The art of using children and animals in a novel…!

Who was it that said that you should never work with animals or children?

Well, to be fair, they do make the work of an author more difficult, however in real life they exist in almost every family and with that in mind I really feel that we should include them in our books, which is why in House of Secrets I created a three-year-old Poppy, the daughter of my heroine and her puppy Buddy, a naughty, playful springer spaniel… I mean, come on… how many little girls don’t get a puppy for Christmas…??

Give them a purpose?

I needed Poppy to be young, innocent and young enough to be affected by Liam. I needed Madelaine (her mother) to have to protect her, the reader to feel an empathy for her and for her to come over as vulnerable. If Poppy had been a baby, I wouldn’t have been able to get her interacting, nor would I have been able to get her to create a link between Madeleine and Bandit, who automatically wants to look out for her and keep her safe.







Buddy had been a recent gift from Liam. He’d been bought for Poppy as a bribe after he’d shouted at her. I needed a puppy that would learn fast and after owning spaniels myself, I know how intelligent they can be. I also knew that teaching a spaniel the command ‘speak’ was simple. Initially, Madeleine teaches Buddy to speak to earn food, a way of trying to get Poppy to eat. I also knew that the command ‘speak’ would come in very useful later on in the book and used this to my advantage.






Are they plot muppets or not..?

It’s very important not to allow your sub-characters to turn into ‘plot muppets.’ When your heroine has a child it’s important to remember that they are always there. In real life a child can’t just disappear because the scene doesn’t need them. A child always has to be there or they have to have a good reason not to be.

If for any reason you’re writing a scene where the child isn’t needed then they need to either be sleeping, away at a nursery or school, they need to be being looked after by someone else or you need to find a ‘safe’ place for them to be. Children of this age can’t look after themselves.

It’s similar for the pet, a dog always needs to be looked after. As your novel progresses it’s important to remember that the dog needs walking, feeding and playing with. Like the child, you can’t just allow them to disappear without trace for huge parts of the book.







What makes a good secondary character?

And of course this is only my opinion.

Each character in a novel has to be there for a reason. They need to have a purpose. Poppy’s reason was to create a bridge between Madeleine and Liam, she’s scared of him, barely eats and her mother naturally needs to protect her. She’s also instrumental in bringing Madeleine and Bandit together, she creates the softer parts of the book and shows Madeleine’s maternal side to it’s full.

And Buddy, well… he’s instrumental in the novel too and a character in his own right. But, you need to read House of Secrets to find out what happens next….

Wrea Head Country House Hotel, Scarborough

Wrea Head Country House Hotel, Scarborough

Just for you… an exert from the novel which shows both Poppy and Buddy in action..!

‘Oh, Poppy, come on. Don’t cry. It’s not your fault. Mummy should have known better.’ She pulled the child away from her for a moment and stared into her tear-stained face. ‘I know, tomorrow morning, you remind Mummy and we’ll scrub-a-dub you all over until you sparkle like a princess.’ She watched as Poppy began to smile. ‘Come on, sweetheart. Let’s go and let Buddy in.’ Both glanced in the hallway mirror in a well-practiced manoeuvre, flicked their hair back simultaneously and laughed at one another, before running through the old Victorian terraced house, past the two rooms at the front and down the passage that led to the back room and the old kitchen that had long since seen better days.

Madeleine quickly placed Poppy on the floor and opened the back door where an excited Springer Spaniel puppy sat waiting.

Buddy jumped up and down. His tail wagged a hundred miles an hour and as soon as the opening was big enough, he burst in through the back door and straight into the arms of a waiting Poppy, who collapsed on the floor, giggling, as he licked, jumped and wagged his whole body excitedly.

Madeleine smiled. Poppy was so different when Liam wasn’t there. She was happier, playful and appeared to blossom in his absence. Whereas when he was home, she tended to sleep, play with teddy bears in her room or disappear to a quiet corner where she’d sit for hours playing with Buddy. It broke Maddie’s heart to see her daughter unhappy. But what could she do? She’d known moving in with Liam was a mistake but she’d had no choice. The block of flats that she lived in was being demolished. She’d been dating Liam for eight months and he had seemed the perfect boyfriend, loving to her and kind to Poppy, so when he suggested she move in with him, she’d agreed.

‘Look, Poppy, do you think Buddy wants his breakfast?’ she asked and Poppy started nodding enthusiastically.

Reaching for Buddy’s bowl, Maddie pulled a biscuit from the box, broke it with her fingers and crumbled the pieces into the ceramic dish. She then soaked it in milk before placing the bowl on the floor where Buddy immediately pounced, his nose disappearing deep within the dish as it began to rattle around the floor.

‘Would Poppy like some breakfast too?’ Madeleine asked hopefully, but knew what the answer would be. The immediate shake of Poppy’s head confirmed what she’d already thought. She’d noticed over the past two months that Poppy often refused food or only ate tiny amounts and Madeleine nodded her head in confirmation of what she’d been trying to avoid: the days that Poppy didn’t eat always seemed to coincide with Liam being mean to her and Madeleine knew what had to be done. She had no choice but to leave. She needed to take Poppy as far away from this environment as she could.

Madeleine pulled another biscuit from the box and knelt down on the floor. ‘Here, Poppy, watch Buddy eat his biscuits.’ She held the treat up in her hand and waited for Buddy to sit before her. ‘Buddy, speak.’ The puppy barked to order and both Poppy and Madeleine began to clap. ‘Good boy. See, Poppy, Buddy loves his breakfast. Do you think that you’d eat some lovely breakfast too?’ But once again Poppy shook her head, clasped her hand over her mouth and lay down on the kitchen floor.

Madeleine shrugged her shoulders. She had to get her daughter to eat and began searching the cupboards for something that might tempt her, but the cupboards were almost empty and she resigned herself to pushing a slice of bread in the toaster. Maybe she’d find a way to persuade Poppy to eat it.

Madeleine turned around and laughed as she caught sight of Poppy lying flat on her back on the kitchen floor, submerged in what was left of the milky cereal, giggling and squirming as Buddy pinned her to the floor, licking at every remnant he could find.

and finally


If you fancy reading any of my novels…. here are the Amazon links

House of Secrets

House of Christmas Secrets ( a sequel to House of Secrets)

Tell me no secrets

all 3 books



House of Secrets and all you should know about Bandit… and how I created my HERO..!!

On the 4th July my novel House of Secrets was turned into a paperback and I couldn’t have been prouder at the moment I got to take it back to the hall where it all began…. the beautiful Wrea Head Hall.


me in the entrance to wrea head hall

It was at this time, I got to look back at how I created Bandit, the hero of House of Secrets


I’ve often been asked where the name for my hero came from… Well, I’ll try and explain

Christopher Lawless, the hero of House of Secrets is an ex-marine, and like all marines I wanted to give him a name that gave credit to his profession, and in actual fact the nickname Bandit, came first and his ‘real’ name came after.

So, his surname is LAWLESS and a lawless man is a Bandit… hope that explains it.


Who is Bandit?

Bandit is obviously gorgeous but has just an edge of vulnerability that quickly shows in his personality. He suffers with post traumatic syndrome after his time working in Afghanistan where he saw both his girlfriend and his team blown up by a roadside bomb. He’s been discharged from the marines and has gone back to live in his child hood home, the gatehouse at Wrea Head Hall. Here, he has taken the job of game keeper, and does all the general maintenance around the hall. It’s a job he loves, purely because it means he gets to spend a lot of time alone, with nature.

When we first meet Bandit, he’s getting through each day the best he can. He’s a little unkempt. His hair is longer than it should be and he rarely shaves. But, we see a very gentle, caring side to him, that comes over as being a little more than overprotective, especially when he meets Maddie and her three-year-old daughter Poppy.


HIGH RES house of secrets


What makes a good hero?

And of course this is only my opinion.

A good hero is hard to find. I often read books where the hero isn’t that appealing (to me), they are often flat and without much of a personality, which is why I like to give my hero’s a history. I feel that they need depth of character and a big personality. They don’t necessarily have to be gorgeous, but of course it helps. I feel that it’s more important for them to be kind, respectful, passionate and sensitive. I also feel that the hero needs to be interesting, a little flawed. He needs to feel emotion, even if sometimes that’s anger or hatred, especially towards someone who is trying to hurt the people he loves. All of this helps the reader identify with him, they take the journey with him as he overcomes those flaws, and what’s more they begin to root for him to achieve and succeed.

Who would be the perfect Bandit?

stuart martin

I think someone like Stuart Martin who played Silas in Jamestown. He’s a little vulnerable, a little rough around the edges, yet still gorgeous. Yes, Stuart Martin would definitely be my Bandit.


A piece of the novel from Bandit’s point of view..!

‘Damn woman,’ Bandit cursed as he glanced up at the hotel and saw Madeleine watching him from the window. Raising the axe high above his head, he brought it down with a satisfying thud, making the log split in two and fall to the ground. He scooped up the logs that he’d previously cut and threw them into the wheelbarrow that stood by his side. It was still early autumn and without the glow of embers in the open fires, the house could easily turn cool at night. Besides, the reception rooms always looked much nicer with the logs alight, the guests preferred it and it was his job to ensure that there was enough dry wood to keep each of the three fires going right through the winter. But he knew he had to be ahead of his game, this wood would need to be stacked and dried out for at least six months before it would be ready to burn.

He saw the back door open and watched as Morris Pocklington emerged.

‘Look, I’m really sorry about last night. I didn’t know that Madeleine was your daughter,’ Bandit said, pre-empting the conversation that he guessed was about to happen.

‘She’s pretty pissed at you,’ Morris replied with a laugh. ‘I’m not sure I’d want to get on the wrong side of her.’

‘Shouldn’t be going round pretending to be a burglar then, should she?’ Bandit fired back as he picked up another log and brought the axe down to split it. There was no way he could have known who she was. He hadn’t even known that the boss had a daughter, so he couldn’t be blamed for not knowing who she was when he’d seen her creeping around like a hunting tiger, looking for its next meal. But tigress she was not. He’d seen the way she’d looked up at him like a frightened doe in the darkness. Her eyes wide open with fear. She’d appeared vulnerable yet powerful, and timid yet fiery, all at once. She was so similar to the type of women he’d encountered in the marines. Women who could cut you down with words at ten paces, or shoot you from a distance and, to be honest, he wasn’t sure he wanted to encounter women like that again. Not after Karen.

‘You don’t like her?’ Morris asked as he stepped up on the log to perch on the fence and pushed his hands deep in his pockets.

Bandit bit his lip. ‘I barely know her.’

He thought of the deep musky perfume that she’d been wearing; its scent had annoyingly stayed with him through the night. She’d had a feisty personality, a spark about her that could have lit a campfire from a distance, yet he couldn’t work out what annoyed him the most; her high spirits, her feisty personality or the vulnerability that shone from within. None of them could possibly be a good thing.

‘Afghanistan, it changed you, Bandit.’

It was true. Afghanistan had changed him. Karen had changed him. ‘I know.’

‘Do you want to talk about it yet?’

‘No, I don’t.’ The words were sharp, harsh and meant to stop the conversation. The very last thing he ever wanted to talk about was Afghanistan. Just the thought made his palms begin to sweat and he rubbed them down his jeans as he felt his whole body begin to tremble. He wanted to close his eyes, but couldn’t. On some nights there was no sleep at all, some nights he’d sleep for an hour or two, but then the nightmares would begin. Every sudden noise reminded him of the explosion, every beach reminded him of the desert and every woman reminded him of Karen. Everything that had happened played on his mind. One minute he’d been part of an elite group, the next he was flying home: inadequate, alone and uncertain of his future.

House of Secrets and all you should know about Madeleine..! — Lynda Stacey Author

On the 4th July my novel House of Secrets was turned into a paperback and I couldn’t have been prouder at the moment I got to take it back to where it all began, the beautiful Wrea Head Hall. It was at this time, I got to look back at how I created Madeleine, […]

via House of Secrets and all you should know about Madeleine..! — Lynda Stacey Author

My writing process

Morton Gray invited me to contribute to this blog tour where writers share their process. Morton is a member of the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme and is busy polishing novels to submit for publication. She was shortlisted for the Festival of Romance New Talent Award in 2013. Her blog at is a glorious mixture of things she comes across on her writing journey. To follow Morton via twitter search for MSGray53 or on Facebook as Morton Gray.

She asked me about my writing process all I can say is:

It’s a bit of a habit..!!


Nooooo not that kind of habit….!!


 This kind of habit..!!

What am I working on?

I am currently working on my 2nd Novel. The first one ‘Broken Jigsaw’ was completed in February 2014 and I swiftly moved onto the next which has a working title called ‘Keeper of the House’

It has the stunning backdrop of Wrea Head Hall, one of my favourite country house hotels. I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Except if I did, you’d all go… and then it would be fully booked when I needed a room.


After gaining permission from the owner of Wrea Head Hall. I set to work putting together a plot. I have already run the plot past Gerry and even though it’s going to involve romance, mystery, crime and intrigue… he is more than happy for me to continue.

How does my work differ from others?

I’m not sure that it does.

I try to include a varied story which has everything going on from romance through to murder. I fully understand that life isn’t moonlight and roses and sometimes things happen that are out of your control. I like my characters to have lives like that. I also feel that lots of twists and turns make it more exciting for the reader. Provided the plot doesn’t get too complicated.

I also like to write a main story along with one or two sub stories. My characters have real lives with naughty puppies, children, siblings, parents and ex-husbands or partners.


Why do I write what I do?

I have no idea.

I put on my thinking cap… and somehow it just happens.


I come up with a heroine. Really get to know who she is. I almost need to know her like I would a best friend, her likes, dislikes, career, family, pets, and children. The story comes to life all by itself and does its own thing on the page.

I actually started writing romance, yet it turned out that my novels fall into the romantic thriller genre. (not sure what that says about me)


When I wrote Broken Jigsaw. I created a heroine. I then gave her a past, a new job, a nasty boyfriend and a gorgeous new boss.

All in all, I turned her life upside down. But her boss, Jack Parker is always there to pick up the pieces. He’s kind, considerate and amazing in bed. What more could a girl want? Well, she might not want a cheating, drug selling, love rat of a boyfriend.

Everything gets in their way….

 But… In the end there is always LOVE.!!



How does my writing process work?

I’m habitual. If I’m not writing then I’m thinking about writing. The plot is always there, working away in the back of my mind.

My normal writing week


I’m a Sales Director for a stationery and office supplies company in Doncaster. This obviously takes up the majority of my day. I normally get home, eat tea, put in the washing, start the dishwasher, jump into my pj’s and then I sit down.

I have my laptop handy at all times and try to find time every evening to do something, even if that’s just little research on the laptop.

My main writing time is at weekends.!!

My weekends are precious to me and I normally wake up early, around six.


Go to the lounge and get comfy with the lap top on my knee. Some weekends I don’t move. I just write. Especially if the hubby goes to the football, it’s my perfect excuse.

If I don’t do this, you can guarantee my writing takes a back seat until after everything else. I am after all a housewife, step-mother and nana to two beautiful and very energetic children.




I’m not the sort of person who can plot everything on hundreds of post it notes, pin them to a wall and then write the book systematically.


I tend to think about a story for a long time before I get to type a word. I often sit with mugs of coffee staring at walls telling my husband that I’m working.


By the time I begin to write. I’ve got to know my heroine. I know the hero. I know all about the way they are going to get together and most of all. I know EXACTLY what will happen on the last page and have a good idea of what I need to do to get them there.

All I have to do then, is find all the little words and join them together… ensuring I have a beginning, middle and an end. Not as simple as it sounds but perseverance and sheer determination helps?


I’m a little OCD. Well… OK… Maybe I’m a lot OCD..!!


I have perfectly ordered kitchen cupboards, wardrobes in colour co-ordinated order and perfume bottles lined up in size order.


However, when I do sit down to write… I tend to edit as I go. I’m constantly going back and re-writing chapters. Each chapter has to be complete before I move onto the next. I then go back, and make them better.

After a while, the characters start to get ahead of themselves and begin doing their own thing on the page.  They have a voice, a personality and I can’t always control them. Most of the time – I wouldn’t want to.

I allow the story to happen. Then, I go back and include new characters or pieces of plot that I need to ensure the story moves forward and the reader feels fully informed.


Getting to the end

Before I can consider the work finished. I send it to beta readers whom I trust implicitly…. And then I wait for their opinions, comments and feedback. The editing begins again… and finally… I get to write the words ‘the ends’


I love getting to the end. I love writing these words, but most of all I love to find out how it’s going to end just as much as everyone else. It’s still quite a mystery to me how I get there.


I’m just very happy that I do…!




Next on the blog tour.!!

Vasiliki Scurfield

Vasiliki Scurfield is a member of the RNA New Writers’ scheme.

She has been shortlisted in various short story competitions, including one in the Writers’ Magazine in 2013. Having waved goodbye to three, she still has one chick left in the nest.

She works full time and runs a gymnastics club as a volunteer. When she’s not doing all that, (and sometimes while she is) she writes.

You can find her on twitter @vasiliki66 or like her page on facebook as Vasiliki Scurfield.