10 Things I Hate About Writing

We were on a family holiday this past week and I had the joy of having my nails painted by my granddaughter, my exercise routine sorted out by two of my sons, family meals around a long, large table, and so very much besides – including glow sticks, toasted marshmallows and crackers. We had fun in the garden and fun in the lake and the joy of cosying round the fire to watch a film with our children and grandchildren.

The film we watched was ’10 Things I Hate About You’ and it gave me the idea for a poem to go on this blog post. Like the film, it’s a bit of fun. Enjoy!

10 Things I Hate About Writing


I hate it that I love to write

more than I love to play

I hate it that it takes up much 

of every single day

I hate my writing follows me

everywhere I go

I hate how even while I sleep

a story seems to grow

I hate how everyone I meet 

becomes a character of mine

I hate they each seem well equipped

with ready storyline

I hate it that the more I write

my vocabulary grows

I hate it when the right word comes

oh, how my story flows

I hate I always want to write

I hear its daily call

I hate my writing means so much

I don’t hate it at all


And I hate writing so much, I have suffered through the publishing process 9 times now! What a chore! Nine novels! Sigh! How I suffer for my art 😦

You can find all nine books here on Amazon

including my latest release

Gold Plated

Rosanna and Paul are celebrating fifty years of marriage.

Their daughter, Heather, has helped plan their Golden Wedding Anniversary party, and it looks like being a wonderful night: sixties music, all their friends and family present, and Rosanna has bought the perfect golden gift for Paul. What could possibly go wrong?

When an uninvited guest shows up, Rosanna’s world is shaken and she is forced to look back over their fifty golden years and see them as they were.

Were they golden? Or just gold-plated?

Available now in ebook format and coming soon in paperback.

Getting the Most from your Writers’ Retreat

You’ve gathered a few writing buddies together and you’ve booked a cottage in the country, you’re all set to try your hand at creating a Writers’ Retreat. So, how are you going to get the maximum benefit from it while putting the minimum time into planning it? Because, let’s face it, we’re writers. We want to write. Not spend hours and hours organising ourselves to write.

So do have a meeting or a virtual meeting before you go, to decide the main things in advance.

My friends and I have tried different approaches and each time we have gone away for a week, we have structured it a little differently so perhaps the most helpful thing for me to do would be to tell you some of the things that work well, not necessarily the things we have done.

One of the things to remember is, although you are going to your retreat to write, you will also need to eat, so planning a rough menu beforehand is worth considering. Shopping for that menu can be done in advance if you have room in the car for the shopping. Failing that, perhaps locate the nearest supermarket to you cottage and, after you unload the car, you can go back out for a shopping trip. This is where the planning meeting is useful. You can decide things like:

Will you share the cooking, perhaps on a daily rota? Or will everyone fend for themselves?

Will you share the shopping or will one of you volunteer to bring the supplies to the cottage and everyone chip in with their share of the cost?

Your meals need not be elaborate affairs. As long as there are plenty of basic things like bread and cheese, plenty salad and fruit, wine and coffee, everyone is usually happy to see to themselves for breakfast and lunch, unless your group wish to plan who prepares these meals too. Good to know in advance who is going to be responsible for producing a simple evening meal. Do one or two of your group particularly enjoy cooking? Or should you make a rota for everyone to have a turn.

Simplicity is the key.

No-one wants to spend the best part of the day in the kitchen — unless cooking is their passion, of course. In which case, enjoy! It’s a creative retreat, after all, and cooking is another delightful creative outlet.


Something else you might want to discuss beforehand is whether you want to use the retreat as a quiet place, conducive to writing, where you can each get on quietly with your WIP uninterrupted, or would you like to also have some structured writing time. If so, it would be good to plan who will lead that session and how. There are many useful books with suggestions for writing exercises, or you may have some old favourites of your own.

Starting the day with a little light physical exercise, like a short walk or such, followed by a timed writing exercise or two can be useful to wake up the body and the writing muscles. Similarly, it’s important to incorporate short breaks in the day to stretch out the muscles, get some fresh air and refresh yourselves.

After eating the evening meal, it can be pleasant to spend time relaxing together for a while, perhaps watching a film, playing music, or just sitting chatting over a glass of wine.

This might also be a time you would enjoy reading out some of your day’s writing to one another and getting some feedback.

Set goals.

At the planning stage, it is good to discuss together what each member of the party hopes to achieve. Whether some of you want to set yourselves a daily word count, or a weekly one, whether the aim is to edit a certain number of pages, poems or chapters, the best way to achieve the maximum benefit from your retreat is to set clear goals and encourage one another to work towards them.

Respect one another’s space.

Respect the silence.

Respect each other’s writing.

At the end of your week or weekend together, celebrate!

Discuss what worked and what didn’t, what helped and what hindered, and plan your next retreat.


What about turning your annual vacation into a personal writer’s retreat?

If your friend or your spouse likes fishing, skiing, white water rafting and you don’t, why not book a log cabin where he or she can do their thing and you can write, sharing a meal together in the evening, a glass of wine by the fire or in the evening sun, sharing the stories of the day.

My husband and I do this from time to time, where he pursues his interests during the day while I enjoy some quiet writing time and we share the evenings together. It works.


I would love to hear your suggestions.

What have you tried?

Have you enjoyed the luxury of a Writers’ Retreat?


Many of my novels have been partly written on one of the writing retreats my writers’ group have enjoyed over the years. You can find them all on Amazon Kindle or here if you prefer a paperback edition.


Catching the Muse

Writing prompt, writing prompt, what shall I write?

I’m hoping to capture the muse.

If I stare at this empty screen long enough.

I’m sure she’ll bring something to use.


For better or worse, I seem to be in poetic mood today, so, in response to Amanda Staley’s writing prompt in #The Writers’Coffeehouse, I have written a poem.



A Dense Forest

Words rise up, a dense forest
Each one seeks the light of the page
Some rise higher than others
Each gives a reason to save

Choose me, I am clear and explicit
Choose me, I bring pictures to mind
Each word has its own limitations
The best becomes harder to find

Not grandiose, impressive or splendid
Imposing, affected, genteel
Pretentious, important or flaunting
Or dancing a waltz or a reel

I’m here in this forest of letters
I’m here at the back of your mind
Don’t use one of my fancier sisters
When I am just perfectly fine

I’m simple and homely, fit neatly
And tell it just as it is
I cut through the forest that hides me
Plain-speaking and clear on your lips


I hope you enjoy my little poem, but do keep in mind that I make no claims to be a poet.

I just enjoy flirting with the form.


Slash and Burn


Well, the time has come

It has to be done

My story’s too long

I must slash and burn.

The beginning is boring

The ending is weak

Something is needed

Much more than a tweak.

With hindsight, I knew it

My darlings must go

I’m certain without them

My story will flow.

The first draft came easy

The writing was fun

Then came the hard work

The edits I’ve done.

The month of November

My story was written

I’ll try it again

With NaNoWriMo I’m smitten.

But the thing for just now

It has to be done

A last edit is needed

I must slash and burn.


#Editing #NaNoWriMo #WriteWhereYouAre #Slash and Burn #Writing



What a Hoot!


Over on Writers Coffeehouse on Google+, we’ve been talking about our writer’s space, among other things. Well, this past few days, I’m delighted to say, I’ve been sharing mine with one of my granddaughters.

Cassie is eleven years old and she’s been staying with us while her Mum, one of my daughters, is in hospital. We are having great fun — a hoot, actually — and a productive time together. Cassie made this lovely owl picture for her Mum and we took it up to the hospital to give her. She loved it, of course.

Grandpa has been doing the more active things with Cassie, like walking across the Forth Road Bridge and back, a cold and windy walk of three miles — more, when you add to that the walk down to North Queensferry for lunch in a little cafe, plus the walk to and from where they’d parked the car in South Queensferry. She slept well that night.


We also got to writing, and Cassie wrote a couple of poems which she’d like to share with you.

Grandma’s Room

My grandma’s room is like Aladdin’s cave,
Two of her ornaments my cousin and I gave.
Two ceramic Roses and a plaque,
Only one thing in her room is black.
The rest is all lemon and cream,
And from the the tidiness of the room,
She’s the Clean Queen.
Since I was little, I loved that room,
And it will be getting another teddy soon!
{SSSSSSHHHHHHH…..Don’t tell her}

Teddy Addiction

I have this thing I call
Teddy addiction
And with our visitors
It can cause friction.
You see, I like my teddies around
my head.
Although they do often slip down the bed.
Some are soft and some are not,
but they are soft more often than not.
Some are big and some are small,
some aren’t teddies at all.
For example, one’s a screen wipe and another is a
pin cushion!
As I said it can cause friction,
but stuff what other people say,
I like to stick to my Teddy Addiction!

So, what do you think? Perhaps not poet laureate yet, but not bad for an eleven year-old rattling it off in next to no time sitting beside me, while I labour over whether to use the perfect or the pluperfect tense.

What a hoot!


All my books are available as kindle or paperback

Retreat and Advance


Close your eyes and picture the scene, if you will. A cottage in the middle of nowhere. Three writing buddies arriving for a week of intensive writing.

Bliss, do I hear you say?

Well yes, it was, absolutely … with one fly in the ointment, to use a delightfully graphic cliche. We all arrived, laptops ready, pens and notebooks ready, propelling pencils poised. No Internet access, no mobile phone signal. Couldn’t be better, but …

We didn’t pack the muse.

None of us

Due to various health problems, work stresses, family dramas and other assorted creativity drainers, none of us had written much for a while, and not one of us was raring to get started.

It’s like riding a bike: ‘they’ say you never forget how to do it. Maybe. But just try jumping on and starting to peddle after a long lay-off, with the bike at the bottom of a very steep gradient. See how you get on peddling uphill.

So, after looking round the cottage, delighted to see all the potential writing places: a cosy living room, sunny conservatory and a delightful patio complete with table and chairs, we unpacked, settled ourselves in and made our first meal.


Unable to justify further procrastination, we decided we’d start with a free-writing, timed exercise: ten minutes to warm us up, get us back in the mood. We picked a prompt, started the timer and …

Less than one minute in, Jane lays aside pen and unscribed notebook, shakes her head and leaves the room. Sharon writes on studiously.  I filled the time by trying my hand at sketching our conservatory. As you’ll see from the above attempt, I’m no artist. But at least I was being creative. But, hey! One out of three is good. Well done, Sharon, for getting in the groove, I thought as I wrote a silly little ditty:


I’d like to write a happy poem

To celebrate this week

We’ve come to this dear cottage

Our writing muse to seek

The journey here was lovely

The scenery so sweet

Our genial hosts are kindly

At our welcoming retreat

Today the sun is shining

Tomorrow it may rain

We’ll write whate’er the weather

And we’ll come back here again.


Then sat back to enjoy Sharon’s effort:


Blank blank blank. Pen writing, letters forming. Autumn colours, green lamps. Tea lights flickering, the clock ticking. Chocolates calling me from the fireplace. Bright lights – too bright. Comfortable green velvety chair. The black television screen. Clock still ticking. Slippers scuffing – opting out. I give it five more minutes no more, and its not funny. It’s really not amusing at all yet. It’s not thinking, or stream of consciousness, it’s escaping, it’s leaving the room, it’s sitting watching my pen, moving my pen on the page and its feeling better, it’s feeling a smile of how funny, ridiculous, to be sitting here appearing to write, appearing to have something to say that takes all my concentration and, good – there’s only a minute left, a whole little wiggly circuit of the blue watch face, sparkling, ticking, relieving me of words.


Ah, well! Good job we’ve got a week to get our act together …


All Christine’s novels are available here as Kindle or here as Paperbacks

Nothing Could Be Heard


For many, those words cast a shadow over their weekend. For others, they are a light to which we flutter. Every second Monday, joy of joys, PenPals meet. PenPals Writers’ Club. We meet to share thoughts, inspiration, ideas and writing, and each meeting we select a writing prompt to encourage us to write something we can share at the next meeting.

Often, there is a mad scurry on Sunday night or Monday morning to wrestle something out of the ether. Other times, much thought and research goes into the production of a short story, an essay or a poem, which comes together…often in a mad scurry on Sunday night or Monday morning. Most times, it’s a mixture of the two: the prompt wanders around inside our heads, gathering crumbs of information, marinating thoughts until they’re ready for serving…usually in a mad scurry on Sunday night or Monday morning.

So, today, and for the next few days, I’d like to share some of the results of this Monday’s meeting using the prompt, ‘Nothing could be heard.’

First up, I’ll give you my own effort, not because it won any prizes. Far from it. I felt humbled by the quality of my fellow members’ efforts. Mine is short and simple by comparison, and falls into the first of the mad scurry categories, being wrestled from the ether in the wee small hours of Sunday night/Monday morning and bears the hallmark of one who is lying awake in the loneliness of a dark night.

Image: night sky by epichtekill



Nothing Could Be Heard

Nothing could be heard when the midnight sky was plundered
By the billowing, belching cloud
Stolen stars were silenced
Disappeared without a word

Nothing could be heard when with pain my heart was sundered
By words written in a note
Terminating love forever
Derelict of hope or thought

Nothing can be heard as I go under
In the waves of tortured blue
Only the cry of night birds
Screaming reproach on all who knew

No-one tries to save me
No helping hand is found
Nothing can be heard in the ocean of pain
Where I drown without a sound



I Look in the Mirror

I wrote this poem in response to a post by a fellow blogger, Yobial Marin. The post was called ‘The Shadows of Youth’ and she was discussing the question, ‘Do we ever wonder what it will be like when we are old?’

Her post had a very eye-catching picture to head it up. I hope she’ll not mind if I reproduce it here.


Here’s the link to Yobial’s blog post:



And here’s my reply by means of a poem.


I look in the mirror and what do I see?

The shell of the person I used to be.

The hair that was golden is now going grey.

It’s courser yet thinner; what can I say?

The wrinkles are deeper than they were before.

Laughter and sorrow, and oh! so much more

are etched on my forehead: a permanent frown,

reminding me sadly of days I was down.

You look at my photo what do you see?

The person I am or who I could be?

I used to look pretty when dressed in my best:

I still have the sparkle tho’ I’ve lost the rest.

You don’t see the children I bore in my belly.

They’re all grown and gone now: I don’t see them daily.

I miss them, they’re part of what makes me ‘me’.

The person I was; who I used to be.

Look closer, I beg you, try to see who I am.

Grey hair and wrinkles don’t matter a damn.

It’s the person inside I want you to see:

the person unchanged from how I used to be.

I still laugh and sing, want to dance and be fun.

It’s just that it’s harder; I’m so easily ‘done’.

Energy’s left me for somebody younger;

the hill-walks and shopping have been its plunder.

Inside myself I’m still twenty-six,

right at my prime and able to fix

your sadness and pain, your troubles and sorrow.

The wisdom I’ve gained, that, you can borrow.

Whatever I’ve learned with all that I’ve come through,

take it, it’s yours to do  as you will do.

Look at me closely. What do you see?

The person I am? Or who you want me to be?



Another blogger, Marian Allen, has now been inspired to post a poem to continue on the theme, turning this into a lovely impromptu blog hop.


Anyone else?

A belated addition: author Steven D Malone brought to my attention that he wrote about ‘Boomers’ which is the third one down on the ‘March’ page of his blog. he also wrote about ‘naps’ in March…whatever that has to do with getting older 🙂

Anyway, here’s his link too. I can recommend this post. It’s very interesting.



Well, there might be sunshine, but it sure doesn’t seem like spring!

It may be April, but it’s still pretty cold here in the East of Scotland. To be fair, the temperature has risen but the wind has too. It’s been galeforce this past couple of days. The garden chairs have lain down to it and are currently kicking their heels up in the corner by the hedge, I had the joy of listening to the watering can rattle round the garden in the wee small hours last night and my poor wee daffies are looking a bit bedraggled, having hardly had time to flutter their frocks before the wind whipped at their petticoats.

With wind chill factor in operation, it certainly doesn’t feel like spring.

There are still plenty of evenings when it would be worth lighting the fire and getting cosy. So why don’t you draw your chair in closer and join me by the fireside. My guest tonight is not a well-known writer, not a published author, hasn’t even tried on the celebrity coat. But he’s warming his toes at my virtual fire and, with true Scots parsimony, I’ve handed a stiff Scotch across cyber space to help loosen him up.

Stuart Turnbull’s main claim to fame is that he’s our son-in-law and has held that position now for some fourteen years or so, having married our older daughter, Elizabeth Ann—to give her her Sunday name. He’s taken to calling her Liz and I suppose I have to admit, grudgingly, the name suits her. She never was the sweet, old-fashioned girlie-girl I’d thought would follow her two older brothers; always the tomboy who literally followed them into whatever scrapes and escapades they led her. She found her own way into the marriage adventure with Stuart, though, and they have three children, Kurt, who’s twelve, Casselle, ten, and Anneliese, eight. They often do sit around our hearth, but tonight they’re all safely tucked up in their own house in Crieff, some 50 plus miles North-West, a bit far to feel the heat of our fire.

Nepotism apart, I invited Stuart to join us for a chat because he may not be famous, he may not be published, but he is a writer.

Stuart: A wanabee writer!

No, you write regularly. You share your writing in your blogs. I reckon that makes you a writer. A wanabee published writer maybe. But a writer, certainly.

I know you worked in financial services for some years, but now, since Liz’s health declined, you’ve become her carer and house-husband and you home educate Kurt. A full-time job along with all the cooking and looking after the family, so I’m glad you still find time for writing and I know you enjoy an occasional game of golf and an even more occasional run on your bike. It’s very picturesque up your way, beautiful for cycling, Crieff being in rural Perthshire.

Stuart: For golfers it’s close to Gleneagles where the 2014 Ryder Cup will be.  For film watchers, it’s Ewan McGregor’s home town. It’s a small country town of about 8,000 that is handily placed to commute to Edinburgh or Glasgow if you don’t mind the drive.  But a lot of the population are retirees who come for the beautiful scenery and plentiful golf courses. 

With my parents & a brother who is 4 years younger, I have lived up and down the United Kingdom, having attended schools in Scotland, England & Wales.  Although a good chunk of my youth was spent on a council estate in Telford, Shropshire, my happiest childhood memories are all from times where we were living in the country.  I guess I am a country boy at heart, just without any desire to be a farmer.

Must say, I’m a country girl myself. As you know, we live in a tiny village in West Lothian, just the Main Street with a garage, a pub and a corner shop and a Crescent round the back, where we live. Nice and quiet, lots of country noises to call the creative muse forth. So, you may never have wanted to be a farmer, but when did you realise you did want to be a writer?

Stuart: It started with poetry at some point in my early twenties and for many years it was only poetry I wrote, mostly free verse, but with some sonnets and the occasional haiku.  Eventually I found I wanted to expand what I was writing and moved on to some prose and then some (very) short stories.  For quite a while I wasn’t really writing anything due to working and having a young family, but the desire and ideas still floated around my head.  A change in work circumstances a couple of years ago freed up some time and I have been able to start writing again, but wanted to develop further and so I am currently doing an Open University Creative Writing course (A215) which has been helpful in looking at forms and layout and how to develop ideas, and I will probably do the Advanced course (A363) which will add writing scripts.   

I also have a project underway to write a 5-10k word story for each of the 50 states of the USA.  The stories will be individual, although characters may re-appear.  I am trying to capture flavours of places I have never been to, but hope to visit some day.  At present I have stories for Delaware, California & Alabama underway and in advanced development.  I also have the ideas I want to develop for Montana (my favourite state), Texas & New York State. 

I hope to have a designated website for this project up and running in the next few months, and would love for any US readers to forward me either ideas for their own state or, when the stories are available to offer any corrections or amendments to help create a more authentic US feel.

You seem very drawn to the wide open spaces of the United States and I’m sure you and the family will get the chance to go for a holiday or something sometime. Meanwhile, you seem to draw inspiration from researching each different state. When it comes to the creative process, what else inspires you?

Stuart: No set thing – it can be a word, a phrase, a dream, a view.  A recent poem was inspired by the numerous wind farms that are being built around us, while a short ‘detective’ story I wrote came from the phrase, ‘The Jawline of Julie-Anne Moore’.  I also have a suite of poems that are either literally based on dreams or have a loose dream like feel to them.

 Is there a food or a drink, a place or an hour that helps you feel ready to write?

Stuart: Not really, but if any wine producers read this I am more than willing to try writing in the evening with a glass of decent wine to hand and would be a willing guinea pig for new bottlings.

That being said, I have just built a little desk in my bedroom and it is nice to sit and write at that while Liz – whose health is poor, rests in bed.  I will write and listen to music, she will knit and listen to the radio and we companionably get on with our own activities.

What a good idea. Sounds cosy. Writing can be such a solitary occupation, even a bit antisocial sometimes. That’s a good way round that.

‘You Know Who’ and I have desk areas at right angles to one another, elbow close, which is probably too close, but I find I can’t write when he’s working at his computer. I do need the solitude. I like the idea of companionably working together, but, in practice, I can’t do it. When I’m ‘in flow’, if anyone comes into the room, the phone rings, the house goes on fire, I just hate to be interrupted. I love when the house is empty or asleep and I can just get all those words and ideas that swirl around in my head out onto paper or screen. I love it! Love it! Love it! What do you love about writing?

Stuart: Getting an idea out of my head, and having it read as good as I imagined it. I seem to work best when I am writing to a deadline.  Without the goad of failure prodding me, I am capable of sitting trawling the internet while ‘writing’ or even jotting down a line or two and then wandering off to do something else.  Even in writing this I am meant to be working on the last 1000 words I need for my next Open University assignment! It is always easier to not write than it is to write, and if I allow it the inertia builds and I lose the writing rhythm.

Know what you mean.

I hope you get your assignment done…or I’ll feel guilty luring you away to sit with me by my cyber-fire. It can be hard enough to get going sometimes, even when you know you’re going to love it once you do.

What do you consider to be the most challenging part of the creative process?

Stuart: Writer’s ‘block’ and procrastination. Coming up with ideas, writing them and then editing them. I hate proofreading my work as I generally only see what I meant to write and therefore miss silly errors (like punctuation).

So that would be all of it!  Yet still I find myself compelled to write.  I wonder if this comes from the love affair I have had with books and reading since I was four.  

Probably! Like you, Stuart, I home-educated one of my children, my younger daughter, Aimee. When she was about three years old, I remember thinking that it would work out okay if I taught her, not only to read, but to love reading. I knew if she enjoyed reading, she would enjoy learning. There wouldn’t be much she couldn’t teach herself from a good handbook or internet site. The better quality the books she read, the better quality her vocabulary and communication skills would be, and it certainly worked out that way.

Reading is so important for anyone, but especially important for any aspiring writer, isn’t it? Read any writers’ handbook: they all stress the absolute necessity for writers to read, read, read!

So, which authors do you like to read & why?

Stuart: Matthew Reilly – over the top goofball thrillers for guys who like things that explode, and a writer unafraid of killing off a key character. Iain M Banks & Alistair Reynolds – sublime sci-fi writing – to a standard in some of their books that I am tempted to never write again as I don’t believe I will ever reach the standard they have. Marian Keyes – far cleverer than you initially think and while some bits are laugh out loud funny others will make your heart sore.

I also re-read John Galsworthy’s The Forsythe Saga every couple of years.  The scene where Old Jolyon dies makes me cry every single time.

I am not a literary reader, of all the Booker listed and winning books since 1969 I have only read 3 books (Staying On, Schindler’s Ark & The Remains of the Day); however I do enjoy the 19th century Russian authors and 20th century existentialists. However I am more likely to be found reading popular and science fiction (Grisham, Banks, Reilly, Sansom, Keys etc). I also have a fascination with cold war espionage and have built decent library of my own with biographies and writings on the subject.

What do you hope to accomplish as a writer?

Stuart: To write something I am not ashamed to say I wrote

Where can we find more information on you and your writing?

Stuart: At present I have three neglected blogs. One for short stories and two for poetry

http://diamondsanddross.blogspot.co.uk/stories (pretty rough stuff as mostly early writing and need re-edited)


http://cdatd.blogspot.co.uk/poetry – all a series under the title Come Dream a Thousand Dreams’

COMING SOON ‘These United States’ (probably as a .com) where I will be laying out my US cycle of stories.

 Thanks for the examples of your work. I’ll pop them on your page under the ‘Fireside Chats’ heading on my menu. I’ve enjoyed our blether, Stuart. I hope you enjoyed your cyber-Scotch. I’ll let you back to your assignment. Stretch, yawn…and I’d better get this posted on my blog before the heat of the fire makes me too sleepy.