Joan Fleming was born and educated in Edinburgh, Scotland. After university there, she became a teacher of French and German, for a short period in the London area, then in the West of Scotland.

Since leaving education, she now concentrates on creative writing. She has had short stories and articles published in magazines in both the UK and America, and has won several awards for her writing.

What the Future Holds (Magic of MullSeries#1) is her début novel, published by Tirgearr Publishing in 2014. It was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award 2015. Her second novel in the series, Spirit of the Island, was published in November 2015.

Her interests include: reading, walking, travel, islands (anywhere!) and the life and work of Robert Burns.

She now lives in a flat on the outskirts of Glasgow overlooking the West Highland Way.

What the future holds

Anticipating a relaxing holiday in her idyllic holiday cottage on the Scottish island of Mull, 29-year-old Amy Wilson realises her plans will be ruined by a letter she finds when she arrives. It contains a proposal to build a holiday complex directly in front of her cottage.

The application is in the name of a member of the McFarlane family, who are distant relatives of Amy. In their youth, Amy and Sandy McFarlane spent holidays on the island together and had a teenage romance.

Whilst she has no wish to enter into a conflict with Sandy, Amy nonetheless determines to fight the plan. She sets in motion a chain of events which changes her entire life, not only in Mull, but also in Glasgow, where she works as an accountant and lives with her partner, Matt.

She is about to lose control of the steady pattern of her life, and has no idea what will replace it, what the future holds…

Excerpt © Joan Fleming

It was early evening by the time Amy Wilson opened the bulky envelope. Sitting by the fire, with a glass of red wine in her hand, she drew a deep breath of sheer contentment. This was what relaxation was all about—the scent of burning peat, silence except for the faint whisper of the waves lapping over the rocks in the bay, and the view of the island of Iona no picture postcard image could ever reproduce.

Pure heaven. That was until she saw the contents of the envelope. Flicking her dark brown hair behind her ears, she straightened in her armchair. At first, she stared at the papers, trying to work out what they meant. Log
cabins? Holiday homes? Leisure facility? What had all this to do with her? She looked again at the envelope.

Miss A. Wilson
Columb Cottage
Isle of Mull

There was no doubt it was meant for her. But why was it delivered here at the cottage in Mull when she had arranged to forward her mail to her Glasgow address? Then she realised there was no stamp on the envelope and in a corner were the words “Hand Delivered”.

Closer examination revealed the paperwork had been prepared by a firm of solicitors. The covering letter explained the purpose of the communication—a proposal had been submitted to build twelve log cabins—a ‘holiday village’ to be named Oceanview—on a piece of ground by the sea shore on the edge of Amy’s land. Enclosed was a plan of the holiday facility.

The more she read, the faster Amy’s heart beat. Build on the shoreline! What a preposterous idea! There was no way anyone could be allowed to ruin the natural beauty of this spot on the island. Jumping up from her comfortable armchair, she ran over to the window to look out at the bay. With the plan of the proposed holiday
village in her hand, she glanced from the plan to the bay itself, trying to visualise where the cabins would be, how they would look. Would they interfere with her view?

Would she still be able to see the abbey on the island of Iona? Or the sea? No—this was unacceptable. It was out of the question. She would not allow it to happen!

When her mobile rang, Amy was so deep in thought about Oceanview she could barely remember where she’d left her phone. Just as it was about to go to voicemail, she discovered it in her jacket pocket. One of the joys of the island was that she had far fewer phone calls than in Glasgow.

“Hi, Amy. I just wondered if you’d arrived safely? You said you’d ring.” It was her partner Matt, the chill in his voice making it clear he was somewhat peeved.

“Oh, Matt, I’m sorry. I completely forgot.”

The silence at the other end of the line spoke volumes.

“I’m so sorry, Matt,” Amy repeated. “I’ve had something really important to think about since I arrived. I know I should have called you.”

The Festive Season in Scotland

In Scotland celebration of the Festive Season seems to last longer every year. Signs of Christmas appear in the shops, newspapers and magazines even before Hallowe’en on the 31st of October. Whilst some people complain that it’s too early, others are happy to be able to make their preparations well in advance. This, however, is a comparatively modern approach. Traditionally, Scottish celebrations were different, even from those of our neighbours in England.


In years gone by, Christmas was a festival focusing mainly on the children. If 25th December fell on a weekday, many people went to work as usual, unlike in England, where Christmas day was a holiday. There were church services, Christmas trees, children’s parties and special meals. The children hung up their stockings on Christmas Eve, having already sent a letter to Santa Claus asking for the presents they would like. They left a snack for Santa and a carrot for his reindeer on the fireside by the chimney down which the fat man in a red suit made his entry into their home.

For the adults, there was little in the way of celebration at Christmas, but they more than made up for it a week later – at New Year. The first and, for some, the second of January were holidays from work. Celebrations began on 31st December – Hogmanay – with a hearty meal to ‘line the stomach’ before a night of revelry, substantially lubricated with alcohol. Scotch whisky was the preferred drink of most men.

After the bells at midnight, it was the practice to knock on friends’ and neighbours’ doors to ‘first foot’ them. It was important to carry something to eat (black bun or shortbread), something to drink (usually whisky) and a piece of black coal (to keep the fires burning) to wish everyone in the house the best of luck for the New Year.

It was generally the men who did the first-footing, the women staying at home to look after the children and to make sure there was a welcome spread on the table for visitors – and a New Year drink too. They also prepared the celebration meal for New Year’s Day: Scotch broth, steak pie with potatoes and vegetables, followed by Scotch trifle. A further supply of black bun and shortbread would be available for the next few days.

Nowadays, these traditions have changed in many parts of Scotland. Both Christmas Day and New Year’s Day have become statutory holidays from work. Christmas festivities now include office parties and meals with friends, visits to the theatre to see a pantomime with the children. At New Year, the practice of first-footing has all but disappeared. Many people attend functions organised by hotels, or gather in city centres for open-air parties, where there is generally a piper who plays Scottish music once the bells have chimed midnight.

The lone piper on Edinburgh Castle playing Auld Lang Syne can bring a tear to many a Scotsman’s eye.

In the country areas, villages have their own ways of celebrating, both traditional and modern. On New Year’s Day, on the Island of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, for example, a game of shinty (similar to hockey, played mainly in the Scottish Highlands) is played on beautiful Ardalanish Beach. Amy Wilson, my main character in What the Future Holds likes to go walking there.


The Scottish Festive Season has become two weeks of eating, drinking and making merry – in many different ways!

This is a recipe for shortbread which my mother passed on to me. It came originally from my grandmother.

Scottish Shortbread


  • 8 oz/225g plain flour
  • 4 oz/115g cornflour
  • 4oz/115g icing sugar
  • 8oz/225g salted butter
  • Pinch of salt


Heat the oven to Gas 5/375F/190C/170C for fan assisted ovens

Sift the dry ingredients together through a fine sieve. Chop the butter into small pieces, and with your hands (as cool as possible) rub it into the sieved flour until the mixture comes together to form one large ball.

Flatten the mixture a bit and spread evenly into a well greased baking tray 12x8in/30x20cm. Mark into fingers, and prick each one with a fork.

Put it into the pre-heated oven, and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until pale golden brown.

With a sharp knife, cut along the marked fingers as soon as you take it out of the oven

Leave to cool in the baking tray.

Store in an airtight container.

The mixture can also be shaped into individual fingers or rounds or into a large circle which is then cut into triangular segments called ‘Petticoat Tails’. This name is said to date back to the time of Mary Queen of Scots (16th century), who enjoyed this sweetmeat and called them ‘petites gatelles’ – French for ‘little cakes’.


  • *Substitute 3½ oz/100g cornflour + ½ oz/15g custard powder for 4oz cornflour
  • Substitue Caster sugar for icing sugar (makes a rougher texture).
  • Add a few drops of vanilla essence
  • Sprinkle a little caster sugar on top.

*My preferred recipe

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