History Surrounds Us With Stuart S. Laing

It is always a pleasure to have Author and history enthusiast Stuart S. Laing visit Layered Pages. He talks with me about the images he captures of Edinburgh and gives us a glimpse of it’s fascinating history! 

Stuart, I have been enjoying the photos of Edinburgh you have been posting on social media. Even though I haven’t had the chance to visit the city, it is on my bucket list! When you find an image to photograph, what is going through your mind?

Stuart

Stuart S. Laing

Thank you, and I would love to give you a guided tour around town one day. As to taking photos I think it just comes down to being in the moment. I love the architecture of the Old Town, the history surrounding you, and the energy of the people both local and visitors from all corners of the world. Trying to capture just a hint of that is such fun. But I am strictly of the point and click school of photography.

The architecture is certainly breathtaking!  You really do have a great eye for imagery. Which I believe is part of your story telling in books. What do you characters have to say about that?

I think Robert Young would agree with you. He would point out that the more you can see, the more you can know. A shady character like Shug Nicholls would prefer people not go prying into what he and his old adversary, Sergeant MacIan of the Town Guard, get up too. What I try to achieve with words is to paint the reader into the scene so they can be there and feel the cobbled streets beneath their feet and catch a waft of the stink from open sewers or the sweet aroma of perfumed ladies as they pass by.

I notice you choose a black and white medium for your pictures. Is there a particular reason why?

I think the benefit of black and white is it brings an element of doubt into a picture, was it taken yesterday or 50 years ago? It’s my attempt to try to capture the timelessness of a city which seems to never change on the surface but in reality has been in constant motion as old buildings crumble and new ones rise. The thing which saves Edinburgh from the anonymity which besets so many city centres is the fact that in large the centre of town has managed to escape the concrete and glass monstrosities of so many other old cities.

Edinburgh 6What do you love most about Edinburgh?

The simple answer is everything. As I mentioned earlier it’s the history, the buildings, the noise and the hustle and bustle. I know that many locals decry events which fill the centre of town such as the

Festival Fringe which draws tens of thousands daily throughout August but I actually love the crowds. I think that many forget that until the development of the New Town from the 1760s onwards, Edinburgh was largely shoehorned into a space smaller than many modern city parks. It was this which led to Edinburgh Old Town being home to the first skyscrapers as builders went up rather than out. So, for me, seeing those crowds is simply an echo of the past when the Royal Mile was home to shops, coffeehouse, stalls, animals, horses and carts all competing for space. These days there is little risk of having a cow squash your foot under its hoof so people probably should count their blessings

Edinburgh IIHow often do you get a chance to visit the city?

I try to get across as often as possible, and normally at least several times a year. Having a membership of Historic Scotland allows me unlimited entry to Edinburgh Castle which provides another excuse to pop over.

 

 

 

Edinburgh 7

Cowgate before the ‘improvements’ of the 1860s

What have you discovered on your adventures to be the most surprising?

Probably that despite all the changes Edinburgh has faced, urban planners, great fires, which destroyed a large area of the Royal Mile meaning that parts of the New Town are actually older than parts of the Old Town, is the fact that you can take the map of town drawn in the 1740s and use it to guide you through the streets, closes and wynds (alleyways) today. Even when regeneration meant the slum dwellings of the Cowgate were obliterated in the name of progress in the 1860s, the new homes and shops were all built on the footprint of what they replaced. It is still remarkably easy to walk from the Royal Mile to the south side of town following the exact same route you would have taken in the 15th, 16th, 17th or 18th century. That is what constantly inspires me to keep going back.

Edinburgh 4Describe Edinburgh to me from your mind.

Edinburgh, to me, is a strange combination of what you see and what you feel. When I stand on the cobbles by St Giles Cathedral in the very heart of town I don’t only see the beauty of the church before me but, in my mind, I also see the tall, grim walls of the old Tolbooth which once stood here, its location marked by brass markers set in the cobbles. It was here that William Burke, one half of the murderous duo with William Hare, met his end in 1829 on gallows built where the Tolbooth had once stood. It was from the Tolbooth that Captain Porteous of the Town Guard was seized by a mob who would lynch him in the Grassmarket. However it was also here where stalls once stood ran by women selling their wares such as home weaving and hand knitted clothes, fresh wild flowers and vegetables to the people of town. Nearby the famous poet Allan Ramsay operated the first circulating library which opened in 1725. That is what fascinates me about Edinburgh, the constant mixture between beauty and darkness. It was the city of Enlightenment when Scotland led the world in the advancement of science while at the same time huge crowds would gather in good humoured revelry to watch the public hangings in the street. The city itself presents visitors with its split personality. On one hand you have the cramped, towering tenements with the warren of narrow alleys running under and between them where every Close tells its own story and where you can get a taste of how the city once looked and felt, and occasionally smelled as you venture down them. Meanwhile only a short walk away you discover the elegance, charm and open, broad streets of the Georgian New Town where upmarket retailers and fashionistas can be found sipping artisan coffees in the streets where Robert Louis Stevenson grew up. That is what keeps drawing me back again and again. The dual nature of a city where everything changes and nothing does. If that doesn’t make sense you need to visit and spend a day just walking the streets and let some of fair Edina’s spirit work its way into your heart.

Stuart, thank you!

And thank you for allowing me to share my love of Auld Reekie with you. And remember that invite for a guided tour is always open.

Thank you, everyone for visiting Layered Pages today. Stay tuned for our follow up post about History Surrounds Us coming soon here at Layered Pages! -Stephanie

More About Stuart: 

Born and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife Stuart grew up looking across the Firth of Forth towards the spires and turrets of the city of Edinburgh and its castle atop its volcanic eyrie.

He has always been fascinated by the history of Auld Reekie and has spend most of his life studying Scottish history in all its aspects whenever he finds the time between family, work and the thousand and one other things that seek to distract him.
Despite the vast panorama of Scotland’s history he always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Those streets have provided the inspiration for his stories and characters.

He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

Stuart’s Facebook Pages where you can find more images from him and information about his stories HERE.

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(All book reviews, interviews, guest posts and promotions are originals. In order to use any text or pictures from Layered Pages, please ask for permission from Stephanie Hopkins)

 

 

 

Stitch Mindspace: Calm

Mix Media Image for bannersThe movement of hand stitching slows my mind down and clears out all the day’s clutter. I’m able to focus and explore my creative side and be at peace with myself. With stitching the sky’s the limit. There is no right or wrong way to stitch. Your expression is your own. My stitching is free form and without the industrial look-if you will. When beginning your journey in finding your inner stitch-as I like to call it- you will be astonished with how quickly you grow as a person and your outlook on life!

Brush your fingers along the fabrics and adsorb the colors and textures. Be in the moment. You’ll be inspired. You’ll be at peace. Calm. -Stephanie

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Be sure to visit my Facebook Page to discover more about what I am doing these days.

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Saturday Sunday: The Junk Picker by Jan F. Drewniak, Don Drewniak

I have a deep appreciation for those who cherish the belongings they have and collecting unwanted items from others who don’t want them anymore and giving those treasures (other people’s junk) a new life. I stumbled across this book on twitter and the title grabbed me immediately and had to find out more! I’ve added this book to my reading pile for 2020! Who knows, just maybe I might be able to get an interview with the author. Have a beautiful weekend! -Stephanie

The Junk PickerThe Junk Picker

by Jan F. Drewniak, Don Drewniak

“When I was in my mid-teens during the late 1950s, I would often see my father, Jan F. Drewniak, sitting at a desk late into the night in our house in Fall River, Massachusetts. On the desk was a collection of pens and pencils, stacks of writing paper and what looked to be two battered books. He alternated between writing furiously, pouring through the two “books” and occasionally sitting for long stretches with his eyes closed. I vividly remember one time when tears were streaming down his cheeks. It was the only time I ever saw him cry.

What I did not realize was that he was writing about his experiences first in Brooklyn, New York, and then in the Berkshires during the Great Depression. Unfortunately, I was too absorbed in high school life to have bothered to ask him what he was writing. Upon completion, the writings were put aside for over thirty years.

Several days prior to his death in 1991, he handed me a small, sealed cardboard box and requested that I not open it until he had passed away. I honored the request. When I finally opened the box, I found an envelope with the following written on it, “Please do not open this until you have read the enclosed.” Over eight hundred handwritten pages were piled under envelope.

Once I began reading, I realized that I was reading a manuscript – the manuscript that had to be the product of all the nights he had spent at his desk four decades earlier. I was stunned and amazed as I turned from page to page. The reading introduced me to a father I had never known.”

Cover Crush: Labyrinth of Ice: The Triumphant and Tragic Greely Polar Expedition by Buddy Levy

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Not only am I interested in this story but the cover is fantastic and gives you the perfect imagery for the story. Adding this book to my reading pile for 2020! By the way…follow St. martin’s Press on Facebook. They have a brilliant vidio/promo on the book.

LABYRINTH OF ICE by Buddy LevyBased on the author’s exhaustive research, the incredible true story of the Greely Expedition, one of the most harrowing adventures in the annals of polar exploration.

In July 1881, Lt. A.W. Greely and his crew of 24 scientists and explorers were bound for the last region unmarked on global maps. Their goal: Farthest North. What would follow was one of the most extraordinary and terrible voyages ever made.

Greely and his men confronted every possible challenge—vicious wolves, sub-zero temperatures, and months of total darkness—as they set about exploring one of the most remote, unrelenting environments on the planet. In May 1882, they broke the 300-year-old record, and returned to camp to eagerly await the resupply ship scheduled to return at the end of the year. Only nothing came.

250 miles south, a wall of ice prevented any rescue from reaching them. Provisions thinned and a second winter descended. Back home, Greely’s wife worked tirelessly against government resistance to rally a rescue mission.

Months passed, and Greely made a drastic choice: he and his men loaded the remaining provisions and tools onto their five small boats, and pushed off into the treacherous waters. After just two weeks, dangerous floes surrounded them. Now new dangers awaited: insanity, threats of mutiny, and cannibalism. As food dwindled and the men weakened, Greely’s expedition clung desperately to life.

Labyrinth of Ice tells the true story of the heroic lives and deaths of these voyagers hell-bent on fame and fortune—at any cost—and how their journey changed the world.

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated by Erin at Historical Fiction Reader 

Other book bloggers who participated in the great cover crushes series. 

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden’s Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired

Magical Moments And Bookish Things

MeI hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas yesterday! I don’t know about y’all but I think my family consumed more calories in a day than we do in an entire week! Ha! Such at beautiful day yesterday with the Fam and just being at peace…

Sewing kitCheck out the sewing tools in the picture I was gifted! I am forever grateful for my family. The secret project I am working on was revealed to my daughter and she loves it! I won’t reveal it to y’all until its completed. Hoping that will be by the end of January.

On the book front, I’m one book away from being at my reading goal for the year. I’m so excited! I don’t read as many books in a year as I use too but twenty-five novels’ is nothing to sneeze at! I want to read fifty in the upcoming year but not sure that is doable with my new schedule. I’m not going to stress about it really. I’m just a planner when it come to books. It’s the hunt you see…if I don’t plan a little, I get swamped with trying to figure out which book I want to read next then it gets way too stressful! I guess that is good though because that means writers are still casting beautiful stories. Ok, I am sounding all over the place with this. Anyhow, the New Year of reading, hunting for new stories, and blogging about them will be thrilling!

No One's HomeThis week I finished up No One’s Home by D.M. Pulley. There are highlights of the story I liked and a few moments where I wasn’t feeling it. However, it is a good story and one of the things I was fascinated with was about the Shakers. I actually would have liked to seen the history of that fleshed out more in the story. It certainly is a spooky story for sure.

Many blessing to you and yours and see you tomorrow!

Stephanie

Honoring Christ My Savior

Christmas is a special time of year in honoring our Savior’s birth. My faith in Christ means hope, forgiveness, acceptance and salvation. I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and many blessings to come. -Stephanie

John 1:9-14  “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him,  who believed in his name,  he gave the right  to become  children of God, who were born,  not of blood  nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of  grace and  truth.”

2019 Christmas TreeSilent night! Holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
’round yon virgin mother and child!
Holy infant, so tender and mild,
sleep in heavenly peace,
sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
heav’nly hosts sing: “Alleluia!
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born..!”

 

Jewelry In The Making With Sarah

SarahToday my friend Sarah Volkert is a guest on Layered Pages to share her creative journey with us. When I met Sarah a few months ago at a Posh n Sip and I was thrilled to discover her creative side and it is always exciting to discover fellow artists. Let’s get our art on! 

Sarah, it is a pleasure to be featuring your jewelry line on Layered Pages today! When I first met you and discovered that you have a creative side to you, I was overjoyed! Tell me how you got into jewelry making?

Thank you so much for featuring me on your page, Stephanie! I got into jewelry making about 5 years ago, but it was not my first crafting love. I cross-stitch, crochet, and knit as well. So, I was at a craft store one day and noticed a beading magazine that featured bead stitching (I didn’t know that was a “thing”) and it looked interesting, so I bought the magazine and supplies to make a bracelet. I picked it up very quickly, and I spent about 3 years learning and practicing before I started selling my items.

Is there a specific style you stick with or do you mix it up?

I think I mix it up a little too much, to be honest! I personally have an eclectic style, and there is just so much that I think is beautiful and interests me that it’s hard to pick one. If I had to narrow it down, I’d say my style is modern and/or boho.

What are the platforms you sell on?

I have a shop on Etsy and I sell on Poshmark. About 90% of the jewelry items I have for sale on Poshmark are made by me.

What are some ways you upcycle pieces you might use to make your creations?

I save beer bottle caps and pop tops to make jewelry with, although I have yet to list any pieces. I’m hoping to get to that within the next couple of months. I’ve also had jewelry I’ve bought break and I will save the beads and chain from those and make a new piece out of them.

Sarah 4

How much time a week do you spend on your jewelry making?

I’m lucky if I get a few hours!

I’m a stay-at-home mom and my kids are young (5 and 2), but I try to squeeze in an hour here and there when I can. There are also the other aspects of running a business that need my attention and take time away from creating. Christmas is always crazy, but after everything settles down my goal is to spend at least 8 hours a week on creating.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get into making jewelry?

There are so many possibilities with what you can do, it’s pretty overwhelming. I would tell someone to pick one technique or stitch they would like to learn to do, but don’t invest a lot of money into it until you’re sure it’s something you’re going to enjoy. Also, I think it’s pretty easy to get discouraged, especially when you’re starting out, so if something isn’t working or you’re getting confused or frustrated, just take a break from it for an hour or a day and come back. I still have to do that from time to time!

The Anatomy of Melancholy

The Anatomy of Melancholy

The age of discovery continued in the 17th Century and I have been privately studying-further in-depth- men of science of late and while I’ve known who Oxford Scholar Robert Burton was, I must confess I have not read his book, The Anatomy of Melancholy.

I’m really interested in reading this book on two scores:

  1. It discusses human feelings.
  2. English 17th Century prose is outstanding!

Description of the book:

“One of the major documents of modern European civilization, Robert Burton’s astounding compendium, a survey of melancholy in all its myriad forms, has invited nothing but superlatives since its publication in the seventeenth century. Lewellyn Powys called it “the greatest work of prose of the greatest period of English prose-writing,” while the celebrated surgeon William Osler declared it the greatest of medical treatises. And Dr. Johnson, Boswell reports, said it was the only book that he rose early in the morning to read with pleasure. In this surprisingly compact and elegant new edition, Burton’s spectacular verbal labyrinth is sure to delight, instruct, and divert today’s readers as much as it has those of the past four centuries.”

Saturday Sunday: Book Collage & Lost Love

Book Art Nancys book

Author Nancy Bilyeau sent me a galley copy of her novella, The Ghost of Madison Avenue and the cover inspired me to create a mix media digital collage for the cover. I started reading the story Thursday night and I was so engrossed in the story, I read late into the night. What a perfect time to read this hauntingly good story.

My background choice for the collage comes from my own picture of a denim rag rug I sewed this week. The textures are digital stars and I felt they added a mysterious feel to the cover. Be sure to get your copy of this fabulous story on Amazon! My review coming soon! -Stephanie Hopkins

A Christmas Novella in Old New York

In this compelling and poignant story, bestselling author Nancy Bilyeau takes readers to New York City’s Morgan Library in December 1912, when two very different people haunted by lost love come together in an unexpected way.

Helen O’Neill, part of a tight-knit Irish-American family in the Bronx, is only too happy to report to work at the spectacular private library built on Madison Avenue by millionaire financier J. P. Morgan. The head librarian, the brilliant and beautiful Belle da Costa Greene, had hired Helen away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art after she witnessed Helen’s unusual talent with handling artifacts.

About Nancy Bilyeau

Nancy Bilyeau is the author of the historical thrillers “The Blue” and “Dreamland” and the Tudor mystery series “The Crown,” “The Chalice,” and “The Tapestry.” She is a magazine editor who has lived in the United States and Canada.

In “The Blue,” Nancy drew on her own heritage as a Huguenot. She is a direct descendant of Pierre Billiou, a French Huguenot who immigrated to what was then New Amsterdam (later New York City) in 1661. Nancy’s ancestor, Isaac, was born on the boat crossing the Atlantic, the St. Jean de Baptiste. Pierre’s stone house still stands and is the third oldest house in New York State.

Nancy, who studied History at the University of Michigan, has worked on the staffs of “InStyle,” “Good Housekeeping,” and “Rolling Stone.” She is currently the deputy editor of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the Research Foundation of CUNY and a regular contributor to “Town & Country” and “Mystery Scene Magazine.”

Nancy’s mind is always in past centuries but she currently lives with her husband and two children in New York City.

Cover Crush: Hostage to Fortune by Sarah Hawkswood

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While this cover isn’t outstanding-in my opinion-it’s extraordinary and jumped out at me. I feel like that is a bit of a contradiction statement I made. Ha! There is a bit of abstract imagery to this cover that shows a bigger picture to the story. The latter is why I chose this book as this week’s cover crush. -Stephanie.

Hostage to FortuneHostage to Fortune by Sarah Hawkswood

Allison & Busby

Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers

Pub Date 12 Mar 2020

Description

January, 1144. Undersheriff Hugh Bradecote does not want his betrothed travelling on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Edgyth. The Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy and his entourage of monks seem perfect as escorts, until they are captured by a renegade who kills for pleasure.

Against a backdrop of a hard winter and frozen River Severn, Bradecote and Serjeant Catchpoll are struggling to rescue the captive before a psychopath does his worst, the lord Sheriff loses patience, and Bradecote cracks under the pressure.

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated by Erin at Historical Fiction Reader 

Other book bloggers who participated in the great cover crushes series. 

Magdalena at A Bookaholic Swede
Colleen at A Literary Vacation
Heather at The Maiden’s Court
Holly at 2 Kids and Tired