Friday, July 29, 2011

My Favourite Love Triangle

A good love triangle story always grabs my attention, and for me, the Kate / Sawyer / Jack love triangle from Lost  is hard to beat. It has it all - a beautiful girl, and two hot as hell, but different as chalk and cheese men.

Lucky Kate, eh?

Kate is a complex character, her tough life experiences have left her battle scarred and defensive. Sawyer is her equally embittered male mirror image - they are drawn to each other because they understand each other perfectly and are haunted by the same demons. Two peas from the same dangerous pod, they are explosive together, both in  and out of bed.

Jack, on the other hand, is Kate's complete opposite. He's responsible, calm and dependable, and it helps of course that he is easy on the eye. He nourishes Kate's soul in all the ways Sawyer can't, he's rock solid and offers Kate safe harbour and security. He meets her emotional needs in a way Sawyer couldn't possibly hope to, and in the end these qualities turn out to be what she needs most of all.

Turning full circle, Sawyer later found true love with the serene Juliet, who shared many of the same attributes as Jack. I know many people were unhappy with the ending of Lost, but for me it shone in the way it crafted characters I really cared about and invested in emotionally.

How about you? What's your favourite love triangle? Just don't get me started on Bella, Edward and Jacob, I could be here for hours...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Author Spotlight - Saskia Walker

Today we're thrilled to welcome multi-published, talented author, Saskia Walker, to the Minx spotlight. We know she'll be right at home here. Take it away, Saskia!

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

Five years ago I had a bunch of short stories published, several ebooks, and I just had my first contract from a New York house for a trade paper erotic romance. It's interesting to look back, so thank you for asking that question! Often I get so bound up with writing and the next story that I lose sight of the path behind me.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
THE HARLOT and associated stories were inspired by a visit to the East Neuk of Fife in Scotland. This is an area of the Lowlands that has a dark and extensive history of witchcraft and persecution. The paranormal folklore there is intriguing, and the landscape and its legacy stimulated all sorts of ideas.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
Writing great cross genre stories that make readers happy! Happy readers is my goal. :)

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

That would be any of Kresley Cole's Immortals After Dark series! She's an awesome writer with immense vision. I love where she takes us with her characters.

5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
Yes, a British fantasy writer called Storm Constantine had a huge influence on me. Storm has a vivid imagination and writes characters that I can really relate to, no matter how fantastic the setting. That's key to me, if I engage with a character I can believe in I follow them wherever they take me in their world. I'd already had the dream of writing, but Storm is an author who encourages others. With her vibrant writing as inspiration and her personal mentorship, I took my first tentative steps on this journey.

6. Promotion is no longer a dirty word. How do you strive to reach as many readers as possible?
I find promotion tough. Honestly, it's really hard to push myself out there and talk up my books. I'm getting a tad braver, thank goodness! I try a little of everything, advertising, blogging, social networks. I can safely say that Good Reads is where I feel most at home. It's a really valuable social network for authors because we are engaging with avid readers actively looking for books.

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

Standing in an airport and realizing that I didn't want to get on the plane for a two-week vacation, because I'd fallen for the man I was leaving behind. I'd looked forward to that damn trip so much, and all of a sudden it was meaningless, because I'd had my first date with the love my life the night before. Inside a heartbeat I learned how much I would give up, just to be in his company. It was a profound moment, shocking and thrilling and incredibly romantic. That was over eleven years ago, and I'm still every bit as much in love with him, if not more -- and I'd still give up everything I own for another hour with him!

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

Ha, that a lot of patience is needed! I knew it would take hard work and that I had a lot to learn. I'm a practical sort and I also realized that as a self employed person I would have to drum up motivation for myself, each and every day. What I didn't know is that everything takes a loooooong time and there's a lot of waiting involved. It's very easy to wish your life away when you're a writer -- waiting for the next publication, waiting to hear back on a sub, waiting to see what readers think of a book. I try to distract myself from all of that by throwing myself into new projects all the time.

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
The best promo is to write the next book.

10. Tell us about your latest release.

THE HARLOT is a historical erotic romance with paranormal elements. It's set in Scotland in the early 1700s, shortly after the time of the union with England. It's also toward the end of the period in Scottish history when the persecution and execution of those charged with witchcraft took place.

The story is a very lusty, bawdy tale! The central characters, Jessie Taskill and Gregor Ramsay, are both wily loners, wary and self reliant because of what life has thrown at them. Jessie is a whore under a charge of witchcraft, and Gregor has returned to Scotland looking to regain what was taken from his family over a decade before. Initially their relationship is built on a business arrangement, but desire soon gets in the way.

Gregor rescues Jessie from the gallows and hires her to get close to his enemy, but right from the outset these two are far too distracted by each other. Jessie is alluring to Gregor, and she would much rather seduce her attractive sponsor than learn about his enemy. Each thinks they have the upper hand on the other, especially when it comes to sex. Inevitably they become close, learn of the tragedies that went before, making way for companionship and love. But with enemies and witch hunters close by, their journey is a bumpy one.

Here's the official blurb:

It is a Dark Era, one when a lusty lass will do what she must to survive. Even if it means bartering flesh for a palmful of coins...

Forced to watch her mother burned at the stake and separated from her siblings in the aftermath, Jessie Taskill is similarly gifted, ripe with a powerful magic that must stay hidden. Until one night when she's accused by a rival, and Jessie finds herself behind prison walls with a roguish priest unlike any man of the cloth she has known.

In reality, Gregor Ramsay is as far from holy as the devil himself, but his promise of freedom in return for her services may be her salvation. Locked into a dubious agreement, Jessie resents his plan to have her seduce and ruin his lifelong enemy. But toying with Gregor's lust for her is enjoyable, and she agrees to be his pawn while secretly intending to use him just as he is using her.

11. What’s next for you?

I'm about to begin work on THE LIBERTINE, and THE JEZEBEL, the follow-up books to THE HARLOT. These two books are the stories of Jessie Taskill's long-lost siblings, Maisie and Lennox. The siblings were torn apart as children when their mother was burned at the stake for witchcraft. They've had completely different lives, but the heritage of pagan witchcraft is in their blood and the need to find each other again is strong. They are passionate, gifted people, living in a time when one hint of witchcraft brings the death penalty. Each story is both an adventure and an erotic romance. As the three siblings live and love they also find their way back to each other. The reunion of the Taskill witches will be at the end of the third book. All three novels are scheduled for back-to-back mass-market publication on the HQN line, early in 2013. I'm very excited about the writing of books two and three!


Monday, July 25, 2011


We all know writing is rewriting. At least I know it now. Time was I used to unleash first drafts onto poor, unsuspecting editors - and then I was surprised when my work didn't sell.

By chance I discovered, while writing short stories, that any work I rewrote had a greater chance of making it into print. It can occasionally take up to ten drafts to do the trick and get my story into a reasonable kind of order. In some of these drafts I'll only change a word or two, in others, complete chunks will be rewritten.

Applying this principle to longer works, I reasoned that rewriting might well make my manuscripts more saleable. But where to stop?

One of my current longer WIPs has been rewritten to death over many years. I just can't let the story go. But, in the reworking, it has evolved into something completely different - different heroine and hero, different setting, different secondary characters, different conflicts and storyline.

Nothing remains of the original idea or the early drafts. Nothing at all.

So, am I really rewriting the same book? Or am I now writing a different one? And how many books have I written in between?

I'm still unable to comment on most blogs, but thank you all for your messages on my previous posts. If you are able to comment here, I'd love to know how many drafts you write before submitting a story.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Another perspective on the RNA 2011 Conference

Minxy friend Rachel Lyndhurst gives us another inside look at the RNA 2011 Conference in 2011. Thanks Rach!

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Rachel with Kate Johnson
Thanks for asking me here today, Minxes!

I was very fortunate to have attended my very first Romantic Novelists’ Association conference this year, and a little bird tells me you want to hear the some of the juicy details – the stuff that doesn’t necessarily get published. The stuff that’s really useful to know … I was only there for half of it, but here are some of the key things I discovered.

Don’t worry about forgetting a pen and paper when you set off – it’s all provided in the official goody bag. Along with free books, bookmarks, postcards and chocolate! But do leave yourself some breathing space to find your accommodation - I got lost quite a few times!

Students these days have it really easy! Our rooms were en suite in small flats with a fantastically equipped kitchen area. Long gone are the days when you had to sneak a member of the opposite sex in past a grumpy porter at the front door!

Good news. The market isn’t as bad as some would have you believe. At the beginning of the conference Jan Jones ran though a list of authors who had good news to share about successes in the past year. There were loads. RNA members are getting published and selling in buckets.

It appears that everyone agrees that an online presence is essential for an author these days. Networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are vital for marketing yourself and your books. It’s hugely beneficial to interact with your readers and pick up a few tips yourself – that’s why you’re reading this right now, right? I had a ten-minute editor’s pitch and had my suspicions confirmed; when you submit to a publisher/agent they will Google you. Fact! Don’t get caught with your knickers down, folks, keep your blog up to date and make sure it sparkles.

There is no right way to write. Jill Mansell told us that she writes longhand with a fountain pen on foolscap paper on the right hand side of the page. Revisions are inserted on the left hand side of the page and then she gets someone to type it up for her. Jill would feel physically ill if she had to write more than 1500 words in a day, whereas Louise Allen can do four or five thousand in a day if she has to.

Every author has to be prepared to market herself. I now know what an ‘elevator pitch’ is – make sure you do too, you might need it when you bump into an agent in the loo during the conference or RNA winter party...

Make sure your book has a really good title, having a ‘working title’ may not be good enough. If it’s weak, you may lose the agent/editor’s interest before they even turn over a page.

Most importantly, never give up. Jill Mansell confided that after two rejections from agents she was going to thrown in the towel if she got a third. Fortunately, she didn’t, she’s a bestselling author. Keep going, you can do it!

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Rachel's debut novel, Storm's Heart, is available from Amazon and Amazon UK.

Rachel can be found on Twitter as @RachelLyndhurst, and her blog is at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Author Spotlight - Sally Clements

I'm test driving some new minxy spotlight questions today - here goes!

• What is your writing process?
I write in the mornings, after getting the kids off to school, and write until 2.00 which is my first school run. Apart from that, I grab random moments on my Alphasmart, and download them onto computer the next morning!

• 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?
Um...I tend to go shoe shopping! No, seriously, I don't because there are too many days when it's difficult to keep to it, and I have a cupboard full of shoes... What I do is grab a coffee, sit down and promise myself a reward (usually licorice all-sorts, a handful) if I get 1,000 words done. Once I've done that, I'm happy, and usually that kick starts the muse. I listen to music, and also burn scented candles too, to help get me into writing mode.
• Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
Gosh, no. I should have though...terrible writer's spread going on here! I walk around the garden, and weed.
• Do you believe in writer's block?
No. But I believe in writer's burnout. Sometimes it's important to do something else - concentrate on other areas of your life, and be gentle on yourself. If you are hassling yourself to write and giving yourself a hard time, you can be darned sure the muse will disappear!
• Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
No, I haven't. But I have got about half a book full of real life incidents that I write to release tension. It's a biting comedy, but I'd get sued if I published it!
• In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?
I spend a lot more time on the internet than I'd anticipated - and a lot more time doing promotion.
• Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I never turn down the opportunity to meet new readers. I blog regularly, tweet constantly, do every interview I'm offered, and am polite. I also try to put my personality out there - build genuine connections with like minded people. I've been published about a year now, and I'm still learning! (tips gratefully accepted!)
• What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Make sure you have a blog, twitter, and interact. Be helpful and polite to others, good karma bounces back!
• What did you learn while writing this book?
My heroine, Melo, is a caring, nurturing person, and she could easily have become a bit of a pushover. She made me examine my own feelings about giving - she gives, and other's take. But she learns to stay true to herself and not be taken advantage of. She owns her power, and squares up to grumpy, gorgeous Cade - with lots of fiesty fireworks. I learnt a lot of what I believe deep down, writing her!
• What was the most fun part of writing this book?
Definitely immersing myself in the warm heat of Isola dei Fiori. Researching Tuscan recipies, looking at pictures of lovely islands, imagining myself breathing in the scent's of lavender and rosemary...sigh... with Cade by my side, of course!
• And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
He loves his cabin in the woods in Canada, on the lakeshore...I think that's where he'd love to be with Melo.

Here's more about the story:
Capable, financial advisor, Melo Bellucci always knew when it came to organising her sister’s wedding she’d in charge. After all, her sister, Rosa is notoriously scatterbrained. But there’s a silver lining in the form of the Best Man, Melo’s childhood crush, Cade West.

When Cade returns to the Tuscan island, Isola dei Fiori, he’s prepared to mix business with pleasure, especially when he meets Melo again. The confident, sexy woman is a world away from the lanky tomboy he remembers, and attraction burns between them instantly.
But when he discovers that the perfect site for his hotel. idyllic Paradise Beach, belongs to Melo, rather than her father, can their relationship survive, when there are two plans for Paradise?

Marrying Cade is available now for Kindle at, and for other email formats at The Wild Rose Press, and ebook sellers worldwide.
Sally is @sallywriter on twitter.
And her blog is here.
Thanks for having me, Minxes!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Enjoying the summertime...

I had a great time last week, with the Marrying Cade Wave launch for my new book, and would like to thank everyone who took part and helped launch Marrying Cade into the blue.

Now that's done, I'm wondering where the summer weather has got to - Ireland is grey and rainy, cold and dull. My family are staying at home this year - so no prospect of the warm breezes of a Tuscan island for me - except in fiction. I'm planning a few trips around about, some visits to the cinema, and if the weather improves, a barbeque or two in the garden. If it gets really warm, we might even brave the beach...

My question this Monday is: What's everyone else doing who's not disappearing on holiday? Any good ideas? Kids holidays here for secondary school start at the beginning of June and finish at the end of August - its a very long time, I could do with some ideas!

Friday, July 15, 2011

July Hotties Poll: Jane Austen Heroes

Winner of last month’s Policeman Hotties poll was Chris O’Donnell of NCIS: Los Angeles, narrowly beating out Eddie Cibrian (CSI: Miami) and Simon Baker (The Mentalist).

For something a little different, we have a literary theme for this month’s hotties: all of them have been in Jane Austen films.

When I started researching this post I’ll admit my first thought was “What was I thinking? There’s a shortage of good looking men in the Austen films”.
Boy was I wrong!

An image search proved there are a whole bunch of great looking men in the various adaptations, but since I figured ten hotties was about as much as one poll could take, I’ve left out a few, including the rather more obvious choices. If your favourite isn’t here, feel free to tell us about it in the comments section. And please still vote!

First up is the other Mr Darcy, Matthew MacFadyen (Pride and Prejudice, 2005).

Matthew MacFadyen

Next up is Jonny Lee Miller who has played not one, but two, Austen heroes: Edmund Bertram (Mansfield Park, 1999) and Mr Knightley (Emma, 2009)

Jonny Lee Miller
From the same version of Mansfield Park is Alessandro Nivola, the lone American in this poll.

Alessandro Nivola
And also from the 1999 Mansfield Park, James Purefoy, who played Tom Bertram.

James Purefoy
The role of Frank Churchill in Emma has been played by numerous actors. among them Rupert Evans (2009).

Rupert Evans

I know a few Minxes who’ll be voting for the next hottie: Rupert Penry-Jones, who played Captain Wentworth (Persuasion, 2007)

Rupert Penry-Jones
From Sense and Sensibility comes another selection: Greg Wise (1995), Dan Stevens (2008) and Dominic Cooper (2008).

Greg Wise

Dan Stevens

Dominic Cooper

And finally, from the must-see Bollywood version of Jane Austen, Bride and Prejudice, is Daniel Gillies, who played Wickham (now to be seen on TV screens everywhere as the villain in my favourite TV series).

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Author Spotlight - Soraya Lane

New Zealander Soraya Lane, well known to everyone who lurks on the eHarlequin community forum, is celebrating the release of her debut Harlequin Romance, Soldier on her Doorstep. The book is out in June in the UK and July in the US. Her next book, The Army Ranger's Return, follows in quick succession with a July release in the UK.

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?
Five years ago, I’d been writing for about a year or so, and was trying to finish my first manuscript. I had started to enter a few romance writing competitions, but looking back now, that first manuscript was dreadful! But I was very committed to making a career as an author, and I truly believe that it’s belief in yourself and in your craft that gets you through the tough times.

2. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
My first two books are part of a mini-series called Heroes Come Home, and I was inspired by the many men and women around the world sacrificing so much to serve their countries. Soldier on her Doorstep explores the concept of guilt, forgiveness and second chance love – the heroine lost her husband to war, and has been left a single mom to their young daughter. The hero, Alex, visits Lisa to fulfill the wish of his dying comrade to make sure his wife and daughter are okay, but of course he doesn’t expect to fall in love with her!

I think it must be so incredibly difficult to transition from active duty soldier to civilian, and then face being redeployed again, so the challenge I gave myself was to really dig deep into the emotions of my characters.

3. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
In five years time, I hope to still be writing 3-4 books a year for Harlequin Romance/Mills & Boon Cherish. I’d also like to be writing for another Harlequin imprint, maybe HQN or Mira.

4. Which was the last book you read that you wish you'd written?
Oooh, this is a hard question! I like reading books that I wouldn’t necessarily want to write myself, such as thrillers by Harlan Coben or paranormal romance by Nalini Singh. I would have loved to have written The Wilderness series by Sara Donati if I had to choose!

5. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
I’ve always read widely, since I was a child, so there are many authors that have inspired me over the years. From The Saddle Club when I was a girl, to Lesley Pearce and Nora Roberts, there are so many wonderful authors to be inspired by!

6. Do you find writing love scenes giggle-worthy or cringe-worthy?
I don’t personally like to write hot or explicit love scenes, so I’ve really found the right fit for me with Harlequin Romance/Mills & Boon Cherish. We close the door before the exciting stuff starts! But in saying that, I feel that if a love scene is right for the characters, then an author should never feel embarrassed about writing them, so I guess I don’t find them cringe-worthy or giggle-worthy. Although there’s always that worry about your mother-in-law, grandmother or aunty reading them!!

7. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
When my husband proposed to me. He took me away to Sydney, Australia (we live in New Zealand) and after a lovely romantic dinner he proposed to me on the beach. Although sometimes it’s the little things that are the most romantic – like him getting up to look after our baby to let me sleep in!

8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
When you’re unpublished you can sometimes think that it will get easier when you’re finally published. This is so not true! It gets harder, but it’s absolutely worth it. Suddenly you have an editor who constantly wants to push you to make your writing better with every book, and I personally put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver. Things like copy edits, writing proposals, doing art fact sheets and promotional material takes up a lot of time too, but I can’t say there’s anything I don’t like about it. Except that there’s never enough hours in the day!

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
If you’re truly a writer, giving up is not an option, and I believe that’s the best thing any author can tell an aspiring writer. I also believe in finishing a manuscript. You can polish and polish a chapter or two and even start to win contests, but you’ll never become an author if you can’t finish a manuscript. An editor will never buy a new author based on a fabulous first chapter, so make yourself write until you reach the end!

10. Tell us about your latest release.
This is the blurb about my mini-series, Heroes Come Home: “A love worth fighting for. They live extraordinary lives on the frontline, but back home they’re ordinary men looking for love and family."

Soldier on Her Doorstep, the first book, is about a soldier who’d promised his dying comrade he’d make sure his wife and daughter were okay. He was prepared for tears, but not for the beautiful woman who answered the door – or the little girl hiding behind her. Could Lisa and Lilly help to heal this hero’s heart?

In the The Army Ranger’s Return, Jessica’s best friend is soldier pen-pal Ryan, only she’s never met him in person before. Her letters have offered him comfort while he was away fighting for their country, but is he ready to fight for her heart.

11. What’s next for you?
My second book, The Army Ranger’s Return, is available in the UK in July, and August in the USA. I also have another release this year in November – Rodeo Daddy.

I’ve just turned in my fourth book to my editor, and I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be writing four more books for Harlequin Romance/Mills & Boon Cherish in the next year.

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Thank you so much for having me! I’d like to give away a copy of one of my books – the winner can choose from either Soldier on Her Doorstep or The Army Ranger’s Return. Since I love writing about soldiers so much, tell me who your dream man in uniform is … soldier, Navy SEAL, policeman, fireman??? I’ll pick the winner at random!

Visit my website or blog for more information – or

Monday, July 11, 2011

How much fun can one girl have?

Since none of us Minxes managed to get to Caerleon for this year's RNA conference, we've invited debut Mills & Boon author Scarlet Wilson to guest blog about the conference this weekend instead.

Welcome Scarlet!

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The Gala Dinner

It didn't start well.  The train to Newport in Wales was packed with a variety of dogs and children crawling down the aisles.  At one point I ended up with two unknown babies sitting on my lap. However once we arrived in Newport I recognised some fellow women scrambling with cases and shared a taxi with the lovely Freda Lightfoot to Caerleon.

Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson spend a lot of time organising the conference and their planning was very evident.  There was a huge range of topics covered in tee programme and the hardest thing was picking what to attend.  I have to say that this year I was naughty and ducked out of a few lectures through sheer brain drain. 

Scarlet with M&B editor Flo Nicholl

But the ones I attended were fab.  The conference started with Celebrations and this year there were a lot of members with good news of sales.  It seems great that when we continually hear about tightening purses and less income, writers are still considered a priority.  There was an award winning panel with Louise Allen, Elizabeth Chadwick and Jill Mansell all answering questions on how they wrote.  I was amazed to learn that Jill Mansell writes all her books longhand with a Harley Davidson fountain pen!  I was even more amazed when Fiona Harper (who writes for Mills and Boon Romance) pulled out her moleskin notebook from her bag and showed me that she writes long hand too - her next book was sitting right in front of me.  I nearly snatched it and ran away!

The Mills and Boon editors delivered a talk on being Unpredictable - their latest buzzword.  They want new twists on the old stories and are still keen to acquire new authors.

M&B editor Anna Boatman, Romance author Nina Harrington and Flo Nicholl

Sphere books also delivered a talk, they are also acquiring authors - admittedly only a few a year - but specifically asked for timeslip stories and WW1 and WW2 women's fiction.

Jenny Hutton and Anna Baggaley from MIRA and Mira Ink gave an overview for their line, highlighting all areas that sell well in women's fiction and teenage fiction.  They also have new websites and

My favourite talk was given by Fiona Harper on getting emotion on the page and keeping it there.  You could have literally heard a pin drop in the room while she was speaking.  She has promised to put her notes for the talk on her website

Scarlet with M&B Romance author Fiona Harper
The conference ended with agent Carole Blake and her client Elizabeth Chadwick letting us know how they were 'A Perfect Match'.  Their working relationship has lasted longer than Carole's two marriages and they were a true doubleact!

It was a perfect end to a great conference and after the long journey home to Scotland I am now going to spend the next few days in bed recovering!

* * * 

Thank you Scarlet! The Minxes look forward to meeting you again next year, at the Penrith conference.

Scarlet's debut novel for M&B Medical is It Started With a Pregnancy, out in September. Scarlet will be back here in September to talk about her book.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Words of wisdom from Trish Wylie - Part Three

This is the final part of our Friday series on how to start your romance novel, with Trish Wylie. It's been great fun having Trish here being Minxy-next Friday will be lonely without her!
I know everyone is dying to read what she has to say, so without any further ado, here's the final section.
Take it away, Trish!

8/ Back-Story.

The trick with back-story is to remember it is in the past. While relevant to the characters and containing the key to their emotional conflict, it is the ‘here and now’ the reader is most concerned with and for that reason the writer should focus the story on what is happening as it happens. Think of meeting someone for the first time and having them tell you their entire life story in one sitting and you’ll get an idea of how it would be for the reader to wade through a back-story dump at the beginning of the story. Instead, as it is in real life, the characters will get to know each other better as the journey continues, with hints of the past and the experiences that made them the way they are trickled through conversations, inner point of view (to assist the readers understanding) and their reactions to the things that happen.

9/ Theme.

Every story has a theme. Since more often than not this is used to help the publisher title the book and create appropriate cover art, the easiest way to get an idea of the themes used in a specific line within category romance may be to look at how they are marketed. For example, if there’s a baby or children on the cover or the mention of a father or mother in the title, there’s a good chance the theme is family. Put the word ‘Cinderella’ in the title and the theme may be self-image, self-acceptance or a character discovering the truth in the old adage that looks aren’t everything. Put the word marriage in the title and it’s pretty self-explanatory. Outside of category romance the theme may not be as obvious on the cover or in the title, but since every story ever told has themes based in mythology as far back as when the first stories were told around a campfire, I can guarantee there will be one.

10/ The Hook.

Quite simply the hook is a question that requires a reader to keep reading in order to discover the answer; curiosity driving them forward as it would for any of us in real life. The easiest way to create a hook is to start with something that profoundly changes the character’s world, the question becoming how they deal with it and what they will do next. If an external problem is solved too easily, the PLOT comes to a standstill, so every time something seems resolved, there must be something else to take its place so the story can continue and the characters have something to do. Think of it as a domino effect; the external problem leading to reaction and action which in turn leads to another action and another reaction and so forth until the internal problem comes to the surface in the black/all is lost moment and the characters are able to deal with it.

It may seem like a lot to pack into the beginning of a story, but pick up any book at random from your keeper shelf, read the opening chapters, and you will discover each of these points are there. Having said that, when starting out on a new story, many of us don’t get it right the first time, even when we’re supposed to know what we’re doing. But don’t panic if that happens! Beginnings continue to be a weak point for me, but theoretically, now that I know what I’m looking for I can go back and strengthen it with my trusty check-list at hand. Hopefully you’ll find it helpful too and if you do, my work here is done...

Trish’s long-awaited book, ‘The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction’, will be out in the UK and Ireland in December 2011.
In the meantime, her third book, ‘Her Unexpected Baby’, is available for the first time in the USA and Canada direct from eHarlequin RIGHT NOW!
You can pick it up here.

You can find out more about Trish and her books at or follow her between deadlines on Twitter @TrishWylie

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Author Spotlight - Stephanie Draven

Today we're delighted to have hugely prolific author Stephanie Draven join us here at the minxes to tell us a little bit about herself, and her books. Take it away, Stephanie!

1. Where were you in your writing career 5 years ago?

Exactly five years ago to the day, I faced a career crisis. I’d been dreaming of publishing my books for years. I’d been working at it, taking classes, collecting rejection letters, and beginning to think it was never going to happen. I was at a low point. And that’s when I received a most extraordinary opportunity. I was offered a job as a special assistant to a U.S. Congressman.
Now, if I had to choose any career other than writing books, it would be that of a speechwriter and this job would have been a stepping stone in that direction. It would have been an opportunity to do something meaningful. It was almost my dream job. Almost. If I took this job, I’d have to give up my dreams of publishing my books. That was a certainty. The demands of the job wouldn’t allow for both.
And I had a choice to make. Would I go for a sure thing, or continue to pursue a dream that might never become a reality? I’m a very practical person, so the decision seemed clear to me. I would have to take the job.
But I didn’t. I couldn’t. And turning down that job was one of the most terrifying and angst-ridden decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Sometimes I still wonder if I did the right thing.
It would be almost two more years before my first professional sale and six months more before I was offered representation by my agent, the fabulous Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill. After that, things went very quickly for me. Since then, I’ve sold four full-length novels (all of which will have been published within this year) and six novellas!

2. What do you prefer writing, novellas or full length?
That’s a little like asking do you prefer dinner or dessert! I love the accomplishment of writing a full-length novel, and the room I have to sprawl and show off. But the novella is a special kind of art form that really replenishes the creative well and helps me rediscover the joy of writing!

3. You write paranormal, what challenges does that present?
You have to build a world for any fiction that you create, but paranormal romance requires that you build a world that defies the rules of the universe. That’s quite a challenge to do that and fit in a satisfying love story to boot!

4. Where did you get the idea from for this particular book?
What if the monsters of ancient mythology still walked the earth...and what if you found out that you were one of them? That’s the premise for my Mythica series and I’ve had a blast exploring the stories and symbols of Greek mythology. I’ve always loved the idea of sirens. They’re certainly the bad girls of ancient lore and I write very smart books for very bad girls, so it was a natural pairing! Also, I’ve always wanted to set a book in Annapolis. I lived there for a year and it’s one of my favorite places in the world.

5. Where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
I want to be a New York Times Bestselling author. Is that too much to ask?

6. Was there any particular author or book that made you want to be a writer?
I was a storyteller long before I could read a book!

7. What's the most romantic moment of your life so far?
I’m very fortunate to have a romantic husband who has filled my life with love and romance. It’s very difficult to choose just one moment, but I’m going to say that spending a day luxuriating on crisp white linens with the ocean breeze flowing in through the windows is definitely my happy place.

8. What do you wish you'd known about being an author before you were pubbed?
I wish I’d known how much time I’d spend doing things that have nothing to do with writing. Wow. The task of getting people to know about your work, much less read it, is a full-time job all in itself!

9. What's the best writing advice you've ever been given?
Have lots of product to sell! Beginning authors spend too much time obsessing on making their first novel better. This is an important stage, but you have to learn when to move on and just write more and faster and better.

10. Tell us about your latest release.
Siren Song is a bite-sized romance that stars a modern-day sexy siren and the ancient triton she tries to seduce. He was banished from his home because of his weakness for sirens before and now he’s determined to resist her. When I started writing the story, I thought my siren would be a very wicked girl, but in the end, she turned out to be one of the sweetest, most innocent heroines I’ve ever written. I love when I get to turn expectations around--even in my own mind!

11. I hear Mills & Boon have replaced Nocturne Bites with the longer Nocturne Cravings, does writing Nocturne Cravings appeal to you?
Yes! I’m following up Siren Song with something much darker for the Cravings line entitled The Fever & the Fury which will star one of the furies as a heroine and the phoenix who teaches her how to accept pleasure instead of giving only pain. It should be scorchingly hot!

12. What’s next for you?
In November, my newest full-length installment of the Mythica series will be released. It’s called Dark Sins & Desert Sands and is about an Arab-American soldier who has been broken by torture and turned into a mind-controlling minotaur whose first vengeful act is to capture his beautiful interrogator. It might be a little controversial, actually!

Thank you so much for the interview, Stephanie!
You can find out more about Stephanie and her books, and read an excerpt of Siren Song at her website:
Siren Song is available as an ebook now from Mills & Boon here

Monday, July 4, 2011

Not in New York ... with Zonkeys

For those like me, who could only dream of being at last week’s glamorous RWA conference in New York, I’ve decided to take you across the globe to a far less glamorous but equally exotic locale ... the African bushveld in midwinter.

I’m currently on Day 3 of a 5-day commercial film shoot, and this is one of our locations:

This is what a film unit looks like ... insignificant against the backdrop of the savannah.

And finally, just for a laugh, here’s one of the animals spotted on our current location ... Debra the Zonkey (this is for real!)

For me, this is all in a day’s work, but if you’ve ever had any questions about film shoots, or how movies are made, this is your chance to ask.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Words of wisdom from Trish Wylie - Part Two

Last Friday, Trish started her series about how to start a romance novel. She covered: The inciting incident, introduction to the characters, the external problem and the internal problem.
Today, she's continuing with part two of three - this week examining the areas, foreshadowing, setting and tone.
Take it away, Ms Wylie!

5/ Foreshadowing.

In a Romance novel, just as a hint of the beginning of a new life for the characters is present in the end, there is the promise of a happy outcome to their problems at the beginning of the story. In a sense this is easy because there is already an expectation from the reader that the characters will end up together. The trick is to make them doubt the outcome by throwing obstacles in the characters’ paths (occasions that remind them of the thing they fear most).

6/ Setting.

The world the characters inhabit should be glimpsed in the opening so the reader is grounded in their reality. This includes anything that can be seen, heard or perceived by the characters in the same way we would be aware of our surroundings. Once again this should be brief, the emotional involvement in the story stemming from a connection with the characters rather than the place they inhabit. Think of a stage play and it is the characters and what is happening to them that hold our attention rather than the backdrop; the scenery merely adding a sense of place.

7/ Tone.

The tone must be both clear and consistent from the beginning. Characters will remain ‘in character’ from the moment they appear on the page, with all of their actions and reactions making sense to the reader based on what they are told from the beginning. By setting a clear tone, we establish the ‘rules’ of the story, including the narrative and most importantly, the writer’s VOICE. Quite simply, a writer’s voice is the way they tell the story. Think of a Scorsese, Spielberg or Tarantino movie and they are each instantly recognisable as ‘belonging’ to the respective director. It’s exactly the same for writers, so while there may be no such thing as a ‘new’ story, the way we each tell it is as individual to us as our handwriting or the way we speak. Setting the ‘mood’ is somewhat different. As the characters continue on their journey there will be shades of dark and light, just as there are in real life. So while there may be moments of sadness and deeply felt emotion, there will also be times when there is humour or a tempting glimpse of how happy the characters will be in the end.

Pop back next Friday for the concluding blog post of the series - covering back story, theme and the hook.
Thank you, Trish!
Trish’s long-awaited book, ‘The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction’, will be out in the UK and Ireland in December 2011.
In the meantime, her third book, ‘Her Unexpected Baby’, is available for the first time in the USA and Canada direct from eHarlequin RIGHT NOW!
You can get it from here.

You can find out more about Trish and her books at or follow her between deadlines on Twitter @TrishWylie