A busy week

Trying to cram three events into less than a week has left me breathless. First there was the Romantic Novelists Association annual Conference at Penrith. As always it was great fun, very useful and a good way to recharge the writing batteries. Over three days, we had lectures, seminars, workshops, question and answer sessions and serious and not-so-serious discussions, and there was still time to catch up with old friends and chat with new ones. There wasn’t much sun, but on the whole the rain stayed away. On the Sunday it was off to Church Stretton in Shropshire for my second and third dates the following day.

It was pouring with rain when we got up and continued throughout the morning. My daughter-in-law, who was my hostess and chauffeur, drove me to Church Stretton library in good time, so that I could make the acquaintance of the librarian, arrange my books on the table and make sure I had a glass of water for when I became hoarse, which I almost always do.

It was the first time I had been booked for a talk away from my home ground of East Anglia and wondered what to expect, especially in view of the downpour outside. Supposing no one turned up? Supposing there was only one or two, that would surely be worse than none at all, because I would have to give my carefully prepared talk however many were there.

To my great relief, they arrived in ones, twos and threes, with dripping brollies, clad in raincoats and plastic hats. Having divested themselves of their wet things, they wandered about looking at my display of books, chatted to each other and to me and then took their seats. It wasn’t the largest gathering I have ever addressed, but it was a good audience and I was very thankful that they had not decided to stay at home in the dry. They listened attentively, laughed in all the right places and asked sensible questions afterwards. And they bought some of my books, especially the latest, The Girl on the Beach, which is not due out in paperback until August but I had some advance copies.

After that, we just had time to grab some lunch and then it was off to Pontesbury to repeat the whole process at the library there.  We didn't know it at the time but only that morning the bodies of three children and their father who had been missing for four days, had been found in the nearby quarry.  We heard about it on the TV news that evening. I was surprised I had an audience at all, let alone one interested in what I had to say.  Thankfully they were.

Writing is a lonely business. You sit for hours at a computer weaving your stories, making things happen to your characters, living their lives for them, solving their problems which you created in the first place, and you sometimes need reminding there is a world out there, a world that might, if you are lucky, contain people who like reading what you have written. I have a website and I write blogs and sometimes I receive appreciative letters and emails, but you can’t beat face-to-face contact. Talking to readers is one way of connecting with them and I love doing that and listening to what they have to say. It gives me a fillip and I come away rejuvenated and raring to go again.

Two days later I returned home to an overgrown and very damp garden and hundreds of emails. Among them was a message from my publisher, Allison and Busby, accepting my next book. and an email inviting  me to return to Shropshire and give a lecture to the Shrewsbury WI, but that will be later in the year and in an evening.  All in all a happy and successful week.  And now it’s back to work.