We’re Moving!

We are so excited to announce that the SOLD! blog is moving to a stylish new home! As of next week, you will be able to find all your favourite features – the Writing Challenges, the videos, the series spotlights, along with fun new posts – on the So You Think You Can Write website’s Blog page. Click here to see where we’re relocating to!

We’re packing up all of our previously published content and bringing it with us, so you’ll still be able to find any favorite older posts in the archives :-) Now there’s one destination for Harlequin editorial advice, call stories, contests and more! Bookmark and never miss a post at soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com!

We’ll be taking a short break to allow for the technical stuff to happen, but we’ll be back next week, posting from our lovely new home and tweeting, as always, from @HarlequinSYTYCW – we hope to see you all there!

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I Sold My Book! Meet J. Margot Critch

The newest member of the Harlequin Blaze team, J. Margot Critch shares her excitement about getting “The Call!”

Photo credit: Elsie Reid

Photo credit: Elsie Reid

“Want to write for #HarlequinBlaze? We’re having a #BlazeBlitz!”

This was the tweet that changed my life.

On February 23, 2015, Harlequin Blaze Senior Editor Kathleen Scheibling tweeted about the upcoming submission event for Harlequin Blaze.

I’ve always loved Harlequin Blaze. I love the humour, the sexiness, the strong heroes, the sassy heroines. I had tried my inexperienced hand at writing one of my own, a rough first draft of a manuscript that I felt might be a good fit for the line. As part of the blitz, the editors were even providing feedback, something I needed for my very first manuscript, and all I had to do was submit a synopsis and the first chapter. So I took a deep breath, then took the plunge and hit SUBMIT.

From there I not-so-patiently waited for my feedback until one evening I received an email from editor-extraordinaire, Johanna Raisanen, just as I was heading out to supper with my husband.  I couldn’t believe it – she was requesting my full manuscript! All through my meal I was beside myself with excitement, I don’t even think I tasted what I ate. As soon as I got home I polished up the manuscript and sent it along. Then came more waiting. After some time I heard back from Johanna and she had requested some revisions and asked me if I could resubmit it.

Now I’ll be completely honest for a second here: initially, I was bummed. I took what was actually a very positive thing and saw it as a rejection. It wasn’t until I discussed it with my husband and some author friends, that I realized what a great opportunity it actually was. I was still in this!

HB Logo-Banner

So I got back to work. I made some revisions, added some scenes, tweaked others and I resubmitted. A month or so later, I again heard from Johanna. She told me that she liked my submission and had passed it on to Kathleen. Still a newb, I wasn’t sure what that meant, and I spent a few more weeks constantly checking my email and the call log on my phone. I didn’t think for a second that the senior editor of Harlequin Blaze would be at all interested in my little manuscript, and I again thought it was the end of the line for me. But once again, my friends and family kept me cool, saying it was another good sign, telling me that I should enjoy the ride and the ups and downs that came with it.

Fast forward to September. It was a Friday and I had the day off from my everyday job, and I was sitting at my desk working on another project. I had left my phone in another room and when I retrieved it, I saw a notification for a missed call… from Toronto! With shaking fingers, I checked my voicemail and there was a message Johanna, calling to talk about my book.

I had gotten my call, and I’d completely missed it!

I quickly called her back and she said the words I’d waited to hear. Harlequin wanted my book! I was completely gobsmacked! I was in complete disbelief! I called my mom and my husband but I couldn’t stop from pacing around the house, my mind racing. I realized that I had absorbed no details from Johanna and it wasn’t until she tweeted about “making the call” that I realized that she was talking about me!

It’s been over a month since that phone call, and even though I’ve already signed a contract and I’m soon to be hip-deep into revisions, it still doesn’t feel real. Maybe it won’t feel real until the finished project, is in my hands. But I do know that when I submitted to the #BlazeBlitz last winter on a whim, I could never have believed I would make it to this moment – preparing to publish my own book.

So if I were to offer any sort of advice to writers out there, it’s this: Take the chance. Just go for it. Write the story that’s in your mind and your heart. Take part in writing competitions (whether it by SYTYCW or a submission blitz), and pitch parties. Put yourself out there.

Who knows? Maybe someday you’ll be agonizing over a keyboard, writing your own call story.

Watch for J. Margot Critch’s  Harlequin Blaze book, In the Boss’s Bed in June 2016!

And contact J. Margot on Twitter @juanitamcritch

On Facebook at J. Margot Critch Author

or on her website, jmargotcritch.com

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It’s #WritingChallenge time!

Writing Challenge BubbleThis weekend, we’ve got a writing challenge with a twist for you all. You’ve proved time and time again how brilliant you are at our more thematic challenges, so this weekend, we want you to demonstrate your writing technique!

Good writing is all about showing, not telling – it’s a much more subtle, complex yet powerful way of drawing us into your characters’ worlds, and minds. So, our challenge this week is…

Your hero has just discovered your heroine is pregnant – show, don’t tell, that this news triggers deep-rooted issues for him.

Answers below the line as usual, and we’ll check back in on Monday to give feedback.

Happy writing!
The SOLD Editors

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Interview with…Sophia James!

0915-9780373298488-bigwSophia James first sold to Harlequin in 2003. Her Harlequin Historical debut was Fallen Angel and since then, she has written fifteen books. What she loves most about writing for Harlequin is the wonderful excuse to exist in worlds of her own making.

What book first got you hooked on Harlequin?
I honestly can’t remember a particular book but I loved reading anything historical.

How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
I got home from my teaching job to find a big bunch of flowers on the table and my husband and three kids as excited as I was. We all went up to the local mall and had afternoon tea. The fire sirens went off and we had to finish eating/drinking quickly and run through the pouring rain to the car.

Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
Probably One Unashamed Night, which is the second book in my Wellingham series. Taris was a man going blind. He was proud, private and  clever. I took a risk with that hero and it paid off.

What’s top of your TBR pile?
Joanna Bourne. The Rogue Spy.

What book do you wish you’d written and why?
The first three books of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. These books push the envelope and are multilayered, emotional and so well written.

What’s harder – first or last lines?
I actually find first and last lines easier to write than middle lines.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
Sometimes from a map of the South Island of New Zealand. All these wonderful old-fashioned English names.

How do you push through writer’s block?
I feel angst, I worry, I think I will never be able to finish the book and then I just sit down and write. Small amounts. And get through.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had?
Keep believing in yourself. Never give up.

Your preferred writing snack?
Fruit probably. I don’t really eat when I write.

Who is your favourite fictional couple?
Jamie and Claire Fraser from the Gabaldon books.

If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
Once I nearly tried for a job with Barbara Cartland when I was first in London. I couldn’t type very well but I think I would have made a wonderful PA to a woman whose books I used to read sneakily at university. It would have got me published earlier too, being in a world of books.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
At the moment I am trying to complete one Great Walk of New Zealand each year. My dream is to walk the Te Araroa 3000 km trail from Cape Reinga to the Bluff. Shades of The Unlikely Pilgramage of Harold Fry.

What is your most overused word?
Ever. I always scan through and take lots of evers out before I send in a book.

If I wasn’t a romance author, I would like to have been…
in HR. I like people and that’s a job I always thought I’d have been good at.

When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
Just now to my husband. I was telling him about these questions over breakfast and I said ‘I am surprised I am not more surprising,’ and he said ‘You are always very surprising to me.’ :-)

What does love feel like?
Protective. Always there. Strong and constant.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
At the moment I am obsessed with the Starz Outlander show. I have rewatched The Wedding episode numerous times when I am supposed to be writing. I have even got to the point of turning the sound down on my laptop so that if anyone walks by unexpectedly they think I am working. Pathetic I know, but I think writers on the whole are a bit obsessive. Sometimes it worries me.

What’s your most romantic song?
“Lady In Red”

Every hero needs a…

Follow Sophia on Twitter, Facebook, and her website, and check out her most recent book, Marriage Made in Shame!

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Dear Editor…

Dear Editor

I see a lot of books where the hero or heroine have some major trauma but can a more subtle one do just as well. e.g. making the wrong career choice, always being picked last.

Thank you!


Dear Mary,

We’re really glad you asked this question. Creating and developing sustainable emotional conflict is always challenging, but it’s important to note that thinking outside the box, and adding some variety is essential. And this does mean that using a more subtle conflict can be just as effective as the more hard hitting ones. They may not sound as dramatic on paper, but exploring the emotional implications such as a breakdown in a marriage can be just as, if not more effective than a heroine whose entire family died in a plane crash!.

So, it is our job to expel the myth that the higher the body count, the more emotionally satisfying the read! Of course, these books have their place and create in most cases an instant access point into your hero or heroine’s mind-set, and obvious barriers which need to be broken down. But so can the subtle ones too! Absolutely, as you’ve suggested, making the wrong career choice can have huge effects on your characters path to happiness. It’s all about creating the layers to go with it – and using this as the top layer which you will need to drill down beneath. For example, let’s take a closer look at your two suggestions, and how you could create a compelling conflict from them…

  • Has your hero been working in the same job for the past 10 years (father’s company perhaps?), and in that time passed on opportunities to follow his heart? Maybe he moved away from his first love because that is where his career took him, but in the process left everyone behind he loved, and has never been able to shake off the regret or loneliness? Are you about to give him a second chance to go back and do it all differently?
  • The same can be said for being the girl that was always picked last – whether it was in class, from the boys at school and even in the family setting. How deep therefore do the insecurities run and how have these effected your heroine? It will take someone special to bring her out of her shell and explore her new found confidence. But both, as with the limitless amounts of conflicts which could be termed ‘everyday’ have endless amounts of potential – it’s just about how you use them.

Editors and readers do not judge a manuscript based on the severity of the conflict – it’s all in the execution and the sustainability of the conflict you choose. And remember, whatever you decide to throw at your characters, it needs to be appropriate for the series you are targeting and the tone you are aiming for. And more importantly, using dark, or major trauma conflicts should also be handled with great care and sensitivity. The ultimate aim of a romance is to create escapism for your reader and whilst the path to happy-ever-after is rocky, there should always be hope. But if you have traumatised your characters too far before you’ve started, you are creating a lot of work for yourself to convince the reader your characters will achieve a happy ending. So don’t be tempted to throw everything and the kitchen sink at your story! It is perfectly possible to create wonderfully rich conflicts and emotion from more subtle experiences – so we challenge you to experiment!

Good luck,

The SOLD Editors x

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Author Confessions: How do you prepare to write a sexy love scene?!

This week, we’ve invited some fabulous Harlequin Presents authors to ‘fess up about how they mentally and creatively prepare to write a love scene! Enjoy :-)

1015-9780373133765-bigwAbby Green, Harlequin Presents
Well. I’d like to say that I set the scene by lighting candles and dimming the lights, before pouring myself a glass of wine and diving in, so to speak. But invariably I’m writing a sex scene early in the morning with the postman knocking on the door (not in a euphemistic way at all), my hair scraped back in a headband and roadworks banging outside the house (again, not a euphemism). Mind you, I guess that drilling could, er, provide a little inspiration.

All joking aside, I think the best preparation is getting your hero and heroine to the point where if they don’t do it *now*, your computer will combust from the sexual tension. That’s all the preparation you need; two dynamic characters who are cross-eyed with lust for each other but fighting it as if their lives depended on it. Then when they come together…*pow*. Simple!

Abby’s most recent title, An Heir Fit For A King, is available now. 

McAclisterAnne McAllister, Harlequin Presents
I can’t write a sexy love scene unless I know what is motivating both the hero and heroine to be intimately involved with each other. It may not be deep and abiding love the first time it happens—though by the last “sexy love scene” in the book, it certainly better be! But love scenes are all about emotional nakedness even more than physical nakedness. So I have to know what’s in it for them emotionally to make it more than what one of my writer friends calls “docking procedures.” To get the requisite emotional vulnerability, I need to know who the characters are at that point in the story, what’s brought them together, and why—emotionally—they are opting for intimacy right then. A love scene works as a catalyst to move the story along, to allow the relationship to deepen or for the hero and/or heroine to say, “Whoa! I’m in too deep.” It’s that emotional awareness on the part of the characters that makes it sexy, I think. We get to see a part of them that they don’t show everyone. That was certainly what happened to Holly and Lukas in The Return of Antonides. What occurred between them when they were teenagers had a real impact on who they became. And when they came together again as adults, convinced that they would handle things differently this time, it was their emotional vulnerability during intimacy that ultimately cracked their protective shells. That made writing the scenes sexy for me—and I hope this peek into their vulnerability does the same for the reader.

Anne’s most recent title, The Return of Antonides, is available now.

CinelliAmanda Cinelli, Harlequin Presents
I’m a pantser so I never know when I’m going to be writing a love scene. Usually my characters are in the middle of a dialogue and then suddenly I’m like—hey, what are you two doing? We weren’t meant to be kissing for at least another two chapters!

That’s the problem with alpha heroes, they don’t play by the rules. You never know when they’re going to go into seduction mode! So usually, when a love scene is foisted upon me, I just go with the flow and let my characters lead. (I have such a hard job…)

Amanda’s debut book for Harlequin Presents – and SYTYCW-winning story! – Resisting the Sicilian Playboy, is available now. 

HaywardJennifer Hayward, Harlequin Presents

ENTHUSIASM – It doesn’t turn you on, it isn’t going to turn a reader on! Put yourself in your hero and heroine’s shoes. Experience every second of it with them! Get carried away.

EMOTION – As Mae West said, “Sex is an emotion in motion.” Make sure you inject emotion into every encounter, otherwise it’s just sex.

INDIVIDUALITY – The situations your characters are in, who they are, their emotional baggage/backstory will decide how it needs to play out. Listen to them.

Jennifer’s most recent title, Reunited for the Billionaire’s Legacy, is available now.

ConderMichelle Conder, Harlequin Presents
Before I write a love scene I’d like to say that I light candles, have a scented bath, a glass of wine, put on mood music…but really the only preparation I do is to write the book and know my characters really well. Boring, huh? But true. I tend to write chronologically so my love scenes evolve organically from the story and come completely from the characters themselves. Which is why I can look my friends in the eye when they nudge me and suggest that they know what goes on between me and my husband when the lights are out. I only wish we had sex against the wall. Or on the kitchen bench. Or outside on a moonlit deck after skinny dipping in an infinity pool overlooking the Med. Kids sort of preclude that kind of thing from happening… Well, most of the time! But I digress. If you can call it preparation the one thing I do try to do when I approach a love scene is look upon it as a battle. And I don’t mean a physical one, but an emotional one. Here are two people who are falling in love and may or may not know it, and who may or may not want it, but who are incredibly hot for each other. On top of this they usually have some inner demons to conquer and as physical intimacy is usually a precursor to emotional intimacy they tend to feel incredibly vulnerable after a love scene. When I’m reading a romance I love the sexual build up between characters and then the aftermath of the love scene when the characters must confront themselves, and each other. Or not! Happy writing. Michelle x

Michelle’s most recent title, Hidden in the Sheikh’s Harem, is available now.

WestAnnie West, Harlequin Presents
Definitely not with mood lighting or music. I need to see what I’m writing and music distracts me too much! Nor with a glass of wine. I need my wits about me to write. My other must-have is the same for most of my writing—a bit of privacy. That means either a background of white noise (like in a coffee shop) or totally alone. Occasionally I’ve tried to write love scenes with other people wandering through the space where I work and it’s disastrous. I keep looking up and losing the thread of the story.

Which leads me to plot. There’s no point trying to write a sexy scene unless it fits the story, and for my money, a sexy love scene works best when it leads to even more complications and problems for my hero and heroine. So preparation is paramount—knowing this is just the right place in the book for a love scene that will make their lives thrilling and wonderful and then, hopefully, disastrous, is what it’s all about.

Annie’s most recent title, Seducing His Enemy’s Daughter, is available now.

We hope you enjoyed this insight into the wonderful world of the Harlequin Presents authors – don’t forget to leave your comments, or any top tips of your own, below!

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10 Things You Need To Know About Getting ‘The Call’!

We love our Call Stories on SOLD! – there’s nothing more inspiring than hearing about the moment authors’ dreams of publication come true. And you might think that no-one is more excited than the author when it happens. But you’d be wrong! Read on for the Harlequin editors’ perspective on what it feels like to make ‘The Call’…

  1. It’s just as exciting for editors as it is for authors – and it goes by in a total blur! Like you, we find ourselves forgetting what we said the minute we’ve hung up :-)
  2. We love a big reaction, so don’t worry if you sound incoherent/emotional/excitable – tears of joy are the best!
  3. Sometimes the editor cries with joy too 😉
  4. The whole editorial team is waiting with baited breath while we make The Call, and once we put down the phone, the cheers (assuming the author has accepted the contract!) can be heard across the office!
  5. We like to give all the details up front, but since we know it can be a lot to take in – and we’ll likely be squeeing right along with you – we always follow up with an email. So don’t worry about jotting down notes if you’d rather be bouncing around your living room!
  6. It is a fine balance between scheduling The Call for when the author is in and not ruining the surprise! There is nothing more anti-climactic than trying to make The Call and the author being out…
  7. Every editor has a different approach – some dive in with the offer while others are more devious and take a roundabout way to build suspense. It can be very tempting to channel our inner Simon Cowell when we deliver the news: ‘We didn’t like it [dramatic pause as your heart is in your mouth] we LOVED it!’
  8. It creates a really special bond, to be part of making that moment happen. You never forget an author you acquired or the editor who bought your first book.
  9. It’s not only authors who crack open the bubbly to celebrate, it’s the editor too! We’ll be toasting your success in the office, at home, anywhere we can!
  10. Making The Call is the highlight of our day, our week, our month – our whole job, really!

Have you had ‘The Call’? Share your favourite memory below!

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Weekend Writing Tips: Flo Nicoll

This Friday, we’ve got Harlequin UK Editor Flo Nicoll on SOLD! with her top tip on writing effective dialogue – enjoy!

Have a great weekend & happy writing!

The SOLD! Editors x

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Interview with…Shannon Stacey!

Shannon Stacey first sold to Harlequin in 2010. Her Carina Press debut was Exclusively Yours and since then, she has written sixteen books. What she loves most about writing for Harlequin is the support and enthusiasm the Carina Press team has brought to every one of her titles.

Her current book, Heat Exchangelgcover.9781426899867, is out now!

What book first got you hooked on Harlequin?
Honestly, I don’t even remember. I’m fairly sure they were Harlequin Presents, though, since the heroes were ridiculously wealthy and they often had international settings. I have vague memories of a cover starring a dark-haired man in a khaki shirt and a blonde woman with Farrah Fawcett hair sharing a passionate embrace in long grass. Possibly African grass.

How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
I think we ordered pizza that night. I’m not one for dressing up and going out on the town, especially since dressing up in my town might cause people to ask me whose funeral I’d been to. But not having to cook is always celebration enough for me.

Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
Probably Yours to Keep, the third book in the Kowalski series. Not only did it land me on the New York Times list, but taking a trope that can be hard to put a fresh spin on (fake engagement), and having it be the favorite of so many readers is personally gratifying. It was also an absolute joy to write and the heroine remains one of my favorites.

What’s top of your TBR pile?
My TBR pile has been out of control for so long, I can’t even answer that question. One book that I’ve been saving for when I have enough extra time to really lose myself in the story, though, is The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. It’s not my usual reading cup of tea, but I’ve heard it’s outstanding and I’m saving it as a treat for myself.

What’s harder – first or last lines?
For me, definitely the last lines. There’s a very fine line between clichéd/corny and the kind of emotional ending that leaves readers with that happy sigh. Trying to find that balance point requires a lot of tweaking and rewriting. The key to keeping the standard “I love you” scene fresh is making sure it’s unique to your characters, which is another reason Yours to Keep is a book that sticks with me as readers seem to find that ending particularly memorable.

How do you choose your characters’ names?
Quite often the names of the main characters just pop into my head and feel right. But when they don’t, and for secondary characters, I’ll often scan through online lists of popular baby names. And thanks to genealogy, I can search for surnames by region, which helps. I scan lists until something feels right.

How do you push through writer’s block?
In my case, being blocked almost always means one of two things. Either I’m pushing the story in a dead-end direction or, more frequently, I’m in the wrong character point of view. If I backtrack to where the enthusiasm left off, I can usually spot the problem. I think of writer’s block as my subconscious trying to tell me I’ve gone off the rails and I’ve learned to trust that part of the process.

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had?
The best advice I was given was not to let too many people in during the writing process. It was advice I ignored in the beginning, so I learned the hard way. There’s a temptation to seek validation, whether through critique groups or beta readers or contest critiques, and if you’re not a confident writer, you can get caught up trying to make the story what other people think it should be and losing what makes it uniquely yours. That’s not to say critique groups or beta readers are bad. Many authors in various career phases depend on them. Just have the confidence to trust in your voice and your story and politely discard advice that doesn’t feel right. And don’t read your reviews.

Your preferred writing snack?
For years it was M&Ms. Recently I discovered a passion for string cheese, though it’s much more complicated to properly peel and eat string cheese while typing, so there are still M&Ms on hand at all times.

Who is your favourite fictional couple?
At the risk of being wholly unoriginal, I’m going to say Eve and Roarke from JD Robb’s In Death series. Maybe because I’ve been married twenty-plus years, I like seeing their relationship play out over time. We see not only their highs, but their lows. We see them love, but we also see them fight and disagree and hurt each other. There’s a depth to their relationship that I love (though there is, admittedly, a difference between a romance novel and a forty-book series).

If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
I’m one of those people who might have many regrets, but I wouldn’t go back and rewrite anything because every choice I’ve made, mistake or otherwise, brought me to this point. And this point (successful career, wonderful husband and two amazing children) is a wonderful place to be.

What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Apparently that I’m a brunette. Whenever I add a photo of myself to a social media platform that was previously without, or share a picture of myself after a long span of pictures of my dog and food, I invariably get at least one person (usually more) that says “I thought you were a blonde”. I simply choose to believe I look like Marilyn Monroe in everybody’s mind.

What is your most overused word?
Wait…just one? I’m guilty of the common ones: just, so, well, like, etcetera. I like to start dialogue with so, but that might be because it’s actually a part of my own speech pattern. As is actually.

If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
There was never anything else I wanted to be. I guess technically there was a horror author phase, but it was short-lived. I waited my share of tables and enjoyed a brief period as our town’s children’s librarian before my second son was born, but I only ever wanted to be a romance author.

When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
Probably when I left the house on a coffee run earlier today. We say I love you a lot in our house, even if it’s only flashing each other the sign language equivalent as we walk through a room. I’m very blessed to be married to a man with no hang-ups about expressing his love to his children and he doesn’t even run to the gas station without telling our teenage sons he’ll be right back and he loves them. Love isn’t a word either of us throw around lightly, but when we love you, you know it.

What does love feel like?
The flu? True love over time runs the gamut, from euphoria to an aching pain that won’t go away to just the quiet, everyday knowledge you don’t want to live the rest of your life without that person in it. It’s joy and terror and breathless anticipation and worry and…everything.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
I don’t feel guilty about anything I enjoy, but the pleasure I tell the fewest people about would probably be my addiction to the entire Real Housewives franchise and the Kardashian family. Oh, and Mob Wives. I think the lifestyle portrayed is so alien to my own it’s almost like watching science fiction. Just with great shoes and the occasional face-slapping.

What’s your most romantic song?
My song moods change like the wind, but I’ve always thought the perfect romantic songs (meaning they actually ARE romance novels in song form) are “She Didn’t Have Time” by Terri Clark and “We Danced” by Brad Paisley, with “Austin” by Blake Shelton as honourable mention.

Every hero needs a…
After deleting several inappropriate (if amusing) answers, I’ll go with a sense of honor. He doesn’t have to be perfect (and would be boring if he was) and will make mistakes, but if he has a strong sense of honour, he’s making them for what he believes to be the right reasons, which means we can believe in his redemption for the happily-ever-after.

Follow Shannon on Twitter and Facebook!

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I Sold My Book! Introducing Charlotte Hawkes

Today, we’re THRILLED to introduce you to our newest Harlequin Medical Romance author, Charlotte Hawkes! Welcome to the family, Charlotte, we’re so excited to have you!

Call Story PhotoThere’s a Fort Minor song (especially these first three lines) which, for me, aptly sums up this writing process:

“This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill,

Fifteen percent concentrated power of will,

Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain

And a hundred percent reason to remember the name.”

Believe me, I know there are plenty of aspiring authors out there who have the smarts but who are just waiting for that elusive spark of luck. I’ve even read some of your amazing stuff right here on this site!

Well, for me, I was fortunate enough that all those perfect ingredients came together last week and I received The Call. And I can’t promote the SOLD! Blog—Writing Challenges enough!

This Call-Story effectively started for me on 27th March 2015 when these Writing Challenges began. That very first prompt really worked for me—Your hero has just walked out on the heroine, on the morning of their wedding day. Why?—really worked for me. I immediately envisaged a Medical Romance, with a soldier who had been blown up by a roadside bomb and couldn’t believe his heroine could love a damaged man. I got some great feedback, so I picked up the ball and I ran and ran. Before the second writing challenge had even come around, I had written the first (five) chapters and submitted the first three.

Then, in May, I received an email from UK Editor, Flo Nicoll. She had my MS and loved the premise but felt elements of it needed reworking—would I like a chat?

Would I ever?!

We scheduled a phone call (I was working abroad at the time) for the next day. Flo asked me where I wanted to go with the story, pointed out areas where she thought it was weak and asked if I had alternative ideas. I did. One of her ideas included a secret miscarriage which works incredibly well throughout my story but which I would never have thought of in a million years as I usually dislike secret baby themes—more fool me!

Over the next month, we reworked the story as we went, emailing or chatting to the incredibly hard-working Flo twice a week as I received either the thumbs up or this incredibly telling ‘hmmm.’ Some were tweaks others revisions, and we would have a chat about the direction and alternatives and I have to admit, she was always right!

Then it was time to go to the Senior Editor of Medical Romance, Sheila Hodgson. Unsurprisingly, the wait was excruciating. Even so, I heard back quicker than I expected, the 14th August, two days before my birthday. Sheila loved it, although there were more revisions to do—but, as before, the changes only made the MS better.

It was no guarantee but it was still a huge relief. I desperately needed this career change—my job as Company Director of a small firm within the Franco/Anglo construction industry, though incredibly interesting, takes me abroad several times a year, usually a month at a time. With my Mum as babysitter, I’ve been able to take my two boys (currently three year old and one nearly two year old) with me whenever I travel—to my DH’s chagrin, and combine client meetings with sand-castle building on the beach. But with both boys now in school a couple of mornings a week, I wasn’t prepared to leave them behind for a month at a time.

But becoming an author needed to be more than just a dream, it needed to be a serious, sustainable career change. I read my first Mills and Boon at fourteen years old when a friend lent me one of her vast collections, and I was hooked. Of those early days, three in particular have stayed with me for various reasons. One of them, King of the Mountain, introduced the heroine, Marnie, who—along with her hero—battled down a mountainside in a storm to find insulin for a diabetic model stuck at the summit. She was strong and determined and not easily intimidated by her alpha-male hero, yet she was also incredible soft and vulnerable. And I loved her. If only my heroine could be just as perfectly layered. Consequently, I got stuck into the last tweaks/revisions, going back and forth with Flo for the next ten days before we were satisfied. But I hit another delay—Bank Holiday and the Harlequin/Mills&Boon office move—and I prepared myself for another wait. I needn’t have worried, the day after Bank Holiday, I picked it up thinking it was work. In a way it was—as Flo uttered those life-changing magic words. And now, incredibly, my first book is due out in June 2016!

So, I know that there are tons of you guys out there who have that twenty percent skill and the fifteen percent concentrated power of will, who put in that fifty percent pain and who love that five percent moment of pleasure when it all comes together, but who are just waiting for that last little pinch of luck. So don’t give up, it happened for me and it could happen for you too—and then it will be your Call Story next!

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