Welcome to Kyrosmagica! It is wonderful to have you over for a chit chat, Sally.
Lovely to be here Marjorie and thank you for the invitation.
MJ: I’m delighted to be reading Life is Like A Bowl of Cherries, Sally, the title is so beguiling, particularly as I do love fruit, and cherries are a favourite!
MJ: Sally, I’d love to hear more about your nomadic life. I believe you have lived in many countries. Which of these places has a special place in your heart and why?
My father was in the Royal Navy and was posted overseas several times. On occasion we were able to travel with him as a family, including my first trip at age 18 months to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). The first year was documented in photographs and I don’t really remember as I was too young, but certainly by the time I was three I was aware of my surroundings and the people in my life. We lived in a house on the edge of the jungle and we had a cook and an amah or nanny for me. My two sisters were 13 and 14 by this time and when they came back from school I was handed over to them. Anything they did I did too, and I was swimming every day in my rubber ring which I loved and still do today, but without the rubber ring!! On one memorable occasion, I followed my eldest sister up a steep ladder during a diving competition. She completed her dive and surfaced expecting applause to find a stunned silence and groans from the crowd. I had crawled to the end of the diving board, stood up and jumped off. Apparently I surfaced and told my sister ‘again’.
After Sri Lanka we returned to the UK for two years followed by two years in Malta which were amazing, and after another two years in England we moved to South Africa. My memories of our time in Cape Town are very vivid as I was ten years old by this time and well aware of the situation at that time with apartheid for example. As a family we had to attend an induction day so that we knew what we could say and what the rules were for segregation. I found it very difficult as I had friends at school in England from the West Indies and the Middle East and it felt very uncomfortable being unable to be friends with anyone because of their colour.
David and I have lived and worked in several countries over the last forty years and certainly our experiences, and the people we have met, have provided us with amazing memories. As a writer all of my travels have left me with memories that are wonderful to dip into and use for stories.
They say that ‘home is where the heart is’, and for me that is certainly the case, and wherever we might be living, as long as David and I are under the same roof it is a special place.
MJ: Oh, how lovely.
MJ: Writing short stories and poetry takes a special skill. Can you summarise the way you approach writing them – any rituals you have, or methods you use?
The stories start out life a great deal longer than they end up. I tend to write in my head first when walking or exercising, then come back and dash it out on the computer. I spend a lot of time revising and editing down to a point where I feel it reads aloud well. And I always ask myself, would I enjoy if I read the story for the first time.
I tend to stick to the Japanese poetry which is constrained by the number of syllables. I love the various formats and experiment depending on the theme. After the first draft, I usually end up changing the words within a certain syllable count to find the one that expresses the most action or emotion.
With everything I write, I use David as a sounding board and he is brilliant with suggestions that might enhance or improve the piece.
MJ: You feature so many authors on your wonderful blog Smorgasbord. This must be a labour of love as I’m sure it must take up so much of your time. As an indie author you give so much to the community in features, reviews and the like. How do you manage your time? And do you ever feel overwhelmed?
One of the key elements I learned early on in my management career was project planning and this was vital when dealing with major construction, installation or sales and marketing campaigns. I carried this over to when I was running my own business for the next twelve years and then as a blogger.
For me blogging is a full time occupation and a business despite the blog itself not being monetised. I am an indie author with 14 books to sell and nobody else is going to do that for me. With 20,000 new titles added to the shelves on Amazon each week, it is tough to get noticed, particularly in the popular genres.
Twenty years ago I was helping authors get their books noticed in a very different way with book launches, radio interviews, press releases and my own first book got some great publicity nationally. However, it is very different now, and the focus is on local physical marketing and global online promotion.
As an author of six books in 2012, I needed a platform to market my own books and that involved creating an online presence across other areas of social media. I began building Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn systematically over the years. I don’t belong to any other social media because as you say, it is time consuming to maintain, and these three are the most consistent referrers of visitors to the blog after WordPress Reader.
I had a project plan in place to achieve my vision of how I wanted the blog to develop. To market my own books, I felt that the content on the blog needed to appeal to a varied market. I set out to develop a magazine style platform with a number of topics. I began with health which I have been involved in for over fifteen years by that time, and slowly added the other areas I have been involved such as book marketing, music and humour as the followers and my confidence grew.
After three years I felt that there was a strong enough following to offer free book marketing to other authors, which is when the Café and Bookstore came into existence. There are now over 150 author promotions, two book fairs featuring all the authors in the Café, and around 50 individual author spotlights a year. My hope is that I can help in some small way to showcase an author and their work within our writing community, whilst also promoting my own.
As to finding the time to post in the way I do… I always schedule ahead by at least a week and usually two. In the case of a series I schedule all the posts at one time. This creates time for me to maintain social media, spend time on my own writing projects, and read and review books.
The project plan is not completed, and in the blog’s 9 th year I hope to continue to find new ways to get all of us noticed and sell some books.
MJ: You are an inspiration, what a wonderful goal.
MJ: The title of your latest release: Life Is Like A Bowl of Cherries. How did you choose the title and what were you trying to convey?
My life experience has been one of highs and lows as is the case for so many people. The reason I appreciate what I have right now, is because of the tough times in the past. Nobody has a perfect life and that is what makes it so fascinating. I wanted to reflect this in the stories I write, but I try to end each of them with a hopeful outcome.
As to the name of the collection…I bought a punnet of cherries last year and could not believe how they looked the same but some were bitter and some were sweet. When I was looking for a title it came to mind.
MJ: That’s so cute!
MJ: After eight years blogging what advice would you impart to new bloggers starting their blogging journey?
Everybody has a different reason for beginning their blogs and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. I do dislike the term Hobby Blogger which is used for anyone who does not commercialise their blog. Whether it is one blog a week, one a day or more, it takes time to prepare, format and market. Various skills are required and whilst it should be enjoyable, it takes work, not just to create the posts, but to get noticed.
I do suggest that anyone thinking about blogging visit a load of other blogs first to get a feel of what is out there, the format, the response in terms of followers and comments. That is usually a solid indicator that people enjoy the content.
A good place to start with your own blog is with your passions, which might be cooking, music, writing, etc. Start with one blog a week and sprinkle with some reblogs of other people’s posts that you are following and enjoy. They will appreciate the gesture and return the favour.
Follow and comment on other blogs and share on social media by clicking one of the buttons at the end of the post. Just saying ‘I enjoyed that thank you’ with your name is very welcome. One thing I do suggest is that you don’t put the URL of your blog in the comment as that should come up with your name, and most blogs block comments containing URLs.
Follow bloggers you enjoy on Twitter and Facebook and retweet their pinned tweets…and if you are an author this is particularly important. I do have a pdf of Book Marketing for authors, including set up for blog and social media and if anyone would like a copy then they just need to email me on email@example.com
MJ: Has your writing mojo stayed the same during this unprecedented time of covid?
Like all of us we have had to adjust to several lockdowns and still having to get on with life in the most hopeful way possible. I felt it was very important for my own wellbeing to ensure that the blog continued as normal during the year. More than ever being online and staying in contact was crucial, and authors were still writing books that needed to be marketed. Music and laughter are important in my life, particularly at the moment, so there was no thought of not carrying on as usual.
MJ: You live in Ireland now, what made you settle there? And do you ever see yourself moving?
My husband is Irish and despite leaving for work when he was 18 years old we have visited family regularly and lived here for five years in the mid-1990s. We loved living just outside of Madrid and periodically on the south coast of Spain for my time on radio, but we got to our mid-60s and felt that it would be a good idea to return to Ireland. We are in good health but even if you are relatively fluent in a language you would still find it difficult coping with illness, or possibly being left on your own to cope with it.
It has been nearly five years now and I miss our friends and the sunshine, having swapped 300 days of blue skies for 300 days of rain! But the warmth of the people here certainly makes up for that. Additionally this last year, there has been a sense of feeling less exposed as we live in a rural area on the coast. Without the usual holidaymakers arriving from Dublin this summer, the incidence of the virus has been much less than it has been elsewhere in Ireland and in the UK. Obviously we are sorry for all the small businesses dependent on this annual influx but it is better to be safe than sorry.
We love our house which took four years to renovate, with some work is still needed in the garden, which is weather dependent. There is enough room to move in some help as we get older, as neither of us are care home material…so the answer is we probably are here for the duration! For the time being lol…
Thank you again Marjorie for inviting me over and I hope that I didn’t outstay
my welcome… I do love to chat… Happy 2021 everyone.
Excerpt from The Scratch Card
Elsie Thompson attended the morning service at St. Cuthbert’s and dropped in to the coffee morning in the church Hall to catch up on the gossip in the parish from the last week. She also wanted to share the good news with her friends that she had won twenty pounds on a scratch card the day before, and she had four crisp five pound notes in her purse to prove it.
Mr. Singh the owner of the corner shop where she always bought her tickets, had beamed at her as he handed over the cash and commented it would not take her far sadly. She laughed and spent one of the fivers on another card, in the hopes another win might get her somewhere with a lot more sunshine than Liverpool. To be honest, even enough for a day out in Southport would be lovely for the both of them, and her husband Frank would enjoy a stroll down Lord’s Street, and she would treat him to a posh tea at the Prince of Wales hotel.
Elsie paid for five cups of coffee and a biscuit for herself and her four friends with one of the remaining fivers, and they sat in a corner happily sharing their news and plans for the following week. It was money well spent, and an hour later, Elsie walked home to get the roast lunch prepared, looking forward to their son Tom’s monthly visit with his wife Steph and their two boys.
As she crossed the main road, she saw a young lad sitting on the pavement outside a closed charity shop, he was playing the guitar, and at the moment the only audience seemed to be his dog leaning up against his shoulder. Elsie paused in her mental preparation of the roast pork with crackling, roast potatoes, carrots, cauliflower cheese and peas, followed by apple pie and custard. The boy’s face was pinched, and he shivered in the cold breeze that had picked up in the last couple of hours. His music was actually not half bad, and he had a nice voice, which drew her closer to hear more clearly. He smiled in recognition of her attention and the dog stood up and wagged its tail.
Elsie looked into the open guitar case and saw a few coppers were strategically scattered to entice further contributions. She had appreciated her own little bit of luck, and a few shillings wouldn’t be missed. She took her purse out of her handbag, opened it and realised she only had some pennies. Shaking her head she pulled out one of the remaining two five pound notes and tucked it beneath some of the coppers to stop it flying away. She looked up into the boy’s face when he suddenly stopped singing and saw tears running down his face into his dirty scarf.
MJ: I’ve read this story and it is one of my favourites!
Sally Cronin is the author of fourteen non-fiction and fiction books published over the last twenty years. After a nomadic life living and working around the world, she and her husband now live on the Wexford coast in Ireland. As an indie author she began blogging seven years ago as a way to promote her own books and then created The Cafe and Bookstore to promote other authors and their work. Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is also home to health, food, music, life stories, poetry and humour.
Latest book: Life is Like a Bowl of Cherries, Sometimes Bitter, Sometimes Sweet
Always so lovely to feature Sally who is such a wonderful supporter of the indie community and a kind friend.
I’m looking forward to reviewing Sally’s new book soon. In the meantime, do pop over to read my 5 star review of Life’s Rich Tapestry:
Much love, happy reading, and writing!