Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Orion’ Category

It’s publication day for The Girl with the Silver Clasp, my second novel for Orion!

I’m so excited to finally be able to share the story of Jess, Rachel and Giselle, as they overcome their differences to save a faded mansion in Cornwall and its traditional harbour community, freeing themselves to follow their dreams.

I loved writing this story, which was inspired by the changes that took place in the 1920s as the world recovered from the trauma of the First World War with the hope of creating a better life after all the suffering.

Like The Ferryman’s Daughter, the story is set just outside St Ives, with its beautiful coastlines and luminous light that, especially after the First World War, attracted artists and crafts men and women in a unique atmosphere of creativity. Part of the story comes from my family background and my great-grandmother, who forged nails in a workshop in the backyard of the family home in Lye in the industrial Black Country.

Another comes from my love of art deco, with its clean lines and colours. Sadly, my own attempts at metalwork and enamelling were brief, and a long time ago, and I definitely don’t have anything near Jess’ eye and skill. But I loved researching for the story, just as I’ve always loved visiting St Ives.

It’s also about female friendship, and learning to overcoming differences to work towards a better future. When I was writing the story, I could never have guessed just how important friendship and supporting each other would become for all of us in the time of Covid. It’s given me a new insight into the world after the First World War, where Jess, Rachel and Giselle attempt to come to terms with the past and build a better future – as well as making me realise just how previous was the life we knew before the pandemic, and that I’ll never take for granted the ability to travel the short distance to the coast again!

Read Full Post »

Watercress with those little roots, all ready to get growing!

In The Ferryman’s Daughter, Hester, like her mother before her and countless women throughout the ages, makes the very best of the foods she can forage to supplement her family’s meagre income.

The view from the cafe Hester dreams of making her own, looking out from St Ives towards Godrevy Lighthouse

One of my own favourites is watercress. I can remember it growing wild in abundance when I was a child, but living in sheep country I’m not sure I’d like to chance it straight from a stream these days, even if I could find it. So imagine my excitement when I stumbled across the fact that watercress doesn’t need a stream. It doesn’t even need to stand in water. It grows quite happily in the ground or in a pot. And even better, you don’t need to try and source seeds. One bunch of watercress from the supermarket, or even better fresh from a farmer’s market or greengrocer, will do. The little white hairs that are the roots are usually already there on the stems, and a week in water and they’ve increased, grown stronger and are ready to go.

I may not exactly forage for my watercress, but I love being able to wander out and pick fresh peppery leaves for a salad or a garnish for soup.

The harbour at St Ives – Hester’s taste of freedom!

When I was researching Hester’s recipes for The Ferryman’s Daughter I was delighted to come across this one for watercress soup. It’s simple, the colour is amazing, and it tastes delicious – especially with an indulgent swirl of cream or crème fraiche, and fresh white bread, a luxury Hester could only dream of, especially during the shortages of The Great War. It was only natural it became one of the recipes featured in the back of the book.

So whether from your own crop, or it’s grabbed from a supermarket, this is the delicious recipe for Hester’s watercress soup.

Watercress Soup

Salt and pepper

30 g butter

1 medium onion

1 stick celery

Approximately 250 g potatoes

Approximately 250 g watercress

Approximately 300 ml water

Salt, pepper and cream to taste.

Melt butter in pan. Chop onion and cook until soft. Add chopped stick of celery. Peel and chop potatoes into small pieces. Add to pan and stir. Add enough water to cover and simmer until potatoes are soft. Chop watercress, add to soup and warm through. Blend until smooth. The original recipe says to add milk, but I like to keep the tang of watercress and thin slightly with water (or stock) to the preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir with a swirl of cream (or similar). Serve with slices of fresh crusty bread.

Read Full Post »

One of my favourite bits of research when writing The Girl with the Silver Clasp was Jess’ passion for silverwork and her unique flair for design, which helps her to face the many obstacles she has to overcome to follow her dreams. I had so much help from jewellery makers, but because of Covid it had to be mostly virtual, and my plan to brush up my very rusty metalwork and enamelling skills, and to take a day’s course with a local blacksmith, went out of the window.

Now we are gradually emerging out of lockdown, I can finally get to do those interviews in real life!

My first is with my dog-walking friend Hazel, biomedical scientist for the NHS diagnostic service by day, maker of exquisite earrings by night.

Hazel currently works from a large table in her living room, overlooking the Nant Ffrancon valley and the mountains of Snowdonia. I arrived to interview her to a delicious surprise – a proper afternoon tea delivered in a box, the most amazing treat in the time of covid, and set out in appropriately on 1920’s-style plates.

As we tucked into scones, Hazel told me that since the onset of the pandemic her living room has been gradually transforming itself into her workshop, under the supervision of her three rescue collies.

Working in a hospital has needed light relief over the past eighteen months and Hazel has found being absorbed in jewellery making the perfect therapy, as well as an outlet for her creativity.

Hazel told me that she began making jewellery over twenty years ago, after being trained at her local college. She set up a workshop in her cellar, starting her collection of tools. She loved working with silver and gold, making a selection of rings and earrings, and an identity bracelet for her son.

She thought she would have to give up her passion when the onset of osteoarthritis in her hands stopped her from working with metals, which requires strength and attention to fine detail. But she overcame this by turning to hunting down lampwork beads, unique handmade glass beads that are intricately crafted with beautiful patterns and colours.

Using natural materials to create patterns with silver clay
Working with silver clay

She also discovered silver clay, which doesn’t require the strength to manipulate as real silver, but gives beautiful effects. Hazel uses the natural world, pressing leaves and mosses she finds on her daily dog walks into the clay, leaving imprints to create the patterns, before polishing to stunning effect.

It was inspiring to see so much skill and creativity taking place in an ordinary living room and fitted around the demands of a busy life.

Hazel is hoping to set up an online shop before long, I’m glad to say. I may not have a weakness for diamonds, but I certainly do for such beautiful earrings…

Afternoon tea – laid carefully out of reach of four very interested dogs!

Read Full Post »

This is the kind of Amazon review that comes out of the blue and makes an author’s heart beat fast!

It’s particularly close to my heart as I was also stunned by the country house where Hester works, which is suddenly overwhelmed by casualties, being so unexpectedly reflected in real life as the pandemic hit.

I felt I was living in my own book for a while. But I took comfort from the fact that this part of The Ferryman’s Daughter had been inspired by the real-life descriptions of the heroism, and the kindness, of women and men battling against the odds to save lives during WW1.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to the reviewer, who not only made this author’s day, but reminded me of how much we have pulled together and survived in the midst of our own crisis, and that so-called ‘ordinary’ human beings are, in the main, utterly amazing.

It also reminded me of preparing for the launch of Hester’s story in a world that had so abruptly changed, which felt overwhelmingly terrifying, as if thrust into the middle of a disaster movie, but with superhero and no way out. Now, looking back over the past months, I’m still aware of the tragedies, but also remembering hearing birdsong like I’ve never done before and the vivid scent of bluebells. Of relishing the one walk of the day in glorious sunshine and just how wonderful it was to meet my fellow dog walkers and talk to another human beings at a suitable distance, making connections like we’d never quite done before.

And yes, hearing the exhaustion in the voice of the front-line nurse, and glimpsing the trauma she hasn’t yet got the time, or emotional energy, to deal with at the back of her eyes, and fearing for those I love who are shielding. But also of slowing down, rethinking what is important amongst the everyday rush of life, and gaining new pleasure in watching the finches the blue-tits on my bird feeder bringing up their babies – not to mention the endless family squabbles of an entire tribe of sparrows.

And of talking to so many in this suddenly hungry-for-human-connection world who are also rethinking priorities and determined to live – however modestly, and in whatever difficult circumstances – in a new, and hopefully more satisfying way.

The trauma of the First World War led, over time, towards huge changes, not least the eventual setting up of our wonderful NHS and the safety net of the Welfare State. My own parents could remember a time before either, when the cost of a doctor was beyond many hardworking families. It is sometimes hard to remember it’s that recent. I will never take the NHS for granted again.

When I began writing The Ferryman’s Daughter, just eighteen months ago, I never could have imagined how life would reflect fiction and the events of a century ago. I’m glad Hester’s story is one of survival and optimism. She has helped me to keep optimism for our own future too.

You can read the review HERE

The kindle version of The Ferryman’s Daughter is currently on offer at 99p/$1.02 HERE

 

 

Read Full Post »

Publication of

The Ferryman’s Daughter!

The bowl is from Cornwall and as for the apples – well you’ll have to read the book to find out!

Today is publication day for The Ferryman’s Daughter, my very first book for Orion. We may be in lockdown, in an uncertain world, and definitely with no opportunities for wild celebrations, but I’m still wonderfully amazed and excited to see my novel sail out into the world.

I loved the time I spent with Hester, the passionate, independent-minded and determined heroine of The Ferryman’s Daughter. The original inspiration for Hester was Rosa Lewis, who in Victorian times rose from a kitchen maid to cooking for royalty and owning her own hotel and who was also the inspiration for the popular TV drama series ‘The Duchess of Duke Street’, which is still repeated now and again.

But when I was writing my story of resilience and friendship overcoming the uncertainties brought to a community facing

St Ives, in Cornwall, where the story is set

WW1, I never thought how much this would resonate in the lockdown life of a global pandemic. On the other hand, it also feels similar because of the way so many of us have been brought together, and that, for the most part, it’s kindness and solidarity that is getting us through.

So I hope you enjoy the story of Hester, who never gives up on her own dreams, while helping the nurses and volunteers nursing the survivors of the battlefield back to health again. I love that Hester remains doggedly positive, whatever life might throw at her. I’m holding onto that too.

The UK edition is available HERE

The US edition is available HERE

To celebrate publication day, here is the recipe from the book for the most delicious apple cake. Simple but tasty – and the very thing to cheer up life in lockdown.

Jan’s Scrumptious Apple Cake (the inspiration for Hester’s mum’s best apple cake)

250 g butter

225 g caster sugar

3 eggs

Half cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

260 g sifted self-raising flour

2 lemons

 

For decoration:

Two or three eating apples (coxes or russet are best) unpeeled

One lemon

Sugar and water for lemon syrup

 

Preheat oven to 180c/ 350f/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 23cm/ 9inch springform tin.

 

Combine butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Slowly add the eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Fold in the flour and the grated rind of two lemons. Spoon batter into the tin. Slice the apples and arrange until the top of the cake is completely covered. Bake in the middle of the oven for one hour (or until a skewer comes out clean).

Meanwhile, cut thin strips of lemon rind and boil in water and sugar until crystallised. Roll into curls. As the cake cools, make holes with a skewer and pour in the sugar syrup. Decorate the cake with the crystallised lemon peel.

Serve warm or cold, with a generous dollop of clotted cream

 

And the sea is St Ives in Cornwall, where The Ferryman’s Daughter is set. This was a wild and windy day a couple of years ago. I was planning to go back this summer – maybe next year!

Read Full Post »

The copies of The Ferryman’s Daughter have arrived!

The paperback is safely in my hands, and the book is also up on NetGalley

as well as for pre-order on Amazon ready for publication day on May 14th.

It’s well and truly out there!

It’s always and exciting moment, the day your book finally becomes real and there it is, sitting in your hand about to go out into the world and have a life of its own. Receiving a box of boxes in the middle of lockdown was quite surreal. Having my feet photographed instead of signing was a first, and then there was the business of opening it, with much handwashing and hand santiser before I could finally get a glimpse of the beautiful cover.

My lovely editor at Orion had sent me a photograph, so I knew the colours were stunning, but they still took my breath away when I was finally able to liberate a copy from the packaging (with the help of Miss Phoebe, who was under the impression that something so exciting could only be gravy bones, of course).

And since then I’ve been looking at it and taking it everywhere with me – even on the day’s dog walk!

It’s an amazing feeling. I still can’t quite believe it’s actually real! I’m a little sad that I won’t be having the planned party in my garden (which is currently in full bloom and just waiting for a celebration), but I know that will come later.

Meanwhile, I feel incredibly lucky for The Ferryman’s Daughter to have made it out into the world at all. When I was writing the story, I had no idea that Hester’s determination to dust herself down, pick herself up and keep on going, even in the face of panic buying of flour and sugar (no toilet paper at the time of World War One!) threatening to destroy her fledgling business would so soon be reflected in our own world. It made me root for her even more.

So here’s to publication day. I can’t wait to introduce Hester to the world – not to mention her delicious recipes, designed to rebuild the strength of recuperating soldiers and help those she loves to keep up their spirits in a world abruptly changed. Go, Hester!

 

Review copies of The Ferryman’s Daughter are available from NetGalley HERE

It can be pre-ordered from Amazon UK Here  and Amazon US HERE

 

 

Read Full Post »

Choco-Vanilla Birthday Cake

Guaranteed to chase those social isolating blues away!

Thank you to Ellie, who recently celebrated her 15th birthday under lockdown, for the recipe. And for the photos of this cake, as made for the birthday of her mum, Valerie-Anne Baglietto  

(Ellie made the gluten-free version for her mum, but it’s just as good with ordinary flour)

Lockdown birthday cake!

This is a simple basic recipe, easy for a beginner to follow, or a child (with appropriate adult supervision!)

Ellie and her mum

You will need:

  • 9 inch round cake tin (1 tin, or 2 if you have a second identical tin)
  • Cake board or large flat plate
  • Baking paper
  • Wooden spoon
  • Whisk
  • Mixing bowl
  • Saucepan
  • Metal spoon/offset spatula

 

Ingredients :

The sponge:

  • 225g of unsalted butter
  • 225g of caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp of vanilla essence
  • 225g of gluten-free self-raising flour (or normal self-raising flour, if you wish)

 

The icing:

  • 225g of unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp of golden syrup
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 115g of icing sugar

Method:

For the batter:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Grease the cake tin and line with baking paper at the bottom.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon, until light and fluffy.
  4. Whisk in the eggs, one by one, then whisk in the vanilla.
  5. Next fold the flour, bit by bit, into the mixture with a wooden spoon. Stir until all the flour has disappeared into the cake batter.
  6. Bake half the mixture for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, and let cool for 20 minutes. Bake the other half of the batter and let it cool. (Unless you have two identical cake tins, in which case you can cook both at once.)

 

For the icing:

  1. Put the butter, golden syrup and cocoa powder into a saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Stir until the butter is melted and it is all mixed together.
  3. Take it off the heat and let cool for 20 minutes.
  4. Once it is cool, whisk in the icing sugar until it is all incorporated.

 

Decorating:

  1. Place one of the sponges on a cake board or flat plate.
  2. Put half the icing on top and smooth it down with a metal spoon or offset spatula.
  3. Then, place the other sponge on top and gently press down until it is securely in position.
  4. Put the other half of the icing on top and smooth it out. It doesn’t have to be perfect, you can make swirly patterns if you wish.
  5. Now you can decorate the cake with sprinkles or chocolate flakes, or however you want! And don’t forget the candles!

Read Full Post »

Hester’s Comfort Food Corner

Perfectly delicious Poppy Seed Cake

(from a First World War recipe)

 

Hester, the heroine of The Ferryman’s Daughter, is a passionate cook, whose fledgling cake-making business is put in jeopardy by the panic buying and hording of sugar (no toilet paper in those days!) at the start of WW1. Instead, she spends the war cooking the best comfort food she can manage with limited ingredients for recuperating wounded soldiers and the volunteer nurses looking after them – many of them well-brought up young ladies faced with the shock of their lives in a world changed forever.

So, welcome to Hester’s Comfort Food Corner. Some are traditional recipes I came across in my research, others are simply favourites. The idea is that they are fun, easy to make – and above all comforting! And since sugar and flour are once again available in our modern changed world, I think it’s safe to dispense with exact historical accuracy (including the delights of potato flour) in exchange for good, solid, old-fashioned comfort …

 

To start off, it has to be my WW1 seed cake, my comfort cake for all occasions, including celebrations. It’s the one I’ll bake when I can finally hold a physical book launch for Hester and The Ferryman’s Daughter. It’s easy to make, fail-safe, and simply delicious!

 

WW1 Poppy Seed Cake

 (This is a scaled down version of the original, which, in true Edwardian fashion, demanded ten eggs. There are also modern oven settings, instead of the instructions to let the fierceness of the oven be over before putting the cake in to prevent scorching – unless anyone has an old-fashioned range handy, that is).

Ingredients

8 oz         227g         Butter

8 oz         227g         Sugar

2 ozs        57g          Caraway or poppy seeds

8 oz         227g         Self raising flour

2oz           57g          Candied peel

Rind and juice of one orange

Rind and juice of one lemon

3 eggs

Small cake tin (mine is 7″/18cm, which works really well)

 

Method:

Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time with flour alternately, then add rind and juice of one orange, and the rind of one lemon, caraway/poppy seeds, and candied peel.

Cook at 170C Gas Mark 3 for forty-five minutes then down to 150C Gas Mark 2, and finally 140C Gas Mark 1 till cooked. (I find it usually takes just under an hour in total)

While still warm, pierce the cake with a skewer and drizzle in the juice of the lemon.

The original would probably have been served as it was, but I’ve found it goes really well with lemon butter icing with a few drops of vanilla added, for a really luxurious treat (edible butterflies optional!).

The fancy version …

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

In our suddenly changed times, 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’m delighted to welcome Sunday Times bestseller Heidi Swain. Despite everything, I’m also cracking out the virtual champagne, as her latest book ‘The Secret Seaside Escape’ is published today! 

Thank you so much Juliet, for inviting me to share with you and everyone reading, what I’m up to do during this surreal time of lockdown. As you may know, today is publication day for The Secret Seaside Escape, so hopefully right now, I’m enjoying lots of lovely interaction on social media. I’m very grateful for this new book because moving the publication date forward a couple of weeks has certainly kept me on my toes!

To be honest, the Monday to Friday working week, hasn’t been all that different to my pre-lockdown world. I still have a deadline and I’m sticking rigidly to my #amwriting routine. The words are still flowing so I’m extremely pleased – and relieved – about that! I start writing around 7am and carry on until lunchtime. Afternoons are reserved for admin, writing blog posts and planning.

However, there have been a few tweaks and changes. For example, my Pilates class is now happening online so I’m having to remember to keep the sitting room curtains closed. There aren’t many folk out and about now, but they don’t deserve to be burdened with the sight of me bending and stretching early in the morning, do they?

Heidi at an event in Waterstones, Liverpool, with Trisha Ashley

And I’m also walking laps of the garden in lieu of my daily wander around the village and into the woods. The space is tiny – 50 paces a lap – but I’m still managing to walk over two miles a day, so you can imagine how many times I’m going around! It’s very much round and round the garden like a teddy bear. I haven’t met myself coming backwards yet, but there’s still time!

 

 

I’m also doing rather more video calling with friends, which is great for morale and a reason for dragging a brush through my hair… most days. Storm, my cat, likes to get in on the calls too, if she can.

So, all in all, it’s not too bad. This author in lockdown hasn’t gone too far round the bend just yet, but there’s still a long way to go.

Stay safe my loves, and stay home.

With love,

Heidi x

 

Heidi’s new book The Secret Seaside Escape

UK edition available HERE

US edition available HERE

Tess Tyler needs a break. Weighed down by her high-pressure job and her demanding father, she’s left little time to take care of herself. But after a shocking discovery sends her spiralling, she flees to Wynmouth, the seaside town she fell in love with as a child, to escape it all.

With its sandy beaches, stunning rock pools and welcoming community, Tess feels like she can finally breathe again. And as she grows ever closer to local barman Sam, she dares to dream that she might never return to her real life. But when a familiar face returns to town, Tess realises that there are secrets in Wynmouth too, and that her own past may be about to catch up with her . . .

The Secret Seaside Escape is the perfect read this summer, promising sandy beaches, stunning rockpools and breath-taking romance. Perfect for fans of Carole Matthews and Sarah Morgan.

Read Full Post »

In our suddenly changed times, 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’m delighted to welcome Carol Lovekin, author of ‘Ghostbird’ and ‘Snow Sisters’, and her latest novel ‘Wild Spinning Girls’, all published by Honno Press. Carol’s writing has been described by Joanne Harris as ‘Charming, quirky, magical’.

So Carol, how have you been coping with lockdown in Wales?  

Over the past weeks, since I went into voluntary hibernation, I’ve probably written the words ‘strange times’ more than once. I’ve heard ‘Dunkirk spirit’ a few times as well. I was born as WW2 ended; I’m old enough to remember my mother, in 1952 when sugar came off rationing and my sister and I clamoured for extra sweets, still declaring, ‘There’s a war on!’

Currently, there’s a sense of having to adopt the same wartime stoicism: be sensible and eek out our supplies. Mercifully, the one thing we don’t have to ration are words and my word birds are still dropping sweet treats on my window sill.

My third book, Wild Spinning Girls came out in March, not long before the virus hit and we were catapulted into this odd way of living. With the external diary cancelled, I’ve adopted a simpler routine: a daily walk, writing, reading and some frivolous telly. For me, this new habit is the heart of how I’m coping. I began this writing lark later in life than most authors I know. Since I wrote my first book my aim has been to catch up and keep writing. I’m continuing to do it by giving shape to my days but without expecting too much from myself.

Slowly a new story is taking shape. I’m not checking my word count or worrying about structure, I’m just showing up and getting to know a new character who came to me last spring, out of the unexpected magical blue, where the best stories come from. I have to say, I’m a little bit in love with her.

Here’s to gentle, being kind to ourselves days, to unrationed words, staying safe and continued creativity. May your Muse be with you!

 

 

UK edition can be purchased HERE

US edition can be purchased HERE

 

If it wasn’t haunted before she came to live there, after she died, Ty’r Cwmwl made room for her ghost. She brought magic with her.

And the house, having held its breath for years, knew it. Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets out for the Welsh house her father has left her. Ty’r Cwmwl is not at all welcoming despite the fact it looks inhabited, as if someone just left…

It is being cared for as a shrine by the daughter of the last tenant. Determined to scare off her old home’s new landlord, Heather Esyllt Morgan sides with the birds who terrify Ida and plots to evict her. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »