The ‘J’ 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 ‘J’ books:



I’m a huge fan of Elly Griffith’s Dr. Ruth Galloway books. The Janus Stone is the second in the series, and it’s a good one. Two children went missing forty years ago… and now, bones are discovered when an old house is demolished. And someone is trying to frighten forensic archeologist Ruth…






Jo’s Boys is the fourth and last in Louisa Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ series. I went to see the new film recently, and dived straight into the books when I came home. Jo’s Boys is more about the boys than Jo, but we still see what’s been happening to the March family over the years. A nostalgic read.




What else could the ‘older book’ be? Jane Eyre needs no introduction. I visited the Brontë Parsonage the last time I was in England – it gave me goosebumps, standing in the room where Charlotte Brontë had penned Jane Eyre, and hearing how ‘To Walk Invisible’, the film about the Brontë siblings,  was made.




Coming next month: the ‘K’ books. This could be a challenge…
(The Cold Cold Sea is just 99p on a Kindle Monthly Deal all February – grab it while it’s hot!)

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The Writing Life: 5 things on my desk…

Around ninety-five per cent of my writing is done at my desk. It’s not a very tidy desk, but it’s at a window overlooking a wood, so the view is spectacular in all seasons. On the photo, taken from my office chair (you can just see my screen bottom right), it’s around five o’clock last Friday afternoon – almost sunset. I’ll spare you a photo of the desk itself.  #notaprettysight

I like my desk; we’ve got into a lovely writing rut, the two of us, and I need every one of the approximately 297 items that live on it. Here are a few of the most important:

1) My tiger. He’s really a screencleaner, but his main function here is to provide a wrist rest while I’m using the mouse. If I don’t have him, my wrist aches all the time I’m mousing around. I’ve tried proper wrist rests, but none were half as good as Tiger.


2) My magnetic wobbly pen. The brilliant thing about it is – it never gets lost. You stick the pen into the holder and it stands up, ready to grab next time. No searching, no time wasted. Best of all, you can buy refills for it, so it’ll last forever. Of course, if my desk was tidier I might not have to search…


3) My computer specs. These are  especially designed to remove glare from the screen while you’re typing. The moment I put them on, my eyes say, Ahhhh! Writing a book means staring at a word doc for hours every week, and these really do make a difference.


4) My sticks bowl. One of my sons made this at primary school – I love it. I always save the day’s work onto at least two sticks, as well as having it on a cloud. No way do I want a repetition of what happened a year or two ago when I clicked something I shouldn’t have. Here’s the bowl looking pretty with just one stick – I removed another four sticks, three batteries, a memory card from a camera, a metal guardian angel, my Tippex roller, two paperclips and a 5 cent coin for the photo…


5) Last but not least – my sucky sweeties, to help when my writing gets stuck. These ones are from Aldi and with yoghurt, fruit and no sugar they’re not really unhealthy… are they? (Don’t answer that.)
(The red ones are the best.)


So there you have it, five must-haves on my writing desk. What are yours???



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Coming soon – book nine. 📘 And two goodbyes…

Image by jeresta from Pixabay

Who was it said that writing a book is a marathon and not a sprint? Two or three years ago, an idea started jogging around in my head. A couple of news stories had been hitting the headlines, about people who’d disappeared, sometimes for years, and then emerged again, to the joy and also the horror of their families.

Plotting and planning is a lovely stage of the writing process. You’re thinking all the time, what if…? Ideas and scenes swirl around in your head, and slowly, slowly, the characters emerge.

In this one we have Nicola, who is trying to hold her family together. And Kelly, who rebels against everything. Ed, who has put his past behind him and built a new life. Rob, who has dealt with tragedy once already. And Mia, who loves life and doesn’t remember what happened when she was a baby.

These five, ably assisted by a few minor characters, tell the story of someone who runs away – away from the past? From the present? From friends, family – themself?

I started to write, and of course one of the first things you need is a location for your book. This one has two, but the main action takes place in Cornwall, where I spent several wonderful holidays as a child.

Image by Klaus Stebani from Pixabay

This isn’t the first book I’ve set near St Ives; Chosen Child centres around this lovely town too. I enjoyed the months I spent writing, sitting at my desk in N.E. Switzerland, with my head in Cornwall all the time. The Runaway is written now, and edited, and will be published in ebook on March 24th, with the paperback following on nearer the summer. Big thanks right here to everyone at Fabrian Books – a great team!
I’ll be sharing more details soon, including the amazing cover.

I’ll finish up with more thanks. Last week, a little indie bookshop closed in nearby Liechtenstein – not really a sad event, because the owner is retiring to help look after the next generation in her family. But I’ll miss my trips to Vaduz – I usually went with a bag of my own books and returned with a bag of other people’s!  Here’s the scenery that met us last week. Big thanks too to all at McOwl’s for their support over the years.

And I can’t stop without mentioning Mary Higgins Clark, who died last week at the age of 92. She truly was ‘the queen of suspense’ and her books – over fifty of them – gave pleasure to so many people over the years. The biggest thanks of all.

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The ‘I’ 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.


This time, it’s the ‘I’ books:


Bea Davenport and I go all the way back to 2013, when our first books were published within a few weeks of each other and we did various bookshop and library events together. In Too Deep tells the story of Maura, who flees her home and her past. Maura’s best friend Kim is dead – did Maura help to kill her, as she thinks? I’m a huge fan of Bea Davenport’s writing. As well as crime fiction, she also writes children’s and YA books. All highly recommended!




In the High Valley by Susan Coolidge is the fifth and last of the ‘Katy’ books: What Katy Did, What Katy Did at School, and What Katy Did Next are the better-known ones, and are followed by Clover and In the High Valley. The first three were favourites when I was a child, so I was pleased to learn, years later, that another two existed.





I Leap Over the Wall by Monica Baldwin is my ‘older book’ choice. In 1914, aged twenty-one, Monica Baldwin entered a convent (she writes about this in The Called And The Chosen). Twenty-eight years later, she leaves, and has to get to grips with daily life outside of her enclosed order. Meanwhile, the world is now at the height of the Second World War. Both are fascinating books.



Coming next month: the ‘J’ books.
Footnote: The Cold Cold Sea is on a UK/US 99p/c kindle deal this weekend.


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Technology (or not) for writers…

I’m not what you’d call technologically gifted. In fact, I’d probably have been a lot happier writing books back in the days when you did it with a quill and inky fingers. That being impractical nowadays, I’ve had to get my head round a variety of pieces of equipment – and it does help that my second son is a qualified IT person.

The printer – which I have only just stopped calling the new printer – has been muttering under its breath for the past several weeks, providing each printed page with a variety of extra dots that weren’t on the originals. I ignored it as long as I could, but when it started putting verticle lines down each printout, I realised that action was needed.

Very fortunately, by this time it was the Christmas holidays and Son 2 was in the building. He sat down happily enough with the printer and my computer, looking out the guarantee first of all, but of course, that had ended a few weeks ago… He decided the fault was with the roller thing that supplies the ink or whatever it is nowadays, and which you’re not supposed to touch because it’s ultra-delicate – so he gave it a good blow and tried the printer again. The verticle lines remained. Out came the roller for closer inspection.

At this point, I decided to make coffee, and came back to find him poking at the ultra-delicate roller with a tissue that looked as if it had been in his pocket for quite some time.

‘Aargh!’ I said. ‘You’re not supposed to…’

He gave me a look. ‘It’ll be fine.’

I’d heard that before. As he was dead set on dabbing at the roller, I zipped into the loo and brought him some loo roll to dab with, crossing my fingers hard my poor printer would survive the experience. We tried it out again – the verticle lines were still there, but quite a lot paler now.

‘Perfect!’ I enthused. ‘We don’t need them 100% gone. Thank you so much.’

He gave me another look. ‘They’re still there.’

Out came the ultra-delicate roller again, and the loo roll was wielded anew, with the addition of a generous portion of spit this time. By now I was wondering how soon a new roller would arrive if I ordered it now, the day after Christmas. Son 2 licked a last piece of loo roll, gave the ultra-delicate-roller-that-you’re-not-supposed-to-touch a final and enthusiastic polish – and tried it out again. The verticle lines were gone.

What I learned that day:
1) Ultra-delicate rollers aren’t.
2) You can ignore what it says in the manual. Loo roll and spit are a perfectly viable way of fixing your printer.

I do wonder, though, if Son 2 learned that at uni, or if it’s one of those things one’s children just soak up automatically, like programming the television and changing the car clock back to summer time…???

Image by Joss Rogers from Pixabay


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2019 – the best of times and the worst of times… (a minimalist’s version)

2019 had its ups and downs. We won’t mention politics, but here are a few of the book- and Swiss-shaped highlights and lowlights…

Best book moment: holding my first copy of Stolen Sister, published in March by the Bloodhound Books imprint Bombshell. It’s available in ebook, paperback and audio, and will be out next year in Czech. I was sent a Bombshell mug, too, which was best extra of the year.

Best book moment number two was the publication of Wedding Bells in Switzerland, the final novella in my Melinda Huber series set here on the banks of Lake Constance. As these are  available as ebooks only, it wasn’t quite the same as holding a physical copy, but we still opened the bubbly for it. Of course.

Most put-off trip: That has to be my 2019 trip to the UK, which just didn’t happen… I think it was a combination of my own travel lethargy (I welcome any excuse not to go on a plane), and the Brexit effect. 2020. Promise.

Shoogliest train ride: Going down the Flumserberg in this train, which was the replacement for a cable car under revision. It gave a whole new meaning to ‘hold onto your hats, folks’ – but we got there!


Oldest ship spotted: the Hohentwiel, here pulling into Rorschach harbour at the eastern end of Lake Constance last summer. Now the only paddle steamer on the lake, she started touring in 1913.



Best writers’ meet-up: our pre-Christmas get-together in Zürich, with Cass Grafton, Alison Baillie, Louise Mangos and Christa Polkinhorn. As always, we had problems to discuss and suggestions to make  – it’s so lovely to have others in the same situation to talk things over with. And drink prosecco with. And this time, we had mulled wine too…


Most environmentally-friendly purchase: my beeswax wraps, perfect for things like cheese, cold meat and sandwiches. I bought mine last June and since then, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve used clingfilm. Every little helps…

Favourite read of 2019: The Rumour by Lesley Kara, one of those books you literally can’t bear to put down – and that ending!

What will 2020 bring? I don’t know, but I’ll wish you all health and happiness, and a good start in the New Year, whatever you’re doing. We’re going into the roaring twenties again, so let’s roar.
All the best, and thank you for reading my blog!


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The ‘H’ 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 ‘H’ books:


First up is Her Husband’s Secrets by Louise Mangos. This engaging thriller was originally published as The Art of Deception and tells the story of Lucie, who’s in prison in Switzerland, wrongly accused of her husband’s murder – and meanwhile, her six-year-old son is in danger. I especially enjoyed the prison sequences, and the way the flashback chapters wove Lucie’s past into the present day story. Highly recommended.




The Horse and His Boy is the third in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. I was thirteen before I read the Narnia books. I arrived at secondary school and discovered quite a few books my classmates had read and I’d never heard of, including The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first in the series. My favourite of the seven has to be The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.




Gerald Durrell’s books are entertainment pure. In this one, he’s in Africa and Canada filming his TV series and coping with uncooperative animals – and TV producers. I love his animal books, but the funniest are the ones about his family and other doings. If you haven’t read The Picnic and Suchlike Pandemonium, get it NOW.




Coming next month: the ‘I’ books.

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NaNoWriMo ups and downs (and two freebies)…

It started with a dream – something was buried in a garden… The idea swirled around in my head for a few days, becoming ever more detailed, so I noted it down. The note grew longer, and within a week I had a plan for the first half of a new novel. That was when I realised the date – it was Halloween. And I thought, why not try it properly this year?

November is National Novel Writing Month, when writers of all sorts and conditions aim to write 50,000 words of a novel. You can sign up to the NaNo website, and cheer each other on on social media, and if you succeed, you have a nice chunk of your work-in-progress done.

So off I went. I didn’t sign in officially, but I kept to my target of 1,700 words a day to complete the task. Having a plan already set out helped, as I didn’t need to work out what-happened-next all the time, and it also helped that Switzerland in November is fairly conducive to staying indoors with your mug of coffee and your laptop. I made my 50K with four days to spare, and heaved a sigh of relief.

Plus points of the experience:
An outside target like that does keep you focussed.
I got my plot going more quickly than I usually would. Instead of stopping to mull something over, I marked the place on the ms to mull over later, and carried on.
It was fun – and motivating – to see the word count grow all the way up to 50K. Below is the badge you get when you do it officially – which I didn’t, but I borrowed one anyway…

Minus points:
Only one, but it’s a biggie.
I felt I didn’t have nearly enough time to develop the characters. They were going through the motions, pushing the plot on, but they weren’t doing it as people in their own right, they were just figures in a story. As soon as I reached my 50K I stopped, went back to the beginning and started to make my paper people into themselves and not cut-outs. And that’s what I’m still doing, two weeks later.

Will I do NaNoWriMo again? I’m not sure. I think I would need to spend more time preparing, especially the characters, to make the experience more satisfactory. But 50K is 50K, and 20K more than I normally manage even in a good month. So the answer’s a definite maybe.

Two freebies to finish off with this week:
1) A Lake in Switzerland is FREE on Amazon all weekend! (ends Sunday night)
2) Stolen Sister is available as an audiobook now, and I have some free UK codes from Audible to give away. So if you’re an audiobook fan and would like one, email me using the contact form below the header image at the top of the post (✉), and I’ll send one. First come, first served.   ***OFFER NOW CLOSED***

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A picture post…

While I’m wrapping up my NaNoWriMo effort – I made it to 50k words this November, but more about that another time – here are a few photos I took between summer and now.

Our beautiful lake, Constance, in July and November. Spot the difference.

Our town’s whirlpool fountain, now emptied for the winter. I always think it’s wasted in the middle of a roundabout. It’s fascinating watching the water, especially at night when it’s lit from inside.

A new addition to our neighbourhood. ❤ He/she has catlike aloofness in spades.

Downtown Arbon – a roof terrace on Swiss National Day.

My newest fangirl screenshot – with Agatha Christie!!! 🤩

And to finish off – a photo of summer deceased. Roll on next year. No, I’m not a huge winter fan…

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The ‘G’ 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 ‘G’ books:


I’m a huge fan of Mary-Jane Riley’s Alex Devlin books. Like Mary-Jane, Alex is a journalist, and this time she’s involved in a missing man mystery. Gone in the Night is the fourth Alex book, all of which can all be read as standalones. Fast-paced, realistic and highly recommended!






I loved all Noel Streatfield’s books as a child, and The Growing Summer was one of my favourites. This is my own copy, showing Alex, Penny, Robin and Naomi in the car, motoring along the south coast of Ireland with Great-Aunt Dymphna, who was looking after them – or not – while their parents were away. A fabulous read.





The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls is one of those books that leaves a lasting impression. It’s a memoir, the startling story of the Walls children’s childhood in America with an alcoholic father and a free spirit mother who didn’t want the responsibility of a family. I haven’t seen the film, but I’d like to.




Coming next month: the H books. And now I’ll get back to my NaNoWriMo project. Still a bit to go before I hit 50K!

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