The Blog of the book!

Ian Wallace

This post contains a little bit of history about my journey writing the On a Hill Road book.

This article was first published as the Blog on the first incarnation of the On a Hill Road website. Now its an interesting (to me at least) record of the journey of how to write a book. After all, when I started I didn’t know where it would end. Getting to all the locations seemed the main challenge but it was only a part of the journey. I think that the trials and tribulations of trying to get published will remain with me for some time!

Writing anything of any length was a major battle for me at school and completing this 30,000 word book was a mental battle and just proved to me what you can do when you put your mind to it! I hope you may find my experiences below of interest if you are taking a similar journey.

The Diary below has the most recent entry at the top… so you might want to skip down the page and start at the bottom!

The Launch  October 13th 2018 The Brye Theatre!

A great time was had by all and a wonderful occasion!

September 20th 2018 1st Edition arrives!!!!!

The first edition is packaged and waiting in my hall a great big pile of boxes.  What has happened since my last blog?  It does seem to have been rather a long time since I wrote an update here but it’s not been complete inactivity.  I thought I had secured a publisher who would work with me to produce the volume but unfortunately once again my hopes were dashed.  Nevertheless, they very kindly gave me some good ideas and guidance and help with a further review of my text.

Then a fortuitous moment I wrote to Peter Blair with some questions about the book he had published and was delighted when he suggested I might take onahillroad to the St Andrews photography Festival 2018.  Just in time I made my application.  I’m very delighted, that I was accepted and this has given me the momentum to push this project through to the close with a deadline things just have to get finished.

I had several options for the 3D glasses to be included after a tough decision I incorporated into the package the Loreo viewer because it just worked better with the images that I’ve printed. 

The books were printed in August, and the glasses arrived at the beginning of September.  This week everything has been shrink-wrapped together by Adstral in Swindon and a very nice job they’ve made it too.  I’ve put together a flyer and these arrived today.  My PR plan is in full swing and everything is focused on the launch lecture at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews on October 13.

I have registered the book with the British library, submitted it to Nielsen and now just need to set up a way for people to buy it online.

9th October 2016 PCCGB South-West Region meeting

My first book talk! ( it would help if the book was in print!) 

Talk was well received and many thanks to the PCCGB for giving me the opportunity to tell my and Uncle Andrews tale!  I’m now prepared to do a talk again whenever requested.  I did overrun a bit but that means I have room to trim the slides for next time. 

Summer 2016

After keeping me waiting over a year my most favoured and very well known Scottish publisher has finally written and declined the book.  !!!! Aggh!  I can’t really print my comments on this experience and even this blog entry is being made months after the event )-:

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15th September 2015
After renewed attempts to communicate with publishers my hopes have risen a little this week and another copy of the finished book is in the post and heading north of the border!
I was pleased that even though it was just printed on my laser printer,  the final result was pretty good.  It has all my final amendments and just needs the Forward… and that has been offered but I can not obtain it without a publisher!  Meanwhile I’m slightly amused that I find myself considering a possible ‘next book’.

4th September 2015
I have been invited to give an “On A a Hill Road” talk to the  South West Region of the PCCGB (Photographic Collectors Club of Great Britain).  They have kindly given me time to find a publisher!  The talk is the October 9th  2016.

20th June 2015

About time I wrote a progress update and a report of my trip to St Andrews in March. 

I set out from Perth on a cold bright March morning, my schedule was pretty relaxed.  I just had to drive down to St Andrews by the route of my choice and take a couple of new pictures to finish the book.  I doubted it would take all day…. Rather than take the Motorway into Fife I opted to to cross the Tay at Dundee.  I never got as far as the Road bridge before my first distraction.  The Eastern cemetery on the old Perth Road.  I always like to wander there, it is full of great Victorian memorials to the many of the tradesman and merchant families of Dundee.  Sitting on a brow of the hill that rises from the Tay, the views across the river to Fife are are inspiring.  After a little while I relocated the granite pillar that is the memorial to almost a dozen of my family.  I stand and look out from the hill and think how great a resting place it is for a family that lived and sailed and traded from Dundee.    This wasn’t getting me to St Andrews, so back on the road to the bridge.  I wound my way into Dundee.

As I drove on to the Tay Road bridge I thought of the lives of the men in the cemetery whose ships and offices had been at the Western Dock now under the north end of the bridge.  It had been a while since I’d crossed here and I’d never done it with time on my hands.  As a reached the far shore a the viewing area sign caught my eye and I swung away from the road in to Fife.  Out of the car and camera in hand I started to explore.  I thought of a night in 1966 when as a small boy I had been kept up late as we queued to cross this bridge the day it opened.  My Grandfather was a civil engineer with a special skill with concrete construction.  He had not worked on the bridge but Dundee was in his home town and this was a big occasion.  Certainly one not to be missed by the passing of my bedtime.  Though I was too young to remember much more of the night I’m sure he would have pointed out the good view of the Carolina Port power station he had constructed.  I walked up onto the bridge and its central footpath, and also found my way down below where you can look up between the bridges arches.  Once again I realised this wasn’t getting me my pictures in St Andrews!

Arriving in St. Andrews I retraced much of my last visit, taking the opportunity to reexamine Andrew’s view of the Abbey.   This time I would visit the castle as I needed that picture of the children by the well.  One of the great things about this kind of project is what you discover about how a picture was taken when you try to recreate the shot.  The picture of the well is perhaps not Andrew’s greatest image but nevertheless when I erected my tripod to frame the photograph you could once again see he mind at work.  Working on the 1st floor of the south range I found that the camera is placed just where there is a little drop in the wall easing the obstruction of the cameras view.   

I had been a small boy when I was last inside these castle walls and as much for the memory as the fun of the visit I took the opportunity to clamber in the mine and counter-mine tunnels.  Leaving the Castle I worked my way along the sea front toward the Aquarium, The Old Bathing Pool and of course The St Andrews Seafood Restaurant.  Having taken a new picture of the Iron bridge where the little Girl in Andrew’s picture once stood I turned my Camera to the Restaurant which was once the location of the Pierrot theater. 

My pictures complete.  I rewarded myself by going inside the final picture subject for a spot of lunch.  The food and the service were excellent.  As I sat and enjoyed my meal I thought of Andrew and Harriot and how amazed they would be if they could every have know of my journey in their footsteps.

All I have to do now is send out the updated pages to the publishers.  I’m also going to update the “learning to use this included viewer” page to show the card Loreo Lite viewer which seems a little easier for inexperienced readers to use.

5th March 2015

Looking back  at my blog I can hardly believe its almost a year since I finished my 1st draft and discovered I needed to re-visit St Andrews.  In the intervening period I have hoped for a chance to get back for those two last photos and it just hasn’t come. .. until now! at last I will be heading north.  Later this month I will be able to re-visit St Andrews and seek out the seafood restaurant that now stands where in 1902 the Pierrot’s gave their shows all summer long.  I’ll probably do a quick look for any other easy to visit ‘Andrew’ locations to see whats new.  Then I really will be done, at least unless I’m told I have sections to re-write!

I’m still looking for a publisher and will try to visit Edinburgh during my trip as a Scottish publisher would be my preference  for On a Hill Road – if one will have me! 

In Edinburgh (or Glasgow) I also have a few items to research on another subject as one day, I may have time to write my Burn’s tale that starts in 1823 with old John Kerr Writer to the Signet and one time member of the “Sma Weft Club” … but that’s another story…

14th January 2015

Still rather quiet as I wait for the publishing house review wheels to turn.  At least the companies I would most like to take on the book are still considering it.

I have been experimenting with an alternative 3D viewer which was used in a book published just before Christmas by Peter Blair – Chamonix Mont-Blanc in 3D,  somewhat similar in format to On a Hill Road the book showcases some of the best 3D views of Switzerland from the Victorian era.  Just the perfect Christmas present for me! 

13 September 2014

All frustratingly quiet.  I sent my synopsis to a number of publishers and draft manuscripts to those I thought were my best hopes.  Those with the synopsis have on the whole decided a 3D book was not their thing, even if in some cases they were positive in their comments to the extent of suggesting 2D versions ! The publishers with the manuscripts all want at least three months to consider the submission and one may want up to a year!  During this time the poor old author does not even get an acknowledgement of the submission.  I can only think manuscripts must arrive like junk mail in their offices.  It would be nice if they could at least enter in to some kind of dialogue when you’ve taken the trouble to send them your best efforts.   The good news is that none of the 3 publishers with manuscript copies have said No yet and I sit with fingers crossed.  I could easily have self published in this time, but I hope that with the right publisher the book will get wider readership and into the distribution channel of important distributors like Bookspeed.  On another bright front I have had an invitation to give a talk about Andrew and his pictures which should be fun.

22 July 2014

Having a tooth out had its benefit… a quiet weekend at home letting my jaw recover.  On the good side this gave me time to work through all my sisters’ comments and Hey Presto I have a review draft.  So any publishers with an interest you can now see my version of the book. 

I will be sending a review copy to one on my ‘ideal’ publishers soon in the hope they will get excited when they see how great fun the 3D is. 

6 July 2014

I’m delighted to have my full draft back from my sister who has very carefully read and marked up every page.  Thank you so much! 

I now have to go through and fix my apostrophes’ which I often get wrong! and consider all the other carefully made comments and annotations.  I think I’ll do a few pages before I set myself a target for completing this.

While the books been away I’ve not been idle on this project and you can now read the new story of how I have rebuilt a Stereo Victo camera similar to the one Andrew used.

21 April 2014

1st Draft Completed!

I have achieved the target I set in the Autumn (-: I have a full text draft on the book.  What is more I have also completed a full sweep of the card images to remove the unsightly scanner background around most of them.  I have also completed a dpi review of the images and now have a list of those that could really do to be in higher dpi for publication.    There are still a number of images that have acquired fingerprints either during printing or in subsequent handling and I need to a) decide if they matter or if it is part of the character of the cards and b) discover if there is any simple way to remove them I decide it would be for the best.   Oh and I still need two new pictures from St Andrews to correct the error only discovered last week.

Now I really need to get on with finding a publisher.

14 April 2014
The last page to draft!  St Andrews proved a bit of a hurdle in several ways but its done. Although I was ready to start St Andrews ahead of my schedule, I somehow managed to acquire, loose, mislay in the post and finally end up with two different copies of each of my three key research documents!  St Andrews also proved a problem for my photographs, for although I had taken a good images, closer examination of Andrews’ work has shown me that I took one in the wrong place.  I thought I had all my pictures, but I shall have to return to St Andrews for one more!  That said, I’m determined to meet my goal set at the start of the winter of having finished my first full draft by Easter.  80% has already gone to my sister for review and checking – Thank you Catherine!  I will have more work to do on cleaning up the edges of the scans of the cards.  However, I think its now time to get serious about finding a publisher…. a bit of a moment of truth … will there be the interest I hope for? or will be faced with self publishing?

9 Feb 2014

There’s nothing like have a a target to work to and the end in sight! I have been ticking off sections since January and have now reached my February target Milestone at page 118.  My last location awaits me … St Andrews.  After that there are a few tail end pages and I’m done. Well, done with a 1st draft anyway.  (-: 

21 Jan 2014

Amazingly I’m keeping up the progress and have reach my self imposed target for the end of January already!  80% done and its on to the scene of another Jacobite battle at Killiecrankie.

12 Jan 2014

Page 100!

I’m managing to keep up the momentum and the end of the 1st draft is coming into view!  I’m just starting Glamis and page 100, a great milestone.  I’ve also started to consider the need to review Andrews images.  While I have always intended they should appear in the book much as the are today, I do think I will need to re-crop the scans and try to digitally remove the most unsightly and distracting scratches and signs of wear and tear. With around 150 images this will be quite a time consuming task even if I just spend a few minutes on each one.

4 Jan 2014

Page 91! I may not have made page 100 for the New Year …nevertheless this is good progress.  There is still quite a bit of writing to do, but my thoughts are beginning to turn to the publishing process.  Are you a publisher that would be interested in publishing this book? please do contact me I have drafted a synopsys which I can forward to you.  So far I have short listed a number of publishers to approach with interests in publishing Scottish subjects/Photography/Photo History/Local History and I always have the self publishing option to fall back on as I understand this worked well for Ruth Willcock with her excellent book on Whitby Photographers (  My next target ? page 105 by the end of January!

29 Dec 2013

I may have felt there was a fair wind in September but by November the demands of work had taken over and my progress slipped.  I had been hoping to make page 100 by the turn of the year but that is still a few pages too far.  I have made a determined effort this holiday to put myself back on track, I have finished Wick, Fraserburgh and Glendevon and am now only needing a few pages of Dunkeld and Birnham to bring me to page 91.  I’m hopeful I can do this before the end of the holidays.  In completing Fraserburgh and Wick I’m grateful for advice and assistance from the Scottish fishing Museum ( and the Johnston Collection (  I’m still keen to finish my first draft this winter so the progress I make in the next few months is critical!   My next location (after Dunkeld) will be the fascinating hidden Jacobite house of Gask.

11 Sep 2013

With a fair wind of progress behind me and a possible glimpse of land (the end of the Draft!) I’m continuing to attack work across all of the next 10 pages.  This has me working on Fraserburgh, Wick and Thurso all at once. I’ve even had a look ahead to Birnham and Dunkeld.  Most of the rest of the book is now laid out and somewhere around 134 pages looks like it will now be the final page count.

28 Aug 2013

With the encouragement of my recent trip to Aberdeen I’ve finally completed the 14 pages that cover Andrews pictures of the City.  I think this is something of a milestone and I should be able to claim I’m over half way through the first full draft.  Unfortunately, as I have now laid out the pictures for the rest of the book it seems to have gathered a few more pages.  Even so I think the halfway point is passed!

14 Aug 2013

The momentum I achieved last winter slowed up with the coming of the long summer days of sunshine.  However, I’m now starting to get back to work. Dundee is finished and I’ve part of Aberdeen done.  Last weekend I managed to visit 5 locations in Aberdeen in a day! it was great fun to be tracing Andrew’s footsteps once more.  As usual there were a few pleasant surprises when locating the original locations and some locations were harder to access than others.   In one case I had to try quite hard not to fall in the Don!

1 Dec 2012

I’m trying to keep up the momentum I’ve achieved in my writing in the last month.  Dundee is almost done and I’m starting to work on Aberdeen.  Unfortunately some of my Aberdeen pictures were taken years ago at the start of my research.  I think I may need to return to Aberdeen for one or two more comparative pictures at some time.  When Aberdeen is done I should be beyond the 60 page mark and perhaps over half way through the task.

20 Nov 2012

Another trip to Perth and pretty much the last location visited.  I picked up one or two missing pictures and we climbed Kinnoull Hill.  My wife even voulenteered to stand on the cliff edge to reconstruct one of the pictures!  I’ve started laying out the pages for Dundee.

8 Nov 2012

I’ve completed the Ayr and Alloway draft.  My thanks to:

the G&SW Railway association and the Paddle Steamer Picture Gallery

As I’m now up to 50 pages in draft it feels like progress.

3 November 2012

The hour has changed and the dark nights are back.  An incentive to get back to work on this book!

I’m pleased to report progress today… 2 more pages of Ayr completed.

13 May 2012

This week I’ve obtained a real aid to my book preparation.  A springback binding cover from This cover makes it really easy for me to keep my latest printed draft up to date and looking and feeling really good when in the hand.  These binders are sold for collecting family history material,  but are proving perfect for latest draft of the book.

When I started this project I used an A4 ring binder full of plastic pockets which worked quite well for collecting and organising my research.  Unfortunately as the number of pages completed has increased the binder was less effective.  As a result, I started to bind my printed draft in a spiral bound form.  This worked quite well as a mock-up of the book but it is not a format that lets you add new pages without a full re-binding.  My new spring back cover is just the job and gives the draft the real feel of a real book.  With the cover able to hold up to 170 pages it’s just perfect for the size of book I’m working on.

Next up on my writing schedule is the section on Andrew’s dozen pictures of Ayr and the Alloway home of Robert Burns.