#amwriting in a heatwave… #summer ’22

It’s been hottish, these past few weeks. I’ve often wished my ‘writing cave’ was a real cave, deep in a windswept cliff, perhaps, with lovely cold water running down the walls and bats flapping in and out. Or maybe not.

I have two very different writing projects on the go at the moment. Think black and white, or summer and winter, or even up and down – so switching between them has kept me awake, if rather disorientated. The first is psychological suspense book twelve – eek! – to be published by Hobeck Books on November 15th. The structural edit is done and I’m working on the copy editor’s feedback now. The book has also been to my small team of trusted first readers, and I’ll be pulling all their comments and suggestions together this week. We’re not quite as far on as I’d thought, because both the cover designer and the copy editor have had covid, but there’s plenty of time before November.

One comment from Sue, the copy editor, made me laugh. The main character in this book is a vet, and one day she was treating a badger with a head injury. Someone asked if it would make it, and she replied that it ‘wasn’t out of the woods yet’. Sue’s comment here was that given that the badger was probably desperate to get back INTO the woods, I maybe hadn’t used quite the right turn of phrase at this point…

My other project is the series of feel-good novels I’m adapting from my old novella series set right here in Switzerland by our lovely lake. I’m going to self-publish these next year, starting in springtime and with book four – the Christmas book – coming out late autumn. This is the one I’m working on at the moment, and it isn’t half odd having your characters running around shovelling snow and decorating Christmas trees while it’s 34°C outside and you’re sitting melting in your shorts and flip flops. I have to say, I’m enjoying being in feel-good land again. Not a dead body in sight, and no bleeding badgers, either.

Last week, I got to talk about both projects when crime writer Louise Mangos and I made a podcast with the lovely ladies at Book Lover’s Companion in Vienna. (At least, the ladies were in Vienna; Louise and I were in Switzerland and we were all on Zoom.) The finished podcast will be out later in the month.

So that’s been my writing world this summer. Others writers have been busy too. On Tuesday, we’re having an extra blog post; Helen Pryke will be here to talk about her new release. The Healer’s Legacy is the final book in her ‘Healers’ series. I’ve read it, and it’s a corker!

I’ll leave you with a photo of our lake, taken last Wednesday from the train halt down the road here (it isn’t really big enough to call a station). The different shades of the water are caused by the Bise wind coming from the north. Good because it keeps the temperature down a little, bad because it’s a dry wind and we REALLY need some rain…

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Summer in Switzerland, and the fire next door… #SilentSunday(almost) #travel

A few photos of two of the trips I took this summer. (More to follow later in the month.)

Over the lake to Friedrichshafen in Germany. Click on the pics to see the uncropped version:

A walk around the Gubsensee reservoir in canton St Gallen:

For dramatic effects, though, we didn’t have to look further than next door, the day when it was 34°C and windy, and the building site went on fire… Fortunately, barring one case of smoke inhalation, no one was injured, but I have a new respect for firefighters now:

Next week, we’ll have some #amwriting news. I’ll leave you with an early-morning photo of our beautiful lake. Not a bad view when you’re trundling your shopping home from the supermarket:

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Clare Chase

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 crime writer Clare Chase, who has written – if I’ve counted correctly – fifteen books to date. Today, she’s here with two of her own favourite reads plus Mystery on Hidden Lane, the first in her Eve Mallow series.
Over to Clare:

Classic:

Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
I first read Jamaica Inn when I was a teenager but the thrill of it has stayed with me. I love it for the ominous atmosphere Du Maurier creates: the bleakness of the landscape, the lashing rain and driving wind. I feel the chill the heroine Mary feels each time I read it. And the grand revelation in the story still gives me goosebumps! The romance is fantastic too. The book made me realise how powerful and exciting storytelling can be.

Comfort:

The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths
This is the first Dr Ruth Galloway book, and the start of one of my favourite mystery series. The comfort comes partly from the regular characters. They’re all so well drawn and the fact that I can anticipate their reactions leaves me with a feeling of fond familiarity. There’s a lot of character-driven humour too. And finally, I love the escapism the books offer. In times of stress, it’s wonderful to lose myself in the puzzle and the atmospheric Norfolk setting, with its wide skies and lonely beaches.

Thank you, Clare – I love the Ruth Galloway books too; she’s such a relatable character, the way she juggles child care, work and counting calories like all the rest of us.

Clare’s book Mystery on Hidden Lane is the first in a long and very successful series, the Eve Mallow Mysteries. We get to know obituary writer Eve and her dachshund Gus, who steals the show on more than one occasion…
Here’s the blurb:

When Bernard Fitzpatrick drowns in a river close to his home, the village mourns a tragic accident… and amateur sleuth Eve Mallow is on the case.

Obituary writer Eve is looking forward to her new assignment, as well as spending a few days in the village of Saxford St Peter, walking the country lanes with her beloved dachshund Gus. But it turns out that it’s Bernard’s death that she’ll need to investigate, not his life. On the day she arrives, news breaks that the world-famous cellist was the victim of a grisly murder. Could this quaint English village be hiding a dark secret?

As Eve starts to interview Bernard’s friends and colleagues, she finds that he’d ruffled more than a few feathers. In fact, from the landlords of the Cross Keys Inn to his own seemingly devoted secretary, there’s barely a person in town who doesn’t have some reason to hate him… is one of the friendly villagers a cold-blooded killer?

Eve hoped Saxford St Peter would be the perfect escape from her busy city life. But there is darkness even in the most sunlit of settings. And when a second body is found, Eve realises she’s spoken to every single suspect. Her notebook contains all the clues she needs. But will she be able to crack the case and identify them… before they realise she’s on their trail and make her their next target?

Clare Chase writes classic mysteries. Her aim is to take readers away from it all via some armchair sleuthing in atmospheric locations.

Before becoming a full-time writer, Clare worked in settings as diverse as Littlehey Prison and the University of Cambridge, in her home city. She’s lived everywhere from the house of a lord to a slug-infested flat and finds the mid-terrace she currently occupies a good happy medium. As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.

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

The blog will be on holiday in July, apart from possibly a photo post if I do anything scenic, but we’ll be back in August, when writer Rachel Sargeant will be here with her classic/comfort books and her own new release.
Those of you who have holidays coming up, have a great time, and exactly the same to everyone who’s holidaying at home (like me!) I’ll leave you with a lovely colourful selection of some of Clare’s books.

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#SilentSunday in #Switzerland #travel

Summer streets in St Gallen…

Next week, we have crime writer Clare Chase and her choice of classic comfort books – see you then!

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Book news! #amwriting #crimefiction

About ten days ago, a contract arrived in N.E. Switzerland. I signed, and sent it back to crime fiction publisher Hobeck Books, where it arrived on Friday. So now it’s official – book twelve is on the way, and I’m thrilled to have another Hobeck book in my collection. We’ve been doing structural edits for several weeks already, and the result is currently waiting to go to the copy editor later this month. Meanwhile, my eagle-eyed first beta reader (aka Son 1) is checking the numbers (ages are complicated in book twelve) and I’m preparing the file for my other pre-publication readers.

What’s it about? In a word – family. The Martins. There’s Holly, who’s a vet and married to Dylan, a stressed businessman. Dylan’s twin brother Seth lives in a nearby village, as does their mum Elaine and sixteen-year-old niece Megan. The book starts with a prologue, where a body is hurtling down a river in flood, then chapter one takes us back a couple of weeks, and the action continues from there.

Whose body?
How is it connected to the Martin family??
How – and why – did it end up in the river???

Find out in November…

I enjoyed writing (most of) this book. Researching the animal scenes for Holly the vet was great fun – I found a huge variety of TV documentaries to watch, as well as trawling through the internet and wandering around Swiss countryside and woodland, which hopefully isn’t too different to the English countryside and woodland my characters saw every day. Less fun were the school sequences with sixteen-year-old Megan – I will never, ever again write a book where the timing means a main character is in the middle of GCSE exams. It was all very different when I was at school in Glasgow, and you can google all you like, but you still get chunks wrong. Fortunately, help wasn’t far away, but more on that later too.

It won’t be too long before I have a cover image to share with you – we’ve had some interesting conversations about it and I can’t wait to see what the fabulous Hobeck cover designer comes up with! Watch this space, and meanwhile, I’ll leave you with some of that Swiss countryside and woodland.

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Terry Tyler

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 Terry Tyler, who has written over twenty books and who’s been on the blog before with her Project Renova series. Today, she’s here with two of her own favourite reads plus her latest release Where there’s Doubt, a sinister psychological drama about the dangers of internet dating. Over to Terry:

Classic:

Three Men In A Boat by Jerome K Jerome
I love its light, conversational style, and the way the author digresses from the main account to relate interesting/funny anecdotes and theories; the dry wit is right up my street.  Although this tale of three young wags on a boat trip down the Thames was written in late Victorian times, it’s still relatable even now.  I love the language, the glimpse into the England of 140 years ago, the pondering about life and observations about people.  Perfect.

Comfort:

Cashelmara by Susan Howatch
Epic tale about the wealthy de Salis family, set in early-mid 19th century London, Warwickshire, France and Ireland, which mirrors the lives of Edward I and II.  This ticks a big ‘yes please’ box for me, because I love Plantagenet history.  The story is told by six characters in turn, which is one of my favourite structures.  The section set in Ireland, in the famine years, is the most memorable.  It’s a story of hope, despair, determination, love and passion, good and evil.

Thank you, Terry! I have to confess I’d never heard of Cashelmara, but I’d lift it for the cover image alone. Stunning use of colour.

Terry’s new book Where there’s Doubt was published earlier this month, and as I thoroughly enjoyed the Project Renova series as well as several of her other books, I’m looking forward to getting stuck into this one too.
Here’s the blurb:

‘I can be anything you want me to be. Even if you don’t know you want it.’

Café owner Kate is mentally drained after a tough two years; all she wants from her online chess partner is entertainment on lonely evenings, and maybe a little virtual flirtation.

She is unaware that Nico Lewis is a highly intelligent con artist who, with an intricately spun web of lies about their emotional connection, will soon convince her that he is The One.

Neither does Kate know that his schemes involve women who seek love on dating sites, as well as his small publishing business. A host of excited authors believe Nico is about to make their dreams come true.

Terry Tyler’s twenty-fourth publication is a sinister psychological drama that highlights the dark side of internet dating—and the danger of ignoring the doubts of your subconscious.

Terry Tyler is the author of twenty-four books available from Amazon, the latest being Where There’s Doubt, about a romance scammer. She is currently at work on a second post-apocalyptic series, which will probably take the form of three novellas.  Proud to be independently published, Terry is an avid reader and book reviewer, and a member of Rosie Amber’s Book Review Team.  She lives in the north east of England with her husband.

You can find out more about Terry on Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter etc by clicking HERE for her link tree.

Next month, we have crime fiction writer Clare Chase with her choice of books.
The blog is on holiday next week for Whitsun, but I’ll be back in two weeks with some book news – see you then!

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Out and about in #Switzerland #travel

Summer has arrived in N.E. Switzerland – at least it’s here for the moment; next week looks slightly iffier. Last Sunday was also museum day in our town, so as both sons were visiting, off we set to see a couple.

We walked into town the long way, by the lake. You can tell which trees have spent the past two years standing in water, due to the beaver dam.

Further on, though, we came to some lovely horse chestnut blossoms.

There was a carpet of pollen floating on the lake – several, in fact, but better in the water than up my nose.

First we came to the Saurer Museum, with its collection of old vehicles and embroidery/lace machines the town (Arbon) is famous for.

Further on is the old town with the castle, home to the historic museum now. I didn’t take photos inside here, but the castle is amazing. Imagine how many feet have walked past these buildings since the 12th century.

The tower from below:

And right up there at the top (I didn’t count the stairs) we saw a crow’s nest, slightly indistinct as it was taken through glass.

And below is the tree they were nesting in, a huge old… something. I need one of those apps that tells you what you’re looking at…

Finally, the walk back home. Doesn’t that path look inviting?

Next week, we have writer Terry Tyler and her choice of classic comfort books – see you then!

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Springtime in #Switzerland #SilentSunday (almost)…

I took these photos late last month. Remember in Anne of Green Gables, how Matthew goes to the station to collect – he thinks – an orphan boy to work on the farm? He finds Anne, and on the way home they drive along an avenue arched over by fruit trees in bloom, which Anne, 11, immediately christens ‘The White Way of Delight’. I thought about that when I saw the tree below.

That’s all this week. I’m deep in my writing cave – more about that another time. And I’ll just mention that Stolen Sister is on a 99p UK/US deal this weekend…

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Cable ties and floor cloths, or: How to fix your washing machine… #householdtips

It’s something every woman (and man) dreads. Your previously law-abiding washing machine starts misbehaving… Instead of softly churning the washing around, supplying a reassuring background burr to daily life chez vous, it now sounds like a fireworks party out of control. And it’s scary.

Exactly this happened in my flat just recently. Sometime around New Year, my machine started making the odd little thud. I would switch it on, it would go, burr burr burr thud burr a couple of times, then settle down to wash. That was all. It was easily ignored…

Life went on in N.E. Switzerland. January gave way to February, and I became conscious that the washing machine was now going, burr burr burr THUD burr as it started. I made a habit of closing the bathroom door when it was on. (Our machine stands in the corner of the guest loo/shower room.)

Then the thuds started to come on the spin cycle too. They grew louder… and louder… and more frequent, and I took to washing when I knew the neighbours were out. Then last Saturday, I switched the machine on. Burr burr THUD THUD THUD BANG BANG… Spin THUD spin BANG THUD… The entire flat was shaking.
Monday morning, I phoned the company who provided the machine. I wasn’t hopeful. Ten to one they’d say, ‘time for a new one’ – and I knew what a palaver that had been the last time. But no.

‘We’ll send someone out,’ an efficient female voice assured me. She told me the charge for the call-out and for each half-hour of the repair person’s time, plus parts, and I swallowed. Was this really worth it for a nine-year-old machine? Wouldn’t it be less expensive in the long run to get a new one straightaway? Hope dies last, though, so I agreed.

A cheerful young repairman arrived the following morning. I explained the problem, and he opened his tool box and spread a selection of complicated and technical equipment across most of the floor space in the guest loo.

I leaned in the doorway, and he switched on the machine.
Burr burr THUD BANG THUD. Spin BANG THUD BANG.
He switched it off again quickly and vanished round the back of the machine. For a few minutes, all you could hear was heavy breathing. (His.) Then his head popped up.

‘Have you got an old cloth you don’t need?’

Who hasn’t? Off I went to fetch some old cloths, and returned to find him standing at the back of the machine clutching a couple of cable ties. He chose an old floor cloth from my selection of rags and tea towels, demanded a pair of scissors (complicated and technical tool boxes don’t contain scissors) and vanished again. I went back to leaning in the doorway. More heavy breathing.

Then he stood up, came round the front, rearranged the machine in its space and switched it on.
Burr burr burr burr burr burr burr… Spin spin spin spin spin…

I gaped at him, and he explained. A pipe inside had worked loose over time, and started banging on the casing. All he’d done was tighten it and add some padding, just in case. He packed up his complicated and technical tool box, minus the cable ties, wished me a nice day, and left. Shaken to the core, I went for a sit down. To think I had very nearly bought a new machine – and he had solved the problem with two cable ties and an old floor cloth.

The really interesting part will come when the bill arrives, though. Will I be charged for those cable ties? Watch this space…
Edited 9.05.22 to add – I wasn’t!! 🙂

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Louise Mangos

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 Louise Mangos, who writes psychological suspense thrillers, historical fiction and flash fiction. She’s also travelled widely, as her recently published novel The Beaten Track demonstrates – but more about that later.
Over to Louise:

Classic:

A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens.
Of all of Dickens’ novels, I feel A Tale of Two Cities is the most contemporary in its exploration of human emotions. The setting, on the other hand, is very much anchored in the historic era either side of the French Revolution. Suspense is maintained throughout as the characters are in constant danger of being either imprisoned or killed, but a complicated romance lifts the narrative away from the typical darkness of a Dickensian novel. The closing sentence: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” still makes me weep.

Comfort:

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion.
This novel is one to raise a smile. It’s fundamentally a rom-com, but with special characters that appeal beyond the usual commercial novels in the genre. Don is a man looking for a partner and has written a list of criteria to help him find the perfect candidate. He meets eccentric Rosie and they strike up an unusual friendship as he tries to find the perfect partner and she tries to find her father. Each of them has their own foibles and unusual traits which gives this story its own recipe of warmth and humour.

Thank you, Louise! A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favourites, too, though it’s years since I’ve read it.

Louise’s new novel The Beaten Track was published by Red Dog Books last week. I was lucky enough to read an ARC, and I can thoroughly recommend it. As a reader, I travelled all over the world with Sandrine, the main character – who’s being stalked…
Here’s the blurb:

After her stalker takes his life and she’s jilted by a holiday lover, Sandrine returns home to Switzerland from a round-the-world backpacking trip perturbed, penniless and pregnant. She meets handsome Scott, who offers love, security and all she and her new baby could ever wish for.

But their dream is about to turn into a nightmare…

Louise writes novels, short stories and flash fiction which have won prizes, placed on shortlists, and have been read out on BBC radio. Her short fiction has appeared in more than twenty print anthologies and magazines. The Beaten Track is her third suspense novel. She holds a Masters in crime writing from the University of East Anglia in the UK. Louise lives at the foot of the Swiss Alps with her Kiwi husband and two sons.

You can find out more about Louise and her books on her website, Facebook and Twitter.
Next month, we’re having writer Terry Tyler to tell us about her choice of Classic Comfort reads.

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