Trees and Burning Wood



Hi Everyone

As you know I am very busy with my MA Dissertation but today I have a small lull. My essay is just about there and I am seeing my supervisor on Monday to get a bit of feedback on some of my creative work. I’m hoping he won’t have much he wants altered because time is running out. I need to submit a hard bound copy as well as the electronic submission which means I must have this sorted earlier enough to go to the printers to be printed and bound. I’m looking at Wednesday 19th September as my deadline.

As I have a small window today, I decided I should do a blog about trees and firewood. What brought about this? Well when I was in Swanwick, I met a lovely lady, Liz Byfield, who happens to be a fellow tree lady. This was discovered when I read out one of my poems about two well known trees, Gog and Magog, in the Open Mic. She hadn’t realised that Gog had been burnt down last year. It was so lovely to hear from someone that knew my trees in the poem. Unfortunately I can’t share the poem with you at this stage because it’s part of my MA poetry portfolio.

We went on to talk a lot about trees and Liz shared some of her tree poetry with me too. She’s a great poet and I hope that maybe she’ll come on the blog as my guest in the next few months. She asked me if I knew the poem about how different woods burn. I didn’t. This morning in my inbox she popped up in an email telling me the name of the poem and who wrote it. I googled it and managed to find the poem and thought I would share it with you.

Personally I’d rather see trees standing tall where I can lose myself and become inspired rather than chopped up for fire, but I do like to watch and listen to a crackling fire too. The Firewood Poem written by Lady Celia Congreve and published in The Times in March 1930 is a great poem with good rhythm and imagery. I particularly like the lines ‘Is fit for a queen with golden crown’ and ‘A King shall warm his slippers by.’ Let me know what you think.

The poem and information was found here

The Firewood Poem


These hardwoods burn well and slowly,
Ash, beech, hawthorn oak and holly.
Softwoods flare up quick and fine,
Birch, fir, hazel, larch and pine.
Elm and willow you’ll regret,
Chestnut green and sycamore wet.

Beechwood fires are bright and clear,
If the logs are kept a year.
Chestnut’s only good, they say,
If for long ’tis laid away.
But Ash new or Ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs bum too fast,
Blaze up bright and do not last.
It is by the Irish said,
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood bums like churchyard mould,
E’en the very flames are cold.
But Ash green or Ash brown,
Is fit for a queen with golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke.
Apple wood will scent your room,
With an incense like perfume.
Oaken logs if dry and old,
Keep away the winter’s cold.
But Ash wet or Ash dry,
A king shall warm his slippers by.

Oak logs will warm you well,
That are old and dry.
Logs of pine will sweetly smell,
But the sparks will fly.
Birch logs will burn too fast,
Chestnut scarce at all sir.
Hawthorn logs are good to last,
That are cut well in the fall sir

Holly logs will burn like wax,
You could burn them green.
Elm logs burn like smouldering flax,
With no flame to be seen.
Beech logs for winter time,
Yew logs as well sir.
Green elder logs it is a crime,
For any man to sell sir.

Pear logs and apple logs,
They will scent your room.
And cherry logs across the dogs,
They smell like flowers of broom.
But Ash logs smooth and grey,
Buy them green or old, sir.
And buy up all that come your way,
They’re worth their weight in gold sir.

Logs to Burn, Logs to burn, Logs to burn,
Logs to save the coal a turn.
Here’s a word to make you wise,
When you hear the woodman’s cries.
Never heed his usual tale,
That he has good logs for sale.
But read these lines and really learn,
The proper kind of logs to burn.

Lady Celia Congreve


September – And what’s to come…



I can’t believe it’s September 1st, can you? What does this mean to me? Well for starters it means that my four-year journey of my MA in Creative Writing is almost over. On Monday I have a tutorial with my supervisor and will find out whether I’m on the right track with my thesis. Keep your fingers crossed for me that I am because the deadline is 21st September 2018 and I need to get the copy bound.

What’s after the MA? Well apart from a spa break and a little holiday in the sun (my first for four years) it will be full steam ahead with The Coal Miner’s Son. I’m really hoping to get this finished and sorted in time for December 1st release but don’t hold me to it. In a few days I should be able to make a cover reveal of this sequel to House of Grace and offer the first four chapters as an advanced read. So, do watch this space.

Apart from the MA and hopefully working on getting at least two poetry collections out into the big world I would like to energise my blog. To do this I shall be inviting lots of authors and artists over for guest features and interviews. So, don’t miss out.

This is all for now but keep your fingers crossed for me with the MA.

If you are an author and would like to feature on my blog, then please give me a yell so we can work out the details.



Swanwick Writers’ Summer School 2018

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Photo by Hazel Roberts: Swanwick Facebook Page

Well I promised to come back and tell you all about Swanwick. This was my third year and like last year I was an ambassador, although I think I made a better job this time round. Thankfully, when we did the tour for the white badgers, I partnered up with Lance Greenfield Mitchell. It was also his third year but he knew his way around the Swanwick buildings much better than me, I think I’d have got everyone lost. Thank you, Lance.

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Swanwick’s 70th Birthday

And we mustn’t forget that this was no ordinary year at Swanwick as it was Swanwick’s 70th birthday. The Hayes very kindly made two cakes to mark the occasion, one was gluten free.

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Online Writer Friends

I was pleased to finally meet my online writer friends Joy Wood and Anita Hunt after corresponding with them by email and Facebook over the last year. They were both as lovely in person as on the internet.


Guest Speakers

The Swanwick delegates were in for a treat with opening night speaker, author, Sue Moorcroft. Sue was full of vitality and inspiring.


Photo courtesy of Geoff Parkes


The rest of the week lived up to the same standard with great speakers and entertainment:

Sunday Evening: Amit Dhand – The Harry Virdee Novels. – Another inspiring speaker.

Monday Evening: In Conversation with Kate Bendelow, Della Galton and Jonathan Telfer joined by Simon Hall. – This was great fun listening to Simon ask Kate, Della and Jonathan all sorts of questions. It gained some laughs.

Tuesday Evening: Simon Nelson from the BBC  – Totally inspiring advising how to go about sending a TV script in to the BBC.

Wednesday Evening: Sophie Snell – A Storyteller  – Interesting as I’d not heard of these storytellers before. Made me think that I might like to try this out myself.

We finished off on Thursday evening with an Awards Evening and Swanwick Farewell which included John Lamont’s 500 words – you need to be there to appreciate it. What a fabulous evening and as always a little bit sad.

Open Mic 

For my third time at Swanwick, I stood on stage to take part in the Open Mic to perform my poems. A lot of poets put their names down but Les managed to get through them all with a smooth and timely process. This year the Open Mic was in the main conference hall rather than the main bar which has a more intimate feel.  I was concerned I’d be nervous but I was fine. Of course I put a lot of that down to the fact that I can’t see out to the audience once I take my glasses off to read. There’s always a silver lining.

Photos courtesy of Geoff Parkes


Page to Stage

Not to be missed is the Page to Stage.  If there’s one thing not to be missed at Swanwick, it’s the Page to Stage evening. Here you always come across excellent script writers and talented actors. Great fun was had by all watching the drama and comedy acts.


Photo courtesy of Swanwick Facebook Page 

Also available was Buskers Evening and Prose Open Mic. Unfortunately I missed Buskers this year, again because of the MA, but next year I’ll be free and make up for it by joining in everything.


The courses at Swanwick are divided up into Specialist Courses, Short Courses and one hour sessions. For my specialist course I took Elements of Poetry with Poet and Tutor Alison Chisholm. I always choose the poetry as my main body of Swanwick and usually come away with four poems, but unfortunately this year because my mind was on the MA dissertation, I was unable to create new material. However, I have lots of mind maps itching to find themselves into poems once the MA deadline has passed.

I also took part in The Music of Poetry, Publishing, Wild Words and Scrivener. This was a lot less than I usually participate in, but I had to ration myself this year to allow time to work on my creative writing portfolio for the MA. All excellent courses but so much more available – there’s something for everyone.

Book Room 

Swanwick offers a book room where delegates have the opportunity to sell their books. My debut novel House of Grace was no exception. Author, Elizabeth Ducie does a great job organising it all.

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Fancy Dress

As it was Swanwick’s 70th birthday delegates dressed up in forties costumes, many of them hired from the local fancy dress shop, Jolly Jesters, who not only dropped the costumes off to The Hayes but also collected them. Thank you Jolly Jesters.

Photo courtesy of Swanwick Facebook Page


Dregs Party 

A dregs party is held before dinner on the last evening. Delegates bring unused snacks and drinks and gather on the lawn to party.


Photo courtesy of Geoff Parkes

Gala Dinner

And on the last evening we were treated to a gala dinner. The tables looked lovely and we had waiter service so no queuing for food.

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The above photograph shows my lovely friends, returning Swanwickers, Corinne Lawrence, Shirley Cook and Suzy Mendes. All very photogenic and fantastic ladies.

And here are some of my new friends.

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Lakeside Views 

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And what’s not to like about waking up to this view each morning?


There is so much more that happens at Swanwick, this is just a sampler. Why not consider joining writers of all levels from beginners to those that have been publishing for numerous years. Places are offered for  young TopWrite Students and assisted places are available. See the website for more details.


All writers are equal.

It’s like a family.

A large number of delegates attend yet it still has an intimate feel.

It’s Magic.

I shall be booking my place for 2019 on the 1st February, 2019 – fancy joining me?

To find out more about Swanwick Writers’ Summer School – click here


Pack up your bags…



I can’t believe that tomorrow I will be at this lovely place – Swanwick Writers’ Summer School where I shall spend the week with another couple of hundred writers. I am looking forward to meeting old friends and new. In particular I am looking forward to meeting an online writer friend, Joy Wood, author of Chanjori House, in person. I’m hoping Joy will join me as a guest later in the year.

I’ve been quiet of late because I’m working frantically on my MA thesis. This involves completing a poetry portfolio on the theme of folklore and myth around trees. This has been a thoroughly enjoyable project but I can’t say the same for the 5000-word essay that I am trying to work through.  Over the last four years while studying for my MA in Creative Writing, I’ve learnt so much, but I shan’t be sad to say good bye to academia at the end of September. It will be full steam ahead with creative work, and the first in line will be The Coal Miner’s Son with a target release date of 1st December 2018. Let’s hope I can keep to that as life sometimes has a habit of getting in the way.

So, come October, expect my blog to be busier and watch out for interesting guest features and exciting projects.

That’s all for now folks…


Sorry for the Silence


Hello Friends

I thought I’d just explain my silence and what I’m up to at the moment. Well I’m right in the height of completing my MA Creative Writing dissertation. It’s been great fun exploring the myth and folklore around trees to create my poetry. What isn’t such good fun is working on the essay. My brain is willing me back to the poems rather than spend time on academia. Still come 21st September the MA thesis will be submitted and then  Academia and I will part our ways and I’ll only be wearing a creative hat.

What’s to come?

Well, The Coal Miner’s Son now has a new target release date of December. Also, to come, are at least two poetry anthologies. I have to say this MA project has been my favourite and I plan to delve further into folklore and mythology extending it to birds and wildflowers. Don’t you just love nature?

So, watch this space, and thank you for your continued patience and support.


Losing someone you love

It’s four years since my mum went to sleep for the final time and for me, like I am sure for most people, the pain doesn’t go away but we just get better at putting one foot in front of the other.

Well today here’s a poem for Mum. I wrote this about a year ago when I was doing a Blues Course with the Poetry School. It gave me consolation when I thought she hadn’t known I was there. Looking back, I realised that she did.

I was very lucky that I had a wonderful mum that always put her children first. She was one of the most inspiring women I have ever known.

For Mum.


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Last Moments

Milky eyes
stare into space,

I drip water from a straw
into opened lips,

you suck but no words
leave your mouth.

I squeeze your hand
you squeeze mine,

I stroke long fingers
with tenderness.

The doctor calls me from the room:

you take a last gasp of air
at 11:22am and slip away,

not allowing goodbyes:

I’m not ready for you to die.

A photo frame hangs in my study,
nut-brown eyes sparkle,
open lips smile down at me.

A voice in my head whispers my name,
‘you’re not alone, I’m still here.’

Memories flood my mind:
kisses, cuddles and tucks up in bed,

playing catch, hopscotch, skipping,
two balls banging on the wall,

karaoke in the lounge,
giggles as we grease dance,

you twirl me under your arm,
we jive around the room,

delicious dinners,
a glass of Shiraz,

thrashings at Scrabble
and crosswords,

walks by the sea,
sandcastles on the sand,

that last Sunday morning
when I stroked and held your hand.

You’ll always be part of me,
You’ll always be in my heart

but not quite the same
as holding you in my arms.


Guest Feature: Helen Christmas discusses ‘Pinterest as an Author’

Have you ever wondered what Pinterest is, and how it works?

Well you’re in luck because today I have a special guest that has come to discuss ‘Using Pinterest as an Author.’

Please welcome fellow Chindi author, Helen Christmas, Chindi’s Author of the Week.


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‘Using Pinterest as an Author’

Helen Christmas


Chindi Author of the Week, Helen Christmas, is excited to share her experiences using PINTEREST as an essential marketing tool for her books.

Helen began her British thriller mystery series, Same Face Different Place, in 2011, a saga that rolls across four decades. Depicting the setting and atmosphere behind each book was not only fun but created a lot of interest in her series.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a virtual pin board where you can pin images from other sites, linking back to the original source. Other users can re-pin the same images to their boards.

Where Instagram is about photo sharing, with Pinterest you can create a board with not just images but websites, music and videos.

Creating my first board

Beginnings, the first book of my series starts in London in 1972. The combination of a crime thriller and a tender love story, this is the story of two young people living on a knife edge as they strive to survive in a world of organised crime and corruption.

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When I first discovered Pinterest, I was creating boards for recipes, home inspiration and gardening. But as soon as I realised that authors were using it to create boards for their fictional words, it gave me the idea to create a board for Beginnings. As well as depicting a slightly sinister atmosphere based on the criminal underworld of 1970s London, I thought it would be a great way of capturing the 70s nostalgia featured in the novel; the fashion, the people and the music.

Starting my board with such things as platform shoes, lava lamps and 1970s decor, I soon got into the flow. The prime minister of that year was Ted Heath, popular artists included David Bowie, T-Rex and the Rolling Stones. Next came the fashion where I found lovely black and white images depicting the people of the era, not to mention some bizarre outfits. I even found a 1972 image of NME magazine.

Some of the prominent landmarks in my book include Waterloo Station, the Grosvenor Hotel and Toynbee Hall. This is a place in East London where residents were involved in voluntary community work and in the context of my book, a place where characters, Eleanor and Jake, turn to for help.

Amazingly, another browser found my pin of Toynbee Hall and as someone who worked there in the 70s, he was intrigued and bought my book as a result.

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To view the board created for Beginnings click here


The Later Boards

With the decades of the 70s, 80s and 90s featuring prominently in my series, I created a board for each book.

Book 2 ‘Visions’ 1984 – 1987

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The board I created for Visions is packed with 80s nostalgia from politics under Margaret Thatcher, to a changing world of revolutionary fashion and advancing technology. Compared to my board for ‘Beginnings’ (where most of the photographs are black and white), this board explodes with colour. I even found a musical clip by Kraftwerk to illustrate a piece of chilling background music. Visions has a more rural setting and is a psychological thriller so the images are more serene.


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To view the board created for Visions – Book 2  – click here

Book 3 ‘Pleasures’ 1987 – 1991

I had a lot of fun creating this board, which charges to the end of the 80s with reference to the 1987 Hurricane, swiftly followed by the Black Monday stock exchange crash. At the crux of this story is the advent of rave culture, something the younger generation are swept up in. Pleasures brings back an element of organised crime and drugs, so this is the board I feature on my website side panel because it captures the essence of the story and looks exciting.

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This is another way you can use Pinterest; by showing a board on your website.

Click here


Book 4 ‘Retribution’ 1992 and beyond…

If you start at the bottom of Retribution and scroll up, it almost tells a story in pictures. I love the visual imagery for this board, which came from a variety of sources, including Pinterest itself (there is a handy search facility where you can look  for exciting new pins.) With a rich cast of characters, Retribution covers many subjects including institutionalised child abuse, organised crime, anarchy, serving in the army and the war in Bosnia. There is a second part of this book which I have yet to create my next board for…

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Pins from Retribution include sinister dark forests,  images of Soho, my character, William as depicted by actor Josh Whitehouse and classic 90s movie, Pulp Fiction.

View Retribution board click here


Some useful facts about Pinterest

The majority of Pinterest’s users are female. These tend to be younger women, something authors should bear in mind if they write in a particular genre or have a specific audience they want to pitch to.

Pinterest is great for inspiration. Images of places, people, locations, history, and films have inspired many authors over the years and within minutes, you can create a board to accommodate images for your characters, settings and plot structures.

Another feature is the ability to follow the boards of other writers and publishers. Sharing their boards and allowing their pins to be re-pinned by others has much potential and is a handy tool for authors to promote their books.

For more tips on using Pinterest, check out this enlightening blog on

ALLI (Alliance of Independent Authors)

And finally, do check out my other boards for places of interest, cats, gardens, inspiration for the home as well as a cute board for cat lovers…

Click here


I hope you’ve enjoyed Helen’s article, ‘Using Pinterest as an Author,’ I know I’ have and  found it very informative. I’m sure you’ll agree that Pinterest is a great tool. Thank you Helen for sharing it with us.

If you have any questions or comments, re the article, for Helen, please leave them at the end of this blog or via her social media links.


About Helen: 

Helen Christmas lives on the south coast with her husband. With a love of writing since childhood, she started her decade spanning thriller series ‘Same Face Different Place’ in 2011 and published her debut novel, ‘Beginnings’ in 2012. Visions was the second book of the series and published in 2013; a suspense novel which explores British culture and social history in the 80s as well as the most evil traits people are capable of. The 16th Century cottage in which Helen lives with her husband (restored in 1991) provided endless inspiration for Visions, along with some very special places in Sussex that she loves. Writing is something she fits around her family and social life. Helen is a self employed web designer and works from home with her husband, Peter. They enjoy the company of a faithful border collie and a beautiful white cat, though Helen confesses to have dreamed up many of her storylines, whilst walking Barney around the nearby beach and park.


Where can you buy Helen’s books?





End Game

Where can you find Helen on Social Media?