About Me

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I write well researched but readable historical and contemporary novels and some non-fiction. I live in a Scottish country cottage with my artist husband. I love gardening and I also collect the fascinating antique textiles that often find their way into my fiction. This blog is about all these things and more!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Bookmark, Grantown - a Bookshop in a Million

As usual, I'm talking with my hands!

Last month, I was invited to speak about my new novel, The Jewel, to a group in Grantown on Spey. To my shame, I'd never been to Grantown before but it's such a jewel of a little town in itself that I really hope to be back. The visit was organised by Marjory Marshall who runs the Bookmark, a fabulous independent bookshop in the centre of town. My husband came along for the trip - it was a mini East Coast book tour with more events planned in Dundee and St Andrews - and he did the driving, leaving me free to concentrate on my talks while admiring the scenery.

We had been booked into the Garth Hotel - a lovely traditional Scottish hotel only a stone's throw from the shop - and Marjory had told us that the event would also be held in the hotel, because the shop would be too small. Once we had checked in, Alan put his feet up in the comfortable room, with a cup of tea, and I wandered along the main street in search of the Bookmark. Grantown is exactly what a small town should be with lots of wonderful small shops, real shops selling everything you could need, plus cafes, pubs and hotels. It has a prosperous and well kept air, a pretty town too, and it must be a very good place to live.

The shop, for a bookaholic like me, was paradise: small, for sure, but absolutely crammed with all kinds of books you really want to read. Marjory - a small bundle of energy - was instantly friendly and welcoming. I could have spent ages browsing in there, and immediately vowed to go back when I can spend longer.

When the time came for the event, I looked at the (large) size of the room and the number of chairs and couldn't believe that so many people would turn out to listen to me. But, as you can see from the pictures, people did. Marjory runs three book groups and most of them came, plus a few more. 'I'm very persuasive,' she remarked, and she certainly is! A lovely lady played the celtic harp and sang Burns songs beautifully, to get us all in the right mood. I chatted about Jean and all the research that had gone into the book, answered the excellent questions, signed copies, drank wine, ate nibbles and was buzzing from the event all night and most of the next day. In the morning, after a very good breakfast, we managed to spend a bit more time in the Bookmark. Then I browsed the charity shop, the antique shop and the hardware store before we - rather reluctantly - headed off to Dundee. I love old fashioned hardware stores almost as much as I love bookshops, and Grantown's is wonderful. There's even a dedicated shortbread shop, as well.

I'd go back again in a heartbeat. Meanwhile, if you're interested in Crime Fiction, they are holding a
Wee crime festival  at the end of this month and more Saraband authors will be involved. I'll be heading the other way, to the Tarbert Book Festival and thence to my beloved Gigha, weather permitting, but if you're anywhere near Grantown, go along. You won't be disappointed. And if you're anywhere near Tarbert, you could come along and see me instead!





Thursday, October 06, 2016

National Poetry Day: Aliens

Me and the alien.
Happy National Poetry Day!

Years ago, I wrote more poetry than anything else. Did readings in Edinburgh and various other places. Even had a couple of collections published. Then I started to write fiction and plays and found myself writing fewer and fewer poems.

I've very occasionally gone back to poetry, so over the years I've found myself with a collection of poems, some of which have hardly seen the light of day. But mostly, all the impulse that went into writing poems seems to have gone into fiction and plays, although I'm sure it informs a lot of what I write, which critics occasionally tell me is 'lyrical' whatever that means.

Anyway, here's a poem I wrote some years ago, but it seems peculiarly apt today when I feel that I no longer recognise England as the place that gave shelter to my dad at the end of the war. My grandad was from a Yorkshire Dales family - 18th century lead miners in Swaledale - and had probably come over with the Vikings. My nana was Leeds Irish. Dad reckoned there was some Hungarian in the family tree as well. So, I'm a citizen of Europe, if not the world.


ALIENS

I am small in springtime
on my father’s shoulders.
I can see everything even the
bald patches on the
heads of passing men,
a precarious and thrilling position.


My father’s hair is coal black and curly,
Polish hair as foreign as he is.
The word refugee is as familiar
to me as my own name.
I hold his ears for balance,
while he trots with me aloft.


My father’s papers proclaim him alien
which makes me half alien too.
Poland might as well be Pluto but
the iron curtain is real.
I see it sweeping across Europe
made of polished metal,
dividing kin from kin,
as unfathomable as space.


Small and safe on his shoulders
his hands steadying me,
I grip his ears and laugh.
We are what we will always be
to one another:
complicit and loving
alien invaders of
a mystifying new world.