New land…

It’s been months since I joined Instagram. Yesterday, after months of trial, getting cross, error, and giving up, I finally worked out how to get pics onto my account. You have to use your mobile phone. For someone hopelessly devoted to larger machines –  desktop or laptop or even netbook; I’m not fussy – this was an entirely new concept and I’m not sure how I’ll cope there, but that’s a story for the future. For the moment, you can see my page HERE. (It won’t take you long; I’ve only posted four pics so far, including my lantern on the balcony.) We’ll see how I get on over the next few months.

Winter has arrived in N.E. Switzerland and in a lot of other places too, including my website (you may only see it on a desktop pc, but it’s snowing very gently here – I love it! Wish it was only snowing very gently outside, too…) Over the next few weeks we’ll be getting the site organised for next year, so blog posts will be a touch infrequent for the rest of 2017, tho’ I’m planning a ‘Swiss Christmas’ one in a week or two.

Meantime, my books have various promotions and special offers coming up around Christmas, so watch out for some bargains. Most importantly, The Saturday Secret has had its last proper deal as a charity book, and I have sent a Fr.300.- donation to Doctors without Borders.

Donation sent in December 2017.

This makes a total of Fr.500.- altogether – slightly more than it has brought in so far, but I’m confident that by the time its year is up in February, we’ll have reached the magic number.

The next big thing in my writing life will be in January – the cover reveal for A Lake in Switzerland. And I’m having a pen name – sort of – for my feel-good books. As they say, watch this space…

I’ll leave you with some picture-perfect Swiss snow. If you’ve never travelled by ski-lift, this is what it looks like, and no, I didn’t take it…

 

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Feel-good fiction for Doctors without Borders… special offer!

It feels like a long time ago since February, when my charity anthology, The Saturday Secret came out, published by Fabrian Books. 2017 profits from this book are going to Doctors without Borders, who do excellent work where it’s needed most.

Last spring, I sent the first Fr.200.- off, and since then the money’s been accumulating nicely, about half of it gathered by paperback sales carried out by moi, to long-suffering friends, family, and English students. Many of them added a wee donation to the price, so thank you all very much!

 

Donation sent in March.

I’m planning to send a further instalment next week, and this week, it’s on a US/UK kindle special offer – price to you just 99p/c, royalty to me (and the Docs) still the high level. I don’t often say ‘buy my book’ on the blog, but if you click on the cover up there it will take you to your local Amazon store where you can…

For people not covered by Amazon UK or US, I’ll be decreasing the price to 99p/c again over Christmas, but as this will involve the lower royalty rate, if you’re in the UK or US – grab it now. I’ll maintain the Christmas price right up until February 15th, when the charity year ends. Apparently, 99p books have their own set of readers, so hopefully the decrease in royalty will be offset by an increase in sales.

By February, I’m optimistic my book will have made Fr.500.- altogether – it’s looking hopeful so far, so fingers crossed!

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Change of direction…

Think of a road, a straight one, like the ones in films, with one lonely car crossing the desert… Your way is clear for miles ahead.

Life isn’t like that – we can turn corners and take the road less travelled, and that’s what I’m doing with my writing next year. A change is as good as a rest, they say. After seven more or less crime fiction novels, my next two are anything but crime. Come to that, they aren’t novels, either.

At the beginning of this year, I started to write a feel-good story set in Switzerland, with the idea of possibly doing a magazine series. It’s almost a decade since I’ve been published in a mag, and I reckoned the work would be a good contrast to my psych. suspense books. But very soon I realised I was writing a novella. Then I thought, The Saturday Secret is maybe a touch lonely on the fabulous Fabrian Books website…

Long story short, this coming February, my first novella A Lake in Switzerland will be published – BIG thanks here to all at Fabrian Books – and will be followed shortly afterwards by A Spa in Switzerland. I’m working on number three, Trouble in Switzerland now. All are novellas, and each is a finished story within the series. The main character is reluctant nurse Stacy, and – best of all for me – the setting is right here on Lake Constance in N.E. Switzerland.

Of course, Stacy and friends visit other places too. In A Lake… they go to the Falls of Rhine, in between having a shedload of problems in the hotel they’re staying in…

Over the winter I’ll be sharing the cover art (which is going to be fabulous), and more details about publication.

In addition to this, we’ll need to re-jig the website to accommodate all this feel-good stuff. Not sure how that’ll work out, but my website manager (aka Son 2) will doubtless have some ideas. Having an IT professional in the family has its advantages…

And after the novellas? My editor and I are working on another full-length novel too. It isn’t feel-good, but it isn’t exactly crime fiction either. I’m quite excited to see how it progresses!

More book news – The Attic Room is on an Amazon deal this weekend, just 99p/c, UK and US only this time. (An international deal is coming over Christmas.)
And last week I spotted Ward Zero and Death Wish side by side in the charts – first screenshot of these two together!

 

To finish off with, here’s another pic of the views enjoyed by Stacy when she arrives in Switzerland:

 

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Black and white…

I can remember – just – when my parents had a black and white television. I remember my father’s old camera, too, with its black and white photos, most of which are unfortunately now lost. At some point, a new set replaced our b/w one, colour photos arrived too – and that was the start of life in glorious technicolour.

So it was fun last week when I was challenged to the latest ‘thing’ on Facebook:
‘Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.’
I kept the rules on FB, but no explanation was a bit tough. So here are my seven b/w pics of my life – with explanations.

This is the old bridge over the Aare in Olten, Switzerland, where I lived the first year I was here.

Above is part of the remaining old town wall here in Arbon, where I live. It dates around the 13th century.

Now we have my lantern on the balcony. An English class gave it to me when I stopped the day job. It makes for a lovely, spooky winter view, in front of the woods…

This one’s a bit of a cheat because I hit the wrong filter when I was saving it – but it’s so nearly b/w, I just left it… It’s the Scott Monument in Edinburgh, and I’ve climbed all the way up there.

Above is one of my favourite sights…

I took this one last autumn when I was visiting Son 2 in Prague. I have no idea what’s going on there…

This little chap’s in St Gallen, our nearest large town. I’m not sure what he’s about either, but he’s very cute.

Back to the world of colour now. I may have some book news next week… watch this space! 🙂

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Posted in Life in Switzerland, The Writing Life, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Spooky old house revisited…

Back in the nineties, I spent a week with a friend who had just moved to Biddenham. It’s a good area for a visit from Switzerland – Bedford just a hop down the road, and Cambridge and London less than an hour away. I made the most of my UK shopping and culture week.
One day, we visited my friend’s parents-in-law, who lived in a lovely flat by the Great Ouse.

We stood at the window, looking out over the river and the gardens along the bank. A family was grouped on the grass, the father taking photos of a little girl who’d been celebrating her First Communion. The springtime sun was splitting the sky, and swans were gliding along in the water. Little did I know back then that I would take that location, turn it into a spooky old house where horrible things had happened, and put it in my third book, The Attic Room.

On my recent visit to Bedford, I revisited the place I’d seen in my head so often since that day. Here’s the grass where the little girl and her family were. Nina in The Attic Room noticed it, first time she went to the house she’d inherited. (n.b. Nina was there in summer!)

…a wide strip of grass stretching down to the river. Nina gazed out at well-kept flower beds, shady trees, and people on benches enjoying the sunshine.

Here’s the street where Nina’s house would have been. I wonder which one has the attic room… Nina sensed the atmosphere, that first visit:

…a well-proportioned building made of red brick. But it was all so dingy. They’d probably filmed the last Frankenstein movie in here, she thought, giggling nervously when the door creaked.

A whole generation beforehand, Nina’s mother Claire had returned to the area. She walked along by the river, remembering how unhappy she’d been there.

How odd it felt, wandering along the pleasant river pathway. For a long moment Claire stared at her old home, resentment flooding through her.

She sat down on a bench to recover, not thinking for a moment that Robert might be home at two o’clock on a Thursday to notice her. But he was. Claire’s stomach churned.

And that was Claire’s last visit to the house with the attic room, though twenty years later, Nina saw more of it than she wanted to. What did happen there? No spoilers here…

One thing I saw during my visit that neither Nina nor Claire did, was this sculpture. It’s called Reflections of Bedford, by Rick Kirby, and it’s at the end of the pedestrian area in the centre. Headless faces – that’s spooky, too!

Click HERE to see it in Google Maps!

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Posted in My books, The Writing Life, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

An old book and some new/old friends…

I was in England over the weekend – a flying visit from ZĂĽrich Airport to London Luton, and it was my first-ever Easy Jet flight. I was pleasantly surprised – my knees didn’t touch the seat in front, there was an empty place beside me both ways, and we took off and landed punctually.

From Luton, I caught a train to Bedford, where I was staying. Those striking faces on the left were just a few hundred yards from my hotel – macabre, aren’t they?

I had some very bookish plans for my long weekend – Thursday’s highlight was lunch with lovely Jane Isaac. We’ve been virtual friends for years and now, at long last, we managed to meet in person. It’s always lovely to talk to other writers – Jane and I put the publishing world to rights over a baked potato, but to be honest I don’t think either of us noticed the food particularly – it was so nice to chat at last!

On Friday I hopped on a bus to Cambridge to have lunch with Betsy and Fred of Bloodhound Books. There’s something magical about the phrase ‘lunch with my publisher’, isn’t there? And it was fabulous meeting them, though of course, I forgot to take photos, so here’s one of Cambridge instead.

Saturday was my ‘day off’ – I went to London to meet an old friend from my physiotherapy days. It was amazing to see her again, but oh, my, the crowds. We were in the Camden Market area – busy, vibrant, multi-culti – probably very ‘London’ – and definitely crowded!

Back to ‘work’ again on Sunday, and a visit from Georgia Rose – it was books all the way again, and again, I forgot to take pics, so I’ve stolen this one from Facebook. (Taking photos is somewhat hit or miss in my family – we have no pics of my children for the year 2006…)

It was home again the next day for me, but I did manage to take a few photos before I left. One of my books is set in the Bedford area, so I revisited all the places Nina & Co would see every day in The Attic Room. But that will have a blog post all to itself sometime.

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Posted in books, My books, The Writing Life, travel | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Case of the Missing Bride…

…is the intriguing title of Carmen Radke’s historical mystery novel. I read the start in the Amazon ‘Look Inside’ feature, and was instantly hooked. A group of young Australian women, en route for a better life in America, are hidden on board a ship – and one of them goes missing… It was a fabulous read, and I’m very pleased to have Carmen here today to tell us something about her brides, and her shipboard setting.

Over to Carmen:

 

Red Soil and High Seas

The first time I saw a kangaroo hopping on red soil over the TV screen, I fell in love. More than 20 years later I set foot on red soil myself, and all the childhood emotions flooded back. Add to that the thrill of a sea voyage in the time of explorations, and you know why the setting alone would have been enough to make me write The Case of the Missing Bride.

The deciding point though, that made it impossible to get the story out of my mind, was that those young women really existed. They grew up in Victoria, in Australia, struggling with poverty in a country that was both incredibly modern and yet strictly clinging to the values of the British empire they simply called Home.

The few well-to-do, like my heroine Alyssa’s family, emulated a lifestyle that could have come straight out of Jane Austen’s novels, with balls, country visits and parties. For the poor, and their numbers grew rapidly after the gold rush in 1851 had fizzled out, survival was a daily struggle. No wonder that my brides leaped at the chance of marrying men with money in their pockets, no matter how far away.

How lucky they must have felt when they boarded the ship, their few possessions stowed carefully in their wooden boxes.

They would spend months at sea, even with the addition of a steam-engine to the sails that would be used to save precious coal.

Room was scarce, with bunks as tight as possible to save space. But having a bunk of their own, even if they couldn’t stretch out in it, with a pillow and a blanket, was a luxury most of the brides hadn’t encountered. What was deprivation for Alyssa, constituted a soft life for them. No matter the stench of the coal, or tar, or human sweat, they were heading towards paradise. Husbands waiting for them, three fairly decent meals a day (biscuits with or without maggots, boiled salt pork, boiled salt beef, boiled mutton, peas and flour were staples), a few chores they would have done anyway, and having a doctor to look after them in illness – how could they not be happy?

Instead of waking up in a tin hovel in Tin Pan Alley, they woke to the sound of sailors running over wooden planks, the groan of sails, or the belch of the steam engine. Storms had to be endured huddled under deck, or being thrown around like a sack, but they endured it together, and with visions of a good future ahead.

The view the brides would have, approaching San Francisco.

I gave them as much comfort as I could, when it came to creating the vessel they’re sailing on. Although the big ocean-liners haven’t arrived yet, expeditions have been all the rage for decades now, and taking gentlemen explorers as passengers has developed into a lucrative business for shipping companies. Gone are the days when the most precious commodities are carried below deck in bulk.

The brides’ ship has been converted to take advantage of this situation, only to have the War between the States as the American Civil war known back then make a dent in the business.
What was hard on the ships’ owners, was equally hard on the crew, who after dealing with normal cargo all their lives, suddenly found themselves having to deal with the niceties of polite society. I’m sure the Captain found himself incredibly grateful to have at least Matron to chaperone the young women. No wonder he delegated as much of the responsibility as he could.

Thank you, Carmen!

Carmen has spent most of her life with ink on her fingers. She has worked as a newspaper reporter in Germany and New Zealand, but now has swapped the newsroom for a cramped desk in her spare room in the UK. She loves history, travel, and has convinced herself that day-dreaming is considered work. When she’s not writing novels or scripts, she can be found watching films (1930s to 1940s screwball comedies and film noir to blockbusters from the Marvel universe), and planning her next trip.

The Case of the Missing Bride (Bloodhound Books) was her debut novel.

The next one, A Matter of Love and Death, will be published by Bombshell Books under the pen name Caron Albright. It’s due out end of November 2017.

Find more about Carmen on her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon.

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Posted in Guest Posts | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments