Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Guest Blogger: Author Nicola Marsh

Next up on the Romance Author Extravaganza is bestselling author, Nicola Marsh, who's given us over thirty delightfully sassy heroines to date. Go for it, Nicola!

Thanks for inviting me to blog, Libby, it’s great to be here.

Before I start writing a book, I must have the perfect title. Even though I know a publisher may change it, the words won’t flow for me unless the title I devise sums up the book perfectly.

Yesterday I had a similar experience with a song.

I know some authors use playlists while writing (me? I prefer silence) but with NOT THE MARRYING KIND, my new book just released, I knew the song for the book trailer had to be perfect too.

The song needed to encapsulate the fun, flirty feel of the book. I wanted fast and boppy and Vegas!

Must say, I discovered googling songs can become as addictive as googling hot heroes (purely for inspiration purposes, of course!)
I had a ball checking out Vegas songs on YouTube and like finding the perfect book title, I knew I’d found the perfect song within hearing the first few bars.

Johnny Ray’s ‘I’m Going to Vegas’ is everything I want NOT THE MARRYING KIND to be. Fast-paced. Fun. Racy.

So what do you think?

Click here to see the YouTube link.

USA TODAY bestselling author Nicola Marsh writes flirty fiction with flair.
She’s had 31 books published with Harlequin Romance and Presents series, a fun, flirty contemporary mainstream romance BUSTED IN BOLLYWOOD with Entangled Publishing (nominated for Romantic Book of the Year 2012) and sold over 3 million copies worldwide.
Her first category romance for Entangled Publishing’s Indulgence series, NOT THE MARRYING KIND, releases July 2012, with another category contemporary romance FALLING FOR FLYNN releasing with Crimson Romance October 2012.
Her urban fantasy young adult novel SCION OF THE SUN releases November 2013 with Month9Books.
She’s also a Waldenbooks and Bookscan bestseller, has finaled in a number of awards, including the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, HOLT, Booksellers’ Best, Golden Quill, Laurel Wreath,
More than Magic and has won several CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Awards.
A physiotherapist for thirteen years, she now adores writing full time, raising her two little heroes, sharing fine food with family and friends, and her favorite, curling up with a good book!
She loves interacting with readers so you can find her:

Who said marriage had to be convenient?

LA party planner Poppy Collins has kept her side business—planning divorce parties as the Divorce Diva—under wraps, but keeping her sister's company afloat is proving tougher by the day. When a new divorce party prospect gives Poppy the opportunity to save the day and boost her bottom line, she can't pass it up. But this time, she's about to get way more than she bargained for…

Vegas golden boy Beck Blackwood knows Poppy's secret, and he's not afraid to use it to get exactly what he wants—a wife. With his reputation and corporate expansion plans on the line, the only way he can repair the damage is by getting hitched, and fast. And if blackmail is the only way to get Poppy to the altar, then so be it…

But they're in the city of high stakes, and Poppy has a few aces up her sleeve. Now it's time to find out if they're playing to win…or if they're playing for keeps.
Buy links:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Guest Blogger: Author Fiona Harper

The next guest blogger on my Romance Author Extravaganza is the fabulously imaginative Fiona Harper, who happens to be doing a giveaway. Take it away, Fiona!

Guilty pleasures…we all have them. Aside from chocolate, mine often come under the heading ‘trashy telly’.

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching documentaries and dramas and rip-roaring adventure and crime shows, but there’s something about the writer in me that LOVES reality TV. I suppose it’s like taking my love of sitting in cafes watching people go by to the max. You get access into bits of people’s lives you’d never be able see when they’re walking down the street. You get to peel back the surface layer and see what motivates those outrageous or surprising things they do.

But I tell myself it’s not really numbing my brain. After all, I’m a writer, and I write character-based stories. Surely I can learn something from each of these shows…

Here are my top three guilty TV pleasures:

1. Survivor
I’d much rather watch a reality TV show where people are put to the test, have to do things that are outside their comfort zone, rather than watching them sit around back-biting. I love the sheer physical challenge of Survivor, but add in all the scheming and the alliances… it’s pure TV gold. My only complaint is that they DON’T SHOW IT IN THE UK! I’ve had to resort to buying the DVDs, so there are plenty of seasons I’ve missed. Sob.

From a writer’s point of view this show is pure gold. Writer of Story, Robert McKee, says that true character shows up when people are under pressure. One of the best bits about Survivor is the fact you never know who is going to surprise you by being strong and loyal and dig deep and find it within themselves to do things they’d never thought they do. And sometimes you never see those dastardly betrayals coming!

Most memorable moment: wanting to throw stuff at the screen when Boston Rob made a deal with Lex to save Amber and then reneged on it, going on to win the show…

2. The Real Housewives of New York
I only caught up with this show a year or so ago. I started watching because I knew I was going to the RWA conference in NY and was very excited about anything to do with the city. Didn’t take me long to get sucked into all the drama that naturally occurs when strong women with colourful personalities get together.

From a writing point of view, this was great for seeing real multi-layered conflict. I can often see both sides of the arguments that occur between the cast, can see why those people are upset, why they believe what they believe and how, when the other person is coming from a totally different place, it can cause conflict that can’t always be solved by a sit down chat over a cup of coffee.

Most memorable moment: Bethenney and Jill’s fight. Is it wrong that I still want them to make up and be friends again?

3. Judge Judy
What can I say? I love the woman. Nothing gets past her. Nothing. And the relentless trail of people suing each other for various things are also fascinating. How often is the lawsuit not about the money but about something else? Principles, revenge, venting at a friend or a lover who has moved on… Why people bring their cases is almost as interesting as the cases themselves.

The writing bonus I’ve got from this show is reading body language. I am getting much, much better at working out who is telling porkies (I’m a Londoner, so translation: pork pies = lies) and who is on the up-and-up. Judge Judy always has their measure before I do, but I’ve realised that people really do give guilty smiles. There’s often a moment when Judge Judy will confront the person who is lying through their teeth with the truth and they give themselves away. Sometimes they laugh, sometimes the smirk, and often it’s only a split-second of a reaction before they rearrange their features and carry on. And it’s totally different to the kind of laugh an honest person gives when they can’t believe what the other person is saying. You watch it and you’ll see it yourself!

Most memorable moment: any time the judge says, “I don’t give a rat’s behind about…”

So, what are your guilty TV pleasures, and why do you love them so much? I’m going to a draw to give away a copy of my latest release Always The Best Man to one of the people who comments on this blog!

Be sure to comment before midnight on 24 July (US Pacific time zone) to get your name in the drawing.

I’m going to be in Anaheim this week for the RWA national conference. I’m taking part in the Readers for Life Literacy signing at the Anaheim Convention Centre of Wednesday 25th July from 5 – 7 p.m. 800 West Katella Ave, Anaheim. Drop by and say “hi” and pick up some books to help a really worthwhile charity too!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guest Blogger: Author Natalie Anderson

The next blog guest on my Romance Author Extravaganza is the super talented Natalie Anderson, who pens addictive, smokin' hot romances. Go for it, Natalie!

When you're a writer there are several milestones in your career that give you the most massive thrill - holding your first (and actually, any subsequent books) in your hands for the first time, seeing them on the shelf in a bookshop at the local mall, getting your first email from a reader who loved the story you wrote, getting your books in translation. It's a fabulous reward for those 'hard slog' days!

I've had a couple of lovely 'buzz' moments recently - getting copies of my books in Manga - I'm sooooo thrilled about that - check out the cover of this one, I love it!!! And I had another thrill this month with a book included in the Australian/New Zealand "Best Selling Authors Collection 2012".

The story of mine in the anthology is UNBUTTONED BY HER MAVERICK BOSS (in the US this was released as REBEL WITH A CAUST). I'm so thrilled this book is getting another outing as it is a particular favourite of mine. I love the hero, Lorenzo, for many reasons, but one of the biggies is the way he gives the heroine, Sophy, the time to reach for her dreams. Sophy is the kind of girl I think many of us can relate to - she's trying very hard to be all things to all people and she tends to shove her own dreams to the bottom of the 'to do' list. But Lorenzo pulls her up on this - realising that the root of Sophy's reason for being so busy, is fear - she doesn't want to fail in something that's so precious to her. But she's been given an opportunity and he's not going to let her self-sabogage it! He whisks her away for the weekend - and then pretty much abandons her, literally giving her the time and the space to get the work she needs to get done, done. Of course, he does come back later in the day and helps soothe her weary muscles (think massage and thermal pools...) ;) But thanks to him she got the work done, her confidence grew and she began to truly believe in her ability.

I think many people get bogged down in day to day 'busy'-ness and often don't take the time to give their creative selves a chance - and actually sometimes it takes courage to take the time for yourself and your own dreams. My husband, my real life hero (who is of course, inspiration for all my romance heroes) is the guy who gave me the time - literally - to start my own writing career. I was home with two small children and he'd take them off (to the park, via the cafe) so I could sit at the computer and try to 'write a book' - because I'd always said I wanted to. It was such a supportive thing - and still does - for me. Giving someone time (especially as a busy mum!) is the most fabulous gift!

Is finding time to fulfil your creative self a problem for you? If you got given some time, what would you do with it - write, paint, garden, dream? Would you create something yourself or enjoy the creations of someone else?! Tell me what would you do before enjoying the massage and thermal pools?!? ;)

USA TODAY bestseller Natalie Anderson writes fun, frisky, feels-good contemporary romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon and Entangled. With twenty books published, she's also been a Romantic Times Award nominee & a finalist for the R*BY (Romantic Book of the Year). She lives in Chirstchurch, New Zealand with her husband, four children and what feels like a million ducks. Sign up to her newsletter and find out more at her website on Twitter  and on Facebook.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Guest Blogger: Author Marguerite Kaye

Next up on the Romance Author Extravaganza guest blog series is the brilliant Marguerite Kaye, whose historical romances transport us in time. The floor is yours, Marguerite!

Checking the Facts

I love historical research. I love finding out strange and interesting facts, and I love incorporating real-life events and people into my stories. But how much history do you really need in a historical romance?

A little goes a long way. There’s nothing worse than a history lesson in the middle of a romance, but there’s also nothing worse than a story which relies on a historical fact or event and doesn’t explain it. A common trick, and one that works really well, is to have one character ask another to explain: ‘who were the British allies in the Crimea?’ for example, or ‘tell me why the plaid was banned after Culloden?’ Alternatively, you can put in a historical note, but I’ve found that a lot of people don’t read these at all, or they read them at the end, which kind of misses the point. It’s a balancing act, trying to decide how much you need to tell the reader, especially if it’s a subject dear to your heart, but I’d bet most historical writers incorporate less than a tenth of their research.

So where to start? The easiest answer to that is, with what you already know, but that’s not always possible. When I was asked to write a historical sheikh story, I was starting from zilch. It’s easy enough to find out the facts about an era – who was fighting with whom, who was in power, etc – but it’s more difficult to find out what it was really like to live then. Memoirs, biographies and letters are great for this. Lady Hester Stanhope’s travels to Arabia were a first class source for my heroine Celia in Innocent in the Sheikh’s Harem, as were the experiences of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who visited a harem in Turkey, and another obscure biography that my local library turned up for me. That same librarian found a selection of children’s educational books for me about the desert which were invaluable, and she also recommended the same series of school texts when I had to research the Titanic for A Date with Destiny.

But far more than facts and dates, it’s the detail in a historical romance that gives the reader a sense of time and place. Costumes and furniture are great for ambiance. I have a copy of Le Repertoire de la Cuisine, which is basically a reference guide to Escoffier, which I use when describing a dinner. There’s nothing like a bit of Gaelic for reminding the reader she’s in the Highlands, though you do need to be very careful with that language. For my Legend of the Faol series, I asked some of my Gaelic-speaking relatives to translate the motto, Beware! For I am come!,  and got five different versions. After that, I decided to stick with English translations of Gaelic sayings, and found it easier still to invent my own.

Wherever possible, I like to incorporate places I know and artefacts I’ve seen, into my stories. The clock in the opening scene of Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah is in Glasgow’s Art Gallery, as is the chocolate pot used by Isabella in The Captain’s Wicked Wager. The description of Lachlan’s boatyard in The Highlander and the Sea Siren comes straight from my mum’s recollections of her uncle’s yard in the real Port of Ness where the story is set. Castles, ferry inns, taverns and cities such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, which I know inside out, feature in a few of my books. I wrote a whole different ending for The Highlander’s Return set in Glasgow’s Merchant City which was then scrapped, but I recycled the descriptions of the city and the Merchant’s graveyard when I came to writing the ending of The Lady Who Broke the Rules. All my research into the Hope diamond was lost when I deleted most of the crime caper element from Rake with a Frozen Heart, but it’s a part of the Hope diamond that Elliot steals in Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah. It pays to keep drafts and copious notes, believe me.  

Incorporating obscure facts into a story is a really effective way of lending authenticity to a setting. I read about the fight between ‘Hen’ Pearce (the Game Chicken!) and John Gully, in Nicholas Foulkes’ excellent book on the Derby, Gentlemen and Blackguards. It’s mentioned only fleetingly in Lady Deborah, but it has that smack of being real that makes a huge difference. Or so I like to think.

Another trick, is to use real lives as the basis for your characters’ achievements. In my contribution to the upcoming Castonbury Park series, The Lady Who Broke the Rules, my hero Virgil is a freed black slave who has become an immensely successful businessman and philanthropist. How realistic was this in 1816? My research uncovered Robert Purvis, the son of a slave whose life seemed to mirror my hero’s exactly. Purvis was about fifteen years younger than Virgil, but provided you own up to it, I think it’s fine to take a few liberties with dates.

Right now, I’m reading up on the Romantic movement in art for my current Regency, and I’m researching the Crimean War for a brand new idea. I’ve got a lovely new stack of books on all things Victorian to work my way through. I love research. 

Links and Info

You can find out more about my books on my website,

My latest Harlequin Historical, Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah, will be released in August in the UK, US and Canada.  

Flirting with Ruin, the novella prequel to the upcoming Regency upstairs/downstairs series, Castonbury Park, is out now and available free for the month of July in the UK and US. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Guest Blogger: Author Shirley Jump

My next blog guest is the fabulous award winning author, Shirley Jump, whose tasty novels often feature delicious foods. Take it away, Shirley!

Start with Character

Thanks so much, Libby, for having me here! I thought I’d talk about character today, because I get asked about creating characters all the time.

Lots of writers come up with an idea for a book but then aren’t quite sure where to go from there. I always start with character, and by doing that, the book becomes character driven, rather than plot driven. Character driven books are more emotional, connect more, than plot-driven stories.

For me, I have often have a What-If situation—What if a jaded workaholic woman needs a husband overnight? Ooh, a challenge to write in contemporary.

Then I decide on WHO my character is. Is she a murderer? An actor? A chef? Is she the protagonist or antagonist? Is he the father of the murder victim? The doctor who diagnoses a life-threatening disease? A lot of times this vocation will come from the plot. If you’re writing a murder mystery, obviously you need a killer, a victim and a hero. If you’re writing a romance, you need a hero and a heroine who have a few conflicts between them but not so many that they can’t get together. If you’re working on a children’s story, then you need a child protagonist who goes through a life-changing event.

            With One Day to Find a Husband, I chose a hero and a heroine who were both architects, but at different firms. Check. I have my What-If. I have my vocation or role for the characters to play. Now the next step is to figure out who each of these people are and why they are who they are.

            Many things help you make these decisions. What kind of person would be thrust into this situation? And why? This can send your plotting into a 100 different directions so brainstorm on this. One of the best ways to brainstorm, and something I teach in my class on my “Brainmap” method, is the spoke and wheel. Draw one word in the center of the page (protagonist, murderer, and antagonist) then draw out lines that lead to all kinds of possibilities. Maybe the murderer is an innocent framed for the crime. Maybe it’s a desperate woman backed into a corner. Maybe it’s an accident. Maybe it’s a serial killer. Feel free to let yourself go, even if you end up with 100 ideas on the page, and come up with as many ideas as you can. Even if you don’t use all these ideas, hold on to the paper. When you get stuck later in the plot, pull this out and see where it leads you.

            With One Day to Find a Husband, I created a really strong motivation for my heroine. After all, this is 2012. Marriages of convenience aren’t that common anymore. So I had her adopting a child, and all of a sudden, the country she’d adopting from requires adoptive parents to be married. She needs a husband STAT to make the adoption go through. Bingo—my what, who and why.

            Third, you need to name your character. For me, I like names that have meaning. I have a baby name book I use to look up meanings, derivatives and nicknames. In One Day to Find a Husband, I had the hero, Finn McKenna, set early on because I was doing three linked books of brothers—but the heroine was a bit more challenging. I started with one name, felt like it didn’t fit, and as I wrote, the name Ellie came to me, and became the perfect one for the heroine I created.

            Fourth, create a character “bible.” This can come from a character interview, from your own thoughts, however you want to develop it. The character bible is comprised of the simple stuff - eye color, hair color, etc. But also tackle the bigger issues -- what happened to this character as a child? What is he or she afraid of? What’s his worst habit? Greatest trait? Biggest weakness? How does he feel about his parents/ pets? Last girlfriend? All of these things become fodder for great, well-developed characters.

            These are the kids of details that give characters life. One of my first rejection letters praised my writing up and down but aid that my characters didn’t breathe and live on the page. I had no idea what this meant at the time, but learned later how to pump life into people on a page.

            How do I do it? I filter EVERYTHING through that character’s past. When my character looks out the window at a tree, there is a memory associated with that tree, a memory that impacts on the plot, and that makes the tree and the moment with the character have ten times more meaning.

Characters shouldn’t be static -- they should have past habits, annoying traits, likes and dislikes, etc. Those are the little details that make them as real as the neighbor you don’t like or the favorite aunt you love.
            One of the things that will affect who your characters are and what they do is your setting. Think about that for a sec. Would a book set in a haunted castle be different than one set in a busy subway? Of course they would. Character reactions, actions and events would all differ based on the setting. And based on the characters’ pasts. A claustrophobic would be freaked out by a narrow hallway. A nomadic character would be antsy on a remote island.

            So now you have the basic elements for a character. The bare outline of who they are, the situation that they’re in and where that situation takes place. For some writers, that’s enough of a launching pad to write a whole book. For others, more planning and development is needed. Here are some questions to ask your character:

1)  Why did your parents name you (fill in character's name)? Does it have any special meaning?
2)  What is your problem? What are you trying to achieve?
3)  How are you going to overcome this problem?
4)  What weaknesses make it hard for you to achieve your goals and get past your problems?
5)  What in your background makes this harder for you than for anyone else?

            Those are just a few to get you started. Develop your own list, or just keep asking Why. In my opinion, the WHY question leads to lots and lots of discovery with characters. For every answer you get, ask WHY again.

If you’re writing a romance, think about secrets the characters can keep from each other; things that would touch their hearts; things that would make them work together. In a mystery, you’ll want elements that will center around the dead body and how it got there; what clues will lead to the suspect; who will find the clues; what motivations the murderer has.

By asking questions -- as many questions as you can -- you create better, more well-rounded characters. Ask them aloud, ask them on paper. Just ask them. Your characters will thank you by coming alive on the page!

            And hopefully, my hero and heroine in One Day to Find a Husband are thanking me! Their story was a challenge to write, as every book is, but it was fun to think outside the box for this Marriage of Convenience romance, book one in the McKenna Brothers series!

You can connect with Shirley and find out more at her website.