Monday, 3 April 2017

Writing Exercise (it's spooky!)

So we got a dog, an Australian cattle dog, a young Blue Heeler we named and renamed for ten frustrating days before settling on Casper (because he has a blizzard-like coat, not because he's an invisible presence, let me assure you of that!)

Casper is adorable for all the usual reasons, of course. He's cute (see the evidence, above), cheeky (ditto) and brings the family together, which is no mean feat now we have teenage sons who'd rather be anywhere but, like, together thanks very much.

But there's one other perk of having a pup that I hadn't factored in, but which has already paid dividends, big time.

Casper is my creative muse.
He jolts my imagination into gear.
He makes me want to write another book.
And he does this by taking me for "walkies".
What a good boy!

Plotting My Path

In case you hadn't noticed, I've been a bit uninspired of late. I've been feeling a little slouchy in the story department. I have a bunch of 'novels' in progress on my hard drive, but nothing that really, well, drives me. Which means the progress has been more Mini Minor than Ferrari 458.

After producing ten novels in relatively quick succession, I'd come to a creative halt. A road bump if you will.

Then, last week, Casper changed all that. Here's how it happened.

For those who don't know, my days are usually spent sitting at my desk in the Byron Bay hinterland, tap, tap, tapping away at freelance work, editing and/or fiction—if I'm lucky. I get up from my seat from time to time, to stretch the limbs, make a cup of tea, ransack the pantry, but, for the most part, I'm stuck on my butt, tap, tap… well, you get the gist.

Not anymore, folks!

Now thanks to my feisty canine companion, I'm urged to get vertical more regularly than ever before, and for longer periods of time. And it's not just great for my health and thighs, although it is, in equal measure. It's been like steroids for my leetle grey cells. So much so, the last time Casper and I went for "walkies", I conjured up an entire murder mystery before I even got past the front gate. (Which is actually not as extraordinary as it sounds, I live on seven acres.)

As he pulled me down the road, bursting at the leash, I let my mind gallop along behind him, and gallop it did—straight to a convoluted plot that involves a missing daughter, a shifty family, and an innocent, caught up in the chaos.

And it's not the only one. I've imagined two more storylines on stray adventures with my dog, one for my Ghostwriter Roxy Parker, and one for the Agatha Christie Book Club.

I won't say any more than that, wouldn't want to give too much away, but I'm so excited to have renewed creative vigour and I have a vigorous pup to thank for that.

Now, if he'd just let me sit at my desk in peace, I'd actually get around to writing them...

Happy reading (and walking), everyone!

xo Christina

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Agatha Christie Book Club on sale

Just a quick heads up for new readers and old—I've discounted my best-selling cozy mystery, The Agatha Christie Book Club, to just 99c, for one week more.

A quick, fun read for Agatha Christie devotees or those who love book clubs and/or murder mysteries, The Agatha Christie Book Club tells the story of a group of Dame Christie fans who must channel their inner-Miss Marple to solve the mysterious disappearance of a fellow book club member. Did the hubby do away with her? Or is someone from the book club hiding a deadly secret?

Get your sale copy at Amazon, Apple, Nook or Kobo. Or head to Smashwords for other e-readers.

Happy (discount!) reading, everyone.

xo Christina

Sunday, 5 March 2017

3 free paperbacks in just 3 days

For those who prefer paperbacks over e-books or just love a good giveaway, my latest mystery is currently up for grabs at Goodreads

Together, we're giving away three paperback copies of Do Not Go Gentle, but only for three more days.

The story of one woman's quest to solve her own murder before her soul choofs off to eternity, Do Not Go Gentle is a fun, light read with plenty of dark humour and a lot of red herrings.

Check it out at Goodreads and don't hesitate to let me know what you think. Did you work out the killer before Lulu vanished down the tunnel or were you as baffled as all my reviewers seem to be?

Jot me an email or leave a comment here.

Happy (free) reading, everyone!

xo Christina

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Why Switching Kids Off Is Like Pulling Teeth (And as Good As Brushing Daily)

*** WARNING***
Rant to follow. Those without children or who aren't up for a lecture may want to bail now

Hey, fellow parents,  I want to get off the topic of books for a moment (although we'll come back to it, I promise) and I want to throw some questions at you, if that's okay.

Tell me, when you were a kid, did your parents insist you come inside when it got dark or late? Did they insist you eat your vegetables or brush your teeth or do your homework even when you didn't want to and your best mate never did? Did they force a bed time on you and insist you turn out your light?

What about school? Did they force you to get up at a certain hour and go to an institution that you may even have hated? Hell, none of your friends liked it either, but you went to that school, you sat through those classes, and you came home again. And they made you do it even when you were getting older, like 16 and 17 and, for some of you, 18—an adult!

But you survived, right? Not only that, you were the better for it.

In fact, thanks to all those rules, above, you were a better person all round. You were healthier and more rested, you were safer and more interesting, you were more educated and more likely to become a successful member of society.

So tell me this, then. How come you can't pay the same courtesy to your kids? How come so many of you refuse to put boundaries around the one thing that dominates every single child's life at the moment and is crushing them on a daily basis.

Yep, you know exactly what I'm talking about: Digital devices.

Image result for free image angry teenager device

Now, before some of you freak out, let me quickly qualify: I know that some of you DO place boundaries around your child's use of devices. I know some of you do NOT advocate a 'free for all' and may even be madly nodding your head as I write this, but I also know you are in the minority and I am not talking to you. Instead I congratulate you and beg you to keep up the good fight.

No, I'm talking to those many parents who think that removing a child's devices at night or making them get off them at a certain time is either too damn hard or completely unnecessary or, hell, bordering on fascism. It's mean! All their friends are on them, they'll miss out! Besides, they hate it when you take it off them, and get very, very cranky, so you'd rather just keep the peace. It's not really hurting them, right? They seem to be okay, they're managing it fine, so why be so harsh? Get with the program, it's all just part of peer group interaction, it's today's mode of socialising, it's just the modern world, you old fuddy-duddy!

Not my world. Not anymore.

Two weeks ago, when the new Aussie school year began, my husband and I began a new ritual, too. Fearing our children were quickly becoming addicted to their iPhones, and rarely seeing them spend any time doing anything other than staring at a small screen, we were getting increasingly concerned. It wasn't just that they were wasting time on other people's creativity (because there's lots to love about the internet, but not when it's stopping them from engaging in their own creativity). Their devices were also draining them. They were clearly going on them after lights out, and waking up moody (even for moody teenagers) and becoming quickly disengaged and in trouble at school.

So we took action.

Each evening at 9:00 p.m. we now remove every single screen. Not just out of their hands, but out of their bedrooms entirely, so they spend the last hour—just one measly hour or so—before sleep reading, drawing, playing their guitars or, even better, doing absolutely nothing. We give them the space to become like the person who invented the internet in the first place. Space to think and imagine and grow.

It was just one little hour before official "lights out", but of course, they freaked out. The first night they were both very grumbly, scowling, cursing, carrying on, but by night two, the younger one began handing his gadget over happily enough. He's just 12 and hasn't had his iPhone for long. He clearly wasn't addicted.

The 15-year-old was a very different story.

Like wrenching the crack pipe out of a junkie's hands, taking my older son's iPhone and laptop has been nothing short of traumatic. At first he blatantly refused, then he railed, threw a tantrum, stormed out of the house, sat on our roof for an hour. It was hard. It was exhausting. It was emotionally draining. I felt like he had morphed into a terrible toddler again and I began to regret the whole process. But we stayed strong.

By day four—four, people!—he had settled down. He was over the worst of it. I even caught him sitting at his desk painting that evening, his iPhone untouched on his bed. And it wasn't even 9:00 p.m. Earlier he had tinkled on our piano and jumped on the trampoline. It was a big difference to his usual behaviour, staring, mesmerised by some inane antics on YouTube or swapping emojis with his mates.

I know my boys don't like having their gadgets removed, they may not even understand why we're doing it, but they're surviving and flourishing regardless. They haven't had a loss of friends, haven't missed out on any parties or conversations that really matter. They're getting more interesting though, and a hell of a lot more sleep.

Last night, my eldest said, "I feel smarter this year, I seem to be finding school easier than ever, I wonder why?"

My husband and I exchanged a small victory smile.

Alone again?

Yet when I talk about all of this with friends, my hubby and I are still one of the only parents in our sons' peer groups who remove their devices at night. And most of those parents are stunned that we even try. I'm a little tired of my boys telling me they are the only ones in their gang who are "punished" like this. I'm a little tired of parents being so "in awe" of my husband and I for being "so strong" or "so harsh" or "so amazing".

And to be honest, it's annoying the crap out of me, because the more of us who do this, the easier it will be to do, the less amazing it will seem. And the sooner it will become habit for all our kids, like brushing your teeth at night or eating your vegies, or getting up and going to school whether you like it or not. They will just do it because that's the rules and everybody does it.

I'm also impatient with arm-chair psychologists telling me this is just the way modern kids socialise. They're welcome to socialise via social media. I have no problem with that. I use it, too (you get this is an online blog, right?), just not all day and all night. And if all my sons' mates were forced off their gadgets at 9:00 p.m. they wouldn't miss out on a thing because nobody else would be on it, right? (And remember: we socialised by phone but that didn't mean we were allowed to call our mates any damn time we liked! When did socialising become more important than sleep and school and sanity?)

Your kids do not want you to confiscate their devices. That does not mean you shouldn't.

Curbing your child's use of devices is not just smart, it's safe, it's healthy and it's VITAL if you want them to actually develop into someone a little like you or the people you admire—independent, creative, interesting, healthy, safe, happy, well adjusted...

I am so glad I grew up without screens. There wasn't even television in Papua New Guinea where I was born. If there was, I'm not sure I would be writing books right now, I just don't know. I do not know if I would have developed my imagination as I have, I don't know if I would have had time to just stare and be so extraordinarily bored I had to come up with my own entertainment. Stories.

I do know this, though: As an adult, I would not have written eleven books if I spent all my downtime staring at my iPad, which is my default device and which I, too, feel strongly drawn to. I know I have to switch off to switch into my creativity, or nothing gets done, and so I force myself to. So why aren't we forcing that on our kids, too? Why aren't we allowing them the same courtesy?

Because at the end of the day, you're actually doing your child a disservice by being so lenient. It's lazy parenting to say, "They'll be right, they'll be fine" because, well, how do you know that? Maybe yours will.

But maybe they won't.

And maybe your teeth would not have rotted if your parents hadn't forced you to brush them twice a day and maybe you wouldn't have been assaulted if you'd been allowed to stay out after dark, but aren't you glad your parents didn't risk it and made you do those things anyway?

Be bold, be brave! 

It's hard to wrench those devices out of your kid's hands, but I promise you this: they will thank you for it later. Because there is no way it can hurt. No way in a lifetime.

Don't believe me? I'll leave you with a quote from a beautiful young woman who stayed with us recently. She's now 21, the daughter of old friends. She's studying at university and playing in a band and has a lovely boyfriend and a healthy body and a fantastic attitude to life.

Over dinner one night while she was here, she said, "Mum and Dad used to make me put my device outside of my room at night. Gee I used to hate it. But in retrospect I 'm so glad they did."

My kids are going to be glad too, they just might not like me for a little while. I think it'll be worth it.

Happy (offline) reading everyone!

xo Christina

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Get Your Mitts on My Paperbacks

The party's not over yet, folks. As my loyal blog readers will know, I've been celebrating the release of my new posthumous mystery, DO NOT GO GENTLE, which launched as an ebook on December 30.

The story of one woman's desperate quest to unveil her killer before she heads off, kicking and screaming, into eternity, her dead Grandma by her side, DO NOT GO GENTLE is a cozy crime with a splash of dark humour, and is fast garnering great reviews. 

Now, thanks to the wonders of 'print on demand', the paperback version is also available for sale at Amazon.

But wait, there's more...

Short on cash after the festive season? Don't despair, I'll soon be giving some paperback copies away with Goodreads. There'll be more details on that when the giveaway goes live on February 8.

Until then, happy (paperback) reading everyone.

xo Christina

Monday, 16 January 2017

New DIY Mystery on sale - one week only

As a special gift to my devoted blog readers, I'm dropping the price of my brand-new novel, DO NOT GO GENTLE, to just 99c at Amazon and Smashwords.

The sale kicks off today and ends in just one week, so don't hesitate, my friends, to download your super-affordable copy. And please don't forget to get in touch should you have any comments or views. This is a potential new series for me, so I'm especially keen to hear from you. Leave a comment below or jot me an email and I'll get back to you.

Thanks guys and happy (affordable) reading everyone!

xo Christina

Thursday, 5 January 2017

I'm dead. I think my son stabbed me. I can not rest until I know why...

With her dead grandmother beckoning furiously from the tunnel, Lulu Gold refuses to go to the light even though she knows she's dead and there's no chance of return.

The problem is, she thinks her son—her achingly beautiful son—killed her and she's determined to find out why.

Why would her 13-year-old sneak up and stab her in the back one Sunday morning?
Was she really that horrendous a mother?
Or is there something else going on down there, something darker and more sinister at play?

Do Not Go Gentle is my latest murder mystery, and a whole new venture for me. Dubbed a 'Posthumous Mystery' it all takes place in the first 12 hours after a murder, and this time I invite the reader to come along and help me solve the crime.

As Lulu hovers above the crime scene, readers get a chance to view all the clues and hear the suspects' secrets to determine whodunit and why.

More than just a mystery, this one is also a study of family and friendships, a look at parenting gone awry and a re-evaluation of everything you ever thought about the true meaning of love.

It's not what you think.

My 10th novel and my favourite, this one is sure to make you laugh and cry, and often at the same time!

Happy reading everyone.
xo Christina