Friday, December 23, 2011

A Minxy Holiday Treat

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

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

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Author Spotlight - Rachael Johns

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

What is your writing process?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you believe in writer's block?

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

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

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

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

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

In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?

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

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Write more books.

What did you learn while writing this book?

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

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

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

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

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


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

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

Carina Press

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Everyone Needs a "Kalinda"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Author Spotlight - Shirley Jump

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

What is your writing process?

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

Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?
I use shoe shopping (and other fun things like lunch with friends) as “carrots” to keep me working. Like today I want to get to the mall for Christmas shopping, and my deal with myself is that I have to finish one chapter and revise another before I go anywhere. If I don’t do it, shopping has to wait :-(. That tends to keep me on track.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas miracle: from tough tycoon…to daddy?

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

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

Man of the Year poll

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

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

Mr January is Ireland's Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Mr February is Wales's Ioan Gruffud.

Mr March is Scotland's John Barrowman.

Mr April is England's Daniel Craig.

In May we brought you the medical fave Jesse Williams.

In June it was policeman fave Chris O'Donnell.

In July Daniel Gillies.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Exceeding Expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Author Spotlight - Trish Wylie

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

Right - let the questions begin...

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

Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?
I find the need to eat a great motivator but on the really bad days I'll simply keep plugging away at it-even if I'm writing complete twaddle-and set myself a word-count goal. Once I'm over the 'hump' and get going again, I'll delete a lot of what it took to get me there.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 5, 2011

A book recommendation...

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

Friday, December 2, 2011

Movie Review - Only You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Author Spotlight - Amy Andrews

Today I'm pleased to welcome one of my favourite medical authors. Amy writes smoking hot medicals that have me turning the page long into the night. It was no surprise for me to hear that Amy's next release is going to be a Riva. I'm so excited to read it!! Here's Amy talking about her current release.

Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

I had about four or five books out and was just dabbling in my first ST. I was writing fast back then – I’ve been getting slower and slower. Sob!

Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?

My latest medical – Waking Up With Dr Off Limits - is the fourth in a linked series and came about from a few of my medical writer friends talking about wanting to do something together and then approaching one of our eds about it. We were given some very loose guidelines by editorial but essentially all the characters and setting came from us. We set it in Coogee so at the conference there in 2010 we were able to meet and discuss our characters and go looking for local Coogee landscapes that we could put in the book. We hadn’t decided who was going to do what book but as our plotting chat expanded on a little loop we’d set up, we kept talking about how there was going to be a TDH character that also lived at the house, maybe a brother of one of the heroines, to give the books a bit of eye candy and comic relief but then he grew and grew and grew and I knew I wanted my heroine (who hadn’t even really come to me by that stage) to be hopelessly in love with him. So I volunteered to go last so that Jess’s (really must stop choosing heroines names that end in an s!!) unrequited love could be well chronicled and then I could give her, her HEA at the end.

Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?

In five years I hope to be closing in on my 50th Harlequin. I’m now also writing for their RIVA line (Innocent Until Proven Otherwise is out in Feb next year) so the magical 50 will be split between two lines. I also hope to have a thriving ST career. Last year my sister and I co-authored a contemporary women’s fiction novel (with romantic elements – of course!!) which Harper Collins Australia picked up in a 2 book deal. Sister Pact, a story about two estranged sisters forced to play nice, is out in time for Mother’s Day next year.

Our second book tentatively titled Sister Napped is out the following year and continues the story of Joni and Frances. It’s great to see so many Australian publishing houses now realising what we Aussie romance authors/readers have known all along – romance rocks. And most importantly romance sells. It’s great to see so many Aussie authors being picked up by our local houses. And it was even better to hear one of the editors (can’t remember who) on the editor panel in Melbourne this year say that the RWA conference is now THE industry conference to attend in Australia. That can only be good news for ALL of us.

Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?

I have two actually. I just finished On The Loose by Tara Janzen, a new author to me. And also Susan Sey’s Money Shot. I highly recommend both of them. Tight writing. Great one liners. Zingy dialogue.

Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?

No. But there was one that made me want to be a different writer  Getting Rid Of Bradley changed my life. Until I read this fabulous Crusie category romance I thought I knew what a romance was. She blew that away. She showed me that you could be funny and snarky and sassy and irreverent. Yes perhaps I should have already known that  but to that point I wasn’t really reading any ST romance and my category choices were along the lines of Ann Mather and Carole Mortimer – great books but very different to Crusie’s.

What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?

Well it’s not going to sound very romantic I’m sure but a few years back my husband and I went to the Amalfi Coast in Italy sans children and one day we ended up at a little beach side shack (literally on the beach) that served basic food and cold local wine and we just watched the ocean together for a few hours – talking and eating amazing local cuisine and absorbing the ambience. It was bliss!

What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?

That getting the call isn’t the prize. It’s just the beginning of the journey and beyond that tantalizing, frustratingly out of reach door is another bloody huge mountain to climb!

What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?

Don’t give up.

How do you go about researching the medical detail that needs to go into your books?

I’m a terribly lazy researcher - I really don’t like it (would never make an historical writer!!) so I tend to chose medical situations that I know a lot about either through personal experience or just plain osmosis from having worked in the industry for over two decades. If I need to research I have a swag of medical people I know or work with that can usually answer most questions. If not it’s the www. But I think it’s also important to stress that any romance is first and foremost about the relationship – the medical stuff mustn’t overshadow that so I urge anyone out there trying to write for the line not to tie themselves in knots over medical detail.

Tell us about your book.

I’m excited about Waking Up With Dr Off Limits because it’s my first ever virgin book. I can’t believe it took me 25 books to get here  I guess though this series of four linked books is called Single Free and Fabulous in Sydney because it involved much younger heroines. I usually write my female leads in their 30’s so it seemed a good fit with Jess’s young character and her three year obsession/adulation/crush on Adam. I should perhaps add a warning here—my editor said she had to fan herself when she was reading it  Jess may have waited til she was 24 but she caught up fast! Jess is a newbie theatre nurse and Adam (Ruby from book 1’s brother) is a hotshot highflying surgeon working for an international surgical charity. He’s away a lot but that doesn’t stop Jess pining for him and imagining what could happen! Then one day she comes home from work after an all nighter in the OR to find Adam very much home and sleeping in her bed. And he’s coming to work in her theatres on a major case and wants her to help! Suddenly Adam isn’t looking at Jess as his little sister’s friend anymore. And Jess knows it’s now or never….

What’s next for you?

I’m writing my second RIVA next – not that I currently have a clue about any of it. But that’s okay, I know it’ll come. I have a title – the rest will follow 

Waking up With Dr Off-Limits

Jess's Diary: At least catching my housemate Dr Adam Carmichael--bachelor, sex-god, and my secret crush extraordinaire--in my bed {!} means he finally knows my name! For years Adam's been 100% off-limits {if ever a man needed a revolving door on his bedroom ...}, but there's no harm in dreaming of more ... is there?

Available from Mills & Boon UK, Mills & Boon Australia, Amazon UK

Thanks for being with us today, Amy, I'd be interested to know when you sleep with medicals, Rivas and Single Titles!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Brotherly Love

Okay, I confess... I'm a sucker for a handsome clutch of brothers. There's something charismatic and sexy about a bevvy of good looking brothers, especially when they are close friends too. They form their own little club that you desperately want to be a part of, you know? Or even better, be the little sister of!

I'll start with an obvious bunch. Girls, brace yourselves for this photo on a Monday Morning, it's a treat... the Walker boys from 'Brothers & Sisters'. Hand on heart, I searched for a photo with shirts on, and without Rob Lowe and Gilles Marini, but I just couldn't seem to find one... ;o)

Can you remember what we were talking about before you looked at that? No... me neither....
*cough* Brothers. I loved the dynamic of the brotherly relationships on Brothers & Sisters, they were all very different characters but fiercely loyal to each other when the chips were down. And they all adored their mum, which only serves to make them even more swoonsome. I miss the Walkers.

Next up, a movie clan - the Ludlow trio from Legends of The Fall. I can't say enough about how much I love this film, and much of my adoration stems from the strength of the fraternal relationship between Tristan, Samuel and Alfred. Again, three completely contrasting characters, and I find myself sympathising with all of them. It's such a beautiful, tragic love story about one woman who is lucky enough to love them all, but one more than the others. Sweeping, and epic, it sums up brotherly love with aching clarity. I think I know it almost word for word, and still can't make it to the end without crying. That scene on the porch with Alfred & Tristan gets me every time... "You say that again and we're not brothers."

It should be noted that I managed to talk about Legends of the fall without waxing lyrical about Brad Pitt. It was hard. 

And lastly, a clan from the world of Romance novels - The Bennett brothers, courtesy of the fabulous  Kelly Hunter.
I love Kelly's romances anyway, but the Bennett brothers books really shone for me.
Red Hot Renegade with serious eldest brother Jacob Bennett was utterly gorgeous, a really fresh slant on a reunion story. And then came Pete, the flirty hero helicopter pilot on a lush greek island. I loved him!
Not to mention super sexy Luke... If you haven't had the pleasure of the Bennett brothers, put them on your Christmas list, you won't be disappointed.

Can you add to our Monday morning list of beautiful brothers?

Friday, November 25, 2011

TV Show Review: Blue Bloods

I’m a huge fan of Tom Selleck. I fell in love with him from way back in the day when he was Magnum PI, through to Three Men and a Baby. I wasn't so sure about his role as Monica's squeeze in Friends but doggone it, I forgave him for it.

So imagine my whoop of joy when I saw him featured in the newish series of Blue Bloods last year. I watched, I loved and I believe this is his best role yet.

In Blue Bloods, Tom plays Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, the second of three generations of a New York Catholic cop family, with two sons played by Donnie Wahlberg and Will Estes.

Blue Bloods is more than just Tom Selleck, although his dimples on the rare occasions he smiles on the show makes me melt (Shallow? Moi?).

There are three things that make Blue Bloods special for me: Family - the way this family support each other through rights and wrongs. Integrity – the way Tom’s character struggles between the fierce need to protect his family and the pressure of being Police Commissioner. Great Drama (spoiler alert) – the common thread that runs in the show is the loss of Tom’s first son under shady circumstances and this thread crops up throughout the series and keeps the show just that little bit more interesting for me.

But even without these elements, I’d watch just for Tom's dimples and Donnie Wahlberg's bad boy looks.

Yes, apparently I'm that shallow, lol!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Author Spotlight - Scarlet Wilson

Since a few of us Minxes met Scarlet at the RNA conference in 2010, before she became rich and famous as a published Harlequin writer, we Minxes have been her biggest fans. Which is why we are so excited to have her here back with us again today, this time to talk about her December release, The Boy Who Made Them Love Again.

Once again, thanks for appearing in our spotlight again, Scarlet.

* * *

What is your writing process?
I write a thousand words everyday no matter what. They might not be good words, but at least it’s something. My kids have activities nearly every night so I always plan at night when I’m out with them. It means when I sit down to type I know exactly what I’m writing that day. Research is an entirely different matter….

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 try not to allow myself to be distracted. If I’m writing a bit I don’t like I try and figure out why. Sometimes skipping on to a new scene helps, but usually I write my story in the right time sequence.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
I am rubbish at keeping fit. I bought a bike recently does that count? I also tried the “shoogely joogely” also known as the power plates, but I never lost a single pound. I did however, read many books on my iphone.

Do you believe in writer's block?
I believe in trying to write my way through it. It’s the only thing I can do. Shopping can also help!

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
I’ve never really used an incident as I have an active imagination. I have used settings though, or based a story in a similar setting. I’m writing a cruise ship story next year and that will be based on my holiday where I prowled around the medical centre on the MSc Magnifica last year!

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
I still have a lot to learn. The learning curve is definitely steep. There’s also a little bit of regret about the things you have no control over ie your book covers etc.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I’ve recently joined Twitter after saying I’d never do it. I also have an author facebook page and I have my own website. I also blog on the Harlequin website once every two months. That’s as good as it gets for me and I still work fulltime.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Write every day and read all the current books in your genre. I also would advise to try and find out who the new authors are, and what their story lines are about. It gives you an idea of what they’re buying and what publishers are looking for.

What did you learn while writing this book?
This book deals with lost love, childhood illness and fertility. My favourite part to write was actually the most hideous. It’s when Abby is travelling to hospital with her sick son and she’s having terrible thoughts – if her son doesn’t survive she doesn’t want to be there. Every parent's nightmare. But people tend not to talk about it.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
That my imagination can run riot! This book features the President and First Lady having the first white house baby in over 50 years!

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
This story is set in Pelican Cove, which is just like Cabot Cove in Murder She Wrote, but based on the Californian Coast. I think I would have to send my hero to the original setting!

THE BOY WHO MADE THEM LOVE AGAIN (Available Dec 2011 in book stores near you)

From Dr Storm to Devoted Dad

When Luke Storm ended his relationship with Abby Tyler, he thought that he was doing the right thing. Abby so wanted children and Luke knew he could never give them to her.

Now, five years later, when he meets Abby again, and with a little boy of her own, Luke is rocked. She's as gorgeous and adorable as ever, but if he wants Abby back in his life again he realises he has to let her special little son into his heart and become the father he never expected to be...

* * *

This book is already available at Amazon, Amazon UK and direct from Mills & Boon. Don't forget to also check out Scarlet's debut novel, It Started With a Pregnancy.

You can follow Scarlet at her blog and on Twitter.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mixing day jobs and writing

As I'm in a film studio today shooting a TV commercial (and battling with no signal and pathetic emails) it's got me thinking about how our day jobs diverge from or affect our writing.

I work in what may seem a glamorous or fascinating industry (after film school I worked in feature films and TV dramas before moving into advertising), so I should be ideally placed to write stories set in that world, right?

Wrong! When I sit down to write, I want to escape my day job, not focus my thoughts back on it.

Do you take your day job home with you when you write, or do you escape to other careers and other worlds through your writing? Do you have a day job that involves writing, or are you a full time writer?

We Minxes would love to know! (Cos we're nosy that way). And if you're lucky, we'll even share a little more about ourselves.

[Please note, these pictures are from a previous shoot, not today's studio shoot, which isn't half as interesting!]

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Minxes welcome ... Natalie Charles, winner of New Voices 2011

A big thank you to the lovely and talented Minxes of Romance for inviting me here to talk about my New Voices experience!

I entered New Voices to get past the heartbreak of receiving a form rejection letter in late July in response to a query I sent to Harlequin Intrigue. I am no stranger to rejection, but this one stung -- I loved that story. Nevertheless, I've learned that the only way to handle rejection is to keep moving, kind of like a romance writing shark.

My rebound story, The Seven Day Target, is about an ambitious prosecutor named Libby and her former fiance, Nick. I have always taken an interest in writing about the complexities of broken relationships, and the deeper the connection between two people, the greater the possibilities for exploration. And so, Nick and Libby are childhood sweethearts with a deep connection that somehow became muddled. They are reunited when Libby's life is threatened by a serial killer whom they thought died in prison years ago, and this crisis presents them with an opportunity to grow as individuals and to heal the rift between them.

I know that last year's New Voices winner, Leah Ashton, famously submitted her chapter late in the competition. That impresses me to no end because I am SUCH a planner. I had my chapter ready to go well in advance of the start of the competition, and I entered within the first few days. I wrote my second chapter in the weeks preceding the announcement of the top 20 (which was really the top 21), and I wrote my pivotal moment before the top 4 were announced. It's a big challenge for me to produce a manuscript quickly after being declared the winner. I am not only a romance writing shark, but also a bit of a romance writing turtle…let's say sea turtle, for consistency.

(And yes, that's right: my manuscript is in the process of being written. I never thought I'd advance to the top 20 + 1, let alone the top 4. To be the winner? Crazy talk!)

I will share that the week leading up the announcement was unforgettably awful. A freak storm in New England knocked out all power and Internet two days before I had to upload the pivotal moment. Cell towers were down. I had visions of driving eight hours to find a wi-fi connection in a coffee shop somewhere near the Canadian border. I was incredibly lucky that my husband managed to find enough of a signal on his cell phone to activate a wireless hotspot that allowed me to use the remaining minutes on my (of course barely charged!) laptop to upload my pivotal moment. Up it went, 30 hours early, without the extra revisions I wanted to make. To say that I was in a cold sweat all week is an understatement. Most of my family and friends couldn't even vote for my entry since almost no one had Internet.

Which leads me to my Call story. Because of this storm, we didn't have phone service at home for 10 days. We didn't have Internet, either, so once again we relied on my husband's phone. On November 4, five minutes after the scheduled time for the New Voices winner announcement, Mills and Boon sent an email telling me that they were trying to reach me and asking me to please call. I called immediately, my stomach in knots, and they said congratulations and told me I had won New Voices. Hearing those words was one of the most emotional experiences of my life. I will never forget watching my elbow shake as I held the phone to my ear. I screamed, I cried, I kept thanking them. I went to work minutes after I hung up and I tried to go about my day as usual, but it was surreal. I felt like my life was exactly the same and suddenly very, very different. I was going to be a Mills and Boon author! The many years I've spent working on my writing were well worth that incredible moment.

Now, I am very excited about the challenges ahead as I write and revise a novel (in case you're interested, I will be blogging about the process). I am also extremely hopeful that other New Voices entrants will be receiving their own Call, and I will be watching for those announcements. More than anything, I am grateful that my rebound turned into a kind of happily ever after. And if you've been kind enough to read to this point, I'm grateful for that, too.

xx Natalie

* * *

Please visit Natalie's blog at for an inside look at her New Voices journey, and to follow her progress. We Minxes certainly will be following Natalie's story with eager anticipation. And once again from all of us: Well done, Natalie!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Author Spotlight - Michele Hauf

For those readers who like to walk on the dark side, we have paranormal romance author Michele Hauf in the spotlight today. Michele's latest release, This Glamorous Evil, is out this month through Harlequin's Nocturnal Cravings.

What is your writing process?
It's pretty much the same daily. I write in the mornings and early afternoons because that's when my brain is still fresh, and I come to the computer with ideas I may have sorted through my dreams the night previous.

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?
Well, I go shoe shopping. ;-) Usually, I'll make myself write a scene that needs to be done, then reward myself with the shopping. I know that if there are days I feel compelled to be anywhere other than behind the keyboard, that it's best to honor that feeling and just go with it. My muse loves me for that.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
I wish! I do sit on one of those big exercise balls, and once in a while, when I think of it, I'll bounce. Which is like a minute total every day. I do not like to exercise, but have the yoga mat sitting in the other room in case the urge strikes. Which rarely happens. I do force myself to get up at least every hour, walk to the kitchen, maybe make some tea. Just to move a bit.

Do you believe in writer's block?
Not really. I don't think the muse works a regular 9-to-5 shift, so when she's really feeding you the ideas, take advantage of it, and when not, then don't freak about it. Really, just let it come when it wants to come. And if you feel blocked, at least for me, then I know I'm forcing it, or have too much on my plate to deal with. That's when shoe shopping comes in handy. ;-)

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
I use real life incidents often, and no, I've never gotten in trouble. I always think readers are least likely to believe the true stuff, and more likely to believe the made up stuff. I would never reveal what is based on truth and what is not, though.

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
The business work involved is immense. Lots of self-promotion marketing, talking about yourself (I hate that!), and generally being a public figure to represent your book when really, I'm very shy and all that stuff freaks me out.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I am everywhere online, with a website, blog (a few blogs actually), Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Tumblr, a group blog. Are you sick of me yet? ;-)

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Just be available online to answer reader emails and keep the cyber conversation going.

What did you learn while writing this book?
I actually gained another story while writing This Glamorous Evil. I knew the hero, Thoroughly Jones had a twin brother, Certainly Jones. As I was writing this, Certainly's story came to me in bits and pieces, and I'm working on that as I write this.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
The heroine is a cat-shifting familiar whose job is having sex to summon demons to this realm. Do you see where some interesting and fun scenarios could develop because of that? But also, the fact she wanted to have 'real' sex with a man instead of 'work' sex made for a fun story.

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
Uh, he's originally from London, so he might take Star there and show her around his old haunts.

What does the closure of Nocturne Bites and the advent of Nocturne Cravings mean for you, and has the change affected your writing process or the stories themselves in any way?
Doesn't affect my writing. Both lines are novella-length, so if I would contract with the Cravings it would be for a short story. Cravings are about 5K longer than the Bites were, and a little more sexy, but it's all good. ;-)

About the book:
Throughly Jones (T.J.) is a witch who practices dark magic and is desperate to rescue his brother from Daemonia. He needs to circumvent the usual methods to conduct demons because he's after a big catch. But will cat-shifting familiar, Star, agree to cut out the middle man and work exclusively with T.J.? That would involve them having sex to conduct a demon. But she wants a real relationship, without 'work sex' getting in the way. Can the two share the most intimate of connections to get the rescue job done, or will love toss a kink into their plans?

* * *

Thanks, Michele!

This Glamorous Evil is available on Amazon, Amazon UK and Harlequin (as well as all your other usual Harlequin suppliers).

Michele also has a Christmas-themed Vampire story in Harlequin's A Vampire for Christmas anthology, and her novel Kiss Me Deadly is available as a free read from Try Harlequin. Go on, give it a try. You might just get hooked!

To view Michele's impressive full back list, click here.

* * *

Check back here on Friday, same time, same place, as we have a fantastic surprise guest appearing on the blog.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Creating multi-dimensional characters

I've been dipping back into one of my favorite writing craft books - Story by Robert McKee, to explore once again the elements of building character. If a character isn't developed fully, they are flat and uninteresting. But by following carefully Mr McKee's advice, a character can become three-dimensional and truely fascinating.
Mr McKee's excellent book is geared toward screen-writing, but the principles espoused in it, are also of huge relevance to writers of fiction, and every time I dip back in, I find my interest sparked, and my knowledge enhanced.
Firstly, he talks about the difference between Characterization and True Character. Characterization is what we observe of the character. Their age, physical appearance, job, traits, style of speech, personality, attitudes, and the world in which they live.
True Character is deeper, it is what lies beneath the mask of Characterization. What is this character really like, and how can we portray it on the page?
Mr McKee says:
'True Character can only be expressed through choice in dilemma. How the person chooses to act under pressure is who he is-the greater the pressure, the truer and deeper the choice to character.'
Even when Characterization and True Character are fully explored, the character is not multi-dimensional. In order to create a fully rounded character, more elements must be present. Mr McKee defines it thus:
Dimension means contradiction: either within deep character (guilt-ridden ambition) or between characterization and deep character (a charming thief). These contradictions must be consistent. It doesn't add dimension to portray a guy as nice throughout a film, then in one scene have him kick a cat.
Okay, I'm beginning to get it. Now, to investigate further, I'm going to think about a character that I find fascinating in a TV show, to see if they are truly multi-dimensional. I've decided to use the character of Kalinda in The Good Wife.
Characterization: Young, good looking and street smart, intelligent, works for law firm, bi-sexual.
True character: Caring, thorough in discovering information.
Dimension: A friend to Alicia Florrick, yet secretive. Gentle, yet tough. Loyal to her job, yet prepared to compromise her principles and jump ship. Seductive but manipulative.
So immediately I've noticed four contradictions in the way that Kalinda is. She isn't designed as the protagonist in The Good Wife, but instead as a secondary character. But  her multi-dimensional character builds fascination into her every appearance.
Mr McKee explains that every character in a story has a job to do. The protagonist is the central character, and every other character within the story is there to highlight an aspect of the layers of dimension within the protagonist. Observing this formula with the character of Kalinda, we see through her reactions to situations and people throughout the series. Each person she interacts with reveals another aspect of her character. Makes the contradictions within her personality clear.
If a story contains too many characters who are multi-dimensional, then the reader doesn't know who should hold their interest. So by necessity, 'bit-players' should be less complex, and should be in the story to reveal more to the reader about the central character/characters. Or perhaps just be there to act as a foil for the central characters, one that they can open up to in conversation or over the telephone.
'Story' is a great resource for writers!

Friday, November 11, 2011

In Remembrance

Here in South Africa we're approaching 11am, on the 11th of November 2011. 11-11-11-11.

As a child I still remember wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day. That tradition has long since fallen out of  fashion, and slowly out of memory too. I find this sad, as I think we need more days where we're urged to think of peace in our world, rather than less.

Why this day?

On 11th November 1918, at 11am, the armistice agreement was signed, ending the first (and what many hoped was the last) world war. Sadly, we now know better. War is still all around us, perhaps even more than ever, and certainly we're more aware of it thanks to media and the diminishing size of our world.

Why the poppy?

In the surprisingly evocative words of Wikipedia: "These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war." As far back as the Egyptians, the poppy signified life and fertility, and for its sedative medicinal qualities it's also the flower of sleep. Life and death all rolled into one simple flower.

So today, I'd like to ask our blog readers to consider the significance of this day and to suggest ways in which we might each be able to bring a little more peace and a little less war into our world.

My suggestion, to get the ball rolling: teach the next generation to revere life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Author Spotlight - Heidi Rice

Today the Minxes are super pleased to welcome back Minx special friend, best selling author and all around media darling, Heidi Rice.

What is your writing process?

Unfortunately completely haphazard. I wish it wasn’t quite so unpredictable. I’m a total panster (or seat of your pants) writer in that I don’t tend to write stuff down. That said I spend a lot of time imaging scenes and conversations not just between my characters but also in their pasts, in their childhoods, etc, before I start writing (and when I’m writing a story in any downtime I have), so it’s not totally unplanned. I would not recommend this method to anyone though, as it tends to lead you up blind alleys without a paddle a lot and also has your kids telling you that you’re completely mad on occasion.

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? 

Honestly, once I start writing I rarely have a problem keeping at it—because I enjoy being with my characters so much (unless of course they are not cooperating). For me the biggest hurdle is stopping all the procrastination I get up to before I start writing. You know, the endless checking of emails, or your Amazon ranking, or aimless Tweetage. I know I’m essentially a person who is not particularly focussed or driven or hard-working – I’d much rather prat about. (Sheesh, I hope my editor isn’t reading this!) So I have to force myself to stop pratting about and get on with it. But once I have I can write lots very quickly (if the muse is with me it might actually be useable). And on those occasions when I am really stuck—and that has happened—I might just try and write a different scene, or stop and figure out where I’ve gone wrong, because if there’s a blockage, that’s usually the reason why.

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

I live in London and cycle pretty much everywhere. I’m also a member of a fabulously cheap and cheerful local women’s gym so I try and do 40 mins on the crosstrainer there a couple of days a week. And I also play on a netball team every Monday night (I’m crap at netball, consequently we lose quite a lot!). I find the kick of endorphins is great for my mental as well as my physical health. But I do still hate that fricking crosstrainer with a passion.

Do you believe in writer's block?

Being the daughter of an Irishman, I’m not about to tempt fate and say ‘No’. And there have been a few times, usually when a deadline is looming and something has gone wrong with my story, that I have gone into panic mode, and then it’s terribly hard to write. And what I do write is invariably crap. And of course the harder it is, and the more crap it is, the more panicked I become. But having said that, I do believe that if that happens the one thing you must not do is stop. And saying you have writer’s block to yourself, is an excuse to take that easy way out.

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

I’ve used a lot of inspiration from real life, but they’re usually just snippets that have sparked ideas. Like the time my sister and I were sitting on a Cornish beach in the rain and watched a lifeguard rescue, which gave me the idea for the opening scene in Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger. Or when I was cut up driving down Holloway Road by a gorgeous looking guy in a sports car and I envisioned the opening scene for Cupcakes and Killer Heels (while cursing at him profusely). But I’ve never used a whole real incident, simply because it’s the characters ultimately that drive the plot and so they have to determine what happens. If you tried to shoehorn them into a ready-made scenario, it wouldn’t work.

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

Well, I’m nowhere near as rich as I thought I’d be… You know, everyone assumes they’ll get published one day and the next they’ll be earning as much as JK Rowling. Um, not quite! It’s also really hard work keeping your career going. You have to keep producing books, keep getting those sparks of inspiration, keep falling in love with new characters, keep re-inventing the wheel basically. Getting published isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning of loads more hard work. That said, I seriously believe that the more you’ve had to work and the more you’ve learned to achieve publication the better prepared you are to make a viable career out of it afterwards. So when you’re racking up those rejections, it’s good to remember that.

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

I have a blog, a Facebook page and I’m on Twitter (at @HeidiRomRice) and I’ve just recently invested in having a proper professional website designed (because before that it was a bit naff). I also love to do guest blogs, Library Workshops and any media opportunities I’m offered. But really I do all of those things because I enjoy them (and I’m a bit of a media tart). Personally I would say if you don’t enjoy it, though, don’t do it… And frankly I think I enjoy it a bit too much, because it can be a total timesuck if I’m not careful (see answer to second question!).

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Write the best stories you can and keep writing them. I know it sounds a bit corny, but that really is the best way to reach readers and keep them interested. If you enjoy doing promo then go ahead, but don’t let it interfere with your writing, because that’s the real gold as far as your readers are concerned. Put it this way, I’d much rather Nora Roberts wrote four books a year, than spent her time blogging and tweeting, because I want to read her books much more than I want to read her blogs or tweets.

What did you learn while writing this book?

That sometimes the conflict can be much subtler than you expect. This was really the first book I’ve written where during so much of the story the hero and heroine were getting on really well… They connected pretty much instantly and despite a few ripples early on I did worry at first that there wasn’t really enough of a conflict, but actually it was there all along, just hidden underneath all the fun and ‘really amazing sex’ these two were having.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

What, apart from writing about all ‘the really amazing sex’ you mean? LOL. Actually probably the most fun, apart from watching my characters grow and their relationship evolve, which is the thing I enjoy the most about every book I write, was getting to set the story in London at Christmastime – and write about all the marvellous things there are to do in the city at my favourite time of year. Like going for a skating session at the rink in Somerset House, or swallowing your own tongue on the Power Tower at the Winter Wonderland funfair in Hyde Park or even just hibernating in a luxury hotel suite or looking at the window displays in the department stores along Oxford Street. The city’s at it’s most romantic at Christmastime and I enjoyed reflecting that.

What have the changes to the current Harlequin lines and branding meant to you? Have they affected your writing process?

I love the new branding for Riva books, and especially the move away from those fairly ridiculous titles, which were all about pigeon-holing the books according to themes and not selling them as individual stories. That said though, it hasn’t affected my writing process though, because the branding of a book, even the title is an afterthought for me. I’m quite happy to let Harlequin/M&B brand the stories however they like, as long as it get lots of people to pick up the books and read them. Then their job is done and mine begins…

What do you think makes a Riva book Riva? 

It’s all about that sassy, sparky attitude that is part and parcel of the Riva experience. To deliver that an author has to have a strong, vivid and captivating voice that is unique to them. All the Riva books are sold on the basis of that ‘voice’ which is why writing for the line is both immensely challenging and also very exciting. I think we’re all striving to provide something a little bit different, a little bit new with every book we write – we’re pushing against M&B’s traditional boundaries and having fun with our characters, while at the same time providing strong sexy alpha heroes, strikingly contemporary heroines, and the compelling conflict driven romance that is part of the M&B promise. It’s a bloody tough job, but I love it!

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

Hmm, well I think Jace is definitely an urbanite, so I think he’d choose somewhere metropolitan. And as he lives in New York… And he’s just spent Christmas in London, so my guess would be somewhere like Paris or Barcelona, in a luxury hotel penthouse suite of course, where Cassie and he could lock themselves away from the world if they wanted too, but also enjoy all the cosmopolitan delights of city living right on their doorstep.

On The First Night of Christmas

Cassie’s tips for the Perfect Christmas Fling!

1. ’Tis the season to be daring: Find the perfect Mr Right Now (extra points for a bad-boy-turned-billionaire) and be brave about getting him – even if that means jumping straight into sexy Jace Ryan’s car!

2. Enjoy the ride: Once you’ve chosen your flingee, get swept away by the moment! For once, Cassie’s determined to stop worrying about the future. But she must remember one thing…

3. This fling is just for Christmas: Jace Ryan’s a seasonal special. Do not start falling for him, Cassie. No matter how perfect the package or how much you’ve enjoyed unwrapping it…

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Mills & Boon

Monday, November 7, 2011

Give me the same thing ... only different

The Minxes would like to congratulate Natalie Charles, winner of New Voices 2011. Even if you don’t normally read romantic suspense, read this one. The story will grab you.

If you’ve followed the New Voices contest (as I have - devotedly!) you’ll have heard the editors’ advice to avoid cliché. This is just a re-statement of what the editors have been saying at conferences for the last few years. 2010’s buzz words were ‘innovate, don’t imitate’ and this year it was ‘unpredictability’. But really these are all just different ways of saying the same thing: avoid cliché.

In the immortal words of Blake Snyder in Save the Cat: “You can be near the cliché, you can dance around it, you can run right up to it, and almost embrace it. But at the last second you must turn away.”

I was extremely fortunate to get feedback on my NV entry (see here) and one of the comments the editors made was that my set-up has been used often before and I need to be careful that it doesn’t slip into cliché.
Clearly the use of cliché isn’t an issue for them, since they praised my very clichéd opening (Once upon a time in a land far, far away, there lived a princess.) but it’s what you do with the cliché that’s important. My next lines show that I’m going to turn the cliché on its head: She wasn’t like any of the princesses in other stories. She didn’t sweep floors, or wash dishes, or sing with the birds.

The day after the editors posted the feedback, I re-read Blake Snyder’s chapter of Save the Cat, entitled ‘Give me the same thing ... only different’, an entire chapter devoted to avoiding cliché, and he sums it up with these words:
“In every aspect of creation - from the idea, to the way characters speak, to the scenes themselves - putting a fresh spin on it (whatever “it” is) is what we do every day. But to know how to avoid the cliché, to know what tradition you are pushing forward, begins with knowing what that tradition is.”

Yes, it really is that easy. Once you’ve studied your genre, when you’ve read enough books that are similar to what you want to write, when you’ve examined the movies in that genre, you’ll start to spot the clichés: secret babies, marriages of convenience, certain type of hero or heroine, certain turns of phrase. That doesn’t mean you can’t use these elements, just that you need to tread carefully when you use them.

“When it feels like a cliché - give it a twist. When you think it’s familiar - it probably is, so you’ve got to find a new way. But at least understand why you’re tempted to use the cliché and the familiar story. .... True originality can’t begin until you know what you’re breaking away from.” - Blake Snyder