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Monday, 27 December 2010

Great Scots!

Due to an unfortunate editorial error, the list of famous Scottish Americans that appears at the end of Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave was somewhat truncated. So, for your education and edification, here is the full list, as it should have appeared in the book.

Ben Affleck – actor
Jennifer Aniston – actress
Billie Joe Armstrong – singer and guitarist with the band Green Day
Lance Armstrong – seven-times winner of the Tour de France
Lucille Ball – actress
Kristin Bell – actress
Linda Blair – actor most famous for her role in 1973’s seminal horror film The Exorcist
Jack Black – actor, singer and comedian
Jim Bowie – frontiersman and a defender of the Alamo
Walter Houser Brattain – inventor of the transistor
David Dunbar Buick – founder of the Buick Motor Company
Joseph A Campbell – founder of Campbell soups, a major manufacturer of canned soups
William Wallace Campbell – astronomer
Drew Carey – comedy actor and game show host
Andrew Carnegie – industrialist and philanthropist, who donated millions of dollars to libraries and arts and education institutions in the US and Great Britain
Johnny Cash – singer
Alice Cooper – rock star
James Fenimore Cooper – author, best known for writing The Last of the Mohicans
Samuel W Crawford – US Army surgeon and Union general in the American Civil War
Michael Crichton – author, most famous for Jurassic Park
Davy Crockett – frontiersman, US Congressman and one of the defenders of the Alamo
Miley Cyrus – actor and singer, also known as Hannah Montana
Matt Damon – actor
Jasper Newton ‘Jack’ Daniel – founder of Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey distillery
James Dean – actor
Donald Wills Douglas, Sr – launched the world's first commercial passenger plane, the DC-3, in 1935
Robert Downey, Jr – actor, most recently seen playing the roles of Iron Man and Sherlock Holmes, the creation of Scottish writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
David Duchovny – actor
Hilary Duff – actress and singer
Clint Eastwood – actor and director
William Faulkner – won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1949
Stacy ‘Fergie’ Ferguson – singer with The Black Eyed Peas
Brandon Flowers – singer and keyboardist of The Killers
B C Forbes – journalist and founder of Forbes Magazine
Alexander Garden – botanist, physician and zoologist, who gave his name to the Gardenia flower
Bill Gates – co-founder of the software giant Microsoft and, until only recently, the richest man in the world, being a billionaire more than fifty times over
Mel Gibson – actor and director, most notably of Braveheart, of the Clan Buchanan
Jay Gould – railroad developer
Larry Hagman – actor, best known for J R Ewing in Dallas
Oscar Hammerstein II – writer of musicals
Oliver Hardy – comedy actor, best known for being part of the double-act Laurel and Hardy
Jennifer Love Hewitt – actress, producer and singer
Tommy Hilfiger – fashion designer
Grace Murray Hopper – a rear admiral and computer scientist (she was co-inventor of the computer language Cobol), she was the oldest officer and highest-ranking woman in the US armed forces when she retired in 1986, aged 80.
Sam Houston – founding father of Texas
Robert E Howard – author of the Conan fantasy series
Washington Irving – historian, biographer and author, famous for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
Samuel L Jackson – actor
James Johnston – along with Thomas J. Watson, developed an early tabulating machine which led to the foundation IBM in 1917
Indiana Jones – fictional archaeologist, college professor and adventurer
John Paul Jones – Father of the American Navy
Kim Kardashian – socialite and television personality
Michael Keaton – actor, real name Michael Douglas
W K Kellogg – breakfast cereal pioneer
Alicia Keys – singer
Jay Leno – host of The Tonight Show
Heather Locklear – actress
Douglas MacArthur – general and field marshal
John James ‘Jimmy’ MacDonald – the voice of Mickey Mouse
Shaun McDonald – American football player
Seth MacFarlane – writer of Family Guy
Archibald MacLeish – modernist poet, Pulitzer Prize winner and Librarian of Congress
Nate McClouthbaseballer, currently playing for the Atlanta Braves
Steve McQueen – actor
Tobey McGuire – actor, known for playing Spider-Man in particular
Marshall Mathers – better known as rapper Eminem
Herman Melville – author, whose best known work is Moby Dick
Marilyn Monroe – actress
Jim Morrison – singer with The Doors
Arnold Palmer – golfer
Allan Pinkerton – detective and director of a security agency
Edgar Allan Poe – short story writer, poet and critic
Jackson Pollock – artist
Colin Powell – former Chief of Staff
Elvis Presley – singer
Ginger Rogers – actress, dancer and singer, born Virginia Katherine McMath
Axl Rose – lead singer with Guns and Roses
J D Salinger – writer of Catcher in the Rye
Alicia Silverstone – actress
Gwen Stefani – singer
James Stewart – actor
Jeb Stuart – Confederate war hero
Donald Sutherland – actor
Keifer Sutherland – actor
Donald Trump – business magnate and television personality
Mark Twain – author
Rube Waddell – Hall of Fame pitcher
Christopher Walken – actor
John Wayne – actor
Sigourney Weaver – actress, famous for playing Ripley in the Alien films
Jack White – musician, guitarist with The White Stripes, real name John Anthony Gillis
Bruce Willis – actor
Alexander Winton – built one of the first American automobiles in 1896, broke the world speed record in 1900, and in 1903 became the first man to drive across the United States
Reece Witherspoon – actress, her Scottish ancestor John D Witherspoon signed the Declaration of Independence
Malcolm X – militant and religious leader

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Lunar Eclipse to be visible from Scotland

If you're up and about already in the UK (like me) then keep an eye on the skies (if you can see anything through the snow clouds) because there's going to be a total lunar eclipse this morning, when the Earth casts a shadow onto the Moon.

On the day of the winter solstice, December 21, the full Moon will start to pass through the cone of Earth's shadow at 6.32am. The partial eclipse begins when the Moon first enters the dark inner, umbral part of the Earth's shadow, and will become a total eclipse at 7.40am. It will reach its maximum at 8.17am, and end at 8.53am.

And what's even better is that from locations in Scotland and Northern Ireland, totality will be visible in its entirety, although the Moon will be low down after the time of greatest eclipse.

John Mason, from the British Astronomical Association, said: "Observers should go out at about 6.30am when, if the sky is clear, the Moon will be visible in the western sky, and they will be able to watch as more and more of the southern part of the Moon becomes immersed in the Earth's shadow. They can continue watching until the eclipse becomes total at 7.40am, and hopefully for a little while after this time, if they have an unobstructed western horizon."

Dr Mason added: "For observers in the British Isles, the very low elevation of the Moon during the total phase means that it is not possible to predict just how dark the Moon will be when it is eclipsed, or what colour it will appear. One will just have to go out and have a look."

So, there you go. Good luck!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Ten things you (maybe) didn't know about whisky

1. Whisky is Scottish, but ‘Scotch’ is whisky. Whiskey with an ‘e’ is Irish while Bourbon is American whisky.

2. There is a dispute between the Irish and the Scots, as to who were the first to make whisky. However, whisky was actually first made in ancient China.

3. Whisky's dark colour comes from the wooden barrels in which it is aged.

4. The island of Jura (whose name is Norse for ‘island of the deer’) is home to a whisky distillery that can trace its roots back as far as the seventeenth century. The whisky it produces reveals traces of seaside saltiness after the initially savoured sweetness.

5. The word ‘whisky’ comes from the Gaelic uisge beatha – which was itself the Irish translation of the Latin aqua vitae, meaning ‘water of life’ – and which was shortened to usqua or usky.

6. There are more than 5000 types of Single Malt Whisky and around 90 percent of Single Malt Whisky comes from Scotland.

7. A closed bottle of whisky can be kept for more than 100 years and it will still be good to drink. And after opening, a half-full bottle of whisky will still remain good for another five years.

8. The first tax on whisky was imposed by the Scots Parliament of 1644. As a result, illicit stills became more and more common, particularly in the Highlands, and were not brought under control until the nineteenth century.

9. Some Scots would describe whisky as smashin’ which is thought to have originated from the Gaelic expression ‘S math sin meaning ‘that’s good’.

10. The market for whisky was created when the phylloxera epidemic hit European vineyards hard, resulting in a decrease in the production of not only wines but brandy as well.

You can find out more about Scotland's national drink, as well as other traditional aspects of Scottish life in Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave, available now - and possibly even in time for Christmas*!

* Snowmageddon permitting!

Scottish Miscellany reviewed at

Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave has been reviewed by Kerry Dexter over at

To read the review, click here. To buy the book, click here.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas shopping sorted

If you're still finalising Christmas presents, remember it's not too late to buy your loved ones (or yourself!) something from my book store.

If it's steampunk action and adventure that they're into, try my Pax Britannia books.

If they love gamebooks and fantasy adventures, try my Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.

If it's Doctor Who or Star Wars, try these, and remember that you can have a Clone Wars story, written by me, personalised.

If it's non-fiction they enjoy, try Match Wits with the Kids, or one of my Miscellanies.

And if its the grim darkness of the far future where there is only war, or the grim darkness of a quasi-Medieval world that gets them buzzing, then try one of my Black Library novels.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Let's make Ebenezer's Carol No.1 this Christmas!

The plan:

To get Ebenezer's Carol, by The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing, to No. 1 in time for Christmas. A proper steampunk Christmas song for Christmas No. 1!

What we need to do to achieve this:

1) For Ebenezer's Carol to chart it needs to sell roughly 8,000 copies. The single needs be downloaded as a single, and not as part of the A Very Steampunk Christmas EP. It's available now from iTunes, eMusic and Amazon.

2) So, forward this message to all your friends (be they steampunks or otherwise) but remind them that they must buy the song by itself for it to get into the singles chart.

3) Blog about this, post a link on your Facebook page, Tweet about it, but most importantly - buy the single Ebenezer's Carol!

4) Arrange events themed around this, call the local press, use your contacts - whatever you've got - and we could really make this happen!

This is a chance for steampunk fans to really make themselves heard and make a difference for the future of Christmas. The fate of Ebenezer's Carol and Christmas music itself is in your hands! Let's make Christmas 2010 a Very Merry Steampunk Christmas!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Avalanche warning - in Scotland's capital city!

Walkers and skiers in the Pentland Hills and on Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh are being warned of the risk of avalanches.

Edinburgh City Council said walkers should avoid slopes which are most heavily loaded with snow, since the added weight could trigger avalanches.

It follows days of snow and freezing temperatures in the capital.

Read more about this story here.