A Date With . . . Lesley Hayes

A good natter between two great authors.

Frank Parker's author site

My ‘date’ this week is with a woman who lives a stone’s throw from the ‘Dreaming Spires’ of Oxford.

covers_round_robin_pic“I moved to Oxford about thirty years ago, having flirted with the idea of living here for at least five years before that. I was born in London and lived there until my early twenties. I’d never want to go back there for more than a visit now.

I’ve found Oxford is an ideal place for writers, eccentrics, and artists. It’s a place that celebrates diversity, and where you can be anonymous if you wish, and yet experience the feel of a village if you want to find your tribe. I love the way history is embedded in its streets and secret alleyways.

My own personal history is embedded there too, now. The only thing I would change seems like wishing for the tide not to turn – I’m not keen…

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It helps if you don’t know what you can’t do!

I grew up in a DIY household, Dad was an electrician/TV repair man and Mum was a seamstress, so when I attempt something I’ve never done before, it’s not so much with a expectation of succeeding as an expectation of not failing, if that makes sense.

I began to paint over thirty years ago, having not picked up a paintbrush since school. I was a bit above average at art at school and loved the creative process, but it was still with some surprise that I found my adult efforts were better than expected – it came at a time when I was coming to terms with being a single parent and desperately needed something positive in my life, so I threw myself into it with a will. I can do this, I thought, and so I did. There followed a long and very steep learning curve up which I still travel – different media, composition and perspective, colour and tone, the best type of paper, brushes, and techniques. The more I learn, the more I realise I don’t know, and the more I aspire to improve, but the voyage is exhilarating. Then I decided I would cut my own mounts for my paintings and make my own frames. Again, my inability to see the possible fail points stood me in good stead.  Another huge learning curve ensued – mount board, mount cutters, mouldings, mitre saws, guillotines, and under-pinners. I tackled each problem as it arose and learnt how to do it.

Over the years, I’ve had many people tell me they wished they could paint. When asked if they’d actually tried, most admitted they hadn’t. My advice? Give it a go. You have no idea what you can achieve if you never try.

And it’s the same with writing. When I first put e-pen to e-paper, the thought process was the same, but the challenges were mountains compared to painting and framing works of art. I knew I had no imagination and that I hadn’t a clue where or how to begin, but I didn’t know that I COULDN’T do it, so I leapt in at the deep end and began to doggy-paddle. Had I known what was involved and how it would take over my life, perhaps I’d have thought twice about it. But ignorance is bliss, as they say.

I had to learn to type a bit better than I had with two fingers on my mother’s old Olivetti back in the sixties – I now use four fingers! I had to relearn my English grammar – an on-going process. I had to learn how to craft a story, about Points of View, about character building, and how to edit, edit, and re-edit. I sent my precious literary children to agents and suffered rejection after rejection, but by now, I was hooked, and every rejection and critique taught me something. I was incredibly lucky at this stage to have a writing buddy, an old friend, and we encouraged each other and honed one another’s work. Neither of us was about to let agents ruin our writing careers or our literary brilliance – coughs politely.

A close brush with a literary agent taught me that I wasn’t cut out for traditional publishing. I need to be in control, to write what I want, not what they consider the market dictates, and as for publicity – I mean the actual standing up and being counted type – the face to face stuff – it terrifies me, so when Indie publishing took off, I jumped aboard and took wing from my armchair behind a comfortable pseudonym.

I hadn’t a clue – I mean, really, I hadn’t a clue.

However, in my usual ‘don’t know I can’t’ manner, I discovered Kindle Direct Publishing and learnt how to format a book for Kindle, design and make book covers and generally prepare a book for publishing. Then, I wanted a paperback copy, so formatting for print, via CreateSpace had to be learnt along with making a wrap-around cover with a spine the right width. Of course, sales were virtually nil as no-one but close friends knew the book existed, so I embraced building my own website, joined book promotion sites like IAN and the Book Tribe, and dipped my toe into Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Linked-in, Tumblr, Pininterest, and later, Bookbub, WordPress, and others.

But along with this came how to write book blurbs, make Facebook posts and tweets, how to master Photoshop, how to make short URLs for book links, how to set up pages for my books and groups in Facebook – tweet groups, Twittimer, Roundteam – Facebook and Amazon adverts, book discounting and promotions, author interviews… All these things have to be learnt from the ground up, as and when they rear their heads, and it takes an incredible amount of time and dedication. Time and dedication you can’t devote to writing. If I spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in writing and promoting, I still wouldn’t do everything. And anyway, I need time to paint – it’s a passion!

And this hasn’t touched the time-consuming subject of research. The journeys upon which my novels have led me have been fascinating, eye-opening, and sometimes traumatic and heartbreaking. I have learnt a lot about climate change, British history, the human mind, runes, religious belief around the world, women’s rights, convict transportation, the Australian gold rush, shipping in the 1800s, Gallipoli and the Great War in Egypt, war horses, Nazi concentration camps and the medical experiments of Josef Mengele, among other things, and in the process, I’ve learnt much about my family history and myself.

It’s been, and continues to be, a steep uphill climb, but it’s worth the frequent heartaches and frustrations to hold a paperback book in my hand and think I did that. I did the whole process from the tiny seed of an idea to the print-ready book – beginning to end. It’s a great feeling.

Whatever that thing is that you think you’d like to be able to do, why don’t you give it a go? It’s better to try and fail than fail by not trying. You don’t KNOW you can’t do it, and sometimes it pays to ‘not know what you can’t do’.


7 book Twitter header 3




A flinchin’ and a wincin’ and one-eyed scraggly auldwans…

Hate dentists? Me too.

Maxpower's Blog

I was with my physiotherapist yesterday morning, being interfered with for a frozen shoulder and there was a point where his tortuous hands went too far and I winced. Now I do try not to wince, because as every woman who has ever met me, and every man who is jealous of me knows, I am some fine specimen of manliness.  Wincing is not manly.  I’ve seen the movies,oh yes I have and real men don’t wince.

There are fellas taking bullets to the shoulder, telling other fellas to dig out the bullet with a knife the size of hatchet with no more than a swig of whiskey for pain relief. Them fellas barely break a sweat. I’ve seen it with my own two eyes, lads with broken legs in the snow, fighting off wolves and not complaining one bit when the wolves rip open a tendon…

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The trouble with not being organised.

The organised me intended having this free for the solstice – unfortunately, the disorganised me forgot. But it’s still only £1.99/$2.99 and has had wonderful reviews.
‘She made the zig-zag sign of Sowilo, and raised her arms to greet the sun, knife at the ready. A small bundle lay on the slab at the centre of the circle.’
http://mybook.to/SilenceoftheStones … ‘A delight from cover to cover’

Read a free preview here: https://rebeccabrynblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/03/free-previews/

kells play copy

I’d love you to follow me on Bookbub for reviews and recommendations. 




The Girl He Left Behind – a wonderful read from the pen of Lesley Hayes

I once said I’d enjoy a shopping list written by Lesley Hayes, and this is still true. She has a calm and unhurried style that soothes and relaxes but takes you to places inside yourself you didn’t really want to go. When you get there, however, you realise the truth and honesty of her writing, and it makes a deep connection. ‘Yes, I’ve been there, and she knows exactly what it’s like.’ There’s a healing in that, knowing that someone understands and that you’re not alone. The Girl He Left Behind is about change, choices, the curse of unbreakable love, and the inability to let go and distance ourselves emotionally. It’s heartbreaking to see the damage such ‘old’ love can do to a person and to a new relationship. How it cripples us. I have to say I was rooting for Annie! Well done, Ms Hayes – another wonderful read.

It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

William Harold Goodman far left back row. 1000px

One of the first pieces of advice I heard about writing fiction was write what you know. To my untutored mind, especially as a potential Indie author with no professional support, that struck alarm bells clanging like Big Ben at midnight. What did I know? Nothing at all that would interest a reader.

I’ve lead an unremarkable life that began in a terraced house in the back streets of Kettering and progressed through school, marriage, children, and divorce to end up, if indeed I have ended up, via a village Post Office, an art gallery, and a smallholding, in an over my dead body  bungalow with my second husband in Pembrokeshire. What did I know about anything beyond my narrow confines? Even my literary and art history is only 0.5 on the Richter scale.

Then I heard a re-interpretation of this golden rule. Write WHO you know. This didn’t mean literally write about my family and friends, it meant write about the sort of people you know. That makes sense – I know nothing about how the rich and famous or the aristocracy might go about their daily lives, but I do know about life in the back streets of small towns in the sixties and seventies and the people who worked 9-6 to make a living. I know about village life and the family bonds that make up a small community. I know about the countryside and farming, and the tough folk of wild west Wales who eke out a living surrounded by the sea and moorland. I know about painting. What is more important, I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity, a will to learn, and a huge blind spot about what I can’t do.

I realised upon writing my first novel that life had bequeathed me a wealth of emotional baggage, and while that is a daily pain for me, for a novelist, it’s a gift from God, or rather a gift from all those who have shat upon me throughout my life. For that, I must be grateful. I know the pain of rejection and loss. I know how tenuous happiness is, how life can change upon a throw of a dice in someone else’s hand, and how the best of decisions can be regretted. I know fear, guilt, misery, longing, and anger. I’ve been to the very edge and returned, wiser but not unscathed.

That’s better – good to get that out. Writing is nothing if not cathartic.

I also know love, joy, happiness, relief, fulfillment, and contentment. There are two sides to every coin and two sides to every tale, just as there are two faces to every person and snakes have forked tongues. We are imperfect, flawed by our genetic makeup, our nurture, and what life throws at us, and that is also a gift for a novelist.

So I found to my delight that I can invent ‘real’ characters who are plagued by guilt, as Walt is in Touching the Wire and Ella is in the For Their Country’s Good trilogy. Characters who, like Ella, make the wrong choices or who are selfish and self-centred like Alana in The Silence of the Stones. Or characters like Abe in Where Hope Dares who is forced to re-evaluate a long life and make a decision that goes against his life’s mission and all he’s been taught. Characters who have one thing in common, a quality that has both plagued and enriched my life – the gift or curse of unbreakable love.

Putting those characters into a setting reawakened my love of learning. Researching the places and situations, the eras, and the social and religious constricts is something I find a joy. The first novel I published, The Silence of the Stones, was written about the time and place in which I live, so it was relatively easy to research. I didn’t know when I began it that I would wander the minds of people suffering from Disassociative Identity Disorder – if you’re interested in that fascinating and disturbing subject there is an excellent book Fractured by Ruth Dee, which I highly recommend. I didn’t know that I would study the runes of the Elder FuTHark and actually perform rune castings using Scrabble tiles to progress the story. The castings were at times spookily accurate regarding the characters and plot.

Where Hope Dares is a little different from my other novels in that it centres around an ideology rather than a place, situation, or people. It’s a fantasy, a dystopian, if you like, set far in our future – it raises questions about many of the concerns of our time and how they might affect the future of mankind and our planet, but it’s written from the heart of one who loves planet Earth with a passion, even if she doesn’t always much like the species that are defiling it. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it was the first novel I ever wrote, and it’s very special to me. It’s a tale of courage and hope and unbreakable love: in that, it has a common theme with my other work.

I knew little about the Holocaust before I wrote Touching the Wire. This was the most difficult book to research and write. The horrors of Auschwitz gave me nightmares and there were many times when I had to walk away and give myself time to breathe. But the victims couldn’t walk away, and if they breathed, it might be to inhale gas. The more I researched and wrote, the more I cried, and the more convinced I was that this was a story that must be told – but what right had I to tell it? Could I do it justice?

I wrestled with this for some time, but I realised that I knew abject misery, fear, loss, guilt, longing, and anger all too well, and could connect to these ordinary women, women like me, for whom someone else had thrown the dice. My characters demanded their story be told – being too cowardly to tell it was a worse affront to the courage, faith, and hope of the women of Auschwitz than anything I might write that was  incorrect or dubious in other respects. I plucked up my dwindling courage and pressed publish. The messages I have received from survivors of the Holocaust have shown me that pressing that button was the right decision.

Life in Victorian England and transportation to the penal colonies of Australia were also subjects I knew little about, but my family history had whispered tales of a poacher transported for killing a gamekeeper. There had to be a story in there, didn’t there? I rooted it out, and I found I knew these people. They were family, dead long before my time, but my grandmother would have known of them, and I knew my grandmother and her life and family. Writing For Their Country’s Good was a joy. I connected with Jem and Ella through strong family bonds and a common heritage. The tale grew from the one novel I’d intended to a three-book series. The more I researched, the more the story grew; I was writing about WHO I knew, and I learnt much about myself in the process. For me, it was a fascinating journey. I hope it is for you, too.

This second golden rule holds true for my latest offering, The Dandelion Clock, due out in 2018. Again, it’s inspired by my family history, this time my grandfather and his time serving in Egypt and the Holy Land  in the Great War. What did I know about the Great War? Sweet FA – that’s Fanny Adams, by the way: a more polite rendering, but it amounts to the same thing – but I did know my grandparents. I was extremely fortunate to find two amazing books, without which I doubt my novel could have been written. Fighting for the Bucks by E.J. Hounslow and Diary of a Yeomanry MO by Captain O Teichman. I know a hell of a lot more about the war in Egypt and Palestine now, and it was a real eye-opener. The Dandelion Clock is the war as winessed by a young private of the Queens’ Own Worcester Yeomanry, a boot-last maker from Kettering, who goes off to war with his brother and their horses, leaving behind the girl he’s promised to marry – my grandmother. I expect it’s the story of many a young couple torn apart by war.

So, what can you take from this as a writer or someone who’d like to write? It’s not what you know but who you know! The what can be researched, discovered, or fantasised: the who comes from the honesty deep inside you, and it’s this part of you that connects you, through your characters, with your readers.

The Silence of the Stones

Touching the Wire

Where Hope Dares

For Their Country’s Good series:

On Different Shores

Beneath Strange Stars

On Common Ground

Please follow me at Bookbub

Thank you for reading.

Scrambling up from the tombstones of Kindness…

Another thought-provoking post from Max Power.

Maxpower's Blog

There was a fella in my class when I was about nine years old, who I recall had a talent for breaking wind. He could quite literally crack one off on command. I have never seen anything like it then or since. Let’s call him ‘Mick’ to preserve his dignity. Mick must have had a special storage sack that none of the rest of us has and his supply of gas was quite impressive. He could even; I kid you not, control the sound they made to some extent at least.  What has become of him I often wonder? Most likely a politician I should think.

Looking back at the chidderlings that scuttled about me as a nipper, I recall some gifted young boys and like Mick, I wonder what became of them. That’s not to say I’ve never seen any of them since, but for the most part, we…

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