Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ballet Shoes hits 75!

One of my all time favourite books -- Ballet Shoes by Noel Streafeild has hit 75. Penguin  has just released a special 75th edition.
As a child I loved the story of the Fossils -- Pauline Petrova and Posy and the way they go to stage school. I think I read all the Shoe books that my local library had. I loved the world Streatfeild created. I suspect all of the shoe books contributed to my love of England and eventually helped me make the decision to come over here for my Junior Year Abroad.
However,  the true reason I remain in Streafeild's debt is her in valuible advice on afternoon rest periods. When I read the book to my children, my eldest was about 7, my daughter 4 and my youngest 2. It was during the summer holidays. The squabbling reached a cresendo and then I read about afternoon rest periods and how the Fossils spent an hour on their beds each afternoon, reading. I implemented this straight away. The children didn't need to sleep but they did have to stay on their beds. Amazingly, it cut the squabbling down to nothing. It allowed they all to get some rest.
They all needed a time out. It also helped develop a love of reading that remains to today.
My daughter tells me that they used to play games with the timer.
As my youngest wasn't  sleeping very well, I used to rest as well.
You do not know how much of a lifesaver this was.
There are also many great ideas in the book like having children learn Shakespeare. And showing that children can contribute to a household. Equally that stage and dance is a lot of hard work. You do have to be dedicated. I loved the detailed descriptions of everything worked.
I think my favourite Streatfeild heroine was Rachel from Dancing Shoes who over comes a wicked aunt and spoilt cousin to become the lead in a movie version of A Secret Garden (another favourite book of mine). The Streafeild books had different names in the US to take advantage of the huge popularity of Ballet Shoes.
If you haven't encountered Ballet Shoes, do.
So what was your favourite Straetfeild book/heroine?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Small Blogs Big Giveaway Reminder

A reminder that Small Blogs Big Giveaway has 2 more days to run. Have you entered yet? Lots of lovely prizes including signed copies of my latest two -- Breaking the Governess's Rules and To Marry A Matchmaker.

This weekend is being spent working on the novella -- a prequel to Compromising Miss Milton. It is tremendously fun as I have wanted to do Tom Milton and Kamala's story for ages!
I finally have a bit of writing time (having spanked my deadline last Monday) and am determined to get it done. In my writing world, contracted work comes first so I do have to make sure that it is done and on time.

My youngest has gone off to walk part of the Pennine Way with two friends as his reward (?) for doing so well on his GCSEs. It is wet out there. They are walking 60 miles in 3 days. I suspect they will have great fun but will be glad when it is done. My youngest and another lad are very prepared with lists, training walks etc. The other friend seems less prepared but no less determined.
The drive up to Bryness was lovely despite the rain. I always forget how truly wild the Border region is. Beyond the relative gentle rolling of the Tyne Valley, you have Redesdale -- this is the area where you did have the Border Reivers and the Border Wars. It remains rugged moorland with few transport links and the odd ruined castle or more likely bastle. With the mist rolling in waves, it was very much the land that time forgot.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dans Les Bras Du Comte Giveaway

To celebrate A Question of Impropriety being released in French next month, I am giving away one signed copy of  the American version. Simply email me at contest@michellestyles.co.uk  with the answer to the following question: In which year does A Question of Impropriety take place? Hint read the excerpt. Please put QI Giveaway in the subject line. The winner will be drawn on 31 August.

I love the French cover btw.

Northumberland, 1813.Après le scandale provoqué par son fiancé, dont elle ignorait le passé dissolu, Diana Clare part oublier Londres sur les terres de sa famille, en Northumbrie. Dans cette campagne anglaise, aucun vil séducteur ne viendra bouleverser une deuxième fois son existence. Du moins, l'espère-t-elle de toutes ses forces. Cependant, quelques semaines à peine après son arrivée, elle est secourue par le comte de Coltonby alors que sa voiture s'est embourbée dans un champ. Lord Coltonby, le plus célèbre débauché de Londres qui était présent le soir où le scandale a éclaté... Troublée par les souvenirs que cette rencontre ravive en elle, effrayée à l'idée que le comte ne révèle son sulfureux secret, Diana décourage l'entreprenant libertin. Mais lord Coltonby n'est pas le genre d'homme à se laisser éconduire ... 

The French version can be purchased at Harlequin Francais or www.amazon.fr 

The English language version  of A Question of Impropriety can be purchased as an ebook whereever ebooks are sold.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Voices 2011 Some Stats

New Voices 2011 -- the Mills and Boon contest where one unpublished author will get a chance to be published  in one of the series  starts on 13 September. More info plus lots of hints and tips on www.romanceisnotdead.com

There are lots of stats on the Internet about how easy it is to fail. For example 95% of first time authors do not publish another book or 90% of people who start writing a novel fail to finish. Yes, make no mistake about it  publishing is a tough business (as well as being crazy). It also remains many people's dream.

So if you are wavering  about entering  here are some stats:

1. 100% of all Mills and Boon authors once had not finished a manuscript
2. 100% of all Mills and Boon authors once did not have a Mills and Boon editor working with them.
3. 100% of all Mills and Boon authors once had a dream of being published and did some thing about it.

If you don't enter, you can't win. Mills and Boon bought 3 authors as a result of last year's contest -- Leah Ashton who won, Lucy Snow who made the shortlist and Louisa George who did not even place but used the comments to make her manuscript sparkle and submitted it through normal channels.

Mills and Boon has a very good track record at building authors. They have quality editorial, good distribution and unparalleled  good relations with their customers. The vast majority of their authors publish more than one book with them. A significant percentage have published more than 25 books with them.  When you reach 25, you get a diamond  pin. Same for 50. 75 is a keyring. It is a big ceremony.
  They are also notoriously tough to get published with. Some 90 -95% of slush is rejected. They only take on about 10-20 new authors per year in a GOOD year.  The number of submissions is astonishing. BUT you can't think about other people, you can only think about your voice.

So why the contest? Most of their authors are long time fans of series romance and they know that many of them had a dream. The contest is their way of kick starting the dream and there is lots of help. The best way to find out about the series is to read the books as Mills and Boon does make a specific promise to the reader.
Do visit www.romanceisnotdead.com for more information.

Remember no one is born published. It is what you do to follow your dream that ultimately decides whether it remains a dream or becomes a reality.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Small Blogs Big Giveaway

34 books+ 9 GC = 43 prizes!

Follow the event on twitter


Organized by: Reading Romances

hosting other giveaways now? US$100 gift card giveaway!

Letters Inside Out
hosting other giveaways now? Yes – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It will be international.

Reads With Wreckless Abandon
hosting other giveaways now? Monthly Book Giveaway- It’s international your choice of 1 from 5 books.

So Many Books, Here’s Mine
hosting other giveaways now? Yes

Laurie’s Thoughts & Reviews
hosting other giveaways now? YES – A Bonus Giveaway
Will be giving away a $10 Gift Card (winner’s choice, Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) and more books.

The Magic Attic
‪hosting other giveaways now? Blog tour for Static by Tawny Stokes, and a The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton swag giveaway

Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger
‪hosting other giveaways now? a tour giveaway from Stacey Thompson Geer on the 24th + 3 other contests still open one for a DVD of Something Borrowed, My 300 Follower Giveaway and another Tour Giveaway for the Gift of Illusion.

Red Hot Books
hosting other giveaways now? Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison (paperback) — US/Canada

Frugal Experiments
hosting other giveaways now?The Spa For Ma Giveaway Event $100 spa basket giveaway Runs from Aug 18-31st
and The Back To School Giveaway Hop $25 school supply package Runs from Aug 22-26th

Book Nerd Reviews
hosting other giveaways now? August giveaway will be running from August 1st – August 30th. This month the winner will win two books though instead of one. And they will be able to chose from three genres. It will be international – anywhere Book Depository delivers to.

Can’t Put It Down
hosting other giveaways now? it ends when my Facebook page gets 150 Likes.


Nicola Marsh
hosting other giveaways now? Yes, 2 double prize packs featuring current release Girl in a Vintage Dress & Overtime in the Boss’s Bed

Sign up to HOST the 3rd edition of this event, by answering this form!



We’ll be selecting a random participant to win a gift card for every 100 entries till we reach 600!The first winner will choose 15 items from the prize list (including the maximum number of 1 gift card)

The 2nd will choose 12 items after the 1st winner has chosen (2 gift cards maximum)

The 3rd will get 10 items after the 2nd winner has chosen (2 gift cards maximum)

The remaining books and giftcards will be given to one of our lucky hosts – who’ll be selected using random.org!


1.Sign up using the RAFFLECOPTER tool.

1.2Read the blog rules to know how to sign up for the prizes other blogs might be providing.

2.This is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway

3.You must be at least 18 years or older, or of legal age in your country.

4.The contest will end on AUGUST 29th at 11:59 pm GMT and winners will be posted after they have been selected.

5.Winners will be selected using the RAFFLECOPTER tool or random.org

5.1The winners will be notified by email and announced on all hosting blogs.

5.2 The winners will have THREE days from the date they are posted to provide a mailing address. If you do not contact me within three days a replacement winner will be selected. NO EXCEPTIONS.

6.Each blogger will be responsable for mailing the prize they provided. No replacements will be made. Your email address will not be saved or used for any other purposes then to contact the winner in the contest for their mailing address.

6.The Bloggers not responsible for other prizes that are not honored, distributed in a timely manner, lost, stolen, or damaged during transit.

7. Prizes are subject to change/cancellation without prior written notice.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A levels and my daughter

What is worse than waiting for your own results? Waiting for your child's, particularly when it is the second child. My legs are like jelly. My nerves shot. With my eldest, I had the naivete of assuming he would make it. Then I had friends whose very bright children had to go through clearing (best thing that could have happened and they are thriving btw) and in the back of my mind I worried about my daughter. Had she done enough? I barely slept for days. We took long walks discussing why she would have made the grade. Thinking logically. One never thinks logically.
Early this morning she went on UCAS (before the official opening time of 8 am) and discovered her offer with her first choice university had changed to UNCONDITIONAL. She had made the grades. The scream echoed through the house.
She then waited to go down to get her grades. She got -- A*, A, B, B

Let the celebrations begin! She is going to university and I am so happy for her. There will be CAKE!!!
Two down. One to go in two years time.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happiness is...

Happiness is...My eldest son coming home today. He has been in the US for 15 months -- working and doing his exchange year at university.
I saw him in NYC when I went for the RWA Nationals but the time was way too short.
Having gone abroad for my Junior year of university, I knew there was no way that I was going to stand in his way but I'm just glad that he is coming home. After all he is my baby boy -- although now he is all grown up.
Skype has been invaluable over the last year. Phone calls are great but to actually see someone you love in nearly real time and talk to them, even though they are thousands of miles away is priceless.
About 15 years ago, my mother's partner  wrote a paper on the fact that soon people would be using  the internet to do video phone calls, particularly grandparents to grandchildren. He was thinking about my mother. Various people in the know in the Silicon Valley laughed at him and said -- it would never happen. At that time a super fast modem was 28. It could take 20 minutes to download a simple picture. And apparently there was no demand.
This weekend, my son FINALLY set my mother up on skype (at his request she got broadband) and so it has happened. I am very glad that I will be able to skype my mother as well.
Long distance families require things like video conferencing and I am glad that skype does such a great job.
But you still can't hug a computer...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Does an author have to be on every social media site?

The best way for authors to get ahead is to concentrate on their product -- i.e writing the next book and making sure it is the best that it can possibly be. You can't sell anything if your shop window is empty. However, more than ever there is  the siren call of social media. Since I started writing seriously, there  any number of social media platforms -- Facebook, Goodreads, twitter, myspace, blogging have sprung up eharlequin etc.  Now kindle social, a.noblii and google plus, furthermore there are places springing up
The clarion cry goes  up a la the 1849 California Gold Rush, they are bringing up gold nuggets the size of boulders in Red Dog Flats! And the poor romance author wonders if she should be there as well.So also looks at the clock, the deadline she signed in blood and her family and her heart sinks.
Some respected social media people like Kristen Lamb -- say that you don't have to be EVERYWHERE. (Btw her book We Are Not Alone is a very good primer for authors..even if it does need a bit of updating) However, I think the statement needs slight tweaking. An author doesn't need to be everywhere but the ability to contact her does.  An author needs to be contactable by her readers. It is why one of the most important things for an author is her website (yes I know mine needs updating...) It is about allowing readers to contact you using their chosen medium.
So you don't have to everywhere but it is no reason why you can't make use of the RSS (Really Simple Syndication) that is embedded in many things.
For example, when I post this blog to blogger, through the magic of RSS, it also goes out  Facebook, twitter, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk. Amazon.fr and Good Reads and possibly one or two other ones that I have forgotten. I know that it is part of the British Library Internet preservation programme for example.  The main point of the exercise is to allow people to read my blog using THEIR chosen medium, rather than mine.
I also enable comments and get notifications via the email. I do try to response to all comments wherever they are posted. I really value my readers. I also value the friendships that I have developed through modern technology.
So where can you find me? Hopefully everywhere, but I also use modern technology to be there and be able to write at the same time.
Eharlequin should hopefully get RSS capability soon btw. At the moment, I want to post there I do have to do a cut and paste thing.Time consuming) I love the eharlequin (and the Mills and Boon) boards. They helped to keep me sane when I was unpublished and still maintain that function these days. I enjoy Good reads, particularly its never ending book quiz. Good reads giveaways are brilliant btw. And shelfari's end notes are linked to Amazon so that when a person downloads one of my books via kindle, they can get additional info (some of this is an ongoing project as it is a labour of love)
I do twitter (@MichelleLStyles) and do follow people back as I am interested. I go on FB. I have started sharing music that inspires me on myspace (and no it does not start playing)  I love interacting with people but mainly I try to remember that my job is to write books and that I am in the midst of a multi-book contract where once I deliver those books, they will eventually be in the hands of readers the world over. Therefore I make no apologies for using RSS and other modern linking devices.
So work smarter, not harder but allow the public to find you in whatever social media platform they chose.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hourglass figures

It had to happen. After being out for many years, one of the latest trends is the forties/Marilyn Monroe shape. FINALLY my natural figure is a bit fashionable. Waists are in as are the clothes I like to wear -- pencil skirts, belts, fitted tops. It is lovely to see in the papers clothes that I might actually wear being touted as fashionable. Many times I look and think nope, not for me. Forties style actually looks good on a wide range of ages, and is not just for the very young. Rubs hands with excitement.

Added incentive to keep up my exercising and keep a waist. To wear fitted, you actually have to work at it. I am getting there but it is easy to get complacent. It is why having a fitted waist instead of an elastic one makes sense. I know when I have over indulged...
Long may the fashion trend continue!

How to Find the Time

If you don't think you have time to exercise or write, try keeping an activity diary. For several days (at least one 24 hour period) write down everything you do without comment and the time spent. Put it away for a week. Look at it again and see if it reflects the sort of person you want to be. Are you using the time wisely? Or do you have dead time? You may find time that you can carve out.
I know after Bob Mayer's Write It Forward suggested this exercise, I did it and discovered where I was just frittering time away. Doing the exercise gives an illusion of control.  It is a matter of deciding on your goals and how you are going to get there.
You need to know where to change before you can change.
And I have deadlines to meet.

Monday, August 08, 2011

The Page 56 Game

My daughter discovered this  meme on FB in honour of National Book Week.
The way it goes is that you post the sentence from the fifth line on page 56 of the book you have just finished , the book you are currently reading, and if you desire something from your own work.

I have just finished The Return of the Stranger by Kate Walker
 The house she had grown up in had been neglected enough when she had been a child.

I am currently reading  Italian Doctor, No Strings Attached by Kate Hardy.

'Marco, I...' She swallowed hard.

From my latest published work To Marry A Matchmaker.

'What I was going to do is of no import now.'

And to round it off from my current work in progress (Kit and Hattie)
She refused to go back to that needy deluded girl who believed romance happened when two people's glances met across a crowded room.

In many ways, it reads quite well...a totally different story to the actual stories.
This is open to anyone to try and please let me know if you do.

Friday, August 05, 2011

For less than the price of a large latte

Over the past few days, I have downloaded two books to my kindle which have helped to revitalise my interest in writing. Both from the micro-publisher Who Dares Wins. The first was Bob Mayer's newly revised take on the business of publishing and writing -- Write It Forward. One of the first things he suggests doing is revisiting your goals. I blogged a bit about this on my Fill the Well Friday column for PHS today.
The book is heavily biased towards micro-publishing and is not as slick as you'd expect from a more established publisher. There are a few copy editing errors (after ten I gave up counting) plus the formatting could have been better. The ease of jumping about the book in kindle was not there. I contrast this with the Brandilyn Collins which did allow me to jump between sections.
I also objected to some of his figures. With my publisher, Harlequin, 90% of first time authors do not fail. Harlequin is very careful in its selection and I would say a high proportion of the authors (maybe even as high as 90%) succeed in selling more than one book. Harlequin is looking to build authors and their careers. But I do accept other publishers are not as focused. But then Harlequin has always listened to its readers and seeks to fulfil that promise. They are choosy about the authors they take on. They have also have more unagented authors than the larger publishing houses. this is because Harlequin understands its product and does not need necessarily the agents' filtering system.
At one point Mayer also comments about how no one goes in and says that they want the latest Random House. Interestingly Mike Shatzkin made the same comment on his blog this week. For most publishers this may be true but not for all publishers. Harlequin has one of the most enviable brands in publishing. People do go in and grab the latest Harlequin. They speak about their Harlequins. Eventually they go for the individual author but they do tend to look with favour on the whole publisher in a way that no other publisher enjoys.  They have done so for years. It is one of the reasons why they are able to offer lower royalty rates for series (and why authors continue to chose them as their publisher) -- the author gets the benefit of the brand.
Ignoring the power of the Harlequin brand  or pretending it doesn't exist is wrong. Harlequin has carved out a good position in digital and that is mainly done to the intelligent forward thinking of the people at the top of Harlequin. They put the time and effort in early. They also continue to lead and innovate. They also produce a high quality product with tremendous attention to copy editing and formatting.  I also have every expectation that they will soon figure out a way to deliver their books by subscription to whatever device so their readers can get all the books in their chosen series on the first day of the month without having to individually preorder month after month. Amazon kindle has subscriptions for newspapers and magazines. They will get it for Harlequin, even if it is just the month that the books hit the retail market. *rant over*
I agree with Shatzkin and Mayer that the future is digital and that Content is King.
The book We Are Not Alone -A Writer Guide to Social Media by Kristen Lamb is a hugely practical guide to using social media without allowing it to overwhelm you. Again it has a few copy-editing errors but in the main is sound. It did give me some hints and tips. And if such things interest you, get the book.
For the price of two lattes, I have learnt a lot and become really refocused on my work. My editor is off on holiday and I will get the current wip finished before she gets back. It is my challenge!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Lovely Review for To Marry A Matchmaker

Julie Bonello has reviewed all of my books for cataromance and has just posted her review of To Marry a Matchmaker. It made my day. She gave TMAM 4.5 stars but more importantly she said:

To Marry a Matchmaker was an absolute joy to read! Wonderfully absorbing, deliciously witty and absolutely impossible to put down, To Marry a Matchmaker is a superb historical romance that kept me riveted from start to finish. I absolutely adored Henrietta, a wonderful heroine who was smart, plucky and resourceful and Robert was simply perfect: honorable, brooding and charismatic, he’s a hero romance readers will be unable to resist. I also loved how Michelle Styles brought to life the colourful community of Corbridge which made the background of the novel more believable and real.

You can read the full review here.

Thank you very much Julie.  I adored Robrt and Henri and it does my heart good when they connect with others.

Currnetly I am working away on my latest. I am enjoying it more but I do want to get it done before my eldest comes home mid-month. My deadline is 1 Sept.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The Tracey Anderson Method and time

The Times has been featuring the trainer Tracey Anderson and her famous Method for losing weight and shaping up. Tracey Anderson is Gwyneth Paltrow's trainer and used to train Madonna. She runs a studio in NYC.  It is 2 x 1 hour exercise sessions per day plus following a strict diet of about 1,000 calories per day for 30 days. Tracey Anderson is famed for the baby food diet(ie eating freshly pureed fruits and vegtables rather drinking fruit juice)  The exercise sessions are divided up into one hour cardio -- dance and one hour -- strengthening exercises that concentrate on the smaller muscle groups.
I am sure her system works.  It is an increase the movement, decrease the food intake (drastically) type of thing.
But do I have 2 hours per day to devote to it? As my husband pointed out, even when you are training for a marathon, you are rarely spending 2 hours every day on exercise. At the moment, I do one hour per day -- either cardio, strengthening or a combo. I don't do dancing (except at the Harlequin party) because I have two left feet. Dance routines invariably end up with me putting out someone else's eye. I do see the point of combining both cardio and muscle strenthening toning exercises. I also agree that theses exercises need to be for long and lean muscles rather than body building bulk.
Yes, I could eat better but I like my food. I like solids, have done ever since I was a toddler. The key is keeping your calories down and incorporating more veg and fruit is not a bad idea. Having less than 1,200 calories per day though is not very good for you and certainly is not sustainable in the long term. I suspect that it coudl be done for one month. But goodness me, I get hungry just thinking about it. Purees for a whole month? Oh yuck and depression.
So for the moment, I am going to keep this method on the back burner for when I really decide that I need to get super fit.
It all comes down to finding a system which you are comfortable with.
If she intrigues you, she has written a book which includes a dvd of the exercises. She also has several full length dvds. But now I know and can stop feeling guilty every time I read an article about her in the Times.