Reflections of my blog on the Brontë sisters

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

Keighley and Worth Valley Railway

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

Haworth

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

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

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End of the year review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xmas-books

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

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

review-cat

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

retribution-visual

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

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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…

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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

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Mystery Mondays with Helen Christmas

I just thought I’d re-blog this, since I haven’t had a lot of time to write any of my own lately. Christoph Fischer does a wonderful job helping other writers like me and here is what he wrote for Mystery Mondays…

Today I have the pleasure of introducing Helen Christmas, a writer whom I have known for a long time. I’m delighted I could persuade her to take part in my Mystery Mondays series. Hello Helen…

Source: Mystery Mondays with Helen Christmas

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Revisiting London, Episode II – 16th September 2016

Following on from my last post, I may as well chronicle the pathways I followed through London, on our recent trip. The story started in Shoreditch. It therefore made sense to venture south to Whitechapel and eventually Wapping which is where the next part of the story took off.

It seemed strange to disembark outside the Whitechapel Gallery: this is where I found myself in April 2011 when I was writing and researching the first book in the series, ‘Beginnings.’ That book took place in 1972. So I wondered what I would discover about Wapping, 1992, which is the time and place, scene II, ‘Retribution’ is set.

London Docklands

Wapping’s proximity to the river gives it a strong maritime character, retained through warehouses and riverside pubs, such as the Prospect of Whitby. The area was transformed during the 1980s by the London Docklands Development Corporation; the warehouses converted into luxury flats and office blocks. From its seafaring past, an area notorious with pirates and criminality, it is easy to see how my anti-hero and arch villain, Ben, would be drawn to its modern cityscape – stockbroker by day – yet determined to pursue his darker criminal activities at night.

wapping1wapping2

Further east, is Limehouse, an area close to Commercial Road (as described in Beginnings and home to the notorious park, Eleanor and Jake were chased across) but it was when I visited Limehouse the first time, I noticed it was also a popular area for joggers. There is a steel barrier that links to a walkway circumnavigating the wharf and this gave me masses of inspiration for another chase scene – but this time at night, when Ben is desperate to escape the surveillance of the police.

Ben is not about to be deterred. He is desperate to be accepted into a criminal gang run by London’s most terrifying king pin, even if it means taking a run around the docks under the cover of darkness, to throw the police off his scent. The place is quiet, where the proximity of the river Thames, its secluded steps and shadowy tunnels lends itself a scene that can be quite sinister in its portrayal…

thriller-montage-night

So this the scenario and this is Wapping…
… and with two more areas to blog about, there’ll be a bit more coming soon.

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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…

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