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In 1997 a book was published by an unknown author living in Edinburgh.

It was to become a publishing sensation, but since nobody knew that at the time the first print run consisted of a mere 500 hardback copies, most of which went to libraries.

The book was “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, by J K Rowling.

harry-potter book jacket

Image from boingboing.net

If you want to buy a first edition, first print run, copy of the book today you’ll need to have several thousand pounds to spend on it, and if it’s a signed copy you’ll need several thousand more. The copy above apparently sold for $29,875 in 2011.

Then again, if you just want to read the book you can get the hardback in a new edition for less than £10 and the paperback for about half that on Amazon. If you’re lucky you might even pick one up in a charity/thrift shop for much less.

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A good rummage in a shop like this might just produce a Harry Potter bargain.

When I self-published a little guidebook to tearooms last year I had no idea how many copies to order, but I found out from the printing company I used that the more I ordered the cheaper each book would be.

Taking a complete stab in the dark and lured in by the lower cost price if I had lots made, I plunged in and ordered 2000.

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A small sample of my book stock.

Had I known then what I know now about the sort of quantity I was likely to sell, I would have paid more for each copy and ordered far fewer, but such is the benefit of hindsight.

On the plus side, lots of lovely customers have shelled out for this small tome, for which I am most grateful, and who knows I may even sell a few more before they become completely obsolete.

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New book by local author in the window of The Bookshop, Blairgowrie, last year.

I was chatting to my sister about this today, and telling her that I felt I’d like to do something with some of the remaining copies.

The only idea I’ve come up with is to make them into some sort of art installation, but beyond piling them up, sticking them to a lamp-post, or arranging them in a sculptural manner, I’ve had little inspiration.

She suggested I ought to have a competition for people to propose things I might do with them, and that made me think about writing this blog post.

This reminds me of a situation my dad was in a few years ago, when he was lumbered with boxes of a book that wasn’t selling (he was running a book stall at the time). I remember leaving a copy on a train once, and on a bus, and I think possibly even on a park bench. I hoped that in each case someone might pick the book up and read it, or give it to a second hand shop or something, but I really don’t know what became of them.

I could do the same with my book, except that I am still selling it online and in a few shops, and I don’t want to upset anyone who’s recently purchased a copy.

The longer I have it, however, the more out of date it becomes, and I’d like to work towards putting it to another use.

If you happen to come up with an interesting idea for what I might do with, say, a box of 100 copies, perhaps you could leave a comment below. There might well be a teatowel for the winning suggestion.

Since I haven’t yet broken even on the cost of producing the book, I’d like whatever I do with spare copies to cost nothing. I have given quite a few to libraries, but I don’t want to offload more onto them when the book is getting a bit dated.

I’ll be putting my own thinking cap on again, and if I come up with anything of interest I’ll post about it anon.

Perhaps I’ll try wearing a pancake like this beautiful rabbit, to see if that proves more inspiring.

 

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There’s nothing like a bit of comfort food on a cold day, and when I saw these on Alice’s delicious blog, girl in a food frenzy, I was keen to make them.

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They should, by rights, be sticky on top, but due to my impatience they didn’t get the icing they deserved and had to make do with melted butter sprinkled with brown sugar instead:

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I’ve been missing my blog a little lately, but have been attempting to concentrate on writing my novel (coming along nicely, thanks for asking).

This Christmas malarky is also taking up considerable time and effort, and I’m looking forward to the new year when everything’s settled down and we’re heading into spring again.

Incidentally, for fellow bloggers, I’ve noticed over the past day or two that when I try to comment on other blogs my comments aren’t showing up the way they used to. I’m trying to get to the bottom of this, but if anyone has any bright ideas about how to fix it I’d be glad to hear them.

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Yesterday I felt the need of an adventure involving tea, cakes, and a bit of Scottish heritage (I have to do this for my next book, it’s all work, work, work…) so I whisked my delightful assistant off to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of New Lanark, in South Lanarkshire (roughly central southern Scotland).

New Lanark is one of 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland (the only other one I’ve seen is Edinburgh’s old and new towns, so I think I should make the effort to visit the rest). It consists of a small village and series of cotton mills that were built in 1786 by a Scottish businessman called David Dale.  It sits low in a valley of the River Clyde, and was built there because of its situation next to the only waterfalls on the Clyde (water power being needed for running the mills).

The reason it’s now a World Heritage Site is due to the innovation and industry of David Dale’s son-in-law, Robert Owen. Owen was a social reformer ahead of his time, and came into partnership with Dale at New Lanark when he married Dale’s daughter.

This is the first glimpse you get of New Lanark if you park at the upper car park and walk down towards the village:

I don’t know if the bunting had been put up for the Jubilee, the Olympics, some other celebration, or if it’s always there, but in any case there were lots of brightly coloured little flags fluttering in the breeze:

Having travelled for more than 2.5 hours to get here, the cafe was calling our names loud and clear (I admit, we had stopped for refreshments en route, but it felt like a long time beforehand).  The cafe was the sort you find in a large visitor centre, not terribly inspiring but providing much-needed refreshments to weary visitors. Having had previous refreshments (hot chocolate and biscotti for me, coffee and croissant for delightful assistant), we decided to share a sandwich and then have a cake each.

The sandwich selection was very carnivore-orientated, but we found a cream cheese and cucumber option that suited us both. I was absolutely desperate for tea by this time and was delighted to find that the tea was just the way I like it – strong, flavourful and Fairtrade:

My only complaint about the tea was that there was only enough for one cup each in the pot for two. However, that was remedied by ordering another pot, along with a coconut tart, a piece of Mars Bar slice and a small pot of grapes:

The cafe had been almost empty when we arrived:

But was very busy when we left, it being the lunchtime rush, and we were glad to get away from all the noise.  It also meant that the exhibitions were nice and quiet for us while our fellow visitors noshed in the cafe.

The first bit we went to was an audio-visual display and we were taken round in little pods seating two people in each one. The pods were suspended from a track in the ceiling that took us slowly round the exhibition, with the voice of ghost child Annie McLeod telling us her story along the way. At the end of the ride I had my picture taken with Annie McLeod and two faceless ghosts:

At the moment, New Lanark is forming Chapter 2 of my book, and I intend to visit it again and see the bits we didn’t manage to get round (there’s a lot to see – too much for one visit, but thankfully the ticket allows you to revisit and see the things you missed before).

Since I haven’t seen it all yet I can’t be sure of my favourite bit of it, but certainly from my first visit the part I liked best was the roof garden on top of one of the mill buildings:

We spent a long time up in the roof garden, having it to ourselves for a while, and it was a welcome relief from the exhibitions. Unfortunately, I had quite a headache all day, and being up there at the treetops with the breeze and the sunshine coming out a little now and then, was blissful.

One of the features of New Lanark, at least that we found, was that it had a claustrophobic feel, due to its situation down in the valley. There is no doubt that it’s a fascinating and amazing place, and I’m looking forward to visiting again, but it was nice to get out of it after spending 3 hours there.

When we left the village and were walking back up to the car park, we saw a grassy path leading off entincingly above the valley, and felt an overwhelming urge to investigate:

It was beautiful, with very fresh air, an earthy smell and lots of wild foxgloves:

Looking down on New Lanark, I felt free up there amongst the trees:

Next time perhaps we’ll visit in a different season and see what else is growing along the enticing path.

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Having published my first tearoom guidebook a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been feeling a bit lost.

It was great to get the book published after writing it, but there was a feeling of deflation once it had rolled off the presses. I’ve spent the past two weeks distributing and selling it (which I don’t find easy, or particularly pleasant) and now I want to get back to writing again.

I fully intend to continue my series of Tearoom Delights, but after spending 6 months on the first one, I feel I’d like to do something a bit different before the next one.

I’d been puzzling over this, wondering what to write next, when I had the idea of writing a travel book.

The book, as it’s shaping up so far (I’ve only written the introduction and the first chapter) is a bit about tearooms and a bit about other things that interest me on my little outings hither and thither. It’s rather like this blog I suppose, but without the supporting photographs, so I’ll be relying on descriptive text more than I do with my blog.

I’m a big fan of armchair travelling, letting someone else go and see places and report back through the pages of a book, although admittedly such books are usually full of thrills and spills, hardship and endurance, and a dearth of reliable cups of tea.

The sort of travel book I’m writing is slightly different from that, considerably less alarming and eventful, and quite possibly more dull.

Is there a market for this sort of book? I have no idea, but then I had no idea if there was much of a market for a guidebook to tearooms and I wrote it anyway. Sometimes, when something grabs you, you feel compelled to run with it, whether or not it looks like a good idea to anyone else. This has, admittedly, been my downfall on many occasions, but my thinking is that if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Chapter 1 is all about Aberdour, a village in the Kingdom of Fife that boasts many interesting attractions, including one of the oldest castles in Scotland, one of the oldest churches in Scotland, and a prize-winning railway station. Here are a few pictures to give a taste of the place.

St Fillan’s Church, dating back to 1123:

Inside the church:

The lovely lane leading to the church from the street:

An exquisite bit of stone carving on one of the many interesting headstones in St Fillan’s graveyard:

An impessive beehive-shaped dovecot in the garden of Aberdour Castle:

What’s left of Aberdour Castle, the oldest parts dating back to the 12th Century. The big chunk in the foreground fell off at some point:

The most complete part of the castle:

One of the beautifully kept platforms at Aberdour railway station:

A street leading down to the beach:

Stormy clouds over the Black Sands of Aberdour (the more well-known Silver Sands are just around the coast from here):

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After I published a post about my new book being available on ebay, Scott of Land-sea-sky suggested that I should write a post about how this made me feel.

Incidentally, if you like lovely photos I strongly recommend having a look at his blog, which has some cracking shots on it. He has some superb landscapes, architectural features and still life photos, and one of my favourite shots can be found here.

I published my ebay post last Friday and was intending to get the book to the printer two days ago, on Monday, but that hasn’t happened. The book itself is finished and the printer has it ready to go, but I’ve had a few problems with the cover photos. The file sizes are huge, and I can’t send them by email, so I’ll need to take them into the printer on a data stick (I was actually there today and could have handed them in, but I didn’t realise at the time that this was going to be a problem).

So, how am I feeling about all this?

Well, I feel happy that the text is all done and has been proofread many times, by various people (although I fully expect to find mistakes when it’s printed as perfection is very hard to achieve!)

– image courtesy of The Mark Blog

but I feel frustrated by the problems with the photos and the added days that this is taking.

– photo courtesy of EduGuide

My aim was to get it all finished by the end of May and available in mid-June, but alas I will have to exercise some patience and accept that it’s going to be a week or two later than I would like.

– image courtesy of Doug Savage

Like lots of people, I’ve always wanted to write a book, and in fact I have written the first half of a completely different book, which I was originally intending would be my first. Unfortunately, I ran out of steam on it, so I decided to write a guidebook to tearooms instead.

This tearoom guidebook has dominated the past 5 months of my life, but I’ve enjoyed becoming a writer, I like wearing that hat. However, as soon as the book is available I’ll need to get a couple of new hats, and become a salesperson and a marketing person as well.

– photo courtesy of The Straight North Blog

Thankfully, I have some very nice little helpers, one of whom is my sister, who has been doing a great job of plugging my book whenever she can. She also very kindly had some bumper stickers printed for me, and this is the one on my rear windscreen:

If you want to plug your blog while you’re stuck in traffic or parked somewhere, you might like to think about having a bumper sticker made up too, I think it’s a great idea.

On the subject of advertising, my dad gave me a little poem to encourage me:

The codfish lays ten thousand eggs;

the homely hen lays one.

The codfish never cackles,

to tell you what she’s done.

So, we despise the codfish,

the homely hen we prize -

which demonstrates to you and me

that it pays to advertise!

Sales and marketing are skills that I don’t think I naturally possess, but which I am trying to learn. I want to try and make the proposition of buying my book an attractive one, and I want people to feel that if they fork out £7 for the pleasure, they’ll get something they feel has been worth the expenditure.

As much as I wanted to do it, including photos in the book would have made it too expensive to produce, and so instead I’ve done some line drawings to illustrate it. I’m no great artist, but I have quite enjoyed the challenge of coming up with a few doodles and I hope that these make the book a little bit quirky and unusual. This is one of the drawings I didn’t use, showing a few chocolates for sale:

I plan to make photos available on my teacupspress blog, so that anyone wanting to visit a specific tearoom will be able to have a look at some pictures before they go.

Amazingly, several people have already ordered my book through ebay, for which I am most grateful because it’s given me an encouraging boost just when I was beginning to flag a bit.

I understand that not everyone wants to buy a book about tearooms in Perthshire, Angus and Dundee, but it’s nice to be sharing my writing journey on this blog with you, and I will be boring you with photos of the finished article when I have copies to show off.

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Tearoom Delights for sale on ebay.

 

Woohoo!

 

 

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After what feels like ages (actually about 4 months), I’m now nearly ready to publish my first guidebook to splendid tearooms, part of the forthcoming Tearoom Delights series.

I’m aiming to get it to the printer in the next week or so and then, hopefully, receive the finished article in mid-June. Between now and then, however, I have a few reviews to complete and some odds and ends to tidy up.

Yesterday, to refresh my memory before finishing the review, I revisited one of the featured tearooms.  I had never had a scone in this place and I was very keen to remedy this situation, particularly as on a previous visit they had looked very good indeed. Yesterday the options were fruit, plain or banana and brown sugar. The banana and brown sugar looked so good I couldn’t resist:

The photo really doesn’t do it justice, it was an outstandingly good scone. I had thought that it was a piece of dried banana on top, but it turned out to be fresh banana which just melted in my mouth, all soft and delicious. I washed it down with beautifully fragrant Lady Grey tea (a vague glimpse of a fruit scone can be seen behind the milk jug, the choice of my delightful assistant):

The weather in Scotland, indeed the whole of the UK, has been unseasonably warm over the past couple of days, and after our refreshments we headed to a very quiet country road for a stroll amongst the livestock and wildflowers. I made chums with this very curious cow, the only one of the herd who seemed remotely interested in having her picture taken:

I also found some attentive sheeps with lovely black-faced lambs. Whenever I see sheep, I say ‘sheeps!’ just because it amuses me:

One of my favourite trees is the hawthorn, and the roadside verges were filled with hawthorns in beautiful bloom:

It was a very hazy start to the day, but it was in the mid-20s (very warm for Scotland) and by late afternoon the haze had burnt off.  This picture was taken while the haze was still very much in evidence, and the temperature was rising:

I don’t know if this is a worldwide phenomenon, but it’s not all that unusual to find an old bath plonked in a field in the Scottish countryside. What is more unusual, however, is finding one that still has the taps on:

Back to the subject of the book, one of the things I had to do was come up with a name for my publishing house (in reality, more of a publishing corner of a room). I was amazed to find that many of the names I came up with were already in use, but eventually I settled on one that would appear to be fairly unique: Teacups Press. It now has its own little website (WordPress blog) although there’s not much on it yet.

In due course, I’ll be posting more information about the wee book, how you can get a copy if you want one, and all that sort of thing. At the moment it’s coming out in an A6 paperback format, but if it does well I’d like to try and make the series available as e-books.

In the meantime, this is what’s going to be on the front cover:

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There’s a small, spooky little town in the south-west of Scotland, with rather an unfortunate history, that has become known as Scotland’s Book Town.

It’s called Wigtown and it’s home to more than 20 book-related businesses (quite impressive for a place with a population of only about 1000), many of which are second-hand bookshops. One of them claims to be the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland:

Those twisting pillars on either side of the door are made of piled up books covered in wax:

I remember the first time I went to Wigtown I had an unnerving sense of unease. I had no idea why I felt the way I did, but I had a strong impression that something wasn’t quite right. I’ve since visited it with three different friends, on separate occasions, and to my astonishment each one of them, with no prompting from me, reported the same strange feeling. My parents went there before I did and they felt it too.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you this, in case you want to visit the place yourself and will now be predisposed to sensing something, but I feel I can’t write a post about Wigtown without mentioning it. If you’re curious, the explanation my parents gave me for it, and which seems quite convincing to me, relates to the story of the Wigtown Martyrs.

On to more cheerful matters – books galore! Despite the unsettling atmosphere of Wigtown, I do enjoy visiting it because of the marvellous range of bookshops on offer, and The Book Shop is definitely one of the highlights:

When I was there in April I noticed that a couple of the bookshops had closed down, perhaps due to lack of business (Galloway is a pretty quiet corner of the country and Wigtown is a very sleepy little backwater), but a fair number seem to be thriving and are still packed to the gunwhales with interesting tomes. The Book Shop has many different nooks and crannies, and books covering virtually every topic imaginable. If you like books, it is an absolute joy to wander round:

Amongst all the books, there are some curious ornaments, including a violin-playing skeleton suspended from the ceiling. I assume the poor fellow was hoisted up there after he’d passed on, and didn’t actually expire in situ, violin in hand:

Beneath the skeleton, in the bottom left hand corner of the above photo, you might make out a table with paper cups and things on it. This is a tea and coffee station, from where one is free to help oneself to hot beverages. There are a couple of comfy chairs next to it, upon which you may perch while you imbibe, and peruse a book or two. When I visited, the fire in the fireplace was blazing away and it was very cosy:

Knowing that I was bound for another bookshop that contained a more elaborate tearoom, I didn’t indulge here, but instead continued to wander round looking at books and reading messages in unlikely places:

As I say, I was saving my appetite for another bookshop that contained a tearoom. I’ll keep the details for another post because there’s quite a bit to say about it, but just to whet your appetite here’s a picture of the tasty fruit scone I had there. The jam in the background was astonishingly good. I wasn’t sure what the flavour was, but according to the waitress it was a locally made plum preserve. They had some jars of other jams on sale, but unfortunately none of the plum; if there had been any, I would have purchased one to take home:

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It was a beautiful sunny morning in Blairgowrie today, and as a break from writing I popped into the town for a quick tearoom visit with my delightful assistant, and a mooch round the charity shops.

I was sure I had mentioned today’s tearoom before in this blog, but it seems not. Unfortunately, because I thought I had, I didn’t take many photos today and I only had my mobile phone camera. However, in lieu of doing a fuller post at some point in the future, here’s a little taster.

I had my usual here, i.e. a big fruit scone and a decaf latte. The scones are generally quite large in this place but today they were huge. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever had a bigger scone anywhere. The photos don’t do it justice, but you could try imagining something the size of a pair of fists belonging to someone slightly larger than average. When I look at it here it looks barely bigger than one fist, which I can’t understand at all. I remember it well and it seemed massive to me.

The latte was topped with a fluff of foam on top projecting beyond the rim of the glass, a nice touch making me feel I’d got more than I’d paid for.

After our coffee and scones we waddled slowly down the street, popping in and out of charity shops, inspecting the teacups for sale. I nearly bought some with gold rims and yellow flowers on them and goodness knows why I didn’t take a photo of them, but perhaps it’s just as well that I’m not reminded of them too much.

The sun was shining brightly, right up until I took a photo of some crocuses, when it ducked behind a cloud. Even so they were still a blaze of colour brightening up the grey street.

For the last couple of years there’s been a gallery and shop in Blairgowrie set up and run by the artist himself, but sadly I noticed today that it’s closing down. It had this notice in the window. It would be a good deal to get one free painting, never mind an extra wee one to boot:

That’s it for today’s swanning around, but it was a very nice little break from staring at a computer screen.

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It’s a dull dreich morning in my neck of the woods and it occurred to me that spiced pear scones would brighten it up considerably.

I’m having a day at home today, writing and getting odd bits and pieces tidied up, so rather than go in search of such a thing in a tearoom (and what are the chances of me finding exactly what I was after? Quite slim, although I do know of one place in Dunkeld that sometimes features spiced pear scones on the menu), I decided to make some myself. Here’s the result:

I’ve just had one with butter (well, truth be told, Flora spread) and a nice cup of tea.

Pears are, in my opinion, a good addition to scones because they keep the whole thing moist and they melt away in the mouth when cooked (they’re also one of my favourite fruits and, apparently, one of the foodstuffs least likely to cause an allergic reaction). I peeled and chopped one Conference pear into chunks and I was pleased to see it in evidence in the finished article:

At the same time as enjoying my English Breakfast tea and pear scone, I also enjoyed a couple of blogs. If you’re not familiar with them you might like to have a little look. I only came across the first of these today but was very glad to have found it:

http://jowoolf.wordpress.com/

I’ve been following the next one for a short while, and am always cheered by the excellent photography:

http://thenaturephile.com/

This morning’s post by Finn (of thenaturephile.com) contains several superb photographs of blackbirds, as well as an entertaining drama starring the birds in his garden. I’ve borrowed one of these marvellous photos to give you a taster, but you’ll find plenty more wonderful pictures on the blog itself:

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