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Tag: Wales

Opening Lines with Jan Baynham: Her Mother’s Secret

This week, I’m delighted to welcome Jan Baynham to Opening Lines, to talk about her debut novel, Her Mother’s Secret.

Over to you, Jan…

‘Her Mother’s Secret’, with its sub-heading of ‘the Summer of ‘69’, is my debut novel. It is the first of three I’ve been contracted to write for Ruby Fiction. All three novels involve secrets and forbidden love, explore mother and daughter relationships and are mainly or partly set in countries other than Britain. ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ was published on April 21st as an ebook and most of it is set on Péfka, a fictional island off the coast of southern Greece. The story opens in 1991when a young Welsh woman, Alexandra Davies, is grieving after the untimely death of her mother. Elin has left her diary to her daughter and on reading it, Alexandra discovers a part of Elin’s life she knew nothing about. She is shocked as the secrets from Elin’s past are revealed and realises she didn’t know her mother as well as she thought. I tried to put myself in Alexandra’s shoes. Having had a very close relationship with her mother, how must she have felt finding out that her mother had kept such secrets from her?

The diary takes us back to 1969. Elin Morgan leaves Wales after finishing art college to spend the summer months studying at a painting school in Greece.  She records everything about her summer on the island but, while there, something happens that causes her to never paint again.  The secrets of that summer remain with her until she dies twenty-two years later.

Alexandra makes her own journey to Greece, following in her mother’s footsteps. She arrives on the same beautiful island that made such an impression on her mother. Once there, she sets about uncovering what really happened to Elin in that summer of ’69 and why it was never mentioned again. Will she understand why her mother closed down that part of her life?

Why Greece? Having had several holidays there now, I first visited the country in the seventies when we stayed with my aunt and Greek uncle. I fell in love with the climate, the vibrancy of the colours of the sea and flowers and the warmth of its people. It seemed to be an ideal place for a young artist to spend her summer. I enjoyed getting to know my Greek characters, some named after or based on people I’ve met and observed on visits over the years. Dimitra, the host at the taverna where Elin stays, is named after a lovely waitress from the hotel we go to in Crete. On a trip to a Cretan village, I watched a woodturner working at his lathe on pieces of olive wood and he became the inspiration for Yiannis who figures largely in Alexandra’s story. Vassilis is named after an elderly Greek who led me onto a taverna dance floor. He tried to teach me traditional dancing and had the bruised toes to prove it! He appears in both Elin’s and Alexandra’s story. I hope I’ve done justice to the country and its people by giving the reader a glimpse of life on my fictional island.

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BLURB:

A secret left behind in the summer of ’69 …

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.

FIRST 500 WORDS

Prologue

1969, The Peloponnese, Southern Greece

Sofia Simonides let out a scream and tottered backwards. Her pulse struggled to force blood around her veins. The body was slumped against the gnarled trunk of an ancient olive tree, head hanging to one side and resting on the left shoulder.

The man had a blue-grey pallor, his skin a candle-wax translucency. Sofia bent over and touched his cheek. It was icy cold; she gasped, drawing back her hand. Blood from a gash on one wrist had seeped over his thigh and there was a deep red stain in the sand. A long-bladed knife caked in dried blood lay by his side. Sofia eased out the piece of paper he clutched in one fist, unfolded it and read the message.

Falling to her knees, she sobbed.

‘Andreas, no-o-o! No! What have you done?’

A piercing howl from deep inside her shattered the cool, still air of the dawn.

Chapter One

Alexandra

1991, A market town in the heart of rural mid-Wales
The sky was lead-grey, heavy with blue-black rain clouds threatening a downpour. The dreariness of the day reflected my mood as I turned the Mini into the cul-de-sac. A shiny red two-seater was parked in the drive behind my father’s Audi. I pulled up alongside the kerb, took a deep breath, trying to avoid a downpour of my own, and entered the house. There was laughter coming from the kitchen.

‘What’s she doing here?’

My father and his friend turned to face me. His mouth gaped open.

‘Alexandra. Apologise, straight away. Sally, I’m very sorry. She has no right to speak to you like that.’

‘It’s all right, Richard. Alexandra’s upset. I’ll go now. The food’s almost done, anyway. You just need to serve it straight from the oven once the timer rings. Shall I call Claire down on my way out?’

I glared at the woman who stood there taking off Mam’s apron. My heart quickened. Mam? My mind was playing tricks on me. It wasn’t Mam, was it? She should be the one standing there, greeting me, cooking dinner. Not her. I struggled to breathe. How dare she? How dare he?

My father accompanied Sally outside, and I heard the throaty roar of the sports car signal that she’d gone. I braced myself for the row that would ensue, but I wasn’t being unreasonable, was I?

Claire entered the kitchen first. She was four years younger than me, tall and slim with long auburn hair and sage-green eyes. She took after my father’s side of the family. He idolised her.

‘What was all that about and where’s Sally?’ she said.

By then, my father had joined us and they both stared at me. ‘Well?’

‘That woman’s here all the time, wheedling her way in. She’s even taken to wearing Mam’s things.’ I twisted the cotton apron into a ball in my hands and heard my voice rise.

Claire moved to switch off the timer and reached for the oven gloves…

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 ‘Her Mother’s Secret’ is available on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=her+mother+s+secret+jan+baynham&ref=nb_sb_noss

Bio

After retiring from a career in teaching and advisory education, Jan joined a small writing group in a local library where she wrote her first piece of fiction.  From then on, she was hooked! She soon went on to take a writing class at the local university and began to submit short stories for publication to a wider audience. Her stories and flash fiction pieces have been longlisted and shortlisted in competitions and several appear in anthologies both online and in print. In October 2019, her first collection of stories was published.  Her stories started getting longer and longer so that, following a novel writing course, she began to write her first full-length novel. She loves being able to explore her characters in further depth and delve into their stories.

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. Having joined the Romantic Novelists Association in 2016, she values the friendship and support from other members and regularly attends conferences, workshops, talks and get togethers. She is co-organiser of her local RNA Chapter and a member of the Society of Authors.

You may find out more about Jan here:

Twitter: @JanBaynham  https://twitter.com/JanBaynham

Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer  https://www.facebook.com/JanBayLit/

Blog: www.janbaynham.blogspot.co.uk

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Many thanks Jan,

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny x

 

Opening Lines with Ruadh Butler: The Earl Longbow

We’ve heading into 12th century Ireland for this week’s Opening Lines.

I’m delighted to welcome Ruadh Butler, and the first 500 words of The Earl Strongbow.

Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare is a man whose name is greater than his fortune, his past greater than his future. But he is a man of ambition and will risk everything when journeys across the Irish Sea to claim the hand of a princess and place her father back on his provincial throne. Awaiting his master’s arrival is the redoubtable Raymond de Carew, fresh from his own victory but facing mutiny by his own warriors. The only person to stay loyal is his former mistress, Alice of Abergavenny, who has her own plans for Raymond. She knows more than any that upon the walls of Viking Waterford a king shall be made. And Alice has big plans for Raymond.

THE EARL STRONGBOW

The king was dying.

All his doctors were in agreement. He would not survive the fever. For two weeks the sickness had raged through his lungs and ravaged his guts. Henry FitzEmpress was fading. The king was dying.

Royal messengers had already been despatched to his son and heir, crowned king alongside his father two months before. Prepare, they were instructed to tell the fifteen-year old. Prepare to become lord and master of an empire. Prepare to become the greatest king in all Christendom.

Secret letters telling the same tale also found their way south to the king’s wife, Eleanor, at Poitiers, and east to Paris where the exiled Archbishop of Canterbury plotted his return to England.

‘Where is Master Ralph?’ Henry raved and slugged from a wine goblet, spilling most down his chest and onto his bed. ‘Master Ralph will return me to health.’ The king’s light ginger hair clung to his damp, yellowed face and he swiped it away with his shivering hand.

‘You Grace, your physician was among those poor souls who perished during your crossing to England in the spring. Do you recall?’ The Bishop of Lisieux used the same voice that he employed to calm his hunting dogs. ‘Be assured, we have engaged new doctors to oversee your recovery.’ His eyes flicked up. One of the new physicians visibly wilted and refused to meet his eyes.

Henry suddenly shot forward from his sick bed and grabbed the bishop by his robes, hauling him close enough so that the bishop could smell the puke and wine upon his breath. The king’s eyes danced in his pink face.

‘Becket has done this to me,’ Henry whispered, ‘just as he summoned up that storm to try and drown me during my passage across the Channel. You must protect me from his magic.’ A moan of sadness hissed from the king’s throat and he meekly punched the bishop in the shoulder as he clung to his robes. ‘I extended my hand in friendship to Thomas, tried to make peace as you instructed, and he has conspired to murder me.’ The king’s head slumped onto the bishop’s chest, the grip on his chasuble lessening. ‘It’s too damn hot,’ Henry whimpered as his hands fell away and he flopped back onto his back in bed. ‘Why is it always so damn hot in Normandy? I cannot believe I am going to die in this shit-hole.’ The king began rolling around the bed, his arms and legs gripped to his torso.

A smear of sweat had been left on the bishop’s rich vestments. The bishop raised his hand to wipe Henry’s perspiration from his clothes but stopped himself from doing so in the company of so many great men. As he cast his glance around the room he realised that not one person cared at how he comported himself. All eyes were on Henry. Each was considering how the king’s impending death would affect his empire and their place in it…

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BUY LINKS

SWORDLAND

A disgraced knight, an exiled king – together can they conquer a kingdom in Ireland?

mybook.to/SWRDLND

LORD OF THE SEA CASTLE

The might of Viking Waterford marches against a hundred invading Normans. At the creek of Baginbun, Ireland will be lost or won.

mybook.to/LordSeaCastle

THE EARL STRONGBOW

Denied his father’s earldom and banished from the royal court, Richard de Clare will risk it all by invading Ireland to claim the hand of a princess and with it a crown…

mybook.to/EarlStrongbow

BIO

Ruadh Butler is the author of Swordland, Lord of the Sea Castle, and The Earl Strongbow. The series tells the story of the 12th century invasion of Ireland by Norman knights from Wales. Catch up with Ruadh at www.ruadhbutler.com, on Facebook, or find him on Twitter and Instagram.

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Many thanks Ruadh. Great series!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

 

 

Guest Post from Jan Ruth: Sweet Nothings

Today I’m delighted to welcome Jan Ruth back to my site with a wonderfully equine blog.

Over to you Jan…

SWEET NOTHINGS

My passion for horses, whispering, and the inspiration behind the Midnight Sky Series

Just when you think you know everything about a subject, along comes someone to blow apart a lifetime of assumptions. Monty Roberts’ father was virtually destroyed by his son’s belief in ‘horse-whispering’, as a far more humane and less exhausting method of breaking and training horses. It’s no secret that Monty took a severe beating for it.

A remarkable man, Roberts went on to foster disadvantaged children, using much the same wisdom and insight he’d learnt through studying horses and their social groups in the wild. It’s too easy – and often misguided – to bestow animals with human emotion, but maybe trust is rooted in the same place in humans as in horses, and observation and interpretation is all that’s required to make a valuable connection, regardless of language. And isn’t whispering usually far more effective than shouting? Much the same as writing good fiction; and if we’re talking analogies there’s nothing worse than clunky dialogue. Is Natural Horsemanship simply natural dialogue?

Jan Ruth Banner Midnight Sky

Guido Louis Leidelmeyer: “In the words of the horse: ‘Listen’ by observing me, and communication between us will come naturally and silently. In my words: Can I help you do that?”

As with most things that work well, it’s based on a simple concept of alignment with nature. Horses like to hang in a crowd (herd), follow the leaders – usually the older mares – and be out in the open simply because if there’s a predator, they’re more likely to bolt, than stand and fight. That’s about it. If a horse is singled out he is more likely to turn to us without fear or aggression once he comes to realise that we are not predatory, and as a surrogate leader can offer the ultimate protection. And that’s where the ‘following’  or ‘joining-up’ comes in.

jan Ruth

This principle works with wild/un-handled horses as well as re-training by reiterating the relationship of horse and leader for equines who have formed bad habits, or those with anxiety issues.

Actually, most bad habits stem from anxiety and a lack of leadership. It’s a little like your pet dog – and dare I say children, too? – needing to know they’re safe and secure place in the family pack, although the body language between dogs and horses is rather different. Flattened ears in a dog is more likely to mean subservient greetings whereas a horse … well, watch out!

Not everyone agrees that these principles are quite so cut and dried, and as is often the case with a lot of unquantified skills, there is perhaps some sixth-sense at work gleaned from years of experience. There are many equine behavourists who claim the ‘following’ principle is flawed. But the proof is in the pudding. I’ve watched Guido use these techniques on a couple of riding-school horses – both of whom he’d never ‘met’ – with amazingly fast results: 20 minutes to resolve a problem with electric clippers on a mare which had for some 12 years, aggressively avoided the issue. The owner was quite rightly, open-mouthed. But the problem isn’t solved in its entirety, as Guido explained: Tilly’s owner needed to learn and understand the process for herself, and as is the case with most success stories, a certain measure of self-belief is required. It’s this psychological leadership which is perhaps where the sixth-sense bridges that gap between human and equine.

Midnight Sky Cover EBOOK

Horses have been a lifetime’s passion for me. No surprise that they feature in most of my novels, more so in MIDNIGHT SKY and the sequel: PALOMINO SKY.  Both books draw on the principles of horse-whispering and the power of self-belief – but I take on this theme in a fictional sense rather than a technical sense. It’s so easy to swamp the narrative with too much unwanted detail. And yet, it’s the minutiae of life which underpins the storyline in PALOMINO SKY. As with horse-whispering, it’s the observation of perhaps something seemingly inconsequential which can change an entire situation. If you’re not horse savvy or enjoy only a passing interest, I’ve tried to portray the equine aspect as secondary to the storyline in these books. On the other hand, horse enthusiasts will hopefully embrace the setting!

MIDNIGHT SKY is currently 99p/99c myBook.to/MidnightSky

PALOMINO SKY is released this week myBook.to/PalominoSky

Palomino Sky Cover LARGE EBOOK

PALOMINO SKY

A golden promise for the future in a lonely palomino mare, but life deals a cruel hand for James and Laura.

James is still running from the past after the loss of his wife, and a devastating accident forces him to face his final demons, but at what cost? Laura is forced deeper into his rural world – a life she once despised – but discovers empathy and hope in the palomino mare she calls Song.

Repercussions abound for Maggie too, when the full extent of her daughter’s dangerous liaison comes to light, leaving the entire family in turmoil. Will James and Laura ever find a golden future, or has life dealt too vicious a blow?

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Grey Horse

Many thanks for such a lovely blog Jan,

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

Guest Post from Jan Ruth: Wild, Dark and Silent

It is with great pleasure that welcome Jan Ruth to my blog today, to talk about her book, Wild Water, which is set in the beautiful splendour of on of my favourite places in Britain, the Welsh Hills.

Over to you Jan…

Wild Water 2

Wild, Dark and Silent: A testimony to the Welsh Hills.

The close of July saw the re-release of WILD WATER.

Although this is the second title Accent Press have released, it’s actually my first novel, a book which has endured the longest journey of all to arrive fully polished and published. It began as a humble paper copy – remember those? – and went through several transformations before arriving in a much less frazzled state.

This is the story of Jack Redman, the wronged alpha male who’s trying to make the best decisions for his family but more often than not, gets kicked in the teeth. How often we read novels in the contemporary genres which consistently root for the female character – nothing wrong with a strong woman of course – but no one seemed to be telling these stories from the male viewpoint, at least not twenty years ago when I began my quest. Divorce still seems heavily weighted towards the partner with the children, and the mother is usually awarded custody unless there are extenuating circumstances which can be proved. Most of the time this is all well and good, but there are a great number of cases where our ancient system is fully exploited. Sadly, a lot of the initial storyline was prompted by real-life experience but there’s no better starting point than this for fiction in the family-saga genre. Jack Redman is a victim not only of the court system injustices but of its inability to deal with the speed and complications of contemporary family life.

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The Wild Water series is strongly rooted in Conwy, a medieval town in North Wales. In the main I’ve used real places, and I do love the mix of historical buildings as a backdrop to a modern tale. Links to Welsh history and heritage are unavoidable in Wales and it’s the visible remains of quarries, castles and farmsteads which give the area a strong sense of the past. And there’s richness in the landscape here which has certainly inspired my writing. St. Celynin’s seventh century church in the hills for example, is an evocative piece of living history and a landmark which is included throughout the series. It’s exactly the sort of place Anna, with her natural spiritualism, might seek sanctuary. Nestled in the hills 927 feet above the sea, its pretty inaccessible and best approached on foot, but this is no hardship.

knight

Some of the area is chocolate-box pretty, a lot of it isn’t. The struggle to make a living in this community is mostly based on farming or tourism, although the mussel industry is alive and well. Since I know little about these subjects, Jack Redman emerged as an estate-agent. I like to be slightly unconventional with my characters because another great killer of readability is sameness, and cliché.

It was both daunting, and a pleasure to write the follow-up, Dark Water; to be republished by Accent Press on October 8th.

Dark Water

The story picks up three years after the end of Wild Water , and Jack is in for another bumpy ride. Dark Water is, as the title might suggest, a darker story partly because my writing style has changed over twenty years, but also because I introduced an element of crime. It’s too easy to become lazy with a sequel and repeat much of what has gone before. The resurgence of Simon Banks created plenty of tension, and a fresh challenge for me to write some of the story from his perspective. New characters such as Clarissa Harrison-Smith and Peter Claymore, breathed new life into the original cast. When I brought Claymore into the story, he had to have a purpose and a passion, and his persona took root in one of the most fascinating buildings in Conwy – sadly in a state of disrepair – but the real life situation fitted perfectly with what I had in mind for the plot.

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This house was built in 1589 by the vicar of Conwy. Since then it’s been a pub, a tearoom and an antique shop. It’s full of spooky atmosphere with cellars, trap doors and secret passages, and apparently there used to be an escape tunnel which led to the quay. Haunted? Most certainly!

It’s exactly the sort of place someone like Claymore would want to renovate and bring to life, and the perfect setting for Anna to develop in her own right as a serious artist. Her portrait of Llewellyn the Great is the centrepiece of her launch but of course, this is fiction and nothing goes to plan! The comedy and tragedy of Jack’s life rumbles on. In his own words: Raping and pillaging is still rife, even in the modern world.

You can find the buy links for Wild Water at – Mybook.to/wildwater

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04-JanRuth-full

ABOUT JAN RUTH

Jan was born in Cheshire and moved to North Wales in 1998, although she has always maintained a strong connection with the area from a much earlier age. Her feel for the Welsh landscape is evident in all of her work.

The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. She failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day struggles to make sense of anything numerical.

Her first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.

Many years later Jan’s second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.

Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. Jan went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections. Jan is now pleased to announce that throughout 2015, she will be re-published with Accent Press.

ABOUT MY BOOKS

Fiction which does not fall neatly into a pigeon hole has always been the most difficult to define. In the old days such books wouldn’t be allowed shelf space if they didn’t slot immediately into a commercial list. Today’s forward-thinking publishers – Accent Press being one of them – are far more savvy.

As an author I have been described as a combination of literary-contemporary-romantic-comedy-rural-realism-family-saga; oh, and with an occasional criminal twist and a lot of the time, written from the male viewpoint.

No question my books are Contemporary and Rural. Family and Realism; these two must surely go hand-in-hand, yes? So, although you’ll discover plenty of escapism, I hope you’ll also be able to relate to my characters as they stumble through a minefield of relationships, family, working, pets, love …

I hesitate to use the word romance. It’s a misunderstood and mistreated word in the world of fiction and despite the huge part it plays in the market, attracts an element of disdain. If romance says young, fluffy and something to avoid, maybe my novels will change your mind since many of my central characters are in their forties and fifties. Grown-up love is rather different, and this is where I try to bring that sense of realism into play without compromising the escapism.

Jan Ruth. 2015.

Discover more about Jan Ruth: Jan writes a variety of posts – funny, serious, informative – about Snowdonia and it’s landscapes. Horses and history, her inspiration to write fiction set in Wales and her publishing journey so far.

BLOG: https://janruthblog.wordpress.com/

Connect with Jan:

FACEBOOK:https://www.facebook.com/pages/JAN-RU…

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/JanRuthAuthor

Find her books:

WEBSITE: http://janruth.com/

AMAZON: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jan-Ruth/e/B0…

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Many thanks Jan. What a fantastic post. It reminds me how long it’s been since I explored the beauty of the Welsh countryside.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

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