Monday 19 February 2024

Guest Post With Cass Grafton 

This week I am very pleased to welcome the lovely author, Cass Grafton, onto the blog for the first time. Cass writes feel-good contemporary romances set in Cornwall and her new novel, Escape to Polkerran Point, will be published on February 22nd by Canelo.

Cass, welcome. I'm looking forward to hearing all about your new book. It's over to you!

When Research Becomes a Guilty Pleasure

Thank you so much, Jan, for inviting me onto your blog to talk about the second book in the Little Cornish Cove series, Escape to Polkerran Point.

I had a fabulous time creating the fictitious fishing village of Polkerran and its rather special community of locals and then writing my first book, New Dreams at Polkerran Point. Despite having plenty of memories from holidaying extensively in Cornwall during the nineties, ‘I just need to do some more research’ became the perfect excuse to travel down from Yorkshire as often as I could. I drew a map of the ‘village’, populated with houses and the names of who lived where, the village hall, the church, shops, pubs and beaches.

When that book became the first in a five-book series, I happily sketched out an ‘idea’ for the other four—this amounted to nothing more than a few paragraphs, the length of the description you find on the back of a paperback book. Background job done… or so I thought.

The time came to start writing the second book, and I was excited. After all, I’d already got my cast of characters, fully formed. They’d all be waiting for me, ready to leap into action—except I’d forgotten the whole ‘it’s a different story’ aspect to the new book. My so-called research was only just beginning, and in this case, I ended up delving thirty years into my own past.

Lauren is a Yorkshire lass who’s forged a successful, high-flying career in a multinational company. A party girl at heart, she’s taken a long time to commit to a relationship, but almost as soon as she moves in with Kit, her world comes crashing down.

 A restructure at work, an unexpected pregnancy—which immediately ends her fledgling relationship—and, all of a sudden, Lauren is unemployed, homeless and having a baby.

Needing time to regroup, she flees the north for the comfort of a few weeks with her best friend, Anna (whose story is told in the first book in the series). Anna lives in Polkerran Point, where she runs a bed & breakfast in her cliff-top home.

And herein began my two main dilemmas. Firstly, it’s more than 30 years since I was unexpectedly pregnant, and secondly, although I live with someone who’s had a career similar to Lauren’s, they are male and never had to make the transition from global, jet-setting exec to being a work from home pregnant consultant.

I am eternally grateful to the lovely ladies I found online who were happy to share their present-day experiences on how it all works these days, along with pregnancy apps and the all-important timings for things like gender scans etc. It was a stroll down memory lane with a twist—not quite as much fun as a G&T with a twist, but close!

I also talked extensively with the daughter of close friends, who had experienced some of what Lauren went through, as she had transitioned from a successful career with several high-profile multinationals to managing her own consultancy and working from home with a little one in the wings. These insights on the pros and cons of such a change were incredibly helpful in making Lauren credible and relatable.

I’d love to say writing the next book was easier, but it features the regular use of boats and has a musician as a major character. As someone who only ever learnt to play a recorder (substantially more than thirty years ago) and knows as much about boats as she does walking on the moon, writing the upcoming Christmas at Polkerran Point has been a whole new adventure.

As for book four, I’m already planning to spend the whole of March in Cornwall as I prepare to start writing again. After all, if there’s one thing I have learned, it’s that research is important!

Escape to Polkerran Point is published on 22nd February 2024, and although it’s part of a series, it can be read as a standalone.

Thank you, Cass. It was interesting to learn that you were able to find ladies online who were willing to share their pregnancy experiences with you. Research is what makes the story authentic and the characters come alive on the page when a writer takes time over this. I think your book covers are stunning, by the way. Here is the blurb for your new novel:

Can fake dating turn into something more with a baby on the way?

High-flying exec Lauren Kirkham is having a bad week. Unexpecedly pregnant, out of work and– when dumped by her boyfriend – with nowhere to live. She needs a respite, and goes to visit her friend Anna Redding in Polkerran for a short stay. Polkerran’s local handyman Daniel Tremayne is busy building his own ‘grand design’ on one of the cove’s cliffs. With the TV crew due to turn up to film, expecting a happy couple, he urgently needs a fake live-in girlfriend since he's also split with his ex.

Can Lauren and Daniel solve their mutual dilemmas by joining forces, and if so, will their hearts emerge unscathed?

A heartwarming and fun Cornish romance, perfect for fans of Cressida McLaughlin, Jessica Redland and Phillipa Ashley.

Praise for Escape to Polkerran Point 

A beautiful read set in Cornwall. Lovely and feel-good read with a great ending.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Reader review

I love a sweet cozy romance and this book has all the perfect ingredients. I love how it has a fake dating trope… the gorgeous scenery and descriptions don’t hurt either.’ ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Reader review

I loved this second book in the Little Cornish Cove series. The characters are relatable and believable, the community spirit was wonderful and the descriptive writing was sublime. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Reader review

Escape to Polkerran Point Buy links – one link for Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Google Play, Waterstones, Bookshop.org, Hive

https://geni.us/ETPP

Social links

Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/cassgraftonwriter/

Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/CassGraftonWriter

X - https://twitter.com/CassGrafton

Thank you for reading. I'm sure you found what Cass had to say as interesting as I did. Writers, how do you go about researching for a new book? Readers, how can you tell if an author has spent time on research before writing a book? Please comment and share your thoughts. Thanks.

You may also follow me on:
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FaceBook - Jan Baynham Writer
Instagram - janbaynham

For more information about me and my books, please visit my Amazon page.

Did you know that all my novels are available to read on Kindle Unlimited for those of you who subscribe?
'I just adore Jan Baynham's books - they each read like a beautiful saga - stretching over a couple of generations. The stories just grab you and draw you in.'
Amazon Reviewer
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Monday 5 February 2024

 Guest Post with Imogen Martin

This week, it's my real pleasure to welcome back Imogen Martin, another fellow Cariad author, to the blog. Imogen's second novel is to be published by Storm Publishing on February 7th. After the success of her wonderful debut novel, Under a Gilded Sky, last September (You may read her blog post about it here.), To the Wild Horizon is already receiving rave reviews on NetGalley. After finishing an ARC of the novel last night, I'm not surprised; it's superb.

Imogen, welcome. I think you are going to tell us what comes first when you start to write your novels. It's over to you!

Chicken or egg? Does the story or the research come first for a historical novel?

Actually, for me, it’s neither. It’s the characters. I’m interested in people, and more than anything, in people falling in love. 

Authors are advised to find big obstacles for their protagonists to overcome. They don’t come much bigger than the Oregon Trail: 2,000 miles and six months of danger and back-breaking work. These words were written by Edwin Bryant, a pioneer who made the journey in 1846, the year I set my novel: “The trip is a sort of magic mirror, and exposes every man’s qualities of heart connected with it, vicious or amiable.” I put part of this observation in the mouth of my heroine Grace Sinclair.

Grace has shot her landlord and doesn’t know if she has killed him. Terrified about what will happen to her – and to her young brother if he is left all alone in the world – she lies in order to get on the next wagon train West.

Grace is determined, brave and resourceful. She is also vulnerable and has to struggle in a man’s world. Unfortunately for Grace, one of the biggest misogynists is Captain Randolph, who is in charge of the wagon train. Whilst the pioneers are going on a physical journey, Randolph’s journey is one of changing attitudes.

But there is no getting away from the research, of course. Luckily, I really love doing it and it deepens the novel. Captain James B Randolph is partly based on a real person: Randolph Barnes Marcy. I toyed with using his surname, but as I model my captain on Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy, I thought that might be stretching things. Marcy is known for his frontier guidebook The Prairie Traveler, published in 1859. It became an indispensable guide for overlanders – and provided me with lots of authentic information, although it is riddled with the racism of the time.

I spent hours poring over maps, particularly the series produced by Captain Frémont in 1846. I looked at photographs and paintings, read about military equipment, and learned how wagons are constructed. I am a visual person so I printed off images and made a collage taped to my office wall. 

I even spent a day on a firing range, to learn how a rifle feels. Yes, this is me in the photo.

I hope the research gives the book an authentic feel which means readers can lose themselves in it for a few days. That’s what reading is about, isn’t it? Using our imaginations to find out what it feels like to be someone else. In To The Wild Horizon, we’re finding out how two very different people overcome challenges and fall in love.   

Buying Link

To The Wild Horizon: https://geni.us/179-al-aut-am

Social Media Links

Website: https://imogenmartinauthor.com

Twitter / X : https://twitter.com/ImogenMartin9

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ImogenMartin.Author/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/imogenmartinauthor/?hl=en-g 

Author Bio

Imogen writes sweeping, historical fiction. Her first two novels are set in nineteenth-century America.

As a teenager, she took the Greyhound bus from San Francisco to New York. Over those three days of staring out of the window at the majestic mountains and endless flat plains, stories wound themselves into her head: tales of brooding, charismatic men captivated by independent women.

Since then, she has worked in a coffee shop in Piccadilly, a famous bookstore, and a children’s home. She has run festivals and turned a derelict housing block on one of the poorest estates in the UK into an award-winning arts centre.

During 2020, Imogen was selected by Kate Nash Literary Agency as one of their BookCamp mentees, a mentorship programme designed to accelerate the careers of promising new writers.

Married with two children, Imogen divides her time between Wales and Sardinia.

She hopes her books will bring you the tingle of a new love affair whilst immersed in a different time and place.

Blurb

Missouri, 1846: In the frontier town of Independence the sound of a gunshot shatters the night. As the pistol drops from her hand and clatters to the ground, Grace knows she has no choice but to leave. Now.

In this inspiring and deeply moving story of love, courage and endurance, a young woman on the run from the law sets off on a desperate journey of survival on the treacherous Oregon Trail.

Terrified she’s wanted for the murder of her landlord, Grace is certain that, even though she acted in self-defence, no one will believe her. Quickly packing the few belongings she and her little brother Tom possess, they race to join the line of dusty wagons preparing to leave for Oregon.

As they set off, over the perilous Great Plains, knowing the wild rivers and the Rocky Mountains they must cross, Grace vows to do whatever it takes to protect Tom and get them both to safety. She will prove herself capable of surviving the hardest journey of her life.

This unputdownable and heart-wrenching historical novel shows the true strength and resilience of a woman’s heart, even when she has everything to lose and the odds are stacked against her.

What readers say about To the Wild Horizon:

Incredible!!!!!” Reader review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

One of my favourite reads of the year. I absolutely loved it. A heartwarming, enticing, and intriguing tale of courage, love, compassion and resilience. This story will keep you on edge until the very last page.” Reader review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I absolutely loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. I couldn’t fall asleep because I had to know what was going to happen next. Incredible… I loved every second.” Reader review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Truly special. You will be swept along in a truly epic and romantic tale of love, endurance and hope.” Reader review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“The perfect blend of adventure, romance, and a woman’s strength. I fell in love with Grace and her compassionate heart… I couldn’t put this down.” Reader review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I did not want this novel to end. I spent most of the night reading it. What an awesome adventure! I highly recommend it.” Reader review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

“A fabulous book! I was hooked from page one. I couldn't put it down.” Reader review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This book is fantastic! This is a story of hardship and struggle, but ultimately it’s a story of love and survival.” Reader review, ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wow! You must be thrilled with those reviews. Having just finished To the Wild Horizon, I must say they are very well deserved. What impressed me in both of your novels was evidence of the meticulous research you must have done and you've confirmed how important research is to you in this post.

Thank you for reading. I'm sure like me you found Imogen's post very interesting, especially the bit where she spent a day on a rifle range learning how a rifle feels. If you're a writer, what is the most unusual piece of research you've done to give more authenticity to your novel? I'd love it if you shared what that was. Thank you.

You may also follow me on:
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FaceBook - Jan Baynham Writer
Instagram - janbaynham

For more information about me and my books, please visit my Amazon page.

Did you know that all my novels are available to read on Kindle Unlimited for those of you who subscribe?
'I just adore Jan Baynham's books - they each read like a beautiful saga - stretching over a couple of generations, the stories just grab you and draw you in.' 
Amazon Reviewer 5*

 

Monday 29 January 2024

 Guest Post With Morton S. Gray

I am very pleased to welcome another fellow Cariad member to the blog this week. Her novel, A New Arrival in Borteen Bay, was published by Choc Lit, an imprint of JOFFE Publishing, on January 23rd. Described as 'a brand new and utterly heart-warming feel-good romance', it is the seventh book of seven in her The Secrets of Borteen Bay series. 

Welcome back to the blog, Morton. Thank you for taking the time out of what I know has been a full and exciting week for you around your publication day. It's over to you. 

What do I like (and not like) about being an author?

I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing this blog post for Jan. That’s one of the things I like about writing – you can do it anywhere. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be an author and even though I’ve just had my seventh novel published I’m still not sure it still feels real. I love the writing process and particularly that time when I’m in the zone, totally wrapped up in my story and my characters seem to talk to me, guiding me through the story and insisting I write things down. I’m less keen when they do that in the middle of the night or when I’m in the shower though!

I particularly love it when a character seemingly disagrees with a direction or decision I have made for them. It’s almost as if they become real people to me and if I ignore their opinions the book won’t flow at all. That’s one of the reasons I don’t plot my novels in great detail in advance as things rarely go to plan. I particularly found this when I was writing A New Arrival in Borteen Bay, my latest published novel. In this one there are actually four main characters, Skye, Adam, Buzz and Wynn, all seemingly with their own opinions on the story! At times it was difficult to keep the four of them under control.

The part about being a writer I find most difficult is keeping up a social media presence. Writers tend to be people who like their own company as they have to spend such a long time on their own wrestling with words. I personally am quite shy, known for my teenage blushing, which is one of the reasons that I use a pen name. Morton S. Gray can be much bolder than real me. Morton Gray can be confident in interviews and on social media, but I’d still much rather lurk in the background.

However, I have discovered that I am actually quite good at networking online and have built up a solid base of writing friends, who all joined in when my latest novel A New Arrival in Borteen Bay was launched on 23 January 2024. I was overwhelmed and thankful for the support, lovely comments and reposts.

 

And what happens when you’ve launched a book out into the world? Well, you start the process all over again. Although, of course, you are rarely working on one novel at a time. I am usually researching and writing, whilst the ones that have been published are being promoted. So maybe one writing skill should be listed as juggling.

Bio

Morton lives in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel at age fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors. 

Morton worked for many years in the electricity industry in staff development and training. She is a qualified hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

Social Media Links

You can catch up with Morton on her:

website/blog www.mortonsgray.com

on Twitter - @MortonSGray

her Facebook page – Morton S. Gray Author - https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/ 

and Instagram - @mortonsgrayauthor - https://www.instagram.com/morton_s_gray/

Buying Link


Published 23 January 2024 by Choc Lit an imprint of Joffe Books

Morton S. Gray – A New Arrival in Borteen Bay



BLURB 

FALL IN LOVE WITH AN UTTERLY IRRESISTIBLE, BRAND-NEW ROMANCE ABOUT FRESH BEGINNINGS AND LETTING GO OF THE PAST.

Skye knows it’s now or never. It’s time for her to reveal herself to the father she’s never met.

So she hops on a plane from Dublin to the English seaside town of Borteen. 

But between the father she’s just getting to know and her worried mother, Skye realizes that the past is never that simple as a whirlwind of secrets turns their world upside down.

And now Skye has Adam, the hunky guy next door, to contend with. He’s determined to show her there’s room in her life for love.

Skye thinks they’re better off as friends, but Adam has other ideas. Even when she reveals a secret of her own.

Will Skye allow history to repeat itself? Or will she let go of the secrets of the past and open herself up to the future?

This uplifting and feel-good romance is perfect for fans of Beth Moran, Shari Low, Jessica Redland, Sue Moorcroft or Isabella Connor.

Thank you. Morton. We often read about the inspiration behind a book or a writer's writing journey, but we don't often hear about what an author likes or dislikes about the 'job'. I loved the part where you say your characters are real people who talk to you and share their opinions in order for the book to flow.

Thank you for reading. I'm sure like me you found Morton's post interesting. If you are an author, please share what you like best and what you like least about being a writer. How do they compare with what Morton has said? 
 
You may also follow me on:
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FaceBook - Jan Baynham Writer
Instagram - janbaynham

For more information about me and my books, please visit my Amazon page.

Did you know that all my novels are available to read on Kindle Unlimited for those of you who subscribe?
'I just adore Jan Baynham's books - they each read like a beautiful saga - stretching over a couple of generations, the stories just grab you and draw you in.' 
Amazon Reviewer 5*
 

Monday 22 January 2024

Guest Post With Luisa A. Jones 

This week I'm delighted to welcome author Luisa A. Jones back to the blog for the first guest post of 2024 and the first in my series featuring my fellow Cariad writers. The Cariad Chapter meets in person each month in Cardiff and on Zoom, also monthly, where RNA members come together for writerly chat from Norway, Italy, Cornwall, the Midlands and the South of England as well as those authors living locally in South Wales. Luisa's second historical novel, The Broken Vow, is published by Storm today, 22nd January, so I'm honoured that she's going to share her publication day with us and tell us what it's been like writing a novel about a minor character from her wonderful first novel, The Gilded Cage

Luisa, welcome. It's over to you.

Hi Jan. Thank you very much for inviting me to explain how I tackled writing The Broken Vow using a minor character from book 1.

In my first historical novel, The Gilded Cage, I introduced Charlotte Fitznorton. Charlotte was a spoiled and dislikable character, rude to her stepmother Rosamund, and oblivious to her sufferings. Encouraged by her odious father and snooty aunt, Charlotte’s only goal in life was to bag herself an aristocratic husband, and thus improve the status of the Fitznorton family.

The obvious topic for a sequel to The Gilded Cage was a continuation of Rosamund’s story. However, the more I thought about it, the more I was attracted to the idea of exploring what had made Charlotte such a spiky, unpleasant character. I wanted to know whether such a selfish young miss could mature into a young woman with a more generous and empathetic heart. I was partly inspired by Jane Austen’s reference to her wonderful character Emma as “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like”. Could I achieve a plausible character growth with Charlotte, or had I made her too obnoxious? What would it take to transform her?

Charlotte’s redeeming feature in The Gilded Cage was her love for her father, the hateful Sir Lucien. This didn’t manifest in positive ways: she craved his attention and disliked her stepmother, whom she saw as a potential rival for his affection. Charlotte’s growth would depend upon her developing a better understanding of the harsh realities of the world. She wasn’t an educated girl, and had been brought up with limited ambition or expectation. As long as she got her society wedding and a handsome husband who satisfied her father’s ambitions, she would be content. In The Broken Vow, I needed her to discover that she could be more than a trophy wife, and that marriage might not be enough to satisfy her in the long run. She needed to witness and experience events which would force her to grow up; to make mistakes, but ultimately to understand the satisfaction to be gained from doing things for others and finding an interesting purpose in life.

As well as encountering events which would make her confront her mistaken ideas and become a better person, Charlotte needed a positive role model. One of my favourite characters in The Broken Vow is Charlotte’s friend Venetia Vaughan-Lloyd, a former suffragette, whose world view is poles apart from Charlotte’s. Venetia’s experience of disability and past heartbreak, and her charitable works, have given her insights into a darker side of life. She’s a few years older, and more politically aware than Charlotte, with a better understanding of what a woman might achieve. Her good-humoured honesty and can-do attitude make her a perfect mentor.

It was a joy to bombard Charlotte with problems which would eventually transform her (with a little help from her friends). I hope readers will love following her redemptive coming-of-age journey as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Links:

www.luisaajones.com

https://twitter.com/Taffy_lulu

https://www.facebook.com/LuisaAJonesauthor/

https://www.instagram.com/luisa_a_jones_author/

 

Booklink: The Broken Vow

Blurb:

Marriage was what Charlotte had been brought up to. After all, it provided a happy ending for all the heroines in the novels she sometimes read. So it would be for her... right?

Born into luxury, Charlotte Fitznorton has always known a life filled with lavish parties and a line of suitors, all part of a future neatly laid out for her by her father, Sir Lucien. She is to marry well and continue the line at Plas Norton, the family seat. When Eustace Chadwycke - the son of a viscount - proposes just before leaving to fight in France, it seems Charlotte's destiny is perfectly falling into place. 

Then, tragedy strikes. Her father dies unexpectedly, and her future hangs in the balance - threatened by her hated stepmother Rosamund's surprise pregnancy. News of Eustace, returning from the war broken by its horrors, leaves Charlotte fearing her engagement may be as fragile as her inheritance.

Determined to at least save her impending marriage, Charlotte pours her energy into turning Plas Norton into a healing place for Eustace and other war-weary soldiers. But small-minded townspeople, a bossy head nurse, and her newborn baby sister's arrival push Charlotte to her limits. 

Just as hope is slipping through her fingers, a mysterious stranger arrives at Plas Norton. This newcomer holds the power to upend everything Charlotte has fought to preserve. Will she have the strength to protect her legacy, or could this visitor awaken a desire in Charlotte for a different life altogether?

A beautiful and heartbreaking historical novel, if you loved anything by Fiona Valpy or Lucinda Riley, this book is for you.

Author bio:
Luisa A. Jones lives in South Wales and takes inspiration from the Welsh countryside, towns, history, and of course its people. Her writing explores the dynamics within relationships, the pressures that mental health issues can exert on people, and how these can be overcome. 

Luisa studied Classical Studies at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London. Her previous jobs have included tour guide in an historic house; teacher in both primary and secondary schools; careers adviser; and corporate trainer/assessor.

Luisa loves using her creativity for crafting and baking, as well as writing historical and contemporary fiction with romantic elements. She and her husband are the proud owners of Gwynnie, a Volkswagen camper van built in 1974, which inspired the story behind Luisa's first book, Goes Without Saying. They have three children, a dog and two cats.

Becoming an author fulfilled a lifelong ambition. Her first historical novel in The Fitznortons series, The Gilded Cage, was released by Storm Publishing in 2023, followed by the sequel, The Broken Vow, in January 2024.

Thank you, Luisa. After thoroughly enjoying The Gilded Cage where I met Charlotte Fitznorton for the first time, I can't wait to see how her character grows and changes in The Broken Vow. The stunning cover and intriguing blurb have made me even more impatient to start reading it.

Thank you for reading. I'm sure like me you found Luisa's post interesting. Have you read other books where a character changes and transforms as he/she matures? I'd love it if you shared the title in the comments. Thank you.
 
You may also follow me on:
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FaceBook - Jan Baynham Writer
Instagram - janbaynham

For more information about me and my books, please visit my Amazon page.

Did you know that all my novels are available to read on Kindle Unlimited for those of you who subscribe?

'I just adore Jan Baynham's books - they each read like a beautiful saga - stretching over a couple of generations, the stories just grab you and draw you in.' 
Amazon Reviewer 5*
 

Thursday 4 January 2024

Reflecting Back and Looking Forward

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The blog is ten years old this January and when I started it back in 2014, the advice for would-be writers was to have a blog. Jan's Journey into Writing began. At the time I was writing short stories and only dreaming of completing a full-length novel. I made many friends online through the blog and I still like going back to read those early posts and especially the comments from readers. Over the years, though, the number of readers has diminished and certainly, those who take the time to comment are often in single figures. So, is the ten-year anniversary the time to stop and move on to a newsletter? Or can you successfully have both?

In 2023, I wrote 23 blog posts. Fourteen of those were guest writers who wrote about their forthcoming books and for me, supporting other authors is one of the most rewarding features of running a blog. I love hearing about the 'stories behind the stories,' the research writers have undertaken and about their writing journeys. Until I get my newsletter started (which I should have done by now!), I shall continue with the blog if only to invite other writers to tell us about their books. Watch this space for news of a newsletter! 

2023 was an eventful year for me. In February, I submitted my fourth novel having extensively researched it the previous year with visits to the Italian POW Chapel in Henllan, near Llandyssul, West Wales, attending an open day at Hut 9 Prisoner of War Camp in Bridgend and a wonderful trip to Sicily itself. My previous publisher, Ruby, an imprint of Choc Lit, was taken over by a much larger publisher in March and The Secret Sister was published by JOFFE BOOKS in August. I have been delighted with the way that the novel has been received, both maintaining a fairly respectable Amazon ranking and with 809 ratings/reviews to date. Messages from readers about how much they have enjoyed the story have been very rewarding. My only problem now is that the old imposter syndrome is back with a vengeance and I worry about what readers will think of novel five. But, did I feel the same at this stage with The Secret Sister

Because my other novels were published during COVID, this time I was able to have my first proper book launch, that was shared with lovely Cariad author friend, Imogen Martin, whose wonderful debut, Under a Gilded Sky, was published by Storm in September. 

In 2023, I did two library talks, one at Blackwood Library, Gwent and the other at Builth Wells Library in mid-Wales. They both took place before the publication of The Secret Sister. 

In August, I attended the RNA Conference in Imperial College, Kensington, my first since before the pandemic. It was excellent; I learned so much and enjoyed catching up with old friends and making new ones. The highlight was meeting the editors of my new publisher and spending time with them. 

I went on two writing retreats, one day at Parc Bryn Bach, near Tredegar, with the writing group from Blackwood Library, and a four-day residential retreat with the Cariad Chapter of the RNA at Painscastle in mid-Wales. Being able to focus and immerse myself in my writing with other authors was wonderful. 

I was pleased to attend the annual launch of the Worcestershire LitFest Flash Fiction 2023 Anthology again this year. Three of my flashes were included and I read out the one that had been shortlisted. 

I took part in NaNoWriMo again this year and wrote over 50,000 words of the first draft of novel five. I shall be telling you more about that in the coming months. The working title is The Silent Sister but I expect that will change. Are you like me? I have to have a title and cannot work with just a novel number as a title.

A big thank you for your support in 2023. 

So what are my writing plans and goals for 2024?

Back in 2014, they were very specific when I was mainly writing short stories. Now, my goals have more to do with my novels:

  • to complete the first draft of The Silent Sister 
  • to edit and polish it until it is as good as I can get it
  • to submit to my editor
  • to make a research trip to Kefalonia where the novel is partially set
  • to start a newsletter and build up a list of subscribers
  • to attend the RNA Conference in August at Royal Holloway
  • to continue to support other writers
  • to start researching and planning novel six, to be set in Crete.
Wish me luck! 

Thank you for reading. Which do you prefer? Reading a blog or a newsletter or both? What makes you comment on a blog post? I'd love to know. Thanks.
You may also follow me on:
X/Twitter - @JanBaynham
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Monday 27 November 2023

The Castle at Painscastle

Last time my blog post was all about Cariad Chapter's wonderful first retreat in Painscastle, a small village just a few miles away from Hay-on-Wye. We'd all seen the photos on the website but nothing compared to actually seeing the Grade II listed building where we were going to be staying. Named The Castle, the beautiful house, set on a working farm, has been tastefully renovated yet very much in keeping with the time it was built. The creaky floorboards as well as the sloped ceilings and beams of the attic rooms were ideal for writers' imaginations to come alive. Who once lived there? What secrets did the families hold?

It was even more fascinating when we ventured outside. After walking up through the garden, we travelled back hundreds of years when we came to the ramparts of the castle that gave the village its name. The castle site is on enclosed farmland with no public access so we felt privileged to be able to wander up from the house and see it for ourselves. All that remains now is a series of earthworks. The now grassy mounds show where a major stone castle once stood in a prominent position in a small village. Its location seems to be off the beaten track but it does, in fact, stand on one of the major routes from England into Rasdnorshire. 


The castle was built in the twelfth century by  Payn Fitz John, one of King Henry 1's men, and after whom it was named. It was rebuilt in stone a century later due to repeated attacks by the Welsh. Painscastle castle had a chequered history; one of its most remarkable events was when three thousand Welsh men were slaughtered in a pitched battle between the English and the Welsh. It became the bloodiest massacre in Welsh history  It was said that the River Bachaway ran red with blood.

On the east side of the castle is a derelict house that played a part in Painscastle's history. A white-washed manor house of lordship status, Upper House sits adjacent to the castle bank and is thought to date from the mid-fifteenth century. It would suggest that there was now a shift of power from the fortified castle to a nobleman's home which was undefended. The fact that the hall juts into the outside ditch suggests that by then the castle had lost its military role. Walking around the castle ruins with the panoramic views of the beautiful Radnorshire landscape all around made me think of all that had gone before and was part of the history of that small village we were staying in for a short time.


Thank you for reading. I hope you've enjoyed hearing a little more about the place where the Cariad Chapter spent its writing retreat. How do places with a lot of history affect you? Have you been inspired to write by a location with a lot of history? If you have, I'd love it if you left a comment saying where it was. Thanks.





The Radnorshire countryside features in all my novels. Even on a misty November day when this was taken, I hope you can see why. 

STOP PRESS

Yesterday I attended the launch of Worcestershire Lit Fest and Fringe Flash Fiction Anthology 2023 in which I was delighted to have three flashes included again this year. 
For the first time, it was good to see several members of the Blackwood Library Writing Group reading out their excellent flashes there as well. The group is run by my friend and librarian, Helen Beckett. Here I am reading out my shortlisted Flash Body Beautiful.
Copies are available from Black Pear Press


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For more about me and all my books, please visit my AMAZON page.