Thousand Islands Writers Festival 1st Annual Storefront Writing Contest

The inaugural Thousand Islands Writers Festival Storefront Writing Contest is now just a memory. It was great to see it come to fruition. In the early days of the registration process, we weren’t sure what to expect and at one point there was talk of cancelling due to lack of participation. Thankfully, it didn’t come down to that.

Writer’s Ink was well represented with a number of the members out – Dorothy Bush, Sylvia Perry, Catherine Durnford-Wang, Marike Harris, Chris Hanna, Joe Mossman and me filling out the total number of thirteen.

I entrusted my husband, Don, with my camera since I couldn’t write and take pictures at the same time so he made sure the day was well documented.

We met at the local library at 9:30 where we drew our locations and were assigned a number. Even though we were writing under pseudonyms, the possibility existed that the judges might recognize us… hence the use of numbers.

Anxious participants waiting for the library to open

Our prompt was chosen by W.I. founder, Bunty Loucks. It was “if Sylvia had the faintest idea of the consequences of her action, she would immediately have written ‘Return to Sender’ across the envelope and dropped it in the nearest mailbox.” We had from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm to come up with our up to 2,000 word short story.

Getting our prompt and other pre-contest business
Drawing location and getting assigned my number

Seven King Street merchants played host to us. From west to east – Reliable Home Furniture (current and old location), Echo Clothing, Picket Fences, Tiny Prices, Alan Brown’s, National Rent to Own and Golden Soles.

Sylvia Perry at Tiny Prices
Catherine Durnford-Wang and Chris Hannah at Echo Clothing
Tari Pyke of Reliable helping Marike Harris get set up on wi-fi
Wendy Millar in one of the windows at Picket Fences
Melanie Robertson-King (aka Heather Park on this occasion) in the other window at Picket Fences
...and from inside the store

I have to say that Wendy and I were extremely well received and treated at Picket Fences. Jennifer made sure we had everything we needed, including the location of the washroom which was extremely important since we were going to be there pretty much all day. When she made the pot of coffee we were welcome to help ourselves to a cuppa.

Two more participants (Kirsha Martelle & Cindy Dopson) at Alan Brown's
Dorothy Bush at National Rent to Own
Joe Martelle at National Rent to Own
Joe Mossman at Golden Soles
Chris Wood at Golden Soles

We temporarily lost one of our participants. She ended up at the old Reliable Furniture location on the south side of King Street. She was eventually found and joined us at the Grindstone Tapas afterwards where we downloaded our compilations onto Thousand Islands Writers Festival committee member’s, Doreen Barnes, laptop.

Getting our files downloaded for transfer to the judges

While we waited our turn to get our files downloaded and answer some questions about the experience, we chatted amongst ourselves and everyone agreed they would do it again. We also talked about how we wrote our pieces… did we start at the beginning, the middle, the end. Did we outline? Did we pants it? I started with the end so I knew where I had to go, the journey there would be the fun part. I’m already looking forward to next year and hope I can draw the same location again. It was a lot of fun. And, a wee tidbit… my piece was 2,000 words on the nose!

What do we win for our day of “sweatshop” writing?

1st prize – Dinner at the Brockville Country Club with authors Merilyn Simonds and Wayne Grady during the Thousand Islands Writers Festival on Friday, October 14.

2nd prize – A pair of tickets to one of the presentations by the Brockville Concert Association

3rd prize  – $50 from Leeds County Books (our independent bookstore), donated by a TIWF member

The top three writers will be notified by phone that  they are invited to the Terry Fallis, Two Books, One Community event on Monday, September 26 at the Brockville Council Chambers where they will learn where they placed.

Niagara Falls adventure continued…

Unfortunately, seeing a ship pass through Lock 3 of the Welland Canal at St. Catharines wasn’t to be. Still it was a great place to stop, wander around and marvel at the technology of raising and lowering the ships. Athough the signs tell visitors to enter through the main entrance, we were rebels and walked down along the canal to the viewing platform. At the foot of the stairs, this sign caught my attention.

Interesting tidbit of information on display

That’s a lot of bread. We climbed the steps to the top level of the viewing platform. With the exception of the high iron bars to keep folks from climbing over into areas they shouldn’t be in, the views were spectacular.

Looking towards the south and the lift bridge we’d crossed on our way, there were no ships in sight coming through locks 4, 5 and 6 which are in quick succession of each other. All three are at different levels so a ship in any of them would be visible, even if the ship was being lowered for readiness to continue towards Lake Ontario.

Looking towards the lift bridge and locks 4, 5, & 6

Towards the north, the Garden City Skyway crosses the canal at a level high enough that the ships can pass under it. No lift bridges of any form needed that snarl vehicular traffic to allow the ships passage. The trouble with the height of the skyway is, on a windy day it can be quite the scary experience to drive over it.

Looking towards the Garden City Skyway

Inside the Welland Canal Centre, there are many items on display on the second level including a liftbridge model, Algoma Central Corporation’s ship Algoway.

Down on the main level, they have a model of lock 3. The only thing missing from it is the viewing platform.

Lock 3 model

Within the grounds at the Welland Canal Centre, there are a number of anchors and other shipping paraphernalia. One of the more interesting is the signpost with the distances from that point to various major locations around the world.

Distance Signpost

There was one more place I wanted to stop before returning to our hotel in Mississauga so we bid farewell to the lock station, disappointed at not seeing a ship but still it was a place our grandson had never been before.

Our next stop was at Jordan Harbour where the two-masted wreck is anchored. The first time I remember seeing it was in October 2005 when we took my friend (visiting from Wales) to see Niagara Falls. From that time on, I wanted to stop and photograph it. On this trip, the light was perfect and so were the shots.

Wreck at Jordan Harbour
Wreck at Jordan Harbour

When we finally got away from here, the traffic heading into the city was picking up. The overhead sign before the Burlington Skyway indicated high winds and drive with caution. The wind buffetted the car the entire trip but a few gusts actually threatened to move the car from one lane to another.

Prior to the interchange for Winston Churchill Blvd, another overhead sign told that the traffic from there on was moving extremely slow. So since our exit was the next one, we got off there and onto the street our hotel was on. We were back in our room before one of the transports we’d seen stuck in the tailback passed by.

After much debate and walking around near the hotel to find a place to eat, we went back to the hotel for the car keys. The plan was Montanas. Not within walking distance but a bit further from our hotel than originally thought. Still, it was worth the drive. Our server “Fred” was fantastic and so was the food! Since we drove, only one of us could drink but from the time it was decided we’d do Montanas, I immediately went into “Virgin Caesar” anticipation.

When it was time to pay the bill, Fred stayed and chatted with us for a bit. The thunderstorm that according to the weather network would pass through that night was beginning to put on the light show. Fred told us that Toronto was under a tornado watch.

The rain was just starting when we went back to the car and by the time we got back to the hotel about 9:00 was coming down steadily. Up in our room, we turned on CP24 and watched the news. Mississauga, where we were staying had been upgraded to a tornado warning. The lightning displays outside our room were phenomenal and much better when we turned off the one bedside lamp.

Thursday morning before leaving the hotel, I checked CP24’s website for updates on the previous night’s storm. I’ve included the link to that page. If you scroll down, there are a number of pictures of the lightning strikes.

Yet another Niagara Falls adventure…

We had decided earlier in the summer that we would take our oldest grandchild, Andy, off to Niagara Falls for a bit of fun. But, to add to the fun and toss in some mystery, we didn’t tell him where we were going… stinkers, aren’t we?

I booked us into a mini-suite at the Holiday Inn near the QEW in Mississauga for Tuesday and Wednesday nights. A nice room but not nearly as nice as the one we had there back in June when I attended a writing workshop. Enough digression…

Wednesday morning after a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we headed off to Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, as you age the need to skip to the loo becomes paramount. This became a moment in time I’d rather hadn’t happened but it did. Of all the times since buying my digital SLR camera in March and taken it places… including hanging it on the hook on the stall doors in the public loos, this time it fell off and crashed onto the floor. I thought for sure it was done and came out to join the others with a face on me like a smacked backside and relayed my tale of woe.

Determined to make the best of things, we bought a pass to four attractions – Journey Beneath the Falls, Niagara Fury, Maid of the Mist and the Whitewater Walk. We could do beneath the falls and the maid anytime we wanted because they’re based on first come first served but the other two we had to have scheduled appointments. Niagara Fury had been booked at noon and the walk at 5:00 pm. Since we were there, we decided to go under and behind the falls first.

Andy and my husband, Don, in one of the portals behind the falls

Even though I’ve done the Journey Beneath the Falls many times, I never tire of it. It’s even more fun when you’ve got someone with you who’s never done it before! Down here where it is SO wet, I pulled out my wee “workhorse” digital camera. If one was going to get waterlogged, this was the one of choice… and trust me, it got soaked! It’s wet enough beneath the falls at the best of times but the wind blew the thundering water towards us in sheets!

Looking towards the American Falls and Rainbow Bridge from the lower viewing platform
Looking towards Horseshoe Falls
What we won't do for a photo!

This poor goose was oblivious to everyone and everything around him. He was more intent on feeding his face. I’m not sure how long he’d been perched on this bit of ledge but he was soaked, so much so, that there was no way he could have taken off. He was stuck there until the wind whipped the water in a different direction and he could dry himself out.

An extremely soggy Canada Goose beside the lower viewing platform
Andy below the falls

After this picture was taken, we went up one level but the water thundering over the falls was far worse. We stopped briefly to read one of the posters on a locked door in an alcove along the tunnel and I decided I’d scoot back down to the lower viewing platform to get a picture of the “cave” from the outside. I got a touch sidetracked but got the shot I was after.

Maid of the Mist below the falls
The "cave" opening in the rocks

After a complete and thorough soaking, we headed back inside for the noon showing of Niagara Fury. We were early so I decided to take a few minutes and check on my injured camera. To start with the lens cap was jammed on. When I finally got it off, my UV filter was smashed! Broken glass all over so it was a good thing I was close to a garbage can. Of course, the filter didn’t want to come off either but I finally got it to cooperate. Dumped the glass off my lens, took out my brush and gently removed the small bits that were left behind. Now for the moment of truth… I tried the camera. It acted like yes, it would work but it didn’t. I tried a couple of different things but still no luck. I figured it was garbage. Never to work again.

I didn’t have a lot of time to fiddle at this point because we were being ushered in to the theatre… and handed another rain cape… this one blue. I’d never done Niagara Fury before and assumed it was just a movie so wondered why the need for waterproofing. I soon found out! At the end of the short animated film, we were led into another room – a round one – and onto a platform where we were told to hang on and we would get wet! They weren’t exaggerating. the platform shook, snow fell, then water gushed out of nozzles in the ceiling. A movie screen surrounding the room, showed how the falls were formed. I would have been just as pleased to only be in here and skipped the film.

We’d picked up cheese and crackers and some cold meat the day before for a picnic lunch and had three large bottles of water (as if we’d not taken in enough already) so thought we would go back to the car and have a bite to eat. While on the bridge over the Niagara Parkway, my husband took my camera and tried to see if he could get it working for me. He changed a couple of settings, ended up putting it on manual and turned the F-stop dial and it worked. Something inside must have jammed from the impact of hitting the floor. The main thing was – it worked! It wasn’t another piece of electronic gadgetry for the scrap heap!

The inclined railway was the first thing I photographed after I put the settings back to my usual ones. You have no idea how pleased I was to preview it and see that it turned out!

The Inclined Railway
The pedestrian bridge at Table Rock Centre

I was so thrilled to have my camera in working order again, I composed this shot of the bridge to immortalize where it was resurrected.

We stopped by the car for the cooler and found a nearby picnic table. The first water bottle to come out peed on the leaning picnic table of Niagara, the trail of water headed straight for my camera! I picked it up and moved it in the nick of time. Poor thing had already suffered enough trauma for one day… a lifetime would be more accurate.

Since we had lots of time and could ride the Maid of the Mist at any point, we strolled leisurely through the greenspace along the street until we reached Queen Victoria Park. The formal gardens were awash with the colours of summer flowers and greenery which painted a totally different palette than when I was there at the end of May.

When we reached the koi pond, the water lilies were in bloom… yellow, pale pink, white, and a fuscia shade. Unfortunately, the yobs had tossed empty drink cups and plastic bottles in, ruining the peaceful and pristine atmosphere.

Water lilies in bloom

The fish stayed under the shelter of the huge leaves but when we walked around to the shadier side, they were more active and swam out looking for someone to feed them.

One of the koi out from the shelter of the water lily leaves


Don and Andy beside the koi pond

And yes, Andy is taller than we are but in this photo Don was on the slope leading into the pond and Andy was on level ground above him.

Andy and I beside the koi pond

Even with him standing on the slope and me at the top, he’s still considerably taller than his gran!

We were almost across from the Maid of the Mist docks when we got this far, so quickly headed across the street, past the ticket booths were we flashed our passes and joined the queue waiting patiently to move closer to the boat. Like at Journey Behind the Falls, we had our photo taken against a green background and were given a claim slip so we could “purchase” our photo after the boat ride.

Heading to Horseshoe Falls

I wanted to be on the lower level along the railing at the bow of the boat but as luck would have it, we were the last to get on that particular vessel so it was take what you can get. We ended up at the top of the stairs at the stern. Not too bad a place but being in the middle of the boat, there were a lot of blue rain capes to shoot over, around, etc.

Looking at the people on the lower viewing platform at Journey Beneath the Falls

Shortly before docking, I asked one of the young girls in the group of teenagers near us to take our picture together. I’d photographed them many times with different cameras of theirs, so I thought it was only right to get them to do the same for me.

Don, Andy and me - aka Three Drowned Rats

We did end up buying the picture from here… only because Don thought it would be great fun to have his hand on my boob when it was taken! He wasn’t 100% certain they would even print it but they did.

Don and Andy
Andy and me

We had two more places we wanted to go before returning to Mississauga so passed on the Whitewater Walk. The plan was to stop at Lock 3 of the Welland Canal in St Catharines and with any luck, see a ship pass through the lock (we had caught a glimpse of one on our way to Niagara in the morning going through) and again at Jordan Harbour.

I can tell you we did both of those stops, but I’ll save them for the next blog post.

Ghost Train & Other Stories by Chris Longmuir

Chris Longmuir’s second collection of short stories is now available on for the Kindle.

The product description for Ghost Train & Other Stories reads a collection of horror stories, not meant for the faint-hearted.

What you won’t find in this book are zombies and vampires. Nor will you find anyone running around wielding a chainsaw, although there might be some knives and maybe a cleaver. Blood and gore is also missing, although I can’t guarantee you won’t stumble across some body parts.

However, you will find plenty to scare you in these stories unless, of course, you have become hardened to horror.

The four short stories in this book are a mixed batch of horror and paranormal stories which I hope you will enjoy. They include:-

The Ghost Train – was previously published in issue 39 of Dark Horizons in 2001, and is a dark story set in a fairground.

The Gourmet Club – is a story about a restaurant which features an exclusive, invitation only, gourmet club with rather unusual tastes.

Brainpower – is a fantasy about what happens to a student who craves more and more knowledge.

Déjà vu – is another paranormal story with a dark theme.

Read and enjoy.

Ghost Train & Other Stories can be downloaded from here.

Obsession & Other Stories by Chris Longmuir

Chris Longmuir has recently published two books of short stories to Amazon for the Kindle.

The product description for Obsession & Other Stories says it is a collection of short stories meant to entertain and intrigue. The collection includes dark and gritty crime stories as well as a couple of gentler ones.

These six short stories are a mixed batch which I hope you will enjoy. They include:-

Obsession – which is a dark story about a stalker, and not recommended for those of a nervous disposition. This was the story which gave birth to the Night Watcher and is the precursor of my novel of the same name.

In Zofia’s Footsteps – is the story of migrant fruit pickers working on a fruit farm in Scotland. Make up your own mind whether or not there is a hint of the paranormal in this one.

Not a Bad Person – is a gritty story which introduces Baz, a heroin addict and what he feels compelled to do to acquire money to feed his habit.

Ghost of Christmas Past – is a gentle ghost story which is not in the least scary, although I’m better known for my scary stories.

Sin – is a tale of the Magdalene Laundries, the institutions for unmarried mothers which were infamous in Ireland in the not too distant past.

Santa’s Little Helper – a little bit of nonsense to finish off with.

Obession & Other Stories can be downloaded from here.

Trailer for 1923: A Memoir

Love a Happy ending author Harry Leslie Smith now has a book trailer for his poignant book 1923: A Memoir.

You can view the trailer on You Tube at the link below.

1923: A Memoir is available in paperback or in ebook format from the following:
Paperback: 312 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781450254137
ISBN-13: 978-1450254137
ASIN: 1450254136 (buy) US: (buy) UK:
Harry can also be found on Facebook and Twitter and at his author website.
FaceBook 1923 A Memoir:
Twitter Account @1923Memoir:!/1923Memoir

Another Scene of the Crime Mystery Festival has come and gone

Yesterday was my second time attending the Scene of the Crime Mystery Festival. While I didn’t attend the morning workshop (reasons for which will be revealed further along in the post – a mystery, if you will), I had a wonderful time!

The weather started out perfect, even if a bit windy early in the morning. Free parking at the ferry dock is limited so I didn’t even look there. I went straight to the lot at The Holiday Inn. Even if I had to pay to park for the day, the bays are slightly larger so less chance of getting the car dented by people swinging their car doors open without a care. Besides, we’d be sitting a lot during the day so a bit of a walk wasn’t going to hurt us.

cars queuing up for the trip
leaving Kingston

The wind farm on Wolfe Island is impressive. The turbines can be seen from the 401… that is, if you have the luxury of riding shotgun so you can take the time to look. The ferry ride affords the opportunity to take in these powerful yet beautiful structures.

Windmills on Wolfe Island
approaching the dock in the village of Marysville on Wolfe Island

When we docked, an escort was waiting to direct us to the Island Grill where we registered and had coffee and muffins and a chance to meet the authors in an informal setting. Violette Malan, President of Scene of the Crime, told me that my registration caused some confusion. Since my husband was coming with me, I filled out my registration as “Melanie King”. Well no one knew me as that. Violette said she knew a “Melanie Robertson-King” so the initial confusion was cleared up. Next bit of the conundrum was where to file me in the registration kits since they were being filed in alphabetical order by surname…

It was here at the Island Grill that I saw my friend, Beth, who I’d not seen in at least two years. She and her husband had arrived the day before and were leaving early so it was nice to see her and get caught up.

The author readings took place in the United Church directly across the street from the public school. It was timed to coincide with the end of the morning workshop so those folks attending it could enjoy hearing the authors.

L_R Elizabeth J. Duncan, C.B. Forrest, R.J. Harlick, Howard Shrier

Elizabeth read from her book, A Brush with Death and Chris (C.B.) read from his Slow Recoil, both books already published.

R.J. Harlick read from her upcoming book A Green Place for Dying which is scheduled for publication in 2012. Howard Shrier captivated the audience with his presentation of the prologue of his novel, Boston Cream, which will be published in January 2012.

I’ve never had a church catered meal I didn’t like and this one was no exception. We took our lunches outside and ate at one of the picnic tables set up beside the church. We sat at the same table as my friend, Beth, and author Elizabeth J. Duncan. Convivial conversation led to the discovery that she and Beth had worked on a project together for the CNIB. It was further revealed that Beth and I are “family” because of our Home Child connection. Her mother came two years before my father.

Over the lunch break, I bought two of Elizabeth’s books (The Cold Light of Mourning and A Brush with Death)and got them signed. I also bought one of R.J. Harlick’s (Arctic blue Death) that was available. While she signed it for me, we talked about her being at the Thousand Islands Writers Festival last year… a connection… (never hurts).

The afternoon venue was the Anglican Church so we walked over in plenty of time to get a good seat. Last year on the walk, the remains of an old boat sat on a corner lot. This year it was gone, however my cohort, partner-in-crime, writing date, co-conspirator for the storefront writing contest got a photo of it and posted it on her blog (link to follow).

Luckily, we passed the Wolfe Island branch of the Kingston library before it closed so had the opportunity to go in and see the Grant Allen Triangle on display. Violette had mentioned it before the lunch break and last year we were too late to see it. The triangle is home to some of Grant’s books.

Grant Allen Triangle

Next to the Triangle is a Scene of the Crime bookcase. Past and present SOTC author’s books are displayed here, along with other Canadian Crime Writers’.

Scene of the Crime Bookcase in the Wolfe Island Library

The afternoon panel discussion, led by author Vicki Delany, was on the same subject as her morning workshop – Creating the character of the Antagonist.

L-R Howard Shrier, Elizabeth J. Duncan, C.B. Forrest, Maureen Jennings ( this year's Grant Allen Award winner), R.J. Harlick, and Vicki Delany

After a lively afternoon with the authors, at the break, those who were interested toured the cemetery behind the church.

Don and I enjoying our day

After enjoying the breeze outdoors, it was once again time to go inside the church where, guest lecturer, Staff Sergeant Kristina Patterson talked about Keeping Police Officers Safe and the training the tactics they use everyday to remain that way.

Staff Sergeant Kristina Patterson

Kristina’s presentation was followed by the presentation of the Grant Allen award to Maureen Jennings, author of the Murdoch mystery series which has been adapted for the screen and being sold world-wide. She’s following her success with a three part crime thriller set in wartime Britain. The first is Season of Darkness, recently released (also available for purchase).

Maureen Jennings receiving the Grant Allen Award from Chris Carr

Maureen was interviewed by a representative from The Kingston Whig-Standard, after which, I was able to get up close and personal with the Grant Allen award which is a kaleioscope, handmade by one of the island’s artisans. Unfortunately, I was a bit too close and personal because the pictures I took were out of focus. DRAT! At least I have the satisfaction of knowing I saw it.

The day on the island was capped off with a wonderful church supper in the hall across the street from the church.

We could have made the 6:30 ferry back to Kingston but tucked in our registration kits were coupons for a free ice-cream cone so we stopped for it (in lieu of dessert at the hall). There’s nothing worse than dripping ice-cream all over the place and having the wind blow your hair in it so we lingered a while on the island which turned out great. We met a couple from Perth who were passing through on their way back home from the US.

The docks behind the Island Grill Restaurant

By now the wind had died down to the point there was hardly a ripple on the water. The brilliance of the setting sun was blinding but I still managed to get a good photo of it.

The setting sun

Before long the ferry arrived to shuttle us back to the mainland. It was far from full but because of their schedule, we left with still an entire row available for cars.

The Wolfe Islander docking

As on the way to the island, we stood on the upper deck near the bow of the ferry (if you can call it that since both ends are the same) so I could take pictures. I thought the first one I took of the setting sun turned out well, I was more pleased with this one. Far more dramatic than the first with the extreme contrasts.

Another setting sun photo
Approaching Kingston

Shortly before docking, we went down to the lower level. We met up with Elizabeth Duncan again and chatted with her while we waited for the signal to disembark. Her taxi was waiting to whisk her off to the bus station and back to Toronto. We said our final goodbyes to her there before walking back to the Holiday Inn parking lot where we got a pleasant surprise when we left. We were expecting to pay at minimum of $15 to leave the car there but the young attendant I passed the ticket to said we were good to go and lifted the gate for us to leave.

The day on the island was fantastic. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Scene Of The Crime Mystery Festival on Wolfe Island

Tomorrow, August 13th, is Scene of the Crime time again. Last year was my first visit to the Festival and I absolutely loved it. This year, my husband is coming with me. So not only do I get my Scene of the Crime fix, I get to spend a day with him, too! Best of both worlds.

This year’s festival promises to be great fun. The schedule of events can be seen here. To see a list of the authors participating in this year’s festival, click here.

I’ll write more about this year’s visit to Scene of the Crime Mystery Festival in the coming weeks…

Shaz’s Stars interviews author Janice Horton

LAHE logo

Shaz’s Stars interviews Janice Horton

Shaz’s Stars – Welcome to the regular feature on ‘The Buzz’ of Shaz’s Stars!

Using sun sign astrology I will be interviewing Authors to see how the traits of their sun sign affect their craft.

Authors will share with us how they’ve used positive characteristics as well as advice on how they’ve overcome negative ones.

I hope you enjoy getting to know our new Authors as much as I’ve enjoyed interviewing them.


Twitter @shazjera:


In the hot seat today I would like to welcome: JANICE HORTON

Hello Janice, thank you for letting us have a peek behind the scenes.  Your sun sign is PISCES.

Q. The 9 -5 life does not suit a Pisces due to a dislike of discipline and confinement so your chosen career suits you well. When did you decide to become a writer and did you have anyone to support you?

I didn’t actually decide to be a writer – I was born with a vivid imagination and so it sort of chose me. I’m very aware of my Piscean trait to swim about freely and I’d dearly love to be able to write all day every day in a place of my choosing. Unfortunately, my reward from writing hasn’t yet made me sufficiently financially independent, so like lots of other writers today with responsibilities, I’ve had to struggle with the discipline of turning up to my ‘day jobs’ which I like to think of in terms of being valuable research for my next book.

 Q. Pisceans are said to like music. Do you have any playing in the background while you write? What inspires you?

I love music and have eclectic tastes depending on my mood, although, I don’t like any sound around me when I’m writing. If I need to ‘switch off’ and clear my head I lie down, close my eyes, and listen to relaxing music on my iPod. A quick look at my playlist and I can tell you lately it’s been Jack Johnson, Sade, and even Pavarotti. When I feel like I need to loosen up, I put Santana on my sound system really loud and I dance. My favourite track to dance to is Santana’s ‘Smooth’. I can really lose myself in that one!

Q. Apart from Pisces being a water sign linked to creativity, Pisceans are also well known for being impractical and dreamy. How does this translate for you into having to be organised to meet a deadline?

I am certainly dreamy but I can keep a deadline. Problems arise when I have too many deadlines. I must have a practical streak in me somewhere because I constantly have to prioritise tasks to keep on top of things.

(Ed’s note: Janice probably has an Earth Ascendant or Moon sign, keep watching for further interviews using Ascendant/Moon signs)

Q. Personal experiences make great reads when written into a story. Pisceans do not like to reveal their private lives. Does it make you feel uncomfortable expressing anything that has affected you personally in your novels?

I express personal feelings in my writing all of the time by tapping into my own life experiences. Doing so gives me empathy with my characters and can influence how they might behave in certain circumstances – but I have never written about personal experiences. My storylines are fictional and for me that’s the fun of writing – I can make it all up!

Q. Pisceans are kind and compassionate and respond with sensitivity. Do any of your characters display these traits?

I like to think I am kind and sensitive but you know, when I need to be, I can also be quite tough. I believe the two fish symbol for Pisces also represents a two sided nature. In my novel, Bagpipes & Bullshot, the two main characters, Orley and Innes, both possess sensitivity and strength. It’s important to show vulnerability in a character as well as gusto, as it not only brings them to life on the page, it also makes for a satisfying story.

Q. Pisces is a spiritual sign – does it feel as if ideas sometimes come from no-where, as if they’ve dropped out of the ether?

I love it when that happens. It happens to most writers I know regardless of their astrological sign – some call it their ‘muse’ – I call it my ‘mojo’. Some days it is nowhere to be seen and the writing is a struggle. Then it will turn up unannounced and the story seems to write itself. It’s like magic!

Q. A negative trait for a Piscean is a strong dislike of being criticised. How do you feel about constructive criticism?

A personal criticism would hurt me deeply. I would ‘dwell’ on being upset and then I would feel angry and dismissive – as a way of protecting myself. However, constructive criticism is entirely different. I actively welcome it and feel lucky to receive it, especially if it comes from someone I trust and admire. I am fortunate to have a highly respected author as a writing mentor. She is always there to support me if I need her and offers valuable constructive advice when I feel unsure or negative about my writing.

Q. When Pisces find the right situations, they are completely engaged in what they are doing to the exclusion of all else. This translates into a workaholic! How do you deal with this trait? Do you set yourself a schedule for your writing?

I have three children, a husband, a home, lots of lovely friends, several part time jobs, and I like to get involved with lots of different writing projects – and there is no schedule – only priorities. It goes without saying that my writing is usually relegated to the bottom of the list but every now and again I make sure to give it priority. Luckily, my loved ones understand how important it is to me and that writing makes me happy.

Q. Pisces love style, luxury and pleasure. Do you include these in your settings?

Oh yes, I love to live well – and I like my characters to live well too – but I usually make them earn it! I suppose it comes from the belief that luxury and pleasure is all the sweeter if it is well deserved.

Q. When Pisces feel rejected they really do become low. In the publishing world, rejection is a well-known part of that life. How do you cope with rejection? Do you have any strategies to share with other authors?

Well, I’m a slippery fish when it comes to rejection, as somehow I’ve managed to avoid it. My first novel was published in paperback by the first publisher I sent it to from the Writer’s Handbook. Unusual, I know. Unfortunately, I’d just finished writing my second book when the publisher went out of business. So, having become eligible to join the Romantic Novelist’s Association, I sent the second manuscript to an Agent I met at a conference, who immediately asked for the full novel. The Agent read it and got back to me to say she was ‘tempted to take things further’ except that she didn’t normally handle the sort of dark humour I had written (Bagpipes & Bullshot) and so wouldn’t really know where to place it. As I both trusted and respected this Agent, I accepted that it might be a difficult novel to place and decided to have a go at publishing it myself, and that is how I have somehow managed to get to this stage of my writing career without ever having had a rejection. Unusual, I know!

 Bagpipes & BullshotAbout the Author: Janice Horton lives in Scotland and writes entertaining and humorous contemporary women’s fiction novels which are, for the most part, inspired by the romantic beauty of the heather-filled glens around her country cottage. When she’s not writing novels she writes lifestyle articles and has had work published in national magazines and regional newspapers. She’s also been involved in BBC Scotland’s ‘Write Here Write Now’ project.

Find out more about Janice at:-

Author Page:

Author’s Blog:
Author’s Website:

Twitter Account @JaniceHorton:

Shaz’s Stars Feature on

LAHE logo

Today I’m being interviewed by Sharon Goodwin,’s resident astrologer. Hope you enjoy it…

Shaz’s Stars Interviews Melanie Robertson-King

Shaz’s Stars – Welcome to the regular feature on ‘The Buzz’ of Shaz’s Stars!

Using sun sign astrology I will be interviewing Associate Readers to see how the traits of their sun sign affect their reading habits.

I hope you enjoy getting to know our Associate Readers as much as I’ve enjoyed interviewing them.


Twitter @shazjera:


In the hot seat today I would like to welcome: MELANIE ROBERTSON-KING

Hello Melanie, thank you for letting us have a peek behind the scenes.  Your sun sign is  SCORPIO.

Q.  Scorpions are said to have an excellent memory.  Are you able to stop reading at any point …………..  and then when you pick the book up again remember exactly what has happened, who the characters are and where you are in the story?

When I’m reading, I prefer to stop at the end of a chapter but we all know that isn’t always an option. Quite often, I read during my lunch hours and when it’s time to go back to work, it’s mark the page if I’m reading a physical book or shut down the reader device. I have a Sony and the Kindle app on the iPad.

I don’t have to go back normally to refresh my memory of what’s happening. Usually, once I pick up the story and begin to read again, I fall into the familiarity of the people and places that I’m reading about.

Sometimes, my memory about books is a little too good. I read a book by an author a year ago. I read the second one by the same author this year. When I got to the ending of this second book, I felt a déjà-vu moment. I had read this before. I checked the first book, because after all, an author wouldn’t end two books the same way but in this case that’s what happened.

Q.  Associate Readers are avid readers.  Scorpions are very conservative about spending their money.  Does a novel have a set criteria for you to purchase it?  What attracts you to the books you choose to buy?  Do you use your library?

I haven’t used my local library much of late, I’m ashamed to say. I’ve used it for researching my articles of a historic nature that are set in the area. I have borrowed books and as a young girl, I practically lived there—taking books out and returning them on a regular basis.

When it comes to books if I want it, I go ahead and buy it. I’ve built up quite a collection of physical and e-books. I do like the fact that most e-books are a fraction of the price of physical books although I’m not so sure that’s my inner Scorpio or my Scottish roots and their thriftiness.

As far as a criteria for novels to purchase goes, if the cover is interesting enough to make me want to pick it up off the shelf (again we’re talking our local independent or chain bookstore), then I read the blurb on the back. If it sounds like something I’d be interested in, then I buy it. I’m particularly interested in novels set in England, Scotland or Wales.

The e-books I’ve purchased have been recommended by friends or authors I know.

Q.  A typical Scorpion never gives up, they are determined to reach their goal.  Does this affect your reading?  Do you read to the end of a book even if you’re not enjoying it?  Does this affect your choice of book?

I’m on a reader panel for a well-known publisher and some of the books they’ve sent me are a struggle to get through but I persevere. I’ve almost put a book down because of bad copy editing. The storyline was good so I kept reading and I’m very glad I did.

There’s only one book that I couldn’t read. Not that it was badly written but when you move a castle from within the heart of rural Aberdeenshire and plunk it on the North Sea coast south of Aberdeen… I draw the line. I’ve travelled to that area of Scotland many times and know the two castles… the real one and the mis-located one. I couldn’t get past that flagrant error.

Q.  Scorpions are known for being interested in the paranormal, the occult, conspiracy theories and mysteries.  Does this interest extend to your choice of genre?

Since I was young, I loved the idea of ghosts. My grandmother’s house was close to a cemetery so I played there a lot with my cousins. The stories we conjured up there, well we were kids, but at the time were fantastic. I spent many a happy hour having séances or with the Ouija board. Vampires and werewolves were favourite subjects. Some of the earliest books I read (borrowed from my local library) were Alfred Hitchcock mysteries.

I love a variety of genres—crime, romance, paranormal, mystery, occult. I have a couple of books from my younger years… Tales to Tremble By and Ghosts around the

House by Suzy Smith that I refuse to give up. Not to mention earlier works by Stephen King. The scarier books are the better I like them. I hope I haven’t deviated from your question too much.

(Ed.  No deviation from your question – we want to get to know you ?)

Q.  Scorpions always seem to accomplish their goals.  This is because they set tangible short-term goals that they know they can achieve.  Do you use this trait in scheduling your book reviews?  Do you plan which book you will read next?  How do you choose which book you will read next?

If I’m reading a number of books by one author then I tend to read them in order of publication. As far as book reviews go, I tend to write them after I’ve read the book while it’s still fresh in mind. Some folks say they keep notes while they read when they know they’re reviewing a work, not me.

When it comes to what book I’ll read next, I would have to say what mood I’m in at the time. If I’m feeling dark, then I’ll pick up a crime or mystery. Otherwise I’ll grab something at random off my overloaded bookcases.

Unfortunately, when it comes to my writing (revisions especially), I’m not so good at achieving my goals. I usually manage to write something every day but it might not be on my WIP. My goal for 2011 was to write every day. That fell by the wayside some time ago.

Q.  On the ‘outside’ a Scorpion sun person will present a cool, detached and unemotional air.  However, on an inner level, they are intensely passionate.  When you write your reviews, are you cool, detached and unemotional or does that passion come through?

I’ve not written many reviews so this is a hard question to answer. I would have to say so far I keep my reviews on the cool side and stick to the plot and characters. I suppose the more reviews I write, the more passion I’ll inflect into them. I do agree with the statement that Scorpios present a cool, detached and unemotional air but underneath lies a totally opposite person. I think that is a self-preservation measure that Scorpios have constructed to keep our passionate inner selves safe, lest we crumble.

(Ed.  Thank you for your honesty)

I consider myself a romance writer but write in other genres, too. Currently, ten of my non-fiction articles have been published, with one being a feature cover article.

I have two novel-length manuscripts completed. One is languishing with a publisher waiting for a yay or nay, the other (my first) is undergoing a major revision. When I need a break from it, I pick up a book and read or I write short stories.

My father was a Home Child who came to Canada through the auspices of The Orphan Homes of Scotland in 1930. My article Always a Home Boy is his and his siblings story. I also speak to local historical and genealogical societies on the subject of Home Children.

My father encouraged me to study Highland Dancing and take part in local competitions. I last competed in the summer 1969, a few short months after his death, at the 1000 Islands Highland Games and won the Silver Medal in the Sword Dance. In addition to Highland dancing, I took piping lessons and own a set of bagpipes which haven’t seen the light of day in a number of years – probably much to the relief of my neighbours.

I love to read but now that I’m writing, I have to be careful what I choose. I don’t want things from other people’s writings finding their way into my own work. So, to that end, I try to read from totally different genres. I don’t think I could write it effectively, but I love to read crime fiction – Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, PD James, and of course, my good friend Chris Longmuir.

My other interests include genealogy, especially the study of Home Children, photography and travel – particularly Scotland because of my kinship with my father’s homeland. It was on a trip to Scotland, that I had the honour of meeting The Princess Royal.

To find out more about Melanie, please visit:-

Twitter Account @RobertsoKing:


Melanie’s Celtic Connexions Blog