Diary of a Writer – October Writing Prompt

A modest selection

Notebooks, notebooks, notebooks…

A staple of any writer’s toolkit and the one we love most, is our notebook. The picture shows but a modest selection from my immodest collection (no, numbers will not be revealed, but suffice it to say the completed ones can be considered as a useful addition to the attic insulation).

The big, plain A4 was in my goody bag at the recent, and excellent, Scotswrite conference of the Society of Authors in Scotland. I love these for jobs like editing and critiquing. I also still find it easy and therapeutic to write long-hand when the pc isn’t available or there’s a wee glitch to be sorted. Something about seeing the words appear and then the crossings-out makes it all very real. The two wee ones are from another goody bag – Romantic Novelists’ Association – and as meet-up swag. Thank you ladies, Annie Burrows and Christine London. The next size up were brought to the launch of Bella’s Betrothal by fellow Capital Writer, Jane Riddell – the elegant black and silver, and bought by me in the V&A – who doesn’t like shoes?

The medium sized ones comprise one for note-taking and, the dark one, for recording everything I send out and how the work fares. Some of the pages have lovely red £ signs indicating a sale or licence fee (I have plays, folks).

So, how many do you have? Did you start out sewing together pages to make a book, aged 6? Doesn’t the simple sight of a notebook prompt you to get started?


Round Robin – Memorable Characters

This month Rhobin has asked us to think: What characters in other author’s books have not left your mind? Have you written a character who wouldn’t leave you? Why do you think this happens?

Being a prolific reader over a long time period makes the choice here very hard. I know I’ve always enjoyed the anti-hero. I wrote the thesis for my sixth year studies’ certificate about anti-heroes from the characters in Grimms’ Fairytales to James Bond. so, at that vulnerable, romantic and sentimental stage in life, they’re all there – the Scarlet Pimpernel, The Saint, James Bond and the strapping men on horseback sweeping all before them in the novels of Georgette Heyer. They have the best wardrobes, the best dialogue and they do GOOD without being in the least WORTHY.

As I grew older, the reading didn’t diminish much so the choice is even wider. I think I’ve mentioned the book before, but it’s worth re-visiting – DON’T PLAY GAMES by Emma Darcy is a M&B published in 1985. It has a heroine, Kate Andrews and hero, Alex Dalton. So much, so M&B, but this book because of the characters and their story has stayed with me. I have the copy on the desk in front of me. Kate is a redheaded (is that a giveaway?) feisty, but loyal character, and Alex is , because this is classic M&B, an anti-hero of the billionaire world.

A more recent set of characters to stay with me are the women, goodies and baddies, from Katharine Stockett’s wonderful book, The Help. It is so beautifully realised and again the dialogue is first-rate. Reading it in an internal Southern States’ accent had me in the room.

The character ‘wot I wrote’ that stayed with me was Mariah’s sister-in-law, Lady Daisy. I had to rein in the writing while working on the scenes she appeared in in Mariah’s Marriage. In due course, she got her own book, Daisy’s Dilemma and a worthwhile choice she proved to be.

Others have written about their memorable characters and you can find them here:

Heidi M. Thomas http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com/
Victoria Chatham http://www.victoriachatham.com
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
A.J. Maguire 
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Round Robin – Emotion and all That

How emotionally involved are you in writing some scenes is the question posed for this month’s round robin.

Well, it’s a biggie. I think the emotion I personally find hardest to deal with is disappointment. I’m writing this on the 24th June 2016, so many in the UK will know disappointment this morning and throughout the whole day.

I’ve just had a peek at Facebook and astonishing stuff is coming through. People who voted ‘Leave’ (the European Union) because they didn’t think their vote would count so it wouldn’t matter (Eh?). People who believed Eurocrats made the laws – where were they when the rest of us were voting for our MEPs?

However, we’re talking writing here and as I write romance with lots of ups, downs and round-abouts, there’s enough emotion to find a few heart-wringing moments to tempt you.


London Girl

London Girl

Mariah’s Marriage is shot through with disappointment. Sir Lucas is disappointed he could not snare the Earl for his sister. Lady Mellon is disappointed she cannot secure a suitable wife for the heir. Mariah is bitterly disappointed she cannot continue her life teaching because the earl has trapped her in a compromising situation. I really felt that tug between what one wanted to do and what one must do.

And I hugely enjoyed the resolution which I was able to write with, I hope, laugh-out loud farce.




Bella’s Betrothal

Bella’s Betrothal charts the resolution of disappointment because Bella feels abandoned, if not even cast off, by her family. I really invested in the scenes early in the book when she tries to defend herself against the pragmatic arguments and physical attractiveness of Charles Lyndsay. Well, how do you choose the lesser danger of a bogeyman out there and a heart-stoppingly attractive man in your room at the inn?




Daisys Dilemmal 333x500Daisy’s Dilemma springs out of disappointment and it’s all the more poignant because Daisy doesn’t see it coming. Actually, as the creator, neither did I. Reuben Longreach’s voice caught me a little by surprise, but I soon grew to love him dearly and I wrote one or two of his scenes entirely wrapped up in him.

I refer a lot throughout this book to The Foundling Hospital where mothers could leave the babies and small children they were unable to keep. Some were never re-united. Today in Camden, within walking distance of King’s Cross, you can visit the Foundling Museum which sits in some of the original buildings and in Coram’s Fields. The display case exhibited there of the tokens – sometimes a button or scrap of a shawl – by which mothers hoped to identify their baby should life improve and they could reclaim them, is deeply moving. So, yes, I was emotionally very involved in writing much of this book.

Thomas Coram

Thomas Coram

So if you fancy learning how other authors go about it, try one of my friends, below:

Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Heather Haven http://heatherhavenstories.com/blog/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca
Diane Bator http://dbator.blogspot.ca/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Margaret Fieland http://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/

Bob Rich https://bobrich18.wordpress.com/2016/06/25/emotion-in-writing
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Upstaging for Beginners – Secondary Characters’ Round Robin


Upstaging for Beginners is something all eldest children know about. I’m an eldest child – what do you mean, you knew that? There you are in a neat little bubble of loving relatives, doting friends and neighbours and admiring strangers when it BURSTS.

After the Night Before

New Baby

A sibling has arrived. They don’t have to do anything to attract all that wonderful attention that was hitherto yours and yours alone. They just are Secondary Characters and they’re upstaging you.

Secondary Characters should support the heroine or point up by their failings and villainy how sparkling, intelligent, beautiful… Okay, I think we all know what we want the secondary characters to do. Unfortunately, as in The De’il has all the best tunes, the villain often has more of the colour and a writer needs to take enormous care to avoid making the good pale and uninteresting by comparison.

My favourite Secondary Character from my own writing is Reuben Longreach in


Reuben arrived on the first page of the new story fully formed and snapping at the heels of the man I had thought was going to be the male interest. He was certainly a surprise and I loved him from the first words I ‘heard’ him say.

DAISY herself was a secondary character in MARIAH’S MARRIAGE I did have to tone her down in one scene to allow Mariah to flourish.

There are many classic secondary characters such as Dr Watson & Captain Hastings. The reader comes to love their contributions. Clever readers might even solve detective mysteries through their pointed mistakes (I can’t ). And there are many small, almost cameo, characters who live on in the memory. A recent, and in my view brilliant one, was Lowrie the taxidermist and artist in the television serial Shetland, BBC 1

So, in conclusion, I love secondary characters. Visit some of my blogging friends to find out what they think by clicking on any link below from Saturday 19th. My post is up early as I’m off to the Scottish Association of Writers’ Conference – more of that later.

I’d love to know, dearest reader, who your favourite secondary character is from my three published novels, Mariah’s Marriage, BELLA’S BETROTHAL and Daisy’s Dilemma. Leave a comment, please.
Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Connie Vines http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.blogspot.ca.
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Hollie Glover http://www.hollieglover.co.uk
Dr. Bob Rich http://wp.me/p3Xihq-CZ

Fiona McGier http://www.fionamcgier.com/
Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/



BELLA’S BETROTHAL an entertaining romance with humour and a touch of thematic mystery.

Bella’s Betrothal, set in Edinburgh 1826, has two mothers offering opposing views of that position. Bella’s actual mama is a distant and critical woman who does everything in her power to diminish her talented and engaging daughter. Why would she do that? Obviously, it’s a plot device, but it happens in life and many women will sadly recognise the relationship.  Hatty, to whom Bella flees for succour is red haired and feisty like her niece. She’s also the kind of mother we all long for: supportive, encouraging and loving without being suffocating.

Mariah’s Marriage a roller-coaster read with razor sharp dialogue.

Mariah’s Marriage, set in London, 1822 has a motherless heroine who wonders wistfully if her life would have been different had her mama survived. But she’s made a very good job of growing up with only one parent and when confronted by the Earl of Mellon’s mama, Lady Constanzia, has mixed feelings about the relationship. The earl, finds his mama exasperating, loving and a great excuse for trapping Mariah into marriage. Will he, though, get the high-spirited girl as far as the altar?

Daisy’s Dilemma a brilliant exploration of what it was to be a lady in the 1800s

Daisy’s Dilemma,  set in London 1822 and later brings us more of the story of Lady Constanzia and another of her children, the talented and stifled, Lady Daisy. How does a girl behave when her duty is clear, but her head and her heart are at war? Can her mama help resolve her difficulties? Once more, Anne Stenhouse juxtaposes two mothers in Lady Constanzia and her sister-in-law, the monstrous Lady Beatrice. Whose will prevails?

Bare Bones and Cover-ups

100_4097The Bare Bones of a story often arrive unheralded and at an inconvenient moment. Having a notebook to hand might be the ideal, but it ain’t always possible. So how do I hold that thought?

An image helps. The lovely lady above was photographed in an Eastern museum. She hasn’t inspired anything yet, but I have the distinct feeling she will and I’m so glad to have her image readily to hand.

Once the bare bones are lodged in your head the question of what next arises. How do you add flesh or covering, cosy curves or flamboyant frocks without losing the initial inspiration?

It was a process I found quite stressful in learning the art of novel writing. Starting out with plays means your head makes allowance in the writing for what the director and actor will bring to any character. Description is hardly needed and as to Stage Directions…Unless you’re the ghost of JM Barrie, forget it. The director certainly will.

Clothing the story and the characters is a lovely creative process. I saw a gentleman through the bus window this morning. Tall, his own hair, smartly dressed – but wait – sporting a bow-tie? Who wears a bow-tie?

And I was off – running. So look out for a story with a dandy, unreliable and petulant, in a bow-tie.

Sorry chaps.

Daisy’s Dilemma contains a few scenes about clothes and clothing. Appearances were so important in the fashionable world – nothing changes, does it – that Tobias instantly sees the problem faced by his young cousin, Elspeth when Daisy brings it to him. She will never attract a suitable husband if she is only the bare bones of a lady. Daisy, however, can be relied upon to have a plan.

Galloping Into Fiction

100_4288Okay so the elephants aren’t galloping and you were expecting a horse. Fiction’s like that. Today’s round robin topic is about how we use animals in our writing. Topic: Have you used pets or other animals in your stories? What function do they perform in the story? Do they need to have a function? Can they be a character?

Horses were the main means of transport in Georgian and Regency times (after shanks’s pony – ie your own two feet). As such they were highly prized and highly valued. It’s possibly not too strong to say a man looked after his horses as well or better than most of his staff. but I write from the woman’s pov with a bit of him included so how did she see her horse?

Mariah Fox in Mariah’s Marriage doesn’t ride, but she is very impressed by Toby’s vehicle when he arrives to take her driving. It’s also the case that Mariah’s opening scene is with an animal – she’s nearly up-ended by a charging pig. I loved that image and chose it because we in the West have lost sight of the close integration of animals and humans in earlier and growing cultures. The fine chap below was wandering the streets of Bikaner in Rajasthan. He doesn’t ‘belong’ to anyone. the cows, however, because they give milk, are ear-tagged and there are urban dairies where they are milked. There were also many pigs, but they moved a little fast for my photographic skills, so I haven’t got a photo. 100_5173 BELLA’S BETROTHAL contains a heroine of a different stamp. Brought up in an aristocratic, rather than intellectual, household, Bella has her own horse, Ruby. And it’s the missing of Ruby that eventually pushes her into behaviour that rouses her hero’s ire and potentially endangers her life. How many secrets and troubles did Bella pour into her horse’s listening ear? Life was circumscribed for aristocratic ladies and activities like riding were the things that allowed those of an active mind and disposition to retain a hold on sanity. How many of the women portrayed idle and ill on day-beds were neither? They were just bored and it was killing them.Daisys Dilemmal 333x500 The hero in my work in progress is a dog and horse man. He’s waiting for news from home of how many pups his bitches have bred. Why give him this angle? Shows his caring side, I think. My Round robin companions are writing on this subject today and you may want to drop along and see what they’re saying. Start with Robin herself, here: Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/ and try a few others.

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

Victoria Chatham http://victoriachatham.webs.com/

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

Margaret Fieland http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/

Rachael Kosinski http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/

Kay Sisk http://kaysisk.blogspot.com

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

Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/

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

Anne Stenhouse  https://annestenhousenovelist.wordpress.com/

Rhobin Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/

skye Taylor http://skye-writer.com/blogging_at_the_beach

So, do you enjoy reading about animals in fiction? does it endear a character to you if they’re kind to the horses?

Launch Day Round-Up

DAISY’S DILEMMA launched yesterday and what a great day I enjoyed chatting and joking with other readers and writers of romance.


Thank you all for visiting even for a short time.

Some Stats from Daisy’s Dilemma’s launch party.

Padraig, courtesy Gill Stewart, was the most popular picture in Daisy’s Dilemma’s launch. When I last looked he’d been visited 169 times. Maybe it’s my peerless prose, but I think there are animal lovers out there and that bad boy fringe holds a lot of mystery.

Women formed the only guests until very late in the day when some young male relatives came aboard. I think the one man signed up, jumped ship earlier.

Supply a photograph of your own daisies was the most popular competition, although quite a few of you knew about Hogarth and gin – should that be gin and Hogarth? I must thank author Helena Fairfax for coming up with the idea of daisy photos.

Being the most popular has made the judging, which as I explained yesterday is entirely subjective, more difficult. So, applying my subjectivity before the second cup of coffee of the day, I’ve decided to award the lovely daisy necklace to Lis Mein for her group of Yorkshire Daisies. Congratulations, Lis. By the way scrolling through just now, I discovered that the pictures enlarge if you click on them. The Event can be found by going into events and then selecting ‘past’ from a list on the left.

Next competition invited you to name a popular saying inspired by the picture of some coffee time napkins and some horned beasts in the field.

Winner is Anne Stormont for her witty answer and also for jumping in. It is, of course, horns of a dilemma. Congratulations, Anne.

Third competition of the day asked in what year the Foundling Hospital ceased to have children living in. According to their excellent brochure, which I purchased on my recent visit to the museum in London, it was 1953. Two people said 1948 with one adding ‘or 1949’. So both close but not quite right. I enjoyed Mary Baxter’s description of the emotion band music stirs in her and so award her the CD of the Foundling Boys Band. However, as Diana Michelle Tidlund was so close, I’m happy to offer her a copy of either Daisy’s Dilemma or Bella’s Betrothal.

Then Hogarth and his Mother’s Ruin which is Gin. Goodness how many of you knew that. So a complimentary copy of Daisy’s Dilemma goes winging out to Wilma Cupples for providing an interesting take on gin and mixers.

You’re all winners for being such lovely guests and here’s another glimpse of that big, bad male animal, Padraig.

Padraig relaxed on hill

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DAISY’S DILEMMA and the earlier novels would not have been written without a lot of things coming together.

Or without the ongoing support of Tunnock’s Teacakes.

For some it’s the bottle. For others chocolate.

Some, I’ve heard rumours, just sit down at a keyboard and write. But I don’t give much credence…

My lovely family know of my weakness and I have a growing collection of artifacts. The most recent was a Christmas pressie from the DH.

China plate Teacake design

China plate Teacake design

Here it is – form an orderly queue, please. It can look like this:


Of course, some people deserve more teacakes than others. There’s my hugely talented cover artist, CK Volnek for one.

Also, I am indebted to my patient editor, JUDY ROTH without whom there would be dangling modifiers galore – oh, and many, many ‘thats’.

And finally, but not least, my publisher Lea Schizas. What a team!

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