“The secret’s in the seasoning.”
Compliments about her food were part of the language of Cara’s life.
Her response always as ready as her legendary chocolate cookies, mixing bowl to mouth in thirty minutes.
“Cara should write a book.”
“She should be on tv.”
The chatter of the middle-classes at table. Wives moving goose- fat laden potatoes to husbands’ plates, masking
envy with cool smiles. Husbands licking sinful sauces from overfilled spoons and wondering if Cara’s generosity extended to the bedroom.
“Cara’s happy enough as she is.”
That proprietary pat on her arm he always adopted in public.
“She’s a wonder.”
I’m your biggest asset.
The words, as always, unspoken; Cara’s smile, as always, in place.
Alan’s world remained as Alan’s world should: orderly, well- run and beautifully-catered. Cara could hardly complain: the bargain worked as well for her as it did for him.
“We’d be a great team.”
His first words, bestowed like a gift ten years ago when she started catering for the company functions Alan starred in. He’d said it again when she’d poured out the truth of her previous life one exhausted, vulnerable night, her rule about no third glass of wine long broken.
To read the rest and find out what Cara is really up to, click here
Talking about Writing...
In a listening mood? Here's my
interview with Booked on Pulse, Pulse
Radio's Sunday bookshow about the
experience of writing my first novel:
And an extract from my latest Blog for the History Girls
New Posts on 22nd of each Month
The Next Chapter: Click Here for Updates on Book Two
Scotland's Medieval Monasteries
Forget Park Run, Tough Mutha, Iron Man and triathlons. A few weeks ago we embarked on an endurance feat far more favourable to writers on the research trail: 4 monasteries in 24 hours or, as we fondly christened it, The Tough Monk Challenge.
Medieval monasteries and abbeys are an integral part of Scotland's historic landscape and many of them are rightly famous landmarks including Iona, Dunfermline, Sweetheart and Inchcolm. The Scottish monastic movement has its roots in the Celtic period and was a great influence in the way Christianity spread after the seventh century with abbots remaining far more powerful than bishops. The early monasteries themselves, however, bore little relation to what we now understand from the term and were often little more than isolated collections of wooden huts inhabited by hermits. It is not until the Normans begin to really impact on society after 1100 that we see a great wave of Scottish monastic building, promoted particularly by King David I (1124-1153).
Life in medieval monasteries was strictly organised and strictly run and, whatever
order the monks espoused, the principles were broadly in line with (or reacting to)
the rules written by St Benedict in c.530 AD. Not only was the internal life rigidly
structured, the external fabric (the buildings) also followed a set of ideals, known
as the Plan of St Gall. The plan, named after the Abbey in which it is still held, is
the oldest preserved visualisation of a medieval building complex. Five pieces of
annotated and sewn together parchment contain the plans for forty structures as
well as boundaries and roads and an orchard. Each building and its use is
identified in 333 inscriptions and include bake and brew houses, an abbot's
residence and a dormitory and refectory for the monks. It appears to have been
designed for Gozbert, the Abbot of St Gall from 816-837, and it is an idealization
of a monastery - no complex was ever built to its exact specifications and scholars
have described it as a meditation on monasticism. Most of us, however, who are
familiar with monastery layouts, would easily find our way round the plan and its
influence on the complexes that were built is clear.
The four we visited, Melrose, Dryburgh, Jedburgh and Kelso, are all in the
Scottish Borders. They were founded between 1113-1150 and all have close links
to David I. They are in varying states of preservation, with Kelso being little more
now than a massive gateway, but they are all visually stunning - especially if you
see them as we did in snowdrop season. With the exception of Kelso, each of the
four has its own claim to fame. Jedburgh, an Augustinian monastery founded in
1147 is an extraordinary marriage of Romanesque and early Gothic architecture
and is the best preserved in terms of its scale and its beautiful rows of arches.
Melrose, Cistercian dating from 1136, is most famous for reputedly having the
heart of Robert the Bruce buried in its graveyard. That may or may not be true:
the Abbey words its claim that the casket, discovered first in 1921 and reburied
in 1998, is Bruce very carefully and the position of its discovery, under the Chapter
House rather than close to the high altar, makes the idea questionable. It is,
however, a nice story and Bruce was known to have had great affection for the
Abbey. What I loved most about Melrose, however, are the wonderful carvings
which cover the outside and include saints, gargoyles and, for no reason anyone
knows, a pig playing the bagpipes.
To read the rest, including Dryburgh's links with Walter Scott click here
Twisted Short Stories... As well as historical fiction, I have been writing short stories - all with strong female characters and (I hope) unexpected twists. I am delighted to say that a number of these have now won prizes and been published:
Now You See Me runner up in the 2014 Prolitzer Prize,
Kitchen Nightmares 3rd prize 2015 West Sussex Short Story Competition
Stolen Moments finalist Scottish Arts Club Short Story Competition 2015
Still Waters published in Jan iScot magazine
Commendation Cinammon Press Short Story Comp 2016
Longlist Retreat West 2016
Alice Morgan liked to steal.
“You’re such a little Magpie!”
Her mother had been highly amused by the treasure trove of shiny trinkets she’d found burrowed into the tummy of five
year old Alice’s teddy bear. A jumble of old coins and broken necklaces mostly and, yes, her eternity ring which she thought she’d lost for good, but nothing really important. All children did it and Alice would grow out of it so no need for a scene.
But Alice didn’t grow out of it and her mother’s laugh lost its sparkle when other parents muttered about ornaments that vanished and the party invitations began to dry up.
“You do understand that this is wrong, don’t you dear?”
Mrs Drake, the well-meaning head-teacher at Alice’s Primary School always smiled when she posed the question but, as the pile of hair slides and toys that Alice acquired and other children cried over, grew larger, the smile gradually grew more strained. It only reached her eyes again when Alice’s parents agreed with the gently unmovable suggestion that, yes, a new start would be best for everyone.
“I know you know it’s wrong so why do you do it?”
A more direct question from the harassed form tutor as she waved her hand across another heap of purses, watches and rings tipped out from Alice’s bag. But Alice merely smiled and eyed her teacher’s pretty brooch and the tutor had too many other challenging pupils to deal with to push the matter.
To read the rest and find out why she does it, click here
Described by the judges as: "a brooding, disturbing, and unsettling story...a picture of a total sociopath."