H is for Honeysuckle

The eighth in my A to Z of plant-inspired quirky tales:

Honeysuckle Woes 


Inspired by honeysuckle (Lonicera)

“I wouldn’ be doing that, if I were you,” said a voice.

The new Mrs Trumpcastle, and her very recently-acquired husband had been standing before the door of Honeysuckle Cottage. Mr Trumpcastle was wearing a look of great self-satisfaction, and his wife had been clapping her hands with delight. It had seemed to Mr Trumpcastle a very reasonable thing to remark that there was altogether too much honeysuckle about the place, and that it would be a sound idea to remove some of it.

They had both turned in surprise to find an aged man lolling against the garden gate – their garden gate, as it now was, thanks to a generous wedding gift on the part of the lady’s father. Even at such an early stage in their marriage, they frowned in unison. Who was this yokel to be leaning upon a private gatepost – their private gatepost – and telling them what they ought to do?

Mr Trumpcastle elected to continue speaking as if there had been no interruption. “Yes. We will take down the honeysuckle from the walls – it is attempting to creep into the windows, d’you see? Obstructing the light. I will leave you an arch of it round the door, m’dear. The house will be the better for it.”

“Doubt that,” said the aged man, knocking the ashes out of his pipe on the gatepost, and thoughtfully refilling it.

It was an interruption too many. “I beg your pardon?” said Mr Trumpcastle.

“I doubt that,” said the man again. “In truth ’tis only that sweet woodybine that’s holding that there house together. Yes, indeed. If you take it off – well, down will come the walls – plat, plat, plat. And then the roof, too. Flump.”

Mrs Trumpcastle looked at her husband in consternation. Flump? What kind of talk was that?

Mr Trumpcastle’s expression suggested that he pooh-poohed the entire notion. “I pooh-pooh the entire notion,” he announced, confirming the impression. “Sheer nonsense. Are you suggesting, my good man, that my esteemed father-in-law has been foolish enough to purchase a property held together with nothing but, erm, ‘woodybine’? I refute the notion entirely. The house is perfectly sound.”

The old man took his weight off the gatepost and shrugged. “I wouldn’ know about yer pa-in-law,” he said, “but I do know the cottage. Leave it be, young feller. Don’t go disturbing nothing. Or down it’ll come. Flump.”

Mr Trumpcastle was becoming flustered. “Rubbish. Rubbish, I say. Now be off with you.”

“Please yerself. Don’t say you ’aven’t been warned,” said the old man as he shambled away.

Two months later the same aged man was again leaning on the gatepost – just about all that remained of Honeysuckle Cottage, apart from a large hole in the ground.

“Pity,” he said to himself. “But I told him not to pull the place about. Bound to disturb them old mine workings underneath.”


This story was first published in my short fiction collection Mr Muggington’s Discovery and Other Stories. Paperback copies are available from Amazon at £4.95, but the e-book is free. If you’d like one, leave me a message on the Contact page of this site and I’ll email a copy to you.


My Writing Journey: Jenny Thomas


Today’s guest is Jenny Thomas – an older writer in search of older readers!

silverswimmersHello Kathy,

How lucky to find the Facebook Older Readers Group and then your blog! If only I’d been aware of them when I retired and scoured the internet for novels with older characters who were still actively engaged in life and asking themselves existential questions on topics to do with – what next?

Where were the novels addressing my concerns and interests?

In frustration I wrote The Silver Swimmers about 9 women in their 60’s, transitioning into new lives with aspirations for new experiences, challenges, romances and even careers…..

I tried 16 agents, whose eyes glazed over when they saw me, or who didn’t bother to reply – apart from the very first one who was running a competition, the winner to be published. Their reader loved my first four chapters, reformatted it, as apparently it wasn’t what was usually accepted – and he further said that he only recommended 2 or 3 a year and was sure mine would succeed. Hmmm…that was in January 2015!

The traditional publishers only take novels from agents and the Indie presses I tried were not interested. I know that older writers have short careers, but did anyone even read my submission? The 42nd I submitted to, a small Welsh company were keen, but after 2 years, it still hadn’t happened satisfactorily and I had done the cover, the formatting and of course the editing. We parted company and I uploaded it myself onto Ingramspark and CreateSpace.

Then came the much more difficult job of telling the world it existed. I naively hoped that my local newspapers would print something – but how can I compete against the innumerable famous inhabitants of the Hampstead, West Hampstead area, eg, Greg Wise has just published his and his sister’s blog.

Magazines and websites for the over 50’s, 60’s and more, Boomer sites, book groups, age UK and book reviewers batted me away, they are probably inundated with similar requests.

And of course, no bookshops will stock POD books, in case they don’t sell. Thank goodness for family and friends.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have called the novel ‘Granny Lit’, but 3 or 4 years ago I hadn’t seen this movement to call the overlooked, under published genre Boomer Lit.

Boomers, of course! When we were young we thought we could change the world, unlike grannies who conjure up a far less active and dynamic demographic.

Will I write another novel? Not sure. Too bruised and frustrated at the moment. Think I’ll read my way through this genre I’ve just discovered, and hope for all mature writers that publishers see what they’re missing, very soon.


The Silver Swimmers: ISBN 978-1-9999435-0-9 available to order from bookshops, or from Amazon (e-book or paperback) or from Smashwords.

A novel about the experiences of Boomers in their 60’s. Partner death or divorce, empty nesting, caring for parents and grandchildren, retirement, being marginalised, yet yearning for new romances, careers and lives. Their friendships and going to the swimming pool together help to support and sustain them as they work out how to live the rest of their lives. But an eventful and unpredictable year changes all their circumstances…

G is for Gladiolus

The seventh in my A to Z of plant-inspired quirky tales:

Racing Certainty


Inspired by the gorgeous wild Gladiolus communis  subs byzantinus

“He can’t possibly do that. He’ll be a laughing stock!”

There had been much talk of this kind since Reggie, dozy article that he was, had come into a bit of money. A bit – well, quite a lot, if truth be told, though he was vague about the exact amount. Typical of Reggie, people said – comes into a fortune and doesn’t even know how much. The consensus of opinion, though, was that there was enough to set him up for life, properly invested. And what does the fool do? He buys himself a racehorse.

“So what have you named this nag, Reggie old boy?”

“He’s called Pink Gladiolus.”

“Ye gods! You can’t call it that!”

“It’s Latin,” said Reggie, disappointed with this reception. “Gladiolus means a little sword. I thought it sounded positive. Thrusting. And I have heard you chaps speak of the Pink Gladiolus, whatever it is, in terms of great approval.”

Too much education and not enough sense was Reggie’s trouble, people said. The Pink Gladiolus, in point of fact, was a club of rather questionable reputation known to all the young gentlemen, although not frequented by Reggie himself.

Reggie looked hurt – wounded, even – but at heart he was smiling. The racehorse was, for him, a mere distraction. He had known people would laugh at that name. It was all part of the plan. Placed it firmly in their minds. He had bought the Pink Gladiolus Club very secretly. And he planned to take a great deal of money from all his laughing friends in the gambling den he proposed to set up there.

Acting like an idiot could be very profitable, and he had played the part a long while – which was how he had come into the ‘bit of money’ in the first place.

Reggie kept up the pretence. “You’ll change your tune when Pink Gladiolus wins the Derby,” he said, sulkily. How they laughed. But however the horse fared, Reggie knew he’d be winning the jackpot shortly.


The Garden Visitor2For plant and garden fans I’ve started a new blog, The Garden Visitor. Pop in and join me as I visit some gorgeous gardens.  https://gardenvisitor106455000.wordpress.com/

Recipe for Writerly Happiness



PhotoFunia-1520349310I was asked by another writer recently if I’d been able to build up a good readership for my books. I told her, truthfully, that I had not; that I had found the whole business of marketing intensely difficult. I’m not a salesperson, nor a publicist, I said, and after five years of trying and failing I’ve had enough. Life is simply too short. So I’m taking an extended break from novel-writing.

Okay, what are you doing instead? you ask. Answer: making myself happy. I asked myself what I truly enjoyed, writing-wise, and the answer came back immediately: blogging – I like blogging. Anything else? Yes – I enjoy helping other writers. So I combined these two by opening this blog to other writers, providing a space where they can talk about their writing journeys and their books*. I’ve loved it, and made new friends.

My second move was to volunteer to help Claire Baldry with the admin on her Books for Older Readers website and Facebook group. I’ve enjoyed that, too, making more new friends and learning about other people’s books.

Thirdly, and purely selfishly, I did something I’d wanted to do for a long time. I set myself up a little blog – the simplest I could get, and I had it up and running within a couple of hours – on the joys of visiting gardens**. I’ve been visiting gardens great and small, and photographing the plants, for many years; I realise I have accumulated a lot of experience, knowledge and love of this rather specialised subject, and I would love to share it. I know lots of other people enjoy gardens, too – I rub elbows with them when we’re oohing and aahing over particularly glorious plantings, so hopefully over time I will find a little audience. I don’t want a big, fancy blog or to make money out of it; I just want to write about something I love.

Writing this kind of non-fiction is a new skill, but I’m learning – and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me. I wish I’d done it years ago. By the end of the summer when the garden season is winding down, I hope I will be on my way to being a half-decent garden writer. I might even feel inclined, over the winter, to pick up the novel I’ve left half-finished. If not, it doesn’t matter.

So my (personal) recipe for writerly happiness is this – write what you really love, immerse yourself in it, learn about it; reach out to the community of other writers around you and do what you can to help them. Enjoy their company. It’s certainly working for me.


*If any writer (published or not) would like to come on the blog and talk about their writing journey, please contact me.

**The Garden Visitor2The Garden Visitor https://gardenvisitor106455000.wordpress.com/

F is for Foxglove

Foxglove Pink


Inspired by the foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Florence thought it was a terrible colour, and very unflattering for a person of her complexion, too. But Eugenia insisted upon it, and that was that. Foxglove pink. Horrid. Poisonous, even.

They had bought a bolt of this evil pink silk, for the gowns. Maids of honour at the wedding. Florence had held it up against her face and gazed into the mirror. “It makes me look jaundiced!” she wailed. “Eugenia has done it on purpose. She never wanted me at her wedding.”

She was still sulking about it when the stuff had been cut and worked upon by the seamstress. At the first fitting she peered at her reflection and scowled. The gown was elegant in style – but that colour! Florence simply couldn’t smile in it.

Florence’s mother told her in no uncertain terms that petulance suited her even less than foxglove pink – and that it wasn’t foxglove pink at all, it was pale rose, and that she should put a little discreet rouge upon her cheeks and make the best of it.

“Ill temper and sulking make your face look pinched, child. What will the gentlemen think? No-one will notice the colour of your gown if you smile. So smile. Your second cousin Clarence will be there and he will be looking for a wife.”

“I couldn’t give a fig for second cousin Clarence,” said Florence, still piqued.

But, oh dear me, when second cousin Clarence hove into view at the reception it was a very different matter. When she had last seen him he had been a lanky schoolboy – but now, he was a most agreeable young man. How she smiled. How she flirted.

“What a very becoming colour your gown is, my dear Florence,” he said.

And Florence began to think foxglove pink might have its merits after all. Indeed, she might well choose to wear it for her own wedding.


The Garden Visitor2

For plant and garden fans I’ve started a new blog, The Garden Visitor. Pop in and join me as I visit some gorgeous gardens. https://gardenvisitor106455000.wordpress.com/

My Writing Journey: Robert Brown

Please welcome my guest this week, Dorset writer Robert Brown


Ten years ago, if you had said to me that in 2017 I would be having my first book published, I would have thought that you were perhaps just pandering to my incessant daydreaming. However, going back as far as my mid-thirties, (and, I’m now just turning 50) I was already nurturing the idea of this story in my head. I had in my youth played in various bands in the Thames Valley area and writing songs was my favourite part of that. Playing live, I could take or leave, and I was certainly too introverted to be in the limelight. I took from that period of my life a legacy, the songs that I had written, I had kept on a cassette. They were hidden in a box in the loft of the house that I shared with my then wife.

It was the early part of the new millennium, before the financial crash, and a time when mortgage companies were throwing loans around like confetti. We had bought ourselves a magnificent house, but with lots of work needing to be done, it was beyond our means.

Just by chance, on a routine trip up into the loft one day, I found the box containing the cassettes. There was one song, as I remember that I thought was particularly commercial, and naively, I thought I would be able to sell the song and make some money out of it. When I listened to the tape however, I was not entirely impressed, and I soon abandoned any delusions of grandeur. It was at this point though, that the story began to form in my head. A man struggling to make ends meet, persuades a forgotten, eighties pop icon to record his song and turn it into a worldwide hit. That was my brief, and it went in and out of my thoughts over the next decade, and life moved on.

It wasn’t until summer 2015 that I told a friend the idea of the book that was forming, on and off, in my mind. She told me that it was good, and that I should buckle down and write it, but truthfully, I didn’t have the remotest clue where to start. Eventually, after another reminder by the same friend, I wrote chapter one, creating the first character in the process. Having written about 2500 words, I started to research exactly how long a novel needed to be, and I concluded that I needed to write about 80,000 words at least. I decided that I liked the format of 2500 words per chapter approximately, and planned ahead 3 chapters at a time, plotting exactly what was going to happen in advance. To my amazement, characters seemed to invent themselves, and appeared in the story very naturally. This may sound strange, but it was almost as if the book wrote itself. In short, I had stumbled, albeit purely by chance, on a method and structure of writing, that worked for me. As long as I had the framework for the plot, the rest of the process was filling in the blanks. You could say that it was rather like painting by numbers. I finished writing the novel in May 2016, and haven’t stopped writing since, completing novel 2 last year. I’m currently half way writing a third as we speak.

Layout 1The book is available now, in paperback and e-book format, in the following places.




I have a Facebook page  https://www.facebook.com/RobertBrown30.11.17/

And I can be found on Twitter @ASFTSRB

E is for Eyebright


Inspired by the herb Eyebright (Euphrasia nemorosa)

Mistaken Identity

Miss Euphrasia Higginbottom had just walked into the doorpost for the third time that week.

“Don’t you, think, Phrasie, dear,” said her companion Mrs Ainsworth, “that it’s time you equipped yourself with some spectacles?”

But Miss Euphrasia would have none of it. “I have my eyebright remedy,” she said, “I swear by it.”

Mrs Ainsworth was privately inclined to swear at it rather than by it, and said this was just so much eye-wash. “Perhaps a discreet lorgnette…?”

This suggestion was met with a disdainful snort. “I have perfect eyesight,” said Miss Euphrasia, and walked into the doorpost again as she swept out of the room.

The eyebright drops were administered to each eye, just as the herbalist had recommended. Refreshing for the kidneys, too, thought Miss Euphrasia, as she took a swig for good measure. An invigorating concoction, indeed. And it was not alone. A positive pharmacopeia of remedies had accumulated in the past year. Mrs Ainsworth had warned her to have a care, to put her trust in the good Doctor Badbury rather than that herbalist fellow. But no, all advice was ignored, and Miss Euphrasia asserted that they all Did Her Good.

On the day of the Great Misfortune, as Mrs Ainsworth liked to think of it, there had been another incident with the doorpost, and Miss Euphrasia had withdrawn to her room to find the eye-drops. Well, such a commotion! Wailing and howling, she was. And very ill indeed. Doctor Badbury was summoned this time, and gave a great speech on the folly of self-administered cures. Miss Euphrasia cursed him in a most unladylike fashion, in between dabbing her streaming eyes and having recourse to the sick-bowl.

It remained unclear which of the many remedies she had so trustingly dropped into her eyes and swallowed, too. Suffice it say her imperfect eyesight had led her to mistake the label. The remedies were removed from the premises, and a pair of spectacles  acquired.

Mrs Ainsworth showed great forbearance in omitting to say I Told You So. But she couldn’t resist a distinctly smug smile.


For plant and garden fans I’ve launched a new blog, The Garden Visitor. Pop in and join me as I visit some gorgeous gardens. https://gardenvisitor106455000.wordpress.com

My Writing Journey – Amanda Baber


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For the second in my series on Dorset writers, please welcome Amanda Baber – a writer with a unique approach to local history:


Amanda with Missy – and her book

Writing has been part of my core since I was a very small child and it is only since moving to Dorset from Bedfordshire in 2016 that my creativity bounced back. Finding peace after the bereavement of my late partner and finding new love with Nick has released and realised my ambition. Dorset is so inspirational and buzzes with activities for the creative soul but it is the history of Charmouth which drew me back to my writing roots.

At school I was encouraged to write both poetry and prose as I studied my A-Levels. Writing, editing and working with my graphic design skills for different organisations and employers kept my interest alive but I also began my long journey of caring for loved ones and reciprocal loved ones caring for me through the trauma of invisible illnesses.

Now my circumstances allow me to write for charity which I am doing with my Missy book series. In the pipeline are various short stories, poems and books I have written and not published, so keep an eye out for some different genres in the future.

Historical fiction is my chosen subject for my Missy books which came about from putting Missy, my flat coated retriever, together with the local history of our village. Researching in detail, visiting the places I need to portray and meeting people is both necessary and interesting. Missy dreams of the past, our valuable, rich history where characters and scenes of a different era emerge.

During her waking moments (she doesn’t dream all of the time) she relates her real travels with us. So current real places are mentioned and real people. Perhaps you will be mentioned in my next book if you have met us? The reason for all of this is that I wish to bring our adventures to life in a creative story from a dog’s perspective and support good causes at the same time.

My first book is called ‘Missy and the Whitts’ and tells the story of the Whittington sisters. They were iconic characters in Charmouth, related to Dick Whittington of pantomime fame. Read about the ghosts they saw and Missy, being a dog, meets their real cat, called Nemo, who accompanies her. Bringing my art into my books is also fun and I have illustrated this book throughout in pen and ink style.

All payments go to Charmouth Local History Society. It is available on Kindle, in my Conscious Crafties shop, Etsy shop (search for Missy’s Matters) and in local outlets in Charmouth, Lyme Regis, Bridport and Axminster. You can follow me on Facebook as Amanda Baber (author), on my website and as Missy’s Matters on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube and GooglePlus.

It truly has been a dream come true for me to self-publish my book and the support of people around me has been wonderful. Currently I am working on my next one, due out this year (2018). Do you want to see where Missy goes next?

Full details on Amanda Baber:

My Books are available from the links below through Missy’s Matters and through Kindle. Please follow me through my profile and social media channels to keep up to date with my work. Thank you! https://www.amazon.com/author/amandababer
Missy’s Matters is my Conscious Crafties Shop full of creative, handmade goodies with many donating to good causes. I also have an Etsy Shop.



Facebook https://www.facebook.com/amandababerauthor

Website: http://amandababerauthor.wordpress.com/

Facebook https://m.facebook.com/MissysMatters/
Instagram https://www.instagram.com/missysmatters/
Twitter https://mobile.twitter.com/Missysmatters
Pinterest https://uk.pinterest.com/missysmatters/pins/

Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/161120523@N02/

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/amanda-baber-6094b9154/

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrqE6dmZJ3TXpsojksu2BFQ

D is for Daffodil


The fourth in my A to Z of plant-inspired quirky tales:

 The Yacht Narcissus

IMG_6222The yacht Narcissus chugged serenely up and down the river in an irregular sort of way. This was on account of her considerable age, and that of her owner, too. She was a steam yacht – or, at least, that was what he liked to call her, in much the same way he called himself a commander. Nobody knew if he really was, or had been, any such thing, but he looked the part with his grey beard, pop-eye pipe and just the right sort of peaked cap.

She wasn’t very big, the Narcissus, but the funnel gave her the look of something far more grand, as did the pair of stripes painted along her old white hull, stem to stern. Stripes of black and daffodil yellow, the latter the only obvious connection with her name.

Then one day the news floated down that the old commander had been found stone cold dead in the cockpit, hat formally in place, pipe in hand and unfinished measure of gin by his side. Just the way he would have wanted to go, people said. But it meant the Narcissus was no longer the elegant steam yacht of her master’s imagination. She was an unwanted, weather-beaten old relic, and up for sale, too.

When she finally reappeared at new moorings she was sadly changed. The daffodil yellow stripe had been painted out, and so had her name. She had been rechristened the Cindy-Lou. This was a terrible affront to the dignity of a vessel that had been so much a man’s boat, everyone agreed. And so did the Narcissus. Her ancient planks cracked and sprang apart in protest, and she sank at her moorings, as if to say – no more.  Not worth repairing, really, they said, and she was broken up. And that was the end of it.

Or should have been.

Sometimes, just sometimes, people swear they have heard the steady chug and chuff of her steam engine far out on the marshes, still happily carrying the commander upriver, a ghostly steam yacht with her daffodil yellow stripes.


For plant and garden fans I’ve started a new blog, The Garden Visitor. Pop in and join me as I visit some gorgeous gardens. https://gardenvisitor106455000.wordpress.com

Gail Aldwin – A Writer’s Journey

My special guest this week on The Quirky Genre is Dorset writer Gail Aldwin:


2017 Gail AldwinI’ve always taken the view that it’s important to make the most of wherever I’ve lived and no one can deny Dorset is a county full of surprises with stunning beaches and inland scenery. We arrived in Dorchester from South London in September 2006. Little by little, I began to settle into the county town. I found employment, developed friendships and became part of the community. It wasn’t until 2009 that I started writing serious. I realised I was investing far too much time and energy in my paid employment at the sacrifice of a creative outlet. I began writing travel fiction about the places I had lived and worked before I married, then moved onto fiction by writing short stories and novels.

There have been a few successes along the way. My first short story was published in 2010 and I was so pleased with the payment I almost didn’t bank the cheque. I’ve had success in competitions including winning a competition at the Winchester Writers Festival, being runner up in Elle Magazine’s annual competition and gaining first prize in the Bournemouth National Poetry Day competition in 2016. I also gain literary representation from entering a novel competition but then my agent took maternity leave and decided not to return to work.

It wasn’t until quite recently that I began to think of my occupation as a writer. It has always been easier to say I am a student of creative writing or a tutor of creative writing rather than actually admitting to being a writer. I think this was a mistake. Now I work as a visiting tutor to creative writing students at Arts University Bournemouth, I make a point of encouraging them to call themselves writers from the start. I think this aids a professional outlook and encourages a serious approach to the craft of writing.

Paisley Shirt fullMy short fiction collection Paisley Shirt is now available in Kindle Edition and paperback through Amazon. It is a delight to see my stories in print and be able to reach an audience. I’m still slogging away at completing a publishable novel but working with Chapeltown Books to get Paisley Shirt into shops and online is a step in the right direction. The apprenticeship to becoming a successful author is a long one, and I’m still on the journey.


You can find out more about Gail’s book Paisley Shirt here


Twitter:           @gailaldwin

Facebook:      https://www.facebook.com/gailaldwinwriter/

Blog:               The Writer is a Lonely Hunter