The last of summer…

Summer is definitely over. Down on the lake bank yesterday morning, I saw the trees are turning, and in spite of the beautiful sunshine, there was a bite in the air. Time to coorie in for autumn…
But before we get the big slippers out, here are a few bits and pieces left over  from the summer season.

Wedding Bells in Switzerland, the final novella in my series, came out, and the following day I spotted all five books in a nice little row in their category in the Amazon charts. Wrong order, but who’s counting?

Then there was Baby Dear. Amazon take great pleasure in showing it with the most unlikely neighbours, and this was September’s offering. I’m not saying that people who enjoyed A Very Hungry Caterpillar wouldn’t like Baby Dear too, but… Or maybe it’s cross-genre promotion. Gone with the Wind and Where’s Spot (the dog) were a couple of books further down, too.

On a more serious note, Alison Baillie, Louise Mangos and I were delighted to be asked to contribute an article on writing crime in Switzerland for The Woolf, the Swiss writing magazine. You can read the article (Death in Switzerland) HERE, and here’s the photo they used to accompany it, taken a year or two ago at one of Louise’s book launches.

The three of us had several more informal meetings too, along with our women’s fiction writing friend Cass Grafton, who also lives in north Switzerland. It’s always lovely to get together and talk about the ups and downs of the writing life, and if someone’s hit a problem with their plot, we usually find an answer. Here we are at our last meet-up in Zürich. (Prosecco is always involved.)

 

While we’re talking about writerly things, I’m totally in love with my new double-sided bookmarks. Big thanks to son 2 for his hard work on these, and also on the website. Top tip to other writers: if you have children, steer one of them towards IT when they’re at the career-choosing stage. You will never regret it.

 

 

 

We’ll finish off with another of yesterday’s autumnal lakeside photos. (Excuse the cranes; they get everywhere.) In the background you can see most of the Alpstein range, with its highest peak Säntis at just over 2,500m.

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Summer in Switzerland – Einsiedeln and Hoch-Ybrig

It was my first visit to this area, right in the heart of Switzerland. I’d passed by Einsiedeln – best-known for its Benedictine Abbey with the black Madonna – but I’d never actually set foot in the place.

It was a lovely day when my friend and I arrived, but clouds were gathering and we decided to do our walking before they gathered too vigorously. Off we set in the bus to Hoch-Ybrig, where there are a multitude of chairlifts and trails. (We started out at the yellow-labelled lift on the right, and did a series of up, down and along hikes and rides to end up at the yellow Hoch-Ybrig station on the left.)

Going up in chairlift 1. By this time, the clouds were monopolising the sky, but rain wasn’t forecast so we weren’t (too) worried.

Our walk was a mix of cute cows, large hairy centipedes and a steep slope down to the valley.

Up in chairlift 2. By the time we arrived at the top we were beginning to wonder if the weatherman had been right in his rain-free prognosis…

A quick coffee, and down we went, and decided to return to Einsiedeln to see the Abbey. It was spectacular. (And the weatherman was right; the sun was splitting the skies back in Einsiedeln.)

You weren’t supposed to take photos inside so I didn’t, but if you click HERE (Google) then go on Images, there are some fabulous ones. In the distance, we heard the Salve Regina echoing around the abbey as the monks sang, so it was an atmospheric end to the day.

**In other news, Stolen Sister is on a 99p/c UK/US kindle deal, and it’s also free on Amazon Prime UK at the moment, so if you’re a UK Prime member, have a look for some great bargains!**

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The ‘E’ books… #A-Z books 📚

This is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. Don’t worry, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z – each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

 

This time, it’s the E books:

 

First up is A.J. Waines’ newest standalone suspense novel Enemy at the Window, published this summer. I’ve been a fan of Alison’s books for years, and this is a good one – Daniel’s wife is sectioned for stabbing him – but what really happened?
As well as the standalones, Alison writes the Samantha Willerby Mystery Series, and I devour them all as soon as they come out.

 

 

 

Elidor by Alan Garner was one of my childhood favourites. Four children go into a ruined church, and find that time and space are changed. Darkness is spreading and the land of Elidor is dying. Can they save it?
This is the newest cover of Elidor, but I much prefer the one my ancient old paperback has, with the rearing unicorn.

 

 

 

 

Emma and I by Sheila Hocken is another with a newer cover than my edition has, but this time I’m all in favour –  just look at that face! As a teenager, Sheila was gradually going blind, and dreading the future. Then came Emma…
There are several books in this heartwarming series, which was first published in the 70s or 80s.

 

 

Coming next month: the F books. F may be one of the more challenging letters…

(And I’ll just say very quickly that The Paradise Trees is on a UK/US 99p Kindle deal this weekend. As you were.)

 

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The hottest day of the year…

I like hot weather. But 35°C and more is – whisper it – almost too much of a good thing. So a friend and I decided to spend a day up the Flumserberg, in the east of Switzerland. It’s only 60 miles from here so not too much travelling time involved to get there, and at over 2000m we might even see some snow. It would be cooler than down in the valleys – wouldn’t it? After all, it’s a ski area in winter…

So off we set, first in a lovely air-conditioned train and then in an equally air-conditioned Postbus. Up in the chairlift, and we arrived at the start of the Alpenflora Trail, which we intended to hike along. The views down over the Walensee en route were spectacular.

We arrived at the start of the trail and realised – it was still pretty hot up here. We were walking uphill, too. And there wasn’t much shade… But the Alpenflora was interesting.

Part of the way crossed with a Geology Trail that I’ve earmarked for another (cooler) day. I’m not sure what this is, but it made us laugh.

On we went, heat shimmering all around. We did see snow, in patches.

Ta-da! We were at the highest point.

Lunch, and a shady terrace, had never been so welcome.

Afterwards, we sat there, looking at the next chunk of Alpenflora Trail wind round the side of the Flumserberg… in full afternoon sun, a few brave souls inching their way along it in the distance… and we went for the little train down to base camp again. The train was a replacement for a chairlift under revision, and I can honestly say it was the shoogliest ride ever. The driver came into each carriage in turn before we started off and told us that ON NO ACCOUNT were we to stand up until we arrived back down. (And nobody did.)

A boat trip on the Walensee seemed like a good way to end the day. The heat was still smothering, but we had a breeze off the water. It was sensational.

What I learned that day: you’d need to go up a much higher mountain to escape the heat. My city-soul had a thought as we caught the train back home – a shopping centre would have been a whole lot cooler. But then, think of those views…

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Yarn-Bombed in Switzerland…

Our town has a new tourist attraction this summer – the Strickweg, loosely translated, the knitwear trail, which starts by the wool shop in the old Fischmarktplatz. One sunny afternoon, a friend and I set off to investigate. There are over sixty exhibits dotted around the old town and the lakeside, so, in no particular order, here are some of my favourites.

 

First up, the mushrooms – or are they toadstools?

This post by the library usually has a bike or two attached to it.

A lot of trees and railings are attired like the one below – I like the cheerful sunshiney yellow of this one. Note the blue-green lamp post to the left of it.

Down at the harbour now, we have the life belt, just in case… Not sure this one would do in an emergency, though.

But the fishing net behind it is very cute.

Then there was the octopus:

And the hungry mice:

Not to mention the owl…

If I had to choose one favourite, it would be the tree-huggers. We have three altogether, all in a group by the lake.

Another tree gained some cherries:

And yet another some birds:

And we’ll finish off with this very chic tree outside the Wunderbar Hotel:

I hope everyone’s enjoying the tail end of the summer – and if you’re looking for a chiller, The Attic Room is on a 99p/c US/UK kindle deal until Monday. Just sayin’… 🙂

 

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The ‘D’ books… #A-Z books 📚

This is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. Don’t worry, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z – each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, plus a children’s book and an older book.

 

This time, it’s the D books:

 

We start off with multiple Ds – Dead in Deep Water, a cracking read by Dave Sivers. This is the second of Dave’s Archer and Baines books – the fourth was published last week. They are all fabulous murder mysteries and can be read as standalones, though for the detectives’ stories and development I would recommend reading them in order.

 

 

 

 

The Diary of Anne Frank needs no introduction – it’s one of those books everyone should read. I’m not sure how old I was when I read it, but I do remember the shock at the end – I hadn’t realised Anne didn’t survive. She’d have gone on to write so much more, I’m sure, but that’s all lost to us.

 

 

 

 

Demelza is the title of Winston Graham’s second Poldark novel. I read and loved them all many years ago – but my edition, with Angharad Rees who played Demelza in the original TV series, is no longer on Amazon, so here’s a photo of mine. While I’ve enjoyed both TV series, I preferred the original – and the books are even better.

 

 

 

The ‘E’ books will be along in a few weeks, after a couple of Switzerland, travel, and other bookish posts. Meanwhile, let’s enjoy some summer weather and summer reading!

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The ‘C’ books… #A-Z books 📚

This is an adaptation of something I saw on Twitter recently – people were posting 26 books in 26 days, each title beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. (Don’t worry, I’m planning on taking around 26 months to get to Z…) Each month I’ll post a newish book I’ve enjoyed, preferably a friend’s book, plus a children’s book and an older book.

Today it’s the C books (In the interest of having more choice, I’ve decided to ignore ‘the’ and ‘a’ at the start of titles):

 

 

The Case of the Missing Bride by Carmen Radtke. Twenty-two young women set sail from Australia in the 1800s, en route for the US and a nice husband. One of them goes missing. I love mysteries set on boats or planes, there’s something fascinatingly claustrophobic about the idea that the characters can’t escape the setting.

(Click HERE to see Carmen’s blog post about the book.)

 

 

 

 

Chocky by John Wyndham isn’t really a children’s book, but I read and loved it as a young teenager, so here it is. A young boy has an imaginary friend – or does he? Who is Chocky, really? The answer could change the world.

 

 

 

 

Changing Patterns by Judith Barrow is the second of a trilogy, but I was well into it before I realised this – and it can be read perfectly well as a standalone novel. That said, I promptly bought the others too; they’re a glimpse of the world when my parents were dating. Changing Patterns is set shortly after WWII, and nurse Mary’s family is affected more than most by the horrors of war.

 

 

 

Next up, the ‘D’ books, and the blog will be on holiday until then, unless something monumental happens. Enjoy your summer reading!

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Wedding Bells in Switzerland, or, How (not) to organise your wedding…

The fifth and last …in Switzerland novella is out, and to celebrate, the first, A Lake in Switzerland, is absolutely free for a few days! So if you haven’t tried the novellas yet, grab A Lake… and see how you like visiting N.E. Switzerland. (download links at the bottom of the post)

So what went wrong at the wedding? No spoilers here, but Stacy and Rico had some surprising encounters during their wedding, which was in two parts, with the honeymoon in between. That’s what I had too, for my Swiss-UK wedding, but fortunately for my family, the resemblance to my wedding and Stacy’s ends there…

Let’s have a look at some of the places Stacy and Rico visited on their honeymoon, starting out in the lovely Bernese Oberland, where they saw the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains.

While there, they visited Ballenberg, an open air museum with examples of different kinds of old traditional buildings from all over Switzerland, like the one below.

Then it was on to Berne, where they saw the old town and the River Aare, and of course…

…the bears, who have a lovely new bear park by the river.

From there, they went to Basel, and sat with their feet in the Rhine like the people below. (I’ve done that too, it’s wonderful, after a hard day’s sightseeing.)

That was the last stop in the Swiss part of the honeymoon – we’ll catch up with the rest another time.

First appearance in the category charts…

To find Wedding Bells in Switzerland in your local Amazon Store, click HERE, and for A Lake in Switzerland, free atm, click HERE. I hope you enjoy reading about my beautiful adopted country as much as I enjoyed writing about it!

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The Cover Art: Wedding Bells in Switzerland…

The fifth and final novella in my ‘…in Switzerland‘ series will be out later this month – and this time, it’s the wedding! Organising a wedding is never easy, and when the two familes concerned live in separate countries, you’re bound to get extra complications thrown in (as I know…).

Here’s the amazing cover art, huge thanks to James at Go On Write for getting it exactly right! Thanks also to the team at Fabrian Books, to Julia Gibbs for her proofreading skills, and to Yvonne Betancourt for formatting the word doc so quickly.

 

A wedding… that’s a happy time with love and laughter and catching up with old friends – isn’t it? But Stacy has problems she didn’t anticipate when it comes to organising this one.

The mother of the bride has been watching too many old films, something is troubling the bridesmaid, and above all, a mysterious guest called MJ is about to descend on the hotel – but Stacy and Rico have no idea who it is. And that’s before the emergency services of two countries start getting involved…

And even when the honeymoon starts in the lovely Bernese Oberland, it isn’t long before blue lights and sirens have Stacy’s pulse racing again. Surely wedding bells have never been this complicated?

I was sorry to say goodbye to Stacy & Co, but they’ve done very well, considering I started out to write one novella only. I’ve really enjoyed travelling around Switzerland – and neighbouring Germany and Austria – with my characters. I’ve visited all the places mentioned in the series, and apart from Grimsbach, the little village where the Lakeside Hotel is situated, all the locations are real and I have happy memories of each and every one of them. Watch out for some picture posts later this summer!

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From Dark to Light with Jennie Ensor

I’m really pleased to welcome Jennie Ensor back to the blog today. Last time, she told us about her second novel, psychological drama The Girl in his Eyes, and today she’s talking about writing in two genres – her latest book, Not Having It All, is the epitome of something completely different… over to Jennie:

Writing ‘a brazen comedy about the perils of midlife’– the subtitle of my latest book, Not Having It All – was, as you might imagine, hugely different from writing either a psychological mystery (my first novel, Blind Side) or a dark psychological family drama (my second, The Girl In His Eyes).

Not Having It All and The Girl In His Eyes have some elements in common, though. In The Girl In His Eyes, a secret child abuser grooms a 12-year-old girl, the daughter of his wife’s close friend. Some characters in Not Having It All also fight the urge to act on socially unacceptable impulses like committing acts of violence. My latest novel also deals with darker aspects of the psyche, such as obsessive jealousy, coveting another woman’s child and fraud against one’s employer. The two also share (I hope!) strong elements of suspense and family drama, but are totally different in tone.

Whereas the writing and rewriting of The Girl In His Eyes was often difficult, with Not Having It All I had great fun with the structure and plot, and didn’t worry about the story diverging from my outline. The novel is unusual in that it’s composed of emails, letters and journal entries, and told from multiple first-person viewpoints. (Maria Semple’s Where D’You Go Bernadette? has a similar structure.)

What I loved most of all though, was letting my characters speak and act as they wanted, however unreasonably.

Kurt Hudson, the intolerant chief executive of Computer Corp ruminates over whether his wife Bea might be up to no good with her best friend, Maddie. Bea, a phobia researcher, has to cope with her chauvinistic boss ‘the Prof’ and the bad behaviour of her juice/stone-throwing 4-year-old daughter, Fran. Katie, the Hudsons’ childminder who tries her best to cope with Fran and the disobedient family dog Big Ears, secretly drinks Bea’s supply of Triple Sec and writes in her journal that ‘Mr H needs his arse grabbed more often’. Maddie, an unconventional ‘found object artist’ who adores Fran and is desperate to have a child, confides about her opinions about Bea’s childrearing to rather wooden, old-fashioned therapist Mr Rowley. (‘I’d give anything to have her child – a child like hers, I mean’.) Colin, a divorced, about-to-be-axed senior insurance manager at ‘the Nation’s No. 1 Pussy Insurer’ schemes to entice Maddie into his arms while he secretly reimburses 13 unjustly treated customers from company funds.

I also had fun with characters’ names, nicknames and monikers – from Mellow Marty and Sweaty Mike to insurance claimants Mrs Hurtpuss and Mrs Violet Scratched-by-cat-Got-infection-Eyesight-nearly-gone Black. (I smiled to see the list of character names in the novel compiled by my editor, who hinted that I should cut some.)

Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Then there are the farcical, veering towards off-the-wall situations in the novel. While writing about Bea’s experiments at her university, I invented a robotic spider (Grommet) that runs up people’s legs, and a part of the brain (the BOLF). The creative part of my own brain clearly went into overdrive!

It’s certainly been much more enjoyable to talk about this book than it was my last one. It really was a pleasure to write a comedy after working on such a dark, disturbing novel as TGIHE. By then I definitely needed a good laugh! Black comedy is one of my favourite types of humour – I love having a good chuckle at something totally inappropriate.

As far as post-writing things go, switching genres can be tricky. It is probably easier in some ways to have just one set of readers than two sets, even if there is some overlap. It took a while to come up with a new tagline for my website banner: ‘From dark psychological fiction to daring comedy’, and it’s still not right. On the other hand, it’s definitely more satisfying I think to write what one feels like writing with the hope that one will somehow find new readers.

I’ve started to plan and research my next novel. Although the setting is dark and gritty, I’ll do my best to find a way to incorporate some humour into it!

Thank you, Jennie! And having laughed my way through Not Having It All, I can thoroughly recommend it! Find out more about Jennie Ensor and her books below:

Jennie’s website and blog   Facebook   Twitter   Instagram   Amazon

A Londoner with Irish heritage, Jennie Ensor began her writing career as a journalist, winning two student awards and covering topics from forced marriages to mining accidents. She’s tackled controversial issues in her novels, too – terrorism, gangsters and war crimes in her debut Blind Side (Unbound, 2016); child abuse and sexual exploitation in her second novel THE GIRL IN HIS EYES, a psychological family drama (Bloodhound Books, 2018).

Her third novel, NOT HAVING IT ALL: a brazen comedy about the perils of midlife, is published by Bombshell Books on 28th May 2019. It’s a laugh-out-loud family-life comedy about a woman torn between the demands of her family and her science career.

Jennie Ensor’s poetry has appeared in many publications, e.g. Ink Sweat and Tears. In her spare time, she sings in a choir and dreams of setting off on a long trip with her Kindle.

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