Christmas in Switzerland…

…is on pre-order now for Tuesday 6th November.

From the first of Advent to the plans for Christmas Day, follow Stacy & Co as the Lakeside Hotel has its first ever Swiss Christmas.

What happens on December 4th, traditionally? And on the 6th? Who is the Samiclaus? Why is Carol so unhappy? And will Stacy and Rico’s relationship survive the season of way too much work?

Find out in Christmas in Switzerland, the fourth novella in the Lakeside Hotel series!

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Book news… 📚

There’s a new book on the way here in N.E. Switzerland. My current full-length novel project has been chuntering along slowly, its progress slightly hampered by bringing out my novella series. However, a couple of weeks ago I signed a contract, we are editing industriously, and publication is set for mid-February. This one will join Baby Dear and Death Wish in the Bloodhound kennels, coming out under the women’s fiction imprint Bombshell Books, and I’ll be sharing news about the title, editing/publication process as we go – and the cover, of course. I can’t wait to see it!

A few pre-publication details: Like Death Wish, the new one’s set mostly in Glasgow, but we have a few chapters in Edinburgh and a couple in Carlisle too. It’s about sisters Erin and Vicky, who grow up separately, unaware that they have a sister – it was great fun, plotting this one out. I started well over a year ago by pacing around Glasgow city centre – no hardship – looking at the location of Vicky’s flat, the streets she would walk through to get there, the urban view along the River Clyde she enjoyed from her living room window. There’s a story about that flat, but it’ll keep for another day.


Erin’s home for much of the book is at the top of Byres Road in the Glasgow West End, my old secondary school/student stomping ground. A year or two ago I met writer Barb Taub in a Byres Road café – you can’t see much of the street in this one, but the scones were lovely.

 

How did the sisters discover they were sisters? And why were they separated? Watch this space…

I’ll leave you with another couple of pics of Glasgow – you can see why they call it ‘the dear green place’. Look at all those trees.

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Autumn? in Switzerland…

It’s late this year. The woods across from my balcony are turning, yes, but not very far or fast. We can’t scrunch through autumn leaves as we wander along the trails, and the predominant colour is still green. So let’s have a look at some other slightly autumnal Swiss pics.

 

Below was taken in canton Graubünden in south-east Switzerland. We had many autumn holidays here when the boys were small. It’s a great place for woodland walks, campfires and sausage-sizzling, though I was never brave enough to go up in a balloon.

This one’s in Engadin, in the same canton. I wonder where the track goes…

Also in Engadin, Tarasp Castle. I’ve only visited that area once, and it seemed like the longest walk ever to get to the castle. But the views are incredible.

This is Bergün, the little village we often spent our autumn holiday in, back in the day.
Still in Graubünden, Lake Sils.
And we’ll finish off with some cows. This is the time of year they’re brought down – looking very festive – from a summer spent grazing on the alps.

And no, I’ve never tried paragliding or whatever the brave person in the above photo’s doing. I like my feet firmly on the ground, in all seasons…

That was Switzerland. Next time, I’ll have some very exciting book news and a post about sunny Scotland. 🙂

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Jennie Ensor: The Girl in his Eyes

I’m very pleased to welcome Jennie Ensor to the blog today. The Girl in his Eyes is her second novel, and it’s a story with a difference. A few weeks ago, I talked to Jennie – who as you’ll see is a very brave lady – about the book.

Describe your book in three sentences:
Laura was abused by her father when she was a child and for years was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim… Laura realises she must find the courage to stand up to her father, a paedophile hidden within a seemingly ordinary suburban family.

What gave you the original idea for this book?
The novel draws on my childhood and a particular incident many years later. For several years when I was growing up my father behaved abusively towards me. As a child I felt unable to tell anyone, not even my mother. I felt compelled to write TGIHE without really understanding why. With hindsight, I think I wanted to make sense of what had happened to me: why my father acted as he did and got away with it, why my mother didn’t guess and why as a child I couldn’t say anything. The novel’s premise – What would happen if a young woman abused in childhood finds out that her abuser, her father, might be tempted to prey on someone else? – came to me when I heard about an incident with my late father. Supposedly, some years after I’d left home, a girl visited my father and ran off in a state of distress, possibly shocked to find the man she was communicating with was much older than she’d imagined. This struck me; I wondered what I would have done years earlier if I’d suspected my father had been abusing someone else. (I don’t know if he actually had been.)

Where is the book set?
In London (mainly Wimbledon and West Kensington), in 2011 (towards the end of the last recession).

Tell us a little about the characters.
Laura is a troubled young woman of 22, deeply impacted by the abusive behaviour of her father. She feels isolated from her family and has only one real friend. Despite success at uni, her recent life has been marked by a string of dead-end jobs and failed relationships.

Suzanne is a 50ish mother of two (Laura and Daniel), married to Paul for 25 years. She’s a freelance proof-reader. Her life has been blighted by the early deaths of her parents and brother. For years she found Paul to be an anchor and lacked the confidence to follow her own path in life – but something inside her is awakening.

Paul, Laura’s father, is in his early 50s, a successful sales manager at a technology company but is facing job insecurity and the impact of the recession. He has dark secrets: a penchant for watching underage girls engaging in sex on the internet – and his abusive treatment of Laura when she was a child. Highly manipulative, charming and likeable on the surface, he’s kept his secret life hidden from his wife. Now, he tells himself that his ‘overstepping the mark’ with Laura must never happen again, with another girl…

What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Apart from the deep satisfaction of actually writing, going off into my own world, musing on how to tell the story at hand, I love the freedom to be at my desk or out walking mulling over plots – the choice is mine, there’s no office I have to commute to, I could in theory work anywhere. My husband has an 18th century house in the Pyrenees, and I find being there is often inspiring. I wrote a draft of my debut novel under the sloping roof of one of the bedrooms, looking out onto the village church and the mountains, listening to bells clanging every half hour. The other thing I value is the friendship and support of other writers, online and off. It’s a comfort when things aren’t going so well or you need to vent about something, and it’s great to share the occasional good news!

The French Pyrenees

And the worst?
There are days I want to be in an office chatting about the latest TV drama and looking forward to a few after work drinks on a Friday evening… There are always so many things to do as a writer apart from writing (especially that big time-sucker, social media) that sometimes I find it hard to give myself the time to relax and enjoy life.

What are your writing plans for the future?
My next novel is in the final stages of editing. It’s another family drama I’d say, but is totally different to TGIHE – a darkly humorous story of love, family, secrets and obsession. I took lots of risks with this novel too, going off into a slightly surreal, very playful space in my head. I wrote it partly to cheer myself up – there’s a vein of wickedly dark humour running through it. I’ve been plotting a fourth novel which I’m keen to start working on, a psychological suspense novel with paranormal elements.

Thank you, Jennie! You can find out more about Jennie and her books on her website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Goodreads.

Here’s the blurb for The Girl in his Eyes. I’ve read it, and it’s an amazing book, one I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Her father abused her when she was a child. For years she was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim…
Laura, a young woman struggling to deal with what her father did to her a decade ago, is horrified to realise that the girl he takes swimming might be his next victim. Emma is twelve – the age Laura was when her father took away her innocence.
Intimidated by her father’s rages, Laura has never told anyone the truth about her childhood. Now she must decide whether she has the courage to expose him and face the consequences.
Can Laura overcome her fear and save Emma before the worst happens?

A Londoner with Irish heritage, Jennie Ensor began her writing career as a journalist, obtaining a Masters in Journalism (winning two student awards) and covering topics from forced marriages to mining accidents. She isn’t afraid to tackle controversial issues in her novels, either – Islamic terrorism, Russian gangsters and war crimes in her debut Blind Side (Unbound, 2016); child abuse and sexual exploitation in her latest book The Girl in his Eyes, a dark psychological drama published by Bloodhound Books, 18. September 2018.
Jennie Ensor’s short story ‘The Gift’ was placed in the Top 40 of the Words and Women national prose competition; her poetry has appeared in many publications, most recently Ink Sweat and Tears. In her spare time she cycles, sings in a chamber choir and dreams of setting off on a long trip with her Kindle.

The French Pyrenees

 

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It’s beginning to feel…

Writing is often a lonely business. Even if you’re sitting with your laptop in the middle of a busy cafe, as many do, the process of getting your thoughts onto the page is definitely a one-person job. Even if you’re co-writing a book, collaborating with another writer as you go, you still spend hours alone with your characters and your keyboard. I knew all that. What I hadn’t realised until recently is that writing can be a seasonal business too – and I’m not quite on top of that part yet.

Take my novella series, set in the fictional Lakeside Hotel here in N.E. Switzerland. I wrote A Lake… and A Spa in Switzerland without really taking the time of year into consideration. Originally, I’d planned on doing two only, so when A Spa… brought a happy end to all, I was happy too. Then I thought, well, another would make a trilogy… and it would be nice to see how the Lakeside Hotel got started. So Trouble in Switzerland arrived, set in a lovely hot summer. I wrote it in late winter and spring, thinking fond thoughts of the better weather hopefully approaching.

Then the rot set in. ‘You can’t write a series like that and not have a Christmas book,’ everyone said. True… So, in early summer this year, I started to write Christmas in Switzerland. And we all know what summer was like. There I was, sweltering in my office room with all the windows open, wearing the minimum amount of clothes, iced tea to hand – writing about Christmas parties, mulled wine, snowman competitions… At one point I went out to get the post (we have outside boxes here in Switzerland) and thought, ‘Golly, it’s warm for the time of year.’ – and then remembered that real life was in July, not December.

Christmas in Switzerland will be out soon with the fabulous Fabrian Books. And summer is over, the hottest for decades. Now, we’ve dug out those fleeces, warm socks are on the horizon, and it won’t be long before gloves and woolly hats are fished out of the bottom drawer. And I’ve started another novella. My characters are bopping around in shorts and flipflops, planning a lovely sunshiny June. I’m doing something wrong here.

It isn’t really beginning to feel a lot like Christmas – yet. Seeing Christmassy pics in September seems like a bit too much of a good thing to me, but I’ll annoy you with this one, anyway. It’s the cover art for Christmas in Switzerland. Isn’t it lovely? James at Go On Write has done us proud!

 

And if anyone hasn’t read the novellas yet, A Lake in Switzerland is *Free* today (Sunday) only. Grab it while it’s hot. We’ll finish off with a non-Christmassy photo of the real lake in Switzerland – Lake Constance, glinting through the trees here as I type.

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Recently read and enjoyed…

This summer’s ultra-hot weather means I’ve spent more time lazing around on my balcony than I might have, a glass of something by my side and my kindle to hand.
Most of the books I read are crime fiction of one sort or another. The following are some of my four or five star reads, and we’ll have more another time too.
In no particular order…

 

 

Jane Isaac’s new series looks like being a real cracker. I loved the fact that this time, the main character is the Family Liason Officer.

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Friend kept me guessing right to the end. Secrets, lies, family dynamics – and a very clever plot.

 

 

 

 

 

This is a must-read for thriller fans – especially those who, like me, are mothers of sons… An intriguing story of family life.

 

 

 

 

 

Katharine Johnson takes us to lovely Tuscany in The Secret, and from the background of WW2 to the present day. The sights and sounds of Italy…

 

 

 

 

 

Last but not least, we have Merciless. Heleyne Hammersley has been on the blog with the fabulous photos which inspired one of her standalone novels. Merciless is the second in her detective series, but it can easily be read as a standalone too.

 

 

 

Book news: It’s been best seller orange flag week for my books on Amazon. Each of the novellas has now had one, and yesterday I was particularly pleased to find my first ever on Amazon US. Well done, Chosen Child.

And this feels like a good place to mention that Chosen Child is now on a 99p/c US/UK deal – until Tuesday, you can have it for WAY less than the price of a coffee… Just sayin’… 🙂

 

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The Writing Life…

Lots of people say it, and it’s true – writing is one third actual writing, and two thirds all the other ‘stuff’ – editing, arranging promotions, thinking and plotting, editing, organising cover images, learning how to do things with your computer that you’d never hear of ten years ago, editing… you get the picture.

This year, many hours have been taken up with other stuff, but I’m happy to say my writing time is back on track again. I’m also happy with the blog tour we had for The Cold Cold Sea re-release. There was a great mixture of articles, reviews, and extract posts, all arranged by Kelly at Love Books Group, and I’d like to say a big ‘thank you’ to all the bloggers who gave their time and space on their websites to my book.
You can read the book’s prologue HERE,  and the first chapter HERE, if you haven’t already. There’s an article about choosing location HERE, and one of the many reviews HERE. Another blog post I’d wanted to share here seems to be unavailable now, so I’ll put the article I wrote for it here instead – how The Cold Cold Sea came about, and how to create suspense in a novel:

A book usually starts when some small thing in life gets me thinking, what if…? The Cold Cold Sea began to niggle in my head years ago, when I was researching my family tree. First of all, I talked to my parents and uncle, then I wrote asking more distant relatives about their extended families. A third cousin sent over a diagram of her own family and a couple of others. One of these consisted of father, mother, and three children, and beside the youngest child were the words, Agnes drowned. That was all. Horrified, I called my mother.

It turned out that Mum had never met this family, but vaguely remembered that Agnes had died, aged eleven, on a trip to a swimming pool in the 1940s. I couldn’t get this child out of my head. She was related to me, yet I’d never heard of her. How had her parents coped with such a loss? How would anyone cope with such an awful tragedy, such an unbearable new reality in their lives? That was the ‘what if…?’ moment. What if they didn’t cope?

This little episode shows us two ways to add suspense to a book. One, write the book around a situation that in some way touches the reader. Who wouldn’t be moved at the thought of losing a child? And two, make the reader care about the book’s characters. If they come across as real, believable people trying their best to deal with whatever life has chucked at them, suspense grows because we care.

In The Cold Cold Sea we have Maggie, on holiday with the family in lovely Cornwall. One day on the beach she looks away for an instant, and in that instant, little daughter Olivia disappears. Into the sea? Maggie doesn’t know. We also have Jennifer, who is trying to deal with something in her past so awful she can’t even think about it. And Phillip, who is helping Jennifer – no one sees that he is screaming out for help too. But the reader knows. This is another way to create tension: give the reader more information than the characters have. The reader sees what is going on with Jennifer, but Phillip can only guess, and Maggie has no idea.

The Cold Cold Sea isn’t a ‘whodunnit’, or even a ‘whydunnit’. These things are clear to the reader almost from the start. The suspense is in wondering how on earth the characters are going to get out of this situation.

I used a different way of creating suspense in The Paradise Trees. Alicia is arranging end of life care for her father. Meanwhile, the village psychopath is watching her and her daughter, waiting to pounce. Here, the bad guy is introduced right at the start; Alicia knows him and he knows Alicia – but which character is he? We learn what this man wants to do, about his childhood and what makes his twisted mind tick. But is he Frank the doctor, Kenny the pet shop owner, Doug the head of the local care home, or Derek, one of the nurses there? The reader doesn’t know, and Alicia doesn’t know she’s being targeted. Then the psycho strikes…
This technique can be adapted by letting the reader know who the bad guy is, but leaving the characters in the dark.

I like these ways of writing suspense fiction, because they’re character-based and don’t involve the reader making assumptions that aren’t necessarily correct. The downside is, there’s rarely a ‘twist you won’t see coming’ involved!

It took a long time to write The Cold Cold Sea. It isn’t about Agnes who drowned, but I’ll always be grateful to my distant little cousin. We all have our collection of ‘memory-people’, those we remember with love. And Agnes is right there in mine.

And now? I have two projects. The first is novella number four, Christmas in Switzerland. It returned from its edit with the request for ‘more Switzerland’, so I took my characters on an unscheduled trip to Davos yesterday afternoon. I’m hoping we’ll get the book out for this Christmas…
The second is another suspense novel. Here, I’m also working on changes after the first edit. So there are plenty of spaces to watch for now. And more editing to do, more covers to choose, more promo to organise… I love it! 🙂

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Cornwall…

…is the setting for my second novel. Which, as of today, is also my seventh novel… The Cold Cold Sea was re-released today with a fab new cover by The Cover Collection – I love it!
(Purchase info HERE)

I have lovely memories of Cornwall, especially the north coast around Newquay, so here are a few pics of the places Maggie and family might have visited before Olivia disappeared.

Below is Carbis Bay – just look at that beach.

Land’s End, where the ocean curves along the skyline.

St Ives, definitely worth a visit. (And the setting for Chosen Child.)

I’m not sure where in Cornwall this one is, but aren’t the colours in that water magnificent?

One of those little coves could be the one Olivia vanished from.

The Cold Cold Sea is celebrating its republication with a blog tour:

Do join us on some of the posts: We have reviews, extracts and articles, and lots more lovely photos. (If you’ve read and enjoyed the book, please consider leaving a review on Amazon – one short sentence is plenty.)

We can’t leave Cornwall without having a cream tea pic. I know there’s some controversy about cream and jam and which goes first, but I won’t make any mistakes with this photo…

 

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Swiss Mountains…

Scenic blog post alert… The past several weeks have been HOT here in N.E. Switzerland. 33-34°C every afternoon is a bit too much of a good thing – I wished several times I was halfway up a mountain, enjoying the snow squeaking under my feet.

On the left we have our local mountain, the Säntis, with the other peaks in the Alpstein range, and Lake Constance in the foreground. At 2,502m, Säntis is a baby compared to some, so let’s have a quiz question – which is the highest mountain in Switzerland? (Answer at the end of the post.)

Most famous has to be the Matterhorn, in Canton Valais. I’ve seen it a few times, and it’s actually quite rare to be able to take a photo without clouds floating around the peak. (This pic isn’t mine.) The resort town Zermatt lies below the Matterhorn – famous for boutiques and après-ski.

Another everyone knows is the Jungfrau. It’s in Canton Berne, and anyone who enjoyed The Chalet School books as a child will recognise the photo below immediately – it’s the view from Joey’s living room, those years the school was in the Bernese Oberland.
Below, we have the Jungfrau plus the others which make up the trio Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau. Best seen from Interlaken, the town between two lakes. (Thun and Brienz).

And here’s Kleine Scheidegg and that famous ‘north face of the Eiger’. (And for anyone interested, these buildings are how I picture the Lakeside Hotel in my novella series.)

Moving towards central Switzerland now, we have Pilatus, the mountain right next to the city of Lucerne. The views from here are terrific, and it’s easy to get to – though it tends to be rather busy in summer…

It’s back to Valais again for Monte Rosa, surrounded by glaciers and less easy to get to; it’s the only mountain in this post I’ve never visited. Piedmont in Italy lies on the other side.

For a touch of James Bond mystique we have the Schilthorn and its revolving restaurant – I’ve had hot chocolate in that restaurant. It wasn’t the least expensive ‘heisse Schoggi’ I’ve ever had, but the views were something else…

So – which is the highest? Drum roll…

It’s Monte Rosa, at 4,634m.
The Matterhorn is 4,478m, Eiger 3,967m, Mönch 4,107, Jungfrau 4,158m, Pilatus 2,132m, and Schilthorn 2,970m. I think the best time to visit any of them is autumn, when the air seems clearer. I haven’t been to the Pilatus for a while… maybe I’ll do that, and give it a blog post to itself in a month or two.

Meantime, if you’d like to know what it’s like at the top of the Säntis, Stacy and Emily go up in (I think) chapter 3 of A Lake in Switzerland. Just sayin’…

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Quick reminder – new release and free book!

Trouble in Switzerland is out today, and to celebrate, A Lake in Switzerland will be free today and tomorrow, which is Swiss National Day. For details and purchase links click here. So for two days, you can have all three light, vaguely romantic and definitely scenic novellas for under £2. Happy reading!

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