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After the daily blog all through November keeping you up to date with my NaNoWriMo progress (huge thanks to those of you who dropped by every day), it's time for 'normal service' to be resumed and this week I am thrilled to welcome back Jen Gilroy to my blog to share two of her favourite fictional people in the Take Two Characters series.



Take Two Characters:


Jen Gilroy Chooses Two of Her Favourite Fictional People


I was delighted when Susanna asked me to take part in this series on her blog. Not only is she a dear friend, but she’s also a favourite blogger and I’m always happy to visit here and chat with her readers.

However, I must confess that her request to choose two favourite fictional characters, one from my own books and one in a book by another author, was challenging. As a reader, I have so many favourite fictional characters. How could I choose only one? And as an author, I’m attached to my characters as a mum is attached to her children. Choosing one over all the others smacked of favouritism!



The decision was made, though, when Susanna noted that this guest post aligns with the first book birthday for Back Home at Firefly Lake, the third book in my series of small-town romantic contemporaries set in Firefly Lake, Vermont.

As I celebrate that milestone, I’m also celebrating one of the characters in Back Home at Firefly Lake, Cat (Catherine) McGuire who has much in common with one of my favourite characters created by another author, Valancy Stirling from Canadian author L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle.


Cat returns to Firefly Lake


Cat appears in my first two Firefly Lake books from a brief reference in The Cottage at Firefly Lake to small appearances in Summer on Firefly Lake. When the time came to give her a story of her own, she’d already lived in my head for over a year.


Single mom, daughter, sister and sympathetic friend to many of the other characters, Cat is someone who has never felt comfortable in her own skin, or in Firefly Lake. Academically gifted, she’s happy in the world of books…until, all of a sudden, she isn’t.



When in her mid-thirties, life brings her back to Firefly Lake, she has to confront the awkward teen she once was and face her fears (including her childhood crush, ice hockey pro Luc Simard) to finally become the woman she truly wants to be in life, work, and love.


Every book I write is, at some level, a story of female transformation and empowerment and Cat is no exception. In the end, and while she earns her happy ending with Luc (the story is a romance!), she also gains so much more—confidence in who she is and what she wants in all aspects of her life, not only in a romantic relationship.


Valancy and her Blue Castle

More than ninety years before Cat McGuire, Valancy Stirling appeared in L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, first published in 1926 and, in contrast to the much better known Anne of Green Gables, one of the few Montgomery books defined as ‘adult’ fiction.



A ‘spinster’ at the age of twenty-nine, Valancy lives a life of dull routine, dominated by her narrow-minded family and gossipy rural community. With limited education, no practical skills except for cooking, and at a time where women of her social background had few options in the world of work, she finds escape in reading.


But when she receives a supposedly devastating medical diagnosis, she decides, for the first time in her life, to truly live.


Letting go of her fear of what her family and society will think, she finds meaningful work caring for a childhood acquaintance who became pregnant while unmarried (shocking for that time and place) and, in the end, finds her happy ending and a fulfilling life with an intriguing man with a mysterious past.


In the tradition of much contemporary women’s fiction, she becomes her ‘best self’ inside and out—including having the last laugh on her snobbish family.


My two favourite characters

Although Cat and Valancy are different women living at different times and in different contexts, they are nevertheless similar in how they face their fears, seize life, and don’t let their pasts continue to shape their futures.


That possibility of change and, correspondingly growing through challenges, motivates and shapes my own life. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, it’s also reflected in the characters that speak to me most as a reader, as well as those who people my books—and it’s why Cat and Valancy each have a special place in my heart.


Jen’s links








About Jen

Jen Gilroy worked in higher education and international marketing and business development before trading the corporate 9-5 to write contemporary romance and women’s fiction with heart, home, and happy endings. 

After many years living and working in England, she returned to where her roots run deep and lives in a small town in Eastern Ontario, Canada with her husband, teen daughter and a floppy-eared hound. When she’s not writing, Jen enjoys reading, travel, singing, and ballet. She’s also known for her love of ice cream, shoes, and vintage finds.

Jen’s first book, The Cottage at Firefly Lake (and first book in her Firefly Lake series), was a finalist for Romance Writers of America’s (RWA) Golden Heart® award in 2015. It was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Joan Hessayon Award 2017.

She’s a member of RWA, RNA, and the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA).


NaNoWriMo 2018. Finishing Book 6.

Posted on 1st November, 2018

It's November and that means it's NaNoWriMo. On my blog all this month I'll be tracking my progress as I head towards getting book 6 finished. Last year, I had a few blips along the way and my writing pretty well stalled. This year I am determined to keep writing at a steady pace.


If you would like to leave a few words to cheer me along, they would be greatly appreciated. As anyone who has ever done NaNo will tell you, it's hard!


Day 30 - the end!


66,401 words in 30 days! From the start of Chapter 14 of book 6 to the end of Chapter 32. There's still a bit more to write, but I am delighted and proud to have written so much in NaNoWriMo. It's great to get that purple 'Winner!' flash.


Day 29


This time yesterday I wondered whether I might make it to 60,000 words by the end of the month and here we are at the end of November 29th and I've clawed my way past that number. So now it's jst a question of how much more I can get written tomorrow before I claim my win officially and download my NaNoWriMo certificate.



Is it me or does the new graph (which, since I've topped 60,000, now goes all the way up to 80,000) make my word count bars look less impressive? Or should I just celbrate the fact that my chart has had to be expanded?


Day 28


There have been several days throughout November in which I wasn't able to get masses of writing done because of prior commitments, and this was one of those days. Still, I managed 1317. Not bad.


The question now is, can I make it to 60,000 words in the next 2 days? 3308 to go. Can I do it? What do you think?


Day 27 - a good day!


Words written today - nearly 3,000. A very good day. But I have realised how different it feels writing in NaNo when you have already made it to 50,000. The anxiety, the feeling of pushing yourself, has evaporated. To be blunt, I've gone off the boil!


I have quite a few more scenes left to go and I have to get as much done as I can this week - preferably I need to get the whole book finished - as next week the copy-edits of The Poor Relation will arrive in my inbox; plus I'm organising a big family do for the second weekend in December...



Day 26


As I mentioned on my Welcome page, today's word count doesn't reflect the work I've done today. The morning was spent mapping out all the remaining scenes in detail, though I must admit I did intend to get more written today.



Incidentally, the Nano word count may be 52,398, but you may be interested to know that the word count for the book stands at 98,201. Will I get it past the 100,000 mark tomorrow?


Day 25


A measley 216 words were added to the NaNo count today, but that doesn't mean I've had a day off. I am now approaching the book's final sequence of scenes, so today included working out some of the logistics of getting everything in exactly the right order - something that isn't always obvious when you are writing from several viewpoints. Also, I went back through the book to check the timeline was correct.



But, yes - I have felt very relaxed today. Can't deny it. I have to get back into the swing tomorrow.


Day 24 - and I've hit the 50,000 mark!


Last year I scraped past 50,000 words on November 30th, spurred on by the success of my friends Kirsten Hesketh and Tara Greaves. This year - 50,000 on day 24. Yay!



But that doesn't mean NaNo is over for me. I could 'declare' my win at this point, but instead I am going to keep my stats open for more as I carry on with the intention of finishing book 6 by the end of the month.


Day 23


Today's writing included writing a scene that I hadn't planned but it suddenly came to me and simply had to be included. Other than that - well, to tell the truth, I could have worked a lot harder today and got more done. Am I slowing down because the 50,000 is within my grasp? That would be a big mistake, as I'm aiming not for the 50,000 (though that will be great) but to get book 6 finished. The NaNo word count may be 48,201, but the book word count is 93,784 and is going to be over 100,000 when finished.



I wonder if I am slowing down because I know that there is a scene coming up for which I still haven't worked out the logistics. One of my characters is going to end up in danger and two others have to rescue him... but how are they going to find out where he is? Hm. Tricky.


Day 22, otherwise known as publication day of The Sewing Room Girl


Well, you won't be surprised to hear that much of today was taken up in celebrating the hardback and e-book publication of The Sewing Room Girl... and NaNoWriMo received less attention accordingly. Still, I managed to get a little short of 2000 words written. I now have 5 days ahead of me when I will have plenty of writing time. Remember, I'm not just aiming for the NaNo 50,000 words, but to get book 6 finished. That's one reason I have knocked off today - so that I can do a spot of planning this evening. See you tomorrow.


Day 21 - a much better day!


A better day, yes, though not as good as it could have been without the interruptions... You know how it is! Tomorrow's "interruption" is going to be publication day of The Sewing Room Girl... though that's one interruption I'm looking forward to!



Day 20


Today was the 4th of 5 days in November when commitments meant that there wouldn't be much time for writing. I got a bit done, as you can see, but only a bit. Have got to do masses tomorrow.


Day 19


Not quite as agood a day as yesterday but it's another day when my daily word count is in the green instead of the below-par blue (see day 16). I must admit I was expecting to get more than 2738 done today, having set aside the whole day for writing; but you know what it's like. Something came up that I had to attend to.


Tomorrow is going to be one of the 5 days in November when I'll be out all day, so it's going to be a challenge to get much done. Fingers crossed, please!


Day 18


It's been another good day. I wrote a couple of thousand words during the morning, then went out for a walk by the sea in the beautiful November sunshine before coming back to do more writing. I didn't manage to get as much written as yesterday, but it was still a good day.



Thank you to all of you who are following my progress day by day. The blog's view figures are steadily mounting over the month and I appreciate your interest.


Day 17. Yay! Big success!


After a slow and frustrating morning, I got into my writing stride and steamed ahead this afternoon and evening. Are you like that? Does your writing flow more and more the further you get into it?



Day 16 - and I've slipped backwards a bit...


Well, I was out for most of the day, so maybe I shouldn't mind so much about not getting up to the target daily average, but it still feels a shame. Should I have ploughed on and done another 100 words? Probably. But I'm tired. Maybe I'll get a bit of planning done this evening to put towards a flying start tomorrow.





Day 15


1755 words today. Nothing like as spectacular as yesterday, but it's an achievement to write more than the daily average of 1667 words. Tomorrow I will be out for much of the day, so this evening I'm going to get plenty of planning done, ready for a mammoth typing session when I get home. Wish me luck!



Day 14 - a great day!


3,493 words added to the Nano total today - far and away my most productive day. It's wonderful to see my bar not just peeping over the diagnal line but obviously above it.


Today got a bit complicated when I was part way through writing a scene ending, only to realise it was attached to entirely the wrong scene, so I had to move it elsewhere, which involved a bit of jiggery-pokery as I grafted it into the place where it needed to be. Worth it, though.



Day 13


After yesterday's Nano-disaster, things went much better today, fueled, it has to be said, by all the lovely folk who responded to my despondent tweet about yesterday's frankly awful word count. The online writing community is so generous.


Day 12


176 words. 176!! That's all that I wrote today. Well, no, it's not all I wrote - I actually wrote quite a decent amount, but the "decent amount" was for a book proposal my agent asked me to produce. 176 words! And I had been doing so well. 176... Feeling crushed.



Day 11


A little over 2000 words were written today - the first scene of Chapter 19. If I can get the 2nd scene written tomorrow, I'll count that as a success, even though the scene isn't likely to be anything like as long. Tomorrow is one of the days when I'm not going to be free to do much writing, so that bit of my bar graph that is above the line is probably going to be somewhat closer to the line this time tomorrow.



Day 10


NaNo works on the basis of 1667 words a day - that's what the diagonal line up the graph represents. My word count puts me a day ahead, which is good, obviously, but I still have a lot to write to get my book finished so I do need to get a move on.


Day 9...


...and that blue line next to 'Words Written Today' means I haven't managed to add the 1667 words, which is the average needed to get to 50,000 in 30 days... which I'm putting down to being tired at this point and rather headachy. Hoping for better things tomorrow. Night night.


Day 8


Day 7 - and I'm making good progress...


... but nothing like the amazing progress made by my friend Cass Grafton, co-author with Ada Bright of The Particlular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, which is being reissued by Canelo next year. Cass has already topped the 17,000 words mark. Wow!


Day 6 - and it's looking good, but...


But what will happen on day 8, when the chances of writing will be minimal? I need to pull further ahead to make up for that.



Day 5 - and my word count is peeping noticeably above the line. Woohoo!


The challenge this week is to keep above that line in spite of being out all day on day 8. That means writing more than the daily average of 1667 on every other day.



Day 4


Day 3


Day 2


Day 1




This week I am delighted to welcome my friend Jane Cable to my blog. Jane's novels include an intriging element of mystery and suspense. The first book of hers that I read was Another You and it kept me thinking right to the end. 


Jane's first novel, The Cheesemaker's House, was a finalist in the Alan Titchmarsh Show's People's Novelist competition and won Words for the Wounded's independent book of the year award in 2015; and The Faerie Tree tells of a couple who meet twenty years after a brief affair only to discover that their memories of it are completely different.


Jane recently signed with Sapere Books, who will publish two titles next year.


Jane is here today to contribute to the Take Two Characters series, which Heidi Swain started off in the previous blog. By the way, thanks to all of you who said on Twitter how much you like the idea behind this series.


Let's see what Jane has to say.






After thinking long and hard about my favourite characters, the answer suddenly came to me; my favourite character is actually in my favourite book. A book I have loved for so long that it’s almost part of me: Rosamunde Pilcher’s The Shell Seekers. And of course the character is Penelope Keeling.


When the book was first published in 1987 it was a brave choice to put an older woman at the centre of the story, with Judith Krantz, Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel dominating the best-seller list with their sexy young heroines. But there is an enduring quality about Penelope, and I suspect she resonated with readers of all ages – those who, like her, had come through World War Two as young women and those, like me, who found she reminded them just a little bit of their mothers.


There are two characteristics I love more than anything about Penelope – her wisdom and her energy. She isn’t prepared to moulder away in the country, she has an active and fulfilling life and is more than capable of making the most courageous decisions on her own. A proper heroine for the twentieth – and twenty-first – century.


Perhaps Penelope Keeling is also the reason there is a wise older person in all my books. Perhaps it was because I had such a strong relationship with my mother. But I always feel the need to create a wise council, a broader perspective – an alternative view of life from that of my other characters.


One in particular has a very different world view. Jennifer Dodd in The Faerie Tree is not a woman you’d expect to live in a rambling house in a smart Hampshire village, but nevertheless the community respects her. In every way she defies their narrow conventions; letting her young grandsons run wild in the woods, taking in a damaged stranger, and most of all by practising her gentle pagan beliefs.


The Faerie Tree is a book about what happens when Robin and Izzie meet again twenty years after their brief affair and discover their memories of it are completely different. I introduced Jennifer early in the book – during their first date, in fact – but she went on to play a huge part in Robin’s life. It is only through Jennifer’s wisdom that he even has a meaningful life, learning through her to deal with good and bad in the world around him by seeing nature as a source of strength and joy.

One thing I was always sorry about was that there no space in the narrative for Jennifer’s back story and perhaps, like Penelope Keeling, she deserves a novel of her own. Married young to a British soldier stationed in her native Iceland just after the war, she never realised that her new life in a foreign country would mean an outward denial of everything she held dear, but despite everything her independent spirit remained strong.


That’s the joy of the more mature character for me – not the wrinkles that may or may not be on their skin, but the invisible lines and scars that shape them down the years and give them so much depth.


Jane's Links:



Her Author Page on Amazon  


Chat with her on Twitter 


Her website  


Visit her author page on Facebook 




Here's a picture from a recent holiday - oops, sorry, I mean writing retreat in Bath.


Top to bottom:


Jane Cable and Cass Grafton



Kitty Wilson and Kirsten Hesketh



and yours truly.



This week I am delighted to welcome Heidi Swain back to my blog. The first time Heidi appeared here, it was before her debut novel, The Cherry Tree Cafe, was published; and now she is a Sunday Times bestselling author with a string of wonderful, heartwarming novels on the bookshelves.


Today Heidi is here to launch my new series,

Take Two Characters.


Firstly she is going to tell us a bit more about a favourite character from her own writing; then she'll share her love of a character created by another writer.

Take Two Characters

When Susanna kindly invited me to take part in this fabulous feature I knew instantly which of my own characters I wanted to talk about. There is one person who plays a part in every single one of my titles and yet she has never had a book of her own.


Lovely Jemma who owns The Cherry Tree Café and runs it with her best friend, the queen of crafts, Lizzie Dixon, has been with me right from the very beginning of my Wynbridge writing journey.

She’s an astute business woman, a wife, mother, daughter, sister-in-law and firm friend to many Wynbridge residents and she gets stronger with every title.

She might not have her own book, but she’s a force to be reckoned with nonetheless, always in the thick of things and poised in my next book, Snowflakes and Cinnamon Swirls, to announce another exciting string to her business bow. This latest development was completely her own idea. When I was writing one particular scene, the words flowed from my fingers as easily as if she was standing next to me and dictating what to write. Which actually, I’m certain was what happened.


Originally Jemma’s role was to support Lizzie but she has stretched far beyond the pages of that first title and I often find myself thinking ‘what would Jemma do?’ when faced with either a fictional or real-life problem.

And my readers love her too. She’s an integral part of the Wynbridge package, even making her presence felt in Nightingale Square, but I don’t think she needs a book of her own. Jemma’s voice sings loud and proud throughout the telling of everyone’s else’s tales and I think she rather likes it that way.

* * * *

Picking a second character for this feature was not so easy and I went back and forth for a few days before finally settling on… inimitable Mrs Weasley from Harry Potter and the mighty pen of JK Rowling.

There are many things I love about Molly Weasley – her fabulous home for a start. I would love to live in The Burrow, even if I didn’t have dishes which washed themselves – and perhaps it would be best not to get me started on her unique sense of style and dress – but of course there is a whole lot more to her character than that.

What really stands out in my mind when I think about Mrs W are the two very different sides of her personality. On the one hand she’s a home loving wife and mum, a domestic goddess with a knack for knitting (or bewitching her needles). She welcomes Harry into her family, treating him as one of her own without question, but on the other hand she’s an incredibly strong woman who is fiercely protective of her friends and family. When her daughter is threatened we hear the lioness roar and her power can’t be matched. She knows the value of her tribe and stands up for what is right, whatever the cost.

So many of the female characters in the Harry Potter series show strength and ambition, (not always positively), as well as tenderness and love but for me, Molly Weasley is the perfect amalgamation of all those traits which are best in both men and women. Or should that be wizards and witches?

Heidi's Links:  


Her Twitter page 


Her website     


Her author page on Amazon 


Her Facebook page    


Today I welcome Kirsten to my blog for her last appearance as a regular contributor. Since the start of last year, she has shared the ups and downs of her writer's life in what has become a very popular series. I think we have all enjoyed and appreciated her frank and humourous anecdotes.


Kirsten is now moving onto her own website and blog, so here is her last Despatch From the Querying Trenches.


Many thanks for all the guest posts, Kisrten. It's been huge fun, having you as a regular visitor. xxx



* * * *



Despatches from the Querying Trenches.


The Last Post


This will be my last post on Susanna’s wonderful blog for a while and the last in the Despatches from the Querying Trenches series. I’ve now set my own website and it’s time to move on.


But it’s still sad and I hate goodbyes so I will be short and sweet.


I’d like to thank Susanna for giving me a regular slot on her blog. It was such a generous gesture and I feel so fortunate, as an unpublished writer, to have been given the opportunity. And I’ve really enjoyed taking stock each month and sharing my highlights and lowlights. I hope it’s been interesting. Thank you so much, Sue.


And thank you to all of you, my lovely readers, especially those of you who have been kind enough to comment, both here and on social media. Writing can a pretty lonely business, full of uncertainty and setbacks, and I’ve been overwhelmed by your support, empathy, humour and encouragement.


I hope I will be able to come back and do the odd post here and there and I am very much looking forward to hosting Sue on my website in due course. And, of course, I’m looking forward to reading Sue - and her guests’ - posts going forward and continuing to champion her fabulous blog. I’m sure it will go from strength to strength.


But, for now, au revoir and thank you again.


It’s been a blast.



When A Scent Takes You Back Through The Years

Posted on 14th September, 2018

I finished a bottle of bath oil this week. It's a bottle I have been hoarding and ekeing out for just short of 20 years. Why hang onto it for so long? Well, it was part of the last birthday present I received from my late husband. He didn't buy it himself - he was too ill by then. Instead he despatched the lady next door to find a suitable gift and birthday card. She bought one of everything in a range of smellies called Kuyusu that was being sold by Boots. Kuyusu has long since vanished from the shelves, making my little collection even more precious.


This is all I have left now from that birthday gift. The blue colour has faded over the years but the distinctive fragrance is still intact - an instantly recognisable aroma that immediately transports me back through the years.


Have you noticed how certain smells can do that? They evoke a place, a person, a particular incident, a certain time in your life, as nothing else can. 'Evoke' seems a weak word to use - as if what is conjoured up is a faint replica of the real thing. What these smells do is hurl you back in time in a flash of memory so intense it rocks you to your core.


Another smell that means a lot to me is that of homemade mincemeat being prepared in the oven. Ever made your own mincemeat? It takes ages to assemble everything in the bowl; then you leave it to rest in its own juices for 24 hours; then it goes in the oven on a low heat... and the smell starts to fill the house.


When I was little, my Gran lived with us and she made mincemeat every year, ready for Christmas. When the mincemeat went in the oven and the house started to smell of oranges and lemons, that was the first sign that Christmas was on the way.


The first time I made my own mincemeat, I had forgotten about Gran's. Then I put mine in the oven and went off to do something else... and the pungent smell of oranges and lemons began to filter through the house.



At once I was plunged into the past, into childhood and the house I grew up in and Christmas and Gran and Ginger, her old cat, who had his basket beside the fire in the living room.


Are there any smells that throw you into the past?




It's been a little while since we last heard from Kirsten, as she was busy holidaying at the end of last month; so here is her end-of-summer round-up of her writer's life.


* * * *

Despatches from the Querying Trenches


So that was summer.


And what a brilliant one it was. This year we’ve had an extra long break because both teens broke up early.


We’ve canoed in the Dordogne. (Yes, DH and I capsized even though it is allegedly virtually impossible to do so. No, I don’t have any photos.)



We’ve cycled through vineyards in Burgundy – and conducted a thorough investigation of its wines! We’ve even tried Segwaying in the New Forest (my - that was hard.) The kids have been to festivals. (DH and I skipped that one and went to the Lakes instead!) It’s been a blast. Of course, there have been the ups and downs of GCSE and A level results to contend with - but somehow everyone got roughly what they needed …


All good.


And suddenly it’s nearly September. My favourite time of the year. Back to school. Off to university. Sharp pencils, empty notepads. New starts, fresh chances, the slate wiped clean …


What’s not to love?


It feels like a new start for me too. My edits are complete and over the next few days, my lovely agent Felicity will be sending Another Us out to publishers. How exciting does that sound?! Of course, the process will most likely take months and months and there is every chance that the book won’t be picked up at all … but for now I am feeling excited and optimistic and the dream lives on. I must say it’s fantastic having an agent – the feeling of having someone totally on your side as an advocate, enabler, co-conspirator (and occasionally therapist!) is just wonderful. Much less lonely.


In the meantime, I have work to do! Firstly, I have to set up a website. For some reason I feel totally daunted by this, even though the lovely Julie Stock has been brilliant at helping me with the technical stuff. I just don’t know how to arrange it all and what to put! But I determined to feel the fear and do it anyway and September will be the months I get it up and running. You can all hold me to that!!


Secondly, I have to CRACK ON WITH BOOK TWO!! This is the book I wrote during NaNoWriMo last year. I’ve rejigged it a bit since but it’s essentially a SFD! You can really tell when it’s the end of each day and I’ve been under pressure to reach the word count. Once I’ve even written ‘very, very, very good’. What a cheat! Felicity has asked when she can see it the manuscript so I need to get on and tidy it up big time …


I hope you have all had fantastic summers and are poised and ready for the new season. What are your plans for September? Xx


The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

Posted on 16th August, 2018

The other day a young neighbour - let's call her Lucy - invited me to a dolls' tea-party. When it was time to leave, I asked her what she was going to do next, at which point her mum stepped in and said firmly that Lucy was going to have her bath. Lucy then politely asked me what I was going to do. I said I was going to write a letter to my pen friend.


"What's a pen friend?"


I explained. I made the mistake of saying that Jennifer and I had never actually met, thinking this made our pen-friendship all the more interesting, but instead it led to a brief diversion into the world of Stranger Danger. There's nothing quite like being lectured to by a 6-year-old. Meanwhile, Lucy's mum lurked in the background, grinning her head off.


Once the explanation was back on track, Lucy found the idea bizarre. "Why don't you email? Text? Skype one another?"


"Well, because we're pen friends and that means we put pen to paper and write letters to one another."


"What colour do you use?"


Another brief diversion, this time into the question of Lucy's favourite felt tips. She likes yellow, but how easy would that be to read on white paper? And what about writing with a Pritt stick and then sprinkling glitter on?


At some point, I said that Jennifer and I have been writing to one another for nearly 30 years.


"30 years?" She appeared suitably awed. "Do you write about what it used to be like in the First World War?"


Cue howls of laughter from Mum.


Am I alone in being a letter-writer? Does everyone else Skype these days? Or communicate purely by email? My late Auntie Amy used to love receiving letters even more than phone calls. A letter could always be taken out and re-read and enjoyed all over again; it could be shared with her friend, Elsie.


My mum and I wrote to one another every week for years after I left home; this was as well as phoning one another. Writing letters seems to have been pretty normal practice back then. It was a standard way of keeping in touch. I also corresponded for years with my gran, with a particular uncle and aunt, and with various friends who lived at a distance; and with my pen friends.


Do you write letters? Do you have, or have you ever had, a pen friend? And have you recently been lectured by a 6-year-old? Do tell!




This week I am delighted to welcome Deborah Smith to my blog.


Deborah is a keen reader who took her love of books to the next level by starting an online group for readers of sagas and other women's fiction. It is now a thriving and ever-growing community.


Debs is personally responsible for the tottering piles of to-be-read books in her members' homes all over the world!

Debs, welcome to my blog. It's the first time I have been joined here by a reader rather than a writer, so I hope you're going to enjoy answering my questions.

Fire away, Sue.

What are you reading at the moment. Why are you enjoying it?

I'm reading my first Lyn Andrews book, From Liverpool with Love. The story is set in the early 1900s where poverty is inescapable for this family. After trying very hard to manage after the death of the husband/father, who was the main breadwinner, they now have no choice but to enter the workhouse. This book follows their lives, loves and determination to free themselves from this godforsaken place called the workhouse.

I just love stories written around this era.


I know your TBR pile is about a hundred books high. Tell us about a couple of them that you're specially looking forward to reading.

OL, Sue, more like 500 high and growing almost daily 😂.

I'm very much looking forward to reading
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. I am fascinated with this historic subject and read both fiction and nonfiction regarding the lives of the Jews during WW11 and what horrific injustices they had to endure: certainly a piece of history we should never forget. Such an emotional subject, Sue.


I also can't wait to read Secrets of a Whitby Girl by Jessica Blair, as Whitby is close to my heart, having spent a great deal of time there throughout my life and know the place very well so hopefully I will be able to picture the places mentioned. My husband and I actually got engaged in the Abbey grounds - what a wonderful day that was.


I know that Anna Jacobs is a favourite author of yours. Is there one of her books or series that stands out in particular for you?


Oh yes, Anna is such a wonderful and talented writer. Her books imprison you from the first page to the last. I have to say that Anna's stand-alone book Freedom's Land and the 5 book series, The Gibson Family Saga, will be forever entwined in my heart, although I haven't read The Traders series yet 🤔 LOL.


You’ve got a treat in store with The Traders books. Once you start reading The Trader’s Wife, you’ll race through the whole series. Guaranteed!



Tell us about a book that made you cry.

A few books have brought a tear to my eye, but I'm guessing The Tattooist of Auschwitz will take me on an emotional rollercoaster ride.

What were your favourite books as a child?

I have to confess I didn't read much as a child, apart from the
Ladybird books, i probably wasn't interested in books back then, which is quite a while ago LOL, but I think I've certainly made up for it since. Children should read - you learn so so much from someone else's mind.

As an adult reader, do you have an all-time favourite book? Who are your favourite writers?


Good question Sue. I have quite a few favourite books and I guess Miss Applesby's Academy by Elizabeth Gill is up there with best. Such a wonderful read.

At the moment my all time favourite
authors are:
Anna Jacobs (obviously)
Dilly Court
Kitty Neale
Rosie Goodwin
Kathleen Morgan

And a few authors I found after starting up my wonderful book group:
Susanna Bavin (
Emma Hornby
AnneMarie Brear
Lynda Stacey
Elaine Everest, to name but a few.
Oh, and did I mention Susanna Bavin! 😉


**blushes and tried to look modest**

Do you re-read books you enjoy? If so, what have you re-read recently?

Oh Sue, that's funny. I have a hard enough time reading the ones I haven't read, the TBR pile grows by the day, so my answer is, no, I don't re-read a book, I may however re-read a page, ha

Physical books or e-books?
Well, either to be honest, my kindle is great for taking on holiday etc. and there's some excellent bargains to be had too, but a physical book feels much more t
actile and personal and I love looking at all the wonderful colour cover photos which you don't get with an ebook.


Where do you like to read?


Well, actually I like to read anywhere, but my favourite places are in my rocking chair in the living room, the garden (only when the weather is nice though) and in bed where's it relaxing and peaceful.


Debs, it has been a real pleasure to have you here on my blog. Thanks for telling us about your reading.

Oh Sue, I've enjoyed my first blog and it's been a real pleasure talking to you today. I've loved every minute.
Thank you so much xx ❤️


Happy birthday for Monday, Debs. Enjoy all those books you will undoubtedly get as birthday presents!



When Writers Get Together.

Posted on 20th July, 2018

Last weekend, along with 200+ other writers, I was at the RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association) Conference in Leeds. Times were when writing was a completely solitary activity for me; and when I say 'times were,' what I mean is: for years; as in, decades. Before you start thinking this makes me extremely old, I hasten to add that I was a child writer, so these decades started when I was in primary school.


Why do some writers keep their writing to themselves? In my case, it was partly through being a private person by nature. It wasn't that I made a conscious decision not to talk about my writing - I just didn't do it. And when I finally did do it, I didn't shout it from the rooftops but chose carefully whom to tell. (Annette and Jacquie, are you reading this?)


Then, a few years ago, I signed up for a writing holiday in Cornwall, during which I discovered the delight of being in the company of other writers. We were all interested in one another's work and experiences and felt confident sharing what we had written, knowing it would be received in an atmosphere of support.


Since then I have been to various conferences, events and workshops and I love them. You never stop learning. You never stop improving your craft. Best of all, being with other writers is a joy. Even if you have lucky enough to have dozens of non-writing friends (and I wouldn't be without mine) who are concerned and interested and sympathetic, the fact is that they don't understand in the same way that other writers do.


Writers will always share what they know and provide encouragement and support. It is a wonderful profession in that respect. Meeting other writers both online and in the real world creates friendships and support networks and can lead to new opportunities.


I am happy to be on my own with my writing most of the time, but I enjoy getting together with writing friends and feel hugely lucky to have made new friends in recent years through my writing. With writer friends around you, success is more exciting and you are buoyed up in times of disappointment.


Best of all, being with fellow writers is fun!