Sunday 30 December 2012

A Regency Christmas

A Regency Christmas  

Jane Austen has several references to Christmas celebrations. Here is a quote from Persuasion:

"On one side was a table occupied by some chattering girls, cutting up silk and gold paper; and on the other were tressels and trays, bending under the weight of brawn and cold pies, where riotous boys were holding high-revel; the whole completed by a roaring Christmas fire, which seemed determined to be heard, in spite of all the noise of the others."

The holiday season began on December 21st and ran until 12th night, January 6th :
 (Imagine having to spend so long with your families and friends nowadays. I'm sure only in the wealthier households would Christmas celebrated so thoroughly.)
December 21st is the winter solstice: on this day in the Regency a Yule log was brought in and then burned throughout the holiday. Servants would deck the Halls with boughs of holly (where have I heard that before?) and other greenery; some households considered it unlucky to have any greenery in the house before Christmas Eve. There was of course no Christmas tree as they didn't become fashionable until the 1850s.
Christmas Eve:
Friends and family would meet at the appointed house and settled in to enjoy themselves. Possibly guess would be invited to dinner and there might be dancing in games afterwards.
Christmas Day:
Everyone would have attended church in the morning and put a little extra in the poor box for the next day. Later the Regency well they would enjoy a turkey dinner (Christmas goose was a later tradition). Families tended to stay together on Christmas Day there would not been a large party after dinner.
(Imagine a Christmas Day with no television or Queen’s speech!)
Boxing Day:
Boxes (this is where the name comes from) of food and clothing were given out the tenants and it was also a tradition to give the servants a holiday bonus content of the church. Box would be distributed to the needy. There might be a foxhunt from somewhere in the neighbourhood.
December 27th to 30th :
there would have been parted and gatherings at home or nearby houses every night. Gentlemen would dance all night and then get up early to enjoy sporting activities but the ladies can have their beauty sleep and then spend the afternoon touring the countryside in an open carriage.
New Year's Eve:
A Regency family would see in the New Year at midnight with drink and song. The racier couples might find themselves embracing under the mistletoe.
January 2nd  - 5th:
yet more social gatherings and family activities. If it was cold enough there might be sledging ice skating during the day and balls and parties in the evening.
January 6th , Twelfth night:
this was the traditional day exchanging gifts, gifts could be given at any time throughout the holiday season not even over several days there might be a large ball somewhere in the neighbourhood twitched the children of the house would be invited along with the grown-ups.
January 7th :
The decorations would be taken down (it is still considered unlucky to leave them up any longer) and your guests and family will return to their own home.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Worst Christmas?

Although it's the season to be jolly and all that, I thought I would share with you a story of my worst Christmas. I'd love to hear some of your anecdotes on the same subject.
My parents divorced when I was about five years old and both remarried so my brother and I had two sets of parents. Unfortunately none of them wanted to be called 'Mum  or Dad'. We had to call them by their first names which was very unusual in those days.
One Christmas when my brother and I were in our early teens they decided we would all spend Christmas together – yes that's right – both sets of parents and my brother and I under the same roof. My mother and stepfather (with whom we lived) provided a turkey, cake and mince pies  whilst my step mother and father were supposed to provide the alcohol and everything else.
You can imagine the atmosphere – my brother retreated to his bedroom and left me to be piggy in the middle  and keep the peace. Christmas lunch we got one slice of turkey and no gravy - my step mother and father didn't like gravy so we had to do without as well. We never saw the pudding, mince pies or cake.
After that the turkey and trimmings vanished and I remember we had to find our way to Chelsea (we were in Kilburn) where my step uncle and his wife were staying with his in-laws in order to get something to eat.
Can anyone top that?

Saturday 1 December 2012

The Duke's Dilemma

This is the large print cover.
This is the original cover.
Out 8th December 2012

I'm delighted with my cover, done as always by Jane Dickson-Smith, and think this new one complements the other five perfectly. What do you think? This book will be out on Amazon weekend just in time for Christmas.
The original cover (it was originally published as "The Ghosts of Neddingfield Hall" by Robert Hale ) and shows a perfect winter's day - very seasonal with the knee deep snow. The LP cover is not one that I especially like -although all the other coves from Ulverscroft/Linford are excellent. Which do you prefer?
I wanted to re-release this title in time for Christmas because it has a winter landscape – ideal for this time of year.I was tempted to ask Jane for a more festive feel to the cover but decided against it – do you think I made the right decision?

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Hannah's War & Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley

Available again on Amazon £1.99

Available on Amazon  £1.99
I'm just letting you know that I've re-published Miss Bennet & Mr Bingley and it's available on Amazon. I took it down form Regencyreads and forgot to put it back.

Hannah's War is the second of four WW2 books I've written and is a companion to Barbara's War which was published last month.
I hope you find time to read them both.

Here is the blurb.

World War II brings divided loyalties and tough decisions in this page turning drama from Fenella Miller.
 Hannah Austen-Bagshaw’s privileged background can’t stop her falling in love with working-class pilot, Jack, but Hannah has a secret. Torn between her duty and her humanity, she is sheltering a young German pilot knowing she risks being arrested as a traitor. Hannah’s worst fears are realised when Jack finds out what she has done and their love begins to unravel.
Will her betrayal be too much for Jack to forgive?

Sunday 18 November 2012

Rationing and Food in WW2.

As my second WW2 book Hannah's War, is coming out later this week I thought I would post about food in the war years.

At the start of the war ration books were issued and by March 1940 bacon, sugar, butter and meat were being rationed. By the following July, jam, cheese, canned foods and other groceries were added to the list of food that was restricted.
Tis meant housewives had to be ingenious if they wanted to provide nutritious and appetising food to their families. It was easier in the rural areas as families could grow their own vegetables and keep a few chickens. Often there was a ‘pig club’ where several families fattened a pig on their leftover food scraps and then shared it between them when it was slaughtered. Unfortunately the War Ag took half the meat so the families had only one side to share.
The War Ag’s effort to keep the nation healthy paid off and by the end of the war people’s health had improved despite the severe shortages. Farmers produced more food than at any time – before or since – and were able to prevent the population form being starved into submission.
Potatoes weren’t rationed so they became a staple part of the wartime diet. Here is the weekly allowance.

Bacon and ham:
4oz (100g)
To the value of 1s.2d (6p today).Sausages were not rationed but difficult to get; offal (liver, kidneys, tripes) was originally unrationed but sometimes formed part of the meat ration.
2oz(50g) sometimes it went up to 4oz (100g) and even up to 8oz (225g).
4oz (100g)
2oz (50g)
3 pints(1800ml) occasionally dropping to 2 pints (1200ml). Household milk (skimmed or dried) was available : 1 packet per four weeks.
8oz (225g). There were one or two ways we could make this go further. 
1lb (450g) every two months.
2oz (50g).
1fresh egg a week if available but often only one every two weeks. Dried eggs 1 packet every four weeks.
12oz (350g) every four weeks

Woolton Pie was popular. It was invented by the head chef at the Savoy and named after the Minister of Agriculture. It consisted of vegetables cooked in pan until soft and then put in a pie dish and covered with potato pastry. Yum! Yum!
There was a recipe for ‘mock goose’ which involved pork stuffing and other vegetables shaped a goose and parsnips stuck on the side for legs. Spam fritters were another favourite as was stuffed marrow and stuffed cabbage.
Amazingly many products around today were also available in the war. HP sauce, Bisto, Birds Custard, Marmite, Smiths Crisps, McDougall’s Flour, Nescafe, Bournville Cocoa, Ovaltine, Weetabix, Kellog’s cereals and Quaker Oats  to name but a few.
Sweets were rationed but some things were still sold – but hard to find unless you could afford to buy on the black market. Cadbury’s chocolate, Terry’s chocolate, Mars, Crunchie, Quality Street, Cadbury’s Milk Tray, Rowntree’s Smarties, Kit-Kat, and Rolo were all around and many with the same wrapper as today. There were also ration bars of Cadbury’s chocolate for 2 1/2d.

There was a war time food experiment done a few years ago where a morbidly obese woman ate only war recipes – the before and after pictures are amazing. She is now an attractive , slim, young woman. There was less fat and sugar in the diet and this was obviously healthier.
 Spam fritters and Mock goose just don’t do it for me.
Fenella J Miller

Saturday 10 November 2012

The Duke's Deception

Fifth 'duke' book - out now on Amazon.
The Duke's Deception is out on Amazon Kindle today. Another great cover from Jane Dixon-Smith.
I have already had to change the file as I had used the same title for the hero. I noticed this and changed it -but then changed it back thinking I'd not yet changed it -if you see what I mean.
Anyway it's fine now - hopefully the five readers who had already bought the book won't mind.
Last month I got my first royalties from Germany, I also sell a few copies most days in France/Spain and Italy -yet to sell a copy in Japan.
Here is the blurb.

Marianne Devenish arrives in Great Bentley expecting to find her great-uncle in residence. Instead she finds The Duke of Wister, Theodolphus Rickham pretending to be Sir Theodore Devenish, a tulip of the ton, more interested in the cut of his coat than in politics.
Unable to stay in a bachelor establishment she moves to Frating Hall, with the permanently impecunious Lord and Lady Grierson. She discovers, to her horror, that Charles, and his younger brother, Edward are involved with the local smugglers. 
Theo's dissembling inevitably leads to misunderstandings and heartbreak and with her reputation in tatters Marianne flees to London. But she is ostracised by society and is obliged to find refuge at Drayton House, a small estate in Hertfordshire. Here her life turns into a nightmare. 
Can Theo catch his spy, save Edward and Charles from the gallows and rescue the woman he loves before she is lost to him for ever?

Hope you enjoy it.
Have a good weekend

Monday 5 November 2012

The reason I write!

Today I had this e-mail from a  reader. I had to share it with you as receiving letters like this is the reason  I'm a writer. Artists and similar creative people are happy to work in secret -  most writers create their stories for the enjoyment of others. Knowing our work's appreciated is what keeps us working seven days a week.
For most of us it's certainly not the money we earn. :)

Hi Fenella! I just treated myself to 6 regencies of yours over on Fictionwise from Belgrave House!  I notice a few that were up before that I had on my wishlist are no longer available there.  Will you be putting them up elsewhere?Thank you for the wonderful stories you write! Your books are bringing me so much joy and comfort!  Its been a tough time here and to have your books to read has been super! I plan to get the last couple i need from Musa when I'm next able to! (the Doctor titled one. Didn't know I missed it!) I love the Christmas historicals so glad you have out Hartford Hall!You have lots of other historical and regencies and I shall check if they out in ebook and all!  Again thanks for your beautiful writing!

The fifth 'duke' book , The Duke's Deception, goes live at the weekend. I'll post the cover and blurb then.
Enjoy your fireworks.

Thursday 1 November 2012

The Duke's Challenge

Published October 2012.
The Duke's Challenge was released last month and is the fourth in my 'Duke' series. The fifth - The Duke's Deception - will be going up on Kindle in the middle of November.

Charlotte Carstairs has no choice but to seek out her estranged grandfather, Lord Thurston, the Duke of Lenster, and ask for his help. Without it she and her siblings will be destitute.
Major Jack Griffin, a disfigured and dissolute Napoleonic war veteran, now holds the title and is determined not to allow Charlotte and her family to remain at Thurston. He offers her an impossible challenge. Charlotte and the children can remain if she can improve the dilapidated house and poor estate withing two months. She has no choice but to accept.
Despite his many faults Charlotte is drawn to Jack. As their love grows there are sinister forces working to ruin their plans. Can they unmask the murderous plotters before they lose everything?

I hope you enjoy reading it. This is one of my favourite stories. I just love an irascible damaged hero who changes after falling in love with the heroine.


Saturday 13 October 2012

Amazon Rankings!

Amazon have come up with another way to make authors neurotic. Amazon Author Rankings - a new phenomenon introduced the other day - will tell the eager writer exactly how poorly they are doing in relation to others.
For instance mine are as follows: All books 5835
                                                   e-books 2409
                                                   fiction     1946
                                                   romance   776
                                                   historical   315
These are supposedly updated hourly so in theory one could see a trend - probably down rather than up.
This is on the rankings -no doubt there is another set for Amazon UK.
I already spend far too much time checking sales data and rankings of  my books on various lists - now I shall be feverishly viewing my personal rankings as well.
Being where I am in the rankings isn't too bad - there are, after all, over one million authors to be ranked. What must those in the  hundred thousands feel like? They might well have written a blindingly good book - it just hasn't sold very well.
I know I shall be depressed if my rankings fall and pleased when they go up - but does it really matter? Unless I magically arrive in the top one hundred - the list that is shown to the public - only I can see my position. I'm sure sales will improve for the magic one hundred - but for anyone else? I doubt it.
Is this an excellent marketing tool, like KDP, or just another idea from Amazon to make writer's produce more books more often? What do you think? Will this innovation help or hinder writers?

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Barbara's War

"A coming of age story with gripping, page-turning plot."
Barbara's War will be published as an e-book and a paper-back on October 5th  on Amazon. This is a book several agents loved but wouldn't take because "this book will not be easily pigeon-holed."
I decided to indie-publish and will await the opinion of those that read it.
I love the cover and intend to have all my covers designed by Jane Dixon-Smith in future.
Here is the blurb.
Barbara Sinclair is desperate to escape from her home in Hastings. Her beloved half-brothers, Tom and David, are being sent to boarding school because the town is likely to be a target of the German Luftwaffe when the bombing starts and John Thorogood, a childhood friend, is also leaving to join the RAF. Caught up by the emotion of the moment Barbara agrees to marry him when the war is over.
She discovers her paternal grandparents know nothing about her and she is determined to find them. Dr Edward Sinclair, her grandfather, is delighted to welcome Barbara to her father's ancestral home but her reception from her grandmother is frosty. Nevertheless, she is enjoying her new life.
Barbara is obliged to return to Hastings and her grandfather accompanies her – this visit changes her life for ever.
Now she not only has John as a dear friend, but also has Simon Farley, the son of a local industrialist and Alex Everton, a handsome Spitfire pilot, taking an interest in her.
Then everything changes. Evil stalks her paradise. Will Simon, Alex or John be the man to save her life?

Look forward to hearing what you think.

Tuesday 11 September 2012

Is Indie publishing a dead end?

There have been various blogs and articles stating indie publishing is a dead-end and as many saying it is revolutionizing publishing. This is my opinion.
I have been traditionally published for six years and have twenty-three print books available. I have also had six books published by a digital first publisher. Neither of these publishers has made me significant amounts of money; indeed my main source of income was from PLR and ALCS.
I'm not knocking the traditional route, I have several friends who are making a great deal of money from their advances and royalties, but they write for major publishing houses. I wrote for two small, independent presses and neither advances, nor royalties were substantial.
In May this year I discovered KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and have now self (indie) published three Regency romances. Preparing the file for publication is straight forward and the process of publication couldn't be simpler. Of course there is the expense of getting your manuscript professionally edited and proofread, something that would be done by the publishing house if you are going by the traditional route.
For these Regency romances I produced the covers myself – buying the image is straightforward and inexpensive. However, for my next book,  Barbara's War, a historical set in World War II, I have used a professional cover designer. This book will be coming out as a paperback as well as a Kindle edition and I thought it important to have an excellent cover. After adding in the cost of editing and proofing I will have to sell a lot of books before I make a profit.
I have sold 3000 copies of the first book, The Duke's Reform, which came out in the middle of June and the other two books are selling equally well. I shall release a book every month and by December I expect to be selling more than 150 copies a day of my Kindle books. This won't make me rich, but will double my income.
For me Indie publishing has provided an opportunity to bring my books to thousands of readers in a way that suits me. I no longer have to wait a year to see my titles appear - I'm in control of the timescale and the price.
Barbara's War was turned down by several agents, not because they didn't love the book, but because they couldn't "pigeonhole it". Traditional publishers say that they want books to fit a generic model – then complain that the story is too similar to others they are already publishing! With the advent of Indie publishing a writer can leave the discerning reader to make up their own minds about a book.
I wouldn't go as far to say that Indie publishing has revolutionized publishing - but it has certainly made things exciting for writers and readers alike. In my opinion Indie publishing is the opposite to a dead-end - it is providing a platform for writers of excellent books (Linda Gillard being one) to publish stories that a traditional publisher considered uncommercial.
What do you think?

Tuesday 28 August 2012

To Marry a Duke

To Marry a Duke

I'm delighted to tell you that my third 'duke' book is now published with KDP. The first two are still selling really well and I'm hoping To Marry a Duke will do equally well. This was published by Robert Hale as The Mesalliance in 2006.
This week there has been much reported about a lion loose in St Osyth - which just happens to be where my book is set. St Osyth's Priory is a magnificent medieval building, said to be the best in Europe. I was lucky to accompany a private conducted tour around the buildings and grounds.
There have been reports off a large panther like black cat in this neighbourhood for years. Someone suggested this wasn't a panther but the lion in disguise. Lions can be very devious.
Lady Allegra Humphrey knows her place is at the top of the aristocratic tree and she has no time for cits. If she and her twin brother, Richard, Lord Witherton, the Duke of Colchester wish to retain their position in society they will have to make compromises. Self-made millionaire Jago Tremayne now owns St Osyth’s Priory, Allegra's ancestral home, and is determined to own her as well.
Rejected by the haut ton, Jago believes he has the perfect plan to ensure both he and his daughter, Demelza, will soon be welcome in the best drawing-rooms. Marriage is the answer! However, there are people who do not wish to see the union proceed and are prepared to commit murder to stop it.
best wishes

Monday 20 August 2012

What's on your Kindle?

Not read this one yet.
This is a sample of books on my Kindle. I've also got several Anthony Trollope - but haven't had the energy to finish any of them. I download anything by anyone I know - but only if it's less than £2. I don't always read them - but like to support fellow writers. I hope they do the same for me.
Didn't like this one.

Good story.

Love Amanda's books -but not read this yet.

Set in India and looks interesting -not read it.

Why didn't the make more Zen films? Love Dibdin.

Just read this - 5* - loved it.

Have read all Leon's books -even paid exorbitant price for them. £5.99 for a Kindle copy!!

Didn't enjoy this -can't see why this was so popular.
What have you got lurking on yours? Of the ninety books I've downloaded since last year I've read and enjoyed about a third, partially read a third, and not even looked at a third.
An excellent thriller - have read three of his - a bit violent -but still good.

Wednesday 8 August 2012


New Talent Award aims to uncover romantic fiction authors of the future
The Festival of Romance is delighted to announce that the New Talent Award will run again this year. The industry judges are Georgina Hawtrey-Woore senior editor at Cornerstones, Random House and Diane Banks, literary agent at the Diane Banks Associates Literary Agency.
The Festival of Romance New Talent Award aims to cast a spotlight on the authors of tomorrow and is open to all writers who have not yet had a book commercially published. Writers may submit the opening chapter (up to 3,500 words) of a romantic novel of any type by 30th September 2012. The winner and runners-up will be announced and presented with trophies at the gala Festival of Romance Awards on Friday 16th November 2012. There is a small entry fee to cover the award administration. Entrants may also gain a critique of their entry written by a professional novelist.
“As part of the Festival of Romance we want to help new writers with talent get their break into the commercial fiction world,” says Kate Allan, chief romantic at the Festival of Romance. “At the Festival of Romance in November we are running writing workshops, an industry conference and chance to meet publishers face to face as well as the New Talent Award. I'm delighted that Georgina Hawtrey-Woore and Diane Banks have agreed to judge this year's entries.”
Winner of the 2011 New Talent Award Henriette Gyland subsequently garnered a book deal from publishers Choc Lit. Her debut novel Up Close will be published in December 2012.
For more details about how to enter the New Talent Award please see

Thursday 2 August 2012

When to say goodbye?

Today's post is very personal and nothing to do with writing. Our beloved  dog, Zoe, now 14 1/2, is nearing the end of her life. Three times in the last months we've got ready to ring the vet and arrange  for her to be put down. Each time we've left it until the next day and she's picked up again and staggered on.
She's still eating, going for a very short walk, and enjoys playing with her ball in the evening for a few minutes – how can we say goodbye to her when she's obviously still having a good quality of life? She smiles up at us, wagging her tail, and I know she's still happy.
The vet has set that as long as her quality of life is good then the decision is up to us. She has occasional bouts of incontinence that these only happens every other day. It's relatively easy to keep the floor washed but I'm very aware the house doesn't smell quite as pleasant as it should.
Her being here is now impinging on our quality of life – we can't have guests, we can't  go out at the same time and certainly can't go on holiday. At what point do we decide to say goodbye?
If someone else would make the decision for me I'd find it so much easier. Every day is a challenge and so stressful. sometimes I think it would be easy if we made the decision and then it would be over.
Friends of ours were in the same position and finally made the decision to have the dog put down - that said he could give the dog palliative care and he might live for another couple of weeks. Our friends decided Jamie's time had come and went ahead. They'd spent, like us, several weeks trying to make the difficult decision and just couldn't face taking him home and having to go through it all over again.
What would you do? Do you agree this their decision?

Wednesday 25 July 2012

Digital book pricing and piracy.

I read with interest a blog about the furore at a recent festival for crime writers. A panel member, who is a highly successful and well thought of self-publisher, put forward a suggestion that selling books at less than a pound was a positive move. An agent commented that she was surprised he was prepared to work for so little, completely missing the point that by pricing the book at £0.99 you are likely to sell 10,000+ copies over the course of year and make more than you would from a traditionally published book. I am certainly making far more money from my KDP books than I've made from any books put out by a publisher.
Other authors have told me that although you sell four times as many books when it's priced in pennies you don't actually make as much money as you do when you price to receive Amazon's 70%  royalties.I'm still experimenting on this one.
The piracy issue is something new to me. When the panel member said  piracy could be beneficial in some cases he was greeted by hisses and boos from the audience. His premise is that people who download pirated books wouldn't have bought his books anyway, but if they enjoy it they might well buy other books written by him.
I'm not sure about this. I've yet to discover any of my titles on one of these sites, but then I have not really looked. I'd be interested to hear your opinions.
Do you think selling a book for less than a pound, or putting it in a free promotion, somehow devalues the work? I certainly don't.
Can piracy possibly be okay? I think when you can download so many titles free, stealing them is not acceptable.

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Bride for a Duke
Yesterday my second Regency romance Bride for a Duke was published on Kindle.

Anna Hadley has no option but to agree to a marriage of convenience with handsome, young Lord Rupert Shalford. If she does not do this, Sir John Radcliffe, her step-father, will sell her to the highest bidder. However, Rupert's older brother Ralph, The Duke of Westchester, has ideas of his own and is determined to have the union dissolved. Sir John is equally determined to discover the whereabouts of his missing step-daughter.

Hope this does as well as The Duke's Reform.

Saturday 14 July 2012

Carol Chance

Today I'm delighted to have Carol Maclean with me. Carol has a new book out with Astraea.Press,
'Wild for Love.' Her blog is
'Wild for Love' is available at Amazon as well.

Something that fascinates me is how an author finds their characters so I asked Carol to tell me how she does this
Do you start with you characters or your plot?
It depends. Each story is different - sometimes a character will come to me fully formed and I then weave a story round them. However for 'Wild For Love' I had the plot in mind and then came up with the characters - they had to have opposing viewpoints so they could clash over the environmental issues raised in the story. So Polly (an Ecologist) and Jake (a property developer) were born.

Do you write a biography of all your character/main only/none?
I write a brief biography of all the characters. I find if I make it too detailed I get bored with them and don't want to write their story. As I write, I find things out about them and they develop and change in ways that at the start, I might not have imagined!

Do you base your characters on a real person/film actor etc or are they entirely imaginary?
They are mostly conjured up from my imagination. I never use actors to base them upon although I admit to a lot of people-watching on a daily basis and if someone's interesting enough, then an attribute may be used in a character.

Do you cut photos out of magazines to use as your main characters?
Never - I can see my characters quite clearly in my mind. I don't need a photo.

Do you see your characters or only hear them or both? 
I see and hear them - when I'm working on a chapter it's like a film set - I can see the action and hear the dialogue.

How many characters do you think are too many for a book to work?
Probably two main characters (heroine and hero) and three or four minor characters are enough. In 'Wild For Love' Polly's sister Lou and her husband Ian are having marital difficulties which are dealt with sensitively and resolved during the book - they are there so that Polly can reflect on the nature of love and learn for herself what real love means. Jake's mother is an important character too for Jake to learn to grow up and move on to what he really wants out of life.
We've all read stories where there are so many characters we have to flick back through the book to remember who they are! I don't want that to happen in my stories.

How do you make your characters individual? Accent? Catch phrases? Mannerisms? Other things?
I use catch phrases and mannerisms to some extent but I do try to be careful not to make the characters charicatures. I may use accents occasionally but I find a bit of local dialect goes a long way! The best thing to do is read out dialogue from the story and see if it works. Can I distinguish who is speaking from cadence and choice of words? If not, I've failed and have to try harder to individualise them.

Do you write with multi-view point/deep third/first/omnipotent/narrator –or a combination of these?
I write in third person but swop POV (Point of View) between the heroine and hero as the plot devlops.

How often do your characters run away with your plot?
Quite a lot. As the characters develop and mature the shape of the plot naturally changes. That's fine, I don't have a problem with that. The end of a book is always in the mist anyway when I start off.

Would you ever kill a main character/child/animal/villain?
I haven't yet but it's a possibility in the future....

In your opinion which is more important –plot or character?
For romance, most definitely character. The plot comes from the interaction between the heroine and her hero.

That's great, Carol. Thanks for giving us an insight into the way you work.

Wild For Love:
Polly is an ecologist, passionate and uncompromising about wildlife rights. Against her better judgment she falls in love with Jake, heir to a London media empire, whose development company is about to destroy a beautiful marsh. Can love ever blossom between two such different 

Sunday 1 July 2012

What is a good book?

With all the media attention surrounding '50 Shades of Grey'  and the huge number of destructive reviews for this book I thought I'd ask the question. 'What is a good book?'
I haven't read 50 Shades of Grey or the sequels but I have read several of the blogs which deconstructed the book and it would appear there are serious flaws in the writing style, the plot, and characterization. Therefore I could conclude that this isn't 'a good book'.
However this book has sold more than 3 million copies and is still selling well. Some of these sales could be accounted for by media hype, but the majority of readers  have bought this book must have bought it because they want to read it. If the reviews are true then millions of readers are enjoying 'a bad book'.
This is obviously nonsense. For so many people to be reading  this book it must be a good read - or 'a good book'. It might not be a well written book but it is certainly, in my opinion, 'a good book'.
I think books written in the first person present are unreadable but his doesn't make them 'bad books'.  I also find Jeffrey Archer and Dan Brown unreadable but they sell millions so their novels can be defined as 'good books'.
After all the majority of authors write books they want people to read. The more that buy their books the happier they are. The sales are what counts, not the number of rave reviews in national newspapers.
I have three reasons for writing. One: because it's what I do. Two: to entertain my readers. Three: to make  money.
I'm not sure James is writing for anything apart from the money - but that's another story.
What do you think if the definition of a good book? I'd be interested to hear your views.
best wishes

Saturday 16 June 2012

Available on Amazon Kindle
I'm thrilled to tell you that my first YA romantic fantasy TRUTH is now available on Kindle. I'm writing as Jane Miller to avoid confusion with my Regency romances

Orla Bennett is a normal, seventeen year old sixth-former. She is worried about changes in her own behaviour and feelings. She meets a strange young man in a glimmering coat and this leads to the revelation she is a faerie with incredible powers. She is needed to save her people from imminent threat.  Mike, the boy she loves, and her friends join her on the challenging and dangerous mission. Orla is facing not only the very real dangers of the fight against The Others but a stark choice between remaining in the human sphere with those she loves or moving irrevocably to the faerie side. Truth is the first in the three book series GLIMMERING.

This is a new venture for me and I'm hoping a few of you might decide to read it. At less than a pound it's a bargain!
Many thanks
Fenella (Jane Miller)

Friday 8 June 2012

The Duke's Reform

The Duke's Reform  - £1.01
I'm delighted to tell you that my first self-published book, on Kindle, The Duke's Reform, is now available for download.
It is a full length book -not a novella.
This is a new story - has not appeared anywhere else - and is my first Regency with a higher 'heat' level.

Here is an extract - hope you enjoy it.


'Your grace, shall I remove the tray?'
Alex glanced over his shoulder at the butler hovering anxiously behind him. 'Take it, I've no appetite.' He turned back to staring morosely over the park. Once this view had pleased him, now it meant nothing. Without Eleanor and the girls Newcomb was an empty shell, no longer a home.
            He rubbed his hand over his jaw. He must look like a brigand. His clothes were in little better state than his person. Grief at the death of his wife and daughters had all but overwhelmed him. He was rudderless— like a ship in a storm buffeted this way and that, unable to find a direction to guide him to safety.
            What day was it? How long had it been since his life had been torn apart? Weeks perhaps? Visitors no longer called to leave their cards of sympathy. No doubt someone had dealt with them, written suitable replies. He had not married Eleanor for love, but had come to love her as the years passed. With her at his side he had been happy, able to forget his miserable upbringing and make this mausoleum into a happy place.
 All that was over. He would not make the same mistake—far better to remain aloof. He vowed never to love again and to remain safe, with his emotions hidden. To experience such pain a second time would surely kill him. Sometime in the future he would have to marry; he must provide an heir, but would make sure he selected a suitable girl and not one who would expect him to love her. All he could offer his next bride was affection, respect and his title.
He would abandon this place, his ancestral seat, and remove to London and crowd his days with pointless activities until he was himself again. Decision made, he strode from the study and
shouted for his valet. The sooner he was gone the better. Newcomb held nothing but sadness for him. His loyal staff must come with him to Grosvenor Square—with familiar faces around at least he could be sure his household would run smoothly without his interference.
He yawned and rubbed his unshaved jaw. If he was not the last in line he would get up a
regiment of his own and join Wellington in Spain. Fighting for King and country might help to fill the hole the loss of his beloved wife and children had made in his life.

Chapter One

Grosvenor Square
Alex glared at his lawyer. How dare he have the temerity to interfere with his life? 'Dewberry, you forget yourself. When I take a wife is entirely my concern, kindly don't forget that.'
            'Forgive me, your grace, but I owe it to your father to speak plainly. Your dissolute lifestyle these past five years is a matter of grave concern. If you are determined to destroy your health in this way then could I ask you to find yourself a suitable wife and set up your nursery before matters overtake you?'
            'I have no wish to marry again, I have nothing to offer apart from my title and wealth. I cannot expect a young woman to accept me as I am.' Dewberry's look of astonishment almost made him laugh. 'The sort of woman who would be satisfied with just that is not someone I would wish to bear my children.'
            'There are dozens of eligible young ladies in the marriage mart this year who would think themselves fortunate to be selected by yourself. You are a handsome man, if you will forgive me for saying so, your grace, and in your prime.'        
'On the outside perhaps, but I no longer have it in me to be a caring partner. It would be a marriage of convenience; my wife would have to understand it will be a business arrangement. She to provide me with children and I, in return, to keep her in luxury for the rest of her life.'
He yawned, it had been a late night and he had not yet been to bed. The black crow was staring at him expectantly, he'd get no peace until he agreed.
            'I shall do as you suggest.'
            The elderly lawyer beamed. 'I should be happy to arrange for you to meet suitable young
ladies, there are several debutantes who would be ideal.'
God's teeth! 'I shall do my own selecting, Dewberry.' He raised one eyebrow. 'I do not
expect my search to become common gossip.'
            The man coloured. 'Of course not, your grace. Anything that is said in my chambers remains confidential. However, your appearance at Almacks …'
'Almacks? I'd rather have my teeth pulled them go there. I shall attend a few functions and see for myself what is on offer.'
            He strode from the office determined to get away from Town. Whatever Dewberry said matchmaking mamas would soon be on the lookout. He didn't want to go to Newcomb, he would go to Norfolk and do some shooting. Keep his head down until he was obliged to appear in public when the Season started in March. He'd find a few cronies to accompany him, there were always fellows willing to follow his lead as long as he picked up the bill.
Lady Isobel Drummond stormed out of the library. To be ignored by her parents unless they
required her assistance with her many younger siblings was one thing, to be told it was her duty to marry a wealthy man in order to save the family from ruin, was quite another.
            Gathering her dogs from the kitchens she snatched up her cloak and pushed her feet into the wooden clogs she used for gardening. She had to get out, get away from the house, give herself time to recover her composure. She paused, she would dearly love to run upstairs and change into her habit. A wild gallop across the Fens was exactly what she needed, but that would mean risking meeting her weeping mother and furious father. No, far better to walk.
            Othello and Ebony barked and raced around her in circles, as eager as she to be away from Drummond Hall. It was a blustery November day, a hint of snow on the wind whipped from the sea. Thank God she did not have to make a decision about going to London to join her aunt and uncle for the season until after Christmas.
            Deep in contemplation she failed to hear the rattle of a carriage approaching at speed. Ebony barked sharply and she looked round. Instinct made her throw herself prone, her bladder almost
emptied as a team of horses, followed by the wheels of the carriage, thundered above her. For a
moment she was unable to move, shock rendering her almost insensible. Then righteous
indignation flooded through her and she pushed herself onto her knees. She came face-to-face with a veritable giant, and not a particularly friendly one at that.
            'God's teeth, woman, what the hell do you think you're doing wandering down the middle of highway? I could have killed you.'
            Spitting mud in his direction she glared back into his furious face. 'Are you insane, sir? This is not a toll road but a country lane. What would you have done if there had been a flock of sheep across your path?'
            In answer he reached out and hauled her to her feet, then dropping to his knees, with firm hands brushed off the worst of the debris from her person. At every touch she flinched, unused to any gentleman taking such liberties. For some reason her anger dissipated to be replaced by a strange internal heat that followed the path of his fingers. She found herself gazing down at his dark hair which curled intriguingly over the collar of his many caped coat.
            Enough was enough. 'Desist at once, sir, I have no wish to be manhandled by you. I am quite capable of removing the dirt for myself. You had best look to your team, your carriage is in imminent danger of tipping into the ditch.'
His head shot up; his eyes were a peculiar shade halfway between blue and black, his nose
patrician and his lips mobile. Warmth spread across her breasts and into her face. She could not
tear her glance away; she was pinned like a butterfly on a board by the glitter in his eyes. Then it was gone and he was towering above her.
            'Dammit! Out of the way, madam, haven't you done enough damage already this morning?'
            The spirited team stamped and tossed their heads in impatience and the rear wheel of the vehicle began to slide inexorably backwards. Without thinking, she raced to the lead horse and
snatched the bit. The gentleman shouted from behind the carriage.
            'Good girl, move them forwards as rapidly as you can.'
Ignoring his instructions, she was well able to handle his horses without his highhanded
intervention, she urged the chestnut sideways, following her instincts. Going this way would move the wheel away from danger far more efficiently. The team threw their weight into the traces and the carriage shot forward removing the wheel from danger. Unfortunately the irascible gentleman fell headlong into the ditch instead.
            The air was blue, she thought it wise to absent herself as hastily as possible. Quickly checking the brake was on and the reins securely tied around the pole, she prepared to creep away. Although it wasn't her fault he'd fallen, no doubt he would blame her for his foolhardiness as he had done before.
            She prepared to make a run for it. Too late! A dripping figure emerged from behind the horses and strode towards her. She couldn't help herself; her scream echoed down the lane. Suddenly two black shapes hurtled past and for the second time the unfortunate gentleman was tipped backwards into the noxious water.
            Not waiting to see him emerge and seek revenge on the person who was responsible for dumping him twice into the ditch, she raced full pelt down the lane. She scrambled over a five
barred gate and tore across the meadow scattering cows in all directions in her head long flight. Her dogs were beside her, tongues lolling out, obviously delighted with the game.
Alexander shook his head, sending foul water in all directions. He scraped the muck from his eyes and watched his quarry vanish down the lane. Who the devil was she? Dressed like a servant but quite obviously gently born. She was a conundrum. He stepped out of the ditch and propped himself against the carriage wheel in order to remove his boots and tip out the water.   It was fortunate they no longer fitted him as snugly as they'd used to.
            He tossed his sodden cape on to the box and stared gloomily at his ruined topcoat. The blue
superfine jacket had cost him a pretty penny and it, like the rest of his garments, was quite beyond salvage. The young woman was right to castigate him, he had been driving far too fast. He shrugged, he seldom drove any other way, caring little if he came to grief. However, he had no wish to take anyone else with him if he went, and certainly not the lovely young termagant he'd just encountered.
            He checked his horses were none the worse their experience and then leaped into his carriage and recovered the reins. His breeches were so wet he slid from side to side as the curricle gathered speed. He had no option, unless he wished to nosedive over the edge he must return to his hunting box at a walk.
            best wishes

Sunday 3 June 2012

Kindle - good or bad?

I was thinking about digital publishing and the impact it has had on both readers and writers and decided to write something about this.
I bought a Kindle last year and initially downloaded mainly free books, most of which I deleted without reading them. Being able to have the complete works of Charles Dickens for nothing doesn't mean I'm actually going to read them.
Next I discovered Donna Leon and downloaded all her books. I remember staying up late to read Kate Johnson's 'The Untied Kingdom' and being absolutely riveted by the first in the Voyager series by Diana Gabaldon. I couldn't understand why it took me so long to finish this book, I'm a very fast reader, until I realised it had over 900 pages.
I've bought a dozen or more young adult fantasy but only read a couple. When they are less than a pound I don't bother with the extract.
Good Points
For the reader:
Instant gratification - see a title and get it immediately.
Millions of books between free to £2.99.
Can get an extract before buying.
Kindle can be carried anywhere.
Print size can be adjusted to suit.
Long battery life.(If you remember to turn wi-fi off.)
 For the writer:
Can self publish a book easily.
Receive all the royalties.
Know exactly how many books are sold.
Don't need an agent or publisher.

Bad Points.
For the reader:
Millions of badly written, and unedited books to trawl through.
Can't flick to the end of the book.
Badly formatted books even with major publishing houses.
New titles from major authors far too expensive.
No actual books to put on the bookshelf.
No  colour illustrations -doesn't work for children's books.
For the writer:
Have to pay for cover design and an editor.
Have to do all the marketing and promotion.
No actual book for bookshelf.
Reference books are not successful on the Kindle.

I'm definitely a fan of the new technology. I can  decide whether to give my latest Regency to a digital first publisher or put it up myself. I know several authors who have put up their entire backless and are selling  thousands of books.
That said, I will always buy hardback copies of certain authors. Reading on a Kindle is not as pleasurable an experience as opening a brand-new, beautifully covered, Bernard Cornwall or Lee Child. I read paper books downstairs and my Kindle in bed. My reference library will continue to grow as I need to be able to flip between sections when researching and this is impossible on a digital reader.
My research has turned up some interesting facts about Kindle readers - the facts seem to point to mainly middle-class women as owners of the Kindle. Men and teenagers seem to prefer paper books to electronic.
What do you think? Is this your experience?

best wishes

Monday 21 May 2012

Why don't e-publishers want Young Adult books?

I've just finished writing the first of a three book of the young adult fantasy and am now in a quandary about what to do with it. In order to send it to a mainstream publisher I need to acquire an agent and they are as difficult to find as a publisher.
This leaves me with two alternatives: one - self publish or two - offer it to a digital first publisher.
I decided to investigate both routes in my usual haphazard, nonscientific way. My research is as follows.
There are very few  digital first publishers still running a young adult line. The ones that do I checked the Amazon rankings of their books and they were all far higher than for my Regency romances. This puzzled me - I thought teenagers were buying more books and that YA was a growing market.
I browsed various forums and message boards and to my astonishment most seem to be saying that teenagers, in fact, have not embraced the digital reader. They prefer to read print books and Smart phones/iPad etc are used for communication and game play - not reading. It is adults that are reading on the Kindle not teenagers.
I also read in many places that those that are buying for digital readers in this genre are mostly adults who like reading crossover fiction.
I know that Hunger Games, Twilight, Harry Potter and Amanda Hockings's books have sold in their millions but they seem to be the exceptions.
The general consensus of opinion is that YA digital fiction is not selling well enough for the publishers to continue stocking them.
If this is true then I might as well self publish  or put the book to one side until things improve.
What do you think? Do teenagers prefer print books to digital? Are the main buyers for YA e-books adults?
Looking forward to hearing your opinion.