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.

The 5 Questions of My Writing by guest author Wendy H. Jones

It is a pleasure to welcome back to my blog the big noise amongst modern Scottish authors, Wendy H Jones. She is here to explain about her writing and tell a bit about her fabulous books. Thank you so much for taking time out to visit, Wendy: over to you.

When I write.

When I write is a difficult question for me. It’s more like when do I not write. I am an anytime, anyplace anywhere girl. In a literary sense I might add before everyone gets the wrong idea. I literally write in any and every situation I can. In fact, I’ve made a game out of it and post pictures on social media of myself writing in different places all over the world. I’m a great believer in using every spare few minutes wisely and writing something. I use Evernote on my phone and then I can copy and paste. In January my writing will be coming from the deck of a cruise ship somewhere in the Carribean. It’s definitely a #WritersLife

How I write.

If I am at home, I write using my IMac computer in my office. I am surrounded by books so lots of inspiration. When I am out and about, which is a lot of the time, I write using my MacBook Pro, or Evernote on my phone, or using a notebook and pen. I’ve even been known to use the edge of a magazine and a borrowed pen. Usually, I remember to give the pen back. I usually finish the days writing in the middle of a sentence, so it is easy for me to carry on the next day. Writing on the deck of the aforementioned cruise ship is definitely the most exotic place I have written.

Why I write.

This is the easiest question of all to answer – because I have to. There are stories to be told and the words just come pouring out. Also, readers like the books and keep asking me when the next one will be out. I love writing and everything about the writing process and everything about being a writer.

Where I write.

This is pretty much tied in with my first answer. Anytime, anyplace, anywhere. To give you some examples, I have posted pictures of me writing in the following places

  • The writing desk in the study of Lord Montague’s estate in Beaulieu
  • Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Cabin on board RRS Discovery
  • Robert Burns Cottage in Ayr
  • The war desk of Field Marshal Montgomery’s office
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s desk in the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Collection in the Toronto Public Museum
  • Sitting next to Charles Dickens at his desk in Madam Tussauds in London

That’s just a small sample. I’ve written on planes, trains but not quite automobiles.

What I write.

Initially my answer to this would have been easy – Crime Books set in Scotland. I have two adult series, The DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries and the Cass Claymore Investigates.

Shona is sharp, smart, funny, sometimes grumpy and above all dedicated. She will always do her best to catch her man or woman, despite having the boss from hell and a team who are always at odds with one another. She’s Scotland’s go to girl for any mysterious death, in or out of her patch. This is gritty Scottish Crime in the Tartan Noir sense but with a touch of humour. The fifth book in this series, Killer’s Crew, won the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017.

Cass is a red headed, motor bike riding, ex-ballerina who inherits a private detective agency and accidently hires an ex-con dwarf and an octogenarian. She is absolutely useless and has no earthly clue what she is doing. It’s a laugh out load tale of bungling incompetence.

Then I was asked by a publisher if I would like to pitch a Young Adult Mystery series. I had an idea for one and the Fergus and Flora Mysteries were born. These are a couple of teenagers who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. The books are a bit like a mixture of the Famous Five and Scooby Doo, with a couple of teenagers running around the countryside getting up to all sorts of strange adventures. The first book in this series, The Dagger’s Curse, was a finalist in the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Book of the Year 2017.

I was then asked to write a series of Children’s Picture Books about a young Buffalo who went missing in Scotland. Bertie the Buffalo is Scotland’s very own wee escape artist and his story is told in a rhyming picture book.

Therefore, I can literally cover you from the Cradle to the Grave.

You can find out more about me and my books, and follow my adventures via






Need You Dead by Peter James

It had been a long time since I had read a novel by Peter James, not for any particular reason, just because I was reading so many other good books. So I treated myself to Need You Dead.

This is the 13th book in the Roy Grace books, this is a series that is so well paced and consistently of a very high standard. However, although the police procedures are unfailingly correct, I found that the level of procedural detail intruded into the story. Nevertheless, it is a good read.

Need You Dead revolves around the end of the life of Lorna Belling and her untimely death.

When her body  is found in a bath in Brighton and Detective Superintendent Roy Grace is called to the scene. At first it looks an open and shut case with a clear prime suspect. There are a number of possible scenarios but the case turns more sinister than Grace could ever have imagined.

I enjoyed the story, in Need You Dead, if not the detailed procedure, and will make sure it is not so long before I read another book by Peter James again.

The Author

Peter James is a UK No. 1 bestselling author, best known for writing crime and thriller novels, and the creator of the much-loved Detective Superintendent Roy Grace. With a total of 13 Sunday Times No. 1s under his belt, he has achieved global book sales of over 19 million copies to date, and has been translated into 37 languages.

Synonymous with plot-twisting page-turners, Peter has garnered an army of loyal fans throughout his storytelling career – which also included stints writing for TV and producing films. He has won over 40 awards for his work, including the WHSmith Best Crime Author of All Time Award, Crime Writers’ Association Diamond Dagger and a BAFTA nomination for The Merchant of Venice starring Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons for which he was an Executive Producer. Many of Peter’s novels have been adapted for film, TV and stage.

Val Penny

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Every now and again I leave the world of modern writers and revert to the classics I feel I should read. So it was with Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery the book that tells the story of two women whose characters are completely different, but whose lives intertwine. The first of the women, Becky Sharp, is an orphan whose only resources are her vast ambitions, her native wit, and her loose morals. The other, is her schoolmate Amelia Sedley, a typically naive Victorian heroine, the pampered daughter of a wealthy family. The term “Vanity Fair” is adopted from Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, suggesting a never-ending fair along the pilgrim’s route, loosely a playground of the idle and undeserving rich: a microcosm of several nineteenth century lives while Vanity Fair is sub-titled is ‘A novel without a hero’. However, despite all her faults, our heroine is definitely Becky. Becky Sharp is penniless, cunning and attractivebut she is also ‘a hardened little reprobate’. To begin with, she is determined to make her way in society and when she leaves school, under a cloud, Becky joins her friend Emmy’s family in London.
Emmy is good-natured but naïve. Her brother Jos is visiting and is attracted to Becky, but the potentially fruitful courtship is stymied by George Osborne, the suitor of Emmy, after an outing at Vauxhall. George’s best friend William is secretly in love with Emmy, but appreciates that she does not consider him in any kind of romantic light; he seems doomed to sustain unrequited love. To me, the narrator’s voice in the novel was a bit irritating, at first. It seemed that at every opportune moment, the narrator took a step back and informed us, the reader, of some nugget, some little moral, that placed the actions of the participants in the Fair in context. Vanity Fair is with us, all around us; and many times we never fully understand the roles that the players play. However as time went on, I grew to find it useful: this voice of reason grounds us; makes us understand the joy, the pain, the happiness, and the sorrow that accompanies each of us in our journey through life. If we care to, we can learn to become better parents, better husbands, better wives, and better friends. Vanity Fair is a wonderfully complex, varied tale of loves, lives, conflict and, sometimes resolution. It would make an excellent book group read. I enjoyed the story very much. far more than I expected. The Author William had been sent to England earlier, at the age of five, with a short stopover at St. Helena where the imprisoned Napoleon was pointed out to him. He was educated at schools in Southampton and Chiswick and then at Charterhouse School.
Thackeray, an only child, was born in Calcutta, India, where his father, Richmond Thackeray (1 September 1781 – 13 September 1815), held the high rank of secretary to the board of revenue in the British East India Company. His mother, Anne Becher (1792–1864) was the second daughter of Harriet and John Harman Becher and was also a secretary (writer) for the East India Company. Val Penny

Murder Served Cold by Paula Williams

I chose Murder Served Cold when I was brousing Amazon because I just loved the title! This is the debut cosy crime novel written by Paula Williams and published by Crooked Cat Books. The story is set in the little village of Much Winchmoor.

Kat Latcham returns home after a disasterous love affair goes wrong.
She hopes something exciting will happen to lessen the boredom of living with her parents and working in her mother’s hairdressers and the local pub. 

Something certainly does happen. She and her childhood friend, Will Manning, discover a corpse in one of the freezers of Will’s farm shop. Then, Will’s father, John, is arrested for the murder. The village of Much Winchmoor is such a hotbed of gossip, that everyone is convinced John Manning is guilty, except for Kat and Will, who believe he’s innocent.

Then there is a second murder and Kat is sure she knows the identity of the murderer so she sets out to prove it, with terrifying consequences.

Murder Served Cold is a great page turning murder mystery, laced with humour, romance. I very much enjoyed the book and look forward to further novels by Paula Williams.

The Author

Paula Williams has been writing since she was old enough to hold a pencil but she’s been making up stories since she was old enough to speak, although her early attempts were more of the “It wasn’t me, Mum, honest. It was him” genre.

Her first ‘serious’ effort was a pageant she wrote at the age of nine to celebrate St George’s Day. Not only was she the writer, but producer, set designer and casting director, which was how she came to have the title role. She also bullied and blackmailed her three younger brothers into taking the supporting roles, something they still claim to be traumatised by.

Many years later, this pageant became the inspiration for her first publishable short story, Angels on Oil Drums, which she sold to the UK magazine Woman’s Weekly. Since then she’s had over four hundred short stories and serials published in the UK and overseas. She also has a number of novels in large print which are available in libraries.

With the changing face of the magazine market, Paula now focuses her attention on her first love, crime fiction and is busy planning and writing a whole series of Much Winchmoor mysteries. She is a proud member of both the Crime Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association. She also writes a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the UK writers’ magazine, Writers’ Forum and for the last five years has written the pantomime for her local village Theatre Group. She still hasn’t run out of things to write about and is waiting for someone to invent the thirty hour day.

She has two grown up sons, two beautiful daughters-in-law and three gorgeous grandchildren. She lives in Somerset with her husband and a handsome rescue Dalmatian called Duke who is completely bonkers and appears frequently on her blog. (The dog, not the husband!)

Val Penny

Streets of Darkness by A. A. Dhand

I first met Amit Dhand after he had been a speaker at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School last year and I bought his debut novel Streets of Darkness. I almost didn’t go to his talk because I had had a busy day and was quite tired and he was an author I had never heard of. However, I am very glad I did go to his talk and he is an author whose name I will not forget.

I am also very glad I bought Streets of Darkness: it is an excellent book. We are introduced to a new detective, Hardeep (Harry) Virdee. Harry is a Sikh who has married a Muslim as a result of which, they have both been ostracised by their families.  Harry is facing the loss of his job over an incident when he over-reacted protecting the honour of his pregnant wife. Now, Harry’s wife, Saima is past her due date with their first child and this causes them both stress.

Streets of Darkness has all the usual elements of a standard crime thriller, race, drugs, corruption and murder . But they are not at all stale. This is largely to do with Harry and Saima. Their relationship, despite its background is refreshingly straightforward. Harry isn’t a drunk; he’s not a womaniser; he has a history and a temper, but he’s essentially a good guy in the true sense of the word. Likewise, Saima is a nurse: a clever, educated woman who stands up for herself and reins in Harry’s excesses.

The action in Streets of Darkness takes place over a twenty-four hour period. It’s gritty, violent and perfect for fans of Tess Gerritsen or Lee Child; or anyone who enjoys the BBC’s drama, Luther. It would be an excellent book club read and I look forward to reading more by this talented author.

The Author

Amit A. Dhand was raised in Bradford and spent his youth observing the city from behind the counter of a small convenience store. After qualifying as a pharmacist, he worked in London and travelled extensively before returning to Bradford to start his own business and begin writing. The history, diversity and darkness of the city have inspired his Harry Virdee novels.

Val Penny

The Long, Winding and Undulating Writing Road by guest author Miriam Drori

I am delighted to be joined on the blog today by my friend and fellow author, Miriam Drori who discusses her journey to becoming a best-selling author. Over to you Miriam.

For me, the road to becoming a writer is also the road to writing my latest book, which is actually my first book. Let me explain.

The story begins with a special friend from school – Gill. That is… she wasn’t really a friend at school, but she became a very good friend decades later, when I connected with her online. We used to write to each other every day and she eventually told me that what I was describing to her (a problem that grew from being bullied at school) had a name: social anxiety.Profile (1)

I learned more about the condition and then joined an online forum for “sufferers.” I “met” people from all walks of life with different experiences and different problems. Yet almost all of them, when they first joined the forum, wrote, “I thought I was the only one.” That reflected my own feelings before I discovered social anxiety and made me sad, because nowadays there is no need to feel alone with this. I decided I was in a position to help raise awareness by writing a book. Why me? As a technical writer, I knew how to write. As an older member of the social anxiety community, I felt I had less to lose by “coming out.” Unlike most of the others, I’m not inherently shy and actually enjoy giving presentations.

The format I decided on was one that could cover many different experiences and opinions by including anonymous quotes. I found people were much more willing to become involved in the project when I promised not to include their names. Such is the stigma that stifles us.

When I finished my book, I delved into the world of publishing for the first time and didn’t find success anywhere. I put the book aside and started to write fiction. Eventually, having had two novels published by Crooked Cat Books, I suggested my non-fiction book and they agreed to publish that, too. I enhanced and improved it, and the result is Social Anxiety Revealed.

I’m happy to be able to say that my book has helped to raise awareness and also helped “sufferers” themselves, and I hope it continues to do both of those.


Blurb for Social Anxiety Revealed

Fear of other people? Most of us feel this occasionally, when giving a presentation or social anxiety revealedbeing grilled in a job interview. This is not social anxiety disorder.

Fear of what other people think of you? We have all felt this, too. It is why we dress as we do and generally try to behave in a way that is expected of us. This is not social anxiety disorder either.

But when those fears become so prevalent that they take over your life? When they cause you to hide away, either literally or by not revealing your real self? When you keep quiet in an attempt to avoid those raised eyebrows and the possible thoughts behind them? That is social anxiety disorder.

And it is much more common than you might think. In the mental health table, it comes third – after alcoholism and depression – and yet most people don’t even know it exists.

If you have social anxiety disorder, this book is for you.

Even if you don’t have social anxiety disorder, you might have a friend, a relative or a work colleague who does. You might see it developing in your son, your daughter, or a child you teach. This book is for you, too.

Social Anxiety Revealed is created by people who yearn to ditch all these problems and live their lives to the full.

Buy Links

Neither Here Nor There –

The Women Friends: Selina –

Social Anxiety Revealed –

image001Social Media Links

Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad and on her website/blog and social anxiety blog.

Amazon page:

The Author
Miriam Drori lives in Jerusalem, Israel  ·  Creative writer and editor. Author of historical fiction, romance and non-fiction. Hiker, journeyer, folk dancer, wife, mother.


Me and my Writing by guest author Sue Barnard

Sue Barnard is a most talented writer, poet and editor, so I am honoured that she has taken time out of her busy schedule to visit my blog and write about her writing career. Over to you, Sue.

For someone whose main passion is writing, I suppose it’s strange to recollect that in the early days it was something I dreaded. Those awful compulsory “Composition” exercises at primary school are a fine example of how being forced to do something as a child can all too easily result in being put off it for life. It was only during my final year at primary school, when I won a competition for writing an essay about chocolate, that I realised it might have some merit after all.

Even so, for many years after that, I never considered myself a writer. Although I enjoyed pottering about with poems, short stories, articles for the parish magazine, and the occasional stroppy letter to The Times, that was as far as it ever went – until a life-changing event in 2004 forced me to begin taking my writing much more seriously. At that point I took a few courses in Creative Writing (some with the Open University, others run by other writers who have since become close friends). These courses also provided a valuable bonus in the form of teaching me how to critique and edit other writers’ work, and this was to stand me in good stead when I subsequently applied to become an editor. But at that stage I still had no thoughts of writing a full-length novel. That milestone appeared a couple of years later, when I came across one of those lists of Things You Must Do Before You Die. Most of them were pretty underwhelming, and in any case I’m not planning on dying any time soon – but the one which leapt out at me was Write The Book You Want To Read.

sue barnard ghostly

In the thirty-odd years since I first saw Franco Zeffirelli’s amazing film of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, I’ve often wondered why the world’s most famous love story should also be the most heartbreakingly tragic. The book I’ve always wanted to read is the alternative version of the tale – the one which gives the young lovers the happy ending which was denied them in the original story. Why, I asked myself, should there not be such a book? And the answer came straight back: Why not indeed? And if it doesn’t already exist, then go ahead and write it.

The eventual result was my debut novel The Ghostly Father, first published by Crooked Cat Books in 2014, and revised and re-released in 2018. I was originally writing it just for myself, because it was the ending I’ve always wanted, but judging by the number of people who have bought it, read it, and been kind enough to say they’ve enjoyed it, it appears that I’m not by any means the only person who prefers the alternative ending.

sue barnard heathcliffe

My most recent novel, Heathcliff, was also inspired by one of the great classics: Wuthering Heights. It was published by Crooked Cat Books on 30 July 2018, to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Brontë, and speculates what might have happened to her famous (or infamous?) anti-hero during the three years when he disappeared from the original story.

I also love writing poetry, which is a totally different discipline from writing prose. Poems rely much more on form and structure, and as they are generally much shorter than novels (though not always; cough-Hiawatha-cough), every word has to earn its keep. As with my novels, I often draw inspiration from existing works – and in 2013 one of my efforts was fortunate enough to win a major poetry award. This is that poem:


(with profuse apologies to John Masefield)

Elegant young lady dressed in black Versace

gliding around Waitrose with a leisured ease,

with a cartload of oysters, mussels, truffles,

fillet steak, Bollinger, and Stilton cheese.

Smartish young accountant still in office outfit

trudging around Sainsbury’s on her homeward way,

with a cartload of pasta, chicken, houmous,

pitta bread, Camembert and Chardonnay.

Shabby hungry student rushing back from lectures,

dashing around Tesco in her faded jeans,

with a cartload of cider, Cheddar, pizza,

sliced bread, sausages and cheap baked beans.

The Author

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet. She was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase “non-working mother” would be banned from the English language.

Sue has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult “Round Britain Quiz”. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

In addition to working as an editor for Crooked Cat Publishing, Sue is the author of four novels: The Ghostly Father, Nice Girls Don’t, The Unkindest Cut of All and Never on Saturday.

She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is far stranger than any work of fiction; she’d write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Sue lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

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NOVELS: The Ghostly Father  Nice Girls Don’t  The Unkindest Cut of All  Never on Saturday  Heathcliff 

Finding Nina – coming in 2019

POETRY: Variations on an Apology