A Psychological Thriller in #Sussex

With publication of LETHAL TIES less than a week away, I’ve been writing about my characters, the psychological issues that affect their lives, but this weeks post is about my book’s all important location: West Sussex.

Bognor Regis

I’ve lived here since 1996 and despite some of the adverse (and in my opinion), unfair publicity, Bognor in fact, boasts more hours of sunshine than anywhere in the UK, has a lovely stretch of beach and a unique coastal landscape to the west. The rocks lining the shore (Bognor Rocks) are haven to many fossils, a mysterious sight at low tide, even more so behind a sea mist or in the fading light of a sunset.

Bognor Beach

Woven into in the storyline, Sussex residents will recognise some familiar haunts: from meetings in the Waverley pub on the seafront, to a meal at Mamma Mia, and there is even a touch of romance when two character dine at Sen Tapas.

Bognor town centre features, as does the Job Centre and Marine Park Gardens. Maisie has a flat in Annadale Avenue (chosen for it’s proximity to the Station, a sneaky escape route through a garden) and Joe gets a job in Sainsbury’s as an online shopper, (a job I was hired for myself in 2016).

I have already mentioned the sea mists in Bognor Regis and in one scene, this creates an eerie atmosphere when characters find themselves at the centre of a police investigation.

sussex and the south downs

The story begins in Bognor. Maisie finds her old friend, Joe, sleeping rough in the beach hut opposite the Waverley and helps him to turn his life around.

That is, before Joe receives vile abuse on twitter. Clues in the tweets suggest they could be in danger but with a build up of suspense, one character is drawn further afield to other areas in West Sussex, fascinated by the countryside and various beauty spots.

Eartham

Nestling on the edge of the South Downs sits the village of Eartham, its idyllic pub, the George, and the Woods beyond. But when Maisie is invited on an impromptu day out, she has no idea what is in store for her.

The George at Eartham
The George is a pub where the characters enjoy Sunday Lunch
Eartham Woods
A lovely place for a walk… but for Maisie, forests cause panic.
Views from Goodwood Trundle
The view from Goodwood Trundle
The Pergola at West Dean Gardens
The Pergola at West Dean Gardens

The day takes many twists and turns. After nearly suffering a panic attack in Eartham Woods, (as a result of her phobia) she suggests heading over Goodwood way and a visit to West Dean Gardens, one of her favourite places. West Dean Gardens is an impressive estate which looks stunning in all seasons, notable for its pergola, mature trees and walled Victorian kitchen gardens.

“… as we strolled across the lawn, I could not wait to show him the pergola; a spectacular three-hundred-foot Edwardian walkway paved in flagstone. 
An air of mystery immersed us as we followed the path to the end; the climbing plants twisting around the pillars, a riot of wild roses fragrant against the feathery purple plumes of wisteria…”

East Lavant

The concluding part of the story takes place in East Lavant, a tiny village just outside Chichester. Maisie is lured to a mysterious but beautiful cottage nestling in the countryside beyond the village. Could this be the house of her dreams?

East Lavant, near Chichester

There is something about the remote woodland location that evokes suspicion in Joe. All he wants to do is protect Maisie yet fears she is becoming isolated. From the first trip to East Lavant however, the story gathers momentum, before the mystery that’s haunted them since childhood is revealed…

Pagham

The story ends in Pagham, with reference to the tranquil harbour, a nesting place for migrating birds and the tiny white herons known as egrets. Where do the characters go from here? You’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve, West Sussex

My debut Sussex based psychological thriller LETHAL TIES will be published this coming Sunday (April 18th 2021) and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

It will soon be available in paperback too, and I am hoping to hold a Bognor book launch in the summer.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog in the run up to LETHAL TIES being published. For more information, stay in touch by networking with me on social media.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/author.helenchristmas
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SFDPBeginnings
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/helenchristmas7/
Website: http://www.samefacedifferentplace.com/

Beautiful Spring Sunshine and Fresh Ideas

February has been an unexpected month full of highs and lows

Let’s start with the lows. I’ve been shocked to hear sad news from a few friends concerning unforeseen health problems, some life threatening. It makes you realise how temporary and fragile life can be, never knowing what is around the corner. I must confess the thought of that ‘split second life changing event’ terrifies me more than anything. Makes me thankful of each day I wake up healthy, especially in the aftermath of an intense bout of flu that put me out of action for the best part of a week, but hey, at least I am still here. The saddest news of all was the unexpected death of one of our walking group this week, a vibrant, lovely man who was fighting fit the last time we saw him. He and his wife were on the verge of emigrating to Australia to start a new life with their children. What a cruel blow fate can play!

It’s hard to feel positive in the light of such a tragedy but life must go on. On a more positive note, we’ve enjoyed some gorgeous walks of late with plenty of Spring sunshine. Work is good and on the writing front I have lots of fresh ideas.

This year I completed my latest work of fiction, Rosebrook Chronicles.

This book is a series of interlocking stories which fuse into a suspenseful saga, a contemporary blend of social history and domestic Noir. It follows the lives of three children, abused as teenagers, who strive to repair their broken lives. Each has their own story from battling past traumas to pursuing their dreams, to find love and re-establish broken family ties. But it is the inner stories of these characters that drive the plot, intended to keep the reader emotionally engaged and rooting for them to the end.

The book won’t be available for a while as it is currently being beta read, but a big thank you goes out to those who have offered to do this.

New Fiction

And while all this is going on, I am already plotting my next novel, a psychological thriller about three kids brought up in care, who share a secret. Twenty years later two characters, Maisie and Joe, meet again. Now in their thirties, they have never forgotten the bonds of friendship, nor the chilling disappearance of their friend, Sam. Consequentially, they are desperate to know what happened to him. I even have an idea for a cover, as shown in this creepy photo of trees.

Then believe it or not, I was driving home from Emsworth after a successful client meeting, when out of the blue popped up another idea for a book. Sophie’s Legacy is very much a concept at the moment but a project I cannot wait to start plotting (and only after I have written ‘Lethal Ties’ of course.)

What I am trying to say is cherish what you have and follow your dreams while they are fresh because you never know what tomorrow might bring.

A Debate on Self-Publishing – 25th June 2015

This week I found myself sat amidst a panel of local authors from our networking group, CHINDI for a lively Q&A session, in Chichester Library, to talk about the various paths we took in publishing.

A Big Turn out at Chichester Library Talk for CHINDI Authors Q&A Session
A Big Turn out at Chichester Library Talk for CHINDI Authors Q&A Session

I have to say I was a little amazed by the sheer volume of people pouring in through the door. One gentleman even said he’d heard something about us in the Telegraph. Yet it shows how much interest there is in self-published books. Where many years ago people turned their noses up if a book even showed a hint of being ‘self-published’ (and it used to be called ‘vanity publishing’) it is reassuring to know that “According to Jon Fine at the London Book Fair in April 2014, 30% of the top 100 books on Amazon are self-published – and that percentage is still rising.”

Hurrah to that – I enjoy a greater diversity of books which otherwise would have never seen the light of day if it hadn’t been for this flexible new platform. In the old days, the publishing industry was very controlling, thereby restricting the distribution of some great books I might never have discovered.

Now onto the discussion: Panel host Jill King and Jane Cable, (one of the other panel members) chose an author assisted program, known as Matador. They will provide a whole package: from cover design, formatting, publishing on Kindle and in Paperback – to offering marketing and PR services. They will even assist in the reviewing process via a website known as Netgalley – an excellent way of bumping up reviews as part of your book launch. Jane also used a professional editor to work with alongside a proofreader.

Authors Jeremy Good and Ray Green went their own separate ways in publishing their books, but used a selection of professional services; for example Ray used an editor but wasn’t entirely happy with the process – while both authors  had their book covers professionally designed and with excellent results. Jeremy used CreateSpace to publish his book, which is the route I took. Ray too now also uses CreateSpace. So they didn’t employ a company to handle the entire publishing process – just certain elements.

I am the one exception in so much as I did everything myself, mainly due to the fact that I regarded writing as more as a hobby than a profession and simply did not have the funds to invest in professional services at the time. So once I’d wrote my books, I did the editing and the proofreading myself – and coming from a design background with experience in photoshop, I designed my own covers too using library images.

Many of us have used Beta readers at some point (people who read a finished draft before it hits the market, to give an honest evaluation of the content). There are many routes open to authors (and believe me I would love to employ a few professionals to give my work a cutting edge) but most of all, writing is something we all enjoy and to be able to see your own book and hold it in your hands is well worth the time and the effort.

To conclude, this was a very enjoyable evening and the people who attended gave excellent feedback for our advice on self-publishing. I’d like to think a few have been inspired by us.

Jill King, Jane Cable, Jeremy Good,  Helen Christmas and Ray Green
Jill King, Jane Cable, Jeremy Good, Helen Christmas and Ray Green

Panel Host: Jill King, author of AITCH A Life in Colour (Biography)
Panel Members:
Jane Cable, author of ‘The Cheesemaker’s House‘ and ‘The Faerie Tree’ (Mystery Suspense)
Jeremy Good, author of ‘The Butcher’s Son‘ (WW2 Thriller)
Ray Green, author of ‘Buyout‘, ‘Payback’ and ‘Chinese Whispers’ (Corporate Thrillers)
Helen Christmas, author of ‘Beginnings,’ ‘Visions’ and ‘Pleasures’ (from the British Thriller Romance series ‘Same Face Different Place’)
Thanks also go out to Chris Casburn (Child author) who helped organise the event, Dan Jones, (author of Hypnotherapy Scripts) and his wife Abbie, who filmed the event and my Husband Peter, who was there to support me.

See the supporting article on our website: www.chindi-authors.co.uk/sell-out-event-at-chichester-library/

Roll up, roll up… for our 1st CHINDI Book Fair!

I have recently got together with a bunch of local authors in the Chichester area of West Sussex. But before I go on to talk about our group, I first of all want to plug our first public event, coming up this Saturday.

CHINDI BOOK FAIR – Saturday 8th March

This is a FREE event scheduled to take place at the New Park Centre Café from 9am-5pm. A group of local authors are setting up an exhibition of our published works, to talk about our books as well as our journey into self publishing. There are books from many genres: including children’s books, crime thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, mystery suspense, romance and alternative history – and of course, signed copies of the books will be available throughout the day.

For further information, check out our website www.chindi-authors.co.uk

screen grab of chindi website

We have a write up in the CHICHESTER OBSERVER this week and in addition, the Mayor & Mayoress of Chichester will be attending. But that’s not all…

To coincide with National Book Day, best selling Indie author, Ben Galley, is hosting a workshop: ‘Shelf-Help: An In-Depth Guide to Self-Publishing’, from 11am – 12pm. (Tickets for this event are £6)

Entrepreneur, Katy Lasseter and local self-published author Daniel Hobden will be offering a free talk at 2pm, on the importance of proof-reading, copywriting and marketing for the self-publishing author.

For those who like books, or are interested in writing and publishing, come along as this promises to be a great day. Refreshments will be available and we are also organising a BOOK SWAP – so any books you’ve read that are in good condition, bring them along and exchange them for another one.

How did CHINDI come about?

A little while ago I was approached by another local author, named Jeremy Good, who asked if I would be interested in participating in a book fair. It sounded exciting. I confess, public events such as book signings are something I have always been shy about – but I cannot deny I was intrigued. Just before Christmas, 5 of us met up for a drink and by the end of the meeting, I came away inspired. First, it was so nice to meet other authors face to face and share  writing experiences. In addition, we have agreed to support each other and work as a group to market ourselves as authors and get the type of publicity we deserve!

Photo of CHINDI authors
Founder Members of CHINDI L-R: Jeremy Good, Marion Kille, Christopher Joyce, Helen Christmas, Andrew Weaver

Independent authors don’t enjoy the same back up of PR as traditionally published authors. It is something we do ourselves and extremely hard work! I personally, am not really driven by sales; writing is something I enjoy and if several people get to read and enjoy my books, I feel honoured. Having said that though, it has been a lonely process. The marketing effort you can make as an individual is pretty fruitless, unless you are prepared to spend a lot of time and money on it. I see networking with a group of like-minded people, as a way forward – and hope that together, we can really make a difference to the success of our books.