Today I was going to blog about something else entirely.

But then last night I set my alarm for 2.30am to have a glimpse of the blood supermoon eclipse. I live on the very edge of a village, up a mountainside in Snowdonia, with very little light pollution, so this was a chance I just wasn’t going to miss.

My day job as an academic proofreader takes serious amounts of concentration, while sorting out publicity for my next books (yes, books (hurrah!), that’s the blog I was going to write), plus getting the next one (or two) seriously into gear, takes the rest of my headspace. So I was going to step outside and just look at the moon, and sensibly to back to bed again.

Moon eclipse 1Of course, I didn’t. Once the eclipse seriously got going, I was spellbound. Mitzi the cat, who sleeps on my feet, tucked herself into the fleecy blanket I was using to keep warm and purred in a companionable sort of a way, while the rest of the animals gave up and went back into the warmth.

Moon 31

At first I was a bit skeptical about the blood moon bit. It was very pale and silvery. But as the shadow crept over, it turned orange, and then a deep red. It was quite unnerving looking through my binoculars, seeing the shadow encroaching, in such a very different way from the usual phases of the moon.

Then there was the darkness. I’d thought it would be like the solar eclipse, and last only a few seconds, but it seemed to go on for hours. In fact, I think it probably did. Stars began to appear, taking over the night sky with constellations and the Milky Way, along with shooting stars streaking over the mountains.

Moon eclipse 3

At one point the faint deep red glow appeared to almost disappear, as if floating away, never to return. Despite my rational, 21st century brain, a small doubt arose that the moon would ever return. I could understand our ancestors’ anxiety when the sun and moon vanished, and the need to stoke up the midwinter fires to bring the warmth back again. It was wonderful to see the light slowly return, until there was a brief full moon again, before the sun rose, and the business of the day returned.

Moon Eclipse 4

So here I am, having staggered out with the recycling in the odd assortment of clothes I flung on in the middle of the night, and not quite sure how I’ll keep upright for the rest of the day. But it was worth it. It’s something I’ll never forget and feel incredibly privileged to have seen – and to work from home so I don’t have to prop myself upright in an office all day! It was also exciting seeing that some of the photos I’d taken with my ordinary little camera had actually come out. Some wonderful memories too!

Right, time to get the coffee on and get some work done while the adrenalin is still working…

Juliet Greenwood:

I’m delighted to be one of the authors at the Tenby Book Fair on September 19th – and to be amongst so many brilliant authors!

Originally posted on Barrow Blogs: :

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On the first day of the Tenby Arts Festival;  the 19th September 2015, between 11.00am and 2,30pm, we’re having a Book Fair. We would love for you to join us to  meet and chat to our lovely authors.


There’s a chance to relax and listen to music while having a cup of coffee and a cake. There’ll also be a chance to win and choose one of the authors’ books as a raffle prize  Stay for a short poetry reading at 1.00 pm and then to discover which of the children won the competition we previously set on the subject, ‘ The Book I Enjoyed This Year’. The prizes of great books have been kindly donated by Firefly Press and will be presented by Editor and Founder Member, Janet Thomas.

These  are some of the authors who will be there:

JUDITH BARROW:jbarrow_1438471747_11


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Interview with Eloise Williams

author of ‘Elen’s Island’, published by Firefly Press 


Hello Eloise, and welcome to the blog! Can I start by asking you if you had any favourite books as a child? Were they the reason you became a children’s writer?

 I have always loved books and had the huge good fortune of living directly opposite a library when I was a child so my love of reading grew with frequent visits across the road. I suppose I didn’t think it was that unusual to be able to see into a library from your bedroom window and I certainly didn’t realise how lucky I was!

I had so many favourite books. All of the Enid Blyton’s – I believed in lands at the tops of trees and islands where mysteries occurred, but I spent most of my childhood in Narnia and that is what led me to write something for children so many years later.

My sister taught children in South Korea for a few years and during that time she made me a compilation to listen to, so I plugged my headphones in and walked the Pembrokeshire coast path listening to tunes that had meant lots to us both and then suddenly a recording of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe came on and, although I know it sounds dramatic, I had an epiphany. That’s what I was meant to be doing with my life. Writing for children and Young Adults. It became clear in that split second and I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t realised it in the first forty odd years of my life. I literally stopped where I was and slapped my own head. Thankfully there was no-one else around to see me!

 Where did you get the idea for Elen’s Island? Is it based on a real island or somewhere near where you live?

And where did the puffin come from? (and can I have one!)


The idea came from a stay on Caldey Island in Pembrokeshire where I was lucky enough to spend three nights in an old schoolhouse. It was such a magical experience. From the second I stepped onto the boat I was enchanted. There’s something very wonderful about being on a piece of land, surrounded by turquoise sea and cut off from all your problems and worries. At that time I had just moved to Pembrokeshire as I married a Tenby based artist and I had no friends there and was missing my family. If you read the book you will recognise these themes! I also went on a visit to Skomer Island and was over the moon to see puffins! So Elen’s Island is a mixture of Caldey and Skomer and imagination.

Caldey Island

Eloise on Caldey Island

You can have a puffin! Skomer lets you adopt puffins and seals so you can have your very own and help the Wildlife Trust with their brilliant work. It also gives you an excellent excuse to visit Skomer so you can see them and the comedic way puffins land and smile at their funny faces!

 How did you find out about ‘Firefly’ and what was the process of being accepted for publication?


I found out about Firefly when they ran a competition for a new children’s book. I’d already been writing bits and pieces and had a short story published by Honno (who publish some wonderful female authors including yourself (thank you! :-)) and the very impressive Thorne Moore) and some poetry and short stories placed in competitions, so I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t win (sadly) but they were interested in seeing more of the story and I went back to it and wrote the whole thing. It’s very different from the first piece I submitted for the competition and much, much better! I was completely shocked and overwhelmed with happiness when I got the email from Firefly to say they’d like to publish it – it really was a moment that changed my life.

 We share an amazing editor, so I’m curious to know how you found the editing process.

Was it something you enjoyed, and did you feel it made you a better writer? And how do you think it made the story better?

We are very fortunate to have had the help of Janet Thomas and I agree she is AMAZING! The editing process came as something of a surprise to me if I’m honest. I thought it would be a case of the odd typo here and there and restructuring a few sentences. Little did I realise how much work was involved. I am very lucky that I’ve become good at taking constructive criticism through working as an actress for over a decade! It is quite a journey from the very first manuscript to the polished piece and I am so grateful that I have an editor who I not only like as a person (handy) but who has such a sharp eye and a brilliant understanding of how to tell a story. Elen’s Island was the first thing I’ve ever written for children and I really needed that guiding hand. It made the story tighter, funnier, with more rounded characters and really made me think about what I wanted the reader to get from the book. YES it has made me a better writer (I hope).

Watson flying

Watson flying

 How are you enjoying your time to write from your Literature Wales Writers’ Bursary? Do you find it makes a difference being able to concentrate fully on your next book?

I am having the time of my life! It makes such a difference to be able to give my writing my full attention instead of grabbing time here and there between work commitments. It’s also a real honour to have the faith of such a great institution willing to fund my writing for three months (as you know) and I am so grateful that I have this opportunity.

Can you say something about your next book? And what are the plans for the future?

 My second book Seaglass is a Young Adult ghost story set in Pembrokeshire. It’s a scary, thrilling page-turner which also has funny moments and is a story of survival and loss. Lots of lovely authors have read it in manuscript form and given me fantastic feedback so I’m very excited to see it land in the hands of young readers. At the moment it’s with my agent, the fabulous Ben Illis of The Ben Illis Agency, while he finds it a forever home.

My third book, and the one I’m using my Literature Wales Bursary to write, is called Gaslight and is again a YA but is set in Cardiff in the Victorian era. I’ve never written anything in a historical period so it’s yet another learning curve for me. I like to keep life interesting! Gaslight is a thriller which features lots of dastardly goings on, gothic stuff, pea-souper fog, ships, music hall, murder, midnight skinny-dipping and thieves. There is also a serious crush going on but the course of true love never did run smooth…

After that…. who knows?

I’ve already started work on another three books, all of which are for young people and again feature a female protagonist with a very strong voice. Now I’ve found what I should have been doing with my life I am never giving up!

Thank you, Eloise. I loved Elen’s Island, and I’m looking forward to ghosts and dastardly goings-on!

You can find out more about Eloise and follow her here:





‘Elen’s Island’ is for ages 7 – 9. Elenfront1

Summary and reviews

When her parents send her to stay with a grandmother she hardly knows for the summer, Elen is furious. Gran lives on a tiny island and doesn’t want her to stay either – it’s not an easy start.

Gran’s idea of childcare is to give Elen a map and tell her to explore. Who is the odd boy on the beach with a puffin? After saving Gran in a storm, Elen finds a picture that she’s sure is a clue to hidden treasure. She investigates – and finds a very different treasure from the one she expected.

Early praise for Elen’s Island:

‘Wildly imaginative, funny and poignant, Elen’s Island keeps us hooked from the first scintillating sentence. You’ll fall in love with the feisty Elen, her phenomenal gran and a magical island, in a tale spun with craft and brio.’ Stevie Davies, novelist.

‘Elen’s Island is beautifully written and will stir the imagination of a generation of children. Children everywhere will be asking their parents if they can visit Aberglad.’ Kevin Johns, Swansea Sound.

‘An absolute treat.’ Jamie Owen, BBC newsreader.

‘With a plucky, driven heroine, a magical mystery and a pace that never lets up, Elen’s Island is a rollicking read that promises to keep readers enchanted and engaged.’
Guy Bass, children’s author, including the bestselling
Stitch Head.

‘A meticulously crafted novel that will encourage the most reluctant young reader to keep turning the pages. Elen is a heroine every child will identify with.’ Catrin Collier, novelist.

‘A joyful adventure. Full of wonder and magic.’ Simon Ludders, actor, Renfield on CBBC’s Young Dracula

Eloise has crafted a beautifully written and magical tale that will keep readers, both young and old, enthralled from the first funny sentence right through to the final, poignant conclusion.’ BB Skone, Western Telegraph

‘I highly recommend it. This book has so many good ingredients. Together they make a fabulous book with a wonderful ending.’ Suze, Librarian Lavender


About Eloise

Eloise writes words. Lots of them. Sometimes in particular orders.Sixer of Pixies. Child of the 70’s. Survived encephalitis, pizza thrown in face, a decade as an actress, school, endless years of Heavy Metal abuse from younger sister’s room.

Likes confetti, bluebells, memories of Gran and Grampa, family, cwtches, the way ladybirds shelter in beech nuts, collecting seaglass on misty days, comfy jeans, stories about interesting things.

Spent too much money on ill-fitting clothes, too much of the 80’s planning marriage to John Taylor and/or George Michael, lovely times in Europe, one cold week in New York.

Lives in West Wales. Lives for the sea, love, repeats of ‘Murder She Wrote’, for as long as she can. Has dog called Watson Jones. Has husband called Guy. Both of whom are handsome devils.

Polytunnel one It was most definitely worth asking for help with my garden this year.

I can’t believe the difference it has made, having someone to clear away the endless weeds and brambles, and rescuing the wildlife pond so overgrowth with yellow iris there was no pond left. The thing I hadn’t expected, and which I’m appreciating most, is help with the organising and the planting, so now I can (with a bit of weeding and watering) watch as the new growth spreads in a way that nothing squashes out anything else, and soon (I’m hoping next year) will become low maintenance.

Garden 3Having the worst done for me gave me courage to tackle the rest, so although it’s still a bit wild, it’s on its way to being a fairly respectable cottage garden. So now, for the first time since I stepped through the gate and fell in love with the overgrowth wilderness that came with a cottage on a Welsh hillside, I can leave my computer for half an hour or so to tackle a few weeds, without getting stuck into a whole day clearing brambles. (Although half an hour does tend to creep into an hour or so. I’m saying it’s good for my eyes, and anyhow I’m thinking about the current book and plotting the next). Garden 1

Best of all, I’ve had my first official afternoon tea (which someone went on until midnight) where I could relax in the garden and enjoy the view. In fact, being relaxed about the garden made me relaxed about the tea, without my usual anxious rushing around to make sure I had wonderful things for my guests. Strawberries, meringue (to be home made next time, ahem) and cream are wonderful all by themselves, with sunshine and good company.

Iris One

As if in celebration, this year, for the first time ever, my grape vine in the polytunnel has tiny little grapes. A bit of Hampton Court has arrived in Snowdonia. That definitely calls for a party!

Grapes one

Best of all, I can now sit by my pond, watching the wildlife, and the rescued waterlily come back to life, with a book, or my research, and relax about the state of my garden, and focus. In fact, get very excited about my work, which is the very best feeling of all. Even though the characters in the new book have just developed a mind of their own and are up to all sorts of disgraceful antics, including changing sex a number of times without so much as a moment’s warning, and the hero has decided to stop talking to me, despite being warned of the Dire Consequences of his actions.

In fact, I’d better go and give him an ultimatum (‘Remember Matthew from Downton?’) this very minute… :-)

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Juliet Greenwood:

My Guest Post for Laura Lee’s powerful blog ‘Story and Self’.

Originally posted on :

Guest posts are not a regular feature of this blog, but a few months ago I read an article on the site Women Writers, Women’s we_that_are_left_cover_artwork:Layout 1Books called Women and Myths in Storytelling.  I felt that the themes of Juliet Greenwood’s novel “We That Are Left” fit in very well with the regular themes of this blog and I asked her if she would be interested in writing a guest post. The historical novel deals with women who served on the front lines in World War I.

What struck me in particular was one line from the article: “What is most telling is that many of the men the women saved found it hard to deal with the explosion of their own myth of fragile womanhood in need of male guidance and protection…”

I must admit that I misread it when I first scanned the line thinking that…

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This is my keyboard. Or rather, my ex-keyboard, as, after years of faithfully being bashed to within an inch of its life on almost a daily basis, it finally gave up the ghost. Well, at least the comma did, which, for a writer, is a state of terminal decline.

My room 2

So there was nothing for it, but to change it for a shiny new white keyboard to take over being-bashed-to-within-and-inch-of-its-life duties. I know it’s an inanimate object, but it was still quite sad removing it. This keyboard has seen numerous versions of three (and a bit) novels, and more tweets, Facebook postings and blog posts than I could possibly remember. It filled out my application form for my Literature Wales Writers’ Bursary (lots of them, in fact, before the successful one for ‘We That are Left’). It’s bashed its way through my day job as a freelance proofreader and enough emails to sink a battleship. And it was upon these stained-beyond-cleaning keys that I was scowling ferociously when my email pinged,and I looked up to learn that Honno Press were going to publish ‘Eden’s Garden’, and that my life had changed.



And so farewell little keyboard. And I would have buried you under a rose bush with a tenderly inscribed headstone, if your demise hadn’t caused quite such an upheaval. I’m no Luddite, and I love my iMac, which, after my house and car, is my most expensive possession. But it is now classed as old. So fitting a new keyboard meant first upgrading to Snow Leopard, which then meant upgrading my browser, at which point Twitter had a nervous breakdown and Facebook lost the plot, and my old (but still perfectly functioning) laser printer (even after upgrading its software) has decided to print only every other page, and the scanner has gone terminally AWOL.

I know a writer will seize on any excuse to procrastinate, but this is ridiculous!


Hey ho. Everything will get slowly sorted out, and it has been a reminder of just what amazing, miraculous, mind-bendingly wonderful things computers are. Although I am frustrated at the built-in obsolescence when, for this particular machine at least, all I want is to type with as few interruptions as possible. Nothing fancy. Just bashing the keys and letting the imagination flow.

The new keyboard has been warned … :)

Garden 1

There’s a pond in there somewhere…

I’ve always been independent. I’m that sort of curmudgeonly so-and-so who will never ask for help.

Garden 2


But last autumn I admitted defeat. Keeping together a large garden (technically two as my cottage is two cottages knocked into one) while promoting one book and writing the next, not to mention keeping up with the day job, and that thing called life, can leave a girl frazzled (and one dog seriously narked at the lack of collie-sized long walks in interesting places).

So I took a deep breath, lost my preciousness over my beloved garden being touched by any other hands than mine, and called in the gardeners. It was the best thing I’ve done. Some expertise, assisted by a bit of young muscle, and a miracle has happened.

Garden 3

Why I needed help to remove the stranglehold of montbretia!

Garden 4

The new lining for the overgrown pond goes in.

Because I work from home with my day job as a proofreader, as well as my real job as a writer, my garden is not just a luxury. It’s where I escape from my desk for a cup of tea and a lunch break, however huddled up I might be in the bit out of the wind that’s a suntrap. It’s where I catch up with my reading and any research that doesn’t need the Internet. It’s where I meet up with friends, and in the summer months it’s the most wonderful place to have laid-back parties, enjoying the evening light and the night-time darkness with very little light pollution and just my solar fairy lights. It’s the place to be when there’s a meteor shower expected. And it’s the place I can work out my plots without passersby worrying about me staring into space for apparently no reason at all, accompanied by occasional mutterings.


Spinach flourishing in my polytunnel

With a bit of help with the bits that would have half-killed me, I’ve managed to do the rest. Well, not all of it. That’s been the other lesson. I can’t do it all in one go, and the rest will keep until next year. Meanwhile, I’ve got my spinach and lettuce and sweet peas in on time and I’m loving doing bits and pieces when the sun comes out.

I think a garden might just have to appear in the next book …..

New Garden 1

The garden today – waiting for the grass to grow.

New Garden 2

The new pond. Many a book will be read here!


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