Grand themes, and specific contexts

Having recently attended Fiona Thackeray’s workshop at Bookmark Blair on ‘Place’, I am now thinking about universal themes and specific contexts. If we look at Eight of Cups, then the grand theme might be ‘attachment’ or ‘mid life’ and the specific context is the lives of six girls who meet at University in Edinburgh in the 1970s.

Our current work-in-progress, Never Do Harm, will then be about betrayal, and the setting – the relationship between two doctors in the modern medical world in Scotland.

Talking of Place, we were delighted to be invited by Nancy Christie who had read and enjoyed our blog, to provide a stop off for her on her digital world tour. She hopes to travel through the ether to England, Scotland, Europe and the World during October!

The theme of her collection of Short Stories Travelling Left of Centre (or to be more exact ‘Traveling Left of Center!) is Fate and the context is people who are unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, such that they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results.

This collection of stories includes:

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Let there be Light


The concept of light has always been important to me.  I love the sunlight, prefer being out of doors, hate the dark, and loathe the short winter days.  From a recognised date in October, until the sun begins to return to this hemisphere, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder due to lack of light.

When it comes to writing and being productive, I can reflect back happily on two months during winter 2011, on mornings spent writing in Tenerife, after a leisurely cup of tea on the sun-bathed balcony.  Eight weeks and a third of a book drafted, with still time to show visitors around, visit local markets, dine out on wonderful fresh fish and walk daily unencumbered by coat, hat or scarf.

The Canary Islands in winter are home to many creative snowbirds, headed south for the ideal conditions to live out their intended life.

Where would your ideal place to write be?

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All roads lead to Edinburgh

The six girls in our debut novel Eight of Cups came from far and wide. Their birthplaces shaped them, their University days in Edinburgh matured them, and their eventual homes both nurtured and challenged them.

But how to describe a place? And how to reflect how it might have been at the time of the action in the novel?

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Destination – Room 101

Room 101 first appeared in George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’. It was a torture chamber in the Ministry of Love in which the Party attempted to subject a prisoner to his or her own worst nightmare, fear or phobia. The emphasis shifted in the BBC comedy television series Room 101 from facing fears to identifying and then consigning pet hates to a fate worse than death in Room 101.

Mirren is angry with herself this Saturday morning and has decided to work on that anger by identifying all the things that currently annoy her and then metaphorically locking them in Room 101, possibly never to be seen or experienced again.

Firstly goes that full bag of Cadbury’s Chocolate Eclairs greedily consumed yesterday evening after a hard day at work. No more combating tiredness with empty calories. They can stay there for at least the six weeks it apparently takes to change a habit (Do you really believe that?).

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