This and that...

So, here we are. The first of February. How did that happen? Well, I'll tell you.

The last five weeks have been a bit of a personal roller-coaster.

After the successful re-release of Highland Arms, I spent a wonderful Christmas Day with hubby

and his lovely step-dad, Joe, who was widowed last August. It made a welcome change to the usual routine of just the two of us. Cooking for a third person was fun, and he very much enjoyed his turkey with all the trimmings. He gave it a nice thumbs up! :-)

Then, near the end of the year, Joe took ill. The first time, really, in his 93 years. Over the next three weeks hubby and I visited him daily, and it was heart-breaking to watch. Sadly, the great sailor Joe passed away last week Saturday. He's now roaming the great seas in the sky.

So our minds are currently all over the place. Not with work, writing, editing or designing. A break away soon will be very welcome.

What's going on apart from that? Well, hubby has started German evening classes and I'm taking French classes to become up to speed for my level 2 French university studies in October. On y va...

And even though we've been busy, the next instalment in The Highland Chronicles, tentatively entitled Highland Escape, is coming along slowly but surely. I've revisited my draft, and fleshed it out a bit. I tend to race through the plot, meaning it would have ended up at novella length! Now that the brakes are on, I'm spending more time on each scene.

The Isle of Mull. The Wars of Independence. A knight without family ties. A young lady without a home. Sparks are flying, and not just from the clashing swords...

In the meantime, feel free to grab your copy of Highland Arms. It regularly crops up in the Amazon genre charts and it loves a nice outing! ;-)



Highland Arms – released again!

Hello friends,

Are you busy with your Christmas preparations? Cookies baked, shopping list written for the holidays? Or are you trying to escape it all?

We're still fairly calm here. Shopping isn't done yet, though we already have plenty of logs and coal to keep us warm at least. And wine, bubbly and beer chilled. But we'll do the food shop tomorrow. Not looking forward to facing the desperate crowds that pile up their trolleys like there's no tomorrow. Well, in this case, no post-Christmas. We'll see...


Right, so in the midst of all this festive chaos, Highland Arms was re-released through Crooked Cat Publishing. I'll always be grateful to The Wild Rose Press for giving me my first signed contract, but I'm also looking forward to new ventures. Highland Arms is the first in The Highland Chronicles series – a selection of historical romance adventures set in the Scottish Highlands during different time periods.

Highland Arms is set in 1720, five years after the first ill-fated Jacobite rebellion. Danger lurks all around you as the Jacobites are defeated, but not thrashed (like after the '45). So of course, my hero, Rory Cameron, is involved in some way. A rebellious Highlander waiting for his next chance. But along comes Miss Catriona MacKenzie, fresh from Edinburgh. And she pokes her nose into his business affairs, unravelling things that should remain hidden. 

The second book in the series will be Highland Escape (working title). Starting with the battle at Falkirk in July 1198, it tells the tale of a young Scottish knight, Cailean MacKinnon, whose life is saved by an older knight, who then dies in a skirmish. Meanwhile, a group of English knights kidnap the dead man's daughter to marry her off to a mercenary in the pay of King Edward. Cailean manages to kidnap her from the kidnappers and takes her to his remote castle on the isle of Mull. But Isobel isn't the grateful heiress he expected to find, and she soon seeks a way off the island... 

A third book is planned to take place 15 years after Highland Arms, around the time of the infamous '45 rebellion and will be based around a character who appears in Highland Arms as a crafty boy. 

So, have I whetted your appetite? :-) Why not make a start on the series now!

Highland Arms is busy climbing the Amazon charts in the UK already, 
currently at #65 in the Scottish Historical Romance charts.  



Blurb:

Betrayed by her brother’s lies, Catriona MacKenzie is banished from her home to her godmother’s manor in the remote Scottish Highlands. While her family ponders her fate, Catriona’s insatiable curiosity leads her straight into trouble–and into the arms of a notorious Highlander. 

Five years after an ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, Rory Cameron works as a smuggler to raise money for the cause–until Catriona uncovers a plot against him and exposes his activities. Now, Rory is faced with a decision that could either save their lives or destroy both of them. 

But he’s running out of time… 

~~~~~ 

Highland Arms is the first in The Highland Chronicles series of historical romance novels set in the Scottish Highlands.


Birthday or Christmas?

Today, as my 2nd part of the fabulous and popular Christmas with the Crooked Cats event, I'm chatting about birthdays. Mine, and that of others. December children.

It's tough being a December birthday child. Or is it? 



Many of my online friends are Sagittarians like me. We're a creative bunch! For example, authors Nicky Wells, Mandy James and Rose McClelland are all pre-Christmas birthday girls. 

But I can see the pity in your eyes. "Poor you," you say. Must be tough getting less attention as everyone is so focused on Christmas. 

And then, "Did your parents not combine celebrations when you were little?" 

Umm, no! From an early age onwards, I pointed out an important difference to my nearest and dearest: Christmas Eve is on the 24th. My birthday is on the 20th! There are three full days in between. They may as well be three months! ;-)

"But don't you get fewer presents?" 

I never thought so. There was equal focus to make my birthday special. It was 'my' day as opposed to Christmas, which was a day for the extended family. I had my birthday parties, later converted into trips into Heidelberg for a burger and some shopping.

As for family Christmas, sadly, there are very few of my relatives left now, so I cherish the memories of my gran's and aunt's cooking. And how many birthday girls and boys can say that they have home-made Christmas cookies on their birthday? I used to love baking with my gran and still have her old cookery books, one dating back to the 1930s when she was in training. I remember good afternoons in her kitchen. Freshly baked cookies!

"But it's dark and cold!" 

You mean it's atmospheric, with festive lights everywhere? Christmas trees, cosy markets, candles and spiced hot chocolate with marshmallows or mulled wine - what more would I want?

OK, for a while I envied my summer birthday friends. Barbecues, outdoor kids' party fun, trips out. But as a true winter girl, I prefer my season. It's even snowed on my birthday now and then. One particular time there was so much, we had a snowball fight and made snow angels. Happy me!

So, to all of you who pity us: don't! We're very happy with our dramatic, warm, cosy season... :-)

Today there's sadly no snow, but hubby and I will be going for a nice meal, followed by drinkies on the Royal Mile! We might even make it to the Christmas market...

~~~

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas!


~~~

PS: Today is also the re-release day for Highland Arms. Exciting! If you love historical adventure with danger and romance set in the windswept Scottish Highlands, check it out! It's now available through Crooked Cat Publishing on Amazon UK, Amazon US and Smashwords! :-) 


Celebrating St Nicholas Day

6th December is St Nicholas Day.

This is not really noted in the UK, but it is commemorated every year in Germany, where I grew up, in a really nice way.

On the night of the 5th to 6th December, kids put one boot outside their bedrooms (yes, I did; well, up to the age of around 12). Legend has it that during the night, St Nicholas fills it with nuts and tangerines, apples and chocolates and a couple of small presents. So, on the morning of the 6th, children find a small treasure when they wake up. :-) (Note: choose a non-smelly boot for better effect!)

But who was St Nicholas? And why does he go around German houses during the night before his name day, dishing out goodies?
Russian Icon of St Nicholas, c. 1500, ( (c) National Museum, Stockholm)
The original Nicholas was Greek bishop of Myra, in Lycia, Asia Minor, around 300 AD. Very little is known about the actual person – even accounts of his parents vary – although it appears he was very religious from an early age onwards. But there are plenty of legends.

He was said to have been very helpful and caring, often saving people from starvation. The number three seems to feature in various stories surrounding him. He is said to have resurrected three children killed by a butcher before he could turn them into pies; then he was rumoured to have saved three sailors during a fierce storm, guiding their ship to a safe haven.

Another (and perhaps the one that many will recognise) was about a poor man who had three daughters he was unable to provide with a dowry. The saint is said to have thrown three purses through a window and the chimney into their house (he was clearly afraid of being turned away!). Now, who does that remind you of? Yup! Good old (well, new-ish) Santa Claus!

Gentile da Fabiano's The dowry for the three virgins ((c) Pinoteca Vaticana)

St Nicholas died on 6th December (343?). He is one of only a few saints whose bones weren't scattered around Christendom. In fact, a number of his bones were transferred during turbulent times from Myra to Bari in Italy, earning him the attribution of Nicholas of Bari. The rest of his bones was collected shortly after. Apparently, Turkey has demanded the bones back. I wouldn't hold my breath.

St Nicholas is still revered by several Christian groups – Catholics, Anglican, Orthodox – in different ways, all across Europe. He is patron saint of aforementioned sailors, as well as bakers and merchants. Oh, and intriguingly of brewers and distillers. Prost!

The celebrations on the night to 6th December may stem from medieval monasteries, where novices dressed up as boy bishops and dished out alms to the community. Dressing up in a monastery sounds dodgy to modern ears, but I'm sure it was all very innocent...

One intriguing bit of information I discovered was that thanks to Martin Luther and his reformation St Nicholas was replaced by the Christkind, the Christ Child, as a giver of presents, in Germany. This was due to the reformation not recognising the sanctity of saints. I grew up thinking the Christkind left my pressies under our Christmas tree on the evening of 24th December (though you pretty quickly realise who's helping him choose them!). Not sure what it's like in the present day, though, with all the Santa media hype.

St Nicholas Day traditions live on in central and eastern Europe, but the emergence of modern-day Santa arriving through a chimney, leaving pressies for kids on the morning of 25th December, Christmas Day for those who haven't heard yet, has taken over.

In Britain, he has pushed Father Christmas, originally a Christmas visitor, not a giver of gifts, out of the way. Guess visitors were too boring and only gifts are deemed suitable to bribe kids (and adults) to behave for one day of the year...

Now, let me see if there's something in my boot this morning! Oh, and Frohe Weihnachten! :-)

~~~~~

Join me and fellow Crooked Cats as we celebrate the season! Just click on the banner below! 


Christmas with the Crooked Cats

From today up to 6th January 2015, I'm celebrating the winter season with a group of fabulous Crooked Cat authors!
So, come and join us!
Find seasonal short stories and poems, excellent gift ideas and great reading material for the holidays when you finally get to put your feet up! Everyone welcome!

We'll see you there! :-)