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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!

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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

 

 

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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!

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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 …

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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 am delighted to welcome fellow saga author, Elizabeth Morton, who was born in Liverpool and has worked as an actress, being best known for playing Madeleine Basset in Jeeves and Wooster and Linda in the Liverpool sitcom, Watching. She is an award winning short story writer and has also written drama for TV, film, and theatre. In her formative years at convent school, she spent her weekends playing the piano accordion in Northern Working Men’s Clubs. She is married to fellow actor Peter Davison, known, among his many other roles, for playing Dr Who.

 

So, Liz, can I ask what you are you doing to deal with being in lockdown?

Liz at with husband Peter Davison and bestselling novelist Trisha Ashley

Walking my dog. Though it’s a distressing trade off, I don’t think I have ever seen days as beautiful as these. I think it’s because I live under the flight path, or something to do with the light, but I feel as though I’m seeing everything around me for the first time.

UK edition HERE 

I write sagas, historical fiction, and of course when you write, things that you experience in daily life creep onto the page. In my research for my next book set in the aftermath of the devastation of WW2 I have been reading about how Liverpool rebuilt itself, free milk and school dinners, social housing, civic pride, the birth of the NHS. Makes me feel hopeful that we might be a little different when we come out the other side.

On another note, when I was growing up my mum would often take to randomly painting walls and furniture, she even painted our upright piano with white gloss and decorated the front of it with leftover rolls of wallpaper (Edwardian ladies riding Pennyfarthings!) Finding old tins of paint whilst clearing out the cupboards, I too have been randomly painting a wall or a door or a piece of furniture each day as I find it strangely calming.  As we all turn into our mothers eventually, and it seems with this lockdown me sooner than most, my husband is getting very worried about what may become of our piano…

Stay safe everyone. We’ll come out of this stronger.

 

A Last Dance in Liverpool

The UK edition is up for pre-order HERE

The US edition HERE

 

All she wants is one last dance…

Lily and Vincent have been dancing everything from the waltz to the foxtrot together since they were six-years-old. Now a teenager, Lily realises she has feelings for Vincent that she never knew were there.

However, with Vincent off to war, Lily is evacuated to a mother and baby home with her younger siblings. It is there that she finds she has more in common with the fallen women than she once thought. But as the bombs begin to fall in Liverpool, will she ever see her sweetheart again?…

A heart-warming saga for fans of Call The Midwife from the author of A Liverpool Girl.

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Copy edits are funny things.

 

After months of working on The Ferryman’s Daughter, writing and re-writing, editing, rewriting again and then tweaking, this is the final time I’ll see the book in manuscript form. It’s also the last chance to make any changes. Not major transformations, it’s already too late for that. Copy edits are about consistency, making sure the whole thing hangs together as a whole, with events taking place in the right year with everyone with their right ages all the way through. It’s more about the technical aspects of a story than any previous edits. It’s also where the joins from the different versions (when things like an age change can slip through the net) are smoothed out to make the final whole.

 

I always find it a strangely satisfying process. Frustrating at times. Even irritating, as you hunt down some little detail that then requires changing throughout the book and can drive you mad, as well as zapping all those repeated words you never spotted (may I never use ‘just’ again!). It’s where you have to stand back from the story as a writer and become a proofreader, complete with electronic tracking, with comments on the side to be addressed and corrections in the text. As someone who earns her living as a proofreader (although not for fiction), it’s quite surreal to see my own work this way – and crawl away into a corner at the recognition that I make the same mistakes! Why is it that the brain always adds that missing word, even though you’ve been over that paragraph a hundred times?

The copy edits are a final distancing from any emotional attachment to the story, which is vital to root out any tiny errors that might otherwise slip through, and also a goodbye to the characters and locations that have lived inside your head, 24/7, for the past year or so.

Up to this point, the book is fluid. Nothing is set in stone. It can change, and frequently does. But once you press ‘send’ on this particular email, with the corrected manuscript attached, that’s it. This is where the baby grows up, ready to go out into the world and take on its own life – starting with its appearance in ‘The Bookseller’ (super-proud moment).

The Ferryman's Daughter in The Bookseller

The Ferryman’s Daughter in The Bookseller

 

You could go on with copy edits forever. As with anything, there’s always some tiny mistake, some minor tweak that can be made. But at some point you have to call it a day. Personally, I always know when I can’t do any more. It’s when I loathe the book with a passion you would not believe. When I never want to see another word of it, or have to have anything to do with its dratted characters, ever again, and I seriously question why I thought this was a good idea in the first place.

This may sound disastrous, when there’s promotion just around the corner. But that’s the thing. It’s like childbirth. The moment the book comes back in proof form (okay, even before that), the agony is forgotten. It’s time to fall in love with the story, all over again.

 

Roll on the proofs!

 

Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place

Porthgwidden Beach, St Ives, where part of the story takes place

 

 

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Well, that was a long break from blogging! I’d no idea it was quite so long – sometimes, you just have to concentrate …

I’ve been busy since my last post. The beavering away and chasing down openings sort of busy, with plenty of wrong turnings and near misses along the way. All of which have been a steep learning curve (I thought I’d done my steep learning curves!) and one rollercoaster ride.

Funny how things seem to take forever and then suddenly arrive in a rush. I’m super excited to have now signed a two-book deal with Orion, and even more excited (if that’s possible) that my first book to be published this year, on May 14th. I’ve loved my time with Honno Press, and the lessons I’ve learned have been invaluable, but I’m also looking forward to my new writing adventure.

It was very strange walking back from meeting my lovely editor for the first time, just before Christmas. I was far too excited to take the tube, so there I was, wandering through my old haunts on the South Bank and back over Hungerford Bridge, remembering the girl studying English Lit because books were her life, and who had a dream. It seemed a lifetime ago (it is!), but also like yesterday.

Walking back from publishers

It also made me grateful that it has taken so long, as I have a feeling that girl might have run for the hills at the sight of a real publishing contract and (although she’d have denied it hotly at the time),  definitely needed to her head out of those books for a while and live a bit of life first. After all, in the end, it’s living life that counts – that’s where all those stories and characters come from!

Room with a view 1

 

 

 

 

 

So here is my first novel for Orion – the story of a young woman in a very different time, but who also has a dream.

Introducing Hester, the ferrywoman who never, ever, gives up, whatever life might throw at her …


The Ferryman’s Daughter is up for pre-order here UK     US

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