CHRISTMAS MYSTERY by Sophie Weston: EPISODE 3 Missed the start? Click here to read from epsode 1
The hotel receptionist beckoned as Liv went past the desk.
“Oh, Mrs Rossignol. A lady left a message for you.” She handed it over with a beaming professional smile. The envelope was in a sealed plastic bag. Rather like the receptionist, who was wearing a clear plastic full-face visor and what looked like full Hollywood make-up behind it.
“Thank you,” said Liv. “Are you uncomfortable in that thing?”
The girl looked surprised at being asked, then smiled more naturally. “You get used to it. My skin prickles after a long shift. But hey, that’s what moisturiser’s for, isn’t it? And I’m lucky to have a job.”
“Yes,” said Liv. “This virus makes me count my blessings every day.”
In her suite, she slid the envelope out of its plastic protections. She knew who it was from without even opening it. The beautiful Italic script was unmistakable. Continue reading →
There was fog over the rooftops when Liv looked out from her bedroom window for the last time. She kind of loved this view of her bit of London. Like Mary Poppins and her sweep, she saw Victorian chimneys, with a distant church tower and, even further away, a block of Edwardian apartments.
There was often a light in that distant top floor. Not this morning. Everything was dark. As dark and cold as the soon-to-be-deserted bedroom, waiting to be emptied of all that she’d not already got rid of. More like Scrooge than Mary Poppins, thought Liv, wryly.
The sky was getting lighter by the minute, behind the fog. Time to go then.
One of the few – the very few – advantages of 2020 is like to be that there will be time for reading at Christmas this year.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I love doing all the Christmassy things, from putting up the tree, with or without feline intervention, to packing presents at the last moment.
Homegrown Christmas Traditions
Christmas cards go wherever I can throw a washing line to drape them over. I usually fill the house with greenery for the solstice. By Christmas Eve the house smells of pine and foliage and oranges.
And I decorate the tree. Ah, my dear tree. Family tradition was to decorate it on the afternoon of Christmas Eve, while we listened to Carols from Kings on the radio. (It’s still available on BBC3, and also on BBC TV and probably I-player and podcast too.) It was ready, but without lights, for when my father came home from work.
The lights were A Man’s Job. At least one of the little bulbs would need be replaced and he was OIC technology. Continue reading →
It is a lovely feeling, a clean sheet with so many possibilities. New story, new characters, new settings. It’s the time I can let myself dream as I begin weaving the story.
That is the point I am at now.
I have an idea for the book and the settings will be Regency London and mainly (probably) at my hero’s country house. And it is summer.
I first began thinking about this idea in September, when my current work in progress was coming to an end. Now I wonder if I chose a summer setting because the seasons were changing? Maybe I was hoping to hang on to those hot days and balmy summer nights. But I shall be writing the story throughout the winter: bare landscapes, long nights, icy days.
It shouldn’t be a problem, I am a writer, aren’t I?
Writing Christmas Reunion in Pariswas a curious mixture of fun and anxiety. Maybe it’s always like that. There are always tough moments when you can’t see an ending, when you sit and stare at the screen and the words won’t come. But, mostly, like childbirth, you forget the agonies when all is delivered safely.
It all started when my editor asked if I’d like to write the first book in a three book mini-series – Christmas at the Harrington Park Hotel. My fellow authors, Kandy Shepherd (in Australia) and Susan Meier (in the US) were old friends. I was delighted to team up with them to work on the books that were about three siblings, each with their own painful past.
Emails flew back and forth as we worked on settings. The boarding school that James (my character) and his twin Sally had attended. The Harrington Park Hotel. The backstory of their parents, a stepfather, the moments that fractured a once happy family.
That was the fun part!
Paris…we’ve done that…
My story takes place in Paris, in the run up to the holiday, so I grabbed the chance to go and do a little research which I wrote about a few months ago.
The BBC’s recent 100 Books that Shaped our Worldhas started me thinking about comfort reads. What are they? When do we want them? Maybe even need them, indeed. What do they do for us? And how do we find them in the first place?
And is comfort reading a Bad Thing?
Escapism, after all, has got a bad press ever since the word was first coined, apparently in thirties USA i.e. at the height of the Depression. The Oxford English Dictionary defines escapism as “the tendency to seek distraction and relief from unpleasant realities, especially by seeking entertainment or engaging in fantasy.”
A few years ago, we featured polar bears (left) in our Christmas blog. They were fun, in shop windows and on market stalls. I thought they were almost as good as our burglarious santas.
But this year, even though we were nowhere near the end of November, the polar bears had grown. I found nine-foot high bears on the pavement in Piccadilly outside the Park Lane Hotel (shown left and below).
They were eye-catching, certainly, but in the middle of November?
What do we poor punters have to do to be spared Christmas adverts and — crucially — Christmas jingles for weeks and weeks in the run-up to the great day? Continue reading →
There are a couple of months to go before we need to start to panic, but the groans are undoubtedly justified.
The children have only just gone back to school, the supermarket aisles are full of the momentary distraction of fake pumpkins and Halloween costumes, but they are already piling up the Christmas chocolate. (I took these two photographs just this morning.) And greetings cards are on sale for those organised enough to get them written before they get swept up in the season.
It sounds like a horror movie, doesn’t it? Sort of the reverse of the Seventh Day, when you’re supposed to rest. More 21st century urban nightmare than traditional Christmas. (Indeed, the IMdB data base does list a move called DAY 13 filmed in 2017. But that’s about all it says.)
POST PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION REVIEW
Well, Mr True Love, would you say that you succeeded in implementing your ideas?
Did you achieve your goals?
Did the project fully solve the problem it was designed to address?
Can you take things further (further?!) to deliver bigger benefits in the future? (Yikes!) Continue reading →