Tuesday 30 June 2020

Deciding What to Read
I am a slow reader and my TBR pile is getting 'higher'! I'm sure there are a lot of you like me and you are not really making inroads into the pile before you're attracted to yet another title. I started to think about what prompts me to buy a book. Those of you who know me will say it's a striking cover design, an intriguing title and unanswered questions in the blurb maybe. Yes, it's all of those things but what else? Looking at the list of what I'm hoping to read next on my Kindle, I've tried to categorise my choices to show the range of novels I found there.

Genre - I enjoy historical novels and family sagas. As well as meeting strong characters, who often have battles of their own to face, I learn about what it was like to live during those times and how society has changed. Here are two I can't wait to read:
- Set in 1908, The Ferryman's Daughter by Juliet Greenwood has been described as a gripping new saga of strength, family and hope. I had the pleasure of welcoming Juliet onto my blog on May 25th where you will find out more about her and her novel.
Heartbreak in the Valleys by Francesca Capaldi. It is set in the Welsh valleys in 1915 during World War 1.

Recommendations - Over lockdown, I have 'attended' a number of virtual Society of Author events as well as those at the wonderful Hay Digital Festival. One book that I definitely wanted to read was Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet after hearing her interviews and reading such good things about the novel. It is inspired by Shakespeare's son of the same name who died. The story of the bond between twins and the grief that pushes a marriage to its limit, the author reimagines the life of a boy whose name was given to one of the most famous of plays, Hamlet.

Crime - I enjoy reading crime novels and next week I welcome fellow Ruby Fiction author, Claire Sheldon onto my blog. Her debut novel, Perfect Lie, is already receiving lots of 5* reviews. However, what attracted me to the novel was this in the blurb - the main character, Jen, has started to receive strange gifts in the post ... first flowers, then a sympathy card. It could just be a joke...But then the final gift arrives, and Jen has to question why somebody is so intent on shattering her life into pieces... My imagination is going into overdrive and I'm looking forward to finding out what's going on to this person who is striving to be the 'wife and mother of the year'.

Authors I know - Today is the publication day for my good friend, Sue McDonagh's third novel in the art cafe series, Escape to the Art Cafe. Set on the beautiful Gower peninsular, I know I will be in for an entertaining escapist read. I thoroughly enjoyed her first two books and like them, I understand this one may be read as a standalone. However, I'm looking forward to meeting up with some of the characters from those earlier books, too. I'm sure that as well as the humour and romance in the novel that I'm bound to find in Sue's writing, she will be discussing serious issues, too.  

Sequels and books by authors whose novels I've enjoyed before - Three books stand out on my list: 
Angela Petch's novel The Tuscan Girl. I chose this after enjoying her wonderful WW2 story, The Tuscan Secret 
Endless Skies by Jane Cable. I love the way Jane's stories look back to the past and know this is a book for me.
The Runes of Destiny is due out in December and is Christina Courtenay's sequel to Echoes of the Runes. Her timeslip novel was excellent and I can't wait to continue with the story.

I have read so many amazing books recently and maybe that is for another post but I hope you've enjoyed a peek at what is waiting for me to read over the next month or so.  
Why not pop a recommended title of a book you've enjoyed in the comments? Thank you.

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

Thursday 18 June 2020

Eight Weeks On
It is eight weeks since my debut novel, 'Her Mother's Secret', was published and I've been reflecting on what has happened since. I wasn't expecting the book to have been received the way it has and I'm very grateful for all the wonderful messages and reviews. If it has helped people escape the awful situation in which we find ourselves, I'm more than happy. It's brought back memories of holidays spent on Greek islands for many. There are now forty two reviews on Amazon. Some are duplicated on Goodreads but many on there are different ones, too. A big thank you to those of you who have taken the time to write them. 

Appearing on a large number of blogs has been amazing, every one having been offered by generous members of the writing community. They were all so different. Some asked my to write a piece on a particular topic, for example, the inspiration for my novel -

'At the time, I'd been reading a novel where the rustling in the trees sounded like whispers and inanimate statues took the form of the ghosts of people they represented. combining both ideas, I asked myself what if the whispering could show the presence of a past family member. Always fascinated by family secrets and the bond between mothers and daughters, I knew I had the basis for a story.'

Others wanted to know about the setting - 

'Having visited many times and being struck by the wonderful palette of colours seen in every landscape, Greece was my choice of background. The island is not based on one particular place but is an amalgam of areas I've visited. Every holiday has contributed to the whole backdrop where I've tried to show the climate, the vivid colours of the sea and the flowers as well as the warmth of its people.'

Another asked me to reflect on my writing journey and how it felt to get published in the end -
 ...becoming a published author ... was both exciting and nerve wracking, but I did it! My advice to anyone reading this is never give up. It's never too late!

Some were question and answer interviews where I loved the variety of the questions. Another blog post was in the form of sharing opening lines and others reviewed the book. Thank you all for getting my name out there. 

In the same way, I hope that welcoming a number of authors onto my blog in my series of 'Firsts' in May and June has had a similar effect for them. Two writers, Juliette Lawson and Kirsten Hesketh, were debut authors and Juliet Greenwood talked about her first novel with a new publisher. The comments on my blog tend to be from just a few loyal followers but stats show that the posts are read world wide. I look forward to sharing more guest posts with you in July.

Virtual meetings have become the norm. As co-organiser of the newly named Cariad Chapter of the RNA, we now meet via Zoom and it's been good to include our members from Norway, Cornwall and Bristol, too. Our June meeting was a virtual mini-writing workshop with author, Jenny Kane. Great fun, it made up for having to cancel the writing day we'd booked with her due to lockdown.

Since publication day, I have also taken part in my publisher's Choc Lit and Ruby Virtual Book Festival. It ran over two weeks and I shared a day with the lovely writer, Marie Laval. A wide variety of events took place with readings, videos and give-aways.I ran two competitions - one was to choose an actor to play Stelios from 'Her Mother's Secret' and the other was to tell me the name of the underground lake in Kefalonia that inspired my short story, 'The Phantom Boatman' last year.

Last week, 'Her Mother's Secret' came out in audio. At first, it felt strange to hear the voices of my characters who had lived in my head for so long. Read for Isis Audio Soundings by Deryn Edwards, I am delighted with it. What has made it particularly worthwhile for me was to receive an email from a partially sighted reader who had been frustrated that she couldn't read the e-book but had just finished listening to it and wanted me to know how much she'd enjoyed the story. 

I've joined an on-line writing course that meets fortnightly. Taught by the amazing Jenny Kane, it already seems to be just what I need. Above all, it will give me the opportunity to write outside my comfort zone and experiment with different genres. I hadn't written a short story for a while apart from some Flash Fiction pieces and it felt good to submit one for a critique from Jenny yesterday. I have also booked a workshop on Conflict with Alison May at the end of the month.

So that's it. Eight weeks of being a published author. I'm a bit sad as I'm regularly checking the Amazon rankings to see how my 'baby' is doing. For two whole days in May, it was #1 Amazon Hot Release in Greek Travel. Because this will not happen again, I had to screen shot it! I told you I was sad. It has now settled at #7 - #8 in the Greek Travel Best Sellers. Do you do this?

Thank you for reading. How did you feel in the weeks after your first ever novel was published? I'd love to read your comments. Thanks.

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

Monday 1 June 2020

I'm delighted to welcome author, Marie Laval, to the blog today. We share the same publisher, Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction, and I first met Marie at the RNA York Tea last September. During the recent Choc Lit and Ruby Virtual Book Festival we shared a day and exchanged pieces about the inspiration for our novels.

Over to you, Marie!
It takes me so long to write a novel that I can’t always recall what gave me the original idea for a story. I can however remember exactly where and when 'A PARIS FAIRY TALE' was born in my imagination. I had gone shopping in Manchester with my daughter Clémence and we sheltered from the rain in the beautiful John Ryland’s Library on Deansgate in the city centre. After walking around the impressive, atmospheric building, I sat in front of a computer and played around with an interactive programme describing the history of illuminated manuscripts in medieval Paris. I was particularly fascinated by the work of Jean Rémiet, an illuminator also known as ‘the master of death’ for the way he portrayed death and illness – I know, not very cheerful! From that moment on, I was hooked… It took two years to finish the story!

If it hadn’t been for the rain, I would never have ventured inside the library that particular day and got involved in the interactive display. And if hadn’t been for my daughter standing patiently next to me for over an hour whilst I took frantic notes and muttered to myself like a mad woman, 'A PARIS FAIRY TALE' might never have existed! 

Is Paris the city of happily ever afters?
Workaholic art historian Aurora Black doesn’t have time for fairy tales or Prince Charmings, even in the most romantic city in the world. She has recently been hired by a Parisian auction house for a job that could make or break her career. Unfortunately, daredevil journalist Cédric Castel seems intent on disrupting Aurora’s routine.
As Aurora and Cédric embark on a journey across France, they get more than

they bargained for as they find themselves battling rogue antiques dealers and personal demons, not to mention a growing attraction to each other.
But with the help of a fairy godmother or two, could they both find their happily ever afters? 

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie now lives in Lancashire with her family. She works full-time as a modern languages teacher and in her spare time she loves writing romance and dreaming about romantic heroes.
She writes both historical and contemporary romance. Her historical romance The Lion’s Embrace won the Gold Medal at the Global Ebook Awards 2015 (category Historical Romance), and best-selling Little Pink Taxi was her debut romantic comedy novel with Choc Lit.
She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and the Society of Authors. Her native France, as well as her passion for history and research, very much influences her writing, and all her novels have what she likes to call ‘a French twist’!
A PARIS FAIRY TALE is available as an ebook and an audio book from Amazon
You can find out more about Marie on:
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/marielavalauthor/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/MarieLaval1
You can also find on Pinterest the many beautiful photos of Paris and illuminated manuscripts which inspired the writing of A Paris Fairy Tale https://www.pinterest.co.uk/laval0232/

Thank you, Marie. Set in my favourite city, I love the sound of your novel and it's already on my Kindle, moving to the top of my TBR pile.  

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