Friday, December 23, 2011

A Minxy Holiday Treat

As of today the Minxes are now officially on holiday, and the blog is closed. We wish you a wonderful holiday season, and look forward to seeing you back here in the new year.

I'm going to leave you with my current favourite Christmas song, Santa Baby from Kylie Minogue. Don't you agree that Kylie looks particularly Minxy in this video?

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Author Spotlight - Rachael Johns

Today the Minxes are very proud and pleased to welcome one of our very best writing friends to the blog. We are all overjoyed that Rach's hard work and wonderful writing has been recognised by Carina Press. Here's Rach to tell you all about her debut!

What is your writing process?

There’s supposed to be a process? Oh dear! Well... I guess maybe I do have SOME sort of process. I generally start with a premise or a seed of an idea. In ONE PERFECT NIGHT I wanted to write about a hero who had night terrors and I wanted a Christmas story. The characters evolved from there. I’ll then usually write some notes about their conflicts – but this is something I REALLY need to work on. For my last few novels, I’ve written a rough synopsis before starting to write – either to enter into a contest or to show an ed. After the synopsis and the character conflicts, I dive right in. I usually steam ahead for the first four or five chaps and then DOUBT overwhelms me. I wail a lot to my CPs and think this is the worst thing I’ve ever written and there’s NO WAY I can do it. But I plod on.

I do VERY little rewriting – but polish a lot as I go. So far my only major rewrites have been the result of revisions from editors. I LOVE the idea of rewriting but just can’t seem to work myself up to it unless I have a request for revs.

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 pretty lucky in that I live in a small town and there’s not much opportunity for shoe shopping. I DO love shopping online but shoes have never worked for me that way. I DO however procrastinate in a zillion other ways – the Internet being my biggest time-waster. I don’t know if I have any method as such, other than trying to reach a word goal every day. And I try to write every day (although I often fail miserably at this)!

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

I’m rolling on the floor laughing at this question. Does that count as a fitness routine? The short answer is no. The expanded answer is that I go through exercise binges, not generally when I’m in the middle of writing a book though. I use no-time as a fabulous excuse 

Do you believe in writer's block?

Yes and no. Yes, when I’m struggling – lol – and no, when I’m on a writing roll. Although I think if you’re writing as a career, you sometimes have to write through such down times. I think blocks are often the result of taking a wrong turn or not having enough conflict in the story. When I’m blocked I often go back and read everything I’ve written in a wip so far. Yes, it’s time-consuming but I figure it’s better to do that than waste time on crap words.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book?

If so, did it get you into trouble? Hmm... am trying to think, but I don’t think I have. I’m sure a lot of the things in my books have happened to other people but not to me. The closest I’ve probably got is writing a magician hero – my grandfather was a magician!

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

To be honest, I barely FEEL published yet. Am still pinching myself at regular intervals. I think the difference is I feel less guilty for taking time to write. Aside from that, I’m still doing everything pretty much as I was before. Promotion is no longer a dirty word.

In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?

I try to blog regularly (lol) and have a Facebook Author page and a Twitter account. I could hang out on Twitter all day but I’m trying to limit myself. I’m also on Good Reads but not very active there. Oh and I love guest blogging on fabulous sites such as this one 

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Write more books.

What did you learn while writing this book?

That sometimes you do have to follow your gut and doing revisions that don’t sit right with you is not always a wise move. I’ll clarify – this book was first aimed at Mills & Boon. I was asked to make revisions, which included removing the Christmas element and the family element and losing the boss/employee hook. While I’m all for doing revisions if requested, I think you need to look at whether the revisions will stay true to the story. Mills & Boon may as well have asked me to write another book. I tried, but it just didn’t work out because it was no longer my story. Saying that I did quite heavy revisions for Carina too but they didn’t ask me to change the essence of the story.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

Can I say typing The End? No? Alright... I have to say it was brainstorming the characters and coming up with their premise. I love the beginning of creating a novel.

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

I think Cameron would take Peppa away at Christmas to a place that is covered in snow. He’s a bit of a romantic underneath his tough exterior and I think he’d like to experience the magic of Christmas in a cold climate with her. I’m thinking there’d be an isolated log cabin and a wood fire involved.


Peppa Grant's fellow employees may call their new CEO Mr. McSexy, but she's also heard that he's aloof and distant. Cameron McCormac certainly seems cold toward Christmas when she meets him at the company's annual party...but he's also the sexiest man Peppa has ever seen. And when he offers to forgive the damage she accidentally caused to his expensive car in exchange for accompanying him to his family's holiday get-together, she agrees.

Cameron needs a date to the family party to get his matchmaking relatives off his back. Their chemistry is instant and undeniable, leading to an incredible one-night stand. But Peppa wants love and family, while Cameron's only interested in temporary pleasure. When their relationship takes an unexpectedly serious turn, will he run the other way—or will he give love a second chance?

Carina Press

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Rachael has kindly offered a give-away to one non-minxy commentator so please get commenting to get yourself in the running for a fab early Christmas present!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Everyone Needs a "Kalinda"

First off, if you don’t watch The Good Wife, then you’ll probably not know what I’m talking about.

Secondly, if you don’t watch it, why on earth not??! The Good Wife is like, the best show on earth, for goodness’ sake! Ahem…*reins self back in*

To give a thumbnail sketch, The Good Wife is a drama series set in a Chicago law firm of Lockheart Gardner, and Kalinda Sharma is an investigator for the firm. But she is oh-so-much-more than just an investigator. Kalinda’s stock phrase, “I’ll take care of it”, is usually uttered in a little more than a whisper. And boy does she!
From discovering that one of the consultant’s ex-wives who’s looking to run for the senate seat used to sleep with Osama’s cousin (cue supersized hilarity), to rescuing the daughter of The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick, from a baptism her parents didn’t approve, Kalinda is a must-have-would-give-an-arm-and-a-leg-for accessory in everyone’s life.

Especially as we hurtle towards Christmas (less than a week away, ack!) I find myself wishing I had my own personal Kalinda. Believe me, this is the time of year when it seems everything that can go wrong, does. In the past week, I’ve had to deal with a work appraisal, organising an almost 10-year old birthday party, organise a family trip for next summer (had to do it or lose out on a good deal), deal with extended family issues whilst organising care packages for said family, attend school Christmas plays (note the plural), and take extra care of my mother-in-law who was missing her son as much as I was missing my DH who was away on a business trip.

Believe me, there were days I didn’t want to get out of bed, let alone take care of my kids and get myself to the day job and back again. As for the writing, it didn’t even get a look in.

So I’m here, at the day job, wishing the work would magically take care of itself, all the shopping get done by itself, the turkey magically appear in my freezer… But especially that my Kalinda would managed to get the eds to respond to my CPs who've been waiting for answers from various editors for months and months, and in one case a *year* on a partial...

Ah, what the hell… *closes eyes and makes a wish for very own Kalinda*

In case Santa’s too late with my Kalinda and I get buried under my rubble of insaneness, I just want to wish you love and a peaceful holiday season. If you have a moment though, I’d love to know what you would do with your own personal Kalinda?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Author Spotlight - Shirley Jump

Our latest author under the glare of the spotlight is Shirley Jump. The first book she sold to Silhouette Romance THE VIRGIN'S PROPOSAL, won the Booksellers' Best Award for Best Traditional Romance of 2003. Two of her subsequent books were finalists in the Golden Quill Awards and two others were finalists in the Madcap Awards for best romantic comedy. She is also a Reviewers' Choice Award winner. In 2007, she won the Holt Medallion for RESCUED BY MR. RIGHT and the More than Magic Award for "Twelve Days" in SUGAR AND SPICE. Right, now that's out of the way, on to Shirley and the questions!

What is your writing process?

I start with a what-if situation (what if a man who never wants children suddenly finds out he’s a father), then figure out who would be in that situation and why. I don’t do a lot of plotting or preplanning on my shorter books but will do it on the longer books that have multiple plot layers. In all my books, though, I start writing and go about three chapters in before I step back and figure out the rest of the plot. Then I ignore my synopsis and write straight through, entirely by the seat of my pants. I do all the revisions and final read through and then write the last scene, because until the entire rest of the book is done, I have no idea how it will really end. I find I tend to bury the clues to my ending in the book, and when I pull them out at the end, the whole thing just comes together.

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 use shoe shopping (and other fun things like lunch with friends) as “carrots” to keep me working. Like today I want to get to the mall for Christmas shopping, and my deal with myself is that I have to finish one chapter and revise another before I go anywhere. If I don’t do it, shopping has to wait :-(. That tends to keep me on track.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
I’ve found the older I get, the more that is a HUGE necessity. It’s not just about combating “writer spread,” it’s about having energy and overall wellbeing. I go to the gym 5 times a week. I do spin classes, run on the treadmill and do one overall body class that uses weights, so I get a nice variety in there every week. It also helps me keep up with the kids, LOL.

Do you believe in writer's block?
Not at all. I know there are people who swear they are blocked, but to me, there are just days when the writing is hard and days when it is easy. It’s the same as any job—some days things go well, some days you’re slogging through oatmeal to get that project finished. I used to write for a newspaper and had to produce two stories a day, 365 days a year, no matter what. That taught me pretty quickly that there is no such thing as writer’s block—there’s only getting the job done.

What have the changes to the current Harlequin lines and branding meant to you? Have they affected your writing process?
No, not really. To me, a Shirley Jump book is a Shirley Jump book. I write the same kind of book I always have, and try to vary it by doing some comedies and some more dramatic books. But other than that, I really don’t think about the shifts in the lines or branding.

What do you think makes a Riva book Riva? (or a Cherish book Cherish?)
I’ve had books in both, and to me, a Riva book is more fun, more cosmopolitan (meaning city settings, and the kind of energy and adventures that come with that) while the Cherish books tackle the harder subjects and have more of a cozy, small-town feel.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
Real life inspires me, and some things from my real life will sneak in from time to time (like the fainting goat I put into “The Marine’s Kiss”, a true funny story from my son’s birthday party). I grew up in a small town and lived in one for a while when we moved to Indiana, so there are lots of elements of small town living that make it into my books, too!

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
LOL—it’s not all feather boas and reclining on the sofa with a poodle! It’s far harder work than people think, and it’s not glamorous. But that’s okay, because I’m really a person who likes to cozy up in my sweats and work. I also think a lot of writers don’t understand that this is a business and there’s a huge business component to being an author. It’s not just about writing the books—it’s about being savvy and plugged in to the publishing world.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I still like to do it on a more personal level. I have done some mass newsletters, etc. But I really like connecting with my readers on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. It has more of a friend feel, and I’m not just selling the newest book to them—I’m building a relationship.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Treat every reader special. If they take the time to approach you, talk to you, write to you, become your friend on FB, etc, treat them special. Everyone wants to feel special, and without our readers, we wouldn’t be here.

What did you learn while writing this book?
That I’m a sucker for anything Christmas, LOL. I absolutely, positively love writing Christmas books. They’re my favorite ones to write and every time I do one, I get that warm and fuzzy holiday feeling again.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
It’s my fourth book set in Riverbend, and for me, returning to those familiar characters is a blast. I love Earl and Betsy, and seeing their romance come along has been a blast. Readers really connect with those two characters, too, and love being able to return to these familiar neighbors.

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
My hero is a romantic at heart, and he’d whisk the heroine off to a tropical destination. Maybe something a little different, like Fiji, where he could spoil the heroine mercilessly. She deserves the time away—and after a chilly Christmas in Indiana—the time in the sun!

Thanks so much for going Minxy for the day, Shirley! Here's some details about Shirley's latest book, A Family Christmas in Riverbend, which sounds just the read for the holidays!:

Christmas miracle: from tough tycoon…to daddy?

Edward left Livia because he knew he couldn't give her the family and marriage she wanted. But when he's forced to return home to snowy, sparkling Riverbend, he discovers Livia has moved there, too—with her tiny baby in tow!
Livia had hoped desperately that Edward would remain away until time blurred the memory of his lips on hers. Now, she longs for him, but how can she tell him her precious daughter is not just hers…but theirs?

You can buy Family Christmas in Riverbend by clicking the links that follow for, (this one is for the paperback) for the ebook edition, for the paperback
Barnes & Noble and all the usual places.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Man of the Year poll

If you've been following the Minxes for a while, you'll know that every month this year we've treated you to our luscious favourites--the men we've painstakingly researched to bring to you, our lovely blog readers.

So with a man from every month we now bring you the ultimate in pin up calendars: The Minx Guide to Buffness!!

Mr January is Ireland's Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Mr February is Wales's Ioan Gruffud.

Mr March is Scotland's John Barrowman.

Mr April is England's Daniel Craig.

In May we brought you the medical fave Jesse Williams.

In June it was policeman fave Chris O'Donnell.

In July Daniel Gillies.

August's winner was fast moving F1 racer Jenson Button.

September brought about the first ever tie between Usain Bolt and Oscar Pistorius.

The last months of the year brought us Rugby Union fave Sonny Bill Williams.

And last month's fave, another Kiwi, was Jared Waerea-Hargreaves

 The poll is now up and we're looking for the Man of the Year so please help us with your votes. And yes, greedy Minxes who always want more than one--there's only ONE vote per person!!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Exceeding Expectations

Since it's still Friday in most parts of the world, this blog post isn't technically late. Much.

I would have posted something earlier, but I got caught up watching a Christmas movie. You know, one of those made-for-TV movies that appear at this time of year, with not a single familiar face in the cast and a predictable story line? As you might have guessed, I'm not a big fan of these kinds of movies. [Give me The Proposal any day!] But this one really hooked me.

It was called A Christmas Kiss. Romance readers will recognise the story line as a tried and tested theme: girl kisses hot guy, then finds out he's her bosses' boyfriend. Okay, so the usual trope would be he turns out to be the boss, so the movie makers at least managed to put a fresh spin on this one.

What I enjoyed about this movie was that it has a fresh, young, contemporary feel, and wasn't too schmaltzy. Whether you adore every holiday themed movie out there, or whether you're more picky like me, watch this film. It's guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

There was only one thing I didn't quite like about this film, and it was only as the end credits rolled that I finally worked out what it was. The hero.

As a romance writer, I've diligently studied what makes a good romantic hero, and I've developed my own ideas of how a hero (especially an alpha hero) should behave. And it's spoiled me. I can no longer sit back and enjoy a book or movie without constantly measuring up the hero against my own very high expectations.

A hero who manages to get through an hour and a half of TV time not realising that his girlfriend is a witch spelled with a B, and in all that time doesn't realise that the girl he kissed right at the start of the movie is the heroine, just doesn't measure up for me.

So I'm going to dig out my battered copy of The Proposal and remind myself how a true alpha hero behaves. Because Ryan Reynolds always exceeds my expectations - especially when he's shirtless.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Author Spotlight - Trish Wylie

We're delighted here at the minxes today, to welcome minx favourite, Trish Wylie, who's here to answer minxy questions and tell us all about her new book. Trish would like to give a signed copy of her latest Riva, The Inconvenient Laws of Attraction to one lucky (non-minx) commenter, so do leave a comment below!

Right - let the questions begin...

What is your writing process?
It usually starts with a snippet of something; a line of dialogue or something I have watched which I thought should have a different ending or left me asking questions. Next up I'll 'cast' my hero and heroine with pretty pictures and create character profiles, thinking about the conflict which keeps them apart. With a few scenes in mind I wing it from there, keeping an eye on the word-count for turning points.

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 find the need to eat a great motivator but on the really bad days I'll simply keep plugging away at it-even if I'm writing complete twaddle-and set myself a word-count goal. Once I'm over the 'hump' and get going again, I'll delete a lot of what it took to get me there.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
I've tried pretty much everything from exercising with a Swiss Ball to WII Fit and have discovered a total lack of self-motivation until about a fortnight before I have to meet people in the writing world. The only thing I do regularly is walk my dogs and look after my horses.

Do you believe in writer's block?
Yes, but I believe there's always an underlying cause for it. In my case it started with burn-out after a particularly busy writing year combined with my first ever run of publicity. When real life decided to add to my woes with family problems I found it even more difficult to write happily-ever-afters. What I have learned is to pace myself, prioritize and allow space for down-time in my schedule. The creative process is all in the mind so I strongly believe taking care of your mental health is every bit as important as your physical well-being.

What have the changes to the current Harlequin lines and branding meant to you? Have they affected your writing process?
Personally I've found it liberating. Over the years I had ideas for stories I didn't feel quite 'fit' in either of the lines I was writing for and often found I was 'reining myself in', despite encouragement from my editor to think outside the box. With Riva I'm pitching the kind of stories I love best and am having an incredible amount of fun writing them. My process hasn't changed any more than it already had for me to get out of my writing 'funk', but I don't feel like I'm holding back now.

What do you think makes a Riva book Riva?
When I think Riva, I think of films like The Proposal, 27 Dresses, Two Weeks Notice and Failure To Launch. They're an incredibly fun read with stories which frequently catch me off-guard. I love that about Riva.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
Yes, but since it was a long, long time ago and no-one has figured it out, I reckon I've got away with it.

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
The thing I really wasn't prepared for was how much I've ended up doing online. Like most people I couldn't afford to pay someone to set up and run a website for me, so I found myself on a pretty steep learning curve. I'm still learning but at least now I have a better idea of what works for me and what doesn't so I can prioritize accordingly. On the plus side I had no idea how many new friends I would make across the world. I can honestly say my life has been enriched by the people I've met. I'll be forever grateful for that and for the support they gave me when things were tough.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
In the early days I did everything people told me to do; sent out books for reviews, entered contests, took out ads on websites, blogged daily, did interviews and talks, was active on numerous loops, had a presence on MySpace and Facebook and Bebo and, and, and... Some of those things I definitely think helped to get my name out there but eventually it started to eat into my writing time and something had to give. These days I'm a huge fan of Twitter and it's word-count restrictions, am attempting to blog weekly and intend to keep up with a handful of review sites and contests. Anything else will be totally dependent on my writing schedule since I strongly believe the most effective promotion is the books and telling the best stories I possibly can.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
The latter part of the last answer. I'd then add there's no point doing promotion if you have nothing to promote, and say if a reader enjoys a book by a particular author, they will go looking for more by them.

What did you learn while writing this book?
I discovered it was necessary to mix things up to get back on track. I used to write to music, I wrote the majority of this one in silence. I used to write without stopping to edit, this time I had to have every scene tight before I moved on to the next. I used to type everything into a Word doc, now I write a lot of scenes in long hand and type up my work a the end of the day. I should also add this book taught me that I can still write. On my darkest days I sincerely doubted I could.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
When the characters were fully formed and took hold of the story. I love when that happens and frequently discover things I didn't know; Liv's NYPD brothers doing background checks on every guy they see her with being one of them...

And just for fun: what would your hero's honeymoon destination of choice be?
He wouldn't be fussy about the 'where' part so long as they were locked indoors with no interruptions.

Thanks so much for the author spotlight, Trish. Trish will pick a winner a week after the post goes live, and pass on their name to the minxes, who will put out a call for contact details for one lucky winner!

Here's a little about The Inconvenient Laws of Attraction...
Laying Down The Law
Lawyer Olivia Brannigan has faced down some cool customers in her time. But latest client Blake Clayton takes emotional control to a whole new level. The man didn't even bat an eyelid when he discovered he'd inherited a fortune from his estranged father!
Blake doesn't want guilt money - the only thing piquing his interest is the tough-talking, sweet-looking lawyer that comes with his new property portfolio.
Dating on the job isn't in Olivia's 'Guide to Good Client-Lawyer Relationships' and it certainly doesn't sit easily with her 'no strings' attitude... But aren't rules always made to be broken?

The Inconvenient Laws of Attraction is available all over the place, but most especially here:

Mills & Boon Website: - Paperback (also available in Kindle edition, search around for it!) - Kindle

Monday, December 5, 2011

A book recommendation...

I've just finished reading "It Started with a Kiss" by Miranda Dickinson - if you're looking for a cockle warmer for your Christmas stocking, this could be just the thing. I really enjoyed it.
The story centres around twenty-nine year old Romily, who has a brief encounter with her ideal man... one perfect kiss, and then he's gone. She gives herself twelve months to track him down, and sets out on a quest that snowballs into a popular blog and newspaper coverage. Does she find him? I won't spoil it for you, but suffice to say there are a couple of twists along the way that I didn't see coming. Running alongside the main story there's the fact that Romily is the singer in a wedding band, and their various gigs and weddings make a glorious romantic backdrop for the story to play out against. Throw in a cast of friends and family that spice the story up nicely, and it's a proper Christmas 'curl up on the sofa and escape'  sort of read - the ideal antidote to a hard days Christmas shopping!
'It Started with a Kiss' has only been on release for a couple of weeks, and I can see why it has already hit the Sunday Times Bestsellers list. It's warm and sparkly, one to read over the holidays with a big mug of hot chocolate.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Movie Review - Only You

Every so often, an old movie pops up on TV, which, even though I've seen it loads of times, I have to watch. Only You is one of those movies. Made in 1994, it stars Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr, and I love it.

Marisa plays Faith, a woman who believes utterly in destiny, and that every person on earth has a soul-mate. At the beginning of the film, when she is only eleven, she earnestly tells her brother, Larry:
Soulmates are our destiny.
We all have one.
My soulmate is the one I'm supposed to wait for, the one that will wait for me.

Playing with a ouija board, Faith learns the name of her soulmate, Damon Bradley. And later, a meeting with a fortune teller confirms that Damon Bradley is her destiny, although the fortune teller warns her : The truth is, you make your own destiny, don't wait for it to come to you.

As an adult, without meeting Damon, she accepts the proposal of her exact opposite, the practical and unromantic doctor, Duane. But even then she longs for romance, watching romantic movies with a soundtrack of 'Some Enchanted Evening,' and declaring that love is all to her disollutioned sister-in-law, who plays the perfect counterpart to her romantic lead.

Ten days before her wedding, Faith learns that Damon Bradley is in Venice, and, dressed in her wedding dress (which she's trying on) immediately dashes to the airport to find him.

What happens next is a delightful romance, where she meets the man of her dreams (played by Robert Downey Jr,) falls in love with him, and then rejects him when he admits that he is not, in fact, Damon Bradley, but is the man of her dreams in every other aspect.

I won't spoil the ending by explaining any more about the plot, but I find this story beautifully crafted. Echoes run through it in complex webs. On a date with Robert's character, Peter, (while she thinks he's Damon), they have so much in common - so many things they both love, that it is obvious they belong together. As if to confirm it, a street musician plays 'Some Enchanted Evening' as they walk past, and they stop to dance in the street....

If you haven't seen it, and you love romantic movies, track down Only You. You'll love it!