Friday 2 December 2011

Christmas at Hartford Hall

Do you like my new cover?
I am delighted to say that my latest book with Musa, Aurora Regency, Christmas at Hartford Hall is now available. A Regency Cinderella story complete with a handsome ‘Prince Charming’, two nasty sisters and a wicked female relative.
When Elizabeth’s grandfather died there was no sign of a will and she, to her consternation, discovered she was now dependent on his heir. The new Lord and Lady Hartford and their twin daughters arrive and reduce her status to that of a servant. Elizabeth is determined to leave Hartford Hall in the New Year and work as a governess. However the arrival of Sir James Worthington to make an offer for Lady Eleanor only adds to her difficulties…
I do hope you enjoy it - it was great fun to write.

Thursday 17 November 2011

What shall I write next?

Yesterday I finished my first Young Adult Urban Fantasy. I'm expecting the edits for my fifth Musa Aurora Regency,  Christmas at Hartford Hall, any day so have a week to decide what my next project will be.
I have written in various genres but so far am published only with Regency -  over twenty-five published titles in six years. I would love to see my Victorian saga or one of my WW2 books available too.
As a change from historical I started writing my YA book last year - yes it has taken me  a year to finish. The longest of any book - normally I write fast and complete a book in less than three months. I moved last December which threw me -however I've managed to write a fresh  Regency and spent many weeks editing books for Aurora.
Back to the YA - was it the  different genre that slowed me down? That it was the first contemporary? The first fantasy?  I hope not. I loved writing this and will be sending it out to agents in the New Year. Should I start the second in the series now? I have three books planned and a further two with the secondary characters taking the lead.
The problem I have is that I also want to write another Jane Austen linked book and have already planned out two stories. I would like to write a Victorian novella for People's Friend - something different from my light Regency romances.
I have until the edits are done to decide.
Any suggestions? Another tried and tested Regency?A second YA fantasy? A JA linked book? A Victorian novella?
best wishes

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Festival of Romance - Hunton Park

Terrace at Hunton Park
 On 21st-22nd October I attended the Festival of Romance at Hunton Park. What a wonderful venue for a great event and I found it without using my SatNav. My room was luxurious by my standards and there was unlimited tea/coffee/chocolate/fruit tea and also fruit bars, fresh fruit and biscuits. In the wardrobe in my room (which I didn't use) I discovered a hairdryer, iron and an ironing board. This.didn't leave much room for clothes for those that might have been staying more than one night.
View from the garden to the house.
View from terrace to the fountain.

Fountain  -featured in first Harry Potter film.
Drawing room

Ballroom (I think)
 You will see from the photographs that the house and grounds are stunning. At dawn, when I was out taking my photographs, there were a pair of muntjac deer on the lawn.
I apologise for the random positioning of the photographs – I've no idea how clever people manage to get the text to wrap around the pictures.
These are the brave authors who appeared in costume as one of the characters from their book.
Can you guess which book the character comes from?
Mandy Baggot;Sue Moorcroft;Jean F; Christina Courtney; Kate Allan;Talli Rowland

Jean Fullerton in Victorian costume.

Fenella Miller & Jean Fullerton doing talk..

Jean and I did a gallop through our favourite historical romance. We gave the delegates suggestions for books they might not have heard of before. It seemed to go down well.
This was the icing on the cake -The gorgeous semi naked man handing out free cupcakes -I had to include a photo of him.
Hunk with cup cakes.

I also took part in a Regency panel with Jan Jones and Annie Burrows.We could have done with a few more in the audience but I think they were all drinking coffee.
All sessions that I attended were worth going to. I particularly liked the historical panel discussing the impact of war on romance.
Carol Matthew was the keynote speaker and she was interviewed by a very glamorous young lady who I think runs a website related to romantic fiction. It was an interesting, amusing and informative talk.
Carole Mathew
 interview- not sure who the other person is..
Kate Nash and her winning band of helpers did a brilliant job and I hope that next year it will be bigger and even better.
I mustn't forget to mention the winners of the inaugural Festival of Romance Awards.
Jean Fullerton won the historical prize; Henri Gyland one the new writers award and Sue Moorcroft won the contemporary fiction award. Carole Matthews was given a lifetime achievement award.

Hunton Park at dawn.

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Interview with Fiona Harper & Festival of Romance

Today I'm thrilled to have Fiona Harper on my blog talking about the forthcoming Festival of Romance.

What are you looking forward to at the Festival of Romance?

Apart from meeting other writers and readers who love a happy ending and a goose bump-inducing romance, I don't know!  This is the first ever Festival of Romance so it's something completely new. So I'm looking forward to the unexpected!
What will you be doing at the Festival of Romance?

I'm going to be taking part in a panel discussion on 'From Chick Lit to Hen Lit' on Saturday 22nd.  Other than that I will be attending a lot of sessions and soaking up as much as I can!

Why should readers come to the Festival of Romance?

It's going to be fun!  In this digital age we like to have an interactive component to everything.  Well, this is our chance to not just interact with a computer screen but to meet other readers who love the fiction we love face to face, along with some of the people who write our favourite romances too!
 Thank you Fiona. 
The Festival of Romance is  taking place on Friday 21st & Saturday 22nd October. Go and look at the website to see all the great things going on for readers and writers and anyone who just want a good time.
Fenella Miller

This is Fiona's latest book.

Friday 9 September 2011

Exciting Times

After several weeks of stress and worry  Aurora of Aspen Mountain Press has been bought by a new company called Musa. All authors were offered their rights  which was a great thing  for Musa to do. We then had the choice of re-submitting or going elsewhere.
I have chosen to put Miss Peterson & The Colonel, A Cornish Maid, Lady Eleanor's Secret and Miss Bannerman & The Duke with Musa. They should all be reissued in October still called Aurora but with a new banner incorporating the Musa name. This is good as I was worried about readers thinking they were new titles. The covers, which  I love, are also staying the same.
I also have two full length books coming out with www.regencyreads sometime in the next few months. A further two will come out in the New Year.
Thank you all the Austenesque followers who entered my quiz. The winners have been announced by Meredith.
Following  this Jane Austen month has inspired me to think about writing another Jane Austen linked book. I have the outlines and first  three chapters of two already done -all I have to do is decide which one to write. When I've finished writing my YA fantasy -probably next month -I shall be starting this. I shall publish the new Jane Austen linked book on Kindle next spring.

Monday 22 August 2011

Austenesque Extravaganza

In Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley, Fenella Miller returns to Jane Austen's best loved novel, Pride and Prejudice, giving an insight into both Charles and Jane's private thoughts through that difficult year. We discover what Jane did in London and how Charles filled the days until he was able to return to Netherfield. This book takes us past the wedding—when Kitty Bennet becomes the heroine of the hour. Sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

I wrote Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley at the suggestion of Amanda Grange who is the bestselling author of many Jane Austen sequels. I had just completed a Victorian family saga set in Colchester (where I live) and wanted to write something completely different.
Like all of us here I love Jane Austen's books and Pride and Prejudice in particular. I had always wanted to know a bit more about Jane and Bingley and in my book I have explored this. I should love to write another book like this. Unfortunately my proposals have been turned down  as someone else has already written, or was writing, something very similar.
I suggested a ghost story set in Pemberley after Lizzie and Darcy were married and also a prequel were Darcy is an all action hero saving the world as a spy. I would love to do a contemporary taking on this but those have been done as well. Any suggestions gratefully received.
I started reading Regency stories with Georgette Heyer in my early teens and graduated to Jane Austen a few years later. I've read all of them several times and I think the only one I still don't enjoy as much as the others is Emma because I've always found her an unsympathetic heroine.
I also enjoy the television and film adaptations of the stories. I didn't like the Mansfield Park version with Billie Piper – not because she's not an excellent actress – but she was just wrong  person  in my opinion. What do you think?
I think the BBC version with Colin Firth and his white shirt must be everyone's favourite Pride and Prejudice film. However, I thought "Lost in Austen", a TV time-slip version of Pride and Prejudice, was terrific. The last scene with Darcy and the 21st-century heroine was the most romantic I've ever seen. I think I watched it a dozen times before I deleted the recording.
Now here is a small quiz for you:
1. How many film/TV versions of each of Jane's book has there been?
Sense and Sensibility
Pride and Prejudice
Mansfield Park
Northanger Abbey
2. Can you name three modern films that are based on Pride and Prejudice?
3. Can you name three other titles of work by Jane Austen not listed above?

Good luck.
Fenella J Miller

Saturday 30 July 2011

Self -publishing on Kindle?

I have a dozen books on and three so far with Aurora/AMP but as yet have not ventured down the route of putting my books on Kindle for myself.
 Several of my writer friends have already done this -some more succesfully than others. Linda Gillard's House of Silence has sold 10000 copies in three months but Gilli Allan's Torn has sold only a handful despite having some good reviews and her doing huge amounts of promotion.  Fay Cunningham has three books on Kindle and is not selling many. Maureen Lee  is selling over 50 copies a day of Dusk. (now under Cath Kincaid) Neither are doing any promotion. Why is this?
How much is down to how high your profile in on the web? Linda has spent six years building her name and already has a substantial fan base from her previously published books. Maureen is a best selling author of nineteen Liverpool sagas - whereas Fay has only  a few books published.  There are writers who have sold over a million books - Amanda Hocking is one - and they have become best-sellers by their own hard work. Having a cracking story also helps.
Already having a fan base from print books is obviously a major factor in selling large volumes of your Kindle book. Self -promotion is also a factor but, in my opinion, too much will discourage buyers. No one wants to hear the same thing repeated on Twitter/Facebook etc. One mention of a review/release etc is enough.
Does price of book matter?
I am sure the price is crucial - less than a pound makes the book seem under valued  but over three pounds (unless being released by a publisher) is too much. Of course things are a bit different in the YA market where youngsters will buy anything under a pound if it is their preferred genre.
A professional cover is essential. Bad covers will stop new readers even downloading a sample.
Another important issue is editing. Far too many self-published books haven't been edited properly.  As a reader can download for free the first chapter they can see at once if the book is good enough to buy - having an excellent first chapter is now even more important.
I have a couple of Regency books that could go up on Kindle and fit well with my other Regency adventures - but will I do it? Not at the moment - regencyreads and Aurora are selling this genre for me  and all I have to do is spend the dollars each month.
 However when I finish my YA fantasy in the autumn I might well do it. I'll keep you posted.
Fenella Miller

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Characters - with Maureen Lee & Fay Cunningham

Fay Cunningham's latest

Today I'm delighted to have Maureen Lee and Fay Cunningham on my blog. they have been kind enough to         share their ideas on how to produce compelling and 3D characters.
Fay Cunningham has this to say about how she develops her characters.
First I have an idea – then I either people my plot with characters or design a plot to suit the characters I have created. I start with physical characteristics of my main characters and add things as I go along. I like to let them develop in their own time with their own little idiosyncrasies. Some characteristics are taken from real people, but in the main they are entirely imaginary.  I like to create gorgeous alpha males and strong, beautiful women, and then give them a few flaws taken from real people. I like to refer to a photo to get an idea of type, but often change eye or hair colour.
I see and hear my characters. They are very real to me when I am writing about them. The way they speak and the way they phrase sentences gives them individuality. I visualise action scenes, see inside buildings, and feel the rain or sunshine. An emotion has to be experienced to write about it convincingly.
I don’t have too many main characters and I make sure the names are different enough for the reader to remember. My walk-on characters don’t usually have a name. If they have a name, they become important to the reader.
I use mannerisms sometimes. Catch phrases are often too obvious, and accents are just confusing. The way a character phrases a sentence or raises an eyebrow can be useful, but used to excess mannerisms become a cliché. Characters gain individuality from the way they behave and how they deal with a given situation.
Maureen Lee's latest book
on Kindle for £0.99
I write mainly in the third person, but occasionally first person. I use multi-view point when necessary, but I don’t think a woman can ever know how a man thinks. A man writing from a woman’s viewpoint doesn’t work, either.
Unfortunately my characters run away with plot all the time. I have to keep hauling them back and telling them to behave themselves.
As I write thrillers as well as romance one of my characters might kill a villain. I don’t like to read about the death of a child or an animal, so I don’t subject my readers to that kind of trauma either.
Both character and plot are equally important. In an action/adventure or crime novel the plot is obviously very important, but plot is nothing without interesting characters. Romantic fiction demands memorable characters but needs a good story line as well. The answer is – it depends what you are writing. 
Maureen Lee has slightly different ideas to Fay
The idea for the plot will automatically contain characters so you start with both.
I don't write a biography or back stories for my characters. Apart from a single instance in one book, they are imaginary.
I never under any circumstances cut photos out of magazines to use as your main characters?
I see and hear my characters.
How many characters will work depends on the plot and the length of the book. I must admit my spirits wilt a bit when I start a book that has a list of characters and their role in the book at the beginning. I suppose the author should begin to realise after a while she/he is introducing too many people.
It depends how important the character is to the plot how much individuality they need. It is a good idea to have a bad-tempered bus conductor, for instance, who appears just once, or a helpful, smiley assistant in a shop. The main characters can be described as fully as you want.
It is true that sometimes you introduce a character who you like so much that they play a much more important part in your book than envisaged. Some seem so extra real that, in my case, I look back on them as if they really had lived. I had an Armenian solicitor in The Leaving of Liverpool who died about three quarters of the way through. I became really fond of this character and deeply regretted him leaving my book. The same thing happened with a character in Mother of Pearl. One day I might well bring these people back to life.
I have twice had a child killed and it really upset me. Once a dog nearly died, but was found to be still alive on further inspection.
In my opinion plot and character are as vitally important as the other.

I think Maureen and Fay have covered the ground admirably I won’t burden you with my opinion about characters. I'd like to thank them for taking the time to drop into my blog today.

Next time I shall explain some of the things a young lady should know in Jane Austen's era.

Monday 16 May 2011

What is more important - plot or character?

Part one: plot
There are many books that are successful and have no plot as such – they rely entirely on charismatic characters and their interaction. Strangely enough I can't remember the titles of any of them.
Some people think the most important thing is the plot – never mind the characters or their motivation – all they want is a gripping story that keeps them on the edge of their seats. Dan Brown is a master of this.
For me the combination of the two is essential. I want my main characters to leap off the page they are so real but I also want an enthralling story for the hero, heroine, villain and other sundry characters to move about in.I don't mind if it's a thriller written by Lee Child or Michael Connelly or a historical action adventure by Bernard Cornwell – they all have the required ingredients.
 A well-written saga, such as Perhaps Tomorrow by Jean Fullerton, will also keep me engrossed. Recently I read House of Silence by Linda Gillard which is a Gothic type contemporary romance and this held me from the first page to the last.I have just reviewed two books for the HNS which were equally gripping. One, The Blue Suitcase by Marianne Wheelagen and the other The Wordsmith’s Tale by Stephen Edden. Both are historical, quite different, but they had believable characters, excellent plotting and totally absorbing historical detail.I can recommend any of these books if you want an absorbing read.


There are various schools of thought on the best way to plot but all of them would agree that a book without a plot is rarely worth reading.My books have a linear plot, a story that runs through the book chronologically. This works for me and for my genre, Regency romantic adventure. Initially I divided pages into sections to represent each chapter then filled in the main points of the story – this was very useful if I got the dreaded "middle sag". Nowadays, with my Regency romances, I start with the main characters and then work the story out in my head before I start. I jot down the names of any new characters as they appear but apart from that write nothing apart from the story itself. However, when I'm writing a Victorian family saga or World War II romantic suspense, I revert to written plotting. This is because these books are more complex and it is essential to get actual historical events in the right place.
Jean Fullerton works on an A4 grid system for her complex Victorian sagas. Before she begins to write she fills in all the relevant historical events in the correct box. Next she adds the names of the characters that appear in each scene and what actually takes place. She then follows this grid until she has completed the book. She colour codes the names in order to keep a check on points of view. 
Linda Gillard used a different method when she wrote A Lifetime Burning. She wrote individual scenes and then assembled the book afterwards. This book is non-chronological, rather than linear and her method worked perfectly. The end result is still a riveting read.
 There are, no doubt, several other ways of plotting which work equally well. The main thing is for the author to produce a good book. A natural storyteller is a rarity – most of us have to work hard to achieve an engrossing story.
In my next blog I will discuss characters.

Fenella Miller

Monday 2 May 2011

What Shall I say? A Guide to Letter Writing for Ladies

I came across an amusing book that was published in 1898 which told  a lady the correct way to write letters on various subjects. I hope you find this Victorian insight as fascinating as I did.

The notepaper should always be clean. A woman who uses soiled notepaper must not complain if her correspondence  suspect her of being slovenly and untidy.
White notepaper is always correct. Those who prefer paper in fancy colours should see to it that the colour is not  so dark as to render the handwriting difficult to read.
Don't use very common paper unless compelled. Stationery is so very cheap now, that there is very little excuse for writing letters on paper that is apt to run or show through on the other side.
Black ink is always 'good form.' Those who prefer violet or fancy ink must at least consider their correspondent sufficiently to avoid inks which are so faint as to make the handwriting difficult to read.
The Letter
First, a word in regard to the handwriting, which cannot be too plain. Legibility is the first requisite. Never mind about flourishes or 'style'. If your handwriting is pleasant to the eye as well as easy to read, so much the better; never sacrifice legibility to show. Avoid underlining as much as possible. This is a bad habit which belongs to women rather than men.
Letter to neighbour regarding the gossiping of servants.
 Dear Mrs Maitland,
         Do you think we could combine in any way to prevent waste of time on the part of our respective servants in gossiping over the garden fence? I'm sure it must be as annoying to you as it is to me.
        The spot chosen for these lengthy stolen interviews is, unfortunately, out of sight both of your windows and mine, or the matter could be readily dealt with. Can you suggest anything?
        With kindest regards,
            Believe me,
                Yours sincerely,
                      May Willman.
Laurel Bank, Monday

I should fail miserably on the handwriting and and probably on the note paper and ink as well. I only have one correspondent  and that is an elderly lady of 83 who still handwrites letters. I'd much prefer to e-mail all ring, but feel it only fair that I write a letter back to her. My handwriting is so appalling I doubt she can read it anyway.

Next time I shall give you an example of how to write a letter rejecting your lover, complain of being bitten by a vicious dog and how to address a bishop or a duke and other dignitaries.

Letter writing is definitely a dying art, I think the only time anyone puts pen to paper now is when writing Christmas or birthday cards. I must say I do like getting cards through the post instead of junk mail and bills.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Imperial War Museum

Imperial War Museum
London bus circa 1920
Last week I made my first visit to the Imperial War Museum. I can't think why I've not been there before as it's packed with interesting exhibits, an art gallery, and always very important – an excellent cafe.
These toys brought back a few fond memories
This was all you were allowed during rationing.
I went with my good friend Jean Fullerton and we decided we must go back at least once more as we didn't really do it justice.
They have brilliant mock-up of semi-detached house – but it was certainly not the sort of place most people lived in.  It had an indoor bathroom and flush toilet (something I didn't have until late in my teens) and the kitchen was well-equipped.
I can remember at my grandmother's house trying to keep the slippery satin eiderdown on the bed during the night. In the end I put it under the blanket instead of on top.
The dreaded satin eiderdown!
I think this could be a Spitfire. (We really should have bought the guide book.)
Rationing lasted until the 50s which is why I can remember having to use my sweet coupons. I can also remember what must have been one of the last "pea-soupers". I'd gone with my father to the corner shop no more than 5 min from where we live and the fog came down whilst we were out. I think it took us an hour and a half to grope our way back. I hung onto his jacket whilst he fingered his way up and down every path until he reached a front door and could find out if it was the entrance to our apartment block.  The planes were surprisingly small and the guns absolutely enormous.
 A German plane - not sure which one.
I think many of these brands are still around today -and certainly were not so long ago. We didn't get time to look around the art gallery but will do that on out next visit. The Blitz experience was good -when the seats moved someone at the end of the row used very rude language - in keeping with the times, I felt.
I apologize for the random layout of this blog -not quite got to grips with it yet.
Fenella Miller
A fine array of tinned goods

Friday 18 March 2011

Good and bad day

My new kitchen units are almost done - but no handles on the units and the pelmet is too short. I've tried to ring Homebase head office but they don't answer their phone. Do they know I have a list of fourteen complaints?
The new bookcases are wonderful -all I need is the rest of my books from the garage to fill them up.
My speakers arrived and I pushed the green ended connection into the green hole in the back of the PC but nothing happens. Have to wait for my son to come and sort it out.
Tomorrow I'm going to London for a RNA chapter meeting -we're talking about promoting our books. Should be good -and it's always worth the journey to spend an afternoon with other romance writers.
Shall be taking my brand new toy - a Kindle. Have bought two books to read and it has a smart  leather cover as well.

Thursday 17 March 2011

No time for writing - and Wendy -the station cat.

So far today I've rushed off to fetch glue for the builder putting up our new kitchen units -the smell made me feel sick. I've faffed about with facebook/twitter/linkedin/Kindle and e-mails.
Taken to dog for walk along the river wall.
Failed to go to my French conversation class.
I've put up ceramic art plates on newly arrived plastic stands.
I've run up and down stairs a dozen times (my study is upstairs) to answer queries from the builder. He's not a happy man.

Am now going to compose a long letter of complaint to Homebase about the missing parts/ incorrect fittings/extra units/and wrongly made unit -and we only had four!! It's cost me an extra £100 for fitting because of their mistakes.
Have put a calming picture of the cat belonging to Wivenhoe station to cheer me up.
So no time to write. Maybe when everything is sorted and the house quiet I'll find a small space to write. After all that's what I do for a living.