Friday, July 30, 2010

Anything Goes Friday - Book Reviews

Today we're reviewing books we've recently read and loved. First up is Sally Minx, reviewing Kelly Hunter's Red Hot Renegade, then Romy Minx reviewing Michelle Reid's Mia's Scandal.

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Everyone loves a sexy hero, and from the moment that Martial Art expert Jake Bennett appears on page one of Kelly Hunter's latest Modern Heat he claimed the title, and made it his own.

The book opens at Jake's brother's engagement party, where he awaits the arrival of his long estranged wife, Jianne Xang-Bennett. Kelly masterfully hooks the reader by showing how all of Jake's family are concerned for his reaction. They know he still cares for her, and by showing their concern rachet up the tension until Jianne enters the scene.

The story is set in Singapore, and Jake is an unusual Modern Heat hero, in that he lives modestly in his dojo, where he teaches karate. He's not rich. Jianne is. And she's being relentlessly pursued by a dangerous suitor called Zhi Fu who has tracked her from China to make her his.

Jianne needs to persuade Zhi Fu that she isn't available, and what better way than to reunite with her estranged husband? She moves into the dojo, and soon they're not pretending to be in love any more, but are caught up again in a familiar attraction that threatens to overwhelm them. But Jianne left Jake for a reason, and isn't convinced that he will put her first. And Jake is wary of love after his relationship with Jianne broke up so many years before, and will have to learn to accept both her and her wealth to make the relationship work.

Red Hot Renegade is masterfully written, and a wonderful read. The setting, hero and heroine are all out of the ordinary for a Modern Heat, and all the more powerful for it. Bravo Kelly!

* * * *

Thanks for that review Sally. Jake and Jianne both made an appearance in Kelly's previous book Untameable Rogue, so I was already keen to read their story, but your review made me go out and buy it.

Mia's Scandal is part of the The Balfour Legacy, a series of special releases by Harlequin.

We often read Italian heroes but it was really interesting to read an Italian heroine for a change. Michelle Reid caught the flavour of Mia's passionate temperament and her difficulties with the English language without it ever being intrusive. What I really loved was that she was a truly spirited heroine, though she is also a complete 'innocent', having grown up in rural Tuscany. She stood up to the hero at almost every turn and gave as good as she got, even venting her temper on him. And she was never TSTL.

But the best thing about this novel was the Greek hero. Nikos might possibly even be the most enticing hero I've ever read. And yes, that includes Darcy! If you've read the book, please let me know if you agree.

Michelle Reid tends to 'head hop' a lot, but it is a testimony to how well this book hooks the reader that after a while it no longer annoyed me and I just had to keep turning the pages.

My overall impression, as much because of the evocative writing as because of the cover, was one of colour. Whenever I think of this book I'm going to remember it as black & scarlet. The book was sensual, seductive, and as delicious as dark chocolate. In spite of the constant POV shifts and the glaring use of the word 'likened', this book is going on my keeper shelf.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Author Spotlight - Cindy Davis

Today we're very excited to have Cindy Davis answering the Minx questions. Cindy is of course, a very talented editor as well as an author, and previously featured on the Minxes blog, telling us all about how to do the perfect synopsis. Take it away, Cindy!

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
At that time I was focused on attending as many conferences and workshops as possible. To learn as much as I could. I made sure to introduce myself to every editor, agent or publisher I met, regardless of their genre. One time, I introduced myself to an agent in a ladies room waiting line. You never know where an opportunity will present itself.

Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
Funny where ideas germinate. Play with Fire is the second in my Angie Deacon series. I am a gardener. I thought it would be interesting to have a precious flower stolen. I emailed three of the world's top iris breeders and asked for info on their most expensive iris. One breeder phoned me, laughing because their most expensive flower was $50. But, he had a great idea for a plot: in reality, there's no such thing as a red iris, they don't carry a red gene. Iris breeders have spent millions, literally, trying to produce one genetically. In Play with Fire the character does produce a red, but before he can take advantage, all his work is stolen and he's killed.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
On the best seller list! Grin. It's a long shot but they say to shoot high and don't take no for an answer. More realistically, I see my editing career moving to another eschelon. I have done some teaching at conferences and I'd like to see that go further. There are some tutorials on my website:

Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
Anything by Lee Child. I don't like his sentence structure; as an editor it makes me cringe but his plots are unique. There's something new on every page. I also find Sandra Brown's mysteries to be like that. (Don't care for her romances though)

Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
I guess my love of writing comes from the Nancy Drew series, and anything by Agatha Christie. Agatha was another author with tremendous variety in her stories. I always loved puzzles--most of the time figured whodunit before the sleuth.

Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
My first drafts are usually a good bit of both. There isn't much in the way of love scenes in a mystery series. Readers have told me that's not what they want from a story. Then again, I think it's realistic to assume there ARE love scenes, so mine tend to be short and to the point. Like Angie and Jarvis' first time in Play with Fire: Jarvis kicked the door shut and shoved her back, thumping her head on the panel that vibrated to the Stones. His first kiss stifled her gasp of surprise. He leaned in, crushing her breasts with his chest. The thick bulge of the prop gun pressed into her hip. And became the most erotic sensation she'd—his tongue drove deep in her mouth—ever experienced. As the final pulse-pounding beat of Wild Horses shook the walls, Colby Jarvis rode Angie with the pulse-pounding fury of a stampede. For several scenes afterward, Jarvis berates himself for treating her like that, and every time Angie thought about she wanted to buy Stones albums.

What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
I am married to a black and white kind of guy who never sets up romance on purpose. That said, romance can come in unique and unexpected places. We had the best picnic, at dusk, in a small boat on the Blackwater River in northwestern NY state, anchored under an overhanging tree... I will someday use this scene. But not in the mystery series, Angie hates the water.

What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
How hard it was to find a truly good small publisher. I was first pubbed by one of those small presses who began solely as a means to get the owner's books published. She knew nothing about the publishing world, art work or editing. She hired a printer who knew nothing either. My first books had awful art and glue on the covers. Since then, small presses have come a long way, but ones like that gave small pubs the bad rep.

What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
Write write write and pay attention to critiques from your elders. If somebody says something's wrong with your story, really stand back and evaluate. And here's some advice from me: never never turn in a first draft manuscript. I can't tell you how many people do that. They query a publisher with about a third of the book yet to write, then when the ms is requested, scurry to finish the last chapters.

Tell us about your latest release.
That would be Play with Fire I mentioned above. Angie and partner Tyson Goodwell have just opened a community theater, the culmination of a dream. The murder happens on stage of their first production--and the murderer is none other than Detective Colby Jarvis. Angie investigates in order to clear him.

What's next for you?
Two things. Book three of the Angie Deacon series will be out in August. In Hair of the Dog Angie is on vacation. For three nights she's kept awake by a dog barking. She finally confronts the neighbor publicly. As mysteries happen, he's found dead the next morning. To clear herself she follows clues to a makeup factory and a dog show. Not surprisingly, the two turn out to be related.

Secondly, I am writing a romance. Yes, in Finding Cassidy I will be writing a love scene, or three, though there will be no Rolling Stones. Cassidy Scott, an actress being stalked by a fanatic, takes a leave of absence and rents a bungalow in a small NE town. She meets two people: Arlen, a teen who's an aspiring screenwriter (naturally, he thinks he recognizes her), and his friend and mentor, Kirk Blackwood, a reclusive artist who reads a note on Cassidy's counter and concludes that Arlen is all wrong—Ms. Scott is a serial killer. As her relationship with the artist smoothes out and moves along, the stalker arrives in town.

Book one of the Angie Deacon series, can be ordered here from Amazon.
Book two, Play with Fire, can be ordered here from Amazon.

Read more about Cindy at her website:

Thanks for the interview, Cindy!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Minx Post - Catch Me A Catch

Minx Sally here. I get to do a Minx post this Monday, to announce that my first book, Catch Me A Catch is coming out this Wednesday from The Wild Rose Press. It's a story close to my heart. Set in the glorious West of Ireland, and featuring a heroine who's job means she's up to her elbows in chocolate, which is definitely my dream job! (And with a blog called Love and Chocolate, I think it's very apt that my first book should feature chocolates on the cover.)

Here's a sneak peak, and an excerpt. I do hope that everyone likes it!

Catch Me A Catch by Sally Clements

She had the perfect life - and all she wanted was to escape it. Artisan chocolatier and reluctant matchmaker Annie Devine wants to survive the annual Durna Matchmaking Festival without messing up. She's useless at relationships, and the whole village know it. They've known ever since the day she was left at the altar in her wedding dress. When Jack Miller, charismatic head of Miller Advertising is forced to make an emergency stop on his transatlantic crossing, she mistakes him for a love-lorn bachelor, and sparks fly. Jack's in Ireland to discover his roots, while Annie's desperate to escape hers. Annie longs to win the coveted Chocolate Oscar competition, and claim the ultimate prize, her own shop in Dublin. But with the deadline for Jack's return to New York looming, is she making the right choice?


“Annie! What the hell?” She grabbed him by his upper arms and slammed him back against the worn brickwork of the building.

“What did you think you were doing?” The potent buzz of anger infused every pore. “What sort of idiot caveman are you?”

He’d kissed her. In front of everyone. She scrunched her eyes tight shut to blot out the memory. And, stupidly, she’d let him. With a snort of disgust, she dropped her hands to her sides and moved away. He’d better have a good excuse for kissing her, because she didn’t have a clue why she’d kissed him back.

“You needed my help.” Jack clenched his jaw and crossed his arms over his chest. “They were all over you in there.”

A tension headache stabbed between her eyes. Oh great. Hero complex.

“I did not need your help. I can take care of myself; I’ve been doing it for years. The last thing I needed was you pawing me in front of the whole town. You’ve made a show of me.” She bit her lip, the repercussions of her very public response to him fully sinking in. Her privacy was the most important thing to her. And she’d just tossed it away by kissing him.

“They all already think I’m desperate. Now every guy in the village will think I’m easy too. I’ll be fighting them off with a stick,” she muttered wryly. This was morphing into the weekend from hell. Before she melted back to Dublin, the grapevine would be buzzing with more news on her love life. Just what she didn’t need.

He shoved away from the wall towards her. She glared, effectively halting his approach. “I kissed you for a reason, and it wasn’t the obvious one.”

Catch Me A Catch available here from Wednesday.

Friday, July 23, 2010

RNA Conference Top Ten and an announcement!

Better writers than me have posted excellent write-ups of conference talks so instead of a deep, insightful blog post I thought I'd do a list of "Ten things I didn't know before the conference". There are probably an awful lot more than ten but I know you haven't got all day. So, before your cup of tea/coffee gets cold I'll get on with it...

Conference Top Ten (facts, tips and gossip)
  1. The biggest sector buying books in supermarkets is women aged 40-49 and for some titles supermarkets can account for 90% of sales.
  2. Digital is seen as the way forward (but beware, if the supermarkets are giants Sony, Amazon and Google are monoliths...) ebook sales and audio downloads have rocketed, particularly with the release of the ipad. Ebooks and audiobooks may be released as packages in the future
  3. Watch out for 'author apps' - a kind of fan club app, with the opportunity to get sent free excerpts. .
  4. Writing a 'Trojan Horse' - Romantic plot-lines are selling really well, especially when dressed up as something else e.g. an aspirational plot-line (lifestyle change, travel etc). If you write romantic suspense emphasize the suspense part of your pitch! It's sad but true - there are women out there who want the romance stories their grandmothers read but to have it dressed up as something modern, more contemporary perhaps.
  5. Romance accounts for 20.5% of all fiction sold.
  6. It takes a brave and a good writer to start a new trend, to innovate rather than imitate. One point from the Mills and Boon talk (see photo below) was that writers need a commercial awareness of the market and to keep their fingers on that market's pulse to create fresh stories that are relevant to the twenty first century reader.
  7. The words 'twenty first century' appeared no fewer than 7 times in the key points of the M&B talk. Methinks they were making a point.
  8. It is possible to be creative at 9 am on a Sunday morning with a screaming headache and the cogs of your brain grinding painfully - Julie Cohen's workshop taught me that - despite feeling crap I came out of the workshop with a new hero and story idea. From discipline can come inspiration. Actually think I'm in danger of getting deep there, so moving swiftly on...
  9. You don't have to be a Planner or a Panster like it's your religion for life - you can be somewhere in between or a flexible planner (thanks Kate Hardy for the excellent talk :-). Switching off your email while you're writing can lead to better productivity. (Okay I already knew that one but sometimes it's good to be reminded... Like Kate Walker's workshop on Conflict, you can never be reminded too many times).
  10. Sadly there were rumours that our favourite 'party outfit' publisher may be having distribution problems, we firmly hope for the sake of it's fab writers that there will soon be better news on the inkvine...
But now it's time to finish dunking that biscuit and make an official Minx announcement (drumroll please):
We're very pleased to announce that we've lured one of our lovely blog friends over to the Minxy side. She probably doesn't know what's hit her yet so we're announcing it before she changes her mind. I'd like to welcome Joanne Pibworth as a new member of the Minxes of Romance. Welcome Joanne.
Joanne will be introducing herself properly here on the Minx blog on Monday 9th August so I hope you'll come back then to welcome her properly :-)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Author Spotlight: Rebecca Savage

Today, The Minxes are very thrilled to welcome Rebecca Savage to the spotlight!

Take it away, Rebecca...

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

I started writing in June 2004, so I was a rookie. Sometimes I still feel like one.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?

Well, 9/11 and the tragedies surrounding it will forever be in my mind and may others. This latest book, Guard My Body, is based on terrorism, homegrown, where a man wants to get help and cross the border into the US with bombs and...well, i can't tell you more, but that the idea. home and abroad.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I used to want to hit it big with the big name publishing houses. Now I'm happy with e-publishing as long as I have my fans and can write, write, write...I ever get with a big house....hmmmm...actually, I may never try. Too many games.

4. Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?

Everything by Angela Knight! She's the greatest!

5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?

Not necessarily, but there are alot who I idolize and adore and wish I could be more like.

6. Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?

Depends on how they're written. If there's talking and it's humorous, then giggle-worthy. If they're worded too...hmmmmm...extremely, then I still read them, but some words are just a bit much:)

7. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?

OMG, let me think back to before the divorce...oops, did I say that outloud...Before my ex, there were some very romantic experiences. Once, I sat in a park, lights out, at night, under the stars, in could that not be's Italy, for goodness sakes:)---the guy was great and gorgeous. Yep, definitely a wonderful memory.

8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?

Nothing. It's a step by step process and you have to climb the ladder. The problem is, you don't know the rungs are there until you get to them and they identify themselves. Then you make the choice and take the step and keep going...or you don't.

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?

Never stop writing!

10. Tell us about your latest release.

I mentioned it's about terrorism and it's also about a librarian with a wildside who has a sister who's CIA with an even wilder side. The sister and her male partner need her help. So she gets to show her wildside. What a way to go!

11. What’s next for you?

I'm working on the third of that series of six, and a dragon, talk about tough. I'm branching out of my normal element into fantasy. World building is fun...

Thank you so much for joining us today, Rebecca, and we look forward to more books from you in the future.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Minx - Misbehaving...

I'd like to draw your attention to a fabulous first release with Wild Rose written by fellow Minx, Romy Sommer, writing as Rae Summers. Here's a taster to whet your appetite...

"Gabrielle is the quintessential Flapper, a wild child who turns her back on home and a resentful and unloving mother to become a nightclub singer. She wants nothing more from life than freedom and pleasure.
Sebastian is a dutiful son, following in his father’s footsteps and on the verge of marrying a suitable bride. But as the Twenties roar to their conclusion, he finds himself torn between duty and the urge to indulge his adventurous streak.
From the moment Gabrielle and Sebastian meet, the tension between them simmers. When he rescues her from a boorish suitor, Gabrielle discovers a kindred spirit beneath Sebastian’s serious demeanour, and she sets out to seduce him into one last passionate fling before he settles for a loveless marriage.
But the fire that burns between them threatens to consume her. Will Gabrielle survive falling in love with the one man she cannot have?"

The cover is as stylish as the story and in case you think I'm biased have a read of her first review from RT Book Reviews (who gave her four and a half stars :-). They say
"Let's Misbehave is a romp through 1920s England that is sure to delight... At only 80 pages, this novella never seems rushed or forced. Instead the story conveys a depth of feeling that is not reached by many novels triple its size. Brava, Summers!"

You can read the full review here And visit Wild Rose to buy the story here You can also read an excerpt on the Wild Rose site. So what are you waiting for? Go read :-)

Friday, July 16, 2010

The RNA Conference - Julie Cohen

This week we're delighted to welcome our first guest blogger, and firm Minx favourite - Julie Cohen. Her Harlequin Mills and Boon and Little Black Dress titles have a guaranteed place on our keepers' shelf and 'GIRL FROM MARS' Recently won an Award of Merit in the HOLT Medallion. Come back to the Minx blog on 13th of October to hear about her new release coming out with Headline - 'GETTING AWAY WITH IT'
(Check out the photograph with Jo Eustace if you want to pick out Julie from the shoe line-up on the RNA blog!)

The RNA conference
Every time I’ve gone to a Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, it’s changed my life. Take the first one, for example, in Durham in 2002. Though I’d been chatting with some other RNA members on the net, and made good friends with some of them that way, I’d never met any of the people there in person. I’m pretty sure I’d never even met a published romance writer in person. And yet there I was, arriving late, halfway through dinner on the first night, into a room full of loudly chattering writers. I was terrified. What if they were all so brilliant they wouldn’t talk with me? Who was I to say I could write at all? I was unpublished, clueless, and had only ever been rejected.
I was greeted by cheers and waves and hugs from my online friends. And it got even better from there: I met published writers, experienced writers, other newbies, all of them friendly and generous. I got down on my knees and asked my online buddy to be my critique partner. I walked along the river and saw the cathedral. I drank too much wine.
It was wonderful.
The following year, in 2003, I was drying my hands in the ladies’ room when the organiser of the New Writers’ Scheme came up to me and said, “I hear your manuscript submission this year was really good. You should send it to this agent.” Then she gave me a card. I had never, ever been told by an impartial stranger that my work was any good. I nearly cried. Then I drank too much wine.

By the time of the Leicester conference in 2004, I’d acquired an agent, but I was still unpublished. But, basically because I am unembarrassable, I was giving the first workshop on writing sex scenes that the RNA had ever hosted. I’d done two interviews with national newspapers because of it, and another national profile piece and a television appearance would follow. And me, still an unpublished writer. Because of the RNA. That evening, after the workshop was over, I drank too much wine.
Two weeks later, I’d sold my first novel.
Then there was the first conference as a published author. The first where I actually got to sign books. The time where we all cried because our friend was told by an editor that her book had been bought; the time where we all cheered because a dear friend had placed in the Elizabeth Gouge award and then walked across a field barefoot, swigging champagne. The times when someone tells me I’ve managed to help them in some way, which is the best feeling ever. There were the shoes and the toasts and the workshops and the naughty kitchens and the meetings with editors and agents and the chance conversations with people whose books I love, and people whose books I am going to love, just as soon as they get published so I can read them.
This year, in Kate Harrison’s workshop, she told us to set ourselves three achievable goals to improve our writing life. I started work on them the day after I got home. Other members helped me with research questions, with inspiration, with encouragement, with finding direction. And oh yes—I believe I drank too much wine.Mostly, I’ve made friends, and friends are what you need in this business, to fight the crows of doubt and the solitude and to celebrate the successes. Oh, and also shoes. And maybe just a teensy tiny little bit of wine...

Julie’s latest book is NINA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF GLOOM, available with free shipping here:
Her website is, she’s on Facebook as an
d her Twitter ID is @julie_cohen.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Author Spotlight: Lucy King

This week the Minx spotlight is on Lucy King, winner of the Mills and Boon Feel the Heat competition in 2008 and the Joan Hessayon award. Two of the Minxes were lucky enough to meet Lucy when she picked up her award at the RNA conference in Greenwich and are pleased to report that she's every bit as nice as she seems on her blog :-)
So, on with the questions...

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
Right at the beginning. I’d written one story and had sent it off to Mills & Boon in Richmond. My first ever rejection letter came back in August 2005 saying that while my material was competently written my story didn’t focus strongly enough on the relationship between the hero and heroine. It also suggested I read as many current titles as I could, which given that I foolishly hadn’t read any in the previous twenty years, was excellent advice. So I read as many as I could lay my hands on and decided to keep on trying.

Where did you get the idea for this particular book?

A year or so ago I read somewhere that PR was one of the few industries not to suffer in a recession, and it got me thinking. Modern Heat is about glamour and what better excuse to write about parties? I then decided to give my heroine her own PR company and an over-achieving family and focused on what would be her worst nightmare. Everything else sort of slotted into place. Eventually.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
Geographically, in a beautiful farmhouse in rural southern Spain. Personally, 10 years younger. Professionally, writing my 30th novel for Mills and Boon. Hopelessly wishful thinking on all fronts!

Which was the last book you read that you wish you’d written?
‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’, but only for the royalty cheques and the film rights.

Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
No. I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer until I sat down and typed Chapter 1. I started writing more to see if I could do it rather than out of any pressing creative urge. Now I’m strangely addicted.

Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
Neither. At least not if they happen in the right place at the right time. I have to get into the zone and then they (hopefully) write themselves. However I find it really hard to re-read my love scenes as they tend to make me blush.

What’s the most romantic moment of your life so far?
I’ve been trying to think of an answer to this question ever since you invited me here. And tragically I really can’t think of anything. I’d like to think that the most romantic moment of my life is still to come.

What do you wish you’d known about being an author before you were published?
The discipline it requires sometimes to get words down and hit deadlines. This is still a work in progress.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever been given?
Me: ‘Oooh, is running another contest.’
My husband: ‘You should give it a go.’

Tell us about your latest release?
Propositioned by the Billionaire is about a PR executive who comes from a high-achieving family, has a fear of failure and hair that tends to frizz, and a venture capitalist with his own island and serious trust issues. It also features a flamingo, parties and exploding handbags.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on revising my third Modern Heat and trying not to get too distracted by my ideas for book number 4.

Keep up to date with Lucy's news via her blog Pick up your own copy of 'Propositioned by the Billionaire' at the Book Depository, the Mills and Boon Website or Amazon

Monday, July 12, 2010

World Cup review

While some of us are going through RNA conference recovery, I thought it would be fun to blog about two of my favourite things -- buff men and football :-)

So, for those who have somehow managed to miss the hype -- what's it all about? TheWorld Cup is 14.2 inches high and made from 18 carat gold and weighs in at 13.6lb so is a relatively little thing that footballers have put their heart and soul into winning over the last 6 weeks. And who among us doesn't love a man who will put their all into something they are passionate about?

So perhaps we should look at some of those men? For purely research purposes only -- to examine the type of man who spends hours training his body into a fine machine all in the name of football.

Of course, it is important that the men who take part in the beautiful game are fine physical specimens. Our first study is Uruguay's Diego Forlan. I'm sure you'll agree, he looks as though he trains very hard for his sport :-)

Next is one of England's most hated men, Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo. For those who don't know, he rolled around on the floor as though he'd been sniper shot in the last European Championships and tried to get his then Manchester United team mate, England's Wayne Rooney sent off. It worked. The Englishman was sent from the field of play and English hearts were once again broken as the team crashed out of the tournament. Hence general dislike for Cristiano who the lovely Maisey Yates assures me is still well worth looking at!

Next for your viewing delight we have a few hand picked members of the Italian World Cup team. Unfortunately, they did not hang around the tournament for too long this year. But they did manage to leave a pretty lasting impression on some female fans. Can anyone see why?!

It's only fair my own nation is featured in this blog post. I've chosen one of the lesser known members of the English squad. We've all seen pictures of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard so let me introduce, for those who haven't seen/heard of him, Liverpool and England's Glen Johnson. He's incredibly pretty but unfortunately it seems he's a little shy as I couldn't find an image of him unclothed. I do apologise, blog readers, must try harder ... I know!

There's been some chatter on Twitter regarding the teams and their players. Whilst I've favoured the Spanish, some have grumbled that they are a little short. So, especially for those who prefer tall men, Jackie Ashenden, here we have Holland's Wesley Sneijder. Again, he seems a little shy and there were no easy to find 'shirt swapping' pictures so I hope this one will do!

Next is Portugal's Nuno Gomes. For those who saw the 'Presents Hero' picture Maisey had on her blog a week or so back, I'm fairly certain this is one of the men featured.

Finally, it wouldn't be fair if we didn't finish with a player from the winning team and arguably the player of the tournament. Well, I think he was the best player in the last 6 weeks and it isn't just because he's incredibly cute ... honestly, it's not! Spain's David Villa.
While I'm devastated the World Cup has now finished, it may mean better things for my WIP. I'm thinking now I don't have the distraction on the football and Wimbledon my word count will start to soar. Let's hope so ... I have a requested partial to submit!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Not at Conference? (and gossip)

Well this weekend is the RNA conference, and romance writers everywhere are flocking to London to meet, greet and network. It's a great opportunity for everyone to go to talks and workshops and half of the Minxes are on their way there right now - all dressed up in their conference dresses and super shoes. But half of the Minxes can't go, for one reason or another, and this blog post is for the rest of us!

Here are some things those not at conference can do this weekend.

1. Polish that first chapter.
Every writer at conference wishing to pitch to an editor and get feedback on their WIP, has really polished the first chapter of their manuscript and sent it in to the RNA to be read by an editor prior to their pitch talk. The time pressure to get this done has forced them to work hard to make sure it's the best first chapter that it can be. Us non-conference goers (NCG's) should drag out our first chapter and do an edit and polish.
Right Now.

2. Write a kick-ass synopsis.
The conference goers had to write a one page synopsis to go with their first chapter. We're luckier, because we're not pitching to an editor at the conference, but getting a submission ready to send in by the regular route. We can write a 2 page synopsis. Scroll back through Minx posts and print out Cindy Davis' excellent 'How to do a synopsis' post and write it. This weekend, pretend we're under time pressure too!

3. Polish the next 2 chapters.
Those at conference might get a request to see the first 3 chapters. They will have polished the next 2 so they're ready when the request comes. Let's do the same.

4.  Claim your writer status.
By going to conference they're stating that they, published or unpublished, are writers. Go to vistaprint or another online printing service,  and design up some free business cards for yourself. Shout it loud!

5. The Revamp.
The conference is the perfect opportunity for reinvention. New dress, new shoes, new haircut. If the budget allows, get one or all of the above! If time and finances don't allow, at least have a diy pedicure and paint those toenails.

6. Craft up.
Workshops, talks and lectures abound at the conference, but we have it all too, online. One good place to look is at the Romance Writers of America site, they have lots of handouts that you can read through. Everyone's got their favorite craft blogs, but here's two of mine, Les Edgerton's blog for craft articles, and Laurie Schnebley Campbell's.

7. Indulge yourself.
The conference is also about having a meal out, and coffee with friends. Taking the time to talk about writing, your goals, hopes, and fears. Try and get together with a likeminded writer friend for coffee, or if not (because they're all away!) get together online. Maybe try a Skype session to brainstorm ideas, or maybe just get yourself that coffee (with cream!) and large slice of chocolate cake for next to the keyboard.
The weekend is about focusing on yourself, you're a writer, you deserve it!

I'm sure there are loads of things I've forgotten, do pop in a comment with some more suggestions!

And now for a Friday news snippet... Here's some unofficial gossip about the Romance is not dead competition from Mills and Boon.
A little bird tells us that the contest is going ahead, and the time to post the first chapter is during September. It looks like its going to be for all the UK edited lines. The first round will be judged by editors and then the next few rounds are judged by the public and the panel. The first round is the first chapter, the next is the next chapter, and the final is the pivotal moment.
Word is that Mills and Boon authors will be holding workshops about how to write a M&B, and that there will also be stuff on the website. Check the website regularly, and let us all know the moment this competition goes live!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Author Spotlight - Claire Robyns

Today we welcome one of Carina Press' launch authors, Claire Robyns. Claire's historical romance novel, Betrayed, is now available on-line here. I am especially delighted to be introducing Claire as she is a fellow South African (albeit living now in England).

Claire, thanks so much for joining us here today. Now let's get onto those Minxy questions ...

Where were you in your writing career five years ago?

I’d been concentrating on writing and submitting category romances (no luck yet), learning the craft with shorter titles and spending a lot of time in the eHarlequin forums. Interestingly, it was around 5 years ago when we moved from South Africa to the UK, I had several months off work to settle the family in and grabbed that opportunity to try my hand at a longer length book and started writing Betrayed.

Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?

I’ve always loved reading historical romances. After a writing session where I was once again trying to rein in those pesky secondary characters, it struck me that historical romance is the one genre where intruding secondary characters are welcome and Betrayed was born. Literally. The title came to me first, and I built my story and characters around that. Most of my plots come to me as a title or single-line blurb, and then I weave the story and characters to fit in. My writing life would be a lot easier if the full story came first in a dream and I just had to think up a good title to match.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years' time?

My ultimate dream is to be a full-time writer. Not because I hate the day-job, but because I love writing more and there are just not enough hours in a day. That’s what I hope for, anyway. What I know for certain is that in 5 years I’ll still be writing because I cannot imagine not doing it.
Betrayed is also my debut book, so I hope to have built up a backlist of sorts in 5 years time.

Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. Not the whole book, just these few lines…
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.
I never even saw it coming.

I can’t get over how those lines hooked me in while I was flipping through the book in the bookstore. If I could ever have that effect on my readers, I’d be a happy gal!

Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be an author?

I could give you a long list of authors I love… Karen Marie Moning, Judith McNaught, Virginia Henley, Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Liz Fielding, Trish Wylie… I’d better stop now, but the list is nowhere complete.

But I’d have to say that all authors out there made me want to be a writer, because it was my passion for reading that one day turned into a passion for writing… and that started when I was about 6 years old reading The Secret Seven and The Famous Five.

Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy - or neither?

I used to find the idea of writing love scenes cringe-worthy, but when I eventually wrote my first one, I found that it wasn’t at all.

Currently I’m finding the idea of readers reading my love scenes cringe-worthy, friends and family in particular – hopefully once Betrayed is released and being read, I’ll discover that it isn’t at all.

What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?

Ooh, this is an interesting one, because I didn’t particularly find it romantic at the time. My husband proposed by tossing the engagement ring into the deep end of the pool and suggesting we go for a swim. It was the middle of winter.

Me: Are you crazy? It’s the middle of winter.
Him: It’s refreshing.
Me: I don’t think so.
Him: Just give it a try. Come on, it’ll be fun. Don’t you trust me?
Me: Um, no!
And so it went on until he was finally forced to admit what he’d done and that this was actually a marriage proposal. I should add that we had a couple of friends around at the time for a dinner party.
Me: What? You’re asking me to marry you?
Him: If you—
I have no idea how that sentence ended. I was underwater. He joined me and we had to dive a couple of times to find the ring, lol.

Thanks to a few too many glasses of wine, afterwards I actually thought it was a pretty fun way to propose. It was only years later, once we’d been married for a while, that I started to regard that proposal as truly romantic. Because it was so typical of my husband. Everyone who’s known him in Cape Town jokes about his tendency to swim all year round, usually in the middle of the night. And he made sure our close friends been invited that evening to share the moment with us.

Now when I think back on that proposal, I get a warm smile in my heart that I would not feel had he done something totally out of character like take me to a fancy restaurant.

What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were published?

Well, this is something I’d been told many times, but never really believed it: The fear of rejection doesn’t stop once you’re published.

Now I know it’s true.

In fact, I’m dreading rejection now far more. Before, it was only a nameless face writing a form rejection slip out there somewhere. No one beside me knew about it or cared. But now I’m worried about a reviewer slamming my book on a public blog. I’m worried that readers will hate it, or worse, what if no one bothers to actually buy my book? Will my publisher realize too late that they made a huge mistake in thinking my writing had any merit? Will my editor love the next book I’m working on or will she totally hate it?

The fear of rejection doesn’t end when you’re published. Believe it!

What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?

Take what good you can from a rejection and then toss it aside and don’t look back. If you’re a writer, you’re going to get rejected again and again and again. It’s not easy to keep the belief in yourself and it’s important to remember that every rejection is subjective and not necessarily based on the quality of your writing and story content. I had this repeated to me many time over through the years and it really helped to keep me believing in myself.

Tell us about your latest release.

Betrayed is a medieval Scottish romance set in the reign of the first King James I, shortly after his release from England.

Two Feuding Families
Amber Jardin has no taste for the bitter feud started before her father’s banishment. But now that he’s passed, she’s had to return to Scotland and his barbaric people. After her bloodthirsty uncle kidnaps one of the family’s rivals, Amber is in turn captured by Krayne Johnstone, the enemy laird. Despite their enmity, their attraction is immediate—and unfortunate, as Amber has sworn to escape.

One Lusty Temptation
Krayne is amazed at the wildcat’s repeated attempts to flee. He should steel himself against her beguiling ways—yet with time, he is driven more witless with lust. When the ransom exchange fails and Krayne is left with Amber, he finds he cannot tolerate the thought of her with another man—and she cannot tolerate the thought of returning to her uncle’s home.

Will passion and love win out over mistrust and betrayal in time to prevent an all-out war?

Krayne Johnstone became laird of Wamphray at the age of 12. He’s a man shaped by the harsh land. His heart is for pumping blood to his sword arm and nothing else. Before he could even start to fall in love with Amber, I had to teach the poor man what love is. But he is honorable and noble, and he has excellent reasons for distrusting scheming women.

Amber Jardin has led a pampered life in England and is totally unprepared for the barbaric realities of Scotland. But she’s not one to simper and bemoan her fate. She’s determined to shape her future and use whatever means on hand to do it. In this case, it’s her body. Amber is not perfect, far from it, but then I’ve never liked my heroines flawless. I don’t necessarily approve of everything she does, but I admire her courage and determination.

You can read an excerpt at

What's next for you?

I’m currently working on another medieval Scottish romance, although this is not a sequel. Different set of characters, and set in the reign of Queen Mary of Scotland.

Well, it’s been fun and thanks again to the Minxes for having me here.

Betrayed is available now from, on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble.

You can connect with Claire Robyns on

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wimbledon – A Writer’s Perspective by Minx Maya

This was supposed to be a post to introduce myself *properly*as a Minx. But frankly, I didn’t think the blog world would find me that interesting. I mean, you don’t want to hear me prattle on about my, er, chest-to-chest meeting with Vernon Kay when I literally bumped into him (we were rounding the same corner) three years ago, do you? If the answer is yes, then let me add quickly that his eyes are that sexy and yes, his chest was all manly and hard – my chest felt it!

If the answer’s no, then let’s move on.

As an armchair sports enthusiast, of course I’d secured my place for the Wimbledon Final this year (I needed something to focus on after England’s triumph at the World Cup). Even before the tennis match started, I knew I’d be supporting the underdog, Tomas Berdych. This previously little known player who seems to have come out of nowhere and *gasp* beaten Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic was definitely one to watch.

Before long though, his uphill battle against a frankly superior Rafael Nadal was reminding me a little too vividly of how tough it is for new writers (see what I’ve done here?) and in my heart I knew he’d lose despite his fearless fight.

What sustained me through the match and made me root for him even harder was the knowledge that he, like every writer with a dream of being published, had learned pick himself up after every set back. He kept hitting the ball after every game and set lost in the hope that maybe, just maybe, all his hard work would pay off.

As writers we have to do the same thing – we pick ourselves up after every form rejection, rejected partial, rejected revisions, and (the toughest of all) rejected fulls, in the hope that eventually the right book will land on the right desk, the right editor will send it up the chain, resulting in the ultimate prize that is The Call.

My first call came via email a little over a year ago and while I treasure it immensely, I yearn for the other Call, The Big One, the life changing one that every writer dreams of.

The Wimbledon Final also reminded me that hard work pays. I have no doubt Berdych will come back stronger – he’s too determined not to. He won’t give up and neither should any writer out there who dreams of the winning the magic prize.

And just to make this even remotely a get-to-know-Maya post, I’ll repeat what my late grandmother used to tell me whenever I had a setback – everything in life happens for a reason. Take it as a lesson and learn from it.

I took that advice to heart and practiced what to say to Gary Barlow from Take That the next time I took his call about the leak in his bathroom. Alas, I left that property management job over 10 years ago so the chances of reliving that moment are nil! But I did pluck up the courage to say hello to Gordon Ramsay when he turned up at my office last week. I hope that made my grandmother smile…

Happy writing!

Friday, July 2, 2010

What not to do at your first conference

Conference season is almost upon us. Attending your first conference can be a bit like your first day at school – new faces, timetables, worried you’ll have no one to sit with at lunch…
Being a veteran of a whole one conference I’m eminently under qualified to dish out advice but that’s never stopped me before ;-)

1. Succumb to the ‘Do I know you? Should I know you? Have I read you?’ paranoia. If in doubt just smile and talk about that great common denominator – biscuits.
2. Take any credit cards or cash unless you’re prepared to buy lots of books. Every author will do such a brilliant job of selling themselves that the urge to buy their book and then chase them round campus, pen in hand and asking for autographs, will almost certainly overtake you.
3. Talk banal drivel to a badge-less person. They will undoubtedly be VIWs (Very Important Writers) and while they might be glad of a change of subject from their RITA successes and multi book contracts it will make you look a bit of a prat. (Checking your accommodation list reduces this risk, take it from someone who wished she’d done that last year!)
4. Underestimate the importance of the tea queue as a source of great advice. Some of the best tips I picked up last year weren’t in the seminars but while reaching for a jammy dodger.
5. Forget where you put your water when a talk begins. You’ll inevitably kick it over the shoes of the person in front of you. (Sorry if that was you. Hope they dried out okay!)
6. Be afraid to eavesdrop – really, you’ll pick up great gems of gossip about publishers, the nitty-gritty of contracts… all that stuff that no one puts into writing out of political correctness.

1. Take advantage of opportunities to chat to editors and agents. Where else can you get instant, informed feedback from those in the know?
2. Expect to go home more enthused about getting stuck into writing time than seeing your nearest and dearest again!

If you're attending the RNA conference this year come and say hello to me, Lorraine Wilson and fellow minxes Joanne, Romy and Maya.