Isle of Mull, Scotland – Sometimes Words are not Enough

A sure fire way to get the inspiration you need – just go there!

For months, I had been trying to sort out the ending to my new novel.  Forcing it was clearly not working.  It needed to come naturally, in its own time, at its own pace.  What I needed was a change of scenery and though the Isle of Mull is only a memory in my novel, it has proven to be worth all the words in the world to me.

Staying in a remote area on the mainland this past week, with the sea in my garden and the highlands wrapped around me, I was able to soak in this magical place.  Just across the water was the Isle of Mull and it was in my two day trips there by ferry that inspired my writing – the ending that I needed.  Here are some of the photos I took on the west coast of Scotland and Isle of Mull.  Indeed, sometimes words are not enough.

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A Book on A Shelf and Travel – a great combo!

For the past two weeks, my family and I have been visiting the United States in a combined effort to see friends, have some fun and do a little marketing of my book, The Particular Appeal of Gillian Puglsey. Our visit to North Carolina was wonderful, despite the humidity. From southern cookouts to chauffeuring the kids back and forth to friends to a very successful road trip with my publisher, Light Messages, I couldn’t have been happier. Meeting with Baker & Taylor (one of the world’s largest distributors) was a joy. They loved my book so much that they plan to spread the word with a review in their newsletter to over 1000 booksellers. This is big for me and I couldn’t be more grateful. FullSizeRender Trip 8

I was also able to fulfill a dream when I saw my book on a Barnes and Noble store shelf for the first time – and not just any store, but the store that I frequented every week during my three years living in North Carolina, dreaming that one day, my book would be there gleaming with pride. IMG_7237 Trip 7That was the first of four Barnes and Noble shops in North Carolina to take in my book for their shelves. I am immensely grateful and excited.

Then off to California we flew. We have been working our way up the coast, visiting with old friends and stopping by every Barnes and Noble in the area. I must say that each and every manager I have met, has treated me with such respect and kindness. They have not only been more than happy to try my book on their shelves, but they have appeared chuffed to meet one of their B&N on-line authors – making me feel very welcome indeed!

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Four days left of our vacation as we work our way up to San Francisco. We spent yesterday watching dozens of elephant seals lounging on a beach. We admired the crashing waves outside 17 Mile Drive. We have been surfing on this trip (well, I have watched my kids and husband surfing) in Encinitas. We’ve taken a fabulous tour of Warner Brothers Studios. We’ve visited the Hollywood sign, done the Beverly Hills thing, met two TV celebrities and have followed the stunning coastline up to Monterey. It has been a whirlwind trip and I look forward to riding a cable car in San Francisco and visiting a few Barnes and Noble shops there. IMG_7658 Trip 4  IMG_7609 Trip 3

News on this trip of two dear friends hurting and struggling – reality hits hard. It makes me extremely grateful for a happy and healthy family, for this amazing opportunity to travel and for this weather, which fills me with energy. All of it can be taken away in a snap. So for today, I will love life that little bit more!

Below is a list of Barnes and Noble Stores where you can currently find The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley: (Please Note – if you go to my home page, you will find links to several of the on-line booksellers carrying my book)

California

1) La Jolla – Bookstar (owned by B&N)

2) Calabasas

3) Marina Del Rey

4) San Luis Obispo

5) Santa Monica

6) San Bruno

7) Corte Madera (north of Sasaulito)

8) El Cerrito

9) Emeryville

10) San Mateo

11) Redwood City

12) Santa Clara

13) San Jose (Eastridge Mall)

14) San Jose (Almaden Plaza)

North Carolina

1) Southpoint Mall – Durham

2) Brier Creek

3) Cary

4) Crabtree Valley Mall – Raleigh

Thoughts of a Hometown – London, Ontario

It was suggested to me recently that I write a post about my hometown of London, Ontario, Canada. My initial thought was how great a tie-in that would be to my book and how I could easily write about the city in which I grew up.

To my surprise, I found myself staring at a blank computer screen. How hard could it be to write about the place I learned how to ride a bicycle, tie my shoelaces, read and write, the place I started kindergarten and graduated from university, the place I made life-long friends, and the one whose waters welcomed me every morning for years as I rowed into the dawn and rowed out the sunset? How hard could it be?

Extraordinarily!

To combat my frustration, I decided to read some articles on the city that I knew as well as any native-Londoner. What I found surprised me. One blog that I thought was particularly charming was one about a mom raising her family in the city, appropriately called www.citymom.ca. I like this woman’s take on London. It’s positive, quirky and reminds me of all the things I like about my hometown. I’ll get to those a little later.

I browsed more sites, some that focused on the history of London, while others characterized it as a mini London, England with our Thames River and streets named Pall Mall, King, Talbot, not to mention a Stratford on Avon nearby – clearly in the hope of drawing some tourism to the city. To my delight, I came across an article that amused me with its honesty and straight-up view of London. London, Ontario: A Great Place to Live But I Wouldn’t Want to Visit. The feedback from readers was biting to say the least. Some accused the writer of not being proud of his hometown while others were simply defensive. A Dose of Buckley. 

Despite any criticism the article received, it made me think that we native Londoners, though proud of our heritage, have a tilted, not slanted by any means but a tilted view of our hometown. We see it from the inside out, whereas a visitor sees it from the outside in. We know what’s at the heart of our city. A London whose Thames River may not be as grand as the River Thames across the big pond, but it still has the ability to captivate. Its sprawling oaks, chatty mallards and ever-present Canada geese give life to the river. As Gillian points out in The Particular Appeal of Gillian Pugsley,

I was wrong to imply the Canadian version of the Thames was anything but lovely. Imitation or not, it has its own charm, narrow and the color of jade with magnificent oak trees nearly clutching the opposite bank. The odd leaf has changed color, yellow, red. Soon there will be too many to count.”

It’s a green place that holds many enchanting memories for me, from our fun annual school picnics by the water, to the bellowing out of my megaphone as my crew crossed the finish line. Feeling our rowing shell glide through the mist in the early morning stole our breath for those few sacred moments, where nine people became like one.

As the article pointed out, London’s attractions may well be lacking, but to the people who live there, there is a sweetness that we find in familiar surroundings. Some may visit London and find it dull, but don’t we find joy and excitement in the people with whom we connect.

I have lived abroad for nearly as long as I lived in London. I remember what drove me to travel. Rowing played an important role in that self-discovery by taking me to new and exciting places. It wasn’t that I wanted to leave it was that I wanted to discover. Yet when I dissect every place I’ve been, at the heart, it is always the people that shape the experience into a positive one or not.

London, Ontario, fondly known as The Forest City, may not have much to set itself apart from most Canadian cities, but there are ties that will continue to pull me back — friends and family. It remains a very good city to raise children. Despite its nearly 400,000 people, it remains a small university town in the middle of corn country. It grows the tastiest peaches on the planet, and has just about more snow than the North Pole coupled with blistering hot summers. It is a town of star-makers, (Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Kate Nelligan, Victor Garber, Eric Lindros, among others) and dreamers, of hard workers and nurturers. It is a town where you learn to drive in blizzards and ice storms and deal with it. When you’ve cleared your driveway, you offer to help out a neighbour do theirs.

It is a town that sprawls into suburbia hosting numerous malls and plazas. The city skyline is pretty from the forks of the Thames, and it’s always a joy to see the sky sprinkled in hot-air balloons every August when London hosts an International Hot-Air Balloon Festival.

So why was I compelled to include this city in my novel? Isn’t it the goal of every writer to touch the hearts of their readers? If London, Ontario played an important role in my life, and I could see the beauty in the things that come only to a native of a town, then maybe just maybe it would touch the hearts of my readers.

What do you like about your hometown? Feel free to leave a comment.

Photo References: London’s SkylineMiddlesex College, University of Western Ontario, London’s Old Court House,