I’m spending the morning recharging batteries. Not my own, for once. I feel well and truly recharged after my Nordic tour, though as usual it’s anybody’s guess how long that feeling will last.

Recharging batteries

Recharging batteries

I’m just preparing to go away for approximately 36 hours so I thought I’d better make sure my Kindle(s) and phone were fully charged beforehand so that I can use them on the train. Anyone who has seen my Finland photo collection will be glad I’m not also recharging my camera on this occasion. Perhaps unfairly I don’t expect to find anything worth photographing in Swindon, although I can always use my phone in any photographic emergency.

This past week I’ve spent almost every spare minute in my task of pulling apart the first draft of ‘The Coronation Quest’, a task that is much more rewarding – and quicker – than I thought it might be. If I succeed in not making it any worse by doing this, I am hoping to have it really finished in another couple of weeks. It’s quite annoying having to go to Swindon just now, but on the other hand it means I have an excuse to read a book about Germany after the Second World War on the train. Unfortunately, finding this has reminded me of a short story or novella I first thought of ages ago which might fill in a sort of black hole in the continuing story of Oliver and Flora from the ‘Quest’ series. I say ‘unfortunately’ because I already have enough writing ideas to last me well into next year, if not longer.

Anyway, the reason I mention it is because I downloaded it from Scribd (www.scribd.com) the other day along with some Lonely Planet guides. In case anyone hasn’t heard of Scribd, which I hadn’t until quite recently, it’s a subscription service for books. If you pay a monthly fee you can download as many books from it as you like. It may be good value for people who read a lot / read very fast. I have to admit, though, I have only started to use it because my novels have gone on to the site via Smashwords and at the moment I have a free year’s subscription because of that. In fact, I have only been able to use this at all since I got my Kindle Fire, as it works through an app and the books don’t go into the usual library. I’m still not sure about reading on the Kindle Fire as the glossiness of the screen seems to cause a lot of reflections, but certainly books with pictures such as the travel guides look better on it than on the other Kindle. There are apps for other tablets and phones too. I think there is a free introductory month or something for Scribd if anyone reading this is interested.


After a week in which I spent every evening in the black cavernous space behind the scenes in a theatre, and during the preparations for a week in which I will travel across Europe by train, tunnel, train, ferry, train, ferry and train, give a paper at a conference and return by very nearly the same route, I’ve been taking stock of my writing plans.

Backstage - a prop

Bizarrely taped together prop in black cavernous etc etc.

‘The Coronation Quest’, the first draft of which should be finished by now, has taken an unexpected turn and developed a sort of second wind, which is another way of saying I haven’t got to the end yet. This is slightly annoying in some ways – though good news in the sense that the plot wasn’t making any sense and now it is – as I don’t think I can possibly get to the end before I go away, and as I am not very good at writing fiction while in transit I almost certainly won’t finish until after I get back.

My so-called writing plan for the year, already not working very well even before this, has become even more tangled, to the extent that I may have to re-write it on a new page.

So-called writing plan

So-called writing plan with more squiggles and changes of direction

I realised this morning on the way to work that I don’t *have* to write all my first drafts during NaNoWriMo and its various offshoots. This was a bit of a revelation to me, although goodness knows why it should be, since I managed to complete some novels before I had even heard of NaNoWriMo. Anyway, the result of this flash of sanity was that I decided it would be more realistic to aim at spending the second half of June finishing off ‘The Coronation Quest’, and most of July editing it and ‘Adventure at the National Exhibition’ which is sitting there forlornly on my computer like a rescue dog waiting for a new owner. After that I can go into August happy in the knowledge that I can concentrate on ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ as it’s known at the moment.

Now I’m off to try and capture some amusing video footage of the cat chasing a miniature drone (the kind that’s like a helicopter, not the kind that hangs about beehives doing nothing) which I hope to use during my conference presentation to take people’s minds off museum labelling and storage systems.

The rain-forest is creeping closer to the conservatory where I usually do my writing. However there is nothing tropical about the temperatures around here, and I am still not sure if it’s really spring or not. It would be nice if I could spend the whole day sitting here watching the rain on the roof and the trees bending lower and lower with the weight of water on their leaves and branches, and the magpies and occasional fox appearing to give the illusion that my garden is a wild remote place and not a suburban rectangle. Just as I wrote these words, in fact, I saw a fox emerging from the undergrowth.

Rain on the rowan tree

Rain on the rowan tree

Although I would love to spend the day here, writing the occasional hundred words or so that may lead eventually to the end of ‘The Coronation Quest’, I do have to go out later to move some props into the theatre ready for the next show to be performed by my theatre group. It won’t be much fun moving in today in this weather, but it just has to be done.

A sign that I’m nearing the end of the novel is that I’ve now started to think about what to write next. I do have a vague idea in my head for ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ which I hope to start in July, but I also have two Edwardian novellas (sort of very long short stories) in mind, which is slightly annoying as they are quite a bit more difficult to write, what with research and everything. One of them, as I’ve already mentioned, is ‘Adventure at the Zoological Gardens’, but the other, which sprang into my head while I was researching a previous one, is ‘Adventure at the Palace of Varieties’, and that’s the one that is really jumping up and down shouting ‘Me, me, me!’ at the moment!

[goes off to review writing plan yet again]

I’m still not entirely sure that it’s spring – the heating is still going on every morning, and at least one cat has gone back into hibernation this week. However, the apple blossom is more or less out so that’s something.


I’ve now written just over 38,000 words of ‘The Coronation Quest’ so I must be over halfway through it now. I have some ideas about what may be happening, although there was quite a sticky moment yesterday when I wrote the chapter heading ‘An Unexpected Development’ and then couldn’t think what the development should be.
I am writing this post on my new favourite toy, a Kindle Fire, as a practice run for next month when I hope to blog from some trains between Edinburgh and Helsinki with pictures. Having now watched the last episode of ‘The Bridge’ I am sort of hoping the journey from Denmark to Sweden won’t be at all exciting! But maybe the whole trip will be inspirational – fingers crossed.

Spring greetings

We seem to have reached the end of a week of glorious sunshine in Edinburgh, which coincided with my holiday week and the arrival of a new camera. I even found the first bluebell of spring starting to open out in our garden. I am not sure if it will risk opening fully as the temperature is still on the chilly side, but I’ve captured it in this picture anyway.

First bluebell

The first bluebell

I’ve now reached 27,000 words in ‘The Coronation Quest’. Everything that’s happened so far is still completely inexplicable, both to me and to the characters, so the rest of the novel should be interesting!

Naturally, now that I’m in the middle of something completely different, my mind has returned to the novella I was working on last month (‘Adventure at the National Exhibition’). Because it was sunny and I had my new camera to hand I finally managed to get to Saughton Park to see the site of the Scottish National Exhibition of 1908. The park is very nearly within walking distance of my house, but I had put off going there all through the winter for various trivial reasons. There is nothing left of the buildings that were erected for the National Exhibition, but the layout is still fairly similar and I suspect the gates (situated on the corner of Gorgie Road and Balgreen Road) or at least the gateposts and access road are the same. The gateposts, however, look as if they were originally meant to have some sort of ornate decorative feature on top. The current ‘Winter Garden’ and rose garden are, I think, in the same places as they were in 1908, and there are quite a few formal garden features that may be part of the legacy of the Exhibition.

It’s good to have seen it all on the ground, as previous visits to Saughton Park have mostly involved standing around the children’s playground and in the queue for the ice-cream van.

Saughton Park gates

Saughton Park – gates

Saughton Park - gardens

Saughton Park in the sunshine

Saughton park - trees

Saughton Park – trees

I wrote here a while ago about my obsession with trains. I’m afraid this is about to become even more pronounced, as I am in the middle of making bookings for another train safari round Europe.

I have decided to give into the obsession instead of trying to fight it any more, so I’ve set up a new board on Pinterest for this: http://gb.pinterest.com/sheilamcperry/trains-and-trains-and-trains/ and a new additional blog which I will attempt to update as I travel to Finland and back this summer by rail and ferry: http://allmytrains.wordpress.com/. There may be posts about other journeys in the meantime in case anybody is interested. I’m hoping that by confining train stuff to these 2 outlets I can keep it off my writing blog for a while!

Some of my preparations for the trip involve booking lots of tickets and getting hold of new luggage, and some of them involve watching ‘The Bridge’ series, so there is a lot of work involved in this.

For the moment I am not writing about trains, for a change, but about London in the run-up to the Coronation in 1953. Things are progressing on schedule and I passed the 20,000 word mark this morning – that’s about a third of the way through I think.

It’s a good idea to be cautious about the arrival of spring, as most Scots are only too well aware! But with two lovely bright weekend mornings having happened one after the other, I’ve definitely got the feeling that it might be time to crawl out of hibernation. That doesn’t rule out the possibility that it could still snow around Easter time, of course. In fact, I’ve discovered recently during my research that it actually snowed on the first day of the Scottish National Exhibition of 1908, which was early in May.


Wallflowers – more or less indestructible

By now, according to my plan for the year, I should have finished the novella I’ve been working on and I should have some idea of the plot for the ‘Quest’ novel I plan to write in April and May. Unfortunately the past few weeks have been a bit of a trial but yesterday, maybe because the morning was so bright and filled with promise, I wrote a bit more, and I now have a slightly adapted plan to get to the end of the novella by the end of the month and leave it to simmer for a while until I’m ready to have another look at it. Also, although the plot for ‘The Coronation Quest’ is still a bit hazy, somewhere in the secret writer’s cave in the back of my mind I seem to have mulled it over while I wasn’t consciously thinking about it, and the result is that I do have somewhere to start on the 1st of April and also somewhere to finish, leaving only the bit in the middle to fill in!

So far, so good. If only I hadn’t been rash enough to put forward an idea for a paper at a conference in June, and if only I could stop myself from putting forward another one for an e-conference in August, everything would be fine and I would have plenty of time to spare… Do people ever learn from their mistakes? [cue hollow laughter]

Thanks to everyone who has purchased a copy of ‘A Tasteful Crime’ – I have been thrilled to see it climbing the ‘cozy’ charts even though it is falling back a little now. I hope to embark on ‘Pitkirtly VIII’ in July.


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