Moonbeams in a Jar: On Location

At the beginning of the week we released Moonbeams in a Jar by Christine Stovell – a sweet novella for dog lovers, travel lovers, romance lovers … and everyone in between! Today Christine joins us on the blog to tell us a little about the once-in-a-lifetime holiday that inspired the story … 

“Take every chance you get in life,” the saying goes, “because some things only happen once.” When my husband, Tom, asked me one summer evening which destination I’d choose if I could hop on a plane the next day and go anywhere in the world, I never expected him to act on my words and surprise me with a trip to Hong Kong. I was so taken aback – and so anxious about whether or not we could afford it – that I was initially quite cross. Like Chloe, the heroine of my novella Moonbeams in a Jar, I’m a bit of a planner, whereas Tom, like my hero, Ryan, is far more spontaneous. Left to me, we might never have seen Hong Kong and then I would have missed out on one of the most thrilling holidays of my life.

I didn’t know then that Hong Kong would feature in my novella, but when Chloe decides to splurge on a big holiday before starting her new job, I realised it would make the perfect place for my couple to explore their feelings for each other… and to learn that love rarely arrives conveniently or according to plan. The sights, sounds, smells and tastes of my trip stayed with me and many of those experiences worked their way into Chloe and Ryan’s visit … I’ll leave you to guess which ones!

Shaking my fortune stick at Wong Tai Sin Temple

HK 013 Star Ferry

Chloe and Ryan’s story begins in Little Spitmarsh, my fictional seaside town where Ryan, a photographer, lives conveniently close to his fiery cousin Tansy who regularly looks after Ryan’s basset hound, Fred. The inspiration for Little Spitmarsh came when Tom and I sailed half way round Britain in a vintage wooden boat in a series of what I only half-jokingly call ‘The Epic Voyages’ which, again, took me way out of my comfort zone. At the time we kept our boat in a small boatyard on the East Anglian coast and had a very happy time there pottering round the backwaters. That’s when the location for Little Spitmarsh really started to take shape and became real to me.

East Anglia

The opening scene for my first Little Spitmarsh novel, Turning the Tide, began when I ‘saw’ a troubled young woman in dungarees walking by the side of a creek and knew I had to tell her story. That was Harry Watling, someone who is more than capable of standing on her own two feet, a girl who isn’t afraid of breaking a fingernail and who doesn’t need a man to change an electric plug for her. From there, a whole cast of characters introduced themselves and continue to wander in and out of my Little Spitmarsh series which can all be read as stand alone stories.

So … when I started writing Moonbeams in a Jar I knew that Little Spitmarsh would be the starting point and that my heroine, Chloe, would go on her dream holiday to Hong Kong. I was a bit surprised when Snowdonia crept into the story, but there was no stopping Ryan, who loves working in difficult, remote terrain and was determined to get some stunning shots of the mountain in its darkest mood. I’m lucky enough to live within striking distance of Snowdonia and have enjoyed many climbs in the hills exploring these rugged peaks and enjoying the magnificent views. It’s never easy, but if the weather turns against you and you’re not prepared – as Ryan discovers – the places of refuge are few and far between. As it turns out, being caught in an horrendous storm on an exposed mountainside is only the start of Ryan’s problems!

Snowdonia in good weather!

Chloe and Ryan’s road to their Happy Ever After takes many twists and turns along the way as Chloe learns to take more chances and Ryan realises that love can’t be put on hold. I hope that Moonbeams in a Jar will give you a flavour of some of the locations they visit along the way and that you will enjoy travelling with them.

Hong Kong at sunset

Moonbeams in a Jar is now available to buy as an eBook on all platforms. Click the banner below for purchasing options.

For more information on Christine Stovell:

Follow her on Twitter @chrisstovell 

Like her on Facebook Christine Stovell, Author

Check out her blog www.homethoughtsweekly.blogspot.co.uk

Coconut pancakes and a book extract from Rhoda Baxter!

9781781893036

Girl Having a Ball by Rhoda Baxter is now available to purchase from all eBook platforms and, to celebrate, Rhoda is sharing an extract from the book and a Sri Lankan recipe for delicious coconut pancakes. You won’t want to miss this 🙂 

Extract from Girl Having a Ball 

In the kitchen, Evelyn and Priya were having tea and eating Sri Lankan sweets. ‘Here, try one.’ Evelyn gave her what looked like a rolled up pancake.

Stevie bit into it. Warm, sweet, coconut filling flowed into her mouth. She chewed, letting the flavours mix. ‘That is heavenly. What is it?’

‘Pancakes with cinnamon, coconut and treacle,’ said Priya. ‘One of my favourite things ever. They’re best served warm so we’ll pop them in the oven before we set them out.’

‘Mmmm.’ Stevie was barely listening as she took another bite.

‘How are the boards doing?’ Evelyn poured the tea.

‘All done. We’ve fitted the bottom ones. We’re going to need Tom’s help with the top ones.’

‘I’m glad Tom’s been here this week,’ said Evelyn. She absent-mindedly stirred a tea bag round and round a mug. ‘It’s nice to have a man around the house again. There are some jobs that are just more suited to the male of the species.’ She blinked, as though surprised she’d said anything out loud. She fished out the tea bag and flicked it into the bin. ‘I daresay he’s been enjoying himself. Could you be a dear and take a mug of tea for Tom. And one of those pancake things?’

 Recipe for pancakes with sweet coconut filling (poi pani pancakes)

Rhoda: I love, love, love these pancakes. I dream about them sometimes. Once, when I was living in the house in Norham Gardens which I used as the setting for Girl Having a Ball, my mum brought me some of these pancakes. My Ghanaian housemate offered to cook me dinner for a whole week in exchange for a single one. That, my friends, is how delicious these pancakes are.

They are usually made using Kitul treacle – this is a fairly specific type of treacle. The closest thing I’ve found in taste is very dark muscovado sugar with a touch of molasses. I’ve used golden syrup, which works quite well  – it tastes different to the real thing, but it’s still delicious.

Ingredients

Pancakes (I’m assuming you know how to make/buy these already)

100g Freshly grated coconut (alternatively, use fine desiccated coconut)

Half a cinnamon stick

300g Golden syrup

2 cardamom pods

Method

To make the filling, heat the syrup, cardamom pods and cinnamon gently. Then add the coconut, stir until the syrup is all absorbed by the coconut. Leave to cool. Put a dollop of the coconut (which should now be oozing syrup) in the middle of a pancake and roll it up. You’ll need a saucer under it as you eat it to catch the drips of treacle.

To find out more about Rhoda, follow her on Twitter: @RhodaBaxter

Girl Having a Ball is available to purchase as an eBook on all platforms. 

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