Even though we are all sweltering in the middle of a heatwave, it felt like Christmas today when all these lovely things turned up!
Even though we are all sweltering in the middle of a heatwave, it felt like Christmas today when all these lovely things turned up!
It’s fair to say, that there’s cause for celebration back here at Janie Juke HQ! The Invisible Case – the third book in the Sussex Crime mystery series – will be available from this Saturday, 30 June.
As well, as this new novel, brand new editions of the first two books in the series have been published, with beautiful new covers (cover design courtesy of the talented author and cover designer, Christoffer Petersen). The second editions also now include a map of Tamarisk Bay, the sleepy seaside town where Janie lives and works, and a bonus chapter. But the great news is that the price is still the same – at £6.99 each.
And as if that isn’t enough – we have business cards, bookmarks and banners – all being printed, as I write this…
It’s a tragic case for Janie this time – there’s a sudden death and it looks as though it could be suspicious…
Just when Janie was hoping to spend a fun Easter weekend catching up with her Aunt Jessica, who has returned from Italy after nine years of European adventures, the family are caught up with tragedy. Does Jessica’s friend, Luigi, have something to hide? What is the real reason he has come to Tamarisk Bay?
The Invisible Case is available now for pre-order on Amazon for the special price of just £0.99p!
Find it wherever you are in the world –
Plato advised us that:
‘Knowledge is food for the soul’
I’ve been thinking about this quote, which led me to thinking about books and reading. I started to read when I was around four years old (according to my mum!). Since that tender age I have rarely been without a book in my hands. I was lucky enough to spend my working days editing and even though the subject matter focused on health-related conditions and medicines, it was still fun chasing words around the page.
Now my focus is fiction and my feeling is that people read fiction for a whole host of reasons. There are times when I just want to read for pleasure, laying in the bath, or sitting in the garden. The book in my hands gives me the chance to block out all thoughts of chores. It might be a grabbed ten minutes, or a leisurely half hour (or longer, if I’m lucky!). I’ve escaped into another world, maybe another time zone and the only interruptions are the birds singing a little too loudly, or the bath water getting cold.
Then there are the times when I read to learn. As a fiction writer I love to discover the way that other authors approach character development, plot structure or timelines. As a writer I see myself as an apprentice, constantly trying to develop my craft, with years of learning ahead of me. So, when I come across a beautifully constructed sentence I read it over and over and dream about the day when I can write that perfect piece of prose.
Here are the opening lines from a wonderful book by Ann Patchett, called ‘Bel Canto’:
When the lights went off the accompanist kissed her. Maybe he had been turning towards her just before it was completely dark, maybe he was lifting his hands. There must have been some movement, a gesture, because every person in the living room would later remember a kiss.
And some more from Rachel Joyce’s tear jerker, ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’:
Harold Fry was a tall man who moved through life with a stoop, as if expecting a low beam, or a screwed-up paper missile, to appear out of nowhere. […] The boy learned quickly that the best way to get on in life was to keep a low profile.’
Of course, there is a whole lot more to learn from fiction. When I read, Helen Dunmore’s ‘The Siege’, I learned about the horrors of the Nazi’s winter siege of Leningrad in 1941, which killed six hundred thousand people. Helen Dunmore focuses in on the detailed experiences of her characters, to tell a story that affected so many. They learned to boil shoe leather to make soup, such was the devastating hunger they experienced. Certainly an eye opener for me and a story that stayed with me long after I finished reading it.
Books also bring us together. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of book clubs around the country where friends get together maybe once a month and chat. They chat about the book they have all read, but it’s a great intro to chatting generally and a way of making new friends. Then there are online forums – The Fiction Café – is a great Facebook group where people can share their thoughts about their favourite books. Passing on recommendations also means that we can all be tempted to try something we might not have otherwise picked up.
Libraries and charity bookshops are wonderful places, giving us the chance to read to our heart’s content for free, or for just a few pennies. We are coming into the season of summer fetes and festivals, where I always make a beeline for the book stall! I am a member of the Chichester Network of Independent Authors and throughout the summer we will be out and about at the local fairs and festivals – maybe I will see you there!
We are a lucky bunch of readers – we have access to books in ways that our parents and grandparents might have only dreamed of.
These are a just a few reasons why people read – how about you? What makes you dive into a book? Share your thoughts by adding a comment below.
I am joined on my blog today by crime thriller suspense author, Helen Christmas, who is going to share some fascinating stories about some of the research she has undertaken for her decade-spanning series ‘Same Face Different Place.’ Following on from her first article, on the Chindi Authors website, where she described her journeys into research for Books 1 and 2, let’s hear about the time when she started Book 3 ‘Pleasures’, and things started to get really exciting…
Helen explains: “By the time I started writing ‘Pleasures’ the gloves were off. Readers of the early books were familiar with Eleanor, (heroine of the series) and knew who the bad guys were. Simply put, ‘Pleasures’ is a race against time to gather the evidence Eleanor needs to bring her arch enemy to justice, whilst protecting her loved ones from harm. Approaching the decade of the 90s, the younger generation are growing up fast, about to be swept into a culture of raves and designer drugs, where danger is imminent.
“I remember this era and was well into the music. I never went to a rave but there was plenty about them in the news, so this is where my research began. I wanted to depict my setting and to capture the environment of a rave. No better place than YouTube to do just that. I found loads of useful stuff, including video footage of a rave, not just the music, but the fashion, haircuts and the dancing. There was a very interesting movie that displayed the fliers for the raves too, lots of computer generated art and fractals, which I loved.
“But at the same time, I needed to delve deeper into the crime mystery of this series and was lucky enough to secure an afternoon with Andy Kille, (Ops Controller of Sussex Police for thirty years). Andy has advised many a crime writer, including Peter James. Being a friend of his wife, Marion, (author of the dark and gripping ‘Suburban Mystery’ series) I was extremely thankful to get his advice. Talking to him for an afternoon gave me a better insight into police procedures, forensics, linking a bullet to a crime and last of all, court procedures (from conviction to life on a remand wing.) He even suggested that given the nature of the murder trial in my story, it would most likely be held at the Old Bailey.
“Delighted with the notes I came away with, his suggestion inspired me to visit the Old Bailey. We’ve all seen it on the TV but let me tell you, being there is very different! You can’t describe the feeling… I even listened in on a trial or two, though the details left me slightly queasy. The building features eerie Gothic architecture on the outside but has a tangible sense of menace inside.
“All this research was vital in depicting the mood behind the trial in Pleasures, as portrayed in this small extract:
A taxi cruised into the curb outside the forbidding grey walls of the Old Bailey. Eleanor shuffled into the back seat and David followed, his intention to escort her to a hotel in High Holborn.
She stole a final glance at the imposing archway where a cast iron grill protected the entrance. An Ionic column towered above – a cloaked statue crouching between the two which reminded her of the Grim Reaper and as her eyes travelled upwards, they scanned the motto: ‘Defend the Children of the Poor and Punish the Wrongdoer.’ Eleanor turned away, unable to fend off a shiver.
The Final Chapter
“I am not going give anything away, but I continued my research along a similar vein for Book 4 Retribution (now in two parts).
“For anyone considering research, I cannot emphasis enough the value of talking to people in actual professions, such as my interview with Andy Kille, of Sussex Police.
“Here is another example. Having served in the Territorial Army (TA), I decided that one of my characters would be an army officer. The TA nearly drew me towards a military career; but my own experience was nothing like life in the regular army. After an initial enquiry to the Army Recruitment service, they put me in touch with a colonel from the Royal Engineers Regiment. A few emails later, we enjoyed a forty-five minute chat on the phone. This was so helpful. He gave me a really good understanding, from postings to living in barracks, where much of army life revolves around training exercises.
“A huge section of ‘Retribution’ also concerns a crime where a different character is left in a coma. I needed to gain a better understanding of the aftercare of coma victims and when I asked my GP, she suggested getting in touch with a neurological unit.
“This was a much harder subject to get help so I put out an appeal on Facebook. Fortunately, a researcher from The Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney got in touch and I succeeded in my request for another telephone interview. She gave me some vital facts about the care of such patients, eg, when they show signs of consciousness, auditory processing and eye movement. She even suggested a book.
“Further sleuthing on Amazon, using the same key words as the book she suggested, brought up other titles, where the novel, ‘Try Not to Breathe’, by Holly Sedan, enabled me to understand even more about the unconscious mind. Her book, a mystery suspense about a young woman left in a coma for fifteen years (and a journalist who finds a way of communicating with her, thus finding her attacker) was utterly compelling.
This is just some of the research I have been immersed in whilst writing ‘Retribution’ but there was so much more…
So in summary, here are my top five tips for research:
“A little detective work can go a long way but I really recommend the benefit of talking to people and get a first-hand ‘tell it like it is’ story to portray the reality.”
About the author
Helen has been writing her series of British mystery thrillers since 2011. A busy web designer (and creator of the Chindi Authors website,) Helen lives in a 17th century thatched cottage by the sea with her husband, Peter, their Border Collie and a fluffy white cat.
Helen has now completed her five book series, ‘Same Place Different Place’ and here are the links to her social networks:
You can read more about her research on her blog: https://samefacedifferentplace.wordpress.com/
For information about her books visit her website: https://www.samefacedifferentplace.com/
You can download her first book, ‘Beginnings’ here: http://apn.to/prod/B0078L8858
I’ve been finding out more about that wonderful Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie. Having just read her biography, I have discovered some interesting facts about her. Here are some of them:
While reading about her I have tried to deduce what it was about her writing that made her as famous and well-loved as she was – and still is.
Here are some thoughts:
In the words of her biographer:
‘Agatha’s books last because they are good, if sometimes hopelessly improbable stories. The reader, once hooked, wants to know what happens next. They deal with myths, fantasies, obsessions shared by people of every sort: quests and contests, death, sex, money, murder, conspiracy, transformation, power, the triumph of the simple over the complex, the importance of the mundane as well as the cosmic. They construct a pattern, assigning facts and emotions to their appointed place as problems are resolved and guilt and innocence established.’
‘Agatha Christie – A biography’ by Janet Morgan (published 2017)
So, how does all this help a rookie author called Isabella Muir, who has developed a fascination for writing crime mysteries?
Well, by delving into the life of Agatha Christie’s life I can see that she lived a full life – grasping opportunities to explore and to learn about people, places, experiences. It seems to me that it was a life well lived. Inevitably that spilled into her writing and her energy and enthusiasm meant that she just kept on going – writing and living.
I’ve been learning from Agatha, at the same time as Janie Juke has been learning from her hero, Hercule Poirot. Janie has successfully solved two mysteries so far in ‘The Tapestry Bag’ and ‘Lost Property’, with her third – ‘The Invisible Case’ waiting in the wings for publication this June. Janie and I have a long road ahead – but if we keep Agatha Christie in her hearts and in our heads then we are in good company!
The Invisible Case will soon be available for pre-order on Amazon – watch this space!
Follow Isabella Muir on Twitter @SussexMysteries for the latest news about the Janie Juke mystery series.
If you are waiting for Janie Juke’s next adventure ‘The Invisible Case’, I can confirm that progress is good! The first draft is complete and plans are in place for publication some time in June…watch this space…
Meanwhile, I can share with you that I have tapped into my Italian roots for Janie’s newest mystery. It’s been wonderful recalling childhood memories of long train journeys to Rome, with all the excitement of our picnic breakfast. It makes me smile now to think about how we downed our cornflakes with evaporated milk, as though it was a meal fit for royalty! Fortunately, most of our trips were made as a family, which meant we filled a compartment, so no danger of annoying other passengers with our endless games of I-spy.
On our return journeys we spent hours munching our way through all the fruit that kind aunts and uncles had donated to us for our travels. On one occasion I remember an uncle arriving at Rome station to say goodbye and to hand over a suitcase full of grapes!
My dad took us all on long walks around Rome and, even though my aunt lived quite a way from the station, dad insisted we walk to Roma Termini before we started any adventure.
Appropriate then, that Chapter 1 of ‘The Invisible Case’ starts in exactly the same place…
At last, readers of the Janie Juke mystery series can find their way around Janie’s home town of Tamarisk Bay with the aid of this wonderful map.
For those of you who live in Sussex, see if you can spot some familiar landmarks!
Many thanks to figurative artist Richard Whincop for creating such a masterpiece!
I’m continuing to follow the trail of Agatha Christie! (while channelling Janie Juke, of course!)
I have come across a fascinating book, entitled: Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks. The author, John Curran, had the great fortune to have ‘unfettered access’ to all of Agatha Christie’s papers, as well as the hospitality of her grandson, Mathew Pritchard. Curran then spent some four years delving into over Christie’s notebooks – over seventy of them. He has done an excellent job, as the book is littered with excerpts from the notebooks, all of which give the reader real insight into the vibrant mind of the ‘Queen of Crime’.
It seems that all Christie needed in order to capture an idea was a blank page – it didn’t matter whether that page was within the cheapest exercise book, or, as Curran puts it: ‘hard-backed multi-paged notebooks with marbled covers’ which seemed to be ‘more worthy recipients’.
My feeling is that the notebooks became a reflection not only of Christie, the author, but also of Agatha, the wife and mother. Scattered in amongst her exciting ideas for novels and short stories are the more mundane essentials of everyday life, such as shopping lists and reminders for hair appointments. It seems that there was little rhyme or reason to the order in which she made her notes. Curran explains:
‘In only five instances is a Notebook devoted to a single title. [otherwise, the] …use of the Notebooks was utterly random. Christie opened a Notebook […], found the next blank page and began to write. It was simply a case of finding an empty page, even one between two already filled pages. And, as if that wasn’t complicated enough, in almost all cases she turned the Notebook over and, with admirable economy, wrote from the back also.’
(from ‘Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks’ by John Curran, published 2010)
For anyone who likes to gain an insight into Agatha Christie, the author, this book is a delight. You can see how her mind was working when, for example, she devised the fatal seating plan for Sparkling Cyanide. She plays around with various positions for each of the main characters, until she settles on the one that works best for the storyline.
From other notebook snippets we see how she devised her characters. She tries out names and brief descriptions, amending her ideas later on within the same notebook, or even another notebook. There is a similar process for her scene plotting, where she allocates letters (for example, A to L) but then moves scenes around until she reaches the one that, in her mind, will work best.
Having read through Curran’s fascinating book, what struck me most was Christie’s ability to juggle with so many storylines, characters, settings and plot twists and turns – with what looks to the outsider as little order or organisation. It seems that she was literally bursting with ideas. It is no wonder that she was such a prolific author and that her books continue to be just as popular more than forty years after her death – and almost one hundred years since the publication of her first crime novel: The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
Which brings us back full circle to Janie Juke’s first mystery: The Tapestry Bag, where snippets from this first of Christie’s novels provide Janie with a subtle helping hand.
More about Agatha Christie soon!
I first met Janie Juke in February 2017. I was walking my Scottie dog, Hamish, along a Spanish beach and she came into my head. But back then I didn’t know her name, I didn’t know that she would be a mobile librarian and I hadn’t met any of her family and friends.
Since then Janie has become a friend. I have discovered a little of her likes and dislikes, her fears and insecurities. I’ve enjoyed getting to know her dad, Phillip, who is a blind physiotherapist and her husband, Greg, who is her soulmate and stalwart supporter. But I’ve still got a lot to learn about Janie and about my writing craft.
Anyone who has tried their hand at writing fiction will understand that moment when your character takes on a life of their own. As an author you think you are in control, but once the words start to appear on the page, you discover that you are not. Well, that’s how it feels to me.
So far, Janie has had two major adventures. In The Tapestry Bag, Janie is desperate to track down a friend who has gone missing. By solving that mystery she realises that she has skills as an amateur sleuth and in the early chapters of Lost Property she is surprised to learn that those skills can earn her money. Just like many young families in the 1960s (or now, for that matter) any opportunity to bolster their financial coffers is grabbed with both hands.
The Janie Juke mystery series is set in the late 1960s. I have loved the chance to look back at that era when The Beatles were breaking the mould of popular music. Medical advances were coming thick and fast. Attitudes were changing to sex, crime, women’s rights and family life.
In Lost Property Janie meets Hugh Furness, a Second World War RAF pilot. She learns something about life during the Second World War, and the years immediately following it. Researching this era has given me a taste for it and I’d like to spend a bit more time with Hugh.
So what happens next? Well, I know there is a lot more I have to learn about Janie and her family and friends. I’m pretty certain she is going to take me on more adventures and I hope you will come along with me…it’s going to be a busy 2018!