#Sharing – Just For You Guys!

I’m sure lots of writers will like Marcia Meara’s inspiring wallpaper.

The Write Stuff

So happy to be nearly finished with TE2, and close to release time. Mostly, it’s about formatting now, and double checking to be sure everything looks as good as I can make it. And as a thank you for being such a great, supportive group of writers and readers, I’m sharing a wallpaper I recently (this morning) made to inspire me on days when I’m feeling a bit ho-hum about it all. Hope some of you can use it. Enjoy! 🙂

(NOTE: Right click and save. It should save as full-sized. If not, email me and I’ll send you the .jpg. )

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Under the Sea, a Virtual Art Gallery Showcasing the work of Rob Goldstein

Drop in to Teagansbooks to see an absolutely fabulous art exhibtion by Rob Goldstein. Stunning.

Teagan's Books

Opening AnnouncementWelcome to my art gallery.  Today the venue is the #steampunk submarine of Cornelis Drebbel, who graciously allowed us into his domain. 

I’m excited to present the artwork of Rob Goldstein, who illustrated Hullaba Lulu.  Please join me for a stroll through the submarine to view his images.

Yes, that’s the first piece of Rob’s art on display ― Sea World.  Isn’t it calming?

Sea WorldSea World

First, we need to go to San Francisco to pick up Rob, the guest of honor.  Cornelis, it feels like we are already under weigh.  I’m surprised you put your book down without a fight.  What was all that clicking about?  What do you mean click you?

Cornelis:  No, click me, not click you. Click Me Happy.”  It’s exciting for me to be able to choose the book’s ending, Teagan.  But I simply couldn’t pick one.  So, I…

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More Books I Read This Summer

Darlene Foster is sharing reviews of the books she has been reading this summer and I’m delighted she has given No More Mulberries a lovely review.

Darlene Foster's Blog

I was pleased to see that everyone enjoyed my list of book recommendations, so following my previous post, I wish to share three more books I read and enjoyed this summer. I have included a children´s book as I believe everyone should read a children´s book once in a while. It is amazing what you can learn.

No More Mulberries

No More Mulberries is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

British-born Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan doctor husband is heading towards crisis. Despite his opposition, she goes to work as a translator at a medical teaching camp in a remote area of rural Afghanistan hoping time apart will help are see where their problems lie. She comes to realise how unresolved issues from when her first husband was killed by a mujahideen group are damaging…

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MarySmith’sPlace – At home with Rabbie Burns

Over the last couple of months I’ve had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of people from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Poland, Slovenia, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland – and two Russian speakers from Israel. I’ve probably missed a few nations from the list but it gives you a flavour of the international appeal of Scotland’s Bard, Robert Burns. Robert_burns

All these people have been to the Robert Burns House museum in Dumfries, where I’ve been working as a temporary attendant this summer (the main reason for the lack of regular blog posts!). Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns lived here for the last three years of his life with his wife Jean Armour (who lived on in the house for a further thirty eight years after her husband’s death) and five children.

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Robert Burns House, Burns Street, Dumfries

Last year 15,000 people came through the door to explore his home with its four rooms full of exhibits from his life and work, both as a poet and exciseman. Sometimes, doing the introductory welcome I felt a bit like an estate agent describing the house’s ‘must see’ features: “This would have been the parlour, kept for entertaining, across the passage is the kitchen with original range and larder and upstairs are two bedrooms – the box bed was not Robert’s but it a period piece of the time – and a small study. Make sure you look at the window in the study to see where Robert scratched his name on the glass with his diamond ring.”

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The kitchen with origial range – and the flagged floor Jean Armour and swept




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In one of the two bedrooms.

After a summer of reading about, talking about, answering questions about Scotland’s Bard, I’m still not sure what I make of him. Definitely a complex character. Undoubtedly, a great poet, a man who loathed hypocrisy, especially that of the Church and a socialist who believed in equality. I don’t believe he was an alcoholic. He liked a drink – but he lived in hard drinking times (and the water was none too safe) – but I don’t believe anyone could be such a prolific writer if he spent most of his time drunk.

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The first edition of Burns’ poems: The Kilmarnock Edition

He was a womaniser, that’s for sure. His wife deserves a sainthood for what she put up with, even bringing up one of his illegitimate daughters as her own. And yet, she made a huge effort to ensure his name was kept alive, welcoming visitors such as Wordsworth and Coleridge to the home she’d shared with Rab.

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Bonnie Jean. Sadly the only portaits of Jean were in her later life so we don’t know how she looked when young.

It’s a museum, yes, but it’s clear it was a family home. There’s no suggestion of it being haunted but it has a lovely, homely atmosphere and a strong feeling of connection to Robert and Jean. That could be because we usually have Eddi Reader singing Burns songs on a loop. No one sings his songs like Eddi Reader. When sweeping the flagstone floor in the kitchen I often found myself thinking that Jean Armour swept this same floor all those years ago.

The Robert Burns House museum is a must-see if you are ever visiting Dumfries. Or, if you live in Dumfries and haven’t yet been to see it, do go along. Several people over the summer admitted they’d lived in the town all their lives but never visited. One visitor said she’d walked past it for over forty years before finally, this year, she decided to come inside. She says she’ll definitely be back.

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The Mausoleum where Burns is buried in St Michael’s Churchyard, Dumfries.



MarySmith’sPlace – 5 minutes on the telly

A couple of months ago when Keith Kirk and I were launching Secret Dumfries we were thrilled to be invited to be filmed on ITV’s popular programme Border Life.

Border life

Of course, the programme could not be seen to advertise our book. There was a mention of a new book out but I don’t think they even gave its name.

Despite initial nerves (mine anyway, don’t know about Keith – he seemed very relaxed), we had a fabulous day. Presenter Lori Carnochan met us with cameraman Paul Robinson at Crichton Hall, formerly the Crichton Royal Lunatic Asylum. Here we explored the basement with its fantastic wine cellars where the wealthy patients kept their wine supplies. And debated the mystery of the ‘secret tunnels’.

Camaraman Paul, had me and Lori walking down the stairs umpteen times, and another umpteen times to walk along the corridor before he was satisfied he had the shot he wanted. It was fascinating to see how the filming is done – and to understand just how long it takes to get enough for a segment on the programme.

After we finished at the Crichton we went into town to walk along the Whitesands beside the River Nith and it was Keith’s turn in the spotlight. He talked about the finials along the railings. Dumfries and the river were looking wonderful. In the programme, his part comes first though it was filmed later. I’m so glad I didn’t have to edit it – must take days.

Anyway, here’s the link 

If you don’t want to watch the whole programme – though I suggest you do as it showcases a new whisky distillery and the new art gallery in Kirkcudbright – our section starts about fourteen minutes in.

Let me know what you think of it.

Secret Dumfries is available on Amazon.


MarySmith’sPlace – Anyone for cricket?

I thought this week I’d post a short story.  I hope you enjoy it.

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Stella stifled a yawn, which she hastily tried to turn into an interested smile when Johnathon glanced over at her. She watched as he moved forward on his seat, an expression of intense excitement on his face. It was not directed at her, however. It was for whatever was happening on the television.

Stella was genuinely puzzled. The commentator seemed to be speaking in a foreign language much of the time and what he said in plain English appeared to be less about what the cricketers were doing – not very much from what she could see – and more about the weather and the state of the pitch. Sorry, not pitch … wicket? Yes, wicket. But then, she thought crossly, when Johnathan had explained the game to her it turned out the word wicket could be applied to all manner of things from the bit of ground between those stick things the men ran up and down between (strangely infrequently, she thought, as that was supposedly the point of the game) to hitting those sticks and being out – or even being not out.

She sighed, rearranged herself more alluringly on Johnathan’s lumpy sofa, and reached a hand to stroke his hair. He caught her hand, kissed it but kept his eyes on the screen. Her last boyfriend had been a footie fan. She’d learnt the off-side rule without a problem. Hadn’t enjoyed trailing off to watch his team’s every home game in the freezing cold. She thought cricket would be sunshine and cucumber sandwiches and Pimms at half time. Hadn’t expected to watch it on television. Nor realised she’d be expected to learn a whole new vocabulary.

Googly – the explanation made no sense. ‘It’s the legspinner’s variation that turns into the right-hander and away from the left-hander,’ Johnathan told her. As for beamer, maiden, jaffa, doosra, dolly and duck…

Stella sighed again. Considered her relationship with Johnathan. Gorgeous, he’d look amazing in that white outfit. But he was a spectator, not a player. Good in bed. Conversation out of it wasn’t great.

She turned her attention back to the screen. A man was furiously rubbing the ball – it probably wasn’t even called a ball, she thought – up and down on this thigh. Stella shifted uncomfortably on the sofa. It looked faintly obscene. Johnathan must’ve sensed her lack of understanding. ‘It makes the ball faster,’ he explained.

Ah, so it was called a ball. She’d got something right. She watched the man running towards the bit from where he’d throw the ball. The bowler (she was getting to grips with the jargon now) threw the ball. Nothing happened. The commentator was saying something incomprehensible about an inside-out shot. The players strolled around for a bit. Then, the furious rubbing started again.

Stella reached for her coat. cricket-3311473_1280


5 Ways You Can Save Time When Blogging

Great advice from Hugh on saving time on blogging and, for me the most important advice of all, on not feeling guilty about not keeping up with reading and commenting on every blog you follow.

Hugh's Views & News

Do you ever find yourself running out of time when blogging?

It’s something that used to happen to me a lot. Shortly after getting out of bed, I’d sit down in front of the computer and, before I knew it, the time had flown past! With the sun setting, I’d feel as if I hadn’t really achieved anything.

Make no mistake about it, blogging can be very time-consuming. Your work-in-progress will look as if it’s never going to get finished, your laundry basket is overflowing, the house is a mess, and family and friends will start wondering who you are because you seldom join in anymore.

Here are five tips that I implemented to save me time when blogging (and which stopped blogging from taking over my entire life).

Stop Beating Yourself Up

I wanted to be everywhere in both the worlds of blogging and social media.

Every time I…

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MarySmith’sPlace – Sibi Mela, Pakistan

Here in Scotland we are in the middle of the agricultural show season. The Royal Highland Show, the flagship event of the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland, starts things off in June when over four days the finest livestock is shown off and judged. There’s also show jumping, countryside pursuits, entertainment (one year I was invited to read poetry in a yurt!), shopping and much more.

I thought, though, I’d take you to Pakistan to experience the amazing Sibi Mela. Usually a nondescript, rural backwater in Baluchistan province, Sibi bursts into colourful, noisy life for five days every year with thousands of farmers and traders bringing their livestock.

Sibi -01 (Custom)Assuming the livestock would provide a familiar point of reference, we headed firstly towards the cattle area. Chewing the cud with bovine nonchalance, coats gleaming like silk – in lines as far as the eye could see – they were ignoring the fussing of their grooms. One farmer, delighted at the interest being shown in his beast, prodded the dozing animal, causing everyone to step back hurriedly, as several tons of prime beef lumbered to its feet. “He is champion,” he exclaimed, pointing proudly to the red rosette.

So far, so familiar: however, major differences soon became apparent. For a start, it is difficult to imagine Scottish farmers painting their prize stock with henna (though maybe some talcum powder for the sheep?) as is dressing them in colourful, silk coats and beaded headdresses. Sibi-03

Nor are we likely to see, next to the cattle, countless oxen, buffalo and strings of camels. My delighted cooing at the baby camels – ungainly bundles of fluff, still practising their sneers – brought astonished looks from their owners.

We were swept along towards an exhibition area where at least some sights were familiar. The shiny new tractors and other agricultural implements were admired by crowds of men and small boys. Families came along to enjoy the carnival atmosphere of the fair. Just like their Scottish counterparts, children gleefully collected freebies from display stands promoting everything from artificial insemination to hybrid seeds. Also on offer for entertainment are folk dancers, tent pegging, camel races, handicrafts and tribal dresses and jewellery, fairground and circus.

Suddenly, an instantly recognisable sound tugged the heart strings, bringing a wave of homesickness as a Pakistani pipe band marched through the crowds, playing of all things, Scotland the Brave. Instead of Highland dancers, though, groups practised traditional folk dances to be performed later in the main stadium. A five-man team, stunning in bright, candy pink shalwar kameez, their leader in a contrasting outfit of startling canary yellow waved gaily coloured pompons as they rehearsed.


A strange looking troupe appeared. One gaunt old man, stripped to the waist, whirled in circles to a pulsating, hypnotic drumming which built into a deafening crescendo, before abruptly stopping. The crowd watched intently as another man slowly, methodically, pierced the dancer’s naked flesh with sharp metal spikes. The drumming began again, softly. The man – seemingly entranced – resumed his dance, whirling ever faster as the beat quickened, the embedded skewers quivering from his sides and neck.IMG_0007 (Custom)

As the drums reached a crescendo, the leader moved forward, caught and steadied the dancer. He blew – puff! – on the pierced flesh, removed the skewers, holding them aloft. Not a drop of blood to be seen. With gasps of wonder, spectators dug into their pockets for rupees.

From a row of makeshift huts – palm leaf mats lashed together – enticing cooking aromas caused hunger pangs. When the clientele had recovered from the shock of a foreign family joining them, they laughingly made room for us.

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The restaurant kitchen

As we sat cross-legged on the mat, tearing off chunks of hot, fresh chapatti with which to scoop up our meat stew and spicy lentils, they nodded approval. After a fight with the proprietor over the bill – “You are guests in Baluchistan. Baluchis do not take money from guests” – we headed for the stadium.

We were led to excellent seats and it was only when handed cups of tea by a uniformed orderly, I understood we had been mistaken for VIPs. Horses plumed and bedecked in finery, high-stepped in time to martial music. We feared causing a diplomatic incident by leaving mid-performance and cringed in our seats, hating the sight of this unnatural parody of dance achieved by the painful application of an electric prod.

When we finally escaped the stadium, we discovered the fairground. Instead of bouncy castles there were manually operated, gaudily painted wooden roundabouts. In a sawdust strewn circus ring, we saw a tightrope walking goat, a monkey pedalling a tricycle and a lady vanishing in a puff of smoke.

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IMG_0016 (Custom) IMG_0015 (Custom)We joined a long queue to see the Snake Woman, whose body was rather obviously a length of poorly disguised hosepipe. No-one seemed to mind this in the slightest.

We clambered up the perilous stairs of the Wall of Death. Peering down from the rickety viewing platform, our astonished gaze fell, not on a motor cyclist, but on a group of made-up transvestites, gyrating seductively to Indian film music.

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They pouted, blew kisses and winked enticingly to encourage the men in the audience to throw rupees down to them. When the music stopped, the ‘girls’ collected their money, making way at last for the stunt man. Dressed in leathers, he zoomed his bike around the walls making the structure shudder alarmingly. He collected fewer rupees than the dancers. IMG_0012 (Custom)

Later, we watched dazzling displays of horsemanship as wild looking tribesmen showed off their horses’ paces in tent pegging competitions and trotting races.

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When the cattle were bedded down for the night, their attendants curled up beside them. A haze of smoke from cooking fires hovered in the air and it was, sadly, time for us to leave.

Write What You Know: A Guest Post by Mary Smith

I was delighted to be featured on Linda Hill’s fabulous blog – lindasbookbag – writing a guest post on Writing What you Know. Do check it out and have a look round Linda’s blog – she reviews some wonderful books.

Linda's Book Bag


Earlier this year I had the privilege of staying in with lovely Mary Smith to discuss her book No More Mulberries in a post you can read here. I have also been lucky enough to read and review (here) Mary’s short story collection Donkey Boy.

I have so enjoyed Mary’s writing and she is such a wonderful supporter of Linda’s Book Bag, that when I heard she had a new book out with photographer Keith KirkSecret Dumfries, I just had to invite her back to the blog. Today Mary has kindly written a guest post all about writing what you know and even better, it’s Mary’s birthday today so happy birthday Mary!

Secret Dumfries is available to buy on Amazon or directly from the publisher, Amberley Publishing.

Secret Dumfries


Dumfries, in south-west Scotland, has a long history, much of it well…

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