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Behind The Scenes with Rebecca Paulinyi

This week I’m delighted to welcome Rebecca Paulinyi, who shares the very personal and unique backstory to her latest novel, At The Stroke of Thirty.

‘At the Stroke of Thirty’ is a very personal book for me. At the age of 29 (although not on the eve of my 30th birthday, like the main character in the book!) I had a stroke, which was entirely out of the blue. Writing this book was rather cathartic for me, as I included many of my own experiences – as well as giving Macy Maxwell a love story as she recovers from her stroke.

Macy’s feelings are very much based on my own experiences, and how I have recovered from this trauma – but it is still very much a work of fiction, exploring themes of family, friendship, life goals and where you really call home. I also brought my time living in the beautiful Northumberland into this novel, with the beautiful backdrop of places such as Bamburgh Castle weaved into the story.

While I struggled with my stroke during the Covid pandemic, but with family and friends around me at home to support me, Macy realises she has no support system when this catastrophe strikes – and so turns to those she knows she can rely on.

As hard as this book was to write, I think it is probably the one I am proudest of – and it has been great to hear other stroke survivors saying how much they could relate with what I was writing, even though each person’s experience with stroke can be so very different.

In spite of the difficult subject matter, I made sure to fill this story with hope and love and laughter, and the circle of friends Macy meets have inspired a continuation of the series, following the same theme of a life-changing event happening around the big three-oh birthday, and how it can change everything.

Blurb:

Just about to turn thirty, Macy Maxwell is loving her life. A busy social life, interesting work and a decent salary, she thinks she’s got it all figured out. And so what if she thought she’d be married with kids by the time she turned thirty? Life is easy and fun.

And then, the night before her thirtieth birthday, everything changes. A near-fatal stroke leaves Macy re-evaluating everything in her life, as she tries to heal and get back the woman she was before.

Will moving back to rural Northumberland, a stroke support group and a handsome shoulder to cry on help her to find the Macy she was – or help her become the Macy she wants to be?

Buying link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/At-Stroke-Thirty-uplifting-romantic-ebook/dp/B09Q2N5N67/

Author Bio:

Rebecca Paulinyi was born in the South West of England in February 1992. She has been writing since she was a child, starting with short stories and poems that rarely got finished. Her weekly school assignment of writing a diary about the weekend provided a perfect platform to be inventive, with Rebecca’s stories revolving around the aliens living on Planet Odd.

Writing has been her passion for years, and the unfinished stories became full length novels as she became a teenager. At eighteen she left home to go to York University, studying English Language and Linguistics, and following her graduation qualified as a teacher.

Rebecca now writes full time at her home in Bristol, where she lives with her husband, daughter and dog. As well as writing women’s romantic fiction, she also writes historical romances under the pen name ‘Daphne Quinn’.

Website: https://becky-author.onrender.com/

Many thanks to Rebecca for sharing her amazing story.

Four Years On – Top Tips for Survival

This week marks a very special anniversary – it’s four years’ since the publication of my first book, The Theatre of Dreams. Back in August 2018 I was giddy with excitement, full of optimism. I loved my story of two actresses and their fight to save a seaside pavilion. That book was written straight from the heart. There was drama, romance, a seaside setting, a mystery. The Theatre of Dreams had it all. Surely this book would be a huge success and herald the start of a whole new literary career?

The Book Launch 1 August 2018

If only I knew then what I know now. Anyone who follows this blog will know that the last four years have been a rollercoaster ride of conflicting emotions, and not a dazzling romp to the top of the Sunday Times Bestseller Chart. But hey, I do have four books out there on Amazon. That’s four more books than a lot of people ever manage. Of course, I realise it’s not everybody’s ambition in life to write a book, let alone publish it, but in case it is, based on my own personal experiences, here are my top tips for surviving the publishing jungle.

Top Tip Number One

If you’re Intent on Capturing a Publisher – Choose your Publisher Carefully.

Of course, we all know it’s actually the other way round, the publisher chooses you. But the big publishers are the elephants and tigers of the jungle, and if you’re happy to snare a smaller beast – a warthog for example – do your research and make sure that warthog will satisfy your needs.

Whilst I’ll always be grateful for the publisher who gave me my first break, when I signed my contract, I was very naïve. I had zero knowledge of the jungle and was ill-equipped to tackle the tasks expected of me, which subsequently led to feelings of inadequacy and failure. On reflection, now that I’m older and wiser, I realise I hadn’t failed at all. My warthog was simply not the right warthog for me. I should have held out for a tiger.

Top Tip Number Two

Make Friends Wisely

At the start of my writing journey my social media following consisted almost entirely of people I knew personally. I was unaware there was a whole online writing/reading community out there. I didn’t know about Facebook author/book groups, bookstagrammers and bloggers. Four books later I do. The more you engage with the online world, the more followers and friends you gather.  And while it’s true, the more people who know and like you, the more books you may sell, there is also a huge benefit in engaging with like-minded people. Every writer needs a support network and there is a wonderfully generous community of successful authors out there who are happy to pass on tips and advice.

Social media can seem overwhelming – especially with the rise of the dreaded do-I-don’t-I TikTok. Find your tribe and pick out the aspects you enjoy and are comfortable with. Don’t put yourself under pressure to befriend everyone and do it all, because you can’t. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day, week, year – at least not if you want to write more books.

Top Tip Number Three

Celebrate your Achievements

You’ve found an agent. WELL DONE YOU! You’ve netted a publisher. CONGRATULATIONS!

But what if the big stuff never happens? What if you don’t think you’ve got anything to sing about? Bash that negativity on the head and THINK POSITIVE.

Envy is a perfectly natural human emotion but always remember where you are on your own personal journey. You don’t have to be part of the elephant brigade to blow your own trumpet.

You’ve written a book, or maybe it’s just a short story. That’s an achievement.  SHOUT ABOUT IT!

So you’ve only sold enough copies of your book this month to count on the fingers of one hand, BUT you have got a fabulous new 5 star review. LET EVERYONE KNOW ABOUT THOSE 5 STARS.

If you celebrate your success, other people will cheer with you.

Top Tip Number Four

Grab Every Opportunity

Networking IS important. If you have an opportunity for a 1-2-1 with a publishing professional, take it. If you can go to a conference, or a book festival, GO. Every connection you make, is a connection. I know I’ve had opportunities I’ve let slip; chances I didn’t follow up, and yes, I do sometimes wonder what might have been…

I’m naturally a shy person, and that has held me back. Writing has forced me half-way out of my shell. I’ve had to put myself out there and over the last four years I’ve become far more pro-active. I’ve talked to WIs and book groups, taken part in Facebook and Instagram Lives, a Podcast, things I never thought I would do. Stand up in a banqueting hall and give a talk to 100 people? With a mic? Crack jokes. Who me? If I’m talking about my love of writing, yes I can and I will.

Top Tip Number Five

Write the Book you want to Write

That’s easy for me to say now that I self-publish and I don’t have the constraints/obligations of a publishing contract. However, I have tried to conform. I have tried to write the book I think a publisher is looking for.  When I came up with the idea for A Crisis at Clifftops, I started out with the serious intent of writing a traditional cosy mystery because cosies are currently the “in thing”. Amateur sleuth solves crime, tick.  Nothing grisly/gory requiring in depth forensic knowledge, tick. Quaint countryside/seaside setting, tick.  Potential for series to continue indefinitely, tick. Amateur sleuth is professional golfer, untick. Major suspect is amateur sleuth’s grandmother, untick.  Also include vintage crime from sixty years earlier, untick. Add in another subplot involving resort redevelopment with far too many secondary characters, untick.

I can’t help it. I have a vivid imagination and a creative mind. I can’t reign it in, and when I do, I’m not happy. The words don’t flow.

Let your creative juices run wherever they want, and if that’s in the direction of an agent or a publisher’s wish-list, all the better. But if they meander off-piste… Think about what you want from your writing and why you do it. Do you want to conquer the jungle, or are you happy hanging about on the fringes?

I’m not going to lie. There’s still part of me that thinks it would be wonderful to get snapped up by one of those big tigers, but self-publishing has given me the control to write what I want to write and when I write it.  I know my limitations. If I were younger I might be more ambitious, more committed to conform. It’s taken me a long time to reach the stage when I’m happy and comfortable with what I do.

And My Final Top Two Tips?

Two phrases I chanted like a mantra while adjusting to life as an ex-pat wife in the wilds of LA many years ago, but equally as applicable to surviving life in publishing jungle: DEVELOP A THICK SKIN and RETAIN A SENSE OF HUMOUR.  I don’t think either requires any further explanation!

The author in her natural environment.

The Story Behind the Story with Jennifer Bibby

From Tuscany to St Ives, this week I’m delighted to welcome Jennifer Bibby onto my blog to talk about the fascinating history behind her debut novel, The Cornish Hideaway.

The Cornish Hideaway has been on quite a journey, one that has taken it over 1244 miles and spanning almost 500 years. In 2004 I was in my second year at University studying Creative Writing when the BBC put out a documentary called ‘The Divine Michelangelo’ which detailed the life of the Renaissance artist. Watching it, the actor who played a dramatically over the top Michelangelo in a big wig, inspired me to create Angelo, a temperamental artist who is discovered bruised and battered on Tuscan farmland in the year 1500. Alessandra, the farmer’s daughter helped nurse him back to life and saw in him a chance to shift her horizons beyond the small village she was born in. In return for the village saving him, Angelo painted religious frescoes on the church wall, but his presence, and his association with Alessandra, were not welcomed by everyone.

Over the years, no matter what else I was writing, I always returned to this story, dreaming of writing a sweeping historical romance before realizing I was a bit on the lazy side to do all the research! I knew I wanted to tell the story of Angelo and Alessandra so attempted to move them first to modern Tuscany and then relocated them to a seaside town in England. But nothing quite fit until in 2014 I took a trip to St Ives with a friend. Something about the rugged Cornish coast line, the sea, the feeling of being at the end of the world made me realise I had to set my story in Cornwall (accompanied by a groan at becoming yet another writer who’d fallen prey to the Cornish charms!)

 At lot of the original Renaissance story is still woven through my modern tale. Angelo rides a bike because he originally arrived on horseback. Freya’s desire to make her life better through painting. An old wise woman called Nonna became vibrant, tarot card reading Lola and the young priest who gave council five hundred years ago was reborn as Tristan, the local vicar. The tattoo on Angelo’s back, well, that’s supposed to be a copy of the fresco his sixteenth century counterpart painted.  

After an eighteen year journey with my characters I’ve found the perfect home for them and I hope you’ll enjoy spending some sultry summer days with the Polcarrow crew.

Blurb

All Freya has ever wanted to do is paint. So when she fails her Master’s Degree in Art, on the same day that her boyfriend decides he needs a ‘more serious’ partner, to Freya it feels like the end of the world.

Luckily, she has a saviour in the shape of best friend Lola, who invites her to the sleepy Cornish village of Polcarrow, to work in her café. With nothing keeping her in London, Freya jumps at the chance of a summer by the sea.

Freya needs time to focus on herself. But then dark and mysterious biker Angelo blows into town on a stormy afternoon, with his own artistic dreams and a secretive past, and Freya’s plans of a romance-free summer fly straight out of the window…

Amazon Buying Link: The Cornish Hideaway

Author Bio

As a lifelong lover of stories, Jennifer Bibby spent her teenage years wowing various teachers with her historical epics before finding her feet exploring the everyday lives of modern women through literature. In addition to being a bibliophile she loves classy cocktails, cake and medieval history. She’s happiest by the sea and loves to travel, and firmly believes that dinosaurs improve everything. The Cornish Hideaway is her debut novel and was a contender for the Romantic Novelists Association’s Joan Hessayon award July 2022.

Many thanks to Jennifer for taking part. I’m intrigued by the idea of moving a story from 16th century Italy to a contemporary setting on the Cornish coast. Just goes to show what a creative bunch we writers are!

The Story Behind the Story with Jodie Homer

I’m delighted to welcome new author Jodie Homer to my blog this week. Jodie’s first novel Raindrops on the Umbrella Cafe was published in April this year. What was the inspiration behind it?

I love going to the beach and one of my favourite beach holidays I still remember was when I was a child in Torquay. I wanted to set my book around a beach village. I would love to live nearer to the beach as well, so the setting was perfect. What inspired me to write the café was I watched ‘Singin in the Rain’ just before I wrote it and I really love the choreography and the idea that an umbrella can be used to find a date. I wanted it to be a new and quirkier way to find someone rather than just meeting normally, and I really love the idea of picking out an absolute stranger’s umbrella and going on a date with them.

I also love the 90’s so I had to include as much singing and karaoke as possible because I love music and love listening to 90’s music and I think with the summer setting at the beach and the pub where most of the karaoke and singing takes place takes me back again to summers spent at the pub just playing whilst they have music on and going to the school disco. It is all nostalgia for me and I wanted readers to feel that nostalgia too.

Author Bio

Jodie lives in a small village in Solihull with her husband and two children. She loves nothing more than dancing around embarrassingly to 90’s music and eating mint chocolate. Jodie enjoys reading and writing books full of romance and swoon-worthy fictional men.

Blurb

On inheriting her uncle’s beloved Umbrella Café, Sarah packs up and leaves the busy city of Birmingham for her childhood seaside village of Cobble-Heath.

Discovering life at the Umbrella Café is not as idyllic as it was when she was a child. Sarah has to contend with getting to grips with managing a café, accepting her two childhood best friends falling in love and a handsome Australian stranger who has come for the summer. Throw in a family secret with an unexpected arrival and Sarah’s life is turned upside down.

Can Sarah keep the cracks in her life sealed up or will she be the next thing to crack up?

Amazon Buying link: Raindrops On The Umbrella Cafe

Many thanks to Jodie for taking part.

The Story Behind The Story with D Wells

In the first of my new feature, I’m delighted to welcome author D Wells onto my blog to talk about the inspiration behind her latest book, Where Our Paths Meet.

The idea of Where Our Paths Meet started out as a challenge from my husband, a little healthy dose of spousal ‘I dare you!’ We were on holiday in Suffolk, the county where I grew up, and he asked me if I would set my next book there. Well of course, this was just the spark of flame that I needed to sketch down ideas and the opening paragraphs of my latest novel, while sitting around the campsite fire pit and admiring the view.

I managed a few pages but didn’t really understand what exactly I wanted to write. It was only when we returned home that I fleshed out a proper plot and it developed into what is now the first in a proposed series.

That small town feel, a community to fall in love with, an independent bookshop for good measure, a summery feel-good read, perfect to take away on your own holiday. This is what Where Our Paths Meet has become and I look forward to writing the second and third book and seeing how the journey progresses.

Suffolk remains one of my favourite spots in the UK. A county that is rich in history and agriculture, with flat vast landscapes and big blue skies. It has a unique coastline, woodlands, fields and quaint little market towns all waiting to be discovered. My hope is that Where Our Paths Meet not only introduces a selection of human characters, but the character of Suffolk too.

So, I guess a thank you to my husband is in order. I wonder what the next challenge will be.

Author Bio

D. Wells is the author of uplifting and heartwarming novels 6 Caledon Street and The Things We Regret.

Focusing on relatable characters and beautiful locations D. Wells enjoys exploring family dynamics and if she can manage it, slip in a few historical references too. She’d describe her books as hovering between reading group fiction and women’s commercial fiction. Her third novel Where Our Paths Meet was published in June 2022.

D. Wells is married, has several small and exhausting children and lives in East Anglia, as close to the countryside as she can get.

Links:

https://dwellsauthor.weebly.com

https://www.facebook.com/authorD.Wells

https://www.instagram.com/d.wellsauthor

Evelyn Storford has returned home.

Buying a failing independent bookshop, and nursing a broken heart, she relishes the challenge to make her business successful in the sleepy Suffolk town of Taverton. With her bookshop colleagues and widower father a growing presence in her life, she grapples against the memories of her marriage and the lingering feelings towards estranged husband Ishmael.

A story about family and friendship, grief and love, Where Our Paths Meet introduces a collection of characters, all interlinked and facing various crossroads in their lives.

Buying Link: Where Our Paths Meet

Many thanks to D Wells for taking part and sharing the story behind her story.

Behind the Scenes

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be featuring posts from author friends sharing the inspiration behind their books. I’m going to start off the series by talking about The Puzzle of Pine Bay.

Writers’ minds are like sponges, we soak things up subconsciously and then years later out it comes. If you’ve already read The Puzzle of Pine Bay, or at least the blurb, you’ll know that some of the plot revolves around a holiday camp. Way back in the very hot summer of 1976 we had a family holiday in the Isle of Wight, at a holiday camp, and the memories of that holiday, and that camp, have stayed with me ever since.

Searching through my mum’s old photograph albums I came up with a few pics from that holiday, not all of which are fit for public viewing. Here’s my parents posing very happily with a large bottle of navy rum (why?) and another of our wonderful upmarket chalet. Sadly I can’t publish the one pic we have of the camp’s entertainment compere because my sister would never forgive me (but if you saw it, you would know where I found my inspiration for a certain character in the book!)

However, the “puzzle” Eliza sets out to solve takes her back to the mid-1990s as opposed to the 1970s, and I have to assume the entertainment, and the accommodation was a little more sophisticated by then. Today, I think the old Hi-de-Hi image of holiday parks has long gone (or at least I hope it has!)

The sub-plot of Eliza’s house renovation is also based on my own experiences. Eliza has taken on a challenge, and anyone who has moved house as many times as I had will have run into the same old problems of finding tradespeople to carry out necessary repairs. I also know that people do tend to leave items behind when they move out – whether out of sheer laziness, or simple forgetfulness! I’m guilty as charged! But as for Kyle, the boy next door, he’s definitely a total figment of my imagination (or wishful thinking…) I have to admit, though, I am addicted to garden makeover programmes.

When it comes to the missing magician – I wanted to create an enigmatic character who weaved his magic on and off the stage. A talented illusionist or a charlatan? I hope readers will find him in intriguing!

As for the setting – with a coastline like this, who wouldn’t be inspired by the wonderful Isle of Wight? I’m a sucker for the seaside and the island’s economy is embedded in tourism. There’s plenty of material there for several books!

The Puzzle of Pine Bay launched yesterday and is available at the bargain price of 99p for a couple more weeks. https://amazon.co.uk/dp/B09ZV7GL7R Early reviews have been good, and I’m just going to blow my own trumpet here for a bit with some quotes from Goodreads:

gripping and full of fab characters”

“wonderfully paced and a joy to Read”

“a wonderful book to laze in the sunshine and imagine the beauty of the Isle of Wight.”

Paperbacks of Pine Bay should be out in time in fill up those Christmas stockings!

Pre-Launch Nerves

Who’d be an author? First you have to come up with an original idea, then you have to write it down, several times over, then you have to sell your story to potential readers while waiting with baited breath for reviews. It’s a never ending wheel of stress and trauma.

Too late, the deed is done! The Puzzle of Pine Bay is out there on Amazon, available to pre-order and it really is a horrible feeling. I should be celebrating the achievement, and I am, kind of, but I’m also having a bout of pre-launch nerves as the doubts continue to rumble. What if no-one enjoys my new novel, what if I get bad reviews, what if readers think it’s a load of old twaddle? (Having said that, I’ve read plenty of books in my time that I know some people might refer to as old twaddle and I’ve still loved them. I’ve also read books that definitely were old twaddle, but I wouldn’t dream of telling the author…) Sending a book out into the big wide world is just like bringing up children. You do your best as a parent, cross your fingers and hope you’ve managed to mould your offspring into well-grounded loveable little humans who other people will find as endearing as you do.

The Puzzle of Pine Bay with its fabulous cover designed by Berni Stevens

Self publishing brings an addition layer of angst. As much as I love the control I have in keeping my story the way I want it, choosing my own cover, and setting my own publication dates, there’s no one else to blame if it all goes wrong. It’s not so much the financial investment at stake, as the emotional. To me the financial commitment involved in self-publishing is the same as Mr T purchasing top of the range go-faster running shoes to improve his athletic performance. He doesn’t expect to recoup a financial return for his outlay, his reward is the pleasure of an enhanced sprint along the pavement. I want my books to look professional, and although I can’t compete with established authors, and those with publishers and marketing departments behind them, I still want to do the best I can with the resources I have available. (And obviously yes, one day it would be wonderful to earn enough income from writing to cover all my expenses!!)

If you follow this blog regularly you will already know that The Puzzle of Pine Bay kicks off where A Crisis at Clifftops left off. Eliza Kane has quit playing competitive golf and decided to make a permanent home on the Isle of Wight. At the start of the book she moves into her new house in the picturesque resort of Seaview, only to make an alarming discovery in the cellar. The plot thickens from there.

When I wrote a Crisis at Clifftops, I already had Lilian’s story drafted before the additional idea of Eliza popped into my head. This time it was the other way round.  I knew how Eliza solved the “puzzle” she uncovers at Pine Bay, but I needed to give her a personal motive to investigate it. Hence Lilian has a pivotal role to play again.

Both these characters have become very dear to me. In fact, Eliza Kane is my new best friend. If you’ve read Clifftops, you’ll know Eliza is sassy, passionate and punchy, she can be impulsive, doesn’t always think things through and she drinks ever so slightly too much. We have a lot in common, but the one thing we don’t share is a love of sport. Golf is a male dominated game, and Eliza has had to be gritty and determined to reach the top.  

I realised early on in her creation that Eliza Kane is a tribute to Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby, the only other fictional female professional golfer I’ve ever come across.

The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books and the character of Jordan Baker has stayed with me since I first read the novel nearly forty years years ago. Jordan is the girlfriend of Nick Carraway, the narrator. Jordan is hard, cynical, and self-contained, and following her involvement in a cheating scandal, described as “inherently dishonest”.  I would never describe Eliza as dishonest, but like her 1920s counterpart, she is tough and independent, and she can be devious when she wants her own way. It’s Eliza’s sporting background which has given her the skills to solve crimes and makes the perfect amateur detective.

I have everything crossed that readers will enjoy Eliza’s next adventure. Much of the action revolves around some sinister shenanigans at an old holiday camp, Pine Bay. Inspiration for this part of the story comes from my own recollections of family holidays on the Isle of Wight, although the characters, and scenarios, are all total figments of my imagination!

Blurb

Injury has forced sporting heroine Eliza Kane into premature retirement. With a new house to renovate and a romance to rekindle, she moves back to the Isle of Wight, eager to start the next chapter in her life.
However, her plans soon unravel when she discovers of a stash of abandoned stage props in the cellar of her new home. Eliza is drawn into a search for a charismatic magician who hasn’t been seen on stage for the last twenty years.
Eliza’s enquiries amongst his former fellow entertainers at the old Pine Bay holiday park hit a wall of silence. When she finds herself threatened and in danger, she starts to question whether there is something more sinister about the missing magician’s vanishing act than a simple trick of t
he eye…

If you pre-order now, The Puzzle of Pine Bay will ping onto your Kindle on the morning of 5 July. Paperbacks will follow in the autumn.

Good News!

It’s been far too long since my last blog post but I’ve been waiting until I had something exciting to report, and now I do!

My second Isle of Wight cosy mystery, The Puzzle of Pine Bay will launch on 5 July 2022. This is later than originally planned but I’ve had distractions with weddings and other people’s house moves. In addition, although everything is now ready to go – bar the dreaded formatting and uploading onto Amazon, I’ve got holidays booked in May and June. I don’t want to launch a new book and then not be around to promote it.

There is another reason I’ve held this novel back. That old lack of confidence crept in again. Am I really cut out to be a writer? Although my first round of readers all sung the story’s praises, these people know and love me very dearly, I needed that extra validation of a neutral opinion. Once again I sent the manuscript off to a professional editor, and I’m pleased to report her feedback has helped me to improve the storyline in a way that I now feel confident will keep readers satisfied.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot of The Puzzle of Pine Bay until the pre-order is ready – just to keep you in suspense a little bit longer! However, the story picks up where A Crisis at Clifftops left off. Eliza Kane is buying her first permanent home on the Isle of Wight. Moving in day turns out to be a little more dramatic than planned when she makes an unexpected discovery in the cellar of her new house. Old flame Charlie is still in the picture, and Nanna Lilian has another secret to impart, only this time she wants Eliza help in solving a mystery, as opposed to hindering her…

Here’s a little teaser for the cover, which I will be revealing in full in the coming weeks, along with pre-order details.

I always planned my Isle of Wight series to be never-ending – or at least three books, but up until a few weeks ago my plot for Book 3 was nothing but a flimsy piece of drivel.  However, inspiration has hit. The word count is now growing daily as the characters start to take over the plot – or rather plots (there are several!)

As for my own reading, March and April has been a mixed bag. I’ve tackled a couple of heavyweights, Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which I enjoyed, and Libby Page’s The Lido, which I found too slow going (my old creative writing tutor would be having kittens if I devoted an entire chapter of one of my books to a description of a fox rummaging through waste bins). After that I devoured The Custard Tart Cafe by the Sea by Isabella May, which was gorgeously entertaining, and I’ve just finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I was quite sceptical about Crawdads because it’s one of the those books that received an awful lot of hype. I had the impression from its Amazon reviews that it’s either a book people love or they hate. Personally I was hooked, despite the fact that a huge part of the plot is totally implausible – girl abandoned to live a shack in the swamp at the age of 6, no electricity, no running water, no education, no medical attention, no dentistry, turns into a stunningly desirable young woman who writes poetry and illustrates nature books. A novel clearly written with Hollywood in mind.

If only…

That’s the wonder of reading and writing fiction though. It doesn’t have to be real, or make sense. For me it just has to be entertaining and enjoyable.

Meanwhile, to put you in the mood to return to the Isle of Wight, here’s a few gorgeous pics of the some of the locations which inspired The Puzzle of Pine Bay.

Priory Bay
Freshwater
Freshwater

Hello & Goodbye February

I originally intended to call this post three books, two house moves and a wedding – a round up of my activities for the month. February 2022 was always going to be a busy with Daughter No 1 due to get married, and Daughter No 2 completing her first house purchase. My mother-in-law is also in the middle of moving, but for some reason known only to those who work in the conveyancing world, nearly six months after she had her offer accepted on a flat, she’s still waiting for a completion date. The anticipation/stress lingers on. But the wedding was wonderful, despite the wrath of Storm Eunice. The bride looked beautiful and Mr T’s speech went down very well.

With house moving tasks and mother of the bride duties taking up much of the month, I’ve not knuckled down with any new writing. I need to crack on with Eliza Kane Book 3. I’m playing around with a few ideas. It’s easy enough killing people off, but as Eliza and I are both amateurs, we have to avoid solving crimes that require in depth forensic knowledge. Writing cosy mysteries is harder than I thought! It doesn’t help that Ed the cat has developed attachment issues – it’s not easy typing when half your keyboard is permanently covered up by a cat’s bum.

On a more positive note, Book 2, The Puzzle of Pine Bay is about to go off for a professional edit and at least this time I know what to expect. I’ll shortly be adopting the brace position. Seriously, I’m hoping to publish in June or July, although I realise all those plans I had to hit the market with a book 1, book 2 and book 3 in close succession have long flown out the window. And talking of things flying out of the window…if at some point in the future you happen to read one of my novels featuring an incident where a bridesmaid’s dress gets swept out of a window on a strong gust of wind just hours before a wedding, and you say to yourself, how ridiculous, that would never happen in real life. Trust me. It did.

So, on to February’s reading material. The Foundling by Stacey Halls is my first book of the month. I’ve read both Stacey’s other novels, The Familiars and Mrs England, and enjoyed them immensely.  The Foundling was Stacey’s second book and personally I thought it lacked the punch of the first, and the fluency and consistency of the third. The historical research is as meticulous as always, and I loved the premise of a baby left at a Foundling Hospital being reclaimed by someone posing as her mother, but the plot seemed a little too weak to carry the story. Overall, an enjoyable and interesting enough read, I was just left feeling slightly disappointed.

My second February book was Inheritance by Jenny Éclair. I’m a big fan of grumpy old woman Jenny and I imagine she had great fun writing this saga about a well-to-do dysfunctional family with plenty of warts. The story jumped about all over the place and there was plenty of humour amongst the waffle. But what a lot of waffle there was. Perhaps someone should have reined Jenny in!

My third read of the month was an enjoyable sci-fi romp, Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe which was kindly donated by its author Richard Dee via a Facebook Group we’re both in. It’s a cosy mystery in space – a first for me – but as I’m writing my own series of cosies I thought it would be a good idea to check out the opposition. I could certainly see similarities between feisty amateur sleuth Andorra Pett and my own Eliza Kane, but the Isle of Wight is a long way from a space station just outside Mars!

I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read this month and have now opted for a heavy weight, Kate Atkinson’s Behind The Scenes at the Museum, which although I’m only a few pages in I sense will keep me occupied for most of March.

February has come and gone and spring is on its way along with all manner of other nasties, unfortunately. In times of trouble books can provide great solace – so keep on reading (preferably one of mine because they’re very uplifting and they will make you smile : ))

The Book by my Bedside

I’m starting my first blog post of the year with a resolution and a new feature – a book review. I’m a member of quite a few Facebook groups where the one question that pops up every December is what’s your favourite book of the year. As I find it impossible to remember anything without writing it down, one of my resolutions for 2022 is to keep notes of my bedtime reading so that I can answer the question honestly when the time comes this year.

I could do all this on the Goodreads website. I joined Goodreads long before I was a writer but keeping my virtual bookshelves up to date has fallen by the wayside. Goodreads is a useful tool for keeping track of books read, but I’m not setting any targets. I don’t want a reading challenge. I’ll read what I want, when I want to. That’s why I won’t join a book club. Having to read for anything other than pleasure is too reminiscent of studying for exams. The minute reading becomes a task it ain’t fun, no matter how intellectually enlightened I’m supposed to feel at the end of it. Ernest Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (English O’Level) left permanent scars. Old man goes to sea in a boat, catches a fish, ties fish to his boat, other fish eat his fish, he returns to port empty handed.  Did reading that book enhance my life? Not one iota. Totally pointless.

Many of the so called literary classics are far more likely to put teenagers off reading for life than instil a love of books. I do wonder who’s decreed some of these titles life enriching. Likewise, all those prestigious literary prize winners, and books listed in the Sunday papers as the “must reads before you die”.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude inexplicably falls into this category and is another book that left a permanent mark on my well-being – and not in a good way. Even worse, I read it under my own volition during my super school mom phase when it cropped up on my daughter’s US High school English syllabus and I wanted to be helpful with homework. If there’s one thing guaranteed to confuse your readers it’s to give multi-generations of the family all the same name. Just saying.

These “must read” lists are certainly not based on popular demand because talking of pointless stories, as in the ones above, we all know which author topped all the fiction charts in 2021 and is quite likely to do it again in 2022 with his latest offering.

Which brings me very swiftly onto my first book review of 2022. Yes, The Man Who Died Twice has been my bedtime reading for the first half of the month.  It’s very easy to be critical, especially as an author who was unsuccessful in finding a literary agent or publisher prepared to take on her own cosy crime featuring a feisty pensioner. Envy is a nasty thing. We all know celebrities these days only have to be able to write a shopping list and they get snapped up by a publisher, blah, blah, blah.

The trouble is I’m actually a great fan of Richard Osman on TV, I like his sense of humour. His first book, The Thursday Murder Club appeared in my Christmas stocking in 2020, and my main complaint, with my author hat on, apart from the extremely complicated plotline, was the constant head-hopping between characters – and there were an awful lot of characters to keep up with.  I’ve lost count of the number of novel writing courses/workshops/articles I’ve been on/read where wannabee authors are told not to switch points of views between characters – or at least not that many characters! Everyone in this story threw in their five pennyworth. That aside, I recognised the book for it what it was – a novel deliberately written to have mass appeal by a witty TV scriptwriter/producer, and who can blame him for trying. The Marketing Department at Penguin must have been rubbing their hands with glee when the manuscript landed on their desk.

Back to my review. Basically, for anyone who has been shut in a cupboard for the last few months, The Man Who Died Twice picks up where the first caper left off, four diverse pensioners in a swanky senior living village, setting out to solve a crime – in this case involving M15 and some stolen diamonds. It’s all very implausible, quintessentially British, and just like the first book, it has all the hallmarks of effortlessly transferring onto the silver screen with Dame Judi Dench and Penelope Wilton tucking into their sandwiches as they take the mini-bus into town to catch a Mafia boss.

Perhaps because I was used to the writing style and I knew the characters and accepted their flaws (although I still find Joyce extremely annoying) I preferred this story to the first. If you’re after intellectual self-improvement, forget it. This is not the book for you. But if you’re up for a lightweight romp through the Home counties, are happy with short snappy chapters, can overlook the ridiculous plotline, and keep track of all the characters and their histories…you’ll probably be well satisfied.

A 3 out of 5 from me.