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.

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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.

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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

Friday, November 4, 2011

Man of the Month poll - The Rugby League heroes

Last month it was my pleasure to research the rugby union players who were then scrapping it out for the Rugby World Cup. This month it's the turn of the rugby league players who are currently playing for the Four Nations Cup. For those who are confused--rugby union has 15 players a side, league only 13. There are lots of line outs and general dropping of the ball in union that I don't really understand. In league, the boys are men who hold the ball in their hands and run at their opponents ;-}

First up are the current holders of the Four Nations, New Zealand. This rather pensive looking guy is Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Google him-amazing family background!

Next is Adam Blair.

And finally, a line up of Kiwi rugby league players wouldn't be complete, in my opinion, without the fabulous Isaac Luke {right}. I had a conversation on Twitter last week with some ladies who also appreciate his marvellous Haka skills! Such a shame his top got ripped from his body, huh?

The Australians are also strong in this contest and this year is no exception. First up is Billy Slater.

So sorry the only really great picture of Cooper Cronk I could find was him frolicking in the sea ;-}

I will now admit to cheating. And totally using my blog writing power for purely selfish. I have no idea at all as to why Jarryd Hayne is not in the Australian squad but thought I would lead a protest to the Australian selectors by including him in my blog poll. It's wrong. He should be playing. And preferably in one of those ripped tops ;-}

Wales are also included this year {previously the Four Nations was a 3 Nations}. Apologies to the Welsh readers there may be but your squad needs some prettifying up for next year. Of course I totally understand that the players get picked for their rugby skills and not for how they look in their tops {or without them} but still ... Lloyd White is the pick of the squad.

Finally we move onto the English players. Again, very slim pickings this year :-{ I've chosen Jon Wilkin {left}. And last but definitely not least, Kirk Yeaman rocking his pink charity shirt!

It's not the first time the best looking English players come from my home town :-} And I definitely can't be biased because Jon Wilkin hasn't played for a Hull club for years!!

In case anyone would like to see any of these guys in action, you can see Wales v New Zealand at 12.30{including the amazing Haka skills of Isaac Luke!!} tomorrow on Sky Sports 1 and England v Australia on BBC1 at 3 pm.

Finally the winner of last month's poll, very fittingly given the Kiwis won the World Cup, was Sonny Bill Williams who played professional rugby league before switching codes :-}

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Author Spotlight - India Grey

The Minxes are super excited to welcome the wonderful, warm and witty India Grey to be featured under our spotlight for the day. We're loving India's answers, particularly the one about promo!! Don't forget to leave comments for a chance of winning both books in the Fitzroy Legacy duet!

What is your writing process?

I suppose it’s best summed up as long periods of procrastination followed by intense bursts of obsessive reclusedom (if that’s a proper word). I’ve realised recently that I pretty much hate the prospect of writing and will do almost anything to put it off, but once I’ve tidied the airing cupboard/filed my nails/searched the internet for hero inspiration and have run out of work-avoidance strategies, it only takes about five minutes before I’m lost in the story again and loving it. My dream is to be able to do a quick first draft, but alas I seem to be doomed to a slow and painstaking process in which I need to feel I’ve got one bit right before I can move on. The upside of this is that I don’t tend to have big revisions; the downside is I don’t sleep much as deadlines loom.

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

The methods I use depend on the nearness of the deadline. If it’s getting close, sheer panic keeps me chained to my desk, but when there’s a bit more breathing space I guess it’s reminding myself how lucky I am to be doing a job I love. And that No Words = No More Shopping. (Although I’m definitely guilty of the odd online splurge to keep morale up when I’m flagging!)

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

Oooh, I’m so tempted to say I do Zumba three times a week and swim every morning, but sadly one look at the size of my behind would reveal that to be a Great Big Lie. For about a year I went running with a friend twice a week, but used to wake up with a horrible sinking feeling on running mornings that really wasn’t worth the two millimetres I lost on my waist. The only forms of exercise I actually enjoy are walking and dancing, so I do both whenever the opportunity presents itself – often to the embarrassment of my children.

Do you believe in writer's block?

I think it’s a convenient catch-all term for a problem that can stem from a wide variety of causes and manifest itself in a number of ways. At one end of the spectrum it’s what happens when your story grinds to a halt, when the words dry up, you’re absolutely at a loss as to how to take it forward and days or weeks pass without any progress being made. At the other end of the scale it’s when outside forces sap your time, your self-confidence, your ability to focus and writing a sentence seems as likely as drawing down the moon. I think this is a particular issue for women, who tend to shoulder more responsibility for caring for sick children and elderly parents, remembering birthdays, putting the bins out, making sure the fridge is full, cleaning the bath and paying the milkman. Sometimes writing can be a blessed escape from Real Life, but there’s also a great danger that Real Life can take up so much headspace that there’s not enough room for fiction to flourish.

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

I use all sorts of random snippets from my life in my books, but sadly they’re mostly just mildly embarrassing – putting pizza in the oven with the plastic disc still on, forgetting which side of the road to drive on in France, neglecting to pack underwear for a weekend away - rather than salacious enough to get me into trouble.

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

I think I assumed that if I ever got published it would all become suddenly easier; that stories would organise themselves more efficiently in my head, my desk would look more professional (instead of like the Lost Property Department of the local bus depot) and I’d suddenly master the art of Time Management. In reality it’s just as chaotic and messy as before, but with deadlines.

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

I have to admit that I feel the same way about promotion as I do about exercise: I know it’s necessary but I’d do absolutely anything to avoid it. Maybe it’s something to do with being British, or having my infant teacher’s voice in my head saying ‘nobody likes a show off’, but the principle of promotion is something that makes me squirm inside. However, reaching out to readers individually is something that I love, and it’s always wonderful to receive emails and comments on my blog, and meet people at library events and things.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Don’t do any. At all. Ever. (And then my pitiful efforts will look energetic and innovative.) (Haha - cunning, eh?)

What did you learn while writing this book?

The brilliant thing about writing for M&B is that through researching the setting and the characters’ background you learn something new for every book. Writing The Fitzroy Legacy (which is actually two books, the second one a continuation of the first story) I learned about life on the front line in modern conflict and the psychological aftermath. I guess like everyone I’m used to seeing bits of footage on the news and seeing the photographs of servicemen and women who’ve lost their lives, but writing these books gave me a reason to look beyond the headlines. It was eye-opening, inspiring and frightening.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

Staying with the characters for twice as long, getting to know them really well and seeing where the story would take them. I really had no clue where the second book would go when I came up with the idea for the first, so it really was a like travelling with Kit and Sophie (in the manner of a great big invisible gooseberry.)

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

Good question… I think that as Kit and Sophie get married in the depths of an English winter, and live on the windswept North East coast, he’d probably want to whisk her off somewhere warm. However, he’d definitely be in no hurry to go back to anywhere remotely desert-like, so I’m thinking he’d choose a villa on the beach in Thailand. As long as there were no spiders. Sophie hates spiders.

The FITZROY LEGACY Wedlocked to the aristocratic Fitzroy family – where shocking secrets lead to scandalous seduction

Craving the Forbidden

The wrong Fitzroy brother?
Ticket-dodging in a First Class train carriage is not how bubbly Sophie Greenham envisaged meeting Kit Fitzroy, fearless army hero and brother of her friend Jasper. The smouldering
heat between her and Kit is an unwelcome shock – especially as Sophie’s masquerading as Jasper’s girlfriend all holiday! Although Kit’s bravery is legendary, he’s dreading the return to his bleak ancestral home. But Sophie’s vibrancy dispels the shadows in his tortured soul, consuming Kit with a potent desire for the one woman he’s forbidden to touch…

In Bed with a Stranger

The ticking time bomb of their marriage
Sophie Greenham whirled into army officer Kit Fitzroy’s life like a red-headed tornado, smashing through the walls surrounding his heart and changing his life for ever. Leaving his bubbly fiancée to return to the front line disposing of bombs was the hardest thing Kit had ever done… When he returns home, their reunion is raw and intoxicating. But the man Sophie loves is now a virtual stranger. Tormented, and determined to keep his distance, he can only truly connect with her in the bedroom… But they’ll need more than passion to survive the challenges ahead unscathed…

Craving the Forbidden and In Bed with a Stranger are available at Mills&Boon, Amazon UK

The first book will be out in the US later this month, followed by the second one in December.
By freaky co-incidence I’ve just had a box of advance copies of In Bed with a Stranger delivered, so can now offer both books together as a giveaway to one commenter. Thanks for having me, Minxes!