Monday, October 31, 2011

Oops! and congratulations

Oops! You may have noticed that due to a technical error (yeah, right!) we skipped a post on Friday. Actually, this is for very happy reasons: the Minxes are all really busy right now.

At this moment in time, we have five Minxes beavering away (at least, you'd better be beavering, ladies!) on requested manuscripts, one Minx moving house, one Minx just finished moving house, and another Minx has gone back to work after a break. And two are doing everything they can to distract themselves from NTAI.
To all of you - here's wishing you lots of strength, patience, and a truckload of Minxy dust for your submissions.

Rachel Bailey has selected BrooklynShoeBabe as the winner of a copy of Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal. Well done, Rakisha. You can contact Rachel through the contact form on her website:

Finally, today's your last chance to vote for your favourite Rugby hotties. There'll be a new set of dishy heroes here on the blog on Friday.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Author Spotlight - Rachel Bailey

Today we welcome Harlequin Desire author Rachel Bailey into our spotlight. Rachel lives in Australia with a handful of dogs (you can meet them on her website).

She's giving away a copy of Million-Dollar Amnesia Scandal to one (non-Minxy) commenter, so don't forget to leave comments when you get to the end of this post to stand a chance to win.

What is your writing process?
Slower than I’d like! :) I need to give my editor a synopsis of the book for approval, so I always know where the story is going before I write it. Then I break the plot down into quarters from the synopsis and write one section at a time. By the time I move onto the next quarter, I’ve edited and polished the one before it then sent it out to my critique partners who are pretty ruthless with telling me what’s not working. Then when I have the four quarters done, I do some more editing on the book as a whole. I’d love a simpler process, but this one seems to be working for me so I don’t want to mess with it!

Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?
Deadlines. No question. Which is why, when I was unpublished, I found the contest circuit invaluable – not only for feedback, for to keep me writing to deadlines.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counter balance all those hours sitting at a computer?
I play dog tennis twice a day (I hit the ball with a tennis racquet and the dogs retrieve it), but that exercises the dogs more than me, so I also have a walking machine in the lounge room.

Do you believe in writer's block?
Yes and no. I think lots of things can get in the way of writing, from stress to tiredness to fear to burnout. What you need to do about it depends on what the ‘writer’s block’ really is.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
I’d find it hard to stay in the character’s head if I knew the incident had really happened to me or someone I knew, so it’s not something I’ve ever done.

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
I had a few friends who were published before me, so I was already aware of most aspects of the life of a published author, but it’s still amazing how much writing time gets lost in non-writing activities aspects of the job.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I blog at the LoveCats DownUnder and eHarlequin, have Facebook and twitter accounts as well as a website. But I’m also wary that promotion doesn’t take over too much of the time and brain-space I need for writing.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Pick the promo methods you enjoy the most and do those ones well.

What did you learn while writing this book?
I researched New York and New Jersey pretty thoroughly to give me a feel for the setting, and I had pictures of random NY and NJ scenes on corkboards around my walls. I *love* immersing myself in new settings and learning about other places!

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
I really enjoyed the spark these two have – part of that comes from them having known each other so well as teenagers, and part from their personalities.

And I loved writing the little appearances of Winston, Pia’s cat. :)

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
JT spent most of his childhood and youth moving around, so going away somewhere wouldn’t appeal as much as it would for other heroes. JT simply wants to be alone with Pia – anywhere that’s possible is good with him. :)

Book Blurb:

He's returned for a fortune and is confronted by memories. Though tycoon JT Hartley is a success in his own right, he's set on claiming his share of his late father's legacy. But first he has to get past the estate executor - none other than Pia Baxter, a woman he's never forgotten.

Theirs had been a fast-and-furious union that ended all too suddenly. And though desire still courses between them, JT knows starting anything with Pia again is just asking for trouble. His future is set in stone. But even the best-laid plans are no match for true passion.

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You can find Return of the Secret Heir at Amazon, Amazon UK, Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and Harlequin.

You can find Rachel at her website, LoveCats DownUnder, on Twitter and on Facebook.

Monday, October 24, 2011

How To Win NaNoWriMo 2011

In 8 days National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) will be upon us.   Writing 50K in 30 days is no small feat but it's absolutely achievable. 

Here are the Minxes' ten top tips for winning NaNoWriMo:

1. Sign up.  You can sign up on the official NaNoWriMo site to keep track of your word count, download badges and other fun things.  You'll also find a copy of the official rules, so you can get a better idea of what to expect.  Alternatively, keep an eye out at the Harlequin forums for their version of NaNoWrimo (you can pick your word count goal for the month).  Or, sign up for both.

2. Get supported. Tell your family and friends what you're doing, or at least warn them that pizza is making a comeback and they could be required to be responsible for keeping themselves alive. Also, having a support network and encouragement helps.

3. Work out your word count.  The world's not going to stop while you do NaNoWriMo, so if you have a big event and know that you're not going to get your 1.7K written that day, you’ll need to find a time to make that up. If you work out how many words you need to write each day around your commitments and stick to it, you’ll have a completed draft of 50K novel at the end of the month.

4. Steal time from your schedule.   Here's where you can get creative.  You may not have significant blocks of time to write but if you can snatch 15 minutes while you’re commuting, on your lunch break or before dinner then you'll find that your word counts starts to add up.  There's also very little in life that can't be put off for 15 minutes.  

5. Prepare.  While the rules state you can't start writing your novel until midnight November 1.  But you can plan it, plot it and identify your characters before then.  You don't have to be a plotter and get the manila folders and label maker out (but by all means do if you wish), however, having your character names and a general idea of what you're writing each day will help. 

You can take this one step further with character sheets, sketches or collages, and chapter summaries.  Chapter summaries are a great trick for NaNoWriMo because the less time you have to spend thinking about what comes next in your story, the more time you have to do the writing and reach your daily word count goals.

6. It doesn't have to be perfect.  NaNoWriMo founder, Chris Baty, is a big fan of just getting the words down.  If you're having a day when you absolutely cannot work out what to write next he suggests adding a spaceship.  The spaceship may have to go in the first round of edits but it'll keep your word count growing and may also help you work through your plot problem.  Also, if you find yourself on a tangent, explore that tangent, explore the world, you'll be surprised about what you can discover about your characters and their conflict this way. Just don't give up.

7. Go on an edit detox.  There's no time for editing in NaNoWriMo, that comes next month. You may be tempted to go back and reread what you've written but at most, you’re allowed to reread the last couple of paragraphs before you start writing each day. Reading from the start of a chapter or chapter one is banned. Editing can be your downfall.

8. Beware the week 2 blues.  Everyone hits a wall about week 2.  Suddenly the writing's harder, everything's garbage and you start thinking about regrouting your kitchen tiles. It could all be garbage (unlikely) but if it is it doesn't matter.  The point is to push yourself beyond your normal limits.  There's a lot to be learnt about your writing and writing process from NaNoWriMo.  You can’t edit a blank page!

9. Upload. Make sure you record your final word count on the NaNoWriMo official site before midnight November 30 so that you are considered an official winner and can access their winner blog badges.

10. Don't be too critical.  If you finish NaNoWriMo be aware of your achievement.  You've just done something that most people only talk about, you've written the draft of a novel and you did it in a month! Get the champagne out.

If you didn't get the whole 50K down, don’t throw in the towel. Your word count will be a lot higher than it would be if you hadn’t taken NaNoWriMo on. Writing 50K in 6 weeks is just as impressive and your draft will still be finished by Christmas.

Either way, you’re going to need a lot of champagne.

Are you NaNoWriMoing this year?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Musical Inspiration

Does music inspire you when you're writing, or do you find it a distraction?

I'm firmly in the inspired camp. Some songs are almost a romantic novel all of their own, aren't they?

I'm slightly obsessive about it and always create playlists for my wip, and have been known to stop the car to text myself the title of a track I hear on the radio in case I forget it between there and home.

Even more geeky than that, I create playlists for my main characters, and play their songs when i'm writing in their pov. My current leading man, for instance, is a funeral director, so his playlist is quite dark and angsty, full of Muse tracks and other atmospheric stuff (and yup,  I get that his profession is a hard sell in a romance novel, but he's not as bad as he sounds, I promise!)
He also happens to be deliciously Irish, so there's a smattering of old Del Amitri tracks in there too. See where I'm going? I build the character through music in my head.

Do you do similar things? Please tell me i'm not alone in this?

 I'm a recent convert to Lady Antebellum (Thank you, Romy!) Their romantic lyrics and cool laid back country vibe really melts me - not to mention their extremely easy on the eye frontman. All round fabulousness.

Check 'em out, people, and then tell us who inspires you...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Author Spotlight - Christina Hollis

To readers of Mills & Boon romances, Christina Hollis is a household name. We are excited to have her here in the spotlight, talking about her latest release, Weight of the Crown.

What is your writing process?
I like to make sure I’m never faced with that deadly combination of no ideas, a blank sheet of paper and a deadline. I jot down ideas all the time - when traveling, in the middle of the night, or while working in the garden. Snatches of overheard conversation are a great starting point. My favourite way of working is longhand, in pencil, on the right hand side of a refill pad. I start with the characters, who then suggest a conflict, and off I go. My actual writing day starts after the morning school run and continues until pick up time, in late afternoon.

Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?
I’ve recently been introduced to #1k1hr on Twitter: it’s great to know I’m working with others towards a goal on the same timescale. The Pomodoro technique is good when working alone: basically, I set a kitchen timer and focus religiously on my writing with no distractions for 25 minutes, then take a break. Incidentally, I’m sorry to say I hate shopping: fresh country air is my big distraction.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
I wear a pedometer practically all the time. My aim is to walk 10k steps per day, but I don’t always manage that many. I’m scrupulous about taking a break and moving about every hour to avoid DVT, though.

Do you believe in writer's block?
Only in the same way I believe in bricklayer’s block, teacher’s block or postman’s block, I’m afraid! Writing is my full time job, but it’s also my hobby and my therapy. If one project isn’t progressing, I switch to something else to give my brain a workout, then try again.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
To answer the second part of your question first, my aim is to write books that make people happy, not to upset them! My husband is so thoughtful a lot of the romantic treats - picnics and candlelit dinners - in my books are based on things he’s done for me. Many tiny details or sayings get into my work via my note-taking, and I put a lot of my own experience into my books. For instance, Kira in The French Aristocrat’s Baby (US Title: The Count’s Challenge) owned a restaurant and when younger I considered training as a chef, but writing won.

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
The amount of things that must be done before I can actually start writing each day. Dealing with emails and correspondence, organising competitions, giveaways, appearances, updating my website and blog - I thoroughly enjoy each and every contact with readers, but I do tend to get carried away if I’m not careful!

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
Social networking is key to reaching the largest number of readers in the easiest way, and it’s so enjoyable. I hold regular competitions and giveaways on my website and Blog.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Use a pen name - it allows you so much freedom to go out and be someone else when you’re promoting your work.

What did you learn while writing this book?
I discovered how much fun it is to invent my own country. Weight of the Crown is set in Rosara, a combination of all the places I love: big skies, breathtaking scenery and a prince who’s tall, dark, handsome and just waiting to be tamed by the right woman...

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
This is the question I’ve had to think about for longer than anything else you’ve asked me, because I loved it all. Writing is the best job in the world, and inventing Rosara (‘Land of Roses’) and its gorgeous prince Lysander was like opening a big box of chocolates every time I sat down to start work!

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
Lysander would love to go to a totally deserted tropical paradise where he could escape the Weight of the Crown and get back to nature. However, he’s so concerned that Alyssa works too hard, he’d make sure there was plenty of seven-star luxury on hand for her!

Now duty is his only mistress

For notorious playboy Prince Lysander Kahani, playtime is over…Left with a country to run, he draws the line at playing nanny to his orphaned nephew!

Instead he sends for a professional. But one glance at buttoned-up Alyssa Dene and Lysander’s wicked side re-emerges! Wary of his scandalous reputation, Alyssa tries to keep her distance – but Lysander draws her like a moth to a flame.

Lysander is fighting a battle between public duty and private desire, but he is determined to make Alyssa a royal offer she won’t refuse…

Thank you so much for this invitation - I really enjoyed it.

* * *

Weight of the Crown is available from Amazon, Amazon UK and direct from Mills & Boon.

You can find Christina on-line at her website, her blog, on Twitter, on Facebook and at Romance Book Paradise Promotions.

Christina is giving away one of her backlist books to a lucky (non-Minxy) commenter ... so you know what to do!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Crazy Heart

A couple of weeks ago, I turned on the movie channel to see a movie I missed when it hit cinemas a couple of years ago, Crazy Heart.

The TV blurb said:
A faded country music musician is forced to reassess his dysfunctional life during a doomed romance that also inspires him.

and I knew that Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Colin Farrell were in it, and that it had been the recipient of two oscar wins - Jeff Bridges got Best Actor for it, and the a song for the movie, The Weary Kind, also received one - and Maggie Gyllenhaal was nominated for Best Supporting Actress too.

I've always loved Jeff Bridges' work - but somehow the idea of this movie had failed to inspire me to go see it, but for those who haven't yet, I must just say chase it down and watch it. It's fabulous!
Jeff Bridges playes Bad Blake, a faded, country music superstar, who drinks, smokes, and takes full advantage of the numerous opportunities to go to bed with the middle-aged groupies who flock to his performances in run down bars. He's out of shape, has been married numerous times, and has a son he hasn't seen since the kid was a nipper. Hardly hero material. But in my opinion, this is the best role I've ever seen Jeff in. He commands the screen, and even though he's overweight and rocketing towards distruction, he's still totally gorgeous.
When he meets the much younger Gyllenhaal, who plays music journalist, Jean, the sexual tension is palpable. And as they start into an affair, their individual conflicts are so strong, the story became so real, so poignant, that I was rooting for their happy ever after. There's a fantastic performance by Robert Duvall too, who plays Bad's friend.
My current hero inspiration is Colin Farrell, who plays Bad Blake's former protegee turned country music superstar. Colin doesn't appear in the credits, as he didn't want to take the focus from Jeff, but even if he had, the incredible charisma of Bad Blake would have wiped the floor with him.
The story is full of interesting twists and turns, and lots of heartbreak along the way - but ultimately, Bad's journey is an inspiring one, that grabbed me from the moment Jeff appeared on screen, and didn't let go until the closing credits.
I don't want to give any more away, so will leave you with the trailer to whet your appetite!

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Voices and moving forward

First up, congratulations to the 21 finalists in the New Voices contest. How amazing that the editors have given a chance to an extra writer because there were so many they loved?!

Also, I'd like to congratulate every single person who entered. You not only sat down and wrote something, but you were brave enough to submit your work to public view. That deserves applause.

I'd also just like to remind everyone who entered (and who didn't!) that contests are not the be-all and end-all. Not everyone who finals in a contest goes on to publich that manuscript. Not everyone who gets published gets there via a contest. In fact, your odds are probably even better through the slush pile than through a contest, where there can be only one winner.

So keep writing, and keep submitting.

Now if you're not completed contested-out, here's another you might want to look at:

Author Nicola Marsh is running a pitch contest on her blog until Sunday, with critiques from both herself and the senior editor of Entangled Publishing as a prize.

Talking about Entangled, keep an eye on their blog for updated submission calls each month. This month they're looking for contemporary novellas.

And more submission calls ....

Carina Press is looking for winter-themed sci fi novellas, and Avon Romance is looking for soldier homecoming short stories.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Author Spotlight - Bronwen Evans

We are delighted to have New Zealand author Bronwen Evans in the Minxy Spotlight today. Bronwen writes hot Regencies, and her first book, Invitation to Ruin, is available through Kensington Brava, with the sequel, Invitation to Scandal, due out in 2012.

* * *

Hello from New Zealand. Thanks for having me on the Minxy Blog. I’m really excited to meet you all and to tell you a little more about my debut Regency, INVITATION TO RUIN.

What is your writing process? 

I always have characters and stories racing around my brain so I do need to be methodical in order to let one story develop at a time. I’m a huge believer in plotting. I usually develop a high concept 50 word pitch detailing the premise of the story and the two main characters. Then I develop a full character history so that I know everything I can about my characters. From there I develop a bullet point summary of the story and plot details which turns into a six act outline using Michael Hauge’s Six Stage Story Concept detailing all turning points and the characters’ inner and out journey.
Once that’s complete I write the synopsis – usually 1 page for each 10,000 words, so a 95k book is usually around 8-10 pages. This goes to my editor or agent so that she can sign off on the story and make any editorial changes upfront. Saves on the revisions. Once she’s signed off, I have a thorough road map to keep me on track. I actually find my creativity is greater once I’ve plotted out a book because I can concentrate on the writing, knowing I have a solid story.

Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping? 

I’m bad – I go shoe shopping! Just kidding. The fact that I have a plot outline and the fact I usually wake up with the next scene playing in my head, I’m not often without inspiration. But if the creative juices decide not to flow, I re-read the character arcs and I re-read the synopsis and then I go for a long walk. I find once I’m outside and walking, the story will come to me, and then I can head home and start writing.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer? 

I used to play representative netball and I have back, neck and shoulder injuries, so I have to ensure I stretch every two hours when working on the computer. I also walk every second day at around 3pm in the afternoon and I have a cross trainer for those wet, cold days. I’m just starting to build a new home in a warmer area of New Zealand, so I’m putting in a swimming pool as I’ve found that swimming is the best for my back.

 Do you believe in writer's block?

I’m sure it happens. As a plotter I very rarely suffer from writers block for very long. Besides, with deadlines you can’t afford to have writers block. I do think that families, other commitments etc can get in the way of writing time. That’s harder to manage but then life can’t be ignored. You can’t be writing all the time.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble? 

Not really, although I wrote a short story about a moment I had with a roommate at University who was very sick. It placed second in a short story contest. Because I write historicals, I have used modern day ideas such as endometriosis and thought about how that would have affected a woman’s life in the 1800’s.

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be? 

Hmmmm.... I’m not sure I really knew what to expect, it all happened so fast. I love the way readers get so engaged with my story and often email me with questions. Writing is very hard work. Finishing a book is only the beginning. You have to remember that the next book has to be just as good, and the next etc. It’s like the beginning of any career, you have to put the hard yards in. Mostly, I’m surprised at how much I love it. The reality surpasses anything I could have imagined.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers? 

I’m a marketing graduate so promotion is not new to me. It’s a necessity for selling any product. Social network marketing is very important in building your brand and for reaching readers. I use twitter, facebook, blogs, websites etc I must admit I only blog or tweet etc when I have something interesting to say. I actually think my life’s rather boring; therefore it won’t be that interesting to readers either.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Use loads of giveaways – get your book into as many readers’ hands as possible. Word of mouth with social networking is huge. A good book will sell itself, that’s what you should focus on – producing the best product possible.

What did you learn while writing this book? 

I learned loads about slavery in Regency England. My hero’s father was a slave trader. Anthony had a terrible childhood and I love how he has the strength to overcome his brutal upbringing and open his heart to love. It took a very special heroine, Melissa. I found I have fabulous critique partners who went above and beyond to help me make the book better and who celebrated with me on my debut sale of INVITATION TO RUIN.

What was the most fun part of writing this book? 

Finishing it! This was the first book I actually finished. I had been writing for about three – four years and never finished a book. One of my lovely critique partners told me ‘you can’t sell what you haven’t finished’. She was absolutely right. What changed with this book? I’d plotted the whole story so I knew exactly how the character’s journey would unfold. I haven’t looked back I have completed two further books – Invitation to Scandal due out in 2012 and Invitation to Love (working title).

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?

Anthony’s a consummate rake and he’s now madly in love and lust with his wife. He’s very possessive and protective of her, so he’d prefer his Yorkshire Manor in the middle of winter where they would be snowed in. He’d build up the bedchamber fire, have the servants ensure beautiful meals were brought to the room, and then never let his wife out of bed. He has several months of wasted opportunity to make up for – plus he wants to try out all the positions in his wife’s naughty book. Melissa used a book written by Madam du Barry, the last mistress of the King of France, to seduce Anthony. He’s going to ensure they read it thoroughly – cover to cover.
One Good Lady is About to Go Bad...

The only thing Miss Melissa Goodly has ever wanted out of a marriage is love. But any hope of that dissolves one wild night, when she loses herself in the arms of the most irresistible-and unobtainable-man in all of England. For when they are discovered in a position as compromising as it is pleasurable, she has no choice but to accept his proposal.

Avowed bachelor Anthony Craven, Earl of Wickham, never meant to seduce an innocent like Melissa. Yet now that the damage is done, it does seem like she'd make a very convenient wife. After all, she is so naive he won't have to worry about ever being tempted. Or so he thinks, until the vows are spoken and they are left alone-and his new bride reveals a streak just as brazen and unrestrained as his own... Read an excerpt 

INVITATION TO RUIN is available through most book stores and online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository and Indie.

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You can catch up with Bronwen at her website, on her blog, and on Twitter.

Monday, October 10, 2011

You Know You're A Writer When...

One question that has been asked and will probably be asked of every writer at some point in their career is: where you do get your inspiration? Over the years friends and family have asked me when/how/why I write. Here are some of my (sometimes tongue-in-cheek) answers.

You know you’re writer when:

1. You're in the supermarket check out line and you overhear a conversation and you think, "Wow, that would make a fabulous story"!

2. You meet a beautiful, intelligent woman and think what a fabulous heroine she’d make and what your hero would think of her (this happens to me. A LOT!).

3. You wake up in the middle of the night with your heart literally pounding because your subconscious has suddenly given you a breakthrough on that tough piece of plotting you’ve been puzzling over for day/weeks and you can't get to a pen and paper fast enough.

4. You resent the sight of your family, even when they’re bringing you cake, because you need to take your fingers off the keyboard to accept said cake, and spend at least TWO SECONDS thanking them. Ugh!!

5. You meet a hot guy and …. (apply theory number two).

6. You read an excellent book and immediately start researching organ donation because you would gladly give away an organ to be able to write as well as X,Y & Z writer. Yep people, the green-eyed monster is alive and well, even amongst writers!

7. Your boss/colleague annoys the hell out of you and you spend AT LEAST one great hour plotting gruesome shenanigans for them in your current wip. I'm told this is a common trait.

8. Your diary shows you have a party/wedding/Bar Mitzvah/PTA meeting and you immediately grumble about how it will take away from your precious writing time. And don’t even get me started on my kids’ social calendar!

9. And last but not least, you know you’re a writer when no matter what’s happening in your life, you feel physically sick if, for any reason, you’re unable to get words down for long periods of time.

I’m sure there are hundreds more little traits that affirms your writer status. Feel free to share…

Friday, October 7, 2011

Man of the Month: Rugby heroes

*The lucky winner of Kate Walker's giveaway is TashNZ. If you would like to contact us via the blog, we will pass your details on to Kate, congratulations!!*

And from a winner in New Zealand, we move seemlessly on to today's Man of the Month poll. With the quarter finals of the World Cup coming up this weekend, what other types of heroes could there possibly be this month? As this is the Rugby Union World Cup, I wonder if the Minxes will let me do another rugby heroes post next month to celebrate the Rugby League Four Nations cup next month? Ahem ... perhaps not :-{

So with 8 teams left in the competition, let's have a look at some of the talent.

From the home nation, New Zealand, Dan Carter. I'm reliably informed by the lovely Jackie Ashenden that New Zealand is a country in mourning as Dan is injured and can play no further part in the World Cup :-{

Now this guy on the left, Sonny Bill Williams, I know a little about as he played rugby league before defecting to the 15 man game {for those who are interested, there are only 13 players on each team in rugby league}.

From England we have the ever youthful Jonny Wilkinson, he seems to have been playing *forever*. Just as Dan Carter is New Zealand's favourite, so Jonny has English hearts--and not just those who enjoy his skill on the pitch!!

On the right is a guy, James Haskell, I'm so glad Romy Minx suggested for this poll because he looks as though he has great ball skills!!

And from South Africa, we have a man I am reliably informed is as nice in person as he is looking! Percy Montgomery. Not that I am picking pictures solely on how many clothes these rugby players have on {or off!!} but he is the blond guy without the top :-}

Also South African is Victor Matfield, I think he looks like a perfect Presents hero *saves picture in hero file*.

From Italy, who sadly are no longer in the competition, but perhaps it will give Sergio Parisse more time to have such excellent pictures taken!! In his spare time, Sergio models for Dolce & Gabbana.

And finally, last but definitely not least, here is Argentinian Juan Martin Hernandez who I managed to find while taking time to fully research and perfect this post {I know, my attention to detail is admirable!!}.

I should take the time to let you know that last month's poll was a dead heat between the fastest man on earth, Usain Bolt and the fastest man on no legs Oscar Pistorius. Incredibly apt and a wonderful result :-}

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Author Spotlight - Kate Walker

This week the Minxes are proud to welcome back multi award winning and USA Today Bestselling Author Kate Walker. Kate has recently had her 60th title accepted and I'm sure everyone agrees she is an absolute inspiration to all aspiring authors.

Kate has very kindly offered a signed copy of any of her backlist books to a random (non-Minxy) commenter today, winner will be picked randomly and announced at the bottom of this month's Man of the Month post on Friday 7th October.

What is your writing process?

I’m half plotter, half panster!! I spend a lot of time before I put finger to keyboard thinking about my hero and heroine and getting to know them so that I hope I know how they will react to things. Then I have the basic ‘seed’ of an idea – it’s ‘what if he is this and she is that and then this is what starts things off.’ I have a good general idea of what the main conflict between them is and why it’s there – and how they meet. Then I have a strong idea of some key scenes along the way. After that it’s like introducing two people to each other and seeing what happens. I have a sense of where I want to head but not too sure how I’m going to get there – but knowing the characters and what they are feeling keeps me heading in the right direction. After that it really depends on the story – some books need more careful planning than others, for example if there’s some sort of mystery to be revealed or an explanation to be given. My latest book is inspired by Wuthering Heights so there was a basic backstory already set out and I knew I had to start the point where Heath comes back after a long absence. But with books where I don’t have that theme to work on, often the most difficult thing is knowing where to start the story for the best.

Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?

I just had my 60th title accepted (The Devil and Miss Jones out in March 20120 so I’m well used to the good day/bad day thing that can happen with writing. I also know from experience that there will be days when it’s like ploughing through mud – some days through mud mixed with treacle! – and there are rarer wonderful days when it flows. I wish there were more of those. What keeps me going? A contract! And a deadline! (I call them dreadlines!) I know that I’ve been here before and sweated blood to get it moving so I sit at my desk and I put the words down, even if they are rubbish. As – I think it was Nora Roberts said – you can always edit a bad page, you can’t edit an empty one. And sometimes you have to go through the tortuous days to set the scene ready for the good ones. But sometimes I do give in and go shoe shopping! There is a lot of advantage to relaxing your mind and letting it roam free while you're wandering about looking at shops – often that gives the confusion/muddle in your head time to shake down, settle and then inspirations strikes. And I have a lovely husband who if I’m really stuck I’ll go for coffee with, and tell him what I’m puzzling over then he asks what he calls ‘idiot questions’ – why doesn’t she do so and so or what if he thinks . . .. I usually end up saying ‘No way!’ but because I know then what he/she wouldn’t do, it becomes clearer what they would do.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?

3 years ago I made a resolution that I was going to do something to counteract the effects of hours spent sitting at a desk. I decided that if I was going to take any exercise, I had to do it first thing in the morning - if I get started writing etc then I would just keep on doing that and never get the exercise. So I decided that I would ‘walk to work’ – I go out of the house, walk for a set time and then go back home ready to start work. I started with 30 minutes and now I do an hour almost every day. I love to do this early in the morning when everywhere is quiet – there’s a park and some woods near our house and I walk through there. I meet lots of dog-walkers and I get plenty of quiet time to think. I can work out knots in my story that way – and plan scenes or dialogue. I had to force myself to begin with but now I miss it if I don’t go.

Do you believe in writer's block?

If you mean the sort of temporary block I’ve described above, then yes it happens all the time – but real solid permanent writer’s block when you never write again . . well, I’m glad to say I’ve never experienced that. I do think block’s happen through lack of confidence and through not knowing your characters well enough. Even after all this time and 60 published books – more if you include the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance - I can still get horrible days when I think I can’t do this and the fraud police will find me out. But I have great writing friends who’ll listen to me moan – I’ll do the same for them – and ask questions, make suggestions that make me grit my teeth and go on again. Because the only way past writers’ block is to write.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?

No I can’t say I have – but really every book has a bit of me and a bit of things I’ve known, seen, experienced in them. I just wouldn’t use them wholesale but change the details to protect the guilty!

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?

Being a published author is constantly changing, the longer I do it. I started out with a manual typewriter, turning in a book when I could, waiting two years or more for it to be published, doing very little promotion, not even having the books go into different lines – there was no Modern Romance etc in the UK. Now I work on a computer, submit by email, connect with readers through the internet, and have fixed deadlines. . . I never expected that I would go to America and meet readers there. One thing I never ever expected was that I would be so much in demand to teach writing - and that I would end up writing the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance so that now lots of people write to me to tell me how much it’s helped them. I regularly run courses in Wales and all over the UK and next year I’ll be teaching a week long residential course in Tuscany - I certainly never saw that coming!

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?

Promotion shouldn’t be a dirty word. As a writer you create a - I hate to call it a product but that’s what marketing would do – you create something you are proud of and you want to reach as many readers as possible. It makes sense to let people know about that. You can’t force them to buy but you can hope to let them know your book is out there and hope that they will pick it up. After that the best way to sell your next book is to write the best possible one this time so they want to see more. I join in chats on the internet, on the romance writing site, I run my web site and keep it up to date and I blog regularly at Blog Kate Walker. I also have regular guest posts on other blog – like Tote Bags ‘n’ Blogs, The Pink Heart Society and We Write Romance.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Never do the hard sell – I have an inbuilt resistance to someone praising something because they're pushing it. And I strongly believe that readers will feel the same. In the end, what it really comes down to is as I said above – the best way to promote your other books is to make sure that the one in the readers’ hands is the best you can possibly make it.

What did you learn while writing this book?

As I said, this book is inspired by Wuthering Heights as part of the special mini-series The Powerful and the Pure. I have always loved Wuthering Heights as a book, I read it when I was young, I grew up near Haworth where the Bronte sisters lived and I studied it for both my first degree and my MA – I wrote my thesis on Emily and Charlotte Bronte’s books - so I loved going back to it again and relearning – not learning new – just how brilliant a novel it is and how amazing Emily Bronte was as a writer.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

I had the perfect excuse to reread this fabulous book - and watch all the different films/TV adaptations of the novel – then to go away and create my own Heathcliff, rework his story in the spirit of, but not copying the original – and to give Kat and Heath (my characters) the happy ending the original Heathcliff and Cathy could never have had because deep down Wuthering Heights isn't truly a love story – it’s about passion, possession, power – but I got to put the love in there!

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?

When Heath comes back after so many years away, he has made a new life for himself by going to Brazil and working there. He’s made himself a fortune out there too, and bought a huge estate where he breeds horses. Kat has stayed at home in Yorkshire all that time, so I’m positive he would want to take her to South America to show her his new home and his very different way of life – but then I have a suspicion that they’d make their home back in Yorkshire in the end.

Thank you to the Minxes, for inviting me along to Minxes of Romance. My Maine Coon Charlie loves rewarding readers – and he would like to offer a special giveaway of a  signed book from my backlist to one commenter.

The Return of the Stranger by Kate Walker

M&B Modern September 2nd 2011
Presents Extra October 4th 2011

Standing high on the windswept moors, the lone figure of Heath Montanha vows vengeance on the woman who destroyed the last fragments of his heart... Lady Katherine Charlton has never forgotten the stablehand with dangerous fists and a troubled heart from her childhood. Now the rebel is back, his powerful anger concealed under a polished and commanding veneer. When ten years of scandal and secrets are unleashed, with a passionate, furious kiss, Heath's deepest, darkest wish crystallises... Revenge -- and Kat -- will be his!

Buy The Return of the Stranger at the following:

Amazon UK, Amazon US, eHarlequin, Mills & Boon, Mills & Boon Australia

Where can readers find you?

Author Page created by Romance Book Paradise Promotions

Monday, October 3, 2011

How much do you want it?

I've had this blog post in my mind to write for months and have promised it since mid summer [sorry, Minxes!].

Many times I've heard it said that you are not a real writer unless you have been rejected as that gives you something to show for the hard work you put into your writing.

I didn't really understand that until this summer when I received my first real rejection. After entering the Feel the Heat competition almost two years ago now, I was asked to send something else directly to an editor at Mills & Boon. I was overjoyed with the request and thought I was on my way--I had dreams of hearing back in record time and contract offers!

Life got in the way a little and it wasn't until 7 months later that I sent a new, sparkling chapter to the editor in question who I was lucky enough to meet at the RNA conference last year. She asked for the partial to be sent directly to her. Again, I had the same excited dreams of instant success.

Then I landed in the real world and came back down from post conference romancelandia euphoria. Although I had the partial written, something was stopping me from sending it off. I then heard about the medical fast track and thought it was a wonderful opportunity. After all, instead of waiting for months, you heard back within a month--guaranteed. I talked myself out of it, after all I already had a partial request I needed to send. But on a car journey to the seaside I had *the most amazing idea*. You know the ones, they are the ideas where you literally have to stop the car and scribble down notes to yourself.

I wrote a chapter and a half in record quick time and sent it off. Within two days I had a request for a partial. Two days!! Now I was totally spoilt. After sending off the partial, waiting longer than a few weeks was murder. I was lucky enough to get a full request, again very quickly, and decided why not send both--so while I worked to finish and polish the medical I sent off the Modern partial.

The medical went off in February this year and while waiting for an answer to the Modern partial I thought I'd better write the rest--just in case it was requested. I couldn't. I got to the mid way point and had too many other *wonderful new ideas* to concentrate. There was something wrong. Fast forward to summer this year and my first real rejection. A form rejection of the Modern. I felt deflated, sad, disappointed. But there was something missing. I didn't feel the gut wrenching agony I felt every time I thought about my medical full, the tingle in my stomach every time I imagined someone reading my story.

This taught me something valuable. If you are not emotionally invested in your work, if you don't feel the pain of your characters as they go through their black moment, if you don't cry along with them when they feel all is lost then how on earth will your readers feel it? My Modern may well have been a nice little story, but that's all it was. I was writing what I thought the editors wanted to read. I wasn't writing what was in my heart, I wasn't putting everything I had out there on the page.

And that really is the lesson I learnt this year. I'd read that advice before from published authors, that you need to bleed on the page, that you must feel for your characters because only part of that emotion would come through in your written words. But I'd never really understood what Michelle Styles and Donna Alward meant, never really *got it*. Now I do.

I hope!