Saturday, 31 March 2018


So, ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, it is Easter and I give you .... chocolate! Yes, I know it's a Christian festival but ask any primary school child (and possibly more than a few senior ones) what they associate with Easter and they will say, 'Easter eggs!' - preferably chocolate ones. The history of chocolate begins in Mesoamerica. Fermented beverages made from chocolate date back to 350 BC. The Aztecs believed that cocoa (or cacao as they have it) seeds were the gift of Quetzaloatl, the god of wisdom, and the seeds once had so much value that they were used as a form of currency. So, back to Easter eggs and their symbolism. The egg is an ancient symbol of new life, associated with pagan festivals celebrating Spring. From a Christian perspective they represent Jesus' emergence from the tomb, and resurrection. In Britain, the first chocolate bar was made by Joseph Fry in 1847. Then along came John Cadbury, jumping on the bandwagon, who further developed the chocolate bar in 1849. Both, of course, are trade names we know and love still. Now this is a writing blog so in the interests of research I decided to see how chocolate has been portrayed in literature. So, I Googled 'Chocolate/book titles'. Oh, my eye! I clicked on 'images' and there were screens and screens and screens of book covers ... hundreds if not thousands. The very popular and successful (and thoroughly good egg) Carole Matthews has given us THE CHOCOLATE LOVERS' CLUB. I mean, who wouldn't want to be part of one of those?
Scrolling down through, Joanne Fluke's CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE MURDER jumped out at me. It surely must take the phrase, 'I could kill for a chocolate chip cookie' to another level!
And who can possibly forget another Joanne, Joanne Harris' CHOCOLAT - chocolate nipples anyone?
Of course, there is also that - possibly - most famous chocolate-themed book of all, Roald Dahl's CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. I've lost count of the number of times I've read that one to, and with, my children and grandchildren. If chocolate grabs the young reader then it's more than worth writing about, I'd say.
Now it's said that chocolate is an aphrodisiac, and that a high percentage cocoa solids chocolate is a health food. So, excuse me ..... I'm off to buy some chocolate.

Friday, 23 March 2018

An Acute Case of Impostor Syndrome

Just like me, Franz Kafka felt like a fraud.
Image in the public domain
(via Wikimedia Commons)

Hello. My name is Jennifer and I’m…an out-and-out fraud. 

I tell people that I’m a writer. It took me a long time to be able to do that, and even now there’s always a little voice in my brain that whispers: writer? No you’re not? 

But I go through with the pretence. I post about my books, I tweet the good reviews (there are some), I pretend that everything’s going wonderfully. And in terms of the writing, it is. I love my writing. I think it might be okay. I think it’s even better than some far more successful books, though I've read plenty of unpublished work that's miles better than either. But these days that doesn’t make you a writer. 

It's as much about sales and marketing these days as it is about writing. Everything has to be perfect — the strapline, the blurb, the cover. And below that flurry of obvious activity, there’s all the marketing — placing the ads, picking the niche, finding the keywords. And then there’s the face-to-face selling. ‘Here, take my card. I know you’ll love this book.’ And that’s the bit I can’t do. 

The worst of it, though, is that failure at the marketing side of it undermines any joy you get from working at the coal face (or the computer screen). I love writing. I’ll always write. When I stop for a period, I become genuinely depressed until I start again. It’s something I have to do. But that doesn’t make me a writer. It makes me someone who writes. 

There’s a name for this. It’s called impostor syndrome. I know many, many people who suffer from this, and a huge proportion of them are writers. It's always been like this. Take Franz Kafka: "Afraid to finish a review for the Prager Tagblatt. Such fear of writing always expresses itself by my occasionally making up, away from my desk, initial sentences for what I am to write, which immediately prove unusable, dry, broken off long before their end, and pointing with their towering fragments to a sad future," he wrote in his diary. And I certainly know how that feels.

The problem, I think, is that rejection is part of the writer’s life. Every success — even a small one — is built on a dozen or more failures, and requires a huge amount of luck. Every failure brings misery and self-doubt until that's what we become conditioned to accept. Today when I open my email I’m always looking for the rejection letter and if I were ever to succeed, no doubt I’d be opening it looking out for the ‘sorry, we're dropping you’ email from my publisher.

I know I should give it up and do something measurable, where success in indisputable. (When you've run a marathon, no-one can argue that you’re a success, no?) But I can’t. There was never a better illustration of “can’t be together but can’t let go” than a writer and their writing…

(PS If you’d like to buy any of my books you can find them here, but pleased don’t feel obliged).

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:
Terry Lynn Thomas grew up in the San 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!