Books Letters from Elsewhere

Letters from Elsewhere: Anne Pargeter

Letters from Elsewhere

Today’s guest is definitely not here in person. That’s because she’s incarcerated in Holloway Prison. But she’s agreed to share this letter, which she wrote to Percy Sullivan a.k.a. Hotspur. Thank you, Anne Pargeter. (And Sally Quilford and Crooked Cat.)

Dearest Hotspur, I was so pleased to receive your letter and it warms my heart that you want to fight so hard for my freedom. I think your idea to get everyone to write down their own thoughts on the events of our time at Lakeham Abbey is awfully clever.

As clever as it is, I must urge you to give up this quest of yours. Time is running out, my dearest, and I do not want you to spend that time agonising over my fate. You have your whole life ahead of you, and you won’t be in that wheelchair forever, despite what the doctors say. You are capable of doing so many great things. If you align yourself with me, that scandal will harm you for the rest of your life, and I have no wish to do that.

People will tell you a lot about me, some of it true and some of it false. But know this. I would never have harmed you or Lily. I love you both so dearly.

Forget the darkness, forget me.

If you do choose to remember me, remember all those good times we had at Lakeham Abbey: the walks in the plantation, the picnics on the island with Group Captain Marsh… These are the memories that sustain me in these dark days.

I wonder… have you seen him? Is he well, do you know?

Please take care of your little sister for me. Your mother tries really hard, despite what people think, but she suffered abuse and manipulation at the hands of a devil for so long that it cannot help but leave its mark.

God bless you, my angel. I think that one day, if heaven allows after you have had a long and fruitful life, we will meet again.


About The Secret of Lakeham Abbey

TheSecretOfLakehamAbbeyWhen Percy Sullivan’s family take over Lakeham Abbey for the summer, it was a chance to get away from battered post-war London and be cossetted by the capable and pretty housekeeper, Anne Pargeter.

They soon learn that the Abbey conceals a dark secret — one that someone was willing to kill to hide. When Anne is convicted of murder and sentenced to execution, Percy is determined to do all he can to save his friend from the gallows.

He encourages everyone to tell their side of the story. This leads to some startling revelations, including a shocking secret that Percy’s mother tried to hide from him.

Will it be enough to save Anne’s life?

Find it on:

I love this novel. It’s light and humorous and so well told.

About Sally Quilford

SallyQuilfordSally Quilford was born in South Wales, but has lived in Derbyshire since her teens. She has had novels published by My Weekly Pocket Novels and Ulverscroft, and her stories and articles have appeared in magazines both in Britain and abroad.

Sally has also run online courses, including the excellent workshop that spawned my novel, Neither Here Nor There.

Books Rhymes

Two Poems

As part of the May Mayhem challenge, I wrote two poems this month.

For the first, I took the acknowledgements from my novel, Neither Here Nor There, and turned them into rhyming verses.

Acknowledgements for Neither Here Nor There

NeitherHereNorThereCoverSeveral people a role they took.
Without them there would be no book.

Gill reappeared from a thorny past —
One that I had tried to cast
Away. She helped me understand
Myself, and taking me by the hand,
With friendship, advice and support,
She showed me the ball was in my court
And told me with tact and sobriety
All about social anxiety.

I joined a local writing group.
Its members formed a merry troupe.
They helped me learn how to write,
Critiquing till I saw some light.
Of David the mentor I’m in awe.
He always finds what no one saw.
Judy, who ran my other group,
Brought fresh ideas into my hoop.

Romance themed Sally’s excellent workshop,
Where I created a heroine and a heartthrob,
And devised a plot with conflicts in heaps
That threatened to separate these struggling young peeps.
Sue and Gail, course-made friends,
Critiqued my drafts from beginnings to ends,
Turning the words that came from my head
Into a novel that could be read.

I hadn’t let anyone close to me read,
Expecting disapproval I didn’t need.
But after acceptance Other Half found
Bloopers. So glad they left the ground.
Crooked Cat Publishers, Steph and Laurence,
Introduced me to authors in their torrents,
And produced an opus with delightful cover,
My name below its troubled lover.

A big THANK YOU to those and others, for they
Provided support and showed me the way.

Here are the original acknowledgements for comparison:

Several people made this novel possible and I will always be grateful to them.

Gill Downs, who has been my friend, advisor and supporter ever since we remet twelve years ago.

David Brauner and Judy Labensohn, who taught me about writing.

Sally Quilford, who ran the excellent pocket novel workshop that led me to consider writing a romance.

Sue Barnard and Gail Richards, who spared no time or effort in helping to turn my draft into a real novel.

David Drori, who pointed out several problems when I thought there were no more left.

Laurence and Steph Patterson of Crooked Cat Publishing, who accepted me into their warm basket of cats and used their professional expertise to produce a volume of high calibre.

Thank you to all, and to everyone else who gave me encouragement along the way.


In a rather nonsensical poem, I varied the number of lines in each verse: 9, 7, 5, 3, 1. Someone has probably done this before and given the form a name.

Eye Spy

I wonder why
There is no Y
That I can spy
In “shepherd’s pie”
But there is a Y
In “your red tie”
Which lost its dye
In a wash that I
Set too high.

It makes me sigh
And even cry
When in your eye
I see that I
Am seen as shy.
It’s a lie
That I decry.

The bread that I
Like best is rye.
It makes my
Smile wry.
Does that apply?

Saying “Hi,”
Drinking chai,
By the by.

Hello goodbye.

I’ll tell you how well I did with the challenge in another post, later today. Sorry it has to be today because it’s the end of the month. See you soon….


2014 A to Z Challenge: Q

AuthorsAmanda Quick

Wikipedia says,

Jayne Ann Krentz, née Jayne Castle (b. March 28, 1948 in Cobb, California, USA), is an American writer of romance novels. Krentz is the author of a string of New York Times bestsellers under seven different pseudonyms. Now, she only uses three names. Under her married name she writes contemporary romantic-suspense. She uses Amanda Quick for her novels of historical romantic-suspense. She uses her maiden name for futuristic/paranormal romantic-suspense writing.

Over 35 million copies of Krentz’s novels are in print. With Sweet Starfire, she created the futuristic romance subgenre, and further expanded the boundaries of the genre in 1996 with Amaryllis, the first paranormal futuristic romantic suspense novel. She is an outspoken advocate for the romance genre and has been the recipient of the Susan Koppelman Award for Feminist Studies.

Sally Quilford

Sally Quilford has been writing since 1995, and since then has had 17 novels published by My Weekly Pocket Novels, People’s Friend Pocket Novels and Ulverscroft (Large Print). Sally writes mainly romantic intrigue, inspired by her love of Alfred Hitchcock films and Agatha Christie novels.

The Link

Both authors write romance and both names are pen names. Amanda Quick, like many others, used different names for different genres. This makes it easier for readers who are looking for a particular genre and expect authors to stick to one genre. I’m not sure it’s usually so necessary, although if a writer wrote both children’s literature and erotica, I think they’d be wise to use different names!

Sally had a different reason for deciding on a pen name: “It helped me to escape into other worlds and to say things that my alter ego, Tracy, dare not. As the years have passed, however, the demarcation lines between Sally and Tracy have blurred, and so I can say for definite that becoming a writer has given me the confidence to find my true ‘voice’.”


Writing the Book You Want to Read

I’m delighted to welcome Sue Barnard to my blog today. Sue and I first met about two years ago at an online workshop run by Sally Quilford. Since then we have met twice face-to-face and helped each other with our writing.

Sue4Sue’s recently published debut novel was not one of those I saw in the draft stage, and so I was able to read it simply for enjoyment, and enjoyment describes my reading experience very well. The appealing idea of changing the most famous of love stories is very cleverly handled in The Ghostly Father. Sue doesn’t say that Shakespeare’s version was wrong. She makes both versions right, depending on who is telling the story. And she writes it all so well.

But that’s enough from me. I’ll let Sue take over now.

I love books.  My house is full of them, my Kindle is full of them, and I’m irresistibly drawn to places which sell them.  So much so, in fact, that I spent more than twenty years of my adult life working in a bookshop.  The sheer diversity of subjects, genres and content of books still never fails to amaze me.

Sue1Those who claim to know about such things reckon that everyone has at least one book in them.  Be that as it may, until a few years ago I never imagined that I had a book in me, much less that this book, if it even existed, would ever get any further than the concept stage.  The point at which that situation changed was when, a few years ago, I came across one of those lists of Things You Must Do Before You Die.  The one which leapt off the page and grabbed me by the throat was Write the book you want to read

Fast-rewind thirty-odd years, to when I first saw Franco Zeffirelli’s wonderful film of Romeo & Juliet.  At the end there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, and I came away from the cinema thinking: “Why does the world’s greatest love story have to end in such appalling tragedy?”  Ever since then, that question has lurked, dozing, at the back of my mind.  The exhortation to Write the book you want to read woke up that question, kicked it out of bed, opened the shutters and forced it out into the blinding light of day.  This was when it finally dawned on me that the book I’ve always wanted to read was the version of Romeo & Juliet which has a satisfactory outcome.  If, at any time during those decades of browsing in bookshops, I had ever come across such a book, I would have snapped it up, rushed home and read it in one sitting.

Why, I asked myself, shouldn’t there be such a book? 

And the answer came straight back: Why not indeed? And if that book doesn’t exist, you need to write it yourself.

Even then, it took me a while to get going.  Although I’d dabbled with Creative Writing in the past, and had taken a few courses on the subject, I’d never attempted anything longer than poems or short stories.  The thought of tackling a full-length novel, even one on a subject about which I felt so strongly, was, to say the least of it, a daunting prospect.  I’d been mulling over the idea for a while, but without any concrete results, when fate took a hand.  Back in 2010, whilst on holiday in France, I was (yes, you’ve guessed) browsing in a bookshop, when I chanced upon a novel in the style of the lost diary of a woman who had been the secret lover of Count Dracula.  This, I realised, was the format I needed: a lost manuscript which tells a previously-unknown story.

Back at home, I powered up the laptop and started writing.  Because this was the book I’ve always wanted to read, I was, at that point, writing it mainly for myself.  I wanted to be able to read this version of the story in private, and think, “Well, perhaps this, rather than the ‘lamentable tragedy’ as told by Shakespeare, is what might have happened.”  At this stage, going public with it couldn’t have been further from my thoughts.

After I’d finished the first draft (which took about six months), I mentioned it to a couple of close friends who are both avid readers.  They both asked to see it.  On handing it back, one of them said, “I know what I like, and I like this.”  The other said, “You really ought to take it further.  I think it could even be a best-seller.”

Sue3Even so, despite these votes of confidence, it was another year or two (during which time the manuscript underwent several revisions) before I plucked up the courage to send the manuscript to Crooked Cat Publishing, an independent publisher whom I’d found on Facebook, and for whom I’d recently started doing editing work.  I wasn’t very hopeful, so when I received the email from them telling me they wanted to publish it, I had to print it out and re-read it four times before I was able to convince myself that I hadn’t imagined the whole thing.

The book’s title, The Ghostly Father, is based on a quotation from the play (it’s how Romeo addresses the character of Friar Lawrence), and the story (which is a sort of part-prequel, part-sequel to the original tale) is told from the Friar’s point of view.  I’ve often wondered why, in the play, he behaved as he did – and by giving him what I hope is an interesting and thought-provoking backstory, I’ve tried to offer some possible answers.  Plus, of course, I wanted to reduce the overall body-count, and give the lovers themselves a rather less tragic ending.  I hope I’ve succeeded.

The book which re-tells the world’s most famous love story was officially released, very appropriately, on St Valentine’s Day 2014.  If the early sales figures are anything to go by, it looks as though I’m not by any means the only person who wants to read it.  And for that, I am very grateful.

Sue Barnard, February 2014

In the UK, The Ghostly Father is available from Amazon as a paperback or ebook.

Outside the UK, it’s also available from Amazon as a paperback or ebook.

Thank you, Sue, for visiting me and for writing about this interesting topic.

The novel I’m working on now hasn’t been evolving for quite that long, but it’s one I wish I’d read a long time ago, and one I’ve wanted to write it for several years. Only now have I found a way to do it that I believe works.

I know, I promised a different post this time. Maybe next time… no promises….

Books Holidays Reunions

The Social Sandwich, Part 10

This is the tenth in a series of posts describing my recent trip to England, Ireland, the Netherlands and Wales, from writing course to school reunion and more.

Three more nights with M1 and her husband, who always has interesting things to say – things that make me think afterwards.

One day M1 and I met up with another friend from uni and a friend of hers. We visited Wellington Arch, a landmark well worth seeing and one that most Londoners seem not to have heard of, and various memorials nearby.

War Memorial, Hyde Park Corner
War Memorial, Hyde Park Corner

Then we had a special tea in the Tophams Hotel.

Taking tea at Tophams Hotel
Taking tea at the Tophams Hotel
(my fringe was covering my eyes by this stage)

In the evening M1 and I saw a musical: Chorus Line, which we enjoyed. We also enjoyed watching a couple of German guys in front of us, who took loads of photos before the performance, including photos of themselves with the camera held out in front. What do people do with all those photos?

The next day, I met some more writers: Sue and Gail, who I met for the first time last year, and Sally Quilford. Sally has published umpteen books, runs courses and has a busy life, so I was delighted and honoured that she found time to travel to London to meet us. After a fun lunch together, we visited the Pompeii exhibition, which was fascinating but tiring. Unfortunately, we were so busy chatting and touring that no one thought of taking a photo, so you’ll have to trust me that we really did meet.

The next day, on my way to yet another temporary abode, I met Cathy (another writer) for lunch. Then I went on to meet Gill and other members of her family, and to join them for dinner. Yes, meeting people isn’t good for the waistline. Fortunately, the trip didn’t do any lasting damage.

Next was the school reunion. This was my third school reunion. The first one was wonderful, the second much harder. What would this one be like?


Sally Quilford is Fifty Today

No, I’m not giving away any secrets. Sally has announced this herself. In fact she’s giving away over fifty writing/book-related prizes to celebrate, so do hop over to Sally’s blog if you want a chance of winning something.

Having met Sally on my recent trip, I have to say that she doesn’t look anywhere near fifty, but I’ll take her word for it!

Coincidentally, I have a special birthday coming up in exactly two weeks. Sixty! I can’t believe it myself.

Back soon with the Social Sandwich 🙂


The year in a flash

This is a good idea I’m swiping from Rachael: to sum up my year in 24 words. Let’s see…

Nostalgia. Scavenger hunts. Flash twiction win. A decade with Gill. Group writing. Berlin – learning from history. Dancing. Cambridge wedding. British summer. Nachat. Missiles. Jaqui.

Now, as Jean says, it’s time to stop looking at where I’m coming from and see where I’m going to. Today is day two of 100k words in 100 days organised by Sally Quilford, who is also blogging about the challenge and posting writing prompts. If I get stuck for something to write, there are plenty of ideas here.

Yesterday I managed 1,172 words and so far today I’ve written 751 plus this blog. Almost there. Go me!


I’ve done well!

I never really thought I’d succeed in writing 100k words in 100 days, which was Sally Quilford’s challenge starting on 1st January. But I joined to see what I’d manage. And Sally wrote:

As far as I’m concerned, if you get to 9th April having written 30k words, and it’s more than you’d normally write, you’ve done well!

So today I passed the 30k mark and I’m delighted.

I did well!


Two Important Pieces of News

Both involve me but are mainly about others.

Firstly, I’ve been helping to edit a series of novels by David Rory O’Neill. The novels are all connected but can all be read alone. Together, they span over a century and are full of very reachable characters, who overcome personal issues and historical events, keeping readers turning the pages. I love the stories, and sometimes find myself continuing with the editing when I should be doing other things.

The Prairie Companions

One of these books, The Prairie Companions, will be free to download for a few days from tomorrow. This is a wonderful chance to sample a lovely set of novels.


I’ve just completed an online course. I’ve never taken an online course before, so I can’t compare it with anything, but this course was everything I expected and a lot more.

It’s Sally Quilford’s Pocket Novel Workshop. She’s running another one in June, and I highly recommend it. I found it extremely helpful and enjoyable. Sally hands out plenty of information and sets useful exercises. Her expert comments on the exercises provide very helpful advice for all participants.

If you’re wondering about this genre, I did too, once. Until one day when I felt things were getting on top of me and I happened to have a romance with me and I let it take me away to another world. Pocket novels are a form of escapism. Sometimes, it’s just what you need.


Facing Facts

I have to face up to it. I’m never going to write 100,000 words in 100 days, which is what I pledged set out to attempt to do by joining Sally Quilford’s challenge.

BUT I’m not disappointed. I have written something every day since the challenge began. Sometimes I managed over 1,000 words. Other days I wrote fewer words. Today, I wrote all 120 words of a whole piece and that’s enough for today. I shall spend the rest of the day reading, editing and critiquing.

For me, writing 1,000 words every day is too much. Writing something every day is possible and is a practice I plan to continue after the challenge ends.

Happiness is being proud of your achievements.