Wednesday 30 December 2020

What day is it again?

 Oops - with all the days running into each other over the holiday, I kind of lost track that it was Wednesday. 

Better late than never. 

My Christmas was quiet. Not how I have spent it for the last five years, and not how I hope to spend it next year, but I expect that is true of many people in 2020. I did get some writing done - I don't think I'm going to have the first draft of Riviera book 3 done by the end of the year, but it is coming along. 

It's traditional to round up your achievements and resolutions at this time of the year. Well - I finally finished the PhD and got a new book out, and was very briefly an international best seller, so the year was not all bad. I'm not big on resolutions. I won't be doing dry January, because I don't drink these days. My liver has not forgiven me for the surgery four years ago. I have gained a few pounds so I will have to do battle with them at some stage. I'm hoping that more walking, when the weather is better and the days are longer, will help. I've signed on for a few courses, so you might hear a bit more about them in the next few weeks. The big thing on my agenda is that I would really like to have two new Riviera books out next year. As you know one is on the way, and I very much want to write the one set around Halloween that has been buzzing in my brain for a while. I'm not at all sure that I will be able to do it in a timescale to please my publisher though, so we shall have to see. 

We can but try. 

Friday 25 December 2020

Wednesday 23 December 2020

Summer on the way!

 We've just passed the solstice, which always cheers me up as now the days will begin to get longer again. About 2 minutes a day. I gather. At the moment Wales is wet, grey and locked in. My morning walks are pretty much grey sky, grey sea, grey sand. Some sunshine would be nice. Just saying.

I'm having to manufacture it. Book 6 set on the Italian Riviera, is progressing slowly. I had a bit of a whirlpool at what would be the middle, with a couple of scenes going round in circles and the heroine's motivation getting a bit scrambled, but it is sorted now, I think. I've got about 65,000 words, rough estimate, as I write first draft longhand, so we have about 30,000 to go and I have to sort out a mystery and a love affair, in that space. We've just had a little scene that arrived this morning which will fill up a plot hole that I didn't realise was looming. There would have been a very long and trailing loose end otherwise. 

Life is quiet, as it is for most of the country at the moment, but I have some Christmas food and usually spend the day writing, so that will not be anything new. 

Do you think I can complete that 30,000 word by the end of the year? I'm not sure, but it is a goal, and it would be nice. Then the typing and editing begin!!!!!

Wednesday 16 December 2020

A Christmas Surprise - Cosy Christmas Treats


My publishers, Choc-lit, are known for their Christmas books and several have been published in the last few weeks, but there was one last surprise on the way - a volume of short stories and flash fiction from twenty of the Choc-lit and Ruby authors that was released on Monday. Many of the stories are Christmas themed, but there are other types as well. Some are new, some have appeared previously  in the publisher's newsletter. The e-book is available from Amazon, priced 77p, and the proceeds are going to Shelter. Buy HERE  

I've got a little something in there - it's a treat the was published a few years ago when What Happens at Christmas was released. It's the very last one in the book. Set on Christmas day, based very loosely on a real life event and with a rather naughty ending! 

Ruby author Jan Baynham has two completely new stories in the anthology and the second one gives us a glimpse of the kind of Christmas her characters from Her Mother's Secret might be spending. I've invited her on to the blog to tell us about the research she  did. Over to you, Jan: 

When I was asked to write a short story for the Ruby and Choc Lit anthology, Cosy Christmas Treats, I began to wonder what Christmas would be like for my character Alexandra in Her Mother's Secret when she spent her first Christmas in Greece. The story entitled, Christmas Surprises on Péfka, is a stand-alone but those who have read my debut novel will know that most of the story is set on the fictional island off the Peloponnese.

In the past, the Greek people didn’t use Christmas trees to adorn their houses. An old and very traditional decoration is a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire dangling along the rim. On this wire hangs a small wooden cross with a sprig of basil wrapped around it. Once a day someone, usually the mother, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle in each room of the house. This ritual is believed to keep the Kallikantzaroi, the Greek Christmas goblins, away from the house. While this is still the case throughout many regions, Christmas trees have been rising in popularity over the past few centuries. Over the years, the Christmas tree was integrated into the local culture and now the Greeks decorate fir trees in their homes and in squares

The Christmas season in Greece begins on December 6th, which is Saint Nikolaos day, and ends on January 6th with the Feast of the Epiphany. As this is a maritime country, the Greeks traditionally decorate boats for Christmas. This custom survives today in seaside towns and islands, where people decorate Christmas boats in the central squares. Saint Nikolaos is the patron saint of sailors and fishermen. It is said he worked hard to save sailors from the angry seas. Especially on the islands, you will see boats decorated with blue and white lights.

‘To the left of the quayside, she noticed a large sailing ship where the full sails were festooned with tiny lights sparkling like diamonds against the indigo sky as well as the hull of the ship and its tall mast at the top of which was an illuminated cross.’

On Christmas Eve, children often go out singing kalanda (carols) in the streets, travelling from house to house. They play drums and triangles as they sing. Sometimes, following a very old custom on the Greek islands, they carry model boats which are filled with nuts painted gold. If they sing well, they will be rewarded with nuts, sweets, dried figs and sometimes money

On Christmas Eve, too, it is traditional to bake Christ’s Bread, Christopsomo, ready to eat on Christmas day. It is a round, slightly sweet, light, buttery bread, infused with cinnamon, orange, and cloves. The top is decorated with a cross. A knife is never used to cut the bread as it is considered to be harmful to the good spirit that Christopsomo symbolises. Other traditional Christmas sweets are melomakarona, honey-dipped and often stuffed with nuts, and kourabiedes, dusted with powdered sugar and very white.

‘Plates of baklava and oblong shaped melomakarono covered in chopped walnuts were laid out on the work units, along with the customary Christopsomo, the special Christmas bread... The smell of cinnamon, oranges and cloves hung in the warm air.’

These are just a few of the many Christmas traditions I read about. The Greek people have so many interesting customs and traditions; it was fascinating for me to find out how some of those ancient traditions are celebrated alongside the new in modern Greece.

Kala Christouvenna. Merry Christmas to you all.

A big thank you, Evonne, for inviting me onto your blog.


You can buy a copy of Her Mother's Secret in e-book or audio HERE

Originally from mid-Wales, Jan lives in Cardiff with her husband. In October 2019, her first collection of short stories was published.  As well as writing shorts and flash fiction, she writes full length novels where she can explore her characters in further depth and delve more into their stories. Her books deal with family secrets and explore the bond between mothers and daughters. Set in the last year of the 60s, her debut novel, ‘Her Mother’s Secret’, takes you to sun-drenched Greece, her favourite holiday destination, and was published by Ruby Fiction in April 2020. This was followed by ‘Her Sister’s Secret’ in September 2020.

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  Cariad, her local RNA Chapter. 

You may find out more about Jan here:

Twitter: @JanBaynham   Twitter    

Facebook: Jan Baynham Writer     Facebook    

Blog: Jan’s Journey into Writing Blog        


Wednesday 9 December 2020

Something's Coming ...

 It has been a week of domestic drama - breakdown of heating and hot water and a very cold weekend, and a toilet that refused to stop flushing at 6 am in the morning. The heat is fixed and the loo hopefully today. In the meantime the WIP is progressing, and I have committed my first murder, so it's all good. I've been to a couple of zoom Christmas parties - and wore my Christmas jumper. Bought as a result of peer pressure, I have to say, but it is warm and cheerful so I've put the Bah Humbug! on the back burner. I've also written my essay for my folklore class - spooky stuff that will be appearing in future manuscripts and ordered a pile of books from the local indie bookshop which should keep me amused over Christmas. Some of them are for research for the next WIP! 

On the subject of Christmas and books, you might have seen the teasers from my publisher about a little surprise that is on the way from the Choc-lit and Ruby authors. 

It's arriving soon, and next week on the blog I'll be talking about it with Ruby author Jan Baynham. 

And don't forget, if you fancy a Christmas book that is a little different What Happens At Christmas is my festive romantic suspense from 2018. Not so many romantic Christmas books feature a kidnapping and attempted murder along with the carols and the mince pies.  If you've not read it yet, you can get it in e-book, paperback and audio. Buy HERE

Wednesday 2 December 2020

Christmas is Coming! Talking to Morton S Gray about her Christmas Novel (with a Guest appearance from Ryan the Seagull)

Christmas is creeping ever nearer and with it a slew of Festive stories. Choc-lit have a selection that are real crackers (Sorry!) This week I'm talking to fellow Choc-lit author Morton S Gray about her Christmas Novel Christmas at the Little Beach Cafe. 

Welcome Morton.

Choc-lit have quite a tradition of Xmas releases and this is your second - what attracts you to the idea of writing a Christmas story?

I quite like the framework that a Christmas story gives to you. There is a structure to Christmas and Christmas events in my fictional seaside town of Borteen in particular and that also gives a structure to my stories. I’ve literally just finished the first draft of my Christmas 2021 novel as I wrote some of it as part of an annual November writing challenge to write 50,000 words in the month.

Also, I love Christmas decorations, Christmas events, not that we’ll be getting many of those this year unfortunately, and the whole present buying, tree decorating, mince-pie eating traditions too.

You've chosen to set Christmas at the Little Beach Café in your fictional town of Borteen - the coast is a more unconventional location for a Xmas book - what were the plusses and minuses? (And will there be snow?)

I may be biased but I love my fictional seaside town. It actually feels more than fictional to me now, as I know all of the residents, buildings and roads. I walk around it in my head as I’m writing and have very clear images of the story I’m writing in that context.

One of my main reasons for having a seaside location was to indulge myself as I love nothing better than being on a beach, although at the moment I live near to Worcester, which actually features as the home city of my hero in this book, and you can’t really get further away from the sea in England than Worcestershire.

The bonuses of a seaside setting are the extra dynamics afforded by the beach, the cliffs and the sea. I guess the disadvantages are that Borteen is a small town and I have to keep track of all of the residents all of the time – I have a Borteen Bible (a list of all of the buildings and residents) together with a map. There are usually snow flurries and a little bit of snow, but I’ve not seen such heavy snow falls as we get inland on the coast – maybe a blog reader can contradict me?

Living five minutes away from the beach, I can confirm that we rarely get heavy snow. It does happen, but not often.

Can you tell us a bit about your hero and heroine - without giving too much away, as your heroine is a 'mystery woman' - what made them the right choices for a Christmas book?

The concept for this book came to life with an imagined scene of a man catching a woman’s hat on the beach. I’ve mentioned above that I have visual images of scenes from my books and this was a very clear picture. After that I was faced with who these two people are, why are they in Borteen and what backstory could draw them together and/or keep them apart.

In Christmas at the Little Beach Café the hero is Justin Sadler, the town solicitor, who has particular reasons to hate Christmas and the heroine is a woman who has just lost her mother and is in Borteen to try to escape her stepbrother who objects to her mother’s will. She loves Christmas and is determined to bring Christmas to Justin’s world.

You like to mix your romance with a touch of mystery - how did you handle that for a Christmas book?

To write a book, I have to be interested in the story. I like there to be romance in my novels, after all it makes the world go round, but I have to have some intrigue or puzzle that I solve for myself as I write the book. You mentioned that Christmas at the Little Beach Café is my second Christmas story, well to give you an example of what I mean, the first Christmas novella, Christmas at Borteen Bay starts with the local policeman finding a body on the beach – not probably what you’d associate with a Christmas romance? Then I had to work out the identity of the body and why it came to be on the beach in the first place.

Were there any vital touches that you felt had to be included in the book to make it feel Christmassy - I'm back to the snow again.

Borteen has a lot of Christmas events – a town Christmas tree dressing and lights switch on, carol singing, Christmas fair, etc. With all of the shops there is plenty of scope for Christmas window displays and lights too. You also need at least a few mince pies and some Christmas music!

How important are a supporting cast for the story? (I have to say I have fallen heavily for the seagull on the cover - does he have a role?)

Ah, Ryan the seagull! Yes he does! My hero talks to the seagull on at least one occasion when he’s upset.

Christmas at the Little Beach Café is my fifth book set in Borteen, so I’ve managed to amass a fair number of regular residents for the town. The secondary characters are vital to the story as they provide the backdrop to any action the main characters are involved with. For me they also add to the structure of the novel and make day to day life in Borteen more realistic.

How do you expect to be spending the holiday? Do you have any special things that you always do, decorations that have been made or handed down, things you like to eat? (I'm always about the food)

As I’ve already mentioned this year will be a bit different, but normally my husband spends a fair part of his working life abroad. His favourite Christmas song is “Driving home for Christmas” because he is usually driving back from an airport to begin his Christmas break.

We have a fairly traditional Christmas, trees up at the beginning of December, huge number of Christmas cards posted, family Christmas lunch (which thankfully aforementioned hubbie cooks), then long walks, Christmas games and a jigsaw and a relax from the freneticness of the rest of the year.

What can we expect next from you?

I have more Borteen novels to come. My sixth novel is already with my publisher Choc Lit and will hopefully be published in the Spring. I’ve just finished the first draft of my next Christmas book and there are at least another two Borteen books in various stages of completion which I need to finish.

Biography for Morton S. Gray

Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified Clinical Hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

You can catch up with Morton on her  website, on Twitter - @MortonSGray, her Facebook page – Morton S. Gray Author - Facebook and

Instagram -  Instagram

Morton’s latest release is Christmas at the Little Beach Café published as an e-book and audio download on 17 November 2020.

Run away to the little beach café this Christmas ...

Five years ago at Christmas, solicitor Justin Sadler made the decision to leave his comfortable existence behind and move to the coast. Since then, he’s tried his best to ignore the festive season and, as he sits in the little beach café and reflects on that fateful night when his life was turned upside down, he expects his fifth Christmas alone to be no different to any of the others since he made his escape.

But when he encounters a mystery woman on the beach, he soon realises he may have found a fellow runaway and kindred spirit. Could Justin finally be ready to move on and let Christmas into his life again?

You can buy Christmas at the Little Beach Café HERE