Category Archives: celebrations

Irish traditions ~ St Patrick’s Day!


Aye, the luck o’ the Irish… who else could find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? Certainly not this girl. But shamrocks and leprechauns are part of the Irish folklore and tradition.

And the movie Waking Ned Devine takes place in Ireland. Only in the movies could that convoluted a plan to claim the lottery winnings happen. My favourite part of the movie (apart from watching Jackie and Michael tearing around the countryside on a motorcycle in their birthday suits) was the beautiful scenery of the country.

I’ve schmoozed with Royalty having met Princess Anne but we never had the opportunity to chat about our favourite tipple – mostly our families and my connection to the place where we met. However, I do have one thing in common with former President Obama and his First Lady – Guinness! Although, I find it doesn’t taste as good here as there. Maybe because it’s too chilled in my part of the world? Dunno.

By Pete Souza (Executive Office of the President of the United States) (White House Flickr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
There is an art to pulling the perfect pint and it looks like the First Lady has mastered it, even under extremely close scrutiny…

And how about a tune suitable to the occasion when many of your have partaken in copious amounts of green beer and/or Irish Whisky.

I’ll close this post with the Irish proverb…

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.

Welcome 2019!

welcome 2019

Welcome 2019!

Depending on where you are in the world, New Year’s celebrations are long since finished. Here, in my part of the world, they’ve just begun to welcome 2019.

In Scotland, the celebration is known as Hogmanay, and in the city of Edinburgh, the festivities are three days long! Now that’s a party.

My plans for seeing out 2018 and bringing in 2019 changed rather abruptly on Christmas eve, and I had to cancel them.  Two broken ribs and a cracked one (not mine, my husband’s) have that effect on things.

Vieux-Québec will have to wait another year. I wanted to be there to see in the new year so badly because I wrote about it in It Happened on Dufferin Terrace. Seeing the Ferris wheel and all the restaurants and bistros along the Grande-Allée with their outdoor patios open and the street turned into a giant dance floor. The night culminating with the fireworks display from the Plains of Abraham.

How did I see 2019 in since our plans changed? The same as every other year – in bed and sound asleep before midnight.

What did you do to bring in the new year?




#BurnsSupper with my guest Bob Atkinson


January 25, 1759-July 21, 1796

Once again, it’s time for a Burns Supper celebration. This year my special guest is all the way from Fort William, author, Robert Atkinson.

Before we get started, do you prefer Robert or Bob?

First of all, I prefer Bob rather than Robert.

#BurnsSupperWelcome to Celtic Connexions, Bob! Do sit down and make yourself comfortable. 

Thanks for hosting me on your Burns Supper Celebration.

Let’s start by getting to know you better. Can you tell us about yourself?

I was born in a village outside Fort William, in the Western Highlands. I left the area to join the British army when I was seventeen, and came home fifteen years later with a lovely Irish wife and three Irish children. My wife and I met while I was serving in Northern Ireland. We like to see our story as one of the blessings to come out of the terrible days of the Irish troubles.

I’m now a retired civil servant, whose aging legs don’t carry him into the hills and remote glens as often as they used to. Still, the imagination remains free to wander.

We have a mutual friend, Julie Jordan, who writes as Dayna Leigh Cheser. How did you come to meet her?

I came to know Julie Jordan via Twitter. She contacted me one day to ask if I’d ever been to Lochbuie on the Isle of Mull. In her latest novel her main character was born in a castle which Julie had pictured on an island which lies off Lochbuie. I’d only been to Mull once, and never to Lochbuie. Still, I love camping in the wilds with my family, and on my next trip my brother and I took the ferry to Mull and visited Julie’s island. Alas, the only inhabitants are a few sheep and rabbits, but Julie didn’t seem to mind. In fact I think it pleased her that no one had ever lived there.

In addition to our mutual friend, we also have something else in common. We’re both fans of Runrig. Let me put one of their songs on softly in the background while we chat. This is one of my favourites.

Have you been to Canada?

I’m sorry to say I’ve never been to Canada. My wife and I have been to the U.S. half a dozen times. She’s a sun worshipper, so we invariably head for California, usually San Diego.

I would love to follow the trail taken by many of the Highland emigrants who sailed to Canada during the dark days of the Highland clearances. So many of our glens lie desolate and empty, with only a scatter of ruins to tell that people had ever lived there.

In nearby Glen Pean, for instance, sixty men by the name of Macmillan rallied to Prince Charlie’s banner in 1745. Within seventy years, nothing remained but the wind and the heather. I remember watching a documentary about the Highland diaspora, and listening to an elderly Canadian talk of his Scottish heritage. His name was Macmillan and his people came from Glen Pean.

Can I get you a drink? I have a small selection of whiskies if you’d like a dram before we eat. Or we can always have something else.

A drink? Any Hebridean malt would be very welcome, thank you, although my favourite dram is Talisker, the only whisky distilled on the Isle of Skye. They still use peat and sea wrack to dry the barley, which adds a wonderful smoky flavour to the whisky.

By Chris huh (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
You’re in luck. I happen to have a bottle of Talisker. I prefer the Speyside Malts, particularly 18 year old Cardhu (which you can’t buy in Canada) and 18 year old Glenlivet. They’re both very smooth.

Well, while we wait for our meal to be ready, let’s chat about your writing. The Last Sunset was your debut novel, if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell us what it is about?

The Last Sunset was my debut novel. It’s a time travel adventure set in a glen reputed to be haunted, following a massacre by redcoat soldiers in 1746. In a land where the boundaries between past and future events are blurred, a series of coincidences sees three sets of characters from different time periods drawn back in time to the scene of that original massacre. All respond to the atrocities taking place around them, each in their own way altering the course of events.

My chef, Donald, announces the meal is ready.


We’ll start with The Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

My cock-a-leekie soup isn’t made in the traditional way. I’m not a fan of prunes so I leave them out.

By Laurel F (originally posted to Flickr as Cock-a-leekie Soup) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The skirl of the pipes announces the presentation of the haggis. I’m pleased to say that we have Harry MacFayden addressing the chieftain o’ the puddin’ race this evening.


By Biology Big Brother [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I hope you’re enjoying your virtual “Canadian” Robbie Burns night, Bob.

I understand you’ve completed the sequel to The Last Sunset. Can you tell us anything about it?

My second novel, Red Sky In The Morning, concludes the story begun in The Last Sunset, taking the tale into the realms of alternate history.

Both books were inspired by the yearning to see the graves of Culloden emptied of their Highland dead, and our glens untouched by the Highland clearances.

I’ve been to Fort William a few times (stayed overnight and rode the Jacobite to Mallaig once and the other time drove out to walk under the viaduct and visit the Glenfinnan Monument). Do you have a favourite place you like to go to?

I hope you enjoyed your visits to Fort William. In particular I hope the weather behaved itself while you were here. I have this urge to apologise whenever I see tourists who have become victims of our unpredictable weather.

A favourite place? There are so many: from hidden white sand beaches, to remote hill lochs. In every direction there are castles, ancient hill forts, ruined sheilings, deep and myserious lochs, many with their own legendary water beast. Loch Morar, for instance, on the journey from Fort William to Mallaig, has seen almost as many sightings of strange creatures as has Loch Ness. Do they contain creatures unknown to science? Perhaps. There are a lot of locals who’ve seen things they can’t explain, but are reluctant to discuss it for fear of ridicule.

My favourite place of all is probably the Isle Of Skye, where I love to search for fossils of ancient creatures which are known to science. It’s extremely unlikely that Loch Ness and Loch Morar are inhabited by any survivors from the Jurassic period, but the dinosaurs certainly did roam what would one day become the Hebrides.

Do you have any more writing projects in the works? Another WIP perhaps?

My work in progress is the story of four young children who are in the throes of losing their mother to cancer. In the midst of this trauma they begin to experience supernatural activity in their home. With my love of history, there are of course links to something ancient and mysterious. The story, to a large extent, is autobiographical.

We have trifle for dessert. I hope you like it.

By Benjah-bmm27 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When we’re finished eating, we’ll take our coffee and some shortbread into the lounge and listen to more Scottish music and talk a bit more.

Where can your books be purchased? | | Greyhart Press

Here’s one of the Runrig songs you provided.

And your author links? Where can folks find you?

Once again, Melanie, thanks for having me on your blog. I hope the night goes well for you.

Thank you for coming, Bob. It’s been a pleasure hosting you here at Celtic Connexions and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better.



Our 41st Wedding Anniversary

Happy Anniversary

to my wonderful husband!


wedding day photo
June 7, 1975

The wedding photo above was on the front of the invitations I made for our 25th anniversary that we celebrated in Scotland where we renewed our vows in the church at Quarriers Village (the orphanage where my father was raised).

Mt. Zion Church in Quarriers Village

We’re headed out tonight for a meal to celebrate. Not sure where yet, but we’re both leaning towards Indian food. And the restaurant where we’ll go for that is well within walking distance of our house.



St Patrick’s Day with JB Johnston of Brook Cottage Books!

JB JohnstonWelcome to Celtic Connexions. Come in, make yourself comfortable. I know you under two different names – JB and Debbie. Which would you prefer I used?

Hi Melanie, thank you so much for having me as a guest. I honestly don’t mind which name you use. I will answer to anything! Most people online know me as JB so I suppose that one’s okay. At book events I attend I get called by both names. Whatever anyone is comfortable with. The name JB is a shortened version of two names – Jontybabe, which was my original online name, and Just Books Johnston! A little joke about when asked what I bought on a shopping trip I always say, ‘Just Books!’ My real name is of course Debbie but I do most of my writing under the name J.B.

I made sure to have Doritos and wine on hand since I know you enjoy them. One of the wines is from the Niagara region of Ontario, the other from somewhere in South America, Argentina I think. Hope you like red. I don’t have a lot of white wine, although I can send my manservant, Donald, to the wine cellar to see what’s there.

Oh thank you Melanie. Doritos are my guilty pleasure but I have to restrict myself to one bag a week now otherwise I’d be hugely fat! Friday nights are the nights that I settle down on the sofa with my Doritos and wine and I watch a movie with my son. I’m more of a rose or white wine girl myself but I have been known to partake in a glass of red although I do avoid it as it makes me very giggly and even more silly than I normally am. Also, it makes my face go very red too.

It is only Thursday, but then it’s a special occasion – and these Doritos are virtual so you can have as many as you like.

Ah, the manservant says we have some Jackson Triggs Sauvignon Blanc in the cellar. Shall we open one of them? It’s a very nice wine. * gives manservant the nod and a few minutes later, the wine appears in a cooler with two glasses already filled for us*

Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself? The readers at Celtic Connexions know Brook Cottage Books but not necessarily the woman behind the brand.

JB Johnston

JB JohnstonOh gosh! It always feels funny talking about myself! I’m so used to promoting other people. Well, I am 45 years old and a bit of a book freak in case anyone hadn’t noticed. I am a fully qualified and practicing social worker in the real world although I am desperate to have a full time career in the bookish world and hope that one day someone notices me and offers me a job! Although not based in England, I’d be more than happy to fly to the mainland for meetings! Yes I’m that desperate for a job in publishing. I’d love to start branching out also and start writing magazine articles. I have some great ideas for articles and the plan is to start compiling them into a folder and pitching them to magazines.

I love walking and running and I used to be a real gym bunny until a shoulder injury slowed me down a little. I’m waiting for surgery to correct that. I’m always looking for new challenges and have turned into an adrenaline junkie. I abseiled down a very large tower a few years ago for charity and I’m always on the lookout for an adventure! Until my shoulder injury I was always taking part in charity runs but I’ve had to stop doing that for a while as apparently I swing my arms a lot when I run and that’s not good for my shoulder!

I’m very family orientated and have a real interest in special needs and parenting issues as my daughter has autism and a learning disability. I am very happily married to a wonderful man who is an accountant! I have 2 children and 2 step children and a mad dog. As well as Brook Cottage Books I have a personal blog  and I have just started a product review site

What made you decide to start a book blog?

Well, a number of years ago I originally had a special needs blog called IT’S A CRAZY WORLD. That blog no longer exists now as I was concerned that now my daughter was much older someone in the real world would recognise that I was writing about her and tell her about it. On that blog I used to write some book reviews. I’ve always been an avid reader and constantly have my nose stuck in a book. However, the requests for reviews became so great that I knew I needed a dedicated site just for bookish things. I was really interested in having authors on the blog with interviews and guest posts too and I wanted to take part in book tours. And so, Brook Cottages was born and has evolved into something way beyond what my original expectations ever were for the blog. Now, as well as book reviews and author spots I coordinate and run virtual book tours which I absolutely adore. Although, this means never having a day off! But, I can live with that. Brook Cottage Books has taken over my entire life and made me realise that being involved in the book world is actually my dream job. I have met so many wonderful and generous people through the book world that I feel this is where I belong.

You were shortlisted for an award for your blog, were you not?

Oh yes I was! In 2013 I was shortlisted for Romance Blogger of the Year at the Festival of Romance. That was a great feeling and a wonderful black tie event to attend. Everyone was spruced up in their finest and to be honest I was more than a little nervous! Unfortunately I didn’t win but my lovely friend Sharon Goodwin did win with her blog Jera’s Jamboree. However, the lifestyle magazine I am involved with  did win an industry award for Innovation in Romantic Fiction so that was a proud moment for those involved. At that event it suddenly dawned on me that book bloggers were at last receiving recognition for all the hard work they do. It was amazing! In 2014 I was honoured to be asked to present the award to that year’s winner Sophie Hedley for her amazing blog Reviewed the Book.

If memory serves, you’re from Northern Ireland. What sort of things do you and your family do to celebrate St Patrick’s Day?

Yes Melanie, I am from Northern Ireland. I live about 14 miles outside of Belfast. To be honest I don’t really do anything to celebrate St Patricks Day. It does mean a day off work so I usually spend it being quite lazy with a big lie in, daughter permitting! My husband can usually be found on the golf course every St Patricks Day as there is usually some sort of golf competition on that day. St Patrick’s Day celebrations always involve lots of Guinness though!

JB Johnston
By Dirk Van Esbroeck (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I’ll put on a bit of music for us to listen to while we sip our wine.

I hope you like corned beef and cabbage. It’s a staple here on St Patrick’s Day. If not, I won’t be offended. I also have a vegetable curry simmering in my slow-cooker. I know it’s not Irish but hey, why not?

JB Johnston
By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
Well I’m afraid I’m going to have to go for the vegetable curry being a vegetarian. I do love cabbage though and often stink the house out with it! It does not make me popular with the rest of the household!

You took part in this past November’s #NaNoWriMo. Can you share any of this project with us?

Oh my goodness what a stressful but exhilarating time that was! When I was in the throes of it and people asked me about the book I froze with fright, terrified to talk about it in case I jinxed myself! I’m pretty sure a lot of people thought I was a little bonkers! Apologies to the lovely Carol Cooper who asked me about the book when in a lift with me in London and I looked like I was ready to climb out the roof of the lift! I’m a little less dramatic about it all now. At the moment I am trying to find the time to do some revisions and edits on the book and its currently sitting at over 60,000 words. After NaNo I couldn’t look at it for months! I was so traumatised! Lol. Anyway, the general gist of the book is this………..My main character runs away from a life that is already planned for her by a very domineering mother. She returns to her home town 10 years later after living in Italy all that time. She comes back with some secrets and attempts to rebuild relationships with those she left behind 10 years ago which doesn’t prove easy. It’s kind of a sad story about lost relationships and wasted time. It’s also about forgiveness, love and hope. I’m not altogether sure it’s any good and whether I’ll ever share it with anyone but I was sobbing writing the final chapter!

Anything else you can share with us about the woman behind BCB?

I’m not too sure there are too many interesting things to say about me but here goes –

  • Last year I co-wrote a book called Little Kitty, The Cat Burglar and all proceeds raised from sales go to charity. It’s a children’s book and was written by myself and a group of authors and illustrators to raise money for Alzheimers Research. The book was the brainchild of author Suzan Collins who does a lot to raise awareness of dementia issues. I was honoured to be asked to participate.
  • I used to have a spot on a radio show with author Nicky Wells. The show was called Books Rock and combined wonderful music with book news, author interviews and reviews! I miss doing that and hope that one day the show airs again! Nicky was brilliant as a DJ as well as being a fantastic author! She’s one of my favourite people!
  • I edited a book in 2013 under my real name Debbie Johnston– Little White Lies and Butterflies by Suzie Tullet. The book was shortlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize award. It’s a brilliant book! Go and buy it!
  • I’m afraid of the dark and always have been! I have a candle app on my phone that I switch on when I am staying away from home in a strange hotel so that I am not sleeping in complete darkness!
  • When I was 23 years old I was paid to be a model in a tourist board photo shoot for my town and had to dress as an Austrian milkmaid as the town is twinned with a town in Austria. I’d not long given birth to my son so was looking quite voluptuous in my outfit when the photographer offered me a glamour shoot! Needless to say I turned him down!
  • I got drunk when I was 15 years old and stole a horse as a dare, rode him about a field without a saddle or bridle and eventually fell off when he jumped over a hedge. My house was built in that very field many years later!
  • I have had the same group of 5 friends since I was at school. We are a close bunch and are always there for one another. I don’t know where I’d be without them. My next NaNoWriMo project may have characters based on each and every one of them. They are all a bit worried about that! I can’t think why!
  • When I was 17 I very nearly joined the Navy. But then I met my first husband and the rest they say is history. I did try to join the naval reserves last year but apparently I am too old now.

I’m not sure how Irish this is, but sometimes after a meal, especially if it’s a special occasion, we indulge in a dram of single malt whisky. So, if you’d like to carry on in our tradition, I have a selection of Irish ones to choose from.

JB Johnston
By Cafeirlandais at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [CC BY 2.5 (, GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], from Wikimedia Commons
Blarney stone
Usually, I invite my guests to kiss my ‘Blarney Stone’ as they come in. I thought I would see how well you do on your way out… Think you can manage? I’ve added a twist this year. It’s lower to the ground and you have to bend backwards over a railing. Don’t worry, the manservant will be your spotter.

Well it’s a good job I am double jointed! And, you should know that I can do the splits too so this will be no problem to me! Although, I should add that once on the floor, I usually require some assistance to get back up again!

Thanks for stopping by. It’s been a treat to have you here after being a host in so many of your book tours.

Thank you for having me here Melanie. It’s been wonderful being here and thank you for being such a valued member of the Brook Cottages family.



And how about a tune suitable to the occasion when many of your have partaken in copious amounts of green beer and/or Irish Whiskey.

I’ll close this post with the Irish proverb…

May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven
half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.

Haggis, Tatties and Neeps, Oh My!


January 25, 1759-July 21, 1796

Once again, it’s time for a Burns Supper celebration. This year my special guest is all the way from Edinburgh, author, Janice Cairns.

Welcome to Celtic Connexions, Janice! Do sit down and make yourself comfortable. 

Let’s start by getting to know you better. Can you tell us about yourself?

Born in Ayrshire and educated at Ayr academy, I’ve had an assortment of jobs – child care, law, insurance, media and creative writing. I live in Edinburgh now; the city has been my home for the last thirty years. It is here, my dream of becoming a published author, has come true.

My life could be described as a happy mix of marketing for my first book, and writing her sequel. I find time in my busy schedule to enjoy walks at the Botanic gardens, or by the sea, or in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. I’ve always considered my walks as importantr, as I think these activate my creative thoughts and actually inspire me to write.

I didn’t realize you’re an Ayrshire girl – born and raised in Burns Country. Have you been to Canada?

No, I haven’t, but it is a country I would love to visit.

Can I get you a drink? I have a small selection of whiskies if you’d like a dram before we eat. Or we can always have something else.

By Chris huh (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Well, while we wait for our meal to be ready, Janice, let’s chat about your writing. Forgiving Nancy was your debut novel, if I’m not mistaken. Can you tell us what it is about?

haggisYes, indeed, Forgiving Nancy is my debut novel. It is love story, which is set in Edinburgh, in the 1980s. The story opens with Nancy Campbell, down in her luck. She meets a wealthy bachelor, Maxwell Elliot, and soon becomes married to him. It is an unlikely marriage, which crosses the barriers, of age, culture, and class. Within a short time, the marriage is crumbling, and Nancy, who is young and beautiful, is enticed away from her slightly eccentric, millionaire husband. She becomes involved with Callum Macduff, who is obsessed, with running his circus, and who is only interested in sex. This affair does not last either as Maxwell finds out. The story then turns into a journey, both poignant and heartbreaking, for Nancy. After a lot of soul-searching, she finds herself in a homeless shelter, but then she finds her way back to Maxwell, who eventually forgives, the mistakes she has made. Through the main plot is also weaved the story of Stella Golding’s unreciprocated love. At one time Stella, had been Maxwell’s housekeeper, and had hoped to marry him. Nevertheless, it all turns out okay, for Stella too. This fashion conscious lady, of a certain, age goes on to find true love, unexpectedly, after experiencing heartache over Maxwell.

The novel’s backdrop, is the beautiful city of Edinburgh, and in many of the chapters, real streets are referred to, so a reader can get a real feel, for what the city is all about, even if they have not been there before.

My chef, Donald, announces the meal is ready.

We’ll start with The Selkirk Grace.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

My cock-a-leekie soup isn’t made in the traditional way. I’m not a fan of prunes so I leave them out.

By Laurel F (originally posted to Flickr as Cock-a-leekie Soup) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The skirl of the pipes announces the presentation of the haggis. I’m pleased to say that we have Harry MacFayden addressing the chieftain o’ the puddin’ race this evening.


By Biology Big Brother [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I hope you’re enjoying your virtual “Canadian” Robbie Burns night, Janice.

I understand you’ve completed the sequel to Forgiving Nancy. Can you tell us anything about it?

I am so excited about the sequel, and first I’d like to say, the atmosphere and the mood of All the way from America, is so different from Forgiving Nancy, yet, I am still writing about so many of the original characters. In the sequel, Maxwell Elliot, has reinvented himself, and is launching into a new creative life. He sets out to become an artist, but it is not plain sailing for him. Maxwell’s past creeps in, and causes havoc for him, as he begins to receive, letters from a former love, in America. Also, he gets entangled in an afternoon of erotic pleasure with a friend’s daughter. The afternoon becomes his guilty secret, as he returns to the straight and narrow path of his creative goals. In the sequel, Nancy Elliot inhabits a different world too. She takes up the opportunity of becoming a model in a fashion show. However, what should have been a wonderful and fun evening, for Nancy, is also thwarted by shadows of the past. The main characters of Nancy and Maxwell, are putting their best foot forward, but destiny is determined to spoil their plans. Yet, in the end, everything turns out fine for the Elliot’s, as it does for Stella, who decides the best thing for her, is to return to London, after her marriage to Vincent did not turn out, as hoped. The only similarity the sequel has to Forgiving Nancy is that Callum Macduff, is in the same place as he was before, he does not seem to grow with further experiences of love.

What made you choose the titles for your two novels?

As far as Forgiving Nancy is concerned, way back, I had thought of calling it An Edinburgh Love Story, but as time went on, I began to think, this was too general a title, and not specific enough. So, I then thought West End Intrigue, would be a good title, as much of the setting was at the West End of Edinburgh, and because there was a lot of intrigue, in the book. But, then, I thought more deeply about it, and it occurred to me, one of main themes in the book, ‘forgiveness’, could be used in the title. Since Nancy was the main female character in the book, I then felt absolutely certain, I should call the book Forgiving Nancy.

At the moment, the working title, for the sequel is All the way from America. The reason I have chosen this is because it describes one of the most poignant moments, of the sequel; that moment, when Favia comes all the way from America, with high hopes of rekindling love with Maxwell, only to find Maxwell has no romantic interest in her. After all those years, coming all the way on the plane, only to be disappointed.

I’ve been to Edinburgh a few times. I love the photographs you share of the city on Facebook. Do you have a favourite place you like to go to?

Yes, Melanie, I love to go up to Edinburgh Castle, I love spending time there. Often, I will take myself there and spend a few hours exploring. There are always lots of visitors up there too, no matter the time of year, and I love mingling with the visitors. It’s also a great place to take photos of Edinburgh. Wonderful views of the city, can be seen from the castle. I love to saunter all the way down The Royal Mile too, after being at the castle. I love all the wonderful closes of The Royal Mile, I love to take photos of the closes, which have so much history, attached to them. I am so fascinated by The Royal Mile and the closes, actually, that these aspects of the city are mentioned in the sequel. I know your question asks me to mention one favourite place, Melanie, but loving Edinburgh, as I do, I have to say, there are a great many favourite places that are so very special to me – the Grassmarket, for example and the lovely Victoria Street, then places like Cockburn Street. I love nothing nicer than having lunch in Cockburn street on a summer’s day. Then, of course, there is being by Duddingston loch in the summer, and having a picnic there. I love watching the swans on the river there.

Do you have any more writing projects in the works? Another WIP perhaps?

Yes, I am delighted to say, I have more writing projects up my sleeve, rather than in the works. I am beginning to formulate ideas, for the writing of a third book, but this book will be worlds away, from the first two, with completely different characters, and themes. A new stage is being set, as it were. So far, I have been filling notebooks, with ideas for a third book. As yet, I have not considered the plot, and who the characters will be, in it. All I can say, so far, is this is a book I must write.

We have trifle for dessert. I hope you like it.

By Benjah-bmm27 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
When we’re finished eating, we’ll take our coffee and some shortbread into the lounge and listen to some Scottish music and talk a bit more.

Where can you purchase copies of Forgiving Nancy? | | Safkhet Publishing

And your author links? Where can folks find you?

Facebook | Blog | Twitter

Thank you so much, Melanie, for inviting me here, for the Robbie Burns Celebration.

Thank you for coming, Janice. It’s been a pleasure hosting you here at Celtic Connexions and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better.



Out with the old…

out with the old

Out with the old…

Another year has come and gone. Where did the time go? It doesn’t seem possible that 365 days have passed since 31st December 2014. But they have. Wow!

Any resolutions for 2016?

Does your city, town or village do anything to send off the old year? If you live in or near Edinburgh, they put on a fantastic night of entertainment/. And yes, the Scots call New Year’s Eve Hogmanay. That’s a fun word. Hogmanay.

St Andrews Day with guest Rosemary Gemmell

St Andrews Day
Welcome to my little corner of Canada, Rosemary. I’m glad you were able to make the virtual trip across the pond to celebrate St Andrews Day here at Celtic Connexions.

I take it you’re ready for a good old-fashioned ceilidh – Canadian style.

Come and sit by the fire St Andrews Day take the chill off.*escorts my esteemed guest to one of the tartan wing-back chairs facing the crackling fire*

St Andrews Day
photo from Flickr

We’ll start with something ‘fizzy’ to celebrate your latest book contract. Can you tell us a bit about the novel and the series?

*Picks up bell off side table and summons manservant, Donald*

Thanks so much for inviting me to your St Andrew’s Day Party, Melanie – I’m honoured to be here! My most recent novel released this year is The Highland Lass, which fits right in as it’s set completely in Scotland. Mainly contemporary, Eilidh Campbell returns to the Inverclyde area on the west coast of Scotland seeking answers to her past – with the help of the handsome Scot she meets on the transatlantic flight!

Along the way, she traces the story of Highland Mary (an ancestress) and her relationship with Robert Burns. Mary tells her own story in short alternate chapters from 1785-6.

*Leans forward and switches on the music* I think this piece by the Corries is perfect to listen to after talking about Robbie Burns and his Highland Mary.

From the time one of your novels is accepted to publication, do you have to go through an extensive editing process?

Yes, both my publishers, Tirgearr in Ireland, who publish my Aphrodite and Adonis series, and Crooked Cat in the UK who published The Highland Lass, assign an editor to each author and we work with that editor until the book is as good as possible. Some books need lighter editing than others but all go through the process.

The meal will start with Cullen Skink for the soup course, followed by haggis, then roast venison with tatties and neeps.

St Andrews Day
By Metukkalihis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Yum – can’t wait to start on that food. Good job it’s virtual calories!

We’ll have a dram with our haggis course. I have 18 year old Glenlivet and Cardhu, and 14 & 18 year old Oban. Which one would you like, if any?

I have to confess I don’t drink whisky, though when I was young, I remember my father telling my mother that if she was going to drink alcohol it should be whisky as that was the purest drink! And he did give me a hot toddy once when I was unwell – clears up a cold quickly.

St Andrews Day
By Kim Traynor (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I have a Cabernet Shiraz from the Niagara region (East Dell Estates) that will taste lovely with the venison. We can order it from the winery and have it delivered right to our front door.

Ah, yes, I’ll have a glass of red wine, please – I allow myself a small glass of that with a meal now and then!

I have to confess, I’ve never cooked venison before so I hope it’s edible.

St Andrews Day
By Ewan Munro from London, UK (Crown, Barnsbury, London Uploaded by tm) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Music – The Corries, Runrig, Auld Blind Dogs. Which group do you like best?

I love Celtic music so I’m happy to listen to your choice and I’ll probably discover some new groups!

Loving this delicious meal, thanks, Melanie!

This is one of my favourite songs by the Old Blind Dogs.

I picked up a Dundee Cake to have for dessert and will start a pot of coffee using Chez Piggy (specially blended for a restaurant in nearby Kingston) blend.

St Andrews Day
By RGloucester (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
I’ll have Donald bring our cake and coffee back to the lounge where we can get comfortable in front of the fire again and chat some more.

Will there be a sequel to The Highland Lass?

I’m not planning a sequel to this one but I am trying to finish a different novel set in Scotland, with different characters and possibly completely contemporary – but with a little mystery again.

I can’t wait! I love novels set in Scotland.

Do you currently have any other writing projects on the go?

The third novella in my Aphrodite and Adonis series set on Cyprus has been accepted by Tirgearr for release in spring 2016 – this is contemporary romance with a touch of mythological fantasy (as Romy Gemmell)! I had also started the first novel in a Victorian crime series but I haven’t got completely into it yet, and I have another contemporary novel on the go. Too many different projects at once!

I can sympathize. I’ve got a couple of projects on the go, although one is being sorely neglected while I work on the other on as my NaNoWriMo project.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I usually have two books on the go – one on kindle and one in print. I’m reading the second crime novel by Alexandra Sokoloff at the moment. She used to write Hollywood scripts and now lives in Scotland and her Huntress Moon series is excellent. I’m also reading my way through several romance novels on kindle in between. I’m shortly about to start Paying Guests by Sarah Waters, one of my favourite writers.

I’ll be sure to check these authors out. I’m always on the hunt for someone new.

*Pushes the play button on the CD player* I’ve set it on random this time but I really wanted you to hear the other songs first. I hope you like Runrig. I love their rock beat with the gaelic language, although I can’t remember if Alba is performed this way. I know a number of their songs are.

Oh this is another favourite of mine by the Old Blind Dogs. I’m really hoping to see them sometime when I’m in Scotland.

I hope you’re enjoying my eclectic tastes in music from folk to rock and back again. Normally, Donald would be clad in a kilt but I’ve embarrassed him too many times, so today he kept his trousers on.

We’ll close up with your author links. I hope you’ve enjoyed spending St Andrews Day here in Canada at Celtic Connexions.



Amazon Page:

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I’ve had a great time visiting with you and it’s made me celebrate St Andrew’s Day properly for a change.

Quebec City ~ Romantic Destination in Nouvelle France and fudge!

Day 4

June 25, 2015

Our last full day in Quebec City. What to do? Visit La Citadelle, of course. This fort is a working military base being home to the Royal 22nd Regiment known as the Van Doos so there were places we couldn’t go and we couldn’t take photos inside the buildings. The changing of the guard ceremony started at 10:00 so we had plenty of time to get there. Things worked out well for us as we had time to do the guided tour which ended back at the parade square in time for the ceremony to begin.

Entrance to La Citadelle
Sherman Tank
Walking to the highest point

Do you see what I see towards the left of this picture?

View from the highest point

Well, here’s a closer look. It’s the Price Building!

Skyline from La Citadelle

As promised our tour ended just in time for the ceremony to begin, although we didn’t have time to get to the far side of the parade grounds (where the flags are in this picture) which was the best vantage point to watch from… supposedly. I think we had a pretty good spot right where we were, except standing on the asphalt did get hard on the feet after a while.

Changing of the guard ceremony
The mascot
Guard in front of the left side of the entrance
Guard on the right side of the entrance

We bought some coasters and a guidebook on La Citadelle so rather than cart them around with us all day since the hotel was so close, we took them back there.

I had spied from our room earlier in the morning that most of the temporary fencing on the Plains of Abraham for the festival had been removed. The sun was shining so after breakfast we would take one last walk on the boardwalk. It’s much easier from this direction because 99% of the steps on it are all going down. I can do down but climbing is another story altogether.

Cruise ship docking

After watching the cruise ship approach and dock it was time for some liquid refreshment so we went to our other favourite pub in Quebec City – Pub Saint Alexandre pausing by La Maison de la littérature for a photo.

La maison de la littérature

A pint of Guinness and a shot of 18-year old Glenlivet has great restorative properties. Or was it just sitting down for a while and resting the weary feet?

A plate of fish and chips was brought out from the kitchen and the barmaid told us theirs were the best. After being somewhat disillusioned with our meal the night before, we said we’d come back later to eat.

Refreshed, thirst quenched and tiredness temporarily banished, we set out again.

Soeurs Augustines de la Miséricorde de Jésus
rue Couillard
Home of Pierre Émond on rue Hébert
Historic plaque on the Pierre Émond house
Stone house on rue Monseignor-de-Laval

By this juncture in time, any excuse to have a wee sit down, we took advantage.

Don on the wall on rue des Remparts
Me on the wall at the same location

If you look on Trip Advisor at the visitors pictures from the ghost tour we did, a tunnel similar to the one below is included. There’s a lot of work going on at the Museum of Civilization so perhaps that’s why we didn’t get a chance to go through here but with there being commercial space on the other side of the street, I’m pretty sure that this is the right tunnel.

Above ground tunnel off rue Saint-Pierre behind the Museum of Civilization

Another chance for a sit down. We rested on a bench and looked at the cruise ship and watch the people walking by and the other happenings on the river.

The cruise ship C.T.M.A Vacancier

At this rate we wouldn’t get to La Fudgerie before it closed so we dragged ourselves to a standing position – trust me, it was hard and headed back to rue du Cul de Sac.

This little guy stands outside the shop next to our sweet-tooth fix. I think his growl is worse than his bite. What do you think? You can take pictures of yourself with him but the watchful eye of the staff are on you.

Stuffed bear in front of Bilodeau Boutique

This bear family is adorable. Even my 5′ tall bear isn’t as large as the biggest one here. I would say he’s about the size of the one in front wearing the apron. I have plenty the size of the ‘baby’ snuggled under the arm of the big guy. You’re not allowed to touch them but you can photograph them.

The teddy bear family at La Fudgerie

But here we are. Chocolate, assorted bark, and most importantly, fudge! The shop smells heavenly. I don’t know how the staff can work in such an environment without being the size of… well, I won’t go there.

La Fudgerie

We encountered this busker on rue Notre-Dame. He was good. Spoons, fiddle, singing and great toe-tapping music.

Busker on rue Notre-Dame

The last thing we saw while in Vieux-Quebec was this oil tanker heading up river. We discovered once we got up to the promenade at the Chateau Frontenac that it was destined for the port at Levis.

Euronav oil tanker going up river

After taking the Funiculaire up to the promenade and finding a place to sit yet again, we saw this ship heading down river.

Container ship going down river.

And this one going up river. Guess we were in the wrong places at all the right times.

Freighter going up river

Supper! We went back to Pub Saint Alexandre and each had the fish and chips. Homemade tartar sauce, an enormous piece of fish plus salad and chips. I can’t imagine anyone getting a large order with two big honking pieces of fish like we got. Supper was washed down with the ‘brewed for them’ blonde ale. Our table was right in front of the fireplace but I’m willing to bet that in the winter our table and the one next to it aren’t there. I don’t remember from November because we were either sat in front of the big windows or in a booth.

I promise this is the last time but here’s the Price Building!

The Price Building
Fountain at Hôtel de Ville de Québec

We made one more stop at the small grocery/SAQ agency store for a bottle of champagne on rue de Jardins but they didn’t have any… sniff… 🙁

No trip to Quebec City would be complete without a picture of the cannonball in the tree roots on rue Saint-Louis. It’s been here forever (well almost) and gradually comes up a bit more as the tree grows.

Cannonball in the tree roots on rue Saint-Louis

There isn’t much to say about the next day other than we checked out and drove home.

J’adore Québec City and I can’t wait until I get back there again.