Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Time - a complex idea.

Time is something we take for granted.  'What time is it?' How often have you asked or been asked that question?   There are so many commonplace questions or statements relating to time. 

How long does it take?
How long do I have?
Isn't time flying.
Never enough time.
Give me time!
Time to go.
I wish time would stand still.

I could go on.  We mark time, watch it,  our lives are often ruled by the clock,  appointments and schedules. we have timepieces in our homes, in cars, on our wrists, on our phones, in public places and it is often difficult to be anywhere without knowing or being able to find out what time it is.                                                                                                                                                             Clocks through the ages have been huge and tiny, magnificent and ultra modern, even clocks made of flowers. From fashion statements to design icons they are as varied as man's imagination.
But time, and time travel, is the fabric of many stories and that is something I am thinking about at the moment.  I love playing with the idea of time, how we can or cannot change things, and in fact as a writer you are the master of time.

You can start a story at any point in time, you can jump forwards, and backwards in time, leading the reader along a winding road through lifetimes, before revealing the answer to the question that kept them reading.

But some stories use time as a main element of the plot. The ability to go back and change things is a tempting idea for all of us.  How often have you wondered what would have happened if you had said or done something differently, with the benefit of hindsight or even just enough time to make a considered decision?

I have been considering time recently and finding it an exciting concept filled with problems to solve but opportunities to explore.

Time to go now, but I will be back... 

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Edinburgh Book Festival 2014 My event dates

It's almost August and that means in about 10 days or so it will be time for the Edinburgh Book Festival 2014 to open its doors.

The site is being prepared from the grassy private square at the end of Edinburgh's Geroge Street that is Charlotte Gardens, into the tented vibrant book festival complete with Spiegeletent, bookshops event and party tents and of course the wonderful author's yurt that is the green room.

This year I am going to be there for two events - one in the public programme and another for younger children in the schools programme. 

 in the main children's programme is for 14+ and is called 'Motive and Intention' and I will be appearing with fellow YA author Laura Jarrett, and chaired by Julia Eccleshare.It is on Saturday 23rd August 7-8pm. We will be discussing our latest books - 
Laura's  'Louder than Words' and my 'Don't Judge Me'

So if you are interested in reading or writing YA, why not come along and ask us some questions!

With a complete change of subject matter my second event is in the schools programme, where schools are invited to bring classes to the Book Festival to meet their favourite authors. 

On 20th August I will be speaking to school classes in Charlotte Square about Hamish McHaggis and the Skirmish at Stirling.

In the programme it shows that this event was to be with my good friend and Hamish McHaggis illustrator,, Sally J. Collins, who sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago.

She had been looking forward to this event and I will miss her involvement but intend that it will be a celebration of all things Hamish, as Sally would have wished, including bringing up some children to hold the beautiful mini beasts that Sally created.  

One of these creatures is hidden on each page, in each Hamish McHaggis book.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Sally J Collins 1951-2014

                 Sally J Collins 1951-2014
Sally J Collins 1951-2014
‘Fluffy’   is a word that has been used often in the last few days as people share their memories of my dear friend, the talented illustrator of the Hamish McHaggis series.  Sally was fluffy and gentle, kind and thoughtful but when it came to her artwork she was a consummate professional, with an incredible eye for detail.
We worked together for 10 years on the Hamish McHaggis books. Hamish McHaggis and the Great Glasgow Treasure Hunt was the latest, and now sadly the last of the ten books we did together.

Hamish McH glasgow cover

I remember the fun we had going on trips to Glasgow’s Kelvingrove, Transport Museum and Pollok House so that Sally could do research  for her illustrations.

Sally was always delighted when she heard of children who had taken Hamish to their hearts, sending us pictures, ideas for stories and families who told us Hamish was their favourite bedtime story, or cuddly toy.
Clan Gathering July 2009
        Clan Gathering July 2009
We had an amazing time together working on the Hamish McHaggis books, which were a close collaboration; we were very much a partnership. We had huge fun over the years with book launches and events in Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Glamis Castle, at Balmoral, and on the Falkirk Wheel, and at the last Clan Gathering in 2009, when Hamish was the children’s mascot and we met people from all over the world who became dedicated Hamish fans.
We painted up a car as Hamish’s Whirry Bang  and there is a full size Hamish
as well as the little soft toy Hamish, which Sally just loved to cuddle.
cuddly Hamish McHaggis Toy
Sally was a kind and generous friend and colleague, and a delightful person to be around and she will be sadly missed but her delightful images will live on in the books to remind us of her.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Making bread - taking time to plot...

When I am writing I often take a break and nothing makes me relax more than cooking, and especially making bread.
When my children were small for more than a year, between my second and third child, I never bought a loaf of bread. Instead I baked about 3-4 smallish loaves every few days.
I worked out a way to make it fit easily into my routine by starting after tea in the evening putting the ingredients together and kneading the dough and putting it away in a large bowl, in the fridge overnight.

The next morning  I would knock the dough back while the children were having breakfast which only took a few minutes,  and put it away somewhere warm to rise again.  After lunch I kneaded it again and placed it into loaf tins to rise a final time.  After tea was out of the oven I popped the loaves in and they were ready to leave cooling while the children were put to bed.

I even had fun experimenting with different flours, but in the end the most practical for us was a third strong white flour, a third wholemeal and a third berrymeal (which had seeds in it.) This made a delicious loaf that sliced easily and everyone was happy to eat it.

There is something very satisfying about kneading bread and then seeing it rise.  Even more wonderful is that delicious smell of newly baked bread permeating the house.

I find that breadmaking has made its way into my writing every now and then.  It can be an interesting way to occupy a character while something is happening, or a discussion is taking place, the kneading of the bread can be used to highlight the emotional turmoil of the character or spark memories that the smell evokes.

Oe of the other wonderful things about breadmaking is that it has no strict timescape, it can rise for longer or shorter, as time demands, and there are so many variation that it is never boring.

So I am off to check and see if my bread has risen yet and kneading has already given me time to work out a kink in the plot I am working on, so win-win!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

NZ 3 Off to the farm... There be sheep!

Continuing the blogs about our recent trip to Australia and then New Zealand, where we were lucky enough to be invited to visit friends at their farm, just in time to see them shearing some of their sheep.  
Here they are in the pen waiting their turn. 

I was very impressed with the speed and dexterity of the sheep shearers.

And the quantity of wool they were producing that all had to be swept aside and collected in large canvas sacks that were compressed before being closed.  

This is a tally sheet from 27th Dec 1952! 

Then it was time for a trip around the farm. Those look like Hobbitses hills!

After the farm we headed up to Lake Taupo. 

If you are looking for a way to entertain your kids why not stop at McDonald's and let them look inside their plane.

But I think I prefer the lakeside, and the peace and quiet down at Oruatua

But soon we were heading back to Auckland where the view from our hotel made me a trifle dizzy at times!

We took a ferry trip, and went for walks, and found some quite amazing trees

While we were in Auckland we met up with the lovely Trevor and Diane who were on holiday there, too. They run the Kids Lit Quiz in Newcastle. 
 And we also had a lovely evening and a delicious meal with Wayne Mills, the quiz master himself, who was touching base at home in between his international travels to bring the quiz to even more countries than ever before.  I have no idea where he gets the energy!   Hope to see you all later in the year when the UK heats are on.

Before we knew it time had come to catch our big white bird and take to the skies on the way home.

Friday, 14 March 2014

NZ 2 The arrival of the 'City of Adelaide'

We were on our way to Adelaide when I discovered that an old friend who lives close to us at home was due to sail into the port while we were there.

Rita Brad is a writer from East Lothian in Scotland who had been researching the story of the cutter 'The Carrick' other wise known as 'The City of Adelaide'.  

This is Rita, with Peter Christopher who was director in charge of getting the clipper back to Australia

This old lady of the sea had been in Glasgow but funds were raised to return it to Adelaide.  Rita  travelled on the container ship transporting the cutter, all the way from Rotterdam, across to the USA and then on to Australia.

They had been due in the same day as we arrived there but due to a quite dangerous storm just off Port Hedland Australia, they were delayed.

But thankfully they arrived safely into Adelaide Port.

It was lovely to catch up with Rita and hear all about her amazing journey and also to see the clipper up close.

Sadly it was all too soon time to leave Adelaide and head off to New Zealand, where it was a little cooler!

IN Auckland the skies were blue and the weather was a very pleasant 25-26degrees.  Perfect!  

We went to stay with friends in their lovely house in the north 

 and arrived just in time to help celebrate their little one's second birthday!  She just loves Elmo!

We had a great time there and also went a little further up the coast and had a walk along wide deserted beaches.

After a bit we headed off towards Mount Maunganui, but on the way there I was interested to see this decoration of what could so easily have been just an eyesore!

and then we arrived at Mt Maunganui, sparkling water and beautiful scenery.

Austalia 1 - There and back again.....

It's only been two weeks (OK so a busy- around World Book Day events- 2 weeks) but already it seems as if we've been back for ages!

 Our trip to Australia and New Zealand began as such things often do, with a series of fairly long flights.

We usually like to fly through Singapore, and even if, as this time we don't get out of the airport, it is in my opinion the best airport in the world - not that I've seen quite that many but it would take something to beat Changi Airport.  Last time we were there a chap was playing a grand piano in the middle of a seating area and this time there were these amazing flower displays

 and places where large goldfish swim in tranquil waters. there is even a butterfly enclosure.

 This was a very GREEN leaning tower of Pisa!

The airport also has an outdoor swimming pool on the roof of one of the terminals.

But if you get the chance it is also well worth getting out of the airport and taking a trip into Singapore.

We stopped in Adelaide, South Australia,  first but in what has become a bit of a habit we arrived jsut as they were about to experience their hottest weather for 100 years!!  (We'd had a similar experience last time we visited Melbourne a few years ago!)

Adelaide (what we saw of it when not trying to avoid the heat) was lovely. Wide open streets, some thankfully had overhanging shelter so you can walk about even when ti is so very hot!I loved this small park area with its sculptures.

And the giant cockroach seemed to be quite happy with the temperature, or was that the easy reach of the shops and arcades around it, perhaps?

There are a lot of parks and green areas, and this is the view at dusk,(or was it dawn?) from our cool air-conditioned hotel room. (oops forgot to put it in!!  (Updated now!) 

We met up with the lovely 'catdownunder' a blogger and writer who lives in Adelaide and sweetly kept on apologising for the uncomfortable weather, as if she could have done something to change it!! We had a lovely afternoon chatting under a very large tree in the botanical gardens and on another day she took us to visit the migration Museum and discovered what life was like for the early migrants to South Australia

 We found a lovely little coffee shop where everything was home made and the morning coffee was very good,

 and enjoyed wandering around the old style arcades, too.

I am often amazed by the juxtaposition of the old and the new, the traditional and the modern. Is this sacrilege or beauty? I can't decide!