2015 January

A month at home has allowed me to concentrate on ‘The Snake Wand’ – Book Three of ‘The Hagstone Chronicles’. As with my first two books it is set in real places – McCaig’s Tower in Oban and on the island of Kerrera. Other islands will feature too but I haven’t yet decided which ones. Knowing a location allows me to see the action unfolding as I write. Another important aspect for me is to weave real objects into my stories. These inspire me, and when I do readings, the children are fascinated to see and handle them. I needed a locket for Ammonia B Clickfinger, the witch who came to a bad end in Book Two. By searching the Internet I found exactly what I was seeking.

January also brought my 74th birthday. Last year, aged 73, I had my first two books published. These go to show that one is never too old to realise a dream. As long as one is prepared to work with determination and enthusiasm, life can continue to hold excitement and adventure. And even if it doesn’t lead to a published book or some other visible achievement, I believe it keeps ‘old age’ at bay. And, as if to prove the point, there have been some heartwarming acknowledgements for my work.

An unexpected email came from Alan Riach, Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University. I had met Alan, very briefly at the Lismore Book Week and we had exchanged our recent publications. Here is a little of what he wrote about ‘Slate Voices: Islands of Netherlorn’.

I enjoyed the whole sequence and was moved by what you depicted and revealed – and I thought ‘The Night of 21-22 November, 1881’ was stunning – a terrific poem, sustained, perfectly structured and balanced, and terribly affecting. Elsewhere too, it was great to meet the people you evoke so well and the lives the poems present so unsentimentally and precisely – and the desperate anger and sorrow of Catherine McPhail and your uncovering and covering the grave of her daughter, visiting Belnahua – and taking our time with each island separately. I’m very grateful.

Becky Gethin, another Cinnamon author and poet featured ‘Slate Voices: Islands of Netherlorn’ on her excellent blog https://rebeccagethin.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/ma…

Then, almost in time for my birthday, a lovely card and letter came from a reader of ‘Cry at Midnight’ who wants to meet me next time she comes to Islay –

A little note to say how much I enjoyed your book ‘Cry at Midnight’. We came to Islay a few weeks ago and whilst there I bought, and read your book. Of course, now I want to go to Tiree. Next time we come to Islay I will try to seek you out to say ‘hello’. Looking forward to the next book

And another 5 star review on Amazon made me smile too.

I would recommend this book to all ages for its adventure, excitement and powerful story. Full of magical beings or are they? Symbols, stones and gems whose meanings go back through the ages. Fantastic.

A poetry success came on the 28th of the month when one of my poems appeared on The Stare’s Nest. It is a a poem that relates, the agony, and subsequent relief of my daughter’s battle with breast cancer. See http://thestaresnest.com

CANCER

A black box  bottomless
contents and sender unknown
shattered the frenzied pattern of our days
stopped  the afternoon  the week  the year
a stone to our hearts      it stole our breath
froze our words      our thoughts     our tears.
Spared the final grief
we grasped the gift it offered
stepped back from blinkered busyness
to s l o w  the p a t t e r n  of   o u r  l i v e s
learn to say no
make time for one another
find something to rejoice in
every day.

The weather has been rather wild. We have had days of wind, rain, hail and snow. The sea has thrown pebbles and surprisingly large stones across the grassy part of our shore. Thankfully, the highest tide stopped about three metres short of my cabin. But there have also been spells of brilliant sunshine. The snowdrops were starting to come out in the first week of the month and before February arrived they were carpeting the woods and blooming in ever-increasing clumps in the garden.