Friday, 16 February 2018

Master of the Anecdote

William Wood has been one of the Sunpenny authors for many years. His delightful book 'A Little Book of Pleasures' has been a favourite on our list, and demonstrates what a master William is of the anecdotal memoir.

As one reviewer put it:

"William Wood's unusual book is a real gem. Others have already said that it is written in an unusual style, using the "you" instead of I as if the author is talking to himself throughout, and about how one can dip in at any point of the book instead of reading from cover to cover. What I found is that this is a beautifully written book, at times poetic, at times wryly humorous. The author's pleasures are as diverse as a child's smile, silence, a log fire or remembered fragments from his many journeys to far-away lands.

I found it thought-provoking and it made me contemplate the simple things in my own life that give me pleasure. Some passages were so poignant or evocative that I think they will stay with me long after I've finished reading it and this book is destined to become one of my own small pleasures or treasures."

A Little Book of Pleasures did well in the Wishing Shelf Awards in 2014, gaining a Bronze award. It was widely appreciated for its style and the memories it evoked. As the feedback said:

"This book was very much enjoyed by our older readers (aged 45 – 65). They loved the gentle prose and the wide range of ‘feel-good’ yarns the author entertained the reader with. They felt it would make a perfect travel companion, brightening up any lonely moment in a hotel room. One reader put in her feedback, ‘I loved The Morning Post story. It cheered me up as I happened to read it on the day my internet packed up and was driving me crazy. That’s the best bit about this book. You don’t have to read all of it in one sitting; you don’t even have to read it in the order it is written, but, trust me, there’s a story for everybody in here.’

A Little Book of Pleasures can tap into many people's memories of life as it was once lived, a simpler existence where value was placed in the small rituals of the day.

William Wood also writes a blog and his most recent post is worth reading as a mini memoir in itself. It is titled 'In Memory of Typists' and is a poignant tribute to the secretaries he has known throughout his varied international career. Grab a cup of tea, sit down and read it here.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Blogging: how it can help authors

In previous posts, we've looked at both Twitter and Facebook as a means of helping writers become known, but another branch of social media is blogging. Many people don't view blogs as social media; they are more individualised, take more time and do not always result in a great deal of interaction, but blogs are one of the earliest forms of internet social media and a lively and regular blog can do much for an author's public profile.

The point with a blog is that it doesn't have to be about the author's books; in fact, it is better to avoid constant reference to them. A blog is a great way for readers to get to know something about the author's life, opinions, activities and interests. Of course, blog posts about writing with tips and ideas are always well received, but in principle, an author's blog is best used for the readers to learn about the author as a person.

Several of our authors are active, regular bloggers and their followers love to read their posts and give comments. While Twitter and Facebook are not designed for lengthy posts and articles, a blog is where authors can expand on a theme, reveal ideas and present themselves to their readers in a more in-depth way than they can on the other social media platforms.

Themed blogs are often popular too. Bloggers who focus on a specific aspect of their lives will often attract loyal followers and readers who enjoy the topic or approach. For example, some bloggers concentrate on writing humorous posts about their daily lives; others will write about art or music or faith; still others might focus on health, life as a senior citizen, or parenthood. Our author, William Wood writes thoughtful and reflective posts about his observations on life or on incidents from his past; Val Poore writes about travelling on her barge as well as her life in a Rotterdam harbour. The point is that each author has become known for writing blog posts on certain themes and this can encourage a loyal readership of followers who are then more likely to read their books.

Blogs can also be promoted easily on other social media sites. Links on Twitter and Facebook can result in hundreds, if not thousands, of views. Google + is also a worthwhile site on which to post blog links and the value of having posts shared through the various social media networks such as Tumblr, Instagram and Reddit means that although not everyone will comment, there is a strong chance that an author's readership will grow as a result.

Blogging is therefore a hugely worthwhile addition to an author's marketing arsenal, and not only that, it is a great creative outlet for those writers who value the self-discipline of having a weekly or monthly blog to produce.

For those interested in our authors' blogs, see the list in the sidebar at the top right-hand side of this page. We know that all of them would love to receive your comments!

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

From PM's secretary to B&B host: Eugene Barker's Blackbirds Baked in a Pie

For our first post of 2018, we are delighted to bring you some background information and reviews about one of our books. Blackbirds Baked in a Pie is an entertaining memoir by Eugene Barker, who used to be the private secretary of Prime Minister Edward Heath in the 1970s. 

About the author:

Born in Penarth, South Wales, Eugene left school at 16 to work as a trainee journalist on two local newspapers. This was in the days when discrimination against women in the workplace made the job twice the challenge it was for male colleagues. Moving on to an assignment in Holland at a Unesco conference, she stayed on for two years, learning the language and working with companies in Amsterdam struggling to get back on their feet after the horrors of the second World War. Studying with the Open University in her late forties, she became a Tutor/Counsellor after graduating, before moving briefly back into journalism. She then went on to work in the House of Commons - eventually becoming Senior Secretary to Sir Edward Heath. 

Not the type to retire in her sixties, however, she took on the running of an auberge in France, and this book, Blackbirds Baked in a Pie, is a lively and affectionate account of her time there.

Eugene is now in her late eighties, and until quite recently she used to travel around Britain with a suitcase full of books and give talks wherever she could; apparently these talks were not so much about her illustrious career at Number 10 (as one might expect), but about her retirement career as a Bed and Breakfast host in the French Pyrenees, which we suspect she found even more interesting.

However, these days Eugene is no longer able to get about and promote her book as she used to, so we decided to give her memoir a blog boost by sharing some of the reviews she's received.

Firstly, the book's blurb:

"Sir Edward Heath's Private Secretary didn't take retirement sitting down... At age 60 Eugene Barter, along with her sister and brother-in-law, moved to a house in the foothills of the Pyrenees to start an auberge. This is the story of her experiences. Humorous and often self-mocking, always gentle and quirky, Eugene takes us on a journey through the countryside and its people, Catalans and French alike, with a good dose of her German and English guests thrown in. Her love of the region shines from the pages - surely a timeless joy for all ages. 

Recipes from Rozinanate: The second half of the book focuses on the recipes with which Eugene used to feed her guests, though still interleaved with her engaging anecdotes. English, Catalan and French recipes, all easy to follow, sit side by side, and there are conversion charts to help step through the metric and imperial standards, and maintain that essential entente cordiale!"

Secondly, Praise for Blackbirds Baked in a Pie from reviews

"I read this book with great enjoyment and an appreciation that the author was already over sixty when she courageously embarked on her new life. It is set in the pyrenees of south west France and is almost as much about the Catalans as it is about the French of the area. Ms Barter has some lovely anecdotes about both the locals and her guests at the B&B she and her sister started. In fact I wished there were more stories and fewer recipes, but that's because I'm not a cook and I love France! Altogether, I enjoyed the book very much and it was amusing and entertaining to read."

"Take a few dollops of Peter Mayle, add a generous measure of Julia Child, drizzle with red wine then simmer slowly under sunny skies for seven years. The utterly charming result is Blackbirds Baked in a Pie, Eugene Barter's delightful collection of tales about her seven years of running a guesthouse in the Pyrenees-Orientales. And she's thrown in her favourite recipes too!"

If you are interested in reading this charming memoir, the link to the book on is here
The Kindle version is currently priced at $2.99 and the paperback is around $12.99

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2018

It's been quite a year on this blog and at Sunpenny, we are happy we've been able to get it up and going again. We've enjoyed posting our author interviews, book signing tips and back stories to our books. It's been a fascinating and interesting series of posts.

However, with Christmas coming, we're going to be taking a break, so this last post for 2017 is just to wish you all a wonderful festive season and a marvellous start to the new year.

From our MD, Jo Holloway and all our authors, so many of whom have made a great contribution to this blog, all the very best until we see you again! Enjoy the break and don't forget – reading is the best form of relaxation you can indulge in over the holiday season!

Jo Holloway