New book on the way! #amwriting #travel And it’s set by a lake in Switzerland…

Lake Constance and the Alpstein mountains

Several years ago now, I self-published the Lakeside Hotel series, five feel-good novellas about Stacy from Cheshire and Rico from N.E. Switzerland. It was fun, and a restful contrast to my rather gloomier psychological suspense fiction, but I always felt there was something missing in these stories. You can’t go too far into character development in thirty thousand words, or there’s no space left for the story.

“You should extend them; make them full-length” was something I heard from several people, but while I agreed that would be more satisfying, there was never the time.

Then came Corona. And lockdown. And the ideal opportunity. I unpublished my novellas and set to work. The first two are finished now, the third is being proofread, and the fourth is ready for editing. They have new titles. What was A Lake in Switzerland is now Saving the Lakeside Hotel, and tells the story of Stacy and Emily who visit Lake Constance on holiday, and find themselves in a failing hotel that Rico wants to save but Ralph, his hotel-owner father, wants to be rid of. Add in a romance or two, lots of holiday adventures and a family in turmoil, and that’s book one. Do they save the hotel? In just a few weeks, you can read the end product and find out.

Lake Constance, looking from Switzerland towards Germany and Austria

The books are set here in my home area, the top right-hand corner of Switzerland. Standing on the lake bank, you can see three different countries and a huge expanse of water, as well as hills and mountains. Plenty of scope for my characters to explore their surroundings and overcome a variety of challenges, and that’s before you start thinking about all the problems in the hotel.

The plan is to release the first three this spring and the fourth – the Christmas one – in autumn. Each book is now upwards of seventy-five thousand words, and while parts of the plots haven’t changed, there are new characters, more character development and lots of new scenes. More travel, too.

Sunshine on the Alpstein range (highest peak Säntis)

So, if you’ve ever fancied a trip to Switzerland but haven’t got around to it yet, my ex-novellas could be the books for you. Over the next few weeks I’ll be revealing more about the stories and the characters, and how I went about revamping them from novallas to novels, as well as what’s happening about the cover images. Stay tuned for the next trip to Switzerland!

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1989, or: the Trabi in the supermarket car park… #memories #Berlin

My Christmas read this time was Val McDermid’s 1989, a great book and a year I remember very well. In 1989 we were living in the same town in N.E. Switzerland, a little further from Lake Constance than we are now, but you could still see it between the houses. Blue lake, and Germany on the other side, and in those days, we were TINKS. Two incomes and no kids meant freedom to travel, to live the life and enjoy being young in central Europe.

The book deals with – among other things – the turbulent political situation of that time. I was waiting to see if my own 1989 memory would be part of it, and it was, right at the end.

It was the evening of November the 9th, 1989, and we were at home in our sprawling old house. I think it was around nine when a friend called, his voice squeaky with excitement.

‘Have you seen what’s happening in Germany?’

We switched on the TV, and there it was. Berlin. Scenes of confusion by the Wall, interspersed with footage of a press conference an hour or so earlier where it was declared that travel across the border to the west was now – immediately – permitted.

We watched, our jaws dropping, as crowds gathered by the Wall, hundreds of people anxious to cross, milling around, pressing forward, chipping away at the Wall. And then they opened the gates, and those hundreds of people streamed into West Berlin. The party began. It was a huge OMG moment. I went to make tea, and stood at the kitchen window looking at the lights in Germany twinkling away on the other side of the lake. We were watching history being made right next door.

A few days later, I went shopping. In 1989, the supermarket car park was right on the lake bank. That’s it on the right, with Germany in the background, though the supermarket isn’t there now. That day in 1989, a crowd of people had gathered around a car, and I went to see what was happening.

It was a Trabi, one of the little Trabant cars people in East Germany used to drive around in. I’d never seen one in real life, and neither had anyone else in the crowd. Two young men appeared with a bagful of supermarket sandwiches. They had partied all night on the 9th, then went home for a few hours’ sleep before jumping in their Trabi and driving south through Germany and across the lake to Switzerland. Because they could. They were drunk with elation and hope for the future, living the dream. Lunch in Switzerland. I wonder where they are now.

If you’re interested in those times, click HERE for a short video (in English) with scenes from that night in 1989.
Coming up on my tbr list is Val McDermid’s 1979. My memories of that time are less vivid, but maybe she’ll write 1999 too. That was the year the lake flooded…

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2022… The best of times and the worst of times #NewYear

If anything taught us that nothing lasts forever, it was 2022. The moment we got used to the covid numbers going down, up they went again. As soon as we were accustomed to calling one person ‘the prime minister’, someone else was moving into 10 Downing Street. We won’t even mention Twitter. And the Queen, the epitomy of stability, left so suddenly I think we were all shocked.

Change was happening everywhere you looked, some good, some less so. My writing year here in north-east Switzerland has had its high- and lowlights too:

Most heart-stopping moment:
The day the neighbours caught fire. It was summer, 35°C and windy, and everything was as dry as a stick. I was on my computer, working on my wip when I became aware of sirens close by. Quite a lot of sirens, actually, and very close by. I stepped out onto the street side balcony and initially thought the hotel next door was on fire. My first thought was, OMG, the woods. If they they start burning… I sped down to the scene to find out if there was any danger of us being evacuated, then saw it was the building site behind the hotel that was burning. Fortunately, it ended well – but it might not have.

Best book contract:
The one I signed with the wonderful Hobeck Books for The Un-Family, my twelfth suspense novel and the third with them. 🙂

Best writers’ meet-up:
We managed quite a few of these, but I’ll choose this photo, because it could also be called the best selfie taken with a beaker of mulled wine in your other hand. Louise Mangos, Alison Baillie and Christa Polkinhorn, it was a pleasure drinking Prosecco with you this year!

Most useful purchase:
A second box of my favourite pens. I found them quite by accident a few years ago (see THIS post) and I’ve been using them ever since.

Favourite book(s) read this year:
I thought I’d found this already in February, when I read Rebecca Mascull’s amazing The Seamstress of Warsaw. It’s about a mother and son who lose each other years before the book starts, and then fate in the form of WWII lends a hand. It’s moving, emotional and tense, and must have needed a huge amount of research.
I stuck with my favourite book decision until October, when I read Maureen Myant’s The Confession, and this one has the best premise ever. Police find a dead woman along with her suicide note confessing to five murders. They don’t take it seriously, because the “victims” are all still alive. Then the killings start…
I can’t decide between them, so this year, I’m having two books of the year.

Most nerve-wracking week:
It was the most nerve-wracking week of my entire writing life, never mind 2022. The publication date for The Un-Family arrived, but Amazon, the largest online book retailer and where I clock up 100% of my ebook sales, refused to put the book on their platform because the publisher “was not entitled to publish it”. Hobeck Books leapt into action with everything they had, but it wasn’t until eight days later that the ebook went on sale. I’m not sure any of us have recovered even yet. It was no one’s fault, just “circumstances”. Onwards and upwards.

Copyright M. Huber

Best beaver pic:
Son 1 took this over Christmas when he went down through the woods by our flat in the wee small hours with a night-vision camera. Pre-beavers, that pond was a little stream you could jump across.

Latest writing project:
Back in the first covid lockdown, I started expanding my feel-good “Switzerland” novella series into full-length fiction. The plan is to put the first two out in spring 2023, the third in early summer and the fourth – the Christmas one – in the autumn. These four are finished and in various stages of editing, the fifth is my current wip, and there’s a rough plan for a sixth, too, so we’ll see. I’ll have more about it on my blog in January, and meanwhile, I have everything crossed that the above-mentioned largest online book retailer is cooperative this time.

Most unusual search term bringing someone to my website:
приборная панель с часами. According to Google translate, this is Russian and means “dashboard with clock” and no, I have no idea…

And – last but not least – my most challenging build:
Lego flowers. How hard can it be, I thought? Um…

I’m not sure what to wish everyone for 2023, but after the previous few years, maybe good health and prosperity for us all would be a good start. Wherever you’re celebrating the New Year, have a good one, and thank you for reading my blog this year. Here’s to 2023!

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After the Christmas market… #SilentSunday #travel

It was a snowy Saturday night in St Gallen.

This is the last post now until January. After nine years, my blog is in dire need of a good clear-out, and I suspect that might not be as easy as it sounds… wish me luck!
I’ll “see” you all in the New Year, and meanwhile, all the very best for the festive season, and a Merry Christmas when it comes!

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Maureen Myant

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 and historical fiction writer Maureen Myant, whose debut crime novel The Confession was published in early November. I’ve read it – it’s a cracker!

Over to Maureen:

Classic:

Home at Grasmere, by Dorothy Wordsworth
I have never been a particular fan of Wordsworth’s poetry and on a visit to Dove Cottage I eschewed his volumes of poetry and instead bought a copy of his sister’s diary. I was immediately hooked. William apparently used to read Dorothy’s diary for inspiration and it is fascinating to see how her notes are transformed into his poetry. I much prefer her writing. Like any decent journal this gives an insight into the daily life of the writer and the society of its time. The poverty around them is astounding and she writes with compassion about the families she meets, forced to wander the country in search of work. Daily life is hard for her too; she had to walk seven miles to Keswick for provisions and she complains bitterly of the cold in winter. And of course there are her infamous teeth! She ended up with a set of wooden teeth but before that she suffered terribly from toothache. The best writing sheds light on the human experience and Home at Grasmere certainly does that.

Comfort:

Anne of Green Gables series, by L.M. Montgomery
I was forced to read Anne of Green Gables when I was ten and the local library no longer had any Enid Blyton books that I hadn’t already read. My mother recommended it to me and told me to persevere when I moaned that nothing was happening in it. I’m glad I did because Anne Shirley is like an old friend to me. The characters that L. M. Montgomery writes about are vivid and immediately recognisable types and there is so much gentle humour in the stories. I’ve read and reread the whole series several times. I cried when Anne lost her first baby, rejoiced when her children were born and despaired when her beloved, gentle son, Walter died during the first world war. In truth, they are too religious for me now but I still find them charming.

Thank you, Maureen! The ‘Anne’ books are favourites of mine too, and I remember seeing a TV adaptation when I was a child, too.

Maureen’s new release The Confession is set in Glasgow, so I really enjoyed being able to picture her characters as they strode around some of the places I used to visit. Here’s the blurb:

A house on a quiet street on the southside of Glasgow. Neat, terraced homes with manicured lawns and pruned trees. Not the sort of place that reeks of decay or where dead bluebottles pile up on a windowsill.

When the police break in, there’s a surprise in store for them. They find Julie Campbell’s decaying body at her desk, her laptop open beside her. She’s a well-liked, respectable woman. On the laptop is a confession – to five murders. There’s one major problem though – only one of the victims she names is actually dead.

DI Mark Nicholson is persuaded by his boss DCI Alex Scrimgeour that the confession is a fantasy, and to drop the case, but Mark senses there’s more to it than meets the eye. As he delves further, the darkest of secrets are revealed, and everyone around him is dragged into a vortex of fear, danger and murder. No one is beyond suspicion as The Confession becomes a murderous reality.

Maureen Myant is the author of two novels, The Search which is set in wartime Czechoslovakia, Poland and Germany and The Confession, a psychological crime story set in present day Glasgow. She lives in Glasgow with her husband and has three adult children and six grandchildren.

I’ll just add here that I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed The Search too. I always love books with characters you care about, and this is certainly one of those.

You can find out more about Maureen and her books on Twitter, her website and her Amazon author page.

This was the last Classic Comfort guest post – big thanks to everyone who’s contributed over the past two years. We’ll be back with a new series next year!

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Mixed news… #books

This is the blog post that should have gone out last week, after the scheduled release of my new book The Un-Family on the 14th. The bad news is, due to an Amazon glitch (they needed proof – twice – that Hobeck Books had the right to publish), the ebook wasn’t up on Amazon until eight days after the event. The good news is, it’s out now, my blood pressure has almost recovered from the fright and the paperback is available as well. Hobeck Books worked very hard to get things sorted as quickly as possible, so huge thanks for that.

Onwards and upwards…

As you see from the pic, the book is set against beautiful English countryside. Holly Martin works there as a vet, and on the surface, she has everything she ever wanted. An amazing job, a lovely home, and Dylan is the man of her dreams… But then there’s his family.

This book was interesting to write. The original inspiration came from a TV programme about a wildlife centre, where experts and volunteers worked to help injured and needy animals and return them to their natural habitat.
I thought while I was watching that it would be a good backdrop for a book, and started to create my own wildlife centre in my head. Somewhere in the south of England, always looking for staff and volunteers, run by animal enthusiasts. Then came the best bit – working out who the characters were.

Wildlife centres need a vet on call. That’s Holly. And people do tend to have families in tow, so gradually, the Martin family grew in my head. Holly’s husband Dylan, his twin brother Seth, their mother Elaine and niece Megan. Only when I had the family fixed did I turn to what actually happens to them in the book. It’s the first time I’ve created characters without at least a general idea of the plot, but once I started writing, the situation took over, and The Un-Family is the result. The wildlife centre didn’t play quite as large a part in the story as I’d intended, but writing books is like that. That’s what makes it so fascinating.

The themes that developed are: Job satisfaction. Addiction. Sibling rivalry. Nature vs nurture. Family ties. Greed. At the end, we can each decide what makes a family and what doesn’t. The book’s had some great reviews – I’ll link here to the first of the blog tour, from Linda Hill. Huge thanks again, Linda!

I’d like to thank Hobeck Books for publishing The Un-Family, most especially Rebecca and Adrian and also the editors, proofreaders and others who work behind the scenes. A special mention too for Jayne Mapp Design, who made the amazing cover image.

More big thanks to all the bloggers who took part in the blog tour and managed to reduce me to tears several times – in a good way.

And biggest thanks of all, as always, to the readers who buy or borrow the book and join the journey with my Un-Family. (Tap HERE to see the book on Amazon.)

Here’s the blurb:

For better, for worse
Wildlife vet Holly’s life seems blissful: husband Dylan is the man of her dreams, she has a rewarding career and a lovely home. And yet, a tiny niggle is growing daily. Dylan is becoming increasingly remote – but why? Holly is determined to mend the fissure in their relationship. But a shocking discovery changes everything…

Family ties
Then there’s Dylan’s family: his wayward twin Seth and their widowed mother Elaine, who is rather fond of a glass or two of sherry. Nothing in Elaine’s life is easy, bringing up teenage granddaughter Megan while the family grieves the loss of Megan’s mother.

Family lies
A tragic event rocks the foundations of the family, and Holly’s life starts to unravel. Dylan drifts ever further away. Megan is left uncertain and alone, while Seth falls deeper into himself.

The bonds that once bound the family together are breaking. Can they ever be repaired?

While we’re talking about news, another item is that the paperback of Stolen Sister will be ready in the New Year, possibly before that, and – at long last – the first book in my feel-good series is heading for publication early next year too. But more about that another time.

Next week, crime writer Maureen Myant is here with her choice of Classic Comfort books as well as her own new release, The Confession.
I’ll leave you now with more of that English countryside.

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#SilentSunday #sledges

I was at the Swiss National Museum last week, and found these…

See you next week!

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Georgia Rose

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 Georgia Rose, who writes romantic and psychological suspense. Georgia was one of the very first writers I met on Twitter – and we’ve met in real life too, the year I spent a few days in Cambridge and Bedford. She’s here today with her soon-to-be-released thriller A Killer Strikes, which is on pre-order now.

Over to Georgia:

Classic:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I remember sighing when my English Lit class was given this to study for O Level. It looked so dull against the other, probably highly inappropriate, books I was reading at the time. However, I grew to love it and because we dissected it over the year, I know it well. It therefore fills me with joy to open up the first page and start to read. I love Austen’s writing and dry humour but it also opened my eyes to the lack of choices women had before them back then and made me appreciate the freedoms we have now.

Comfort:

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Ahh, I love this book and know it so well as I’ve returned to it time and again over the years. Despite the limitations in veterinary medicine at the time it spurred on my desire to be a vet, until my lack of academic ability became only too apparent! I also loved everything about the life back then, still do actually. Life was lived at a slower pace and without the technological complications that seem to dog it nowadays. I think I’d have liked the simplicity. And the setting, don’t get me started on that. Stunning.

Thank you, Georgia – you’ve chosen two of my favourites too! The humour in both is amazing.

Georgia’s coming book A Killer Strikes is the first in a new series, at least two of which will be published next year. I haven’t read it, but I have read several of her other books and enjoyed them all, so I’m looking forward to the new one. Here’s the blurb:

The perfect family… The perfect murders…

A family massacred. A village in mourning. Can anyone sleep safely while a killer is on the loose?

Laura Percival, owner of The Stables, notices something wrong at her friend’s house when out on her morning ride. Further investigation reveals scenes she’ll never forget.

While the police are quick to accuse, Laura is less so, defending those around her as she struggles to make sense of the deaths. And all the time she wonders if she really knew her friends at all.

A chance encounter opens up a line of investigation that uncovers a secret life. One that Laura is much closer to than she ever realised.

A Killer Strikes is a gripping domestic thriller. If you like character-driven action, suspenseful storytelling and dark revelations then you’ll love this exciting novel.

Georgia Rose is the author of The Grayson Trilogy books: A Single Step, Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water as well as a short story, The Joker. She then released Parallel Lies, and its sequel, Loving Vengeance.

She is now embarking on her third series – A Shade Darker.

Georgia’s background in countryside living, riding, instructing and working with horses has provided the knowledge needed for some of her storylines; the others are a product of her overactive imagination.

Her busy life is set in a tranquil part of rural Cambridgeshire where she lives with her much neglected husband.

You can find out more about Georgia and her books on her website, on Facebook and on Twitter.
Next up on Classic Comfort Reads is Maureen Myant, whose new book The Confession is out in a couple of weeks. For now, I’ll leave you with Georgia’s latest:

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A 99p offer, an island and a town…

From the Isle of Arran to the English market town of Bedford – that’s the journey Nina Moore made in my third book, The Attic Room. Having learned that a man she’d never heard of had left her a house, she flew south to investigate – and found more than she bargained for.

My teenage summers were all spent on lovely Arran. Friends from Glasgow had a holiday place there, and I fell in love with the place as soon as I saw it. Who wouldn’t, with views like this?

On the boat to Arran

It was Scotland, so the weather wasn’t always so sunny…

But the local cows made up for that.

Anyway, Nina left the island and went to see the house she’d inherited. It would have been somewhere along this street in Bedford, and you can see more pics of the area in my blog post ‘Spooky old house revisited’ HERE.

What does Nina find out about the house? Who was John Moore? And how did he know her name? Read all about it in The Attic Room… (tap/click HERE to see it in your local Amazon store)

Next week, we have suspense writer Georgia Rose with her choice of Classic Comfort reads – see you then!

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Fountains… #travel #water

For the past few weeks, I’ve been taking photos of fountains in our local area here in N.E. Switzerland, some in our little town, others in St Gallen, our nearest city. There’s quite a variety…

First up – our town’s version of the Jet d’Eau in Geneva.

A little closer to the harbour is the Nymph Fountain, with two nymphs and a satyr. It’s had a few changes of location in the past hundred years or so, due to the naked state of the figures and what was deemed respectable at the time. At one point, they were even draped with cloths to protect their decency…

The next one’s in St Gallen, and it caused a bit of a stir when it was erected too, in the 1980s.

Also in St Gallen is the more traditional Broderbrunnen. It’s well over a hundred years old and is set in the middle of a busy junction, with cars, trams and buses passing by every day.

This more modern fountain is by St Gallen main station. As you see, it’s popular with pigeons as well as people.

I came across this chap by accident when I was on my way home from a hike one day. It’s in the middle of a mostly residential area, and no, I have no idea what’s going on there… but it’s fun!

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