On Thursday night, it started to snow. And it snowed and snowed and snowed, and by the time we got to Friday morning, it was, well, pretty snowy. We don’t often get this much ‘down’ here in N.E. Switzerland, so here are a few wintry photos for you. I took them all from my windows or balconies – how lucky am I to have scenes like these right outside my window?

It’s all very pretty, if a shade chilly… We had about this much snow here in 2006 too, and before that in 1999. That was the year Lake Constance flooded badly in the late spring, due to a massive amount of snowmelt coming down from the mountains. We’ll be watching this space with interest in May.

And of course, everyone’s out making snowmen. Click HERE for a selection on SRF news.

Meanwhile, stay safe and warm – and watch out for the ‘T’ books next week!
(Baby Dear’s still just 99p/c – see newsflash at the top of the sidebar.)

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(Almost) Silent Sunday…

Cold January in one corner of N. E. Switzerland.

A winter-empty whirlpool fountain, and the remains of a muted New Year celebration.

A local hotel, locked down and waiting for customers.

Beavers have been at work in the woods near Lake Constance.

Reminders of the warmer weather.

The latest addition to my bookshelf, the Hobeck Books anthology.

More book news: Baby Dear is on a 99p/c deal atm – grab it while it’s hot!

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2020 – the year that was…

Well. I usually give my New Year post the subheading: the best of times and the worst of times. But there wasn’t much about 2020 that was ‘best’, though we can sum up the lowlights of the past twelve months in one word – coronavirus. So many deaths, so many empty places at the table. There’s one in my family too.

So let’s leave the pandemic being the worst of the past year, and move on to other 2020 moments.

Best tree: my lilac tree bloomed its heart out last spring.

Biggest distraction: That would be Brexit, another cheerless topic.

Best new (to me) discovery: In a word, Zoom.

Best book moment: The Runaway came home to Switzerland, closely followed by the new edition of Death Wish. Huge thanks once again to The Cover Collection, who have covered seven of my books now.

Favourite read of 2020: The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. An absolutely spectacular book. All the positive superlatives.

Most unusual search term bringing someone to my website: ‘551804 battery’. And no, I have no idea…

Most inconvenient breakage: My reading specs!

Most put-off celebration: Son 1’s birthday in March, when we were beginning to intuit what was about to hit us. The plan started as a family weekend in Tessin in the south of Switzerland; this was downsized first to a couple of days somewhere else in Switzerland, then to a day in Friedreichshafen over the lake in Germany (the local equivalent of someone in Leeds going to Harrogate for the day) and ended up as lunch outside in a hotel a short walk away. It was exactly the wrong time to have a birthday…

Best writers’ meet-up in Zürich: We only had one in real life – but it was fabulous! (Here with Jill Marsh, Alison Baillie, Cass Grafton and Louise Mangos.) The next time we met was on Zoom.

Most important signature: the one I put on my contract with the wonderful Hobeck Books. It’s for my tenth book, Daria’s Daughter, which will be published on February 23rd and is on pre-order now. (Just sayin’…)

I wrote a novella for Hobeck Books this year too – The Clarice Cliff Vase. You can get a free copy of this, and several others too, by subscribing to Hobeck on their website.

Best book event: My evening at the Anglo-Swiss Club in Wil. It was the only book event too, squeezed into October between lockdowns, and it was wonderful. We were in a beautiful old conference room with an old tiled oven, and frescoes.

Biggest hope for next year: I’m not even going to put this into words, in case I jinx it. But I’m sure it’s everyone’s biggest hope right now. Please, 2021…

Thank you all for your support and friendship this year. 2020 has been easy for no one, and thinking back, it’s the little things that have made it better than it might have been – a message on Facebook, a couple of retweets, a like or a virtual hug. Let’s carry on like that and one day, we’ll be on the other side looking back. Here’s to happy days. ❤

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The ‘S’ books… #A-Z books

This series 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. However, 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 month, after a bit of a delay due to one thing and another, it’s the S books:

Your best friend dies. All because of you. How do you go on?

Layla is struggling to come to terms with the death of her best friend, Danni, at a student party almost a year ago. Perhaps she never will – because only Layla knows the truth about what happened that night.

Danni’s parents, Melody and Reece, invite Layla for weekend visits to their Sussex farmhouse home, and she’s happy to accept – until Melody’s increasing dependence on her sends out warning signals. Although she knows it’s time to break away, for all their sakes, Layla’s guilt over Danni’s death has her returning, time and again.

When Layla meets Morgan, the connection between them is unmistakable. But until she confronts the past, she can’t face the future, let alone allow herself to fall in love.

There is only one way out: Layla must confess her secret to Danni’s parents. But can she risk breaking their hearts all over again? And will Morgan still love her, once he discovers the kind of person she really is?

It’s the hardest decision. And time is running out…

This is lovely, insightful book – who doesn’t remember being that age, coming to terms with being an adult, trying to make sense of what the world throws at you. It isn’t easy, and like most kids, Layla doesn’t always get it right. A great read from Deirdre Palmer.

Set on Guernsey and the Channel Islands

The seven scamps have built up something of a reputation for themselves. From Madelaine, who was seventeen and therefore might have been supposed to know better, down to Tim, who was five and a handful, they were up to every mischievous trick imaginable.

It was hardly surprising they were involved in escapades with boats, ghostly midnight adventures on Lihou Island, and heroic rescues on the storm-girt island cliffs.

Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, of “Chalet School” fame, has added to her thousands of admirers with this fine book, the fourth in the La Rochelle series.

I was a huge fan of the Chalet School books when I was in my teens, and when I’d read them all I went on to collect the La Rochelle series too – some of the characters in these books return later as parents of Chalet School pupils. My copies are all aged and worn used hardbacks, but I have all seven.

If you’re a Sister, there’s no such thing as a mistake

Sister can cope with any crisis you can imagine. Everyone knows that – patients, doctors and nurses all believe it.

Today, Helen Davies dons that blue uniform for the first time. She’s proud, excited – and scared. Twenty-eight patients will be in her care. Can she handle it?

Because being a Sister isn’t just a job like any other…

This book is set in the eighties, when I was a young physiotherapist. The author has “drawn on eighteen years’ experience in nursing”, and every word in the book rings true.

Next time, it’s the ‘T’ books!
(And I’ll just mention that The Attic Room is 99p on kindle in Amazon’s UK Twelve Days of Christmas Sale…)

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Crime for Christmas…

Welcome to the third and final week of my Christmas reads posts – it’s crime fiction today, and I have three fabulous and very different books for you!
(Click the covers to see the books on Amazon.)

Love is a driving passion. So is hate.

December in a small Devonshire village is the perfect time for a Yuletide festival, a Narnian wedding or a murder.
Now retired, Beatrice is working on a book, planning a wedding and pretending she doesn’t miss the cut and thrust of Scotland Yard.

When a local celebrity dies in suspicious circumstances, Matthew encourages Beatrice to do some private investigating. Her enquiries reveal more than predicted and she discovers even her nearest and dearest are capable of deceit.

A snowstorm hits the village and Beatrice chases a lead, throwing everyone’s plans into disarray and threatening lives. The ancient forest conceals a primeval web of complex loyalties and lethal bonds.

Angels protect their friends. But destroy their enemies.

Detective Beatrice Stubbs travels the world in JJ Marsh’s 12-book series. I haven’t read them all yet, but they’re lovely reads – Beatrice has been described as a modern-day Miss Marple. This one’s set in a Devonshire village during a very snowy December. Jill has a free novella as a prequel to this series, see HERE on her website.

A cracking Christmas crime thriller

It looks like a regular advent calendar.

Until DC Becky Greene starts opening doors . . . and discovers a crime scene behind almost every one.

The police hope it’s a prank. Because if it isn’t, a murderer has just surfaced – someone who’s been killing for twenty years.

But why now? And why has he sent it to this police station?

As the country relaxes into festive cheer, Greene and DS Eddie Carmine must race against time to catch the killer. Because there are four doors left, and four murders will fill them . . .

It’s shaping up to be a deadly little Christmas.

I read this one a couple of years ago and I’ve never felt quite the same about advent calendars since… A lovely dark Christmassy read.

The perfect thriller to curl up with this winter…

To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last . . .

I am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger.

The twelfth day is getting closer.

After that, there will be no more Christmas cheer for me.

No mince pies, no carols.

No way out . . .

This one’s on my festive season tbr list – I read the first few pages and bought it straightaway last week. Can’t wait to get stuck in!

That’s the end of the Christmas reads, and I’ll take the opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, in spite of all restrictions. Whatever you do, stay safe.
Next week, we’ll catch up with the ‘S’ books in my A-Z – see you then!

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Short stories for Christmas…

Welcome to week two of my Christmas reads – it’s anthologies this week. I contributed to two of these, and one is a freebie – keep reading!
(Click the cover images to see the books on Amazon or the publisher’s website.)

Stories To Warm Your Heart

As the days become chilly and the evenings draw in, why not cosy up with us and enjoy our anthology packed full of stories to warm the heart? The Write Romantics present their first anthology of uplifting short stories created just for you, by best sellers such as Samantha Tonge, Terri Nixon, Holly Martin, Jo Bartlett and many more distinguished writers.

So light the fire, settle down on the sofa, and prepare to spend Christmas in July, visit The Bookshop of Dreams, meet The Handsome Stranger, and fall in love with Mr Perfect. Just a few of the twenty-three stories guaranteed to bring a smile to your lips and touch your soul, especially as all proceeds of this anthology will go to The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the cancer charity Team Verrico.

I have a story in this book – it was inspired by a real-life event in the castle where I used to work. One day, there was a wedding there, and the fire brigade turned up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a false alarm…

When the magic of Christmas is just what you’re looking for…

There’s something magical about Miss Moonshine’s Wonderful Emporium, and at Christmas she brings an added sparkle to the inhabitants of the pretty Yorkshire town of Haven Bridge. Customers who step over her threshold find an eccentric collection of gifts, but Miss Moonshine has a rare knack for providing exactly what they need: a strange Advent calendar whose doors give a glimpse of a happy ending; a vintage typewriter that types a ghostly message from Christmas past; a mirror in a silver case that reflects the person you’d like to be.
Step inside Miss Moonshine’s quirky shop, and the thing you need most for Christmas will be right there, waiting for you…

Nine romantic novelists from Yorkshire and Lancashire, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have joined together to create this collection of uplifting festive stories guaranteed to warm your heart. This intriguing mix of historical and contemporary romances will make you laugh, cry, and believe in the magic of Christmas.

This one’s waiting on my kindle. I read the first book of Miss Moonshine stories a year or two ago – they’re absolutely charming!

An anthology of twisted winter tales… (And best of all, it’s free!)

Ghostly echoes of a dark chapter in Latvian history…
An elaborate Christmas Eve heist with a twist…
The secrets that Santa has been keeping up his jumper…
A bittersweet visit from a long lost love…
Lessons from the ghosts of colleagues past…
And more…

I have a story in this one too. You can get your copy by subscribing to Hobeck Books, who will then send newsletters once or twice a month, some of them with other free books and stories too. (Click HERE for details of how to subscribe.)

Next week, it’s crime for Christmas. See you then!

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Feel-good for Christmas…

Over the next three weekends, I’ll be posting about Christmas reads, with a post about anthologies next week followed by crime fiction the week after. We’re starting off more romantically, though – if anyone’s looking for a feel-good book for the festive season, here are three to get you started.
(Click the cover images to see the books on Amazon.)

You never forget your first love.

Molly’s spent every Christmas she can remember surrounded by her family. But this year is different. This year, Molly’s all alone in a strange town. She’s left her family behind, and she’s not sure where she can call home any longer.

All Molly has with her are a few clothes in a suitcase, and a collection of her old friend’s Cary Grant films. Except, there’s one more thing she’s brought along – the whole reason for her Christmas visit.

In her possession is a small, crumpled piece of paper, and on it is written the address of the love of her life.

Molly and Cary have had many chances over the years, but somehow life kept getting in the way and they always ended up apart once more. Yet Molly has never forgotten the first man she gave her heart to, and now she has one last chance to win him back.

But will Cary welcome her home, or will he tell her what she dreads to hear – that they’ve had their chance, and it’s all too late. That’s if she can even find him…

This one’s waiting for the festive season on my kindle – and with all the parties we won’t be going to this year, I’ll have plenty of time for reading!

Run away to the little beach café this Christmas…

Five years ago at Christmas, solicitor Justin Sadler made the decision to leave his comfortable existence behind and move to the coast. Since then, he’s tried his best to ignore the festive season and, as he sits in the little beach café and reflects on that fateful night when his life was turned upside down, he expects his fifth Christmas alone to be no different to any of the others since he made his escape.

But when he encounters a mystery woman on the beach, he soon realises he may have found a fellow runaway and kindred spirit. Could Justin finally be ready to move on and let Christmas into his life again?

Christmas at a beach cafe sounds gorgeous, doesn’t it? That could be a plan for next year… but I’ll make do with reading about it for now!

What could possibly go wrong???

Christmas is approaching, the Lakeside Hotel is full of English-speaking guests, and Stacy and Rico can’t wait to show them a real Swiss Christmas. There’s a visit from the Samiclaus, a Guetzli-baking demonstration, a snowman competition – not to mention the trip to Davos.

But in the middle of all the festivities, a guest has a huge problem and Stacy is left running backwards and forwards, wondering if she’ll last the distance. And Rico’s father is behaving very oddly, too.

It doesn’t feel a lot like Christmas at Lakeside any more…

Can Stacy get the magic back, before it’s too late for her and Rico?

Observant blog readers will notice this one’s mine, so I probably won’t be reading it, though I’ll be living parts of it. Not the trip to Davos, of course, but with a bit of luck we might manage a snowman competition.

Watch out for some more Christmas reads next week – these next ones aren’t all feel-good, though…

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Coronavirus Autumn – “It all looks so normal…”

At eleven o’clock last Monday I was in our local medical centre, waiting for the lift after my appointment. It arrived and I stepped in, then noticed a tiny elderly lady – she must have been well over eighty, if not ninety – approaching.

I stopped the lift doors closing, and called to her. ‘Are you coming down?’
She hesitated visibly, then scurried in and squeezed into the far corner. I whacked the ground floor button with my jacket sleeve.

‘Isn’t it dreadful how we don’t know what’s safe now?’ she said.
‘I know,’ I said. ‘I guess we’re all right for the few seconds in here, though.’
‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I’m glad we have to wear masks.’

We arrived at the ground floor and walked towards the front door. I didn’t need to worry about social distancing because she was being super careful, and we emerged into a cold autumn morning.

She stared around. ‘It all looks so normal,’ she said, her voice trembling.
Her cab was waiting, and she got in without saying goodbye.

The taxi drove off, leaving me with a huge lump in my throat. I hope she hadn’t had bad news at the doctor’s. I hope she’s able to enjoy ‘normal’ again, one day. And I hope there was someone at home to give her the hug she needed.

I wandered towards the old town to take some photos. She was right – it did all look normal. Except for the last pic, but somehow, it didn’t feel funny that day…

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The ‘R’ books… #A-Z books 📚

This series 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. However, 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 month, it’s the R books:

Manchester, 1989

A student, Rick, is found dead in halls of residence.
His friends get caught up in the aftermath: Dan, who was in love with Rick; and Becky, who is in love with Dan.

Their fraught emotions lead them into dark places – particularly a connection to a mysterious Kabbalistic sect.

Will Becky discover who killed Rick in time to save her best friend?

This is the first of Jo Fenton’s books I’ve read – I really enjoyed the university setting, and the way the students reacted to the death of their friend was very realistic. It’s the kind of book you don’t want to put down, because the characters are making rash decisions and you need to know it’s going to be all right!

In 1957, after travelling in southern Iraq, Gavin Maxwell returned to the West Highlands of Scotland with an otter cub called Mijbil. Written within the sound of the sea, in a remote cottage where they set up home together, this enduring story evokes the unspoilt seascape and wildlife of a place Maxwell called Camusfearna. Ring of Bright Water was hailed as a masterpiece when it was first published, sold over two million copies worldwide, and was later adapted into a successful film. Fifty years on it remains one of the most lyrical, moving descriptions of a man’s relationship with the natural world.

Ring of Bright Water was a home reader when I was at secondary school, and I absolutely loved it. There was a wonderful film, too. The book is the first of a trilogy, with The Rocks Remain, and Raven Seek Thy Brother continuing Gavin Maxwell’s story.

Working as a lady’s companion, the orphaned heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Life begins to look very bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. Whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to his brooding estate, Manderley, on the Cornish Coast, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding Mrs Danvers . . .
Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

This is one of those books I keep meaning to re-read – maybe I’ll manage it in the Christmas holidays. It’s another that grabs you and you can’t let it go. I haven’t seen the new film adaptation, but the older one is very atmospheric.

Look out for the ‘S’ books next month!

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New Book News – when fate lends a hand…

It was sheer coincidence. A few weeks ago, I sat down at my pc one evening and opened up Facebook to see what was happening in the world according to my FB friends. First thing I saw was a post by writer Alison Morgan – she was bubbling over with enthusiasm about being signed by Hobeck Books. I wasn’t aware of Hobeck Books, so I turned to Twitter, my usual go-to place for info about anything bookish. And there they were – “Hobeck Books. Trad Values, Indie Spirit. Family-run independent publisher of thrillers, crime, and suspense.”

Ooh. That looked good. Hobeck Books is run by Rebecca Collins and Adrian Hobart, who between them have very interesting and different book backgrounds and publishing skills – and you could tell by the tweets how enthusiastic they are. (And they have a very cute real-life cat, too.) Should I…?

Long story short, we signed the contracts last week, so here I am – the newest Hobeck Books writer. Cue a nice bottle of something fizzy in N.E. Switzerland. The new book will be out next spring/summer, and I can’t wait to get stuck into the next round of edits!

Why was it fate? Well, as most of you will know, Facebook doesn’t show you everything your Facebook friends post. They provide a selection they think you might find interesting. And while Alison Morgan and I are perfectly friendly – we’re both in a couple of FB groups – I don’t ever remember seeing any of her posts on my newsfeed. Until that night, and that post.

One of my first tasks as a Hobeck writer was to make a video of me answering some questions. At least, I provided the footage (you live and learn; I had no idea my laptop could do things like this) and they put it all together.

There’s also an introductory post on the Hobeck website which you can read HERE. (They’ve included a lovely pic of Arbon harbour with Austria in the background, too.)

So that’s my fateful book news – apologies for squeezing it in when I really should be posting about the ‘R’ books. We’ll have them next week.

I’ll finish off with a photo of the city where the new book’s set…

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