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  • Francine Beaton

Notes by the Author

When I was almost five years old, my whole family received a vinyl record for Christmas—except me. My parents thought I was too small to get one, and I received a colouring book and pencils instead. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my present, as they knew I would, but I felt left out, the odd one out in a family of eight.


My father, however, was quite sensitive and offered to 'share' his record with me. I still remember it. A purplish-coloured cover with a man on the front. The artist? Kenneth McKellar. Oh, how I loved listening to The Skye Boat Song and The Bluebells of Scotland. I think I fell in love with Scotland then. Like Kayla, I was the girl who gets all misty-eyed when listening to Flower of Scotland, and yes, I know the words too. And those of The Skye Boat Song and Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond.


And then, almost thirty years later, I met my own Scottish lad. I believe it was destiny.


After several visits to Scotland over the years, I woke up one night with the phrase “My Secret Life with Unicorns” and the scene where Kayla and Gavin met in the forest. Don't ask why because I don't know. I got up, typed it up and left it. In the weeks afterwards, I often dreamed of a scene relating to this story, and every time I did the same: I just typed it up and left it. Those scenes included, for example, the first kiss and when Gavin asked Kayla where she came from. It was only snippets here and there until I finally realized where the story was going. Still, it took me three years to finish the story. It involved a lot of research, but there is still enough imagination interwoven with facts.


If you read the book, you’ll find out in the first blog entry the reason behind the name “My Secret Life with Unicorns”.

Anyway, that’s enough about my ranting today, which wasn’t supposed to be a rant. This is not what this blog is about nor is it another teenage blog about make-up and hair and dating and bad acne.
I guess the name might be a giveaway because yes, this blog is about my secret fascination with unicorns. Why secret, you may ask? Uh, duh? Aforementioned parents? They don’t get it. I’m seventeen. I’m supposed to have outgrown this phase years ago, but I must confess: I haven’t.
That’s probably why I don’t do well at school, because I can still get lost in the world of fairies, and urchins and goblins, and princes and princesses. And unicorns.
Oh yes, another thing about me: Apart from living in my fantasy world most of the time, I have another strange fascination with Scotland. I’m the girl who gets all misty-eyed by the sound of bagpipes and hearing “Flower of Scotland.” For goodness sake, I’m from the most southern end of Africa, and I’ve never been to Scotland! My dad is from England, and he might’ve taught a semester or two at Stirling University in Scotland, but we’ve never been since I can remember. My mum refused to go for one or the other reason even though they lived there for a while.
One day I may go. When I go search for my unicorns. And maybe the Loch Ness Monster.
So, now you know what this blog is all about, please join me. And if you have interesting facts about unicorns or any other mystical and mythical creatures, you’re welcome to share them with me.

So you see where the original title comes from. However, when I spoke to my alpha and beta readers and my writing tribe, all got confused by the title. Every time I had to explain. No, it is not fantasy. No, it is not a children’s story (although there is a children’s story in the book which begs to be written). Hence the title change to Love, Life and Unicorns. I still kept the title of Kayla's blog My Secret Life with Unicorns. This is the cover for her blog:

You must remember: this is a love story. A sweet (very sweet) love story, dealing with loss and sadness but finding ties and love and happy-ever-after.


Writing contemporary romance is not always as easy as it seems. You must do a lot of research and combine reality with fiction. That’s what I had to do with this story. Refer enough to reality to make it real, but make up your own story. For example, yes, there are television programmes such as the one I mention in the book, for example, Long Lost Family.

https://www.itv.com/hub/long-lost-family/1a8904


There are services where you can trace your heritage, such as 23andMe and others. In addition, there are websites I referred to that exist, such as www.visitScotland.com and http://www.magicalunicornsociety.co.uk/.


And yes, there is a book called The Official Handbook of the Magical Unicorn Society.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Magical-Unicorn-Society-Official-Handbook/dp/1782439633/


Of course, some surnames and lords and castles exist. For example, if you research, you may find that there is a lord Crawford, and he has a castle, but he is not my lord Crawford. (And there is a castle with Crawford in it, but again, not mine). When I finally found out that there is a lord Crawford, it would’ve been such an effort to change the name throughout the story. However, I’m sure the real one won’t mind as there is nothing in the story that could make you confuse this story with his real life.


There are a lot of unicorns to be found in Scotland. After all, it is the national animal and appears in the Coat of Arms. Yes, there is one in Springburn Park as I mentioned in the book, and there is the tapestry at Stirling Castle. However, I found more, like a fantastic mural in the Shilling Brewing Company on West George Street and another one at the Festival Village on Wilson Street.

Even the towns I mention exist, but I don’t think you’ll find the exact town with the same description, the precise castle and the landmarks and the people living in it, because that does not exist. So I blended a few towns, lords, and castles to build my perfect place and characters. That is why it is so awesome to use your imagination, isn’t it?


If you research further, you’ll probably discover that Craufurd and Maghlinn were the old Scottish spelling for Crawford and Mauchline, towns that still exist, although not where I placed them. And, of course, I was pretty vague about that. It is in Ayrshire. It is between Ayr and Mauchline, but I promise you, you will not find the town with the exact description.

Why Ayrshire and not the Highlands, an image everyone sees when they think of Scotland? Because Ayrshire is dairy country. I could’ve used Aberdeenshire too, but Ayrshire is closest to me here in Glasgow.


I also first thought Gavin could be a sheep farmer, but then I had to kill the sheep, and I didn’t want to do that. If I don’t like it, I think Kayla would’ve freaked out about it, so I instead chose dairy, then I don’t have to kill anything – except the wee beasties.


The story started with Kayla’s blog posts. Readers, please bear with me. The blog posts tell Kayla’s back story since she was seventeen. When you read the story, you may note that I haven’t added the years to the dates in the blog posts. I only included the most meaningful blog posts. I couldn’t include ten years of blog posts! That would’ve been boring and would’ve taken forever to bring you to the actual story. Plus, it would’ve ‘dated’ the story if I added the years too.


And then, you may ask: if the story is set in Scotland, with all the characters Scottish, apart from Kayla, why didn’t I write it so that you can see they are Scottish?


Because, living in Scotland, dealing with Scots daily, I realized that not all Scots sound the same. Not everyone speaks Gaelic or Doric or even Scots. But even when they may sound different, they still write the words using the same spelling as any other English-speaking person. So, therefore, I wrote the story primarily in English with English spelling, but I added a few Scots words here and there. And that is the nice thing about imagination. You may not have to see the words for you as the reader to use your imagination when hearing the character’s voices in your head, do you?


And not all Scots live in castles, drink whisky, have ceilidh’s every day and wear kilts. I wish they did, but unfortunately not.


There are several of my own experiences interwoven with the story. Like Kayla, forests are my happy place, and I am always looking for the closest woodland. And just like Kayla, I one day wrote in the forest when a wee beastie walked over my lily-white paper. There are others too. I’m curious if you can find them in the story.


I hope you enjoy Kayla and Gavin’s story as much as I had when writing it. Happy reading!


Francine


 

What do you do when everything you believed about your past is a lie?


Author Mikayla Martin is the strange woman from Africa who gets misty-eyed at the sound of bagpipes and knows the words to “Flower of Scotland”. She also has a heart without a home. When she arrives in Scotland, she has more hope of finding unicorns and the Loch Ness monster than her birth family.


Stumbling across her own Prince Charming in the woods is an enormous surprise. Not only is he handsome, but he quotes from her favourite children’s stories and princess movies. But despite their mutual attraction, she can’t rest until she finds her family. And she has nothing to offer this lord of the manor. Or does she?


For Gavin Crawford, family is everything. He can trace his ancestors back to hundreds of years, so when tragedy strikes he doesn’t hesitate to trade his career in Her Majesty’s Special Boat Service for cow poop, milking sheds and a title he hates. But there’s a wee bit of a problem. Kayla reminds him of someone special he recently lost. And they both have enough doubts and fears to fill up the pages of a book.


Go up and click Read Now or Buy Now to find out what happens when the mystery of your past and the pressure of the present threaten the future you desperately crave.


Release Date: 9 April 2022 (World Unicorn Day!)

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