A new home for my blog!

This Blogger blog is no longer updated...

My blog has a new home on my new website!

Note: if you comment from this point forward on this blogger blog, I will likely not see it. All these posts are on my website now, so please comment there. Thank you!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Off on my travels!

First of all a big THANK YOU to everyone who dropped by the Romance Bandits Blog yesterday and made it such a great party! I had the best time!

Now I am off on my travels to Scotland again and I'm very excited! We will be staying in Elderslie, the birthplace of Sir William Wallace, and I'll be making my pilgrimage to the Wallace Monument. I'll also be visiting Johnstone Castle where Chopin stayed in the 1840s. These days the ruin is in the middle of a housing estate which makes for a rather surreal experience! Further afield we'll be going to the fascinating "Electric Brae" and Culzean Castle. All the photos and tales of the trip when I get back! Have a good week, everyone!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Life Below Stairs!

Here I am blogging on this blog about what I have written on my other blog, which strikes me as somewhat surreal! However it did occur to me that there might be readers here who are interested in the life of a servant in Victorian times, so if that appeals to you drop by the Ashdown House Blog where there are also plenty of other interesting historical snippets!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book News!

The last couple of weeks have been a blitz of preparation for the launch of my new Brides of Fortune series so I thought I would stop, draw breath, and post all the exciting developments here!

So first to reviews and a really, really lovely surprise! There was a wonderful review of Unmasked on The Good, The Bad and The Unread which made my day! Those of you who have read my books before will know that Unmasked is a prequel to the Brides of Fortune series and features some of the same characters. Sandy at TGTBTU said: "Nicola Cornick is a new author for me. And after this book, I'm going to definitely be reading more of her books. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. Loved the characters, the story, the emotion, everything about it." You can't get a review nicer than that!

Meanwhile, The Confessions of a Duchess has been garnering some very nice reviews of its own which are on my website. Chris at RomanceJunkies said: "Nicola Cornick gives stellar pen with the first instalment of her Brides of Fortune series." Even the mighty Publisher's Weekly called the book "witty" - amongst other things :)

Now book news, and the e-book prequel to the Fortune's Folly trilogy, The Secrets of a Courtesan, is currently on sale at e-Harlequin. It's been in and out of the top ten selling e-books since its release, peaking at number 2, and hopefully it will make another bow in the charts! The Mystic Castle are running a contest to win a copy of The Secrets of a Courtesan and there are further chances to win on my website!

Eharlequin are also releasing some of my backlist Harlequin Historicals in e book format so if there are any of my books you missed and would like to snap up, here's a list. More will be added in June, when Harlequin will also be reissuing A Regency Invitation, the short story anthology I took part in with Elizabeth Rolls and Joanna Maitland. If you like Regency house parties then this book is a must!
And finally, the gorgeous video trailer for my first trilogy book is at the top of this blog and if you would like to see the others in the series click here!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Whatever you do, don’t criticise my research!!!

Uh oh, the sad puppy is out again! For those who have not encountered the sad puppy on my blog before, this is the sign that something is wrong. Last time it was BBC Radio 4 trashing the historical romance genre. This time it's something more personal.

You don’t often find writers expressing their views publicly about the reviews they receive. Jilly Cooper was once brave enough to admit that poor reviews upset her and knocked her confidence but in the main we don’t make a bid for the sympathy vote. It’s generally accepted that if you put yourself and your writing out there, sometimes you’ll get good reviews, sometimes bad, but you have to be tough enough to take it. A cup of tea and a chocolate ├ęclair (or a box of them) usually gets me through the worst of it. After all, if I use good reviews to promote my work I can hardly be hypocritical enough to criticise the poor ones. I know that my writing will never be to everyone’s taste. I'd even go so far as to admit that some of my books are better than others although I always try to write the best book I can. And reviewing is a tough job. I know because I’ve done it in the past. Writing an insightful and intelligent review is hard and kudos to those who do it. If an intelligent review is critical of my books then, to paraphrase Voltaire, I may not like what the reviewer has to say but I’ll defend to the death (well, pretty close anyway) their right to say it.

But recently I’ve noticed an exception to this rule in myself. It happens when someone criticises my historical research or my lack of historical depth. Then I become like a crazed madwoman with a red mist before my eyes and I can’t quite work out why this bothers me so much. Goodness knows, I occasionally make mistakes with historical detail and I put my hand up to it. I try very hard not to get caught out, I read and research widely, but it happens. I’ll never forget the letter I received from a reader about a mistake in one of my early books. It started well: “I enjoyed your book The Blanchland Secret very much…” and then there was a big BUT. What followed were two pages, with diagrams, on how my heroine had written and folded a letter incorrectly in the story. I wrote back thanking the reader and I’ve kept her letter to this day. I liked the fact that she had explained to me exactly what my mistake was and I loved the pictures. What I don’t like are throwaway lines about lack of historical research or lack of depth without any evidence to back them up.

My Brides of Fortune Regency historical trilogy is set in a fictitious village in Yorkshire at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It’s not set in London, it’s not set in Bath; in that sense it’s different. Perhaps it’s the fact that the village is imaginary that has led a couple of reviewers to think that fictitious means not anchored in historical fact. In fact the village of Fortune’s Folly is modelled on the spa town of Harrogate and I had a great deal of fun researching Harrogate in the early nineteenth century as background for the book. Then there are the medieval laws invoked in the story. These are all genuine and again I had fabulous fun checking out the childwite (payable when you had fathered an illegitimate child) and the amoeber (payable to the lord in lieu of him spending the wedding night with the bride.) I made Fortune’s Folly a religious settlement in medieval times in order to get around the repeal of all these laws in the seventeenth century. I could go on (and on) but I won’t because I don’t want to whine too much. For those who are interested, I'll be posting up some detail on the historical background to the trilogy on my website (oh, and some good reviews as well!)

Ok, I’ve stuck my head above the parapet. I’ll stick it back in a history book now!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Jane Austen at the Swindon Festival of Literature!

Literary Festivals are marvellous things. They are full of thought-provoking talks on topics that can give you endless story ideas, you can meet famous authors who make you feel great because it turns out they experience exactly the same writing process that you do, and you can give your credit card a really good work out.

Over the past 10 days I’ve been attending various events at the Swindon Literature Festival. Now in its 16th year the festival is beautifully run by Matt Holland and always provides a fascinating programme with a great mix of writers, thinkers, philosophers and storytellers. Last week I heard the ever-entertaining Julian Clary talk about his latest novel, I went to a talk by Professor Kathleen Burk about the historical and current relationship between Britain and America and I went to a Philosophy Society discussion on the nature of friendship. And today I sallied forth to hear Claire Harman talking about her book Jane’s Fame, an exploration of how Jane Austen conquered the world.

The talk proved to be a wonderful scamper through the history of Jane Austen’s popularity from her attempts to achieve publication (great encouragement for aspiring writers there as she was rejected on several occasions and it took years for her first book to be published) to her powerful influence on contemporary phenomena such as chick-lit, romantic comedy, the heritage industry and film. We covered the ground from books written by “A Lady”, or “Lady A” as her publisher described her, possibly with deliberate misdirection, to Jane Austen and zombies, vampires and various other paranormal phenomenon.

I loved hearing anecdotes about the time that Jane’s niece Anna picked up a copy of Sense and Sensibility at the circulating library and, not knowing that her aunt was the author, put it down again saying she could tell that it would be boring simply from reading the title. Claire Harman also touched on Jane Austen’s first fan – a Miss Sheriff who was recommended Jane Austen’s works by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and became such a devotee that she wanted her carriage to break down at Chawton so she could knock on Jane’s door asking for help. Also interesting was the fact that Annabella Milbanke, who went on to have such an ill-fated marriage to Lord Byron, was one of the first ladies who found Mr Darcy incredibly attractive. Perhaps that explains why things didn’t work out for her with Byron. He couldn’t live up to Darcy. And who would have thought that James Fenimore Cooper’s first novel was called Precaution and bore more than a passing resemblance to Persuasion? These and other vignettes were slipped into the talk to make a fascinating whole.

Jane Austen’s popularity experienced various peaks and troughs in the Victorian era and whilst some critics were so fulsome in their praise they were practically suggesting canonisation for her, others were less complimentary, including Mark Twain who commented: “Every time I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” That’s something to remember, perhaps, if one receives a critical review. You can please thousands of readers but not everyone! Claire Harman commented that it was the illustrations that accompanied William Austen Leigh’s biography of Jane Austen that did much to increase her appeal as the "Divine Jane". The pictures were soft and pretty and Jane was portrayed as a domestic angel – no wandering about on the moors for her, unlike the Bronte sisters!

I had not heard previously that during the First World War many British troops read Jane Austen for nostalgic reasons, for reassurance and for a reminder of home. Her dissection of character and her descriptions of village life were exactly what they wanted in such violent, disturbing and alien a place as a theatre of war.

And so to the present, and the proliferation of fan clubs, films, TV adaptations and fiction inspired by Jane Austen’s work. We were running short of time by now and so there was no analysis of what it is about Jane Austen’s books that might make another author choose to re-write Pride and Prejudice with added zombies. This was a topic that I would have found very interesting. I suppose it was also inevitable that Claire Harman referred to romantic fiction in a somewhat derogatory way, with even Georgette Heyer being called “lowbrow.” This, as always, made me bristle for the generalisations and value judgements involved, particularly since Claire Harman also mentioned the Colin Firth wet shirt moment in the 1995 TV version of Pride and Prejudice with something approaching gushing approval. I wish that commentators could see the contradiction in their own words at times like this; it reminds me of those newspapers that are so snooty about romantic fiction in film, TV and book reviews and then print lonely hearts advertisements on the next page without apparently seeing the hypocrisy of their actions. Anyway, a point about the Jane Austen films and TV adaptations that was well made was that many people who have seen the adaptations but never read the books are convinced that the wet shirt Darcy moment actually existed in the original and so their “experience” of Jane Austen is different from that of a reader.

All in all this was the sort of public history I love the best, not a biography of Jane Austen or a critique of her work but a witty and interesting analysis of the “Jane phenomena” from the time she was writing to the present day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Exciting News!

I am beyond excited that the video trailers for my new series are now ready and are up on my MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/nicolacornick If you go to the My Videos section at the top and click on the individual trailers you can see them in sequence, giving a taster for each book in the Fortune's Folly trilogy. There's also a trailer setting the scene.

I hope that these will whet your appetite for the trilogy! I think that Book Candy Studios have done a fabulous job and I particularly applaud their choice of actors in the roles of the hero and heroine of each book. Dexter and Nat are totally gorgeous and when I saw the girl playing Lizzie Scarlet she was exactly as I had envisioned my character!

In other news, I am making a return visit today to the Word Wenches blog in my first interview about the Brides of Fortune trilogy. We're talking about the appeal of series and linked characters, and there is a copy of The Secrets of a Courtesan PLUS a copy of The Confessions of a Duchess as the prize!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Brenda Novak’s Wonderful Charity Auction!

Some of you may already know that every year author Brenda Novak holds a special auction to raise money to find a cure for diabetes. Diabetes mellitus is a condition where the amount of glucose in the blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. Many of us know friends and family who suffer from this illness and know that it requires special care. Brenda’s auctions raise thousands of dollars towards the research into diabetes. For that reason alone I feel it is worth supporting them. But they also feature absolutely wonderful items to bid on! If you have an eBay habit (as I do!) you can exercise it in a different context and treat yourself to something in the knowledge that the profits will go straight to charity!

If you go to the auction site and you will see what I mean. The donations are designed specifically to tempt authors and readers! You can bid on all sorts of things, from signed copies of books to a critique of a manuscript by a published author or an evaluation of a manuscript by an agent or editor. There’s handcrafted jewellery as well, and chocolate gift baskets! And if you fancy pushing the boat out, in the Once in a Lifetime Experiences section, there are holidays in Tuscany, the US, Mexico, Africa…

This year I thought it would be nice to offer something for UK residents and visitors to these shores so I’m giving away a one night stay at the Royal Hotel in Bath for two people and champagne afternoon tea for two at the Bath Pump Rooms restaurant. Oh, and a signed set of my new trilogy books! Check out the details here and watch the video here - it will give you a taste of the treats in store!

So if you fancy a romantic UK getaway or an inspirational research trip (for all you Regency authors out there!) then this could be for you! I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to enter the auction because it is in such a good cause. So browse Brenda’s auction and let me know what looks good to you! The online auction runs from May 1st through May 31st so get bidding!

Friday, May 1, 2009

How (NOT) to make a Webcast!

Are you technically challenged? Before I explain what happened yesterday I have to confess that I’m not a natural either behind or in front of the camera. (You can see that from the picture of me with my editor Kim Young at the top of this blog. I'm the one gurning.) Much as I would love to present historical programmes on the TV, I suspect that Bethany Hughes and Dr David Starkey don’t need to worry about their jobs. I’ve only recorded one webcast video before and that was for the Meet The Author site. (No I'm not putting in a link. The site is wonderful - my video was awful). The chap doing the recording was absolutely charming and did his best to put me at ease but my choice of a red jumper to match my red face was not an inspired one. I’d never noticed before how many times I blink – well, you don’t do you, unless you spend a lot of time staring into a mirror. But it was slightly disconcerting to see all my mannerisms (let’s not call them tics).

Anyway, I had agreed to record a webcast and a podcast about my new Regency series The Brides of Fortune, which launches in two weeks time with the e-book The Secrets of a Courtesan. To be honest, it was jolly nice to be asked and since my lovely editor, Kimberley Young, would be taking part I felt reassured. Kim and I have worked together for a number of years now so I felt it would be like chatting to a friend rather than doing a monologue. And the huge benefit of recording a joint author/editor chat was that we could both lust over our favourite romance heroes of page and screen… Whoops, no. We could both talk not only about the trilogy but also about what it takes to write a Regency mainstream series, the highlights and pitfalls, tips, drawbacks and ideas, so that hopefully other authors as well as readers might find something useful and interesting.

It all started well. First of all I recorded a congratulations message for Harlequin Japan, who are celebrating their thirtieth anniversary this year. I’d learned some Japanese especially for the occasion so I could thank my Japanese readers, and I had been repeating my lines feverishly in the car travelling up to London. After about five takes I had that one in the bag and had mastered the on off switch on the video recorder. Or so I thought... It was time to refresh with a cup of tea and a bucket load of rocky road and rice crispy snacks that I had picked up at Marks & Spencers on the way.

Kim came in and we set the room up for the next webcast. We sorted out our chairs, waved copies of the books around, zoomed the camera in on the buckets full of chocolate and the empty tea cups, chatted about how technically challenged we were and tried to arrange our facial expressions to look less mad author/editor and more normal and engaging so that we didn't actually frighten the viewers away.

Finally we settled down to record. Although I say so myself, we managed to come up with 12 minutes of relaxed, chatty dialogue about the books and about the challenges of writing a Regency series, and we were very pleased with ourselves. Kim leaned forward to turn off the video and we chatted again about how well it had all gone and what total stars we were when it came to mastering the technology and then… I will never forget the look of dawning horror on Kim’s face as she spotted the green button still glowing on the video recorder. Nor indeed her colourful language as she realised that we had recorded the “before” and “after” but not the actual interview itself. (It proved to me that editors do indeed have a very extensive vocabulary!) Yes, we had made the classic mistake of having the camera running when we were setting up – and pulling faces and chatting about everything from my tea addiction to why she looked bigger in front of the camera than I did when actually in real life the reverse was true – and we had turned it on again at the end but we had not had it running FOR THE INTERVIEW ITSELF. We had confused the on switch with the off switch. We were more technically challenged than even we had thought!

What can one do in such a situation other than top up with chocolate and record it all over again? After our hysteria had subsided that’s exactly what we did. So now we have the official recording about the Brides of Fortune trilogy and the “outtakes” which we are thinking of putting up on YouTube as a guide of how not to make an author/editor webcast. I suspect I know which video will prove more popular!