Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Chocolate, champagne and cake

Or why I gained weight last week... 3 lbs to be precise. ARGH!!!

However, it was my birthday and I am still five pounds lighter than the beginning of the month. What the use is living if you can't indulge once in awhile. The thing is to get back on the straight and narrow -- say that was in the past and it is my future I care about. But how could I refuse the chocolate truffle my middle gave me, and the champagne (PolRoger) my dh bought to celebrate my nomination and the chocolate cake (and if truth be told the carrot cake I baked). Interestingly carrot is not considered a helping of fruit and veg...

Due to technical problems, I release that I have lost my ticker thing bookmark. I shall have sort that out again.

My writing has also been light this week, but I will get it done. VC will be completed by the time I promised my editor! There are some books like this one, I am afraid... I do have a synopsis and I am looking forward to getting to certain parts.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Romantic Novelist Association Romance Prize short list

The RNA's Romance Prize shortlist has been published.

And I can FINALLY tell my news -- Gladiator's Honour made the shortlist. I am really thrilled. The honour is in making the shortlist.

I shall be going to the Savoy on 27 April and having a good time celebrating.

I am still in a total state of shock.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Hired by the Cowboy arrives

Donna Alward who is one of my cps has sent me a hardback copy of Hired by the Cowboy, her first novel for Harlequin Mils and Boon. She has officially joined the Pink Lady brigade of authors. The Pink Ladies is the affectionate name given to those women who check the hardback copies of Mills and Boon out of the library. They are the backbone of the UK library system, coming in week after week to read these books. Once it is in the system, Donna's book will probably not be shelved for upwards of two years. It will come in and go out immediately. The popularity of the titles is one of the major reasons that so many UK city libraries still purchase them in hardback -- otherwise they would fall to pieces...in a short span of time.

Donna has v kindly mentioned me in the dedication but the real thrill for me was reading the first page. She has worked so hard on this book, and it is a testimony to her guts and determination. No doubt I shall be blogging about this book again when it actually in the shops, but for now, I have the quiet satisfaction of knowing I made a small contribution to it.

And the timing was perfect as it is my birthday today.

I am working away on my latest wip --VC. It is starting to take shape. I have promised my lovely editor the first three chapters by the end of January, so we shall have to see.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Weighty matters and contests

I did my weigh in this morning. There was no point in updating the ticker as I didn't lose anything. Last week was revisions, Aga men and decorators so I did not do as much exercise as I wanted, and I took to snacking on rice cakes. That's my excuse anyway. One week's non weight loss does not torpedo my diet. Slow and steady.

The diet should be back on track this week as the Aga is fixed. The revisions finished and the decorators leave today, and I get my house back. I have discovered that bold colours really work. The dining room with its white picture rail, and white bay window looks fantastic and warm in dark red. I had not realised how cold light blue made the room and that it didn't really work.

My current contest runs until 14 Feb. The prize is a signed hardback copy of Sold and Seduced. The question to answer is: what are the names of the hero and heroine of Sold and Seduced. You must belong to my newletter to win.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Onwards and upwards

I no longer have an excuse. My writing on the Viking one now has to start a pace. I have suddenly done my calculations and to get the ms to my editor when I had planned, I need to really work hard. All the extra time has rather been eaten up by me dinking around and not really concentrating.

I will admit to having been slightly stuck on one part. I need to find motivations etc. Things should start happening now. It is a matter of discipline. And I am excited to be writing this one, it is just getting the main characters passed the call to adventure and getting them started on their adventure that has proved tricky.

Fiona Harper is currently going through the Writer's Journey on her blog. Her pieces have interested me enough to get out my copy of Volger. I have also been reading the man who inspired Volger -- Joseph Campbell --The hero with a Thousand Faces. Volger is more accessible for writers than Campbell. Campbell examines myths and legends to find communality And Campbell is a bit obscure. Though luckily, for my own piece of mind, I have read a great deal of folktales, myths and legends from around the world... but it can be a bit heavy going in places...
Volger applies his thinking to writing, in particular to writing screenplays. Volger is very useful for looking at structure. He, not McKee is the devotee of the three act story. However, McKee and Maass are still my favourites. Interestingly Vogler highlighted the Jungian aspects of Campbell's theory when Campbell highlighted Freud.. Is this because Jung and his archetypes have more to offer the writer than Freud?
Volger is also interesting as he has had a huge impact on Hollywood and the way stories are told there.

Now, if Campbell is correct and much of the mono myth is innate, should writers being trying to analyse and follow the structure or should they simply trust in their own skill? I do think there is something to be said for the first draft, and then going back to such tools only when things are not working...In other words, if you can identify various points in your adventure -- the call, the refusal, meeting with mentor, crossing the first threshold etc, you can possibly use it as a way to discover why the ms is flat or doesn't feel right. There again some of this just comes through experience. A bit like doing anything, the first time, you need to keep checking and then you learn it. It does help to go back and recheck every so often as bad habits do develop. And then it is head slapping time. However nothing can be done or attempted without a first draft and that is what I am working on now.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Agas, books and blurbs.

The Aga is now working again. It is nearly up to its proper temperature, and the house feels warmer. We had lentil and bacon soup last night. And as my youngest said -- everything tastes better on the Aga. It just does. I can now warm my hands and bottom. My balance has been restored. Which is just as well as the house is upside down from the decorators! When they are finished, my dh's study will look less like warderobes were just ripped out and more like a proper study and the dining room will be a proper Victorian dark red -- almost dragon's blood red. Dining rooms for some reason used to always be red.

I have just turned in the revisions to my Victorian Christmas one. It does have a proper title -- A Christmas Wedding Wager. It will be released in December 2007 in the M&B singtle title programme as a duo with Helen Dickson. Mine is set in the industrial North and Helen's is set amongst the country house set in the South. I believe it is scheduled for Dec 2008 in North America...

My editor has kindly sent me the blurb for Taken by the Viking.

A Viking raid
They claimed they came in peace, but soon Lindisfarne was aflame. Annis of Birdoswald fled in fear, but she could not escape the Norse warriors.

An honourable captor
One man protected her - Haakon Haroldson. The dark, arrogant Viking swept Annis back to his homeland, taking her away from all she held dear.

A new life – as his mistress!
Now Annis must choose between the lowly work that befits a captive, or a life of sinful pleasure in the Viking's arms!

My next project is a linked Viking book. I am really looking forward to doing that now. No more excuses, and one of my cps is cracking the whip...It is why I love my cps. They do keep me focussed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Weekly weigh in and update

2 lbs lost, which is pretty good, but I need to add more exercise to my regime. I think now most of the Christmas flab has gone, and it is going to be the long term, hard wearing stuff that needs to come off. Already though, I feel less stiff in the morning.

My revisions arrived late yesterday.They are minor tweaks that need careful consideration on exactly how I am going to do them. And it is really chaning a sentence or three here or there, but it has to be done carefully. My editor does like the story though.

Interestingly, an agent has come out on her blog and said that editors are calling her, asking for historicals -- ones with adventure in them,rather than drawing room. Now as I have known the historical is not dead and that indeed editors are looking for such things...my big question is why has it taken agents so long to realize this? Still it will be nice if there is an upswing. Maybe then, people will stop talking about the historical romance being dead. It represents something like 40% of all historical romances published.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Northern Echo article

The Northern Echo has also published an article about me. The title is Going through the mill was a real boon. Sometimes I think title writers like puns, and other times I am sure of it! I have not seen the physical copy so I don't know what the photos look like. On the whole, the article appears to be fairly positive. A few mistakes, but I think it is mainly because I was speaking so rapidly. For the record, I never lived in Pity Me. My mil grew up there, and it is one of the reasons why my dh decided to go to the North East. But the over all tone of the article is positive imho.

The Northern Echo is a regional daily newspaper with daily sales of 54,000. They were founded in 1870 and are currently owned by Newsquest, Britain's second largest conglomeration of regional and local papers. That in turn is owned by Gannet, a major league US media concern.

People came up to me at church and said they had seen the article. I think they were surprised to have a published author in their midst. Hopefully all this publicity will do some good. At least it raises my profile.

But now I have to get back to concentrating on my writing.

Aga Update: the Aga people are coming to fix the Aga -- basically reconvert the thing on Wed. So I should have it back soon. I do so miss my Aga -- its warm and ready heat. The whole house is freezing without it -- despite the central heating being on.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Hexham Courant Article and Review for A Noble Captive

The Hexham Courant has published a lovely article about me. I was very surprised to find it up already on their website. I thought it very positive. In the print version, there was a small picture of me in the banner headline bit of the second section and then the article on the inside page.

I discovered my middle does not bother to look at page numbers as she went thumbing through the second section, demanding to know where the article was!

The weather here is awful -- very wild.

I also discovered that the review for A Noble Captive is up on Romance Junkies -- 4.5 Ribbons. Dorine Linnden says:
Rarely explored in historical romance, this time period sets A NOBLE CAPTIVE apart from the norm. The island temple comes alive as well as its people's customs with Michelle Styles' unique blend of historical detail and intrigue. Her style is distinctive and made me feel as if I was right there experiencing it all with the characters. I felt the impending storm of emotions and smelled the salt air through her words. An exciting adventure with strong characters you'll root for, A NOBLE CAPTIVE will enchant you.
You can read the review here. It is always lovely to read nice reviews.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

A holding pattern

Currently I am waitng for the Aga man to show up to do a preliminary survey. They phoned this morning to say they would be late, and I am finding it hard to settle.

I finished my proofs last night and really enjoyed re-reading Taken by The Viking. I was able to a tweak to the Taken script with gives me more wriggle room in the latest one and to answer a few questions I had. One of the things when you are writing a linked book, you have to make sure things stay constant. Anyway, Annis and Haakon are finally on their way and the nexttime I see them, they will be in their book.

I have also finished the vast majority of PR push and so things are quieter on that front. The article in The Northern Echo is scheduled for Monday.

And I have finished critquing the current things my cps have sent...

My lovely editor has not sent me her thoughts yet, but she will. And when she does, NCC will go to the top of the to do. I am pleased I had a break.

I need to get restarted on TVB, but feel sort of at loose ends. I have thier story mapped out and know it is going to be a thrilling and exciting one to write. Also a lot of fun. It is just going to be. But today, it is hard and the crows of doubt gather in flocks and flying on the wind.

I will just be glad when the Aga is up and running again, even the tiles in the kitchen are cold.

Enough, complaining. I simply have to have the discipline to write.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Noble Captive -- CataRomance review

The review for A Noble Captive is up on Cataromance today. And once again Julie Bunello has penned a wonderful review. I was choked up when I read it...
I lvoe the teaser: Michelle Styles dazzled readers and reviewers with her debut Roman Historical romance, The Gladiator’s Honour and in her second release, A Noble Captive, she returns to the Roman Empire with another spellbinding romance which cements her position as one of historical romance’s fastest rising stars!

It does my ego good to think I might possibly be a rising star.

My proofs for Taken by The Viking arrived yesterday, so I have started them. And it is reading better than I thought. Famous last words. Hopefully when the time comes, Haakon and Annis will get as nice a review as Tullio and Helena did!

The newspaper interview went well, I think. The poor photographer had to deal with a very nervous me. Anyway, it should be in the paper on Monday or thereabouts. As The Northern Echo has a website, I will try to post a link.

Thank you all for your supportive comments about my weight. It is really early days. But I figure desire, determination, dedication and discipline ought to get me somewhere...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The first weighing

As Natasha Oakley and Trish Wylie were brave enough to put on their tickers. I thought I had best put mine on. This is keep me motivated and honest, I guess. I think it also shows that I was grossly overeating at Christmas! But I am under no illusion that the rest of the weight will be so easily shed. It is also quite depressing. What does not sound bad in terms of the British stone sounds much higher in pounds. But it needs to be slow and steady. It did not come on overnight. It will take a lot of hard work to go.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Creative Limitations

Before I dropped off to sleep last night, I was reading Robert McKee's Story. And yes, before anyone says a word, I know it is sad, but I do keep finding things to come back to, to dip in and out of. And I had left the book I was reading downstairs, and my dh kept deciding to read bits of the book he is reading out loud. The book he is reading is about an ultra marathoner whom we both agreed must be seriously unbalanced. Run voluntarily 199 miles? Certifiable in my humble opinion. It makes me tired just thinking about it. My dh is ereading the book for inspiration in his running.

Anyway, I digress -- the bit I read was about creative limitations and the need for form. Creativity works best when it comes up against obstacles. the need to search for another way results in greater insight and not less. The example McKee gives is writing a poem with rhyming couplets. The first two are easy but the third one makes you struggle, you choose a word and then have to think how to fit it in. Another form of poetry would be a sonnet. The best sonnet writers offer deep insight, and are a pleasure to read. McKee points out that every genre has its own form. You must learn that form and rather than seeing the form as an obstacle, see it as a way to release creativity.

Why am I thinking about all this? My editor arrives back in her office tomorrow and NCC is quite high on her to do list. No doubt, her thoughts will provide insight in how to make NCC better. I have discovered the crows of doubt flock whether or not my editor is even in the office. I simply have to trust I can execute her thoughts and make NCC the truly fantastic, emotionally fulfilling story that I know it can be...

I do hate it when people talk about though. It is not rules but form, and form frees your creativity, prevents you from accepting the first image or whatever, forces you to find another way.

This week I have done more on PR than on my next ms --TVB. I think the PR push is coming to an end and I will have very little option but to work, work, work.

Aga update -- we have given up on the Aga man who came out before Christmas as his back is still bad, and have gone for the largest Aga supplier in the area. They are a bit more expensive, but have seven engineers working for them. The preliminary inspection takes place on Thursday. Hopefully, I will get my aga back in time for my birthday...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Reviews, newsletters and journalists

First of all, the review for A Noble Captive is up on Dear Author. Jayne had done a thought-provoking review of Gladiator's Honor when it appeared in the US. After I wrote to thank her, she asked if any more of my books were coming out, as she was keen to read more. I was intrigued to know if she thought my writng was growing. So I sent her off a copy of A Noble Captive. In the meantime, the web profile of Dear Author has taken off...It is an intelligent site and the Js try to address thought-provoking topics.

I have sent out my latest newsletter. The contest is to win a signed hardback copy of Sold and Seduced. Simply email me with the answer to the following question.
What are the hero's and heroine's names of Sold and Seduced? I will be drawing the winner on 14 Feb. You must be a current newsletter subscriber to win.

Today I am helping Joanne Carr out on the Harlequin Historical Day at Cobblestone Press. I shall be giving away a signed copy of A Noble Captive.

A little later a photographer will be coming over to take my picture for the Hexham Courant. I am trying to do better on my PR...On Tuesday, a journalist and another photographer are coming to see me as well. Why do I suddenly wish I had started my diet earlier?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Agas and diets

Anne McAllister asked about the Aga. It is still out, but we are coping. Apparently the man has the pats but he has pulled his back...when his back is better, he will be in touch. Now I will let it go another week, but then I am afraid I will have to get someone else out...The kitchen is cold, and I miss my Aga with all its quirks, with its instant heat and large capacity for cooking. currently it sits brooding, waiting.

Anne has done a collage for her latest book. It does look great and I can see how it would work. But do I really want to do one of my own? I suspect the only way to know would be to try, but not with this book. I know specifically how it is going to go. And although certain bits are hazy, the hero and heroine most definately are not. And I know the sort of costume they should be wearing. Would personalities in modern dress disturb this vision? The next book after this is a Regency and so it might be easier to find specific bits...I do envy the collages...

I have started my diet and thank you to everyone who posted a comment or emailed privately. I shall keep going. The Pink Heart Society are getting together to see if they can offer encouragement and help. One thing I can not do is have ticker, showing how much weight I have lost. It would be too depressing admitting to the world in general my weight.

I went to the shops yesterday, and contrary to my naive belief that A Noble Captive would not be out in the shops until Friday, it is there now. The old semi-terrfied feeling came back. This time, however, I have sent off press releases to the local papers and we shall have to see what come of that. I am never sure exactly when one should send off press releases, and so I opted for after New YEar's on the basis that mostly journalists would be busy with year end stuff before then. Who knows. As Margaret Moore is fond of saying -- the only thing I can control is the writing. And that is what I have to work on.

Tomorrow I shall be at the Harlequin Historical Day on Cobblestone Press' week of historical writing and research workshops http://groups.yahoo.com/group/cobblestone-workshop/ Joanne Carr will also be there, and ready to answer any questions about writing for Harlequin Historicals.