Tag Archives: paperback

Guest Post: Louise Mangos on Writing What You Know

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It is my pleasure today to welcome Louise Mangos to the blog to talk about her intimate knowledge of the setting for her debut psychological thriller ‘Strangers on a Bridge‘.

Louise writes novels, short stories and flash fiction, which have won prizes, been placed on shortlists, and have also been read on BBC radio. Her debut psychological thriller ‘Strangers on a Bridge‘ is published by HQ Digital (Harper Collins) in ebook, paperback and on audio. You can connect with Louise on Facebook and Twitter or visit her website where there are links to more of her stories. Louise lives in Switzerland with her husband and two sons.

Vic x

Portrait with orange dress

The much-travelled author Mark Twain allegedly said “write what you know. Having spent much of my time in central Switzerland for the past twenty years, the one thing I feel confident in portraying in my novels is the setting. Both my first and second novels are set in and around the Swiss Alps. 

Strangers on a Bridge begins with ex-pat Alice Reed out for a jog one morning when she sees a man – Manfred – about to jump from the Lorzentobelbrücke. As this is rather a mouthful for English readers, it is referred to in the novel as the Tobel Bridge. In reality it is a notorious suicide hotspot that has sadly found its way into many local newspaper articles over the years.

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A quick trip on the bike to re-visit the setting for the first scene on the Tobel Bridges.

The area surrounding the village where my protagonist Alice lives is called the Aegerital, or the Aegeri Valley. It is a cleft of land gouged out of alpine granite with rivers running in and out of the jewel at its centre – the Aegeri Lake. Our family moved there twenty years ago when my first son was six months old. Many of the difficulties Alice faces in Strangers on a Bridge were challenges I also faced when we first moved, speaking no German and pre-occupied with a new baby. 

But that’s where the similarities end. I’m happy to report I never witnessed a person wanting to jump from the Tobel Bridge, and I was certainly never stalked by anybody. I should also point out that we worked hard to integrate into the community we now live in. We made an early effort to learn the language, and have experienced friendliness and acceptance from our neighbours ever since.

During the creative and theoretical modules for my Masters in Crime Writing at UEA, two of my professors, Henry Sutton and Tom Benn, talked about the importance of setting in a novel. They encouraged the students to incorporate the setting to such an extent that it effectively becomes one of the characters. 

No matter where a crime novel is set, this atmosphere must be conveyed to the reader to enhance the tension. This might include how a setting behaves through the seasons, for example, the environmental influences in extreme weather conditions.

Strangers on a Bridge begins in spring, the perfect opening for any novel. The season of births and beginnings. Alice is out for a spring jog when she sees Manfred on the bridge and is convinced he is about to jump. Her shock jars alarmingly with the beautiful alpine spring surroundings.

A great deal of research was still undertaken to make the narrative of this psychological thriller believable. Although I am familiar with many of the rules and traditions in Switzerland, police and legal procedures had to be subsequently verified and checked.

But with the setting clearly cemented as one of the characters in the narrative, it was a pleasure to embellish the plot to match the drama of the Alps.

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The view of the Aegerital from Alice’s running trail in spring.

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Guest Post: Judy Penz Sheluk on Using your Past to Create your Present

I’m pleased to have Judy Penz Sheluk here today to talk about her forthcoming release ‘Past & Present‘ and how her own family’s journey inspired it.

I’m so grateful to Judy for sharing such a personal experience with us. 

Vic x

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I’m Canadian, born and raised in Toronto, and I’ve lived within a two-hour drive of that city all my life. My parents, on the other hand, were first generation Canadians, having immigrated to Canada in the early 1950s.

Their stories are similar to so many of the time. My father was born in Apatin, Yugoslavia, a small town on the Danube that is now part of Serbia. My mother was born in Stettin, Germany, now known as Szczecin and part of Poland. Both of them, teenagers during the war, and displaced after, made their way to England and settled in Nottingham for a period of time. 

By the time they met at a local dance, my father was set to immigrate to Toronto, Canada, in February of 1952 (such a brave soul—Toronto in February is, at best, cold and snowy, and at worst, colder and snowier). At any rate, it must have been love at first sight, because my mother applied for her own papers and arrived in Toronto in July 1952, on a hot, humid day. They married that October. 

Fast forward to September 21, 2016, when my mother, Anneliese, passed away from complications of COPD, following my father, Anton “Toni” Penz, who had died of stomach cancer in 1970 at the age of 42. Among her things was an old train case, and within it, her old passport, immigration papers, and documents and postcards from the T.S.S. Canberra, the ship she sailed over on. My mother had never talked much about her life “before Canada” and I became fascinated with finding out everything I could. The resulting research sparked an idea for a book, and my protagonist’s research into the past often mirrors my own, right down to the frustrating bits.

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T.S.S. Canberra postcard, c. 1950s.

I’ve dedicated Past & Present to my mother, and the release date of September 21, 2018, falls exactly two years after her passing. I like to think she’s with my father again, watching over me as my journey continues. 

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About Past & Present:

Sometimes the past reaches out to the present…

It’s been thirteen months since Calamity (Callie) Barnstable inherited a house in Marketville under the condition that she search for the person who murdered her mother thirty years earlier. She solves the mystery, but what next? Unemployment? Another nine-to-five job in Toronto? 

Callie decides to set down roots in Marketville, take the skills and knowledge she acquired over the past year, and start her own business: Past & Present Investigations.

It’s not long before Callie and her new business partner, best friend Chantelle Marchand, get their first client: a woman who wants to find out everything she can about her grandmother, Anneliese Prei, and how she came to a “bad end” in 1956. It sounds like a perfect first assignment. Except for one thing: Anneliese’s past winds its way into Callie’s present, and not in a manner anyone—least of all Callie—could have predicted. 

About the author: Judy Penz Sheluk is the Amazon international bestselling author of the Glass Dolphin Mysteries and the Marketville Mysteries. Her short stories appear in several collections.

Judy is also a member of Sisters in Crime International, International Thriller Writers, Inc., the South Simcoe Arts Council, the Short Mystery Fiction Society, and Crime Writers of Canada, where she serves on the Board of Directors, representing Toronto and  Southwestern Ontario.

Judy Penz Sheluk’s latest book in her Marketville Mystery series, Past & Present’, is now available for pre-order on Amazon in trade paperback and on Kindle.

Review of 2017: Jane Risdon

I’m pleased to have Jane Risdon on the blog today to review her year. I worked with Jane many years ago on a charity anthology so I am pleased to hear her wonderful news but I’ll let her tell you all about that. 

Vic x

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?
My favourite moment professionally in 2017 was getting a copy of Only One Woman and holding it for the first time. Chuffed doesn’t cut it. Five years from writing to publication, although it was finished and in with our publisher in 2014. Written with life-long friend, Christina Jones has been a blast. It was published on Amazon on the 23rd November.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
My birthday at The Royal Albert Hall – my youngest brother and his partner treated me to a fabulous champagne dinner there and concert. It was amazing.

Favourite book in 2017?
Vengeance
by Roger A. Price – second of his two fabulous books. He has been a guest author over on my blog.

Favourite film in 2017?
Hidden Figures
– with Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson the black female NASA mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. Stunning film in so many ways.

Favourite song of the year?
I no longer listen to contemporary music, having worked in music all my life I cannot bear to listen to it as it is thrust upon us now. Sad but true.

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Not seeing our grandchildren either in person or via Skype more than once so far. 6,000 miles away might as well be a million at times.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
Never make any.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
Health, happiness and huge success for Only One Woman when the paperback comes out in stores 24th May 2018. Also publication of my Crime/MI5 novel Ms. Birdsong Investigates: Murder in Ampney Parva, which is in with my publisher now.

Review of 2017: Ian Skewis

This year, I’ve met lots of lovely people thanks to writing. I met Ian Skewis for the first time when I read at Noir at the Bar Edinburgh. Ian is a lovely guy and his novel, ‘A Murder of Crows‘ is getting a lot of praise. 


I was delighted to see Ian on the ‘New Crimes’ panel at Bloody Scotland, getting the plaudits he deserves. Today, Ian is with us to review his 2017 in brief. 

Vic x

Photo by Paul Reich


Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2017?

A Murder Of Crows coming out in paperback.

And how about a favourite moment from 2017 generally?
Bloody Scotland – it was amazing!

Favourite book in 2017?
Currently reading Bloody January by Alan Parks, which is bloody good so far.

Favourite film in 2017?
Get Out, which said what needed to be said about racism, and did it very cleverly, and Alien: Covenant, which still managed to make a long-running franchise interesting.

Favourite song of the year?
I Don’t Wanna Know by Maroon 5 – it’s not a new song, but it got me hooked. That Adam Levine can write some great grooves!

Any downsides for you in 2017?
Too many stupid people ruling the world, and way too many people voting for them.

Are you making resolutions for 2018?
No. I’ve done everything I intended, and if I want to do something I’ll just do it.

What are you hoping for from 2018?
A long term and hopefully lucrative publishing deal.

Review of 2016: Jennifer C. Wilson

Regular guest, Jennifer C Wilson, has had a rather brilliant 2016. Jen has been a fantastic support to me and her writing is going from strength to strength so it’s a real pleasure to have her here to review her year. 

Thanks for being involved, Jen.

Vic x

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Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
The release of Kindred Spirits: Tower of London as a paperback in spring this year was a definite highlight, as well as obviously having Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile accepted, but I think the favourite memory was reading at Pure Fiction in July. It was the first event like that I’ve ever done, with the reading followed by Q&A, and although I was absolutely petrified beforehand, it was such a positive experience for me, and I loved every moment. It was also one of our first public events as part of The Next Page, so that was a big deal too, getting people to come along on a gorgeous summer Saturday, and spend the afternoon in a library!

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And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
On a personal level, daft as it sounds, 2016 was the first time I really ventured abroad on my own, heading over to Paris. I know the city well, and to have all that space to wander and explore on my own was fantastic. I got plenty of writing done, and some ideas for a couple of projects I want to try my hand at in the next couple of years.

Favourite book in 2016?
Three Sisters, Three Queens, by Philippa Gregory. If I’m honest, I hadn’t been that impressed with her last two, they felt a bit ‘had to get a book out’ to me, but this last one, I just couldn’t put down. It covers Henry VIII’s sisters, Mary and Margaret Tudor (Queens of France and Scotland, respectively, by their first marriages, but plenty of misadventures after that!), as well as Catherine of Aragon, a lady I’ve always had a lot of sympathy for. It gave a different angle on a lot of Tudor history, as well as featuring plenty of good Scottish backdrops.

Favourite film in 2016?
I’m still really not a film-fan, and definitely not a cinema-goer, but I watched, and really enjoyed, My House in Umbria this year. An odd one, following the fall-out of a bomb on a train in Italy, and the ‘adventures’ of a group of survivors who recover at an elderly writer’s villa. I loved the scenery, totally taking me back to my two writing retreats, and reminding me how much I really, really want to get back there!

Favourite song of the year?
Despite trying not to, the one which has stuck with me the most this year has been Party Like a Russian by Robbie Williams. I’ve never been a fan (quite the opposite, in fact) – maybe it’s the use of the Apprentice theme music in the background, tempting me in!

Any downsides for you in 2016?
I have to say, 2016 has been, overall, a pretty good year. There’s been the usual ups and downs, but nothing that particularly stands out.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
Yes – quite a few, personal and professional. I started the Slimming World ‘journey’ in May 2015, and haven’t quite made the progress I was aiming for (entirely self-inflicted), so am going to really try on that front.

I’m also going to work hard on a third Kindred Spirits, and the Richard III tale I’ve been working on for a couple of years now. It keeps getting pushed to the back of the queue, so maybe 2017 will be the year it gets to move to the front.

What are you hoping from in 2017?
I’ve got Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile coming out in June, so I just hope it goes down as well as Tower of London seems to have done. That, and managing to carry on with the writing. Always to carry on with the writing!

Review of 2016: Helen Anderson

In 2015, I had the honour of copy-editing Helen Anderson’s memoir, Piece by Piece. That book has gone on to receive fantastic reviews as well as providing support to many other people who are going through difficult times. 

It is a real joy to have Helen reviewing her 2016. Many thanks for being involved, Helen.

Vic x

Helen Anderson

Do you have a favourite memory professionally from 2016?
Much of the year been taken up with letting people know about my memoir about losing my beautiful daughter Georgina to cancer, three years ago. Piece by Piece: Remembering Georgina: A Mother’s Memoir is still available as a paperback or e-book and has over 60 amazing 5 Star Amazon reviews.

When the book was published at the end of 2015, I had no idea if it would sell 10 or 100 copies, but I am thrilled to have been able to donate £1,000 of profits, so far, from the sale of the book to Make-A-Wish UK. I have had wonderful feedback from readers, and I have enjoyed reading at events and talking on radio shows about Georgina and my memoir. Emotionally, I have been sustained by all the support I have received with this venture, and I hope that my writing is also helping others experiencing child loss or bereavement, generally. 

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And how about a favourite moment from 2016 generally?
I have been invited to some amazing fundraising events in Georgina’s memory, and these are always a bittersweet mixture of happiness that she is still so loved, and sadness that’s she’s not here with us.

My writer’s notebook has been well-travelled. We have been lucky enough to enjoy some soul-nourishing holidays to Tenerife, Languedoc and Lindisfarne, as well as managing to get our beloved VW camper Daisy Blue back onto the road, for a few local forays.

At the beginning of 2016, I put out feelers to see if any local writers would be interested in meeting up. The response was very positive, so Saltburn Writers Group has been meeting once a month since March. It is such a friendly, vibrant group – I hope that it will continue to go from strength to strength.

Favourite book in 2016?
I have been reading quite voraciously, recently. I have just finished reading Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh, which is so dark that I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. My (as yet unpublished) novel Gloriosa Superba also has a deeply disturbed central protagonist, so it was a relief to see I’m not the only one who creates twisted characters.

I also love Shelley Day’s The Confession of Stella Moon, Kit de Waal’s My Name Is Leon and Louise Beech’s How To Be Brave. All these books are thought-provoking, populated by well-observed characters, and beautifully written.

Favourite film in 2016?
I don’t think I’ve been to the cinema at all this year. I’m thinking “That can’t be right!!” but it seems it is. Perhaps that should be my resolution for 2017 – to get out more. I’ve enjoyed some cracking TV dramas, such as The Missing, The Fall, Paranoid and Dark Angel (as well as my guilty secrets like Home and Away) so I’m obviously more of a sit-on-my-own-sofa-and-gawp-at-my-own-screen kinda gal.

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Favourite song of the year?
I like to listen to golden oldies – 80s, 90s, Noughties –  when I write, and I love to listen to my daughter Georgina’s own song Two Thirds of a Piece.

Any downsides for you in 2016?
In October 2016, it would have been Georgina’s 18th birthday. That was a very hard day to get through, as was the third anniversary of her death in November 2016. However, we have survived so far, thanks to the love of friends – old and new – and family.

Are you making resolutions for 2017?
I should resolve to be more disciplined with my writing, but I don’t really ‘do’ resolutions, because they just make me feel rebellious! I’ll aim to keep on keeping on, I suppose (not a very specific goal, I know).

What are you hoping for from 2017?
Writing-wise, my first chapbook of poetry Way Out is due to be published by The Black Light Engine Room Press early in 2017, so I am excited by that.

I would also love to secure representation for Gloriosa Superba – I have had a few near-misses, and I need to steel myself to send it out again. I plan to finish the final draft of my new novel, All Hushed, and to start the process of finding an agent who loves the story and characters as much as I do.

Personally, I just want my family to stay as healthy and happy as possible. Georgina wanted us to be happy and make the most of our lives, even in her absence, and I am going to try to seize opportunities and enjoy the little things (and some medium-sized and big things, if I’m lucky!)