My Amazon Author Page

Find my Amazon author page via this link

"A Scottish Wind in the Willows on high end skunk."

"I enjoy Kate's stories..."
"A fun and spooky read..."

"The characters are so involving and
loveable that you do want them to really exist. It does read like you've
stumbled across someone's long lost diary from and alternate timeline/universe.
I quickly got into the story and loved every second of reading it...
total gem of a read by an author who deserves a lot more recognition."


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Auchtermuchty Here We Come

I have a new piece on Shortbread Stories,  called Auchtermuchty Here We Come.  Here is the link.  It's not a short story as such, which is why I'm calling it a 'piece'. It's a conversation between two people (gender uncertain) waiting for a bus at St Andrews Square bus station, Edinburgh.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Now Reading...

my bookcase sea penguin 25/3/14

I'm feeling older by the minute.  I just saw a link to this article about Flannery O'Connor.  I'd forgotten all about Flannery O'Connor.  I haven't read any Flannery O'Connor since about 1979.  But I do remember I really liked her work so I must re-read and see why.  I also remember that I thought she was a man, and Irish.    I think I was confusing her with Flan O'Brien. Does that matter?  You say O'Connor, I say O'Brien.  Let's call the whole thing off.  Or AFF, as we say in Scotland.  (I don't say AFF, myself - some definitely do, however.  So be warned. ) Made no difference to me, at any rate. Haven't read him since about 1979, either.  Must re-read, &c..

My current book is a political diary - Alan Clark's.  I've read them before but I'm tired at the moment and I just want something to stare at, really.  He's fairly entertaining.  The 80s seem like an awfully long time ago though.  I remember the first time I read them it all seemed quite recent.  The last instalment of his diaries are either about to be published, or have already been published.  I'm not sure if I really want to read them.   Chris Mullin's Diaries are a good read - I think I've read them all.  Even the 90s and the Blair era seem like a long time ago now.  How quickly life zooms by.
I've never read Tony Benn's Diaries,  strangely enough.  I'm sure I'll get round to those fairly soon.

My next book will be Iris Murdoch's The Sandcastle. Another writer I haven't read for ages.  I hope it isn't too turgid.  I've enjoyed a few of hers but there was one I started a couple of years ago - can't remember which one it was but I got it from my local library - and I could barely wade past chapter one.   I got this one on Friday in Killin folklore centre thrift shop for 50p.  (see my trip to Argyllshire post, for more riveting details).  

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Two new e-book reviews

There are two recent new favourable reviews of Sea Penguin Part One.  One is on Amazon UK and the other is on Amazon US.  Find them via this link here.

'Honest, fresh writing from a great storyteller. Kate sews her words together in such a way that the reader feels a part of things. I would recommend this book to one and all.'

'Although the humanoid and anthropomprphic characters are obviously fictional I could almost sense real crofters. Real people sitting around a fire place, silent, smoking a pipe with a dram of whisky in hand wondering; Did the author mean me? The Rocky Outcrop tales could be slotted into any society that inhabits the western costal Islands and regions of Scotland. The breakdown of the 'posts' or diary inserts makes this an easy read in a conversational manner and I felt shoulder to shoulder with the narrator as we went along. It was good to put it down now and again unless I was dragged over the cliff with some of the mad hatter escapades, but then this is fun fiction. I wasn't able to pick up any social messges other than they all eat 'stovies' drink Madeira and smoke Blackbogey tobacco and the occasional cherry and sultana cake. This the parody of the Scottish tea time is alive throughout and of course there are 'Fishfingers at one',
Whatever your taste in fiction read this and decide if this could fill a commuter slot on the train, if nothing else you'll look at seagulls and wonder only if. A piece of escapism for all the family and there are a further four books of the Tales from the Rocky Outcrop. Ideal for adaption for TV series on CBBC'.

It's a bit odd reading people's views on stuff I wrote five or six years ago, but I'm very grateful none the less.  I really should go ahead with the plan I've had for the last two years, and collect all four books and make them into one volume - but then it might be too much to digest....I feel the fifth volume ('Our Front Door') veers off into a somewhat different mode....and might not fit with the first four.  Oh well.  
By the way,  these two reviews both come from members of Shortbread Stories website;  they have kindly bought the book because for some insane reason I have pledged all proceeds from e-book sales to Shortbread, until Easter.  I am grateful for their kind reviews.

A Trip to Argyllshire

The entrance to St Conan's Church,  Loch Awe

Possibly my favourite building, anywhere. Haunt of R.L. Stevenson. Still empty - what a shame.

A 'mort safe' in St Conan's Church cloister (formerly used on graves to prevent body-snatching)

Looking over to the island of Kerrera during truly horrendous weather

Arduaine Gardens - beautiful

Even in March,  wonderful pink camellias at Arduaine Gardens

Magnificent rhododendron trees at Arduaine Gardens

Looking south to Scarba and Jura from Arduaine Gardens

From the viewpoint at Arduaine Gardens

Loch Melfort

Rainy, windswept ferry terminal

Driving up Strone Hill towards Tyndrum through vile weather

The Falls of Dochart,  Killin

The Healing Stones of St Fillan - each one resembles the body part it cures - guess which one this refers to?

We've been to Oban many times before.  It makes a great base for exploring Argyll and the islands.  Normally we stay in a cramped but clean and decent B&B, or if the weather is good we camp, but this time we splashed out on a two-night all-inclusive stay in a hotel via a website specialising in short breaks and bargain deals.  I won't mention which hotel or which website but we certainly won't be going back to it and it definitely wasn't a bargain.  Horrible food, a vile breakfast, and it (food AND room) smelled disgusting.  
It didn't help that there was a force 9 gale blowing when we arrived, and we got soaked through on the walk from the car park.  We had intended to spend our middle day out in the fresh sea air exploring the island of Kerrera, which is a matter of yards off-shore.  But the weather was so dreadful (see photo) we decided to go for Plan B - a more sheltered trip to Arduaine Gardens.  Our twenty mile drive down the coast to Arduaine was a joy - the sun came out and the scenery was spectacular.  It was our first visit to Arduaine and we'll definitely return, although I gather from the National Trust website that the many larch trees in the garden are all to be felled due to a disease, which is a real shame.  It won't totally ruin the garden but it will lose a lot of its atmosphere, which is quite fairy-like and magical.  Lots of hidden paths and moss and lichen and tiny ponds and little stone steps. The camellias and rhododendrons are spectacular, even in March.  And the sea view from the top is wonderful.   
We generally return home from Oban via the scenic route - Appin, Ballachulish and Glencoe - but we took the short route this time due to bad weather ( see photo).   As we usually do we stopped off at St Conan's Church, which is a strange building on the north shore of spectacular Loch Awe, with the West Highland railway line running right beside it.   It looks older than it really is;  it dates from the late 19th/early 20th century, and was designed in truly hubristic fashion by amateur architect Walter Campbell.   One thinks, on the one hand, why not?  and, what an achievement! but at the same time there's a feeling of discordance and that the whole edifice doesn't quite fit with religion, and certainly not religion as it has been practised in Scotland over the last couple of centuries.  The architecture is quite eclectic and extraordinary, with the interior ceiling resembling an upturned boat, windows salvaged from various other churches, and all sorts of gargoyles and interesting sculptures and features.  At any rate it draws us back again and again.  I always put some money in the box (the roof leaks badly) and buy a pen, to add to my ever-growing collection of 'holiday pens'.
We stopped again at the little village of Killin and stood on the narrow stone-arched bridge to admire the Falls of Dochart, as everyone seems to do despite the discomfort of lorries and buses and so forth roaring and manoevring past in alarming proximity, and then went into the folk-lore centre, which is in the old watermill.  Besides having a thrift shop and crafts for sale, it houses the amazing healing stones of St Fillan.  It was my first encounter with them.  Apparently, they were taken from the river Dochart by St Fillan himself, many centuries ago.   The shape of each stone corresponds to the body part it is supposed to heal - the one in the photo was very obviously for the head, but I couldn't figure out any of the others.  The nest of river-wrack on which they rest is changed by tradition every Christmas Eve.
A nicely interesting end to our trip.  
We then drove the 20 or so miles along Loch Tay beneath a very snowy Ben Lawers to the pretty village of Kenmore, and from then on we were on the home stretch.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

An Excerpt from Sea Penguin Part One (available on Amazon Kindle)

I've been re-reading my e-books with  view to condensing them into one volume (have been meaning to do this for AGES but it's such a hassle), and thought I'd blog an excerpt from the first one.  It's from the second half of the book, so completely out of context.

Here it is.

'By the way, Tuppence was considered too young to be rostered, but no doubt he will accompany us on our nightly cliff-top patrols. He wasn't at the tea, due to needing to recover from his recent time travelling. He was staying in with a mustard plaster and a copy of "The Worst Journey in the World" - which he says he can top. We can tell him all about it later. 
Post Twenty-nine 
Geoffrey and I embarked upon our first cliff-top patrol last evening, as rostered by the Tupfinder General. It was a dark and stormy night, the wind was howling and the sea surged violently against the rocks far below as we negotiated the cliffs. Even Geoffrey was struggling to master the fearful blasts of wind, and I knew that a strong gust could send me over the top in a trice. I did not want to end up like Doctor Wilson, chewed up and spat - or belched - out by the killer whale.  The Tupfinder on the other hand was planning on enjoying his night off by having a hot bath then putting his feet up with a good book in front of the fire. He said he might have a crack at Tennyson. "Perhaps he'll push the boat out and put two bars on instead of one," I mused, as I picked my way along the close-cropped turf. (Close-cropped by me, might I add). "Do you think the Tupfinder Generals are really short of cash, or just stingy?" Geoffrey asked suddenly. "It's so hard to tell with them." "I'm not sure. He gave us a decent spread, what with the red salmon and all. And those crisps were Walker's, not own brand."  "Yes, but the cherry madeira was definitely Somerfield's," Geoffrey pointed out. "Fair enough, but that could indicate either stinginess in not wanting to fork out the extra for Mr Kiplings, or merely that like me he actually prefers Somerfield's own brand cherry madeira. And what about the dear crisps?" "The crisps could have been bogofs." "Hmm. What did you think of the tea?" "Definitely yellow pack. He must be short of funds, surely." We both nodded agreement and continued on our way, our sympathy now thoroughly with the Tupfinder Generals. We didn't ponder long on whether, if in his shoes, we would have sacrificed the red salmon for a better class of teabag. We were only too thankful we had not been offered coffee. One of our tasks was to sabotage the electricity supply lines attached to the Fulmar's security light system. We had all agreed - Geoffrey, me, and the Tupfinder General - that it was a priority to shut down that awful system at all costs. Apsley and Cherry would never agree to it, so we knew it would be a complete waste of time to even attempt to raise it in a reasonable manner - e.g. at their BarBQ this weekend. So, we had a set of wire cutters and some rubber gloves in a small wallet which I was carrying round what was supposed to be my waist. We planned not to make a clean cut but to make it appear as if the rats had nibbled through the wires. With any luck, Apsley and Cherry would then take against the rats and fling them over the top at first opportunity. Thus we would kill two birds with the one stone - not that we wanted to kill ANY birds! Geoffrey never uses that phrase - it brings him out in a cold sweat. But come to think of it - we could kill THREE birds with the one stone, viz. outcomes a - breakdown of security lights, and b, breakdown of relationship between the Fulmars and the rats, and now c, following logically from b, reduction if not cessation of their lucrative smuggling operation , which depended entirely on the labour of.....

to read more, you can find it on Amazon Kindle,  here.   And if you like it, there are four more in the series.

Smart, Kate (2012-02-22). Sea Penguin: Part One - Tall Tales from the Rocky Outcrop (Sea Penguin Selections) (Kindle Locations 785-793).  . Kindle Edition.


Question of the day - the answer.

Oh - I forgot.  The answer to the previous question, viz. 'why is fruit round?' is, quite frankly - although why I'd want to be anything other than frank about fruit, and why I feel I even have to introduce an element of doubt, is a moot point - 'I don't know.'

Question of the Day - why is fruit round?

fruit sea penguin 13/3/14
It isn't all round.  I know that,  of course I do - I'm not thick.  *Neither have I been living in a cupboard in John o' Groats since World War Two.  *Nor have I been living since birth in a hut in darkest Antarctica.  *Or on the Moon.  I wasn't raised by wolves in the wilds of Siberia.  *Or anywhere else where they don't have fruit.  I know about bananas and pears, and probably other non-round fruit that I can't quite think of at the moment,  and I am putting it out there before anyone starts.

However, the fact remains that most fruit is round.  Apples, oranges, grapefruit,  Sharon fruit, kiwi fruit (yes, oval I know, but basically that IS round), grapes (again, an elongated form of round, but still round-ish),  lemons (same), tomatoes (controversial), pomegranates, blueberries, strawberries (sort of round) - I could go on, but won't.

*I do realise - because I'm not thick, right? - that I've made mistakes slash errors with my nors ors and neithers.  But right now I have a life to live, a cup of tea to make, a biscuit to dunk, the toilet to go to, nails to file, nose hairs to pluck - and I cannot be arsed looking up the correct grammatical 'usages' or 'use', even, and so for the moment at least they must stay as they are.  Imperfect - like non-round fruit.

Tomorrow's question - linked.  Why are raspberries hollow?

Monday, 10 March 2014

Free deals and promotions on Kindle e-books

I have the following promotions  available at the moment.

Sea Penguin Part Three - Death at your Fireside is on a price reduction in the U.S.  Here is the link to the right page on  That continues for a few more days.

Sea Penguin Part Four - the Soul Extractor,  and Sea Penguin Part Two are both free today.   The promotion ends either tonight or tomorrow, it's usually difficult to tell exactly when, due to Amazon being in control of this and not me directly.

A New Page with Old Flash Fiction

I've made a new page and transferred over a few of my old flash fictions from Shortbread Stories.  Here's the link, or click on the link under the header picture.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Toilet Paper Soaked in Arsenic Klaxon


'Nothing's going on.  It's all going OFF.'

'How d'you mean?'

'I don't know.'

'You must know.  And if you don't know,  I must find out.  I won't sleep unless I do.'

'You're such a control freak.'

'I know.'

'You know it all, don't you.'

'That didn't sound like a question.'

'It wasn't.'

'Ah.  It was a Statement of Fact.  And rightly so.'

'I HATE when you say 'ah'.  Sounds like you're sitting there with your arms folded, in your leather wing-backed chair...'

'Going aaaahhhhh.'

'Going aaaaaahhhhhh.  Counting your metaphorical chickens.'

'I don't need to count them.  They hatched last week.'

'I seriously doubt that.  Anyway.'



'Anyway what?'

'I hate it when you say ah.'

'Just as well you're not a doctor then.'

'One day I will kill you.  You should know that.'

'Why?  That is not at all the kind of thing I want to know.  Besides, you haven't the stomach for it.'

'Stomachs don't come into it.'

'That's what you think.  You're too stupid, anyway.  You've just proved it by informing me in advance of your murderous plan.'

'No I haven't.  I haven't said how I'm going to do it. Or when.  For all you know I've been planning this for months.'

'I bet you haven't.'

'Yes I have.  I've been soaking your toilet paper in a clear, odourless arsenic solution, then carefully drying it out and replacing it on the roll so's you wouldn't notice.  Each time you've gone to the lav or blown your nose, you've been absorbing arsenic via the mucous membranes of whichever orifice has been wiped.  And I've been rubbing my hands with glee - which is not a type of soap by the way.  Your body, according to my rigorous calculations, must now have reached total arsenic saturation point, or T.A.S.P..  So there.  And before you ask - I can see your mouth opening and I know just what's going to come out - I have a separate roll, so I remain quite unaffected.  You however will die a truly horrid death at some point within the next twenty six hours and fifty two minutes.'

'I won't.'

'Yes, you will.  You smug git.  There's no point arguing the toss.  It's too late.'

'No it's not.'

'It is.'

'It's not.  I swapped the rolls.'


'Oh indeed.  Or as I prefer to say, ah.  You now have twenty six hours and forty eight minutes to plan your funeral and make a few last phone-calls.'


'Quite.  Cigarette?'

'Might as well.  Nothing to lose now, have I?  Holy lavatory paper.  I didn't see that one coming.'

'Course you didn't.'

'You're not pulling my leg, by any chance? Or indeed, 'yanking my chain'?'


Gram Parsons - Return Of The Grievous Angel

Haven't posted any Gram Parsons for AGES.  My day doesn't go well unless I listen to this.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Grey day.  Looking through the trees and across Loch of the Lowes,  Perthshire.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Kindle promotions

I've got two free promotions on the go at the moment.  Sea Penguin Part Two,  and Sea Penguin Part Four are both free to download for the next five days.

Details here and here

Been too distracted with general life things to do any proper writing this week.  Planning to knuckle down to it now.  Might watch a film first though.......

Out of the Trees (1975), by Graham Chapman & Douglas Adams

Haven't seen this before, or at least can't remember it.  

Graham Chapman - A Liar's Autobiography: 07. Chapter Seven - A Reincarna...

The audio version.  This is the part where he gives his account of 'coming out'.  He sounds sensible, and brave.

Just Read and Now Reading...Graham Chapman's A Liar's Autobiography and Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One

I expected to enjoy A Liar's Autobiography and I wasn't disappointed.  I read it really quickly and when I finished it I had that horrible bereft feeling that you get at the end of some books.  Apparently it was written by five people.  I'm not sure if that is part of the lie, or not.  And I'm not sure how much of the book is true. I'm kind of going with the idea that the essence of the book is true, and the facts maybe don't matter too much.  At any rate,  I laughed out loud at several bits.  And laughed uncontrollably at others; in fact I haven't laughed so much at a book since I read Chic Murray's 'Long Nose' story a couple of years ago.  It is grim in parts however, and occasionally shocking, in ways you mightn't expect.
As with Gil Scott Heron's memoir (see previous posts), I am left feeling that I'd like to know more.  I intend to watch the film, as soon as I get round to it.   Ah well.  Fickle reader that I am, I've moved swiftly on, to The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh.  I haven't read Waugh for donkey's years, not since I was in my 20s I think.  His brittle style jarred at first, having jumped straight in after Graham Chapman so to speak, but I'm getting used to it now.  It's about early Hollywood and I like that era so am finding it reasonably engaging so far, but I'm not what you could call 'gripped'.  I'm about a third of the way through, persevering with the overt cleverness.  I find myself hankering after Somerset Maugham.  Similar era.

Spring offer - free downloads and special reductions for Kindle e-books coming up

There will be free downloads available for five days as from the 7th of March and in the USA one of my books will have a price reduction as from the 8th I think - more details to follow.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Monday, 3 March 2014

Bill Hicks BBC Interview

I've always been a fan of this chap.  And this interview clip is one of my favourites.  I've read some unnecessarily snarky things about him recently, following the 20th anniversary of his death. 'Today, he would be in some dreadful sitcom' and so forth.  'Three hours of material'.  So what?  He died at 32.  Arses.  He never fails to make me Laugh Out Loud, he was clearly a Good Bloke, and I hate to imagine what it was like playing those dives he mentions.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Genie, the lamp, and the triple cheeseburger scenario


What helps?  If I was were fortunate enough to have the lamp in my sweaty clutches (doubtless after an Indian Jones-style chase down a mine-shaft), and if I was were busily polishing it to a hi-shine with the frayed sleeve of my favourite stripey jumper, and if the Genie-feller were was asking me to ask him a - no, make that two or maybe three - question(s), what then?  I'd ask for Money, if I'm honest.  And plenty of it.  I've not got any, at the moment, obviously - well, not enough of it to feel like it makes a lot of difference.  And to be frank, not to mention earnest, it gets kind of pressing at times.  Immortality also,  in a state of prolonged youth, beauty and robust physical and mental health.  That makes four, or if he's being picky, five.   Oh Dear.  Perhaps if I squish squash them all together into one sentence slash question, he mightn't notice.

As if.........

Those Genie-fellers are nothing, if not tricksy.

Would anyone ask for anything other than the above, if they was were offered three wishes, by the way?  World peace, maybe?  It would depend entirely on the circumstances, I think.  Unless you were extremely altruistic and strong-minded. Which, let's face it, most of us aren't.   We can't all be Nelson Mandelas, or Lindsey Hilsums.  Or even Effie McGumphys from number 57s, who's been saving up every single one of her milk bottle tops in a series of bulging Lidls carriers crammed in behind the Hoover in the cupboard under the stairs for so long that she's forgotten why*.  And she doesn't even like milk.  In fact,  she's lactose-intolerant.
Take the triple cheeseburger example.  Imagine this scenario.  You're starving, having dragged yourself out of one of those deep underground caves after being trapped, foodless, for about a fortnight.  You stumble upon a lamp, and you give it a quick rub, not really expecting anything, but hey! what's the worst that can happen? You end up with an old lamp that is shinier than it was.  Or so you naively believe. Is there a teeny, weeny little corner of your mind that doesn't believe that?  Surely. Let's hope that Nobody is THAT stupid.   Anyway, of course the Genie appears, curly-toed slippers and all, and of course he asks you what might be your heart's desire, at that very moment.  There is a snack van two hundred yards away to which you could easily manage to crawl to, only it's hidden behind a rock and you can't see it.  Only the tantalising smell of cheeseburgers wafts towards you on an otherwise undetectable zephyr of wind  .  The Genie knows about the snack bar.  In fact, he and his life-partner Jeanie have been running it for five years, and turning a nice profit.  He decides to make things complicated.  He folds his muscly arms, Genie-style, and booms, 'You have two choices.  You can have three wishes, or, you can have World Peace for all eternity.  Which will it be, o fortunate one?'
'I'll have a triple cheeseburger please, with chips, and a large cherry coke.  Then I'll have everlasting beauty and lots of money after.  I'll feel so much better after that, that I'll be able to manage the World Peace bit all by myself without your help.  Or at least I'll have tried, or meant well, or whatever.  Don't forget the ketchup. Thank you!'

Only the Genie insists that the 'triple' bit of the cheeseburger IS the three wishes, and you don't get your coke or your chips, never mind the ketchup and a half-hearted, bilious, indigestion-ridden attempt at World Peace.

What an utter, out and out b'stard.  No wonder he turns a profit.


*it's for a special wheelchair for a local child who was badly injured in a car accident.  The child is now fully recovered and no longer requires the chair.  Probably best not to tell Effie, in case she dies of shock.  What with her being elderly and that.