Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Author Spotlight - Donna Alward

Today we welcome Donna Alward to chat with us - an author I know all Minxes have followed through Harlequin sub care, her website and Twitter. We are absolutely thrilled for Donna that How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart is a RITA nominated book. We wish you the very best of luck at the RWA awards, Donna!

As a Rita nominated author can you tell us if there was anything extra special you felt when writing the book or has your editor/a reader told you what they thought was outstanding about this book in particular?

That’s kind of a hard question to answer, because I think there’s probably more than one single thing that worked with that story for it to make it to the finalist stage. I will say, though, that there was a special feeling to this book. I think I went through a stage of writing growth in the months previous to writing it, complete with growing pains. Then there was the fact that Clay Gregory had been waiting in the wings for his story to be told for quite some time, and I was really ready to write it. Add in some sensitive subject matter and truthfully it was a bit of a risk that I figured would either pay off or fall flat. The heroine is a breast cancer survivor. She had to deal with a lot – body image, because she’d had a mastectomy, public perception, and a very real fear of reoccurrence. In every book I write there is one scene that just GETS me. In this book it is Meg showing Clay her scars for the first time. I’m not sure if readers felt the same way, but that scene was, I felt, my biggest risk in the book. It was also the point where I realized I really, really loved Clay. You can imagine, then, how thrilling it was to get the call from the RWA board letting me know it had made the cut. 

What is your writing process?

I sit my butt in the chair, start at chapter one, and just go. I’m a linear writer so I write scenes in sequence. I’m a pantser so I do some character discovery before I start and a lot of thinking and usually have a few scenes in my head, but I don’t sit down and plot it out. Each day when I sit down to start, I go over the last 5-10 pages or so to get back into the story and usually end up filling a few things out a bit before moving on. When I get to the end of the first draft, I usually know a lot more than I did when I started and there are usually threads to weave through a little more during the next pass.

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?

Confession time: I hate shopping. Distraction and excuses for me come in the form of research, admin, and generally being online as well as kid stuff. The kid stuff isn’t going anywhere; they are growing up way too fast, they need me and I want to enjoy all I can with them. The single most effective thing I’ve done to keep my productivity at peak performance is start using #1k1hr on twitter. I’ve nearly doubled my output just from that focus. I love being part of a group and I love knowing that I get to take a quick break before going at it again. And sometimes I take a day off. It helps refill my well.

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

I do. I lost over 35 lbs last year and have maintained since last July. Sadly that’s not as good as it sounds as I really wanted to lose another 20. LOL. But I do exercise regularly. I’ve done a fair bit of P90X which is my favourite workout EVER. Lately I’ve found I haven’t been as good keeping up with it because each workout is at least an hour long. With work, kid stuff after school, etc., I was ending up working out after 8:30 at night. So I’ve switched it up lately and gone back to the P90X predecessor, Power 90 (same company, still led by Tony Horton). It’s only 30-45 min and my husband does it with me, right after he gets home from work. Maybe it’s not as intense but I’m not missing workouts, either, which is important. I also walk the dog twice a day. I’m still in the “lose 20 and find a dress for the RITAS” mode, lol!

Do you believe in writer's block?

I kind of don’t. I think if you get to a point where you’re blocked, you’ve made a wrong turn and you need to go back and fix. I think a lot of people use it as an excuse to avoid writing because for some reason it’s difficult – probably because they’ve taken a wrong turn… you see where I’m going with this? You sit your butt in the chair and write, even if it’s crap. You totally can give yourself permission to write crap. What I do believe in is burn out. Sometimes the best thing to do for your creativity is take a SHORT break, refill the well, and get back at it again. I’ve written a HUGE amount in the last 9 months. I’m really, really ready to take a break after this book, and I’m planning on enjoying some fab family time over the summer. Everyone is off and hopefully the weather will be good for unplugging and going camping or just hanging out in the pool with a pina colada.

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

Of course I have. Art imitates life…or is it the other way around? Anyway, in THE RANCHER’S RUNAWAY PRINCESS (which is, incidentally, reprinted as a bonus book in my May Harlequin Romance), there’s a scene where Lucy and Brody dance under the stars. The genesis of that scene was straight from a camping trip we made and my husband and I danced under the stars while the kids slept in the camper beside us. And I think there is a scene in my current book that is going to be straight from a recent wardrobe malfunction of yours truly… In ONE DANCE WITH THE COWBOY, there’s also an accident where several horses are injured – while en route to the slaughterhouse. That scene was inspired by a news story I read the summer I was writing it. But I don’t write scenes that are literally based on actual events. It’s usually just a “loosely inspired” thing.

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

It’s a lot more work. It feels less, and yet more, glamorous. Less during the day to day writing and work – I’m just another working mum. More glam during things like conferences where you realize exactly where you are and who you are with. And when you sit back and realize what you actually get to do for a living. I won’t lie – it’s fabulous.

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

For me it’s about being accessible. I want readers to be able to find me easily. And I want to be able to engage my readers – so for me it’s not so much about shouting “buy my book” but chatting. I also try really hard to just be positive – in my promotion, and in life in general. Everyone has bad days and gets discouraged, but on the whole I like to look at things as blessings and opportunities.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Have a clean website and keep it up to date.

What did you learn while writing this book?

Oh my. I learned that cautious, reserved, wounded heroines still need to be likeable and proactive. Angela has her own history of abuse so it would be natural for her to really keep her feelings locked down, but the reader needs to see vulnerabilities to make her sympathetic, and they also need to see her take charge and move forward even when she’s afraid to. Sometimes that means having her hold back in one part of her life but making things happen in another. No matter what, your characters have to make things happen rather than have things happen TO them. If that makes sense.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

Morris, aka Chippie. I loved that cat. He’s based on Jayne Hoogenberk’s cat – Jayne’s the community manager at Harlequin. I met Chippie a year or so ago and fell in love. He is a real character – and quite handsome.

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

They haven’t affected my process at all. The Romance line is still the Romance line, and I knew I was going to be under the CHERISH umbrella in the UK. I still write the same stories at the same length. I’ve been super blessed to get some great branding on my North American covers, but it hasn’t changed how I write the books. I look to deliver the same consistent emotional reads I always have – hopefully better. At the end of the day I control the writing. I can’t control anything else. Doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the industry and adjust accordingly – there is a certain business strategy involved. But my primary focus is on story.

What do you think makes a Cherish book Cherish?

Cherish is a down-home, warm, cosy story - which isn’t the same as old-fashioned! There are some lighter voices and some weepies within the line. You’ll find westerns here, small towns (though small towns aren’t limited to Cherish), soldiers come home, royalty stories… It’s really about tone and voice rather than content. RIVA is a little more hip and flirty, with a touch more sass. It’s got a slightly more urban feel to it, perhaps a touch of glamour, and a quirkiness that’s fun. But don’t let the fun fool you. There’s tons of emotion here too. I love writing for Cherish. It’s the world I know. It’s a world of strong men, strong women, kitchens that smell like baking bread, family… For me it’s what’s real, but with the knowledge that in the end everything works out just the way it’s supposed to.

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

Sam? He’s not really a city guy, but I’d like to think he’d enjoy getting off the ranch once in a while. I can see Sam doing something like an Alaskan cruise with Angela. Or maybe taking her somewhere tropical where they could spend their nights listening to the ocean (among other things) and have adventures during the day. He’s an outdoor guy for sure. His cousin, Ty (In THE REBEL RANCHER coming out in a few days!) is more of a risk taker. He’d want to do something like zip lining and hang gliding and probably scare the pants off Clara.

My current book is THE LAST REAL COWBOY, the first book in my Cadence Creek Cowboys duet.

From the moment he turned up late to her charity's meeting, placating everyone with a tip of his Stetson and a lazy smile, Angela Beck knew that Sam Diamond was going to be Trouble with a capital T. Angela is the prickliest woman Sam's ever met—let alone had to work with! He'd love to still her sharp tongue with a kiss, but first he has to get close enough to awaken the complex woman beneath the deliberately cool exterior. And that's something only a real cowboy can do.…

THE REBEL RANCHER, book 2, comes out June 1:

With his break-your-heart smile, Ty Diamond is trouble that Clara Ferguson shouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. The black sheep of the Diamond family, rodeo star and rebel, he's got a reputation that should have Clara running scared - not straight into his arms!

Ty knows he needs to take it easy with Clara - her past has left her with a bruised heart and determined never to rely on a man again. But Ty isn't all he seems - and his gentle side shakes Clara's resolute independence to breaking point...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Movie Review: This Means War

As with most movies that I go into without any expectations whatsoever, this movie totally blew me away.

First off, it was a romance with a twist, just the sort I love!

Secondly, it showed Tom Hardy in a totally different light, *light* being the operative word. He actually smiled a few times and when he fell in love, I totally felt it.

*Aside* – anyone want to guess how many times I'm going to use the word "totally" in this post, lol?

**Spoiler Alert**

Tuck (Tom Hardy) and FDR (Chris Pine) are two secret agents who accidentally start dating the same girl. Being competitive, and not wanting to give in, they decide to carry on dating Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) and let her make up her mind about which one of them she wanted. They lay down some ground rules about how the dates should go, which they then proceed to break in the most incredibly hilarious ways.

This was also a movie where the secondary character totally (oops!) made the story extra special and almost stole the show, IMO. But seriously, the writer in me adored this film even as the girlie in me fantasised about having two hot guys (oh btw, how did I not know Chris Pine was 6"1?) fighting over me *sigh*

If you haven't seen it yet, Go. See. It, Now!

I tot— absolutely adored it and, for someone who rarely watches the same movie, twice, would tot—ack! watch this movie again and again.

Enjoy the trailer

Friday, May 25, 2012

5 Tips for Increasing Your Writing Productivity

1.     Write at the same time every day
If you write at the same time every day you create a habit. This habit trains the brain and your muse to be prepared to do a specific activity at the same time each day. So when you sit down to your computer at 10.30 every night for 21 days (the time it takes to form a new habit) and demand that your brain let you introduce Harry to Sally, then that’s exactly what you will get.

2.     Schedule your internet
Most people head straight for their inbox first thing in the morning and start freaking out. By the end of the day you may end up with an empty inbox, but it's likely that you’ll have accomplished nothing else.

3.     Stop multi-tasking
Switching rapidly from task to task decreases your IQ by an average of ten points. That's a greater reduction than if you were strung out on drugs. We all have to do multiple things during a day, but when you can, you should focus on one activity at a time. Don't try to empty your inbox, talk on the phone, iron and defuse a bomb all at the same time, because something will blow.

4.     Write while you sleep
You can literally "sleep on it" by guiding your mind to work on writing problems while you rest. The hypnagogic state occurs between wakefulness and sleep. Some writers take power naps and focus on a problem with their WIP as they drift off. This is when the ideas come. James Scott Bell also recomends using the dream state to assist with writing. He suggest writing down any questions you may have regarind your WIP right before you go to sleep. Then before you do anythign else in the morning write down as many answers as you can to those questions.

5.     Track your success
When are you at your most productive? Do your write better in the morning? At night? On a train? With a gun to your head? If you can write 5K in an hour in the morning but only 500 words over five hours late at night, then it makes sense for you to be writing in the morning. To work out when you’re at your most productive keep a log for a week, including the time you start writing, the time you finish and how many words hit the page. By the end of the week you should start to get an idea of what your optimum writing times are.

Happy writing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Author Spotlight - Chantelle Shaw

We're delighted to welcome Mills and Boon Modern author, Chantelle Shaw, to the minx blog today. Here are Chantelle's answers to the minx inquisition! (I must just add that I'm totally with her on the ironing...)

What is your writing process?
I aim to be in my office by 9 a.m. five days a week. My office is actually a glorified garden shed – with carpet! I used to have my desk in a corner of the bedroom which wasn’t great, especially as my youngest son used to sit on my bed and watch TV while I was trying to work.
After checking emails I write until lunchtime, which sounds good but I get up and make endless cups of coffee. I’d like to say that lunch is something healthy involving lettuce, but I’d be lying! In the afternoon I write until 3 when I pick my son up from school. At the beginning of a book I then go back and write until 5 or 6, but as a deadline approaches I often keep going until 8pm with a brief break to serve something burnt and inedible to husband and kids. It sounds like I spend a huge amount of time writing, but actually I stare out of the window a lot!

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?
It’s my job, and apart from the odd day when I want to throw a brick through my computer screen it’s a job I love and feel very lucky to have. The way I see it is that my husband can’t decide to give work a miss one morning so why should I? Having said that, some days are much more productive than others, but if I’m not writing my conscience says I should be doing housework or dare I mention the ironing word! Trying to force a story out of my head is better than that!

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
Hysterical laughter! I really wish I did. I don’t like the gym but love walking and I do try to go for a brisk 30 min walk every day – but it doesn’t always happen. Life, kids and deadlines mean that some days I don’t do any exercise, hence spreading bottom!

Do you believe in writer's block?
Not exactly writer’s block, but there’s no doubt that some days the words and ideas flow and on others writing feels like wading through treacle and I’m lucky if I manage to produce a couple of hundred words. I think the best thing is to write something, even if you know it’s rubbish, just to keep things moving along. And try not to panic!

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
No – I write about sexy Alpha-male billionaires and sadly there aren’t any in the tiny Kent village where I live. Everything I write is from my imagination, but sometimes a newspaper or magazine article will trigger an idea.

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
It’s even harder work than I imagined. I write 3 books a year for Harlequin M&B. So far I’ve always met my deadline, but usually there are revisions and the process of the book being accepted can take up to a month, which leaves 3 months to come up with a proposal for the next book, convince my editor it’s a great idea and then get the book written. The shortest time I’ve had to write a 50k word book is 6 weeks and I felt pressurised, but actually it turned out to be a great book – maybe because the story was constantly in my head and there was no time to faff about!

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I have a website – and I’m in the process of setting up a blog on the site so that I can update my news more regularly. But this is the difficult bit – nothing ever happens to me! I don’t live a jet-setting lifestyle; I write, wash football kit and cook very badly. So far I’m not on Facebook or Twitter because to be honest I’m not the most sociable person and I’m quite happy living inside my head, with occasional forays into the real world! I think I should come out of my cave and promote myself more, but I’m worried that more distractions could lead to less writing getting done, and if I don’t produce books there’s no point in promotion. I guess it’s all a balance.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Do more than I do! Setting up a website seems a good start.

What did you learn while writing this book?
BEHIND THE CASTELLO DOORS is set in Sardinia, so I learned a lot about the island. I always do more research than goes into the books, but I need to be able to see in my head the country or place a story is set in and Google images is great for that. I think with this book I also learned (or am trying to learn) that my plots don’t need to be so complicated and to focus even more on my characters and delve deeper into their emotions.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
It’s slightly gothic, set in a castle and I just let my imagination fly. (Had to curb it slightly at the revisions stage)! My excuse is that I wrote it shortly after watching all three Lord of the Rings films and I was (am) totally in love with Aragorn, played by gorgeous hunk Viggo Mortensen.

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
Cesario is quite a solitary person – the strong, brooding type, so I think he would take Beth somewhere remote and beautiful where they could be alone – maybe he would rent a private Tahitian island.

And here's a little more about Chantelle's latest release...


Torment on his doorstep - Cesario Pira, brooding master of the Castello del Falco, wasn’t prepared for the visitor who turned up on his doorstep during a raging storm – or for the little bundle bearing the Piras name she had in tow. Cesario’s head screamed Run, but his damaged heart began to betray him. Beth Granger knew the moment she knocked on the castle door that there was no going back. She had a job to do. But the moment Cesario looked deep into her pleading eyes her faultless plan crumbled around her…
Behind the Castello Doors is available here: &

Thank you for being minxy today, Chantelle!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Notebook Nirvana

I am a totally sucker when it comes to pretty notebooks, I have to have them when I see them, and they are always top of my Christmas & Birthday list. (Just above fancy pens, pretty paper, coloured paperclips, personalised stickers... okay, you got me. I'm a complete stationary whore.)

Here's the pick of my current lusts...

I love butterflies, and this journal just sings summertime...

Or this luscious trio, perfect for the romance writer...

No post about notebooks would be complete without mentioning  Moleskine, I especially like the pale blue Volant notebooks just now...

These are uber fab, bright and colourful patterns, easy to spot in your handbag!

Or this is fabulous, with a nod towards the Queen's upcoming Diamond Jubilee...

I am utterly in love with these from the USA, personalised and just lush, lush, lush. Someone tell my husband that my life would be so much more organised if he brought me one?

Now, I know what you're thinking. It's all very well having these gorgeous notebooks (and pens, and notelets, and stickers..), but what am I going to carry them all in?
Fear not, minxettes. 
How about this swoonsome satchel? Isn't it just a thing of beauty? It's available in a zillion different colours and designs, all equally delicious. I want one! I want this one!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fast Drafting

I came across this course on the forums at EHarlequin. It sounded like an awesome idea so I signed up for the class.

The very idea of writing as much as 5k in one day filled me with two very different emotions: complete and total fear coupled with excitement. I decided to go with the excitement and read the class notes.

Candace Havens is the course instructor and let me say that straight away I was impressed by her positivity and the clear way she presents the course.

Okay, but does it work? I would have to say yes. Based on the messages that are coming through the loop with some awesome totals being posted. Does it work for me? Yes, definitely. I love the accountability of having a group of people all striving for the same thing. And the overall premise of the course is that the more you immerse yourself in your story, the better it flows. That is something I already strongly believed in before I started the course and think is crucial.

Candy doesn't allow any negative talk on the loop. "I couldn't reach my goal because ..." or "I would have reached my goal if only ..." are not allowed. And that makes all the difference. Negativity breeds negativity. Positivity about your work breeds more confidence and the desire to reach the same word count you managed the day before. You see the words stacking up and it feels great.

The only difficulty I have had is reaching my goal in the two to two and a half hours it says you should set apart each day. Three separate #1k1hr sprints on Twitter will usually get me around 3k words which has been my best total this week. I'm not sure if that's because I spend too much time thinking about what comes next or faffing around to find the very best word to go into a particular sentence. But I do know that this course is pushing me to do the very best that I can in the time that I have available :-)

Does anyone have any courses they can recommend or tips that they would like to share this weekend?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Author Spotlight - Jennifer Probst

We're delighted to welcome New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author Jennifer Probst to the minxes today! Here are her answers to the minx questions...

What is your writing process?

I get lots of coffee, put one child on the bus, drive the other, come home and write. Pick up second child, get him lunch, write. Serve child’s needs for several hours and try to write. Pick up first child from school, serve snacks, write. Get dinner, greet husband, pour wine, write. Homework, baths, cleaning up, watch hubby settle down in front of tv with a relaxed expression, and I write! There is no other process I believe in then something to drink, my Ipod, and something to type on. The rest is all extra!

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 go shoe shopping first, then write! Balance is always my target and my goal. I do my best day to day – some are better than others due to family demands, but I write every day without fail. How? I groan, complain, tell my hubby to kick my butt, sit and stare, change my songs, but at the end of the day, I make sure I know it’s my job to write. That’s the only way I can do this full time.

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

Walk back and forth to the kitchen for more coffee? (Hangs head in shame) Sorry. Umm, to be totally honest, I used to go to the gym three times per week, and then my schedule got nuts and my physical regimen is suffering. Your question has inspired me to go back to the gym. After all, I’m still paying membership fees! I adore doing yoga too and believe it’s wonderful for clearing the mind.

Do you believe in writer's block?

Absolutely. I’ve had it and it sucks. Sucks big time! But I get through it by gritting my teeth and forcing my way through the hard stuff. Eventually I get out of the block and burst out the other end!

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

Yes, I’ve used something that happened and twisted the situation into a fictional story. It did get me in trouble, a tiny bit, when a family member recognized the incident – lol! But it worked out fine in the end and we all laugh about it now!

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

It’s just as exciting as I always thought, especially when a reader tells me how much he or she enjoyed the book. Having my name in print and finally being able to share my stories with someone other than my desk drawer or close friend is a dream come true. I don’t think I realized the extent of the business part of writing, and how busy your schedule can become. I laugh when people say I work from home so I must have plenty of free time! I think I work harder now writing full time than when I had my day job, but I’m much happier because it’s like having my own business. It’s also quite overwhelming to realize you don’t just write one great book and sit back with a smile. You have to keep writing great books and that can cause a muse to go on strike with fear – lol!

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

Promotion is key in this business besides writing a great book. I do social networking and I did it way before my books were published. I started slow, gained friends, supported people and followed blogs. I was a friend – not a writer yelling “Buy my book!” Who wants that type of friend? When the book released, I had a blog tour set up, some advertising , and sent it to many reviewers.

What is your top promo tip for other authors? 

The most important is to have a platform. You don’t have to be good at everything, but make sure you are either steadily blogging, twittering, using facebook, youtube, pinterest, or a combination. You do need a great website – that’s a basic. And be generous– I am a true believer in karma!

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned to trust my gut. I knew this was a great story and I never let myself give up. I believed there would be the perfect editor/publisher out there that would believe in this story like I did, and finally it came true!

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

The characters! They took over the book for me, and I couldn’t wait to see what they would say or do next. I laughed out loud when I wrote it and shook my head at their antics, so the book came alive for me. How much fun is that!

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

Rome. I think he’d love taking Alexa to Rome to view the architecture and enjoy the scenery. Nick’s not the island type to just sit on the beach and sunbathe – he needs to be doing something engaging. He’d also know Alexa would love the romance of such an ancient city. Of course, when they get back to the hotel, that will be a whole other part of engagement for him – lol!

The Marriage Bargain

A marriage in name only...

To save her family home, impulsive bookstore owner, Alexa Maria McKenzie, casts a love spell. But she never planned on conjuring up her best friend's older brother—the powerful man who once shattered her heart.

Billionaire Nicholas Ryan doesn’t believe in marriage, but in order to inherit his father’s corporation, he needs a wife and needs one fast. When he discovers his sister’s childhood friend is in dire financial straits, he’s offers Alexa a bold proposition.

A marriage in name only with certain rules: Avoid entanglement. Keep things all business. Do not fall in love. The arrangement is only for a year so the rules shouldn’t be that hard to follow, right?

Except fate has a way of upsetting the best-laid plans…

Website and Blog





Barnes & Noble

Monday, May 14, 2012

Emotion - can you ever have too much?

Emotion is the beating heart of a book, too weak and the story struggles and dies but can you have too much? I've never given much thought to the power that authors wield  over readers' emotions but I've listened to several books recently that have had a huge impact on my own. This has made me think carefully about what I want to write and think - 'what effect do I want to achieve?'.

1) Me Before You - this book is brilliantly written and Jojo Moyes had me hooked from the start. A lot in the narrative resonated with me in a good way to start with but as the story progressed I found myself increasingly on edge. I don't want to spoil the book for anyone who hasn't read it yet but I will say the book had me sobbing buckets. I don't think I've cried like that over fiction since Jilly Cooper killed off a character's pet dog (actually she does that a lot!). I loved the book, cared about the characters and it kept me rapt but at the end I felt...well a bit crap if I'm being honest.

2) Recipe for Love was a sweet and gentle contrast. Listening to it soothed me and left me feeling gently uplifted, soft and positive about life. In fact much as a face to face meeting with Katie Fforde leaves you! As though she is giving away a bit of herself to every reader. 'Me Before You' made me feel much more but on reflection I'm not sure I wanted all those feelings, not that it was healthy to experience them.

3) Believing the Lie by Emily Barr was utterly gripping. I couldn't press the pause button on my iPhone and stayed up very late listening to the end. There are dark emotions in this book yet there was a positive tone to the heroine and the resolution of her story was satisfying. Despite the main character's frequent protestations that she wasn't a survivor she most certainly was and the story was uplifting, at least I found it so. 

It is incredibly subjective. Who knows what will touch readers, what stories will make them feel, what old wounds may be opened up...

I have some books by favourite authors on my phone that I cannot listen to. There is one no-go subject area that when it crops up, as it frequently does, I press stop and never revisit the book. I wonder if the authors who write about very dark emotions, who perhaps have never experienced them first hand have really thought about how the reader will feel, how their words will effect them.

I have no objection to writers who want to write 'real' endings or explore complex issues and would recommend all the three books above heartily but I know that, depending on my mood and resilience I would pick the book that left me uplifted, hopeful and taking that little bit of positive energy from the author. 

And if I write that is what I hope to achieve.

How much emotion is too much? I've heard that question a lot. Also the recommendation that we should double the emotion in every scene (a tip that did improve my writing). My personal opinion is that no amount of emotion is too much but it should be applied wisely.

All word processing software should come with a warning: Words are powerful, use with caution.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Year of the Minx

Happy birthday to us!

This week this blog turned 2. To celebrate the occasion, Sally Minx is generously giving away free copies of her first published novel, Catch Me a Catch, to all our lovely blog followers. You can download the book from Amazon or Amazon UK.

A year ago we were just like any other one year old. We were just standing on our feet and taking our first wobbly steps. A few of us were published with smaller presses, a few were working with editors, a few of us were still clinging to the nearest chair and wondering how we were supposed to get across the great divide between published and unpublished.

But 2012 is a whole new ball game. We're excited toddlers now, running around as fast as we're able and sticking our fingers into every open lighting socket we can find. It's been so electrifying a start to the year that we're calling this The Year of the Minx.

You already know that Maya Minx has sold to Harlequin Presents, but behind-the-scenes we have 5 (!) Minxes all working on revisions for various editors, one with very exciting news we're not quite ready to share, and the remaining two both have editors excited about their work.

Can it get any better? Yes it can!

To continue the festivities, we'd like you to share your good news with us. Today is the day for sharing the joy, whether it be big or small. All good news is worrth celebrating. And in return for sharing, you get to help yourself to a cupcake.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Author Spotlight - April Vine

Today, for the first time ever, we have a South African author in our spotlight. April Vine lives among the Winelands in the Cape and writes hot, hot, hot stories!

April, what is your writing process?

Hmmm...wish I had one. I’m all over the place from writing thousands of words in one day to skipping three to four days in a row. But I am learning to right that disorderly flaw by writing consistently. So far all I’m consistent in is still being inconsistent!

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 only method that keeps me at it is a deadline looming over me, other than that, I go shoe shopping  But sometimes it’s just a case of putting one word in front of another.

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

I’m a huge sugar fan and yes even forty minutes on the treadmill four days a week isn’t enough to deter me from eating sugar in the least. Recently though I found myself exercising more for mental fitness rather than physical and I’m only twenty years old, so I don’t know what’s up with that ;)

Do you believe in writer's block?

I do believe that writers get blocked for some reason or another. My personal writer’s block is more similar to a self-sabotage effort than in not knowing what to write. Usually when I’m whizzing through writing a book, I’m suddenly struck with a dire need to polish the spoons.

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

Not an actual incident as such, but I have used certain traits in my characters that I’ve seen in the people around me. But I also write erotic romance deep undercover, so they’ll never know they turned up in a book of mine 

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

Oh, it’s so different! For one, it’s given my internal editor a new surge of life which in turn has downplayed my word count considerably from when I was unpublished. I thought it would get easier. It doesn’t. It gets harder.

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

It isn’t?  I usually do a few interviews when I have a new release, but that’s about it. I do have twitter and facebook as well but I’m not there always.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?

Promotion, any form of promotion scares me. I have to physical remind myself to be more cyberly social on a daily basis, but in that I’m inconsistent as well. I think if you write good books, readers will find you so it pays to better your craft with every book you put out there. For me writing is a never-ending learning journey.

What did you learn while writing this book?

That I love writing paranormal erotic romances. It’s my first one and I can’t seem to switch back to contemporary which is what I wrote before.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

The end! I know my hero and heroine got their happily ever after, after all so my job is done.

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

Oh, I think Sebastian would take her to the Swiss Alps in all luxury of course and he’ll make it his mission to keep her warm all the time ;)

The Blurb:

Staid and straitlaced Michelle Stein has two thoughts fueling her mind…
1. Floor the first man to walk into her antique shop.
2. Throttle her three witch-practicing aunts.

They promised her a tiny spell to fix her ridiculous inhibitions, but instead mischievously delivered a full-blown, sanity-squashing lust spell. The temporary curse apparently has no boundaries either…since the first man who walks through her door is the same man who broke her heart ten years ago. Despite Michelle’s vociferous resistance, Sebastian becomes the only man who can appease her unending physical hunger.

Thirty, heirless and restless, Sebastian Gray is drawn back home to Cape Town to claim the only girl he ever loved. What he finds in her place is a hotly bewitched erotic seductress. Now with the reparation spell her aunts cast gone awry, Sebastian might be on the losing end of a futile battle against a strength-ascending hex, no matter how hard he tries to keep Michelle satiated, alive…or even just human.

Unbound is available direct from Ellora's Cave, or through Amazon, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, and AllRomance eBooks.

Monday, May 7, 2012

How sport relates to writing (yes, it really does)

Nobody who knows me will be surprised that today I am relating writing to sport.

Today my beloved West Ham United (bless me, no one can accuse me of being a glory fan!!) are playing for the chance to be in the play off final in the Championship. Basically what this means is we were not good enough to be promoted automatically and so have to play off for the final place in the Premier League.

So in my analogy the Premier League is published author status--everyone else wants to be up there with the big boys and girls. Those who have already been promoted have done their revisions and had their manuscript bought (like the very wonderful Maya Minx). Those in the play offs, like West Ham, are doing their revisions (like the incredibly talented Sally Minx, Romy Minx and Sri Minx) and the best thing about the publishing business is rather than there being only one spot to be filled in published paradise there's as many as needed!

Those who fail in the play offs will have their revised manuscript rejected, those who didn't reach the play offs have rejections. However, there will be another season/another manuscript and so another chance to reach the Premier League. Some of those authors currently up there in published paradise may stop writing or concentrate on other things so there are always opportunities for those who want it badly enough.

It's a season long campaign, it's not all about one game/one story, it's about improving week on week. It's about finding new players/plots when the ones you have are not working out. It's about writing cracking dialogue/having players regularly scoring goals. It's about being brave enough to delete the stuff that isn't working/letting players go. But most of all it's about having that one story that hits the right editor's desk at the right time all wrapped up in sparkling writing. It's about having a Robin van Persie right there in your word document ... kinda!!

Now feel free to comment and tell me I am mad (I already know this!) or tell me what you relate writing to in order to make it all make sense :-)

Friday, May 4, 2012

May Hotties Poll

Anyone who knows me knows I am not a sport fan, with the exception of Formula One motor racing. And the last sport on earth I'll actually consider sitting though an entire game of is golf. That said, I'm reconsidering my position on this sport ... and this is why:

German Martin Kaymer:

Australian Adam Scott:

Californian Rickie Fowler:

Italian Matteo Manassero:

US player Steve Stricker:

Australian Jason Day:

Colombian Camilo Villegas:

And the #1 ranked golfer in 2011, Englishman Luke Donald:

It's actually going to be a pretty tough call this month. Unlike our previous poll which was a total walk-over for A Man Called Valance.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Author Spotlight - Jennifer Shirk

Jennifer Shirk has been a long-time friend of this blog, so we're delighted to have her here today to talk about her second release through Avalon Books, Sunny Days for Sam. This New Jersey mom (who is currently raising four hermit crabs!) is also published by Samhain.

What is your writing process?
Well, early morning I’m online checking email, FB, blogs, Twitter, etc... Then about 10 or 10:30 I start writing and work until lunchtime. If I have time and don’t need to do errands or any cleaning, then I’ll go back and try to write some more until the kiddo comes home from school.

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 haven’t found a method exactly. Some days it’s easy to stay on track because you like the way a chapter is going. Other days, I DO go shoe shopping. LOL

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
Oh, I’m glad you asked! I am a P90x graduate and have been continuing the workouts still. I love it, because it makes me do weights, which is something that is so important to maintain muscle, but something I would neglect if it wasn’t part of the program. I workout every morning from 8-9AM—unless sick.

Do you believe in writer's block?
No. I think it should be called writer’s procrastination. LOL

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book?
Yes. I used to work in a pharmacy where there was a high theft of condoms. So I decided to use that as a backdrop scene in my second book, GEORGIE ON HIS MIND.

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
Well, before you’re published, you think everything will be great once that happens. But then you quickly learn there’s more to the story that just that. Now you have different concerns, like sales, promotions, and reviews, which are even more stressful.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
With every book, you learn what worked and what didn’t and make adjustments. I always try to add something new. This year, I hired a book tour coordinator—Goddess Fish promotions—to get in front of some new faces that are not part of my normal blog and FB following.

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Reviews and word of mouth are the best kind of promotions you can get, so when you do a giveaway, always encourage your winner to do a review for you—good or bad. 

What did you learn while writing this book?
That I can write a hero that is beyond your basic good-guy-beta kind.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?
I love writing the children’s dialogue! Kids can get away with anything, so it’s especially fun to write what they’ll say.

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
I can totally see Sam wanting to have Sunny experience Europe. So he would take her on a 10 to 14 day trip to Paris, France and then on to Portofino, Italy. *sigh*

Sunny Days for Sam
By Jennifer Shirk

Sunnyva “Sunny” Fletcher is a firm believer in fairy tales. With the recent debt she’s acquired, the hope of something magical happening in her life is the only thing keeping her going. She needs a job fast. So when Sunny learns the sexy new vacationer in town is looking for a nanny, she starts to believe she just may have a fairy godmother after all!

Internet guru Sam Calloway is only in town for the summer and needs a nanny for his two small children. However, the beautiful and inexperienced Sunny is not exactly the kind of caregiver Sam has in mind. It doesn’t take long for Sunny’s tenderhearted and bubble-blowing ways to soon have the children—and Sam—enamored with her. She’s a dream come true. But after what Sam’s been through, he’s stopped believing in fairy tales long ago.

Sunny manages to work her way into Sam’s closed-off heart, but at the end of the summer, will the workaholic dad go back to his life in New York City, or will he decide his days are much sunnier here with Sunny?

Buy links:
Barnes and Noble


You can find out more about Jennifer at her website or on her blog.