Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolutions, kittens and a new country for my books

First, next year's resolutions:

1. To be better at time management. This means getting in the habit once again of writing BEFORE I switch the internet on. Rather than just checking to see what is happening. I could be far more productive than I am.

2. To be better at weight management. Given certain health issues, it is going to be imperative that I manage my weight. It appears I am suffering not from repetitive strain, but from lymph oedema. Some people get swollen ankles, I have a swollen forearm. They are still doing tests but the big nasty things have been ruled out. (Apparently a swollen forearm can indicate breast cancer or deep vein thrombosis) It has been a stressful December but I am now officially interesting. Losing weight is supposed to help.

3. With my writing, I want to up my game and continue to work hard at providing the best story possible. So to be better at writing.

The kittens are growing quickly and are starting to explore. They had great fun on the stairs last night. Rushing up and down. Everyone in the house has been put under notice to keep the toilet lid down etc. There is no excuse when young kittens who are learning to climb are about!
The picture is of Mr Darcy on my desk. He is a cat whi is interested in technology. But he does need to learn that climbing up bare legs is not a good thing.

Finally, thank to my lovely CP, I learnt that Taken by the Viking was in Portugal this month. It is a new language for my books and I am really pleased. The cover is lovely. You can read more here. But the blurb reads:
A amante do viking

Encontraria a felicidade numa paixão que sempre considerara um pecado? Os vikings chegaram a dizer que vinham em paz, todavia, depressa Lindisfarne se viu em chamas. Annis de Birdoswald fugiu em pânico, mas não conseguiu escapar dos nórdicos. No entanto, havia um homem que a protegia: Haakon Haroldson. O viking arrogante levou Annis para a sua terra, afastando-a de tudo o que ela amava. Assim, agora Annis via-se obrigada a escolher o humilde trabalho que correspondia a uma prisioneira ou a vida de prazer pecaminoso nos braços do viking!

Fingers crossed that the Portuguese like it!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Looking back over a decade

I have a post today at the Pink Heart Society about setting and keeping resolutions. If anyone knows of any good tips, please join in.

Kate Hardy has looked back over her last decade and I suppose I should as well.

The noughties were the decade that I became serious about writing and became a published author. It did take a bout of gall stones in 2002 to really make me determine to succeed. I then sold my first piece in 2004, and finally sold to Harlequin Mills & Boon in 2005. The trick now is to keep writing stories and build on that success. Because you are only a writer if you write.
One of the great parts has been the many friendships I have made.
My children grew into young adulthood. Instead of being a mother of under 10s, I am now a mother of teenagers with my eldest in his first year of university. I have learnt how much harder it is to watch someone take exams etc, rather than actually going through it.
With our pets, 2009 saw the departure of Tuppence and Penny after 17 years and Joss after 10. It also saw the arrival of Tess & Hardy in May and the Squittini brothers -- Heathcliff and Mr Darcy just a few weeks ago. The population of ducks and hens has been a constant shift but they are not really pets...
The decade started off with my dh being determined to become a beekeeper and ended with me being beekeeper in chief after he discovered an allergy. The honey and the wax has been amazing.
The garden is now developing into the sort of place we envisioned. The hedges which were mere twigs in the ground a decade ago are shoulder high. It is more maintenance than anything but considering the bonfires, the clearing, the battles with nettles and brambles, it is proving worthwhile.
The house is no longer a project but remodelled and redecorated. It should stay this way...I have learnt mobile dishwashers do just as good a job as an electric one, can be fantastic fun and a way to bond with your teenagers. I am rediscovering the joys of a solar dryer as well.
We travelled and I was able to cross off a number of items on my life list. Highlights included Gettysburg and most of the American Civil war battlefields in Virginia, Norway, Rome, Prague, Sorrento, Pompeii, Istanbul, Iceland, and Venice. I think the next decade will be focused more on the Middle East and some of the places I have longed to go since a teenager. First up the Sinai Peninsula in March. I do enjoy travelling.
What will the next decade bring? I have no idea. Life is all about experiencing both the valleys and the mountain peaks. Let's hope there are more mountain peaks than deep rifts.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Black ice

It froze hard last night and there is a covering of snow on top of that. This meant walking the dogs turned into slipping and sliding. Tess now understands -- gentles -- and slows down. She looked most surprised when I tumbled on my bottom and slid into her. The only thing damaged was my pride...

The kittens have discovered the joys of sleeping in my rocking chair. They are rapidly growing.

Oh and I watched the second part of Cranford series 2 last night. Absolutely magical. It is just as good as the first series. I loved various small touches. And immediately ordered the DVD. I suspect it will be shown in the US and Canada soon. It is certainly a treat that should not be missed. I loved the small part that Tim Curry added that little bit extra and the main romance was sigh worthy.

The wip goes slowly but steadily. It is the holiday season after all and an afternoon contest of Scrabble called....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Kittens and puppies

The kittens are growing rapidly. I will get my youngest to put his pictures on the computer as the stupid computer still does not want to recognise my camera.

Tess has decided that she is the kittens' mother and keeps trying to clean them, much to Heathcliff's disgust. Heathcliff however has decided his place is in front of the living room fire and the dogs are suppose to move when he enters the room. In the end, it ended in a compromise when all of them lying down together.

The kittens also staged a break out and were discovered legging it down the hallway to my dh's study. They then had to be lured from under the sofa and removed. Because of their small size and ability to get into tight corners, I prefer to keep them confined!

Hardy has discovered that he loves cat food and if any is left down, he has taken upon himself to finish it.

It remains cold here and so I am planning on taking my big Christmas present -- new hiking boots -- for another long walk. The hiking boots are wonderfully warm and support my ankles. I wore my last pair out...

The wip is coming along slowly but steadily.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Sold & Seduced available for pre order

Eharlequin has Sold & Seduced available for pre order on its ebook store. Sold & Seduced is coming out in DIRECT so this means there will be a limited number of print copies (only available through eharlequin) and ebooks. S&S is available for download and purchase in print form from eharlequin starting 1 January. It will be available to download from all other ebook sellers on 1 February.

Anyway I had my first peek at the cover. They used the UK cover which as long time readers may know was an inside joke from my then editor. It conveys the feel of the book rather an actual scene. And as a misheard conversation about Kate Walker's The Antonakos Marriage helped inspired it, the cover gives a more Presents feel.

Romance Junkies gave S&S five stars when it came out in the UK and said: With characters so vivid you can see them in your mind’s eye and a plot that will keep you glued to the pages awaiting each battle of wills between Fabius and Lydia. .
Sold and Seduced blurb:

In just seven days, she will beg for his kiss!
Lydia Veratia made one mistake – and now her freedom is forfeit to the man who all Rome knows as the Sea Wolf. Sold into marriage, the one thing over which she still has control is her own desire. So when Fabius Aro offers her a wager – if she doesn’t plead for his kisses in the next seven days, then she will have her independence – Lydia thinks it will be easily won.
But Aro is a dangerously attractive man. And Lydia is finding his lips more and more tempting…

You can read an excerpt here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Twas the night before the night before Christmas and not a creature was stirring -- particularly not a mouse! As the attic is right next to our bedroom, I was pleased to discover one more greedy mouse exterminated. Various stocking stuffers were replaced yesterday...and are away from mouse nesting making...
When the kittens grow up, they are going to be kept busy. Luckily they are already fond of chasing catnip stuffed mice.
Heathcliff and Mr Darcy are also fond of scaling the Christmas tree and had to be removed several times.
The puppies have attempted to investigate packages...
Chaos and confusion reign.

Hopefully everyone is safe and well this holiday season. And as my sister introduced me to this song (she even went and found me a cd with this on!) and it does remind me of family far away and Christmases spent with them:

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mice also like chocolate covered Turkish delight

I went into the attic yesterday to begin my marathon bout of wrapping presents. There I discovered we had had more little visitors. Attracted by a bag of Robin food that my dh intended as a present for my youngest who is keen on birdwatching, the mice had wrecked merry havoc. They are obviously British mice as they had shredded one of my American flags. They nibbled a bar of chocolate covered Turkish Delight but left the Old Jamaica bar intact and did not touch the Rhubarb and custard creams. The mice also tore into the wrapping paper. Thankfully the mice did not get into any of the big presents -- although I suspect it was a close call as some of the boxes had been nibbled...
So I spent time cleaning the attic and moving the mouse trap upstairs. I will get another trap for the basement but the trap has been untouched for a week.
I then wrapped all the presents and moved them elsewhere. Because of the presents, no one else was permitted to be up there. At the end of the afternoon I was exhausted but all presents are now wrapped and out of the attic. The trap are set and the mice should be exterminated soon.

The kittens are growing every day and hopefully within a few months will be merrily chasing mice. Heathcliff has decided this morning that the computer mouse is an amusing toy. Mr Darcy is investigating my cup of tea. I was going to post a picture but Heathcliff and Mr Darcy managed to press the keyboard in such a fashion that the folder vanished. Kittens bring different problems than puppies.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kitten on my lap

My old cats, acquired before I had a computer, never used to come and sit on my lap as I worked. Tuppence would come in and perch on the sofa and watch, occasionally comment but never feel the need to actively participate.

Mr Darcy (who is now asleep on the sofa) wants to help write and has taken to climbing up my leg and then jumping on the desk. Sometimes I suspect that his typing might be better than my own!

Heathcliff prefers my shoulder to supervise and now is asleep on my lap. He was not fooled by the blanket on the sofa trick. He wants a lap and every so often to be stroked.
There is something about a warm kitten, purring away.
The puppies are being good and have enjoyed their encounters with snow. However, the puppies are far too big to sit on my lap. Tess will lie at my feet when I work though and I will be glad when operation get the kittens used to the puppies ends. The puppies have worked out that the kittens are alive and that kitten food tastes good! The kittens seem to think the puppies are mobile scratching posts...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Kitten central and Mamma Mia in Newcastle

For a variety of reasons, my study has become kitten central. The kittens are mainly living in here while they get used to the big wide world and learn the intricacies of the litter tray.

The kittens are growing all the time and have discovered how to purr, chase balls and climb up the sofa. Heathcliff has also decided that Tess is a mobile scratching post and that sitting on my lap as I type is an excellent idea. Mr Darcy is a bit more refined. They have also decided in the absence of a lap, the 49ers blanket will do.

My daughter and I took the train to Newcastle to see Mamma Mia yesterday. The organisers of the show have thought about it and produced a brochure, giving train times, and finishing times of the performances. It is a five to seven minute walk from the station to the Newcastle Metro Arena.
Mamma Mia was excellent! Thoroughly enjoyable. At the start, there is a safety announcement for those of a nervous disposition -- white lycra and high heeled boots will be seen on stage!
The musical is slightly different from the movie and it was interesting to read that they have changed little bits to make the musical more accessible in each country that it plays in. For example, as the buses run on time in Toronto, they did away with the joke about you wait 20 years for a dad and three of them come along at once. The nationalities of the dads also change. In Australia, Bill Austin is Australian rather than being Scottish or Swedish as in the film.
Everyone could sing and special mention should be made of Kate Graham who played the high maintenance Tanya to perfection. The running order of the songs is slightly different and there are a few more songs in the musical version than in the movie.
The audience were dancing in the aisles by the end
I had thought the Arena might be bitter but it was toasty warm.
Anyway, Mamma Mia is highly enjoyable and was a fantastic Christmas treat. They have added an extra week and tickets remain available.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Meet the ultimate in mouse extermination

The kittens are Heathcliffe and Mr Darcy. They are both male despite the lurid pink kitten house. Some day they will grow into their names. Mr Darcy has s a white tip to his tail and loves kitten milk. Heathcliffe is all black (or rather charcoal with jet black stripes) and likes to climb. Basically they look alike except for the white tipped tail. Undoubtably the personalities will be very different.
The names are my daughter's choice as they are her big Christmas present.
Currently they are sleeping in her bedroom at night as we are not sure about how the puppies will react. Thus far the kittens have been willing to show claws to dogs' noses, particularly when the kittens are hanging off the top of the pyramid. They have also learnt how to climb up the sofa in my study.
It has snowed here and so we will be breaking out the sleds as the world is covered in white.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Persistence pays

Apparently there is going to be a BBC Radio 6 broadcast on Christmas Day about the panel sessions and some of the failures who went on to success. Jimmy Page narrates -- Kate Hardy please note.
David Bowie in 1965 was told he could not sing. Led Zepplin passed but the report said basically they were not the genuine article and were derivative and unconvincing. Marc Bolan's T-rex was considered execrable.
However, the bands improved and went on to great success. And it goes to show that what you do after a response is important. Creativity is not static.
Many times it is easy to concentrate on your field and think no one else struggles, no one else needs to be persistent.
The very lovely photographer who took fantastic photos of me and the dogs (hopefully I will get her permission to post them AFTER the article goes out) said that the thing that got her where she is was persistence.
In this world, in order to succeed, you need desire, dedication, determination, discipline and persistence.

In other news:
Heathcliffe and Mr Darcy are starting to settle in. My computer does not want to recognise my camera. My youngest has taken a few pictures with his new camera so I hope to post them soon.
Mr Darcy has a white tip to his tail. My daughter assures me that they will grow into their names. Somehow, seeing Mr Darcy hanging upside down from the kitten house roof, it gives a whole new perspective on the affair. Heathcliffe is charcoal gray with black stripes and enjoyed scaling the heights. They are barely six weeks old.
Tess & Hardy are slightly perplexed by them. Curious but welcoming. Heathcliffe paused from his exploration of the scratching pyramid to swipe at their noses with his claws. Chile just rolled his eyes and went to sleep.
The kittens are sleeping in my daughter's room in their lurid pink house. The dogs are in the kitchen. The plan is to unite the two in the kitchen once they are better acquainted.

The mouse extermination total stands at 16.

It is snowing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

photo shoots

Yesterday I did a photo shoot for an upcoming feature article in a major North East lifestyle magazine.
Note to self -- not good to have washing hanging in kitchen when photographer arrives even if your son does need his Rugby kit for that afternoon!
It was fun and nerve wracking at the same time. The house had to be cleaned and various bit of Christmas tidied away as the article is not a Christmas article. We then moved furniture about so the photographer could get her shots. It is not cool to have a dvd player in the shot of the author in front of the fireplace playing with the dogs for example.
The dogs were reasonably well-behaved. Tess sat with her head on my knee but Hardy was far too busy. Chile the labrador would sit but not when Hardy was there as they both kept jostling for position. So the lovely photographer took some of each.
The big thing I learnt was not to smile but to smirk and to see the photographer as a friend. It is all about warmth in your eyes. The camera loves you when your eyes are warm and responsive.
The photographer has promised to send some of the photos through...
The interview is this morning. So cue frantic second cleaning of the house. The washing has been removed from the kitchen.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Christmas Wedding Wager in Polish or PAMIĘTNA WIGILIA

The very lovely Donna Alward let me know that A Christmas Wedding Wager is out in Poland this month and because of the way Harlequin works, it also means that it will be out Czech as well. Hooray. And hooray that they have used the US cover. That cover always reminds me of a Christmas card.

The blurb is:

W sprzedaży od: 14.12.2009r.
Anglia, 1846 rokDo Newcastle, gdzie Emma Harrison prowadzi ustabilizowane życie, niespodziewanie powraca Jack Santon, jej dawny ukochany. Kiedyś chciał się z nią ożenić, lecz pani Harrison była przeciwna małżeństwu córki z ubogim inżynierem. Emma długo żałowała, że nie odważyła się sprzeciwić matce, nie umiała bowiem pokochać innego mężczyzny. Poświęciła się opiece nad chorym ojcem. Teraz, po latach, odkrywa, że jej uczucie jest wciąż żywe. Również Jack, który zrobił w świecie błyskotliwą karierę, nadal pragnie Emmy. Oboje jednak mają wątpliwości...
cena: 11.00 zł
Anyway I am thrilled and hope people in both countries enjoy it.
On mouse extermination news:
I have now exterminated a baker's dozen. This shows the level of infestation, rather than my prowess as a mouse exterminator! And I have come to conclusion that regular inspection of the trap works. It also helps that I can hear the twang of the mouse trap going off when I am working in my study. I then race down the stairs and dispose of the exterminated mouse.
I did notice that a helpful mouse had covered the poison in the live catch traps with bits of newspaper and then closed the traps. New poison has been put down. This is war after all! But I can still admire the ingenuity of the enemy.
And I am looking forward to bringing in the big guns some time next week.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Mouse wars and a lovely review

The number of exterminated mice now stands at 10. I suspect there are more mice, partly because I saw a tail disappearing when I opened the door this morning and spotted exterminated mouse number 9. Peanut butter. Peanut butter. Peanut butter (and not storing the bloody bird seed in a non secure container!) will be the way to beat this infestation. The ultimate mouse destruction machines should be arriving within the week. Various kitten type things have bought in readiness.

My morning was made by a lovely review from Pearl at Realms on Our Bookshelves. She said:

It was a story of seduction, duty, family-intrigue, secrets, politics, trust and passion, with a great plot that was revealed gradually, with strong characters that held my attention firmly, with the right amount of battle and action and with a courtship brimmed with adversity that made the HEA that more welcome and appreciated.
Though this book was a category romance of less than 300 pages, it totally didn’t have that feel, it was well rounded, well crafted and complete. Hence, praise to Michelle Styles for the delivery of another entertaining, solid Viking story and giving this historical romance lover an escape in the form of a few pleasurable reading hours.
You can read the full review here.

As regular readers of this blog know, VCP was a tough book to write so I am very pleased that Pearl thought the experience pleasurable.
Now all I have to do is finish my current mess in progress and make it even more enjoyable!

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

6 - 2 is the current tally

The tally right now stands at 6 successful extermination of mice and 2 mice who escaped from the Rentokil lethal mouse trap.
I do have to wonder if one of the mice who escaped is the mouse who ate a hole in the live catch trap. Luckily this mouse also ate the poison. The trap has been baited again and pushed slightly back. And I have put the poison down again. Some success I suppose as the rat run poison remains and the other live catch trap's poison was not touched.
So I think we have a bad infestation of mice but I am hopeful that we can get it sorted. Mice in houses, leaving droppings and weeing on items is gross and a health hazard. Plus the nest making. Luckily they have not chewed through any electric cabling...

Roll on the kittens.

And yes, I think mice can smell cats. I have to wonder if the reason they have not invaded the kitchen is that it is where the dogs sleep. I think Tess and Hardy would enjoy chasing mice if they had the chance!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Mice like peanut butter

Since putting out the lethal mouse trap baited with peanut butter yesterday afternoon, three mice have met their maker. Two yesterday evening, and then one found this morning.

All the poison has gone from the rat run and the two live catch traps. I should note here -- the poison is not able to be accessed by puppies or when they arrive the kittens -- it is why I am using the live catch traps and the rat run.

I have re-baited the lethal mouse trap with peanut butter. And have put more poison down. I am hopeful that they will just go back to their lair and die! The poison takes several doses.

After seeing the destruction they caused, both in the house and then last March having lost two bee colonies to mice, I feel no pity for them.

This is war!

And soon the ultimate in mouse destruction technology will arrive...the kittens!

Monday, December 07, 2009

More Italian releases

I was really pleased to discover that 2 more of my books are going into Italy in January.

First of all there is the Italian version of An Impulsive Debutante -- IL VALZER DELLA DEBUTTANTE
or Waltz of the Debutante which I think is a lovely title.

The blurb reads likes this:

Inghilterra, 1847

Lottie Charlton è ansiosa di andare a Londra per partecipare alla sua prima stagione mondana. Sua madre si aspetta che trovi un ricco gentiluomo con cui convolare a nozze e lei ha tutte le intenzioni di accontentarla, ma il suo comportamento avventato la porta dritta tra le braccia dell'affascinante Tristan Dyvelston, la cui reputazione è stata fortemente compromessa molti anni prima. Per evitare lo scandalo, dunque, Lottie è costretta a sposarlo, anche se lui non possiede un titolo nobiliare. O almeno questo è quello che le fa credere Tristan, determinato a vagliare il carattere e la sincerità di cuore dell'incauta fanciulla sottoponendola a una serie di dure prove. Saprà l'impulsiva e viziata debuttante superarle? E soprattutto, saprà perdonare al marito quel piccolo inganno a fin di bene?

And you can find out how to get it here.

Then I have my first Harmony Historical release which is where the Regency ones go. A Question of Impropriety becomes UNA PROPOSTA SCANDALOSA or A Scandalous Proposal.

The blurb is:
Inghilterra, 1813
Diana Clare è tornata nel Northumberland dopo una parentesi londinese che ha segnato profondamente il suo animo e la sua vita, e per cinque anni ha cercato di dimenticare ciò che è accaduto nella capitale. Poi Brett Farnham, l'attraente Conte di Coltonby, si trasferisce nella tenuta confinante e, suo malgrado, la costringe a ricordare quanto sia piacevole essere lusingate, corteggiate e amate. Diana però non vuole più soffrire, e soprattutto non ha intenzione di affrontare ancora il rischio di uno scandalo. Anche perché Brett, almeno in un primo momento, la desidera come amante e non come moglie...

And you can find out more here.

Fingers crossed that it means Impoverished Miss,Convenient Wife will also be going.

In Mice in the basement news:

The traps were sprung and mice obviously caught but they managed to wriggle free. There are mouse droppings all over the traps.
I shall try again.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Mice in the basement

I discovered late on Friday when I finally got around to getting the Christmas decorations out that we had mice in the basement. They were enticed there by my youngest storing bird seed. Bird seed and mouse droppings mingled. All the stockings had to be washed. Several hand made decorations from long ago Christmases had to be tossed.
What is worse the mice had made nests in several boxes of clothes and old papers. I had carefully stored stuffed animals, dresses I had made for my daughter when she was little and boxes of letters from when my husband and I were at university. Most are beyond repair and have been tossed. I was in tears. Some were beloved stuffed animals and I had spent hours smocking a pinafore for my daughter, only to have it shredded. The children's books were covered in mouse droppings...I did manage to save a few letters and cards though.
I shall have to get some more rat poison and put it down there as I am unconvinced that the mice are gone.

My youngest when he gets back from his boy scout camp will have some explaining to do!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Educating Aspiring Authors

As I firmly believe that people have to know about a business before getting in and there has been a great deal of talk about that most ancient of publishing methods -- self publishing.
I would like to highly recommend aspiring authors read this article on the Great Myth of Self Publishing.
Furthermore, the blog How Publishing Really Works is also excellent.

For me, personally, I am very happy with a commercial publishing model (a rather newer model than self publishing btw) for my fiction. But I am also very grateful that my great grandmother privately published her memoirs of her children growing up and even before that a friend of my great great grandmother privately published an account of the Christmas she spent with my great great great grandparents during the American Civil War. Both books are treasured family heirlooms. You simply have to know your market.

Education is vital.

Friday, December 04, 2009

The k word

Because some asked. Yes, the k word has been spoken and approved. My daughter tackled my husband about it just after we returned from Istanbul as a friend's cat had had kittens. To my amazement, he agreed that she could have it as her Christmas present.
The pair will be arriving just after the middle of December.
More news when it happens.
Me thinks Christmas is going to be chaos!

Fresh Fiction, Tote bags and records

The Viking's Captive Princess is featured in the Fresh Fiction Candy's Inside Books column. Candy kindly included a little anecdote about iolite or the Viking's sun compass.

I am at Tote Bags today discussing climate change and writing. Basically some of the things HMB and I have done/are doing to help conserve the world's finite resources. I have been so impressed with the way HMB has used technology to become a paperless office as much as possible. The blog was inspired by a Tote Bags reader who sells solar panel chargers for things like ipods, mobile phones etc. I am a big fan of solar power as it does seem less intrusive than wind power and had not realised that these things exist. Anyway, it sounds intriguing.

And yes, we do get sun in Northumberland -- although not very much of it at this time of year.

Speaking of climate change, tomorrow 5 Dec is the BBC's Tree Oclock world record attempt at tree planting. You can get involved either by planting a tree or asking some organisation like The Woodland Trust to plant one for you.

And finally speaking of records, a friend of mine, Jeremy Green just set a new national record at the bare bow. Jem has been doing archery for 2 1/2 years and when I used to take him to school who wax lyrical about archery. Well done Jem!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

12 Days of Christmas and Unusual Historical

Because The Viking's Captive Princess has just been released, there are places to find me with giveaways.
First of all Donna Alward is doing her annual 12 Days of Christmas extravaganza. There is a huge lot of books to win. Today is my day. And I should say that if you want to get in the Christmas mood, Donna's latest novella -- Montana, Mistletoe and Marriage is a great way to do it. Donna even includes a recipe.

Then today sees another excerpt from The Viking's Captive Princess on Unusual Historical. It is a different one to the one on my site. Then on Sunday, I will be doing a visit to UH and there is a copy of VCP in the offing.

And advanced warning, 16 December sees the annual eharlequin Open House with its multitude of authors...including me.

Here I am working on my current mess in progress and getting back into it. I appear to have lost some of my notes but do know what is happening.

The puppies are doing well but I think the house will be chaos in about 2 weeks when 2 four legged babies arrive...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The official publication date for The Viking's Captive Princess

Today is the official publication date for The Viking's Captive Princess. I know it has been out in the US retail shops -- in time for the Thanksgiving shopping frenzy. But now all the ebook shops have it as well. So if you want to downloaded on a Kindle or nook, you can.
Also I have done an interview with Darlene of Finding the Write Words. It should be up soon.

For me, I am drinking coffee, wrapped in a fleece blanket (hard frost on the ground) and working on my next manuscript that was due 31 October but I was able to put on hold until I had finished my revisions. I had a quick reread and it is not as bad as I feared. I will have to do some tweaks but it is a fun story. At the moment, I do not think there are as many problems, but one never knows. Lately I seem ever likely to go off on tangents.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Winners from the November Newsletter

The winners from the November Newsletter are as follows:

Lorraine C -- signed copy of the Viking's Captive Princess

Suzy Roy -- a copy from one of my backlist books

Tammy Swift gets the dubious honour of me being her mentor for the year.

All have been contacted via email.

Many thanks for entering.

Revisions done and turned in

I finished my revisions today and have turned them in!

Now all I have to do is to finish my over due manuscript!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bad Hardy and the Shouting Coat

Hardy now has a harness from Ruffwear as he kept getting bald spots on his nose from the halti. Plus my husband liked the look of the harness. It is designed with mountain rescue dogs in mind. I suspect we will be getting the boots so that Hardy can go hiking in the Lake District as the flint scree can play havoc with paws.

Hardy does pull less and is now easier to spot in the dusk. But the red colour certainly shouts.

As the children adored Dorothy Edwards My Naughty Little Sister when they were young, Hardy has been rechristened Bad Hardy. The Naughty Little Sister's identity is obvious.

Both dogs would be delighted to eat up any and all trifle. At Thanksgiving, it was a close run thing with the clam dip.

I shall not go on about Hardy's current obssession with rearranging the dog beds. He is never content with how I put them and he tugs them into other spots.

My revisions will be in on Monday.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Meeting readers

On Wednesday, it was my please to do the Hexham Girls' Night In. At the moment, the computer is refusing to recognise my camera. So no pictures despite taking some wonderful ones of Anna Louisa Lucia's taxi shoes as she calls them. My daughter also took a number of the panel.

It was a thoroughly splendid evening and I was able to meet a couple of my readers as well as some people who just love M&B in general. I also met romantic comedy novelist -- Abigail Bosanko who is great fun and a fellow enthusiast about the Anglo Saxon period.

Janet McLeod Trotter shared about how she goes to the Lit and Phil Monday - Friday with her lap top to work on her novels. One of her current projects is a novel about an overland excursion to Kathmandu in the 1970s. She currently putting her diaries of her own 196 trip on a blog. They are a fascinating read for anyone who likes to travel vicariously. It turns out that a friend of mine is a huge fan of Jan's regional sagas and so they had a chat at the Girls Night In.

Yesterday when I was in Tescos looking at the latest M&B, I spoke with a woman who was also searching. Her view was when you are looking for a romance to read, you might as well go with the best! We had a lovely discussion about various Modern authors. My daughter slunk off to get paper...

But it is so fantastic to meet people who are enthusiastic and genuinely get the genre and are interested in it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

May your blessings be too many to count and your troubles too few to mention.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Rents in the space-time continuum revisited

Last summer, I lost my Mont Blanc pen. It vanished one bright day after writing outside. My youngest had brought my papers in and I thought he was perhaps careless. We tore the house upside down looking for it, checked the garden. But not a trace. And a result, in many ways, my writing has felt off. I have used that pen to help me write every historical.It was wrong of me but I missed that pen.
The discovery of my earring a few weeks ago gave me hope. Maybe some day, the house would reveal the pen.
Then yesterday, I happened to lean over and look by the sofa in my study. There in plain view was the pen! The sofa was thoroughly taken apart in August and again when I was searching for some piece of paper in September. It was not there then. It was there yesterday. Just like someone had dropped it and walked away. Given the fuss I had made (including dire threats), the children were pleased to know it had been found.
Is it a rent in the space-time continuum? Does the house simply eat objects and spew them out again in odd and obscure places? Or is there a logical explanation?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Career novelist type thoughts.

Over the past week, I have been very busy -- attempting to get my revisions done and make this story the best it can be.

I am also very glad that I worked hard on perfecting my craft and technique of story telling and am published with a commercial publisher as it takes many hard working and dedicated people to produce and distribute a book. The people in the back room are often ignored or overlooked but the jobs they do are vital to the success of commercial fiction.

And make no mistake commercial fiction is highly successful but it is also highly competitive. Success is never guaranteed and you are only as good as your latest book. I know that. It is why I work very hard on all of my stories and am still working to perfect my craft. My success will come because of the quality of my writing.

It is my strongly held belief that aspiring authors should learn as much about the business as possible before sending their work out. Being a career novelist is about far more than just writing a single story. The key word here is -- career. It is what I am attempting to do -- forge a career.
It takes dedication, desire, determination, discipline and a lot of perseverance.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The November Newsletter

The November newsletter has gone out, complete with contests for readers and my annual writer's contest.

If anyone would like to recieve the newsletter and hasn't, please email me.

The closing dates for both contests is 30 November.

Currently I remain busy trying to revise as I keep finding more problems! Still I had lots of problems with The Viking's Captive Princess and it worked in the end or at least I hope people think it did.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Viking Captive Princess in stock and dog drama

First of all , is showing The Viking's Captive Princess as being in stock. So even though the official publication date is not until 1 December, they will be shipping now.

Dog drama or more properly dog attack

Yesterday, my husband and I went for a walk. It is the walk we do very often. One of the farms has a dog which is not under control and never has been. I am not sure if it does anything on the farm. Basically all I hear is people shouting its name --Charlie as it ignores them. We always keep our dogs on leads near the farm as we do not want bother.
Yesterday the hunt was meeting in that area which was sigh as it meant guiding Tess & Hardy through vehicles, horses and people. The hunt is very good about keeping its hounds off and away from the public highway until it is actually started. But we wanted to go on the walk and do have the right to walk on a public road.
Tess was on her halti and Hardy (because the halti rubbed on his nose) was on an ordinary lead.They were nervous but behaving. My husband had Tess and I had Hardy. We moved reasonably quickly.
Over the general noise, I hear -- Charlie, Charlie. My heart sank but I ignored it. Surely no one could be so dumb as to allow a badly behaved dog out when the hunt was about. The meet was at their farm and so they had to have known.
We stop as there are horse in the road. Tess lies down on the verge. Hardy sits a few feet away. We are keeping tight hold of the leads, and in my case Hardy's collar.
Suddenly there is a snarl and a dark brown dog launches at Tess going for her throat. Charlie. My husband pulled Charlie off Tess who was cowering and unable to defend herself with a halti. The dog spun around and attacked again, tried to get Tess's throat a second time. I allowed Hardy to go closer and between Hardy and my husband, they saw Charlie off. No one asked if we or the dogs were all right. No one apologised despite the woman whom I have seen calling Charlie, Charlie standing there holding her horse. She simply looked on stony faced. One of the hunt officials came over to remonstrate with my husband for having dogs but backed away when he discovered our dogs were on leads and properly under control.
The next time, the police will be called as you can not have a dangerous dog running around a public area out of control like that.
Tess and Hardy were very subdued for the rest of the day. Thankfully Tess was uninjured in the attack.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hexham Library and RNA Northumberland Girl's Night In

The Romantic Novelists Association Northumberland present…
Girls’ Night In Party
Hexham Library, Queen’s Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham
Wednesday 25th November 6.30 (for 7.00) – 9.00pm

On this exclusive evening a panel of authors; Janet MacLeod, Anna Scamans, Prue Philipson & Margaret Carr, will be talking about where they get their ideas from!
Michelle Styles (Mills & Boon) will facilitate the evening’s events.

At the event, the authors attending will be signing & selling copies of their novels, so bring your purse!

Alongside this there is the opportunity to have your nails done by Lynn Foster of Finesse Nail Bar (Wentworth Leisure Centre)

Tickets £5.00 – Includes goody bag, one free glass of wine & mince pie
Handcrafted Christmas cards will be available for sale
Please contact Hexham Library on 01434 652488 to book your ticket.
Contact Finesse for prices on 07799497766 & to book your manicure in advance. Manicures available on the night subject to demand.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day or Veterans Day in the US, the anniversary of Armistice Day or the day that the war to end all wars ended. Unfortunately, war has not stopped and brave men and women are still giving their todays so that we might enjoy our tomorrows in peace. It is important to take the time and remember them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sometimes it takes longer...

The revisions are being done and now that I am into it, I can see other problems. Simple changes early on result in larger changes later. The important thing is not to skimp but to make certain that everything is done properly. The time I spend now will make the story a better read and I am after giving the best read possible. Still it is aggravating.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Clearance at Mills & Boon includes Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife

Mills & Boon has put a load of books on its clearance page, including Impoverished Miss Convenient Wife for 99p.

It is a chance to pick up some real bargains as all the series are represented but stocks are limited.
M&B has flat rate shipping around the world btw.

In other news:

I am still working on my revisions. The book is getting better or at least I hope so...

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Hardy and the halti

Because Hardy and Tess have been pulling so much and I now have repetitive strain injury, I have resorted to a halti -- or head collar. Years ago I used one on Chile our Labrador and despite going back to an ordinary collar and lead, Chile still does not pull.
You do have to take the dog in and get the collar to fit properly btw. Because although they give some guidance, it depends on the dog and you might a halti one size smaller.

When you put on a halti, you instantly have more control as where the head goes, the body must follow. The dogs also can not apply as much tug. So you are not putting all your might into getting them to do what you want.

Once he realised that he could not pull, Hardy took to leaping in the air and trying to fly. But I pushed the lead down as he was starting one of his midair twists and he rather flopped (instead of flying). Since then, he has been walking to a near perfect heel and I only have to shake the lead slightlyto remind him.
Tess is beginning to get used to it and is walking better. And the walks are becoming much more enjoyable even after just a few days.
At first dogs do try to get the halti off, but they do learn very quickly how much more pleasant it is.
I understand some people use a gentle leader which basically acts the same way. The halti works for me though.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Conflicts and Goodreads

First of all, this month I am answering questions on Goodreads about The Viking's Captive Princess, so if anyone is interested, I would be delighted to see you. Otherwise I will continue to answer questions for my own amusement.

Second my daughter had to do a Myer-Briggs personality test yesterday at school for some Enterprise thing. They have been divided into teams of four with each team having one of the personality groups. I have a small problem with this approach as studies have shown that the four groups are not evenly distributed through out the population. Generally you get far more artisans and guardians than you do idealists and rationals. It is the way of the world. Of course, if you are in a specific community, you might find the balance shifted. For example, a community of writers will tend to have more Idealists and a community of engineers will have more Rationalists.
This prompted me to get out the two books I have on Myers-Briggs --Differing Gifts and Please Understand Me II and started to re-read them again.
Using Myer- Briggs can be helpful when looking at conflicts as Myer- Briggs is Jungian based archetypes and therefore ties neatly into the whole Hero's journey structure concept. Because conflict is about the whole personality and discovering flashpoints, even when conflict is simply stated. It is about how world views are coloured.
Anne McAllister is the real expert on this btw. So if anyone is interested, ask her and she might be persuaded to do some thing on her blog.
You can discover more about this personality typing here, and can even have your characters take the free test -- just answer the questions how your characters would.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Puppy escape

I am not quite sure how it happened or when it happened but the puppies have discovered a way to get out of the garden.
On Saturday, the first my youngest knew about it was when he heard distant barks and Tess and Hardy were discovered legging it up the lane by the nursing home. I accepted that maybe a gate was left open as the puppies do not jump fences and none of the ducks were out.
On Monday, I did the duck houses and suddenly the garden was silent. No Tess or Hardy. I called and called. The ducks were all still there. I went inside and there on the answering machine was a message from the Farmer's Wife. She had two puppies by the name of Tess & Hardy, and would I care to collect them?
As I was about to leave, leads in hand, Hardy came running up, looking as if butter would not melt in his mouth. I put him in the house and set off down the track that leads to the farm and the high school all the while calling for Tess. By the dairy, I discovered a miserable Tess, chained up.
The farmer's wife was lovely. Someone from school had spotted them, and she had corralled them and then as they were bothering the geese, she attempted to chain them. At which point, Hardy escaped. Last seen running as if his life depended on it.
I put Tess on her lead and led the frightened puppy up the track. She tried to dive into next door's garden at one point and so I wondered about the water gate. However, the ducks who were notorious for using this method have not used it recently. Then I spotted the gap in our fence, on a steep part of the bank where the children used to have a mudslide...
Tess was put in the kitchen with her miscrient brother and head straight for her bed.
I took a wooden stake and repaired the hole by lying on the ground, filling the gap, making it puppy and duck proof.
Tess & Hardy have been much chastened. Or as cheastened as two Border collies can be.
I have also taken to using a halti with Hardy when we go out for walks as he has been pulling. A halti is like a horse's bridle and so I am controlling the head and where the head goes, the body follows. Hardy thinks that this is a great game of tug, and keeps practising his leaps and mid air spins.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Steve Earle at the Sage Gateshead

Last night, I had the pleasure of taking my youngest to see Steve Earle at the Sage Gateshead (my husband is suffering from laryngitis). Steve Earle's current tour is to promote his new Townes cd where he covers a number of Townes Van Zandt songs.
Steve Earle was in good form and the songs remain classics. The Sage is a tremendous venue and is dedicated to folk music. Luckily it is easy to find and there is a ton of parking as well.
There once was a triumvirate of legendary singer/song writers -- Earle, Van Zandt and Guy Clarke. Unfortunately Van Zandt died before I got to see him perform so this was the next best thing.
BTW I do remain a huge fan of Guy Clarke's after seeing him at the Cambridge Folk festival back in 2000. His song The Cape helped me get through the submission process and be turthful still does. He did not know that he could not fly and so he did. Sums a lot. And in case anyone needs inspiration to keep on submitting and holding fast to their dreams:

Anyway, I can thoroughly recommend Steve Earle in concert. The man knows how to play the guitar.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Christmas Wedding Wager in Italian -- Valzer D'Amore

As it is the start of the month, I went looking for any foreign releases and discovered that just in time for Christmas, A Christmas Wedding Wager has been released in Italian as Valver D'Amore.
This is the blurb:

Inghilterra, 1846
Da quando il padre si è ammalato, Emma Harrison ha preso le redini della prestigiosa ditta di costruzioni di famiglia, rinunciando alle frivolezze della vita mondana e a tutti i suoi sogni. Ma durante le festività natalizie, ricompare a Newcastle Jack Stanton, e all'improvviso tutto cambia. Diventato uno degli uomini più ricchi d'Inghilterra e abituato a ottenere tutto ciò che desidera, Jack ha messo gli occhi proprio sulla dolce Emma. E lei, costretta a collaborare con il giovane imprenditore alla realizzazione di un ponte, sente rinascere il sentimento che molto tempo prima li aveva uniti. Eppure un dubbio insidioso si fa largo nel suo cuore: e se lui fosse tornato solo per impossessarsi dell'impresa del padre?
But you can read more here.
I can get bits and pieces with my limited Italian. Last year when we were in Sorrento and I fumbled ordering, my eldest looked at me and asked me -- Mom, didn't you learn ANY Italian?
But I am very pleased to have A Christmas Wedding Wager in Italy at this time of year. It is lovely to think that someone will sit down with a piece of panneforte and maybe a glass of vin santo and read it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Viking's Captive Princess Available from eharlequin

The Viking's Captive Princess is available from eharlequin from today -- either in print or as an e-book. It is the quickest way to get your hands on a copy. It will out in the shops in North America at the end of the month and as a kindle, nook (Barnes & Noble's new device) or available from other e-book stores on 1 December.

You can read an excerpt here.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Istanbul 4: cisterns, cruise and claustrophia plus a good meal

When I first started looking at Istanbul, I could not figure why anyone would want to visit a cistern, even if it was Roman. Basically they are not very exciting -- places to store water. Umm I was wrong.

We went to Basilica Cistern on the Monday morning and it was utterly magical. Unlike the other cisterns I have seen, the Basilica cistern still has water and is lit in low light. It feels like you have accidentally strayed onto a set for some fantasy movie. In the water, the carp swim about making ghostly shapes while every so often water drips on your head. In one section of the cistern, two gorgon or Medusa statues lurk. One is tilted and the other upside down. No one knows why they are there or why they were placed in such a fashion. The logical reason is that the Romans reused bits from other places in the Empire but it is more fun to speculate on a paranormal reason, particularly as the iron stain on the statue showed up only when I took the picture!

The cistern was built in 532 by Justinian and was used to store water for the Great Palace. It was forgotten about some point before the Conquest in 1453 (Turks say Conquest whereas the West often says Fall of Constantinople). Then in 1545, scholar Petrius Geyllius was told by locals how people were lowering buckets to get waters and even catching fish from their basement and the cistern was rediscovered! However, it was not treated with respect and became the dumping ground for all sorts of things including dead bodies. The cistern was restored somewhat in the 18th century and then in the 1950s (it features in the James Bond film -- To Russia With Love) Eventually, it was opened to the public in 1987.
After emerging blinking into the sunshine, we went for a tour of the Bosphorus. Now you can either take the ferry and spend 7 1/2 hours doing the whole thing or you take a more expensive private boat. We opted for a private 2 1/2 tour and sat down in the van to wait, having been promised that the boat was about a minute away. The driver of the van could get a job on Harry Potter's night bus! One minute speeding through traffic and then slamming the breaks on. Luckily the cruise was far more peaceful as we saw various palaces and wooden yalis from the late Ottoman period. The boat stopped just beyond the Bosphorous bridge and we had lunch in Asia.
After the cruise we walked up to the Grand Bazaar. Unlike Sunday when only tourists were about, the Bazaar area was completely crowded. Great masses of humanity pressed down as shop after shop displayed items until they ceased to have any meaning. It felt a bit like shopping on the day after Thanksgiving and this was just an ordinary day. The Grand Bazaar is no place to window shop. It is place to go if you have a specific item in mind. All I wanted to do was escape!

Later, we went out to dinner at the Terrace restaurant in the Hotel Armada near the walls of the Topkapi Palace behind the Blue Mosque. As we walked there, a cavalcade of cars passed us -- sirens blaring from the two lead police cars and blacken windows in the limos etc with an ambulance bringing up the rear. They had just emerged from the Topkapi as far as I could figure.

With its conference rooms etc the hotel felt far more like somewhere that a spy would stay and I was pleased we were staying at the Sultanhan. However, the terrace restaurant was fabulous with its excellently prepared Turkish tasting menu, discrete waiters and wonderful views of the Blue Mosque on one side and the Bosphorus bridge on the other. Just the right place for a memorable final meal in Istanbul.

In Other News:

I drew the two winners from my October Reader's Contest -- Minna who won Carla Capshaw's debut The Gladiator and Roberta who won a book from my backlist. Both winners have been contacted.

My next newsletter goes on the 15th when I will run my annual writing mentor contest, and have a signed copy of The Viking's Captive Princess up for grabs. So please sign up for the newsletter if you haven't already.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Istanbul 3 -- bookshops, Byzantine and bazaars

After supper on Saturday, we went to the Galeri Kayseri Bookstore. The shop has the widest selection of English books on Turkey, Byzantium, Ottomans -- basically anything to do with Turkey. I was delighted to discover a handsomely illustrated book on the Harem. My husband found Barbara Nadel who is Istanbul's crime writer much in the same vein as Donna Leon writes about Venice. One of the assistants convinced me to buy Irfan Orga's Protrait of a Turkish Family which details the suffering one family had during World War One. The book was a bestseller in 1950 and remains highly readable. As I was paying for the books, I happened to explain about being an author and being here to do research. At this point, the owner came out, offered me (and the rest of the family) coffee and a chance to look at his big coffee table books in case they helped. The books were works of art and totally lovely. If I had been doing Byzantium, I would have tempted but as it was the Harem book was what I was looking for.
He also had me sign the guest book. It was slightly daunting to see who else had signed -- a variety of best selling authors, diplomats and celebrities but I duly signed, proudly putting Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical Author under my name.
One thing the bookstore made us determined to do was to visit Chora or the Kariye Museum. Although small, it has some of the best Byzantine mosaics and frescoes in Istanbul. Having served as a mosque for four centuries, it is now deconscecrated and feels empty -- despite the hordes of tourists. Like most Byzantine churches it does not look like much from the outside. But the mosaics in the inner and outer narthex are breath taking. Unfortunately some people ignored the signs and took flash photos thereby putting the mosaics in danger.

As the spice bazaar was open (much to our and the cab's driver's surprise), we stopped the cab. First we walked across the Galata Bridge and then we explored the spice bazaar. The Spice Bazaar sells all manner of spices, dried fruit and love potions as well as lokum. There is an intense smell of pepper, cloves and cumin about the place which dates from the 1660's.

Afterwards being hungry, we went to the Hamdi restaurant which has an excellent reputation for its kebabs and its location. You are supposed to book 2 weeks in advance for a table on the terrace but we were early enough and had no problem securing one. Thus we were able to watch out over the Golden Horn and across to Galata as we ate. They came around with the cold starters and it was very much point at what looks good. The kebabs were excellent and afterwards we had a selection of baklava.

In the early evening we went to the hippodrome where there are three obelisks. I will admit to wondering why there was an early 20th century piece in the hippodrome but then I read my guidebook. The Obelisk of Theodosius was carved around 1450 BC and placed in Heliopolis. Theodosius had it brought to Constantinople in 390 and it has worn rather better than the plinth. There are 2 other obelisks in the Hippodrome. The spiral column which was once much taller and had 3 serpents' heads but these were lost in the early 18th century and the rough stone column which lost its bronze plating to the Forth Crusade.

Tomorrow I will finish up the trip.

Today I am blogging at the Pink Heart Society on the ITV production of Wuthering Heights.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Istanbul -- Topkapi, lokum and Turkish baths

Through the centuries, the Topkapi palace has been legendary. Its harem and fabulous wealth tantalized the Western world -- what was the Harem like? How did the sultan actually live?
Topkapi served as the seat of Ottoman power from the time Mehmet the Conquer started to build it in 1453 until the mid 19th century when a far more Westernised palace -- The Dolmabahce Palace -- was built on the Europeon shore of the Bosporus.
To visit the Topkapi is catch a brief glimpse of a vanished world.
The Topkapi with its various artifacts relating to the Prophet remains a place of pilgrimage for many Muslims and thus it is a mixture of pilgrims and tourists mingling in the various courtyards.
You buy your ticket to the Topkapi in the first courtyard ( 20 TL or about £10) and then you need buy a second ticket to enter the Harem (15 TL or £7.50). Although one guidebook said that the Harem would be crowded and you are guided through, we found the Harem to be nearly deserted and there was no tour, so we were able to take our time going through this fascinating place.
The tiles alone bore examination, and there were the various baths, the golden road and the Crown Princes rooms. The Queen Mother or Valide Sultana was often the defacto ruler. Wives could be replaced but sultans deferred to their mothers, and with no set rules for inheritance, these women schemed. Following the custom of Suleyman the Magnificent, the sultan's wives were once slaves. After a sultan died, his mother, wives and favourites retired to the Old Palace unless the woman happened to be the new Sultana Valide. In an interesting quirk of history, the most influential sultana of the late 18th century was one Amiee de Rivery (1763 - 1816) who was the cousin of Josephine Bonaparte and captured by Algerian pirates aged 21. She was sold to the Bey of Algiers who saw a chance to cultivate the sultan and gave her to him as a gift. She eventually converted to Islam and was renamed Naksidil. She bore the sultan a son who eventually became Mahmud II and started many Western reforms.
After going through the Harem, you enter the 3rd courtyard where the treasury and ceremonial robes are kept. In the 3rd room of the treasury is the Topkapi dagger and the Spoonmaker's diamond. The Spoonmaker's diamond is 86 carats and so called as it was discovered in a rubbish heap and bought for 3 spoons. The fourth courtyard features various pavilions including the lovely revan kiosk and the picturesque golden roof of the Iftariye Baldchin. There is also the circumcision room which was used when the princes and other notables were admited to manhood.
After touring the Topkapi, we walked down to the Spice Bazaar and found Hafiz Mustafa Sekerlemeleri which has been going as a sweet shop since 1864 and has a cafe upstairs. They serve very good baklava and Turkish coffee. Across the street is Ali Muhiddin Hacki Bekir which is the orginal manufacturer of lokum or Turkish delight and has been in the same family since 1777. Their Turkish delight is excellent!
Being tired, we decided to go to the Turkish Bath or hamam. We chose the Cemberlitas Hamami where there has been a Turkish bath since 1584 as it was only a few hundred yards from the hotel. Opting for the bath, scrub and soap massage, we were given sponges and directed to appropriate sex side. My daughter and I were given black bikinis to wear in the bath while the men went commando. Apparently the men have private cabins with leather sofas where they change but the women just have lockers in large upstairs rooms. You are given a towel to wrap around you and then make your way to the hot room where you sweat. It was funny -- when you first arrive in the hot room (which is very hot indeed), the newcomers are all wrapped up in their towels, but then you realise the pointlessness of staying that way as you are directed to lie on the large marble stand or gobektasi where you can look up at the star shaped holes in the roof and modesty vanishes. Some women obviously unused to Turkish bathing wore tons of make up and in the heat, their faces melted. You can also watch as women are bathed so you get an idea about what you are about to experience. Eventually one of the bikini clad women call you over and you get scrubbed down, massaged and foamed bathed. You then pour bowl after bowl of cool water all over yourself and can sit in the hot room for as long as you like. After wards, thoroughly clean, and wrapped in fluffy towels, you make your way back to the main room. You can either dress or you can get a drink. If you are a man, it is also possible to take a nap in a cabin. Baths are very sociable affairs and do wonders for reviving one's flagging feet!
We enjoyed the bath so much that we tried the Cagaloglu Hamami the next day which I preferred as it was slightly less crowded and the staff took the time to explain what was going on. The surroundings are just as impressive! Also the women section has little cabins with leather couches. However they do not give out black bikinis so either you go commando or you wear your underwear. The Turkish bath is not really a place for modesty... The Cagaloglu has been going since the 18th century (1741) and was featured in an Indiana Jones film as well as boasting of many celebrities including Florence Nightingale and King Edward VIII. It was at the Cagaloglu that the woman masseuse drew my attention to the fact that my left forearm is swollen.

IN other news: My arm is slowly getting better with the swelling slowly going down but I am taking it easy and my gel pad has arrived. Luckily I am still doing paper revisions which means as long as I can read my writing, it is fine!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Istanbul and me

I arrived back from Istanbul yesterday, but have discovered via the kind lady who gave me a Turkish bath that I have RSI in my left wrist. I am trying to rest it etc so my time on the computer is limited and my writing comes first.

Istanbul is fabulous and far warmer than I thought it would be at the end of October.

We arrived Friday afternoon and our hotel -- Sultanhan Hotel was just what we wanted. It is set in a very quiet side street just off the main tourist tourist street of Divan Yolu Cad. This meant all the big tourist sites in Sultanhanmet -- Agia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, The Basilica Cistern, the Grand Bazaar and The Topkapi Palace etc were in easy walking distance. The people running the hotel were very kind and offered a welcoming fruit juice. The breakfasts were good and the view from the terrace restaurant excellent. The rooms were comfortable but without a view. This did not bother us as we slept in the rooms rather than trying to sight see from the rooms.

The first night we walked down the Blue Mosque as the sun was setting and the evening call to prayer began. Never having been in a Muslim city before, it was interesting to hear, but it is loud and I can see how it can be intrusive. Turkey is a secular state and there is this tension between the secularists and the Islamists. One place it is played out is in the head gear. Head scarves are banned in parliament etc. The fez also was banned by Ataturk. However, you did see women wearing head scarves and long coats, even the occasional burka.

Not being sure of prayer times etc, we did not visit any mosques but their minarets give a graceful appearance to the city scape.

For supper we went to Mosiak which is housed in a wooden Ottoman house with tables outside on Incirli Cavus Sokak off Divan Yolu near the Pudding Shop. They serve Modern Turkish food. So we had meze -- a series of cold salads, borek -- fried cheese pastry and aubergine to start. I then had a lamb and aubergine kebab while my husband had the black plum and lamb stew, my son -- manti a sort of Turkish ravioli in a spicy yogurt and I forget what my daughter had. There was only room for Turkish coffee at the end as we were full. The food was excellent and the waiters very helpful.

Saturday was a busy one -- Agia Sophia Museum which looks like not much from the outside but takes your breath away from the inside. They are busy restoring parts so the scaffolding is up. It is also deconscecrated and has served as both a church and a mosque. The Byzantine mosaics are fantastic and must have been hugely impressive as I know what St Marks in Venice is like. Dandalo (the doge of Venice who led the Fourth crusade which sacked Constantinople) is buried here.

We walked along the Sogukcesme Solak which has a pretty collection of Ottoman houses hugging the palace wall to the Topkapi Palace. But my wrist is giving out and so I will do that in the next installment as it is truly one of The Places in the World to visit, particularly the Harem.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Away until the 28th

I am off to Istanbul until the 28th -- researching an upcoming book. Pictures and details will follow so people can live vicariously. I am planning on visiting the Topkapi Palace and the Harem etc etc. Plus doing some Byzantium things. I sort of blame Carol Townend as she went earlier this year and put the idea in my head. Luckily my husband thought it an excellent idea...

In an ideal world, I would have finished my mess in progress and the revisions for HRG would be in. Neither happened. My editor is being lovely.There again, she is going on holiday AND she wants the best book possible from me.

Why is it that you suddenly want to write when you have no time?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Rpmantic Times review for The Viking's Captive Princess

The Romantic Times released its December issue and reviewed The Viking's Captive Princess.

It received Four Stars and Kathe Robin said:

She (Styles) maintains the myth while adding sexual tension, nonstop action and spice.

Given all the pain that I went through with this book, getting a review like this means that I was right to do it. It is all about trying to get the book to deliver the best story possible.
It gives me a spur to try to get the current one the best it can be! Because for me, it is not about resting on my laurels but about trying to improve. I have definitely not mastered that mysterious medium called historical romance yet. So today is yet more bleeding on the page and trying to make sure the light romantic touches are there.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An essay to inspire better writing

A few weeks ago I happened to discover a blog by a former editorial assistant, now editor --Editorial Ass. It provides much entertainment and actually helped me conquer my anxiety about deadlines and revisions etc. And because we operate in slightly different areas of publishing, I do not share the same views on the necessity of agents. But I digress.

She happened to highlight a lovely essay on writing -- Annie Dillard and the Writing Life by Alexander Chee. It is well worth reading and will hopefully inspire people to write better or to think about how they write and why. It is about the possible rather than the impossible.
The bit about active verbs reminded me as ever of Strunk and White. But I would humbly suggest that there is a world difference between stroll, saunter and walk with painful slowness, measuring each step against the last. Sometimes adverbs are a necessary part of the English language. Precision in language can be a good thing when not taken to extremes and ten dollar words.

I am thus planning on putting in a few good hours on my revisions and truly thinking about them and the way they need to be handled. Do I really want to count verbs on the page though?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Eye candy

I have the Male on Monday slot on the Pink Heart Society today and have devoted it to the Greek model Alexis Papas.

He is very good eye candy...enough to make me remember why I love Greek heroes in Presents...

I am still working on my revisions and attempting to make my heroine less passive. Action provokes more action.
Oh and I have joined Good Reads in case anyone wants to friend me there. They do seem to be quite friendly and it is very easy to put in a RSS feed to this blog for example. They are also willing to run giveaways for authors (something I plan to take up shortly!) and the like...Anyway, if you like books, it is a place to check out.