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Friday 31 May 2013

Food, Men and The Weekend...

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By David Shankbone
I love food. In fact, I eat nothing else–and that's my problem. When I was growing up, there was a strict hierarchy in our family which meant the men ate first and children were at the bottom of the food chain. Then I got married. That was when the trouble started.  I was in charge of my own kitchen - stocking it with food, then preparing and cooking it. I went from being hungry all the time to eating what I liked, when I liked. 

That was fine while I was galloping about after livestock and children, but as time went on, things changed. An underactive thyroid coupled with a period of illness (and the fact I'm not twenty-one any more) meant the weight started going on faster than I could run it off. I had to lose it - but how? I'm living proof that yo-yo dieting doesn't work, so for the past six weeks I've been trying something new. I'm not dieting as such, but modifying my usual intake of food rather than alternately starving and bingeing. Luckily, the greenhouse is full of vegetables in all shapes, sizes and colours, so I can still enjoy a chicken sandwich now and again by halving the amount of meat, replacing butter with a smear of low-fat mayo and filling the gaps with salad. I take smaller portions, drink more water and try not to eat anything at all between our last meal of the day and bedtime. That last one's the real killer for me. I love to nibble while I'm watching TV. It's made me the substantial woman I am today, so be warned... 

I am losing weight, although it's a slow process. That makes it dangerous. With over a stone still to go, will I get fed up with feeling under-fed before I reach my target weight? I'll let you know.

This week's man is an amazing guy who deserves every bit of his success... go, Alwyn!

I'll be spending my weekend putting some distance between me and the microwave. What's your favourite healthy meal?

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Writing (and Rewriting) Romance As Ebooks...

Photo by Bertil Videt
I love putting my own spin on historical events by using them as the background to romance. At the beginning of my fiction-writing career, I wrote six books for Harlequin Mills and Boon's Masquerade imprint under the pen name of Polly Forrester. These were originally only available in the UK so I'm currently working to introduce them to a wider audience by bringing them out as ebooks. Lady Rascal is already available and my next title, Jewel Under Siege, is due for release later this summer.

Jewel under Siege is set in Constantinople, at the time of the Crusades. Elena is a young widow who finds herself in an impossible situation when tough warrior Emil literally falls into her life. He is an enemy who has nothing but contempt for her people, but the lure of the forbidden means Elena and Emil are soon attracted to each other despite all the dangers.

Revisiting my earlier fiction means I can add a few little touches to the text. At the moment I'm taking the chance to make Elena and Emil's romance sizzle still more under the Turkish sun. How do you like your historical romances - hot or homely?

You can keep up with the progress of Jewel Under Siege towards publication by subscribing to my newsletter. Just send an email to me at christinahollis@hotmail.co.uk with the word "Subscribe" in the subject line.

Monday 6 May 2013

Three Top Tips On Writing That Book...

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By Johannes Vermeer
It's said everyone has a book inside them. These days it's tricky to forecast what is going to be the next  blockbusting best-seller that spawns a film franchise, but all successful writers have something in common.  E.L James, J.K Rowling and J.R.R Tolkien don't only share a love of initialising. Each of them did more than dream. They buckled down and did the work: day after day of drafting, researching, writing, re-writing, editing  and reading. It doesn't matter whether they had help with some of the grunt work. The fact is, their ideas wouldn't have made it around the world if they hadn't had the conviction to start putting them into words and then kept going until their stories were told. 

I can't promise that your dream project will outsell Shades, Potter or TLOTR, but there's nothing surer than this. To be in with a chance, you'll have to get your masterwork written. Here are three top tips for doing just that...

1. START... in the right place. I wrote Lady Rascal because I'd got bogged down while studying an Open University course on The Enlightenment. I really wished some of those posh, privileged gentlemen doing the Tour of Europe could get a taste of how the other half lived. My hero Philip Adamson has a lot in common with the Paris he's visiting: despite grand appearances, there's trouble on the horizon. At the same time, heroine Madeline discovers that changing her appearance can get her out of trouble. As I was writing an historical romance rather than a text-book on Eighteenth-century Paris, I wanted to get Philip and Madeline together on the page as soon as possible. Madeline's career as a revolutionary ends with a bang right at the beginning of the book, when Philip assumes her looted finery means she's an aristocrat in danger. She's swept off her feet, and whisked away to a new and completely alien life.

2...AND THEN... make sure your plot has enough twists to keep your reader turning the pages. A good way to tell if you're on the right track is how easy it is to stop writing. If it feels like your fingers are pushing through treacle, that's a warning sign. If you're scribbling or typing as fast as you can, desperate to capture the movie playing in your head, there's a chance your reader might be carried away by your story, too. Ironically, it's when the words are flowing easily that you should finish for the day. Then your enthusiasm will carry over to the next session, and you'll be raring to go. With that method, there's no sitting down in front of a blank page, wondering what to write. You've been thinking about your next scene since the moment you stopped work the day before, and that's a great way to avoid the scourge of Writer's Block.

3. FINISH...in a way that will satisfy your reader. They should have learned a lot about your hero and heroine along the way - and maybe something about themselves, too.  Tie up all the loose ends of your story. Never introduce a character or plot thread and then abandon them, thinking no one will notice. Someone always does! Nemesis, the last book in Lindsey Davis' Falco series, deals with huge, emotion-wringing themes of life, death and family relationships. I lapped all that up but discovered, too, that I'm an obsessive when it comes to animals. I thought I'd be the only reader left worrying over the fate of one of the most minor of minor characters - Nero (aka Spot) the ox. I needn't have worried - he wasn't forgotten after all. If his disappearance hadn't been explained at the end, I would have felt Nemesis was like the old jigsaw puzzle of Great Britain's counties we had when I was a child. The smallest county, Rutland, was missing. Apart from that our jigsaw was perfect, unless you were interested in that teeny-tiny- well, spot!