I write and produce newsletters every month for Paragon Vets as part of the PR package I provide for them

This is the Pets Newsletter for April 13:


And this is the Equine newsletter for April 2013:

Let moving pictures tell the story…

We all know the sayings…

Every picture tells a story.IMG_9403






A picture’s worth a thousand words.59020029773_n_0_240x240




All totally true. So – if still images can be so valuable – just imagine what moving pictures must be worth. Businesses are fast discovering just how much added value video can give to their websites.

As a television journalist, I spent much of my time deciding how best to illustrate stories with pictures – and how best to give words greater depth and meaning with images.

I’m now making use of those skills in my freelance life – why not take a look at my portfolio pages while you’re here.

Writing press releases

blogWriting press releases is an art form. So many are barely worth the paper – or the computer screen – they’re written on. Harsh comment? True nevertheless. I do know whereof I speak – as a Journalist I must have binned enough press releases to sink a flotilla of toy boats. Why? Because they were too long, too boring, too waffly or quite possibly all three at once.

On the other hand – some of the press releases which hit the cutting room floor  contain good, interesting, valid news stories. So why did they fail to make the cut? Because the point of the story was buried deep within a wodge of paragraphs. I could be charitable and say journalists and editors are far too busy to wade through acres of words to get to the salient points – and that’s true. But it’s also true – unfortunately – that many simply won’t bother to even try. The point of the story needs to be right at the top of the pyramid/iceberg/triangle – select your own cliche.

However – I’ve just disobeyed all my own rules. The point of this post is actually to tell you that I’m the star guest on one of my absolute favourite websites – namely ‘Make A Living Writing’. It’s hosted by the award-winning writer and columnist Carol Tice, who’s also the Den-Mother of the Freelance Writers Den. To have a post accepted is nothing short of a coup as Carol’s standards are very high.

So – I hope you’ve stuck with me long enough to get to the interesting bit of the sandwich – and if you’re hungry for more – please do go over to the website – and an even bigger PLEASE do leave a comment there.

Wearing many hats…

hats mfI’m accustomed to wearing many hats… sometimes several different titfers all at the same time. When I worked for the Cumbria-based Border TV I was Reporter, Presenter, Forward Planner, Bulletin Editor, Documentary Maker, Newsreader,    Coffee-Maker, and lots more besides.

Now as a Freelance, I’m a Film-Maker, Editor, Producer, Writer, PR Person, Creator of newsletters and brochures, Press Release Writer – and yes, very much more besides.

One of my favourite roles is doing PR and Marketing for Paragon Vets. They’re a   multi-discipline practice, meaning they have Farm, Equine and Small Animal sections. I usually spend one day a week at Paragon – and no two of those days are ever the same.



I might be out on a farm visit, or filming an operation – fortunately I’ve found the sight of blood and innards doesn’t make me squeamish.



tortoise party 2011 008Or I might be attending a Tortoise Party – you don’t believe tortoises have parties? Hey – those boys and girls can rock! The parties tend to be held just before hibernation time of year, to make sure the owners know what they have to do, and to ensure the torties are properly prepared for their long snooze. It’s not just a case of putting on their pj’s and turning off the lights!

DS0021_zI might see a perfectly healthy horse being given a top-to-toe examination – because Paragon Vets believe this is a great way to pre-empt many medical problems. So they create a range of Heath Plans, tailored to the specific animal, covering routine stuff like worming and vaccinations, but also making sure they’re ready and able for the job they’re going to be doing.

IMG_8222-2Then of course there are our puppy parties – a lovely way to socialise young dogs, by letting them mix with other youngsters. We also introduce them to a whole new range of situations – everything you can think of from mail coming through the letterbox –

IMG_8244– – to men with beards (or in this case a Paragon nurse wearing a fake beard…) and people wearing strange hats! It all helps them to grow up into safe, sensible animals.

When I was a kid I really wanted to be a Vet when I grew up because I loved animals and could think of nothing nicer than being round them all day long. Sadly for me I just didn’t have any aptitude for science, so that scuppered that idea. Doing PR for a Vet is definitely the next best thing however!

The twelfth grape…

Twelve grYou may well wonder why I’ve chosen to adorn this post – with a bunch of grapes. Well – these aren’t just any old grapes. One in particular is downright special. That’s because – when it was eaten somewhere in Madrid at midnight on December 31st, a good luck wish was made on it – for me.

How cool is that? I really love traditions and we Scots have plenty of them, especially round Hogmanay and New Year. But I hadn’t come across this one before. I learned about it from a new Spanish friend – Monica Ocana. She told me the custom is to eat a grape and make a wish for someone with every chime of the bell as the Old Year passes into the New, and that my grape was the twelfth. Love it!

I reckon this is why I love the Internet – because it can introduce you to people you’d probably never otherwise have met and teach you things you’d never otherwise have learned. A fairly random exchange of comments on Facebook led me into conversation with Monica – and we’ve been chatting away ever since.

Monica’s a student but she also translates books into Spanish and helps authors promote their work in the USA through interviews, guesting on blog sites and so on. Thanks to her I’ve already appeared on Stitch-Read-Cook…


and Romance Book Paradise

RomanceBookParadiseAnd I’m also – pause for fanfare of trumpets – strutting my stuff on Reading Between The Wines…


Monica has quite a few more guest posts lined up for me over the next few weeks, so you never know where I might pop up.

Meanwhile – I hope many good wishes have been made on many grapes for you – and that they all come true!


The power of reviews

Submitting your book to the not-always tender mercies of a reviewer is quite a scarey thing. The very second you hit the button to send your baby in its pdf/mobi/epub or whatever form off into the ether to land in the reviewer’s in-tray, you start to have doubts. Maybe even downright second thoughts. What will they say about it? Will they hate it? Will they at least try to be constructive even if they think it’s a pile of poo?

The writer has no control over the reviewer’s words – and frankly, nor should they. It’s a risk you take –  and if someone’s prepared to spend their precious time not just reading your book but also commenting on it afterwards, then frankly the writer just needs to put up and shut up if they’re not happy with the outcome.

Okay – if the reviewer writes something completely and factually inaccurate or just plain wrong – then the writer has a right of comeback, if only for the sake of correcting the error. However – if the writer simply dislikes or disagrees with the reviewer’s opinion – well that’s tough tamales baby. I’m not suggesting it’s a nice thing to happen – I’m quite sure a bad review would make me crawl under the duvet with a large glass of whisky to sulk for at least a fortnight. But I’d still defend that reviewer’s right to criticise.

I have heard real horror stories of writers who’ve been incensed by bad reviews – it’s as if they somehow don’t believe the reviewer has any right to hold or express their own views. I’ve been very lucky so far – the reviews for Forbidden Love and Other Stories have all been positive and even complimentary. The latest one – by Katie Thompson – made me caper round the room with delight. It was like an unexpected – but very warmly received Christmas present. You can find it on Katie’s blog –

So – this is a little thank you to all those who take the time and make the effort to review books. And a plea to writers – don’t be so damn precious – and definitely don’t be so damn rude!

All stitched up…

…but in the nicest possible way. I am playing a starring role today (thursday December 13) on the very excellent blog Stitch-Read-Cook.  It gives writers the chance to tell the world a little bit more about themselves by outlining a typical day in their lives. Needless to say – there’s no such thing as a typical day in my life – I reckon the only thing all of my days have in common is a theme of mild chaos. However – I really enjoyed putting my guest blog post together for Stitch-Read-Cook – and I hope people will enjoy reading it!

Please do pop over and visit the site if you can find a few spare moments in your own very busy day – and please, please, please leave a comment. Please?

That was quite a week that was!

Some weeks tiddle along nicely without really involving much of note – but sometimes that can be a real pleasure and they’re none the worse for being unremarkable.

Then however – you get weeks like last week – which must have laid claim to other weeks’ quotas because it had far more than its own fair share of busy-ness and activity and just all-round stuff.

First of all – the week saw a personal triumph for me – because for the second year running I managed to cross the NaNoWriMo finishing line with 50,000 words intact.

This year’s offering is a book about my life and times at Border Television. It’s called BUSK IT! for reasons explained in the book – but also because that phrase pretty much sums up my 22 years with the station. The book’s nowhere near finished – a few former colleagues have kindly contributed stories already but I’ve got many more still to chase, and many more stories of my own to recall before I’m done.

The book’s definitely not intended to be a history of Border TV – nor is it really a warts-and-all though the odd pimple might appear here and there… Watch this space for progress reports.

The second major happening of the week – was the Dumfries and Galloway Life People of the Year Awards. This glitzy occasion is held annually at Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries – and for the second year in a row I was invited to present the awards.

Can’t even begin to tell you what a joy it is to do that job. It’s a lot of work –  I did a bit of research into all of the finalists, and attended the judging so I could include some of the judge’s comments in my scripts. But hearing the stories of the nominees and seeing the absolute delight on the faces of the winners – that takes some beating.

The week concluded with the Farmers Market at Langholm in Dumfriesshire.  My great chum Wendy Patterson goes to farmers markets and craft fairs regularly to sell her beautiful wildlife paintings on slate – and I’ve started tagging along to a few. I set up a little stall alongside Wendy’s, with my books whose cover illustrations are of course by the one and only Ms Patterson.


We also now have a new co-production line. I am by no means a poet, but after I did the Great Clydesdale Migration, riding beautiful and magnificent Clydesdale horses from the Isle of Skye to the south of Cumbria (450 miles) I fell so heavily in love with the Clydies, I had to capture my feelings in words and somehow a poem seemed most appropriate. Wendy drew a fantastic picture of a Clydie and we put the two together in the form of a greetings card, a printed mount – and a teatowel.

Here we are together at Langholm with the teatowel – I am mega chuffed with the way the poem and drawing work so well together. And lots of people can look forward to finding that poem in their Christmas stocking this year – so I hope they all enjoy it.

What would Robert Burns think…

I believe I can say without fear of contradiction – I never thought I’d get excited about a teatowel. But this isn’t just any old teatowel – this is a (oops – better stop right there before M&S lawyers descend on me like the proverbial ton of bricks for attempting to nick their slogan…)

This teatowel is a co-production. I wrote the poem – To A Horse – and my great chum and fantastic artist Wendy Patterson did the artwork. Wendy specialises in painting Scottish wildlife on slate and has also done some extraordinary murals – but like me she’s passionate about horses and very unlike me, is damn good at drawing them. Wendy also did the covers for my two latest books – she’s one versatile cookie!

I wrote the poem several years ago after riding 450 miles from the Isle of Skye to the south of Cumbria on Clydesdale horses in a magical adventure that became known as The Great Clydesdale Migration. I developed a love for heavy horses then that will never leave me – especially Clydies. They are gentle giants but they’re so much more.

Anyway – big thanks to Class Fundraising Ltd of Redcar who have done an entirely splendid job of producing the teatowels. The poem and drawing are also available as a card or a mounted print, and my thanks to ILF Imaging of Hawick for those. Really high quality work and I’m delighted to be able to find people who can do these things relatively close to home.

If anyone would like to buy a teatowel/card/mounted print – just drop me an email at and I’ll get right back to you. They’d make lovely stocking presents!


Having a Triberr nightmare…

I don’t know if you’re familiar with Triberr – I was invited to join several months ago by a very fine writer and blogger by the name of Bert Carson, and I was delighted to accept. The technicalities of Triberr go waaaay over my head, but basically you join groups (or – duhhh – tribes) of like-minded people, and you help each other out by tweeting links to everyone’s posts. So their followers get to hear about your blog and your followers get to hear about theirs, and with any luck you all benefit by reaching a far wider audience.  Great system.  And it’s certainly worked well for me – I know that quite a few of the people who have chanced upon this blog have done so entirely because of Triberr.

However…I appear to have hit some sort of a glitch with it.  My last post – ‘The delights of the deadline’ – has got stuck in a groove, like vinyl records of old (if you can remember that far back…) and keeps getting reposted. Several of my tribemates are sending this post out day after day – without even being aware that they’re doing it, and for the life of me I can’t find out how to stop it.

In a sense it’s been quite good, because the post has had many more hits than I would normally expect it to receive – but I do fear that it’s starting to look very spammy, both for me and for those innocent tribemates who are sending it out quite by accident.

Also – and this is truly ironic – the title of the post keeps getting subbed down to ‘The delights of the dead’…

Nightmare logo

Nightmare logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

so I suspect many zombie and horror fans have come to visit and been very disappointed to find a resolutely Gore-Free Zone!

I have tried to contact the head honchos at Triberr, but my pleas for help don’t seem to have reached the right spot – so I’m kind of hoping this post might do the trick. In the meantime – my apologies to anyone who’s fed up to the back teeth of seeing the link to ‘delights of the deadline’ over and over again – all I can say is – It’s not my fault, honest!