Friday, June 29, 2012

I'm going back to school...

Well, technically I guess I'm not going back to school. But I have signed up for three online courses this summer. One has already started, and I've played hookey from it all week to hang out at the beach with my kids. Shhhh!  But next week, I'll buckle down and catch up. I Promise.

So what courses have I enrolled in?
1) Writing and Researching Regencies
2) Writing and Researching Historical Fiction 
3) Writing Regency Set Novels. 

I guess you already picked up on the theme of the courses. Why am I doing this? Well, for the last few years, my entire focus has been on getting published in category fiction. I love contemporary romance and I can't imagine not writing it.  And my goal is to always write contemporary romance.  But I do have another secret passion-historical romance. I always thought it would be kind of fun to write a historical...except where would I start?  I stumbled upon a few websites that offer some in-depth historical romance writing/researching courses. They are offered online, are a reasonable price, give you access to intructors who will answer any questions you have, will give you assignments (I know, I know, I'm already behind), and offer a plethora of resources.

So why do this now? I've got my hands full already, do I really need to add something else?  Maybe not.  But then I thought, when else am I going to do this? There will always be a thousand things going on, and sometimes you just have to make the time to do the things you really want to do.  I also think I've discovered that I'm one of those people who thrives on a little bit crazy. You know, when things are running smoothly and there's no sirens going off, I kind of lose momentum. But when it feels like my plate is so full and everything is spilling off and the plate is in danger of breaking, that's when I kick it into high gear. 

I also think it's a positive, constructive environment...I'm surrounded by other writers and the instructors are romance authors (who write contemporary as well as historical). I also know that if I weren't enrolled in these classes, I'd never just sit down and start researching regency England. I also think that pursuing anything in your field can only help you. I don't for one second think that I'm going to be diving into writing that Regency romance book anytime soon, but I do think that I'll probably be able to apply some of what I've learned to what I'm writing now. And I think it will get the creativity flowing, so when I'm daydreaming I might start doing a little Regency daydreaming...

Now, I guess I'd better get back to reality...heading home from the beach today...and back to class!

So that's about you?  Have you ever taken any writing courses?  Plan on taking any?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 RITA nominee Linda Warren is in the Hot Seat!

Please welcome Linda Warren to the Hot Pink Typewriter. We're thrilled to have her.

Linda is the author of 31 books for Harlequin SuperRomance and Harlequin American. She’s a two-time RITA nominee who pens award winning romances with happily ever after’s.


Congratulations on your nomination for the 2012 RITA Series Contemporary. Could you tell us a little about the nominated story?

The Texan’s Bride is the second book in The Hardin Boys trilogy for SuperRomance. The story is a marriage of convenience between two strong-willed protagonists who know exactly what they want in life and are determined to get it. The hero is a hardnosed business man set on owning an oil company. The heroine can make his dream come true, but she wants a baby. So they make a deal. When she becomes pregnant, everything changes. Their emotions become involved and they have to reevaluate their goals and their lives.

This book is probably the most emotional book I’ve ever written. By the end of the book, both characters have gone through tremendous change and realize what’s really important in life. 

With this being your second year to get the RITA call, could you give us glimpse behind the curtain and share some of what it’s like to be a nominee at RWA Nationals?

It’s unbelievable!!! Getting the Rita call is right up there with getting “The Call”. I blubbered thank you about ten times. I didn’t hear much after, “Congratulations, your book is a finalist for the Rita.” My brain shut down. It’s such a euphoric shock. After hanging up, I cried both times. Being recognized by my peers is an emotional high unequaled by anything in my writing career.

Then the anticipation starts, getting a decent photo and press info to the RWA office, mailing extra books for final round judging, planning details for the conference, figuring out what to wear to the parties, the rehearsal and the big ceremony. I’m so honored and excited to be apart of it.  

And most importantly, do you have your dress picked out? *G*

Not yet, but I have it narrowed down. I’m considering a black and white outfit (has a beaded top that’s nice) or teal and black. The teal has a bolero with ruffles. Not to crazy about that. Then there’s this purple outfit that’s sparkly and bright. I like it, but it may be too loud for me. So, no, haven’t made up my mind. <grimace>        

You write for both Harlequin SuperRomance and Harlequin American that must keep you busy, can you tell us how you balance your writing with the rest of your life? Do you have a regular schedule? Any quirks?

What life? <smile> Sometimes it feels that way.  Writing for two lines keeps me busy, as you mentioned. I’m up at six and have breakfast with the hubby, read the paper and then do my exercise routine. My mornings I spend answering and reading emails, writing a blog if I have one scheduled, paying bills, taking care of mailings and generally clearing my desk of to-do things before I start writing. I have lunch with the hubby and my writing day starts at one. I work until about five and then it’s dinner and husband time. I’m usually back at my computer about seven and quit about ten, if I can. That’s during the week. Weekends are family time, but I try to sneak writing in, especially if I’m behind on a deadline. If I’m really behind, bills, emails and everything else waits and I write in the mornings. But those are long. long days.

Quirk: I have to have absolute quiet to write.   

Where do you find inspirations for your moving stories?

Everywhere. Movies, TV, newspapers, and everyday life. The first book I sold I took from an article in the newspaper. A newborn baby girl had been left in a basket on someone’s doorstep. The authorities were trying to figure out who the baby was and why she was left at that particular house. I watched the paper every day and nothing else was ever mentioned about the baby. The story fueled my imagination and I created a life for the adult Jane Doe, including a handsome hero and lots of conflict. The story became The Truth About Jane Doe for SuperRomance Jan 2000.

What would be your one bit of advice for an unpublished writer?

The old tried and true - Never give up. Study the line you want to write for, especially the releases by new authors to see what editors are buying.

Before you go, could you share with us a little about any new books that are on the horizon for you?

Tomas: Cowboy Homecoming comes out in Dec 2012. It’s book six of a continuity series, Harts of the Rodeo, for Harlequin American. I then have a trilogy for SuperRomance, which I’m working on now. No titles yet. After that, I have another Harlequin American. And then I’m going to take a nap.

Thank you so much for stopping by The Hot Pink Typewriter!!! We've loved having you and hope you’ll stop by again.

 It was a pleasure. Thanks for asking me.

2012 Rita Finalist for Contemporary Series Romance!

The Texan’s Bride

Harlequin Super Romance
October 2011

When love’s a business arrangement…

Sheltered her entire life, Jessie Murdock has rarely gotten her way. Until her dying father makes a deal with Cadde Hardin. Cadde will get shares of Shilah Oil on one condition: marry Jessie. In love with him for years, Jessie doesn’t hesitate to sign the papers. But she didn’t sign up for a completely absent husband.

Now Jessie has a counter offer. She’ll give Cadde controlling interest of the business if he’ll give her a baby: …the natural way. Only he has a few caveats of his own. When life refuses to follow their written plan, Jesse and Cadde have to decide which is more important: their unspoken love or the family business.

Monday, June 25, 2012

'Don't Just Stand There - Do Something!' by Lindsay J. Pryor

I was told that once during a theatre audition. I wasn’t actually auditioning for a part at the time. I’d gone along to support a friend and played the ‘other’ character for him. He was there, giving it his all, working the audition room. He knew his character inside out because he had prepared – for days. In those few minutes, he was that person. I stood like a lamppost and read the lines straight off the page. The fact was I’d never got inside the head of the character because I hadn’t needed to. When my friend lunged at me in a fit of rage (in role!), I didn’t know whether I needed to cower or slam my hands on my hips and square up to him. So I did nothing. The director (who is responsible for the title), needless to say, was not going to offer me a role any time soon.

As authors, we’re not just scriptwriters, we’re directors and actors too. Dialogue alone is not enough to give us glimpses into our characters’ psyche – their actions, reactions and interactions are just as essential. And for those to be believable, we have to be in our characters’ heads. As both a writer and a reader, you might not like how a character acts, you might say to yourself that you would have reacted differently, but that’s irrelevant. What matters is that the characters’ actions are believable and pertinent to them – actions that have been included to further character or plot development. In addition to this, your characters’ actions are essential in setting the mood and tone of a scene.

I’m going to use a scene from Beguiling The Enemy, which got me into the final of New Voices last year, to show how actions can change a reader’s perception of a character. I’ve purposely chosen a section with almost no dialogue.

For those who don’t know, Caitlin is an agent for the Vampire Control Unit. She’s been the first to track down and capture the agency’s most wanted vampire, Kane Malloy. Unfortunately she used underhand measures so is being forced to let him go. Unbeknownst to her team, Caitlin’s on a personal mission and needs information from Kane about her parents’ murder. Kane equally wants something from her. Before his release, Kane has demanded to see Caitlin or he’ll prosecute for illegal arrest. Caitlin has just arrived outside the interrogation room…

    She took a steadying breath, her pulse racing, grabbed the handle, but let go.
    You can do this, she insisted, her hands clenched by her sides. She closed her eyes for a moment then opened them with renewed determination. She reached for the handle again and pushed the door open.
    Kane Malloy sat back on the metal chair as relaxed as he would be knocking back shots in a club, legs casually apart beneath the table, his jeans cuffing his chunky lace- up boots. He didn’t flinch as she entered, his elbows remaining lax on the armrests, his position evocatively emphasising his taut biceps and revealing glimpses of his honed chest through the fabric of his dark grey T-shirt.
    Caitlin instinctively lowered her gaze, her stomach tightening as she recalled that hard, powerful body pressed against hers. 
    But it was too late to turn back now.            
    She closed the door, the walls of the twenty-by-twenty foot room closing in, the throbbing silence adding to the tension as he unashamedly assessed every inch of her. She cursed silently, berating herself as much as him for the flutter in her chest.
    The intimidation was clever, dangerously low key.
    The games had already begun.
    Clutching the release papers tight to her chest, she’d never had so much difficulty putting one foot in front of the other.
    Grateful to reach the table quickly, she placed the papers on her corner, the pen on top.
    ‘You need to gain more confidence in those sexy hips,’ he said, that low rasp making every hair rise on the back of her neck. ‘Learn to make the most of them.’
    Sitting in the bolted-down chair opposite his, she interlaced her hands on the table. She used every reserve to meet his gaze, keeping her expression impassive despite her heart pounding.

Here are Caitlin and Kane in the same scene, but with their actions and reactions altered:

    Caitlin grabbed the handle, but let go. She fluffed up her hair, readjusted her top to reveal a little more cleavage, and ran her tongue across her teeth to make sure there was no excess lipstick there.
    She reached for the handle again and pushed the door open.
    Kane Malloy was pacing the room, clenching and unclenching his hands at his sides. He flinched as she entered, and swiftly resumed his seat at the table. He crossed his legs, his jeans cuffing his chunky lace- up boots. His folded arms evocatively emphasised his taut biceps and revealing glimpses of his honed chest through the fabric of his dark grey T-shirt.
    Caitlin didn’t take her gaze off him once, her stomach tightening as she recalled that hard, powerful body pressed against hers. 
    She closed the door, stood with the papers by her side, her hand on her hip as he assessed every inch of her. She smirked and subtly licked her lips. 
    The games had already begun.
    She sauntered toward him, adding a little more sway to her hips. She stopped at the far side from him and threw the papers onto the table.
    ‘You need to gain more confidence in those sexy hips,’ he said, uncertainty lacing his sarcasm. ‘Learn to make the most of them.’
    Caitlin took a few more steps toward him and perched on the edge of the table. She crossed her legs as she checked out her reflection in the two-way mirror before meeting his gaze, effortlessly keeping her expression impassive.

Okay, so I was hardly subtle in the changes. It’s still a perfectly valid scene nevertheless, and one I could have used. I think I’ve killed a big part of the tension though, let alone my heroine’s internal conflict. Kane’s not quite the sexy predator anymore either. Above all, neither the heroine nor the hero are being true to the characteristics I gave them in chapter one. It might be great that Caitlin has decided to march in there exuding confidence and sexual prowess, but really? Caitlin is faced with the most dangerous vampire of her career. One she has managed to severely upset by using underhand means to bring him in. She knows he’s getting out. She knows he’s coming for her. But she needs him on side to find whatever killed her parents. On top of all that, she’s breaking every rule, not least her own, by being attracted to him. I think with all that in mind, Caitlin’s responses in the first scene are a lot more realistic. I also think it creates a much stronger sexual tension that drives the story forward. But then again, I wrote it this way so I’m biased.

I’ll leave you with some tips that I use to keep me on track:
  • Know your characters and use actions appropriately to help define them.
  • Use body language to support and enhance the mood and tone of the scene.
  • Character actions and reactions don’t need to be big to add drama. Arguments, screams and crying all have their place but smiles, glances and shifting body position are equally valid.
  • Actions, however small, should be interactive and reactive as much as the spoken word.
  • Romance is a genre that thrives on interactions, especially between the hero and heroine (heroine/heroine or hero/hero depending what you write). It’s those subtleties that can make or break the plausibility of a relationship. When it comes to intimate scenes, it is essential to get it right.
  • Be consistent. Your reader will create expectations for your character from the clues you give. Yes, it’s great to surprise but not at the expense of suspending disbelief.
  • Give your hero and heroine time to get to know each other, to work each other out for themselves and show this happening so we readers can enjoy the journey.
  • Last week, Tina advised eavesdropping as a great way to develop dialogue skills. Watching people is just as integral to developing as a writer. Look for the big actions as well as the subtleties in people around you. Work out what’s going on by observing, especially when you can’t hear what’s being said. Just try not to get yourself arrested. And if you do, you’ve never heard of The Hot Pink Typewriter. ;-)       

Friday, June 22, 2012

Lookout for Debut Author Sherri Shackelford

Congratulations Sherri on your debut Love Inspired Historical novel, “Winning the Widow’s Heart.” This heartwarming tale is available this month in both print and e-book. As someone who has had the pleasure of reading this fast-paced book, I can attest that it’s great!

Thank you for having me! You’ve been such a support to me on the journey, and your continued promotion warms my heart.

Sherri, thank you for being here. Would you mind sharing for the others a little about this story?

Elizabeth Cole is widowed and pregnant, and her late husband left behind a whole host of secrets and lies. Jack Elder is driven to find his sister-in-law’s killer, and he can’t stop until he knows the truth, if even if the answers unravel Elizabeth’s fragile security.

‘Winning the Widow’s Heart’ is set in the exciting Wild West. Could you tell us a little about how you familiarized yourself with the locale and time period?

Since I was born and raised in the Midwest, I knew the terrain and much of the history. Though I’ve never lived in Kansas, small town Kansas is similar to small town Iowa or Nebraska. Each town has its own personality, and its own set of characters. I have the best job in the world because I’m able to create my own town!

How thrilling it must be to see your first book in print. Would you mind sharing some details about your path to publication? How long had you been writing before receiving the “Call”? Any major challenges along the way?

I wrote for exactly four years before I was published. I wrote in several genres, and I wrote everything from over-the-top humor, to depressing angst-ridden tales of woe. It took me a long time to find my voice. (Although I suspect humor will play a greater role in my subsequent books.)

Major challenges? Hmmm…Rejection is always a challenge! I learned coping skills that I still use. Not everyone will like your work, and that’s okay. You develop a thick skin.

Do you have a specific writing routine? Daily word count goals? Any quirks?

I struggle with word count goals in the summer! I set goals, and I’m pretty good at keeping them – but when the kids are home during the summer, everything goes out the window. I’m never as productive as I think I should be.

For you, what is the most challenging part of writing a book? Beginnings? Middles? Ends? How do you conquer these problem areas?

I think the most difficult part is maintaining the momentum. Cheryl St.John taught me that if you have a good, solid internal conflict with your characters, the story will survive the murky middle. For me, it’s simply overcoming that moment where you think, “Oh no, this is awful! This is the worst book ever written.” Almost every author feels that way at some point – but you have to keep going and tell yourself ‘I’ll fix it later!’

If there was one thing you wished you’d have known before you got published, what would it be?

I had really prepared for bad reviews – I knew I’d get them (everyone does at some point or another) – but I wasn’t prepared for fan mail and for people who actually enjoyed the book! You realize what an awesome responsibility you’ve undertaken. Now you have people you don’t want to disappoint. That was a surprise – a pleasant surprise, but definitely a surprise!

What’s the title of your next book to hit the shelves? When can we expect it?

I’m working on Jo’s story. Keep your fingers crossed that I come up with something worthy of Harlequin Love Inspired!

Thank you for stopping by and sharing with us!

Thank YOU!


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Finding Time for Inspiration: by Natalie Charles

I’m a daydreamer who can often be found tuning out staff meetings or staring blankly at the floor. One of my college friends once remarked that I was probably interested in creative writing because I’m so spacey. I took it as a compliment. Also, she was totally right: I plot my stories when I daydream, giving the characters free rein.

I go to my daydreaming place when I’m bored, and I’ve become pretty adept at flipping that switch. But more and more, I find I’m losing the time to daydream. The lures of the Internet (Twitter, Facebook, blogs…) can be too powerful to resist when I feel boredom creeping up. I’ve seen other writers lament on Twitter that they should be writing, so I know I’m not alone in this.

My solution lately has been to take walks during lunchtime. I almost always go alone. I work near a park with cross-crossing sidewalks, an oboe player who sits beneath a sculpture of an angel, a duck pond, and an old carousel. On a nice day, it’s a vibrant area in which to grab snippets of conversation or to simply let my mind meander for a while. I’ve used these solitary walks to work through plot snags in my current manuscript and to plot my next WIP. Sometimes I have to drag myself out the door, but it’s always worth it. I return to my desk feeling like my thoughts have settled.

It seems like a funny and impractical thing to schedule time to daydream, but my writing has benefitted from those breaks from the real world. Do you sometimes struggle to find the time to daydream? When do you fit in play time for your mind?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mechanics on Monday: Quick and dirty tips for improving your dialogue ~ by Tina Vaughn

I was first hired as a newspaper reporter when I was only seventeen years old. And though I’m about to date myself here, this means I’ve spent half my life listening to other people talk and doing my best to write down exactly what they’ve said. If nothing else, my career in newspaper has helped me develop an ear for conversation, and if you have an ear for conversation, then you can have an eye for dialogue.
In my humble opinion, dialogue can make a story. It can also smash it to smithereens. Even if all the other elements (plot, internal conflict, external conflict, characterization, etc.) are perfectly aligned, stilted and unnatural dialogue is the fastest way to undermine all that hard work. In an effort to prevent that, here are a few of my tips for writing realistic and relevant dialogue.

We'll start with a snippet from No Sweeter Love, my debut release from Ellora's Cave.

Former lovers, Emily and Ryan have just seen each other again after ten years.

This is what I could've written.

Stop staring at me like that,” Emily shouted.
Like what?”
Like you hate me and love me. I don't like it.”
He was making her really nervous and she was still so mad at him because he'd left her years ago.
You're still argumentative, aren't you,” Ryan noted.

Instead, we have this.
Don’t look at me like that,” she said.
His frown morphed into a tight smile, revealing killer dimples. “Like what?”
Like I just spit in your cereal and like you want to eat me with a spoon. It’s weird.”
Her mind was whirling with a decade’s worth of images and feelings. Just seeing him again had rattled loose a million questions, a million old hurts and longings.
He laughed. “Still not afraid of anything, huh, Em?”

• Dialogue tags. He said. She said. Those are my favorites, and I use them sparingly. Don't try to get fancy: ejaculated, screamed, gritted, growled, hissed... There's a long list of potential dialogue tags. Do you really need them? Unattributed dialogue only becomes a problem if you’re writing long passages between your main characters or there are three or more characters on the page. If your characters are talking, then they should also be doing. What do they see? What do they feel? If you do have multiple characters on a page, then you’ll have to use names instead of pronouns, otherwise you'll confuse your readers. (There’s always an exception to the rule, right?)

• Remember that dialogue is actually spoken, meaning it’s a sound. A person can’t smile or run a noise. Strong dialogue should evoke the emotion you need to convey so any use of a descriptive dialogue tag would just be redundant.

• Dialect and accents. I once described my writing style as Sex and the City meets Dukes of Hazzard. I like writing smart and sassy southern women who might say y’all, darlin’ and sugar—but not in every sentence. With dialect and accents, a little goes a long way. Overuse will a) jar your reader from the story and b) sound silly.

Y'all wanna go down t' crick and dip y'all's toes inna water. I reckon it ain't cold.”
Huh? I'm not even sure what that sentence says and I wrote it.

• Remember dialogue is interactive. Your characters are talking to each other, not at or over each other. Make them engage with each other, and you'll engage your readers. This is where their chemistry will shine. If one asks a question, then the other should respond in some way. If one is flirting, then the other can either be shying away or playing the game. Dialogue is the perfect way to showcase conflict and characterization. Which brings me to…

• Keep in character. If your heroine is a sixteen-year-old vampire slayer, then chances are she’s not going to be discussing the presidential election. If your hero is king of a faraway land, then chances are he’s not going to be using the word “ain’t.”

• Dialogue is not filler. You’ve lost your way. Your middle is sagging a bit. “I know,” you say. “My hero and heroine can have a disagreement.” You proceed to write four pages of dialogue where your characters argue about the weather. Is this action? Well...technically, yes. Is it conflict? Well...literally, yes. Is this integral to your plot or central to your story? No. Cut it.

• As you know…no! A brief stroll down memory lane is okay. Making your characters outline and discuss in detail some incident from the past that they both know already, just so you can share the information with your readers, is a sneaky and boring way to dump backstory. Don't do it.

In closing, here are a couple of my favorite exercises for writing dialogue.

• Eavesdrop. Don’t worry. No one has to know. Do you enjoy writing at a local coffee shop or other public place? If so, take five or ten minutes to actively listen-in to what the man and woman or the kids at the next table are saying. They’re not going to know that you’re transcribing their conversation. Let your fingers fly. Don’t worry about punctuation or anything like that. Just get down the gist of their conversation as best as you can. Too shy to try that. Record and watch your favorite television show. Take notes. Once you've completed the above tasks, analyze the dialogue. Do you notice speech patterns specific to males or females? Do they have accents? Can you tell their ages, professions, or socio-economic status just by their word choices?

• Read aloud. This is literally the easiest way to hear any oddities.
Example: My nine-year-old daughter wants to go out for yogurt.

Father, I do not want to go to the ice cream shop. I would rather have yogurt.”
Read that aloud. Yikes. She's a scary, little robot child.

I don’t want ice cream. Let’s go get yogurt.”
Ahh. There's my kiddo.

Note: Most people use contractions when they’re speaking. Also, if they’re having a one-on-one conversation with someone, chances are they won’t address the person by name, at least not frequently.

• Examine your own conversations. How often do you and your significant other talk about, let's say, the brand of cat food you're going to buy, your child's report card or fuel prices. I bet you discuss the mundane more than you'd care to admit. It's important to reiterate: we're writing romance. We're telling a love story and, fingers crossed, it's filled to brimming with emotion, conflict, sexual tension and passion, culminating with the happiest of endings. But we only have so many words to tell that story. Therefore, your characters' dialogue must mean something and serve a purpose. Keep in mind, at all times, your goal is to move the story forward.

So, can you share some of your favorite tips for writing dialogue? As a reader, how important is dialogue to you? I'm looking forward to reading your responses and suggestions. Thanks so much for visiting.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Q and A with Author Charlotte Phillips by Lindsay J. Pryor

Today we’re excited to have Charlotte Phillips in our hot seat. Many of you will probably know of Charlotte from Mills and Boon’s New Voices 2011, where she successfully hit the Top 4 spot. But it hasn’t stopped there for her. She’s been busily scribbling away in the background since the close of the competition. We think it’s time to find out what’s been going on…

Q: What a whirlwind, Charlotte! You enter New Voices, come out of it as a finalist, an editor grabs you and then, six months later, you’re offered a book deal. Has it really been that straightforward a journey?

Thanks so much for inviting me onto the fabulous Hot Pink Typewriter blog, I am thrilled to be here.

I dabbled with writing when I was a student in my early twenties but never did more than that until a couple of years ago when I stopped work to have my youngest daughter. I found time to dust off an old story, polish it up and I sent it off to Mills & Boon. I decided it might be rubbish, but at least it wouldn’t be rubbish cluttering up the bottom of my wardrobe anymore! It was picked from the slush pile but was eventually rejected after two rounds of revisions. I was spurred on, though, and soon after that I entered New Voices 2011, more for the objective feedback it offered than because I thought I was in with a chance. No one could be more shocked than me when I ended up in the final 4.

I had a fantastic time in the competition, made some great friends, (some of whom are behind this blog!), and had Liz Fielding as my mentor. It was a terrific experience. Although I didn’t win I received a phone call from an editor as part of my runner up prize. My NV story wasn’t deemed strong enough to pursue but I was lucky enough to be given the chance to work on a new story with the editor. I was asked to submit 3 chapters at a time and received feedback and guidance as I went along. I think that’s one of the best things about Harlequin Mills & Boon, they are willing to work with you if they see potential for one of their lines and are prepared to stick with you until you get it right.

Q: Can you tell us more about your upcoming book?

I have a title now – ‘Secrets of the Rich and Famous’. Set in Chelsea, London, my heroine is an undercover journalist and my hero is an Oscar-winning film producer who is embroiled in a casting-couch scandal.

It will be published by M&B Riva, but a release date is not yet in place as the Riva line is undergoing a relaunch. It’s a hugely exciting time to join Riva and I’m so thrilled to find myself among such a talented and experienced group of authors.

Q: Why do you write? And why romance?

I love reading, I adored creative writing at school, and it’s basically a hobby that’s developed from those two things over the years. I write what I love to read, which are funny, engaging, it-could-happen-to-you stories. Romance is an easy choice because I love a happy ending. I enjoy the process of building characters in my head and seeing where that takes me.

Q: You have a hugely busy family life. How do you find time to write?

I think a lot of writers have to juggle madly to fit everything in. I have two teenagers, a four year old and a dachshund puppy who likes to chew, but I also have a lovely husband who ignores dust and mess!

After NV I began to take my writing more seriously and I did struggle then to fit the writing in without feeling guilty about taking time out from domestic stuff. The most helpful piece of advice I got was to write 1k a day. I try to do that now without fail when I’m putting down a first draft. I tend to write longhand notes when I have spare moments in the afternoon and evening and then type up my draft the next morning. If I plan properly I can easily get 1k done within an hour and then get on with the rest of my day without guilt. Revisions and polishing are a bit more intensive but then I steal time from all over the place and let the ironing get out of hand and the dust settle.

Q: What are your strengths and weaknesses in the writing process?

I’m still finding out what my process is – working out what does and doesn’t work for me. I am definitely more of a planner, I like to know where I’m heading, and I’m experimenting with different ways of doing that.

I definitely identify with my heroines. I find them easier to write, I live their journey and feel like I’m cheering them on. I have to work much harder to nail the hero and keep him strong.

I enjoy writing so much, but the big exception is the ideas stage, which I loathe. I’ve had quite a few knocked back by my editor! I have a tendency not to think globally enough. Once I have an idea that works to develop, I can run with it.

Q: Has working with an editor affected your writing in any way?

I’ve improved so much since I’ve had input from an editor. She pushes me to be better than I thought I could be, to mine every scene for humour, emotion, drama, wringing everything out of it that I can. I’ve learned how important it is to keep motivation consistent throughout – they must stay in character. Also that it’s a story of two people with their own histories, which converges – hero and heroine should have 50-50 importance. I have to work on this because I gravitate so much to my heroines.

Q: What inspires your stories?

Newspaper and magazine stories, anecdotes, TVshows. Anything really. I usually get an idea for an interesting hook of a situation and develop everything else from there.

8: You were very lucky to have Liz Fielding as your mentor in New Voices. I know she’s been a huge support to you and you’ve valued her input tremendously. What have you learned from her?

Liz was terrific to work with during NV and stayed in touch afterwards giving me support and encouragement. She is just so knowledgeable and experienced but was brilliant at highlighting where I was going wrong without making me feel stupid. For example I wrote a kissing scene for my pivotal moment and she managed to point out that I’d given the hero a third arm without making me feel like a moron!

Her advice on how to build characters was invaluable and she helped me keep the hero as strong as possible – I have a tendency to lose sight of that at times. She has since published her own craft book – ‘Liz Fielding’s Little Book of Writing Romance’ - which is full of the kind of advice and tips she gave me, so now I refer to that! I was so lucky to have her as my mentor, it really was a prize in itself.

Q: Can you tell us what’s coming next for you?

I’ve just started work on my second story for Riva and I’m looking forward excitedly to the relaunch of the line later this year.

Q: And to finish, what advice would you give other aspiring romance writers out there, especially for those hoping to write for Mills and Boon?

Try to write daily if you can. A daily wordcount soon mounts up into chapters which you can then revise into shape. Read as much of the line you are targeting as you can and also read a few craft books, Liz’s (mentioned above) and Kate Walker’s ’12 Point Guide to Writing Romance’ are my failsafes for romance writing and I also love Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ for inspiration.

Concentrate on building real, believable characters, they are what drives and makes the story, and make sure their motivation is consistent throughout.

And keep abreast of the many opportunities Harlequin Mills & Boon offer to aspiring authors. NV, SYTYCW and the fast-tracks are all examples. And just because you don’t win it doesn’t mean you won’t get noticed. It’s all about getting your work in front of an editor and these are great chances to do that.

Thanks so much for coming to join us today, Charlotte. It’s been a pleasure having you visit. We’ll be eagerly watching out for that release date, so keep us informed! If you’d like to stalk Charlotte in the interim, she can be found at: and @charlieflips

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mechanics on Monday...Conquering Doubt: by Natalie Charles

Shoo, doubt crows!

Does a blog post on managing self-doubt fall under the writing mechanics rubric? Doubt can wreak havoc on productivity, influence decisions, and sometimes paralyze a writer altogether. If mechanics are the tools in our writing toolbox, then we want a tool at our disposal to assail self-doubt. At least, I do. So I’m calling it a mechanics issue.

I learned a little bit about doubt when training for my first marathon. Running wasn’t something I especially excelled at, but I decided I wanted to run a marathon because…well, why not? I read several books on the process (as you do when you intellectualize everything) and then I began training. Here’s what I discovered.

There’s a part of our brain that tells us that exercise is too hard, five in the morning is too early, or that hill in front of us is too big. The conservative, practical left side of our brain is programmed to make us lazy. When we’re running, it’s that voice that says, “Hey, slow down there, rock star. Let’s walk a minute or two.” It’s a built-in buzz kill, and it’s there because from an evolutionary standpoint, it makes sense for hunters and gatherers to trend toward laziness. The answer in running is to discipline yourself to ignore this voice because it will lie to you. It will tell you that you're tired and hurt when you're not.


Unfortunately that same voice urges us toward moderation when we’re faced with any kind of hard work, such as writing. When we’re stuck on a plot problem, it’s the voice that says, “You’re too stupid to make this work. You should just stop,” or, “Wow, you really screwed up this book, didn’t you? No one’s going to buy it/read it/publish it/like it now.” My voice tells me to do something less mentally challenging, like watch television, or knit, or read, or bake…my lazy brain is full of helpful suggestions. This voice is doubt.

Doubt isn’t necessarily about perceiving looming failure. It’s often about perceiving hard work. It distorts our capabilities, telling us that we can’t do something when we may be doing it just fine. That’s important to remember. Doubt is our inner couch potato. For me, this explains why I feel self-doubt kick in the second I receive a request for revisions, or when I'm writing the first three chapters of a new book. I envy anyone who can calmly take on those stages because revisions and beginnings are hard.

Doubt feeds on fear the same way a parasite feeds on blood. It’s a pernicious little bastard who happens to intimately know all of our worst fears, and it uses them against us to get its lazy way. It’s like you’ve hired Stephen King to write thrillers based on the contents of the dusty boxes in your mental attic. Remember that fourth grade teacher who told you that you needed to work on your grammar? Or that time you got a “C” on a piece of writing you cared about? Thought you’d buried that bit of info, didn’t you?

For example, I had a high school track coach who once told me that based on my body mechanics, I would hurt myself if I ran long distances. I’m pretty sure that he made it up because he needed someone to throw discus and javelin, but when the long runs in my marathon training got tough, those words were there to haunt me. What if I hurt myself permanently, the way he said I would? Maybe I need to walk for a few minutes... I’ve since trained for and completed two marathons without hurting myself. See? Doubt is not reality.

If doubt needs fear to live, then to control doubt, we need to starve it. I try to do this by confronting my fears. Most thrillers hide the identity of the bad guy until the very end of the story because the hidden is frightening. When you expose something to the light, you reduce its power over you. Same thing with fear.

One of my favorite mystery writers, Lawrence Block, wrote about dealing with fears in Write for Your Life. In it, he suggests confessing your fears to someone before you write. This is an exercise I have done many, many times since I read that. When I’m having a Day, I sit down alone (I don’t usually have a partner available, alas!) and I verbalize my fears softly to myself or write them down. Once I confess that I'm afraid of failure (or bad reviews, or harsh feedback, etc.) I feel more equipped to move ahead. When the doubt crows begin, I understand that I don't really think I'm a talentless hack, but I'm a little afraid of failure. Confronting the fear that feeds my doubt helps me to put it in perspective. 

This is not to say that doubt doesn’t ever play a valuable role, but there’s a difference between the “I don’t think my heroine is sympathetic” doubt and the “I’m a complete fraud” doubt. The first is our artistic sense and the second is our lazy brain. The first is worth paying attention to.

It’s empowering to acknowledge our fears. It’s downright brave to acknowledge our fears and to then move confidently forward. We own our doubt. We do it to ourselves, and we can do better than ignore it. We can control it. Write bravely, friends.

When does your doubt kick in, and how do you control it?

Friday, June 8, 2012

Q&A with Author Romy Sommer (AKA Rae Summers)

Today we're thrilled to have Romy Sommer (writing as Rae Summers for her steamy historical romances) in our hot seat. She's discussing the release of her new novella, Dear Julia, so pull up a chair and get cozy.

Q: Congratulations on the release of Dear Julia. Can you tell us a bit about it?

While renovating her father's new home, Rosalie Stanton discovers an undelivered letter and goes on a quest to find the sender and return the letter.

Since his return from the Great War, William Cavendish has lived as a recluse. His peaceful existence is shattered by the return of the letter that once held all his hopes — and by its bearer, the irrepressible Rosalie, who bears an uncanny resemblance to his lost love. Rosalie sets out to lure William back into society - and in the process they both get more than they bargained for.

Q: What was your inspiration behind Dear Julia?

The Wild Rose Press put out a call last year for novellas on the theme of Love Letters. The moment I read the call, I knew exactly what I wanted to write. A good friend of mine had written a short story about a lost love letter that was found during the renovation of a fireplace, and she kindly let me use the idea. After months of thinking about it, I wrote the story in a mad hurry at the last minute and submitted mere hours before the deadline. Deadlines can be very inspiring!

Q: You write both contemporary romances and historicals. How do you balance this?

I'm a Gemini, so I don't know how to do balance! I tend to throw myself into projects, lose interest, start the next, go back to the first ...

Writing contemporaries for the big, traditional publishers is still my dream and my main focus. The historical novellas are a fun side line. But the fact that my fun sideline got me published first has been a great ego boost!
Q: Dear Julia is set in the 1920s. How did you familiarize yourself with this time period?

I sort of stumbled into the 1920s when I wrote my first novella. It wasn't planned, and I'm still learning as I go along. And the more I learn, the more I love the period. It was a decade of extravagance, decadence and pure fun, sandwiched between two very grim wars (but then, aren't all wars grim?)

The great thing about the 20s is that it's so well documented compared to earlier periods, and so accessible to modern readers. I read books written during the 20s, biographies and non-fiction books about the period, and of course, the internet is a treasure trove of information. Music, films and photographs from the 20s are not too hard to come by, and who can resist watching the sumptuous movies set in that period, like 'Brideshead Revisited' and 'Coco Avant Chanel'? I can't wait to add the new 'Great Gatsby' to my collection!

Q: The path toward publication is different for everyone. What has your experience been like?

I wrote my first 1920s novella when Harlequin announced its new Historical Undone line. Back then I was still rather new at this, my writing wasn't particularly polished, and the only game plan I had was "get published." Unsurprisingly, Harlequin rejected that first story, but an editor at The Wild Rose Press took the time to work with me on it to make it better, and I learned so much from her during that process. I am incredibly grateful to her.

Selling that first novel was an amazing kick start. After that, I put more effort into learning the craft and making time to write. The second and third sales were much easier, almost ridiculously so in that my editor offered to buy them before she'd even read to the end. I wish all editors were so easy!

Q: Can you describe your writing process for us?

I don't really have a process - I have stolen moments between children and the day job! I write in fits and starts, and it's not a very productive way of working. Last year, before my kids started at a new school which involves a lengthy commute, I was may more disciplined and I got a lot more done. The fact that I've sold two books this year is entirely due to that productivity!

Q: Do you have any habits for jump starting your creativity?

Jump starting my creativity is never a problem. There are ideas everywhere - too many to write them all! My biggest issue is how to get disciplined and finish the stories I start! And if anyone has any tips on how to get into that habit, I'm listening...

Q: What do you find to be the most challenging part of being a writer? The most rewarding?

The most challenging thing is not getting enough sleep. I'm slowly learning to get by on fewer hours than I used to, but I do get very grumpy when I'm sleep deprived (just ask my kids!).

The most rewarding aspects? There are so many I don't know where to start! The fun of crafting stories, of living inside your own head, and that awesome feeling you sometimes get when you think just maybe you've written something good. The even more awesome feeling when someone else likes something you've written enough to buy it or to write a flattering review. And all the amazing friends I've made along the way - online, in real life, and the friends I've made in my head.

Q: Can you tell us about your current works in progress or what to expect from you next? 

I have a third Rae Summers novella coming out soon through The Wild Rose Press titled An Innocent Abroad, which is set in Italy in the early 20s, and I have two more in progress. But right at the moment, I'm focusing on revisions on my 2011 New Voices entry, Once Upon a Time, for Harlequin Mills & Boon.

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Romy! To purchase your very own copy of Dear Julia, click here to find it on Amazon. Happy Reading!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Mechanics on Monday...Revisions!

Last week I turned in my third book to Entangled. It was the first book I’ve actually had a deadline for. Was I worried? Nope, not me! You see, I thought this was going to be a fairly ‘easy’ book to write. Why did I make that ridiculous assumption? Well, because about three years ago I had finished this book, and despite it being rejected by my current agent, and an editor, it had received really nice feedback. I still loved the characters, the story, the message. I genuinely thought, how hard could it be to revise an old manuscript based on what I know now?
Turns out, it was the most difficult book I’ve written.

I thought more than once while writing it that I really had no idea what I was doing. I was a sham, an imposter, an idiot.  I didn’t think I would ever get it done.  I’ve been to hell and back with this manuscript. Believe me, I’ve whined and complained and cried about this manuscript. Poor fellow Hot Pink Sister, Olivia Miles, had to endure many emails filled with my endless speculations as to why I just wasn’t getting it. I consumed more bags of Kettle Chips while re-writing this book than I have during my entire life (I believe I even wrote them into a scene). I think my DH even asked, one night when he ventured into my office, looked at my desk filled with empty coffee mugs, sheets of scribbled notes, and an empty glass of wine, if I was re-writing WAR AND PEACE. Obviously, that comment wasn’t well received. :-)

Well, here I am, a few months later, book turned in, still alive. Barely. It seemed like every day I had a new epiphany, a new idea as to what needed to be done.  I’ve concluded that sometimes, it’s just easier to scrap the entire darn thing and start over. That is what I essentially did. I just wished I had known that was the path that I needed to take right from the beginning. Most of the scenes were the same, the characters, the setting-all the same. But I had to re-write. Based on my voice, on how I’ve evolved as a writer, I just had to do it.

So, I’ve put together a little list. Maybe you’ve got an old manuscript out there that you just can’t seem to leave tucked away in a drawer. Maybe you have characters that are so vivid, that you can’t help but want to revisit them. Here’s hoping this list can help you save time...and sanity as you revise an old manuscript:

1) Delete: Seriously. Scrap it. Be ruthless, be brave. The delete key is your best friend. If I could count all the hours I spent staring at dialogue and description that just didn’t ‘feel’ right, I’d be weeping. I would look at chunks of this book and wonder what it was about certain scenes that just weren’t working. So, I’d try and tweak. And it still didn’t work. What worked? Chucking the darn thing and re-writing it. In my voice. Now.

2) Face the Heat: Take all the comments you received on the manuscript (if it was previously rejected) and figure out how you can incorporate that feedback. I knew right away what needed to be done to my heroine. Her motives were contrived in the previous manuscript, so I needed to figure out (before I started revising) what I was going to change in order to make her more true to herself. And I did. And the conflict is that much stronger.

3) It doesn’t have to be goodbye forever: I know, it hurts to say goodbye to the words you worked so hard to write. Even if they were a while ago. It’s still painful. So, I started a separate file where all my precious deleted words could go to. It stung a little less. I’ll let you know the whopping total deleted words at the end of this little post.

4) Dig Deeper: Now, maybe this doesn’t apply to you. But when I look at my earlier work, I see more surface writing. The characters were not three-dimensional. In my head, they may have been, but it didn’t really translate onto paper. I think writing deep pain and hurt made me...uncomfortable. It still does. But I’ve learned that it needs to be done. I still have issues writing love scenes, because usually the love scene has deep emotion attached to it. I need to turn off the inner-editor and let the emotion seep onto the page. Usually wine helps me with this :-)

5) Step away from the manuscript: I know, I know, if you’ve got a deadline, you can’t take time away from writing! But, I spent so much time staring at my manuscript blankly that I might as well have been sleeping. Taking some time away from it can lead to interesting solutions when you’re busy doing mundane things like groceries or laundry. I had so much dialogue bouncing around in my brain after leaving my manuscript that when it was time to get back to my keyboard, the words just flowed.

Okay, so that’s it! My little list of the things I’ve learned. I’m by nooooooo means an expert, but having just gone through this painful process, thought I’d share. The book’s been submitted, so now I wait to hear what my editor thinks of it...hmmm...perhaps a post on waiting should be next?  Do you have any tips or tricks you'd like to share?

Oh, and what was the final deleted word count? 43,409. Ouch.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Q&A with Author Tina Vaughn

Tina Vaughn
All of us here at The Hot Pink Typwriter are thrilled to launch our blog with an interview with our very own Tina Vaughn. Tina's debut novella, No Sweeter Love, is a small-town reunion story and a guaranteed charmer. So please pour yourself some bubbly, grab a chocolate-dipped strawberry and welcome Tina to the hot seat!

Q: It's so exciting to launch our blog with a Q&A with one of our own! Tina, huge congratulations to you on the release of your first book! Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Thank you so much. No Sweeter Love is a reunion romance with a small-town setting. In No Sweeter Love, a wealthy doctor returns home after the death of his father, fills a temporary vacancy at a small-town medical practice and reunites with his former lover, a foster child turned police officer who's sworn off love.

Q: As any writer knows, the journey to publication involves lots of ups and downs. What was your journey like? 

I started writing romance in late 2009. I completed my first manuscript in early 2010 and wasn't sure what to do with it. I joined Romance Writers of America and entered a contest with Georgia Romance Writers. After a few months, I found out I was a finalist. When I attended the conference, I pitched the idea to an editor. That manuscript is still with the editor. In the meantime, I'd started a novella. I was very interested in finding a home with an established e-publisher. When Passionate Reads hosted a contest featuring editor Grace Bradley of Ellora's Cave, I entered. No one was more shocked than I when I was named a finalist. I didn't win, but Grace requested the manuscript. I submitted in December, was contracted in January and published in May. It's been a whirlwind experience and sometimes I still can't believe this is real.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process?  

I start with the characters...always. I write from the first time they meet or from the first time my hero and heroine realize they are attracted to each other. (This might not be the inciting incident, and I know that some of what I'm writing may never end up in the manuscript, but this helps me get a better understanding of characters' voices, goals, motivations, conflicts, etc.)

After that I write a log line, back-of-the-book blurb and a rough one-page synopsis that includes the plot points: the set up, a turning point, the midpoint, the second turning point, the black moment and the resolution.

Despite my love of words, I'm also a visual learner. I use the backs of pages from my very large desk calendar to develop a table/chart that includes these plot points. To these, I add the characters' conflicts (internal, external) with a brief note regarding how those conflicts manifest themselves at each plot point.

I like this method, because while it's a good month's worth of work for me up front, I believe it saves me from a lot of other struggles, including (but not limited to) writer's block, sagging middles, etc.

Q: How do you deal with writer's block? 

So far, that's something I've not experienced. I don't do a detailed plot, but I believe the outline and the time I've spent getting to know my characters “up front” helps. I'm also a scene-hopper, so if I feel that I'm losing direction or focus in one part of the book I simply jump to another.

Q: What inspires you? 

Everything. Songs, articles, scenery, my friends and family. I think being able to find a story in even the smallest of ideas or moments is a necessity for a writer. 

Q: Do you have any quirky writing rituals? (ie., favorite food or drink, music) 

I usually have a “theme song” for each manuscript. I'll often listen to that song multiple times daily as inspiration. Coffee is a must for me. If I'm writing, then I'm usually drinking a cup (or, more accurately, pot) of coffee.

Q: Can you tell us about your next book or your current WIP? 

I'm finishing up Jolene's story now. Jolene is Emily's best friend in No Sweeter Love. Here's a snippet from Jolene's POV:

“She just needed a moment to gather her thoughts, to reconcile what she'd been expecting with what she'd actually found. Kinda like one of those poor contestants on Let's Make a Deal who'd hoped for a car, opened the door and found a year's supply of processed cheese spread instead.”

Thanks for sharing with us, Tina! 

No Sweeter Love is published by Ellora's Cave and is available now.
Amazon || BN