Round Robin – October

October’s Round Robin question is: What is your favorite book(s) of all time in
your favorite genre(s)? (You can include children’s books or non-fiction
or even magazines).

Sometimes a question seems to be easy-peasy and then, STOP PRESS, it’s anything but. What is my favourite book in a favourite genre?

How do we define ‘favourite’ for starters? Is it shown by the physical state the book has descended to? If so The Conceited Lamb must be high on my list. It was a ‘prize’ for perfect attendance so I’ve owned it for well over 60 years and clearly read it over and over when younger.


Also in this photo is a copy of JM Barrie’s Quality Street. The last time I appeared on stage was as a seventeen-year-old in the first act of Quality Street. It was a school production directed by the incomparable Dr MacQueen and great fun. This copy has wonderful pen and ink illustrations by Hugh Thomson. I always enjoy them.


The copy of Pride and Prejudice has lost its dust cover, but it, too, was a school prize. In 1960-61 it was considered suitable reading material for a primary age pupil. I wonder how it fares now? Was it responsible for my life-long attachment to and love of the Regency novel? Or was that the author of the other book here, Georgette Heyer. Difficult to tell. I love Jane Austen as it’s the moment when English becomes modern and, some slang aside, understandable to a twentieth century reader. Georgette Heyer’s work is so rich in detail and history. It is unflinching in the portrayal of the female state and its opposite, the male state.

However, it is funny. Many of the characters are unforgettable for reasons stretching from ‘charming’ to ‘diabolical’. Her language takes us into a world of its own. And, by and large, everyone has grey eyes. So much simpler to deal with when instructing the cover illustration.


Okay, here’s the shock horror moment: while I love a good story, and I do read modern writers as well as the comfortable old favourites, my preferred choice is often a non-fiction book.

I recently read Lara Maiklem’s wonderful Mudlarking. There are a lot of dropped pins in it, and a lot of which stairs are safest at low tide, but there’s so much more. In an easy, conversational style, she takes us along the shores of the Thames and brings in so much of the river’s history. I will read this one again.

Charge of the Parasols by Catriona Blake was recommended to me by medical friends when I said I was wrting about the Edinburgh Seven. I had to source it online, but I hope someone might reprint as it’s a joy.

I simply love information.

And so to my own books. Rosalie, above, is the most recent. It’s a contemporary story, but it’s set in a David Bryce house of my imaginining. Who was David Bryce? A Victorian architect who worked in the country house market. I used to visit one of his mid-century houses as a guest and developed an interest in his work. His signature was often a small, round tower-like flourish. In the house I visited, they contained the loos.

I bought a catalogue from the Christian Aid book sale of works by him and other Victorian architects. Like so many things I’ve read, it came into its own as research material in due course.

A new adventure set in Maldington House will be released by My Weekly on 10th December. Title not yet known, but it is Christmas themed.

In the meantime, check back here for a fresh anthology from Capital Writers. It’s for Hallowe’en so there will be spooks.

My fellow Robins are below. Who are their favourites?







Skye Taylor

Diane Bator


Connie Vines

Dr. Bob Rich

Fiona McGier

Victoria Chatham

Helena Fairfax

Beverley Bateman

Rhobin L Courtright



Round Robin – Tension in a work

Tension or conflict are the major requirements after engaging characters: so we need a HOOK. An opening hook, followed by a chapter ending hook, followed by another…

Sometimes it helps build tension to allow the reader an insight which the heroine isn’t aware of. Why was a character missing-in-action for 5 years? Was it, as he’s told the heroine, because he was doing good works in the Third World, or was it because he was languishing at Her Majesty’s Pleasure?

Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is an excellent example of how the heroine can allow herself to be manipulated by a conman. Conmen need to be personable otherwise they’d starve. Austen, however, does ramp up the tension by showing our heroine having to come to another conclusion. The housekeeper believes Mr Darcy is the best of employers. Lydia lets slip he was around in London when her marriage was arranged. Slowly, Lizzie has to admit to having been wrong and take the reader with her.

Foreshadowing – might be described as a technical term, but it’s quite simply the old ABC rule. If the neighbour’s dog is going to catch the burglar in the final paragraph, then it needs to have been seen earlier in the story, and probably twice. Sometimes as a writer, I write something and on re-reading yesterday’s work, think – What is that? Why is that? But, I leave it in. Very often, so often it’s scary, the answer seeps out of the text a hundred pages on. This subliminal clue is one of the things that builds the tension for the reader and keeps them involved with your characters.

Interesting and helpful sub-plots also keep the reader onboard. Does your sub-plot bolster the main theme without over-taking it? Is it peopled by sound, enjoyable characters? Will the reader hate the villains and love the heroines in the sub-plot as much as in the main one?

Forces of nature – I’m not talking here about those insufferable celebs one would truly hate to spend a lift journey with, never mind a long week-end. But is there a storm coming? Will the sea claim the house on the hill? Are the fleas going to jump from the rats and land on the heroine giving her bubonic plague? Does the hero have appendicitis and not a gyppy tummy?

These are a few of the ploys I like. What do you like to read?

To discover what my fellow robins think, go here:

Skye Taylor

Dr. Bob Rich

A.J. Maguire

Helena Fairfax

Rhobin L Courtright

Beverley Bateman

Judith Kopek

Diane Bator