Thursday, December 20, 2012

An Ideal Husband? cover

I just had my first peek at the cover for AnIdeal Husband? I think it captures the mood of the book beautifully.
Iti s my last Victorian for awhile as I am concentrating on Vikings and so I am pleased that I have a good cover

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Revisions etc

It has been a little while.
My lovely editor got back to me at the end of last week and had a few more tweaks she wanted for my latest Viking. They really made sense so I did them over the weekend. And I think the manuscript is much stronger. Hopefully my eidtor will think so as well.
I have started on my next Viking. I am using the Alexandra Sokoloff index  card method for plotting as it does help.  It was the whole idea of using post it notes, rather than actual cards. It does give me an idea of the structure so I can concentrate on the important bits -- the characters and their interactions. It also reminds me of things that are needed. And I can write little notes and move them about. I also don't need to just have a certain number of cards.
Sokoloff's other idea of thinking of words and images with will reoccur through the story is very interesting. How do you show the changes and make the images truly count?
At the moment, it is how my mind is working and so I am going with it.
I have learnt that my mind is apt to go off on some tangent at some point but it is all about working with what works for the book.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar Day 3

Today (30 November) is my day and I am offering a Take a Break gift book filled with a signed book of mine (winner's choice), biscuits, Christmas tea, a tea towel (you can never have too many of these and I do like choosing them) and a mug. Total value £20. I will draw the winner on 8 December 2012.
All entrants go forward to the grand prize drawing.
Please email me  at with 2012 Harlequin Historical Advent Giveaway in the title the answer to the follow question:
Where is Harriet Wilkinson on her way to when she hears the stifled noise? (hint read the extract)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tracy Anderson Method:360 Workouts completed

Since starting Tracy Anderson Metamorphisis Omni at the end of September 2011, I have officically dripped with sweat 360 times, conquered 36 different set of exercerises, particularly the challenging leg lifts (more of which later, mastered 4 different Dance cardio routine (aka Hippo dancing as my children call it).
My most hated levels were Meta L2,C1.1 L3, C1.2 L3 and C1.3 L7. I think of all of the hated levels, it was C1.1 L3 which I just wanted done. Could I get the coordination of the lunge? It took until D8.
But I did master them all.
I started out hating planks. Somewhere in Meta, I started to enjoy them which was good as some of them were fairly circus moves. The last crazy plank in Y1 is C1.2 L5. Then there was the balance moves. The key is balance, Tracy would I say and the problem is that I have none, I would mutter, tumbling over yet again. In C1.3, I started not minding the balance moves and I don't fall over that much...
A few exercises stand out: the headstand in C1.1 L8 (the trick was to make sure your elbow and supporting knee touched and you put your weight on your arms), C1.2 L3 the first balance both hands on a weight annd lift leg off the floor, and C1.2 L3 the crazy plank where you had to be coordinated with a controlled collaspe.
I learnt a lot about myself. I leanrt that I can do things that I thought I could never do.
My fexibility and balance have improved. I am not sure about my tempo.
I now love exercising. it has become a part of my life. I am in far better shape than I have ever been.
C1.3 has seen a massive improvement in my bum and thighs. There is something to strengthening the deep gluteal muscles so that your hamstrings naturally lengthen (something from pilates but of relevance here) as they no longer have to act as stabilising muscles. It really is all about balance and getting the correct balance between deep glutes, hip flexors and deep ab muscles so that the mobilising muscles don't have to act as stablising muscles. This is one of the reasons TAM takes time and why she doesn't really go after the inner thigh until mid way through Y2. Don't get me wrong -- my thighs are looking good but apparently lots of people have over developed quads etc and it is about effecting real change. I still have loose skin on my lower abs. But I have hope!
I have started the Dance Cardio 2.1 with her master trainers Stacey and Maria. They are taller than Tracy. I am beginning to get the hang of it. Having my own playlist helps.
I have previewed Y2 L1 for tomorrow. The chair comes into play. As do ankle weights.  it is supposed to be a step up. I foresee a lot more sweating in my future.

In other news:
1. My writing on my current project is going well and I am thoroughly enjoying myself. It remains to be seen if it is *pants* when I am done. It is a contemporary, rather than a historical...

2. As some of you may already know -- last Thursday we put our very elderly Lab to sleep. His race was run. the legs which had carried him on so many runs and walks had worn out. I will write something about him. I have been meaning to but keep tearing up. Most of the time though I am fine. The collies and the cat are adjusting.

3. Still waitng to hear if my editor likes my revisions but I am keeping busy (see above).

4. the Harlequin Historical Authors will be doing our annual Advent Calendar this this space.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Next Big Thing

Katherine Garbera who writes Desire and is another American living in the UK (actually she lives in the same town as my in laws!) ask me to do this meme. You can read her answers from last week here. And her books are wonderful as well. Well worth a read.

What is the title of your next book?

An Ideal Husband? comes out in April 2013 in the UK and North America. I believe India as well and Australia/New Zealand follow in May 2013

Where did the idea for the book come from?

The idea for the first scene popped into my brain several years ago when I was trying to write a single title. Then I used it when I was crafting To Marry A Matchmaker as back story but last year my heroine, Sophie Ravel sat me down  and said I had to write her story and that she knew I really wanted to.

What genre does your book fall under?

Warm, witty and intimate historical romance. It is set in the 1850s so it is an early Victorian. Some places it will get marketed as a Regency. It is very odd to me but Rengency in publishing is a very flexible term.


What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

A Keanu Reeves type  from around his Point Break days for Richard and a Sally Pressman type for Sophie.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

These books are traditionally published by Harlequin/Mills & Boon.


How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I started about mid January 2012, and then had to change quite a lot after my editor had seen the first three chapters. I was explaining to a dear friend about the problem  and she said the hero can’t  be like that. Then suddenly everything was clear and  I wrote the story (all 72 k) as I had to almost start from scratch in 3 weeks. It was great fun to write once I had everything clear.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypass and Georgette Heyer are all writers whose style I admire. I wanted to write a warm, witty and intimate romance which had a lot of accurate historical detail.


Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My daughter in addition to the Sophie character demanded I write Sophie’s story as she wanted to know what happened to her after  To Marry A Matchmaker.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

It is a pretend engagement which develops into something more story. And there is a nod to PG Wodehouse with pigs. I adore PG Wodehouse.


I was going to tag various authors but they appear to have done this so if anyone wants to take up the baton, please do so and tell me where it is posted.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

11 November Remembrance Sunday

Today is the anniversary of the ending of World War I. It is a day to remember the fallen and injured from all the wars and know that they died to keep us safe and allowed our way of life to happen.
It is a day to thank the living who served and continue to serve, risking their lives so we can enjoy ours.
I wear my red poppy with pride because it does help to highlight the marvellous work the British Legion does with service families. It also shows that I do understand the sacrifice and am grateful for the sacrifices made.
Last night I watched the Festival of Remembrance on BBC 1. It does bring a lump to my throat. (There wasn't anything like it in the US when I was growing up) Anyway, one of the higlights for me is the Chelsea Pensioners. When I first watched it as a bride, there was a man who had served in the Boer War. Slowly the active memories of various wars fade as one by one people die, but it doesn't mean people should forget.
So hopefully people will take a moment today to remember and to be grateful.

Friday, November 09, 2012

My poor neglected blog

It has been awhile.
My excuse is that my mother came over from the States and we did a whirlwind tour of the universites where my elder two are studying.  And my revisions for The Return of The Viking Warrior hit.
My mother went back home last week but I wanted to get the revisions done as I have a New Editor. I found my New Editor''s thoughts really useful and hope she loves my manuscript now. I think it is far stronger but it is always a worrying time when you change editors. You never know quite how they will react or if you interpreted their thoughts correctly. On the plus, sometimes you get overly comfortable with your editor and know where her quirks and hot spots are and this can mean that you are not pushed. I couldn't do anything about the change and so am rolling with it. My new editor loves Vikings so this is good. She also knows how to pronouce the names correctly.

I did draw the name out of the hat from my newsletter and Tracy had her package sent off to her.

I am still doing my Tracy Anderson Method and have nearly finished the first year of my transformation (ie 360 workouts). And then comes Year 2 with the Chair and lots of challenges for my abs.

I will try to be better at keeping up with this blog but work and family have to come first.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Heathcliff or the cat who thinks he is an editor at work

I have had many cats in time. I love cats but Heathcliff (and to a cetain extent his brother Mr Darcy before he died) is the only one who actively takes an interest in my work. 
After reading Alexandra Sokoloff I decided to try her index card method if I could discover what precisely was wrong with my current WIP (and indeed the one I am revising) so I went back to my bulletin board. It was great fun to do this. And we shall see on the finished product...
Anyway Heathcliff's reaction amused me so I took some photos and as my daughter wanted to they are:
And then:
And finally as he spotted the precise plot point he didn't like...

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Wicked Giveaway etc

I am participating in Reading Romance's Wicked Giveaway. There are 2 signed copies of Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match to be won.
I was totally thrilled to learn that Hattie was the most requested prize in Reading Romance's last giveaway - Naughty or Nice!
You can enter here.

And my newsletter went out yesterday. There is a special giveaway on there for newsletter subscribers only.

 Also the Goodreads Giveaway for Hattie continues...

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match by Michelle Styles

Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match

by Michelle Styles

Giveaway ends November 01, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My new author photo

Courtesy of Mills &Boon, I have my new author photo:

It looks like me.

It is copyright Mills and Boon 2012.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Editor changes

My editor is changing again. For a variety of reasons, various editors at Harlequin Mills and Boon are either on maternity leave or have left the company. This has meant that an unprecendented 3 mid-ranked editors have been making their farewells from the acquisitions team. One editor has just returned from maternity leave.
My editor has been promoted which is wonderful for her. But it also means she needs to rebalance her author stable so it is more in favour of the series where she is  the new Associate Editor (Romance/Riva). The editor who has just returned is going to historical and needs more historical authors. She also loves the Viking period, apparently. So I get moved. Not all of my editor's historical authors will get moved. It just depends on a variety of factors.
Some day I will make good my threat and get a Pandora bracelet with a bead for each of my editors. I think I am up to 6 editors in the 7 years I have been a contracted author with HMB.  Some authors only have one editor. Others get moved about for a variety of reasons. I think of all the changes the hardest was the first one. After that you know you can do it.
I have loved working with Flo Nicoll. She is a rising star among HMB editors and I can't wait to see how far she goes. I am very proud of the books we did together. And I do think my writing has improved under her. I will miss her insights very much. But I also am aware of why the change needs to be made.
A new editor always pushes you in directions you haven't thought about and makes you confront things. This can be a good thing as it is always about getting the strongest book.
At the moment with the current Viking, I get the benefit of both Flo and Suzy Clarke's eyes.  After that, it will be Suzy.
It is good to be back with the Historical team as it were, and I know Suzy has a reputation for detailed revisions. My senior editor thinks we will get on very well and I do trust my senior editor very much -- she was my first editor after all...
If you can't stop change, you might as well embrace it and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Revisiting old books: Wildfire at Midnight by Mary Stewart

Because I had been reminded of Madam Will You Talk? which is set in Arles, I asked my youngest to get out from the Lit and Phil. Unfortunately it had been shelved wrong, so he returned home with another Mary Stewart -- Wildfire at Midnight. It was written in 1956 and set in 1953, during the coronation.
The heroine has the glamorous career of an in-store model and wants to escape the Coronation hoopla. When her mother suggests a hotel on Skye, Gianetta leaps at the chance. Unfortunately, the hotel is harbouring a murderer (the other inhabitants have been there for a few weeks) and Gianetta's ex.
I must have read this about 35 years ago as my school library was very good on Mary Stewart. What struck me this time was how many times people lit cigarettes. Practically every scene, the characters stop and light a cigarette. Yes I know people smoked but it was the sheer repetition of the gesture that got me. At one point, I expected the characters to get together and start discussing exactly how many tabs they had left and therefore how long they could hold before the mystery needed to be solved or one of them started to have withdrawal symptoms!
There is little sexual tension between Gianetta and her ex-husband or indeed between Gianetta and the villian of the piece. The ex husband is supposed to be jealous of the villain who turns out to be a mad man but who was trying to romance Gianetta. He did have a handy supply of cigerettes though....
 Gianetta ends up with her ex. who snarls 'You bloody little fool.' before explaining everything, including the misunderstanding where she thought he was sleeping with an actress. No she was kissing him and he left. The actress was having an affair with another man.
There were several times when Gianetta deserved the Too Stupid to Live label and I didn't quite understand why the police would leave her in charge of a severely ill woman who was a potential witness in the case.

What Stewart does well is to provide a sense of the place. I may not have been to Skye but I have stayed in hotels in the Highlands as well as in Snowdonia and the Lake District. They do operate under their own rules.

It was interesting re-reading it but I can see novel writing, in particular romantic suspense has really moved on. But oh how I loved Mary Stewart once upon a time.
Georgette Heyer seems to wear better for some reason. Perhaps it is because she was writing a historical rather than a contemporary.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Blurb for An Ideal Husband?

My editor sent through the blurb for my April 2013 release -- An Ideal Husband?

When heiress Sophie Ravel finds herself in a compromising situation, notorious Richard Crawford, Viscount Bingfield, swoops in and saves her reputation! She might have escaped the attentions of one undesirable, but will Richard’s protection expose her to even more scandal?
Richard curses his impetuousness at offering a betrothal in the heat of the moment! He gladly accepts Sophie’s terms that their engagement remains a pretence until, quite by chance, he unlocks his shy fiancée’s passionate nature. Now nothing will steer him from wedding—then bedding—his blushing bride...

An Ideal Husband? is set in 1852 Newcastle Upon Tyne and features Sophie Ravel who was a secondary in To Marry A Matchmaker.

I completed the proofs last week so I will get an excerpt up soonish. This one really appeals to my sense of humour. I had a lot of fun writing it.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Tracy Anderson Method Day 321

I have just started C1.3 L6 or the level where the dvd has some problems. Actually it is missing one little bit of the ab exercises at the end of the ab section.
There are only 5 leg lifts, but I was crying by the end of exercise 4 and my legs were like jelly at the end of 5. It is important to hit the cross vectors.
I was pleased to see the back end of L5 as because of the holiday, it felt like it had gone forever!
I continue to love and adore the ball as it does help me to focus on the moves. The blance exercises are easier in a way as I now know about inverting my leg.
It pays to pause the dvd when doing the preview as you can see precisely where her hands and knees are.
Despite eating a ton on holiday, all the weight and bloating has come off and I am back to where I want to be.
Thanks to my daughter's generosity, I now have her old Ipod and after trying (and failing) to dance with headphones, I bought a cheap speaker dock. It works and I can now have my own playlist while I do the DC. It does help.

My 2.1 dvds arrived just before I went away. 2.1 with the chair looks challenging. Apparently the quads are really hit. It is just good to think about TAM continuing to be part of my life.

In other news:
I am waiting for my editor to get her thoughts on revisions back to me so I have started a New Project. It is one of the great things about the way my current contract is structured. I have built time in so I can do New Projects, rather than just moving on to the next HMB historical romance.
It is about conducting my career on my terms.
One of the great things about TAM is that I do feel empowered to take on new challenges, knowing that I can master them.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Background to Hattie Wilkinson Meets her Match

There are a number of strands which came together with Hattie.
First, several years ago I read Lady Worsley's Whim which was about  one of the more scandalous  Criminal Conversation trials of the late eighteenth century. There is even a suggestion the American revolution was settled more speedily because one of the main pillars of the British givernment was embroiled.
Anyway, The Worsleys had a son who died in his early 20s but it got me to thinking what would it been like for the son? His mother abandoned him for her lover.
A child of divorced parents, it is a subject which intrigues. My parents divorced in my late teens and it was not an amicable parting of the ways...and it does change you.
I filed this in the back of my brain under possibles as other ideas were screaming.
Second, I read a story in the Hexham Courant about the Stagshaw Fair which was the largest one day fair in England. It used to be held on the fourth of July which amused me greatly. In the article they made reference to a man who had redeemed himself in the early eighteenth century by saving his valet from one of the notorious people snatchers. Apparently there was a real problem with press gangs and many Northumberland men were snatched and sent to the West Indies to work on the plantations. There is precious little about this and unfortunately it was not the right time period for me but I filed it in the back of my mind -- thinkiing some day.
Finally, I happened to go to the University of Birmingham on an open day visit with my daughter and encountered a protrait of Mair Constance *Hattie* Barb er and her dogs. Again the wrong period but I knew I wanted to write about a heroine who had a small dog. Hattie Barber had Yorkshire terriers but the breed wasn't in existance in the Regency period. However papillions were and they are a small dog with attitude. So Moth was born.
And then I remembered the other two ideas and thought while maybe...And the ideas started to scream. Particularly when  Kit, Sur Christopher Foxton, strolled into my brain and refused to leave.
Luckily my editor was intrigued and very supportive so I was able to write Hattie. I think I drove her insane when I was writing Hattie as I could not get the ending right. Luckily she was there and made several excellent suggestions and the story is much stronger for them.
Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match is one of the few titles I have been able to keep. Or rather it is a variation of Hattie Meets Her Match which was my working title. I always love it when it happens.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match Giveaway

As Hattie is now avialable on the M&B website and on Harlequin, (official publication date 2 November), I am running a Goodreads giveaway until 1 November. 5 signed copies are up for  grabs and I think I have managed to put just about every country where I know I have readers on the form...

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match by Michelle Styles

Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match

by Michelle Styles

Giveaway ends November 01, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Food in Arles

The trip ended up being a foodie's delight. It wasn't supposed to be that way. However on the first night, we didn't make reservations and everywhere seemed to be booked out.
In desperation, I went into the L'Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel, thinking that someone might have cancelled at the last moment. Jean-Luc was manning reception and asked me if I knew how to use a telephone. He was very charming and offered to ask at his place next door. We had already tried there...unfortunately. His face fell and he seemed genuinely upset that he couldn't help.
We managed to find dinner at Le Gabolet -- the tuna was melt in your mouth. The menu was prix fixee and seemed to change daily. They served things because they were fresh and they liked them.
The next day, we went out birdwatching and missed lunch. Breakfast had been continental When we returned to the hotel, my husband who doesn't speak French suggest that I call Jean Luc's bistro but I only had the number of the Atelier. Anyway, I ended up blurting out a mispronunciation of Pinus and we ended up with a reservation for the L'Atlier.
It is like entering another world when you go to L'Atlier. Very relaxing and calming with water flowing everywhere. You start in the lounge where  we had five courses. There is no menu, you simply come and eat what is on offer. There is the lovely surprise element.
There are at least 13 courses for dinner. We had 17.
So we started with baked baby carrots with 3 dipping sauces, then deep fried courgettes with a dipping sauce, then a biscuit covered with vegetables, followed by a herbal soup with tomato sorbet and the last starter was Camargue toasted rice with vegetables. We also had a glass of champagne.
Every dish was immaculately presented and the flavours sang in my mouth.
We moved to the restaurant proper to continue with the meal. (You need to remember that at this stage I was thinking 13 courses).
We moved on to the white wine.
The mains started with sea bream wrapped about green beans, and then it was mushroom and onion parcels (I think the onions were done as a soubrise). Next it was vegetables with fish roe and then octopus with mushrooms. Those courses starting with the last starter were absolute perfection.
Because I was thinking -- 13 courses, I did have some bread.  the bread basket was full of tempting treats -- peanut bread, pistacchio bread, tomato bread, olive puree (they looked like cinnamon rolls), 3 types of bread sticks and tomato and anchovy filled bread. It would have been a crime not to eat some. And I figured that it would be fine as there were only 13 courses.
I was starting to get a bit full but thought I would do it as it was a once in the lifetime experience.
The next course was a tuna surprise -- and not as good as the tuna I had had the night before but still excellent. I am not sure why it just missed or perhaps because the other courses had been so good, I was thinking -- it would be superlative. Or perhaps I was just getting full. Then it was the lamb (I had not realised how special this lamb was until we went to le Crau -- it must have been some of the earliest lamb). It looked like 2 slices of bacon and had a sprinkling of pine nuts. My husband wasn't as fond of the lamb but then he likes his meat very well done and the lamb was lightly seared.
We moved on to the red wine here.
We then had the vodka jelly and lemon to clear our palates. Thank goodness.
Next came the desserts. And I had counted so I thought -- one dessert. Maybe I could do it.
The first dessert was very good. The second was a beet root flower and excellent. The first time my husband had actually liked beet root. Then they laid out the spoons and forks again . My heart sunk. even though the dishes had been tiny, I was very full. It was a toasted rice with sour cherries and olives which was surprisingly good. Then it was white chocolate and FINALLY it was a raspberry concoction.  My heart kept sinking each time new cutlery  appeared. We then had coffee.
My big take away was how much flavour and colour plays. Each course was a picture.  Also little portions can add up. You don't really need to eat a lot to be satisfied. I also understood why you need to make a reservation. And why Michelin rates his food so highly.
The next evening we went to his Bistro where the service was a little haphazard and you knew what you were getting. The portions were bigger but the food was delicious.  I started with a tomato/feta cheese tart and moved on to the grilled fish. Dessert was a chocolate fondant. We had some excellent red wine. When I bought a bottle of it at a little food shop, the woman waxed lyrical about it and told me that I must allow it an hour to breathe. It was totally organic and so would not keep but should be drunk soonish. we are having a bottle for Christmas lunch...
And then because I discovered where it was, we had dinner at Le Cilantro -- the 1 star Michelin restaurant. The food was excellent and the service great. I started with a tomato salad and then had salmon.Dessert was a pain perdu with fresh plums. There was several other little courses. And again the wine was excellent.
The next night we went back to the bistro as several of the other restaurants were fully booked out. Again the food was good. I started with the saussicon. My husband had the lamb which he enjoyed very much as it was medium.
Anyway I ate and drank far too much but I really enjoyed myself. I also now understand why French food does have its reputation. In recent years, I have cooked far more Mexican or Italian or Indian than French but I shall go back to French food as when it is done well, it is fantastic.
I did not do my Tracy Anderson while I was away BUT since returning I have gone back to healthy eating and working out. It is the knowing that I do workout that allowed me to indulge.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Arles and me

When I first went to Arles 27 years ago, I'm not sure what I was looking for. It seemed like a good idea and my then boyfrined (now my husband) had convinced me that it would be a great place for a spring break. It set a pattern for our holidays -- generally in places which combined history and great birdwatching.
That trip introduced me to birdwatching. Pink flamingoes are remarkably easy to spot. The Camargue is where flamingoes gather in France. When flamingoes fly, they have carmine and black undersides of their wings.
Arles is also where I watched a bull fight while seated very high in a Roman arena. The experience would later fuel my first Roman book -- The Gladiator's Honour. In fact it was when I was in Arles that I thought the roman period would make a great backdrop for a romance.
We stayed at a little bed and breakfast just off the Place du Forum where you had to walk down a cold corridor to reach the toilet. This time we stayed at the Grand Hotel Nord Pinus which is also on the Place du Forum and has been around forever. Picasso used stay here along with various other celbrities. I believe the bullfighters still stay. Unlike many luxury hotels, the Nord Pinus feels unique. It retains its own unique charm and character. They have posters up of bullfights from the early 20th century as well as a collection of Marilyn Monroe phtographs in the lobby. On the first floor, you can see bits of the old forum. Our room was huge and well appointed with wrought iron furniture.
 Outside the hotel in the warm evening air. Madame had me drinking a variety of pastis as that is what you do in the early evening as you watch the world pass by. It is a summer drink. If you are very thirsty you drink it with mint and plenty of water. The almond syrup is delish and then there is the grenadine which brought back memories of long ag Shirly  Temples (but with an added kick).
Because the Place du Forum is popular, several evenings had live music (including cheesy 1970s ballads). We ate in some wonderful restuarants which I will recount tomorrow as they were truly gastronomic adventures. Arles boasts of both  1 star and 2 star Michelin restaurants and naturally we had to try them.
We flew via Southampton to Avignon on flybe. The flight was painless. Avignon's airport is probably the smallest airport I have been to. There is only one or two gates. the Southampton flight appeared to be the only schedule flight of the day. By the time, we had walked through customs, our bags were ready. We got into our hired car and headed out to Les Baux  Les Baux is considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in France. The primary attraction for me is the medieval village and ruined castle.  We had lunch there and looked about. They were doing a recreation of a medieval tournament.
Arles was also jam packed. The one problem with Arles is that the streets were laid out just after the Romans and are very confusing. Eventually we found the Nord Pinus, but this was me going on instinct from 27 years previously!
As it was a Saturday, there were a number of weddings at the City Hall and we watched various wedding parties, including one with a vintage car.
The next day, we drove into the Carmague and went birdwatching -- flamingoes, storks, grey herons, cattle egret, little egrets and snowy egrets were all spotted. Because someone was windsurfing (I don't think they were supposed to be), a flock of flamingoes was spooked and I saw them fly for the first time. They are truly spectacular in flight. We also saw the white horses of the Camargue. The white horses are techincally grey as they are born black. They are semi wild and are one of the oldest breeds in the world.  They are not shod and are known as the sea horses as they spend a great deal of time on the salt marshes. The men who work them are known as gardians and they are the French equivalent of cowboys.
We also saw the black bulls. In Carmague bull fighting, the bull is not killed. In Spanish bull fighting the bull is killed.  the last time we did this sort of thing in the Camague, it was on bicycle and God, it was tough. Apparently it was when my husband decided that he ought to marry me as I did not complain.
The next day was more birdwatching in Sts Marie de la Mer -- flamingoes, caspian terns and slender billed gulls. Sts marie have become very commercial and we didn't linger after I went swimming. Instead we went to Aigue Mortes and climbed the ramparts. This is the town St Louis built and was France's first Mediterrean port. However, because of the silting, it is no longer on the sea. The Constance tower used to have a beacon which burnt night and day. We stopped for ice cream in the main square which was excellent.
The next day was Les Alycamps in the morning. The necropolis was the In place to be buried during the early middle ages. It is now a place of ghosts and pigeons. If you go into the church at the end, you are surrounded by the sound of cooing pigeons and dung dropping. It was v spooky. In the afternoon we went to Le Crau and the nature reserve. Le crau is France's only desert. It has been used for sheep herding since time immedmorial. Pliny mentions the sheep as being particularily good to eat. The  Merino sheep arrive on Le Crau in October, have their lambs on the hay fields (created in the 16th century and they provide hay for race horses -- only hay in the world which is AOC), are moved to the coussol in Feb/March time to eat the special grass and thyme before being taken up to the Alps to summer.  It was an utterly fascinating place. the rocks which the local villagers were required to pile up so Allied planes couldn't land during WW2 are still there. We saw Europeon rollers which made the trip.
The next day was the Arles Roman museum -- absolutely fascinating.
We then flew home the next morning. Thoroughly refreshed.

I will do abotu the food tomorrow as it was truly special.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Back from Provence

27 years ago, I spent several sun lit days in Arles. I am happy to report that Arles remains a magical place.
I had a great time and will blog later about all that I have seen (and eaten).
I saw lots of Roman and medieval ruins. There were Viking raids apparently but much of the medieval is post Viking period. We are talking Les Baux and Aigue Mortes -- so Crusades and tournament time.
My camera died -- apparently the battery became disconnected so I have lots of memories but few photos.

And I ate some wonderful food, including an epic meal of 17 courses (not including the coffee at the end!). We had thought it would be 13 and  the courses kept coming...The food was wonderful -- lots of flavour and creative use of vegetables. The surprise and wow factor was really there. The service was fantastic.

The AAs for An Ideal Husband? have arrived so they need to be done over the weekend.
I also need to update my website ad get the Goodreads giveaway organised for Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match. etc etc.

It was good to go away and not be near a computer for a week.

Friday, September 21, 2012

South of France and my book, several squees and a giveaway.

This blog has been quiet because I was finishing my latest Viking. It is now in my editor's inbox and I can go off to the South of France with my husband without a deadline hanging over me.

I had a great time at AMBA.I stayed at Carol Townend and wore my voice out talking. It was refreshing.

The editors were in buying mood for Presents. I was so pleased that they bought Sri Pammi, Michelle Smart and my dear friend Victoria Parker. I was very lucky to read Victoria's at an early stage and it is one of the best Presents I have read in a long time. My gut told me that the editors would agree and I was so happy that I was right! Huge squeeing went on when Vicotira came over for coffee. And huge squees to both Sri and Michelle Smart as they both worked really hard.

As luck would have it, my latest Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match is dedicated to Victoria. She just believed in this book, even when it was giving me headaches. When I read it at the proof stage, I really liked it...

As Hattie is available on the M&B and eharlequin websites next month, I have started to organise a few giveaways of signed books. The first happens this weekend with the Naughty or Nice Giveaway through Reading Romances. There is alsoa signed copy of His Unsuitable Viscountess up for grabs.

I will be organising a Goodreads giveaway for Hattie and I have listened to various people so I will hopefully have most people's countries on the list. But this will happen after I get back next Friday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11

Today is September 11.
I truly hope that some day I will be able to enjoy the day as a normal day rather thinking back to the dreadful events of 2001. 11 years have passed but the events remain seared on my soul.
As long time readers of this blog will know, I was tangently touched by the events and remain ever thankful that none of my family were injured or killed.
On this day, I also think about the other people whose lives were affected in the time since. So much has changed as a result of those despicable acts. Hopefully some day various leaders will come to realise that human lives are worth more than a postage stamp and suicide bombing will become a thing of the past as discredited as the charge of soldiers across a field at cannons.
The important thing is to remember and honour everyone but to live one's life how one wants to. It should be a normal day. Some day it will be again.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

TheTracy Anderson Method: One Year On

A year ago today, I started doing the Tracy Anderson Method 30 Day Bootcamp. Two days previously I had been on my hands and knees in tears as I saw my weight starting to creep up, depsite exercising to dvds etc. I decided to go hard core and ordered Tracy Anderson's book.
It changed my life as it made me think that certain things were possible if I put the sweat in. And you know she was right.
I went from being a skeptic to being a believer in about 14 weeks as the fat melted from my body. My shape changed and my cheekbones which had disappeared sometime in my late tweenties/early thirties reappeared. After doing the 30 days, I started on her Metamorphosis programme.  I am currently on Day 289. You only count the workouts and unlike the bootcamp, you do get a rest day once a week.
So what has changed:
I am well within my healthy BMI. So I am not too fat or skinny and am currently in my ideal weight spectrum. I stopped weighing myself in the early part of this year when the scales started determining my mood. This was not good and I find it easier to do it on how my clothes fit.
I went from wearing a UK size 14 (okay I could squeeze in a 14 if I held my breath but I liked to think of myself as a 14. My daughter commented that I should face facts and I was a 16.) to wearing a UK size 8. There are times when I fit into a UK size 6 but I like being an 8. When you get smaller than an 8, it is difficult to easily find clothes. I have no super model pretension and I do like my food. An 8 suits me and my lifestyle. The equivalent US sizes are a 10 (12 if you listen to my daughter) and a 2/4 (depending).  As a side note when I first moved to the UK, the equivalency was UK sizes were one number bigger, now they are 2.
I have been able to maintain this while eating what I want. I have found my eating habits have changed and I now eat far more fresh fruits and vegetables. And something has to be worth eating if it is unhealthy. I also eat very little processed food as I don't particularly care for it. I eat far less cheese and don't drink milk. I do eat more Greek yoghurt. And I really limit my salt intake. I eat far less bread  than I used to. I no longer have the cravings for it. Having a bit of gluten/wholegrain in my diet does help my digestion and I dislike the thought of forbidding anything. It is more about how my body feels and if the food is worth eating. Underpinning everything is the before breakfast exercise.
I recently went through a stage of incredible physical hunger and have decreased my dance cardio to 30 min 6x week. I had been doing 60 min. I also walk the dogs and garden. Decreasing the cardio means that my appetite is now back under control. Some people would have easily lost more weight but at a certain level, I love my food and kept needing to eat.
For a number of levels of TAM I have been using weights once I can do all the reps, however with the last few levels of C1.2, we were supposed to wear the weights all the time and I found it hard. With the start of C1.3 and the ball, there are no weights. I decided to experiment and am keeping off the weights (unless Tracy has them on). The slight bulking I saw in my calves, thighs and abs has gone down and I am really concentrating on hitting the cross vectors. I am also sweating far more.
  I have also started repeating the arms and abs as it is permissable. With the leg lifts, because sequencing is important, you can add extra reps but you don't want to repeat them. This feels like a more complete workout.
The net results is that my body is in better shape than it has ever been. Unrecognisable to what it was last year!  I now have a bottom which is an asset instead of a behind. It no longer flows in my thighs or drops. My arms are fab and my back is great. My c-section overhang remains but I am working on it. (Hence the repeating of the abs), I think it is mostly loose skin. One of the great things is that I now know that truly redesigning your body does take time. It doesn't happen overnight. You can get great results but to get the last bits, you need to realy get in there and work.
Exercise for me has become like brushing my teeth -- something that I just do. It doesn't have to be enjoyable. I just do it. My mood always lifts and one surprising upshot has been that I have not beeen seriously ill for the last year.
My flexibility and strength have all increased. I feel far more empowered to do things. I know I can cope with various challenges that TAM throws up and therefore it is easier to cope, to be proactive rather than reactive or trying to ignore things.
I am very pleased that TAM came into my life and look forward to the next year.

Friday, August 24, 2012

New major Viking tv drama

I just found out that the people behind the Borgias and the Tudors are doing a tv series on the Vikings starring Travis Fimmell.
The drama focuses on Ragnar the Hairy Breeches  who is a semi-legnedary figure from around 850. Ironically, he was orginally based in the approximate area where I am currently writing. And the Viking book that was accepted back in Januaray but still does not have a publication date is set in England in 874 and is about the aftermath of the invasion by his 3 sons. The sons were responsible for the capture of York on All Saints Day in 866 as well as invading Ireland and taking over East Anglia. They apparently did a blood eagle of Aella the man who was responsible for murdering their father. There had been a bloody civil war raging in Northumbria at the time.
The term Hairy Breeches refers for a pair of trousers Ragnar wore and were impervious to weapons and poisons.(extra thick fur, dipped in pitch and then rolled in sand) They were created by his first wife. His first wife is really interesting as she is reupted to have been the daughter of a desposed king and brought up by a simple family. She was supposed to be exceptionally intelligent and a very good strategist. When Ragnar attempted to set her aside, she promised him that she'd show him the truth with the child she carried. That son (who did not go raiding but defended the lands at home) was Sigurd the Snakeeye as one of his eyes had the image of a snake running about his outer iris.
As with anything Norse, there is a ton of adventure, violence and sex so given the company's track record, it will be a good match.
It is good that Vikings are back and cool once more.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Kate Hardy's 50 book celebrations

My very dear friend, Kate Hardy has just published her 50th book with Harlequin. Her first was published in 2002 so that is incredible.
I have burnt dinner because of her books and every time a new book comes out, it does go to the top of the TBR pile.
Anyway, to celebrate this wonderful achievement, she has invited a number of her friends to do blogs. My blog is up today and if you leave a comment there, I am giving away a signed copy of His Unsuitable Viscountess.
Friend are very precious and friends who are writers even more so. I bless the day Kate Hardy came into my life.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mills and Boon celebrates Team GB Olympic success

 One thing I have been very aware over the past two weeks is how big the Olympics have loomed  at the Mills & Boon office. There have been various pictures appearing on Pinterest of various editors cheering on the Olympics (they are being shown live) and an improvised medal tally on one of the pillars.
So when Mills and Boon announced an up to 70% off sale on 100 titles of print and ebooks combined to celebrate the success I wasn't surprised. The offer is only good for 24 hours and only good at, rather than on their mobile site apparently. But it is a chance to pickup some bargains of books people might have missed. The Viking Captive Princess is in the sale with a price of £1.49. I think it is for the ebook only as I believe the print edition was remaindered some time ago.
But there are some good bargains to be had. The UK print version of Donna Alward's rita nominated book --How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart is available for £1.49. And Kate Walker's The Devil and Miss Jones can be had for £0.99  You can see the full list here.
But the offer ends at 12 noon on 13 August 2012.

I am looking forward to the closing ceremony. I have spent FAR too long watching the Olympics and so have been making sure my words are done before I start having anything to do with the Olympics. My deadlines looms (and I want to be free and clear to enjoy my holiday at the end of September!)

Monday, August 06, 2012

Scandali e Matrimoni Giveaway

To Marry A Matchmaker is out in Italian this month. And for once I have my authors copies in a timely fashion. So I am doing a giveaway on Goodreads for a signed copy. It is open to people living in Italy, the US, Australia, Canada and the UK. I figure that there are Italian communities in those countries and someone might like to read it in Italian.

Inghilterra, 1848 - Lady Henrietta Thorndike nasconde la propria solitudine divertendosi a recitare la parte di Cupido, e benché spesso le sue vittime l'accusino di interferire nella loro vita, lei preferisce vedere la propria attività come un modo per aiutare il prossimo. Robert Montemorcy, tuttavia, sa che questo deve finire. La sua giovane protetta, Sophie, è infatti appena sfuggita a una situazione compromettente e l'ultima cosa di cui ha bisogno è di essere coinvolta nei complotti matrimoniali dell'intraprendente gentildonna. Così, per arginare l'esuberanza di Lady Henrietta, le propone una scommessa. Senza immaginare che così facendo rischia di perdere anche il cuore.

You see more about the book here on the Eharmony website. It is also available as an ebook in Italian wherever ebooks are sold.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Scandali e Matrimoni by Michelle Styles

Scandali e Matrimoni

by Michelle Styles

Giveaway ends August 24, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Cover for Hattie Wilkinson Meets Her Match

This morning's inbox brought the cover for Hattie.
Once again, the dress is not exactly Regency but I love the colour! (NB I have given up hoping for an absolutely accurate dress and now go on -- would I like to wear that dress. Answer yes.)
it releases in November.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Article at SBTB or the research behind His Unsuitable Viscountess

I have long been a fan of Smart Bitches Trashy Books. Several weeks ago I contacted Sarah Wendell about His Unsutiable Viscountess and explained about some of the research I had done. Sarah asked me to write an article for SBTB and I was happy to do so.
You can read the result here.
I really do hope more people are inspired to do more research on this unresearched area and also to write Regency novels which feature as businesswomen as heroines. They did exist! And sometimes it feels like they are air brushed from history.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Release Day for His Unsuitable Viscountess

His Unsuitable Viscountess is available as an e-book wherever e-books are sold in the North America and the UK. (I  am not sure what it means for the rest of the world -- if you are reading the book in English)
One I have noticed is that the ebook market is growing and that more and more people download their books, particularly romance. I know I do. There remain some books that I buy as print but often with romance I want that immediate hit. (It also means that I don't get comments from my sons or husband). It is funny how men can be intimdated by a woman reading a book for escapism. I certainly never remark on my eldest's penchant for reading guys with gear who go books. My daughter who received a kindle for Christmas also said that she downloads most of her romance. She also said that she is starting to realise that there is a difference between a cheap book and a good one. Simply being free or inexpensive is no guarantor of quality. She tends to use the sample function much more. I will admit to doing the same. It has saved me time. For example I recently read 50 Shades of Grey to see what the fuss was about. (Little Red Riding Hood trope with magic hooha, and a very Harold Robbins/Taylor Caldwell/1970's approach to sensual scenes -- good point one man/one woman. NB I read a lot of that genre in my early teens as I used to borrow the books from my brother who got them off a friend.) I downloaded the samples for the next two and decided that I had read enough. The time scale was far too short and the hero turned me off. I didn't like the emotional games he was playing. And you know that is fine and my opinion. Other people have obviously really enjoyed the remainder of the trilogy.
The one thing that struck me was that like Twilight (yes I know 50 shades started as fan fiction), and The Da Vinci Code, it was a very easy read.When you want escapist ficiton, you want an easy way in. You want it to hold your attention. It is about engaging the reader and making them want to read on. EL James has obviously engaged a lot of readers and this is good. Many of them may not have recently read a book but picked this one up because of the furore surrounding it. (One wonders if the New York media types who started it ever read Erica Jong or Harold Robbins) It is about time people realised that you can get  a wonderful experience from reading that you can't necessarily get from other forms of media and if it gets people into reading so much the better.

I am at Hot Pink Typewriter with a giveaway of a signed copy of HUV to one commentator.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Finer details make a difference.

My sister went and saw my brother's Aids quilt. Finally they told her where it was displayed.  She was able to see the finer detail of my brother's quilt.  We had both only see photos that my cousin took before, so were unaware of  the finer detail. (or perhaps I had forgotten)
For example, I didn't know that my sister and I were mentioned in the cloud next to the rainbow.  Or that his partner's name is stitched on the flag at the top of the sailboat. Or that the tree had *Uncle Eric* stitched on it. He was close to his partner's niece and nephew, but he was  also very proud of being a proper uncle to my son. He died before I became pregant with my daughter or indeed before my sister married, but he would have adored all his nieces and nephews.
It is the finer detail that makes the quilt. My brother would not have necessarily approved of the fabric choice but he would have approved of the sentiment and in the end, the sentiment is the most important thing.

The same is true for writing. It is the little details that bring a story to life. It helps to create the awe moment. Or the little bit that you remember. Or the bit that brings a character to life.

My editor had given me her thoughts on my latest Viking. Some work needs to be done, but I needed her eye to see it. She is right in her assessment and it goes straight to the finer detail.

Now comes the hard part -- the writing of the full. But I need to remember the detail makes it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How old is the bra?

A recent find in an Austrian castle is aparently set to rewrite fashion history. Basically they have discovered two bras and a couple of pairs of skimpy string briefs which date from pre 1480 when the castle was extended. Prior to this the earliest date for a bra was the early 18th century, according to the article.
However, if you know your Roman mosiacs, you will know about the bikini mosiacs in Sicily. Roman women were certainly wearing garments which were skimpy!
It does make sense that women wore skimpy briefs, particularly at the TOM when they had a need for padding.  less washing and less potential for mess. As fashion history did not become popular/a serious object for study until the mid 20th century (the main driver was the movie industry), and mostly intimate garments were tossed rather than preserved, it makes sense that we do have a huge gap in our knowledge. People would not be comfortable talking about the subject, particularly in eras when even a glimpse of an ankle was shocking, so why would they keep those types of garments?
With bras, or over the shoulder suport, again it doesn't surprise me. Women are practical. I suspect over the centuries many different forms of suport were used. If you look at the history of undergarments in the late 19th century and early 20 th century (the sample size is large), the sort of undergarment required is dictated by the shape the woman wished to have. If you have a decollete with off the shoulder sleeves, you are going to need under the bust support, for example. The shape of the bust has changed as well. The pigeon breast of the 1890s and Edwardian age gave way to the flatness of the Flapper and eventually you get the pointed bras of the 1950s.
You can see the shape women have today is dictated to a certain extent by spanx and other support clothing.
The bra comes into its own with the advent of elastic. To make a correct fitting and comfortable bra without elastic is a highly technical job. Far easier to push them up sort of thing.
But it is one of those things, we can only have an educated guess about what Viking women or medieval women wore under thier clothes.
I also suspect that if I suddenly have my  Viking heroines wearing bras and skimpy briefs all the time, readers will complain or be drawn out of the story.  But it is something to be aware of certainly.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hattie Wilkinson Meets her Match blurb

My editor sent through the blurb for my November release:

In the eyes of the ton Hattie Wilkinson is a respectable widow, content with her safe, if somewhat modest life.

On the other hand Sir Christopher Foxton prides himself on being regarded as one of London’s most notorious rakes, with a particularly mischievous streak!

Upon their first meeting Kit threatens to shatter Hattie’s well-ordered peace—and her reputation!—if only she’ll allow herself to succumb to his playful advances. This time they’ve both finally met their match…

I also discovered that Richard and Sophie are pencilled in for a April 13 release. The Viking which was accepted in January is being held until the 2nd half of 2013 because it makes more sense  to release it after Richard and Sophie as I shall be doing Vikings here on out for Harlequin.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Buckfast bees arrive

My youngest's birthday present emitting a continual buzzing and occassional annoyed buzz is currently sitting in my study, wating for the rain to stop. They were in the hallway but I decided, there was less likelihood of accident if they were removed to my study. Accidents at this stage are devotedly to be avoided!
A nucleus of Buckfast bees from Fragile planet.came via the post.
The postman delivered them very gingerly and scurried off after he got my signature. He warned me NOT to open the package inside.
As luck would have it, my youngest is off in the Lakes  so it fall to me to get them settled in their new home. I suspect they have some feed. The Queen is currently caged but by the time I release them, the bees should have eaten through the candy to her.
They need to sit with the entrance untaped for 24 hours (or so) next to the hive which will become thier home. Then provided tomorrow evening is dry, I can move the frames into the hive and feed them with a sugar syrup solution. All perfectly straight forward (provided the rain stops!).
Right now though, I have a buzzing in my ears. I know they can't escape but the possibility is rather unnerving.
The rain stopped. I carried the bees down to the bee garden, loosened the top of the box so I can get the frames out tomorrow evening. Unblocked the entrance and the bees poured out. Slightly unnerving so I was pleased I had my bee suit on. Still stage one is done. Tomrrow evening (provided it is dry) will be stage 2  -- moving the frames to the brood box, feeding and then closing up.
Fingers crossed here.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Volunteering and the YHA

My daughter left today for a four week stint at the Wastwater Youth Hostel as a volunteer. She has taken advantage of the YHA's student placement scheme. She gets valauble work experience plus room and board in one of the prettier YHA locations. She will be doing a wide variety of jobs (general skivvy I think but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!) It will get her out of the house this summer. She learnt about the scheme through her university.
The YHA run a wide variety of volunteering programmes. You can read about them here.  Student placments tend to last 4 - 8 weeks, but shorter stints are available.
I hope she has a great time and learns a lot about herself as well as what goes into making a venture like that a success.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Tracy Anderson Method Day 241

Today was the start of C1.2 L7 (day 242 of Meta) or the level affectionately known as shock and ow! Lots of twisting of hips. I can do the exercises but I was bathed in fairy dust. The plank at the end is easier in ways than the kick and rollup to a higher kick plank of the last level.  You have to hand it to Tracy. She keeps coming up new ways to challenge your muscles.
The twisting of the hips will be in part to loosen the hip flexors. Many people have tight hip flexors. This in turn leads to a sway back and a pooch for a stomach. Good posture can make you look far better than you might think. It puts less pressure on your lower back. Even just stretching your hip flexors can help with posture.
I am hoping that that this level will really start attacking the remains of my love handles etc.
Resculpting your body does take time and there are still lumps and bumps that I don't like.
I know this is my persistently critical self talking but at least I feel like I am being proactive in combatting it.

I am over at Cheryl St John's blog today to help her celebrate 7 years of  blogging and 40 years of marriage! Cheryl is a fellow Historical author whose books I loved before I was published. She writes characters who entwined themselves about your heart strings. I am giving away a signed copy of His UNsuitable Viscountess to one person who comments on that blog as part of the celebrations.

The grand prize winner of the HH Summer Beach bag giveaway has been drawn. Kathryn M. She has been notified and all the authors are hoping that she gets in touch soon because they want to send the grand prize out!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Winner for A Taste of Northumbrian Summer Gift box 2012

I drew the winner this morning Susie K -- and she has been notified.
Many thanks to all who entered.

I do need to do a newsletter which will have another giveaway and I will be visiting a number of blogs in the coming weeks, plus there is the Goodreads giveaway so there are more chances to win a signed copy BEFORE  His Unsuitable Viscountess is officially published. If you can't wait, both and will be selling print and ebook copies starting on 1 July. The kindle and Nook versions won't be availabe until 1 August.

In other news:
We had a tremendous thunder storm yesterday afternoon. The Tyne Bridge got hit by lightening. Search -- youtube lightening strike tyne bridge as several people captured the dramatic incident.
The A69 was closed for a time.  Hopefully the rain will stop soon.
My youngest long await Buckfast bee colony will now not be delivered until the 10th as the weather has been too extreme and the colonies are not building the way they want them too.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The AIDS quilt and my family

Yesterday my sister went to the Mall in Washington DC to see if she could find my brother's panel.
My brother died of AIDS in 1992 (hard to believe it has been nearly 20 years). He was 30.
AIDS was not a fashionable illness then, anything but. People I knew told me that I would never have to speak of him and that I shouldn't tell my children about him. (I declined to take their advice btw) It was before various celebrities became involved and started championing it. It was before Tom Hanks was in Philadelaphia.Before Freddie Mercury died.  Before many things.
Eric was the first person really to listen to my stories  and always knew that I would become a writer.  He believed in my ability long before I had the courage to write my stories down.
I don't speak about him often as it is an old wound and private. Like any relationship, we had ups and downs but he was my older brother and I loved him.  Besides they don't tattoo things like that on your forehead and I hated seeing pity in people's eyes or having to explain or... Plus I know he would want me to live my life to the full and in order to do that you do have to put your past behind you. You have to live in the moment.
I have not seen the panel as it was done by friends of my brother.   My mother adores sewing. It is something she has always done but she felt these friends needed to make the panel more.She knew that my sister, her and me would carry Eric in our hearts. (My father died shortly before my brother found out he was ill).
My brother's panel is not out on the Mall  but will be displayed somewhere in Washington later this summer. The quilt is way too big to be displayed all in one place any more. The last time was 1996. I know my sister will find it and honour our brother.
My sister was interviewed about the quilt by National Public Radio for All Things Considered. When I listened, I started crying. You can listen here. It takes a couple of minutes. I am very pleased and proud that my sister consented to be interviewed.
It is good that there is a quilt and people can look at it and see the toll and very real human cost of this disease. They can also see that people who died of this terrible disease were more than just names but living beings with interests and families and friends who loved them.
If you happen to see the AIDS quilt panel 3602, that is my brother Eric Phifer's -- just know that he was loved. He had huge potential and it was very much a life cut short. Which is all you can really say about most of the victims of AIDS.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Goodreads giveaway for His Unsuitable Viscountess

Goodreads Book Giveaway

His Unsuitable Viscountess by Michelle Styles

His Unsuitable Viscountess

by Michelle Styles

Giveaway ends July 28, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win
I am also giving away 5 copies of His Unsuitable viscountess through Goodreads.

My authors copies have just arrived!

HH Summer Beachbag Giveaway

Today is my day and the prize is a Taste of Northumbrian Summer 2012. (Will there be a summer this year I have to wonder? All it seems to have done is rain and rain some more. )  The box includes my latest His Unsuitable Viscountess (suitable reading even on rainy days  -- to published in August but I am sending one of my author copies) a tea towel with UK bunting on it (after we have had the Jubilee and there is the Olympics to look forward to!), biscuits, a  Jubilee mug (which my daughter actually approves of!) and some fruit tea. (total retail value £25)
All entries will go forward to the Grand prize draw of a Kindle fire (or top Kindle in your country). The grand prize draw takes place on 29 June and the winner of my Taste of a Northumbrian Summer will be drawn then as well.

To enter send the answer to the following question:
In what year does His Unsuitable Viscountess take place? Hint read the excerpt (if it doesn't load try this as an alternative)
Void where prohibited.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Do major secondary characters need character arcs

Laura C asked a question in the comments about what happens when the heroine is the protagonist and hero rather than operating as a co-protagonists operates as a major secondary. Does he have to have a character arc?

I would argue that if two characters are involved in a life changing romance, both of them had best change. If the hero is acting as a major secondary, he might not have as dramatic curve but he will have a character arc. If he can successfully take part in the final climatic scene at the end of the story as the same person he was at the beginning, you don't have a story. Any time you are involved in an emotional relationship, you are changed in some fashion.
Perfection in a character is boring. Imperfection makes more interesting characters. What is your secondary's flaw? What are his fears? Why can't he be with the heroine at the start? What lesson is he going to learn from her?  How are you goign to show that he has learnt the lesson and is worthy of the changed heroine's love?

If you look at Romancing the Stone, Jack does change through out the story. He wants to become a better man. He doesn't steal the map from Joan. He is no longer involved simply for the money. He is not the main POV character but he does change and he does decide to invite Joan onto his yacht or rather to share the adventure of his life. He needs her in his life.
Joan has changed the most but Jack has also changed.

If you look at Casablanca, Rick changes the most but Ilsa also changes.  They both in their own ways put Paris from them and then have been able to recapture that.

The amount of change a character has to go through depends on the character. the protagonist of a story should always go through the most change, but if it is a romance which forms the spine of the story, then both characters should change. Or otherwise what is preventing the non changing character from having his or her HEA?  The change can be small. It may be that the character learns they need the protagonist in their life to be complete bu they should change.

I hope this makes sense.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Foxes and ducks

The fox had two more ducks when I was away. This has meant a frenzy of activity in the garden. We are trying to make the fox wary.
The ducks have stopped their Late Night Party activities and are being sensible ducks. They are now going to bed before the hens. Amazing.
2 ducks are now sitting on nests. Unfortunately not in the duck houses...they have chosen spots close to the house where their scent should be confused with dog and people. I am hopeful. It all depends if they are good sitters or not. The one who has been sitting the longest has a good track record. But will she outwit the fox?
It would be good to get yellow ducklings as all of our white ducks have now been fox food.

The other plus side is the garden is looking much tidier.

Unfortunately it means I have not been doing as much work on my current ms as I would like. It will get there. It is hard to totally redo a manuscript and kill your darlings (ie phrases you really like but are no longer working)
I have also been thinking about my next Viking. I think I know what I want to write. I am beginning to get a handle on the motiviations and theme. Always good.

The Harlequin Historical Summer Beachbag giveaway continues. It is Terri Brisbin's day today.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Gladiator's Honor is an ebook

It totally went under my radar until now  but Harlequin released The Gladiator's Honor as an ebook awhile ago. It is not available in the UK as an ebook, but in the US, it is. Anyway, it made me happy.

You can get it from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or any ebook supplier.

I am at the Pink Heart Society talking about Berlin (with more pictures) today.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

More Berlin

Here are a couple more photos that readers took. It was after the signing.
I forgot to say that the lovely ladies from Realm on Our Bookshelves brought me a really sweet present -- a little delft figurine and some chocolate. The figurine now sits on the mantelpiece in my study. And another lady gave me a stuffed alligator or maybe it was a crocodile.  Anyway, it was the people who made this conference and the readers had such big hearts. There was just such a great atmosphere that I am still in awe of it.
I am planning on going next year and have asked if I can do a workshop -- maybe something to do with Vikings. Fingers crossed.

I have finished reading the The Hunger Games trilogy and now need to see the movie. I started reading it to relax from the conference and couldn't stop! I simply inhaled all three books. I do like those sorts of books. It was just really fun.  And of course because I was reading on a kindle, I couldn't flip to the end and see. I did cry during Mockingjay. I love the whole real or not real and always. Luckily my eldest has arrived home and he has read them all. I can discuss them with him. I shall get my daughter to read the books as well...

However, reading about Katniss and Peeta is not getting my book written. I need to get it done so I can start the Viking on 1 July. I know the characters for the Viking btw. The hero is very determined about his name as is the heroine. Two strong willed characters are good in theory. In practice, the writing can get tough.  But I am starting to play around with the theme. Dara Marks made some interesting observations and I think it makes sense to me now why Shackled went through with so few revisions. It has to do with getting the theme right and making the conflict wedded to the theme. But this one is going to be an experiment to see if I am right.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Love Letter Conference recap

When I went to Berlin and the Loveletter magazin conference, I am not sure what I expected. What  I hand not realised was how warm, generous and open hearted the mainly German readers were.
It was crazy but oh so much fun.
My experience started with a botched manicure. A trainee asked me in the departure lounge if I wanted one. I chose scarlet. It look beautiful. Unfortunately she told me her mother was a M&B fanatic and I dove into my bag for a book, forgetting I had wet nails. Smudging resulted. No time to repair. I tried to remove it. My nails were lightly stained scarlet for the rest of the journey.
Spandau where the conference was held is lovely. It escaped bombing during WW2 and traces of the medieval city remain. My hotel was clean, functional and ideally placed -- right between the conference centre and where the gala dinner was held on Saturday night.
I walked about on Friday evening, soaking in the atmosphere.
At Saturday morning breakfast, I encountered a very lovely German translator. She does the translations for Sherry Thomas, Courtney Milan and a number of other historical authors. It was really interesting to hear how she tries to get the word play right  etc.
I then walked to the conference centre and encountered my friends from realms on Our Booksheleves. they have done reviews of my books in the past and I was so pleased to finally meet all of them in person. They are so much fun. After chatting with them, I went straight to work. First up a historical panel with Maya Banks and Lara Adrian. Sandy Schwab whom I've known online for years did the moderating as she speaks both German and English. We spoke about how we individually approach doing research. Both Maya and Lara only write medieval whereas I write in a number of time periods. The hall was packed. I also met a Cora editor (Bettina) whom I seen at breakfast who was very nice.
Unfortunately Cora editorial director was ill and so was not at the conference. She was supposed to do the next panel with Maya, Nalini Singh and me on series romance. Luckily I have done enough talks on HMB for libraries that talking about series and the HMB history did not bother me.  Bettina joined in from the audience and helped out. It was interesting to learn about the differences between some of the markets. Some things I already knew -- for example cowboys are not popular heroes in Europe. They are hugely popular in the US. Harlequin buys with a worldwide audience in mind and some books are more suitable to one market than another but there is always a broad range of books.
After that it was time for my first blind date. I had worried about these beforehand but should have saved my energy. The women were so totally lovely. I passed out some of my books and we just chatted. Several were real Downton Abbey fans and are totally excited about the upcoming continuity from HMB.
After that, it got crazy for awhile as people wanted me to sign their catalogues and kept coming up to talk to me about my shoes. Books and shoes were two recurring themes of my conference.
There was a v formal presentation from the Cora marketing people and it was amusing
I did a reading late in the day and again the small group was utterly charming.
Dinner was at the Zitadelle Cellars. The food was fantastic and company divine.
Sunday started with a panel on trends. I think the published authors were all of the same mind -- the only true trend is to write a story that engages the reader. If you hook thoroughly hook your reader and create a page turning read, you will find an audience. It is best to write with your heart.
Again a blind date where I met some lovely ladies. Later I played a favourite German word game -- City, Country, River where I met more wonderful readers.
My last duty was to sign books and my goodness did I sign. 140 books in little over an hour, plus bags, photographs, laminated covers including a cover of The Perfect Concubine.
After it was all over, I walked back to the hotel with another author. I thought I'd call home and have a bit of a rest before supper. I spoke to my husband and son, put the phone down, closed my eyes and woke up at 2 am  so no supper for me.
The thing which will linger long in my memory is the warmth and friendliness of the attendees. It was just so inspiring to see all these women (and a few men!) who love romance books.
I can't wait to go again next year. Kris Alice Hohls has promised another conference and I am so there. It was just a wonderful experience and I am so glad I went.