Going #Green Gets Mean

Re-visiting Brighton in 2020 was something to look forward to, but for the unfamiliar motorist, it could be a trip laced with peril.

The weather was perfect; a crisp frost, an expanse of clear blue sky with not a cloud in it, plenty of sunshine. What better way to spend a Sunday than to find my way to Brighton, with the help of my trusty phone Sat Nav? Recalling last year’s highlights, (see Bright ‘n’ Breezy 2019) I was looking forward to exploring the North Lanes again, a feast of colourful shops, lively cafés, street art and plenty of places to grab a bite.

So here I was on the A23 descending a long hill towards the city centre. To the untrained eye this looked like a typical dual carriageway when I suddenly thought: ‘Holy Crap, I’m in a bus lane.’ A memory jolted me. Swiftly moving over to the right, I hope the realisation didn’t come too late. Like it or not, things have changed in the last year and I’m not having a go but if you dare enter the city by car, beware of the council’s new policies which could leave a rather large dent in your finances.

In 12 months more than 75,000 fines were issued for driving in bus lanes in Brighton & Hove. The fines totalling more than £4 million.

A report, issued by Brighton & Hove City Council, showed the number of bus lane penalty charge notices (PCN) issued between April 2018 and April 2019 had increased by almost eight times over the previous year. My husband was one of the unfortunates but where were the signs? No one drives into a bus lane on purpose. Peter had no clue and neither did I. So I’m bracing myself, waiting for a fine. Not a pleasant way to start 2020.

Stunning architecture near Brighton Pavilion

Stunning architecture near Brighton Pavilion, is this they lock up the naughty people don’t pay their fines?

Green Policies

A spokesman said: “Bus lanes in the city are there for a number of important reasons – to ensure public transport runs efficiently, to reduce the number of cars and lorries in the city, cut dangerous fuel emissions and improve air quality in the city centre and to make the city safer for pedestrians.”

I don’t have a problem with that. I would also say that on my journey I saw numerous ranks of ‘pay as you go’ bikes for hire, thinking ‘how cool’ and if I lived here, I would use one of those; enjoy cycling without the expense of owning a bike. We all need to do our bit protecting the environment. Of course we must cut down CO2 emissions, reduce plastic waste, recycle as much as we can and source cleaner fuels. I have every respect for the Green Party, but is lashing out at drivers and hitting them where it hurts the best way to press their policies? It seems a little Draconian to me.

Pretty Painted houses in Brighton North Lanes

“Western Road bus lanes are very clearly marked and there is plenty of obvious signage, so claims that driving in a bus lane is a ‘simple mistake’ or an ‘accident’ to ‘extract money from motorists’ is wholly incorrect.”

Reading various blogs and forums, it seems the signage is far from clear. I mean who the hell would deliberately enter a bus lane if they knew they’d cop a £60 fine? Reading on, their argument seems lame, a system fated to screw money out of motorists and if so, they do themselves no favours. What if it puts tourists right off visiting Brighton? How much longer do the Greens hope to cling to their power by penalising people?

Rant aside, I enjoyed wandering around the lanes. It’s a joy to see so many independent traders in today’s economic climate and I’m happy to support them above the multinational chains and online giants. But maybe next year I’ll get a train.

Brighton Sausage Deli an independent shop

Afterthought: Watching the news, specifically the World Economic Forum in Davos, I was stunned to see campaigner Greta Thunberg come under attack on the climate change movement by Donald Trump. While the US president blows his own trumpet about himself, that the US economy is burning bright right now, we have seen the gradual increase in extreme weather conditions including terrible fires that have ravaged Australia for months. How unbelievably short sighted.

Diplocks Yard junk shop

Second hand shop with some intriguing anti-capitalist posters

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Do You Believe in New Years Resolutions?

New Years Resolutions Good or Bad?

It’s that time of year again when the radio and TV is bombarded with adverts telling you to give things up, join a gym, pledge to do something miraculous etc etc… So I’m debating whether this is a good idea. I personally am not going to make a new years resolution this year because I know it’s a waste of time.

For a start, why January?

Let me begin by saying that I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed seeing the New Year 2020 in.

I certainly did and needed it after the turbulent year our family have endured. So with 2 weeks off work, we made the most of sitting around enjoying quality time with family and friends, playing games, watching telly, reading new books and stuffing our faces with delicious things, not to mention all the crisps, nuts and chocolates. I wouldn’t normally indulge like this at any other time of the year but it’s what humans have been doing since the dawn of time, right back to the Winter Solstice celebrated in Pagan times.

Homemade Pies for Christmas

Homemade Pies for Christmas

And now Christmas is over, it’s back to work to earn a crust. But added to the anti-climax, the weather is cold and damp and everyone is broke. In fact there is little left to celebrate until the first flowers appear before Easter and we have summer to look forward to. I may have over indulged but if I am going to start a diet, I will do it in Spring when the days are getting longer and there is more sunshine. Winter is surely the worst time of year to try losing weight, a time when we crave comfort food to keep ourselves warm.

Likewise, I am not doing ‘Dry January’ this year. I admire all who do but I did this in 2018 and whilst I felt jolly proud of myself it was the longest 31 days ever! Furthermore, I still have my Christmas horde – not just the extra Gin and Salted Caramel Baileys Santa brought me but an array of homemade liquors, including my plum and damson gin, Mum’s raspberry gin (legendary on the raspberry Richter scale) and my sister’s redcurrant and blackcurrant gin (the alcoholic version of Ribena).

Christmas Booze

My Christmas Booze Stash

Small Pledges Yield Better Results

There is no reason we can’t cut down and do things in moderation but denying ourselves everything we enjoy seems a pretty harsh way to start the year in my opinion. We were lucky enough to get a lovely walk New Years Day in Kingley Vale, thanks to our Sussex Walking Group and next week I’ll start going to the gym again, a pledge I will definitely stick to. In fact, I’d love to get back to walking at least once a day and this will be an incentive to get another rescue dog soon…

Kingley Vale, West Stoke, Chichester

Kingley Vale, West Stoke, Chichester

But filling our home up with furry things we have discovered is a sure way to bring some positive energy into our lives. Last year we adopted a gorgeous 7-year old cat (Tiggy) and she seems to be settling in very well, (though she does prefer a cardboard box to the luxury fleece lined igloo I originally bought for her).

Tiggy our Cat in a Box

Tiggy, our Cat in a Box

In 2020 I also aim to work on my anxiety and stress, endeavour to care for others who are less fortunate and spread as much kindness as possible. And whatever pledges I do make, I aim to continue them throughout the entire year and not just a few days in January.

Hence the only New Years Resolution I make is to procrastinate less and stay positive.

Let’s make the NEW YEAR 2020 a happy one… 

 

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Delighted to Launch First #Audiobook with a #Giveaway

Rosebrook Chronicles has been produced as an audiobook with FREE codes available for listeners

Rosebrook Chronicles The Hidden Stories is now an audiobook

It is always exciting to announce a new venture. Writing has been slow this year but with the publication of Rosebrook Chronicles The Hidden Stories in July, followed by a successful blog tour, I wasn’t sure which direction to take next.

Talking to fellow author Rosemary Noble (who launched her own audio book this year, Search for the Light), I wondered whether to dare dip my toes into unknown territory.

I love audio books and enjoy listening to them as an alternative to music. Favourite titles include Six Stories by Matt Wesolovki and more recently, Silent Victim by Caroline Mitchell. I also enjoyed Rosemary’s audiobook which was entertaining and moving.

Rosebrook Chronicles the Hidden Stories audio book on an ipad

Audible on my i-pad, perfect for holidays.

Creating my first Audiobook

I’ve discovered this is quite easy to do yourself using ACX, a company affiliated to Amazon. So with nothing to lose I decided to look into it, following the steps online to begin my first project. To get started, you search for your title Amazon title and link it to the project. Once you have found it, claim your book and this gets the ball rolling.

Step 2, decide how you want to produce your audiobook. I chose the option where someone would narrate it for me, as opposed to producing it myself. Next I was able to specify from a list of options; genre, preferred voice, accents, age and tone. You are also prompted to provide an audition script. After that, it becomes a waiting game…

Auditions

I never expected to hear anything but within two days I received messages of two auditions. How exciting! The first was a professional trained actress whose auditions include the highly acclaimed ‘Handmaiden’s Tale’ but professional does not come cheap.

The second narrator, Paul Metcalfe, had a pleasing voice, which was perfect for this project and a mixture of accents that suited all characters. Furthermore, I thought it would be more appropriate to have a male narrator, given the characters are mostly men.

Furthermore ACX offers a royalty share program which costs nothing. Paul was quite happy to go along with this offer and over the next few months did a great job narrating the stories. In fact the amount of work and commitment he gave to this audiobook was overwhelming at times. The short story format worked well and I was able to suggest edits along the way.

It was an absolutely joy to hear my characters come to life, where parts of the story and the dialogue seemed incredibly real. I listened to snippets at various times of day, on my i-pod while driving, on my laptop and on holiday and as the book developed it got better and better. The end result is I have an audiobook to be proud of.

A huge thanks is owed to Paul for the time investment and enthusiasm he put into this.

Rosebrook Chronicles on the smart phone android audible app

To Launch Rosebrook Chronicles, I have FREE audible codes to give away

The next stage of this project is to get some honest reviews on Audible. If you would like a free listen, please leave a comment on this post or complete the form below with your email address and I will send a code to you direct.

Bounty Referral Program.

If you are considering joining Audible as a member for $7.99 month and want to download my audiobook as your first purchase, follow this link and I will credit you with a £10 Amazon voucher as a thank you.

If you love audiobooks, you will enjoy being a member; one credit per month to fill your device up with new stories.

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A Debate on Prologues: Guest Post by Lexi Rees

Today I am delighted to welcome, children’s author, Lexi Rees to my blog.

Children's author, Lexi ReesLexi is the creator of a wonderful children’s adventure series (The Relic Hunters) and more recently published a book that introduces children to the pleasures of creative writing.

When I first spoke to Lexi, she couldn’t decide on what type of article to write that wasn’t purely ‘kids related.’

So she instead opted for something a little different; something that would open up an interesting debate for all authors and that topic is whether or not to include a prologue in your book.

So without further preamble, it is over to you Lexi.

Prologues are controversial for authors, dividing people as firmly as a Marmite/ Vegemite debate. Personally, I find them helpful to get me into a story quickly, if they are only a page or two. After all, if you were there, in the author’s world, you would have a vague idea of the context/ background/ scene before the story itself unfolds. But I do agree, a prologue that is really a chapter in itself, is probably not doing its job.

Anyway, conscious of the polarised views, my early drafts of Eternal Seas did not have a prologue in them.

The problem was, I then found myself writing in a lot of back story. Beta reader feedback on the back story was as brutal as only an eight-year-old can be, so I ripped it all out and wrote a short prologue. I can’t describe how hugely relieved I felt after I did that. All the clunky back story bits had gone and a weight was lifted from me, and also from the plot.

The whole story just ran so much more smoothly, and helped the pace throughout the book. So here it is …

Prologue

Defeated by the Earth Lords during the Last War, the other clans were forced deep into hiding, locking away their powers in mysterious relics.

As the centuries passed, people forgot these powers ever existed. They faded into myths and legends, bedtime stories for children about magical people who could control the waves and walk amongst the clouds.

Today we go about our daily lives, unaware of how ordinary we have become.

But not everyone forgot.

The guardians, who protect the relics, did not forget.

The clan elders, who wait patiently, did not forget.

And Sir Waldred, the ruthless leader of the Earth Lords, will never forget. He will not stop until the relics are found … and destroyed. Only then will his reign be unchallenged. Forever.

We didn’t know it that morning, but our lives were about to become much less ordinary, and a lot more dangerous.

What do you think? Are you a prologue fan or not

Book cover Eternal Seas by Lexi Rees

Thanks, Lexi. I personally think that is a fabulous prologue, as it gives a flavour of some mystery about to be unravelled. The best prologues for me contain gripping scenes like this, that reel you in. It could be scene from the past or something that is yet to transpire, but fills me with a hankering to know more. How do others feel?

Giveaway

To celebrate the publication of Wild Sky on 28th November, Lexi is running a competition to win The Relic Hunters series.
You can enter here https://kingsumo.com/g/dpaovz/the-relic-hunters-giveaway

Buying links

http://viewbook.at/CreativeWritingSkills

http://viewbook.at/EternalSeas

http://viewbook.at/WildSky

Book cover Wild Skies by Lexi Rees

About Lexi

Lexi Rees was born in Scotland but now lives down south. She writes action-packed adventures and workbooks for children.

The Relic Hunters #1, Eternal Seas, was awarded a “loved by” badge from LoveReading4Kids and is currently long-listed for a Chanticleer award. The sequel, Wild Sky, is out on the 28th November.

She’s passionate about developing a love of reading and writing in children and, as well as her Creative Writing Skills workbook, she has an active programme of school visits and other events, is a Book PenPal for three primary schools, and runs a free online #kidsclub and newsletter which includes book recommendations and creative writing activities.

Creative Writing Skills: over 70 fun activities for kids by Lexi Rees

In her spare time, she’s a keen crafter and spends a considerable amount of time trying not to fall off horses or boats.

You can follow Lexi via her social media links:

Website https://lexirees.co.uk/

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

Twitter https://twitter.com/lexi_rees

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/lexi.rees/

Thanks, Lexi, for opening up a most interesting discussion. This series sounds like it could be right up my street (even at my age!) but a great choice for kids who like a bit of adventure. Best of luck with the new book!

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My 2019 Holiday #BookBlog

Holiday reading by the poolWith a weeks holiday ahead of us, a chance to unwind , I was very much looking forward to catching up on some essential reading time. So with three books on at the top of my TBR list, which one to read first? A twisty psychological thriller – a romantic comedy – or a dark dystopian tale. Sod it, I thought, I’ll start all three and see which takes my fancy.

About the Books

We landed at Nice Airport. With my husband stuck in a car hire queue for an hour and a half, I was sweltering in my leggings, socks and boots. (I don’t recommend Gold Cars!) So what better diversion from such stress than a gentle romance. By the time we finally left I was smiling, having ploughed through two chapters of ‘Maybe Baby’ by Carol Thomas. Settling down in the evening with a glass of wine, I knew I’d be doing some writing of my own soon, so to get into the zone I opened ‘We Were Sisters’ by Wendy Clarke (psychological thrillers are my genre at the moment.) Come morning, I was thinking about my current WIP (which has been off the boil of late) and before the crack of dawn, I was re-shuffling the whole script in my head. A good start. But it was only a little later by the pool side , I couldn’t resist dipping into the dystopian novel.

All three books were very different but seemed to balance each other perfectly, affording a much pleasurable reading experience. ‘We Were Sisters’ was indeed gripping and packed with psychological suspense; ‘Maybe Baby’ had great characters, a lovely tale of friendship; and ‘Hope’ had a bit of both, a suspenseful storyline that had me hooked as well as characters I could fall in love with.

My Reviews

A full length review of each book can be viewed on Goodreads. But I would like to share an extract (and hope the authors don’t mind me pinching their Twitter graphics.)

Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas

Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas

Maybe Baby (Lisa Blake #2)Maybe Baby by Carol Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading the Purrfect Petsitter on holiday last year, I was looking forward to the sequel. With engaging characters, light romance, enduring friendships and lots of humorous animal shenanigans (loved the one about the kitten stuck up a tree – been there!), I got straight back into the world of Lisa Blake. And I couldn’t wait to catch up with the next instalment of her life.

Newly re-discovered love, Nathan, is so adorable and every woman’s hero. But when Lisa discovers a half naked woman (who has not long taken a shower in his flat) you wonder what secrets lurk in his past, especially the way she winds her up about it. This is a story about coming clean and facing up to life’s ups and downs, past present and future. It has after all, been many years since their school days and even with the flush of a new romance on the horizon, how much do they really know about each other? | Read More |

We Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke

We Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke

We Were SistersWe Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I do like psychological thrillers. Kelly comes across as a much troubled woman, struggling with a new baby, getting her twin girls to school on their first day (one confident, one shy) but from the moment Noah’s pram is moved and she finds a locket engraved with the word ‘sister’ you just know from her very reaction she is scared stiff. Such fear, such anxiety, coupled with an obvious OCD (the constant counting). I sense something is haunting her and then the truth of her childhood begins to unravel…

Kelly has suffered a lack of love from her parents, the only excitement in her life the arrival of a new sibling. With so many foster kids coming and going, you start to wonder why her mum and dad can’t find a little more room in their hearts for her… that is until a mysterious girl called Freya arrives. Pale skinned and mute, she is an enigma, a girl you desperately want to know more about. | Read More |

Hope by Terry Tyler

Hope by Terry Tyler

HopeHope by Terry Tyler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I rarely read dystopian books because I find them a bit scary. Yet from the blurb (and reviews I caught on Twitter), I became evermore intrigued and wow! What a story! I struggled through the first chapters with a frown on my face, thinking ‘Hell, this depicts just about everything in Britain I fear; automated machines replacing humans, giant corporations swallowing up the smaller companies, more and more people put out of work, food banks, spiralling rents, cuts in social provision, less affordable housing and an ultimate increase in homelessness. By the fourth chapter, I found myself nodding in places, reciting parts to my husband… this is happening now! ‘Hope’ is a wake up call, a chilling depiction of where this country could be heading if we allow it.

I loved the main characters. Dystopian or not, it is the people at the heart of this book that captivated me; from the cheerful camaraderie to a fight for survival. |Read More |

Thanks go out to these talented authors for giving me so much entertainment. This was binge reading at its best! Now back to the challenge of creating something brilliant myself… (one can dream!)

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Escape to the French Riviera

View from GourdonImagine a retreat in the French Riviera, an area of such beauty and not just that; a place to unwind totally, learn meditation, yoga and discover a whole new lifestyle. With life on a downward spiral, since my husband’s mum ended up in hospital, we were lucky to get a chance to go back there…

So what drew us there in the first place?

In 2009 we met a lady named Penny Burns who needed help setting up a website. Penny is one of the most inspirational people I have met and not only teaches Meditation and Yoga in her gorgeous retreat in the mountains but has developed a holistic healing program to combat the stresses and strains of modern day living. Having beaten an aggressive form of skin cancer (in which she was told she had a 10% chance of survival), Penny is living proof that a change in lifestyle can work wonders for the mind, body and spirit.

You can read about Penny’s personal journey on her website: https://meditate4life.co.uk/introduction/

Penny’s villa is located at the top of a narrow and unbelievably steep road, which twists its way into the mountains, but has a view to die for. What a joy to begin each morning on the balcony, feasting on French bread, cheese, eggs, ham, gazing across a vista of wooded peaks, stretching all the way out to sea. If that wasn’t enough, the villa has a private pool and is beautifully furnished with colour and art all around.

Balcony at the villa

View from the villa

In the time we spent with Penny we enjoyed several dinners (I love cooking abroad) but in addition, she took us on a local walk. Drawn up shady, wooded paths, scattered with boulders, to reach the top of the mountain, we found the views up there even more stunning. Last but not least, we enjoyed a session of Amrit Yoga, which involved much stretching, followed by Nidra Yoga, where Penny guided through breathing and relaxation techniques, to enter a deeply relaxed state.

Furthermore, she offered us plenty of advice with regards the best local markets and places to visit, so here are our favourite beauty spots.

Highly Recommended

Tourettes-Sur-Loup: we visited for market day but explored the Medieval part of town with its winding labyrinths, lovely gift shops and flower-filled courtyards.

Tourette-sur-Loup

Stopping at the supermarket, we stocked up on fresh fish and shellfish to make our very own ‘Marmite de Poissons’ and garlic bread using a leftover baguette.

Marmite de Poissons

Gourdon: a winding ribbon of road draws you through outstandingly gorgeous scenery with stops to enjoy the views.

Gourdon mountain village

Gourdon itself is a pretty hilltop village with amazing views across the mountains and a great place to shop for for gifts.

Gourdon

Valbonne Market is huge! Being a wonderful place to browse, rich in sights and smells, it is impossible to resist such temptations as air-dried ham, honey, herbes de Provence, chimney cake and local wild mushrooms. I was in my element.

Mushrooms from Valbonne

We visited Grasse on the same day. You can visit the Fragonard Perfume Factory for free but we enjoyed exploring narrow alleyways, lined with tall houses in colours of pink, peach, cream and yellow, not to mention shops packed pottery and delicacies.

Grasse in the French Riviera

My favourite place was Paul-St-Vence, a haven for art lovers and stuffed with galleries. This little village winds its way up the mountain and with so many secret alleyways, luring you to hidden treasures.

Added to lovely views we discovered beauty in every corner. This a place I would be happy to revisit again and again and as far as places go, it ticked all the boxes.

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On the writing front, I found time to tinker with my new book and even started editing it. Stumbling through the first chapter, the sun rose at 7:00am and cast its fiery rays across the mountains, filling my environment with a warm orange and pink glow… and suddenly I was on fire, where I couldn’t hammer the keyboard fast enough, at the same time getting a complete re-write planned. It was a good feeling while it lasted but now we are home, the same pressures prevail. I am sure I will get back to it one day but for now it is nice to relive our memories of France, a most beautiful retreat, away from the trials and tribulations of normal every day life.

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From Autumnal Beauty to Life Changing Fears

Today feels strange. This time last week, we were enjoying a beautiful autumnal walk in West Sussex, picking blackberries, chatting to friends and I was telling my friend, Maureen, (who has worked in the NHS as a nurse and an allergy consultant) how worried I was about my in-laws. Now one week later their lives have been turned upside down.

A Stressful Year

To summarise, Peter’s dad, Tony, had to give up driving in May. He was unwell. No-one knew this but after having his diuretic medicine withdrawn without explanation, he was suffering from excess fluid retention, then had two car crashes in a single afternoon and wrote off his car and one other. Thank God no-one was hurt. But he has a permanent catheter now and with social services and nurses stretched to breaking point, it is Peter’s mum, Joyce who has taken on 100% of his care. Sorting his catheter bags out, day and night, would be stressful for anyone but at 91 years of age, she has found it hard to cope since no assistance is available. We do everything we can to help, from trips out to taking them shopping and to the doctors but I asked Maureen if there was anything else we could do to alleviate Joyce’s burden. Last week she developed a rash, only to be told she had shingles (hardly a wonder considering the stress in her life).

She gave us the number of One Call, based at Bognor Hospital, where all the community nursing team are based. Suggested we spoke to one of the Bersted Green District Nurses. Despite our explanation and pleas though, they could not help. This was despite Maureen’s concerns: “It needs sorting before mum ends up in hospital too.”

Sadly things have taken a turn for the worse. Joyce was given a strong codeine based pain killer which made her dizzy and sick. Later that afternoon, she tripped over and hit her head, resulting in a swollen egg sized bruise. As if this wasn’t bad enough, she suffered another fall two days later and was admitted to hospital with a fractured hip. The bruising on her face is horrific but one cannot imagine the impact the surgery has had. In the meantime, Tony is at home, a 91 year old man with dementia, complex health issues and there is still no help available, despite all One Call’s reassurances, (given their extenuating circumstances). Needless to say this has been a traumatic week for the whole family.

All the while Joyce is in hospital, she is being looked after but the thought of her coming home terrifies me. Peter and I are lucky to live a few doors away. But they are two vulnerable elderly people, who have no help, left very much to the mercy of fate in the hours we cannot be there. With the current state of affairs, it is unlikely she will even get a nurse popping by to check up on her in the aftermath of her surgery.

We will have to await the outcome…

Am I Still Writing?

Yes and no. Rosebrook Chronicles is currently being produced as an audio book which I am really excited about. The recordings have been done and I am listening to the stories. The voices, the conflict and the way my own fiction is coming to life is quite surreal.

My newer work of fiction, however, is definitely on the back burner. Earlier this month we lost our faithful dog, Barney, our gorgeous white cat, Theo, in June and with this latest crisis concerning Peter’s parents, my mind is too clogged with sadness to find any inspiration. There simply isn’t room for creativity at the moment.

I did however, manage to get some more research done, thanks to an author friend, Dan Jones. Dan worked in a number of children’s homes in the 90s (the same era my book is set) and was happy to share lots of anecdotes relating to his experiences. Furthermore, I had a chat with his friend, a man who lived in and out of care before suffering problems such as alcohol, drugs and homelessness. How strange this mirrors my character, Joe Winterton, who endures much the same fate (with the addition of getting into crime and serving time in prison before ending up on the streets.) My other main character, Maisie, is a young woman who bumps into him 20 years later and helps him back on his feet. Yet in the back of their minds lurks the mystery of their friend, Sam. In 1995 Sam disappeared and nobody knows what happened to him, an answer they pledge to solve.

Trees at night time taken on a journey through Climping, part of the research for my new book.

I am looking forward to integrating these new insights into the story but only when the time is right. I was hoping to have a first draft in place by the end of the year, but can’t make any promises. We just need to get our lives back on track first.

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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!

Posted in Guest Posts, Novel, The Decades, Writing | 2 Comments

Eulogy to a Special Friend

In loving memory of Barney

Scotland with our beloved border collie, Barney

You were one of two brothers in need of a loving home. When we met you at the rescue Centre in Liss, the moment you trotted through the door, your chocolate brown eyes met mine and I felt an instant bond. What a wonderful day that was when they told us said we could adopt you.

Eleven years later, it feels hard to imagine where that time has gone but these are just a sample of the memories we hold in our hearts for you.

You loved your walks, especially on the beach. Winter took on a special meaning, the days getting shorter, as you bathed in the sunset.

Gorgeous winter sunsets on Bognor Beach.

Then came the snow, a thick white carpet in West Park where you played football with other dogs. I’ll never forget how much you loved that baggy old football!

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In the summer you became a big part of our holidays. Our first was in Dulverton with my family, days when you loved kids throwing stones in the river and we watched with pleasure as you dived in to retrieve them. I never met a dog who so much enjoyed swimming either, seeing your little head bobbing along in the river when we stayed at Sandy Balls in the New Forest.

Barney after his swim. We sourced a doggy bathrobe (though I was reminded of the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood dressed as Grandma.)

Our favourite holidays were in the UK as you were a very special part of them. Ever since you became a part of our life we explored new places; Scotland, Cumbria, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, the Cotswolds, Cornwall and Wales.

Barney got to ride on a steam train in Yorkshire.

Securely nestled in a holiday cottage.

In a dog friendly cafe in Hebdon Bridge.

Fun and games in Camarthen, Wales.

The best ideas for my novels arose when we were walking along the beach. I still write. Yet this morning I was aware the huge empty space on the floor where you should have been lying. I’ll forever cherish the companionship you gave me in the morning.

It seems strange not to hear your incessant barking when people knock on the door. You always yearned to protect us, a devotion that manifested itself in the way your eyes used to follow us.

The silence in our house feels very deep right now but your presence resonates in our thoughts.

We miss you dearly old friend. You gave us eleven wonderful years and we will treasure every single one of them.

Taking a well earned rest in Ferryside.

Posted in England, Environment, Locations, Story | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fundraising Book Stall at Arundel Festival

Oh, how life has changed this year and I am yet to rise to the biggest challenge ever! Organising of our annual CHINDI event at Arundel Festival, selling signed paperbacks to raise funds for Cancer Research UK.

CHINDI Authors at Arundel Festival 2017

CHINDI Authors Arundel Festival 2017 (managed by Carol Thomas, top left, and Dan Jones, bottom right)

Our stand at Arundel Festival began in 2016 with the authors networking group, CHINDI (Celebrating and Helping Indie Authors). It was launched by fellow author, Carol Thomas, who writes heart-warming romantic comedy, and turned out to be our most successful venture to date. CHINDI not only smashed their target to sell 100 books but raised an amazing £308.63 for Cancer Research.

Carol has successfully run the event for 3 years with the help of her husband and author Dan Jones but decided to step down this year to enjoy a well earned break with her family. Taking on the role of a director last year however, we agreed that if CHINDI was to repeat the event, it was up to us,  the new directors to organise it.

I have a new title out this year, Rosebrook Chronicles the Hidden Stories, so this is a chance to publicise it and sell some signed copies, alongside my other 5 books. Yet in another it is nice to do something worthwhile, to get together with a bunch of like-minded authors and raise a bit for charity. Arundel Festival itself is a wonderful event, a week in August when the streets come alive with colour, live music, arts and crafts, and many other attractions. As far as selling books this has always been a most fruitful event for CHINDI Authors so let’s hope that we are in for another good year.

Books by Helen J Christmas on sale at Arundel Festival

Brand new Paperbacks, Rosebrook Chronicles and ‘Same Face Different Place’ books 1-5 ready to be signed.

The Festival runs from August 16th – 26th 2o19 and you will find us outside the Cancer Research Charity Shop, as you come into the town. I am there on Saturday 17th, Monday morning, August 19th, Thursday 22nd and Bank Holiday Monday 26th.

Apart from the Festival, Arundel is an idyllic Sussex town with a beautiful old castle, a cathedral and along the banks of the river Arun, you will discover Swanbourne Lake (for boating and picnics) as well as a Wild fowl and Wetland Centre. The festival itself in an extra attraction with entertainment for all the family, lovely pubs, tea rooms and plenty of tantalising street food.

Am I looking forward to it? Of course! But I won’t deny I am a bit nervous.

I would therefore like to extend my gratitude to all the volunteers who are helping me, especially Carol Thomas, Rosemary Noble, Gunvor Johansson, Patricia Feinberg Stoner and Julia Macfarlane. For a full line up of authors attending and their books, see the blog on our CHINDI website: https://www.chindi-authors.co.uk/chindi-authors-return-to-arundel-festival-for-their-4th-year/

UPDATE: after a very successful week with plenty of sunshine, CHINDI Authors helped raise over £286 for the charity. Thanks to all who supported us.

Posted in Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments