My Ultimate Crush: Khal Drogo

Harlequin Presents author Michelle Smart (@chellebellwrite) has us wondering how on earth we missed this devilishly handsome star in this week’s Ultimate Crush! 

khal drogoKhal Drogo. Is the name familiar to you? I’m guessing it’s only familiar if you happen to be a fan of Game of Thrones. Which I am. Massively. If you don’t know who he is, do an internet search on his name. Then do a search on Jason Momoa, the actor who plays him. Done? Good. Now let me explain why Khal Drogo is my Ultimate Crush.

When we are introduced to this fine specimen of a man (all bronzed, dark, manly six-foot plus of him) we don’t have to be told that this is the ultimate of all alpha men. He is a powerful warlord, a man without conscience, a man who takes what he wants, when he wants with no thoughts of consequences. His arranged marriage to Daenerys Targaryen is nothing more than a matter of convenience – he wants the most beautiful, exotic bride in the world and with Daenerys, that is exactly what he gets. A trophy.

jasonAt the start of their marriage, Khal Drogo wears both the literal and figurative trousers. Daenerys is a virgin and terrified of her new husband (quite frankly, I don’t blame her). In the TV show, the consummation of their marriage is quite rough, but in the book he shows a tender side I really wish had been brought to life on the screen. Regardless, as their marriage progresses and Daenerys learns to appreciate herself as a human being and learns to embrace her sensual side, she brings out a new, softer side to him – not in public, of course, but behind closed doors (tents in this case). He falls in love with her and it is the most joyous thing to watch, this huge brute of a man following his beautiful wife with a tenderness in his eyes that lets you know that if anyone harmed a hair on her head, he would rip their own head from their shoulders. From being his trophy, she becomes his equal and their love for each other shimmers both off the page and off the screen. Just glorious.

Incidentally, I almost plumped for Tyrion Lannister. I know that physically he’s the polar opposite of Khal Drogo, but he makes me laugh and you know he would be excellent company on a night out.

There you have it! Michelle’s Ultimate Crush! Now we’re crushing on Drogo… you’re crushing on Drogo, we’re all crushing on Drogo! Is there enough of this drop-dead-gorgeous hunk to go around? We hope so! If not… which other Game of Throne stars should we be taking notice of? 

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This Weekend’s Top Writing Tip!

Senior Executive Editor of Harlequin UK @JoanneMGrant takes the SOLD stage this weekend, to give you her top tip on writing emotional conflict!

If you’re interested in getting more words of wisdom direct from the Harlequin editors, email authorlab@hqnuk.co.uk to express your interest and to be kept informed of developments.

For everyone else, make sure you check out the blog next Saturday for more Weekend Writing Tip videos :-)

Happy writing!

The SOLD team x

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Interview with… Diane Gaston

Diane Gaston first sold to Harlequin in 2003. Her Mills and Boon Historical debut was The Mysterious Miss M and since then, she has written eighteen books (counting novellas and short stories). What she loves most about writing for Harlequin is reaching so many readers from around the world who love historical romance.

Follow @DianeGaston on Twitter, Facebook and be sure to visit her blog! Diane’s upcoming book, Bound by Duty, kicks off her brand new mini-series, The Scandalous Summerfields and is out next month!

1. Wdiane gastonhat book first got you hooked on Harlequin?
I can’t remember! I came late to Harlequin, though, and started reading them only after I started writing in 1995. Then I read and enjoyed various lines and wondered why I had not indulged in these wonderful stories sooner. I tried my hand at writing for the contemporary lines first, but it wasn’t until I wrote a Regency Historical, my favourite type of book, that I found my way into print.

2. How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
My husband and I had travelled to Charlottesville, Virginia, where I was picking up an 1815 edition of La Belle Assemblée, a ladies magazine of the Regency era that I had purchased. We’d planned the trip to coincide with our wedding anniversary, but it was also the day I was to speak with the Mills and Boon editor who’d offered to purchase The Mysterious Miss M. Mills and Boon is the UK Branch of Harlequin, and I didn’t realize that my cell phone did not work for international calls. My husband and I left our Bed and Breakfast at 5:00 am and drove to a convenience store where I purchased an international phone card. I phoned Mills and Boon (the UK branch of Harlequin) from a phone booth near a highway with trucks whizzing by and officially became a Harlequin author!

3. Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
My last book, A Lady of Notoriety, touched something in me. When I created the character of Daphne, Lady Faville, to be the villain in A Marriage of Notoriety, I found myself strangely sympathetic to her. I wanted to redeem her. I do believe anyone can change, even someone as self-centered and superficial as Daphne. I loved showing her struggle to learn to live—and love—authentically.

4. What’s top of your TBR pile?
Lately my TBR pile is virtual. I’m a complete convert to ebooks. The top book on my virtual TBR pile is Amanda McCabe’s recent Harlequin Historical, Betrayed by His Kiss, set in Florence, Italy, in the politically turbulent times of the late 1400s.

5. What book do you wish you’d written and why?
I don’t wish I’d written someone else’s book. I just can’t think that way! Storytelling is so personal that I can’t imagine writing any book but my own.

6. What’s harder – first or last lines?
Definitely first lines. The first lines of a book need to accomplish so much. They need to grab the reader’s interest. They need to convey what sort of book this will be, its tone, setting and time period and who the book will be about. When I start a book, I don’t ever know exactly what will happen. I don’t know everything about my characters either, so those first lines are rewritten several times. Last lines are much easier. By that time I know the characters and have taken the journey with them. Last lines almost write themselves.

7. How do you choose your characters names?
First my characters names must be proper for the time period – no Tiffanys or Kimberleys for instance. I check websites for authentic Regency names. I also try to make certain I’m not inadvertently naming characters after real people, past or present, so I always do an internet search on the name. I try never to use real titles, but often combine elements of real titles to make them sound authentic. The fact that my Regency characters often have title names as well given and family names offers other complications, and I try to limit the confusion as much as possible. Heroes with titles would be called by their title name so I also try to make the title name an appealing one. For example, the hero in The Vanishing Viscountess is Adam Vickery, Marquess of Tannerton, but his friends call him Tanner, a much better name for a hero.

8. How do you push through writer’s block?
When I experience writer’s block it is almost always because of a problem in the story. I turn to my writing friends, including Darlene Gardner, who has written for many Harlequin lines, and Lisa Dyson who writes for Superromance. They always help me get unstuck.

9. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had?
The best advice came from my friend, author Mary Blayney, who once gave me a needlework pillow that quoted Winston Churchill: Never Never Never Give Up.

10. Your preferred writing snack?
Diet Coke

11. Who is your favourite fictional couple?
Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth from Jane Austen’s Persuasion. I love that book and the 1995 movie with Amanda Root and Ciarán My favourite Austen book and my favourite Austen movie!

12. If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
I’ve had a marvellous life full of many blessings, wonderful people, and great experiences, but the only thing I wish I had done differently was to stay at home with my children when they were little. Even though I might not have found my way to writing, if I had been a stay-at-home mom, and I would have missed half of a wonderful career as a mental health social worker, I still wish I’d stayed home with them. They are grown now and seemingly undamaged, but I feel I missed something important.

13. What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
Probably that I am shy, because I wouldn’t act shy if you met me, but I am. One of my worst nightmares would be to attend a party where I don’t know anyone.  Even the idea of it is painful!

14. What is your most overused word?
Well, I once used “furrowed,” as in “he furrowed his brows,” about 19 times in one book. Luckily my editor suggested I might wish to change some of them.

15. If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
A torch singer in a ritzy piano bar (if only I could sing…)

16. What does love feel like?
Love is feeling joy at the happiness of the other person; and feeling pain at their pain. It is wanting nothing but the best for another person, to always champion them, to always be there when they need comfort.

17. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
Ice cream

18. What’s your most romantic song?
An old one – Our Love Is Here To Stay by George and Ira Gershwin. It so wonderfully conveys how joyful love can be.

19. Every hero needs a…
Oh, that is so easy. Every hero needs a heroine to love him!

Hope you all enjoyed these insights into the wonderful world of Diane Gaston! We’re all guilty of overusing a word or two… (don’t furrow your eyebrows we know you are too!) So we want to know, what is your most overused word? Share yours by commenting below or RT this post and let us know!

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Advice From The Archives: Avoiding Clichés

This pearl of wisdom comes from the 2010 New Voices competition and is sure to help you tackle a cliché or two (…or three!) 

Avoiding clichés: here are our best tips
on how to make your romance stand out from the crowd!

If you type cliché and romance into Google, you get thousands of sites dedicated to the world of romance clichés – the clichés we love…and also the ones that make us throw a book across the room!

There are ways for a successful writer to use a conventional theme and twist it, and by that we mean taking the tried and tested plot and turning it on its head to deliver something with real wow factor that will help you knock readers’ socks off (can we get away with that cliché?!). We want to help you deliver something that will blow readers’ minds (see, this avoiding clichés malarkey is harder than you’d think!)

It’s not just about plots either — it’s dialogue, characters, secondary characters and most importantly author voice!

Here’s a quick cheat-sheet:

Plots

You’ll often hear editors say ‘we’re looking for fresh twists on classic themes’ and we really are. But what does this mean? Well, first let’s focus on the classic. Romance conventions are a must, they only become clichés when they don’t bring their own personality along for the ride. The trick is to understand the convention before you twist it. How many stories/films/TV series/cartoons etc. feature the Cinderella storyline and how many then go on to twist it? A few examples which work are Pretty Woman, Twilight, The Holiday, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Maid in Manhattan, Working Girl, 27 Dresses, The Wedding Date. All of these featured a less than lucky heroine (or hero!), a make-over and of course a Prince Charming – but all with their own spin!

Characters

Your characters are the way you can breathe life into any plot. Our advice is, if you can make the reader believe in your characters they’ll walk with you through the most fantastical of plots!  We took Peter Pan to heart when he said ‘Every time a child says, “I don’t believe in fairies”’ there is a fairy somewhere that falls down dead.’ and to this day will not say those words! We want a writer to make us believe that true love really exists. Making characters unique and believable is the key. So your hero is tall, dark and handsome – but what else is he? He doesn’t have to be perfect, but we have to understand why he’s perfect for your heroine.

Dialogue

Your dialogue needs to fit with your characters and not be forced. Alpha heroes need to command without being didactic…a look, a gesture, humour to push their point across… Alpha heroes ooze power and exert it in understated ways – not by shouting at heroines whimpering in the corner!

Don’t be scared to read your dialogue out loud, this helps you to see if you’d really say it in the heat of the moment…or passion! Does it make your toes curl – with embarrassment…or with glee?

So when sitting down to write your own romance, don’t forget…

  • Understand why classic plots and romantic conventions work –then have fun with them!
  • It’s all about the characters – make them truly yours.
  • Harlequin is about creating fantasy out of reality. Surprise us with your characters, stories and ideas!
  • Stretch your imagination – let it fly! You just need a little faith!

You’ve heard from the Harlequin editors, but make sure you tune in on Friday for the weekly Interview With… column with Harlequin Historical author Diane Gaston! Happy writing! :)

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Harlequin Blaze Wants You!

Interested in writing for Harlequin Blaze? Then let Assistant Editor Dana Hopkins introduce an awesome new opportunity to get noticed!

Sold cover 1You might imagine being an assistant editor at Harlequin is a pretty sweet job. And you’d be right. I spend a lot of my days curled up reading romance, or writing about romance, or talking about romance. But here’s something you may not know—we’re always looking for new writers!

We love to work with authors, helping establish strong careers and often collaborating for years on many wonderful books. But the only way to get these great authors is by reading manuscripts and bringing in new talent. And we want you to join our amazing family—as a Blaze author!

Blaze is Harlequin’s hottest line. Running 55,000 words, Blaze books feature sizzling chemistry, sexy situations, and page-turning plots. And Blaze is looking for fresh voices. That’s why we’re hosting #BlazeBlitz, a BIG opportunity for your sexy contemporary romance novel! Here’s how it works:

  • From March 2nd-16th, we invite you to send in your submission. You can read our full guidelines and submit your story here: https://harlequin.submittable.com/submit/39471
    • We want a 4-6 page detailed synopsis (a summary of your novel including major characters, plot points, and the ending—we don’t want to be left hanging about what happens!)
    • Your first chapter (up to twenty pages)
  • Every sexy contemporary submission will be read by one of the Harlequin Blaze editors and will receive a response that includes editorial feedback by April 30th. That’s an editorial response within 45 days. No form letters!
  • We’ll then request full manuscripts from the submissions that show promise for Blaze!

TSold cover 2his isn’t a contest but a chance to be read and get some helpful feedback in a very short time frame, and maybe even become the newest Harlequin Blaze author (or “Blaze Babe” as our authors call themselves!). If you’ve ever dreamed about being published, send us your submission. We want to read your story!

And check out the hashtag #BlazeBlitz on Twitter. We’ll be sharing tips, insider details, our wishlists, and more throughout the Blitz. Any questions? Leave a comment. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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My Ultimate Crush: Richard Castle

This week’s Ultimate Crush is from Carina Press author Shannon Stacey (@shannonstacey) – and we have to say, she makes a pretty convincing case…!

CastleI’m going to go with a fictional crush and say right now it’s Richard Castle (of the television show Castle, which I hope everybody has seen), who is outstandingly portrayed by Nathan Fillion. (Coincidentally, he also played another of my fictional crushes, Captain Malcolm Reynolds on the short-lived but forever-loved Firefly.)

I freely admit on a superficial level, I crush on Castle because he’s “my type”. Older, softer, with laugh lines around his eyes and some gray in the hair. Honestly, most of the social media photos of young, ripped guys passed around for writer’s inspiration do nothing for me. I like a man with some miles on him, and I’m a sucker for boyish grins and sense of humor.

But beyond that incredibly sexy and slightly cheeky packaging, Castle appeals to me on many levels. His absolute love for his mother and his daughter. His patience with Kate Beckett because she’s a woman who doesn’t love easily. She’s tough and strong and he doesn’t try to soften her edges. He lets her be her. When he screws up, usually trying to do the right thing, he apologizes for it. He knows when to push and when to back off, though sometimes he gets it wrong. And we get to see his friendships with men, namely Kate’s partners, and how he treasures them. He’s values I share and qualities I admire, wrapped in a funny, sexy, imperfect and irresistible package.

Plus, he’s an author who seems to be able to write an ongoing, bestselling crime series while only spending approximately ten minutes per season with his butt parked in front of the computer. Who wouldn’t love that?

Is Castle your ‘type’ of hero too? Or did you prefer Nathan Fillion’s character in Firefly? Let us know!

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Introducing our Weekend Writing Tips!

Hi everyone,

Welcome to the SOLD blog’s newest and most exciting new feature – our Weekend Writing Tips! Each Saturday, watch out for short and snappy videos from Harlequin authors and editors, telling you their **top** writing tip.

First to take the SOLD blog stage is the very wonderful, very brave, the-camera-loves-her Presents author Annie West! Watch the video below to get her expert advice on how to write for this much-loved series.

Sit back, press play, and enjoy :-)

Have a great weekend, everyone, and happy writing!

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Interview with…Julie Moffett

{908EBF8D-1CE2-45FF-A6E1-A87068CFED4A}Img100Julie Moffett first sold to Harlequin in 2009. Her Lexi Carmichael mystery series debut was NO ONE LIVES TWICE and since then, she has six books in the series. What she loves most about writing for Harlequin is the wonderful editing staff, a fabulous marketing team and the overall team support and enthusiasm for her work.

Follow @JMoffettAuthor on Twitter, and on Facebook, and check out her most recent book, No Test For The Wicked!

  1. What book first got you hooked on Harlequin?
    One of my college best friends was a subscriber to the series and got a box of books every month. She was kind enough to share them and so it all began!
  2. How did you celebrate selling your first manuscript?
    I went out to dinner and had champagne.
  3. Which of the many books you’ve written has stayed with you the most and why?
    Each book stays with me for a variety of reasons. They are, in many ways, like children. Things are happening while I’m writing them—things that have bonded me to the characters, the setting, and the events. It’s too hard to just choose one. They all are special to me.
  4. What’s top of your TBR pile?
    A History of Witches by Deborah Harkness (hope it’s as good as everyone is saying!)
  5. What book do you wish you’d written and why?
    Harry Potter, of course! J
  6. What’s harder – first or last lines?
    For me, it’s always the first lines. They are so important!!
  7. How do you choose your characters names?
    No idea. They just come to me, usually in the shower.
  8. How do you push through writer’s block?
    Whenever I have writer’s block it is a signal from my Muse that I’ve done something wrong in the story. So, I go back to the beginning and try to figure out where I went wrong. After a day or so, I find it. After all these years, I really trust my Muse on this. Writer’s block is actually a helpful sign for me to take a closer look at my story structure.
  9. What’s the best career advice you’ve ever had?
    Don’t EVER give up. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get it. Persevere!!
  10. Your preferred writing snack?
    Blue Diamond Bold Almonds Habanero BBQ. Once I start eating them, I can’t stop. So good!
  11. Who is your favourite fictional couple?
    Harry Potter and Hermione Granger (the couple that never happened, but should have!) J
  12. If you could rewrite your life, what would you change?
    Not a thing. Life unfolds as it should.
  13. What would your readers be surprised to know about you?
    I once interviewed Russian Leader Boris Yelstin in Russian when he was completely toasted and I was terrified because his words were so slurred I couldn’t understand a single word whatsoever!
  14. What is your most overused word?
    Actually. I love that word!!
  15. If I wasn’t a romance author, I would have liked to be…
    a mystery writer. J
  16. When was the last time you said ‘I love you’?
    Every day to my kids and family. I never live a single day without saying it to them and often.
  17. What does love feel like?
    A warm hug and a tightness in my heart.
  18. What’s your guiltiest pleasure?
    Reading Facebook on my iPhone, watching the Princess Bride for the zillionth time, and having extra whipped cream on my hot chocolate.
  19. What’s your most romantic song?
    The One You Love by Glenn Fry
  20. Every hero needs a…
    strong heroine to stand beside him.

 

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Confessions of a Harlequin Editor: Kathryn Lye

IMG00517-20150130-1206This week it’s Harlequin Heartwarming editor Kathryn Lye in the SOLD blog hot-seat – enjoy this insight into what she’s looking for, and don’t forget to tweet her with your questions or post them below!

Hi!

I’m Kathryn Lye, a Harlequin editor located in the Toronto office. On St. Patrick’s Day next month I’ll have been with the company for eighteen years. I had hoped that starting at Harlequin on St. Patrick’s Day would bring me good luck, and it has. I’ve had an amazing journey working with and getting to know so many authors, agents and colleagues. Indeed, I’ve been very lucky.

My primary task is to acquire and edit for the Harlequin Heartwarming series. These books are clean, contemporary romances at 70 000 words. Finding new authors is definitely one of the best things about this job. Making ‘the call’ –hopefully making someone’s publishing dream a reality — is a great privilege. I’ve had authors on the phone who have cried happy tears, screamed, and to complete the range of emotion, been shocked speechless.

What I’m most keen or excited to see in a new submission is depth of emotion from the characters and that the characters seem real. Meaning they have an interesting personality, are engaging, have good points, but are still vulnerable and open to change. I love it when I’ve enjoyed being with certain characters so much that I don’t want to leave them by the end of the story!

Romances that capture a blend of dramatic circumstances or premise, and a little underlying humor are often my favorites. Having a sense of humor is key I think to tackling life’s ups and downs. Lifts the soul; helps you to remember the bigger picture.

On a practical note, to date in the series we’ve published a number of fine romances that involve refurbishing a property, home or business, but going forward I’d also like to see other types of stories, and, I do love small-town settings, they have a lot to offer in terms of charm, texture and a close-knit community. But I would also like to see more urban settings. I live in a large cosmopolitan city and confess I enjoy seeing locales that I can relate to personally.

I always like attention to detail. No doubt it relates to the stickler part of my brain and personality. Do events that happen make sense to the story? What about the choices characters make, or their behavior, do they advance the plot, the relationship? Romances that answer yes to these questions definitely appeal to me.

My other passion, apart from reading, is for my four-year-old nephew. I recently bought him a terrific picture book by Scott Campbell titled Hug Machine. Enough said.

Best wishes,

Kathryn

Follow me on Twitter @Lye1892.

 

 

 

 

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Series Spotlight on…Harlequin Romantic Suspense!

Murder, Secrets, and Scandals in Harlequin Romantic Suspense
and
The Adair Affairs

By Patience Bloom

In every Harlequin Romantic Suspense novel, the romance takes precedence over the suspense. We love those gritty characters who grapple with hard choices, all while losing themselves to love. As the hero and heroine deal with extraordinary circumstances—crime, natural disaster, drama, scandals—they should be on that unexpected romantic journey. Writers can take their characters all over the world.

Our stories are 70,000-75,000 words long and carry that edge-of-your-seat feel in moments of suspense. Thanks to a longer word-length, the stories contain deeper character development and layered plots. Intensity is key to this line. Whatever story you’re writing for us, it has to be unforgettable: unforgettable characters, an unforgettable premise, and most importantly, an unforgettable romance. We want readers to reach the end and not be able to get the story out of their heads.

The Harlequin Romantic Suspense team is delighted to present The Adair Affairs, a four-book miniseries that showcases the emotional thrill-ride we seek for our readers. In this series you’ll discover secret babies, family turmoil, nights of passion, friends turned lovers, and those lawmen who keep us safe. This series centers on the Adair family, whose legacy spans the country, from the hallowed halls of government in Washington, D.C. to a sprawling estate in California.

adair affair 4 adair affair 2 adair affair 1 adair affair 3

In these four books, a massive shock puts the Adair family into crisis mode—and everyone is a suspect. As lawmen search for a killer, other stories about the Adairs come to light, and one in particular unlocks an old secret.

Marie Ferrarella’s 250th book, Carrying His Secret, launches The Adair Affairs. In this gripping story, Elizabeth Shelton has always had a crush on Whit Adair, her boss’s son. But now, having just discovered she’s pregnant with Whit’s child after a one-night stand, she soon becomes the next target of her boss’s murderer….

In The Marine’s Temptation, by Jennifer Morey, Georgia Mason wanted adventure—and now she’s tumbled into a deadly game of cat and mouse between Marine Carson Adair and a murderer who has destroyed his family. Carson has to protect the spirited librarian as he uncovers secrets someone is killing to keep.

Indulge your fantasies of a Secret Agent Boyfriend, by Addison Fox. In this story, when long-buried secrets surface for an American royal family, society princess Landry Adair and too-handsome FBI expert Derek Winchester must pretend to care for each other to trap a killer. But fake romance turns very real while they work to solve a decades-old kidnapping.

New York Times bestselling author Elle James brings us the stunning conclusion with Heir to Murder. When his father is murdered, a newly found heir to a fortune and his far-too-attractive best friend hatch a plan to catch a killer…but will the painful secrets she’s keeping destroy the growing bond between them?

As you can tell, the Adairs have a lot to deal with. How could they possibly have time for romance? Oh, but they do. These four will capture your heart! And if you feel that these stories fit with what you’re writing, please submit your romance to our team. We are always looking for great new voices.

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