The Safe Space

Ethersay is now six months old. To mark its half year anniversary, today I’d like to share some words I wrote which explain how my own experiences during the Scottish independence campaign eventually moved me to write this novel. 

For me, the day after the independence referendum was a blur of tiredness and disbelief. Everything was done on autopilot: taking the kids to school, picking them up, heading to the shops for some retail distraction. Everyone else seemed to be the same, too. I remember walking around Livingston shopping centre and noticing how quiet it was – the place itself was busy, but the people there were muted, sombre, reflective. Disappointment hung in the air like rain on a dreich winter’s day: disappointment in ourselves, disappointment in Scotland. Disappointment that the vision we had for our country would not, at that moment in time at least, be realised. And perhaps above all, an aching disappointment at the realisation that dependence had won.

Much of that disappointment, of course, would have belonged to those who voted Yes. But I always wonder how many of those who voted No woke up that day and realised that they felt disappointed, too.

Prior to the referendum, I had started writing my first historical novel, having set myself the bucket-list style challenge of publishing a book before my thirtieth birthday. In that final, crucial six months of campaigning I had put my project on hold, throwing myself entirely into political activism in a way that I had never done before. Sure, I had campaigned for my party’s candidates in various elections, but this was different, somehow – it felt so vital, so momentous, so all-consuming. For six months, I lived and breathed the independence referendum. I walked miles; I chapped doors, delivered leaflets, worked on street stalls. I did everything I possibly could. If I give this my all, I remember thinking, then perhaps it will be enough. Perhaps we will win.

And then we lost. I still struggle to describe what it felt like once it was over, once I knew we hadn’t won. Emptiness, numbness, grief – none of those words seem to quite fit.  All I know is that at that point, all I wanted to do was throw myself back into writing, and I did. Thank goodness I had my book to focus on, to distract me, to give me something to think about other than politics during those long, dark autumn days.

During 2015 and 2016, I published my first book then wrote and published its sequel – two historical fiction novels, set hundreds of years ago in my native Lancashire. They were a welcome escape, intellectually and emotionally. They were somewhere I could go and not think about how absolutely gutted I still was and for a long time, that was great.

Gradually, however, I found my gaze shifting back towards the independence referendum. By this point almost two years had passed and so much had changed at a pace which is still astonishing. Creatively, it felt like the right time to look back, to take those experiences and those feelings and weave them into fiction. Then I had a dream (yes, really) about a woman who finds herself stranded on a remote island with no memory of how she got there. I remember waking up and immediately jotting down the idea, spinning its threads, developing it through questions: who is she? How did she get there? What is it that she can’t remember?

What if she was a Yes campaigner?

What if the referendum had irrevocably changed her life?

An idea was born; an idea which over the subsequent weeks and months became my third novel, Ethersay.

Of course, it is important to say that the woman in the book isn’t me, that she is a work of fiction, as is every other character in the book. But as the saying goes, you should write what you know. I also feel, to paraphrase another saying, that if you’re ever going to have a clear idea of where you’re going, then you must understand where you’ve been. Stories can help us to do that; they can resemble real life but be remote enough from it to provide a safe space in which to explore the emotional and psychological impacts of our experiences. Stories can help us to reflect, to digest, and to engage. Perhaps above all, stories can help us to come to a better understanding of ourselves.

And in my view, if Scotland is going to move forward as a nation, if we’re going to realise our massive potential as we navigate the murky, brexiting waters of present times, we need to do exactly that. I hope Ethersay contributes to that but if not, well, it was damn cathartic writing it.

Ethersay is available at Amazon / iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Kobo

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!

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.

 

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.

 

Ethersay: the Musical

Hello! I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday. Today I’m taking a short break from all the seasonal revelry to bring you all a wee treat! I’m really pleased to reveal the musical version of the Ethersay trailer to you. It’s funny how doing something as simple as removing the narrative from a film can give it a slightly different feel. Like the original trailer with voiceover, I’m really proud of these films and so grateful to Stewart Kerr Brown of The Imagination Engine and actor Jodi Findlay for all their hard work. I hope you enjoy watching, and enjoy the new year when it comes!

Pick up Ethersay now at Amazon / iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Kobo

Introducing the Ethersay Launch Video!

It’s nearly Christmas! Who’s excited?!! I know everyone in the King household is feeling very festive – the gifts are wrapped, the mulled wine is ready, the kids are hyper with excitement. All we need now is some snow! Not too much, though, just a little bit will do!

For those who haven’t seen it, the video recordings of the launch event for Ethersay, which was held earlier in December, are now online. Due to the length of the recordings there’s two parts. So, click on each link below to see me answering questions from the host for the event, Fiona Hyslop MSP, and the audience on Ethersay, writing, influences and inspiration and to hear me read a little from the book.

I hope you enjoy watching and don’t forget, if you’re looking for something to read over the holidays, Ethersay is available now from Amazon / iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Kobo

Merry Christmas!

Where did the last two weeks just go?

Happy Friday, folks! So, two realisations struck me this morning. The first was that it is only ten days until Christmas (I know, how on earth did that come around again so quick?!!). The other was that  it has already been two weeks since Ethersay was released. I just can’t believe where the time has gone, which I suppose is what happens when you’re busy. And no doubt about it, these last two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind, between the launch, doing online events, and taking bookings for future events, I’ve barely had chance to draw breath!

So, today’s post is all about taking stock and saying thank you. Thank you to everyone who has bought Ethersay in the last two weeks. Thank you to those who managed to get along to the launch or who participated in my online party or one of the online events which I guest-hosted. Thank you to those who have liked and shared my posts about Ethersay on social media. Thank you to all those who have been in touch with me to tell me how much you enjoyed the book. Thank you to those who have left a review on Amazon, Goodreads or somewhere else on the internet. And thank you to those who have told a friend about Ethersay, or who have bought it for a friend or loved one as a Christmas gift.

All the advertising in the world does not come anywhere near the power of word of mouth and personal recommendation. This is true for all writers but especially important, I think, for indie authors – without a vast marketing machine at our fingertips we are so, so reliant on people talking about our books. So, once again, thank you.

I have been absolutely blown away by the great reception that Ethersay has received, and really delighted by some of the reviews readers have left. Here are a few quotes from what readers have said on Amazon UK and US:

“A book you can lose yourself in on a winter day…I have honestly never read anything like it.”

“I was hooked from the start. Strongly recommend.”

“Exciting and well-paced.”

“The way King infused Scotland’s political history into the story was brilliant, and all the mystery, suspense, and drama kept me intrigued and clutching my chest at times.”

As a writer, there is no better reward than hearing that someone has enjoyed your book. So, I’m going to say it again, thank you!

 

Ethersay: The Launch

Happy Tuesday folks! This weekend was very busy and exciting, with Ethersay keeping me well and truly occupied! Since the book came out on Thursday I have held online events, done some guest blogging and of course, held the paperback launch in my hometown, Armadale in West Lothian, on Sunday.

The launch event was immensely successful and I would like to thank all those who came along to support me – the turnout was excellent! I would also like to thank local MSP Fiona Hyslop for  hosting the event. Here are some photos from the day:

The launch event also saw the premiere of the trailer for Ethersay, created by Stewart Kerr Brown of The Imagination Engine and starring West Lothian based actor Jodi Findlay. I am delighted to share the trailer with you – it is available on YouTube and on my Facebook page so if you like it, please do share it!

Ethersay is available now at Amazon / iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Kobo

Ethersay Release Day!

Today is release day for my third novel, Ethersay.

The full trailer for the novel is still to be released, but here’s a wee snippet of what’s to come:

Are you intrigued yet?

Ethersay is available now in ebook and paperback format at Amazon / iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Smashwords / Kobo

And remember, it’s not too late to join my Release Day Party on Facebook tonight, or to come along to the Paperback Launch in Armadale, West Lothian on Sunday.

I hope you enjoy the story!