Monday 24 April 2023

 Guest Post With Sally Jenkins

Today I'm very pleased to welcome fellow Joffe Books /Ruby Fiction author, Sally Jenkins, to the blog. Her debut novel, Little Museum of Hope, is due to be published tomorrow, Tuesday 25th April.

Sally, welcome. I'm really looking forward to what you have to tell us about your new novel. It's over to you.

Little Museum of Hope 

When I give talks about my writing or mention it to friends and family, one question pops up again and again: Is it autobiographical - did this happen to you? My answer has always been an emphatic No, and I believed that to be true.

However, on reflection, I’ve been lying.

In Little Museum of Hope, several characters share chunks of their life stories with the creator of the museum, Vanessa. None of these stories mirrors my own life but several of them draw directly on tiny parts of my own experience. When I listed these, I was shocked at how much of my life is in the novel:

·       Within the museum is the Mended Heart CafĂ©, also run by Vanessa, even though she is a disaster at baking - like me! My cookery teacher wrote on my school report: Sally’s written work is far better than her practical work. Vanessa received the same diplomatic criticism.

·       Maxine is one of the first donors to the museum. She shares the story of her teenage love affair with the boy next door and its dark repercussions into her future. I never got as far as the love affair but I did have a crush on our neighbour’s son and, like Maxine, watched for him out of the window.


 Stephen tells Vanessa how he learned to bell ring, in order to cope with grief, and reveals that it created new problems in his life. He donates ‘Diagrams’, a bell-ringing book, to the museum. I have been a church bell ringer since the age of fourteen and I own a copy of that book – albeit without the loving inscription found inside Stephen’s copy. My own experience in bell towers was invaluable to accurately describe Stephen’s first trip up a spiral staircase and into the ringing chamber.

·       Rose has a very minor role in Little Museum of Hope but, like me, she discovers the benefit of a Speakers’ Club. Some years ago, when I began to write seriously, I joined a Speakers’ Club because I knew I needed to grow my confidence in order to promote myself and my books. It was one of the best decisions I ever made!

·       I’m probably not the only 1960s (and possibly later?) baby to have had to learn to walk by pushing a cute stuffed dog on a frame. My Ruby Fiction editor put her hand up to this as well! When Joanne brings her old family album to the museum it features a picture of her, as a toddler, in the garden with a dog just like my own.

·       I work part-time in IT and, in the past, I’ve struggled to make my job interesting enough to use in fiction. In Little Museum of Hope, Karen has an office affair and her employer is an IT company – finally giving me the opportunity to drop in a few tiny details to add realism (not about the affair!).

Back to that original question: Is it autobiographical - did this happen to you?

New answer: None of the things in Little Museum of Hope happened to me in their entirety but there’s a little bit of me in many parts of the book. Plus, there may be more than I’m owning up to here!

About Little Museum of Hope

A jar of festival mud, a photo album of family memories, a child’s teddy bear, a book of bell ringing methods, an old cassette tape, a pair of slippers …

These are the items that fill the exhibit shelves in Vanessa Jones’ museum. At first glance, they appear to have nothing in common, but that’s before you find out the stories behind them …

Because Vanessa’s Little Museum of Hope is no ordinary museum – its aim is to help people heal by donating items associated with shattered lives and failed relationships, and in doing so, find a way to move on, perhaps even start again.

The museum soon becomes a sanctuary for the broken hearts in Vanessa’s city, and she’s always on hand to offer a cup of tea, a slice of cake and a listening ear.

But could the bringer of Hope need a little help moving on herself?

Buying Links


Sally's AMAZON page

About the Author

Sally Jenkins lives in the West Midlands with her husband. When not writing and not working in IT, she feeds her addiction to words by working part-time in her local library, running two reading groups and giving talks about her writing. Sally can also be found walking, church bell ringing and enjoying shavasana in her yoga class.

Get in touch or follow Sally:


Facebook: SallyJenkinsAuthor

Twitter: @sallyjenkinsuk

Instagram: @sallyjenkinsuk

Thank you, Sally. That was fascinating. I'm sure readers will now be guessing about which other autobiographical snippets you didn't own up to! I hope the novel does really well and your sales soar. 

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading Sally's post. As readers, do you wonder how much of a novel may be autobiographical? As writers, Do you include events and experiences from your own life in your novels? I'd love it if you commented below. Thank you.

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

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

Monday 17 April 2023

Guest Post With Kirsty Ferry

Today, I'm delighted to welcome writer, Kirsty Ferry, back to the blog. We are both authors with Choc Lit and Ruby Fiction, which are now part of a much larger publisher, Joffe Books. Her new novel, Bea's Magical Summer Garden, is to be published tomorrow, the 18th of April. 

Welcome back, Kirsty. First of all, congratulations on the publication of another novel in the Schubert series. I'm dying to know if this story is going to be the last in the series and if so, how you feel about that. Over to you!

I can’t believe this is the sixth Schubert the Cat book! When I started a few years ago with Every Witch Way, I didn’t think for one moment I’d end up writing six novellas about this magical, mystical black cat. Bea’s Magical Summer Garden wasn’t meant to have Schubert in, but as any author will tell you, when we hit that creative block we just have to set the work aside for a little and see what happens. In this case, Schubert was pretty insistent about being in the book, so I had to give in and let him appear, and the book came much, much more easily after that.

I’d run out of McCreadie siblings by the time I started Bea, although from the moment Bea appeared as a minor character in It Started with a Wedding, angrily hacking back her overhanging plants at the behest of The Man in the Big House, I knew she was going to be the focus of the next book I wrote. It was just a case of finding a story that fit with her, and going from there.

During lockdown, I had a lot more daytime TV on, and I watched programmes such as Homes Under the Hammer and Escape to the Country. I will often put them on ‘for the dog’ when I’m in the house during the day now; but as he sleeps most of the day, I am the one that has the guilty pleasure of peering into other people’s homes and seeing the transformation of the auctioned properties in Homes Under the Hammer. I must, however, confess to yelling at the TV when I feel people have just gone on and wasted the Escape team's time, and I do occasionally mutter obscenities at the smug people who buy an auctioned home to ‘add to their portfolio of multiple rental properties.’  But it’s like poking your tongue into a poorly tooth; it’s enjoyable in a weird way! And it certainly inspired this book.

I have always loved old houses, and houses with secrets, and although Glentavish House – the Big House in the book – doesn’t really have any secrets, I liked the idea of someone buying a slightly run-down place and loving it again. A sort of Hammer in the Country mis-mash, I guess! An unfinished folly was also a lovely thing to imagine; it sort of brought the two halves of the story together, and it fitted with the tragic life of Lady Clementine whose husband hadn’t managed to build her the place she wanted whilst she lived one hundred and fifty years ago. I did have a slight danger of dwelling too much on Lady Clemmie’s potential ghost running around Glentavish in Bea, and had to rein her in. Both Bea and Marcus, the other main character,  are a little too down-to-earth to accommodate ghosts in their day-to-day lives, so the odd time where Clemmie makes herself known should hopefully have a bit of a ‘less is more’ feel. I do love writing my ghost stories, and may pick my timeslips up at a later date; but for now I am enjoying writing more contemporary, humorous books.

And will there be a seventh Schubert book? At this present moment in time, I just don’t know. My wonderful little publisher has now become part of a wonderful big publisher, and whether I can indulge my own follies with writing more Schubert books is for the future. But in the meantime, I do hope you enjoy Bea’s Magical Summer Garden, and enjoy Schubert’s latest foray into his wonderful, magical world!

About the book

What’s not to love about Bea’s Garden?

Its higgledy-piggledy layout, fascinating plants and occasional resident black cat makes it the most charming place to visit on a sunny afternoon. Plus Bea has bees – and her Honey Festival is sure to create a buzz.

But not everyone thinks Bea’s Garden is the bee’s knees.

The Man at the Big House next door has been a thorn in Bea’s side for the longest time, with his unnecessarily snippy letters about her beautiful climbing plants ruining his ‘clean lines’. Could he and his poisonous project manager Carla pose problems for her Festival? Or can Bea rely on the Man’s cousin – and her newest annual pass holder – Marcus Rainton to fight her corner?

With bee best friends, big black cats, a secret garden gate and a surprising identity reveal, Bea’s Garden is surely in line for its most magical summer yet!

Kirsty Ferry is from the North East of England and lives there with her husband and son. She won the English Heritage/Belsay Hall National Creative Writing Competition in 2009 and has had articles and short stories published in various magazines. Her work also appears in several anthologies, incorporating such diverse themes as vampires, crime, angels, and more. 
Kirsty loves writing ghostly mysteries and interweaving fact and fiction. The research is almost as much fun as writing the book itself, and if she can add a wonderful setting and a do9llop of history, that's even better.
Her day job involves sharing a building with an eclectic collection of ghosts, which can often prove rather interesting.

For more information about Kirsty, visit:

Buying links:

Thank you, Kirsty. That was so interesting. Your enthusiasm for writing ghost stories is clear. I love the fact that you can choose between your timeslips and your contemporary, humorous stories. Good luck with the sales of your new novel.

Thank you for reading. I hope you like the sound of Kirsty's latest novel as much as I do. 
You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBaynham and on my Jan Baynham Writer page on Facebook. For more about me and my books, please visit MY AMAZON PAGE.

Saturday 1 April 2023

 Stories in a Flash

This week, I met up for lunch with writing friends I made at a short story course run by Lynne Barrett-Lee almost ten years ago. We meet every few weeks and this time we looked at our flash fiction entries for a competition. I rarely write short stories or flashes these days so it was good to return to a genre I enjoy. 

What is flash fiction?

Here is a blog post I wrote back in 2018 and it was good to be reminded of what the judges of a flash fiction competition may be looking for: 

Flash Fiction goes by many names including micro fiction, short shorts, nanofiction. At my very first lesson on a short story course, I learned that a 'drabble' is a story in just 100 words and one of the most famous examples of flash fiction is a mere six words, attributed to Ernest Hemingway. 'For sale: baby shoes, never worn.' The reader is left with so many images and interpretations that are left unsaid. Flash Fiction appears to have gained in popularity over the last few years and there are plenty of opportunities to submit your stories. In fact, there is now a National Flash Fiction Day, held this year on Saturday June 24th. So what are the main characteristics of a Flash Fiction?

  • Brevity. It doesn't matter what the specific word count is, Flash Fiction condenses the story into the fewest number of words possible. You have to ask yourself if every word is essential to the story. This 'paring to the bone' is an excellent discipline for me as I tend to be very wordy when I start writing a story. 
  • A beginning, middle and an end. In spite of its concise form, the story structure and plot need to show a complete story. 
'For me, the basic fictional elements, such as character, setting, conflict, and resolution, still need to be present.'  Lindsay Stanberry-Flynn, Competition Founder and Judge of Worcestershire LitFest Flash Fiction competition  

  • A twist or surprise at the end. Not all stories have to have one but it makes the reader think, long after reading. Other people say that the last line of a flash fiction can take the readers elsewhere, to a place where they can ponder about the ideas in the story, making re-reads inviting. 

Every year since I began submitting in 2014, I've been delighted to see one or more of my flashes published in the annual Worcestershire LitFest Flash Fiction competition anthology, having come second once and short-listed on a number of occasions. This then means I'm invited to the launch of the book each to read out one or sometimes two of my flashes. Fingers crossed that they will enjoy reading the three pieces I've sent off today

Do you like to write Flash Fiction? If so, how do you go about writing it? Do you start with a longer piece and chip away until all the superfluous words have gone or start writing with the tight word count in mind?

Thank you for reading. I'd love to read your comments about Flash Fiction. 

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. Thanks.