Thursday, September 30, 2010

Banned Books Week

I expressed my outrage here last week about the comments by a professor over banning SPEAK, a YA novel I read recently and now proudly residing on my keeper shelf.

So today, as part of Banned Books Week, I'm joining the list here to review a banned book. And with all the recent controversy over Speak, it felt kinda fitting to choose it.
(I'm actually surprised I didn't choose to review it as part of the Weekend Book Club...then again, I was reading several YA books a week for a while there so it may've been put on the back burner!)

Here's a blurb:

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

I can think of many words to describe this novel: funny, touching, strong, searching but I think thought-provoking sums it up best.

Laurie Halse Anderson uses strong characterisation to convey the thoughts of a teenager struggling to speak out.
The confusion, humiliation and ostracism Melinda faces as she battles her inner demons builds sympathy to the point the reader wants to scream the truth alongside her in the quest for justice.

SPEAK raises so many important questions and to have the book summed up by one person as 'soft porn' because of rape scenes leaves me shaking my head.
Rape is about violence, not sex.

As a romance writer, I've come up against the 'soft porn' accusation a few times.
It's an ignorance thing: porn is for titillation, sex scenes in a novel as part of the characters' emotional journey is about relationship development. Vastly different.

Do you have a favourite banned book?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Launching a new series

Mills and Boon is launching a new series in January 2011, RIVA.

RIVA will consist of the current Modern Heat series and some of the fun, flirty authors from the Romance series (which basically means all my books will now be RIVA books.)

My current Harlequin Romance release, DESERTED ISLAND, DREAMY EX! out in the USA, will be part of the Riva launch in the UK alongside Kelly Hunter, Jessica Hart and Kimberly Lang.

So hot off the press, here are the new covers.

Very, VERY different.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The subjectiveness of publishing

Publishing is subjective.

A book I might love/an agent might love/an editor might love/a reviewer might love (you get the idea!) will have a reader/agent/editor/reviewer who doesn't.

That's why I don't pay much attention to reviews (unless they're mine and they're brilliant!) and prefer to judge a book for myself.

Here's an example.
ALL ABOUT ROMANCE (home of the Desert Island Keeper and a notoriously tough mob to impress) just reviewed my current release DESERTED ISLAND, DREAMY EX!

Here's the general gist:

I’m a huge fan of reality television, so this book sounded like a surefire winner, with the hero and heroine stranded on a deserted island as competitors in a reality documentary. I was disappointed that the reality TV portion of the book was glossed over, but found it to be a light, generally enjoyable read.

The chapters begin with tweets and blog excerpts from their island experiences – the show’s way of having them communicate with the public. I felt these made the book feel current, but also provided insights into the different ways the two viewed the same experiences on the island.

The majority of the book was rather light, but entertaining. However, one thing I really liked is that they both show growth over the course of a very short book, and gained insights into the previous behaviors. They each realize that they both acted badly in the past. A lot happens after they leave the island, but the ending felt a bit rushed. I found myself wanting just a bit more. (LinnieGayl Kimmel)

Overall, what I would consider a positive review (the full review is here) with a C+ grading.

Which got me an author, what would I grade my books?
I'd like to think I'm objective, especially when it comes to my own work and I know for a fact my favourite books are usually reader favourites too.

Would be a fun exercise! Question is whether I should post my results here? Hmmm....

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weekend Book Club: Shadow Kiss

I bought Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy earlier this year, read it, enjoyed it, but had so many other books I wanted to read I didn't read on into the series.
This week, I remedied that fact. I quickly read FROSTBITE, book 2 in the series, and was very glad to have SHADOW KISS, book 3 on hand ready to go.
If you don't know what the VAMPIRE ACADEMY series is about, here's a blurb:
Two races of vampires walk our world. One, the Moroi, are alive and wield elemental magical. The other, the Strigoi, are undead and evil--feeding on the innocent to survive. Rose Hathaway--a half-vampire with poor impulse control--is training to be a bodyguard for a Moroi princess. Learning to decapitate and stake is hard enough, but Rose's real danger may lie in an illicit romance with one of her instructors...
This is a strong series and each book gets stronger.
The characterisation is strong, which I love, and the action builds.
I also love a brave author who isn't afraid to kill off likeable characters.
If you want to check out the blurbs and excerpts on each book, click here.
Me? I'm off to grab Blood Promise and Spirit Bound to see what happens next!
Highly addictive reading.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Speak Loudly

I bought this book a few months ago in my YA binge after it came highly recommended.

It deals with teenage rape and the ramifications.

So imagine my outrage this week when I discovered someone (took me a while not to post something stronger) wants to ban it.

Here's my lovely agent's take on it.

And from the author herself.

Am truly left shaking my head over this.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Crafting a pitch

There was a great post by Rachelle Gardner yesterday on crafting a pitch.

She lists 11 questions to ask yourself when identifying important elements to make a good pitch.

Check it out here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekend Book Club: Nineteen Minutes

I've only ever read one other Jodi Picoult novel, Change of Heart, which I bought after feeling very remiss at not reading her when the rest of the world was.

NINETEEN MINUTES intrigued me because I found it in the YA section.

Here's the synopsis:

In Sterling, New Hampshire, 17-year-old high school student Peter Houghton has endured years of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of classmates. His best friend, Josie Cormier, succumbed to peer pressure and now hangs out with the popular crowd that often instigates the harassment. One final incident of bullying sends Peter over the edge and leads him to commit an act of violence that forever changes the lives of Sterling’s residents.

Even those who were not inside the school that morning find their lives in an upheaval, including Alex Cormier. The superior court judge assigned to the Houghton case, Alex—whose daughter, Josie, witnessed the events that unfolded—must decide whether or not to step down. She’s torn between presiding over the biggest case of her career and knowing that doing so will cause an even wider chasm in her relationship with her emotionally fragile daughter. Josie, meanwhile, claims she can’t remember what happened in the last fatal minutes of Peter’s rampage. Or can she? And Peter’s parents, Lacy and Lewis Houghton, ceaselessly examine the past to see what they might have said or done to compel their son to such extremes.
Rich with psychological and social insight, Nineteen Minutes is a riveting, poignant, and thought-provoking novel that has at its center a haunting question. Do we ever really know someone?

While the subject matter of this novel horrified me (more so because it happens in real life and devastates families and communities) the book itself intrigued.

The characters were well-motivated and very real, building empathy to the point of wanting to see Peter, the main character, exonerated for his crimes. And that's the sign of a good writer, when the reader starts rooting for the bad guys!

The pages flew by, a sure sign of a winner.

I must add more Jodi Picoult novels to my TBR pile.

What are you reading this week?

Friday, September 17, 2010

25th book sold!

Several weeks ago, Harlequin sent me a lovely letter of congratulations and a silver pin with a twinkling ruby in celebration of my 25th book.

The book I just SOLD!

That's right, folks, SEX, GOSSIP & ROCK AND ROLL (how utterly fabulous is that title?) will be out in May 2011 as part of the new Harlequin RIVA series, launching in January.

(For those wondering, Harlequin RIVA will consist 2 Modern Heat titles a month, plus 2 from the Harlequin Romance series, authors with fun, flirty, contemporary voices eg. Liz Fielding, Jessica Hart, Jackie Braun and moi! So all my books in the UK will now be released under the one series.)

After the constant lurgies of the last few months and with how totally blah I'm still feeling this week, this news couldn't have come at a better time.
When I'm feeling better, I reckon we have a blog party.
What do you say? Up for it?

Monday, September 13, 2010

THE WRITE WHISPER: Creating hot heroes

In the reader questions recently, someone asked about heroes so I'm cheating and reproducing an article from my website here:

Great characters draw me into a story and keep me there, making me flick pages at a rate of knots and nothing signals 'page turner' more than a hot hero!

We all know the type of guy: strong yet gentle, commanding yet compassionate, in control but willing to bend to the heroine's will. Throw in gorgeous with a sense of humour and you've got me well and truly hooked!

So how do you create hot heroes in your writing?

Is your hero a take-control alpha guy or is more laid-back beta counterpart?
Remember, every hero is different and having an alpha hero in a Harlequin Modern Heat will be different to an alpha guy in a Romance or a Presents or a Desire.

Here are a few points to help you delineate between the two.

-Make him commanding: the alpha hero is always in control. He likes to call the shots - except when the heroine finally tames him...
-Arrogant? Well, maybe just a tad...the alpha believes in himself and the reach of his influence, totally - until the battle with his feelings for the heroine begins...
-He's passionate: sensual and sexy, the alpha uses his charm and power to get what he wants, though his need for the heroine may ultimately prove stronger.
-Status: impossibly wealthy, probably self-made; the alpha often has celebrity status in the media. The ruler of all he surveys, be it a company or a country. Perhaps a specialist in his field?
-Tower of Strength: the alpha has a steely core, is not easily manipulated and is uncompromising about the things that matter.
-Aspirational: an alpha hero is the guy with whom women aspire to spend the rest of their lives; definitely Mr Right.
-Code of Honour: the alpha has a strong sense of right and wrong, is reasonable and fair.
-Sense of Humour: the beta hero can laugh at himself and life.
-Follower: Betas are more followers where alphas are leaders.
-Self Aware: Betas have more nouse when it comes to what's going on and how they're feeling.
-Easy going: Betas are the laid-back hero whereas alphas are more driven.
-Outgoing: Betas are more sociable where as alphas are more reserved.
-Insecure: Betas may have self-doubts whereas alphas are secure in themselves and their place in the world. Alphas are confident, betas less so.
-Verbal: Betas aren't afraid to express themselves whereas alphas tend to be less verbal and more into the short command, totally used to having their orders obeyed.
-The 'Nice' Guy: Betas are perceived as 'nice' or 'funny' or even 'geeky' whereas alphas are perceived as aloof or unobtainable, even the bad boy.

Keep all these in mind when creating your very own hot hero but remember, your hero will be unique. He may demonstrate more of these characteristics than others. He may turn out to be more beta than alpha or vice versa.

And where does the gamma hero fit into all this? Gamma is a combination of alpha and beta, which would practically make him the perfect man. A tad too perfect for a written hero, perhaps?

Whatever you do, make your man the sexiest hero possible, the kind of guy we can't close the pages on until the last, satisfying scene.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Weekend Book Club: Perfect Chemistry

PERFECT CHEMISTRY won the RITA this year for Best YA Romance novel and after reading it, I'm not surprised.

The book is fabulous!

Here's the blurb:

Get ready for a whole new take on star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story, bad boy meets good girl...

At Fairfield High, everyone knows that south siders and north siders aren’t exactly compatible elements. So when cheerleader Brittany Ellis and gang member Alex Fuentes are forced to be lab partners, the results are bound to be explosive.
Neither teen is prepared for the most surprising chemical reaction of all – love. Can they break through the stereotypes and misconceptions that threaten to keep them apart?

As described on Simone Elkeles website, this story is Romeo & Juliet meets West Side Story but with a happy ending.

The characterisation is superb. Brittany and Alejandro are real, as are their problems. When the author could've taken the easy option, she doesn't, delving deeper into their conflicts and making me turn the pages at a rapid rate (and wishing the story didn't have to end.)

Would love to see this book made into a movie.

What are you reading this week?

Friday, September 10, 2010

THE WRITE WHISPER: The first 5 pages

Editors and agents read thousands of manuscripts a year and if you ask many of them, unless the first page doesn't hook them, let alone the first five, they won't read on.
So how do you make your first 5 pages memorable?
I'm a sucker for a great first line. It's a great hook to launch the reader into the rest of the story.
So how do you do it?
-raise a question
-introduce something unique/different
-reveal something unanticipated
-show something is about to change
Here are a few of my first lines to give you examples:
The bronze god was naked. (Overtime in the Boss's Bed)
"Come in and take off your clothes." (Big-Shot Bachelor)
Kristen Lewis had a thing for hotels. (Executive Mother-To-Be)
"You want me to do what?" (The Tycoon's Dating Deal)
Fleur Adams rushed into the café, trying to juggle a portfolio, laptop, umbrella and handbag while shaking raindrops from her curly hair and cursing the fickle Melbourne weather, a lousy public transport system and men, in that order. (Contract to Marry)
Maya Edison stood ram-rod straight, oblivious to the huge society crowd that had turned the funeral into a farce. (Inherited: Baby)
Each of these opening lines raises questions.
-who is the bronze god & why is he naked?
-why does Kristen have a thing for hotels?
-who is being asked to do what?
-why is Fleur cursing men?
-why is Maya so uptight, whose funeral is it & does she care it has turned into a farce?
Not all characters you create have to be 'sympathetic' or likable, but you need your reader to relate to the character so they'll continue to read the story.
Though many books deviate from this, introducing the main character in the first scene, making your reader care what happens to him/her, is a way to keep the reader hooked.
While the first line will hook your reader, it's the main conflict that keeps the reader turning pages.
Try to hint at the main conflict in the first 5 pages: a threat to the main character, an inner turmoil, something that makes the reader care.
May sound obvious but the first few pages should convey the general tone of the story. Try to give a sense of where the story is taking place without listing facts like a travelogue.
Avoid info dumping.
Avoid boring your reader with backstory.
Avoid excessive description (scenery, setting, world building, whatever)
When you submit your manuscript, you only have a few seconds, a few minutes if you're lucky, to grab that editor's/agent's attention.
Make your first 5 pages sparkle and you'll definitely have them wanting to read more.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Dialogue lover

I love writing dialogue.

Here's a snippet of Kristi and Jared having a chat:

“Done with the caveman routine?”
The organ he refused to acknowledge lurched as he glanced up, saw Kristi on her side, propped on an elbow, wearing that sinful green bikini and a reluctant smile.
She’d been frosty towards him over dinner, with more of the same since they’d arrived on the island, but under his constant barrage of teasing she was finally starting to thaw.
Not that he blamed her. From her angry outburst when he’d picked her up the other night, she hadn’t forgiven him for choosing his tennis career over her all those years ago.
But he’d had no choice. Not that he’d go delving into his reasons why now.
For their time on the island he wanted to recapture some of their old magic, wanted to make her laugh and fire back those scathing one liners like she used to, wanted to see her eyes sparkle just for him, for old time’s sake.
Hands on hips, he wrenched his straying gaze away from the tempting expanses of flesh on display. “Weren’t you the one who wanted to toast marshmallows tonight?”
“Did I say that?”
She pressed a hand to her chest and his gaze followed, shooting down his intentions to keep his distance.
“Do you even have any?”
She chuckled, lowered her sunglasses to stare at him over the top. “Maybe you should’ve asked that before planning to build a bonfire that can be seen in New Zealand.”
Adding another branch onto the growing pile, he feigned indifference.
“I’m surprised you could fit any marshmallows in your case, what with that mobile shoe shop you carry around.”
Her eyes narrowed, the corners of her mouth twitching. “Are you dissing my shoes?”
“Merely making an observation.”
With a little huff that was so adorable he wanted to kiss her senseless, she pouted.
“I’ll have you know it takes effort to look this good.”
His gaze raked her from top to toe, lingering on her curves, the hollow of her hip, the dip of her collarbone, remembering how he’d traced every inch of her once, how he couldn’t get enough.
Logically, he knew it would be foolish to resurrect the past, not when nothing fundamental had changed. Kristi was a relationship type of girl. He was a guy who had no intention of getting emotionally involved with anyone.
Physically, his body was on memory overload, sifting through every incredible, erotic encounter the two of them had ever had.
“You’re not looking at my shoes.”
Dragging his gaze to meet hers, he raised an eyebrow. “You’re not wearing any.”
She scooped up a spangly flip-flop, dangling it from a finger.
“What’s this?”
“Suitcase filler?”
“Heathen,” she muttered, sliding her sunglasses back into place and rolling onto her back. “Get back to your wood gathering. It’s what you Neanderthals are good at.”
“Sticks and stones,” he said, much more at ease with this banter than last night’s emotion charged discussion.
Pointing at the diminutive wood pile, she smirked. “More sticks. Less stones.”

If you really, really want to read this book (and you know you want to!) it's part of a special promotion over at eharlequin at the moment, where you can buy it at 40% off.
It's a steal!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Island in the stream

With DESERTED ISLAND, DREAMY EX! hitting US shelves this week, here's a snippet from Jared and Kristi's first day on the island:

“You ever use Twitter before?”
Kristi shook her head, trying to sneak a peek over Jared’s shoulder as he fiddled with his iPhone.
“No time. Work keeps me pretty busy. I email. Facebook page. That’s about it.”
His eyes never leaving the screen, he said, “You don’t know what you’re missing.”
Her scoffing snort had him darting an amused glance her way.
“What’s so special about informing the world what you’re up to in less than one hundred and forty characters?”
“It’s the challenge, to make your tweet interesting in so few words.”
Typing quickly, he finally laid his phone down, his stare loaded.
“Surely you know how much guys like a challenge?”
“Guys or just you?”
He chuckled. “Last time I checked I was a guy. Or would you care to verify—”
“Stop that!” she hissed, jerking her head towards one of the not-so-hidden cameras. “We’re live.”
Dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, he leaned forward and spoke behind his raised hand.
“Viewers love this sort of thing. A bit of light hearted banter, flirting. Good for ratings.”
He wiggled his eyebrows until the unimpressed twist to her lips relaxed into a smile. “Sex sells, baby.”
Okay, so he was hamming it up for the cameras. Not that she could blame him. There was something so weirdly unnatural about all of this. As to why anyone would be remotely interested in watching the two of them have dinner or quibble over the last Tim Tam was beyond her.
But she couldn’t deny Elliott Barnaby was a genius; and the one salient fact, she was in this for the money, and the promotion.
Faking a huff, she tossed her hair over her shoulder like any screen heroine worth her salt.
“I’m not your baby.”
“You were once.”
He whispered it so softly the cameras wouldn’t have a chance of picking it up, her skin prickling with alarm as he scooted closer, his warm breath fanning her neck as he murmured in her ear, “Want to recreate some of the old magic?”
Her body made a mockery of her instant refusal, heat flushing her skin rosy as she inadvertently leaned into him, practically inviting him to slip an arm around her and cradle her close as he used to.
“Liar,” he whispered, his fingertips trailing across the back of her neck and sending a quiver of desire through her as he casually draped an arm over her shoulder, appearing to the whole world as if they were best buddies.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Latest release

This week sees the release of my latest Harlequin Romance, DESERTED ISLAND, DREAMY EX!

If you like reality TV, Twitter, social networking and hot tennis pros, you'll enjoy this book!

Insight into the 'behind the scenes' action to come.
Watch this space!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Weekend Book Club: Maximum Ride, The Angel Experiment

James Patterson recently topped a list of the top 10 highest author earners.
He's sold an estimated 170 million books worldwide and the only author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on The New York Times adult and children's lists.
Incredibly, I think I've only read one James Patterson novel many moons ago.
MAXIMUM RIDE: THE ANGEL EXPERIMENT was my second and I'm hooked!
James' foray into YA, the story is an absolute page turner.
Here's the blurb:
Do not put this book down. I'm dead serious - your life could depend on it. I'm risking everything by telling you - but you need to know.

STRAP YOURSELF IN for the thrill ride you'll want to take again and again! From Death Valley, California, to the bowels of the New York City subway system, you're about to take off on a heart-stopping adventure that will blow you away...

YOUR FAITHFUL COMPANIONS: Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman, and Angel. Six kids who are pretty normal in most ways - except that they're 98 percent human, 2 percent bird. They grew up in a lab, living like rats in cages, but now they're free. Aside, of course, from the fact that they're prime prey for Erasers - wicked wolflike creatures with a taste for flying humans.

THE MISSIONS: Rescue Angel from malicious mutants. Infiltrate a secret facility to track down the flock's missing parents. Scavenge for sustenance. Get revenge on an evil traitor. And save the world. If there's time.
Love the protagonist Max and her 'flock'. Love the non-stop action. And love the many questions raised which leave you hanging for the next installment.
Note to self: must glom Mr. Patterson.
What are your reading this week?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Foreign shores

This month sees the release of 3 of my books overseas.


I never, ever tire of seeing foreign covers. It's like getting first printing of a book in my hot little hands all over again!