Tuesday 29 December 2020

Looking Back On 2020

A year ago, I was looking forward to what I called 'a special year'. It was going to be the Diamond Anniversary year for the Romantic Novelists' Association and I was looking forward to a number of celebrations during 2020. It was going to be the year I became a published author and I couldn't wait to celebrate the launch of my debut novel a few months later. Little did I know then how this last year would be a year that has affected everyone, many tragically, and turned normality upside down. 2020 became the year of COVID 19 and life as we'd known it changed beyond recognition. As I always do at this time of year, I've been reflecting on my writing journey over the past twelve months and wondering how things would have panned out if there had been no pandemic. 

In February, I attended  Love Writing Manchester, my first and only RNA Diamond celebration in person. That weekend at the end of February also turned out to be the last and only time we stayed away from home in 2020. On April 21st, my debut novel, now entitled 'Her Mother's Secret', was published as planned and, in full lockdown, it was just my husband and me celebrating on our own in the garden. A surprise Zoom meeting with family and friends in the evening was the nearest we got to a launch but it was enjoyable nevertheless. For me, that feeling of becoming a published author was a dream come true. I wasn't prepared for the generous comments, messages and reviews that came with publication, and appreciate every one. 'Her Mother's Secret' was long-listed for the 'Not the Booker Prize' (it only has to be nominated to achieve this!) and it was fun to be part of it. In September, the novel was a contender for the Joan Hessayon Award. I was very proud to have been eligible for this award which is given to novelists whose novels have been through the wonderful RNA New Writers' Scheme. I had been so looking forward to attending the York Tea in September when this had been scheduled to take place but thanks to the RNA committee there was a very special virtual ceremony via Zoom instead.

The publication of my second novel, 'Her Sister's Secret'followed in September. Restrictions had eased a little in Wales by then in that we could now eat out as long as rules for social distancing and hand-sanitising were strictly observed. This time we went to a local Sicilian restaurant and sampled the sort of foods my characters would have eaten during their summer of '66. As with my first novel, I was overwhelmed by the fact that readers were messaging me to say they'd enjoyed the second book and many had taken the trouble to leave reviews. 

My contract with Ruby fiction was for three novels and I took part in NaNoWriMo again this year in order to get the bulk of the first draft of novel three written. I'm pleased to say that I was a NaNo winner this year having written over 50,000 words throughout November. Being part of a supportive group from the writing community helped me achieve the goal this year. 

I hadn't heard of Zoom before lockdown but it has been invaluable for keeping in touch with my RNA Chapters and writing groups. The Conference in July had to be cancelled but a very enjoyable virtual alternative was arranged by the RNA committee, including Zoom one-to-ones with agents and publishers. A huge thanks to all concerned! There have been numerous seminars and talks organised by the Society of Authors, the RNA and the virtual Hay Festival. I have attended workshops by Alison May and Jenny Kane, and a ten-week Further Adventures in Crime Writing taught by Katherine Stansfield of Cardiff University. 

Instead of an annual visit to Worcester for the launch of the Worcestershire LitFest Anthology of Flash Fiction, this year it took place via Zoom. I had two flashes included in 
'Her Final Goodbye', one shortlisted, and read it aloud on-screen. 

At the end of the year, I was delighted to have two short stories published in the ChocLit/Ruby Fiction anthology, 'Cosy Christmas Treats'.

A writer's life is a solitary one in many ways and perhaps that has helped us deal with the awful enforced isolation of 2020. I have very much missed meeting up with other writer friends in person but I've been grateful for social media and tried to make use of it whenever I could. How has the lockdown affected your writing this year? Has reading helped you to escape from reality? 

Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page. 

Monday 30 November 2020

 Where next for Sue McDonagh- Author?

Today I'm delighted to welcome back to the blog my good friend and writing buddy, Sue McDonagh. I first met Sue six years ago at a time when I was starting to write my first novel. Since then she has been my constant supporter and motivator, a fellow companion for numerous writing workshops and Conferences.

Welcome back, Sue! 

2020 saw the publication of your third novel in your Art Cafe trilogy for Choc Lit., Escape from the Art Cafe. What's next for author Sue McDonagh?

The Art Café was never intended to be a series. Writing just one book felt like a milestone. Deciding at that point to write a series would have terrified me. And yet, Meet Me at the Art Café, novel two, grew from my curiosity about two minor characters in that first novel. Jo, competent and sensible single mum, and Ed, handsome and charming and yet incapable of sustaining any of his many and legendary romances. 

The perennial author’s question, ‘What if?’ lurked in my mind and demanded attention. Unlike many of my writer friends, I don’t have hundreds of ideas whizzing around my head. My books grow out of one idea that won’t let go.

After writing two heroines who grew in confidence, I wondered about the emotional journey of a feisty heroine, who already had more confidence than she knew what to do with. I worried that readers wouldn’t like her, and I wondered how her character arc would end in the story. What would she have learned about herself? How would she have changed?  I didn’t want her to lose that confidence and become a quiet, constrained version of herself. Intrigued already, I started writing her story, wondering just where she was going to end up. She turned out to be one of the funniest characters I’ve written, and her presence coincided with some huge changes for the Art Café. Without her, it wouldn’t have happened.

I’d always referred to the series as a trilogy, and although I was sad to see an end to the Art Café and its cast, I felt it was time to write a stand-alone novel. I had an idea that, like all the others, had gone from scratching about inside my head to full-on bouncing about trying to escape. And it wasn’t connected to the Art Café!

I began to write it. And then started it again. Got to fifteen thousand words and started again. My two trusted beta readers said they loved it, and it was funny. So why couldn’t I push it along?I downed tools and read instead. I hate to be without a book, but since I’ve started writing, I’ve found that reading doesn’t always represent the escapism that it used to. I can’t read in my own genre when I’m writing, as I find myself somehow morphing into the author I’m reading, and my author voice changes. So I turn to crime and thriller for my kicks – and fell with relief, on the 12th in series from Elly Griffiths, The Lantern Men. I devoured it, as I have all the others, and closed the book with sadness that I had to wait for the next one to be released.

I adore those books. Reading them takes me into a familiar world, where I know the characters. Even as I’m writing these words, I can see them yelling at me, and I bet you can too. It was days before I made the connection. I’ve said often enough that writing the Art Café stories was like going to a great party where I knew everyone. My reviews tell me how much people love the characters in my books as if they’re real people (they are, of course). It dawned on me eventually, that I missed the Art Café!

I had a great new character with this terrible thing happening to her, and I just knew that someone at the Art Café would be around to set her right, make her a cuppa, tell her to get a grip and sort her hair out. And apart from the characters, I missed the sea and that big beach. It was actually visceral.

Our world at the moment is uncertain, and strange, and I’m escaping as much into the world that I create, as into the worlds I read in the pages of other books. I miss having a spontaneous coffee with my friends, and oh, those hugs that were so much a part of our lives. Without realising it, I’d cut my character off from everyone. I set her in the wilderness of the Brecon Beacons, amongst dark hills and rain and I hated it. She was living in the metaphorical darkness of my lockdown life and I hadn’t even noticed.

I opened a new document, and I began again, this time in the Art Café. And the words flowed, and in my head the sun is shining, the sea is sparkling and there’s a little family of grandparents, parents and kids digging holes in the beach and paddling in those warm shallows. I feel happy. I might not be able to zoom around on my motorbike, but I bet Lucy and Flora are out on theirs.

The new story is unfolding. My new character still has her woes, and it’s going to take a while to unravel, and just when she thinks she’s got it right – well, that would be a spoiler – but this time the supporting cast of the Art Café are around to help. Or hinder, you never quite know…

Book 4 of the Art Café series will be out Spring 2021, hopefully. I’ve got everything crossed!

Thank you, Sue. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's thrilled to know that we'll be able to visit the Art Cafe again next Spring. I was fascinated to read how you were compelled to extend the trilogy into a series. The fact that your characters are so real to you is probably why I, for one, think the characterisation in your novels is a real strength.

Author Bio: 

My career as a policewoman in the Essex Police was interrupted when I was twenty-four by ovarian cancer. A year of surgery and chemotherapy meant a successful recovery, which led to a convalescent year in the Essex Police Press Office. This suited me as I’d always fancied being a journalist, and meant that I could play with joined-up writing and stationery.

When I moved to Wales to marry a man widowed by cancer and became an instant mum to his two little boys, I used my Press Office skills and wrote press releases and eventually, blog posts for the various clubs and organisations I was involved with.

 Art evolved into a full-time occupation and I made a living teaching and sketching portraits on the spot at agricultural and seaside shows, moving into more considered work as time went on and appearing on Sky TV in 2014 in the regional finals of the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of the Year.

I now work almost exclusively to commission, but also give demonstrations and talks to art societies and other groups, which I enjoy.

 In 1982, following chemotherapy, I cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End in ten days, fundraising over £8000 towards a cancer scanner for St Bartholomew’s Hospital, where I was treated.

After my first hip replacement sixteen years ago, I and three friends took part in the Four Inns Challenge and walked 45 miles across the Peak District in 16 hours, raising £10,000 for MacMillan Cancer Support.

When my second hip needed replacing, I thought about commemorating it with a further bonkers fundraising idea, but to everyones relief, found my excitement in writing.

Ten years ago I learned to ride a motorbike, and now help to run Curvy Riders, a national, women only, motorbike club.

I live in Wales, a mile from the sea. My Border terrier, Scribble, comes to work in my open-to-the-public studio/gallery with me, and thinks the customers only come in to see him. Sometimes, I think that too.

When I’m not writing, I’m painting or on my eBike or motorbike.

I belong to a local writing group and the Romantic Novelist’s Association. My novels, Summer at the Art Café and Meet Me at the Art Café have been published as digital, audio and paperbacks, and also published in The Netherlands. My third novel, Escape to the Art Café, was released on 30 June, 2020. 





Thank you for reading. Writers, have you felt sad when writing the last book in a trilogy and, like Sue, felt compelled to write more in a series?

Readers, how do you feel when a series comes to an end?

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

Monday 23 November 2020

 NaNoWriMo 2020

I first participated in NaNoWriMo in 2014 when I'd just started thinking that maybe I could write a novel. Every November since then, apart from last year, I have taken part with varying degrees of success. That first year, I was determined to do what until then I'd thought of as impossible. 50,000 words in a month - no way!  But I did it and have the certificate to prove it. On my blog - also started in 2014 - I reflected on whether it had been a worthwhile experience as far as my first novel was concerned. Was NaNo a No-No? The post is second from the top of the page. The conclusion was that in spite of not re-reading what I'd written previously as I went along as I would normally do, not having done enough research and having a mammoth editing task at the end, I still thought it was worthwhile. I went on to attempt it every year apart from 2019 since. 

This year was different. I now have two books published in a three-book contract with Ruby Fiction. Because of editing and promoting  Her Mother's Secret and Her Sister's Secrettime was taken away from finishing writing novel number three. Both were published during lockdown so writing and appearing on blogs and social media played a very important part in the success of both. Thank you to so many of you in the writing community for your support.

I've managed to keep a fairly regular output.
At the moment, there are eight days to go and my word count is at 40,022. I'm on target to get to 50,000 and may even get there before the end of November if all continues to go well. So what have I done differently this year? Lockdown has made it easier for me to write every day. In fact, I've missed just one day. Even on days when I have not written the recommended 1667 words, I've been able to make up for it on other days. Yesterday, for example, I rearranged and sorted some previously written scenes and was well short of the average. One of my characters, Odile, now has a complete section written from her point of view and I can't wait to 'walk in her footsteps' post-COVID in Normandy and the area around Avranches that I love. I returned to my manuscript this morning with renewed excitement and wrote 1,274 words in an hour and a half sprint. A big thank you to writer friend, Kirsten, for inviting me to be part of her group. 
Just one badge to get now!

Fingers crossed! 

I can imagine that this way of writing will be, for many, completely alien to you. What it has meant for me is that in spite of a lot of work on the novel ahead I will have the bones of a complete story down in print. Having discussed the premise of the idea and the synopsis with an independent editor during a 1-1 at the RNA Virtual Conference in July, I've now immersed myself back into the story and reacquainted myself with my characters and their problems. With everything else being virtual at the moment, I'm enjoying travelling back in time to the 1940s and early sixties, to stunning rural mid-Wales and hearing the beautiful sounds of the French language in my head

Good luck to all of you doing NaNo this year. How have you found it? I'd love to know your thoughts.

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

Monday 16 November 2020

 Guest Interview With Morton Gray

This week I am very pleased to welcome Choc Lit author, Morton Gray, onto the blog. I first met Morton at my very first RNA Conference at Lancaster in 2016 where she and her friends made me feel very welcome. With her novel, Christmas at the Little Beach Cafe, (Borteen Secrets Book 5) coming out tomorrow, 17th November, I was delighted that she found time to answer some questions about her writing and the new book.

Welcome, Morton! Please tell us a little about yourself and your writing. 

I’m Morton Gray and I write romance with a mystery to solve for Choc Lit. I started writing seriously following the birth of my second child. I went to a writing class, where I tried lots of different types of writing, I discovered that I wanted to write novels. After that, I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s wonderful New Writer’s Scheme. The scheme gives you a critique of a novel for each year you are a member and this helped me to develop my writing to the point where I began to shortlist in writing competitions, eventually winning Choc Lit Publishing’s Search for a Star competition in 2016.

Christmas at the Little Beach Café is your fifth novel to be published by Choc Lit and your second Christmas book. Where do you get your inspiration?

Very interesting question, because most of the time I have no clue where my ideas come from! I seem to start with a character and a setting and take off from there. I’m not a planner, so part of the pleasure for me is to see how the story develops from my starting point. 

For Christmas at the Little Beach Café, I had a clear picture in my head of my hero, Justin Sadler and a backstory which resulted in him hating Christmas. From there, I had a ‘vision’ of him catching a red hat on the beach, which had blown from the head of an unknown woman. Then, I was off … who was the woman and what had led her to be at that place at that particular time?

Borteen Bay is a location you return to in your books. How important is the setting? Is it based on a real place?

I like to base my books in the same fictional seaside town of Borteen. This allows me to have characters from my other books making guest appearances in my current story and readers seem to like that too. Borteen is not actually a real place, but its imaginary streets are very clear in my head. I have even drawn a map of the location. I guess it is an amalgamation of my favourite seaside places.

Can you summarise your new novel in just a few sentences?

The back of Christmas at the Little Beach Café says:

Run away to the little beach café this Christmas ...

Five years ago at Christmas, solicitor Justin Sadler made the decision to leave his comfortable existence behind and move to the coast. Since then, he’s tried his best to ignore the festive season and, as he sits in the little beach café and reflects on that fateful night when his life was turned upside down, he expects his fifth Christmas alone to be no different to any of the others since he made his escape.

But when he encounters a mystery woman on the beach, he soon realises he may have found a fellow runaway and kindred spirit. Could Justin finally be ready to move on and let Christmas into his life again?

Oh and watch out for guest appearances of Ryan the seagull, who appears on the cover.


Do any of your family’s Christmas traditions appear in your novel? 

Again a good question. We have a very traditional Christmas I suppose. I send Christmas cards to loads of people at the beginning of December and put up my trees. In this house, we usually have three! I love Christmas decorations and the stories of past Christmases they remind me of.

We usually have my mother over for Christmas lunch. My husband thankfully cooks, as I tend to get very flustered preparing that sort of meal. My sons were both living at home last year, but one has recently bought a house with his girlfriend, so I’m not sure if they will come to us for lunch or want to cook in their own home. My sister and her family normally join us in the afternoon for present giving.

One family fun thing (which isn’t in the book) is the tradition of getting Bubléd and Boyled. Let me explain – my eldest son was once given a full-size cardboard cut-out of Michael Bublé as a secret Santa present at work. At Christmastime Michael appears in the most unexpected places – in your shower, in dark rooms, just behind the front door and it doesn’t matter if you know he will be there it scares you! We now also have a full-size cardboard Susan Boyle too and she is equally as good for making you jump out of your skin! 

So, to answer the original question, maybe only my love of decorating for Christmas is included in the book.

Where do you write best? When do you write best – a lark or an owl?

I have trained myself to write almost anywhere. I am happy to write longhand into notebooks or straight onto the computer. I’ve written on buses, trains, as a passenger in a car, on carparks, waiting for appointments, once while waiting to be sent to the operating theatre for an operation, even in the bath! I can write at any time, sometimes typing onto my phone in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep, but I suppose I’m more productive in the mornings as a general rule.

What are you working on at present? 

I’m actually working on my Christmas 2021 book, again set in Borteen. This one is a bit different, as there is an older couple and a younger couple in the book. The story starts when Buzz, who runs the Borteen crystal shop, believes that he sees his wife, who disappeared twenty years before, on the beach. He quickly realises that the girl he has seen wearing his wife’s wedding dress is much too young to be his lost wife, but who is she?

What would a reader expect when they pick up a Morton Gray novel? 

I like to say that I write romance with a mystery to solve. I write hard won happy ever afters with a lot of twists and turns along the way.

Thank you, Morton, for an interesting insight into your writing and the ideas behind your new novel. Good luck with the sales of Christmas at the Little Beach Cafe.

Author Bio:

Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, 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 aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. 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.

Morton’s latest release is Christmas at the Little Beach Café published as an e-book and audio download on 17 November 2020.

Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was published after she won the Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition. This story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s new headteacher, Harry Dixon. The book is available as a paperback and e-book.

Morton’s second book for Choc Lit The Truth Lies Buried is another romantic suspense novel, The book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past. This book is available as an e-book, paperback and audiobook.

Christmas at Borteen Bay was Morton’s first Christmas novella. It is set in her fictional seaside town of Borteen and follows the story of Pippa Freeman, who runs the Rose Court Guesthouse with her mother, and local policeman Ethan Gibson, as they unravel a family secret as Christmas approaches.

Bestselling Sunny Days on the Beach, is her fourth novel for Choc Lit. Again set in Borteen, this book is the story of what happens when craft shop owner, Mandy Vanes takes in an abandoned teenager, Nick Crossten and the repercussions when Graham Frankley, a gin distiller, arrives in town to say he has received a letter telling him he is Nick’s father.

You can catch up with Morton on her website www.mortonsgray.com, on

Twitter - @MortonSGray, her Facebook page – Morton S. Gray Author - https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/ and

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

Purchasing links for The Girl on the Beach at http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-on-the-beach/ e-book and paperback

Purchasing links for The Truth Lies Buried at http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-truth-lies-buried/ e-book, audio and paperback.

Purchasing links for Christmas in Borteen Bay at https://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/christmas-at-borteen-bay/ e-book and audio

Purchasing links for Sunny Days on the Beach at https://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/sunny-days-at-the-beach/ e-book, audio and paperback

Purchasing links for Christmas at the Little Beach Café at https://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/christmas-at-the-little-beach-cafe/ e-book and audio.

Thank you for reading. What do you like best about returning to a familiar setting in a book? 

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

Monday 2 November 2020

Writing a Series

Today I'm very pleased to welcome Arrow saga writer, Maisie Thomas, onto the blog. I first came across Maisie's name when her novel, The Railway Girls, was recommended to me by a friend who knows how much I enjoy books set in WW2. I loved the novel and was delighted to find it was the first in a series; I would get to know more about those remarkable women and the role they played during the war. Series of stories have always interested me from a writing point of view. How do you ensure they are novels in their own right and stand-alones without having to start reading at book one, for instance? I contacted Maisie to see if she would like to write a blog post about it. Delighted that she accepted the offer, I'll hand you over to Maisie.

Maisie, welcome!
Many thanks, Jan, for inviting me onto your blog to talk about my experience of writing a series. Cassandra Di Bello, who at that time was an editor for Arrow, came up with the concept of a saga series about the women and girls who worked on Britain’s railways during the Second World War. I was asked to put together a proposal for the series, including details about characters and plots, and after that came the offer of a contract. The whole process happened very quickly – in less than two weeks.

Cass wanted me to create a group of girls and women and choose three of them to
concentrate on. These are Joan and Mabel, who are both in their early 20s, and Dot, who is in her 40s with two sons serving in the army and two young grandchildren. Cass also wanted me to create strong and enduring friendships between my characters and I had to decide how to achieve this. I could, for example, have given them all the same job, so that they spent their days working alongside one another; but I didn’t want to do that, because I wanted readers to get a sense of the vast number of jobs that women were required to do. Instead I have my group meeting regularly for a cuppa in the station buffet and that’s how they get to know one another.

To me, the most important aspect of writing a series is the planning. I started with a detailed synopsis, which was broken down first into books and then into scenes.

Since I have three viewpoint characters, it’s important to divide up each book in such a way that each POV character is represented evenly throughout; and although there are continuing threads from one story to the next, each book also has to be a stand-alone novel with a sense of completion at the end.

Something that is very important is keeping track of what each character does and doesn’t know about what has happened to the others. Although I have three POV characters, my cast is larger than that and I can’t afford to trip up over who knows what and when!

The Railway Girls series is written around real events, such as Dunkirk, the Christmas Blitz and other Manchester air raids, so all my fictional events have to fit in with and around these. I don’t mean this in a general way – I mean that I worked out the dates of all my fictional events.

If you are thinking of tackling a series, the best advice I can offer is: plan, plan, plan!  
The more planning you do in advance, the better and stronger your series will be and you won’t end up painting yourself into a corner!

Thank you, Maisie. That's a fascinating insight into how you went about writing your series and I'm sure it will be of great interest to writers and readers alike. I was full of admiration that the whole process, from proposal to contract, took less than two weeks. Wow! You have shown clearly why and how planning is at the heart of writing a series. Thank you for that advice. I wish you huge success with the series. Book 2 is nearing the top of my TBR pile - I can't wait to reconnect with Joan, Mabel and Dot and see what life holds for them next.

Thank you for reading. I'd love to know your thoughts about writing and/or reading series of novels. Writers, do you plan thoroughly as Maisie does? Readers, do you always start with book one?
You may also follow me on @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer page.

Wednesday 28 October 2020

 What Readers Expect

October has been a busy month for courses and writing workshops. It started with four RNA Learning seminars as part of a Build your author brand, promote your books, reach more readers course, run by Anna Caig. Like many writers, I find promoting my own books difficult and, if I'm honest, am happier supporting fellow authors promote theirs so this course was very useful now that two of my novels are out in the world. The course was excellent and covered a whole range of aspects of marketing including building an authentic and effective author brand, key messages, the use of digital and social media, media training and interview skills. 

What is our author brand? Anna explained that it may be defined as 'features that identify you as distinct from others' and that 'personal branding is the story people tell about you when you're not in the room.' This got me thinking about what readers will now expect from a novel written by me. Have I got a brand yet? I made a list of some of the things that I've tried to do in my novels and hope I've succeeded in achieving some of the points:

  • settings, both in time and location, are integral to the story
  • there is a dual timeline and the social history of both eras will impact on decisions made
  • there is a contrasting location
  • family relationships are explored, especially the bond between mothers and daughters
  • the characters are hopefully believable in that they show their flaws as well as their strengths, going on a journey of self-discovery
  • the characters' emotions, their highs and lows, are shared with the readers
  • the story usually involves romantic first love and also forbidden love
  • there are hopeful, uplifting endings
These features are often seen in many writers' novels so are certainly not 'distinct' as such but perhaps we all deal with them in different ways. Here are some comments from readers that have helped me see how the novels have been received:

Both Elin and Alexandra are complex and well-rounded characters, and very much of their time......The love they had for each other is threaded throughout Her Mother's Secret.

The author has skillfully transported us to a Greek island and given us characters to care about.

...A dual timeline story of love and self-discovery with memorable characters and a stunning Greek backdrop to bring it all to life...The mother/daughter relationship was fully explored to reveal a strong familial bond which explained a lot about the emotional decisions made in both eras.

I love discovering a new writer who can transport me to a destination...this is a delightful story that conjures up all the colour and charm of a Greek island.

Who better than Jan Baynham to lead you through a tale of family secrets? ...Be prepared to cross the decades, live through the shame, the deceit and, finally, love that brings this family's story to life.

All the characters, even those with more secondary parts, are strongly drawn and play their roles in the story. Secrets are kept, and exposed, and you may ask yourself what you would have decided in the same situation.

...You touched on so many issues. It was heart-wrenching and beautiful, at times, with a lovely ending.

The pace never drags. You keep wanting to know what happens next. Split between the 1940s and 1960s, the author has captured both eras well.

Thank you for reading. I am now working on novel three so expect many of the features listed above. I can tell you that the contrasting area in this book is Northern France and it is set in wartime and 1960. It deals with secrets, social class, inheritance, forbidden love and the French Resistance. 
Writers - What can we expect to find in your books? Please put a link in the comment box.
Readers - Whar do you look for when choosing a new book?

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

Monday 5 October 2020

About a Book

Today I’m delighted to welcome a fellow RNA Cariad Chapter member, Evonne Wareham, onto the blog. Evonne is an award-winning author who writes romantic suspense for Choc Lit. So, there’s the other link between us. We share the same publisher, my publisher, Ruby Fiction, being an imprint of hers. Her latest novel, A Wedding on the Riviera, was published on 22nd September and is already attracting fantastic reviews.

Evonne, over to you.  

A big thank you to Jan for inviting me onto the blog today to talk about writing about location – and the similarities and differences in the ways we approach it. While we both have a love story at the heart of what we write, Jan mixes her romance with the layers and complexities of family relationships, played out over generations;  I go for contemporary romantic suspense – mixing a central love affair with a measure of crime and mayhem. We both have a darker side to our writing, and we are both partial to secrets and mysteries. The other thing we share is where we set our books. We both use locations in our native Wales, but also enjoy sunny holiday destinations abroad, places that offer the reader a chance of some armchair travel. Well, we have to have something to balance all that Welsh rain!

We have definitely had a lot of that recently, haven’t we? Locations do play a very important part in our novels. Please tell us more about how you use those settings in yours.

Even with all that in common, we differ in the way we use the settings. Jan uses both locations in one book – an essential part of her heroine’s journey, where secrets at home can only be explained by an excursion into the past and to another place.  I separate my use of location between books. While all my books are romantic suspense – I love the juxtaposition of crime and a love story - I write at both ends of a spectrum. The lighter end, my Riviera series, is about glamour and sunshine, and there is nowhere better than the French and Italian Riviera to convey that, even before the book is opened. A Wedding on the Riviera, my latest book, has the added attraction of that wedding – yet more glitz. The more gritty stand-alone stories are much darker, with a higher body count. Not all my grittier books so far have been set in Wales – although Cardiff often manages to make a cameo appearance, even when the bulk of the action takes place elsewhere. I’m hoping there will be a more stories set in Wales fairly soon. I want to take advantage of the differences in the locations, to differentiate the styles of the books, and am looking forward to developing this. The big plus in using Wales as a location for me is the landscape, particula
rly the National Parks. Writing about wilder countryside, off the beaten track, lets me use places where things can be kept hidden – secrets again. I’m hoping in the future to draw in some elements of Welsh folklore, adding more layers of mystery to a story. The manuscripts I have lurking in the wings are not all set in Wales, but I certainly intend to make that a focus in the future.

That’s so interesting, Evonne. Different landscapes evoke different responses from readers, I think, and you’ve picked a perfect location for your latest novel. Separating the kinds of landscapes for the two distinct styles of your writing obviously works. Wales has some wonderful bleak and deserted landscapes that must be ideal for the setting of your darker, grittier stories. Secrets, folklore and mystery – I can’t wait to know what you have in store for us.    

I think both Jan and I feel that Wales is perhaps underrepresented in popular fiction, in comparison with other parts of the British Isles, like Scotland or Cornwall, and this seems to be particularly the case in books with a romantic element. Wales is a beautiful country, with an interesting history, which can get a bit overlooked ....

Yes, I agree. Setting a romance in Wales, either contemporary or historical, works very well, and it would be great to see more romantic novels set here. The countryside, the long coastline and some of the spectacular wedding venues we have here in Wales make the perfect backdrops. Could this be your next romance story, Evonne?

Thank you for joining me on the blog. I've enjoyed chatting with you.


Evonne is an award winning Welsh author of romantic suspense - more crime and dead bodies than your average romance. She likes to set her book in her native Wales, or for a touch of glamorous escapism, in favourite holiday destinations in Europe. She is a Doctor of Philosophy and an historian, and a member of both the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Crime Writers’ Association.

If you would like to find out more about Evonne, you may follow her here:

Twitter  https://twitter.com/evonnewareham

Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/evonnewarehamauthor/

Website  www.evonnewareham.com

Blog  www.evonneonwednesday.blogspot.com

Book Description

A return to the Riviera on the trail of a runaway groom

When out-of-work actor Ryan Calder attends a wedding as the plus-one of successful businesswoman, Nadine Wells, he doesn't expect to get in a scuffle with the groom. But Ryan has a good reason. He recognises the groom from another wedding where the same man made a quick getaway, taking the wedding money and leaving a heartbreaking bride in his wake. It seems he's struck again, and Nadine's poor friend is the target. Ryan and Nadine decide they can't let it happen to another woman, so with a group of friends they hatch a plan that will take them to the French Riviera, hot on the heels of the crooked groom. But could their scheme to bring him to justice also succeed in bringing them closer together?  

Buy links for A Wedding on the Riviera

Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wedding-Riviera-Evonne-Wareham-ebook/dp/B08FJCQQRS/ref=sr_1_2?crid=IC9XODIG4QE9&dchild=1&keywords=evonne+wareham&qid=1599051343&s=books&sprefix=evonne%2Cstripbooks%2C183&sr=1-2

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/a-wedding-on-the-riviera

Apple https://books.apple.com/us/book/a-wedding-on-the-riviera/id1527067169?itsct=books_toolbox&itscg=30200&at=11lNBs

Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-wedding-on-the-riviera-evonne-wareham/1137460211?ean=2940162842545

Thank you for reading. How important is location when reading or writing a particular genre?

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

Friday 25 September 2020

 Novel Two Is Out There

Her Sisters Secret has been published and available to download for ten days. After wondering how it would be received by readers, I'm very pleased - and relieved - to say that I've received some lovely messages and have been thrilled by the early reviews. Whereas during the height of COVID19 in April when many reviews for novel one mentioned the setting and escapism, these readers comment more on the characters and the pace of this novel. In some ways, this sets it apart as a very different novel in spite of some similar themes of mother/daughter bonds, identity, and forbidden love. 
Here are a few of the comments:

The pace never drags. You keep wanting to know what happens next.

A thoroughly enjoyable read with great characters and a well-developed plot, full of twists and turns.

From the beginning, this book draws you in as you are pulled in by the characters, especially Rose.

We went out for an al fresco lunch on publication day itself and enjoyed sitting outside, socially distanced from the other tables of diners, under both the Welsh and Italian flags. The owner and chef of C
affé Fragolino is Francesco, originally from Messina. He and his staff made us very welcome. When my husband explained why we were celebrating and showed him the cover of Her Sister's Secret, he replied, 'Ah, the Vespa. Mine, it is outside the gate in the lane.'

We tried to choose some of the dishes that were mentioned in the book and the arancini were amazing.

'That evening, Signora insisted on cooking us a traditional Sicilian meal starting with some delicious rice balls, arancini...We were the only ones in there as she normally only offered breakfast to her guests.'

We ended our meal with some sweet cannoli as Jen did when she visited the trattoria in Villaggio sul MareFrancesco gave us some mini versions of the ricotta-filled pastries to take home with us, too.

The writing community has been so generous in its support again on Facebook and Twitter and I have enjoyed featuring on a number of blogs answering questions or talking about the inspiration behind my book, with more to come. A big, big thank you to you all. 

If you are a writer whose book has been published during COVID, how did you celebrate and mark the occasion?

Thank you for reading. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page. 

Tuesday 25 August 2020

 On To Novel Two

The edits are done, the cover has been revealed and my second novel, Her Sister's Secret is up for pre-order on Amazon. Publication day is just three weeks today! If I thought it was a nervous time when my debut novel was published back in April, it is nothing compared to how I feel now. I am passionate about the story and why I wanted to tell Rose and Jen's stories. I know my characters really well; I think of them as my friends so why am I feeling the way I do? The reassuring fact is that other writers have told me that they have felt the same with their second novels. 

I was unprepared for the wonderful response I received for Her Mother's Secret through so many reviews and messages. Thank you all. If you remember, I wasn't sure about posting scenes of the fictional Greek island with all the colour, sunshine and photos of a setting reminiscent of holidays when so many people were having to deal with the awful effects of COVID19. Very soon, it was obvious that the novel became an escapist read for people during lockdown. I hadn't written it with escapism in mind but I was more than happy if it helped people deal with the isolation. Naturally, I'm wondering whether my new novel will be viewed as well by readers and how I will deal with things if it's not. There is now a level of expectation that wasn't there for my debut.

It got me thinking about what my novels offer readers and what kind of books they are. I am about a third of the way through writing novel 3. Each one is different, of course, but do they have common elements that readers will come to expect as they get to know my writing? I remember having a conversation about this with an editor at an RNA Conference even though the novels may not fit into a definite genre. Here are some of my thoughts::

- all three books are dual narratives and tell a mother's story and a daughter's
- actions and decisions taken in the mother's story will have consequences for her daughter's story
- the novels deal with relationships in families, especially within three generations, and always explore the unbroken bond between mothers and daughters
- they are character-driven where I hope the reader experiences a whole gamut of emotions 
- there is always a family secret that comes to light as the stories unravel
- there will always be a romantic love interest; sometimes it's the character's first love, often it's a forbidden love because of cultural or social class differences
- all three novels take place in the past. Her Mother's Secret is set most recently in 1969 and 1991 whereas in Her Sister's Secret is set just after WW2 in 1946-7 and in 1965-6. Novel 3 is set in 1940 and 1959.
- all my novels have one section set in a foreign country - Greece, Sicily or Northern France. In the case of Her Mother's Secret, both Elin's and part of Alexandra's stories are set against the backdrop of Greece. Home for my characters is always rural mid-Wales where I was born and brought up but some of the characters travel to other countries to find answers once secrets are revealed. 

The RNA Learning Programme for 2020-21 has just been announced and I have registered for this course. I think it will be useful for me to identify my brand still further. People who've attended  Anna Craig's sessions before have said how good they are and I'm really looking forward to it.

If you do download Her Sister's Secret, (I'd love it if you do!) I hope you will enjoy firstly travelling back with Rose to the years just after the war and then spending time with Jen as she comes to terms with a family secret. Her life is put on hold when she spends the summer of 1966 in Sicily in search of answers.

How far would you travel to find the truth?
It's the 1960s and Jennifer Howells is a young woman with the world at her feet, just on the cusp of leaving her Welsh village for an exciting life in the city.
Then the contents of an inconspicuous brown envelope turn Jennifer's world upside down. The discovery leaves her spiralling, unsure of who she is. Overnight, Miss Goody Two Shoes is replaced by a mini-skirted wild child who lives for parties and rock'n'roll.
But Jennifer's experience with the excesses of sixties' culture leaves her no closer to her true identity. She soon realises she will have to travel further - first to Cardiff, then to Sicily - if she is to find out who she really is...

Thank you for reading. 
If you are a writer, how did you feel when your second novel was about to be published? 
If you are a reader, do you buy books on the strength of an author's previous book? 

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