Loch Awe in spring - Photo courtesy of Neil Donald Photography

Saturday, 17 March 2018


The theme for our joint blog this time is spring cleaning our desks and our writing.

Victoria has this to say abut spring cleaning:

I don’t usually wait for spring for a spring clean of my writing space. I tend to do it between projects. The “before” photo shows my desk in the middle of the editing phase of my third book in my Cornish Daughter series. My editor’s report and my "Editing Day" mug is within easy reach and I have been making some scribbled notes as I go. Previous to this, I wrote lying on my son’s bed, but the editing phase requires focus and room, so I moved off the bed and reclaimed my old desk. The after picture is my desk ready for a new project. A nice chamomile tea is waiting for me in my "Writing Mug". All I need is some inspiration and a bar of chocolate.

Terry says: It's All About the Work Space:

Writers by their very nature have a very distinctive and well-honed sense of place. Our desk serves as out sanctuary, the place where we pay homage our craft, so it stands to reason that spring is the perfect time to clean our desks, organise our massive amounts of paper (I don't know one writer who does not have an accumulation of notes, research material and story ideas stacked their workspace) and hope that our organised desktop will streamline our writing and make us more prolific. As you can see from the pile of stuff on my desk in the attached picture,I have my work cutout for me. I have notes to copy into my calendar, marketing content to compile, in addition to starting a new book. My books are set in the 1940s, so there is always researching and the quest for the 'historical 'kick'. (note to self: historical kick as a topic for a future blog post).

But Spring is here, and along with it the promise of new beginnings. So I embark on my annual cleaning regime, wondering all the while how I ever let the dust bunnies accumulate and promising to do a better job tending to these small details that are so easy to ignore when I'm in the middle of a project. While I work I think about the stories I will write, and when I'm finished (it really didn't take too long) my desk is clean, my vase is full of tulips and the promise of warm weather encourages me.

Wishing you all the joys and warmth of spring and her new beginnings.

Linda is very organised with her spring cleaning tactics:

I have two spring-cleaning tactics when it comes to my writing. The first is when I am giving myself permission to write, permission to not clean the house from top to bottom once a week, which is what I used to do pre-writing. To rid myself of the guilt that my house isn’t always fit for the Queen’s visit these days, I do a few of those jobs that rarely get done – bleaching the grouting between the bathroom tiles, scrubbing the tops of the kitchen wall cupboards, tidying my knicker drawer, dusting the tops of my paintings. It doesn’t take long and I know I can then happily write for months on end without worrying about any of the above.

The second tactic is when my writing has become stale. I’ve been writing, say, to suit certain magazine readerships, certain editors’ needs and wants, or doing an edit on a novel that again, is how someone other than I wants things done, and somewhere along the line I’ve lost my writing soul. At times like that I pick up my copy of Elizabeth Berg’s ‘Escaping into the Open – The Art of Writing True’. This is a wonderful book, charting how it is that Elizabeth Berg writes (in my opinion) her wonderfully emotional novels. There are various exercises to do that help us write from our souls and I open the book at random and do one or two. For the purpose of this blog post I have just selected these:-

a) The man is not crying but you know his heart is breaking. How do you know?

b) Your father tells you for the first time about the day your older sister – whom you’ve never liked – died. Write not only what he says, but what he does with his coffee cup while he tells you.

I always hand-write this exercise, sitting somewhere comfy. Before I know it I have covered six or seven pages of A4 ready to turn into a short story, or a scene in my work-in-progress.

Better get going …

Marilyn is worried:

Oh dear, I’ve been rumbled.  For while cupboards and drawers crammed with things I might just need one day keep my house respectable, my humble workspace (a small, ground floor bedroom) is my Achilles heel. So, when I heard we were being challenged to spring clean our workspace with ‘before and after’ photos as proof, I panicked. In the past I’ve resorted to photos of me writing in the sunshine, under a tree in the garden, or on holiday, a glass of vino in one hand and a pencil and notebook in the other.

While others might go for a writing retreat in Tuscany or meditate under a full moon to get their inspiration, it’s the much-loved clutter that gives me the incentive to scribble.  So, did I succeed in spring cleaning my office?  Reader, I cheated, just a little…

Lucky Rae meanwhile is having more than a spring clean:

A confession – here’s my current work area, which is nothing to be proud of! In my defence, I know where everything is and why it is placed just so. The real problem is that this chaos takes up most of our dining room table and needs to be moved each time we wish to use it, which isn’t ideal.
However, it’s the time of year for new beginnings and change is afoot. We have a small space fondly known as the playroom, which is no longer needed now our children are grown. It’s time to make more use of the space, and so began a project that’s included numerous trips to the local charity shop and tip. Mr C has done a fantastic job of both freshening the walls and transforming a cupboard with migraine inducing primary colours to a soft muted grey. And here’s my shiny new desk. It’s not quite in situ yet, as we’ve still to lay new flooring, but by the time this post goes live I should have my very own writing space. And should I ever get bored, there are still stacks of games in the cupboard to keep me entertained.

And finally, Jennie offers her abject apologises:

My office is in the small spare room downstairs and my work area runs almost the length of one wall. I did try on several occasions to tidy my desk but there were complications like this:

And at the other end:

Spring hasn't really burst forth yet has it? Maybe by the end of March when the sun shines on a regular basis the cats will depart to a sunny place in the garden and then I can spring clean my desk - or maybe not!

Saturday, 10 March 2018


Thank you for inviting me to participate in The Novel Point of View blog. I am so excited to be here to talk about the process of writing, to share information about books and research, and to get to know all of you. Writing is a solitary and subjective form of art. This morning I sat down to a blank screen wondering what on Earth I could say that would entertain and amuse you, dear reader. Writing a novel is a completely different beast. I create a world and spend 300 pages living in said world until I have a cohesive story. After which, a talented group of editors and readers tighten my prose until my books are ready for public consumption. All that is fine and good. But I am a rather introverted, solitary person who enjoys books, long walks, four-legged creatures, and good wine. In other words, I am b-o-r-i-n-g! I realise as I write these words that learning to celebrate and find joy in the ordinary is the gossamer thread that connects all of us.

Not everyone is put into this world to make a splash and change the way of things in a monumental way. I’m guessing that the visitors to this blog have a gentle fondness of words and story, accompanied by a curiosity about the creative process.
So as I set out to blog for you, know that I am learning and growing with every word as a writer and a story teller. I’ll be sharing my process with you, the blunders along the way, and—providence willing—the joys. Having said that, if there’s topic you would like to read about, let me know.
I’ve attached a vintage photo of a map and compass (to show me the way) and some lovely white tulips because… tulips!

Here’s a bit about me:
Francisco Bay Area, which explains her love of foggy beaches, windy dunes, and Gothic mysteries. When her husband promised to buy Terry a horse and the time to write if she moved to Mississippi with him, she jumped at the chance. Although she had written several novels and screenplays prior to 2006, after she relocated to the South she set out to write in earnest and has never looked back.

Now Terry Lynn writes the Sarah Bennett Mysteries, set on the California coast during the 1940s, which feature a misunderstood medium in love with a spy. Neptune’ Daughter is a recipient of the IndieBRAG Medallion. She also writes the Cat Carlisle Mysteries, set in Britain during World War II. The first book in this series, The Silent Woman, is slated to release in April 2018.  When she’s not writing, you can find Terry Lynn riding her horse, walking in the woods with her dogs, or visiting old cemeteries in search of story ideas.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

How I became 'the chap from the Gazette.'

I had two goals as I was growing up: to be a journalist and to write a book. It took me fifty years to become an  'overnight success' but not long to gain a sense of humour. If only I'd been a boy...

I was born on Christmas Eve in a post-war maternity hospital on the tiny Channel Island of Guernsey. My father wanted to call me David –  until he set eyes on my new pink bonnet. That’s when his dream of having a son to follow in his footsteps as a football journalist came to an abrupt end. Growing up with my two sisters, the house was always full of books and newspapers which we were always encouraged to read. By now we were living in Leicester where Dad had started his own a football magazine.

Very early one Saturday morning, we drove to Middlesbrough Football Club where Dad left me in the middle of the deserted football stadium. ‘Get me three stories – from the fans – from anywhere,’ he said, ‘but just get them!’  Somehow I did it.  I finally had a goal.
I left  school  one cold Friday afternoon and started work the following Monday as a cub reporter on the Blackpool  Evening Gazette and Lytham St Annes Express.  This was the 1960s when female journalists were supposed to look good, say little and write about cookery and fashion.  None of these applied to me!

My first big assignment was at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens when the Labour Party Conference came to town.  Joining the crowds outside the main entrance, I searched for the party’s PR man. ‘Mr Griffin,’ I yelled, spotting him at last. ‘Can I have a word?’

‘Not now,’ he barked. ‘I’m waiting for the chap from the Gazette.’
I am the chap from the Gazette,’ I replied.
After two years as a general reporter I  began writing  women's features. I was fanatical about equality in the workplace, interviewing women solicitors, scientists magistrates – and even the first local female bus driver – to champion women’s rights. Cookery and fashion  were banished to the bottom of the page.

By now married with two daughters I set my sights on the women's glossy magazines. My breakthrough came with  a humorous piece about travelling salesmen The men I’ve had on my Doorstep in the (now defunct )Woman's World. Other work  followed. After my father retired he asked me to write the  story of  his life in football, on and off the pitch.  A labour of love, The Perfect Match  became my first unpublished novel. A few years later I joined a newly formed writers group in Lancashire. Eight of us met to critique each other’s work-in-progress, sometimes with brutally honest feedback. A second novel was  rejected but I carried on writing.

My next project, a time slip romance about a cub reporter’s search for her GI father, was shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award in 2013. As I’d passed the big 6-0, the irony of ‘new talent’ was not lost on me. Though I didn’t win the award, my debut novel Baggy Pants and Bootees was born. A publishing contract with a small independent company followed. 

My second historical romance, Occupying Love, set in the German Occupation of the Channel Islands during World War Two, was inspired by my paternal grandparents, whose  Guernsey home was requisitioned by the Nazis in 1940.  Seeing it featured in the Guernsey Press made the long years of waiting worthwhile.  I live with my husband in the North of England but I'll always be a Guernsey girl at heart.

Success at last!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Let’s talk about reviews - and in particular Amazon reviews.

I love it when one of my books receives a 4 or 5* review. The world glows! The gloom that descends when there is a non favourable review is all consuming and depressing for a while until I pull myself together and remember not everyone is going to like what I write and maybe the reviewer had a valid criticism. And then I get on writing the next book and telling myself a mix of stars is a good sign in readers eyes. It proves that more people other than just your mates have read the book.

There’s been a lot of talk on various FB groups this week about a certain reviewer leaving one star reviews with the words ‘Didn’t read’ against a lot of books on Amazon. But, aside from the fact that it is quite simply not a review at all, the one star automatically lowers the author’s overall rating, which is what has angered many authors and caused them to react. But should authors react to these type of reviews? Isn’t it a question of the best policy is to read, sigh and ignore? A difficult question to answer.

For authors dependent on Amazon reviews to sell books it’s all turned into a bit of a lottery hasn’t it? Amazon’s policy of emailing customers within a week of them making a purchase of anything, asking them to review the item, seems to intimidate people into leaving a comment immediately. This way of garnering reviews simply doesn’t work for books. For example  ‘5* - arrived safely’ says more about the packaging and delivery service than it does about a book. So a failure as a review but it will give the author’s rating a boost - albeit unfairly. Some people also seem to fail to understand the 1 - 5 star system. I’ve seen glowing reviews in the past accompanied by a 1* because the reviewer has the mistaken belief that it’s the highest ranking and not the lowest. And, once again, the author's rating on Amazon suffers.

I'm not sure whether it’s an urban myth or not but apparently Amazon like to see at least 20 reviews for a book before they start to feature it in various threads like ‘Recommended for you’ and ‘Customers who bought this item also bought’. What definitely isn’t an urban myth is the fact that Amazon will delete a 5* review if they believe there is a connection between the author and the reviewer - whilst leaving the '1* didn’t read' in place.

And in truth the majority of buyers/readers of books will never leave a review. Not because they didn’t love/hate the book but because it simply doesn’t occur to them, nor do they realise how important a review on Amazon has become for authors. Years ago popular fiction was rarely mentioned in the book review pages of newspapers, it was literary fiction all the way. Amazon has certainly changed that with their review system - even if it is a bit like the curate's egg!

Word of mouth has been proved time and time again to be the way to sell books but that is as difficult to kick start as getting people to leave reviews. So personally I'm going to stop worrying about the reviews, try to always write the best book I can, and carry on dreaming that one day one of my books will be the next big thing.

Do you look at the reviews before you buy a book? Or do you prefer to take recommendations from friends? Do you look at book blogs? Or simply buy if the blurb appeals? How do you decide?

Saturday, 17 February 2018

A Literary Weekend in Dublin

Last week was mid term break for Scottish schools – days to fill, in February, when the weather tends
not to be kind. What to do? We decided on a short trip to Dublin, Ireland, famous for both its warm hospitality (or craic) and excellent pint of Guinness, as well as for producing wonderful writers.

The Old Library

Trinity College,
Long Room
We began by exploring the popular tourist hotspots of Dublin Castle and Kilmainham Gaol, both steeped in Irish political and social history and well worth a visit. But I’d also made it my mission to learn more of Dublin’s great literary tradition, starting at its most famous seat of learning, TrinityCollege. With an outstanding set of writing alumni that includes Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), Oscar Wilde (The Importance of Being Earnest) and Bram Stoker (Dracula), Trinity College is home to the Old Library
Trinity College, Old Library
with its majestic Long Room, containing two tiers of oak bookcases which hold over 200,000 books. It was magnificent on such a jaw-dropping scale that I had to remind myself it was real and not some Disney mock-up or made for a scene of Harry Potter!

 The Book of Kells

But my key reason for visiting Trinity College was to see its main treasure, something I’d wished to view for a long time - the artistically inscribed Book of Kells. Dating from around AD 800, the Book of Kells is believed to have been completed by monks from the island of Iona in Scotland. The precision of the scribes as they recorded the four Gospels of the Bible shows their immense skill and dedication to their work. Following line after line of immaculate Latin script, I couldn’t help but reflect that as I type more and write less, my handwriting has deteriorated to a lazy scrawl. It’s time to up my game and start practicing with the calligraphy set my sons gave me for Christmas. Seeing the Book of Kells was more than worth the wait.

 Dublin Writers Museum

Dublin Writers Museum
Portrait Gallery
From there, it was on to the Dublin Writers Museum, situated in an 18th century townhouse refurbished by the Jameson family, of Irish whiskey fame, which houses a wealth of artefacts, such as letters and first editions, celebrating the lives and works of Irish writers, including four Nobel laureates, over the past three hundred years. Visiting room after room filled with memorabilia from the likes of Swift and Wilde, Yeats and Joyce, was both awe-inspiring and, as a writer, more than a little daunting. If you plan on visiting the Writers Museum make sure to take a trip upstairs to the stunning Writers Portrait Gallery, found in the ornate former drawing room with views across Parnell Square.

Walking with Famous Irish Writers

Oscar Wilde Sculpture
Dublin is a city that encourages walking and has even put together a writing trail which includes a visit to Oscar Wilde’s House, the Oscar Wilde Memorial Sculptures in the gardens opposite his childhood home off Merrion Square, as well as the James Joyce Centre and more. My good friend and writer, Rachelle Atalla, also recommended I visit Sweny’s Pharmacy, an oldie-world former pharmacy that sells second hand books and appears in Joyce’s Ulysses and where volunteers read from his work. When we visited, Ulysses was being read in French, and given my knowledge of French has gone much the same way as my handwriting, we didn’t linger long, but it was lovely to imagine we’d walked in Joyce’s footsteps, if only for a little while.
Sweny's Pharmacy
mentioned in Ulysses

Contemporary Female Irish Writers

 In preparation for my trip to Dublin and also since I've returned, I've been reading contemporary female Irish fiction writers. I have long been a fan of both Marian Keyes (my review of her latest release, The Break) and Cecelia Ahern (one of my Christmas reads was The Gift), but I was also lucky enough, last year, to hear the fabulous short fiction writer, Claire Keegan, give a reading at Aberdeen University (my review of Foster). Next on my to-be-read pile was The Hollow Heart by Adrienne Vaughan, editor of the Romantic Novelists’ Association magazine and author of the Heartfelt series. Vaughan’s latest The Summer at the Seahorse Hotel is out now.
Lastly, my current bedtime read is The Good Mother by Sinead Moriarty, recommended for those visiting Dublin, over on the Trip Fiction website. Ireland’s literary tradition is most definitely alive and well.

If you’re unable to sample the delights of Ireland for yourself then why not try the next best thing and read some of its brilliant fiction. I'd love if you'd join in the craic by sharing your favourites below …

Happy reading,


Saturday, 10 February 2018


This week is Valentine's Day. A day for romance, when gifts and cards are exchanged to declare one's love. For many, in this world of digital messaging, it may be one of the few times their feelings of love are expressed by the pen. The art of letter writing is fading fast and with it, dare I say, is the art of writing a love letter. Yet when a woman receives a love letter, written from the heart by the man she loves, it will mean more than any card or bunch of flowers bought on the way home from work.

Why? Because writing a love letter takes time, deep thought, is personal and unique. It opens a window to the writer's thoughts that he/she may find difficult to express in words. If written well and the feelings are returned, the recipient feels valued and connected on a deeper level than before.

Keely Chace gave her top tips for writing a love letter to him on the Hallmark website.

Make him feel it from the start.
ie My Darling …
Mention why you’re writing.
It might be an occasion like Valentine’s Day, but I just felt like telling you…is also a good reason.
Affirm him.
What do you like about him and/or what are you grateful for?
See the future.
What are you looking forward to together? Seeing him tonight? Still loving him when he’s 64?
Finish strong.
with an affectionate signing off such as All my love, Forever yours, Tenderly, Your loving wife…etc.

Her tips certainly give a template, although perhaps a love letter written from the heart is more genuine than one following a step by step guide.

What advice would a man give to a man? Tom Chiarella from Esquire says "A good love letter declares itself plainly, then illustrates particularly.... Let the example precede sentiment. .... Don't repeat yourself. Emotional declarations matter more if you make them one at a time, space them a little....Let her know that she is redefining your terms."

What elements do I think a love letter should have? For me a love letter holds more value when it is not in response to an earlier argument and therefore has no agenda. It should be written with care, thought and love, sharing heartfelt feelings of how much the recipient means to them. It should not be too long or too complicated, nor too brief.

I think we all have a love letter inside us, but perhaps not all of us are brave enough to expose our innermost feelings. If a full letter is too exposing, than perhaps a heartfelt signing off could be a good place to start. Despite leading the country in the second world war, Winston Churchill still felt able to sign his letters to his wife in the most affectionate terms.

"Sweet cat—I kiss your vision as it rises before my mind. Your dear heart throbs often in my own. God bless you darling keep you safe & sound." 

One takes a risk when penning a love letter in this day and age. Love letters, written in solitude and given in confidence, can be shared on the internet within seconds. However, whenever I read one I only think how lucky the recipient is, to have someone love them as deeply as the person who penned the letter.

"I already love in you your beauty, but I am only beginning to love in you that which is eternal and ever previous – your heart, your soul. Beauty one could get to know and fall in love with in one hour and cease to love it as speedily; but the soul one must learn to know. Believe me, nothing on earth is given without labour, even love, the most beautiful and natural of feelings." 

Leo Tolstoy to Valeria Arsenev (November, 1856)

"…I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, .with all your undumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it should lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal.
So this letter is really just a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defenses. And I don’t really resent it."

Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf

A well crafted love letter is special indeed, and even more so when it is written by the one you love. Should you receive one, cherish it and revisit it, for someone has been brave enough to open their hearts to you and, more importantly, feel you are worth the risk to do so.

Author of

Monday, 5 February 2018


Now then, I rarely post personal stuff in the ether ..... certainly not on Facebook or Twitter unless it's to urge people to buy my books or the magazines in which I have stories. But this blog is, I think, different - albeit in the ether as the others. Writers can't just stop being writers because life gets in the way of things like deadlines and ideas that strike in the middle of the night. But the thing is, my husband hasn't been well for some time and just before Christmas he took an alarming turn for the worse. He was unable to eat, suffered massive weight loss, and everything that goes with those things took an alarming toll on him. A visit to our GP saw him whisked to hospital, but he was too weak to undergo an operation so he was drip-fed antibiotics and tube fed nourishing things until he built up strength which, mercifully he did, and was able to have the operation he needed.
Now then, in the middle of all this worry, and twice-daily drives to the hospital and back, and hours by his bedside, my copy edits arrived from my new publisher. To mention all the above or not? I decided not. I devised a plan. I would get up uber-early (who can sleep soundly with a poorly loved one in hospital anyway?)and do the edits then. I had a week in which to do them. I did. Just. And then said publisher asked for a synopsis for my next novel, also in a week. I said that would be a push and could I have a bit longer .... I could. Phew! And then a magazine editor wanted some tweaks to a quite long short story .... contradiction in terms but writers will see that as a normal statement. Could she have it back in 48 hours .... she could and she did. Phew!
And then there was the thorny question of whether or not to take our grandchildren in to see their granddad. They spend a lot of time with us and were missing him and asking for him. Would they be upset by drips and machines buzzing at random intervals and granddad not being able to play hide and seek with them? In the event they seemed to be far more interested in the control panel at the end of granddad's bed that raised and lowered the head rest and various other things than they were in the poor old boy in it. And the free hot chocolate in the day room was pronounced far superior to anything they'd ever had in a cafe anywhere although six-year-old Emily grumbled about the lack of mini-marshmallows!
And talking of hot drinks .... a young Polish man - a patient in the bed opposite my husband's - was going into the day room to get himself a drink and stopped to ask me if he could get me tea, or coffee, or hot chocolate. And that's when another short story idea came to me. Right there in the most inappropriate of places and I did get a pang of guilt, but it's what writers do - we can't help it. I'm sure other writers will understand. P.S. My husband is now home, I'm pleased to be able to say.