I’m delighted to announce the launch today of my first ever foreign language edition, thanks to my new German publisher, DP Verlag.
Best Murder in Show, the first Sophie Sayers Village Mystery, can now be read in German under the title, Cottage Crimes: Ein Preisgekroenter Todesfall and the series title Sophie Sayers Ermittelt (which means Sophie Sayers Investigates).
I’m really pleased with their presentation of the book. As this was a trade deal, I had no input into the design, so I was thrilled when I saw their beautiful, eye-catching cover design and series branding.
It’s especially appropriate that Sophie’s first foreign venture is in German, because at the start of the story, she is living in Frankfurt, working at an international school, when she inherits her great-aunt’s cottage in the Cotswolds.
The reason I planted her in Germany is that I too used to live in Germany, thanks to my father’s employer, Burroughs Corporation, a computer company. His job had previously taken us to live in California for a year when I was eight years old, and when I was 14, we had the chance to relocate to Germany. I spent the last four years of my secondary school education at Frankfurt International School, which had pupils from over 60 different countries on the school roll.
Funnily enough, just a week ago, I was in conversation with the current Upper School Principal, John Switzer, who is doing a survey for his doctoral thesis about the impact of taking the International Baccalaureate on the lives of its former students. I was pleased to tell him that not only had the school broadened my outlook and made me many lifelong friends, but it had also helped inspire my first novel. I’ll be sure to send him a link to the new German edition!
If you’d like to practise your German, here’s a screenshot of the book’s page on Amazon.de, where it’s currently riding high in the charts:
And here’s the first review – thanks to Koetzi for being so quick off the mark on publication day!
In the wake of our national preoccupation with platinum, my thoughts have turned to silver and gold.
When I was eight years old, my family moved to the USA for a year to be with my father in his new job. I boarded the plane with Tiny Tears and Teddy in my arms, ready to embrace my new home and school with enthusiasm and an open mind.
While my older brother and sister refused to take part in the classroom flag salute with which every school day began, I got stuck in, hand on heart:
I pledge allegiance to the flag, and the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
A strange substitute for our comfortable daily religious assembly back home, sandwiching a quick prayer between two familiar hymns, but I wanted to fit in.
Before long, I’d made my Girl Scout Promise: “On my honor (sic), I will try to do my duty to God and my country, to help other people at all times, and to obey the Girl Scout laws.” Although I had to recite it only once, I remember the words far better, maybe because they chimed better with the gentle, apolitical hymns I was used to in assembly. Our school birthday hymn ended, “We hope you will be healthy and strong all the way; Strong to do right, slow to do wrong; and helpful to others all the day long.”
Another thing I learned as a Girl Scout was to sing this simple song in a round:
Make new friends, but keep the old;
One is silver and the other gold.
I rated my Girl Scout friends as silver, while my classmates back in England, at the school I rejoined a year later, were very much gold.
Six years later, we moved for four years to Germany, where I attended the Frankfurt International Schoolwith students from over sixty countries. It was time again to make silver friends. I kept in touch with the golden ones at home via numerous twenty-page letters handwritten on lurid stationery. Well, this was the 1970s.
In those days, long-distance friendships relied on such old-fashioned methods of communication. As we progressed through life, it was too easy to lose touch. Then along came the internet. Whatever else you think of social media, it’s a great means of tracing old friends. Thanks to Facebook, around the time of the Platinum Jubilee, I was able to welcome to my home here in the Cotswolds my old Canadian friend Debra, a classmate from Frankfurt International School.
We hadn’t seen each other in real life since the year of the Queen’s SilverJubilee.
What the Girl Scout song neglects to mention is that the alchemy of time eventually transforms silver friends into gold, and that meanwhile your hair may turn silver. But that’s a price I’m happy to have paid.
In my next novel, Murder Your Darlings, due out in December, the action is set partly on the Greek island of Ithaca, in the Ionian Sea. From the outset, I thought it would be fun to hijack for one of my characters the rather beautiful name of my first ever Greek friend, Vasilios.
Although I’ve spent a lot of time in that region on holiday, as well as on a memorable writing retreat organised by Jessica Bell, I met Vasilios decades before in the unlikely setting of Frankfurt, Germany.
Between the ages of 14 and 18, I attended Frankfurt International School (FIS), run on American lines with dozens of different nationalities on its roll, aged 6-18. Vasilios Chakos joined us not from Greece, but from Chicago, where if I remember rightly his father, a Greek Orthodox priest, had been a bishop. (Apologies if any of these details are inaccurate -it was all a long time ago now!)
While in the US, his name had been truncated to the more American “Bill”, and a smooth American accent overlaid on his rich Greek voice. Unlike most teenage boys, Bill had beautiful old-fashioned manners and courtesy, and a kind and generous heart. He had a younger sister who was blind, and who went to a different school, but on the rare occasion i saw them together, I was touched to see how gentle he was with her.
A Class Act
He also had a keen sense of humour, was learned, witty and wise beyond his years, and appreciated the finer things in life, particularly music, language and literature. His singing voice sent shivers down my spine, and he had a great stage presence, showcased when he took key parts in our school musicals, Annie, Get Your Gun and Guys and Dolls. I especially loved his robust rendition of “I’m A Bad, Bad Man”. His performances made him a bit of a celebrity to younger kids in the school, as well as to his peers and to parents and staff.
Our relationship was very close, but always platonic, although I remember once when we were walking across the campus together being accosted by an elementary school pupil who shouted “Hey, Bill, is she your girlfriend?” His riposte was classic Bill – to quote John Donne: “For God’s sake, hold your tongue and let me love!” That silenced his heckler, though puzzled him somewhat too.
Another fond memory is of our school trip to London in our senior year, when we happened to visit Windsor Castle on 14th November, Bill’s birthday. As we arrived, a military band in the courtyard began to play “Happy Birthday to you”. Turns out it’s also HRH Prince Charles’s birthday, but we liked to think it was really in Bill’s honour.
Bill liked to cultivate an air of mystery when he left school, shunning social media as far as I’m aware, and I saw him only a few times after graduation. Twice we met in London, where he was studying economics at LSE. On one occasion someone had just tried to take my purse from my handbag on the Tube and I arrived at his flat in a complete state, but Bill quickly restored my equilibrium with his usual calm and philosophical approach to life’s crises.
Our last meeting was in Athens in April 2003, where my husband and I spent a couple of days on our honeymoon before heading to Lefkas for a week’s sailing which included a stop on Ithaca. We had a very pleasant evening with Bill and his wife, a delightful Greek lady, and Bill and my husband really hit it off, discussing politics and national identity from the Battle of Thermopylae in 480BC onwards.
Fast forward 16 years and I was about to send my manuscript to my editor for polishing pre-publication. I was ready to unveil the details to Bill, if I could only pin him down. I hoped he’d be flattered and touched at my gesture – and it would be a good excuse to make contact. Why had we left it so long?
Despite Bill’s aversion to social media, he’d previously been relatively easy to find on professional websites. Formerly a Greek parliamentary correspondent, he had moved into a career in shipping insurance, in which he was very successful and highly regarded by his peers. I was not prepared for what I found: a sad announcement by his professional organisation, stating that he passed away in January 2018.
I am still reeling from the shock. Bill was always a larger-than-life character to me, and although we saw each other so rarely, he was an anchor. It felt like he was there if I needed him, like the book he gave me one Christmas at school, at arm’s reach on the shelf in my study.
And now I’m especially glad that I used his name in my book, although I never got the chance to tell him about it. However, the character I’ve given it to is nothing like Bill in personality, so to set the balance right, I may have to include in a future novel a charming gentleman named Bill with a singing voice like chocolate-brown velvet, and I may even make him a Bad, Bad Man.
This post gives an overview of one of the many freelance roles that make up my working week – the editing role that, with echoes of Batman’s Commissioner Gordon, I refer to in my head as my “Commissioner Debbie” job.
As you may know, I work full-time from home in the comfort of my own study, overlooking the garden of my little cottage in the English Cotswolds.
My working week is a patchwork of many things, of which the largest is the role of Commissioning Editor of the Self-publishing Advice blog run by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).
Yes, that is a long title – and no wonder we often abbreviate this when talking amongst ourselves in the group to the ALLi SPA blog.
ALLi is the global organisation that brings together self-publishing authors from around the world to share best practice and to campaign for a higher profile for indie writing.
As its blog’s Commissioning Editor, my remit is:
to identify suitable topics for inclusion
to arrange for appropriate people (usually other self-publishing authors) to write guest posts
and to set them up to go live on the blog at the appropriate time
There’s a new and interesting post just about every day. To make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for, the posts are loosely grouped into different strands according to the days of the week. For example, Monday is the “Opinion” slot in which writers sound off about controversial issues, and Thursday is the “Writing” slot in which we address topics related to the craft of writing.
Occasionally I write posts myself. This is either because my chosen topic is one that I’m well qualified to write about (for example, World Book Day), or because I’ve been inspired and informed by discussions on ALLi’s Facebook forum (a members-only group in which we discuss all aspects of self-publishing).
My latest post falls into that second category. Following a conversation about which version of English ALLi’s members choose to write in, I drew on my own experience of having lived in other English-speaking environments and stated my preference for adhering to British English (no surprises there). Although I can translate reasonably well into American English at least, I stick with what comes naturally. I also included quotes from authors writing in English in other countries, including the Scottish-born Catriona Troth, who grew up in Canada but now lives and writes in England (where she’s recently written a book set in Canada).
The post – which you can read in full here – received lots of social media shares (53 at the time of writing this YoungByName post) and a flurry of comments (16 at last count, to each of which I gave a personal reply).
It also gave me the opportunity to use a photo that my editor at the Tetbury Advertiser used to illustrate my latest column there. It shows making a speech on graduation day at my American-style high school in Germany, Frankfurt International School. Worth every bit as much as my high school diploma was the fluency I gained in American English, though I retained my British accent.
A post about making new friends and keeping old friends all over the world via the internet
As the former pupil of an international school, one of the reasons I love the internet is that it has enabled us to reconnect, decades later, wherever we now live.
I spent four of my teenage years at Frankfurt International School (FIS), which in those days was attended by children of around 60 nationalities. Not only did I make friends from countries I’d never visited, I even discovered some new countries that I’d never heard of, and some, in those Iron-Curtained days,which didn’t even officially exist. Yes, Estonia, I’m talking about you. Kudos to Paul who in the school yearbook stated his nationality as Estonian, even though I suspect his passport was either American or Russian.You can take the boy out of Estonia, but…
I asserted my own national status equally proudly, retaining my British accent when my few fellow countrymen in the school acquired the American twang dominated the classrooms. All lessons were officially taught in English, apart from French and German.
Opening International Doors
Despite spending most of my first 14 years in a sheltered London suburbia (Sidcup, to be precise), passing the next four years in an international community made it second nature, once the internet had been invented, for me to make new international friendships online, as well as renewing old connections from my schooldays.
I get a particular thrill when friends from different parts of my past hook up with each other online, such as a Becky, former neighbour befriending Janet, a past Californian classmate, and Katherine, a Sidcup schoolmate meeting – yes, meeting in real life – Jacky, a newer friend from recent years. They’d got into conversation while replying to my Facebook posts and something just clicked between them, if you’ll excuse the IT pun.
I now look out for and encourage such connections, loving the feeling that the internet is turning the world into a village. As an optimist, I prefer that rosy view to the more cynical notion that the internet’s turning global citizens into international spies. (Don’t get me started about Google Earth…)
I’d had no idea that Christine had any interest in diabetes, but she’d noticed my ebook, Coming To Terms With Type 1 Diabetes. Long story short: the result was the publication earlier this week of my article on Glu’s website. Being a British writer, I was very pleased to have this opportunity to reach a largely US audience, and also to find out about this interesting diabetes-related website that otherwise might have passed me by. Thank you, Christine, for this opportunity – another fine example of serendipitous connections on the internet!
For any author, getting your books into foreign parts is always a thrill, and I couldn’t close this article without thanking Norio, a former classmate and good friend from my FIS days, for taking my first book on his travels, like some kind of global ambassador. Thank you, Norio – old friends are pure gold!
Who have you connected with from your past on the internet?
What’s the most obscure place the internet has helped you reach?