about writing and life and God

Day Two: North!

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

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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!

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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!

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Day Nineteen: On the road again

It’s an easy route, most of the way: down to Inverness and turn left. The only problem is distraction: the scenery is so beautiful especially on a sunny day when the sea is deep blue, the grass a sweet green against the blazing gold of the gorse and broom, and the horizon wreathes in veils of mist.

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Coffee break

Coffee break

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View from the petrol station

At Inverness I thought I remembered a good place to eat lunch and annoyed Emily, my sat nav voice, by turning off the official route. And discovered how Inverness has changed. And how coming in by train simply does not help with road navigation! The nice place was no longer there. And I was snarled up in town centre traffic. Till Emily came to the rescue again.Recalculating. And getting me back on the road I needed.

Just like God does. Each time we stray, we have a choice: keep doggedly on in the wrong direction, insist like a stubborn two-year-old with his shoelaces that we can manage on our own thank you very much, or take a quiet moment to admit to God that we’ve gone wrong and let Him recalculate and set us back on the right road.

So onwards I went, through towns with such familiar names: Nairn, Forres, Elgin. But I must confess they did not stir any old memories though I must have driven through them often enough in the past. Though not for a very long while. The Baxters factory at Fochabers is very much larger than I remember but it was good to see it still there!

And then I got lost again! I had turned off the A road onto a B road and then the sat nav suggested I take another smaller road and I jibbed. I decided it didn’t look right. So I went straight on – and on – and round bends and up hills – on and further on, down hills and round more bends, with forest to one side and a deep river valley on the other. I reckon I went round in a perfect half-circle, arriving at the other end of the road I needed. I checked the map, took a deep breath and let Emily guide me once again, and this time when I lost my nerve and wanted to detour, I made myself keep driving… till I got there.

So here I am, at the home of my nephew and his wife and his two daughters. And maybe I will finally learn: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

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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.


Helping to get it right

My heroine’s story had become so gripping, I have been concentrating on it for a while. But now it’s time to weave in the other threads, and to do that I need to re-immerse myself in those characters’ lives.

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The romantic interest is a fictional character whom I’ve inserted into the real-life evangelist team of the charismatic and much-loved Jock Troup. This man’s contribution to revival in Scotland as well as Yarmouth demands that I get my facts right and do him justice. 

I thought I’d gathered most of the relevant resources and so set myself to re-read my research notes. A chance mention that Troup and his team stopped off briefly in Inverness on Tuesday 3rd January 1921 sent me to the internet for more detail. To my delight, I discovered the Aladdin’s cave that is the online British newspaper archive. It’s cheap and easy to use and I’ve spent a most rewarding afternoon trawling the index for articles about Jock Troup’s mission campaigns in Fraserburgh and Dundee, before he returned to Wick.

Weaving real-life people and happenings into a work of fiction is a delicate matter. You need the freedom to tell your story while simultaneously being true to theirs.

My greatest joy this afternoon was the discovery of wondrously detailed reports in the Dundee Courier of December 1921. The unnamed reporter deserves my deepest thanks. He/she provides almost word-for-word accounts of  Jock Troup’s sermons, fly-on-the wall descriptions of the scenes and the other people there, as well as full records of what they say. This is priceless for what I’m trying to do: I can now ‘see’ where my characters are living out their story. Even better, I’ve a much better idea of what was going on around them. Hopefully this will lend depth and richness to the telling!

At the very least, it gives me more confidence to write the based-on-real-life bits!

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