about writing and life and God

Day Eight: Snow, hail and daffodils

Spring is definitely here in Wick. The day began with a wander down to the library

Digital Image

Wick Public Library

past the greatest mass of daffodils I’ve seen anywhere.

Digital Image

Daffodils on the Academy Braes

I spent hours in the Caithness Archive Centre reading back copies of the newspaper I worked on during my gap year: The John O’Groat Journal – but I was researching the pre-war and war years. Wick was a busy place during the war. Because the aerodrome had been built before the war, it appeared on maps – so the Germans knew it existed and it received plenty of Luftwaffe attention – as did the houses nearby.

It began to snow as I walked back to my sister’s for lunch – the blurry bits are the snow!

Digital Image


And then I went back to the library for more research and came back in fierce hail!

Digital Image

Deep hail outside the house


Day Two: North!

Another long’s day drive. I set off in sunshine from lovely Annandale Water at 8.30,

Digital Image

Swan on Annandale Water

and hove to at my destination in Wick, Caithness, Scotland at nearly 5 o’clock. Whew!

And yes, I’d forgotten Scotland has a different climate from the south of England! There is still plenty of snow on the hill-tops so I was glad I’d decided at the last minute to pack a vest!

Digital Image

A9 south of Inverness

Then once I’d got north of the tree-line, the cloud came down and it was a challenging drive with full-beam headlights all the rest of the way on switchback roads. But within moments of arrival I was comfortably ensconced at my sister’s with a mug of tea in hand.

Who said it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive?Nonsense!

Leave a comment »

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.

Digital Image

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!




Leave a comment »

Day Seventeen: Wick: Ambling in the sun

A day of ambling, strolling, and enjoying the lovely sunny weather, bringing back memories of childhood – and maybe I can claim much of it as research for the next book!

First a walk up the river.

Digital Image

Looking away from town

Digital Image

Looking towards the town

Then after lunch, we went down to the harbour where timber was being loaded onto a boat bound for Scandinavia and paper-making.

Digital Image

The sun shone, the sea was deep blue,and the sky clear blue – so on we went round the south head.

Digital Image

My sister pointed out to me the remains of the breakwater Robert Louis Stevenson’s father was commissioned to build out into the bay. Despite several attempts, the breakwater was never completed – storms kept tearing off huge lumps of concrete and stone weighing over a thousand tons – and the project was finally mothballed.

Digital Image

Out to the Trinkie – the sea-filled outdoor swimming pool where our mother taught us to float when we were very small.

Digital Image

Digital Image

And then back in to Wellington Street (and Granny Leslie’s house from my novel, When the Boats Come Home).

Digital Image

We ended up with a cold drink (and a cake!) at the very impressive Pulteney Centre, which offers facilities, hosts courses and a wide variety of groups – all run by the Pulteneytown People’s Project.

This evening is more research – a visit to an old friend to hear about her trip to Buenos Aires. And yes, that does come into the next book!

1 Comment »

Day Sixteen: Wick: Raising the bar

Last planned book talk on the tour delivered to a lovely, responsive, appreciative audience at Wick Salvation Army Home League today.

Digital Image

I’m so delighted they were able to fit me in.

But now I’m wanting to be back at home to get stuck into serious work on the next book so I’ve something else to share with them!

Digital Image

I’ve had a wonderful time. People are interested in books that connect with them and are happy to purchase copies. It makes all the work that went into the book so worthwhile – and it makes me want to make the next one at least as good, at least as interesting, at least as connecting with them, at least as enjoyable…

In fact, I think they’ve raised the bar. And so there’s a real challenge.

But where there’s a challenge to do something that God calls us to do, there’s power available to do it. Just one of the many texts reassuring us of this is in Hebrews 13:21: ‘Now may the God of peace… equip you with everything good for doing His will’. ‘Everything good’. That will do nicely!

Leave a comment »

Day Thirteen: Wick: Pilots’ Houses, Printers’ Ink, and Public Libraries

Quiet start to a busy day with lots of surprises. Walking to post my large number of promised postcards, we noticed that the pilot house was open.

Digital Image

Wick Pilot House

What, you may ask, is  a pilot house? Not a place where a pilot lived but the small building on the top of the cliff where the harbour pilot watched to see if boats approaching the harbour were requesting pilotage to enable them to enter the harbour safely or already had a pilot on board.

Digital Image

Flag showing pilot on board

Here’s the link with my book: Sir Arthur Bignold, the man who bequeathed the building to the town was MP of Great Yarmouth!

Digital Image

After lunch, I popped in to my local newspaper offices – where I worked as a trainee reporter 1967/8.

Digital Image

John O’Groat Journal Offices, Union Street, Wick

Digitalisation has transformed the place – where once there were typesetters working on Monotype and Linotype machines and compositors painstakingly making up wedding invitations with single pieces of lead on a forme, there are now computer screens and keyboards. And downstairs where once the huge presses rolled, are empty rooms that still smell of printers’ ink.

Digital Image

Press room: note floor bolts

I remember the big lorries arriving with the huge rolls of paper for the presses and the rumble that thrummed through the building when the presses rolled.  I remember how everyone on the staff got a copy of that week’s paper fresh off the presses before we went home the night before publication day – and how exciting it felt.The smell of printer’s ink still thrills me!

And then at seven o’clock, I gave a talk about When the Boats Come Home at the wonderful local library that began my journey as a writer – it provided the books that inspired me to want to become a writer, to write books like the ones I borrowed. Wick Library played a crucial role in my life as a writer. But more about that tomorrow!

Digital Image

Wick Public Library

Leave a comment »

Day Ten: Down Memory Lane: Wick High School

This morning I found myself walking down memory lane – almost literally, except it’s called Newton Road and is on the way to the secondary school I (and both my sisters) attended.In those long ago days, you went to the local school. There was one secondary school in Wick for the east side of the county and one in Thurso for the north and west side of the county. Three junior secondaries fed country kids into the two main schools at third year.

Today I went back to school.

Wick High School

Wick High School

I liked school. I enjoyed walking across town with my friends – almost a mile each way – and we did it four times a day, coming home for lunch from quarter to one till two o’clock. We worked out it took twelve and a half minutes to do the trip if we walked briskly – and on cold days walking briskly was the only way to go!

I enjoyed the actual teaching – English and History were my favourite and best subjects. And today I was back in school to do a bit of teaching in the English Department. It was an author visit – my historical novel, When the Boats Come In, the door-opener. But I wasn’t there to plug the book but to help with short story writing – and hopefully enthuse any youngsters harbouring the dream of being a writer themselves one day.

It was enjoyable – and hard work! I so admire teachers who do it all day long. My first group – thirteen fifth and sixth-formers – were with me for an hour and a half. The next two groups – around twenty in each – got the first half of the presentation in a forty-minute session. They’ve gone away with homework to do before returning tomorrow for the second half: a fifty-word saga with a clear beginning, middle and end.

We’ll see how they do!

Leave a comment »

Day 7: Wick- Harbour Day

Not a clear day – the haar had crept in – but though misty, today has been pleasantly mild and mainly dry – pretty good for the annual Harbour Day. So after a nice long sleep, a good breakfast and a catch-up with a friend who turned up on my sister’s doorstep (I hadn’t seen her since 4th year at secondary school!), we visited the Blue Tree Gallery (a fabulous quirky crafts shop which also stocks books) and left a small supply of When the Boats Come Home. After lunch, we went down to the harbour.

Digital Image

The marina was filled with brightly decorated boats and the area was crowded with people. A small stage hosted young highland dancers and the pipe band marched and played.

Digital Image

Digital Image

There were lots of stalls and boat trips round the bay. In the old herring market, the Wick Society (a first-rate heritage association) was showing old film of the area and the renovation of their wonderful Fifie fishing boat, the Isabella Fortuna.

And of course Johnny Depp was there, on a pirate boat.

Digital Image

And then we had to have tea at Wicker’s World (our cousin Irene’s cafe). Not chocolate brownie this time but bakewell tart (mine) and a luscious ginger and lime concoction.

Digital Image

A lovely day off.

1 Comment »

Keeping on keeping on

First of all, a big thank you to everyone who has bought either a print copy or a Kindle version of my novel, When the Boats Come Home. And special thanks to those of you who have put reviews on Amazon or told me personally how much you enjoyed it.


It’s a wonderful feeling – that something I wrote has given someone pleasure. It’s a special thrill when someone says they couldn’t put it down! And it makes me want to do it again.

So, here’s the progress report on ‘the next one’, currently planned as Volume One in a Christian historical trilogy, The Mizpah Ring, set partly in my home home of Wick:  I’ve written 42,186 words and am aiming for 85,000. Paul at the publishers says if I can get the final manuscript delivered by end-August, it will be out the first week of December in time to solve this year’s Christmas present problems.

All I have to do is write the rest of it.



At 1,000 words six days a week, the first draft should be finished by the end of April. So… easy peasy, yes?

No. Because I’ve kind of… delete ‘kind-of’… I’ve ground to a halt. Maybe even fallen out of love with it, a little.

So I’ve laid it aside. And just about every day, someone comments on how much they loved When the Boats Come Home and what am I writing next and when will it be out. No pressure there!

Meanwhile I need to be doing all the marketing and publicity things authors have to do to let the world of readers know about the book – radio interviews, press coverage, book signings… Lovely things in themselves but they take time and energy – out of the pot available for writing the next book.

I’d be really interested to know if other writers have hit this stumbling block/conflict of interest and what do they do.  Do you just plough on, juggling last year’s baby and this? Any wise words/advice truly welcome!

I have a horrid feeling that what’s needed is simply more self-discipline – keeping on keeping on, aiming for that 1,000 words a day just to see what happens.

Shall I re-read what I’ve written… or just pick up where I left off…

Tell you next time!

Leave a comment »

What you have to do to publish a book

“Writers are people who write.” Well, that used to be the case. All you had to do was write and a whole bunch of other lovely people saw to everything else involved in getting a book out: copy-editing, proofreading, page design, cover design, publicity and promotion and marketing, sales and distribution, and even nicer, royalty statements!

But the world has changed. Some few authors still go along the traditional lines. Many more create a more independent career. This ranges from full-on self-publishing, even to the extent of setting up one’s own publishing company, to making use of one of the many packages on offer to take the slog out of getting a book and an e-book conversion ready for market.

I’m not quite sure what the route I’ve chosen is called. Zaccmedia are a publishing company and are doing everything I’d expect of a publishing company but I have much more input and involvement – which I’m loving. It’s much more of a co-operative venture.

The other day the ISBNs were allocated and suddenly everything began to seem real! Last week I saw the planned cover. That was a huge wow moment!

When the Boats Come Home cover

So here it is. My Christian historical novel about the Scottish fisher lassies. The paperback will probably retail at £7.99 (296pp) and will be orderable around 14th December. It will also be available in Kindle and other formats, on Amazon etc. Hopefully this will solve the Christmas present problem for Christian women who like a good read.

Meanwhile, as with traditionally published authors, I’m thinking about marketing – I love doing interviews, giving talks and writing articles and blogs so that’s no hardship. I love the book, the background and the characters, so they’re easy to talk about!

And somehow I have to find time to keep producing 2000 words a day for the next one! More about that another time!

Leave a comment »

%d bloggers like this: