Monday, 24 November 2014

WHAT? NO PAGE NUMBERS?

Just a short blog, dear ones, as I don't want to dwell too long on my error. 

Ok, I'm going to tell you about a big, big mistake that I made in republishing my book, Future Confronted


This occured because I had not read the instructions fully. Why? Well, because I was in a rush, that's why. I was adding a back chapter to my book, and didn't want it 'off-sale' for longer than necessary. Being a self-publishing newby, having had a company do it for me before, I felt all fingers and thumbs with the process. Be warned! Read all the instructions VERY carefully.

On the instructions for publishing the Kindle copy of the book to amazon, it says that page numbers aren't necessary, as the book's pages can be made larger or smaller depending on the size of the font chosen by the reader. OK, got that, then I went to upload the POD version of my book to CreateSpace, and, because I was rushing, I totally forgot to put page numbers in. Geeeez! Talk about a mammoth faux pas!

So, dear ones, I now have to take down my book, and enter the page numbers, and resubmit it up to CreateSpace. This means that the book will be off sale for a few days. I will be doing this sometime this week. The Kindle version, however, will still be for sale!

Lesson #1
Always, but always read the instructions, no matter how rushed you perceive yourself to be.

Lesson #2
Always, but always read the instructions, no matter how rushed you perceive yourself to be.

Lesson #3 - Yeah, you've got it, all of the above!

I can laugh at myself now, but initially I felt like crying, such a stupid, stupid mistake. On reflection, my son Rob, who my book Future Confronted is about, would have been sympathetic for a wee while, and then would have made me see the funny side of it. And with that in mind, I can smile, just, about an idiotic omission.

Lesson learned in triplicate.....


Sunday, 23 November 2014

A SKYPING VIRGIN

ANNOUNCEMENT

Last night I Skyped for the first time. 

This sounds like a confession, doesn't it? Well, it is, sort of. In this age of electronic communication, mobile phones, emails, instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook... well, you know.... there's Skype. I dipped my metaphorical toes into the metaphorical water. I didn't drown! It was fun! It was.... well... it felt like magic! I was talking to my laptop, and my friends were talking to theirs, and somehow, we all three managed to have a meeting, a discussion, and, most of all, a really good laugh!

Ever since I found that icon, "Skype", some months ago on my new laptop it filled me with interest and curiosity. I clicked onto it... Hmmm..., I clicked off. I Googled it, read all about it, and thought I understood it. But with whom would I Skype? Nah! I decided to forget about it. But every now and then I would click onto it, and just wonder....

Well, I wonder no longer. Last night I Skyped for the first time! I know dear ones! I had not one, but two people to Skype with. It didn't hurt, it was totally painless! I found myself smiling at my screen, we didn't have live pictures, just sound, but it felt like I imagined it must have felt the first time somebody used that wonderful invention, the telephone, or the first time they had listened to a phonograph record. It felt magical, to hear the voice of someone living over 4,000 miles away, and nine hours behind the UK, on my laptop, my laptop for goodness sake!. Often we have 'chatted' on Messenger, and on Facebook, and I had imagined what my far-away friend's voice was like, but when I heard her, all those miles away, well, I felt emotional. Now I can put a voice to the face, and that is really wonderful! 

I know, I know, I know, I could have phoned my friend, but, Skype is just sitting there waiting to be fired up, and it is FREE... imagine, something that's free to use just sitting there on your laptop! There are services that you do have to pay for, click this link to find out more http://www.skype.com/en/  but for 'just Skyping' it's free.

Two of us live here in the UK, we have met on several occasions now, even been on a trip together. We live about 50 miles from each other, so nothing like the 4,000 miles plus for our other friend. So..... a week ago my friend and I met up in Chichester, West Sussex, to buy our tickets, and now we are going to visit our dear far-away friend next June, all the way to Anchorage, Alaska! 


Well, who knew, eh? It is going to be a trip of a lifetime, we're going to splurge photos all over Facebook, selfies grinning out at you wherever you look... well..., maybe not, that would be a wee bit scary, but we will be Facebooking everyday!


Do you recognise us yet?

Aha! You've guessed! 




So, dear ones, through the wonders of wireless technology, I have Facebooked, Twittered, or is it supposed to be Tweeted? (Images of birds on telephone wires chatting, comes to mind!) And now I've Skyped! No longer am I a Skype Virgin! (waggles eyebrows). Now I feel like an all-round-communicator. Oh yes, I forgot, I am also an author and I communicate
through my blog! So, dear ones, please add those to the list then.






Please visit me on my Facebook Page

Skype image and Birds image from Wikipedia








Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Research Visits: Are They Important?

I am in the middle of writing my first historical fiction book, the working title of which is: The Touching of Stones. 

Initially I saw it as a trilogy, though it may possibly turn into a saga, as I have an ongoing idea of where my story will go. and for this reason I feel it is important for me to visit the places that I am writing about. I also think that even if it wasn't my first foray into historical fiction, I would still need to visit the places that I will be writing about. 

I visited Edinburgh in May to research St. Giles' Cathedral, Rosslyn Chapel, and John Knox House. I felt it was important to visit these places to obtain some idea of their history first hand, and to soak up the atmosphere too. In all of these places the history was, and is, palpable, and I wasn't disappointed either. The visit added much to my Work in Progress. Without the visit I don't think that I could have placed my characters securely within the story.

This begs the question: How important is it to visit the places that will be in your story?

I have read, on Facebook, that some authors include places in their novels that they have not visited. All their information having been gleaned from books, or the internet and still create the atmosphere that is needed. I am lucky inasmuch as I am able to visit Scotland, but if my novel had been set in Australia, or New Zealand, then I would be able to go, but find it a little difficult, I think. It would be better to rely on information gathered from books and DVDs, and the like, not to mention much cheaper!

Having said all that, taking a research trip gives the mind the opportunity to concentrate more fully on the writing process, I think. When I was in Edinburgh in May I wrote more freely, not being hindered by the normal run of the day. Plus being in the place in which you are writing helps enormously. Well, it certainly helped me, and I know that we are all different.

So, I went back again on 7th November. This time I stayed for a week. Four days in Stirling and three days in Edinburgh. It was a real boon. When I was in Stirling, I visited the castle, The Wallace Monument, Stirling Bridge, and The Robert the Bruce statue and visitor centre. The visitor centre was very helpful. They have a weapons handling room. This is where I really appreciated the weight of the mail, the coif, the helmet, the sword, all of it. It gave me a real sense of the power that the knights had, the stamina, and the weakness if pulled from their horse. Once on the ground, they were practically helpless because of the shear weight of that which they wore.

In Edinburgh I was lucky enough to come across some stone masons at St. Giles' Cathedral. They were engraving the name of the cathedral in the stone: St. Giles' Cathedral. There will always be controversy over whether St. Giles' is a Kirk or a Cathedral to the people of Scotland, In St. Giles' Parish Profile they refer to it as: St. Giles' Cathedral, The High Kirk of Edinburgh. The controversy continues. 

The stone masons had taken two years going through different procedures with the authorities in order to be able to engrave St. Giles' Cathedral into the stone in front of the main entrance. 

They had started the previous day sketching out the letters, measuring them, to get them equidistant to each other. On the day that I first came across them at around 13.30, they had been at work since 08.00 that day, and had already achieved the full work, but were doing finishing touches ready for the next day. This is when they painted the lettering a beautiful dark red, made from natural minerals mixed with a spirit. The idea was for the lettering to stand out from afar. At first I thought it a shame to paint them at all, but on reflection, I think I have to agree that it does look so much more stylish; it has a certain permanence.



As my WIP is fundamentally about a family of stone masons whose lives get caught up in the politics of the Scottish War of Independence, among other events through time, then I felt it most fortuitous to come across these wonderful people in the execution of their work. I visited them on two consecutive days to view how the work was coming along. As you can see by my pictures, for which I have their permission to show, their work is splendid in every detail. The weather was bitterly cold, a face-numbing cold, and they sat there cheerfully carrying out their work. Although I have had a continuing interest in stone masonry for some years, I learned a lot from them, which will be a great help in my writing.

My visit to Stirling Castle, The Wallace Monument, and The Robert the Bruce Centre was extremely helpful, and I am really glad that I went to all three places. The castle was extraordinary, and I spent most of the day there. It was captivating, the architecture, the furniture, the tapestries.... marvellous. I had an audio-guide, so that I could just take my time in each part of the castle, and listen at my leisure, depending on where I was in the castle. I took many photos, thankfully these were not prohibited, as in The Writers' Museum, which I visited whilst in Edinburgh.

One of the guides


Beautifully crafted furniture

Replica wall tapestries
each one taking longer than two years to complete

View of The Wallace Monument from Stirling Castle
A detail from The Wallace Monument - William Wallace
Robert the Bruce at the
Bannockburn Heritage Centre
I knew it was large, but it is enormous!
For myself, and I can only talk of my own experiences, the visit to the Bannockburn Heritage Centre was one of the most important visits I made. An afternoon well spent.

Edinburgh Castle, missed the first time in May, was a totally different experience, being a working castle. I stayed there for about three hours, and tried to imagine how it was back in the day. Not much different to how it is now, I imagine. The history, as with Stirling Castle, is palpable. I sat on a bench, shut my eyes, and just listened. When I had managed to edit out all the nations that were wondering around, I imagined how it would have been. It is a formidable place, I also experienced the two minute silence for Armistice Day here. It started with a gun salute, and finished with a gun salute. The intervening two minutes silence was extraordinary.... there was a crow hopping around my feet pecking at crumbs, another came and squabbled for them, a fluttering of wings, cawing, and then silence. The second gun discharged, and the birds rose momentarily, and settled back to scavenging, and the hubbub of the people restarted, rising incrementally as each group resumed their tour.

Two hours later it was the One o'clock Gun. This time I was no more than 20 feet away, and when it went off, well, you can imagine, it was deafening. Difficult to know which was the louder though, the gun or the teenage girls screaming and laughing straight afterwards.

So, to answer my question at the top of this blog; How important is it to visit the places that will be in your story? I would have to answer yes, it's very important to visit those places, if it is at all possible.

All in all, my visit to Scotland was a complete success, what it has left me with, however, is writers' block. I have so much information which I am trying to put into some order, that my writerly mind has quite simply checked out, and my 'organising the information' mind has taken over. Very frustrating!

I've had many suggestions from fellow writers on Facebook, after I had asked how others cope with writers' block, and I am on my way to trying them one by one. I have no doubt that once the muse has recovered from her holiday, I will be off to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries again, and, yes, I will most definitely be sometime, the muse willing!

You can find me on these links:

My book Future Confronted, which has been awarded a BRAG Medallion, can be bought in paperback from CreateSpace and as a Kindle from amazon

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Sergeant Harry Wilsher, Highland Light Infantry, A Survivor of The Great War

I never knew my maternal grandfather
He was killed before I was born.


My grandfather was born in Sandy in Bedfordshire in 1891. When he married my grandmother, who came from Scotland, the people in his tiny village said that he was marrying a foreigner. 

They set up home in rooms in London, and their family life began.

In 1914 The Great War started, and like all young men, grandfather enlisted to fight for his country. He joined The Highland Light Infantry, and became soldier 10527, just one among the many who set off to fight, all thinking it would be over by Christmas. The Great War, it was supposed to be the war to end all wars. 

My grandfather was seriously injured on the battlefield, and left for dead, after half of his face was blown away. It wasn’t until a soldier saw him move slightly in the mud and the filth, that the alarm was raised.

He was sent home in a terrible state. He was in hospital for months and months. They stitched him together as best as they could, but he no longer looked like himself. Some time later, (sadly, I have nobody left to ask how long that was), he was put in the hands of the surgeon Archibald Mclindoe, who, during and after World War Two, was famous for coming up with innovative ways of helping burn victims. Well, he miraculously rebuilt grandfather's face. The right half of his lower jaw bone was rebuilt from part of his hip bone as this has a good blood supply, then he underwent skin grafting, and using a photo of my grandfather, they proceeded to make him look more like himself.


When my grandfather joined up to fight in France, he took with him a blank notebook, which he turned into his diary of events. I am amazed that he had the presence of mind to write in this diary on an almost daily basis, not only write in it almost daily, but with a hand that was always neat.

When I came across his diary, after my mother passed away, I wept for almost the entire way through. Not just because it was his ‘War Diary’, but because he was my grandfather, a brave man whom I had never had the good fortune to know.

So, he survived that terrible war, battered, but alive. Life turned back to normality, until one Saturday in 1946, when he was cycling home from watching is beloved Chelsea football game. The last thing he had said to my mother was, “Can you buy me a box of matches please lass?” They were the last words that she would hear him speak. Hours later a policeman knocked at the door to give her some devastating news. Her father, my grandfather, survivor of The Great War, had been killed by a trolley bus. Killed outright. Dead. Gone. Truly, to survive so much, and yet to be killed even so, could not be more tragic. He was 55 years old. His wife, my grandmother, had been bedridden since having a stroke when she was just 50. She too died when she was 55 years old, some three years after grandfather.

Life is full of many twists and turns, but nobody knows how or when they will die, just that they will die.

I am writing this, 100 years after the beginning of that terrible war, to pay homage to my grandfather. To tell him that I am so proud of him, that he did his ‘bit’ for King and Country. He survived, but not for long, but he did survive.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.
by Laurence Binyon 


The last entry in my grandfather's diary is this:
PS - I had only been discharged from hospital for about twenty minutes, when a Lady told me in a bus, that my place was in France, not riding in buses!
Sergeant Harry Wilsher, 
of the Highland Light Infantry, number 10527.
My grandfather, a man of whom I will be forever proud.


To The Fallen




Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Trials and Tribulations of an Indie Author

In the beginning was The Book, 
And The Book was The Masterpiece
~~~
How to publish? 
Where to publish?
~~~



When I started writing my first book, Future Confronted, publishing it had not entered my head. All I knew was that I wanted to, no..., that I needed to write the story of my son Rob who died from a brain tumour when he was just 20 years old.

When I had eventually progressed to about three quarters of the way through, I was reading a post on Facebook where a friend was talking on a thread about KDP. I had never heard of this before, so I put in a comment to ask her what it was exactly. That is when I found out about the wonders of self publishing through amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. Oh my word! This was going to be the way forward for me. I looked into the whys and wherefores, the hows and how nots, and continued reading as much as I could about it. Fired with a new enthusiasm, I carried on to finish my book.

Another Facebook friend, who was going through the publishing process for the first time, was helping me with all sorts of hints and tips. He is a very successful author now, I might add. Unfortunately I wasn't sufficiently confident to do it on my own. I chickened out, in fact. I went with a publisher that helps the likes of me, timorous and lacking confidence, to get their book up on all platforms. All went well for a wee while. Unfortunately after some months we had a parting of the ways, and this is when I had to bite the infamous self-publishing bullet! And what a hard bullet it is! But going it alone has been liberating. Now I really feel like an Indie Author! Well, I'm as independent as I'll ever be.

I decided to walk through the process like the proverbial tortoise, slow and steady... this way I gradually ticked off each instruction from the list. Do you know what? The further I progressed, the more confident I became. I uploaded my book, which now comes with added content, to the CreateSpace website for the paperback version. Mission accomplished, or so I thought, because then I had to do the cover. Piece of cake.... NOT! I had no idea about the re-sizing, as my first edition was 5" x 7" and some 173 pages, and my new edition is 6" x 9" with 130 pages, so, not only larger, but with a narrower spine to the book. A big difference in the scheme of things. My cover designer, my dear friend Dave Slaney, re-sized it for me, and placed my B.R.A.G. Medallion on the cover too. I then uploaded it with great success. Huzzah!!!

Then I had to do the Kindle version, which I thought was going to be a diabolical faff, but was easy, so easy in fact that I couldn't believe it. This is because, when you have uploaded with CreateSpace, they send your file through to KDP for you and all you have to do is go through several steps, et voilà! Last night, (19.09.2014) at approximately 19:30, I finally uploaded the Kindle version, and within twelve hours it was there waiting for someone to purchase it.

The B.R.A.G. Medallion
I'm very proud to say that my book received The B.R.A.G. Medallion from indieBrag.com this month (September), and indieBrag have supplied everything that is needed for updating the book cover, etc., and also help to promote the book on their website. Receiving The B.R.A.G. Medallion has been a humbling experience, considering the channels that a book has to go through in order to be awarded this honour. If you go to their website, you will be able to read the thorough and exacting process through which a book has to go before it is successful.

There it is then, my foray into the Indie Publishing realms. It's been such a journey, one I thought I wouldn't be able to achieve, and now I will go forward with my Work in Progress, with the confidence that I will also be able to publish that one on my own through the delights of CreateSpace and KDP.


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Saturday, 30 August 2014

Reflecting the Light by Bobbie Coelho - A Review

Bobbie Coelho is a writer of poems so profound that they cannot help but touch you in some way, and leave a lasting impression. Some will make you smile, maybe laugh a little, and some will make you think deeply on the subject. Some will even make you shed a tear, I am sure. Whichever one speaks to you the loudest, It is bound to stay with you for a very long time.

From the front matter
This is Bobbie Coelho’s second anthology of poetry and follows on from her first, Finding the Light, which is also published by SilverWood Books.

Bobbie Coelho was born near Norwich and now lives in Hampshire with her husband, Steve. She has two stepsons and three grandchildren. She has always enjoyed poetry, but after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2002, she was particularly compelled to write as a way of putting things into perspective.

Bobbie strongly supports Parkinson’s UK therefore all profits of this book will go towards research into Parkinson’s and the ongoing search for a cure.
Bobbie Coelho, May 2014

I ‘know’ Bobbie from social media, and have ‘chatted’ with her many times. Her fortitude in coping with her disease is admirable, and through her poetry she gives the reader an insight into her life. Some of the poems with grab your heart, and some of them will make you smile, for example, Ode to a Halibut.
I have chosen to review the poems that have touched me the most, that have made me sit up and think, and have, to some extent placed me in Bobbie’s shoes for a few moments.

The first poem, Reflecting the Light, is one such poem. A short journey through a life until there is some ‘knowing’ that it is alright to be one’s self, and not to bother what other people think of you.

Reflecting the Light

In youth the way ahead is misty and obscure
Hard to navigate, even as you mature
Old age brings the joy of seeing clearer than before
A footpath revealed far beyond the open door
I’ve left the dark, travelled far
Sitting peacefully at last
Reflected in the light
Knowing never to fear
The coldest, darkest night.




To me this poem is an insight into how it feels to come to terms with one’s illness, to make a positive out of a negative. It’s admirable, and exceedingly profound.

Bobbie is taking us through the ages of ‘man’ if you will, – youth, mature, old age; pointing out that it is a personal journey that we travel. Whether we be able bodied, or have a disease such as Parkinson’s. Let us, for a moment, look at the word ‘disease’ – let us break it down… dis – ease. Dis the dictionary tells us is indicating a reversal, so in this case, a reversal of good health, a reversal of ease, which the dictionary tells us is freedom from discomfort, worry or anxiety. So when we put the two together we have reversal of comfort, an illness, which in the case of Parkinson’s is an incurable disease at the moment. 

Bobbie assures the reader that she is, Sitting peacefully at last/ Reflected in the light/ Knowing never to fear/ The coldest, darkest night. These four lines sit in the heart of the reader, feeling the understanding of what it is to come to terms with something that can only be lived with and incurable.

The second poem that I would like to discuss is Me.

It starts with a line that I’m sure many of us have discussed and wondered about, or maybe have never voiced it. The premise of having been reborn many times.

It’s been said we’re reborn many times
To learn all our lessons through other minds

Bobbie has a unique way of making the reader confront their thoughts, how they feel about something, and how they would deal with it. I would always choose to be me – Choosing to be herself even with her illness, shows determination, fortitude, and a zest for life that will not be extinguished.

The next poem that I would like to talk about is; Into the Light

A five stanza poem with a rhyme that carries the reader through to the finish before you realise it; so you go back and read it again, only this time you read it more slowly. The difference is that you ‘get it’ – the message is there for all to see. It’s a journey through a life. Let me quote the first verse:

Born on the last day of summer’s reign
Only two minutes of the day remained
Starting my life as the autumn came
But very soon the seasons changed

And the journey progresses through the other verses, telling of just how a life was remembered, and finishes with:

Born at the end of a summer’s reign
Into a world never returning again
Strayed from my path, but ended up right
Born as day came from the night
Out of the dark and into the light.

For me that demonstrates an acceptance of a life, of its ills, its lows and its highs. The use of summer’s reign has a feel of presiding over the renewing a life, making things grow. So the opening line, Born on the last day of summer’s reign, followed by, Only two minutes of the day remained; would suggest to me that she felt that she was born just in time, but in time for what, I wonder?

The third verse, I feel, is an epiphany of sorts;

It seems to me that time doesn’t fly
Just trickles slowly and I don’t know why
In the morning’s mirror it’s youth I see
In the evening an old face stares back at me

It is so tangible; the feeling of becoming less than one was to begin with. I think we all feel like our younger selves, until we are reminded of our status when we look in the mirror. It tells of a passage of time, of not being able to hold onto it. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

The last two lines of the fourth verse are truly profound, and, for me, they are the most powerful;

Sweet memories are all that remain
But reminiscences that will always stay

To me this is a summing up of a life, reminding the reader that it is deeds and memories that we live by, and the future is something that we never quite reach; it is always just one step away.

There are many wonderful and powerful poems in Bobbie Coelho’s book, but for me Into the Light is by far the most powerful. I have read it many times now, and each time it conveys something different, but always it is poignant, touching the heart of the reader, the writer having just bared her soul, and letting us all know just how she feels.

This is a book to cherish, to read and reread many times over. It’s an eclectic collection, a poem for every mood, I think. Some are humorous, and some are of sadness and illness, and the overcoming of such. Always, though, Bobbie Coelho fills her poems with honesty, with an openness that will astound. It’s as though she has opened her heart, and filled the pages of this wonderful poetry book for all to contemplate, and even enjoy.

Bobbie Coelho can be found on Facebook

You can purchase Bobbie Coelho's book from here






Tuesday, 27 May 2014

My Research Trip to Edinburgh



MY RESEARCH TRIP TO EDINBURGH

On the 5th May I started on my journey to go to Edinburgh to research my first historical fiction novel, The Touching of Stones. I have already done quite a lot of research on the internet, and through books, but quite honestly there is nothing quite like researching in the place that you are writing about.

I needed to get a feel for the place, the atmosphere, hear the accent, in short, just drink it in. At first it was all overwhelming. For one thing, the main accent that I kept hearing on my first day out and about, was American, then it was Chinese. Finally I tuned into some Scottish accents. Well, that took me by surprise. At first I found it hard to latch onto. Then, slowly, I unravelled the sounds. It is a soft accent, like listening to music. The rhythm of the speech is delightful. Now all I need to be able to do is to write in the accent. Some authors that I have read manage this very well, and I hope that I will be able to do the same.

I had planned for my book to be the first of a trilogy, though, since having visited Edinburgh, there may well be more than three. The Rosslyn Chapel, and St. Giles' Cathedral will be featuring to a large extent in book one of The Touching of Stones. I was, therefore, enthralled when I finally visited these places of worship.

I visited St. Giles' Cathedral first as it was literally just around the corner from my hotel. I was so excited that I could hardly contain myself. I donated my £3 entry fee, then paid my £2 for the permission to take photographs, and then ventured, slowly, to my first point of interest; the Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial.
Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial
This is a large bronze casting made in 1904 by Augustus St. Gaudens, the renowned sculptor from America, and a great admirer of Robert Louis Stevenson. It really is an imposing memorial. I took my photo, the first of many, with my mobile phone. I then walked, awe struck, along the wall looking up, and back, and over.... trying to take it all in. I stood stock still and just listened. It was 09:45, and there was the hubbub of the public whispering, rising and falling, and then there was silence. The silence grew, surrounded me, and brought a peace that then followed me all around the Cathedral no matter who else was there. It was like being in my own bubble. My thoughts were tumbling as I viewed each piece of wonderful stone work, statuary, wood carving, stained glass window. I have been in many Cathedrals, admiring them for their architecture, their beauty and their sanctity. St. Giles' has a special aura about it. One that I haven't experienced in any of the others. It may be the multiple side chapels, each with their own quietude, a special ambiance of serenity.
The Memorial of James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose


  I felt almost as though I were intruding as I leaned forward to read the inscriptions. I whispered an apology as I took a photo. I stepped back to gaze up at the highest point and just wonder how they ever achieved such craftsmanship.

I wondered further along and came across another side chapel. A £2 charge for entering this one. My goodness! I had just entered The Thistle Chapel. The wood carving in this chapel was astounding in its detail.
An otter devouring a fish
Intricate filigree work all about, and on the pews were carefully carved animals. It felt as though, once we were all gone, the animals would scamper about so real were they. As you can see by the photo on the left, the detail in the carving is quite astonishing. Up close and personal, the otter has an angry face, almost challenging anyone to take his/her fish away. There were many such carvings in this side chapel, all of equally splendid workmanship. 
Detail from the pews





Study the detail in this one to the left. The intricacies of the flowers and the berries. I stood for many minutes studying this particular carving. I was trying to imagine the artisan working with his chisels, meticulously paring away the wood to reveal the objects within. I have always been in awe of both wood and stone carving. In awe of how the artist sees inside and then releases a three dimensional object so that we can see what was in his imagination.


I gradually made my way around the cathedral. To be truthful my neck ached from looking up at the wonderful roof. All cathedral roofs are a mathematical wonder to me. They are both beautiful and inspiring. Just look at all the detail in the picture below. The picture doesn't do it justice, but it is breathtaking. It really does look like the roof is stretching up towards heaven. 



Detail of the ceiling
In my young days I spent every Sunday in church and Sunday school. I would gaze up into the highest parts of the ceiling of our church and begin to wonder how on earth was it possible for all that to stay up there. Those highest stretches reaching across from pillar to pillar. It was as though they were outstretched arms pushing the ceiling upwards, stopping it from falling on us, the congregation. It was then that my initial fascination with both church and cathedral architecture hooked me, and eventually, in my retirement years I was drawn to the idea of writing a book featuring stone masons. I have gleaned quite a bit of knowledge over the years, but since deciding to write my book I have studied the architecture much more closely. As many would have seen on Facebook, I have bought several books on stone masonry and cathedral building. Some of my Facebook friends jokingly asked if I had planning permission to build a cathedral in my garden... Why of course I have!




Detail from the pulpit
Detail from the pulpit
Here are some of the exquisite details from the pulpit in St Giles' Cathedral. As you can see, the detail of the work is truly intricate. This work leaves me in wonder. The skill, the concentration, the determination to transfer a picture from the mind into a three dimensional object, it just truly astounds me.

Not all of St. Giles' Cathedral is from the 1400s, in fact there is very little of it left from that time now, but I find that it gives a real sense of how a building can still be relevant even though it has gone through many additions and alterations though the centuries.


John Knox
I finish with John Knox, (c1513-1514 - 1572), of which there is a really formidable statue. His statue is a rich black, and quite startling at first sight. It was cast by Pittendrigh MacGillivray in 1904, and is placed near the west end of the Cathedral. I have to admit that I just stood staring at the statue for quite some time. I was trying to remember my history about this man. The statue is life-like, although I would think a little larger than life-size, and if you stand really close to it, it is as though the man that was John Knox knows you are looking at him. It almost feels an intrusion. I did, however, study him quite closely. I wish that I could have asked him the questions that were buzzing around in my head. Would I have liked the answers? Probably not, but I'm sure we would have had a really interesting discussion. When standing directly in front of the statue and staring directly into his face, I saw a man full of religious fervour, his face has a great intensity about it. He is indicating to his Bible, as if reinforcing a point that he is making. His left foot looked in readiness to walk toward me, and I took a step back. I looked at him, his hat, his beard, his clothes, his shoes...I nodded to myself, thinking, this man was not going to go unheard. Nobody was going to ignore him or his sermons, and that was very evident from the stance of the statue. Yet again I was in awe of the sculptor, the person who could bring an historical figure to life so that we could all experience 'the man' that was John Knox.

The next day I visited Rosslyn Chapel. I had wanted to for so long, but never imagined that I would ever visit Scotland, let alone Edinburgh. I asked the receptionist at my hotel to call me a taxi, and sat down in the foyer to wait for it. While I was waiting I looked at my WIP notes that I had in my jotter. I had underlined the parts of the Chapel that I wanted/needed to look at that were important to my story. Like St. Giles' Cathedral, it too had undergone many changes since the 15th century.

The Chapel taken from the Visitor Centre
When the taxi picked me up, it was like having my own guide to Edinburgh. What a mine of information he was. He pointed out places of interest, and I was getting neck ache twisting this way and that way. Then we parked at the Rosslyn Chapel. Oh my goodness! I'd seen it on TV the week before I went to Edinburgh so I knew all the scaffolding was down, and so wasn't surprised by that being gone. What I was surprised about was the fact that it had a most modern Visitor Centre an immense juxtaposition to the Chapel. Gifts, trinkets, café with a wonderful view over the hills, and everything homemade. Homemade scones, soup, bread, and the aromas were very enticing. 

Anyway, I bought my ticket and guide book and was told that a talk would take place in the Chapel in about 10 minutes. So off I went. As I walked through the door into the Chapel all I could hear was the rumbling murmur of the visitors awaiting for the talk to start. It was packed. I found myself a seat at the back on the centre aisle end. I busied myself looking up at the ornate carvings on the ceiling, and down the walls. The many carvings of the Green Man, the flowers, the birds, everywhere I looked there was an image full of meaning. The stonework on the outside of the Chapel is in stark contrast to that of the inside. We were not allowed to take photos of the inside, but I can assure you the difference would need to be seen to be believed. Just imagine most of it had been open to the elements for years, and despite there being evidence of algae still, the restoration is extraordinary.

A detail from the rear of the Chapel
The work involved in the restoration must have been arduous and the results are incredible, and quite simply stunning. The Apprentice Pillar, for example, famous for its beauty, is so different from its many pictures. Up close it is more detailed, more intricate, more 'holy' than can be put into words. The picture to the right of this page is a detail from the rear of the outside of the Chapel. It is one of several alcoves with stone seating. I would imagine that they were necessary to sit out of the wind. The Chapel is built on an extremely windy hill. When I stepped into the alcove, it was almost still and silent, then just step back away from it and the noise of the wind takes over. So I stood in the alcove for a moment and tried to imagine what it must have been like back in the day. It started to rain, so reluctantly I moved to go inside the Visitor Centre again.

I went to the café to have some much needed lunch and a warm-up. As I waited, I got my notebook out again, scribbled some notes of what I had seen, and what the guide had said in her talk, which had taken about 35 minutes. All very interesting. My soup and roll arrived. Too hot to eat, so I sipped my tea and flicked through my guide book. The sky darkened, heavy clouds, pouring rain, gusting wind. The café filled up with customers looking for somewhere to sit and wait it out. It became so noisy that I just put my notebook away and finished my soup.

I had been given a card by the taxi driver to call them when I needed to go back to town. I did this, and only waited ten minutes. As I sat in the taxi, drifting away in my thoughts about what I had seen, my WIP started fitting together. I was becoming excited now. Having seen this most beautiful of places with my own eyes I began to have a sense of my characters, their foibles, their lives, their speech. Up until this point, most of the accents that I had heard in Edinburgh had been foreign, but at The Chapel, I heard Scots. Familiar words taking on new sounds, faces so animated, so friendly, so caring. I was falling in love with Scotland. My maternal grandmother was born in Stirling over 120 years ago. My mother visited Scotland many times in her childhood, but we, as a family, never went there. I was but a 16 month old baby when my grandmother died. I don't remember her voice at all, but my mother always told me that it was a soft accent. This I can now understand. I never quite knew what she meant by a 'soft accent' but it is a most fitting description.

This time my driver was the silent type, so I had plenty of time to think about my day. I may possibly have to go again. Take more detailed pictures of the outside. All in all, though, it was very productive. I had such a wonderful visit, especially the inside of the Chapel. Only when you have seen it with your own eyes, can you truly appreciate its splendour, its ambiance, its holiness, after all it is a living working Chapel, used every week for services. Quite simply outstanding, outstanding.

I have been back home now for just over two weeks. My notes now have annotations around them. I've started to read the books about stone masonry that I bought once I got back home. They are so interesting, absorbing even. Writing my historical novel is going to be really enjoyable, even down to the mundane aspects of a life. 

My main character is Nychol Granger. At first I thought him to be the youngest child of a master stone mason. But he told me otherwise. He told me he was, indeed, the eldest child, and because of that he felt that the story should lead with him. I listened to him, I did, but I'm not sure yet where I want him to come into the story. He's angry with me. He wants to be on the first page. I will have to do an edit or two, but I'm sure he will be pleased where he comes into the story, I know I am. And, well, Nychol will just have to grin and bear it, won't he? Or will he get me to change my mind?

Louise can be found on Facebook here

Her book Future Confronted can be purchased here