Guest Feature – Claire Baldry

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My Tuesday guest this week is novelist, and founder of Autumn Chickens, Claire Baldry.  Claire has come along today to share her journey ‘from Chicklit to Autumn Chickens’. Without further ado, over to Claire.

Thank you so much Patricia for inviting me to be your Tuesday guest.


From Chicklit to Autumn Chickens

Claire Baldry


Sometimes we journey with purpose, with a clear direction, but sometimes we travel an uncertain route, passing places we learn to love, but did not aim for. My decision to create the Autumn Chickens website definitely fits in the second category. I had no plans to do it until I did it.

Turn back the clock to the year 2013. My father had recently passed away, my husband was poorly, and I found myself at home not coping well with my recent retirement. I began to amuse myself by composing light-hearted poetry. The health-giving properties of the writing process were instantly beneficial. Depression lifted and within a few months I had reinvented myself as an accredited speaker and performance poet. I even won the occasional award. My life felt enriched, and I suppose that should have been enough for me. But I always had a feeling, no doubt misguided, that I couldn’t possibly be considered a ‘real’ writer until I had written a novel.

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In 2017, I finally published the first of my two novels, an easy read romance with a bit of a twist, which featured characters in their sixties. It was called Different Genes which the publisher described as a tale of love in later life. I began to network with like-minded authors who also included ‘older’ protagonists in their work and to share their frustration, both as a reader and a writer, that themes of particular interest to people in mid-life and beyond had very little credibility in the traditional publishing world. Why indeed would they? Chick-lit genre books continued to sell so well, and commissioning editors tended to be about the same age as my daughter.  The message that ‘older’ readers often had more disposable time to read and more disposable income to buy books was simply not getting through.

A chance conversation about the issue motivated me to create the Facebook group ‘Books for Older Readers’ and soon after a website with the same name, now often shortened to BFOR. We teased out themes which might appeal to readers in mid-life and beyond and created eight shelves of books which fitted our criteria. There were newsletters, occasional giveaways, media coverage, and more recently a month long BLOGBLITZ of articles, interviews and excerpts. It was not always easy. The idea that the website was about increasing choice did not resonate with everyone. Some readers even accused me of dictating which books older readers should enjoy. Fame and fortune did not follow, but I am convinced that the website has continued to play a part in raising the profile of books with themes which are beyond ‘Chick-lit’.


Fast forward again to August 2019, only three months ago, when two unexpected events occurred to once again re-route my journey. Firstly, I discovered that the outdated software which supported the BFOR website was due to expire in 2020. Secondly an article in the BLOGBLITZ by BFOR group member Anne Stormont triggered a thought which push-started me into further action. I have always wanted to avoid stereotypes and emphasise that very many older people make a substantial contribution to society and continue to look forward to an active future. Anne described herself as an ‘Autumn Chicken’, and I instantly identified with the clever word play and humour. With Anne’s permission, I adopted the phrase and began to move the BFOR bookshelves to a new magazine style website called ‘Autumn Chickens’

Perhaps this is the point when I should mention that, for me, website design is an amateur hobby. I am still learning, but nevertheless pleased with the new site. It is already attracting ‘web-traffic’ and subscribers, and because it is ‘not for profit’ (yes, I am retired) there are no irritating adverts which pop up to distract the reader. If anyone (of any age) has time to glance at ‘Autumn Chickens’ I would love to receive your comments.


Well what a great article. Thank you, Claire. I ‘m already a member of ‘Autumn Chickens’ and I hope some of our readers will be too after reading this. However, first, let’s tell them a little more about you.

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Former headteacher and English Advisor, Claire Baldry, lives on the East Sussex coast with her husband Chris. She has published five booklets of amusing poetry, an autobiographical novella and two novels. Claire has a very regular schedule of engagements as a speaker and light-hearted performance poet. She regularly fundraises for charity, and Claire and her husband were awarded the SE Diabetes UK fundraising Inspire Award in 2017. Claire is passionate about promoting books and poetry with protagonists and issues which appeal to readers in mid-life and beyond. She is the creator of the ‘Autumn Chickens’ website and has won two awards for her poetry from the Silver Surfers website. You can find out more about Claire’s writing by visiting her website.

You can purchase Claire’s books by clicking  on the following links.

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My Daughter’s Wedding

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Simply Modern Life

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Different Genes


You can find Claire on her website and social media via the following links.


Facebook Poetry by Claire Baldry




Challenge – Write a story in LESS than 100 words

My latest challenger to respond to writing a story in less than one hundred words is Josie Gilbert. Her response comes in the form of ‘Alchemy’ which you can read below.


She slid the volume gently from the top shelf of the bookcase and laid it reverentially on the work top. It contained the wisdom of generations of women, having been started by her great-great-great-grandmother and passed carefully down the female line.

She only performed the ritual once a year and although she knew the ingredients, she could not remember the exact quantities required to make the magic work. She wiped the scales clean to avoid any contamination and then began the alchemical process. One pound each of raisins, sultanas and currants – the fruity basis for the Christmas puddings.

98 words


Ha. That’s great, Josie.

Patricia’s Pen is still looking for stories in LESS than one hundred words. Are you up to the challenge? See full submission guidelines and submit here.


Tuesday Guest Feature – Meryl Lawrence

Meryl Lawrence is not only a Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist, but a great friend who I met at Swanwick a couple of years ago. She has come along today to demystify the world of hypnotherapy for us: Without further ado, over to, Meryl.


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Hypnotherapy Demystified

Meryl Lawrence

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When I offer hypnotherapy to clients, a sceptical comment often follows….’hmm I’m not sure, they get you doing funny things on telly.’

Hypnotherapy has sometimes been associated with the strange and mysterious, or television shows that make people do silly things for an audience.  But in truth, it isn’t in the least bit mysterious or supernatural and even more interesting, is that you’ve probably been in a hypnotic state many times, but didn’t notice because it seemed a natural state of mind.

To explain further, do you ever remember driving a familiar route and wondered how you got there? Rather unnervingly you can’t remember the journey or if you stopped at that red light.  That’s because your subconscious has stored it so you don’t have to consciously think about it. It remembered you learned the skill to drive and learned that route, then kept it alongside billions of other parts of information. This information is stowed away in folders in the subconscious, ready to be used at any given time.

Everything you have ever learned is stored and when you do anything automatic your subconscious comes into play, so when you mow the lawn, take a shower, or jog your regular route, you are in automatic mode. When you are, it’s quite easy to daydream from an alert state into a different level of consciousness. This is like a first level of a hypnotic trance state.

Our subconscious files away all the stuff that isn’t useful as well. It may be that you have something holding you back in your life like a phobia of spiders or fear of flying, a limiting or negative belief or behaviour, lack of self-confidence or self-esteem. Something would have happened for your subconscious mind to store this as an unhelpful state and use this automatically when needed. This is where hypnotherapy can help to change your subconscious mind and reprogram those unhelpful folders. It’s also beneficial for other areas such as pain reduction, stress, anxiety, exam nerves, depression, sleep, motivation, weight loss and stopping smoking and many more issues or problems you may have.

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Hypnotherapy works by accessing your subconscious mind to make positive suggestions.  The therapist will first of all conduct an induction technique to get you into a relaxed state. A common technique is a PMR (progressive muscle relaxation) which involves tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups. A deepening visualisation takes you even deeper into relaxation. Once you’re in a deeply relaxed state, your subconscious is more responsive to suggestions than if you were in a fully conscious state. The suggestion then travels a direct channel to the subconscious where it effortlessly modifies behaviours or beliefs or produces an effect or action. After suggestion, the therapist gently brings you back into full consciousness.  Throughout this process you remain fully in control and can awake at any time if you wish.


Wow, Meryl. What an amazing article. I think I must frequently go in that hypnotic state because so many times I don’t remember doing something or how I got from A to B.

Interesting about the unhelpful folders too. I certainly have a few of them. Phobia of spiders but also I have blocks on things such as I don’t want to get in my car and drive anymore, when I do on very short journeys I get myself tense. Is this the kind of thing that hypnotherapy could help with?


I hope you all enjoyed Meryl’s article on hypnotherapy.  Before we leave, let’s find out a little more about her.



Meryl lives in the pretty north Essex countryside where a passion for helping others led her back to the classroom to study Psychotherapy. She now offers a variety of therapies to support people who need a helping hand and acts as a volunteer in bereavement support.

When she kicks off her working shoes at the end of the day, you’ll find Meryl with a mug of tea in hand, writing chapters of her novel, dabbling in water colours, or out in nature photographing the changing seasons. Being creative, she said, is a great combination to relieve stress and look after her own well being.


Meryl is based in Braintree and if you would like further information or to book a hypnotherapy session, her contact details are


Story Challenge – Write a Story in less than 100 words

Today’s challenger is Billie Denning. Billie’s response comes in the form of ‘A Quiet Place’.

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It’s a quiet place. Not quite as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. Silent. Simple. Honest. I don’t like how honest it is. I had it all pictured in my head, you see. It would be tragically gorgeous and wrenchingly familiar. Huge in its finality, the ultimate full stop to the chapter that I’m stuck on.

Now that I’m here it all seems… smaller. I thought it might be raining, but it isn’t. I thought I might start crying, but I haven’t. I thought seeing your name would make me feel closer to you.

It doesn’t.

98 words



Tuesday Guest Feature – Val Penny

It gives me great pleasure to welcome back crime fiction author Val Penny to my blog. Val is not only a talented writer  but also a great friend who I met at Swanwick Writers’ Summer School.

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Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog today, Tricia. I really appreciate it.

It’s a pleasure to have you back, Val. Thank you for coming. I understand that today you’ve come along to share your reasons to write a crime novel, so without further ado, it’s over to you.

Reasons to write a Crime Novel Val Penny

Reasons to Write a Crime Novel


Val Penny

I write crime novels, largely because that is the genre I like to read. I enjoy puzzles, mysteries, crosswords and crime novels. I like to try to work out ‘who done it’ before the author tells me: and I am not alone!

Lots of people like crime, at least in novels! Often, I meet dentists and bank managers with clever plot ideas, or nurses who read every crime novel they can lay their hands on. If I visit a writing group, there are always members keenly producing new murderous plots. Lawyers and convicts show equal enthusiasm for this genre. For those who want to write a crime novel, there are several reasons to want to do so. Here are a few of them.

Emotional Release

Often, those who write crime novels find an emotional release in their craft. Crime novelists deal with the dark things that people usually push to the side of their minds in order to get on with every day life. The cathartic attraction of writing can be decisive.

Some crime authors tell of poor sleep patterns, punctured by night-mares that are repaired when they start to write. Others, panic, constantly scanning doorways for signs of danger. The stiffening fear that afflicts them resolves when they are busy writing crime.

The Story-Telling Urge

The sources for crime novels are many and varied. Ideas can spring from the news and current affairs; memories from the past and historical events or things that puzzle or fascinate the writer. Once an author begins to exercise their creative muscles, they often find that they run into stories demanding to be told. The stories demand to be told and will not stop coming.

For Companionship

It is often said that writers can be difficult people: gloomy, competitive and quarrelsome. However, for the most part, I have found crime writers to be an inclusive and convivial bunch. They are certainly hard-working. The pressure of producing a book a year is intense, yet they never seem to turn their backs on fun. If you have a chance to go to a crime-writers’ convention, do take it. They are exhausting, exhilarating and irresistible.

An Outlet for Aggression

Most crime-writers will tell you that they are good company because they channel all their belligerent thoughts into their stories, so in real life, the authors are meek and mild. It is not always true, but I can confirm the a crime novel is an excellent place to park your rage! The prospect of giving vent to righteous anger in a safe form can be a particularly pleasing device. When characters require to act in a violent way or commit violence the reader is willing to witness this on the page but they would shy from it in real life. Crime writers can let rip on the page in a way they avoid doing in the real world.

The Thrill of Research

I can personally confirm that the research you do for crime novels and for academic purposes are equally satisfying. It is also extremely diverse. It may involve visiting prisons, refuges, police stations or drug dens. Police are often very willing to be of assistance to crime writers, even if it is just to avoid being irritated when otherwise the writers would get police procedures wrong. This information is most useful and helpful. Indeed, when you are writing a novel, no information or experience is wasted!



Thank you, Val. I’m sure that the readers will agree with me that was a very informative read. Let’s find out a little more about Val.

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Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase, Hunter’s Revenge and Hunter’s Force are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The fourth book in the series, Hunter’s Blood, published by darkstroke follows shortly.


Where can you purchase Val’s books?

The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, are all available to purchase from Amazon via the links below. The fourth book in the series, Hunter’s Blood, will be published by darkstroke on 01st January 2020.

Hunter’s Chase

Hunter’s Revenge

Hunter’s Force

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Where can you find Val on Social Media?



Facebook Group






Challenge – Write a story in less than 100 words

Today’s challenger to write a story in less than one hundred words is author Jacqueline Jeynes. Jacqueline’s response comes in the form of This is Art? 

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They stared, head tilted, chin on hand in traditional quizzical stance.

‘Hmm….so this is Art, then?’ Helen leaned against the polishing machine.

Paul shrugged. ‘Who would buy it? It’s just old sweetie wrappers scattered about!’ He laughed.

‘Look at the price – Wow!’ exclaimed Helen, turning to finish the floor.

‘Watch that cable or it will be ruined.’ Paul grinned.

News Headlines at 6.00 – London art gallery is offering £25,000 for artist who secretly exhibited an exciting artwork, three black bin liners ‘Detritus of the Human Condition.’

Helen spluttered, staring at the screen. ‘Wow…,’ she whispered, ‘£25,000!’

96 words


Ha. Very amusing. If you’d like to know more about Jacqueline and her writing you can visit her website here.

Val Penny’s Review for House of Grace


Thank you to crime novelist Val Penny for her great review on House of Grace. You can read Val’s review here.

If you like the review and fancy a read yourself, House of Grace may be purchased on kindle and in paperback and remember it is free to read on Kindle Unlimited.  Go here to download.

It also makes an excellent gift and at the moment I am doing some special deals on the paperback by buying direct. Signed copies plus p&p available now – plus an offer of a paperback copy of House of Grace along with Colin Ward’s latest poetry pamphlet Silhouette in the Sunset is coming soon. Watch this space.

Use the contact form to request further details.