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Archive for the ‘Eden’s Garden’ Category

 Strange how the world can change without warning … 

As, like wonderfully resilient Hester, the heroine of my first book with Orion ‘The Ferryman’s Daughter’, we all settle down to the new reality of a world changed by events from seemingly far away, I’ve decided to abandon my planned posts building up to publication on May 14th. Instead, I’m asking my fellow authors how they are dealing with being in lockdown and a new way of working. Along with any tips they might have for keeping creativity alive – or even using this time of seclusion to finally get those hidden talents up and running.

Today, I am asking multiple Sunday Times best-selling author, Trisha Ashley, about how she is faring as she prepares for the publication of her new book ‘The Garden of Forgotten Wishes‘ this July – and any tips on finally getting that novel written! 

Take it away, Trisha! 

 

Trisha signing at Daunts bookshop, London

Trisha’s new novel, out this July.

I hardly noticed the virus storm clouds gathering, having spent most of the previous month frantically trying to finish my new book. Once I’d sent it off and was about to emerge into the world again, it became impossible. So, here I am, about to dive straight into another new book instead!

I know many of you are wondering if you should use some of your suddenly free time to start to write – so yes, stop thinking about it, and do it!

Trisha, with fellow author Elizabeth Morton – not forgetting Time Lord Peter Davison!

The technique of writing a novel can be taught, just like that of throwing a pot. But no one can teach you how to breathe life into the clay – that has to come from inside yourself. If you are constantly putting up barriers to stop yourself writing, then Natalie Goldberg’s Writing down the Bones will unblock the U-bend of your creativity and get you looking at the world in a different and more inspiring way. And read Stephen King’s book, On Writing, because he really tells it like it is, plus has a lot of practical advice at the end.

 

Question and answer session at the Northwich LitFest

A few years ago I wrote a quirky, offbeat novel very unlike my usual ones, called Written from the Heart (formerly titled Happy Endings), simply because the heroine, Tina Devino, took over my head and insisted on pouring out her heart on the subject of the struggles of being a midlist author, her complicated love life, and the manuscripts sent to her by hopeful authors via her lit and crit agency…. I think some of the letters she included would give you pointers on what not to do.

So – have a go, explore, get words on the page and see where it takes you. But, most of all, enjoy yourselves!

You can buy the UK edition  HERE

and the US edition HERE

 

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes

The brilliant new novel from Top Five Sunday Times bestselling author Trisha Ashley

All Marnie wants is somewhere to call home. Mourning lost years spent in a marriage that has finally come to an end, she needs a fresh start and time to heal. Things she hopes to find in the rural west Lancashire village her mother always told her about.

With nothing but her two green thumbs, Marnie takes a job as a gardener, which comes with a little cottage to make her own. The garden is beautiful – filled with roses, lavender and honeysuckle – and only a little rough around the edges. Which is more than can be said for her next-door-neighbour, Ned Mars.

Marnie remembers Ned from her school days but he’s far from the untroubled man she once knew. A recent relationship has left him with a heart as bruised as her own.

Can a summer spent gardening help them heal and recapture the forgotten dreams they’ve let get away?

UK edition can be pre-ordered HERE

US edition can be pre-ordered HERE

Trisha Ashley is from St Helens in West Lancashire, and believes that her typically dark Lancashire sense of humour in adversity, crossed with a good dose of Celtic creativity from her Welsh grandmother, has made her what she is today…whatever that is. Several of her novels are set in rural West Lancashire, West Yorkshire and Wales. They frequently explore aspects of the three F’s that are a constant in her own life: Food, Flowers and Friendship and include delicious recipes at the back.

Trisha has a website at www.trishaashley.com where you can sign up for her newsletters, and an official fan site at www.trishaworld.net where you can find out more about her, or see a complete list of her books. You will also find her on twitter as @trishaashley.

 

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I love Bodnant Garden, near Llandudno on the North Wales coast. It’s the kind of place you can spend all day, and never grow tired of revisiting. There are winding paths through different plantings, formal gardens, wilderness gardens, and a steep dell with a lake and a river below.

 

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Living so near, it’s easy to not make a special time to visit, and so to miss the changing of the seasons. I’d been meaning to go with a couple of friends for weeks, but you know how it is, with three busy jobs, busy studying and busy lives. Then, this Monday we all happened to be able tobodnant-trees-5-small take the day off. So rain or shine, this was it.

At it turned out, we were incredibly lucky. The day dawned with perfect autumn sunshine, and stayed that way all day, while the late summer flowers were still going strong, and the trees were at their most spectacular. Because it was so unexpected, it was a truly magical day. We wandered around for hours, exploring this way and that, chatting and catching up with news and gossip, and pausing to talk to complete strangers who, like us, were marvelling at the vivid red of the leaves, and bodnant-trees-2-smallthe beauty brought out by the sunshine. And of course I couldn’t resist the opportunity of having a few author pictures taken in such lovely light and glorious surroundings.

 

It was only looking back at the photos afterwards that I realised just how relaxed we’d been, and how great it had been to take time out from our lives and have fun. I didn’t get a thing done on the next book that evening, the intentions didn’t last beyond a cup of tea and falling asleep in the chair, much to Phoebe the collie’s disgust (related to lack of squeaky duck action, rather bodnant-4than her human finishing the next chapter). But then the next morning, that particularly knotty bit in the middle of the soggy middle of the next book (ha!) that I’d been bashing away at for days, de-knotted itself without fuss and neatly fell into place as if it had always been there. Which just goes to show.

bodnant-2-smallI shall definitely be making my way back to Bodnant before long to enjoy another changing of the seasons, to return refreshed and invigorated, and ready to go. Here’s to precious autumn days, good friends, and the deep creative power of sharing the beauty of our world, and pure, unadulterated, fun.

 

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Bodnant Magnolia

Spring is in the air – let the sunshine and the publicity begin!

Over the past few days, I’ve emerged bleary-eyed from editing ‘The White Camellia’, blinking at bright sun that has suddenly appeared amidst the rain (don’t mention rain), with banks of primroses in my garden, and the frogs boldly chirruping in my pond.

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It was clearly time to get out from behind the desk, and back into the world again. Writing, and especially editing, is an all-consuming business, which I love, but I also always have to remind myself the importance of taking time off afterwards, and letting the jumbled, scrunched, and tumble-dried brain take in some much-needed stimulation that has nothing to do with words at all. Taking publicity photographs is a perfect way of coming down from the editing intensity without that empty feeling of having nothing to do (housework, however dire the post-editing house, doesn’t count).

White Camellia in Bodnant

My first mission was to hunt down as many camellias as I could find while it was still the blooming season –which given the oddities of this winter in the UK, was definitely urgent.

So on the first fine day, I twisted a friend’s arm, and away we headed to Bodnant Gardens in the Conwy Valley. It was the last few days of dogs being allowed in every day for a while, so Phoebe, and her elderly collie friend, Lucy, could come with us, on best behaviour, of course.

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I love Bodnant Gardens. There are formal bits, and a valley with a lake and a rushing stream, and whatever time of year, there’s always something to see. Being sheltered and near the sea, it’s sometimes hard to believe it’s north of Snowdonia, except for the snow capped mountains in the distance. I’d gone to photograph any camellias I could find, but there were also snowdrops, banks of daffodils about to flower, pretty irises and crocuses, and so many different varieties of hellebore it seemed there was another delight around every corner.

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It was a wonderful surprise to be reminded of just how much life there is out there, even at this time of year, and, with the azaleas about to bloom, with a promise of more delights to come.

I love my own garden, but I could never grow the variety of plants, or the sweeps of snowdrops under the trees. It was an unforgettable day, wandering in the (sometimes) warm sunshine, watching new life begin to unfurl.

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I have a feeling that I shall have to go back on the next fine day, to see how it has all progressed. For the purposes of publicity, of course. Or, with the next book brewing, a little research…

Stop press: ‘We That are Left’ is currently on Amazon UK for £0.98! 

Amazon US at $1.36

 

 

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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!

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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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Keyboard

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.

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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.

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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!

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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 … 🙂

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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.

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Overgrown!

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.

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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.

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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 …..

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The garden today – waiting for the grass to grow.

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

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Congratulations to the winners!

First of all congratulations to Shirley who won the Oapschat competition with a prize of a signed copy of ‘We That are Left‘ and a box of handmade Cathryn Cariad chocolates inspired by the recipes in the book. Choc 1 small

Congratulations to the winners of the Goodreads giveaway of ten (hotly contested) signed copies of ‘We That are Left’ which are currently being packed up all ready to go winging their way towards you.

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My publishers have generously found me a second box of Cathryn Cariad ‘We That are Left’ chocolates in need of a good home.

Watch this space!

And thank you to everyone who tweeted and posted and shouted out loud that ‘Eden’s Garden’ was in the Amazon Kindle sale on April 1st – propelling it to number #1 in the Women’s Historical Fiction Charts for the third time in a year.

Eden's Garden Full Price 1 in Womens Historical Fiction

I think this calls for Elderflower champagne – and cake!

We That are Left’ UK       ‘We That are Left’ USA

‘Eden’s Garden’ UK     ‘Eden’s Garden’ USA

Seed cake

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It’s not an April’s Fool! (I had to look twice just in case)

Eden's Garden COVER

I’m delighted that Eden’s Garden is 99p today in the Amazon UK Kindle Store!

It’s also $1.47 on Amazon.com (click here)

This calls for Sara Jones’ infamous (if you are watching your waistline) chocolate cake.

You can find the recipe here. Enjoy! 

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Sometimes you have to run away, sometimes you have to come home.

2011 – Carys agrees, with mixed feelings, to look after her mother after a fall. This decision unsettles everything – her job, her plans, her relationship with Joe. Once home she is drawn back into village life, into her family history hidden in the attic, and into the history of Plas Eden, the ramshackle great house that was so much part of her childhood. Where, at 18 she forced herself to say goodbye to David Meredith. How will she feel when they meet again?

1898 – Ann, destitute, stands on London bridge. She remembers her last visit to London, a spoilt aristocratic bride, sure of the power of her youth and beauty. Now she is running from everything she trusted. Is the river her only option, or will the Meredith Charity Hospital hide her?

Two women struggling with love, family duty, long buried secrets, and their own creative ambitions. But over a hundred years ago, Ann left a trail, through North Wales, Cornwall and London, that may help Carys find her true path. What is the secret of the statues in the garden?

Finalist for ‘The People’s Book Prize’ 2014

Welsh Book of the Month May 2012

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Praise for Eden’s Garden

“Eden’s Garden is a novel rich in detail, nuance and meaning… a tale of romance and mystery, self-sacrifice and fulfillment, each element lovingly enveloped in the atmospheric mists of an ancient story told again as if for the very first time.” Edith O’Nuallain, Story Circle Book Reviews

“a wonderful, scrumptious read…” Sharon, Magical Musings (http://magicalmusings.com/)

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“this story covers multiple generations of a woman’s struggle and heartache with a deft touch. Sensual and romantic, the story swept me away with its strong female characters… It is filled with Welsh charm and romance, and delights with a sweet, lovingly tended story that leaves the reader deeply satisfied” Nadine Galinsky Feldman (http://www.nadinefeldman.com)

“don’t hesitate to immerse yourself in this delightful, intriguing tale which unravels family secrets” Claire McAlpine, Word by Word

“Written on the grand scale, this powerful and moving story of two deeply creative women, seperated by time but both struggling to balance the conflicting demands of family duty and the desire for freedom, held me gripped until the final family mystery was resolved and the entirely satisfying resolution reached.” Trisha Ashley

“A great romantic read and also a very atmoshperic, ingenious mystery.” Margaret James, Writing Magazine

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“Beautiful writing and a charming, intriguing story.” Sue Moorcroft

“Juliet’s characters are so believable and richly drawn – the reader really cares what happens to them…” Anne Bennett

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Writing my recent post for Novelistas Ink on using storytelling as inspiration led me to think again about the time I earned my living from running storytelling and puppet-making workshops.

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As with my more recent work as a writing tutor, I found I learnt as much from the sessions as the children and adults taking part. One of my greatest lessons from the puppet storytelling was spontaneity. I love the fact that I studied English at University, but it also made me excruciatingly analytical and feeling that my own writing needed to be of Deep Significance to Future Generations. Something I rather suspect was the last thing on Mr Dickens’ mind as he beavered away to hit the next deadline for his magazine serial and pay the bills.

Working with children – some of whom had been through some horrendous experiences – brought back the playfulness and the delight in creating that had overwhelmed me as a child and sent me writing endless stories (and one or two novels) in a completely unselfconscious manner. If in doubt, throw on more sequins!

The children's version!

Working with ancient myths, from King Arthur to Japanese folk tales, was also a reminder that even the simplest of tales can hold the deepest truths and touch the heart. It’s still there in ‘Shrek’ and ‘Despicable Me’ – simple tales that look like ‘children’s stories’ but still contain morality tales and poke fun at cultural assumptions. And children’s stories are never simple – the puppet plays revealed emotional conflicts beneath the surface that surprised us all. It didn’t have to be an extreme – one story was of two princesses working out where they were going to live when the kind and queen separated, as two sisters were absorbed for hours in this safe reflection of the intricacies of their own parents’ divorce.

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I suppose what I learnt most from the puppet storytelling was to let go and to have faith in my story. Simply write from the heart and the things that resonate deeply inside. It makes you vulnerable – like the two princesses, the deepest truths that you wouldn’t reveal in an ordinary conversation tend to slip out. But then we are all vulnerable. It’s our fears, our dreads, our strengths and our weaknesses – and yes, our vulnerability as human beings, both emotionally and physically – that storytelling is all about. And, looking back, it’s perhaps no surprise that my first novel for Honno Press, Eden’s Garden, was inspired by the ancient Welsh myth of Blodeuwedd, the woman made of flowers who didn’t remain the passive creature of sugar and spice she was supposed to be …

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You can read my post for the Novelistas HERE

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Eden's Garden COVER

My first inspiration behind ‘Eden’s Garden’ is based on a family story – but I can’t tell you anything about that because it would give the game away – and then there would be no mystery at all!

My second inspiration was an ancient Welsh myth. It’s the story of Blodeuwedd, the woman made out of flowers to  a perfect wife. Blodeuwedd is beautiful and perfect – until she finds a mind of her own and is turned into an ugly old owl to be cast out and despised. As a woman, I’ve found myself growing more interesting and more human as I’ve grown older. So I have a feeling that, for Blodeuwedd, maybe that’s the point where the real story begins. And if you look at an owl – really look – it has a rare beauty all of its own…..

Cool green

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My third inspiration was a garden. It’s a place I used to go to when I went to see my father during the last months of his life. It’s on my way home through the mountains of Snowdonia, and was a place for me to gather myself and absorb my own sadness and get back to facing everyday life again.  The gardens are Brondanw Gardens which are the home of Clough Williams Ellis the creator of Portmeirion. They are full of life and eccentricity and a mischievous kind of joy.

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And so that’s where the mystery began to form in my head, of Carys rediscovering the mysterious statues of her childhood and embarking on a journey to find a mysterious woman from the past who holds the keys to the future. A woman who was once bred to be a perfect Victorian beauty, and who has the longest journey of all to make – the journey to becoming truly human.

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Eden’s garden is on promotion today

In the UK 1.69p click HERE

In the US $2.10 click HERE

 

 Click HERE to join Carys as she unravels the past – finding some unexpected secrets along the way. 

You can watch the trailer for ‘Eden’s Garden’ here

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