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.

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Website: http://www.samefacedifferentplace.com/

First Book Review for 2021

Forest in Scotland

It is rare I dedicate an entire post to a book review, but this deserves some recognition.

For the benefit of the unconverted, I’ll explain something about the series first. ‘Six Stories’ by Matt Wesolowski is unlike anything I have read. These novels do not follow a conventional story arc. They are unique. The what is going to happen has happened, but what lurks beneath the story? Six Stories is more of an aftermath, a series of podcasts, in which six people pick over the bones of what they think happened… it is up to you, the reader, to work it out.

DEITY (SIX STORIES #5)

Journalist, Scott King, reviews a case, interviews six different people over the death of an enigmatic pop star, Zach Crystal. Think ‘The Beatles,’ ‘The Bay City Rollers’ and it may call to mind thousands of hysterical fans – something akin to religion…

But with super stardom comes a sense of invincibility. Starting out with sister, Naomi, the ‘Crystal Twins’ hit fame in the 90s until eventually, Zach goes solo. Just before his death, darker rumours about the megastar begin to surface; chilling video footage of two girls trapped in a cave, sobbing and terrified. And in a case similar to Jimmy Savile’s, accusations of abuse come crawling out of the shadows.

Who is lying?
Who is telling the truth and at what price?

This fascinating medley of view points inspired me to make some comparisons of my own, thoughts I’d like to share.

DEITY (Six Stories #5) by Matt Wesolowski

Episode 1: Monster Busters

You’ve heard of online grooming, internet predators using fake portraits on social media to attract victims. This phenomenon appeared in Matt’s second series, Hydra: Monster Busters (or pedophile hunters), adults who pose as children to entrap the online groomers – and if they agree to meet – game’s up! Here, we meet Ian Julius who claims to have caught Crystal trying to arrange meetings with underage girls but as the ultimate iconoclast, is turned into a figure of hate. 

I had to ask myself why?

If someone is famous enough, they become almost untouchable, while genuine cases, where youngsters are abused sexually by their ‘heroes’ are not believed. The ‘accusers’ are threatened or compensated. Likewise, Ian the monster buster suffers trial by media, with sparse evidence to prove what he’s uncovered about the star. The upshot is Crystal turns the tide, suing the Monster Buster £millions after his claims go public. 

Think Jimmy Savile, a man who covered up vile abuse against victims for decades and got away with it. Could this be a similar story?

Episode 2: Zach Crystal Stan

The second character Scott interviews disputes such claims, YouTuber and super fan, Sasha Stewart. In the first part of her podcast, Sasha lashes out at Crystal’s accusers. Dismisses their claims as ‘bullshit,’ quick to demonise them for exploiting the megastar to make money. In Sasha’s eyes, Crystal can do no wrong, a benevolent star who invited vulnerable girls in care to stay in his amazing woodland fairyland. He donated masses to charity and she is 100% dedicated to defending him.

Think Michael Jackson, another megastar who built an ultimate fantasy attraction.

This episode put forward a different perspective, one I could easily be swayed by. I never believed the stories about MJ, a child like figure, if not a modern day ‘Peter Pan’ who lived in a surreal bubble. The similarities are unnerving, victims offered huge sums in compensation. It begs the question were these stars easy targets to exploit?

Yet in another way I was reminded of the Rochdale abuse scandal. These too were ‘vulnerable girls,’ groomed and raped by a gang of Muslim men but instead of arresting the perpetrators, police feared the right wing backlash. Worst was the way the victims (some as young as 12) were portrayed, as if they were to blame.

Episode 3: The Secrets of the Whispering Wood

With extracts from a live interview between podcasts, this episode is quite spooky, but I’ve started to notice a common theme. All ‘Six Stories’ books include some folklore or monster in the background; in the first it was the hideous Marsh Hag, Nanna Wrack, ‘Black Eyed Kids’ in ‘Hydra’, the ‘wood-knockers’ in ‘Changeling’ and a vampire in ‘Beast.’ Deity unmasks a terrifying creature, known as a Frithghast, some form of apparition that takes the form of a deer, half rotted, exposing glowing red eyes and antlers. 

Local groundskeeper, Craig, describes the legend; a man employed to manage Crystal’s estate, a vast area of forest in the Scottish Highlands, where the megastar created his famous treehouse lit with fairy lights. Craig has seen the fans Crystal invites here (12-15 year old girls from troubled home backgrounds, or in care). But whilst security is tight, there is something sinister in the atmosphere. Rumours of the Frithghast abound, alluding to the video footage at the start… and it’s a bit gruesome.

Nothing is conclusive, only that it ends when Scott discovers a note left on his windscreen, a lead to the next interview…

Episode 4: The Special Girls

Here we meet Marie Owen, mother of one of the girls who stayed at Crystal Forest. This I found a particularly sad episode, in so much as her daughter vanished to join a vigil of mourning fans. All I discovered in this episode was how obsessed and infatuated the girls became with their idol and it made me wonder if they were looking for an escape, or a crutch, in a similar way to religion.

This story is of a mother’s pain, someone who has tried everything possible to fulfil the her daughter’s dream, yet lost her in the process. Furthermore, she is vilified in the media – so I have to ask:

Why did the megastar choose to rehouse them, from a council estate to some exquisite mansion? Was this an act of kindness or a means of compensation to suppress something more sinister?

Episode 5: You Get to Go Home

Remember Skexxixx, from Hydra, a fictitious superstar in his own right? Describing the religious care home he was brought up in and manipulated into thinking he was evil, he tells of a secret alliance with the megastar, in so much as he was contracted to write his songs after the split from his sister. Conversely, he has also recognised a darkness in him. 

“Something evil lived inside that man. Something cold.”

There is an unusual thread to this story, one that intrigues me, that when Zach Crystal went solo, he and Skexxixx formed an almost symbiotic relationship and he dated his sister, Naomi. Throughout this podcast he reveals that Zach was no angel and no genius so how did he became almost God-like?

This naturally leads into a discussion about the victims – or ‘accusers’ as they are called with a very interesting play on words: “If I punched you in the face right at this moment and you called the cops, you’d be the victim of an assault by Skexxixx; you wouldn’t be ‘Scott King the Skexxixx accuser.’”

This once again highlights the power surrounding the megastar.

Episode 6: Being Nobody

There are many strings to this story; a disgraced star, the unaccountable death of his friend, James Cryer, in the forest, a terrifying legend, accusations of former fans, the enigma surrounding Crystal’s temporary disappearance, a live TV interview in which he announced a sudden come-back and finally his demise. 

Zach Crystal’s woodland mansion and tree house were destroyed in a fire, where it is believed that he too, perished. But the loose ends floating around in the ether are too numerous, to an extent that no one really has a clue what happened.

I am not going to say much about Episode 6 but it blew me away; the man behind the mask revealed, the truth of his death and that of his friend explained in a manner that ties up the entire mystery. After reading all episodes, this book concludes with such a brilliant twist, I cannot tell you how chilled I feel… 

You just have to read it.

Dark misty forest in Scotland used to Portray the book DEITY (Six Stories #5) by Matt Wesolowski

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!)

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…

Book 3 Pleasures Published on Amazon

On Easter Sunday (April 5th) 2015, I formatted and published the 3rd book in my ‘Same Face Different Place’ series, PLEASURES.

The title seems apt. Writing this book has indeed been a ‘pleasurable’ experience, but at the same time it’s been quite an emotional journey for me. It has combined some hard-hitting action thriller scenes with the tender processes of growing up, as the children from VISIONS evolve into young adults.

Cover Design for the Kindle Version
Cover Design for the Kindle Version

Hovering in the background of everyone’s lives are the fragments of a conspiracy which began in the 70s – a situation where everyone is starting to pick up the idea, there’s something very sinister going on – and none more than Eleanor’s son, Elijah. It is a situation which is exacerbated when a tidal wave of crime hits Rosebrook (fictitious setting of this story, a small town in Kent, south of Bromley).

The story’s main character, Eleanor, meanwhile, is hell bent on following the clues to solve this mystery as she continues to add to her ‘secret file.’

It is an ambition draws her to London (often in disguise) knowing her arch enemy, Perry has her constantly under watch – and where she is about to discover secrets which leave her stunned. But her research carries terrible risk and it is in the last section of this story, when her enemies up their offensive, leading to a situation more threatening than could be imagined.

Pleasures is a romantic British based thriller with a flavour of the late 80s/early 90s Rave culture; and centred around a 1970s political conspiracy.

Lastly, I have decided to end this piece with a summary of my own personal journey in writing his book.

October 2013 Got my first ideas and began writing on the 17th: It’s starting again…. I seem to get my best ideas when I’m walking the dog – 8th October 2013

sunset1

January 2014 Took a trip up to London to visit Pimlico (where arch villain Perry owns a house). The trip was primarily to visit my niece, Chloe, who was living in London for a while, but a valuable opportunity to look around a place I have never before been. I never did write a post about this trip but Chloe also took me on a walk through central London, which provided further inspiration for me to mention other areas such as Soho, Chinatown and Leicester Square.

Warwick Square Pimlico
Warwick Square Pimlico

June 2014 Got about 25 chapters drafted out and had to stop, simply because the climax of Part 3 left me in an emotion turmoil. It was time to pause, reflect and edit in preparation for the 4th and final part: 1st Edit of Pleasures gets underway – 3rd July 2014

July 2014 Followed this up with the post What is Pleasures about? 4th July 2014

young-lovers-light

September 2014 Finished the first edit and with a good idea how I was going to finish the book, I pushed ahead with the 4th and final section. It was on September 24th when I took another journey to London to visit the Old Bailey – which is one of the most valuable pieces of research I did and great inspiration for writing those court scenes.

The Old Bailey

October 2014 I wrote the 1st Synopsis for Book 3 Pleasures – 16th October 2014

November 2014 I released the 1st 7 Chapters (Part 1 The Battle for the Land) as a prelude free to anyone eager for a sample: New release in the Same Face Different Place Series – 28th November 2014

Book 3 Pleasures

In December 2014 I published a little paperback version of that prelude as a keepsake: One Groovy Little Paperback – 17th December 2014

Book 3 Pleasures by Helen J. Christmas

April 2014 FINALLY I finished the book. By this time the whole book had been read by 3 people whose feedback was a Godsend. This enabled me to successfully carry out the 2nd and 3rd edits as well as the ‘fine tuning’ of each chapter. It has now been published (as I write this blog) and here is the link on Amazon: http://apn.to/prod/B00VOTFZ1K

HAPPY READING!

 

One Groovy Little Paperback – 17th December 2014

Following on from my last post, I decided to publish my 3rd novel on Amazon, so there are now 3 books in the ‘Same Face Different Place’ series.

Same Face Different Place Pleasures

In the last post, I wanted to offer the prelude FREE as a gift to all those who enjoyed other books in the series and wanted a little taste of Book 3 ‘Pleasures’ in advance of its release in Spring 2o15. However, there haven’t been that many takers! I guess everyone is just inundated with free books at the moment – especially with Kindle Unlimited – where the privilege of offering our books as freebies has lost its appeal.

I felt the best way forward was therefore just to get it on Amazon anyway where it cannot be offered free, but at least it’s out there. I spent the best part of a weekend, typesetting a printed version on Createspace. However, when the proof copy turned up a couple of weeks later, I couldn’t have been more delighted with it! I created the cover using two library shots from 123RF and with its ghostly blue forest and architectural plans, it depicts the story very well. It’s a little smaller than the other two books too as I opted for the 5.5cm x 8.5cm.

But it is a really sweet little book.

Book 3 Pleasures by Helen J. Christmas

 There’s nothing quite like holding a real book in your hands, knowing this is something you have created yourself. In fact, I have to admire Createspace and Amazon, for making this possible. Without this self-publishing platform, none of this would be possible. It’s a wonderful platform for authors and I have to confess I’ve very pleased with the result.

Click here to view the new release on Amazon.

Readers can still enjoy this book FREE, by the way, with no strings attached. Visit my previous post for details.