Happy Book Birthday!

My wean is old year old today!

This time last July, my novel. Buy Buy Baby, was launched to an ever-supportive audience of family and friends in Falkirk. It was a brilliant night where my great pal and fellow author, Karen Campbell, set up the banter with a lively Q and A before I road-tested a couple of readings from the book.

At the end of the night, I headed home where corks were popped and I basked in the buzz of my latest novel being out in the world. The celebration was also fuelled by nervous energy but I’ve learned a lot since being a debut novelist and that gave me a reality check. For a start, writing a novel is an achievement to be proud of, but it’s not as if I’d won the Nobel Prize in Literature. I didn’t need to worry about the media tracking me down because I had a new book out.

But I didn’t ever expect fame and fortune from my writing (just as well!). What I did hope for was that readers would enjoy my second novel just as much as my debut. I’ve been lucky. Many folk have told me that they actually prefer Buy Buy Baby to Talk of the Toun. This was a huge relief as I’d wondered how it would compare as they’re very different stories and expectations might not be met if they were looking for more of the same.

The best bit about publishing another novel? I’ve managed to get out and about sharing extracts from Buy Buy Baby at events at all over Scotland. Have book, will travel! I’ve been to Waterstones branches in Stirling, Argyle St and Byres Road in Glasgow, Blackwell’s in Edinburgh, met the Bathgate Book Group, appeared at Berwick Book Festival, Kilsyth Library, Denny Library, Off the Page Book Festival, Booked! Cumbernauld Cabaret and I’ll be at the Ness Book Fest and Portobello Book Festival this October. That wean of my mine gets about!

Often at these events, I get asked, “What do you enjoy most about being an author?” It’s an easy one to answer! “Meeting readers and getting the chance to share my work”.

To mark my book’s birthday, I’m running a giveaway over on Goodreads for a signed copy. Hop over there to enter – good luck! But if you’re not feeling lucky and don’t want to take a chance, it’s only 99p for the month of July – snap up a book bargain for your summer reading!

I’ll raise a glass on 7th July (any excuse!) and hope that you read and enjoy Buy Buy Baby.

What’s the best birthday present you could ‘give’ my book? Share the love with a wee review (it only needs to be a few lines) on Amazon/Goodreads or tell your pals. Thanks, from me and the wean. Cheers!

 

Read Out Loud Challenge

My fellow Cranachan author, Barbara Henderson got in touch recently to set me a challenge… I hoped that it wasn’t anything physical but luckily it was easy as it involved doing something I love – reading! But the challenge came with a few simple rules. If I accepted the challenge, the National Book Store, the biggest bookstore chain in the Philippines, has promised that for every 75 videos posted, they will help set up one library in a public school. And for 7,500 videos and more, 100 public schools will get library makeovers!

So, here’s me reading a taster from my latest novel, Buy Buy Baby

If you want to have a go, (why wouldn’t you?) then here are the rules:

1) Post a video of yourself reading out an excerpt from a book on Facebook or Instagram. Read it with feeling or use props, whatever helps to bring the lines to life.

2) Use the hashtag #ReadOutLoudChallenge in your video post.

3) Don’t forget to tag @nbsalert and your 3 friends to do the challenge.

 

Reading between the wines…

downloadThe chance to chat about books and writing??? I was all over it like a rash and had a great time in Bathgate as the guest speaker at a book group.

fullsizerenderggFellow Scottish writer, Emma Mooney, kindly invited me to chat about Buy Buy Baby to members of her book group. The fact that the lovely group of women are all teachers meant that not only was there lots of book banter, we had a lively discussion about reading and creative writing in schools – topics I’m passionate about and we could’ve blethered all night!

Here’s Emma’s account of the evening…

Switch Off to be Turned On

bbb 92BBB COVER016 has been a helluva busy year for me so far. Not only did I go into business with my close friend, Anne Glennie, to start Cranachan Publishing, I also joined her educational company, The Learning Zoo, as a literary consultant delivering teacher training in the Reflective Reading programme. As if that wasn’t enough on my plate, I also launched my second novel, Buy Buy Baby.
At the promo events for Buy Buy Baby, a common question was, “What are you writing now?” The honest answer was, “Nothing”. My wee brain can only cope with so much and I didn’t have the time or energy to write and even my personal reading was suffering as I used my bedtime reading slot for submissions to Cranachan.

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Parked up and ‘locked’ away for uninterrupted writing.

A drastic measure was required and when I read that Moniack Mhor was running an untutored retreat, I knew this was the answer. So much of my day jobs require me to be ‘on’ and operating in performance mode and active on social media. It was time for me to flick the dial to ‘off’ if I was ever going to get back to my own creative writing.

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Silence + stunning scenery = bliss

I’ve been lucky enough to go to Moniack Mhor twice in the past so I knew it was a very special place. The difference this time was that it wasn’t a course, there would be no workshops and set routine.

The freedom was good in one sense but also left scope for frittering away the week. But I’m naturally self-disciplined and I was also very aware that to be able to indulge myself in a week of uninterrupted writing is a luxury that should be respected rather than abused. I didn’t want to waste the opportunity and so before I went, I set myself a goal of reconnecting with an idea that first came to me over three years ago.fullsizerender-002
Previously, I’d made notes, done a bit of research and written a measly five thousand words but I hadn’t gone near the folder on my laptop for two years. There are lots of excuses for neglecting the idea but the main one was fear. I had no idea how to tackle the project and if I could pull it off. My aim for my week’s retreat was to dust off the folder and see if it still ‘spoke’ to me. Would the initial idea be as interesting as I once believed? Could I plan a structure for the novel so that it no longer scared me? And was it possible to add to the five thousand words? At the very least, I knew I’d come home with a steer on whether or not to develop it further or start from scratch with something new.

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Taking time to think and look closer..

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Taking time to think and look closer..

My first day was spent rereading the five thousand words, editing them and trying to reengage with the ‘voice’ again.

The good news was that I knew I still wanted to work on the idea. Day two was all about sorting out my notes and creating a framework as I needed to make sure that I had a clear idea of why I was about to commit to writing this novel. What was I trying to say and how could I best achieve this? By day three, I had a rough (very!) draft outline for the whole novel, all I needed to do now, was to actually start writing it! By the end of day four, I had added six thousand new words, created character profiles and even written a poem (not something I ever do!) that might feature in the novel.
Not only did I get stuck in to my writing, I also went for a scenic walk each day, read a book from my mountainous tbr pile and met a group of lovely people including fellow Scottish writers Zoe Venditozzi and Shane Strachan.  I came home more than happy with what I’d managed to achieve at Moniack Mhor and feel fired up and raring to go. Of course, reality will soon kick in and the demands of day jobs and life in general but I’m determined to keep the momentum going…

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Loch Ness in the distance on my way home – refreshed and recharged.

 

Have you benefited from going on a writes’ retreat?

From Doon the Watter to Up in the Air

bbb 9BBB COVERWith the schools back now in Scotland, it feels like the end of the summer, especially as the weather is rotten, again. It’s been an interesting summer for me, dominated by the publication of Buy Buy Baby and my jaunts with family and friends.

In the course of a week, I went from visiting one island on the west coast of Scotland to another off the east coast of Spain.

The first trip to the Isle of Great Cumbrae only took 15 minutes in the ferry from Largs to reach but leaving the mainland behind creates a sense of escapism. And Millport, the island’s ‘capital’ has a nostalgic atmosphere of a time before package holidays abroad when many Scots took a trip ‘doon the watter’.

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Me on the ferry with my eldest son.

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Kames Bay directly opposite our holiday flat.

For years, my family has had the use of a holiday flat overlooking Kames Bay to enjoy a relaxing weekend.

But recently, neither of my adult sons have wanted to come with us so my hubby and I have only had the company of our two dogs (cheaper and easier to amuse!).  However, this year was different. My eldest son decided to come too along with his girlfriend who was a Millport ‘virgin’. Apart from a great chance to spend quality time with them with good food, drink and board games, I also had another agenda. This trip was a chance to take photos of the location which inspired Buy Buy Baby.

As in the previous visits, we climbed up to Farland Point for spectacular views across the Firth of Clyde but also to see where the seed was planted for my new novel. I don’t know any writers who aren’t naturally curious and I’m gold-standard in the nosey league.

Up at the viewpoint, I’d always stop to read the plaques on the memorial benches and was intrigued by the dedications. Six years ago, the tributes to loved ones sparked an idea for a story about a mother whose child has died and how she visits her ‘Angel’s Bench’ to reflect on their time together.

IMG_2970IMG_2922One idea led to another and I wrote ‘The Angel’s Bench’ about the bittersweet quest of two very different women united by the same desire – they desperately want a baby. Since the first draft, the storyline has changed as well as the title, which is now Buy Buy Baby and was published on 7th July by Cranachan Publishing. I got a bit snap happy and although none of the actual dedications relate to the novel, it’s a place that was clearly special to many and I hope by including Millport in my novel it might inspire others to visit this beauty spot.

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Me with my youngest in Ibiza.

IMG_3104No sooner was I home from Millport than I was packing my suitcase to leave the next day for an another island. One that was much warmer and livelier but both islands are beautiful in their own distinct way.

This short and sweet trip was to see my youngest son who was ‘working’ there over the summer and it was a chance for us to have a wee adventure together. As I’d never been to Ibiza before, I loved discovering the history of Dalt Vila and walking along the beach at Playa de Bossa to indulge in people watching. Never one to miss a photo opportunity for marketing my book, I whipped out a copy of Buy Buy Baby, much to my son’s embarrassment (you’d think he’d be used to it by now!) and took pics of the book on location as the perfect beach or poolside read.

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Stunning sunset from my hotel balcony.

The key theme in Buy Buy Baby is motherhood and there aren’t many weeks that I manage to pack in so much quality time in a matter of days with my sons. The result? I came home with more west coast beach glass to add to my collection, sore feet from walking around Great Cumbrae, several hangovers, thrashed at Pictionary, suntanned and skint but happy to see my boys live up to the book’s dedication, “For my babies, Ross and Lewis, who have grown into men that make me proud to be their mum.”

In typical teacher mode, “What did you do this summer?”

Potty Politics

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Me with my two ‘babies’.

 

I’m the mother to two grown-up sons but on Thursday I became a new mum again when I gave ‘birth’ to my latest novel, Buy Buy Baby.  My book is a bittersweet story of two very different women united in their desperate quest for motherhood.
download (1)I’ve discussed my strong views on motherhood and identity in a guest post I wrote for Naomi Frisby’s website, The Writes of Woman which generated thought-provoking comments about a woman’s sense of self. It’s a topic that fires me up and so I was very interested to wake up to the latest joust in the battle for the leadership of the Conservative Party where it was all kicking off on social media about Andrea Leadsom allegedly claiming in The Times that, “being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of the country”.

If she’s not been misquoted, it’s a gob-smacking statement to make and imply that anyone, such as Theresa May, isn’t as well qualified for the job because she isn’t a mother. Being a parent should never be a prerequisite to hold down any level of responsibility and here in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon is a phenomenal role model for women, young and old. And then there’s Angela Merkel, another powerful European leader who has led her country for 16 years. I could go on and on with examples of child-less leaders that makes quotes like, “Being a mother gives me edge on May” sound utterly ridiculous.images

Leadsom is now being castigated for her alleged remarks and if it they’re true then it was a condescending cheap shot to suggest that somehow childless women, or indeed men, live in a vacuum and that being a parent makes you a better person.

 

 

BBBBI’ve explored this topic and challenged the ideas about society’s expectations and attitudes to women throughout Buy Buy Baby and hope that the yearning of the two main characters in the novel provokes discussion on such an emotive topic.

Do you think a mother makes a better candidate to lead the country?

Ta Dah!

Today is a VERY special day for me and Cranachan Publishing as it’s the cover reveal for the my second novel, Buy Buy Baby and the first novel to be published by Cranachan.

You can view the quirky image and read about the ideas behind the cover design over on the lovely blogger and writer Poppy Peacock Pens website. Poppy has very kindly agreed to host the cover reveal and I hope you like the cover as much as I do!