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Friday, 7 August 2020

A NOVEL APPROACH - a guest post by Jennifer C Wilson

Tomorrow marks a very special day for Ocelot Press: the launch of its first non-fiction title.  A Novel Approach is an excellent book, whether you're just setting out on the writing journey or are already an experienced writer.  And I'm thrilled to welcome the author - my great friend and fellow-Ocelot Jennifer C Wilson - to tell the world more about it.

Welcome, Jen!

Hi Sue.

Thank you so much for inviting me onto your blog today, to talk about A Novel Approach, my first foray into non-fiction!

I’ve said many times how much I love attending writing workshops. It doesn’t matter whether they’re on poetry or prose, on a particular skill, or a range of prompts to go off in any direction, I just love being surrounded by other writers, learning from them, and improving my own writing. It was from that place then, of finding workshops a great writing environment, that I decided to run a series of my own last year, and early into this one.

I called the series ‘A Novel Approach’, after a LOT of brainstorming, because I had the idea of walking attendees through some of the key elements of writing long-form fiction, starting with generating ideas, creating characters etc., building scenes each workshop, so that, although there wouldn’t necessarily be a finished novel at the end of things, there would be enough of a roadmap that they could see where it was going.

I’ll be honest, and admit that I don’t tend to get my actual story ideas from writing workshops. For me, the initial stories usually strike me as I’m wandering around a historical site, or reading a snippet of trivia about a place which sparks a thought to go and explore. However, once that idea has formed, I love workshops and prompts to keep the words flowing. For example, in the middle of April, a new historical romance idea came to me, but I was really struggling to put pen to paper. I signed up for a month of daily writing prompts, and following my synopsis, wrote a scene a day using the daily exercises. By the end of May I had ~15,000 words, and without the prompts, I don’t think I would have got anywhere near that word count.

It's often said that the most terrifying thing to a writer is the blank page. Whether in a notebook or on screen, having all that white, empty space starting back at you can be daunting. Especially when there’s an idea in your head that just won’t make that jump onto the page. I think this is where writing prompts are particularly useful. I used to use one at the start of a writing session, for an ‘easy way in’ and to get the words flowing, without having to think too much! As with the month of prompts above, when you have a scenario or set of characters in your head, but aren’t quite sure what they’re going to get up to, having somebody give you a scene to put them in, or something to think about, can be really helpful in getting those first few paragraphs down. Quite often, once that’s happened, you’re away, which is always the most important thing.

That’s what I’m really hoping people can get out of A Novel Approach, then; to find the prompts and exercises I’ve included a useful jumping-off point to get the ink flowing, whether on screen or on page.

A Novel Approach

Is there a novel in you? Let me help you find out...

Based on my series of workshops held throughout 2019 and into 2020, this book is designed to help writers work through each of the key stages of their story, including:

-          Idea generation;

-          Creating characters;

-          Describing your settings;

-          Showing vs telling; and

-          Keeping the words flowing when you find yourself stuck.

As well as the above, I have also added sections on hooking your readers in, leaving them wanting more, and useful resources as a writer, including how to dip a successful toe into the world of social media.

The workshops were fun, helping writers of short stories and novels alike, and I hope these exercises can help you too!

A Novel Approach:


About Jennifer

Jennifer C. Wilson stalks dead people (usually monarchs, mostly Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III). Inspired by childhood visits to as many castles and historical sites her parents could find, and losing herself in their stories (not to mention quite often the castles themselves!), at least now her daydreams make it onto the page.

After returning to the north-east of England for work, she joined a creative writing class, and has been filling notebooks ever since. Jennifer won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014, and in 2015, her debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Books. The full series was re-released by Darkstroke in January 2020.

Jennifer is a founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, and has been running writing workshops in North Tyneside since 2015. She also publishes historical fiction novels with Ocelot Press. She lives in Whitley Bay, and is very proud of her two-inch view of the North Sea.

You can connect with Jennifer online:






Tuesday, 21 July 2020


I'm delighted to be taking part in this summer's Historical Writers Forum Blog Hop on the theme of Momentous Events. My chosen topic is that unforgettable moment in July 1969 when humans first set foot on the Moon.

Although the Moon Landings might feel like comparatively recent history – particularly in the minds of those who, like me, are old enough to remember them – the concept of space travel is not by any means a modern phenomenon.  As long ago as the middle of the 19th century, the idea had been anticipated by the French author Jules Verne, in his novel De la Terre à la Lune (1865) and its sequel Autour de la Lune (1869).  It was further developed by the English writer H G Wells in his story The First Men in the Moon (1900-1901), and by the pioneering French film director and magician Georges Méliès in his short film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), which was inspired partly by Verne's stories.  The film, featuring Méliès himself in the main role of Professor Barbenfouillis, can be seen here

Just over half a century later space travel became a reality, when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 – the world’s first artificial satellite – on 4th October 1957.  This was followed on 3rd November 1957 by Sputnik 2, the first spacecraft to carry a living creature.  The passenger was Laika, a stray dog from the streets of Moscow.  But Sputnik 2 was not designed to return to Earth, and consequently (and controversially) Laika died in space.   A memorial to her can now be seen in Moscow.

The first successful USA satellite was Explorer 1, launched on 31st January 1958.  The space race had begun in earnest.

On 25th May 1961, four months after his inauguration, US President John F Kennedy announced to Congress: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”  You can see footage of his original speech here.  Because the Soviet Union was well ahead of the USA in the space race at this stage, having already sent a man into space (Yuri Gagarin, in Vostok 1) just over a month earlier, Kennedy’s bold challenge was exciting news for Cold-War-era America.

Sadly, John Kennedy did not live to see his goal achieved.  Less than three years later, an assassin’s bullet brought his term of office to a sudden and brutal end.  It is said that everyone who is old enough to remember the events of 22nd November 1963 can still recall what they were doing when they heard the sombre announcement: “President Kennedy is dead”.

But work on the USA space program continued, and in 1966 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted the first (unmanned) Apollo mission.  The first manned flight was Apollo 7, which began in October 1968 and lasted for 11 days.  During the flight, the three astronauts (Walter Cunningham, Donn Eisele and Wally Schirra) made the first live television transmissions from inside a manned spacecraft – a feat which later earned them a special Emmy award.   

 Schirra & Eisele on board Apollo 7 (photo: NASA)

In December of the same year, Apollo 8 transported astronauts William Anders, Frank Borman and Jim Lovell to the far side of the moon in an iconic figure-of-eight orbit which became the mission’s logo:

This was followed in March 1969 by Apollo 9, which tested the lunar module whilst in orbit round the Earth, and in May 1969 by Apollo 10, which performed a dry run of the route for the forthcoming lunar landing mission two months later.

Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Canaveral (re-named Cape Kennedy in honour of the former President) on 16th July 1969, carrying astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin (“Buzz”) Aldrin  and Michael Collins.  

Photo: Time Life Pictures/NASA/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The 230,000-mile (395,000-km) journey to the moon took just over three days, after which Armstrong and Aldrin moved into the lunar module (known as the Eagle) and detached it from the command module to prepare for descent to the surface of the moon. 

The descent took around two hours, of which the final minutes were particularly fraught – both inside the Eagle and on the ground at Mission Control in Houston.  As the Eagle approached the lunar surface, and with its fuel supply almost exhausted, Armstrong realised that the craft’s auto-landing program was about to deposit them in the middle of a crater full of boulders.  A veteran test pilot, he swiftly took over manual control and skilfully manoeuvred the craft towards a clear spot beyond the crater.  The module came to rest in the Sea of Tranquility with just thirty seconds’ worth of fuel left.

The staff at Mission Control waited with bated breath until they heard Armstrong’s voice: “This is Tranquility Base.  The Eagle has landed.”

Roger, Tranquility,” came the response from Houston. “We copy you on the ground.  You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue.  We’re breathing again.”

Ten minutes later, Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon.  He stepped off the ladder on to the lunar surface, uttering the now famous words: “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Aldrin followed him down the ladder and the two men spent two hours on the moon, collecting soil and rock samples, conducting experiments and taking photographs.

Buzz Aldrin on the moon, photographed by Neil Armstrong (photo: NASA)

A plaque left on the moon bore the inscription:

JULY 1969, A.D.

together with the signatures of Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, Edwin Aldrin, and US President Richard Nixon.

 (Photo: Buzz Aldrin on Twitter)

America had now achieved Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon, but the second half of his promise had still to be fulfilled: returning him safely to Earth.

This, too, was fraught with danger at every stage.  The Eagle first had to take off from the moon, then successfully re-engage with the command module in orbit.  And if the Eagle’s single ascent engine failed, there was a very real prospect that Armstrong and Aldrin could find themselves stranded on the moon.  It is a sobering thought that President Nixon had a condolence speech already prepared for this eventuality.  The speech began: “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace…”

Thankfully, Nixon’s speech was not needed.  Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins survived all the perils of the return journey: taking off from the moon, docking with the command module, and re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere.  Apollo 11’s capsule, with the three astronauts safely inside, splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, 800 nautical miles south-west of Hawaii, on 28th July1969.  They remained in quarantine for 21 days before returning to their families.

All three astronauts went on to live to a ripe old age.  Neil Armstrong died on 25th August 2012 at the age of 82.  At the time of writing, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins (aged 90 and 89 respectively) are still living.


  • It used to be thought that the full moon caused madness.  The words “lunacy” and “lunatic” are both derived from luna, the Latin word for moon.
  • Sputnik 1 was the size of a beachball.
  • The Apollo astronauts’ spacesuits were designed by Playtex, a company better known for manufacturing ladies’ underwear.
  • The astronauts on Apollo 11 ate cereal (mixed with fruit and packed into cubes), but couldn’t have it with milk in case it floated out of the bowl.
  • The average smartphone today contains a more powerful computer than the spaceships which sent the astronauts to the moon.
  • Surprisingly, even today, some people apparently still believe that the moon landings were an elaborate hoax!  I wonder what they think could have happened...

Sunday, 28 June 2020

WALKING ON WILD AIR - an interview with Yvonne Marjot

My guest today is my dear friend Yvonne Marjot, whose wonderful novel Walking on Wild Air has just been re-released through Ocelot Press.  

Welcome, Yvonne.  And many congratulations on the new launch.

What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t make up stories and poems. I have a copy of my first science fiction story, written aged 10. It was about a colony ship travelling for thousands of years to seed a new planet with human life. My mum used to say I wouldn’t know the truth if I fell over it in the street. Hmm… I wonder what she meant?

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

Walking on Wild Air is a paranormal romance, a ghost story with a twist, set partly in Sri Lanka and partly on a Scottish island. Sushila Mackenzie travels to her father’s home to scatter his ashes. There she meets a man who will change her life forever, but there is much more to Dougie MacLean than meets the eye. Can their love survive the collision of such different worlds?

What was the inspiration for this book?

I’ve always been fascinated by Greek mythology, and ancient ideas about little gods everywhere: the genius loci of springs and woods. I wanted to write a story which crossed over between the real world and a magical realm, and to set it on the Scottish island where I live.

Did you do any research for the book?

I love research. It’s a great excuse for putting off the writing. Actually, a friend challenged me to ‘write a romance in six weeks’ and I did so: the first draft of Walking on Wild Air was written in a mad rush during one school summer holiday. Only afterwards did I go away and do some reading around the subject, and it was then that I wrote the parts of the story which give Dougie’s point of view.

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

I work full time and until recently I was also a lone parent, so writing has been my escape from real life. However, I wasn’t able to really get my teeth into until my sons grew up and left home. Now, during lockdown, I try to get up and write a little every morning before getting on with my day. It’s been so successful that I’m determined to keep doing it even when I go back to work.

How do you decide on the names for your characters?

Names are really important to me. Sometimes I choose them because their underlying meaning speaks to me. Dougal comes from a Gaelic phrase, ‘the dark stranger’ (Dubh Gall), which I thought was appropriate. Sushila is named after the daughter of a man I worked with decades ago. I never met her, but he spoke often about how wonderful she was, and I wanted to channel some of that affection into my character.

Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

When I start writing a novel I need to know the names of my characters and to have a fell for the kinds of people they are. It’s vital I know the ending/climax, and I often write that before I start work. Then it’s a question of writing towards the ending. I make notes for myself along the way, but I never have a formal plan.

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

I’m a reader first of all, and I read very widely, but my favourite genres are fantasy and SciFi. I’ve been hugely influenced by writers such as Ursula K Le Guin, an absolute master of her art, and also by Barbara Kingsolver who writes lovely contemporary literary fiction often with a scientific or ecological theme. I’ve also deliberately read many modern writers of paranormal fiction to work out what I like, and don’t like, about their styles. 

Now the book is published and ‘out there’ how do you feel?

I’ve really enjoyed revisiting Walking on Wild Air, which was first published in 2016, and rewriting it to make it even better than before. This is my favourite of all my books so far. I’m delighted that it’s going to be available again. 

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Be prepared to work hard, and to make little or no money. Do it because you love it—because not to write would be intolerable. Read widely, learn from your mistakes, but most of all have fun!

What can we expect from you in the future?

This year I will also be re-publishing my archaeological romances, The Calgary Chessman trilogy. I’m working on the second book in a sequence of post-apocalyptic SciFi/Fantasy novels, Tales of the Broken Road. Publication has been deferred because of Covid-19 and I now hope it will come out in 2021. My book of short stories, Treacle and Other Twisted Tales, is still in print and there’s definitely another collection of short stories quietly stacking up in my files. Am I ever going to stop writing? Not a chance.

Thanks for visiting, Yvonne.  Please come again!

More about Yvonne:

Yvonne Marjot is a published poet and author, and once won a case of port in a poetry competition. Her four novels, the Calgary Chessman trilogy of archaeological romances, and the paranormal romance Walking on Wild Air, have recently come out of contract and she will be self-publishing them in 2020. Her collection of short stories, Treacle and Other Twisted Tales, is still in print.

She lives on a Scottish island where she is volunteering during the Covid19 lockdown, but normally runs the local public library. She has three grown-up children and a very naughty cat.

More about Walking on Wild Air:

She is a wounded soul fleeing a terrible grief.  He has been alone forever.  They find solace in each other on a remote Scottish island, but can love survive the collision of such different worlds?

Escape to a place forged not by time, but by memories.

"A story as beautiful and haunting as its Scottish Highlands location." Shani Struthers, author of the Psychic Surveys series.

"If you want a story with romance, magic, mystery and the paranormal, then surely this is the book for you."  Edyth Harrison.

"A story to touch the heart."  Christine Nedahl.

Monday, 22 June 2020


Darkness lurks beneath London’s glittering surface… 

Announcing a new anthology about the shadier side of Britain’s capital, 
and the background to my part of it.

Although I’ve never lived in London and have only ever visited as a tourist, I still feel a strong affinity with the city.  My mother’s side of the family all came from London, so you could almost say it’s in my blood.

My contribution to this new anthology, a short story entitled A Discreet Distance, has a particular significance for me.  In its original form, it was one of my very early attempts at writing fiction.   

The initial idea for the story was inspired by a book I’d read when I was learning French at school: Le Grand Meaulnes, by Alain-Fournier – first published in 1913, a year before its 27-year-old author was killed during the first month of World War One.  The novel has been translated into English several times, with titles including The Wanderer, The Lost Domain and The Land of Lost Content, and is based partly on Fournier’s own experience of a lifetime search for a lost love.

The first version of A Discreet Distance appeared far longer ago than I care to remember.  It was extremely short, it contained no dialogue, and the characters didn’t even have names.  What kind of story is that, I hear you ask – and I would answer: What indeed?  But like the dog walking on its hind legs, at that stage in my writing career the miracle was not that it was done well, but that it was done at all.

Over the years the story has seen several expansions and revisions, including the introduction of dialogue, names for the two principal characters (David and Caroline), and a significant reworking of the ending.  But the one thing which has remained constant throughout is the setting: a chance encounter on a London Underground train.  David finds Caroline again after an absence of more than thirty years, but in a way he could never have imagined...

A previous version of the story was shortlisted for Story Tyne 2019, and its latest reincarnation has now found a home in Dark London.  This anthology, which contains a total of eighteen gripping stories spread over two volumes, is released on 25th June – that’s just three days away – and all proceeds from the sale will be donated to two London charities: The London Communities Foundation and Centrepoint. 

If you’re stuck indoors and looking for something to read, look no further.  Click here to buy Volume One and here to buy Volume Two.

Monday, 11 May 2020


This week (11-17 May 2020) is National Vegetarian Week in the UK.  Whilst I’m not a vegetarian myself, I do have a keen interest in meat-free food, and a few years ago I did some research into the basic principles of vegetarian and vegan cookery.

Officially, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat in any form, and this includes fish, shellfish and poultry.  Vegans take this principle one stage further, and do not consume any animal-derived derived products at all.

So how do those who don’t eat meat obtain the protein they need in their diet?

The answer is: surprisingly easily.  Proteins consist of 22 different amino acids, of which eight are essential to our health.  Non-meat proteins contain some – but not always all – of these eight essential amino acids.  The secret of getting all your protein from non-meat sources is simply knowing how to combine foods to ensure that all eight amino acids are present. 

Non-meat sources of protein fall into four main categories:

GRAINS: Rice, cereal, corn, wheat (including bread and pasta)

PULSES: Beans, peas, lentils, peanuts (which, despite their name, are not actually nuts)

MILK PRODUCTS: Milk, cheese, yoghurt

SEEDS (including nuts)

Three basic combinations of these food groups will provide the eight essential amino acids.  These combinations are:




It might sound complicated, but it isn't.  In fact, you might already be eating some of these combinations without even realising it.  For example, beans on toast combines grains and pulses, and cheese on toast combines grains and milk.  One point worth remembering when planning a meal is that all the protein doesn’t necessarily have to be in the main course.

You don’t need to be a vegetarian to enjoy vegetarian food.  To find out more about National Vegetarian Week, click on the link at the beginning of this article.  If you’d like to know more about vegetarianism and/or veganism in general, including some tempting recipes, take a look at The Vegetarian Society website and The Vegan Society website.

Happy cooking!

Saturday, 9 May 2020


Yesterday morning I spent some time chatting on Skype with my very good friend and fellow-author David W Robinson.  This was the eventual result:

You can find out more about David and his writings on his own website:

Tuesday, 17 March 2020


It's said that everyone has a book inside them. 

As more and more of us face having to stay indoors and avoid social contact, this would be a wonderful opportunity to find that book.

This amazing workbook will be a great help to any writer, from complete beginners to published authors, via any stage in between.  Accessible and understandable but not over-simplistic, it helps you to set your writing goals and - just as important - to keep to them.  I've found it invaluable in combatting the dreaded writer's block.  Highly recommended.

Read on for more details about the book, and news of an exciting giveaway.

52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner

Are you ready to become the writer you were always meant to be?
52 Weeks of Writing will get you cracking by making you plan, track, reflect on, and check in with your progress and goals an entire year long.
52 Weeks of Writing will help you dig deep by offering questions and writing prompts designed to unravel whatever truths about your writing you’re ready for.
52 Weeks of Writing will keep you inspired by delivering a thought-provoking writing quote every week.

-          Do you struggle with setting goals that reflect your daily reality?
-          Do you want to practise breaking goals down into manageable chunks?
-          Would you like more insight into your writing habit(s) and figure out why you keep getting in your own way?
-          And do you want to create a sustainable writing practice that honours your needs and desires as a writer?

Then the 52 Weeks of Writing: Author Journal and Planner is for you.
52 Weeks of Writing brings together every lesson Mariëlle S. Smith has learned as a writing coach and writer. Wary as she is of comparisonitis and unhealthy competition, this author journal and planner was designed to help writers develop and fine-tune a practice that works for them.
If you’re ready to get out of your own way and become the writer you’re meant to be, pick up your copy of 52 Weeks of Writing today.

Purchase Link

Author Bio –

Social Media Links –

Giveaway to win….
·         THREE paperback copies of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner,
·         ONE coaching session.

To enter, just click on this link:

Sincere thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Saturday, 29 February 2020


On Thursday evening (27th February) I went to Prestwich Library for a very special event: the launch of Jo Fenton's latest thriller Revelation.  I had the pleasure of working with Jo as editor of this novel, and I can assure you that she's really excelled herself this time.

To whet your appetite, here she is, reading the opening pages:


Revelation (A Becky White Thriller) 

Manchester, 1989 

A student, Rick, is found dead in halls of residence.  

His friends get caught up in the aftermath: Dan, who was in love with Rick; and Becky, who is in love with Dan.  

Their fraught emotions lead them into dark places - particularly a connection to a mysterious Kabbalistic sect.  

Will Becky discover who killed Rick in time to save her best friend?

Purchase Links:

Author Bio – Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled “Science Can Be Fun”. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.

Social Media Links – Website          

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Friday, 28 February 2020


Today is the last day of my series of posts as Crooked Cat's featured author, and I'd like to bring you up to date with my latest news and my plans for the future.

At present I have six novels published, and all of them started out with Crooked Cat.  Three of them (Nice Girls Don't, Never on Saturday and Finding Nina) are still published by Crooked Cat, whilst Heathcliff: The Missing Years is now with Crooked Cat's Darkstroke imprint, about which I spoke in more detail yesterday.  The other two (The Ghostly Father and The Unkindest Cut of All), following reversion of rights, were revised and re-released through Ocelot Press.

Ocelot Press is a small group of independent authors who publish our books under a collective umbrella.  At present we have 20 books available, with more releases planned for the next few months.  If you want to know more, take a look at our website and our Facebook page.

The Ghostly Father has also recently been released as an audiobook, beautifully narrated by Danielle Cohen and Philip Rose.  This is a brand-new venture for me, and I shall be very interested to see how it fares.

In the meantime, I have a couple of fiction projects on the go, and I'm also working (very slowly) on a poetry collection.   Whether any of these ever see the light of day remains to be seen.  But if you want to keep up to date with what I'm doing, please follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Amazon.

Thank you for keeping me company this week.  And don't forget, you can still buy all my Kindle titles for just 99p each by clicking on the book covers on the right.  Do it now, before the prices go back up!

Thursday, 27 February 2020


After hearing his love say him "Nay",
he runs, broken-hearted, away.
Three years later, he's back,
having made quite a stack.
What went on in between?  Who can say?

Who indeed?  What did happen to Heathcliff during the three years when he disappeared from Wuthering Heights?

This is one of literature's most enduring mysteries, and back in 2018 I set myself the task of trying to solve it.

It proved to be quite a challenge, because the dates in Wuthering Heights are very precise.  Heathcliff disappeared in 1780 and returned in 1783.  My original idea was that he might have spent his missing years as a pirate, but I quickly discovered that the heyday of piracy was several decades too early.  I then wondered if he might have made his fortune in the American or Australian goldrush, but in both cases the goldrush years were not until the mid-1800s.  I eventually found an option which did fit with the correct dates, but if you want to find out what that was, you'll need to read Heathcliff: The Missing Years. (Psst - it's currently on special offer: the Kindle edition is just 99p for this week.)

The novel was first published by Crooked Cat on 30 July 2018, to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Brontë.  The original book has now had a makeover and a brand new cover, and has recently moved to Darkstroke - the imprint of Crooked Cat which deals specifically with crime, thriller and horror. 

Darkstroke is currently open for submissions, and you can find the guidelines here.

Please join me again tomorrow for the final post in this series, when I'll be talking about what comes next.  In the meantime, remember that all my Kindle titles are just 99p each for this week only.  Click on the book covers on the right to find out more.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020


As well as writing novels, I also occasionally like to try my hand at poetry.  Today I'd like to share some of it with you.  I know that poetry isn't everyone's cup of Lapsang Souchong, so if you don't want to know the score, look away now.

This blog actually began life as a poetry blog for National Poetry Writing Month 2013.  This event takes place every year throughout the month of April.  Each day a prompt appears on the NaPoWriMo website, and poets throughout the world are invited to take up the challenge and post their efforts on their blogs.  The latter probably calls for far more bravery than the actual writing.

Here is one such pathetic effort from that far-off time:


There once was a wannabe poet
whose verses were dire, sad to say.
Then one April, she found NaPoWriMo:
thirty days of a poem a day.

Each morning she looked at the website,
and in the available time
she grappled with form, structure, metre,
enjambement, content and rhyme.

'Twas the twenty-fifth day of the challenge:
"Write a ballad" the task on the site,
but by bedtime she'd still written nothing
and her muse had retired for the night.

She woke up at three in the morning
with a wondrous idea in her head,
but she could not write down this great epic,
for alas she'd no pen by her bed.

Then sleep once again overcame her
and hijacked her poor addled brain.
On waking, her great inspiration
had vanished like snow in the rain.

And if this sad tale has a moral,
it is this: always be on your guard,
for if you let go of the moment
you'll never succeed as a bard.

My blog even owes its title to poetry.  Fans of Robert Browning (I'm sure there must be some of you out there) will probably recognise the sly reference to one of his best-known works.  Here is an unashamed spoof of one of his others:


A small town in a faraway nation
had a terrible rat infestation,
about which the mayor
appeared not to care
(to the townspeople’s rage and frustration).

The plague had become so acute
that the townsfolk were quite resolute:
“We must do something here!”
Then who should appear
but a man in a weird coloured suit.

“I see you’ve a problem,” said he.
“Now listen: if I guarantee
to dispose of your rats,
give me one thousand crowns.  That’s
my fee.”  Said the mayor, “I agree.”

The stranger, with fingers a-quiver,
piped a tune which made all the folk shiver.
But the hypnotic air
made the rats leave their lair
and leap to their deaths in the river.

Oh, great was the joy in the town!
Then the piper said “My thousand crowns?”
When the mayor, looking shifty,
just offered him fifty,
the piper’s smile turned to a frown.

He glared, strode out into the square,
and, raising his pipe in the air,
played another refrain.
The town’s children came
and followed him – Heaven knows where.

The mayor’s desperate pleas went in vain,
for the children were ne’er seen again.
So the lesson inferred
is “You must keep your word”
and to think otherwise is insane!

If you're still with me, well done.  Go and pour yourself a stiff drink.  

Please join me again tomorrow, when I'll be talking about going over to the dark side.  In the meantime, don't forget that all my Kindle titles are just 99p each for this week only.  Click on the book covers on the right to find out more.