Friday, April 26, 2013

Catching The Dream by Lindsay J. Pryor

It’s coming up to three years ago since I first entered Harlequin Mills and Boon's online New Voices competition. A somewhat anxious author with zero confidence, I’d always been reclusive about my writing. My finger inevitably hovered over that ‘send’ button right up until about fifteen minutes before the deadline.

It’s a tough competition to enter – anyone who took part in New Voices or SYTYCW will know that. I don’t just mean in terms of the amazing standard of work that gets uploaded, I mean emotionally too.

I had a lot invested in my entry. At that time, almost fourteen years of work. That’s how long I’d been creating the world of Blackthorn – producing stories, world building and pulling together overarching plotlines. I entered New Voices for one simple reason – to find out if I had what it took to write romance. It was a potential make or break situation in terms of my future writing plans. 

Blood Roses, my 2010 entry, made it into the final. I was thrilled when the same thing happened again in 2011. This time it was with Blood Shadows (previously known as Beguiling The Enemy) – another book in the Blackthorn series.

Despite a positive response from editors at HQN, my dark paranormal romances weren’t right for Nocturne. In some ways it almost felt inevitable. ‘Fitting in’ has never been my forte. I tried not to let it set me back – and the amazing support I got from fans that I generated from that competition kept my self-belief sufficient enough to keep trying.

As the dust settled, I mused over what to do. Everywhere I looked, nowhere felt quite ‘right’ for Blackthorn. Then a bizarre twist of fate struck befitting of a work of fiction. I was contacted by Oliver Rhodes, founder of Bookouture. He knew of me and my stories – afterall, as the ex head of Marketing at M&B UK, New Voices was his brainchild.

And now here I am today. Following the critically acclaimed Blood Shadows that launched last November, today is the release of book 2 in the Blackthorn series, Blood Roses. Blood Torn will be out in the Autumn.

If you’re in the position I was once in – still chasing that publishing dream – hold on as tight as you can. You never know what is waiting beyond tomorrow. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

After The Call: The Book Cover, by Olivia Miles

I'm kicking off a new segment on The Hot Pink Typewriter today, and it's all about life After "The Call." For so many years, you are busy writing, reading, submitting, waiting, and then suddenly, that phase ends and new one begins. What happens next?

It's a false assumption that the work is over when you sell your book. This is something I hear across the board from other writers. It comes as a bit of a shock, really, that all the sweat and tears was just the beginning, and that there is still more and more work to do before the final product is in your hands. There may have been revisions before you sold the book, but there are usually more revisions after you sell the book, too. As for the excruciating experience of sending your manuscript out for judgement, and the long days and nights that follow, the waiting game doesn't end when you sell your book. It will still be many more days and nights before the book is released, and while the experience is slightly more anticipatory than anxiety-filled, it is never easy. I received "The Call" from Harlequin Special Edition in February of 2012 for the book with the not-quite official title of 'Twas the Week Before Christmas. This book will release in December of 2013. As a person who has admittedly struggled with patience basically all my life, the 22-month wait between selling my book and seeing it on the shelves has been considerably longer and more excruciating than the wait time between submitting and selling.

As your release date nears, there are more stages your book will go through before it is finally in your hands, and this week I had the pleasure of filling out my art fact sheet for the book cover. I have been looking forward to this experience for a long time, and though I so clearly envisioned the characters and setting while I was writing the book, the actual process of jotting down my suggestions for the cover was a little more overwhelming than expected. All at once, this felt real. I was afraid to mess up and put so much as an incorrect shirt color, for fear I would have to live with it for all eternity. Will they even go with the shirt color I chose? Who knows, but just in case, anxiety set in. Describing my characters was the easy part -- after all, hair and eye color and a few other characteristics pretty much sum it up. The setting, however, took a bit more thought, and the reason is probably because the setting of my book (a New England inn at Christmas) is the hallmark of my story. I had described the inn in great detail in my book, I could see it in my head, but how could I convey it in a way that it could be visually recreated?

Next I was asked to draw on scenes from the book for inspiration. As a writer, you create scenes that are central to the story, that flow with the plot of the book. Suddenly I was being asked to look at scenes from a different perspective -- which scenes would not only be visually appealing, but which ones would also convey the heart of the story? In the end, I chose two of my favorite scenes from the story, as well as a third that was more inspired by my story, but which I think would be my personal favorite. Which will they go with? One of my ideas or one of their own? Once again, the wait begins!

Soon (I hope) I will see the vision I created so vividly in my head on paper -- not in words, but in a picture, which is a strange concept for a writer. The next phase of this long journey will begin shortly, and I will be sure to share that in my next After "The Call" segment!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

An Accidental Family Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations, Autumn! You have won a copy of Ami Weaver's debut Harlequin Romance, AN ACCIDENTAL FAMILY! To claim your book, please contact Ami directly at writerlygirl (at) Happy Reading!

The Seven-Day Target Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations, Adite! You have won a signed copy of Natalie Charles's debut Romantic Suspense, THE SEVEN-DAY TARGET! To claim your book, please contact Natalie directly at writernataliecharles (at) Happy Reading!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Q&A with Debut Author Ami Weaver

I honored to introduce a longtime friend of mine, fellow HPT mate and Harlequin Romance author, Ami Weaver. She’s here today as a guest to tell us about her exciting debut, “An Accidental Family.”

Congratulations Ami! This is such a special moment for you. Thank you for sharing it with us.

A bump in the road…

The moment the stick turns pink Lainey Keeler's life is turned upside down. She's still aching from past hurts, and single parenthood wasn't planned, but, marveling at the tiny life fluttering inside her, Lainey knows she'll do anything for this baby—on her own.
Firefighter Ben Lawless is tormented by memories of the friend he couldn't save, and a pretty pregnant woman living on his land is an unwelcome distraction. Still, as Lainey's determination and spirit tempt him out of the darkness, he wonders whether he can have the family he's convinced himself he doesn't deserve….
Available now:

Ami has graciously agreed to giveaway a copy of her debut to one lucky commenter. Believe me when I say I’ve read some of her stories in the past and you don’t want to miss out on this book. I’m just dying to read it. At last the postman has arrived with it and it's next up on my TBR pile.   

Thanks, Jennifer! I hope you enjoy it!

Ami, could you tell us a little about “An Accidental Family”?

Sure! Lainey Keeler is determined to make her flower shop work on her own to prove to her uber-successful family she’s not a black sheep. But an unexpected pregnancy and meeting Ben (who is battling demons of his own) throws her off her course and forces her to reevaluate what she really wants from life.

How did you get the idea for this story? Did the heroine come to you first? Or the predicament the H/h find themselves in?   

The first line came to me first, actually. I wrote that down, and eventually the book evolved from there, but it took a really long time (this book took years). In the original draft, the hero was the father. But given his conflict, that wouldn’t have worked.

To actually hold your very first book in her your hands must be a dream come true. 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’d only written a handful of full manuscripts before I sold. A few partials in there, too. I started writing romance about 10 years ago but it came and went as I had more kids and less time. But I got serious about publication a couple of years ago. So family and young kids were a challenge as was this particular book. There was a time when I couldn’t even turn on my laptop without panicking. I couldn’t make it work, couldn’t figure out why, and I stopped writing for awhile. I’d just freeze up. It was no fun. I entered it as a lark into Mills&Boon’s New Voices contest and freaked when it finalled. That pushed me to rework it and I entered it in the Golden Heart as well, where it finalled under another title. The editor who read it for the Golden Heart remembered it from New Voices and bought it from there. 

Every writer I’ve ever talked with has a particular place in a book that they find challenging, what part would that be for you? Beginnings? Middles? Ends? How do you conquer these problem areas?        

Beginnings! For sure. The exception was An Accidental Family. The first three chapters came easy. The rest was like pulling teeth on an angry lion. But generally, I have to edit the beginnings the most, because I’ve learned to just kind of start the book and it always changes later. This used to cause me stress. Now I know it’s just how I work. Accepting your process, even if it’s messy, is key. It was for me. Otherwise, if you’re like me, you’ll grab chocolate instead of writing. Which is bad on many levels.

With a family to care for and other life demands, how do you make time to write? Do you have daily word/page count goals?      

All four of my kids are in school now, so I go to a coffee shop in the morning to work. (Fewer distractions!) I write pretty quick and on a good day I can easily get 2k in a couple hours. If I need to, I make up time on weekends. If I’m editing, I set a weekly goal, that I’ll get through X amount of chapters by Friday. (I always try to pick Friday, no matter what day I start and adjust the total accordingly.)  Editing is a little harder to quantify with pages and words, especially when I’m taking stuff out and adding things in and it can be a wash.

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

That selling isn’t the end of the journey! Oh, I knew it wasn’t in theory, but until I sold I had no idea what a change it really is. Working under contract is very different from writing what you want, when you want--even setting your own deadlines. Don’t get me wrong--I’m very grateful. But it was a bit of a shock that the pressure ramps up.

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

In The Line Of Duty, September 2013!


You can find Ami via her Website here.

Or on Twitter: @writerlygirl

Thank you for sharing the exciting details of your debut. It sounds absolutely wonderful.

Readers, please don’t forget to comment. I know Ami would love to hear from you. And for everyone who comments, they’ll get entered for a chance to win a copy of Ami’s debut. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything better than a free book. J

Monday, April 1, 2013

Q&A and Giveaway With Author Natalie Charles

It is such an honor to be chatting today with my oldest and closest friend, Natalie Charles, on the release of her debut Harlequin Romantic Suspense, THE SEVEN-DAY TARGET. Natalie and I have shared many firsts in our long friendship -- first loves, first heartaches, first children, and of course, first chapters! I can still remember reading the first draft of the original first chapter of THE SEVEN-DAY TARGET, and I am just so thrilled and honored to be sharing in the experience of the book's final release. 

Love never dies, but can it kill? 
He never meant to speak to her again. Back in Arbor Falls for a funeral, Special Agent Nick Foster has moved on. He has no plans to stay in his tiny hometown--or to reunite with the beautiful Libby Andrews. His onetime fiancée broke his heart, and what's past should stay buried.

Libby doesn't want his help. Her childhood sweetheart can never know the real reason she ended their engagement three years before. But when a serial killer targets her, she must team up with the rugged agent for her own safety. Something in her past has put her in danger, and the passion they've reignited puts their future in deadly jeopardy.

Natalie will be giving away a signed copy of this book, so be sure to comment below for your chance to win!

Congratulations on the release of your debut Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Natalie! Can you tell us about THE SEVEN-DAY TARGET?
Thank you! THE SEVEN-DAY TARGET begins when FBI Special Agent Nick Foster comes back home to Arbor Falls, New York and learns that his ex-fiancee, prosecutor Libby Andrews, appears to be the target of a serial killer who leaves six signs over six days before killing on the seventh. She cruelly broke off their engagement, but now he has no choice but to protect her, even if it means putting his heart at risk.

Can you tell us a little about your journey toward publication?
I've been writing for as long as I can remember, but mostly I focused on short, literary fiction. I decided to write romance about two years ago (actually, you inspired me, Olivia!) and my first attempt was horrible and promptly rejected by Harlequin Intrigue. I revised the manuscript and submitted to Harlequin Romantic Suspense, and in the meantime I began developing THE SEVEN-DAY TARGET for Mills & Boon's 2011 New Voices Competition. I won that competition and received the Call. It seems like it happened quickly, but really, I've been writing forever. It wasn't overnight by any means.

This book was the winner of Mills & Boon's 2011 New Voices Competition. How did that experience shape your writing?
Just entering the competition was a great experience. I learned a ton by reading the comments that other writers left on my first chapter during the competition, and some of those comments ultimately helped me to shape certain elements of the plot. Overall, I learned what readers respond to and what they dislike, and I try to keep that in mind when writing today. It's funny because you can read a hundred different "how to" manuals, but nothing quite compares to individualized feedback from beta readers about your writing. 

I have had the honor of reading both versions of THE SEVEN-DAY TARGET and they differ in more ways than just word count. In lengthening the story to fit the new Romantic Suspense guidelines, can you tell us how this version stands apart from the New Voices Anthology edition? 
When I won New Voices, I was required to write a book that complied with Harlequin Romantic Suspense's word limit at the time, which was 55-60k. When the manuscript was complete and I received an offer from HRS to publish with the line, I had to increase the word count to 70-75k. Rather than adding a couple of chapters or a subplot, I chose to almost completely rewrite and re-imagine the book. The underlying story is the same, with a serial killer who leaves six signs over six days before killing on the seventh, but the plot is restructured. For example, Nick was asked by Libby's father to protect her in the anthology version -- a fact that carries a lot of significance -- but in the Harlequin Romantic Suspense version, Nick learns about the threat on Libby's life through an old colleague at the Arbor Falls Police Department. This version also introduces some secondary characters, including Libby's sister, Cassie. It's difficult to compare the two, really. They're very different.

What inspired you to write this book?
I don't want to give anything away, but I wanted to write a story, first and foremost, about a couple that was facing a particular challenge. As it evolved, the book became more about perfectionist Libby coming to terms with what she views as her imperfections. In my mind, she is the person who grows the most over the course of the book, as Nick helps her to slowly tear down the wall she's built between them. Romances are often about the heroine helping the hero to become a better man, but I wanted to make this about the heroine's journey, as well. Every woman deserves a man who helps her to become her best self.

If you had to choose, which would be your favorite scene or moment in THE SEVEN-DAY TARGET?
It's definitely the happily ever after. I love these characters, and their journey is so emotional that I wanted to give them the happiest ending I could imagine. I cried when I wrote it, and sometimes I still tear up. Yes, I write about serial killers and I cry at happy endings.

You have a full-time job, a toddler, a dog, a husband, and a baby on the way. Though I know you so well, it still amazes me that you find the time to write. Tell us, what is your writing process?
I wish I could pretend I had a real process! It often feels more like flailing around in the dark until I hit something that feels like a story. I begin every book with a lot of brainstorming. Like, lots. I rewrite the first chapter over and over and over, and when I am satisfied, I move on to the second chapter. It feels obsessive at times. I find that once I get a solid three chapters down, I know where I'm going. Saggy middles haven't been my problem so far -- for me, the challenge is in crafting the right opening. After that, I write to get it all down and revise only when I feel like I've gone astray.

As you note, I have a full schedule. My only time to write is at night. Expecting a child has slowed down my writing dramatically, but on the nights I can keep my eyes open, I love that time when I can escape into a different world for a couple of hours.

What is your position on balancing social media/promotion with writing and all of life's other responsibilities?
I tried to keep up with social media for a while, I swear. The trouble is I work full time, so I don't have the time to be active on Twitter and Facebook during daylight hours, and tweeting at night cuts into my precious writing time. My goal now is to maintain a modest internet presence, but to devote the bulk of my free time to writing. I think that writers need to do what works for them, and for some, being active on social media is part of the job. However, as a reader, my only concern is that my favorite authors continue to produce great books, so that's where my priorities lie.

Can you tell us a little about what you are working on now? 
I'm waiting to hear back from my editor on my second book and plotting my third. Notwithstanding what I just said about social media, I promise to provide updates as I get them! :-)

Thank you so much for sharing, Natalie! For your chance to win a signed copy of THE SEVEN-DAY TARGET, be sure to join the discussion and leave a comment below. For more about Natalie Charles, please visit her website at