Christina Hollis, personal best, running

Running Update

Look at this! It’s my personal best time for the mile, set early on Saturday morning.  I’m so happy I’m bouncing around like Tigger! Fourteen weeks ago when I started the Running Made Easy’s 60 Second Secret Plan, I could only walk, not run. Back then, it was taking me twenty minutes to walk the same measured mile, so I’ve halved my time. As this includes hopping off the pavement to dodge brambles and hopping onto the verge to avoid cars, there’s still some room for improvement.
My timed mile was part of a lovely early morning run with OH. It didn’t start out so well – we’d shared our first  bottle of wine for weeks over dinner the night before, and it hit us both surprisingly hard. We crawled out of bed with heads full of cotton wool, but the 6am chill soon woke us up. Running the whole mile with no walk-breaks meant I achieved TWO personal bests on one session.
Have you ever set yourself a challenge? How did you get on?

Christina Hollis, domestic abuse, emotional blackmail, Jimmy Savile, violence

Domestic Abuse Is So Much More Than Violence – Pass It On.

By Lilyu (Own work) [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
I’m writing this blog on impulse after hearing Tina Nash interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. Tina was blinded by an abusive partner, and her story really resonates with me as I could so easily have been injured or killed in similar circumstances. 
I’ve been happily married for many years now, but before I met my beloved OH I tried to escape one dreadful relationship by running headlong into another. What Tina Nash says is perfectly true: abusive partners develop a hold over you so stealthily that you don’t realise how they’ve sapped your confidence until it’s too late. They alienate all the people who could help you, convince you that you’ll be sectioned or have your children taken away if you try and speak out, and exert an almost hypnotic power which convinces you that their way is the only way. 
Abusers don’t always need to use violence to get their own way. Emotional blackmail is an equally powerful tool  – just look at the havoc allegedly wreaked by Jimmy Savile. Anyone in a position of power – parent, teacher or celebrity – can prey on the vulnerable by using the chilling words “It’ll be your word against mine, and who’s going to believe you?” They’ll chip away at your self-esteem until you assume there’s no escape.
THAT ISN’T TRUE!
If you’re reading this and you recognise yourself, or somebody you know, get help. NOW. In the UK, contact Refuge. In other parts of the world, check the phone book or type “Domestic Violence Helpline” into a search engine on a public access computer, rather than in your own home.
And please pass this message on – you may save a life.
Christina Hollis, Ebook, historical romance, Lady Rascal, Spirit

A Touch of Historical Romance…

The extract from my current Work In Progress, Spirit, provoked such a lot of interest I thought I’d follow it up with a snippet from my most recent ebook, Lady Rascal. This book originally appeared as a hardback and paperback, but it was sold only in the UK. Now it’s available worldwide, downloadable from Amazon (Kindle), iTunesBarnes and Noble (Nook) and loads of other ebook suppliers, too.
Lady Rascal is set in the summer of 1789, at the beginning of the French Revolution. As Paris descends into chaos, poverty-stricken Madeleine finds herself in a deserted Parisian dressmaker’s shop. She grabs the chance to dress up in the glamorous accessories and impractical shoes she has only been able to dream about until now…

 Madeleine suddenly saw something she couldn’t live without a moment longer. Picking up one of the candles, she took three wobbling steps out from behind the safety of the counter. Balancing precariously in front of a long mirror, she took down the wisp of gossamer that hung beside it.

It was a shift of some description, needing only the hem to be finished. But what a shift! Almost transparent, the fine fabric rippled through Madeleine’s gloved fingers like water. It was all she needed to complete her outfit.
In a moment her work dress of coarse brown stuff had been cast aside. It took her a few minutes to work out how to get into the shift, which had no fastenings but pulled on over her head. At last she managed, arranging the folds of fabric about her painfully thin body.
It clung to her like pale mist, flowing with every movement and making graceful her stumbling steps in the borrowed shoes. She was entranced, and so beguiled that the running footsteps outside went unnoticed. Only when a foreign voice called out very close at hand did she jump out of her dream.
Then panic turned her to water. To be found here, dressed like this would be certain death. Like an idiot she had not thought to douse the candles, and now it was too late.
The door flew and a large shadow rippled through the shop towards her.
With a scream Madeleine dropped the candle she held…

Spirit and Lady Rascal are very different in both content and style. If you’ve read both, I’d love to know what you think of the contrast!
author, Christina Hollis, Romantic Fiction, Spirit, work in progress

Writing Fiction – Work In Progress

Today’s blog is a bit of a departure from the norm. It’s the opening of my current WIP, which is a full-length, contemporary novel.  Spirit is based around the idea that personal disaster brings out the best in people. My heroine, Ruth, loses everything she values. She only achieves her happy-ever-after when, like hero Mitch, she realises she was looking for it in the wrong place…

By kazuh

One minute Ruth Parrish had it all – complete with a thumping headache, a fresh set of scratches on the SUV and credit cards maxed out on new school uniform. Then her world evaporated in a whiff of Hugo Boss.  She was left with no future, two children to support, and a cake.

  Ruth’s disaster struck in the middle of a clear blue day. She and the children tumbled back into the house, hot and bothered after the trials of shopping and a grisly visit to grandma.  Gasping for tea and painkillers, she stopped the children bickering by sending Grace upstairs with the new laundry marker. Grace was old enough to mark her own school kit, although Ruth knew it would be faster and less stressful to do it herself, once the children had gone to bed. 
Jack was younger, but he could always be bribed with a comic to give Ruth a few minutes’ peace.  She ferreted his latest one out from the tide of carrier bags lapping around her feet and pushed him through the open living-room door. Then she dragged the shopping into the kitchen. It was always her sanctuary, but today it was chaos. Her partner Alan must have been up to something. He created havoc wherever he went, and could turn his back on disaster without a thought for her, or anybody else. 
Trying to ignore the mess, she shoved aside enough of it to make room for today’s star prize. One of her carrier bags contained a cake box, encrusted with gold decoupage and pink ribbons.  She put it down on the table like a holy relic, and smiled for the first time that day. The box cradled a gateau au chocolat. It was supposed to be for tea – a trophy to mark the end of the summer holidays.
Although surely it couldn’t hurt just to look at it… 
Ruth resisted temptation long enough to go and switch on the kettle. Then she went back to ease open the carnation-coloured lid of the cake box. Inside was a triumph of the patissier’s art. Glossy ganache had been set with tiny macaroons and curls of chocolate, then sprinkled with gold dust. She inspected the cake long and hard from every angle. It was decorated with so many little extras, nobody would miss one or two. 
Licking the tip of her finger, she reached out to the gateau with the stealth of a bomb disposal expert.
‘Mum, I want Monsters from Mars!’  Jack’s voice rang through from the other room. 
Caught in the act, Ruth jumped like a frog. 
‘Have it! Your Dad’s sure to have left the television on standby.’ 
She went back to gazing at the gateau.  Mentally dividing the cake into slices, she sighed.  The portions looked so meagre. She wished she still made her own cakes, but if there was one thing worse than Alan’s complaints it was seeing him moan with his mouth full. He blamed Ruth’s cooking for the fact his new clothes were a size larger each time she went shopping for him. That never stopped him eating everything she put in front of him, then looking round for more. Telling him that, and adding that his age might have something to do with his weight gain, only made things worse. 
Grace materialised at her elbow.
‘I thought you were sorting out your school stuff ready for next week, love?’
‘I’ve done it. Now I want to go on the computer.’  
Plump, pale Grace stared into the heart-stopping cake box. ‘Where is the computer, Mum?’ she murmured, distracted by their calorie-packed coming attraction.
‘What do you mean?’  As Ruth looked up from the gateau, Jack stamped in from the living room.
  ‘Where’s the telly?  I want Monsters from Mars!’  
A cranky eleven-year-old was the last thing Ruth needed.  ‘Your dad must have been moving stuff around while he tried to find the best position for his damned plasma screen.’ Sighing, she abandoned the cake like a lover.
 They had left Alan “working from home” that morning. His latest toy had still been in its box then, filling the lounge. Ruth could guess what happened next. Alan would have carried on checking e-mails until he was sure she and the children were well on their way. Then he would have abandoned his work computer for the new TV. Setting it up would have sent him back to bed exhausted. She called upstairs to him on her way through to the lounge.
‘Alan?  What have you been up to?’ She laughed – but not for long.

I’d love to know what you think of it: there’s a signed book from my backlist for a comment picked at random.
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Christina Hollis, London 2012, Olympics, Steven Covey, Top Tips

3 Top Tips For Success

1. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR OWN ACTIONS – How often have you heard someone say “I could have anything I wanted if only I had more money/more time/a better looking partner…or any one of a hundred other excuses. We all like to indulge in a bit of wishful thinking, but dreaming doesn’t change anything.  Appreciating what we’re blessed with already and building on it is the only way to get results. For instance, if (like me) you can’t understand why it’s impossible to lose weight, get checked out by a doctor to rule out any underlying medical condition, then try keeping a food and exercise diary for a few days.  It really helps, and I speak from experience!
2. BELIEVE  – it doesn’t matter what your goal is, the important thing is that you set one. Then buckle down and channel everything you’ve got toward achieving it. “Begin with the end in mind”, Steven Covey says in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People We’ve just seen the proof of that in the hundreds of athletes who have fought for years to reach the London 2012 Olympics. Make sure your mind is trained on your ultimate prize, whatever that might be. Wanting to write a book isn’t enough. You must believe with all your heart that you can do it. A solid core belief is the only thing that will get you through the hours and hours of writing, re-writing, rejection and editing it needs to reach a goal like that. Half-hearted procrastinators need not apply! 
3. DO IT NOW – whatever “it” is. By the law of unintended consequence, it’ll take twice as long tomorrow, and three times longer next month. When you keep putting off the evil moment when you must balance your budget, send that email, or break off a relationship, the harder it becomes – and all the time the dread of doing it casts a deepening shadow over your every waking minute. When you’ve got a lot of frogs to eat, the saying goes, eat the ugly frog first. Making the initial effort is always the worst part of any task. 

Whatever you want to achieve in life, you are the only one who can really make it happen. Identify what you want, go for it, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that whatever you achieve, you’ll have given it your very best shot.