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It's history, Jim, but not as we know it...

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                                          Sorry for the partially misleading title, this has nothing to do with Captain Kirk or Star Trek. As those familiar with this blog may know, my brother is called Jim. The heading is the inspiration for a talk I'm preparing for a book event in Wick, early October. It is being organised by Wick writer Glyn Salisbury and more on this may follow in future blogs. My talk, as you may have surmised, is on writing historical fiction - or at least my experiences of doing so. Hence the quick sand warning in the photo! Historical fiction is a broad church, so to speak. My first novel The Organist (Yolk Publishing 2016) can be described as a historical love story, set in 1911/1912. I wanted to set it just before the Great War and as I first had the notion to write it in 2012 I thought a hundred years before that was a good place to begin - or end in the case of the story. Being a 'traditional' historical fiction novel, the history was well resea

My Walk of Faith by island writer Valerie More

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  I first met Val on Shapinsay, about four or five years ago, at the Elwick Bookwrights writing group. She spoke with great enthusiasm about the memoir she was writing and I was keen to learn more about it. It therefore gives me great pleasure to share this blog from Valerie. My Walk of Faith by Val More I really felt I wanted to share my experience of what recovering from an addiction is like, what my life was like leading up to it, and then how wonderful life can be after it. I grew up on the beautiful island of Hoy. I have two wonderful sons and three grandchildren, who I'm very proud of, along with my daughter-in-law Deanna. Looking back on my life, I have had lots of ups and downs, but it has made me into the person I am today. Writing this book has opened up a lot of old wounds, but on the whole I'm glad I have done it. I now live on the island of Shapinsay with my wonderful husband Andrew and our animals: Ben our collie dog, 3 cats, goats, turkeys, chickens and ducks - a

Island Life - A View from Shapinsay by writer and poet Sheila Garson

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  My thanks to Shapinsay writer, Sheila Garson for this piece. Sheila writes poetry in English and Orcadian. She has contributed to the extremely popular anthology Gousters, Glims and Veerie-Orums available from the Orcadian Bookshop. Sheila writes: Island life I’ve lived on an island all my life and likely see it differently from folk who have come here to live. The sea and the boat are central to most things. Life revolves round the boat timetable and the challenges of the weather. The way and pace of life has evolved over generations, but the sea has always been our road. The boat is of course what many would call the ferry. To an Orcadian saying ferry doesn’t come naturally. To us boat is an all-encompassing word that covers a myriad of sea going vessels. For islanders the day is planned round boat times, it dictates when the post arrives, parcels are delivered, the papers or the bread are in the shop and when the roads are busiest. Islanders arrange their appointments in

A New Gotham? by Rachel Jones

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This month   I have to thank   Rachel Jones for sending me her views comparing Gotham in The Batman directed by Matt Reeves with the Nolanverse Gotham she has previously written about. Rachel writes: Spoiler free addendum to my paper on worldbuilding in the Nolanverse, included in Worlds Apart: Worldbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction (Luna Press Publishing 2021)  reflecting on The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves. The events of this film could quite easily play out in Nolan's Gotham. Wayne Tower is in the same place as the city centre, the dodgy mob bar is in the same location beneath an overpass. We also get the same broody, dark, steam-filled, and rainy Gotham which dominated the Nolanverse  However this Gotham does have some differences. Focusing on Glasgow, rather than Manhattan, provides a more traditional, older looking city, in which historical events based around dynasties is more believable. Indeed, a revelation about Bruce's maternal family reveals that his fami

Book Review - A Face in the Leaves by Nina Oram (Luna Press Publishing)

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Nina Oram is an acclaimed author of young adult fantasy fiction - The Joining, book 3 in her Carrowceel Series seeing her shortlisted in the best newcomer category of the British Fantasy Society Awards in 2020. I was intrigued, therefore, to see how Nina would handle a novella  for an older readership. I need not have feared. Nina accomplishes the task with ease, treating her readers as intelligent adults, avoiding the pitfalls of lecturing or patronising when writing about her main themes of deforestation and climate change. Nina demonstrates her in depth knowledge, without forgetting that she is writing a work of fiction. Her characters are warm and believable, instantly likable, which draws the reader in to what is, ostensibly, a dark, unsettling tale. Although set in modern day London, it has the feel of an ancient (more Celtic) storytelling tradition and you can imagine a story teller recounting this precautionary tale round a village camp fire. Sometimes it did feel like I had l

Highlands and Islands by guest author David Munro

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Thanks to Scottish author David Munro for this great blog piece. David would love to visit Orkney and I hope he'll be able to come up some time. David's current novel Georgina is the fourth in his Time Jigsaw series. A love and admiration for Scotland’s picturesque northern landscapes did not materialise until my mid-twenties. Born and brought up in Scotland’s capital city and at one time staying in the Royal Mile, the country’s Highlands and Islands were almost unknown to this lowlander. Family holidays tended to be in a warmer climate in England and beyond. A school trip at fourteen years of age to the West Highland town of Mallaig and Kyleakin on Skye was my sole experience to a land north of Edinburgh. However, in May 1981 all was about to change. The company I worked for was a well-known brewer and offered me the chance to further my business career. Being in a rut, I jumped at the chance and relocated to Aberdeen. My area for work would be the Grampian Region. This

Chess and Islands - A contemplation by chess guru Jim Stevenson

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For my latest blog, chess instructor, and member of the Hammersmith Chess Club, Celtic Tigers and the Scottish seniors' chess team, Jim Stevenson, has kindly sent an entertaining contemplation on his island travels to compete in tournament chess, memories of old masters and exciting news about new ones. Jim writes: Barbara invited me to write a short piece touching on the theme of chess and islands. My meandering tournament chess travels have taken me to several delightful island locations over the years. Whether that be in one of my favourite sunny getaway destinations, for example Malta, where we played in a grand, but faded old hotel which perhaps had seen better days, and whose claim to fame was having featured in one of the earlier James Bond movies. Or perhaps in one of the more unusual locations for an international chess event; Stornoway on the island of Lewis, where the famous Norse chess pieces were discovered.  I've even played a round of the Scottish championships i