Monday 5 December 2022

 Guest Post with Judith Barrow

Today I'm delighted to welcome author friend, Judith Barrow, back to the blog. We first met at a library event back in 2014 when I was just starting out as a writer. I admire her writing greatly and was thrilled when she agreed to write a blog post about the research she does for her novels. 

Judith, welcome! Over to you.

Research is formalised curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose. Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)

When Jan asked me to write about research, I started with one purpose, to research the subject of research, and then to explain how I use it. Two hours later, being easily led by that 'one other interesting... by the way did you know...' fact, and also being insatiably nosy, I was reading about the earliest wigs that were worn. See below * if you're interested!)

Eventually dragging myself back to reality, I thought about the research I carried out for my trilogy - the Haworth series and the prequel A Hundred Tiny Threads.

At the time of Patterns of Shadows (the first book), I made a list of the familiar and the unfamiliar things I needed to know to make my characters come alive, and to give a real sense of place to the world where they exist.

I now have files bulging with the information I found for each book: Patterns of Shadows, in 1944/45, the sequel, Changing Patterns in 1950/51. And, last in the series, Living in the Shadows. 1969/70

And this is the format I've followed ever since. Put simply...

With characters, it's the hairstyles, the clothes, the shoes, the cosmetics and toiletries on the market that they use, the food and drink. There's the work they do, the newspapers and books they read (or don't), the hobbies, the pastimes. Then there are the types of houses they live in according to their social status, the furniture, kitchens, plumbing, gardens.

But here I'll let you into a secret. For the Northern town the Haworth family lives in, I traced an old 1940s map of the streets that surrounded the building that the trilogy is based on - the first German POW camo in the UK in WW2. This was an old disused cotton mill in Oldham, Lancashire. Simply put, it was chosen because it was far from the coast, was surrounded by two mill reservoirs, roads, and later a railway line. And had concrete floors and high fences. At the time all military installations were commandeered by the MOD for the army so other buildings had to be utilised. I traced the town, altered the direction of a few streets, added a park, allotments, ginnels, and alleyways - and renamed the lot. Ashford of the North of England existed.

For the village that some of the family moved to in Wales, I researched and adapted their lifestyles in that era.

 After that, and something vital to any historical novel, I researched the outside world; what was happening as a background that affects the characters, in the same way that what is happening in our world affects us now. For this, I relied on websites, British and international newspapers, radio, and television recordings.

The research for my more contemporary book, The Memory, (Shortlisted
for the Wales Book of the Year Award 2021 - The Rhys DaviesTrust Fiction Award),
was somewhat different. Here, research was more for the conditions of Alzheimer's, which, as a former carer, was more general, and for features of Downs Syndrome, I relied on the expertise of a friend who worked in that field.

Although my next book, Sisters, to be published by Honno on 26th January 2023, is set in a more contemporary time (1970s/1980s), there was still some of the usual research needed: the fashion, hairstyles, the interiors of the houses, the way people lived. But this is a story that is all about the relationships within the family, more confined within a domestic situation, and less about the outside world. For me, this has been one of the greatest differences in my research between my historical family sagas and my more contemporary family stories. 

As a last note, I should add that finding someone who is personally involved in a profession you are researching and can give first-hand knowledge and expertise is invaluable. And, usually, they are only too happy to help.

If we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
- Albert Einstein, (1879-1955), German physicist who came up with the theory of relativity, winnwer of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.

*Footnote: The first documented use of wigs is around 3400 BC, in Ancient Egypt. Egyptians are also credited with inventing wigs, usually;ly worn for ceremonial purposes. They were created using human hair, vegetable fibres, and sheep's wool, and were often attached using beeswax.

Thank you, Judith. I'm in awe of all the research that you do and can see in my mind's eye the bulging files for each book! Your hard work certainly pays off; when I was reading the Haworth family stories, I felt I was actually there in Ashford with each one of them.

Twitter - @judithbarrow77

Thank you for reading. I'm sure you will have found Judith's post as interesting as I did. If you did, we'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page. 
For more about me and my writing, please visit my AMAZON page.

Monday 28 November 2022

Guest Post with Angela Petch

This week on the blog for the third in my series on research, I'm thrilled to welcome an author whose writing I admire immensely, Angela Petch. Her novels are set in WW2 Italy. I'll let you tell you more.

Angela, welcome. You know I'm a big fan of your writing; whenever I read one of your novels, I can only imagine how much research you had to do so I'm delighted that you found time to share how you go about this with me and the readers. Over to you!

When writing #historicalfiction, I always have in my mind the “grey area” between fact and fiction. My responsibility as an author is to present credible history at the same time as threading in stories from my imagination. The phrase, “based on a true story” gives a sense that not everything is real life and so all “what-if” questions, are then allowed to come into play.

Mamma and Baboop 1940s
My first book, The Tuscan Secret inspired by Giuseppina, my Italian mother-in-law, involved research of different kinds. First off, I used her own accounts as a teenager during the Second World War; the difficulties of living in Urbino under occupation; the terrifying descriptions of her father hiding a partisan in their home; venturing into the countryside to find food when a British plane
strafed a line of German vehicles nearby; the day she had to walk alone for several kilometres in order to sit an exam for her Pharmacy degree and was stopped at a road check… her fear of being raped; her diary, full of yearnings for her British army captain (future husband). I could go on.

Mamma’s early life as a new bride in East Anglia - learning English, adapting to a completely different culture was challenging. All her true accounts were spellbinding. I wanted to write her story. Much more research was involved along the way. Personal memories are valuable but can be distorted and exaggerated in time.
Eventually, I tweaked the facts of my in-laws’ lives to create more conflict for the plot.  

Reading academic accounts to back up the history and cross referencing (a vital part of research) was essential to understand the background of the Italian Campaign. My bookshelves of text books are testament to my research. 

Giuseppina’s father kept a record of every letter his daughter wrote from England as a young bride getting to grips with her new life. The price of goods, her observations on British customs, rationing etc, were all meticulously filed away. Treasures for a writer. I’ve used Luigi’s papers for my present work too. He was an active partisan, although working undercover at the town hall as registrar, and we have his box of papers to consult: clandestine newspapers of the day, a letter he wrote to Mussolini, first-hand accounts of secret missions.   

Living in Italy for six months helps, as well as speaking Italian. Many of our elderly friends are happy to talk about their past. Our tourist office has diligently recorded their memories. Our past is the counterweight to our future. How true! I spied that phrase in another local museum recording one of the many massacres that occurred during occupation.

Ten miles or so from our Italian home is a national archive of diaries. Invaluable for research. When I wrote The Tuscan Girl I needed information about local women who consorted with the occupiers. Understandably, these records are scarce. Who wants to talk about what would have been considered betrayal? But I was able to track down three accounts which were gold dust. Nothing is doctored in this archive. There are spelling and grammatical errors. Real accounts written by real people.

I’m sure other writers will back up my final point. Briefly, if you can visit the locations you write about, so much the better. You’ll be able to paint your scenes more vividly, smell the smells, walk the walks, find angles you never knew about. This will definitely enrich your work.

Here are some photos of me on location.

Good luck and, above all, have fun!

Thank you, Angela. I'm sure readers will have been fascinated by the insight into the meticulous research you do. Having first-hand accounts, personal observations and diaries are, as you say, a 'treasure' for a writer. I so agree with your last point about your writing being enriched when you walk in the footsteps of your characters by visiting the locations if you can. 

Angela 's books are all on Kindle Unlimited and Prime at the moment.

Social Media Links:





Buying links:

A Tuscan Memory

The Tuscan Gir 

The Tuscan House

The Postcard from Italy

Mavis and Dot

Thank you for reading. Writers, what 'treasure' have you found when researching for your novel? Readers, what convinces you the novel you're reading is well researched? I'd love to read your comments? Thank you.

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

For more about me and my writing, please visit my AMAZON author page.

Monday 14 November 2022

Researching The Novel With Angela Sims

For the second in my series of guest posts on research, I am delighted to welcome historical author, Angela Sims, to the blog. Her debut novel, The Rose of Florence, is due to be published on 28th January, 2023 by Romaunce Books. I fell in love with Florence when I visited it for the first time eleven years ago so when I was given an opportunity to read an early draft of Angela's book, I jumped at the chance. I found myself fully engrossed in the story even though it's set in a period I know very little about. The novel's authentic sense of place is a strong feature and I was transported back to the beautiful city that left such an impression on me.

Angela, welcome! Firstly, congratulations on your debut novel. Now it's over to you.

The Rose of Florence took a bit of researching, but at the beginning, I didn’t realise that’s what I was doing. Like any enthusiastic tourist, I took an interest in Florence and its history from the very first time that I visited the city. There were guided tours, leaflets and of course, books. While some people collect shoes or scarves or stamps, I collect books. Those pesky gift shops in each museum and gallery! (Actually, I have quite an array of scarves too.)

It was only some years after my first visit to Florence that the seeds of my story started to grow. By this time, I had a good grasp of the city’s geography, its art and some of its history. I was most interested in the time of the High Renaissance, with characters such as Leonardo, Botticelli, Michelangelo and Lorenzo de’ Medici. As my story started to develop, the research began in earnest. If you are going to write an historical novel, you’d better make sure that you get at least some of the facts right.

So, I started with a timeline of events, particularly The Pazzi Conspiracy, around which my story is based. Everyone loves a murder, right? Then I added the historical characters and their ages. What amazed me was how many of these famous names were living in what was a small city, all at the same time. I thought there must be a way of including these historic icons into my fictional story. Each time I managed to weave one of them into my story (sometimes quite tenuously), I allowed myself a small smile.

Facts and dates are all important, undoubtedly, but what makes a good historical fiction, in my view, are the small details - details that make the reader feel that they might actually be there, experience the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the place and time. This is where the research gets interesting, and this is where I spent most of my time and energy.

I knew that many of the famous landmarks that we see today were around in 1478, when my story is set, but I wanted to make sure that I didn’t unintentionally include modern additions.

One of the first big events in the story is a banquet in the fictional home of the Rosini family, Palazzo Rosini. It is based on the real Palazzo Davanzati, but was it there at the time? While staying in the small family-run hotel next door, I asked them about it and was delighted when they gave me a copy of a hand-drawn map from 1427. The Palazzo was indeed there, and the road on which it stood bore the name it still bears today, Via Porta Rossa. What are the chances of visiting your location when your story is set over 500 years ago? In Florence, it seems that those chances are quite high.

Then came the food. Oh, the food! Quite a keen foodie myself (cooking and eating), I took great pleasure in researching the food of the time. Discovering their cooking techniques, the available ingredients and popular tastes of the era gave me many hours of pleasure. In fact, I discovered a dessert that I hadn’t come across before, the zuccotto. It incorporated a liqueur called alchermes, a deep red, spiced liqueur, again new to me. So, I spent hours looking at various recipes for zuccotto, and on my next trip to Florence, spent many more hours trying to find a pasticceria that made it. Ultimately, I sourced a bottle of alchermes liqueur, wrapped it up well and brought it home to make my own version of the zuccotto. (I wrote about it in one of my blogs, entitled A Welsh Zuccotto.) It only had a small part in the story, but I believe it added an authenticity and a flavour of the time.

This is truly where research can be a joy and one of the many reasons why I love it. As a University lecturer (in a completely different field), I know that I can’t compete with the professors of history and art, whose depths of knowledge I can only dream about, but does that make my research less valid? I don’t think so. A genuine love for the place, the time period, the characters and the story will always shine through.

Thank you, Angela. It's been fascinating to hear how you went about finding out 'the small details' that transported us to the streets of Florence in 1478. I agree with your last sentence wholeheartedly. 

Social Media Links:

Website -

Facebook - Angela M Sims Author

Twitter - @AngelaMSims1

Insta - angelamsims1

Pre-order links

Romaunce Books - The Rose of Florence

Amazon The Rose of Florence 


Angela's background is in healthcare and she has been a university lecturer since 2010. Her writing experience was limited to a master's dissertation, purely academic, but the research skills she learned during that process were soon used in researching her favourite topic, The Italian Renaissance. It didn't take long before the seeds of a story began to germinate and The Rose of Florence blossomed. Angela lives in Cardiff. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association's New Writers' Scheme.and the Society of Authors.

Readers, I'm sure you found Angela's account of her research as interesting as I did. What 'small details' have you found when researching that made your readers feel they were there at the location and the time? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thank you.

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

To read more about me and my writing, please visit my author page on AMAZON.

Monday 31 October 2022

 Preparing for NaNoWriMo 2022

Tomorrow is the start of National Novel Writing Month 2022. The goal is to write fifty thousand words of a novel in a month. This averages out at 1667 words a day, every day, throughout the month of November. Although this may not sound a lot per day, you only have to miss a day because of other things going on in your life and you are straightaway playing catch up. This will be my seventh attempt and after the success of my first effort in 2014 when I wrote 50,284 words, I do not always achieve my goal. However, I still think it's worth trying as it focuses my mind on the plot, while getting fully immersed in the story. By being in their company every day, I get to know my characters really well, too. There was one other year when I wrote 50,000 words and that was in 2020. Because we were in lockdown, I was able to maintain a steady regular output each day. I wasn't going anywhere! These words, added to the words already written before NaNo, meant that the first draft of my novel was finished. There was much editing to do but I was pleased that Her Nanny's Secret was published in September of the following year, 2021.

I missed the buzz of not taking part last year so I can't wait to get started tomorrow. Just registering and seeing my project with a name gave me real motivation to get the job done. At present, my WiP, with a working title of 'A Tale of Two Sisters', stands at 52,000 words so if I could write another 50,000 in the weeks to come thereby finishing the novel, I would have a completed first draft with which to edit and polish ready for submission. I already know that I have a number of days away from the computer so the graph for 2022 NaNo will not look as regular as the one above. 

So, how have I prepared this year? 
  • I've been writing plans of forthcoming scenes and highlighting any research needed or things to find out beforehand
  • I've listed all those and made notes, ticking them off on the list as they were completed
  • I've drawn an imagined map of the tunnels under the cathedral and invented the number of paces to places of interest - a hiding place, a corner where a makeshift altar was erected, an area where prison inmates were housed
  • I shall have my laptop open at my side with access to photographs taken on research trips for inspiration and authenticity while I type on the PC
In that way, I hope to be able to write without interruption by not having to stop and check on details. There will still be plenty of that to do when I start editing. I shall try to write more on the days when I know I'll be away from the computer the following day in order not to slip too far behind. As well as a meeting with the RNA Cariad Chapter in Cardiff tomorrow, I'm visiting Westonbirt Arboretum with family and friends on Thursday, followed by an evening talk by author, Barbara Erskine. I may be behind after the first week if I'm not careful! Wish me luck!

Thank you for reading. Are you taking part in NaNo this year? How have you prepared for it? I'd love to read your comments. 
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

To find out more about me and my books, please visit my AMAZON page.

Monday 24 October 2022

Guest Post with Eva Glyn

Today I'm delighted to welcome an author friend whose writing I admire greatly, Eva Glyn, who also writes as Jane Cable. Her novels are full of emotion, inspired by the wonderful places she visits and the secret stories she finds there. These are all the ingredients in a novel I love! Those of you who follow my blog will know that this summer I have been undertaking research for my fourth novel. I'm interested in finding out how other authors tackle this and who better than Eva to start off the series. 

Eva, welcome. It's over to you! 

Croatia and its rich twentieth century history is at the heart of my writing. It started with a conversation about the war in the 1990s with our guide during my first visit to the country in 2019, which resulted in The Olive Grove, set on the island of Korcula; then I delved into the rich (and shocking) Second World War history of Vis for An Island of Secrets.

Next summer I will be taking readers to Dubrovnik.Once again it was World War Two that pulled me in, most particularly the massacre of Nazi collaborators by the partisans when they retook the city in 1944. It happened within days of them arriving without even much pretence of a trial, so what if they got it wrong? What might have happened to the families of those men?

I never need much of an excuse to travel to Croatia, but I now tend to leave my research visits until the book is pretty much drafted. This approach means I know the facts I need to check and the places I need to visit to make sure I bring them as alive as possible for my readers, but it does have its drawbacks.

A case in point was the island of Lopud, about 15 kilometres north of the city. Without giving too much away, the fate of Dubrovnik’s Jews became important to my story and it was there many of them were interned by the Italians. But where?

Lopud 1483 Graffiti
The only place that seemed big enough was an abandoned monastery next to the harbour, now the exclusive holiday rental and event space, Lopud 1483. As I researched I found a great big clue; on one of the bedroom walls is some World War Two graffiti reading ‘il duce’. I was fairly convinced I had found the right place and wrote a couple of key scenes in my book accordingly.

We were lucky enough to be able to visit Lopud 1483 between rentals and were shown around by their security manager, a local man with a passion for history. In the course of our conversation it came out that although the Italian soldiers had used the monastery as their base, the Jews had been housed in an old hotel. But which one?

There were several likely targets but I settled on one quite close to the makeshift barracks which backed onto fields, as I knew the Jews had been able to grow their own food. So as I waited for the ferry back I reimagined my scenes and left the island perfectly content.

Except, yet again, I was wrong. The other great thing about researching in the country you are writing is that search engines work differently, and open up new sources. After we left Lopud I rather belatedly discovered it was a different hotel completely, right at the other end of the waterfront.

Jewish armband
Luckily we had walked around the whole village and because it was so iconic we couldn’t help but notice it. Built in the 1930s entirely of concrete it was once a renowned icon of brutalist architecture. Kind of suitable for the brutal use to which it was later put.

So after the trip I was able to rewrite the scenes for the third time and submit my manuscript to my editor. At the time of writing the book has no title, no cover, but oddly a link to pre-order it and a publication date of April 1st 2023. Highly appropriate given history could have made a fool out of me if I hadn’t visited my locations.

Thank you, Eva. That's so interesting to hear that you have most of your novels drafted before visiting the locations. I'm sure that this approach must save a lot of time by narrowing down what you need to check and where you need to go. I'm pleased you found the right hotel and were able to rewrite the scenes before submitting. I can't wait to travel to Dubrovnik with you in your new novel next year and revisit that beautiful city. 

Buy link to Eva's books on Amazon:

Instagram: @evaglynauthor


Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed Eva's post as much as I did. Do you try to visit the locations of your novels? What are the benefits? Have you encountered any drawbacks and had to rewrite any scenes your research trip?

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

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

Saturday 15 October 2022

 Fact Finding Again

When is the best time to undertake research for your novel? Before you start writing the first draft? Making references to what information is needed as you go along and do the fact-finding afterwards? Having three published novels under my belt now and motoring through novel four, I've come to some conclusions. They are all set in the past and I have increased the research with each one.
The research for Her Mother's Secret, set in 1969, tended to be done as I went along and following up on notes I'd added in the margins - check this, find out about this. The sense of place on which many people have commented was created from having visited the country and a number of islands many times. Having followed an art course in college, I was able to draw on personal experience for Elin's paintings and the exhibition Getting the names right for a certain time is important to me so I researched what were popular Christian names in Wales and Greece for the age of my characters. I remember checking whether Alpha or Mythos beer would be served in a taverna in 1969! Did it really matter some would say? To me, it did. I also researched the effects of LSD for the drug-related part of the plot, world events and pop music at the time to try to add authenticity to the story.

When it came to novel two, Her Sister's Secret, I moved further back in time to 1946 and 1966. This time I needed to do some research before starting to write. The novel starts when WW2 had ended but rationing was still in place and the Black market was rife. I researched what punishments were meted out to spivs who were caught dealing as it was important for one of my characters to be 'away' for a certain length of time. I found out about Prisoners of War working on local farms, their uniforms and typical Italian names of the time. During writing the first draft, I then found out facts that were needed as I went along or made a note to come back and expand this or that point. Google maps were invaluable when setting the Sicily part of the novel. I'd hoped to visit the island but COVID struck and research was only online.

Her Nanny's Secret, my third novel, was set earlier again, in 1941. As I planned the novel, I researched the dates of the German advancement into Northern France, the French resistance movement and the POW Italian chapels built on the prison camps before writing the first draft. I thought it was important to do that before plotting out the story. Other topics I researched during the actual writing process included the everyday routines of a stable girl, wills and inheritance, especially how it differs in France, and the permanence or otherwise of memory loss. The second part of the novel is set in 1963. I found it interesting to revisit an area of France I know well. Again, as in the previous two novels, I researched Christian names to be authentic for the time and social class of the characters in Wales and France as well as common surnames in both countries.

For my WiP, novel four, I have undertaken the most research so far. Again, set in WW2, events in the war needed to be accurate but this time with the addition of the Allied invasion of Sicily. My novel, as always, deals with personal stories of the war rather than the military one but underpinning those, there has to be accuracy even though much of the research will not appear in the novel. My last three blog posts tell of the visit I made to the POW Camp, Hut 9 and my trip to Sicily. The visits have proved invaluable since I now have a wealth of notes and photographs to draw on. On my return, I've also visited Henllan Bridge Prisoner of War Camp 70 in West Wales. The camp was home to 1,200 Italians during the war. The POWs had no place to worship and gave up one of their huts, converting it into a Catholic Chapel. Although I'd read about it, nothing prepared me for the beauty and feel of the chapel and seeing the ingenuity of the POWS by making such a special place from found and scrap materials. I came away with ideas about the role Carlo played in creating a similar chapel for his fellow prisoners in my novel. 

I'm enjoying fully immersing myself in the stories of Sara, Carlo and Claudia. The research I've done is helping me to write without interruption. 

Thank you for reading. How do you approach research for your novels? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thanks.

***** Look out for some guest posts about undertaking research from other authors over the next few weeks.*****

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

Please click on MY AMAZON PAGE for more about me and my books. Thank you. 

Thursday 1 September 2022

 Research Trip to Sicily - Part 2

Day 3 - In novel four, Carlo's mother. Lucia, worked as a servant for a wealthy influential family. Sometimes she took him to their villa with her when he was a little boy. The magnificent building where the family lived was in stark contrast to the modest house where the Rosso family resided in a run-down neighbourhood of the same town. Having read Daphne Phelps's book about 'Casa Cuseni' in Taormina on the recommendation of Sarah Kearney on her White Almond Sicily Blog, I knew I wanted to visit the house and wondered if it would provide inspiration for the villa in my novel. Jo and I caught the 8.30am bus to Taormina, enjoying views of the vegetation and fruit trees as we travelled along the coastal road.The magnificent spectacle of Mount Etna was ever present. In contrast to Siracusa and Ortigia, Taormina is perched high above the Ionian sea with amazing views. 

Our tour was booked for11 am and climbing the streets from the bus station to the villa in blistering heat was a feat in itself. Once there, we sat in the shade waiting for Maria, our guide, to start and admired the stunning views. The house was built in 1905 by the British painter, Robert Kitson. The project was overseen by Sir Alfred East and Sir Frank Brangwyn. Kitson left the house to his niece Daphne Phelps in 1947. Many famous people stayed at Casa Cuseni - Pablo Picasso, Bertrand Russell, Greta Garbo, Coco Chanel, Roald Dahl - to name but a few. We were shown a number of first-edition books and original paintings 

The front of the villa.
View from Casa Cuseni
Greta Garbo's sofa -
she lived there for over
 a year in 1950
My gift from
Signor Spadaro
One of the highlights of the tour for me was standing in the dining room
, the creation of Sir Frank Brangwyn. When I told Maria that I was distantly related to him - my great-great-grandfather and his father were cousins - she was delighted. The wonderful frescoes on the walls remain intact in spite of two world wars and tell the love story of the owner, Robert Kitson, and his partner, Carlo Siligato, who, when Messina was destroyed in an earthquake in 1908, together adopted a child, Francesco. It was a forbidden relationship at the time and had to be kept secret. Sir Frank designed the panelled walls, the high-backed chairs, and the round table in Art Nouveau style. When Maria told the present owner, Francesco Spadaro, about my link to Sir Frank Brangwyn, he insisted that I should have a copy of the book he, himself, had written about the dining room. It's a large, beautifully produced book with fabulous illustrations and I shall treasure it. 

Next, we went outside into the garden. In one area, I love the theme of Fire and Water where the design was made out of pieces of black lava and small white pebbles and, stones from the volcano and from the sea.
Ceramic pots will
definitely appear in novel 4
Colourful shop windows
Leaving Casa Cuseni, the walk into Taormina was much easier and we rewarded ourselves with a delicious lunch in the piazza. The afternoon was spent wandering the pretty streets, visiting the Duomo, and finally the famous amphitheatre before catching the bus back to Catania. 

Day 4 - Our last day! Our pick-up for the airport was not until late that evening so we decided that we couldn't come to Sicily without a trip to Mount Etna. We took a bus tour and after walking nearly ten kilometres each day, enjoyed being picked up by our hotel and taken straight to our destination with its change in temperature and landscape. Seeing a house submerged and preserved in lava on the way up to the top was a stark reminder of the devastation that can be caused when a volcano erupts. I braved the cable car and the views from the top were amazing.
Submerged house
The five days flew by. After spending the day we arrived sorting ourselves out and getting our bearings, on each of the other four days we concentrated on Catania, Siracuse and Ortigia, Taormina, and finally, Mount Etna, respectively. In such a short time, we have obviously only touched the surface of what this wonderful area of Sicily has to offer. I'd love to return for a holiday but at least, I now feel I have walked in some of the footsteps of the characters you'll hopefully meet in novel four.

A huge thanks to my daughter, Jo, without whom I'd still be trying to find my way around Catania - my travel guide, research assistant, travel arranger, geological adviser, and more... Above all, it was so good to spend mother and daughter time together enjoying the evening meals al fresco and especially the cannoli and the gelatos!
I hope you have enjoyed reading about what Jo and I did on Days 3 and 4 in this post. If novel four is accepted and published in 2023 as I so hope it will be, I'd love it if you read it and could recognise some of the places where I walked in Carlo and Claudia's footsteps. In the novel, it will be Claudia's first visit to Sicily as it was mine. 

What book have you read lately where you could tell the author had walked in the characters' footsteps? I'd love to know. Thank you.

You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page. 
To find out more about me and my books, please visit MY AMAZON PAGE. Thank you.

'Her Nanny's Secret' will be published in paperback on Tuesday 6th September. Next week! It's available to order from all good bookshops and on-line stores.