Friday, 4 December 2015

Sad Goodbye to Robert Hale.

6th book
3rd book
I was sad, but not surprised to hear that Robert Hale had closed for business in December 1st. They were the last of the old-fashioned publishers and will be missed. They had been in business since the 30s and were always family owned. Mr John Hale (son of Robert Hale) only retired a few years ago. Perhaps if they had changed to paperbacks, instead of the very expensively produced hardbacks, they might have survived a little longer. £18.99 was far too much in today's climate and cash strapped libraries just couldn't continue to buy them.

7th book
They started my writing career ten years ago and  I can still remember the joy of receiving the letter from Mr Hale saying he was going to publish 'The Unconventional Miss Walters.' I went on to write nine books for them, before moving on to an American publisher and then to indie-publishing. They were one of the few publishers still accepting submissions without using an agent.

1st book.
 They were unfailingly polite and responded to submissions within three weeks. I only had one cover I didn't like - that for 'A Suitable Husband' - the head of the girl is out of proportion and she should have looked like an English rose.

'The Mesalliance' (what a silly title) shows St Osyth Priory where the book takes place. 'A Dissembler' is the road to Great Bentley where that book is set. I was allowed to work with the artist, although it said in the contract the covers were decided by Hale.
The royalties were minimal and the print run tiny - but when I started I didn't care - just seeing my books on library shelves, and being able to give/sell them to friends was enough for me.

Editing was not as thorough as it could have been - but I only realised that after working with a different editor. I wasn't told about point of view/show not tell etc - this is something I learned later.
8th book.
2nd book.

9th book.

4th book.

5th book.
However, without Mr Hale buying my first book I wouldn't now be a successful author with over forty books to my name, and making more today than I ever did as top of the scale teacher.

D C Thomson, (My Weekly Pocket Novel & People's Friend Pocket Novels) are still there for new writers and they take unagented submissions.

I know many successful writers that started their careers with Robert Hale and I'm sure, like me, they will always be grateful for the start they received from this old-fashioned publisher.
The business has been sold to a publisher that only produces non-fiction. I understand that the fiction in the pipeline will be produced but no further books of this sort will appear.

I bid Robert Hale a fond farewell and hope everyone there finds alternative  employment.

Fenella J Miller

Monday, 16 November 2015

Why I work with other writers.

Elizabeth Bailey & Melinda Hammond

Melinda Hammond & Amanda Grange

About a year ago I downloaded a multi-author box set of crime novels and thought what a good idea this was if a group of writers wanted to promote their work to new readers.
I immediately contacted writers that I knew who wrote Regency and asked if they would be interested in putting out a Regency box set.
The original five included Wendy Soliman – she was forced to drop out of the next two box sets but will be rejoining us next year.
Initially we thought of this exercise as purely to introduce our own fans to books to other people. However this venture has proved to be successful as a business as well as a promotional tool.
Fenella J Miller, Monica Fairview,
Elizabeth Bailey and Melinda Hammond
We got together last week at the very grand St Pancras Hotel (£5 pound for a cup of tea!!) and held our first business meeting. Working with a group of excellent, well established writers in a similar genre as myself not only makes financial sense, but it's also beneficial in several other ways.
If any of us have writing related problems then we can contact each other for a solution – even non-writing problems can be shared and solved.
Writing is a solitary business and working with people in a similar position as I am makes the business less lonely. Of course I have Facebook and Twitter friends, but I'm unlikely to meet up face to face with many of them.
After our meeting we've now come up with a new business model. This will be more flexible and allow the six of us to participate in a box set or not depending on our current circumstances. I've also handed over the running to Amanda for 2016 and I can't tell you how delighted I am that she's agreed to take it over.
The other members of the group will take a turn in being the host for a year's box sets – my turn won't come round again until 2021! I shall enjoy the experience fare more when I'm not responsible for the financial side of things.
We think this is such a good idea that we're intending to put out a Regency crime box set in the future as well as our romances.
I can highly recommend the experience and would suggest that if you write in a similar genre to anyone you know, think about joining up with them in producing a multi-author box set.

Fenella J Miller

Monday, 2 November 2015

Are things different now for indie writers?

When Amazon introduced KOL in July 2 014 – the subscription service for readers – everything changed for me. From September 2014 when the first payment of the July  KOL royalties arrived in my bank, my income doubled. Then last year's Christmas novella, Christmas at Hartfield Hall, took off and became a bestseller and gained me three lots of author bonus payments.
This amazing increase in royalties continued until April (which was February's royalties)and then began to tail off and for a while I was worried that my writing career was on a downward slope.
Then I realised this surge of borrowing was because the scheme was newly introduced and once everyone who'd joined had read my books, things had returned to normal.
There are over 1 million people in the scheme and the majority signed up when it started. I doubt that there will ever be that sort of explosion again – which is a shame as it gave me a fantastic boost in income.
That said, my income hasn't fallen below what it was before the scheme began – in fact it is slightly higher.
There are still indie writers who sell a substantial amount of books without being in the KOL system,but I think they are in the minority. For me everything is now different. I have literally hundreds of thousands of pages read every month, but am lucky to get three or four hundred sales when I used to have three or four thousand. I think that my readers have all moved to the library scheme.
My mainstream historical titles still sell a pleasing amount every month so I must assume that these readers are not in KOL and  prefer to buy books.
There are a finite number of readers and a growing number of writers – someone told me that there are 3000 titles published in the UK every week. That's a staggering number and we are all competing for sales in the the same pool of readers. Indie writers can actually be maintaining their author and sales rankings whilst their slice of the sales-pie is now smaller than it was.
I shall continue to write to the best of my ability and publish seven or eight new titles every year in the hope that this keeps my market share stable even if it is no longer rising.

Fenella J Miller

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Christmas at Highfield Court

Click here US
Click here UK
I know what your thinking -not another Christmas book. I love the build up to the festive season but usually find the period itself a let down. Not having a faith the religious side is rather lost on me - although I do love singing carols and hearing the Christmas story.
I like to give gifts to friends and family and this is the one time of the year I can do it without anyone objecting.
For this reason I think there can't be too many Christmas themed books -hence this my third.
Here is the blurb for this recycled title. Don't you love the new cover?

Christmas at Highfield Court was previously published as Lord Atherton's Ward. 
Extra scenes have been added to this book. When their father, Sir John, dies leaving Sarah Ellison and her younger sister Jane orphaned, his choice of guardian is entirely disagreeable to Sarah – particularly with Lord Atherton's insistence that they leave their family home and move to Highfield Court to remain under the care of his mother. Will the spirit of Christmas work it's magic or will Sarah continue to alienate Lord Atherton with her headstrong behaviour or prove that she is a girl he can respect?

If you enjoy this book would you be kind enough to leave a short review on Amazon?
Many thanks.
Fenella J Miller

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Barbara's War - Audio Version now live.

Amazon UK Amazon US

I'm rather excited to announce that my very first audio book is now available on Amazon and itunes. Sandra Garston is my narrator and she's done an excellent job. It's a shame it's so expensive but Amazon price on length and this is over eleven hours. Hopefully lots of people will be part of Audible and can download it as a loan.
Having four versions of this book is amazing - there is a large print version/paperback/e-book and now an audio. I feel like a real writer now. 

Barbara's War has been given The IndiePENdents Seal # 10112245 .
This certifcate is issued to books that meet their standards of good writing.

"BARBARA'S WAR by Fenella J Miller is a gripping tale of a young woman in wartime changing the course of her unhappy life. Some very dark moments. A really excellent read.
Maureen Lee

‘A captivating story, so evocative of the period.’
Jean Fullerton.

"If you liked War Brides you will love this book."

As war rages over Europe, Barbara Sinclair is desperate to escape from her unhappy home which is a target of the German Luftwaffe. Caught up by the emotion of the moment she agrees to marry John, her childhood friend, who is leaving to join the RAF, but a meeting with Simon Farley, the son of a local industrialist, and an encounter with Alex Everton, a Spitfire pilot, complicate matters. With rationing, bombing and the constant threat of death all around her, Barbara must unravel the complexities of her home life and the difficulties of her emotional relationships in this gripping coming-of-age wartime d

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Regency Quintet Christmas Edition

£1.99 & $2.99
See book here.
Here it is – the long awaited, and hopefully much appreciated,  collaborative effort from myself, Melinda Hammond, Amanda Grange, Elizabeth Bailey and Monica Fairview.
This time Monica, Elizabeth and myself have written stories especially for this box set so anyone who downloads this edition will be getting a real bargain.
I know it's very early to be talking about the holiday season – in the US you've not even celebrated Thanksgiving and over here we still have Bonfire Night  to come – but all the shops are crammed full of Christmas treats and decorations so we're obviously not the only people who like to get in the festive spirit far too soon.
Here are the blurbs to give you an idea what you will get if you buy this box set:

A Most Unusual Christmas
Fenella J Miller
Miss Cressida Hadley is delighted when Lord Bromley and his family are unexpectedly obliged to spend Christmas at The Abbey. Despite the fact that Lord Harry has a broken leg, her papa and the Earl take an instant dislike to each other, the Dowager Lady Bromley drinks too much and her older brother, Richard has got into another scrape – Cressida is convinced she can overcome these difficulties by reviving the old-fashioned Christmas traditions and getting everyone involved. However, falling in love with Lord Bromley hadn’t been part of her plan.

Winter Inheritance
Melinda Hammond
Governess Verity Shore longs for a little adventure, then Rafe Bannerman arrives to carry her off to Highclough and Verity discovers that life can be a little too exciting! An estate the edge of the wild Yorkshire Moors, Highclough is Verity's inheritance, but she soon discovers that the land is coveted not only by her handsome cousin Luke but also by Rafe Bannerman and soon her very life is in danger…..

A Merry Christmas Chase
A Very Merry Chase
Monica Fairview
When the new earl at the Lodge catches Cherry poaching, she manages to get away before he discovers her identity. But the Earl is serious about catching his poacher and bringing “him” to justice, so Cherry flees to her estranged rich aunt. Imagine her dismay when she discovers that the earl is a house guest there for the whole twelve days of Christmas! She has to rely on her ingenuity to throw him off the scent.
Lord Carsdale has come to the Christmas house party to find a wife, but there is something very odd about Lady Ashburn’s niece. At first he turns away from her, but as he catches glimpses of someone else behind the mask she wears, he gets more and more intrigued, unaware that she is leading him on a very merry chase, one where it is not clear who is the hunted and who the hunter.

His Lordship's Christmas Bride
Elizabeth Bailey
Orphaned and alone, Isolde Cavanagh seeks refuge with her father’s old friend and finds a reluctant guardian in his son. Richard de Baudresey, beset with problems of his own, cannot imagine what to do with a girl who has followed the drum and is unfitted for society. Will her estranged uncle take her on? Can he use the relationship to his advantage in his own dealings with the man? But when, in his absence, Isolde is thrown out, Richard realises his plans for her future have undergone a radical change.

The Six Month Marriage
Amanda Grange
Desperate to escape her brutal uncle, Madeline Delaware enters into a marriage of convenience with Philip, Lord Pemberton. On the night of the Christmas fete they give in to their feelings but it is not until they vanquish a woman from Philip's past that they find the happiness 
they deserve. 

I love working with these brilliant Regency writers and next year Wendy Soliman will be joining us again and we will become the Regency Sextet.
Fenella J Miller

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Why are sales of e-books falling?

I was fortunate enough to get in at the beginning of the e-book revolution. 2013 and 2014 were extraordinary years for indie publishers but we all knew this couldn't last. Things have definitely started to go downhill this year.
£0.99 $0.99
I'm not the only one who has noticed a very sharp drop in sales, indeed, I think that August's royalties are going to be less than for last August  and this will be a first for me. My loans have become stronger and pay per page seems to be working to my advantage.
My new Christmas book, Christmas at Castle Elrick, ( Click to buy in UK  Click to buy in US  ) is already in  several bestselling lists which is very encouraging.
I had to go to Author Central in order to copy my mini bio and whilst there I looked at my author and sales rankings over the past two years. I was surprised to see that both were slightly above the position they were in last year.
There can only be one explanation – I'm still selling the same proportion of books as before in comparison to other writers, but as there are so many excellent Regency books available readers are not buying as many from each author as they did previously. Eighteen months ago there were probably only a couple of dozen successful Regency writers now there must be a couple of hundred.
I also think that the pool of readers isn't growing as fast as everybody expected so with more good books available each author is going to sell proportionately less.
I think we're going to have to get used to earning less from our books than we did before. I'm just happy that the fall in sales figures is not because I've become unpopular, but for the reasons stated above.
I would be really interested to know if other writers have come to the same conclusion.
Fenella J Miller

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Christmas at Castle Elrick
£0.99 $0.99
Christmas at Castle Elrick is a Regency fairy tale - Miss Verity Sanderson the beauty and Sir Ralph Elrick the beast. He was severely injured in the Napoleonic wars and has been brooding in his castle for years waiting for Verity to reach her majority and come to him. Her father had promised his daughter to Ralph in return for his financial support. Verity decides marriage to a wealthy stranger is preferable to remaining with her step-mother and half-sisters so sets off, the week before Christmas, to become his wife. 
Castle Elrick is a cold, unwelcoming place situated on the bleak Northumbrian coast and Ralph and his small staff are not the only residents. Will Christmas be a celebration or will the ghosts of Elrick Castle force them apart?

This is the first of my two Christmas offerings for 2015– the second will be in the Regency Quintet Christmas Edition box set which will be out early in October.
Another wonderful cover by Jane Dixon-Smith which I hope will make you feel warm and fuzzy and want to read my book. I know it's still September, but there are already so many Christmas books available I thought I'd better put mine up as well.
Fenella J Miller

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Free books and e-mail lists.

Although I didn't do the full Nick Stephenson's course I did watch the free videos and have adopted several of his very useful suggestions. The most complicated of these was setting up a male chimp account in order to collect names for my email subscribers list. I've yet to send out an email to my 50+ subscribers, but I shall attempt to do so at the end of the week as I shall have some exciting news.
In order to do be successful it would appear that having a perma-free book available works best. I can't do this as all my books are Kindle Select, so I came up with the ingenious solution of putting a different book in a free promotion for five days each week. The Duke's Reform will be going up on Thursday 17th September.
I'm re-editing all these early titles and republishing them. I'm working on A Mistress for Stansted Hall at the moment and this will come out next Thursday.
The other titles shown have appeared over the past four weeks; I intend to continue putting up something different over the next three months and then, if it hasn't worked, I will stop.
I'm fortunate that I have more than thirty-five titles to choose from. The books I'm using all went up before I employed an editor and proofreader and relied solely on my beta readers and myself to make things as error-free as I could.
I'm gaining half a dozen new subscribers with each free book which is good. However, what is even better is that each promotion has put me into the top five hundred in the Kindle free book lists, and in the top three of several Regency/historical lists. I'm hoping this will rejuvenate my sales, which have been somewhat slow over the past two months.

Fenella J Miller

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Why are Christmas books popular all year round?

My bestselling title since last year has been Christmas at Hartford Hall and I'm wondering why readers want to read Christmas themed books all year round.
By the time New Year comes I can't wait to take down the decorations and forget about Christmas for the next nine months. I certainly don't want to read books with a festive theme at any time apart from September to December.
Easter/Thanksgiving/Halloween don't seem to have a plethora of themed books – it's only Christmas that attracts this sort of attention from readers and writers alike.
Several people have told me they've already seen Christmas trees and decorations up in some places – even a pub had its tree up. Waitrose has Christmas chocolates on display and no doubt other stores will soon follow.
I spent half an hour searching the web for giant plastic Christmas bells to hang outside my house – but was cross with myself for doing so at the beginning of September. Don't get me wrong - I love Christmas -but not 24/7.
I believe there are even Christmas themed shops that are open all year round – but I've never seen  one.
I suppose the attraction for readers could be that they know a book with a festive theme will be happy – have no nasty surprises. Non-Christians celebrate a different version of Christmas – a commercial one – but it's still a time when family and friends get in contact with each other and that can't be bad.
Who doesn't enjoy overindulgence and opening presents?
Maybe being able to read about people enjoying themselves is why these titles are so popular. It's not just romantic historical Christmas books that sell well, but also contemporary.
My new Christmas title, Christmas at Castle Elrick, will be coming out later this month and a new Regency Quintet Christmas Edition with three brand-new titles in it, will be out in October.
Are you a reader who enjoys Christmas books in July?
Fenella J Miller

Friday, 21 August 2015

New Release : Barbara's War Box set.

£3.99 Amazon
I'm delighted to have put out the box set version of Barbara's War which contains all three books.
it seems a long time ago that I wrote the first book in this series – in fact it was in 2008 – and originally the book was called "Stormy Weather". I had an agent then but she was unable to place the book, or maybe it didn't even get as far as that before I parted company with her.
However, the second two parts were only written last year and I was quite sad to say goodbye to the cast of characters.
If you haven't already read these books then they are also available to borrow for free if you're a member of KOL. (UK)  (com)

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Is it too soon to panic?

Last year when KOL was introduced by Amazon dozens of writers that I know said their sales had collapsed almost overnight. Nobody seemed to be able to give a sensible explanation for this sudden and catastrophic loss of revenue.
Some suggested that having part of your titles in the system and the rest out was the problem and there was a lot of moving backwards and forwards of titles in to Kindle Select and out again. Of course I was sympathetic, but as I wasn't effected by these changes, in fact my revenue doubled rather than halved, I thought I was immune.
Original Style
However, when they introduced the new 'pay per page' my sales which, up to this point had been no worse than they were last year, took a nosedive. In fact so poor are they now that I'm no longer bothering to check at the end of each week. I'm just looking at my sales dashboard and sighing sadly.
I don't know if this plummet is coincidental or a has been caused by this new loans system.
New Style
Any reduction in sales is always worrying. Actually I believe that there are now so many good books being published in my particular genre - Regency - that the competition has become even fiercer. The vast majority of  author-published books are now as good, if not better, than traditionally published books. They have professionally designed covers, had been properly edited and formatted and are sold at a fraction of the price of traditionally published books.
I no longer think that just being able to publish a new title every couple of months is enough to maintain my market share. Not only do I need to keep my existing readers, but I also need to attract new ones. I've tried advertising in a variety of places but this made absolutely no difference. I tinkered with my cover style, but this also made no difference.  I intend to stick with the original as at least this way my brand is easily identified. I love the new cover, but as it costs a lot more to have something as elaborate as this, and it made no difference to my sales, it doesn't seem sensible  to change.
I'm in the process of setting up an email list which I hope you will all sign up for when it's live. I'm also in the process of getting a permanently free book ready – one that hasn't been for sale for over a year - and I'm going to try Nick Stephenson's (First10Kreaders) suggestions and see if that works. I can have something free all time as long as I can manage to do the technical staff involved. All this is taking time away from my writing which is how I want to spend my time.
Is it too soon to panic that my career has taken a permanent dip? Has anyone else noticed their sales are continuing to go down instead of beginning to recover as they usually do  by the middle of August? I should be grateful for any suggestions.
Obviously I love having the royalties drop into my bank account every month, but it's not the loss of income that is causing me to panic, it's the thought that I'm losing readers that really worries me.
Hopefully there will be better news next time I talk to you.
Fenella J Miller.

Saturday, 1 August 2015

How many books a year?

I don't know about you, but I like to plan ahead. I've already got my schedule for 2016 mapped out and this is what I plan to publish;
Two more of the six book series called, "The Duke's Alliance".(I'm writing the first one now and it will be released in January.'
Two shorter Regency titles.
A Christmas Regency
Two back list Regencies.
Also if the agent, who has the first book in my three book Victorian saga, fails to sell it to a major publisher then I shall publish that myself. I shall also write the second book sometime next year, but this won't be published until 2017.
There will also be three new Regency Quintet editions as well as three new box sets with my titles.
I know a lot of people throw up their hands in horror when I say how many books I write the year but three 50K books and three long books is not as much as it sounds.
I write a minimum of a thousand words every day – sometimes a lot more – which gives me plenty of spare days to go out and spend with family and friends. It only takes a couple of hours – sometimes a lot less – to write that much so it's hardly an arduous schedule.
I also spend a couple of hours on social media because I enjoy it rather than because it raises my write a profile or sells any more of my books.
I have a friend, Wendy Soliman, who also writes Regency as well as in three other genres, and she writes ten books a year. I know that Nora Roberts writes ten books a year and when I first heard that I thought she must have other people writing her books, but it's perfectly possible to write even more than that without too much trouble.
How many books do you write?
I also read about fifty books a year – mostly historical fiction and thrillers, but also some contemporary romance, some fantasy and a dozen or so reference books. I'm a very fast reader and if a book grabs my attention I read it in two evenings. I probably start, but abandon, another thirty books during the year. I don't spend time on books that I don't enjoy however popular they might be with other people. I didn't get more than a quarter of the way into Wolf Hall, and abandoned the latest CJ Samson – although when I get it back from my neighbour I might give it another go. It started with burning three people alive and that was just too much for me to stomach.
My favourite authors are Christian Cameron, Bernard Cornwall, P J Chisholm, Lee Child and Michael Connelly. I also love Jane Fullerton's books and Alison Morton's – especially her latest, which I think is the best, Aurelia.

 How many books do you read a year?

Fenella J Miller

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Is 'pay per page' a good move by Amazon?

On 1 July Amazon changed the way they pay for any loans or borrows within the Kindle library system. Before this date whenever a book that is in Kindle Select was borrowed the writer received a payment of around $1.35 once the reader had read more than 10% of the book. By borrowing I'm referring to Prime Members, who can borrow one book at a time, and subscription members who can borrow up to ten books and keep them for as long as they want. When they want to borrow an  eleventh book they have to return one in order to do so.
This meant that the writer knew at a glance how many times a given title had been borrowed and could work out fairly accurately how much they would receive in payment at the end of each month. Whenever I borrowed a book I always flipped to the 10% mark so the writer got a payment even if I didn't want to read the rest of the book.
The new method of payment was introduced, so Amazon say, because a large number of unscrupulous writers put up items where the front matter itself was more than 10% so without even looking at the book/short story/rubbish these writers would get the same payment as someone who had a three hundred page book borrowed and read.
The new system records how many pages of any book is read in any month and the writer is paid accordingly. This would mean that for a very long book and a very slow reader the writer might be receiving payments spread over several months.
At the moment nobody seems to be very clear exactly how much is going to be paid per page – the current thinking is that it will be half a cent. This would mean that my books, the bulk of which are a hundred and fifty pages or less, would receive around seventy-five cents  instead of $1.35, so I stand to have my income  from KU reduced by a third. Obviously this is not good news as I've already taken a 20% hit on my sales in the UK because of the introduction of VAT a few months ago.
However, until the end of July no one really knows how it's going to work out. I'm hoping that my income doesn't suffer too greatly by these changes.
The other drawback as far as I'm concerned is that I will no longer be able to track exactly how many of each title is borrowed each month and this is something I like to do. Ten thousand page reads could equate to anything – I'm not sure if this system will continue as I don't think I'll be the only writer who suffers economically and is also frustrated by being unable to make accurate recordings for each book.
I'd be interested to hear other writers views on these changes. Am I alone in having reservations?
I really liked the system as it was and I think these radical changes might well be for Amazon's benefit rather than mine.
Fenella J Miller

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Lady Emma's Revenge

Here is my latest Regency romantic adventure which this time features a man who is not a gentleman but a senior Bow Street Runner. Both Lady Emma and Sam look exactly as I imagined them – Jane Dixon-Smith has given me yet another brilliant cover.
I really enjoyed writing something a bit different this time. One review of Lord Ilchester’s Inheritance suggested there was not enough plot, so this time I’ve provided plenty of action as well as romance. I hope you enjoy reading it is much as I did writing it.

Lady Emma’s Revenge
Lady Emma Stanton is determined to discover who killed her husband even if it means enlisting the assistance of a Bow Street Runner. Sam Ross is not a gentleman, has rough manners and full time for etiquette, but he is brave and resourceful and Emma comes to rely on him – perhaps a little too much.



Chapter One

Chelmsford, 1816

The crack of the pistol shot echoed through the house. Emma stumbled backwards almost losing her balance and crashing headlong down the staircase.
The sound had come from Richard’s study. Gathering up her skirts, she spun and raced down the stairs, across the vast expanse of chequered floor and along the spacious passageway that led to his sanctum.
His man of business, Stokes, barred her way as she tried to go in. ‘No, my lady, better not see. I was too late to stop him.’ He wiped his eyes on his sleeve but remained firmly in front of the closed door. ‘The master is dead. There’s nothing you can do for him.’
‘Dead? Are you telling me that he has killed himself? I don’t understand – we breakfasted together little more than an hour ago and he was perfectly well.’ Her head was spinning; she couldn’t take in this dreadful news.
The housekeeper, Smithson, appeared beside her. ‘You come along with me, my lady, let Mr Stokes take care of things. He’ll get Doctor Reynolds to deal with this.’
Emma allowed herself to be gently guided away from the study. She had believed her husband had been contented with their union despite his lack of interest in the marriage bed. How could he have taken his own life? It made no sense.
‘No, Smithson, I’ll not be removed so easily. Mr Stanton could not possibly have committed suicide. I must speak to Stokes and he must send for the magistrate and have him investigate the matter.’
Ignoring the anxious tutting and clucking from her housekeeper she hurried back to the study and turned the handle – but the door was locked. She banged on the door and demanded to be let in and she was certain she heard movement behind the door.
Stokes rushed to her side, his face pale. ‘I locked the door, my lady, the master wouldn’t want you to see him like that.’
‘There’s someone in there. Quickly, unlock the door, whoever it is will be getting away.’
His expression changed to one of concern and he fumbled in his pocket for the missing key. ‘There cannot be anyone inside, my lady, the door has been locked and the windows are closed.’
Eventually the door was open and Emma was first to enter. The room was indeed empty, but she was certain there had been somebody inside. Her attention turned to her husband who was slumped across the desk, his fair hair caked with blood, the discharged duelling pistol in his hand.
Her eyes filled and she swayed. She dug her nails into her palms, she would not faint, she must be strong. Richard had been murdered and she could think of only one person who would wish to do this. His younger half-brother, Benedict Stanton, had always coveted the estates and substantial income that went with them. The last time Richard had spoken to his brother had been more than a year ago and the meeting had ended with Benedict threatening to kill him.
‘I cannot go any closer. Stokes, could you check the desk and see if there is a note for me?’
After a cursory search amongst the papers he shook his head. ‘Nothing at all, my lady. The master would have left a note explaining, I don’t understand.’
‘I am feeling decidedly unwell, I must lie down. I shall leave you to speak to the doctor. Would you also send word to our lawyers, they must bring the will. Thank God the estates are not entailed, they will remain under my control and will not be passed on to Mr Stanton.’
‘The master had summoned me here on an urgent matter. I did not get the opportunity to speak to him, but he received two letters from London this morning and I believe it was in relation to those that he wished to speak to me.’ He bowed and stepped aside to allow her to exit.
Smithson was waiting in the passageway and Emma was glad of her support. The shock and anger at Richard’s demise had carried her through the first awful minutes, but now grief was overwhelming her. It was as if she had been shrouded in a heavy, wet cloak. Her feet were becoming more difficult to move and a welcome blackness took her away. (com) (uk)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Indian or British? The journal that inspired Victoria's War.

A (.com) (.uk)

I was inspired to write Regency books because I read Georgette Heyer as a teenager and later read Jane Austen's wonderful books. In latter years I watched the many Jane Austen adaptations that appeared on television and this spurred me on to write my own Jane Austen variations, as well as over thirty Regency stories. (.uk) (.com)
However, when I found my mother's journal about the time she spent in India with her father, my grandfather, I decided to write a historical family saga using her memoirs for authentic background and detail.
 The first part of Victoria's War, Shadows, uses a lot of my mother's actual descriptions of the India where she lived for two years between 1937 and 1939. I also made the decision to get her memoirs typed and transferred to my PC and then to publish them on Amazon.
The electronic version has been live since last week and I'm about to put up the paperback version with Create Space. I shall make a colossal loss on this project, but writers don't do everything in order to earn royalties – sometimes we write and publish books because they are important to us.
I wish I had known the woman who wrote this journal – maybe I would have liked her more. It was only when I discovered the manuscript, after my stepfather's death, that I also found a couple of other, more recently written, journals in which she had put that she had loved my brother and I.
I wish she'd been able to tell us how much she loved us when she was alive because, although she and my stepfather provided us with an interesting home, with no financial support whatsoever from my father, never once did she offer us any physical expression of her feelings.
I wonder what inspires other writers – is it an overheard conversation, a family photograph perhaps, or something else entirely?

Fenella J Miller

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Alison Morton - Is social media any use?

Today I have the talented writer Alison Morton as guest on my blog. I asked for her view on social media as I know you seem to prefer this sort of post to just straight promotion. If you haven't read her first three books then you have missed a terrific read.
Over to you Alison:
Alison - looking rather scary.

Is social media any use?
Without the firm social media base built up over several years, I could not have launched my fourth book, AURELIA, last month. It’s that simple.

Dial back five years when I started mixing with book people – writers, editors, agents, publishers, literary consultants and commentators. I was still writing the first draft of my first book, INCEPTIO and quickly realised it would be a slog to make it known to readers. A website was obvious – I’d written and used them during my business career, but what else was there?

Although I had no published book to promote, I decided on World Book Day in 2010 to blog about my newbie journey as a writer. Shortly after, I plunged into Twitter then Facebook, both a little unwillingly.

But something unexpected happened - I fell in love with social media. Yes, it’s publicised my Roma Nova thriller series but more than that, I now enjoy talking to warm, witty, insightful and generous people on every continent. And many of these virtual friends and acquaintances have not only bought my books, but actively help me promote them to others.

What benefits do blogging, tweeting and posting bring?
Writing blog posts hones short-form writing skills like nothing else. Now, I have five years’ worth of posts on alternative history, writing life and craft and Roman life which readers can discover and hopefully enjoy; my post on the Antonine plague in the late second century is even used as a student resource! ;-)
Worth remembering:  your blog belongs to you, you control what goes on it and how information is presented.

Tweeting widens your reach, gives you the opportunity to connect instantly and discover useful articles that can help your career, find new books or just entertain you. Sophisticated tools like Tweetdeck allow you to reach people in other time zones with scheduled tweets. I like Twitter for building relationships and following trends and news as well as retweeting useful articles from other people and, very importantly, from my own blog. Other tweeters will retweet yours if you reciprocate; your book is then in front of their followers’ eyes.

Facebook allows you to contact people in specific interest groups and, in my case, to talk to my readers as well as to other authors and experts. Using an author page allows you to be more commercial and concentrate on your books and writing life without driving your non-author friends on your personal profile insane with book talk!

Amazon author sites are essential and simple to use; readers can find what other books their favourite author has written, watch trailers and check author events.

Goodreads, sometimes called ‘Facebook for readers’ runs an author programme where authors can promote their books. Most popular is the giveaways where authors can put their books before hundreds of readers and readers have the chance to win free signed paperbacks!

A few tips
Not a numbers game – Don’t count ‘scalps’ or pure numbers – all social media is a gradual business which accumulates and you should look for quality of your contacts, not quantity. Paid likes or followers aren’t worth it – they’re usually 14-year-olds in a bedroom doing it for pocket money.

Interact - You don’t have to follow everyone back, especially if you have no shared connection and they’ve popped up out of the blue. Have conversations as well as promoting your books; readers and authors are people first!

Have fun but be prudent – Once you’ve put something on social media, it’s in the public domain and can’t be withdrawn.

Facebook – If you receive a friend request from somebody you don’t know personally, check the subject matter on their page, their other friends, any mutual friends, the groups they belong to and their interests before accepting the connection. Just because your friends have accepted the request doesn’t mean the requester is abona fide person…

Content - Keep all posts specific, on message, entertaining and informative. Restrict promotional tweets to about 15% of your total tweets.

Bad master, good tool – Decide how much time you will spend on social media, and when, in the day and do not exceed it. It’s very alluring… I check each morning for posts in other time zones and to say good morning to fellow early risers, then allocate more time in the evening, which is when most of my contacts are about. 

Blogging – How often you blog is up to you, but once a week keeps readers’ attention. Posts of 600-800 words are best plus at least one picture. Regular blogging also gives you an opportunity to discuss research, host guests and highlight how your work is going – all interesting to readers.

Other social media are available, as they say – Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram – but I’d start with the ones I’ve mentioned.

In brief, what do social media deliver?
For me, it’s been, and is, support, insider knowledge, interaction with readers, reviews, sales, endorsements, strategic and personal friendships. And my ability to write succinct prose quickly and to deadlines has improved no end!

Alison Morton bio (AURELIA)

Even before she pulled on her first set of combats, Alison Morton was fascinated by the idea of women soldiers. Brought up by a feminist mother and an ex-military father, it never occurred to her that women couldn’t serve their country in the armed forces. Everybody in her family had done time in uniform and in theatre – regular and reserve Army, RAF, WRNS, WRAF – all over the globe.

So busy in her day job, Alison joined the Territorial Army in a special communications regiment and left as a captain, having done all sorts of interesting and exciting things no civilian would ever know or see. Or that she can talk about, even now…

But something else fuels her writing… Fascinated by the mosaics at Ampurias (Spain), at their creation by the complex, power and value-driven Roman civilisation started her wondering what a modern Roman society would be like if run by strong women…

Now, she lives in France and writes Roman-themed alternate history thrillers with tough heroines.

INCEPTIO, the first in the Roma Nova series
– shortlisted for the 2013 International Rubery Book Award
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year
PERFIDITAS, second in series
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– finalist in 2014 Writing Magazine Self-Published Book of the Year
SUCCESSIO, third in series
– Historical Novel Society’s indie Editor’s Choice for Autumn 2014
– B.R.A.G. Medallion
– Editor’s choice, The Bookseller’s inaugural Indie Preview, December 2014

Fact file:
Education: BA French, German & Economics, MA History
Memberships: International Thriller Writers, Historical Novel Society, Alliance of Independent Authors, Society of Authors
Represented by Annette Crossland of A for Authors Literary Agency for subsidiary and foreign rights.

Links (Please adapt to your preferred format!)
Connect with Alison on her Roma Nova blog:
Twitter @alison-morton

Buying link (multiple retailers/formats):

AURELIA book trailer:

Monday, 1 June 2015

Regency Quintet : Summer Edition

I am delighted to tell you that the second multi-author box set -  Regency Quintet - Summer Edition is now available on Amazon and this time you can use KU to download as well.
Sadly, Wendy Soliman was forced to drop out for personal reasons and we now have a great replacement writer - Monica Fairview.
All five of us are best-selling authors in this genre and we have a great selection of books for you to read.
Here are the blurbs:

Lord Orpington's Wager
 (A Reluctant Bride – Linford Romance 2009)
Fenella J Miller

Persuaded by her mother to act as chaperone to her godmother's daughter, young widow Patience Sinclair doesn't realise quite what is involved. Lady Orpington is perfectly capable of arranging her daughter's come out, so why is Patience needed? When she meets Lord Simon Orpington it all becomes perfectly clear. Their respective mothers intend them to make a match of it. And while Patience has no intention of marrying again, it seems that Simon has other ideas.

A Most Unusual Governess
 Amanda Grange

When poverty forces Sarah Davenport to take up a position as a governess, she finds herself in conflict with the arrogant but devastatingly handsome Lord Randall. When danger threatens, he is the only one she can trust.

An Improper Suitor
Monica Fairview

A lady in possession of an independent fortune has no need for a husband. Miss Julia Swifton, secure in that belief, has made no attempt to search for one, even after three seasons in London. That is until her grandmother, an advocate of women's rights, rises from her deathbed and threatened, of all things, to marry her to a notorious rake, Lord Thorwynn.Shocked into action, Julia launches into a search for an intelligent, scholarly husband who will suit her. On her way she has to rescue a fallen 'angel,' save a rake from being forced into marriage, defeat an unscrupulous gamesmaster who needs to seduce her for money, and avert a friend's disastrous runaway marriage.Fortunately, she does not have to do it alone. Even if her companion, Lord Thorwynn, is the last person she would ever want to marry.

Gentlemen in Question
By Melinda Hammond

A tale of romance, adventure and intrigue in Georgian England by an award-winning author.
In the closing months of 1792, the terror of the French Revolution forces Camille, the young Comte du Vivière, to flee his homeland and seek refuge with his relatives in England. For Madeleine, the arrival of her handsome French cousin marks a change in her so far uneventful existence and brings her into contact with the enigmatic Beau Hauxwell. Soon she finds herself caught up in a dangerous web of intrigue involving both gentlemen, but which one is the villain?

Seventh Heaven
Elizabeth Bailey

Septimus Berowne, poet, does not expect to succumb to the charms of wealthy Lady Louisa Shittlehope, although his brothers are eager to court her. Hampered by the shocking Berowne reputation, Septimus struggles to stop Louisa embroiling herself in his family’s affairs and keep her safe from his dissolute brother Quintus.
But the tribulations of the Berowne girls capture Louisa’s warm heart and she cannot help but interfere. Quintus strikes, involving Louisa and the Berownes in a madcap chase to rescue her love-struck ward. Will they be in time? Can Louisa brave Society’s disapproval to snatch at the promise of happiness?

Fenella J Miller  (.com)  (.uk)

Sunday, 17 May 2015

How accurate does a Regency have to be?

I write at least three new Regency romantic adventures every year – sometimes four – as well as two mainstream historical novels set in World War II. Obviously with any books set in living memory it essential to get all historical details absolutely right so I tend to spend far longer on background reading and detailed research with these books than I do for my Regency romances.
One author, a friend who also writes Regency, said to me when I mentioned that she had made a couple of minor historical mistakes that as her books sold for less than £1 it didn't really matter. A reader would hardly expect a writer to spend as much time on these details if the book was going to be sold for so little.
What do you think? Is she right? Do readers get what they pay for and don't expect the same standard of historical accuracy in a less expensive book?
I think that every book, sold for whatever price, should be as well written and as accurate as the writer can make it. Of course, no reader was alive in the Regency and therefore less likely to be as knowledgeable about the period. However, many readers are fans of Jane Austen and will have gleaned a lot of accurate history from reading these books and watching TV and film versions.
I don't do as much research when writing a Regency story because my background knowledge is so extensive after having written more than thirty books in this genre.
What I do is check when I'm not sure – for instance I wanted to know what songs might have been sung around the piano at Christmas time. Hark the Herald Angel was written in the 1700s, so I used that, but I had to check online first.
I know that my books are more historically accurate nowadays than they were when I first started writing and I'm proud of that. I'm not talking about major anachronisms such as talking about turning on the tap or catching a bus which I've never done, but small details like using the word fiance, which wasn't around until much later.
What about covers? Not whether the picture on the front has the correct hair colouring as the heroine or hero, but whether the setting and costume are correct. In the cover on the right the girl looks exactly like my heroine – however, she wouldn't have worn a white dress with such a low back. I had to settle for a slight inaccuracy as it's almost impossible to get perfection if you use photographs rather than artwork for your covers.
 The cover on the left was for one of my early Regency novellas for My Weekly Pocket Novel. Need I say anymore?
A Runaway Bride is a recent book with a lovely cover from Jane Dixon-Smith and I thought it historically correct until a friend pointed out there was a zip running up the back which neither Jane nor I had noticed. Would you have noticed if I hadn't pointed it out to you? The MW PN cover is horrendous and totally misleading, however despite the minor inaccuracies, I think both the other covers give the feel of a Regency romance.
I've been told by some readers that too much "history" in a Regency spoils the romance and that as long as the setting and dialogue are reasonably correct, they don't even notice the details. The plot and character is what is important.
Do you agree? How much historical detail is too much and drowns the reader in unnecessary information? I'm not talking about a huge info dump – that's never a good idea. I like to put in details that bring the period to life and use the correct words when possible. If I call a bag a reticule then I make sure it's obvious from the context what it is.
I would be interested to hear your views.
Fenella J Miller

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Price, cover or content?

I had raised the prices of all my mainstream, full length books to £2.99 -  they should have been £2.50  for me to keep the same royalty - and sales plummeted. I read somewhere that books should never be priced at £2.50 ( or anything £.50) which is why I made them £2.99.
I have now reduced the prices of all of them to £1.99 - and will  have to absorb the reduction in royalty of £0.40.
Original Cover.
People happily spend £3 on a coffee, but for some reason don't want to pay the same for a book which has taken months to produce.
How much does price influence you? I must admit I get the majority  of my books via KU nowadays, and would only spend more than £2.99 for a book from someone like Lee Child or Donna Leon.

Covers - how important are they to sales? I have changed the cover for Lady Emma's Revenge because several people said they looked as if they were asleep. Hadn't occurred to either Jane or I until then - but decided to have a new cover. Would the old cover have put you off buying the book? I know that I don't even look inside a book if I don't like the cover.
New cover.

What about content? Obviously the story is the crucial thing for any book - but if the price and cover are not right then readers don't even 'look inside.' What I'm asking about is the 'front matter'. I only have a title page, copyright stuff and acknowledgments  - my book list is at the end. Some books have pages of  information about family etc/book lists'historical notes and contents page before the book starts - would you persevere and read the excerpt or give up?
When  KU began and writers got paid if a reader read 10% of the book there were, I'm told, hundreds of very short books published where 10% of the book was just the 'front-matter'. not sure if this is true - but saw it on several loops.
For me it's cover, price and content -what about you?
Fenella J Miller

'Lady Emma's Revenge' will be published in June 2015.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

The Scandal at Pemberley

£2.50 or $1.99 Amazon only.
I'm thrilled to tell you that the second book in my 'At Pemberley' series is now available on Amazon. I'm really enjoying writing this series and my intention is to publish a new installment every year. The next one - 'A Spy at Pemberley' is in the planning stage and I hope to get started in the autumn.
I thought about writing a book for Mary and Lydia, but have decided not to - the next one will be a new story about Darcy and Lizzy.

Blurb for 'A Scandal at Pemberley'.

A Scandal at Pemberley is Georgiana Darcy and Major Jonathan Brownstone's story. The major is to be groomsman for his best friend, Adam King, when he marries Kitty Bennet at Pemberley. Georgiana is about to embark on her first Season, but after meeting Jonathan she is having doubts about going. As Lizzy is expecting twins Darcy can't accompany his sister but is happy for his new brother-in-law to stand guardian in his stead. 
When George Wickham arrives uninvited at Pemberley, he sets in motion a chain of events that could cause a scandal from which none of the family would recover. (.com) (uk)

Hope you enjoy this second installment -it's a stand alone book - but continues the story started in the fist book 'The Ghosts at Pemberley'.

Fenella J Miller