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

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@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

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The House Between The Tides by Sarah Maine

I was given the much feted novel The House Between The Tides by Sarah Maine as a Christmas Gift. I had heard many good things about the book so I was interested to read it.

The story is about a country house and its estate on a remote island in North West Scotland and the familes associated with it. The novel crosses a period of one hundred years and I found that it jumped backards and forwards a great deal.

The house on the remote Hebridean Island is inherited by Hetty Devereaux after the death of her grandmother. Hetty is the last of her line, having now no living relatives. She is unsure just what to do with her inheritance but
she is considering restoring the building and creating a modern resort. However, everything is halted when the human remains of an unknown person are discovered under an extension.

The novel is a debut mystery novel and some of the descriptions of the sea and of historic island life are vivid and atmospheric.

The House Between the Tides sets itself as a mystery of lies, secrets, passion and betrayal, but I found the story a bit pedestrian and predictable. The time changes and changes of points of view, sometimes within the same paragraph, were also confusing. There were also many characters with very similar names. This made it difficult to tell one from another.

The broad story held my interest but I found this novel disappointing, particularly in light of the amount of praise it has received.

The Author

Sarah Maine was born in England and emigrated to Canada with her family at the age of ten. A small northern Ontario community was home for the next two years before the family moved south, and Sarah went to high school in Toronto. She returned to England to study archaeology, stayed on to do research and work, married there and has two sons. 
Books were always important. She grew up on a diet of Arthur Ransome and Robert Louis Stevenson but also the classics, Jane Austen and the Brontés and, of course, Daphne du Maurier – but now enjoys a wide range of contemporary fiction. 
She has publlished three books – The House between Tides, Beyond the Wild River and Women of the Dunes and is currently working on her fourth, set partly in New Zealand.

Val Penny

The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Tom Halford

I am happy to welcome my friend and fellow author, Tom Halford, to my blog today. Tom’s debut novel was published by Crooked Cat Books in 2018 and he is now writing his second novel which will be published in 2019.

Thanks for having me on this blog, Val. I really appreciate it.

When I write?

I’m going to answer this question as, “When did I start writing?” For as long as I can remember, I liked to write stories. My parents encouraged it, and my oldest brother Pete wrote stories, too. It seemed cool, and so I followed his lead.

As I got older, writing and making movies was something that friends and I did. A close friend and I would write these comedic, ultra-violent short-stories. We actually got in trouble at school over one of them. Later, in High School, a group of us would write skits and film-scripts, too, and we’d record them together. That was probably one of the best memories of my teenage years.

Writing for me has been a way to be creative and to have fun with other people. It was never an overly serious experience until I started to study English at University. I’m not knocking literary studies. I’m just talking about myself as a creative writer. I also work on academic essays that focus on more serious topics, such as surveillance. However, now in my creative writing, I’m trying to go back to the fun and the entertaining side of reading and writing.

How I write?

I write on an old laptop. Little known fact about my laptop is that my wife actually ran over it with our car. This was when we were still living in the USA. I had placed my briefcase next to the back tire while I was strapping our daughter into her seat. Then I forgot about the briefcase, got in the passenger side of the car, and my wife turned the wheels as she backed out. We felt a bump and looked at each other. I saw my briefcase in the parking lot and immediately thought that the laptop had been crushed. Somehow, it survived. Thank you Apple.

As I write now, my laptop is currently resting on unsold copies of Deli Meat. It’s motivational.

Why I write?

Sometimes I wish I could stop writing. Don’t get me wrong. I love it. I think it makes me more awake to my own life. I just struggle to find time to actually write.

I think about quitting often, but there always seems to be an idea that gets me excited. With Deli Meat, I had this weird image of pickled beets in my mind that I needed to explore. I don’t know how to fully explain it, but writing Deli Meat was kind of like dreaming. I was awake for the editing process, but for the actual writing I was somewhere else. And maybe I’m just addicted to this dream-like state.

Where I write?

I write wherever I can and whenever I can. Usually, I write in my basement on an old card table that I found in our first apartment in America. It was tucked behind a door that led down to a musty cellar. For my first few weeks in the US, all I had was that card table and an air mattress. My family was arriving later, and our possessions were all in transit. It’s a special table for me. It reminds me that I don’t need much to write. I just need something flat and a means to forming letters.

What I write?

In terms of genre, I write comedic crime fiction, and I always try to keep things as strange as possible. For a long time, I had tried to write literary fiction, but I lost interest in it after I finished my PhD. I still read as much literary fiction as possible, but I don’t try to write it anymore. I’m not that serious of a person, and it feels like I’m trying too hard when I write more literary stuff.

Please don’t confuse what I’m saying here. Crime fiction is still literary. I guess I’m talking about the kind of fiction that authors like Alice Munro write. I’ll never be that good, and I don’t have the kind of gravitas that she possesses. Trying to write that kind of fiction will always be a losing battle for me. However, I think I can write a story that keeps people entertained.

I like books that make me laugh. I like books that make me feel surprised. I like books with outrageous characters and weird twists. I was honoured when a reviewer compared Deli Meat to Twin Peaks. I hadn’t realized it until I read that review, but that’s exactly the experience that I’m trying to create for readers through my fiction.

Currently, I’m working on a new book that I hope is even stranger than Deli Meat. So far, I’m succeeding.

The Author

Tom Halford is a writer, a teacher, a dad, and a husband. One of Tom’s favourite things in the world is a delicious sandwich. This might sound crazy, but the inspiration behind Deli Meat is Tom’s love of the sub, the hero, the hoagie, the grinder, the classic lunch time meal, the sandwich.

I Am Death by Chris Carter

The last time I chose a book by Chris Carter, my local library was having a clear out and I chose to read An Evil Mind. It is reviewed on this site – So it was with I Am Death. The library was selling old stock at vastly reduced prices and I purchased the book.

I am not sure anyone could say they ‘enjoyed’ books by Chris Carter. Certainly the level of violence described in I Am Death was way above what I would normally read and I am not sure that I needed such detailed and repeated descriptions. However, his main protagonist, Robert Hunter is intruiging and the relationship he has with his partner, Carlos, is most gratifying, so I did persevere.

I Am Death tells the story of a psychopath whose serial killings each differ from one another because he is so damamged, he just enjoys the suffering of his victims. Hunter, like the author himself is an adept psychologist and it is interesting when Hunter is asked for psychological insight by his co-workers as the author himself will have been when he was working in that field.

I did guess the end, but will not spoil the story here for others. It is a fast paced, clever story that has the reader willing the police to solve the mystery. If you enjoy an exciting crime thriller, this book is worth your time.

The Author in his own words

I was born in Brasilia, Brazil where I spent my childhood and teenage years. After graduating from high school, I moved to the USA where I studied psychology with specialization in criminal behaviour. During my University years I held a variety of odd jobs, ranging from flipping burgers to being part of an all male exotic dancing group.

I worked as a criminal psychologist for several years before moving to Los Angeles, where I swapped the suits and briefcases for ripped jeans, bandanas and an electric guitar. After a spell playing for several well known glam rock bands, I decided to try my luck in London, where I was fortunate enough to have played for a number of famous artists. I toured the world several times as a professional musician.

A few years ago I gave it all up to become a full time writer. 

Val Penny

The Deaths on the Black Rocks by BRM Stewart

I am part of the Love Books Group Tour for the exciting new novel by BRM Stewart. I am really looking forward to reading this, especially since the author has shared an enticing extract here.


It’s been a year since Rima Khalaf died in a fall from the Black Rock, deemed to be a tragic accident by the police.

But her grieving parents are dissatisfied with the police investigation, so DS Amanda Pitt is sent north from Glasgow to the small town of Clachdubh to re-examine the case.

Despite the suspicions of the distraught parents, all the circumstances seem to confirm Rima’s death was indeed a tragic accident until another woman is also found dead in the town.

Frustrated by the lack of any real evidence, DS Pitt pushes the limits of legality in her quest for the truth.  


She’d packed and checked out of the Clachdubh Hotel, and driven to the Rock with the vague idea that she had to see the scene of the death of Rima Khalaf. She had an hour or so before going back to the school to meet Rima’s housemate Mary – also a teacher there, but who hadn’t been available the day before.

There was a small car park, and then a path than zigzagged up the hill. Calling it ‘The Rock’ made it sound more impressive than it really was, thought Amanda. It was less than two hundred feet or so high, and an easy climb. It was almost all grass here, and mounds of dog dirt were evident all the way up – some on the path, and some wrapped in poop bags and then left for posterity.

But, at the top, the view was good. She could look back over the town to the remaining high-rises of Glasgow in the distance, and in all other directions to the mountains, some still with scatterings of snow in shady corners. She looked round, wishing she knew the names of those mountains, and then stepped to the edge.

The north side of the Rock was steep, and had apparently been made more so by the need to widen the road down below. There was no barrier, only a line of warning signs. Amanda looked over the edge. The grassy slope fell away, steeper and steeper, and then there was the drop to the edge of the road. Plastic mesh coated the side of the rock face.

Amanda could see how you might slide and then simply fall. But surely you would be aware of it right at the start. You’d catch hold of one of the many rocky outcrops and stop yourself, then pull yourself back up.

OK, late at night if you were drunk, you wouldn’t manage to retrieve the situation. Or if you were old or had poor balance.

Or if you’d been given a good, hard shove in the first place.

Amanda looked down. A van appeared on the road and drove past at speed. Amanda frowned. And waited for the next vehicle – a blue car, also going fast.

She found a small stone, waited till the next car appeared in view, and lobbed the stone underhand away down the grass. It bumped and jumped, and fell off the edge. Amanda didn’t see it reach the roadway – and tensed in case in smashed into the car, but nothing seemed to happen. She reckoned it hit the road pretty much at the same time as the car reached the spot.

Give or take, a body would probably do the same. So, bad luck that Rima Khalaf had fallen at just the right time to land on the roadway as a car was about to be at that spot? Or had the person giving the shove known that would happen?

She shook the thought away. She wasn’t here to investigate the death, she reminded herself. There were gaps in the investigation, but nothing material.

‘Careful,’ said a man’s voice behind her.

Amanda turned: he was an older man with a Jack Russell on a lead – one of the few breeds of dog she recognised.

‘A couple of young lassies have fallen over the edge here. Careful.’

Remember to follow the rest of the tour for more insight into this fascinating new book, The Deaths on the Black Rock.

Buy Link

Twitter Handles @BRMStewart LoveBooksGroupTours@ThunderPointLtd 

The 5 writing Questions by guest author Susan Barnard

Susan Barnard is not only a gifted author in her own right, but she is also an editor of great patience, insight and lightness of touch. For all these reasons I am thrilled to have her visit my blog today to discuss her writing habits.

WHEN? I don’t have a set writing routine. Some writers do, but I can’t just sit down and write to order – and spending ages staring at a blank screen or a blank sheet of paper is, frankly, very dispiriting.

Having said that, my writing mind is never off duty. I often get some of my best ideas when I’m away from my desk: gardening, sorting the laundry, cooking, mowing the lawn, out walking, or listening to music. Sometimes the solution to a writing dilemma has come to mind when I’ve been at a concert, and on one occasion a complete stanza of a poem arrived, fully-formed, whilst I was sitting in a traffic jam.

HOW? I make notes by hand or on my iPad, but my main writing is done on my trusty laptop. I used to feel that every sentence had to be perfect right from the word Go, but now I’m much more flexible: I concentrate on getting the words down first, without worrying too much about the style or content, then fine-tune them afterwards. You can always go back later and edit what you’ve written, but you can’t edit a blank page.

WHY? Someone asked me recently: “What would you do if you weren’t writing?” My answer was “Pushing up the daisies”. I can’t imagine a life without writing.

WHERE? In winter, my desk is in a corner of our front room. In summer, it’s in the conservatory. If the weather is really good I sometimes take my writing out into the garden – though in the latter case the potential for getting distracted (either by watching the birds or seeing something that needs doing to the plants) is much greater…

WHAT? I write novels (I have five published and am currently working on a sixth), short stories, poems, articles, and the occasional stroppy letter to the Radio Times. I also edit books for other writers. Not to mention shopping lists, to-do lists, lists of ideas, and long lists of words that rhyme. My life is governed by lists. That’s how sad I am…

The 5 Questions of Writing by guest author Patricia M Osborne

I am thrilled that my friend and fellow Swanwicker, Patricia M. Osborne, has agreed to visit my blog today to explain about her writing journey. Over to you, Patricia.

Hi Val, thank you for inviting me over to your blog today to talk about my writing.

When Did I Start To Write?

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and won my first poetry competition when I was around seven-years-old. The poem was titled ‘Clothes’ but that’s all I can remember about it. I can’t even remember the prize. However, it was only once I started a creative writing course as part of my Open University degree that I began writing more seriously. At first learning the technical tools stifled my creativity but my tutor assured me this was quite common. After finishing this module I embarked on an online visual poetry course during the summer break. This was fabulous for overcoming my writing inhibitions and by the time the advanced creative writing module started in the autumn my creativity had returned but now I was equipped to produce better writing.

After graduating with my BA degree in 2013, I spent a year adapting a screen play, written for my dissertation, into a novel and House of Grace was born.

In June 2014 my mum died. I’d been her part-time carer for her last seven years and losing her left a huge void in my life, so much so, I didn’t know who I was anymore. My husband suggested I study an MA to give me focus.

At first, I wasn’t interested in anything, including writing and study, but in September 2014, I spotted a new MA Creative Writing Course with Brighton University. The content was enticing so at the last minute I took steps to enrol. For my first assignment I produced a sequence of fictional poetry using a theme of lost identity. While writing these poems I was able to give the characters my pain which was great therapy. I was on my way to finding ‘me’ again.

In the meantime, my novel, House of Grace, sat on the computer doing nothing while I studied. It was only after my first visit to Swanwick Writers’ Summer School in August 2016 that I was inspired to finish my novel. When returning home, I revisited House of Grace, shipped it into shape for publication, and to be honest never looked back. I love writing and become grumpy if I’m not allowed to play with my characters and I love living in a writers’ world.

How Do I Write?

For short stories and poetry I plot. Starting in a notebook with a mind map, I build up a frame, and complete a first draft. This is then typed up into a word document on my PC so I can move words around with ease while layering and editing to bring the story to life.

My process of novel writing was similar. I plotted out chapters in my notebook making sure I had a beginning, middle and end. I’d stay with the notebook, writing the first few chapters out by hand, until I warmed up into the story and moved to the computer. So I suppose you could say I was a ‘Plotter.’

However, that was until November this year when I managed to complete NaNoWriMo for the first time and was able to do something that I never thought I could. ‘Keep my editor hat off.’ Therefore, instead of my normal routine, not moving on to the next chapter until I was happy, I marked what needed editing and researching in red font on the manuscript and moved on.

This technique was applied to the second half of ‘The Coal Miner’s Son.’ In other words, I stopped being a ‘Plotter’ and became a ‘Pantser.’ I found this method a more efficient way of working as my manuscript was ready for me to begin researching and editing in a very short time.

Why Do I Write?

I write for several reasons but mainly because I love writing. I find it great fun. I like playing around with words, creating characters and building up images. In poetry I love to create not only sensory images but musicality and sound echoes within the lines. My final reason for writing, and why I write fiction, is because it means I can escape into any world or time era and become anyone I’d like to be.

Where Do I Write?

When writing in my notebook I can, and do, write anywhere. I carry a notebook in my handbag at all times, and always have a pen and paper at the side of my bed. If it’s in the middle of the night and I don’t want to turn the light on in case I disturb my husband then I use my iPad to make notes.

For novel writing and developing my short stories and poetry, I work on my PC in my study. I’m very lucky to have a study and spend most of my waking time there.

What Do I Write?

I write poetry, short stories and novels, and I’ve even been known to write a couple of screen plays. However, my favourite genre is poetry which for me goes hand in hand with my novel writing. The reason for this is that it takes me time to warm up into my novel and I don’t always have that time, whereas it doesn’t take long to build a framework for a new poem.

Here’s a little poem that won me first prize in Brighton and Hove Arts Council Poetry Competition 2017 (Student Category)

Grandad’s Garden

I turn the cone upside down,

it changes to a flower,

like the dahlias

in Grandad’s garden

where creepy earwigs

hide inside.

I paint my pinecone fiery orange,

use a green-striped straw for the stem,

wrap it in mistletoe paper,

place it under the tree

as a special present

for Mummy

on Christmas Day

to make her smile,

cos she cries in bed, every night,

since Grandad died.

Patricia M Osborne (2017)

This poem was inspired by Alison Chisholm (Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, 2017) when she handed out pinecones to the class. When I turned my cone upside down all I could see was a dahlia which took me back to my grandad’s garden when I was a young child. He used to grow huge dahlias and chrysanthemums and always picked some for my mum to take back home after we visited. I especially remember the earwigs falling out of the huge heads.


Staying on poetry, I write about birds, trees, and anything to do with nature. I also work from photograph prompts which is great fun. Mostly, I tend to write in free verse narrative. I spend a lot of time strolling around my local lake to lap up inspiration.

Upcoming Poetry Collections

I have a couple of collections that I hope to have published this year, the first ‘In a Delightful Country,’ which I wrote in 2017 when I was Poet in Residence at Worth Park, a local Victorian Park. This shows a fictional timeline of the park, broken into four sections.

The second is a collection of poems using myth, folklore and legend around trees, titled

‘Spirit Mother,’ which I completed for my MA Creative Writing dissertation.

Short Stories

My short stories often originate from prompts but I also like to write about people. My short story ‘Cold Sheets, Porridge and Penicillin,’ first published by Writers’ Forum magazine 2014 is free to read on my blog.


So far, my novel writing has been family sagas. My debut novel, House of Grace, was published in March 2017 and acts as Book 1 in a trilogy. The second, ‘The Coal Miner’s Son,’ which I hope to be released later this year, and the final, ‘Return to Granville Hall,’ with a bit of luck will be ready for publication by 2020. All of my books may also be read as standalones.

In the future I plan to experiment and write fantasy short stories and/or a novel.

Once again, Val, thank you so much for having me. It’s been great fun answering your questions.

About the Author

Patricia M Osborne was born in Liverpool and spent time in Bolton as a child. She now lives in West Sussex. Apart from novel writing, Patricia writes poetry and short fiction. Her poetry and short stories have been published in various literary magazines and anthologies. Following four years of study with the University of Brighton she is an MA graduate in Creative Writing. House of Grace is her debut novel. Patricia is currently working on ‘The Coal Miner’s Son,’ the next book in the ‘House of Grace’ series, although may be read as a standalone. She anticipates this being published during 2019. Watch this space.

Where can you purchase House of Grace, A Family Saga?

House of Grace is available in both paperback and kindle form and may be purchased on Amazon: or ordered from all good bookstores. It is free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Where can you find Patricia M Osborne?


Facebook: Patricia M Osborne, Writer

Twitter: PMOsborne,Writer


For those interested in Swanwick Writers’ Summer School

Me before You by Jojo Moyes

I had never read any books by Jojo Moyes, until Me before You became our book of the month for our book group.

Me Before You tells the story of a successful young attorney, Will Traynor, who is seriously injured in an accident as a result of which he becomes wheel chair bound and quadriplegic.

He has become very bitter and rude. He never goes out and has attempted suicide. His parents are at their wits’ end. So they enploy a new carer, Louisa Clark, whom they hope will cheer him up, although she has no experience of caring.

Louisa has just lost her job at a local cafe. She had worked there for years: but the owner decided to close the cafe and move abroad. Louisa has been with her boyfriend Patrick for years too. She has not experienced much at all outside her home town.

Louisa has quite a different attitude to life from Will and bursts into his world in a riot of colour. Their conflicting attitudes change each other permanently.

I had not really expected to enjoy this book: but I did. Although the ending was very predictable, the route it took to get there transfixed me. Me Before You was a terrific book group read.

The Author

Jojo Moyes is a British novelist. She studied at Royal Holloway, University of London. She won a bursary financed by The Independent newspaper to study journalism at City University and subsequently worked for The Independent for 10 years. In 2001 she became a full time novelist. 

Moyes’ novel Foreign Fruit won the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Romantic Novel of the Year in 2004. She is married to journalist Charles Arthur and has three children.

Val Penny

The 5 Questions about my Writing by guest author Allison Symes

One of my dearest friends, whom I met through the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School, is the talented flash fiction writer and blogger Allison Symes. Allison’s writing, I know, inspires younger and less experienced writers. So I am delighted that she joins me today to reveal her answers to 5 questions about her writing.

Many thanks to Val for inviting me on to her blog. I’m Allison Symes, flash fiction writer, blogger and Chandler’s Ford Today columnist. I met Val at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School or more accurately outside Derby Railway Station where I was looking somewhat lost wondering where on earth I picked up the coach to get to Swanwick when Val took me under her wing. We’ve been great friends since!

When I write/When I started writing

I write in the evenings (but when I get the opportunity to snatch time to write during the day I do). I find it easier to write knowing the day’s chores are done and I can “relax” into my writing and enjoy it. I started writing just after my 30th birthday and my only regret here is not starting sooner. I meant to but you know how it is… I think it took a major birthday and the birth of my son to make me face up to the fact if you’re going to do it, girl, get on with it then. And I did! I’ve been getting on with it ever since!

How I write

I write directly to screen these days. When I first started out, everything was on paper first. I’ve discovered the joys of the Evernote app on my phone for when I’m travelling by train etc. Can get a few flash fiction pieces and articles drafted on that and emailed back to myself! Very useful. Great use of “dead” time too. I base my writing week on my Friday column for Chandler’s Ford Today, an online magazine. I aim to have that up and ready to go for Tuesday/Wednesday nights which then gives me time to review it ahead of it going live.

I start my writing evening with that, then move on to my flash fiction and other writing projects. I learned years ago the best way to tackle big projects is to work on them a section at a time regularly. Before you know it the project is ready for editing and then submitting. I submit stories to various sites regularly but want to be more focused on that during the coming year. I often end up submitting in batches, which is fine, but am conscious I may miss a few competitions that way so want to see if I can do better here.

I have fallen totally in love with Scrivener and use it all the time now. I love being able to write notes and insert pictures into a side column (the Inspector column) and this is really useful for my non-fiction work. I also love setting a Project Target. You can watch the bar you set go from red to amber to green as you get nearer to your word count target. For flash fiction, this is invaluable and saves a lot of time NOT counting!

Why I write

I know this is a cliche but it’s true nonetheless – I can’t NOT write. I think most of us need some sort of creative outlet, I’ve always loved words and playing with them, and so creative writing was the way forward for me. Deep down I also feel a sense of debt owing to the world of stories because they have given me so much joy over the years, I feel as if I want to give something back by adding to the pool of stories myself. I also love the challenge of writing (especially flash fiction with its tight word count). I always used to love what was called composition in my days at school and, with hindsight, I should have realised this is where my artistic bent was going to be.

Where I write

Generally on my laptop in a room used as a study/office by my better half and I (though I confess my writing bits and pieces have tended to sprawl on to his desk! Can’t imagine how that’s happened!). As mentioned above though, I love writing on my phone app when travelling. I’ve done so in the back of a car too. Mind, I prefer train travel for this especially when I can get a cup of tea to keep me going!

What I write

I write flash fiction (and I love writing 100-word tales especially) and non-fiction posts for Chandler’s Ford Today, an online community magazine. Indeed, I’ve interviewed Val there!

There is a reasonably sized writing community in my area and most of my posts are aimed at them. For example, Creativity is Good for You, What to look for In a Real Writing Competition, The Benefits of a Good Writing Conference. (Link to my author page on CFT given below). I have sometimes written the odd verse (and usually it is very odd and quirky!).

My first collection of flash fiction stories, From Light to Dark and Back Again, was published by independent press, Chapeltown Books, in 2017 and they are considering my second volume. I’m working on a third! The link takes you to the Book Depository UK.

I also blog regularly on my website – – and monthly for the Association of Christian Writers in their More than Writers blog page. The Collected Works site rounds up my Facebook writing posts (for my author page and, separately, for my book page) on a twice weekly basis most weeks. I share a lot of writing tips and advice I’ve found helpful over the years here.

Am currently revisiting a novel I wrote years ago. Writing flash fiction teaches you how to edit and I’m using the techniques I’ve picked up here to sharpen up this book and hopefully give it a better chance out there when I’m ready to submit it. I submit flash stories online and some appear in print anthologies too. I also write standard length short stories and have had a couple shortlisted in Writing Magazine though I would love to do more there. I would also like to write more non-fiction pieces and see those in magazines etc. I had a short piece called Telling Details recently appear in Christian Writer magazine.

Great thing about all of this? I’m never stuck for something to work on!!

A big thanks to Val for hosting me!


Allison Symes is published by Chapeltown Books, Cafe Lit, and Bridge House Publishing amongst others. She is a member of the Society of Authors and Association of Christian Writers. Her website is and she blogs for Chandler’s Ford Today –


I write non-fiction articles for Chandler’s Ford Today, an online community magazine. I focus on reviewing local theatre productions, writing items of interest to the writers’ community, and articles such as Creativity is Good For You, How to Spot a Real Writing Competition and so on.

Fiction wise, I have been published online and in print by Cafelit, Bridge House Publishing, and Chapeltown Books. I have also been published online by Alfie Dog Fiction. Chapeltown Books published my first flash fiction collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, in 2017. 

I regularly attend the Winchester Writers’ Festival and have discovered the joys of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School. I am a member of the Society of Authors and Association of Christian Writers.