Current Release

Current Release
The Warrior's Viking Bride

Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions revisited

Right it is 31 Dec and I need to look at how well I did last year. The areas I looked at last year (surprise, surprise) are going to the ones I look at again:

1. Time management. My editor mentioned this one recently as well. So I do need to be more productive. I did learn about chunking my writing so this is good. But I do have a tendency to be scattered and I need to focus more on the things that earn me money when I am working. And when I am not working, I need to be there for my family. So certain things like some social networking is going to take a backseat for awhile.

2. Weight management -- my weight is finally going in the right direction. I discovered that eating starches do nothing for me. After the holidays, it is back to the diet and increasing the exercise. I liked throwing out fat pants! I would like to throw out more!

3. Improving my writing -- this is a mixed bag. I still get the same remarks from the editors...up the emotion, focus on the relationship, more sensuality etc. I also need to respect my process rather than going and searching for something new every time. I am talking to my editor in the new year and have several ideas on how I can proceed and what I want to write. Sometimes you do try things that don't quite work as well as they should.  It is about understanding my writing and how I work. Working smarter rather than harder.

Currently I am suffering from a bad cold and some things are going by the by until I am well!

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chapter 7 His Stand In Bride

Chapter 7 of His Stand In Bride -- The seduction is up. You can read it here.

Hopefully everyone had a great Christmas. Mine was quiet but good. However, the annual ritual of someone is ill has struck and we have been laid low by a cold/flu thing. I blame my youngest.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to all

The Times published a series of Victorian jokes this morning including What you think about the woman with a past? Answer At Christmas, she is most likely to be won by a man with a present.
It raised a smile here.

I hope everyone has a lovely Christmas and many thanks for reading my blog this year.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Contest winners

From the Historical advent calendar:
Samantha Leach wins the box of goodies

From my newsletter:

Amy Lam wins Breaking the Governess Rules.

My next newsletter goes out in the new year.

If any of the people I contacted about the mentor contest want to send their partial, I have a little bit of time. I think I am still waiting for 3 partials...

Monday, December 20, 2010

His Stand In Bride Ch 6 and my day for the HHA Advent Calendar

Chapter Six of His Stand In Bride can be read here.  Anne and Jason have left the wedding breakfast but each has their own idea of how the marriage will go.

Today is also my day to the Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar. You can see the full instructions on my website. Email contest@michellestyles.co.uk with the answer to What book is Diana Clare reading at the start of A Question of Impropriety. It is the third and final volume of... You can read the excerpt here. The draw takes place on 22 December. All entries go forward to the grand prize draw of the kindle 3-g.

I sent my revised, revised full into my editor this morning. Fingers crossed that she loves the changes...

It snowed in the night and so I shall be digging out the car. Christmas is coming and last minute things need to be done.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

From kittens to cats

It is hard to believe but we have had Heathcliff and Mr Darcy for a year. They have grown from tiny balls of fluff to cats with personality. Heathcliff is the cat most apt to edit my work. He comes and sits between me and the key board in over purr mode. In the evnings Heathcliff becomes Heat cliff and curls up by the fire. One hard glare from him and the dogs move over.
Mr Darcy is sleeker and elgant than his fluffy brother. He is far more likely to boss the dogs about and has no hestiation about nicking food from either Tess or Hardy. I suspect the collies know the size of his claws. They are both the alpha males in the pack.
I am currently working on my revisions and hoping that the book is getting better...It has to be...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chapter 5 of His Stand In Bride

Yes it is that time of the week so Chapter 5 of His Stand In Bride is up.It is during the wedding breakfast and how is Anne going to cope with people asking where Cressy is? For me, it is interesting to read the chapters as the last time I saw them, they were marked up with track changes and all the editorial notations. So I was a bit nervous about this chapter but it seems to read all right.


And because my copies for Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife have FINALLY arrived:


Goodreads Book Giveaway





Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife  (Historical Romance) by Michelle Styles



Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife


by Michelle Styles



Giveaway ends December 23, 2010.
See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.



Enter to win


Friday, December 10, 2010

Diversity in Christmas Carols-- Kate Rusby

Last night,  my daughter and I went to Kate Rusby's Christmas concert at the Sage, Gateshead.
It was a joyous occasion and Rusby's voice rang out.
Although we got her Sweet Bells Christmas album when it first came out in 2008, I hadn't really appreciated where her songs came from. Apparently in South Yorkshire there remains a tradition of carol singing or wassailing in pubs. The words might be familiar but the tunes aren't.  Personally I preferred some of Kate's tunes.
Sweet Bells (While Shepherds Watched their Flocks) is a song that gets in your head in a good way. It is now officially my youngest son's favourite carol ever.
The other joy of joys was that Kate has a new album out. As she explained, she should have had one out in Sept 09, but had baby instead. Her new husband is an accomplished musician and joined her on stage. The first song she sang from the album --Walk the Road had my daughter mouthing at me that this was a perfect song for my heroine. I agreed. Anyway, the songs she sang sound like vintage Kate, even though she has changed her musicians a bit (see above).
Kate did explain that her carols do mention Jesus but not Rudolph. Apparently at an earlier concert, someone had complained. As she explained -- she rather thought that Jesus in the manger was the whole point of Christmas and she made no apologies for singing traditional carols.
When she was on Songs of Praise, someone objected to the fact that she dared to show her knees on the show. Emailing in capital letters to complain. Otherwise, apparently people liked. She pointed out that last night her knees were covered.
So in case you haven't heard Sweet Bells --

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Revisions revisited

My very lovely editor was super quick and sent me her thoughts before she went on holiday. They are mostly tweaks and one scene/chapter that needs to be reimagined.When I attempted to complain to my daughter, my daughter (dedicated romance reader and supportor of editors that she is) said -- oh good, I never liked that bit. I am glad you are going to have to change it!

So it is back to the drawing board to get the revisions done before my editor returns.

It will be stronger. It can  be done.

I now know how things don't work.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Day 3 Unusual Historical Giveaway

The Day 3 Giveaway at Unusual Historical includes 3 books from me -- A Question of Impropriety, Impoverished Miss Convenient Wife and Breaking the Governess's Rules (hardback) plus a tea towel. I wanted something to mark the 4th anniversary bash...

Tomorrow I think my blog for the RT goes up. It is about having books sold in different countries...




Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Newsletter and contests

My newsletter has gone out today.On offer for readers of my newsletter are chances to win a Hardback of Breaking the Governess's Rules as well as a copy of Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Romance (the 3rd edition is just out)

Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance is one of the books that I always recommend to aspiring writers of series romance. The new edition provides up to date advice on writing for all of the series. Kate walker covers things like writing with emotion, the importance of the question why. Each chapter finishes with 12 questions to make you think deeper.
If you want to write series romance, you need to read this book. It really is as simple as that.
ISBN 9781842851289
You can get it from Amazon or Book Depository. Make sure it is the 3rd edition.

I turned in my revised full yesterday so it is back to wiaitng to see what my editor thinks. I need to get on with the next one etc etc.

Monday, December 06, 2010

His Stand In Bride -- chapter 4 live

Chapter 4 aka the  wedding is up at eharlequin.  I enjoyed writing the chapter. Although many years an agent once said to me that weddings should be uncomfortable and cause tension unless they are part of the HEA. They need to do something more than simply be a wedding. Words I have taken to heart.

It is Deb Marlowe's turn with the Harlequin Historical advent calendar. Her latest How to Marry a Rake sounds fab.

My revisions should go into today. I am doing a last read over. Something that one of my editor taught me as I tend to miss words etc, and right on cue, I find I have. ARGH!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

3 book giveaway on Unusual Historical

Today I am at Unusual Historical talking about my latest releases on both sides of the Atlantic and all 3 books are up for grabs.  It is open to anyone around the world, void where prohibited.

Next week, there is all sorts planned at UH as we celebrate our anniversary. I believe there are something like 61 different books on offer. I am giving a Northumberbrian prize for that one. http://unusualhistoricals.blogspot.com/

And the Harlequin Historical Advent calendar is on going. Today is Elizabeth Rolls's turn http://www.elizabethrolls.com/

In other news:
Still working on the final touches of my revisions. They go in before my editor gets into work tomorrow!

The snow and ice remains.
Normal service will resume soonish.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Giveaways and IMCW on sale

The Harlequin Historical Author Calendar Giveaway starts today with a grand prize of a Kindle 3-g. Visit Lynna Banning to enter her contest for 2 signed books and chocolates.

Impoverished Miss Convenient Wife is on sale today at  eharlequin. It won the Cataromance Mills and Boon historical of the year 2009.
His unexpected bride…




Wealthy landowner Simon Clare shuns Northumbrian society. With his son gravely ill, the last thing Simon needs is an interfering woman assuming command of his household and nursing young Robert – no matter how sensuous her figure, or how tempting her luscious lips.


Phoebe Benedict knows what it is to struggle, and finds herself drawn to the badly scarred recluse. Despite his tough exterior, she knows that Simon is a father who yearns for his son to recover – and a man who misses the tender embrace of a woman

 You can read an excerpt here.


My newsletter will go out at the weekend. It will have details on how to win a copy of my new hardback Breaking the Governess's Rules (out as hardback in January and paperback in March) as well as the latest edition of Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. Kate kindly sent me a copy and I want to reward my newsletter subscribers.

In other  news:
Still snowed in. And working on my revisions.  They will be done by 3 December and I have discovered lots about the book.
Reading SEP while keeping her workshop in mind has been a great help and has provided a lot of insight as well as hugely enjoyable reading.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chapter 3 of His Stand In Bride up

The third chapter of His Stand Bride is up. You can read it here.

In other news:
Lots and lots of snow around so the school is closed and both children are home.
I have revisions and want to get them done.

I am currently glomming Susan Elizabeth Phillips and can thoroughly recommend her. I adored the workshop she gave at the RWA and thought I ought to read her. She is excellent and her work is providing insight.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

US cover for Impoverish Miss, Convenient Wife

The cover for the US edition of Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife is now up on eharlequin. It is the same picture as the UK edition. I happen to like it.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I have my Christmas carols on and am doing the Thanksgiving dinner for tonight. It is one of the US traditions that I insisted we keep when I moved to the UK. There is always a lot of be thankful for.
My health, my family's health, having a roof over our heads and the fact that I get to write stories that I love. I am blessed with my family and friends -- both old and new.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chapter 2 of His Stand In Bride

Chapter 2 of His Stand In Bride is up.  I would be interested to hear what you think.

The first stage of my mentor contest is now closed. Any hook paragraphs now submitted will not read or commented on.

I will send out little critiques by the end of this week to everyone who entered as well as letting the five people who get their first 3 chapters critiqued know.  As I am also working on my revisions, I thank everyone for their patience.

Many thanks to all who took the time to enter. Every single one of you has talent and it is how you best showcase that talent which is the important factor.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Goodreads giveaway of Viking's Captive Princess

After the success of the A Question Of Impropriety  Goodreads giveaway, I am doing another giveaway through Goodreads. This time for The Viking's Captive Princess.


Goodreads Book Giveaway





The Viking's Captive Princess (Mills & Boon Historical) (Histori... by Michelle Styles



The Viking's Captive Princess (Mills & Boon Historical)


by Michelle Styles



Giveaway ends November 30, 2010.
See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.



Enter to win


And by popular request, I included a few more countries in the giveaway. At the moment once I get my author copies for Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife, I plan to do another Goodreads giveaway and if your country isn't listed, let me know and I will try (but can't make any promises...)

Currently thinking about revisions and how I am going to make the changes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Interview at Joanna St James's blog

Joanna St James asked me nicely about doing her  an interview  for her blog and I was delighted to accept the challenge. The results are up there now.
There is a copy of A Question of Impropriety up for grabs and I'll be stopping to answer questions when I take a break from thinking about the revisions and deciding how I will tackle them.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Perfect Concubine -- Roman Undone

The Roman Undone has a title -- A Perfect Concubine which encapsulates the story very well. It will come out in February 2011.

The revisions for my latest one have also hit. My editor does like to push and inspire her authors but I feel really energised by her suggestions.  Normal service of this blog will resume AFTER I get the revisions done.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

First glimpse of Breaking the Governess's Rules cover

Yesterday the UK hardback version of Breaking the Governess's Rules arrived. It is loosely linked to Compromising Miss Milton and the hardback comes out in January.  I love the feel of the cover but the costume is wrong. Some day, I will get an Early Victorian cover for an Early Victorian set novel!
The blurb reads:
‘How delightful to meet you again, Miss Louisa Sibson.’



Jonathon Lord Chesterholm’s eyes bored holes into Louisa Sibson’s back. The former fiancée he’s thought dead is very much alive…


Louisa has rebuilt her life, after being dishonourably dismissed from her post as governess for allowing Jonathon to seduce her. Now Louisa lives by a rulebook of morals and virtue—the devastating Lord Chesterholm will not ruin her again!


But Jonathon will get to the bottom of Louisa’s disappearance – and he’ll enjoy breaking a few of her rules along the way…
I will get an excerpt up for my next newsletter which will go out 1 December. No prizes for guessing what the Reader's giveaway will be!
I am blogging today at Tote Bags about writing the Online serial His Stand In Bride and some of the challenges I faced.

Monday, November 15, 2010

His Stand In Bride -- up on eharlequin

The first chapter of His Stand In Bride is up now on Eharlequin. A new chapter goes up every week until 3 January. You can acces the whole thing from here.

The blurb reads:

Tyne Valley, 1813


When her sister eloped with someone other than her betrothed, Lady Anne Dunstan knew two things. One, that she completely supported her sister's making her own choice about who she would marry. And two, that Anne—the responsible one—would have to clean up the mess
What she didn't know was how her sister's intended, Jason Martell, would take the news. Or how Anne would respond to the force of his presence, his rugged good looks, his less-than-gentlemanly advances.
Or to his proposal of marriage.

Anyway, I really enjoyed writing it and I am anxious to see how people like it...There is going to be a thread on eharlequin for discussing the story and I will be happy to answer any questions.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Good Reads Giveaway of A Question of Impropriety

Goodreads is giving away 5 signed copies of A Question of Impropriety (ends 18 Nov)


Goodreads Book Giveaway





A Question of Impropriety (Mass Market Paperback) by Michelle Styles



A Question of Impropriety


by Michelle Styles



Giveaway ends November 18, 2010.
See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.



Enter to win


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Perfect Pawz and Hardy

Hardy completed his Obedience Level 2 training last night, getting a gold envelope with his certificate for his trouble. (He refrained from eating it as he once had done with his discharge papers from the vets)  And while he is not perfect (yet) he is much more under control and well on his way towards getting better manners. 
Anna Bradley who runs Perfect Pawz has been absolutely brilliant with her advice about how to get him to stop pulling so much and how to work with him instead of against him. I really like her training ethos. Lots of treats and praise. Behaviour Modification. She is currently working towards her kennel club accreditation and will become the only trainer in the North East to have it.
It was great to see how well all the dogs in the class performed under her guidance. Last night, I suddenly realised that Hardy was not the worst behaved and that ALL the dogs had their unique quirks. Poppy the Boxer who would not recall, Midge who won't sit and stay and Kobie who just wants to play and turn over on his back. Hardy simply likes to pull and refuses to heel. Hardy is brilliant on stay and can do recalls. It is going to take time and working with the walking on diagonals but after one week of trying this, I can already see a difference.
Anyway,  Perfect Pawz covers the Tynedale, and Newcastle area and is based in Hexham Auction Mart. The classes are small and Anna takes the time to talk to everyone about their dog. The dogs really seem to respond to her. If you are looking for an excellent trainer in this area, do consider contacting Perfect Pawz.

I know I am glad I did. And Hardy did enjoy himself (particulary the high value treats of sweet chilli and port sausage) One great tip was to have a variety of treats and move up or down the scale depending on how  Hardy was responding.

Perfect Pawz runs a variety of courses and Hardy may yet go on another one...

IN OTHER NEWS:
My Roman Undone has finally been scheduled. February 2011. Title to be decided. But hooray!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rules and Story

When it comes to Story and rules -- there is one cardinal rule -- The Story Rules All.  The Rules don't rule the Story.
Get your mind around that and you can see why certain published authors are able to *break* so many cardinal rules. Their story telling talent is such that they are able to hold readers in the palm of their hand and make them turn the page. And when they have finished, the reader wants to read MORE.
It is one of the big problems with writing, particularly when you are learning to work with your voice and talent  -- how do you showcase your talent.
You can write a story that follows all the rules but feels flat and someone else can write something that on the face of it should not work but does and works really well.
The question becomes why.
And the technical answer is that it has a lot to do with how the micro tension is presented and how questions arise in a reader's mind. The reader needs to want to turn the pages.
The non technical answer is : A lot of writing is instinctual and therefore impossible to give an exact paint by numbers. It works because it works and the author has made the reader care.
Can writing be taught? Or can talent merely be honed?
Some of it is about learning the why behind the best practice and understanding how things work but still loving the mystery of the process. A good exmple is a rainbow -- I understand why a rainbow happens and what it is made up of, but I still get a thrill every time I see one. I still appreciate the beauty of it and I look for rainbows whenever I can.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Blogging at PHS

Today I am blogging at the Pink Heart Society about Mallorca and how it provided me with the epiphany that not only did I want to write, I wanted to write for HMB. If you have never been, it is a great island to visit and offers so much more than simply high rise appartments and badly designed resorts...

I managed to get an eye infection and so have been spending time away from the computer. Golden eye ointment works. However, it does need to be a new tube and you throw it away once the infection clears up.

Thankfully I am waiting on my revisions and simply doing the self-imposed ones for the very nice agent I met in Orlando. I do have time.

The weather here is dreadful and we have had to put the central heating on...

Friday, November 05, 2010

Good writing books

A couple days ago an aspiring author asked me for a few recommendations of good writing books as I had sent back a critique highlighting a few things like Show, don't tell and Resist the Urge to Explain also 1+1 = 1/2.

How did I know these things? the aspiring author asked as her critique partners had never really highlighted them before.

Short answer is through reading how to books.

I divide my how to books in several categories.

First there are the writing romance books -- my go to books here are Leslie Wainger Writing Romance for Dummies and Kate Walker's 12 step guide (3rd edition coming out soon!)  Do not underestimate how much is actually in this genre and how rusty you can become on the basics! I did and had the serious revisions to prove it.

Then there are the books on structure:

Robert McKee Story  (almost of  the Harlequin editors have attended his seminar)

Blake Snyder Save the Cat
Donal Swain Techniques of the Selling Writer 

Then there are the books on editing

Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King -- This is a great primer on explaining about things like Show Don't tell, Easy Physical beats, Resisting the Urge to Explain and why 1+1 = 1/2. They also explain why an adverb isn't necessarily your friend. I like knowing the WHY behind the practice. You can know about a rule but if you don't know the theory behind it, you won't why it works when you break it.

The Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon -- it is excellent and full of helpful advice on creating 3 d characters

And the Donald Maass books -- Writing the Break Out Novel plus workbook and The Fire in Fiction. he is brilliant on creating mirco tension and looking for low tension traps. Plus identifying points of change in a scene and really making them standout.

I do read other ones but those are my go to library as it were. 

Above all though it is important to look at the Doughnut (the story) instead of the hole.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Newsletter and Hook Paragraph contest

My newsletter went out yesterday with details of my  Hook Paragraph contest...It is ONLY for my newsletter subscribers. My newsletter is free but I do like to reward them.

Trenda emailed and asked if this contest was open to published authors. My only stipulation is that people are newsletter subscribers. In the normal course of events, I would expect pubilshed authors to be working with their editors. However, I do understand some people sell to very small press and wish to see if they can improve...I would emphasize - -I am only an author and as it is MY contest, it is MY choice.

  Loads of things in this business are subjective. I learnt that in the last year when I changed editors and suddenly could understand some of the things I had been doing wrong. It can be the way people put them.

The desire to write shows you have talent. How you utilise that talent is up to you.
I heard neil Diamond speak on Jools Holland recently  and he was asked how anyone becomes a song writer these days . He said -- Same as it always has been -- passion and persistence.

Alice Cooper was also on the show. Alice Cooper is still touring. Apparently Halloween is quite big  for him. He and his band rehearse 10 hours a day. 2 hours on the theatrics and 8 hours on the music. And he is utterly passionate about the music. He agreed with Neil Diamond -- passion and persistence.

 With romance wiritng, the same principles apply -- you need to be passionate and persistent. In other words, desire, dedication, determination and discipline. You have to be ready for the Luck.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Made my deadline

I have sent the full of my Sinai one off to my very lovely editor for her thoughts. I expect revisions as I firmly believe that every manuscript can be made better with an editor's eye.  I do really believe in this story and think that once it is done, it is going to be absolutely fab.

One thing that was different about this book is that I finished it several thousand words short. By the time I had done the edits, I had add an extra 10k to the story. If I had made that word count in the first place, I would have been cutting furiously. So it is a lesson for me. I actually found this to be true of the Online Serial as well. I finished under the word count and trusted myself to layer in the emotion etc that was in my head and not on the page.

I will get my newsletter out in the next day or so and have decided it will be a pitch type contest (ie the middle paragraph of the query letter). I promise to comment on all entries... More in the newsletter...

Both A Question of Impropriety ( on eharlequin) and  The Viking's Captive Princess (on Mills & Boon) are on sale today. You can browse The Viking's Captive Princess here  and read the first chapter of A Question of Impropriety here.



Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Na No Wri Mo and my process

November is National Novel Writing Month or  NaNoWriMo. Loads of people do it, and some have had huge success with it.  It basically asks the participents to write a 50k novel in a month, taking a leaf out of the great Isaac Asminov's book as it were. You are allowed to do background stuff before 1 Nov but the writing can only be done in November.
I used to try and fail. For some reason, I can't do it, even though I can write more than 60k in a month. I have finally figured out that it is to do with my process. I do Discovery Drafts and some of my preliminary work is writing that first draft, particularly the first three chapters. I like that feeling of being able to write and go back and edit. I also like to think  that I can do it on my own starting when I like etc. and making mistakes. It normally takes me about  6 - 12 weeks to write a novel from scratch.
So  I am not doing it this year or even pretending that I should be doing it. I write four plus novels per year (and get them published through my publisher) and that is enough. Or should be.
I will be cheering people on who are doing it as finishing a novel is a great way to learn about your process and how you write.  Remember writing the first draft is only the start but you can't build a house without bricks.
And on process: Scrivener is developing software for writers who use windows. When it goes on sale next year, any one who has completed the NaNoWriMo gets a 50% discount. Some authors swear by it for organising their novels. Apparently you can link loads of different files, create story boards and outlines etc. I throw this out in case anyone's process leads that way.
Currently I am happy with my chaotic process. It took me a long time to get here as it were. And once upon a time, I'd have been running for that software...and I am sure it is excellent or will be once the beta testing is done.
It is all in how you work and many times you won't know until you try. At the end of the day, it is the  results that count.

In other news:
I did watch Downton Abbey last night and it does keeping getting better and better. There is a reason why the UK is becoming a nation transfixed and Bates does have a lot to do with it. I think it is also called old fashioned decency towards others and courtesy. Comforting.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Secret crushes and updates

I am blogging today at the Pink Heart Society about the reason I watch Downton Abbey -- namely Brendan Coyle.  I haven't watched the latest episode yet as I tape it and watch on a Tuesday. It saves fighting with my husband for the remote as Sunday night is always NFL football. He developed a liking for the NFL when we first started going out...Luckily he saw sense to support my team! As a lifelong 49ers fan, this season has been a trial...but in baseball, the Giants have made the World Series.  But the downside of all this is that I go around for two days trying not to find out what happen in Downton but in many ways being desperate to! Monday nights are Spooks.

I finished the Author Alterations for To Marry A Matchmaker and I do love this story. It is really a feel good story and I am very proud of it.

I have finished the Discovery Draft for my current one. The semi-polished version is due on 1 November and I am still a few thousand words short (thankfully). I do know some of my bad habits now. These include: repetition, not layering in sensual tension, not layering emotion, confused motivation etc. But in theory knowing that these things exist, I can work on improving them. I do love this story and am totally excited about writing the sister's story as well. But right now I have to keep my eyes on  what needs to be done -- namely the polishing of this draft before my eagle-eyed editor looks at it...

Finally as regular readers know, I suffer from lymph oedema in my left arm. A year ago when we were in Istanbul, it was brought to my attention that my left arm was much larger than my right one. I had to have all sorts of tests and after all sorts of nasties were eliminated, it was decided that I had lymph oedema.  I now wear a bandage sleeve and glove on my left arm most of the time. And last week, joy of joys, my fingers had gone down enough that I could get my wedding ring off!!! At one point, there were muttering about cutting it off, so I am pleased. My left arm now looks like my right arm in proportion but I think it remains a bit bigger.  The main complication from lymph oedema is infection, particularly celluitis. Thus far, knock on wood, I have avoided that.

My weight is also going down and I was able to throw away another pair of too big trousers. I still have some way to go before I reach the weight I want to be and fit into clothes that I wore a few years ago.  Slowly but surely and each small victory is surely worth celebrating!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Success at last!

As you can see, I have FINALLY been able to upload my cover on to blogger!!!
I do love the cover and its colours. I also like the romantic feel of the cover.

With my current wip, I can see the end and will get there, either today or tomorrow. Then it will be going back and layering. I have a number of words to play with and there are places where I can layer. One of my big problems is that I have things in my head but not on paper. This can include sensual tension, emotion and sometimes whole scenes that should really be there. In theory, I know my faults and therefore should be looking for them.  But I am feeling more confident which is good. And I started crying when I was typing yesterday which is a good sign.

Doughnuts and not holes.

My AAs for To Marry A Matchmaker have to be done this weekend and I keep finding reasons why I love this book. Fingers crossed other people love it when it comes out in July.

There is some exciting news with regards to The Lady Soldier which I co-wrote with Kate Allan all those years ago. It will be going into e-book and I gather mass market paperback with the fledgling publisher Embrace Books. When I know more, I will let people know...but contracts have been signed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The US cover for A Question of Impropriety

The December releases for Harlequin Historical went up on the ebook section of eharlequin today and I discovered the cover for A Question of Impropriety.  I like the cover very much. It captures the mood of the book which is all I ask. I knew it would be different from the UK cover as the UK cover was recently reused for a Mary Nichols release so I have been waiting with bated breath.
Annoyingly blogger is not letting me add images and I don't time to play with the stupid thing. You can see the cover on my website -- http://www.michellestyles.co.uk/ There is also a first chapter excerpt.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Being busy

Time becomes ever  more precious.

My deadline of 1 November looms ever so closer and I know the current mess in progress has real potential. It needs to be written and layers need to be added. As a writer, I am very consistent in the kind of mistakes I make. They are different mistakes each time but they are of a similar sort. I have about a 100 pages to write but it will be good.

My AAs or Author Alterations for To Marry A Matchmaker have arrived. This one was edited by my new editor and so it is interesting to see what she has done. I had forgotten why I liked this ms so much and so am busy falling in love with Henri and Robert again. These are due 27 October.

I have also been gearing up for my December releases and thinking about my newsletter. It does need to go out. I normally do the mentoring contest in the November issue as it were but I have to think on how I want  to do it this year. The time factor. It is ONLY open to those who subscribe to my newsletter.

Then there is general admin etc.

Plus my family like to see me every now and then.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Blogging Away at Rom Con Inc

I am blogging at Rom Con Inc  today and giving away an advanced copy of my duo -- A Question of Impropriety and Impoverish Miss Convenient Wife to someone who posts comment.

It never rains but it pours as my AAs for To Marry A Matchmaker have arrived. I do love the first sentence -- Perfect planning produces perfection and am really looking forward to rediscovering these characters.
I also have 140 pages or thereabouts to go on my current manuscript which is due 1 November.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Deadline dementia and Haltwhistle Library Girls Night In

My deadline of 1 November is fast approaching and I find that I keep forgetting things or absently answer my husband's question with a remark about my muddle.
Actually at the moment, I do have the story mapped out. I have figured things out which are starting to make sense. So huge relief here. But once my editor sees it, there will be REVISIONS. Editors are like that. And they do like to see that you have taken on board their concerns. Sometimes, you will make different mistakes. Sometimes their solutions are not your vision but their concerns are valid. If you can't use their solutions, find a better way! And sometimes you might not think the suggestion will work but it does make sense later on and you go -- oh, it will work!

On Friday 15 October along with other women's fiction authors, I shall be at the Haltwhistle library doing a reprise of our popular Girl's Night In panel. Last Thursday was Alnwick and several women asked when we were doing the next one. Personally they are very fun to do. We get to talk about writing and how each goes about drafting a novel. Seven different authors and guess what seven different approaches!
Apparently I am the one who does the most words. Unfortunately I had my daughter convinced that I was a slacker and all the other authors worked far harder...

The second chapters of the New Voices competition go up today and hopefully they will really develop the promise of the first chapters. It is all well and good to write a clever first chapter but it has to have a sustainable heart. And I am also hoping that a few people will get the submitting bug and will really work to hone their talent.  But the second phase of the contest is about to begin...

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A Craft post: Does your motivation have to stay the same

Some people fondly think that once you decide what a character's motivation is, it becomes encased in concrete and can't change.
 Umm no.
Sometimes there is a better or stronger way to have a take on the same subject.
A case in point is my upcoming Online Serial -- His Stand In Bride. I had written it and thought I knew the motivation. The editor read it and my short synopsis and asked for revisions. The heroine's motivation wain the synopsis was at odds with the story and wasn't strong enough. In fact, she thought my heroine was intelligent enough to appreciate the irony of the situation.  Would I mind threading through a different motivation -- namely a belief in the right to choose one's destiny as that was what she was getting from the story. For those curious amongst you, I had thought the heroine's motivation was a belief in true love. And of course, being an editor she was absolutely right. I think the story is much stronger.

This probably shows that I over simplify my character's motivations when I write a synopsis or a detailed background note. Also complex characters will have complex motivations.  Some of the motivations will not be revealed to the author until she is in revisions or has the first draft done.  And sometimes she may think that she has threaded the correct motivation through only to discover that there is another deeper reason for the behaviour.  Characters can be tricky and hide things even from their creator.

Nothing is ever written in concrete and there are different ways to see the same thing. And Debra Dixon's book on GMC made me freeze solid. I prefer other books on the craft of writing and ways of looking at things.  And that is fine. The only process i have to worry about is my own.
What matters is that you get there in the end and create a page turning romance.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Character Lists -- a confession

I hate character lists. I particularly hate the identikit character lists that I find in writing books. I know it is sacrilege to say it but I do. And I don't actually think they help me write the story. In some ways they hem me in. They force me to make decisions BEFORE I am ready to and decisions about things I am not interested in or my characters might not be interested in. Things that I might feel compelled to work in.  Equally if I don't know the characters well enough I might make hasty decisions which make me freeze later. The needs of the story and the characters interacting with each other come before the needs of The List.
I do know for other people that they work well for. That is their process and I salute them.
They just don't work for me. Neither do I do collages. My mind works differently and the pictures are in my head. And this possibly makes me a Bad Writer.
Or maybe it just makes me different. Different is good. I can live with different.

I don't need to know the same info about every character every time. Each character is different. And some of my characters hate, loathe and distest admin. Some of them would happily set fire to all bureaucracy.

 I worry that filling in these sheets can make it seem like I have told the story or that my words harden like concrete or rather my decisions harden like concrete and I have to twist the story to a point of implausibility when the simplest thing would be to change the back story. This is borne out in my own research of trial and error.

This however does not mean that I don't know things about my characters. I can and have written reams of paper about their back story. And sometimes that back story has to change. Sometimes I add Too Much baggage and sometimes too little.  Sometimes what I thought was important becomes less so.
But I do know. And I do like the freedom to feel I can change things.

If my characters are never going to eat ice cream, is it important that I fill that out or that I think about the sort of shampoo they might use before thinking about their quality of laughter?  Does the exact place where they were born matter? Or is it more their upbringing? Parental neglect comes in all shapes and sizes and is not necessarily evident at the cradle stage. In other words, my mind works differently. And that is fine.

At the end of the day, it is MY story and I need to be able to write and give it the depth of characterisation that it needs. One size doesn't fit all and one list or series of lists or a series of interview questions doesn't fit all either. I freeze. It fills too much like I have been here before rather than concentrating on the why I am writing the story. So I rely on scribbled notes and a lot of thinking. I like to feel that I know the characters and they are friends. The first and most important thing for me is to love my characters, including all their faults, flaws and foibles.
Protagonists for me are often not 3-d on the first draft. It takes time to fill in the broad outline and certain symbols and important details only emerge at the end. What is important is that by the time the READER reads it, that fine shading of detail that makes the character come alive is on the page and not in my head.

Earlier this week, my editor who is indeed lovely asked for character lists for my hero and heroine. We had a discussion as I refuse to fill them out before I finish the story. What she was really asking for was a detailed background note on the characters and to include the emotional turning points in the synopsis. I can do a detailed background note. I did have scraps written down and a lot in my head. As long as it was in no particular order, I was fine and I did learn things about my characters.  But it was putting things done in an order and an form to suit me rather than to suit someone else's process.  Starting with a few scribbled notes, I produced a 2500 word background note that is really helping me write this thing and that showed my editor I do know where I am going.  The note took me several hours to write as it was mainly pulling bits of the background together and my husband decided to light a bonfire and needed some assistance in the middle of the thing. I stomped around and went back and wrote. Then sent it.
It could have been expanded further if needs be. She said it was fine as it was as it gave her the info to know that the conflict was sustainable. It is up to me to write the thing.

I can do detailed background notes, just don't ask me to do character lists.  I prefer to write stories about my characters and stories about their backgrounds. It works for me.

Know your process and don't sweat the small stuff.
Just because other authors do it one way, it doesn't mean it is the right way for you.
Try things, see if they work as you will know straight away.
Allow your process to evolve.
There is nothing wrong with writing a discovery draft (or two).

Friday, October 01, 2010

Viking's Captive Princess in Italian -- Il Segno del Peccato

IL SEGNO DEL PECCATO


di STYLES MICHELLE

Scandinavia, 796



Thyre e Dagmar non possono fare altro che riservare un'accoglienza calorosa all'equipaggio dell'imponente imbarcazione nemica arenata sulla spiaggia. La tradizione prevede anche un tributo un po' particolare, una notte d'amore tra l'erede legittima dell'isola di Ranrike e il comandante della nave. Dagmar però è innamorata e chiede alla sorellastra un favore enorme: sostituirla nel letto di Ivar il guerriero. Thyre, determinata e indipendente, accetta, forte del fatto che l'atto si svolgerà al buio. Ma il mattino seguente Ivar la smaschera davanti a tutti e la costringe a fare una scelta tanto coraggiosa quanto pericolosa, che segnerà un nuovo capitolo nella sanguinosa lotta tra fazioni vichinghe rivali.

Note; the Italians chose the right picture! I am very pleased.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The next installment of Everyones Reading

FREE M &B books. The great team at M&B has done it again and is offering another set of 12 free books for people to download. One from each series. You can download them at http://www.everyonesreading.com/
It is a great chance to see what the current series are all about. For historical there is Ann Lethbridge's award winning Wicked Rake, Defiant Mistress. There is also Michelle Ried's Mia's Scandal which is the first installment of the Balfour Legacy mini series and I super enjoyed. It is so great that they are offering people this opportunity.

For me, my editor got back to me on the partial and I responded with a detailed background and synopsis. We ironed out a few problems and now my deadline is looming. Will it work doing it this way? I have no idea but I am excited. My first priority is my writing and so I might be scarce for awhile...but then there are plenty of free books to read...

Monday, September 27, 2010

His Stand Bride -- starting 15 November

I am very happy to announce that His Stand In Bride will be the Weekly Online Serial for eharlequin starting 15 November and going through until 3 January. My editor for that has accepted it and I'm thrilled with how it worked out. It is a free read.

1 November is now far closer than I'd thought so it is head down and writing time.

The New Voices finalists were announced. It is a strong line up and my fingers are crossed.
If you weren't a finalist, it doesn't mean you can't submit the traditional way. Use what you have learnt via the contest and reading other entries. See the pitfalls. Be objective with your work and then go for it. Finish the first draft and submit the first three chapters and synopsis.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

It's in the detail

One of the big questions for a writer is how much detail and which detail do you highlight? What is the function of detail?
Detail gives a description and provides facts but more than that it gives insight into the POV's state of mind.
Two characters looking at the same thing will notice different details. A character whose mood has changed will notice different details. Details help to ring the changes.
Where one character notices the flaking bits of paint and the worn carpet, another sees the soaring majesty of the building. The reasons why each character notices those things is important.
If you take a description in a book, and describe that scene from another's POV, what details change? If no details change, why? It can be a clue that you need make sure that your characters are given stronger opinions. Use detail to bring out changes, to highlight and to help make your characters memorable.
Take the colour brown -- is it warm melting chocolate or the colour of a muddy puddle. Should beige be banned or is it a fashionable choice? The fact that a character chooses to call light brown camel rather than taupe says something about that character. If the character is only choosing that word because you as a writer have access to a thesaurus, then you are in trouble and your scene doesn't have as much life as it could have.
It is the character's reaction to the colour and its associations that are important rather than the actual colour.
I would argue that if the characters reactions and emotions are missing, the scene is going to feel a bit flat.
Word description and detail is all about choice. What does the character choose to see and why? Why do they feel passionately enough to use those words? How does the word choice influence them? Objects and scenery are neutral until the person describing them or labelling them breathes life into them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stomach Churning Submitting

With the submission deadline for the first round of the New Voices competition mere hours away, lots of people are earning awards for bravery by actually posting their offerings. For the first time, many are allowing strangers to read their work and it is nerve wracking. It makes you feel physically ill.
It does always remain nerve wracking. It is a roller coaster ride, complete with feeling sick and then wonderfully alive. I get it every time I submit to my editor. Most authors do.
But also, it is addictive and great fun. There is a lot of excitement when you press the submit button. It is about embarking on a new adventure.
So what can you learn from submitting? Even if you get a Form R. First of all, you learn that you don't die. Your family and friends still love you and that you can do it.
Once you get the response back, it is all about what you do next.
Before I was published, I never finalled in any contest. The one online contest I entered with Kate Allan, we finished dead last. No comments, just voting and there was some suspicion of vote-rigging.  The book however was published after we did extensive revisions and became The Lady Soldier.  So in the end, I suppose we had the last laugh.
Other authors can similar stories.
When I was at Orlando, I was struck by the fact that a number of the Golden Heart finalists had finalled in previous years and sometimes had won.  There were also people who never finalled who had sold. It all comes down to the editor seeing the magic in your submission. Sometimes, people get so focused on contests that they forget the important thing is the STORY and telling it in the best way possible. You don't want a good contest submission, you want a great story. And for series romance, you want a great story that fits the demands of the line.
So what do you do if you don't final in NV? Take a long hard look at your submission. Read the finalists. See if you understand why they were chosen. Do you agree with the judges' assessment?
See if there are ways you can improve. Can you add more dialogue? Cut out back story? Make the story more immediate? Make the stakes higher? Decrease the secondaries? increase the emotion? Up the sensual tension? Make the characters more rounded and less cardboard cut out?  There is no right or wrong answer. Go with your gut and see.
Do it and then submit the traditional route.
If you believed in your story enough to submit to NV, you should believe in your story enough to submit using the traditional route.AFTER you have taken another look at it. Craft helps improve Story Ideas.
Maybe though, you relise that in order to do the story justice, you need more craft. Use your new found knowledge to craft another story and submit that. I wrote 7 full length manuscripts before I sold. Writing is never wasted.
And it does become addictive if you want to be a career novelist rather than penning a single story.

Right off to finish my partial and send it off to my editor for her eagle eyes. And I am waiting to hear on my Online Read. Does it work? Will it need revisions? I could be sick... but I trust my ability to use craft to fashion a great story. Or maybe I'm delusional?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Impoverished Miss,Convenient Wife in Italian --Notte Di Nozze

Finding a new translation of a book is always a cause for celebration. Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife is out in Italian Notte di Nozze. It hits the Italian shops in October.  You can purchase it here.

NOTTE DI NOZZE


di STYLES MICHELLE

Inghilterra, 1814



Simon Clare è un ricco possidente che conduce un'esistenza solitaria. Dopo un matrimonio infelice e con un figlio ammalato cui badare, l'ultima cosa di cui ha bisogno è che una donna, per giunta aristocratica, si intrometta nella sua vita. Non importa quanto sensuale sia la sua figura e quanto voluttuose le sue labbra. Phoebe Benedict, però, non si lascia scoraggiare dai modi scostanti di Mr. Clare. Sa bene, infatti, che dietro quella facciata burbera si nasconde un uomo segnato dal dolore, alla disperata ricerca di qualcuno che lo ami davvero.

It is one of the great things about being published with Harlequin. Foreign Editions just happen without the author having to do anything...



Sunday, September 19, 2010

Win an autumn break in Scotland

Mills & Boon and Visit Scotland have teamed up to offer a break to the Scottish borders. You can read more about it here.  It is very simple to enter and the scenary is sure to inspire. Good luck!!!



In other news:

I've had a hard few days. My daughter ended up in hospital with  suspected appendicitis. Luckily it turned out to be a burst cyst. Young women are notoriously difficult when it comes to severe stomach aches. As a general rule of thumb, if the patient can hop, it is not appendicitis. Also with appendicitis, the pain increases rather than decreases. The non-invasive way to rule appendicitis out in young women is to have an ultra sound scan. Boys are far more straight forward...
My daughter is back home. Tired but pleased to be home. And I am glad that it turned out to be better than first feared. Have net book, can work anywhere but my daughter understandably wanted attention as she improved.
Given the immense bureaucracy of the NHS, patients do need advocates.
  Because of administrative procedure, the request for the ultra sound was initially lost/put to one side and it was only because I persuaded the junior doctor to personally ask the ultra sound person to add her to the end of the list that my daughter received the scan and was allowed home on Friday evening. Had I been content to wait as the head nurse of the ward she was on suggested that I should be, she would have had to stay over the weekend and would have blocking a bed that someone who really needed to be in hospital could have used. I like to think that some unknown person's life was saved because of my insistence.
 A letter of complaint will be going to the hospital. Non invasive diagnostic tests which can determine if a patient needs to have an urgent operation or can go home should be done as soon as possible and preferably BEFORE the patient is forced to endure an ambulance ride of over an hour and spend 36 hours in a busy hospital ward. And giving such tests early saves the NHS money!

I did a workshop to a small select group in Haltwhistle yesterday. It was a great deal of fun. I met a lady who will be entering the NV competition. She was a true reader of series romance. Her favourite passion is Blaze and my fingers are firmly crossed for her.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Contracts and such

I turned in my short story yesterday. My lovely editor as a favour read it and had a few tweaks. It goes to the Online Read Editor so she may notice different things. Editors are like that! But I am super excited about it and can't wait to see what she says and ultimately what readers think!
Anyway, my editor has declared that she is going to hold me to that level of focus and intensity now that she knows I can do it! Oh help! It is a challenge...challenges are good. I learnt a lot from writing it, including you probably need less set up than you think and to really have the focus firmly on the two protagonists. Part of the problem with To Marry a Matchmaker, particularly in the early drafts was that focus wasn't there.

My new contract arrived and it was the first time I had a look at the New Look contract. It is far simpler to understand with a term sheet that spells everything out that I agreed with my editor for each book. The standard part of the contract also is there and I spent part of the evening wrapped in legalise. The biggest change is that I don't have to fill out forms any more to put my covers and excerpts up. From this contract onwards, they are included. I do have to put the copyright notices up as cover art as well as my words are copyrighted.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Discovering a flat scene

Many instructions in bee-keeping start with first find your queen. This can be far more difficult than it sounds, even when the bloody queen is marked with a huge blob on her back.
To determining if a scene is flat, you need to first find your turning point and more important to make sure that turning is active rather than passive. Like the beekeeping instruction of first find your queen, it is more difficult in practice than it sounds.

So here is a small formula:
1. Determine the POV character. (if you don't know whose POV you are in STOP. You will have a flat scene as the emotional connection is not there.)
2. Determine how the POV character is different at the start of the scene v the end. This  can be a massive change or it can be an understated change. (if no change.STOP! You have a flat scene or you are using the wrong POV character)
3. Where and when does this change take place? (this is the turning point of the scene. It is the pivot on which the entire scene turns. Is this the right change for your character? Should there be a more definate change? Is the change too small or too big?)
4. Is it on the page or in your head? (if in your head, STOP! You have a flat scene as the reader can only know what is on the page. Readers can't see what is in your head. This is often a major failing of my early drafts.)
5. Who ultimately causes the change? (if the changes happens to the POV character. STOP. you have a passive turning point and possibly a reactive character. The most interesting characters are proactive and make things happen even if they make mistakes. Note if it is caused by the other POV character -- most series romance is dual POV, you might be fine as this is a special case. However you do need to be cautious that all changes are not caused by the same person)

Once you know where the turning point is, who causes, and what the change actually is, you can go about highlighting it and bringing it out more in manuscript. Either by higlighting the change. SHOWING the difference or heightening that moment of change. If a scene shows a definite change and the change fits in with the growth arc of the character, then the scene is not flat and it probably has earnt its place.

Scenes need to move the story forward in some way. They can only do that if the POV character changes in some fashion. Even scenes which essentially exist to impart info are about change. How was the character feeling before they had this piece of news v how were they feeling afterwards? 
If nothing changes and the scene is merely recounting, see if you can cut it. Or alternatively see if you can heighten the feeling of change.

As with everything in writing, it is much easier to say than do. But if it was simple, writing wouldn't be as much fun!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Building bridges to the Inciting Incident

Where to start a story? It is a problem that all authors grapple with? Do you start with the inciting incident or do you start with the ordinary world that is about to change?

For a romance -- the inciting incident is the MEET. This is the thing that starts the spine of the story -- namely the growth of the emotional relationship between the hero and heroine. Without them meeting and interacting, the relationship can't change and grow. And the MEET doesn't mean necessarily the first time in their life that the main protagonists meet but rather that encoutner that changes their life.

Everything that happens before is called the set up or sometimes the bridging conflict. Bridging conflict is also a subplot. It is what needs to happen BEFORE the meet so the author doesn't spend time explaining. It helps with dealing with certain aspects of back story as the author can SHOW and not TELL. (Back story, unless done as a flashback, is invariably telling or narrative. The reason for using the term bridging conflict is that it provides the bridge into the story for the reader.

In series romance, there is not much of it. For one very practical reason -- the author doesn't have many words and the focus must be on the main spine of the story.  So the meet or some portion of the meet should definitely take place within the first chapter. With single title, the author has more time. I should point out that historicals with their longer length do have a place for subplots but that those subplots MUST influence the main story and ultimately directly influence the relationship.

One way of determining where to start is to start with the MEET. Does it make sense? Is the reader immediately drawn into the characters' predicament. Why or why not? Why are they in conflict?  Why is it a confrontation? Is it immediately understandable or will the author have to provide table dusting backstory/explanation?

If it doesn't make sense, what needs to happen before the actual MEET? Are there any opportunities for good narrative action that you have missed? Can you open with a bang?
 You have precisely 6 seconds or thereabouts to hook the reader.
How are you going to create questions? How are you going to have one character literally or figuratively fighting for their lives? Or fighting for something that they passionately believe in? What is the POV's character's stakes and why is the reader going to immediately care about the character?  How can you build the anticipation of the first meet? Have you let a great opportunity for narrative action that will draw the reader into the story go to waste if you start with the meet? Why is she going to turn the page? Why won't she be able to put that book down?

For example, when Kate Allan and I wrote The Lady Soldier, we had to add an entire new first chapter. Originally the book started with the heroine Jem having made it through the battle meeting the hero after she had been promoted from the ranks. John Hale pointed out that the battle actually represented a chance for great narrative action as it SHOWED her bravery and her fighting for her life. Never let the opportunity for good narrative action go to waste he advised. That motto has been engraved on my mind ever since.

Another case in point are my Viking books. None start with the hero or heroine meeting. Instead they all start with a battle. The meet takes place in the aftermath of the battle.  During the battle, either the hero or heroine or both lives are put in danger and it is this danger which hopefully will have the reader turning the pages until the couple meet and are forced into close proximity with each other.

Compromising Miss Milton starts with the hero being attacked. Originally I started with the heroine finding his body but decided that it was far better to start with action. Towards the end of chapter one, the heroine fishes him out of the water and saves his life.

An example from a recent contemporary is Kat's Pride by Sharon Kenderick (Kat and Dare Devil Spaniard in the US). The first chapter is devoted to Kat arriving on board Carlos Guerrero's luxury yacht and it slowly dawning on her that she is there as a hired help, rather than as an honoured guest and what is worse that her new *employer* is the man she most wants to avoid in the world. The couple meets in the last two paragraphs of chapter one.

With the short story I'm writing, the setup has to be almost non existent and the romance does have to start immediately. 10k is not very long. The same is true for an Undone.

In conclusion, think about how you are going to provide a compelling bridge for the reader to cross into the story's world. What must happen? What does the reader need to know? It is harder than you might think. Figuring out where the Meet happens and why  is a good place to start.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Backstory is not your friend

I read a few of the New Voices entries and I want to highlight something.

The reader wants the story to be happening now. The writer might need to know the set up, but does the reader? Back story kills the movement of a story and deflates tension.

I love the Donald Maass exercise which says highlight all the back story in the first three chapters and move it to chapter 15, certainly beyond the halfway point.
Reread the first three chapters, what does the reader need to know to make sense of the story? What must be there?  Put in as little as possible.
You want hints. You want the characters to have secrets. You want the characters to be involved in the NOW. Save the back story for the confession time. Allow the characters to have secrets and to have something to confess. When the reader is emotionally invested in the story, then the explanation will be far more heart rendering.

Start with dialogue.
Start with action.
Keep the Back story a minimum.
The reader needs less than you think.

And yes I have suffered from this before!


This is also directed at me as I write this short story. 10k is not long and every word has to count...and other things are more than detailed explanations/set up.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Creating a Page Turning Read Workshop -- 18 September

As part of the New Voices competition and the reopening of Haltwhistle Library celebrations, I'm giving a workshop on creating a Page Turning Read. 10:30 -11:30 am Saturday 18 September.
I believe it is free. There are 25 places. You can telephone the library to find out more.

Hopefully I won't be talking to an empty room!

I'm working away on the Online Read and it is challenging but tremendous fun. You have to create a serial and realise that readers might read the last chapter before they read the first one. Each chapter needs to be about the same length and there isn't much room for waffle! Also it needs to be formatted in a specific fashion, but I will worry about that after the story is finished.
The great thing for me is that I get to revisit the world I created for A Question of Impropriety and Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife.  The Online Read is because the books are being published in HH Direct in December/January.  But first it has to be written and it needs to be amazing...

Saturday, September 04, 2010

winner from Christina Phillips Forbidden party

Christina asked me to draw a winner from my blog post -- Morton S Gray. So if you can contact me via my website Morton, and give me your postal address, I will get the four books sent out to you!
Christina's party is on going until the 7 September and lots of other books are up for grabs!

One recent discovery is that Donald Mass does a monthly column on Writer UnBoxed where he discusses craft and various aspects of it. Some of his posts relate back to his books and some are musings and outgrowths from his current reading. All are interesting and thought provoking.

Currently I'm thinking about character and the points he makes in Fire in Fiction about protagonists and heroes are important. Also the combining of the two exercises about thinking about the character's strengths and hero's flaws and making sure they are on the page is a good one.

I'm re-reading craft books etc as my Online Read is only 10k and a very small canvas but I want it to punch above its weight as it were.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Win a set of my Roman set books

To help Christina Phillips celebrate the publication of Forbidden, her debut Berkeley sensation, I'm offering one lucky commentator on her blog a signed set of my Roman books. So that's The Gladiator Honour, A Noble Captive, Sold & Seduced and The Roman's Virgin Mistress up for grabs. She also has a ton of other great prizes and her book looks excellent. Why not go and comment?

In my own news: my editor called late last night and I've had to drop everything to work on a Special Project that is due on the 24th. It should be fun but blog service and twitter might be a bit sporadic because of it!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Top Tips from New Voices Workshop

After doing my workshop at Knaresborough yesterday, I thought I'd post my top tips for writing a M&B series romance.

1. Know which line you are targeting  -- imagine yourself writing 40 books in a line, which one would be your first choice? What is your dream line to write for? Go for it!

2. Know what every romance contains -- first meeting of the characters, confrontations, physical attraction,
realisation of love, and finally emotional intimacy -- the payoff. Make sure your ms has these things on the page and not in your head.

3. If the first meeting of the characters (aka the start of the romance) is not in the first scene, why not? What happens if you move it to the first scene? First meeting does not necessarily mean the first time the characters meet in their lives, but rather the first time they meet in the book. It is a vital part of the story. How does their lives change? Do not be tempted to write yourself in. Readers want the story to begin.

4. Your characters should be proactive rather than reactive. They make active choices and have to live with the consequences.

5. Think about what you admire in your heroes -- make sure your characters reflect those characteristics.

6. Make sure there is page turning tension on every page. Give your reader reasons to turn the pages and keep her within the story. Look for flat scenes and low tension traps. Rewrite.

7. Know about emotional hooks such as Stranded with  a Stranger, Marriage of Convenience, Bad Boy v Librarian, Office Romance, Cowboy v City Girl etc. How are you going to make that story your own? Make sure you know the hooks in your story.

8. Write in your voice. Tell the story your own way. You are unique.

9. Create passionate characters. Too often authors are afraid of creating characters with strong opinions or beliefs but passionate characters are the ones the readers remember. Use little details to show what they believe in. What do they hate? What would they risk their life to save? Why? How can you show this? The hero and heroine are often the last characters to be well rounded. Think about what makes them unique. Think about the words they use and why. How does their background influence their vocabulary.

10. Be persistent. Learn how to harness your talent. Finish the book. Take a risk and enter the competition, you might surprise yourself. Nothing is ever wasted.

And finally the lovely librarian made some gorgeous cupcakes with pink rosebuds. They served pink fizz with it. It really helped to make the workshop special.
I was so pleased that the workshop was well attended and that people seemed to enjoy themselves.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Winner of the VCP contest


The first name out of the hat was Joanne Cleary.

The answer was the windows!  The Spanish version also used the wrong picture and you can see why my senior editor was apologetic. It is a very lovely rose garden...but somehow I doubt Ivar and Thyre would have seen it. My sr editor knows that the readers of Historical do notice things like that and it does bother her. It is one of the reasons why she is such an excellent senior editor.


The feel of the cover is wonderful (mostly I notice the couple, philistine that I am!) and it does capture the feel of the book.  And I do like the new M&B look. I saw the new Historicals out in Tescos yesterday and they were screaming  Buy me! Lovely jewel like covers.

In other news:
Today is my workshop in Knaresborough for New Voices. I really hope it goes well and that the people who go enjoy it.

My editor was in touch yesterday. She has okayed my ideas for the second book which is exciting and is looking forward to seeing my partial of the first book in the new contract. I have promised it for next week. It will get there. My editor is lovely and I do like working with her.