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.

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The 1990’s, Princess Di, MC Hammer (not to forget the recession)

Well – I am over half way through the final edit of Retribution (Phase 1), Book 4 in my crime noir thriller series, based across the decades of Britain… 23 chapters have undergone a complete editting process with only 11 more to go, to deliver a total of 35.

Having gone through the story again, piece by piece, I have to warn readers, this story is a lot darker than the previous books!

Running from the year 1992, (where the last book, ‘Pleasures’ ended), we follow the characters through the next three years . But throughout the coming chapters, I have addressed some of the worse depravities human beings are capable of; from the abuse of children in the Catholic care system, to the sadistic cravings of those labelled in our society as ‘sociopaths.’ As I continue with the edit, I have already started thinking about the next Pinterest board for the 4th book in the series.

So here is a sample of the fashion, music, TV and current affairs that stirred our lives in the early 90s…

CURRENT AFFAIRS

THE CATHOLIC CHILD ABUSE SCANDAL

St. Vincent de Paul Orphanage

St. Benedict Orphanage – fictitious example of an orphanage where a character was abused by a Catholic priest. It is not a real location, but based on this sketch of St. Vincent de Paul Orphanage, Glasnevin, Dublin. Note the imposing chapel which dominates the design.

THE WAR IN BOSNIA

UN Peackeepers including British Troops

The war across Yugoslavia is an ongoing concern for army officer, William as depicted in one of my earlier posts (click to view the post.)

John Major

PRIME MINISTER OF BRITAIN JOHN MAJOR

(Source Wikipedia) Throughout his reign, John struggled with the early 1990s recession, the Gulf War, the Downing Street mortar attack 1991, ratification of the Maastricht Treaty and the Maastricht Rebels, Privatisation of British Rail, The National Lottery, “Back to Basics” campaign and the Dangerous Dogs Act to name but a few…

TV AND FILM

Robin Hood and the Prince of Thieves with Kevin Costner was a big blockbuster in 1991, never to forget the soundtrack by Bryan Adams which stuck at the number 1 spot in the UK music charts for 11 weeks. In 1992, the big movie was the Bodyguard along with its timeless track by Whitney Houston.

TV shows mentioned in ‘Retribution’ include the Australian soap opera Neighbours which is still going and the early series of Men Behaving Badly with Harry Enfield.

MUSIC AND FASHION

Princess Diana was an icon of fashion in the 90s. I can relate to owning a pretty, pastel suit very similar to this. Throughout the decade there were extremes in fashion, from the ultra chic, to the utterly outrageous, including Grunge fashion.

Princess Diana - Source Mirrorpix

In many ways, the 90s was a decade of huge diversity – something that is slightly lacking nowadays. It was the same with music; added to the echoes of early 90s rave, the hit parade was dominated by a mishmash of styles from the energetic beat of MC Hammer to the subdued melodies of Simply Red. But if there is one song that features prominently in this book, it is ‘Fairytale of New York’ by the Pogues, featuring Kirsty Maccoll.

You’re handsome – you’re pretty – queen of New York City…’ It delights me to hear that this is still a very popular Christmas hit and there was even a petition to get it to no. 1 for Christmas, this year (2016.)

SO THAT’S MY RESUME.
SAME FACE DIFFERENT PLACE ‘RETRIBUTION – Phase 1’ is due out this year, possibly in April but definitely before the end of Spring 2017.

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That Romantic Time of Year Again – 7th February 2017

As part of a joint promotion, indie authors from CHINDI have clubbed together to launch “Different Shades of Romance” in time for Valentines Day. The one thing we have in common is that all our books contain romance, so between the 10th and 17th of February, we’ll be tweeting about our books using the hash tag #DifferentShadesOfRomance.

dsor-fb

As the name suggests, romance is a genre which involves a love story between one or more of its characters. In addition, there are so many different sub-genres: for example, contemporary romance, YA romance, paranormal romance, historic romance and the list goes on… So how would I describe my novels? Well, the first book of my ‘Same Face Different Place’ series is certainly a love story but set in the context of a mystery thriller. Part romantic suspense and part British crime Noir, it falls between both genres; but I would loosely describe my fictional work as ‘Dark Romance.’

But what is the definition of ‘dark romance?’ Where ‘light’ implies gentle and humorous, so ‘dark’ is used to describe stories that are emotionally powerful and disturbing.

‘Beginnings’ is a romantic thriller set in the criminal underworld of London; a tale of two young people on the run who fall in love.

In this first story, set in 1972, we meet Eleanor – a naive 16 year old who has led a sheltered life. Her father, Ollie, is secretly involved in organised crime under the employment of London crime boss, Sammie Maxwell. Having spent much of her life in a girls’ boarding school, Eleanor hasn’t met many boys and has never fallen in love.

At the beginning of the book, Eleanor finds herself in a terrifying situation. Yet when she stumbles across a mysterious, young male, imprisoned in an underground cell, she doesn’t know what she is getting herself into but at the same time, she cannot leave him… Filled with a sense he is about to be murdered, she frees him and the two of them escape. But their situation worsens when they attract the wrath of London’s most feared gang leader, Dominic Theakston – a situation which inevitably has them on the run.

Jake is a sensitive, intelligent, Dutch born musician who has fallen foul of a sinister conspiracy. He is the only witness to a suspicious scene, hours before a British MP is blown up in a car bomb explosion.

Those responsible are desperate to kill him.

Eleanor meanwhile, cannot help falling in love with him and after a few days in hiding, she pledges, she will do anything to keep Jake alive.

Beginnings is a heart-wrenching tale of two people’s desperate fight for survival. Described as ‘emotionally charged,’ it is their tender love bond that keeps you turning the pages as they live on a knife edge, desperate to escape the deadly enemies who stalk them.

COMPETITION TIME

sfdp2-graphic-hires

As part of our #DifferentShadesOfRomance promotion, I am giving away a signed paperback copy of ‘Beginnings’ along with a heart shaped box of delicious Raffaello chocolates. So for this Valentines Day, you could be enjoying a fast paced love story whilst dipping into creamy white chocolate truffles, where darkness and light collide.

Competition is open to UK residents only, via my Facebook page.
GOOD LUCK xx

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1st Synopsis for Book 4 Retribution – 9th January 2017

It seems hard to believe I’ve been working on this novel since August 4th 2015. The first draft was completed in just over a year and I am finally coming to the end of my 3rd draft. The final book of the series is pretty much in shape now, but before I begin my final edit, it is time I presented a synopsis of the first instalment.

RETRIBUTION – Phase 1

Front cover visual for novel 'Retribution' by Helen J. Christmas“Avenge me,” he whispered evilly. “Make them pay – all of them!”

Ben Hampton has always known he was special. Inspired by his father’s pledge, he has never forgiven his enemies. They thwarted Perry’s mission throughout the decades and now finally, someone is going to pay!

In order to fulfil his ambition, Ben knows he must join the murky criminal underworld of London. Unsure how to proceed, he lashes out indiscriminately: his first victim is the charismatic community leader, Peter Summerville, who he blames for his father’s downfall. Next on the list is the former London gangster, Dominic Theakston, who switched sides. Ben not only wants to pin him for a historic murder in the 70s but is desperate to hold some dominion over him. It is only when his reckless plans start to go wrong, he seeks the guidance of his father’s oldest confident, Robin Whaley. Together they unleash a scheme so devastating, it is about to rip the heart of out the community in ways no-one could imagine…

Insatiable in his mission, Ben has always wanted to save the best until last.

Images of a country road in Kent and character 'Eleanor' from book 4 Retribution

It is ultimately the ill-fated heroine of the series, Eleanor, who must face her worst battle. She has spent her whole life fighting against the evils inspired by Ben’s family but is she powerful enough to stand up against the sinister dark forces about to engulf the lives of everyone she has left?

Retribution is a saga of one man’s revenge; a chilling story of control, desire and obsession.

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Visit to the Surrey Hills (Teaser) – 3rd January 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE and this is my first blog for 2017. So I’ll kick of with the latest progress on Book 4 Retribution.

wotton

It was at the end of the summer I finished my first draft… but unable to leave any stone unturned, there was one more significant place I needed to complete my research. In the final scenes of this saga, Eleanor is lured to a remote farm. It’s a place I remember from years ago; Leith Hill in Surrey. Having already written the scene beforehand, I am now approaching the end of my second draft and have edited it as follows: so here is a short extract and it includes a little teaser.

Eleanor gripped the seat edge as they surged around the next bend. Nestling in the heart of the Surrey Hills, the village of Wotton was more remote than she thought; flanked by fields on corn on the approach road, the next turn plunged them down a thickly wooded lane. It seemed even more perilous than the road to Aldwyck; steep banks carved into the hillside, dense with an overhead canopy of forest. A suffocating darkness enclosed them with just a brief scattering of lights escaping from another branch in the lane – one that led to a remote country hotel…

“So this is Wotton,” she said numbly. “Ironic isn’t it? It seems hard to imagine, Jake being here all those years ago – Perry loitering in some remote spot by the roadside…”

“Forget the past,” Dominic snapped. “It’s now we’ve gotta worry about.”

Her hand crept to her neck, fumbling with some sort of pendant. Dominic sighed. Even in the gloom, he didn’t miss the terror on her face. This was the last roll of the dice, his grip on the wheel tightening as they crept down the lane, the signpost to Leith Hill looming. Eleanor’s eyes whipped from left to right as he rolled into the car park.

*****

Same Face Different Place is a series of novels that begins in the 70s and stretches over 3 decades. The fourth and final book will be released in 2 parts starting with Retribution Phase 1, which will be published in Spring 2o17.

A remote pocket of countryside or a deadly trap? (Book 4 Retribution)

A remote pocket of countryside or a deadly trap? Book 4 Retribution.

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Reflections of my blog on the Brontë sisters

It was that time of year when we returned from our holiday and I was bursting with inspiration to write about it! As an author, we couldn’t have picked a better place than the Yorkshire Dales, (though I had no idea at the time that this lovely, hidden part of Britain was also home to the Brontë sisters.)

Keighley and Worth Valley Railway

My favourite day by far though, was a steam train adventure on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, travelling through the staggering Yorkshire countryside with stops along the way. It was during this trip, we stopped in Haworth and visited the famous Bronte Parsonage Museum where I was hit by a strange sense of fate…

Haworth

How incredible to gaze across a writing table where Charlotte Brontë created her world famous masterpiece, Wuthering Heights; to discover artefacts, from pen nibs and quills, to extracts from notebooks. I was particularly moved by a review written of the ‘Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Ann Brontë – so much, I actually wrote it down: “The Bells are of hardy race… The air they breath is not that of the hot house, or of perfumed apartments: but it whistles through the rugged thorns that shoot out their prickly arms on barren moors, or it ruffles the moss on the mountain tops.”

The spookiest thing happened when I wandered downstairs, to feel a needle sharp jab in my finger as it was pierced by a splinter. One of the curators was quite alarmed and yet it was not; as if I was thinking of suing them – far from it! What I felt was a sense of destiny. I had a splinter from the original Brontë staircase embedded in my flesh like a thorn which immediately called to mind that review – its reference to prickly arms. Was this the ghost of one of the sisters? A chance to look deep into my soul and contemplate my place in the literary world? It’s unlikely I will be famous and this is not the reason I write. But it would be nice to imagine that one day, one of my stories may touch others as I was stirred by their presence in this magnificent museum that was their home.

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End of the year review

With Christmas coming and another year nearly over, I was wondering what I might write for what will probably be my final post in 2016.

Apart from being another year older and considerably greyer, I dedicated the last two months of the year to losing a stone with Weightwatchers. Apart from that, the 4th and final book in my “Same Face Different Place” has been advancing nicely with a first draft written and a substantial edit under my belt (almost). But best of all, this is the first year where I have actually achieved some success in my writing!

ceremony11The year kicked off to a great start when I was selected as winner of the ‘Write Across Sussex’ short story competition. This was an absolute honour considering the panel of judges included such bestselling authors as Kate Mosse and Peter Lovesey. In some ways, I felt the same as I did when I came first in my infants school Sports Day ‘Space Hopper’ Race. I can still remember the face of the lady who pressed 3 toffees into my hand, as well as the warm glow of winning. It’s a feeling that stayed with me, especially considering I don’t often win much, something that should never be taken for granted.

kent-woodedroadIn February, I ventured back to Kent for another research trip in Book 4, Retribution a lot of scenes take place in winter.) It was one of those days when I felt that luck was on my side; a beautiful sunny day, photogenic landscapes and everything perfectly timed to deliver me right where I wanted to be; from the remote landscapes of rural Kent to the glittering streets of London and Chelsea.

It was in the same year, I tried various marketing campaigns including Facebook advertising to promote an Amazon Countdown deal. It certainly resulted in some sales and pushed me up the ranks, so 2016 was a good year for raising awareness.

As the summer months progressed, I found myself getting close to finishing the 1st draft of Retribution and after taking a relaxing break in West Yorkshire, I sped to the end.

London DocklandsThe final part of the story was completed by August. But before I embarked on a major edit, I found myself back in London for the entire August Bank holiday: excellent timing to achieve those all important, final bits of research I needed to do to improve the location details; Chelsea, Shoreditch and Wapping, along with various institutions and pubs – research that has definitely paid off…

So onto the 1st and 2nd edits; this is the part of the writing process where every chapter gets a bit of a makeover and re-shaped to create a better story for the readers. It inevitably involves cutting bits out, expanding others and shifting the order of scenes in places to build tension and create atmosphere. It is the most important part of all the edits because by the time I have written a complete draft, I know which parts are the most important. It is also during this part of the editing process, I’m more ‘in tune’ with my characters and can improve on the dialogue. They might be the same characters as in the previous three books, but like real people, they have evolved.

xmas-books

I still belong to a network of local authors, known as CHINDI and in November, we hosted our ‘Love to Read’ author’s party in Chichester. As well as taking on the style of a book fair, we decided to raise a bit for charity and chose ‘Dyslexia Action’ as our benefactor. The evening included book stands, alongside a local wine merchant and chocolatier, as well as nibbles, a raffle and live music.

November 2017 was my best ever month on Amazon. In the aftermath of a free promotion plus announcing it on a fantastic new Facebook group (NotRights), I achieved a great number of downloads, as well as a mammoth Kindle Unlimited page count. I’ve even had a few new reviews. With the series close to completion, it is nice to see the sales trickling in and hope this is a sign of things to come. Fingers crossed!

review-cat

It was also around the same time, I sent the 1st part of my new book ‘Retribution’ to Beta readers and look forward to some feedback. This could be a bit darker than the previous books. Filled with powerful human emotions, it is a tale that delves into how a community reacts to a terrible disaster – the revenge of one character – and the mystery that binds the characters together.

retribution-visual

I am still editing the second part of the book and gearing up for the final polish in time for a Spring 2017 launch. I hope everyone has a great Christmas and I’ll be back in the New Year.

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