Hazel McHaffie



Phew! That’s it over for another year.

Thinking up a viable storyline, writing it (11,000 words plus), that’s the easy bit of the annual McHaffie Christmas story/play. Putting it into dramatic effect is a far harder task, and this year involved more hours pouring over the detail than ever before. Several weeks went into hand-drawing scenery representing Victorian streets to cover the walls of the hallway, stairs and landing alone!

With no single theatre stage to work with, no stagehands, furniture had to be moved around in six rooms to create Victorian shops, a banqueting hall and a rambling attic in a mansion house.

But the dim light of rows of lanterns and a liberal helping of ivy, saved the day, successfully muting imperfections sufficiently to achieve the desired atmosphere. (Photos have been lightened for this blog.)

The storyline itself involved three youngsters from vastly different backgrounds learning from each other and the experiences they encountered, how to value and respect difference.

Weird gadgets, special boxes, changes of costume, cryptic messages, all added challenge and laughter to the mix.

The three friends discovered a remarkable doll in the attic of the local mansion house, a doll that took them to a magical place called Xanadu,

and underwent a dramatic transformation when danger threatened.

There, with the help of four colourful characters loosely based on Mr Pickwick,


Little Dorrit,

and Rafiki from The Lion King,

they learned about transforming their own and others’ well-being by their attitudes and approach to life.

The four very different candle-lit shops offered paper/wood; gems and gold;

buttons and ribbons; and chocolates.

The names of the characters and their shops had to be worked out.

Only then were the premises thrown open to the time-travellers, allowing them to create ornaments of varying kinds,

with which they decorated all the trees in the town, bringing sparkle and joy to its dark streets.

I rather think it might take a few weeks for dodgy backs and creaking joints to recover from the contortions they’ve undergone, but it’s well worth all the effort to see – and hear! – the family’s enjoyment.

And this year I had the added delight of my eldest granddaughter helping with the behind-the-scenes production of the event to mark her milestone birthday as an adult.

It only remains for me to wish you all peace, joy and health for 2019. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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Spinning out of control …

Eebie jeebie! Life’s on a steep slope and gathering frightening momentum this week. Where are the brakes …? Anyone seen the safety nets?

Path to Straiton Pond

Outside, hard frosts have made works of incredible beauty out of ordinary spiders’ webs around here, and I couldn’t help but feel an affinity with them. Unbelievably strong, amazingly intricate, yet so fragile if touched carelessly. A bit like the ideas the brain conjures up in creative mode. So, why is the writing life more than usually frenetic at the moment?

Well, to begin with it’s Book Week Scotland; I’m doing a couple of author events locally for that. Lovely to go out there and meet real live people who read my books, and want to know about why and how I do what I do, and wonderful librarians who are so enthusiastic and dedicated to their task of encouraging reading, but space needs to be found to prepare mentally for each one.

Web wrapped around finialI’m also writing not one, not two, but three books simultaneously right now. Three, do I hear you shriek? Yep, three. Completely unprecedented, as regular followers will know. Madness, probably. So why break my own rules?

Well, Christmas is fast approaching, so I absolutely MUST complete the grandchildren’s annual story/play due to be enacted on 28 December to a full house. I need to order props and make costumes before then, and allow for postal hiatuses, so first I have to finalise the text to be sure about what I still need/want. In spare moments, and by way of light relief, I’m also making monster heads – details are top secret (suffice to say that hair and glitter and strange white particles linger stubbornly in the warp and weft of certain carpets). And one whole room is definitely off limits to all, no exceptions.

Frosted cobwebThen my ongoing novel, Killing me Gently, mustn’t be allowed to lose momentum. Pleased to say I’m still with the thriller genre on that one. However, as a safety valve, I’m letting the back burner dictate the pace of this book at the moment, only sitting down to actually commit words to the document when they’re too insistent to ignore, or jotting down thoughts that wake me in the night.

Web tailored to fence postAnd the third book? It’s brand spanking new, jostling for attention at crazy o’clock, keeping me at the desk long past the witching hour. It’s got a working title of Listen and is designed as a shorter story in my usual vein (contemporary fiction set in the world of medical ethics) which can be offered as a free download to give potential new readers a window into my books. I’m having a ball writing this! It’s about a Professor of Medical Ethics who goes on a train journey from Aberdeen to Penzance where a crisis awaits her … I now know some amazing statistics about high speed trains! And about atrocious experiments performed on black people in the 50s in America. Intrigued? Watch this space.

I keep reminding myself … this is all entirely self inflicted!


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My annual foray into the world of scriptwriting

Ahhh, my last blog of 2015. Hard to believe another whole year has gone by since I was too ill to write.

Uppermost in my mind this week is the annual story/play which I write for my grandchildren (and direct and scene-set and costume-make and cater for – yep, definitely master of none but nobody’s caring). We held it yesterday (Wednesday 30th) giving us time to change the house from a family Christmas venue to a Community Hall on the remote island of Moorphunlesshasslepleez, somewhere in the ocean between the outer Hebrides and the USA. The plot revolved around the supreme ruler, His Excellency Elijah Balahoulie, deciding his time had come to give way to a new leader. I won’t bore you with the detail which is littered with in-house jokes and allusions. A few pictures might best capture the tone and spirit of the event.

Stars of the show were of course the grandchildren themselves who were citizens of this strange island where everyone wears a kind of uniform ‘habit’:Four citizens of the island of Moorphunlesshasslepleez They were summonsed by the island’s town crier to hear a proclamation asking for nominations to head up a new era.A proclamation by the town crierApplicants included: a schoolteacher cum precious gem prospector,A schoolteachera glamorous seamstress,

A glamorous seamstress

an internationally famous ballerina,An internationally famous ballerinawho was also a brilliant teacher of all the citizens,Teaching the citizens to dance

a couple of virtuosos on wind instruments playing their very own medley of tunes,The wind instrumentalists

a recycling fanatic,A recycling fanaticand a young mum of a baby born on Christmas Day. A new mum

Some serious cooking and eating were involved too.Baking pizzas

The adults rose nobly to the occasion and doubled as a farmer, a baker, a dotty old lady, and a banker cum magician who showed a quite remarkable sleight of hand with a pack of cards.The conjurorEveryone had to score each applicant on ten different parameters and the assessment certainly concentrated attention, although some of the scores seemed decidedly suspect!

As usual the main players entered into the spirit of the event with huge enthusiasm – it helps that they don’t know anything about the storyline until they arrive – and every minute spent sewing and constructing props and costumes, every footsore hour spent hunting down elusive objects, reaped rich dividends.

Naturally enough there’s a strange feeling of anti-climax today after months and months of thinking and preparation, and the frenzied last minute scene setting, and all the anxieties about precise timings and locations, but the next phase is to turn the play into a book illustrated with photos taken during the performance – of which there are 565 to choose from!

Thoughts can then turn to a new year, new opportunities, the latest novel. So it only remains for me to wish all my visitors and friends health and happiness, peace and prosperity in 2016. Thank you for sharing my world.