Folks that’s real, that breathe and feel,
Wi’ lives o’ less, or more ease
Come tumblin’ out, tae sigh, tae shout
Frae Christine’s kist o’ Stories

Frae Reekie’s chills tae Cuillin hills,
They tak’ delightfu’ sorties
That turn and twist thru lambent mist
Tae Christine’s kist o’ Stories

~~~

The video ‘Christine’s Kist of Stories’ comes to you from team Pow.
Filmed and produced by Tim Pow
Words and music by Gus Campbell
Sung by Aimee Pow
Original painting by Michelle Campbell
Scenery by Scotland

Enjoy!

The Importance of Being a Reader

When asked the question, “Is reading important in your life?” my experience is that many people say they enjoy reading but it doesn’t play that big a part in their day to day life. Some only find time to read when they are on holiday, some while travelling. And there are those who derive little or no pleasure from reading. I’ve even come across people who profess they’d love to write a novel but they’ve rarely or never read one!

I’m aghast at this latter category because it’s a bit like saying you want to bake a cake without ever having tasted one and without a recipe to follow. “But I have this great idea for a wedding cake. I mean, how hard can it be to throw a few ingredients in a bowl, give them a bit of a mix, pour the mixture in a tin and pop it in the oven for ten minutes or so?” Aaaaargh!!! I’m sure there will be bakers all over the world throwing their recipe books in the air at the thought.

Yet there are books being produced by the dozens with less preparation and by people who it would seem have never read a book in their lives, if the grammar, spelling and construction are anything to go by. “But I have this great idea for a story. I mean, how hard can it be to scribble it down, type it up, slap a cover on it and upload it on the net.”

Like the potential wedding cake maker, who’s seen the end result, can measure, mix and heat things in the oven – has even had a nibble of a finished cake – our potential novelist has seen books on the shelves in the supermarket, learned how to put pen to paper in school, can even type with one finger, may even have read the blurb on the back of the book of the film of…

I say again, “Aaaaarrrrgh!!!”

So, to rephrase the question, how important is reading in a writer’s life?

I’d like to put it to you, that reading widely is the first step of many in learning how to write and how to write better.

Hills of the Dead End – Remembering Patrick MacGill

When researching for the historic strand of the contemporary novel I am writing, I came upon this blog post and found it very interesting and beautifully written by Cameron McNeish. It gives a great taste of the subject matter I will be exploring in my novel. Having also read Patrick MacGill’s novel, Children of the Dead End, as part of my research, I find myself deeply respecting the men who built the Blackwater Dam, for their bravery and courage and incredible ability to work in the conditions they endured.

CAMERON McNEISH, Writer & Television Presenter

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The poignant Blackwater Dam graveyard

IT was one of the most poignant destinations of any route I’ve walked. We had tramped from the Kinlochleven side of the dramatically named Devil’s Staircase and then dropped down alongside a water pipeline that ran from the Blackwater Reservoir high above the birch banks of the River Leven. There was a sheen of newly minted green on the trees and the sky was blue. Spring was turning to summer and birdsong, especially that of the ebullient skylark, filled the air. It was hard to imagine the desolation, the strife and the sheer pathos of the industrial scene that dominated this landscape a hundred years before.

In the distance a long, low wall ran across the horizon, the line of the Blackwater Dam, and as we approached it a dumpy, drumlin-like hillock took our attention. Fifty metres from the track and pipeline a wooden fence…

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How to Support an Author – and get a Free Signed Copy of a Novel

Do you like a challenge? For some, January is a month they enjoy challenging themselves to start a training regime, a dietary regime or tackle their New Year resolutions list. Oooh! I love a good list – though I tend not to go for the New Year resolution list, since, for me, it’s an invitation to failure and I don’t believe in reinforcing failure. I prefer to think positively, ‘This coming year, I’m going to try harder and get better all round.’ And that includes my reading and reviewing habits.

Do you enjoy a good book? At this time of the year, most folks have some time off and this is traditionally a time for enjoying family, fun and relaxation. For lots of us, that means getting time and opportunity to read.

Luxury.

But do we ever spare a thought for the authors of the books we enjoy? How could we make their holiday happy too?

I came across a post on FaceBook by blogger ShaylaRaquel.com,  where she suggested 31 ways to support authors in January. She offered this printable PDF which I’ve reproduced here.

It seems a pretty good list to me and I’m sure there are many authors like me who would turn cartwheels in the snow if someone would support them to that extent. In fact, most of us would settle for half that list. Or quarter. In fact, any and all support is welcomed by any author, so I intend to try harder to support other authors by reading and reviewing their books. For that reason, I was delighted to come across this list of 31 suggestions how I might do so.

I’ve copied it here to help you see there are many ways, 31 on this list, you might support your favourite authors if you are up for the challenge.

If I happen to be one of your favourites, or if you’d like to find out if I could be, here’s the link to my Amazon author page to get you started, since top of the list is ‘Buy their e-book.’ Since all my novels are available also in paperback, you might prefer to jump to number 7, 9 or 15 to start you off. The same link will take you to where you can buy the paperbacks.

If you tell me in the comments when you’ve bought one of my novels in either format and posted a review on Amazon, I’ll pop your name in a hat and pick a random reader to send a free signed copy of one of my novels.

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Would you like me to Read you a Story?

When our children were young, they loved their dad to read to them and I loved to listen in because he had a great way of making the written words come alive. When they were older, the fact they could read for themselves didn’t mar their enjoyment.  I took the  time and opportunity to study what it was about his reading that was so special, and I think it was to do with the fact that, while he respected the written word, he also knew when to take liberties with it in order to entertain.

Maybe you’ll permit me to entertain you for a few minutes as I read the first section of my latest novel. I don’t claim to have my husband’s skill in this matter, but I’ll do my best.

For What it’s Worth is contemporary women’s fiction.
It is not part of The Reluctant Detective Series by the same author, but it is a spin off where Mirabelle has a part to play but in a supporting role rather than the main character.
This is a stand-alone novel and while readers who enjoyed the earlier series might be keen to find out what Mirabelle has been up to, the main storyline concentrates on Yvonne and her husband Hugh and explores themes familiar to many young thirty-something couples when they decide it’s time to expand their family.

For What it’s Worth can be bought on Amazon as a paperback or ebook as can other novels by the same author.

~~~

 

Making a Book Cover

Who would have thought from all the fun and nonsense we had that day, we could manage to get a new book cover? 😀

Writing a novel is only one part of the process of producing a novel. There are many other parts to the process, including designing a cover.

And there are many parts to designing a cover, including, in this instance, setting up a photo shoot in the garden with one of my sons and his wife. While one of my sons-in-law set up the camera, they couldn’t resist fooling around so it all turned into great fun. Happy memories 😀

With the resulting book cover completed by the photographer, our own Tim Pow of Pow Productions, here it is, the release of my new novel, For What it’s Worth.

For What It's Worth Final

So what’s the story?

Yvonne’s biological alarm tells her it’s time to start a family before she’s past her prime, but first her husband, Hugh, must find a job. But will any job do?
When Hugh seems to be taking his time to find one, Yvonne finds one for him, but is it the right job? Will it cause more stress when she is already juggling two jobs herself and is trying to hold on to their flat?
When things start to go wrong, Yvonne finds herself facing a choice no woman should ever have to – her marriage or a baby.
When she met Hugh, Yvonne was working as an Edinburgh tour guide, so she knows the city well and has a great fondness for it, taking us to some of her favourite places as she tries to work out what the important things in her life are worth: her dreams, her plans – and her marriage.
For What it’s Worth is contemporary women’s fiction with more than a touch of romance, seasoned with a sprinkling of humour, a spot of drama and a splash of tears.
It is not part of The Reluctant Detective Series by the same author, but it is a spin off where we get to know Mirabelle’s sister, Yvonne, better. Mirabelle has a part to play in For What it’s Worth, but in a supporting role rather than the main character.
Although it is a stand-alone novel, those readers who have enjoyed the earlier series will no doubt enjoy being reacquainted with so many of the characters and finding out what Mirabelle has been up to since finding Summer, but the main storyline concentrates on Yvonne and her husband Hugh and explores themes familiar to many young thirty-something couples when they decide it’s time to expand their family.
Life is complicated, love is complicated, must our dreams be complicated too?

Like all Christine Campbell novels, For What it’s Worth is available both as paperback and eBook on Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, FeedaRead.com and can be ordered in bookshops.

Enjoy!

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