The Jottings of a Writer


I sometimes find it hard to to think about myself as a writer, or an author. But I suppose I am. I will never forget the day I picked up my first published book. I felt I had arrived!

I started taking writing seriously after attending a Creative Writing Course, and having made lots of friends, we decided to start up the Haslemere Writing Circle. After a few years, this group unfortunately folded, but we still meet up every now and again to discuss what we have not done,  done, or are doing.

For a time, I was on the Committee of The Grayshott (Hampshire) Writing Festival which was great fun and I met several well-known writers and poets, who also gave me the inspiration to write. I might add, that my daughter runs a copy-editing business and my eldest son, has so far published three books. I love writing down my thoughts and those of my characters. As a writer you can take your characters anywhere you fancy: even to the moon if necessary. My least favourite aspect of  writing, as most writers will agree, is editing, editing…and still more editing. It has to be one of the most boring but extremely necessary aspects of the writing process. I love reading, and I’m drawn towards books containing strong characters,  unique story lines that are well written and described and those which have a proper and a satisfying ending. I would be pleased to say that I have a regular routine for writing, but I don’t. My writing routine is erratic to say the least, but as I write, my inspiration does not come from music, but from the view of the beautiful Surrey Hills I can see through my window, and the sound of the birds.  I am a great lover of music especially opera, but not when I am writing. I would be closing my eyes and nothing would ever get done, or finished.

A PASSING STORM was my first published book. Having enjoyed writing short stories, I felt that I should move on to writing a full-length novel. My original thoughts had centered on THE EMPTY-NEST SYNDROME and how women coped with their lives once their off-spring had left the nest, and the novel blossomed from that point. I finished it in 2006 and sent it off to various mainstream Publishers under the romance genre and although some editors said they enjoyed it, it was not taken up by any of them. During this time self-publishing was trying to gain a foothold and I sent it to a company in Canada to be published POD. Everything seemed to go well and I sold several copies. However, once the company was taken over by a larger company, everything seemed to go wrong: over-priced books were not selling well and any royalties before the take-over were not paid. In the meantime, I had decided to publish my second book (PAPER DREAMS) through Matador, a self-publishing imprint of Troubadour of Leicester. So, in 2012, I decided to terminate my contract with the original publisher, and re-publish it through Matador.

PAPER DREAMS is my second published book. I’ve always been fascinated by books, old and new and I hit on the idea of sending a librarian to catalogue a vast number of books in an ancient crumbling mansion. The main character, Katie, discovers an old love-letter hidden in an old book in the creepy attic. I then thought about how the discovery of such a letter, could impact upon other people’s lives. Thus PAPER DREAMS was born. This story, like A PASSING STORM, is basically a romance, but it does contain some quite dark, scary moments!

My latest book is ‘WHEN THE ICE MELTS. Before agreeing to switch off the machine keeping her husband Tom alive following an air accident, Solicitor, Sarah Wenham’s conscience convinced her that there was no alternative. Since then, it has condemned her: THOU SHALT NOT KILL is one of the deadly sins! Sarah is grief stricken, and builds a wall of ice around her emotions. Although this story is a romance, it is full of suspense. Sarah spends a short time on a beautiful Greek island in the sun. Whilst there she meets honey-tongued Theodorus Antonopoulos and unwittingly insults him. He now has revenge in his heart. Once she is back in England, Sarah is stalked, and then kidnapped. John Bradley, who really loves her, is searching for her. But…time is running out for Sarah! How, when and why the ice finally melts, is the nub of this suspenseful, yet heart-warming story! I am actively seeking a traditional publisher for this story.

My latest writing project involves the fictional, yet very English, village of LITTLE PIDDLEWICK! Such goings-on…  The idea for this book came from one of my writing friends, John Holt, after he had read my short story of “EVIDENCE FOR BURNING”. Thank you, John.

I attended a Water-Colour Painting Class which really inspired me. It has been a purely personal achievement as I have never sold any of my paintings, but I do hang them on the wall at home and have given them away to friends and family. I painted the cover of my book A PASSING STORM and I’m really proud of it.

As a member of a local amateur dramatic society, I performed in many plays and pantomimes over the years and I was asked to produce one: a full-length comedy (A BEDROOM FARCE, BY Alan Ayckbourne). I found this to be a stimulating and wonderful experience, a little nerve-wracking in performance, but well worth the effort. A Bedroom Farce is quite a challenge as it involves three bedrooms on stage at the same time.  But it worked brilliantly. By this time, I had written three one-act plays. Directing and producing them, was also quite an experience, but I had to think of them as being someone else’s work at the time, because the temptation to change things was always there in the back of my mind. Unfortunately, during those cash-strapped times, the society had to close due to lack of actors and back-stage crew.

I always loved singing and was often asked to sing in concerts at school. I started singing properly in pantomime and then moved on to musicals and operas. During this time I was encouraged to take singing lessons. My singing teacher often used to say to me that she didn’t believe that anyone was ‘tone-deaf’ and that everyone could sing if they breathed properly.  As a trained soprano, I played quite a few small roles in an amateur Opera Group, but my first principal role was as one of The Queens in Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta ‘The Gondoliers’. I am still singing, but being a writer, I don’t have so much time, but together with a handful of friends and with my lovely husband at the piano, we entertain groups of people at various functions.

All the things I’ve achieved in my life so far, have not in my opinion been huge, but to me they have been really important and significant. There is a definite dichotomy in my make-up, in that I can stand up and sing solo in front of 1,200 people in a theatre, and yet, although I’ve flown many times in the past, including flying to Australia on my own to visit my sister, I now find it difficult to climb into a plane: even the thought of it terrifies me.

I have loved all the things that I’ve done, which include bringing up our three lovely children, and enjoying their gorgeous children. We have received unreserved love from four beautiful golden retrievers over the years. Out last dog, Bailey, died eighteen months ago. We have a large garden, and I often imagine that I can see him bounding off into the woods…

Now, I must get back to dreaming about LITTLE PIDDLEWICK…!

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     “Well here it is, Merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun.” Human beings are funny. We all traipse around the shops before Christmas trying to find the perfect presents for everyone on the shopping list. We hurry home and feeling exhausted, collapse in a heap, still singing the carols that each shop plays endlessly. I feel really sorry for all the shop assistants who have to listen to them every day, over and over again.

Later once all the shopping is finished, we spend hours wrapping the presents and writing little cards to friends and family. Perhaps it is a good thing that we don’t always see the recipients opening their presents: I’ve often wondered how many of them end up in a cupboard, or even given to someone else as a birthday present. But I’m always mindful of the old saying ‘It is better to give, than to receive.’

Once all the present buying is over, our minds turn to food. Christmas Food! It is totally different to normal food and we buy enormous quantities of it. I hope you’re not like me and put it in the back of a cupboard, only to find it a few weeks’ later. I think we all buy more food than we actually need…just in case…you tell yourself! We order the turkey, make or buy the Christmas Puddings: make or buy the mince pies and make or buy the traditional Christmas fruit cake with lashings of brandy poured into it. Ahhh…and the house starts to smell really wonderful.

Every year we trudge across a muddy field, dig up a Christmas tree, and place it in the corner of our sitting room and every year I promise to replant it in the garden afterwards. Well, it does salve my conscience a little. I retrieve all the decorations from previous years and whilst listening to yet more carols, decorate the tree. When it is finished I stand back to admire it.

       Can you see the fairy with the squashed nose on the tree? My dog tried to eat her once and I haven’t the heart to throw her away. See this fir cone? It was painted gold by my little daughter, and this tiny stocking was knitted by my son! Look here’s a paper star with crumpled points and a miniature book:  the poor tree is sagging under all these precious memories.

     And before I know it…Christmas is over, it is Twelfth Night and the decorations have to come down. Oh, how I wish I could leave them there a while longer. Would some dire disaster befall me, if I did? Everything will look so bare!  Without Christmas the long winter would stretch on for ever. Look, the tree is dropping some needles. Never mind dear tree, once we have planted you in our garden, you’ll soon be able to stretch your toes again.

 Now where did I put all those old cardboard boxes? And is that a really fat fox I can see creeping around our garden?

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News, Views and Clues on the Global Ebook Scene – It’s Bigger Than You Think!

News, Views and Clues on the Global Ebook Scene – It’s Bigger Than You Think!.

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Do readers like short stories?

No, don’t stop reading this… even if you really don’t like them. You can read a short story in bed and be satisfied that you know what happens to the hero or the heroine before you turn the light off and go to sleep.  If the short story is part of an anthology, you could even read two stories before going to sleep.

Short stories have to be concise, which requires a certain amount of precis talent.  What writer hasn’t tried to cut down the number of words, especially if as in a competition, you have a restricted word count?  It is also advisable to keep the number of your characters to a minimum, otherwise you might stop your reader from getting to sleep whilst trying to work out ‘who’s who’?  You can turn a sentence around completely and lose a few words, and you can cut out all the adverbs which to my mind doesn’t always result in interesting writing.  Next you can cut out most of the ‘thats’, ‘nows’ and buts’ and all extraneous bits of information preventing the story from going forward.  You cannot go off on a tangent in a short story, unless of course, your story has a Twist in its Tail!  So what are you left with? A tight piece of writing, hopefully.

In May of this year, I sorted through some of the short stories I’d written and came up with fifteen I considered would be suitable for a book:  and so FIFTEEN BRUSHES WITH LOVE was born.

All fifteen stories, although very different, are centered around LOVE, but there is no erotic content.  Love is such an over-used word, because it can mean different things to different people.  As in THE VILLAGE FETE, elderly Agnes sits waiting patiently for her husband to come back from the war.  In ALL FOR THE LOVE OF ANNA, a piano takes centre stage!  In A DOLL FOR CHRISTMAS, a little girl loves a ‘dolly’ in a toy-shop window and in CHRISTMAS FEUD, Santa and the Fairy fight for supremacy at the top of the Christmas Tree with some surprisingly horrific results!   In PORTRAIT OF A DREAM, a young woman is drawn to the National Gallery in London, by a mysterious thread.  Was it all a dream?


Any comments would be appreciated, please.



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Tom Winton’s latest book: A SECOND CHANCE IN PARADISE

Tom Winton has been well-known over recent years for his wonderful books, such as FOUR DAYS WITH HEMINGWAY’S GHOST, BEYOND NOSTALGIA and WITHIN A MAN’S HEART (so GOOD, I read it twice).  Tom’s latest book A SECOND CHANCE IN PARADISE was published this week and I have pleasure in sharing this with you.


Long Island salesman Sonny Raines has had it. He’s sick and tired of living in a world where wrong always wins over right. Then, on his thirty-ninth birthday, when he loses his job and comes home to the most devastating shock of his life, that’s it. He’s dropping out. 

With nothing left to lose, and little in his pocket, Sonny chucks it all and drives his aging van fifteen-hundred miles to the lower reaches of the Florida Keys. All he wants is to get over his recent losses and simplify his hectic life, and that’s exactly what he thinks he’s doing when he settles on a paradisiacal speck of an island known as Wrecker’s Key. While surrounded by the warm aquamarine waters of two tropical oceans, he not only falls in love with the key but also establishes a close bond with the free-spirited locals who call it home. 

But all isn’t blue skies, swaying palms, and coconut oil on Wrecker’s Key. There’s trouble wafting in the warm breezes that caress the island. Although Sonny certainly isn’t looking for romance, he finds himself falling for his next door neighbor. Ex-model Julie Albright just may be the kindest, most beautiful woman to ever grace his eyes, but there’s a snag. She has a small physical flaw that, no matter how hard he tries, Sonny can’t overlook. And his feelings are no secret to Julie. She can read them, and they weigh as heavy on her heart as they do on his. Then things get even worse. One night, under the cover of darkness, danger drifts up the deep, silent currents from the lower keys—serious danger—life and death danger. And Sonny Raines finds himself right in the middle of it.

As soon as I stepped outside I broke into a trot. Passing all the rest of the trailers first then heading up the same narrow road I followed Julie home on the night before, all I could do was think about how she must be reacting right then. I envisioned her staying in her bed alone, thinking. I could see quiet tears making their way down her cheeks. We may have only known each other for twenty-four hours but the mutual attraction we felt – both mental and physical, was undeniable. And it was deep. I knew for sure she really liked me, but there was a lot I didn’t know about Julie. Alright.

I had no idea she hadn’t had a semblance of interest in any man since her modeling days ended sixteen years earlier in New York City. Nor did I know that back then she was engaged to Mark Richardson, a very promising young attorney. Mark was about to become the youngest partner ever at Dalrymple, Stockton and Stockton, one of New York’s most prestigious law firms. Julie and Mark had been dating for two years, and they had a big wedding planned for that fall. The ceremony was to be held in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, followed by a reception at the Waldorf Astoria. Money was no problem for Mark’s parents and they insisted on buying the grandest wedding available. His father, J. Walter Richardson of Scarsdale and Palm Beach, just happened to be the sole heir of the “American Grains” breakfast cereal fortune.

At that time Julie was one of the big up-and-comers in the modeling world. As a matter of fact, she was just about to cross the threshold to cover-girl fame. But it never happened. One June morning, when she was on her way to the biggest shoot of her career, her sunny future eclipsed totally, and in an instant.

Sitting in the back seat of a Checker cab, she was headed uptown to the world-renowned Clairidge Studios where she was to pose for an upcoming cover of Vogue Magazine. The sun was beginning to shine, but Madison Avenue was still slick from a late morning rain. Julie, who was sitting behind the driver, cranked down the window and held her left hand out in the breeze, drying her freshly applied nail polish. Then, just as the cab was crossing the intersection at 44th street, another cab, heading east, didn’t bother to stop for the red light. The driver of the at fault cab, one Eloi Hernandez, was so toasted on coke he didn’t even notice the light had turned red. Thoughts of stopping never entered his hopped-up mind until after he’d sped into the intersection – and slammed broadside into Julie’s cab. The impact to the driver’s door was so forceful that her driver’s neck snapped so far sideways it literally cracked. The two vehicles then skidded, smacking sideways into each other, crushing four of Julie’s fingers in the process.The driver of Julie’s cab, a Greek immigrant from Astoria Queens, whose name she never learned, was dead by the time the ambulances reached the scene. Julie was rushed to Mt. Sinai Hospital where a team of three plastic surgeons performed micro-surgery in an attempt to re-attach her fingers. Her middle and index fingers were salvaged and the nerves regenerated in due time, but her pinky and ring finger were so badly mashed there was no possible way of saving them. Eloi Hernandez did a short stint on Riker’s Island; the Greek was buried out in Queens by his family; and Julie’s potential international fame never materialized. On top of all that, when Mark Richardson found out Julie had lost two fingers, he decided that just maybe he wasn’t ready for marriage after all. After knotting the loose ends of her life together the best Julie could, she returned to Ft. Lauderdale with lost dreams and a broken heart.”

Tom Winton has been listed as an Amazon Top 100 Author in Literary Fiction. It has been said *that he is a man who writes with his pen dipped in his soul. 

Born in New York City, Tom has done everything from working on a railroad gang in the Colorado Rockies to driving a taxicab in Manhattan. He’s been a mailman, a salesman, an entrepreneur and more. He now lives in Florida with his wife Blanche and their ill-tempered but loveable Jack Russell terrier, Ginger. They spend part of their time in Carmel, Maine.

***   ***

If you haven’t yet read any of Tom Winton’s books, you have missed a real treat.  To read or buy please go to:











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Time for Reflection

Time for Reflection.

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Time for Reflection

As today is Remembrance Day, I decided to write about the two museums that my husband Jim and I have visited recently.  One of the things that I really love about the country in which we live – England – is our ability to produce and maintain, museums which are packed with interesting, cultural, fascinating relics, icons, paintings and indeed anything that reminds us of our wonderful (and sometimes inglorious) past.

We were visiting friends in Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago and we discussed over breakfast on the second morning, where we could go, as the weather was a little inclement to say the least. We all decided to visit the National Armoury in Leeds.  This may sound to be a rather stodgy collection of armour and spears.  But oh no…  But on the other hand…oh yes, but what a collection!  It is all housed in the most beautifully modern building looking over the canal which meanders through the city of Leeds.


The National Armoury displays over 8,500 objects in five different galleries.  The number of whole suits of armour is staggering and you could tell the suits which were made exclusively for kings and important soldiers, by the amount of intricate patterns emblazoned all over them. Some were even inlaid with gold, plus the odd dent.  The swords were tremendously heavy and how the poor soldiers were able to swing them around like they do in the movies, is beyond me. 

     When we walked into one gallery, a member of staff was trundling in a rather heavy and lethal looking guillotine!  They placed it on a small stage in front of a growing number of seated people including young children of about five years of age.  Along came two knights in full armour and as they started speaking, I wondered whether they were going to ask for volunteers! We quickly moved on…

     As we walked around the various galleries, we noticed that It didn’t just centre on knights in shining armour.  It concentrated on every aspect of defence and warfare across the world throughout the centuries and of course culminating in the weapons of modern warfare.  In all a fascinating look at the means by which we have all been protected throughout the ages.

     The following day we drove to Camp Eden situated in Malton, North Yorkshire.  Here is an excerpt from the Camp Eden website: :


 “In early 1942 the War Office identified and requisitioned a plot of land on the outskirts of Malton (in North Yorkshire) with the view of building a camp to accommodate Italian and German prisoners of war captured from the battlefields of Africa and Europe. A small contingent of British Army personnel, led only by a Corporal, arrived at the site and set about constructing a temporary camp for the arrival of the first prisoners.This simple camp became the home for the first influx of prisoners, approximately 250 Italian P.O.Ws, who were tasked with creating a more permanent camp. Near the end of 1943 the Italian prisoner’s moved out and the camp was used as billets for Polish forces who were amassed in preparation for the invasion of Europe. From mid-1944 until early 1949 the camp housed German prisoners.  It was then used to provide accommodation for displaced persons.In 1955 the site was returned to its original owner and later after being approached by some ex-Italian P.O.Ws seeking permission to look around their former home the idea of preserving the camp and opening it as a museum was born.

The museum first opened to the public on 21st March 1987 and comprised of 10 huts, equipped to tell the story of World War Two through the use of sights, sounds and smells.The museum slowly developed and displays were constantly being added too covering not only life on the Front Line, but also the Home Front.  The intention was, to pay tribute to all people from the Forces, to women in the factories, school children and people at home.From 1990 to 1995 a series of 6 huts were opened (Huts 24-29) to create a “museum within a museum.”  These huts are each dedicated to tell the political and military events of World War II from around the world, for each year of the war. During 1992 a prefab was constructed, along with a “Dig for Victory” garden to show how post-war housing was developed. Alongside the prefab a memorial garden can be found.

In 2000 Hut 13 was redesigned to cover all post-World War Two conflicts that British Forces personnel were involved in. A further diversification from World War II is Hut 11, which opened in 2001, telling the story of World War One. The new millennium also heralded the refurbishment and expansion of Hut 18, The War News Reading room, where the front page of a newspaper from every day of the war can be found. 2002 marked the beginning of a major refurbishment of Hut 10.This hut now houses the most comprehensive collection of P.O.W artifacts in the world and tells the story of P.O.Ws. In 2006 we created a new Medal Room, to display our ever increasing collection of medals and decorations, each with a unique story behind them.”Various other huts have been added in the years since 2006 and the site gives a wonderful insight into the lives of soldiers of the Second World War.” 

Various other huts have been added in the years since 2006 and the whole gives an insight into the lives of soldiers of the two Great Wars.  And as we stood for the two minutes of silence today to remember all those soldiers and civilians who lost their lives during that time, our visits to both these museums seemed really appropriate.


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‘There’, ‘their’, or ’they’re’? ‘Your’, or ‘you’re’? ‘To’, ‘too’, or ‘two’? The English language must be a nightmare to learn!

‘There’, ‘their’, or ’they’re’? ‘Your’, or ‘you’re’? ‘To’, ‘too’, or ‘two’? The English language must be a nightmare to learn!.

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5 * Review of A PASSING STORM

i have been feeling a little down lately, and so I was particularly pleased to receive the following 5 STAR Review of my book A PASSING STORM by NATASHA JACKSON  of the Readers’ Favorites site:


by Phyllis J. Burton

Romance – Contemporary

352 Pages

Reviewed on 08/07/

Reviewed by Natasha Jackson for Readers’ Favorite

Phyllis J. Burton’s A Passing Storm is the intriguing story of Jennifer and Peter, a couple married for more than two decades when things start to change. In their twenty-fourth year together, Peter suddenly becomes obsessed with his career goals and all the trappings that go along with being made Chief Executive of an international company. Unable to face the failings in her marriage, Jennifer seeks refuge in Scotland, where she meets a handsome stranger called Angus. He is warm and caring where Peter is cold and indifferent. Jennifer is torn between going after her own happiness and doing what is deemed “right” by society. Instead of running head first back to Scotland and into Angus’s arms, she stays and puts up with her husband’s infidelity and indifference.

A Passing Storm is written in two parts so we get to know both Angus and Jennifer better and understand the different paths their lives took during their time apart. It was a stroke of genius on Phyllis Burton’s part to tell the story in this manner as it allows the reader to simply get absorbed in one tale, then the other. Every word is written for meaning rather than effect, which made A Passing Storm all the more real. While it seems that Angus grew as a character, I am sad to say that Jennifer did not. She never did take responsibility for her own happiness, and while her choice of partner changed the outcome, I would have loved to see Jennifer become a bit more independent and proactive. Although I did find it difficult to connect with Jennifer, I felt great sympathy for her life and inability to do anything about it and I longed for Angus from his first whispered words.

Phyllis Burton did a fantastic job and her perfectly measured words were soothing, heartfelt, and poetic.”

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