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.

The Nature of Creative Inspiration

Often I find that when a piece of creative work is begun, it’s impossible to say  from which source the best inspiration will come – and how far back in the past that inspiration had its source.

David Helfgott performing in Sydney
David Helfgott performing in Sydney

My new novel Director’s Cut, a YA Crossover, is about a musically gifted boy who finds himself trapped with a young actress and a troubled priest in a house haunted by a family curse.

The story, which centres upon my latest main protagonist 17 year old Dylan Raftery, is complete and now being considered by a publisher.

The story opens with Dylan in conflict with his controlling older sister in their south London home, frustrated and longing to break free. His musical genius is too big to fit into a conventional slot, and nobody understands that. He has dropped out of sixth form and has no plans ever to return. He learns that Suzanna, the young TV actress he adores, is filming in a nearly 17th century mansion and rushes off to meet her, only to find a deeply troubled family, a house full of tragic ghosts and an attendant curse. He must break the curse through the power of his own musical genius or that genius will be quenched forever.

I’ve now started writing the sequel to Director’s Cut, in which Dylan,  continuing to defy his conventional family, wishes to train under a great pianist, who is mentally fragile and who has a shady and dangerous past bleeding into the present.

There are several people who I have either met or know about who might inspire me for some aspect of that great pianist. I won’t be able to tell how strong a part any of them might play until the story decides for itself, and reaches completion.

But I remember being particuarly struck by the Film Shine in which Geoffrey Rush plays the Australian pianist David Helfgott: a film I saw in 1996 and have never forgotten.

And as it happens David Helfgott is giving a piano recital in London in October 2018, so this may be my chance to hear him perform live…

 

 

Inspiration from Brittany

By the time you read this I’ll be in the tiny fishing village of Port Manec’h in the south of Finistère, near France’s equivalent of Lands’ End, Pointe du Raz.Port Manec'h, Brittany

We are here at the invitation of my French friend Dominique who with her husband Philippe owns a lovely holiday cottage in Port Manec’h.

What a wonderful opportunity this is! – not only to try and resurrect my rusty French, but also to enjoy the glorious coastal and riverside scenery and the other treasures of Brittany with its turbulent history.

I’m hoping, too, that this time spent in the region of Névez will be a great inspiration to me as a writer. The novelist Jean-Luc Banalec sets his Inspector Dupin murder mystery novels in Névez, and says, I am constantly inspired  when I’m here…. I write my books here and they are a declaration of love to Brittany.

And it certainly seems Brittany itself is a major character in his scenarios:

Steeped in the enchanting atmosphere of Brittany and peppered with wry humor, Murder on Brittany Shores: A Mystery is a superbly plotted mystery that marks the return of Jean-Luc Bannalec’s international bestselling series starring the cantankerous, coffee-swigging Commissaire Dupin.

Ten miles off the coast of Brittany lie the fabled Glénan Islands. Boasting sparkling white sands and crystal-clear waters, they seem perfectly idyllic, until one day in May, three bodies wash up on shore. At first glance the deaths appear accidental, but as the identities of the victims come to light, Commissaire Dupin is pulled back into action for a case of what seems to be cold-blooded murder.

Ever viewed as an outsider in a region full of myths and traditions, Dupin finds himself drawn deep into the history of the land. To get to the bottom of the case, he must tangle with treasure hunters, militant marine biologists, and dangerous divers. The investigation leads him further into the perilous, beautiful world of Glénan, as he discovers that there’s more to the picturesque islands than meets the eye.

I hope that when I walk on those white sands in the Glénan archipelago, I’ll be as inspired as Jean-Luc Bannalec, perhaps, for the setting of one of my future novels!

Guest Post: Greatest Movies of All Time? by Abigail Robinson

Today I’m delighted to be bringing you a guest post by my daughter Abigail who is a Media graduate and film buff.

Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption
Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption

Here’s Abigail’s article on The Greatest Movies of All Time.

Greatest Movie Of All Time?  (Top Four Films Pre-2000)

How many times have you heard the term ‘greatest movie of all time’ or ‘a must-watch for all film students/buffs’? During an open day at the University of Aberystwyth several years ago I heard one such claim in regard to Citizen Kane. The wonders of the film personally fell flat on me, though I can see why some people love it. The movie was breathtaking to look at and I couldn’t stop examining the lighting and camera composition, but the story baffled me no matter how many times I watched it.

While all opinions are subjective, here are just 4 films released before 2000 that I have seen commonly mentioned in this way, that I believe are absolutely worthy of their praise.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Despite its simplicity, the power conveyed by this film cannot be ignored. This is a deeply moving story of resilience, loyalty and redemption and for this reason is one of my favourite films of all time.

Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption
Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption

It pulls no punches in presenting us with the horrific reality of life inside prison, complete with its truly corrupt power base. We see the full range of the human character, showing no person is black and white, and surprisingly the people locked up show more signs of decency than those detaining them.

Powerful performances from Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins carry the film from its opening to closing points, both understated, directing attention towards the colourful supporting characters, all the while cunningly distracting us from the activities that build to the brilliant and witty twist at the end. The ending may seem saccharine to some but it forms a feel-good conclusion to what could at times be a dispiriting story. For its ability to pull the heartstrings alone, I believe it is worthy of all its praise.

Psycho (1960)

This is the father of the slasher genre, and I believe, the best. This film continues to affect me as I’m sure it did people at the time of release. It’s a true innovator in the world of filmmaking. The iconic shower scene has become such a standard that it borders on cliché, but there is a reason this scene struck a chord in the first place.

Anthony Perkins as Norman in Psycho
Anthony Perkins as Norman in Psycho

Psycho draws the audience in through a series of ‘MacGuffins’ (narrative red herrings), encouraging us to empathise with the protagonist, Marion, and become invested in her plight over the stolen money and her wish to marry her divorced boyfriend, only to have her brutally murdered 30 minutes in. The tone changes dramatically as we suspect the seemingly innocent Norman of sinister acts. The film relies not on gore but on suspense and the genuine acting ability of the cast. Techniques may have changed, but Psycho continues to horrify and compel years later, which is why it deserves its place among the greats.

American Beauty (1999)

A satirical, and deeply cynical look at American society. Using brilliant acerbic wit this film reflects the worst of what domestic life could be. But what starts out as a hilarious cast of stereotypical characters, turns into a nuanced and emotional look at the human condition, the message being ‘nothing is ever what it seems’.

Kevin Spacey in American Beauty
Kevin Spacey in American Beauty

The use of mise-en-scene (visual language conveyed through anything on screen) is beautiful, the red of the front door, the white of the picket fence and the deep blue of the sky embedding the concept of the American Dream into almost every image.

The end of the movie moves me deeply every time and is on a par with the end of the Shawshank Redemption, although with a more bittersweet edge. Stirring soundtracks from Thomas Newman, which contain notably similar strands of music, aptly hold both films together. There are few films that so tightly interweave haunting reflections on life and black comedy as American Beauty does and I admire it for that.

 

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The Silence of the Lambs is incredibly chilling, especially in its portrayal of Hannibal with an iconic performance from Anthony Hopkins. We feel as trapped and vulnerable as trainee FBI agent, Clarice Starling, following her mission to unearth information on the cereal killer Buffalo Bill with the help of cannibalistic psychiatrist, Hannibal Lecter.

Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs
Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs

The performances are definitely the driving force, but the dialogue is brilliant and the suspense created by the subdued lighting and camera placement is intense. A giant of the crime/thriller genre.

 

My mission to watch as many classic films as I can is far from complete. There are many movies I would love to include in this list, from The Godfather to Fight Club, to much of Stanley Kubrick’s work. While it is very difficult to pinpoint the best film of all time, there are countless gems waiting to be discovered if only after a search.

 

What are some of your favourite films of all time?

Joyful Atmosphere at the Leamington Spa Peace Festival June 2018

Each year in June the Peace Festival is held in the Royal Pump Room Gardens in Leamington Spa. Leamington Spa Peace Festival viewA colourful and eclectic mix of stallholders, different religious and activist and local community groups, musicians, street food vendors, and sellers of vibrant gypsy, bohemian and ethnic clothes, hats, bag and jewellery all converge on the gardens.

Kate's Story Tree at Leamington Spa Peace Festival

The result is a vibrant, joyful festival lasting two days, spreading goodwill and the message of peaceful co-existence, mutual understanding and acceptance of our fellow human beings in all our diversity.

Einstein quote at Leamington Spa Peace Festival

The local community choir Songlines conducted by our enthusiastic maestro Bruce Knight sang a cross-cultural set of songs which included fantastic gospel songs Egalile, I’m on My Way to Canaan Land, and Done Made My Vow to the Lord, along with community choir arrangements of I’m Still Standing by Elton John, Like a Hurricane by Neil Young, and the uplifting and moving song Hey Brother by Avicii.

The Leamington Spa Peace Festival is run, amazingly, by volunteers, and they do a brilliant job of organising this event. Long may the Peace Festival return to Leamington Spa each year.

Save the Pixies at Leamington Spa Peace Festival

 

Taste the Spirit of Warwickshire – A Shakespeare-Inspired Spiritual Travel Guide

My proposed new non-fiction book, Spirit of Warwickshire, is currently in the early stages of its journey into the world.

St Peter's Church Wootton Wawen: The Saxon Sanctuary photo credit Abigail Robinson
St Peter’s Church Wootton Wawen: The Saxon Sanctuary photo credit Abigail Robinson

Richly illustated with full colour photos by photographer Abigail Robinson, the book contains twenty short pieces about places  in Warwickshire that I love, visit often, and believe to have spiritual presence.

I define a place of spiritual presence in these terms:  “it affords us an opportunity to reflect upon the lives of those long dead, the interweaving of fate and destiny, and explore dynamic equivalents within our own lives.” As this suggests, many of the places I describe have strong historical character.

Enchanted Kenilworth Castle photo credit Abigail Robinson
Enchanted Kenilworth Castle photo credit Abigail Robinson

Because I love Shakespeare, and Warwickshire is Shakespeare’s county, I have headed each chapter with an appropriate quotation from the Bard that I feel corresponds either in spirit or in specifics to what I have independently written about each place.

Here’s a taste of what you may find in the book, visually: a sneak peek at some of the beautiful and high quality illustrations to be included.

Milverton Hill, Warwick, in June - photo credit Abigail Robinson
Milverton Hill, Warwick, in June – photo credit Abigail Robinson

 

 

 

 

Fun and Excitement on the Author Stand at the UK Games Expo

Just back from the UK Games Expo – a fun event for all ages at the  Birmingham NEC showcasing creative games designers, model makers, authors, artists, cosplayers and Vikings!SC Skillman display at UK Games Expo

The authors’ genres spanned fantasy, paranormal, thrillers, history, sci fi and time travel. There was a real buzz about the event, and I enjoyed networking with fellow authors, sold a few books, gained new mailing list subscribers, and met and chatted with some lovely people.

Author Gareth Baker's display at the UK Games Expo

I enjoyed the great atmosphere and admired the imagination of the games creators and the talents behind some stunning graphics.

Display for Undertow at UK Games Expo A love of story drew people in – for that is the one element shared by us all.

Author Stand at UK Games Expo

It was also a joy to see the fantasy characters and strange creatures passing by in their magnificent cosplay outfits.

Richard Denning Games display at UK Games ExpoWhy not put the UK Games Expert in your diaries – it’s a wonderful event which takes place over a weekend in early June each year at the Birmingham NEC.

Thanks to Richard Denning, author, games creator and UK Games Expo organiser, for the opportunity to exhibit there on the Author Stand.

A Lost Garden Rediscovered and Given New Life: Guy’s Cliffe Walled Garden, Warwick

I love gardens which once were lost, but have now been restored.

View of Guys Cliffe Walled Garden with poppy installation
View of Guys Cliffe Walled Garden with poppy installation

How poignant and symbolic they seem, and how inspiring when they are recovered and given new life.

A famous example is The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall; but we have a rediscovered garden just down the road from us.

Just off the road between Warwick and Kenilworth you will find Guy’s Cliffe Historic Walled Garden. It used to be the kitchen garden for Guy’s Cliffe House, the atmospheric mansion about which I have already written on this blog. You can read my post here. But after the last heir to the estate, Sub-Lieutenant Algernon Percy, died in the First World War, the estate was broken up. For years this walled garden was lost beneath thick undergrowth, but in the last few years, the garden has undergone restoration by a team of devoted volunteers.

Guys Cliffe Walled Garden Fernery
Guys Cliffe Walled Garden Fernery

I’ve visited the garden a few times, sited behind Hintons Nursery off the Coventry Road, Warwick; and my son Jamie, a horticultural student, has also spent some hours volunteering in the garden.

Guys Cliffe Walled Garden, Warwick
Guys Cliffe Walled Garden, Warwick

The garden now is testament to the dedication of those who’ve freely given their time and expertise and hard work to bring it to its present state. It’s an ongoing project and has been featured on Gardeners’ World.

Recently the gardeners have installed a new poppy wall mural to commemorate the Battle of Jutland,  in which Algernon Percy, the last heir to the estate, died.

What an inspiration this garden is; and it is also full of atmosphere, invoking a strong sense of the lives of those who worked here and loved the garden and nurtured it in the past.

How to find it:

The Walled Garden is at the back of Hintons Nursery.  

Access & parking via:

Hintons Nursery, Coventry Road, Guy’s Cliffe, Warwick   CV34 5FJ

 

 

 

GDPR Compliance on SC Skillman Blog

Thank you to all of you who read and enjoy my blog posts. I greatly appreciate those who support me by following, reading, liking and commenting. I hope to continue providing you with short inspirational blog posts about any subject that  catches my eye!
SC Skillman author at Fair in Nuneaton 20 May 2018
SC Skillman author at Fair in Nuneaton 20 May 2018
It’s been a busy few days as I have been listening to successful woman writers speaking at two exciting events – a visit to Ingram Spark (book printers and distributors) and a tour round their digital printing facility in Milton Keynes; and the following day I was in London at the George IV pub in Chiswick, on the day of Harry and Meghan’s wedding, to attend a fabulous networking event “The Bloggers Bash”; and finally I attended a fair in Nuneaton to sell signed copies of my books.

Here below I give my statement about this blog, as required by the GDPR which comes into effect on 25th May 2018.

This is a short post re: GDPR which comes into effect on May 25, 2018.
Any cookies on my website are used to ensure normal website functions. These cookies cannot be switched off because the website wouldn’t function properly without them. However, it is my understanding that these identifiers do not store any personal data.
When you leave a comment on this blog WordPress will automatically store your gravatar name, IP Address, comment, and email address. Therefore, leaving a comment is considered a definite intention, as defined by the GDPR giving me consent to store this information, and permission to contact you in the future.
But please rest assured that your personal information will not be sold or shared with any third parties under any circumstances. If you wish me to remove your data for any reason please get in touch.
If for whatever reason you do not consent to the above, please don’t leave a comment on my blog.

Book Review: “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman

A very thought-provoking novel told from the point of view of a woman who is “different” from others in her daily life and therefore arouses uncomfortable feelings in others, leading to alienation and loneliness.Eleanor Oliphant cover image

Yet as we progress through the novel, learning more about Eleanor and her life, there are times when we cannot help agreeing with, and being amused by, her observations about those around her, as she misses social cues, communicates with people in a strange, over-formal manner, and shows a lack of knowledge of her own culture.

I found myself totally captivated by the story and by the development of her relationship with the wonderfully patient and kind Raymond, which does give plenty of opportunities for humour, especially as she reports his responses to her. At times their relationship and their conversations reminded me of those between Don and Rosie in the brilliant comic novel “The Rosie Project.”

While Eleanor makes progress in her life, suspense builds as we long to find out the truth of the traumatic events in her childhood which had such a devastating effect upon her. The novel has many moments of wisdom and discernment. I thoroughly recommend this novel for its psychological insight and its wry humour.

Inspiring Archbishop Justin Welby in Brilliant Celebrations at Coventry Cathedral for #Cov100

Between 3rd and 5th May 2018 Coventry Diocese celebrated their 100th anniversary – and the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby played a key role at the centre of the celebrations.

Archbishop Justin Welby at Coventry Cathedral 5 May 2018
Archbishop Justin Welby at Coventry Cathedral 5 May 2018

Over the course of the three days I attended three events – the first in a Warwickshire farm, the second in the Nuneaton church where Justin was curate 1992-1995, and finally the Centenary Festival at Coventry Cathedral on Saturday 3rd May.

During all these events I was enormously impressed by Archbishop Justin. He engaged his audience with warmth and self-deprecating humour, telling several funny anecdotes; he answered questions with compassion, humility and wisdom; he told some astonishing stories about dangerous situations he has entered into around the world, during his reconciliation work.

Bishop of Coventry and Archbishop of Canterbury at Coventry Cathedral 5 May 2018
Bishop of Coventry and Archbishop of Canterbury at Coventry Cathedral 5 May 2018

He has visited some of the most dangerous places in the world and put his own life at risk (incuding an occasion when he was kidnapped). Above all, throughout these three days, he has been inspiring, encouraging and uplifting.

During the event on Friday 4th May Justin answered questions from people in their 20s and 30s and the first event of the day at the Cathedral was a Q and A session with teenagers.

It is so difficult to pick out any one thing among all the things I’ve heard him say during those three days, but one answer struck me in particular on Saturday morning. He had been describing his travels in countries torn by brutal conflict, who are in desperate need of the reconciliation work for which Coventry’s Cross of Nails ministry is famous. He was asked, “What is the greatest spiritual threat you’ve ever faced?”

Motionhouse dancers at Coventy Cathedral 5 May 2018
Motionhouse dancers at Coventy Cathedral 5 May 2018

He replied, “Sometimes I have met bad people – deeply evil people. And I have found that often these people can also be deeply charming, delightful and interesting. The danger then is that you might find yourself sucked into a collusive relationship. That’s why you need to be in a team, to guard against that – to ensure compromise doesn’t go too far.”

He said risk is essential to reconciliation. And certainly he has often taken extreme risks in his own reconciliation work. He also said that sometimes he is overwhelmed by the sorrow of the situations he encounters. His wisest word on the subject of reconciliation work?   “You must start by reconciling yourself to God.”

Drama at Coventry Cathedral 5 May 2018
Drama at Coventry Cathedral 5 May 2018