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.

#Giveaway #Audible #Promotion for St Patrick’s Day

As coronavirus sweeps the globe, the Irish government has called on pubs and bars to close from Sunday to help tackle the spread.

The closures, (which came into effect at midnight on Sunday), were announced ahead of St Patrick’s Day, one of the busiest days in the year for these establishments, especially in locations such as Dublin. Sadly, 40 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed by the government, bringing the total in the Republic of Ireland to 169. This must come as a huge disappointment to those who enjoy celebrating St Patrick’s Day, myself included. But don’t be dispirited. Get some Guinness in the fridge and have a virtual celebration instead.

It so happens I chose St Patrick’s Day to run a book promotion, as my newest title has a strong Irish theme running all the way through with a colourful cast of characters.

Rosebrook Chronicles the Hidden Stories

This collection of gripping stories follows the lives of three abused teenagers. With snippets of social history from the 70s to the 90s, these are the personal journeys of ordinary citizens who never had a voice but I wanted to give them one. Focusing on the Irish connection, orphans, Bessie and Peter are separated by the Catholic Church, their lives about to twist down very different paths.

Bessie (later known as Beatrice)

Six-year-old Bessie overhears a conversation between novice, Sister Maria and the Mother Superior. Taken in by the nuns, she is far from happy in the Convent but at the mere hint of being torn from her homeland to be adopted, she panics.

Photo used for book cover 'Rosebrook Chronicles, the Hidden Stories"
This picture from 123RF.com of a frightened little girl seemed just right to depict little Bessie on the book cover.

What of her parents?
They say they went to live with the angels.
And where is her dear brother, Peter?
They tell her he was chosen by God but where is St. Benedict Orphanage?
It’s not impossible he is in Ireland somewhere. If only she could see him…

Leaving Ireland, Bessie’s tragic life starts to unfold where fate will throw many obstacles in her path, from family estrangement to poverty. How will she survive?

Irish actress Dorothy Duffy
With beautiful Irish features, actress Dorothy Duffy is how I imagine Beatrice would look as an adult.

Peter

Peter is an intelligent boy but with good looks and a quiet, pensive nature, he catches the eye of Father O’Brien. He is the most senior priest at St Benedict Orphanage.

Actor Billy Boyd
Billy Boyd (who played Pippin in Lord of the Rings) has just the Irish features I imagine Peter to have.

Peter is destined to study for the priesthood but all is not what it seems. Within a few years his life is turned into a living hell. Desperate to go searching for his sister, he embarks on a daring escape only to land in England with the law on his tale. But he clings the hope he will find Bessie, his letter to her a talisman to guide and inspire him.

Dear Bess, dearest little sister. Where did you go? I been wanting to write a letter to you for ages and pray I am not too late.
It feels like thunder and lightning struck at once. An almighty storm blew down from the Heavens when one minute we was together fore the angels swooped in and parted us.
Lord knows what happened to the others so bout you, Bess?
You was my only hope, the only one left in Ireland.

Actor Billy Boyd
If Rosebrook Chronicles was dramatised, it would be amazing if Billy Boyd was cast as Peter.

There is a third character, Robin, who weaves in and out of the plot. No one can possibly know the influence he will wield over these two naive youngsters as the story rolls through the decades. It is not light read but a book that will make you think. Not everything in society is rosy but it is how people deal with their emotional traumas that mould them into the people they become.

This novel can be read as a standalone, a mix of domestic noir and suspense, rich in social history from the 1960s to the 1990s. A book that will immerse you in the stories of these three troubled characters as they strive to find love, success and happiness.

Promotion

Rosebrook Chronicles is on a Kindle countdown promotion for 99p/99c
(March 17th – 21st).

Rosebrook Chronicles The Hidden Stories by Helen J Christmas

Or if you are a fan of audio books, you can hear the musical Irish accents of my characters come to life in an audio version, narrated by Paul Metcalfe.

I have 10 codes up for grabs. Download the Audible app from Amazon, enter your promotional code and enjoy the experience for FREE.

Two ways to get your free audible code

Audiobook Rosebrook Chronicles the Hidden Stories

Leave a comment on this post and will contact you with details on how to claim your free audiobook (open to readers in the UK and the US)
Or
Use the ‘FREE audiobook’ form to send me an email.
No personal data will be harvested from this promotion and once I have sent your code I will discard your details.

Reviews

K T Robson
This was such a powerful read – Helen Christmas has managed to navigate the complicated worlds of abuse, politics and religion expertly, weaving the stories of her three main characters seamlessly together.

Terror Tree
This story was well researched, with the historical facts running through the book, you really feel as you are following these characters throughout their lives

Jessica Belmont
Gripping, dark, and emotional, Rosebrook Chronicles is an incredible novel. The sensitive material is handled well, and the stories merge beautifully together. I highly recommend reading this.

HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

A pint of Guinness

Revisiting London Episode III – October 19th 2016

With the first draft of Book 4 Retribution undergoing a complete overhaul, it’s time to re-visit my research from our recent trip to London, where part of the novel is set in Chelsea.

The year is 1993 and one of the story’s main characters, Elijah (now a student) attends an Exhibition at Earl’s Court with a bunch of college friends. Many years ago, I used to attend shows in Earl’s Court myself, my favourite being the Apple Show. I was a huge fan of Apple Mac computers, with the newest trends in desktop publishing and photo editing software. It was in the 90s, Earl’s Court was host to an array of trade shows and events and in the context of my book, nothing fitted this story line better than the International Interior Design show.

Earl's Court

Described in ‘Retribution’ as an ‘amazing, yet contemporary piece of architecture with a curving facade and colossal windows that scale the height of the entire building,’ it was a bit of a shock to discover it was no longer there… Earl’s Court was demolished in 2014 to make way for a new residential and retail estate on the site, (which is expected to be completed in 2033) but there is nothing left but a building site.

So on to Chelsea; it is here, another of my story’s main characters, (antiques dealer, Avalon) spends much time visiting the various markets and auctions, of which Chelsea was notorious. In this chapter of the book, it seems almost fated that these two characters will bump into each other and following their journey, I found myself wandering from Earl’s Court, all the way down King’s Road where traces of its antiques heritage were evident. There used to be an notorious antiques market here but no more…

Today, it comes across as a quiet area, surrounded by Regency houses and traditional pubs. There is a splendid array of shops, many of which are filled with exquisite furniture and home furnishings. It is a home-maker’s paradise but definitely not cheap!

Chelsea, London

Putting aside Avalon’s antique’s hunting and Elijah’s exhibition visit, the two young people will eventually find a pub where they are about to engage in a very long heart to heart. In the story so far, their lives are in turmoil, their community destroyed by a powerful enemy, along with his gangster allies. It is in this scene they rediscover their friendship and as childhood sweethearts, could it be the start of something even more meaningful? You will have to wait and see…

Chelsea Pubs

Whichever pub I feature for this scene, I am spoilt for choice  – there are so many. Chelsea lacks the bustle of other parts of London (Covent Garden for example) yet it is a beautiful area to visit with sophisticated shops, cafes, an abundance of floral displays, plenty of colour and very photogenic. It was useful to get a feel of the place for this scene which I have only just started editing and with plenty to inspire me.

For more information on my research in relation to this story, please visit my previous posts: Revisiting East London – 2nd September 2016
and Revisiting London, Episode II – 16th September 2016