Monday, July 30, 2012

Impossible?

Impossible.

I’ve come across this word a lot in the past few months. The first was in a TV ad that ended with… “Impossible…that just two letters too long.” (paraphrasing)

The advert itself wasn’t impressive but I kinda liked the actor narrating it so, well…ahem!

Anyway, I returned from holiday two days ago, and amongst the seriously fun things I did (the Harry Potter ride at Universal Orlando is the BEST. RIDE. EVAH…just saying), was to give in to my nerdy hubby’s need to indulge his inner astronaut. We visited the Kennedy Space Centre last Wednesday. And although it wasn’t quite Harry Potter Ride standard, I was completely blown away.

Standing beneath the giant space rocket below brought home to me just how small man really is. It also brought home to me just how incredibly blessed we are to be granted the knowledge and skill to achieve things like flying to the moon.

Flying. To. The. Moon.

The very concept blows my mind. But it wasn’t until I was watching an IMAX presentation of how the Interantional Space Station is being built that I felt the monster goose bumps. This incredible feat is happening right now, as you read this, hundreds of miles straight up in space, by human beings just like you and me.
And they’re doing it because the word IMPOSSIBLE just doesn’t feature in their vocabulary.

One astronaut even went as far as to suggest the word be struck from the dictionary; that we shouldn’t think about the word, or let our children know that word exists.

Because nothing is impossible if you set your mind to it.

So, it’s with that firmly at the front of my mind that I’m tackling my revisions. If a lady astronaut can (in her spare time) build a robot that’ll teach itself to think of new tasks, on a space station, because she’s bored (!!!), then I sure as heck can tackle difficult characters who are keeping their true conflict from me.

Ladies (and gents), I’m here to tell you…Impossible? Pfft, there is no such word!!!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Musical inspiration


I am hugely influenced by music when i'm writing. Every book I write has a playlist that develops as the manuscript progresses, and it really helps me to stay in the mood of the story to have it on in the background as I work.

Is anyone else as addicted to Spotify as I am? I'm sure I could write it off against taxes as an essential expense; it gives me untold pleasure to see my manuscript titles listed down the side bar with their appropriate playlists.

I find that I tailor the lists more to the hero than the heroine, i'm not sure why that is! My previous manuscript featured a gorgeous Irish hero, so Del Amitri featured highly on the playlist, along with The Script & U2. I only have to put that list on now and i'm right back in that book again, I like how those songs now make me nostalgic for the book.

The book i'm writing just now has a real bad boy at it's heart - think Eric Northman crossed with Sawyer and you're getting somewhere close. His playlist is full of good old dirty stuff - INXS, Robert Plant... Pour Some Sugar On Me, anyone? Any suggestions for similar smut-tastic stuff gratefully received.

How about you?  What's on your current playlist and why?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Author Spotlight - Zee Monodee

Today we welcome a Mauritian writer into our spotlight. Yes, we Minxes leave no corner of the globe unexplored in our quest to bring you new books!

Zee's latest release, Before The Morning, is published by Noble Romance, but check out her first book in this series, Walking The Edge, as it's currently free on the publisher's website.

What is your writing process?

A lot of plotting, a lot of thinking, a lot of daydreaming and imagining the scenes and how they happen. *grin* I’m not the kind of author who can sit down right off the bat after a character or a story idea pops into her head, and simply let my fingers fly on the keyboard and see where everything takes her. I envy writers who can do this, actually.
Most of the time, I work with an established ‘face’ for my characters (for example, in Before The Morning, Ash looked like Lost actor Josh Holloway, and Rayne like Russian singer Yulia Volkova, of the former pop band T.A.T.U).
So I visualize my characters with the face I’ve assigned them, the mannerisms, etc, and I also think of all the avenues the story can take, start to middle to end. Once I have all this prep work down, then I start actually writing.

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?

Shoe shopping? Now we’re talking *says the self-confessed shoe-holic and shoe junkie*
Funny you mention shoes, because, just like other women congratulate themselves for a job well done or attaining a milestone point with chocolate, I do that with shoes. I know I will not be able to afford the shoes I love if I’m not putting books out and earning from that process. Full stop. *grin*
Deadlines also help, because then you know there are people counting on you to come through and you would be an absolute cow to let them down. When publishers and editors are taking a bet on you and contracting your work, how on earth can you let them down by not delivering your part of the bargain when the time comes?
And the fans are also a tremendous support. It’s incredibly heartening and empowering to open that email or message that tells you, “I loved this story of yours; when’s the next book in the series coming out, and will you please let me know the minute the book is released?”
How can you let these people down, those same folks you’re writing for?
The key, at least for me, is discipline. If I don’t do it (whatever it happens to be – dinner, mending torn uniform trousers, writing that next book), no one’s gonna do it for me.

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

Oh, definitely! Not only is sitting in front of the computer a perfect way to lure the pounds to stack on, I’m also on a hormonal therapy (to prevent the recurrence of any cancer – I’ve had breast cancer twice) and this drug makes me pack the weight like never before. Plus, sitting in an office chair all day while writing is not really conducive to a well-rested back. I injured myself in a car accident about a decade ago, where one of my spinal vertebras was crushed, leaving me with lingering back pain.
Now, I’m the original couch potato – I used to whine about having to go up 2 flights of stairs. But not anymore. Exercise is a key way for me to prevent the recurrence of cancer, so I bit the bullet and looked for something that I’d enjoy doing.
I found that in Zumba, which is really dancing and having a lot of fun to upbeat music without realizing you are working out (and the results are visible practically immediately!). To give my body a break and to help with my back pain, I also do some Pilates, which I find more upbeat than yoga (puts me to sleep!). So I’m pretty sure to be exercising for 30 mins – 1 hour every weekday. The sked goes haywire on weekends when the kids are home. *grin*

Do you believe in writer's block?

I used to, but not anymore. When you have a deadline looming on your head, you have to write, writer’s block or not. It might take you a few tries, a lot of delete/cut/paste/overwrite, but ultimately, you will come up with something in the writing. It might be total cr*p, but that’s something you can always edit when you finish your first draft, as opposed to a blank page, where you can do nothing but stare.
Of course, no point beating your head against the wall when it is obvious not even cr*p will come out of your brain, so taking a break is advised then. I allow myself 1 day off when this happens, but the next day, I am back in front of my computer and will get something on that page.

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

In Walking The Edge (Corpus Brides: Book One), my heroine, Amelia, is ‘married’ to this smarmy, manipulative guy, Peter, who always makes her believe she is paranoid and thinking things up, like the fact that he might be having an affair. Never mind that Amelia catches him red-handed calling his mistress, and confronts him. He manages to convince her she is going insane...
I took that scene, practically word for word, from what happened to me during my first marriage. That man was emotionally abusive, manipulative, a cheater, and he loved to toy with his women.
In another book I am currently penning, titled Against The Odds, the heroine, Megha, is diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer. Much of her journey through diagnosis, surgery, chemo, and radiotherapy, is a reflection of my own path when I was first diagnosed.
And no, no throwback to a real event has gotten me into trouble, yet. Let’s hope it keeps being this way. *smile*

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

I always thought of the published writer like the ones we see in the movies – sitting at their desk in front of their typewriter, typing all day, finishing the ms, send to agent/publisher; rinse and repeat. Reality is far, far from that!
Promo is something that, despite knowing I would have to do it, took me completely by surprise. Having to be ‘out there’, in the public eye, is a bit weird to me because though I come across lively and bubbly and effortlessly making friends, I am a very reserved person with a secret garden in her mind, a secret garden not even those closest to me even know about. Finding that balance between Public and Private persona is a tight rope to walk on for me.

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

I have no clue if what I’m doing is bringing me new readers or not, lol, so I can only tell you what I’m doing, and not specifically ‘what I’m doing that is successful.’
A good friend of mine, author Margie Church, told me that the best promo is to be where the readers are and being yourself with them. So that’s basically what I do – especially the ‘being myself’ part. I blog about aspects of my personal life, like how my kids are driving me crazy, in between the book news and tidbits; I tweet about my day and what’s happening in my life and career. Facebook is a bit more private, since my profile is for Friends only, so I talk more about my personal life there. I do my best to interact and cheer and support people in places like Goodreads discussion boards and Facebook groups. I take part in blog hops.
I dunno, really – I never leave a comment on my blog, or an email, unreplied. I really believe I am in this for the long haul, which means, strong relationships with readers and potential readers that I am slowly but surely building.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Don’t be a cow! If people comment on your blog, or go out of their way to get in touch with you, do not ignore them. If someone helps you (word of mouth, a retweet, a beta read, a critique, anything!), help back when you can. Nobody wants to recommend or say wonderful, gushing things about a total cow – so don’t be one!

What did you learn while writing this book?

Beyond the technical stuff to put this espionage story together – the slew of guns, biological warfare methods and how to counter them, espionage tradecraft and secrets, clandestine operation management, clandestine lifestyle techniques, combat methods, various languages, details about all the locations presented in the book – the whole book was a voyage of discovery. Before The Morning is a book that really showed me how much I can push myself as a writer, how far I can take a character and make her memorable and sympathetic, despite being the darkest character I have ever imagined.
Rayne, the heroine, is a cold assassin in this story, but the hidden side of her is that she is nothing more than a woman yearning for love and the possibility of a future, of a family, of creating a unit with the one man she has always loved. She is a complex character, full of facets and secrets, ultimately dark and twisted as much as she is desirous of finally belonging somewhere beyond any pretence.
I learned that it is possible to write deep and dark, almost sinister characters, and redeem them, too.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

Rayne’s family. She comes from a big family. Her father is of Russian origin (her great-grandmother fled the Bolshevik Revolution and married the Polish Hussar who had helped her escape), and Rayne still has her Russian grandmother, an eccentric ninety-something lady intent on ways of the Old World, and who absolutely abhors her daughter-in-law. Rayne’s mother is Irish, from a rambunctious family with hot tempers and fiery red hair. Then there are her siblings – her brother and two younger sisters. One of the girls is getting married to Ash’s brother, so that wedding is a big part of the proceedings during the book. Rayne and Ash go home for the wedding, and in the process, drop the bomb that they, too, just got married in Vegas. Their combined families’ reactions to this news, and the craziness of putting together a Russian-Irish wedding were real fun, for the wedding traditions alone. I also loved putting stiff and composed Rayne back into this chaotic mayhem – at one point, she wonders that her agency had taught her how to cope with any situation... but she’d never imagined having to face her mother and the rest of the family when her folks were intent on an idea and wanted to reel Rayne and Ash in. Her biggest mission starts now – dealing with her family without killing anyone in the process!

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

Lol, since they do get married in the book, they actually go on honeymoon in the French Provence. But, as readers will find out, Rayne has an ulterior motive for choosing that destination.
If it were up to Ash, he’d whisk them to a secluded villa with its private beach on a sunny tropical island. A place like Mauritius *wink*


Before The Morning (Corpus Brides: Book Two)

Before The Morning
. . . is a time of great darkness. . .

A trained killer with borderline sociopathic tendencies:
Rayne Cheltham traced out her life's path when she was twelve: she would marry her best friend and bear his children, and in the process, stifle the restless edge in her. When he vows never to marry, she gives in to the darkness and becomes a clandestine agent—until the day he walks into her world again, and her carefully fabricated fa├žade crumbles.

A former cop burned by life and his personal demons:
When Ash Gilfoy meets a woman who reminds him of his childhood best friend, he starts upon a path that leads him down into an abyss once again. The day Rayne waltzes back into his life, he knows she is his second chance, and the one who will save him.

Each thinks the other is their redemption . . . until they discover how deep the other's edge of darkness goes

No one knows Rayne used to be a spy and an assassin, and no one knows why Ash left the police force. The secrets between them make them sit on a keg of gunpowder with a lit fuse in their hands. Neither knows what 'normal' means now, especially Rayne, whose whole life is built on a lie. Truth is threatening to explode in their faces, and that is not the only menace they have to face. Someone is out to get Rayne, and she must disclose her past before it is too late.

Can Rayne and Ash survive all that's thrown in their path? Can they hang on to the last thread of their relationship, and can they emerge, still together and still alive, in the morning after the deepest darkness?

Watch the trailer here and buy the book here. Before the Monring is also available from Amazon, Amazon UK and Barnes & Noble.


And please note that Book 1 of the Corpus Brides series is currently FREE on the Noble Romance website!

WALKING THE EDGE (Corpus Brides: Book 1): A romantic suspense novel, wherein an amnesiac woman is on the quest for her forgotten memory... Escape from London all the way to Marseille, France, and discover the secrets, deceit, danger, & the powerful love, she uncovers during her search!

You can find Zee online at her blog, and she's on Twitter and Goodreads.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Movie Review - Snow White and the Huntsman



One of the best things about being a mum of daughters? The fact that I can legitimately go and see loads of movies that I really I'm too old to go and see by myself. The latest of these, is Snow White and the Huntsman, and here's my review!

The movie looked beautiful. The evil queen - Charlize Theron, was of course very beautiful on the outside, but not so beautiful inside. In fact, the story was very much as one would expect as far as the evil queen was concerned, although the script did give a reason for her evil nature - one that might have gone some way to make her less of an evil queen, and more of a mixed up one, if she wasn't so darned evil!

Kristen Stewart did her Snow White thing - and certainly looked the part, and found an inner core of steel at the movie's end - looking positively Joan of Arc like in the battle scenes.

All the stuff you'd expect are in there, dwarves, apples, handsome suitors - no surprises as the story trucked along to its conclusion.

But for me, the best part was definitely the huntsman. Chris Hemsworth played him well (although the accent?! I won't mention the accent), and was lucky enough to be given a character who was wounded emotionally and not quite as cardboard cut-outy as he might have been. As a romantic soul, I wanted more in the love department, but as my companion stated "Why do you like him?" I guess there was probably enough there for the pre-teen audience!

In conclusion nothing ground breaking in this movie but a pleasant enough way to while away an afternoon.


Friday, July 20, 2012

50 Shades of Minxiness - The RNA Conference 2012

I chose the title of this post partly because people googling '50 Shades' might end up visiting our blog but also because in virtually every conference session it got a mention. Publishers seemed very excited (if you'll excuse the accidental pun!) about the current erotica trend and are unsurprisingly very open to having the next '50 shades' submitted to them.

However, if you can't write the word 'naked' without blushing, fear not - the overall message of the publisher talks I attended was 'what we can do for you' as opposed to the 'what you can do for us' of previous conferences. They are actively acquiring in all sorts of areas and are open to something 'new'.


One of the highlights of the conference for me was Julie Cohen's talk 'Learning story structure from Pixar films'. Although she made us cry by showing the prologue to "Up", the lessons she taught about circular story structure, repeated motifs and character arcs as reflected in external conflict were invaluable and will hopefully help me write better stories.

Jane Wenham Jones also had us in tears with her talk 'What a way to earn a living' but this time it was tears of laughter. Her stories were wildly entertaining  and I don't think I've ever laughed so much.

That brings me to my favourite part of the conference - meeting lots and lots of friendly people (including Sally and Romy Minx and the lovely Susan Wilson :-), having a great time and going home excited about writing again.

If you attended you might have noticed the Minx contingent - we were carrying Minx bags (see photo) and were the ones acting like goofy idiots whenever we saw India Grey. And yes, she is just as lovely as she seems, not to mention glam and…okay will stop there before I embarrass myself again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Minxy Summer Reads

We had two new minx books out in June, and one in July, so instead of the author spotlights today, I'm going to feature these 3 new books.

First up : Dear Julia by Rae Summers (aka Romy) which came out on June 6th...
The discovery of a long-lost love letter in a house she’s redecorating sends Rosalie Stanton on a quest to find its rightful owner.
Since his return from the Great War, William Cavendish has lived as a recluse. His peaceful existence is shattered by the return of the letter that once held all his hopes — and by its bearer, the irrepressible Rosalie, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love.
As Rosalie sets out to lure William back into society, she realises that in him she might just have met her match.


Here's an excerpt:
He leaned against the doorjamb, effectively blocking her view into the house. And making it quite clear she was not welcome. No woman had stepped foot in this house in close on ten years, and he wasn’t about to let this Julia doppelganger change that. “Yes?”
“I have something I think might belong to you.”
“Oh?”
She pulled an envelope out of the silk purse attached to her wrist, and his chest pulled tight as he recognised it. He’d been frozen so long he wasn’t sure he’d ever feel again, but as she unfolded the envelope, his heart clenched so hard it was almost painful.
“Where did you get that?” His voice sounded choked.
“Let me in, and I’ll tell you.”
He recovered just in time to stop himself from snatching the envelope from her hand. He had to know if it had been opened. If the ring was still there. Letting her in was a small price to pay for getting his hands on that envelope.
Slowly, very slowly, he backed away from the door. “Come in.”
Dear Julia is available from Amazon (UK & US), The Wild Rose Press, and all other ebook places.

Next: Challenging Andie by Sally Clements (aka me) which came out on June 23rd...
Jaded war correspondent Ryan Armstrong reports terrible events without letting them pierce the armor covering his heart. When his colleague Emily Harte is murdered, he feels responsible for her death, and travels to England to return Emily’s effects to her daughter.
Bereaved, primary school teacher, Andie Harte has set herself a list of challenges to prove she can be as brave as her recently murdered mother, but when she’s hounded by the press the need to escape means she must accept help from Ryan. During their time in seclusion, attraction blossoms into an affair. Their relationship was only supposed to be a fling. When the time comes for Ryan to return to Bekostan, can she risk loving a thrillseeker, or is that a challenge too far?
Ryan avoids love, knowing the pain losing it can bring. A life without Andie is sensible, but is it possible?


Here's an excerpt:
They were close as peas in a pod in a tiny metal carriage. Linked palm to palm, while within, Ryan battled down a totally inappropriate desire to kiss her.
Her vivid blue eyes widened as the carriage slowed at the base of the first rise. A series of slow clicks filled his ears as the carriage winched slowly up the incline.
“I’m here,” he said. “It’s all right.”
“Thank you,” she whispered a moment before the carriage crested the top and dived.
She was screaming. Her eyes were clamped tight, and the high, terrified sound rang out in the clear air.
Ryan’s insides churned as the carriage jerked to the left. He held on tight, hoping to provide some comfort that she wasn’t alone.
Around them people were screaming in shock and delight as the coaster tilted at a perilous angle and shot down into an underground cavern. Another shift, this time to the opposite angle, and they were soaring skywards again.
The ride slowed. His heart raced with adrenalin overload. Breathing deeply, Ryan let the thrill flow through him. The track twisted and rose higher and higher.
He glanced over. She’d stopped screaming, but her white face with eyes scrunched tightly shut told its own story. She really hated this. Distress bled from her, like a tangible mist of fear.
For the first time ever, he wanted a rollercoaster ride to be over.
Long, black eyelashes dusted against her cheekbones.
He’d known she was pretty, of course.
The pictures on the front pages had shown that clearly, even while her face was transformed by grief, and her eyes reddened by tears. The instant kick of attraction he’d felt standing in the queue next to her had been unexpected.
He hadn’t felt so strongly attracted to a woman since…since forever. It was damned inconvenient that it was this woman. The woman who’d doubtless hate him when she discovered the truth.
Challenging Andie is available from Amazon (UK & US) in ebook and paperback.

And finally: Love on the Vine by Sally Clements (aka me) released July 9th.
Bella St Clair must keep her business, Celebrate! afloat to prove she can succeed without her controlling family. But she needs a big contract, and soon.
New owner of the St Clair Durand Vineyard, Vintner Etienne Durand hangs his dreams for success on hiring an event planner to organize a launch party. Upon entering Celebrate’s office, he’s stunned to discover its owner is none other than the enticing nymph recently spotted skinny dipping in his lake—as well, the daughter of the vineyard’s previous owner, a man set on destroying Etienne’s business.
Can he trust Bella when she denies she’s anything like her father—in spite of evidence to the contrary? In surrendering to the attraction for the handsome Frenchman, can Bella overcome her fear of being controlled and take another chance on love?

Here's an excerpt:
Her eyes sparkled and shone, and her cheeks were pink. Her body moved in perfect harmony with the relentless beat.
Ice chilled his top lip as Etienne took a long swallow of his drink and smiled back. With any luck, she wouldn’t see how much her dancing affected him.
With a flip of her hand, she pointed at her feet, mouthing watch. A mock frown creased her brow.
Of course, he’d watch her, he couldn’t drag his gaze away as her feet repeated the steps. The pattern didn’t look too hard. And he’d always had a good sense of rhythm.
The music faded. Bella returned quickly to the table and picked up her glass. “Okay, so those are the basics.” She drank deeply. “Are you ready to try it?”
“I’d prefer to just watch you.” He trailed a finger down her cheek, feeling the sharp tug of attraction as her eyes darkened to jade. “You look beautiful.”
“So do you.” She tilted up her chin.
Etienne stood and snaked a hand around her waist to hold her close.
At the action, her lips parted and her eyelashes fluttered closed.
She looked like a woman who wanted to be kissed. Instead, he moved his lips to her ear, speaking words intended for her alone. “Would you like me to kiss you?” He felt her shiver. “If you do, you have to tell me, remember?”
Her long, dark eyelashes fluttered and her eyes opened, staring straight into his.
The arousal in their depths stunned Etienne to his core.
“I want you to kiss me,” she murmured.
Love on the Vine is available from Amazon (UK & US), The Wild Rose Press, and all other ebook outlets.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Penrith Conference 2012

Since I'm typing up this post while on a train headed from Penrith to London, and on Monday I fly out to South Africa, this post is going to be short and sweet. I'll post a more in depth report on my own blog on Thursday.

The best thing about attending the conference was getting the chance to meet fellow Minxes. There were three of us in Penrith this year: Lorraine, Sally and I. This was the first time I'd met Sally, which made the occasion extra special. It really is odd meeting someone you know so well online in person for the first time. You know so much about them... yet they're still strangers. Luckily, by the end of the conference, we were definitely no longer strangers!

The Minxes


Sally Clements, Scarlet Wilson, Lorraine Wilson (no relation!)
 
Sally with The Irish Contingent

The workshops were interesting, the food rather good, and the weather dry. All three of us Minxes got to have our fan girl moments with favourite Harlequin author India Grey, but really every author present was just fabulous.

For even more pictures, check out Liz Fenwick's Facebook page.

Huge thanks to the conference organisers, Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson for a lovely, smooth, educational and entertaining weekend.

Roger Sanderson

Friday, July 13, 2012

A little taste of India

As I've been telling anyone who would listen on the interwebz, I'm going to India in a couple of days for my brother's wedding. Now leaving for a flight journey that's going to take at least 26 hours with two little kids is already robbing me of the little sleep I usually manage, but....

But seeing that I haven't been home (this is something our 4 y. old asked Hubster and I with remarkable perspicacity- whether we considered India or the US home and he said it was both) in 3 years, and I'm going to a wedding, makes it all worth it.

So I thought I would give everyone a little taste of all the things I'm looking forward including buying sarees  as in pic1, salwars in pic2, getting mehendi done on my hands and feet, buying lots of jewelry and of course eat lots of food during the whole stay......





Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Author Spotlight - Judy Jarvie


We're delighted to welcome lovely Judy Jarvie to our spotlight today. Here are Judy's answers to our minxy questions...

What is your writing process?

I'm wincing to admit I don't have a process as such. I just write when I can because my youngest child is only just about to start school so I've grabbed time whenever I can do it and I continue that way. I've found NaNoWriMo a very helpful process - it made me appreciate the value of just getting a dirty draft done (and lovely Harlequin author Natalie Anderson introduced me to NaNoWriMo first). I find now that I have to dip in and out of projects in order to refill the well and keep momentum.

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 like to give myself a words quota to get done though again it's just not possible every day - it's all about taking control a bit like my recent dieting! So if it's not a good day - just being in control by making some notes in my pad is a tick for progress. You just keep doing what works and moves you forward is my motto.

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

As indicated above I've been dieting (so far lost 18lbs (yey but there have been good days and bad!). So I've taken up new activities (walking and zumba). Ironically they also provide essential time to think/time to drift off. I am finding I come up with lightbulb moments in 'active time' so it's all good. Plus it's nice to know it's shaving inches off my behind too!

Do you believe in writer's block?

I believe you can put too much pressure on yourself. A lovely writer friend told me once that it's absolutely vital to refill the well and I heartily buy into that. Sometimes I just need a break so I won't force it. I need to do all the other things I love - e.g. family time, reading, crafts, baking and having a life! Though I love writing with a passion I guess it's all about balance and I try not to get too het up about taking time away. Being able to return refreshed and fired up again is worth the break. If I am finding it too hard going I either switch project or take some time out - I usually end up back at the computer pretty soon.

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

I have 'fictionalised' real life situations. I did have to admit to my mum's friend that I'd taken her 'embarrassing incident' and used it in a published short story. She took it very well and requested a copy - even when it involved a rather garish comedy picture of the  heroine lying on the payement on a hen night! She's still my mother's friend and I'd tweaked the story and upped the stakes anyway and nobody would ever guess the identity of the woman who started it all.

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

I knew from secondary school age that I loved writing, especially fiction. At the time I figured that meant becoming a journalist. I went into PR and then turned to fiction writing later because I still had the urge. I always knew I wanted to write stories and romances. I feel very privileged that I can do what I love so much.

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

Despite doing marketing qualifications in the past there's a tiny part of of me that doesn't want to get all promo pushy because writing still feels personal. But I agree that promo is vital. I think web and social media presence help as well as cultivating a network of writing buddies. It's just about good pre-planning and using opportunities well. A willingness to keep trying new things is vital too.

What is your top promo tip for other authors? 

Take yourself seriously from an early point even if it feels like the only person who might look at your website and WIP is your Granny. Having a professional facade will feed into everything else and it shows you have it all under control and you're serious and committed to driving your aims forward. It's all about having a positive attitude!

What did you learn while writing this book?

Pitched Into Love was published this year by My Weekly Pocket Novels. It's now being published by E-scape Press as Falling For The Laird in e-format in their brand new exciting imprint Ballgown Books which is due to be launched imminently. Coincidentally it is the first book I ever tried to write. It sat in a cupboard for a long time as I knew I had work to do to bring it up to standard. Last year I realised what I had to do (which basically amounted to cutting for pace and adding more drama to keep pages turning better plus giving the heroine and hero more of a growing relationship as friends besides the attraction!) I'm very glad I finally sat down and started over. It showed me that I wasn't a million miles away, I've just learned to tweak the fine points better!

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

I love this book because it reminds me of an old favourite BBC programme - Monarch of the Glen. It's set on a highland estate in Scotland and there are quirky local characters. It's the kind of story that appeals to me and I still watch old episodes of the show.

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

Hot Scot Jack McGregor is a very modern highland laird and he's also a multi-tasker - he runs an estate and he's a doctor plus he's refurbished his castle hotel! He's no stranger to hard work so I think he'd take a well earned break somewhere indulgent so he could be pampered for a change - let's go for Mauritius! Let's face it we Scots deserve a bit of sunshine and a beachy paradise and Jack and Steph deserve a sun-drenches get-away retreat.



Falling For The Laird will be published soon by exciting new book line venture Ballgown Books (part of E-Scape Press). If you like an escapist read that's intense and brimming with romance and glamour, Ballgown Books is a perfect destination for the read of your dreams. More information soon from E-Scape Press at escapewithabook.com. This title will also be released as Pitched Into Love large print from Ulverscroft in December 2012.



Falling For The Laird by Judy Jarvie

Steph Baxter goes to the highlands to help out her pregnant friend  Ally and her husband. She doesn't expect to end up battling to help save  their stunning movie-style castle hotel. Or  to wind up assisting and  falling for its equally impressive part-owner Jack McGregor! Steph's  highland adventure brings a tough mission, a hot man and a massive  challenge for a woman who likes to give every task 100%.



Go to judyj.blogspot.com - buy links to follow soon and the launch of Ballgown Books is just around the corner and will be fully flagged.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Feeling the magic

Living in South Africa is an amazing privilege. I get to enjoy wide blue skies and year round sunshine. I love the people and I love the lifestyle. But at heart I’m an Anglophile. My mother is an English teacher with a passion for Shakespeare and English history, and she passed on to me the the idea that the British Isles was a mystical, magical place.

At the tender age of 23 I travelled to England for the first time. 20th century London didn’t disappoint. When you come from a city where the oldest building is 100 years old, London with its thousand years of tangible history is truly spell-binding. The architecture, the theatre shows, the diversity of people, and above all the stories that abound behind every door. Long before I ever thought of becoming a writer, those stories bewitched me.

Over the years, I’ve re-visited the UK many times, and every time I feel that magic.

So on Saturday, when my flight touched down at Heathrow, I didn’t expect it to feel like just another day. I was almost saddened that sitting on the tube, then on a train out into Essex, I didn’t feel the usual magic.

It was only on Sunday night, while sitting in my friends’ living room watching the telly, that the magic rekindled. And all it took to light the spark was a simple TV advert. An ad for a book.

TV advertising is expensive. In South Africa I think I can safely say we’ve never had a TV ad for a book. Then this morning, the local breakfast TV show featured an interview with an author.
TV ads for books, authors interviewed on TV ... this is Utopia!

It is so easy to be sucked into the doom and gloom. Book sales are down! The eBook market is flooded! Book stores are closing! Libraries are closing! It’s the end of the world!

I’m here to tell you now that this is the best time to be a writer, and the future is GOLDEN. Books are alive, and people are reading.

Let’s feel the magic.

Friday, July 6, 2012

How much of you is in your characters?


I keep thinking about this question as I'm trying to get a good grip on the heroine in my current WIP.

In real life, and by that I mean, the life in which I have a double Masters in Engineering, have a day job I'm good at, and have always passed classes with better than average grades, I'm a confident, self-assured person, in contrast to the insecure, whiny mess that I'm as a writer. :-) and as a mother....
Growing up in a conservative culture in India( even though my dad was the most open minded, awesomesauce dad among our friends and families), I've been called arrogant, outspoken, and many more things by some small minded family members. I was the first in both my dad's and mom's family to come to USA alone (in contrast to being married and arriving as someone's wife or just migrating with your whole family), and I had done it at 20 and with a full scholarship to a university.

The point of this self-indulgent, biographical rambling is that I have opinions, and I realized at a very young age that usually these opinions, more often than not, were on the opposing side of the general consensus that family and sometimes, my friends came to. But I've never cared, though I taught myself that it was ok to have a different opinion.

And this is mostly reflected in the heroines I write. They might not have it all together like I do (cue hysterical laughing here :-)), but they are confident women who won't take crap from anyone. Even if they might not do it in a stick-my-face-in-yours kind of way. The heroine in my last wip, Olivia, who will remain my favorite for a long time to come, did just that.


Not so with my latest heroine, Lexi. 

I wouldn't call her a pushover as my hero has just done, but she's close to being one. Especially when it comes to her two friends who are all she has in the world.

I think (think being the operative word here) it works as to why she's like that, what has prevented her to stop taking crap from these said friends, and the growth she has to undergo after she realizes what she has become is of course, aided by our hero. But I'm having the hardest time writing her.

I keep wanting to make her more ballsy, and have flashes of her being just that, here and there, which makes for a very inconsistent character.

So I started to wonder: How can I be a good writer if I couldn't write more than one type of heroine? Will every heroine I write be a sum total of the same character traits in new packaging? Not everyone in the world is confrontational, or gutsy. And, personally, gutsy heroines who are nothing but gutsy drive me up the wall.

Does this happen to you? Do you find that you bestow your characters with traits that might be your own? How much of you is in your characters?

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Author Spotlight - Vanessa Fox

Vanessa Fox wears a number of different hats - and is well known to Irish writers as Vanessa O'Loughlin, the powerhouse behind Inkwell writers workshops and writing.ie. Under the name Vanessa Fox, she is the author of True Colours, her highly rated romance debut. A little bird told me she's working on another romance, so keep an eye out for it!
Without further ado, Vanessa's answering the minxy questions:
What is your writing process?
When I’m focusing on writing I get down to the computer and try and do 1000 words before I even think about opening my email – it’s the only way to get anything done! I’m a morning writer although I fill in the gaps and go over words already written in the evenings (actually in every spare minute).
Constructing each scene, I focus on what the reader needs to learn at that particular point and try and ensure that it is delivered without too much deviation. I tend to write the dialogue first, the bones of a chapter, then flesh it out with ‘stage directions’ and description.
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 wish I had time for shoe shopping! I usually have several big projects on the go at the same time, all writing related although not necessarily related to my writing! When I do sit down to write creatively, it’s tough to focus so I have to be very disciplined. Even if I only have 20 minutes I make sure I produce real words in that time – but I’ve discovered because the writing is very intense it tends to be more focused (I’ve been told since school that I have a tendency to waffle) which is actually good for me. Sometimes though, finding the words is like pulling teeth – at times like those I just try to write through it or skip on to a bit that I know I want to write, then go back and join the pieces together. I find if I know where I’m going, it’s a lot easier to get there!
Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer? No! What’s an exercise regime?! I do run up and down the stairs and when the weather’s good sporadically have evening walks up the mountain behind my house with my children…does that count?
Do you believe in writer's block?
I think you often get stuck as a writer, but it’s normally because you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere, or a character has said something out of context. The trick is to go back to where it was working and retrace your steps.
Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
I think we all draw on true life experiences but it’s important to distance real life from fiction or you risk getting sued!
In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
The scary bit is waiting for reviews to come in – it’s one thing spending hours writing but when people are paying for your work and have the freedom to comment on Amazon, you want to curl up and hide! Every writer has a contract with their reader to deliver the best possible work you can, but what if they hate it?!
Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I’m a complete Twitter advocate, but I think any online forum is a fabulous opportunity for promotion. The trick is not to bore your readers/community and take creative angles on promoting your book. Every connection you make online is a possible new friend, and a friend who might be interested in buying your book. You can’t have too many friends…
What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Get out there, get a professional blog or website, connect and interact with readers through forums, organisations and sites like Goodreads.
What did you learn while writing this book?
That baddies are great fun to write! And I can’t spell, but I knew that already!
What was the most fun part of writing this book?
I love the creating the sexual tension between the male and female characters, presenting them with obstacles that frustrate their relationship. The other fun part was discovering things about my characters that I didn’t know when I started, having major events in the plot developing as I wrote, changing the balance and twisting the plot.
And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
A golden beach on a private island in the Caribbean!

ABOUT TRUE COLOURS:
Can you ever forget your first love?
Successful interior designer Alex Ryan knows going back to Dublin will be difficult, but she has no idea of the hidden dangers that await her.
With her father in hospital after a mysterious accident and a new design client demanding her attention, when Alex finds herself in the offices of Venture Capital Ireland the last person she expects to meet is Sebastian Wingfield, heir to the Wingfield fortune - the one man in Ireland she is desperate to avoid.
And the last thing on Sebastian's mind is interior decoration.
But Sebastian is to marry his best friend’s sister, Caroline Audiguet-O'Reilly, in eight weeks time. And as the wedding plans unfold, unknown to any of them, someone is set on ruining him - whatever it takes.
There is no escaping the past, and the night Alex meets Sebastian at Kilfenora House, more than just their TRUE COLOURS are finally revealed.


You can pick up True Colours on Amazon.co.uk here.

Thanks for going minxy for the day, Vanessa!

Monday, July 2, 2012

It's time for a Hotties poll

It's been way too long since we had a fresh batch of hotties up here on the Minxes blog. So thank you very much to Adam Scott and Rickie Fowler, the joint winners of our Golfers hottie poll, but it's time to move over and make way for some fresh ... um ... faces.

Unbelievably, we don't seem to have had an Aussie hotties poll here yet, so this month's selection comes from Down Under. I'll stop with the words now and let the pictures do the talking.

The obvious first choice - Hugh Jackman



Sam Worthington


For Suzanne Minx (who seems to have a thing for men who can sing): Jason Donovan.



For Sally Minx: Keith Urban. (Great choice, Sally!)



Guy Pearce, the man with the piercing blue eyes:



Eric Bana.


Bad boy Russell Crowe.



And finally, my personal favourite, Simon Baker.



So who are you going to vote for?