Location is an essential element of my books. Not just mine, all Triskele Books make settings paramount. Our tagline says it all – Time and Place.

I have reflected on the influence of place, and why each country, city or landscape was appropriate for each book.  For books one, two and three, I stuck with areas I knew well.  In four and five, much research went into regions I’d only passed through. In book six, I mixed both.

Behind Closed Doors is all about wealthy unscrupulous businessmen and the difference between law and justice. I opted to set it in Switzerland with all its beauty, individuality and stubborn peculiarities.

The story required a financial centre and a culture which left my protagonist uncertain and isolated. Hence Zürich. The city is beautiful and peaceful, yet wields immense invisible power, behind closed doors.


London shares the stage with Wales for Raw Material. The UK capital provides a wonderful variety of experience for those who can afford it and a grinding rat race for those who can’t.

For someone preying on the latter, the London underworld was ideal. The darkness and the bright lights of the city work in parallel with the wild, remote coastline of Pembrokeshire. This book is all about watching and the danger of covetous eyes.


Tread Softly takes place in Spain, more specifically Rioja country and the city of Vitoria. Beatrice is on sabbatical, enjoying gourmet food when she stumbles upon a story of wine fraud. The landscapes of this region are nothing short of breathtaking, especially at harvest time.

As for its wines and cuisine, the research was a joy. Certain elements of Spanish/Basque culture suited my characters, my antagonist in particular.


The Greek islands and a cruise ship form the backdrop for Cold Pressed. Guided by a local detective, Beatrice hops between Santorini, Crete and Rhodes and explores the reality of life beyond tourist brochures.

Open seas and glorious islands juxtaposed against the claustrophobia of a floating hotel proved the perfect balance for this tale of old, cold vengeance.


Human Rites plays out in Germany at Christmastime.

The art crime thread leads us from Berlin to Hamburg. The stalker strand happens on the island of Sylt, in the North Sea, just off the Danish-German border.

In the summer, Sylt is a rich kids’ playground. Which is why I set the book in winter, when the coast is wild and empty, and civilisation seems very far away.


The last in the series, Bad Apples, I’m on familiar ground: Portugal.

Some elements are old friends, such as my beloved city of Porto, azuleijo tiles that tell stories, and warm, easy-going people. However the natural park of Peneda-Gerês, and the cities of Braga and Lisbon required a fresh look. Hardly a chore.

The end result, I hope, is an innocent, hypnotic blend of atmosphere, smells, sounds and tastes to lull the reader into ignoring the rotten element in plain sight.

Get the boxset of books 1-3 here.

All images courtesy of Julie Lewis

 

 

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A writing retreat – leave the daily grind behind, spend your days learning and discussing with fellow writers, soak up the scenery and let your imagination out to play.

Here’s a collection of some superb writing events happening in beautiful locations. All offer expert writing tuition, an opportunity to cast off responsibility and a guaranteed creative shot in the arm.

Enjoy.

A Chapter Away (Gascony, France) Courses available June and July

Do you wish you could escape from your everyday life to write?
A Chapter Away is a great place to start, or to continue, your incredible journey as a writer. Whether your ambition is to leave a private MEMOIR for your family, to bring together an anthology of POETRY for a loved one, or to publish a NOVEL for millions of readers the world over to discover, our courses offer you ‘time out’ and the expertise to set you on the right path, with the help of other writers, poets, publishers and literary agents.

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Photo by JJ Marsh

WriteCon16 (Zürich, Switzerland) – 21 May

WriteCon16 is all about making it happen. Hands-on and practical. Whichever event you choose, you’ll walk away with concrete, tailored advice from the experts. Right in the heart of the city so while your head is buzzing with ideas, you can explore the sights or simply sit by the lake and stare at the mountains.

  • How to Publish a Book, with Jessica Bell
  • How to Market a Book, with Helen Lewis
Photo by Libby O'Loghlin

Photo by Libby O’Loghlin

TLC Adventures (Andalucia, Spain) 10-16 September

TLC Literary Adventures offers an environment where inspiration and improvisation meet, in the company of some of our best-known writers. You will have access to world-class teaching, get a chance to work, read, listen, learn and relax in a stunning setting which will open the mind and senses.

Ty Newydd (Wales, UK) Courses available year round

 Specialises in residential creative writing courses. Every week a new group of individuals spend time together under the tutelage of professional writers, taking part in workshops and one-to-one tutorials, enjoying readings and basking in the inspirational setting of Tŷ Newydd. Participants also help in the kitchen, where home-made meals are prepared with local ingredients.

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Photo by Richard Outram

L’Atelier Writers (Villeferry, France). 5-10 June

A fantastic experience of sublime French food, camaraderie, craft, and inspirational productivity. The space provides privacy for writing and also comfortable common areas with verandas, gardens, libraries, and a reserved meeting space for L’ATELIER workshops, meals, editing consultations, and seminars. Full room and board is included, but access to a kitchenette allows guests even more flexibility.

Venice Writing Retreat (Venice, Italy) 12-15 September

With Roz Morris and Words of a Feather, this course is for committed writers who want to hone their self-editing skills, breathe life into an abandoned manuscript, assess a first draft, give a book a professional MOT before approaching agents/self-publishing and enjoy the delights of Venice.

Photo by think rorbot

Photo by think rorbot

La Poterie Writers (Loire Valley, France) 23-30 June

The best of “retreat”& “workshop”: rigorous group discussion of your manuscript, sessions on writing craft & publishing, ample daily solitude, one-on-one conferences, local excursions, and gourmet meals — all in an inspiring setting.

Skyros Writing Holidays (Skyros, Greece) Courses available all summer

If you’re a creative and active person, in Skyros you’ll have the opportunity to explore your talents, learn something new, expand the range of your interests and bask in the joys and pleasures of it. Holiday activities and courses are always pleasant and enjoyable, fun to attend. If you prefer, of course, you can just relax, unwind, share a drink with like-minded people and enjoy nature at its best.

The Skyros holiday resorts are community-based. The community – informal, friendly and relaxed – thrives on diversity but it also brings people together in a way daily life rarely does. Enjoy the freedom to be who you really are.

lake

Photo by JJ Marsh

Writing at the Castle (SW France) 2-8 July

Principally for writers of fiction who have a manuscript in preparation or completed and would like to benefit from workshops and one-to-one support towards publication.  It is an opportunity to connect with other writers, get practical insights, tips and contacts and learn new skills. We will also cover the process of selecting, commissioning and publishing manuscripts through the traditional literary agent/publisher route and through self-publishing.

Write Time Retreats (Switzerland) 21-27 May

  • 6 nights’ accommodation in the Hornberg Hotel
  • Breakfast, lunch and dinner (including vegetarian options, drinks not included)
  • Full use of the hotel facilities, including seminar rooms, swimming pool and saunas
  • 5 Creative writing workshops (including a workshop with guest writer)
  • 5 Editorial meetings
  • 5 Literary Salons
  • 45 minute, one-to-one, personalized consultation with tutor
swiss view

Photo by JD Lewis

In German, Gift means poison. Be careful what you wish for.

This is a short story from Appearances Greeting a Point of View.

*not for the squeamish*

 

The Reservation

The waiter takes the napkin from the plate, unfolds it and places it across my lap. I stiffen. It’s an oddly intrusive gesture and he doesn’t smile. My companion pre-empts this courtesy by flipping out the linen and tucking it beneath the tablecloth with a flourish. The waiter bows and leaves us to face each other in the saffron glow of an art deco lamp.

My eyes are drawn across the room to a mural of slave girls bathing each other. The scene, less graphic than others which surround us, nonetheless holds a charge. Somehow you know those girls are preparing themselves for the next course.

“It’s quite something, don’t you think?” My companion turns his head to the doorway, where we came in. The entire wall depicts an orgy which, due to the trembling candlelight and shadows cast by passing waiters, convinces me the figures are actually moving; arching, rocking, shuddering.

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“Yes, it is.”

I should be impressed, but I’m embarrassed and intimidated by the other diners, who reek of privilege, radiate confidence. Tables of young men in suits, couples gazing at each other, an elderly group of aristocratic ladies wearing so much jewellery their movements appear weighted. Everyone is dressed as if for an awards ceremony, with the same air of sophisticated anticipation.

“How did you get a table?” I ask, to demonstrate I am not ignorant of the prestige he has afforded me.

He smiles. “I thought you might enjoy it. I could hardly take such an elegant creature to a tea shop, now could I? Shall I order for both of us? I’ve been here several times and I think I know the perfect dishes for you.”

I watch over his shoulder as another waiter spreads a napkin across the lap of a black-clad woman, who wears long satin gloves. She looks up at him and parts her lips. I turn away.

“Please.” I hand back the unopened menu. The door opens to admit more guests. Heads turn, as they do for each new arrival, but on this occasion, they don’t turn back. All eyes follow the party to their table while mouths mutter into nearby ears.

An older man, with silver-grey hair to match his suit, leads the way. On his arm, a distinguished lady with an upswept coiffure. Her makeup is immaculate and her dress catches the light. She turns one way, it’s green. Another, it’s blue. On their heels come a younger pair. I barely notice him as I cannot stop staring at the siren on his arm. Her dress, silver lamé, spotlights her hips, her breasts, the curve of her shoulder. Very little flesh is on show, but her shapely figure is evident, crowned with a perfect blonde chignon. Her escort nods to acquaintances around the room. He is polished, with a pleasant, rather one-sided smile.

Their table is directly to our left, against the wall. The younger woman exudes delight. She gasps at the murals, laughs at herself, clutches her man’s arm, smiles at the waiter and giggles with anticipation as she sits opposite her mother. Mother-in-law?

I stop myself from staring and wonder if that is how I should comport myself. My companion is giving the waiter our order. I listen but it makes no sense. Carpaccio, blini, mille-feuille, Roederer … my attention wanders over his shoulder, back to the woman in satin gloves. A waiter stands beside her, taking the order from her gentleman friend, while she absently caresses the waiter’s buttock and thigh.

I look down at my place setting, using my hands as blinkers. If I look neither left nor right, perhaps I can pass this evening enjoyably.

“Is something wrong? Do you have a headache?” my companion enquires.

An intake of breath makes us both turn. The waiter attending to the glamorous party has summoned the maitre d’. The atmosphere changes, anticipation charges the air like that of a courtroom when the foreman of the jury rises to his feet. People stare openly as the maitre d’ tilts his head, first listening to the waiter and then bending to hear the younger man.

I notice the rest of the table. The older gentleman is beaming, hands on his thighs. Both women’s eyes shine, their excitement visible. The whole restaurant seems to hold its breath.

The maitre d’ straightens with a nod and gives a brief instruction to the attendant waiter. Conversations break out at every table, heads swivelling to either end of the room, checking the doors as if awaiting the star performer. The thrill pulsing around the room affects me too, although I have not the faintest idea why.

“What is it?” I ask my companion, noticing the fresh pink patches on his cheeks. His complexion reminds me of my mother’s best tea-set.

“I don’t know.” He shakes his head but his eyes drop from mine in less than a second. “I mean, I’ve heard rumours, but I can’t believe … ah! Here’s our first course.”

We eat something, thinly sliced, highly priced. It’s not unpleasant. We comment on the fineness of the flavour although I doubt he tastes any more than I. We make the smallest talk imaginable.

While we consume this nothing in particular, two waiters bring a pair of Japanese screens to our neighbouring table. Unfolding them, they place a wall around three sides of the party, the fourth provided by the blacked-out window.

I check my companion in enquiry, but can see his curiosity is equally aroused.  And it appears that is not all. His pupils, dark and intent, fix upon my lips.

The door to the kitchen opens and a man in a pale green overall enters, carrying a black box resembling something a magician might use. Two waiters in his wake hold trays covered with white cloths. They make their way behind the screens and the chatter from the rest of the room erupts, accompanied by the percussion of tines on china.

I want to stand up and call out. “Hush! How can I possibly hear what is going on with all this racket!” But my attention is caught once more by the gloved woman, who, with great ostentation, drops her knife. Their waiter kneels to retrieve it and she kicks him with a high-heeled foot. He crawls under the tablecloth and she slides down in her chair. Her escort stares at her, chewing on a toothpick.

I realise my mouth is open. Fine features and noble expressions on every table now seem flushed and lascivious. One couple are feeding each other with their fingers. Several parties are calling for champagne.

Seconds later, the hush descends once more as one of the waiters slips out from behind the screens. In his hand is a kidney-shaped stainless-steel bowl. He drapes a cloth over it and strides towards the kitchen. The green-clad man emerges with his peculiar black box along with the second waiter and follows. The maitre d’ gives a signal and busboys remove the screens.

The party revealed has changed. The older of the two women has lost her upright posture and her make-up is smudged. Some of the shimmering blonde’s hair has escaped and hangs loose across her face. The senior gentleman, florid and sweaty, pours red wine into their glasses and claps the young man on the back. It is this latter who is the most materially altered. His wholesome colour is entirely gone, leaving his skin grey and lips bloodless. His left hand, in a brilliant white bandage, is held to his chest by a sling.

They raise their glasses in a toast and I notice much of the clientele silently doing the same. I start as my companion’s leather brogue rubs my foot. He is breathing heavily.

“The staff here are remarkable. Personalised service.”

Behind him, the waiter emerges from beneath the table and rises to his feet. I cannot see the gloved woman’s face. Her companion beckons the waiter, who bends down to him. It looks for a second as if the two men will kiss, but instead the man palms him a tip, which is swiftly pocketed.

Voices rise, laughter bounces off the walls and the businessmen have discarded their ties. One bejewelled aristocrat lifts her dessert bowl and licks out the last chocolately traces. Heat rises from my knees as if I have been drinking gin. My companion’s gaze now moves to my chest. I pick up my beaded bag and inform him I need the ladies’ room.

My voice rings out as all others fall silent. The kitchen door opens and four waiters emerge, carrying covered platters. I cannot get to my feet while everyone is watching. The platters are placed in front of the beautiful foursome, but everyone is staring at the one in front of the young man. The maitre d’ gives a signal and the burnished silver cloches are lifted.

I see quite clearly what is on that plate. Carrots, calabrese, potatoes and green beans surround a small triangular white bowl, containing what appears to be a small chipolata, covered in breadcrumbs and herbs. No one speaks. No one moves. The young man, unable to use his left hand, reaches for his fork. He spears his chipolata, says, ‘Bon appétit,’ and places it in his mouth.

His eyes close as he chews and he releases a long moan of ecstasy as he rocks back and forth.

Applause thunders around the room. I join in, smiling at such vicarious satisfaction. The older man applauds wildly and stands to shake hands with the maitre d’. His left hand is missing two fingers. The distinguished woman has her hands clasped together, but I notice a gap between her first and third knuckle. The gloved woman is no longer gloved. And she has no more than three fingers on either hand.

I stare around the room, spotting more and more missing digits as the room retreats to the end of a telescope.

His voice comes from far away. “It’s quite all right, you know. It’s perfectly legal to eat your own.”

 

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