The Importance of Affordable Housing – 15th April 2015

With the election looming, I’m sad to say I heard something on the news yesterday which made me very angry.

The Conservative Government are proposing ‘The Right to Buy’ for people living in Housing Associations. This is EXACTLY what happened the last time we had a Tory government. People may remember a similar policy was proposed for those living in council houses. 

It may have seemed a great idea at the time and don’t get me wrong, I don’t begrudge anyone who bought their own council house. But it ultimately led to a huge amount of social housing drifting into the private sector. A few residents made a profit. Yet many of these houses ended up being purchased by greedy landlords who are now charging sky high rents to their tenants. It has also led to a drastic shortage of social housing for those who need it most.

It seems preposterous to imagine that in the light of another tragic housing shortage, some 20 years later, the Tories are suggesting exactly the same thing again.

Housing Association

When I was researching my 2nd Book, Visions, I was exploring the area around Bromley and Orpington (which was roughly where I decided to base my fictitious town ‘Rosebrook.’) It was in one of the Orpington estate agents, I was trying to find out the average price of housing in the area, but it seems no coincidence, I stumbled across this news article.

Source: Bromley Times, September 11th 2011
Some 3,000 people are facing “imminent homelessness” because of a desperate shortage of affordable housing in the borough, according to a shocking council report…

Bromley Times, September 11th 2011

I have scanned and attached the piece for reference. But it seemed uncannily relevant, since this was one of the themes I wanted to focus on in my decades based British thriller series, Same Face Different Place. It draws on my own experience. In 1987/88 I found myself infuriatingly forced out of the housing market. I had my heart set on a small terrace in North Notts only to discover that house prices had trebled by the time I graduated.

It started with the electrification of the railway line – an influx of wealthy commuters selling their expensive London homes, forcing up property prices and ‘gazumping’ people. It was the well-known 80s phenomenon which led to soaring property prices. However, in 1990 and just before the recession, I started a new job and was just about able afford a tiny studio flat for £40,000.

This leads me on to the issue of borrowing. It used to be the norm for Building Societies to lend 2 and a half times your salary to purchase a home. I actually borrowed 4 times my salary to get my mortgage. So what is the situation for house buyers today?

  • Having done a little research, it appears that:
  • in 2014 the average wage in Britain was about £16,640 (£18,848 in the south east)
  • whereas the average property price was about £218,844 (£209,428 in the south east)
  • That is a staggering 11 TIMES YOUR SALARY!

No wonder so many young people are still living at home with their parents and will possibly never be able to afford a home of their own.

This is where housing associations were a Godsend. Take my sister, for example. She and her husband moved into a housing association when they were newly weds. Fortunately, their earnings went up as they successfully pursued their careers and as a result, they were finally able to get a foot on housing ladder.

But it was this type of accommodation that threw people a life line especially for those on low incomes. Housing associations have helped many people who would otherwise never be able to afford a decent home. So it seems particularly shocking that here is yet another form of social housing about to be turned over to the private sector.

HOUSING ASSOCIATIONS DO NOT MAKE PROFIT – THEY WERE NEVER DESIGNED TO – THEY WERE DESIGNED TO HELP PEOPLE, WHICH IS THE REASON THEY MUST STAY.

 A piece from Visions by Helen J. Christmas

Visions“There’s also this government initiative, which allows council tenants to purchase their houses,” Peter continued. “I’ve got nothing against it – but what will those people do when they move? They’ll sell, won’t they? I know I would! Probably make a nice little profit too, which means a lot of council accommodation is eventually going to drift into the private sector.”

“You’re worried there won’t be enough social housing, aren’t you?” Eleanor muttered, “for those who really need it. So what’s your idea? And I promise I won’t laugh.”

“I was thinking about setting up some sort of housing trust,” Peter said in earnest, “for people on a lower income – to rent, not buy. Honest working people, who have been priced out of the market.”

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New Release! Pleasures by Helen Christmas

Helen J. Christmas:

Was honoured to receive this lovely feature in respect of my new book ‘Pleasures’ with lots of stuff about the new title, including one of its story extracts.

Originally posted on A Woman's Wisdom - The Book Blog For Lovers Of The Written Word:

helen-theo

Helen Christmas was born in Sussex and raised in the Midlands. She aspires to bring true-to-life experiences into her books, having grown up in the iconic decades of the 70s, 80s and 90s, where the political and cultural events shaped her own life. Now in her 50s, Helen lives in a lovingly restored 300 year old cottage on the south coast of England. She and her husband, Peter, earn a living by running their own web design agency from home – a business they started in 1998. They have no children, but share their delightful home with a border collie named Barney and a fluffy white cat named Theo.

In between running a website business and writing, Helen now has a third part time job, working as a ‘picker’ for Sainsbury’s Online Shopping department.

“It began as a Christmas temporary job but they asked me back – I enjoy it…

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Book 3 Pleasures Published on Amazon

On Easter Sunday (April 5th) 2015, I formatted and published the 3rd book in my ‘Same Face Different Place’ series, PLEASURES.

The title seems apt. Writing this book has indeed been a ‘pleasurable’ experience, but at the same time it’s been quite an emotional journey for me. It has combined some hard-hitting action thriller scenes with the tender processes of growing up, as the children from VISIONS evolve into young adults.

Cover Design for the Kindle Version

Cover Design for the Kindle Version

Hovering in the background of everyone’s lives are the fragments of a conspiracy which began in the 70s – a situation where everyone is starting to pick up the idea, there’s something very sinister going on – and none more than Eleanor’s son, Elijah. It is a situation which is exacerbated when a tidal wave of crime hits Rosebrook (fictitious setting of this story, a small town in Kent, south of Bromley).

The story’s main character, Eleanor, meanwhile, is hell bent on following the clues to solve this mystery as she continues to add to her ‘secret file.’

It is an ambition draws her to London (often in disguise) knowing her arch enemy, Perry has her constantly under watch – and where she is about to discover secrets which leave her stunned. But her research carries terrible risk and it is in the last section of this story, when her enemies up their offensive, leading to a situation more threatening than could be imagined.

Pleasures is a romantic British based thriller with a flavour of the late 80s/early 90s Rave culture; and centred around a 1970s political conspiracy.

Lastly, I have decided to end this piece with a summary of my own personal journey in writing his book.

October 2013 Got my first ideas and began writing on the 17th: It’s starting again…. I seem to get my best ideas when I’m walking the dog – 8th October 2013

sunset1

January 2014 Took a trip up to London to visit Pimlico (where arch villain Perry owns a house). The trip was primarily to visit my niece, Chloe, who was living in London for a while, but a valuable opportunity to look around a place I have never before been. I never did write a post about this trip but Chloe also took me on a walk through central London, which provided further inspiration for me to mention other areas such as Soho, Chinatown and Leicester Square.

Warwick Square Pimlico

Warwick Square Pimlico

June 2014 Got about 25 chapters drafted out and had to stop, simply because the climax of Part 3 left me in an emotion turmoil. It was time to pause, reflect and edit in preparation for the 4th and final part: 1st Edit of Pleasures gets underway – 3rd July 2014

July 2014 Followed this up with the post What is Pleasures about? 4th July 2014

young-lovers-light

September 2014 Finished the first edit and with a good idea how I was going to finish the book, I pushed ahead with the 4th and final section. It was on September 24th when I took another journey to London to visit the Old Bailey – which is one of the most valuable pieces of research I did and great inspiration for writing those court scenes.

The Old Bailey

October 2014 I wrote the 1st Synopsis for Book 3 Pleasures – 16th October 2014

November 2014 I released the 1st 7 Chapters (Part 1 The Battle for the Land) as a prelude free to anyone eager for a sample: New release in the Same Face Different Place Series – 28th November 2014

Book 3 Pleasures

In December 2014 I published a little paperback version of that prelude as a keepsake: One Groovy Little Paperback – 17th December 2014

Book 3 Pleasures by Helen J. Christmas

April 2014 FINALLY I finished the book. By this time the whole book had been read by 3 people whose feedback was a Godsend. This enabled me to successfully carry out the 2nd and 3rd edits as well as the ‘fine tuning’ of each chapter. It has now been published (as I write this blog) and here is the link on Amazon: http://apn.to/prod/B00VOTFZ1K

HAPPY READING!

 

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The Irish Influence – 17th March 2015

In honour of St. Patrick’s Day, I have plucked out a sample of Book 3 Pleasures, in advance of its release in April. Peter is a character who hails from Dublin – and making contact with a very old friend, in the midst of a tense trial.

“Don’t be daft!” Peter laughed. He took a long swig of Guinness, savouring its intense roasted flavour. He contemplated his next words carefully.

“Jake saw two men by the roadside. Not just Perry, there was someone else. Someone in overalls lying under the mini bus who Jake believed to be a mechanic. This is where your contact comes in.” He took a deep breath. “Seamus, if he was to confess his part in the conspiracy; that Perry hired him for the job… we might possibly have him nailed!”

Guinness image

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Guest Blog: The Joys Of Working With An Author’s Group by author Helen Christmas

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Originally posted on A Woman's Wisdom – The Book Blog For Lovers Of The Written Word:
It hardly seems a year ago this happened. Here I was, just another independent self-published author, struggling against a rising tide of other…

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Book Promotion: Visions (Special Edition) by Helen J Christmas

Helen J. Christmas:

So kind of AWW to put up this post for me at short notice: download the first 2 books of my British Thriller series for 99p.

Originally posted on A Woman's Wisdom - The Book Blog For Lovers Of The Written Word:

Visions Special

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Get Book 1 (Beginnings) and Book 2 (Visions) of Helen Christmas’s fabulous thriller Same Face, Different Place series for the brilliant price of just 99p/99c until Sunday 8th March in this Special Edition.

Book Blurb

British thriller, Same Different Place is a series of novels, set in the criminal underworld of London and Kent. The first Book in the 70s chronicles the passionate romance between Eleanor, the daughter of a London gangster and Jake, the victim of a sinister contract killing.

Book 2 Visions moves forward 12 years, where the same characters are about to cross paths again, in this dark psychological thriller set around the restoration of a historic country house. The year is 1985. Eleanor is forced to bury the secrets of her past, in the hope that she can protect the people she loves, especially her 12 year old…

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A Tour Through Blogland Award and Karma in the Writing World

I am honoured to have been nominated to take part in “A Tour Through Blogland” or also known as “The Virtual Blog Tour Award.”

My nominator, Wanda Hartzenburg wears many hats; she lives across the other side of the world from me, in South Africa and is also an author. She wrote her first story at the age of 4 (I wrote mine when I was 6) and like me, she enjoys writing and cooking. Her two books ‘Suicide Song’ and ‘The Struggle of me’ are both available on Amazon. I mainly know Wanda through her Facebook Group, Wanda’s amazing Amazon Reviewers which you can read about in my a short article.

You can read Wanda’s Tour through Blogland Post here.

suicidesong

To kick off this blog tour, she asked me to answer these 4 questions:

1- Why write? Why not sing, dance or figure skate?

Writing seems to be ingrained in my soul. I started when I was six. I filled up my drawing book with fairy tales and it was about the same time as my parents took me to ballet! I was too clumsy to dance and the first time I tried skating, I fell over and broke my wrist. That just about sums it up – whereas I derive enormous pleasure from writing.

2- Do you have a musical playlist or do you need to write in absolute silence? If you have a playlist would we recognize any of the songs or artists on it?

Music definitely inspires me – not when I’m writing but when I am thinking about writing. I have a play list for each of my books: some from the decade; for ‘Beginnings’ there are lots of tunes from the 70’s. The current playlist however, contains nothing anyone would recognise. It’s music for the younger generation – Drum and Bass and a lot of thrilling rave music. It would be a great soundtrack if ever the book was made into a film.

3- Can you see a future for yourself in which writing forms no part of your day to day life?

I can’t imagine that at all. Much as I enjoy other hobbies, writing is something which seems to be stamped onto my personality. I cannot bear to think of a scenario where I wouldn’t be able to do it any more.

4- Which author/s inspire you currently? I am not talking about some of the greats but departed. Authors alive today, which of them inspire you?

Ken Follet is and continues to be my biggest inspiration: his books have wonderful characters and are set around historic events. There are some pretty good indie authors around too; such as Terry Tyler who writes modern day British based fiction and Marion Kille who’s crime thrillers set in one of my local towns, are impossible to put down.

Here is my short article: Karma in the Writing World

It was always my intention in the New Year to write a small piece about Wanda’s Amazing Amazon Reviewers group which was how I was introduced to Wanda Hartzenberg.

The idea stems from authors across the world coming together and supporting each other. As the name suggest this is a group for reviewers – which means they are always on the lookout for avid readers, people who love books and are willing to give up their free time for reading and giving honest reviews. It’s a friendly group which relies on mutual support. We give reviews and receive them in return. Not only that, we like each others Facebook pages, tweet each others tweets and generally do what we can to raise each other’s profiles.

What goes around comes around and as a result, I have not only met some very fine authors but had a few new reviews myself, which is something us budding writers have come to rely on more and more, these days, especially if they crave success.

Most of all it is fun. It’s a platform for debates, competitions, giveaways and a forum for authors to share their experiences – post questions on anything to do with writing: from editing to cover design. It is also a good place to make new friends.

In all the years I’ve been an author, I’ve discovered there is a lot of karma in the writing community. I don’t have the time to join many author groups but I’m glad I found this one. Just to finish with, here’s a sample of some of my own reviews from my favourite authors:

The Luck of the WeissensteinersThe Luck of the Weissensteiners by Christoph Fischer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An ambitious story of how one jewish family manages to escape the persecution of the nazis.

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Baby (Species Intervention #6609, #1)Baby by J.K. Accinni

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I highly recommend this book. Science-fiction is not usually my genre, but I became so quickly absorbed, I can genuinely say that this is the most unusual and captivating story I have read in a long time.

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Peer Inside My Soul and See MePeer Inside My Soul and See Me by De Ann “Native” Townes Jr.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Definitely one for a rainy day. This is a delightful collection of poems, is beautifully written and with incredibly inspiring words. I know I’ll be picking it up again soon!

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Revealing HamiltonRevealing Hamilton by Sarah Jayne Carr

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Part thriller with a scientific conspiracy in the background; a notion of secret societies, where you are never quite sure who you can trust.

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Broken Aro (The Broken Ones, #1)Broken Aro by Jen Wylie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Wonderful Story: Fantasy is not my usual genre – yet I was rapidly drawn into a story which was not only beautifully written, but filled with characters I instantly engaged with.

View all my reviews

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Lastly, I have nominated Julian Kirkman-Page for this award. I met Julian via our local authors group CHINDI and enjoyed his first book The 7:52  to London Bridge which is a hilarious set of short stories

“The author is a businessman in the guise of a train commuter trying to make good use of the otherwise dead time to study for a distance learning science degree. Instead, the trials and tribulations of the daily grind between home and London Bridge station force him to reflect upon a life filled with mirth, mystery and sheer madness.”

Julian’s 2nd book I Don’t Drink is a comprehensive guide to giving up alcohol, written in a light hearted comic style and includes a free downloadable self-hypnosis session.

Books by Julian Kirkman-Page

Over to you, Julian!

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