Weekend Writing Tips: Flo Nicoll

This weekend, we’ve got Harlequin UK Editor Flo Nicoll on SOLD to give you her top tip about writing good sex scenes!

Enjoy, and happy writing!

The SOLD Editors x

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We’ve got a right royal #WritingChallenge for you!

Writing Challenge BubbleYou guessed it – this weekend’s #WritingChallenge has a royal twist!

Your #WritingChallenge, should you choose to accept it, is…

Your royal hero and heroine have been betrothed since childhood, but they’ve never met. Now it’s their wedding day… what happens next?

We can’t wait to be surprised and enthralled!

Happy Writing!

The SOLD Editors x

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Interview with…Beth Cornelison!

Beth Cornelison first sold to Harlequin in 2004. Her Harlequin Romantic Suspense (Intimate Moments) debut was To Love, Honor and Defend and since then, she has written twenty-two books for Harlequin. What she loves most about writing for Harlequin is the loyal and enthusiastic readers. Don’t miss Colton Cowboy Protector out now!

Follow Beth on Twitter and Facebook!

1. What book first got you hooked on Harlequin? 0615-9780373279210-bigw
A series from the early 1990’s called Sonny’s Girls, especially Erica Spindler’s Longer Than…

2.How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
I called family and writer friends to share the happy news, and it seems like chocolate was involved. Lots of chocolate!

3.Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
So many have! But I worked in a bit of an homage to my grandmother in The Christmas Stranger, and that book was a finalist in the RWA Rita contest. That book has a sentimental attachment for me.

4.What’s top of your TBR pile?
At the moment, I’m reading books as a judge in the Rita contest but I’m hoping to work in Kristan Higgins’s In Your Dreams. I love her books!

5.What book do you wish you’d written and why?
There are many classics that have stood the test of time: Pride and Prejudice and Gone with the Wind to name a couple, Harry Potter more recently. I’d love to pen a book like these that makes readers fall in love with reading and stands the test of time.

6.What’s harder – first or last lines?
For me, last lines. I really want to leave the reader with a smile and a tug at her heart.

7.How do you choose your characters’ names?
Sometimes I try to find a name with an underlying meaning. I did this in my Bancroft Brides trilogy for the sisters. Other times I just test out names until I find one I like that also fits the character.

8.How do you push through writer’s block?
I’ve been known to write scenes out of order just to be putting words on the page. Music has always been good for my muse as well. It really stirs my imagination and gets the words flowing again!

9.What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had?
Never give up! Read widely and be persistent!

10.Your preferred writing snack?
I chew a lot of mint gum while I write.

11.Who is your favourite fictional couple?
How do I pick just one? I’ll say Claire and Jamie from Outlander, because I’m new to the series and loving it and the TV version airing in the US.

12.If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
Not much. I am where I am today because of everything that’s happened, and I love my life, my family and my friends!

13.What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
I leave all the adventure and daring to my heroes and heroines. I’m rather a chicken about anything daring!

14.What is your most overused word?
Oh, my…probably “sighed.” Writing suspense, my characters are quite often frustrated with each other and express it by sighing. They also sigh when tired.

15.If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
a public relations specialist. I actually was for a while. That’s what my degree is in.

16.When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
Today. It is important to tell our family and friends every day!

17.What does love feel like?
Warmth and happiness.

18.What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Sweets. Especially ice cream. I know it goes straight to my hips, but I love the stuff!

19.What’s your most romantic song?
There are so many romantic ballads that I could name, but I think it depends on the couple, their unique situation and circumstance. The song they first danced to or had played at their wedding would hold the most sentimental meaning. (In other words, I’m drawing a blank on specific titles that I’d call “most romantic.”)

20.Every hero needs a…
strong moral fiber and a respect for his heroine.


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Advice From The Archives: Creating Characters

We’re talking characters today! This post is from the 2010 New Voices competition. Enjoy!

Creating Characters Readers Will Fall in Love With

Having strong and believable characters in your novel is a must – it’s the best way to gain your readers’ sympathy and keep their interest. More than an exciting plot, clever twist or an exotic location, characters are the reason why we read romantic fiction.

  • Take inspiration from the world around you. People you know or have known might provide some ideas for interesting personality traits (though only use for inspiration!!). Or you might like to base physical characteristics on someone who caught your eye on the bus, a cute guy who serves your morning coffee… dream a little!
  • Keep an eye on the news. You’ll often find intriguing characters to inspire you in newspapers, magazines or on the TV. This helps keep your ideas up-to-date.
  • Create character profiles or biographies. It’s also a good idea to find photos from magazines that you feel most resemble your characters. This might help bring them to life, especially if you’re a very visual person.
  • Ask questions like: “What do they want?”; “What are they afraid of?”; “What is the worst and best thing that could happen to them?” All this preparation will help make your characters three-dimensional.
  • Try to write one single defining sentence about your main characters. This is a difficult but useful task, which helps you to focus on your characters.
  • The most important things to know about your characters are the issues that will drive the story forward. You need to know your characters’ goals.
  • And remember to avoid character stereotypes – they might be humorous, but they’re dull and can feel like plot devices. The blonde “other-woman” might just have had her day!
  • The Heroine: She must be someone likeable, someone your readers can identify with. But that doesn’t mean she has to be perfect! We all have flaws and like reading about people who do too.
  • The Hero: He must be desirable, someone your readers can fall in love with, someone who is so real he almost steps off the page.
  • Have fun! You get to create new and exciting people to take on an interesting journey – and these characters will be with you for a long time – so enjoy the ride!

Some writers like to write mini-bios for their characters, this certainly doesn’t work for everyone – but it might for you…

Character Check List:

Physical Characteristics
Name; age; date of birth; birthplace; height; weight; body type; skin type; hair; eyes;
nose; mouth; clothes; style. 

Personality Profile
Strengths; weaknesses; ambitions; beliefs; self-perception; how others see him/her; hobbies; moral values; eccentricities; fears; most defining characteristic.

Current Situation
Marital status; occupation; where they live; food and drink preferences; car; pets.

Birthplace; childhood; educational background; former partners. Present problem; how the problem gets worse; how the problem gets resolved.

Mother; father; children; siblings; friends; colleagues.

Happy writing! 

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Weekend Writing Tip: Megan Haslam

This weekend, we have lovely editor Megan Haslam here on SOLD to give you her top writing tip on character development and knowing your characters inside out!

Watch, enjoy and happy writing!

The SOLD Editors x

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Interview with…Caroline Kimberly

Caroline Kimberly first sold to Harlequin in 2013. Her Ashford Brothers series debut was An Inconvenient Kiss and since then, she has written three books in the series. What she loves most about writing for Harlequin is the wonderful team working on her side! “Knowing my editor is working hard to help hone a story is peace of mind for me. She always has thought-provoking questions and comments, and the give-and-take process of editing with her has made me a better writer overall. I also love seeing what the art department develops for cover art. It’s exciting to see characters come to life.” Don’t Miss Caroline’s latest book  – An Inconvenient Kiss out now!

Be sure to check out Caroline’s website{0B5341C5-89A9-4B11-ACA5-FA8F31CE2EE0}Img100

1. What book first got you hooked on Harlequin?
I’ve been reading Harlequin books so long, I can’t even remember the first book I picked up! I think I was 16 or 17. They never disappoint.

2. How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
I called my husband and my two best friends, of course. After that, my husband and I went out to dinner and toasted with a nice bottle of champagne.

3. Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
An Inconvenient Wife because I had to work on it in pieces over years. It was my “escape” from the reality of raising spirited toddlers, so it remains one of my favorite projects.

4. What’s top of your TBR pile?
Four Nights with the Duke (Eloisa James) when it comes out and Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

5. What book do you wish you’d written and why?
In non-romance, the Harry Potter series. It was creative and just an addictive series to read. In romance, I wish I would have written Duchess in Love by Eloisa James or My Dearest Enemy my Connie Brockway. Both books are witty, sexy and beautifully written. I read them over and over again.

6. What’s harder – first or last lines?
Last lines! I have a hard time letting go of a story.

7. How do you choose your characters’ names?
I pore through baby name books. I love looking through all the names and their meanings. It’s a great feeling when I come across the perfect name for a character I’m developing.

8. How do you push through writer’s block?
I read some of my favorite books and then I make myself sit down and type something—anything—whether it’s a page or just a paragraph. It may not be good, but there’s usually something I can use or rework.

9. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had?
Never give up! Writing can be a difficult industry, because there’s plenty of rejection. The best thing you can do is to keep trying.

10. Your preferred writing snack?
Diet coke, chips and salsa. Yum!

11. Who is your favourite fictional couple?
Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. I love their banter and their strong personalities.

12. If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
I would have given myself maturity and wisdom at a much younger age. Other than that, I’m happy with my life overall.

13. What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
That in addition to romance, I love sci-fi. I know…they don’t exactly go together.

14. What is your most overused word?
It depends on the book, but I know I’ve overused ‘smirk,’ ‘grimace,’ and ‘breathless’ all shamelessly.

15. If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
a personal trainer.

16. When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
This morning, to my husband when he was leaving for work.

17. What does love feel like?
To me, love is putting someone else’s needs before your own wishes. It’s selfless, yet it’s fulfilling.

18. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Romance novels!

19. What’s your most romantic song?
Probably At Last by Etta James. The lyrics are romantic, but her rich, soulful voice takes it to a much deeper level.

20. Every hero needs a…
sense of humor!

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Harlequin Author Confessions: How Do You React To A Big Revision Letter?

 Ever struggled to know how to react to a big revision letter? Do you worry that you won’t be able to tackle the revisions, or that it’s a sign you should just bin the manuscript and start over?

Well, don’t panic! This week, we’ve rounded up some brave authors to ‘fess up how they really feel when a big set of revisions land in their inbox, and what they do next…

Rachael_ThomasRachael Thomas, Harlequin Presents
When a big revision letter lands in my inbox, the first think I do is panic. How could I have not seen that? Or how could I let my hero or heroine do that? All sorts of questions rush into my mind. So I print off the letter, read it through and then walk away. I leave it, at least overnight, giving myself plenty of time to think about what needs changing. When I come back I’ve lost the disappointment that I hadn’t got it right and am focused and ready to make the changes required. I read through the letter again, this time highlighting important parts. As I work through my manuscript, I read the letter many times, making sure I know exactly what is required to make my story even better!

Karen Harper, MIRAKaren_Harper
First of all, do no harm.  Do not stab the letter; do not scream, cry or grab the wine bottle in the fridge.  Keep calm.  Read through it once and set it aside until you calm down and get some perspective.

Remind yourself that your editor is a skilled reader.  This does not mean you might not find something in his/her letter you might want to discuss or stand firm on.  If so, be sure to have your reasons and CALMLY present them.

This is not the end of the world.  I’ve been published since 1982 and have survived several of these “bombshells.”  Take things one comment at a time and get back into the ms. to consider them and implement what you can.  Don’t be afraid to get more info if something is not clear.

Actually, I have one of these letters waiting for me right now.  I’ll do my best and live to write another day.

Sophie_PembrokeSophie Pembroke, Harlequin Romance
I find I always go through the same stages, no matter the size of the revisions requested! First is despair – ‘how could I possibly have got it so wrong?’ Next up is denial – ‘actually, this isn’t all that bad, if you squint at it in a good light…’ Then reality sets in – ‘Okay, this is going to take a lot of work. But it’s doable. And actually, it’s going to make the book a lot stronger.’ That’s usually the point where I email my editor, thanking her for flagging up all the things that I secretly knew weren’t working but wasn’t sure why, and guiding me towards some solutions. Sometimes we have a call to chat through the changes, sometimes I just get stuck in on making a revision plan. But the one constant is – she’s always right about what needs to change, and the book is always better in the end!

Liz Tyner, Harlequin HistoricalLiz_Tyner
For about a day, I let the comments meander around in my head. Then I read the revisions very carefully to make sure I don’t misunderstand them. Re-writing the suggestions in outline form and putting them in chronological order helps, if it’s possible. For an overall change needed throughout the story, I think about scenes which could be altered to accomplish this. I might even highlight the comments as they are completed, both on the outline and in the manuscript so I can go back after finishing to double check. For me, it’s a one-step-at-a-time process.

Christyne_ButlerChristyne Butler, Special Edition
Hmmm, let’s see. I read it through all the way with a lot of “no way!” and “are you kidding me?” spewing forth, but then I close the email and let it stew a bit, sometimes for just an hour or two or even overnight (depending in the deadline). Then I come back, reread it and admit yeah, most of not all of the changes are for better and get to work, doing the easy stuff first and saving the more difficult for last. Yes, I tend to put off the inevitable.



Susan Carlisle, Harlequin Medical RomanceSusan_Carlisle
First off, I understand that revisions are part of the process but that doesn’t mean I like them. I take a deep breath and read the letter on my laptop then print the revision notes off. That way I can make notes on the paper. I then sleep on them two to three days before I tackle the revisions starting with the easy ones and working through to the more difficult or time consuming ones. I have to admit revisions always make my books better, otherwise, I would truly hate them!

Linda_GoodnightLinda Goodnight, Love Inspired
Ugh. No one loves those, but revisions are sometimes part of the business. My first reaction is always, “What!” And then, I read through the letter and put it away for the day, doing nothing at all while the advice settles into my subconscious.  I’ve found that stepping back from the letter for a bit helps me regain perspective and calm down a little. Meanwhile, the girls in the basement are doing their job. Then, I get down to the business of making the book better.


Kate James, Harlequin HeartwarmingKate_James
I react with enthusiasm! I am very fortunate to be working with Paula Eykelhof. Her requested revisions always make perfect sense, and my work is stronger because of them. I learn something from her each and every time I receive a revision letter. (Thank you, Paula, for being such a dream to work with!)



Keli_GwynKeli Gwyn, Love Inspired Historical

I received my first revision letter from my editor pre-contract. My chest tightened and I fought a wave of dizziness. Would I be able to adequately address the issues and deliver a revised version of the story strong enough to bring about the long-awaited offer? I did, but I still had to perform a second round of revisions post-contract. Through the process, I learned that Emily Rodmell really knows her stuff. When I received the revisions on my second book, I only had a two-minute meltdown, and then reason returned. I reminded myself that Emily’s suggestions make my stories much better. To my surprise, fear gave way to eagerness. I dove into the revisions determined to make that story shine. I’m sure I’ll experience moments of doubt throughout my writing career, but I can honestly say I no longer dread revision letters.

We hope you’ve found this insight into authors’ minds interesting (we certainly did!) and useful. And thank you very much to all the authors who contributed!

If you enjoyed this post and want to read more ‘Author Confessions’, check out this post on how authors tackle the dreaded first chapter!

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Dear Editor…

Dear Editor,

I have a story in mind that is close to my heart and tackles some quite difficult subjects. But how rooted in reality can I make it? I would really appreciate some advice before I start, I’m just not sure what line to walk between reality and a good escapist read! Thank you!


Dear Tammy,

You’ve raised a really interesting question here! Treading the fine line between reality and escapism is undoubtedly a tricky job, but finding the right balance is essential when writing romance. Firstly, readers come to this genre specifically to escape, put themselves in the heroine’s shoes and find themselves whisked off on a romantic adventure. But at the same time, the characters and the world need to be rooted in reality – believable enough so that readers think ‘it could happen to me!’

Building a believable world

Whether you’re setting your story in a desert kingdom, a fictional royal principality, city or small town, you need to create a world that readers can instantly step into. So steer clear of places involving current conflict or where the destination will become the focus of the story and not your hero and heroine. If you’re planning on going down the high fantasy route, then remember to target your submission! Different worlds and their tropes apply to different series and genres. Readers don’t want to find a vampire in a Sheikh palace any more than a cattleman on a Viking ship!

Too domestic?

No one wants to read the ins and outs of what your characters had for breakfast! So steer clear of telling the reader too much about the ordinary aspects of their lives. Instead, keep the pace of the story moving with action and dialogue. Going out for dinner may be essential to the development of the relationship – but what they ordered isn’t!

Think about what details your reader needs to know and how it will be relevant to the romance. For example, describing the clear aqua Mediterranean sea the heroine looks out at from her opulent bedroom while she relives the events of night before is great! But telling the reader your heroine went to the bathroom, brushed her hair and then changed her outfit before she looked out the window simply slows the pace of your story down. If it helps, write everything down while the world is made clearer in your head, then read it back and keeping asking the question ‘Do readers need to know this?’ I know it’s scary to press delete, but remember, less is more! Especially when it comes to the domesticity of your characters, save those all important words for creating a convincing romance!

Pick your emotional battles

Hard hitting, challenging subjects are something we actively encourage and we love the diversity they bring. But ensuring the subject matter doesn’t take over and bring the tone of the book down is in the hands of your characters and you. Don’t let them wallow in self-pity or dwell too much on the negative aspects of their conflict. There needs to be a happy ending after all! :-)

Whatever challenging conflict you have in mind – whether it is something as tragic as the death of a loved one, infertility, living in a family member’s shadow, abandonment issues or living under the weight of duty – let your conflict form the backbone of the story and create barriers, but ultimately have your characters break through these barriers at the end. Don’t let the subject matter win! By the time you reach your romantic resolution, with each other’s help your characters should have found peace with their inner conflict.

So remember, whatever difficult subject matter you choose to give your characters, don’t let it define them forever. They should always be working towards a happy ever after. Every time you find your characters falling down the rabbit hole of doom and gloom, remind yourselves – you have the power to save them, and give your readers the escapist read they are looking for!

Lastly, trust your instincts and good luck!

The SOLD Editors x

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My Secret Crush: Raith De Matheis

This week on Sold!, Harlequin Romantic Suspense author Jennifer Morey reveals her Secret Crush and tells us why men who accept change are the ultimate heroes!

0914-9781460339046-bigwRaith De Matheis from the third book in my Ivy Avengers miniseries, One Secret Night. Not only do I love his name, I love that he’s a man with a secret identity who does independent black ops. Tough and morally sound, he’s decided on his path—until the story starts. He finds himself falling for a woman who could expose him, and his estranged father brings news that further shakes his foundation. Big changes ahead for this character! Can he rise up to the challenge?

A man who resists change isn’t very interesting to me. He can resist it a little, and I think everyone does at first, but life gets stagnant, plugging along at a predictable pace, when everything stays the same. Nothing exciting ever happens. The more breathless moments in life, the more rewarding life is.

I’m fascinated by men who aren’t afraid to take chances on progress, moving forward, or on experiences that lead to growth. Whether they’ve lost a job or a woman they love, men who get back up onto their feet and strive to do better the next time have real crush potential with me. If a man takes charge of the chaos and looks for opportunity, I’m cheering. If he is easily beaten by negativity, takes the easy way out, or relies on others to succeed, a goodbye is on the way. Either that or a closed book!

Jennifer Morey

What trait do you love most in a hero? Comment below and tell us your #SecretCrush!

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Weekend Writing Tip: Kathryn Cheshire

We’ve invited the wonderful Kathryn Cheshire, Assistant Editor on Harlequin Historicals, back onto SOLD to give you another great tip – this time, on scene structure and development!

We hope you enjoyed watching this fab tip! For more gems from Kathryn, check out her other Weekend Writing Tip here.

Happy writing!

The SOLD Editors x

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