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Five Things I Learnt While

Writing Through Lockdown

By Louise Marley

When Juliet first asked me if I’d like to contribute to her series of posts from authors about how they were coping with lockdown, I’m afraid I laughed. I wasn’t coping with lockdown, how could I give advice to others?

As I usually work from home, in theory nothing had changed for me. In practise (like everyone else), I suddenly had a house full of people and double the workload. Food shopping took most of the morning (and a lot of creativity), making me appreciative for everything I’d previously taken for granted. Most of all, I missed being able to meet my friends.

Now lockdown is easing, I’ve had my first trip outside my village and the shops and cafes are slowly beginning to open. Apart from ensuring I always have a supply of flour, pasta and toilet rolls in the cupboard, what have I learnt over the past few months?

 

  1. Working from home is my ‘normal’ and I shouldn’t be tempted to procrastinate. (I did so want to clear out my garage and paint my fence.)
  2. When a limited amount of writing time is available, plan ruthlessly. Tasks become more manageable if prioritised and spread over several days (and shared with the family).
  3. Limit time spent on the Internet, checking the news and social media. The last one was particularly difficult while feeling isolated from my friends and extended family.
  4. Remember to take time off. When I no longer had time to read I became distinctly twitchy. Forcing myself to take a break with a book someone else had written (and not feel guilty about it) made a lot of difference. If I had a day where I couldn’t concentrate on my own writing, I’d do something work-related instead: update my website, write a blog post, design a book cover, etc.
  5. When life becomes really stressful, take time out. (This last one was especially important). Under lockdown rules we were allowed an hour’s exercise, so my family and I decided to explore our village. We found footpaths we hadn’t known existed, lots of wildlife, even the remains of an earth and timber motte and bailey castle. And we got fit too! (https://www.instagram.com/louisemarleywrites/)

Three months later, as our lives return to a very different version of normal, I’m determined to incorporate these changes into my routine. Keep up my evening walk, read more, tweet less and definitely be grateful for everything.

 

Louise Marley

Louise Marley writes romantic comedies and murder mysteries. She is lucky enough to live in a village where there is a famous library and two ruined castles. (Her husband still thinks they moved there by accident).

 

Website: http://www.louisemarley.co.uk/

Blog: http://www.louisemarleywrites.blogspot.co.uk/

Twitter: @LouiseMarley

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/louisemarleywrites/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LouiseMarley

 

Trust Me I Lie

When Milla Graham arrives in the picture-perfect village of Raven’s Edge, she tells everyone she’s investigating the murder of her mother who died eighteen years ago. But there’s already one Milla Graham buried in the churchyard and another about to be found dead in the derelict family mansion.

Obviously she’s lying.

Detective Inspector Ben Taylor has no life outside the police force. Even his own colleagues think he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud. Now he’s met Milla and his safe, comfortable life has been turned upside down. She’s crashed his car, emptied his wallet and is about to get him fired. 

He knows she’s a liar because she cheerfully told him so. 

Unless she’s lying about that too…

 

Buying Links: UK HERE       US HERE

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

 

 

A delicious (and simple!) recipe for Granola

from Leah Fleming

A perfect way to start the day …


 

500 gms whole rolled oats

125 gms butter or non-dairy substitute

125gms (ish) honey or maple syrup

 Selection of nuts and seeds. I use linseed, hemp seed, sunflower, pumpkin. Flaked almonds, mixed nuts, walnuts, whatever’s in the cupboard.

 

Melt the butter and honey in a pan and mix into the oats.

 Add the nuts and seeds. Put in in a large flat oven tray at 180C. cook for about 20 mins. Take out give a good stir round and return for another 15 mins. It should be golden brown colour.

 Let it cool and add dried fruit according to taste. I use, cranberries, soft raisins, soft chopped apricots, whatever you like.

Serve with yoghurt and fresh fruit.

 

Escape to the sun this summer – no planes or quarantine involved!

Leah’s enchanting new book is out now:

UK HERE    US HERE

Today I’d like to welcome Francesca Capaldi, whose debut, ‘Heartbreak in the Valleys’, has just been released by Hera Books. I wanted to ask Francesca about her inspiration and her writing process – and about writing a saga set in Wales.

 

Can you tell us a little of your writing journey and how you came to write ‘Heartbreak in the Valleys’. Did you always want to set a book in Wales?

I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a child, but didn’t send anything for publication until I joined an adult education class. I started with short story sales. After a while I started writing various novels as well, young adult and contemporary romance, none of which were picked up, although three pocket novels were bought by DC Thomson. One of the contemporary novels was set in Ceredigion, but one agent told me that nobody wanted novels set in Wales! Being half Welsh, it made me more determined that there should be novels set in Wales!

Did you find writing for magazines helping in writing your novels?

On the whole, yes. Writing magazine stories helps you to write concisely and I do think it’s easier to start with them and move to novels rather than do it the other way round. It’s also less daunting to start with short stories. Getting a few accepted for publication gave me the courage to try something longer.

I’m interested to see the story of Idris and Anwen was inspired by your own family history. What drew you to explore your history, and do you feel there is anything we can learn from the time of WW1, particularly in the light of the current global pandemic?

I’ve long been interested in my family history, especially with my parents coming from very different backgrounds (my father was Italian). On the Ancestry site, I discovered my great grandfather’s World War 1 military record and the fact he was medically discharged eight months after he enlisted. The novel started life as a short story, but having had a passion for social history since my degree, I was soon researching the records for other information. And so was born Heartbreak in the Valleys.

I have seen quite a few parallels between the current pandemic and World War 1. Food shortages is an obvious one. People have taken more to growing their own now, as they did then with the allotment schemes. In the early stages of this pandemic, nobody knew how long food shortages would last and how severe the pandemic would get, which is much like the war. The Spanish ‘flu pandemic that started in 1918, has already been used as a parallel in the media, though there were many diseases causing widespread mortality before that. These included tuberculosis (‘consumption’), which three women in my family died of and the diphtheria epidemic of 1914. As awful as this pandemic is, it gives us an idea of what people of the past lived with constantly.

I loved the portrayal of the village community, and particularly all the characters. Did you base the village and its characters on specific places and people you know?

The village, which I call Dorcalon (literally, ‘Heartbreak’), is based almost entirely on Abertysswg in the Rhymney Valley. It’s where my mother and her mother were born, and where my great grandparents lived for thirty-odd years. I’ve taken a few liberties with it, which is why I didn’t want to give it its real name. Although the seed for the story was my great grandfather Hugh’s medical discharge, Idris is not based on him at all. The only real person who appears in the story (apart from mentions of historical people like Lloyd George) is a minor character called Mary Jones. She was my great gran, on the other side of the family from Hugh. Everyone else is a product of my overactive imagination!

How did you go about getting the historical details right, and creating the atmosphere of the world of WW1?

Lots of research and reading. I have several social history books, including accounts written by people living at the time. I trawled the 1911 census for an idea of the makeup of households and family size, job descriptions and places of origin. I read through contemporary local papers for types of social activities, shops, court proceedings and so on. I found several websites about the local pals’ battalion. I also looked at the historical OS maps.

It was interesting seeing the mixing of the different classes as the community pulled together to survive the shortages. Was there any particular story, or part of your research that inspired this part of the novel?

I think it was reading something of the Suffragettes that helped form the character of Elizabeth, the manager’s daughter, who I saw immediately as an enlightened woman of her times. The Suffragettes put their activities to one side during this time to help the war effort and I realised that Elizabeth would be the kind of woman who’d want to make a difference, hence her idea for the allotments.

Can you say what are you writing now?

I haven’t long finished another Valleys book, which is due out in the Autumn. I’m taking the opportunity to create a couple of short stories for magazines – I’ve missed writing them!

Thank you for joining me on the blog, Francesca – and I’m looking forward to the next ‘Valleys’ story already! 

 

Heartbreak in the Valleys

You can purchase a copy of the book HERE

November 1915. For young housemaid, Anwen Rhys, life is hard in the Welsh mining village of Dorcalon, deep in the Rhymney Valley. She cares for her ill mother and beloved younger sister Sara, all while shielding them from her father’s drunken, violent temper. Anwen comforts herself with her love for childhood sweetheart, Idris Hughes, away fighting in the Great War.

Yet when Idris returns, he is a changed man; no longer the innocent boy she loved, he is harder, more distant, quickly breaking off their engagement. And when tragedy once again strikes her family, Anwen’s heart is completely broken.

But when an explosion at the pit brings unimaginable heartache to Dorcalon, Anwen and Idris put their feelings aside to unite their mining community.

In the midst of despair, can Anwen find hope again? And will she ever find the happiness she deserves?

Today I’m welcoming fellow Novelista, Sophie Claire, to the blog, to talk about the importance of family to surviving lockdown, and her new book A Forget-Me-Not Summer, which is now out, ready to sweep readers away to sunnier climes…

At the start of lockdown I had hoped to be super-productive. I told myself I’d whizz through the book I’m writing, get ahead of schedule and begin the next.

It didn’t happen. I muddled through, distracted and worried that my work was trivial compared with that of scientists, medics, and all the businessmen and women fighting to keep their companies solvent.

BUT … at the start of this crisis my son was in the USA and we had difficulties getting him home. Flights were cancelled and I was desperately worried he’d be stranded on another continent. Happily he made it home in the end, but that crisis made me realise what’s important: being together. Friends and family being there for each other whatever happens.

And curiously, that brings me back to my writing. Family, community and love are at the heart of all my books: they’re what I like to write about and to read about, too. Books and television feel more important than ever now, and I’ve been devouring both. When we watch a comedy and it makes us smile, when a good film distracts us for an hour or two, it helps us get through. So perhaps entertainment is important too? Perhaps books aren’t so trivial after all?

I’ve persevered with writing and luckily now I’m at that point in the process where my characters are coming alive. I daydream about them whilst doing other things and ideas pop into my head unexpectedly. I love this stage. It’s the best part of writing a book.

Plus I have reason to celebrate: my latest novel, A FORGET-ME-NOT SUMMER, is out in paperback! I can’t have a book launch or do book signings, but it’s still an exciting time – especially when readers contact me to say how much they’ve enjoyed being transported to sunny Provence with my characters.

Books are an escape. They’re helping me get through these strange times, and I know I’m not alone.

Sophie.x

A Forget-Me-Not-Summer

Purchase Links: UK    US

It’s taken years, but Natasha Brown’s life is finally on track. Running a florists in the quaint village of Willowbrook, she’s put her short-lived marriage to Luc Duval far behind her. That is, until he unexpectedly walks through her shop door, three years after their divorce.

Luc reveals that he never told his family about their split, and now his father is desperately ill and demanding to meet Natasha. Luc needs her to come to France and pretend they’re still happily married. Natasha is horrified, but when Luc makes her an offer she can’t refuse, reluctantly packs her bags.

The deal is two weeks on a vineyard with his family, but will Luc and Natasha be able to play the perfect couple after years apart? And in the glorious Provence sun, will the old spark between them be impossible to ignore?

Today I’d like to welcome fellow Novelista Valerie Anne Baglietto to the blog. Usually we all meet up once a month, but now that’s not possible I wanted to ask how she was faring in lockdown, and how she is keeping her creativity alive.

Like many people, I’m finding this ‘new normal’a little surreal. However, I’m autistic and home is my safe space, so I’m more fortunate than most. Those feelings of anxiety and uncertainty people are talking about right now – that was my normal, during daily life before lockdown. In many ways I’m more in control now than I was before, even with a houseful of people. With less transitions to mess with my brain, I’ve bought myself more time to write than I had previously, albeit in a pop-up office in my bedroom!

I’m upstairs, my husband’s downstairs. Like a dutiful manservant, he brings me mugs of tea or coffee. In return, I stay out of his way during remote team meetings and conference calls. The teens lurk. They joke, work, slide into strops, exercise in their makeshift gym, interact on iPhones or Xboxes with friends, cook meals for themselves and ‘forget’ to clear up, and then joke a bit more. I think they realise they’re lucky; the house is too busy to be lonely for long.

For two weeks we hid even more scrupulously when my daughter developed symptoms of Covid-19. Thankfully, we all came out the other side, still speculating if the headache and strange cough she caught just from being in the house (she hadn’t gone further than our back garden) was the dreaded Thing, and some asymptomatic member of the household had brought it in from the outside world. A scary thought. Like others in the same position, we’re left wondering, but our GP told us to self-isolate so we obeyed orders.

Now, at last, for my writing advice – if you’re in the mood to write, and I know many of you aren’t, understandably – go a little feral. Or a lot, depending on how brave you’re feeling. At the start of the year, I decided to work on an old novella which I knew had the makings of a full-length book. The long hours I can invest in it at the moment, mean I’m on track to finish sooner than I’d estimated. But I’m rewriting a lot more of it than I thought I would, which got me thinking that we all have these old stories, hidden or not so hidden. And if writing something entirely from scratch right now is proving too harrowing, why not try dusting down something old and half-forgotten, and letting your imagination loose on it again.

Go wild with it. Rewrite. Laugh at the writer you used to be. Learn from their mistakes. Take pride in the good bits. Make lemonade out of lemons. Experiment. Have fun. Or cry. Whatever. Go wherever your heart takes you. See where the New You can lead the Old You, or vice versa. But most of all, don’t beat yourself up if your imagination stubbornly refuses to transport you anywhere right now. These are strange and frightening times. The most important thing we can do for ourselves and our families is to stay home and stay safe; unless you’re a keyworker, in which case THANK YOU! But if you find writing actually helps, if it contributes to your self-care, then don’t feel guilty, either, for indulging in it.

 

Four Sides to Every Story

 

*SHORTLISTED IN THE 2015 LOVE STORIES AWARDS*

If you found ‘the one’ would you know it straight away, or would you need a little push in the right direction?

What if there was someone like Lily Rose Whyte in your life, whose sole aim was to help you? Someone who could jiggle fate and fortune in your favour, without you even realising.

And what if you live in a sleepy Cheshire village where nothing much seems to happen, except suddenly one summer, everything does. Your life is turned upside down and inside out. As we all know, love has a habit of doing that.

But hold on. Slow down. Because what if – for once – Lily’s got it wrong? About as wrong as she can get. What would you do then?

Don’t worry, though. Life isn’t a fairy tale, and magic doesn’t exist. So, as long as you don’t read this book, and you never meet Lily Rose Whyte, you’re perfectly safe.

Aren’t you…?

 

You can get the UK edition HERE

And the US edition HERE

Today I’m delighted to welcome Sophie Jenkins, the author of The Forgotten Guide to Happiness and A Random Act of Kindness. Sophie lives in London, so I wanted to know how she was coping with lockdown in the capital – and getting that new book done!

I had just finished a book when lockdown started, but I had a plot outline ready for a new one, with an interested publisher, so what could possibly go wrong? Writers are in a kind of self-imposed lockdown anyway – I really should be used to it.But four weeks have gone by and my imagination isn’t working anymore. I’m turning into the main character of The Forgotten Guide to Happiness, a writer who can’t write; but her solution, hanging out with an eccentric feminist writer is, for the time being, out of the question. What’s going on? Maybe it’s because of the dreams. Apparently we are all dreaming more, busily and vividly, as if being deprived of normal life in the daytime is making our minds come up with an alternative reality at night, sucking creativity during sleep.

Last summer at the Society of Authors awards, Jackie Kay said that writing was the only occupation that didn’t get easier the longer you did it. It’s true. It’s about starting from scratch every time. The characters are like people at a party who you barely know, and their stories are as vague and dubious as gossip from a friend of a friend.

I’m hoping to kickstart the story via two workbooks that have helped in the past; they are Ready, Set, Novel! written by the organisers of National Novel Writing Month and First Draft in 30 Days by Karen S Wiesner. They’re a bit bashed and worn, but I’ve taken the old Post-it notes out they’re good to go.  If I start writing constructively, the dreaming might stop. As we all know, reality is a scary place, and the world of books, for readers and writers can be a refuge and a sweet delight.

 

A Random Act of Kindness

Purchase links:

UK edition HERE

US edition HERE

 

Fern is too busy making sure other people feel good about themselves to give much thought to her own happiness. But somehow, without her noticing, life has run away from her.

Suddenly, Fern realises her vintage clothes business is struggling, and the casual relationship she’d always thought she was happy in doesn’t look so appealing.

But sometimes, karma really does come through. And when Fern goes out of her way to help 85-year-old Dinah, little does she realise their new friendship will change her life.

Dinah may have troubles in her past, but she’s lived and loved to the full. Can Dinah show Fern that even the smallest acts of kindness can make the world a better place?

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!

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jan Baynham to the blog. Jan has always been wonderfully supportive of authors, so It’s a real pleasure to see her debut novel Her Mother’s Secret ,published just a few weeks ago by Ruby Fiction. I asked Jan, who has spent many holidays in Greece, where Her Mother’s Secret is set, how she was coping in lockdown in the UK.

 

 

Coping with lockdown in Wales

These are very strange and unprecedented times, an expression that’s almost a cliché now. Although, as a writer used to working at home, adjusting to the isolation hasn’t been as hard for me as maybe it has been for others, the forced lockdown has taken choice away. We miss the visits from our two little grandchildren who live closest to us and this was the first time our older grandsons who live in Manchester, couldn’t spend Easter with us. With my husband, I have taken advantage of the permitted daily walk, enjoying the spring sunshine.

The peace of the countryside has been noticeable and with all the trees and hedgerows bursting with new growth, nature herself has given us hope. Through virtual Pilates sessions, writers’ group meetings and family gatherings I’ve kept in touch with the outside world. I’ve found I can’t concentrate on writing for very long and with the build up to the publication of my first novel on April 21st, I have been very grateful to kind members of the writing community who have offered me guest appearances or interviews on their blogs. Writing articles or answering questions has given me a focus.

 

At first, I was reluctant to promote my novel on social media for fear of being insensitive to the horror of what was happening in the world. However, after ‘talking’ with other writers, I’ve decided to post photos and little snippets of the story in the week leading up to publication day in the hope it may help readers to escape to a place we can return to once this is all over. I do hope so. Choosing photographs from past holidays in Greece has definitely been therapeutic. Stay safe, everyone.

 

Her Mother’s Secret

It’s 1969 and free-spirited artist Elin Morgan has left Wales for a sun-drenched Greek island. As she makes new friends and enjoys the laidback lifestyle, she writes all about it in her diary. But Elin’s carefree summer of love doesn’t last long, and her island experience ultimately leaves her with a shocking secret …
Twenty-two years later, Elin’s daughter Alexandra has inherited the diary and is reeling from its revelations. The discovery compels Alexandra to make her own journey to the same island, following in her mother’s footsteps. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69.

 

UK edition HERE

US edition HERE

 

 

I’d like to welcome best selling author Leah Fleming, whose latest novel A Wedding in the Olive Garden, published by Head of Zeus, is out in ebook today, with physical copies out in August. Be prepared to be swept away by this uplifting novel of love, friendship and new beginnings, set on a gorgeous Greek Island in the sun. Perfect for an escape from lockdown!

Leah lives in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, but is currently being shielded, so gives a real insight of what it’s like for those who are not only living with the restrictions of lockdown, but living behind the shield.

Happy Publication day, Leah!

 

Leah, living behind ‘the shield’

Some say authors are well suited to lockdown discipline. We work in isolation, behind closed doors beavering away at our work in progress. If you are by nature an introvert, all the better but I am not. I join writer’s groups, belong in village affairs, love entertaining with a large family to visit and host.

However as one of the older vulnerable with a rubbish immune system (due to ongoing and never- ending chemotherapy) the thought of being holed up indoors for months on end fills me with dread.

On the plus side, I live with my husband in the country with a big garden, great views and a supportive village and family so I can’t grumble. I have a profession with deadlines to meet and can escape into my creative world each day, a novel to finish and time to garner ideas for another when this one is finished.

It’s the not so little things that I am finding hard at the moment; losing the support system I’ve built over years of cancer treatments. I miss face to face discussions with my consultant, relaxation sessions with my reflexologist and good chiropody. Now my hair is shedding due to the side effects of a stronger drug, no chance of hair therapy.

I do try not to slop around in old clothes but dress as if someone is coming to call. I keep to normal working hours in my shed or office. We eat as healthily as we can. I do cheat each day and either go in the car to walk in the open hills or stroll with the dog at a safe distance around the village for my daily social fix.

I have chosen a comfort book to re-read: Olivia Manning’s Balkan Trilogy, a mighty tome to lose myself in. I may not be able to travel but the story takes me across Europe into a period I have always loved and mined for stories. I can zoom into the RNA norther Chapter online meetings, and message friends and family for a catch up. My daughter and grandkids leave shopping at our door.

 A WEDDING IN THE OLIVE GARDEN, out this month online, is a compromise as the paperback is delayed until August, so talks or launches are off but I couldn’t attend anyway.

I have to confess the outdoors is looking tidy and planted out. Indoors is another matter for “my lady what does “no longer can do so housework here is down to basic hygiene in bathrooms and kitchen, etc. On old friend once said “dust is dust, don’t move it and no one will know how many layers lie beneath.” I have shut off every room not in use so that helps.

I am living for that glorious morn when I can fling open the door to all, nip into town to browse and perhaps have a pile of future bestsellers to email to my agent… plus a perfect garden and pristine cupboards. Until then, I can always dream.

Leah.

A Wedding in the Olive Garden

Sara Loveday flees home and crisis to the beautiful island of Santaniki. Here, amid olive groves and whitewashed stone villas, where dark cypress trees step down to a cobalt blue sea, Sara vows to change her life. Spotting a gap in the local tourist market, she sets up a wedding plan business, specialising in ‘second time around’ couples.

For her first big wedding, she borrows the olive garden of a local artists’ retreat, but almost at once things begin to go wrong. To make matters worse, a stranger from Sara’s past arrives on the island, spreading vicious lies. Can her business survive? And what will happen with the gorgeous new man who she’s begun to love?

This is a gorgeous, warm-hearted and uplifting novel conjuring the local colour, traditions and close bonds of island life.

You can buy the book:

Amazon UK HERE

Amazon US HERE