Friday, September 30, 2011

Movie Review: Red Riding Hood

For weeks I drove passed an eye-catching billboard and thought "I have to see that movie!" Luckily it came out on DVD fairly quickly, and this weekend I got to enjoy director Catherine Hardwicke's take on this classic fairy tale.

For those who don't follow these things, Catherine Hardwicke directed Twilight (the first movie in the series). Since she worked as a production designer before becoming a director, it's no surprise that this latest movie is a visual feast. Red Riding Hood is sumptuously designed with stunning costumes and sets.

Don't expect historical accuracy. Do expect a fairy tale quality with more than a dash of sinister thrown in.


The film stars Amanda Seyfried of Mamma Mia and Letters to Juliet fame, and the back up cast is phenomenal: Gary Oldman, Billy Burke (also the dad in Twilight), Lukas Haas and Julie Christie. And for those who enjoy their eye candy (like me!), there are two rather attractive young men to ogle: Shiloh Fernandez and Max Irons (son of Jeremy).

Interestingly, Shiloh Fernandez made the shortlist for the role of Edward Cullen in Twilight. He has a remarkable resemblance to Robert Pattinson, though without the squashed nose. I would have loved to see him in the role, but since that's never going to happen, I'll take whatever I can get of him!


As for the movie itself ... I loved it. Just the right balance of drama, action and romance for my tastes - and it's beautiful to look at! Go take a look for yourself.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Author Spotlight - Claire Robyns

Today's author in the spotlight is a friend of mine, a South African now living in England, and I am incredibly proud and pleased to be able to introduce her to you. Claire is celebrating the launch of her second novel through Carina Press. her first, Betrayed, is an historical romance set in Scotland, and her latest is a fun contemporary romance.

What is your writing process?
I don’t do detailed plotting up front. An idea usually comes to me slowly and in stages. Sometimes it’s a character, sometimes a plot arc — once it was just the title of the book. As I muse over the idea, which can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of years, the plot and characters take direction and start to form a cohesive story. Note, I say ‘start’… because once I start writing, nothing’s set in stone. Most times, it’s not even set in jello.

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?
Is this where I admit how much I hate shoe shopping? I can never find what I’m looking for and usually come home grumpy and empty-handed!
But, if I’m struggling, the only thing that helps me is to write. Doesn’t matter if it’s only a couple of sentences a day, doesn’t matter if I end up deleting everything, just the processing of hitting keys and getting words out usually seems to start the rhythm again pretty quickly.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
If lifting my arm up and down as I slurp coffee counts, then, why, yes, I do have an exercise regime, LOL

Do you believe in writer's block?
Whatever you call it, I think it’s natural for many writers to go through a dry spell where either ideas aren’t coming hard and fast, or the ideas are there but not the words to tell them with.
I do believe that any kind of block can be persevered through, be it by some free-writing, a change of scenery, maybe changing up your genre even with a short story, or whatever else it takes to push through. We’re all human, and sometimes we just overload ourselves.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
I just did, in Second-Guessing Fate
I’m a total fortune-teller sceptic, exactly like Gemma in Second-Guessing Fate, but many years ago a friend dragged me, kicking and screaming, to her personal fortune-teller. I came away from that experience vaguely intrigued, but still a whole lot sceptical. I’ve always remembered the experience, though, and years later it wormed its way into my plot.
However, I’m more likely to use real-life incidents to spark a plot or character and that’s as far as the resemblance goes, not nearly real-life accurate enough for anyone to recognise themselves or confront me on the subject. So far…

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
Well, I’d been writing (let’s call it honing my craft) for about 8 years before I contracted my debut book. That’s a lot of time I spent hanging around with fellow aspiring authors and ‘stalking’ published writers. Also, because of the internet and especially the fantastic romance authors out there always ready to share their experiences and answer questions, by the time I finally sold a book I had a pretty accurate idea of what to expect after the champagne bubbles have fizzled out i.e. triple the work with edits and promo on top of the current WIP, but no hope in sight of giving up the day job to free up more time 

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I guess I don’t do anything unique or different from other authors. After a year of running a website and a blog, I’ve combined the two to make it easier to manage. I’m on Facebook but I’m far more active on twitter than anywhere else. I find twitter great for chatting with other authors and connecting with reviewers and readers.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Well, sometimes for me promo feels like preaching to the converted. One of my biggest challenges is reaching audiences beyond my usual circle. This year I’ve joined in Rachael Harries’ Platform Building Campaign, which has proved great so far in connecting with bloggers beyond my usual scope. In a similar vein, I think Blogfests are also good for this.

What did you learn while writing this book?
With my historicals, I always learn heaps because of the research required. This book, being a contemporary, I learnt more on the editing side than during the actual writing. As Second-Guessing Fate is set in Manhattan, my New York savvy editor helped out a lot and I learnt all about the Manhattan way of life.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
Oh, I had such fun writing about Gemma’s antics as she attempts to get herself dumped. The whole situation was so bizarre that I could allow my imagination to roam free, the crazier the better 

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
PARIS
Why? Because he’d ask advice from his buddies, of course, and here’s what they’d say…
Jackson: Paris, man, don’t even think about taking her anywhere else.
Billy, nodding sagely: Women really buy into that stuff about it being the City of Love. A little suffering up front goes a long way.
Gus: And don’t forget the kiss at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Chicks are weird that way. Do this right and our Saturday poker nights will be safe for at least the next year.

Tell us about your book.


Can She Outwit Fate? 
Gemma is on a collision course with heartbreak. At least, according to the fortune-teller her best friend drags her to see. Gemma doesn't believe a word of it, but when other predictions start to come true, she begins to suspect that gorgeous, gray-eyed Nick is the man foretold to break her heart before she can find her soul mate. Too bad she's never met a man she's wanted more, because now she has to get him to dump her before she falls too hard.

Nick has plans of his own. He's ready to settle down with Ms. Right, and everything points to the beautiful Gemma. He's determined to prove to her that he's the perfect boyfriend—even if she does seem to be trying her best to scare him off…

Thanks for having me here, Minxes 

* * *

Second-Guessing Fate is available wherever eBooks are sold. You can find it at Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble and direct from Carina Press.

You can also catch up with Claire on her blog and on Twitter.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Editing Checklist

As some of you will be out there polishing your New Voices entries (have just pressed send myself, gulp.) I thought I'd share my editing checklist. This is what I use to spruce up my writing and hopefully make it presentable. It can be a bit of a faff but I think it's worth it. Please add your own suggestions. What do you do to polish your writing?

  1. Check for clich├ęs and express using your own words.
  1. Check for overused or ‘telling not showing’ words using the ‘Find’ function in Word – some of my guilty culprits are: was, felt, just, that, actually, began to, started, he/she felt, though, observed.
  1. Reduce adverbs by simmering them gently on the hob…okay, sorry, couldn’t resist that one!
  1. Cut pairs of adjectives, less is more!
  1. Check for repetitions, choose the best and lose the rest!
  1. Look out for unnecessary exclamation marks! (er, see above ;-)
  1. Don’t show AND tell; we’re not at school anymore.
  1. Cut unnecessary repetition of tense – I’d, she’d…
  1. Look for repeated words and use thesaurus or imagination as required.
  1. Make characters take note of surroundings, create a sense of place.
  1. Use all the senses, layer in smells, sounds, colour, texture etc
  1. Listen to it out loud, if your computer has a text to speech function use it, it’s amazing what it helps you pick out (the eye always sees what it expects to), if not try reading it aloud yourself, does the dialogue sound natural?
  1. If anything bores you cut it. Face it, if you’re bored then your reader probably will be too.
  1. Let someone you trust read it to look for typos etc
  1. If you get to the stage where you’re thoroughly sick of it it’s probably time to submit the wretched thing :-)


    Friday, September 23, 2011

    New Romance Imprints!

    E-books a go go!

    From Random House - In August, a new digital imprint Loveswept launched!
    They say: Loveswept is a publishing collaboration between Transworld Publishers and our sister company Ballantine Bantam Dell in the U.S., and it's logo says 'Classic and Original E-book romances from the Random House Publishing Group.
    There are a list of authors and releases on Romance At Random
    Sue Grimshaw at Romance At Random advised me that the word count for submissions ranges from 30-90K, and they are looking for all sub-genres of romance. Most importantly, Loveswept are not category romance, so there is not a set criteria or guidelines to follow. They are looking for the best books, with emotion, well developed characters and strong plots.
    Sounds great, doesn't it? If you think you have written something that fits the bill, query Sue at romanceatrandom@randomhouse.com.

    And in other news: Another publisher in the Random House Group, Ebury Press are launching a new digital imprint too called Rouge.

    Here's what the press release says:
    Ebury haved announced the launch of an exciting new straight-to-digital romance list, Rouge, which will launch on 29th September with eight titles, and four titles per month thereafter, to satisfy the huge reading appetites of romance readers. Ebury have also designed a dedicated and interactive website, http://www.rougeromance.co.uk/, where readers can discuss the books, read extracts and enter competitions.

    Editorial Director (Fiction) Gillian Green said 'Given the growth in eBooks and new developments in technology, we felt that the time was right to launch a dedicated romance list. We know that romance readers have been among the first to embrace ebooks and we want to bring them the best romantic fiction out there. Our list is diverse and there's something for every romance reader on it. What all the titles have in common is they are all utterly escapist sexy romances with a guaranteed happy ending from some of the brightest names in romantic fiction. Whilst we're initially looking at eBooks, we have print rights in all the titles on the Rouge list and are looking forward to launching print editions of our most popular titles too.'

    The Rouge list will be split into six sub-genres - Regency, Historical, Suspense, Contemporary, Paranormal and Occasions and includes many award-winning, New York Times best-selling authors. All the novels are full length and feature covers specially designed for the UK market. They will all be available for under £5. Ebury has bought UK digital and print rights for all titles in the list.

    In other Minx news, two more minxes have entered New Voices -

    You can read Sri's entry here:
    http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/316-The-Price-of-Freedom

    And Lorraine's here:
    http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/369-Confessions-of-a-Chalet-Girl

    Great work, Minxes!

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011

    Author Spotlight - Cathy Maxwell

    It's the equinox today, the day where the northern hemisphere hovers on the brink of winter, and where we in the southern hemisphere rejoice as summer makes its debut. It's a good moment to take stock of what's important, and so we ask that you take especial note of the appeal at the bottom of this post.

    Today's author in the spotlight is Avon historical author Cathy Maxwell (who hails from the northern hemisphere).

    * * *

    What is your writing process?
    I don’t have any one process. Each book seems to take up a life of its own and has to be worked in whatever manner is demanded. Kinda like my kids. What worked for my oldest, didn’t work for the second, and the third? Forget about 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?
    The methods I use to keep at it on days I don’t want to write . . . .thinking about my mortgage, college tuition, the electric bill. Seriously! I support myself with my writing. I remind myself that I am doing what thousands for writers wish they could do. I put my tush in the chair and slog through. Then I keep my tush in the chair and revise. Good books are in the revisions. The revising part is my favorite. I like working off of an outline, even one that is a mess. (By the way, thank you for reminding me of that since I am currently creating a mess.)

    Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
    I have a horse and I ride him. We put around and it is good for both of us. I love to get my chica on and Zumba. I’ve recently taken up a Spin class. I prefer the express ones--45 minutes vs. an hour. Spin is not my favorite, a necessary evil. I attend at least one water aerobics class a week. Great for my core and my water baby soul. And I try to practice yoga every day. I also catch a yoga class with my teacher once a week. It’s one thing to practice yoga on my own and another with my teacher. Reading this, you are probably wondering when I have time to write.

    Do you believe in writer's block?
    Yes. There are all sorts of factors that can weigh on creativity. Doubt and uncertainty are two major ones. I expend good energy on maintaining my creativity. The hardest time I had writing was the year after my husband died. I tried to remind myself that he would have been disappointed if I gave up. My publisher was very supportive during this time. Focusing on renewing my energy helped me finally regain my writing balance.

    Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
    I use real life all the time. Where else should I draw inspiration? I don’t believe it has gotten me into trouble. I think everyone is still speaking to me . . . hmmm, well now, you’ve given me something to think about. Is everyone still speaking to me?

    In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
    If anything, it is better than I could ever have imagined it. I like setting my own hours. My husband traveled and writing allowed me to be available to my children and still work. I also like following anything that interests me, knowing every experience, every meeting, every adventure is all fodder for books. And I like the people I meet. Writers come from all different backgrounds. I’m never surprised to learn who is writing a book and find their life stories fascinating.

    Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
    I do the usual, a website, FB, guest blogging on loops. I’ve never minded promotion. I enjoy people so I like to talk and rub shoulders with folks. But the most effective way to win over readers is to put my energy in my books. People can lack me all they want, but if the book isn’t good, all the promotion in the world will not help.

    What is your top promo tip for other authors?
    Write the best book you can. Readers will find you.

    What did you learn while writing this book?
    I toyed with the Alpha/Beta male. Over lunch last week, some readers were complaining about the men they were meeting. They want a take charge man who can change a tire, fix the plumbing, and tell them to stop shopping. Okay, well, maybe not the latter. But they want someone they will listen to and respect. In THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL, I’m riffing on that same idea. Do we really want the ueber-strong male? Or a cross of strength and compassion? I sense the last. I believe that when we break down what we want, both men and women, we are all looking for someone we trust and someone who isn’t afraid to step up to the plate. Whiners and welchers are not heroic.

    What was the most fun part of writing this book?
    The dynamic scenes between Corinne and Will. You know, the ones where they go toe-to-toe. Great fun!

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

    Spending a summer week in the Cotswolds lazing in a hammock and enjoying the peace, the calm, the beauty--wait! That is my dream. Lazing around is what I want to do!
    As for my hero, he doesn’t care where he is as long as there is a feather mattress and his wife. Men have a remarkable habit of cutting right to the chase.

    And finally, some extra thoughts from me--

    The most important news about my new book THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL doesn’t have anything to do with the book, but about the meaning behind the K.I.S.S. and Teal label on the book’s cover. Avon Books has donated $25,000 to ovarian cancer research and has also committed to donating 25¢ from the sale of each book, physical and eBook, in the "K.I.S.S. and Teal" promotion between 8/30/2011 and 2/28/2012, up to an additional $25,000 toward programs that support ovarian cancer patients and their families. More important, the signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer are printed on the back page of every September book.

    How did Avon Books get involved in promoting awareness of ovarian cancer? Avon Editorial Director Carrie Feron lost a family friend to this cancer and super-bestselling writer Eloisa James lost her mother. They were talking and realized there wasn’t enough being done to promote awareness--and it is such a killer. Of the 21,000 women who will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, 15,000 will die because the cancer has been discovered too late. It is important we learn the signs and share them.

    For your information, those signs are: bloating; pelvic and abdominal pain; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; and urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency). I know, I know, too common, right? You are correct. But if you are feeling any of those symptoms on a daily basis, please, get yourself to a doctor. Or in historical terms, hie thee to a doctor!

    I know you're busy. I know you are juggling far too many tasks and heading into the doc for bloating isn’t something you want to do right now. I know money is tight. But please do it anyway. Think about the statistics--15,000 out of the 21,000 diagnosed with ovarian cancer will not survive. Better the doc tells you it is nothing to worry about than finding yourself one of the 15,000 ovarian cancer patients who will not beat this disease.

    And take care of yourselves! There is only one of you. Treat yourself as the unique, vibrant person you are.

    * * *

    THE SEDUCTION OF SCANDAL is available in paperback and eBook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indie Bound, as well as any good book store near you.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    Beat That Negative Voice!

    So, you did it.  You submitted your New Voices entry.  Now all you have to do is sit back and wait for the email announcing you're in the top twenty, right? 

    Right.

    Or at least that's how it should be.  Unfortunately, your inner critic often gets louder at times like these.  It'll quite unhelpfully compare your entry to one you just read and enjoyed.  It'll prevent you from finishing your chapter.  It'll convince you that submitting is just too hard.  In short, it sucks.  It's also what's standing between you and your dreams.

    The good news is that you can conquer it and here's how:

    1. Recognise it.
    Whether it's doubt (telling you that you can't or shouldn't do something), excuses (that are so easy to accept but in the long run prevent you from achieving your goals), pressure (telling you it's too hard and to stop now) or fear (that speaks of your inadequacies to prevent you moving forward), you need to be aware of the thought when it happens.  Often this enough to pull it up short.

    2. Replace it
    Replace it with a positive thought.  At first this may feel idiotic depending on how long your negative inner voice has had free reign but find comfort in the fact that you're not alone.  Olympians use these same techniques and they had to start from scratch too.  If that inner voice is telling you that your writing isn't good enough for New Voices, replace it with the thought that it is.  Of course it is!  Your voice and writing style is unique to you and the judges are looking for new and unique.  If you don't enter, they can't discover you, and that would be a shame.

    3. Reject it
    If you find your inner critic is on some sort of playback loop you can interrupt it by saying "Stop!" in your mind.  Sounds ridiculous, yes?  Ah, but the mind is a funny thing and this sort of technique is enough to shock it in a similar way to if someone shouted the word in your face. Pinching yourself is another option, but it's a bit more of a shock to the system.  Your mind will associate the thought with a negative response and do exactly as you say: stop.  The more often you break the pattern, the less the loop occurs. 

    4. Reconstruct it
    When you find yourself thinking negatively about your entry, use the word "but" and point out the positive aspects.  For example, "My punctuation is lousy - but my characters are unique and engaging."  We all want our entries to be perfect but "to err is human" and we often place too much importance on the little things that editors can be quoted saying won't rule you out.  You won't be disqualified for forgetting comma, so don't sweat the small stuff. It's much nicer to focus on the things that are great about your entry because they're what will be responsible for getting you into the top 20.  And if you don't know what they are, how will you repeat themin round two?


    So, now you're all set to banish the crows of doubt.  Remember, thoughts have tremendous power.  They've been linked to the recovery or exacerbation of illnesses.  Athletes the world over use these techniques. You don't get to the Olympics by believing you suck.  You don't win the Olympics by believing you suck.  The exact same thing can be said for your writing.

    Source: Body and Soul

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    New Voices

    Entering this year was not something I was *always* going to do. After last year and the demoralising depletion of rose count I was determined this year I would sit on the sidelines and cheer on others. But as the months wore on, it became clear that this year's competition would coincide with a really difficult time for me personally. So I decided I would enter and use it as a distraction from reality. I had a hero in mind, one that has been nagging at me for a few years now. He's inspired by James Blunt's song "No Bravery". As soon as I heard that song, I knew I needed to create a hero who doesn't feel brave simply because of the job that he does, that's his duty--his life. But he will come to realise that his true bravery is the way he has got right back up after adversity and made new goals for himself and carried on simply living his life. And I guess that's what writing is like. Sometimes it sucks and you never want to pick up your metaphoric pen ever again but then at other times it's the only thing that keeps you sane and you know you'd only be existing, not living, if you never wrote again.

    http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/92-Coming-Home

    #

    Romy sneaking in here:

    Thank you so much for entering this year, Catherine. Your hero is divine, and I'm so glad readers are getting a chance to meet him - and I'm really, really grateful that you're there to hold my hand!

    I've been feeling pretty okay with entering this year. I wasn't worried about rose counts, and didn't pin my hopes on getting anywhere. I just wanted readers' feedback on my writing, and hoped for a passing comment from an editor or published author.

    So why, when the moment came to upload my entry, did I feel sick? My mouse hovered over the "enter" button for an age before I finally steeled myself to do it.

    But it's up, the nerves are gone, and now we can sit back and enjoy the rest of the contest. And there are so many really excellent entries this year, that we can keep busy reading, and reading, and reading ...

    http://www.romanceisnotdead.com/Entries/89-Once-Upon-A-Time

    #

    Congratulations to SONALI who has won a book from Natasha Tate. Contact us with your details via our 'Contact' link.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Author Spotlight - Natasha Tate

    We're honoured today to welcome Natasha Tate, one of the newly acquired Harlequin Presents authors.

    Welcome, Natasha! Take it away...

    What is your writing process?
    My writing process varies, depending on how close I am to my deadline. When I’m in first draft mode, I tend to write at a more leisurely pace. I find I spend time writing a lot of narrative and dialogue, trying to figure out what resonates, what feels awkward, and who my characters want to be. I typically write this part of the book while walking on my treadmill, and can log as much as 10 miles in a day. After I’ve written about half the book, it either takes off or I have to go back to the drawing board because I haven’t settled on my characters’ inner conflicts yet. If my characters are muddled, I have a really hard time moving forward. But once I’ve written enough to settle on a theme and my characters’ inner conflicts, then the writing really starts to gel. I abandon my treadmill and commit to having my butt in the chair because multitasking too much slows my pace. Sometimes, when the inner conflicts come to me early on, I can write a book in less than a month. But at other times, when I’ve danced around the theme for what feels like forever, it can take up to three months. My hope is that one of these days, I’ll be able to figure out the inner conflicts and theme before I’ve written 25K words!

    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 am pretty type A in just about every area of my life. I set goals, have spreadsheets that track my word count, and would rather lose an arm than miss a deadline. I’m also a people pleaser, so I tend to be one of those annoying “turn-it-in-early” types. If I’ve got a four month contract, I set my weekly goals based on a three month schedule. That way, if something unexpected comes up (like that can’t-miss-it shoe sale), I can take a day off with upping my stress level too much. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that I grew up with a military father and suffered through a regimen of white glove inspections and demerits. I wake up at 4:30 AM in the morning at least five days a week to keep all my various plates spinning, and since I also have a full time day job, slacking off when I have time to write is just not an option.

    Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
    I work out at a local gym in the mornings and I walk on the treadmill while I’m writing. I used to walk at the gym, but fitting writing into the day has meant that I can’t waste too much time on an activity that only works my body. So I’ve started running, just so I can burn the same number of calories in less time.

    Do you believe in writer's block?

    I believe that my writing only gets blocked when the story or the characters are blocked. If characters aren’t behaving in a way that is properly motivated, the writing stalls. I can still produce pages and word count, but the story doesn’t work and I don’t really move forward until I have a handle on how the characters need to change. So if by writer’s block you mean staring at a screen and producing nothing, then no, I do not believe in it. But if it means that you’ve hit a wall and you have to burrow through it through sheer force of will, then yes. It’s alive and thriving.

    Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
    Fortunately, I haven’t had to rely on real life incidents yet. I’m still relatively new and I have enough fantasy incidents that have been living in my head to populate stories for a while yet. But when those run out, I may have to start digging a little deeper for inspiration. I suppose in a pinch, my in-laws could supply a lot of fodder for my writing. They’re good natured enough that they probably wouldn’t punish me too harshly for exploiting them!

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

    Since I have so many friends who’ve entered the published ranks ahead of me, I think my expectations have been more realistic than those who plunge into the publishing world with little ramp up time. I will say, however, that I’ve had to adjust my time management a bit more than I expected, simply because there are other tasks writers must do in addition to writing. Now, I find I need to allocate time to updating my website, responding to fans (the best part of my new writing life yet!), mailing out books for reviews, and juggling all the various components of promotion. Before I was published, I had far more flexibility with my timelines. Now that I’m on a three books per year schedule, I can’t take a month off to focus on the day job. Things are a lot tighter than I expected them to be.

    Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
    I’m really, really fortunate to write for Harlequin Presents, which takes a lot of promotional pressure off of me. The brand itself sells better than anything I could singlehandedly do to promote myself, so it grants me a bit of breathing room to learn as I go. My first priority was to have a website built, and that took a while to find a designer (Rae Monet did an awesome job for me!), settle on a website that matched my vision and voice, and get it populated with content. Keeping that up to date requires a bit of time, so that’s always the first item on my promotional to-do list. I also have a blog and a twitter account, though those have taken the back seat until I finish this current book. I’m also presenting a workshop at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference this year with my good friend Candis Terry, so hopefully, that will help to get some name recognition for me and help me give back a little to the writing community who has helped me so much over the years. I’ve also created author pages on the amazon.com websites, Harlequin offers an author bio on their site, and I participate in various blogs as an invited guest. (Yeah Minxes!)

    What is your top promo tip for other authors?
    Definitely have a professional website built, and have it up and running before your first book hits the shelves. I believe that this is where readers will go first to find information about you and your books. Its value cannot be underplayed.

    What did you learn while writing this book?
    I learned that my voice actually works better with contemporaries than with historicals! For years, I’d focused on historicals to no avail. Discovering that I had the ability to write a book set in the here and now was a real eye opener for me.

    What was the most fun part of writing this book?

    The best part of writing this book was how escapist it felt. I love the whole Presents promise, and diving into a story that fit the line felt like I was playing instead of working! I loved layering in the drama, the glamour, the emotion, and the heightened sensual tension into my story. It felt like I was creating a wonderful dessert and a guilty pleasure all at once. Writing a story where two wounded characters find their way to love and forgiveness is a catharsis all its own, and I loved every minute of it!

    And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
    Ethan’s honeymoon destination of choice would be the idyllic Caribbean island he purchased from Cate, of course! What better place to seduce his lovely new bride than the birthplace of their love?

    Blurb from An Inconvenient Obsession:

    The Carrington family's island is up for auction…

    Now, that's an invitation Ethan Hardesty just can't refuse. This groundskeeper's son turned global entrepreneur has it all. All, that is, except a piece of the Carrington estate—the island that holds all his most pleasurable and painful memories.

    Ethan doesn't count on the beautiful Cate Carrington handling the transaction—and providing him with the perfect opportunity to take her into the bargain. But toying with the woman who was once the girl he loved and lost soon turns from a game into an all-out obsession…


    Natasha is giving away a copy of An Inconvenient Obsession to one lucky non-Minx reader, so don't forget to leave a comment!

    Links to purchase:

    Amazon.com
    Barnes & Noble

    Thanks so much for being here today, Natasha! It's been great getting to know you :)

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    Remember Me

    We usually preserve movie reviews for Fridays here on Minxes, but in honour of remembering New York on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, I'm breaking the tradition and featuring the film Remember Me.

    Set in New York, this is a ponderous, atmospheric film starring Robert Pattinson and Pierce Brosnan, which centres around a family dealing with loss, each character handling the loss of a son and brother in a different way.

    I found the film a little too slow moving, and spent most of the movie wondering just what the point was. The point is made clear in the closing two minutes of the film. Two minutes which pull all the film's strands together, give the entire movie a new twist, and leave viewers with an image so graphic and moving that you'll remember it long afterwards.

    That final image is still clear in my head months after watching the film, and still brings a lump to my throat.

    Our condolences to anyone who has ever lost a loved one, and to those who are gone: you will be remembered.


    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Storytelling Through Dance

    Yep, once again I’m here to confess another obsession!

    So You Think You Can Dance (US Version)

    I’ve known about this series for a while (it’s in its 8th Season) but nothing really drew me to it until a few folks on Twitter tweeted about it. On a whim I tracked down a few YouTube clips and OMG, I fell in love!

    Let’s just say I’ve seen “most” of the series and like the dedicated writer that I am, have totally fallen in love with the art of story telling through dance.

    In case you start to think I’ve totally gone bonkers and need to be carted off by the men in white coats, in the recent Emmy announcements, SYTYCD got five out of eight nominations for its choreography alone and the show’s host, our very own Brit-grown Cat Deeley, was also nominated for best reality show host. So, really, it’s a great show…and I’m not crazy…just sayin’!

    Anyway, I wanted to share with you a few clips that shows what I’m talking about.

    My personal favourite and very effective in channelling the black moment: the “infidelity/heartbreak” routine.



    This one is entitled (paraphrasing) "the ups and downs of falling in love"



    Then the's the friends to lovers routine that gave me goosebumps when I first saw it...



    Then to finish with my family’s favourite, the “girl power” routine. Watch out for Lady Gaga’s shoe at the end. My husband googled the band after watching it and now knows everything about District 78!



    By the time this post goes out, I’ll know this year’s winner. Personally, I wish I could give two awards as I can't choose between Sasha and Melanie, but then again, I love Marko too so whoever wins I would make me extremely happy too.

    Enjoy!

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Author Spotlight - Scarlet Wilson

    Today we welcome Minxy friend Scarlet Wilson, making her debut this month with Mills & Boon Medical. We love Scarlet and all we can say is: go out and buy her book!

    Thanks for joining us here today, Scarlet.

    * * *

    What is your writing process?
    I work full-time and have two young sons with numerous evening activities, so my main writing process is doing as much as possible, in as little time as possible! I write 1000 words a day, mainly in my half hour lunch break. Writing everyday keeps me focused. Any research I need to do for my book I’ll do at night when I’ve got a bit more time for surfing the net. Any medical research I need to do I can generally do in a phone call. I’ve worked in hospitals, community and public health and I’ll generally know someone who can give me the answer to the question I’m looking for.

    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?
     It’s got to be a priority that fits into my life. As long as I meet my word count every day then I’m happy. Even if what I write is crap – I can edit crap the next day!

    Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
    No I don’t. I’m inherently lazy and I’m starting to get fat!

    Do you believe in writer's block?
    Can I be controversial and say no? I think you can write your way through it. Even if you don’t like what you’re writing or think that it’s wrong. Even when I’m hideously stuck and have no idea what happens next in the manuscript I keep writing. If I do that, the characters tell me what happens next.

    Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble? 
    No. My imagination is much better than real life. I’ve yet to meet a George Clooney or Patrick Dempsey in real life. When I first found out I was going to be published, lots of people I worked with asked, “Am I in your book?” I resisted the temptation to tell them they weren’t interesting enough!

    In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be? 
    There are still loads of things I don’t know. For some reason I thought being published would give me whole host of information that would mean I knew exactly what I was doing. It hasn’t happened. Sometimes I feel as if I find things out by accident. The medical authors have a group e-mail loop and they’ve been great when I’ve had any queries.

    Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers? 
    I’ve built a website and a Facebook author page prior to my release. I’ve been blogging for the last 18 months on my own page and now have a spot on the eharlequin medical author blog every month. I like to join in the chats on the some of the online forums and comment on other people’s blogs. But I’m not a “in their face” girl. I’ve lined up a few spots on blogs for my first book launch but that’s it.

    What is your top promo tip for other authors? 
    Get online and speak to others!

    What did you learn while writing this book?
    That revisions are hard, really hard. I got the third set and wanted to give up. I felt as if I couldn’t deliver what they wanted. But I got two pep talks – one from my editor Sally Williamson, who must have sensed I was struggling and phoned me to talk me through them, and the other from Kate Hardy, another Mills and Boon medical author who gave me some really good advice.

    What was the most fun part of writing this book? 
    Seeing the story come to life. I could see scenes playing in my head like a Hallmark movie and wanted to get them down on paper.

    And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
    Cooper would take Missy and their lovely baby to a beach front bungalow in St Lucia, with an inbuilt cook, nanny and masseuse!


    The Blurb:
    After one hot date…. Dr Cooper Roberts has a new job and the chance to begin a new life. What’s most definitely not in his plans? Waking up with his new colleague, Melissa Bell…And having to hold his head up above the dropped jaws of his fellow docs as he escorts Missy to buy a pregnancy test!

    It Started with a Pregnancy is available to buy on Amazon and from Mills and Boon 

    * * *

    Scarlet will be giving away a book to one non-Minxy commenter - so get commenting!

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Revenge is sweet

    Following on from Suzanne Minx's post last week on Writing vs Real Life, I'd like to add my own reason why I love to write: Revenge is sweet, but being happy is the sweetest revenge of all.

    I'm pretty sure this happens for every writer and I'm not unique, but I love when I've had a hard day at the day job, and I'm feeling stressed out about some issue, then I sit at the laptop and start to write ... and next thing I know, I'm sucked into the story.

    When I'm writing I forget all the bad stuff that happens outside my novel, and get so into the head space of my characters that nothing else matters. After a while, I even find I'm smiling (unless it's a tear jerker scene, in which case I'm smiling through tears).

    The boss, the deadlines, the stresses of the day, don't mean a thing beside that incredible feeling when the words are flowing, and you're in tune with your characters and your story. You know what I mean, don't you?

    I'm a big fan of The Secret, and one of the principles taught by Rhonda Byrne in The Secret is that you need to get yourself into a happy state of being before you can change your life and get what you want. And just as I write this blog post, an email pops into my inbox:
    A Secret Scrolls message from Rhonda Byrne
    Creator of The Secret and The Power 

    When you find your purpose, it is like your heart has been set alight with passion. You know it absolutely, without any doubt.
    So to everyone out there in my Real Life, this is my revenge: my heart has been "set alight with passion", and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop it!

    (Though it'd still be nice to get the ultimate in revenge by selling so many books that I can give up the day job stresses and enjoy the stresses of being fabulously successful instead.)

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Man of the Month Poll - Athletes


    Somehow I have managed to snag another Man of the Month post. I could brag that it's my superior researching skills *ahem* but I think it's more to do with me screaming on our email group "me, me! I can do an athlete post to tie in with the World Championships!" and then I begged a little. Ok, a lot. And the lovely Minxes let me find more droolworthy sporting men *happy smile*.


    To start with, the fastest man on two legs--Jamaica's Usain Bolt. Of course, all of those athletics fans out there will know that he didn't do too well in the 100m. Although I was sad not to see him at his best, I very much appreciated him taking his top off!






    Next is the so called "fastest man on no legs" South Africa's Oscar Pistorius. Amazingly, he had both legs amputated as a child and has fought to be allowed to run in the World Championships this year, against able bodied athletes. That he's had to fight to be able to run is incredibly sad, but I'm so glad he was able to compete and he is a true inspiration.




    This is Norway's Andreas Thorkildsen who competes in the javelin. Just look at the size of those arms!!


     Next is Japanese hammer thrower Koji Murofushi. You can't really tell from this picture but this man is an absolute mountain! And has the most amazing dimples too!






    This guy has my undying love {probably only for a few weeks because I am fickle that way} as he performed in 10 events which is done over two days. The pain etched on his face as he finished the last event, the 1500m was amazing. Got to love a tortured hero! Decathlete Trey Hardee is my last choice.




    The poll is at the top left, you know what to do, ladies! And please don't hesitate to share any of your fave athletes I've left out, we love extra research over at the Minxes!!