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.

Second #Lockdown in the UK

London during Lockdown source CNBC

Oh well, here we go again. We’ve turned the full circle and with COVID-19 gaining the upper hand, we’ve been forced into lockdown for a second time.

My gut feeling is the government didn’t want to do this but in a worst case scenario, do we really want to see our NHS stretched to breaking point with a deluge of COVID patients before Christmas?

The way things are going, numbers have soared this autumn yet the 3-tiered system is not working. Scientists have warned the virus will spread, working its way gradually down south, so why make towns in the north suffer alone? We are all in the same boat, so it makes sense – and if the whole of the UK can buckle down for one month, let’s pray we can get the infection rate down again.

It is sad but unavoidable so what can we do?

For me personally I have to look at this as an opportunity. Our work has dried up but there is still plenty to do around the house and garden. For example, I never did get around to painting the kitchen but it really needs doing and it would be great to get another DIY project ticked off the list. I also want to look at gardening websites and YouTube videos, to adopt some new practises for my own garden. Growing Dahlias for example. Inspired by a trip to West Dean Gardens and their fabulous display of dahlias, it would be a dream to establish such healthy plants but all this requires a little work and planning.

Dahlias at West Dean Gardens

Christmas will be different this year but I like a challenge. I am already considering what home made gifts I can come up with and getting creative in the home can be very therapeutic.

Yes, it will be harder for others but my advice is it’s essential to keep yourself busy during lockdown. Long periods spent dwelling, wishing you could do things that you can’t are not good for your health. You are allowed to exercise so get out and about even if it’s just for a walk. I’ve seen many people take photos, write blogs and channel anxiety into something good. So here are some photos I took at Leonardslee Gardens yesterday afternoon, a last minute treat before the countdown started and I shall cherish the memories.

But this brings me onto the more negative side of lockdown.

Mental Health

The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown has triggered a sense of fear and anxiety around the globe especially among young people. Much of this is down to loneliness during lockdown and in particular, a lack of physical contact with friends and family, boredom and the frustration associated with not being able to engage in activities that have been a part of their lives.

I try to put on a brave face and stay positive but some mornings I wake up with this paralysing fear – not only of the virus but the thought of losing loved ones. It has been touch and go with some family members; one elderly relative admitted to hospital with heart problems and another with Crohn’s disease (an auto-immune condition which has a tendency to flare-up in times of stress). Both are okay, but vulnerable and have to shield, since the effects of contracting COVID could be devastating. 

The true cost of COVID-19 on mental health however, has not yet been realised and something happened last week that hit me very hard.

I heard on the grapevine a friend of a friend had died. I met Graham last year and only as a result of some research I was engaged in for my current novel. I have my friend, Dan Jones, to thank for introducing us, an author who I met via Chindi (local network of independent authors in Sussex). Dan worked in a number of children’s homes in the 90s. Yet he was happy to share his experiences with me.

As the book is centred around a group of fictitious children’s homes, I was intrigued by what he could tell me, until ultimately his best friend came into the discussion. Graham was in the care system through the late 1990’s and Dan met him when he was homeless. Regardless of his problems, he turned his life around and after completing a degree in social work, ended working in care himself, looking after troubled youngsters in homes. He also won an award for being someone in care who had achieved something.

As Dan said (and I quote) “He would have stories to tell you, spent time homeless, missed education, mixed with all sorts of people, yet turned things around. So he knows what the scene was like here in Bognor during the 1990’s for teenagers in a difficult home environment and in the care system.”

I feel blessed he agreed to meet me and within the space of an hour, gave some fascinating insights into the feelings of kids being brought up in care or fostered (thank God I kept the recordings). His answers provided the last pieces of the puzzle and not only that. He shared some amazing stories and in manner that was humorous and colourful. I would even go as far as to say he was the inspiration behind Joe, one of the main characters, a great guy who turned his life around and left a lasting impression.

But I wish I had got in touch. If only I had told him how much his little anecdotes helped me and out of respect, I am definitely going to include a tribute.

News of his death weighs down heavily but brings it home to me how temporary and fragile life is, especially in the era we are living in now.

Do you know anyone who might be affected? Make contact to check they’re okay and stay in touch. It might make all the difference.

To end on a positive note, I am still in the process of editing my novel and 50% through so it is all coming together very well indeed. I would also like to say a few more words about Dan, who’s heartache is unimaginable.

So for those who are feeling anxious, suffering from stress and have trouble sleeping, Dan creates therapeutic relaxing sleep stories for adults and you can check these out by subscribing to his YouTube channel

I have a few favourites of my own, one being Lake Of Inner Discovery 😴 SLEEP STORY FOR GROWNUPS 💤

Stay safe and stay sane in the second UK lockdown.

HM Government poster to protect the NHS during the Coronavirus pandemic

UPDATE: First Draft of #WIP Complete

This is an update to my recent a post Entering the Final Phase of a #WIP and on September 30th, I finally completed the story.

This standalone psychological thriller set Sussex took me on a long and twisted path but I’m delighted to have crossed the finishing line.

The next day, I had an impulse to revisit a significant location in the book, the village of East Lavant near Chichester.

The story is mainly set in Bognor Regis, a pleasant seaside town on the south coast, but I needed somewhere more remote for the book’s chilling finale.

An Idyllic country village

The reason I chose East Lavant was not just for its idyllic village setting, but the narrow winding road that draws you deep into the countryside. With swathes of thick forests on both sides and soaring oak trees this was a perfect location to create a surreal and spooky atmosphere.

A web of trees

One characteristic of my character, Maisie, is her fear of forests, something that features prominently in her recurring nightmares. So when she is cut off from her friends with a deadly enemy at large, these woods are exactly the type of place her enemy would choose to lie low.

A concealed forest track

I researched the police procedures before writing the closing scene but with a full scale operation in place, involving distance surveillance, I needed to double check there were tracks in the forests to allow vehicle access…

It seemed impossible to believe how an idyllic corner of West Sussex could conceal a crime of such evil.

Fresh Inspiration

I have always advocated to other writers that putting yourself in the setting of your story can be inspiring and the extra photos will prove useful. At least I didn’t have to travel very far this time, no train journeys to London and beyond which was another advantage of choosing my home county for this novel.

In many ways it feels like a great weight has been lifted but I am looking forward to the editing process.

Entering the Final Phase of a #WIP

Atmospheric image of oak trees

It’s been a while since I mentioned writing, especially my current work in progress (WIP).

This standalone novel is a psychological thriller set in 2015 located in my home county of Sussex.

Sadly my writing took a nose dive in 2019 when I lost all confidence. I started the book in March 2019 but then things went a bit wobbly. It was like learning to ride a bike again. As soon as I made some progress, I would read it back and shake my head. Stop. Edit. Have another stab at it and still it didn’t engage! Grrrr! I was tearing my hair out with frustration, I even shed tears, thinking the creative power in my brain had been switched off. Even when we took a holiday in the most beautiful part of France, I read some good psychological thrillers to see if I could figure out where it was going wrong. I was inspired enough to embark on another complete re-write. But then the dreaded Coronavirus struck, leaving me so anxious, I was unable to move forward again.

Outline Synopsis

Joe, Maisie, Sam.
We were three kids in a care home, too young to protect ourselves.
Three friends who were inseparable until the night Sam went missing.

The story is centred around a group of fictitious children’s homes that existed in London in the 90s. Maisie, a professional woman at 32, has psychotherapy, unable to understand what lies at the root of her recurring nightmares and panic attacks.

Joe meanwhile, has led a troubled life from serving time in prison to being homeless. When the two characters cross paths in 2015, they recall memories of the strange parties they were taken to by the home’s sinister owner, Mr Mortimer… but what happened to Sam? 20 years ago he vanished, never to be seen again.

Yet as Joe tries to turn his life around, he is subject to a campaign of online abuse that makes them wonder if their enemies are still around – until a police investigation is launched.

A homeless man

Back in the writer’s chair

By mid April it struck me I needed to take a different approach; look at the nature of the police investigation at the heart of the story. Going through the chapters, I identified which parts needed research and further delighted to get some help. Speaking to a senior police officer who worked on similar cases to the one I am writing about, I have found a new direction. So I finally thrashed out the nuts and bolts of the investigation

With a brand new focus, the next hurdle was getting inside the heads of my characters. They took a while to come out, especially Maisie. So by the time I was immersed in a second re-write, I drafted her scenes in first person, something that enabled me to think like her, imagine her life and feel her anxiety (something which comes naturally.)

Joe’s character has been easier. Writing his part in 3rd person, he is a likeable rogue with fire in his belly; an angry rebellious young man at the pinnacle of his life. Now all he wants is justice.

Last of all, I wanted to be able to picture my characters which is where Pinterest came in useful. You only have to key something as obscure as ‘auburn hair’ in your search and dozens of faces appear. I found the right faces for both Maisie and Joe (depicted as Jack Falahee), as well as their childhood friend Sam.

Characters from a psychological thriller I am writing

Joe, Maisie, Sam.
We were three kids in a care home, too young to protect ourselves.
Three friends who were inseparable until the night Sam went missing.

The remainder of the story

I have now drafted out a huge part of the story and about to tackle the final phase. But with a full synopsis worked out, I think I have an adequate foundation to complete a first draft. Wish me luck because if I succeed I’ll be looking for beta readers and an editor.

I’ve seen lots of fellow authors rediscover their writing passion during these strange times and hope this will be the start of something promising. That aside, I’ve really enjoyed getting back into it.

Trust in You by Julia Firlotte launched in Spring 2020

Guest Post with Julia Firlotte My author journey

Julia Firlotte romance author guest blog
Julia Firlotte

With the launch of her debut novel, ‘Trust In You,’ I am really excited to invite Julia Firlotte to my blog, to talk about her author’s journey.

Julia is a local writer who I met last summer, at the Gribble Inn, Oving, West Sussex. As budding authors, we had a good chat about books and writing before she told me about her up-and-coming first novel, a summer romance set in the US.

So a very warm welcome to you, Julia and I’m intrigued to discover more about your writing process…

“Novels take their readers on a journey, with characters leading the adventure and charging ahead (or limping slowly forward in some cases). I’ve been surprised though of the journey the writing process itself has allowed me to make as a new author, it’s not just been my characters on a path of enlightenment.”

So did you plot out your story or was it character driven?

“I’m very much an inspirational writer rather than a planner. I come up easily with scenes and can fabricate a whole dialogue between characters and write it down without ever knowing where my stories are headed. Developing characters that fit with what the modern reader wants and structuring it into a cohesive storyline, that’s more of a challenge for me (and why I have several unfinished books).

As with learning any new skill, new writers need to learn their craft, but as I’m discovering, this also means learning their target audience’s preferences too. I spoke recently to a highly experienced novelist and she told me that she never puts pen to paper without knowing exactly who her characters are and what is going to happen. This approach avoids wasting months rewriting and is clearly of commercial benefit, but for me I admit I struggle with this technique.

Hmm, that is good advice. You really need to know your characters before the novel can take shape. What other elements are important to you?

“My debut novel ‘Trust In You’ is a romantic suspense and like crime and thriller writers, I like my romance to have angst and passion, not be all light-hearted dinners and roses. Trust In You started as a bully romance over a land dispute, but after listening to my characters and beta readers, by the end of the writing process the original plot wasn’t even in the book anymore. It’s a love story through and through and I think a stronger piece of writing because of it, now with a strong crime and intrigue element.”

Trust in You by Julia Firlotte launched in Spring 2020

Ooh, crime and romance… I am really intrigued now, tell us more.

“Developing characters that are believable is widely recognised as being the most important aspect of writing any piece of fiction. Whether a protagonists or antagonist is a person or a theme, likeable or someone the reader will just love to hate, they have to be real. Some useful tools I’ve discovered in my writing journey to help develop my characters are mood thesauruses and personality typing such as Myers and Briggs.

Also key is the ability to step back from the novel after leaving it to rest between drafts and asking ‘would my character really behave like this’ and more importantly ‘will my readers want to read this?’ Having a clear audience in mind during the whole process seems obvious, but is easy to overlook. I recently spent nine months on a first draft, only to have feedback that the writing is great (descriptive, insightful and well-paced etc), but what I’d actually written, meaning the entire plot and the fundamental character traits was unappealing and distasteful. Oh dear, I’d clearly missed the mark by a mile of what I had been hoping to achieve.”

Quite a tough learning curve then but you do need to develop a thick skin as a writer.

“Although disheartening, I’m really grateful for these honest criticisms as without them truly appealing stories might never be written. My author journey is teaching me more about society and my readership than I’d ever expected to learn and making me a stronger and more informed person in the process.”

Trust in You romantic suspense novel by Julia Firlotte

Thanks for sharing this, Julia, it’s been a most enlightening article. Now for those of you who are dying to get your hands on her book, here are the essential links: 

For more information on Julia’s novels, please visit her website www.juliafirlotteauthor.com and subscribe to her mailing list where you will also receive the first three chapters free.

‘Trust In You’ is currently receiving five star ratings on www.goodreads.com and is available to buy in paperback and ebook via Amazon.

Trust In You

A first love summer romance full of intrigue, lust and lies.

From the moment she met him, Ella Peterson had questions. As always, though, she’s too shy to ask.

Older and sexy as hell, mysterious Adam Brook soon sweeps sheltered Ella off her feet; but is he as perfect as he appears to be, or is there more to him than he’s telling her?

Ella’s world has already turned upside down after moving from England to rural Kansas. She and her sisters were hoping for a more secure future, but instead find that life can be tough when jobs are scarce and the stakes often higher than anticipated.

When events spiral out of Ella’s control, she learns the person she needs to rely on most is herself and her instincts on who to trust in the future.

It’s just that her instincts are screaming at her to trust Adam; it’s what he tells her that makes that a problem.

This is the first book in the Falling for You series.

Happy Easter everyone and what better way to survive lockdown than to relax with a good book?

Guest Post with Patricia M Osborne

Choosing a Title/Writing a Blurb

Patricia Osborne author of The House of Grace family sagaToday it is my pleasure to have author Patricia Osborne as a guest on my blog. As part of our author’s networking group, she is our ‘Chindi Author of the Week’ which happens to coincide with publication of her second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son.

So over to Patricia who tackles a tricky subject for us writers: choosing an eye catching book title and if that isn’t difficult, writing an engaging book blurb. Read on…

Choosing a Title

If a title grabs a reader then they’ll normally pick up the book but what readers may not consider, is how much work has gone into producing those few words. Sometimes as writers we are lucky and just know what the title will be, but other times it can cause quite a headache. I’m normally quite good at coming up with titles, for other writers that is, not so much when it’s my own.

House of Grace my debut novel wasn’t too bad. It began as Grace but soon evolved to House of Grace inspired by the seventies television series House of Elliott. House of Grace gets its name as it’s a fashion house where Grace Granville, later Grace Gilmore, starts up her own fashion business.

House of Grace and The Coal Miner's Son novels by Patricia Osborne

My next novel and number two in the trilogy of House of Grace is The Coal Miner’s Son. The Coal Miner’s Son was a tad more troublesome. It began as part of my MA and was titled ‘The Heir of Granville’ but my tutor said this title made her think the story was more historical than it was. After several days of brainstorming with other writers, The Coal Miner’s Son was born. However, when I first spoke to my followers about the book cover, some felt it should have images of a coal miner which got me thinking. My story wasn’t about a coal miner, but would the title make the reader think it was? I therefore came up with numerous other titles and settled on ‘Return to Granville Hall,’ although this never felt right. After serious consideration and chats with my editor I conducted a Facebook Poll before finalising the title for the cover. ‘The Coal Miner’s Son’ won outright. So there it was. The Coal Miner’s Son had its publishing title but I knew that I’d need to make it quite clear in the book blurb what the story was about.

Book 3, my work in progress and the final in the House of Grace trilogy, is titled ‘The Granville Legacy’ and I’m hoping it will keep this name. When I started writing it I used ‘Return to Granville Hall’ as it wasn’t used for Book 2 but again, it didn’t feel right. I spent a day on Facebook Messenger with author Colin Ward and we literally brainstormed to produce the right title. We went through all sorts and then it would be just an odd word that was wrong. I wanted something with a similar ring to House of Grace and The Coal Miner’s Son and I believe ‘The Granville Legacy’ has that.

Writing a Blurb

If choosing a title isn’t hard enough then writing a blurb is even worse. Readers, I imagine would think that coming up with those few words at the back of the book is easy in comparison to writing approximately 90,000 words for the novel. The reader would be wrong. It causes so many headaches that books have been written on it and courses available. I followed Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing 101 Course but Adam Croft has written a great book on it too, Writing Killer Blurbs and Hooks. Most importantly when writing this mini synopsis is not to give out any spoilers but at the same time draw the reader in so they’ll want to pick up the book and read it. It needs to be kept short, something that a reader can scan in seconds, and needs a tag line. I hope the blurb for The Coal Miner’s Son entices you in and makes you want to read the novel.

Full book jacket for the Coal Miner's Son by Patricia Osborne

Blurb for The Coal Miner’s Son

After tragedy hits the small coal mining village of Wintermore, nine-year-old miner’s son, George, is sent to Granville Hall to live with his titled grandparents.

Caught up in a web of treachery and deceit, George grows up believing his mother sold him. He’s determined to make her pay, but at what cost? Is he strong enough to rebel?

Will George ever learn to forgive?

Step back into the 60s and follow George as he struggles with bereavement, rejection and a kidnapping that changes his life forever. Resistance is George’s only hope.

*

My books can be found on Amazon at the links below

House of Grace

The Coal Miner’s Son

Books may also be ordered at any reputable bookstore or from your local library by quoting ISBN numbers

ISBN 9780995710702 – House of Grace
ISBN 9780995710719 – The Coal Miner’s Son

Where you can find me

Twitter

Facebook

Patricia’s Pen

Thank you Patricia for a most interesting article and I wish you the best of luck with your second novel, The Coal Miner’s Son.

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… 

 

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!

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.

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.