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.

Guest Post: Isabella Muir

The good, the bad and the ugly

Isabella Muir author of the Janie Juke series of Sussex crime mysteriesToday it is a pleasure to invite author, Isabella Muir as a guest writer on my blog. Like me, Isabella writes crime fiction and we are both members of the authors networking group, CHINDI. Isabella is the author of the Janie Juke series of Sussex crime mysteries, featuring a young librarian with a passion for Agatha Christie. Celebrating the lead up to Agatha’s birthday, she is joining me today to talk about her research.

So over to you, Isabella.

When I chose to set my Sussex Crime series in the 1960s I knew I would need to do plenty of research to get a sense for what life was like back then.

Life in the 1960s was great, wasn’t it? It was easy and happy and full of brilliant music, fashion and possibilities. Sure enough, that might be our first thought, but then when we look at the decade in more detail it doesn’t take long to uncover some aspects that weren’t all ‘good’. Let’s take a glance at the ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and the downright ugly of that iconic decade.

The good

Every week, almost every day, new pop stars emerged with music that would transform listening for decades to come. In January 1964 BBC TV launched a brand new music show, called Top of the Pops, which remained in its weekly slot for 42 years. Every musical taste was catered for – pop and rock from the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones to blues and folk from talent such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez and Janis Joplin.

Teenagers were desperate to hear it all and many went to sleep with their transistor radio under their pillow as they listened to the pirate stations – Radio Caroline and Radio Luxembourg, among others. By the middle of the decade between 10 and 15 million people were tuning in.

UK Top Ten Records from the 1960s

It was a time for young people to enjoy – fashion was transformed by designers such as Mary Quant who popularised the mini skirt, and at the age of just sixteen, Twiggy became a fashion icon, with her cropped hairstyle and streamlined figure.
Plenty to celebrate, but some of those celebrations created their own problems…

Twiggy fashion icon of the 1060s

The Bad

Casting off conservative values was all well and good. The ‘flower-power’ hippies embraced the ‘summer of love’ with 100,000 young people arriving in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco to experiment with drugs and sex. Unfortunately the realities of ‘dropping out’ meant that ‘free love’ was used to excuse something else entirely. Many thousands suffered from serious drug addiction and mental problems, or became homeless. San Francisco was overrun with drug dealers and teenage runaways, and the Haight-Ashbury scene deteriorated through overcrowding, homelessness and crime.

Back in the UK it was politics that hit the headlines as a result of the ‘Profumo affair’. After a brief sexual relationship in 1961 between John Profumo, the Secretary of State for War in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government, and Christine Keeler, a 19-year-old would-be model, Profumo resigned from the government and from Parliament. The repercussions of the affair severely damaged Macmillan’s self-confidence, and he resigned as Prime Minister on health grounds in October 1963, possibly contributing to the defeat of the Conservatives by the Labour Party in the 1964 general election.

Public interest in the affair was heightened by reports that Keeler may have been simultaneously involved with Captain Yevgeny Ivanov, a Soviet naval attaché, thereby creating a possible security risk – just at the time when the Cold War was gathering momentum.

The ugly

Politics continued with its negative impact throughout the sixties, energising people to protest. The decade started with thousands joining the ‘Ban the Bomb’ march, with similar marches taking place over the next ten years. The Vietnam war, which lasted from 1955 for twenty years, was the focus of many protests as people learned about the dreadful death toll – more than a million deaths of civilians and military personnel. Lennon sang out ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and many followed him, chanting the same message.

Then, as people looked forward to a bright future, the world came close to disaster as President Kennedy and Kruschev decided if they were going to obliterate the entire population in a nuclear war. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 filled people with fear and must have darkened the otherwise bright memories of the sixties for many.

A brighter note

It is that fascinating mix of the good, bad and the downright ugly of that decade that has always held an attraction for me. It is the reason I chose to set my Sussex Crime series in the sixties and why the period features in several chapters of my newest novel, The Forgotten Children.

Alongside my love of the sixties, I am a passionate fan of Agatha Christie. Sussex Crime’s amateur sleuth, Janie Juke, follows in the footsteps of Agatha’s wonderful detective, Hercule Poirot, as she solves the crimes and mysteries that besiege the sleepy seaside town of Tamarisk Bay.

Books by Isabella Muir from the Janie Juke series of Sussex crime mysteries

This blog post is one of a series, which leads up to Agatha Christie’s birthday and national #cozymysteryday on 15th September, as I enjoy the opportunity to be Chindi’s ‘Author of the week’. Chindi is a network of authors, both traditionally and independently published, based largely in West Sussex. Between us we publish a wide range of books, from historical and crime fiction to romance and children’s books, from humour to self-help.

To find out more about the great Queen of Crime and to help celebrate Agatha Christie’s birthday, then look out for the other blog posts in the series:

Agatha Christie and Isabella Muir https://isabellamuir.com/blog/

Agatha Christie – a child of her time https://lexirees.co.uk/mums-book-blast/

Agatha Christie and the sixties https://patriciamosbornewriter.wordpress.com/daily-blog/

What is a cosy mystery? https://www.carol-thomas.co.uk/blog/

Investigating the past https://rosemarynoble.wordpress.com/

Agatha Christie and Janie Juke https://isabellamuir.com/blog/

And as a present to you, on Agatha’s behalf, I am pleased to announce that the first book in my Sussex Crime series – The Tapestry Bag – will be available on Kindle for just £0.99p for one week only – grab it while you can!

Isabella Muir is the author of the Sussex Crime Mystery series:

BOOK 1: THE TAPESTRY BAG
BOOK 2: LOST PROPERTY
BOOK 3: THE INVISIBLE CASE
Her latest novel is: THE FORGOTTEN CHILDREN

She can be contacted via:

Twitter: @SussexMysteries
Facebook: www.facebook.com/IsabellaMuirAuthor/
Website: www.isabellamuir.com
Or on Goodreads

And there’s more!

Receive the FREE Sussex Crime novella, Divided we Fall when you sign up to receive Isabella’s newsletter, with cozy mystery news and views, special offers and so much more. Just click here.

Divided we Fall by Isabella Muir

Thanks, Isabella, for a most interesting article. Isabella’s books are a great choice for those who enjoy an Agatha Christie style mystery, entertaining and light, perfect for a holiday read or curling up on a chilly autumn night; we wish you the best of luck with your books!

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…

Retribution to the End – May 26th 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen J. Christmas

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.

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

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

wotton

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

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

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…

From Writer to Picker – 15th June 2016

Just for a change, I thought I’d write a blog about something completely different: my work experience as an online shopper at Sainsbury’s which is unlike any other job I have ever known.

People wonder why I did this job for as long as I did but I’m not complaining – after a lifetime of high stress jobs in marketing, graphic design and publishing, it was good to get back to the grass roots of a working community. Being in a proper work place was refreshing; a sense of camaraderie that we were all in the same boat! The reason I did it in the first place was to earn some extra cash as a Christmas Temp but in March 2015, I was offered permanent contract.

Online shopping

The Positives:

People in the job came from all walks of life; from 18 year old school leavers to folk who were nearer retirement age and interestingly enough, lots came from ‘high’ professions. Among my colleagues were senior accountants, nurses, designers and computer programmers. So the barriers of age, sex, class and education didn’t exist here. It was the closest I have ever come to a truly egalitarian society.

The work is repetitive but by no means dull. Online shopping is massive and has been on the rise for the last decade – so the job was in effect ‘shopping’ for other people. I didn’t mind. I actually quite like food shopping anyway, so it didn’t feel like work to begin with. You get to see all the new brands and the choice of products is staggering.

Another aspect of ‘online shopping’ I couldn’t help doing was picturing each customer as I shopped.

  • Small single items such as sardines, prunes and custard suggested an elderly customer.
  • Bigger shops with plenty of lunchbox snacks, crisps and sweets suggested a busy parent with kids.
  • Healthy customers who choose organic products and lots of veggies.
  • The ‘not so health conscious’ who pack their order with biscuits and crisps (with few veggies)
  • I had the ‘budget shoppers,’ who chose ‘value’ products (easy to spot since the packaging was orange)
  • and my favourites, were the discerning customers who like ‘taste the difference’ items (just as easy to spot since the packaging is purple) and prefer no substitutes.

So after having completing 8-24 ambient shops and 4-12 chilled shops, I had gist of the people I might have shopped for, even though I never met them face to face.

The Negatives
pickers1

It’s a good thing to be an early riser since a job as an online shopper at Sainsbury’s requires getting up at the crack of dawn! It was a wrench to start work at 5am (and many  started at 4am!) The majority of shoppers (i.e. those who do their own) prefer us off the shop floor before the store gets busy. No-one appreciates big trolleys clogging up the aisles, though at Christmas, it wasn’t always possible. Large orders meant people like me having to stay late while a stampede of early birds came in at 6am to get their Christmas shop over with! Needless to say, we got in each others’ way.

I can’t deny the hours were unsociable. I thought it was awesome to finish at 9:00 in the morning and have the rest of my day. But it did leave me with a dragging tiredness, leading sluggish brain syndrome! As a writer, a bit of a problem, creative flow severely hampered.

stephanieLastly, the work was intense, fast and physical. My best picking speed was 130 items per hour yet there were times it fell below that and however fast you went, they always cranked up the pressure to go faster. But that’s the modern work place. The reason I had to leave was an acute tendonitis in my thumb joint and severe wrist pains from lifting heavy items and handling the totes when they were loaded with shopping. Milk for example, weighs a ton, especially when customers want 5 x 6 pint flagons of the stuff!

Reflection

I’m pleased I stuck this out for as long as I did. I met some great people and the work, whilst hard, was absorbing – in fact, the time flew by. I got quite used to it eventually, as well as the early start not to mention little nest egg in my bank.

Now I’ve finished, I’ve have fewer aches and pains and it’s good to have my ‘writing time’ back – with Book 4 ‘Retribution’ to finish, I am on a mission to complete the series now.

Who knows, my next book might be set in the future where online shopping will play a major part, so maybe this experience will come in useful one day!

Progress on Book 4 Retribution – 2nd December 2015

This is the first blog I’ve written in a while, a new post to say that book 4 is going great guns! I don’t have a watertight synopsis planned for this final novel but let’s say, some of the story lines have been buzzing around inside my head for years; ever since I started the series in fact.

Imagery for Same Face Different Place Book 4 Retribution

The official date I began writing Retribution was August 5th 2015 and I have hardly stopped. It begins with an explosive prologue; a horrific crime committed in Rosebrook resulting in two near fatalities. It is a crime that is about to change the nature of the community in ways the characters never expected as the main evil character of the series grows more powerful. Ben Hampton was 21 when he first appeared in the story but those who read the earlier books will know that he is something of a psychopath. Further more, he is a psychopath with a vendetta; lethally dangerous and out to do a lot more harm. In fact the atrocity committed at the start of this book is just the beginning; it marks the opening chapter of a revenge plan that will span at least 10 years.

What other issues have I tackled in this story?

Like all my books, I like to interweave a little social history. I therefore chose to focus on a few controversial news issues that emerged during this era:

  • It was around the early 1990s when the Catholic child abuse scandal first came to light – where runaway orphan, Peter, is finally forced to face his demons.
  • 1992 was the start of the war in Bosnia – Lieutenant Barton-Wells finds himself caught up in the conflict when his platoon are sent to assist in a peacekeeping mandate.
  • In 1992  The Maastricht Treaty undertaken to integrate Europe was signed: could this be a catalyst that inspires interest in an International consortium that had its roots in the 70s?
  • In 1995 the French resumed underground nuclear testing in the Pacific despite the end of the Cold War – could this have some bearing on the secret mission Perry has confided to his son?

The main difference with Retribution is that this is a book where the main characters are the baddies. Various parts of the story are finally depicted through their eyes – from the opening scenes of Beginnings to the closing scenes of Pleasures.

Last but not least, books 1 – 3 of  ‘Same Face Different Place’ is now available as a boxed set on Amazon Kindle.
This 3 book bundle incurs a saving of of £3.00 compared to buying the books individually.
Readers can catch up on the whole series so far, by clicking this link.

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