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!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Ayr Waterstones: A Very Welcoming Bookshop.

It always gives me a bit of a kick to see novels with my name on the cover in a book shop. It's the kind of thing you dream of, not just when you're starting out (although you do, of course!) but as you're soldiering on, perhaps with a few successes behind you, when you've hit a rough patch and can't see anyone ever wanting your work again.

The truth is that a career as a writer - probably a career in any of the arts - is a switchback. There will be a handful of people for whom it's a dizzying rise to sustained to fame and fortune and good for them. But for the vast majority of us, it's a game of snakes and ladders and just when you think you've made it up the final ladder, there's that huge snake - an anaconda surely - that takes you slithering down to the bottom of the board again. So although most of us expect everything to be kind of temporary, it's exhilarating to see that you're building up a certain volume of work and that people want to know about it. I don't think I'll ever get tired of that.

Incidentally, everyone thinks that seeing the very first printed copies will be the most thrilling thing about being published, but for me at any rate, it isn't. It's exciting, no doubt about it, but coming to the end of a big project is always a bit of a let-down until you get properly started on the next novel. And there's a sense in which the box of advance copies - although undoubtedly lovely to have and hold and show off to friends and relatives - isn't just as exciting as you think it will be. Maybe it was the very first time I was ever published. Maybe it's a feeling that you can never quite recapture, the novelty of it all.

But seeing your books in a bookshop - especially seeing quite a lot of your books in a bookshop - that is thrilling and brings home to you just how far you've come. A few weeks ago a friend posted a picture of her novel on a table of recommended fiction in another Scottish branch of Waterstones and there was The Jewel as well, keeping good company with all kinds of  'weel kent' writers - and that was even more thrilling. We shouldn't make these comparisons, but it's only human to do it.

Anyway, these heaps of my books were on show because Ayr Waterstones was having its own small festival of local history. There were events for children and events for adults. I was speaking about researching and writing historical fiction and I began by saying something about The Curiosity Cabinet, and what will be coming after. But because we were in Ayrshire, I was asked so many interesting questions about The Jewel, and Jean Armour, that I spent quite a bit of the time chatting about Jean and Rab as well. There was a good, receptive audience in a lovely intimate space and it was a pleasure to be there. It struck me afterwards what a warm and welcoming bookshop Ayr's Waterstones is. Friendly and knowledgeable people, nice cafe, excellent range of books. I know I would say that anyway, but it's true. If you don't believe me, go along and see for yourself!


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Our Cottage Garden - The Pound Shop Amelanchier

Amelanchier
Some years ago I visited a friend who had a beautiful, elegant, delicate tree in her garden (we sat under it in the summer sun and drank gin and tonic!) I asked her what it was and she said it was called an Amelanchier. And yes, I had to look it up because I couldn't figure out how on earth to spell it.

Cue forward a little while and I came across a small, weedy plant in a Pound Shop. It was fainting from lack of water, and it didn't look very healthy, but when I examined the packet I saw that it was labelled Amelanchier - the only one on the whole stand, among the more commonplace trees and shrubs. So I decided it was well worth risking my pound on, took it home, nurtured it a bit and finally thought I could risk planting it out in the garden.

That was some four or five years ago, and just look at it now! It is probably the most beautiful thing in the garden - delicate, elegantly shaped and with gorgeous, fine blossoms. A pound well spent.

That's what gardening is all about for me. Not paying a fortune for high concept designs and expensive plants, but looking for wonderful finds in unexpected places and bringing out the best in them. Not a bad motto for life and maybe for writing too!

Meanwhile, you could do worse than explore the Pound Shops, and other bargain shops, which all tend to have stands of inexpensive shrubs, trees and other plants outside at this time of the year. But even in your local garden centre, there are amazing bargains to be found languishing in some sad corner: plants that may seem to be past their best, but only need food and water and dead-heading; plants that are just out of season, but will be wonderful if you can wait for next year; trays of annuals that are root bound and have dried out a bit and need potting on. All of them tend to be sold off at bargain prices, so if you're working to a budget but still want a nice garden, use your imagination and do a bit of rescue and rehoming. The plants will thank you for it.