Let’s have a catch up – and what Dottie means to me.

On Monday I took part in (was arm-wrestled into) in my first ever ‘thing’ as a writer! This was a big deal for someone who a) hardly ever sees actual people in the flesh, and b) has never done anything remotely ‘public’ before, not even a school play. I even got my university diploma through the post.

So I turned up on Monday evening with Emma Baird the writer – couldn’t get out of it, she along with her minion husband Sandy, came and collected me – and whisked me off to the mysterious outer reaches of Dalmuir and its library. I didn’t tell anyone, but my nerves over this upcoming event inspired several urgent trips to the loo, but when I arrived, and was greeted by the amazing library staff, then a trickle of keen and friendly event goers began to arrive, and I thought, ‘Aha this might actually work, these people clearly believed me when I said I was a writer. I can get away with it!’

We had rehearsed, which was good, because it’s very hard to know if your planned answer is actually helpful, or interesting, so we had done our dry run (not so dry, it was alcohol-fueled) the day before. And to my astonishment, the evening went really well, it was hugely enjoyable, and we were both very relaxed. Emma read a bit of my book Night and Day out loud, then she interrogated asked me a couple of questions, then she read a bit of her book Artists Town, I asked her a few questions, then it was the turn of the audience to ask questions. I know I lost my thread a bit here and there–something I am prone to do, and went into my rabbit-in-the-headlights mode, but everyone was very patient and kind, and I would absolutely recommend having a go–and if anyone should rashly ask me again, I might even say yes. So that was that.

Thank you lovely, lovely people of Dalmuir and environs.

Meanwhile, both before and after the event, I am/have been engaged in tidying up my novel The Last Perfect Summer of Richard Dawlish prior to it being published in about three weeks’ time. It is the fourth of my Dottie Manderson mysteries and sees Dottie facing a number of challenges, not least of which is to discover the identity of a murderer.

You might already know, if you’ve followed my previous posts, that this is a series of cosy mysteries set in Britain in the 1930s. It’s an era that thrills me, and my deep love of cosy mysteries has lasted for fifty years, as I began reading Agatha Christie and Patricia Wentworth at quite a young age.

Now cosies are quite big business these days, and there are loads of them on the market. A lot of them are ‘themed’ in that they are set around a particular interest or activity, or all take place in one setting. So you will find a large number of cosies set in bakeries, flower stores, book clubs and seaside resorts or country towns. This is in fact a good deal of their appeal.

Typically a story involves a crime, often a murder, and the mystery is solved by one or two amateur sleuths  who may or may not be carrying on with a handsome policeman or woman. My books are just the same in that respect: Dottie is a young woman who gets involved, to her family’s dismay, in ‘scrapes’ and ‘exploits’. But where I try to create a difference is this: the way I see it, life is not cut and dried. It doesn’t fall neatly into twenty or twenty-five chapters, with a neatly wrapped up ending. So unlike most books, you will find that usually the end of one of my books is in fact a beginning. I try to wrap up the murder (though notably, I didn’t fully do this at the end of the novella Scotch Mist, and some of you really didn’t like that! Sorry!) but there are often open questions at the end of my books, and Dottie sometimes takes a while to find the answer. Sometimes the answer isn’t exactly what we thought all along. It’s a bit of a risk on my part, and some people haven’t enjoyed that.

I hope you will stick with me and give me the benefit of the doubt, because I’m trying to ensure that the reader is with Dottie on her voyage of discovery about life. I love these books, (contrary to what one reviewer has suggested) and Dottie means so much to me, she has become real in my imagination. She is very young, still only twenty years old in book four, so not ‘of age’, and she has so much to learn about life and the world around her. She has been brought up in a well-to-do family, and her life has been sheltered and comfortable. Gradually she is coming to see that not everyone is wealthy, not everyone is happy, not everyone is honest, and that things don’t always get solved or set to rights straight away. She is growing, maturing and becoming a strong woman. Even though my books are cosies, they are not (I hope) tame, dull or cold. I hope you can get behind that!

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Perilously close to Dalmuir…

Ooh dear. So here’s the thing. There’s this lovely lady called Emma Baird. She is a writer. And I’m going to blame her for this because in all honesty, I can’t remember if I said to her, ‘Wow what a great idea if…’ or if it was her who said that to me.  So let’s blame her. Next Monday, not today but next week, she and I are going to step WAY out of our joint comfort zones and stand–or sit, they might have chairs–up in front of easily tens of people, and talk about what it’s like being a writer, and in particular what’s it’s like being an Indie or self-published writer. (note to self: check blouse for food stains, you know what a messy eater you are and no one needs to see that.)

So if you are in the Dalmuir area at 7pm next Monday, the 19th November, and you think, ‘Ooh, it’s a bit chilly out here, what shall I do?’ go into the library and sit down and listen to a saintly Scottish young woman and a mad old bat from England (that’s me) waffle on about what writing is to them, why they do it, how they do it, and why that means you could do it too. Because, think about it, you could!

Isn’t that amazing? Because five years ago, no one had even heard of me, and now, at least 12 people know me and have read my books. I’m exaggerating. It’s about 11.

Seriously though, it’s been a weird five years, full of highs and lows, full of challenges, tears, and ecstatic ‘OMG it worked!’ moments. There was that one crazy day shortly after I published my first book Criss Cross (which is still FREE for eBook download btw) when someone I didn’t know bought a copy of my book. If you have never done this, I really don’t think you’ll understand, unless you paint and people buy your work, or you sing and people pay to listen to you, or… that kind of thing. It was one of the most genuinely surreal moments of my life. Because yes, I know I had written it, rewritten it, edited it and uploaded it to the relevant platforms for the exact purpose of selling it to unwary members of the public, but even so, I cannot help but marvel at this magical revelation: someone bought my book.

Once, a couple of months back, ‘someone’ (no idea who, well, I have a couple of ideas, but no specific evidence) mentioned my book on Twitter, and in one (glorious) afternoon and evening I had 3800 downloads of the eBook. And this of course led to increased sales across all my books for a few days. That has happened a couple of times actually, and it is so strange when you can almost see the little dot that represents your book sales going up and up and up before your very eyes. To think that someone I don’t know, whom I may never meet, who probably lives thousands of miles away from me or perhaps, just a mile down the road, has chosen my book. That is why I do this. It’s not about the money, though that helps, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t matter, but it’s not the main reason. the main reason is that weird connection thing, where you have written something that someone else thinks, wow, I’d like to read this.

So thank you for buying my book, nebulous, anonymous person-I-have-never-met. I really hope you enjoy it. And as for you Dalmuirites: get ready!

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