(Almost) Silent Sunday…

The trees by the harbour have been yarn-bombed with positivity:
(The words you can see are listed in English at the bottom of the post.)

(Cool, in love, heartfelt, happy, magnificent, optimistic, thankful, charming, heavenly, proud, recovered, fantastic, hopeful, pretty, festive, cheerful, special, joyful)
Let’s remember the good words!

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Sweet ‘n’ Sour books from…Scotland

I spent the first twenty-two years of my life in Scotland, so a sweet ‘n’ sour post from north of the border is a must. Mind you, it wasn’t until I came to Switzerland that I met Alison Baillie and Jo Bartlett, the two writers whose books feature today. Both books are really good reads with a flavour of the area, perfect for the present time, when we can’t travel as much as we’d like to.

 

Sweet: A Highland Practice, by Jo Bartlett

Dr Evie Daniels has recently lost her mother. Unable to save the person she loved most in the world, she considers giving up medicine altogether; especially when her fiancé is unable to understand her grief. Instead she decides to leave her life in London and fulfil her promise to her mother to see as much of the world as possible. Her first stop is to escape to the wilds of the Scottish highlands and a job as a locum in the remote town of Balloch Pass. It’s only ever meant to be the first step on her journey, though, a temporary job she has no intention of sticking with. There’s a whole world to see and a promise to fulfil, after all.

But she doesn’t expect to be working with someone like Dr Alasdair James – a hometown hero – whose own life changes beyond all recognition when his best friend dies and leaves him guardian to two young children. With enough drama in their personal and professional lives to fill a medical encyclopaedia, they soon develop a close friendship. Can it ever go beyond that when Evie’s determined to see the world and Alasdair has commitments at home he just can’t break? Or are they destined to be forever in the wrong place at the wrong time?

I thoroughly enjoyed my outing to the Highlands with this book – and the house on that cover image is very similar to the cottage where I spent my teenage summers, on the Isle of Arran – happy memories!

 

Sour: Sewing the Shadows Together, by Alison Baillie

More than thirty years after thirteen-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah. 

When modern DNA evidence reveals that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona?

Soon Sarah and Tom find themselves caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and everyone is a suspect. The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears.

Dark secrets from the past are about to emerge, but can they uncover the truth before the killer strikes again?

This is such an atmospheric read. Most of it takes place in and around Edinburgh, and you can tell that Alison Baillie knows the area intimately. A fabulous thriller.

We’ll finish off with a photo of Scotland this time – isn’t it lovely?

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How (not) to name your minor characters…

I may be having problems with my current work-in-progress… Draft one was completed and polished a few months ago and went to my fabulous editor for the first edit. (Edit 1 is mainly about the plot, structure and character development) Back it came, and I started on draft two, incorporating my editor’s suggestions for giving one of the child characters a more extensive role in the story, while cutting down on her mother’s contribution. So far, so good.

I like my characters in this one. The main characters are all nice people, and the two children were great fun to write. I worked my way through draft two, then let it rest for a while before getting it out again and going through it with (hopefully) fresh eyes.

Character names are tricky. I always seem to fixate on one letter – Ward Zero, for instance, came back from its first edit with the news that my characters included Megan, Marianne, Mhairi, Mim and Martha. Not to mention Roger and Rita and Ralph. And Nora and Netta. And Jack and Jim. I vowed back then not to make the same mistake again, started a names list, and renamed practically everyone in Ward Zero.

So, confident that my names in this book, which is still a title-free zone, would all pass the starting-letter test and hadn’t appeared in an earlier book either, I began to check through draft two.

By the time you get to this stage, you’ve read your own book roughly eleven million times, and it’s easy to miss things. I was slightly less than halfway through when I came across Jill the librarian. She’s a nice lady, appears in one chapter only, and has two sentences to speak. She almost doesn’t need a name, but I called her Jill anyway. Two pages further on, the main characters were exiting the library, when a thought struck. Wait a minute… WAIT A MINUTE – wasn’t the police officer in the last couple of chapters called Jill too? Quick check… yep, she was.

So Jill the librarian became Paula, and on I read, tweaking as I went, and eventually I came to Jill the police officer. She doesn’t have a big role either, but she’s mentioned a few times and she talks more, too. I came to the end of her role, and hesitated. Maybe better just check that I really did change all mentions of the librarian to Paula. I put ‘Jill’ into the word-search box, and up came Jill the police officer’s role, as well as – several mentions in chapter three. But… Jill the police officer wasn’t around in chapter three and neither was Jill the librarian, so this must be… yes, another Jill. (This one’s an assistant in an exclusive clothes shop and in chapter three she can’t go to work because she’s moving her mother into a care home.)

It was a bit of a head on desk moment. The problem was, of course, these minor characters were so minor they never made it to the names list…

When I need a name quickly, I usually dive into Facebook or Twitter, and the first name I see there wins the role, providing it’s not already in the story. Jill the shop assistant became Marie, and on I checked to the end of the book. And we’ll see what happens when it goes for edit number two.

One day, I’ll get all my characters into a story with suitable names for their ages, no same starting letters and no repetitions. Maybe. But it wasn’t this book.

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The ‘M’ books… #A-Z books 📚

This 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.

We’re halfway through the alphabet now – today, it’s the ‘M’ books:

 

 

First up is Murder in the Fens by Clare Chase.
I’m a big fan of Clare’s Tara Thorpe books, all set in and around Cambridge – you couldn’t wish for a more scenic backdrop to a murder mystery series. A young woman’s body is found, her pockets full of wilting flowers. An affair gone wrong – or is there more to the story? Tara and the team investigate.

 

 

 

 

I first read Mister God This Is Anna by Fynn when I was a young teenager. It’s one of those books that stays with you in more ways than one – the copy I have here at home is the same one I read all those years go. It’s a book to go back to, and ponder – Anna’s outlook on the world does us all good, and the illustrations are wonderful.

 

 

 

 

My ‘older’ book isn’t very old, this time, but I loved all Ann Granger’s Mitchell and Markby mysteries – I wish there were more of them!
In Murder Among Us, a gala hotel opening in the village of Bamford is rudely interrupted by the discovery of a body… Fortunately, Chief Inspector Markby is there with Meredith Mitchell.

 

 

 

Look out for the ‘N’ books next time!

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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Sweet ‘n’ sour books from… Yorkshire

With both family and friends living in this lovely area, I’ve been to Yorkshire more often than any other part of England – so that’s where I’ve chosen for my second sweet ‘n’ sour books.
In each S+S post, I’m featuring one romance or feel-good book, and one in a crime fiction genre, both set in the same area. Click the covers to see the books on Amazon, and don’t worry, you don’t have to eat them…

Sweet: There Must Be An Angel, by Sharon Booth

When Eliza Jarvis discovers her property show presenter husband, Harry, has been expanding his portfolio with tabloid darling Melody Bird, her perfect life crumbles around her ears. Before you can say Pensioner Barbie she’s in a stolen car, heading to the North Yorkshire coastal village of Kearton Bay in search of the father she never knew, with only her three-year-old daughter and a family-sized bag of Maltesers for company.

Ignoring the pleas of her uncle, Eliza determines to find the man who abandoned her mother and discover the reason he left them to their fate. All she has to go on is his name – Raphael – but in such a small place there can’t be more than one angel, can there?

Gabriel Bailey may have the name of an angel but he’s not feeling very blessed. In fact, the way his life’s been going he doesn’t see how things can get much worse. Then Eliza arrives with her flash car and designer clothes, reminding him of things he’d rather forget, and he realises that if he’s to have any kind of peace she’s one person he must avoid at all costs.

With the help of beautiful Wiccan landlady, Rhiannon, and quirky pink-haired café owner, Rose, Eliza is soon on the trail of her missing angel, and her investigations lead her straight into Gabriel’s path. As her search takes her deeper into the heart of his family, Eliza begins to realise that she’s in danger of hurting those she cares about deeply. Is her quest worth it?

And is the angel she’s seeking really the one she’s meant to find?

This was the first of Sharon Booth’s books I read – it’s huge fun and a brilliant feel-good read! And check out the lovely new cover images this series has!

 

Sour: The Murder Mile, by Lesley McEvoy

Forensic Psychologist Jo McCready is assisting DCI Callum Ferguson on a murder inquiry when one of her patients is found brutally murdered. 

Jo was the last person to see Martha Scott alive. She was helping Martha unlock a repressed memory, but during the session, Jo unlocked more than she bargained for. An alter personality introduced himself as the reincarnation of Jack the Ripper – and thanked Jo for setting him free to kill again.

As Ferguson’s team race to find Martha’s killer, a series of copycat killings begin, replicating ‘The Autumn of Terror’ in 1888. But if Jack is just a figment of Martha’s damaged mind, who killed her?

As the body count rises, Jo must construct a profile to stop the murderer recreating the terror of the most infamous serial killer of all time. But not everyone is on Jo’s side. The Police Intelligence Unit have their own profiler, Liz Taylor-Caine, who resents Jo’s involvement as a contributing expert in the case.

Suspicion about Jo’s involvement in the killings increases when someone close to the team becomes one of Jack’s victims. And as the anniversary of the final and most gruesome of all the killings looms, Jo discovers that the killer has one murder on his mind that is far closer to home…

This excellent book is Lesley McEvoy’s debut novel and was one of my top reads last year. Like me, she uses a mixture of real and fictional locations in her writing, which means it’s easy to imagine the settings. I raced through this one with my heart in my mouth, and I can’t wait to read her next!

We’ll finish off with a lovely Yorkshire photo – the Cow and Calf Rocks, near Ilkley.

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Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Carmen Radtke and I are what you might call opposites. She’s a native German-speaker who’s lived for decades in English-speaking countries, and I’m the other way around. I’ve read all her books in English, so I was really interested to hear she was planning to translate one of them into German herself. Today, she’s here to tell us – in German – about the pitfalls of translating your own books.

(English speakers, why not have a go with your school German? You might be surprised. But just in case your German isn’t up to it, you can copy the article and paste it HERE for a useful, if not perfect, translation.)

Over to Carmen:

Wenn einem glatt die Worte fehlen

„Niemand kennst seine eigenen Werke besser als der Autor.“ Wie oft habe ich das gehört oder gesagt?

Genau. Häufig genug, um darauf reinzufallen. In Kombination mit Nachfragen, wann es denn endlich mal wieder ein Buch auf Deutsch von mir gibt, ist es kein Wunder, dass ich eines Morgens mit der Idee aufwachte, „The Case of the Missing Bride“ in meine Muttersprache zu übersetzen.

Doch wer wie ich seit Jahren im Ausland lebt und sich zudem ein Manuskript vornimmt, dass ebenfalls schon einige Jahre auf dem Buckel hat, stößt auf unerwartete Hindernisse.

Der Anfang war noch einfach.

Aber während literarische Übersetzer (Diamanten in einem Kohlehaufen!) ein Buch nehmen, sich in die Welt vertiefen und das beste daraus machen, überkamen mich Zweifel, was ich mit der plötzlichen dichterischen Freiheit anfangen sollte. Ändern, was mir im Nachhinein verbesserungswürdig erschien? Hm. Und was hatte ich mir urprünglich bei diesem Satz und jenem Begriff gedacht? Viel schlimmer, Wie heißt das überhaupt auf Deutsch?

Was so simpel erschien, ließ mir auf einmal graue Haare wachsen. Ein Wörterbuch – fast vergessen, aus meinen Journalistentagen – wurde mein neuer bester Freund.

Statt auf Englisch vor mich hinzufluchen oder mit den Charakteren zu hadern, die sich selbst beim Übersetzen noch genauso widerspenstig zeigten, wie beim Schreiben des Originals, schimpfte ich mittlerweile auf Deutsch mit ihnen. Und wie durch ein Wunder flossen die Worte wieder.

Eine Geschichte, die in Australien beginnt, auf hoher See spielt, in Neuseeland geschrieben wurde (wie es sich am schönsten Ende der Welt lebt, ist in Kiwi & Co. nachzulesen) und ursprünglich von einem englischen Verlag herausgegeben wurde, führte eine Gruppe von importierten Bräuten in ein ungewisses Schicksal und mich zurück zu meinen Ursprüngen. Selbst wenn mir manchmal die Worte fehlten.

Aber das geht mir seit geraumer Zeit so. Neuseeländisches Englisch hat in der Umgangssprache seine Eigenarten, genau wie die australische Variante oder die amerikanische. Wo ein Brite ein Auto verkauft (to flog a car), treten uns am anderen Ende der Welt die Augen aus den Höhlen, weil die gleiche Redewendung Down Under einen Diebstahl bezeichnet. Zu Zeiten meiner Bräute hätten wir „nur“ Auspeitschen damit in Verbindung gebracht.

The book with its original English cover image.

Am allerschönsten war beim Übersetzen das Wiederentdecken deutscher Sprachjuwelen. Unsere Worte möglich lang und die Sätze kompliziert sein, aber dafür haben sie ihren eigenen Charme. Curt Goetz, der gesagt hat, „Die schwierigste Turnübung ist noch immer die, sich selbst auf den Arm zu nehmen.“ Friedrich Nietzsches „Man vergisst nicht, wenn man vergessen will“ (umgekehrt stimmt es übrigens auch – ich habe glatte fünf Wochen gebraucht, um den Begriff Radkappen wiederzufinden und mich solange mit „die Dinger da“ begnügt), und Erich Kästners „Aus den Steinen, die dir in den Weg gelegt werden, kannst du etwas Schönes bauen“ sind aus gutem Grund geflügelte Worte. Obwohl letzterer es einfach hatte. Er hat nie selbst übersetzt.

Das ist etwas, was ich nie wieder machen werde. Es sei denn, dass neue Nachfragen kommen. Schließlich kennt niemand meine Werke besser als ich. Wie lautet noch gleich das deutsche Wort für „pack train“?

Thank you, Carmen! I can identify with occasionally searching for words in my own language…

Here’s the translated version of The Case of the Missing Bride. (Click the images of the books to see them on Amazon.)

The German translation

Es soll die Reise in ein besseres Leben werden ….

1862. Zielhafen Eheglück: Eine Gruppe junger Frauen sticht in Australien in See, um in Kanada mit wohlhabenden Goldschürfern verheiratet zu werden. Als eine der Bräute nach einer stürmischen Nacht verschwunden ist, glauben alle an einen Unglücksfall. Alle, bis auf Alyssa Chalmers. Sie ist überzeugt, dass ein Verbrechen geschehen ist und setzt alles daran, die Wahrheit heraus zu finden. Aber steckt noch mehr hinter dieser gefahrvollen Reise steckt, als Alyssa ahnt?

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

And we’ll finish off with those kangaroos the brides would never see again, once they left Australia…

 

 

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Coronavirus Spring…

We’ll be talking about 2020 for the rest of our lives – ironic, because all we really want to do is forget it ever happened and ‘get back to normal’. But Those Who Know are talking about ‘the new normal’, so the old normal has gone. Forever? The past is always gone forever. Maybe we’ll just have to work with the new while we remember the old.

Memories of this coronavirus spring are a mixture of horror and grief and black, black humour, and often it’s the humour that gets us through the days. Barely a family is unaffected. We lost my uncle, who died of Covid 19 in his care home in England, aged 99. It’s tough when grief is mixed in with frustration and anger and fear.

But in beside the bad stuff, there’s the sense of not being alone. People ask more often, ‘you okay?’ We appreciate the small positives, we make more of them to fill the time. Neighbours offer help and home-made bread, strangers in the street smile and say ‘lovely day’ even while they’re giving each other such a wide berth it would have been considered rude, BC. Before Corona.

On the one hand, social media is busier and more ‘social’, on the other, we’re all now following dozens of scientists, epidemiologists, doctors and others who might know what they’re talking about. Social media is where a lot of that black humour comes from, too.
So I’ve made a selection – seven days of lockdown life. Not consecutive days, not a week, because time is timeless now. Most of these pics made me smile, and one or two of them will remain in my life even when the new normal is old:

 

 

 

1. Easter was a little different this year.

 

 

 

2. But my lilac tree was lovely. (Unfortunately, though, this has been the worst hayfever spring I can remember. Apparently birch pollen levels haven’t been this high for seventy years.)

 

 

 

3. So we had plenty of time for that #LockdownReading.

 

 

 

 

4. And we all learned how to Zoom. (This is my writers group, who, unlike friends and family, don’t mind being on blogs etc. The one you can’t see very well is Louise, the others are Sandra and Jill, and yes, I had a glass of something too…)

 

 

 

5. Looking at graphs is now something we generally do before breakfast every morning.

 

 

 

 

6. But there’s still the same old Friday feeling every week.

 

 

 

 

 

7. The big thing now is the Great Face Mask Debate. This is still ongoing, so here’s a useful guide.

 

 

 

So there it is, this coronavirus spring. I really, really hope there won’t be a coronavirus summer, but that might need a small miracle. Or a large one. And meanwhile, we all know what to do…

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The ‘L’ books… #A-Z books 📚

This 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. Don’t worry – 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.

 

Today, it’s the ‘L’ books, and little did I know when I chose the first one how topical it would be:

 

I’m trying not to repeat writers in this series, and back in December, I was swithering between Terry Tyler’s Hope for H, or Lindisfarne for L. Lindisfarne won. It’s a great book, the second in Terry’s Project Renova trilogy. The world has been forever changed by a deadly virus. (Is this beginning to sound familiar??) The bat fever virus, however, is much, much deadlier than Covid19. Groups of survivors are coming together, one of them on the island of Lindisfarne.
We can hope that we’ll get at least part of the ‘old world’ back after Covid19. Terry’s books show us what could have happened…

 

 

 

What else could the L book for children be? This is the beginning of the story of Laura’s pioneer childhood, when the family live in the big woods of Wisconsin. I loved these books so much as a child, reading them over and over again. There’s always that feeling of desolation when you get to the end of the series and know there’s nothing more to be read.

 

 

 

 

This is a real golden oldie – a laugh-out-loud account of one “older” mother and her journey through pregnancy, childbirth and having a baby in the house. If you need cheering up in our brave new world, order this. It doesn’t seem to be available on kindle, but the paperback is well worth waiting for.

 

 

 

Coming next month: the ‘M’ books. I wonder if we’ll still be looking for #LockdownReading?

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

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Sweet ‘n’ sour books from… Switzerland

Sweet ‘n’ sour came to mind last week while I was tidying jars in my kitchen cupboards, my lockdown activity of the day. I love the zingy taste of gooseberries and ‘soor plooms’, and who doesn’t love the creamy sweetness of caramel, or sticky toffee pudding with ice cream? Back at the computer, I decided to adapt it to: Sweet ‘n’ sour books. In each post I’ll feature one romance or feel-good book, and one in a crime fiction genre, both set in the same area. Don’t worry, you don’t have to eat them…

Today’s selection is from Switzerland, and as it’s the first sweet ‘n’ sour post, I’m including one of my own books. Subsequent posts will have two books by other people. Click the covers to see the books on Amazon.

Sweet: A Lake in Switzerland, by Melinda Huber

Stacy can’t believe her luck when her best friend Emily invites her on a holiday to Switzerland.

She arrives at the Lakeside Hotel with high hopes, but the problems begin straightaway. Emily’s recent injury doesn’t let her do much, and something is wrong at the hotel. Where are all the guests? Why is the owner’s son so bad-tempered?

And then there’s the odd behaviour of Stacy’s fiancé back home. It’s hard to enjoy the scenery with all this going on…

By the last day of the holiday, Stacy knows her life will never be the same again – but the end of the week is just the beginning of the Lakeside adventure.

A Lake in Switzerland is set in my home area, on the banks of Lake Constance – read the book to see why I’ve made this lovely place my home!

 

Sour: Her Husband’s Secrets, by Louise Mangos

Art college dropout Lucie arrives in a Swiss ski resort looking for work – but instead finds love in the form of the handsome and charismatic Mathieu.

Matt seems like perfect husband material – especially when Lucie discovers he’s from a wealthy family. But Matt’s dark side soon emerges. Manipulative, controlling and abusive, he is anything but perfect and will tear the life she has built for herself and their six-year-old son JP apart.

Then, one fateful night, things come to a head in the most shocking way . . .

Wrongly accused of her husband’s murder and left fighting for her freedom in a foreign prison, Lucie is starting to lose her grip on reality. Now, she must summon all her strength to uncover the truth about Matt’s death and be reunited with her son – before it’s too late.

The clock is ticking . . . but who can she trust?

A mother in prison. A child in danger. And time is running out…
If you’re looking for a chiller read – look no further.

I’ll leave you today with the Matterhorn – picture-perfect Switzerland.

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The Runaway, on location…

I’ve never set a book in an area I haven’t visited. Having said that, most of The Runaway takes place in Cornwall, and it’s many a long day since I was there – but the impressions I had then have stuck in my brain. One day I’ll go back, but it won’t be this year…

The book starts off in London, though, where the Seaton family live in a terrace on the south side. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in one, but TV programmes like Location Location Location and Homes Under the Hammer can give you a very good idea of what London flats, not to mention London prices, are like.

Nicola, Ed and 15-year-old Kelly are comfortably-off, but not well off. I imagined them in a building rather like the one below. Before long, however, circumstances force the three to move to Cornwall, and although Nicola is convinced the removal is the only thing to do, she has reservations about leaving the city.

Whisper it – moving might be best for them as a family, but given the choice, she’d live in London, wouldn’t she?

Home is now a big house on the top of a cliff, a mile or two outside St Ives. Nicola tries to convince herself they’d done the right thing.

…now she could sit on the beach every day of the year, on any beach, all the beaches. Maybe one day, when they’d settled in properly, being a seaside-dweller instead of a city girl wouldn’t feel like she was cut off from her real life.

Nearby St Ives is a bustling, vibrant town in summer.
The street running along the edge of harbour was busy, and Nicola grinned at her daughter. ‘Feels like we’re back in civilisation here, doesn’t it?’

But Kelly hates her new home, and spends hours alone on the beach.
The beach was the only good part about living here. It was somewhere to come when the roof was falling on her head at home, somewhere she could be alone and part of the enormity of wind, waves and sky.

Events spiral out of control, and Nicola finds herself back in London, alone and searching, searching…
Nicola slapped her oyster card on the machine, hurrying through and joining the crowds on the platform. The train screeched in, and she took her seat for the first leg of her trip to today’s search area.

Meanwhile, Ed is still in Cornwall, waiting at home. Towards the end of the book he stands on a deserted clifftop, gazing out to sea as the tide comes in…
There was the ocean, ever-changing and yet timeless, moonlight glinting on the waves as they surged inland.

So – is there a future for the family in lovely Cornwall? I’ll leave you to read for yourselves.

The Runaway is available on kindle only at the moment, but the paperback will follow on later this year. As we’re all stuck inside in Corona lockdown, we’ve left the pre-order price of 99p or your local equivalent in place for the moment. Here we are in the psychological fiction charts:

I’ll leave you with another lovely Cornish view. Stay safe, everyone!

 

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