books, fiction, Heart Of A Hostage, Princes Of Kharova, Romance, The Wild Rose Press

This Writing Life—Heart Of A Hostage

Coming soon!

Here’s the newly-produced cover of my twentieth published novel. What do you think? Heart Of A Hostage is the third book in my Princes of Kharova series for the Wild Rose Press.

Mihail inherits a fearsome reputation as Public Enemy Number One. His family lost the throne of Kharova four generations ago—but in the small European country of Kharova, blood feuds last for centuries.

A car breaks down near his rebel headquarters, stranding its beautiful royal passenger. Mihail seizes the chance to take Princess Maia hostage. It’s his perfect short-cut to the throne—or so he thinks.

Maia turns out to be the house guest from hell, and Mihail is a man with dark secrets locked away in his ruined castle hideaway. When Maia discovers what they are, the stakes rise and an already dangerous situation becomes lethal…

There’s a big secret at the centre of Heart Of A Hostage, but I’m only revealing that to readers of my newsletter! The autumn edition will be coming out in October.  As well as a revelation about Heart Of A Hostage, my newsletter will  also contain details of my latest short story, My Dream Guy, together with a seasonal recipe, news about the harvest here at Tottering Towers, an update on my bees after their recent scare, and a competition. Sign up to my mailing list here to get a copy delivered straight to your inbox!

Extract, fiction, short story

Creative Writing: Work In Progress—Cup Cakes And Champagne…

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7b/Wedding_Cup_Cakes.jpg
misscreativecakes by Beria

Right now, I’m working on the final edit of the third book in my Princes Of Kharova series for the Wild Rose Press. Heart of A Hostage lands rebel leader Mihail, and his enemy Princess Maia, in a whole load of trouble. He’s the fighter and she’s the diplomat—but rules, like promises, are made to be broken. Aren’t they?

Heart of A Hostage follows on from Leo and Sara’s romance in His Majesty’s Secret Passion and Athan and Krisia’s fireworks in Her Royal Risk. Editing this latest draft is pretty intense work, and as the weather was so great this weekend, I took a break. Sitting in the garden I wrote the first draft of a new short story called Cup Cakes and Champagne, just for fun.

The style of this story is a bit different from my usual writing, and I’d love to know what you think of it. My heroine Emmy starts off a bit immature and self-centred, but she soon discovers that while love means taking the rough with the smooth, the smooth can be pretty spectacular!

Here’s the opening—

‘Oh, Emmy, you look like it’s your first day back after the holiday, not your last day at work for two whole weeks!’ Grace giggles as she meets me off the bus. We usually start laughing  the minute we set eyes on each other and don’t stop until we leave work (or Sniffy Sonia gives us one of her looks). Today is different, but I try and put a brave face on it. 
‘I know, a whole fourteen days alone with the man of my dreams. It’ll be heaven. But camping in Wales? Why couldn’t he take us off to sun ourselves on a beach somewhere? Mud’s really not my thing.’
‘Oh, stop your moaning!’ Grace gives me a little shove. ‘Camping’s not like it used to be. And at least you’re going to a place you already know.”
‘A place I haven’t been since I was twelve years old. What if it’s changed?’
‘Look on the bright side. You’re always saying how chilled out the place was. It might be even better these days!”
That’s Grace, the eternal optimist. 
‘And…don’t forget, you’re the one who let slip about your first crush, when we were playing truth or dare at the Christmas party. If the gorgeous Harri still lives at this Feinwen Farm camp site, you’ll be able to ogle him, while cuddling up with gorgeous Jack at the same time. That’s what I call multi-tasking. Right now—last one into the office buys the coffee!’ 
She puts on a sprint, but I know when I’m beaten and let her win. Paying out insurance claims isn’t a bad job, as office work goes. I like helping people find some sort of happy-ever-after, but it still means getting up while sparrows are yawning for forty-six weeks of every year. The decent coffee  they give us helps a bit. Friday cake-breaks are another reason to struggle in on time.  
‘Seeing Harri again wasn’t the only reason I agreed to this holiday,’ I say, putting Grace’s cup down in the most inconvenient spot on her desk, ‘Jack’s so lovely, but…’ my voice trails away, because there isn’t really any “but” I can put my finger on. It’s just…
‘I thought the divine Jack Wright really was your Mr Right?’
‘He is…’
Grace looks at me in the way she does when she’s about to save me from myself by taking the last cupcake. Doing me a favour, she calls it. And whatever second thoughts I’ve got about this holiday, I love Jack. He’s a real sweetie—when he’s around. I don’t want my best friend thinking I want her to take him off my hands.
‘…but he’s changed, Grace! When we first met it was champagne, flowers, and dinner with every date. But  lately, he’s been all work, and no play.’
‘And that makes Jack a dull boy,’ she nods, doing her best Judge Judy impersonation. ‘There’s no need to draw pictures.  That’s why you’ve got to throw yourself into the holiday lark. Use this break to liven him up.’ 

‘If we were going somewhere tropical, I could. But I know what Feinwen Farm is like. We’re going to be stuck out in a field, miles from the nearest takeaway, and in the coldest, wettest summer since records began!’

Emmy’s about to get not one, but TWO big shocks. Harri is twice the man she remembers, but Jack springs some surprises, too. For the first time in her life, Emmy is lost for words!

What do you think of Cup Cakes and Champagne so far? I’ll be posting more of the story in my next newsletter, which is due out in a couple of weeks.  You can sign up for it here.

covering letter, Creative Writing, fiction, Top Tips

A Covering Letter To Cover You With Glory…

By Antonio Litterio

You’ve heard of “show, don’t tell”? In your covering letter, you’ve got to “sell, not tell”.  Imagine you’re surfing the net to check out holiday sites while your boss’s back is turned. You’ve only got a few seconds, so it’s the sites where one glance tells you all you want to know that get bookmarked, isn’t it? The same goes for the letter you send with your manuscript when it’s sent to an agent or publisher.

That letter is your landing page. It’s your shop window, where you entice an overworked reader to stop and take a second, and maybe a third, look. Make it sleek, professional, uncluttered, and easy to understand. Writing for publication is a business, so make your communications businesslike. Keep it to one side of A4, and don’t write it by hand. Get it printed.

ADDRESS:
Direct it to the right firm, and if possible, a named person.  This shows you’ve done your research, rather than copying-in multiple agents and publishers with a scatter-gun approach.

OPENING PARAGRAPH:
Tell them who you are, and give details of any relevant publishing history you might have. Be brief, and don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet, but beware. What’s the first thing you do when you discover a new person? That’s right, you check them out on Google. The writing industry is no different. If the Dalai Lama doesn’t really ring you for advice each morning, your credibility will go the same way as your chances of reaching nirvana.

Include the length and genre of your book, the market you’re targetting, and why you’re the best person to tell this story. Explain why you’re writing to them in particular. “The MegaPublisher website names you as the commissioning editor in charge of contemporary romantic fiction,” shows you’ve read up on them. Make sure you’ve checked out their requirements, too. List what you’re sending, which should ideally be no more than a synopsis, your manuscript and return postage if you’re sending it via the postal service.

YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH:
This is the essence of your story, distilled into no more than a sentence or two. A synopsis is the proper place for full details of your story (you can find out how how to write the perfect one here).  Your covering letter must major in facts, to plant seeds of curiosity about your fiction. Cultivating an overworked editor’s need to find out more about your work will stop them moving on to the next manuscript in their inbox.

YOUR FLOURISH:
Tell them why you write and for Pete’s sake, be original. We all have “a compulsion”. None of us “can help ourselves”. Sad sacks that we writers are, we all “just have to write” and “can’t go a day without doing it”. Imagine the excitement of an editor who’s read a million of those tired old trills when they come across something like “My sense of injustice provoked me to write this story,” or “Solitary confinement after my conviction as a rogue trader left me with time to fill, so here’s the inside track on pork belly futures,” They’ll dance with joy—as long as you don’t go on to blow it all by claiming the Dalai Lama got you released.
Unless it’s true, of course.

DON’T:
Wreck your chances by telling them it’s a work of genius, you’re the next E L James and you’ll be ringing them in a week’s time to arrange a date and time to sign your contract. They’re much better qualified to make decisions about things like that than you are.

AND FINALLY:
It’s not only self-pubbers who have to market their own books these days. Mainstream publishers expect a team effort. They have a lot invested in their authors, so everyone has to work hard at promoting their books. An unknown who shows they’ve got a good grasp of the marketing basics by presenting a faultless covering letter stands a much better chance of getting their manuscript read.

Can you condense your favourite classic book down into the one or two sentences of an elevator pitch?

Conflict, Dystopia, fiction, S.F.Said

Reading and Writing About The Big Ideas…

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ATiham%C3%A9r_Margitay_Exciting_story.jpg
Exciting Story by Tihamer Margitay

Memorable fiction contains great conflict. Real life is always so much better when the only dangers you face can be safely shut away between the covers of a book. For a lot of people, that’s not an option. When I was growing up, reading was my escape route. It kept me out of trouble (if I was quiet, there was a slim chance I’d be forgotten about) and it let me experience the whole world while staying safely hidden in a shed or greenhouse.

Isolationism, whether it’s a child in a corner or putting metaphorical wagons in a circle, is dangerous. This week, results from the European elections have shaken up a lot of old, established ideas. This might be a temporary kick against authority, or it might be the first signs of something more. Any individual, or any party who dehumanises “others”of a different nationality, colour, religion or culture is reaching out to dystopia. When politicians from the left, right and centre seem dead-set on sending us all to hell in a handcart, it’s up to writers to fight back. We might all look and sound differently from each other, but deep down, people are people the world over. We all have the same basic needs – food, water, shelter, dignity, and love. The global population keeps growing, but Planet Earth can’t. We’ve got to learn to get along together somehow. Writing books for children communicates big ideas like this to small people.

S.F. Said is a British author whose fiction for children highlights divisions in order to bridge them. His colourful ancestry and background helps him bring new perspectives on the puzzles everyone faces, whether they’re growing up, or grown. Where do we come from? What are we here for? How can we fit in, and who are we. really?  He says that as readers, we’re all citizens of the mind. This is why encouraging children to read as soon as they’re big enough to pick up a book is vital. Reading is, or should be, an inclusive universe, not an exclusive one.

You can listen to a talk S F Said gave as part of BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought here

#1k1hr, 3 Top Tips, Creative Writing, fiction, Neo, Susan Maushart, Twitter

Three Top Tips for Getting Your Writing Done…

Distracted? Who, me? 

1. Enjoy yourself and your work, and it’ll be reflected on the page. If you’re wrapped up in your characters and can’t wait to find out how their story unfolds, then it will show in your work. Indulge yourself in your imaginary people and their fictional landscape. Those powerful feelings will travel from your brain, all the way down to your writing (or typing!) fingers.  To paraphrase the old quote: write, and they will read–but only if they get swept up in your enthusiasm.  You’ll know when you’ve found the right mix of characters and plot. The writing won’t feel like work!

2. I love using  #1k1hr on Twitter to join forces with other writers who need the motivation of writing to a deadline. It’s really useful to be part of that supportive online community, but like fire, the internet is a great servant but a terrible master. If you want to produce a reasonable amount of quality work, you’ll have to find some way to stay off-line for long periods.  Who hasn’t gone online for a few minutes to check their emails, only to then lose hours to WILFing (What Was I Looking For?) as Susan Maushart put it. Read her book “The Winter of Our Disconnect” to discover that there really is life on the other side of the screen.  

3. Like it or not, whether they’re going to be self-published, emailed to an agent or publisher, or sent out conventionally by post, manuscripts have to be put up on a screen eventually.  Writing things out longhand then transcribing means you get an extra look at your work as it goes through the process. That’s useful, but it takes more time than simply tapping away at a keyboard from the start. If you’d rather type than write out in longhand but get easily distracted by the internet, try a Neo. It’s a simple keyboard with a basic memory–that’s all. No facility for going online means no distractions (well, not from that direction, anyway!). When you finish your writing session, you just upload your work into your current WIP document. 

If you’ve enjoyed these tips, you can find more at my website, christinahollis.com What’s your most useful tip for getting the writing done?