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Sunday, 4 December 2016

Last Chance to Win

Looking for a decent read as the holidays approach? How about a freebie? Don't forget I've teamed up with a dynamic group of cozy mystery writers to offer you one of 17 prizes, including free, signed paperback copies of books by the likes of Dianne HarmanLarissa ReinhartCee Cee JamesJulie MoffettCarolyn Haines, Ritter Ames, Kathi Daley and Tonya Kappes (to name just a few).

You also have a chance to score FREE e-books just for entering. To do that, click on the following link: Cozy Mystery Book Giveaway

Good luck, guys, and keep an eye out for my latest mystery which is due out after Christmas.

Happy reading (and winning) everyone!

xo Christina

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Mega Cozy Mystery Giveaway

Regular readers will know I've been busily tapping away at my latest novel and may even be happy to hear it is finished and goes to my editor this week (hurrah!). Look out for upcoming tidbits on the book, cover reveal and so forth.

Until then....

I'm rewarding your patience with another wonderful giveaway. This time I've teamed up with an extraordinary collection of best-selling cozy mystery authors to give you the chance to win one of 17 prizes, including free, signed paperback copies of books by the likes of Dianne Harman, Larissa Reinhart, Cee Cee James, Julie Moffett, Carolyn Haines, Ritter Ames, Kathi Daley and Tonya Kappes (to name just a few).

You also have a chance to score FREE e-books just for entering. To do that, click on the following link: Cozy Mystery Book Giveaway

Good luck, guys, and don't forget to pop back in to find out more about my latest mystery which is due out after Christmas.

Happy reading (and winning) everyone!

xo Christina

Monday, 31 October 2016

A little less conversation…

"Tap, tap, tap…" Can you hear that? "Tap, tap… (expletive, expletive), tap tap…"

I'm in the final throes of a whole new mystery novel and, apart from the clickety-clack of my old smudged keyboard (and the odd muttered curse), things have been quiet around here lately.

And they're about to get even quieter.

I've given myself exactly two weeks to finish the first draft, and another two weeks to do the rewrite, which means a little less conversation and a little more typing, baby.

It also means no more blogs for a bit. Forgive my silence, people, but be assured the result will be worth it. My next book is a newbie for me, a whole new direction. I can't reveal too much yet but I am sure you'll love it, if only for the sheer novelty factor. No one is doing anything quite like this one at the moment. I'm very excited, but I have a lot of work to do before it's complete.

And I need to get on with it or my editor will skin me alive.

Until we chat again, keep an eye on Amazon, Twitter and Facebook. I'll still be doing the odd promotions and sales of my other books.

For now, though, I have a keyboard waiting and an editor wielding a knife...

Happy tapping everyone!

xo Christina

Sunday, 9 October 2016

One cruise you can afford to take

Just a quick heads up: I'm holding a 99c sale for my latest crime novel Murder on the Orient (SS) at Amazon, Apple, Nook, Kobo, Smashwords et al.

This is the second in the popular Agatha Christie Book Club series and follows the gang as they scramble across the gangplank and onto a cruise that's less R&R and a lot more "Ahhhhh!"

It starts with a passenger missing overboard. It ends with the book club utilising their 'leetle grey cells' (a la Hercule Poirot) to solve a series of increasingly violent crimes.

There's a wealthy widow dead in her bed. Another passenger stabbed in the ship's gym. And who the hell has been stealing the Captain's wife's designer kaftans?!

This book—set on a modern replica of a cruise ship that really did sail the high seas back in Agatha Christie's days—was a lot of fun to write and is a baffling one to solve if my reviewers are anything to go by.

But you be the judge! Download your 99c ebook now and jump aboard for the ride. It won't be for sale for long.

Happy (cruisy) reading everyone!

xo Christina

Thursday, 29 September 2016

What do you think makes a good story?

I once joined my local writers' group purely for the pleasure of meeting fellow wordsmiths. Yet I came away with a whole new appreciation of what it means to write. It seemed, after just two stints with the group, that my view of what makes a story great varied widely to others.

It was both a revelation and an inspiration that still echoes years later.

Writer, Machine, To Write

But first the revelation…

It was some years ago now. I had been toying with the idea of writing a crime novel for a long time but needed a kick up the proverbial. Always a very solitary writer, I have never really enjoyed collaborating with others on written pieces, and this despite over a decade in the media industry. This time, however, I decided I needed to shake things up.

It was time to stick my head out of my cave and connect with others.

So I looked up the number of my local writing group and gave them a buzz. I was quickly and enthusiastically welcomed to come along to their next session, the following week, at a local cafe. Which I did.

Now, I'm not sure how most writers' groups work, having never been to one, but this one followed a fairly simple routine. We would all settle in at the caf', order our preferred poison (latte and choc brownie for me in case you're curious) and begin to discuss what we'd been writing that previous week. Eventually a few brave souls would offer to read a bit of theirs out, and the rest of us would offer words of encouragement, wishing we had the courage to do likewise. Then, when that was over, someone would offer up a 'writing exercise'.

This happened each week, apparently, but always had a different focus. Today the focus was a postcard someone had brought along. It was of a field of poppies, a shed in the far distance, and a bleak sky. We were to use that as inspiration to write, giving ourselves 10 minutes to do so before each reading our offering at the end.

I was nervous but excited. Invigorated, too. So off I scribbled! I wrote with fervour and ferocity, scratching down the tale of a child lost, of a shed that offered redemption from the threatening night, of a bird that helped the child find her way home.

There was a beginning, a middle and an end. I thought I had done good.

Then, the 10 minutes up, we each took turns to read our stories out. Turns out I had not done 'good' so much as 'different'.

The first woman who read hers had latched on to that shed and described it in minutiae, every rotting timber floorboard and cobweb-covered crevice. Another writer rambled about the clouds above in vivid, florid detail. A third was fixated with the mood, the ambience, the bleaky bleakness of the night sky.

Not one of the eight writers had an actual story of any kind. Or none that I could see. They had words, they had adjectives, metaphores and similes. But none went anywhere. None did anything.

Nothing bloody happened!

Had I misunderstood the exercise? Were we just supposed to describe the postcard but not actually tell a story?

It was now, finally, my turn to read aloud and I was almost too scared to do so. For a few terrifying minutes I felt like a failure. I hadn't stopped to spend too much of my ten precious minutes on description. I had simply created a story, set up a conflict, and resolved it at the end.

They all listened politely, nodded their heads and smiled. I don't know if any of them even noticed the difference but I sure did.

The following week the focus for the free-writing exercise was a small, pink crystal someone had brought in, and I tried very hard to be descriptive, really I did. But ten minutes later, eight writers had described the crystal in exquisite detail and one had told of how an unassuming crystal had saved the diamond queen from the demon rocks.

That was the last time I attended that group.

It's not that I thought myself better than those writers, or worse for that matter. It's not that they weren't talented. It's just that their idea of writing differed so markedly to mine.

Prose vs plot

I learned that day that there are at least two types of writers: those who focus on prose and those who focus on plot. And I am so clearly—so unapologetically—in the latter. I love words, really I do, but in my world they have a purpose that goes beyong describing stuff. They must advance a plot. They must present a story. They must DO SOMETHING! Otherwise, they're just, er, words.

Words are like bricks in a wall. Pretty bricks make for a pretty wall, but I'm more interested in where that wall leads, and what the hell lies behind it.

It's little wonder, then, that I went on to forge a career as a mystery writer (which must be second only to sci-fi in the tightly plotted genres, surely?).

Yet sometimes, in quiet moments when I find my writing verging on the florid, I think back to that group and those descriptive writers. And I know that they inspired me in ways I never realised at the time. They showed me that while I may be no poet, no siree, I sure know how to tell a decent story, and isn't that what good writing is really all about?

It is in my book.

Happy plotting everyone!

xo Christina

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The Day I Valued Myself (kaching)

When I'm not bumping off people in my books I'm writing freelance articles for both 'old' media (paper magazines, remember them?) and 'new' (Yahoo, HuffPost et al). I've been a journalist for so many years I would seriously age myself if I even whispered the number, but take it from me. A LOT.

And for the most part it's been a breeze. I've earned a steady income, always had a swag of stories under my belt and could charge a decent rate. So much so, I struggled to take time off to write my fiction. It was a lovely conundrum. At my peak I had 25 freelance articles lined up.

It was a beautiful thing. Busy, but beautiful.

Then the internet—which had made it such a beautiful, busy thing—turned against me and suddenly everyone was a writer, everyone had a blog and nobody wanted to pay anybody a decent rate for anything.

As a consequence, all of the old magazines were closing down, the freelance market was flooded with writers, good and bad, and earning a quid became hard yakka.

C'est la vie, right? Suck it up.

Well, things reached a new low the other day when a new editor reached out to me and offered me some work, for less than half of what I usually get paid. A lot less. But that wasn't the low. I mean all power to the woman. She's starting a new magazine and has no advertisers lined up yet. Can't blame her for having a crack.

Oh no, dear readers, the low came when I began to seriously contemplate doing it! After decades exhaustively building my portfolio, earning experience as an editor of several national magazines and a bureau chief in three cities including New York and London, I was considering selling myself short.

For a few hours there I thought:

"Maybe I should just accept that lowly wage. What if nothing else comes in? What if this is the story of my life now? Maybe I should just get over myself and start earning less."

Then I gave myself a shake, remembered how well my fiction is doing (did I really need the pittance she was offering?) and decided I was worth so much more than that. If I accepted that ridiculously low fee, it would be a very slippery slope to working for absolutely nothing. And why should I do that? I don't need to build my portfolio. I don't need the exposure. Don't even really need the money, not to get by, anyway.

But it goes deeper than that. It goes to basic fairness.

Think about it. Imagine going in and saying to your hairdresser/builder/plumber/dentist, "I'm only going to pay you half what you usually charge. Cool? Now, about that tint... "

It's not fair. It's not right. Enough was enough. I decided then that I'd rather NOT work as a freelancer anymore than give my power away for nothing.

So, I emailed the editor back, politely declined her offer and wished her all the best with her new venture.

Then exactly an hour later—I kid you not, people, ONE HOUR LATER—another editor I had never met emailed to offer me work on her publication. But this editor wanted to pay me MORE than I usually get paid. Was I up for it?


It wasn't just that it was more money. It was what I should be earning after 30 years in this business, 15 of them as a freelancer. (Damn did I say those numbers aloud?)

There's a moral here, guys, in case you didn't catch it. It's a pretty simple one, and one I hope to remember in all areas of my life:

Believe in yourself, belief in your true worth, and the rest will follow 
(although I can't guarantee it'll follow that quickly! One hour. Extraordinary.)

Happy reading—and, hopefully, earning—everyone.

xo Christina

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Win a Free Paperback Copy of Murder on the Orient (SS)

Last month you had the opportunity to win the first book in the Agatha Christie Book Club series and I'm now offering you the chance to score a paperback copy of book 2: Murder on the Orient (SS)!

Just log in (or sign up) with Goodreads and head to their Giveaways section, or click on this link: GoodreadsComp.

Alternatively, use the following html:

The competition is open until August 26 so get in quick.

If you're not a member of Goodreads or don't wish to sign up, never fear. Just check out my earlier blog and you could win a free e-copy of this or any book of your choice.

Happy (free) reading everyone!

xo Christina