Nancy Jardine – Highland Heroes- hale n’ hearty

Today I’m very happy to welcome Nancy Jardine, a fellow Crooked Cat author to my blog, speaking about highland heroes and her novel Take Me Now.  Welcome, Nancy, and take it away!

Do a Google search for highland heroes and you’ll be confronted by a slew of possibilities—especially in historical romances. I’ve read a lot of popular historical romances, many of them written by author friends who hail from America or Canada. They describe an incredibly idealistic view of a rugged man of the Scottish Highlands who has amazingly romantic notions. He’s a brawny opponent of anything that challenges him, a sword- wielding dervish when it comes to protecting his own, which often equates to protecting his favoured woman.

There are also time shift novels, as in the Diana Gabaldon Outlander Series, where male or female protagonist is catapulted from the present day to medieval Scotland, or to the era of the Jacobite rebellions. There they either meet that typical strapping Scottish warrior in the case of a female, or take on the persona of one if it’s a male who time shifts. Again there’s an ideal of a powerfully built, battling warrior as the male protagonist.

When I wrote my contemporary romantic mystery Take Me Now, I wanted to create a different sort of highland hero.


Nairn Malcolm is definitely an alpha male. He’s definitely a big strapping Scotsman but he’s a Western Islander, rather than a mainlander. He lives in his restored Scottish Castle. His ‘derring-do’ attitude has made him a successful businessman. He’s very protective of his chosen woman.

I’m hoping the reader is now asking what’s different from those highland heroes I’ve described above by other authors. My Nairn is almost a tongue-in-cheek version because at the outset of the novel he looks like he’s just had one of those claymore-swinging battles and has come off on the losing side. All of his normal alpha male qualities are ‘on hold’ till he recovers from a mysterious motorbike accident. I wanted to write about what the frustrations and tensions of being incapacitated would feel like to someone who lives life to the full and who normally does everything for himself—including flying his floatplane from his Scottish island base to Glasgow, and then in his jet to London and beyond to fabulous locations on business. It’s not easy for Nairn to laugh at his ailments as my battered highland hero, but I’m hoping readers will laugh at his predicament because my intention is for it to be a humorous contemporary romantic mystery.

Buy from Amazon: UK  US

Nancy Jardine writes: historical romantic adventures (Celtic Fervour Series); contemporary mystery thrillers (Take Me Now, Monogamy Twist, Topaz Eyes-finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE 2014); & time-travel historical adventures for Teen/ YA readers (Rubidium Time -Travel Series –Book 1 The Taexali Game).  

Find Nancy at the following places

Blog:  Website:

Facebook  LinkedIN    About Me   Goodreads   Twitter @nansjar  Google+ (Nancy Jardine)  YouTube book trailer videos   Amazon UK author page   Rubidium Time Travel Series on Facebook


Fiction Writing Lessons

My students move me; they really do. And inspire me. At every new class they arrive, feeling nervous and uncertain about what to expect, and by the end of the first lesson they’ve written something amazing and shared it with the group. I love that; that I’ve been instrumental in some small way in helping them to expand their comfort zones and to discover the joy of expressing themselves through the written word.

On the surface, my students may seem to have many different motivations for enrolling on a writing class. Obviously lots have always wanted to write and just want to increase their skills and knowledge, but there are others who also want to use writing to help get over a past trauma, or to look for escape from illness – either their own or a loved one’s, or to pass on the experience of their lives to posterity. Some find writing an isolated business and want to meet like-minded people, and others are challenging themselves to do something different – something they find a bit scary.

So, what with age and sex differences thrown into the mix, my students are a pretty varied bunch. But as they work on their writing together, they quickly form strong bonds and any differences are swept aside. And I love that. In fact this type of situation – where a group of disparate people comes together and bonds due to a common cause – was the inspiration for both my novels The Goddess Workshop and The Dare Club. But if I ever wanted to write a third novel in the series called The Writing Class, I’d have to invent some conflict to make the novel interesting!

When I finished art college ages ago, some of my friends went into teaching art and rarely picked up a paint brush again. It was as if the act of instruction drained the creativity out of them so they had nothing left for their own work. It was something I was a bit wary of myself when I decided to launch my courses, because I knew I definitely didn’t want to give up writing. But I needn’t have worried. As I’ve worked out writing exercises to help students learn, I’ve gained greater clarity myself. For example, a lesson I taught about theme in stories really made me pinpoint those themes in my own books. How surprised I was to find that two of my novels – The Goddess Workshop, about a group of women attempting to become more sensual, and A Nightingale in Winter, (to be published on 7 July by Omnific Publishing) a story about a volunteer nurse in the First World War, share the same theme! It’s there too with the character of Michael in my novel Taming Tom Jones, which has recently been accepted by the wonderful Crooked Cat Publishing. How different these books are to each other on the face of it And yet the theme of You can’t move forward in your life and really fulfil your potential until you’ve dealt with the issues of your past”  runs through them all like the lettering in a stick of rock.

At the moment I’m eagerly waiting for a first sight of the book covers for A Nightingale in Winter andTaming Tom Jones. But here’s a photo I had taken for Nightingale which expresses the feel of the book, together with the cover of The Goddess Workshop. You can see how different they are on the face of it. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find the similarities.

A bit like my students!



What will the cover of Taming Tom Jones be like? I can’t wait to find out!!!

In reading about blogging lately, I came across a useful article called 40 instant business blog post ideas and thought it would be fun to insert my own name into the title of one or two of them. Here’s the first. It was great fun to write! I hope you enjoy reading it.

choosing cakes

At first glance, Margaret K Johnson may seem to be quite a complicated, hard-to-pin down mix. She is confident and determined enough to have had a go – three times – at stand-up comedy, and loves teaching, since it allows her to share her passions and to enable others to pursue theirs. But put her in a room where lots of people are talking together, even if it’s a group of her own friends, and she can clam up.

This could partly be due to the writerly practice of people watching, and it is quite probable that Margaret is, in fact, squirreling away nuggets of conversation and observational detail for her books. However, this could also be a simplistic view of the author’s behaviour. Those who have known Margaret K Johnson intimately for a number of years, will be aware of several key reasons for her lack of confidence in social situations, and these have little or nothing to do with her being unfriendly, distant, disinterested, self-absorbed or even downright boring as might appear to be the first impression.

The truth is, Margaret K Johnson has always been shy, and the possession of an overly strict father and a relentlessly teasing brother did little to remedy this situation. Given the additional fact that her mother saw fit to perm the author’s hair in the summer holidays preceding her commencement at senior school, thereby giving her new peers and teachers the impression of Margaret being somewhat poodle-like, it is not surprising that this situation continued into her teens.


Unfortunately, just as Margaret was finally beginning to settle into senior school and had made managed to make a small group of friends who were prepared to ignore her hairstyle, the decision was made to transfer her to a different class. Although this was because Margaret was doing well academically, it was impossible for her to see this as a reward for making good progress at school. The daunting prospect of having to make new friends all over again, when everyone else had already established their friendship groups, left the author emotionally scarred, even before the unfortunate incident when she mistakenly used the word “pheasant” instead of “peasant” to describe Joan of Arc’s upbringing during a talk to the whole class.


It is true that Margaret K Johnson ought to be able to move on from these events, and that there is no longer any reason for them to be a part of the fabric of her begin. The author is aware of that she finally needs to address these issues. But in the mean time, should you be due to spend time with Margaret K Johnson, you can take charge of the situation by following these 5 simple steps.

This blog is moving! To read the rest, including the 5 vital steps, please go to:

Thank you!

Margaret x


The right time isn’t always when you want it to be!

This week Eimear MCBride – an author in my home city of Norwich – won the Women’s Prize for Fiction with her novel A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing. I haven’t read Emear’s book, but I understand it centres on the relationship between a girl and her brother – who has a brain tumour – and is written using a stream-of-consciousness narration.

It’s always great to hear of success, especially to someone local, but Eimear’s particular case gives me hope for more reason than one. Because Eimear wrote her novel years ago – 9 years ago – and ever since then it has been rejected over and over again, ending up in the back of a drawer. Then a chance conversation between her husband and the manager of a local independent bookshop set off the train of events that led to Galley Beggar, a Norwich publisher, accepting the book. The rest, as they say, is history.

So what’s the link between Eimear and me, apart from both of us living in the same city? Well, none; except that I recently remembered a novel I finished more than 15 years ago that has since then, languished in 3 different attics. It’s called A Nightingale In Winter, and is set during the First World War. The reason I remembered it was because of the current centenary of the start of WW1. “I wonder if I could do anything with that old novel?” I thought, and duly dusted it off and sent it to 3 friends to read. I read it thoroughly myself too, and what a very strange experience it was! I could barely remember writing any of the actual words, although I can very clearly remember the writing process itself. I did a great deal of research for it, immersing myself in books and visiting the Imperial War Museum in London to study very moving original letters and diaries of both nurses and soldiers. At the time I had a full-time job as a guidance worker in a further education college, and it was a fairly demanding role. But each evening I would return home to have something to eat, followed by a brief catnap. Then I’d make a strong mug of coffee and pour myself a large glass of wine. The combination of caffeine and wine usually fired me up sufficiently to write for a good two hours a night. And so; very gradually, the novel was completed. But I had no idea whether it was any good or not, since it was a very different type of story to those I’d previously written.


Here’s where I made my mistake, or not; depending which way you look at it, because maybe the time is right now and back then it just wasn’t. I sent Nightingale to a publisher who’d previously published some of my stories, but didn’t bear in mind that they published romances of the traditional kind; whereas Nightingale isn’t like that. There’s love in it, certainly, but also obsession and madness and the war. It’s strong stuff: certainly too strong for the publisher I sent it to. Their rejection letter fuelled my uncertainty about the story, and, since I had an idea for a new book, I put Nightingale away.

But now it has been rediscovered, and, since the feedback I’ve received from my 3 readers has been encouraging, it almost feels as if I’ve been gifted a novel! Whoopee! I do need to do a little work to it, and as soon as I’ve finished working on Taming Tom Jones, the novel I’m currently writing, I’ll get to work on it.

So congratulations, Eimear, and thank you for the encouragement of your story, even though you don’t me!

Fashioning a year of challenges

My year of taking part in challenges continued on Tuesday evening when I was one of 13 volunteer models in a charity fashion show in my home town of Norwich.

The show was organised by Sarah Morgan, who is an Image Consultant. As part of her work, she helps clients to weed out their wardrobes. Sarah found that the pile of discarded impulse buys was growing taller than she was, and decided she wanted to do something really worthwhile with these clothes. So Sarah Morgan Charity Fashion Sales was born.

“Wear your best knickers!” was Sarah’s advice to us before we went down to the restaurant on Monday evening where the fashion show was to take place. “The changing will be very communal.” It was. But fun too. Thirteen women sorting through shelves to find 4 outfits each, then trying them on and waiting to get Ms Morgan’s approval. “Too drab! You need more colour.” “No, that’s far too big for you.” “Try this; you won’t recognise yourself.” Sarah Morgan showed very little stress as she dealt with us all.

Next evening, us models duly reported for duty, a bundle of excited nerves as we waited to have our hair and make-up done and rehearsed how we were to move through the room to show off our outfits. By 7.15pm, the place was packed, and Sarah began her talk about how the fashion show idea had come about and the two charities she had chosen to receive the profits – The Big C and Stonham Women’s refuge. Then it was time for us to perform…

I was in the final group of 4 models to go in. When it was my turn, Sarah introduced me in this way: “Here’s Margaret K Johnson, a famous novelist.” Thank you, Sarah! Hopefully one day.

The evening was a huge success – it was totally packed out, the models were received by enthusiastic applause, and, most importantly, £3000 was raised for the two charities.  It was also a whole lot of fun.

And me? Well, the experience has got to go into a book, hasn’t it? Watch this space.

Here’s the link to see a picture of Sarah and us models just before the show.

Click on the image to buy from Amazon

Click on the image to buy from Amazon