Retaining a Political Thriller Element 29th July 2014

Does the idea of a political thriller appeal? It certainly does to me. I have just edited a very powerful scene which really gets to the roots of the political conspiracy behind this series.

I am quite fascinated by politics, which is why I included this subject in my story – but without banging on about politics too much. I am trying to keep the subject light.

Urquart from UK TV drama 'House of Cards'Does anyone remember BBC’s 90s political thriller, ‘House of Cards?’ It is about a Machiavellian MP and his quest for power. He does in fact sound very much like my own arch villain, ‘Perry’ and leaves me hankering to watch it – especially as it contains scenes in Westminster. Sounds like a fun way of doing more research.

Maybe, I was a little too young to understand the real dirty nature of politics. Much as I love debates about politics, my early memories are based around listening my dad bellowing at the TV set, usually when someone like Arthur Scargill came on the news! But now I’m a little older and wiser.

On reflection, most of us find politics quite an interesting subject – yet our true interest only really lies in the way it affects our own lives. 

Same Face Different Place (the series) can loosely be described as my take on Britishness. It is filled with rich examples of the political scene from each decade. People may remember the trade unions, the strikes and power cuts of the 70s – the privatisation and soaring property values of the 80s.

But my book is not just about politics: it includes a political conspiracy, yet only lightly touches the subject of politics. The book is more about the characters, where the murder of a British MP is the underlying vein of the story – yet, it is how this atrocity penetrates the lives of a community, that creates the over-all drama.

Westminster

Lastly, I couldn’t finish this piece without a little teaser. 

Even Eleanor sensed, how excruciating it must have been to divide her loyalties. She had been allied to the Liberal Party, of which Albert was formerly a member; yet her relationship with Perry went deeper. Ever since their University days, they had known each other – they had even been lovers. In fact, they had remained close, right up until the day, Evelyn had bumped into him at that service station – where no-one could have failed to register the agony in her voice, given the horrible way their friendship had ended.

“Albert rose to power,” she mumbled. “He clawed his way up to the top and was almost unanimously accepted as new leader of the Labour Party. Ted Heath was Prime Minister. Yet, Labour were rapidly gaining popularity, especially with someone as passionate as Albert at the helm. It looked for all the world as if he would sweep the board at the next election, so Perry’s loathing intensified. As if being denied a chance to be an MP, wasn’t enough! But to see his rival, rise to power – it was unbearable! So he started a smear campaign.”

This is an extract from Book 3 ‘Pleasures’ which is currently in progress

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What is Pleasures about? 4th July 2014

This is a follow up to my last post 1st Edit of Pleasures gets underway.

In the opening chapters, characters both good and evil go head to head in a battle over a lucrative piece of land. At the same time, Eleanor is following a trail – determined to solve a mystery which will forever haunt her, though fearful of placing her only son in danger.

young-lovers-lightThis is also a story, where the children from Book 2 are growing up fast; affected by the events which left them scarred and determined to fight against injustice. In between the intense action and mystery solving, lie the minor story lines which reflect their everyday lives. This is how I develop and strengthen my characters and turn them into people who are believable – and so they suffer the growing pains of adolescence and form their first loving relationships.

Pleasures not only concentrates on the good characters in this saga, but the evil ones. Characters like Ben, whose hedonistic London lifestyle continues much as before – while desperately seeking a path into the criminal underworld. When he’s not tooting cocaine or making a mint at the London Stock exchange, he is getting up to all sorts of debauchery. Ben also has unfinished business – his warped mind wrapped around his one obsession, Avalon – determined to find a way of getting back into her life again.

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Readers will also see the return of his evil sidekick Nathan, a shaven-headed thug, whose dodgy connections eventually draw them into the domain of some very nasty criminals. Perry meanwhile, continues to keep him onboard as his spy – in addition to his glamourous Asian mistress, Alesha. Together, they are keeping Eleanor and her allies under careful watch – which means, she has to stay one step ahead of them.

Book 3 also sees the return of Dominic Theakston, menacing gangster from Book 1. He swears he’s severed all connections with organised crime for good, but has he? Outwardly determined to forge his own business empire, his link to Eleanor’s past is never going to go away – a situation designed to inject a new era of fear into the community.

Where Visions captured the characters’ ambitions and dreams – Pleasures is based on their desires. What turns people on? The issue of raves and acid house parties is a powerful theme, as the story moves towards the 90s and where recreational drugs and sex play an important role.

rave

It’s an ambitious work with story lines considerably more sensual than in the last two books. It’s now just a matter of making sure this story goes out with a bang, rather than a whimper – lastly, I aim to write one hell of a cliffhanger which will leave readers hankering for the final book of the series: Retributions.

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1st Edit of Pleasures gets underway – 3rd July 2014

I haven’t done much blogging lately, but on the other hand, I’ve been too busy writing – or more specifically, cracking on with the 3rd book of my series, ‘Pleasures.’

I began writing Book 3 on October 17th 2013 and on this occasion, prepared a very strong synopsis. This differs slightly to the the way I wrote my first 2 books. I had a head full of ideas, but I  was unsure as to how I would develop the story, until I actually knuckled down to it and then the ideas just kept flourishing. I sort of made it up as I went. But I am not exaggerating when I say, my second book, Visions, ran into problems. This deeply moving drama (which was the book I always wanted to write), did not pan out quite as I hoped which resulted in almost a total re-write. Even Book 1, Beginnings suffered major plot changes. So by the time I launched into the 3rd episode, I wanted to be sure, I knew, exactly where the story was going, before I wrote a single word.

It was good to go in with a plan: and as usual, I backed my writing up with research starting with a good look round the Internet and Youtube, delving into such subjects as Rave Culture, the 1987 Hurricane and the stock market crash, Black Monday – all significant and newsworthy items for the era in which the book is set. I also managed to squeeze in another trip to London, this time venturing into Pimlico (home of villainous Perry Hampton) which I never even wrote a blog about.

Pimlico London

1st Look at Pimlico using Google Earth (Prior to my visit)

By the end of June, however, it was time to pause – reflect on what I’ve written so far: because by this point, the story had spiralled to a gripping climax which left me suspended on a massive adrenalin high – and this is the problem. It is such an explosive storyline, I’m floundering – unsure how to wrap it all up, without the story fizzling out.

So before I write the ending, I have decided to do a first edit to see how the book is shaping up so far. I have to say I am very pleased with it, in it’s current form – and with no desire to re-write it!

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A Rambling Good Holiday in the Lake District – 10th June 2014

There are few places I have been, which offer quite such dramatic scenery as the Lake District – but ever since we arrived home from Cumbria, I’ve had this yearning to jot down the memories, while they’re fresh in my mind.

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We did in fact, have a little taster when we stayed in a friend’s family cottage on the way up to Scotland, last year; a time when it rained constantly, leaving us wondering what splendid views crouched behind the curtain of thick grey mist, surrounding Derwent Water. We were at least able to snatch a tiny glimpse of Buttermere, which was enough to lure us back there. So we arrived at the same rustic cottage, with its crumbly white walls, surrounded by a wild landscape of bumpy grass, dry stone walls and where our only neighbours were a few cows and hundreds of sheep.

On the first day, we set out for Skiddaw – but petrified by the first sight of a razor-sharp ridge leading to an impossibly high peak, we headed for nearby Mungrisdale (convenient, considering we forgot to pack my walking boots) so with little other choice than to walk in crocs, we opted for a gentler route. But neither myself or my husband are that fit! It took a couple of hours to slog up that never-ending hill. By the time we reached the top, I thought I was going to die – though, the views up there were stunning. Piles of rocks marked the 2,400 ft peak, before we picked our way cautiously down the heather cloaked hillsides to ‘the Tongue’ and back through the valley, before finally collapsing in The Mill Inn, for a well deserved drink.

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With aching calves, backs, sore feet and stiff bum muscles, we pursued day 2 at a slightly more moderate pace – starting with a visit to the stone circle known as ‘Long Meg and her Daughters,’ (Local legend claims that Long Meg was a witch who with her daughters, was turned to stone for profaning the Sabbath, as they danced wildly on the moor!)

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We also explored the village of Little Salkeld and discovered its beautiful watermill and organic teashop, where we stopped for coffee and toured the mill, before purchasing a loaf of their delicious wholegrain bread, along with shortbread and treacle flapjacks. We rounded off our day with a lovely walk, passing the old railway line, a patchwork of farmland and a beautiful river, before we arrived at some unusual caves, carved from reddish brown rock.

On the 3rd day we went our separate ways, where Peter and I visited Grasmere for the day. It’s a popular area, which draws an abundance of Japanese tourists, yet we discovered ‘Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop’ a tiny kitchen, built in 1630, where we were able to purchase a few local goodies as gifts.

The highlight of our day, however, was a guided tour of Dove Cottage: home to the famous poet, William Wordsworth.

Sarah Nelson's Gingerbread Shop (L) and Dove Cottage (R)

Sarah Nelson’s Gingerbread Shop (L) and Dove Cottage (R)

We were lucky to enjoy a day of sunshine, where his garden presented a relaxing haven, we found almost impossible to leave – a tranquil setting, filled with flowers and the chime of birdsong. We sat in a small wooden shelter, enjoying the mountain views, in between leafing through the poems – I even felt a compulsion to write something myself, in the little notebook I carry around, just so I can say “I wrote this paragraph in the garden of William Wordsworth” – hoping it might be a lucky omen.

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Two days of gentle sightseeing left us restless – time to venture out for another challenging walk and this time, we drove to Borrowdale; first to view some of the local beauty spots which included Ashton Bridge and Bowder Stone; before we attempted to stop at Lodore Falls. The weather was wet for the first time this holiday, which culminated in an entire day of almost non-stop rain; but it didn’t deter us, as we resolutely made our way to Rosthwaite, before heading up to Castle Cragg: another long, uphill trudge which gradually became steeper as we struggled to reach the top.

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Despite low cloud, mist and rain, the views were stunning. The homeward journey was nearly as challenging as my rain soaked boots squelched their way down the spongy, waterlogged hillsides. But a quick stop in the warming embrace of the ‘Flock In,’ teashop was a memory worth cherishing and serves sticky toffee pudding in two sizes: ramblers’ portion or plodders’ portion!

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Next day, and after the gruelling ordeal of Castle Cragg, we combined a driving tour with a slightly shorter walk, where nothing could compare with the enchanting beauty of Aria Falls. A tranquil woodland walk guided us gently uphill, via a series of steps cut into the footpaths, leading to magical views of the waterfalls, tumbling from various different levels.

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The rest of the day was taken up by a leisurely drive around Ullswater, taking in the stunning scenery of Kirkstone Pass and Troutbeck. We even managed a quick glance at the historic Yeoman’s farmhouse of Townend (now owned by the National Trust) though didn’t quite have enough time to visit.

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The last day was special and like a gift from the Gods, the sun came out – a perfect opportunity to indulge in a boat trip around Derwent water, where the waters reflected the sapphire blue light of the sky. As it was a ‘hop on hop off’ tour, we were able to stop at various points, where we finally got to see Lodore Falls – followed by an attempt to climb ‘Catbells’ though the weather was so sunny, we were satisfied to get half way up from where the views of the lakes took our breath away.

derwent-combi

Lastly, we had booked tickets to Keswick Beer Festival and with over 200 beers to choose from, it was difficult to know where to start. I’m not actually a big fan of tepid real ale! Though I did discover a brew known as Castle Rock ‘Screech Owl which possessed a sweet and pleasing flavour.

It really was a very nice holiday and we plan to go back. We only really explored the northern end of Cumbria, with the southern lakes yet to explore.

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Bluebell Woods – Another beautiful feature of Britain – 28th April 2014

Whenever I am invited to write a guest blog, such as my recent ‘Teatime Interview’ courtesy of ‘A Woman’s Wisdom,’ I am often asked for a short bio: I nearly always make mention of the fact that my husband and I share a passion for long country walks and belong to a local walking group.

Of course, England is renowned for one thing, this time of year – BLUEBELLS. Which is one of the reasons we nearly always offer up a bluebell walk – and this year was no exception! Together we ventured up to Slindon Folly, to discover a woodland floor which was literally smothered in a carpet of rich purple. It’s such an amazing sight and these flowers sweeten the air with a most delightful floral fragrance.

Bluebell Woods in East Ashling

Bluebell Woods in East Ashling

But  English bluebells are sadly, becoming a species under threat as a result of the more invasive and larger Spanish bluebell. It is distinguished from the common bluebell by its paler, larger blue flowers, more erect flower stem, broader leaves, blue anthers (where the common bluebell has creamy-white ones) and little or no scent compared to the strong fragrant scent of the northern species. Wherever you see Spanish bluebells they can cross-pollinated with our indigenous ones – but as the Spanish variety is more dominant, they are slowly taking over. More worryingly, its distribution has also been increasing in woodland areas – the preferred habitat of the UK’s native bluebell and home to some of its oldest populations.

Hannah Briggs from the BBC quotes: “Native bluebell woodlands are one of Britain’s most iconic countryside images and we should make every effort to protect them.” See: www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17597489

All I can add is that we should cherish our native bluebells while we still have them – so visit your local beauty spot where they grow, take photos, publish them on social networks – and if you wish, please share this post!

A White variety of bluebell

A White variety of bluebell

Lastly, I couldn’t end this post without quoting a small extract from Book 2 VISIONS – since our lovely English countryside is always such a powerful inspiration behind my story writing:

“… Eleanor continued to absorb herself in the splendour of his estate, helplessly oblivious to the unravelling thread of events, about to alter their destiny. As Spring turned into summer, so they witnessed a gradual change in their surroundings; from the last bluebells of May, where a prolific carpet radiated an iridescent purple haze – to the towering spikes of foxgloves, alongside banks of intense blue delphiniums. By June, even the first roses had begun to reveal their beauty – a time when Eleanor had almost forgotten the troubles which had plagued them in the past. Charlie too, became fully immersed in his various building assignments – privileged to be in command of such an exciting restoration.”

For further information on my second novel, Visions, a psychological thriller based in the idyllic English countryside of Kent, check out my link on Amazon.

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It’s Spring – there’s Elderflowers – 31st March 2014

In celebration of Elderflower cordial – Thanks Mary Berry for Inspiring this post!

ElderflowersMy parents were both keen wine makers and I remember a day, when I lived in Worthing, West Sussex, where I ventured out on my bike and stumbled across an avenue of Elder trees, all bearing these beautifully scented white blooms. I picked several bunches, dried them out and it did indeed make a very pleasing wine. It was these fond memories which inspired a countryside scene in my latest book, ‘Pleasures’ Book 3 of my series, which I am working to have finished by the end of the year. So I included an extract below:

“Before anyone had a chance to feel melancholy, they continued their hike – where the footpaths circumnavigated a vista of undulating fields, enclosed within hedgerows. In contrast to the devastation William had witnessed before, the vegetation around them had burst into life – the hedges lush with foliage and cow parsley, whilst a profusion of creamy, scented elder blossoms graced the slender branches of trees. Lucy momentarily paused to admire them – explaining how the delicate blooms made a particularly pleasing cordial, as well as a fine summer wine. She and Joshua would be returning here to gather some, over the next few days.

Her love of the countryside was infectious and Margaret soon found herself completely absorbed, as she finally saw the landscape through different eyes. Elijah too, who had recently turned 15, found himself just as captivated. This was after all, the place he’d grown up as a boy, compelled to push aside those darker memories of a time when Eleanor sped back here – shortly followed by the nightmare of his near capture. They were approaching the woods, encircling the grounds of Westbourne House. The path wound its way towards a stile, which they clambered over in turn. On this occasion however, the woods were cleared of fallen timber; the few trees, left standing, allowed the sunlight to permeate through the gaps in long, hazy shafts, illuminating the grass, which lay scattered with a few withering blue bells.

“It looks better, than the last time we came,” William explained, as they followed the path through the wood. Eventually, it trailed its way towards the gate on the other side.

By the time they exited the wood, they could clearly see Herbert’s farm again. But the far side of the forest had now been completely excavated – the ground cleared of any remaining fauna, the earth ploughed and flattened in readiness to be sewn with grass seed.

“It’s going to be so much easier to manage,” William found himself explaining a little later.

Toby had briefly explained how they intended to use their new land for grazing stock – intent on putting some goodness back into the soil, before turning it over to crops. Then, finally, he invited them into their homely farmhouse for a drink.

Straight away, Amber had found a bottle of elder flower cordial, which she uncorked and sloshed into a glass jug. Its floral taste was wonderfully refreshing – and the kids had agreed that, if they had time, it would be a pleasure to help Lucy gather some, on their walk back to the caravan.

It was a good half hour, before they gradually set off again, this time, armed with a wicker basket, loaned from Amber – pausing at intervals, to pluck flat bunches of blossoms from the over-hanging branches. They chose a slightly different route home – and after the exertion of their steady up-hill climb, they ambled their way back along the farm track which led to the road.”

This is an early draft of PLEASURES in its embryonic stages. Hope to deliver another fast paced story soon.

 

 
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Roll up, roll up… for our 1st CHINDI Book Fair!

I have recently got together with a bunch of local authors in the Chichester area of West Sussex. But before I go on to talk about our group, I first of all want to plug our first public event, coming up this Saturday.

CHINDI BOOK FAIR – Saturday 8th March

This is a FREE event scheduled to take place at the New Park Centre Café from 9am-5pm. A group of local authors are setting up an exhibition of our published works, to talk about our books as well as our journey into self publishing. There are books from many genres: including children’s books, crime thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, mystery suspense, romance and alternative history – and of course, signed copies of the books will be available throughout the day.

For further information, check out our website www.chindi-authors.co.uk

screen grab of chindi website

We have a write up in the CHICHESTER OBSERVER this week and in addition, the Mayor & Mayoress of Chichester will be attending. But that’s not all…

To coincide with National Book Day, best selling Indie author, Ben Galley, is hosting a workshop: ‘Shelf-Help: An In-Depth Guide to Self-Publishing’, from 11am – 12pm. (Tickets for this event are £6)

Entrepreneur, Katy Lasseter and local self-published author Daniel Hobden will be offering a free talk at 2pm, on the importance of proof-reading, copywriting and marketing for the self-publishing author.

For those who like books, or are interested in writing and publishing, come along as this promises to be a great day. Refreshments will be available and we are also organising a BOOK SWAP – so any books you’ve read that are in good condition, bring them along and exchange them for another one.

How did CHINDI come about?

A little while ago I was approached by another local author, named Jeremy Good, who asked if I would be interested in participating in a book fair. It sounded exciting. I confess, public events such as book signings are something I have always been shy about – but I cannot deny I was intrigued. Just before Christmas, 5 of us met up for a drink and by the end of the meeting, I came away inspired. First, it was so nice to meet other authors face to face and share  writing experiences. In addition, we have agreed to support each other and work as a group to market ourselves as authors and get the type of publicity we deserve!

Photo of CHINDI authors

Founder Members of CHINDI L-R: Jeremy Good, Marion Kille, Christopher Joyce, Helen Christmas, Andrew Weaver

Independent authors don’t enjoy the same back up of PR as traditionally published authors. It is something we do ourselves and extremely hard work! I personally, am not really driven by sales; writing is something I enjoy and if several people get to read and enjoy my books, I feel honoured. Having said that though, it has been a lonely process. The marketing effort you can make as an individual is pretty fruitless, unless you are prepared to spend a lot of time and money on it. I see networking with a group of like-minded people, as a way forward – and hope that together, we can really make a difference to the success of our books.

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