Updated: Oct 7, 2020
One thing people will notice about my books is that my leading ladies are often having to overcome some serious adversity before they can be happy. Trust me - I am not just being mean to them!
Over the last 8 years my life has changed beyond recognition, this has been largely due to chronic illness. Despite my initial fight, I had to admit my life as a trainee teacher and classroom assistant in a busy local high school just wasn't viable. I had been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Arthritis in my hips.
For someone as active as me, this was a massive blow. The transition period from diagnosis to acceptance was one of the hardest journeys of my life. I had been a Customer Service Manager in a local council, had two children, and finally decided to take the plunge and train to be a teacher. Something I had wanted for a long time. For three years it was perfect. Then I got ill.
I became a GP-fly - similar to a barfly but without the alcohol and friendly banter! I spent more than half my life in waiting rooms, consulting rooms and testing rooms, it was pretty grim
It took the best part of 4 years to find my new place in this world. I flounder, went under, almost drowned, and finally started to tread water. Slowly I realised I had two choices, give in or fight, and ask anyone that knows me, I am no quitter. So, I chose to fight.
Caragh, my leading lady in The Spirit of Christmas Past, faces a massive change to her life due to a life altering accident. Whilst I am blessed to have not faced such a massive adversity, my own struggle enabled me to get inside her head and bring her to life as she learnt how to live again. I remember wanting to give up, I remember wanting to close my eyes and make it all go away. I remember begging to wake up and discover it had just been a bad dream.
It was important to me that she regained her independence, whilst acknowledging her own demons and difficulty moving on. When I got ill, I entered a world I had been completely unaware of. A world I would have probably had very little interest or sympathy for. Hundreds of people, with chronic illness, fighting to make a life for themselves. Despite media portrayal not all chronically ill people want to watch daytime television and moan about their lives. In fact, most fight daily to create a new life for themselves, adapting to their new limitations.
I would love to think that Caragh’s struggle gives hope and strength to at least one person who has found their world turned upside down due to health issues beyond their control.
Excerpt: The Spirit of Christmas Past
In just a few days they would be celebrating their first wedding anniversary, and then their first Christmas Day as husband and wife, under this spectacular backdrop.
The New York skyline flashed passed them, as they both stared intently out the windows trying to take in every small glimpse of the city, before in a flash it was gone and replaced by something new. It was much colder than home, snow ploughs became a common sight and the winter wonderland scene was really beginning to take form, even if some of the snow was greyed with city smog and bustle just as it did back home.
Tucking her brown faux fur coat tightly round her, as the chill of the city dug deep, Caragh looked at James, and with a smile said “I love you Mr Coles, thank you for making my dreams come true”
Reaching over the rather worn black leather seat of the slightly battered workhorse New York taxi, James placed his black gloved hand over her white suede gloved hand and replied “I love you too Mrs Coles, and thank you”
Moments later the cab drew to a halt, and the door was opened by the hotel porter.
“Madam, Sir” said the uniformed man. “Welcome to the Renaissance, if you would like to follow me, your luggage will be brought in directly”
He offered his hand to Caragh, and she took it to steady herself as she stepped out of the cab, gasping at the grand hotel frontage that awaited her.
The shining staircase and massive glass frontage were quite spectacular, she felt like she was arriving at some sort of movie premiere, and half expected to look down and see red carpet and be distracted by the flashbulbs of the paparazzi.
Even though she had seen the pictures nothing could have prepared her for how grand and radiant it was in real life. She heard James gasp too as he joined her from the cab having hung back to pay the driver.
“Wow!” was all he could manage.
Feeling distinctly VIP and just a little bit giddy at the situation and surroundings they were ushered through the hotel check in and passed from the care of the porter, to the reception staff, and finally led by the bellboy to their suite. It was clearly a smooth well-rehearsed process that these polished staff carried out without hitch. They had splashed out on getting the best hotel and suite they could possibly stretch to, and certainly looked as though they were not going to be disappointed.
“Broadway View” announced the corporately dressed bellboy, using the card key lock,and flinging wide the door for them to enter.
“Will that be all?” he queried as their luggage was brought in by another clone style porter, and he placed the card keys on a nearby table.
“Yes, that’s lovely, thank you” said James taking a ten-dollar bill from his pocket and passing it discreetly to the young lad as he shook his hand.
(He had seen it done in the movies so many times and longed to have a go... sadly he didn’t feel he pulled off the cool as well as they do, but he had a couple of weeks to practice)
“Sir, Madam” he said with a slight bow, and he retreated from the room closing the door behind him.
They were both silent for the few minutes as they drank in the dazzling setting that was to be their home for the next two weeks.
A grand dark wood kingsize bed dominated one side of the suite, a lounge and desk area taking up space the other side, not that space was an issue the suite could certainly not be described as small. Doors lead off the main room to as yet unknown destinations waiting to be explored.
The setting was wonderfully opulent to say the least, chic and modern, there seemed to have been no cost spared in the aesthetic effect it presented.
“It is beautiful” said Caragh, standing on one spot and turning a full 360 degrees to take it all in.
They took off their coats, gloves and hats, and like a pair of children in a candy store they wandered around, touching furniture, opening doors, stroking the bedding and curtains, gasping in excitement at each new discovery. It was a fantastic setting in which to begin their Christmas adventure.
Caragh disappeared into the bathroom and shrieked excellently, “it’s gorgeous” she exclaimed as James followed her in to see for himself.
A massive corner jacuzzi bath, a television mounted on the wall about. Glass holders to the side, his and hers sinks, and the toilet presented discretely behind a wall and screen.
“It is very expensive” he said with a laugh as he headed back to the main room.
Caragh reappeared and flopped starfish like across the huge bed. “Oh, I do like it” she said stretching luxuriously, her long blonde hair spilling around her, a stark contrast on the black bedding the hotel provided
James walked over to the bottle of complimentary champagne resting in a tall silver ice bucket and lifted it out. Collecting the two glasses also on offer, he made his way to the yellow and cream striped couch sat in the massive floor to ceiling window, positioned perfectly to take in the city lights below.
He motioned to Caragh to join him, and with a pop of the cork opened the fizz. Sitting side by side, glasses in hand they were content for the next few minutes just gazing out on the bustle of the city below.
“I can see Hell’s Kitchen, oh my goodness that is surreal, Oh James, I can’t really believe it’s true” said Caragh “but here we are!”