Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Egypt

Currently I am on the way to Egypt -- Sharm El Sheikh to be precise. So sun, sand and sea. More Presents than Historical but I am planning on going to St Catherine's and Mt Sinai. Research for the Ottoman Empire book.
Normal service will resume on 2 April.

Congrats to all the Rita and GH finalists as they are announced today. I am looking forward to find some fantastic books to read! And to seeing the ceremony live in Nashville in July.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Good News

Last night, it was with some trepidation that I opened an email from my editor. The fear immediately turned to joy when I discovered that His Runaway Governess (working title) had been accepted. It has been a long haul with this book. It was originally turned in last July and has gone through several major revisions. Some books are just like that. My editor thinks it is a classic Michelle Styles now...her earlier thoughts on it were probably unprintable!
My editor has my latest ms so I will hear her thoughts on that in a few weeks. Personally I think it is a better book.

Yesterday, I also saw the physio about my arm. Slowly but steadily, the swelling is coming down. The skin is starting to look like normal skin again and there is some muscle definition. My compression sleeve has been moved down a size. The physio thinks given time and some exertion on my behalf that there is no reason why it should not eventually be about normal size.

Oh and my current project is coming on.

Monday, March 22, 2010


Mr Darcy has taken to trying to catch shadows by climbing the walls. He has not figured out that he can only go up so far and then fall. Heathcliff spends much of his time watching out the windows, calling to the birds.
This morning Heathcliff found a bell which he rang precisely at 6 am. Annoying as I had not set the alarm clock and had hoped to sleep in. However given that sort of treatment, I rose and fed the kittens. The bell will be removed. It does make we wonder if kittens were behind the alarm clock suddenly going off a half hour earlier the other day. I could not figure out how the time had changed.

My eldest arrived home on Friday and remarked at how much like cats they now look. And how big they have grown. He also thought the collies have grown. I thought he looked thinner. Mothers are allowed to have such thoughts and to worry.

I am getting ready to go to Egypt at the end of the week. Sharm el Sheikh and Sinai Peninsula. Warmth was required when the holiday was booked. We are hoping to visit St Catherine's Monestary and Mt Sinai. St Catherine's supposedly marks the spot where Moses encountered the burning bush...My eldest is looking after the house.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Barbara Vey's 3rd anniversary bash

If it's Friday, it is Historical day at Barbar Vey's 3rd anniversary bash. Leave a comment on Barbara's blog for a chance to win a number of different books and goodies, including a copy of A Noble Captive. Having spoken to the lovely people at Harlequin distribution, I will be getting more of the US edition copies (they had only sent 2). So I shall be able to send that edition out...

Effluent and the dogs

Tess and Hardy have been unwell this week. Off their food. Suffering from upset stomachs. Earlier in the week, it was touch and go if I would take them to the vet's, but they seemed be bouncy enough. And Tess, well Tess is a picky eater. It was a case of watching and waiting to see what was going to happen. Thankfully they have perked up.
We took them for a walk yesterday, retracing the route that we had taken on Sunday, just before Tess threw up. Luckily we decided to keep both dogs on the leads as one of the ditches was full of oil and some brown gunk. It has not rained for weeks and I'd assume that this is run off from the fields rather than fly tipping of chemicals.
Anyway, it was right by a stream where the dogs normally drink.
Sigh. The dogs are recovering will be a long time before I can allow off the lead there again.
And it seems like someone has fly tipped a bunch of builder's rumble, including twisted metal and an old fireplace in another field.
I do not understand why people feel they have the right to despoil the countryside in this way.

I should say that I did go to watch the lights being lit on Hadrian's Wall last Saturday night. (The week has been fraught) It was okayish. Lots of cars and people. We watched from the New Altson crossroads as it gives a panoramic view. I did not get the same sense of timelessness that I had gotten when the Warden Beacon was lit for the 50th anniversary of VE day. This was just there. An art installation rather than a connection with the past.
I much prefer the wall when people are not about. I used to the children up to play on the ruins when they were little. And a wild day is much the best.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I can tell I need to write. I am starting to become irritable and obsessed by small things, things which are never going to make it into my book.

For example:
The ravens at the Tower of London are there under Charles II's decree because of the legend about Bran's head being buried under the White Tower and if the ravens go, then the kingdom of England will fall.
As Charles II was the Restoration monarch and had been minded to get rid of the ravens because of the birds interfering with the Royal Observatory. Once he was reminded of the legend of Bran's head, he changed his mind. Bran is an ancient name for raven.
However, he obviously did not understand the second part of the story.
According to legend, Bran the son of Llyr (and an early god of the Britons) died in Ireland and his head remained uncorrupted for 87 years. His men stopped off in several isles and had a great time as the head was still talking. When it started to decay, the head was buried in London (popularly assumed to be Tower Hill) facing France as that was where all the enemies would be coming from. And as long as Bran's head was there, England would be safe. Later, King Arthur dug up the head, disposed of it and stated that hereafter valour alone would defend England.

Also I keep thinking about Lloyd Alexander and Tolkien. Alexander drew far more heavily on the traditions of ancient British mythology in particular Mabinogion for his Chronicles of Prydain. Tolkien is far more Scando. But Alexander does subvert it, using the names but not the traditions. So it is a bit in Alice in Wonderland when reading the Mabiogion.

It does not matter but I have spent time this morning searching.

I just need to start the ms and become obsessed by that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Starting afresh and psychic distance

The Roman Undone left the building yesterday and despite a small hiccup of forgetting to attach it (I blamed on a kitten up a chimney!), my editor now has it. What she will think of it is anyone's guess. I liked it but one never knows.

As my long suffering editor currently has the revisions on HRG and the first draft of TPE plus the Roman Undone, I do not owe Harlequin Mills & Boon anything for awhile. So I am going to work on a single title that I have wanted to do for awhile. The plan is to have it done in 65 days or so. It should be doable.

One thing I read about in the Manuscript Makeover was psychic distance. It basically means the distance the reader is from the scene. And a reader does need to know a character before they can get truly intimate. It is one of the reasons why starting a novel with a graphic sex scene is not good. The act is far too intimate for the average reader so early in a novel. It is also why sometimes a book can seem too gory or what ever. As an author you do have to decide -- is this a close up or a distance shot. Is it middle distance? Sometimes, the camera angle is too far away and intimacy is needlessly sacrificed. But readers need to get to know characters before they can readily accept intimate scenes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

In which Heathcliff gets stuck in the chimney

This morning, I heard a scrambling and a faint meow as I got dressed. My husband was convinced that one of the cats had somehow become stuck in the attic. Heathcliff had been on our bed. Puzzled as to how the cat would manage this, I started to check the attic. No cat.
Nothing. Mr Darcy was asleep in patch of sun in the living room. He opened one eye. But no Heathcliff.
My husband went into his study. There was a loud meow and two paw appearing back down the chimney.
Heathcliff was entirely covered in soot. For a black cat, he was very black indeed.
He has now had his first bath.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Kittens do extreme ironing

The kittens are in a climbing stage. Anything and everything. The ironing board is a particular favourite. They leap from the ironing board to the sofa and from there on to the curtains which they climb. Heathcliff was discovered swinging from the curtain. He was taken down more to his disgust.

The ironing board had been left propped up against a wall, ready to go downstairs. (There remains a question as to why my husband when he is finished doing his ironing can not take the board down stairs but that is a topic for another day) The kittens decided that it was just the right thing to practice climbing on. So they jump on the board and climbed to the top. The board slightly swayed. The kittens hung on. With visions of broken windows, lamps and furniture, I rescued them and removed the board to a safe place. The kittens were last seen trying to climb the cane begonia in the bathroom.

If these cats went outside, they would be the sort who climbed trees and forgot for while how to come down...

Hardy decided to visit ditches on his walk. Some were deeper than he thought but he felt it was his duty to explore them all. Tess, being a good girl, gave the ditches and her brother a disgusted look, staying well clear despite all Hardy's attempts to interest her in the game. Hardy became blacker and blacker, until he went into the last hole where his face became mud brown. Muddy water dripped everywhere but his tail wagged furiously.

Back home, he did not go off the lead but proceeded immediately to the bath. A bottle of puppy shampoo, four towels, and one soaked me, he emerged...a clean dog.

My husband threatens the same walk this evening...Thankfully there are no skunks in England.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

beekeeping redux

We will be getting more bees. My husband and youngest want to. They have promised to do everything. It is all fine as long as I do not get stung. I did have a long talk with the physio about it.

I went to the Hexham Beekeepers meeting yesterday where the guest speaker was Northern England's chief bee inspector. It was a thoroughly interesting evening. Last year's colony was too small, and got too cold. Also the entrance way got blocked with dead bees and they could not get out. His message was -- if you think is amiss, check. You can clear varroa floors etc in the dead of winter with you put on Oxalic acid. But basically if your colony is less that 8 frames and it is a hard winter, they are going to have a hard time surviving. Spring management is all about winter preparation.

1. Complete Colony Collaspe seems to have been caused by Deformed Wing Virus. It is a virus that comes after severe varroa mite infestation. Basically the products beekeepers (namely Apistan) have been are not working and other things need to be used. Foremost is Apiguard or thymol. There is a new product called Api-lite-var which if used properly also works. But must not be placed over the brood as it kills. It goes in the corner of the hive. But it is temperature dependant.

2. Scotland which does not have regular inspectors is in the grip of Europeon Foulbrood. It has worrying implications for Northern England beekeepers and bees. The English inspectorate is training. There is also a worrying increase in nosema.

3. American Foulbrood and other diseases can be caused by people feeding honey to bees. For example put honey purchased in a supermarket out in a wasp trap. Or leaving a jar out. Some farmers feed out of date honey to livestock. It can carry spores.

4. I also learnt how to tell if a colony is about to swarm -- an egg in a Queen cup along with an increase in drone brood. Without drones, the colony will not swarm as they cannot count on drones from other colonies. Because cutting out drone brood is a remedy for varroa, there is a question if too much has been cut... Anyway all remedies start with first catch your Queen. Finding the Queen can be a problem as I well know!

5. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene. Have a bucket with washing soda and water for washing tools. Fumigate unused brood boxes etc with acetic acid. Do the checks for varroa.

So eventually bees will be in the garden again. But I reccomend people becoming involved with their local beekeeping association.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

On editing a new way

First of all I am at the Pink Heart Society, talking about Tolkien and his inspirations for Middle Earth in my Destination Life slot. Hint he never visited New Zealand...

I finished my Roman Undone yesterday and today it is the editing. And as ever, I am trying something new, something to shake me out of my comfort zone.

This time rather than doing my normal routine, I am shaking things up.
India Grey gave me some small moleskines for my birthday and one is perfect for this purpose.
I am making notes and trying to see what the problems are in each chapter before I fix them on the manuscript. It was such a fantastic gift from India and how she knew I'd need them, I don't know! She is just like that.
Normally I scribble and change things as I go but this time I want to get a real sense of what is happening and why.

Because it is a short piece, I am using the five point structure from the Manuscript Makeover, as well as trying to see if the scenes have any problems detailed. For example, writing down the purpose of each scene, the goals, the reversal and the turning points.
Already I can see that I am picking up things that I missed before. The proof however will be in how my editor receives it.
Right now nothing is concrete and everything is to play for.

And what is wrong with experimenting in any case?

I spent last night finishing Kate Hardy's latest MH -- Good Girl or Gold Digger. I thought the title did not really go with the book's content as it implied something else to me and the heroine -- Daisy could never be called a gold digger, not in a million years. But the book itself was a lovely read, full of Kate's heart warming touches. I was so pleased that she wrote her steam engine/fairground book. I do enjoy visiting the worlds she creates.
The question now is do I save her Medical for later in the month or do I read it straight away?

Monday, March 08, 2010

10 things that make me happy

Maya sent me this cute award/meme first. I know several other people have been doing this.
And because everyone deserves a little more light and laughter in their life, here ten things that make me happy.
1. hearing my children's voices
2. kitten kisses and purrs
3. Border collie enthusiastic morning greetings
4. finishing a first draft
5. discovering a new author to read
6. going for walks with my husband
7. seeing that the snowdrops and winter aconites are out and spring is around the corner.
8. The first proper snowfall of winter and going sledding.
9. a cup of hot Earl Grey tea with milk in the early evening. Earl Grey is one of the first well being teas. It has to do with the bergamot.
10. hearing from friends.
And I am suposed to nominate 10 people but really having taken so long, I think lots have been nominated already. So if you would like to do the ten things and then tell me that you have done it so I can visit your blog, go right ahead . I always like finding out what makes everyone else happy.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The sleeve and glove brigade

My compression sleeve and glove arrived today. The therapist showed me how to put them on. The glove goes under the sleeve and hopefully like a tube of toothpaste is squeezed from the bottom, the oedema fluid will go the correct way, rather than being squeezed into my hand.
I can type and suspect that I will not notice it much once I get used to it. My oedema is significant -- 47% in the fore arm so it will take some time. My upper arm is only 17% so not nearly as bad.
It is now simple exercise, compression and skin care.
My arm will get measured in a few weeks time.

In Hardy news:
Hardy was caught red pawed, nose in the fresh pasta bag my husband had left on the side. It does not matter how many times I tell everyone -- do not leave food unattended, we have dogs and cats. Certain people do not listen. Temptation can be a terrible thing when you are a dog...

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hardy Houdini

Hardy has taken to escaping from the garden. It is most annoying as he has been doing this even when I am out gardening or doing the hen and duck houses out. First I know about it, I see Hardy walking along the wrong side of the fence. He is on a public foot path BUT...

This is not good as some day he is going to get out on to the road and get knocked down. He occasionally lures Tess out with him, but after the Farmer's Wife incident where Tess ended up chained in the farmer's yard and Hardy escaped, she is a little wary.

Yesterday as my youngest and I cut brambles on the far side of the dene, Hardy suddenly went walk about. My youngest leaped over the fence and unceremoniously dumped Hardy back on to the right side. Hardy looked most put out by this.

Then Tess decided to demonstrate the hole in the water gate.

My youngest rolled a large stone down the bank. Instead of landing where he intended it to land, the stone picked up speed, bounced into the air, flew over the water gate and landed half way up the bank on the other side. My youngest was sent to retrieve it. This time he managed to carry it to the hole and fix it.

Hopefully Hardy's career as an escapologist is now ended.
His career of sleeping on the sofa has also ended and he is not allowed, but does the photo proves.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A Noble Captive on Special Offer

A Noble Captive went on sale yesterday at eharlequin. To my surprise and delight, they have included it in their Spring Savings offer. It means if you buy 4 of the books highlighted,you can save $ 4. You can read more about the offer here. In addition to A Noble Captive, Joanne Rock's Viking set Blaze -- The Captive is also on offer as well as books by Brenda Joyce, Susan Wiggs, Debbie Macomber and Jennifer Cruisie.
There are savings to be had in ebooks as well as print.
In other news: I had to fire my heroine as she was not working. I think my new heroine will work much better. Learning that I could fire characters helped me at the beginning. They may be saved until later or simply go back to the casting area...but they have to work.

Monday, March 01, 2010

The VIking's Captive Princess in Spain -- Una princesa indomable

La batalla que se libraba era para conseguir su corazón El peligroso guerrero Ivar Gunnarson era un hombre de acción, más que de palabras. Sin apenas tiempo para pensar en amores ideales, se apropiaba siempre de cuanto quería, y la princesa Thyre no iba a convertirse en una excepción a su regla. Misteriosa y seductora, Thyre despertó el deseo de Ivar desde el instante en el que puso sus ojos en ella. En medio de un sangriento conflicto entre facciones vikingas, ella se convirtió en cautiva del curtido guerrero, pero su espíritu era indomable…

Read more here

The Viking's Captive Princess is out this month in Spain. I am thrilled.

I have discovered that A Question of Impropriety/Compromising Miss Milton/The Viking's Captive Princess will be the 3 in 1 offering in Australia in May. I wonder which cover they will use!

In writing news, I finally turned in my ms TPE and have started the Roman Undone. Can I write short? We shall see.