Teenage Dramas

ner-packshotHurrah – only a few days to go before New England Rocks is officially launched onto an unsuspecting public! That sounds a bit melodramatic, doesn’t it? Well, I’m a writer so I’m allowed to have these moments of drama :-) And it’s sort of in keeping with being a teenager – which is what I had to pretend to be when I wrote this. It was great fun!

I’ve never quite grown up on the inside and to be allowed to release my inner teenager was very liberating. It really took me back to my own teen years and high school – the highs and lows of that were certainly dramatic!

I kept a diary (as I’ve done on and off since I was eight) and I read it through before starting to write New England Rocks. It charts my (mostly unsuccessful) pursuit of boys and popularity, plus all the things I got up to that my mother probably still doesn’t need to know about. Some of it is written in bad Spanish, which I was learning at the time, in order for said mother not to be able to decipher it. Some is so secret I wrote it in Gregg’s Notehand, a sort of weird shorthand I was also learning at the time, and which I’ve now completely forgotten! So I have no idea what it says, although sometimes I can guess.

I think I can safely say I was a bit of a drama queen, if mostly in secret as I wasn’t an openly rebellious teen. The many exclamation marks and/or hearts drawn around certain statements tell their own tale. Of course, now I can view it all from a distance, but at the time everything seemed like a life or death situation and I felt it keenly, like all adolescents. I remember once complaining to my dad how ugly I was and he just laughed (although in a nice way) – now I know why, he understood that things like that wouldn’t matter in the long run, but in high school they were paramount!

I do hope readers will enjoy New England Rocks – I certainly enjoyed writing it!

First impressions, how wrong can you get?

When Rain Mackenzie is expelled from her British boarding school, she can’t believe her bad luck. Not only is she forced to move to New England, USA, she’s also sent to the local high school, as a punishment.

Rain makes it her mission to dislike everything about Northbrooke High, but what she doesn’t bank on is meeting Jesse Devlin…

Jesse is the hottest guy Rain’s ever seen and he plays guitar in an awesome rock band!

There’s just one small problem …  Jesse already has a girlfriend, little miss perfect Amber Lawrence, who looks set to cause trouble as Rain and Jesse grow closer.

But, what does it matter? New England sucks anyway, and Rain doesn’t plan on sticking around…

Does she?

Links:-

For more details on this series – http://newenglandseries.wordpress.com/ and check out my Website or follow me on Twitter :)

New England Rocks in paperback: http://amzn.to/16M8CMi

Kindle UK – http://amzn.to/15jfrZ0

Kindle US – http://amzn.to/16dzjJR


What is Christina up to at the moment?

tgf_packshot-copy2When you’ve had a book published, done all the PR/blogging/tweeting etc to launch it into the world and things start to calm down again, the question you are asked most frequently is “what are you working on now?” (That is, if you are talking to fellow book-lovers/writers, not family members who still haven’t realised that writing isn’t a hobby you pursue in between cooking, cleaning or washing up for them.)

For me, that question often doesn’t have a straight-forward answer, because I’m a bit of a writing butterfly. I flit from one story to another, working on one for a while, then get bored and work on something else – I have a very low boredom threshold. Apart from new writing projects, there are also edits for forthcoming novels that have to be done of course, so sometimes that means I can be working on up to four different stories more or less at once. Here’s a little summary of what I’m doing right now:-

Edits for New England Rocks – I’ve just finished the second round of edits for my YA novel due to be published in August (yeah, very excited about that!). There was a small snag, shall we say, which eagle-eyed editor Rachel discovered in between Edit no1 and Edit no2, so that took a couple of days to fix, but I think we’re sorted now (at least I hope so!). I’ll have to wait until next week to find out and then there will be proof-reading.

Umpteenth draft of second YA novel, sequel to the above. I wrote this a while ago and when starting to revise it again I discovered I’d used the hero’s name in another book – disaster! Cue major trawl through endless name lists in order to find one that suited his personality. I can’t write unless my characters have the right names!

Second draft of Monsoon Mists (provisional title), the third in the Kinross trilogy. Those of you who read Highland Storms will know that Brice Kinross’s brother Jamie caused a lot of trouble, but things were not quite what they seemed so I thought it only fair that he should get to tell his side of the story. For the last few months or so, I’ve been working on this and at the moment I’m chewing my nails waiting to receive my beta readers’ verdicts. I know it will need more work, but at least I’ve got to the stage where I dared to send it to them (progress indeed)!

Revision of the third book in my Japanese trilogy so that I might dare to send it to the Choc Lit tasting panel. That’s going to take some time …

In between these bursts of writing, I’m also trying to prepare myself for the RT Booklovers’ Convention in Kansas City which I’ll be attending at the beginning of May with some of the other ChocLiteers. In case you think we’re just going there to have fun (you may have heard that there are parties just about every night and even a ball, not to mention male cover models on the premises 24/7?) – fear not, I promise we will be working hard. Workshops, talks, networking, you name it – we’ll be attending everything. And we’ll report back afterwards with, hopefully, plenty of inspiring photos. With all this socialising, er, I mean working, I have a feeling my wardrobe and suitcase are both going to prove woefully inadequate, but as the convention hotel is apparently situated right next to a shopping mall, I’m not too worried. I may even forget a few things on purpose :-)

So what are you up to?

The Gilded Fan – Publication Day!

tgf_packshot-copy2It’s finally here – publication day for The Gilded Fan – and I’m afraid that against Sarah’s advice (well, it was good advice even though you couldn’t possibly follow it for a debut novel), I’m not going to be professional, I’m going to start this post with a ‘squeeeeeeeeeeeee!’

Even though this isn’t my first ‘baby’ to be released into the world, it still feels the same – exciting, terrifying, awesome and a lot more besides! The Gilded Fan is one of those books that has been through dozens of incarnations and each time I’ve thought ‘this is the one’, the one that’s going to get published. And it wasn’t … until now!

What is it about some books that makes it so hard to get them just right? Some stories seem to write themselves, whereas others you sweat blood and have to pummel them into submission. And yet, it’s so worth it when you feel that you finally get there and it’s done. Yes, I could probably have gone on tweaking it for years (do we ever stop tweaking?), but I’m happy to leave it now to fend for itself in the big wide world.

So, The Gilded Fan – what is it about? It’s the sequel to The Scarlet Kimono (although it can be read on its own) and features the daughter of the hero and heroine of that novel. A half-Japanese girl who is forced to go back to her mother’s country, England, to live with relatives she considers barbarians. There’s a handsome hero (long-haired of course – you know me), the small matter of the English Civil War and a whole lot of prejudices on all sides … No, I think I’d better just give you the blurb:-

How do you start a new life, leaving behind all you love?

It’s 1641, and when Midori Kumashiro, the orphaned daughter of a warlord, is told she has to leave Japan or die, she has no choice but to flee to England. Midori is trained in the arts of war, but is that enough to help her survive a journey, with a lecherous crew and an attractive captain she doesn’t trust?

Having come to Nagasaki to trade, the last thing Captain Nico Noordholt wants is a female passenger, especially a beautiful one. How can he protect her from his crew when he can’t keep his own eyes off her?

During their journey, Nico and Midori form a tentative bond, but they both have secrets that can change everything. When they arrive in England, a civil war is brewing, and only by standing together can they hope to survive …

I’m off to celebrate with some chocolate! (Ok, a lot of chocolate, if you insist!)  Why not join me?

Going to the Ball

festivalofromanceAs the Festival of Romance approaches, the thought that seems to be occupying most attendees’ minds is not “who is going to win an award?”, but “OMG, what am I going to wear?!” There have been discussions about shoes, dresses and accessories on Facebook, Twitter and various blogs, with suggestions flying back and forth.

Officially, we’re going to a Ball, which to me would mean long, formal dresses, but these days it’s also acceptable to wear a cocktail dress or very nice short dress. I was a bit hazy as to the term “cocktail dress”, so I looked it up. According to Wikipedia it’s a “woman’s dress worn at cocktail parties or semi-formal occasions” and was originally fairly long, either just above the ankle or ankle-length. But nowadays the length doesn’t matter, only its level of “sumptuousness”.

Hmm … So really, it’s up to the wearer to decide if they think their outfit is sumptuous enough, right? Which is just as well, because judging by past events we have attended, the Choc Lit authors (and everyone else) have wildly differing personal styles and I’m all for that.

chocliteerssmallAs teenagers, most of us follow fashion slavishly, whether it suits us or not (rah-rah skirts anyone? Ye gods …). But with maturity and confidence you develop your own fashion sense and get an eye for what looks good on you and what doesn’t. I think most of us instinctively seek out the colours that suit us best and with practice you realise that some clothes just weren’t made for a shape like yours.

To me, part of the fun of going to an event like the Festival of Romance Ball is seeing what everyone else is wearing and we do scrub up quite well I think. But we all show our personalities through our clothes (see photo on the left for example). We couldn’t be more different if we tried, but this is the true “us” and I love it that we’re not all clones! Our outfits are as different as our books, even though they come under the same heading of “romance”. I guess it would be fun to do an experiment some time, swapping clothes, but I have a feeling it would be a fashion disaster :)

myshoessmallSo – if you’re attending the ball, what are you going to wear? And if you’re not, what would you have worn? Me? I’ll be in silver and grey, plus shoes I can’t walk in … nothing new there then!

Christina’s Wednesday W

swelake2Like Evonne, I was having trouble coming up with a suitable topic for the Wednesday W feature and flicking through my dictionary didn’t produce any worthwhile results. (Couldn’t think of anything to say about “worthwhile” unfortunately). So I asked my daughter to suggest something. She said “water”.

fairybridge2At first I said no, I can’t write about that because Mandy already did a post about the sea, but then I thought – why not? There are lots of other types of water! Lakes, ponds, rivers and waterfalls. Moats too and, of course, rain!

waterfall3There’s something very soothing about water, just looking at it I mean. All the above are peaceful in their own ways and very often something you stop to stare at for a while. Is there anything more beautiful than a still lake at sunset? A river gently flowing under an old stone bridge? A little pond full of shiny koi fish? Or a waterfall, shimmering in the sunshine? They all calm the spirit. Even rain is wonderful, especially if you’re indoors, snug and warm, just listening to it or watching rivulets running down your windows.

ragmoat3I spent all my childhood summers in a little cottage by a lake, swimming almost every day no matter the temperature of the water. (Yes, I was and am a complete water baby.) I even swam when it was only 16 degrees Celsius (60 Fahrenheit), only emerging when my lips were turning blue and my teeth chattering so much I couldn’t speak. I just loved it! And when I wasn’t in the the water, I was on it, messing around in an old boat, learning how to row, trying fairly unsuccessfully to fish, or pretending my friends and I were pirates. I’m sure this all fed my imagination no end!

fish2Whenever I can, I go and sit by the waterfall in the Japanese Garden in London’s Holland Park. It gives me inspiration for writing and is a great reminder of the stark beauty and orderliness of Japan, which I often write about. The pond beneath the fall (or one like it) has featured in two of my books and it’s a wonderful place to just sit and think.

But my favourites are, of course, the Swedish lakes near where I grew up and although I don’t get to go there as often as I’d like, they stay in my memory so I only have to close my eyes and I’m there.

rain2How about you, what kind of water do you prefer and does it inspire you in any way?

Christina – When Research is Fun!

devonmeleatherjsmallThe very word “research” sounds a bit dry and boring, at least to me. And I freely admit I’m not one of those writers who gets totally absorbed in researching my next WIP and forgets about actually writing the book. On the contrary, I can’t wait to finish the research. I’d rather just tell the story, without having to read up on anything beforehand.

Unfortunately, that’s not possible when you write historical novels – I have to have the background knowledge of the period, as well as a grasp on the clothing, social conventions of the time, and things like food and travel. And of course, I need to know all the facts about the specific events that occur in my story (if it’s based on real ones).  But once I have all that, I only look up things as and when I need them, rather than storing facts in my brain “just in case”.

Obviously, there are great ways of making the research more fun, which don’t involve trawling through musty tomes that send you to sleep within two pages. For example, I love going to museums to see the artefacts that would have been used and handled by my characters. I also really enjoy watching films set in the right era, even if the filmmakers don’t always get the details right. And then there are the places you can visit where whole “sets” have been built up, including the relevant smells in some cases, or where they let you experience things belonging to certain eras for yourself. That can really help!

devonfemaleclothingsmallA couple of weeks ago I made a research trip to just such a place, Torrington 1646 at Great Torrington in Devon. There they have a permanent exhibition about the time of the English Civil War. Visitors are given talks on things like clothing, weapons and medicine for this period and I had a wonderful time imagining myself back in 1646.

Although I didn’t get to try on the women’s clothing (someone else did that), I wore a man’s leather jerkin (which was amazingly heavy due to the fact that it was made of thick buffalo hide!), a Puritan style felt hat and I was given a musket to hold.  Later, I learned how to load and fire the musket (in principle only, I didn’t actually shoot anything) and how to fight with a pike as part of a “hedge-pig” formation.  Finally, I had a lesson in medicinal plants, which was extremely interesting.

(This is NOT me in a beard)

(This is NOT me in a beard)

Now all I have to do is incorporate it all into my edits!

Anyone else done any fun research recently?

(The Gilded Fanset during the Civil War, will be published in February 2013)

Writing Buddies – Val & Liv

For a couple of weeks, we’ve been trying to come up with something original for W Wednesday. What we thought would be a piece of cake, proved otherwise. We did wonder if we could say one of us has a problem with our Rs, and then maybe we could get away with Womance or Wock and Woll.

But W it is – W for Who? W for Writing buddies; W for Without meeting.

So who the heck are these writing buddies, who have never met?  Collectively, Isabella Connor. Individually, Liv and Val. Val lives in Canada, Liv in England. That’s an 8-hour time difference and more than 4,000 miles in between.  We wrote a novel, working title Luke, now officially Beneath an Irish Sky, submitted it to Choc Lit, who accepted it for publication and here we are.

It wasn’t exactly easy to write a novel as a partnership, when we live on separate continents. But the internet (and the phone) made it far less difficult than it might have been, and we came to the conclusion some time ago that we do appear to share a brain. Cybermese twins, you might say, though it can get difficult if we both want the brain at the same time.

The internet didn’t just make it easier, though – it made it possible, as we actually met on an online message-board. From the beginning it became obvious that we shared the same feeling for the characters, the same direction for the novel. There have been times when we had to compromise, but even if you’re writing a book alone, there’s always a time when you have to deliberate on which route the plot or the characters should take.

Writing the novel together has been a pleasure and great fun. Sometimes a headache, but to expect no problems at all would have been totally unrealistic.

alicetweedledumtweedledee Partnerships/ pairings have existed since time began. Antony and Cleopatra, Napoleon and Josephine, Frodo and Sam, Marks and Spencer, and now there’s us …

We’re obviously Tweedledum and Tweedledee – they were the two who would finish each other’s sentences, right?

So are we a bargain? Kind of Buy one Get One Free – or Double Trouble. Time will tell!

There are other real-life writing partnerships, such as bestselling crime duo Nicci Gerrard and Sean French, writing as Nicci French, but we thought it would be fun to come up with some imaginary writing duos – ones that would be successful, and ones that wouldn’t last the day.

Successful Synergies

1. John Grisham & Fyodor Dostoevsky: “Clients and Punishment”

2. Jane Austen & Helen Fielding: “Elizabeth Bennet’s Diary”

3. Stephanie Meyer & Anne Rice: “Interview with the Vampire: the Cullen Chronicles”

Doomed to Fail

1. F. Scott Fitzgerald & Ernest Hemingway: “Jazz and Daiquiris in the Afternoon”

2. Ian Fleming & Charlotte Brontë: “The Governess Who Loved Me”

3. Enid Blyton & D H Lawrence: “The Naughtiest Girl and The Gamekeeper”

If you’ve any other suggestions, please share. :-)

So, until next time then, it’s a goodnight from me … and a goodnight from her.

Liv

Liv

val

Christina’s Novella – Out Now!

marry-in-hastesmallI’m very pleased to be able to tell you that my first novella, Marry in Haste, is now available on Kindle! It’s a Regency romance and here is the blurb:-

‘I need to marry, and I need to marry at once!’

When James, Viscount Demarr confides in an acquaintance at a ball one evening, he has no idea that the potential solution to his problems stands so close at hand …

Amelia Ravenscroft is the granddaughter of an earl and is desperate to escape her aunt’s home where she has endured a life of drudgery, whilst fighting off the increasingly bold advances of her lecherous cousin.  She boldly proposes a marriage of convenience.

And Amelia soon proves herself a perfect fit for the role of Lady Demarr­­­. But James has doubts and his blossoming feelings are blighted by suspicions regarding Amelia’s past.

Will they find, all too painfully, that to marry in haste is to repent at leisure?

Amazon link here

Christina’s ‘time-out’

at1Can you tell I’m still having sport withdrawal symptoms after the Olympics? Even the various terms used seem to have seeped into my brain! I guess it didn’t help that I had a houseguest who loves basketball in particular, so I saw quite a few games of that which is probably why this word (or should that be words? Dictionary claims it has a hyphen) stuck with me especially. But what really struck me was the whole ‘time-out’ concept. I want to apply it to real life sometimes!

It seems to me that writers don’t often have proper time off because even when we’re away on holiday we usually take our laptop/netbook/iPhone or whatever with us. It’s hard to resist the lure of “just checking” FB, Twitter or e-mails and although I always intend it to be a quick look, often it turns into a lengthy session. We’re also always thinking about our writing even when we’re not actually sitting at the keyboard, and disengaging the brain from our stories can be almost impossible!

It’s been a very busy summer for me with no real holiday time anyway so there have been momentss when I’ve felt like shouting ‘stop, time-out’, like the basketball coach did. To just have a day off without thinking about anything other than relaxing and doing whatever I wish without any pressure – perfect! Today I’ve decided to do just that because I finally have a really good excuse – it’s my birthday.

I’m old enough not to need a fuss on my special day any more and although I love receiving presents (who doesn’t?), that’s not the point for me. The main thing is that I get to spend the day exactly how I want to. I can sit and read, ignore the chores, eat nothing but cake, apple pie and chocolate, and not feel guilty. Absolute bliss! I think we all deserve one day a year like that, don’t you? One day when we get to decide everything and the rest of the family have to fall in with our plans and fancies, whatever they may be.

I hope you’ve all had or will have at least one day like that this year – I’m enjoying mine :-)