Advice From The Stars: Tara Taylor Quinn

As the month of June comes to an June end, so do our wonderful quotes from our lovely RITA 2015 finalists! We begin our countdown to the last three with wise words from Tara Taylor Quinn!

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Read, share and enjoy! 

Tara Taylor Quinn’s 2015 RITA nomination in Contemporary Romance: Mid-Length is…

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Once a Family

The author of more than seventy original novels, published in twenty languages, Tara Taylor Quinn is a USA TODAY bestselling author with over seven million copies sold. She is known for delivering deeply emotional and psychologically astute novels of suspense and romance. Tara is a recipient of the Readers’ Choice Award, a four-time finalist for the RWA RITA® Award, and a finalist for the Reviewer’s Choice Award and the Booksellers’ Best Award. She has had multiple #1 bestseller rankings on Amazon. Tara is the past president of Romance Writers of America and served eight years on that board of directors. She has appeared on national and local TV across the country, including CBS Sunday Morning, and is a frequent guest speaker. In her spare time Tara likes to travel and enjoys crafting and in-line skating.

You can reach Tara at…
staff@tarataylorquinn.com
on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest,
or visit her website.

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Series Spotlight on…Harlequin Superromance

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Hi, I’m Piya Campana, Assistant Editor of Harlequin Superromance. I’m Super excited to

Piya Campana @piyacampana

Piya Campana @piyacampana

talk Superromance with you today! Harlequin Superromance is our longest contemporary series line, clocking in at a range of 80–85000 words. This longer word count allows for what we call a “big story” feel in our books—the depiction of the larger story around the central relationship. This can take the form of secondary plots and characters, the hero’s and heroine’s work and social lives, their families and communities .

 

 

Over the years Superromance has gone through changes with regard to themes. The ’90s, for example, in addition to contemporary themes, saw some stories with time travel elements and some even had paranormal elements. But the focus was and still is complex, believable characterization.

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Nowadays Superromance no longer publishes stories with time travel or paranormal themes (but if the latter is what you’re into, check out this recent post on Harlequin Nocturne!), but still welcomes a variety of contemporary themes, voices and tones. While the majority of our stories fall under contemporary romance alone, dealing with various themes, we also have:

Romances with mystery and suspense elements (eg. To Trust a Cop by Sharon Hartley To Trust a Copand Finding Justice by Rachel Brimble)

Romances with a family drama element (eg. A Time for Us by Amy Knupp and Wife by Design by Tara Taylor Quinn)

Romance with comedic elements (eg. Dating a Single Dad by Kris Fletcher)

Romance with Western themes (eg. The Montana Way Dating a Single Dadminiseries by Jeannie Watt)

We welcome stories taking place in everything from small towns to big cities to international settings, and a range of sensuality, from sweet to hot.

One of the best things about Harlequin Superromance is the variety. This makes it exciting for readers (and editors!), but also means that, for prospective authors, it can be that much harder to target.

So what are Harlequin Superromance editors looking for right now?

You’ve read our books, you’ve pored over our guidelines. But what is the number one thing that makes us perk up and take notice?

Besides exceptional writing, it’s your take on a tried and true hook. For instance, what’s your version of a second chance romance? Or a bad boy turned good? Examining a popular romance theme from a new angle keeps things fresh.

Winning Ruby HeartWe also welcome diversity in our characters and are interested to see that in submissions (see Winning Ruby Heart by Jennifer Lohmann for a hero who uses a wheelchair, Rodeo Dreams by Sarah M. Anderson and Too Friendly to Date by Nicole Helm for LGBT supporting characters, Back to the Good Fortune Diner by Vicki Essex and Her Hawaiian Homecoming by Cara Lockwood for interracial couples).

We are not looking for…

—A story that is 80K+ words but doesn’t otherwise fit our guidelines

A high word count alone does not equal a good fit for us. We still need an emotional central romance and an authentic, believably motivated hero and heroine. Also, while a too-high word count is not necessarily a reason to reject your submission, if your story is 100K+ and you’re targeting our line, your manuscript might benefit from a tighter focus. In the same way, if your story is 50K, you should consider ways to expand it.

—New Adult romances

Our books usually feature characters who have had a bit of life experience and a few relationships under their belts. While it is possible for a hero or heroine to be of a New The Comeback of Roy WalkerAdult age and fit these parameters, for the purposes of our series, this is not usually the case. New Adult stories are also often (but not always) characterized by a first person POV. Harlequin Superromances are usually told in a third person omniscient voice, focusing on both the hero’s and heroine’s experiences, but we would never say no to a well-crafted story in a first-person POV that would otherwise fit our guidelines and isn’t New Adult.

—Erotica or erotic romance

But high sensuality is fine—check out The Comeback of Roy Walker by Stephanie Doyle for an example.

Clear as mud? Ask me anything in the comments! And don’t forget to check out  this month’s offerings from Harlequin Superromance for more great examples!

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My Secret Crush: Kaidan Alenko

Carina Press author Jenn Burke is here this week to reveal her inner gamer and share her Secret Crush!

My ultimate crush is: Kaidan Alenko.



I can hear you all now. Don’t bother to deny it. You’re all looking at each other with befuddled expressions, whispering, “Who on earth is Kaidan Alenko?”

Well, don’t worry. I am an unrepentant Kaidan Alenko fangirl and I am here to educate you.

In 2007, I started playing a video game my husband had originally picked up for himself. “You’ll like it,” he said. “It’s set in space and there’s adventure and you get an awesome ship…just play it.” So I did. That game was the first Mass Effect, and sure enough, it sucked me into the world of Commander Shepard (the player character), Reapers (huge alien invaders), mass relays (space teleportation gates), and the Citadel (where weird alien politics happen). Oh, and it introduced me to Lieutenant Kaidan Alenko, one of the members of Commander Shepard’s team.




See, BioWare—the maker of the Mass Effect series (and, later, the Dragon Age series)—is well known for inserting romantic storylines in their games. The player character always has a bevy of love interests to choose from and a romantic storyline that’s unique to each. It really adds a lot of depth to the games and makes the characters that much more human (even in the aliens’ cases—and yes, you can romance some aliens). In the three games of the Mass Effect series, the player controls Shepard through the course of three years with a lot of drama and trauma—because, of course, the games are first and foremost adventure games. During this time, Shepard’s actions shape the galaxy and affect the personalities of his or her team members.

Kaidan Alenko is no exception. He starts out the series as a competent if not stellar officer in the Alliance Navy and the reason for that becomes clear quickly—Kaidan is a biotic (someone who can manipulate and move matter with his mind) and because of frightening events in his childhood as he was learning how to control his abilities, he’s always held back. By the end of the first game, Kaidan realizes that he can’t hold back any longer—not professionally and not his heart, either. And although the romantic storyline is sweet and makes me swoon, it’s his development as a character separate from the romance that I really find compelling. By the third game (which happens three years later), he’s achieved the rank of Major and is in command of a squad of special ops soldiers—a huge leap in responsibility for the guy you met in the first game.

In video games, it’s common for recurring characters to need something from the player character—they need the PC’s help to carry out a quest or solve a mystery or something. I think one of the things that makes Kaidan’s character so interesting in this context is that he never asks Shepard for anything. He’s a fully realized character whose development does not hinge on the PC’s choices in any of the games. Serving with Shepard—the badass of all badasses—prompts Kaidan to put more of himself into his work, but he doesn’t do it with the hope of impressing him or her. It’s just the right thing to do.

Other than the psychic abilities, I can picture Kaidan as a regular guy I might meet at work. He’s a hard worker, a nice guy with some alpha tendencies but recognizes when he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. He’s a guy that had a crappy childhood but came back from it on his own; he doesn’t need anyone to fix him. He’s a hero, but also a guy I can respect, not just drool over, and that makes him my ultimate crush.

Thanks for educating us on this amazing hero, Jenn! Do you have a #SecretCrush everyone should know? Tell us below in comments!

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Weekend Writing Tip: Christy McKellen

This weekend, we’ve got even more fab author advice on SOLD. Have you ever wondered about writing for more than one Harlequin series? Or thought about how you might prepare to target a new series? Well, new Harlequin Romance author @ChristyMcKellen, formally a Harlequin KISS author, tells you her story!

Follow Christy on Twitter, and post any questions below!

Happy weekend writing!

The SOLD Editors
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Interview with… Alison Roberts

Alison Roberts is a New Zealander, currently lucky enough to live near a beautiful beach in Auckland.  She is also lucky enough to write for both the Harlequin Romance and Medical lines.  A primary school teacher in a former life, she is also a qualified paramedic.  She loves to travel and dance, drink champagne and spend time with her daughter and her friends.

Don’t miss Alison’s latest books – The Wedding Planner and the CEO and Always the Midwife – out now!

1. What book first got you hooked on Harlequin?0515-9781460381694-bigw
It was a Medical Romance by Marion Lennox—I wish I could remember the title!

2. How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
With champagne (of course). :)

3. Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
That’s a very hard question and I can’t pick just one. I would say An Unexpected Choice for its fun factor when my heroine managed to get engaged to two different men on the same night—neither of whom were the hero. I would also say Her Baby Out of the Blue because I loved twisting the much-used premise of the secret baby but making it the heroine’s baby and not the hero’s. My first Christmas story Christmas Bride-to-Be was set in small town New Zealand and I loved that, and let’s not get started on my leather-clad, motorbike riding paramedics because I love them all…

4. What’s top of your TBR pile?
Let me go and have a look. I’ve got Patricia Cornwall’s latest Flesh and Blood and a heap of romances to look forward to. The pile is in danger of toppling. And then there’s my Kindle with a whole lot more. The pile never seems to get smaller!

5. What book do you wish you’d written and why?
Another hard question. I think I’d go back to a childhood favourite like Anne of Green Gables or The Borrowers or the Narnia series or… I could list dozens and the reason I’d choose one is because I’d love to have given that kind of magic to a child and to foster or perhaps instil the kind of lifelong love of reading that will always bring me such joy.

6. What’s harder—first or last lines?
I would say the first line because that’s what’s going to capture or lose the interest of someone who’s opened your book. I find the last line often just ‘happens’ and when it’s there you know it’s time to stop.

7. How do you choose your characters’ names?
That’s actually getting harder because I have favourite names and you can’t keep using them! Sometimes I’ll hear a name and know I want to use it so I’ll scribble it on a piece of paper that I’ll probably lose. Sometimes I’ll choose one and then down the track it just doesn’t feel right so I have to change it, which means a red flag for proofing time! I love nicknames, too, or the way some names get shortened—but sometimes that’s only suitable for secondary characters. Like the Philippa I had as a heroine’s daughter who was called ‘Flipper.’

8. How do you push through writer’s block?
With blood, sweat and tears L No, actually, I have two failsafe methods. The first is to go back over what I’ve already written in detail—tracking the way the characters and their relationship are developing or the story arc and what’s happening when. Often a block happens because you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. The other thing that always helps me is to talk to my tribe—and by that I mean the wonderful writer friends I’m lucky enough to have in my corner. Talking always helps and if enough spaghetti gets thrown at the wall, something is bound to stick sometime.

9. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had?
That it’s conflict that captures interest. As I once read, if you’re sitting in a restaurant and there are two tables near you and at one table there is a couple who are holding hands and gazing lovingly at each other over the candlelight, and at the other table is a couple who are having a blazing row, it’s no contest which one you are going to be more interested in, is it?

10. Your preferred writing snack?
Chocolate. Or roasted, salted peanuts. :)

0515-9781460381090-bigw11. Who is your favourite fictional couple?
I think I have to pick Claire and Jamie from Diana Gabaldon’s first book Cross Stitch. Two strong, independent characters who are courageous and feisty and real. The relationship is so real as well and the kind of passion we all dream of finding.

12. If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
Tricky—because if I rewrote my life I wouldn’t be who I am and I wouldn’t have the same amazing people like my daughter and my friends that I love so much. It’s tempting to look back and want to change the not so good stuff but that’s what makes us who we are. If life was easy it would get boring, wouldn’t it?

13. What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I’m really good at knitting. When I was 14 I knitted my parents matching and very complicated Aran jumpers that weighed a ton. Come to think of it, I don’t think I ever saw them wearing them.

14. What is your most overused word?
Hmm. That could be something I need to find out. Maybe someone could let me know? :)

15. If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
A singer/songwriter. Or a professional dancer. Both at the same time, maybe.

16. When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
Yesterday, when I said goodbye to my daughter at the airport. Sniff…

17. What does love feel like?
It feels huge. Romantic and parental love is a cosmic hug that makes everything in existence less important than the person you love, including yourself, even. And it has a power like nothing else. You feel like you can—and will—do whatever it takes to protect and nurture that person. And then there are other forms that are just as powerful. It makes your friends your true family and it can bring communities together to achieve the most astonishing things. It feels like magic because that’s what it is, I think.

18. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Champagne. And cheese. Both French, of course!

19. What’s your most romantic song?
It changes. I chose ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ for my wedding song and for a long time it was Lone Star’s ‘Amazed’. Right now, I’m loving Ellie Goulding’s version of  ‘How Long Will I Love You’ and John Legend’s ‘All of Me.’

20. Every hero needs a…
A heroine. Did you really need to ask? :)

 

 

 

We hope you enjoyed these insights into the wonderful world of Alison Roberts! 

Happy writing :) 

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Confessions of a Harlequin Editor: Dana Grimaldi

Meet Dana Grimaldi, Harlequin editor, photographer and GoT fan!

Dana Grimaldi @DanaGrimaldi

Dana Grimaldi @DanaGrimaldi

Hello! My name is Dana Grimaldi and I’m an Assistant Editor/Editorial Assistant for Harlequin Heartwarming, Superromance and Gold Eagle. I’ve been working at Harlequin for seven years now, and I can’t wait to give you a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to work in the editorial department. It might seem like editors are faceless robots who process manuscripts and correct commas. But I can assure you, we’re real people who hate sending rejection letters and love the X-men. Read on for more insights into the life of an editor…

My favorite part of the job is…making The Call! Working with new authors is so exciting, and I love their enthusiasm and fresh ideas. And who doesn’t like giving good news?

The TV show I can’t get enough of right now is…Game of Thrones! I’ve read the books and watched the show and I can’t wait to find out what happens next. As an editor, I get to read books by my favorite authors months before they’re published, so having to wait is excruciating. I might even call it…a mummer’s farce!

If I wasn’t an editor I would be…a photographer. Before I started at Harlequin, I applied to be a photographer with the local newspaper. I didn’t get the job—possibly because my camera broke while I was shooting photos for the test—but I think it wasn’t meant to be. I love being an editor. Working with authors and helping them make their story the strongest it can be is incredibly rewarding. I still enjoy photography in my spare time, and I post photos on twitter and my tumblr account.

My editorial pet peeve is…stories with no conflict. Authors, I know you love your characters—we love them, too—but exciting stories need conflict! Bad things need to happen—lots of them. If your characters aren’t struggling, if there’s nothing keeping the hero and heroine from loving each other or reaching their goals, the reader won’t keep turning the pages. If there’s no conflict, there’s no story. For example, imagine the opening of Gone with the Wind. Scarlett O’Hara sees Rhett Butler for the first time…and immediately forgets about Ashley. She and Rhett get married and live happily ever after by chapter two. Where’s the fun in that?

Thanks for reading my editor confessions! If you’d like to leave me a question, I’ll be happy to answer in the comment section below. And join me in tweeting with the #ZeroConflictQuotes hashtag. I’m going to kick things off with this: “I don’t mind snakes, Jock! I don’t mind ’em at all!” #IndianaJones #ZeroConflictQuotes.

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Advice From The Stars: Rose Zediker

Today’s inspiring words come from the wonderful Rose Zediker!

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Read, share and enjoy! 

Rose Zediker’s 2015 RITA nomination in Inspirational Romance is…

0214-9780373486960-bigwThe Widow’s Suitor 

Rose Ross Zediker lives in rural Elk Point, South Dakota, with her husband of twenty-eight years. Their grown son has started a family of his own. Rose works full-time for an investment firm and writes during the evening or weekends. Some of her pastimes include reading, sewing, embroidery, quilting and spoiling her granddaughters.

Besides writing inspirational romance novels, Rose has many publishing credits in the Christian children’s genre. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. Visit Rose on the web at www.roserosszediker.blogspot.com.

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I Sold My Book! Meet Heidi Hormel

 

Congratulations to Heidi Hormel, debut author for Harlequin American Romance!

Heidi Hormel-head shotMy books are not about princesses (although a cowgirl princess might work), but that’s the way I see my debut Harlequin American Romance, The Surgeon and the Cowgirl. You know, one of those princesses who knows she’s royal even though no one else can see it at first.

The Surgeon and The Cowgirl got started in September of 2010 as part of the New Voices contest from Mills & Boon. It made it into the final four. The princess was sure that her day on the dais with the crown and sash was just around the corner.

So not so.

After languishing (and much revising of this reunion romance), the princess was back in the fray in 2013 for the So You Think You Can Write contest where she placed in the Top 10. Once again the shiny tiara was in sight.

Not so fast, said the editors at Harlequin. The princess needed a little rewriting and polishing.

As I worked with Editor Extraordinaire Dana Hopkins during the first half of 2014, I let her know about a second connected book I had been working on (aka Princess II).

Time passed. More time passed.

Then, a note from Dana, she and the Senior (aka Exalted) Editor Kathleen Scheibling were discussing my princesses…er…books (The Surgeon and The Cowgirl and The Convenient Cowboy).

Good news, but not THE news. I managed to act like nothing was going to happen any time soon. I even turned off my phone during a girls lunch—only polite thing to do.

After I got home, I had work to do as a self-employed writer/editor before going off to rehearse for Barefoot in the Park at our local theatre. A quick email check, though, who can resist that? There was one from Dana asking to set up a time to “chat”—that had to be THE ANOINTING … CALL, right?

Then I noticed three missed calls from…Canada (home of Harlequin American Romance). I redialed twice but hung up—cold feet.

I emailed Dana and said I was available (I didn’t add exclamation points or anything) and moments later the phone rang.

She told me—who knows what? I heard “two-book contract”—my brain stopped working and my mouth went on auto-pilot. I did ask questions—they may even have been intelligent questions.

Then, I got off the phone and danced around my office, much to the annoyance of my feline overlord. Back to the computer to email everyone, followed by days of calling friends and family!

Reaction of Feline Overlord to The Call

Reaction of Feline Overlord to The Call

And that August 2014 CALL was the end of my CALLs from Harlequin. At the end of May, I got another email from the Best of Editors Dana asking to set up a time to talk. This CALL led to a three-book contract for more cowgirls and cowboys in 2016, including a Christmas story.

Finding a home for my cowgirls at American Romance is particularly sweet because The Surgeon and The Cowgirl was started just after my mother passed away, and I like to think of the story of Jessie and Payson as her story.

The Surgeon and the Cowgirl The Convenient Cowboy

A former innkeeper and radio talk show host, Heidi Hormel has always been a writer. She spent years as a small-town newspaper reporter and as a PR flunky before settling happily into penning romances with a wink and a wiggle. While living in the Snack Food Capital of the World, Heidi has trotted around the globe, from forays into Death Valley to stops at Loch Ness in Scotland. Her first two (published) novels are from Harlequin American Romance: The Surgeon and the Cowgirl, available now, and The Convenient Cowboy, available August 2015. Sign up for her newsletter and visit her online: HeidiHormel.net; Facebook, Heidi Hormel, Author; Twitter, @HeidiHormel; and Pinterest, HHormel.

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Dear Editor…

Dear Editor,

I have a great idea for my next story, but before I start writing I was wondering, what exactly do editors look for in the first couple of pages of a new submission? I really want to WOW the editor who reads my story, but wasn’t sure where to start and how to make my story stand out from the crowd. Do you have any tips that might help?

Thanks,
Tina

Dear Tina,

Those first few pages of your story are so incredibly important to not only an editor, but also a reader. That first glimpse into the lives and personalities of your characters is what will make readers read on, but also have editors excited about your writing!

But, how do you WOW an editor? Tina, this might seem like a scary task at first, but rest assured there are plenty of tips we can offer to help you make the most of those first few pages! We’ve grilled some of our dedicated (and we promise not-so-scary) editors, about what they look for when a new submission arrives in their inbox and here’s what we managed to find out for you…

  • A catchy opening line made it to the top of many submission wish lists. We’re looking for something that is not only attention grabbing, but also something that excites us!
  • Characters we want to know more about will keep us turning those pages! If your characters are interesting, likeable and have a strong conflict, you’re sure to have us hooked! Perhaps they’re funny, or sinfully seductive or just broodingly sexy…the possibilities are endless – and you won’t find editors complaining!
  • It’s important to see dialogue and action between the hero and heroine in those first few pages of your story. We want to get a sense of who your characters are, how your characters interact and what stage their relationship is at. Description is great for setting up the world of your story, but be careful you don’t get caught up in just telling us what is happening – show us too!
  • An interesting set-up between the hero and heroine will make a lasting impression on an editor and make for a stand out submission. For some editors, this means whisking them away into an extraordinary world and transporting them outside of their lives. For others, it’s seeing two characters who you’d never normally put together, thrown into an impossible and unpredictable situation; perhaps it’s a twist on a conventional set-up? Remember, editors are always looking for something that little bit different in submissions so don’t be afraid to think outside the box!
  • For some editors, humour at the beginning or the story will have them eating up the pages of your story! But remember to keep everything you do true to the characters your writing about. If your hero and heroine meet in a hilarious way, tell us about it! But, if your hero and heroine have a shared past and broke up over something deeply emotional, humour on the first few pages might not be what’s right for your story.
  • Our last top tip for what editors look for is good spelling and grammar. It’s great that you’re excited about your submission – we are too! But do take the time to show it the love and attention it deserves. That one last check before you submit can make a big difference, especially if you have any missed commas or letters!

Tina, we hope this insight into what editors look for in those first couple of pages has helped to give you an idea about how to start your next fabulous story! We love that you’re excited about your new story and can’t wait to see it!

Happy writing!

The Sold Editors x

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Advice From The Stars: Elia Winters

Need some inspiration to help you through your mid-week slump? Sold has you covered! Today’s wise words come from Elia Winters! 

RITAQuotes_EliaWinters

Read, share and enjoy!

Elia Winters’ 2015 RITA nomination in Best First Book is…

{818B948E-17EF-4F91-8CE7-998D91DC788B}Img100Purely Professional 

Elia has always been a New England girl; she lives there now with her husband and an odd assortment of pets. In addition to writing saucy romance, Elia teaches high school English and works to balance her love of the outdoors with a bottomless well of geekiness. You can find her online at eliawinters.com.

 

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