Saturday, September 18, 2010

Weekend Wildcard: Angi Morgan Call Story

This weekend, the Pink Heart Society welcomes debut Harlequin Intrigue author and Golden Heart winner Angi Morgan as she tells her version of the Call. Congratulations Angi on both accomplishments!

Angi's first sight of her book!
Thank you ladies for inviting me to be apart of The Pink Heart Society this weekend. What an awesome group of ladies dedicated to category romance. YAY! I have loved category since introduced to Harlequin Presents by my grandmother and aunts. And I’ve wanted to write for Harlequin since that time. The stories would always be dancing around in my head. So selling to Intrigue was a long-time goal.
I have been asked several times “how I got the call” and I have to admit that one “first” after another has kept me going on this rollercoaster of smiles during this past year. While celebrating SEE JANE RUN’s 2009 Daphne win, I signed with my agent and quickly sold Hill Country Holdup. But that’s not all.
I was contemplating my writing career and what I’d do if SJR didn’t sell to Harlequin. It was its last shot. A friend asked if I’d considered other alternatives of publishing...but she had to hang up and said she’d call back. The phone rang about three minutes later and I noticed it was my agent. “Angi...they want to buy it.” I remember being pretty silent, saying “I can’t believe it’s finally happened” and also having to explain that I was sort of in shock (I wasn’t my normal gabby self). Then my agent says, “That’s the good news, want the better news?”
“What’s better than selling?” “They want a September 2010 release.” Oh my goodness! I really couldn’t talk. I’ve had friends who waited over two years for their books to hit the shelves. In fact, someone sold their first book and couldn’t make a second sale and stopped writing. So I was really floored. Really glad I had my agent. Really thankful it was all happening.
Then my new editor called to just talk. We spoke about 45 minutes about life. She put me at ease and all the business was left for my agent. It was unreal. I was over the top. I finally called my husband, my daughters, texted my son. What a great feeling, but it wasn’t over.
In less than a year, I’ve sold, had my first edits, my first art facts, my first final edits, my first look at my cover, my first blog, my first conference as a PAN member, my first Golden Heart win, my first SECOND sale (had to throw that in there LOL), my first major deadline (9 weeks to write the 2nd book), holding my book for the first time, and my first sighting of seeing my book on the Harlequin rack.
And today is my first book signing. (editor's note Go Angi!!! And just wait until you have the first translation!)
I hope the rollercoaster of smiles never stops. Even with the pressure that selling brings, I remind myself that I’m finally on the side of the table holding the pen. And I love it.

Thanks for all the support and I hope everyone loves Hill Country Holdup as much as I love the ride it’s given me this year.
This question may be out of the blue, but I’d love to know how readers got turned on to category romance? Are you a teenage statistic like me? (introduced by an older family member?) Or did a book just catch your eye in the store?
‘Til next time,

CONTESTS: Celebrate Angi Morgan's debut release, Hill Country Hold-Up via her blog tour this past week (9-13 through 9-19). Get complete details of her stops, her blogs, and her contest giveaways at Leave 5 comments on 5 different blogsites where she’s been a guest and be registered in a drawing for prizes. Hold Up the Cover will run the entire month HCH is on bookshelves. The drawing will have several prizes for those sending a picture of themselves with Angi’s cover (and signing up for her newsletter).

You can read more about Angi's exciting books on her website.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Must Watch Friday: Inception

Modern Heat author Heidi Rice gets her head around Leo DiCaprio's new high-concept science-fiction thriller and finds a haunting tale of love and loss lurking inside all the mind-blowing FX and plot contortions.

Okay, Inception is one of those sci-fi thrillers that's so high-concept it could give you a nosebleed. The plot is so fricking complex you have to stay focussed or you'll miss some vital bit of information. In other words, this is not the film to go see with your first boyfriend and snog in the back row, or you'll come up for air and won't know what the heck is going on. But hey, that's not really a problem for me any more, so I'm ok with that. And I've always liked films that make me think.... As long as they don't give me a headache (The Matrix, anyone??).

And Inception is based on a brilliant conceit. The premise being that in the near future industrial espionage is carried out by spies called Extractors who can invade a person's dreams and steal their ideas, or in the case of Leonardo DiCaprio and his top-notch crew of Extractors in the film, plant ideas instead. Cue lots of really quite mesmerising special effects sequences as Leo and his crew - which includes dinky Juno actress Ellen Page and up-and-coming Brit sex symbol Tom Hardy — construct dreams which then disintegrate in spectacular fashion.

Now, I'm not going to elaborate any more on the plot except to say that it's constructed around a series of dreams, within dreams, within dreams as the crew venture deeper and deeper into business tycoon Cillian Murphy's subconcious to bury an idea that will make him dissolve his father's company and thus save the world from corporate meltdown (or something like that, I think I may have been having a quick snog at some point cos I can't quite remember how it works now).

But what makes this film resonate, what makes it worth all the effort of following that labyrinthine plot, isn't the clever concept or the eye-popping special effects, but the characters. It's always the human story which draws me into a film — and without believeable, relatable characters, people whose hopes and (certainly in this case) dreams matter, no amount of pizzazz or razzamatazz is going to make it work for me. And that's where this story triumphs. Because behind all the mind-boggling plotting and mind-blowing FX is the driving force behind the drama - the story of Leo DiCaprio's character and the crushing grief over his dead wife (played by the mesmerisingly beautiful Marion Cottillard) which he carries around with him in both his real and his hyper-real life...

For all it's high-concept sci-fi bells and whistles, ultimately, Inception is a simple, hauntingly beautiful and heart-stoppingly romantic tale of one man's loss and how he learns to come to terms with it. And that's what makes this movie an absolute gem. The Matrix eat your heart out!!

Heidi's latest Presents Extra, Unfinished Business with the Duke, is set to hit shelves in the US next month. Her latest Modern Heat, Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger, is due out in the UK in November, and has one of the swanky new covers (check out that sexy stranger!!). 

Heidi loves to hear from readers on her blog, Facebook and her website, so come have a natter. And she's currently gearing up for her mentoring duties in M&B's New Voices competition. So if you're an aspiring author don't forget to enter for a chance to get your book published.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Slushing Through : Sharing Is Caring

Pink Heart Society editor Jenna Bayley-Burke is back with another helping of slush pile wisdom.

There comes a time in every writer's life when they need a fresh set of eyes to look at their story. In the beginning, this is usually friends. But as your writing improves, friends are going to tell you your story is great.

What you need is a critique partner, aka CP. I found my first critique partners on internet forums. Things went along swimingly, I sold to Mills & Boon, one finaled in the original American Title competition, another started making better royalties on her ebooks than I'd even seen on my traditional novels. But then, life happened. I had some terminal illnesses in my family and wound up with what I refer to as the month of death. I wasn't in a fun & flirty place for a while.

While I was working through my drama, one CP decided to head to put writing in the LATER file and put law school in the NOW file. It has made for some interesting conversations (she's got to work in some dishy places) but critiquing didn't seem fair since she wasn't writing.

My other CP decided to pursue her own happily ever after - she found a great guy, lost 100 pounds, bought a new house, and took control over her career. She's doing the things she used to write about.

Fabulous for them, but it left me without my security blanket. I knew that they would not let me send anything horrid off to an editor, that they'd protect me from my own cokamamie ideas. I didn't have anyone to pet plot bunnies, or talk me down from the synopsis ledge, or even remind me that I had yet to clothe my characters.

I tried to do it on my own. After all, many authors do. For some, the critique partner relationship is draining, for others it stifles their creativity or slows them down.

Writing is all about finding your own process. There is no one true path. We all meander about on our way to a great book. Some take the Concord, I prefer a leisurly walk with friends. I loved feeling like my CPs accomplishments were my own. I think I was as excited as she was when she got the call from American Title. Every rejection was a learning opportunity since we knew each others stories inside and out.

Going about finding another set of critique partners has been harder this time around. It's rather like dating. You talk, exchange information (usually a chapter), look over what you learned and decide if you want to see that person again. In my experience, I found all the good ones were taken! I wound up begging reads off friends, who are in these great partnerships.

So, I adjusted my attitude and went looking again. Less blind dating, more match-ups from friends. This has worked much better. I'm still not at the level of comfort I was before, but I think I'll find myself in a new, confident place soon enough.

Jenna Bayley-Burke is a best selling author recently featured on Good Morning America. Kinda. Compromising Positions is available free from Nook & Kindle for a few weeks, and made the best seller list for free titles and GMA did their daily top ten list of Kindle bestselling free ebooks and Compromising Positions made the list. But doesn't it sound better the first way? Keep up with Jenna's spin on things on her website & blog.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

FIRST THINGS FIRST: There Comes A Time...

There comes a time in every write-at-home-mom's life when the last of her little brood of convenient excuses and adorable distractions take flight from the nest.

For me, ladies and gentlemen, that day is today.

That's right, little Kellys one, two, three and four all suited up with jackets and bookbags this morning, and at eight-twelve they hustled onto bus twelve leaving me with a few fleeting seconds of toothy grins from a back window, a bittersweet pang in my heart, and exactly what I'd been fantasizing about for almost as long as I've been writing...

A full day to work in an empty house.



That's right friends. Seven and a half uninterrupted hours of work time. I was completely giddy and, as soon as the bus rounded the corner, sprinted back inside to get down to writing. While I've been working a couple hours every day over the summer, having that one ear trained on the activity down the hall, or that critical bit of focus stuck on wondering how long my luck was going hold out with the kids distracting themselves, productivity was not at it's all time high.

I made some progress, sure.

Finished about half of the rewrite/revision for my third book, and most importantly kept my head in the story I'm so determined to get right. But writing with the kids at home has become increasingly difficult as they've gotten older. And while I love having the time with them, I was getting desperate for a little quality time with my manuscript as well.

Well today I got it.

Q.U.A.L.T.Y. T.I.M.E.

And I tell you, I'm stoked. It was awesome to the extent of two new scenes completed!

Now, don't get me wrong, I wouldn't have given up the time I had with the kids at home for all the contracts in Harlequin. But now it's time for these little guys to break out of the nest for a school day's worth of hours. And it's time for me to buckle down and get serious about this career I've finally got my hands on.
Don't miss Mira's second book, TABLOID AFFAIR, SECRETLY PREGNANT! November in the UK. (Releasing as FRONT PAGE AFFAIR January 2011 in the US)
For more about Mira Lyn Kelly, visit her at
Come back next month to follow Mira through her first year of publication with FIRST THINGS FIRST.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday Temptation: Dictionaries and Thesaurus

PHS Editor and Harlequin Historical Author Michelle Styles reveals her addiction to  dictionaries.

I'm an author and I love words and phrases. I love knowing what they mean and what they used to mean. I love finding out the stories behind phrases. Or being able to categorise words in different ways. In short I love dictionaries.  I still have my well thumbed Webster's Dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus from when I was growing up. But my private library boasts of a number of dictionaries.
 One of the great things about meeting other authors is discovering that I am not alone.
At the RWA Librarian's Lunch Blaze Author Jacquie D'Alessandro and I had a long conversation about the wonderfulness that is the Oxford English Dictionary. One of Jacqui's best Christmas presents ever was receiving the entire 20 volumes of the OED from her husband and children. For some reason, her mother-in-law couldn't understand it. But there again, her mother-in-law is not an author. The complete OED remains on my list for books I'd love to get. In the meantime, I have the Concise OED and the OED for Writers and Editors.
Just before going to the RWA, I'd taken delivery of the Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary. Forty years in the making, it is the definitive etymology of words. If you want to know what a word meant in a particular time period, this gives the answer. recently I had cause to look up  corset. A word meaning corset as an underwear garment was not used before 1628 and corset itself is a late 18th century word. It is one of those books that I intend to use quickly and end up spending an hour or more because one word leads on another and my attention gets caught. (This is also why I prefer printed dictionaries to ebook dictionaries as I love making connections. I do have an electronic dictionary but it gets used more when I need to check spellings.)
Another dictionary that ends up as treasure is Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. First printed in the late 19th century, Brewer's gives the meaning to all sorts of phrases, rather than individual words. So for example, Gretna Green Marriage is there. Or I open to English (among other things) English cap -- see French Letter, along with definitions for English disease, Englishman, Englishman's home is his castle An,  English Pale The etc. Brewer's is a book where you inevitably end up spending more time than you thought on. Opening at random,  Grand Old Party , The  -- a name dating from around1876 for the Republican Party, the more conservative of the two main US political parties. It is often abbreviated to GOP. As Terry Pratchett said about the book -- it is not what you are looking for, it is much more interesting!
I also have a Flip Dictionary for when I know what I want to say but can't think up the word. It enables me to find a specific word when it is trembling on my tongue. For example a male elephant is a bull elephant.
Then there is the  Random House Word Menu which lists words in groups. So for example, all words pertaining to geography or architecture. This can help when characters are passionate about a certain hobby or belong to a certain profession so you can lace their speech with terms that they might use. Because let's face it a geographer might see the world in a different way than a lawyer. One of the great exercises for delineating character is to come up with vocab lists that are specific to that character. This dictionary is highly useful for that. It also leads you onwards.
So does anyone have any other great word books that they use?
When not looking up words, Michelle Styles writes for Harlequin Historical. Her next NA release is A Question of Impropriety in Dec 2010 and The Viking's Captive Princess in the UK Dec 2010. You can read more about her books on her website.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Male on Monday: Men with Long Hair

This week, PHS columnist Kate Hardy confesses to her big weakness… men with long hair.

Some people are horrified at the idea of men with long hair. Me... I rather like it. It started when I was a teenager, with Robert Plant. (Didn't matter that I was 13 and he was 30. He was gorgeous!) That voice, those looks, that hair… And it’s gone on from there. I have a soft spot for actors with long hair, too – the characters. Aragorn, Jack Sparrow, Guy of Gisborne. And then there was El Mariachi (three scrumptious films).

I have sneaked men with long hair into my books. In Where the Heart Is, Luke has long hair at first. (My ed made me give him a haircut before he started work in the emergency department, but as Trek Doctor he was… ohh. I might mention here that Rowena thinks of him as El Mariachi. Cough. Guess what I’d been watching?) But most of the time an editorial haircut takes place right at the start. And definitely on the cover. My all-time fave Temptation, Nancy Warren's Hot Off the Press, had a hero with long hair. On the cover... they gave him a haircut. Boo.

But I think men with long hair are underappreciated. And, because a picture paints a thousand words, I’m going to be horribly self-indulgent and give you examples of gorgeous, gorgeous men with long hair. And I’d love to know if you agree!

Firstly, the man who started it all: Robert Plant. That smile really lights up the whole room – and I was privileged to see it from ten feet away when he played the UEA (happy sigh).

Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn.

Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow. (This one's especially for Kelly Hunter and Heidi Rice.)

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisborne.

And a gratuitous one of Mr Armitage with slightly shorter hair, but this is definitely inspiring the new book. (I pinched this one from Philippa Ashley.)

Nicolas Cage in The Sorceror’s Apprentice (I’ll be talking about this film here next month).

Oh, what, you thought I was going to put someone else first picture?

Heh. I was just letting you wait for the best one - the ultimate Male on Monday, in my view (my DH excepted, of course). Mr Banderas.

Just lovely. Though I think I might need a fan, now...

In the UK, Kate’s Modern Heat Red Wine and Her Sexy Ex (aka the first of the French duo) is out on the shelves at the moment (out in December in the US and Australia), and next week you’ll be able to get the follow-up, Champagne with a Celebrity (and Kate is thrilled to have the first Modern Heat new-style cover).

You can find out more about these books, and Kate, on her website ( and her blog (