Happy New Year and Hello to Thirty Years of Writing! @mishaherwin @writermels @BarryLillie1 @6TRcurtaincall @Jennyamphlett @KTScribbles @rachlawtonxx…

I have been tidying up my web page for the year to begin and just realised that 2021 a landmark year!  (Being terribly British this blowing of my own…

Happy New Year and Hello to Thirty Years of Writing! @mishaherwin @writermels @BarryLillie1 @6TRcurtaincall @Jennyamphlett @KTScribbles @rachlawtonxx…
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Dinner At Downturn – A Christmas Tale.

As it’s Christmas time, this week our writing group decided we should all contribute a seasonal tale, poem etc for our final meeting before the big day. So here is mine for anyone who’d like to share this with their family over lunch or better still after a few glasses of something fizzy. It’s probably unsuitable for the very young and it’s certainly not politically correct. So if easily offended, go and sit in a dark room until it’s over.

However, if you like a little frivolous nonsense, then please enjoy it, share it and banish those covid blues.

Here’s a PDF file for anyone who’d like to download it to a reader etc.

Dinner At Downturn

by Barry Lillie

Mr Burrows supervised while Aggie straightened the napkins on the festive table. As he lit the candles she reflected on her six-months at Downturn Abbey. All of the staff had welcomed her and she fitted in nicely. Lord Bothersome had turned out to be an agreeable employer, although she wasn’t keen on his new beau, the frightful Flavia. Talk below stairs had been rife the day Flavia had arrived at Downturn, “It’s scandalous,” Cook had said. “His wife, the good Lady Bothersome is just three-months buried.”

Aggie watched as the food was brought into the dining room, Cook had done his Lordship proud and at the centre of the festive feast sat a succulent looking goose. Mr Burrows ushered the staff into place in front of the festive tree as the doors opened in readiness for the guests.

First to enter the room was Lord Bothersome, dressed in nautical attire and on his arm was Flavia, her scrawny frame barely covered by a diaphanous gown. Next to arrive was his lordship’s niece Ophelia, linking arms with her latest young man Rodney. “Uncle Henry, the room looks, meravigliosa,” she said giving Flavia a sidelong glance and whose face remained flinty and emotionless. Lord Bothersome shook hands with Rodney as through the door Mr Burrows pushed inside a wheelchair containing old Lady Beaversnatch. Discreetly he whispered to his lordship that he’d site her near the door in case of emergencies and her regular bathroom requirements.

Soon the room was filled with people and Claudia looking resplendent in green listened to the guests who stood around chatting and sipping their sherry. “Would you like a top-up before lunch?” Rodney asked the verger. “Oh I mustn’t,” Nancy Boyes said, and as he went to walk away she grabbed at his arm and thrust out her empty glass saying, “Just a small one. The vicar knows Nancy can’t handle a large one.” Rodney was topping up her glass when booming laughter came from over by the door. Godfrey Butts-Rimming was regaling Ophelia and Lady Beaversnatch with tales of his latest holiday on the continent while his sister Hortense stood by, shyly glancing over at the reverend who was standing silently beside the tree.

“I do hope you shall all enjoy this splendid spread that Cook has prepared for us,” Lord Bothersome said loudly to his guests. “Will you be carving the bird Henry?” Godfrey bellowed.

“I’m afraid not old chap, my wrist is rather sore after yesterday.”

“What happened yesterday your Lordship?” asked Nancy, as her sherry glass was refilled again.

“We had our usual December frolic together on the estate,” Godfrey boomed.

“Yes,” his lordship said. “What fun, and I shot a load, didn’t I Godfrey?”

“You certainly did Henry.”

“How many was it, eight or nine?”

“Ten your lordship. Three partridge, three pheasant a grouse and two mallard.”

A hush descended upon the room as a man wearing a black cape and with hair as black and shiny as treacle entered. “Splendid, you made it. Everybody,” Lord Bothersome said commanding attention. “Let me introduce you to my new friend, Count Olaf.” The little man in black bowed deeply and walked around the room shaking the men’s hands and kissing those of the ladies. Mr Burrows looking at his pocket watch ushered the staff back to work and they assisted the guests with their seating before removing the covers from the food. There followed lots of oohing and aahing before Lord Bothersome stood up. “Welcome my friends, before we begin, I’d like to call upon the Revered here to say grace.” A little whoop came from the table and all eyes drifted across towards Hortense who blushed and looked down at her lap in shame.

“So Flavia,” the count said, “Which part of Italy are you from?” There was no response and when he started to question her again, Ophelia said, “I’m sorry Flavia speaks no English.” And then as an aside to Rodney she whispered, “Or recognises Italian.”

“Why do you say that?” he asked.

“Earlier I told uncle the room was marvellous, I translated the word into Italian and there was no recognition of her native language upon her face.”

Mr Burrows began carving the bird as the girls from below stairs exited quietly. Claudia spotted Aggie looking back over her shoulder to take one last look at the merry meal and winked at her, though she was certain Aggie hadn’t seen her, in fact apart from a sneer she’d received from Lady Beaversnatch, no one seemed to have noticed her.

Wine was being poured and Nancy Boyes held out her glass eagerly, earning her a serious look from the vicar. “Lovely service at the church last week,” Hortense said. “I do like a rousing carol at this time of the year.”

“So do I,” Godfrey bawled. “And for the rest of the year I like a lusty Lucinda and an agreeable Annie.” Embarrassed by her brother’s remark, Hortense turned her attention to the count. “Tell me Count where are your family from?”

“Originally Moscow but we now reside over the border in Belarus.”

“Moscow, you say. Pray tell me are you related to the family Romanov?”

“Not at all my good lady, I’m Olaf the Third, one of the famous Crackingoneoff’s”

As conversation overtook, Claudia watched as eyes darted over the table taking in the dishes laid out before them, only Rodney appeared to have noticed her, everyone else had passed her by with a look of disdain. She couldn’t help being rather squat and rotund, all her family had been fat and round and one can’t be held responsible for one’s genetics.

Nancy Boyes, her wine glass now refreshed, wished everyone a Merry Christmas and the sound of cutlery on porcelain increased in volume as the guests tucked into their lunch. Suddenly a deep baritone voice exclaimed, “Ee ba gum, that gravy’s reet grand.” Everyone’s eyes fell upon Flavia.

“Ha!” Ophelia said rather loudly, surprising old lady Beaversnatch, causing her to break wind loudly. “So, you’re not an Italian.”

“’Fraid not. I’m not a lady either. Me name’s not Flavia, eet’s Fred and am from Batley Carr, near Dewsbury.”

“Oh my,” Hortense said. “Does his lordship know you’re a chap?”

“Ay does that. Why dost think ay’s dressed as a sailor boy.” At this his lordship flushed, Godfrey choked on a parsnip and Nancy slid off her chair and under the table.

During the commotion no one noticed the young spunk Rodney, as he reached across the table and took Claudia into his hands and pulled her towards himself. As she reached him, his lips parted and she could smell the sweet sherry on his breath and her heart fluttered in anticipation. His velvety tongue caressed her before his molar descended upon her and she sighed aloud. For it was the sound of a happy sprout on Christmas day.

Disclaimer: No Brussels sprouts were harmed in the creation of this nonsense.

© Barry Lillie 2020

Have a happy and healthy Christmas and New Year everyone, stay safe and take a little time to check on those spending the season alone. Let’s spread a little love rather than the virus at the close of 2020.

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Writer’s or Sausage Block?

I don’t have one of those devices that sits around waiting for me to ask it which opera contains the most vowels in its libretto, or what the weather will be like a week on Tuesday in Mozambique. No, there’s no piece of eavesdropping technology listening in to my private conversations… Or is there?

Last month, I had a conversation with a friend about what she saw as the bane of a writer’s life – writer’s block. “Oh I hate it, she bemoaned as she wolfed down a couple of plain chocolate digestives. “How do you cope with it?” I looked across the table we were sharing for our socially distanced coffee and had two thoughts. 1. Should I point out that she’s just scoffed the biscuits I ordered – or 2. Point out that I don’t think I’ve ever suffered with it and I’m not actually sure it really exists.

“What do you mean, you’ve never had it?” she asked.

“Exactly that,” I told her, pointing out that our bin men always manage to collect our rubbish, not one to my knowledge has ever had bin block. The assistant in Greggs manages to serve up hot, filled pastry snacks all day without having a wobble, and citing they’ve got a dose of sausage block.

Huffington Post

During our discourse I gave her the reasons why I don’t think I’ve ever had it. She then pointed out that I’m obviously less creative than she is, and that it would probably be best to remove me from her Christmas card list. Upon leaving, she wittered on about something to do with not wanting to become a party to comparison by association.

I’m back home, sat at my desk and I open my inbox only to find that Google has sent me an email about courses to curb writer’s block. Was my iPhone listening in as it lay on the cafeteria table? The course details which have been sent to tempt me say it could offer me practical solutions to overcome psychological hurdles and resistance to regular writing. Now don’t think me mercenary when I say that if you are resisting the need to write, then maybe you shouldn’t be attempting to do it – Ditch your notebook and buy some boxing gloves or pack away your laptop and take up macramé.

(C) GMC Publications

The phrase, writer’s block conjures up images of authors and feature writers suffering with tortured faces staring into space. I don’t believe I’ve ever – let’s not say ‘suffered’ as it’s not life threatening – experienced writer’s block. I’ve had patches of procrastination. Moments of, I can’t be arsed to write and even a few days of distraction. But when I have sat down to write, that is exactly what I have done. I can’t claim that everything was worthy of being in print, but at least words hit the page.

I usually have more than one project on the go and so if I’m not feeling it for one, I can move on to the other and this helps me to maintain momentum. Also as I plan everything – sometimes to the nth degree – I’m always aware of what needs to be written. How smug does that make me sound.

However the test will be my next novel, I’ve already planned it and I’m choosing to concentrate solely on this and have no diversion project. So, who knows in three-months I may be writing about not being able to find my muse or that during the night the word elves came and emptied my head.

Free images (C) Deposit Photos

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20-20 Malcolm Havard

Today’s guest is historical novelist Malcolm Havard, a Yorkshireman now based in Cheshire and also a thoroughly nice chap.

What name do you write under? Malcolm Havard for my historical fiction and Mal Havard for my satirical comic novels, the latter being on-hold at present as I am trying to concentrate on one genre.

Where are you from, live or work? I currently live in Crewe in Cheshire though I am a Yorkshireman by birth. I have lived and worked all over the world. My day job is as a commercial surveyor which means I get to crawl around buildings, some of them quite interesting (but all-too many that aren’t!).  I am self-employed which allows me a fair amount of flexibility writing wise.

Tell me two things that people may not know about you. I used to race single-seater racing cars, my first race had Damon Hill in the field (At least I think it was him, he was an awful long way in front of me!)

The second fact that people don’t know about me is what I am really nerdish about. Most would think it would be about aircraft. It’s not, my true obsessive knowledge is about Grand Prix motor racing of the 1960s and 70s.

Do you have any hobbies? I have too many hobbies! The leading ones are photography, walking, skiing and beer.

What is your favourite book(s) and why? One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. It’s the first book I remember reading as a teenager that I know made an impression on me. It is a book about the Gulags, yes and it is bleak but there is also joy in it. It’s also a story of survival of the human spirit in the face of unfair treatment. As a contrast, I often reread Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett. It’s just so effortlessly funny.

Malcolm Havard

Who or what inspired you to become a writer? Writing fiction came also accidentally as a result of writing non-fiction. For various reasons I spent 25 months doing little else but write, first a thesis, then a short textbook and then a very long textbook, all told I wrote over 500,000 words. When all three projects had been put to bed I found I missed the routine. I had to fill it with something so I thought I would try writing fiction. I started not with a short story but went straight to a novel because I was used to long-form writing. It took a long time before I learned the trick of writing shorter stuff. Some say I never have…

What type of books/genre do you write? I now almost exclusively write 20th century historical fiction.

How would you describe your writing style? Introspective. Some would say excessively so! I am trying to wean myself off it.

What comes first for you – character, plot or setting? I usually start with a story idea that tends to sit within a particular time period or a specific event, then move to a plot outline. After that I think about what characters I need to tell the story. This process is quite involved, in downtime from other projects I often do research for something I will write a year or more in the future. Once I am ready to start on the project I usually then spend 4-6 weeks reviewing this material, working out the plot skeleton, including what the end will be, and quite a bit of time fleshing out my characters.

Do you have a writing routine? Yes, I tend to write between 7.30 and 9.00 am weekdays.

Do you become a ‘method’ writer? No, I don’t think I do.

What are you currently working on? I am on the first book of a series that I’m describing as Birdsong meets Babylon Berlin. The series will take the same characters and their offspring from 1910 to the early 1950s. The first book is called Three Brothers (set between 1910-1919), the second will be Black Crosses (1919-1933) and the third The Red and the Black (1933-40). I think there will be five books in the series as a whole.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your writing career? I don’t think there is anything better than getting a reader review that shows that they have both appreciated the research and enjoyed the story, particularly if they clearly picked up on the nuances and/or message in the story.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? Not to listen to advice! There are plenty of ‘experts’ out there that aren’t…

See note below.*

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer? Just do it but don’t expect to get rich!

What have you published recently? Eleven Days, a novel set in WW1.

Do you think there’s still some snobbery between commercial and self-publishing? It is lessening, but yes, it still exists.

How do you market your writing? This is the first year of my fiction writing career (ten years ish) that marketing has been my primary goal and where I have actively worked to understand marketing more.

This year I have used Prolific Works to give away freebies to drive readers to my paid material. I think this is a medium-long term activity. I have also used a number of paid for advertising mediums, including Bookbub and Amazon. I also have period promotions on Bargain Booksy. That and concentrating on writing just one genre at present, Historical Fiction, does seem to have an impact on sales which have increased around five-fold this year.

Where can people find your work? The easiest way is probably through my website https://www.malcolmhavard.com/

Where can people find you on social media and online? On my website, on twitter @malhavardwriter and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Malcolm-Havard-Historical-Novelist-115105230285818

*If you think historical and wartime fiction isn’t your thing then give Malcolm’s collection of shorts, The Neutral Zone a try, it’s a cracking good read that may change your mind.

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20-20 Valerie Holmes

Today’s 20-20 guest is Valerie Holmes, originally from Whitby and who incidentally has like myself been to Borneo, (small world eh?)

What name do you write under? Valerie Holmes

Where are you from, live or work? I was raised in a seaside town, north of the beautiful historic port of Whitby. Although I have lived in the southeast because of family commitments for years, pre-Covid I regularly visited North Yorkshire to research my novels and novellas which are set in the region.

I am also a freelance Creative writing tutor independently and for the London School of Journalism and Writing magazine.

Tell me two things that people may not know about you. I am writing two books set in the Dark Ages.

Last year I took a trip in a long boat into Borneo.

Do you have any hobbies? In a world not in lockdown I love to travel. I enjoy drawing, especially dog portraits.

My latest hobby has been trying to improve my general health through hiking and enjoying the countryside or coast.

Valerie Holmes

What is your favourite book(s) and why? There are too many to really list, but I enjoy the work of: Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, Diana Gabaldon, Jane Austen, Edward Marsden, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dickens and LJ Ross. I read a lot and across genre, but historical novels always attract.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer? I always made up stories to entertain myself as a child. We did not travel far as Mum had MS and life was restrictive, but full of love. When a lifelong friend suggested I should write a manuscript and submit it, I took up the challenge. I was also fortunate to be introduced to The Romantic Novelists’ Association by Margaret James. They have a culture of encouraging new writers. Since being published I am also a member of the Crime Writers’ Association as my work often involves mysteries.

What type of books/genre do you write? Predominantly romantic adventures set in the early nineteenth century – a fascinating period of change.

How would you describe your writing style? It has been described as “Poldark meets Heathcliff” which I thought was a lovely compliment.

What comes first for you – character, plot or setting? Usually it is a situation. The character forms from the conflict they are facing, so it really is a bit of all three to give a strong opening scene.

Do you have a writing routine? Yes, flexible – It is my daily constant. The time may vary, but throughout the day I will find time to plot, research, plan and of course write or edit previous work. It is so much a part of my life and has been a blessing throughout times of lockdown.

Do you become a ‘method’ writer? In as much as I read my work out loud so that I hear if the words are flowing smoothly and convincingly.

What are you currently working on? I am finishing off a Dark Age project and researching for two crime novels set pre WWl.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your writing career? So many – winning an annual ghost story competition in Writing Magazine and then having two novellas shortlisted for the RNA’s category awards and of course the publication of my four books with Sapere. However, every publication is a highlight and I have had 46 novellas and 4 novels published, but I always look forward to the next one!

On the tutoring side it is the love of being able to share advice with other, as yet, unpublished writers and encourage new talent.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? Be prepared to serve the apprenticeship.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer? Keep learning. Keep writing. Never give up.

What have you published recently? In the midst of a pandemic the ironically titled ‘In Sickness and In Health’.

Do you think there’s still some snobbery between commercial and self-publishing? There may be some but the more successful Indie authors there are the more respect they get.

How do you market your writing? On social media and various interview outlets; I am planning a news letter which will be linked to my website.

Where can people find your work? My Sapere Books are available on Amazon as eBook and print and the novellas are distributed through the libraries throughout the Commonwealth and some are available on various eBook formats.

Where can people find you on social media and online?


Twitter: @ValerieHolmesUK

Instagram: valerieholmes.author

Facebook: valerieholmesauthor

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Clubhouse Chat Guest: Barry Lillie

Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only …

Clubhouse Chat Guest: Barry Lillie
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20-20 Misha Herwin

Please welcome Misha Herwin, a writer of books for both the adult and the YA market, who’s work I have enjoyed for many years.

What name do you write under? I write as Misha Herwin for my children’s books and Misha M Herwin for the adult novels. I did consider using two different names, but I’ve found that the readers of my adult books often cross over to the Adventures of Letty Parker and having built up a readership I thought it best not to have to construct a completely new persona.

Where are you from, live or work? Having been brought up in Bristol, the setting for most of my books, I then went to London to study when I was seventeen, then I taught in Stoke-on-Trent. After a few years there I moved to Shropshire and then, when the kids were grown up, spent some time living and working in Jamaica. Then back full circle to Stoke.

Tell me two things that people may not know about you. My first language was Polish and I like spiders.

Do you have any hobbies? My hobbies are closely linked to my writing in that I am a voracious reader, I like walking, when I get many of my ideas and gardening, which can also spark off themes for stories.

What is your favourite book(s) and why? My favourite books ie those I come back to time and time again are ones I read when I was young, “The Children of Green Knowe” by LM Boston and “The Little White Horse” by Elizabeth Goudge. It’s the time-slip in the first and the magic in the second that I love.  

Misha Herwin

Who or what inspired you to become a writer? I’ve always been a story teller. When we shared a room I used to tell my younger sister bedtime stories. The games I played were always story based: the stairs were transformed to a range of mountains, the outside shed to an inn frequented by outlaws, a tree in the woods was a pirate ship. Then I wrote plays for the puppet theatre we had made out of a cardboard box. Later I would write plays for a theatre in education company and for the schools where I taught drama.  At the same time I was writing books, first for children, then for adults.

What type of books/genre do you write? I write children’s books and women’s fiction. The children’s books are always a fantasy adventure, while the adult novels range from time-slip to family saga and stories of female friendship.

How would you describe your writing style? My writing style is descriptive− I love to conjure up a sense of place−but I also use a lot of dialogue, because what a character says and how they speak tells the reader so much about them.

What comes first for you – character, plot or setting? Character always comes first, although place is a very close second as I tend to have an image, like a snapshot, of my main character. Once I’ve seen them, I go on to investigate their story, which will always be character driven.

Do you have a writing routine? I try to keep to a routine, which is to write in the morning, when I am at my most creative, but I don’t always manage it as life will get in the way.

Do you become a ‘method’ writer? I’m never a “method” writer, but I do become immersed in the world I am creating, so even away from the computer I can hear my characters talking.

What are you currently working on? I’m currently working on “The Awesome Adventure of Poppy and Amelia,” which is something I wrote with my granddaughter during lockdown. (Since this interview, The awesome adventures of Poppy and Amelia has been published.)

Cover art by Peter Coleborn

What has been the most fulfilling part of your writing career? It’s hard to say what has been the most fulfilling part of my writing career so far. I’ve loved seeing my plays performed and knowing that “Stich and Bitch” had a reading at the Canadian High Commission in Jamaica gives me a thrill, even though I couldn’t be there, as we were already back in the UK. On a deeper level, the response from my readers is very special. I have one letter in particular that I keep on my notice board which keeps me going when I have moments of despondency. I also find the time when the writing flows incredibly satisfying.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? The best advice I’ve ever been given is to keep going.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer? The advice I would give to someone wanting to be a writer is to read as widely as you can and then to keep going, regardless of rejection.

What have you published recently? My most recent book is “Island of Fear” a fantasy adventure set in an alternative Victorian England. It is aimed at the 8-12 year old market, but is also being enjoyed by adults of all ages, who message me asking when the next Letty Parker Adventure will be coming out.

Maddy Harrisis

Since this interview took place Misha has published her new book, The Awesome Adventures of Poppy and Amelia, Published by Penkhull Press. The book is co-written with her granddaughter Maddy Harrisis. The book evolved during the Covid-19 lockdown and proceeds from its sale will be donated to charity. To give you more information I have screen-grabbed the preface form the book and posted it below.

Preface from The Awesome Adventures of Poppy and Amelia

Do you think there’s still some snobbery between commercial and self-publishing? I think there is still some snobbery between commercial and self-publishing and what is worse is that some writers judge themselves and their success on whether they have got a traditional publishing deal.

How do you market your writing? I market my writing by blogging, tweeting, posting on Facebook and also at 6×6 a quarterly event run by Jan Edwards and me at Hanley library, where six local authors  strut their stuff for six minutes. We love it when someone has a book to promote so it’s not just our work that we show case. Apart from that I do workshops in schools, libraries, museums and most recently at the New Vic Theatre. I also have the support of some amazing book bloggers like Jill Doyle https://jillsbookcafe.blog/ Kerry Ann Parsons https://chataboutbooks.blog/ Yvonne Bastien https://vonnibee.com/ and Stef Lawerence https://steflozbookblog.wordpress.com/ all of whom help to spread the word.

Where can people find your work?

  1.  “Island of Fear” can be found on Amazon, all other digital outlets and on order from Waterstones and other bookshop. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Island-Fear-Adventures-Letty-Parker/dp/1916437389/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=Island+of+Fear+Misha+Herwin&qid=1595000707&s=books&sr=1-1

Where can people find you on social media and online? I blog at https://mishaherwin.wordpress.com/ Twitter @MishaHerwin and you’ll find me on  Facebook https://www.facebook.com/misha.herwin

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20-20 Paula RC Readman

Welcome my 20-20 guest today, Paula RC Readman, a writer of all things dark and brooding, with a twist to make you stop and think.

What name do you write under? My own name: Paula R.C. Readman. A perfectly good name, don’t you think?

Where are you from, live or work? I live in a small village in England, and work in a small office in my home. I sit facing a wall of books so I can stay focused on my writing.

Tell me two things that people may not know about you. I have a motorcycle licence and links to Whitby, North Yorkshire,

Do you have any hobbies? Yes, photography, walking and gardening. I like to grow a few vegetables.

What is your favourite book (s) and why? It’s hard to just pick one, but if I was stuck on a desert island I would love to have a copy of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It’s fantastic as well as a long book. The language, plot and characters are amazing and it’s in my list of top five books I wish I had written. If I had notebook or two on the desert island, I would spend my time really studying it.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer? I didn’t think it was possible for me to become a writer. I’m dyslexic and poorly educated. So I set myself a personal challenge in 2002 to see if I could get something into print. I taught myself from second-hand books bought off eBay.

Paula RC Readman

What type of books/genre do you write? I class myself as a psychological crime/horror writer. I enjoy killing people.

How would you describe your writing style? Dark writer, without the blood and gore. I’m more of a spine-chiller as I like to leave my reader to use their imagination to scare themselves. I don’t write cosy, but I don’t spray blood, and grey matter everywhere.

What comes first for you – Character, plot or setting? Plot idea first. Then I like to work out who would be the best person to tell my story. Setting comes last.

Do you have a writing routine? Of sorts. I like to write when I first wake in the morning. It is the best time while it’s still quiet outside. My mind is at its sharpest.

Do you become a ‘Method’ writer? I suppose you do when you’ve been doing something for so long. If you work out what brings you good results. Each writer learns what works for them. All new writers think there is a golden rule or secret to becoming a bestselling author, but really there isn’t. It’s all about finding out what works best for you.

What are you currently working on? Two novels and two short stories. One novel was the first book I wrote. I’m busy editing it for a publisher. The second novel is in its early stages so I don’t really want to say much about it. The two short stories are for anthologies, I would really like to be included in.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your writing career? To discover I can write and people who I don’t know personally enjoy reading my work.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever given? Don’t give up. If your work is rejected, read through it again, and after tightening it send it off again.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer? The best piece of advice I can give is to start by writing short stories. These teach you how to write tight, work to deadlines, and how to edit.

What have you published recently? I’ve had a crime novella The Funeral Birds. A collection of dark short stories, Days Pass Like A Shadow. A dark twisted crime novel Stone Angels.

Do you think there’s still some snobbery between commercial and self-publishing? Not anymore. A few years ago there might have been, but in today’s world anyone can do anything, set up a publishing company, self-publish, and become a writer. What’s important is quality of the cover, editing, and writing.

 How do you market your writing? Online through my blog, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I’ve just branched out into paying for promotion on Fussy Liberian and Book Cave

Where can people find your work?

Cafelit.com: https://cafelit.co.uk/index.php/meet-our-authors/2-uncategorised/109-paula-r-c-readman

Blackharepress.com: https://www.blackharepress.com/an-interview-with-paula-r-c-readman/

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Paula-R-C-Readman/e/B00A9UHMSO/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Where can people find you on social media and online? Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and a Facebook Group: For Writers Only Clubhouse.


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20-20 Michelle Cook

Good morning everyone, please say hello and welcome from Worcester, Michelle Cook, who like myself counts Wuthering Heights among her favourite books.

What name do you write under? Michelle Cook. That’s just me—my real name.

Where are you from, live or work? I live in Worcestershire, UK with my husband and two children, aged 4 and 7. As a day job, I’m a project manager for the NHS, which I love, and which brings me into contact with a huge variety of people. Or at least it used to before Covid. I’ve always written bits and pieces, but it’s only a couple of years ago I picked it up again seriously, Tipping Point my debut novel, was a real labour of love, which kept me going through the inevitable difficulties of writing a book, of which more later!

Tell me two things that people may not know about you. I love Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials books so much I named my cat Lyra Belacqua, then secretly wished I’d kept the name free for my daughter.

I’m left-handed, and have recently discovered quite a few fellow writers who are too. I wonder if this is significant…

Do you have any hobbies? Reading, of course! Since signing with Darkstroke Books, I’ve been in a whirlwind of reading as many of the other brilliant Darkstroke authors’ novels as possible. I also love walking in countryside and playing with my kids, if that counts as a hobby. In different times, I was a fan of cinema, live music and comedy, but that has been more difficult to access lately. Thank goodness for Netflix.

What is your favourite book(s) and why? I bet everyone says this, but it’s hard to choose just one. I love many, many books, from Wuthering Heights to 1984. If I was forced to pick one, it would be Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. His talent for characterisation and voice is incredible and that particular novel is so heart-breaking and haunting.

Michelle Cook

Who or what inspired you to become a writer? When I was about ten, my teacher read out a story of mine in class, and I suppose that sense of achievement and kudos must have stayed with me. It’s weird, because there were many years after that when I wrote very little, and never seriously. I lacked confidence in my work, and would not have shared it.

Our family was going through a tough time a few years ago. I took up writing again as a release from the stress, and that’s when Tipping Point was born. In retrospect, I might have chosen a more relaxing hobby… but I love it and can’t imagine not writing now.

What type of books/genre do you write? Most things I write come out on the dark side, even if I intend to write a happy story! So they tend to fit into the thriller, urban fantasy, or dystopian genre.

How would you describe your writing style? I try to achieve two things: to be immersive and to make the writing tight. I love tension between characters and situations, and a tight style helps me create that. I do like to sprinkle humour about the place to keep it from getting too grim.

What comes first for you – character, plot or setting? It depends. If you mean in the generation of ideas, for me it would probably start with a plot point or situation. Very soon after that, the characters need to come in to bring it to life. Setting is something I work on as I go, and probably continue to develop during edits.

If you mean which is the most important, I think they’re all vital, and try not to sacrifice one for any of the others.

Do you have a writing routine? Life with two young kids doesn’t lend itself to routine at times, though I try. I have one day a week with no kids or work, and that’s my “go for it” day. And then it’s a matter of late night writing sessions instead of sleep!

Do you become a ‘method’ writer? I fear I do a little… not that I live my characters’ lives, but an awful lot of head space is occupied when I’m in the thick of it. I’ve had many a car journey to work in a daze thinking about a story. I’m working from home these days, so at least it’s a bit less risky! Apart from the road safety issues, I tend to see it as a good thing. The hope is that if I am so absorbed while writing, some of that will transfer onto the page for readers.

What are you currently working on? I have been juggling two projects: a sequel to Tipping Point, and an urban fantasy. I’ve decided to go for the sequel first, being optimistic that the first book will generate some interest for it.

What has been the most fulfilling part of your writing career? So far, without a doubt, having Tipping Point published. Weeks after receiving my proof copy, I would pick it up several times a day, just to smell the pages! The thrill of seeing it in the flesh is indescribable. I am unashamedly proud of it, because anyone who’s done it I think would agree it’s hard work getting a book to that stage. I wonder if that excitement wears off after the first book. I hope not.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given? I did the, Write Here in Birmingham course last year, tutored by author Helen Cross. A couple of things Helen said stayed with me. The first was a regular note she would put on students’ writing: “This passage needs to work harder.” Meaning, I think, that every sentence, every word counts. Each one has to have a reason to be there, and should add something to your story.

The other thing she told us was that the students she has seen get published have not always been the ones with the greatest natural talent, but rather the ones who were the most determined to get there. I’ve taken that to heart because to me writing, and publishing, is about tenacity and resilience as much as it is the craft. Like I said, I could have chosen a more relaxing “hobby”… but where’s the fun in that?

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to become a writer? Keep going. There will be many days where you don’t like what you write. Many where you want to give up. Don’t. I don’t believe any writer, however great, gets it right first time. It’s hard to do, but you have to back yourself and your work on those days. That said, occasionally everything goes right and a scene hits the spot you were aiming for, and that’s the best feeling in the world.

All that, and I’d say do an outline for your story. Because an outline will get you through those periods when you want to give up. When I wrote Tipping Point, I skipped ahead a couple of times and wrote more exciting scenes because I was getting bogged down. Then I went back to fill in the gaps with renewed enthusiasm. I couldn’t have done that without an outline.

 What have you published recently? Tipping Point was released in September. Before that, I had a clutch of flash fiction pieces published. In February, I won the Writers’ Forum competition with my short story The Truth About Cherry House. I’m really proud of that, because it was an upbeat story that a few people were kind enough to tell me made them feel good.

Do you think there’s still some snobbery between commercial and self-publishing? Massively. And, within the published world, between literary and genre fiction too, which is a pet peeve of mine. Writing a good story that keeps readers engaged is an incredible achievement, whatever category you want to put it in.

If there are self-published books which are less polished from the point of design or editing, that’s often only because they haven’t had the resources behind them. I hear agents and publishers say they want more diverse submissions. In order to achieve that, we all need to be a bit better at looking beyond easily-fixed issues to the heart of the story. The whole thing needs demystifying. I think that’s where indie publishers can play a major role, with a more flexible approach alongside industry experience.

I’m lucky because with Darkstroke Books, I feel like I have the best of both worlds. I have been fortunate to have a lot of input into the process of editing and design, but with ultimate professional backing to keep it on track. Darkstroke are incredibly collaborative, and there’s a fantastic bunch of really supportive writers who are always happy to help a newbie.

How do you market your writing? Marketing is a whole new world to me. When you’re writing unpublished, you never think so far ahead. At least, I didn’t. Just getting published felt like the finish line. Then I quickly discovered it’s not!

I use social media a lot, particularly Facebook and Twitter, alongside my website to grow an audience and engage with them. In times of Covid, live events are tricky to arrange, but I’ve made links with my local library and newspaper, hoping to build for the future. I did a joint launch on Zoom with fellow Darkstroke authors Helen Matthews (author of Façade) and Guy Mankowski (author of Dead Rock Stars), who released their excellent books around the same time.

I love a bit of variety, so as well as arranging a blog tour, I’ve found myself doing a few of these sorts of things online too—some really fun Q&As, theme discussions, and a “soundtrack to my book” feature.

Where can people find your work? You can order Tipping Point on Amazon either as an e-book or paperback: http://mybook.to/tippingpoint

Where can people find you on social media and online? I’m on a few platforms now, so the best route to go for all of them is via Linktree.

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Virtual December 6×6 on Tuesday 8th December! #6×6 #writingcafe #onlinelitevent #readings @SoTLibraries

Great fun event now online. If you’re local then why not get involved.

6x6 Writers Cafe

With apologies for delays (while we waited to see how the Covid situation panned out) we are excited to announce that there will be a December 6×6, and, as with the September event, this will happen via the City Central Library’s YouTube channel  SOT Libraries, and their facebook  page  :


If you missed them the September stories can still be viewed!

Stories from our writers can be seasonal or not  but as always the 6 minute rule applies and  the basic rules for sending in submissions remain as they have always been on length etc (See our guidelines) and the submissions deadline will be midnight on 29th November 2020.

In order for this to happen you will need the following info.

  • As things stand the six selected writers will still go to the library to have their reading filmed in early December. Any changes to this will announced…

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