Welcome To My Blog – About Me

Author photo SC Skillman
Author photo SC Skillman

Thank you for visiting my blog! I write contemporary thriller suspense fiction. Mystical Circles is psychological suspense, and the sequel A Passionate Spirit a paranormal thriller. You can order signed copies here. Or download them to your kindle as follows:

getBook.at/MysticalCircles

getBook.at/PassionateSpirit

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Here on my blog, I post weekly. I love to have your comments so please keep them coming!  And if you’d like to know more about my next novel Director’s Cut, which I’m working on right now, do sign up for my mailing list here.

As a child I was inspired by Enid Blyton.  I started writing adventure stories at the age of seven; the love of writing that her stories first instilled into me has strengthened over the years.

a-passionate-spirit-cover-image-with-taglineI studied English Literature at Lancaster University, and my first permanent job was as a production secretary with the BBC. Later I lived for nearly five years in Australia. I now live in Warwickshire with my husband David, son Jamie and daughter Abigail.

I completed two full-length adult novels before writing Mystical Circles. I’ve always been fascinated by the interaction of different complex personalities, an inexhaustible source of inspiration for a writer!

And my advice to anyone who wants to be a writer? Read a lot, listen to people’s conversations, be observant about the details of your world, and especially about human behaviour and interaction, and persist in your writing, being single-minded to the point of obsession…never give up, always believe in yourself despite all evidence to the contrary,(Click to Tweet) and hold out for what you first dreamed of.

Thank you for reading this. And if you want to be first to hear about my next novel, which is currently in progress, do sign up on my email list here.

Cornwall mini series Part 6: Truro

This is the sixth in a series of short reflections on places in Cornwall.

There will be few words, and mainly images.

Truro is a fascinating city and in particular the cathedral is a beguiling gothic style edifice constructed in Victorian times. We attended Evensong there which was a meditative, calming experience, standing in the choirstalls behind the choir and listening to the interweaving of their lovely voices.

Whilst in Truro, we also visited the Shelterbox Visitor Centre, not shown here, which I can thoroughly recommend. An experiential presentation of all that can be provided for people who have suffered tragedy and lost their homes in man-made or natural disasters – do visit the Centre if you are ever in Truro.

SC Skillman

psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction.

My next book ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’ will be published on 15th June 2020 by Amberley Publishing.

Cornwall mini series Part 5: Port Isaac

This is the fifth in a series of short reflections on places in north Cornwall.

There will be few words, and mainly images.

Port Isaac is an exquisite fishing village with so many breathtaking views.

It seems that from every angle there is another gorgeous picture waiting to be captured.

SC Skillman

psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction.

My next book ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’ will be published on 15th June 2020 by Amberley Publishing.

Cornwall mini series Part 4: The Lost Gardens of Heligan

This is the fourth in a series of short reflections on places in Cornwall.

There will be few words, and mainly images.

The Lost Gardens of Heligan are an example of beauty recovered from loss and neglect following the devastation of War. Their recovery again emerged from the vision of Tim Smit who then went on to set in motion The Eden Project. Come here to share in the wonder of these gardens and be part of their witness to renewal of hope.

SC Skillman

psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction.

My next book ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’ will be published on 15th June 2020 by Amberley Publishing.

Cornwall mini series Part 3: The Eden Project

This is the third in a series of short reflections on places in Cornwall.

There will be few words, and mainly images.

The Eden Project is now famous for its extraordinary vision, which emerged from the original idea of one man, Tim Smit. And now it is a glorious display of the wonders of this earth: both natural, and man-made.

A visit here will inspire you with new faith in the human race. It also warns us of what a precious, fragile treasure we have in our hands, as stewards of the planet earth.

Above all, just come here to wonder, to imagine, to feel joy and inspiration.

SC Skillman

psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction.

My next book ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’ will be published on 15th June 2020 by Amberley Publishing.

Cornwall mini series Part 2: Watergate Bay

This is the second in a series of short reflections on places in north Cornwall.

There will be few words, and mainly images.

Early evening is a lovely time to be on a quiet beach. But today, we visit a beach in early morning.

Watergate Bay on the north Cornish coast is a highly-favoured destination for surfers. But for others, the spaciousness, the openness, the freedom, is all we ask – just to walk, to gaze, to be.

SC Skillman

psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction.

My next book ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’ will be published on 15th June 2020 by Amberley Publishing.

Cornwall mini series Part 1: Mawgan Porth beach

This is the first in a series of short reflections on places in north Cornwall.

There will be few words, and mainly images.

To begin, few things could be lovelier than a quiet beach in the muted light of early evening.

You may find Mawgan Porth on the north Cornish coast not far from Newquay. A fish and chip restaurant, an enticing pub, both with peaceful views of the sea: this is a place to calm the soul.

But maybe you’ll just want to wander on the beach, gaze at the sea, and let its serenity fill you.

SC Skillman

psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction.

My next book ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’ will be published on 15th June 2020 by Amberley Publishing.

Book Review: the Girl with Seven Names: Escape From North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee

A powerful, emotionally engaging and sometimes shocking account by a very courageous woman.

The Girl with Seven Names – Escape From North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee

Through her own shrewdness, presence of mind and intelligence, Hyeonseo managed to transform her life and that of her family by escaping from North Korea at the age of 17, undergoing a long and hazardous journey through China, and ultimately gaining South Korean citizenship status for them all 12 years later – and then marrying an American (“one of the reviled Yankee jackals of North Korean propaganda”.) She also saved her mother and brother, guiding them on the same arduous journey she had herself taken through China and onto Laos to seek asylum at the South Korea embassy.

Some of the most shocking details in this account come from the author’s description of life inside North Korea under the control of Kim Il-sung (‘Great Leader’ who founded North Korea); and his son Kim Jong-il ‘Dear Leader’ – to whom was attributed a nativity story very similar to that of Jesus Christ (though the brainwashed population of North Korea weren’t to know that).

Hyeonseo shares with us what the North Korean people were told: that his birth was foretold by miraculous signs in the heavens, including the appearance of a bright new star in the sky. From early childhood she and her classmates were encouraged to draw pictures of the snow-covered wooden cabin of his birth with the sacred mountain behind it and the new star in the sky. They came to associate the Great Leader and the Dear Leader with gifts and excitement in the same way that children in the West think of Santa Claus.

She was in South Korea at the time Kim Jong-un took over and this time she was at a safe distance viewing on TV the crowds she herself had once been forced to stand among, weeping at the death of the god-like predecessor, knowing that guards circulated among them ready to mete out severe punishments to anyone who was faking it.

In fact the first time her beliefs about North Korea ‘the greatest nation on earth’ were challenged, was through the impassioned outburst of her uncle Jung-jil, her father’s cousin, whose family had fled North Korea during the Korean War and now lived in Shenyang 8 hours drive into China.

The details the author gives of life inside North Korea, worshipping the Great Leader and the Dear Leader, are stunning. Amongst the highlights are these facts: everyone had to display on the walls of their homes a trio of air-brushed portraits: The Great Leader, The Dear Leader, and the Dear Leader’s first wife, also accorded almost god-like status. Everyone had to keep this trio of portraits in pristine condition – or risk severe punishment by white-gloved government inspectors who would visit monthly to find any specks of dust.

The author describes many other extraordinary events which are a simple fact of life in North Korea, such as the summary executions; the year-long rehearsals by thousands of schoolchildren for the mass display of the Leaders’ portraits; the hierarchy of society determined by one’s family history of loyalty to the Leaders.

She also gives a harrowing description of the famine that gripped North Korea in the mid 1990s when more than a million people died, and she recalls walking past a train station and seeing a dead woman in her early twenties lying on the pavement clutching an emaciated child to her, and being ignored by all who walked past. And she describes the lies of the Great Leader, who claimed in his propaganda broadcasts that he shared the suffering of his people, and was confining himself only to riceballs, to show his solidarity with them – yet remained as portly and well-fed as ever.

The other outstanding fact is the very low regard held for truth or historical fact; the fact that government officials can be bribed with money to do anything – including changing official records.

But even the details of life inside North Korea are not necessarily the most shocking thing in this story. For me, that honour is held by the callous behaviour of those people in China and Laos, who hold it in their power either to show compassion for North Korean defectors, or to destroy their lives. For many of them, not one simple act of common human decency can be carried out without a demand for money. The cruel and inhuman attitude that prevails towards North Korean defectors is sickening, to a Western reader.

Hyeonseo had to bribe her way through China, in order to save herself. Her journey was a journey through the vast underworld of people smugglers, Chinese ‘brokers’, fake IDs, false documents and changed records: all at considerable financial cost to herself and to those family members who were kind enough to transfer money to her (which she later paid back in full). It is truly a chilling vision of humanity to see corruption so deeply woven into a society, infecting everyone, every human interaction.

So when Hyeonseo encounters the Australian, Dick Stolp, and he shows her the generosity and compassion born of altruism, which is so severely lacking elsewhere in her experience, it comes across as a miracle. Interestingly, she was praying to the spirits of her ancestors for help just before he approached her in a coffee bar.

Through this account, sometimes harrowing and upsetting, Hyeonseo’s character shines, together with her love for and devotion to her mother and brother. She demonstrates brilliant presence of mind when she distracts the guard on the bus who is, contrary to expectations, checking everyone’s IDs and studying their faces, and she saves her brother from capture (for he has at this time no ID).

Another very impressive scene is when she is interrogated by an official who is determined to find out if she is North Korean. He looks deep into her eyes and asks her all sorts of tricky questions, but she ends up convincing him she is Chinese. This is largely because of the foresight of her father years before who insisted on her learning Mandarin – which she now speaks without any trace of a North Korean accent.

As you read the book you cannot help feeling that she is a total inspiration, not purely as a successful North Korean defector, but as a woman in her own right, with immense strength of character and inner resources.

After so many traumatic details in this account, it is good to read at the end how things are changing now, due to the international exposure Hyeonseo achieved after her February 2013 TED talk. She writes that some of the most inspiring messages she received afterwards came from China – a country which she says she loves but where she suffered many hardships – many of the messages expressing their writers’ shame at the complicity of their government in hounding escaped North Koreans.

Even after all that happened, her mother and her brother were sorely tempted to return to North Korea – such is the love people can have for their homeland, despite all other circumstances.

It is particularly poignant to read at the end of her account, these words: “Among the 27,000 North Koreans in the south, two kinds of life have been left behind: the wretched life of persecution and hunger, and the manageable life that was not so bad…. for the second group life in the South is far more daunting. It often makes them yearn for the simpler, more ordered existence they left behind, where big decisions are taken for them by the state, and where life is not a fierce competition.”

These words are particularly astute because they reflect what some people from East Berlin felt after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The irony is that for some, life under a totalitarian regime can be simpler, with far fewer options, all big decisions made for them by the State. This is something they prefer to what we might call “freedom.” This is a paradox we would all do well to muse upon and always to hold in mind.

SC Skillman, psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction. My next book ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’ will be published by Amberley Publishing on 15h June 2020.

Penty-Lowarth – Delightful Holiday Cottage for Two Set in Lush Gardens in Cornwall

Set in a central position in Cornwall, close to St Columb Major, you may find Penty-Lowarth, whose name means garden cottage.

Penty-Lowarth holiday cottage at St Columb Major, Cornwall

We have just returned from a very enjoyable stay there and it’s perfectly located for access to many of Cornwall’s major tourist attractions: The Eden Project, St Michael’s Mount, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Tintagel, Port Isaac and Padstow, and many others. The Screech Owl Sanctuary is close by, as is the National Trust property Trerice, and of course for beach-lovers you would be hard put to find lovelier beaches than those at Mawgan Port and Watergate Bay.

The cottage itself is set in lush gardens as you’ll see below.

Gardens surrounding Penty-Lowarth holiday cottage in Cornwall

You may want to wander round to the koi carp pond: the fish are very friendly and will rise out of the water to greet you – with their mouths wide open of course.

Koi carp pond near Penty-Lowarth holiday cottage, Cornwall

Passionate about surfing? Then you’ll find Polzeath’s fabulous surfing beach a twenty minutes drive away. St Austell on the south coast and Newquay on the north coast are both equally accessible.

Penty-Lowarth is beautifully decorated by the present owners, David and Caroline, and something I particularly appreciate in a holiday house or cottage is the thoughtful provision of storage space, with every attention paid to small details. If you follow the link here to the full details of the cottage you will find photos showing you how stylish the interior of the cottage is.

Outside seating rea at Penty-Lowarth holiday cottage, Cornwall

When you arrive you’ll find Cornish coffee, half a dozen eggs, tea, milk, a packet of Cornish fairings and a bottle of wine waiting to welcome you. Full provision is made for dog-owners too, with a dog bed, blankets and bowls all provided.

The cottage is ideal for couples. Do check out Penty-Lowarth if you’re considering a holiday in Cornwall.

SC Skillman, psychological, paranormal and mystery fiction and non-fiction

The Tube Station – Fresh and Imaginative Worship Space above the Surfing Beach at Polzeath, Cornwall

I’ve just visited this creative worship space in Polzeath and was delighted with the vibrant atmosphere and décor.

The Tube Station Polzeath

Working in partnership with the Methodist Church, the Tube Station has a café, an indoor skate ramp, an art gallery, a chill-out space for surfers and all beach-users, a worship venue, and much more.

When I visited one September Sunday morning, the place was packed, with standing room only at the back.

Café Bar in the Tube Station Polzeath

A brilliant speaker, Jude Levermore, who is the Head of Mission for the Methodist Church, gave an engaging talk about “our NHS stories” and how many of us have stories to tell about how the NHS saved us. And so do we have stories to tell about how the grace of God has transformed our lives. An interesting thought: everything the Good Samaritan does for the injured traveller in Jesus’ parable “The Good Samaritan” is now done for us by the NHS – and we expect it too.

Surfboards James and Judas at the Tube Station Polzeath

And her second message was “God wants to use us even though…” then fill in with all your weaknesses and excuses and reasons why you hang back and think you’re not worthy or good enough and don’t believe in yourself. She herself said God wanted to use her as the Head of Mission for the Methodist Church EVEN THOUGH she is a woman, she’s divorced, she isn’t ordained.

I particularly loved the surfboards up on the ceiling, each with a disciple’s name on it. And I noted that Judas Iscariot is there too. Judas is a name that means betrayer to many. And yet I believe Judas was ultimately forgiven and redeemed and saved too. EVEN THOUGH…

I do recommend you experience the Tube Station if you are ever in Polzeath, and especially if you’re there on a Sunday morning.

SC Skillman

psychological, paranormal, mystery fiction & non-fiction

My new book ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’ will be published by Amberley Publishing on 15th June 2020.

Remembering Binna Burra Lodge, Glorious Mountain Eyrie in Queensland, Australia, Destroyed by Fire, September 2019

In South East Queensland, Australia, high in the mountain ranges that rise up behind Surfers Paradise, forming the Gold Coast hinterland, you will reach the small town of Canungra. And there you will find the road to Binna Burra.

Photos taken at Binna Burra, in the Lamington National Park, Gold Coast hinterland, South East Queensland, Australia

At the end of the road is Binna Burra Lodge, set in lush rainforest, high in the glorious mountain ranges of the Lamington National Park. Or at least, you could find it until 7th September 2019 when raging bushfires burned all the cabins and buildings to the ground, felling massive rainforest trees and sending them crashing down across the only road to the site, preventing firefighters from reaching the grounds of the lodge.

Rich with wildlife this rainforest eyrie is a paradise location I visited at least four times during the few years I spent living in Australia 1985-1990, and then visited again when I returned to Australia in 2007 – and was planning to visit again in November 2019. But everyone had to evacuate the site in the face of encroaching fire on Friday 6th September.

The first time I visited Binna Burra on my own, I was delighted with the warm welcome, the conviviality with others who had also come alone, the joyful meals together in the Lodge, the immensely knowledgable tour guide whom I dubbed ‘Peter the Rainforest Host’, the walks through the rainforest, the many magical discoveries and the sublime views.

Binna Burra has special memories for me. Birdsong echoes from peak to peak, the blue haze of eucalyptus vapour often veils the richly forested slopes, and the lure of the Coomera Falls on the 22 kilometre Coomera Circuit awaits keen bushwalkers who love majestic views from rocky outcrops.

I remember feeling as if I was in another dimension up at Binna Burra, the atmosphere so rarefied, the air wine-sweet, a magical presence separate from the world. Here it was I had one of the few mystical experiences of my life.

Another with memories of the Lodge, Cecilia O’Grady, who worked there 1982-1986, said: “I feel quite emotional thinking about it, the history of the place. It’s very spiritual. It’s beautiful.”

The cycle of life in Australia, well known to the aborigines, involves controlled burn-offs. The periodic apparent cataclysm of fire turns the fertile landscape into a devastated waste of blackened stumps, where you would think all life had been eliminated. And yet life returns. The rains come, the green shoots spring up, and the fertile land renews itself.

But for Binna Burra fire is unknown. It is a lush, green, wet environment normally resistant to such fire. “It’s a rainforest, it’s a lush wet green place, how can it be burning?” said Professor Darryl Jones, Griffith University ecologist.

It is impossible to look anywhere else other than climate change for the reasons behind this tragedy. Nevertheless I hope that the rainforest will demonstrate once again its miraculous power for the renewal of life, and I have faith in the restoration of this glorious mountain top eyrie with the construction of a new lodge and accommodation.

I’ve previously written on this blog about Binna Burra: read it here. Also I’ve written about another rainforest lodge in Lamington National Park, OReilly’s, which you may read here.

SC Skillman

psychological, paranormal, mystery

fiction and non-fiction

My next book ‘Paranormal Warwickshire’ will be published by Amberley Publishing in 15th June 2020