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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Look and See!

There is a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets, called Look And See (Why I Wake Early), in which she shows us through her beautiful language and vivid images how much richer the everyday things in our life can be, if we learn not just to "look" at them but to "see" them: Look And See by Mary Oliver.

Walking around my present neighborhood in Switzerland, I was reminded of her poem. Here are a few pictures of ordinary things that shine in an extraordinary light.

Enjoy! Wishing you a Happy New Year. May you "see" much beauty in 2016!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Samichlaus - Sankt Nikolaus (Santa Claus) visits Switzerland on December 6!

Unlike in the United States where I live now, Santa Claus (or Samichlaus in Zurich dialect) is celebrated on December 6, in my original home country. He doesn't breeze in on a reindeer either, but walks at a leisurely pace next to a donkey, loaded with presents.

In the United States, Santa Claus is the bringer of Christmas gifts. In Switzerland, this role is fulfilled by the Christkind (the Christ child), an angel who flies from Heaven with the gifts and puts them under the tree on Christmas Eve while the children have to wait in their bedrooms. They stand by the window, staring into the night, hoping to spot the Angel flying down from Heaven. Of course, they never see him/her, but they hear the bell ring. This is the signal that tells them that everything is ready. They dash from the bedroom to the Christmas tree in the living room, where the presents are stacked under the tree. At least, this is the way it was when I was a child. Of course, a lot has changed since then.

Accompanying Samichlaus on December 6, is his helper, the Schmutzli. His name, Schmutzli, comes from "Schmutz" (dirt) and refers to his "dirty" face (smeared with ashes). Whereas Santa Claus is the light and good force, his helper, originally Knecht Ruprecht in the old days, represents the darker side. While Santa Claus is the bringer of gifts for the childen, Schmutzli punishes them if they were disobedient during the year. There is a rich tradition (both secular and religious) around these two figures. Interested? Read this!

Nowadays, however, both Samichlaus and Schmutzli are kind men (although Schmutzli still looks a little scary in his black robe and his face smeared with ashes). Schmutzli's basic role now is helping Santa Claus distribute gifts--mandarines, peanuts, and the famous Lebkuchen (ginger bread).

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Coffee, cake, chatting, and mulled wine with author Linda Huber in Zurich


For those who missed Linda's blog post last week!

One of the challenges of being an independent author is creating connections, but this is also one of its perks. Since I started my micro publishing business back in 2010, I have had the good fortune of meeting many wonderful friends on social media. The true pleasure, however, is when you have the chance to get together with them in person. I've met several of my author and reader friends for lunch or an outing and these occasions are always an inspiration.

One such opportunity I had when meeting Linda Huber, the talented author of books such as The Attic Room and The Cold Cold Sea. During my yearly stay in my original home country, Switzerland, this November, we met in the city of Zurich. We took a stroll through the old part of Zurich, visited one of my favorite coffee shops, the richly decorated Cafe Felix at Bellevue, which serves excellent coffee and cake. While enjoying a cappuccino and a delicious Aprikosen-Streuselkuchen (apricot crumb cake), we talked about books, about Scotland (where Linda is from), California (where I live), and tons of other topics.

To walk off some of the calories, we took another stroll, admiring the many small shops, the beautiful old buildings, and Christmas decorations.

Since the weather was rather on the cold and wet side, we needed to warm up at one of the many Glühwein stands (mulled wine) which, together with roasted chestnuts, are very popular at this time of the year.


It was a truly memorable time and I look forward to more such occasions!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Look and See

I love to travel, whether to reconnect with my first home (Switzerland) or to explore new areas. When I do research for my novels, which take place in different countries, I often go back to a place to really look at it and see things I didn't notice when I traveled there as a tourist. It's a different kind of traveling, you have to slow down and really look at details in order to describe them accurately. Not just looking with your eyes, but using all your senses: observe the colors, light and shadow, smell the scents, listen to the sounds, taste the food. It's one of the most satisfying experiences of creative writing.

This morning, I went on my usual walk past my favorite pond of my childhood. As a child, I spent hours exploring, watching the ducks and other water birds.

This morning, I was struck by the play of light filtered through the trees.   


This pond also plays a role in my novel An Uncommon Family (Family Portrait, Book 1)

More pictures that served as inspiration for the novel, you can find here: Picture Tour.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A cold, tea, coffee, delicacies, and a beautiful landscape

I get a full-blown cold only about every ten years or so. Well, it must be that year. Anyway, I try not to complain because at least I cough and sneeze while admiring a beautiful fall landscape here in my first/second home in Switzerland.

I allowed myself a writing hiatus, now that my WIP, the second book in The Wine Lover's Daughter series, is with my loyal beta readers. Here is a preliminary cover of Finding Angelo:

I went for walks in the neighborhood and here are a few photos.

A visit to my niece's and her husband's Vegan Restaurant and tea and coffee house Limalimón, in Bremgarten/AG. Excellent tea and coffee and yummy food, and, of course, great service by Claudia and Alberto and their team!

A wonderful selection of teas and cute gifts.
All the food and drinks prepared and served by enthusiastic and friendly people.

Alberto and Claudia, the owners, work together with the team.

Cook Brigitte prepares yummy delicacies.

Have you ever seen a ceiling lamp made of wine glasses? Here it is!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

THE JOURNEY HOME by Olaf Olafsson

I have a few of my favorite books that I keep reading and rereading. These are usually the kind of books in which plot and action are less important than the beauty of language and the emotions they evoke. The Journey Home by the marvelous Icelandic author, Olaf Olafsson, is one of these works. It doesn’t matter that I know the story by heart. Each time I read it, it moves and delights me anew.

THE JOURNEY HOME deals with several journeys: the physical journey that Disa, a sensitive and tenacious woman, is compelled to take to her home country, Iceland. She lives in England where she runs a country inn together with Anthony, her friend and companion. It’s also about an emotional journey, a painful and joyous journey into the past, a journey of memories of the conflict with her mother, of the destiny of her German-Jewish lover, of the fateful happenings in the family of her former employer.

This is a beautifully written, lyrical, meditative novel full of wondrous moments. A quiet novel, yet there is tension, a tension that leads, in the end, to an emotional climax. Every time I read it, I enjoy it more. Every time I read it, I discover more nuances. And every time I read it, I end up crying through the last few chapters.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Take a journey to the vineyards of Tuscany while staying at home!

A picture paints a thousand words? Perhaps somewhat exaggerated, but I love pictures and they inspire me. This is why I created a picture journey for each of my novels. Here is the newest one for The Italian Sister (The Wine Lover's Daughter, Book 1):

Grab some popcorn or chocolate, sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Picture Tour from California to Tuscany

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Italian Sister - Take a wild ride from California to Tuscany, Italy, together with my young heroine, Sofia Laverne!

THE ITALIAN SISTER is published and available as ebook for the Kindle and with the free Kindle App on all eReaders. The printed version is in production.

Link to the eBook:

Standing at her father’s grave in California, Sofia Laverne mourns his untimely death. Henry had not only been a loving parent but Sofia’s best friend and mentor. Imagine her shock and grief when she finds out her father had lived a double-life, that she has a ten-year younger sister and inherited a vineyard in Tuscany. Torn between anger about his betrayal, grief for her loss, and hopeful anticipation, Sofia packs her bags and takes off for Italy to meet fourteen-year old Julietta. Arriving in the small hill town of Vignaverde, she is greeted by olive groves, neat rows of grape vines, and picturesque houses. Some of the inhabitants of this beautiful estate are, unfortunately, less welcoming and resent her intrusion into the family business. Soon, strange occurrences begin to frighten Sofia. When a suspicious accident lands her in the hospital, Sofia fears for her life.

Part family drama, part romantic suspense, THE ITALIAN SISTER takes us on a wild journey from California to Tuscany and provides glimpses into the exciting world of winemaking.

As a special introductory offer, the Kindle ebook is available for 99 cents from August 4 to and including August 10. So get with it and grab it while the discount lasts.

A post about the research into grapes and winemaking in Tuscany, Switzerland as well as California with lots of great pictures is on Lisette Brodey's wonderful Writers Castle blog. Research for this novel was a truly pleasurable (tasting wine!) and exciting adventure. Click on the link, sit back, and enjoy:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Italian Sister - needs your help!

The Italian Sister

Dear Friends and Book Worms,

My new (and fourth) novel, The Italian Sister, is on its homestretch. This time, I have the opportunity to win a publishing contract through the Kindle Scout program. This is a contest, organized by Amazon, where readers have an input on which books get published. It's a new concept and it sounds exciting to me. The first step in the process is to get enough readers to nominate a book. Although this is not the only criteria for having the manuscript accepted, it is an important first prerequisite.

And this is where you come in. You can help me get enough votes. It's very simple and it only takes a few seconds of your time. Click the link below, which will take you to my Kindle Scout campaign page, where you'll find a short description of the book, an excerpt, a brief bio, and a few questions and answers, and the important NOMINATE button. This page will be up for 30 days, starting ??

Please click the NOMINATE button - but only once. If you click again, it will undo the nomination. This is of course to prevent some overly enthusiastic supporters from clicking it repeatedly and give the book an unfair advantage.

You will also get something for your help. If The Italian Sister is published through the Kindle Scout program, you'll get a free Kindle copy!

And now, here is the link:
After nominating the book, you can continue to help me by spreading the word to your friends and share my announcements and reminders on Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

The competition on Kindle Scout is fierce, so I need all the help I can get. Thank you in advance for your support. It really means a lot to me.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Pay Attention Book Lovers/Readers: A SPECIAL DEAL starting Monday, April 20!

THIS WEEK ONLY, from Monday, April 20 to and including Sunday, April 26, the complete Family Portrait collection (An Uncommon Family, Love of a Stonemason, Emilia) is available on all Amazon sites for $2.99. You get three novels for the price of less than one!

Link to the Book:


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

For my sister

Rosmarie Spiegel-Umiker, October 19, 1929 - April 15, 1997

In Memoriam

Back then, we tried once again                             
to cram a year’s worth of feelings
into one week,
letting our thoughts float
in the vast stillness.
Before us mountain peaks
drained away into the summer night.

Now your face is tucked in a frame
on the shrine next to the flowers
and the candle I light every night.
It looks my way with a warm
or mischievous smile, 
depending on the way the light falls. 

Your sanctuary lies in my heart
in little heaps of joy and sorrow.
I think of you often,
of the times we sat together
gazing at the lit church
on the hill above Santa Maria, 
our bodies suffused in the evening glow,
you, leaning back into the
lime-green sofa pillow, and I
leaning into you.

(From The Path of Fire by Christa Polkinhorn)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Literary and artistic surprises during a fun journey

This past week, I was in San Leandro, in the Bay area of California, visiting my friend Susan and having a good old time visiting, chatting, eating and drinking and going for walks. And during our walks and drives, we stumbled upon art and literature at unexpected places.

It started at the De Young Museum of Art in San Francisco. By chance they showed an amazing exhibition of some of my favorite painters, Botticelli, for instance.

The De Young is not only a great art museum but situated within the beautiful Golden Gate Park, it is also a place to just hang out, have lunch, or a coffee.

Susan and I at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

On the way to San Francisco and back, we passed the new Bay Bridge, which is impressive and a little scary (can't help thinking about earthquakes). But I love the skyline of San Francisco and of course the city itself.

After all the excitement, we relaxed with a cup of coffee and a sweet. Food for the spirit and the body.

One of the next outings was to Berkeley and in particular to the Botanical Garden, a real treat! It's an oasis of peace with a display of the most gorgeous plants and flowers.

But next to the Garden of Old Roses, there was a lovely surprise waiting for us. See further down.

Hidden underneath a canopy of leaves, a poem by Sylvia Plath carved into stone!

From the Botanical Garden, you have a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge!

Berkeley still has a selection of fine brick-and-motar bookstores. This one was another surprise: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf!

A great bookstore that still invites you to browse and hang out.

On my way back to Los Angeles on 101, I drove through Salinas and stopped for a quick look at another literary great--you guessed it. John Steinbeck lived here many years and there is a museum and a restaurant in his honor.

"Meeting" all these fantastic artists and writers inspired me to get back to my own writing. I'm polishing my next novel, The Italian Sister, which takes place in California and on a vineyard in Tuscany, Italy. More about this later!

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