Friday, September 11, 2009

Why I Came Back To Harlequin

~Sia McKye~

I have to be honest; I stopped reading most Harlequins some years ago. The stories had become trite and tired—outdated if you will. How many stories can you read about Tycoons, Sheiks, Millionaires, Nurses, Females too stupid to live, or surprise babies without getting bored. Where were the sassy, independent women? The hot realistic heroes that made you go, Whoa, yah baby! Realistic stories that fit today’s women? Where were the meaty stories with a sizzle?

Let me give you the reason I returned to reading Harlequin this past eighteen months: authors like Tawny Weber, Samantha Hunter, Alison Kent, Gena Showalter, Susan Gable, Holly Jacobs, Rhonda Nelson, Diana Duncan, and Brenda Joyce. Anyone of these authors, in my opinion, regardless of the particular imprint with Harlequin they write, all tell involving stories, characters that act and react realistically, good storylines, well-paced enjoyable stories. Even those that write for the lighter end have well-thought and entertaining stories. Books that I don’t want to throw across the room and hope they hit the trash can.

Today, I’m talking about two books I’ve recently read that I’ve enjoyed and can recommend reading. An example from two different ends of the spectrum, if you will. Tawny Weber and Brenda Joyce. One is new to me and one is an author I’ve enjoyed reading for some years ( I started with the Bragg Saga and loved the deWarrens).

Tawny writes for Blaze. I enjoy Blaze. They’re fun hot reads. Some are lighter than others, but I’ve really enjoyed Tawny’s. Her latest one was fun, with smart characters, hot without being too blatant (which is why I read very few erotica, but that’s a subject for another blog).

Here’s the blurb for Tawny Weber’s latest book available this month.

Hello, hot blast from the past!

Zoe Gaston needs to unmask a mystery man for work. She also must survive her dreaded high school reunion—and the costume party that opens it. So Zoe, once voted Girl Most Likely to Die a Virgin, comes dressed as a leather-clad dominatrix…whip and all!Her scandalous costume catches a secret lover. He seems so deliciously familiar under his disguise…. He's gotta be her long-ago crush.But Zoe is shocked to discover the sexy body she's been so thoroughly enjoying belongs to Dexter Drake—her oldest friend! And he's hiding something bigger than just his identity….

Dressed to Thrill: The best part of dressing up is taking it off!

Read an excerpt:

Now, what captured my interest was the line that said Zoe had been voted the Girl Most Likely To Die A Virgin and then she shows up in a leather-clad dominatrix outfit (funny, my muse wears the same outfit. Wonder if she got hers from Dressed To Thrill Fantasy Shop?) Right away, that whole idea just tickled my funny bone. Now that’s a woman with moxy, lol! My kind of woman. Especially given the last thing Zoe wants to do is go to her High School Reunion.

What intrigued me was she was on a quest to find a mystery man to help her brother—also something I could relate to. Zoe finds that her classmates are still living out their high school glories ten years later and she’s regretting mightily being talked into this adventure. So begins several escapades and a sexy encounter with a hot man in costume that rings all her bells. I won’t spoil it but parts of her story cracked me up and parts made go, ‘Whoa, Yah, you go girl!’ I thoroughly enjoyed Zoe. I have to tell you, I wouldn’t mind going a few rounds with the masked hottie either!

If you haven't checked out Tawny Weber's books, I recommend you search them out. They're well worth it. They can be ordered directly from Harlequin Blaze website:

The second book I enjoyed, is written by Brenda Joyce. She writes a series called The Masters of Time. Definitely a (cue Austin Powers) ‘yah baby’ series. Brenda’s books are paranormal Romance for HQN and about Highland warriors sworn to protect Innocence through the ages... Any who read my blog know I’m a bit partial to Scott warriors, preferably kilted.

The blurb for her latest book, Dark Lover.

Highland Warriors, sworn to protect innocence through the ages...

Ian Maclean’s arrogance hides a terrible secret—for decades he was held prisoner by demons. Not a day goes by that he isn’t tormented by his darkest fears of powerlessness. Now he is about to sell to the highest bidder a page he’s stolen from the Book of Power—if one woman doesn’t stop him.

Every Rose woman has her destiny

Slayer Samantha Rose’s latest mission is to recover the stolen page—and get payback from the only man who’s ever rejected her. What she hasn’t counted on is the raging attraction between them—or her growing realization of what MacLean has survived. As the powers of the evil from his past gather, Sam will do anything to help him—even if it means following him into time and facing his worst nightmares with him...

If you want to read and excerpt:

I’ve been following the series. It a hot, sensual time travel story about powerful and sexual medieval warrior warriors of old Scotland whose job it is to protect the innocent from demonic forces and evil. These warriors can jump through time to fight their battles and do and in the process meet up with some strong, independent modern women that knock these alpha males for a loop. The warriors are dark with some real emotional hang-ups and have lived hundreds of years battling evil and personal loss. Brenda’s characters are layered and intense, but have a strong sense of honor. Some are at the point of where you aren’t sure they will remain heroes or become the enemy. Enter the smart women that fall for them and the adventures begin.

What I enjoyed about Dark Lover is the combining of disparate characters—at least on the surface. We have Ian MacLean, an intensely private man scarred by unspeakable torture and one who no longer cares about right and wrong, or so he thinks, but is all about looking out for number one. Ian’s strong, definitely alpha male, but he’s also vulnerable. Then you have Samantha Rose, modern day woman and warrior. She’s feisty and smart mouthed and she makes me laugh even in dangerous time. I like her a lot. Sam is a woman sure of her destiny, her strengths, her sexuality and knows how to use it to her advantage. Sam is one of the good ‘guys’. She’s a tough woman and dangerous. She’s also scarred from her past and it because of this she is a slayer. When the two come together it’s sparks and fire all the way. And danger.

Brenda Joyce is a fabulous writer. Her characters complex and three-dimensional and I like that. Her stories have laughter, danger, hot sexual encounters, magic and an engrossing story. Good wins, but not without paying a high cost.

If you haven’t checked out the Masters of Time series, I highly recommend doing so.

Just two reasons why l came back to Harlequin. Do you have any recommendation? Why?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why do I Write?

My guest is Romantic Suspense author, Elle James. Elle's books have been Romantic Times Top Picks in 2008 and 2009.

As writers we plug away perfecting our writing skills. We query, we work hard for a contract and we want a book out there with our name on it. Not an easy task. But Elle asks a timely question that calls to our motivation for writing and trying to become published. Why do you write? To find the answer we have to look inside. She shares with us why she writes:

When I was a beginning novelist with very little writing experience under my belt I didn’t have a clue where to start or why I wanted to write. I just knew it was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. Sure, I’d written poetry for my family and friends and the occasional skit for the enjoyment of my co-workers, but I didn’t get serious about writing until I joined a writer’s organization that took writing seriously at the end of 1999. I was amazed at how enthusiastic other writers were about their work - writing. Up until then, writing was just something I did when I felt like it and forgot about for the rest of the year.

I met published authors and unpublished authors and wondered about their motivations for writing. Some people wrote as a source of income, others wrote to have an outlet for all the stories in their heads. Still others wrote because it was a challenge to get from the start of the story to the end.

One of the first workshops I attended asked the participants to evaluate their reasons for writing. The statement that resonated with me and has been repeated by many other writers in the industry since was - don’t quit your day job! If you are writing strictly for money, it can be done, but it’s a tough haul. Not many writers can support themselves off the royalties they make, assuming they are fortunate enough to get published.

Needless to say, I was a little discouraged, but not enough to stop me. At the time, I had a good day job making a good salary, so I jumped into learning the business of writing. Soon writing became an obsession and all I could do or think about in my spare time was writing. At work, I’d think about the story waiting for me at home. That great day job became a drag, and I began questioning my desire to earn a real living when I could be starving and doing what I love most—writing!

I eventually did get published, and I did quit my day job and DID take a HUGE cut in pay. And at least annually I ask myself why I write. If I’m on a real downswing in ego and motivation I make a list of all the reasons I write.

It all comes back to the love of telling stories. I write because I have stories bottled up in my head that need to get out. If I didn’t write, I think my head would explode! I write because I like to elicit emotion from the reader, even if the reader is only me. Whether it is humor, sorrow, joy, fear or anger, I like knowing that what I’ve written is felt by the reader. I like that I have a creative outlet that I love and that now I can make a living at—albeit a much more modest living. There is nothing like seeing your book on the shelves, getting emails from your readers saying how much they enjoyed your story, because they GOT IT.

If you’re a beginning writer, or an experienced writer that hasn’t been published yet, or a published writer questioning your reasons for sticking with a business that may or may not pay the bills, you need to get down to the basics and ask yourself:

Why Do I Write?

That simple question may take you from “because it’s cool and fun” to “because it is who I am”.


Elle James always loved playing make-believe and inventing stories of adventure and fun. At the turn of the century, she and her sister, Delilah Devlin decided it was about time to take writing by the horns and make it happen!

They challenged each other to write a romance novel. After chapter one, they decided to join forces and learn the craft together. Their first five novels were co-authored. After that, they took off on their own. Delilah turned to the hot stuff, writing romantica for Ellora's Cave. Elle writes a variety of genres from romantic comedy to suspense. She loves writing paranormal elements into her projects and does whenever possible!

Elle won the 2004 RWA Golden Heart for Best Paranormal Romance for her manuscript TO KISS A FROG, her first book to sell. Dorchester Publishing released it in March of 2005.

In 2004, Elle left her successful career as an Information Technology Manager to pursue writing full time. She loves escaping into her stories, learning and growing with each character and plot. She writes because she likes to experience and evoke all the emotions from happy to sad, funny to frightening. She digs them all!

At home in Northwest Arkansas, Elle is busy writing tales of murder and suspense for Harlequin Intrigue. With thirteen Intrigues under her belt, she’s still going strong.

Stay tuned for more from Elle James!

Visit Elle at

Monday, September 7, 2009

Unplugging: Balancing Promotion And Writing

I’d like to welcome Romance Author, Alison Kent, Over Coffee. As you’ve noticed, she has a hot new book available this month, One Good Man.

Today, online promotion is a way of life for authors. Publishers expect more and more from authors in selling and promoting their books. For authors that means Social Networking and blogs. How much is too much? How do you find a workable balance between necessary promotion and time to write your stories? Each author has to decide what works best with their deadlines.

I’ve heard many of my writer friends discussing the need of limiting their online time. Alison talks about what works for her.

This time last year, my husband and I were getting ready for a long overdue getaway. I hesitate to call it a vacation because I was the one in need of a break and he was being the good sport that he is and indulging me. I’d been on constant deadline for years (approximately nine) and had but one book left under contract. I couldn’t even think about diving in. I was spent. The getaway had to happen.

Backing up to August of last year, I’d been in my dentist’s waiting room where I saw an article in Texas Monthly about the 25 best swimming holes in Texas. There was one, a spring-fed pool where swimmers - and scuba divers - shared the water with turtles and fish. It was in far West Texas. In the desert. In a state park. In a town of 500. I was SO there. I booked us a room for 4 days. It was an 8-hour drive.

I ate it up. Every minute. I unplugged. I read. I walked. One day I swam, but it was freakin’ COLD, so I left most of the swimming to the husband. We brought our laptop, and the park offered free WiFi, but it would only connect from the picnic table behind the park’s office. The husband would stop there to check the Web on his Blackberry (he is NOT a fan of unplugging), but I didn’t check mail or blogs or anything for almost a week. I did have emails from my agent and editor forwarded to my phone, but since nothing was going on, no negotiations or revisions, it was a precaution in case something came up.

Nothing did, and I loved that week so much I wanted to marry it. I would’ve stayed another. I would go back today. The kitchenette and bathroom in the park’s motel was a modular unit circa 1960. It was clean, but funky, like living in an travel trailer. I didn’t care. I used the time to visualize the book I would have to come home to write. I set it in the same area. I used the places we visited, turning the town of Fort Davis, Texas into my story’s Weldon. I breathed the air my characters would breathe. It was bliss.

I don’t know about other writers, but I’ve found that being constantly connected to the world outside my head plays havoc with the world inside where I get paid to play. When I worked outside the home, my need for adult communication was met during the 8 to 5, and my time at home was family and writing. It worked well. Sure, I emailed and blogged at home, but I got a whole lot of that done on my lunch hour (or while working because it was that kind of casual office), so again. My time at home was family and writing. My real world and my fictional world. I kept the social networking to office hours.

Now that I’m writing full-time and can check email and blogs on my phone and computer (unplugging is more a matter of discipline than technology when everything in the house is wireless), it’s harder to compartmentalize my lives. Stalled on a paragraph? Check email. Frustrated with getting a conversation to ring true? Read blogs. The never-ending stream of information is not a good thing. For me, anyway, and I can’t imagine there’s not some detrimental effect on anyone who creates and needs focus.

That week away with the husband really brought home my need for creating in an environment where I talk to – and listen to – no one but my characters. I’ve pulled back a lot from social networking because of the silence of that week. It was an invaluable lesson in how *my* brain works. Since I have a business online, I have to check my client email once a day, but I try to spend at least two days a week offline completely. I don’t always succeed because I have friends who are my writing cubicle mates. They keep me sane, and I need sane to function. I can Twitter from my phone, sharing what’s on my mind without having to interact. I’ve stopped thinking I MUST blog every day, and am now doing so only when the mood strikes. There’s still a part of me that thinks I need to be out there more, but my books are feeling so much better, richer, deeper now that I’m giving my story people my full and undivided attention.

What do you think? Do you ever find your focus splintered and feel the need to spend some quiet time, if not in the desert of West Texas, then at least away from the nonstop bombardment of information?


A published author of forty works including single title and category romance novels, novellas, a Smart Pop essay on the television show Charmed, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Erotic Romance, Alison Kent blogs for free as many words as she's paid to write. She is also a partner in the author community Access Romance, the Website design firm DreamForge Media, and is the muscle behind Romancing The Blog.