Friday, September 28, 2012

The Minxes grow wings

As of Monday 1st October, you can expect a new look, new feel Minxes of Romance blog. Rather than three blog posts a week, you'll be getting just two action-packed, full of fun posts. Minxy Mondays stay as they are, and our Author Spotlights move to Thursdays.

But because this is YOUR blog, we Minxes would like to know what you enjoy and what you'd like to see more of. Why do you keep coming back?

Let us know, and we'll do our best to make your wishes come true.

* * *

In further happy and happening news, Minx Sally has a new novella out today.

You can get Angel All Year from Amazon or Amazon UK. This is a short, easy and delightful read which I guarantee you'll fall in love with. I did!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Author Spotlight - Annie Burrows

Today we welcome Harlequin Historical author Annie Burrows into the Minxy spotlight.

What is your writing process?
Well, first of all comes the daydreaming. I "see" my stories, like a film running through my head. Except I am the director, so if I don't like the way a scene is going, I can rewind, and make the actors go through it again, a slightly different way. If one of my stories grips me so much I get to the point where I'm weeping into the washing up because the hero and heroine look like they're not going to make it, I jot the outline down in a notebook.

When the time comes round for me to try to get a new contract, I get out my notebooks and skim through. Some of the heroes and heroines then get very vocal about having their stories heard. They take up residence in my head, and won't stop nagging me until I've pleaded their case with my editor!
When I get the go-ahead to start writing, the first thing I do is get the whole plot typed into my computer, as fast as I can, with my basic outline at my side. (Usually, during this stage, my characters decide they don't like my direction all that much, and try and veer off at a tangent. Sometimes it's a struggle to keep them in line, but at others, I kind of sit back, and let them go because what they want to do is much more interesting than what I wanted them to do). Then I print it out, to see what I've got because things always look different on paper to what they do on a computer screen, and the revisions process begins. Usually the story isn't too bad, but I still need to tweak the language so that it is fit for someone else to read. And I keep on tweaking until I get to the stage where all I'm doing is taking out or putting in commas. Then I send it to my editor, and she very tactfully (usually!) points out all the things I could do to make it better.

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 remind myself of all the jobs I used to do that were so much harder - and so much more draining - and so much less fulfilling. And how I yearned to be a writer for years, and that I am finally living my dream. And anyway, there's not that much room left in my cupboard for yet another pair of shoes!

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
Yes. It's absolutely essential if I don't want to spend all my royalties at the chiropractor. He gave me all sorts of stretching exercises to do to help prevent my back seizing up, the first time I went to him and he had to perform that manoeuvre that you always see on comedy shows - you know, where they grab your head and twist it to that sound effect of something ripping - though it wasn't quite so funny when he was doing it to me! He also recommended getting up and moving about frequently. So I start my day by stretching out for about 10 - 15 minutes. Then when I do get to the computer, I set a kitchen timer to go off after one hour. (It means I don't have to keep looking at the clock to see how time's going, which leaves my mind free to concentrate on the writing). And so it goes - an hour's writing, then getting up and moving about. Even if it's only making a cup of tea, and getting straight back to it. At the end of my writing day, I spend 10 - 15 mins on a stationary exercise bike, to combat that other occupational hazard...writer's bottom! And then once a week I drag my husband to a ballroom dance class. It's supposed to be a way to keep fit together, and keep some romance in our marriage. I don't know about the romance, but we certainly have a lot of laughs. Ballroom dancing is trickier than it looks!

Do you believe in writer's block?
I daren't. If I believe in it, then I might catch it.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
I've never consciously used an incident from real life in a book...because it just might get me into trouble!

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
I thought that with each book my writing skills would improve, until it became easy - because that does happen with most jobs. You settle in, and the process becomes routine. But not with writing. Every book seems harder than the last. Oh, not the dreaming up ideas part, but the actual getting the words on the page to paint the picture I want readers to see in their heads. And then there's the next question...

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
Ah, yes, promotion! I have to admit, that came as a major shock to me. I hoped all I would have to do is hand in brilliant (ahem) manuscripts, and the publisher's marketing department would handle all the rest. Because, like a lot of writers, I'm not all that outgoing. I am far more used to sitting indoors, describing the adventures of my imaginary friends, than interacting with real people. But fortunately Harlequin offers seminars to gently encourage us to venture out of our comfort zone. They persuaded me onto facebook, and I haven't looked back. I'm supposed to use my page ( to share news about upcoming books, foreign translation, and gorgeous covers. But I have to confess I have been totally sucked into the chatting, and sharing pictures of startled kittens part. I also signed up for Goodreads, where I've done a couple of giveaways of my books. I blog most regularly on the Harlequin Historical authors blog:

For my last book,"An Escapade and an Engagement" released in July, I joined in a "round robin" event, where several harlequin authors collaborated to put up a story, which evolved over several weeks. You can still see "Lady Ambleforth's Afternoon Adventure" on the HH blog site.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Write a brilliant book. Simple, huh!

What did you learn while writing this book?
By "this book" I'm going to talk about my October release, "His Wicked Christmas Wager". I wanted to have my hero and heroine involved in a wager, which I hoped could be based on a card game. But then I suddenly realized I had no idea what cards would have looked like in the Regency era. And since I need to "see" what my characters are doing, so that I can describe it to my readers, I just had to find out. And now I know, whenever I read a card-playing scene in another regency set story, that they would have looked like this:

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
For once, it was reading my editor's revisions letter - where she described both her and her colleague fanning themselves with their kindle covers because my final scene was so hot! That is some kind of compliment!

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
Well, since the story is set in the depths of winter, in Regency England, I think my hero is going to keep the heroine indoors in front of a crackling log fire. He's waited a long time to get his ring on her finger, so he isn't going to be in any hurry to leave the bedroom. And since he's wealthy, he can ring for refreshments when necessary, to keep up his stamina!

The blurb:

The last person Lord Crispin Sinclair expects to see in a disreputable inn is the woman he's there to forget: Lady Caroline Fallowfield. He hasn't forgiven her for marrying another man--or forgotten their mutual passion. When she implores him to come home for his brother's Christmas nuptials, he agrees--if the now-widowed Caroline is willing to share his bed and take another gamble on love...

You can find out more about Annie at her website:

His Wicked Christmas Wager is available as anebook only from Harlequin, and from Amazon.

Keep an eye out for Annie's next novella, From Governess to Christmas Bride, which will be part of a Christmas anthology "Gift Wrapped Governesses", which also contains stories by Marguerite Kaye and Sophie James.

Monday, September 24, 2012


No, don't let your mind go there, dear readers. This isn't a post about snogging, sheesh!

K.I.S.S. for those who don't know, is translated as Keep It Simple, Stupid… or for me, it's Keep It Simple, (you) Sad, Sad, Stupid, Stupid person!

I first saw this on the lovely Julie Cohen's blog. I remember thinking "I need to tattoo this somewhere prominent" because, even back in 2009, I knew I had the atrocious habit of overcomplicating my plots.

Fast-forward to two months ago when I wrote what I knew deep down was a story that had far too many plot lines to sustain a 50k-word category romance. I mean the manuscript finished at a staggering...wait for it...63k! There was no way I could submit that high a word count to my editor, so I painstakingly trimmed that behemoth down to an equally unacceptable, ahem, 58k…and all without taking out the ridiculous plot lines.

Heh, I wasn't one little bit surprised when my editor sent me revisions with very firm instructions to DE-CLUTTER the story. To give you a hint, at the start of the story my heroine had a guardian/possible older love interest, a family feud involving her grandfather, the hero's grandfather and her guardian's father, a fiancé who had just dumped her weeks before their wedding and then promptly run off with her mother, whom her guardian had feelings for. Oh, and she also had problems with most major law enforcement agencies. Not to mention all the problems she had to deal with where the hero was concerned!

It was never going to work within the category word count. So somehow I had to unravel this story without losing the core plot/conflict.

K.I.S.S., my dear friends. I had to learn the hard way to K.I.S.S.

I finally got round to tattooing it on my forehead...not really...but I came close when sometimes it felt like pure torture trying to strip away the non-essentials while making sure the story still worked. Happily, my editor was happy with the result, which was a huge relief! 

So, if like me you tend to over-clutter your stories, then remembering to KISS may be your saviour.

It certainly was mine!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

More fantastic news!

We affectionately titled 2012 theYear of the Minx,and we were right: this year has been fantastic for The Minxes. And this week will go down in history as the Week of the Minx.

Because we've had not one, not two, but THREE sales this week.

First up was Maya Blake, with a new 4-book contract for Harlequin Presents, then Sri Pammi with her first sale (also to Harlequin Presents) and now...

Suzanne Ross Jones has sold!!

This book, affectionately known in Minxy circles as The Biker Boy, is Suzanne's second sale to DC Thompson's My Weekly Pocket Novels.

Well done, Suz,and thank you so much for keeping the champagne flowing this week!


Friday, September 21, 2012

I was here

 As romance writers we hear so much about the importance of voice; of having a distinctive voice, or a new voice, or a sparkling voice... it can all sound so agonisingly elusive, yet in reality we all have a unique voice. Just as our voices come naturally from our bodies, our author's voice is the unique way we lay words down on paper. But are our two voices exactly the same? I don't think they are.

In real life I'm pretty quiet around people I don't know so well. A lot goes on in my head, but as a life-long shy girl it tends to stay there.
My author's voice is probably closer to the real me, if anything. It's easy not to be shy when it's just me, a cup of coffee, and a keyboard! The words come out easy. I'm free of the fear of saying something stupid, or wrong, or worst of all, the fear of not knowing what to say at all.

This rambling train of thought started yesterday whilst I was listening to  'I was here' by Lady Antebellum. It reminded me of how our books will be around even when we are not,  how our voice would still be here in the world if something happened to us tomorrow. A maudlin yet somehow comforting thought!

You know, I look at photo's of my grandparents sometimes, and if I try really hard I can almost recall their voices. We have a scratchy cassette tape from a family Christmas party over thirty years ago, and on it you can hear my nan speak - I cannot listen to that without feeling emotional.

Voices move us. They are vivid, a distinctive stamp, the trace of a person. I like to think that as writers, that's what we do. We leave our trace for future generations to know we were here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Author Spotlight - Denise Deegan

First of all, I wanted to let Nas Dean know she's the winner of Soraya Lane's e-book!
Congratulations, Nas - we'll be in touch.

Today we have YA author Denise Deegan joining the Minxes. Denise and I had a great time this summer when we went to the RNA conference sitting in the back while Jane Travers valiantly drove, and Ruth Long expertly navigated. We threw sweets around in the back, and asked 'Are we there yet?' I went to the launch of the third of Denise's Butterfly novels- And Actually - last week, and discovered that not only is she great fun to go to conference with - but she's also an author with a huge fan following - many of whom made the launch and adore her writing. So much so, that yesterday she hit #5 in the children's bestsellers lists.

Now here she is answering some serious minxy questions:

What is your writing process?
I write when the kids are at school. I don't have a set place. I move around with my laptop. Usually, I follow the sun. I don't write at weekends. I think it's good to get away from the computer and see what ideas come by themselves. Some of my best dialogue and ideas come when I'm out for a walk, in bed, in the shower.
In terms of how I approach a book, each one has been different. Sometimes, I start with a character and a dilemma and have no idea where I'm going. Sometimes, I know the entire plot but then the characters take over and tell me what to do. With the Butterfly Novels, it all started with a dialogue that entered my head. It was a sixteen-year-old girl who was giving her dad a hard time. She was angry and sarcastic but also vulnerable. Alex Newman entered my head and wouldn't leave. Then came her friends, Sarah and Rachel. I never planned to write a book about a teenager. Now I've written three, one from a different point of view. It's been an amazing experience. And I would recommend anyone to listen to whatever voices come your way.

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 have the opposite problem. I keep at it too much. I gave up running a PR business to write novels. I've always felt I should work just as hard. But it doesn't work like that with fiction. I have to continually remind myself to leave the computer - take a walk, go for a swim, have a shower... so that the good ideas keep coming and so I don't find myself wandering my characters down blind alleys.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
Not deliberately. I have a bad back and a dog. The bad back means I do pilates every morning, religiously. I also try to swim about twice a week to stop my back stiffening up. And the dog? The kids are supposed to walk him. But do anyone's kids walk the dog?

Do you believe in writer's block?
Oh yes! For me, it's a sign that I need a break from writing. It happens when I over-think it all.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
Not an actual incident, but definitely experiences. The big one that comes to mind is a very scary time when my daughter was seriously ill in hospital and we didn't know what was wrong. The bizarre thing was, I'd just started a book about a single mum who's little boy gets sick. When it happened my daughter, weeks into writing the book, I felt a bit freaked. As if life had imitated art. As if I'd caused it. When my daughter, thankfully, got better, I was a changed person. I couldn't not use what I'd learned. You can't erase such a traumatic experience. And it wouldn't make sense to. 

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
There's noooo moneeey. And I never get bored.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
Ever since I started writing YA, it's been amazing. Traditional media has become so less important. It's all about social media. My life has changed as a result. For the better. Twitter is such an exciting place to be. I've made so many real friends and had so many experiences (including a road trip to the RNA conference) that I would never otherwise have had. I am on Facebook and have a Facebook fan page. That's the great thing about modern technology. Readers have easy access to writers. They can ask us anything. They can chat about the books with us. It's great for them and it's great for us. I run competitions. I show my fans the book covers before the books are in the shops. I give them sample chapters. I try to give them something more.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
NEVER rely solely on your publisher to do it. That was something I learned on my first book. In a way, I'm lucky; I have a media background. That, however, is becoming less important with the advent of social media - which is so easy. It's as much about enjoying yourself, letting your character show and giving back as it is about full-on promotion - which doesn't work anyway on social media - it just turns people off.

What did you learn while writing this book?
The importance of a good editor. It's something I already knew as my editor really inspired my second book in the series. But with this book, 'And Actually...' it was really striking what an editor can add. My editor, Ciara Doorley gave me two ideas which didn't seem huge at the time but which transformed the book.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
Seeing it literally transform as I edited it.

And just for fun: what would your hero’s idea of a romantic date be?
Well, Rachel, the heroine of the third Butterfly Novel, is very much helped by nature in the book. She would like a picnic in the mountains with her boyfriend Mark. She's young so she'd like the works - a proper picnic hamper, a rug that isn't prickly, but most importantly, Marcus Delaneyus. (He has a thing about the Romans.)
 When I moved to Strandbrook College, I met Alex and Sarah. They treated me like I was normal. A human being. They actually liked me - though it took a while for me to trust that. I've never told them about my life before I met them. That shame can stay in the past. Weird thing is, they think I'm the strong one. The one with all the answers. The guru. When I'm offered a part on a TV show, they think it's all my dreams come true. And it is. Except that it'll bring me face-to-face with someone from my past - and memories I've kept buried. But I've changed. And I'm sure Rebecca has too. Whatever happens, there's no way I'm going to let my past destroy my future.
And Actually is available in bookshops and also from Amazon Uk, and
There's a permanent party going on (it's busy!) at Denise's facebook page, and she's a tweetaholic @denisedeegan.
Thanks for going minxy for the day, Denise!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Good News!!

It's been a Good News week at Minxy Manor this week, but by far the best has to be:

Yes, our very own Sri Pammi got The Call from Harlequin Presents yesterday morning! You can read her story on her blog here.

Well done, Sri!

The Minxes are so proud of you,and incredibly pleased that we can share in your triumph. 


Watch this space for more fantastic news...

Monday, September 17, 2012

A really good romance....

All of us here at Minx Central and the awesome people who visit us here, I can safely say, have one thing in common. We all love books and especially, we LOVE a good romance story..

I love and read romance in all the sub genres but nothing makes me sigh happily in bliss more than one that purely and completely focuses on well-developed 3 dimensional characters...

And the last one that made do the above along with making me laugh was Julie Anne Long's What I Did For A Duke.

At first sight at the blurb, the book has common tropes like Older Hero vs, Younger Heroine, Revenge etc.

But what lifts the book from any other book and makes it a delight to read is I think, the character and the dialogue, the descriptive language...There was a subtlety to everything that I can't even put in proper words...

What I can say vouch for is the pure joy I got out from reading it well into the night...

What about you? What was the last book you read that put a smile on your face, that made you go WOW?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Guest blog from fog-free Don McNair

I'd like to welcome a guest blogger and fabulous editor to the Minxes today. Don McNair runs excellent courses on editing, and the distillation of this wisdom is coming out in book form next April. He is also a romance author, so there's a little about two of his novels as well.

Your online “21 Steps to Fog-Free Writing” class helped me tremendously in writing and publishing my six novels. How did you develop the program? 
The idea for it came several years ago on a flight from Chicago to Atlanta, where I was to research an article for a public relations client.  Out of boredom I was editing a fog-filled paperback—yes, editing is actually a game for me—when I realized the same mistakes appeared over and over.  I was intrigued.  I bought another paperback at the Atlanta airport and edited it on the way home.  A pattern emerged, and I became excited.  Had I discovered the writer’s Rosetta stone?
Over the next several months I edited many other paperback novels.  I joined critique groups and aggressively edited other writers’ fiction.  I plowed through all those manuscripts from pre-published authors and the marked-up paperback books I'd tossed into a dresser drawer, and painstakingly sorted thousands of offending sentences and other problems by type.  I eventually identified twenty-one distinct problems.  Today I call their solutions, appropriately enough, the 21 Steps to Fog-Free Writing. 
The inference staggered me.  Just as there are a specific number of elements in chemistry’s Periodic Table and letters in the alphabet, there’s also a specific number of fog problems in writing.  I realized many unnecessary words are actually tips of bad-writing icebergs, and that eliminating them resolves otherwise complicated editing problems.  In fact, almost half the Steps actually strengthen action while shortening sentences. 

Do you teach other writing classes?
Yes.  It occurred to me that the “21-Step” course helps writers take words out of their WIP, but what’s the best way to put them in in the first place? So I developed a companion course titled “Editor-Proof That Manuscript!” that helps writers do that. It covers such areas as hooks, point of view, information dumps, developing scenes, conflict, sexual tension, and much more. 

 I understand you’ve written a book on self-editing. Can you tell us about it?
Sure. I realized my two classes provided a complete package, telling writers how to put words in and take them out.  So I combined them into a book titled “Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Agents and Publishers Crave.” Quill Driver Books will publish it April 1 of next year.

What’s your writing background?
I’ve written my entire career, starting after college in the early sixties.  I edited magazines for eleven years, wrote and managed other writers for a major PR firm for six years, then ran my own marketing communications business for twenty-one years. While I was successful in what I did, I yearned to write fiction, a different animal entirely. I “went to school” since then,  combining trial-and-error with writing classes and reading.  Since then I’ve written three romance novels, two young adult novels, and a book of short stories. 

Can you tell us about your romance novels? 
Well, I’ve often heard one should write about what he/she knows about, so I based two of the romance novels on my own experiences. It’s a great way to do research.

The first, Mystery at Magnolia Mansion, evolved from owning a crumbling historical house my wife and I found in Magnolia Springs, Alabama. As we renovated it, it occurred to me it would be an ideal location and topic for a romance novel.  So I developed a story about a young interior designer who… well, here’s the story:
Brenda Maxwell’s new interior design client tells her to “paint, wallpaper, whatever” his hundred-year-old landmark mansion (the house we owned), “but for God’s sake, don’t go overboard.” When she figures her grandiose plans will fit handily into his edict’s “whatever” section, they’re launched into a constant head-bumping mode.  Brenda’s poor money management skills (that’s his view, but what does he know?) and lawyer David Hasbrough’s ridiculous need to control her life (that’s her well-reasoned evaluation of the situation) combine to keep the battle going. Is this couple’s romantic goose cooked? Well, she can’t be near him without sparks flying and goose bumps popping out everywhere.  But that mansion has to be done right! 

The other romance novel is titled Mystery on Firefly Knob.  It was born on a trip through Eastern Tennessee, when my wife and I ran across a Cumberland Plateau knob overlooking beautiful Sequatchie Valley. It looked like an ideal place to launch a story, but about what?  As I considered that, I read of a unique firefly that flashed simultaneously with others instead of individually. I also remembered my own hobby dealing in mail-order antiques in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. I threw in a murder, intrigue, love, and action, and came up with this story: 
When Erica Phillips visits choice inherited property on a Cumberland Plateau knob overlooking a beautiful valley, she finds scientist Mike Callahan camped there to study unique fireflies. She needs to sell it fast to buy a new building for her antiques business in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, but he freaks out when a condo builder offers her a contract. Miffed, she tells him, “If I have my way, this place will be sold within the week. And, Mr. Callahan, I will have my way!” Their budding romance plays out before a background of a murder mystery, distrust, and heart-racing hormones. Will it blossom into a lifetime relationship?

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess the very first time was when I was in grade school, and the teacher asked us to write a story about Mother’s Day.  The next day she read mine to the class, and later a pretty little girl came up to me and said, “Donnie, I loved your story.”  That’s when I realized I loved writing, and feared little girls.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like?  If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I spent most of my forty-year career writing stories that told how my client’s equipment or services helped other manufacturers solve problems—less expense, faster production, better service—then placed the stories with magazines read by my client’s potential customers. I also oversaw writing staffs, and learned early that even “professional” writers needed editing.  Today I put that knowledge to work for editing fiction writers at . I generally edit in the mornings, and write my WIP and do promotion in the afternoon.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Just this. If you want to be a selling fiction writer, keep learning. Take evening and online writing classes. Write every day.  And above all, after your critique partners have signed off on your work and you’ve polished it as much as you can, have it professionally edited before sending it to a publisher or agent. I work through an editing network, and see hundreds of raw manuscripts. Most need heavy editing. What I see is what those experienced publication editors and agents see, so I know why they reject ninety-five percent of the manuscripts offered.  

Remember: the manuscripts I see are written by writers who realize their work might not be the best it could be, and have asked for help.  The rest send their work directly to agents and publishers, and most will get them back with a nice note thanking them for their interest.  They won’t know what mistakes they’re making—or even that they’re making mistakes, for that matter— and for the rest of their lives they will make the same ones.  They will produce manuscript after manuscript that will find their way back to them.  A professional editor can tell you what you’re doing wrong and short-circuit the process. At the very least, I hope your readers read and apply Editor-Proof Your Writing when it comes out!

My favourite page on Don's website is the one which shows before and after editing - have a look...

Thanks for going minxy for the day, Don!

Mystery at Magnolia Mansion is available from Amazon uk here.
And Amazon com here.

And Mystery on Firefly Knob is available from Amazon uk here.
And Amazon com here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Author Spotlight - Joss Wood

I am absolutely thrilled to have fellow South African Joss Wood in the spotlight today. Not only is Joss' debut novel a re-launch title for Riva (my favourite M&B line) but she's also the first South African to sell to Harlequin / Mills & Boon in the 21st century. You go girl!

What is your writing process?

Even while I’m working on a MS, I always have ideas bubbling away in the background. As an idea comes to me for a new book− or a heroine/hero with a problem− I jot them down and carry on writing. When I’m waiting for revisions to come back from my editor, I go through those ideas again to see if any of the premises/ ideas jump up and shout ‘write me, write me!’ If they do, I start fleshing the story out, if not I pace the floor, eat cookies and worry whether I’ll ever write another book again.

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?

If I’m not pulled back into the story by the previous chapter then I grit my teeth and write anyway. And then I write some more. The first couple of pages are usually absolute rubbish but I start getting into the flow and my right brain takes over. I’m an absolute believer in right brain and left brain writing and when I allow my right brain to be in control, then writing is that much easier. And better.

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

Does running after my kids count? Nope…didn’t think so. I know that I have to find the time to exercise but with a pressure filled but flexible job and two kids with crazy and varied school, social and sporting lives, exercise falls way down the list. I know, I know….that answer sounds wet, even to me…

Do you believe in writer's block?

I don’t actually. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I can’t allow myself to believe in writer’s block because I have such limited time to write. The time I set aside to write has to produce black letters on a white screen…

I mentioned right brained writing earlier and I went on a course to learn how to easily slide into right brained writing and that’s what I do now. Since learning those techniques I really haven’t struggled with writer’s block because I just fall into the story and let my subconscious take over.

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

In my book She’s So Over Him, the scene where Maddie gets stuck in her own bathroom is based, very loosely, on something a friend’s daughter experienced. At the moment I get into trouble because my friends tell me there is not enough of them in my books! Oh, and the scene in She’s So Over Him, when Maddie puts red food colouring into the pool and turns the pool− and Cale’s dog− pink? That’s courtesy of my very good friend Tracey, who routinely tosses food colouring into her pool and turns her Golden Labrador (who loves water) pink or green or blue.

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

Getting published is such a thrill; surreal and fun and such a kick in the head. (In a nice way!) When that all died down, I admit that I went through a spell about two months ago when I felt quite overwhelmed by it all. Nikki Logan, a Riva author, put it in perspective for me. She said that before you are published writing, for most people, is an escape and once you become published, some of that is taken away and it becomes a business. Time that you would’ve spent writing is now taken up by Facebook and Twitter and because I’m neurotic *grin*, I’m always second guessing myself. Just recently, I’ve made a conscious decision to trust the process, to trust myself and to enjoy the ride.

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

I’m on Facebook and Twitter and have a Blogspot. I’m in the process of establishing a website and I am grateful for any opportunity to feature on anyone else’s blog. So, thanks, Minxes!

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Not so much a promo tip but I found that by meeting other authors and joining Writers Loops, I have learnt so much about what and what not to do. The wonderful authors from Harlequin and Mills and Boon have been so incredibly helpful.

What did you learn while writing this book?

She’s So Over Him being my first book, I learnt that the character’s motivation has to be water tight and consistent and deep enough to be believable, that dialogue is incredibly important and that romance is incredibly hard to write.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

I just fell utterly in love with the characters and felt bereft when they went off to enjoy their happily ever after. I just enjoyed them….their hang ups, their chemistry, they way they had to be dragged, especially Cale, to his happy ever after!

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

Cale’s honeymoon destination….? Mmm, that’s a hard one. I suspect that it’ll be a bit off the wall, like sailing a catamaran up the coast or hiring an isolated cottage in the mountains. But definitely away from any shops so that Maddie can’t indulge in her insane shopping habit!


What not to do with your ex…

Maddie Shaw has spent the last ten years not thinking about her fast-and-furious fling with Cale Grant. His dark blue eyes, his hot chocolate voice, his magic touch… No, she doesn’t remember anything like that. Only the numbing devastation when he let her down and she walked away.

Now Cale’s sauntered back into Maddie’s life – drinking in the same bars, working on the same projects, and setting off the same fireworks inside her. It’s Maddie’s chance to prove just how over her ex she really is…but one steamy kiss later she’s fallen at the first hurdle…!

She's so Over Him is currently available here from Mills & Boon, and will be available from 1st October on Amazon and Amazon UK.

You can follow Joss on her blog and on Twitter.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Is it another day yet?

This past week, I've been dealing with a 2 year old with her leg in a cast-which BTW hasn't reduced her mobility one bit *stupid Sri*, a 4 year old with a 102 degree fever, a husband who's been interviewing left, right and center for a new job and is ready to drop a bomb on me and in the middle of all of of it, trying to steal some time somewhere to finish working on revisions requested by the editor.....

And, somehow we all survived....

So tonight...

I will be doing either this

 or this...
 or may be sign up for that course I've been meaning to take for a while...

Friday, September 7, 2012

Worst ever opening to a Romance Novel?

The English department at San Jose State University has held the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest for the past three decades. It's a competition that challenges entrants to write the opening sentence to the worst of all possible novels.
The contest categories are: Adventure, Children’s Literature, Crime, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Purple Prose, Romance, Science Fiction, Vile Puns and Western. If you want to read all of the 2012 winners' entries click here.

Below are the winners and dishonourable mentions of the Romance category. If you can think of a terrible opening line please share with us using the comments box!

Alternatively you could try to write a really good opening to a novel and enter the Mail on Sunday's competition (think it's a UK only comp, sorry to the ineligible!) The entry has to be between 50 and 150 word and include the word 'train' in any context. The winner receives £400 in book tokens and a place on an Avon writing course but here are lots of other fab prizes. Judges are: Fay Weldon, James Buchan and Simon Brett. Send entry typed or clearly written with name, address, tel numbers and email address all on the same page, by Monday October 29th, to The Mail on Sunday Novel Competition, 84 Drayton Gardens, London SW10 9SB. Results announced next summer.

Winner: Romance

  • #“I’ll never get over him,” she said to herself and the truth of that statement settled into her brain the way glitter settles on to a plastic landscape in a Christmas snow globe when she accepted the fact that she was trapped in bed between her half-ton boyfriend and the wall when he rolled over on to her nightgown and passed out, leaving her no way to climb out. — Karen Hamilton, Seabrook, TX


  • “Your eyes are like deep blue pools that I would like to drown in,” he had told Kimberly when she had asked him what he was thinking; but what he was actually thinking was that sometimes when he recharges his phone he forgets to put the little plug back in but he wasn’t going to tell her that. — Dan Leyde, Edmonds, WA

Dishonorable Mention:

  • Tucked in a dim corner of The Ample Bounty Bar & Grille, Alice welcomed the fervent touch of the mysterious stranger’s experienced hands because she had not been this close with a man in an achingly long time and, quivering breathlessly, began to think that this could be the beginning of something real, something forever, and not just a one-time encounter with a good Samaritan who was skilled at the Heimlich Maneuver. — Mark Wisnewski, Flanders, NJ
  • Chain-smoking as he stood in the amber glow of the street lamp, he gazed up at the brownstone wherein resided Bunny Morgan, and thought how like a bunny Bunny was, though he had read somewhere that rabbits were coprophages, which meant that they ate their own feces, which was really disgusting now that he thought about it, and nothing like Bunny, at least he hoped not, so on second thought Bunny wasn’t like a bunny after all, but she still was pretty hot. — Emma DeZordi, Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec
  • Their love began as a tailor, quickly measuring the nooks and crannies of their personalities, but it soon became the seamstress of subterfuge, each of them aware of the others lingual haberdashery: Mindy trying to create a perfectly suited garment to display in public and Stan only concerned with the inseam. — D. M. Dunn, Bloomington, IN

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Author Spotlight: Soraya Lane

We're always excited to welcome back Minxy friends to the blog! Today we have Soraya Lane, Harlequin, and now debut Young Adult writer with us. Thanks so much for being here today, Soraya. Take it away...

What is your writing process?

I’d like to say that I’m a meticulous plotter, but I’d be lying! I do start with a rough outline of the story, but I generally focus on my characters – their conflicts and motivations – and as soon as I have that nutted out I just start writing and figure the story out along the way!

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 a great one for being distracted… when I don’t want to write I suddenly want to do things like clean the house, and anyone who knows me would tell you that’s completely out of character! To be honest, I just make myself sit down and write something, even if it’s just a paragraph. I have two fantastic author friends and we email/phone each other all the time, so I can moan about my story or do a quick brainstorm if I’m really stuck!

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

I have a 19-month old son, so I don’t have as much time to myself anymore, and that means less exercise right now. Although he does keep me on the run after him all the time! Up until I was 6 months pregnant I was still horseback riding at least twice a week, and prior to that I was riding as often as I could. We still have our horses, and as soon as the weather warms up here I’m going to be back riding again. My young horse is being broken in next month, so I’ll just have to find time to ride her and at the same time get fit again.

Do you believe in writer's block?

I haven’t personally experienced it yet, but I do know what it’s like to be too tired/sick of the story/stuck on what happens next, and I think it’s okay to walk away for a couple of days and just think about the book. Being an author is a tough business, and I think the best thing is to try to believe in yourself and your work, and ignore bad reviews or comments that could negatively impact on your writing.

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

I think there are probably some similar incidents in my books that I’ve either experienced or heard about, but nothing to the point that it would ever get me in trouble.

What drew you to writing a Young Adult Novel?

I love reading YA, and I really wanted to write something different that was purely for fun. I’m so pleased I did, and I think that writing in different genres is a great way to keep my imagination fresh.

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

I’m hopeless at updating my own blog, but I like to visit other blogs when I can. I love being on twitter because it’s a great way to stay in touch with other authors and readers – it makes me feel less isolated as a writer! I also do giveaways on goodreads, and I’ve just taken out a paid goodreads advert too.
What is your top promo tip for other authors?

I don’t know if I have a top tip! I guess I’d say that you need to write what you love, because then you can genuinely promote your work.

What did you learn while writing this book?

That it can be daunting writing in a different genre, but that it’s worth it to push yourself creatively.

What was the most fun part of writing a Young Adult novel?

I started writing this for fun, because I was loving reading YA stories and wanted to try it myself, so I found this book very liberating to work on. It’s a genre I love and I can’t wait to work on the next book!

Tell us about your book.

When her twin sister dies of a mysterious heart condition, Riley King is sent to her grandma’s ranch. But instead of the isolation she’s been aching for, she learns of a family secret that’s been deliberately kept from her, until now.

As if finding out she’s actually a leopard wasn't enough shock for one vacation, Riley meets Hunter Logan … the guy she’s promised to. For life. But Riley has no intention of being told what to do by anyone, certainly not some stubborn, dominant shifter. Even if he can make her purr, her claws are slicing out. Until Riley realizes that not fulfilling her destiny would commit her sister to a life on the other side without her.
And just for fun: what would your young heroine’s father say to your hero when he turns up to take her on a first date?

Oooh, that’s a tough one! If he found out that he was an alpha leopard shifter, he’d probably be speechless and have a heart attack on the spot! In the sequel to Change, we will meet Riley’s parents for the first time, and I think her dad will be polite yet suspicious of the gorgeous young guy who turns up on a motorcycle to collect his daughter for a date!

Thanks for having me here!

Soraya would love to give away a kindle ebook copy of Change to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment to go in the draw! Good luck!! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Back to school.

My daughter went back to school today. Secondary schools in Ireland are off for three months in the summer - so being without children during the day in September is a big adjustment to make. My favourite thing about going back to school was always the pens, paper and notebooks (stationery fetish, anyone?), so while I was in the shops stocking up for back to school, I took the opportunity to stock up for myself too. After all, they may be back to school, but I'm back to a more regular (hopefully more productive) writing routine - and I need supplies too!

Top of the list: a notebook. Unfortunately, I am totally unable to pass a notebook without buying it - my cupboards are stuffed with them. Usually for work I write in yellow A4 lined notebooks by aurora or paperchase. However, this is back to school, so I splashed out and bought myself a notebook for writing stuff in the car while waiting outside school for pickups (that's me picking up, not being picked up). I got this one. A large moleskine with elastic and acid free paper... lined...mmm. Stationery porn.

Next - highlighters!! who can ever have too many highlighters - especially in combination with a new notebook... I bought 2 packets of assorted colours.

I never need to buy a pen, because I have a lovely silver cross fountain pen that I was given years and years ago for Christmas - this has got to be one of the best presents ever for me, because I use it all the time. I couldn't even buy any ink, because a pot lasts forever. However, I was seduced by a uniball eye fineline by Mitsubishi - so bought a pack of two. To keep in the car and handbag. For extra jottiness.

Finally - I bought the ultimate back to school item. No - not a lunchbox (I have a Captain Jack Sparrow one I bought a few years ago, but that's another story.) This year I bought a terribly useful piece of kit that I hope will keep me on the straight and narrow working wise over the next school year. It's not exactly like the picture, but you get the idea...

Little sections where I can record word count aims and achievements every day. Places to tick when I've reached targets. Perfect! Now off to do my homework - before the kids get home from school.