Copyright- all rights reserved. You are welcome to quote from this site with due acknowledgement and prior consent of the authors.




This blog will still be here but will no longer be active.

The Original "Getting Real"

The Original "Getting Real"
Please click on the picture to order this book.

Hilliard & Croft Books

Welcome to our blog!

Christina is represented by

Leo Media & Entertainment

We have many new projects currently underway and hope that you will enjoy our blog as well as our books and website:

Hilliard & Croft

Friday, 31 October 2008


For Hallowe'en, an extract from our forthcoming book, Beckford - set in Yorkshire in the early 19th century.

“Here!” Dorcas said suddenly, holding a lantern to survey the bank, “This is perfect.”
She placed the lantern on a rock and bade the others dig the handles of their torches into the mud, creating a circle of light.
“Gather some sticks and twigs,” she said, “and light a small fire in the middle of the circle.”
As Christopher obeyed, she turned to Alice, "Now then, lass, you have the other things?"
Alice nodded and, taking the cover from her basket, pulled out a pot which Dorcas set beside the lantern on the rock.
“Rosemary,” she told Olivia, “in remembrance of all the ones who’ve gone before and come back to help us tonight.”
Again a shiver of fear ran down her spine but Christopher smiled reassuringly.
“Apples, bread and herbs for an offering,” Dorcas set them beside the lantern, “and this for the weaving of dreams.”
She brought from the basket, straw and string and handed a hank and a thread to each of them.
“Make a figure like this,” she said, nimbly bending the straw and tying it at the base. “Here’s the head, then weave the body, the arms and the legs…” In no time at all a perfect straw doll was formed.
“Take as long as you need and while you weave it, put into it everything you want to loose from your life. Any bothers, any upsets, any memories that need to be cleansed. Weave them all into your figure.”
Olivia glanced at Christopher, who raised his eyebrows in reply.
“Start now,” Dorcas commanded and, while they twisted and plaited, she began a strange chant, raising her arms and turning one way and another, invoking the protection of spirits of the north, the south, the east and the west.
For a moment, Olivia wanted to laugh. There was something amusing not only about Dorcas’ superstitious gestures and chants but also in the thought of what her aristocratic friends would think if they knew that the she was standing here weaving a doll by a stream in the middle of the night. How different it all was from what she would have been doing had she accompanied her husband to Monkburn! An image of Sir Edmund and the guests came to mind and brought with it the memory of hours of small-talk and the same conversations about bushels and boars repeated season after season, year after year; so tedious, so stifling, so suffocating…duty and duty and duty and duty…
The urge to laugh had gone, replaced by a far more powerful emotion and as her fingers deftly plaited the straw, she felt herself frantically weaving duty, suffocating duty, duty, stifling, asphyxiating duty into the torso and limbs.
“Spirits of the trees….spirits of the waters…” Dorcas’ voice hummed hypnotically. Faster and faster she plaited the straw and with each thread came random images of the past twenty years: the silence when she had wanted to scream; the resigned acquiescence when she had longed to disagree; the dignified walk when she wanted to dance; the refined smile when she could have laughed aloud; the whispered, eternally-binding ‘I do’ when she longed to shout, “No!” and the tedium, the hour upon hour of silence and duty while her soul burned for music, for passion, for love.
By the time the doll was complete, Olivia’s hand was trembling with the force of two decades of unexpressed emotion. Was it anger, she wondered. Yes, there was anger and more than anger - a great rage swelling from some previously unplumbed depths. And there was power in the rage, a power so violent and unfamiliar that it seemed as though a fury inside her had been unleashed with an intensity so overwhelming that her head began to spin and her whole body swayed to the rapid beat of her heart. Her breath came in short gasps and as she struggled to catch it, she saw, through the corner of her eye, that Christopher was staring at her with an expression of alarm. He stepped closer and held out his hand as though to hold her, when suddenly Dorcas’ voice boomed with authority,
“No, Christopher, no, don’t touch her!” He stopped dead, and Dorcas’ turned urgently to Olivia, “Now, m’lady! Now, throw the doll into the fire!”
She gripped the straw figure and hurled violently it into the flames. It spat and crackled and, as sparks sputtered through the darkness like shooting stars, such a sense of elation overcame her that her eyes flooded with tears and she wept uncontrollably. She knew that Christopher was standing beside her and could feel his eyes upon her but he seemed too astonished to move.
“Alice,” Dorcas’ voice sounded distant, “it’s your turn. Cast the doll!”
A further sputtering and spitting of sparks and then a thud as Alice slumped to the ground. This time Christopher moved. He crouched beside her and would have taken her in his arms had Dorcas not uttered another command, “Now yours, Christopher.”
With far less vehemence than either of the women, he dropped the doll into the flames and as it smouldered among the cinders and twigs, Dorcas stepped forward and placed her own creation beside it.
“That’s it,” she smiled with a deep sigh of contentment, “we’re done.”

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Excerpt from "Most Beautiful Princess"

As the train drew into Varshavskiy Station, Konstantin Konstantinovich gazed through the steam in awe. The deafening cheer of the crowd almost drowned out the welcome of the military band as Princess Elizabeth of Hesse and by Rhine stepped from the carriage and, shyly holding her father’s arm, floated like an apparition of light across the platform. Whether dazzled by the glare of the sunlight on the swords and medals of the Imperial Guard, or overwhelmed by the radiance of her features, Konstantin could hardly tell but, raising his hand to shield his eyes, he murmured, “My God, Serge! She is…”
“Now, you believe me, Kostia,” Serge smiled, his grey eyes shining with pride. “The most beautiful princess in Europe.”
Smiling timidly, she moved towards the waiting dignitaries and, with the grace of a dancer, curtseyed before the imposing figure of Alexander III, Tsar of all the Russias. Huge, bearded and slightly balding, his firm features softened to a welcoming smile.
“Your Highness, we are honoured to welcome you to Russia!”
The formality complete, he took both her hands in his and laughed loudly, “Ella, we’re delighted to see you! My brother’s a fortunate man.”
“No, Sasha,” she said softly, “I am the fortunate one.”
He turned and gesticulated, “Come on, Serge, welcome your bride!”
Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich, tall and erect in the uniform of the Preobrazhensky Regiment, strode across the platform and, though his smile was as nervous as hers, the flicker of his lips revealed his pride in the impression she had made on the crowd. He greeted her with a brief, courteous embrace and, with one hand clutching the hilt of his sword, formally introduced her to the rest of the family.
“Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress Marie Feodorovna.”
Konstantin’s eyes followed her every step of the way and, as the beautiful and bejewelled Empress embraced her warmly, he couldn’t help but think that until now he had never seen any woman whose radiance could compete with Marie Feodorovna’s sparkle and vivacity.
“His Imperial Highness, Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich. His Imperial Highness, Grand Duke…”
The nearer she came, the more clearly Konstantin observed the perfect symmetry of her features: her blue, naïve eyes, her soft, tender smile, the faint blush on her fair complexion. It seemed that every line, every curve had been sculptured by some divine hand intent on bringing beauty into creation.
“His Imperial Highness, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich.”
He bowed and his lips brushed her fingers, “Your Highness, we had heard that we were to welcome the most beautiful princess in Europe but, as you can see from the adulation of the crowd, your beauty far exceeds our expectations.”
She smiled coyly and Serge, laughing, slapped him heartily on the back, “Ella, you must make allowance for my cousin. He’s an aesthete and a poet, constantly overwhelmed in the presence of beauty.”
Her eyes widened with interest, “A poet?”
“A very poor one, I’m afraid,” Konstantin said. “My words seldom capture what my heart really feels or my eyes truly see.”
She smiled pensively, “Sometimes we feel things so deeply and cannot find words to express them. For that we’re grateful to the poets who express them for us.”
Serge mused for a moment, gazing at her with a wonder that Konstantin had never seen in his eyes before.
“I trust,” Konstantin said, “that you will be very happy in Russia.”
“I’m sure, I shall.”
Serge guided her further along the line and when she had faded into the distance like the amber glow of the fading beams at sunset, Konstantin turned to Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich.
“Well, Sandro, I have to admit I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. In spite of all the descriptions, I never believed that a German princess could be so beautiful. Of course, she’s half-English but even so I…”
“Damn it, Kostia!” Sandro turned abruptly, stamping like an angry child against the platform, “How can they let this happen?”
Konstantin shook his head, confused as much by the vehemence of his tone, as the question.
“How can they let her marry him? Didn’t you see the way he looked at her with that haughty expression, showing her off like some prize trophy?”
“Wouldn’t you be proud if she were your bride?”
“Yes, I’d be proud but not in the way that he is!”
Konstantin laughed, “There are different forms of pride?”
“I would be proud to serve her, love her, take care of her. But him? He’s proud like a Philistine with a work of art, proud to possess it as a show of his wealth with no idea of its value or beauty.”
“You don’t think Serge appreciates her beauty? You don’t think he knows what a treasure he has found?”
“Oh yes, he knows but he values her like a miser values his money. You must have seen how his hand rested on her shoulder? That wasn’t love or passion, Kostia. That was possession. That’s all she is to him - a possession. Something he owns and can show off to the boys in his precious regiment!”
Konstantin looked up at the sky in sham contemplation, “How old are you, Sandro? Sixteen, seventeen?”
“Eighteen,” he nodded sagely. “That’s very young to claim such an insight into men’s hearts.”
“Hearts?” Sandro’s lip curled in disgust, “Serge has a stone in place of a heart. I tell you, Kostia, he’ll destroy her. I’d give ten years of my life to stop her walking down the aisle on his arm.”
Konstantin frowned, vaguely discomfited by rumours he had tried to ignore, and, as he shrugged to shake away the unwelcome thoughts, he was deeply aware that Sandro was not the only one who would like to prevent this marriage.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Queen Marie of Roumania's Love of Beauty

Queen Marie of Roumania - herself one of the most beautiful princesses of her age - was cousin to Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia: "The most beautiful princess in Europe". She wrote of her:

"...This faculty of enjoying beauty as a whole and in detail has followed me all through life. Line, color, form, and the sounds and scents belonging to each picture, have made life extraordinarily rich, and with every one of those unforgettable impressions comes always that feeling of gratitude for each new beauty revealed to my soul.
Today I still feel grateful to beloved Queen Alexandra for the vision of beauty she was to me...This other beautiful woman had a tragic and terrible fate. She was the Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Russia, my cousin, sister of the late Czarina. She had married one of my mother's younger brothers, the Grand Duke Serge. He was blown up by Nihilists, long, long before the revolution, whilst governor of Moscow. She then entered holy orders, building a convent in which she lived; but her holy life brought her no mercy from the Bolsheviks. She was abominably slaughtered in Siberia, but, curiously enough, her body was found and later on transported to Jerusalem, where it now lies in the Holy Land.
She was quite newly married when her beauty burst upon me as a marvelous revelation. Her loveliness was of what used to be called the "angelic" kind. Her eyes, her lips, her smile, her hands, the way she looked at you, the way she talked, the way she moved, all was exquisite beyond words; it almost brought tears to your eyes."

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


The garden is filled with birds. There are many seagulls, and a thrush and, interestingly, yesterday there were two male blackbirds, and this morning there are two female ones. I read that quite often at this time of year, male blackbirds’ feathers change color and become lighter so they are not always recognizable from the females, but the males that were here yesterday were still very black and their eyes and beaks very striking. It is odd that there were two pairs because I had read that they are quite solitary creatures and do not live in groups as some other birds do. When a cat comes they make a chattering sort of noise, and I have noticed that they do the same sometimes when I walk in the woods - it is a very different kind of song from the one they sing in the spring and it must be their warning sound. In the winter, there seem to be more blackbirds here (even though it’s not always possible to spot them because of the changed color of their feathers) because many migrate from Scandinavia to spend the winter here. It would be interesting to know if they speak the same language as English blackbirds!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Notes on Sex, Love and Music. Excerpt from "Getting Real" by Cheryl Hilliard

The lowest levels of the so-called sexy saturate our lives. Advertising promotes all manner of products - music videos, clothing, perfume, cars and movies - with themes of sexuality or the promise of it. What an interminable crock of manure it all is.
In Sabrina, Audrey Hepburn does two things that are far more sexy than all the butts in the breeze of a film like Basic Instinct. Watch her as she puts her hand on William Holden’s neck and cheek while dancing. In the movie’s final scene, she takes Humphrey Bogart’s hat in her hand and adjusts the brim. These two gestures have the weight of true sensuality behind them.
Where do we go from all the crotch-grabbing, look-at-me, behindless-swimsuited mindlessness of it all? What about the restoration of common sense? What about a return to beauty? Become the partner you would like to be with. Embody the character traits that you respect and admire. Not only will you be in more joy, you will then attract people who share those qualities with you. You really need to understand what a difference you make as an individual. Your life is created in beauty, and beauty has great effect on others.
Who cares if everybody notices your body or not? Do you know how to give to yourself and others or only to receive? It is your loving acceptance of yourself (all of you) that counts. There is nothing to be proven and nothing real to be gained in the false sexiness that currently predominates.

"Notes on Sex, Love and Music" Excerpt from "Getting Real" by Cheryl Hilliard

We seem to be so afraid of silence. We are always rushing to fill up gaps in conversations, bombarding ourselves in elevators, office buildings, and on phone lines with the noise that passes for music today. On a vibratory level, I feel that much of this so-called “music” can be damaging. It also has lyrics that are senseless and add nothing to the quality of life.
Much of today’s music is the vomitous by-product of bodies, hearts and minds fed on food that isn’t real. It produces chaotic thinking and attraction to the ugly and superficial in life. No matter how many minds agree to this garbage, it is garbage. The emperor has no clothes.
Because these sounds are so pervasive, most children grow up never hearing the beauty that music can be. How sad not to know that sounds that have moved people through time.

Beauty - An Excerpt from "Getting Real" by Cheryl Hilliard

In all the years that I have worked with men and women on self-acceptance and physical enhancement, I have not met one person who could make an accurate assessment of their physical appearance or had an appreciation of his or her true self-worth. Rarely do I see a person who truly sees their uniqueness and represents that uniqueness in their clothing, makeup, scent, hair, eyeglasses, accessories and body care.
Many of the world’s ills relate directly to individual lack of true self-esteem. If I don’t feel okay about me, it affects the way I relate to you. There is so much information available on food, health, clothing, make-up, and spiritual development. People often feel as if they are caught in a maze. Having experienced that maze, I know it can be confusing. I believe in handling everyday things beautifully and simply. Getting out of the maze frees your energy for other, perhaps deeper, pursuits.
...A male client once told me that he found it hard to give himself permission to look good. How often and in how many areas of your life do you deny yourself permission? This chapter is about clearing up long-held misperceptions about yourself and removing the costumes you have worn so long to survive. Move to the place where you can lovingly let go of a false self-image and stand in the light that is within.