Over the Sea to Skye…

Phew, it’s the end of another quick and busy week! Thank you to everyone who shared, liked or otherwise supported spreading the word about the Ethersay sale this week. And of course, thank you to those who picked up a copy of the book! The sale went really well, with Ethersay peaking at number 2 in the ‘Religious and Inspirational Mystery’ category on Amazon UK. I admit after seeing that I did become a temporary rankings obsessive – it may take me most of the weekend to calm down after all the excitement!

The topic of today’s post is not strictly book-related as I thought I’d share some reflections and photos from my recent travels. Two weeks ago, I finally went a place that I’ve wanted to visit for years. After much wistful thinking and hint-dropping on my part, my family and I spent a week on the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. Alert readers might have already guessed about my love of rugged Scottish islands – much of the imagery and landscape in Ethersay, for example, is inspired by Scotland’s western isles, some I’ve visited, others I haven’t. I also might have hinted at my enthusiasm in a previous post about my short visit to the Isle of Bute in February!

In my mind, the Isle of Skye has always been the epitome of wild, magical beauty and I have to say, after a week on the island, the reality did not disappoint. Today I thought I’d share a few of my favourite photos with you, taken all over the island during a week of walking, generally great weather and otherworldly scenery.

So, I have now returned home, feeling refreshed and ready to get on with some writing. I still have a novella to finish and a few new projects which I am keen to get underway. And of course, I have the Words and Deeds Anthology which I plan to put together, for which I am still seeking submissions until 30th April.  I think it’s safe to say that the Spring break is almost over, and it’s going to be a busy time ahead!

We Are The Fallout

Happy Easter Monday folks! Today I am really happy to share with you my short story which has been published by Coffin BellCoffin Bell is a new quarterly online journal of dark literature which publishes poetry, flash fiction, short stories, and creative nonfiction exploring dark themes. You can find out more about what they do here.

My story is called We Are The Fallout, and is a dark political tale about the nuclear apocalypse. The story focuses on the experiences of a young woman and her mother who are travelling together on a cruise ship of holidaymakers which, having survived the initial destruction, now must find land and attempt to survive against hopeless odds. I was inspired to write the story by current global and political events. When watching the news one evening, I found myself wondering about the worst-case scenario: what if you were somewhere in the world where you survived the bombs, but know that you are ultimately doomed by the environmental consequences and are powerless in the face of your own fate? How do you deal with that? What happens next?

We Are The Fallout muses on the terrible possibilities. You can read the story here.

Ethersay Sale!

Hi folks, I hope you’re all well and enjoying the Easter break! I’ve just returned from a holiday on the gorgeous and majestic Isle of Skye and I’m feeling pretty relaxed and refreshed after enjoying some wonderful family time in the great outdoors. More about my travels to come in a later post (once I’ve sorted out all my photos), but for now I’ve got a little bit of book-related news to share with you – this week, for six days only, I’m having a wee Ethersay sale!

Friday 6th April marks 698 years since the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, the declaration of Scotland’s independence made in 1320. To mark the anniversary, my novel Ethersay, a contemporary story set during the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, will be on sale for 99p / 99c on Amazon Kindle.

Crossing several genres, including mystery, political fiction and women’s fiction, Ethersay is a must-read for fans of modern Scottish literature. The sale will run from 1st – 6th April so don’t delay! If you’ve already read and enjoyed Ethersay please feel free to share the sale information on social media – the more shares, the more people get to know about it!

Grab your Kindle copy of Ethersay here.

 

Awesome Authors of the Womankind

Today is International Women’s Day, a day which commemorates the women’s rights movement around the globe. It is also known as the United Nations Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace – two very big and very pertinent topics in these turbulent, unpredictable and sadly occasionally regressive times. The 2018 International Women’s Day campaign theme is #PressforProgress, a timely reminder that there is still much to do in terms of achieving gender parity across the globe. It is important, I think, to celebrate our considerable successes, and 2018 marks one of the biggest achievements of women in 20th Century Britain with the centenary of some women gaining the right to vote. But it is equally important to be reminded that there is more work to be done – the recent #MeToo, #TimesUp and gender pay gap campaigns can attest to that.

While we are talking about reminders, it feels like a good time to mention that I’m still accepting submissions for the Women’s Suffrage Anthology I plan to put together this year. The deadline for submissions is April 30th, so don’t delay! Find out more here.

It also feels like an appropriate day to talk about influential, inspiring women! There has been a great deal of discussion about this in recent weeks, with media and news outlets running features and polls and creating lists of female greats from the arts, politics, history and other cultural icons. In keeping with this spirit I thought I’d put together my own list, specifically focused on some of the female writers, past and present, who have inspired me on my own journey:

Philippa Gregory

The Queen of Historical Fiction is one of my all-time favourite authors. Without a doubt Philippa Gregory was the writer who inspired me to embark on my own journey into writing historical fiction. Her keen eye for historical detail and deep understanding of the characters she portrays sets an extremely high standard for literature and, in my opinion, has helped to raise the reputation of a genre which was often dismissed as whimsical.

Virginia Woolf

I remember reading Woolf’s essay, A Room of One’s Own, and not being able to get her words out of my head. As a female writer in the 21st century context, this idea of the value and importance of literal and figurative space is one that I return to frequently as both a source of reflection and creative inspiration. So who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? Not me.

Susie Orbach

I read Orbach’s Fat is a Feminist Issue at university as part of my first year undergraduate Women’s Studies course. It was a book which really resonated with me and got me thinking seriously for the first time about body image, about the way we see ourselves and the social moulding of women and girls which begins at such a young age. I remember being struck by the notion that losing weight could really be about losing space – in the literal sense women striving to diminish themselves and take up less room in the world. Powerful stuff which has stuck with me all these years later.

Naomi Wolf

Another favourite from my time as a Women’s Studies undergrad, Wolf’s sharp look at beauty and physical perfection as a means of social control is the sort of book which will change the way you look at beauty ads! I loved this book – it was a real eye-opener and the first time I had read anything which challenged me to look, REALLY look at the images that I, as a young woman, was being bombarded with on a daily basis.

Christina Rossetti

If I’m in the mood for reading classic poetry, it’ll probably be something by Christina Rossetti. Her work is beautiful and stunning, and In the Bleak Midwinter is still my favourite Christmas carol.

Charlotte Bronte

It’s quite hard to choose between the Bronte sisters but for me Charlotte is my favourite, largely because I absolutely adore Jane Eyre. Writing at a time when female writers were subject to considerable prejudice (a fact which Bronte herself observed when choosing her masculine-sounding nom de plume Currer Bell), Charlotte and her sisters’ works stood out and are celebrated as classics to this day.

Elizabeth Gaskell

Another celebrated writer of the Victorian era, Gaskell wrote novels, short stories and biographies during her career, including the first biography of Charlotte Bronte. My favourite of her books is without doubt North and South – for me this novel is the epitome of the Gaskell’s sharp and capable social commentary framed within a wonderful story of romance across the class divide.

Mary Wollstonecraft 

A writer and a woman who needs no introduction. I read Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Woman as a student of history. I am still in awe of that book.

Tracy Chevalier

Best known for The Girl with the Pearl Earring, for me Chevalier is one of the best historical writers of modern times. Like Philippa Gregory, her work has inspired me on a personal level. Her stories are captivating; literary and yet wholly accessible. Falling Angels is my favourite of her books; I found its exploration of the late Victorian cult of death utterly fascinating.

MJ Rose 

Rose is the author I credit with introducing me to historical fantasy. In recent years I have read a lot of her books but without doubt my favourites are her Daughters of La Lune series. The stories are (quite literally) magical while the settings, from Belle Epoque Paris to New York in the roaring twenties, are rich and evocative. As a writer her books have given me a new perspective on writing about magic and weaving a touch of the fantastical into stories.

So, that’s my list! Which female writers do you find influential or inspirational? Please feel free to comment below. 

Book Review: A Case of Serendipity by K J Farnham

Ruth Bateman is at her wit’s end. If Bucky’s Beans doesn’t stop spamming her phone with discount codes for frou-frou java concoctions, she’s going to flip. After multiple failed attempts to unsubscribe, Ruth takes to the company’s Facebook page to vent her frustration over the never-ending texts.

When attorney, Henry Mancuso, stumbles upon Ruth’s complaint, he has no idea that a simple Facebook scroll is going to change his life. Now, he has to get Ruth to agree to a class action lawsuit when she’s just looking for some peace on her mobile device—not a drawn-out case against a coffeehouse giant.

As Ruth and Henry battle the legal waters, a friendship full of fun and spontaneity blooms. But could something more be brewing between these two and this coffeehouse case?

In short, I absolutely adored this book and found it very difficult to put it down once I started reading. A Case of Serendipity is a contemporary light romance novel which focuses on Ruth, a quirky divorcee and Henry, a workaholic lawyer, who are thrown together by fate after Ruth becomes the lead plaintiff in a case against Bucky’s Beans Coffeehouse.

The novel is a first person narrative and each chapter alternates between either Ruth or Henry’s point of view. This choice of narrative works well and gives the reader the opportunity to really get to know both of these characters who, thanks to Farnham’s flawless style and effortless descriptions, are extremely well drawn. Farnham has a real gift for creating likable characters, the sort of characters who make you want to go along with them for the ride, who make you want to root for them. Ruth and Henry are no exception and by the end of the novel I struggled to decide which I found more endearing; off-beat Ruth with her wild hair and appreciation of life’s simple pleasures, or Henry with his neatness, seriousness and intensity.

The story itself is absolutely delightful – without giving too much away, this is a real ‘feel good’ novel, a genuine light romance about two people who seem to complement each other so perfectly that you can’t imagine them not ending up together. Whether they do or whether they don’t…well, you’ll just have to read it to find out.

If you like romance without erotica, well-rounded, likable characters and uplifting plots then this book is for you. Highly recommended – five stars.

A Case of Serendipity is Farnham’s fourth novel, and will be released on 20th March. It is available for Kindle pre-order at the special price of 99p on Amazon UK.

Book Review: Nasty Women by 404 Ink

Nasty Women is a collection of essays which address the question of what it is to be a woman in the twenty-first century. Edited and published by new, independent Scottish publisher 404 Ink, the collection was put together in the aftermath of and in response to the election of Donald Trump to the US Presidency. The editors’ note explains that they wished to make a stand against this, to give a platform for voices speaking against the hatred prevailing across the globe and to show that in an age of ‘post-truth’ real experiences still matter.

I found the experience of reading Nasty Women enjoyable, challenging and thought-provoking. The twenty contributors tell their stories and explain their perspectives with such candour that it is impossible not to be affected. A range of experiences are covered and a huge diversity of subject matter is explored; disability, sexuality, race, religion, class, gender, all relating very sharply to the twenty-first century context.

All reading is, of course, subjective and like any other reader I did find some particular favourites, some essays which resonated with me or challenged me most. I adored Becca Inglis’s Love In A Time of Melancholia – like Inglis I am a grunge and Hole enthusiast and found her reappraisal of Courtney Love, her life and work and her exploration of her own attraction to Love’s music and celebrity highly relatable. I loved Alice Tarbuck’s Foraging and Feminism: Hedge-Witchcraft in the Twenty-First Century – not only did this appeal to my sensibilities as a witchcraft scholar, but I loved the sense of power that Tarbuck described in returning to the understanding of nature, to the rediscovery of old gifts. I was also deeply affected by Jen McGregor’s Lament: Living with the Consequences of Contraception – this essay and McGregor’s sense of betrayal by something which was supposed to symbolise liberation and progress stayed in my mind long after I had read it.

Irrespective of the stories they were telling, however, I loved the way that the essay format meant that the women themselves, as essayists, were placed firmly at the centre of their own stories: the subjects of the lived experiences, the ones in control of the narratives. These were their stories; as a reader I might not always be able to relate, but I could certainly learn something.

An excellent and thought-provoking read. Five stars.

Atmospheric Places

It’s been a great weekend. Sometimes last minute plans are the best kind of plans, especially those which you don’t really plan at all but instead choose to go completely with the flow. I’m the first to admit that this isn’t something which comes naturally to me – I’m an organiser to the core, and I’m married to someone who similarly favours schedules and itineraries. And yet this weekend we headed away, a spur of the moment trip, with no forward-planning of what we might get up to or what we might see.

It was brilliant.

So, where did we go for our weekend escape?

Beautiful Bute lies just off the west coast of Scotland, a short ferry journey across the Firth of Clyde. I last visited Bute as a child in the late nineties and have vague but happy memories of hot summer days along the seafront in the island’s main town, Rothesay (why is it that childhood summers were always long and hot?). I have always wanted to go back and revisit the island, to enjoy the scenery and to do some serious walking (I wasn’t quite as keen on that as a child).

And wow, did we walk?! On Saturday we decided to do an 8 kilometre/5 mile walk called the Kilchattan Bay circular. As the name suggests, this walk is a circuit which begins and ends at Kilchattan Bay at the south of the island. The walk forms part of the West Island Way and took us along rugged and rocky coastline, up small hills (since Bute is fairly low-lying) and along a lot of pretty boggy ground! It also took us via St Blane’s Church, the ruins of a twelfth century chapel.

Walking on the Isle of Bute in the lethargic winter daylight was a different but utterly magical experience. The views were incredible, both on the island and out to sea, with the snow-capped hills of the neighbouring Isle of Arran in the distance. The weather was cloudy and grey but that only made it more atmospheric. I just loved the sense of being in the wilderness – we literally didn’t see another living soul for hours. And it did take us hours – the route is estimated to take about 3 hours but it took us nearer to 4 to complete, mainly because the soggy conditions underfoot slowed us down (clearly Bute has seen a lot of rainfall recently!).

So all in all, it was pretty awesome. I have perhaps mentioned before that I find a lot of inspiration in nature, in getting out in the country and surrounding myself with beautiful places. I will often take photographs or simply commit certain images to memory, recalling them at a later date to use as backgrounds or settings for my writing. No doubt this will be true of yesterday’s walk on Bute. However, while I was walking, something else occurred to me. In so many ways that little piece of the island reminded me of Ethersay; it was like walking through images and settings in a world I had already created. It was quite a strange feeling, like I was seeing my imagination reflected back at me.

Tonight I’m going to finish sorting through my photos. I’m also going to put my feet up, because muscles I didn’t know I had are feeling pretty achy and tired. It’s a good sort of tired, though. The tiredness which comes after having fun, after enjoying fresh air and atmospheric places.

 

Book Tours, The Witch Child & Women’s Suffrage – A Wee Update

Happy Tuesday folks! Today I’m bringing you a wee update post – it’s been a busy time here with lots of things on the go. So, here’s a quick run down of what I’ve been up to over the past few weeks, along with a few reminders about what’s coming up:

I’ve been out and about telling everyone about Ethersay… and the response has been wonderful. Thank you to those groups in my home county of West Lothian who have invited me along to talk about and read from my latest novel. For a writer there is nothing better than getting the opportunity to share your work. It’s also great to get to tackle the huge range of  different questions your book prompts from readers – so far there has certainly been no such thing as…

I’ve been working on the third Witches of Pendle installment… more about this soon, but hopefully I’ve found my pace with this book now and hope to have it drafted by the end of the Spring. I won’t lie – it’s been a slow start. After finishing Ethersay I had such a ‘book hangover’ and really struggled to focus my mind on a new project. I’m pleased to report that I’ve finally got into a good rhythm with this piece of work and it’s going really well. This book will be a short novel and will take us back to 1612 and the childhood of Jennet Device/Sellers, the child star witness during the first Pendle Witch Trials. And…that’s all I’m telling you for now! Watch this space.

I’m still inviting submissions for an anthology about Women’s Suffrage… more about this here. A timely reminder about this project perhaps as today marks 100 years since the Representation of the People Act (1918) was passed in the United Kingdom, granting the vote to women aged over 30 who met certain property qualifications. I plan to release an anthology of work on this subject in December 2018, to coincide with the first parliamentary election in which women were able to vote. I am seeking short stories from writers which address the theme of women and the vote. These stories don’t have to be historical, or indeed focused on the suffrage movement in the UK. I am looking for stories from across the globe and across the genres – tell me a contemporary story, a historical one, or indeed a futuristic one. Tell me a dystopian story, write me some sci-fi, or a comedy, a mystery or even a horror. Write me something which crosses the genres – I don’t mind, as long as it relates to the theme of women and the vote. The deadline is 30th April, so if you’d like to submit a piece of work check out the Anthology Submissions page for all the details.

Phew! That doesn’t seem so much, does it?! More updates from me coming very soon.

 

Submissions Invited for Women’s Suffrage Anthology

I’m excited to announce that I am now inviting submissions for a new anthology entitled Words and Deeds: Stories of a Woman’s Right to Vote.

As a writer, creating an anthology of work will be a new experience for me, and I am really looking forward to putting this together. The idea of producing an anthology is a recent one, and basically sprang from a short story I was putting together for submission to a literary magazine. I was writing a story about women’s suffrage, a subject which had been on my mind a lot recently as 2018 marks the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which granted suffrage in Britain to women over 30 who met certain property qualifications. Whilst it was another ten years until all women got the vote on the same terms as men, 1918 was undoubtedly a watershed moment in British history following half a century of campaigning by suffragists and suffragettes across these isles. Whilst I was writing it occurred to me that I wanted to do something more than write my own story in recognition of this and so the idea of an anthology was born.

All the information you need to submit is available here on my website. If you have a story you would like to tell which relates to women and voting, I’d love to hear from you! The deadline for submissions is 30th April 2018.

Ethersay Goodreads Giveaway

Happy Sunday folks! I’m really pleased to let you all know that I am running a giveaway on Goodreads. One paperback copy of Ethersay is up for grabs and the giveaway is free to enter, so what are you waiting for?!! Just click below to enter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Ethersay by Sarah L. King

Ethersay

by Sarah L. King

Giveaway ends February 10, 2018.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway