about writing and life and God

Author day

A two-part author day, though the first half was planned simply to be social and delightful! But as all writers know, when you’re working on a project, serendipity provides lots of useful links and contacts, so our conversation over coffee and delicious, home-made butter shortbread at the Norseman Hotel, turned out to offer more ideas and what I’m hoping will be a very helpful contact for one aspect of the next book.


The afternoon’s programme has been booked for months: a talk to Wick Salvation Army’s Home League.

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Always a pleasure, they are a very receptive audience. Being mainly of local extraction, they catch all the local allusions, and are generous book purchasers. I didn’t take many photographs today, but was amused to be asked to pose for one with my sister – taken by a royal photographer!


Once again, I’ve sold out of When the Boats Come Home, down to only half a box of Mizpah Ring, and Necklace of Lies is selling fast. So encouraging – and the expressions of interest in the next one simply adds to my own internal ‘itch’ to get home and get writing – though the weather continues to be warm and sunny and the views are breathtaking!

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Planning a book trip

I’m off on the road again in a few days. Only ten days this time – a weekend at either end mainly taken up with travelling – but I’m booked to give three talks on the new book, The Mizpah Ring, up in my home town of Wick.

Today I’m at that lose-endish stage – too soon to pack, too close to launch into anything much. The excitement/anticipation is building nicely and I’m wondering should I do a daily trip blog like last time? It helped me process the experiences of each day and I printed it out when I got home so I had a lovely record of the places I’d been and the people I’d spent time with.

There were so many highlights last time – from spectacular scenery, hunting haggis in the rain, reunions with friends after far too many years… I’m hoping this time will be just as good. I’m planning to check out some of the locations I’m using in the new book. Wick was a very interesting place during the second world war with a large air base for Coastal Command and the war in Norway. My sister and I are planning some recce trips for authentic background.

I shall be driving (665 miles each way) because I need to bring books with me for sale. Last time I had sold out before the end of my trip so this time I’ll take more than I think I’ll need. I have a solid order for both When the Boats Come Home and Mizpah Ring from one rather special retail outlet: the last shop on the mainland of the UK- right at the end of the road at John O’Groats! If you’re ever there, do drop in for a browse. Their range of Scots-interest books is second to none.

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Harbour at John O’Groats

I’m hoping the weather will be reasonable – especially for the drive. But I was horrified to overhear a snippet of conversation this morning which concluded: ‘Oh yes,snow. The mountains are full of it.’ I hope they were talking about Switzerland!

Anyway, planning. The packing list looks like:

  • Smart outfit for talks
  • Comfortable,warm clothes and walking shoes for trips out with my sister
  • Books – to sell – and promotional postcards to give away – and a decent ‘signing’ pen!
  • Books – to read at all those solo stops along the road!
  • Notebooks and pens
  • iPad and charger for Facebook and soothing sudoku etc
  • Camera and usb cable
  • Laptop for emails and blog
  • Mobile phone charger
  • Kindle and charger – in case I run out of reading material
  • Diary, and address book (for sending post cards)

and much more besides!

I’ll pack tomorrow!




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Before the book tour

Only a few days to go before I set off on my longest solo trip ever. It is a little daunting but God says ‘Don’t worry. I go ahead of you’ and other comforting things so I’m holding onto trust as best I can. The trip is 24 days long, visiting places mentioned in my new novel, When the Boats Come Home, giving talks and readings to churches, church groups, bookshops and libraries. I’m driving, and it will be a 1500 mile round-trip – not counting any detours, extra bits or days out!

When the Boats Come Home cover

I start in Edinburgh, go on to Dundee, then head on up to Wick. Then I retrace my steps to Inverness, go across to Aberdeenshire, back to Dundee, and then home.

One of the delights of this planned trip is going to be meeting up with lots of old friends and new. When my mother was alive, I used to nip up to Wick quite often to visit but then spend all the available time with her so my friends from home got neglected. I’m hoping to remedy that this time! The first week of my trip I’ll be staying with friends from my university days… Will we recognise each other? How much will we have changed? I’m looking forward to hearing their stories of how their lives have turned out.

Thanks to Facebook and the Association of Christian Writers (and the Christian Authors, Booksellers and Publishers page) , I’ve ‘met’ lots of new friends and this trip is going to allow me to meet some of them for real.

So yes, daunting and exciting. I haven’t started packing yet – haven’t even started writing the packing list!

I’ll be taking my laptop etc with me and plan to take pics and write the blog as I go so you’ll be very welcome to keep me company as I travel along. And I’d welcome your prayers too! Not just for me as I travel and speak, but that God will use this trip to spread the good news of His amazing transforming love.


How to do a successful book signing

A few days on from the book signing at Waterstone’s in Lowestoft and what have I learnt? England’s most easterly town may be publicised as the Sunrise Coast, but it can be freezing cold – and at the same time extremely warm in its welcome and support for local authors! What do I reckon are the important lessons?

  • Allow enough time time beforehand to do lots of publicity. You have to let people know you’ll be there signing books. And not just any people – the right people. Sorting out who your audience is and where to reach them to tell them takes time and effort. Do it. It’s worth it.
  • Overdo the prep: posters, bookmarks, postcards, business cards, goodies including sweets. People like presents. And a present with your name on and a bit about the book (especially title and price) will reinforce their encounter with you and maybe sell another copy.
  • No matter how scared you are or how totally reclusive and introverted you are, you gotta smile and reach out to the people who turn up on the day – even if they didn’t come to see you. Smile and say hello. Offer a freebie. Hand them a copy of the book. Talk about it… Force yourself.
  • Talk to the staff in the bookshop. People who work with books are, by definition, lovely people so they’ll be a joy to chat with. But these are the people who know what’s currently selling, what doesn’t work. If you’re self-publishing, they know what kind of covers work. They know how other local authors are selling their books. They’re a goldmine of priceless information and they are amazingly happy to share it! Use the quiet times to chat to them. And who knows? They might like you enough to invite you back!
  • Refuse to be disappointed! Here’s where the British stiff upper lip really helps! On Saturday, most of our customers turned up in the first hour – then the skies turned black, the wind howled down the street, the rain sluiced down – and the streets – and the bookshop – emptied! The shop staff apologised – but it wasn’t their fault! And at the end of the day, I reckon the sales were perfectly respectable (better even!).
  • Bring provisions – food that won’t create sticky fingers, and drinks. Just in case. Our lovely shop provided coffee and chocolate biscuits! Thank you!
  • Decide if you really can do it alone or need a stalwart friend to come with you. I’m grateful to my friend Val who accompanied me and tactfully left me to get on with it, returning to my side during the lulls.
  • People – amazingly – really want their books signed by you, the author. Bring – or as in my case – borrow – a nice pen. It just looks so much better!
  • Say thank you – to the people who buy books, who come to talk to you, who turn up,the people who helped on the day in the bookshop, who did publicity for you. ‘Thank you’ costs nothing – and builds goodwill. Who knows?One day you may write and publish another book and have to do this whole thing all over again!
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How to do a book signing

There I sat at the table in the bookshop, a pile of books at my right hand, waiting. My friend Jane prowled. And chatted to the bookshop staff. And brought me coffee. And encouraged me. And gave me a lift home a couple of hours later when no one had turned up to buy a copy of the book.

I put my best signing pen away and thought “Never again!”  But tomorrow I shall be out there – at a different bookshop: Waterstone’s in Lowestoft – from 11 a.m. till 1 p.m. There will be another table, another pile of books, and me sitting there pen in hand, waiting.

But this time, hopefully, I’m older and wiser. This time I’ve put some effort into advance publicity and so has the bookshop. The results, I hope, will be different – and much more pleasing for the shop and me.

Between us we’ve contacted:

  • the local print media (local newspapers)
  • local radio (BBC, community and independent)
  • local churches (my book is a Christian novel)
  • all the folk I know within reasonable reach of the shop

I’ve already done a number of radio and press interviews and an author talk. I’ve produced flyers and they’ve been distributed in relevant places. And the word is beginning to spread about the book. It may be a drip drip approach but the impact is building.

I’m nervous, of course! What if nobody comes? Well, egg on face. But anyone who does come will be greatly valued! Just turning up really matters. Just as just trying really matters.

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When the Boats Come Home cover

I’m proud of the book. The cover is beautiful, and the feedback I’m getting on the content, the story and the characters is really encouraging. In fact I’m feeling the pressure as folk demand to know when the next one will be out! That’s the next task… but first…. think of me at 11 a.m. tomorrow morning. I’ll be there. It would be lovely if you could be too!

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