Tag Archives: celebration

#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 (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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?

amazon.com | amazon.co.uk | 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.



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 www.thedebbiediaries.blogspot.co.uk  and I have just started a product review site www.crazyatthecottage.blogspot.co.uk

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 www.loveahappyending.com  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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], 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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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.











email: brookbooks@hotmail.co.uk

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 (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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?

amazon.com | amazon.co.uk | 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.



St Patrick’s Day Party with Sharon Black

St Patrick's DaySt Patrick's DayWelcome to Celtic Connexions, Sharon. Do make sure you kiss the Blarney Stone here on the table by the front door. At least you don’t have to sit on a ledge and lean back until your head is lower than your bum.

St Patrick's DayYou’re looking very much in the St Patrick’s Day spirit all decked out in green. Can I offer you a drink? I have to say, I LOVE your hat. I have a selection of Irish Whiskey. Have a look on the sideboard and see if there’s something there you fancy.



St Patrick's Day
By Cafeirlandais at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5), GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
I have plenty of nibbles to snack on whilst we chat. Crisps with French Onion dip (coloured green, naturally), jelly beans, chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Don’t be shy. Dig in. Who knows, before the end of the night we might even find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Thank you for my Cead Mile Failte (a hundred thousand welcomes) here today, Melanie. I was born in Dublin, the eldest of three children, and grew up in an area called Rathfarnham, which is at the foot of the Dublin mountains. I studied history and politics at college, and then did a postgraduate in journalism, before working for national newspapers. I now live in a small coastal village in Dublin, with my husband and our three children. It’s a place where most people know each other, so apart from my friends from school and college, I have really good friends here.

Back home in Ireland, how do you normally celebrate St Patrick’s Day?

Traditionally, we would have always brought the children to the parade in town (which is what Dublin people call the city centre). Our eldest two are far too old to go with us anymore, so if they want to see it, they would go with friends. But our youngest is still game. The parade runs right through the centre of town, so most people have their favourite places to view. Ours is on Dame Street, on the south side of the river Liffey. Afterwards, we’d go to the Kilkenny Design Centre in Nassau Street, which is a mecca for Irish design, and have a hot drink and a treat.

We have the Americans and in particular the Irish Americans to thank for much of the improvements to our parade down the years. The St Patrick’s Day parade in Dublin was incredibly boring when I was a child. I don’t think we understood what it was meant to be about at all. The highlight was always the American groups who came over to participate. They brought colour and excitement and, dare I say it, a professionalism that we lacked.

Now, it’s a festival that runs right over the weekend, and we have wonderful contributors, both Irish and from further afield.

You made the jump from journalist to novelist – is Going Against Type loosely based on your previous career?

I suppose the book is very loosely based on elements of what I knew, when I worked for the papers. I drew on bits of people I knew for some of the characters, and all the jargon is authentic.

I had also written a column for a while, for one of the national newspapers, but it wasn’t a sports column. I never wrote about sport, so Charlotte and her columns needed a lot of research.

Dinner is ready? *looks towards manservant* Come through to the dining room. I have to admit I got a bit carried away with the decorating – sparkly, green Leprechaun hats at the place settings, pots of basil with shamrocks and candles, and green noise makers. What can I say? I wanted it to be special, it being my first St Patrick’s Day party.

I hope you enjoy your meal. I’ve got Potato Leek soup

By Vegan Feast Catering (Potato Leek Soup) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
with soft pretzels followed by your choice of Corned Beef and Cabbage,

By Jonathunder (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Guinness Braised Pork, or Guinness Meat Pie. You can think about it while we have our soup course.

I love potato leek soup. My mum makes her own all the time, and gives me over big pots of it. The whole family love it! And I was raised on corned beef and cabbage. My grandmother made it a lot. She would shred the cabbage up really fine, and stir it in through creamy, mashed potatoes.

We’ll chat while we eat. Going Against Type is your debut novel. Can you tell us a bit about it?

I’d love to. It’s set against the backdrop of Dublin newspapers, and it’s the story of two rival newspaper columnists who fall in love. Because they write their columns under pen names, they have no idea that they’ve each fallen in love with the enemy!

The book opens with Charlotte Regan, who works as a sports reporter in a very male-dominated sports department, getting a chance to write the new sports column Side Swipe. The column is very sharp and her views very controversial – and it’s noticed by The Squire, a gossip columnist on a rival newspaper.

The Squire is written by fashion journalist Derry Cullinane, who initially assumes that Side Swipe is a man! And he takes no prisoners.

Going Against Type by Sharon Black - 100


Some would say Charlotte ‘Charlie’ Regan has it all. Beautiful, smart, athletic and a great job working as a journalist – in the almost exclusively male sports department. But Charlotte is not quite as sure as she seems. Recently split from her overbearing boyfriend, she escapes for weekends, surfing in the Atlantic, and spends her free nights watching sports, roaring at the TV.

Derry Cullinane is a fashion writer, gossip columnist and sophisticated man-about-town. The go-to guy for any woman seeking expert advice on what fabulous outfit to wear for any given occasion. He’s also tall, dark, good looking – and straight! So what’s the snag? He has a track record of dating glamorous, vain and shallow women.

Charlie gets an opportunity to write a new column under the pen name Side Swipe, but is soon drawn into a war of words and wit with a rival paper’s columnist The Squire – and their verbal fireworks get readers and editors talking. Yet neither Charlie nor Derry knows just whom the opponent is…

When Charlotte and Derry meet at the Races, the attraction is instant. As their relationship develops, so much more proves at stake, than protecting their alter egos. But a blunder puts Charlotte’s job in jeopardy just as Derry’s past makes front page, and Charlotte begins to doubt her feelings.

When Side Swipe and The Squire are finally forced to reveal themselves, will they revert to type – or confound everyone’s expectations?



Oh good grief, Charlotte thought. It’s Panama Hat Man. She found herself blushing as Fiona steered her into the man’s line of vision.
A slow, amused smile of recognition spread across his face. Brown eyes locked hard with green. Okay Charlotte, play it cool. With a show of dignity, she looked away.

‘Everyone, this is my old school friend Charlotte Regan. Charlotte, this is Clare, Tina and Rosemary.’

Charlotte smiled and shook the other women’s hands, quickly memorising their names, acutely aware of the man’s attention.
‘And Derry Cullinane,’ Fiona said.

Almost reluctantly, Charlotte met his gaze again, forcing herself to breathe normally. She smiled politely and extended her hand. Derry held it a fraction longer than necessary.

‘Tiny hands too,’ he murmured. Charlotte flushed.

‘How’s your foot?’ he asked, releasing her hand but holding her gaze.
‘Oh, do you already know each other?’ Fiona asked, looking slightly puzzled.

‘No,’ said Charlotte quickly.

‘We met at the Galway Races,’ Derry said at the same time. An image of the peroxide blonde woman popped into Charlotte’s head.

‘Can I leave you for a minute? I must check on things in the kitchen.’ Fiona briefly squeezed Charlotte’s hand and left.

Charlotte glanced quickly about, hoping to engage with the other women, but to her frustration she found that they’d drifted away. Leaving her with this egotistical…

‘So as an experiment, do you think we’ll work?’ Derry said, interrupting her thoughts.

‘Um, will what work?’

He shot her an arrogant smile.

‘Fiona’s matchmaking attempt. Either Cupid will be on target or we’ll end up throwing bread rolls at each other.’

Charlotte gritted her teeth.

‘I’m a crack shot with a bread roll.’


It sounds like a fun book. I’ll definitely be adding it to my TBR list.

Can you describe your writing routine? What time of day do you find you’re most productive – that kind of thing.

I’m definitely at my best in the morning, but I’m not one of those people who can get up at five O’clock to write. I wish I were. Once my younger two are in school, I start to write. The trick for me is to know what I want to write, the night before. I’m far more productive when I have a plan.

I think the party is about to start. I hope you got enough to eat. There is dessert but we’ll let this settle first before we have it.

*escorts Sharon back into other room and inserts Cranberries CD*

I hope you like the Cranberries. They’re one of my favourite groups.

While we listen to music, I’ve stashed a pot of gold somewhere in this room. Do you think you can find it?

I love The Cranberries. They’re a brilliant group. Hmmm, a pot of gold? Is it under the stash of sweets that we were eating? Those chocolate-covered gold coins might do. They’re very lucky.

We have Baileys Mousse Pie and Apple Amber for dessert. Which would you prefer? While you search, I’ll get it and bring it in for you.

I’d love the Apple Amber, it sounds delicious.

Returns to room with dessert(s) *changes CD* There’s a bit of a story behind this one.

It involved one of my cousins but I won’t go into all the details here.

It’s been a fun party. I hope it lived up to your expectations.

Before you go, can you tell us where to get your book and how to find out more about you?

This will take you to my book page at Tirgearr Publishing, and has all the buy links, as well as a nice excerpt: tirpub.com/gatype
I can be found on Twitter: @Authorsharonb
Here’s my Author page with links to my blog, various excerpts and other nuggets of information:
Sharon Black Author Page

Thanks so much for stopping by, Sharon.

Thanks a million for allowing me to be your guest today, Melanie.


How do you celebrate St Patrick’s Day? Do you have any family traditions? Tell us about them in the comments.


Robbie Burns Night with Janice Horton

Robbie Burns Night Celebrations with Janice Horton

Robbie Burns

I’m so glad you were able to work me into your busy schedule, Janice. You’ve been snap-gapping all over the place of late so I’m thrilled to have you here at Celtic Connexions. You’re looking very “Scottish” today, all decked out in your tartan. Janice Burns Night1

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

Here, come sit by the fire Robbie Burns take the chill off (escorts my esteemed guest to one of the tartan wing-back chairs facing the crackling fire ).



Robbie Burns
photo from Flickr

I’ll summon my manservant, Donald (the Red) , to bring us some refreshments. Robbie BurnsWould you care for a wee dram? Perhaps Glengoyne – Scotland’s only un-peated single malt? (rings bell and gives manservant instructions)

I think you’ll like what I have in store for you at the ceilidh tonight. I tried to get the Old Blind Dogs but they weren’t available. That’s okay as I do have a vast collection of Scottish music on CDs – Old Blind Dogs, The Corries, Runrig and the list goes on.

(swish of swinging door as the manservant returns with a tray carrying a decanter of whisky – 18 year old Glenlivet no less, two glasses and water). “Your whisky, my lady,” he says as he places it on the table.

“Thank you.”

As the manservant straightens to leave, I cry out… “Donald, where’s your trousers?” because so unlike him, he’s wearing a kilt!

Overcome by the shock of seeing him dressed in that fashion, it takes me a moment to regain my composure. (fans self with copy of Leopard Magazine).

Well, while we wait for our meal to be ready, Janice, let’s chat about your novel. I’m really interested to find out more about it and your creative process. You spent three months on the Island of Utila researching and writing Castaway in the Caribbean. Can you tell me more?

Yes, I had the most amazing time in 2014 visiting, researching and writing in the Caribbean. While there I spent a lot of time in boats (as one features in my new novel) and even got to sail off Tortola in the British Virgin Islands in a schooner used in the making of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie! After visiting lots of islands, my husband and I settled down to island life for a stay of three months on Utila, a tiny Caribbean island off mainland Honduras. This is where I wrote the first draft of ‘Castaway in the Caribbean’.

When do you expect to release it?

April 2015. I have promotional online book tours organised for April and May.

What made you choose that title?

I feel the title suits the story line perfectly. The premise of the book is that the two main characters, a surly boat captain who hates tourists and a girl holidaying in the Caribbean who desperately needs to get to a neighbouring island, end up castaway together on a remote island. It’s a fun, fast paced romantic adventure novel that I hope will be the perfect beach read for 2015!

The manservant returns and tells us that dinner is served… so we pick up our drinks and at the first skirl of the pipes, Robbie Burns wait for him to enter the room and we get piped in to the formal dining room (I wish I had one of them, too) to the strains of The Bonnie Lass of Fyvie for a traditional Robbie Burns feast.

Once everyone is around the table, we begin with The Selkirk Grace.

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

Our first course is Cock-a-leekie soup.

Robbie Burns
This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Not strictly traditional as I don’t put prunes in it.

You mentioned (or did I pick up on it) something about the names of your characters. Was there a particular reason why you used those names? If so, can you share it?

I wrote the first draft with my husband’s name, Travis, as the romantic hero’s name and the heroine of the story is called Janey (which is kind of like my name, Janice). I fully intended on changing the names in the second draft but for some reason ended up not doing so. The characters of Castaway in the Caribbean are Travis and Janey in their own right – they are not meant to be me and my husband – and the story is definitely a work of fiction!

The soup course is cleared away and the skirl of the pipes begins again. The door opens and the haggis is brought into the room with great pomp and circumstance.

Address to the Haggis


Robbie Burns
a wee dram for the haggis
Robbie Burns
Haggis, champit tatties and bashed neeps

We’ll have a bit of a musical interlude courtesy of the Red Hot Chilli Pipers before we carry on with the rest of the evening’s festivities.

What’s your next project? Do you have another novel started?

I have a few ideas in mind for new projects. I’m travelling again this year and I’d like to continue the theme of writing romantic adventure novels set in places that inspire me.

Now that we’ve talked about your WIP (work in progress for those not accustomed to author-speak and abbreviations), tell us more about you and how the readers of Celtic Connexions can follow you?

Thank you, Melanie. I really enjoy connecting with people. I’m a keen blogger. I’m always on Facebook and I love to Twitter too. So here’s my links:

My Author Blog

Follow me on Twitter: @JaniceHorton

Friend me on Facebook Page

Link to my Amazon Author Page

Check out my page on Goodreads

My LLm Bookshelf

Associate Editor at: Loveahappyending Lifestyle Mag

Janice Horton writes contemporary romantic fiction with a dash of humour and a sense of adventure. Look out for Janice’s new release for 2015Castaway in the Caribbean

Robbie Burns

and her Amazon Kindle bestselling booksBagpipes and Bullshot

Robbie Burns

andReaching for the Stars

Robbie Burns

and her fun ‘Voodoo Romance’ series of novellas.

Robbie Burns

Her nonfiction guide to online promotion ‘How To Party Online
Robbie Burns
is recommended reading for all authors and writers by publishers. Janice is a regular blogger from her website at janicehorton.co.uk and you’ll also find her on Facebook and Twitter. She is also associate editor at the award winning online magazine Loveahappyending Lifestyle Magazine where she produces her monthly ‘The Bookshelf’ feature and her seasonal ‘Snap Gap Travel’ features.

Thank you so much for coming to my “un”conventional Robbie Burns Night. I hope you won’t have a sair heid tomorrow. I see the chairs have been rearranged in the front room so shall we move the party in there and let the ceilidh begin?

Gay Gordons, anyone?


Happy 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 President Obama and the 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.

Robbie Burns Day

burns portrait
Scots around the world celebrate the country’s national bard today. Celebrations include a feast of soup (cock-a-leekie – fancy name for chicken and leek), haggis, mashed potatoes, turnips and trifle. Of course most is washed down with Scotland’s national drink – whisky!

For those who take part in The Scotsman’s annual Haggis Hunt, the season ends today (sniff…)

The Haggis

Today, I’m celebrating Robbie Burns Day with Scottish author, Ali Bacon, over at her blog.

It promises to be great fun so drop over and celebrate with us.

Suggested tweets:

#burnsnight with @alibacon and @RobertsoKing http://ow.ly/h7B5Y Traditional Burns celebration in the virtual world. Haste ye back!

Traditional Burns celebration in the virtual world with @alibacon & @RobertsoKing http://ow.ly/h7B5Y Haste ye back! #burnsnight #lahe