Monday 15 April 2019

Jessie Cahalin Guest Blog Post

This week, I would like to welcome Jessie Cahalin, of Books in My Handbag Blog fame as my guest. I follow Jessie on Twitter and am a big fan of her blog so when I saw that she lived in Cardiff and had been accepted onto the RNA New Writers' Scheme, I invited her to join the local Chapter. Since then, it's been a pleasure getting to know her at the meetings and finding out more about how she started. 

It's over to you, Jessie. 

Living the Dream
I am an accidental blogger who never dreamed I would become synonymous with books and handbags. My creative journey has gathered pace and led me to mysterious destinations. However, I always Knew writing a novel would be a chapter in my life. When I reached my forties, my life long dream to write a novel re-emerged. Characters hassled me for years and it was time to set them free in my novel, You Can't Go It Alone. I tapped away on my laptop keyboard for six months; it was fun to finally meet the characters. At times, I was a little shocked at their behaviour. Manuscript written, I sought the advice of a professional editor and engaged in cutting, more cutting and shaping. Novel completed, I closed my laptop, ticked off one point on my bucket list, and hopped back onto my life. I mused that I would re-read my words again one day.

Unbeknown to me, my husband read the manuscript of You Can't Go It Alone. He self-published the novel, without my knowledge, as he knew I would dilly-dally. It shocked me but I decided to grab the opportunity and make connections withe the reading and writing community via a blog and social media. Initially, the aim of my blog was to share book reviews of all the books that had resonated with me over the years. I named the blog Books in My Handbag as all my books are on the Kindle, in my handbag. Playing on the theme of handbags, I tweeted photos of my novel in my handbag.

Overwhelmed by the positive comments about the photo, I realised it would be fun to ask authors to send their photos. I developed the Handbag Gallery to showcase the authors' books and provide a unique boost to the marketing of hundreds of authors. I now have almost fourteen thousand followers on Twitter, and the photos of books in handbags are always a hit.

The Handbag Gallery connected me to lots of authors and they have supported me with the writing process and promotion. I developed my virtual Chat Room then invited authors to share their writing experiences. Authors are incredibly generous with their pearls of wisdom, but there was a consensus that marketing is a challenge for indie and traditionally published authors alike. I've discovered that readers don't listen if you keep on promoting your own book so we must help each other. There is room for everyone out there; the key is to get your voice heard and we can't go it alone. I have created opportunities to support authors in my virtual blogging rooms and feel happy when they also meet other virtual friends on my blog.

This year, I moved beyond virtual connections with authors and reached out to the Romantic Novelists' Association. Having attended the RNA Afternoon Tea event, Lynda Stacey convinced me of the merits of the New Writers' Scheme and the benefits of connecting with the local Chapter. My second novel, Loving You, (working title), is a prequel to the first book but it has a central romance theme and is set in the seventies. This time, I will have the support of an experienced writer from the RNA and I feel secure in this knowledge. 

I don't know what the future holds for my second novel but I will investigate the benefits of both the traditional and indie routes. I can predict I will continue to write and have started my third novel; Books in My Handbag is also here to stay because it brings me so much joy. I am already booked into the RNA Conference in July and can't wait to meet more authors face to face.

Books are my bag, and they have connected me with authors, readers and dedicated book bloggers across the world. I am celebrating two years of my blog and am living the dream in writerly heaven. Grab your favourite bag and visit Books in My Handbag Blog to discover more about my creative journey. 

Thank you, Jessie. That's such an interesting post and I wish you loads of luck with your second novel. 

Here is a summary of Jessie's biography:
Jessie is a Yorkshire author living in Cardiff. Wales and words have a special place in her heart. She loves to entertain and challenge readers with her contemporary fiction and wants everyone to meet the characters who've been hassling her for years. Set in Wales, You Can't Go It Alone is a 'novel with a warm heart' and is the first book in a family saga. 

Besides writing and her popular blog, Jessie adores walking, talking, cooking and procrastinating. Walking helps her to sort out tangles in her narratives or articles. She searches for happy endings, where possible, and needs great coffee, food and music to give her inspiration. Jessie enjoys connecting with her readers and would be delighted to hear from you. Indeed, the readers requested the prequel to You Can't Do It Alone.

Jessie's Website -
Facebook -
Twitter - @BooksInHandbag
Email -
Book Link - -

I do hope you have enjoyed reading Jessie's post. Do you follow her blog yet? Maybe you're an author whose book has appeared in her gallery. What do you think about her comment that we writers cannot go it alone? I'd love it if you shared your thoughts in a comment. Thank you. 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my  Jan Baynham Writer page.

Tuesday 2 April 2019

Mothers and Their Secrets
Two days ago was Mothering Sunday, or you may call it Mother's Day. It was, I'm sure, a bitter sweet date on the calendar for many of you like me whose mums are no longer with us. It got me thinking about the strength of the bond between a mother and her children. I have completed two novels and am planning a third. What they all have in common is the relationship between a mother and her daughter and the lengths the mothers will go to in order to protect her child. In all of them, there is a dual narrative - the mother's story and the daughter's story - and all three stories contain secrets.

Rose is the young mother in my first novel, 'The Secret Daughter', set just after WWII. She keeps her forbidden love affair a secret from her parents
How I imagine Greystone Hall
where Rose worked in the kitchens
and when she becomes a mother herself, the maternal bond is too strong for her to 'do the right thing', as the social climate of the time demanded. She involves the one person who means the most to her, her own mother Emma. Without giving away spoilers, Emma's role in the story involves more secrets, keeping the truth both from Rose's father and from Angie, Rose's daughter. When the lies are exposed by accident, we see in Angie's story the effects secrets can have on a family. 

The scene greeting Elin when
 she arrived on Pefká
In 'Whispering Olive Trees', Lexi doesn't know about her mother, Elin's secret until after her death. By leaving Lexi her diary, it is clear that Elin wanted to reveal her secret so that Lexi has a choice and can find out about her mother's life before she was born if she wants to. When Lexi travels to Greece, she goes with her mother's blessing. As the secrets are revealed, Lexi comes to understand why her mother never mentioned her summer spent in Greece again after she returned home. Elin's own mother, Sadie, plays an important role in this story, too.

How I imagine the farm where
 Annie and her family lived 
Annie Evans is the mother in 'The Locket', the working title for book three. Unlike Rose and Elin she has no mother of her own to turn to, her mother having died in childbirth with a younger sibling. She has to take desperate measures for the sake of her daughter and that secret will only be revealed when Clara's well-being is threatened. How and when that will happen will be determined as I plot out the novel. That's my next task!

All three of my stories have secrets at their heart. I'm fascinated by the way families have 'skeletons' in their cupboards and these sometimes only come to light when a family member dies. In real life, we could ask whether it's ever right to keep secrets. In fiction, of course, secrets often make a good story-line. In fact at my first RNA conference, one editor in a 1-to-1 Industry Appointment talked to me about how secrets in stories, in titles even, can make a novel more 'commercial'. 

I've been revisiting two books I've enjoyed that contain secrets. For Mothering Sunday, a few years ago, my daughter bought me 'Mothering Sunday' by Rosie Goodwin. Set in 1884, it's a moving , heart warming saga about a young girl called Sunday Small who was abandoned at birth on the front steps of a workhouse, on a Sunday - hence her name. She is driven on to leave the workhouse and dreams of being re-united with the mother who gave her away. 'Her mother would be tall and slender with hair exactly the same colour as her own, and her eyes would be as blue as bluebells . . . There would be no more chores.' 
Unsure of how the secret would be revealed by the end of the book kept me turning the pages and living every moment with Sunday.

Another book I have thoroughly enjoyed is 'Motherlove' by Thorne Moore.It is very different, being contemporary fiction, and involves 'Three mothers, Two babies, One desperate woman'. Its tagline reads One mother's need is another's nightmare. There are deeply buried secrets in this novel, too. The story is written from each of the characters' points of view, exploring the diverse complexity of what it means to be a mother. The lives of the three mothers and two daughters are linked because of something that happened in the past. 

Thank you for reading. What books involving mothers' secrets would you recommend? Is it ever right for mothers to keep secrets from their children? Have you got secrets as part of your plots in your stories? 

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer      Facebook page.