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Being a writer-publisher can get you into some amazing situations – far from the laptop and library!

The most recent was Belladrum Tartan Heart

Jenny Brown and myself in The Verb Garden

Jenny Brown and myself in The Verb Garden

Music Festival in the Highlands of Scotland (@BelladrumFest), where I took part in a panel on Writing and Publishing a Bestseller. Along with top Scottish literary agent, Jenny Brown (@agentjenny), and founder of Canongate Books, Stephanie Wolfe Murray, we spoke to an audience in the ‘Verb Garden’ – a large tent with comfy sofas – and were introduced by veteran journalist, Maxwell MacLeod.


While the Verb Garden hosted a range of interesting events – from political debates to a talk by Rupert Wolfe Murray about living in Tibet (@wolfemurray) – there was a whole host of fun and musical events going on all around.

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Danny MacAskill from Dunvegan, Skye

Marauding Vikings, death-defying cycle stunts from Skye-born Danny MacAskill (@danny_macaskill), ceilidh dancing Bananas, The Kaiser Chiefs, Motown legend Martha Reeves, fire-breathing dragons, bagpipes, DJs, Dangleberries, Idlewild, Eddi Reader, Manic Street Preachers, The Proclaimers, marriage ceremonies and a host of people dressed up as Batman, Spiderman, Braveheart, The Hulk (the theme for the festival was Super Heroes) and – er – those Bananas again …!

Bananas take a break from dancing for a cream tea!

Bananas take a break from dancing for a cream tea!


All set in the beautiful surroundings of the Belladrum Estate near Beauly. Highly recommended for all ages! Tartan Heart Festival.



From Purple Crayons to Summer Scones ….!

I was interviewed by the lovely ladies at Madeleine Milburn Agency this week …

In a (seemingly vain) effort to render gloomy and grey London a little more cheerful and summery today, here is a new Q&A with our best-selling author Janet MacLeod Trotter. Janet is the author of mesmerising historical family sagas THE TEA PLANTER’S DAUGHTER and THE PLANTER’S BRIDE, as well as contemporary mysteries such as the captivating THE VANISHING OF RUTH.

What’s your daily routine when you are writing?

Go for a walk to get fresh air and the brain ticking over before heading to the library to write – with a promise to myself to return home for a huge coffee after a couple of hours!

If you weren’t writing, what other job would you dream to have?

I’d re-create the tea-house in my novel, The Tea Planter’s Daughter, and bustle around in an Edwardian tea dress chatting to the customers about world events while musicians played in the background and my staff served up delicious scones and cakes – which I would have to sample, of course.

Favourite book as a child?

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson – I was fascinated by the idea of being able to create an imaginary world just by drawing a few lines in purple.

Favourite food/snack while writing?

Regular flapjack with coffee at the Lit & Phil Library in Newcastle has seen me through several novels!

Most unglamorous part of being a writer?

There’s a glamorous part?!

Do you have any secret talents (other than writing)?

I used to be able to stand on my head in the middle of the room but I think my centre of gravity may have shifted.

What has been your most touching review or message from a fan so far?

It’s a toss up between one from a woman:

“The House is in a mess, the kids had to eat at McDonalds and I’m not getting any sleep – and its all your fault! I just can’t put your brilliant book down”

and one from a man:

“I meant to write ages ago to complain about The Hungry Hills. Hardened commuters are not supposed to cry on the 19.15 from Kings Cross. Most embarrassing.”

Favourite holiday destination? Are you a beach bunny or a city explorer?

I prefer to explore beaches and sit around cities watching the world go by! My ideal holiday involves walking, a bit of sight-seeing, good meals, a swim or two, a ceilidh dance, sun-downers and plenty reading time. Scotland, France or India tick a lot of boxes.

Summer tipple of choice?

Chardonnay or Belhaven beer (to be honest I can drink either all year round!)

Last but definitely not least, what is your favourite ice cream flavour?

Vanilla with tablet. If you’ve never discovered tablet (fudge but better) then get yourself to Scotland quickly!


A summery snap of Janet enjoying some scones!

HOT AND STEAMY – Romantic Novelists in a London heatwave!

It began with a vodka bottle (not mine) delaying my train – the guard announced that a bottle had got stuck in the door. “It’s not the first time I’ve been defeated by a bottle of vodka,” he announced, “and it probably won’t be the last!”

The Border Reivers march on London for the Gala Dinner! (Caroline Roberts, Janet MacLeod Trotter, Shirley Dickson, Lorna Windham)

The Border Reivers march on London for the Gala Dinner! (Caroline Roberts, Janet MacLeod Trotter, Shirley Dickson, Lorna Windham)

But vodka trains and a tube strike didn’t stop me from getting to London and my first Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Conference (although I’ve been a member for years) which was a great event. Three days of action-packed talks, workshops and socialising – wow, do romantic novelists know how to party – the temperatures in and out of the conference halls in East London soared!

A small sample of fascinating things learned:

Customer profile at WH Smith Travel shops is 50/50 male-female, and largely professionals; 7 out of 20 current top titles have the female sex in their titles, eg girl, woman, female name etc. (info from Fiction Buyer Matt Bates)

Kingsford Campbell is a new literary agency, combining traditional author representation with marketing campaigns (info from former Bookseller reviewer, Sarah Broadhurst @S_Broadhurst)

How to get editors excited! Gillian Green of Ebury (@GillianGreenEd) loves a snappy ‘elevator pitch’ – best one at a recent acquisition meeting was, ‘Robinson Crusoe set on Mars’ !!

Online book reviewersLovereading want a review to be a “piece of passion” not boring publishing blurb; The Little Reader Library and The Worm Hole have an open author policy (ie will read self-published books too) – Charlie at Worm Hole loves anything about history or castles while Lindsay at LRL prefers to read print but will review ebooks too. Anna at We Love This Book (run by the trade magazine The Bookseller) must be wowed by the first page in deciding what to review and won’t take self-published.

Multiple genre author, Jane Holland (@janeholland1 who writes under an impressive dozen or so different names!) suggests setting up a different social media profile and brand for each pseudonym – she uses Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pintrest, Linkedin, Instagram, You Tube – and don’t forget which ‘author’ you are when posting to your fans! Use a quote from your book on a promotional card or a picture to conjure up the brand.

Reader Insight – the use of statistics and info on readers garnered from social media – Kate Harrison (@KateWritesBooks) opened up a brave new world where sales rankings, Amazon page reads, web page visits, YouGov profiles, Goodreads reviews can all be used to build up a profile of your ideal reader – their likes, brands, hobbies. Then go and interact with them and give them what they want!

Marketing guru, Alison Baverstock (@alisonbav) told us about planning a marketing strategy – it’s an ongoing process from developing relationships with readers on social media to organising review coverage of a new book – “tempt but don’t tell too much or they won’t want to buy it!”

Affinity Marketing = linking two products that go well together, eg books and chocolate!

Urine in medieval times was a sought after resource (there is nothing we authors won’t discuss!) – used in bleaching, tanning, shrinking cloth and dyes. This was just one of the facts learnt in an entertaining hour on historical research led by Joanna Hickson (@joannahickson) and Jenny Barden (@jennywilldoit).

Gala Dinner 2015

Best of all were the meet ups, chats, gossip and laughter with fellow writers – both with friends from the Border Reivers Chapter in Northumberland and with new friends made at the conference. Big Thanks to Jan Jones (@janjonesauthor)for carrying out the mammoth task of organising the conference so well and to Kate (@katyhaye)for looking after the ‘newbies’ with our special sparkly badges.

Roll on next year!