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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Imperfect Heroes - Nalini Singh


I’m delighted to have a chance to visit with you all again. Thank you to Lee for inviting me! I wanted to choose a topic for today that would be fun, interesting, and most of all spur discussion. So I thought...how about men?!

Men are always fun to discuss (and if there are any men reading this, I mean that in the best possible way – read on to see). As romance readers, we all have a distinct liking for the male of the species. However, I think that there’s sometimes a perception that romance-novel men are all the same – perfect beings no real man could ever measure up to.

I don’t agree. Here’s my theory – in most romances, we see the hero through the heroine’s eyes. Of course her man is going to be perfect to her. And through her, we fall in love with him, too. I’m not saying we don’t have a certain fantasy element in our heroic archetypes – that would be plain disingenuous – but I think there’s a far wider variety of men in romance than is readily apparent.

Here are some examples of imperfect heroes from books on my shelves:

Kristin Hannah’s “Once in Every Life” has a hero so traumatized by war, he doesn’t even trust himself around his children. He is, in fact, so distrustful of himself, that he takes all the abuse his wife heaps on him. Some call him mad. But to our heroine, he is extraordinary, the man she loves and needs.

Elizabeth Hoyt’s “The Raven Prince” has a hero pockmarked by scars, and with a terrible temper to boot. He’s definitely imperfect in some very visible ways. And yet again, he’s the perfect hero for the heroine.

Christine Feehan’s “Dark Desire” has a hero who’s survived horrible torture, but who is more animal than human as a result. Most women would run far and fast if they ever came in contact with Jacques. But we trust in him...because the heroine trusts in him.

Pamela Morsi’s “Simple Jess” has a hero who is quite literally, simple. But again, he is the heroine’s perfect love, the one man who fits her like no one else.

I belive the most memorable heroes are the ones with flaws, whether they be emotional or physical, or even mental. No woman wants a perfect man, because no woman is perfect herself. As romance readers, I think we feel the same way about our heroes. We want a man who lives life, and if he gets a little marked up by it, so be it.

So, what do you think? Agree with me? Disagree? Have any favorite examples of imperfect heroes?

All comments go into a draw to win a signed copy of a book from my backlist, (not including Mine to Possess, cause I don’t have my author copies yet). And talking about prizes, I have this competition running on my blog where you can go into the draw to win a $50 Amazon voucher plus a cute prize pack. It closes Saturday, so enter before it’s too late.


Nalini

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

DREAM ON - Nancy J. Cohen


Do you dream in Technicolor? Do the characters in your dreams have complete, logical conversations? Does a story unfold in your subconscious mind? Like other authors, I am gifted with an imagination, and this ability continues in my dreams. The other night, I had a dream that would be a perfect scene in the urban fantasy series I’m working on, not for the particular book I’m writing but for one farther along. The problem is getting it down on paper despite daily interruptions. If I don’t scribble down the details right away, I’ll forget the dream sequence, and it’ll evaporate. I’ve recorded many figments of my imagination, vivid tales that could serve as inspiration for new stories. This is where I got the idea for Circle of Light, my first published novel. I had such an awesome dream that I didn’t want it to end, so I wrote the entire story. My dreams seem to be science-fiction oriented rather than suiting my mysteries. Perhaps this is because the Bad Hair Day series featuring hairstylist Marla Shore is more reality-based. Since a writer never knows where her writing career will end up, I write down the intriguing dreams when I have the chance. Do creative people have more vivid dreams? This would make an interesting study, but I suspect we do. Our sleeping brains continue to weave tales, telling whole stories as we sleep. Now if only we had one of those alien devices that could record these sessions. It also seems as though more detailed dreams come to me when I am not on a set writing schedule. Maybe it’s because creativity is unleashed during these times and it needs an outlet. Last night, I dreamt I was choosing shore excursions for an upcoming cruise. My husband and I are leaving soon on a 9 day voyage to the Caribbean. I love cruising, as evidenced by KILLER KNOTS, the ninth book in my mystery series. Marla and her fiancĂ© take a Caribbean cruise with a killer on board. She goes to all the ports I’ve visited. But in my dream, I traveled alone. I was leery of walking around town by myself. What could I salvage from this sequence? The emotion. How does my heroine feel when she winds up alone in a strange village? So dreams can be useful for working out plot problems, inspiring new stories, and lending emotional reactions to situations our heroines might encounter.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Christina Dodd Does BEST MOVIE KISSES


There is a lot of on-screen sex. Bare rears pumping, shots of boobs and torsos, legs intertwined, blah, blah. My reactions range anywhere from, “Ick, gross,” to, “Wow, that’s sexy,” to, “Hahahahaha!” Because sex, while a lot of fun in the doing, has the potential to be highly comedic.

But for real heat, nothing works like a well-done on-screen kiss. And by well-done, I mean the kind of kiss that quivers on the edge of erotica without ever going any farther than four lips meeting for the exchange of souls.

Have you seen the newest PBS version of JANE EYRE with Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens? Do you remember the scene after Jane saves Mr. Rochester from the fire in his bed? They stand in silhouette against the firelight. He wraps a blanket around her shoulders. And they don’t kiss … they look at each other.

Right there on the couch, I froze, unable to move, my coke halfway to my mouth, my eyes straining, while passion smolders between them. What makes it better is — she doesn’t know what is happening, she doesn’t know what to do — and he does. And he’s right there. He could seduce her. He wants to so badly, I could taste it. And he restrains himself.

If I had spilled my drink into my lap, steam would have risen.

Later, there was more, when he was trying to convince her to stay with him, but that one scene in silhouette is seared onto my eyeballs. Sexual tension is not about heaving bottoms. It’s about one man and one woman yearning for one thing and one thing only — each other.

So in no particular order, here’s my very incomplete list of the best movie kisses.

PHANTOM OF THE OPERA At the end when she’s trying to get away to go with Raoul and she plants a good one on the Phantom and only one thought runs through the mind of every woman watching. WHAT ARE YOU THINKING? Gerard Butler? You’re leaving Gerard Butler for pretty boy RAOUL? Have you lost your feeble grasp on reality? So THE PHANTOM’S face is a little messed up! All cats are gray in the dark!

DON JUAN DE MARCO Early on, there is this scene with a woman in a restaurant. She’s obviously waiting for a man who doesn’t value her as he should, and Johnny Depp (dressed as Don Juan de Marco in a cape and a mask), sits down at her table. He kisses her fingers one by one while saying, “These women... have fingers, with the same sensitivities as their legs. The fingertips have the same feelings as their feet, and when you touch their knuckles, it is like passing your hands along their knees. And this, tender, fleshy part of the finger, is the same as brushing your hands along their thighs. And... finally...”

One word. Wowsa.


LAST OF THE MOHICANS DA! DA DA DAH DAH! DAH DAH DAH DAH! A hot kiss, a great theme, and a fabulous line delivered by an intense Daniel Day-Lewis.
“What are you looking at, sir?”
“I’m looking at you, miss.”

The kiss at the end of A&E’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE — okay, it’s barely even a real kiss, but the lead-up is six hours of Colin Firth brooding over Miss Elizabeth Bennett. Talk about a build-up of sexual tension that can only be released by … one … thing!

Oh man, let’s never forget that moment on the piano in PRETTY WOMAN.

And last but not least, in THE ILLUSIONIST, Edward Norton rejects Jessica Biel and at the same time, he’s kissing her because he can’t control himself. I watched that part of the DVD so many times I may have melted the plastic. For sure, I melted something.

What movie kisses have been so hot that you melted in your chair? What almost-kisses seared the scene onto your eyeballs? What do you think makes the difference between a kiss that makes you toss popcorn into the air and try to catch it in your mouth and one that makes you buy the DVD just so you can run it over and over and
over …?

Christina
http://www.christinadodd.com/

Sunday, January 27, 2008

How did you two meet? - Paula Quinn

Thank you, Lee, for inviting me.

When people discover that my husband and I were childhood sweethearts, I’m often asked how we met. It’s something you never forget, especially us women. I can give the exact day of the week, the time, place, circumstance, etc. of the event that changed my life. I was fourteen years old and traipsing down the street, walking my dog while covertly eyeing the cute Irish boy lounging on the hood of a parked car, laughing with his friends. When I walked by him, he cleared his throat and asked me what my dog’s name was. I told him. He smiled and asked, “What’s yours?” How’s that for smooth, I ask you? Hey, it’s smooth to a fourteen year old, ok? And the rest, as they say, is history.

Meeting my characters for the first time is a bit like meeting my husband that fateful day-not as heart stopping, but always exciting and unforgettable. Like a chance encounter with the man of one’s dreams, the heroes in my books usually appear when I least expect them, sweeping my muse right off her feet. When I’m getting ready to begin a new book, every face I see is a potential candidate for the lead. I sometimes have dozens of handsome men pacing about in my head, eager to audition for the part. (It’s a tough job, I know, but someone’s got to do it.) But my muse is a fickle diva and most of the time she turns up her nose, sending them all away. I’m visual. I could have the entire story-line plotted out, know exactly what the hero should be like, and what his conflict will be, but it’s the face (and of course, the body) that makes him come to life in my head. Authors are also casting directors, you know.

When I was writing Lord Of Desire, I knew the setting, the other key players, even the hero’s name, but it wasn’t until I was watching a concert on television, not even thinking about the story, when the hero introduced himself to me. He was singing and his voice pulsated with emotion while his fingers picked and strummed a mournful, yet furious sonata on his guitar. The passion was Brand Risande, hungering for something lost, bitter with betrayal. “That’s me,” he whispered. “Let me tell you my story.” He did, and every word, every page grew around him.
Prince Gareth from Lord Of Seduction really kept me waiting. I was beginning to panic when my muse remained indifferent and unresponsive to every applicant who applied for the job. I’d written eight chapters starring a one dimensional hero and the deadline clock was ticking. At that point, I wanted to smack my muse in the head. You see, she’d been spoiled by Lord Dante Risande, my hero in Lord Of Temptation, who came to me without her help. Like my husband, reclining lazily on the hood of that car, Dante appeared before me, curled his lips into a carefree, dazzlingly roguish smirk and took my breath away. Ha! Who needs you anyway, diva? I did, she painfully reminded me as she hurled another five candidates for Prince Gareth into oblivion. And then it happened again. I was sitting with my family, watching American Idol and there he was! Who would have ever thought my hero was a long-haired hippie type from Alabama? Well, it wasn’t really Gareth, but it was the face, the subtle hint of deviance in his sensual expressions, the silky, honey colored mane that danced around his shoulders while he moved. My muse elbowed me in the ribs. There’s your Gareth, she whispered with snooty satisfaction. Now get on with your story. So I chucked those first eight chapters and began again.

With my most recent release, Laird Of The Mist, I’d had the story in my head for years, even before Lord Of Desire was published. I had done most of the research on the MacGregor clan and even attempted to write the story a few times, but something was missing. Callum. This story had a life of its own, with a hero who had to be born for the role. I didn’t try to find him. Somehow I knew he’d find me. I once heard that a story chooses the storyteller, not the other way around. I think this is true with characters, as well. So I waited patiently, writing other stories in the meantime. The meeting was quite unexpected. I was waiting to cross one of Manhattan’s busy streets and was nearly run over by a bus. As I leaped back, heart jarred from its place, fist curled at the bus driver, an enormous face stared back at me. It was one of those huge advertisements they paste on the side on the bus for pedestrians to see from a safe distance away. This one was introducing a new actor on the American scene, soon to be starring in his first major role as Attila. His name was Gerard Butler, or as I soon began to call him, Callum MacGregor. He was perfect! My gosh, he was even Scottish! His character was so strong, so real for me that he began to take over all my hero’s faces. But he was born to be Callum and nearly killed me to let me know it.

So what if it’s eccentric. I’m a writer and I can be a little overly imaginative if I want to be. As a reader, so can you, and you certainly don’t have to envision the same face the author chose. Have you ever read a book where you imagined the hero to be a certain someone? A man you felt was born to play the role? Tell me about it. Or tell me about how you met your partner. I’ll be choosing one winner from the comments to receive a signed copy of Laird Of The Mist.

Think hard, and watch your step while crossing the street.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Are We Too Old For Fantasy? - Trish Wylie


I don't think there should be an age where we leave fantasy behind. But maybe that's just me?

In the USA and Australia romance may not be considered the loftiest of literary endeavors but it never seems to take quite the bashing it does in the UK. And since this is the year when Mills & Boon (Harlequin's UK division) celebrates it Centenery, a lot of us authors are coming under the spotlight and taking tentative steps into the media. Now this can be a nerve wracking enough experience on it's own. I personally feel I have a fabulous face for RADIO. But in the UK the prejudice is such that we really need to think about donning protective armour and carrying a light sabre. 'Cos frankly - they're out to get us!!!

How DARE WE as modern thinking independent women even THINK of reading this kind of thing let alone write it??! Do women really still search for Mister Right someone asked in a recent interview I did on the Radio (where I looked gorgeous I should add...) At this point I felt like saying...erm... YES. It's FINDING HIM that's the problem.

But why should we have to give up the fantasy and escapism we find in the pages of a romance novel? In fact if anything with all the roles we take on every day in the modern age aren't we MORE entitled to a little escapism?! And correct me if I'm wrong here - but didn't women fight the good fight for decades to allow us the freedom to CHOOSE? I mean, I know I live in a writing cave most of the year but I really did think we'd got to vote and everything...


Maybe part of the problem is the fact that the Mills & Boon brand is 100 years old. The critics can look back to the days when stories told of timid little waifs being swept off their feet by rich tyrants who could force them to do things they didn't want to, bullying them all the way to a supposed Happily Ever After... But I ask you - when was the last time you read one of those??? Now a little sweeping off your feet - bring it on I say! A devastatingly good looking man - WHERE??? Oh sorry - distracted for a moment there... A little waif of a heroine who needs rescuing in order to be able to make it through the day without starving to death, being able to decide what to wear on her own and relying on a man to COMPLETE HER. Gimme the shotgun - I'll do it. So do I write/read books that make me a lesser modern day woman in some way? Well I didn't think I did. But thanks for the paranoia critics - anyone who works in any kind of a creative medium just LOVES it when you heap that on - it makes our day. And as for attempting to make me feel guilty - thanks for that too - cos obviously we women need HELP with GUILT, don't we?

It does kinda raise the question though of whether or not there's an age limit on a little escapist fantasy. This is the point at which I get to admit to several sins... Just let me take a deep breath and lie down on the sofa for a minute...

Okay. I like chocolate, red wine, desserts, carbs, a romantic comedy on DVD or at the movies , happily ever afters, I cry at the Andrex puppy at least one week out of every four, I'm a dreadful cook, I don't dress in pink feathers or anything pink when writing, I love bubble baths, I'm a candle-a-holic, I have never burned my bra cos I'm at an age where gravity scares me and I-READ-ROMANCE. I did before I ever decided to have a go at writing one. I DON'T THINK I'M TOO OLD TO STOP DREAMING and I still believe in fairies. (they steal my car keys at least once a day...)

Now after all those confessions I'm sure there's a charter jet somewhere rapidly filling up with feminists, dieticians, shrinks and plastic surgeons all ready to show me the error of my ways - by force if necessary. But I don't think there's a cut off point where we're supposed to allow the daily drudgery and pressures of real life to be the entire reason for our existance. We all know that marriages struggle and many fail, we all know the pressures on teenagers worldwide, the problems of paying bills, the rise in sexually transmitted diseases, the angst we feel every January when we realize just how much weight we put on the year before when the media says we should all be a size ZERO (which frankly means not existing at all in mind cos zero = nothing, right??) - and all that is but a drop in the ocean in angstville...

So why can't we have a little fantasy to lighten our day? Huh???

So I guess after that long, somewhat soul cleansing rant what I'm asking is; what age is the cut-off point for these things? Do you have an age you know to tell little kids not to believe in Santa or the tooth fairy or wizards or princesses? Do you sit them down at eight and say - 'look, it's time we got REAL...' Do we tell them in the gothic phase of their teenage years - 'yeah, you're right - the world IS doomed...' Do we tell them in the first flush of young love - 'That's nice and all but here's what pain and anguish and suffering is headed your way... just marry for money honey...'

If we do I'm not sure I want to live in that world.

I want that smile you get when the heroine sees the hero for the first time and thinks YUM. I want the back and forth and the sexual tension and the conflicts to be resolved and the last page that leaves me filled with hope for their future. I want to believe. I want to dream. And I want my FANTASY goshdarnit!!! Just try and wrestle it out of my hands!!! I'LL-TAKE-YOU-ON.
So are you too old for fantasy? Do you have a favourite fantasy theme in a romance novel you'd like to share with some like minded friends? You're in good company here if it makes you feel any better...

And if it helps any I'll even throw a copy of my latest Modern Heat book His Mistress: His Terms at one lucky commentor - it's a delicious romp of a fantasy straight from my chocolate and candle-a-holic fed imagination. With a hero to dream about and a heroine to give him a run for his money. It has modern day dilemmas mixed in with a slice of pure escapism. And no-one BUT NO-ONE has the need to have some man sweep in and save them from a life of drudgery or rape her along the way to make her fall in love with him - SO THERE to the critics!
(I'll pick a winner in a week)

As for me. For as long as the books continue to sell EVERY FIVE SECONDS in the UK... I'll continue to love being a part of the BILLIONS of women who AREN'T TOO OLD for a little fantasy. But like I said - maybe that's just me...

To find out more about Trish and her books you can visit her Website or her Blog.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Virgin Voyage! Suzanne Forster


Hello, all! I’ve had the privilege of working with Lee Hyat on several projects, but this is my first time blogging, and I’m thrilled finally to be here and have the chance to say hello. I’ve had fun reading the blogs too. It’s great to be in the company of so many wonderful authors. As I read the blog entries and the comments, I had to smile at how much we writers have in common.

It seems most of us share the agony and ecstasy of writing to deadlines—the ecstasy for me being driving to the nearest Fedex, putting the manuscript in the mail and then hoping I can find my way back home because I’ve been holed up for so long that my own neighborhood looks like an alien planet. Many of us belong to plot groups and couldn’t survive without them. Some of us live to hear the UPS guy ring the doorbell, as long as he’s delivering beautiful new cover flats or maybe even a long-awaited royalty check—and not a mangled, copy-edited manuscript to revise. And obviously, Linda Conrad and I love pets.

Linda’s blog this week featured a great picture of her and a fluffy white friend, who probably keeps her company as she writes. When Lee suggested I include a picture with my blog, I debated whether to upload the cover of my current release or a snapshot of my best buddy, Mandy, a mischievous tabby who delights in adding her own flourishes to my manuscripts when I’m out of the room. Mandy solved that for me by refusing to pose. I like to think she was selflessly insisting that I go with the book cover, but I have no doubt that she intends to play the starring role in a future blog.

On a totally different topic, I don’t know why summer is considered the busy reading season. I think winter was just made for reading, don’t you? I love to curl up on a chilly morning by the fireplace, warm in my fleece pajamas and furry slippers, sipping hot tea or maybe some steaming cocoa. Sometimes I drag the comforter down there with me, and often Mandy curls up beside me for added warmth. If it’s really cold, I might not even get out of bed that morning, just read under the covers until the chill is off the air.

Winters evenings are great too, with the addition of some soft lighting to read by. What’s your favorite reading situation for this time of year? And wouldn’t it be fun if we could hibernate with our books? Maybe that’s the winter equivalent of being stranded on a desert island.

To my way of thinking, winter is also better for writing books, and for the same reason. There’s plenty of cold weather to discourage you from going out, even here in southern California, where I’ve lived since the late seventies. Most folks think socal is balmy all year around. I wish! We have our El Ninos and our El Ninas, although I’ve never been able to tell one from the other. They both seem to involve vertical sheets of rain, high winds, and even freak events called microbursts that somehow combine hurricane force winds and mini-tornadoes—and yes, they’re as bad as they sound.

I have a strong preference for the good old-fashioned dark-and-stormy-night variety. And since we’re speaking of storms, check out the book cover above for The Arrangement, my current release. That’s the one for which Mandy graciously relinquished the spotlight. It’s a romantic suspense from Mira Books—and how’s that for some moody weather? I thought the art work beautifully captured the contemporary gothic overtones of a story about a woman who finds herself trapped in a sham marriage, playing the role of devoted wife to a prominent man who has very mysteriously concealed his real wife’s death.

Gothic romances were my first loves as a reader, so it was a thrill for me to revisit that sub-genre in a contemporary situation, and some of my readers seemed to enjoy it too. An Amazon review by Merrimon Crawford actually referred to the book as magnificent. She said it was “suspense better than Hitchcock! 5+ stars.” I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one.

When I finished The Arrangment I found I’d become so attached to the story it was difficult to let go. I took a much longer than usual break, returned to my childhood home and went to my very first high school reunion, and only then was I able to plunge into my next project, another romantic suspense called The Private Concierge. I don’t know yet whether The Private Concierge will have a dark and stormy cover. I haven’t seen the artwork, but as soon as they send me a mockup, I’ll upload it here and I’d love to know what you think.

Meanwhile, here’s a little preview of The Private Concierge. It’s actually the opening blurb from my story proposal, but who knows, it might even show up in some form on the back cover of the book:

She was Lucy, a runaway who was forced into the oldest profession at a tender age. He was the vice cop who ensnared her and put her in juvenile hall. He’s been haunted by her ever since. And she will never forget the humiliation of handcuffs, police cars and jail cells. Or the “client” who changed the course of her life.

Today she is Lane Chandler, a new woman, a legitimate business tycoon. Her private concierge service is prized by high-profile clients across the country. Today he is a ruined man. And destiny is about to put them on another collision course.

His best friend, an all-star outfielder, dies mysteriously and scandalously, and three other prominent personalities are embroiled in scandals that ruin their careers and their lives. The police dismiss the incidents as unrelated. But he sees what the police cannot. The one thing that links them is her … the private concierge.

I hope you enjoyed that sneak peek! Thanks for the opportunity to say hi and spend some time with you.

Here’s wishing you lots of warm and wonderful winter reading,
Suzanne

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The RNA Romance Prize Shortlist - Michelle Styles

It is that time of the year again when the short list or finalists for the different awards begin to be listed.
Last Friday, the finalists for the Romantic Novelists Association Romance Prize were announced.
The Romantic Novelists Association or RNA is the British equivalent of the RWA. It was founded in the early 1960s and its members list reads like a who is who of British women's fiction. Every year, it awards two main prizes -- the Romantic Novel of the Year for single title books and the Romance Prize for category novels. The Romance Prize includes the Betty Neels Rose Bowl. Betty Neels of course was a long time and well respected member of the RNA who wrote wonderful feel good romance. When the Romance Prize was started a few years ago, Mills & Boon decided to honour her achievement by donating a rose bowl in her memory. Past winners include -- Jessica Hart, Anne Herries, Liz Fielding and Nell Dixon.
This year, the shortlist is particularly strong and luckily for North American readers includes several books that will be released in the US in the next few months. The books are split between the Romance line and the Modern Extra/Heat (Promotional Presents) line this year and so they are all contemporary romances.
The finalists are Breakfast at Giovanni's by Kate Hardy (to be released in the US as In Bed with Her Italian Boss April 08), Driving Him Wild by Julie Cohen ( February 08 US release as His for the Taking), The Secret Life of Lady Gabriella by Liz Fielding, The Mediterranean Rebel's Bride by Lucy Gordon, and two books by Fiona Harper -- Her Parenthood Assignment, and English Lord, Ordinary Lady (a February 08 release in the US). It is a very strong field this year and having read the books, I do not envy the judges because basically I would not be able to choose. The award will be presented a very glamorous lunch on February 4th.
I sure some one will do a report for Tote Bags.
However, I am not going to be there this year. On 7 February, Mills & Boon are having a cocktail party to celebrate their 100th centenary and I am going there instead. Again, I am positive that it will be covered at Tote Bags. It promises to be another glamorous event and has already been mentioned in at least one literary gossip column. There is a rumour of Butlers In the Buff appearing, but one can never trust the gossip columns. I do know that there will be party bags as the back of the invitation listed the sponsors.
For US readers, Harlequin/Silhouette have teamed up to produce a special Valentine's Day site. It features free online reads, postcards and a chance to read the 2008 Romance Report. All of the February US books have the special treat heart on the front cover.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Christine Rimmer says, "Yay, It's Plot Group Time!"

Hi all!

I'm writing this ahead of time as I'm at plot group on my Tote Bags day.

That's me at left, all dressed up during Romance Writer's of America's conference a couple of years ago. I post this pic as I want you to know it's nothing like the way I look at plot group--which is one of the may wondrous things about this twice-yearly event. Everything we wear is strictly casual. No pearls or little black dresses allowed.

By "we" I mean moi and fellow-authors and friends, Kate Carlisle, Maureen Child, Susan Mallery and Terry Southwick. We meet in Las Vegas in September and January. Our plot group is the brainchild of Susan Mallery, who's been plotting this way since she started writing romance fifteen years ago. Over a hundred books later...yep. She's still doin' it.

Because it works. I, a totally independent non-plot-group, non-critique-group writer for twenty years, will attest to the genius of this method. I love it. Susan had to club me over the head and drag me there the first time--okay, I exaggerate. But there was some nagging on her part. And some mocking of my totally ridiculous excuses, as well. But she only had to do that once. Since then, she couldn't get rid of me if she tried.

The method: Each of us brings material to plot two books. Each day of plot group, we do four books--two before and two after lunch. Sessions are an hour to 90 minutes long, depending on how it goes. We double-tape each session. During the session, it's all about the book being plotted. We make an effort not to talk over each other and to be guided by the one whose book we're plotting. It's fast and furious and you have to work hard to stay in the game and on the story. Amazing. Every time, I head for home with the basics I need to write the proposals for two books. It's a dream come true, having four brilliant, knowledgeable, talented brains at my disposal. Mwahaha!

So yes, the work is exciting and such fun. But there are other kinds of fun at plot group, too. Susan always leaves room for plenty of down time. There's eating out every meal. What's not to like about that? And there are cocktails in the evening, totally deserved after a great day of work. There's gaming, if that's your thing. There are bondy moments and alone moments. One of my greatest pleasures at plot group is having a whole room to myself with no one to please but me. I watch movies the DH has no interest in, spend hours tuned to Lifetime. Oh, yes! I also love the gym at the resort/hotel we always go to. I get up early and exercise. True,my plotmates have been known to scoff at the idea that I'm pumping iron when I could be resting in my room with a latte and the morning news. But hey, it's my downtime and I can use it as I please!

Oh, and this time we have some special events to celebrate. Kate has just sold her first book to NAL--actually a series of books about an expert on...books, meaning rare first editions. The series is called The Bookbinder Mysteries. We've already plotted the first one. I can't wait to see where she's taking the next.

Also, Susan has made the New York Times Bestseller list for the first time--and two weeks running, no less as I write this--with her latest HQN book, ACCIDENTALLY YOURS! How cool is that? Extremely!


So yes, there will be martinis raised high in salute to our successes. Congrats to Kate and Susan...

Happy 2008, everyone!

--Christine Rimmer

Monday, January 21, 2008

What's your favorite color? - Linda Conrad

Can you believe January is more than half over? I’ve always loved the month of January because you get to start new with a whole new outlook. But wait a minute, I’m already nearly three weeks behind. May I have a second January this year, please?

So what was I supposed to have done by the first of January? Well, a completed manuscript for my October 2008 book for one thing. The book is done now, only a few days (ha!) off schedule. It’s a terrific story, the second book in my Safekeepers series. The title is Safe By His Side and it’s full of magic, mystery and a hot romance! I really loved writing this story of a plain Jane who learns she can be so much more, and then manages to catch the man she never thought she wanted in the first place. But wow did I ever have trouble getting it finished over the holidays.

So what else was I supposed to have done long before now? I was supposed to clean up my office and prepare for my writing year ahead. I’ll have three books coming out this year and all the appearances that go along with them. June 2008 sees the publication of the first book in the Safekeeper series, Safe With A Stranger. October is book two, Safe By His Side. And in November I’ve been asked to write one of a six-author series called the Coltons. My book is number three of six and it’s about the sheriff of a rural Texas community and the amnesia victim that tumbles into his life. Not sure about the title yet, but I suspect we’ll end up with something like The Sheriff and the Stranger.

And most importantly, I was supposed to have a brand new website designed and running by January 1. By the time you read this maybe the new website will be in place. Fingers crossed, but we’ve had some illness get in the way. Check it out for yourself: http://www.lindaconrad.com/

You know what one of the biggest hang-ups turned out to be with this new website? The background colors. Colors are important, I have come to find out. Who knew? I took a look at all the colors while I was trying to choose and I learned a little something about many of them. I thought first about red. Red is the color of excitement and passion. Well, that sounded good for my books. But actually a little too over the top for my website. Then I tried yellow. Yellow is the color of the warm sun. Sounded good. But then I remembered it’s also associated with being a coward. Not so good. How about blue? That color lowers the pulse rate but it may also slow down the body’s reactions to hormones. Hmm. Probably not the greatest idea for romance novels. Green? Not bad. It’s quiet and refreshing. But that wasn’t exactly the mood I was going for either.

I finally settled on light shades of purple and lavender. I went with them because those shades are associated with mysticism and new beginnings. I’m happy with my choice. It just says me and my books, but you will have to decide if you like it for yourself.

What is your favorite color? What does that color represent to you, and have you loved that same color since you were a child?

While you’re looking over my newly designed website, be sure to check out the new Behind the Book page for the Safekeepers, check out my new Fun Stuff pages and sign up for my brand new contest!

Linda

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Random Thoughts with Robin T. Popp


Give me a “P”. Give me an “R”. Give me an “O-C-R-A-S-T-I-N-A-T-I-O-N.” What’s that spell? PROCRASTINATION!!!

Have you ever felt like that should be your anthem cry? Boy, there are times when I really feel like it’s mine. In fact, there are days when the only thing I excel at is procrastination. I do it best when I’m under deadline to finish a novel that’s not coming easily. At first, I simply think I’m multi-tasking. You know, thinking about the plot of a book while taking care of something else that “needs” to be done.

What I need to be asking myself is - does the kitchen floor have to be mopped now? Can’t the laundry wait? Do I really have to read the fourteen new emails that came in from my friends and respond to each and every one this instant? Is it critical that I practice the song Possum Kingdom on Guitar Hero II during this quiet time while the rest of the family has left me alone to write? (Probably, because we’re a competitive family and right now, I really suck at the game.) Can’t all these chores be put off until later? (Don’t you love procrastination? It has so many layers.)

It’s all about priorities. My normal schedule is already tight. I work a fulltime day job with almost an hour commute between my office and home. Add in the time that it takes me to shower and dress in the morning, and that’s 12 of my 24 hours just for that. Subtract 2 hours to fix and eat dinner with the family and then another 2 hours to help with homework and/or exercise and I’m left with 7 hours to get in 2 hours of writing and 8 hours of sleep. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day - so clearly, there’s no time in my schedule for procrastination – and yet…it’s a skill, I argue, and must be honed daily to keep it sharp.

Because I’ve spent so much time “honing” that skill, I doubt I can just give it up. I mean, it’s practically an art form now. Therefore, I simply need to make it work to my advantage. Thinking about it today as I was checking the mail (because, you know, the mail had to be retrieved NOW!), I wondered if I could make procrastination a source of writing motivation. For instance, if I could find something I wanted to do less than work on a difficult story, then I should assign myself that task and procrastinate doing it by writing! Ah – the beauty of a carefully developed scheme.

Yeah, I know. I’ll let you know how it works for me. Mind if I get back to you later? Like after I practice Free Bird on Guitar Hero II a few thousand times. We’ve got a family competition coming up and I’d like to not go down in a burning flame of humiliation.

So what story am I working on that has spurred this waxing poetic on the subject of procrastination? It’s my second Immortals book (seventh book in the series I did with Jennifer Ashley and Joy Nash.) The first four books (The Calling by Jenn, The Darkening by me, The Awakening by Joy and The Gathering by Jenn) were apparently so well received that Dorchester commissioned us to do four more. My second one is called The Haunting and I really love the story but I’m trying to take my writing to a new level and it’s not a level that comes easily, so hence the procrastination.

This is the story of Mai Groves, the wood nymph investigative reporter friend of Lexi Corvin who was the heroine in The Darkening. She’s suffering from post traumatic shock syndrome following the big show down with an ancient demon in The Gathering. It’s left her suffering hallucinations. On top of that, she’s being threatened by a dream demon and has just unknowingly moved into a haunted apartment building. Mai doesn’t know what’s real and what’s her imagination and that’s a problem, because what’s real might just get her dead. When one of the other residents in her building mysteriously disappears, Mai turns to chameleon Nick Blackhawk, personal bodyguard and survival guide, for help. He’s the only one she knows who can enter the spiritual realm and follow the energy trail of the missing girl. Working together, what Mai and Nick discover is more then either bargained for. Immortals: The Haunting is out in Nov. 2008.

Just out – and also a survivor of my procrastination attempts – is my December 2007 release, Lord of the Night. This is the fourth in my Night Slayer series.

This is Erik’s book. He is one of the original four Winslow brothers who started the Winslow family tradition of vampire slaying.

Angus, Sean, Ewan and Erik Winslow were born and raised in Hocksley, England back in the 1600’s. They were raised to be warriors; defenders of family, home and country. One night, when the four brothers were in their early twenties, they went out hunting and came across an unfamiliar creature in the woods. Sensing danger, the eldest brother, Angus, advised them to leave the creature alone and return home. Ewan and Sean, the middle twins, agreed, but the youngest and most foolhardy, Erik, thought it would be great sport to hunt the creature. Pulling his sword, he attacked it – and died. Before the remaining three could react, the creature had run off.

Of course, the creature was a chupacabra and Erik rose two nights later as a vampire. Over time and with great effort, he learned to control his bloodlust and spent the next four hundred years living in the dungeons of his familial castle, training each successive generation of Winslows to be vampire slayers.

Since the moment of his inception, Erik intrigued me as a character. How had he survived four hundred years? What kind of life had he lived? How had it changed him? He lived with his brothers’ descendents, but it had to be lonely. Did he have any vampire friends?
If so, I didn’t see Erik as the type of man to let his family hunt his friends or vice versa. That meant he’d probably spent what felt like an eternity secretly manipulating both family and friends to keep them from killing one another. Such manipulations would, by its very nature, get complicated. As Sir Walter Scott wrote, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

It was just a matter of time before something happened to upset the tenuous balance Erik worked so hard to keep. I decided that something should be Kacie Renault, the adopted daughter of Erik’s current living relative.

Because her natural parents had been slain by vampires, Kacie aspired to become one of the deadliest vampire slayers in Hocksley - and she succeeded. No vampire was safe from her and only out of respect for her adoptive father – and the fact that Erik was a better swordsman – kept Kacie from killing her vampire instructor.

When she went off to college, Erik thought his life would become less complicated.
Now three years later, Kaci is back, one of his closest friends is dead and the leader of the local vampire gang – the dead vampire’s brother and Erik’s best friend – wants Kacie dead. Though a part of him longs to avenge the death of his friend, Erik vows to protect Kacie. But it’s hard to protect someone who hates your guts and doesn’t want your help. And it certainly doesn’t help that the rebellious teenager who left home has returned as a contentious but incredibly attractive woman that is proving much too hard to resist.

Okay – time for me to get back to writing. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to blog with you. I will try to jump online throughout the day to respond to postings. I’m going to give away a signed copy of Lord of the Night as well as a signed copy of a debut book by a good friend of mine, Sharie Kohler (aka Sophie Jordan). She writes historicals, but I’ll be giving away a copy of her debut paranormal Marked by Midnight. Tell me your favorite ways to procrastinate and I’ll pick a winner (randomly selected) on Monday from all the postings.

Happy reading (also a good way to procrastinate – I call it doing research)!

- Robin T. Popp

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Judging A Book By Its Cover - Lori Borrill

This week, I got a treat all authors look forward to--the cover for my upcoming Blaze.

It's always a thrill to see what the artist comes up with based on the write-up I provided them. Do the characters look like I'd envisioned when I wrote the book? Is it sexy, or sassy, or dark or--gulp--dull? We're always dying to have those questions answered, and I have to say that in this case, I'm thrilled with it for a number of reasons.

For one, yes, these characters look exactly as I'd pictured them in the book. Sticklers for cover characters matching the author's descriptions will be pleased with this book. That sexy stud you see there is most definitely Matt Jacobs, exactly how I'd pictured him and exactly as he's described in the text.

Secondly, I had no idea until seeing the cover that my book had been tagged a "Blush". For those unfamiliar with Blush, it's an imprint within the Blaze line for those books with a lighter feel, a bit of a throwback to Temptation but maintaing the Blaze heat. Some might consider them romantic comedies, or at least leaning in that direction. So as a big fan of lighthearted romances, this was definitely a pleasant surprise.

But for me, the biggest excitement in seeing the cover is the little teaser that's too small to read in this picture. It says, "Cheating on a sex survey.....What's the worst that can happen?"

I have to say, my editors couldn't have summarized the plot any better than that. And ironically, it's exactly the thought that spurred the original idea for the story. You see, I'd been watching those eHarmony commercials on TV forever. You know, the ones with the couples who look absolutely perfect for each other, expressing the joys of finding that soul mate put on this earth only for them? You can tell just by looking at them they'll be together forever. And me, having the sick and sordid mind that I do, kept thinking there was a story in there somewhere--but not the easy bliss they show on TV. No, I couldn't shake the thought of someone cheating on one of those surveys, lying through their teeth about every romantic and sexual preference, who they are and what they love, then getting stuck with Mr. Wrong.

Of course, no one genuinely looking for Mr. Right would do such a thing, which was the big kink in my idea. I had to come up with a reason someone would A) take the survey, and B) lie when answering the questions. And once I worked out those details, I had a book that was a whole lotta fun to write (muahahahaha).

In 'Putting It To The Test', my characters are asked to fill out a romantic survey in order to win a spot on a hot project at work. And when my heroine gains some inside information about how the results will be tallied, she sets up her survey answers to make herself the guaranteed winner.

Of course, being the winner means she's been matched perfectly to our hero, a coworker whom she not only hates but who is her greatest rival on the job. And now she's got to pretend to be perfect for him to avoid getting caught in her little ruse.

It's the kind of "I Love Lucy", gee-I-never-thought-that-far plot that makes for a really fun read, and I'm thrilled the cover did such a good job portraying that to prospective buyers.

So being that I've brought us to the subject of matchmaking, let me ask this question: Do you think you'd ever look for a soul mate through an on-line matchmaking service? Or have you? I have a friend who found her husband through a matchmaking service, and after a year she still has a smile on her face.

Post your thoughts in the comments and you're automatically entered to win a copy of my April, 2008 Blaze, "Putting It To The Test", to be delivered in March when I get my author copies.

I'll announce the winner here in the comments Tuesday, 1/22/08.

Friday, January 18, 2008

2008 - You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet - Michelle Monkou

The Christmas holidays really made me nostalgic. It was the first time in years that so many members of the family were together celebrating the traditions. Family came from New Zealand and England. My brood traveled from Maryland. And we all met in Atlanta. Imagine a house filled with ten boisterous, opinionated, lovable people. We celebrated the accomplishments of 2007 and shared our goals for 2008.

Of course, writing romances is at the top of my list. A list that is never written, so that I can easily delete or file in the back of mind. Since 2002 when I published my first romance, I have written stories featuring African American characters. No political statement intended. The publishing world has finally provided a platform that allows expression of race, gender, religion, and even sexual themes.

This year, I'm spreading my wings. Proposals will be delivered with characters who may not reflect me. And that's okay. I think readers are sophisticated enough to judge a story on its merits. The time of baby steps is over.

My new philosophy gained strength when I received an email from my editor on December 31 that she was no longer with the company. The unknown is scary. A new editor is cause for concern. The what if's start to creep in.

Yet I didn't get this far by sheer luck. And there were no guarantees in the small print of my contracts promising security and a calm world. After all, nothing in life is without risk.

Stay tuned, as I navigate 2008. I never want to be on the side of the road wishing that I'd followed an idea into fruition.


Happy New Year!!


Michelle Monkou


No One But You - April 2008


Thursday, January 17, 2008

No Snow!!!!


Ten inches of snow fell on my part of Connecticut last week. More is expected. Guess what? I missed it. My husband and I rented a beautiful house on the Gufl coast of Florida. The beaches are gorgeous. We have our own pool. There's an amazing amount of wildlife--herons, storks, eagles, raccoons, and we're hoping for a glimpse of an elusive panther others here have spotted.

The best part of this is that I'm currently writing a book called The Sheikh's Rebellious Mistress, the final novel in my next trilogy, The Sheikh Tycoons. The book is set on a tropical island, and this beautiful tropical setting is the perfect inspiration.
I've posted more photos at my blog. I'd love to have you stop by, if you have the chance.
Sandra Marton

Deadlines - Laura Drewry

A looming deadline can really put things into perspective for a writer. Sometimes, though, that perspective takes it own sweet time in showing itself. Case in point – I have a deadline that is closer than just simply looming; it’s moved right on into the ‘bearing-down’ stage and the labor pains are getting closer together.

I’ve known for months this deadline was coming and though I always stress a little about them, this one in particular has always been niggling at my brain since Day 1. You see, even though I’ve never been a plotter, I always start a new story with two things firmly planted in my brain: the first scene and the last. But with this story, I didn’t have the first stinkin’ clue how it was going to end.

Because of this, I was spending a great deal of time writing, deleting, rewriting, editing, deleting, writing, deleting, rewriting, editing. . . well, you get the picture. New ideas would come, I’d try them out, and they’d fizzle. The more time passed, the more stressful this was becoming, and the more stressful it became, the more time passed.

And then, about two weeks ago, it hit me: that wonderful ‘light bulb’ moment that finally made the story crystal clear to me. It’s what I’d been waiting for, it’s what I needed, and it’s always one of my favourite parts about writing a new book. And now, after long last, the light was on, the pennies were dropping, and I was good to go.

Sounds fabulous, doesn’t it? Absolutely!

However. . . this same light bulb also shone its glaring yellow light on everything that was wrong with the book thus far. And it wasn’t pretty.

Much of what I’ve already written needs to be rewritten, edited, or deleted all together. And it needs to be done soon.

Sooner than soon.

My editor has been very understanding about the whole thing, and has offered me an extension, but I’m determined to make the original deadline. It’s going to mean the kids and the DH will eat a lot more Kraft Dinner and Cheerios, and someone else might need to sort the laundry, but I’ve convinced them that they might just survive.

So I’m going to sign off here and disappear behind my monitor again. By this time next month, the book will be finished, the family will be reintroduced to produce and protein, and I’ll be moving on to the next project. I love this business!!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Inconvenience - Donna Alward


I did something really stupid on the 23rd December - I went to a skating party, fell and broke my wrist.

Which normally is small in the overall scheme of things, except for someone who makes their living typing. Trying to type one-handed is a pain in the patoot, and with small-ish kids home until this past Monday, voice recognition software and dictating a romance novel just wasn't working. Which left writing longhand and trying to get those pages converted to text with OCR software. Thankfully I've been given the go ahead to type with two hands - thanks to a new cast, and it's SUCH a relief!


But leaving the writing aside, there's a whole lotta inconvenience to having to go about things with one hand.

Like trying to unscrew the cap off my sugar dish. It's just THAT MUCH too big to fit in my hurt hand comfortably. And my coffee must have sugar...and I won't tell you the trouble with getting the cover on my travel mug...

And dear God - let us not forget the agony of trying to fasten a bra or button one's jeans. *shudder* Camis and yoga pants are my new best friends.

How about draining vegetables? Getting a casserole out of the oven? Carrying laundry downstairs to the laundry room? Washing dishes?

What about putting on deodorant? Fine for the injured arm, but trickier trying to put it on the same arm that's holding it...LOL. Or putting in a ponytail! I accomplished this yesterday for the first time in 3 weeks. I felt so proud. I now know how my daughter felt when she did hers for the first time and came out of the bathroom to show mommy.

Even reading is hard, because I am left holding the book in one hand which gets heavy.

(You know, category romances are perfect for this! A lovely break, without wrecking my other wrist by being too weighty.)

Have any of you ever broken anything? Have funny stories about coping? Let me know because misery does truly love company...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Falling Porcupines and Other Semi-True Tales of Northern Wisconsin - Julia Harper


The setting for my new book, HOT, is northern Wisconsin, despite the fact that I neither grew up in nor live in Wisconsin. I did, however, once have The Summer Job from Hell in Wisconsin.

It was the summer after I graduated from college with a degree in archaeology—an undergraduate degree which is almost completely useless, by the way. I got a job at the State Historical Society doing archaeological field survey. The job title sounds sort of sexy, but in truth I was doing the archaeological equivalent of digging ditches. Armed merely with a shovel, a sharpened triangular mason’s trowel and a small, hand-held dirt sifter, I and a band of similarly armed summer employees did shovel tests along a highway expansion project in northern Wisconsin.

What exactly is a shovel test, you may wonder? Picture being in the middle of the woods in a line of people fifty feet apart. You walk fifty feet forward, dig a hole and sift the dirt looking for things like projectile points (arrow heads) and charcoal and anything else that might signal that people lived here long ago. Then you do it again. You do it all day long, stopping only for lunch or to drive to a new site or to dodge any falling porcupines. (This actually happened to a co-worker: he was nearly taken out by a porcupine falling from a branch above.) You might also stop if you got heat prostration, but not always.

Did I mention the heat wave? This was the summer of 1988 and the Midwest was suffering through a combo drought and heat wave, the worst in living memory. Roofers were falling off roofs because they were fainting in the heat. Did we stop when the temperature rose to over a hundred degrees by noon? Oh, heck no. We just slapped on more DEET and waded into those tick-infested woods. I was the only person crazy enough to wear a long-sleeved shirt and jeans tucked into socks. I was also the only person on that crew who didn’t get Lyme’s Disease, despite all the DEET we drenched ourselves with. I achieve the title of Tick Queen for having the most ticks on my body at any one time—thirty-seven.

So there you have it, one of the worse jobs (among many terrible jobs) that I ever had. At least I got a book from it.

xxoo,
Julia
http://www.juliaharper.com/
Julia will be giving away a copy of HOT to one lucky winner today chosen from everyone who leaves a comment on this post!
***Julia picked RobinL as the winner of her autogrpahed copy of HOT!! Congrats, Robin! Please email Julia at julia@juliaharper.com with your mailing address. Thanks!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Happy Birthday to Anne!

Hi,

Anne McAllister here. And no, I'm not telling you it's my birthday.

It's Anne Gracie's birthday.

Actually it's probably past her birthday where she lives (that would be Australia) -- unless you're reading this very early in the morning in the US. But I rang her yesterday (or today, if you want to get technical about it, though it was tomorrow there when I did it here, um, yesterday) and wished her the best.

She deserves it. Anne is terrific.

Every now and then in your life as a reader -- and as a writer -- you meet someone whose books have such an impact on you that you look for every book they write ever after. You relish not just the stories, but the voice, the emotion, the wit, the characters, the turns of phrase.

Anne Gracie is one of those writers for me.

I first met Anne on the Mills & Boon loop before the turn of the century (the 21st, in case you were wondering). And I enjoyed reading her posts, found myself smiling, nodding, occasionally laughing. But I hadn't read any of her books at that point.

Then I did. I read Tallie's Knight -- and it blew me away. I can't tell you now what the story was about -- which may seem weird, but the truth is, I can't even tell you the plot-line of my own books. It's the emotional impact that stays with me. And it was the emotional impact -- in spades -- that has stayed with me from Tallie's Knight for years.

After Tallie, I read everything Anne wrote. And I've loved them all. Some, of course, I love more than others (these aren't my children. I'm entitled to have favorites.) The Perfect Waltz was my favorite of her series of "Perfect" books.

I loved the hero, Sebastian Reyne. In fact, I just named a hero Sebastian in his honor. Of course my guy is nothing like her Sebastian. My Seb is nowhere near as quick-witted and charming and sweep-you-off-your-feet spectacular. But he's my small homage to a hero I loved.

And now she's done it again as she's begun a whole new series of books with The Stolen Princess.

I just finished The Stolen Princess earlier this week. And I fell in love with Gabe. He's not Sebastian, but he's a great Anne Gracie hero nonetheless. He's strong and determined, responsible and capable, yet emotionally wounded, and definitely in need of the love of a good woman.

That would be Callie. Princess Caroline -- a woman whom fate has thrust into a role she would not have chosen -- finds her inner strength challenged by the circumstances of her life. The last thing she needs right now is a man to complicate matters.

Except -- maybe she does. And maybe Gabe is that man.

It was a delightful, purely Anne Gracie tale of wit and angst and charm. I loved it. And I'm thrilled that it promises to be the first of several about Gabe and his army cohorts. They look like a bunch of guys you'd want on your side when the chips were down. I'm hoping Anne hurries up and finishes the next one. I can hardly wait.

What about you? Have you ever had a book turn your head and set you off on a quest to find everything that person has written? Leave a comment and tell us what book and author -- and of course if there were even better books by that author that you'd recommend.

I'll check back and choose one winner from those who have left comments. That person will get a copy of my last book, The Boss's Wife For A Week -- and a copy of The Perfect Waltz.

How about that? Anne has the birthday, but you get the present!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Year, New Start! - Christina Hollis


As part of my ‘day job’, I joined in a local radio programme this week. My work as a Harlequin ‘Presents’ author was mentioned in passing. As a result, people have been coming up to me and saying: ‘I wish I could write a book…’

Well, here’s the good news – they can. And so can you! It’s a lot easier than trying to lose weight after all that yummy holiday food, believe me. Tell yourself 2008 is the year you’re going to get it all down on paper. Writing is a wonderful pastime. It’s helped me in lots of ways. Pouring out your thoughts can be an amazingly freeing experience. Many years ago, I had problems beyond the dreams of analysts, or so I thought. I piled them onto one of my troubled heroines. Reading through and refining her life a hundred times gave me a new insight into my own, real world. From that moment, things began to look up for me. They got even better when that heroine’s troubles won me a short story prize! From then, I was on the road to recovery, thanks to the healing power of words.

In my latest book, One Night In His Bed, the hero Garett tells Sienna:

‘You can have everything you want. Just reach out. There are no limits…’

Writing fiction is a perfect example of this. Go for it! Half the battle is defining your goal. Get an exact picture in your mind of the book you want to write. The best books touch their readers’ hearts, and totally engage them. To involve your audience, write from your heart. It’s always easier to work with themes and characters that inspire and interest you. That’s why I write about irresistible men and exotic settings. Some days the rain never stops, life pulls me in too many directions at once and all I want to do is hibernate. Then the thought of a strapping guy on a sun-drenched beach really gets me motivated!

If you want even more encouragement to start a writing project, pop over to http://www.iheartpresents.com/. They’re holding an Instant Seduction First Chapter and Synopsis competition.

Can I persuade you to start that novel right now? Go on – give it a try. You’ll amaze yourself. Let me know how you get on!

Christina

Saturday, January 12, 2008

12 Points on the 12th with Kate Walker

Starting out . . .

Some time ago, I was talking with Lee and we were discussing the possibility of doing something for writers on My Tote Bag. We discussed doing on-line workshops but weren’t sure of the take up for them. So we decided to test the water with a series of Writing Blogs, to see how much interest there is.


So, here I’m starting the first of the 12 Points on the 12th. This title obviously links in to my award winning 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance, but the blogs should add to rather than repeat the advice and exercises in that book. So if you already have a copy of the 12 Point Guide, then these blogs won’t just repeat what’s in there – though they may cover some of the same ground.
What I want to do is to run this as I often run a workshop that I actually teach. So, in that case, the first session would be Getting to Know you.
So many people tell me that they would write a book if they had the time, that they could easily write a romance because writing romance is no problem at all, that they cold write a better romance than so many they’ve read. Oh yes, and they know all about romances and what they’re like- everyone knows that.

But if I ask for the title of the last romance they read – or the author – they are suddenly struck dumb, unable to think of anything. They don’t know if they want to write for Romance or Presents, or Medicals. And they have no idea what makes a ‘Modern Heat’ (in the UK) or what makes a Silhouette Special Edition different from a Silhouette Desire. They don’t even seem to know what they prefer, because they haven’t read enough. Romance publishing today is divided into so many lines, each with its own individual tone and style, so you need to know not just that you want to write romance but what type so that you can find that individual ‘voice’ that is truly yours.

So the start of a new year seems like a good point to pause, think, and take stock. Take stock of yourself as an individual and as an individual writer. What are your aims (other that getting published) what resources can you bring to the books you want to write – life experiences, studies, job experiences . ..


Why do you want to write? This may seem like an obvious question, but the truth is that publishing – in any area at all – is such a competitive field that there is no way I or any other tutor can promise you that you will be published, no matter how hard you try, how many classes you attend or books you read. So before we start out, you have to accept that if you’re only doing this to be published worldwide, make lots of money and become incredibly famous, then you’re not likely to find much happiness in your writing. But if you want to write because you have stories burning in your head, characters who talk to you at the most inappropriate moments – if you want to set out of this journey to enjoy the trip, rather than simply to get to the destination, then you’ll get a lot out of writing and learning to write the best way you can, no matter what the end result might be.

The other reason for taking stock of yourself is that no publisher, whether of romance or not, is looking for a copy of anything that has gone before. The romance world is not looking for a new Betty Neels, or another Penny Jordan, or Lynne Graham – they have those already. What they are looking for are not pale copies but fresh new individuals. In romance writing it is very difficult to be original – most plots have been done before - but you can be authentic. You can write in a way that is unique to you.So take a look at the best asset you have – yourself. What do you bring to your writing?


What are the experiences you’ve had – the jobs you know about, the places you’ve live, the people you’ve known. Even if you’ve lived in the smallest town in the most rural part of the country you will have met thousands of people already in real life- and many thousands more in fiction.

That’s another thing you need to consider. What are you like as a reader? What books have you read and loved – maybe read again and again, over and over? What books have lived in your memory long after you’ve finished them? Because the books you read, the ones you pick instinctively, and enjoy the most, tell you what sort of stories you most relate to – the ones you’ll probably be most likely to tell well.

If you can’t handle strong emotions and intense passions, then you’re unlikely to be able to write the intensity that a Presents novel needs. And if you have no experience of the world beyond a small country town then the sophisticated, worldly settings these books use are not likely to come easily to you. But those same characteristics that could be a problem for one line could be much more of an asset for a writer who’s aiming for the Romance line.

When asked what is the best advice I can give to a new writer – someone who is just starting out with the aim of writing their first novel – of any sort – my answer is always the same – READ.

Read, read, read – and then read some more. Read a variety of stories, from a variety of lines. See which ones appeal to you, not just as a story but because of the characters they contain, the places they’re set in, the tone of the story , the type of conflict there is between the hero and heroine. Read to see the differences between all the lines, to see which one seems the best ‘fit’ for you. If you’re aiming at a single title, learn the different ways and tones in which a story can be told – it’s not just ‘this happened and then that happened and then that happened. . .’ Make notes, and analyse, to see which line feels like ‘home’. That way, you’re creating a sort of writing map for yourself, so that when you set out on your own journey to create a fictional world and the characters who people it you’ll have a much better idea of what you can bring to your story as a writer and how you should think about writing it.

For some of you this will be easy. Others will have a more difficult time deciding just where there voices belong. I know this from experience – in my 53 + titles, I have 12 that were published in Harlequin Romance, the others in Presents. I just wrote the first books, without any idea of targetting or aiming for any particular line. But I’m not naturally a Romance writer. I’ve been much happier, and much more successful since I focussed on where my voice really belonged – where I was writing my most authentic books.

So this month take some time to take stock of yourself as a person, as a reader and as a writer. You are your own best resource as a writer so get to know that resource really well. Start creating that ‘writing map’ that will show your where best to begin – and where you really should be heading. Avoiding false starts and wrong directions will save you a lot of time and heartache from rejections.

Questions? Comments?
I have a copy of the 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance to give away - together with my latest book, the Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife. Just post any questions you have - or tell me what book it was that made you feel 'I want to write like that!' What line are you really aiming for and why?
The more you join in the more I can direct my writing blogs to what you want to know.
And in the run up to the Harlequin Presents Instant Seduction Contest I'll be posting some other writing hints on my own blog so why not come along and take a look there too?

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Beginnings


New years always bring new beginnings. Of course they do, you say. It's new! And it's both exciting and just a little bit scary at the same time too. So, what new beginnings am I looking at so far this year.


1. The launch of the Diamonds Down Under continuity with Silhouette Desire. The first book in the continuity, VOWS & A VENGEFUL GROOM, by Bronwyn Jameson, is out now and sets the scene for our awesome series. For more information about the series, the books and the authors involved visit our website and bookmark our blog so you can be in to win some amazing prizes including diamonds, editor and agent critiques and more!


2. My new release in February, very appropriately titled, TYCOON'S VALENTINE VENDETTA! We had a wee hiccup with the back cover and inside copy where a name change for the hero didn't quite make it to production but hey, it doesn't affect the story, right? And ooh-la-la! Don't you just love this cover! I know I do and it's perfect for the characters and the story. And, in even more fun, if you visit Harlequin's Valentine's Day website you'll get to see the cover in a spot the differences game.

3. New authors for me to read. I'm sitting here typing this and looking at my TBR pile and smiling happily at the thought of tucking into these wonderful books. It's always fun to read new authors along with my old favourites. Since I'm between contracts right now I have plenty of time to read and I'm making the most of it!

So, as we head into a new year with new challenges and special moments to look forward to what is it that you're looking forward to the most right now?
Yvonne Lindsay is currently sweltering in the New Zealand summer heat and thinks lying around and reading a book is the perfect way not to raise a sweat! For more information about Yvonne, visit her website http://www.yvonnelindsay.com/ or check out her blog http://yvonnelindsay.wordpress.com/

Thursday, January 10, 2008

50 BOOKS!

50 BOOKS...


when my first book, AN IMAGE OF YOU, was published in December 1992, it seemed hardly credible that fifteen years later, I'd be holding my 50th book. Where did all those words come from? The stories? It's the one thing writers are always asked -- where do you get your ideas from? Truthfully, really, I don't know. Except that today, standing on a ladder, trying to fit a fiddly piece of wallpaper into an awkward corner, I had a glimpse of an idea. And that's how it happens. A little spark of something.

There was a house glimpsed in woods in Gloucestershire. A busker in a shoe shop. A television documentary about a calendar shoot. Or a title that leaps out of nowhere -- The Sheikh & the Shopgirl.

Nothing at all. Just a glimmer in the corner of the mind that gradually grows until it is an idea, then a character emerges, then an incident and suddenly you have the beginning of a story.

Not sitting in a brown study waiting for the muse to strike, then, but decorating the hall...

My Sheikh & the Shopgirl, became The Sheikh & the Chauffeur (because you need to keep your characters together and it seemed to work better) and finally -- because "chauffeur" still apparently suggests "male", THE SHEIKH'S UNSUITABLE BRIDE. Book # 50.

This is Sheikh Zahir al Khatib. Tycoon and sometime playboy, he's coming to London to tie-up the biggest deal in his life, having finally given his mother the go-ahead to line up a suitable bride -- his father is desperate for a grandson.

One encounter with his lively new chauffeur sends all his good intentions out of the window.

This is Diana Metcalfe. She's a single mother, working hard to provide for her little boy.

She drives a minibus for a car hire company. Gets the less thrilling jobs. Driving groups to the airport, the school run, hen parties. The kind of job where a bit of "lip" is useful.

Her ambition is have her own London taxi. A pink one. Meanwhile, a chance to show what she can do behind the wheel of the company's most luxurious car will do very nicely. Just as long as she keeps the "lip" buttoned and remembers that chauffeurs are meant to be unnoticeable.

Romantic Times gave the book 4 1/2 stars and say it has "...oodles of sizzle...Pure magic from beginning to end."

The "desert prince" is as an enduringly popular theme as Cinderella, or Beauty and the Beast. So, tell me, are you shaken? Stirred? Or just bewildered by the appeal?