Diary of a Writer – Coping Mechanisms 4

Visits to the Royal Botanical Garden in Edinburgh have become an important part of the ‘coping mechanisms’ mentality here in the Writer’s Study. Nature carries on carrying on and yesterday there were many lovely rhodies to be seen.

There’s currenty not a lot of writing taking place! Maybe the brain has had enough of keeping up and keeping cheering up. Instead, I’ve begun the process of finding surfaces. One bag of paper ready for the re-cycling (includes some MSS!) and several piles of books ready for the next opportunity to send to a sale or take to a shop.

Looking forward to the online conference of the Scottish Association of Writers this w/e. Stellar line-up of speakers and adjudicators so maybe that stimulus will kick-start something.

I find it very hard to describe people. I love showing their characters and actions but describing them remains a real problem. Yesterday I set myself the task of describing the heroine of a Scottish Regency I’m toying with. Achieved three sentences. What do we know so far? She’s short and blonde.


Mother’s Day last Sunday was a lovely boost with flowers and a delivered Afternoon Tea. It was so nice to talk to my children and really looking forward to seeing them in person. I feel for those of you who are separated by oceans.

Curious Find – From the tidying – up is that elastic bands dry out and crack.

How is it going in your study/kitchen/workroom?


ps Takeaway par Excellence from Hickory at Home is a big help. St Patrick’s Day coming up and we’re trying the Vegetarian option.

Round Robin – Where do you get your ideas for stories?

In February, Rhobin has chose an idea from fellow robin, Fiona. Where do you get your ideas from for stories?

It is the thing that fascinates non fiction writers the most. All of us are likely to have been held at cocktail-point by another guest who seems genuinely puzzled that anyone can take an event and turn it into something else. Their brains don’t operate on a What if? basis and that prevents them seeing the possibilities.

Of course real life throws up all sorts and a huge amount of it is feel-good, happy, moving. What I truly thank my story Gods for is the ability to witness the moment, to remember the feeling of revelation and to write it, often without reaiising until the work is completed. That is one huge privilege of being a writer.

The Laundry

I know a lot of my ideas come through visiting houses and through being close to houses. Some buildings cry out for attention.

My husband and I have life membership of The National Trust for Scotland and in more normal times make good and frequent use of it. We also visit privately owned big houses and have stayed in commercially let ones.

The picture above sparked an idea for a story I wrote years ago for a Writelink challenge. Most recently, I needed a house for a Hallowe’en story for a short anthology, Dark Stories, Capital Writers. The Cemetery House picks up a long fascination I’ve had with two houses on a nearby road. One is in a cemetery, one is just higgeldy-piggeldy.

Dark Stories by [Kate Blackadder, Jane Riddell, Anne Stenhouse, Jennifer Young]

A Debt for Rosalie was sparked by a long weekend spent in a big house in Angus (moved to Northumberland for the book) with friends. We spent a lot of time congregating in the kitchen which may be why Rosalie is a chef.

So, that’s my bag: observed and remembered moments of revelation and the aura of the stones. Do visit the blogs listed below where I’m confident other methods will appear.


Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea

Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/

Connie Vines http://mizging.blogspot.com/

Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/

Dr. Bob Rich https://wp.me/p3Xihq-2eA

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/

Helena Fairfax http://www.helenafairfax.com/blog

Marci Baun http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/

Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com

Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/

Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobincourtright.com

From the Igloo – Coping Mechanisms 3

Living in Edinburgh makes a heavy snowfall something of an event. I dislike snow and, although I can enjoy the beauty of pristine falls, simply long for it to melt.

Not an early chance of that if the BBC weather is to be believed.

Members of the extended family have been sledging and making snowmen. One or two might have had the Calcutta Cup added as an embellishment…

However, one or two have had to go out to work like the dedicated young lady who delivers our newspaper – warm thanks.

And the crew who brought our grocery delivery yesterday when it wasn’t warm but the snow wasn’t quite so thick. Again, many thanks.

So, the coping:

Grocery Delivery brought flowers. Daffs above, aloestramerias and a chrysanthemum pot plant. Cheered the house up considerably as the front garden, when you can see it, has 1 snowdrop and 1 aconite!

Looking for something else, I found a fresh cache of Georgette Heyer and one I may not have read before – or at least not for years.

Fellow inmate has had SPORT to watch. Cannot thank Channel Four enough. DH’s reaction when he discovered the cricket was on terestrial was like seeing the sun at the end of a very long tunnel.

Weight has dropped again and is now below a significant marker. This is good for morale and therefore ‘a positive’. Do hope the enforced loss of walks won’t be a problem. On advice of friend am watching Joe Wicks’s Absolute Beginners workout. I gather the intention is to join in, will consider that.

Am reading Cecilia Peartree’s Life and Death in the Woods, You can buy it here

Life and Death in the Woods by [Cecilia Peartree]

Writing? Serial is going well.

How is this added weather glitch affecting you?


Round Robin – January To Do List

Rhobin’s questions are as always pertinent. I’m guilty of seeing what comes along and whether I’d like to get into/onto that. It doesn’t an organised life make.
However, this year there are two projects in hand.
Firstly, I’m deeply into writing an historical serial for the People’s Friend magazine. It isn’t collaborative exactly, but the team of fiction editors do opine instalment by instalment. so that’s ongoing.

City of Discoveries

It’s taken me back to 1869 but to Edinburgh and not Dundee. One project I might add to 2021 is bringing out City of Discoveries as an e-book and POD. I know several of my author friends do this. Check out Kate Blackadder’s Family Stories Boxset here.
Secondly, I’m signed up to offer my thoughts on writing drama for the Edinburgh Writers’ Club in April. This will be a totally new experience as I’ve not done any online talks or workshops as a leader so far. In person evenings discussing the nuts and bolts of drama always leave me thinking “Wouldn’t it be nice to write a play?”
Moving on, though, what’s in my mind?
Having published two pocket novels with My Weekly last year, I’m keen to a) write a short story for the magazine and b) write another PN.
Christmas at Maldington is available here
A Debt for Rosalie is available here.
So there you have it. Modest goals but the way time slides along in our semi-permanent Lockdown (Couldn’t you do one post without mentioning it? Ed) I think Modest is good.
I’m a bit nervous to check out the other contributors as they’ll probably be so much more organised and energised. Ho hum. They are also always entertaining…

Coping Mechanisms 1

Day after interminable day stretches ahead of many of us. Key workers, on the other hand, may be finding day flashes past day.

The virus numbers make truly miserable reading and the optimism inspired by the rolling out of the vaccines is increasingly suppressed by them.

Chin up, though. Let’s share our Coping Mechanisms.

I’ve moved onto re-reading Jane Austen and am wondering why – where Northanger Abbey is concerned. Maybe all will become clear…

Seriously wondering whether the moment to launch back into Harry Potter might be on the horizon.

Am writing a serial for People’s Friend. That, at least, is going well. Our new Minister has arrived at Mayfield Salisbury Church. Welcome Sandy Forsyth. Zoom have allowed me a link to join the induction – wonder if they’d give me a reference for Eventbrite which is still refusing me tickets for anything.

If you’re on speaking terms with Eventbrite, Edinburgh Writers’ Club has its first meeting of 2021 tomorrow evening. Guests are welcome on payment of a small fee. Speaker is Tom Hodge of Typewronger Books. Situated in Haddigton Place, Typewronger books will post out or, locally, deliver your purchases in present times. Terms & Conditions apply – always wanted to join Claudia in using that phrase. Sorry not to have a celebrity on hand to add glamour – see post title.

Looking forward to walking out today as the pavements are now cleared of lingering ice.

Anyone else missing the buzz that Christmas generated? I’m missing the lovely pine smell of our tree.

Today’s online service from Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church is here.

Other coping mechanisms are available:

A Debt for Rosalie

Christmas at Maldington

Stay Home, folks, Stay Safe.


Christmas Stories Round Robin Advent Doors


ADVENT DOORS By Anne Stenhouse

Jamie sidled out of his room and crept along the landing to the bathroom door. Once in the bathroom, with the door closed behind him, he could pull the cord and enjoy the flood of light. Slumped against the side of the bath with legs and feet stretched in front of him, he was fiendishly uncomfortable, but it was a small price to pay for being able to carry on reading.

No one outside knew he was here.

Not even Mum.

“Jamie,” his mum’s voice carried upstairs and cut through the hum of the powerful bathroom fan over his head. Jamie dropped his book. What was she doing home? How could the supermarket spare their senior supervisor two days before Christmas?


Oops, no mistaking that tone. Scrambling onto his feet he stretched a hand to the edge of the sink and balanced. He pulled open the door and gazed down to where his mum waited.

“You are supposed to be across the road at Lynsey’s party. You were invited.”

Jamie shuffled. Was he invited because Lynsey wanted him there, though? Or was he invited because Lynsey’s dad felt sorry for him?

“Suppose,” he muttered. He saw the angry expression challenging him, but he also saw the quick flash of something else before his mum suppressed it.

“Suppose!” His mum started up the narrow stairs and grabbing him by the arm marched him along to his room.

She pointed at the new trousers and the Christmas themed jumper and waited while Jamie changed into them. His bad foot slowed him down as usual, but when he glanced at the long mirror on the wardrobe door, he realised everything suited him and the trousers were long enough to cover his gammy foot. He looked like anyone.

“Where’s the parcel?”

Jamie toyed briefly with the idea of saying he’d lost it. When he couldn’t come up with any notion of where in this tiny, tiny house, he might have lost it, he hauled it out from under his bed. It was a little less pristine than it had been. The big tinselly bow was crushed but the paper wasn’t torn. Or at least not much.

“For goodness sake. Do you know how hard it was to afford that?”

“I didn’t want to go, Mum. I told you I…”

“Yes,” his mum sounded defeated. “Yes, you just want to go on sitting in the dark reading a book.”

Jamie didn’t sit in the dark reading a book. You couldn’t read a book if it was dark, not really dark, not December dark. Could you?

“I like reading and if I’m in the bathroom that nosy woman at number twenty can’t report you for not being here, can she?”

“Oh, Jamie.” His mum shepherded him downstairs and stretched around him to unlatch the front door. “Mrs number twenty had a stroke last night. She’s in hospital.”

“Oh,” Jamie didn’t know what else to say. They knew about strokes. It was one of them that took his dad.

“Ralph,” his mum corrected herself, “Doctor Sime, told me when he phoned to find out where you were. I said,” she paused dramatically, and Jamie gazed at her, “I said you’d been held up because you missed your connection.”

“Right,” Jamie often said he’d missed his connection when he walked, very slowly, to the first stop on an alternative bus route. It meant he didn’t have to listen to the taunts from the cool guys about his foot.


They crossed the road and walked down towards the house Lynsey’s family occupied. It was her, her dad, twin sisters and an elderly auntie. Lynsey’s mum died when her baby brother was born. He died, too, but Lynsey said she didn’t miss him because she’d never known him. She did miss her mum.

“There’s a reindeer in the garden,” Jamie said. It was cold and his breath hung in the air as he spoke. “It’s real.” Jamie could smell the smell of an animal and when it moved the bells on its harness jingled. The handler raised a hand in salute.

Jamie looked towards the door where there was a big wreath of greenery and holly with berries. “Why aren’t they out looking at it?”

“It’s Lynsey’s big birthday surprise. That’s why Ralph phoned because he didn’t want you to miss it. Go on.” His mum gave him a sharp push between the shoulder blades towards the door. “Don’t let on.”

“Aren’t you coming in?”

“I’ve got to get back and finish my shift,” his mum said.

“Right,” Jamie felt the wobble. The one that attacked him in the tummy whenever he remembered that Dad wasn’t coming home again. Not ever. Mum had to work, or they’d go hungry.

He felt the weight of the parcel in his hand. Why had she spent money on this when they couldn’t afford more than a turkey dinner for two at her staff discount? What kind of Christmas was that in comparison with how it used to be?

“Jamie,” his mum’s voice cut into his rambling thoughts, but it was like a cake slice not a carving knife. “Jamie if you really don’t want to go in, I’ll phone Ralph and say you’re poorly.” She began to feel in her coat pocket for her mobile.

“Why are you calling him Ralph?”

“It’s his name. And, you know, maybe I’m a store supervisor and he’s a consultant surgeon, but he’s a gentleman.”

“He wants to operate on my foot,” Jamie said the words and they were an accusation. Lynsey had heard his mum and her dad discussing a fairly straightforward tendon realignment.

“Yes, well, I haven’t agreed to anything, Jamie, but he is the best in the field and the science has moved on since your dad vetoed the op the last time.” His mum sighed. “Darling, I have to get back to the store. Are you going in or do I need to walk you to the library?”

Jamie thought about the library and the way its revolving door welcomed a person in. Even before you got into the building and could smell the books and the floor polish and sense the hush in the atmosphere, you were being drawn forward to its hidden secrets.

“Revolving doors do spit you out, though,” Jamie said, “At shutting time.”

“Of course, they let you out. It’s not a prison and I’ll be finished by six-thirty so I can meet you…”

“I didn’t mean that.” Jamie protested. “I love the library and anything’s better than after-school club.”

Supervision of Jamie, now eleven and tall for his age, was one of the things he and his mum argued about. They were teetering on the edge of a full-blown row. Christmas cheer was saved by the opening of the front door.

Mr Sime stood in the light, and the noise of a party well underway drowned their angry words.

“Hullo young man. Well, there’s been a lot of huffing in the doocots over your whereabouts, I don’t mind telling you. Nancy,” Mr Sime broke off and Jamie saw the delight, quickly followed by concern in Mr Sime’s eyes as he skipped down the front steps to grasp his mum’s hand. The doctor pulled her towards him and kissed her on the cheek.

Jaimie didn’t think his mum was surprised. He was surprised, though. He was very surprised.

“Ralph, you weren’t supposed to see me. Jamie’s here now. I’ll collect him at eight o’clock.”

Mr Sime kept his hand on his mum’s arm and that did make her surprised.

“I’ll bring him along and there might be a few left-overs,” Mr Sime said. “Auntie will see the girls get to bed okay.”

Jamie went into the house and handed his parcel to Lynsey. He hoped she wasn’t going to ask him what was in it because her auntie took it from her and added it to a pile of unopened parcels in a laundry basket beside the door.

“I hoped you’d come in time for the surprise,” Lynsey said.

“Yes,” Jamie said. “Sorry I’m late.”

“That’s all right. You’re worth waiting for.”

Over Lynsey’s head, Jamie shared a look with Mr Sime. The surgeon closed the door behind him. Jamie didn’t panic.


“The reindeer was great, Mr Sime,” Jamie said later as they walked along the road towards the end where the smaller houses sat. Mr Sime was carrying a cool bag, but Jamie didn’t know exactly what was in it. It seemed heavier than it should be if there was only a few sausage rolls and a bit of cake in there.

“Do you like animals?”

“Oh yes. Next to books.”

“Going to be a vet?”

“Don’t know.” Jamie thought about his foot. “I maybe couldn’t do much on a farm. I mean with big animals.”

“You think? Because of your balance?”

Jamie pondered this. Was there a door opening here, or closing? Should he say yes or no or maybe? Why was his dad’s face harder to remember this Christmas than it had been last?

Jamie’s mum was standing in their tiny hall when they came through the gate.

“I was looking out,” she said although everyone knew already. “Come in.” she backed into the front room and Jamie waited while Mr Sime followed her. He closed the front door.

Ahead of him their Advent calendar hung on a shoogly gold tack. Jamie opened the little door for the 23rd and found a picture of a donkey.

Wouldn’t it be good to run free, he thought. Surely his dad would have changed his mind when the science improved? Another thing that would be good, he knew after tonight, was learning to dance so he didn’t have to sit on one side and watch.

He pushed open the living-room door and wasn’t really surprised to see the bit of mistletoe Mr Sime was stuffing back into the cool bag or the bottle of red wine on the table.

“Can I have the operation during term-time?” he asked.


© Anne Stenhouse

A list of my fellow Christmassy Robins is below and there’s more free storytelling for you on their blogs.


Capital Christmas Stories

A Debt for Rosalie buy here

Margaret Fieland
Skye Taylor
Diane Bator

Connie Vines

Fiona McGier
Dr. Bob Rich
Beverley Bateman
Rhobin L Courtright

Victoria Chatham

Helena Fairfax

Another Civic Tree

Another Civic Tree is in St Andrews’ Square:

Trees of Kindness

It’s an installation of the Social Bite Charity which does superhuman work with homeless folk. Including offering a meal on Christmas Day. Were you able to make a donation of items follow the tree link above. Were you able to make a financial donation to help provide Christmas Dinner go here:

Christmas Dinner


Trees, trees, trees

Creel Christmas Tree, Ullapool

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the trees but this year perhaps we should all have gone in for a little creativity like the good citizens of Ullapool.

A Retreating Writer

It’s fairly likely that the garb I’m dressed in above will be the most suitable for this year’s celebrations.

Stay Safe Everyone


Death at Rainbow Cottage – Jo Allen


Death at Rainbow Cottage: A DCI Satterthwaite mystery (The DCI Satterthwaite Mysteries)


Written by my Edinburgh friend and fellow Capital Writer, Jo Allen, I’m delighted to feature this 4th outing for Jo’s Lake District detective, DI Jude Satterthwaite and his team.

If you thought lovely rural locations meant sentimental Christmassy scenes to everyone, dipping into Jo’s cleverly crafted pyschological mysteries, will certainly make you reconsider.

We all need a good whodunnit on the go over Christmas and this is going to be mine.

Death at Rainbow Cottage

Pantomime Deprivation

Is Pantomime Deprivation a ‘real’ thing?

Certainly in this house there are twitchy people wondering when, when, when we’ll be back in the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, on a more normal footing. Hats off to all our creatives who are working so hard to keep their venues, staff and art going.

My next Pocket Novel for My Weekly is published on Thursday 10th December and it contains – a Pantomime.


Genni escapes for some much needed recovery after a death on her television show. She meets Paddy and directs a pantomime. Love of live theatre rekindled, will she return to the brighter lights of London?

Publication is 10th December and as always available from newsagents, supermarkets and online or by phone from the DC Thomson shop.

Meantime the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh has some wonderful Christmas Tales for us. Go here 

Scroll down to find the instructions for the 8 free tales.

Keep Safe, folks,