Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Author Spotlight - Paula Graves

Michelle Willingham's winners

Congratulations to Jackie Ashenden who wins a free download of "Pleasured by the Viking" and Jennifer Shirk who wins a copy of "Surrender to an Irish Warrior". Congrats, ladies! Please contact Michelle directly at  to claim your prize.

Now over to Intrigue author and one of Eharlequin's best sub care cheerleaders Paula Graves. Links to Paula's recent releases are at the bottom of the page--both were given a whopping 4 and a half stars by Romantic Times Book Reviews.  Here's Paula:

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

I was waiting to hear if my Daphne du Maurier award entry would win at Nationals (it came in second) and wondering if I would ever sell a book.

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

The series I'm writing at the moment, Cooper Justice, came out of a discussion I had with a friend. I was trying to come up with an idea for a series, and my friend, a big Harry Potter fan, said, "You know, I've always thought the Weasleys could have carried their own series." From there, I created the Cooper family--six brothers, one sister--and gave them their own world to inhabit. They're not really anything like the red-haired wizarding family, of course, except the number of siblings and their happily in love parents. The Burrow is actually a lakehouse in northeastern Alabama, and instead of wizards, the Coopers are either law-enforcement types or professional fishermen. Or both. The hero of ONE TOUGH MARINE, my August book, is Luke Cooper, a retired Marine who's working as a security consultant when his past comes back to haunt him in a big way. And the hero of September's BACHELOR SHERIFF is youngest brother Aaron Cooper, a sheriff's deputy who finds himself protecting the geeky girl he used to ignore in high school.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I hope to be writing exciting, passionate, scary books. I'd like to think I'll still be writing for Harlequin Intrigue, since it's been a fantastic experience over the past five years. I'm surrounded by some amazing authors at Intrigue, and I'm so pleased to be part of them. I may have a single title book or two in me, of course, and I may be doing that. But right now, I'm just focusing on telling the best stories I can.

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

Kerry Connor's June 2008 Harlequin Intrigue, STRANGERS IN THE NIGHT. Fantastic book full of twists, turns and really meaty drama. I couldn't put it down and every time something unexpected happened, I thought, "Darn, I wish I'd written that."

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

The Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden books made me want to write mysteries, and Lilian Peake's Harlequin Romances made me want to write romance. When I discovered Harlequin Intrigue, and especially Gayle Wilson, I realized I really wanted to write romantic suspense. I loved Gayle Wilson's books and wanted to write like her--great stories written in an almost literary voice. Just lovely, lovely writing.

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

Definitely cringe-worthy. I'm a good Baptist girl and my mom beta-reads my books. Eek!

What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
Gosh, I don't know. My idea of romance seems to be so different from everybody else's. I think if a guy offered to change the litter box for me every day for a month, I might marry him on the spot.

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

I had been working at getting published so long by the time it finally happened, I think I was pretty much prepared for being a published author. I haven't really come across any unpleasant surprises. I am struck, however, by how wonderfully supportive fellow authors are. Okay, there's one other thing--I always put a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears into figuring how to write a synopsis before I was published. I still think it's a good skill to have, but even if you're terrible at synopses, the way I am, you can still sell a book.

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

Start a scene as late as possible and end it as soon as possible. If you follow that rule of thumb, 99% of your pacing problems will be fixed.

Tell us about your latest release

I have two releases, back to back in August and September. August's book, ONE TOUGH MARINE, features a Marine widow with a young son who's confronted with her late husband's shadowy past in the form of ruthless men who want her to find something her husband hid. With no idea what she's looking for, the widow, Abby, must turn to her late husband's best friend, Luke Cooper, for help. They haven't seen each other in almost three years, and their last meeting was an explosion of grief and passion the night of her husband's funeral. What Luke doesn't know is that their lovemaking created a child--a son who's now a pawn in a very deadly game.

September's book, BACHELOR SHERIFF, features Aaron Cooper, a newly promoted investigator for the sheriff's department, who's called to look into a suspicious fire. He discovers the arson victim is an old high school classmate, Melissa Draper, who barely escaped the fire alive. Melissa was a geeky braniac, the kind of person a football star like Aaron had usually ignored in high school. But the deeper he looks into the suspicious circumstances of the fire, the more mysteries he uncovers. And all of them seem to revolve around Melissa, who is a far more interesting and complicated person than Aaron ever realized. When it's clear someone's trying to kill her, Aaron appoints himself her personal bodyguard. But is his interest in her strictly professional?

What’s next for you?

I have three more Cooper Justice books coming out April, May and June of 2011. Then in October 2011, I'll be the author of the fourth book of the six-book Daddy Corps continuity from Harlequin Intrigue. After that, I'm going to have to come up with a new project!

Thanks, Paula!

Paula has generously offered a $10 eGiftcard from the online bookseller of the winner's choice, winner to be picked from a random commenter so get busy commenting people :-) The winner will be announced on the blog at the weekend.

One Tough Marine is now available from Amazon and was rated a fabulous 4 and a half stars from Romantic Times. Bachelor Sheriff is also available at Amazon and also received a rating of 4 and a half stars from Romantic Times!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Minxes' Favourite Childhood Books - Part 2

Following on from last Monday's post, here's a second meander down memory lane...

Jo. P: At the risk of being predictable, I have to mention two Enid Blyton books first - as very little girls, my sister and I had a beloved and dog eared copy of her fairy stories which we knew cover to cover. My sis still has it somewhere, covered in our childish scrawled notes to each other. Just looking at the cover makes me smile even now.

Growing up a little, it was the Naughtiest Girl in the School that was constantly under my pillow - what does that say about me I wonder? I haven't changed a bit!

Whizzing forward a few years, there are two books which I can't miss out.
The first arrived in our house in a bag destined for the jumble, and I snaffled it.
"The family nobody wanted," by Helen Doss is a true story about a couple who couldn't have children so decided to adopt one - or twelve, as it turned out in the end. It's a gorgeous heart warming story, one which I read to destruction and I was gutted when the book got lost over the years. I never forgot it though, and my lovely husband scored himself huge brownie points a couple of Christmases back by surprising me with a replacement copy. I still love it now.

And last but not least, one of my all time favourite books, 'My family and other animals' by Gerald Durrell. I love and adore this book, along with the others in the series. It makes me laugh out loud, and just completely enchants and comforts me every time I pick it up - which I still do, often.

Jo C:

I've read most of the books the others have mentioned, but no one has yet mentioned the wonderful Judy Blume. I spent hours reading her books, wondering what on earth it was Margaret was fiddling around with in "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret" and back then there wasn't the internet so I could find out what was going on. Don't worry, I did manage to work it out in the end :-)

Then I also read the very moving "Tiger Eyes" which followed a girl's journey after her father is violently killed.

I devoured "Forever" about a teenage couple who had sex for the first time. Judy Blume's books got me through more than one teenage drama of my own!

But the books I really remember and the ones who opened my eyes to romantic fiction were those early ones by Jilly Cooper. To begin with, I scoured our local library for all the 'single name' books such as "Harriet". I adored this book and still think it would've made a great M&B. I defy any woman not to identify totally with Harriet, she's such a 'real' character.

But the series I blame totally for my addiction to the romance genre is the 'Riders' series. The glamour of the characters, the settings and the very (to me, anyway!) upmarket world of horses took me away from many a wet and windy northern England day.

I know he is the archetypical bad boy, but who could read the series without falling madly in love with Rupert Campbell-Black, the absolute ultimate in alpha men? I certainly couldn't. If you haven't already, I urge you to take a visit to the Cotswold countryside and enjoy the humour and wonderful storytelling ability that is pure Jilly Cooper.

And yes, I did read these books as a child (and enjoyed the TV series, too) and no, my mother had no clue what was between the pages :-)

Friday, September 24, 2010

The discipline of category romance

I was a relative late-comer to category romance. When I picked up a Mills & Boon romance for the first time, I was already an adult and living away from home. I spent one glorious, long English summer reading through the romances on my friend's bookshelf (there really was a summer in England in 1997, promise!) but it was only years later that I got truly hooked on reading category romances.

Now my reading habits have changed so much that I sometimes find longer length novels hard to read!


Because since I started writing myself, I've come to admire the craftsmanship of these 'little' books. Category romance novels pack a punch, and they require a very special set of writing skills. Every word counts in a 50,000 word novel. In a very short space of time you need to engage the reader, establish your setting, reveal your characters and unravel your plot. There is no place for rambling or huge chunks of narrative.

I wish all writers could do an apprenticeship in category before attempting to write longer works. It would teach them a discipline beyond writing for X number of hours per day, or delivering X number of books per year. Because what I've learned to appreciate in category romance is the way that these writers are able to take me on an emotional journey without ever diluting the story's focus.

Imagine a mighty oak tree. No matter how big it gets, or how dense the foliage, the tree's greatest asset is its trunk. Category romance novels are like that trunk. Given higher word counts these novels could be fleshed out certainly, with secondary characters and sub plots, but that tight central core is what makes the story great.

There are many longer, mainstream novels on the shelves that have all sorts of extra padding added but don't have that strong core. They become weeping willows rather than mighty oaks.

Now I need to get back to my WIP and make sure that I've planted an acorn.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Final Minx Entries ...

The final two minxes to enter the New Voices competion are (drumroll):

Joanne Cleary
Title: Taming the Lion
Trent Cooper's rugby playing days are over and he needs a diversion from endless physio--enter nurse Rachel Simpson who has secrets she's not sharing ...

Sri Pammi
Title: Claiming Her Italian Magnate
Alessandro Moretti has never coveted something that wasn't his. Until he meets Rachel. After a lifetime of running away from relationships, Rachel Taylor has met the man worth stopping for. Will Alessandro unlock his heart before Rachel runs again?

And we'd also like to give a big shout out to Lacey Devlin, who's wall of fame is, well, famous!
Lacey has also entered New Voices with an excellent entry that is definitely a favorite of all the minxes, so do please check her out too! Her story is called, Misbehaving With The Retail Magnate. Go Lacey!

Good luck, all!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Author Spotlight - Michelle Willingham

Today the Minxes are proud to announce RITA nominated historical author, Michelle Willingham, who has graciously agreed to step into our spotlight. Michelle has been really generous and is offering two giveaways, so don't forget to check out what you need to do to be entered into the draw at the bottom of the interview.

Here's Michelle:-

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

Five years ago, I had received revisions on a book I'd written for Mills & Boon Historicals. They were intense revisions, involving characterization and pacing, but I saw them as a golden opportunity. I threw myself into the changes, knowing that I had to make this work. The revisions on that book became my first sale, Her Irish Warrior, though it was September 15, 2006 when I got The Call.

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

I already knew who the hero would be for Surrender to an Irish Warrior, but I was inspired by one of the characters in JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood—Zsadist. He was such a tortured hero, and it was such an amazing Beauty and the Beast story, I wanted to try my hand at a hero who had lost everything . . . and find the perfect woman to redeem him. What surprised me most was that Morren ended up being just as much a survivor as he was. I think when two characters have suffered a lot, they can find healing in each other.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I hope to keep writing and selling historical romance, but I'd like to break into HQN or Mira to have more of a shelf life. Hitting a bestseller list would be nice, too. :-)

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

My favorite book of all time is Morning Glory by LaVyrle Spencer. She had such a deft hand with characterization, that the everyday details brought out heartwarming emotion. I love all of her historical romances, but that one is a particular favorite.

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

Not really. I started writing when I was twelve, writing stories in green ink on a legal pad. Ironically, my first story was a romance where the hero left the heroine roses in mysterious places. I believe a rowboat and violin were involved at one point (gag). But hey, I was twelve. Then I moved on to an electric yellow 3-ring binder where I wrote fan fiction episodes of "Beauty and the Beast" (the Linda Hamilton TV version). I also plotted out new episodes of "Days of Our Lives." I think I was born to be a romance writer. :-)

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

Neither. I enjoy writing them! I get to experience the ultimate fantasy night with an amazing hero. What's not to love?

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

This past Valentine's Day, I woke up and found several Valentine's cards that my husband had written to me. They were hidden all over the house—on the kitchen table, in the refrigerator, in the bathroom, even on my car dashboard! It was such a fun, romantic gesture.

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

That all the rejections you receive when you're unpublished will help you develop a thick skin for book reviews. Not everyone will love your book the way you do, and it can be hard to separate yourself.

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

No matter what happens, keep writing. You're only as good as your last book.

Tell us about your latest release

Surrender to an Irish Warrior is the last book in my MacEgan Brothers series. It’s about an Irish warrior, Trahern MacEgan, who wants to avenge the death of his betrothed wife. Along the way, he rescues Morren O’Reilly, a woman who was attacked by the same Viking raiders. In Morren, he finds healing and redemption.

There is also a linked sequel novella to the book from the Harlequin Historical Undone! line. It's called "Pleasured by the Viking" and it tells the story of Gunnar Dalrata, a Viking who plays a key role in Surrender.

What’s next for you?

Claimed by the Highland Warrior kicks off my new series set in medieval Scotland. It will release in the spring of 2011, possibly March. The hero Bram MacKinloch is a prisoner of war who escapes his captors and comes to claim his bride. It's set in the Braveheart era, so there are no kilts, but there are hot Scottish warriors.

Thanks, Michelle!

I'm offering up two giveaways—a signed copy of Surrender to an Irish Warrior and a free download of "Pleasured by the Viking" to two random commenters. Just tell me which hero you prefer—Irish, Scottish, or both!

Michelle Willingham is a RITA® Award Finalist and the author of seven historical romances and five novellas from Harlequin. Visit her website at: to read excerpts of her work or find her on Facebook ( and Twitter (

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A giggle of minxes at New Voices!

So far, four Minxes have entered the New Voices competition
with some fantastically sparkling entries!

To make it easy to find all the minx entries - we're doing a list here together with a brief blurb on their stories - just click on the title to have a read and vote! Once you've read the chapter and commented, you vote by clicking on the story title on the left, which brings you to the 'roses', click on the one you want to cast your vote.

Lorraine Wilson
Title: In Too Deep
Ex-army officer Hal Wright has recovered from his battle wounds but not from his survivor guilt. Asked to look out for Evie Richards as a 
favour he agrees. But she's proven she can save herself. Trusting again? That's another matter entirely...

Joanne Pibworth
Title: Sequins and Secrets
Take one burlesque star with a huge glittering genie lamp. Add one Aussie hot-shot with three sinful wishes. What do you get? The perfect recipe for a very grown up fairy tale.

Suzanne Jones
Title: Manhunt
Nicole Adams is convinced Angelo Russo is a hero. He's not so sure about that - experience has made him cautious. Can Nicole summon the courage to tell Angelo who she really is? And, if she does, will it ruin their relationship?

Romy Sommer
Title: Valentino's Angel
Sylvie and Valentino are like oil and water, but the spark between them is undeniable. When fate throws them together, they discover that the person who seems completely wrong for you might actually be completely right.

Do pop over and give them some feedback before the competition ends!

We have another minx or possibly two entering later today or early tomorrow, so do check back on Thursday for their details!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Minxes' Favourite Childhood Books - Part 1

We all have books and stories that we adored as children and may even now have passed on to or be reading to our own children.

Today, the Minxes want to share with you the books that shaped us into the readers we are today. One or two may surprise you ;)

Romy Sommer: Some of my earliest memories are of my mother reading me to sleep every night as a kid. She read me all the Enid Blytons. I know I don't need to list them here. I bet you grew up on them too!

As I grew older I developed a love for girls' boarding school books. To this day my favourites are Elinor Brent-Dyer's Chalet School books. These stories not only had all the usual schoolgirl pranks and dramas, but they also had exotic locations (Austria, Wales, Switzerland) and spanned several decades. I'm still collecting these books today - for my daughters, of course!

In my teens the 'Sweet Valley High' books were my first taste of romance, but the first Alpha hero I ever fell in love was Patrick Pennington, the bad boy musical prodigy in KM Peyton's Pennington's Seventeenth Summer. My brother brought the book home from school as required reading. If he ever wants the book back, he just needs to search my bookshelves - it's still there, alongside all its sequels!

Sally Clements: I read everything I could get my hands on, as a kid. And it hasn't changed much! My favorites were the Nancy Drew series - and honestly, who couldn't love a clever girl tracking down a mystery? Other faves were She and Ayesha by H Ryder Haggard, and Kon-Tiki and the Ra expeditions by Thor Heyerdahl, the descriptions of sailing in an ancient craft grabbed me from the start! I also spent a good few years reading P G Wodehouse & all the James Bond books and by the time I'd turned 13 was devouring Papillon by Henri Charriere. So I guess I was a sucker for mysteries, and stories where people faced challenges - and won!

Lorraine Wilson: I used to spend all my pocket money on books and still have all my original Enid Blytons. My favourites were the Adventure series although I still have a secret penchant for the Faraway Tree and used to climb trees when I was little, hoping to find another world at the top!

When I grew a little older I devoured everything by L.M. Montgomery - once I'd finished the Anne series I moved on to Emily and beyond. I also loved anything by E. Nesbit, Noel Streatfield and the Flambard series by K.M. Peyton but as I could go on forever I'll end my part here...

Maya Blake: Having two older brothers and a very tom-boyish older sister meant that as a child I had to ride with the gang or lead a very lonely existence.

This spilled over into my reading life and one of my earliest memories was of waiting patiently for my turn to read the latest Hardy Boys.

After many lame nursery books, discovering the adventure within these novels was very exhilarating. So much so that I pleaded with my mother to take me to the "grown-up" section of the library, whereupon I discovered my second love: Nancy Drew.

Nancy Drew Mystery Stories dominated my life from ages 9 to 12! I gobbled up all the stories I could get my hands on, reading them over and over and over again. My mother had serious reservations about my wellbeing when I would forgo food just so I could read these books.

Of course, by the time I turned 13, my sister, having shunned her tom-boyish ways, was very much into a new series called Mills & Boon. I borrowed a book by one Anne Mather, and the rest, as they say, is history...

Come back next Monday for the second part of the Minxes Favourite Childhood Books.

Before that, though, we'd love to hear what your favourite books were as a child, so dish!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why I Gobbled Up "The Virgin's Secret" In 3 Hours!!!

I don't normally do book reviews, mostly because I don't think I'm very good at it. But I just had to attempt a review after reading about Abby Green's The Virgin's Secret!

In a word, "wow!".

I started reading as way to pass a quick hour before I had to cook dinner. Dinner never got cooked. My kids went to bed after a hastily prepared sandwich *baaaaad mother!*

But this book hooked me from the first paragraph which set up the fireworks sooo astonishingly beautifully (yeah, it deserves two adverbs), I just couldn't put it down.

If you haven't read it yet, I'll try and give you the skinny without giving the story away (I hate it when reviews do that!).

Angel Kassianides' family have owned up to a terrible secret after generations of laying the blame on the Parnassus family and as a result they're outcasts in Athenian society.

Leo Parnassus has returned from New York to head up the family and bristles and broods from the outset in a way only a hawt, sexy alpha hero can.

But Leo is different. He's never set foot on Greek soil, speaks Greek with a New York accent and this makes him vulnerable. Angel on the other hand, even though she's half-Irish, is Greek through and through. Their first meeting (when they don't know they're enemies) is fiery without being combustible, but their second meeting sets off the fireworks within the volcano in a way that had me turning the pages with indecent haste!

The conflict is set up beautifully and you can't help admire Leo for the cunning way he sets up Angel to fall into his bed like a ripe, succulent peach. Of course, discovering she's a virgin sends him down the slippery to falling in love, but even that is done beautifully.

If there's one minor complaint about this book, it's the "eavesdropping" device which is used in part to bring about the black moment. Abby used the same technique in her Ruthless Greek Boss, Secretary Mistress, which is the prequel (I believe) to The Virgin's Secret.

Although this threw me out of the book (long enough to make a much-needed cup of tea) I was truly rooting for Angel to get her man and for Leo to win her hand, which he did admirably.

If you haven't read it yet, do, you won't be disappointed.

With this book, Abby Green has moved one step closer to my 'autobuy' list!

Very well done, Abby xx

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Author Spotlight: India Grey

The Minxes have been looking forward to this day for aaaggggeesss! Why? Because we have serious Minx-Love for India Grey!!! Her books go straight to the Keeper Shelves of all the Minxes and we are thrilled, thrilled, thrilled to welcome her here today. Ahem. Okay, before we scare her off with our manic heroine-worship, here's India...

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

Five years ago I had no writing career, and didn’t really imagine that I ever would have one! The previous year (September 2004) I’d seen in our local paper that a new writer’s group was being set up in the town where I live. Deep down I very much wanted to go, but thanks to three small children and a part-time job - which often involved evenings - I told myself I had neither the time nor the energy. Of course, what I really didn’t have was the confidence, and when I finally admitted that I had to spend ages going through our recycling bin to find the newspaper and get the number of the person running it. Who turned out to be Penny Jordan.

In January 2005 she encouraged me to have a go at writing the opening chapter of a Mills&Boon Modern/Presents (just like New Voices!) which I did, and emailed off to her. Unbeknownst to me, she then sent it straight to her editor at Richmond, whose feedback was astonishingly positive. The editor asked me to keep going and let her have three chapters and a synopsis as soon as I could. It was an enormous thrill, but also a complete shock, and the start of eighteen months of hard work as I negotiated several dead ends and wrong turnings, and tried to get my head around the fact that something that for years had been nothing but wishful thinking was finally looking like a possibility.

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

Ah, that’s easy because Emily’s Innocence is part of the Balfour Legacy continuity series, which means an outline of the story was given to me by the editorial team. However, although the idea was easy to come by, actually bringing it to life and making it mine was quite a challenge.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

Gosh, usually looking ahead to the end of the week is a bit overwhelming for me, so thinking ahead five whole years feels terrifying. I’m the kind of person who is deeply intimidated by change, so I hope things are still pretty much the same.

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

I recently re-read E.M. Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady, which I adore and admire in equal measure. E.M Delafield was the original Bridget Jones – only older, provincial (the clue to that is in the title) and married, which gives me loads more in common with her than urban singleton Bridget. Although the book is set 80 years ago, in an era that has vanished forever, the humour is still utterly sparkling. I really wish I’d written it (preferably with a fountain pen, with tea in a rose-patterned china cup on the walnut writing desk beside me.) I also think that, were she alive today, Delafield would make a world-class blogger.

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

The first romance book that I ever read was Imogen by Jilly Cooper when I was ten, and from the moment I turned the first page I felt like I’d stumbled into a world where I belonged. From then on I devoured all her books, and if I couldn’t be a slender blonde show-jumping prodigy or a wickedly sexy journalist, I decided the next best thing was to be the person that created the vivid, racy, romantic world they lived in.

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

At risk of sounding a bit weird, I actually find writing them really intense. They’re always the scenes where the emotional threads are pulled tightest and where each character’s conflict is at its most heightened. If a love scene is difficult to write it often means that the relationship between the characters isn’t really working and some back-tracking is required to fix what’s wrong, so it’s a bit of a testing point in the writing process. And since it’s also where past and present, body and mind, internal and external conflict collide, there’s so much to think about that there’s no time to giggle or cringe. I do often feel in need of a glass of wine and a cigarette when I get to the end though. (And I’m a confirmed non-smoker!)

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

*blushes* I would get into SERIOUS trouble if I broadcast that on the internet…

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

Hmmm… that’s a difficult one, since I didn’t really have any expectations (only profound gratitude!) I suppose I wish I’d known that creativity is only a small part of the job, and administrative organization, time-management and iron self-discipline are also vital. I would have worked harder to acquire those skills earlier on in life, before I became a completely hopeless case.

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

Write something. And then submit it. (That came from Penny Jordan and without having it spelt out to me I’d still be failing to work the till properly and giving the wrong change in Laura Ashley)

Tell us about your latest release.

My latest release is the third book in the Balfour Legacy series, which is about the eight daughters of wealthy, powerful Oscar Balfour. My heroine is Emily, the adored baby of the family, who has lived a charmed and sheltered life and dedicated herself to becoming a prima ballerina. She’s serious, focused, determined and she applies the same rigorous expectations she has of herself to those around her, which means louche, idle playboy Luis Cordoba is top of the list of people she disapproves of.

I love those kind of ‘opposites attract’ stories. It’s enormously satisfying to take two characters who, on the surface, seem to be the antithesis of each other, and gradually unpick this and show how they actually complement each other perfectly. I find that kind of psychology in romance fascinating, and creating characters that fit together, psychologically, is one of the most interesting parts of the job for me.

What’s next for you?

The book I’m working on at the moment is a bit different (and a lot exciting) in that it’s part of a duo which features the same hero and heroine in both books. I’m loving writing it as it’s giving me scope to develop the characters and the world of the book a little more deeply than usual – and as people who read my blog might know, I always go waaaaay over the maximum word count in my books, so I’m liking the freedom of a longer story. However, it also means there’s more chance to take a wrong turning. As I’m discovering…

You can keep in touch with India by visiting or

Buy Emily's Innocence

It's been a blast having you here today, India. Many, many thanks :)

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Gentle Black Moment?

Anyone who reads romance will be familiar with what a black moment is – you know, that part of the book when all seems lost and you wonder whether the characters will find their happy ending?

Or if psychological thrillers are more your thing, it's that part when that psycho killer has killed one too many people and simply must be stopped but the detective is almost at the point of despair of ever catching said killer.

In a movie it’s the penultimate scene where the score goes all crazy and you're sitting at the edge of your seat wondering how on earth the goodie is going to triumph after being pummelled to within an inch of his life!

In most romances (because that’s what I read and where I get most of my black moment fixes) this most often is the part where doors are slammed, huge hiccupping tears are shed (or in the alpha hero’s part, held in with ruthless control, dammit!), where bags are packed, and, unfortunately, when the b*tch ex-girlfriend swans off with the cat-got-the-cream smile because she thinks she's won the hero away from the deserving heroine.

But guess what I discovered recently?

There can be such a thing as a gentle black moment. I know, it sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it’s exactly what happened. There were no tantrums (from either hero or heroine), yes there was a b*tch ex-girlfriend, but she was disposed of adequately by the heroine (yayy!). What struck me was how the black moment came about. The H&h weren't standing at the opposite ends of the room shouting at each other, although she was busy glaring at him. He took her in his arms, asked what was wrong and she said simply, "I'm not happy.” His next words? "I will change."


Right there was some powerful writing for me. Of course they had a lot to work through before finding their HEA and the whole scene was very intense, but I love, love, love the way the writer shifted away from the usual crash-boom-bang black moment! For me, it took the refrain "it's all in the execution" to a whole new level, while of course, making me totally green with envy.

So, tell me, how do you like your black moments? If you answer and ask nicely, I might just tell you the title of the book :-)

Friday, September 10, 2010

New Voices - Competition Fever

There's nothing like a competition to bring out any latent obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Do you find yourself regularly checking the Romance is Not Dead site and placing the entries in 'most popular' order?
Even though you haven't entered yet?

If you're still writing/polishing and have neglected your usual blog surfing we hope these links will help save you a little time - we've scoured the web for the best competition tips and news stories and while this may fuel your fever the good news is that it will run its course (although it will get worse before it gets better I'm afraid) and be out of your system by ooh, about mid-November...


Jessica Hart's top tips

And not forgetting the official New Voices site tips

Need word count clarification? Click here.

Once you've polished and uploaded (and had a stiff drink) head over to Lacey's blog and ask to be put up on her wall of fame.

Then sit back and try not to worry about whether it should have been a comma or a semi-colon in that last paragraph. It's time to let it go.
And to start obsessing about your second chapter instead ;-)
Just in case, because you never know...

If you get worried because your entry hasn't appeared on the site yet, have a read of this explanation

And for all those people concerned because of the glitches in the ratings, this comment from Bethan Hilliard is interesting - "The rating at the moment doesn't go towards who gets through to the next round and who does. Romance HQ will be choosing the Top Ten which we'll then ask you guys to vote on. So, no tactical rating possible at this stage!"

So, good luck to the afflicted is all we can say.

Minx Lorraine Wilson has uploaded her entry "In Too Deep" and is not stressing at all about it. She merely asked Lacey to pass her a paper bag because she wanted to do some, um shopping...
Okay, she's actually scared witless ;-)

Keep a look out next week for more Minx entries to come.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Author Spotlight: Jasmine Black

It's that time of the week and once again we're thrilled to welcome another author, Jasmine Black to the blog. Jasmine also happens to be one of my CP, so please extend a very special welcome to her.

Take it away, Jasmine...

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
Oh, boy. I was just at the start of my romance career. I’ve known my whole life that I wanted to write but I never really knew what. I tried poetry, greeting cards, children’s books…you name it. But my mother-in-law introduced me to romance books in 2004 and I was hooked. In 2005 I decided to try writing a romance novel. And it just clicked.

Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
I’m not really sure, but I had this thought that I wanted to write a story with a fireman hero. The only plot that would come to me was a charity auction for a date with the firemen. Okay so that has been done and done time and again. No other plot would come to me. For some reason this was my hero’s plot. But how to make it fresh? Then when I start to think about writing a M/M romance the fireman jumped into my mind. He started telling how he was gay and right before the fireman’s charity auction, he came out. There was a big story in the paper about how a gay fireman was participating in the auction and the story just took off from there.
How did I get the idea of writing a story about a fireman? Of course firemen are sexy. I had never done one. Never even thought about it. I have plenty of cop stories. So one day I was out of town to visit family when there was this bucket shake going on in the street. And Lord, there were all these hot and sexy firemen taking money. Oh, my! I just knew I had to write one. I guess it took Wade a bit to confide in me his story, but I am so glad he did.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
I hope in five years from now I’ll have a nice size backlist and a group of avid followers. I would love for readers to email me and tell me they enjoy reading my work. I would also love to have a YA book in print. I have started it, but I haven’t had time to work on it lately. So I hope one day my vision for this YA book will be fruitful.

Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
The Warriors’ series. I could have so written about cats. I have way too many of them. Plus, I love the books. Great reads. hehe.

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

I’ve always wanted to write even though I didn’t read much as a child. I do remember being sucked into The Little House series one summer as a child. And as a teen I loved V.C. Andrew. But I think I really wanted to write romance when I fell in love with.

Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
Neither. I find them highly erotic. I love writing them. They are my best scenes.

What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
I’ve had flowers given to me, been proposed to and taken to nice restaurants, but I have to say this popped in my head when I read the question. I’m going to get a bit personal here. My hubby and I didn’t marry for love. We married because we had a kid together, lived together, and it was the next logical step. The first year of our marriage was a living H E double L. I have never met a man so selfish in my life. He would spend money on himself like crazy without ever thinking of me or the kids. But things changed. One, we lost a large chunk of income. And two, we grew to love each other. So it was a couple Christmas’ after we got married and we were low on cash. I had this old stove that one burner worked good, one so-so and the other two not at all. For Christmas that year my hubby gave me a brand new flat top stove. He had been saving a bit of money from each check for months to give me a new stove. To me, that was the most romantic thing of my life. For months he had given up little things like the soda and candy bar everyone gets so he could put money back and surprise me. I will never forget that.

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

How important it is to research pen names before you choose one. hehe. If I had done my homework instead of just picking out one and going with it, I would not have chosen a porn star’s name.

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

It’s only one opinion, don’t give up. You know it took me five years to fully comprehend this. Really. I’d already published stories before I really got this. It hit me one weekend as I was reading a couple of short stories from one publisher. As I read three or four stories from the same house it hit me that while I liked the stories, mine would never work for this publisher. Not that it’s a good or bad thing. Just that this publisher produced a certain type of story. I got to thinking after that because my plots usually break a rule of romance writing somewhere, somehow. I kept getting rejected from the same houses. And the rejects were on the lines of, your writing is good, but your story is not for us. And it is true. Publishers and editors are only people with an opinion of what they like to read. Just because one editor doesn’t like your writing style doesn’t mean no one will. So don’t give up. And if you really want to publish with a certain house, then gear your story to that house and what they like. I finally did contract with one of those houses, but only after I discovered what they wanted and gave it to them.

Tell us about your latest release.

I just had a new story, Say it Again, come out Aug, 28 from Silver Publishing. This story just tears at my heart and leaves me thinking about the characters for days after I read it. It’s my first attempt at M/M romance too.

One month before the annual fireman’s charity auction, fireman, Wade Hartman announces he’s gay. This year when he strolls down the catwalk, he wants to leave with a man. When the only bid he receives is a pity bid, Wade’s crushed, but he lets his friend take him to dinner anyway.

Real estate conglomerate, Jared Kessler’s loved Wade for years. So when he reads the article about the fireman’s charity event, he knows he has to be the winning bidder. Mistaken as an unwanted bidder, Jared refuses to give up. He wants Wade, if only for one night.

One innocent dinner turns into fiery passion. But one night isn’t enough for Wade. He wants Jared for real. The more Wade pushes, the closer he comes to discovering the deep, dark secrets of Jared’s past. Can love conquer Jared’s fears or are his wounds too deep for even love?

What’s next for you?
I think I might write a few more M/M romances. But I do intend to still write M/F. I have two stories contracted with future release dates. I don’t have any characters pressing me right now to tell their story. Hopefully someone will speak up soon, but in the meantime I have plenty of editing to keep me busy.

You can keep in touch with Jasmine by visiting her blog:
Link to Say It Again - here

Monday, September 6, 2010

Minx on Monday - Just write it!

I'm an unashamed online courseaholic and an avid reader of books and blogs about writing craft, but the thing I've learnt most from - is writing.
I'm a natural panster (write without a synopsis or plan, just go for it), and find that this method works for me. That's not to say I don't plot, but not usually until I've got some way into the story first - I define turning points in the story and write towards them.
But before I learnt anything about writing, I wrote. And reading back over these early attempts, they ain't half bad. Okay, there's too many characters. And my earlier manuscripts rambled all over the place, in an unfocused manner. But the first thing I had to learn was that I could write a full size manuscript. Before I wrote it, I didn't know that I could.
After I wrote my first book, I learned about POV. That was a bit of a revelation, I was head hopping all over the place. Then I learned about conflict. I was pretty good naturally about external conflict, but internal conflict was something I hadn't even really thought about. I had to learn it. And seeing the lack of it in my writing was the perfect lesson!
I know lots of writers build boards of pictures, but this doesn't work for me. Instead, I will find a picture and use that to help keep a location clear in my mind and for inspiration. As I write more, my way of writing has changed, I now focus on each scene - does it have a purpose? If it doesn't, its reworked till it does, or culled.
So the thought I'd like to leave everyone with today is that you don't have to know the rules to write. You just need to dive in and write something. Once you've done that, you can rewrite it, see the gaps, learn the things that are lacking, and fix it.
The trick is to start - for once you've completed that first manuscript, whatever its faults, you are a writer. And if you're determined, the rest will follow!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kate Hardy's Guide to Time Management for Writers

Today we'd like to welcome Kate Hardy to our blog. Some have called her super scary for her organisational and planning skills but they certainly pay off as regards her productivity for Harlequin Mills and Boon and we can only say she's super nice for sharing her advice today...
First of all, thank you very much to the Minxes for inviting me over to talk about a subject dear to my heart – time management for writers.
Time management? Don’t you just sit and write when the muse takes you? Er, not if you write six books a year for Mills & Boon, you don’t. You have deadlines, and that means planning your time sensibly so you can meet said deadlines.
And planning is all about knowing how you work and what you’re comfortable doing. You might be the kind of writer who plans everything out and does a set amount each day to hit your deadline (aka the tortoise approach); or you might be better when you’re working on a screaming deadline, so you think about the book for ages and then write the whole thing in a ridiculous amount of time (aka the hare approach). Both approaches are absolutely valid; the trick is to find out which one suits you best. (And be aware that it might change depending on your circumstances…!)
For me, because I write for two different M&B lines (Modern Heat and Medical Romance), I write six books a year. That gives me 8 weeks per book – minus a week for thinking, another for revisions, and another to clear my head between books/deal with the unexpected, so that’s five weeks to write 50,000 words, or 2,000 words a day with two days off a week. Not quite as scary as it sounded at first, is it?
Whichever approach you take, there are some tips that can help you work smarter rather than harder:
· Build in extra time for the unexpected (especially if you have kids – if you have more than one, it’s more likely that they’ll get that lurgy one after the other rather than all at the same time)
· Give yourself time to think, research and edit
· Work at your ‘best time’ when you can (are you a lark who likes working before everyone in the house gets up, or an owl who’s best late at night? – but you do have to take your personal circumstances into account, so as I’m a lark I never get my ‘best’ working time during school termtime)
· Do the admin in your ‘worst time’ (filing, PLR/ALCS, tax receipts – also note that doing it daily in smaller chunks is less painful and doesn’t take up creative headspace. Plus you can always write blog posts in advance and schedule them)
· Schedule in some exercise (aka creative thinking time) – it’ll give you a break and you’ll come back mentally refreshed
· Know your personal time-sucks (which one’s yours? I’ll admit to email, facebook and certain forums and blogs, playing Boggle when I’m stuck, and research that goes off at tangents – and this is why I dare not do Twitter, cough) and plan round them. That means using a kitchen timer to remind you when you’ve spent half an hour playing; or working in chunks of 500-750 words, with scheduled breaks for time-sucks (thanks to Michelle Styles for that tip); or, as a last resort, unplugging your modem or working on a laptop without a net connection to make sure you don’t get distracted.

Kate Hardy’s latest book, Red Wine and Her Sexy Ex, is the first in a duo about the Lefèvre brothers. It’s available now at bookshops, Amazon or at the M&B website. Keep up to date with Kate's latest news via her blog
We're very much looking forward to welcoming Kate back to our blog on the first of October when she'll be guest blogging for us about research.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Author Spotlight: Nicola Marsh

Once again the Minxes have scored an interview with a Harlequin Author, this time it's the divine Nicola Marsh. Anyone who follows her on Twitter knows how warm and wonderful she comes across and it's a thrill to have her here with us today! And we couldn't resist putting these minx questions to her:

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

Wow, 5 years seems like a lifetime ago! Hmm…2005…my first 3 books hit the shelves in 2004 so I guess I was a green newbie, trying to get a handle on promotion and deadlines and revisions and the ever-changing publishing world. Oddly enough, I still feel that way now…

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

DESERTED ISLAND, DREAMY EX! is part of Harlequin Romance’s new ‘The Fun Factor’ series and my editor wanted something modern, something fun so I put my thinking cap on and…landed on reality TV! Reality shows are everywhere, a constant form of TV entertainment these days so I thought it would be a good starting place for a story. Twitter is another current trend, so I played around with the story: reality TV documentary, 2 ex’s being stranded on an island, tweeting and blogging to win the competition…the end result is this book I really enjoyed writing it and hope readers will love it just as much.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

I’ve currently written 25 books for Harlequin so I’d like to aim for that magical 50. I’m also dying to be published in mainstream fiction so hopefully I would’ve had a trilogy of mainstream books out by then. I like to aim high :)

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

Barbara O’Neal’s ‘The Secret of Everything.’ No surprise this wonderful book recently won a RITA. In fact, I wish I’d written all her books, she’s that good.

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

Not really. I always wanted to write because it was fun at school and I thought it would be a super cool job yet I never considered it as a career. Cue 13 years of working as a physiotherapist when I finally followed my heart and guess what? You can make a career out of a dream!

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

Neither. In fact, I find them the hardest to write because you want to get the emotion and the physical connection between your characters just right. And those scenes especially need to be fresh and different for each book. One reader recently asked me on a forum how I make my love scenes so unique because they are refreshingly different in all my books and that was a huge compliment. My response? I let the characters in each book guide me. Characters are different between books so the way they interact, in and out of the bedroom, will be different too.

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

My hubby proposing on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight while we were high up in the Sheraton Imperial hotel in Kuala Lumpur, watching the fireworks. Aww…

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

That the hard work never stops. In fact, once you’re pubbed it gets harder! With each book published the bar is raised, so you need to keep achieving or topping your last effort. Also, the waiting never gets easier, promotion is a continual time suck and rejections still come your way and sting just as bad as they did before.

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

Write what you love. I see too many writers trying to follow trends to get published but you know something? By the time you jump on an old trend, a new one has been created. Why not create a new trend yourself?

Tell us about your latest release.

Hmm…I’ve already mentioned the reality TV and Twitter angle of DESERTED ISLAND: DREAMY EX! (Harlequin Romance Sept 2010). So what else can I tell you?

The hero, Jared Malone, is an Aussie tennis champion and a real charmer (Nathan Fillion was the inspiration, need I say more?) The heroine, Kristi Wilde, is a PR whiz who wants the perfect wedding. Then why does she have 2 broken engagements to her name? You’ll just have to read the book to find out :)

What’s next for you?

My next release is a Harlequin Modern Heat, WILD NIGHTS WITH HER WICKED BOSS, out this December (little known fact: this book will be one of the last Modern Heats as in January, Mod Heats re-launch as a new series, RIVA.)

Set in Alaska, it features Rhys Cartwright (who appeared in his brother Callum’s story, OVERTIME IN THE BOSS’S BED in June this year), a park naturalist who runs luxury wilderness tours.

When Jade Beacham does a stint as a tour guide in Alaska, she never expects to fall for her boss. Her future is in Melbourne, his is in Vancouver. How will the two get to follow their dreams and their hearts?

Thanks to the Minxes for having me, I’ve had a ball!

For more information on how to keep in touch with Nicola or where to get her books, visit:

Point of sale:!