“The gable of the great hall rose high to the front, a huge chimney boasted diminutive battlements, and other lower layers of pink castle sprawled out haphazardly in front of me. There were three small turrets, upended cones that had been meticulously finished round and round with ever smaller and smaller lichen dotted tiles. Tiny mismatched windows blinked in the sun: circles, squares and one narrow bent rectangle. Sections of roof ended randomly, some with mossy little steps to nowhere; one jutting brick triangle had been shaped to fit the side of a sloping turret.”
Every so often I step away from the keyboard and take a day off. Not because I want to. I resist and avoid and cling to my desk in a desperate fashion. Friends persuade and entice me outside. And it is always good, always nourishing and refreshing. There’s a planned outing later this week, and I can just picture my characters’ reactions when they realise I’m not there…
Sharp-witted Justin notices first. He looks up, listens and checks again. “She’s gone out!”
Every character sags with relief. They go back to bed and sleep in till lunchtime. Later, they shuffle downstairs to get tea and food, and they sit in silence in the great hall of the castle.
People who usually snipe and gripe at each other, pass the sugar without word. Two of them exchange a wry smile, for without my omniscient presence to keep them busy, they can sense what’s coming; not the details, but the shadow of something bad ahead, something they would avoid if they could. But like my day out, it cannot be avoided. It has to happen.
They head to bed early, exhausted by the hours of doing nothing, tired from the rest and relaxation.
No arguments. No sex. No laughter.
How boring! These people need me. Maybe I shouldn’t step away from the keyboard after all…
They didn’t get left alone for long, those poor characters. I soon pulled them all back into the drama and the story.
And that story will be out later in 2023, in the form of a contemporary three-book series called A Dancer’s Journey. As you can see from my editor’s comment below, Justin and the others were completely justified in being relieved that I was gone.
Two weeks after my sixteenth birthday, I travelled from Scotland to London to start dance college. I’d worked very hard to get there. It was daunting. It was difficult. But it was made easier by friendship. In particular, my friendship with Suzette, my chosen sister in the pink above. I’m in the stripes there, looking a bit hyper. We were on a day trip to Windsor Castle, and I may have been experiencing some early castle-love!
The two of us met at the youth hostel where we lived and quickly became friends. This woman was my emotional support that first year of college. I recall her standing between me and an aggressive man who kept asking me out, and giving him a thorough telling off for his belligerent behaviour. He left me alone after that. And Suzette was unusual for a non-dancer, in that she fully recognised the gruelling nature of the course I was on. My days started at 8 AM with morning ballet and went on till 6 PM. They were filled with high-impact dance classes of various types. There was one hour a week of ‘history of ballet’ and another hour of ‘anatomy’, but those were the only sitting-down style lessons.
Name-dropping Louie Spence
This video shows the sort of leaping about I was doing all day (it should start in at about 25 minutes, the audition). Louie (of TV’s Pineapple Dance, Dancing on Ice, and Benidorm) was in the year above me. I knew him a little bit, because the school was relatively small and everyone knew everyone a little bit. I can’t claim to have been actual friends with him, but I can attest to the personality you see on television being the real thing. That’s Louie. No fake TV persona for him.
And Suzette and I are still friends to this day. We even speak on the phone (well, Facebook Messenger call) sometimes, and I am not a person who is fond of the phone. I don’t use it much. It rings and summons me and then delivers news about deranged blood, and while that is actually just really responsible healthcare, and I’m so lucky in that, it doesn’t feel good at the time.
So, we two friends talk about the past, and Suzette recently commented that we were like sisters back then. It’s true. We were there for each other when things got hard. And we still are. We talk about our lives. I send her videos of snow in Scotland. She sends me pictures of her having lunch on the beach in a bikini. Suzette is from Mauritius. And, in honour of her, I have made a favourite character from the Dancer’s Journey series Mauritian, or half-Mauritian, as suits the story. He’s the main character’s best friend, Justin, and certainly provides her with plentiful emotional support (she really needs it, given all that I put her through). Though, he is not like Suzette in any other way. His character is not based on her at all.
An (Old) Dancer’s Journey Writing Update
As the latest flare-up of illness recedes, work on the series picks up. The first book, TENDU, is actually complete now. Book two, CABRIOLE, is about to start its third edit, and FOUETTÉ is into its second. It’s all very intense. I get up excited to work on it all each day, loving finessing the darker plot threads that run through all three books. There’s a lot of crying going on. And laughter too. The whole series will be out later this year, with no long waits between titles.
I’m really going to miss working on these when they’re finished. I so enjoy being in that world. The energy of it is immersive and possibly somewhat addictive. It’s just as well there’s another three-book series set there too. It’s waiting quietly in the wings for now…
SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, a novel about chosen sisters, of course, continues to sell well and attract thoughtful and expressive reviews. Elizabeth Felt, a lecturer in English at the University of Wisconsin, had this to say about it recently: “The tone of this book is amazing. At the beginning, the narrator is mute, and the book feels so quiet, so in touch with the earth and stone and air and water… Amazing writing. Excellent story. Highly recommend.”
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SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
Set in 1st century Scotland, SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD includes the battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans and the Caledonian tribes. The book features a neurodivergent main character and some rather complicated romance…
Taking place mainly in a fictional castle, THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR blends an often overlooked period of history, the Scottish witchcraft accusations, in particular the 1597 Aberdeen witchcraft panic, with a love story. There’s 6 chapters of medieval Christmas too.
FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the 600 children and young people who were kidnapped from Aberdeen during the 1740s and sold into indentured servitude in the American Colonies. The story follows the adventures of Elizabeth Manteith from the castle and her determined efforts to get back home. There’s love. There’s proper derring-dos on the high seas… and there’s chocolate!
A snaggled and barbarous place. That’s where I am. No, I’m not ill again. In fact, I’m doing quite well. Well enough to sit at my desk and write every day, anyway. I’m deep in relationship conflict and development in CABRIOLE, the second book in my dark and romantic ballet series, A Dancer’s Journey. And I’m LOVING it.
These books will be out later this year. I don’t want to rush them. And I also don’t want to put them, even the first one, TENDU, which is actually ready now, up for pre-order before they’re all finished. Because, what if I did become ill? And then there was a terribly long gap between books? No, no, no.
They’re going to be released a month apart, so there will be no long waits for readers. No cliffhanger endings either. Each book completes its story. But then there’s more. So much more.
My poor characters. They’re still recovering from a devastating event that happened in the first book, and now they’re struggling with yet more difficult and complicated things. It’s no wonder they like it when I have a day out. This time their problems are of their own making, though, as stated in the quote above. This was not the plot that I originally envisaged for them. They got away from me. But they’ll sort it all out, and they’ll think everything’s fine. And then a mysterious child will walk up some steps into book three, and turmoil will begin again 🙂
And look what’s happened in the garden. The appearance of the snowdrops always feel so sudden. And so hopeful. Not snaggled in any way. Spring approaches.
My Historical Fiction
SISTERS AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD opens on a snowy winter solstice in 1st century Scotland. The main character is neurodivergent, and has been non-verbal until that first scene of the book.
If you like castles, Scotland, history, witches, stone circles and Christmas done medieval-style, you might like THE MERMAID AND THE BEAR. There’s also a love story.
FIREFLIES AND CHOCOLATE was inspired by the kidnapped children of 18th century Aberdeen, and is set in both Scotland and Colonial Pennsylvania.
They’re all available in paperback, kindle and on kindle unlimited.