Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

It is the dying hours of the year 2006, when one reflects on the past and looks towards the future with a mingling of hope and dread. There always seems to be potential on this day.

I am not overly fond of NewYear'sEve parties and won't be going to one. For a long time, my dh did the Morpeth to Newcastle run on NewYear's morning and thus he did not want to spend most of the night celbrating.Equally the chances of getting a babysittter was zero to none. And for somereason I always feel trapped at New Year's Eve parties in a way that I don't feel at any other time of the year. So it will be something quiet.
I have basically done my goals for 2007. I prefer the term -- goal as resolution is too rigid. Resolutions are all about stopping to do something. Goals are about trying to achieve something.

My writing goals are simple -- four more manuscripts -- 2 Vikings and two late Regency/Victorians set in the North East. The crows of doubt are not being let in here. However, it is more than that. I want to keep trying to improve, striving. I want my writing to grow. There is so much I have to learn and apply. I want to mature and become a writer that people are excited about reading. It is part of the intellectual challenge and why I love writing.

As I am now a published author, I have to be aware of the PR side, so my goal here is to be come more timely and effective with my PR. Again, there is always something to be done. Some lesson. This is about building a career.

A consequence of writing and other things has caused my girth to expand. It needs to shrink. My goal is get back to the weight I was in my 20s.

There are other goals such as getting the Aga fixed, getting the car repaired, getting the house decorated but these depend on other people.

I hope everyone has a wonderful New Year and good luck on 2007. May it be the best one yet.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Die Gliebte des Gladiators: Gladiator's Honor in German

Swoon, this is the Gladiator's Honor in German's cover. It is highly romantic and really captures the mood. Valen's hair colour is right as well.
The German blurb reads:
DIE GELIEBTE DES GLADIATORS Rom, 65 v. Chr.: Wie kein Mann zuvor weckt Valens der Thraker die Leidenschaft der schönen Patriziertochter Julia Antonia. In den starken Armen des berühmten Gladiators verspürt sie nie gekannte Gefühle der Lust. Und auch wenn er ein Sklave ist und die strengen Gesetze Roms eine gemeinsame Zukunft verbieten: Julia kämpft für das, was die Stimme ihres Herzens ihr rät. Und macht dabei eine aufsehenerregende Entdeckung: Valens ist nicht der, für den die Römer ihn halten …
You can buy it on Cora (Harlequin Germany) or wherever these books are sold in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.
I suspect Michelle Willingham as she is fluent in german will know what the blurb says but I do wonder if it is apporximately what the Emglish blurb said or if they have changed it...
In any case, this cover is another one for my wall behind my computer.
It is all terribly exciting. I look forward to holding the German copies in my hands.
In other equally exciting news, I went ot WH Smith in Newcastle, and they had put the January releases out. Thus, I was able to buy Christina Hollis and Abbey Green's first Presents, as well as Deb Hale's The Bride Ship -- a book I have been looking forward to reading. A Noble Captive was also there. In fact I do not believe I have ever seen so many copies of M&B historicals in one place, ever. They had about 50 copies of each book. A Noble Captive had already sold two copies from what I could figure. I will now have to write a press release and hope to get it in the local papers.
It was much less terrifying this time. Much more exciting. Unfortunately I forgot my camera and could not take a picture. I will go to the WH Smiths in Hexham next week and take photos.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day in the UK - -when the poor boxes were traditionally opened and istributed to the poor. Unlike the US, today is a bank holiday in the UK. Some sales start but mainly, it is a day for watching sport, going for brisk walks, having another large meal, going to watch the hunt -- that sort of thing.

We are going to go for a bracing walk soon.

Christmas morning started at 3:50 am when my dh nudged me and asked if I knew it was ten to four. For get the children waking early.It is my dh. Then once, he stirred and went down to make tea, my eldest came in and said that he was having trouble sleeping, and seeing as we were up. We finally went down stairs at 5 am. After Mass, I had a nap.

We coped without the Aga and Christmas diner was lovely compete with roasted vegetables and a well cooked ham. My dh decided to make sweet cabbage -- boiled cabbage with apples and cranberries -- it was surprisingly good -- a vriation on Nigel Slater as he thought the cranberries might go off. The cranberries added a welcome tartness. We even had Christmas pudding for dessert.
However I shall be v glad when the Aga is finally fixed as the kitchen is so v cold without it.

I have been v good and have not started my wip, even though my muse is start to scream in my ear. I keep just jotting down notes. But I am v excited about this one. I do love writing and miss it when I am not in the midst of a novel.

Now is the time to begin thinking about goals for 2007. One of my major ones is going to be shed weight. I am tired of having writing bum. There are also certain writing goals and PR goals that I want to do, but more about this later. My eldest and youngest were given computer games for Christmas and so I am getting the long suffering looks...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Good Wishes

First of all, my friend Julie Cohen has finally had her baby. 13 days overdue but she and her dh now have him as an extra special Christmas present. It does go to show that there are happy endings as this baby is a much wanted child.

The presents are all wrapped and placed in a holding area. My dh does not like having presents out until late Christmas Eve. I do. We compromisae. He puts my presents and presents we get from other people under the tree. The rest don't come out...until after the children go to bed.
The stockings are hanging ready. The younger two will be reading at the Village Crib service. The youngest is excited about this.The middle is doing it under sufferance. The eldest has bailed but he read at the Village carol service last week. Even though the Aga is not working (long story) and won't be working until after New Year's, we now have a table top hob with half sized oven and will have a hot Christmas lunch. Luckily I had plannedon ham, rather than a full sized turkey!

As luck would have it, my muse is speaking, and I have the next Viking basically plotted. But I am obeying my dh (and my editor) and not writing over Christmas.

I want to wish each and everyone of you a Merry Christmas and a joyous 2007. Dare to dream your dreams, work hard at achieving then and they may come true.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Winter wonderland Contest

Over at the Romance Junkies the y are doing a Winter Wonderland Contest. I have donated a book (A Noble Captive) and set of Roman soldier figurines (or at least I hope they are still sold at English Heritage)
It took me a few moments to work out how the contest works btw. You have to find the hidden goodies and then click them. You the n answer a questions. It is great fun. There are prizes from kate Walker and Kate Bridges as well as many other publishers and authors as well.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and peaceful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Is that the date?

I sent my latest off to my lovely editor last evening and now I await her comments. I really trust my editor's eye and know that whatever she says, it will make for a stronger book. The whole is about getting the strongest book possible.
My next book will be back in the Viking era, and I am looking forward to writing it as it is a linked book to Taken by The Viking and thus provides an intellectual challenge. How do I do it? The thing I think I have to remember is that everyone is the hero of their own story. It all depends on the POV. If you wrote a story from a villian's POV, he would be the hero.
One of the dangers of linked stories is that the writer is not ready to let go of her earlier hero or heroine. I am hoping because I have written the Victorian in between that won't happen to me. I know sort of what happens in this book and the name of the hero is written in stone. This will be a relief to my long suffering cps as the names of my characters do tend to change...It is the name of the heroine that I am having diffculties with and is my task for the next few days. I have promised my editor that I am not going to think much about writing over Christmas. So I am not planning on getting a real start on this one until after Boxing Day...

That and finishing my Christmas cards, wrapping presents, cleaning the house, making sure we actually have food, etc etc.

The Christmas sickness seems to be early onset this year -- my younest two are home sick from school...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Four things

Before I forget, Sela tagged me with the four things meme

Four jobs I've had:
1.Gift Wrapper at a department store
2. Insurance Agent
3. tutor
4 writer
Four places I've lived:
1 Mtn View California
2 Northfield Minnesota
3 Newcastle Upon Tyne
4 Hexham
Four favorite foods:
1 olives
2 salami
3. baked potatoes
4. fruitcake
Four movies I could watch over and over:
1. Casablanca
2. Guys and Dolls
3. Star Wars
4 The Wizard of Oz
Four TV shows I enjoy:
1. Sharpe
2. Hornblower
3. Life on Mars
Four places I've traveled:
1. Iceland
2. Prague
3 Rome
4. Bergen Norway
Four places I'd like to visit:
1. Scilily
2. Athens
3. the North African coast
4 Turkey
Four websites I go to daily:
1. e-harlequin
2 The Pink Heart Society
3. Aol News
4. various friends' blogs
Four people tagged:
1. Nell Dixon
2. Amanda Ashby
3. Anne McAllister
4. Donna Alward

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On editting

I knowSela has tagged me and I will get to the tag soon.

I have finished the first draft and am on the editting stage of my ms. It is my favourite stage -- possibly.I think I like revisions better. It is the pulling together of the ideas and getting them to work.

There is lots I want to blog about -- I am currently reading The Writer'sJourney. It is intersting but not as helpful as say Robert McKee. At least now I know where some of the terminology comes from. I suspectI am actually going to have read Jung at some point. Volger uses Jung in his thesis and having read Myer-Briggs I can see where the two can mesh.

But right now I have to get to polishing. My cps have been very helpful in pointing out places where things are not working for them...this makes my task easier.

I am not thinking about the half written stack of Christmas cards, the non wrapped presents, the presents I still have to get, etc etc. It can all wait. I have to get this ms done.

Monday, December 11, 2006

What I thought she said

To clarify a bit, partly because I think it is interesting and partly to show how my mind works.

In October 2005, Anna Lucia kindly drove me back to my house after an all day RNA workshop where Kate Walker was one of the chief speakers.

Somehow the back seat conversation came around to Kate's revisions and she started to explain about motivation and her troubles with The Antonakos Maraige. The basic gist was that a woman has a one night stand to experience life before she gets married to a Greek tycoon because she trying to save her ill father from jail, but the man she has the stand with turns out not to be just a stranger in the night...

Now I thought she said that the Greek tycoon that the heroine was supposed to marry was the man the heroine ends up spending the night with. At this point, my hamster wheels were turning loudly and I nodded as Kate explained about motivation etc and how she had to make the heroine truly sympathetic and strong as there were potential for mis-steps. And I couldn't be sure. I thought the thing wa far fetched -- why wouldn't the heroine recognize her husband to be? But Kate is a master, and I figured -- if anyone can pull this off, she can.

And having read the book, I can say that I heard completely wrong. In the Antonakos Marriage, the hero is not necessarily the Greek tycoon the heroine is marrying. I don't want to spoil the story for any who have not read it yet, but it is far more complicated than that. As I said, I really enjoyed it and do think she succeeded in telling her tale.

Now I knew in the context of the Roman historical I wanted to do, I could not do a one night stand (too many problems), but a man forcing a woman to marry him to save her father from certain disgrace that I could do. It could really work. In fact it could really work with the hero that had been lurking in the back of my mind ever since my editor told me that she loved and adored pirates as heroes. And it was very much Beauty and the Beast. That particular fairytale has been one of my favourites since I was about 8. If you will recall Beauty sacrifices herself for her father's sake once the Beast discovers him in the garden picking the white roses that he promised Beauty. All I had to do was figure why my heroine Lydia would want to sacrifice herself, why she would feel responsible, and the consequences of her actions.

Light bulbs started flashing etc and I suddenly knew that I had to write this story rather than the more vague story about a soldier returning from the wars to a wife he barely knows. (This story may be written some day, but just not yet)

Now for Kate, the essence, the essential part of the story could have been different. She has done a number of Beauty and Beast themes before and often with a twist. It could have been the one night stand, and what happens when you think you are doing something that has no consequences...but that didn't matter. For my story she had given me a kernel, an idea and I could run with it.

It is the taking of the kernel and twisting, moulding and fashioning it into your own story that is the interesting part. But I know without Kate Walker and her revision tale, S&S would not have been written.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sold and Seduced copies


Sold and Seduced arrived today and I finally was able to see my cover.

It is a lovely seductive cover BUT it has nothing to do with the book. I am not sure why it was chosen.

The heroine's hair colour is wrong and they never kiss in a pond with catkins, but it is a lovely and evocative cover. And I trust my editors to have chosen a cover that will sell the book.

As some of you may know, this book was inspired by a conversation with Kate Walker. She was explaining about her book The Antonakos Marriage and the hamster wheels started turning in my head. At last a really solid reason for a marriage of convenience. I kept nodding my head, as she explained some of her revision problems but only listened with half an ear. I know what I thought she said. I could not get the premise and the idea out of my mind. And I told Kate, and with her permission as there is no copyright on ideas, I started to write.

Kate very kindly sent me a copy of TAM to read while I had my first eye operation. At this point Sold and Seduced was about half done. When I read The Antonakos Marriage (and it is a very good read btw and I have a few copies of TAM that I will be giving away when the UK paperback of Sold and Seduced is published), I realized that I had not heard properly at all. Sold and Seduced is a very different story with a very different plot line. Perhaps I need to have my ears checked!

The one thing it shares in common is the Beauty and the Beast premise -- a woman sacrificing herself for the sake of her father and his position in society.

If you ever get the chance, do go and take a course with Kate. She is a wonderful teacher and mentor. I defy you to go and not have your head come away buzzing with ideas. If not her book -- Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is an excellent resource.

Oh and I have just looked at Kate Walker's blog and seen the cover for The Antonakos Marriage in the US. Kate and I share an editor who knows the story of my inspiration. My editor who is a Bad Influence has a wicked sense of humour. I think I now understand the reasoning behind my cover. Very amusing...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

DIE GELIEBTE DES GLADIATORS: The Gladiator's Honour in German

I have discovered today the German title for Gladiator's Honor: DIE GELIEBTE DES GLADIATORS

Michelle Willingham who is fluent in German says that it means The Gladiator's Beloved. Which is not a bad title.
I have yet to see the blurb etc. But it should be available next month from Harlequin Cora. I suspect the cover will be basically the same as the US cover. But still it is very exciting, GH will have been translated into 2 languages other than English.

I truned in my article on Introducing the Roman Hero to the German Romance Magazine -- Love Letter Magazin. The editor is a very nice person and is doing a review of GH or I guess DGDG.

Now the only looming deadline I have is the one for NCC. It is coming on and I am nearly there. I want it to be an excellent read. After reading the SB review of GH, I realized that I have created a female character who needs to get her just desserts -- ie be slapped around a bit. But how to do it, that is the question.It should be fun though.

Christmas preparations continue apace. Thank God for the internet and internet shopping. It makes things far easier, particularly sending to the US.

There is a new blog -- Unusual Historicals that I was being a columnist for. Its main purpose is to promote Historicals in unusual settings and time periods. Something I can totally identify with. yes, I enjoy Regencies and Westerns, but I do want something more.

Back to the word mines....

Monday, December 04, 2006

Colour me excited

Many moons ago, I decided that I wanted to know how Gladiator's Honor would really stack up in the minds of readers who read a lot of romance and were not afraid to voice their opinion. Thus, I contacted Smart Bitches who loves trashy novels and asked, fully expecting to be told -- no we don't review series romance. To my surprise, they were very nice, and I sent off Gladiator's Honour when I first got my author's copies. Nothing. No review. Not even a bad one.
It might have got lost in the post, but then being lazy and slightly nervous, I did not follow it up. What if it had been thrown against a wall? Did I really want to know? And in any case, I had had several other reivews by reviewers that I trusted, and was less panicky about the whole thing. I did not follow up.
To my great surprise and delight, the mystery was solved this morning when a review was posted. Gladiator's Honor had fallen behind a stack of books and was lost. The even better news was that Sarah loved it!
For a review like that and to please a reader like her, I can forgive the time it took.
I am really pleased and honoured.
An A-. Wow.
You can read the full review here.

It has made my morning, especially as I am on the ch 14 panic. This has happened several times before and I am now recognise the symptoms. As my editor said the last time -- Just Keep Writing and it will all happen.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Il Gladiatore:The Gladiator's Honor in Italian

Deborah Hale whose book The Bride Ship is out in the UK next month spotted that The Gladiator's Honor is out in Italy in January.

The blurb reads:
Antica Roma, 65 a.C. Sopravvissuto a parecchi feroci combattimenti nell'arena, Caio Gracco Valente accende le fantasie erotiche di moltissime donne. Ma essendo un gladiatore, è escluso a priori dai circoli più raffinati della società romana, e Giulia Antonia, nobile patrizia, sa bene che una fanciulla di buona famiglia non dovrebbe avere alcun contatto con un uomo che è poco più di uno schiavo. Eppure, il fascino pericoloso che Valente esercita su di lei l'attrae come una calamita. Figlio di un nobile patrizio, Valente è stato catturato dai pirati e ridotto in schiavitù, e l'incontro con la dolce Giulia non fa che risvegliare in lui i ricordi di un passato ormai lontano e acuire il suo desiderio di riscatto. Ma l'unico modo per coronare quel tenero sogno d'amore e riconquistare l'onore e la libertà è combattere fino all'ultimo sangue nell'arena... e vincere!

I suspect it is a close translation of the English back cover.

Anyway, it can purchased here

This is my Italian biography:
Originaria di San Francisco, California, da quando si è sposata con un inglese, nel 1988, vive nel Northumberland a poche miglia dal Vallo di Adriano.
I think it say Orginally from San Francisco. When she married an Englishman in 1988, moved to Northumberland at little ways from Hadrian's Wall. But I could be wrong.
Does anyone know?

I find it all really exciting and interesting.

Legends about candy canes

As Natasha asked, I went and looked up more about candy canes.

There are many popular legends about candy canes and why they are shaped like a shephard's crook as Jesus is the Good Shephard or some say the letter J for Jesus. The hard boiled candy is supposed to be the Rock of God's love. The peppermint flavour comes from the mention of hsyssop in the Bible.

The earliest reference to candy cane shaped sweets is 1670 when it is said a choirmaster handed out boiled white candy shaped i as shepard's crooks to his choir and the children in the congregation during living crib services.
The practice gradually spread through central Europe and was incoporated into Christmas tree decorations. You can sort of see how that would happen -- the living crib services are often on Christmas Eve, people in Central Furope put their trees on Christms Eve, the cane shaped candy is just right for hanging...

Before the 20th century, all candy canes were white, and if you look at Victorian Christmas cards, you will see white canes hanging from the branches of Christmas trees.

No one is quite certain which candy-maker was resonsible for putting the stripes into the cane, but sometime in the early 20th century -- the red stripes were added. One bold red stripe and three fine red stripes. The bold red stripe is supposed to be God's love and the three fine stripes are supposed to represent the Trinity. I tend to think and believe the stories that say that this happened in the US first, possibly in Indiana. Anyway, does it really matter whose idea it was? It seems to have rapidly spread through the US during the first half of the 20th century, along with many other candy or sweet traditions.

Candy canes with the distinctive stripes are very American. I grew up with them. You do not really find over here or at least they were difficult to find in the UK twenty years ago. And they tended not to have the three fine stripes... It is surprising given the popularity of Rock.

Anyway, they can be seen as symbol of Christ's love. In one form or another, they have been around for a long time and look pretty on the tree. I am just hoping to be able to find some for y Christmas tree -- proper ones that have lots of peppermint...

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Noble Captive out on M&B's site

A Noble Captive can be purchased from Mills and . They release their January books a month early on the site.
If you are a reader service subscriber, you can get them even earlier. Waves to Jen and Alison who have both told that they have read ANC and enjoyed it.
The January releases are really strong. Not just because there is my book which I love and adore, but also because there is a Louise Allen, a Kate Bridges, a Helen Dickson and a Deb Hale. Now Deb's is already showing sold out. And it is one I want to read - -The Bride Ship. I feel quite honoured to be in the company of those authors...
Luckily M&B have flat rate charging for postage, so I can stock up...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas procrastination

I nicked this from Anna

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Egg nog, without a doubt but it has to be home made. It is not really sold in the UK, or adored in the same way. I am not sure why. Most punches seem to have vanished.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Wraps them, much to my disgruntlement. He did not wrap them when I was growing up...but when in England, one must bow to Father Christmas.
3Colored lights on tree/house or white? Both
.4. Do you hang mistletoe? It depends, but not usually.
5. When do you put your decorations up? Non tree 1 Dec. The fresh tree goes up 2nd Sunday of Advent.Fresh greenery such as holly from the garden a few days before Christmas
6. What is your favorite holiday dish? Fruit cake.
7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child: The tree on Christmas morning before anyone got there. All lovely and full of promise.
.8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? When I was about 9 and discovered reciepts for my sister's doll. My mother was upset because she knew that I liked believing.
My own explanation is that without Father Christmas many children would not get a present. It is the Spirit of Christmas working through others. It is not a lie, but a desire to give joy.
And my own children have not yet been able to answer how my eldest received the very late Christmas gift that he asked for, from Father Christmas and no adult or child went out of the house or purchased anything after he made his request.. Nobody could have known he wanted the Nutcracker, and yet there is was on Christmas morning.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes, a long standing tradition. My dh always opens the gift that my sister sends.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? With lots and lots of ornments collected over the years.
11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Adore it as long as I don't have to drive in it.
12. Can you ice skate? yes, I love ice skating but I don't do it as much as I once did.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Yes, my engagement ring.
14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Being with my family
15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Minced pie or fruit cake or stollen, but I am not fond of Christmas pudding.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Going to Mass on Christmas morning, singing Christmas carols.
17. What tops your tree? .A silver butterfly
18. Which do you prefer giving or Receiving? Giving.
19. What is your favorite Christmas Song?In the Bleak Mid-winter
20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yum. I adore them. I also like the story of why they are striped. But mostly I just like peppermint.

I nominate Kate Hardy and Donna Alward. If they can take the time....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Basically busy

There is one thing that is very true in writing, no matter how stressed you think you are with your deadline, there is ALWAYS someone else with a tighter deadline, or whose deadline has just passed. And there is never any point in comparing but because the levels of stress can be very different.

Sometimes, you can be forgiven for thinking that is a game of you think your childhood was bad....

Everyone reacts to deadlines in different ways AND each deadline is different.

This time my deadline appeared to loom larger than ever but I went back and checked, and I am in about the same place I normally am for when I have to finish the book, possibly even having the same sorts of deadline thoughts. And I suspect my lovely editor is very wise to this as well as she has told me that she has definately cleared space on her desk for when it is supposed to arrive!

I simply have to write it and I am having fun doing so. I can see the end, and have about a hundred pages to write...and then there is the editing...but editting is the fun part.

Yesterday I went to the RNA Northumberland Christmas meeting. There I won a jar of rubber bands. At the moment, they are sitting on my desk as I twist them into a rubber ball. It is quite fun to do and the ball is growing. However, it does not get my wip written.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving

Today is Thanksgiving in the US. For a number of reason, we have our big meal on Saturday as it is not an official holiday over here in the UK.

I like to think about my blessings So here are five things I am thankful for this year.

1. My family and the way my children are growing up.

2. My friends and the support they have offered me over the past year.

3. My writing. I am so glad to be writing stories I love and having them published. It is a dream come true.

4. My readers -- I am really pleased when I hear that one of my books has touched somene's life or simply that a reader enjoyed it enough to want to read something else of mine.

5. Where I live. I know I am bless to live a truly beautiful area with green rolling hills and biog biblical skies. If you want to see what the skies look like around here, look at the Victorian painter, JohnMartin. The skies he paints are Haydon Bridge skies. Every morning when I come back from taking my youngest to school, I see it spread out below me and think how lucky I am.

I do know that I am truly blessed, and I have many many things to be thankful for.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthful Thanksgiving and many many blessing over the coming year.

And in case anyone is wondering, my children put on the modern Christmas carols this morning. I always play Christmas carols on Thanksgiving to mark the day. But this year I have been playing the collections of traditional carols to get me in the mood for writing NCC. My children are not too fond of them. Thus we had Polar Express music put on with great glee this morning...

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Days slipping past.

In many ways, November seems to have lasted a very long time, and in others, the days have just flowed.

It is hard to believe that tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Many probably vastly superior people have finished their Christmas shopping. My dh is in the midst of his. Me? I have barely begun.
I have several piles of presents that should have been sent three weeks ago. I know where my stack of Christmas cards are, but will have to get more. I was very organised last year because of my eyes, but this year,I appear to have reverted to type. Mainly I just wnat to get my wip done and completed. It seems to be going slowly, but I don't think it is. It is just well...I don't know...

I do think I will get it done. My cps crack pretty good whips! But I am at a stage of wanting it done now! Actually I don't as I am in love with my hero. I just want to be further along. I keep thinking that I should be writing faster, but around 2 k per day seems to be my limit -- except at the end.

Anyway, I do know when the last airmail date is, and the internet is great for long distnace shopping.... and now my wip is calling.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

True Character v characterization

As I said before, there is a difference between true character and characterization. True character answers the WHY about characterization. It gives dimension.

It is very possible to create a character --say Jim and give him lots of traits -- he has jet black hair, blue eyes, tall, broad shouldered, drives a Porsche, wears expensive suits, takes his holidays in mountian resorts, and went to a private school. He has two sisters and runs his own company. But in fact this tells you very little about Jim as a person. The why behind the man. In fact, he is very likely to seem wooden.
True character is only revealed when a character faces hard choices. When the author understand the reasoning behind those choices. This then allows the author to make sure the character acts true to type in new and unfamiliar situations. How will the character react to pressure for example. Why will this character fall for the heroine? Where will the conflicts be in their world view? How will they need to change?

For example did Jim acquire these material goods on his own or because his family has always had them? Why did he buy the Porsche? For the speed? For its reliablity? Why does he choose the mountains for a holiday? Does he like the adventure or is it a place that he and his family have gone since time immemorial? If he is a CEO, is it a company that he has fashioned himself or is it one that belonged to his family? One that he has rescued from the brink?

When Jim dates, how does he date? Does he go for fun? For culture? Not date at all? What are his favourite leisure activities?

There is no right or wrong way to do this as the author needs both the characterizartions AND the insight to true character. It is sort of a what came first the chicken or the egg?

One way to help in determining true character is to pay attention to personality theory. for example, you can use either Myer-Briggs or enneagrams. But it is more an either or situation rather than being able to combine the two. The underlying philosophies are very different. Blank slate v inborn traits. Growth arcs v. skill sets

The two books are Please Understand Me ll by David Keirsey for Myer-Briggs and The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Riso and Hudson. Both have valid points. It very much depends on how your mind works. And both can provide the answers to why and how would a person with an underlying character trait react in a certain situation, thus making your character seem more believable.

Myer-Briggs is very much of the opinion that opposites attract. People need other types of people to be whole, and conflicts will arise. It is interesting that it is based on Artistole's four humours and that authors have used this type of personality typing for generations. Keirsey calls them -- Artisans, Guardians, Idealists and Rationalists. The artisans and guardians are much prevalent in society unless you live in the Silicon Valley in which case rationals tend to abound.

If Jim is an Artisan, he will have bought his Porsche for an entirely different reason than if he is Guardian or say rationalist. As Jim owns a company, it is unlikely that Jim will be an idealist and still be an Alpha male. Idealist leadership style is much more subtle. Idealist leaders tend to be catalysts for change, rather than effecting change themselves. They also tend to be brilliant individualists such a writer or a consultant, a mentor type. Thus because Jim owns a successful company, he is probably on balance not an idealist type ( or otherwise there has to be a pretty good explaination WHY he has this company. And if he is an idealist, it will be people oriented. Idealist are a v small percentage of population btw.
So if we stick with the three types:
Jim either bought it for the adventure, the speed, (artisan type) or for
the status, and the security that a Porsche brings (guardian type) or
because he is fascinated by the way it performs, its system., its engineering (rational type). Same car, different reasons. And I would argue it is the reasons that are important rather than the actual car. The WHY.

Next think why does Jim go to the mountains
1. for the adventure (artisan)
2. because he has a large ranch there and it has been in his family for generations (guardian), a place where all his whims can be catered for?
or 3. because, he is interested in nature, the flora and fauna of the area (rationalist)

Next think about the company
1. is it one he founded himself, maybe a leading edge company? (artisan)
2. one he rescued and brought back from the brink of ruin?(guardian)
3. an engineering company that invented something the world can not do without? (rationalist)

Is he
1. a bad boy? fun loving or a craftsman? A preformer?
2. a rock steady type? banker?
3. an enginner/geek?

As I go through this process, I can see if the reason are starting to point me towards a specific type or if Jim is all over the place. An all over the place character is less likely to act convincing in a novel than one which derives most of his characteristics from one of the four main groups. Then I can start to know how he will react in other situations, what his strength and weaknesses will be.

I would go so far as to say that the writer who neglects peronality traits (however they develop them) runs the very great risk of creating wooden or incomprehensible characters. But that is just my own opinion.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

McKee's Story

I am interrupting my bit on Myer-Briggs to speak about Robert McKee's Story. Ally Blake confessed on The PHS to not understanding it and the bit she posted showed that she did indeed have problems.
Personally I love and adore the book. I am very glad my editor recommended it to me. I think it is better than Donald Maass's Writing the Break out Novel and is absolutely crammed full of techniques.
But it is not an easy read, and it is not a *How to* book in the sense of follow the bouncing ball. It is a course in form so that the writer can go back apply the techniques when something is not working. It is not about giving formulas. It is a book I am constantly dipping in and out of. It is a book that provides insight to the careful reader. But it does take some getting to grips with -- a university or even post-grad level course rather than a high school level. Maass covers much of the same ground btw.

He most emphatically does not recommend the three act structure as some fondly imagine. Instead he says a story is a series of acts that build to a last act climax or story climax which brings about absolute and irreversible change. One technique he suggests for a sagging middle where there are few subplots is to add more acts. The climax of each act needs to be greater than previous one, building to that last critical moment. And if you put in too many climatic scenes, the reader can have overload. If there is not progression, the reader loses interest and throws the book against the wall.

Act is simply a term for a series of related scenes. Each scene should contain an event or change, and a scene is built from a series of beats. Beats are made up of actions and reactions from various characters.

He believes in essence all stories boil down to one simple tale -- The Quest. Basically the progtagonist's life is thrown out of balance, making im have a conscious or unconscious desire to restore that balance and harmony to his life. The protagonist goes on a quest to achieve his Object of Desire is pitted against various forces until he achieves the desire or does not achieve it, depending on the type of outcome the story teller wants.
In Romance -- the ending is upbeat and the protagonist eventually achieves a HEA.

The best thing about McKee is that he isn ot providing a formula, but rather giving forms. In other words, the writer reads the book, absorbs it, writes his story and when the Crows of Doubt are circling has powerful tools in her toolbox to actually scare them away. His scene analysis should NOT be used to create scenes but to FIX scenes that feel flat. It is about understanding the building blocks, so that you can create, rather than slavishly following some prescribed formula. Form not formula.

One of the more interesting discussions he has is on character. True character v characterization. Characterization is things like hair color, mode of transport, clothing, etc. True character is what emerges when the protagonist is put under pressure. What choices does he/she make and why? What risks is s/he willing to take? How much is s/he willing to risk and why? Which brings me neatly back to Myer-Briggs as Myer-Briggs is all about true character rather than characterization.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Myer-Briggs v enneagrams

Before I begin discussing my new obession --Myer-Briggs personality traits. Perhaps I had better explain the difference in the two theories.

Enneagrams are based on a Freudian/Pavlovian theory of personality -- mainly what happens in your childhood directly effects the type of person you become. People's character is ultimately shaped by experience. people are driven by a main motivation.

Myer-Briggs takes its founding tenets from Jung and the four humours of Aristole. People have certain inbred traits and these shape the choices they make. Just as an acorn contains everything to make an oak tree and not a rose bush, so to does a baby contain all its personality traits and your world view.The vast majority of character is present from birth. people are driven by a variety of motivations.

Ennegrams allow for specific character growth arcs. What do people need to learn and how are they going to grow?

Myer Briggs allow for certain reactions, and does allow people to learn, but says that peole are more likely to approach things from a specific POV. Myer-Brigg says a lot about different styles, and why people need/are looking for different things out of relationships.

But both approaches deal with character rather than characterization. In otherwords, how do people react when they are under pressure? What choices do they make and WHY? Both approaches go some way towards answering the why.

Anyway, I shall look at Myer-Briggs in greater depth. I think there is a lot tobe learnt. Anyway I am very interested in the human psyche. It is the exploration of character.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

And the winner is....

Amanda rebelsparky_nirvana has won the signed hardback copy of A Noble Captive.

The answers were Marcus Livius Tullio and Helena.

Many thanks to all who entered.

I shall be doing another contest to celebrate the publiscation A Noble Captive in the UK paperback, and Gladiator's Honour in German in the New Year.

In the mean time, I have heard my next US release will be The Roman's Virgin Mistress in July 07. They will then go back later and publish A Noble Captive and Sold and Seduced in the US, but both my editor and the senior editor really love TRVM and wanted it out there as quickly as possible. I have seen the preliminary artwork and it is very good!

Anne McAllister has got me interested in Myers-Briggs personality traits, so I shall be sharing some of my new obession with you shortly. Suffice it say that annoyingly, the description of my personality was bang up to the mark. I also want to do something on raising stakes -- both personal and private within a ms, and please remind me if I forget..

In writing I have started to go back and do some editing. The major upshot is that I further along than I thought I was. Layering layering layering, but it will be far stronger when I have finished. And my editor is happy with the present state of the partial...

And my parcel from M&B reader service arrived. I am using as a huge carrot as my TBR pile has just increased. The big treat was to see my friend's Fiona Harper's new book The Blind Date Marriage.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Five more things you didn't know about me

As Margaret Moore and Victoria Bylin have both tagged me. I will do five more things you didn't know about me, and this time, I will try to put it in a historical context.

1. I used to belong to the Richard lll Society. A phase during high school, but I still know about a bit about the period.

2. The first house my dh and I bought was late Georgian terrace house -- Grade 2 listed with many of the original features.

3. My current house is an Edwardian bungalow built in 1908 by the local bank manager. It is very quirky and some thought haunted.

4. We have found various artifacts in the garden -- from old bottles, pottery to clay pipes. Mostly found on the banks of the stream. I know vaguely how to date bottles by the way they are manufactured.

5. Part of my interest in cooking stems from when the AGA was coal fired, and I had to learn to control the heat.

I nominate Michelle Willingham and Denise Lynn. And if you have done it before, why not think about it in conenection to history?

Monday, November 13, 2006

A blustery day and admin tasks

Today is one of those that it is good to be indoors. The wond is whipping around, sending the leaves flying. this means once the wind stops, I shall be out there picking up leaves.
My eldest is quite disappointed. He had thought to miss the annual leaf fall, but it waited for him!

I was very cheered to read the Book Standard article about how well romance, inparticular M&B is doing. There is a lvoely quote from Kate Walker in the piece. Iti s a reprint from The Bookseller. Kate Allan highlighted it on her new blog -- Marketing for Authors 2.0.

tis the season to enter contests for published authros. I have been busy entering contests. Several RWA chapters run contests for published books. The main criteria for entry is the prize and whether or not I can pay by Paypal or some other form of online payment. As well as who is judging the contest. For example, I am far more likely to enter a contest which has booksellers and librarians as judges or has some sort of free advertising as the top prize. The best place to find contest info is on the back pages of the RWR.
The top contest of course is the RITA, and I have entered that one. You do need to be careful when entering contests to read the rules. Some contests specify a general copyright date,while others want the first North American printing date or the US copyright date. The Rita currently has the general copyright date. I know that GH has arrived and am awaiting confirmation that A Noble Captive has arrived. A Noble Captive, although it will not appear in paperback until 2007, appeared in hardback in 2006. Luckily Liz Fielding alerted me to the potential for this sort of problem awhile ago.
Anyway, I have done that part of my admin tasks and need to get back to my wip.

One of the things I look at when I write is -- are the public and private stakes high enough? What is going to happen to these people, in particular the heroine, if she does not succeed. If life will simply go on as normal, then the stakes are not high enough and I need to up them dramatically. Similarly what is going to happen to the hero if he fails? How can they fail? That sort of thing.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month

Today is the anniversary of the end of World War One. A war to end all wars, a war of untold suffering, acts of immense heroism and a war that changed the shape of the world. In the UK, it is referred to as Poppy Day. Tomorrow up and down Great Britain wreaths will be laid at war memorials in an act of remembrance.
These soldiers sacrificed their lives so we might enjoy the freedoms and lifestyles that we do today. They gave their tomorrow so we can have today.
I know I am eternally grateful.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Colour me clueless

Now I enjoy reading Isabel Swift's blog. I have done ever since I first discovered on e-harlequin when she first started. I read her blog on iBoAS and did not think anything of it. Another Mira author that I would haveto remember to check out at some point. New book out, that sort of thing.
I had not realised it was a v classy response to an indiscrete interview. This I discovered when I read MJ Rose's marketing blog -- a blog well worth reading for its advice on marketing.

Personally I do not agree with what Anne Stuart did. It is never ever good business to rubbish your publishers -- past or present. Isabel's post shows why I hold her in such high esteem. Anyway, Anne Stuart made the best seller list after 32 years in the business and making some highly dubious business decisions (and I believe made it BEFORE the interview condemning MIRA was posted)..
My big takeaway is NEVER EVER post something when you are angry or upset about things. You never know what is around the corner.
Equally learn as much as you can about how publishing works. Initial print runs don't matter as much as sell-through and reprints. You want your book to have LEGS!

It does bother me though that some authors think selling books is not like selling chewing gum, corn flakes or other consumer products. The laws of marketing (like the forces of nature) stay the same whatever product you choose. Books are not like selling grain, computer chips, oil or other interchangeable commodities. There again, it is probably my econ background showing. I find numbers, sale-through ratios fascinating stuff. I like to know what makes a business tick.

PR and marketing is great fun. And as I have in no way, shape or form mastered it, a source of endless fascination. BUT I also have a wip to complete before Christmas and am at a rather exciting bit...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Taken by the Viking

I have a title and release date in the UK for my Viking -- Taken by the Viking. It is an October 07 release.

Thus at the moment, my release schedule looks like this:

Jan 07:
The Gladiator's Honour (in German!)
A Noble Captive UK paperback

Feb 07
Sold and Seduced UK hardback

April 07
Sold and Seduced UK paperback

May 07
The Roman's Virgin Mistress UK hardback

July 07
The Roman's Virgin Mistress UK paperback

August 07
Taken by the Viking UK hardback

October 07
Taken by the Viking UK paperback

Dec 07
Victorian Christmas one (tbc)

I don't know my North American dates but have reason to believe that the other 3 Romans will be 2nd half 07 releases -- possibly starting wth the Roman's Virgin Mistress. It is a TPTB decision and thankfully not mine!
And my schedule is not nearly as full as Kate Hardy's.
But it does offer plenty of scope for contests. I would remind everyone that the A Noble Captive hardback contest is still open until 15 Nov. I want the names of the hero and heroine of A Noble Captive and you must be a current subscriber of my newsletter.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Eldest Home from Russia etc

Late last night my eldest arrived home from two weeks intensive language training in Russia. His luggage was lost on the way home and is now awaited...

Thankfully he avoided being involved in any of the commotion in Red Square yesterday, although his bus did park by a group of former communists. My dh saw about the disturbance on tv but decided I shouldn't be worried and so said nothing until the eldest was safely home.

He had a good time, but said that the Russians were obessed with not having any free time, so eveything was programmed and planned. He was surpised by the extremes -- in Russia you are either v wealthy or v poor. There is really no middle class. The picture is one of the many onion domed monasteries he saw. He found the language training intense, but enjoyable. Amazingly he even joined in the folk dancing, but found a way to do the lighting during the final concert. And he does want to go back to Russia at some point. His Russian teacher there was a professor of English at Moscow University.

He returned home taller than when he left, and I was ever so glad to see him. According to him, he was never homesick. It is good to let them go but really great to have them return safe and sound.

In other news I have begun contributing the Tote Bags and blogs blog. It looks to be a fun site and Leena has lots of things planned. as well as a whole host of authors blogging about different things. Please do come and visit.

Last night, I went to the Hexham bonfire and fireworks display. Because waitrose (an upscale UK supermarket) has just opened, they provided the fireworks. It was one of the best, if not the best displays I have ever seen. The bonfire was fairly spectacular as well -- I am not quite sure what the effigy was supposed to be -- a Statue of liberty type lady perched on top of Roman temple. The burning started in the roof, and eventually the blaze burned brightly in the night sky. the entire thing took place on a hill overlooking the Abbey. Afterwards, we went back to some friends for supper.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Ida Cook -- a real life M&B heroine.

In the 1930's, Ida Cook and her sister helped rescue many Jewish people from Nazi Germany by posing as eccentric opera fanatics. Their trips were financed in part by Ida's books for Mills and Boon. She wrote under the pen name Mary Burchill. Due to the risks she and her sister took, they were named Righteous Gentiles in 1965 by a grateful state of Isreal. Ida also served as a president of the RNA. You can read more about her here

It is rather thrilling in many ways to discover what other M&B authors have done. Because some many wrote under pen names, their other lives have oftenremained a mystery...

I am sure some have this imagine of romance authors being all like Barbara Cartland or perhaps some other frustrated old bat. The truth is v different. All M&B authors are interesting in some way, and I can't think of any who conform to the norm. I am certain that there are heroines in the pack like Ida Cook.

I want to celebrate the success of my cp Donna Alward for being offered her second contract with M&B. Her book Marriage at Circle M made me cry in an early draft stage and I understand that it has gotten even stronger. I am v much looking forward to it coming out.

5 little known facts about me

There is currently a People's collection post doing the rounds. I am quite happy to participate but wonder where the Poeple's collection point is.

PLEASE LEAVE THE FOLLOWING IN ALL ‘PEOPLE COLLECTION’ POSTS:Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it :-)"

Liz Fenwick tagged me so here goes -- five little known facts.

1. I keep beehives, and have expereinced lots of different problems with them. You name it, it has probably happened to me with the bees.

2. In high school, I used to work in the gift wrapping department of I Magnins, Standford Shopping Center, where I met ShirleyTemple Black, Willie Mays (a big baseball star in the 1970s) and other assorted people. I also learnt to giftwrap very quickly.

3. I was the editor of my high school newspaper and for a time, the managing editor of my college's weekly paper.

4. My teenage summers were often spent at Girl Scout camp where I obtained a number of certifications including First Aid, CPR and Lifesaving. All of which I have let lapse. I also know a number of camp songs mostly v silly.

5. At university I played rugby. We normally lost games but won the *third half*. The ability to sing silly songs (see above) should not be underestimated.

I tag Anna Lucia and Donna Alward.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Newsletter and contest

I have sent my first newsletter. A rather nerve-wracking experience! I do hope people like it. I have already spot at least one typo. But there again my blog is littered with typos.

I am also running my first contest.

Contest To win a signed hardback copy of A Noble Captive, please email me with the answer to the following question: What are the hero's and heroine's names in A Noble Captive? I will be drawing the winner on 15 Nov. You must be a current newsletter subscriber to win.

Monday, October 30, 2006

More on first pages

First can I say that Blogger is being werid. My sidebar has gone south, and the coments are appearing the comments section but not necessarily being forwarded to me or showing that there are some.

There is a new clustermap on the sidebar, and it is wonderful to see where my visitors are located.

Now a little about my theory about first pages. A first page needs to draw you into a story. Its main goal is to get you to turn the page. You need to have some sort of tension there. The story can not be static. Most readers, including agents and editors read the first page first and if it does not capture their imagination, they do not read onwards. The first few pages must draw the reader into the story and get them hooked. The writer wants to force the reader to keep turning pages to find out more. Questions need to be asked, and a few of them answered.

Bridging conflict is the conflict that happens BEFORE the main conflict or problem is introduced. In the case of a romance, the main conflict is between the h/H and concerns the growth of their relationships. Sometimes, however, you do need to show a little of their life before that first meet.

The First Meet is not necessarily when the protagonists meet, but when their relationship changes and begins to grow.

Because in most romances, the First Meet is what the reader is longing for, looking for and there is not a lot of narrative action before to sustain the bridging conflict, so the writer will probably be best moving the first meet as close to the beginning of the novel as she can.

A very wise publisher once said to me: Never Let an Opportunity for Good Narrative Action Pass You By.

In other words, don't start in the immediate aftermath of a battle, start as the battle begins as it will be exciting and tense. BUT also make sure that it has direct bearing on the relationship and is not simply backstory that the author needs as the main reason you are writing a romance is the relationship. Backstory and the witholding there of is a whole other topic.

Ideas to jump start flat First Scenes:

1. Make your first scene be about the h or H who has the greatest conflict at the beginning of the story. Who is in the most trouble? Who will the reader have the most empathy with? Who is in a dynamic or fluid situation? Who is under the most pressure?

2. Once your protagonist is there, what business must the reader know BEFORE the main action begins? Why? How can you make it more tense?

3. Look again at page one, have you done everything to make the situation seem immediate to the reader? Are you operating in real time? Does your protagonist face a choice? Why does your protagonist think his/her life is about to change?

4. How can you make it worse for your chosen protagonist?

You can repeat this exercise for other parts of your novel that fall between plot development points. These are the points that bridge, and the conflict there should be immediate and tense.
The writer is aiming for tension on every page and certainly in every scene.
As my editor said in her latest revision note -- sometimes, it is just TOO Domestic. -- ie nothing much was happening. I had to go back and up the tension.

I plan to include more of my writing theory in my newsletter. The first one will be going out in the begining of November to celebrate the publication of A Noble Captive in hardback. The sign up is on the sidebar, can be found (if it is not immediately visible by scrolling down.

Friday, October 27, 2006

the first page game

Julie Cohen posted something about first pages and disecting them. I have decided to play. The first one is from Gladiator's Honor, and the second one is from A Noble Captive which comes out in Hardback in Nov and paperback in Jan 07 in the UK. BTW at the moment, it looks like ANC will be available on They certainly have the cover up.

Gladiator's Honour
Rome 65 BC (Tells reader where and when)
Who was that man? And more importantly why did she know him? (There is mystery here)
Julia Antonia risked another look at the man standing in the portico of the baths.(period detail) It was not his bronzed muscular legs emerging from his almost too short tunic nor the breadth of his shoulders which captured her attention but rather the planes of his shadowed face. (Okay he 's sexy to look at but she is more interested in knowing the why) She knew those features as intimately as she knew an old friend’s and yet, when she heard him speak to his companion, she knew she had never heard his voice before.
His gaze caught hers and it seemed as if he could look into her soul. He arched an eyebrow and nodded. Did he recognise her as well? Her fingers pulled her russet shawl more firmly about her head and shoulders and smoothed the folds of her green wool gown, making sure she was dressed in a manner appropriate for a Roman matron. (showing her status, giving so detail about her --She wants to be respectible, she enjoys being respectible)
Sabina Claudia, her stepmother, gave that high-pitched cackle she always used when she tore some unsuspecting matron’s reputation to shreds and threw the scraps into the swollen river of Roman gossip. (she knows what happens to women who transgress) Sabina’s friends leant forward, their shawls quivering, eager to hear the latest juicy morsel, crowding out Julia’s view of the stranger. When Julia had the time to glance back, the man had gone, vanishing into the busy marketplace as if he had never been there. (Again the mystery, and will she be willing to risk the possible stain on her reputation? Who is he? The reader needs to turn the page)

A Noble Captive
75 BC -- An island in the Mediterranean, a few miles north of Crete (Tells reader where and when)
'The sibyl of Kybele wants to see you lot.’
The harsh voice of a pirate (indicates possible adventure. also why does this person want to see them?) cut across Tullio’s troubled dreams and jerked him awake. (shows hero is not in comfortable situation Why?)
Marcus Livius Tullio, junior tribune Legion II Fourth Cohort, (gives details of status -- Roman, triple name, officer therefore of the first estate -- the hero) winced as he stood up in the overcrowded hold where he was confined with what remained of his men. Every part of his body from his neck to his knees ached. The leg wound he received in the pirate attack throbbed.
How many days since pirates had overrun the trireme, transporting his men and him back to Rome?(period detail) Four? Five? In that short time, seven of his men had died in this stinking rat-infested place.
Some might say they were the lucky ones. (they are not in a good situation, how is he going to get out? )
In the dim light of the hold, Tullio could make out the dispirited faces of the twenty who remained alive. Already they moved like prisoners, shuffling towards the entrance with heads bowed.
‘Helmets on, boys,’ Tullio forced his voice to sound as firm and calm as it would on the parade ground outside Ostia.(acting heroic, the leader despite the circumstances, definate adventure in the offing, willing to fight his men's natural instincts to give them dignity) ‘Let’s show this priestess of theirs that we are Roman legionaries, not slaves or pirates who skulk in corners and attack in the dead of night.’ (shows hero determined in the face of danger, unbowed,. Who is the priestess? elements of conflict pirate priestess v Roman legionary)
At his words, the men stood straighter. (shows his men despite what they have been through believe him what is going to happen to them next? will their belief borne out? will Tullio escape or die? why does the priestes want to see them? the reader has to turn the page)

There is a bit more of each of my books on my website. In case anyone is interested in reading a bit further.

My first contest features a signed copy of A Noble Captive, but you must be signed up for my newsletter to partcipate.

Revisions sent

I finished hte revisions for my Viking ms today and sent them off. I do believe it is a far stronger book. However, my editor will have the final judgement on that.

With every ms and set of revisons one learns things. Unfortunately, sometimes one has to go over and over the same lesson ad nauseum. This time I learnt that I am far more comfortable with a slow build up to the first sex scene. By doing the scene too early, my pacing was off. My editor made a suggestion, and it all fell into place. She also gave me a simple solution to another problem that had bugged me.

Now sometimes, with the crows of doubt, I know they are phantoms and I ignore them. Other times, I just wish they'd become phantoms. It was more I vaguely knew there were problems but couldn't my finger on how to fix it. So buried my head and hoped. My editor saw it, pointed her finger and gave me good advice on how to fix them.. Editors are like that -- they home in on problems. It's their job.

So now fingers crossed I have sent Haakon and Annis merrily on their way. Off into the sunset as it were.

The house is a tip and I want to get the newsletter sorted out.Thank you v much, everyone who has signed up. It should be going out sometime next week to coincide with the hardback release of ANC. The hardbacks are mainly purchasesd by libraries.

Kate Hardy has just had her 25th book accepted by M&B. I can remember when her first book came out. Not so very long ago, so I am tremndously pleased for her.

I shall put up a list of Christmas carols I have been listening to. At the momenti it is mostly Maddy Prior -- Carols and Capers. It is v good except my middle hates the song currently stuck in my head. It is a wassail song, but not the tradional here we come a wassailing. This one has more of a waltz tempo.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Onwards with revisions

My latest set of revisions arrived late Monday.

They ilustrate the importance of an editor. My editor was able to pin point and spot those areas that my cps had mised. She also gave me a very big hint as to why the story wasn't working in its current form. Moving a specific scene to later in the book has really increased the tension.It also showed me the portential for several other scenes. It did also make reach for the research, and had me call my sister is a font of knowledge about Norway.

Increasing tension is what it is all about. Sometimes, you lose it by doing writing what seems sensible, but isn't. Sometimes, it works better another way....

A good editor can be indepnsible.

Mine is. She does have a good eye. It is just a matter of execution....

Things are flowing better now. And I hope to have them completed by Monday.

Please consider signing up for the newsletter. I know I should probably input all those people who have ever written to me about my books etc etc, but I hesitate. Do they really want to hear from me?
I plan to send out the first letter in a few weeks time. It will have the opportunity to win a signed copy of my latest book. It will also have recipes, a bit about the history behind my latest story, what I am working on now, possibly a few sayings and insirational things. In short, a more in depth look at my writing. The only person who has access to the list is me btw.

Monday, October 23, 2006


In response to popular demand, I am going to start a newsletter so that anyone who desires it, can be kept up todate with my book releases and general news.

As an incentive to sign up to the newsletter, the first newsletter will offer a chance to win a signed copy of my new book -- A Noble Captive BEFORE it appears on the shelves.
I will be sending out the newsletter soon.

A signup link is on the sidebar or on the contacts page on my website.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Laurie Campbell's Enneagram Class

Laurie Campbell is giving a repeat of her fabulous enneagram class. This particular class gave me real insight into developing characters.

The details are:

Giving likable, plausible characters a compelling conflict is easier with "enneagrams." Counselors and personnel managers use this personality tool to identify the heroic qualities (and not-so-heroic qualities) for each of nine types -- the Perfectionist, Nurturer, Achiever, Romantic, Observer, Skeptic, Enthusiast, Leader and Peacemaker.Every one of these character types has distinctive traits, including a fatal flaw, that will naturally bring them into conflict with other people...AND with themselves.Laurie Schnebly Campbell invites you to get ready for some hands-on homework -- to do during November or at leisure -- and discover how to increase (and resolve) conflict by using your characters' fatal flaws.Registration is $30 (PayPal or check due by Oct. 25) for the November 1-30 class, at

A Noble Captive cover.

Thanks to Deb Hale, I discovered that the cover for A Noble Captive is up on

ANC is available for pre order there in hardback and paperback and Sold and Seduced in hardback at So the listing for Michelle Styles is getting longer.

The quickest way to get ANC in paperback will be to order from Mills and Boon where it be available starting 1 Dec.

I have loved this cover ever since I saw an early mock up back in May. Several versions of it are blu-tacked to my wall and have provided inspiration. I love how Tullio cups Helena's head.

This time the cover really reflects the two characters btw. I was not allowed anywhere near the Art Fact Sheet, and it was all done by my brilliant editor.

The story of A Noble Captive occupies a special place in my heart. It is my second Roman. It is the first one that I worked with my brilliant editor on, but it is also one I really wanted to tell. It is one where the ending image came to me first, and then I had to figure out how to get there. It also has a secondary character who is close to my heart and sort of touches on my philosophy that miracles are happening every day. My fingers are firmly crossed that the readers enjoy the story as well.

I am bit over excited as getting the cover image up is like having a Christmas present come early.

Christmas is on my mind because I am currently writing my Victorian Christmas wip. And as a slight departure and for an intellectual challenge, it is a new era and the emphasis is on Christmas and not passion. I am very glad to have read Desmond Morris's book on People watching as I shall be concentrating on the first six stages in the courtship ritual, rather than reaching stage 7 (moth to mouth) in ch 1. It means building up pay offs. And it should be fun, but different.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Starting over

I had one of those moments yesterday when I realized the wip was spinning out of control and rapidly becoming a POS.
The motivations of the two main characters made no sense what so ever and if it continued, the whole thing would smell...badly.

I spoke with my lovely editor who knows how to ask the right questions and sound enthusiastic. I was able to explain what I thought was wrong, and why I thought this way would be better. She did not let me go with my first choice btw. But we discussed it and came up with a good solution. Or rather I came up with the solution and she wisely agreed.

It is now up to me to write the thing. But occassionally one has to go with one's gut. If it is not working, sometimes you have to examine the why.

And she was right about it needing slight tweaks to drop the new motivation in.

Now at least I know the back story. My characters are not whiny and my hero is much more heroic, or he will be...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A bit of research: Consuming Passions

My bedtime reading for the past few weeks has been Judith Flanders new tome on the growth of the consumer -- Consuming Passions Leisure and Pleasure in Victorian Britain.
Victorian Britain is perhaps of misnomer as the book spans both the 18th and 19th century. But I adored the subject, partially because I approach history at times from econ history background rather than a political history background. I find the details about the growth of things like broadsheet music, art, and ready-made clothes endlessly fascinating. It is those things that had the greatest impacts on people's lives and helped their (and indeed our) world.
My main problem with the book is the lack of an adequate index. Flanders covers a lot of information but the index is eccentric in its choice of topics. Or rather it does not act my mind would.
Having said that, it is a book I would unhesitatingly recommend to anyone interested in the period. It has wonderfully detailed information on subjects that are usually skimmed in Regency or Victorian novels.
I shall be using it to give my Victorian novel more of an authentic feel. Flanders includes a whole chapter on the growth of the Victorian Christmas, for example. I also found her chapter on sport and sporting most illuminating.
I now understand the workings of the circulating library, penny-bloods and Salisbury Square fiction as well as how WH Smith started. I found the whole history of shopping fascinating.
I have also finished Flanders' previous effort - -The Victorian House. Although it deals with a later period than my book (1850s and beyond), it serve to remind one of the trials and tribulations as well as touching briefly on the 1840s.. I used to enjoy reading Mrs Beeton at the Lit and Phil -- they had several copies from different eras.
Flanders makes an excellent point about corsets. If you look at the preserved corsets about 6% are under 20 inches and the average is between 20 -26. There is no way of telling if they were preserved because they were exceptionally small either. But much of the correspondence about tight lacing reads like a shoe fetish correspondent's would read today. How many people really do sacrifice their feet for 3 inch high Jimmy Choos?
Anyway, I can thoroughly and heartily recommend both books for anyone interested in researching more about the period.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Official Start, interview and another review.

The Romance has kindly done an interview with me for their New Faces column. One of their senior reviewers has given Gladiator's Honor Four Hearts. She said The Gladiator’s Honor is the first of four planned Roman-era romances by Michelle Styles, and if this debut book is an indication, readers have a lot to look forward to. It’s always a pleasure to discover a strong new voice in romance. Readers, check out Michelle Styles. You can read the full review here.

It does wonders for my ego to be told that Gladiator's Honor was a strong debut. I can only hope that my next book will live up to and expand on the promise. I believe my books have gotten better, but time will tell what the reviewers and readers think about it.

Today marks my official start for the acutal writing. It is one of the times that I find it helpful to go back and check howwell I did on keeping my goals...I do think I sometimes start slow and then really knuckle dowm. But this time, given the tightness of the deadline, I shall have to be very disciplined.
Unfortunately last night, I went up to bed, thought about the begininng, didn't have my notebook with me, and could not be bothered to go back downstairs. I know what needs to be written though...Famous Last Words.

The only person happy to have Christmas Carols on besides me was my middle. She was abit disappointed when I told her -- only the Victorian ones, no White Christmas! I also reread A Christmas Carol over the weekend for the umteenth time. it is wonderful how Dickens invokes Christmas and his Christmas message. Now that I have finished Judith Flanders' Consuming Passions -- much of the background comes to life. (I shall do a review of this excellent new reference book soon) Dickens first published A Christmas Carol in 1843. My wip is set in 1846, so I was able to indulge.

Last night was the last episode of Jane Eyre. It was wonderful. I was crying at the end. Really well done. I shall have to get the DVD when it comes out. Toby Stephens is certainly at the top of my list for TV heroes. Very High Drool factor.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Eternal present v specific time period

Most contemporary writing is set in the eternal present. It means that when thereader reads the book, it is set in modern day. It also means the contemporary writer does not have to worry about when things happened.
Christmas to them is moveable feast, set on whichever day of the week, it happens to fall in the year that the reader is reading it.
Not so with the historical writer as often a specific year is chosen. Thus there are readers who can quickly look up what was happening in 1846 -- the year my current wip is set in. Christmas was on a Friday for any who are interested. Also means I have to take into account dates that things might be closed, in order to give the wip an authentic feel.

If I was writing a contemporary, I would be able to be more vague. The Monday after the first Sunday in Advent for example, but not in this one. As it is anchored to a specific time, events happen on specific dates. One has to work with it, rather than against it.

And I know the vast majority of people will not be bother whether on Christmas1846 fell on aFriday or not. But some will and I am. Thus it adds to my enjoyment of the writing to try to give it as an authentic flavour as possible.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

On starting a new wip

I am curently thinking about my new wip -- the Victorian Christmas one set in Newcastle with a self-made man as the hero. He is going to have to be yummy.

For a number of reasons I believe my next hero will bear a certain resemblance to the British actor -- Richard Armitage. The link takes you to a v good and complete photo album. After my problems with posting Hugh Jackman photos, I thought it best to link the album. Richard Armitage is currently appearing as Sir Guy of Gisbourne on Robin Hood.

I am busy doing my outline. Fingers crossed it has enough turning points. I do like the Donald Maas exercise which says which are the five crucial events that take the plot forward, and what a three crucial events that move it backward. You can repeat the steps for the first and second plot layers. Or even subplots. It helps me to think and I am starting to get the semblance of an outline, perhaps one that is able to withstand 18/19 chapters.

Of course I also get the crows of doubt circling about HVC. Did I do everything correctly? Will it be good enough? that sort of thing. Actually I do know thatmy editor has a very good eye and she will help make it better. I really trust my editor. She is not only an Inspiration but a Bad Influence.

Anyway, the actual writing starts on Monday and so I had best get something sorted.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Done and sent

HVC has been sent to my editor! Before the deadline we had agreed, and definately before the deadline on my contract. Off my desk and on to hers. Hooray!

She has also agreed that at least my next two Vikings will be linked to this one. My request so I am very pleased about that one.

Now all I have to do is write my Victorian Christmas one! Cue the Christmas carols...

But first, the house needs tidying!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Plotting and other things.

Julie Cohen and Jenna Bailey-Burke have a Q&A up on e-harlequin about plotting v flying by the seat of your pants. Apparently I am totally a plotter. Well, if I am, it is my own method. And I do firmly believe that most of the tweaking and editing comes AFTER the first draft. Between you and the computer screen, there is not much help. And my plotting is an outline. I can't use other people's methods. Mine works for me, and is fairly chaotic.

Anne McAllister has risen to the challenge and published a picture of Julie and me at Brooks. I know it was Brooks, because I had discarded on my tweed blazer there. Where as at the lunch, I wore it and sweltered. It is well worth viewing -- her rogue's gallery.

I did a lovely talk at Crimlington Writers' Group yesterday. In case anyone visits, the slang website is
You Can't say that!. It is quite fun, but people should not be too hung up on it. The modern day reader also has to be able to read the work.

And certainly G Heyer's making up of words, and use of other dubious ones does not detract one little bit from the enjoyment of the novels. They have a ring of authenticity about them. And the whole point is to create an authentic world.

Now off to finish this round of edits!!!! I have a deadline to beat.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Letter writing

Last night we watched Beaches with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey. It is a relationship film about the friendship of two women from very different backgrounds and what happens to them. It is one of my favourite films and always makes ne cry at the end. My DH enjoys the film as well. We first discovered it when I was pregnant with my eldest. He'd half-forgotten where Pouncer the wonder cat came from.

It made me think how much things have changed.

My eldest is about to go to Moscow with his school in two weeks time. Thus fulfilling my promise that he could. For those who don't know -- once I was first writing, he obviously thought I was not paying attention and after series of I gather frustrated questions, he asked if he could go to Moscow to which I replied yes.

When I used to go off to camp, parents were always told to write. Letters were the big deal. None of that now. The students were told that they could take a mobile phone and charger. No address was given to write to.

Watching the movie, reminded me of the excitment I used to get when I opened my friends' letters, holding the envelope in my hand, looking at the wrting and the anxious seconds of tearing it open. Reading it onceand then again. Between email and mobile phones, I don't write many personal letters these days. Maybe I should.

Up in the attic, sits the boxes of letters my dh and I exchanged over our courtship. Well read, and lovingly preserved. Would I have kept emails in the same way?

I do make a point to print out my reader's emails and treasure them, so perhaps I would have. Maybe it is the act of keeping and treasuring that is important.

But without a doubt a letter (however it comes) brings a certain comfort.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Proofs and such like

The postman handed me the proofs for The Roman's Virgin Mistress today. I had thought they'd arrive in a week's time. However, now that they are here, I shall get them done. AND then work on the next round of edits for HVC.

Certain things take priority...

My children will be very happy as this will mean I am not on the computer as much for the next few days.

It is lovely to re-read the book and also to see how the editors massage and shaped it. At this point, I am only reading for flow and continuity. generally the mistakes I pick up are mine. For example I used the phrase -- for a few weeks. How could I have done that....weeks were not a common concept then. It was not really until Ceasar changed the calender that they became generally accepted.

It is the tiny little details that help bring authencity to a novel.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Pink Heart Society

My call story is up on the Pink Heart Society blogzine today. Please go and visit so that I won't feel alone!

The PHS has done marvellous things in the past month and seems to be going from strength to strength. I know Trish, Ally, Nicola and Natasha have a number of exciting events planned. It is one of the first places I stop each and every morning. It is wonderfully addictive!

Monday, October 02, 2006

What a difference a complete draft can make

Yesterday, the white hot heat of writing came upon me. In many ways as the computer was doing a complete scan, this was not good.
I sat curled up on my sofa, scribbling away.At first it was going to be snippets and running order, then it became expanded and I did most of the last chapter plus epilogue.
Then it was church and the ideas started to flow thick and fast. I did draw the line at taking notes during the sermon! But it was a case of *hold that thought*, get home scribble some more, check the stupid virus scan, scribble some more, do jobs around the house, scribble. If you have ever had the misfortune to see my handwriting, you will understand why I say scribble. You know it is bad when you can barely make out the words.
Then the scan stopped. No viruses. The computer was free.
Next it was my just keep writing technique. Put it down and see where you get to. Finally four hours plus later, the first draft was done!
Bad pages I can fix. Awkward sentences can be polished. Ping ponging talking heads in space can be layered. The important thing is that is done. I have the clay and straw to work with.
I have decided for me, a first draft is not a 100 page outline or a synopsis. These tools can aid, but a first draft is something over the guideline word count, where the vast majority of my story is in place. I do do synopsis, out line, sometimes character studies but these are not actual drafts. There is a difference.
By the time I had finished, I felt energized. This is a change as I had been feeling exhausted and going to bed early.
Thus I was able to watch the second episode of Jane Eyre with Toby Stephens as Mr Rochester. Very good viewing but then I used to adore the gothic genre.

Friday, September 29, 2006


It is the right season for going out mushrooming, and I took sometime offwriting yesterday to just that.
The fields and forest at this time of year sport an array of mushroms. Most are not worth eating as they are either only margianlly edible or sometimes highly poisonous. But it is good fun to try to find mushrooms and identify them. And such proved the case yesterday. However, down a steep bank on the top of a birch tree clustered a horde of beautiful white Oyster mushrooms. Now I have never found them in the wild before, so I was very excited. We picked afew but left the vast majority gow undisturbed.

I shall dry them and eventually add them to stews and/or sauces.

I always go with a field guide to identfying mushrooms. Roger Philips' are probably the best. And unless one is absolutely postively sure, one never eats a mushroom. it takes a slight leap of faith, but my dh has done mushrooming since he was a boy. The first several times, he collected horse mushrooms, I made him eat them and watched to see what would happen. As he survived...I became a convert.

Last year, I found parasol mushrooms and field blewits -- both excellent, but thus far neither has reappeared.... still October is the best time for gathering mushrooms.

I had a lovely email today from a reader, asking to be put on my email newsletter list. Thus I suppose I needto get one sorted -- certainly in time for A Noble captive hitting the shops in the UK. From little acorns, mighty oaks grow and all that.

The wip is within touching distance of the end.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Stop press!

My very dear friend Anna Lucia has recieved an offer for her book MCWife from a US RWA PRINT publisher.
My fingers are firmly crossed that it works out, but do go over and congratulate her!!!

At the coalface

I am within sight of my goal -- under a hundred pages to go. I know the ending. BUT sometimes, it seems the closer I get the further away the end is.

And why does the middle of October suddenly seem to be so close?

Time is a very funny thing.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

And some did eat cake!

I had a thoroughly lovely time at the AMBA day yesterday. The plane was relatively painless, as was the tube. It was pouring down with rain when I got off at Green Park but luckily I had put my blue mac and so off I went to the RAF Club for lunch. The guests this year were the managing editors from Germany,Holland and the UK. They provided lots of interesting info about how they did a variety of things. It was also a chance to catch up with friends and meet a few peple that I had not met before. It was not nearly as intimidating as last year as I think I felt much more confident. It was lovely to see such people as Kate Walker, Anne McAllister, Thrish Wylie, Natasha Oakley and Jessica Hart.

After the lunch and discussion, a number of us went off to Fortnams in search of CAKE. Having eaten rather a lot at lunch, I was content to have leon refresher. Julie Cohen (see picture with enhance cleavage) had a glass of milk and a Victoria sponge. Abby Green, a new presents author joined in with a brownie and Lucy Gordon had ice cream --Dusty Rose which looked absolute delish..

As you can see from the picture of author with handbag, Kate Hardy was looking v. glam with her new Radley handbag. After that rbrief respite, we trooped off to Brook's (as in the club where the Earl of Sandwich used and Charles Fox used to gamble) The interior is to die, BUT photography is forbidden. The sofas downstairs are large, burgundy and leather. Prints of the Prince Regent were hung on the stairwell. We were in the Gaming Room and it has been carefully restored to its Regency splendour. The original gaming table is now in the library. Brooks has its own private label champage that I drank rather too much of. Liz Fielding received her well deserved RITA, and one of the authors got her silver 25 book pin.HM&B give out pins for 25 and 50 books published. The editors were all looking lovely and conversation swirlled. I spoke far too much, and was once again one of the last to leave.

It was a thoroughly good day, and I trust that I managed to stay out of photos...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Roman's Virgin Mistress -- blurb

I have just received the blurb for The Roman's Virgin Mistress (M&B Historical paperback July 07) and I love it!!!

Silvana Junia knows what the gossips say about her – and doesn't care! Until a mysterious, dangerous stranger rescues her from the sea, and she's instantly drawn to him.

Lucius Aurelius Fortis is rich and respected. But his playboy past could come back to haunt him if he cannot resist his attraction to beautiful Silvana. And in the hot sun of Baiae their every move is watched…

Tempted beyond endurance, Silvana will become his mistress. But she has one last shocking secret…which will change everything between them!

Rome, 69 B.C.

Under the surface

I was rereading Robert McKee's Story as my before going to sleep reading.

A the moment he is my favourite author on writing. Possibly because much of what he says is very advanced, and he uses graphs and logic tables.

In any conflict, it is the dilemma that is important. A choice between an obvious yes or no, is not really a choice. It is the choices that are less clear cut that make for an interesting story. Can someone want two irreconciable things at the same time? Can the character actually fail to complete the circle? How is the character going to change? Dilemmas create tension, far more than clear cut choices.

The other thing that jumped out a t me last night was that the same reaction, the same beat does not change anything and you go into a holding pattern. Action/reaction shouldresult in a gap and then a change.

And another thing: the old maxim -- it is a scene is ony about what is shown on the surface, the writer is trouble as there is no tension.

Tomorrow I am off to London. It will be fun, and thre will be CAKE involved or so I have been informed. Me? I am a great cake eater. I see no problems with cake. Ice cream can be good too.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Better today

The sun is shining. My fever appears to have stopped or at least I am not breaking out in a sweat every time I move -- although I still have a bit of a cough.

Tonight at 9 pm on BBC 4 is the first part of a four part series entitled Reader I married Him -- Daisy Goodwin presents a look at romantic fiction. Already from the press releases I have learnt that a M&B book is sold somewhere in the UK every 2 minutes. M&B represents 40% of the paperback market. And hopefully with well researched statistics, getting an airing on the BBC, Romance will be taken more seriously. I will be trying to glean any statistics I can, because whenever you do media presentations, you do get ask certain questions.... I know they did some filmng at the M&B offices so I shall be looking for familiar faces. They also interviewed some members of the RNA. I am really looking forward to seeing it.

I am also looking forward to Friday and AMBA day. It starts with lunch.This year, the speakers are foreign editors. Then some friends and I are retiring to Fortnams for a cup of tea. Later there is a toast to the authors at a very old established club...With all the editors. I am especially looking forward to seeing the historical team again as I am very fond of them. Champagne will be drunk by those that can, o.j. by those who are on the soft stuff... Then I get to go to dinner with two very good friends. It is one of the days that I do feel like -- I am a Glamorous International Award winning Best selling Author and so are my friends, thank you very much.

As generally I sit around in jeans that are somewhat worse for wear, old sweaters and t-shirts, I think I deserve a bit of glam...