Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Author Spotlight - Zee Monodee

I met Zee when I was still a complete newbie writer, and her support and encouragement really helped get me on teh right track, so I am pleased and proud to have her here in our Spotlight today. Zee lives in the exotic island paradise of Mauritius and is published under several names.

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

I had just sold my first novel (The Other Side, written under the name of Aasiyah Qamar) to a big publisher over here in Mauritius. At the time, I had pretty much completed my second book, and was working on ideas for more books down the line.

I had to admit I was a total newbie back then and when I started penning stories some 6 years ago. Apart from English and literature classes I took in secondary school, I’ve never been formally ‘trained’ into writing. I had a knack for languages, all right – had a good way with words and yes, was totally wordy too. I just knew I wanted to write, and had no clue how exactly to make a career out of it. I thought you wrote, offered the book up to an editor, and if it got accepted, great. The book was pubbed, and you went on with writing the next book, and so on.

While publishing with a big print house (as was the case for my first sale) is very close to this scenario, when I started looking into e-publishing houses over in the US, I found out that being an author wasn’t just about writing books, but a totally different kettle of fish on top. I learned everything from scratch, from self-editing to self-proofing to finding critique partners and establishing my name and Web presence. I’m still learning to this day.

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

I’ve always loved a good story featuring amnesia. The buried past, the secrets just under the surface, the smokescreen of deception that hovers because the memory is blank. I wanted to write a story with an amnesiac heroine, to bring my own version of secrets and buried past to the light. I started this plot about 3-4 years ago, but back then the story was going nowhere because I wasn’t satisfied with the boring skeletons the heroine, Amelia, could bring out of her closet. I let the story stand on my hard drive, and delved into other mss.

Then, a combination of factors happened to steer me in the direction to pen Walking The Edge. It was the thick of winter here, and my son was on school break. I came down with a bad cold and tried a new medication, which threw me off my trolley while I was under its influence. I’d wake up, and not know if I was fully awake or dreaming, a sort of strange déjà vu feeling. During those moments of near-lucidity, I could hear the mind-numbing music of my son’s SpongeBob game which he bandied around on his GameBoy. This was a really weird moment in my life, and it got me thinking – what if Amelia felt like this too? She’d need to be under the influence of drugs for this to happen, and thus her cold, manipulating husband, Peter, came on board as the bad guy. What was his game?

And then I watched the movie Wanted starring Angelina Jolie, and things just clicked. I had the secrets that were lurking inside Amelia’s closet, the secrets Peter wanted no one to discover. Why? Well, *wink*, that’s in the book.

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

Still writing and putting a few books out per year, having an established reader base, making a difference in my readers’ lives, the way a good book makes my day/week better.

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

What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long. I love historical romances, and I’m always in awe of how good historical authors bring worlds of times past into scope for the reader. This one caught me under a spell – it’s one of those books that read effortlessly. There’s this ‘flawed’ hero, this duke in fact, who’s out for revenge, but things don’t turn out the way he planned, because the heroine is no simpering miss. Lots of twists, turns, surprises, and these totally amazing, vivid characters that leapt off the page. That story captivated me, and I was going, “Darn, she’s good!”, about Ms. Long’s easy manner of drawing the reader into the story.

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

Vikram Seth and his novel A Suitable Boy. It’s a huge tome, but the read is riveting. It was like being in India during the times he talks about, feeling what the characters are feeling, smelling the food, discovering a new world of customs and traditions, a whole ‘other’ way of life. My ancestors hail from India, and I grew up in this Indian culture that’s somehow adapted to our adopted homeland, Mauritius, but which still bears striking resemblances to the ways of India.

I was inspired by Mr. Seth’s writing because I wanted to make people discover Mauritius and my world the way he brought the late 1940s India to life.

That’s how I started my career writing penning culture-based romances set in Mauritius. And then I discovered British authors Jill Mansell and Sophie Kinsella. Riotous romps set in England, a land close to my heart, that didn’t feature culture or traditions but which were so entertaining and fun. I wanted to write that kind of story too, and this is how I started penning non-cultural romance too.

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

I used to cringe at writing love scenes, mostly because I imagined my very strict mother and aunts reading the words over my shoulder. I loosened up afterwards though, when I realized that writing love scenes didn’t have to mean writing total smut.

Today they’re neither giggle-worthy (like, say, my first attempts that were littered with purple prose), nor are they cringe-worthy (like the ‘smut’ I was once encouraged to write). I’ve found my right balance with love scenes, which I love to write, because it’s a new dimension to bring to the dynamics between a man and a woman. Some stories beg to be written with the bedroom door closed, others let you peek in, and others take place ‘in the open’, so to speak. I usually let my characters dictate the path to their very own love scenes.

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

When my husband told me right away to go for my dream of writing. He didn’t ask questions, didn’t ridicule any mention of ‘romance’ – just gave me his unending support at a time my life was spinning off its axis. Many men in his shoes could’ve dropped me like a hot potato, because I got sick and having a wife who’s not in perfect health condition is not exactly glamorous. He stuck by me through thick and thin, and that’s the most heroic thing a man can do, in my book.

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

That it doesn’t end with selling a book! In fact, it all starts when you sell a book. I wish I’d known about things like promo, and establishing presence and name. Being an author is not being an island out there in the world. You have to be a total continent with bridges to every other land imaginable in your realm. Today I’m much more comfortable with myself as an author because I know I am doing everything I can to not be this remote, unreachable island.

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

To write your story, your way. I can’t remember exactly who said this to me. A lot of people have tried to advise me and through this advice, shape me into something I wasn’t. Of course, writing your story your way doesn’t mean you don’t care about facts and rules of grammar and story construction, etc. It simply means to be true to yourself, all the way. Ultimately, you have to be able to look into the mirror and be able to bear the image that beams back at you. You shouldn’t be ashamed of your reflection, and what better way to ensure such a thing never happens than being true to yourself?

10. Tell us about your latest release.

Walking The Edge is a novel that bridges over quite a few genres, and stands as Book 1 of the Corpus Brides series. At the heart of it, the story is the journey of an amnesiac woman who is out to find out what her erased past hides. It’s a mystery she must unravel, and along the way, help happens in the form of a French police commissioner. At first, he wants her as far away from him as possible, but events unfold that draw him to her like moth to a flame. Romance blooms between them as they go about the city of Marseille trying to figure out who she is, but what will happen when she does find out who she truly is?

This is the blurb for the story:

The next step might be the last...

A woman without a past
Left amnesiac after an accident, Amelia Jamison struggles as her instincts slowly rise from the depths of oblivion, leading her to question her life as the wife of a cold, manipulating and distant man. Wisps of a dream show her another man she may have known intimately, but is he a memory, or a figment of her imagination?

A man with too much information
After many aliases, today Gerard Besson is simply a police commissaire in Marseille. When a mysterious woman starts to follow him, he is suspicious - and intrigued. But things aren't what they seem, and as he reluctantly gets closer to her, dregs of his painful, buried past emerge and make him question her identity.

Each seems to have led several different lives
But neither is prepared for what awaits them when they cross the fine line between knowing your true self and that of your alter ego.

Danger is the name of the game, and as it catches up with them in the French Provence, both know they better be ready for the inevitable fall.

The book can be found at the Noble Romance Publishing website - buy links coming soon.

11. What’s next for you?
Penning more stories! I have Book 2 of the Corpus Brides under way, titled Before The Morning, and it will be the prequel to Walking The Edge. Book 3, the final one for this series, is still in the outlining stages.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Attraction of a Hairy Man

It's no secret I'm not fond of an overabundance of body or facial hair, but there's something about a man with a hairdo long enough for a ponytail that really does it for me.
I'm going to take you back into the mists of time today, to visit my first celebrity crush: Shaun Cassidy. Yes, I have to admit, when I was 14, the younger half-brother of David - and Hardy Boy extraordinaire - made my teen heart race. You might say I'd set the bar quite low on that one, but compared to the boys at school he was definitely an improvement. And he was the inspiration for some of the heroes in the (dire) short stories I scribbled in my exercise book when I should have been doing maths.

He looked a bit like a girl with his big eyes and long hair. And, I suppose, the reason I liked pretty boys was because they were non-threatening - not like manly men. Manly men were scary.

By the time I was 15, my tastes had matured: Step forward Marvin Lee Aday. Otherwise known as Meat Loaf. Mr Loaf also had long hair, but in no way could he be described as girly. And, if I'm honest, I love him still. Although, he's never provided inspiration for one of my heroes - not yet, at least, but there's still time.

Then there was Robin of Sherwood. Did any man ever look as good in a tunic as Michael Praed? He was a real pretty boy - so pretty I could never have gone out with him because he was much better looking than me (and he didn't ask - but we'll gloss over that). He's inspired several heroes. And look, there's the long hair again. We saw him recently in a stage version of The Sound of Music - and he's still very easy on the eye (although, sadly, he no longer has long hair).

To this day I love hairy men:

The very lovely Josh Holloway - who is very welcome to star in any of my stories. And he's so gorgeous, he's even forgiven the facial hair.

But, sometimes, only a manly man will do. Very occasionally, a non-hairy hero will make it onto my list:

(A quick apology before I go - I still can't comment on blogs. I've tried to follow several suggestions with no luck. Will keep at it - but just want to say thank you for all the comments on my previous posts and I'll reply as soon as I can.)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Words of wisdom from Trish Wylie - Part One

Over the next three fridays here at the minxes, we are joined by Mills and Boon/Harlequin author, Trish Wylie, who is visiting to impart some wisdom about how to start your romance novel. Her advice is fantastic. Do check in over the next few weeks to make sure you don't miss anything!
Thank you, Trish, for the blog posts.
Now, over to Trish...

For many writers, the best part of the creative process is before they even open a file on their computer. But once the adventure of a new project becomes the challenge of a blinking cursor, many of us can become bogged down with angst. Quite possibly because we know how important beginnings are in the world of writing.

With some experience under my belt (that I plan to put into practice any day soon) and thanks to some extensive research on the subject, I now know there are several common ingredients every story has regardless of where it falls within the vast range of fiction. Once I knew what was supposed to be there, it made me more aware of how those ingredients were present in the books I had enjoyed. It could be argued having them makes a story ‘formulaic’ but the simple fact is, there are certain things we expect to get for our time and money, especially in a century when we can get instant gratification at the push of a button.

So what are we looking for in a strong opening? First up:

1/ The Inciting Incident.

This is the moment when something happens to change things profoundly for the characters. Prior to this they have already lived their lives and formed their personalities in the same way anyone would when they reach the same age. Think of them as people living ordinary lives (though obviously if they live in a paranormal world their definition of ‘ordinary’ may differ from ours) who are launched into a new adventure or series of challenges by something ‘out of the ordinary’. It’s the same turning point any of us can experience in our lives, the decisions we make from that moment on allowing us to take a different path from the one we were on. In a Romance, this is typically the moment when the hero and heroine meet. Keeping in mind the demand for instant gratification and we know this should happen as soon as possible, which leads us neatly into...

2/ Introduction To The Characters.

The main protagonist/s of the story should be identified as soon as possible to the reader and it should be clear which point of view we are in at any given time. We don’t need to know the characters entire life story prior to the inciting incident but we should know the basics. Their names, a description of how they look and - if relevant at that point - their job, all allow us to form an initial first impression. Not only is this typical of real life, the first insight into a character’s point of view allows us to see how the things they do and say may differ from what they thinking and feeling, leaving the reader with a set of questions that will encourage them to continue reading so they may discover the answers (See point 10). It also allows us to see how they change as the story progresses. In order to help them make that change they will have two issues to deal with...

3/ The External Problem.

As a direct result of the inciting incident, the characters will be presented with a scenario that will throw them together on the new path they have taken. How the characters react along the way reveals more of their personality - allowing us to get to know them better without the need for long explanations. Naturally at the beginning – as is the case with many of us when life throws us a curve ball – they may be resistant to change, but this is where fictitious characters differ from people in real life. Instead of avoiding the problem or sticking their head in the sand, they will tackle it head-on in a proactive manner; moving the story forward. At this point, how the external problem is resolved may seem to be what the story is about, but this is the PLOT as opposed to the EMOTIONAL JOURNEY, which brings us to the second issue...

4/ The Internal Problem.

This is below the surface on a psychological and emotional level. Initially invisible to the other characters but hinted to the reader in the beginning, it eventually leads into the ‘black’ or ‘all is lost’ moment when the crux of the problem is revealed to the characters and a happy outcome seems impossible. In all Romance novels this is literally the heart and soul of the story. What the inciting incident does is bring this problem to the forefront of the characters minds, forcing them to confront it and deal with it as the story continues. Typically what will happen is the ‘opposing’ character will in some way represent what the ‘main’ character fears most and they will recognize this on a subliminal level. Perceiving them as a ‘threat’ they will resist with one of our most basic natural instincts; fight or flight. The challenge that drives the story forward will then be how they overcome this fear to gain the reward of their ‘happily ever after’ in the end. Naturally, this isn’t possible without a change of some kind, so what the beginning of the story does is hint at the emotional block holding them apart while at the same time hinting at the ending, which brings us neatly to... be continued...
The next items covered in this ongoing series from Trish are:
Foreshadowing, Setting, Tone, Backstory, Theme and Hook.
Trish’s long-awaited book, ‘The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction’, will be out in the UK and Ireland in December 2011.
In the meantime, her third book, ‘Her Unexpected Baby’, is available for the first time in the USA and Canada direct from eHarlequin RIGHT NOW!

Find it here.  
You can find out more about Trish and her books at or follow her between deadlines on Twitter @TrishWylie

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Author Spotlight - Georgia Tribell

Today we're very honoured to have paranormal writer, Georgia Tribell join us to tell us all about herself and her books. Georgia writes for Harlequin/Mills & Boon Nocturne, and her latest Nocturne Bite,  Demon Love, is out now!
Now, on to the questions...

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
Five years ago I was ready to toss in the pen, or in this case the computer, but it’s just something I couldn’t do. The voices in my head wouldn’t stay quiet and demanded their freedom. So I gave in and kept writing. On the serious side, I work outside the home, I’m a mom, along with at least a thousand other titles but my writing is for me. I love it and hope I’m lucky enough to continue down this path for many years to come.

2. What do you prefer writing, novellas or full length?
Out of all the questions on this list this one turned out to be the hardest. Novellas are fun, fast paced and get to the climax so much faster they help keep my need for immediate satisfaction curbed. Full length novels give me the time and page count to develop the characters, relationships and a more complex plot. I love getting deep into these characters especially when they surprise me. When I started out writing it was all about the full length novels, now days I seem to have embraced the novella and I’m loving it. Of course, I haven’t stopped working on the longer novels simply because some characters demand more page count.

3. You write paranormal, what challenges does that present?
I love writing paranormal because the boundaries you work within are so blurred they often aren’t even present. Even as great as this sounds, it is also the biggest challenge. I get to create my own worlds, but in doing so I must still keep it believable and consistent from start of story to end. If I have a character that at the start of a story can walk through walls and come out on the other side fully clothed, I can’t suddenly make it so her clothes no longer go with her. It is this kind of detail that makes paranormals a true challenge, especially if one story grows into multiple stories. Every story must be consistent with all the previous stories, which adds to the complexity of world building in paranormal stories.

4. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
These days everyone seems to love a good vampire story and there are many out there that are just wonderful reads. When I started thinking about venturing into a nocturnal world I knew I wanted something different, but that still had the same feel, pull and sex appeal as a good vampire story. From there it wasn’t a far jump to the demons in my book, who are deadly sexy when in human form and just deadly when in their demon bodies.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
My dream is to be able to say good-bye to my day job and focus more on my writing and promotion. Like many reading this, that isn’t possible at the moment, but I’m a true believer in dreams and goals. My mother was my best friend and was one of those women who was always working on her next goal in life, so I do think I’ve learned how to do that well.

4. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
Nina Bangs. I had the privilege of meeting her at a local book store when I had just started this process and she pointed me to the West Houston chapter of Romance Writers of America. I went to the very next meeting and joined. Through this wonderful group, I’ve been lucky enough to get to know many other talented authors and learn from their vast pool of knowledge. If Nina had not taken the time to speak to me that day, I doubt I would be here today. She will always hold a special place in my heart for that.

5. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
Many years ago, when my children were small and demanding, my husband plotted behind my back to take me away for a weekend. He drove me to work that morning claiming he needed to have his vehicle worked on. Then he picked me up with roses and packed bags. We didn’t go far from home and it was only two nights away, but the fact that he did this all on his own made it special and very romantic.

6. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
How hard, demanding, draining and time consuming it would truly be. I never thought it would be easy, but the level of difficulty blew my mind. Of course, this is something you never really understand or appreciate until you are knee deep in it and there is no turning back. I now have a new appreciation for all the effort that goes into getting a book from a blank file to a published product.

7. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
This is easy, turn off the internal editor on the first draft. The best stories I’ve done, IMO, are those where I’ve honestly done this and just wrote. I didn’t worry about if the story flowed or if it was believable or anything else. I just type and let the story roll out of me. For me, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. If I’m not careful I’ll start wondering if this scene flows with previous scene and did I get to the sex too fast – or not fast enough. These thoughts will sap my confidence and creativity faster than another hurricane trying to blow our roof off. So, if you are starting a new story or stuck in one, put your fingers to the keys and type what is bouncing around in your head. There will be time to edit, cut, move, delete and write again later during the rounds of edits. For that first draft, let your mind and fingers flow without hesitation. I think you will be pleased with the results.

8. I hear Mills & Boon have replaced Nocturne Bites with the longer Nocturne Cravings, does writing Nocturne Cravings appeal to you?
I’m looking forward to having a go at the Nocturne Cravings line. With these being longer stories I should be able to curb my craving for more in depth stories. (Yes, that was a bad play on words!)

9. Tell us about your latest release.
Demon Love is a fast paced, sexy story about two people who come from different worlds to fight for a united cause. Kendra Morton was born and raised on earth and remembers the days before demons roamed the streets of her hometown and destroyed her life. Thor Kensington is a highly trained Demon Hunter from the parallel world of Torlin and is half Demon. He has been sent to this world to help train the new recruits in the war against the demon invasion from his home world.

For Thor, this should be a simple assignment; after all it’s no different from the many he’s done before, except for Kendra. She shakes his well organized world and when her life is threatened, he realizes how much she means to him. Now, together they must find a trader if they want a chance at a life together.

10. What’s next for you?
Currently, I have two books I’m working on. Demon Magic is the second in this series and I’m in the tweaking process at the moment. If you read Demon Love, you’ll see the hero for this second story, Midnight. He’s my dark, sexy hero.

Then there is a long novel I’m working on that I call “DC” because I started plotting this story while on a trip to Washington DC. This story has two very opinionated archeologists who are very certain they hate each other. We all know this isn’t true, I just have to convince them otherwise.

You can learn more about Georgia at her blog:
And pick up her latest release, Demon Love, from here.
Thanks so much for joining us today, Georgia!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Making Sacrifices

The Prince & Me is a sweet romantic comedy that I last watched several years ago. I remembered it as a fun, light movie, aimed mostly at the young adult market. A bit of fluff. But when I flicked through the TV channels yesterday to find something innocuous to play in the background with the kids around, it seemed the perfect answer. Until I got so engrossed that they nearly went without supper!

Yes, this movie is entirely predictable. Yes, the idea’s a tad far-stretched. No, it was never going to win any awards. But I was riveted! Because this film ticked the most important box of all: it got me invested in the characters.

I also learned something important while watching this movie yesterday: the resolution of any story (the Happy Ever After) is so much more satisfying if one (or both) of the characters have first had to sacrifice something really significant in the Black Moment.

[Spoiler Alert ahead]

In The Prince & Me, both hero and heroine make a sacrifice. The Black Moment scene is incredibly poignant. There are no raised voices, no slammed doors. It’s a quiet moment between two people who have already acknowledged their love for each other.

But they cannot be together without the heroine giving up everything she has ever dreamed of doing and being. In that moment she has a terrible decision to make: to choose between love or her dreams.

I hadn’t thought of this movie as being an example of award-winning acting, but in this scene Luke Mably is simply superb. With a completely under-stated performance, he conveys so much emotion. The viewer absolutely gets that the Prince is losing the only woman he’ll ever love. Without the heroine at his side, he faces a life of duty without the one person who has brought meaning, joy and love to his life. He will be lost without her. But even so it is a sacrifice he makes willingly, as he only wants her happiness.


That tear-jerker moment really made the resolution so much more satisfying.

I’m still far away from the black moment and ending of my WIP, but when I get there I’m definitely going to make a meal out of the sacrifice my heroine will make to ensure the happiness of the hero (or in this case, heroes!)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Should you keep a secret?

If a friend told you something in confidence, something that would make a terrific starting point for a story, would it be okay to write about it? If that friend had no interest in your writing, never read your work, and you could change the name and details, weave the secret in around a fictional world so nobody knew it was her, would you?

That's my current writing dilemma. I want to be a good friend, I really, really do. I want to keep my lips tightly sealed and, in real life, I wouldn't dream of telling. But this secret is so juicy I'm itching to get started on a story around it.

None of my non-writing friends ever read anything I write - not even the published pieces. In fact, I've never seen most of them read anything at all. So you could say it would serve them right if I did write about them.

And I've used conversations in the past - those with my own friends, those I've overheard - without a single moral twinge. I've written about a friend who was fed up of being treated as the baby of the family. Another who was prepared to leap into a fast flowing river to save the family pet. And yet another who moved into a new house to find the dog next door shared the same name as her baby daughter.

But these stories weren't secrets. And they certainly weren't scandalous.

What if I let time pass before I use it? A year? Two years? Would it be okay then?

Sadly, even if the friend never found out and nobody was hurt, it would still be a betrayal - and I'd know. So I think I must let this one go.

But I'm thinking I might write about a writer who betrays a confidence in one of her stories...if only I can think up an interesting fictitious secret.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Author Spotlight - Kate Hewitt

The Minxes are pleased to host the talented and very lovely Kate Hewitt on the blog today. Kate writes wonderfully passionate Harlequin Presents stories and can often be found on Twitter cheering on us unpublished writers (thanks, Kate!).

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

Five years ago I had given up on writing romance and was writing short stories for women’s magazines in England and Australia. Sounds funny now, but I really felt like the Mills & Boon ship had already sailed for me at that point!

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

Ideas are strange things. Rarely do they fall fully-formed into my head, alas! This book started with the germ of an idea: a woman who agrees to a marriage of convenience fully believing the hero will never be attracted to her... and then of course I had to figure out how and why the hero changed his mind.

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

Well, firstly I’d love to be doing just what I’m doing now, writing 4 books a year for Harlequin Presents. Secondly, and it is a far second, I’d like to be published in mainstream/women’s fiction.

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

Oh, so many! The very last one was probably The Other Side of The Bridge by Mary Lawson. Such beautiful writing.

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

Anne of Green Gables! I love that series with my whole heart, and it made me realize how books can plunge you into a wonderful fictional world--I wanted to create my own.

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

Neither, hopefully! If they’re really working I find them intense and moving. If not... cringe!

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

I think the little, unexpected things are the most romantic. My husband buying me lingerie when I’m nine months pregnant, or bringing me a cup of coffee without being asked. Just last week I came home right before dinner with the kids and he’d set the table even though he had to be out. Thoughtfulness, to me, is romantic.

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

I wish I’d known that insecurity and self-doubt do not magically disappear when you get a publishing contract or see your book in print. In some ways they get worse.

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

Write everyday. Write what you love, from the heart.

10. Tell us about your latest release

The Man Who Could Never Love is a Cinderella story, as well as a marriage of convenience. The heroine, Anamaria Viale, really had a mind of her own in this book--I kept wanting to write one thing and she demanded another. Vittorio falls in love with her strength and stubbornness! I love when the characters take over.

11. What’s next for you?

My retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma, The Matchmaker Bride, will be a Harlequin Presents release in August. I am also self-publishing a historical novel, Down Jasper Lane, as an ebook, available on Amazon, Smashwords, and other e-retailers in July. This book is sort of a cross between Anne of Green Gables (I told you I loved that book!) and Little Women. It is the first in a trilogy and was originally published in hardcover. I’m excited to give it a new lease on life, and have revised and expanded it as well.

You can buy The Man Who Could Never Love or any of my other books through Amazon, Eharlequin, or my website. Thanks for having me, Minxes!

Monday, June 13, 2011


It's the latest buzz word at Romance HQ and everyone's talking about it: unpredictability.

Lorraine Minx brought this to our attention last week, and Maisey Yates has also added further sights, but it was really brought home to me just how important it is for aspiring writers to be fresh and innovative when I got a rejection last week from an editor at Romance HQ for exactly that - my conflict was too predictable.

It's a fine line we need to tread between fulfilling the promise of the line we're targeting and yet still bringing something original to the party. I have no deep insights, but I thought I'd share with you a little example that struck me this weekend.

I re-watched 27 Dresses on Saturday. This is the perfect example of a fresh spin on an old story. Katherine Heigl is the modern day Cinderella, who spends her life working to make everyone else happy. She watches all her friends, and her baby sister, get to be the belles of the ball while she sits on the sidelines. It takes the right prince to show her that she's worth putting herself first.

I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't love this movie. It's an old story, and we know exactly how it will end, but it feels fresh and original.

Sadly, this story has already been done (very well!) by India Grey in her Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper, so you're going to have to come up with your own fresh spin!

Friday, June 10, 2011

How fast do you write?

Thanks to my daughter, I've recently become hooked on this test. For a minute of your time, it will reveal your typing speed.

When I put my mind to it, I can reach a fairly consistent and comfortable typing speed of 70 words per minute - which puts me some way off the top score, but also a long way from the bottom. So I'm happy.

This means, in an hour of typing (allowing for a ten minute break - I don't want to risk a repetitive strain injury), I should be able to write 3,500 words. So I should, in theory, be able to manage the first draft of a 50,000 word romance in a little over two working days.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you I can't write a first draft anywhere near this quickly. In fact, my output on the writing front can be pretty dismal: I missed my 35,000 word target in our Minxy April Word Count Challenge. And I failed the 50,000 word requirement of Nano a couple of years back, which is shocking when you think that, going by my theory, if I'd written for 7 hours every day for 30 days I should have produced an impressive 735,000 words. Honestly - I've double checked - 70 words a minute x 50 minutes out of every hour x 7 hours in every day x 30 days in November is equal to 735,000 words.

Of course, I have a day job. But, if I maximised output every writing hour, the Minxy Challenge and Nano should have posed no problem.

So, why can't I write a faster first draft? The best I've ever managed is 1,200 words in 55 minutes - a long way off what should be my personal best.

I know you have to factor in thinking time, but surely I should be able to think faster than I can type? And generally the idea is fully formed by the time I sit down at my keyboard, so those words should surely fly onto the screen. Perhaps if I didn't waste so much time on novelty websites I might be able to get more work done.

Did I tempt you to check up on your typing speed? Let us know how you got on. And, how quickly can you write a first draft?

PS: Last week's spotlighted author, Wendy Marcus, has announced her contest winner as Jennifer Probst. Jennifer please contact Wendy through her blog.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Author Spotlight - Cat Schield

Today, we have a debut Harlequin Desire author joining us in the spotlight.

Please welcome Cat Schield!

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
In February, 2006 I had written a travel article about sailing in the British Virgin Islands that was being published by International Yacht Charters Magazine. Seeing my name in print gave me the confidence to write a book aimed at publication.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
The original idea was for two strangers to meet at a party and get overwhelmed by passion only to discover the next morning that they had a connection neither expected. The fun was in how they dealt with the complication of that one night.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
Writing full time. Hitting a couple bestsellers lists would be amazing.

4. Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
There’s a YA author I love by the name of Tamora Pierce. Her Bloodhound book is the sort of thing I’d love to try my hand at.

5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
I’ve been writing since I was in high school and at the time I was a huge fan of Janet Daily’s Harlequin Presents and Phyllis Whitney’s mysteries.

6. Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
I’m giggling as I type this. My editor tells me I’m on the higher end of Desire’s sensuality scale and he regularly has to tell me to tone things down so I’m definitely in the giggle-worthy category.

7. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
Since I’m not married, I don’t have a lot to draw from. But there was a guy I dated that drove through a snow storm so we could spend Christmas Eve together. That was pretty amazing.

8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
Promotion is a huge time suck. I knew that, but I didn’t KNOW that. Write like crazy before you sell. Even if it’s not perfect, having books under the bed that you can pull out and polish will make your life easier.

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
Learn to love revisions. You need to believe in your writing, but you also must be willing to make changes. Sounds easier than it is, and I know a lot of people who struggle to let in someone else’s opinions on their book.

10. Tell us about your latest release.

No Man’s Bargaining Chip

Emma Montgomery wouldn’t be manipulated into marriage as part of Daddy’s business deal—even if he cut off access to her trust fund until she complied. The talented jewelry designer would just make her own way. Or go down trying. Too bad her intended groom--maverick businessman and former crush Nathan Case--made her stubborn stance so difficult. The heat of his touch had her nearly betraying herself at every turn. Resisting Nathan and regaining her money were the name of the game—but meddling with this millionaire might land her right back in his arms!

 11. What’s next for you?
My second book for Harlequin Desire--A Win-Win Proposition--comes out in October 2011. In between writing short contemporaries, my agent has encouraged me to try my hand at single title. I’m busy writing one set on a fictional island in southwest Florida.
To celebrate my debut I wrote a novella that ties into Meddling With A Millionaire. Her Secret Millionaire is the story of how Emma’s brother and Nathan’s best friend, Cody, meets the girl of his dreams and journeys to his happily ever after. It’s available as a free read on my website.

I'd like to offer a copy of Meddling With A Millionaire to one commenter. My heroine designs fine jewelry. Which do you wear more often, yellow or white gold?

Cat Schield lives in Minnesota with her daughter and their Burmese cat. Winner of the Romance Writers of America 2010 Golden Heart® for series contemporary romance, when she’s not writing sexy, romantic stories for Harlequin Desire, she can be found sailing with friends on the St. Croix River or more exotic locales like the Caribbean and Europe.

You can purchase Cat's debut Desire, Meddling With A Millionaire, right here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Man of the Month Poll: The Policeman Hotties!

I've no idea how I managed to snag a Man of the Month poll again but I'm definitely not complaining! All those hours of totally selfless research to bring you the Minxes choices :-)

First up is Chris O'Donnell who, I'll freely admit, did absolutely nothing for me as Robin in Batman or as the vet in Grey's Anatomy. However as the wonderfully tortured Callen in NCIS: LA I'm in love :-) Maybe it's the buzz cut, but I'm thinking I just love a tortured hero!

Above right is Eddie Cahill who I am reliably informed is a Detective in CSI: NY. Again, as the floppy haired and pink cheeked Tag in Friends he most definitely did not float my boat. But with a hair cut ... oooh yes!

Next is one of my personal faves, Eddie Cibrian. As Jesse Cardoza in CSI: Miami he's wonderful but in real life? Not so hot.

Over on the right, am sooo glad Minx Lorraine reminded me of the shoot Jamie Bamber did ... because he took some clothes off :-) He plays a clean cut English policeman in Law & Order: UK but I love it when he takes crime personally. Mmmm.

Next is the other half of the crime fighting NCIS: LA duo, LL Cool J. Anyone else have the words to the song "I Need Love" in their head any time they see him? LOL. Again, another man who is so much hotter as a more mature specimen. Or maybe it's because he's lost all of that bling?!

Over on the right is Minx favourite Michael Weatherly from the original NCIS programme. Another hero with an amazing smile that probably helps him get away with way more than he should!!

On the left here is Rupert Penry-Jones who I am told qualifies for this poll in his role in the TV show Spooks. I missed that show, but loved him in Silks where he was a fabulous bad boy!

Next is Simon Baker, star of The Mentalist. This is another programme that I have been meaning to watch and not quite got around to. It's on my list--I promise!

And, last but not least, and because we somehow seem to have started a trend of having a hottie for the more mature lady we have William Shatner in arguably his most famous role (and the only one in uniform!!) as TJ Hooker.

The poll is on the right, ladies, you know what to do!!

I should also annouce the winner of last month's poll which, perhaps surprisingly (given he beat glorious George!!), was Jesse Williams who plays Avery Jackson in Grey's Anatomy.

Friday, June 3, 2011


Here's a roundup of some recent competitions we've found - just the thing to get everyone ready for summer! Click on the titles to see more...

1. Brava's Writing with the Stars Competition.
This year, we’re looking for original romance novellas of 15,000 – 20,000 words rather than full-length books. Submissions in any sub- genre will be accepted, providing they’ve never been published in print or ebook form and have a sensuality level suitable for our Brava imprint. (You know just how hot that is, because you’re our most loyal readers.) So that means historical romance, contemporary, paranormal or romantic suspense. We need your submission by midnight of August 15, 2011 – plenty of time for you to write the winning novella or polish up one you’ve already begun.

Once again, Brava authors and editors will narrow down the entries to our top eight contestants, and each of the writers selected will be given a Brava mentor to help her navigate the four challenges ahead. Romantic Times readers will be voting each month to narrow the field, and the winner will be announced at the awards ceremony of the RT convention in April, 2012. Here’s your chance to work with professional writers, publicize your story and win a contract with a New York publisher.
This one is for unpublished authors only, and 15,000-20,000 is pretty do-able by mid-August, do keep us posted if you enter!

2. The Fish Short Story Prize.
This prestigious Irish competition is open from 1st August. Here's the details:
The Fish Short Story Prize welcomes stories on any theme written in English, with a maximum of 5,000 words. The Anthology will be launched during the West Cork Literary Festival, July 2011.
The winner and nine runners-up will be published in the 2012 Fish Anthology.

First Prize - €3,000 - (of which €1,000 is for travel expenses to the launch of the Anthology.)
Second Prize - a week at the Anam Cara Writers' & Artists' Retreat in West Cork's Beara Peninsula, with €300 traveling expenses.
Third Prize - €300. All those who are published in the Anthology will receive five complementary copies.

3. Stephie Smith's Contest List - lots for romance!
Check out this link for lots of romance competitions, mostly in the US, but many open internationally.

4. Mslexia 2011 Women's Novel Competition
The competition is open to unpublished women novelists writing in any genre for adults, including literary fiction, women’s fiction, young adult fiction, science fiction, fantasy, chick-lit, crime fiction, thriller, historical fiction... but not nonfiction or fiction for under 13s. To constitute a novel, your book must total at least 50,000 words.

Closing date: 30 September - Entry fee: £25
Send up to 5,000 words – which must be the first 5,000 words of your novel. Please make sure you have finished the novel before you send your entry.
Who is the competition aimed at?
•Women with an unfinished manuscript languishing in a bottom drawer. (Could this be the impetus you need to finish it?)
•Women who took up the write-a-novel-in-a-month challenge with NaNoWriMo and have a rough first draft. (Why not polish it up and send it to Mslexia?)
•Women who’ve submitted their completed novels over and over, and have despaired of finding an agent. (If you reach our shortlist, they’ll all sit up and take notice.)
•Women who’ve always wanted to write a novel, but could never find the time.
Get your book noticed
Because publishers specialise in different genres, we cannot guarantee a publishing contract at this stage. But we can guarantee that agents and editors will be falling over themselves for a first read of the winning manuscript. And the prize is £5,000!

There are plenty more out there, if anyone knows of a great competition we've missed, do share it in the comments box! Good luck!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Author Spotlight - Wendy S. Marcus

We're thrilled to have debut Harlequin Medical Romance author Wendy S. Marcus joining us for today's spotlight.

Welcome, Wendy.

Hello Minxes! Thank you so much for hosting me on the 7th stop of my blog tour to promote my debut Harlequin Medical Romance, WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH, which is currently available for purchase at the Mills and Boon website. And for pre-order on Amazon UK.  It’s official release date is June 3, 2011 in the UK and July 11, 2011 in Aus/NZ and the U.S. And a special shout out to Lacey Devlin for putting this all together.

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
Five years ago I was a voracious reader of romance with no aspirations of ever writing a book. I started writing around four years ago.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
From now on I’m going to try to remember to jot down where my story ideas come from. Believe it or not, it’s been so long since I first started writing WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH (in 2008 – and since then I’ve re-written it – twice) I honestly don’t remember my initial story ideas. I know I wanted a doctor and nurse hero and heroine. (As a nurse I was practicing the golden rule of ‘Write what you know.’) And while trying to figure out a way to hook the reader and make my intro memorable, I had this outlandish idea to incorporate a giant cactus into my opening scene – which changed about five times and, well, after much dickering back and forth with my editor, was eventually edited out (mostly). Here’s a little tidbit: The working title for my manuscript was: Love, Hospital Style.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
With everything I have going on right now, it’s hard to think of my life past August 1st, (the deadline for my next book.) Here’s a peek:
- Promo for WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH - ongong
- Including a 26 stop blog tour - from May through July
- And two readings and signings at local libraries
- Author adjustments for my second book, ONCE A GOOD GIRL – due May 30th
- Writing my third book, working title: Roxie’s Story - deadline August 1st
- RWA national conference – June 27th to July 1st
- My youngest daughter’s eighth grade graduation – and subsequent party
- My oldest daughter home from college for two weeks (a major distraction)
- Packing up my youngest for two months of sleep away camp
- My son’s college visits

Right now, focusing on short term goals works best for me.

4. Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
I recently read Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockmann. I loved that book. I’d been eagerly awaiting Izzy’s story for months, and Ms. Brockmann did not disappoint. I read the book in two days. It was an amazing read. Every time I said to myself, “At the end of this chapter I’m going to sleep,” something would happen and I could not make myself stop…had to keep reading…sleep be damned! In my opinion, that’s a sign of a great book. Those are the kinds of books I want to write.

5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
I actually made the decision to attempt writing my first romance after reading, in my opinion, a terrible book. I thought: I can to do better. And I set out to do just that.

But there are so many writers whose work I love, who draw me into a story and leave me with a contented ahhhhhhhhhh when it’s over. A few of my favorites are (in no particular order): Victoria Dahl, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Lisa Kleypas, Suzanne Brockmann, Susan Mallery, Robyn Carr, Sabrina Jeffries, Carly Phillips. Karen Hawkins. Susan Wiggs. I can go on and on. But I won’t.

6. Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
I find writing love scenes lust-worthy. I enjoy writing love scenes. Really! On the first run through they’re pretty mechanical – he puts his hand here, she puts her lips there. But once I have that down I go back and layer in emotions, sensations and responses. (And some moans, ‘Oh, Gods’ and ‘just like thats.’) A good love scene should make you feel like you’re a part of the action. And if it doesn’t get a rise out of me, it won’t get a rise out of my readers.

7. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
How focused you need to be. And this is saying something because prior to becoming an author, I considered myself to be an extremely organized and focused person. Let me explain. I spend hours on the computer every day. Every single day. From early morning to late into the night. Am I working on my manuscript the entire time? I wish! I’m checking my e-mails to make sure I don’t miss anything important. I’m blogging and tweeting ie. “networking” with other writers and potential readers. I’m visiting other author websites to see what they’re up to. I’m updating my website and blog. I’m researching promo opportunities and supplies. I’m mailing out books and promo items. Yes. I spend a good deal of time on author activities but how much of that time is actually focused on writing? Not near enough, which is something I’m working to remedy.

8. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
A book is written in revision. (My mantra during the six long months I worked at revising my manuscript before it sold.) Just meeting the word count for a publisher is not enough.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention: Writer’s write.

9. Tell us about your latest release.
Nurse Ali Forshay has found the perfect man for her. Dependable. Routine. Boring. Exactly what she wants to ensure a quiet, stable and anonymous life. Then his friend, Dr. Jared Padget, shows up and goodbye fairytale ending. The man’s a schmoozer. A womanizer. A whoo-a-woman-into-bed-using-any-means-necessary kind of man just like her father. And Ali wants nothing to do with him. But he’s so tempting. Thank goodness his temporary assignment at Madrin Memorial is over, and he’s heading out of town.

If only he hadn’t shown up at girls’ night out on the eve of his departure. If only he hadn’t taken her up on her drunken one-time offer. If only he hadn’t come back when he’d promised to stay away…

Read an excerpt from WHEN ONE NIGHT ISN’T ENOUGH.

10. What’s next for you?
My second book, ONCE A GOOD GIRL, is coming out in the UK in December 2011 as a 2in1 with Alison Roberts. Information is available on the Coming Soon page of my website.

As part of my blog tour I’m running some contests. To enter for a chance to win an Amazon Gift Card, visit my website: While you’re there check out the excerpts from my books. Then come back and comment on what you’ve read. Something you found interesting or funny. Be specific. Ask me a question about either story. One lucky commenter will win a copy of my 2in1 UK release which includes a complete novel by Janice Lynn.

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