First Month of Lockdown

Trying to Stay Positive

21.4.2020 As Coronavirus spins its deadly web around the globe, I am sat here wondering how some people are handling the different world we live in.

Confined to our homes for a month now, I have tried to look on the bright side, but there are days when the situation feels eerie. Watching the news is heartbreaking when you consider the tragedy of losing loved ones. But for those of us who are surviving (fingers crossed), maybe we should think about how we can turn this situation to our advantage. I’ve seen lots of good vibes across the media, so I decided to use this post to share my own experiences.

Aubretia growing on a flint wall in Sussex

Seeing the world through new eyes

We’ve had a spate of sunny days, almost fated to draw us out, when we know we should stay indoors. But even on a solitary walk, there is time to observe your natural surroundings. On occasions I see something I never taken much notice of before. It could be the trees coming into leaf, the incredible diverse range of colours found in the beach pebbles, cloud formations or the movement of birds in the sky. I’ve been wowed by some of the photos I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter too, which just shows we have the same basal instincts when it comes to appreciating what is under our noses. Maybe this is a good sign. That we have taken our planet for granted for too long.

Sun shining through the trees in west park

Adjusting shopping habits

The panic buying and stockpiling I described in my last post will be forever embossed on my brain. What a nightmare, queuing at 7am to get loo rolls. But with social distancing laws resolutely in place now, I try to restrict this to once a week which is not a bad thing (I used to shop too often). Nowadays I am inspired to plan ahead, check cupboards for ingredients, keep the freezer well stocked and only go out when I need stuff. At least the shelves are better stocked. Given the potential of the virus spreading though, the thought of being in a supermarket fills me with dread. I don’t mind queuing 2m apart and one tip I’d like to share is to have an audiobook on your phone. Shuffling slowly forwards, it not only kills time but I’m getting through more good books than ever before.

Protecting yourself

Fingers crossed I have thus far avoided anything nasty, by sanitising my hands as soon as I leave the store before touching keys or door handles. Same when I’m home, then rubbing all plastic and glass containers with anti-bacterial wipes before putting them away (my sister’s tip but I think lots of people do this now). COVID-19 can survive on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours! I have also taken to wearing a mask now. My next door neighbour started her own embroidery business but with an excess of fabrics, makes very nice masks for just £6 each. Check her designs out on Instagram.

Cooking

I am loving seeing people’s culinary masterpieces on social media. Isn’t it great to go back to baking your own bread, while others get creative with lush cakes and cookies? I don’t think we’ve had a single ready meal since lockdown and I am enjoying looking up new recipes (see my Pinterest board) and spending more time in the kitchen. I never had the time before and it feels like a luxury. In fact my freezer is getting so chock-a-block full of home-cooked meals I might end up  shopping even less soon!

Time for Communication and Contemplation

We have time. So much time. Time to connect with people we haven’t contacted for months, write letters, phone each other up, Facetime, cherish the joy of communication like never before. Peter and I miss our walking group terribly but use our weekends to sort the garden out, plant seeds and we even started painting our office, something we procrastinated about for too long. But while it’s nice to keep busy, I find time to relax. Last week I enjoyed a zoom Yoga class, thanks to my friend Angela. But in moments of anxiety try creative visualisation. Another good friend, Penny Burns, has expansive knowledge in this field and I have been helping her with her blog, as well as promoting her videos on YouTube. These combine deep breathing with meditation techniques, designed to reduce stress and improve well-being.

Sun on the sea used in a creative visualisation video

Reliving good memories

Getting things organised has been high on my list of priorities and looking at my i-pad, I was staggered by how many photos were on it. No wonder the storage is almost full! So I have been looking through them and deleting some, leaving only the best. It’s actually turned into another therapeutic exercise. My tablet was a joint 50th birthday present from Peter and family, and since 2014, I have taken hundreds of pics, some almost identical, others not worth saving. It’s been fun revisiting those years, from family celebrations to trips out and holidays. A living memoir of life’s highlights, reminding me how much I have to be thankful for. I recommend this as a good antidote on days when you’re feeling blue.

So what are others up to during lockdown?

I get lots of inspiration from hearing what others have been up to – from taking up a new hobby to posting lovely photos and videos, bringing some cheer to our troubled lives. Dan Jones has inspired me by posting his wellbeing walks on YouTube for others to enjoy. I even attempted a movie of my own, a recording on the beach where the sound of the waves lapping on the shore was quite soothing.

https://www.facebook.com/helen.christmas.7/videos/2940573542646414/

At the same time, I’ve been blown away by stories in the media.

Praise to 90-year-old Margaret Payne, climbing a mountain on her stairs to help raise money for the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. She aims to scale the equivalent of a Scottish Highland mountain with 282 trips up the stairs in her home.

And who could miss the accomplishments of Captain Tom Moore? Tom’s 100th Birthday Walk is a lion-hearted gesture to raise funds for the NHS, a man who served as an officer in World War II and whose selfless acts of bravery make him a hero.

So that’s my list done. Don’t know how long we’ll be in Lockdown but it could be months yet so keep the ideas flowing… I’ll be posting again soon.

From Life Changing Fears to Simple Pleasures

Hyacynths at West Dean Gardens

28.03.2020: Today feels strange. Was it a week ago Mum and I were enjoying a walk around West Dean Gardens? With fear of the coronavirus spreading, they shut the shop and café but kept the gardens open for visitors to enjoy free. Thinking it was the last chance we might get out for a while, we made the most of it. I wasn’t wrong. A week later the UK went into lockdown. 

14.03.2020: Two weeks ago, the face of Britain was changing rapidly. Panic spread fast, people went out in droves to stock up on essentials but it led to an explosion in panic buying. Mum loves shopping and at 85 years of age, it is one of the highlights of her week. So picture us in M&S Food hall, my sister and I pinging texts back and forth, to check what’s available. We were able to get her a chicken and some hand wash but despite trying 5 different food stores, she could not get her hands on pasta or paracetamol and not a single toilet roll to be found anywhere!

Panic Buying and Stockpiling Week

16.03.2020: No one needs to be told how bad it was but my God! Anyone on Facebook must have seen the images of empty shelves; videos of grabbing arms like some big greedy octopus had descended; photos of smirking hoarders, multi-packs of loo rolls piled high in their trolleys. I was ashamed to be a member of the human race, imagining the poor souls who ended up with nothing. These would have included old age pensions, working families and NHS employees. Did these hoarders have no shame? Apparently not.

18.03.2020: Thus as word spread, people drove to Sainsbury’s earlier to beat the rush (and yes, even I was driven to desperation). But you should have seen the queues. They stretched all the way around the car park. Like many in the same boat, I was banking on getting just one or two essential items, having never imagined that by the time I inched my way into the store, there still wouldn’t be any sodding loo paper! But within 15 minutes of the store being open, the shelves fully stocked, they had already been stripped bare.

Toilet Roll Jokes

19.03.2020: You’d think it was a joke right? And yes, we had to laugh. Even my 91-year-old mother in law donated their local newspaper with the parting words, “I thought Peter might like to read it unless you need it for toilet paper.” Looking back though, I never imagined that fraught weekend prior to all this, would be the last time I would be taking Mum out food shopping for the unforeseeable future. It was beginning to feel surreal like something out of War of the Worlds.

Next Came Lockdown

23.03.2020: Day by day we were adapting to more change, measures that would ultimately be essential if we were to prevent the spread of the invisible enemy COVID-19. Only now  do I appreciate how lucky we were to enjoy our West Dean Gardens trip. It was Mother’s Day that weekend too. My brother in law and his family run two restaurants, Mothering Sunday one of their busiest days. But both had to close, as did all diners and pubs. We couldn’t take our mothers out either as vulnerable people were advised to stay indoors. I visited my mum very briefly to give her a box of chocolates and a magazine but we weren’t allowed to hug. I cannot describe the emotional wrench I felt at the time.

The open parkland at West Dean Gardens
The open parkland at West Dean Gardens

25.03.2020: Since the Prime Minister’s speech everyone must be feeling the pinch now. With the whole country suspended, work has ceased, the knock-on effect on businesses is yet to be realised and this is only week 1. My sister, a beauty therapist, has seen a dramatic drop off in bookings but like many in this business, is temporarily closed now. As web designers, maybe we have a slim chance of surviving but even our work is dwindling.

I didn’t want this post to be depressing just something I can look back on, if and when the world recovers. In some strange way though, I cannot help but wonder if this virus is Mother Nature’s way of fighting back. It has after all, confined people indoors, stopped us flying, reduced traffic, reduced CO2 emissions and forced us to appreciate the more simple pleasures in life. Our deepest fear is the threat of losing loved ones, but maybe a time to express how much we love them and will do anything to keep them safe.

Image of the Mulberry on Aldwick beach
An evening walk along our local beach.

In my next post, I’ll think of something cheerful to write, maybe a long list of what we’ve being doing with all this extra time on our hands…

 

** FREE Short Story ** with #NewRelease Rosebrook Chronicles

Publication Day is getting close for noir suspense saga, ‘Rosebrook Chronicles, the Hidden Stories’ with a FREE short story to download.

Rosebrook Chronicles is a series of interlocking stories which fuse into a compelling saga. People inspire me and while my favourite genres are thrillers and suspense, I like stories that delve deep into the human psyche.

ROSEBROOK CHRONICLES The Hidden Stories, a novel by Helen J. Christmas

Abused as teenagers, three young adults strive to repair their broken lives; Robin has ambitions to rise to power, while orphaned siblings, Beatrice and Peter, yearn to find one another.

Deeper stories of these characters drive the plot, intended to keep the reader emotionally hooked. What lies at the heart of Robin’s political power play? Why are Peter and Beatrice kept apart for so long and is there something more sinister behind their segregation?

A dark suspenseful drama from the 70s to the 90s, this is a unique blend of social history and domestic noir. 

New Edits thanks to my Beta Readers

This book has passed under the eagle eye of four beta readers, successful, talented authors in their own right. I would like to convey my thanks to Ray Green, Joel Hames, Rose Edmunds and last but by not least, best selling historic fiction author Beryl Kingston, for taking the time to read my book.

Inspiration

Completing some extensive edits (to address points raised my beta readers), I was pondering over the launch date. I approached a few literary agents, since Rosebrook Chronicles was quite different from my previous work. Writing this book, I found a distinctive voice for each character and endeavoured to explore the deeper issues of child abuse, the impact on victims and the way it shapes people’s lives.

It’s been interesting but I know what it feels like to be suppressed by controlling people, the power of lies and of not being believed.

This leads me to mention the books I enjoy reading, all psychological thrillers.

Recommended Books

The RumourThe Rumour by Lesley Kara
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of the most original stories I have read. This book certainly opened my eyes; a story of gossip with terrible consequences, how one rumour can unleash suspicion and any one of your friends could be a killer. An absorbing book with a heart-stopping twist.

Spare RoomSpare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the first book I’ve read by Dreda Say Mitchell but Oh Boy what a good read! The secrets of the past are drip fed through the plot. Why is Lisa so drawn to this house? Who is the mystery man who left the suicide note and could her life too be under threat? Brilliant.

The Secret Child (DI Amy Winter, #2)The Secret Child by Caroline Mitchell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A crime thriller packed with psychological suspense, where you start to question who the victim really is. Amy is forced to confront her past, to get into the head of a sinister kidnapper. What ensues is a gripping game of cat and mouse, a race against time to save the victims.

What She SawWhat She Saw by Wendy Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am currently reading this and utterly hooked. It is not just the beautiful descriptions of the Lake district I am enjoying but the pure unadulterated suspense. I am dying to know what is causing Leona’s panic attacks, a phenomenon I can relate to. A real page turner.

To conclude, there are some bloody good psychological thrillers out there at the moment. But aspiring to their standard is something I dream of!

FREE SHORT STORY

So let others be the judge with a FREE story to download and read at your leisure.

Chapter 14: The Bracelet can be downloaded either as a PDF or mobi file… and if you enjoyed this short story and want to read more about the lives of Bibi and her daughter, my book can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

The Bracelet, a free story by Helen J. Christmas

| CLICK HERE FOR PDF VERSION | CLICK HERE FOR MOBI VERSION |

Please note: the mobi file cannot be delivered wirelessly to your Kindle as with Amazon. You need to email the file to your device (the address can be found in your Amazon account under devices) or use the Kindle app on your computer.

Rosebrook Chronicles, The Hidden Stories
Publication Date: 1st July 2019

Available to pre-order on Amazon, in Kindle or paperback.

With a publication date planned for July 1st 2019 I am also participating in a blog tour with Rachel’s Random Resources from 14th to 20th July.

 

Dipping into #Historic #Fiction with Rosemary Noble

Historic fiction is one of the many genres I enjoy and this month, I am enthralled to invite author Rosemary Noble to be a guest on my Blog.

Photo of historic fiction author Rosemary NobleRosemary is one of many writers in West Sussex I have met and networked with over the years as a result of CHINDI (Celebrating and Helping Indy Authors). Last year she completed her ‘Currency Girls’ Trilogy, so it is my pleasure to introduce her and find out what lies at the heart of her writing.

Hello, Rosemary and may I start by asking when you first started writing?

I wrote my first book in my teens and then nothing until I retired. It wasn’t even in my retirement plan. I’m still amazed that I have four books written in five years.

The problem is that it’s rather taken over. I need to give myself and my husband a break. He’s getting fed up that I’m so busy.

What made you choose historical fiction as your genre?

I’ve always love history. If my A levels had been good enough in the 60s, I would have studied history at university. But now I have the opportunity to indulge my love with something creative too – the best of all worlds.

That sounds wonderful. Can you describe your novels in 10 words?

Gritty family sagas, real people leading extraordinary and interesting lives.

Just the sort of stuff I like to read, which leads me to my next question. When and where you prefer to do your writing?

I like an early start. Sometimes the ideas come to me when I’m trying to sleep (always annoying) but it means I’m itching to get going not long after dawn. I write in a comfortable chair, with the laptop on my knees.

Same here, I’m an early riser and instead of lying in bed thinking, we might as well be writing it down instead. Where did you get your ideas from?

Family history – simple as that. I like to research the social conditions of the time and that provides me with the settings and framework for the stories.

That is so inspiring – so are your characters based on real people or people you know?

Search for the Light by Rosemary NobleSo far, they have been based on real people with other supportive made-up characters.

The made-up ones are totally imaginative and that means you can make them whatever you want them to be. I had fun in my latest book making a couple of characters quite dark. Sometimes they write themselves, like Sarah, in Search for the Light.

Everyone else in the book is in the third person, but she wanted to tell her story in the first person. I was happy to let her.

Writing in first person is quite different isn’t it? The character has more voice. With this in mind, who is your favourite author?

That is the most difficult question. I have several favourites. I always look for any new books by Sebastian Barry; Rose Tremain; Tracey Chevalier and Margaret Atwood.

I have heard of Rose Tremain, as she is quite famous isn’t she? Following on from that, what is your all time favourite book and why?

Probably Poisonwood Bible by Barabara Kingsolver. It was the first time I had come across a book with some many different and distinct voices. It’s the story of an American Missionary with his family in Africa. It’s narrated by each daughter as the family descends into the chaos caused by the father’s hubris and their government’s duplicity.

That sounds like an intriguing story. But going back to your own books, How much research do you need to do?

Lots. I have written three books set in the nineteenth century, so I read contemporary accounts often freely available on Google Books. I use a lot of newspapers too, occasionally historical journals and the internet, of course, but that I take with a pinch of salt Sometimes I need to visit libraries and museums, specific to the setting. Some local newspapers are still not on-line in the UK.

I guess it is essential to get it right when writing historic fiction. Just imagine if one or more of your stories were made into films. Who would you like to see playing the lead character in your book and why?

In my new book I would choose Sarah Wiseman who played Carolyn Bligh in A Place to Call Home. My husband and I loved the series. He found it by serendipity and then we couldn’t stop watching it. It’s a fascinating representation of the land-owning class in 1950’s Australia, as well as being a great story.

Sounds good. With this in mind, do you work out a strict plot or just start writing?

I have a framework. I know I have to get from A-B via C. However, I also like to see where the writing takes me. For me, that’s a lot more interesting and exciting.

What’s the best advice about writing you were ever given?

Keep in your character’s point of view

And lastly, what are your future plans for writing and what are you working on now?

My eight-year-old granddaughter is desperate for me to write a children’s book. I have one lined up ready to write. She gave me the time-frame and the names of the characters. We brain-stormed a few ideas and then one night the plot came to me around midnight and by three, it was all planned out.

Ranter's Wharf by Rosemary NobleSomething quite different then. I can imagine that will be a lovely new challenge for you and look forward to seeing the end result. Best of luck, Rosemary, this has been a really interesting chat.

To conclude, I have read one of Rosemary’s books, Ranter’s Wharf and was completely engrossed in the story as well as learning about a piece of history I didn’t know.

For further information about Rosemary, you can read her biography below, connect with her via her social networks and check out her author’s page on Amazon, which also lists her books.

Rosemary’s Biography

Rosemary Noble lives in West Sussex and worked as an education librarian.

Books have been her life, ever since she walked into a library at five-years-old and found a treasure trove. Her other love is social history. She got hooked on family history before retirement and discovered so many stories that deserved to be told.

Her first book, Search for the Light, tells the story of three young girls transported to Australia in 1824. Friendship sustains them through the horrors of the journey and their enforced service in Tasmania. The Digger’s Daughter tells of the next generation of gold-diggers and a pioneering woman who lives almost through the first hundred years in Victoria. The third in the trilogy, Sadie’s Wars takes the reader to the fourth generation and into the twentieth century. The trilogy is based on the author’s family. It tells of secrecy and lies, of determination and grit and how all can be done or undone by luck.

Rosemary is a member of CHINDI independent authors and is involved in literary events in and around Chichester. She also loves to travel, especially to Australia and Europe and not least, she loves spending time with her grandchildren, one of whom is a budding author herself.

Check out Rosemary’s Books via her Amazon Author page 

Author Links and Social Networks

Blog: https://rosemarynoble.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chirosie

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RosemaryJaneNoble/

Rosebrook Chronicles (The Hidden Stories)

As 2018 is drawing to a close, it is time I revealed a little more about a new book I’ve been writing this year.

The concept of this book of stories arose in Yorkshire, over 2 years ago, whilst visiting the Parsonage Museum in Haworth. Gazing across the writing table where Charlotte Brontë created her world famous masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, I felt a calling, an eerie feeling this was to be my next project. The feeling was so overwhelming I decided there and then that I would do it (once I had finished the ‘Same Face Different Place’ series.)

It gives me great pleasure to announce that the book is now written.
So allow me to introduce the thinking behind
‘ROSEBROOK CHRONICLES (The Hidden Stories)’

A bright moon is a prominent influence in one of the character back stories.

Rosebrook is the fictitious town I created for my series. It is based south east of London in a rural area of Kent, between Bromley and Swanley.

Before I had finished the series, I figured there were some powerful back stories hidden behind the scenes and one or two characters who never quite made it into the story.

This book is not a thriller, more a collection of character driven short stories following the lives of various people, from childhood to adulthood.

The one thing they have in common is they were all abused as children and it was interesting to explore the psychology behind each one of them.

To drop a hint, Peter was a prominent character in my series but his younger sister made a brief appearance in the last book. Due to the complexity of the series, her story was very much glossed over, as I didn’t want to wander off on a tangent. Only later did I realise I could develop an intriguing back story behind her character.

I would describe Rosebrook Chronicles as a combination of social history and domestic noir.

So to date I have a complete draft, a synopsis and an idea for a cover. There are 24 stories featuring some lesser characters at different stages of life, from university and work to forming relationships. But the paths of the characters begin to interweave. I am in editing mode at the moment and working hard to get my draft as polished as possible. Whether to self-publish or not is the next question but given the interest I have picked up, I think the next stage would be to get it out to a few beta readers. After that who knows.

In the meantime, I am battling a stinking cold and getting ready for Xmas but I hope to get a more ‘Christmassy’ post written during the festive week, so Seasons Greetings for now!

New Book: My Current Work in Progress

I don’t do enough blogging, the main reason being that unless I have a guest blog, I only publish when I have something worth writing about…

Well it is time to take the plunge; ever since completing ‘Same Face Different Place’ I have started something new at last!

I had an idea lingering on the back burner, ever since we visited Yorkshire in 2016, the notion of writing shorter stories, based on some of the lesser known characters of the series. These are the hidden stories, tales from childhood that were always simmering in the background but never actually made it into the pages of SFDP.

For example, references were made to some darker aspects of child abuse; but they would have detracted from the main plot. Two characters will be familiar to readers of the series. But there is a character I am introducing for the first time, one who hardly featured in the latter books. Bessie Summerville is Peter’s little sister, someone he spent a lifetime searching for, so I thought it was time to tell her story.

Nuns from Ireland
Nuns from Ireland, mentioned in one of the first stories.

New Research

It is also worth mentioning that writing though Peter’s eyes encouraged to dig a little deeper into his story and the era when he worked at Toynbee Hall.

I confess to having only known a little about the organisation. But I would love to speak to anyone who remembers it from the 197os. Luckily a member of staff pointed me in the right direction, an enquiry that brought me to the Metropolitan Archives in North London. Studying the original annual reports from 1972 – 1979 gave me a snapshot of the structure of Toynbee Hall, as well as their good work. I will say that this worthwhile research painted an entire backdrop of one of my new stories. Furthermore, I have a request to deposit a copy of my writing in the library at Toynbee Hall once completed.

Annual Report 1972

To conclude, the book is well underway now with ten stories drafted and possibly another five to reach a conclusion. In my next post, I hope to bring you a synopsis and finally a cover reveal as hinted in the stock images shown…

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.

Update on the New Book – 14th November 2016

First of all, this post is partly an apology. This is for all those who are yearning to read the final book in my series and perhaps wondering why it’s taking me so long! So I will start this blog by saying I’m sorry for the long wait but… this final book has ended up enormous!

london-eye-shot

With so many characters and converging story lines, I suspected it would be a lengthy saga. At some point, in Spring, I was actually starting to panic when I thought about the material that I still needed to write in order to conclude the series. The good news is, the entire book is now written. But in order to get something published sooner rather than later, I decided to split into two parts. The first part “Phase 1” looks to be slightly longer than the last book Pleasures (556 pages) but it is impossible to cut it down any more without sacrificing vital story elements. Now it has been given a complete overhaul, I have just send it out to Beta readers. The next stage will be to go over it again (in what I refer to as a ‘polishing process’) where I’ll be working on the writing style to inject as much colour into my descriptions and sharpen up the dialogue. After that will be a rigorous grammar check followed by a final professional proof read.

Realistically, I am hoping to launch in April 2o17.

The 2nd part, “End Game” possibly won’t be finished until the summer of 2017 but at least the draft is written; it just needs to undergo the same process as above.

This novel promises to deliver a mammoth read with an explosive plot, huge characters and a powerful emotional theme throughout. Every loose thread will be tied – and among the more shocking content, there will be some happy scenes interwoven into the mix.

  • In Book 4 Retribution, readers will discover a gangland sub-plot that infiltrates the town of Rosebrook…
  • What is Ben’s epic revenge plan?
  • Will Dominic be charged with Murder?
  • Will the mystery of the politician’s death be solved?
  • Will Eleanor find her long lost father?
  • Will the Barton-Wells family get their ancestral home back?
  • What is the sinister secret that binds all these characters together?

It will be dark, gripping and at times, devastatingly shocking but…. BUT there will be love and hate, passion and vengeance, so many relationships and a few more babies…

Revisiting London Episode III – October 19th 2016

With the first draft of Book 4 Retribution undergoing a complete overhaul, it’s time to re-visit my research from our recent trip to London, where part of the novel is set in Chelsea.

The year is 1993 and one of the story’s main characters, Elijah (now a student) attends an Exhibition at Earl’s Court with a bunch of college friends. Many years ago, I used to attend shows in Earl’s Court myself, my favourite being the Apple Show. I was a huge fan of Apple Mac computers, with the newest trends in desktop publishing and photo editing software. It was in the 90s, Earl’s Court was host to an array of trade shows and events and in the context of my book, nothing fitted this story line better than the International Interior Design show.

Earl's Court

Described in ‘Retribution’ as an ‘amazing, yet contemporary piece of architecture with a curving facade and colossal windows that scale the height of the entire building,’ it was a bit of a shock to discover it was no longer there… Earl’s Court was demolished in 2014 to make way for a new residential and retail estate on the site, (which is expected to be completed in 2033) but there is nothing left but a building site.

So on to Chelsea; it is here, another of my story’s main characters, (antiques dealer, Avalon) spends much time visiting the various markets and auctions, of which Chelsea was notorious. In this chapter of the book, it seems almost fated that these two characters will bump into each other and following their journey, I found myself wandering from Earl’s Court, all the way down King’s Road where traces of its antiques heritage were evident. There used to be an notorious antiques market here but no more…

Today, it comes across as a quiet area, surrounded by Regency houses and traditional pubs. There is a splendid array of shops, many of which are filled with exquisite furniture and home furnishings. It is a home-maker’s paradise but definitely not cheap!

Chelsea, London

Putting aside Avalon’s antique’s hunting and Elijah’s exhibition visit, the two young people will eventually find a pub where they are about to engage in a very long heart to heart. In the story so far, their lives are in turmoil, their community destroyed by a powerful enemy, along with his gangster allies. It is in this scene they rediscover their friendship and as childhood sweethearts, could it be the start of something even more meaningful? You will have to wait and see…

Chelsea Pubs

Whichever pub I feature for this scene, I am spoilt for choice  – there are so many. Chelsea lacks the bustle of other parts of London (Covent Garden for example) yet it is a beautiful area to visit with sophisticated shops, cafes, an abundance of floral displays, plenty of colour and very photogenic. It was useful to get a feel of the place for this scene which I have only just started editing and with plenty to inspire me.

For more information on my research in relation to this story, please visit my previous posts: Revisiting East London – 2nd September 2016
and Revisiting London, Episode II – 16th September 2016

Revisiting East London – 2nd September 2016

It’s hard to imagine it’s been 6 years since I first took off to Whitechapel to do that much needed research for my first novel, ‘Beginnings’ but this summer, we had a rare opportunity to spend the entire August Bank Holiday weekend in London!

My husband, Peter, has been vying for an opportunity to play in the London Open Backgammon Tournament, a perfect opportunity for me to explore. So I’ll be posting this experience in four separate parts, each covering the diversity of areas I found myself in. It was largely thanks to a friend, we got to stay in a lovely flat in Bounds Green and not only that, she was a mine of information with regards some of the best haunts in this vast city. The touristy side is not for me – especially given the book I am currently writing, which is Book 4 of my decade spanning thriller series ‘Same Face Different Place.’

Book 4 ‘Retribution’ actually kicks off in Shoreditch, East London and here is a brief outline: 18 year old Elijah Jansen is as keen as ever to pursue a degree in design, but preferably at Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham. His girlfriend, Caitlin, has different ideas; hoping she can convince him to join her in London where she wants to study fashion. Her quest drags them to the London College of Fashion, in Curtain Road Shoreditch. All goes to plan until a road sign looms, halting him in his tracks – places associated with the horrors of the 7os, (where the dark mystery of ‘Beginnings’ was set.) But that’s not all. It is only when they think they are safely hidden in a nearby pub, a stranger wafts through the door like a bad smell. It is no-one he recognises until he passes on a sinister warning which can only mean one thing; the criminal underworld of London are onto him and they have his card marked… It is only a little later, Elijah realises who he is up against. His name is Alan Levy, reputed to be London’s most feared ‘King Pin.’

The 10 Bells
The 10 Bells

About the Area

Once I ventured into the heart, Shoreditch was a far cry from the towering cityscape of office blocks and cranes depicted on Googlemaps. The area was a lot more ‘arty’ than I imagined with vast, multi-coloured murals painted on buildings and walls, a sprinkling of art galleries and as the streets expanded, I saw a few more cafés and pubs. From Great Eastern Road, I crossed Shoreditch High Street before it ultimately branched into Commercial Street. I was looking for a pub for this story; stumbling across a traditional alehouse ‘The Golden Heart.’ Except further down and a little more tucked away, I discovered the ‘The 10 Bells.’ Yes, this was definitely the one! A little off the beaten track, dark windows and a perfect setting for my scene.

A Lighter Side

Thanks to the guidance of our friend, the area was home to Spitalfield Market which she recommended was worth a visit. ‘The area has changed quite a bit and is increasingly hip with lots of students. Spitalfields Market is a skip away. A real foodies paradise…’

Yes, it’s an amazing place, steeped in history and with a fabulous array of stalls. I enjoyed a sausage bap in the ‘Market Tavern’ for breakfast, mulled over the beautiful creative gifts on display and even managed a little shopping. The variety of foods is staggering – just about every type of food and nationality you can think of.

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I tried to find Columbia Market with no success but after losing myself in ‘Liverpool Street’ somehow ended up back at Curtain Road (where I started), before returning for a much needed cup of goji berry juice – delightfully refreshing and healthy. Last of all, I headed down Brick Lane – a cultural explosion! It is an extremely bustling place, young and vibrant, lined with trendy shops and eateries, (not to mention some of the wall art which is breathtaking.)

I was on my way down to Whitechapel and Wapping but that is another story…