The Shopping Habit

 

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One definition of ‘addiction’ is ‘the condition of being habitually or compulsively occupied with or involved in something’ and this definition brings one of life’s pleasures to mind: shopping.

I don’t think I’m actually addicted to shopping, but I do believe I could easily become addicted, given the chance. Living in the country, miles from any shops, is a help or a hindrance depending on your point of view. I think it’s a help, but if someone wants to throw some spare cash my way, I’m willing to test the theory.

What is decidedly not helpful to a shopping addict is the advent of internet shopping. A while back, when I was driving north with He Who Prefers Not To Be Named, I noticed an enormous, huge, ginormous Amazon warehouse had been built within ten miles of our home, ‘Just for us,’ we agreed. We are both seriously addicted to buying books on Amazon. It is just too easy. However, I have curbed my need for the services of the said warehouse: most of my Amazon purchases now are eBooks.

Research shows that many people buy things they don’t need, some buy things they don’t even want and most of these folks are a bit concerned about their shopping habits, some admitting they are ‘addicted’ to shopping.

In the developed world, merchandisers play to this addiction. Millions of Pounds, Dollars, Euros and Yen are spent every year on advertising. They wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work.

Advertisers play on our emotions, telling us we deserve more and better than we have, assuring us that our life will be enhanced if we buy their products. It rarely turns out to be that way. In the words of an exceptionally wise man: Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses. (Luke 12:15) and another wise man: A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

No wonder many shopping addicts are concerned about their shopping habit. They may well have come to the same conclusion – that it is just not bringing them satisfaction. But how to cure the addiction? Often professional help is needed. Identifying the underlying problem is necessary. Having a supportive friend or relative is helpful.

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Several things inspired me to write my novel, ‘Making It Home’.

Being just a teeny bit addicted to shopping was one. The thing is, I can live fine without it until I’m there, in the shopping mall or on the High Street, then I feel as though I’ve failed some test or other if I go home empty-handed. And I know I sometimes fall into the category of buying things I like but I don’t actually need. I mean, do I really need yet another ‘wee top’?

What is it about shopping that gets me?

My addiction is under control now, though it was never a serious problem. In my case, it wasn’t need or loneliness, but it was dissatisfaction with my looks and my figure. I had lost my sense of identity while raising our children and hadn’t found it again yet. I was constantly looking for that perfect dress, the one that would make me look tall and slim, those perfect jeans that would not only be comfortable but would make me look young and vital, that special wee top that would make me feel young and pretty again.

In analysing that, I got caught up in the idea of writing a story about someone who – unlike me, I hasten to add – just couldn’t stop buying things even when the money had well and truly run out. I thought it would be interesting to explore what her underlying problems could be and help her find some help to deal with them.

The discovery of a deceased relative’s secret addiction to shopping was another inspiration, albeit a sad one. Who knew Auntie J was filling her home with purchases she had no use for, filling cupboards and rooms with unopened carrier bags, receipts dating years back still inside them with the items she’d bought: the overwhelming sadness of her loneliness clearly unabated by hundreds of shopping trips? Who knew? Childless and widowed years before, she lived far from extended family and had few friends, mostly by choice, being a very private person. Reluctant to visit or be visited, her secret was only discovered when her home had to be cleared for sale after her funeral.

I used my overwhelming sadness to tell a little of Auntie J’s story in my novel, Making it Home, allowing a fictional character to carry her secret and share her loneliness. I like to think she might have enjoyed the alternative ending.

Making It Home

41C9fKLVtzL._UY250_ Kate had a home, but her heart wasn’t in it – or in her marriage. So she left them both.
Phyllis had a home – and her heart was in it – but she wanted something more. So she shopped.
Naomi had no home and her heart was in cold storage, frozen by grief and fear. So she shopped.
They found one another in a department store in Edinburgh.
The trouble with ‘retail therapy’ is, you can overdose.
As friendship grows between these three women, they help one another face up to their problems, realising along the way, every heart needs a home and it takes more than a house to make one.

Christine Campbell Amazon Author Page

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What about you? How do you feel about shopping: love it or hate it? Do you know what compels you to shop, or is it something you have to force yourself to do when you need a particular item? Please share your shopping thoughts and stories, good or bad, in the comments. I’d love to read them.

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Oops, I’ve done it again!

In August, I wrote about Tunnel Vision, about emerging from a tunnel and seeing all the things that had been hidden from view. If you read the post before or if you have followed the link and have just read it, you will know that I was talking about how engrossed I get when writing a new novel.

Well, I’ve done it again!

I couldn’t resist taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Once again, that meant writing a new novel – well, the first draft of one, anyway. The target is to write 50,000 words in the month of November, a daily average of 1,667 words for thirty days. ‘Since I’ve managed to adopt the habit of writing every day since February, how hard could it be?’ I asked myself. The answer? Only as hard as I make it. So I decided to plan this new novel out and get to know my characters pretty well before I embarked on the actual writing on November 1st. That really helped. Throughout the month, I was never lost. I always knew where my story was headed – or I thought I did.

Right at the end of the month, my main character seemed to develop a mind of her own and she decided to take me in another direction. I guess she didn’t like the ending I’d planned, and in one pivotal conversation with another character, the story swung off my carefully plotted route.

Now, remembering I’m already in that tunnel, already have tunnel vision, but the pinpoint of light at the end of the tunnel has been growing bigger and brighter for days. Suddenly, the light felt like an oncoming vehicle instead of the way out of the tunnel. Could I avoid crashing? Would this be the end of the road for my novel?

Don’t be silly. Of course not. We writers can’t let our characters totally take over. They need us to guide them. They may think they’re in charge. We may even talk about them as though they are. But they are not. They are our creations. We are in charge.

I hope you heard the stern tone in my voice there, because that’s the tone I took when I sat down with Rosanna – yes, that’s her name, this wayward character in my latest novel, Gold Plated. We sat down with a mug of hot chocolate and a piece of cake and sorted this thing out. Okay, she wasn’t comfortable with the original plan, but I wasn’t happy with the direction she looked like taking. It couldn’t lead to the destination I’d had in mind from the outset. One of us had to give, didn’t we? Or could we compromise? Could Rosanna have her say, speak her mind as she just had and still get back on track?

Of course she can. I’m in charge, remember. It’s up to me to bring her round by carefully constructing a wee diversion that allows us both to feel happy with the outcome. And that’s what I did, bringing in the first draft of Gold Plated at 59,000 words by the 30th November, just as I emerged from the tunnel.

It’s only the 1st of December, so I’m still blinking in the light, but I see I have neglected this poor old blog again. I owe it an apology. I’d love to think someone might have missed me.

So, back on track. Still fleshing out Gold Plated, but with a little less intensity so there’s time and energy for all the other writing-related projects I delight in, including the final edit of For What it’s Worth the spin-off of The Reluctant Detective Series I was writing. My lovely daughter-in-law, Michelle, has almost finished painting a gorgeous cover for it and soon I hope it will be all systems go for publication.

What fun we writers have 🙂

Did you have a go with NaNoWriMo this year? Do tell me in the comments how you got on.

Or have you read any good books lately? Ones that take you off into that glorious tunnel of trees, where everything is beautiful but you can hardly see anything outside it – the dishes, the ironing, the cat’s empty saucer …

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You can read Christine Campbell’s books for FREE with Kindle Unlimited, or buy them in eBook or paperback format here on Amazon.

Interview with the Author

A couple of months ago, on June 29, 2016, I was interviewed by Meryl Stenhouse, here on her blog. She had invited me to talk about my latest release, Rusty Gold, the third book in The Reluctant Detective Series.

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Rusty Gold by Christine Campbell

Find her,’ Agnes Donald begged. ‘Find my daughter.’

The words of a dying woman force Mirabelle to take on another case for the unofficial Missing Persons Bureau she runs from her Edinburgh flat. Along with her assistant, Kay, she heads for the island of Skye where Esme Donald was last known to be. But is someone else looking for Esme too? And could Mirabelle’s own daughter, Summer, be in danger?

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Meryl asked me some very interesting questions, questions that helped me express the origins of this series, letting readers in behind the scenes of my novels. I hope you enjoy the interview. If you want to see it in its original form, do please go to Meryl’s blog. In fact you might enjoy to do that anyway after reading this post. Meryl has written lots to interest you there.

Meryl Stenhouse: Your novel’s heroine Mirabelle is a single mother, which is an unusual but excellent choice. What led you to choose a single mother as your heroine? What challenges and opportunities did this represent in writing the story?

Christine Campbell: I chose to tell Mirabelle’s story as a single mother because there are so many single parent families around these days and I think it must be tremendously difficult to balance all the pressures of work or career and bringing up a child or children.
I got to thinking what if? What if there was a crisis in a single parent family, like a child disappearing from home? Who would the single parent turn to? What impact would it have on his or her work or career? How would it change his/her priorities? What regrets would he/she have? Things like that.

The main challenge it represented was that although I am mum, I have never had to function as a single parent, so I had to try to get inside my character’s head. I had to imagine how it would be different, but also how it would be the same.

For instance, the things that I think would be the same are the panic and pain, the anxiety and strain of such a frightening situation. I did’t find it too hard to imagine how I, as a mum, would react: how I would feel, what I would do.

A huge difference is sharing the anxiety, panic and pain with the other parent. Whenever there is any kind of difficult or worrying situation in our family, my husband and I can talk about it. We can comfort one another, work out together what we need to do.

For a single parent – in my story, a single mum – I would imagine it is very different. Although she may have very supportive family and friends, at the end of the day, she goes to bed on her own and the night must seem to last forever. So I had to work out who Mirabelle’s support team would be, and how and where she would find comfort.

One of the opportunities writing this story gave me was to examine how I would feel if I had to do things on my own. I rely on my husband so much that thinking about being on my own in such a dreadful situation was very upsetting for me. Making myself imagine it, get into Mirabelle’s head and heart, walk a mile in her shoes, so to speak, was a great exercise in empathy for me. It helped me appreciate what a great job so many single parents make of bringing up their children.

MS: You have included the homeless of Edinburgh as characters in the book, a group that is traditionally invisible. What prompted this decision?

CC: In part, it was prompted by the realisation that people can be homeless for a variety of reasons, not all of them their own fault. Even if it is their choice, it is a hard life, but for many it isn’t a choice. The statistics for young people who have left home because of domestic abuse are frightening. For them, even living rough in parks, cemeteries and squats are better than what they had.

One young woman I talked to who left home to live on the streets when she was only fourteen told me that she found the homeless community looked after her better than her parents had. She said, yes, she had to choose carefully who she associated with, learning to avoid the unscrupulous, the malicious and those who were too far gone with drugs, but a great part of the homeless community is made up of decent, honest people who have, for one reason or another, found themselves homeless.

Some of them are somewhat eccentric, some of them are difficult to communicate with, some may even be somewhat dangerous, but they are still people. I wanted to give a small section of them a voice.

MS: Rusty Gold is set on the Isle of Skye. How have you communicated the individuality of that setting to the reader? Have you traveled there yourself? What challenges did this location present to the story?

The first two books in this series, The Reluctant Detective Series, are set mostly in Edinburgh or further north but still in the east of Scotland. My husband and I are originally from the west of Scotland and we have holidayed in Skye several times over the years, plus his paternal family originated there, so, when we were planning to visit Skye again for a couple of weeks and it was time to start plotting Rusty Gold, I decided why not take Mirabelle there with us.

While there, I researched where I wanted certain scenes to take place, going to each one several times, sitting quietly on beaches getting the feel of them as well as studying them visually, travelling the single track roads across moorlands, through glens and beside lochs.

I knew Mirabelle would fall in love with Skye as I had many years ago, so my challenge was to help my readers fall in love with it too. It’s never ideal to have long, descriptive passages in a modern novel, so I tried to give the flavour of the surroundings through the characters’ eyes and actions.

I listened carefully to how natives of Skye spoke: they tend not to abbreviate but speak carefully and correctly, with a delightful lilt in their speech. I tried to portray that in the people Mirabelle meets.

When I travelled about the island, I was often held up waiting for sheep to move aside, or highland cattle to meander along in front of me, so I allowed that to happen to Mirabelle and her friend as they travelled.

From time to time, I felt compelled to stop the car at the side of the road to get out and marvel at some fabulous views, so I had them do that too, in the hopes that my readers would be able to imagine the Island of Skye. It is a truly beautiful setting.

Rusty Gold is available to buy in paperback and on Amazon Kindle.

AmazonBarnes and NobleWaterstones FeedaRead – The paperback can also be ordered from most bookshops.

Christine Campbell is a writer. She has always been a writer. For as long as she can remember, she has scribbled poems and prose, snippets and stories on scraps of paper, in the back of cheque books, napkins, on the back of her hand — anything more durable than her faulty memory.
She loves being a writer, a novelist, in particular, and she write contemporary fiction: strongly character-based, relationship novels — with a smidgen of romance and a generous dusting of mystery and detection.
She has learned a lot about her craft since that wonderful night when she held her first completed, printed manuscript novel in her arms. Her first book-baby.
Christine has now completed and published seven novels, the seventh newly ready to leave home and see the big wide world and, even more importantly, to be seen by it. It’s so exciting when your book-babies grow up and leave home. As mother of five grown-up, married children and ten grandchildren, Christine knows a lot about babies growing up and leaving home!

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I hope you enjoyed Meryl’s interview. Didn’t she ask some great questions? It’s quite an art form in itself, interviewing, and I think Meryl has mastered it. Thank you, Meryl.

What do you think? Are there interviews you’ve read that really help you get to know your favourite author better? Or some that made your toes curl?

Do share your stories in the comments. I love hearing from you.

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Tunnel Vision

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I’ve just emerged from a tunnel and I’m blinking in the light.

Goodness, what a lot I have neglected!

I see it now.

But I was quite happily engrossed in my tunnel until it came to an end.

It wasn’t the kind of tunnel that plunges you into total darkness. More like a tree tunnel, with light getting through but no way to see beyond the trees to what’s going on outside. You know the kind, I’m sure. A pleasant tunnel to be in.

I’ve had tunnel vision before. It happens with irregular regularity, each time I’m engaged in writing a novel. Because I am in the habit of writing every day, it’s been quite some time since I suffered from writers’ block – if I ever truly did. Most times, I think the trouble was that I was out of the way of writing, my writing muscles were sleepy and had to be prodded awake each time I felt like adding to my word count, and that was much harder when it had been a long time since I wrote.

Having said that, a few years ago I didn’t write anything other than the occasional blog post for almost a year after my mother died. It had been a traumatic time – not just because she died, but more to do with other things that happened around her death – and I went into a very different tunnel for quite some time – a long dark one that blotted out the sun and most of the joy it can bring. When I emerged from that tunnel, it took me a long time to adjust and I found that my creativity had all but dried up.

I was recently reminded of a blog post I wrote about what helped get me writing again after one such longish phase of losing my creativity. You can read it here if you choose.

When I’m reading a good book I get tunnel vision too. You know that way, when you can’t put a book down and you read well into the night in order to finish it, then you close your eyes and can’t stop thinking about it for ages. When you finally open your eyes and look around, you blink in the light. You realise life has gone on while you were happily in that pleasant tunnel with the book.

I had a lovely review for Rusty Gold just recently when that seems to have happened to one of my readers:

“I really enjoyed the Rusty gold series. I just couldn’t put the 3rd book down. I was desperate to see how it ended so was stirring the soup with the book in my hand! Off to bed early to read in peace and quiet and, of course ,when it was finished I wished that I had made it last longer. Now, that is the sign of a really good read. It would make a great T.V. series. How good would that be?” ~ Barbara R.

Needless to say, it’s very encouraging to receive reviews like that. It always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, and I can’t thank my readers enough for them. If ever I meet one such reader, I’ll give her the hugest of hugs.

So, you know what I’m talking about – that kind of tunnel vision.

And, like I said, I’ve just emerged from such a tunnel.

I’ve been busy writing another novel, and what a happy tunnel I’ve been in. I got so caught up with my characters, I found it hard to leave them.

This WIP is now in the hands of some beta readers, and I must wait to get their feedback before I can write the final draft, but, meanwhile, I find I’m still thinking about Yvonne and Hugh, and their story. I’m having to hold myself back from writing the next part of their story – because that’s for another book, another tunnel.

This one, called For What it’s Worth, is not quite another in The Reluctant Detective Series, more a kind of spin off, and while Mirabelle and Sam feature in the story, the main protagonist this time is Mirabelle’s sister, Yvonne.

Yvonne only featured peripherally in the three books of the series, but the dynamic of her and her husband, Hugh, kept asking to be explored, so I did, and have written their story – so far. I say, ‘so far,’ because just as our lives don’t stop when we settle into a routine after some great adventure or happening in our lives, so too, characters can seem so real that I just know their story could continue on. And my mind is already buzzing with what happens next in the Yvonne and Hugh saga.

Meanwhile, I have to see to all the things I neglected when I was so engrossed in writing For What it’s Worth – blog posts, promotional posts, guest posts, interviews, lots of interesting things like that. No matter how bonnie that tunnel of trees in, no matter how beautifully the sunlight dapples through the branches, I don’t want to hide inside it for ever. I look forward to driving through another one soon, but for now, other writing tasks need attention, there is other fun to be had, other vistas to view.

How about you? As a reader, do you get so engrossed in a good book that you can hardly bear to put it down? Do you emerge at the end blinking in the light?

As a writer, is that how you feel about the first draft of a new novel? The second? The third? And all the rest…

Please do tell me if you have felt like that when reading or writing – or doing anything else. I’d love to hear about the books you’ve read that held you entranced and why.

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You can find the three books of The Reluctant Detective Series and four more of Christine’s novels here on Amazon

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I’m Sorry, It Wasn’t About You!

I’d like to share with you a very thought provoking post by Erika Kind that I stumbled upon. I’m so glad I found it because it really resonated with me. Perhaps it will with you too. That feeling when “you were a victim of your mind’s storage room.”

Erika Kind

I remembered an incident that happened quite some time back in my life. When it came to my mind I thought I may not be the only one who is endlessly thankful for someone who puts their ego aside and only helps us healing the wounds which still affect our lives at times.

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Authors Spotlight : PattyWiseman.

I thought I’d share this author spotlight on Dave Mayall’s blog with you today. In the spotlight is Patty Wiseman, a delightful lady and author, and her series set in 1920s Detroit.
This series looks good and is on my To-Be-Read list. According to the great reviews it’s been getting, I’ll need to set aside a bit of time because it sounds like I’ll not want to put these books down once I start them.

writerdmayall

An Unlikely Arrangement by Patty Wiseman.

Young and rebellious, Ruth Squire defied her parents to live the high life of young people in 1929 Detroit. Handsome and responsible, Peter Kirby worked diligently to make his family’s life easier. Rich and powerful, Eric Horton held the fates of many families in his hands.
These three lives intertwine through the differing worlds of high society, middle-class life, and organized crime, culminating in an engagement, a kidnapping, a misunderstanding …
… and a murder.

Watch the trailer click here

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase

I really enjoyed this story. I am not normally a historical romance person, but I loved the characters in this story, and it kept giving unexpected twists and turns. Plus the author obviously put a lot of time in…

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Gallery

Launch Day

Three … Two … One … We have lift off!!

Released today!

Rusty Gold small

The third novel in The Reluctant Detective Series.

‘Find her,’ Agnes Donald begged. ‘Find my daughter.’
The words of a dying woman force Mirabelle to take on another case for the unofficial Missing Persons Bureau she runs from her Edinburgh flat.
Along with her assistant, Kay, she heads for the island of Skye where Esme Donald was last known to be. But is someone else looking for Esme too? And could Mirabelle’s own daughter, Summer, be in danger?

Rusty Gold is available as a paperback and an eBook on FeedARead,  Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Waterstones and can be ordered through most bookshops.

Get your copy today.

Enjoy!

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New to The Reluctant Detective Series?

Here’s a bit of a catch-up.

Mirabelle had thought she and Summer were happy. Being a single parent may not be ideal, but they coped well with their situation. Sure, bringing up a teenaged girl on her own was hard work, and they had their ups and downs, but they were pals as well as mother and daughter. She might not have planned her, but she was certainly glad she had Summer, and would not have liked to be without her. They’d built a life together, sorted out some kind of routine, and were happy. On a day to day basis, Mirabelle reckoned that’s all you could ask for.

 Then Summer disappears one Friday night and Mirabelle is left searching for her daughter, not knowing if Summer is alive or dead, went of her own accord or was taken against her will. Casting all other concerns aside – food, sleep, work, relationships – in her desperate need to find the answers, she takes to the streets of Edinburgh in search of Summer. Searching along wynds snaking behind old buildings, through ancient doors and tiny spiral stairways, showing Summer’s photograph to everyone she meets in shops, museums and nightclubs, Mirabelle becomes a reluctant detective, gathering clues, trying to make sense of them in order to find her missing daughter.

Meanwhile, Mirabelle gains a reputation for finding missing people and reuniting them with their loved ones. As people turn up on her doorstep asking for help, her kitchen becomes the hub of an unofficial missing persons agency.

Traces of Red, the second in the off-beat Reluctant Detective Series about Mirabelle and missing people, is the sum of several interwoven stories about an abandoned baby, two missing young women, a missing husband … and a dead body. Why did one of them abandoned a baby in an Edinburgh pub? Which one of them lies face-down in the river? Mirabelle finds herself running an unofficial Missing Person’s Bureau from her flat in Edinburgh, and DI Sam Burns seems happy to use her expertise to help him find these people, and learn how their stories interlink.

In Book One of this series, Mirabelle’s search was centred in Edinburgh, widening out to include the Scottish countryside further North in Book Two. Now, in Book Three, Mirabelle is off to the Island of Skye.

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BUTTERFLIES KEEP FLYING – A Guest Post about Epidermolysis Bullosa…

Today’s guest with the Story Reading Ape is Ali Pfautz who was inspired to write her wonderfully illustrated book Butterflies Keep Flying by her friend’s daughter Ella’s condition. Do head over and read the post and also find out more about ‘Butterfly Children’ who have the courage to face the world each day with the crippling skin disease epidermolysis bullosa. Inspiring little girl..

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Hey Everyone! 

Like all of you, I’m always so appreciative of Chris and his willingness to let us share our book news, tips etc. So here’s my latest…

Butterflies! Spring and summer make for the perfect time of year to talk butterflies, but my new book offers a metaphorical twist on the annual topic. BUTTERFLIES KEEP FLYING follows a gentle butterfly who, tired of being small and fragile, imagines what life might be like if she could be a different creature, one who’s bigger, stronger, and doesn’t fly all of the time. Eventually, she reminds herself that her delicate wings play an important role in helping her face life’s challenges. My friend’s daughter, Ella, who is a “butterfly child”, inspired the character.

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Ella has a rare skin disease called Epidermolyis Bullosa, EB. Often called the “butterfly children,” boys and girls living with EB have extremely sensitive skin that…

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#InspiringWomen: June

Lovely to have a post about Rosie Amber. I love her blog with its book review team and all the rest. She is such a busy, encouraging lady, truly one of the #inspiringwomen in blog land.
Thank you Vikki Patis for this delightful peek into how Rosie works.

The Bandwagon

Welcome to The Bandwagon’s new feature for 2016 – #InspiringWomen. These posts aim to not only celebrate successful women, but also to encourage others to follow their dreams. Meet June’s lady, Rosie Amber.

Rosie B&W SoftSelf-described as a book reviewer, avid reader and bookworm, Rosie Amber is campaigning to link more readers to writers.

What made you want to join your industry?

A few years ago I was inspired to teach myself about social media and not grow old and stagnant. I’ve always loved reading, so what better way to celebrate this than to start a book blog and reach out virtually.

What challenges have you had to overcome in order to get where you are today? 

I began at the ground and worked up, first I didn’t know what blogging platform to use, I began with Tumbler, but found the audience wrong for me, so next I tried WordPress, it works…

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Dirty Laundry

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A good day for hanging out the washing. I love days like this when I can get the washing dried outdoors. It always smells so nice and I like that it’s more eco-friendly than using my tumble drier. Plus, I just love to see clean laundry on the line. Well, it would be a bit weird if I hung out the laundry without washing it, wouldn’t it?

Mind you, I’ve seen it done. Have you ever noticed that in films or television dramas, even the soaps, when someone has to hang out a washing, it’s rarely actually wet? That annoys me no end. If you’re gonna have that scene in, then go for authenticity. Do it right. Give the character a basket of wet washing. It can’t be that hard to organise, can it?

When enjoying my thankfulness walk round the garden today, I found myself smiling at the laundry being gently blown dry by the light breeze as well as the warmth of the sun.

And I got to thinking about writing …

When we write about our characters we do the opposite of what I was talking about just now, we hang out their dirty laundry.

We expose their faults and flaws, their bad decisions, their mistakes.

Of course we do. That’s what makes them and their story interesting. Why? Because life’s like that. Things happen. We don’t always make the wise decision, the right decision, or the caring decision. We make mistakes. All of us. Nobody is perfect.

Why would we want to pretend our characters are? Why would we have them always get things right? That would make for a very dull story. It’s the fight against their flaws, the attempts they make to put right their mistakes that give us their story.

Then, when outside calamities and misfortunes hit them, we can see they are made of stern stuff. If they can battle against their inner demons and come out victorious, they are far more likely to prevail when things get tough.

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Just look at those plants growing through the slats of the bridge in our garden. When the bridge was built, it would be easy to assume that any plants underneath it would wilt and wither. After all, they were now deprived of direct sunlight and water. They have to survive in difficult, dark conditions.

But guess what! The hardy ones prevail. They fight their way up through every obstacle. Not enough sunlight? Who cares? They take the little they get and aim for where they know there’s more. Not enough water? They take what runs their way, soak it up and lift their heads and stretch out their roots to where they know they’ll find refreshment.

If we build good, strong characters, characters who are real, authentic, with their faults and flaws to battle with, then they’ll be the same. They’ll find their inner strengths when they need to, they’ll overcome the obstacles. They’ll prevail.

But we, the authors have to give them a bit of backbone.

Today, I thought I’d share with you the beginning of Searching for Summer. This is where it all started to go wrong for Mirabelle, when her bad habits began to catch up with her. This is when her struggle with her inner demons starts.

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Searching for Summer

The letter had finally come and Mirabelle suggested they should go out for a meal and to the cinema to celebrate.
She gave Summer a quick one-armed hug while shoving her bare feet into floppy sheepskin boots and preparing to rush out the door to work. “After all, not every day a girl gets accepted into uni,” she said, giving her daughter a kiss. “Imagine! A lawyer in the family.”
“Yeah, well, don’t count your chickens and all that. I might never graduate.”
“You will, chicken. I know you will. You always finish what you start. Not like me,” Mirabelle laughed. “Scatty as they come.”
“And proud of it,” Summer muttered. “That would really stick it to Aunt Hannah, though, wouldn’t it?” It was said with a sneer. “Snotty besom!”
“Summer! That is my sister you’re talking about.”
“No worse than you think about her. And don’t think I haven’t heard you and Yvonne say more or less the same thing.”
“That’s enough!”
“What was wrong with your mother anyway? Three sisters, three dads. And you bang on to me about morals.”
“I said, that’s enough! I will not have you talking like this about my mother or my sisters. Right?” She chose to ignore the sulky look she got in reply. Gathering herself and her bits and pieces together, she took a count of five and composed her face. “Anyway, honey, don’t let’s spoil the day.” She gave her daughter a smile. “Celebrations are in order.”
Summer scowled. “Yeah. Big deal.”
“Now, you know I’ve never been much for throwing a party. Love them. Think it’s the Jamaican in me. Always up for a bit of carnival.” Hands in the air, bracelets scurrying down plump brown arms into the folds of loose sleeves, Mirabelle gyrated her large hips to an internal rhythm of the Caribbean. “Love, love, love a party.” The rows of beads trailing from her neck bobbed and swung, a colourful waterfall of sound. “Just no use at organising them.” One last shimmy in defiance of the look of disgust directed at her wobbling boobs, and she handed Summer her schoolbag and urged her towards the door. “But we absolutely have to celebrate somehow.”
“You’ll definitely be home from work in time?” Summer asked with a sigh.
“Of course I will.”
Summer stood her ground, blocking the doorway. “There’s no of course about it, Mum. You’re never home before eight o’clock. The film starts at seven-thirty. If we’re to get something to eat, you need to be home six at the latest.”
“Okay. Okay. I can do it. Don’t get your knickers in a twist.”
Summer gave her a scathing look. “Ugh! That’s so yesterday.”
“Well, I’m a yesterday girl. Could’ve been a great flower person in the sixties.” Mirabelle held out her long, multi-coloured skirt and spun around on the spot. Her many rings and bangles sparkled in the light cast by the ornate, crystal-encrusted chandelier in the tiny, over-bright hallway. “Being a teenager in the nineties just didn’t have the same cachet.”
“You didn’t need the sixties.” Summer scowled.
“True. Oooh,” she cooed, stroking her daughter’s cheek. “Look at your pretty wee freckled nose all scrunched up there.” She tapped it gently. “Do I embarrass you, my petal?”
“All the time, Mother.”
Mirabelle shrugged. “Well, get used to it, kiddo. I’m unlikely to change.” Words tossed behind her with the kiss she blew as she grabbed a shawl from the back of the door. Draping the material round her shoulders, she picked up her big floppy bag and danced past Summer, out the door and down the communal stairs.
‘Unlikely to change.’
Words she’d later long to take back.
To rewind that day, push herself away from her desk, away from the stack of papers. Step crazily backwards, her shawl flying from the back of her chair into her hand, draping itself round her shoulders. Retreat through the office door, pulling it closed in front of her, her feet faultlessly finding the flight of stairs behind. She’d back down them, seeming to sink into each step, her knees straightening and flexing, straightening and flexing. Then walking backwards out into the street, her head bobbing as she took back morning greetings from colleagues and strangers.
Press rewind again to speed it up. The bus rushing in reverse, passengers seeming to get on, flying effortlessly up the step, their backs to the open door, ignoring the ticket machine, ringing the bell as they sat in their seats. Passengers seeming to get off, seeing only what they were leaving, strange knee-bent drops from the opened doors, taking their money from the ticket machine, catching it as it was spewed up from the top of columns of coins to jump into their palms. Mirabelle herself taking the leap behind her, leaving go of the handrail as her feet found the pavement.
Back, back. A reverse salsa at the bus stop, taking back the sharing of her joy at the good news of her daughter’s acceptance at Edinburgh University, smiles disappearing into closed, reserved strangers’ faces.
Backwards, backwards. Dancing down the street and up the stairs, rushing, rushing, unusual lightness in the ascent. Up the stairs and through the door and, there and then, standing beside her daughter, “I’ll change,” she’d say. “If you want me to, I’ll change.”
But, with no rewind facility available, no benefit of hindsight in play, Mirabelle neglected to change old habits. She came back from the office, late as usual, with the customary flustered apology ready on her lips and a placatory tub of ice cream in her hands as she laboriously climbed the stairs to their flat. She had got lost in the clutter that was her desk at work, writing reports about the safety or otherwise of other people’s children.
“Sorry, pal,” she said as she pushed through the door. “Not too late, are we?” She didn’t shrug out of her thick woollen shawl, though it was damp from the drizzle she’d hurried through. “Ready to go?” She pushed open the living-room door. “Summer? You there?” she said to the empty room.
Still holding the ice cream, a possible cause of the shivering tinkle her bangles made, she stuck her head round the door of her daughter’s bedroom. “Summer?”
Expecting to find her lolling across the bed or sitting at her desk tapping away on her computer, Mirabelle walked in, the ice cream held out before her as a peace offering. But the bed, duvet neatly pulled up as Summer left it every morning, was untouched, the computer unopened. Summer wasn’t home.

~~~

Will Mirabelle prove strong enough to cope with losing her daughter? Will she be strong enough to do something about finding her?

Well, you’d have to start reading the Reluctant Detective Series to find that out.

The Reluctant Detective Series

Searching for Summer ~ Traces of Red ~ Rusty Gold, coming soon

All available on Amazon in paperback and as ebooks, along with the rest of my novels.

 

http://author.to/ChristineCampbell

~~~

 

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