Guest Post: Inspirations by Steve Catto

Apart from sitting with my mother from an early age looking at picture books and reading words like Cat and Dog, my first recollection of reading properly would be the Rupert Bear annuals. I was always fascinated by the way that the ordinary could be made extraordinary but yet still believable. A common theme was for Rupert to meet one of his friends, and then some magical or mystical adventure would develop, and of course, it always turned out right in the end.

I also remember the early Enid Byton collection of books very clearly, such as the Famous Five and especially The Enchanted Wood series. For those too young to remember, the Enchanted Wood was the home of what we would now describe as an ‘entity’ called The Magic Faraway Tree. The three main children were Jo, Bessie and Fanny. And before you say anything, yes, I’ve heard all the jokes – at that point in time we lived in a world where names like Dick and Fanny weren’t funny. They would climb the tree to discover a different land in the clouds at the top every day. They had many fantasy adventures there and had to get back to the hole before the land moved on. When I was young I found all these tales both fascinating and scary. I don’t believe that the Rupert Bear books have acquired quite the same notoriety and fame as the Enid Blyton ones, perhaps because they were, and still are, derived from a newspaper comic strip and therefore don’t have one associated author in the way that books do, but in my opinion they are every bit as good.
Then things changed.

There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture…

In 1963, at the age of seven, the world wanted to take us to The Outer Limits. People still say that they were frightened by the stories. I just found them fascinating, they told me of things I could never have imagined. Some of them I believed could be true, some of them were just stories, and even at that age, I knew they were just actors walking about in front of a camera. It wasn’t the things I saw and heard that interested me, it was the way they made me feel.

I also vividly recall sitting on the sofa in front of a flickering black and white screen one evening to watch the first episode of a new series called Doctor Who entitled ‘The Unearthly Child’. With eyes glued to the picture, which was really more a sort of dark grey and light grey rather than black and white, I was enthralled by this mysterious schoolgirl called Susan, who lived with her grandfather at 76 Totter’s Lane in London. On visiting the address her teachers discover that there is nothing there except a scrapyard… and a police telephone box. That is how a mystery begins.

In my teens I moved on to science fiction in the form of short stories by authors such as Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein and H. G. Wells. Their stories seemed to captivate me. Tales by other equally famous authors like Ray Bradbury and Arthur C. Clarke were, perhaps, more predictive of future events, but I always found the plots to be somewhat contrived.

Sadly, for me, not many of these early stories have stood the test of time. The stories somehow lack the descriptive visualisation of surroundings and emotions that authors put into modern works. Story writing has evolved from the simplicity of the early writers because the expectations of readers have changed and become more sophisticated.

The reality is there are not many new ideas in fiction and fantasy, and the old plots have been worked and re-worked. Modern writers have developed them in new and unexpected ways, but it is rare to find a plot or idea that doesn’t have its original roots in something from the past. You just have to be old enough to remember them.

I have grown up with imagery, with storytelling, with mystery, where the things I saw and read gave me ideas, and where I had to imagine them for myself. So that’s where my ideas come from, not from the Outer Limits, but from the inner mind.

…We now return control of your television set to you. Until next week, at the same time.

From Sara: And don’t forget to check out Steve’s book, Snowflakes is available now! You can check it out here.

Guest Post: Telemachus: Its Origins by Peter Gray

Bizarrely, the seed for this idea came one summer’s day, back in the mid Nineties.  I had just said goodbye to my mother-in-law when I noticed a blob of jelly at my feet in our back garden.  It was a breathing blob with tiny eyes and a miniature beak; perhaps a hint of some very primitive feathers.  Being an animal person, I couldn’t just let it die, so, with my two daughters, we constructed a nest and wondered about how we might feed this tiny creature -presuming it to be a baby housemartin.  There was a broken nest overhead after a violent storm the previous night – one of a whole colony of nests that clutched to every corner of our house.  And we had to assume there were anxious parents watching somewhere from surrounding trees.

Anyway, we were successful.  For weeks, the girls knocked on neighbours’ doors, initially asking if they had any flies we could feed to ‘George’ (as this little creature became known) – not that we had any idea of it’s sex, simply decided it was a boy.  As it grew into the family, George came for drives in the car and, when tired of watching TV in the evenings, would climb up under my shirt collar and go to sleep.

We fed it cat food with surgical forceps – not very popular with Clouseau, the cat.  Then it started to fly.  As it wasn’t growing very well, we had to keep it in the hot press at night for added heat.  Then, when it got stronger, we took it outside for flying practice; but, one day, it spotted an open window in the kitchen – and was gone.

Bereft, we searched our valley for hours on end, calling, crying out, pleading for it to come back – but we never got a glimpse of George again.

Telemachus was my attempt to trace its path in life, but it became a lot more than that.  From a simple story of adventure, it became a construction of society, a search for ideals, a questioning of all that we humans have and, perhaps, abuse.

“This is my son, mine own Telemachus,

To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle, -.”

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

My Telemachus is a different kind of fish, a relic of the scary stories we were told as kids, intended to frighten us in primitive times – when there was no electricity and the world was haunted by things that moved in the night.

About Peter Gray

I was born in Dublin, a long time ago, at the tail end of a very large family.  My father was a Commandant in the Irish Army; my mother, who was only 4’ 10”, had a burning desire to produce sons – with a hope that one would become a priest.  Sadly, she was disappointed in that.

We were a whole range of individuals, all with different tastes, talents and careers.  The eldest, May, had a Masters in chemistry, but got married young and never worked again.  The next, Ned, was called to the Bar, but went into the Civil Service and had a sparkling career that ended prematurely when the plane he was traveling in went down in London in 1972.

Ned loved everything classical, also loved rugby, but was un-athletic.  Mick loved jazz, Patsy loved ballet and opera.  So, being a tail-ender, I was bathed in all of that; and the love of literature came really from the atmosphere they all created as well as some excellent lay teachers I met at school.

The decision to study veterinary medicine was probably in the genes, as there was farming in the blood for generations.  As a kid, I was farmed out to farmer relatives for all of my youthful holidays.  Apparently, I was too active for those at home and had to be got rid of.

And that’s been my life: my first career was on the sports’ fields of Dublin; my next among Thoroughbred breeding stock and racehorses; my next with a pen and computer.

I’ve loved every minute and have been blessed with a wonderful wife and some very exceptional children.

From Sara: Make sure you check out Peter’s book Telemachus here!

Guest Post: Drawing Inspiration From Romantic Settings by Hannah Fielding

Today I’m featuring a guest post from the amazing Hannah Fielding! Read and make sure you give her a shout out at one of the links below! ~Sara

Places and sights have always been a rich source of inspiration for me in my writing. I was lucky enough to grow up in a house with a view of the Mediterranean, and even as a young child I remember staring out at the sparkling blue and dreaming up romantic fairy-tales. Then, as a young woman, I began travelling, and a whole world of romance opened up to me.

First Kenya – wild, colourful, exotic – which would become the setting of my debut romance novel, Burning Embers. Time spent in Italy informed my next novel, The Echoes of Love, set in Venice and Tuscany; and when I travelled to Spain and so fell in love with the region of Andalucía that I wrote not one but three books set in this land of fiery passion: Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy. There have been so many other fantastic trips, not to mention travels within the various countries I have lived, and with all this wonderful fodder for the imagination, I could just write and write…

And I do – every day, I sit down and write. But exactly where I write is of paramount importance to get me in the mindset to write evocative, vivid, passionate romance. I can’t write it in a cold, dark, soulless office. I can’t write it with a view of a brick wall. I can write when my surroundings are in themselves romantic.

My husband and I split our time between two homes, one in Kent, England, and the other on the Côte d’Azur, France. Both homes were carefully chosen for their inspirational and beautiful architecture, the lands that surround them and their views – views are very important for a writer, I believe.

In this post, I’ll share with you my writing spaces, to give you a glimmer of what’s before my eyes when I’m dreaming up the first meeting of two people destined to be soulmates, or a first kiss shared on a moonlit beach, or a sunset framing lovers walking off into their happy-ever-after.

Kent, England

Dogs, paddocks and daffodils at my house in Kent.

I live in an old rectory, which my husband and I bought two decades ago and restored from a shell into a comfortably, cosy family home. There are several places here in which I love to write. In summer, when the weather is fine, I sit in the garden – on one of the benches under shady trees, or at a patio table in the gardens. The orangery is a retreat for when the sun is too fierce or clouds cool the skies. In winter, I love to write by the log fire in the main house.

If I need a break or inspiration, I take a walk around the grounds, enjoying the flowers, visiting the ducks on the pond, or wandering through the woods. I especially love it when snow blankets the ground; our village church, right by the house, is picture-postcard perfection then.

Ste Maxime, France

View of the Bay of St Tropez through umbrella trees from the garden of my French Mas.

My French mas is set on a hill that affords wonderful views over the bay of St Tropez. Here I draw my inspiration very much from the vivid colours of the house and the landscape around. Whether I am inside or outside writing, I am always positioned so that I can see the sea – the Mediterranean of my childhood. Here, I write in the drawing room and at my desk, which has the most beautiful view of the sea, and all around the grounds. I also spend a lot of time at the beach, sitting for hours dreaming and plotting, and in the many pavement cafes in nearby towns, where I can sip a café latté and people-watch to my heart’s content.

But the greatest inspiration for me at my French home is the sun. Here, I see the most breath-taking sunrises and sunsets imaginable. Every time I sit on the veranda and watch Nature play out its most magical show, I cannot fail to fall in love with the place, with the world, with the very notion of romance – and from there, the writing flows onto the page.

Here is a little more about Legacy and Hannah. You should definitely check them out!! And you all know how I feel about book covers… she has some seriously fabulous ones! I cannot wait to dive into the books themselves! P.S. What she doesn’t mention here, is that she is also a super nice person and you should definitely pick up her books! ~Sara

A troubled young journalist finds her loyalties tested when love and desire unearth dark secrets from the past.

Spring, 2010. When Luna Ward, a science journalist from New York, travels halfway across the world to work undercover at an alternative health clinic in Cadiz, her ordered life is thrown into turmoil.

The doctor she is to investigate, the controversial Rodrigo Rueda de Calderon, is not what she expected. With his wild gypsy looks and devilish sense of humour, he is intent upon drawing her to him. But how can she surrender to a passion that threatens all reason; and how could he ever learn to trust her when he discovers her true identity? Then Luna finds that Ruy is carrying a corrosive secret of his own…

Luna’s native Spanish blood begins to fire in this land of exotic legends, flamboyant gypsies and seductive flamenco guitars, as dazzling Cadiz weaves its own magic on her heart. Can Luna and Ruy’s love survive their families’ legacy of feuding and tragedy, and rise like the phoenix from the ashes of the past?

Legacy is a story of truth, dreams and desire. But in a world of secrets you need to be careful what you wish for…


Hannah Fielding

Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: writing full time at her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breath-taking views of the Mediterranean.

Hannah is a multi-award-winning novelist, and to date she has published five novels: Burning Embers, ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’, set in Kenya; The Echoes of Love, ‘an epic love story that is beautifully told’ set in Italy; and the Andalusian Nights Trilogy Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy – her fieriest novels yet, set in sunny, sultry Spain.

You can find Hannah online at:


Guest Post: Where Do Writing Ideas Come From? by Pembroke Sinclair


It seems that people always want to know where writers get their ideas from.  I get it.  When I’m reading a book and I’m transported to this wonderful, amazing world, I think: Wow!  How did the author come up with this?  There’s seems to be some sort of magic involved because I would never in a million years come up with an idea like that.

In reality, writing ideas come from tons of different places—and not all of them are as magical as the writing on the page leads the reader to believe.  Most of my ideas come from dreams or are inspired by reading another book or watching TV.  When these ideas hit, it’s usually because I have a question about something I watched or read, so I go out to find the answer and discover something interesting that I want to share with others.

I’ve had ideas come to me by overhearing conversations in public places.  My kids have inspired ideas for stories.  And, honestly, sometimes it’s just the voices in my head bugging me until I write down what they’re saying.

The idea for Wucaii came from my desire to write a fantasy novel and  also from being curious about what it was like to be a hybrid.  In my work, I’m always looking for the answer to the question: what does it mean to be human?  And having a hybrid seemed like a good way to answer it.

I believe the reason we’re so intrigued with knowing where an idea comes from is because it gives us a little more insight into the author.  Perhaps it helps us understand the meaning behind their words or why they wrote that particular story.  There’s an intimacy between the author and reader when we know where the idea came from.  Not to mention it’s just kind of fun.

No matter where an idea comes from, the story has to be something the writer is excited about writing.  That enthusiasm will come through on the page and draw the reader into the world.  It will make them care about the characters.  It will make them want to read more.

*About Pembroke Sinclair*


Pembroke Sinclair is a literary jack of all trades, playing her hand at multiple genres. She has written an eclectic mix of fiction ranging from horror to sci-fi and even some westerns. Born in Rock Springs, Wyoming–the home of 56 nationalities–it is no wonder Pembroke ended up so creatively diverse. Her fascination with the notions of good and evil, demons and angels, and how the lines blur have inspired her writing. Pembroke lives in Laramie, Wyoming, with her husband, two spirited boys, a black lab named Ryder, and a rescue kitty named Alia, who happens to be the sweetest, most adorable kitty in the world! She cannot say no to dessert, orange soda, or cinnamon. She loves rats and tatts and rock and roll and wants to be an alien queen when she grows up.

You can learn more about Pembroke Sinclair by visiting her at:





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(Extra special thanks to Pembroke for not only being my very first guest post ever but for doing an awesome job!!! Make sure you check out her book Wucaii!! ~Sara)