I can’t believe the time has gone so quickly. It feels as if May and June are part of the same month. And now, here we are almost at the end of the first half of 2022. I feel I’ve blinked and missed something, but not quite sure what.
Mid-month we’ve been away again, back to our studio apartment in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. We were first here in June 2019. This one bedroom apartment is situated on a leafy, unadopted road of large properties. It’s quiet, five minutes walk from the town centre, and has parking. I found it quite by accident back in 2018 and it seemed perfect. The apartment is situated at the rear of a small hotel and sits on top of a huge garage that belongs to the owners. There is a glass fronted balcony with a small bistro table and chairs, ideal for that cup of coffee or a relaxing glass of wine. It also faces west, which means it gets the afternoon sun. The weather in 2019 didn’t disappoint, but was no way as Mediterranean-like as this year. Most of the small businesses in Aldeburgh seemed to have survived Covid and the place was busy. We had a great week, revisited some good eateries and discovered new ones. We ventured north one day and had lunch on the Broads at a waterside pub. We also did quite a bit of walking and caught up with friends who live locally. All in all, a great week, helped, of course, by that amazing weather.
This year we also booked to go to Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, home of the Great Ship Burial. We had not got around to visiting there back in 2019 and watching The Dig, a Netflix drama starring Cary Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes showing how the treasure was discovered, reminded us that we needed to remedy that on this visit. For those, like me, who enjoy history, it proved an interesting day, and well worth the visit.
My WIP has now hit 90,000 words. I have a deadline ahead when I have to get the finished item to my editor. The good news is that I’m a good way down the road now, and looking forward to publication in September.
And finally, my June reads…
I’ll be back at the end of July but in the meantime, have a good summer everyone…
May is my special month. One for celebration. I gain another year. Since last years it’s also a little sad. In May 2021, I unexpectedly lost one of my best friends. It made me pause and remember how we first met when her husband’s job moved them from Southampton to Wiltshire. She came to work as a PA in the same company as me. Eighteen months later I left, but we kept in touch with regular meals out and dinners at each others’ houses. She was slim and stylish and made a lot of her own clothes. And she was a brilliant cook. She was diagnosed with lung cancer in September 2021 and that was both a shocking and scary moment. But she fought back and although the tumour was inoperable, medication had shrunk it and she seemed to be coping well. But in a matter of months, out of the blue. two strokes changed everything and she was gone. I guess it made me reflect on how important it is to make the most of now. To value friends and never take anything for granted. I do miss her but have some wonderful memories of our times together.
Moving on. We spent a week in Cumbria this month to celebrate my birthday. We rented a barn conversion on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The development of refurbished buildings where we stayed was where the Bronte sisters went to school. So quite an appropriate place for a writer to spent a holiday.
Journeying up from the West Country, we expected delays. I’m not a lover of motorway driving, but for Cumbria it is a necessity if you want to keep your journey time to a minimum. Just as the M5 joined the M6 everything began to back up. There was a bad shunt up ahead which caused a hour’s delay. Coming back it was roadworks, but this time the hold up only stopped us for around twenty minutes.
While we were there, the weather behaved itself, with most of the rain falling during the night. This was planned as a chill out holiday and we split our time between the Dales and the Lakes. The day we decided on boat trip on Windermere, the sun came out and it was really hot. The surrounding countryside is breath-taking with, of course, wall to wall sheep giving endless opportunities for photographs. And there lies a sad tale. Despite making lists and ticking off things as I packed them, I managed to come away without my camera! I had my phone and an iPad, but it wasn’t quite the same. Therefore I became artistic director (!), pointing out good photographic opportunities to my OH. So I now have a holiday file of his photos on my PC as a reminder of the great week we had.
We also returned to Ambleside, somewhere we had first visited in August 1982. It had been a spur of the moment decision. Pack a case, jump in the car and drive. One of our memories of that time was eating out at Zeffirelli’s, a vegetarian restaurant with a small cinema. Retracing our steps we were surprised to find it still there. It’s now an award winning Italian vegetarian restaurant and the single cinema has been moved upstairs and expanded into a multi screen venue.
We’re now back and looking forward to returning to Suffolk in June. I didn’t get to visit Sutton Hoo last time around and after seeing The Dig (which reminded me) want to make sure of a visit this time. While we are there, it will also be an opportunity to meet up with some Norfolk based friends and a catch up over lunch.
Book Progress: Everything is going well, but I have had to reschedule publication due to all sorts of unexpected issues arising. I’m now hoping for early September and the MS should be with my editor by end June.
Reading and Reviewing. Five titles this month. All very good.
So that’s it for May. The scary thing is that next month will mean we are half way through 2022 – where does the time go?
Here we are, once again, saying goodbye to yet another month. We are now a third of the way through 2022. Where has the time gone?
On the writing front, I’ve had a complete overhaul of my writing timetable. I had planned to have my ms ready for editing by the time we go away in May. That is now definitely not happening, which has had a bit of a domino effect, pushing the publication date to later in the year. I’m now looking to publish in early September. Having agreed this change with my editor and formatter, as you can imagine, it’s taken a whole lot of pressure off me. The delays which have caused me to fall behind have been due to health issues. Nothing serious, but it has definitely impacted on my writing.
Note sure whether any of you know, but I live in a village on the eastern side of Bath. We’ve been here many years and have been lucky enough to look out onto open fields at the rear of our property. When we first moved in, a farmer rented the field and we had a herd of Friesians as neighbours Then it was sold off to someone in London and there was talk of them wanting to sell it for building. We realised that things change and although not ideal, this could well happen. A retired businessman not far from us used to pay for the field to be mowed twice a year and then, last year, we heard that he’d managed to purchase it. The great news now is that it is now being developed as a nature reserve. Last September we noticed seed being sewed and automatically thought it was meadow flowers. However, with the arrival of spring, it’s clear they were planting different types of grasses. This week a team have arrived and given an oak tree, which stands a few hundred yards away, a bit of a makeover, cutting out the dead wood. In addition, young trees are being planted in small copses around the field, which when established will provide a useful habitat for wildlife.
I think everyone in the road is relieved that any new neighbours will be of the fur and feathered variety rather than the human kind. Living in an area of outstanding natural beauty and having been incorporated into the Cotswolds it’s a relief to know the area behind the houses will be preserved and won’t be given over to another extension of suburbia.
Our first holiday is imminent. We are spending a week in Cumbria and have chosen a location which gives us the benefit of being able to visit the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales. We’ve not been to the Lakes since the 1980s when we stayed at Ambleside. I have to admit to not ever having visited the Dales, so a new adventure for me – and hopefully plenty of photo opportunities!
And finally, my April reads. I went slightly mad this month. The problem was there were so many good titles to choose from. I ended up with seven in all, which I set out below. Although I enjoyed all of them, two in particular became favourites – Gone To Her Grave by Wendy Dranfield, the fourth in her Detective Madison Harper series. One which I have to say gets better and better with each book. The second was Out of Her Depth by Lizzie Barber. A gripping read, helped by the wonderful Tuscan backdrop which brought back memories of holidays in places like Florence, Sienna and San Gimignano.
So that’s it for another month. The next time I’m in touch, I hope to able to post some holiday shots. Until then….
In the golden morning light, a beautiful young woman lies diagonally across the bed, dressed for a night out, her long lashes pressed against her cheeks as if she’s sleeping. But the crimson that creeps across the sheets tells the story of an innocent woman who has drawn her last breath…
Detective Madison Harper is pulled away from Thanksgiving preparations when a local care worker, Terri Summers, is found dead in her home on the outskirts of Lost Creek, Colorado. Terri’s inconsolable mother can’t understand who would hurt such a kind soul who had dedicated her life to helping others. But analysis of the blood spatter at the scene indicates Terri knew her attacker, that she looked them right in the eye before her life was taken.
The awkward way Terri’s body is positioned catches Madison’s attention. Carefully moving her, she finds a bracelet—possibly a child’s—with a single red bead clenched in the woman’s fist, as if she was hiding it. It’s the lead Madison so desperately needs, but the sudden death of one of her own team sends the investigation into a tailspin.
With her coworkers crumbling around her, Madison must work day and night to trace the bracelet and crack the case. But when she’s dragged back into the disappearance of a woman and child from years ago, and finds a link to someone in her own family, can Madison stop this twisted killer before another precious life is taken? And at what cost?
Wendy is the bestselling author of the Detective Madison Harper crime series.
She is a former coroner’s assistant turned crime writer who writes a mixture of standalone thrillers, crime series and short stories. Some of her books have been shortlisted for various writing competitions and awards, including the Mslexia novel competition and the International Thriller Writer Awards.
Facebook & Instagram: Wendy Dranfield Author
While Detective Madison Harper is in charge of investigating the murder of a care worker, PI Nate Monroe has been hired to look into a cold case. A woman and her grandson who disappeared six years ago. When Madison receives upsetting news that a close colleague has committed suicide, she refuses to believe he has taken his own life. And when she finds a connection between the care worker and the dead lawman, she requests another autopsy, convinced the two deaths are linked.
This is the fourth book in the Madison Harper/Nate Monroe series and in my opinion the best yet. The storyline is gripping and keeps you guessing all the way (although I have to say I had my suspicions about one character). Wendy’s writing simply flows onto the page. I love the way the relationship between Maddie and Nate is developing and also the addition of one new character who looks as though they are going to stay around for a while. Nate’s dog Brody has also become an essential part of the team.
As with the other books in this series, you get the feeling although everything has been wrapped up and the case solved, there is more to come – I do hope so!
Looking forward to what’s in store next for our crime fighting couple.
Well, I thought February came and went fairly quickly, but March, even with three extra days, seems to have passed even quicker. Here we are, almost in April and it’s gone back to winter with falling temperatures and a bitter north wind. Despite this, it’s good to see colour coming back into the gardens and blossom everywhere, making a statement and reminding us that the better weather is not far away.
The word count on my WIP has progressed well and I’ve reached 65,000 words. I have a cover organised – a great incentive to get on with the writing – and my editor lined up for May.
This month I also met up with writer Lizzie Lamb, whose contemporary romances feature hot kilted heroes. We had lunch in Bath and it was a lovely opportunity to chat and meet each other for the first time (and hopefully not the last).
Home projects include a new gazebo for the back garden and some tables for the patio. We’re lucky to have a south facing garden which gives us the benefit of sunshine well into late afternoon. Nothing is better than spending time (when not writing) relaxing with a glass of wine and a good book.
So far this year the weather has been very anti-social and my walking has suffered. However, during the last couple of weeks, it seems to have turned a corner and I’ve been able to get out to exercise without the threat of getting caught in a downpour. I hope to build on this during April and get back to a regular five days of walking. With our first holiday on the horizon, I need to get in shape for our visit to the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales.
And finally, reading. Seven books this month. I’ve reduced the number next month as I really need to push on with writing and meeting that May deadline for editing.
i’m delighted to be part of the above tour for Fair Game, which is the second, gripping novel in the Clifford-Mackenzie Crime Series from the brilliant R.D. Nixon.
BLURB It’s autumn in Abergarry. The nights lengthen and the weather turns and the atmosphere darkens as the community is rocked by a brutal roadside murder: a loan shark’s ‘bag man’, Craig Lumsden, is found bludgeoned to death in his car in the early hours of the morning. The season for murder. The case seems simple enough, and the fingers quickly point to the most obvious suspect. But things are rarely as simple as they seem… A murder that’s too close to home. Too close for comfort, and definitely too close for complacency for private investigators Maddy Clifford and Paul Mackenzie. Delving into the case brings at least one of them face-to-face with danger… will life in Abergarry ever be the same again?
This book is the 2nd in the PI Mackenzie & Maddy series.
It reads well as a standalone, although there were references to book one which made me feel I maybe should have invested some time following Mackenzie and Maddy from the beginning of the series.
The story begins in the 1980s with five friends and a tragic accident. It then moves on twenty years to catch up with these characters and their now grown-up children. A body is found in a car park. An anonymous tip off sends the police to the door of Maddie’s fiancé Gavin, and an arrest is made. But have the police made a serious error of judgement?
All through the book there are many twists and turns and when the murderer is revealed, I really didn’t see it coming.
Set in Scotland it is a well written story with engaging characters and a pace that never lets up. Highly recommended.
My thanks to R D Nixon and Anne at Random Tours for a copy of Fair Game in exchange for an honest review.
Now Read an Extract…
New Year’s Eve, 1987
The downstairs rooms had been opened up, and the hallway of Glenlowrie House transformed into as close to a ballroom as the Wallaces could make it. The wilting Christmas greenery had been thrown out and replaced with fresh, glossy holly, artificially studded with berries where it fell short of perfection. Two enormous Christmas trees, one at either end, twinkled with tiny white lights, and more lights were draped over the stags’ heads that adorned the walls.
The Glenlowrie Hogmanay parties traditionally started in the late afternoon, and it was still early when Mary Wallace signalled for music, rearranged her red tartan sash, and swept everyone away from the dining table and into the makeshift ballroom.
Will Kilbride was around somewhere, but, contrary to his usual attempts to include the relative outsider, Duncan drew only Rob and Sandy into his office and poured them drinks.
‘To absent friends,’ he said, raising his glass. ‘To Mick.’ ‘Mick,’ Rob and Sandy echoed. ‘You’ve forgiven him, then?’ Rob asked after he’d drunk. ‘Nope, he’s made me look a proper fool tonight.’ Duncan shrugged and sighed. ‘Aye, of course I’ve forgiven the annoying little gobshite. He’s still our friend.’
‘I saw him yesterday,’ Sandy put in. ‘Took the boys’ presents over. You know he asked his family to buy him a mobile phone for Christmas? A Cityman 1320, exactly like Will’s.’
‘No!’ Duncan couldn’t help laughing. ‘The only thing that does surprise me is that he didn’t buy it himself.’
‘Probably didn’t want to admit he wanted one,’ Rob said. ‘This way he can deny everything.’
‘Turns out Will was telling the truth about what it cost, too,’ Sandy went on. He put his glass down to dig around in his wallet. ‘He gave me his number, asked me to share it with you.’
‘To do what? Call him and tell him he’s missing the party of the century?’ Duncan shook his head. ‘Serves him right!’
‘It’s not his fault,’ Sandy said, predictably loyal. ‘He’s never missed one before.’
‘And he won’t miss one again,’ Duncan said, with deliberate emphasis.
Rob eyed him suspiciously. ‘Meaning?’
Duncan re-filled his glass, and offered a top-up to the others. ‘Meaning I think we need to teach him a friendly little lesson.’
Rob and Sandy looked at one another, then back at him. ‘Go on,’ Rob said, clearly interested, while Sandy just looked uncomfortable.
‘Is he staying overnight at that shindig he’s gone to?’
‘No, he’s got meetings first thing. He said he’ll be heading back soon after midnight.’
Duncan put down his glass. ‘Right, now don’t go interrupting, just hear me out.’
‘Sounds ominous,’ Sandy murmured.
‘Shut up!’ Rob and Duncan said in unison, but both were smiling.
Sandy grinned and held up his hands. ‘Fine! Stop beating around the bush and get on with it then!’
‘Okay. We’ve all read John Macnab?’
‘Aye,’ Sandy said, but Rob pursed his lips.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
R.D. (Terri) Nixon is a prolific writer, with thirteen books under her belt now. In addition to this crime series, she also writes historical fiction, family sagas and mythical fiction. When she’s not writing, Terri works in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities, and Business at Plymouth University, where she is constantly baffled by the number of students who don’t possess pens.
I know that February is a short month, but this year it seems to have flown by. Life is gradually getting back to normal now we seem to be on top of this current strain of Covid, although, as I discovered when I went to the hairdresser recently, we still need to wear face masks there. Not a problem as being a hoarder who keeps everything in my bag I still have one squirrelled away there. Going into pubs and restaurants and not having to scan the QR code or wear a mask was something we could only dream of last year. Now it feels so good to be finally getting back to some semblance of normality.
In contrast to January, February has been a wet and windy month, with Dudley, Eunice and Franklin each taking turns to use the UK as a punch bag, bringing with them rain and record high winds. Our road got off quite lightly – a couple of fences down, a few roof tiles, and in our case, the loss of a TV aerial. These dark, grey days make me think more and more about the summer months – warm weather, barbeques, relaxing in the garden with wine and trips to the coast. This year we are spending our holidays in the UK with staycations in Suffolk, the North West (Lake District and Yorkshire Dales) and, of course, Cornwall. In between there’s an opportunity for days out and, of course, there are our daily walks, which began when I was discharged from hospital in March 2020.
I’ve never been a regular walker. Maybe if we had owned a dog there would have been an incentive to pull on boots and get out into the fresh air. However, after major surgery and five days in hospital, I knew I needed to do something to get myself back to a decent level of health and fitness. Although keyhole surgery was a godsend and helped the recovery process, I was still weak and for the first couple of days simply ate, read or watched TV. My post op diet in hospital consisted mainly of pasta and rice pudding as they attempted to coax my digestive system back to normal. On on third day home, I knew it was time to stop being a couch potato and do something positive. Living on a hill gave me a challenge before I had even got out of the front door. On that first attempt, by the time I got to the top of the road I felt as if I had run a marathon. But the gauntlet had been thrown down and if there’s anything I love, it’s a challenge. The next day I managed another two or three hundred yards. Each day after that, I extended the walk, and a fortnight later could managed a substantial around the block walk. Spring 2020 brought with it some really good weather which saw me and my OH out every day, making the most of the wonderful open countryside which is only five minutes walk from home.
Currently we walk an hour each day, usually in the late afternoon, although I find mornings are less disruptive. If I can get out at, say 10.30, then prepare lunch, it gives me the whole of the afternoon to write. And, of course, each walk gives me time to think about where I am with my WIP and how best to move on from where I finished the day before. The current book, which is in two parts – set between six years ago and present day – is nudging 50,000 words and I have four more scenes before I reach the end of part one. I’m hoping part two will take me through to mid-April and then I’ll slip on my editing hat and the fun begins!
SOME OF OUR REGULAR WALKS
And finally, my book reads for February. I’ve given all of these four stars and I’ve posted reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
So that’s all for now. See you in March, which is a month usually associated with the little chap below.
I’m writing my January update on a bright, sunny morning. We’ve had a few days of grey and now to be greeted by a day of brilliant sunshine is a bonus. They have been few and far between during these winter months.
January is my least favourite month of the year. After all the buzz of activity leading up to the Festive Season, and this year the ability to see friends and family beyond the Covid allocated ‘bubble’ of last year, January has predictably been a flat month. This year, however, I’ve looked beyond those first thirty one days of 2022. Instead, I’ve booked two holidays, been working on my latest novel and generally been looking forward. Okay we still have Covid, something that’s going to be with us for a good while yet, and I still have two more years of post-cancer monitoring, but generally life is good. I can’t complain.
This week we were at our first live music concert since 2019. Singer/songwriter Paul Carrack, who has been with bands like Ace, Squeeze and latterly Mike and the Mechanics, kicked off his UK tour here in Bath. We had previously booked to see him in early 2021, but Covid and lockdown saw the tour cancelled and rescheduled for August. Sadly that was cancelled too. We crossed fingers when the January date was announced and although there was not a full house that night, those who attended proved an enthusiastic and appreciative audience. He performed many of his hits, together with tracks from his new album, which was written during lockdown.
Currently my writing is going well. The new book is in two parts – Present day and six years previously. I’m about two thirds of the way through the ‘past’ section, which is narrated by my main female character. I hope to finish this by mid-Feb then edit and move on to part two, which will be written from the third person. The characters are behaving themselves for a change which means I’m making good progress. Watch this space!
And finally, my January reads. 2022 has begun with a great selection of books, all four and five star reviews. I usually prefer psychological thrillers but having read all of Lorna Cook’s novels, I couldn’t resist adding her latest to my list. And I’m glad I did. Once again she has produced an amazing read set in Paris during WWII and present day.
Charlotte waves at her mother across the crowded lawn. Little red boots on, cowboy hat crooked over her blonde pigtails, she’s been looking forward to this party for weeks. Moments later, she disappears without a trace…
Kathy Hamilton drives away from her sister-in-law’s pristine-white suburban house in Maple Falls certain she’s left her daughter in safe hands. On the hottest day of the year, a birthday is the perfect excuse to gather friends, family and neighbors around the pool for a barbecue. But when she returns hours later to find her little girl has vanished, her world shatters.
Nobody laughing and drinking in the garden that day saw anything unusual.
Kathy’s eldest daughter is anxious and hardly eating. Is she sick with worry for her sister, or hiding a terrible secret?
The phone rings and rings, but why can’t Kathy get hold of the babysitter?
And is she imagining it, or when her husband rushed from work to join the search, was he wearing a different shirt to the one she saw him leave the house in that morning?
As the temperature rises, and long-buried secrets begin to surface, it’s clear that even the most perfect families keep devastating secrets. But in a town as small as this, is there anyone you can trust?
A totally gripping and utterly addictive page-turner that will have you racing through and reeling at the twists. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Gone Girl and Teresa Driscoll, it will keep you up reading all night long!
Available on amazon, Kindle Unlimited and Audible.
Wendy is a former coroner’s assistant turned crime writer who lives with her husband and 3 rescue cats.
Her first novel (The Girl Who Died, 2015) was longlisted for the Mslexia Novel Competition. Since then she has written two crime series – the latest follows Detective Madison Harper as she tries to reclaim her life after spending six years in prison for a murder she didn’t commit. Books 4 and 5 in this series will be published in 2022, along with the standalone crime thriller The Birthday Party.
Wendy is very active on social media, with updates about her books, her characters and her cats! You’ll find her here:
Wendy has given her Madison Harper series a rest and written a standalone psychological thriller. Set in the town of Maple Creek, it is an absorbing read which slowly unwraps secrets and lies within a well-heeled family. A five-year-old child goes missing at a birthday party. Who could have taken her and why? It is a parent’s worse nightmare. But scratch the surface and there are things about the feted Hamilton family the locals in Maple Creek know nothing about. The disappearance of Kathy Hamilton’s daughter Charlotte (Charley) is about to change all that, bringing some unwanted intrusions into the life of controlling matriarch Connie Hamilton.
Everyone is a suspect and detective Chase Cooper is caught in a race against time – tracking down the little girl’s abductor and locating her as soon as possible.
A worthy five star read…
My thanks to Wendy Dranfield, Bookouture and Netgalley for an ARC of The Birthday Party in exchange for an honest review.
Well, here we are, at the end 2021, and how quickly the time has gone. It’s been a mixed year. A tenth novel completed and published and 77 books read and reviewed on my Goodreads Challenge, nearly double the 44 I had originally set up to complete. I’m a bit of a book junkie. I belong to Netgalley where I’m able to request and read advanced review copies of the latest offerings from authors. I am also auto-approved by Bookouture, which means I can choose titles and have them automatically delivered to my Kindle without having to request them first. I’ve always been a lover of romance, sagas and historical fiction. Now another genre has been added: psychological thrillers and Bookouture authors write some of the best.
Back home in my own writer’s den, I’m currently working on book three of my Cornish trilogy. This time my main character is the daughter of a hotelier. Yes, I know, we’ve been there before with A Cornish Affair, only this time the hotel in question is not situated on a clifftop overlooking the Atlantic. Instead it overlooks the harbourside in Kingswater, the fictitious Cornish estuary town where the trilogy is based. Hayley Young, who was a friend of Ava Warren, the central character who narrates Shadows on the Water, now has her own story. Although Hayley appeared in both Shadows and A Kingswater Summer, all readers knew about her was that she was a young single mother with a small daughter and worked with Ava. I gave very little detail about her background. I guess this was a good move, as it has enabled me to start with a blank sheet and an opportunity to create something completely new. I’m 15,000 words in, not that far along a road which will probably reach 80,000 – 100,000, but so far it’s going well. I plan to really get my head down next month, once Christmas and the New Year are out of the way, with a first draft finish by end February. Then the hard work begins.
With so much going on in December, I’ve cut back on reading this month. Only two books – both of which were worthy of five star reviews. Moving on into January, I kick start the new year with six.
So it just remains for me to wish everyone a happy, healthy and peaceful 2022. Where has the time gone? It only seems like yesterday we were welcoming in the Millennium!
Best wishes and I’ll be back at the end of January.