The Finishing Touches

Bognor Beach

After two years writing my first psychological thriller I have finally reached the end, though looking back, it seems hard to believe it was in 2015 when the idea of this story first came to me. 

Inspiration

Walking the dog along the beach, reflecting on stuff in the news, I would occasionally stop to chat to a group of homeless men in one of the beach shelters – but somewhere in my sub-conscious mind, the threads of a new idea were beginning to unwind.

A professional career woman whose life appears balanced.
A homeless man who has lost his way in society.
Two characters poles apart, yet friends who share memories; a year they met in a children’s home, a sinister place where a third friend went missing.

This weekend, I will be sending the complete draft off to an editor. I won’t reveal who yet, but let’s say, I am both anxious and excited. 

So today I took another walk along the seafront and happy I chose my home town, Bognor, as the setting for this book. This blog is about some of the places I have featured but with many more to add as I go…

The Waverley Pub

The Waverley Pub. Bognor Seafront

The Waverley provides the local watering hole for main characters Maisie, her friend Jess, and later Joe. With outside seating it faces the sea. It was also at the Waverley I interviewed Graham (see previous post) so it has a special meaning now and a place I would most love to hold my launch.

Waverley Pub opposite the sea in Bognor

Mamma Mia Italian

This friendly Italian restaurant (which lies within walking distance from us) is a venue where two characters feel a first spark. It offers a nice selection of pizza and pasta dishes and just around the corner for a Waverley.

Mamma Mia Italian restaurant in Aldwick

Bognor Beach

Like Maisie I am always taking photos of the beach in different seasons which I like to post on Instagram. Her feed would be very much like mine, as mentioned during a conversation in Mamma Mia.

“Beach shots are my favourite. The way the light shines at different angles, it changes the colour of the sea…”
Scrolling through her photos, he understood her passion; the calmness of the sea at dawn so still it shone like glass – a stark contrast to the next image, a thunderous black sky folding shadows into the waves as they went galloping over the breakwaters.

My Instagram feed, showing beach shots

It is one of my favourite places for walking, where no two photos are the same depending on the time of day, the tide and weather.

Seaside Apartments

At least Jess doesn’t have to walk very far and with her own seaside apartment, she resides only a couple of blocks from the Waverley. The seafront is lined with flats, so it could be any one of these.

Bognor Promenade

The white posts at the bottom of the road led to the prom, the blueness of the sea dazzling. Gulls sat like sentinels upon a column of breakwaters and today it was high tide. Glancing out to sea, I heard an explosion of froth as the waves hit the shore, the rattle of pebbles that followed.

A bit like today then… a refreshing breeze perfect for blowing the cobwebs out and I always like to revisit the places I write about.

White posts at the bottom of Victoria Drive leading to Bognor Promenade

What will do with myself when this book goes off for a professional edit I do not know. Thinking about promotion, arranging blog tours for reviews, wondering whether to approach a few publishers or agents… we’ll see.

In the meantime I hope everyone gets to enjoy Christmas and let’s hope 2021 will be a better year.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Christmas is going to be different in 2020 but as a 2nd wave of coronavirus recedes and we enter a new tier system, one of the first things you notice is how much earlier people have been putting up their decorations. It’s been a horrible year for so many and for those who believe the pandemic was a huge Government conspiracy, take time to consider the 60,000 unnecessary deaths that occurred in the UK alone and what it feels like for millions of mourners across the globe who lost loved ones. So whatever we can do to inject a little cheer and love into this world, we should embrace it.

With a vaccine around the corner, finally there is hope. This must come as a great comfort to those who are shielding, such as the elderly but with Christmas around the corner we need to be there for each other like never before.

Writing Update

For the past two months I have been editing my book like crazy and love how it’s all coming together. I struggled with the first half for over a year but during the first lockdown, it finally began to take shape. I am days from finishing it now, and about to write the epilogue, before handing it over to an editor.

But in my last post, I also pledged to include a tribute to Graham Lovell, a local resident whose stories gave me much inspiration. I am pleased to say last weekend I wrote that tribute, a process that evoked heartache, more so when I saw Dan’s tribute on YouTube, snapshots of a friendship which lasted 23 years. It is a beautiful film and very moving, it captures the person Graham was, so I hope he won’t mind me sharing it.

Invisible Illness

With the impact the pandemic has had on mental health, it seems ever more important to recognise it. It can strike at any time, sometimes with devastating consequences. Anxiety, depression, insomnia, paranoia and panic attacks are things I have known in my own life and I feel blessed to have conquered them, through mindful practices such as positive thinking, keeping busy, creative hobbies (especially writing) and have the support of my loving husband and family.

There are people in our world who carry terrible sadness inside, but it is not always obvious until it is too late; a reason to keep in touch with each other, especially in these strange times. We might not be able to meet face to face, but we can still call each other, network on social media, Face time or zoom. Yes, it feels a bit weird and there was a time when I couldn’t imagine life would ever get back to normal, but at least there is hope. I would like think we will come out of this a more compassionate species and that somewhere, at the end of a very dark tunnel, a glimmer of light shines at the end.

Stories that tackle mental health issues

To end the year, I’d like to include some favourite books and as an avid reader have ploughed through some excellent novels but I especially want to concentrate on those that tackle mental health issues.

The Faerie Tree by Jane Cable
Deals with family bereavement, self-blame, depression and guilt.

Beast by Matt Wesolvski
Deals with the exploitation of vulnerable people with complex metal health issues

Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell
Tenant Lisa finds a hidden suicide note. The story is who wrote it and why?

I Found You by Lisa Jewell
A man is discovered sat on a remote beach in a fugue state. Deals with trauma.

The Secret by KL Slater
A story of how the burden of adult conflict and secrets can affect a child.

Sunset on Bognor Beach 2020

HAVE A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS.
SEE YOU IN 2021 WHERE HOPEFULLY I WILL BE PUBLISHING NEWS OF MY FIRST PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER.

Back to the Beginning

What Next?

Reaching the end of a long-running series feels strange but at the same time, therapeutic as if an enormous burden had been lifted. All the story lines I had planned from the beginning finally found their way into the story where each character had their own unique ending. The Kindle version went live Amazon in August and by the end of the month, my paperbacks too had arrived just in time for Arundel Festival.

Montage of Book Covers from the Same Face Different Place series

The final books of the series have gone down well and received some favourable reviews, starting with this most enthusiastic review from a Facebook Group!

Wow wow wow what a fantastic read…had me gripped from the start… this 5 set series is an absolute must buy…congratulations helen christmas this is your best yet

Delighted to embrace such praise keeps me motivated; but with time to fill (and not quite ready to start my next writing adventure), there is something I have been planning to do for a while now…

Re-visiting Book 1: Beginnings

Book cover for Same Face Different Place Book 1 Beginnings by Helen J ChristmasThe Same Face Different Place ‘Beginnings’ was written in 2011 and published in 2012. The story underwent further edits in 2015 but since finishing the series, my writing style improved considerably. Much of this was thanks to my friends who pointed out a few flaws in my writing. I was able to fix these issues for the 4th and 5th Books (Retribution) but it left me wondering if I should re-visit the 1st books again.

In many ways, it was really enjoyable looking back and while the story hasn’t changed in any way, another edit gave me a chance to improve the writing style, the descriptions and the characters. At the same time it put me right back in the zone; set in the 1970s, Beginnings is a very dark story, where the inherent fear and danger facing the main two characters reminded me of the most important selling points of this novel.

Link to PinterestRelive 197os London on my Pinterest Board

Arundel Festival

In actual fact the timing couldn’t be better. Feeling very much immersed in the setting of ‘Beginnings’ paid off, especially at Arundel Festival. I had more impetus to promote my book and actually felt quite passionate about it when I was describing it to people. As a result of my renewed enthusiasm, I made more sales than ever before.

With experience came confidence.

Our CHINDI Fundraising Book Stall at Arundel Festival.

I will also say, I thoroughly enjoyed managing the book stall with some of my fellow CHINDI authors. Our goal was to promote ourselves as local authors, sell each others books as well as our own, and make as much money for Cancer Research UK as possible. We were rewarded with beautiful sunny weather during the August Bank Holiday, a lovely Festival atmosphere and best of all we manage to raise nearly £500 for charity.

On to Book Promotion

In addition to my the edit of ‘Beginnings,’ I’ve been looking at ways of raising awareness and focussing on marketing. In early September I finally succeeded in getting 50 reviews for ‘Beginnings.’ This is a significant bench mark with Amazon and I do believe, it will give the book more credibility as a saleable product. Thus, it is even more important to knock the book into shape and turn it into as polished a product as possible.

By the end of September, I hope to have the novel proof-read too and publish a 2nd edition. My next dream will be to obtain 1 or 2 editorial reviews; something I can promote through my social networking feeds…

I thought my work was done but a writers’ work is never really done. You think you’ve reached the end but there is always room for improvement, so it’s onwards and upwards.

Retribution to the End – May 26th 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Helen J. Christmas

Meet my Character Blog Tour – 16th August 2014

I was invited to participate in a “Meet My Character” blog tour by highly acclaimed author, Jane Cable, who I had the pleasure of meeting at the Winchester Writer’s Festival. Jane’s big breakthrough in writing came when she was picked as a finalist in The Alan Titchmarsh Show’s People’s Novelist competition in 2011 and whose first published novel, The Cheesemaker’s House, is a gripping romance-suspense.

Click Here to read about Jane’s own Character

In this post, I’ll to be talking about my debut novel, Beginnings, which is the first book in my British thriller series, “Same Face Different Place.” When I first published on Kindle in 2012, my book attracted enough favourable reviews to motivate me to continue writing. So I’m going to reveal a little about ‘Eleanor’, much loved main character in this series.

SFDPbeginnings-thumb1) What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Eleanor Chapman a fictional character, who evolves throughout the series. In Book 1 ‘Beginnings’, she is a naive, yet feisty 16 year old, who’s spent the majority of her teenage years at boarding school. Now, she is back home in London, ready to start the school holidays, where her life is about to change forever.

2) When and where is the story set?

The story begins in 1972; an era characterised by Glam Rock fashion, flares, platform shoes, as well as early 70’s hippiedom. Most of the scenes are set around the dark criminal underworld of East London, which includes the shadier areas of Whitechapel, Poplar and Bethnal Green.

3) What should we know about him/her?

Eleanor is a kind, sensitive and attractive girl of mixed race. Her mother (a glamourous afro-carribean nightclub singer, likened to Diana Ross) died when she was small, leaving her father in an emotional turmoil. She is not entirely sure what he does for a living but they never seem to go short of much. She is already suspicious of his mysterious, night time disappearances – struck by the notion, his boss is some sort of gangster.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Eleanor’s father is forced to go on the run, leaving her in the care of an unscrupulous couple, who dump her in a brothel. Eleanor only very narrowly avoids becoming a prostitute, when she attempts to escape – except, to add to her troubles, she is caught up in a sinister conspiracy, when she discovers a young Dutch man, (Jake), being kept prisoner. She knows he is about to be killed and rescues him, oblivious to the mortal danger she is about to land herself in.

What is the personal goal of the character?

To stay hidden from dangerous enemies. She falls in love with Jake and will do anything to him him alive. They are lying low, desperate to escape from London to reach Jake’s homeland – and preferably without being spotted by the ruthless gang leader who is hunting them. Her later goal is protect their unborn child.

Is there a working title for this novel if it is a WIP, and can we read more about it?

The title of the book is ‘Beginnings,’ first book in my series, ‘Same Face Different Place’ (available on Amazon.) More information about this book and others in the series can be found on my website http://www.samefacedifferentplace.co.uk and also via my blog https://samefacedifferentplace.wordpress.com/ which has regular updates on the latest books in the series.

Helen Christmas

Bio: Helen Christmas was born in Chichester, West Sussex and now lives in a grade II listed cottage, with her husband, close to Aldwick Seafront.

“Writing is something I am not only passionate about, but feel has always been in my blood. I have been writing stories since I was 6 years old and have always wanted to be an author.”

Helen is dedicated to writing not just one book, but four. She describes her series ‘Same Face Different Place’ as being “quintessentially English, with a powerful connection to the music, fashion, culture and politics of each decade.” The novels are part thriller and part romance, at the heart of which lies a mystery, which unravels over 4 decades.

AND FINALLY: Here is the follow up to my Character Blog, written by American novelist Cynthia Harrison.

Cindy has written 3 books, Sister IssuesThe Paris Notebook and Blue Heaven. These  are contemporary women’s fiction with a strong romance element, Gypsy is a paranormal, but again with romantic elements. Humour is also something she also likes to sprinkle on her stories. You can read all about her here.