A Week in Devon

Well, this post shows how behind I am (or perhaps that I had other things to post about recently). Anyway, after enjoying a rare day of sunshine last week – such a lovely change from what has felt like permanent rain and wind – I thought it was high time I posted a few photos of my holiday last September (See? I told you I was behind!) to remind us that better times (weather-wise, anyway) are on the way.

Delighted that we could travel out of school holidays at last, hubby and I enjoyed a week in Devon followed by a week in Cornwall (I’ll come to Cornwall in the next blog post). We were mostly lucky with the weather, with plenty of sunny days, and both places were still surprisingly busy. I’d forgotten how narrow some of those roads are, something I found rather stressful. Goodness knows what they’re like in high season! 

For our week in Devon, we stayed in a cottage outside the village of Georgeham in North Devon, the place where Henry Williamson lived when he wrote Tarka the Otter. His grave is in the churchyard there.

On our first full day, we drove to Woolacombe and walked from there all the way along the beach to Putsborough Sands, a place I immediately fell in love with.

A long stretch of sand, a small cafe, surfers bobbing about in the waves for added entertainment . . . Seriously, I could have sat there forever 🙂

The next day was going to be cloudy and not too hot – ideal for cycling. Well, ideal for hubby who does some cycling, anyway. I hadn’t been on my bike for . . . oooh, a few years, so although we picked a flat route along the Tarka trail, my leg muscles were complaining, as was my backside !

We cycled from Barnstaple railway station through to Fremington Quay, then on to Instow . . . where I gave up and had a walk and sat on the sands while hubby cycled back for the car. He has his uses sometimes 😉

The next day was a trip to Ilfracombe. I’d been on holiday there as a child, so I was intrigued to see if it had changed much. The cafe showcasing Damien Hirst artwork was certainly a novelty, as was his huge stainless steel and bronze statue ‘Verity’, towering over the harbour.

 

We drove on to Combe Martin, where hubby went for a lovely cliff walk while I opted to lounge on a bench above the town to admire the view and read my book.

The following day saw us enjoy a coastal walk from Putsborough Sands to Croyde Bay and back. Amazing views . . .

. . . and of course we felt we’d earned the right to lounge awhile and look out over the bay when we’d completed the circuit.

The next day, we drove to Bideford, but it was rainy and we didn’t stay long. On to Appledore which we found as quaint and pretty as its name  . . .

. . . then on to Westward Ho! in theory. In practice, there were a lot of roadworks and we gave up and instead went for a bracing walk nearby. It was chilly and drizzly, so as you can see, I’m well wrapped-up!

On the day we left Devon to move onto Cornwall, we decided to go back to  Fremington Quay for the morning – partly for a walk, partly for the delicious homemade cakes at the cafe there, and partly because a couple of rare birds had been spotted there and hubby is interested in that sort of thing. There were a lot of folks with impressive birdwatching equipment, but I spotted one of them with the naked eye before hubby got to it with his binoculars. Yay for me! 

Next time I blog, it’ll be about our week in Cornwall.

For now, I’ll leave you with an arty shot from Fremington . . .

 

Linda Huber introduces ‘The Saturday Secret’

I’m delighted to welcome author and online friend Linda Huber back to the blog with a guest post about her latest release, a collection of short stories called The Saturday Secret.

First, the delightful cover and the blurb . . . 

the-saturday-secret-ebook-for-amazonA Fabrian Books feel-good collection fifteen tales of life, love, and family – perfect for a coffee-break! Previously published in UK national magazines, the stories are about relationships within the family and without – some are humorous, some bittersweet; all are upbeat and emotional. Profits from ebook and paperback sales of this collection will be donated to charity.

The Party Partners Belinda and Phillip have fun at weddings, engagement parties and all sorts of celebrations. But anything more personal was out of the question – or was it?

Family Matters Gary shares Sharon’s dream of having children – but as far as he’s concerned, it’s something for the future.

Corinna’s Big Day It was the most important day in baby Corinna’s life, but for Madge, it was one of the saddest…

Lucky for Some You might say drawing number 13 in the cycle rally was bad luck. You might say falling off was bad luck, too. But Hilary knew better!

Patiently Waiting Mike woke up after his operation and saw the girl of his dreams. The problem was the engagement ring she wore on a chain round her neck…

The Saturday Secret What was she up to? The whole family wanted to know! But Grandma wasn’t telling…

And many more…

Sounds great! And I love that the profits are going to such a good cause 🙂 Now over to Linda to tell us more . . .

The Saturday Secret is a collection of feel-good short stories, and it has a very special place in my heart – if that’s not too corny! For one thing, 2017 profits are going to Doctors Without Borders, one of my favourite charities. For another, between the covers of this book lie two very important ‘firsts’ in my writing life.

‘First’ number 1 was when, way back in the day, The People’s Friend accepted one of my short stories, Miles from Home. I was delighted, gobsmacked, and terrified all at the same time – my story was going to be in a mag!! So of course, I carried on and wrote more.

‘First’ number 2 came a couple of months later, when a subsequently accepted story, The Party Partners, became the first to be actually published. That was a real ‘wow’ day. I sat there cuddling the magazine, almost in tears. I was a writer.

Over time, these two were followed by fifty-something more stories and articles. I started out using a pen name, but when the first article was accepted I switched to my own name for everything. And then, at some point in the noughties, I started writing psychological suspense novels, and left my feel-good short stories in the bottom of the wardrobe for a while.

Until last year, when I saw that a couple of people had published collections of their old magazine stories. That was when the idea of a charity collection came, and I started to find out about it. The end result is The Saturday Secret, and I’m really pleased to have it out there beside my psych. suspense novels – the sibling who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the family, but is nonetheless well-loved!

You can get The Saturday Secret on Amazon at this link:

http://amzn.eu/5g3RG2Y

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

lindahuber-2Linda grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, but went to work in Switzerland for a year aged twenty-two, and has lived there ever since. Her day jobs have included working as a physiotherapist in hospitals and schools for handicapped children, and teaching English in a medieval castle. Not to mention several years spent as a full-time mum to two boys, a rescue dog, and a large collection of guinea pigs.

Her writing career began in the nineties, when she had over fifty short stories published in women’s magazines. Several years later, she discovered the love of her writing life – psychological suspense fiction. Her first novel was published in 2013, and was followed by four others. She has also published a charity collection of feel-good short stories.

After spending large chunks of the current decade moving house, she has now settled in a beautiful flat on the banks of Lake Constance in north-east Switzerland, where she’s working on another suspense novel.

You can find Linda at these links:

Amazon UK          Facebook          Twitter          Linda’s website 

 

 

 

 

 

Books That Have Influenced Me #3 – Laura Ingalls Wilder

As an avid reader, my local library and school library were vitally important to me in childhood. I got through books at an alarming rate, nagging my grandad to walk me to the town library every Wednesday teatime (and hoping for an ice cream on the way home), and looking forward to our class visit to the school library each week.

So you can imagine my disappointment at the age of nine when I saw the state of the small classroom library in Year 4. The books on the shelves were ancient. Seriously ancient and seriously dull.

It seems our young, forward-thinking class teacher felt the same way and somehow managed to purchase one shelf’s worth of brand new paperbacks, which we were allowed to borrow if we were very careful.

I don’t remember all that she bought. But I do vividly remember a series about a nurse called Sue Barton which I read over and over (and wanted to be a nurse for a while. Ha! I can’t stand the sight of blood!) . . . and the whole series of Laura Ingalls Wilder books. At that point, I hadn’t seen the Little House On The Prairie TV series – although I loved it later – but I absolutely adored those books.

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Laura Ingalls Wilder transported me to another time and another place so completely, I wanted to be her. I was fascinated by what the family ate (codfish gravy for breakfast, anyone?); what they wore (and the fact that they sewed it all by hand); how they played, turning everyday objects into toys for a while.

For someone who has not got a technical mind, I was intrigued by the methods Pa used to build their houses with limited materials. I was as excited as Laura and Mary on their first trip to town, struggling to understand why they were so gobsmacked by the number of houses and the goods in the general store – I couldn’t imagine living somewhere where you had to travel for hours just to buy (or trade for) provisions, or sometimes even just to see a neighbour. I loved the idea of the small, cosy schoolhouse, teaching across the age ranges, with its warm heater in the middle of the room keeping the frost at bay.

I bought the set for myself when I was in my early twenties – I couldn’t bear not having them on my shelves – and then shared them with my daughter as she was growing up. 

laura-ingalls-wilder-little-house-in-the-big-woods-hpMy favourite in the series is the first – Little House In The Big Woods.

It has that innocence of young children at play,  their natural sense of wonder and a certain oblivion to the stresses of the grown-up world.

I love the cosy log cabin, making butter and cheese (not so much slaughtering the pig!), the stories Pa tells to the girls, and I remember the  “sugaring off”, pouring maple syrup onto snow so it hardens in squiggly shapes, and the dance that follows.

laura-ingalls-wilder-the-long-winter-hpIn an opposite kind of way, I also love The Long Winter.

The hardship that slowly creeps upon the family, their real struggle for survival, near-starvation, Pa’s inventiveness just to keep a small corner of their home heated, Almanzo’s interepid expedition to bring wheat to the town, blizzards so severe that you couldn’t see more than inches ahead and could be lost forever on the open prairie, the arrival of their Christmas turkey in May . . .

It certainly puts my suburban, centrally-heated, well-fed life in perspective! 🙂

So, beyond this obvious enjoyment, why or how did Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books influence me?

As with Enid Blyton’s books (see link below), they taught me that a writer can transport their reader to a whole other world. The fact that Wilder’s books were based on her own childhood made no difference – to me, a child growing up in the UK in the seventies, the distance in time and miles was still great. I didn’t mind the detailed description – it helped immerse me in Laura’s life.  As I’ve grown older and occasionally reread them, the books always make me hanker after a simpler kind of life . . . for a while. After all, I know I wouldn’t last two minutes with all that hardship and the bears and the walking goodness-knows-how-many-miles to school and waking up with snow covering my bedding and  the . . . well, I keep getting stuck on the idea of codfish gravy at breakfast. Eugh!

Any other Laura Ingalls Wilder fans out there? What am I saying? I know there are thousands of you! Form an orderly queue, please! 😀

If you missed my previous posts about books that were important to me, you can catch up here:

Books that have influenced me #2 – childhood poetry

Books that have influenced me #1 – Enid Blyton

 

My Favourite Recipe for Mystery Fiction – A Guest Post by Clare Chase

I’m delighted to welcome author Clare Chase back to the blog with a brilliant guest post about her favourite ingredients for mystery fiction.

But  first, take a look at the striking cover and blurb for her new release, One Dark Lie … 

one-dark-lie-high-resThe truth can hurt, and sometimes it leads to murder …

After becoming embroiled in a murder investigation, Nate Bastable and Ruby Fawcett have decided to opt for the quiet life. But crime has a habit of following them around.

When her work dries up, Ruby finds herself accepting a job researching and writing about Diana Patrick-John, a colourful and enigmatic Cambridge academic. Simple enough. But then there’s the small fact that Diana was found dead in suspicious circumstances in her home – the very place where Ruby has now been invited to stay.

As she begins to uncover Diana’s secret life, Ruby’s sleuthing instinct kicks in, leaving her open to danger and retribution. But can she rely on Nate to support her? Especially when his behaviour has become increasingly distant and strange, almost as though he had something to hide …

Sounds great! And now over to Clare . . .

My favourite recipe for mystery fiction

Thanks so much for inviting me on to your blog, Helen! It’s great to be here again.

As the ebook of my second Cambridge mystery, One Dark Lie, has just been released, and my first, A Stranger’s House, is out in paperback on Tuesday, I thought I’d post about my favourite ingredients in crime fiction.

There’s such a vast range of stories that fall under the crime banner – from chilling domestic noir to cosy mysteries. I read books from across the genre, but I do have a soft spot for certain tropes, and my own writing reflects that.

Couples in crime

I love couples in crime fiction series – from Dorothy L Sayers’ Harriet Vane and Peter Wimsey to Elly Griffiths’ Ruth Galloway and Harry Nelson. I think a developing relationship works really well as an ongoing subplot over several books. I’m quite a fan of slow-burn love stories!

In my Cambridge crime series, it’s writer Ruby and ex-PI Nate who get together to solve the mysteries. During A Stranger’s House they battle mutual attraction and a murderer who gets bolder with every new victim. In One Dark Lie, they’re each working on cases which eventually collide, meaning double the danger for Ruby.

A strong sense of place

I love Rebus’ Edinburgh and Brunetti’s Venice; the settings are almost like extra characters in the two series. The way the locations influence the plots of the books is riveting, and reveals more about the cities concerned with each new novel.

When I was planning my series, I wanted to give my setting a similarly strong role. Cambridge, my home city, was a natural choice. I’ve lived here for over twenty years now, and the place fascinates me. It’s achingly beautiful at times, and there’s something constantly nostalgic about it. I think it’s because of the high proportion of students. If you stay and become mature in the city, you’re always conscious of the passing of time, and lost youth. Cambridge is also a place of contrasts. You get choirs singing Elizabethan madrigals from punts on the river, whist drunks deal drugs on the commons. It’s a small city too, and secrets travel fast. A high proportion of residents work for the university (I used to myself), and there are lots of connections you might not expect. This means it’s realistic for secrets to get into the wrong hands, and for people to know each other’s business. Finally, the stakes are often high here. Academics vie for multimillion pound grants and a place on the international stage, whilst high-tech businesses develop intellectual property worth a fortune. What might someone do to protect their reputation or their livelihood? I find there’s endless inspiration for crime fiction!

A mystery to unravel

I like stories where I’m presented with information that could, in principle, allow me to guess the identity of the villain. Suspense is great, but I enjoy a bit of armchair sleuthing along with it! Critics often talk about psychological crime versus traditional stories where the books focus on plot and are more like a crossword puzzle. I don’t see these elements as mutually exclusive and love novels that focus on the characters’ psyches and motivations whilst also challenging the reader to solve a series of clues. And of course, the mindset of each character forms part of the overall information the reader has to work with when trying to identity the murderer.

A tense climax

I’ve always loved books that mix the detective element with a gradual rise in danger, leading to a life-or-death climax before the action’s over, so that’s the format I follow in my series. I was brought up on Mary Stewart’s novels, and the point in her books where the heroine worked out who the villain was – and usually found he was standing right opposite her at the crucial moment – never failed to thrill!

Crime fiction can be gritty, dark and violent, and of course it can also be humorous and cosy. My novels tread the line between the two. As a reader I hope you get to know the protagonists, victims and murderers in equal measure. To me, it’s the characters’ motivations and the mystery that are interesting, and the suspense and relationships that add the spice!

Thank you, Clare. I wouldn’t know where to start writing a mystery, but I do love reading them! Oddly enough, I was listing to a Wimsey mystery the other week on the radio, and I seem to remember my mother loving them. I agree that setting can be like another character – I’m very fond of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels, in which the Sicilian setting and culture play such a pivotal part – and although I’ve only visited Cambridge once, I loved it and can imagine it would make a great backdrop for a novel. As for Mary Stewart, I discovered those years ago and happily reread them now and again. I still love that mix of vivid description, a feisty heroine and heady danger!  

 

You  can buy Clare Chase’s One Dark Lie at this universal link :

https://www.books2read.com/u/mV7XGJ

 

And if you missed my interview with Clare last March about her previous novel A Stranger’s House, already available as an eBook but due out in paperback this week, you can read it here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

2015-04-30-clare_chase-copyClare Chase writes mysteries set in London and Cambridge featuring crime-solving couples. She fell in love with the capital as a student, living in the rather cushy surroundings of Hampstead in what was then a campus college of London University. (It’s currently being turned into posh flats …)

After graduating in English Literature, she moved to Cambridge and has lived there ever since. She’s fascinated by the city’s contrasts and contradictions, which feed into her writing. She’s worked in diverse settings – from the 800-year-old University to one of the local prisons – and lived everywhere from the house of a Lord to a slug-infested flat. The terrace she now occupies presents a good happy medium.

As well as writing, Clare loves family time, art and architecture, cooking, and of course, reading other people’s books.

She lives with her husband and teenage children, and currently works at the Royal Society of Chemistry.

One Dark Lie is her third novel with Choc Lit. Previous titles are You Think You Know Me and A Stranger’s House.

You can find Clare at:

Website and blog          Twitter          Facebook          Goodreads

 

 

Places in Return to The Little French Guesthouse #2 – Saumur

With these dreary grey days getting the best of us down, I decided it was time for a few sunny photos of France again!

I know so many readers have enjoyed the settings in The Little French Guesthouse books, and I enjoy sharing the inspiration behind them.

If you missed previous posts, you can read them here:

Places in Return The Little French Guesthouse #1 – Château de Chenonceau

Inspiration for The Little French Guesthouse #2 –  A Little Sightseeing

Inspiration for The Little French Guesthouse #1 – Town and Country

In Return to The Little French Guesthouse, Emmy’s new life in France may be hectic, but her friends make sure she fits in a little sightseeing.

Knowing she needs a break, new friends Sophie and Ellie take her to Saumur for the day, where they park by the river and stroll along the wide street, the Loire on one side and large, cream stone, columned buildings on the other.

Looking for lunch, they turn in to narrower, cobbled streets for a little window shopping and to eat, then work off some calories by walking up to the castle . . .

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saumur-chateau-river-hp

. . . and around its walls to look out across the river with its arched bridge. 

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I’ve been to Saumur twice now, once in the pouring rain – so no photos from that occasion – and once in seriously vicious heat, when I begged my husband to stop taking photos and get us back into an air-conditioned car before we melted! Unfortunately, that meant that when it came to finding photos for this post, I only had half a dozen to choose from.

Ah, well. Something’s better than nothing, as they say.

Return To The Little French Guest House  (LA Cour des Roses Book 2) by Helen Pollard

A lovely review from Tracey at The Reading Shed . . .

The Reading Shed

The Wonderful @bookouture and @helenpollard147 did it again and made my day when they accepted me to review another book from @NetGalley.

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Happy New Year! Most popular posts of 2016

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HAPPY NEW YEAR! WISHING YOU ALL THE VERY BEST FOR 2017 🙂

2016 was a busy year for me, with two new books published and getting such lovely reviews!

If you feel the need to catch up on the turn of events, you can read my news posts here:

From March – A HECTIC FEW MONTHS  and from December – NEWS ROUND-UP FOR 2016  

When I started this blog in the summer of 2014, my intention was to post weekly on a Sunday and I’d pretty much kept to that – but 2016 eventually got the better of me and by the summer, it was apparent I couldn’t keep that up, with all my writing deadlines. I had to cut back a little but still managed around 40 posts last year, alternating between my own takes on ‘writerly’ subjects and posts about some of my favourite places, and welcoming guest authors. Thank you to all those authors who agreed to take part over the past year🙂

The most popular posts of 2016?

To do with writing . . .  

COVER REVEAL AND PRE-ORDER FOR RETURN TO THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE  got by far the most hits. It seems everyone was keen to find out about the sequel for The Little French Guesthouse! 

 

 

29247496Coming in second was THE LONG JOURNEY TO THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE in which I detailed the long haul from the first glimmer of an idea through to publication.    

 

 

squirrel nutAnd in third place, BOOKS THAT HAVE INFLUENCED ME #1 – ENID BLYTON. I know so many writers who found Enid Blyton an inspiration – I’m not the only one whose childhood dream to become a writer was down to becoming absorbed in her stories.

 

 

The most popular posts about places . . .

It seems the French locations for my books got the most hits this year, rather than the odd post about my home county of Yorkshire . . . and why not? We all need to escape a little!

Chinon street #1INSPIRATION FOR THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE #2 got the most hits, visiting Montreuil-Bellay and Chinon in the Loire region.

 

 


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Second most popular was INSPIRATION FOR THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE #1, in which I described the aspects of the countryside, towns and villages that had enchanted me so much and led me to dream up the imaginary little town and its surrounding area in the books.

 

chenonceau-across-river-1-hpAnd third, PLACES IN RETURN TO THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE #1 – a visit to the glorious château at Chenonceau and its beautiful grounds.

 

And from visiting guest authors . . .

Stuck on Cloud-8-front-finalSalterAmerican author J.L. Salter got the most hits, back in January, talking about Stuck on Cloud Eight

 

 

 

kilcraig-cover-s-mediarosemary-gemmellA close second was a recent post from Scottish author Rosemary Gemmell with her new release, Return to Kilcraig.

 

 

once-ebook-cover-3sharon-boothAnd a close third was fellow Yorkshire lass Sharon Booth with the latest in her Kearton Bay series, Once Upon A Long Ago.

 

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog – your support is very much appreciated.

Looking forward to sharing 2017 with you!