Monday, August 30, 2010

The perfect crit group

As many of our blog readers might know, the Minxes of Romance started as a crit group put together after the 2009 Presents contest. In the months since then, the group has gelled into an incredible team - this blog is evidence of that! So I thought I'd share my thoughts on what makes the perfect crit group. I haven't really got anything new or ground breaking to say, but I'm going to say it anyway.

Before I joined the Minxes, I had a few individual CPs and belonged to an on-line crit group or two. Some I worked well with, and we're still friendly, others not so much. But from the moment that I 'met' the other Minxes, I knew I was onto a winning streak.

So what are the important elements of a good CP relationship?

1. The first thing is that you all need to be at about the same place in your writing journey. This is important because a complete newbie might be forever wondering what you're going on about if you use 'insider speak', and a more experienced writer might not want to spend time having to explain the difference between internal and external conflict, for example. Mentoring has its place, but you usually want a CP relationship to be between equals, not one-sided.

2. You need to speak the same language. And I'm not just talking about the difference between say a writer who writes in English and one who writes in Japanese. I mean that you should read the same type of novels, be targeting similar lines etc. So that when your CP says 'this hero is more Modern than MH', you can appreciate what she means.

3. You and your CP(s) need to be able to give roughly the same amount of time to the writing process. The relationship is going to struggle if one of you is prolific and writing a book a month while the other takes a year to write one. The writer who takes longer is going to become even slower as she spends her life critting rather than writing! This is why I like a crit group. We all have lives that sometimes get in the way of writing. In a group, it's easier to take a break from critting without feeling like you're letting anyyone down. In a one-on-one situation, if you're having a busy week at work and your CP is on a deadline ... let's just say, I'm already very good at making myself feel guilty! But you also need to beware against a group getting too big and impersonal.

4. Personalities. Sometimes you can have a really good CP, someone who gives you great feedback and you enjoy each other's work, but that's as far as it goes. And then you meet a CP that you just click with. It's a bit like falling in love; you can't explain it, it just happens. And before you know it, you're not just crit partners, you're best friends. You know more about each others' lives than anyone else does. Your CPs provide shoulders to cry on, friends to laugh with, and they're good listeners when you just need to get something off your chest.

5. Trust. This is a biggie for me. I know I can trust the Minxes with the one thing that I hold most sacred: the words that I write and the ideas in my head. (Okay, so that's two things!) I know that they'll always be honest with me, but they'll also be kind and supportive. We've shared our joys, fears and secrets. They know who I am and still pretend to like me. When you find a CP like that, hang on to them!

6. A similar taste in men. Don't under-estimate this important bit! If one CP likes her heroes hot, sexy and Alpha, and the other likes her heroes tender, sympathetic and Beta, it's not the strongest basis for a relationship. Do you want to guess which type the Minxes prefer?

Thanks so much to all the Minxes for sharing this journey with me!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Help! I need a doctor!

Well the Minxes have been busy, this month. And we're glad to announce that both Minx Jo C, and Minx Suzanne have responded to the call from Mills & Boon Medical Romances, to send in Medical Romance chapters, and both have been asked to send more!

So in honour of this week's medical theme, we're pleased to post the requisite pictures of lovely doctors.

Minx medical advice?

Take two, with a glass of water, and have a lie down.

Next Friday, we have Medical Romance expert Kate Hardy guest blogging, so do pop in and say hello!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Author Spotlight: Autumn Piper

It's always treat when we Minxes do author spotlights with authors who are special to one or all of us. Today, I'm very honoured to welcome Autumn Piper, a fabulous writer and one of my CPs. Autumn and I "met" at our first crit group and have been through a few more together ;) She's a fantastic CP and I'm very thrilled to welcome her to the Minx blog today. Take it away, chica!

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

5 years ago, I’d composed most of my first (still as-yet unpublished because it’s entirely too long) manuscript. I was on a roll writing, but completely oblivious to the “rules” of publishing—e.g. Books don’t market well when they are 186,000 words long…

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

Ever hear the mantra, “Write what you know”? Well, I was inspired to write Trouble Under Venus because of what I don’t know. My father disappeared from Miami when I was 4 years old, never to be seen again. His involvement with the Cuban Mafia is highly suspect. And since we’d never met, he’s a huge mystery in my life. So I wondered: What if I could travel back in time to just before he disappeared, meet him, and perhaps learn something about the circumstances regarding his disappearance? And voila, I had this daredevil heroine willing to sacrifice anything to join an experimental timetravel program in order to go back and meet her father. Didn’t take much for me to throw in a troublesome (if hunky) FBI agent trying to pose as a geeky geologist in her timetravel group, and a couple of suave, sexy Cubans in Miami, along with lots of intrigue and danger. The hardest part was accepting the ending, which really broke my heart…

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

Well, if it’s August, I’d think we should be at our new place on Maui, heading over for dinner at Oprah’s… Oh. You mean real-life goals? I’d certainly like to have a few more releases under my belt by then, and maybe catch the eye of a bigtime agent. But mostly I’m hoping ebook sales go crazy and my publisher, Lyrical Press, grows by leaps and bounds. That’ll help me both as an author and an editor there.

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

Any of the Outlander books, or the Harry Potter series. Diana Gabaldon and JK Rowling truly own my admiration!

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

I grew up reading romance from Jude Devereaux and Kathleen Woodiwiss, and continued to be inspired by Nora Roberts as an adult. Also, Stephen King has always impressed me.

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

I actually love writing love scenes. It’s a toss-up whether I like them more than fight scenes, though!

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

When Valentine’s Day, 2003 rolled around, my hubby had been working out of state for about 6 months, and was only home for a weekend every 4-6 weeks or so. He made it home that weekend, in time to assist with delivery of his fabulous order of flowers. Twelve dozen red roses! The independent florist had almost passed out on the phone six weeks before when he’d ordered them. They were lovely, and I’ve still got boxes of dried roses saved.

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

It took me a long time (at least to my thinking) to get published, so I knew about all the hard work of revising and self-editing. Also got lots of experience with queries and rejections. Probably the biggest eye-opener for me was learning how many acquaintances would be excited to hear about my books, so if I could do it over, I’d announce my success a little sooner and a lot louder.

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

That would be about avoiding those “ly” words—and I got it first from Stephen King’s On Writing.

10. Tell us about your latest release.

Trouble Under Venus is my most recent release (although I do have another Trouble book coming out in September - click here to read about Fallen Star Trouble).

Here’s the cover copy for Trouble Under Venus:

For some love lasts a long time, for others a lifetime. Can theirs outlast space-time?

Randi’s summer vacation plans? Attending Professor Sudo’s Time Travel Academy so she can blast back to 1980 Miami and figure out where her father disappeared to. She’s the head of her class until hottie Mitch arrives disguised as a geeky geologist and totally messes up her meditation. Goodbye Soulful in Sedona, hello Yearning in Yoga. So long solo time-travel, hello pushy partner--who happens to be a buff tri-athlete, a sympathetic listener, and an ace FBI agent on a top-secret mission. With his help, she’ll conga her way into the Cuban mafia, try not to destroy the delicate fabric of the space-time continuum, dodge a few bullets, and solve The Mystery of the Missing Dad. And maybe fall just a little in love…
Content Warning: A new adventure in women’s fiction, with a heroine who boldly goes where no chick has gone before, tons of danger and intrigue, a roller-discoing Granny, life and death betrayal, steamy Miami nights and one hot FBI agent.

11. What’s next for you?

I’m still writing Trouble books, and working on another series, and have also recently been promoted to EIC at Lyrical Press, so I’m really trying to immerse myself deeper in the publishing biz and get farther from “real life”. And maybe closer to Maui…

You can keep in touch with Autumn via the following links:

Great to have you visit us today, Autumn!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A New Minxy Arrival

The Minxes would like to congratulate Sri Minx on the arrival of a beautiful baby girl. 

We wish you lots of joy with your new princess!

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Write Attitude

Today we're very pleased to welcome Sue Moorcroft to the blog to discuss a matter that occupies most of our minds at one time or another if we're honest - can we actually make a living out of writing? Her own writing credentials are rock solid and the Amazon reviews for her novels (five stars, readers can't wait to buy her next book) speak for themselves. But we'll let her tell you her story herself:
I’m going to write a book about how to make a business out of writing and I’m going to call it The Write Attitude.
You probably think I’m joking – but I’m not.
The proposal and a chapter is written and I’ve talked to Accent Press about it, as they published Love Writing – How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction. It just hasn’t come to the top of my ‘to do’ list. Yet.
This is because I am what I like to term ‘a working writer’. I’m not suggesting other writers don’t work (as if I would!) but I suppose I’m trying to convey that this what I do. Writing is my living. There is no day job or pension.
So these are some of the things that generate my income. I:
- novels
- short stories
- serials
- articles
- ‘how to’ books
- courses
Appraise manuscripts
Judge competitions
Lead workshops
Teach creative writing via distance learning

My major focus is my novels. I’m now with publisher Choc Lit and my current books are All That Mullarkey , Starting Over and the next will be Want to Know a Secret? in November. There are two planned for 2011, one of which is 20,000 words written.
And my major writing focus has ALWAYS been novels … it’s just that I took a long time getting here.My first paid published work was letters to the press. Don’t discount letters as a stream of income! The most I ever earnt this way is £150 for 89 words, which is about £1.68 per word. Extrapolate that into an 85,000-word novel. £148,258.42! Woohee, yes, I’ll have some of that … Maybe one day.
Around the same time I wrote two novels. They were dire. Publishers returned them without comment. When the second one had clunked onto my doormat a few times somebody gave me a ‘how to’ book about writing by the late Nancy Smith and I took to heart one piece of her advice: if you can sell about twenty short stories to national news stand magazines, a publisher of novels may take you more seriously. So I decided I would do that and I took a course, a distance-learning (then called correspondence) course. If I hadn’t earnt my fees via my writing by the end of the course, they promised, they would refund my fees.
But they didn’t refund my fees because a) I had covered my course fees three times over by the time I reached the end and b) they went bust. Whoever they owed money to, it wasn’t me!
And, aside from the actual number, Nancy Smith proved to be right, because I did, eventually, begin to sell novels – but I had sold eighty-seven short stories to national news stand magazines by then and my ‘first’ novel, Uphill All The Way (Transita, ISBN 1905175000) was really my eighth.
I do have one thing that I feel is invaluable on the journey from part-time writer to full-time writer: a husband with a regular salary. This has allowed me to write for the past 20+ years without a full-time ‘proper job’ – although I have had many part-time ‘proper jobs’ (one for him but I have wriggled out of that).
I hope I’m not letting out any trade secrets here, but not all novelists earn enough from their novels to live on. As I proved.

And I’ve never had the kind of contract that a) included large advances or b) covered more than one book, so I’ve carved out – or cobbled together – a career based on writing by being versatile and looking out for opportunities, reading newsletters, networking, attending conferences and doing all the things that make me contacts and get me contracts.
I suspect a ‘proper job’ would have been easier – but nowhere near as enjoyable!
I work ten hours a day, five or six days a week (sometimes seven) and, loosely, I work with students, appraise manuscripts and/or judge comps in the morning and I write during the afternoons.
I shoehorn in promo, accounting, emailing and research where it will fit.
And now you see why The Write Attitude hasn’t made it to the top of my ‘to do’ list yet!
(But I expect it will …)
Sue Moorcroft 17.08.2010

If you have any questions for Sue please post them into a comments box. 'Love Writing. How to Make Money writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction' is available to buy from Amazon. As Are 'All That Mullarky', 'Starting Over' and it's possible to pre-order 'Want to know a Secret'

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Author Spotlight - Lynne Graham

Today we're delighted to welcome Mills and Boon author Lynne Graham! Lynne has published over 65 romance novels, with whopping sales of fifteen and a half million books worldwide.Thank you for visiting the Minxes, Lynne, now for those Minxy questions!

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

Struggling to increase my output of books having come through a chaotic period of moving house, building a new one and living in rental property while that was being done. My career was going well but my children were younger and more dependent so writing still had to share billing with being a mother and it was a struggle to find the time to prioritize.

Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
Reading about the lives of Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos, the archetypal Greek tycoons, inspired me to create my hero, Alexei Drakos. I wanted him to fall in love with an ordinary woman

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
I want to still be doing what I’m doing now, keeping my long term readers happy and continuing to attract new ones. It has taken me 25 years to get to my current position and for the moment I’m happy to enjoy what I have achieved.

Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters. I love the spooky atmosphere of this gripping supernatural tale with all its twists and turns.

Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
Not really. I grew up reading romance from an early age and wrote my first stories for amusement as a teenager. I cut my romance teeth on Barbara Cartland, Georgette Heyer and the Mills&Boon authors of the Sixties and Seventies. I just adore books and read everything from crime to paranormal romance to history books.

Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
Neither, I have to be in the right mood to write them and the main challenge is to keep them fresh and full of passion

What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
It has to be the Valentine’s Day my husband laid a trail of red cardboard hearts to my greetings card. We didn’t have much money and couldn’t afford to go out to celebrate or exchange gifts but he made a real effort to make it a romantic occasion.

What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were published?
That you will never stop try- try- trying again to improve your work. I write by constantly reviewing every previous word.

What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
Ensure that every scene advances the story. A recommendation that helps you ruthlessly cut out the superfluous stuff.

Tell us about your latest release.
It’s a new line in which one story is told over the course of two books published in consecutive months. My editor put the linked story Duet concept to me and I agreed once I had thought up a meaty enough plot. It was exciting to do something fresh. The two books together are called THE DRAKOS BABY. The first part, THE PREGNANCY SHOCK was published in July in the UK (November for the USA) and the second, A STORMY GREEK MARRIAGE in September (December for the USA)

What’s next for you?
Another contract, another year of writing. I will probably do another Duet story and I look forward to creating some stimulating new characters and intriguing plots.

The Pregnancy Shock available now from Amazon UK,
Mills & Boon, and bookshops.

Look out for A Stormy Greek Marriage in Mills & Boon's September purchase page, here, and on general release in September.

Read more about Lynne at her website:

Thank you so much for such an interesting interview, Lynne!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Hubble Bubble...

Grab your cauldron and frogs eyes, I wanted to natter about the craft today.
No, not witchcraft - although wouldn't we all love to have penned Harry Potter?
I could day dream for hours about how i'd spend all of those millions.... ahem.

I do of course mean the craft of romance writing, which in it's own way is every bit as magical as witchcraft.

A sprinkle of conflict, a ladle or three of emotion, a smidgen of sensuality... it's romantic alchemy, and done properly it casts a temporary enchantment spell over the reader.

I find myself constantly looking around for advice on the craft of romance writing from experienced authors, because it's a sure fact that just having a flair with words and a lively imagination isn't enough to get you published.
Thankfully, the romance community is pretty amazing at sharing it's secrets to nurture aspiring writers, and the net is a fabulous source of information when you start to scout around for it.

For instance -for the whole of the month of August i'm doing the 'Good to Sold' online course with the fabulous Shirley Jump, multi-selling Harlequin author and all round priestess of knowledge on the art of writing romance.
I can whole heartedly recommend the course, i'm learning so much every day and Shirley's success is just inspiring. It's proved the perfect way to get myself back on track after the set back of a rejection a couple of weeks ago, and it's already starting to help me to understand where I'd gone wrong with my manuscript.

Some other high priestesses I've come across who practice romantic magic on the net:

Trish Wylie - So many fantastic writing tips here, and also dig out Trish's 'Not at Nationals' series of blog posts from July & August 2009. Seriously - they are choc-a-block full of gold dust.

Nicola Marsh - Click on Nic's Nook for a treasure chest of invaluable info and tips.

Jenny Crusie - I have lost hours of my life reading Jenny's essays, and not a minute of it was wasted.

Kate Walker - Kate is an absolute font of knowledge, and her 'Twelve Point Guide to Writing Romance' is worth it's weight in gold. I won't lend out my copy for love nor money!

And these are just a handful of recommendations -there are many other fabulous romance writers out there who are also happily sharing their insider knowledge and experience via the net.

How about you? Have you any 'must reads' that have helped you to wave a magic wand over your own writing?

Jo P x

Friday, August 13, 2010

Show 'n Tell

I was lucky enough to attend the New Voices competition workshop run by Heidi Rice last Friday and I thought it was interesting how often media images, actors (including Daniel Craig, left) and programmes were used either as tags for certain series or as thinking material for character conflicts.
So watching Desperate Housewives or The Mentalist may actually be good for your writing career, it's official :-)
Actually, it was while watching an episode of The Mentalist that I got a really good lesson on how to show a character's conflict through action, rather than introspection or dialogue. Even those of you who aren't fans probably know the basic story-line - Patrick Jane (played by Simon Baker) lost his wife and child in circumstances he can never forgive himself for. Finally at the end of series two we see him on his first date since they died. He leaves to go to the bathroom and once out of his date's sight his face instantly darkens, we don't hear him utter a single thought to anyone but after watching him pace, sweat and then finger his wedding ring we're in no doubt about his inner turmoil. And his character has been set up so well we know exactly why.
Just looking at the room he sleeps in shows us he won't forgive himself for what happened (see below) it's an extremely powerful image...
Since I've joined the Minxes I've been trying hard to get my telling under control and show instead and watching this scene challenged me to really think about how my characters move and what I can show through their actions, or indeed their rooms and offices.
Happening to like Simon Baker is purely coincidental to this lesson but if you'd like some homework and live in the UK you can view the scene I describe for yourself for free via Five on Demand
Seeing as it's Friday I've brought some more pictures to my show 'n tell (Henry Cavil, Gilles Marini and Carter Oosterhouse) Please feel free to study intently for research purposes ;-)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Author Spotlight - Kate Walker

Today we welcome 'Queen Kate' as she is affectionately known in romance writing circles. Kate Walker has published more than fifty novels for Harlequin Mills & Boon, and is the author of the must-have book for all aspiring writers, 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. Thanks for joining us here today Kate.

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

I had to go to my web site to check on this! 2005 was an interesting year for me – I had a couple of new projects. One was my trilogy, The Alcolar Family. The came from an on-line read I wrote for eHarlequin, called Wife For Real. When that went live in 2004, the hero had two brothers and a sister. The readers wanted to know their stories and so I wrote The Alcolar Family (The Twelve-Month Mistress, The Spaniard’s Inconvenient Wife and Bound by Blackmail) was the result. The Twelve Month Mistress was short-listed for Best Harlequin Presents by Romantic Times that year.

I also did a project with the would-be writers on eHarlequin which was a Writing Round Robin where I wrote the first chapter of a story, members of the community wrote the next one and sent in their entries. The winner’s chapter was published on line, and then after four episodes, I rounded the story off. This story has been made into a free download on eHarlequin and apparently it has been on of their most downloaded titles ever since.

I remember I also had a change of editor in that year – one of many! I’ve lost count how many editors I’ve had but I think it’s about 15. And I was celebrating 20 years as a published author.

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

My editor rang me up with the idea they had had for a mini series. ‘It’s a bit different,’ she said, ‘. . .a bit of a challenge.’ Well, I’m always ready for a challenge, and when I heard about this one I was really intrigued. It was a mini-series of books based on the ancient Classic Greek Myths, updating them to fit into the Modern Romance line.

I wasn’t sure what story to Modernize, but then I remembered the story of Odysseus. A man who goes missing for years and whose wife waits at home, never knowing if he is coming back or not. That was just the inspiration I needed. It was the sort of story that fitted perfectly into the Modern Romance line–up. Of course there were some things I needed to change slightly. Odysseus was a King who had gone off to the Trojan Wars and he didn’t return for over ten years. That might have worked in ancient times, but would be more difficult today.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

Still writing romance ! Five years ago, I was counting down(or do I mean counting up?) to my 50th title. Now I’m looking at my 60th – in 5 years time it would be great to be looking at my 70th or even 75th! But no matter how many titles I’ve published I will be really happy if my books are still selling in as many countries worldwide as they are now, still being reprinted and still being enjoyed by readers. I’m celebrating 25 years published now so hopefully I’ll be celebrating 30 years then.

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

The last one? I can’t recall a recent title– except that whenever I read a romance by Michelle Reid, Liz Fielding or Anne McAllister I often wish I’d written that! I also wish I’d written The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart (one of my great inspirations – see below) or Dorothy Dunnett’s Game of Kings series.

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

As a child I lived near Haworth where the Bronte sisters lived and where they wrote their books. I read "Wuthering Heights", very early, when I was about 13. I probably didn’t understand all of it but the power and the intensity of the story, the passion and the emotion swept me away and I’ve always wanted to write that sort of story ever since.

When I was growing up, my mother had a friend (Marguerite Lees) who wrote romances for Mills & Boon. She was the only published author I knew and she was one of the very few people who encouraged me by telling me that I could write and I should try for it. She had brought up two children as a single mother by writing and I thought she was a wonderful example.

My writing inspirations have been authors like Mary Stewart whose books got me hooked on romantic stories about dark, ambiguous heroes and Dorothy Dunnett whose Game of Kings series would have to be my desert island book – I can read it over and over again. And when I was a child an old book (even then) called Simona’s Jewel had that dark, ambiguous hero that I fell for – even is he was only 14!

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

Neither. They are important to the emotional journey of my characters – part and parcel of their love story. No one would ever believe that my hero and heroine loved each other passionately if there wasn’t sexual passion between them too.

Writing a love scene shows my characters in a way that no other scene can do – they are ‘naked’in more ways than one. A love scene should not be just put into a book because sex sells or the demands of the line but to show the way that the relationship is changing/has changed between them. And what leads up to it, as well as what follows from it (the ‘before and after’) is even more vital to that development.

Having said that, sometimes I do think that it’s very hard to be different or original and a love scene can often be a very cold-blooded scene to write, rather than getting hot and bothered about it. And I have an embarrassing record for being at the stage of writing such scenes when there are workmen in the house and they have seen what’s on my computer!

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

I’m often asked if I’m romantic and I think that people expect the answer that yes, I’d love to be showered with diamonds and roses and chocolates. But those are clichés and the commercial idea of romance. I believe that romance is caring for someone so much that you will want them to have what they need and love even if it isn’t what you’d think of as important – or romantic. So the big dramatic gestures aren’t the really romantic ones unless they have this very personal touch – and go with real romance which is real love.

So in those terms, I’d have to say that I’m truly lucky in that every day of my life has that sort of romance in it when I know that my husband is with me as he has been for almost 40 years! He’s loved all the different people I’ve been – from the student he met, through my being a librarian and a mother and now as a writer. Having said that. We’ve had some lovely special romantic days – the obvious ones like our wedding day (we didn’t have a penny between us but we didn’t care) the birth of our son, our silver wedding . . . A couple of years ago, when I had had two of my beloved cats die in just 3 months, knowing I had always wanted a Maine Coon cat, he bought me Flora, a Maine Coon kitten for Christmas – even though he personally didn’t want any more cats – or so he said – but since she arrived, she has had him wrapped round her paws! There are lots of other moments – some big, some small – like I said, I’m lucky!

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

I wish not just that I’d known about the internet etc but that it had existed when I was first published! My early books had very little publicity that I could do as I was here in the UK and they were going out across the world and there was no way I could go with them! If I had a first book out now, the advantages of having a web site, a blog, being able to talk to readers through other web sites etc are amazing and so very different from the few local talks I managed in my early years. New authors today are at a great advantage with that. But somehow I’ve managed to survive for 25 years, for many of which I didn’t even have a computer.

Nothing ever happens quickly in publishing! Editors take ages to read submissions, when a book is scheduled it’s usually a year or so before it comes out, and the royalties from that book are only paid out every six months – if they’ve been collected in. If not, you’re waiting again for the next six months. Everyone thought that being published by Harlequin Mills & Boon I was on the fast track to a fortune . . .er- no.

And I wish I’d realized how valuable having ‘thinking time is’. When I was writing around caring for my son etc, I had more time to think when I wasn’t actually sitting in front of the computer. Now I feel the need to keep putting words down on the screen when in fact I should let my mind wander and create the story.

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

Early on in my career, I was lucky enough to meet the fabulous Elizabeth Oldfield who sadly died in May this year. We were talking about revisions and she said ‘Oh, I always do half of them exactly the way they’ve asked to prove that I am co-operative and easy to work with. And I do the other half completely differently – to prove that I am the creative person around here!’ That advice is always in my head when I’m looking at a revision letter and wondering where to start!

One thing I always say is – read, read, read. I know that a mistake I made when I started out was that I didn’t read enough romance and so I didn’t have a true sense of what sort of books were being written. The only way to get a real taste of the line is to read extensively – and read as many different authors as you can.And when you write, write from the heart. I keep saying that romance is all about emotion and I think you have to feel those emotions with your characters. Get deeply involved with them and know what’s in their hearts – and then write it from your own heart too.

Tell us about your latest release.

As I said, this is a book that’s based on a Greek Myth, turning the story into a Modern Romance. The story of Odysseus.

Odysseus was a King who had gone off to the Trojan Wars and he didn’t return for over ten years. My 'Odysseus' - Zarek Michaelis – is a Greek shipping magnate who went missing for two years after an attack on his boat (the Troy). And like the original, when he returns he find that his wife(whose name is Penny, after Odysseus’s wife who was Penelope) has new suitors, all wanting to take over the kingdom (or in this case the company) he owned. They had problems before he went missing so he’s not sure whether to trust her, and she doesn’t know if he really loves her. So he has to prove himself to his wife and she has to prove that she has stayed faithful and loving all the time he has been missing. They have to get to know each other all over again and rediscover the love that had brought them together in the first place.

What’s next for you?

Writing – I have a book that I’m writing as part of another mini series – this time Modernising some classics of English Literature. My book is based on Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, so after my answer to question 5, you’ll know that that is a real thrill for me.. And then . . . another book – but at the moment I have no idea what!And there’s a reprint of the 12 Point Guide coming up in autumn.

Teaching etc – I’ve just come back from the Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference in London where I taught a workshop on Conflict. Then I ran a course on Writing Romance at Caerleon Writers’. Coming up next are some workshops for Mills and Boon because of a new contest they’re planning (more details when I can tell you). The National Association of Writers’ Groups conference in Durham in September, Writers’ Roadshow in Yorkshire, Novel-Writing Weekend (teaching a new course Romance Writing – Moving it On) in Fishguard, Wales . . phew! That will keep me busy until the end of February next year.

You can visit Kate's website at or her blog at You can buy The Good Greek Wife on Amazon, or direct from Mills & Boon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Monday Minx: On Inspiration

The question apparently asked most often of authors is “Where do you get your inspiration?” I can only assume it’s non-writers asking because for me that’s kind of like asking “how do you breathe?” Maybe it’s not just coincidence that another term for the act of breathing is ‘inspiration’.

For me, ideas are everywhere. I have so many of them bombarding me all the time that all I can do is scribble them down and file them away. They come to me in my dreams, from articles I read, from chatting to people. I sometimes wish I could hire a ghostwriter to do the slog work and write them all so I can just play around with new story ideas. Sadly, that’s not going to happen (and maybe just as well, cos who knows what another writer would do with my beloved story!) so I just add them to the ever-growing queue of stories waiting to be written.

The best moments for inspiration to strike are those moments when I'm doing something completely mindless, like bathing or commuting to work. While I drive, my mind wanders and ideas come at me out of the blue. Often a snatch of music, or something my mind has been processing, will develop into a story as I sit bumper-to-bumper. This morning was one of those moments. I had Thirty Seconds to Mars playing in the car, and the lines of one song (“Mary was a different girl / Had a thing for astronauts / Mary was the type of girl / She always liked to play a lot”) set a chain reaction going in my head. By the time I’d arrived at my office I’d threshed out a short historical novella set in a Victorian bordello with an intricate suspense sub-plot. How on earth did my mind make the leap from a song about Mary who loves astronauts to Victorian subterfuge? I don’t have a clue!

So wondering if any research has been done into how inspiration works, I googled it. Clearly I’m not alone as the topic pops up as an automatic prompt on Google! I was looking for a scientific explanation, but what I got were the following thought-provoking answers.

It is just stream of consciousness from the light within.
[Source: Yahoo Answers]

The word “inspiration” has its first origins in the Greek word θεοπνευστος, which reads theopneustos and translates into “God-breathed.” In artistic composition inspiration refers to an unconscious and irrational burst of creativity. In both cases - spiritual and artistic - inspiration has something to do with the supernatural, it has a connection with the divine, it is a state of being in-spirit with something higher than ourselves.

Inspiration appears when your actions (work) are aligned with your life’s purpose. How do you know when that happens? When you love your work so much that you would do it for free, just because you enjoy the process of working.
[Source: Project Armannd]

I am fascinated to know your thoughts and opinions. How does the inspiration process work for you? When and where do you get your story ideas? And how do you think inspiration works?

I’ll leave you with these beautiful words from poet and author Margaret Sangster:  
Inspiration is a fragile thing... just a breeze, touching the green foliage of a city park, just a whisper from the soul of a friend. Just a line of verse clipped from some book. Inspiration... who can say where it is born, and why it leaves us? Who can tell the reasons for its being or not being? Only this... I can think. Inspiration comes from the Heart of Heaven to give the lift of wings, and the breath of divine music to those of us who are earthbound.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Anything Goes Friday - Eye Candy

David Sutcliffe is one of those actors who can be convincing as both the bad boy and Mr Nice Guy.

Fans of Gilmore Girls are likely to remember him as the irresponsible father and Lorelai Gilmore's on-again, off-again boyfriend, while for me he'll always be the man with the sweet smile who wins the heart of Diane Lane in Under the Tuscan Sun. More recently, David has appeared in Private Practice.

David is Canadian, a Gemini, plays hockey, is an avid Poker player and has a degree in English Literature (a man who reads - how sexy is that?!). His internet biographies are sketchy to say the least, so I'll let the pictures do the talking ...

In other Minx news, Sally Minx has sold her second book, Bound to Love,  to new London digital imprint, Embrace Books which is launching early 2011. Woohoo!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Author Spotlight: Maisey Yates

Today the Minxes are so very thrilled to have with us fellow writer and friend, Maisey Yates. For those who aren't aware, Maisey is one of the newest authors to be initiated into the Harlequin Presents stable and we shared her excitement when she received The Call a mere eight months ago. Since then, she's sold a further 3 books and is already writing her 5th, we believe!

So without further ado...Maisey Yates!

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

Five years ago I'd never finished a manuscript. I'd never read a romance. And I couldn't even imagine finding the courage to finish a story, because then..I might have to submit it. I had dreams of being a writer one day, but I never really believed that that's what I would end up doing.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
It came from the heroine Elaine. I sat down and started writing, and there she was, proposing to the hero. She's a strong woman with a mind of her own, and she definitely had her own ideas for how her story was going to go.

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

Writing Presents, raising my kids, loving my husband...maybe in a slightly larger house.

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

That's tough, because there are a lot of moments in a lot of books that make me say "WOW! Why couldn't I say it that way??" But, I just read Flowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale and I had to wonder where that story came from. It was just so deep and emotional. I had some serious writer-envy there.

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

The first Presents I read was by Miranda Lee. (and I can't remember the anyone want to talk after class and help me figure it out...) When I read that book, and all the passion and drama and emotion, everything clicked into place for me. I knew that was what I wanted to write.

6. Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
Love scenes are my favorite thing to write. For me, they're always intensely emotional to write. For me, the scenes are specifically built around the couple I'm writing about, and it's always fun when all the tension you'll built up gets to...explode.

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

That's hard, because my husband is kind of a paragon. I have the most perfect wedding picture of him standing at the head of the aisle just when he's seen me for the first time and he has tears on his cheeks. But, I think that him bringing a bouquet of roses to my first pre-natal appointment when I was pregnant with our son wins.

8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
I don't know very much yet! But I will say: take it all in stride. It's amazing, and I'm having the time of my life, but no doubt there will be low points, more revisions, rejections, bad reviews. And then there's exciting things like good reviews and release days and covers. Even with all of that, good and bad, you have to just keep writing.

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
I think the best advice I ever received was from my CP, Jilly Aston. She said, yeah, you're going to have to rewrite the last half of your MS. And I emailed my editor and said, DO I REALLY? And she said...yeah, you do. But it was the best advice I've ever been given...and freeing, if you can believe it.

10. Tell us about your latest release.

In His Virgin Acquisition, Elaine Chapman is willing to do whatever it takes to get her father's company...even if it means offering marriage to the man who just purchased the company, Marco De Luca. She's got everything planned, and she presents him with an offer he can't refuse. Of course, not everything goes according to plan...she hasn't counted on actually being attracted to her new husband...

11. What’s next for you?

My next release, A Mistake, A Prince and A Pregnancy will be out in the UK in October. Imagine my hero's shock when a woman he's never met comes to tell him she's pregnant with his baby...

Thanks you so much for blogging with us today, Maisey, and for giving us a sneak peak at the new Presents covers! :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monday Minx - Jo P

I can't tell you how thrilled I am to be the newest minx on the minxy block!
I'm really pleased and privileged to join the group, so first and foremost, thank you to the lovely minx girls for having me.

Following on from that happy dance, I then realised that I'd need to introduce myself and have been in a mild panic ever since. Honestly, I've wracked my brains to think of interesting things to tell you about myself, and i'm sorry to say that I'm struggling!
I'd so love to be able to tell you that I live an uber cool and minimal lifestyle, in a designer house with a capsule wardrobe of camel & black pieces effortlessly put together from this seasons coolest collections.
I'd also love to confess that I holiday five times a year in far flung places with sugar white sands and turquoise seas ( all in the name of research of course! Charge it to my expenses account daaarling!)

However, it would all be big fat lies. The truth is that I live a haphazard lifestyle in the not-very-glam-at-all black country. For the mercifully uninitiated- it's in the west midlands, named for it's proud industrial history, mostly now gone. I guess i'd have to say that i'm proud to be a black country girl (even if it means that my accent is more Lenny Henry than Lady Diana), but I still have a deep hankering to run away and live in the country - preferably somewhere large and rambling in the beautiful patchwork hills of Shropshire please, if the lottery gods are reading this.
And my wardrobe? Well, it's most definitely not capsule! Bulging with mismatched clothes that I really ought to have given away to charity years back is closer to the mark, but hey ho - the diet might work one day and then i'll be spoilt for sartorial choice...

Did i just mention the diet? Hmmm. That brings me neatly to my love for chocolate and cake, preferably cupcakes with sparkles on the top if given the choice. Or carrot cake. Or chocolate cake. Or, ooh err, a cream horn!

Which finally brings me rather smuttily around to the actual purpose of this post- my love for romance, both the reading of and the writing of.

I am loud and proud of my love for Mills & Boon, and will happily confess to a deep abiding affection for a cockle warming romance. There's so much angst and heart breaking news all around us every day, but you can always rely on a good romance to transport you temporarily to a better place. Between the covers of every romance lies a new hero to fall in love with for a few hours, and a new heroine to root for and envy. You get to visit those far flung places from the comfort of your own armchair, to rub shoulders with princes and billionaires, and you might even get diamonds and Manolos thrown in too if you're lucky!
I've read them forever, and I have no doubt that I always will.

My personal romance writing journey only began around a year ago.
I'd wanted to put pen to paper for more years that I care to remember, but I let myself use every excuse in the book to not be brave enough.
I was too busy with work. And then I was too busy getting married and having babies.
I read the forums and blogs voraciously, but it was seeing the launch of the 2009 Mills & Boon writing competition that finally gave me the push I needed. Like many others around the globe I sweat blood and tears over my entry, and I was completely over the moon when I got the call to say that my entry had placed as runner up in the competition. I've never won anything before in my entire life, so to say I was shocked was an understatement! That was back in December last year, and since then i've re-written the synopsis and substantially changed that lucky first chapter, written and revised the partial, and I'm now waiting to hear back on the full manuscript. Throughout this process I've also come to realise that I have the patience of a gnat, which is an unhelpful trait that I need to work on if I am to have a hope in hell of staying on the aspiring writer roller coaster.
It's certainly not for the feint hearted is it?

I can't believe that I waited this long to start doing something that has very quickly become my consuming passion. It honestly makes me tingle with happiness when it's going well, and kick the wall and swear like a builder when it's going badly.
But whatever happens with this manuscript, i'm in it for the long haul now, because I've finally discovered something that I truly love.
I think I might even love it more that chocolate.
Cupcakes, even.
Maybe there's hope for that diet after all then...