Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Emperor's New Clothes

Where I will be facing my fears...
Image courtesy of Kenneth Allen via Geograph
Licensed under Creative Commons 2

I’m in a state of some considerable confusion right now, and it’s all because of something I ought to be tremendously excited about. I’ve been asked to do some library talks. 

You might think I should be leaping about for joy, but the idea of it stressed me out so much that when I’d sent the email saying I’d do it I had to go away and eat a bar of chocolate to recover. Let me tell you: that isn’t normal for me. 

Realistically, there shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t mind talking. (Ask anyone who knows me.) In a previous life I worked in economic consultancy and — apart from one terrible occasion when I succumbed to a coughing fit and had to be brought a glass of water — I positively enjoyed standing up in front of sometimes-not-very-friendly panels and being cross-examined on the finer details. I even have fond memories of some of my smarter replies to some of the questions (along with some less fine moments, but I prefer ti forget those).

This is different because it involves talking about me, my creative process, my productivity and that old chestnut, my path to publication. It’s one thing doing that over cup of coffee with a friend. We can all do that. But this is different, because it’s in front of people I don’t know. Like every other writer I know, I suffer from impostor syndrome and wake up every day believing that today is the day the world will realise that I can’t write at all, that finding a publisher was luck way beyond justice and that self-publishing is an act of suicidal vanity. 

What if they begin to whisper? What of one among them, like the wise child in the tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes, points their finger at me and says the unsayable? “Look at the Emperor! He has no clothes on!”

Is it possible to die of humiliation? 

I’ll let you know.

Saturday, 12 May 2018


Hello! This week it’s time for one of our light hearted team posts and as summer is fast approaching and thoughts turn to sea and sand, we are following the format of the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert IslandDiscs. Each week, a guest (or castaway) is invited by the host, Kirsty Young, to share the eight recordings, one luxury item and book they would choose to take to a desert island. They are also given a Bible (or religious text of their choice) along with the complete works of Shakespeare. As this is a blog about books and writing we’ve limited our castaways’ selection to one book and a luxury item. It was fun discovering what the team decided to bring along. 

Also, we would love to hear which book and luxury you consider essential for life on a desert island...

Here’s what our castaways chose. Hope you enjoy -


I have come to the conclusion that I must be a very practical person, as the first book and

Forever Amber
by Kathleen Winsor
luxury item that came to mind was How to Stay Alive by Bear Grylls and a pair of scissors. However, as this is more of a fun question and my life does not really depend upon my choice, I think I would take ForeverAmber by Kathleen Winsor as my book choice. Amber St. Clare uses her wits, beauty and courage to climb from her humble beginnings to the highest position a woman could achieve in Restoration England – mistress to King Charles II. She experiences terrible suffering, the great plague, the fire of London and more.  It is a long book (which will keep me entertained), an historical (perfect for escaping the present), interesting (the historical detail is fascinating) and it has a romance at its core (which is my favourite genre). When it was published in 1944 it was initially banned by 14 states in the US and condemned by the Catholic Church for its supposedly explicit content, (sex outside marriage, illegitimacy and abortion). Despite these valiant attempts to keep readers safe from being corrupted, it soon became a bestseller.  Amber is a feisty heroine and a survivor, so hopefully her qualities will also inspire me if I should find myself a castaway.

Pillow Menu
And my luxury item?  It would have to be a pillow. I can sleep almost anywhere as long as I have a decent pillow. However, if Bear Grylls didn’t mind being classed as an item, I would quite happily take him so he could share his knowledge on survival with me … as I said before, I am a practical person and taking him with me would be purely for survival reasons … honest.

(How about choosing the perfect pillow from a luxury pillow menu, Victoria?)


A book? Just one book, out of the many millions
published and the thousands I’ve read and enjoyed but would like to read again? Now that’s a challenge. 
I think I’m going to go right out of my usual genre and choose something that ticks a lot of boxes. Now that I’m older and I’ve left fairy tales behind, I don’t read fantasy, but when I was younger I loved it.  My mum used to read aloud to my sister and myself and I remember sitting on the sofa next to her while she read from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
It’s The Lord of the Rings I’m going to go for. It’s more than just a cracking story of good and evil with a cast of heroes and villains, wizards, elves and underdogs triumphing against the odds. Its rooted in the history of the culture in which I was brought up, with its Celtic and Nordic traditions, its dwarves and its dragons, its simple hobbits in their shires, its mysteries forests and dark mountains and its mist-wreathed stone circles and barrows, their ghosts banished by valour and good sound common sense. It’s the ultimate comfort blanket of a trilogy and there’s no other candidate for my desert island book.

And my luxury? I don’t suppose I’ll be allowed a pen and paper, so can I please be allowed a radio or, failing that, can you somehow arrange Twitter updates on the progress of my favourite sports?

(A radio is yours, Jennifer)

Linda – 

Over the years (rather a lot of them now!!) I've read many, many novels but I never read the same
The Summer of
Impossible Things
one twice - even the ones I've loved at the time of reading. I think the reason for this is I did selected English Literature at 'O' level and George Eliot's Silas Marner was the set book ... I hated it then on the first reading but was forced to read it at least three times and that experience has stuck with me. So ... what I would do is take a book I haven't yet read, and I'd choose my latest purchase which I'm assuming I'd have in my bag when cast adrift on the high seas. For me that is Rowan Coleman's, The Summer of Impossible Things - 'If you could change the past, would you? How far would you go to save the person you love?'  I've been waiting for it to come out in paperback and now it has. The title would be apt for a desert island because everything I'd have to face would seem impossible to begin with probably, although not only in the summer!

Inter-dental brushes
And my luxury item? Well, it's going to have to be inter-dental brushes. I'm sure there would be mint of some sort that could be mixed with fine sand to make a rudimentary toothpaste, and possibly I could shred a twig to make makeshift bristles for a toothbrush but I'd need the real McCoy for in between my teeth. I mean, I'm assuming that George Clooney would be rescuing me in his yacht and I would have to kiss him as a thank you, wouldn't I??

(We’d hate for you to miss out on a kiss from George Clooney, Linda, so the inter-dental brushes are yours!)

Terry - 

Choosing one book proved difficult for me. My first thought drew me to The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield, a perennial favourite novel that embodies Gothic tropes to perfection. I've read this book over and over. The audio version is sublime. But in the spirit of maintaining my sanity while I'm "cast away", I'm choosing The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. At least when i am stranded
I'll have hours of reading. Here's the blurb from Amazon:

Do You Know...

  • where the legend of a cat's nine lives comes from?
  • why "mama" is a word understood in nearly all languages?
  • how the custom of kissing began?
  • whether there really was a female pope?
  • why Cinderella's glass slipper was so important to the Prince?
The answers to these and countless other intriguing questions are given in this compulsively readable, feminist encyclopedia. Twenty-five years in preparation, this unique, comprehensive sourcebook focuses on mythology, anthropology, religion and sexuality to uncover precisely what other encyclopedias leave out or misrepresent. The Woman's Encyclopedia presents the fascinating stories behind word origins, legends, superstitions, and customs. A browser's delight and an indispensable resource, it offers 1350 entries on magic, witchcraft, fairies, elves, giants, goddesses, gods, and psychological anomalies such as demonic possession; the mystical meanings of sun, moon, earth, sea, time, and space; ideas of the soul, reincarnation, creation and doomsday; ancient and modern attitudes towards sex, prostitution, romance, rape, warfare, death and sin, and more.
Tracing these concepts to their prepatriarchal origins, Barbara G. Walker explores a 'thousand
hidden pockets of history and custom in addition to the valuable material recovered by archaeologists, orientalist, and other scholars."
Not only a compendium of fascinating love and scholarship, The Woman's Encyclopedia is a revolutionary book that offers a rare opportunity for both women and men to see our cultural heritage in a fresh light, and draw upon the past for a more humane future.

As for my luxury item: I need a comfortable bed. I am an utter grouch if I don't sleep well.

(And we want you to enjoy your time on the island, Terry – a bed it is)


My desert island book has to be Katherine by Anya Seton.
Published over 60 years ago it’s a real classic that I’ve read and re-read so many times I’ve lost count.  It’s a book that has been on my bookshelf for at least thirty years and one I never stop telling people to read if they like historical fiction. 

Katherine, born the daughter of a humble herald, was betrothed to an obscure knight but was loved by a prince. She became the mistress of John of Gaunt, then his wife and the ancestress of the Tudor Kings of England. The story of her life and love is set against a superbly recreated pageant of 14th century England.
Katherine was the book that made me really, really want to write historicals. I’ve always loved research and I spent a lot of time (years) reading up on English history. But sadly after several years I decided that I’d never have the expertise to write a historical novel. There is so much more than known historical dates to get right: clothes, dialogue, behaviour, atmosphere etc. I bow to all the writers who do it well.
The cover picture of my tattered paperback is too faded to photograph so the one here is from the modern edition.(I personally don’t think this cover gives a true flavour of the book.) If you’ve never read it and like historical novels, do grab a copy, find your own bit of desert and enjoy.
For my luxury item, please may I have my husband? He’d have a shelter built, food collected and probably be planning to lash a raft together for escape before you could say Robinson Crusoe - and all that in itself would be luxury enough.
(I’m not certain Kirsty Young would allow a person, Jennie, but we’re more lenient on our desert island!)


If I’m only allowed to bring one book then it has to be one that evokes lots of memories, which would be my childhood, hardback edition of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. It’s survived a number of house moves and spent some time in packing boxes, so it’s a robust little thing, which should do well against the sun and sand, and possibly even waves. When I open it, my maiden name, with Christmas 1977 alongside, is neatly written in large rounded lettering, a happy reminder of innocent times spent reading under the bedclothes by torchlight. It also reminds me of more recent cosy times with a son cuddled into each side. When we first settled down to reading it, I wasn’t sure it was something my boys would enjoy, but they did.
We meet Mary, a spoilt young orphan returned from India to the wild Yorkshire moors, to live in her uncle’s deserted manor house. At first she feels utterly alone (as I would on a desert island!) but over time she tames a secret walled garden, makes friends with a local boy, Dickon, and discovers her cousin Colin, who she helps nurse to health through a love of nature and books. This would give me hope of perhaps stumbling across a helpful Man Friday, or Girl Friday, come to that!

And if my spirits really began to dip, there always the colour plates to look at, pictures of Mary and Dickon in the garden.

As for my luxury item, well I’d have to rely on my time spent in the Girl Guides to get me through life
on a desert island and would certainly have a stab at building and lighting a fire, as well as gathering vines to lash together some basic shelter, but I reckon all that would take a toll on my hands. So my luxury item would have to be some hand cream. And since we’re talking luxury, may I have some Molton Brown’s Pink Pepperpod replenishing hand cream? – Giant size, please!

Now it’s over to you, please share which book and luxury item would make life sweet on a desert island…
Thanks for dropping by. Until next time,


Saturday, 5 May 2018

Mining for Gratitude

            My life as I knew came crashing down around me on February 20th, the day before my birthday. I was out to dinner with my husband for a pre-birthday celebration when I took a brutal fall, landed on my right arm, and broke it in three places. Life as I knew it changed in the blink of an eye. I had reconstructive surgery and spent two weeks in a pain-killer induced daze. After surgery, I lay whimpering in my bed, reduced to a woman with a life-changing injury and a not insignificant amount of pain. Rest was in order. There was no getting around this mandate. I was unable to do anything, and I needed to step away from all my responsibilities in order to heal.

As time went on, the realization of what lay ahead of me quickly became daunting. The woman who typed 100+ words a minute and wrote 2000 words a day was gone. The woman who walked the dogs, managed the house, wrote books, worked as a paralegal, and did so with a smile was gone. The weeks went by, and like all creatures, this writer adapted to her circumstances. My inbox burgeoned, but I ignored it. I had promised authors that I would post their interviews on my webpage, I had marketing content for my latest book release to produce, not to mention that I needed to start outlining the next novel in my new mystery series. None of that mattered now. The only thing that mattered now was rest. Recovery. Anxiety over work went by the wayside. One look at my hand with the bandage off convinced me my overflowing inbox didn’t matter so much. My energy needed to be directed toward healing. I spent my time resting. I listened to audiobooks, watched reruns of my favourite shows (Midsomer Murders, Agatha Christie, and Colombo), and did a good deal of sleeping. People in the know tell me healing occurs when the body sleeps. I slept.

            Before this accident I was the type of woman that would push through the pain and force myself to work regardless. Women do so much these days, manage careers, home life, cooking, shopping, kids…the list goes on and on. It seems we are hard wired to do it all. Not me. Not anymore. By virtue of this calamity I’ve been given the gift of an epiphany: self-care is just as important as productivity and meeting other people’s deadlines. Taking ownership of my own fragility has allowed me to see the vulnerability and others. My task now is to use this knowledge to breathe depth into my characters. And as I write this blog entry, I realize that over the past weeks I have spent an awful lot of time mining for gratitude. This fall could have been so much worse. I could’ve broken my left arm — leaving me unable to write — which would have been a tragedy. I could have hit my head. The list goes on and on.

            Yesterday I sat outside in the sunshine with wet hair, a cup of tea in hand, my dogs and my husband in the house. I thought, “This moment right here, this is a peaceful time.” Slowing down. Savouring the simple things. Gratitude—admittedly hard to come by at times—got me through this time of trial.

            I am sharing this poem that I discovered on social media. I’m not sure who wrote it, so if anyone knows the author, please message me and I will add an attribution.
            “Just slow down
            Slow down your speech
            Slow down your breathing
            Show down your walking
            Slow down you eating, and let this slower, steadier pace perfume your mind.
            Just slow down.”
                        Author Unknown
            I’ve copied this down in my journal and I have it hanging over my computer. It serves as a reminder to savor the precious moments in life. Because things can change. In the blink of an eye everything can fall apart.

     The good news is that I am healing! The next book is percolating. Wishing you peace and good things. 

Thanks for stopping by Novel Points of View.