Blog, Christmas

Some Special Christmas News…

Three Bits of Special Christmas News For You!

I’m blogging early this week as I’ve got some special Christmas news for you. There are stories to read, both short and full-length, and a 30% discount on a package that will help you get your own words into print.

A Short Story

My story Podgy Moose and Me appears in The People’s Friend Special Number 252, which went on sale this week. This story’s working title was The Disobedience Champion, and it’s all about a naughty dog who has to go on a diet. Moose will do anything for food – anything, that is, except for doing what his owner asks. There’s absolutely no need to ask where I got the inspiration from for this story!

Labrador Retriever Alex, the dog disobedience champion, with a wild boar trotter in his mouth.

A Helping Hand

When I was getting my latest novel, Royal Passion, ready for publication, I used Vellum to create ebooks for distribution on every platform. Vellum did everything for me, from formatting to creating the index. It was really easy to use, and better still, Vellum are offering 30% off until December 4th. Find out more here.


Free Books

Once again, I’m taking part in a promotion with lots of other authors to introduce our work to new readers. If you like contemporary romance full of bad boys and billionaires, here are plenty of free books to introduce you to your next romantic hero. You can find out more here.

Advertising banner of bare chested hero in Santa cape advertising free steamy romance books

You can buy my latest book, Royal Passion, here, find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

THE SMALL PRINT! Some hyperlinks on this site are affiliate links. If you decide to purchase then I receive a small percentage of the sales. Don’t worry – I only recommend tools, services or books that I use myself.

A Countryside Christmas, Blog

Six Top Seasonal Treats…

…and you don’t have to spend any money!

It’s still technically autumn, so here are my five top seasonal treats to get you in the mood for Winter and all the festivities involved in an English Country Christmas.

My Six Top Seasonal Treats

Here they are, in reverse order…

6: Drying Washing Out of Doors

Tumble driers cost a fortune to run. Drying washing outdoors on a line in the fresh air is free. The drawback is as the days get shorter at this time of year there’s less time for drying.

A good drying day is a rare bonus between the end of October and the beginning of March. This morning was a rarity, dawning bright and sunny. I couldn’t miss the chance of that high blue sky paired with a blustery wind. I washed all the bedding, towels, and anything else I could find then pegged it all out for a good blow in the breeze.

I love to see washing dancing on the line. It did the washing good, too. Almost everything was dry by 2:30 this afternoon. All it needed was airing. The fragrance of fresh air when the washing comes in after a sunny day on the line is lovely. The problem is, days like today are few and far between at this time of year. You have to get your fun where you can.

5: Kicking Leaves

Christina Hollis's green Wellington boot kicking through oak leaves in autumn. Five Top Seasonal Treats

Talking of fun, when was the last time you kicked through leaves? Why not get out and find some fresh air, exercise, and tomfoolery? If you feel self-conscious, take a dog or small child to fool around with you. I’m lucky–I live in the middle of ancient woodland. Tourists are thin on the ground at this time of year, and all the local dog walkers have already met my inner child at one time or another. I had a good old kick about in the leaves this morning while we were walking Alex. Here’s a blurry photo. You can see from the state of my boot that the trackway of logs laid across the particularly boggy stretch shown below is absolutely vital!

Here’s the point where two tracks diverge in the middle of our (currently) Yellow Wood. A steep slope runs downhill from right to left of this picture. A reasonably level one runs from top left to bottom right of the photo. After weeks of relentless rain, the point where the two paths cross became a quagmire. I nearly lost a Wellington, while Alex came home muddy up to his armpits (if dogs had armpits). Luckily the Forestry put down these spare sweet chestnut logs.

Sweet chestnut logs laid down in mud to make a dry trackway.Five Top Seasonal Treats

4: Warm Hands

What’s the best thing to do after a chilly leaf-kicking walk? Wrap your hands around a mug of hot chocolate! If you can gaze into the living flames of a real log fire, that’s even better. A good fire gives pleasure in so many ways: warmth, the comforting crackle, the sight of the flames, and the delicate fragrance of woodsmoke. Of course, during a power cut, you can cook on it, too!

While you’re thawing out beside a fire with your steaming drink, what’s the most natural thing in the world to reach for?

3: A Good Book

The Christmas Chronicles book by Nigel SlaterFive Top Seasonal Treats

…of course! Every year at this time I read Nigel Slater’s book, The Christmas Chronicles. This is his journal for the entire holiday season, beginning 1st November and going right through until Candlemas on 2nd February. The book is crammed with Nigel Slater’s memories and observations about winter feasts, festivals, markets, and seasonal recipes from both England and across the world.

I’m a very slow reader so this year I’ve just reached the chapter in The Christmas Chronicles dated 22nd November: Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. This is a potted history of the Magi’s gifts, and how they can be used at Christmas today. The chapter I’ll be reading tonight is 25th November: The Cake. With still a month to go, I shall be making my Christmas Cake the minute I can get around to it!

2: Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s Carol Symphony

Listening to Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s Carol Symphony while enjoying the first mince pie of the season is a tradition here in Tottering Towers. This is a lovely piece of music, guaranteed to get you into the holiday mood. For best effect wait for it (and your first mince pie) until Advent Sunday, which is on December 3rd this year. You can get the best effect by listening to the Carol Symphony here, where AntPDC has paired it with his own beautiful photographs. It gives you the full experience of the English countryside in winter.

My number one seasonal treat is showing its age, but that only adds to its charm.

1: The Box of Delights

John Masefield’s The Box of Delights was first published in 1935. Despite its age, this simple exciting tale has charmed children ever since. Adults aren’t immune, either. Each year #theboxofdelights and #thewolvesarerunning are popular hashtags on X (formerly Twitter). If you’ve listened to Victor Hely-Hutchinson’s Carol Symphony, you’ll recognise the haunting treatment of The First Noel, which is used as its theme. It must be popular – my mother could remember sitting by the radio with her siblings when The Box of Delights was a Christmas treat on several occasions, both during and after the Second World War.

For best results, suspend your disbelief, forget CGI ever existed, and become a child again…

You can sign up for my newsletter here, and buy my latest book, Royal Passion, here.

You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

Blog, Creative Writing, Writing process

Find Your Support System

Everyone needs a support system – friends or family who have your back, and a safe space. Writers really benefit from people who “get” what they are about, and creatives in general crave supportive surroundings.

Find Your (Writing) Support System

This week, I and other members of the Herefordshire branch of The Society of Authors met for lunch in a local pub. The surroundings were great, the company was even better. Writing can be a lonely business. It’s good to know you’re not the only one struggling with the killer combination of work/life balance, characters, and plot. Meetings like this offer a safe space for the free exchange of views, as long as everyone understands

close up of human hand writing. Illustrating Find Your Support System
Photo by Pixabay on

Rules? What Rules?

This lunch did three important things. It got us all out from behind our keyboards, we talked about our work and brainstormed our problems, and we all exchanged news and views (and not only about writing). Our meeting worked well as a safe space, because everyone understood that social gatherings like this should run on a combination of the rules of Chatham House, and Vegas. Chatham House rules mean that anything said at a meeting can be broadcast outside the group as long as no names are used, and all comments are anonymised. And we all know that what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!


I’m very shy and suffer from terrible social anxiety. Hard though it was at the beginning, I’ve gained so much from belonging to writing groups that I’m glad I made the effort. Each meeting teaches me something new, and I can pass on what I’ve learned, too. If I can manage to take part in a group or association, so can you! Do your research before you join, as some groups are definitely more supportive than others. Every genre has it specialist group, so there’s something for everyone.

I’m a member of both The Society of Authors and The Romantic Novelists’ Association. Both associations over social occasions and learning opportunities. The RNA runs the New Writers’ Scheme, which provides feedback on the manuscripts of unpublished writers. That’s a support system particularly close to my heart, as I am one of its Readers.


Don’t keep your work to yourself. Let it breathe and expand by sharing it with your support system. When you are in the early stages of your writing life it can be difficult to show your work to friends and family. This is where entering competitions can help build your confidence, or getting feedback from a trusted source such as the New Writers’ Scheme (see above). As you advance in your writing career, Beta readers and editors can help and guide you.

Take Part

I’m taking part in @NaNoWriMo at the moment, which has pushed me into writing more than twenty-nine thousand words so far this month! That’s a good percentage of my next novel, although those twenty-nine thousand words are in the form of a very rough first draft. I’ll have to have tidied up the opening paragraphs by 22nd November, as that’s when the next edition of my reader newsletter goes out. I’ve promised subscribers that I’ll include an extract for them to read. My project doesn’t have a name yet, so I’m offering my subscribers the chance to win a gift token for suggesting a title for the finished novel.

To read the coming extract from my NaNoWriMo project and enter my competition, sign up for my newsletter here.

Buy my latest book, Royal Passion, here. You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.


NaNoWriMo Week Two

End of Week Two, NaNoWriMo!

Last week I wrote about National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Writers from all over the world are challenging themselves to write a novel in a month. I’ve managed to write something every day toward my next novel, which is good. My story is so new it doesn’t have a name yet. I’ll be including an extract in my next newsletter. Subscribers who suggest a title will be in with the chance to win a prize. You can sign up for my newsletter here.

I’ve managed to log a total of 21,126 words so far, but it is the roughest of rough drafts. It will take some time to tidy it up, but I’ll worry about that on 1st December!

First Things First

I had the basic storyline planned out in my mind before I began writing. My priority is getting dialogue down on the page. The descriptive flourishes can come later, when I’m not chasing a deadline. Then I can take plenty of time to think, imagine, and get the settings just right.

The only problem with all this writing is that I’m tempted to spend too much time sitting down! Luckily our cheeky canine Alex needs at least a couple of walks a day. That’s a good excuse to get outside and enjoy all the autumn colours.

red holly berries and yellow variegated holly leaves

Birds are beginning to come back to our bird tables. There aren’t so many daylight hours when they can find food in the wild. Winter migrants like redwings and fieldfares have blown in on the north east wind from Scandinavia. That’s good news for birdwatchers, but bad news for anyone hoping to pick holly and mistletoe for Christmas. I’ll need to cover I cover some branches with netting before the birds arrive, or all the berries will be eaten!

Don’t forget, to read an extract from my NaNoWriMo project and enter my competition, sign up for my newsletter here.

Buy my latest book, Royal Passion, here. You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.

female software engineer coding on computer
Blog, NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo 2023

NaNoWriMo 23 is here!

November is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo 2023 is an international creative writing event in which participants try to complete 50,000 words of a brand new novel during the month of November. I’m taking part this year. Starting with a rough outline of an idea on November 1st, I’m hoping to have at least 50,000 words of a new novel completed by midnight on 30th November.

A Dash of History

The NaNoWriMo challenge was thrown down by freelance writer Chris Baty in San Francisco during July 1999 with 21 participants who hoped to write a book in a month.

NaNoWriMo Winner's certificate, Christina Hollis 2024
My Winner’s Certificate from the last time I took part in NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo grew fast, and in 2005 was registered as a non-profit organisation. In 2019 almost half a million people took part. The NaNoWriMo website supplies all kind of support, from motivational articles by well-known authors, hints and tips, and progress badges. There are also local groups all over the world.

A Rush of Inspiration

I began my project (which is so new it doesn’t have a name yet) first thing on 1st November. I’m writing this blog on 3rd November, and I’ve written 5,702 words so far. I spend all my spare time in the afternoon and evening thinking about my story. Then I sleep on my ideas. Next morning, I’m ready to start work with at least one scene pretty much fully-formed in my mind.

Neos Smart

My Alphasmart Neo is key to my success. It’s basically a keyboard with a memory. It has a tiny screen which inhibits looping back to edit as you work, and most importantly of all as far as I’m concerned, it has no access to the internet. There’s no room for procrastination or web surfing. I take my Neo somewhere quiet,  hammer out a stream of consciousness first draft, and then upload it to an open word document on my Mac at the end of the day’s writing session. By November 30th I should have at least 50,000 words of my novel. It may be garbled, but as the old saying goes, the roughest first draft is much easier to work on than a blank page.  

My Alphasmart Neo, ready for  NaNoWriMo 23
My Alphasmart Neo

Follow My Progress

For a weekly report on how I’m getting on, sign up for my blog (see the box on the right of this page). I’ll be including an extract of what I’ve produced in my November newsletter, which goes out in three weeks’ time.

To be in at the birth of my next book, sign up for my newsletter here. Subscribers can enter a competition to suggest the title of my NaNoWriMo project. Once you’ve read the excerpt that will be appearing in my November newsletter, send me your idea for a title. You’ll be in with a chance of winning a gift token as a reward for your creativity!

Buy my latest book, Royal Passion, here. You can find out more about me here, and see some of my books here.