Door Closes on the Open Book


The End of A Chapter and the Start of Another

interior of the 'Open Book'
interior of the ‘Open Book’

We’ve been home now for four days. Our stint as booksellers-in-residence at the Open Book second hand bookshop is now over for the husband and me. It was a great adventure. We hope we’ve left the Open Book slightly tidier and the stock a bit better organised – having built on  the hard work of our predecessors in the project. Now it’s over to our successors-in-residence to continue the process.

You’ll have seen from my earlier posts on our time in Wigtown that we met all sorts of interesting and lovely people – both local and visitors to the town. We did a bit of exploring of this corner of Scotland and liked what we saw. It was good to visit the other bookshops in Wigtown as well. How wonderful to have them all, and to have people who are so committed to selling real books in real independent shops and who are prepared to work so hard to do so. It was an eye-opener as to how much goes into running a successful bookshop and it’s definitely a labour of love. More power to all independent bookshops!

During the fortnight, although there wasn’t a lot of spare time to write, I did get to do a bit of thinking and planning in connection with my writing. And I met several local authors and  we shared experiences, thoughts and ideas – this in itself was such a valuable opportunity.

The Martyrs' Stone, Wigtown
The Martyrs’ Stone, Wigtown

So thanks to the Wigtown Book Festival Company and all those behind this unique project, especially to project manager, Anne for the chance to be part of the Open Book. Thanks, too, to Joyce from the Old Bookshop, to the owners of the Glaisnock Cafe, (yummy),  to Jayne and to Sarah from the writers’ group, and to  everyone else  who made us so welcome.

And most of all thanks to the Open Book shop. It was fun getting to know the best wee bookshop in the world.


Kelvin Walkway, Glasgow
Kelvin Walkway, Glasgow

It’s a long drive from Scotland’s National Book Town to our home in the Hebrides, so we broke our journey north on Saturday with an overnight stay in Glasgow. We stayed at a hotel in the city’s vibrant west end and so were able to enjoy a walk in the Botanical gardens and along the River Kelvin walkway, as well as a lovely dinner out at a nearby Italian restaurant.

Then on Sunday we drove the rest of the way home. And what a drive home it was. It was a beautiful day and  the west of Scotland was looking stunning. Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Kintail, to name just a few of the places, were all showing off their full glory – Scotland was at its most jaw-dropping and glorious best.

Scorrybreac, Skye
Scorrybreac, Skye

It’s nice to be home. The weather has continued to be good and I’ve already had the chance to enjoy one of my favourite local walks.


Since getting back,  I’ve also been catching up on all my own writing jobs and looking to further the plans I finalised while I was away.

There are two deadlines tomorrow.

One is for my contribution to Words with Jam, the online writers magazine that I’ve been on the staff of since its inception around four years ago. The theme of April’s issue is History and I got two pieces off to the editor yesterday.

The other deadline is for an  application to be included in an opportunity being offered to writers by XPONorth. Below is an edited extract from the organisation’s publicity for the opportunity.

XPONorth (Writing & Publishing) is delighted to offer seven independent, self-publishing authors living in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, the chance to sell and promote their work at the Indie Author Fair 2015. The Fair takes place at Foyles Bookshop, London, on Saturday 17th April 2015.

The Fair is part of the London Book Fair Indie Author Fringe Festival, run by The Alliance of Independent Authors/Indie ReCon, and Triskele Books are hosting the 2nd Indie Author Fair at Foyles Bookshop.

Authors selected for the showcase will be offered support and mentoring in developing their marketing and promotional materials and platforms in readiness for the Fair.

Indie authors living the Highlands and Islands can apply to participate in this showcase either to be present in person with their books at the Fair (books, plus promotional materials), or to have their books available on the XPONorth display forsale and with promotional materials.

Whether for readers, writers, publishers or observers of the publishing scene, this will be an unmissable event – an opportunity to say hello to the best indie authors in the business, meet suppliers, talk to experts, buy/sell some books. The event will be FREE to the general public.

( XPONorth Wrtiting and Publishing is delivered by Emergents Creatives CIC Ltd, and the programme is funded by European Regional Development Fund and HIE.)

My application is away. I’m not planning to attend in person, but it would be good to have my books promoted and on offer there, so fingers are crossed.

A week from today I’ll be off back down to Glasgow. I’m attending the annual, weekend conference of the Scottish Association of Writers. So I’ve got travel arrangements to finalise and promotional materials to gather. This is a great opportunity to meet other writers, to catch up with my fellow members from the Edinburgh Writers’ Club, to network, attend workshops and to see if I’ve had any success in the Association’s conference competitions. I’ve entries in a few categories so maybe, just maybe…

Then, after I get home, it will be all systems go for the April publication of my first children’s novel. More of that in a later post.






Sara Sheridan’s The Secret Mandarin – Jane Austen with balls

As I said a few posts ago, I’ve been broadening my reading horizons recently. Reading ‘The Secret Mandarin’ by Sara Sheridan was a departure into yet another genre – that of the historical novel.

It’s been years since I read this kind of book and I must say it was a welcome return. It reminded me of the novels of M.M. Kaye that I read many, many years ago.

The story begins in nineteenth century London and soon moves to China. It’s China just after the Opium wars – a closed and secretive place. The book is partly based on fact. The main characters are Robert Fortune, who was a real-life botanist and plant collector and his (fictitious) sister-in-law Mary Penney. Fortune journeys to China in search of tea plants. He hopes to cultivate them in India and to make a lot of money. Through a series of events, and, at first, against her will, Mary accompanies him on this perilous smuggling expedition. They have to travel in disguise as a mandarin and his male secretary.

I don’t want to give too much away so that’s enough about the plot except to say the ending is – satisfying.

This is a big novel. It’s more than just historical fiction. It’s an adventure story, a thriller and a romance. It has got love, intrigue, suspense – even pirates. The pace is slow but it never drags – it perfectly matches the long trek through China’s interior.

The author has obviously done masses of meticulous research. The detail – historical, geographical, cultural and botanical is incredible.

The character of Mary is wonderful – a feisty, strong, passionate woman. The style is sort of Jane Austen with balls and without walls.

 It’s an absorbing and transporting read and I recommend it.

The book is available on Amazon   in paperback (£5.59) and e-book format (£3.99).

Sara has a new book ‘The Secret out of the Sands’ due out in February.

Withdrawal symptoms

Swans and cygnets in Hyde Park

I’ve just returned from holiday in London and Edinburgh – two great cities. I had lunch with two writer friends – separately – while I was away, and on both occasions we did talk writing for some of the time –  but no actual writing was done for two weeks – complete cold turkey. Well – almost. I did still find that the characters and plot of the work-in-progress popped into my head at least once a day. But I think it’s probably a good thing to step away from the word-processor once in a while and just let things brew away at the sub-conscious level.

And now I’m back and raring to get going again. There’s the novel to get on with of course, but I also have a few other projects to keep me at my desk. I’m planning to go in for two competitions – a piece of flash fiction and a short story required for these – and I have a children’s novel buzzing about in my head that I need to complete an outline for. So I better get on with it. Back soon with a progress report.