Book Review: ‘They’ll Never Read That: how to make mistakes in publishing’ by Tony Collins

Today I’m delighted to share a review of an outstanding book. ‘They’ll Never Read That: how to make mistakes in publishing‘ by Tony Collins was published by Sarah Grace Publishing on 31 January 2022.

Book cover: They’ll Never read That: how to make mistakes in publishing by Tony Collins pub Sarah Grace Publishing January 2022

I embarked upon this book from the viewpoint of an author long experienced in bruising and teasing encounters with the world of traditional publishing. My approach is also influenced by the fact that I have met and chatted with the author at a number of writers’ events.  As I read his account, I began to feel it was not so much the observations about the publishing world that resonated with me, as his account of the decisions he made that he deeply regrets. His journey in some ways echoes mine, especially as I discovered he lived, and operated a publishing company, very close to my own family home in Kent and went to the same church I did: only, a couple of decades earlier!

I was engrossed by his account of the ups and downs of his journey, both as a publisher and on a personal level, the joys and successes, the disappointments and failures, the lost opportunities, the unlooked-for or serendipitous events. The sheer fatefulness and unaccountability of life comes across strongly in this ‘life of a publisher’. For authors, especially those who have struggled for years to win a traditional publishing deal and instead received countless rejections, Tony Collins’ account cannot but have an emotional impact upon us.

With the mountain top experiences and the sloughs of despond, I found here an acute reflection upon human nature, in the varied ways readers respond to books.  It occurred to me that the position of a publisher is an excellent place from which to study hearts and minds. I was fascinated by his references to many books he published, some of which have been iconic for decades, and which I have read, and others I want to read as a result of reading this behind-the-scenes account of them. The account often sent me scurrying to Amazon to look up the books he mentions and reflect on their fate. Reading this memoir made me more philosophical about my own past mistakes, misjudgements, and bad decisions.  The author shows us how volatile and even elemental the whole publishing scene can be: full of swift and unlooked-for changes of fortune.

In many cases Tony Collins followed his instinct and it paid off brilliantly.  The title of this volume in itself pays tribute to his genius for choosing arresting titles even if they do not fully reflect the content of the book. “Once you have the title,” he writes, “a book often falls into focus.”

I found the whole account very elegantly written and a compelling study of why different books of equal value and merit meet such a different fate: some fail and disappear from view, and others succeed on an enormous scale.  Tony Collins describes publishing as “legal gambling” and I think he is exactly right. He also considers the difference between the tastes of the fiction reading public in the US and the UK, and the profound influence of their cultural presumptions and background on their acceptance or otherwise of a new book.

Finally, Tony Collins’ insights into the writing craft are also invaluable: “The author is a guest at their readers’ table,” he observes: and from the point of view of a publisher: “Every book is a risk… it is a critically expensive risk to publish it, because it may make you rich, or bankrupt you.”

Very strongly recommended to all authors and all those connected with the publishing world.

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The Vicar’s Shocking Discovery

I couldn’t resist reblogging this, yet another dry satirical post from my son Jamie Robinson on his blog The Lower Strangling Chronicles. Again, I know Jamie’s inspiration: we recently found a case full of Nazi memorabilia in a local Warwickshire antique store, which fascinated us, as we speculated about who might choose to buy it!

The Lower Strangling Chronicles

Although it was only February, the Rev. Simon Abernathy started his spring cleaning early, as he had nothing else to do.

The loft at the vicarage was a place Simon had rarely ventured into since he moved in over 30 years ago, and he felt it was time to see what was in there and whether any of it was worth keeping.

Simon gingerly climbed up the ladder and into the loft. He had never properly been in the loft, as everything he actually needed from there was at arm’s reach from the door.

Simon surveyed the room. Although it was dark, dusty, and filled to the brim with cardboard boxes, he could see that it would make a nice loft conversion.

With that in mind, he began sifting through the boxes.

Most of the boxes had items in them he had never seen before, probably forgotten about and left…

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Eleanor Peterson and the Ancient Diary

Today I reblog one of the dry satirical offerings from my son Jamie’s very funny blog: The Lower Strangling Chronicles. I happen to know the inspiration for this particular episode: a delightful pub not far from the Tower of London called The Hung, Drawn and Quartered, with a quote from Samuel Pepys’ diary on the wall.

The Lower Strangling Chronicles

In the morning, I went out to Charing Cross, to see MajorGeneral Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could in that condition.

Newly-turned-eleven-year-old Eleanor Peterson closely examined the 362 year old diary, completely forgetting the world around her.

Ever since she’d received the Diary of Samuel Pepys from her parents for her 11th birthday that morning, she’d been so engrossed in it that she’d forgotten that she’d had other presents to open.

“Are you going to open any other presents, darling?” Sarah said.

Eleanor said nothing, still transfixed by the diary.

“I think we’ve lost her, love.” Dave said.

“Hmm,” Sarah replied.

“Nerd.” Will said.

“Don’t say things like that about your sister, Will.” Sarah said.

“But she is, just staring at that leather book like that. It’s weird.” Will said.

After a while, Eleanor…

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Introducing Golden Healer, new YA paranormal fiction by MJ Mallon, out now

Today I am delighted to be sharing with you everything you need to know about ‘Golden Healer, ‘ the newly-published Book 2 in MJ Mallon’s ‘The Curse of Time’ series. Author Marje Mallon is a member of my authors’ community; I had the pleasure of meeting her at a Bloggers Bash event in London, and over the past few years she has been a great support to me, along with fellow authors and bloggers. I’ve read and reviewed other books she has written, along with the first book in this series, which I found fascinating. I look forward to reading ‘Golden Healer’ soon and putting my review on Amazon. The series is now out with Next Chapter Publishing and I love the covers of both books. Reading Marje’s YA stories, I must say I can see Tim Burton directing the film of the books! Her kaleidoscope of imaginative, quirky ideas with a dark element captivated me. You will see what I mean when you read the blurbs.

Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy

Series name: The Curse of Time Book 2

Release Date 23 January 2022


ISBN:  979-8407305149

Page Count  336 kindle

Buy Link:

Author MJ Mallon in Cambridge, England


Dedicated to the one and only rollercoaster that I ever rode. It was in Portugal, and I was on holiday with my young family. I’ll never forget that day, I overcame my fears and rode a rollercoaster with the encouragement of my much-loved family, my husband, David, and daughters Natasha and Georgina. So, it’s time to ride another rollercoaster… I hope you will come along with me for this crazy ride! Let’s meet our fears together…

Blurb – Golden Healer

Golden Healer is The 2nd in The YA Paranormal Adventure Series – The Curse of Time.

I didn’t think my life could get any weirder, until the dreaded rollercoaster…

Amelina Scott’s destiny is to be a Krystallos: a magician of light, chosen to learn the ways of crystal magic on her 16th birthday. Located on a river pathway in a mysterious part of Cambridge, the Crystal Cottage is guarded by mythical beings.

Unfortunately, there are those who seek to harm this haven of light. Learning of Ryder – a Shadow Sorcerer with hypnotic powers – Amelina discovers that her own magic is now threatened, and that the Curse of Time might be unleashed again.

As secrets abound and the creatures of the Chronophage come alive, can Amelina become the true magician she needs to be?

A unique, imaginative mystery full of magic-wielding and dark elements, Bloodstone is a riveting adventure for anyone interested in fantasy, mythology or the world of the paranormal. NOTE: this book contains mention of self-harm, mental health issues and alludes to the potential dangers of sexual attraction, which may trigger younger/sensitive readers.

The two books in MJ Mallon’s ‘Curse of Time’ YA fiction series

Bloodstone (The Curse of Time Book 1)

Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy

Series name: The Curse of Time Book 1

Release Date 22nd June 2021


Paperback 979-8525375833

Hardback  978-1006529818

Page Count 290 pages

Buy Link:

Blurb – Bloodstone

I didn’t think my life could get weirder, but I was wrong…

Fifteen-year-old Amelina Scott lives in Cambridge with her dysfunctional family, a mysterious black cat, and an unusual girl who is imprisoned within the mirrors located in her house.

When an unexpected message arrives inviting her to visit the Crystal Cottage, she sets off on a forbidden path where she encounters Ryder: a charismatic, perplexing stranger.

With the help of a magical paint set and some crystal wizard stones, can Amelina discover the truth about her family?

A unique, imaginative mystery full of magic-wielding and dark elements, Bloodstone is a riveting adventure for anyone interested in fantasy, mythology or the world of the paranormal.

TRIGGER WARNING: this book contains mention of self-harm, mental health issues and alludes to the potential dangers of sexual attraction, which may trigger younger/sensitive readers.


The First book in the series Bloodstone has received many fantastic reviews and a finalist book award recently from Amazon influencer N. N. Light, receiving a review rating of 5+ stars. Yes, she loved it a lot!

N. N. Light’s review – Bloodstone:

A magical invitation, that doesn’t tear up, urges Amelina to go to Crystal Cottage to seek out the hidden secrets of her family. Amelina Scott knows her family isn’t what you call normal and neither is her house. No one she knows has a girl trapped in the mirrors. When she receives an invitation to visit Crystal Cottage, she doesn’t know what to make of it. Is it a prank? Is it a trick? She decides to ignore it and throws it in the trash. Only it doesn’t stay in the bin. She tries to cut it up but it doesn’t cut. It sings, it dances, it is somehow alive. She finally decides to travel to the Crystal Cottage to see what happens. Along the way, she meets Ryder and discovers magic (both light and dark) is all around. She interacts with magical people, beings, and objects while learning the truth of her family. What happens next will astound you, the reader. Are you ready for an adventure?

Bloodstone is an imaginative fantasy adventure I enjoyed from start to finish. From the first page, I connected with Amelina. She’s a delightful heroine. I could relate to her on so many levels. Everything from her curiosity to her reactions to her emotional state rang true. While it’s tricky these days to write an original fantasy story, M.J. Mallon wrote one of the most original fantasy books I’ve read in a long time. Taking bits from fantasy authors of the past, M.J. Mallon adds her own blend of magical realism and emotional coming of age to make Bloodstone a gem. The plot moves at a good pace with each chapter starting with a puzzle. What a creative way to keep the reader invested. The world-building is intricate and riveting. The characters are engaging and easy to connect with. Overall, Bloodstone is a brilliant story and when I finished, I wanted to read it all over again. If you’re a fantasy reader, you need to read Bloodstone. Highly recommend!

Disclaimer: I received a copy from the author in the hopes I’d review it. My thoughts are all my own.

Her Rating: 5+ stars

MJ Mallon’s published books

The Series is inspired by:

The Corpus Christi Chronophage clock on King’s Parade, Cambridge. Find out more here:


And Juniper Artland – artist Anya Gallaccio’s sculpture The Light pours out of Me.

And the 2nd book Golden Healer mentions a popular old haunt of Cambridge  which has since closed down – Clowns Cafe.


My alter ego is MJ – Mary Jane from Spiderman. I love superheros!

M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these two vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile.

Her motto is to Do what Your Heart Desires.

And her favourite genre to write is fantasy/magical realism because life should always be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic!

Accolades: M J is a finalist in the Fantasy category of N. N. Light’s Book Award for her novel Bloodstone and a finalist in the International author. She has also contributed best-selling short stories to Dan Alatorre’s Box Under The Bed anthologies.

Winner of the Blogger’s bash blogging prize with her flash fiction piece The Queen’s Dress Down Day.

Winner of Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contest with her murderous piece: Mr. Blamey

Also By M J Mallon

Next Chapter Publishing

Bloodstone (The Curse of Time Book 1)

Kyrosmagica Publishing

Mr Sagittarius (Poetry, prose and photography)

 This Is Lockdown (Anthology/Compilation



Lockdown Innit: Poems About Absurdity (Poetry Collection)

Amazon Author Page:


Contributor to:

Writing Skills Anthology

100 Ways to Write A Book compiled by Alex Pearl:

Chasing Driftwood’s A Year of Writing Through Lockdown:

Short Stories in Anthologies:

Bestselling horror compilations

Nightmareland edited by Dan Alatorre

Scrabble Boy (short story)

Spellbound edited by Dan Alatorre

The Twisted Sisters (short story)

Wings & Fire  edited by Dan Alatorre

The Great Pottoo (short story)

Authors Links:

Authors Website:
Authors Amazon Page:

Buy Link Bloodstone (multiple platforms):

Next Chapter Publishing Author Page:
Twitter: @Marjorie_Mallon – 

Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook


Author Instagram:



Today I share with you this reblog of a post by artist Adam Tucker. I follow Adam on Instagram and love his art: I have prints of four of his paintings in my house. Every year, when Warwickshire Open Studios is held, Adam is one of the artists I visit. This year I have just joined Warwickshire Open Studios myself, and hope to exhibit some of my paintings at their Summer Art Weeks. ( see ‘My Artwork’ on the menu).
In this post, Adam writes about painting clouds – and that’s something I’d like to become better at myself so I shall study this post carefully!

Adam Richard Tucker

Most of us, I am sure, have at some point or another looked up at the clouds and imagined the animals we can see in their shapes. This has got a name. It’s called pareidolia. Can you see the two cats fighting below? Or is that just me?

I don’t know about you, but I very rarely look up nowadays, and even notice the clouds. They’re just there. Oh of course I notice them if they’re doing something strange or out of the ordinary, like being lit by a wonderful sunset. But whole days can go by and I don’t even look up at all.

And that is a great shame. The clouds are awesome! I remember early experiences of flying above the clouds and seeing their amazing castle-like shapes rising beneath the airplane. I used to imagine that that was what Heaven was like. I actually Heaven is nothing…

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Cover Reveal: Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire, due out from Amberley on 15 April 2022

Today I’m delighted to be able to share with you the Cover Reveal for my new non-fiction book, which will be published on 15 April 2022 by Amberley Publishing.

Full cover of Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire by SC Skillman, pub 15 April 2022 by Amberley Publishing

On the front cover, from top left, you will see a statue of Warwick’s hero Guy of Warwick; the Bear and Ragged Staff insignia, whose origins go back to the Norman earls of Warwick; and a view of the courtyard at Warwick Castle, taken from the top of Guy’s Tower. On the bottom row, from left, you will see the Percival Guildhouse in Rugby, the former home of Matthew Bloxam who rediscovered a Roman town on Watling Street, over a thousand years after it had disappeared from history; a picture of Plum Jerkum, Warwick’s own Border Morris side who tour Warwickshire villages to celebrate the Wassail and numerous other traditional ceremonies; and a view of the Judges House and Old Shire Hall, Warwick, very close to the site of the former town gallows and gaolhouse, formerly the scene of many macabre and curious ancient customs.

On the back cover you will see a photo of the gothic tower of St Mary’s Church, Warwick, a church rich in history, founded nearly 900 years ago. This photo was also taken from the top of Guy’s Tower at Warwick Castle.

In Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire I share many quirky and intriguing tales from around Shakespeare’s county.

The book is on pre-order so why not head over and register your interest right now!

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A Visit to Compton Verney, Warwickshire, in December 2021

Compton Verney in Warwickshire is one of my favourite places; an elegant Georgian house set in a glorious landscape. A visit here and a walk through the Capability Brown parklands always gives me a feeling of bliss and tranquility.

Compton Verney, Warwickshire: house seen from across the lake, with a floating Castaway Christmas tree, December 2021

Capability Brown knew what he was up to when he rode through the grounds of these English stately homes in his carriage, framing numerous views on his journey, and visualising the hills sweeping round a peaceful lake as if enfolding the viewer in a gentle embrace.

We visited in time to see some of the Christmas lights and decorations still in place in this wonderful park and art gallery, as well as two of the current exhibitions: the paintings and story of magnificent British 20th century painter John Nash (the brother of artist Paul Nash) and 17th/18th century master carver Grinling Gibbons.

I tell a few intriguing stories about Compton Verney in my forthcoming book Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire, due out from Amberley Publishing on 15 April 2022. and now on pre-order.

Here are a few views of Compton Verney.

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A Tribute to a Gifted Friend: Multifaceted Artist Alison Hird-Beecroft

Today I want to celebrate a rare soul and gifted artist, a lover of the structure and form and beauty she found in the world, both in nature and in the built environment, who cunningly wove that into her own exquisite artefacts: Alison Hird-Beecroft.

Alison was a dear friend of both myself and my sister Julia, since the time she and her family moved into a house just up the road from us, and while we were in the early years of primary school in Orpington, Kent.

Alison passed away on Christmas morning, 25 December 2021, just four months after the death of her husband, Brian Beecroft.

Sheila (SC Skillman author) and Alison Hird-Beecroft textile artist in London 2018

We played together as children and created fantasy worlds: I was in awe then of her instinctive skill for using fabrics, assorted materials, embroidery threads and iridescent metallic papers to craft beautiful things we could both admire and play with. She would tease out embroidery threads to create glossy hair of many colours, to stick to the heads of ping pong balls to make the dolls who inhabited our fantasy world.

Over the years we also shared a love of music and singing, writing and art, and the beauty to be found in nature. Alison has left a collection of glorious artworks, and I present some of them here. These are part of a project of shadow and light photography using her stitched structures, water, glass and iridescent cellophane. Her plan was to print these on canvas.

‘Ships That Pass in the Night’ by artist
Alison Hird-Beecroft.

Of the image above, Alison wrote: ‘I looked at the photos I had taken with the two light sources and I suddenly saw what looked like ghostly ships with strange masts and rigging coming out of the mist.’

On the website of the New Embroidery Group you may find Alison’s exquisite works.

These are some of the things those who have known and loved Alison have said about her:

Thank you for posting the very sad news about Alison and her husband Brian. I was one of her school friends at St Philomena’s in St Mary’s Cray near Orpington. We used to make enamel jewellery and scrap books of our favourite pop stars in the 60’s. I will miss her very much. (Elizabeth)

I met her age 17 when we both went to the South East College of Further Education in Lewisham. She was wearing a cape and she looked extraordinary. I looked at her and was so amazed by what she was wearing and how beautiful it was, that I went straight across to her. I am very shy and it’s unheard of for me to do such a thing. But I looked at her, and straightaway I just wanted to be her friend. (Susan)

Alison was sitting next to Brian at the church art club, and Brian started to talk about an exhibition he had recently been to, and some artworks he had seen, and he began to describe them. As she listened, Alison felt a sense of recognition. She said, ‘Do you know, I think you may be talking about my artworks…’ Her hunch proved correct: Brian was. They became close after that, and later on, in 2013, they married. (Alison and Brian)

I like to imagine her being swept up by the angels on Christmas night, joining with the stars and knowing Jesus, her saviour, Immanuel, close with her. ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.’ I remember singing round the piano with her one time. She will be adding her creative beauty to heaven now… Alison was certainly blessed with so much creativity… and fun. She would certainly want you to enjoy Christmas and raise a glass to her! (Caroline)

Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire Cover Reveal Coming Soon…

It’s not long now till Christmas 2021, and I was delighted to receive the first proof of my forthcoming book Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire, and of the cover design. I love the choice of photos for the cover, and their design and layout. I look forward to being able to share my Cover Reveal with you soon, early in the New Year 2022.

Hall’s Croft in Stratford-upon-Avon, the scene of many uncanny tales – photo from Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire by SC Skillman – photo by author

Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire is due to be released by Amberley Publishing on 15th April 2022.

But it is now on pre-order, which means you can go to many online book retailers, such as here or here to register your interest, add it to your “wishlist” and make sure of getting your copy, well before publication date.

Farmyard scene in Warwickshire village Lower Quinton – an idyllic rural community where a notorious murder took place decades ago which remains the longest unsolved case in the records of Warwickshire Police. Photo taken from Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire by SC Skillman. Photo by author.

Illustrated Tales of Warwickshire is packed with quirky and intriguing stories of ancient legends and ceremonies, folklore and folk customs, and unusual Warwickshire people. The 100 photos in the book are mainly taken by myself, and by my son Jamie Robinson and my daughter Abigail Robinson both of whom are excellent photographers besides their other talents: Jamie is a satirical blogger and aspiring screenwriter; Abigail is a filmmaker, editor and videographer.

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Excitement as Our Film Maker Daughter Abigail Robinson Graduates as Master of Screen Production

This morning we feel so proud, as our daughter Abigail has just graduated from Griffith University Film School, Queensland, with a Master in Screen Production.

Abigail Robinson, film maker, graduating as Master of Screen Production, Griffith University Queensland 14 December 2021

I watched the live-stream at midnight as Queensland is 10 hours ahead of the UK. It was an emotional moment as Abigail went across the stage to greet Henry Smerdon, the University Chancellor! This is the culmination of two and a half decades of passion for film making for Abigail: she started as a film-maker at the age of seven. Her first film location was the front room; her actors were soft toys; and they performed The Sound of Music. The soundtrack included Abigail singing the songs. We still have the footage to prove it! From then on Abigail never stopped: she continued to film videos at every opportunity, to construct miniature film-sets out of cardboard and other materials; and to produce short animations.

Abigail’s journey has taken her from studies in Media at Trinity School, Leamington Spa, on through Creative Media Production at Stratford-upon-Avon College, a BA in Media Production at the University of Gloucestershire and now to her Master in Screen Production from Griffith University Queensland.

Now Abigail is a fully fledged film maker and she is set to join an industry which, as James Curry, film maker, said in his keynote speech at the graduation ceremony, “is full of charlatons and con-tricksters and creative geniuses “. In a funny, honest, and very ‘real’ speech, he enjoined the new graduates to be “Bold, fearless, and above all creative.James Currie’s credits include sound designing, acting and music, on several films, including the Australian comedy drama Ten Canoes .

Henry Smerdon, the Chancellor of Griffith University at the Graduation Ceremony 14 December 2021 in the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, with Abigail Robinson as she receives her Master in Screen Production

Abigail’s website may be found here. Please do contact her if you would like to hire a professional for your photography, music, promotional, corporate or book-trailer video production or editing, or indeed for your film crew. She is currently filming a troupe of Torres Strait Islander dancers in Cairns, and will soon complete a book-trailer video for my YouTube Channel – I highly recommend her to those of you who are writers, building your online promotion through video.

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