Monday, 29 May 2017

Making the most of memoirs

In an earlier guest post by our own Valerie Poore, she mentioned a Facebook group called We Love Memoirs. This particular group has nearly four thousand members, which is perhaps a fair indication of how popular this genre is. That said, there are several sub-categories of memoir and there are an incredible number of topics that fall under the memoir umbrella. Just as examples, these could be travel, change of life, sailing, recovery from illness, and even spiritual healing memoirs

At Sunpenny, we love memoirs too and have several on our list, so we thought we might introduce you to them for this week's blog. Ours cover many of the categories listed above and are a delightful and varied collection. All these books are available in both e-book and paperback formats in all the major online stores; however, the links take you directly to

My Sea is Wide by Rowland Evans

In this beautifully lyrical work with great depth of insight, Rowland Evans explores his experiences in both Wales and the Far East, especially China. Moving into the segment of his life beyond 70, with his eager youth and power-filled middle years behind him, and the more rugged missionary work now past his season, Rowland searches for - and discovers - a continued meaning for his later years, and an on-flowing usefulness to man and to God. He takes us on a journey with him to the scatterlings of China and Tibet, and while you are yet an armchair-traveller, your life will be changed forever.

Sir Edward Heath’s former 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. The second half of the book focusses 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!

 A Whisper on the Mediterranean by Tonia Parronchi

Travel with Tonia, her husband Guido and baby son James through weather conditions that destroyed the myth of a gentle and forgiving Mediterranean, and such varied experiences as high seas, violent storms, stuck anchors, marauding mosquitoes, and severe sunburn. Visit idyllic, secluded bays and places of sublime beauty, unreachable unless by boat and completely untarnished by tourism.  This book is filled with humour and reality, and a scattering of delicious recipes too. A feast for your senses – and perhaps it will inspire you to step on deck, too, for your own watery adventures!

A Little Book of Pleasures by William Wood

Told with wry humour and a gentle, sometimes quirky style slightly reminiscent of a bygone era, William Wood's collection  of anecdotes contains a mixture of description and observation with a smattering of autobiographical incident. Wood has lived in many places of the world, is well travelled and well read, with a keen sense of enjoyment in what he sees and experiences, and a talent for bringing that visually to the mind of his reader. The short, usually self-contained pieces make wonderful cameos both for those who do their reading in snatches, and those who will want to devour his stories in one sitting.

 Watery Ways by Valerie Poore

Trading life in the fast lane of Johannesburg for that of Rotterdam's serene Oude Haven, Valerie Poore packs all her worldly possessions aboard the historic Dutch barge Hoop and sets about rebuilding both the boat and her life after divorce – and rediscovering herself and her own capabilities in the process.
Along the journey of renovation she is joined by an array of characters, including two dogs and a rather adventurous cat, a smiling but absent-minded ‘landlord’, a quirky friend and confidante, and an olde worlde charmer whose mastery at the helm wins more than just her respect. Before long Val has to learn to cope with the strenuous demands of acting as Skipper's Mate during numerous nail-biting adventures –frequently with hilarious effect. 

Far Out: Sailing into a Disappearing World by Corinna Weyreter

Tired of their careers in the oil industry, Corinna Weyreter and Gjalt van der Zee sailed away from the rat race in search of freedom and adventure in the fabled South Pacific. Taking only what could justify its space on their 41-foot yacht, they abandoned materialism to discover how little a person really needs in order to be content. Trading with fishermen in Belize, learning desert island survival from the lone inhabitant of a Polynesian atoll, swimming with humpback whales beside the coral island of Niue, attending the wedding of a Chief’s son in Vanuatu... they entered an enchanting new world, one that is, however, under ecological threat from failed environmental care. In Far Out, Corinna takes us into that disappearing world and shows us its fragility with sensitive first-hand knowledge.

All of these books are memoirs to savour and enjoy over the summer whether you are travelling yourself or dream of experiencing a different life and culture. Next week, we'll introduce you to some of our top romance stories for those with a different type of dream!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Holiday Reading for the Kids

It doesn't matter where you go on holiday with the kids, there will always be times when you want to relax and have some down time. This is important for children too and holidays are a great time to get them reading. Here at Sunpenny we have some fabulous books for the children, so have a look at the selection below and load up your family Kindles with these wonderful adventure stories! Click on the titles to link straight to

The Lost Crown of Apollo by Suzanne Cordatos
Climb aboard for an adventure to the Greek islands of past and present! You'll meet creatures of land and sea-and if you think pirates are a thing of the past, you might want to keep an eye on your valuables. Meet Elias Tantalos, an almost-eleven year old bad luck magnet who escapes the most dreadful school year of his life by boarding a boat in the Aegean Sea where there are, happily, more rocks than people. When he discovers a two-thousand-year-old good luck charm-the gold leaf crown meant for the sun god Apollo-he is sure the worst is behind him. Antiquity thieves are rummaging around the ancient Greek ruins, however, and when they kidnap his sister Elias knows he holds the perfect bait to lure the thieves away... but if he gives up Apollo's legendary Crown of Victory will sixth grade be even tougher than fifth? Can he find the inner strength to do the right thing? This is a lovely adventure that parents might enjoy as much as the kids!

Sophie's Quest by Sonja Anderson
Sophie Topfeather loves to collect people-things with which to decorate her life and home. When she finds a golden necklace, she is intrigued by its shape and shows it to her grandfather, the Great Wise Horned Owl of the Park. His reaction only stirs her interest even more; he calls it a holy symbol, and then a 't' for 'trouble'! All of which sets our young owl off on a Quest to learn its true meaning. Little does she know that a day-dreaming, over-protected, adventure-seeking Pirate - er, mouse - named Timley has leapt into the brim of her hat as Sophie flies off on her Quest! And suddenly, their adventure takes its own turn as they find themselves on board a ship bound for the Holy Land. Thorns and thistles! Has the trouble started already? Can Timley convince Sophie she should not-I repeat, NOT-eat him? This is also the story of the mysterious Sky Painter, who seems to be with them-no, leading them-on their Quest. So, why is he always leading them straight into trouble? Was the Great Wise Horned Owl right all along? Come along on the Quest to find out! 

 Sophie Topfeather Superstar by Sonja Anderson
This is the sequel to Sophie's Quest and it begins back in the Park where everything for Sophie began. Nothing in the park this year is the same, and as the animals prepare for the annual Owlympic Games there is a growing division of opinion on what should and shouldn’t be allowed to happen concerning the mice. Sophie Topfeather’s grandfather, the Great Wise Horned Owl, rules the park – but for how long? Not very, if the opossums and skunks and some others have their way! Sophie, feeling she is losing all her owl friends, and now Timley the mouse too, flies away from the park and finds another home and new friends – but wait! Stardom is calling when she is whisked away from them too, and she is bedazzled by it all. What a wonderful life! But when, back in the park, things turn ugly – very ugly – her friends come to find her and beg for her help. With the park on fire, can Sophie unify them all again and bring peace? What if she fails? This is another terrific children's adventure story from the talented Sonja Anderson.
If Horses Were Wishes by Elizabeth Sellers
Katy Robinson, an unhappy young foster child, daydreams constantly – of a proper home with her parents, of having good friends, and of being as popular at school as Sandra Magill. Sandra has an enviable lifestyle in the countryside, with her parents and her horse Tommy, and is always surrounded by friends. But when Katy dreams of doing something admirable to impress Sandra, the results aren’t quite what she had in mind! Her initial shock at waking up to her new status as a horse gradually grows into acceptance. Being cared for by Sandra’s posse, and becoming friends with Tommy, all help. But Katy-the-girl is officially missing and being looked for by the police – and when Sandra and her friends decide to undertake to find their schoolmate, Katy finds she is able to lead them in the right direction. Through various adventures, including putting the school bullies to flight, unexpected friendships and discoveries develop, and the question is – will Katy decide she prefers being a horse, or will she try to find a way to become a girl once more? 

Trouble Rides a Fast Horse by Elizabeth Sellers
In this exciting sequel to If Horses Were Wishes, Katy’s adventures continue in her guise as Lady, the horse who makes up the sixth part of a detecting gang of friends. The suspense runs high as the Fallon Five are determined to get to the bottom of some very strange goings on in the large stable yard of their mortal rival in the show jumping arena. Katy has to use every ounce of her strength and the skills she has only recently learned, to smuggle herself into the yard as an undercover horse-spy. But she discovers the stakes are much higher than any of them had expected – and that their foes are armed, dangerous, and very angry. With the help of the horses in the yard, and then from a surprisingly unexpected quarter, the Fallon Five cause mayhem in their quest, and finally succeed in finding out what they’ve come for. But will the friends be able to make it home safely and persuade the adults that they are telling the truth about what they have found? Will they be able to save the remaining horses at the stable yard? And will Katy remain happy in her new life as a horse, or will she finally decide to try and turn back into a girl?

All these books are terrific reads for younger and middle-grade children, but not only that, many parents will enjoy reading them too, so settle down with the kids during the half term or summer holidays and have a reading fest that you will all remember.

All our books are available as paperbacks too, so take your pick and enjoy some really well-written stories!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Summer Reading time

The weather is warming up, or should we say the rain is not so cold! In any event, summer is drawing nearer and to help readers get into the spirit of those long balmy evenings when we can sit on balconies, deck chairs or garden loungers, here is a list of recommended summer reads.

Our fiction titles for that lovely summery feeling:

Blue Freedom by Sandra Peut: This book is "funny, wild, and sometimes woolly, but always entertaining! Bella Whitman is a freelance health and fitness writer with a tragic history. When she is offered a dream opportunity to undertake a writing assignment which will take her on a journey across the South Pacific islands. " Blue Freedom has both excitement, mystery and romance and will be a light and lovely read for the beach.

 Just one More Summer by Julie McGowan is an evocative and poignant book set in Cornwall with all the atmosphere of that beautiful coastline. "Devastated by the breakdown of her marriage, Allie flees to the one place her heart can seek comfort: Cornwall, where she hopes childhood memories of a holiday with her father will sustain her while she sorts out her plans for the future. But fate has other ideas, and she finds herself drawn into an almost obsessive friendship with a band of strange bedfellows led by Marsha, an intense, ageing hippy with a life force that at once comforts, stimulates and infuriates Allie." This is a fascinating and compelling book in which you can almost smell and taste the Cornish air.

 Fish Soup by Michelle Heatly is a lyrical and luscious novel: "In the magical and esoteric atmosphere of the Greek Islands, sisters Isa and Chloe fetch up on the shores of a very special haven, each searching for more than just the pungently fragrant recipe of a heady Mediterranean fish soup. They come for the weekend, bringing their baggage with them: both kinds.  Cecelia, their mentor, helps the girls wend their way through not only learning to make the soup, but also through a cobweb of emotional healing. Unexpectedly she discovers that the compliment is returned." With an almost poetic style of writing, Fish Soup is a perfect sunshine novel for the summer.

Bridge to Nowhere by Stephanie Parker McKean is a murder mystery set in Texas, so sun, heat and summer are the order of the day: "Bestselling author Mike spends her days shut up in her office, churning out detective stories for her publisher. When a beautiful stranger appears, masquerading as Lynette Clarissa Greene, begging her to help investigate the murder of her sister, Mike is soon embroiled in a mystery which includes the entire town. From the simple-minded Clint, who sheds light on Lynette’s true identity, to the talented Nat, and the orphaned Jared, Mike soon finds herself immersed in the illicit subculture of Texas Hill. From dog fights to kidnappings, her life is thrown into chaos by her incessant need to track down culprits and bring them to justice." A terrific romp of a book with a second helping in the sequel, Bridge Beyond Betrayal.

As special summer memoirs, we have two for sailing lovers

Far out, Sailing into a Disappearing World by Corinna Weyreter tells of an epic sailing adventure across the Pacific: "Tired of their careers in the oil industry, Corinna Weyreter and Gjalt van der Zee sailed away from the rat race in search of freedom and adventure in the fabled South Pacific. Taking only what could justify its space on their 41-foot yacht, they abandoned materialism to discover how little a person really needs in order to be content. Trading with fishermen in Belize, learning desert island survival from the lone inhabitant of a Polynesian atoll, swimming with humpback whales beside the coral island of Niue, attending the wedding of a Chief’s son in Vanuatu ... they entered an enchanting new world." At times frightening and at others magical, this is a must for those who love adventure on the seas.

 A Whisper on the Mediterranean by Tonia Parronchi. This memoir is wonderful and vivid with all the scents, sounds and sights of the Mediterranean, not to mention a few hair-raising storms: "Travel with Tonia, her husband Guido, and baby James through weather conditions that destroyed the myth of a gentle and forgiving Mediterranean, and such varied experiences as high seas, violent storms, stuck anchors, marauding mosquitoes, and severe sunburn. Visit idyllic, secluded bays and places of sublime beauty, unreachable unless by boat and completely untarnished by tourism. This book is filled with humour and reality, and a scattering of delicious recipes too. A feast for your senses – and perhaps it will inspire you to step on deck, too, for your own watery adventures!"

We hope you will also get a taste for some of these wonderful books and come back for more! Next week, we'll have some other summer suggestions, but for the children this time!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Sonja Anderson's book signing events

Continuing our book event themes this weekend, our Seattle-based author, Sonja Anderson tells us of a very special opportunity she has recently had as well as her plans for more book-signings in the coming weeks. 

"Do you ever feel like giving up on a dream? This spring, I’m participating in a number of book-signing events that feel like celebrations to the notion of NOT GIVING UP.
If you’ve been following these blog posts about signing events, you probably get the idea that they’re a pretty big deal for the authors involved—especially if the book-signing is a launch party and is the first time the author is showing her book off to the world.
Our reading public probably has little idea of the hours, months, years, sweat, tears, and fears that bring us to that book-signing table in a corner of their local bookstore. Sophie’s Quest, so beautifully published by Sunpenny, was the culmination of a fourteen-year quest itself!
But a funny thing has happened along this difficult journey—I learned a few things! Now I have something to share about the process of following a dream, of writing and submitting to publishers, and the rewards of not giving up, and that’s what I’m being asked to do.
Earlier this spring, I shared Sophie’s journey with a group of 40 “MOPS” moms who are trying to pursue their own dreams while chasing their preschoolers, and I was invited to be on a “Local Success Panel” where I got to share a glimpse of my journey to a crowd of 400 writers, editors, and agents at the regional Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. This weekend I’ll be presenting two writing workshops and participating in a book-signing event for both Sophie Topfeather books at the Northwest Christian Writers Association Renewal Conference.
To top it all off, my husband and I are launching a new “baby” into the world at a joint book-signing event in June! We turned an interest in history and our favorite day-trip spot, Mount Rainier National Park, into the book Mount Rainier’s Historic Inns and Lodges, published later in May by Arcadia Publishing.
While I never wished for such a long, arduous journey filled with moments of hopelessness, I am so very blessed that God is turning that journey into a time of learning and hope for others."

Thank you so much for sharing this exciting news with us all, Sonja. You are a testament to the reason we should keep striving for our dreams!
Anyone interested in reading samples of Sonja's delightful children's books can find them here:

Monday, 1 May 2017

The English Writing Festival in the Netherlands

Some of our writers live in countries where English is not the first language. Last week, Tonia Parronchi told us about a talk she gave to a Language School near her home in Italy, and this week, Val Poore tells us about an English Writing Festival she arranged in Den Haag (The Hague) with a special focus on memoir writing.

An enthusiastic audience

"This is the third EWF we have held now," says Val. "I started organising them in cooperation with the American Book Center in The Hague because I found it frustrating that there was so little going on for English language writers in Holland. What there was tended to be in Amsterdam, so by organising these events, I was able to extend the possibilities a bit more.

This last event on memoir writing was the third EWF we have held. The first two were on a wider range of writing genres, and in fact the one we held in November focused on those entering the NaNoWriMo writing challenge. They have all been successful in terms of interest and numbers. We cannot cater for more than around 25 people in the audience, and we had the maximum on this last occasion although not everyone arrived at the beginning.

There were four speakers, three of whom were published memoir and non-fiction writers, and they gave some great tips and advice for those wishing to embark on writing their memoirs. I didn't speak this time, but acted as hostess, time keeper and question leader, which meant I could contribute too.

One of the speakers, Jo Parfitt, is also an editor, publisher and writing coach, so she was able to give advice to the participants on how to go about the publishing process and what editors look for in a manuscript.

Niamh Ni Bhroin and Carolyn Vines have both written and published their own memoirs, which gave them the opportunity to talk about why they wrote them and what approach they took. It was very interesting to hear how instrumental many memoirs are in recovering from unhappy or abusive situations.

After the last speaker, we had a question and answer session for the audience. There were several very pertinent and insightful questions about both content and authenticity, as well how to deal with writer's block. All in all, it was a useful session for both audience and speakers and there were plenty of laughs, as well as poignant moments too. Even better, we were able to sell a few books, so that was immensely rewarding.

I'm now looking forward to organising the next one to take place in the autumn."

It sounds as if this was a lovely event and a great way of bringing writers together to talk about their work and gain some much needed exposure in a foreign language market. If writers in other countries find it difficult to persuade bookshops to give them space for signings, events like these are another great way to attract customers. 

For those interested in reading memoirs, here is a list of those Sunpenny Publishing has published:

Blackbirds Baked in a Pie by Eugene Barter (former secretary to UK Prime Minister, Edward Heath)

Watery Ways by Valerie Poore (a memoir about living on a barge in the Netherlands)

A Little Book of Pleasures by William Wood (A collection of anecdotes and stories taken from the author's life)

A Whisper on the Mediterranean by Tonia Parronchi (A memoir about sailing the Italian coastal waters)

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Talking books at a language school in Italy: guest post by Tonia Parronchi

In recent posts, we've talked about book signings and workshops and Julie McGowan has given us some valuable insights into how these can help authors promote and sell their work.

This week, Tonia Parronchi talks to us about another avenue writers can explore: language school audiences. Clearly, this is a more restricted area as we have to keep the native language of the audience in mind, but second language students who like to read are without doubt a potential market, albeit a small one.

Last week, Tonia was invited to talk to an audience of students and teachers at a language school near her home in Italy. 

Tonia with one of the students in the audience

"I really enjoyed my recent moment of "stardom ". A local language school here in Italy has been organizing a series of cultural events for high level students and asked me to come along and talk about my work as a writer. 

When I arrived there, the room had been set up beautifully with china tea cups on the union-jack patterned tables and plates of English biscuits. Each table also had a paper teapot holding questions for the students to ask me, in case their minds went blank. Added to that, there were place cards with a picture of my book "A Whisper on the Mediterranean " with a raffle ticket hidden inside. The prize at the end of the evening would be a copy of the book.

The students were great. They were of all ages and walks of life - a school girl, businessmen and women, a policeman and a couple of retired people.  In all there were about 20 people and I suddenly got nervous.  What if I bored them all?

The teachers introduced me and I talked about both my published books and did readings from them both, followed by questions. I relaxed as the questions flowed and the prompts weren't needed. 

A lovely girl asked where she could buy both my books because she'd enjoyed the snippets I read so much. The evening ended with the raffle and I happily dedicated a book for the winner.

At the end of the evening, I realised that if I had the possibility of doing this kind of evening with an English audience I would sell books. I also realized that the language I use is quite complicated for even good students or non mother-tongue speakers, so this is something to keep in mind for the future. 

I would do it again with pleasure, and the school must have been pleased too because they asked me back!"

Thank you so much for this write-up, Tonia. It's great to know you had an appreciative audience and that the school would like you to come again! 

What is also encouraging to hear is that although Tonia did not actually sell any books on the day itself, she has made an impression on at least one potential reader, who was inspired by her personality and presence to ask where she could buy the books. 

Personal contact is surely a key element in building a wide readership, so talks, workshops and book events are a great way to get to know readers. In our next post, we'll be flying to the Netherlands to find out about an English writing festival held in the Hague twice a year.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Book signings Part 2: What to do on the day

Two weeks ago, we published a post on Julie McGowan's tips for how to prepare for book signings. Following her guest post on her talk to the WI, we thought this would be a good moment to publish the second part of Julie's tips on book signings and this one covers what to do on the day itself, so over to Julie again:

Julie with fellow Sunpenny author
Michelle Jayne Heatley 

On the Day

1. Wear something colourful so that you stand out – I usually go for red as it’s supposed to be the most welcoming.

2. Before you start, have a chat with your host and ask them how they want you to sell – some chains have a form for you to fill in, some are happy just for you to tell the customer to take the book to the till.

3. If you haven’t done so when you delivered the posters, make sure your table is in a good place and don’t be afraid to ask for it to be moved. Most managers are really amenable because they want you to have a pleasant experience in their store, and as long as walkways are kept free etc they are receptive to alternative suggestions.

4. Sunpenny books don’t have prices on them, so make sure the store knows what to charge. Big stores like WH Smith will provide price stickers which they like you  to place on the lower right side of the front cover as long as it’s not obliterating the title or your name. (You can save some of the stickers for other signings in smaller shops that may not provide them)

5. Take some more posters or other info about your book to decorate the table so people can see what it is, and stack the books attractively on the table.

6. Don’t sit on your chair behind your table waiting for people to approach you because mostly they won’t. The majority will actually find a different way round the store so that they don’t have to pass your table. (I’ve done it myself-haven’t you?!) Only sit on the chair to actually sign a book.

7. Instead, stand beside your table, smiling affably at all around, holding your ‘hook’ in your hands.  When you see your typical reader browsing the shelves, or about to mount the stairs, or join the queue to pay for their newspaper, go up to them, and offer them the ‘hook’ (hand-out/ biscuit/ chocolate/ whatever) and say something like ‘Hello, I’m promoting my book here in the store today, which you may be interested in. It’s a novel about (very quick description here) and there are lots of copies on the table if you’d like to come and have a look.’ If there’s an event coming up, add something like ‘A signed copy will make a great Christmas/Easter/Valentine’s/Mother’s Day/Father’s Day present.’

8. Even better, take someone with you who can do all this enticing around the store or at the door as people come in. (My husband hates doing it, my daughter-in-law is brilliant at it!) Incidentally, I always reassure the store manager that I won’t be bludgeoning shoppers to buy my book but I will be giving out information about it. If you keep your affable smile on your face until your cheeks ache, most managers are happy for you to do this.

9. Keep a simple tally of how many books you sell to check with the store at the end.

10. When you have had enough – I usually go for 2 to 3 hours, unless I’m doing exceptionally well and the store is really busy – tell the manager what a great time you’ve had, even if it’s been murder and ask if he/she would take a couple of copies to put on the shelves. If yes, make sure you issue a delivery note and keep a copy yourself so that the store can be invoiced later by Sunpenny.

11. In subsequent weeks, it’s always worth calling in to the store to see if they have sold any copies so you can offer them some more if they have.

Sometimes, Julie says, you will even be asked to
hold people's dogs for them!

 Encouraging Comments

The first book signing can be terrifying and demoralising if you don’t sell lots of books, but each one will get easier. No two stores are alike. I’ve sold loads of books in stores where I thought it would hardest and fewer in stores that I thought would be a dream. So if one signing isn’t too successful don’t be downhearted, the next will be better, and you will be that much more confident.

Try not to mind the rebuffs – I’ve had them all from ‘I don’t read books’ (so why are you in a bookstore?) to ‘Not interested thank you, but will you just hold onto my two dogs while I have a look round?’ (and of course I did, still with the smile on my face!)

You will feel so much better once you have sold that first book. You will also feel so much better once you have made that first approach to someone and had a little chat. But don’t spend too long with them as you may then be missing other potential customers.

Set yourself a reasonable target  - I’m going to keep doing this until I’ve sold 5 books – pat yourself on the back if you achieve it, which I’m sure you will – and then set a further target.

Remember that even if people don’t buy your book on that day they will have gone home with your hand-out which they may look at again and recall. It’s all good publicity.

Don’t expect to sell many in a small independent shop where there may not be a lot of customers all day.

Try to get friends and family to call in, even if they all have copies already. If they pick up copies to have a look at, other shoppers will be interested. A crowd always attracts a crowd.

Someone will invariably think you work there and ask where the envelopes/biros/travel books are. Make sure you give them the info about your book before finding someone who can help them!

Send in a brief account of your signing, with pics if possible, to your local paper along with a reminder of where your next signing will be.

 Finally, remember…..
No matter how difficult you may be finding it, keep in mind that  it’s only two hours or so and you can go home for a cup of tea/coffee/strong drink/lie down... or, more hopefully, a celebration of how well you’ve done!

Many thanks to Julie for her great tips and insights into how to conduct a book signing. Our next posts will be focus on some of the recent events our authors have been involved in, so come back and visit us again soon!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Guest post from Julie McGowan on her writing talk to the Women's Institute

Julie McGowan is a popular and top-selling author at Sunpenny Publishing. Two of her three novels are set in Wales where she lives, so it makes sense for her to give talks locally whenever she can. Just recently, she has been a sought after guest speaker for various Women's Institutes in her area, so this guest post is Julie's account of her most recent talk for the Usk Women's institute.

About Julie

Julie's writing career covers a range of genres. She has written short stories for national magazines, pantomimes and children's plays. Her first novel, 'The Mountains Between' was inspired by her rich Welsh heritage and quickly became a regional bestseller. This was followed by 'Just One More Summer', set in London and Cornwall. Her third novel, 'Don't Pass Me By' has sold extremely well, with excellent reviews and finally, a short story collection, 'Close To You' was published in 2015.

About her recent Women's Institute writing talk
Julie says: "I love giving talks to groups about writing and have now developed a bit of a ‘circuit’ where groups pass me on to other groups, or they very kindly invite me back when I have a new book to talk about.

I’ve given three such talks in the past month, the latest to our local W.I. As I’m well-known in the town for the panto group and drama group I run, I thought that either the audience would be saying, ‘Oh no, not her again,’ or would know all about me and my books by now. Fortunately, there were a number of new members who weren’t as used to my face popping up all the time, and, of course, with the innate good manners of the WI, those who did already know me were willing to listen to what I had to say.

My talks to new groups usually follow the same pattern, in that I explain how I ended up becoming a writer when that had never been my intention. As most of my talks are in Wales, I tell them about my own upbringing in the Welsh valleys, and how returning to Wales and listening to the memories of my parents led me to write ‘The Mountains Between.’

I try to inject lots of humour into the talks, (‘make ‘em laugh, make’em laugh’ as the old song says) usually about the vagaries of the Welsh, or the self-deprecating type, which always goes down well.

If there is time, I read some short extracts from my Welsh-based novels, and there is always time for some very welcome questions. There is usually amazement when they hear the answer to the question, ‘How much does a writer make from each book?’!!

Julie with her books on display

My local WI didn’t disappoint. They laughed in the right places, no-one fell asleep and they asked lots of questions at the end. Even better, I still managed to sell some books, even though many in the audience had already bought/read them. One lady, Dora, now aged 95, bright as a button but with failing eyesight, was delighted when I told the audience that an anecdote she’d told me some years ago about trying to get rid of a sofa, that had then got stuck in her hallway, had inspired one of my short stories.

I always finish with a poem I wrote  a while back about being a writer, which the audience has to join in with, panto-style, with lots of ‘Hurray’s and groans, and ‘Ooh’s at the given signals, which helps the evening to end on a high note and laughter.

Usk WI were lovely to talk to, and, as it was one lady’s birthday, there was even tea and cake afterwards!"

Julie, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. The Women's Institute ladies sound like a wonderful audience and your talk must have been great fun. 

For those interested in buying or browsing through any of Julie's books, the link to her author page on Amazon is HERE

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Author Interview with Jo Holloway: making action adventure her real life story

This time on our author interviews we've flown over to Spain to meet Jo Holloway, who is not only the founder and leading light of Sunpenny Publishing Group, but also an author. Dance of Eagles, her novel, is an exciting and gritty action adventure story set in Zimbabwe (or Rhodesia, as it used to be).

Jo Holloway

SP: Jo, could you tell us something of your background and how you came to be living in Spain?

JH: This is always a difficult question for me because there’s so much to tell! I’ll try to keep it brief. I was born in Zambia and raised all over Central and Southern Africa, but am proud to be a true Rhodesian. I've fought in a bush war, skinny-dipped with hippos, camped amidst hyena, leopard and lion, hunted crocodile (yes, just one!), had mad adventures on (and off) film and television sets, had numerous brushes with death… and on the more ‘normal’ side, I have sat on boards for script writing associations, governmental regulating committees and Child Welfare; and dragged up two children and a husband (who all turned out amazingly well in spite of me). I’ve done youth and women's and music ministry, camped at the tops of mountains and bottoms of valleys, sailed in the Indian Ocean islands and along the east coast of Africa, and ridden motorbikes across Southern Africa (6 – or is it 7? – of them). I grew up with my father’s boat mania and it caught on – still love all things boat!

At 17 I went straight from school into the forces (IntAff) in war-ridden Rhodesia (read my book!) and then spent the next 25 years or more doing a variety of production and facilities work in television and film, as well as hundreds of hours of script writing for TV, radio, film, video, multimedia and print; teaching, mentoring, developing new writers, giving workshops. Then I went off sailing into the Indian Ocean (I think I could get at least three books out of that experience!), eventually coming back to the the UK with £5 left in the bank. For the last ten years I have run my own publishing company. But having lived most of my life in Africa, after 7 years in England I couldn’t take the weather any longer and moved to the Costa Blanca in Spain, which I love!

On the Costa Blanca

SP: Wow, that was a tumultuous and exciting journey to get there! So, Jo, what do you find most inspiring as a writer about living in Spain?

JH: I haven’t yet had much time to write, as I’ve been publishing other people’s books, but am getting back to it now and have several projects – books and scripts – underway. Rather than inspiring me to write, though, Spain has me wanting to sit in the sunshine and do nothing! Seriously though, it’s very relaxing here and the main issue is disciplining myself to sit still in my office. I do sometimes play hookey, as I did today, and go sit at the beach!

SP: As everyone should now and then. What prompted you to start writing and how long have you been writing?

JH: I wanted to write from about age 3, when it first formed a reality in my mind. My mother read to us from babyhood, and as we got older she would make up stories (when we ran out of books!) … I adored my mother, and her love of books made me who I am. In school I won Eisteddfodd prizes for my writing (and music, and sketching). I guess I’ve always been “different” to the people around me, too, and being creative was an outlet for me in which to be myself, and feed my soul. Later it became what fed my body, too!

SP: Your affair with writing's been a lifelong one, then. What do you prefer? Fiction or fact and why?

Good question! I think creativity and imagination even as a small child were my escape, and I have written a lot of fiction, but my bread and butter in television and radio were documentaries. I love both, really. They are totally different art forms but two sides of the same coin.

SP: Creativity is needed for both, isn't it? Do you write anything other than fiction and non-fiction?

JH: Doesn’t everything fall under one or the other? If you mean other formats, I have always written poetry – a cabalistic cache on my computer reeks of it; it’s my guilty secret! So, poetry, which is an interesting mix of fact and fiction; television, film and radio scripts; is that what you meant?

SP: Exactly that, Jo. But if you had to give the readers here a tip about how to get started on a book, what would it be?

JH: Ah! As it happens I am giving a workshop soon here in Spain for writers who don’t know where to start – a beginners’ course. I’ll also be writing a book about it. So those who want a sneaky trip to Spain under the guise of “work”, let me know! In brief (because it’s an in-depth subject rather than a quick question), (a) if you have a book in you and are the kind simply can, just start writing, now, today, and trust your instincts; (b) if you know what you want to write about but are dithering about where to begin – begin at the beginning, and edit later; (c) if you know what you want to write about but are a bit list-ish and need an organised planner – excellent! Make a list firstly of everything you can think of that you want to put into the book. Create order by turning this into a list in chronological order. Then go and make another list in the order you want it to appear in the book. This will give you an idea of chapters. So now, make a list of chapters, put the events where they belong, and flesh them out.

Whichever you fall under, a, b, or c, all this will bring forth more and more ideas, until you are feverishly trying to capture them all. Start writing! As you go along other ideas will occur; make notes and add them later. Work through the book, then go back and start again. Yes, that’s what I said. And again if necessary. You want to be a serious writer? It takes work, my darlings, lots of work. And that’s just before publication.

When your story is written, TAKE IT TO A PROFESSIONAL EDITOR! All this simplistic rot about turning your pals into beta readers is well and good as you pat each other’s egos but it doesn’t get you published – you will just make more and more work for yourself, and in the end you will need a proper editor more than ever. Drop your ego, be humble, seek out professional help. And then listen to them. Rant over.

SP: Great tips, and with your experience, good advice to follow too. So what do you see as your greatest strength in life? And then (of course) what do you see as your weakest point?

JH: My greatest strength in life is in knowing I’m a phoenix (I have the tattoo to prove it and no, you can’t see it), rising from the ashes, and recreating myself, time and time again. My greatest weakness is chocolate, in all its forms. Peeps, I have diabetes. If chocolate is your weakness, dump it and find another. Actually, my true Kryptonite is something(one) else but I’m not telling.

SP: Ah, you like teasing us, Jo, don't you? Now, just a few more questions. If you had to live for a year with only one book, what would it be?

JH: Oy vey, girl, ONE book??? Okay, I bet you think I’m going to come up with a wonderful old classic but I’m going to say – one of James Michener’s sagas, like “Hawaii”, or “The Source” (did you know the musical “South Pacific” was based on his book “Tales of the South Pacific”?) … I just love his way of taking a story from the very beginnings of the earth’s forming of the country, through historical family sagas that all tie together – his drama, his fire, his deep understanding of the human psyche … of course in this day and age few would have the patience to read such detailed, long books, but they should.

SP: His novels are legendary, aren't they? And do you have any favourite authors? If so, why do you admire their work?

JH: Favourite authors? Again, oy vey! I love poets and classics and police procedurals and thrillers and crime and romance – no, I shan’t go on. Too many to talk about in one blog!

SP: Okay, Jo, are you writing anything at the moment? Can you tell us what it is?

JH: Haha! Let’s see, I need to finish off a light, humourous romance, “Brandy Butter on Christmas Canal”; also working on a backhander combining the bucolic English countryside and atmosphere with hard, edgy themes, in “Raglands”. I have a crime series outlined with the first two started, for both books and television. And a list of other ideas for projects that will never see the light of day because I’ll die before I have time!

SP: So speaks a true writer! Now, last question  if you had a bucket list, what would be in the top three positions?

Claw my health back, travel, and love love love. Not necessarily in that order.

Thanks for listening, lovely people! (Please buy my book. Am I allowed to say that? (SP: you are!) I need to sustain my lifestyle in Spain. Please buy my book. Thankyouverymuch. Thankyouverymuch. Thankyouverymuch.

SP: Ah, Jo, it's been a pleasure and a delight to have you here on the blog. Thank you so much for spending the time here on this informative, fascinating and funny interview!

For those interested in Jo's novel, Dance of Eagles, click on the link below:

Dance of Eagles on Amazon