Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing Contests--The Pleasure And The Pain

My guest today is British Para-Romance Author, Helen Scott-Taylor. She wrote The Magic Knot, which is where I came into contact with her and her latest book is The Phoenix Charm.

He’s Pure Temptation.

Cordelia has sworn she’ll abstain from looking into Michael’s future—particularly when the image in the gilded smoke of her divination mirror shows him half naked. Yet she can’t resist watching the sexy rascal slowly running his hand down his ribs, over his abdomen, flicking open the button on his jeans with a little flourish like a magician performing a trick.

She’s Trying To Resist.

Respectable wise woman Cordelia restrains her secret water nymph sensuality with the Celtic symbols painted on her skin. But Michael’s powerful fairy glamour leaves her breathless, off balance, struggling for control. When Gwyn ap Nudd, the Welsh King of the Underworld, steals away Michael’s infant nephew, Cordelia must work with him to save the child. But how can she trust her instincts with Michael tempting her to explore the hidden elemental depths of her nature and insisting that she believe in the power of…The Phoenix Charm.

How beneficial is writing contests for an aspiring writer? What can a a contestant do to prepare for such a contest? Helen is a veteran when it comes to contests. She sold her first book after winning the American Title IV contest. She discusses her experiences with writing contests and offers some advice:

Most writers have entered a writing contest or two and writers’ feelings about writing contests seem to be mixed. I’ve read posts on chat loops from authors who’ve had bad contest experiences with critical judges and poor feedback, conversely, I’ve also heard of authors who have sold their first book after winning a contest.

The topic of writing contests is a pertinent one for me because I’m one of those authors who sold a first book through a writing contest. I won the American Title IV contest run jointly by Dorchester Publishing and RT Bookreviews magazine and a publishing contract was the prize for winning.

The American Title contest was unlike most writing contests, being based on American Idol. For five rounds, character studies, story summaries, or book excerpts were published in RT Bookreviews magazine. Each round, the writer whose book received the fewest votes was knocked out.

I also have experience of many conventional writing contests where judges, usually fellow writers, judge the first round, marking and giving feedback on a score sheet before the top three or four entries are passed on to an editor or agent for final judging. There is definitely an element of luck involved. Some judges never mark high no matter how great the entry, while others are overly critical or just plain wrong in their assessment and advice. The funniest comment I ever received from a judge was that my English character sounded too American and I needed to research British English. If only she’d known that I’m British!

Despite all their faults, I found writing contests tremendously helpful in giving me feedback on my writing and in helping me grasp the subtle differences between British English and American English. In the early days when I was new, some contest judges put a lot of time and trouble into explaining to me how to improve my writing. Those judges alone were worth the entry fee.

Later when I started to final in and win contests, the boost to my confidence helped me to forge on toward the goal of publication with renewed enthusiasm. For me the ultimate contest achievement for an unpublished romance author was to final in the Golden Heart. The experience of attending the Romance Writers of America National conference in San Francisco as a finalist was so much fun I wouldn’t have missed it for anything, and the camaraderie among the group of finalists is still important to me two years on.

My writing contest experience has generally been good, and I’d recommend unpublished romance writers to enter RWA chapter contests to gain feedback on their work and also to get in front of the agents and editors who judge the finals. My one proviso would be to check the score sheet first. It is often available on the website of the chapter running the contest. If not, the contest coordinator should let you have a copy. I also recommend that you ask if judges are required to give a reason when they knock off points. Certain contests are known for having good judges and giving good quality feedback. Two that come to mind are The Golden Gateway contest run by FTHRW, an online chapter of RWA, and another is The Golden Pen, run by The Golden Network.

I have recently entered my first book The Magic Knot in a few contests for published books, so I’m now entering a new realm of writing contests. Once again, I feel like the new kid at school!

  • I’d love to hear your experience of writing contests if you’re a writer. If you have entered contests, has the experience been useful or not? If you have chosen not to enter, why not?

I'll be offering a signed copy of The Phoenix Charm to a commenter today.

As a child, when Helen didn’t pay attention her teachers accused her of being away with the fairies. Things haven’t changed much! Only now, the fairies are tall and sexy and they live in her stories rather than just in her head. Helen resides in South Western England near Plymouth with her husband, two teenagers, two Shih Tzus, and a cat who rules the household with a velvet paw. With the rocky cliffs of the Atlantic to the south and the windswept expanse of Dartmoor to the west, she loves to walk in the countryside while she plots her stories. She believes deep within everyone there’s a little magic.

Helen would love to hear from readers. You can find her at

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Breakfast In Bed

My guest today is Romance Author, Robin Kaye. This is her first visit to Over Coffee so please give her a warm welcome.

I've read and enjoyed the fun and games in Breakfast in Bed. It makes you laugh, shake your head in disbelief and roll your eyes at Rich (and wish you were Becca). He's a man without a clue half the time and he has been all too used to the women of his family taking care of him. When he has to take care of himself, learn the basics of cleaning and cooking, hilarity errupts. Trust me, he gives a whole new meaning to "Scrubbing Bubbles".

You're going to love Rich's Aunt. She's a hoot and a bit of a seer. Breakfast In Bed has lots sizzle, laughter, and fun. If you want to read a book that gives you a lift and leaves you chuckling afterwards, you have to read Breakfast In Bed.

Back Cover Blurb

He'd be Mr. Perfect if he wasn't a perfect mess…

Rich Ronaldi is almost the complete package—smart, sexy, great job—but when his girlfriend dumps him, Rich swears he'll learn to cook and clean just to win her back…

She'll be happy to make him over, but not for another woman…

Rich is the only guy Becca Larsen's ever met who hasn't tried to change her. She's glad to help him master the domestic arts, but she'll be damned if he'll start cooking in another woman's kitchen—or bedroom…

BREAKFAST IN BED (book 3 in The Domestic Gods Series) by Robin Kaye

What do you get when you throw an uptight, reluctant debutant, and artist together with a domestically challenged Italian psych professor? Other than my latest release, Breakfast in Bed? You get a lot of laughs and over-the-top sexual tension.

When Rebecca Larsen moves into the apartment she sublet from her sister-in-law only to find Rich Ronaldi, her sister-in-law’s brother, a man she can’t stand, singing in the shower, all she could think to do was get rid of him.

Rich Ronaldi’s bad day began when he stepped out of the shower to find his sister’s best friend with a baseball bat, ogling him and claiming to be renting the same apartment. Then to make matters worse, he was late for a lunch meeting with his dean and mentor who made it clear that he thought it was time for Rich to settle down, only to be dumped an hour later by his girlfriend claiming he wasn’t relationship material.

Rich and Becca make a deal. She could stay in the guest room until her brownstone apartment was remodeled if she teaches him a few of the domestic arts, namely cooking, cleaning, and doing laundry. After all, even an the only son of an over-bearing Italian mother can expect her to cook, clean and do his laundry for so long. Rich needs to get his girlfriend back before a charity dinner he’s planning to attend with his boss.

Becca reluctantly takes him up on his offer, because where else can she find temporary housing for her and her three-legged mutant killer cat, Tripod.

Things heat up in more places than just the kitchen when Becca struggles to train Rich to be a Domestic God for another woman while doing her best to ignore her growing feelings for him.

Rich has his eye so trained on the goal of getting his ex back that he is slow to realize that the woman of his dreams is right in front of him. He’s relieved when his ex isn’t interested in taking him back, leaving him free to peruse Becca. Now all he has to do is talk her into it.

To give you an idea of just how these two interact, here’s one of my favorite scenes from the book, when Becca stumbles across a very naked, very hot Rich in what she assumed was her apartment:

  • Rich Ronaldi looked over his shoulder to find his sister’s best friend staring wide-eyed at his bare ass. Well, maybe it wasn’t only his ass she stared at because when he turned, she got a load of the full monty.

    Becca rested the end of the bat she carried on the floor. “Excuse me, but what the hell are you doing here?”

    Rich had never been the shy type, but the women who got a load of him in the buff were usually invited to do so. Becca, Miss prim-and-proper-ice-princess, wasn’t. He wished he knew where the damn towels were. He’d just moved in, well, in a figurative sense of the word. He’d stayed there for a few days, and he had a towel somewhere, but knowing himself, it was on the floor along with his dirty socks and underwear.

    If he’d known she’d be coming by, he’d have kicked them into the closet or at least under the bed. But then, Becca was the last woman he’d expected to darken his doorstep. He had no clue why, but since their first meeting, he got the distinct impression she wasn’t overly fond of him. “How did you get in here?”

    Becca didn’t seem to grasp the fact that standing naked in front of a woman who wouldn’t normally give him the time of day is not the most comfortable thing to do. She didn’t turn away or hand him a towel, not that there was one at hand. He brushed past her into the bedroom, saw a towel hanging off the footboard of his bed, and quickly tied it around his waist. The only reaction he saw from Becca was a blink.

    “I used my key. What are you dong in my bedroom, taking a shower in my bathroom, which is conveniently located in my apartment?”

    Rich let out a laugh. “Hold on, I’m the one asking the questions here. This is my apartment. I’m leasing it from Rosalie and Nick.”

    She crossed her arms, the action pulling her baggy sweatshirt taut across her chest. A chest he forgot she even had. When he realized he was staring, he returned his gaze to her face and found her rolling her eyes.

    “You’re impossible. So is your story since I’m subletting the apartment from Annabelle. It was her apartment, and now it’s mine. You need to leave.

    She looked like one of those sexy Anime cartoon characters. She was tall, just a few inches shorter than his own 6’3”, and thin along with long, long legs and short, choppy, platinum blonde, perpetually tussled hair that gave her a sexy as hell, just-been-fucked look. Rich mimicked her stance, careful not to spread his legs wide enough to dislodge the towel, though it would serve her right if he did. “You’re wrong. Rosalie and Nick own the apartment. They rented it to Annabelle, who has since moved out. I moved in. If anyone is leaving, it’s you.”

    “Well then, we have a problem. Because as of right now, I’m living here.”

    “Not with me, you’re not.”


    He waved his arm to encompass the whole apartment, and the whole mess he had scattered across it. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law.”

    “The only possession I see here is your mess. Everything I own that’s not in storage is now in the living room, so, in that respect, as in others too numerous to count, you come up…” She looked him up and down with a critical eye. “…decidedly short.”

  • © Robin Kaye, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2010

So if you were training your own yummy Domestic God, what would be the first thing you put on his honey-do list?

TWO copies of Breakfast in Bed are available and will be awarded to two commenters today ( Us and Canada only)! Be sure to let me know how to contact you.


Robin Kaye is a professional writer and winner of the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart award for her first novel, Romeo, Romeo. Her romantic comedies feature sexy, nurturing heroes and feisty, independent heroines. She lives with her husband and three children in Mt. Airy, Maryland and is working on the fourth book featuring yet another Domestic God! For more information, please visit

Monday, January 11, 2010


My blogger was unable to be here today, so I decided to reprise and article I wrote last winter. This week, like last year, was cold (only this year it resembled more of a walkin freezer) and snowy. Funny how the more things change, the more they remain the same, LOL!

When I was a kid, snow days were the thing to look forward to. A time for laugher and fun. No school, snowball fights, snow forts, and using the shovels—after we had shoveled the driveway—and making snow paths in the yard. We used these as trenches in our warfare games.

The not so fun part of snow days was my mom and her list of chores. I now know this was self-defense on her part. It was a way keep six rambunctious kids occupied. Needless to say, we didn’t often whine, “I’m bored and I’ve got nothing to do.” Lord, big mistake and *The List* came out.

Snow days at my house are a bit different. First, I don’t have six kids, thank God, to keep occupied. Back then we stayed outside or found adventures of “lets pretend that…” in our bedroom or the third story attic.

I have one child. Uno only goes so far. Snowboarding outside takes up a few hours, if I’m lucky. Snowball fights still happen but it’s the kid and me. He has TV, movies, 360 Xbox, paper and art supplies, and shelf full of books. I have a computer and projects to get done. Articles to write, books to finish, books to edit. Did I mention editing?

This is a normal workweek for me. I’m trying to keep to my schedule. Four days of no school and a husband who can’t get to work either. It’s vacation time for them. I’m in a groove and I have not one but two housebound males wandering around bored. I am not bored. I have plenty to do. I get up from the computer for a short fifteen-minute break and stretch out my tight muscles, go to the bathroom and get a cup a coffee. My mind is on what I’m writing (in this case, I'm working out the GMC for my next story), working out the kinks mentally, and walk back into my office and there’s my husband checking out Fox Sports. We do have a working TV.

“Oh, I thought you were done?”

I’m dumbfounded. You can tell, dropped jaw, wide eyes, standing frozen in the doorway.

He can tell. “You’re not done?”

“Sweetheart, what part of five open tabs on the computer screen makes you think I’m done?”

I always try for the sweet, reasonable approach first.

So I decide to take out the dog, clear my head in the cold outside air and rid myself of frustration. It’s beautiful outside. The type of day that brings back echoes of laughing kids, snowball fights and snow forts. I feel a pull on the leash and bring my mind back to today just in time to see my poor Great Dane trying to do her business and ever so slowly slide down the incline. This is her second winter and she’s still learning her way on this white stuff. The look on her face is priceless and I can’t help but laugh. It feels good. I’m feeling better, which is a good thing.

I walk back into the house; breathe a sigh of relief when I see my husband watching TV. I walk into my office. And there is my fourteen-year-old son.

At my computer.

“Oh, I thought you were done?”

Oh, yeah, it’s gonna be a long week. Sigh.
  • How do YOU handle family distractions when writing or working against deadlines? Care to share some tips?