Back to the Beginning

What Next?

Reaching the end of a long-running series feels strange but at the same time, therapeutic as if an enormous burden had been lifted. All the story lines I had planned from the beginning finally found their way into the story where each character had their own unique ending. The Kindle version went live Amazon in August and by the end of the month, my paperbacks too had arrived just in time for Arundel Festival.

Montage of Book Covers from the Same Face Different Place series

The final books of the series have gone down well and received some favourable reviews, starting with this most enthusiastic review from a Facebook Group!

Wow wow wow what a fantastic read…had me gripped from the start… this 5 set series is an absolute must buy…congratulations helen christmas this is your best yet

Delighted to embrace such praise keeps me motivated; but with time to fill (and not quite ready to start my next writing adventure), there is something I have been planning to do for a while now…

Re-visiting Book 1: Beginnings

Book cover for Same Face Different Place Book 1 Beginnings by Helen J ChristmasThe Same Face Different Place ‘Beginnings’ was written in 2011 and published in 2012. The story underwent further edits in 2015 but since finishing the series, my writing style improved considerably. Much of this was thanks to my friends who pointed out a few flaws in my writing. I was able to fix these issues for the 4th and 5th Books (Retribution) but it left me wondering if I should re-visit the 1st books again.

In many ways, it was really enjoyable looking back and while the story hasn’t changed in any way, another edit gave me a chance to improve the writing style, the descriptions and the characters. At the same time it put me right back in the zone; set in the 1970s, Beginnings is a very dark story, where the inherent fear and danger facing the main two characters reminded me of the most important selling points of this novel.

Link to PinterestRelive 197os London on my Pinterest Board

Arundel Festival

In actual fact the timing couldn’t be better. Feeling very much immersed in the setting of ‘Beginnings’ paid off, especially at Arundel Festival. I had more impetus to promote my book and actually felt quite passionate about it when I was describing it to people. As a result of my renewed enthusiasm, I made more sales than ever before.

With experience came confidence.

Our CHINDI Fundraising Book Stall at Arundel Festival.

I will also say, I thoroughly enjoyed managing the book stall with some of my fellow CHINDI authors. Our goal was to promote ourselves as local authors, sell each others books as well as our own, and make as much money for Cancer Research UK as possible. We were rewarded with beautiful sunny weather during the August Bank Holiday, a lovely Festival atmosphere and best of all we manage to raise nearly £500 for charity.

On to Book Promotion

In addition to my the edit of ‘Beginnings,’ I’ve been looking at ways of raising awareness and focussing on marketing. In early September I finally succeeded in getting 50 reviews for ‘Beginnings.’ This is a significant bench mark with Amazon and I do believe, it will give the book more credibility as a saleable product. Thus, it is even more important to knock the book into shape and turn it into as polished a product as possible.

By the end of September, I hope to have the novel proof-read too and publish a 2nd edition. My next dream will be to obtain 1 or 2 editorial reviews; something I can promote through my social networking feeds…

I thought my work was done but a writers’ work is never really done. You think you’ve reached the end but there is always room for improvement, so it’s onwards and upwards.

Advertisements
Posted in Blogging, Novel, Thrillers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Thriller Writing to Growing and Cooking our own Veg

Home grown produce

Okay, so this is a little ‘off the wall’ from my usual blog BUT to deviate from writing for a change, we find ourselves at this ‘time of year’ when our vegetable patch is exploding with courgettes. So I am trying to figure out ways of using them all. From our three main plants, we seem to have more than ever this year. Picking them as we see them, we try to make the most of our crop. Yet despite our most hawk-eyed scrutiny, somewhere among those prickly leaves, there are always one or two devious subjects who manage to escape the radar, resulting in bulging appendages of marrow-sized proportions!

So what to do with the glut?

So far this year, I’ve donated nearly all the ‘marrows’ to one of our lovely neighbours to make chutney – that is apart from one. With a tough outer shell as hard as rock, it is lurking on top of our barbecue rack. I actually thought it would be useful as a club to ward off opportunist burglars…

The next category of giants are still quite young with a softer, smoother skin and an appetising yellow/green mottling. These are fine for cooking if you scoop the seeds out and great for stuffing, either with a rich tomato and herb, bolognese mince – or for vegetarians, a wholesome mushroom and nut mixture.

I have also made three cauldrons of ratatouille, which went down very well with friends and neighbours when we invited them over for an alfresco dinner party in July. It freezes well too; handy for quickie pasta recipes or a vegetable accompaniment to enjoy with sausages or fish.

So having exhausted these two applications, it is time to get creative.

The cream of the crop

At the end of August, we are still inundated with fruits but the plants are gradually fading. Within a few more weeks, our bountiful crop will be finished so I will conclude this article by describing some of the innovative recipes I discovered on Pinterest (along with one of my own.)

On my Recipes Board, I have pinned two recipes for courgetti and feta fritters. My sister served these on my husband’s birthday. Lighter than air, these delicate and delicious morsels are a joy to bit into; best served with a creamy yoghurt and mint dip, bursting with notes of garlic and lemon juice. Nice! I’m yearning for the recipe now, which she more or less made up apparently; a combination of two, inspired by Jamie and Nigella.

I also found a recipe for courgette, roasted pepper and parmesan muffins which sounds so good, it is worth buying a lump of feta cheese. Half will go in the fritters (which I plan to make this week) and then other half will be sufficient to try the muffins too. Bon appetite!

Last of all, is a recipe I invented myself which I would love to share. My husband bought me a spiralizer for my birthday and I’ve been thinking of ways to use it. I was thrilled by my first attempt at making spicy potato rostis and with an abundance of tender young courgettes at my disposal, I was inspired to try something else…

Crispy Courgetti and Parmesan Rostis

Deliciously succulent and light, these rostis make nice accompaniments to a main meal. I use this recipe to serve 2 but the quantities can be adjusted according the ingredients. This goes really well alongside other vegetables such as steamed carrots and leeks, peas and sweetcorn. The first time I created these, we ate them with herby chicken fillets and a baked potato. They have a cheesy, garliccy flavour which balances well with the more subtle flavour of the courgettes; use young ones if you can get them, the fresher the better.

Ingredients

2 medium courgettes spiralized or thickly grated
1 fat clove of garlic finely chopped
1 escallion shallot finely chopped
2 tsp light olive oil
2 tsp dried herbs (I use herbs Provence)
A grind of Course sea salt (to your taste)
40g finely grated Parmesan cheese

Method

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C, 400 degrees F, Gas mark 6.

Use a clean tea towel or kitchen roll to squeeze as much water out of the courgettes as possible. A mixture too wet will result in soggy rostis as opposed to crispy ones.

spiralized courgettes

Place in a bowl and spoon in the oil, garlic, shallot, sea salt and herbs, stirring to mix well. Sprinkle in HALF the Parmesan cheese and fold into the courgettes to give a slightly sticky mix.

Courgette rosti mix

Spoon into a cake tin or better still, 4 small batter tins. Bake in the oven on the top shelf for 20 minutes, turning half way through cooking.

Courgette rostis

Sprinkle remaining cheeses evenly over the rostis and finish under a hot grill to crisp up. Carefully slide each rosti onto a warm plate and enjoy!

Crispy Courgetti and Parmesan Rostis

Posted in Environment, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reaching the End of an Epic Thriller Series

Where have the last six years gone?

Yes, this just about sums up the enormous chunk in my life I dedicated to writing a decade spanning romantic British thriller series, titled ‘Same Face Different Place’ BUT I have to say, it’s been worth it! Since writing my last ‘book related’ post “Retribution to the End” in May 2017 I am pleased to announce, I’ve finally reached the end of this entire series – a thriller mystery which rolls over four iconic decades from 1972 – 2012. The 4th book ended up far larger than I planned but with so many characters and sub-plots, it turned out to be little like ‘Game of Thrones’ where every one of those characters had a storyline.

Retribution – Phase 1

The first part of Book 4 (Retribution – Phase 1) ran from 1991 to 1994 with a massive cast of characters. You can get an update of who is who from 2 of my previous posts, Who are the Good Characters and Who are the Bad Characters, published before the novel went live on Amazon. Reception to the book has been 100% positive with some glowing reviews such as this one:

“Wow again Helen! The ongoing story of Eleanor and her family gradually coming to a brilliant climax…..The writing and the different characters are superb. Just cannot wait for the last book in the series. Highly Recommended.”

Retribution – End Game

The final part of Book 4 (Retribution – End Game) was a work in progress but underwent a bit of evolution when I decided to change the cover. Going back to the previous post “Retribution to the End” I designed a cover and published an un-edited version on Amazon (for pre-order), just before my weekend in London on May Bank Holiday. Looking back, I was beginning to doubt whether it was the best image…

Looking at the thumbnail view on Amazon, I liked it less and less. The woman looked grey and insipid. There was something very negative about it which I was afraid would put people off so I sought the opinion of others. After finding an alternative ‘female’ image on Thinkstock, I posted this on several Facebook groups (alongside the original) and asked people if they thought it worked better. People were strikingly honest, which prompted me to change it for this more colourful, striking image and one which depicts a gutsy, ‘kick-ass’ female. You can judge for yourself from the resulting NEW cover below.

Front Cover design for Same Face Different Place RETRIBUTION End Game.

Before and After Cover Design Images

Creating the Paperback

I am pleased to say, the final edited version of Retribution End Game was published on Amazon on July 31st and the title can be downloaded via this link. I have also been working on the paperback. I always use CreateSpace as I find their interior and cover templates very easy to use. Once downloaded, I tend to copy and paste my book content from an original master file (the same one I use for Kindle), select a nice typeface such as Garamond, add the contents page and VOILA!

Once saved, it is simply a matter saving the book as a PDF and uploading it to CreateSpace then create a print-ready version of the cover. This needs to be high resolution (at least 300 dpi) and as soon as you know the page count of the book, there are templates to download to create a cover. Once submitted and approved, I recommend ordering a proof copy. You never know what your final published book looks and feels like until you hold it in your hands and leaf through it manually, just to check that everything’s perfect.

Arundel Festival

Following on from this stage, I am hoping to have copies of my brand new paperback in time for Arundel Festival. Hooking up with local authors is a great way to market self-published books which is the reason I joined CHINDI (Celebrating and Helping Indie Authors). Together, we are running a book stall in association with the Cancer Research UK Charity Shop in Arundel to raise funds for this worthy cause.

CHINDI authors Facebook header

About the Series

So why should you read my series? Well, if you like crime and psychological thrillers with a bit of romantic suspense thrown in, then this series is for you! Set in the dark criminal underworld of London, the series kicks off in 1972, with ‘Beginnings.’ It is a murder mystery which slowly unravels over time. The next story ‘Visions’ has a more rural setting and based in the 80s. After that, Book 3 ‘Pleasures’ creeps into the 90s, a decade characterised by designer drugs and rave culture. Organised crime continues to be a common theme throughout the series and by the time I started writing ‘Retribution’ the bad characters (including London gangsters) definitely took centre stage.

New Facebook header for Same Face Different Place

Filled with the nostalgia of the 70s, 80s and 90s, I have created a Pinterest Board which provides a visual and cultural background for each book. For more information you might like to visit my boards, all of which can be viewed from my Pinterest Page.

Before I go…

Finishing my series has been a great achievement but an emotional journey too. I created a varied cast of characters, many of whom became very real to me. I decided to close the series with an Epilogue based in 2012 for two reasons. 2012 was an iconic year in Britain because we celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and it was also the year of the London Olympics. Who could forget that? One of the children of the series is even a torch bearer in the Olympic relay. I have loved all my characters and it’s been very sad to say goodbye to them; but unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

So what do others think about writing a series?

Given that this is likely to swallow up several years of your life, is it a good idea to embark on a series? Once started, you will be committed to finishing it so I’d be interested to hear what others think. Thanks for reading!

Posted in Self Publishing, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crime Writers Panel with 3 Chichester Authors

Joining forces with authors of the same genre is a great way of promoting fiction. On June 20th, three thriller writers from our networking group CHINDI (Celebrating and Helping Indie Authors) got together to engage in a lively panel discussion on what makes a good crime thriller; including research, character development, creating exciting plot lines and what keeps a reader on the edge of their seat…

The talk took place at Hennings Wine Merchants in Chichester, who very kindly supplied the venue and the wine. So what did we talk about? Here is a resume of the discussion we participated in on the night.

Crime Writers’ panel with Michael Parker, Helen Christmas and Christine Hammacott (L -R)

Christine Hammacott led the discussion by introducing the three of us in turn. Christine has been writing for over 20 years and started as a result of a day job. As a graphic designer she was frequently presented with copy that quite honestly was pretty terrible. Having loved to write, she joined a creative writing course, entered a national writing magazine competition and won first prize which gave her the confidence to try something larger. Her debut novel ‘The Taste of Ash’ was published in 2015.

Helen Christmas has been writing stories ever since she was a child and has a passion for writing. “I always dreamed of being an author and in 2012, finally took the first step in getting my work published with my ‘Same Face Different Place’ series set in the dark, criminal London underworld. I never imagined at that time that it would develop into a series. In 2015 I won a short story competition, ‘Write Across Sussex’ my first literary success and this greatly inspired me to keep writing.”

Michael Parker left school with no qualifications but had a natural ‘leaning’ towards English that set him on the path to writing. Michael has written for as long as he can remember, but not with the success he first coveted. Michael’s first novel, NORTH SLOPE was published by Macmillan in 1980. His second THE SHADOW OF THE WOLF in 1984 by Robert Hale. The intervening years have seen some massive changes in publishing with publishers merging and opportunities dwindling. And this has been a frustration to us all. It was not until 2007 when Michael  saw his third novel published. Since then he has published about a book a year.

Michael has worked as an office boy, a Merchant seaman, a plaster’s labourer, a deck hand, a cinema projectionist, an RAF Technician and a maintenance technician in the food industry. He has also worked in the Middle East and lived Spain, settling on the Costa Blanca with his wife, Pat. So Michael has plenty of resources to draw on for his writing.

So that’s a little bit about the writers, now on to the discussion:
WHAT EXACTLY DO WE WRITE AND WHY DID WE CHOOSE THE THRILLER GENRE?

Books by thriller writers Christine Hammacott, Michael Parker and Helen Christmas.

Michael: I call myself a thriller writer, but I really am a stand-alone author. I write stories set in different time periods and different places. North Slope. (Alaska 1968 — Discovery of oil). Hell’s Gate (British East Africa, 1898), Shadow of the Wolf (1943 — Nazi wolf packs and secret radar), plus many others.

Why did I decide to write in this genre? I can only really write what ideas come into my head, and they do not always end up as modern thrillers.

Helen: I have written a mystery suspense series which spans four decades. ‘Same Face Different Place’ begins in 1972 when a prominent British MP is murdered in a car bomb explosion. Everyone assumes the IRA is responsible but there is a witness. A young musician from Holland is the only person who can throw the spotlight onto the true culprit. But as powerful members of the ‘Establishment’ they arrange a contract to silence him.

I am a big fan of thrillers and have always enjoyed reading this genre. I love conspiracies, especially when they involve police cover-ups and organised crime.

Christine: The Short story competition I entered was called ‘Curiosity killed the Cat’ which obviously infers something bad happened as a result of being nosy. It was about a busy-body who liked poking around in other people’s houses but in this instance there was a break in and her fingerprints were all over a neighbours house.

I was reading Minette Walters and Nicky French around that time and decided that if I was going to spend time writing I should chose a genre that was commercial and that I stood a chance of being published in. It was also because I like to find out about people, how what is shown on the outside isn’t necessarily a true reflection of a person’s character and that is what the psychological suspense genre is all about.

******
A LOT OF CRIME THRILLER WRITING IS PLOT DRIVEN. WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF YOUR WORK, PLOT OR CHARACTERS?

Christine: Character. I develop the outline of a character at the start of a book but get to know them as the book progresses. That’s the joy of writing for me. I throw problems at my main characters to see how they will react. In The Taste of Ash I have my main character Zoe trying to move on from a fire that has destroyed everything and leaves her feeling like a refugee. But to make her physically as well as emotionally vulnerable I have her hobbling around on crutches for the entire book too.

The plot is a morphing structure for me. I write scenes that are pulled into a structure. It’s much the same process as designing where you need to assemble the elements and key points so that you can create the overall balance and make it work. It’s a long winded way of doing it and I wouldn’t recommend it but it works for me.

Michael: I let my characters do the talking and walking, therefore my stories are character driven. There has to be a plot of course, but it doesn’t always turn out the way I thought it might.

Helen: Both. My first goal was to create strong characters that people would love or hate. From my very first novel, as the characters developed, some of them gradually became more evil… I wanted to depict every human emotion: love, hate, passion, jealousy and revenge (to name a few). Once you have a cast of powerful characters, it helps you to drive the plot.

******
HOW MUCH RESEARCH DO YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOUR BOOKS?

Helen: I like to do lots of research for my books as it is so important in crime fiction to add authenticity to your book. I often visit real locations, to research such scenes as a chase across the London Underground or an escape from a house in Pimlico. The London Underground is on three levels so it was really important to get the escalators the right way round, which I confess to having got wrong in my 1st draft, something a die-hard commuter on the tube might have picked up on.

In addition, it is vital to get police procedures right which might involve approaching your local constabulary. I was lucky to spend an afternoon with crime thriller writer, Marion Kille and her husband (who spent 30 years in the police force). I learned about the forensics used in gun crime as well as the criminal conviction process which was vital for my 3rd book.

Christine: I write contemporary fiction so most of the content is observed from every day life. However it is important to get facts right where possible. I watched numerous videos on fires and a retired fire officer read the fire scenes for me. The Portsmouth police were really helpful and a showed me round the police station and talked through photo fit procedures although of course over time these things do change. Sometimes you have to use artistic licence though. There is a particular scene in a pub that doesn’t exist in real life but that I needed so that my character could see someone through a side window but not get to them through a crowded pub.

Michael: I began writing before Amazon and Google were invented, so most of my research was done using the local libraries or talking with people who experienced the subject I was researching. Nowadays I can research on line and uncover much more than I could years ago.

******
IS THERE A PARTICULAR AUTHOR WHO INFLUENCED YOUR WORK?

Michael: Hammond Innes was the reason I wrote my first, published novel. I planned to write something set in Canada but ended up in Alaska (North Slope). It was while I was researching this novel that I read an autobiography written by an English teacher who went out to Canada in the early 1900s to teach English to the Innuit Indians. That was where I learned how Husky dogs are bred and how vicious they can be: something I used in the book.

******
THRILLERS AND SUSPENSE BOOKS KEEP READERS ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT. HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT DOING THIS?

Helen: I build up the suspense slowly, but to keep readers really turning the pages, I occasionally split two alternating scenes. I start with one scene (say, a character who has picked up a clue about his missing relative) while in another scene his girl friend is about to be attacked. Leave the latter scene as a cliff hanger and return to the first and your readers will be hankering to know what happens i.e is she going to survive?

Christine: I love playing with the rhythms. Creating tension and a lull in the structure with fast and slow paced scenes and a gradually building undercurrent of fear. The suspense structure in The Taste of Ash starts with a fast paced opening, eases back as we get to know the characters and situation then starts to build tension and suspicion that culminates in a fast paced climax.

So that completed the session and to round off the evening, authors took questions from the audience. This post has also been published on the CHINDI authors website.

Posted in Research, Self Publishing, Thrillers, Writing | Leave a comment

Retribution to the End – May 26th 2017

What a month it’s been this May. As if it wasn’t exciting enough getting my latest book out, I enjoyed some unexpected promotion.

The quest to finish my British decade-spanning series, ‘Same Face Different Place’ began in August 2015 and with the final edits complete, the first part of the book ‘Retribution’ was published on Amazon for pre-order.

At the beginning of May, fellow CHINDI author, Michael Parker very kindly offered to do a cross promotion. He suggested I brought out a special offer on my boxed set (books 1 -3 ) and devised a campaign to plug the series to his 1200 newsletter subscribers. It certainly brought some sales and I am delighted to have some new readers. Michael writes gripping global thrillers and you can read more about his work via his blog.

In following weeks, I did some extra promotions of my own, offering ‘Visions’ and finally ‘Pleasures’ for 99p with the hope I would attract some more new followers. Retribution (Phase 1) was launched on May 19th and I’ve had a lovely 5 star review already; a delightful testimony which advocates my books as being “up there with Kimberley Chambers and Martina Cole…”

WOW, can you imagine how thrilled I was? Little unheard of ME, being compared to best selling world famous authors! I feel quite humbled.

But May is almost over and I’m just about to embark on another trip to London with my husband, Peter. He’s playing in the London Open Backgammon Tournament in Golders Green, leaving me to explore some of my favourite haunts in the Capital. I am excited but at the same time, anxious…

No one can ignore the atrocities in Manchester this week; a terrorist attack which stole the lives of 22 innocent people, many of whom were in their youth. This suicide bomb attack resulted in devastation and heartbreak. It makes me realise that nowhere in the world is safe. But none of us should live in fear. These are random attacks and whilst they are horrific, we have to get on with our lives.

So I’m off to London. The chances are, I’ll have a wonderful time and get home safe but what if…

Morbid thoughts and for this reason alone, the final book has been published on Amazon for pre-order in August. Regrettably it’s not the final edited, proof read version (which may not matter to people who have loved my series from the start), but at least it’s finished. Having invested 7 years of my life in writing a series, I can’t relax until the final part of Retribution is available. Some days, I feel as if you have to live every day as it is your last, as you never know what’s round the corner thus I would hate to exit this world without completing it.

This long running thriller mystery which started in the 70s has been a most satisfying diversion. But in ‘Retribution End Game’ will the mystery is finally solved? Will all the wrongs of the 70s, 80s and 90s be put right, every loose end tied up before the story reaches its shattering conclusion?

Given the more likely scenario, I’ll be back at my desk on Bank Holiday Monday, I will continue with the editing process. I have loved writing this series. It captures everything I’ve lived through, good and bad, and chronicles the decades as I remember them. Whilst writing Same Face Different Place, I’ve realised, times might have changed but people never do.

Thanks to those who supported me and don’t dwell – have a lovely bank holiday and we can only pray for more peaceful times.

Helen J. Christmas

Posted in Blogging, England, Novel, Reviews, The Decades, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who are the Bad Characters?

Following on from my last post, it’s the turn of the evil characters to take centre stage. So here’s the low down on the nastiest baddies to be found in this series.

Since writing ‘Beginnings’ in 2011, the list of evil characters has grown considerably from the main protagonists who appeared in the first book. But like the good characters, the cast has branched out as the saga proceeds through the decades.

The London Criminal Underworld

Set in the 1970s with a background of organised crime, the first nasty guy to be introduced into the story was a violent gang leader, by the name of Dominic Theakston, so it seems apt to start with him. From the turf war that started in 1972, Dominic was determined to move in on ‘Sammie Maxwell’s Patch’ and make his mark in the East End. He carefully selected a bunch of the most violent thugs in the Capital to build up his army. It was his deadly threats that drove Eleanor’s father underground, his next mission to hunt her down but it wasn’t his only agenda…

Hired by people in power, Dominic was a contract killer; destined to end the life of the Dutch musician, Jake Jansen, who witnessed a suspicious scene at the site of a car bomb explosion. But not everything is how it seems. At the end of the book, Dominic revealed a softer side and before the end of the 2nd instalment, ‘Visions’, he had abandoned a life of crime to settle down with a family and start his own health club. But his ultimate dream was to run a night club, a goal that inevitably drew him to Rosebrook, home town of Eleanor and her family. For a short time, everyone’s fears were resurrected and none so much as Eleanor’s. Her greatest terror was the possibility that he might still be on the payroll of her deadliest enemies, about to do their bidding yet again.

So where is Dominic now?

Before the end of Book 3 Pleasures, no one really knew who’s side Dominic was on. He is still a terrifying character, under the scrutiny of the law and it’s not impossible, he might yet stand trial and face a conviction for the murder that took place in ‘Beginnings.’ For that very reason, he had levied further threats towards Eleanor. Having already threatened to harm her son in the 70s, his latest threat was levelled towards her husband, Charlie, if he was ever to suffer the consequences of her original testimony. Dominic is ambitious, powerful and intimidating, he takes no prisoners refuses to side with anyone, good or bad.

Robin Whaley

“How could anyone forget Robin Whaley? A man who materialised out of no-where – smooth, silver-tongued, disturbingly convincing. A man who had pretended to be an ally, before he spun a web of deceit.” This is how I described Robin Whaley in ‘Visions,’ the sinister ward councillor, turned planning officer at Rosebrook Council. Despite his respectable image, there is no doubt, Robin Whaley is evil and duplicitous. He has always allied himself with the enemies of the series and is unlikely to change. His hatred of Eleanor and her community holds no bounds. He is as determined to destroy her as ever and will stop at nothing to save his own skin and boost his power.

Ben Hampton

Without a doubt, Ben Hampton is the most sadistic and evil character in the series. He first appeared in ‘Visions’ at the age of 21 as a coke snorting yuppie and an obsessive stalker. The fear he engendered in his victims was always a huge turn on, not to mention his appetite for cruelty and pain. From book 3 ‘Pleasures’ we even learned a little about his past. He was responsible for the death of a pupil at the tender age of 8 but no one thought to have him medically assessed, a mistake that inevitably allowed him to develop into the loathsome psychopath he is now. Ben will stop at nothing to exact retribution on his enemies; the theme of the final book, which prevails right to the end of the saga.

Alan Levy

The nature of organised crime changed throughout the decades. From the hedonistic London of the 70s, where gangsters ruled by fear but had some control over the nature of crime – to the unscrupulous 90s where profit became the main incentive. Gang leader, Alan Levy, was always considered a bit of nut-case, a womaniser and a drug taker, with incredible power. Small in stature, he exudes menace. His favourite weapon is a scalpel and he enjoys disfiguring his victims before killing them. In the final book ‘Retribution’ Alan takes his viciousness to new heights with the fated ‘Levy Mark,’ a scar that marks people as ‘suspects’ should he ever fall foul of the law. He is not a man to mess with.

Mai-Lin

The only female ‘player’ in Alan Levy’s gang is the cunning and streetwise Mai-Lin. She is a new character in ‘Retribution.’ Alan ‘fostered’ her when she was just 13, a victim of abuse who grew up in  his home, to evolve into his most successful crack/cocaine dealer. Even though she comes across as somewhat ‘child-like’ she has a devious mind, quick to use her feminine wiles to deceive people. The teenager has few scruples and will even assist Alan in killing people, if he requires it. Later in the story, readers will see exactly how Mai-Lin casts her net whilst remaining virtually immune to the power of the law.

The publication of, dark thriller, ‘Retribution’ is happening very soon, and will shortly be available on Amazon kindle and in paperback. 100% edited with just the final proof-reading to be done, the wait is nearly over…

Posted in Character Blog Tour, Fictional Characters, Story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Who are the Good Characters?

As I come close to completing the final edits of book 4 ‘Retribution’ it’s got me thinking about the main characters of this series in a little more depth.

It was actually suggested to me by one of my beta readers, to include a family tree, just to remind readers who’s who. I think this is an excellent idea – not so much a family tree but a list of every character who appears in the story, past and present… and there are quite a few of them. So before I reveal too much more about the cast, I will start with the ‘good’ characters of the story, first the Bailey family.

The Bailey Family Tree (characters from Same Face Different Place)

Let’s start from the Beginning with Elijah

Elijah was born in book 1 Beginnings (1973). His mother, Eleanor, was the daughter of an East End gangster known as Oliver Chapman. Ollie married a beautiful half caste night club singer, named Martina, but she was tragically killed in a car accident when Eleanor was just 8. At 16 Eleanor, knew nothing about the sleazy criminal underworld of the 1970s her father was immersed in until he was forced to go on the run.

In 1972, Eleanor’s life took an unexpected twist when she met a mysterious young rock musician from Holland; Jake Jansen (son of Rutger and Elspeth). The couple hooked up after escaping from a dangerous gang leader. Yet Eleanor was left vulnerable and alone, hiding a remote village, where the protection of Jake’s son, Elijah, became the most important role in her life. Elijah grew up in the idyllic village of Aldwyck, (Kent), in a caravan with this mother, a timid child who was bullied at school and branded a ‘gypsy.’ In book 2 Visions, he started to question his mother’s past but at the same time, developed an incredible artistic talent. The story was set in the era of the 80s, when unemployment was high; a time when Eleanor met a man named Charlie Bailey, along with his children, Andrew and Margaret. Charlie’s wife tragically died from a lung infection in 1984, leaving him a widow but at the end of the book, the families were finally united.

So where is Elijah now?

I am not going to reveal any more of the plot that unravels in the 3rd book, Pleasures, but let’s just say Elijah has changed. He is artistic, passionate and brave. He has suffered more terror than most boys of his age and with a hankering to study interior design at University, he is determined to make the most of his life. He may be a little shy especially where girls are concerned. Yet he is loyal to his family and loves them dearly. He will do anything for them. He follows the grunge fashion of the 90s and loves rock music, especially bands like the Levellers, which remind him of his father’s band, Free Spirit.

Eleanor

Eleanor survived some of the worst horrors imaginable. She never did discover what happened to her father but remained resolute in her quest to fight her enemies as a pledge to her beloved Jake. As resident of Aldwyck, she defended the corner of her neighbours, the Barton-Wells family, as well as the Baileys, who she identified as yet another set of victims in a heartless society. Trained as a nurse, Eleanor married Charlie in 1987 just after they moved the nearby town of Rosebrook. Added to her strong family values, she took on a role as a volunteer at Rosebrook Community Centre and cares deeply for her fellow citizens. Eleanor is a feisty, courageous young woman, who refuses to back down against powerful enemies.

Moving onto Charlie and his family…

Charlie is everyone’s favourite character; noble and strong with a passionate nature. He can be a bit of a hot head, especially in politics, fighting the corner for the ordinary working man. He was devastated by the death of his wife, Anna, but there is no question he loves Eleanor and her son. Trained as a builder, Charlie went on to study an Open University degree in architecture where his visionary talent earned him a reputation as one of the most revered master builders in Rosebrook. Charlie takes no nonsense especially when it comes to fighting the local council in various planning committees; determined to protect his family.

Andrew Bailey

Charlie’s son is a complex character. He’s never quite got over the death of his mother, Anna, and after suffering a spell of teenage angst, turned to drugs to mask his pain. Throughout the series, he is a deeply troubled youth, easily led but possessive of his friends and anyone who shows an interest in him. Working alongside his father as a labourer, he has never inherited Charlie’s visionary talent, unlike Elijah. It is a situation which evokes jealousy and rivalry between the two brothers. Suspicious of Eleanor, he fears she will destroy any last lingering bonds in his family, which is perhaps the reason he is desperate to secure the loyalty of his little sister, Margaret.

Margaret Bailey

Margaret is the most vulnerable member of the Bailey family. She was 9 when her mother died but bounced back. Unlike Andrew, she bonded easily with Eleanor, loves having her as a stepmother and adores Elijah. Margaret is a pretty girl but she was sadly lacking in confidence as a teenager; first she battled with anorexia before turning to binge drinking. Yet she is easy going, gentle and has a big heart like her dad. During her brief stay at Westbourne House, she developed a passion for cooking and trains as a chef. It is regrettable that the enemies of the series see her as an easy target and know how easily they can exploit her.

With less than 30% of the 4th book to edit, ‘Retribution’ will be published very soon. Over the next few weeks I plan to publish many more blogs about the characters and will shortly be introducing a few of the baddies.

Posted in Character Blog Tour, Fictional Characters, Story, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment