Thursday, October 30, 2014

A new slide show

Like many other people, I love making slide shows. This one features some of our recent books, but the Animoto slide show tool is very easy to use and could be used for family photos or other similar things. I think it would be a good way of displaying completed craft projects or artwork. Does anyone else use it? If so, what for?

Click play to see a selection of our books

Amanda Grange

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Mr Darcy's Christmas Calendar

I've had such a lot of fun writing my Christmas novella, Mr Darcy's Christmas Calendar. I love Advent calendars, and have collected them since I was a little girl, and still get excited choosing one for Christmas. I especially love the traditional ones with pictures behind the doors and windows, though I quite like a chocolate one too!
It was the German calendars I really loved when I was young, which depicted snowy villages, glittering with other tantalising  worlds behind the doors, giving glimpses into the houses of girls and boys who lived a different life to me that made them so special.
Thinking about the magic those pictures in the traditional calendars used to create as a child, gave me the idea to combine some of my favourite loves - Jane Austen, Christmas, Advent calendars, magic, time travel, and Pride and Prejudice. It's as close as I'll ever get to writing a romantic Christmas fantasy! If you'd like to read Chapter One please click here.

Lizzy Benson visits Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, and buys a special advent calendar in the gift shop, but strange things start to happen when she opens up the first door and finds herself back in time with all the beloved characters from her favourite book, Pride and Prejudice. As she finds herself increasingly drawn into an alternate reality, Lizzy discovers not only is Mr Darcy missing from the plot, but also that Jane Austen has never heard of him. All Lizzy can hope is that she can help to get the story and her own complicated love life back on track before Christmas is over, and bring everything to a happy resolution in Jane Austen's imaginary world!

It's a variation on Jane Austen's book, Pride and Prejudice, in which she stars herself, and there is a chapter for every day of the Advent season. It's been lovely to indulge in the impossible, mixing up all my favourite things about Jane Austen, Christmas and time travel.
I've had a lovely time creating a pinterest page for this book - it's a great way of 'getting in the mood' or for inspiration if you're writing, though it's highly addictive once you start!

I've made a book trailer using the templates on Animoto - there always seems to be one which just fits the theme of my book, and as there is a beautiful magical snow globe in my book, I thought this was very appropriate. You can see it here - I hope you enjoy it!

Finally, I had great fun creating a chocolate Advent Calendar on Snapajack  - the picture shows the design for front and back - you can use your own pictures to create an individual, personalised calendar - I've made a couple for prizes to be given away on release day - November 4th, on Austen Variations. I hope you'll join me!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Christmas Recycling!

Cover it has now on Amazon. Christmas at Hartford Hall ( First published by DC Thomson in 2009) A sweet Cinderella story – perfect for Christmas reading. When Elizabeth's grandfather died, there was no sign of a will; and, devastatingly, she discovered she was now dependent on his heir. When the new Lord and Lady Hartford and their twin daughters arrived, they reduced her status to that of a servant. Elizabeth is determined to leave Hartford Hall in the New Year and find work as a governess. But the arrival of Sir James Worthington to make an offer for Lady Eleanor Hartford only leads to her difficulties....
This is the cover for Linford Romance -large print.
This is the cover it had for Musa.
This is the cover it had from MWPN way back in 2009. Astonishing that this little book is now in it's fourth incarnation - just love the cover design by Jane Dixon-Smith Which cover do you like best? Fenella J Miller

Thursday, October 09, 2014

The Ghosts at Pemberley

I am delighted to tell you all that the first of a four books series of Jane Austen variations – The Pemberley Series – The Ghosts at Pemberley is now available as a pre-order on Amazon Kindle. I know that traditional publishers stopped taking Jane Austen related books some years ago but there are still a large number of readers, especially in America, who still love to read anything Jane Austen linked.
As my first Jane Austen variations, Miss Bennet and Mr Bingley, was a Pride & Prejudice book I decided to continue the same vein. The main difference between my new book, The Ghosts at Pemberley, and my first is that this one is set after the weddings and introduces new characters. I have already started writing the second in this series in which Georgiana Darcy is the heroine and a handsome major the hero.
This is the blurb: The Ghosts at Pemberley - a Jane Austen Variation. Miss Kitty Bennet is travelling to Pemberley in order to become a companion and friend to Miss Georgiana Darcy when disaster strikes. Adam Denney, the Rector of Bakewell comes to her aid and is much taken with her. Bingley is hurt in the accident and he and Jane are obliged to remain at The Rectory, whilst Kitty continues her journey. The coach accident is just the first of many terrifying incidents that occur once Kitty is established at Pemberley. Somehow her arrival has woken the spirits that occupy the East wing and these ghosts are determined to get their revenge on those who trapped them in the spirit world. Elizabeth is in danger and Darcy is determined to keep her safe. Can the power of God defeat the evil or will Pemberley and its occupants be destroyed? The Ghosts at Pemberley will be released on 30th October and as the book is set in the two weeks before Christmas it is suitably topical. Fenella J Miller

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination

I can feel diffident posting about exhibitions that some of you might not be able to visit like Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination, which has just opened at the British Library. Fortunately, the British Library, in partnership with BBC 2 and BBC 4, will be celebrating all things Gothic this autumn with a series of exciting programmes exploring the literature, art, architecture and music – not to mention the famous people associated with the Gothic over the last 250 years. So, dear reader, you won’t be losing out.

At the preview, the curator Tim Pye defined the essentials for a Gothic novel: a dark medieval castle, terrifying spectres, mistaken identities, battling knights and a general air of doom. One could also add moonlight seen through clouds, bats, ivy and owls.

  1. Tintern Abbey
The above picture of Tintern Abbey from 1812, shows a gentleman and a lady visiting the ruined abbey at night. Naturally, there is ivy, a full moon (and clouds) to add to the frisson of terror. Note the servants holding up flares to cast shadows and enhance the Gothic experience.

The exhibition opens with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), the first Gothic novel. I enjoyed the lively Czech cartoon film of the novel, done as a magic lantern show – very atmospheric, and full of what Walpole called ‘gloomth’. And there are a couple of painted prints of ruined abbeys, designed to be back lit by candles flickering behind the Gothic windows.

 2.  Castle of Otranto

A spate of Gothic novels followed in the 1780-90s, the most famous of which was Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho. Mrs Radcliffe was a skilled writer and the book gave the genre literary respectability. The exhibition also has a case containing all seven of the ‘Northanger Horrids’ which Isabella Thorpe recommended to Catherine Morland in Northanger Abbey, published by the Minerva Press with creepy titles like The Castle of Wolfenbach (1794) by Eliza Parsons, and The Necromancer (1794) by Carl Friedrich  Kahlert.  

3. Nathaniel Grogan The Mysteries of Udolpho

Interestingly, perhaps as a result of the French Revolution, the genre began to change, the first of many transformations in its 250 year history. Tim Pye suggested that the French Revolution was so frightening in its own right that the Gothic novel had to up its game: you can’t have reality being more blood-curdling than the Gothic novels specifically written to terrify.

The genre moved from spectres in ruined castles to monsters in human form; for example, Frankenstein’s monster in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), and later, Dr Polidori’s The Vampyre, inspired by Lord Byron’s fragment written whilst they were all staying at the Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Leman in the Alps. Now the monstrous came in human form and, worse, the vampire could be someone one knew – in disguise.

4. Frankenstein

There is also a terrific clip from the 1935 film The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff and Elsa Lanchester. Her screams (at about three minute intervals) pierce the air as you go round the exhibition.

The exhibit which probably attracted the most press attention was the mid-Victorian Vampire Hunting Kit borrowed from the Royal Armouries. One can only speculate as to why they own such a thing – unholy disturbances in the Bloody Tower, perhaps?

The handsome box contains everything a respectable vampire-hunter could possibly want: wooden mallet and stakes, crucifix, rosary, Book of Common Prayer, bottles of Holy Water, crushed garlic, a pistol, an iron mould for making bullets, and some bullets.

5: Vampire Hunting Kit. 

I cannot resist ending with a splendid poster from 1890 of the decidedly Gothic melodrama Manhood. It has all the elements of a Gothic play: noble hero with clinging heroine, Gothic ruins, moonlight, ivy, bats, an owl, a graveyard, and a man with a gun, loaded one presumes with a silver bullet, who has just shot another man – probably a vampire in disguise.

6: Manhood poster.

I’m looking forward to the BBC programmes.

Elizabeth Hawksley

The British Library exhibition, Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination runs from 3 October, 2014 to 20 January, 2015.

1.  Tintern Abbey, 1812, courtesy of the British Library Board
2.  Watercolour of The Castle of Otranto from Walpole’s personal copy of the book, courtesy of the British Library
3.  'Lady Blanche crosses the ravine’ from The Mysteries of Udolpho by Nathaniel Grogan, late 1790s, courtesy of the National Gallery of Ireland
4.  Frankenstein’s monster from the first edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, courtesy of the British Library
5.  Vampire Hunting Kit, courtesy of the Royal Armouries
6.  1890 theatre poster for Manhood, performed at the Elephant and Castle Theatre, courtesy of the British Library Board