If wishes were horses…

When I was a child, my greatest wish was to own a pony. Unfortunately, we lived in the middle of Glasgow, and a pony would have decimated the family finances anyway. I had to make do with a budgie, and a visit to the ponies on Ayr beach in the summer hols. So, like beggars, I didn’t ride.

Joya is eight years old, and she’s growing up in Glasgow too. She’s one of the main characters in my new book, Death Wish, and she’s special to me because, although all my books have child characters, this is the first time I’ve given a ‘point of view’ voice to a child. We get right inside Joya’s head in the story, so we know exactly what she thinks and feels  – and wishes. She doesn’t formulate her wish in words, but like most children, she wants to be happy and she wants her family to be happy too, her mum and dad and Grandma Vee. She doesn’t know how fleeting happiness can be.

Martine is Joya’s mum, and she has one very simple, very understandable wish – she wants to live. And she knows better than most people that wishes aren’t horses…
Leo is Martine and Joya’s neighbour, and like Joya, he wants to be happy. But Leo makes the biggest mistake ever, a mistake that could destroy his happiness and his partner Ashley’s – a mistake that directly affects the family next door, too.

Death Wish will be available from August 31st, and is on preorder now. Bloodhound Books have made a lovely striking banner for it – click the pic for book and pre-order details:

And for those who haven’t read Baby Dear – it’s half-price now, for a limited time!

Going back to my own greatest wish, I never did own a pony. When I was old enough to afford them, I started riding lessons – and discovered I’m allergic to horsehair. Wishes definitely aren’t horses…

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Up the Scott Monument…

Every time the boys and I go to Edinburgh, someone says, ‘Shall we go up the Scott Monument?’ We don’t often – sometimes it’s shut, sometimes the weather isn’t suitable, and then there’s that narrow spiral staircase with 287 steps to the top… You need to be at your best for that.

The Scott Monument sits in the middle of Edinburgh, between the castle and Princes Street, and apparently it’s the largest monument ever built to a writer. (Sir Walter Scott.)

One year, we did go up, and I came across the photos recently while reorganising my newly-found files.

You start off feeling quite fit, but the stairs seem to get steeper – and narrower.

Fotrunately, you emerge every so often onto a platform, where you can catch your breath and admire the views. (Apologies for the slightly squint nature of some of these pics; I’m not terribly good at heights…)

It was one of the years they were digging up Princes Street for the tram lines.

However, once you do get to the top, it’s definitely worth it. That’s the castle below,

and the view down to the Firth of Forth.

It was pretty blowy at the top, but then you’re a long way up. I think this was the second highest platform.

Waverley Station’s on the right there, named after Scott’s novel.

The view right along Princes Street, which was traffic-free for a year or two. Nowadays, shiny white trams roll along there. I enjoyed my visit to the Scott Monument, but I’m not sure I’ll go up again. A trip on one of those trams sounds like a more restful holiday idea!

 

 

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Reichenau…

…is a tiny island on our lake. It belongs to Germany, and over the centuries has been home to over 20 churches and chapels, though only three remain. Last week I went there with a couple of friends – the original plan was to bike round the island (only 11km), but as it was well over 30°C we went round by bus instead, and spent quite a lot of time in a shady restaurant eating lake fish and drinking local wine. 🙂

This is such a lovely area, especially in summer, when there are Zeppelins flying around. I’d love to go up, for the views, but I’m not a keen flyer at the best of times, and Zeppelins have really small cabins. (That’s the cabin attached to the underside of the rest of it.)

You don’t see the mountains from where we were, but there’s a lot of green, and blue.

We looked over to the Swiss side of the lake, where Napoleon III had his place at Arenenberg.
Reichenau is famous in the area for its vineyards, and vegetable production. Apparently, they produce around five million cucumbers every year. There’s a large store where you can buy local produce – we didn’t, because it was so hot and the car was back on the Swiss side of the lake, but one day I’ll make the trip again and go by bike.

Back in Switzerland by late afternoon, we sat on the terrace of a lovely little lakeside restaurant (Haus zum Schiff, if you’re ever in Ermatingen) and had coffee and cake and ice cream, and watched the world go by…

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Weather mixed…

Back in the day, a summer holiday postcard from friends or family was an almost daily occurrence. I remember my mother having a long row on the mantelpiece, and I would stand on tiptoe to see them all. Most were of UK destinations, and most contained a reference to the weather.
Weather lovely!! Or: Weather mixed. Or (the most sinister): Weather very mixed. Which probably meant it had rained every day except one…

Nowadays, we whack off photos to our nearest and dearest every time we see something worth a pic, and sometimes when we see things not worth a pic, too. I could have done without the photo of the dead bird on the balcony, kindly sent by Son2 when he returned home a few days ahead of me one time. (To do him justice, he did remove it before I arrived.) Photos of drinks or dinners is another favourite, and we all get dozens of selfies of loved ones obliterating their holiday destinations. It’s all great fun, though I’m never sure whether to keep them or not. One ‘rule’ is, if it doesn’t have a person in it, ditch it, unless it’s truly earth-shattering. But then, what is a person?? (That’s Chicago down there, and two of those feet belong to one of my children…)

Last week, the weather in Switzerland was very mixed, so I started to sort through some old photo files. These were the ones I had on my old laptop when I unleashed a load of malware a year or two ago, and they contained scans of old family pics as well as more recent photos. I found them again on a frail and ancient stick that was a freebie from one of my English students, way back. There are some almost-forgotten gems here, too.

Not sure what’s in there…

I’ve worked though about a tenth of the files – wonder what else I’ll find? Watch this space.

One image I was really pleased to get last week was the file for my new book cover – and here it is:

Thank you Bloodhound Books! (More about this later.)

Meantime, big thanks to Alison, Helen and Geoff for their guest posts about Greece, France, and nowhere in particular – you can see some fabulous photos there, and I’ll have some proper ones of my summer in Switzerland soon too!

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A Perfect French Setting

Helen Pollard is on the blog today, talking about the lovely setting – a guesthouse in the French countryside – she chose for her bestselling trio of novels. Book number three, Summer at the Little French Guesthouse is out now – and I must say, summer in a French guesthouse sounds amazing!

Over to Helen:

As I finished writing Book 3 of my Little French Guesthouse series, it struck me how much I’ve come to love their setting.

That thought made me smile – after all, I chose the Loire valley for the trilogy because I’d enjoyed our family holidays in the area so much.

But a few photos and enjoyable memories don’t suffice when it comes to immersing your reader in a place. For all three books, I spent a lot of time on internet research – making sure I had my facts straight and ‘revisiting’ the places I was writing about, sometimes at Google Street View level, so I could picture it perfectly when I wrote.

And in the course of that research and the writing, I fell in love with the area all over again.

When I started writing the first book, the Loire region seemed perfect for my needs. I wanted somewhere with distinctive character, recognisable countryside and interesting places to visit.

It has that typical French countryside we all imagine – vines…

… and sunflowers…

… and plenty of châteaux…

…and historic towns with old streets and buildings.

I wanted to get across to the reader why Emmy loves the place so much and is tempted to make a new life for herself there.

Many of the places in the books are real. La Cour des Roses itself is imaginary, based very loosely on a gîte where we once stayed – I wanted the freedom to build the place exactly as I wanted it in my imagination. As for the local town, Pierre-la-Fontaine, that too is imaginary but it’s based closely on a town we got to know in the area. Again, I wanted the freedom for the town to suit my purposes, and I didn’t want to feel constrained by the actual streets and facilities there.

In newly-released Book 3, Summer at The Little French Guesthouse, Emmy is busy preparing for her upcoming wedding and fending off her manic mother, as well as managing the guesthouse and running her own business, but she still finds time to enjoy the simpler things in life – cycling, canoeing, coffee with friends in the local town square.

As ever, immersing myself in the place as I wrote made me feel almost homesick, anxious to get back there myself, sometime soon – and I’ve had to frequently remind myself that La Cour des Roses doesn’t really exist, even though, after writing three books set there, it seems as though it should!

Thank you, Helen! Here’s the blurb for Summer at the Little French Guesthouse:

Summer sun, chilled, white wine, and a gorgeous fiancé. Nothing could upset pure bliss … Right?

Emmy Jamieson loves her new life in the gentle hills and sunflowers of the lush French countryside, managing La Cour des Roses, a beautiful, white stone guesthouse. With marriage to caramel-eyed Alain just round the corner, things couldn’t be more perfect.

The odd glass (gallon) of wine dulls the sound of Emmy’s mum in full motherzilla-of-the-bride mode, and the faint tinkling of alarm bells coming from Alain’s ex are definitely nothing to worry about. Guesthouse owner Rupert and a whole host of old and new friends are there to make sure nothing gets in the way of Emmy’s happiness.

But as Emmy gets close to the big day, a secret from the past throws everything decidedly off track. Will her idyllic French wedding go ahead as planned, or will Emmy run back home to England with a broken heart?

This summer, escape to the rolling vineyards of France for an utterly uplifting read. Fans of Jenny Colgan, Debbie Johnson and Nick Alexander will want to join Emmy for a pain au chocolat in the sun-drenched garden at La Cour des Roses.

As a child, Helen had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook.

She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart.

When she’s not writing, Helen enjoys reading, scrapbooking and watching old seventies and eighties TV shows.

Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

You can find out more about Helen and her books on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.

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Buster & Moo: Everything in its place

One day a few years ago, I was searching around on Twitter and came across Geoff Le Pard. His then-new book title was attention-grabbing: Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle. After a brief Twitter-chat, I went to look at his blog, and have followed him ever since. Today I’m really pleased to welcome him here to talk about his (highly entertaining; I’ve read it) new novel, Buster And Moo, and a few other things.

Over to Geoff:

So how important is setting? I have now written four books and the first three are set in very specific places. In one I made up a town in Oklahoma; this one  – My Father and Other Liars – also took my characters from San Francisco to London, Nicaragua to Washington as well as the mythical Beaumont, Oklahoma. In each I was careful to make sure my readers felt comfortable that they could visualize the setting, even if they had not been there. Being ‘grounded’ in this way is, for a lot of readers, as important as being able to visualize the characters.


When I came to write Buster & Moo, my latest novel, my inclination was to base in in my home city of London. Indeed, in my part of south London. But my last book is, in part set near where I live and I am loath to repeat myself. One aim I had when I started writing was to try and be different each time, whether it was genre or tense or point of view. That rule will be broken in the future as I write a sequel to my first novel but, hey, we can break our own ‘rules’!

If I wasn’t going to base it in London, where should it be?

I decided to take a radical step; I wouldn’t say. Those people who have read Buster & Moo have not commented beyond ‘I assumed it was in London’. At least they haven’t commented adversely!

However, doing this creates a set of challenges. First up is to create somewhere that works for my idea of the story; as with all ‘creative’ bits of writing that is part of the fun. Then there is the consistency needed to avoid eagle-eyed readers spotting continuity errors. That is often not so much a problem with a real place with which the author is familiar. The biggest challenge though was to make it interesting without being distracting. When I created Beaumont, I had one character reading the wiki entry for it on his way to visit from Washington. A cheap device or a neat trick? You’ll have to decide when you read it! But in this case I was determined not to name it or place my setting near any particular English town or city. Indeed, you can only tell it is in England from the very English features such as the trains and cafes and how the police work.

Now I’ve written this, all you expectant readers will be scouring the story for accidental clues I’ve left that give away the fact that, of course, as with most characters, my town is based in some sort of reality. Authors in my experience squirrel away elements of people which they call to mind when they create their characters – in Salisbury Square, I had one of my two protagonists compulsively rubbing his hands down his thighs, a tick that I took from an old French teacher at school; it was bloody irritating then as I hope it suggested it was to the other characters in the book. I’ve done the same when coming up with my ‘new-where’; I wonder which, if any, you might spot?

Thank you, Geoff! And here’s the blurb for Buster and Moo:

With their relationship under pressure, is adopting a dog the best decision for Mervin and Landen? As they adapt to fit the animal into their busy lives a chance encounter with Dave and Sheri, the dog’s previous owners, develops into something more and the newfound friendship is tested to the limits.
Life is complicated when Landen loses her job following the discovery of her affair with a colleague and then she becomes involved in a police investigation into alleged money laundering and drug dealing at her old firm. She tries desperately to keep the sordid truth from Mervin as events begin to spiral out of control.
As the four lives overlap and criss-cross the one constant is their shared love of the dog named Moo. But the problems mount up. While Sheri and Mervin grow close as they struggle to help each other, it is the unlikely alliance between Sheri and Landen that leads to the dramatic climax. However, there is only room for one hero in this story – who will it be?

Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.
My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents. Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle is a coming of age story. Set in 1976 the hero Harry Spittle is home from university for the holidays. He has three goals: to keep away from his family, earn money and hopefully have sex. Inevitably his summer turns out to be very different to that anticipated. Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015.

Follow Geoff on Twitter, and find out more about his books on Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Smashwords.

Edited to add – Check Geoff’s blog for some great free offers from 14th-18th July!

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Travelling back to Greece with Abby Foulkes

Today I’m delighted to welcome Alison Gray back to the blog. Her last three books take us from Greece to England – and with the recently-published third in the series, Forget-me-not Blues, back to Greece again. Here’s Alison to tell us about her locations (check the amazing trailer at the end of the post, too):

Abby Foulkes is the main character in the Abby Foulkes Mysteries. She is adventurous and energetic and driven to investigate the mysteries she encounters both through her job as a detective and in her personal life.

I can and do throw anything at her as you will find out if you read the books. The first three stories take place between spring 2014 and summer 2015. Abby suffers bereavement and multiple threats on her life as she moves between Greece, which has a big pull for her, and the North of England where she lives.

The first novel in the series – Hibiscus Fruit: where grief leads to murder in paradise – takes place on Skiathos in the late spring 2014. Abby takes her son, Johnny, to Skiathos for a holiday in the sunshine to help him get over his father’s death. It’s where she met his dad, the ‘love of her life’ in 1998. But the holiday turns into a nightmare when Johnny discovers human bones on a wooded hillside.

The second mystery in the series – Lady’s Slipper: when past and present evils intertwine – takes place back on home ground in Newcastle upon Tyne and in Northumberand and Tyne and Wear. It’s autumn 2014. Windy, wet and dark, the mystery centres around the impending release of a prisoner convicted for murder twenty years before and a new witness who has come forward with new information. Abby has just returned to work and this is the first case she’s handled since her bereavement, and now a single mum, she struggles to balance her work and personal life.

The third book in the series – Forget-me-not Blues: what lies within the beating heart exposed – sees Abby return to Greece in the warm spring of 2015. I took a trip back to Greece where I wrote much of the first draft of Forget-me-not Blues. In the third mystery in the series, Abby takes a deep dive into the bone circle murders case she encountered first in Hibiscus Fruit. The discovery of skulls in a cave threatens to break the case wide open. Abby meets the serial killer and finds her life is at risk from more than one direction.

I know I created her but I adore Abby Foulkes. She is unassailable – and quite as hardy as the Greek mountain goats.

Thank you, Alison!

Alison Gray was born and grew up in Scotland, during the 1960s and 1970s. She now lives in north-east England .

Her first novel, Out of the Tower, was shortlisted for the Constable Trophy 1992, a competition for the best unpublished novel by a writer from the north of England. It was described by the judges as powerful, strong, heartfelt, admirably tense, a work of great promise and individuality, carefully thought out and with subtlety, deftness and poetic nature of idiom.

The Abby Foulkes mysteries are set in Newcastle upon Tyne and the Aegean.

Find out more about Alison and her books on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and her Amazon author page.

To finish off – the amazing trailer for Forget-me-not Blues!

 

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