Visiting Susanna Bavin…

A few weeks ago, writer Susanna Bavin, who writes as herself, Polly Heron and Maisie Thomas, invited me back to her blog to talk about cover love. It’s a great topic for a blog series, because while the main job of a cover image is to be eye-catching, what makes a good cover for a romance is not what makes a good cover for a thriller – and we can argue about the pros and cons of sticking to what’s in fashion or not, too.
I went with my newest book, Pact of Silence, whose cover was designed by Jayne Mapp, who covered Daria’s Daughter too. I wanted to reblog the post, but that doesn’t seem to work with Susanna’s website and mine, so I’ll put the link to the post HERE. Have a look and see what you think – and check out Susanna’s books while you’re there, too!

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Terri Nixon

The idea behind the Classic Comfort posts is that each featured writer chooses a favourite title from the classics – we’ll define ‘classic’ as pre-1940 – and a favourite comfort read, a book they always return to, for whatever reasons. As third book in each post, we’ll have one by the writer.

This week, it’s Terri Nixon, who writes women’s fiction and sagas as herself, and crime fiction as R.D. Nixon. Terri’s new book, A Cornish Homecoming, will be published on December 2nd, but more about that at the end of the post.

Over to Terri:

Classic:

Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott

The Waverley Novels are hard on the eye, but my word they’re balm to the soul! Kenilworth gives us an inside look at the Elizabethan Royal Court – with all its Machiavellian mischief and intrigue – all wrapped up in the tragic story of the Earl of Leicester’s besotted and doomed first wife, Amy Robsart. The ‘lesser’ characters are so colourful too, and I often find myself laughing aloud reading these novels – not something you immediately think of when someone mentions Walter Scott!

Comfort:

The Stand, by Stephen King.

It doesn’t feel right to be citing something that tackles global destruction, particularly at the ‘hands’ of a virus, as a comfort read! But the characters feel so much like old friends, and the story is so familiar to me, that the reason for the devastation almost doesn’t matter. I know whole passages by heart, but I still devour every word. Tremendous battle between good and evil, apocalyptic showdown, conflict, romance, and high adventure… Can’t really ask for more!

The book in the picture was a birthday gift from back in 1990; I’ve read it almost every year since!

Thank you, Terri!
Terri’s coming book is the third and final book in her Fox Bay saga; a family drama set on the west coast of Cornwall during the glamorous jazz age. Here’s the blurb:

1930, Liverpool. Reformed con-artist Leah Marshall has long yearned for the thrills of her former life. Now she has the chance to relive it all as an exciting new ‘game’ beckons, but she soon discovers the rules have changed. One slip-up and she could lose everything . . . including her life.

Back home in Cornwall, the Foxes are making their own difficult decisions. An old agreement has turned sour, putting the hotel at risk once more, and the children have grown and are embarking on their own, sometimes perilous, paths. Matriarch Helen Fox knows she must take charge of her own future now, or be left alone while her family and home splinter around her. Should she hold on a little longer, or let go and move on?

But when a new and deadly danger steps through the revolving doors of Fox Bay Hotel, Helen finds it might not be her choice to make after all . . .

Terri Nixon was born in Plymouth, England. At the age of 9 she moved with her family to Cornwall, to a small village on the edge of Bodmin Moor, where she discovered a love of writing that has stayed with her ever since. She is the author of The Oaklands Manor Trilogy, the Lynher Mill Chronicles, and The Penhaligon Saga, all through Piatkus – an imprint of Little, Brown.

Terri’s alter-ego is R.D. Nixon, whose first thriller, Crossfire, is published by Hobeck Books.

Both of them work in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business at the University of Plymouth.

You can find out more about all Terri’s books on her website, Facebook and on Twitter, where she has a second account here for her crime fiction as R.D. Nixon.

Next month, we have Mandy James with her choice of Classic Comfort books, and next week, I’m trying something new on the blog. I’m not sure it’ll work, so watch this space!

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Almost #SilentSunday…

Having revisited the trees I photographed in September and October, I’ve decided not to continue with the series. I guess I picked the wrong trees for pictureque November photos…

Instead, here are some definitely pretty pics of autumn in Switzerland:

Farmhouse in Grindlewald, in the Bernese Alps
Laax, near Chur, something over an hour south of here in the car
Basle, and the Rhine
Geneva

Next week, we’re having writer Terri Nixon and her choice of classic comfort reads – see you then!

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Taster: Pact of Silence

It’s two more days until Pact of Silence hits the stores. We’ve had some lovely reviews from ARC readers and bloggers; huge thanks to you all. I know not everyone likes every book – I don’t either, but it’s always such a relief when those early reviews are good.

So what’s it about, Pact of Silence? Emma and her husband Luke move from their flat in York to the countryside. Emma’s astounded when Luke springs the move on her, but country life will be best for the baby she’s expecting, won’t it? All that fresh air – and she can grow veggies.
Little does Emma know that the family she married into has a deep, dark secret. Two secrets, in fact. The first inkling she gets comes on the day she decides to start a veggie plot and digs up – what?

The book begins with a prologue, but I’ll share the first couple of pages of chapter one here: (Excuse WordPress formatting.)

Chapter One
Sunday, 14th March

The best thing about living bang in the centre of York was that you could walk home after a meal out with an old friend. Emma Carter crossed the road and waved to Jasmin as the other woman’s car passed by. They’d be able to do this more often now that Jas was living in Leeds and not London.

The floodlit towers of York Minster provided a breathtaking backdrop as Emma hurried on. She would usually stop and admire it – but not tonight. Luke would be home now, and wow, oh wow, at long last she could share the news she’d been keeping from the world since Friday. Telling your guy he was going to be a dad was definitely something you wanted to do face to face, but Luke had spent the past five days in Ralton Bridge, helping his parents after last week’s storm demolished half their roof. Emma thrust her hands into her jacket pockets. It was still blustery even in town, and of course it had been a whole lot worse out in the wilds of Yorkshire where Marie and Euan lived. But Luke had coped. He was lovely like that, her Luke. A kind person, and oh, this was going to be so good. Their baby – they’d be a family.

Emma laid a hand on her middle, fingers spreading protectively. It would be okay this time. She…

Her footsteps faltered as she rounded the corner into Aaron Street, then stopped. Glassy black windows were clearly visible in their mid-terrace home, a ground floor flat with a lovely view of the Minster from the living area. That was – odd. Luke had left Ralton Bridge over an hour ago; he’d texted her before driving off. Even in the rush hour it didn’t take all this time to get here, and Sunday evening traffic was usually light. Hopefully they hadn’t had a power cut or something equally disastrous. Imagine trying to get hold of an electrician at ten o’clock on Sunday evening.

Five paces on, the mystery deepened, because there was the car, parked on the street instead of in their private space behind the building. Had Luke brought his parents back for some reason? The private space was narrow and tended to be muddy underfoot, and Euan’s hip made walking on slippery surfaces hard for him. Emma hurried the twenty metres to the flat, fumbling in her handbag for her keys.

Inside, she clicked the hallway light switch, and the hall table and coatstand were illuminated in the usual way. She headed straight into the main room. ‘Luke – are you okay? I saw the car.’

He was standing in the kitchen area, an almost empty glass of red wine in one hand. Emma stopped dead. Here in the dimness, with the Minster floodlights throwing eerie shadows across the room, Luke looked like all the ghosts in medieval England had been chasing him down the A19. In the course of four days, he seemed to have lost his upright posture, and dark, staring eyes in a pale face completed the panda look.

He put his glass down on the kitchen island and came to meet her, enveloping her in a tight, silent hug, a pulse in his neck throbbing against Emma’s cheek as if he’d been running.

It was a moment before he spoke. ‘I’m fine. I just wanted to get inside quickly.’

Emma pressed her face against him, breathing in his familiar aftershave, then leaned back to see him properly. Luke might be fine, but something wasn’t. She’d never seen him like this, eyes shifting all over the place and hands trembling against her back. After a few days away her husband was usually more of a ‘whirl you round the room and into bed’ kind of guy.

‘Luke? Is something the matter with your parents?’

He kissed her forehead. ‘Let’s sit down. Glass of Merlot?’

Emma shook her head. By the look of things, the wine would have helped, but even the odd glass was off the menu now that a baby was on the way. She poured orange juice into a tall glass while Luke topped his up with wine.

He took a big swallow. ‘It’s Dad, Em. He needs another hip replacement.’

Frowning, Emma took her juice across the room to the sitting area. A second hip replacement didn’t sound like a terribly big deal. Euan’s first hip had been done about ten years ago, and she’d heard the story of the wound infection and subsequent long stay in hospital, but surely that wouldn’t happen again?

‘He’ll be worried after last time, I suppose.’ She let her voice trail away. Was this really about a hip replacement?

Luke joined her on the sofa, then knocked back half his wine in two gulps. Emma removed the glass from his grasp and put it on the coffee table, then took both his hands in her own.

‘Luke. I can see something’s up. Just tell me.’

Silence for two beats. Then: ‘We’re going to swap houses with Mum and Dad.’

He stared at her, then at the floor. Emma froze, shock fizzling through her. The flat belonged to Luke; he’d bought it before they met with money he’d inherited from his grandmother, but for heaven’s sake, they were married. Wasn’t this something that merited a discussion, not a blunt, ‘we’re moving’? Ralton Bridge was a charming little place in the stretch between the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales and Luke had grown up there, but he’d never spoken of any wish to go back. And they’d only just finished doing up the flat.

She jerked her hands free. ‘I don’t… Luke, why?’ And where had the macho announcement come from, for heaven’s sake? He wasn’t usually like that.

He pulled her close again. ‘I’m sorry to spring it on you like this, but Mum and Dad are desperate. They can’t cope with a big house any longer, and now Dad’s hip’s playing up and Mum’s terrified he’ll fall downstairs. You know how nervy she is, and with Dad being a bit older and another operation, they need a much smaller place. And preferably one without that big garden.’

His voice fell to a whisper on the last few words. Emma took a sip of juice, struggling to find the right questions.

‘Okay, I can see that. But wouldn’t it be better if they just sold the house and found a little bungalow? I thought you loved living here, and I certainly do.’

 ‘I do too, but, um, Mum and Dad made a really generous offer. Financially, I mean. It’s a good-sized place, Emmy, and we could make it fabulous. It’s a house that could give us a future, don’t you think?’

This would be the time for her news, but the joyful announcement she’d dreamed of making stuck in Emma’s throat. Look at his eyes, roaming around the room, not meeting hers for more than a mini-second at a time. There was something he wasn’t telling her…

And of course, they move to the country. You can read the rest from Tuesday, but as family secrets go, this one was a biggie.

Pact of Silence is available to pre-order in paperback and kindle on Amazon here, and the paperback can be ordered from bookshops everywhere too.

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I #amwriting #books in Switzerland…

I have a couple of pieces of book news to share this weekend.

First of all, Pact of Silence, suspense novel eleven (I can hardly believe I’ve written eleven…), is up on pre-order now, to be published on November 16th. Nine days to go! Big thanks here to the wonderful Hobeck Books. Pact of Silence will have a blog post all to itself next week, so I’ll leave anything more about it until then.

A yellow T-shirt, stained with – what? More big thanks to Jayne Mapp Design for the chilling cover image.

And now for something completely different – my old “…in Switzerland” feel-good novella series about the Lakeside Hotel. These are still unavailable while I work them into full-length novels.
It’s quite a big project, and it got off to a false start when I combined novellas one and two into a new first book in the series. By the time I had gone on to work novella three into a full-length novel, adding a new pov character, extra scenes and more detail about all the characters, I could see that the double story-arc of the new first book didn’t work half as well as the book I’d just completed. So back I went and started again with the first one. Now, the new books one and three in the series are almost ready, while new book two should be finished around the start of next year, at which point I’ll carry on converting novellas four and five. Watch this space for more news about what I’ll do with them. (I don’t know either at the moment, but hopefully that will become clearer over the next month or two.)

I do have another suspense work-in-progress too, though progress isn’t quite the best word here. Pact of Silence was a hard book to write, and I feel I need a break from crime fiction. For a little while. But I do have some very nice news about one of my older books. Chosen Child was on a BookBub deal last week, and picked up an orange flag in the UK, Canada and Australia. It’s not very often I get to jump up and down about three orange flags all at once, so believe me, I was jumping… I won’t bore you with all three images – this is Australia’s and the other two look pretty similar. 🙂
(I’ll just mention that the 99p price tag will change back to the regular price sometime tonight, so if you’re looking for a bargain – go!)

And that’s my news for this week. Next Sunday I’ll have more news and info about Pact of Silence, and meantime, I’ll leave you with another lovely lake in Switzerland photo.

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Polly Heron

The idea behind the Classic Comfort posts is that each featured writer chooses a favourite title from the classics – we’ll define ‘classic’ as pre-1940 – and a favourite comfort read, a book they always return to, for whatever reasons. As third book in each post, we’ll have one by the writer.
This week, we have Polly Heron, aka Susanna Bavin, who writes lovely saga fiction. Many of her books are set around the time when my grandmother was a girl, and it’s so interesting reading about what life might have been like then. Over to Polly!

Classic:

Short story collections from the 1920s and 1930s
I have always been a reader of short stories. In particular I love the collections that were put together in 1930s, with titles such as The Mammoth Book of Thrillers, Ghosts and Mysteries and A Century of Humour, which was one of a series of A Century of… books. What better way to be introduced to writers such as Wilkie Collins, Guy de Maupassant, O Henry and W W Jacobs? My first taste of G K Chesterton was the wonderfully funny The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown, which I re-read regularly. The Mammoth Book mentioned above even contained a ‘sealed section’ at the end, with stories to make you ‘glance over your shoulder and perhaps even start when there is a creak on the stair.’

Comfort:

Cosy crime plus Christmas – what more could you possibly want?! I read this book every couple of years in the run-up to Christmas and the fact that I know it inside out (including, of course, whodunnit) doesn’t stop me loving it every time. It’s all the Christmassy stuff that I love, as Susan, an American housewife and mum, does all the cooking, baking and decorating at the same time as solving the crime. The family dynamics are beautifully realised and I’m a sucker for all those Christmas preparations.

Thank you, Polly! Christmas with the Surplus Girls was released earlier this month, so I haven’t read it yet, but I’m sure it’ll be a lovely read like the other two! Here’s the blurb:

After the sorrows of war, can Christmas wishes come true?

Manchester, 1922:
Nancy Pike is out of her depth at Miss Hesketh’s school for surplus girls, blundering through her lessons and her job placements. Her only joy is getting to know the children at St Anthony’s orphanage. And working for Mr Zachary Milner twice a week.

Alone in the world since the death of his brother, Nancy’s presence has brought a little sunshine back into Zachary’s life. But when she makes a terrible mistake that puts his livelihood in jeopardy, he has no choice but to let her go.

As she battles the prejudices around her, and her own fear, Nancy is determined to bring some Christmas cheer to the orphanage – and maybe even to Zachary Milner…

The third in a quartet of sagas set during the early 1920s, following four Surplus Girls – those women whose dreams of marriage perished in the Great War, after the deaths of millions of young men – and the new lives they forged for themselves.

Polly Heron lives on the beautiful North Wales coast with her husband and their two rescue cats. She is originally from Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Manchester, where her family has lived for several generations and which provides the setting for her family sagas. She also writes as Susanna Bavin.

You can find out more about Polly on her website and on Twitter.

Next month, we’re having Terri Nixon, who writes women’s fiction and crime fiction, and her choice of books.

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October trees… #SilentSunday

Four weeks ago, I took some tree pics here in N.E. Switzerland – and last week, I returned to photograph the same trees. Some are very different, others are still clinging on to those last remnants of summer. We have September above, October below:

We’ll see what they look like next month!

Next week, we’re having Susanna Bavin aka Polly Heron with her choice of classic comfort reads – see you then!

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The Case of the Budgie in the Garden…

When I was a small child, my parents were enthusiastic potato-growers. At least my father was, I’m not sure Mum was quite as passionate about it but she did her bit bravely. We lived in a cottage flat with a moderate chunk of garden, and the vegetable (ie potato) patch was pretty much in the middle.

I remember one time, I must have been five or six, Mum was digging the potato patch and came across a fragment of china with a blue and white pattern on it. I was fascinated – what had it been? Whose was it? How had it got into the pototo patch? Were there any other pieces in there?

Mum couldn’t answer any of that, and we didn’t find any other pieces – but she told me the story of the budgie.

This had happened when she was much younger, and I think she’d have been living in a tenement flat at the time. I’m hazy on the details but the next part is a vivid picture in my head. Mum and/or Granny was digging in the garden, and came across a buried tin box, the kind you’d keep loose tea in. It was squarish with a black and faded gold pattern on it, and there was something inside. They opened it, and found – a budgie. A dead blue budgie, in perfect condition, looking as if it might have flown away any moment. I guess the box had been airtight.

I had more questions. Whose budgie was it? How long had it been there? What did you do with it?

She could answer one of those. They buried it right back where they’d found it.

The story stuck in my head, a kind of beautiful horror-picture of a dead blue budgie in a tin box. It had two lasting results. One, decades later when my own children were young and we came to the stage of burying deceased budgies and guinea pigs etc, I made very sure that our beloved pets were laid to rest decently wrapped in kitchen paper. (And ten years after that I showed the people who bought the house exactly where the pet graveyard was. I’ve no idea how long guinea pig bones would stick around for, but I didn’t want this couple’s children traumatised by digging them up…)

The second result was Pact of Silence, due to be released next month. I was hunting around in my head a couple of years ago for a starting point to the plot:
Imagine you move to a lovely old house in the country. Generous garden, perfect for bringing up a family. You choose a place for your veggie plot and start digging. And you find…
Buried treasure? No…
A dead body? No…
It was something much, much worse.

More on that in due course. The budgie in the tin did feature in an early draft of the book, but it didn’t make it to the final version, so I’m leaving the story here on my blog.

Click to see the trailer Hobeck Books have made for the book. 😱


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Classic Comfort Reads… with A.J. Griffiths-Jones

The idea behind the Classic Comfort posts is that each featured writer chooses a favourite title from the classics – we’ll define ‘classic’ as pre-1940 – and a favourite comfort read, a book they always return to, for whatever reasons. As third book in each post, we’ll have one by the writer.

This week, we have A.J. Griffiths-Jones, who writes true crime, crime fiction & mysteries. She’s also one of the most supportive authors out there, so big thanks and – over to AJ!

Classic:

This is a book that has always fascinated me & I’ve read it more times than I can remember. An absolute masterpiece of the horror genre, it begins with Jonathan Harker travelling to Transylvania to help Count Dracula to purchase property in England. Using guile, charm & cunning the Count soon pulls Harker into a series of tragic blood-curdling events.

Stoker was brilliant at setting the scene & the descriptions in this work are amazing. It’s no wonder that Dracula is still read all over the world with relish.

Comfort:

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith is the first instalment of a brilliant series about larger-than-life amateur sleuth Precious Ramotswe. Precious is a really colourful character, solving cases with unconventional methods & a cheery disposition, whether it be hunting wayward daughters, devious conmen or philandering husbands.

I first discovered this series after a holiday in Gambia & was drawn in by the African setting. It’s one of those reads that you can pick up and chuckle over when you’re feeling down & Precious Ramotswe will warm your being like a big heartfelt hug!

Thank you, AJ! I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of AJ’s books now – she creates lovely characters, which I always enjoy. Isobel is the first book in her Mallery & Hobbs Murder Case series and like the others, it has a gorgeous, eye-catching cover image. Here’s the blurb:

As the sleepy French village of Saint Margaux eagerly awaits its new resident, in the form of pastry chef Isobel Gilyard, tongues are already wagging. A few days later, when vineyard owner Cecile Vidal is brutally murdered, fingers naturally point towards the newly arrived Englishwoman. Suspicion is not without foundation, as Isobel was seen near the murder scene, and holds some deadly secrets of her own.

As Inspector Max Mallery tackles his first case for Bordeaux police, he’s thrown a curveball in the form of Yorkshire detective Jack Hobbs who joins the team with enthusiasm and English wit. As investigators untangle a tightly woven web of clues, Isobel finds herself trapped on the wrong side of the law.

A.J. Griffiths-Jones is a full-time author, crime researcher & genealogist from Shropshire, U.K. She has travelled extensively & spent a large part of her working life in China, where she was Language Training Manager for Citibank, in Shanghai. A.J. writes across many different genres, both fiction and non-fiction, and spends her free time visiting different countries, swimming & cooking.

You can find out more about AJ and her books on her website (check out the recipes, too) on Twitter and Facebook.

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September trees… #SilentSunday

The trees are just beginning to turn… I took some almost-autumn tree pics this week, and weather permitting, I’ll do some October pics with the same trees next month.

Next week, we’re having A.J. Griffiths-Jones, with her choice of classic comfort reads – see you then!

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