Looking at New ways to Promote a Series

Where has this year gone? It seems a long time since I’ve added a post to my blog so the best way to remedy this is to offer some promotion tips.

Following on from my blog tours in January and April, I did some promotion with our authors networking group, CHINDI (which stands for Celebrating and Helping Indie Authors). This year, CHINDI brought out a new ‘Author of the Week’ initiative and so I decided to take my turn in May.

I haven’t got a new book out yet to promote
so I instead tried to focus on some different areas of book promotion.

  • Tips on Research
  • An Author Interview (guest blog)
  • Photos on Instagram
  • My Video Trailers
  • Pinterest Boards

Here is a summary of the posts I wrote which were generously published on the blogs of other authors in the group

May 14th Read my article on research as featured on our CHINDI website.

This light-hearted blog describes some of the early research I did for my decade spanning thriller series and the joy that was yet to be discovered for this whole series.

Short link: http://wp.me/p5GaN3-Ox

Screenshot of Google Earth on the website of CHINDI authors

May 15th Crime mystery author Isabella Muir featured my 2nd post on research.

This article goes deeper into the different techniques of research I used for later books in the series from YouTube to visiting places and interviewing real people.

https://isabellamuir.com/2018/05/15/undertaking-research-for-a-crime-thriller-some-useful-tips/

The Old Bailey image on the website of Isabella Muir

May 16th A virtual but warm-hearted interview with Angela Petch in Tuscany

My author Q&A with Angela was a real joy to put together with lots of stuff about writing, books, inspiration, our writing aspirations and photo sharing on Instagram.

https://angelapetchsblogsite.wordpress.com/2018/05/16/a-chat-by-the-river/

Tuscan mill image on the blog of Angela Petch

May 17th A guest blog on the website of Carol Thomas discussing book trailers

Earlier this year Carol Thomas very kindly taught me how to create a video trailer and in this very helpful article we explain the process for my Beginnings book trailer.

http://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/guest-post-creating-book-trailers

May 18th Talking about Pinterest with historic romance author Patricia Osborne

This article explains how authors can use Pinterest to depict characters, plot structures and create a setting for a novel, as I did for the decades in my own book series.

https://patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/helen-christmas-guest-article/

Pinterest images for Retribution Book on the blog of Patricia Osborne

I really enjoyed my time as CHINDI Author of the week and a big thanks to everyone who took part and promoted my articles

So what next?

Pleasures gets another revamp

PInterest board for PleasuresI am just about to finish another edit on Book 3 Pleasures before I finally draw a line under this series and start something new. Completing the series was a challenge but one I thoroughly enjoyed. By the time I had written Retribution (in two parts) however, I realised how much my writing style had evolved over the years. So my next goal was to bring the first two books up to the same standard, thus I relaunched a new edit of Beginnings in January and a new edit of Visions in April 2018.

Pleasures was probably the book I enjoyed writing most of all but that too needed some work! It’s been three years since I touched it, so it was time to take another look. The style of writing wasn’t bad but there was room for improvement given comments from reviewers and Beta readers from overwritten descriptive phrases to a ‘show and not tell’ approach.

Pleasures is due for a relaunch in August. Reviewers/book bloggers are welcome to a free copy. No obligation to review but if you’ve been following the series just enjoy the book!

And finally…

After much deliberation, I will be taking all my titles out of Kindle Unlimited so that they can be distributed to a wider audience. This means that the entire ‘Same Face Different Place’ series will soon be available for readers who prefer Nook, Kobo and Apple i-Books.

I hope to publish the links in my next blog but until then, enjoy the lovely sunny summer we are having in England. Bye for now.

Kicking off the New Year with #BlogTour and #Giveaway

As a follow up to ‘My Brilliant #BookBlitz across the Blogscape‘ I enjoyed the first part of January 2018 with an amazing Blog Tour for my debut romantic thriller “Beginnings.”

This is the first time I have used the professional services of a Book Blogger to do some serious marketing – and who better to turn to than Rachel’s Rare Resources with a host of different packages for authors.

This is how the Blog Tour worked. Every day for 7 days, my book was promoted on 3 different book blogs. For some, this included a bit of blurb about my book, my biography, my social networks and best of all, a prize giveaway for a signed paperback. The sharing on these posts across social media was phenomenal, potentially reaching 1000s of readers.

 

Best of all, a number of these bloggers reviewed my book and some of their testimonials moved me to tears. It’s often easy to lose faith in yourself as an author (and I’ve been there!) Dwindling sales and reviews can make you feel like giving up at times…

But if ever my flagging confidence needed a boost, this Blog Tour hit the spot. So I’d like to share just a few of those kind words.

“This thriller is action-packed and engrossing located in the seamy side of London in the 1970s,” says The Eclectic Review.

“Beginnings is a truly white knuckle ride of a book with a heart warming love story weaved within its pages.” says Wrong Side of Forty about the first book of the Same Face Different Place series.

“10☆ Exceedingly Good, Fast Past Thriller, Hooked from the Start!! Danger at ever turn!” says Dash Fan Book Reviews about Beginnings

“The atmosphere that the author creates is electric in places, … The action sequences are swift, brutal and gripping.” says Welcome to my Worlds.

And here is an embedded tweet:

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Concluding the Blog Tour

In essence, I had 21 promotional posts and when each blog was published, loads of people shared it on Twitter (and lots more retweeted it to their followers.) Some shared it on Facebook and a small number of the reviews were posted on Goodreads on Amazon too which is brilliant way of furthering the success of this book. Did it increase my sales? Well no, not immediately… but I see this promotion as more of a long term venture and not an instantaneous sales boost. The exposure for Beginnings has been tremendous and great for raising awareness. The giveaway also earned me some extra likes on my Facebook page which tipped me over the ‘500 likes’ milestone. I am sure that over time, it will not only generate sales but promote the whole series.

Beginnings by Helen J. Christmas

A massive thanks goes out to all the Bloggers and most of all, to Rachel Gilbey for all the hard work she put into this. I will be doing another blog tour in April to promote the second book of the series, Visions. But in the mean time, here is a list of all the Book Bloggers who participated.

Me and My Books
https://vonnibee.wordpress.com/2018/01/05/promopost-beginnings-by-helen-j-christmas-sfdpbeginnings-rararesources/

Overdue Book Reviews
http://overduebookreviews.com/2018/01/06/blog-tour-beginnings/

Chat About Books
https://chataboutbooks.wordpress.com/2018/01/06/beginnings-by-helen-j-christmas-promo-giveaway-rararesources/

The Eclectic Review
https://eclecticreview.wordpress.com/2018/01/05/book-review-beginnings-same-face-different-place-book-1-by-helen-christmas-9780992989958/

Emma The Little Bookworm https://emmathelittlebookworm.wordpress.com/2018/01/06/blogtour-beginnings-by-helen-j-christmas-sfdpbeginnings-rararesources-crime-competition-win-giveaway-thriller-amreading/

Wrong side of Forty
https://wrongsideoffortyuk.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/beginnings-by-helen-j-christmas-blogtour-review-giveaway/

Baattyaboutbooks
https://baattyaboutbooks.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/blog-tour-beginnings-by-helen-j-christmas/

Sals World of Books
http://www.salsworldofbooks.co.uk/blog-tour-beginnings-helen-j-christmas/

Dash Fan’s Book Reviews
https://dashfan81.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/blog-tour-beginnings-8118.html Dough_nut81

Hair Past A Freckle
https://hairpastafreckle72.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/beginnings-by-helen-j-christmas-blogtour.html

Welcome to my Worlds
https://richarddeescifi.co.uk/blog-tour-beginnings-by-helen-j-christmas/

Being Anne
http://beinganne.com/2018/01/blogtour-beginnings-by-helen-j-christmas-sfdpbeginnings-rararesources-giveaway/

Chelle’s Book Reviews
http://chellesbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/beginnings-by-helen-christmas-blog-tour.html

Book Babble
http://memesandfiction.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/beginnings-same-place-different-place-1.html

Donna’s Book Blog
https://donnasbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/01/10/my-review-of-beginnings-by-helen-j-christmas/

Reflections of a Reader
https://reflectionsofareader.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/blogtour-beginnings-by-helen-j.html

Book Junkiez
http://bookjunkiez.com/2018/01/10/beginnings-blog-tour/

Stephs Book Blog
https://stephsbookblog.com/2018/01/11/beginnings-same-face-different-place-by-helen-j-christmas-blog-tour-review/

Fictional Rendezvous Book Blog http://fictionalrendezvousbookblog.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/beginnings-blog-tour.html

Read Along with Sue
https://sueandherbooks.blogspot.co.uk/2018/01/review-beginnings.html

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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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.

Retribution First Draft – 4th August 2016

It’s been a very long wait, I know – but I’m excited to announce, the first draft of ‘Same Face Different Place Retribution’ is complete.

Front cover Image for Retribution Phase 1
Front cover Image for Retribution Phase 1

I feel delighted to have finished it at last, especially since it has taken me a whole year. That’s right – it was August 4th 2015 when I drafted out the prologue and first chapters of this book and after 12 months of total dedication, I tied up every loose end, solved the mystery behind the series and included a few more twists, no-one will see coming.
(See one of my last updates published exactly a year ago.)

This is book that stretches beyond Britain. The continuous references to British politics and religion, TV, fashion, culture and music through the 90s are embedded in the fabric of the novel but as the story progresses, characters will find themselves scattered across the globe, from former Yugoslavia, Holland, Spain, France, Hungary and even the Caribbean.

With the first draft complete, now starts the editing process; so over the next months I will post regular articles about the chapters, from additional research (with photos) to relevant topics in the news. Unfortunately, with so many characters and so many loose ends to tie up, the book is looking to be huge. It is for this reason, I am splitting it into two books: ‘RETRIBUTION Phase 1’ and ‘RETRIBUTION End Game.’ But I don’t want to keep readers waiting for any longer than necessary. My ambition is to publish both parts simultaneously in order to deliver this 4th and final instalment.

Front cover Image for Retribution End Game
Front cover Image for Retribution End Game

SO WATCH THIS SPACE.
The concluding book of my ‘Same Face Different Place’ series is now written and will be coming out fairly soon…

Author Q and A Sessions – 27th July 2016

I’ve been involved in a few more Q&A sessions recently thanks to two kind-hearted Book Bloggers who took the time and trouble to publish an author’s interview on their websites for me:

The latest article coincided very nicely with a Summer Reads promotion I was involved in with CHINDI Authors (a networking group of self-published authors who get together to share ideas, host events and generally help other writers who want to get their work published.) Summer Reads was something quite different.

Summer Reads

As well as promoting our books, we used Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest as forums for sharing writing tips and we also put up a few 6-word story writing challenges.

Helen Christmas writing tips1 twitter Helen Christmas writing tips2 twitter Helen Christmas writing tips3 twitter

And finally, we held some interesting author Q&A Sessions live on our Facebook page.

These a lot of fun and a good way of using social networks to share our ideas and keep others informed about our individual journeys into publishing. I won’t say much more about my own live session but I decided to include a transcript (from Facebook) to show how this transpired. I hope it will inspire others to run their own Facebook Q&A sessions and hope some of the answers I gave will be of interest to other authors.

Facebook Transcript from a live Facebook Q&A Session:

Live Facebook Q&A

Chindi Authors Hello Helen, Good luck and for those who have not yet read your books, how would you describe your series of romantic thrillers Same Face Different Place?

Helen Christmas Hi to all the Chindi Authors out there. There’s a lot to this series – such as conspiracy theory and police cover ups, the criminal underworld of the 70s and more… the principal characters in book 1 are two young people on the run, who fall in love. It is the start of mystery that unrolls over 4 decades.

Chindi Authors Do you base any of your characters on real people

Helen Christmas I love this type of question! Well Ted Heath featured in the first book as did Maggie Thatcher in the 2nd but not as characters. The characters in my story are all fictitious, though some of their traits are based on real people.

Christine Hammacott Hi Helen what made you set your stories in the past?

Helen Christmas Hi Christine. I’ve seen a lot of political and social changes throughout my life so I wanted to include a bit of that history. I also loved the music and the fashion of each decade. As soon as I’d finished book 1, I actually quite missed the 70s. But I enjoyed revisiting the 80s which is where the 2nd book kicks off.

Chindi Authors Who are your favourite authors, who do you feel has influenced you the most?

Helen Christmas I was a big fan of Jilly Cooper, Leslie Pearce and Martina Cole but I greatly admire the work of Ken Follett (official) who writes wonderful sagas based around real life historic events.

Carol Thomas Writers are often readers too, what is on your summer reading list?

Helen Christmas Hi Carol – well you’ll be pleased to know that yours is on that list but I have a few others lined up to take on holiday. 

M’TK Sewer Rat – End of Empire by Delinda McCann
A contemporary drama set in a fictional third world country which sounds intriguing.
A Taste of Ash by Christine Hammacott which is a psychological thriller and looks to be very gripping.
I have a couple of hard backs too, including Past Imperfect by Michael Parker, so plenty to choose from.

JJ Morval Hi Helen, how long does the first draft, or ‘creative’ draft, before you get to the editing stage of each book, take for you, and do you have a plan that you work to?

Helen Christmas Hi Nick! Book 1 Beginnings took me about 6 months to write from start to finish, I just stormed through. But I made some changes to the first edit which influenced the whole book, so it was a bit of a rewrite. For the later books, I reckon about a year for the first draft and then another year for all the editing stages so it’s about 50/50.

JJ Morval When I start writing, not all of my characters are there, and sometimes I like not knowing everything. Do you ‘know’ all your charcters before you start?

Helen Christmas No, not at all, many have developed along the timeline of the story and became bigger characters.

JJ Morval Thank goodness I’m not alone… 🙂

Alexander Wallis Hi Helen, what advice would you give to young people who say they don’t like reading?

Helen Christmas If the world seems empty and nobody is listening, pick up a book and read… It might help.

Alexander Wallis Beautifully put!

Chris Casburn Do you translate your books for an American audience?

Helen Christmas No. My series is a quintessentially English series, as depicted in my Facebook page Helen J. Christmas – author of Same Face Different Place

Chris Casburn I’m not a big fan Of Anazon. Are your books available anywhere else?

Helen Christmas Yes, they are available from the Chindi Authors Book shop as signed paperbacks PLUS I have made a feeble attempt to get my book on i-tunes too (via a company called Draft2Digital who do all the hard work for you) so Book 1 Beginnings is available through other channels. I need to do the others in the same format to reach a wider audience. Thanks for the reminder 🙂

Kirsti Lelliott What writing rituals do you have, special pens, places to write, etc?

Helen Christmas Sorry for the delay, Kirstie. Writing rituals… I start at 6am, pour myself a glass of water and our dog joins me in the office whilst I write for a couple of hours. Early mornings are good – no distractions x

Kirsti Lelliott No worries thank you for the replies 🙂 x

Carol Thomas – Author I know you gave a talk at the Worthing Wow festival about social media, what is your top social media tip for writers?

Helen Christmas Establish a brand that represents you and your books, be it a cover image, a colour scheme or background. My debut thriller had a striking image of London’s cityscape in the 1970s which I used in the background of my Facebook and Twitter headers as well as on my website and blog. It helps people to recognise you as an author.

Mason Thomas Hi Helen, are your books available as audiobooks if not is this something you plan to do?

Helen Christmas Hello Mason. No, I’m afraid not. I did approach a company through Amazon but there were no offers for auditions (possibly needed someone with a cockney accent). Maybe one day, I will create the audio books myself.

Angela Petch How do you go about editing? It is a tricky business for self-published authors BUT very important.

Helen Christmas Hi Angela and yes, it is. Writing that first draft is the fun part because it’s all about us and what turns us on. The next editing stage is for our audience. I usually do at least 2 edits before I pass the work onto beta readers to get their feedback. After that, I take on board their comments and do another edit. It’s an exhausting process but you want to get it just right before you publish.

Doreen Mason Your book covers are very striking, who creates them for you and how did you decide on the images?

Helen Christmas Thanks so much, Doreen. I actually designed them myself. I am a graphic designer by trade with access to lots of photo libraries and I also use photoshop. Book 3 Pleasures is actually a combination of 3 images, from 123RF and istock.

Doreen Mason Well you obviously do a great job!

Helen Christmas I’m really pleased you like them, thank you =D

Kirsti Lelliott Hi Helen 🙂 Do you interview people who have lived through the decades you write about or do you rely on other sources?

Helen Christmas Hi Kirsti 🙂 Yes, I have interviewed real people – one is a retired army officer who served in the 90s and has really helped me with book 4. Others include a police officer (and dare I say it) a former ecstasy dealer and DJ who was big in the 90s rave scene.

Carol Thomas – Author Which of your books have you most enjoyed writing and why?

Helen Christmas Thanks for asking: Books 1, 2 and 3 are 99p on Amazon at the moment, so I hope I can tempt some new readers… I absolutely loved writing the first one and got completely swept away by it, not only the setting (which was a result of extensive research) but the story line and the characters! It took me to another world.

Doreen Mason Hello, how often do you write and how long does it take you to complete one of your books?

Helen Christmas Hello Doreen. I make time to write every day, usually first thing in the morning (I always wake up about 5:30) and read it back later in the evening when I do a few edits. On average, it takes about a year to write the first draft and then comes the editing – Book 2 Visions and Book 3 Pleasures each took me about 2 years from start to finish.

Carol Thomas – Author How do you divide your time between promotion and writing?

Helen Christmas Writing is the fun part, Carol, the marketing is a relentless chore but we all have to do it if we’re self published. I give far greater priority to the writing which is maybe where I go wrong but at the end of the day, you have to blow your own trumpet because no-one is going to do it for you. I’d say about 75% writing and 25% marketing for me. That might change when I’ve finished the series.

Angela MacAskill How do you keep track of your plot, characters, sub plots and so forth as you write?

Helen Christmas Hmm… I have a synopsis as a blue print and I am currently working on a first draft but things do change. There are parts I have scrapped and new parts I have added but when you write a series, you really get to know your characters; their back story, their lives and everything that happens to them. It’s all in my head but I have my notes, synopsis and research to refer to as well as the earlier books.

Rob Lelliott Evening Helen – are you influenced by films and TV dramas, if so which?

Helen Christmas Hello, Rob. I used to love the Inspector Morse series and this was mainly the reason I went for a very convoluted plot with lots of characters. But I write from the heart – so good character stories work well for me too. I liked the TV series ‘Bad Girls’ and I also like ‘Game of Thrones’ for its amazing characters.

Angela MacAskill How many more books do you plan in the SFDP series?

Helen Christmas Hello Angela. Thanks for asking. I’m writing the final instalment and it’s huge! It progresses through the 90s and has covered 5 years but ideally, I want the big finale to happen in the year 2,000 followed by an epilogue which will be a catch up in 2012 where all the characters are reunited again.

The Creatures of Chichester Do you have any tips on editing your books?

Helen Christmas Hi Chris, lovely to hear from you and I hope you had a great time in Sicily! (lucky thing) To answer your question… from the 1st draft, the second edit is a visionary process – you have to turn your work into entertainment and write it for your audience and not for yourself; for me that means cutting out any waffle and tightening up the story to keep the pace moving. After that, it’s a case of polishing up the writing style, dialogue and descriptions. After that it’s a matter of fine tuning it and making sure it all flows.

The Creatures of Chichester If your books were made into a film. Who would you pick as your leading actors?

Helen Christmas That is a tricky question, Chris and I can picture my characters in my head but here goes… there is an actor Ben Drew (also known as singer, rapper Plan B) who would be brilliant as the evil gangster in the later part of the series (from Pleasures onwards) and Billy Boyd (played Pippin in Lord of the Rings) would be great as Peter Summerville, a gentle Irish Community worker.

Sylvia Endacott Hi, how are you going with your further book. Having written the first three, are you finding it more difficult to tie up the loose ends.

Helen J. Christmas – author of Same Face Different Place I tied up another of those loose ends today! Some of these characters deserve a truly happy ending 🙂 and there is now just one final section to finish.

Sylvia Endacott Great news.

Helen J. Christmas – author of Same Face Different Place I tied up another of those loose ends today! Some of these characters deserve a truly happy ending 🙂 and there is now just one final section to finish.

Back to Writing: an update – 6th May 2016

BookCover-BlackSince I wrote my post ‘Time for a Break‘  on April 11th, I am pleased to be back in the writing saddle, so to speak. I am now pressing ahead with the final chapters of Book 4 Retribution before the book (and indeed the whole Same face Different Place series) reaches a dramatic finale.

I have given myself a deadline until August to complete the first draft but then comes the editing; the process of reshaping everything I have written so far into a tighter, more cohesive novel. In the three decades I’ve covered, I’ve brought in a lot of characters and with each developing story line, so emerged many more. My promise to readers of the previous books is that there is more of everything the series is renowned for – larger than life gangland villains, heart-wrenching emotions, love, hate, cruelty, compassion and suspense by the bucket load. It’s not easy to say when the book will be released but I’m gunning for summer 2017.

In the meantime, here are some other things I’ve been up to:

Blogging

Last month, I was delighted to be featured as a guest blogger on Sandra Danby’s website, talking about research. To see the feature, click here.

I have joined a new group ‘Mystery People’ run by Lizzie Haynes with her own blog, Mystery People website and e-newsletter filled with reviews and features for mystery crime writers.

Now I’ve started engaging with other new writers and book bloggers, I have some exciting author Q&A Interviews lined up in the coming months which I will promote as they occur.

Event

At the end of May, I will be participating in a talk at Worthing Library event with CHINDI authors. The event is scheduled for 7-9pm on Tuesday 31st May at Worthing Library. Between us we will be covering the topics of  different Publishing Platforms, Book Cover Design, Editing & Proofreading, PR and Social Media before throwing the floor open to questions.

New Publicity Material

I have just designed a new poster, covering the first 3 books and matching postcards in time for this event. Designs are as below (you can click to enlarge the images).

Postcard-2016

poster-2016

So that’s it for May and I expect I’ll be doing an update on the Worthing talk, unless there is any other exciting news in the mean time.

Time for a Break – 11th April 2016

I really feel it is time I published something about progress on my latest book. I don’t want to keep anyone in the dark but it is coming together very nicely.

morechocolate

There were times when I experienced moments of panic – I glanced at the synopsis and wondered how on earth I was going to create this amount of story matter! Writing this whole series has been a huge undertaking but had I bitten off more than I could chew?

Several months down the line, it has occurred to me that given all the complex twists and character plots, I’ve somehow managed to develop ALL those story lines. Book 4 Retribution, is still a work in progress but I’ve reached a point where it is time to stop and recapture everything that has happened in the novel so far.

With 35 chapters written and the final quarter of the synopsis still ahead of me, I have a clearer vision of how this series will end but it is a finale needs that requires careful planning and execution. Everything that happened, has happened for a reason – so with various loose ends to tie up and a extremely complex mystery to resolve, I have my work cut out.

In Book 3 Pleasures, there was a similar point in the writing process where I hit a brick wall. I had reached the end of a very gripping scene with only the finale to complete – but I was unsure how I was going to get there without the story losing its momentum. 

bookofchocolateSo I am going through a similar process and this could be advice for other writers.

There are times when it is an idea to take a breather; recapture the essence of the book before soldiering on to the end. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost your way. But I know I will create a much better ending if I can digest the story so far.

And while I’m blogging about my thoughts, I have been thinking about the cover. With credits to use up on one of my stock photography accounts, I was forced to make a decision last week. The cover reveal below is an idea I have had for a while now and is probably the one I will run with. 

BookCover-Black

The cover can be clicked to see an enlargement

Note: the top photo is from i-stock.com – fire image from 123RF.com