Guestpost, Mills & Boon, Reading, Romance, Writing

Guestpost – Kelly Hunter; What’s In a Setting?

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After a decade spent writing category romance for the international marketplace, I’ve come to the conclusion that where I set a story has a rather large impact on how well that story sells. Choose a recognizable and appealing location, play to its strengths, linger longer on its unique beauty … and sale!

I should have just asked the real-estate guy.

But there are caveats when it comes to sales, be it within real estate or romance novels. Who you’re trying to sell to matters rather a lot. Are they familiar with your setting? Do they want the location you’re peddling?

Sometimes not.

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Being an Australian author writing predominantly for UK and US markets, I regularly come unstuck in that the places I find fascinating and want to write about aren’t necessarily recognisable locations with widespread appeal. Can’t please everyone, I thought early on in my career—although as a romance author writing for a publisher with unparalleled worldwide distribution, it probably wouldn’t hurt to try.

Write to the market, yes. Test the market? That too, which is another way of saying “I don’t always want to write stories set in bestselling locations, so occasionally I’m going to write about some other place that interests me.” Occasionally, I’d wear the consequences of such tests—meaning poor sales and delayed entry into some of my bigger markets. I used to budget for it in that for every risky setting used, I’d write two other safe-set stories to go with it.

These days I set my stories far and wide, without any of the budgeting I once did. My reasons?

Stubbornness, obviously, along with enough financial security to allow a little leeway when it comes to sales. Markets changing, opening up, shrinking, and no crystal ball for any of it. Books go round a second, third and fourth time and meet a different market every time. It’s fascinating stuff. Above all, I want diversity in my romance reading mix, alongside familiar stories I know I’ll love. I’ll try anything once (twice, three times). And sometimes I’ll find a new favourite.

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I’ve a series on sale in Australia at the moment, called the Bennetts. They were the ones who got me thinking about settings and market preferences and stories coming around again.

So what’s the series about?

One independent young woman, four overprotective older brothers, and settings ranging from London to Hong Kong, outback Australia, the Greek Islands and Singapore. The Bennetts are Australian by birth but the extended family they acquire is an international one.

Series order is:

  1. Wife for a Week
  2. Priceless
  3. Taken by the Bad Boy
  4. Untameable Rogue
  5. Red Hot Renegade

The first book in the series, Wife For A Week, is FREE on iBooks Aus and Amazon Aus.

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Kelly’s career in science took her from outback Australia to the jungles of South East Asia before she turned to writing romance.

Thirty books in, and she’s received both industry and reader recognition for my stories. She likes the tight focus of short contemporary romance and it suits her attention span to write them. A lot of people ask if she’s ever going to write longer books. Maybe that’s next…

Find out more about Kelly hunter and her books on her website; and follow her blog and find her on Facebook and Twitter for regular, nature-filled, updates!

 

Guestpost, Release Post, Romance

Guestpost – Kimberly Lang and the Small Town Romance

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After fifteen or so books set in big cosmopolitan cities, it came as a bit of a surprise to some of my readers to find out the new series was set in a small southern town. Honestly, y’all, it was a bit of a surprise to me, too. But it’s been so much fun getting to know the people of Magnolia Beach.

I’ve been asked what attracted me to the small town setting, and after some serious thought I realized it was the same thing that attracted me to reunion and second-chance romances: the history.eal_us_cover

In a reunion romance, our hero and heroine are forced to face parts of their past they’d really hoped they’d get to forget. Whether it’s that unfortunate (but temporary) obsession with Adam Sandler or that strange thing you did to your hair that time, we move on and conveniently forget. Stupid things said and done and bad choices made can be filed away under “Lessons Learned” and we can believe we are no longer that person.

Hook up with your ex (like in The Girl’s Guide to Flirting with Danger and The Million Dollar Question) or even that person you went to school with and haven’t seen since (like in The Downfall of a Good Girl or Grace Felt the Heat), and you’re faced with the person who witnessed those questionable choices and may still see you as the person you were then. In a small town, that’s multiplied: everyone remembers those knee-high moccasins and the time you had to be pulled off the bar and sent home in a taxi. You may be forgiven, but it’s not forgotten, and while you may be an improved version of that younger person, it’s all still you.  It’s baggage you get to carry everywhere, all the time.

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That history, those connections to the past and other people, are catnip for me. I love to explore the way characters handle that history — whether it’s the guy who’s still living his high school football glory days, the reformed wild child who’s moved on, the guy who’s never gotten over his high school crush, or the couple who’s passionate affair fizzled out and they’re okay with it. (Really. Stop asking. They’re just friends.)

Some do it gracefully; some don’t always handle it well. The same goes for the folks around them. But there’s always a story there, waiting to be told.

And that’s what brought me to Magnolia Beach. I hope you come to love the place as much as I do.

The first book in Kimberly’s Magnolia Beach series, Something to Prove, is out now, and she’s just released the One Little Thing novella!

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Kimberly Lang is a USA Today bestselling author and Southern belle with a troublemaking streak. A former ballet dancer and English teacher, she now does yoga and writes the kind of books she always loved to read.

She’s married to her college sweetheart, is mom to the most amazing child on the planet, and shares her office space with a dog named Cupid.

Find out more about Kimberly and her books on her website; and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for regular, nature-filled, updates!

 

 

Guestpost, Mills & Boon, Romance, Writing

Guestpost – Nikki Logan’s Love Affair with Deserts

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In 2014, I was lucky enough to take two big overseas trips from Australia—first to the United Arab Emirates and later also to Canada. K’ching! But when you’re a writer every trip, everywhere, is a research opportunity (and deductible) which makes the expense more palatable.

My UAE stop-over was a functional one, at first, mid-route to Wales. Of all the states on the Arabian peninsula, the collected Emirates are the least conservative (which is not to say they’re not still quite conservative by our standards) and perhaps the most accessible to and tolerant of Westerners. I flew into Dubai but I just had no interest in the glass and chrome spectacle of the world’s most consumptive city; I was more keen to hit some of the natural spots. In the UAE, nature pretty much comes in three flavours – marine, mountain and desert.

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I picked desert.

In July.

What a noob!

Some simplistic context…. Saudi Arabia, Oman and Yemen make up the bulk of the Arabian peninsula (sand making up the bulk of them), and, years ago, a number of smaller Emirates grouped together politically to form the United Arab Emirates along the southern shores of the Persian Gulf. The whole peninsula was once the floor of a vast ocean, and all that golden desert sand is actually ancient sea sand that has been shifting about on the surface ever since. As our present mini ice-age locked up all the water, the land there lost much of its original green oasis and wildlife and—over millennia—it has baked and blown to its present dry state.

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The temperature gauge on the expensive limo that whisked me out of the city and out into the desert toward Oman read 58 Celsius. Celsius! Off the asphalt it was a little cooler (50C) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the 6-star resort I stayed at was virtually a ghost town. On the up side, the scorching heat meant I had the resort’s amazing facilities— and the entire desert— practically to myself. But I understood a little better how I had managed to get such an accessible price on such an exclusive resort.

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For the record, desert—most particularly the sort comprising 99% of the UAE—is completely awesome. It is nothing like you imagine. I expected to find it interesting from a wildlife and conservation standpoint, but I had no idea it would seep into my heart like its sands seeped into my luggage. Its colour, the geometry, the light… *sigh*

I sat on the edge of a massive, fenced wildlife reserve in my private Bedouin tent with my private plunge pool, where the wildlife came virtually to my door feeling like it was all for me, and I had the most magical, restorative and inspiring few days of my life.

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I immediately knew that I’d be setting a book there. If not more than one. Out of respect for the culture and the beautiful people I met, I created my own fictional Emirate and history, but the rest of the wildlife experiences I included in my December release ‘Bodyguard…to Bridegroomwere real. I knew it was the sort of place where a woman could go to find herself and maybe find love while she was out there. Because I both found myself and found a new love (for the desert!) while I was there.

I blogged extensively about my experiences at the luxury resort here if you would like to learn more about it, the deserts and wildlife of the UAE  (scroll down to the deserty stuff).

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Nikki Logan lives amongst a string of wetlands in Western Australia with her long-suffering partner and a menagerie of furred, feathered and scaly mates.  Her romance with nature goes way back, and she considers her life charmed, given that she works with wildlife by day and writes fiction by night–the perfect way to combine her two loves.

Nikki believes that the passion and risk of falling in love are perfectly mirrored in the danger and beauty of wild places. Every romance she writes contains an element of nature, and if readers catch a waft of rich earth or the spray of wild ocean between the pages she knows her job is done.

Find out more about Nikki and her books on her website; and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for regular, nature-filled, updates!

#StrongRomanceHeroines, Avon, Guestpost, Reading, Writing

Guestpost – Codi Gary and The Men in Uniform Series

 

I’ve been a huge fan of Codi Gary’s Rock Canyon, Idaho series, (I mean, who wouldn’t love her #StrongRomanceHeroines?!) so I’m super excited about her new Men in Uniform series, set in north California.

I’m lucky enough to have Codi here today, talking about her inspiration for the setting…

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With my Rock Canyon, Idaho series, I pulled locales from the area I live in now, but for the first twenty-nine years of my life, I was a Nor Cal girl.

Growing up in little towns like Mt. Aukum and later, Latrobe, I spent my weekends walking the two miles down the road to the café and video store to grab lunch and a movie, stopping off at the general store for an ice cream on the way home. If we wanted to go to Costco, we had to drive an hour down to Sunrise Ave in Citrus Height, a part of Southeast Sacramento.

When I was a teenager, I was desperate to get my license because my friend’s parents hated driving out to the boonies and up a half a mile bumpy dirt road to get me. In my early to mid-twenties I found myself moving closer and closer to the city, from Folsom to Roseville and then Fair Oaks. For the last few years before our big move, we lived off Raley Blvd. One night, I heard gunshots while my husband was working late and I couldn’t shrug them off as deer season. That was when city life really lost its charm for me, but the Sacramento Area was the perfect setting for my series.

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After all, writing what you know is the author’s mantra, right? I get to write about some of my favorite places in the whole world, places I miss like crazy, especially certain times of year. Like Apple Hill, a twelve mile curvy road with farms and orchards all along it between Placerville and Pollock Pines. I plan on using this for a scene in book two, and letting my characters enjoy some of the apple donuts, and spiced cider that brings back so many warm memories for me. And seeing concerts in Discovery Park!

In One Lucky Hero, Dean Sparks and Violet Douglas meet there for the first time, and it was fun going back to my first concert, remembering the sights and sounds (not necessarily the smell though. In a hundred degree heat with a mass of people, you can get some interesting odors.)

The thing about this area is that in two hours you can be in a completely different terrain and find so many interesting places to explore. Folsom Lake, Grass Valley, Davis, Lockeford, Strawberry…even places only locals know about. And I look forward to helping you explore all of it while my characters find their happily ever after.

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The first book in the Men in Uniform series to explore Sacramento, I Need a Hero, is available now at  Amazon,    B & N, GooglePlay, iTunes and Kobo.

An obsessive bookworm, Codi Gary likes to write sexy small-town contemporary romances with humor, grand gestures, and blush-worthy moments. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading her favorite authors, squealing over her must-watch shows, and playing with her children. She lives in Idaho with her family.

To find out more about Codi , check out her website, subscribe to her newsletter and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Carina, Guestpost, Reading, Writing

Guestpost – Rebecca Raisin and A Love Affair with Place

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I write about love between people, but I didn’t know until recently that you could fall in love with a place just as hard. When I went to Paris it was as though it was familiar to me. Like I’d walked down those cobblestoned streets before, craned my neck to take in the Eiffel Tower with the backdrop of dense grey skies. Every little detail caught my eye, and I knew when it came to write The Little Paris Collection I’d remember those small things because they touched me so much.

The gargoyles perched atop the Notre Dame with their piercing eyes, and open mouths, like they’re ready to pounce, sitting atop like sentinels for hundreds of years, made me catch my breath. Who else walked these very same steps as me, and felt a frisson of excitement that there was so much to see and do if you only took your time?

The little flower shops hidden down laneways, their shabby chic green façades the very thing people the world over try to recreate in their own homes. Pale pink petals littering the stones below, like confetti, the air scented sweet. I could have bundled up a bouquet of peonies, and cradled them like a baby, they were so perfectly pink, and lush.

The scent of the Seine, as you walk along the Left Bank, rich and earthy, and so utterly real. The Bouquinistes who sell antiquarian books outside, and have done forever, their stall owners bundled up in scarves against the elements, smoking pipes, reading a dusty yellow tome. Unapologetically, I’d pick up a book and sniff it, its pages swollen with time and the distant memory of its former owner.

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The chatter at the food markets, much gesticulating; the secret stash of the freshest vegetables hidden, and pulled out discreetly when a regular customer arrived, speaking in rapid-fire French.

Cheeses! So many to choose from, different colours and textures, a mouthwatering sight. How could I not try them all? Forget restaurants we snacked as we walked and stopped in at bistros when the only thing we needed was to rest our weary feet and sip on a vin blanc.

Heading off to sight see and stumbling on an antique market set up along the Right Bank. Old books sitting solemnly, musky clothes throwing shadows to the ground, like they were waiting for another owner to make them new again. Cutlery, lots of faded silver knives and forks. Where did they come from? Had their owners passed away? I wanted to snatch it all up, and stare at it for hours, hoping that their history would become evident, and I’d know exactly where all these vintage pieces had come from, and why they were being sold.

And lastly, the piece of Paris that stole my heart now and forever: Shakespeare and Co. A little bookshop by the bank of the Seine. If you love books, and worship them, this is the place for you.

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A bustling bookshop with rickety shelves, filled to the bursting with books, some old some new. You’ll find writers hutches; small spaces to hide and bash away at your laptop. Make your way upstairs through the throng of people, and you might be lucky enough to see someone playing the piano its haunting notes drifting lazily above. By the window, a bunch of people heads bent over a sketch book, making fluid strikes on their paper of the view of the Notre Dame in the distance. My heart really did skip a beat here, I wanted to stay forever! I wanted to wander around the bookshop when it was bereft of people, and see if any of its famous, long since dead writers spoke to me in the quiet of midnight. But I didn’t. I couldn’t stay. And the anticipation of one day returning, and clapping eyes on such disorderly beauty is enough for me for now. The memories, the scent of old and new, past and present, is what I have with me still.

Rebecca Raisin is a true bibliophile. This love of books morphed into the desire to write them. She’s been widely published in short story anthologies, and in fiction magazines. And now she is focusing on writing romance.  She aims to write characters you can see yourself being friends with. People with big hearts who care about relationships and believe in true love.

Connect online with her on her WebsiteTwitterFacebook.

Exploits of a Chick Lit Aficionado, Mills & Boon, Reading, Thrills & Swoon

#FirstTimeInForever

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Every now and then, a book inspires me enough for me to write a veritable glut of pieces about it.  The latest book to do this is Sarah Morgan’s First Time in Forever.

Like the Frozen song of the same name, it tells a story of love and redemption, and of feeling free for the very first time.

I’ve written two pieces about it – once for Mills & Boon, which focuses on the conflict within the narrative, and once about the importance of setting, and would recommend that you read it also.