The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Louis K Lowy

It is a great pleasure to have the noted American author, Louis K Lowy, share his writing habits with us on the blog today. Louis has three published novels, Die Laughing, Pedal and To Dream (Anatomy of a Humachine #1). All of these have received critical acclaim. I am grateful to Louis for taking time out of his busy schedule to stop by today.

Thank you, Val, for allowing me to appear on your blog. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

1) When do you write?

I used to write Monday thru Friday a minimum of three hours a day (15 hours a week). I did that for around eight or nine years, but I’ve recently cut back on that schedule, mainly because I feel like I need a breather, and because I’ve got two completed novels, and another scheduled for release in May, so I’m ahead of the game. Another factor is with all of that writing under my belt, I feel like I’m quicker and better at it than when I first began, meaning I can get more accomplished, now, in a shorter period then I used to.

My current schedule amounts to a minimum one hour on Monday, two hours on Tuesday, one hour on Wednesday, one hour on Thursday, and two hours on Friday (7 hours a week). The reason my writing schedule varies is due to my gym workouts. I exercise on Mondays (twice a day), Wednesdays (twice a day), and Thursdays. It eats up a lot of my time, but I feel like it’s important to keep in shape and hopefully avoid health problems, which would really stifle my ability to write.

On my one-hour writing days, I usually begin when I return from the gym – which is around 1:00 or 1:30. On my two-hour writing days, I start my first hour of writing shortly after I’m out of bed, which is around 7am. I may stop for breakfast, then finish off the second hour.

2) How do you write?

I do my plotting and initial research in longhand. I usually have a couple of books to read before I can begin, and will reference in longhand particular pages or info that I need. Longhand is more convenient because I’m not restricted to being in front of the computer. I can also jot down things quickly and arrange them in a format that is conducive to my train of thought. When I’m done with that process, I usually transfer my notes to a word doc and print them out. I keep a notebook for every novel. It’s filled with those notes, and who knows what else—anything pertaining to the story. Once I actually begin writing the novel proper, I’m strictly on a word processor. It’s easier to bounce around, change names, correct spelling, etc. etc., though I will keep some handwritten notes as I go along. For instance, here’s a good tip; write down all of the names of your characters as they enter your tale. For some reason, nearly every one of us accumulates character’s names in our novel that begin with the same letter: Ray, Riana, Raquel, Rory. This will very easily point that out. Also, with a lot of characters being introduced or passing through, I tend to forget who’s who, and this helps me sort things out. Basically, I’m organizing, which is a huge help in constructing the book.

3) What do you write?

I’m pretty eclectic. I wrote a humor poem, “Poetry Workshop (Mary had a little lamb)” that finished second place in Winning Writers’ Wergle Flomp Humor poetry contest, which had over seven hundred entries. My first published piece was a non-fiction story. But mainly I started out writing fictional short stories and was fortunate to have a good portion of them published. They ranged in subject from a man dealing with Alzheimer’s, to a priest questioning his faith, to the story of a boy, a serial killer and a ghost dog. From my short stories I gradually drifted to novels. My first published book, Die Laughing, is a humorously dark sci-fi adventure that takes place in the 1950s. My second novel, Pedal, is a contemporary women’s novel about a 49 year old music teacher who is laid off and fights to reclaim her life back through bicycle racing, my next novel To Dream: Anatomy of a Humachine I, centers around an A.I. struggling to find his humanity. My latest novel—The Second Life of Eddie Coyne, due out in May, is about a dying gambler who takes on one final bet for the ultimate prize — to save his soul. Currently I’m working on a crime novel, and book II of Anatomy of a Humachine.

4) Why do you write?

I write because I love it. I played bass for many years in original music bands and it was always a compromise, a give and take, an amalgamation of ideas. That’s not to say it was a bad thing. Many times the sum of the whole was greater than the individual parts. Still, what writing allows me to do is realize my vision unfiltered. It also allows me to express parts of me through my characters that I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) normally do. I get to explore issues that I’m interested in. It’s a lot of work, but what’s not to love about that?

5) Where do you write?

I have the most wonderful room in my house. One wall is nothing but a bookshelf packed with books that I love, reference material, and my favorite DVDs. Hanging on the other three walls are classic 1950s and 1960s horror and sci-fi movie posters that I also love. Everything from Forbidden Planet to Night of the Living Dead. I also have my bass and an acoustic guitar in the room in the event I get the urge to noodle around with them. I have vintage collectible super-hero action figures, and horror/sci-fi models displayed in a couple of cases. Of course, my desk is there (a bit cluttered I have to admit) along with my laptop, printer, etc. This room allows me to envision and create—it really is lovely.

Thanks again, Val, for this wonderful opportunity to appear on your blog. I had a great time.

The Author

TO DREAM, book one of his science fiction epic, ANATOMY OF A HUMACHINE (IFWG Publishing), was released in 2017.

Louis K. Lowy’s first published novel, DIE LAUGHING (IFWG Publishing 2011), is a humorously dark science fiction adventure set in the 1950s.

His 2015 novel, PEDAL (Rereleased in 2017 by IFWG Publishing), tells the story of a 49-yr-old music teacher who loses her job and struggles to reclaim her life through bicycle racing.

Louis’ short stories have appeared in, among others, New Plains Review, The MacGuffin Magazine, the anthology Everything is Broken, and the Chaffey Review.


The Twenty-Three by Linwood Barclay

The Twenty-Three is the last book in Linwood Barclay’s Promise Falls Trilogy and I really wanted to like it. I wanted to like it because the author is a great guy and I have enjoyed his books previously. Also I wanted to like it, because it always makes the review easier – and I enjoyed most of this novel.

The Twenty-Three starts with a normal morning in Promise Falls: predictably things start to go wrong rapidly. Vast numbers of people fall ill with no explanation, people are found dead or dying in or near their homes and the hospital and emergency services are stretched to their limits.

Detective Barry Duckworth is already investigating two murders when another young woman is found dead on the campus of Thackery College too. A strange car is noticed near the student halls at a critical time and a local jogger may be able to help identify the driver. Barry starts to wonder if the cause of the sickness and deaths of the townsfolk and the new attack on the campus are connected to the mysterious incidents in Promise Falls involving the number twenty-three.

This book cleverly weaves the various strands of the stories started in Broken Promise and Far from True. The twists that lead to the conclusion are marvellous. however, what I did not like was the rather clumsy way the reader is reminded of some of the back stories. I found that disappointing.

As with any trilogy, I strongly recommend you start at the beginning! Is it Linwood Barclay’s best book? Not by a country mile.

The Author

Linwood Barclay is the #1 internationally bestselling author of seventeen novels for adults, including No Time for Goodbye, Trust Your Eyes and, most recently, A Noise Downstairs. He has also written two novels for children and screenplays.

Three of those seventeen novels comprise the epic Promise Falls trilogy: Broken Promise, Far From True, and The Twenty-Three. His two novels for children – Chase and Escape – star a computer-enhanced dog named Chipper who’s on the run from the evil organization that turned him into a super-pup.
Barclay’s 2011 thriller, The Accident, has been turned into the six-part television series L’Accident in France, and he adapted his novel Never Saw it Coming for the movie, directed by Gail Harvey and starring Eric Roberts and Emily Hampshire. Several of his other books either have been, or still are, in development for TV and film.

Val Penny

Assassin by Day and Catalyst by Night by guest author, Tessa Robertson

We are really in luck today! Best-selling author Tessa Robertson has agreed to share excerpts from two of her novels, the best-selling book, Assassin by Day and also her new novel, Catalyst by Night. Thank you so much for this great treat, Tessa.


Assassin By Day 
What would you do if the mystery to your mother’s death lay with your employer? 

After years of unanswered questions, Mishka Vald sets out to uncover the skhodka’s involvement in her past. What she doesn’t expect is to join forces with men who push her to become a double-agent and confirm her future. While hunting down leads, the ruthless assassin realizes a life in the shadows is the only way for her to protect those she loves. 

For Mishka, forbidden love is worth the pain when it comes to Eddie Harper, a military man turned cop. Her affection waivers when duty comes first and she joins forces with an elite Russian soldier, Alexei Petrovich. With a blackmailer threatening her school love, she seeks refuge with a fellow assassin, Nickolas Volkov. And when pushed too far, she’s ushered to a secure location…and straight into the arms of mysterious handyman, Dylan Kain. As the pieces fall into place, their mangled order reveals each man’s true intention. Whose deceit can she accept and whose will obliterate her?

All roads lead back to the woman she thought dead—her mother. Now, as weddings are crashed and alliances tested, Mishka uncovers a deadly game and the players involved. Her heart, once unable to budge, is thrust into action, but which man can keep her soul intact?


Assassin by Day

I hop off the elevator and wave off the shadows. I don’t need them when I see Nickolas in the living room. “To think I’d have alone time,” I complain, gaining on him. “What are you doing here? Alexei will be back any moment.”

  Nickolas eyes my bloodied apparel. “I take it your mission went as planned.”

    Shoving off my boots, I shrug. “We had a nice chat, yes.” I gaze at the dried liquid. “I don’t believe she’ll share any more secrets except to demons.”

“Good, I’ll let your superiors know. Do you need anything further?”

His question catches me off guard until I hear the soft footsteps nearby. Without looking, I sense Alexei’s presence. It’s a fog. A deviously wicked fog. “No, I believe you’ve been useful enough, thank you.”

I stand and meet the waiting forestry eyes. “Alexei, I didn’t know you were back.”

My beloved tosses his jacket to the couch, holding my eyes hostage. “I’m sure you didn’t.” His gaze transfers to Nickolas then to me. “I see you’ve been busy.”

Unsheathing my knives, I study the stains. “I had an assignment pop up.”

“I’m sure that wasn’t the only thing to pop up in my absence.”

I smirk at his spiteful reply. If I didn’t know better, I’d think he’s jealous.

Twisting my torso, I watch the exchange in the room. Alexei prides himself for being level headed, but his actions speak another tone. His obvious hatred for Nickolas is his own fault. He invited him, so I feel no regret in the Olympics I share with his minion.

“Leave him alone, Alexei,” I urge, tearing off my skin-tight leather shirt. I rather like the James Bond villainess look. I think I’ll keep it. My brown hair catches on the zipper and I silently curse. Damn this long hair!

I turn and notice both men gaping. It could be because I’m not wearing anything underneath or because blood’s streaked across my chest. I’m not sure which one enraptures them and I don’t care. Their attention is all I crave. I murdered a comrade. Punishment is warranted.


Catalyst at Night

The skhodka isn’t done with their best assassin yet.

Too bad for them, as a rivaling mob – the vory – holds Mishka Vald captive. The real kicker? She’s trapped in her mother’s clutches with the two men she loves, with no escape from the devious scheme Alena Vald cooked up to destroy the skhodka. 

After spiriting across the globe with one man in tow, Mishka comes face to face with her past. Piecing together the distorted memories would be easy if someone hadn’t tampered with them.

Can Mishka slip through the grips of warring Russian mobs for a chance at a normal life? Find out in Catalyst at Night, the sequel to Assassin by Day.


Catalyst at Night

“Mishka?” His voice is closer. Glancing up from the stain on the floor, I notice he’s sitting on the side of the bed inches from me.

“Time, Nick. I don’t get much of it these days. It’s why I didn’t come back right away. I craved time. It’s so much to digest. I can’t accept my memory loss.” I study the bedspread. “I need it back.”

“You might not remember it, but you agreed to the loss of time and memories, my love.”

I punch the pillow, the conversation annoying me like a zit. “Da. I wish you were mistaken, but I know you’re not.” I meet his cool blue eyes. God, you can’t fake that hue in a colored contact. It’s spellbinding.

Nickolas strokes my cheek lightly, his thin calluses comforting. He isn’t an assassin like me. He’s much more dangerous as the man behind the curtain. “I’m sorry. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.”

He scoots down the bed and wraps me against his chest. I close my eyes at the rhythmic tempo of his heart. It soothes me no matter the situation.

“What if there’s a way I can get them back?”

Nickolas brushes my hair away from my face. “There is but it’s not safe.”

“I don’t care. I need them.”

He sighs and tilts my chin, so he can look into my face. His eyes dance between my eyes and lips. “What if they’re horrible, Mishka? What if they destroy you and the world you know?”

“I can’t think like that.” I shake my head. “My father knows the doctor who can do it.”

His heavy sigh envelopes us both. Slowly, he nuzzles his nose into the nape of my neck. “I wish you could see that you have everything you need right here, love,” he whispers.


Sassy and seductive thriller romance novels.  Follow me on Twitter:
Like me on Facebook: me on Bookbub: Follow me on Goodreads: Website:

The Author

Tessa Robertson has been landlocked in the heart of Iowa, USA for the better portion of her life. She grew up on sci-fi and action movies, but isn’t nearly a ninja…yet. Since childhood, writing stories and reading have been a constant. Moonlighting in a law firm, she takes on her favorite cases: criminal. Her stories push the limits of standard characters and explore the thriller facets of romance and action. In her spare time, Tessa attempts to teach her Australian Shepherd and Golden Retriever new tricks; spends copious time with family; catches up on her favorite shows; and listens to country music.

The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Lynne Hallett

Good friends are always precious. However, when you are an author, the job can be rather solitary by nature, therefore the importance of friendship is amplified. It is therefore a special treat to have my good friend and fellow Swanwicker, Lynne Hallett, visit the blog today to discuss her writing habits.

When I started writing

I’ve always written on and off since being very small. I suspect this sprang in part from the fact that I often finished my classwork before many of my peers and was told to ‘go and write a story.’ At the time, this meant regurgitating my favourite fairy tales almost verbatim. I can’t remember being especially imaginative when I was younger; indeed, for original stories, it was often my mum who came up with the ideas and then, inspired by these, I would go and craft something decent from them.

I became more serious about creative writing at the point where I had finished an MA by Research into the use of religious buildings in Jane Austen’s novels. As the critical and analytical side of my brains switched off, the imaginative side switched on. At this point, I was the mother of two boys, aged 4 and 1, and spent a lot of time reading to them. Favourite stories of theirs and mine were written by Julia Donaldson and Lynley Dodd, although I dipped into the works of many other authors.

One evening in August 2007, after putting them both to bed, I felt compelled to sit down and write a rhyming story of my own. By midnight, my first story was completed. My husband commented that I was like a woman possessed, and he wasn’t wrong. I had to get the words down on paper. During the next week or so, I wrote another couple of stories about Paddy the Pup and went on to submit the first into a competition.

The result of this was taking on a Children’s Writing Course, which helped boost my confidence and brought me some success – a second placing in an international competition and a nice sum of money. Buoyed up by this, I wondered whether or not I might be able to write for adults, too, and enrolled on the Writers’ Bureau Comprehensive Writing Course. This led within a short time to the acceptance of my first story by The People’s Friend. I loved this course as it allowed me to try my hand at numerous genres, the vast majority of which I liked. Recently, I finished their Copywriting Course, thinking that I might be able to use this in the future. So, if anyone out there wants to help me build my portfolio, do let me know; I will happily provide some written copy in exchange for a testimonial.

When I write

In terms of when I write on a day-to-day basis, I would love to say that I write all day, every day but, in truth, it very much depends on what is happening at school or at home. I am an English and Drama teacher, so there are hot spots during the year where, sadly, I simply don’t have space to write. January was one of those months and this piece for Val’s blog is the first thing I have written since Christmas and, oh, what fun it has been! The demands of family life can interfere with the creative process, too, though my husband and boys are very supportive of my need to write and are willing to listen and offer an opinion when I share my work with them. When the boys were little, we would do the ‘thumbometer’ test on my children’s stories; usually, I got a thumbs up! I have long holidays, so get some decent writing done then and when I have less time, I will try and pen a short story or an article in the couple of hours I have here or there. I invariably write any time from early morning to early evening. I am not an owl, so late-night composing is not for me.

Where and how I write

Usually, the creative process happens in the dining room, at the table or on our window seat, though I can write pretty much anywhere. In the summer I will use the conservatory and I have got a very nice, small round table which was an anniversary present and is just asking to be my writing table outside. I often write straight onto my laptop, although for creating anything in rhyme, be it a story or a poem, I am more likely to use paper; seeing the rhymes and being able to jot them down really helps. I am not a coffee or tea drinker, so don’t use this to help stir the creative juices, but a bit of chocolate never goes amiss. Time can fly when I’m immersed in my latest project and I do write quite quickly, resisting the temptation to edit much as I go along.

What I write and for whom

To date, the bulk of what I have written has been for children. I started with picture books because that was what I was immersed in and inspired by when I took writing up seriously. I absolutely adore rhyming stories – but they must scan properly – and of the nine books I have self-published, six are rhyming. One picture book is in prose (Who Cut Up the Moon?) and I have two 5000-word chapter-books for girls aged around 5-7 which are in prose, too. I have had a couple of articles published by AQUILA magazine, which is aimed at inquisitive children of around 8-11. I have had some success with The People’s Friend, who have published both short stories and, more recently, features I have written.

I have some decisions to make regarding the direction my writing will take in the coming months as, sadly, my dear friend and illustrator died before Christmas. She was 91 and drawing virtually to the end, something I would like to emulate where my writing is concerned. I had felt that perhaps it was time to move on from picture books, especially now my boys are nearly 16 and 13, but it seems the decision has been made for me. Over the last few years I have had a go at YA novels, too. I have two drafted, two more in progress and a plethora of ideas for more. I may even venture into contemporary or historical romance for women. Who knows?

Why I write

As with everyone reading this, I imagine, I write because it makes me happy. When I don’t write, after a while I feel sad. Writing releases my endorphins in a way exercise never could. My dream is to write full-time and to earn a decent living from it. I don’t much mind what I write but I can’t imagine a better way to live my life. I have been told many times that I have healing hands and while I don’t necessarily see myself going down the spiritual healing route, I would like to think that maybe I can heal through my writing. Can there be anything better than helping someone or simply providing enjoyment through one’s words? I don’t think so.

About the author

Married with two adolescent sons, I am surrounded by teenagers on a day-to-day basis as I teach English and Drama at Malvern College, a boarding school in Worcestershire. I always wanted to be an English teacher, so that is one dream which has come true. However, my dream has now changed and I want to write full-time, so I’m hoping that one comes true soon, too.

Malvern is a very healthy place to live and I have a lovely view of the hills from my dining room window. I have ventured up there occasionally, but hill walking is not really for me and I prefer Pilates to try and cure the aches and pains which come from sitting down too long at the computer. I also love reading (obviously), knitting, drawing and painting, singing – the kind of things which would have been done by ladies of wealth in times past.

To date, I have self-published nine books, aimed at children between 0-8. These are as follows: There’s a Mouse in the House; Alphabet Rhymes; Who Cut Up the Moon?; Hot Dog; Bear with a Sore Head; Why Do We Have Night-time? And Other Stories; Awesome Adventures; Lizzie Saves the Day; A Present for the Baby.

I have had the joy of being longlisted in the Plough Prize with a rhyming story which was ultimately incorporated into Awesome Adventures and I came second in the ACW competition with Who Cut Up the Moon? back in 2012. More recent successes include being placed third in the Writing Magazine Swanwick Short Story competition and being longlisted in another WM competition to write a children’s story. I was in the top 20 with There’s a Bear Behind You.

I have formed links with AQUILA magazine and especially The People’s Friend, who have published a handful of my short stories for women and three features. I am looking to continue submitting work here and to work on my half-finished YA novels, which will most likely happen when my eldest son’s GCSEs are over. I think that writing revision cards and essay plans may be the extent of what I get accomplished in the next 3-4 months!

You can find me at and I have a Lynne Hallett Children’s Author Facebook page, too. I have yet to dive into Twitter, but it’s on the cards.

All my books are available via the website and from Amazon, where you will find them as Kindle versions, too.

5 Questions of Writing by guest author Rosie Travers

I am thrilled to have my friend and fellow Crooked Cat author, Rosie Travers, visit my blog today to discuss her writing habits. Rosie’s new novel, Your Secret’s Safe with Me sounds fabulous and is in my TBR pile. (I am so looking forward to reading it, I may have to shuffle the pile!

When I write

Although I generally tend to write first thing in the morning, I’m not a 5000 words a day, or even a two lines a day writer. I’ve learned I can’t force the words to come, and it’s better to wait until the ‘spirit moves me’ rather than to sit staring at a blank screen. I write when I feel inspired, when those light bulb moments occur, and when my characters and their conversations can no longer stay contained in my head. Then I write like a woman possessed.

Why do I write?

I’ve always been an avid reader and have a very vivid imagination. I scribbled my own stories from a very early age. However, it was only after my children had flown the nest and I had a bit of ‘me time’ that I re-discovered my love of writing and decided to take my scribbles to the next level. Now I can’t imagine not writing. When I’m in full flow I become quite anxious if I’m away from my desk for too long!

How I write

In a very haphazard, disorganised manner – great when I wasn’t under any time constraints – not so great now that I am a published author and there is an expectation that another book should always be in the pipeline. Time management is not my forte, and I am a complete pantser. My stories always began with a character, or one line, which then expand into a short story or a chapter. I type straight onto my computer – I’ve an old fashioned desktop PC and I’m a trained touch typist so I enjoy using a ‘proper’ keyboard. I don’t plan in any great detail but I do keep a notebook by my PC and jot down notes all the time as I go along. When the bare bones of the story are there, or half a first draft, I generally become more disciplined and will draw up a potential plot and timeline.

Where I write?

I’m lucky enough to a have room of my own – my lime green study. Sometimes I might take my notebook out into the garden, or sit downstairs at the kitchen table with my laptop for a change of scene, but I generally work best at my desk.

What I write?

Feel-good fiction with a twist is how I describe my style. Basically I want to spread happiness and entertain, but I also want to take my readers on an emotional journey, and I certainly like creating a little mischievous intrigue and several twists and turns along the way. The real world can be depressing and gruesome enough without me adding to it. In my world the good guys, who may not always be squeaky clean good guys because that would just be too boring, should always win in the end.

The Author in her own Words

I grew up on the south coast of England and after initially training as a secretary I juggled a career in local government with raising my family. I moved to Southern California with my husband in 2009 and began a blog about life as an ex-pat wife which re-kindled a teenage desire to become a writer. On my return to the UK I took a part-time course in creative writing and following some success in short story competitions, I joined the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers’ Scheme. My debut novel, The Theatre of Dreams, a romantic comedy about an unlikely trio of characters who concoct an elaborate plot to restore an old seaside theatre, was accepted for publication by Crooked Cat Books and officially launched on in August 2018. My second book, Your Secret’s Safe With Me, is out on 18 February 2019.

Your Secret’s Safe With Me


Career Girl Becca Gates’ organised life is thrown into chaos when her mother, romantic novelist Pearl, announces her surprise engagement to Jack, a man she has only just met.

Becca reluctantly follows Pearl to Rivermede, Jack’s home in an affluent sailing community on the south coast of England, where she encounters an unwelcome face from her past. She receives a grim warning that all is not as calm as it seems at picturesque Rivermede and her family are in grave danger. But why should Becca trust the man who has betrayed her before, the man who broke her heart, the man who thinks he knows all her secrets?

Universal buying links:


Twitter @RosieTravers


Instagram: rosietraversauthor

RNA Profile:

She Chose Me by Tracey Emerson

I was sent a copy of the new novel, She Chose Me by Tracey Emerson, by the publishers Legend and have read the book. I now provide an honest review for this debut psycholgical thriller.

There are two main protagonists, Grace and Cassie. Grace has returned to the UK after working abroad for many years because her mother is terminally ill and is being cared for in a nursing home. Cassie was adopted shortly after her birth but as her adoptive mother has recently died, Cassie sets about finding her birth mother.

Grace receives a blank Mother’s Day card in the mail, she is upset by this because she isn’t a mother. Later, another Mother’s Day card arrives and after that she is subjected to a series of silent phone calls. These haunt Grace and she has disturbing flashbacks. She worries that someone is out to take revenge on her because they know what she has done. She finds herself having to face a past she has tried hard to ignore and has run from for years.

Cassie has been brought up by wealthy, adoptive parents but she feels there is something missing in her life: her birth mother. Cassie identifies her birth mother and sets out to get to know her before revealing her identity.

While the ending is quite satisfying, if a bit predictable, I found the method of narrating She Chose Me through the two women quite confusing and it took me a long time to establish Cassie’s identity in my own mind. That irritated me. As a debut novel, it was interesting in parts but not as engaging as I had hoped.

The Author

Before writing fiction, Tracey worked in theatre and community arts. As well as acting she ran drama workshops in healthcare settings, focusing on adults with mental health issues. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from The University of Edinburgh and works as a literary consultant and writing tutor. She is also the Creative Director of The Bridge Awards, a philanthropic organisation that provides micro-funding for the arts.

Her short stories have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines, and her debut psychological thriller, She Chose Me, is published by Legend Press.

You can find out more about Tracey and her writing at:

Val Penny

The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Elizabeth Ducie

I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow Swanwicker, Elizabeth Ducie, to my blog today. Elizabeth has written many best-selling novels and several very useful non-fiction books sharing her expertise about the business of writing. I am so happy she has taken time out to join me to talk about her writing habits.

When I Write?

I write every day, of course. That’s what being a writer means, isn’t it?

Okay, so that might be a bit of a fib, but I certainly try to write every day, even if it’s just a few words,; and if I’m not working on anything major, or don’t feel particularly inspired, I’ll use writing triggers from my Writer’s Toolbox (a Christmas present from my husband) to get myself going. I work on the basis of an average of 500 words per day, apart from November when I take part in NaNoWriMo (the annual writers’ challenge to write 50K words in 30 days) when the average goes up to 1667.

I am very much a lark, rather than an owl, and often start work around 6am or earlier. Mornings are definitely my best time to write. When I am taking part in NaNoWriMo, I pride myself on getting my daily quota finished before breakfast each day.

A while ago, I decided that telling myself ‘I can’t write in the afternoon’ was just an excuse, and sometimes I do end up writing later in the day; but I’m less productive and much slower when I do.

Where I Write?

It really depends on the time of year, the weather, and what else is going on in my life at the same time. If I have a full day free, and if it’s not pouring down or freezing cold, then I will head over to my writing room, located on the other side of the garden, just a few steps from my front door. It’s light and airy, with glass on two sides, so it’s almost like being in the open air, especially during the warmer months when I can work with the doors wide open.

If it’s cold or wet, then I tend to take over the dining table instead and gradually spread all my note books and papers around the place, until there’s barely room for us to eat our meals. On the other hand, if it’s really warm, I will decamp to the patio and work under a huge umbrella. I only realised how easy that can be after a holiday in Greece last year, when I spent every morning pool-side, working on my latest book while enjoying the sunshine and an occasional dip to cool off.

When I first started writing creatively, I still had a day job and spent a lot of time in airports and hotels. So, I am equally happy writing on the move, although that will tend to be by hand in a notebook, rather than straight to screen. I always carry headphones with me which make it easy to shut out noisy backgrounds – like those found on a train or even in public libraries – so basically, I can write wherever I need to.

How I Write?

I tend to write direct to screen most of the time. That doesn’t mean it arrives on the page fully formed – far from it. I am quite happy with the concept that the first draft may well be garbage, since it’s much easier to edit garbage than a blank page. But I can type faster than I can write, so it’s the most productive way to capture the words. And as a scientist who measures everything, it also makes it easier for me to keep a check on my word count and update my spreadsheet.

When I’m travelling, I often make copious notes which often end up as blog posts. Those are always done by hand in a notebook.

Why I Write?

I know some people say they write for themselves and would not worry if no-one else ever saw their words. But with me, I think it’s an ego thing. I believe I’ve got stories to tell (fiction) and knowledge to share (non-fiction) and I want to get my words and ideas out there for people to read.

I’ve always loved crafting words into neat, expressive sentences. Even during the thirty years when I worked as a technical writer and manufacturing consultant, I took pride in the quality of the audit reports and training programmes I wrote. With all the travelling, I collected a lot of anecdotes and experiences that I knew I was going to write up ‘one of these days’.

Then in 2005, I was quite seriously ill for a while, and realised that today was ‘one of these days’. I started learning how to write creatively and, although I thought I was going to specialise in life writing, I found I was more comfortable putting real incidents into fictional situations. So, I concentrated on short stories to start with, then moved to the novels. And somewhere along the line, I slipped back to non-fiction as well – although these days it’s mainly business books rather than pharmaceutical manufacturing textbooks.

What I Write?

I’ve already said that I write both fiction and non-fiction. I’ve just published my fourth novel, Corruption!, which is the final part of a trilogy of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals (where else?). I’ve lived with Suzanne Jones, Charlie Jones and Francine Matheson for the past four or five years and really need a break from them (although the feedback I’ve had suggests many of my readers are not happy to see the series end, so I may have to revisit them at some point).

My next novel is going to be quite different from the previous ones: a time-slip story set in Russia, featuring the Romanovs; quite possibly with a fantasy element to it. I’ve worked in Russia for many years but am having to do a lot of research on the historical aspects. So, my fiction at the moment is restricted to an occasional short story. I plan to start writing the novel on 1st November.

In the meantime, I’m working on part 4 of The Business of Writing. This one’s called Independent Publishing and it’s aimed at answering the business questions a writer needs to ask before going down the indie route. It is due for publication in the summer.

The Author

I was born and brought up in Birmingham. As a teenager, I won a holiday to France, Spain and Portugal for writing essays and poetry in a newspaper competition. Despite this promising start in the literary world, I took scientific qualifications and spent more than thirty years as a manufacturing consultant, technical writer and small business owner, publishing a number of pharmaceutical text books and editing a technical journal along the way. I returned to creative writing in 2006 and since then, I have written short stories and poetry for competitions — and have had a few wins, several honourable mentions and some short-listing. I am also published in several anthologies.

Under the Chudleigh Phoenix Publications imprint, I have published one solo collection of short stories and co-authored another two. I also write and lecture on business skills for writers running their own small business. My debut novel, Gorgito’s Ice Rink, was published in 2014 and was Runner-Up in the 2015 Self Published Book of the Year Awards. In 2016, I published Counterfeit!, the first in a series of thrillers set in the sometimes murky world of international pharmaceuticals. The second in the series, Deception!, was published in 2017. The final part of the series, Corruption! will be published in September 2018.

Having left Birmingham to study in London, I lived for more than twenty years in Wilmington, Kent. In 2007, I moved to the South West of England, where I live with my husband, Michael, in a converted granary sited picturesquely on the banks of, and occasionally within the path of, a small stream. In 2012, I closed down my technical consultancy in order to concentrate full-time on my writing. In 2013 I graduated from Exeter University with an MA in Creative Writing

I am the editor of the Chudleigh Phoenix Community Magazine, a monthly online newsletter and for five years ran the Chudleigh Phoenix Annual Short Story Competition. I am a member of the Chudleigh Writers’ Circle and one of the organisers of the annual Chudleigh Literary Festival. I am also a member of Exeter Writers, West of England Authors and ALLi (The Alliance of Independent Authors). I spend far too much time on Facebook and Twitter, but have met some wonderful members of the writing community as a result.

When I am not writing, I am a keen reader and singer (I am a member of several local choirs). I also enjoy live theatre of any kind, share with my husband a love of fine dining, and am a real sucker for the kind of country house hotel where you can kick off your shoes and curl up with a book in front of a log fire. 

I would like you to believe I am also a keen walker, enjoying the beauties of Dartmoor and the South Devon coastline—but, as a writer, I’m good at making things up.

The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Steve Catto

I am glad to welcome author Steve Catto to my blog today. Here he explains about his writing and how he came to writing novels. Welcome Steve, over to you!

When I started writing?
That’s difficult to say. I’ve written technical manuals and documents since I started work, about forty years ago and I’ve always experimented with writing little bits of fiction but never thought seriously about publishing them. I suppose that my first proper fiction novel came about by using ideas that I’d been scribbling down for years. I started writing bits of it about ten years ago, but at that point in time I didn’t have a plot or story to put them in.

How I write?
I don’t really write draft and then edit it. I edit as I go along, so the words that go on the page are pretty much tidy, and I don’t move on until I’m happy with them. Of course I go back over it later, many times, reading it all aloud to make sure that it trips off the tongue properly so that it can be narrated nicely. During that process I find words and expressions which don’t sound right, or which don’t work, or I spot holes or decide that different words might sound better. That actually takes much more time than writing the work in the first place. Although I started parts of Snowflakes about ten years ago I think I wrote the bulk of it in four months, and then spent nearly a year getting it to a point where I was happy with it. They say that music and art, which includes stories, are never finished – they’re just abandoned by mutual consent. You do get to a point where it simply can’t be made any better without expending a disproportionate amount of time on it, and you have to admit defeat and say that it’ll do, because there are other things which compete for your time.

Why I write?
I just want to make people think, and I want them to enjoy reading the words. I have lots of ideas and I want to tell people about them, but in a way which makes a believable story. It’s a release of emotions for me.

Where I write?
I do the writing mostly from my desk at work. I have my own business and office so, provided I do my work, I can pretty much write whenever I like. That means I’ll stop work if I have a particularly puzzling bit of thinking to do, and write a bit. I go away on business quite a lot, so there are train journeys and evenings in hotels when I can get things done.

What I write?

I didn’t know what it was that I wrote until I went to market it. Most authors will say that’s no way to write a book because you don’t have a target audience. That’s true. Snowflakes is a story about a group of four strangers thrown together in a world which is very much like ours but doesn’t work quite like ours. The three main characters have a complex relationship, but the fourth member of the cast is a mysterious little girl who has no clearly defined purpose. They all manage to get along, but only just. They don’t really understand why the world doesn’t work properly, and are oblivious to the things that the reader sees, which revolve around the little girl. In the end it seems that death is the only way to resolve the growing dissatisfaction with their lives, and for one of them it is.

I like the world building, and the prose. I like the descriptions of their world, with the skies and the river and the mountains. I want the words to be as important as the plot and the characters, so the reader enjoys reading them. People have called it “elements of magical realism in a real-world setting”.

After a lot of advertising and market research my publicist and I have decided that the full grand title for its genre is “speculative post-apocalyptic science fiction” which is odd because I think it’s more fantasy than science, but you can’t argue with the market. Those are the readers who like it after they’ve bought it, so that’s who we’ll sell it to!

I’m working on the sequel, whose working title is Into The Darkness. It’s the back-story of the mysterious little girl. In the meantime I’m writing short stories and flash to build my reader base, and loving every minute of it!

The Author in his own words

Steve Catto is an old man, or at least that’s what it says on his birth certificate. He was born in Yorkshire, but his parents took him to Australia when he was six years old and he grew up there, sometimes racing cars across the desert.

He was never very good at school, but the one thing he did learn was how to learn, and he started writing programs for the computer at the local university, much to the disdain of his teachers who told him that he would ‘never make a living out of that rubbish’. In his late teens he returned to the UK, and his parents followed him – which wasn’t what he wanted because he was hoping to get away from them.

His first proper job was in the computer department of an infamous Oxford publishing company, and he subsequently went on to write software for electricity control systems, and simulators for the military. He started to fly gliders and wrote programs to analyse the data from aircraft flight recorders, where he also learned to fly, and crash, lots of other types of aircraft as well – which was the best part of the job. 

At various times in his career he has also lived and worked in France, Switzerland, and Canada, and he now lives in Scotland. Since appearing in school plays as a child he has performed almost continuously on the amateur stage, and spent a few years scuba diving. These two things have nothing to do with each other.

In terms of his pedigree as an author he has written many technical manuals and filled in countless timesheets, so is well versed in the art of conjuring up works of fiction, however he has never written a novel before, especially not one that involves a blonde girl and a man with a bow and arrow, but he did once spend three weeks working in a factory that made handles for buckets.

Seven Deadly Swords by Peter Sutton

I am so happy to welcome author Peter Sutton to the blog today. He has agreed to share an excerpt of his new novel, Seven Deadly Swords as part of the Love Book Group Tours. It sounds like such a gripping story: I am truly excited to present this book to you. Be sure to follow the whole blog tour to find out more!


For every sin, a sword

For every sword, a curse

For every curse, a death

Reymond joined the Crusades to free the Holy Land from the Saracens and win glory for himself. Instead, with six others, he found himself bound under a sorcerer’s curse: the Seven Sins personified. Doomed to eternal life and with the weight of the deaths he has caused dragging his soul into the torments of hell, Reymond must find his former brothers-in-arms and defeat them. Riding across a thousand years of history, the road from Wrath to Redemption will be deadly…  

The Excerpt

“A book?” Fisher asked the American who’d met them at Horseguards. They were enjoying a cigar and a brandy at the Yank’s expense.

“A special book. It’s been locked in a tomb for hundreds of years.”

Fisher exchanged a glance with Lumpy.

“And you want us along for?”

“The tomb is in Iran… “

Which was in the middle of a shitty war with Iraq. That was pretty hot, as far as theatres of conflict went.

“Iran?” Lumpy asked. Fisher watched the American carefully. What were they getting into?

“Are you up for it? I’ll pay you handsomely.”

“Let’s talk about how handsome this pay packet is. Is it leading Hollywood man handsome?” Lumpy asked.

They got down to talking about money.

Buy Link

Twitter Handles


@Kristell_Ink ‏  


The Author

Peter Sutton is the author of three books: A Tiding of Magpies, a collection of ‘deliciously dark tales,’ Sick City Syndrome, an urban fantasy set in Bristol where he lives and Seven Deadly Swords – a historical fantasy thriller partly set in the crusades, partly set in the modern day.
On Twitter he’s @suttope and his website’s here .

The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl

The new novel, The Boy at the Door by Alex Dahl was published by Berkley, in July of 2018 and had been on my wish list, so when Love Book Group Tours approached me to take part in the blog tour and provide an honest review in exchange for a free copy of the book, I was only too happy to take part.

The Blurb


Everyone has secrets. Even those who seem to be perfect…

On a rainy October evening, Cecilia Wilborg – loving wife, devoted mother, tennis club regular – is waiting for her kids to finish their swimming lesson. It’s been a long day. She can almost taste the crisp, cold glass of Chablis she’ll pour for herself once the girls are tucked up in bed.

But what Cecilia doesn’t know, is that this is the last time life will feel normal. Tonight she’ll be asked to drop a little boy home, a simple favour that will threaten to expose her deepest, darkest secret…

My Review

The Boy at the Door captured my attention from the very beginning. The main protagonist, Cecilia Wilborg lives with her successful, kind husband Johan and her two daughters in and affluent area of Sweden. However, everything changes and she finds she must face her past after she gives a young boy, Tobias, a lift home from swimming class one day.

Tobias has had a chquered past and has had to face a great deal of change in his short life. He has lived with a variety of people, some he remembers more fondly than others as the story wends its way across Northern Europe through Scandanavia and even to Poland.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was that the characters were three dimensional, they were distinct, flawed and fascinating. Even the unpleasant characters held my interest and the scene when Cecilia asks her well-heeled friends for help and they evaporate before her eyes was sadly realistic and deftly drawn.

Other things that makes the novel The Boy at the Door exciting, unpredictable and unsettling are the lies and exaggerations of the main protagonists. The reader very quickly realises that they cannot rely on everything they are told being true. The twists and turns continue throughout the novel right to the very end.

The Boy at the Door is a complex and absorbing story and if you enjoy mysteries, I highly recommend this novel. It is my favourite book so far of 2019 and will take some beating, if it is to be overtaken.

The Author

Alex Dahl is a half-American, half-Norwegian author. Born in Oslo, she wrote The Boy at the Door while living in Sandefjord.
 She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. She is a serious Francophile and currently lives in both London and Sandefjord. The Boy at the Door is her first novel.


“Unsettling, layered, bold, unpredictable, dark. EXCELLENT.” Will Dean, author of Dark Pines

“Remarkable… Dahl is able to ring satisfying changes on the familiar ingredients, and her heroine Cecilia, in particular, is one of the most distinctive that readers will have encountered in recent years.” Crime Time

“Stunning… an extraordinary plot; intricate and twisted with dark secrets emerging at every turn. An engaging mystery with an ending you won’t see coming.” Alexandra Burt

“Heartbreaking and HEAD-SPINNING.” Mary Torjussen, author of Gone Without a Trace

Buy Link

Twitter Handles