Visiting Tony Riches…

This week, I’m on Tony Riches’ blog, answering questions about Pact of Silence and writing in general. Do have a look, and while you’re there check out the rest of Tony’s website and his historical fiction set in Tudor times. You can read the post HERE.

In other news, Baby Dear is on offer at the moment and gained an orange flag in Australia. So if you’re looking for a 99p/c bargain, look no further. It’s HERE.

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

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#SilentSunday in #Switzerland…

Some pics from the past week or so:

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Jennie Ensor

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

This week, it’s Jennie Ensor, whose amazing crime thriller Silenced was my book of the year last year. I can thoroughly recommend it, and you can read more about it below.

Over to Jennie:

Classic:

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Phillipa Pearce

I know, this was written in 1958, but it appears on at least one list of classic children’s books! I read Tom’s Midnight Garden as a teenager; it transported me away from the dull outer suburbs of London into a mysterious, magical world. It’s a children’s fantasy/timeslip novel. Tom goes to stay with his aunt and uncle in a flat without a garden. He hears the grandfather clock strike thirteen, gets up to investigate and finds a garden that shouldn’t exist with a girl inside it… This book entranced me – I hope to return to the midnight garden one day.

Comfort:

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

When I first read this about thirty years ago, the book didn’t strike me nearly as much as the film did (which I’ve watched at least three or four times – stirring soundtrack, evocative photography, great acting). But recently I started re-reading the tatty paperback on my bookshelf. Perhaps with the benefit of those extra years, it’s affecting me differently. The English Patient is a story of desire and identity, with plenty of intrigue and deception thrown in, a fascinating mix. I love the poetry of the writing – I keep stopping to re-read paragraphs – and the dialogue is brilliant. Ondaatje portrays his characters so vividly, and conveys emotions like love and jealousy with such intensity.

Thank you, Jennie – I must read The English Patient again soon too!

Silenced is Jennie’s latest book, and as I said above, it blew me away. Here’s part of my Amazon review: “Mesmerisingly good; Jennie Ensor has written a real stonker of a crime thriller here…this book stayed with me for a long time after I’d finished it.”

It’s time to tell the truth… Whatever the consequences.

A detective must decide whether to reveal a secret that has haunted him for twenty-five years; a murdered girl’s mother must decide whether to tell police everything she knows; an elderly council estate resident living next door to a feared gang’s headquarters must decide whether she will stand up to terrifying intimidation.

Silenced is a chilling crime novel about fear and courage that delves into the core of Britain’s toxic gang culture.

A teenage girl on her way home from school is stabbed through the heart. DI Callum Waverley believes that the feared gang Skull Crew is responsible, but finds no one in the community who has the courage to help his investigation. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Luke is sliding into Skull Crew’s grip, along with his schoolfriend, Jessamine. As the boundaries between guilt and innocence start to blur, Callum tries to break through the code of silence that shrouds the case and bring down the gang’s sinister leader.

A Londoner with Irish heritage, Jennie Ensor writes daring, emotionally-charged psychological suspense and thrillers, and novels with a darkly comic edge. She began her writing career as a journalist and loves to tackle controversial issues in her novels: Islamic terrorism, Russian gangsters and war crimes in her 2017 debut Blind Side, a thriller set in the year of London’s 2005 terror attacks), sexual abuse and exploitation in her second, The Girl in His Eyes. Not Having It All: a wickedly funny, feel-good novel about love, lies and middle-age is a satirical relationship comedy. Silenced was published in December 2021 – a chilling crime novel with a strong psychological element, which ventures into the shadoy world of teen-exploiting gangs and police corruption.

Ms Ensor lives in London and sometimes SW France with her husband and their Airedale terrier. She writes short stories and poetry as well as novels. In her spare time (?) she reads, sings choral music, practices yoga and cycles the punishing local hills. Evenings, she’s often collapsed in front of a TV crime drama with a bar of chocolate/glass of strong alcohol.

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

Next month, we’re having Italy-based writer Helen Pryke with her choice of classic comfort books.

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Rejuvination #1… #nature

The woods by my flat are sick. A large proportion of the wood consists of ash trees, and we’ve known for a while that some day, something would need to be done about them. The good news is, the wood is to be saved. The bad news is that around half the trees need felling. That won’t be done in a day, of course; it’s to be a years-long ‘rejuvination’ project, and it started last Monday. The paths are closed on weekdays while work is ongoing, but yesterday, I went to have a look at what had been done so far.

I know that by the end of the project, the wood will be in much better shape, but it’s still heartbreaking to hear the trees crashing down every day. And somehow, it isn’t much consolation that in twenty years or so, you’d never notice the difference. But onwards and upwards. Watch out for the progress pics when the spaces are cleared and the new trees are planted.

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Beavers! #nature, almost #SilentSunday

Our beavers have been busy again. The little stream that flows past the woods by my flat has two dams, an old one and a newer one. The new one was built mainly last year, I think, after the old one had to have pipes laid through it to stop the pooling water endangering the railway embankment. Recently, however, that’s where the beavers have been most active. Here are a few pics taken over the past 3-4 weeks.

Above, a couple of chewed up trees, plus one of the logs the authorities have laid out in an attempt to distract the beavers from dismantling live trees.

Above is the old dam with its drainage pipes. The railway embankment is about 20m downstream, and the water flows through a narrow channel beneath it.

This one’s the new dam. It gave way slightly last spring, but the beavers have now repaired it.

And this pond just beyond the new dam used to be a little stream, maybe a metre and a half wide, similar to the photo below near the old dam.

A reminder of the damage these fascinating, protected animals can do. But I’m so glad we have the chance to live alongside them!

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The year that was… 2021

Well. We started the year with high hopes, but as far as the pandemic was concerned, 2021 was just another day at the office. So today, there are more empty places at the table, more friends marked by the disease, more discord in daily life than I ever remember. And that’s before you even start thinking about politics…

But let’s concentrate on the positives of last year, because there were plenty of those around too. A few of my own highlights (and some that are less than ‘high’ lights but still worth a mention):

Best writing meet-up:
I didn’t exactly manage one every week last year; in fact I can count the number of real-life meetings with other writers on my fingers. Two stand out. One is the lovely summer day we met in Wil. It was Cass Grafton’s (standing) last time with us before she returned to England, so Alison Baillie (left), Louise Mangos (right) and I made the most of it.

Crime writer Danielle Zinn and I didn’t get the sunshine for our lunch in St Margrethen a few weeks later, but one thing the pandemic has taught us is how to eat out in all weathers… The last time I met up with Danielle was in 2018 in London, so it was lovely to catch up in person!

Best trip:
I didn’t go far for this one, but it was a fascinating visit to the sand sculpture event further up Lake Constance. The winning sculpture was amazing.

Best book moments: It’s always special when a new book comes home and I can hold it for the first time. This year, I was lucky enough to do this twice, for Daria’s Daughter and for Pact of Silence. Thank you, Hobeck Books!

Most put-off celebration: for the second year running, Son One’s birthday in March.
2022? I’m not even thinking about it. We’ll see what comes…

Best boat: The ‘Impfschiff’ (vaccination boat). The MS Thurgau went up and down Lake Constance in spring, vaccinating lakeside dwellers. By the time my age group came along, unfortunately, she had gone back to her usual summer job of transporting tourists and selling ice creams.

Two biggest ‘thank yous’:
One goes to Switzerland, for giving me my base jabs (in a tent) and my booster (in a flashy vaccination centre). The other goes to Moderna. I am truly grateful.

Favourite book of the year:
I read so many great books in 2021, but choosing one was easy. Jennie Ensor’s Silenced blew me away. If you like crime fiction and haven’t read this yet, you’re in for a treat. Jennie will be here on the blog at the end of January to tell us about her own favourite books.

Biggest learning curve:
In a word, podcasts. The struggle was real. But I think I got there in the end…

Most interesting walk:
This is one we do regularly, to the beaver dam in our woods. They’ve been busy beavers recently – watch out for more pics in January!

And that was 2021. Thank you all for reading my blog and for your friendship and support in the last year – another difficult one, but again, it was the little things that helped us through. I think maybe it’s always the little things, and the pandemic has made that more clear. So here’s to 2022 and more little things. (And hopefully a few big things too – but let’s not tempt fate…)


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Classic Comfort Reads… with Mandy James

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

This week, it’s Mandy James, who writes suspense and feel-good fiction. Her books are all set in Cornwall, where she lives. Her latest, A Secret Gift, was published at the end of October and will be followed by The Garden by the Sea in January.
Over to Mandy:

Classic:

I read this book when I was a teenager and was drawn into the daily life and loves of the March family, particularly the headstrong Jo. It was like a 19th century soap opera. I read it again years later, and saw the new film adaptation recently. I realised how much more Alcott had to say about the position of women in society and the inequality between genders and also race. I loved the subtle humour too. I found out she was an abolitionist and a campaigner for women’s suffrage which made me love her and her book even more!

Comfort:

I first read this book, a gift from my brother, when I was 13. Immediately I was captivated by the characters, the setting and the quest. A whole new world of Middle Earth opened up to me, along with dragons, orcs, wizards, elves and long forgotten kings. The desire to destroy evil and set the world to rights is an ongoing theme throughout the story, along with the importance of teamwork, friendship and a little romance. Tolkien certainly knew how to pull at the heartstrings as well put a fire in your belly. The perfect escapist comfort read.

Thank you, Mandy! These are two of my own favourites, both as books and all the various film versions that are available.
Mandy’s new release, A Secret Gift, is the first of her Cornish Escape novels, standalone uplit reads set in Cornwall. It’s a lovely book – just what we need at the moment. Here’s the blurb:

Three years ago, Joy Pentire lost her firefighter husband and she still hasn’t returned to the woman she once was. But then she meets Hope, one of the residents at the nursing home where she’s a carer.
Hope has a secret gift that she wants to pass on.
And Joy’s life is forever changed.
Surrounded by the community in her Cornish hometown, Joy’s unexpected inheritance soon leads to new opportunities, new friends, new love, and the part of herself she’d thought forever lost … her joy.

Amanda James has written since she was a child, and as an eight-year-old, she asked her parents for a typewriter for Christmas. She never imagined her words would ever be published however. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true when she had her first short story published for a Born Free anthology. She left teaching in 2013 to pursue her dream full-time.

Originally from Sheffield, Amanda now lives in Cornwall and is inspired every day by the wild and beautiful coastline near her home. She has many suspense novels set there, but her last few books have been uplifting in nature with a twist of magic. She loves writing feel-good reads and has decided the world needs more joy in it right now, and her plan is to write many more novels in that genre. Amanda can usually be found playing on the beach with her family, or walking the cliff paths planning her next book.

You can find out more about Mandy and her books on Twitter, Facebook and Amazon.
Next month, we’re having Jennie Ensor, who also writes in different genres, with her choice of Classic Comfort books.
The blog will be on holiday now until January, so I’ll say a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who’s supported me in the past year – and before that, too – and have a very merry (safe) Christmas! I’ll leave you with a lovely image of Cornwall, and another of Mandy’s feel-good books.

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Visiting Susanna Bavin…

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

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Classic Comfort Reads… with Terri Nixon

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

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

Over to Terri:

Classic:

Kenilworth, by Sir Walter Scott

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

Comfort:

The Stand, by Stephen King.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Almost #SilentSunday…

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

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

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

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

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