Thursday, March 28, 2013

Author Spotlight - Natalie Charles

I know I'm not the only one who remembers Natalie Charles' winning entry in the last New Voices contest, and who's been eagerly awaiting getting my hands on a copy. It's here at last and the Minxes are exceptionally pleased to be able to bring you an inside glimpse into the heart-pumping action and romance of The Seven-Day Target.

1. Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

I'm a debut author for Harlequin Romantic Suspense and the winner of Mills & Boon's 2011 New Voices competition. When I'm not writing, I'm working as an attorney or a mom or a wife. Like so many women, I wear a lot of hats.

2. What number book is this? First? 100th? 200th?(Nora only!)

One and a half? When I won New Voices, I won the opportunity to have The Seven-Day Target published in the Mills & Boon Introduces anthology, which was released in October 2012 in the UK. When my manuscript was accepted for publication, Harlequin Romantic Suspense offered a contract to publish with the line in 2013. Because Harlequin Romantic Suspense was increasing its word limits for all books beginning in January, 2013, publication with the line meant I had to add 10 to 15k to my manuscript. Rather than adding scenes or chapters, I ended up rewriting the book almost entirely.

So, The Seven-Day Target is the same basic story line as the version I used when entering New Voices—same characters and same conflict—but almost completely re-imagined.

3. 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?

To be quite honest, I've struggled with this lately because I'm expecting a second child in June and the fatigue has been unbelievable. Going to bed early has become an even greater temptation than shoe shopping! But when I'm feeling more myself, it's all about discipline and goal setting. I try to set weekly word count goals, and once I accomplish them, I reward myself by doing something fun, like reading or watching a television show I enjoy.

4. What is your top promo tip for other authors?

At this stage I'm such a newbie that I've yet to figure out what works on a personal level. But I can tell you that what doesn't work for me as a reader is endless tweeting about a book. My eyes glaze over when I see anything on Twitter resembling an advertisement.

I choose my books based on reviews, and not just five star reviews, either. I've never been deterred from a reading a book that interested me based on a bad review. I guess my top promo tip would be to get your books into the hands of readers who will review them honestly.

5. How does writing fit into your day? Or does your day fit in around your writing?

Since I work full time and police a toddler in the evenings, I usually end the day with writing. It sometimes feels like these are the only hours I have to devote to something entirely of my choosing, so in that way, it's a very special time. That said, I wish the rest of my day could fit around my writing, instead. Alas.

6. Any craft books you recommend?

Stephen King's On Writing. I keep it in my nightstand drawer and I return to it when I need a kick in the pants. As readers, we never see the sweat and tears that go into producing a phenomenal book – all we see is the end product. Unfortunately that lack of perspective can trick us into believing that we can't achieve a phenomenal book on our own, or that writing well should come easily. King always reminds me that there's nothing more to writing than hard work, and lots of it.

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

I'm not sure why, but the biggest surprise to me was that writing as a published author feels an awful lot like a job. It's much different to sit down and write because you feel moved by the muse than it is to sit down and write because you have a contractual deadline. Then there are things like revisions and line edits, and just when you think you're ready to move on to something else, AA's show up in your inbox. I received AA's for The Seven-Day Target on the same day I had an emergency appendectomy. My editor was lovely and very understanding when I explained the situation, but it's just an example of how total control flies out the window once you're writing for a publisher.

Don't get me wrong – I still find many joyful moments when writing, and those moments are what keep me going. I knew that deadlines and other business realities would come with the territory, but it's eye-opening nonetheless.

8. At what point in your career did you actually start to feel like you were a writer?

I always imagined that when I was a Real Writer, I would carry a stylish messenger bag and frequent urban coffee shops. It just seemed like something a Real Writer would do. I still don't have a stylish messenger bag, though, and it seems like such a luxury to be able to write any place that isn't my couch after nightfall, so I've had to rethink my fantasy.

It didn't happen when I got The Call, or even when I went through the many necessary steps to prepare The Seven-Day Target for publication. I really didn't even feel like a real writer when I held the anthology in my hands for the first time – knowing that my book would be on a shelf on a different continent felt much too abstract. I think I felt like a writer for the first time when I was invited to speak on a panel at a book conference. People were asking me questions about my writing process and looking for advice like I was an actual writer. That was surreal, and while I still feel like I may never achieve my fantasy Real Writer status, I definitely felt in that moment that maybe I was a writer, after all.

9. Writing snacks – what are your favourites?

Oh, chocolate, definitely. I also love to write with a big glass of red wine – not these days, for obvious reasons. If I'm writing earlier in the day, I also love coffee. Do coffee and wine count as snacks?

10. Do you have any tips, tricks or sacrificial rituals you do when you hit a story roadblock?

I'm a person who gets bogged down with details, and the more I focus on how to solve a problem, the more frustrated I can get. One of my best tips is to know when to walk away from a manuscript. Not forever, but for a few hours or a day or two. Take a walk, drive down a boring road, or take a shower. I find that my best ideas come to me during my morning commute, when I'm sitting in traffic and sort of on auto-pilot. I can be listening to a song on the radio and suddenly! I know what I need to do with my manuscript.

It's difficult to take those breaks. It feels lazy. But our creative mind is working its hardest when we daydream, so I'm a firm believer in taking smart, temporary breaks. For me, it's part of the process.

Thank you so much for hosting me today!

Love never dies, but can it kill?

He never meant to speak to her again. Back in Arbor Falls for a funeral, Special Agent Nick Foster has moved on. He has no plans to stay in his tiny hometown--or to reunite with the beautiful Libby Andrews. His onetime fiancée broke his heart, and what's past should stay buried.

Libby doesn't want his help. Her childhood sweetheart can never know the real reason she ended their engagement three years before. But when a serial killer targets her, she must team up with the rugged agent for her own safety. Something in her past has put her in danger, and the passion they've reignited puts their future in deadly jeopardy.

The Seven-Day Target is now available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Book Depository. In the UK it's available as a special release with two other debuts from Amazon UK and Mills & Boon.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Author Spotlight - Gina Rossi

Hello Minxes. It’s wonderful to be here as your guest blogger today. I’m looking forward to talking a little about my writing and my new book ‘Life After 6 Tequilas’, released on 6th March 2013 by ThornBerry Publishing.

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.
Born in South Africa, I grew up there and moved to the UK as an adult. After a few years we tore ourselves away from the Cotswolds and moved again. These days, I’m lucky enough to live on the French Riviera, on the doorstep of Provence and close enough to Italy for regular forays. I’m a writer, but more importantly – and the list is long ‒ a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, in-law, aunt and friend – life is pretty full!

What number book is this?
Life After 6 Tequilas’ is my second traditionally published book. My first was an historical romance, ‘The Wild Heart’ (June 2012), and I have a third book, the self-published romantic novella, ‘To Hear You Smile’, a tribute to the London 2012 Paralympics.

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 you don’t treat writing like a regular job – boring bits and unpaid overtime included – you’ll never get a book written. Just as you would probably lose your day job if you downed tools and went shoe shopping every time you didn’t feel like doing it. Stick to the writing and keep shoe shopping for evenings and weekends, or, if you must, order online during coffee breaks!

What’s your top promo tip for other authors?
Write more books. Also, think very seriously about the time you spend on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, blogs etc. Never use these platforms solely to promote – advertise – your work over and over. Readers and writers alike will be put off. Rather spend that time writing. Also, build support by being kind to aspiring writers. If you’re nice to people, they’ll buy your books and spread the word, so don’t brag about how you write 5000 pure, perfect words 24/7, in case the rest of us are having a ‘freezing garret’ day. Be empathetic, and approachable

How does writing fit into your day? Or does your day fit around writing?
In the ideal world of normality and steady routine, ha ha, writing takes precedence all day, every day. Mornings are used for work i.e. research, typing up scenes I’ve scrawled on a paper serviette, social media, correspondence and chores. Afternoons are the clear water ahead for writing. If it’s Christmas, or time for family hols, I take a complete break. These are great times to turn your mind elsewhere and re-fill the well (so, always have a notebook handy).

Any craft books you recommend?
Writing Down the Bones’ by Natalie Goldberg
This amazing woman can save you a heap of grief by teaching you in the simplest way possible to clear the clamour in your head, open yourself to creativity and make a physical habit of writing.
On Writing’ by Stephen King
His simple analysis of writing as telepathy really did it for me.
Writing the Breakout Novel Handbook’ by Donald Maass
This is great for when your story is stuck on the page in an ordinary world. Maass will help you build plot layers, intensify conflict, and strengthen voice, point of view and character.

What was the most fun part of writing ‘Life After 6 Tequilas’?
Life After 6 Tequilas’ is set in London, in 2011, and some of the real-life events of that year shaped the story. It really focussed my mind and gave me direction in the most unexpected ways. I became a news junkie and kept notes on all the political and cultural events, most of which – you’ll be glad to know – I weeded out in the end.

Which of your characters would you like to be?
In this book, I’d have a go at being Lara Johnson. She’s a secondary character, and the heroine’s fearless mother. She’s a bit like a female Bear Grylls; a tall, bespectacled Audrey Hepburn-lookalike in combat gear, somehow always smelling of Chanel No 5. She’s a wildlife photographer, so ‒ hang on ‒ is frequently found wading in swamps, festooned with poisonous spiders, or freezing on rogue ice floes. Realistically, if I were Lara, I’d have to be carried, for the entire duration of whatever excursion, aloft, by bearers, because I don’t like stuff like cold water or snakes and all that goes with them. Oh, and I’d need dedicated, trustworthy bearers for my shoes and chocolate. Put it this way, I’d like to be Lara Johnson off-assignment.

Have you ever written a hero you’d like to run off with?
Ooh, yes, all of them, I’m afraid. I’m worried *pulls very concerned face* that if they’re not hot enough, my heroines won’t want them. They are tall, dark, handsome, courageous, loyal, impulsive, adventurous, intelligent and totally irresistible. What’s a girl to do? However, they’re all a tad young for me so I’ll stick with my real-life hero of several decades. He patiently reads every word I write, knows the exact moment when only wine will do, still knows what a date is, and lives by the motto ‘Keep Calm and Put Up With Gina’ – just four of the 901 407 reasons I love him!

Do you have any tips, tricks or sacrificial rituals you do when you hit a roadblock?
Yes, I change format. I stop the mad typing, pick up a notebook and pen and write longhand for a day. I write on the right-hand page and edit opposite, a few days later, on the left. For me, writing by hand changes the pace, shifts the creative process into a different gear. I find the flow between heart and brain, via the hand, onto the page, both soothing and productive. As the ideas gather, I speed up and it’s back to the keyboard.


Thanks so much for having me here today. I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you today. I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and readers and writers are most welcome to join me there.


Life After 6 Tequilas’ BLURB:

Beth Johnson, an upbeat, hardworking, single mum living in London takes the humorous challenges of life in her stride. Her career is fast-tracking but that’s secondary to baby Jacob – his care and development is paramount. When her impeccably-organized childcare routine implodes at the worst possible moment, she has no choice but to leave Jacob with unlikely ‘nanny’, Davit Kacharava, a Georgian migrant. Is she making an enormous mistake, letting this stranger into her comfortable world, even if he is gorgeous? She’s drawn to Davit but he resists, so why does she reveal to him the shocking secret that overshadows her life? And can she face the truth – do what’s right for herself, Jacob and Davit – before it’s too late?

Available now in ebook format (paperback coming soon from Amazon and Amazon UK.

Monday, March 18, 2013

It's a bling thing

As romance readers and writers, we often find ourselves escaping reality with alpha millionaires and their fabulous lifestyles.
I recently came across a website that's wonderful for research purposes ~ some of the things on there make the mind boggle!

Bornrich is my go-to website if you want to find the most expensive penthouses, jewellery and cars on the planet. It's strictly for lottery winners and day dreamers, but great fun for browsing none the less.

Fancy San Francisco Bay's finest home?  You'll need deep pockets to afford the $45 million dollar price tag.

There's some drop dead gorgeous things on the website, and some pretty darn random stuff on there, too.

Lets see... would you like to see an alpha hero who owned either of these things in your next romance read?

For his expensive car, the worlds most expensive care wax in a gold plated swarovski bottle? A snip at $97,000.

For his cleaner, the world most expensive 24 carat gold pated vacuum cleaner?

Or maybe he'd buy the heroine fancy lingerie, millionaire style of course, moulded out of 18 carat gold and encrusted with 500 carats of diamonds...

Doesn't look all that comfortable, does it? Personally, I think i'd rather stick with M&S!

I tell you what does make my heart beat faster though... THIS BABY.

It's a fridge, it's a freezer, it's a fresh coffee maker, it's an ice maker, it's a steam oven, it's a double pantry... it's heavenly, isn't it?

Ferrari's don't float my boat, but I'd marry a man for this kitchen equipment any day!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Author Spotlight - Michelle Smart

Today the Minxes welcome good friend Michelle Smart to talk about her debut book with Entangled Publishing. Michelle also has her debut Harlequin Presents to look forward to later this year. To find out more about Michelle and her books, please visit her website.

1.  Tell our readers a little bit about yourself

I’m a married mother of two with a serious book addiction and a serious allergy to housework.

2.  What number book is this? First? 100th? 200th? (Nora only!)

This is my debut (although about the fifth book written – the others were all pants)

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

I find supergluing my bottom to the seat works really well.

4.  What is your top promo tip for other authors?

I'm a complete newbie so I have no idea!

5.  How does writing fit into your day? Or does your day fit in around your writing?

Everything fits in around my writing. Everything. Apart from the school run. However, I’m currently working on a top secret plan to install a portal that links my house to the school. I’m also training my children to cook and clean.

6. Is there a book you haven't written yet that you're dying to? What genre?

I have plotted at least three non-romance books in my head. They’re all thrillers and who knows, one day I might actually get off my superglued bottom and write one of them!

7.  Any craft books you recommend?

Stephen King's On Writing

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

Absolutely. I climb the stairs in my house at least a dozen times a day.

9.  Do you write to music, or with the tv on in the background, or do you need complete silence?

I listen to music – I put my earphones in, stick iTunes on and off I go. Because I write books that are often so emotional, I mostly listen to love songs (not all sappy ones either!). As I’ve also downloaded a few tunes for my kids, it can be a little disconcerting when the shuffle suddenly switches from JealousGuy to Gangnam Style.

10.  Writing snacks – what are your favourites?

Twirls, Crunchies, Twixes, Nik Naks, Wotsits and Jelly Beans. I believe in a varied diet.

Socialite Pippa Rowantree has always provided excellent fodder for the UK’s gossip rags. After another unfortunate scandal sends the gossips into a feeding frenzy, her shamed family retaliates by forcing her into hiding at old family friend Marco Capello’s lush Caribbean estate—literally the last place on earth she wants to be.

As far as Marco’s concerned, wild child Pippa has ruined his life once and he’ll be damned if he lets her do it again. But it’s hard to reconcile the adolescent he knew with the mature, beautiful woman who stands before him. Soon he's questioning if everything the media is claiming about Pippa is the truth or if he should trust his heart.

Buy here: Amazon, Amazon UK, iBookstore

Monday, March 11, 2013

Nashville Watching

I already have a whole load of regular favourite TV series, but I've recently added a new one into the mix-Nashville, written by Thelma & Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri.

It's the story of Rayna Jaymes, a 40 year old Nashville superstar whose star is beginning to fade. Rayna wants to continue with her career and singing is her first love, but her husband Teddy is keen to run for Major, with her controlling rich father's support, and Rayna feels the pressure of having to support her family in the meantime. The need for money means she's being pressured from all sides, her agent wants her to do a tour with up-and-coming country singer Juliette Barnes (something she doesn't want to do) and her husband wants her to do a commercial. She's also torn between Teddy and her guitarist ex lover and songwriter Deacon Claybourne.

The two women clash when Juliette makes moves on Deacon. He's a fantastic songwriter, and she wants him to go  on tour with her, to write songs for her and she also fancies him rotten. The fact that he's devoted to Rayna is a thorn in her side, and her life is far from easy too. She's plagued by her addict mother, and her career is in jeapordy when she's filmed shoplifting.

If the two women, one man thing wasn't enough, there are an excellent side plot going on with Deacon's niece, Scarlett, who's stuck in a love triangle with her boyfriend and co-songwriter.

But what really makes Nashville compelling viewing for me is the music. The actors who play all the characters actually sing the songs in the series, most of which seem to have been comissioned for the show, and they are really great. So much so, that the album of songs from Nashville titled The Music of Nashville: Season one, Volume one sold 56,000 copies on it's first week of release.

If you haven't watched it yet, do!

Here's a sample from YouTube, Rayna and Deacon singing in a club. With Juliette casting daggers in the audience...

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Author Spotlight - Georgia Hill

I’m so pleased to welcome the very lovely Georgia Hill to our blog today.

Hi, Georgia, can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself?
Hi everyone! Thanks for having me. I’m Georgia Hill and I write contemporary romance. I taught for 20 years but am now a full-time writer and loving it. I live in Herefordshire with my long-suffering husband, 2 naughty spaniels and a ghost called Zoe.

What number book is this? First? 100th? 200th?(Nora only!)
Love’s As Easy As ABC is book number 3 (the other 97 are still in my head!). It’s a sort-of sequel to my second, In a Class of His Own. Some of the characters reappear but it can be read as a standalone too. It’s the story of Laura who is trying to forget her troubled past and features my favourite hero. I absolutely loved writing it!

Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?
I’m probably the world’s worst procrastinator, so not the best person to answer this! I drink lots of coffee, pace around a bit, write a few words down, put some washing in, write a bit more, take the washing out, make more coffee, do another chapter .You get the picture. Sometimes though, when you’re really not in the mood and the words simply won’t flow, it’s best to go and do that shoe shopping. Writing can be like pulling teeth sometimes!

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
I’m not sure I’ve been ‘at it’ long enough to give an answer to this one. The best thing I’ve done is make some supportive writing friends; they always come up with great ideas. I have a Facebook page, I’m on Twitter and have a website; the usual things. A tongue in cheek post or tweet can keep you in the public eye – and sell books.

How does writing fit into your day? Or does your day fit in around your writing?
I’ve gradually got into a routine, which works for me. I do a bit of net-working stuff in the mornings, over breakfast. Walk the dogs, which tends to pep you up at this time of year (it was -3C this morning!), do a few chores and then get down to some writing 2 to 6, then 7 to 9pm. But – if the wonderful and all too rare Muse pays a visit, everything else is forgotten and I hammer away at the key-board oblivious to anything else I need to do.

Just for fun: a year from the end of the book, where would your couple go on holiday?
I loved writing Simon and Laura. Laura was a challenge to write, as she’s very different to me, especially at the beginning of Love’s As Easy As ABC. Simon is a romantic man and very protective of Laura; I think he’d probably spoil her. Their next holiday is their honeymoon – maybe to the Scilly Isles or perhaps the Azores -  nowhere too obvious (and as far away from Margo as possible – she upstaged everyone, including the bride, at the wedding!)

Which of your characters would you like to be?
Ooh – I’d love to be Perdita from Pursued by Love. She’s a beautiful, talented actor, has a fabulous life-style – and ended up with Nick, who is dark, dangerous and gorgeous!

Could you be friends with any of your heroines?
I’d be friends with Nicky Hathaway out of In a Class of His Own. She’s feisty and confident and likes to party. She’d be great fun to have around.

Do you write to music, or with the tv on in the background, or do you need complete silence?
This depends on what sort of writing I’m doing. I don’t often like complete silence and usually have Radio 2 on very quietly in the background. If have to concentrate hard, then it’s silence. If I’m writing a romantic scene, I’ll put something seductive on: Adele, Mathilde Santing, Fleet Foxes and Scott Matthews get played a lot. Kate Bush once provided me with the perfect line for a hero. There’s also a Julia Fordham track – Behind Closed Doors – which sums up heartbreak for me. Music’s important and can help create the mood I want to write.

Do you have any tips, tricks or sacrificial rituals you do when you hit a story roadblock?
I wish! Talking it through with supportive friends, super-gluing one’s bottom to the chair, gritting teeth and just getting on with it are all things I do. If I’m really stuck on a tricky bit, I play Mozart. Works every time – and no, I don’t know why either!

Here’s a little about Love’s As Easy As ABC:

All Laura wants to do is begin her teaching career and forget her troubled past. After what she’s been through, she wants little to do with men, especially charming but untrustworthy fellow teacher Miles. When his coolly confident older brother is taken on as Deputy Head however, Laura has to reassess who she is and what she really wants. Has she the strength of character to recover her lost confidence - and will she ever find true love with the right man?

Here’s the very striking cover:

And you can buy it here: and

Thank you for visiting us today, Georgia. Love's As Easy As ABC sounds like a fab read.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Good News Monday: March

The Minxes thought it would be fun to use the first Monday of every month to celebrate our good news. We're also opening this up to all of our Minxy friends so anyone who has some good news they'd like to share, please email Catherine putting "Good News Monday" in the title or directly via Twitter. 

From the Minxes

Maya Blake has had her 3rd book accepted for the Mills & Boon Modern line. It's entitled Marriage Made of Secrets and scheduled for release in both the US and the UK in October. If that's too long to wait, don't forget you can pick up The Sinful Art of Revenge from the Mills & Boon site now!

Tara Pammi has received confirmation her first two books are to be released as a duet in the Mills & Boon Modern/Presents line in October & November of this year. Their tagline is The Sensational Stanton Sisters: Notoriety Has a Name and the October book is titled A Hint of Scandal

Kitty French's red hot smash hit Knight & Play is now available on Kobo, Nook and Apple.

From our friends

Michelle Smart's first release from Entangled is Tempted by Trouble and is scheduled for release next week!

And last but definitely not least, the wonderfully talented and immensely entertaining Amalie Berlin has sold to Harlequin M&B Medical!!!! 

And, finally, because everyone needs a good laugh on a Monday morning, here's a couple of videos that made the Minxes giggle this morning!