Witching Ground paperbacks arrive at last

I know – it would have been sensible to get them on sale by Christmas. That was always the plan. But I can’t believe how much editing I needed to do. I kept finding ways to polish and improve the flow. Either I’m becoming fussier, or my first drafts are getting more clunky. And this time I decided that the cover needed to be revamped to boost the contrast and make the text and image stand out more strongly when reproduced as a thumbnail online. So here’s the result.

The Witching Ground new cover

The Witching Ground new cover

Now I just have to hope that some kind readers post reviews on Amazon.

The Witching Ground supernatural thriller will soon be available in paperback

I’ve been working hard to get the paperback edition of The Witching Ground ready for publication, and incorporating all the feedback I’ve been getting from the Kindle First Edition. And very interesting it’s been too. I’ve decided that I should remove the maps from the book since they seemed to take readers out of the world of their imagination and engage a more analytical bit of their brains instead.

The maps will continue to be available on this blog as an optional extra.

So I’ve decided to update the Kindle version to a second edition to keep it in step with the paperback. Needless to say I’ve been unable to resist further tightening and polishing – so if you have a first edition Kindle then Amazon may offer a free update. If they don’t, and you’d like a revised edition, then give me a shout at RSS@northlight.tv and I’ll organise one for you.

In the meantime here’s an updated cover. The print version was less vibrant than it appeared on screen, so I’ve revised that too. it looks horribly unsubtle on screen, and far greener than it should appear in print, but it should really help on the paperback cover.

Fingers crossed!

Print version of The Witching Ground cover

Print version of cover

The Witching Ground walks in through a wall

Actually it arrives on Amazon, but I wanted something a bit more paranormal. Yes, The Witching Ground – a supernatural thriller – is now available on Amazon as a Kindle. I’ve been putting in long hours formatting it, and finished both the Kindle and the Feed A Read paperback version after midnight last night. Feed A Read is a British print-on-demand operation. I gather it’s quite similar to Create Space, but pays better royalties!

Strathcalder postcard

Victorian postcard of Strathcalder and its smiddy.

To mark this launch can I remind you of the competition. The first five people to identify the Scottish castle that Castle Calder was based on will get a free paperback copy. Same with the fictitious village of Strathcalder – although the first of those has been won already. You can find the maps and plans on this blog.

And to mark this auspicious moment, and help with the competition, I’m including here a postcard of the village back in Victorian times. The smith is standing outside his smiddy, and you can see the extra bit of the shed on the right which was built to house the hearse.

Suitably Gothic!

If you think you know where these places are you can email me at RSS@northlight.tv, so the others don’t see your suggestion. Good luck.

Competition to identify the strange village of Strathcalder

Strathcalder village and Castle Calder

Strathcalder village and Castle Calder

The first five people to identify the village, and the first five to work out which castle the fictitious Castle Calder was based on, will all get a free paperback copy of The Witching Ground as soon as it is published.

This map was really easy, since I had a clear sense of the layout of Strathcalder and Castle Calder while I was inventing it. It’s a blend of a number of real places. For the moment I’ll keep them under my hat – but perhaps you can identify them?

Yes I’ve been busy today. And I’d be interested to know if this slightly obsessive exercise helps your enjoyment of the book. If not I could alway abandon the writing and look for a job with Ordnance Survey.

If you think you know where either of the originals are then drop a note with your suggestion to robertscott@ northlight.tv and I’ll let you know the result.

Good luck!

The imaginary Castle Calder in 1597

Castle Calder in 1597

Castle Calder at the time of the witch trials

My last post showed the present-day map of Castle Calder when the archaeological dig takes place in the story. Now here’s the castle in 1597 – the year when the witch burning took place. Readers who are into such detail may spot why the first trench was dug in the wrong place. With all trace of the east cloister missing in the present-day map in my previous post the centre of the courtyard has shifted a fair bit.

Hopefully all this drawing should help your appreciation of the tale once it’s published. Fingers crossed – otherwise I’ve done rather a lot of scribbling when I should have been doing text revisions. On the plus side I’ve made some significant changes to the castle geography, and the chapel has increasingly emerged as an atmospheric location in its own right.

Such fun!

Not quite done yet. I couldn’t sleep last night so I got up and started a map of the village…

A cunning plan…

The imaginary Castle Calder

The imaginary Castle Calder

One of my beta readers (my wife Lizzie) dared to suggest that she hadn’t been entirely sure of the layout of Castle Calder – the fictitious Scottish castle where the story of The Witching Ground takes place. I explained that I had a fairly clear idea of where things went, but had been less specific when the geography wasn’t important to the story.

She pressed me on this. “I’m not entirely certain of the layout,” I admitted. “But I didn’t want to get into too much detail.”

“That’ll be why I didn’t understand,” she said. And of course she was right.


So I decided to draw up a sketch plan of the castle. In doing this I had to resolve one or two issues where I had been unsure myself. And as I got into the drawing matters became clearer, and I started to make the sketch too neat. After all, I’m meant to be writing a book, not designing a map. But the exercise threw up some surprises.

I discovered where the rooms are where there are no floors remaining. They’re at the far end of the corridor from the stairwell. I will now have to rewrite some of the descriptions. It all makes more sense now. A corridor which has a stairwell at one end, and a sheer drop at the other. That makes a far better plot point. Lose your bearings and you could lose your life.

I also realised why the first trench was dug in the wrong place. Until you see what the layout was in 1597 you might well misjudge where the centre of the courtyard lay. This makes so much more sense within the story. So now I will need to read through from the beginning again, and make sure that the story is consistent with the map.

Yes, I should have done the drawing ages ago. Now my biggest decision is whether or not to include the drawings in the book. The picture I’ve posted here is the Castle in the present day, as the dig progresses. I’ll shortly post the 1597 version. And I look forward to your feedback!

The language of the Garden of Eden

Croft in flames

Burning croft

Whether or not Gaelic was the language spoken in those blissful days before the Fall it seemed essential in my new supernatural thriller The Witching Ground that some was spoken in the 1590s. The story involves the reconnection between Heather Bruce, a present day Archaeology lecturer from New York, and her ancestor, Jean Paterson, who was burnt as a witch. In so many ways the women are the same character, but I wanted to hint at the divide of time, culture, even language, that separates them.

So it was natural that some words are uttered in Scots Gaelic. Not all – within a novel it would be laborious to follow every line of dialogue with a translation – but enough to give a flavour of the mental soundtrack.

For this I am massively grateful to Ann Paterson. I first met Ann when she was working for Historic Scotland and I was asked to film some dramas at Edinburgh Castle, set in the time of Mary Queen of Scots, and acted in Gaelic by the children of Tollcross Primary School in Edinburgh.

But back to the dialogue, and at this point another issue raised its head. I am not a Gaelic speaker, so it made sense to write the lines in English and have them translated. But what if a Gael wouldn’t have said things that way in the first place? To try to get the flavour of the way speech is constructed in Gaelic I asked Ann to come up with a translation which felt natural to her, then translate it literally back into English. I couldn’t use this literal translation directly because it led to some ambiguity, but I adopted a fair bit of the word order. Here’s a brief sample from the prologue:

A cat rises from its snug near the hearth and curls around her legs. Apart from the child, she seems to live alone. The baby starts to cry in earnest. Jean picks it up out of its wooden cradle and puts it to her breast. Outside, the cow continues to bellow.

The door opens. An old woman enters.

Jean greets her. ‘Se boireannach math a th’annad, a Mhàiri.’ – It is a good woman which is in you, Mary.

‘Tha thusa air mo chuideachadh tric gu leòr’ – You’re after helping me often enough.

Jean breaks the suction with her finger and passes the protesting baby to the old woman, who swaddles it snug in her shawl and places it to her shoulder, patting its back until the whimpering dies down.

I hope that the divide that between Jean and her descendant Heather is emphasised by this approach. I’m sure you’ll let me know when the book is published!

And one final thought. I’ve just noticed another cross-over – a phrase which has come from Gaelic and now appears in English. When Jean uses the words ‘gu leòr’ to mean ‘often enough’ or ‘plenty’ we can see the origin of a word more familiar to English speakers.

Whisky Galore anybody?

Free thrills!

Yes, for a limited period (from now till Sunday basically) Capital Offence will be available free on Kindle. Why am I being so generous? It’s because I want to spread a little joy. Then it would be totally cool if you were to tell your friends (if you like it), and perhaps even stick a review up on Amazon.

So fill your boots, as they say! Enjoy! Grab a copy before I become mean again and start charging once more.

You can get your free copy of Capital Offence on Amazon UK for Kindle. Tell your friends.

If you’re in the States you can get a free Kindle copy of Capital Offence on Amazon.com.

It’s also available on other Amazon sites worldwide.

Witch laid to rest

Old Minto Kirk graveyard

Old Minto Kirk graveyard

I think I have just completed the final revision of my new supernatural thriller The Witching Ground. I feel the same sense of satisfaction I experienced after all the previous final revisions. All that’s needed now is a last read-through. This is when a fresh raft of changes will cry out to be made.

My wife is an excellent proof-reader. ‘Did you mean to use the American spelling of tires rather than tyres?’

Er, no.

‘Did you realise that you’re writing about an incubus? Not a succubus – that would be female.’

Er, no.

The title took a lot of hard work. I wanted the word ‘witch’ to appear in it, since that is the core element of the story. Needless to say every conceivable variant had already been snaffled.

The Witch Hunter? Already a series.

Witch’s Blood? Gone.

Witch Bones? Sounds too much like wish bones, which is no doubt why it hasn’t already been grabbed.

I managed to come up with at least fifty names which had already been used – and I want my listing on Amazon and other sites to be unique. Basic marketing. Don’t confuse people. I was also looking for a name which would incorporate the concept of an archaeological dig, and also a place which might carry associations with the Scottish witch trials of the 1690s. So The Witching Ground it is.

I’ve had a superb editor in Jules Horne from Texthouse. She’s been constructive, critical and encouraging – with an excellent sense of the overall flow of the storytelling. And the writers who make up the Scribblers group in the Scottish Borders have made an invaluable contribution.

So is this the final draft?

I’ll let you know once I have one last read…

Splendid review for thriller Capital Offence from the Eildon Tree literary magazine

Here’s a preview of a super review from the forthcoming edition of the Eildon Tree – the literary magazine for the Scottish Borders. Thanks Iona – really appreciate the attention given to the novel.


Robert S. Scott

Northlight Publications, 2014

Paperback 353 pages

ISBN: 978-1-78407-641-2

Capital Offence is a thriller where the action and fast moving dialogue keep the reader guessing from the very first page. Set in an independent Scotland, and in a society where drugs and violent crime have sickened the population to such an extent that the death penalty has been re-introduced, two brothers find that the past comes back to haunt them. And it’s political as well because one of the brothers, Jamie is now Prime Minister of the newly independent Scotland. There’s plenty of local references in the story, Edinburgh and the Borders feature throughout. Descriptions of sleazy pubs, drugs and criminal life are graphic. This is a story that hits hard. Sex scenes and violence are described with unflinching realism made even more believable as the ever present dialogue increases the tension. Right to the last page the reader is kept wondering. This is good storytelling.

Bigger issues are hinted at throughout the unfolding of the drama. Corruption, lies and self-interest which begin at the top levels of society and filter down to the very bottom of that same society are portrayed in a vivid way. The reader has much to think about here. The clever plot makes the whole story quite believable. This is not a story for the faint hearted with its gritty portrayal that highlights unsavoury aspects of contemporary life. However, the writer succeeds in keeping the reader enthralled to the very end while posing some moral questions as well.

Iona McGregor