A first draft, at last

Pictish symbols - originals from pictishstones.org.uk

A couple of days ago, I completed the first draft of my latest book, The Dragon on the Tower. It’s been a long process – I started the book on the 19th of October last year, so it’s taken me about five and a half months, which is quite a long time for a short 32,500-word book – and a lot has happened in those five months.

For a start, I finished the book in a different home to the one in which I started it. Moving after nearly 20 years in the same place, with all its accumulation of mountains of stuff, has been extremely hard work, work that hasn’t finished yet, and has left little time for writing. The reason we were able to put down a deposit on this flat was that my Dad left me some money – he passed away at the end of October, and that wasn’t easy to deal with either. I was only a few thousand words into the book when I got the phone call from my Mum that both came as a complete surprise and at the same time I’d been expecting for years, and I don’t think I managed to sit myself down at my laptop and open the manuscript for nearly a month after that.

But I did eventually carry on, even incorporating a fairy story about a magic tree that my Dad wrote about 40 years ago, and now the first draft is complete. It’s a story of ancient Scotland, set on the Tarbat Ness peninsula at the end of the eighth century AD. I based a lot of the historical detail on the archaeological dig carried out by Martin Carver and documented in his (excellent and readable) book Portmahomack: Monastery of the Picts.

Portmahomack: Monastery of the Picts

We used to live at Tarbat Ness, where my dad was a lightkeeper at Tarbat Ness Lighthouse. Writing the book brought back a lot of memories of the place, and made me want to go back and visit it sometime.

I don’t remember any dragons being there, but maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough.


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