Introducing a Revamp

We all know that hard work generally brings the best result. You can only get out of something what you put into it, can’t you?

And, of course, that’s no different for writers.

If we want to get better at it, it isn’t just about writing more and more words, it’s about studying how to write, reading about writing, reading the work of other well-acclaimed authors, putting in the hours, weeks and months of hard work editing and polishing. Writing the first draft of a story is often the easiest part. In my experience, it is always the easiest part.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about how my writing has developed and, I like to think, improved over the years I’ve been working at it. I’ve certainly put in a lot of hard work. So I went back to the first book I published and cast a critical eye over it. I was pleasantly surprised with how happy I was with the development of the story. But still, I published Family Matters as a paperback in 2008, followed that up with the eBook in 2013 – so – time for a revamp.

I decided Family Matters needed a new cover, then a bit of fine-tuning. I asked my artist daughter-in-law, Michelle Campbell, to come up with some art for the cover. Once again, she didn’t disappoint. I love the new cover she designed. It’s more modern and relevant to the subject matter – subject matter that I scrutinised and checked until I felt happy.

Next step? I thought I’d share the result with you in the following video. If you haven’t read Family Matters, perhaps you’ll enjoy the excerpt I’ve included.

Thanks for watching, folks. Hope you enjoyed the video. Hope you enjoy the book.

Here’s the link if you wish to purchase it or to READ IT FOR FREE with Kindle Unlimited.

And the link to my Amazon Author Page if you’d care to check out my other books.

Thank you.

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Why not share in the comments what you think of the cover? Or the book?

And do share your stories of the hard work you put into the things you do.

Do you think hard work does pay off?

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Juggling

Everyone loves to juggle – right? Anyone can juggle – right?
Have you ever thought of trying it, ever picked up a couple of oranges from the fruit bowl and had a go?
Let’s face it, we all juggle something, whether it’s daily tasks, time management, knives or clubs. But I always thought juggling pretty coloured balls would be easy – until I tried it!
Anyway, this is an interesting and fun post by a juggling enthusiast, Tim Pow.
Enjoy!

The Adventures of Tim Pow

I started juggling about 10 years ago. When most people try to learn to juggle they might reach the dizzying heights of the 3 ball cascade, which is the standard 3 ball juggling pattern. If they get there, its mission accomplished and they can get on with their lives without the need to throw and (sometimes) catch any object possible.I wasn’t satisfied with that.

Like many, many things in my life, I became a little bit obsessed with it, learning more and more tricks and patterns. Then I moved onto juggling clubs, then knives. And, to my wife’s dismay, fruit. At the peak of my juggling days I juggled at a charity event where I juggled 3 glowing orbs in the dark and finished with a few knife tricks.

long exposure 3 ball cascade
Like most things, my interest faded in and out once I felt that I was acceptably…

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Meet Lesley Richards, Photographer, Artist and Baker

Well, here in Scotland, ‘the nights are drawing in’ and we’re beginning to look out warm coats and winter boots. Though so far November has been a beautiful month, autumn is fast heading for winter and it’s time to invite friends to join me round the fire.

I have a dear friend, Lesley Richards, joining me for tea and cake today. Cake she made, of course, and kindly brought with her. But more of that later. I hope you enjoy meeting her.

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Lesley Richards is a well travelled Scot who combines an eclectic range of skills and passions including scuba diving, photography, painting and baking.

After university in Glasgow and corporate jobs in London she now enjoys life based in Edinburgh where she combines corporate projects with creative pursuits offering artworks and images in various forms under the banner of Siren Art and bakes to order as  Siren Bakes.

First of all, Lesley, can you explain the unusual company names you have?
I was nicknamed a mermaid when I first went scuba diving because my very long hair would come loose underwater. That became the ‘sea siren’, another term for mermaid.

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When I needed a name for my photography Facebook page, ‘Siren Art‘ seemed to fit, then when I set up a page for my baking it was only natural to continue the theme with ‘Siren Bakes‘.

I know you love to travel, but where do you call home?
We moved around the UK a lot when I was growing up, so it meant I got used to being in different places, so home is wherever I happen to be. I suppose I feel like I have lots of places I can call home as they feel familiar if I ever go back.
I live in Edinburgh at the moment and must admit it is nice being back in Scotland, I love the variety of scenery and skyscapes we have here – I’m in a capital city with a historic castle and modern buildings like Dynamic Earth, but within reasonable distance I also have mountains or sandy beaches. Now if we could just add some warm weather – what’s not to like?

How many countries have you traveled to?
Lots! I’ve been fortunate to travel as an individual, for work and as part of scuba expeditions. I’ve been to most of Europe, parts of Canada, Central & North America, some of the Caribbean, Africa and a little of Asia & the Far East.

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There are many places I’d love to revisit but also lots of places I haven’t seen yet so plenty more travelling to do. Australia, New Zealand and Galapagos are definitely on the bucket list.

Do you have a favourite place?
It’s hard to pick just one. It depends what I want to do.
To relax nothing beats being on a dive boat, sunbathing on deck between dives, or sitting at the prow getting splashed as the boat is in transit and I can dolphin watch.
One of my favourite views is just under the boat at the start or end of a dive.

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I have two favourite restaurants, one is a little fish restaurant on a narrow jetty over the Red Sea at the Kahramana at Marsa Alam in Egypt. The other is a tiny fondue house in the Sacre Coeur area of Paris where it’s so narrow you have to climb over the table to sit on the other side and they serve baby bottles of wine instead of glasses.

What was your favourite job ever?  Where was it?  And can you tell us a bit about it?Well I can’t really call it work but I had a large group of divers going out to do a special trip of advanced diving on a brand new boat in Egypt. The political situation affected businesses in Egypt at the time and the new boat was not going to be finished on time. I was contacted about the delay and offered a different boat for our expedition. To assure me it was up to standard, the company invited me out for a week aboard to check her out.
So a weeks diving and holiday on a newly refurbished luxury livaboard boat in the southern Egyptian Red Sea – absolute bliss. Then two weeks later I returned with my expedition and we had a brilliant time then too.

Photography is something you love, isn’t it? What kind of things/people/places do you most like photographing?
I started photography when I first learnt to dive over 20 years ago now. Back then the underwater camera I had was fully manual, we had a maximum of 36 shots on a film and we had to develop our own films on the back of the boat to see what shots we had at the end of the day.
For me it was the best way to capture the incredible beauty that was underwater and share it with people who weren’t able to dive themselves – as well as being great memories for me.
With digital cameras it is now much easier to take lots of photographs and immediately review them, but underwater it is still essential to spot the shot, anticipate marine life, capture the best lighting effect and have perfect buoyancy to not touch anything underwater. When I was teaching scuba-diving we always said, ‘take only pictures, leave only bubbles.’ If you couldn’t get a picture without touching coral or stirring up the sand – then you didn’t take the picture. Conservation is everything.
I still love being underwater but I also do coastal and landscape photography as well as wildlife and local points of interest.
I tend to photograph places rather than people but I have been known to be on duty for candid shots at weddings and engagements.

You have taken so many fabulous shots. Do you have an all-time favourite? Tell us about it.
There is a very special shot of a leopard-spot blennie that I love, these are very small fish that usually hide in nooks & crannies of the coral, you usually see just their face as they vanish into a dark hole to hide.
This one I spotted while it was out sunbathing on the coral. It was the first time I’d seen this type of blennie and he was so relaxed his dorsal fin is still down. He let me take a few pictures then swam off.
I love that his fabulous dotty pattern is even on his eyes and the amazing frilled effect he has on his mouth.

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I think I am always proudest of underwater wildlife shots as its their ocean and they can swim off and vanish at any point, that they stay and give me a chance to see and photograph them is very special.

Do you plan which shots you want to get when you travel, or are you an impulsive snapper?

I may have some shots in mind but I always adapt to what happens at the time. Even with ‘classic’ shots of landmarks or scenery, it really needs a dramatic sky or interesting lighting effects to make them come alive.

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I am always on the lookout for an interesting shot and they can happen very unexpectedly. This one was taken in torrential rain from Edinburgh’s Grassmarket as I had been driving through and stopped to capture the Edinburgh Tattoo fireworks above the Castle, no filters or photoshop required.
What’s the best impromptu shot you’ve taken?
Just last week, I spotted the moon emerging from behind Edinburgh Castle as I walked down Princes Street, I had to dash across the road and find a view through the trees before I missed my bus!

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I know you make prints of some of your photos. How else do you merchandise them?
It’s mainly been by word of mouth so far, I also had a stand at Scotland’s Boat Show last year & have some postcards at Thread & Heather in Edinburgh.
My Photographs are available as wall art, postcards, greetings cards, on cushions, calendars and whatever you would like them on – size & quality permitting 😄
My paintings are one offs, but I usually do a print of them also. If it’s a private commission then totally unique, no prints.

I also do food photography for my baking. Most recently I had the privilege of making my best friends’ wedding cake as my gift to them. I loved the effect of sunlight on the sugar lace, edible paint and pearls I had decorated the cake with.

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I can vouch for that cake, Lesley. Not only did it look amazing, it also tasted divine – both layers. Having tasted many of your cakes, I have to ask, are they available to order?
When I’m not in the water I do love to cook and since moving back to Scotland I have done a lot more baking. I’ve always brought homemade things to parties and get togethers and people started asking for more.
Popular requests for baking are Chocolate Guinness Cake, Carrot Cake, White Chocolate & Raspberry, Brownies, Tequila & Lime, Spiced Cranberry Cookies and Sticky Toffee Pudding.
Savoury requests include Lasagne and filo pastry quiches.
I also do gluten free, nut free and dairy free requests.

Are there some links you could share with us to view your work and to order items we would like to buy?
I post some of my work on Facebook: Siren Art & Siren BakesInstagram (@siren_art) and Twitter (@Siren_Art) and they are the main ways that people contact me.
I have a holding page at www.siren-art.com and am working on the website for 2016.
It’s best to get in touch and discuss what you are looking for and what you like.

Thank you so much for visiting, Lesley. It’s been great to sit and chat with you, and thank you for the cake. Your Chocolate Guinness cake was fantastic.

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Well, hope you enjoyed meeting Lesley, folks. Sorry if talk of Chocolate Guinness cake has your mouth watering, but it really was rather special. Think it’s the creamy, gooey frosting …mmmm!

If you live anywhere near Edinburgh, I can recommend you order one from Lesley.

You’ll not regret it.

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Do you have a favourite recipe? Tell me in the comments and, who knows, if I like the sound of it, I might invite you to join me by the fire for a chat, a cuppa…and a slice of cake.

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Searching for Summer

Yes, I know! I’m a bit early. We’re still waiting for spring, here in Scotland.

That’s if I was searching for summer, all lower case. But I’m not.

I’m Searching for Summer, or, at least, the main character in my brand new novel is.

Searching for Summer

The first book in the The reluctant Detective Series.

Searching for Summer Final

And, before I tell you anything about the book itself, I have to tell you how delighted I am with the cover! The artwork is by Michelle Campbell, and I am delighted to have the original 27x36cm, signed, framed painting on my wall. It is beautiful.

There is more of Michelle’s paintings on her Instagram page, SHELLSBELLSART, and she can be contacted on fragglecamp (at) gmail (dot) com if you are interested in commissioning her for your book cover.

Tim Pow converted the painting into the book cover, another great job, and Tim can be contacted via his website http://www.timpowfilms.net

He made a fantastic job of the back cover too:

Back Cover with blurb. PNG

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 So what is Searching for Summer about?

The first novel in The Reluctant Detective Series.

Mirabelle’s daughter, Summer, disappears one Friday night, and Mirabelle would dearly love to rewind that day and live it differently. Instead, she is left not knowing if Summer is alive or dead, went of her own accord or was taken against her will.
Casting all other concerns aside – food, sleep, work, relationships – in her desperate need to find the answers, she takes to the streets of Edinburgh in search of Summer.
Searching along wynds snaking behind old buildings, through ancient doors and tiny spiral stairways, showing Summer’s photograph to everyone she meets in shops, museums and nightclubs, Mirabelle becomes a reluctant detective, gathering clues, trying to make sense of them in order to find her missing daughter.

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Set in Edinburgh, Searching for Summer could be called Kaleidoscope Fiction: Contemporary Women’s Fiction, a relationship novel with a hint of romance, a soupçon of crime, and more than a dollop of mystery.

If you don’t know Edinburgh, you will get to know it as Mirabelle wanders its streets and wynds.

Mirabelle loved living in Edinburgh: loved the atmosphere created by a city whose main shopping street looked across the road to a castle, Edinburgh Castle standing guard over Princes Street, its severe façade softened by the gardens skirting it, the gardens themselves cocooned from the bustle and noise, folded into their own tree-lined valley, with paths dipping into and out of its depths.

She knew the adage, Edinburgh was ‘all fur coat and nae knickers.’ She was well acquainted with its underbelly, its darker side, saw its dirty linen, but loved it anyway.

A novel to take you through a multitude of emotions as Mirabelle searches for Summer.

Trouble is, she keeps finding other people.

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Searching for Summer

Available NOW

On Amazon

FeedaRead.com

or to order in bookstores

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A Blank Page

This is not about THE Blank Page. The one every writer dreads, the one that stares back at you from screen or notebook, begging to be filled with winsome words.

No, this is a short story about A blank page. A different blank page. It is a short story in response to a writing prompt given by Amanda Staley in the Writers’ Coffeehouse G+ Community.

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A Blank Page

A short story by Christine Campbell

Justin stared at the blank page attached to his easel. Six-thirty in the morning and it was still blank. This was the seventeenth blank page he’d been confronted with since he rolled home from the pub last night with Steve’s remark ringing in his ears.

‘Gotta go,’ Steve said, downing his last mouthful. ‘Gotta put the finishing touches to my sketch for tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow?’

‘Yeah, exhibition time, remember? You’ve probably already submitted yours.’ He thumped Justin on the back and started putting his coat on. ‘Not like me. Always at the last minute. Can’t stop fiddling with the blessed thing, probably making it worse instead of better. Oh to have your flair and natural talent. You don’t need to fiddle. Sketching seems to come easy to you as breathing.’

Justin smiled. It was true, he did find it easy. Give him a subject and in a few sweeps of a pencil, he had it captured.

He’d forgotten about the whole exhibition thing, though, and, contrary to Steve’s assumption, he had not submitted. He signaled the barman for another pint. No worries, he’d skip this one. It was only an art college exhibition.

Just as Steve moved off, he threw back the killer remark. ‘Wouldn’t care so much, but it’s fifty percent of this year’s final assessment. See ya!’

And he was gone.

Grief! So it was!

The memory of Professor Clarke standing in front of them, trying to get their attention as they all packed up for home, shouting the information, waving a sheet of paper at them, telling them to take one as they went…it all came flooding back with the beer he swallowed.

He hadn’t bothered to read what was on the sheet of paper. All he remembered was, it wasn’t blank!

Finishing his pint too quickly, feeling its effects as he grabbed his coat and staggered to his rooms he lunged into the flat and dived into the drawer where he’s stuffed the forgotten instructions.

Grief! Steve was right. Fifty sodden’ percent! Fifty! And it had to be ‘new work. Not seen or submitted previously.’ That put paid to one of the plans he’d hatched on his way home.

Seventeen failures later, he was staring at a blank sheet of art paper tacked to his easel, with nothing in his mind. Nothing! Nada! Rien!

He knew there were seventeen failures lying crumpled at his feet because he had started a new pad of eighteen sheets and here he was on the last one with nothing to draw. Another hour and he’d be too late to sneak it into the exhibition along with all the other last minute entries.

Closing his eyes, he could visualise the area he’d been assigned. A delightfully prominent spot, assigned to him as one of the Professor’s  favoured pupils, the rest of his year’s work already beautifully displayed there with just the right sized spot left expectantly dead centre for this most important piece of the year.

The piece he’d supposedly been working on all term.

The piece he hadn’t bothered to do, assuming he could rustle something up anytime, and what did it matter anyhow. It would be good enough. He was great at sketching — once he had the inspiration.

Inspiration, that fickle, flirtatious female had waltzed out the door as he’d staggered in last night.

And there it was.

A blank page.

And half an hour left.

He showered and changed into fresh clothes, stood at the easel again and summoned the fickle female.

This time she came at his call. Elated, he did what he had to do, gathered his things and rushed out the door, his coat flapping behind him as he dashed down the stairs out onto the street and made a crazy flight to the art college. Last of the last, he hung his work, stepped back and smiled. Sublime. Inspired. Unique. Perfect.

Standing well back, modesty forbidding him from flaunting his smugness, he watched the punters view his work, delighted that it drew so many comments, initiated so many conversations among them, caused so many to stand gazing at it, deep in thought, as he’d intended.

Even Professor Clarke had smiled and nodded his head, as though seeing for the first time the quality of his student.

Victory was his! Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

Steve was speechless. ‘Wow! Don’t know how you do it. Always a shocker how far out the box your work is,’ what he eventually managed to get out.

The description Justin had pinned beside his work had invited the viewer

~~ to interpret the work as he would ~~ to allow his mind to wander where it could ~~ to view his work as a catalyst to deep, meaningful pondering~~

Perhaps it should not have surprised him when the year assessment results were posted out, and, after ‘deep, meaningful pondering,’ these were the marks Professor Clarke gave him:

A blank sheet of paper.

A smaller, but equally empty page as the one he’d so proudly hung as the masterpiece of the exhibition.

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