Tuesday, 5 September 2017

What it's really like to go on a writing retreat

Those of you who know me will realise that I write novels set in Greece. Having lived in Athens and Alexandroupolis in the 1980s, that's the period I'm most familiar with. I've been back on holiday to the islands since then but for the last few years life has just got in the way so a return trip hasn't been possible. Knowing how much I've needed and wanted to return, for research purposes of course, my hubby offered to take time off from his job to enable me to attend a writing retreat and get inspiration for my next book.
For months I pored over different websites unable to decide between a tutored retreat or more of a writing holiday. In the end, the latter won, mainly because of dates and cost. The typically Greek photos set against the backdrop of stunning blue sea on the website won me over and I couldn't wait to visit 'Limnisa' in the Peloponnese.

Owned by Anglo-Dutch couple, Mariel and Philip, they open their home for just a few weeks each year, in May and September. I must admit to a little trepidation as I set out on my adventure. Would the Greece I knew and loved years ago still exist or would it have changed forever? I also had a few concerns about travelling solo, despite having lived and worked abroad before. My biggest worry though was what if I couldn't write anything while I was there?
When Philip came to pick me up at the port of Methana, my worries started to disappear. It was hot, sunny and I was back in my beloved Greece. As he showed me around the villa and the grounds, I felt as if I were coming home.

The mornings at Limnisa are silent with a no talking rule until lunch at around 1pm. When I arrived the others were all deeply involved in their writing, dotted around the many terraces that Limnisa has to offer.

The ambiance immediately made me reach for my notebook to start plotting and any worries about having nothing to say flew out of the window at that point. By lunchtime I had a few plot points written down and the novel that had been at the back of my mind for some time started to take shape. It was as if someone had turned on a switch.

At lunch I got to meet the others and with a maximum of ten participants, there was a fair mix of nationalities and age range. With no fixed arrival or departure days, the only stipulation is that you stay a minimum of one week, there was a constant flux of people, all wonderful characters who unwittingly gave me inspiration.

The afternoons were free to do as you pleased; more writing, reading or a visit to the town to partake of the hot springs.

Mariel arranged an optional tour of the island and I'm so glad I went. With a visit to a deserted village, climbing a volcano, seeing donkeys and goats that reminded me of Greece thirty years ago, it was the highlight of my trip.

There was a literary evening on Wednesday where participants could share what they'd written of they wished. It was interesting to see what the others had been up to and I even managed to pluck up the courage to read out my opening chapter. For a small fee Mariel and Philip offer an hour's consultation if you want to discuss your work with either of them.
The week passed all too quickly. I happily settled into a routine of breakfast on my balcony followed by writing until lunch. A walk and reading in the afternoon, maybe a nap and then tea and the most delicious cakes at 4pm. The last night came all too quickly but I have wonderful memories of the fabulous fish taverna where we had a wonderful and yet inexpensive meal.

For sure, Greece has changed a lot as you might expect yet the old Greece is still there if you look hard enough. One thing that hasn't changed it the friendliness and hospitality I encountered everywhere I went. I'm now saving up for a return visit next year as I found the experience really rejuvenating and it rekindled my writing mojo.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Some of my favourite books of 2016

At the beginning of the year I posted my most anticipated list - books that I was looking forward to reading; newly published and a few from my ever-expanding 'to read' list. Despite reading and reviewing 100 books in 2016, there are still quite a few from the start of the year that I still haven't read. They have become part of the family as I look at them apologetically as I walk past the shelf and choose another book to read.' Maybe next time' I say to them knowing that the chances are receding with each new book added. 'I will read you' I promise, 'I just don't know when'. Anyway, let me share a few of the great books that I did manage to read. With so many to choose from, here are just a few of my favourites.

The Silk Merchant's Daughter - Dinah Jefferies


1952, French Indochina. Since her mother's death, eighteen-year-old half-French, half-Vietnamese Nicole has been living in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Sylvie. When Sylvie is handed control of the family silk business, Nicole is given an abandoned silk shop in the Vietnamese quarter of Hanoi. But the area is teeming with militant rebels who want to end French rule, by any means possible. For the first time, Nicole is awakened to the corruption of colonial rule - and her own family's involvement shocks her to the core...
Tran, a notorious Vietnamese insurgent, seems to offer the perfect escape from her troubles, while Mark, a charming American trader, is the man she's always dreamed of. But who can she trust in this world where no one is what they seem? 
The Silk Merchant's Daughter is a captivating tale of dark secrets, sisterly rivalry and love against the odds, enchantingly set in colonial era Vietnam.
I love books that transport you to another place or another era and this book does both. Next on my list is:-

The Girl In The Ice - Robert Bryndza

It says that it's a gripping serial killer thriller and it certainly kept me up for a couple of nights!!


Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one. 

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. 

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London. 

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding? 

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika. 

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong… resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again?

There is only one problem after reading this book - it's the first in the series so that means I now have another two books to add to my TBR pile. You can see why I didn't finish last year's pile now?
If you prefer something a bit lighter but which will stay with you long after you put the book down, then 'The Forgotten Summer' by Carol Drinkwater is one of my favourite reads of the summer - vineyards, France and long summer days - what more could you ask?


The grape harvest at the Cambon family's magnificent vineyard is normally a cause for celebration. But when an accident destroys the crop, Clarisse Cambon knows exactly who to blame - her daughter-in-law Jane.

It's the latest incident in a decades-long feud whose origin both women have concealed from Luc, who struggles to keep his wife and mother on speaking terms.

But when tragedy strikes and Jane is forced to take charge of the ailing vineyard she uncovers proof that Luc has been keeping secrets of his own. Worse still, Clarisse is the only one who knows the truth . . .

Still in France, Paris this time, and no list would be complete without one of Rebecca Raisin's delightful, cozy mysteries - 'The little antique shop under the Eiffel Tower' is a lovely read and follows on from 'The little bookshop on the Seine'.


Escape to Paris this summer and prepare to be swept off your feet…
Anouk LaRue used to be a romantic, but since she had her heart well and truly broken her love life has dissolved into nothing more than daydreams of the perfect man. Retreating to her extraordinary Little Antique Shop has always been a way to escape, because who could feel alone in a shop bursting with memories and beautiful objects…

Until Tristan Black bursts into an auction and throws her ordered world into a spin.

Following your heart is a little like getting lost in Paris – sometimes confusing and always exciting! Except learning to trust her instincts is not something Anouk is ready to do when it comes to romance, but the city of love has other ideas…

This one is pure escapism!!!!
One of my favourite historical novelists is Charlotte Betts and 'The house in Quill Court' is a must-read.


1813. Venetia Lovell lives by the sea in Kent with her pretty, frivolous mother and idle younger brother. Venetia's father, Theo, is an interior decorator to the rich and frequently travels away from home, leaving his sensible and artistic daughter to look after the family. Venetia designs paper hangings and she and her father often daydream about having an imaginary shop where they would display the highest quality furniture, fabrics and art to his clients.

When a handsome but antagonistic stranger, Jack Chamberlaine, arrives at the Lovell's cottage just before Christmas bringing terrible news, Venetia's world is turned upside-down and the family have no option but to move to London, to the House in Quill Court and begin a new life. Here, Venetia's courage and creativity are tested to breaking point, and she discovers a love far greater than she could have ever imagined . . .

Over to Guernsey next for 'Echoes of time' by Anne Allen. With a brilliant setting, super characters and a paranormal element, this book is one of her best. Having read Books 1. 2 and 3 I couldn't turn down the chance to read this one although Book 4 is still calling me!!!

Betrayal, injustice and revenge echo down the years… 

1940. Olive marries farmer Bill Falla. The Germans occupy Guernsey. 
All too soon Olive realises she’s made a mistake. 
Her life changes when she meets Wolfgang, a German officer- 
but there’s a price to pay. . . 

2010. Natalie Ogier returns to Guernsey to escape an abusive relationship – only to be plagued by odd happenings in her beautiful cottage on the site of a derelict and secluded farm. Disturbing dreams, disembodied voices and uncanny visions from the past. She becomes increasingly ill at ease as someone else’s past catches up with her own… 
Her only immediate neighbour, Stuart, is the grandson of the original owners, Bill and Olive. 

Thrown together in a bid to find out what really happened to Olive, can they each survive the repercussions of the past and move on? 

If you've read this far, then you'll know that I'm a real lover of foreign climes, in particular Greece. 'An octopus in my ouzo' is one of the best memoirs set in Greece that I've read - and I've read a few!!!


When Jennifer moves into the Honey Factory on the tiny Greek island of Tilos, bringing a laptop, her hiking boots and one slightly broken heart, she has no idea what surprises life holds in store for her. From the joy of gardening her own little piece of paradise to the thrill of joining in with the Greek dancing at local festivals, Jennifer learns something new every day – and discovers love again along the way.

Dive into this exquisite, honest and deeply moving tale and taste the sweetness of living life to the full on a small island.

Still in Greece, one of my favourite books of all time has to be ' Cartes postalise from Greece' by Victoria Hislop. The hard cover version is a touchy- feely delight, the story is a delight and the anecdotes and tales from Greece are universal. I treasure this book.


Week after week, the postcards arrive, addressed to a name Ellie does not know, with no return address, each signed with an initial: A.

With their bright skies, blue seas and alluring images of Greece, these cartes postales brighten her life. After six months, to her disappointment, they cease. But the montage she has created on the wall of her flat has cast a spell. She must see this country for herself.

On the morning Ellie leaves for Athens, a notebook arrives. Its pages tell the story of a man's odyssey through Greece. Moving, surprising and sometimes dark, A's tale unfolds with the discovery not only of a culture but also of a desire to live life to the full once more.

So, just a few of the books I've loved reading in 2016. Whether you share my taste or maybe find a new book to add to your own TBR list, here's wishing everyone happy reading in 2017.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Bewdley Book Festival


Situated on the banks of the river Severn in Worcestershire, Bewdley is one of my favourite places to camp as there's lots to see and do there. A few weeks ago then when I first discovered that there would be a book festival there, I jumped at the chance of attending. My interest was piqued even further when I found out that best-selling chick-lit author Carole Matthews would be giving an interview. When a cakey tea was included in the ticket price, it would have been a crime not to attend.

I did have a little trepidation though as this was the first event I'd attended and I wondered if I'd be the one in the corner who didn't know anyone. I needn't have worried as thanks to Facebook, an announcement went out from a Facebook friend to ask who was attending and I was soon invited to make up a table.

With fellow writers Lynn Forth and Morton S Gray

Carole Matthews was exactly as I'd pictured her and her sense of humour shone through. If you've read any of her books then you'll know that they reflect this as they as brilliantly funny. There was one sticky moment before the event got underway though as a very efficient door person almost didn't let her through as she didn't have a ticket! Luckily she was allowed in and told some lovely anecdotes such as how she met Mary Berry. She did admit that her initial success was due to being in the right place at the right time. She was at the forefront of the chick-lit wave and when it swept America after the Bridget Jones' success, she did well over there too. She does work hard to stay at the top of her game though and works from 8am to 6pm with an hour's lunch break every day, taking just August off. There were a few gasps from the audience when they heard this! It was then time for an interval and cakey tea. Unfortunately I only remembered to take a picture after about five minutes when most of the cakes had been devoured.

After questions from the audience Carole very kindly offered to sign books and her partner, the lovely Kev, took photos. All in all it was a great afternoon from all concerned and huge thanks to those involved in the organisation and clearing up afterwards. I finally got my fan-girl moment and of course had to buy a couple of books to mark the occasion.

Julie book line up

Friday, 6 May 2016

How to get started in self-publishing

So you've written a book? What to do next can be very daunting at the start so I thought I'd share a few tips on how to begin that self-publishing journey. I was lucky that I had a mentor in the form of an established writer who helped guide me through the process. I thought it would be only fair to share with you what I've learnt so far.

Six months before P - Day

1. The promotion lies with you and you alone if you go down the self-published route and ideally needs to begin several months before you plan to publish.
 It's all about getting your name known. After all, people can't buy your book if they don't know about it. That does not mean banging on endlessly to total strangers to buy your book - it's a sure fire way to hack people off. Instead set up a Twitter account in the name you plan to use as an author and try to engage with people. Not easy but I learnt that adding a photo to your tweet increases visibility. What are you going to tweet about if your book isn't ready yet you may ask? To be honest, you can tweet about anything that interests you but if you can find a link to your book then so much the better. It could be the location e.g. I just love Paris and so does  x  - the heroine in xxxxxx due out soon. Then follow any site about France/Paris to build up your following. Remember your tweet can only be a maximum of 140 characters so use them wisely. You can also only follow 2000 people before Twitter starts imposing a limit. You then have to wait for either more people to follow you back or start to unfollow a few.

2. If Twitter is just for short exchanges then you may prefer Facebook. I wasn't using it correctly for years as I only had about 5 friends on there and I used to email them regularly anyway. Now that I have built up a load of 'friends' with similar interests I can see the benefits. You'll soon find yourself interacting with likeminded writers if you start posting about books you like. Remember to join some groups on there too; a great way to discuss books and build up relationships for when your very own book is out there. You'll need as much support as you can get and there is always a useful source of information - priceless when it come to organising a virtual book tour.
Don't forget to set up an additional Facebook page just for your writing too - something along the lines of JohnSmithauthor. Not only does this mean you can direct real fans to a place where they can find out the latest about your book but it also saves friends and family being bombarded with book news.

Four months before P-Day
3.Ideally you should have a finished manuscript by now. Finished in that you have read it over numerous times for typos and spelling errors. You then walk away and come back to it a couple of weeks later. Go through it with a fine tooth comb for plot holes, discrepancies, stylistic faux pas etc until you are sick to death of it. If you can afford it, get it professionally edited. Again ask around for recommendations and check out that they are a good fit for your book. It will really hurt to have to change your baby at this stage but trust me it will be worth it. If you really can't afford it then at the very least ask for a few people to act as Beta readers. Nothing spells amateur quite so much as a book full of errors - make it the best it can be.

Three months before P-Day

4. The virtual book tour
When you're just starting out this can be a good way to get a foot on the ladder. Beware the scam artists though who will charge you a fortune for very little in return. Most tour organisers need at least three months notice to get your ecopy file to reviewers and the good ones are booked up well in advance. For around £40 you can expect about 5 reviews and to be hosted on the blog page of the reviewers. I used BrookCottageBooks and have never been disappointed but check out what other writers recommend too. You can schedule the tour for the first week your book is published and get those reviews online as soon as possible or you can wait a while it's up to you.

One month before
5. Once your book is back from the editor and the beta readers and you've made the necessary changes, you'll need a cover. I was fortunate in that having bought the rights to use a photograph from a site like fotolia or shutter stock and then a friend managed to do the graphics for me. It's worth spending money on this as covers sell books. You'll also need to have your book professionally formatted for Amazon or whichever digital site you choose. It's different for each site but if you don't do this all your hard work may be in vain as when it downloads to Kindle or other tablet, it won't look right and will give the impression of poor attention to detail.

Once you've done all this, you should be ready to submit your book for self-publishing. Then comes the hard work! Good luck on your journey - it's certainly a learning curve but to have your very own book out there is the most marvellous feeling!

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Jenna's Journey Promo Post

                                                       Jenna's Journey
                                       Discounted 16-21 March - only 99p/99c

SynopsisLeaving town, heading to the Greek Isles without telling husband or friends, is heady medicine for a failing marriage. Seduced by Grecian sun and sky, Jenna innocently buys a bewitching urn that tangles her into the web of a criminal world more sinister than she ever imagined. Romance is always afoot in the Greek Isles and Jenna gets a large helping with the seductive Nikos. Family is important in Greece, and Nikos helps Jenna learn all the richness it brings, and pass it on to the next generation.
Twenty-five years later, Allie takes this same journey, and a little time travel, a big “what if” dream, a fated meeting with a taxi driver and a sprinkle of paranormal intrigue intertwine in a story that spans the lives of a mother and daughter. Twisty as the streets in a Greek island village, full of unexpected characters found on a faraway vacation along with frightening threats from nasty villains, Jenna’s Journey will keep you turning pages far into the night.
Working out a lifetime of secrets, imagining what might have been, eluding nasty antiquities thieves, exploring a new love—how would you have managed? Follow Jenna’s adventure and see how she changed her life in one journey!

Author bio

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances, thrillers set in the Greek Isles. 
Jenna's Journey is the first novel in Julie Ryan’s Greek Islands Series, a series she did not set out to create but which took on its own life and grew, rich and fascinating. This is the first of three published so far, and now as a newly released edition in the USA from Booktrope, it promises to delight readers looking for the hidden dark sides of dream vacations in the Greek Isles. Pandora's Prophecy and Sophia's Secret make up the rest of the trilogy.

Book Links

  •  USA Amazon  or http://www.amazon.com/Jennas-Journey-Greek-Island-Mystery-ebook/dp/B015545GT0
  •  UK    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B015545GT0

Social Media Links

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Books I'm most looking forward to reading in 2016


With the start of a new year, I like to look back at the books I've read over the last year and to look forward with eager anticipation to books still on my TBR pile or newly published. My Goodreads challenge this year was to read 100 books. That averages out at nearly two books per week. I didn't think I was going to make it but thanks to some Christmas novellas I just managed to reach my target. Of course, no matter how fast I try to read, I always have more books by the end of the year unread than I did at the start - one of the perks of being a blogger - oh and a one-click addict too.
Here are a few of the books that I didn't get round to reading in 2015 but are top of my list for 2016.
In no particular order:

Match me if you can - Michele Gorman

I've read 'The curvy girls club by Michele and really enjoyed it. She has an easy style and is great at picking up on traits that we are all familiar with. Hopefully this will be another winner.

What if Mr Right was just a click away?
Ever thought about recycling your ex?
Best friends Catherine, Rachel & Sarah are fun, smart, successful and single – just like millions of women with a low tolerance for idiocy in their dates.
Mr. Right hasn't turned up yet, and Mr Right-Now isn't worth booking a wax appointment for. So when Catherine, London’s finest matchmaker, gets Rachel and Sarah to join her dating site where they can recycle their ex-boyfriends in exchange for an upgrade, they soon realise that anything could happen . . .
Three best friends, proving that sometimes it really isn't you… it's him.

The Italian Girl - Lucinda Riley

Not read anything by this author before but love books set in the Med. The blurb sounds very promising.

Rosanna Menici is just eleven years old when she meets Roberto Rossini, the man who will change her life forever. In the years to come, their destinies are bound together by their extraordinary talents as opera singers and by their enduring but obsessive love for each other - a love that will ultimately affect the lives of all those closest to them. For, as Rosanna slowly discovers, their union is haunted by powerful secrets from the past . . . 
Rosanna's journey takes her from humble beginnings in the back streets of Naples to the glittering stages of the world's most prestigious opera houses. Set against a dazzling backdrop of evocative locations, The Italian Girl unfolds into a poignant and unforgettable tale of love, betrayal and self-discovery.
The daughter's secret - Eva Holland

I love a good thriller and this one sounds just up my street

My daughter is a liar. A liar, liar, liar. And I'm starting to see where she gets it from.
When Rosalind's fifteen-year-old daughter, Stephanie, ran away with her teacher, this ordinary family became something it had never asked to be. Their lives held up to scrutiny in the centre of a major police investigation, the Simms were headline news while Stephanie was missing with a man who was risking everything.
Now, six years on, Ros takes a call that will change their lives all over again. He's going to be released from prison. Years too early. In eleven days' time.
As Temperley's release creeps ever closer, Ros is forced to confront the events that led them here, back to a place she thought she'd left behind, to questions she didn't want to answer. Why did she do it? Where does the blame lie? What happens next?

The Ice Twins - S.K Tremayne

I've heard so much about this book and meant to read it in 2015 so this is definitely one to be read this year.

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.
But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.
As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

The book of you - Claire Kendal

Another book that is high up on my list - hoping that it lives up to the hype

Clarissa is becoming more and more frightened of her colleague, Rafe. He won’t leave her alone, and he refuses to take no for an answer. He is always there.
Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can’t be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand.
Realizing that she bears the burden of proof, Clarissa unravels the twisted, macabre fairytale that Rafe has spun around them – and discovers that the ending he envisions is more terrifying than she could have imagined.

These are just a few. What books did you intend to read in 2015 but didn't get round to?

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Callie's Christmas Countdown

Callie's Christmas Countdown


Callie is an event planner, organising weddings and corporate parties. What she'd really love however, is to organise the perfect Christmas. How difficult can it be after all?  She simply needs to get her divorced parents talking to each other, sort out a Christmas Eve wedding for the daughter of a millionaire and wait for her hunky, rich boyfriend to propose. What could possibly go wrong?

What others are saying:
Michele - "I absolutely loved this book by Julie Ryan, so different to her other books IV READ and equally as enthralling."

Rachel's Random Reads - "There is a lovely sense of humour in this story, and I loved how Callie seemed to care more about others than herself."

Purchase Links 

Author bio and links

Julie Ryan’s roots are in a small mining village in South Yorkshire. After a degree in French Language and Literature, wanderlust kicked in and she lived and worked in France, Poland, Thailand and Greece. Her spirit enriched, her imagination fired, Julie started a series of mystery romances, thrillers set in the Greek Isles. 
Jenna's Journey is the first novel in Julie Ryan’s Greek Islands Series, a series she did not set out to create but which took on its own life and grew, rich and fascinating. This is the first of three published so far and it promises to delight readers looking for the hidden dark sides of dream vacations in the Greek Isles. Pandora's Prophecy and Sophia's Secret make up the rest of the trilogy.

In a totally new departure, Julie's latest release is a romantic Christmas comedy, Callie's Christmas Countdown, is a fun, light-hearted read that you can relax with if you can grab a few moments amidst the hustle and bustle of all that the season entails.

A prolific and well-known book review blogger, Julie does her writing and reviewing from rural Gloucestershire, where she lives with her husband, son and dippy cat with half a tail.
You can find Julie on her websites:
Website/blog for the Greek Isles series
Website/blog for book reviews

and on Twitter @julieryan18

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