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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Becoming a British citizen: Michelle Styles


5 November is a day of bonfires and fireworks in the UK. However this year, it was a momentous day for me because I finally became a British citizen. I retain my US citizenship but after living over here for thirty years I admitted this was my home.
The ceremony was far more moving than I thought it would be. The words of welcome meant a lot and people from Poland, Ireland, China and Malaysia also participated. If you ever get the opportunity to attend a citizenship ceremony, do. It will restore your pride in your country.  The people who are going through it have made a choice to take on the responsibilities of being a citizen and have jumped through all the legal hoops.
People often joke about getting another passport or changing your citizenship as if it is not big deal. I beg to differ. Even becoming a dual national was huge for me. It has to do with the responsibilities of citizenship.
So how did I go about it? I decided to start the process on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s wedding day. There were many reasons for it including the Windrush scandal which showed me how vulnerable you can be as an ex-pat.
Michelle Styles receiving her British citizenship
The first thing I had to do was to the take the Life in the UK test. Because I am a native English speaker, I didn’t have to take the English test. I understand from friends who are not native speakers that it is actually very difficult to pass.
 You can do a sample Life in the UK test online and it may seem easy. However, something like a third of people who attempt it don’t pass the first time. There is a book called Life in the UK and the questions can be on anything from the book — from British history to poets and painters to the legal system including laws about forced marriage and FGM and everything in between. I learnt about painters who I had never heard of and the fact that the first Indian restaurant was started in 1810 (it eventually failed), and the proprietor (who had eloped with an Irish woman) went to Bath  and became hugely successful at running a health spa. He was also the one who brought the concept of shampooing to Britain. Shampoo is an Indian word meaning head massage.
 I knew too much history and was tempted to argue that scholars do not now consider Kenneth McAlpin to have even existed but recognised that it was for the test. I did loads of sample questions and felt ready for the test at the beginning of June.
When you know something counts, it becomes a bit more terrifying. I was not allowed to take my phone, watch or earrings into the test. It does show the lengths that some people will cheat! But I did pass.
After that came the many hours of filling the form out and paying the £1330 in addition to the test cost for my application to be considered. I also had to have my fingerprints electronically taken plus get my passport sorted out. The great part was that I finally visited Durham cathedral and saw the oldest embroidery in the UK as well because the biometric machines are few and far between and Durham was one of the closest. The other in the North is in Penrith.
 The hardest part was finding the documentation to support the fact that I had been living in the UK for the requisite time. This may eventually prove problematic for the Duchess of Sussex because you have to show you have been physically present in the UK for 3 years minus no more than 270 days in that period.  Waivers are not available. The law applies to both the Royalty and commoner alike.
 My US  passport has stamps but I had to produce other supporting documentation with little help from the website. Thankfully the US makes all of its citizens file tax returns (Iran apparently is the only other country to tax worldwide).
Once everything was submitted (to my surprise I was told that several weeks before someone had come in with a Leave to Remain visa dating from the 1970s, so mine from 1988 wasn’t truly that old), I then had to wait and wait.
I cried when I opened the letter saying that all I needed to do was to attend my citizenship ceremony.  Because on one level, I knew there was no reason for refusal but on another, there have been so many scare stories in the British press about refusals.  But mainly because the act of belonging is a very powerful emotion.
Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. Sent as the Viking’s Bride will be published on 18 December 2018 in the US and 27 December 2018 in the UK. To learn more about Michelle and her books visit www.michellestyles.co.uk

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: A Learning Experience

Beautiful, isn't it? Pic via Pixabay
I can't believe how quickly my first term at university is passing. It's flying by. I assumed it would be only my writing that saw the benefit of a Masters course at the University of Gloucestershire. Instead, it's proving to be invaluable in all sorts of ways. 
My navigating, driving, parking, and socialising skills are all improving in leaps and bounds. I can now find my way around Cheltenham pretty well (both on foot and by car), I've learned the best lanes to be in during rush hour (because there's so much traffic you can't always see the lane markings). I always used to go shopping very early, so there was plenty of room to park. My university schedule means that's no longer an option. I've had to get used to reversing into the very last parking space in a packed car park (driving a tiny car helped with that one!).  Workshopping as part of a group of ten isn't half as bad as I thought it would be, now I've got used to everyone.
I'd recommend further education to everyone. You're never too old to learn something new!
Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written more than twenty novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, walking her dog, or gardening.

You can catch up with her at https://christinahollisbooks.online, on TwitterFacebook, and see a full list of her published books at christinahollis.com

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Between the Words

Between the Words

You met Alice in These Three Words. And now she's got her own story, well, part of a story!! It's out today!!

Alice had the perfect life...which fell apart when her husband's pregnant mistress showed up at her door.

Olivia was leading an imperfect life until it fell together when she met her cheating boyfriend's other woman...his wife.

Two Women.

Two Romances.

Two Happily-Ever-Afters in this final installment to Holly Jacobs' bestselling Words of the Heart series.

Life happens between the words...so does love.


I hope you'll check out this newest book in the Words of the Heart series! Each book completely stands alone, but if you've read them all, you'll find the connections!

I'm happy to announce the first three books are on sale this week for $.99!! If you're missing any, this is a great time to pick them up! 
 My love of affair with pottery continues but my bowl-palooza has ended. I made 50 bowls for this spring's Empty Bowl fundraiser. Okay, I made a few more than that! I made one to give away to one of you! You just have to promise to be kind...these are better than when I started, but I'm no expert! It's in the kiln now. I'll glaze it next week. So keep an eye on your email in December. I'll announce the winner near Christmas! How do you enter? It's open to any newsletter subscriber!!

Books and ceramics. That's the biggest happenings in my life other than family. And the family is keeping me hopping! We went to Gettysburg at the beginning of the month. It rained the whole ride down, but the weekend ended up being lovely! The leaves were at their prime! I love Pennsylvania!

I hope you enjoy the new book, Between the Words. Don't forget that the PTA Mom series is available in one Collection that includes a bonus story!  The first story is Once Upon a Thanksgiving...a great way to start the holiday season!! And Quincy Mac's 5th book, Polished Off, is out as well!

I'm signing up for spring term tomorrow...yep another ceramics class is on the list! So you can be sure you'll be seeing more pieces. In the meantime, Happy Reading and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Holy

PS If you have a minute, I'd really appreciate it you review the books you've read! Those reviews are a great way to help other readers find my books!

Monday, November 12, 2018

'Dull' November? WIth Kate Walker


When I was  growing up, I remember that my mother always used to quote from a poem that she had learned  as a girl.  It started with these lines:

January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow.

And then went through all the months, rainy February, breezy March, hot July . . .  But I’d forgotten what the poem said about November. So I looked it up:

Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves go whirling past.

Well, that’s certainly been the way the weather has gone the last week or so.  Dull, windy – lots of leaves falling from the trees. And when the clocks changed, being put back an hour, it seemed as if darkness had suddenly fallen so very early. The evenings closed in, the sun – such as it was – disappeared. It  was so hard to deal with at first. It reminded me of another poem- this one by Thomas Hood:

No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -
November!

Oh dear.  Summer was definitely over. Autumn (Fall)  seemed to have gone too.  It was cold and miserable . . . but then  we lit the first proper fire of the year. And instantly everything changed. The flames licked at the coal, burning it steadily until it glowed red and warm.  The cats came and sat in front of the flames, curling up on the rug – or stretching out to get the heat along every inch of their bodies.

And I rediscovered the joy of curling up in an armchair,  a blanket over my legs -  and sometimes a cat on top of that blanket for extra warmth – and best of all a lovely thick, absorbing book to lose myself in as I read.

I love sitting on a beach – or out in the garden with a chance to read  and the sun on my back. But really, that just doesn’t compare with the delight of settling down in front of a real, blazing fire, with a book I want to read and a long dark evening in which to read it. I don’t even notice the darkness outside, or the cold. I lose all awareness of the wind or the rain.
Perhaps it’s something like going back to my childhood when my sisters and I used  to gather round the fire and Mother would read to us – or perhaps it’s   the thought of images I’ve seen of Victorian families reading by firelight – but there’s something special about those long, cosy nights  - with a good book.

And I have such a huge TBR pile that I can’t wait to settle down in the evenings and start to make my way through it.  I have more than enough books to last me between now and Christmas and – who know – there may well be some new titles under the Christmas tree (I’m sure there will  be!!)  so that they’ll keep me happy  right through until the next Spring.

What about you? Do you prefer to read  inside , snug and warm in winter – or do you long for the long hot summer days to read outside or on the beach?

You can read more about me and my books on my web site and my blog -  and catch up with me too on my Facebook page

Friday, November 02, 2018

Making Progress--Finally! Susan Sands



Hello, friends! Fall has finally begun to tiptoe its way into the South, Georgia specifically. I'm finally making some real progress in finishing my novel in progress. The past year has proved to be one that put a rope around my waist and pulled and tugged me back every time I tried to make headway or forward progress with my writing. No longer.

I plan to finish my new book within the month and hope it is in keeping with what my agent has in mind for this story. Obviously there will be editing and some rewriting, but typing the words, THE END, will be a personal victory for me with this novel.

Written in first person, this story is far different from anything I've attempted before. I'm excited to see what becomes of it. I'm not turning my back on what I love though, which is Southern women's fiction, and have plans for more stories that fall within a similar vein of my Alabama books to follow.

I hope everyone is enjoying the somewhat cooler weather and looking toward the holidays with anticipation of family get togethers and lots of stuffing, no matter where you are.

I plan to spend Thanksgiving on Lake Burton up in the North Georgia mountains with my family and in-laws. There is no more beautiful place on earth to me in the Fall.

The photo to the right was taken last year near the boat dock after a rain. Notice the amazing rainbow.

Happy reading and writing to everyone, and Happy Thanksgiving to all!!

Susan Sands











Monday, October 29, 2018

A SMALL TOWN CHRISTMAS

I'm so pleased to be here and to introduce my brand new series from Tule Publishing--Four Irish Brothers Winery. The Flaherty brothers, Sean, Brendan, Conor, and Aidan have inherited their family's historic winery in the picturesque town of River's Edge, Indiana, from their recently deceased father. The first book, A SMALL TOWN CHRISTMAS is Conor Flaherty's story. I hope you enjoy meeting the Flaherty brothers and find some sweet romantic moments with them. 
Winemaker and single father Conor Flaherty is determined to make this Christmas holiday special for his daughter even though his family’s winery, Four Irish Brothers, is facing some challenges.
High-octane Chicago attorney Samantha Hayes is looking forward to some delicious food, fine wine, small town charm, and a break from her hectic big city life when she agrees to do a favor for her boss and help his younger brother with a lawsuit that’s been slapped on his family’s historic winery in River’s Edge. She’s not expecting that her sexy new client will have a smile that will melt her heart and remind her that there’s more to life than work.
Sam falls hard for Conor, his daughter and the small, friendly town, but can she trust her instincts and risk her heart? Sam hasn’t seen a lot of happy-ever-afters in her life, but Conor and the magic of Christmas make her want to believe.

Nan Reinhardt is a USA Today-bestselling author of romantic fiction for women in their prime. Yeah, women still fall in love and have sex, even after 45! Imagine! She is a wife, a mom, a mother-in-law, and a grandmother. Nan has been a copyeditor and proofreader for over 25 years, and currently works on romantic fiction titles for a variety of clients, including Avon Books, St. Martin’s Press, Kensington Books, Tule Publishing, and Entangled Publishing, as well as for many indie authors.

Although she loves her life as an editor, writing is Nan’s first and most enduring passion. She can’t remember a time in her life when she wasn’t writing—she wrote her first romance novel at the age of ten, a love story between the most sophisticated person she knew at the time, her older sister (who was in high school and had a driver’s license!), and a member of Herman’s Hermits. If you remember who they are, you are Nan’s audience! Her latest novel, A Small Town Christmas, which is the first book in the Four Irish Brothers Winery series from Tule Publishing, releases on October 29, 2018.

Visit Nan’s website at www.nanreinhardt.com, where you’ll find links to all her books as well as blogs about writing, being a Baby Boomer, and aging gracefully…mostly. Nan also blogs regularly at Word Wranglers, sharing the spotlight with five other romance authors and is a frequent contributor the RWA Contemporary Romance blog, and she contributes to the Romance University blog where she writes as Editor Nan.

Twitter: @NanReinhardt
Talk to Nan at: nan@nanreinhardt.com

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

January Isn't the Only Fresh Start Time ~ @AuthorKristina Knight

We're fully into fall here on the North Coast. Chilly mornings, blustery winds, a little snow. School. Which means I'm back at my keyboard with purpose, because when she's home - even though I make a point to hit my word goals - I'm never fully into my writing. There are more interruptions. There are more distractions. There are more...well, everything. More cookies to be baked, more movies to be watched, move video games to be played. More conflict over brushing teeth, making beds, not having our faces stuck in our tablets all day.

I love having her home over school breaks, but I also love it when she's back in school, and the regularly scheduled programming of our life syncs back up. Which brings me to the point of this post: you don't have to wait for New Year's Day to reset your goals, your priorities, your...anything. The beautiful thing about goals, about objectives is that they can be started on a random Monday...or, heck, a Friday. We simply have to do the reset.

Just do it.

Way back in the 80s, Nike started the 'Just Do It' campaign, most of which featured Michael Jordan. As a kid, I loved those commercials. As an athlete, I loved those commercials. As a human who has a bit of a procrastination habit...I didn't love them. I didn't want to get up early to run on our little country road. I didn't want to be serious all through volleyball practices (and too often I wasn't serious enough). I didn't want to write that paper on Moby Dick and I didn't want to dissect that frog in biology.

Michael's (well, Nike's) message was that none of us really want to put in the extra time. But that putting in the extra time is what leads us to the rewards of a great game played, of an extra special vacation with the family, of knowing that we've done our best.

As an adult, there are still things I don't want to do. I still don't want to get up early to run (especially in the winter months) or dance. I don't want to not drink a Coke when I want. I don't want to do the laundry or make the beds or clean the bathroom. I don't always want to shut the world away and write my words for the day. But I like the feel of the house when the rooms are straightened and I like how I feel about myself when I hit that 2500 word daily goal by 11 am and I like that my jeans fit better when I haven't had an extra 1000 calories of soda in my diet. And so, I hear Michael Jordan's voice in my head when I don't want to do the things that I know I should do...and I just do them. I get up a little early to exercise, and I limit my soda intake, and I sit down to write my words...because those are things that I can control. Those are things that I can do to make myself the best Kristina that I can be.

Michael has a newer commercial, too, and I think I like the message of this one even more than the commercial because it asks question instead of demanding an answer. It's a "what if" question - what if his name wasn't in lights?

I like it because it's true. As writer, we don't have cheering stadiums filled with people cheering us on. We face the keyboard alone most days, and if we don't, no one is there to catch us. It can be easy to fall into the 'I'll write twice as much tomorrow' or 'I don't think this story is going anywhere, anyway' ruts. But what if, instead of letting those ruts take hold, we act a little bit more like Michael (or to use a star from the romance world, a little more like Nora) and just sit down and write? Sit down and edit? Sit down and do the things that we know have to be done for us to live the lives we want to live?

What is your 'what if'? 


Kristina Knight’s newest release, Perfect on Paper, is out now. Daisy MacIntosh needs a man, and any man will do. After being jilted by her ex - who is also her boss - she needs a date to the company retreat in Mexico. The only problem? Daisy doesn't have time to find a guy, and her ex is hinting that he'd like this work trip to become a reunion romance. Stepping in to become Daisy's pretend boyfriend isn't the best idea Nick Vega has had, but it's the only one he's got. But are they willing to risk their life-long friendship for a romance that might fizzle once they're back home?

Kristina Knight is a contemporary romance author, part-time swim-kid wrangler, and full-time ThinMints enthusiast. You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on FacebookTwitter or Instagram.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Refilling the Well


I know some people who roll the eyes when I say that I need to refill the well and I’m not truly sure why. They are probably the same people who laugh when I talk about my affirmations and I’ve always said ‘writing is fun and easy for me’.  

To be fair neither of these things are quantifiable or actually concrete. One of them is just a feeling I get when I have been writing a lot, which I love to do, but after a while I’m feeling …empty.  It’s not that I avhe writer’s block and that I don’t have any ideas to take to the page, it’s more like I don’t have any creative joy.  That I need to remind myself of the things that make me happy.

I’ve always striven (strived?) for balance in my life.  When my kids were little I was committed to being focused and “there” for them during my time with them.  And the same in my marriage.  When my husband and I are together I put my phone down and focus on us.  It’s hard to keep a relationship healthy when you never make eye contact or talk or laugh together. 

Writing has always been harder for me to balance.  I think because at first I was doing it in every spare second I could find while working full time and figuring out how to parent an infant, but then when it became my job, I had that fear that if I slowed down, I’d forget what I was doing and that the publishers would forget me.

So balance was never something I came close to achieiving with writing. And honeslty, I’m happiest when I’m sitting at my desk creating characters and building their world. Forcing them to face fears that I myself would probably just find a way around, but in my little fiction world, I feel safe exploring them.  

Refilling the well brings me back to joy and a source of contentment.  Sometimes I read to refill the wlel, other times I eat something I’ve been craving or cook. Or call my mom and have a video chat with her and my dad. They make me laugh so hard some times. Always talking to my kids refills my well and sometimes something as small as reaching for my husband’s hand while we are at a party does it.

Other times I get out of the house taking Godiva on a walk and just enjoying nature or on the opposite end of the spectrum treat myself to a day out shopping.

The thing with refilling the well for me is that I’ve built it into my writing process so instead of staring at a blank page while I stress out about a deadline I get up and do one of these things that refills my creativity and then I come back to the page much happier and more productive.

What do you do to refill the well?




Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Tule Book Club's Holiday Kickoff Party! - by Dani Collins

I'm usually one of those people who says Christmas decorations shouldn't go up in stores until after Remembrance Day (Nov 11th, which I think you call Veteran's Day in the US.) I still recall my throat rasping gasp the first time I saw a department store putting up Christmas trees before Halloween.


So I am overstepping my own boundaries by promoting this holiday launch party on Oct 16th, but that's today. And it's fun



Here's who you'll find there (all times are PST):

4:00: Trish Milburn
4:15: Erika Marks
4:30: Patty Blount
4:45: Nan Reinhardt
5:00: Paula Altenburg
5:15: Vella Munn
5:30: Kaylie Newell
5:45: Jeannie Watt
6:00: Melissa McClone
6:15: Dani Collins   <-----Me!
6:30: Shelli Stevens
6:45: Katharine Schwartz
7:00: Joss Wood

That's a kick-butt line-up of authors, right? And technically we're celebrating upcoming holiday releases, but mostly it's an excuse to get together with readers and chat books and recipes and romance.

You need to join Tule's Book Club to join the party. I hope you will! We'd love to see you there.

I'll be chatting about my Nov 8th release, a wholesome and heartwarming Christmas story called Wedding at Mistletoe Chalet. Yes, there's a wedding. And mistletoe! And a chalet! There's also a sheepdog who likes to roll in the snow, a guitar-playing doctor hero who thinks it's funny when moose do people stuff, a tween organizing a vow renewal for her parents, and a heroine falling back in love with her first love. Plus holiday cheer and did I mention the wedding?

Come to the party and I'll share more holiday secrets along with some fun giveaways...







Monday, October 15, 2018

Michelle Styles: A Roman era set book and its author Jenni Fletcher


As long time readers of this blog may recall, my first published book for Harlequin Historical was a Roman set historical The Gladiator’s Honor. It was the first time Harlequin (or indeed any major publisher) had published a romance set in that. I now write other ears, mainly Vikings, but Harlequin has a few intrepid authors who have taken up the baton and started writing in that era. First Greta Gilbert and now Jenni Fletcher.
I asked Jenni to explain about how she came to write her book, The Warrior’s Bride Prize. She also kindly allowed me to read it. A happy evening of reading ensued and if you love historical romances which really capture the time period and make you feel like you are there, read Jenni’s latest.
If you are more interested in other time periods, Jenni writes Victorian and Medieval for HH as well. You can learn more about Jenni by visiting her website. www.jennifletcher.com 
Here is what Jenni wrote about how she got the idea:
 The idea for my new book The Warrior's Bride Prize first came to me in the heart of Wordsworth country, wandering around the ruins of a Roman fort on the outskirts of Ambleside in the Lake District. Honestly, it would have been hard not to feel inspired, standing on the shores of Lake Windermere in the autumn sunshine, surrounded by so much history and breathtaking scenery, although at the time I was busy with a Victorian story. Nonetheless, I allowed myself to get distracted briefly, imagining a tale about an aristocratic Roman lady travelling to the edge of the Empire and meeting a Pictish warrior.
     At the time, however, I wasn't ready. So I went home and wrote two other books, but the idea of a Roman-set romance never completely left me. Over time, the particulars of the story changed. I watched King Arthur with Keira Knightley and my heroine turned from an aristocrat into the daughter of a Caledonian former slave, while my hero changed allegiance completely and became Roman. The action shifted inland too, staying on Hadrian's Wall, but moving closer to Corbridge and Chesters Roman fort, where the second half of the story is set. 
     What really inspired me to start writing, however, was a visit to the Eboracum Festival in York in 2017. I loved the enthusiasm of the re-enactors (one of whom turned out to be my son's ukelele teacher) as well as meeting lots of Roman authors, all of whom were so inspired by their subject.So I started to write, but after a while I got bogged down in detail. There was so much research to do, not least in terms of military history, which was more complex than I'd imagined. Eventually I had a rough draft, but something wasn't quite right. I couldn't put my finger on the problem exactly, but I knew it had something to do with the atmosphere. I could see my book, but I couldn't feel it. 
     For me, geography is integral to a story (I often think of locations before characters) but for this book that statement was truer than ever. My husband suggested we take a trip north to Hadrian's Wall and once we reached it, everything fell into place. I stood on the edge of the wall, which was even more impressive than I'd remembered from school trips, and imagined how it might have looked almost two thousand years ago. That was when my characters - Livia and Marius - really made sense to me. I wrote another draft and I was finally happy. Which meant that they could have their happy-ever-after too!
     So that's how this story happened. It was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever written, but in retrospect (now the difficult part is over) that makes it extra special to me. It's my small contribution to the Roman genre and I hope you enjoy it too.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance in a wide range of time periods. Her next Viking Sent as the Viking’s Bride will be published on 18 December 2018. To learn more about Michelle and her books, visit www.michellestyles.co.uk



Sunday, October 14, 2018

Christina Hollis: How To Submit Your Writing...

From This... (Pic via Pixabay)
Whether you’re sending off your novel, or entering a writing competition, the first thing to do is RTFM. That’s customer-service-speak for Read The Flipping Manual.

As part of my day job, I’m a Reader of Manuscripts. I love helping other writers—especially the ones who make my job easier by following the rules for submission. These are designed to ensure a writer's work is easy to read.  

Generalisation is usually a bad thing, but after reading hundreds of  manuscripts in my time here's one I've found to be true:

People who can't be bothered to follow instructions can't be bothered to write a good book.

Well-presented work suggests a writer who pays attention to details. They're more likely to put into practice the things they've learned from writing workshops, courses, and how-to books. 

Make sure your Reader smiles rather than groans when they pick up your work by following these tips!

Overture and Beginners
Once your work is as good as you can make it, go through it again. You want to be absolutely sure there are no spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. 

Then check the requirements of its destination, whether that’s going to be a publisher, agent, or competition. Remember—these are instructions, not an invitation to improvise. 

You’d be amazed how many people see clear instructions as a challenge, rather than rules. Their online entries are deleted straight away. If they’ve sent in a paper copy their work will be shredded without being read, unless they’ve included return postage. The same goes for those who either forget to include their contact details when submitting to publishers or agents, or conversely make their competition entries identifiable. That’s tough, but fair on all those who have taken the time and trouble to do as they were instructed. 

...To This! (Pic via Pixabay)
Be the One in Ten...
...who gets it right. If a competition has a thousand entrants, up to 90% of them may have sent in work that’s unreadable, poorly formatted or exceeds the required word count. No matter how brilliant their work, it won’t be considered.

That means a perfectly-presented piece will make it straight into the Top 100 before any judge has picked up their marker-pen. 

Give yourself the best possible chance of being on that initial long-list by using an easily-readable font and type size (Times New Roman 12 Point is a good starting point). Unless otherwise instructed, give your work a good margin all the way round, and use double line spacing. Whether you’re submitting on paper or online, number the pages consecutively. 

There—with hardly any effort on your part, you’ve made it onto a professional reader’s desk. How much further you get depends on your writing talent, and that one little thing nobody can guarantee.

Luck!

Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women. She has written more than twenty novels, sold nearly three million books, and her work has been translated into twenty different languages. When she isn’t writing, Christina is cooking, walking her dog, or gardening.

You can catch up with her at https://christinahollisbooks.online, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at christinahollis.com

Saturday, October 13, 2018


I'm back in my ceramics class and working at learning to throw on a wheel.  It's not easy.  Not easy at all.  I can't tell you how many pieces have gone caliwumpus (that's a technical term...LOL). But I sit back down at the wheel and try again. And again. And again.  I'm not sure if it's a passion for pottery or just plain stubbornness.  But there I am, clay splattered and trying.

The school will have an Empty Bowl fundraiser in the spring and I signed on to make 50 bowls.  I've got 49/50 right now.  I'm waiting on that last one to assess how they all come out of the kiln.  Then I'll make the last few.  


And I'm learning about finishing, too.  A finished bowl has a foot on it. It's not just decorative. It thins out the bottom of the bowl so it fires better, and it helps keep glaze on the bowl, not on the bottom of the kiln.  Real potters will pick up a piece and check the bottom to see how it's finished.  I guess the true mark of artistry is making something no one sees beautiful.

I like that thought.

Artistry can be something no one else really sees.

It's a nice thought that applies to real life.  I think we should all strive to be an artist at life. Doing kind things no one else will ever see or notice.  I like to think kindness is contagious. So while I'm working at getting better at pottery (my goal is to have my professor pick up a bowl and say, I'd use this) I think I'll try to get better at the artistry of life.  Doing small acts of kindness (maybe large acts of kindness LOL) and spewing kindness like I try to spew glee.  The world can always use a bit more kindness and glee!


Those 50 bowls I've promised to make turned into 51. So many people have asked for my pottery, I thought giving one away would be fun.  The problem with that is how to draw one name.  I've been doing more of my giveaways through my email list. So if you want a chance at a bowl, all you have to do to have your name in the hat (not a real hat LOL) is be signed up for my newsletter. You can do that here.  I'll draw in November.

As we all go out today, let's try to be artists of life and spread some kindness and glee!!


Holly




Don't forget my new release Polished Off: A Maid in LA Mystery is out! Check out Quincy's newest adventure!

Then go back to school with three PTA Moms.  There's a bonus short story included! Check out the PTA Mom Collection!!






Tuesday, October 02, 2018

TV, Movies, Books, Oh, My! Susan Sands

My husband probably doesn't enjoy watching television with me as much as he used to. I've gotten so  accustomed to figuring out the plot lines of every show or movie that often I can tell him who will die, when, and how it's going to end.


I try to keep quiet, but often I blurt out, "They're going to kill him." Or, "His character has become unredeemable, and therefore he will die." I guess story is story, no matter whether it's in a novel, a television series, or a movie. Especially commercial fiction.


Some types of fiction are less predictable, and I'm pleasantly surprised when I don't see "it" coming. I can appreciate that writer's creativity and vision. Don't get me wrong, I love watching all kinds of comedy, drama, romance, and suspense. We run the gamut with our screen time. Netflix, Amazon, and all the premium channels are well watched in our house.


The problem is that as a writer of fiction, I understand it's all been done. Sometimes very well, and others, not so much. There are certain beats to a story, story problems to solve, and black moments stemming from conflict that occur within a given novel, movie, etc. Not everyone does it the same, certainly, but the underlying core of storytelling helps a writer predict someone else's ending.


In the meantime, I will try not to be that obnoxious I told you so who yells out what's going to happen next. Because I like to be surprised and wrong, so I remain hopeful as I continue to watch all the fantastic new programming that keeps me coming back for more.


Happy reading and watching to all!!



Susan Sands


The Alabama Series by Susan Sands



Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Power of Play


I came across some interesting research notes this past summer. 

Now, don’t yawn yet.  I know the word “research” comes packed with stuffy connotations.  But the reading I’ve been doing lately has affected my thoughts in so many ways and on so many different levels that I can’t help but share.

Quick background – I participated in a study group at the university where I used to teach. We read a book called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. It’s pop science in the Gladwell tradition—lots of vignettes and examples that make the science fast paced and reader-friendly. I thought it would be helpful to read the book for two reasons, to learn how to better motivate students and to learn how to better motivate myself.    

But I got a whole lot more than that.

Sure, the stuff on autonomous motivation was helpful. And I liked the idea of getting away from the rewards/punishments idea (extrinsic motivation) since it doesn’t always work for me.  But then I found a section on creativity, turning our work into play whenever possible, and finding ways to stay engaged with our work. Does that sound fun to you? Sure did to me. I’d like to make my job feel more like play. 

Citing noted psychology professor Mihayl Csikszentmihalyi, “once we realize that the boundaries
between work and play are artificial, we can take matters in hand and begin the difficult task of making life more livable.”  For inspiration on how to play, the same source (I won’t spell his name twice!) suggests we look at the children around us, who are engaged with the “work” of childhood, exploring their environment and learning boundaries through play. At some point, we forget how to do this effectively. We shut down some of that natural curiosity in an effort to earn grades, earn adult approval, and become socialized.  But we lose something in the process, something we all need to recover.

I’m still figuring out how to best incorporate more play into my work and leisure life. I think the answers are as unique as we all are.  Still, maybe we could learn from each other today. I think the easier task is to identify more ways to play.  What activities do you miss that you used to really enjoy as a kid?  Maybe the lesson there is—don’t wait for your kids to ask you to color or play on the swing. You can still pursue those activities now, or pursue them in a way that appeals to you as you’ve aged. For instance, bungee jumping might be your new swing. Watercolor lessons might be your new brand of coloring. A few revamped strategies might bring you a new level of fulfillment and engagement, a new energy that will spill over into the rest of your life. 

Because once we can identify more ways to play in our leisure time, I think it will follow that we’ll start to see ways to play at work. After all, more play in general will make us more creative, so the answers are there and just waiting to be discovered by our new and improved thinking skills. Can you make your work more social by starting an online group interested in the same facets of the job as you? Can you subscribe to a publication in a career that complements yours to see what kinds of researching they’re doing in a related field? Can you make a movie about your work? Mentor someone? Find a mentor? Take a professional detour? The goals don’t have to immediate. You just have to mine your field for the things that inspired you to go in that direction in the first place. 

Just think how much fun you could be having….

***Back to leisure time… if you had a free afternoon and weren’t allowed to catch up on laundry or work, in fact you had a mandate that you had to play, what would you do?  Do you already have a dedicated play activity that keeps you energized?  Share with me today and I’ll send a random poster a copy of my holiday Desire story from last Christmas-- His Pregnant Secretary