Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Author Spotlight - Margaret James

In the Minxy spotlight today is historical author Margaret James, who is chatting to us today about her latest release, The Silver Locket, and its sequel, The Golden Chain, which releases in May.

* * *

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

I was teaching creative writing for the London School of Journalism, writing regular columns and doing author profiles for Writing Magazine, working as an editorial consultant for a script doctoring service (, and somehow finding the time to finish a novel called The Penny Bangle for UK hardback publisher Robert Hale, which became my thirteenth published title.

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

The Silver Locket and its sequel The Golden Chain started life a long time ago on a family holiday in Dorset, which is where Thomas Hardy set many of his novels. We were driving past a beautiful honey-coloured mansion which was obviously empty and needed sympathetic restoration, and I wondered who had lived there a hundred years ago. Rose Courtenay, who became the heroine of The Silver Locket, walked into my head and said – I did! So write about me!

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

I once wrote a paranormal novel called Elegy for a Queen which was ahead of its time genre-wise and got some lovely rave rejections from mainstream publishers before it was finally published by Solidus, a small imprint in the UK. Paranormal is hugely popular nowadays, so I hope to have written and had published another paranormal romance, as well as another historical romance.

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

Oh, that’s easy – it’s One Day by David Nicholls, a romantic novel about two people who meet on their last day at university and agree to see each other on the same day every year until – well, I won’t give the story away! The hero and heroine of this novel, Dexter and Emma, became so real for me that as I read their story I could see them, I could hear them, and if they’d walked into the room where I was sitting reading I wouldn’t have been at all surprised.

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

When I was a teenager I was profoundly moved by Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and I thought how wonderful it must be to take your reader to a completely different world. I wanted to see if I could do it, too.

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

I’m very happy to write love scenes, as long as I can do this in a way I feel is appropriate. I don’t like writing in graphic detail about sexual acts, but neither do I think it is fair to slam the bedroom door in my reader’s face. I always try to engage my reader’s emotional sympathy for my characters, rather than turn my reader on. I try not to make my love scenes read like lists of who did what – who undid whose buttons, who stroked whose hair back from whose forehead, and so on! I don’t like reading love scenes which sound more like instruction manuals for Martians, so I do my best not to write them.

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

When my first baby was born and my husband couldn’t stop smiling and hugging me, because he was so proud of me and delighted with the baby!

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

What a long, hard struggle it was going to be to get published! Or maybe not – perhaps, if I’d known, I’d have given up and become a librarian instead. Maybe it’s best not to know about all the hard work that lies ahead after you’ve signed your first contract.

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

Choose your rut carefully, because you’ll be in it for a long time. My first novel was a historical romance, so I obviously chose the perfect rut for me.

10. Tell us about your latest release.

My novel The Silver Locket is a historical romance set during the First World War. My heroine Rose Courtenay is the spoiled, bored only child of wealthy parents, and Rose is expected to marry well. This means marrying the man her parents have chosen, but Rose falls in love with Alex Denham, the local bad boy, who is also a married man. When war breaks out, Rose goes to London to become a nurse, and later she is sent to France, where she meets Alex again and they begin an affair which has huge repercussions – enough for two more novels, in fact.

11. What’s next for you?

The sequel to The Silver Locket is The Golden Chain, which is published in May. I’m also working on several other projects, including a romantic comedy set in the present day, and a paranormal romance set in the 1950s. I’ve done a little ghost writing, which was great fun, and I’d like to do more. So I’d love to hear from someone who has a great story to tell and would like me to help them tell it.

You can find out morfe about Margaret and her books at her blog and her website.

Her books are available at:
The Silver Locket: Amazon and Amazon UK
The Golden Chain: Amazon UK

Monday, March 28, 2011

Fantastic, Fantastic, Fantastic

Look who won our Hot Scotsman Poll - and look how pretty....

Anyone who knows me will understand how delighted I am with this outcome. And the win has inspired me to relive my night with John Barrowman (unfortunately, there were about 2,000 other people also there, but we'll gloss over that).

My party sat happily in our third row seats and could almost have reached out to touch him. A lovely friend had suggested that we might be close enough to smell him - alas, not quite. But we were close enough to see that he looked as though he would smell nice.

He sang his little heart out. And his energetic dancing resulted in a pair of split trousers that revealed a pert behind, clad in only the softest, whitest cotton. Even though I'm not entirely sure it wasn't deliberate, the audience screamed in delight at the sight of his - very clean - underpants.

Audience participation seemed the order of the day. A woman sitting behind us shouted that she loved JB - then lamented that it was a wasted dream. Another woman, sitting next to me, danced in her seat all night and stopped only to shout her opinion that JB should take his torn trousers off.

The show was being filmed for a DVD. I immediately decided to panic in case I was in the finished product. I don't look good in videos - as opposed to in my own head where I look like Cindy Crawford.

Having now watched said DVD, I can confirm that the only part of me visible is my arm. And my arm could be the identical twin of Cindy Crawford's arm.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Anything Goes Friday

Are you unpublished?  You could win £1,000 or a runner-up prize of £100 by entering a synopsis and the first chapter of your novel in the 2012 Harry Bowling Prize for New Writing Contest.  The judges are looking for urban settings, great characters, romance and drama.  The deadline for entries is 30th September 2011.  For more information, rules, entry forms and comments from past winners visit


A year of mentorship with bestselling Australian romance author Valerie Parv is up for grabs again.  Just send an 800 word synopsis and the first 12,500 words of your category or single title manuscript by 8th April 2011 to be in the running.

For more information click here.


Have you heard of Operation: Auction?  In just days it will be launched on eBay to help raise money for one of the romance community’s own.  There’s some fantastic items up on the block including editorial critiques, author critiques, the opportunity to have a character named after you in an author’s next book, meet and greets with editors, gift baskets, book trailer designs, advertising, autographed books, complete book series and gift certificates.

There’s something for everyone and it’s for a great cause!  The auction will start March 27 and close April 1.  You can book mark the auction site here.

Donations are also welcome and can be made via PayPal on the Operation: Auction website.

For more information on the prizes and cause click here.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Author Spotlight - Phillipa Ashley

Today we are very happy to welcome the extremely busy Phillipa Ashley to the Minxes blog to answer some of our devilish minxy questions. Take it away, Phillipa!

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

I’d just started creative writing. In late 2005, I watched a TV adaptation of North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell which inspired me to write a romantic ‘modern’ fan fiction tribute to it. After that I wrote Decent Exposure and I haven’t looked back since.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
Publishing is changing so rapidly that I don’t think any writer (or publisher, for that matter) can afford to make predictions five years ahead. I’ve realised I love variety so I’d like to be exploring new ideas within the romance and women’s fiction genre and hopefully, selling even more copies!

Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
Apart from Pride & Prejudice? Only joking. I was a judge for the 2011 RNA’s Love Story of the Year and there were some lovely romances on there, including the winner, The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst by Louise Allen. I wish I’d written that – but I’m not a historical writer so I wouldn’t know where to begin. Other than that, almost anything by Ian Rankin. I’d love to have a wee dram with Inspector Rebus.

Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
Studying English Lit at Oxford put me off writing myself, because I knew I’d never measure up to greats like Jane Austen. It was actually North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell, or rather the TV adaptation, that kicked off my own writing career.

Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
I love writing them and most of mine contain humour, just like in real life! Though, I can’t bring myself to write ‘certain’ words or body parts...

What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
All the thoughtful little things done by my husband, like framing my book covers and making me a montage of pictures from the movie version of Dating Mr. December – and bringing me cups of tea in bed at the weekend. We’re celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary next year so I hope there are many more romantic moments to come.

What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
That it would be far harder and yet far more fun than I’d ever imagined. Not everything has gone to plan but I’ve also had some amazing unexpected highs – like the movie of Decent Exposure and this year, when I have four books coming out.

What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
“Plot is not a series of events but of actions with consequences.”
In other words, be led by the characters, rather than a pre-set plan.

Tell us about your latest release.
Deep breath: I have four books out this year!
Brief Encounters
Later this spring, I have two ‘sweeter’ short stories in a fun romantic anthology called Brief Encounters published by E-scape with a Book. The other authors are RNA members, Nell Dixon and Elizabeth Hanbury. These are new ventures for me as one story is written in the first person and the other from a male POV entirely.
In June, Sourcebooks will release Wish You Were Here in the USA (originally published by Little Black Dress). My inspiration came from a holiday on the sultry Mediterranean island of Corsica. I wanted to explore what would happen to two people who meet again many years after an intense holiday romance.
In July, Samhain is publishing, Fever Cure, my new contemporary romance. It’s emotionally intense and very sexy – probably the hottest book I’ve written - and features an aristocratic doctor hero and a sparky teacher heroine. When I was a student, I once sat opposite a guy in a library who was a minor aristocrat and studying medicine. It must have left a deep impression on my mind because this my second book with a doctor hero.
In autumn, Sourcebooks are releasing It Should Have Been Me in the USA. This is another of my Little Black Dress novels and also features a gorgeous jungle doctor. In fact, the hero, Matt, is a friend of Tom from Fever Cure.

What’s next for you?
Another women’s fiction release for Sourcebooks in spring 2012 - and I’m working on a new romance at the moment.
Thank you having me, Sally – I love the idea of being a romance minx!

You can find out more about Phillipa at her blog here

Thank you so much for being minxy for the day, Phillipa! I love that writing advice, and look forward to reading an awful lot more from you in the very near future!

Monday, March 21, 2011

A sense of place – starting with location

There are lots of ways of starting a book and one way of starting a book is with location. I like being immersed in my surroundings in the first couple of paragraphs when in a book and find it very effective.

Here’s a few examples…

The first example is from Kimberley Lang’s What happens in Vegas…
That was an actual mirrored disco ball spinning over a lighted dance floor. Hundreds of sweaty bodies crowded the dance floor, moving to a techno dance mix, and the bass line thumped like a heartbeat. This club-The Zoo- had strobe lights, LED-lit jungle vines hanging from the ceiling and zebra-striped furniture. This place took tacky to a whole new level.

Next, from Kate Hardy’s Good Girl or Gold-Digger?

Someone really had broken into the fairground museum. Several people-and pretty drunk, too, judging by the number of smashed bottles around the gallopers and the vomit sprayed nearby. Yobs who’d thought it would be a laugh to cut off the horses’ tails and spray-paint obscene graffiti along their sides. And they’d used the cafĂ© as a coconut shy and lobbed stones through the plate glass, wrecking it.

Finally, to show that I really like opening a story this way, here’s a location passage a couple of paragraphs in from the start of my current wip.

Grey clouds blackened, swelling with rain. A low rumble, then the heavens opened, dashing a fierce quiver of angry rain arrows towards the group huddled next to the open grave. In an instant, a flurry of umbrellas soared skywards, painting the monochrome scene with colour.

What's your favorite way of opening a story?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bite Me!

I am in mourning.

(Don't read on if you are a Being Human fan and haven't yet watched the series 3 finale. Honestly, don't.)

My favourite vampire ever literally bit the dust on TV last Sunday evening, and I don't mind telling you that I cried big fat tears.

Now, this is not a new thing for me. I have fallen for quite a few vampires over the last couple of years.
Eric Northman is just sex on legs, Bill Compton is charming and Edward Cullen is beautiful, but for me none of them can hold a candle to the mighty John Mitchell.

For those who haven't yet had the absolute knicker twanging pleasure....

I cannot begin to tell you how you how deep my love for this show runs, or how gutted I am that they decided to end Mitchells story.
I've loved every minute of the three series of BH. Watching the dynamics develop between the three unlikely main characters - a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost - has been a blast, and the bromance between Mitchell and George was probably the most touching thing of all.  Hats off to both actors for making it so heart wrenchingly believable.

The combination of beautiful writing and casting a beautiful man worked on every level to make Mitchell utterly irresistible.
He was dark and murderous, yet sweet and loveable.
He was incredibly cool and scorching hot.
RIP Mitchell, you will be very sadly missed by your legions of fans around the globe.

I'll leave you now in the safe hands of the lovely Aidan Turner himself. Girls, we have treated you well with eye candy this week - naked chefs on Monday, and now bone meltingly handsome vampires. What's not to love?

Happy weekends people!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Author Spotlight - Leigh Michaels

I am delighted to host author Leigh Michaels here today. Leigh started her career with Harlequin Romance, and has since published nearly 100 books, including non-fiction, historical and contemporary romances, and On Writing Romance, a must-read book for all aspiring romance writers. She is also a co-founder, with Rachelle Chase, of the Chase the Dream contest.

Thank you very much to Leigh for joining us here at the Minxes today, to talk about her latest book, The Mistress' House.

* * *

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
Totally burned out! After writing eighty sweet traditional romances for Harlequin, I’d said everything I had to say, and going to work in the morning was no longer fun. So I figured it was time to stop – and I moved on to other things (including editing and publishing other people’s books through the small press my husband and I own, and teaching more classes at Gotham Writers’ Workshop.)

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
I was co-sponsoring a writing contest with a fellow author and she challenged me to meet the conditions of entry – capture her attention in the first 1,000 words of a romance and make her want to read more. If it was fair for us to set that rule for entries, she said, it was only fair to live by it ourselves. And she suggested I try something completely different from my usual sweet traditional, too. So I wrote the first 1,000 words of a sexy historical short story, just to prove that I was not hidebound or behind the times. That short story eventually turned into The Mistress’ House.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
I’d really like to be the Georgette Heyer of the 21st Century – writing lively, witty, fun social comedies set in the Regency period.

4. Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King. They’ve done a terrific job with explaining the basics of fiction writing at a level that beginners can understand but experienced writers also find enlightening.

5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
I got hooked on Emilie Loring when I was in junior high school – she wrote fun romances that usually had a mystery or puzzle included. And of course Georgette Heyer.

6. Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
Eye-rolling-worthy, actually. I always have to take several stabs at each love scene so it has both detail and emotion and doesn’t cross the line into purple prose. And making each one different – yeah, there’s a challenge!

7. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
A few years ago I was away from home, teaching at a writers’ festival, when my husband got the news that his cancer diagnosis was a lot worse than we’d expected. A friend drove him to the hotel where I was staying, and when I came in from class he was there in the lobby. He started to run to me, I dropped everything and ran to him – it was one of those Hallmark movie slow-motion moments. (Fortunately, despite the bleak prognosis, he’s still here and kicking 12 years later.)

8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were published?
How important it is never to stop for the day at the end of a scene or a chapter! It’s so satisfying to have finished, and it’s so tempting to quit there. But it’s much harder to get started the next day when I’m facing a blank page.

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
“Never believe your own PR.” – Jacqui Bianchi, Editorial Director of what’s now Harlequin Mills & Boon. Jacqui was my first editor and she was a published author herself. While there’s nothing wrong with being proud of our achievements, no matter how great a review is or how many copies a book sells, an author is only as good as her next book.

10. Tell us about your latest release.
The Mistress’ House is a sexy Regency set in 1815 London. The Earl of Hawthorne buys a modest town house around the corner from his own mansion, intending to stash his mistresses there (one at a time, of course) – but the first woman he brings to the house captures his heart. Then his new countess loans the house to a friend, who also finds love while living there… and at last the earl hides his ward in the house, and she, too, meets the man of her dreams. It’s three stories, but it’s not an anthology because the stories weave together.

11. What’s next for you?
I’ve written two more sexy Regency romances. Just One Season in London, which comes out in July, features the Ryecroft family – young Viscount Ryecroft, his sister Sophie, and their mother, as they all try to marry well not for their own comfort but to make life easier for the others. Then in November The Wedding Affair comes out – the Duke of Somervale’s sister is getting married, but the guests at this country-house wedding have anything but marriage on their minds. All of my Regencies are triple stories, with the heroes and heroines interacting across the story lines.

You can buy Leigh's books here:
The Mistress' House: Amazon and Amazon UK
On Writing Romance: Amazon and Amazon UK

Check out Leigh's extensive back list at her website:

Monday, March 14, 2011

What lies beneath the apron?

It's official. Men who can cook rock my world.

They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach don't they? Well, you know what? I reckon the same goes for us girls too. A man who can make dinner is a keeper in my book.

My other half, for instance,  is one of the most practical and intelligent people i've ever met, so why is it that the sight of a food processor is enough to bring him out in a cold sweat? He wields a chain saw around like a toy, yet would back away in terror from a hand whisk. Ditto the oven, it's all way too much for him to compute (much like the washing machine actually, but that is a lament for another day lest this should become a personal grumble about domestic inequality chez moi...)

Back to the pleasurable business of men who can perform culinary magic. That sounds almost dirty doesn't it.  Ooooh err!

First up for your delectation, the bad boys. The type of man you just know is all kinds of trouble and arrogant as hell, but that doesn't stop you imagining him without his apron.

Gorgeous Gordon...

and mad Marco...

Phew! Did it just get hot in here? Let's turn up the heat to full on sizzle and throw in everyone's favourite all rounder, the delectable Mr. Oliver. He's one of those men who just gets better with age isn't he?

But my personal favourite has to be the very naughty Gino D'Acampo. That gorgeous italian accent and cheeky smile is a killer combination, and he has just cooked naked for the nation on morning TV. What's not to love? 

Don't say we don't make an effort to brighten up your Mondays.... Enjoy!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The wonderful Donald Maass

Today I’m dipping in to a fantastic book.
Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass.
I gave myself a present of this book when I received my last R, basically because digging into yet another box of consolation chocolates (that go straight to my hips, and stay there, unfortunately) seemed wrong. And learning more about writing, and buying myself a shiny, new book on craft was guaranteed to cheer me up!

Here's a review of it by someone else:
“Don Maass describes the business of writing novels in a clear, concise, and brutally honest fashion. If you want to learn to write bigger and better novels, this book should be first on your reading list. It is the best book on writing bestsellers I have ever read.” —Dean Wesley Smith, bestselling author of 60 novels

I’m only half way through it, but there are such gems in this book, that I thought I’d blog about it today.
I wasn’t disappointed. After all Donald is a legend. His agency represents more than one hundred fiction writers and sells more than one hundred novels per year to top publishers in the U.S. and oversees.

Donald investigates the myths of success and blasts them out of the water. And tells all of us writers why a reader gets excited about it. And the most exciting element of this, for me, is that the answer is available to every writer, published or unpublished. Agented, or unagented.

Here it is… today’s words of wisdom to inspire us.

In reality there is one reason, and one reason only, that readers get excited about a novel: great storytelling. That is it. End of story.
Hold on! It cannot be that simple! There must be a trick! Sorry, there is not. There is only craft-that and inspiration, sustained effort, luck and timing. But mostly craft. Sound scary? It should not. It means the most important component of success is in your own hands. You control your fiction career.

More from this great book in the weeks to come!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Author Spotlight - Talli Roland

Very exciting guest here today, it's Talli Roland! At the time of writing, Talli's debut novel, The Hating Game is still flying high on Amazon in the top 100, and she's currently hogging the number one spot for Women's Literary Fiction and Literary Fiction, and the number two spot for Humour. I wish I could tell you that even though she's a fantastic writer and an e-book sensation, she's horrid, but alas, the very opposite is true! Anyway, we put Talli under the spotlight, and here are her answers to the minxy questions...

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

Five years ago, I wasn’t even writing! I had a very demanding job in recruitment, and I was working almost 10 hours days. By the time I got home, it was all I could do to crack open the bottle of wine and drown my corporate sorrows. It was only after I stopped working full-time that I finally got down to writing seriously.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
I love reality shows – they’re kind of like a modern-day Coliseum – so I already had plenty of ‘research’ under my belt. I knew I wanted to write a novel featuring the phenomenon of reality TV, but the show in my book had to be something different than what was out there. I conducted more research (yay!), and finally the idea of having my main character date her way through her exes came to mind. It had such great possibilities for conflict as well as character growth. Originally, I wanted to call it The Ex Factor (in homage to the lovely Simon Cowell) but sadly that title had been taken. I’m really happy with the title we did come up with, though; I love that it plays off The Dating Game.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
Hopefully, still writing fun, humorous romantic fiction, with a few more published novels under my belt. I try to write at least two drafts a year to keep the creative juices – and the sense of discipline – going.

4. Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
Oh, there are so many. I really enjoyed Katy Carter Wants a Hero by Ruth Saberton, because it deals with some serious issues in a very warm, comical way. I also fell in love with The Time Traveller’s Wife – I’m in awe of the serious plotting that must have gone on there!

5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
I don’t remembering ever not wanting to write. But if there is one very influential character who gave my creative impulses validity, it’s Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. I loved that she was always scribbling things down, like me. Since the whole Anne series took place very close to where I grew up in Canada, it had an added impact.

6. Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
Oh, definitely cringe-worthy. I’ve never written a very detailed one, but I’m always conscious of sounding too cheesy or over-the-top. Every time I contemplate going into more detail, I feel like I’m a naughty schoolgirl about to be rapped on the knuckles for doing something inappropriate.

7. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
I’m going to have to say when my husband proposed – I had absolutely no idea it was even in the works! It was the night of our fifth anniversary together, and he took me back to the same concert hall then the same restaurant on London’s South Bank. Afterwards, we walked over to the spot by the Thames where we’d had our first kiss, and he popped the question. I was so surprised that I laughed (not so romantic) and asked him if he was serious! And then, of course, I said yes.

8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
I wish I’d known how stressful it is to put your work out there for public judgment! Sure, I heard authors talk about it, but it never really hit home until my first novel was about to be published. Still, every little bit of stress is totally worth it when you hear someone say how much they enjoyed your novel.

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
The best piece of advice I’ve heard is from Nicola Morgan, who runs a wonderful website called Help! I Need a Publisher. She said it’s not enough to be persistent – you need to be able to learn from your mistakes as a writer to get better! It sounds obvious, but that was a light-bulb moment for me. I’d written a few novels without really taking the time to assess what I was doing wrong and how to improve.

10. Tell us about your latest release.
The Hating Game features Mattie Johns, a man-eating woman who decides to go on a dating game-show to win the prize money she desperately needs to save her recruitment business. She thinks she’ll sail through the show no problem… but little does she know the male contestants aren’t just anonymous strangers, they’re her very unhappy exes. Add in an ambitious executive producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end, and you have the recipe for lots of on- and off-screen drama!

11. What’s next for you?
Up next is Watching Willow Watts, about a country girl whose small English village is overrun when she becomes a YouTube sensation overnight. It’s due out in November as a paperback and the e-book will be released a couple months before.

Thank you for joining us on the Minxes today, Talli. The Hating Game can be found here.

Monday, March 7, 2011


• Write what you know
• Write what you love to read
• Be true to your voice
• Every writer has their own, distinctive voice
• Write from the heart
• Innovate, don’t Imitate

Since the RNA conference last July, when the editors from HMB repeated that last phrase over and over, we Minxes have discussed ad nauseum what exactly they meant by it. I'm pretty sure I asked “What kind of airy fairy advice is that? Of course they don’t want us to imitate what others have written, but what do they want?”

It took The Vampire Diaries (see my series of previous posts) to make me realise that actually all the above advice, which we’ve heard dozens of times, phrased in endless ways, all boils down to just one thing: when you write, you have to be true to yourself.

I imagine that a lot of you blog readers out there might be going “duh!”. You probably know this already. But it was something I only discovered after a couple of days wallowing and wondering why I even bother to write when clearly my work is nothing more than mediocre, and if there’s one thing I don’t want to be it’s mediocre. I want to be stellar. (And just in case you think I’m being a tad arrogant here, read my earlier post, which were not entirely about The Vampire Diaries).

For me, realising this was a bit of a bombshell. Being true to oneself is the theme of my published novella, Let’s Misbehave. I try to live this in my every day life. So I’m not sure why it took me so long to cotton on when it comes to applying it to writing!

I’m not entirely sure of the answer (feel free to help me out here) but I suspect it might be because I haven’t yet discovered where my voice lies. I think that I fall somewhere between HMB’s Modern Heat and Romance lines (now wonderfully combined into the new Riva line in the UK) because that’s what I love to read. But is it really what I need to write?

We all know (we’ve heard it often enough) that you have to be passionate about what you write, because that passion will come through in your writing. I’d like to take this a step further and add that if you want to be extraordinary, then you need to be more than passionate, you need to write the stories that only you can write.

At last I understand what the editors at HMB are telling us. You have to write the stories that are true to your voice. And your voice is you.

So this is how we can each be extraordinary. By knowing ourselves, by being true to ourselves, we can rise above the mass of romance novels that are being published every day and we can each reach extraordinary heights.

Don’t imitate. You will never be able to write Harry Potter or Twilight, Frankenstein or Wuthering Heights. Not because it’s already been done. Not because you’re not a great writer. But because you are not JK Rowling or Emily Bronte. You’re you, and you should celebrate your uniqueness by writing the stories that are yours, and yours alone.

I know this is easier said than done, and might take a while to figure out, so I’m heading off now to write, and write some more, until I find where my true voice lies. While I’m off finding myself, please feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Have you found your ‘voice’ yet, or are you still searching? Have you tried to write for a certain line and got nowhere only to discover that perhaps your voice lies elsewhere? And do you have any magic tips on how to fast track all this soul searching and jump straight to extraordinary?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Man of the Month Poll: The Scottish Hotties

Before you feast your eyes on this month's picks, we need to announce the winner of our Welsh Hotties. Due to some last minute pleading for votes by Romy Minx, Timothy Dalton was beaten out (just!!) by Ioan Gruffudd who topped the poll. Given the mature vote is proving very popular, we have another in this month's poll :-)

As resident Sporty Minx, I was very embarrassed to discover this guy for the first time when having to do my (very) extensive and time consuming research for this post. This is Dario Franchitti, naturally of Italian descent but born in Scotland. He is a racing driver and a previous winner of Scottish Sports Personality of the Year award and could be a dark horse for winner of our Minxy poll, too :-)

Next up is Minx favourite David Tennant, the former Dr Who. According to that mine of information, Wikipedia, he will become a father in the next couple of months.

Our next offering is Ewan McGregor who, despite his immense success, is probably still best known in Britain for the cult film Trainspotting.

 Next up is an actor who has had parts in many of Britain's best loved series including Taggart, Casualty and more recently, Coronation Street.

Gray O'Brien's character is unfortunately no more but hopefully it won't be too long until he is back on our screens :-)

I'm not too sure what I can say about our next hottie that hasn't already

been said in the last 81 years. I was amazed when I read that. I can't believe here we are, in all honesty, offering you an 81 year old man as a hottie but how good does he *still* look? Sean Connery definitely still has it!

Paul McGillion is another actor, best known for his role in Stargate Atlantis. This is another Scottish hottie new to me. Never before have I been more grateful for the beauty of research :-)

Last but more definitely not least we have another Minx favourite, John Barrowman. I must say, I thought his short appearance in Desperate Housewives
was fab. I'm hoping against all hope that he somehow survived the explosion because I really loved his character. Gotta love a good looking villain.

So, what are you waiting for? Find the poll on the right hand side bar and get voting for your favourite Scottish Hottie. We're looking forward to seeing who will win the poll at the end of this month :-)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Author Spotlight - Sally Clements

I checked the blog to see who was up on Wednesday, and it's me! Argh! I love asking the questions much more than answering them, but here goes!

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
Five years ago I was writing only in November during Nanowrimo, I made the decision to really put everything into my writing by dedicating time and effort into it full time about four and a half years ago.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
While on a 'writing romance' course organised by Inkwell Writers Workshops in Ireland, we had a number of exercises to do. One was to think of the first line of a romance novel. A little voice muttered in my ear 'you can bite me if you have to.' It was my heroine, Tempest MacKenzie to my hero Jake. The book took form from that moment, although the first line changed!
3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
I hope to still be happy and fulfilled writing. Being published is lovely, but writing is my joy, so if I can hold on to that I'll be happy!
4. Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
I love romance, but I also love crime. The answer to the question for me has to be Marcus Sedgewick's Revolver, such a slim volume, but totally fascinating and really well written.
5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
I love Patricia Cornwell's books and Jeffry Deaver's and looking back there were so many influences through the years. I loved PG Wodehouse, Agatha Cristie and Ed McBain (especially Ed McBain, I have an awesome collection!) and always wanted to write something that someone else would love.
6. Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
Never cringe-worthy, but I have to work up to them. I can't write a love scene cold, I always have to start at the sensuality and write like mad to the end of the love scene. They are so important to the story and the characters and I love writing them. My characters often are teasing, tender and witty in love scenes, and that's all them, so it's a lovely surprise to me when they open up in the love scenes. (I'm a bit of a pantster!)
7. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
I couldn't isolate just one - and like many of our authors who have been spotlighted, I think its the little things that are really romantic, like gifting me with a lie in and taking the school run!
8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
I started a blog and connected with other writers before I was published, and finding a community of like minded souls was fantastic, and the day that the minxes formed was the icing on the cake for me. I wish I'd known that I would one day not find the dreaded R quite so painful, I guess I'm growing a thicker skin, but at the beginning every rejection was a complete body blow, because I didn't realise that I was perhaps not sending my stuff to the right publishers (or maybe my early stuff really was that bad!). It helps to know that everyone gets them.

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
To saturate your writing with all five senses. And to rewrite (constantly!)
10. Tell us about your latest release.
Bound to Love is the story of impetuous Tempest MacKenzie who dives headlong into danger without regard for herself to rescue others, which gets her into a lot of trouble! When she sees a gorgeous stranger being kidnapped on his way from the British Museum, she comes to his aid, but finds herself kidnapped too. My hero, Jake, is cautious and logical, and Tempest is his idea of a complete disaster, but they are forced together in a plot to thwart a heist and save his mother, and find love along the way.
11. What’s next for you?
I was asked to do revisions for a new story, and have sent them off and am waiting (nervously) to hear what the editor thought of them - and I'm about six thousand words off finishing a new story, Marrying Cade, with another new story bubbling in my subconcious!

Bound to Love is available as an e-book from all the usual places, and also available in paperback from and and Salt Publishing. (Don't be frightened by the giant picture of me that comes up on the Salt site!)

Thanks so much for letting me be Gabby Minx for the day, Minxes!