March 14th 2014
As you can see, the day of the book launch arrived and was not goIng to be held back. The publisher sent these beautiful posters of the book cover, and we were able to put them up around the room.
Book readings, I find, are often rather dull affairs, so I decided to spice it up a bit by inviting friends to dress up as some of my characters. We have in this picture Maggie's neighbour Jim on the left hand side, then one of the monks who come from Iona to convert the queen. Next is me in my mini kilt (it's the only one I have!) and behind me another kilted person; to my left is a midwife dressed as the druidess Sula, appropriately enough; behind the druidess is the horned god (actually my Cherokee friend dressed as an elk, but, as I say, indigenous religions are all at base the same.)
After several sunny warmish days, it decided to snow on the evening of my reading, keeping people away. Still, there were a fair number of attendees, and the room was packed and overflowing into the next room. So, too many more would not have been managed.
A compadre from the Aspen Writer's Foundation gave me a very glowing introduction and then my Cherokee friend got up and made a toast to a free Scotland (something the English members of the audience probably didn't appreciate.) But I taught them all the Gaelic toast, Slainte Mhath (pronounced Slanje Va) and we all raised out glasses to the country my book is set in. My goal was to read the first chapter (7 pages) and then talk a bit about the story and why I came to write it. The reading part went fine, and my voice didn't even give out. But I had to ad-lib the talking part, and nerves made my brain scattered, so I can only hope people gathered enough about Maggie and her flights into the 8th Century to make sense of the other parts of the reading. When you are thinking about your talk ahead of time, you see the information you have to convey as a straight line from A to B and it seems like it will be no problem to make that journey. But when you stand up in front of people, that line breaks up and turns into butterflies and it is a job to catch them and keep them in any order.
I went on to read two smaller passages, one introducing the love relationship between Maggie and Fergus and the other with Maggie having to say her final goodbyes to him. Phew, I got through all that, and then came the Q&A, which I enjoyed so much I was asking people to ask questions by the end, even though the time was up and plenty of questions had already been asked. I was like a child asking to stay longer at the party.
And then we had a party, with a Celtic band and Scottish-type finger foods and wine. It turned out to be a very enjoyable evening - my only regret is that the butterflies got the better of me. If you find any of them fluttering about your face, catch them very softly, put them in a jar and give them back to me.
The crowning moment of the evening, though, I have to say, is when, quite unprompted, the black cat who lives in and out of this community centre, wandered into the room and parked himself right next to the druidess. I had forgotten all about him.
Now, how is that for a good omen! As they say, you can't make this stuff up. Well, I made it up in the book, but you never know if it is art imitating reality or the other way around. On this night it went both ways.