Archive for the guest blogger Category

A reader’s view of the Diamonds Down Under series with Christa Runge

Posted in guest blogger with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 13, 2008 by yvonnelindsay

We figured that by now you’d probably all need a wee break from hearing about us and from us so we decided to invite one of our regular visitors to blog with a reader’s perspective on the Diamonds Down Under continuity. So let’s put together a very warm welcome for CHRISTA!

 

 

I felt privileged to have been asked to blog on this series. Each author did an exceptional job on her story. Readers were left to ponder various questions for the next 6 months. Readers were left wondering if son James, who was kidnapped at age 3, is still alive. What sort of relationship did Marise and Howard have? Who fathered Blake, Matt or Howard? Where are the diamonds from the Blackstone Rose? Will Matt be successful in his takedown of Blackstones?

Then in each story there are even more secrets.

In VOWS & A VENGEFUL GROOM we are left wondering if Howard really wrote his daughter, Kimberley, out of his will when she went to work for House of Hammond? Also, the CEO position at Blackstones has not been decided–who will it be, Howard’s right hand man, Ric Perrini, or Howard’s own son, Ryan? Would a union with Kimberley better Ric’s chances?

In Tessa’s PRIDE & PREGNANCY SECRET we are again bombarded with questions. Why does Jessica feel she has to end things with Ryan? Why did Jessica change her mind at the last minute about taking the flight that ended up killing Howard and Marise?

In Maxine’s MISTRESS & A MILLION DOLLARS we are left to figure out why Briana needed $1million dollars? How is it that Marise came into possession of stones from the Blackstone Rose?

Rumour had it that Howard was Danielle Hammond’s father and if not Howard then who was her father? This question is brought to the forefront in Jan’s SATIN & A SCANDALOUS AFFAIR. I know with me, I wondered how Quinn fit into the feud between the Hammonds and the Blackstones.

Another character throughout the series was Jake Vance. How did he fit? Was he a threat to Blackstones? Someone is blackmailing Holly to spy on Jake. Who? These issues Paula tackles in BOARDROOMS & A BILLIONAIRE HEIR.

Yvonne rounds out the series with JEALOUSY & A JEWELLED PROPOSITION. Here, Yvonne answers the question readers have been speculating for the last 5 months. She had the daunting task of answering all the previous questions but also giving Matt a story. She did this beautifully by having Matt subconsciously not give Blake as much attention because he wasn’t sure if he was his son and providing him with a heroine to match him.

In my opinion the books read as though the authors communicated quite a bit. I don’t think I came across any discrepancies in the books, so it would seem these authors had a great rapport and paid close attention to details. I found each story linked together marvellously. During the release of these six books the authors had other books released, so I’m sure a little time was taken from loved ones. I, for one, thank you. From what I’ve seen, this series has quite a following. As individuals, or a group, I love reading books from this group of authors. I live in Canada and each month these authors showed me parts of Australia and New Zealand.

 

Yvonne: Christa, thank you so much for blogging with us on the DDU blog. Your support and input on various discussion boards for the continuity has been much appreciated.

 

This leaves me with a question for the rest of our readers, what did you love the most about the series? Was it discovering the answer to a particular mystery, or even that you were right about ‘the truth’ of a mystery in the continuity. Or maybe it was a specific setting, or a set of characters that you just fell completely in love with? We’d love to hear from you. All blog comments will go into a draw where the winner will be randomly drawn to win a copy of Suzanne Brockmann’s EMBRACED BY LOVE, together with an exceptionally cute fluffy New Zealand sheep fridge magnet.

Q&A With Mary-Theresa Hussey, Executive Editor, Silhouette Books

Posted in guest blogger with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2008 by Bronwyn Jameson

This week at DDU we are delighted to welcome Mary-Theresa Hussey as our special guest. As well as finding a good book to publish, Matrice also loves to find a good book to read and is a member — and MVP — of the New York Editors team in the eHarlequin 100,000 Book Challenge. She has graciously agreed to stop by during the week to talk about everyone’s favourite topic: books! To get the discussion started, we asked Matrice about her job, her reading habits and her favourite series.

Q: What is your current position at Harlequin and what does your job entail?

MTH: My title is Executive Editor, Silhouette Books, and it actually covers many facets! My main responsibilities are to coordinate the fantastic work of the Senior Editors for the Desire, Special Edition and Romantic Suspense lines. I’ll help resolve questions that arise from overseas or Toronto, give input on repackaging and direction of line and copy, approve contracts and legal bits, do the management aspects of the editors in the group, represent the lines to the sales group and overseas in meetings, and do all I can to support the editors in achieving their goals of selling more books every year. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the main aspects of the daily life. Sadly, not a lot of reading or working on manuscripts, but I do have a lot of emails and phone calls and looking toward the future.

Q: Do you have authors you edit and are you still an acquiring editor?

MTH: I still have about fifteen authors and am selectively on the lookout for more. I have authors who write for Specials and Nocturne in series, and for LUNA and MIRA in single title. And I keep an eye out for more authors with compelling voices for both series and single title.

Q: What was your first job with the company?

MTH: I started as an Editorial Assistant for Silhouette Romance. Tara Gavin was Senior Editor of Silhouette Romance at that time and hired me because I was a fan of Diana Palmer and Ann Major, both her own authors!

Q: Which lines have you worked/edited for since?

MTH: Well, I’ve had a number of special projects over the years, and have had authors who have written for more lines as well. Hmm. I’ve acquired titles for Silhouette Romance, Special Edition, Desire, Intimate Moments, Shadows, Yours Truly, Bombshell, Romantic Suspense and Nocturne. And for Harlequin Intrigue, Historicals, Love and Laughter, Duets, Modern Extra. Love Inspired. I’ve also acquired for LUNA, MIRA, RDI, the new YA line and for the single title programs for Harlequin and Silhouette. So a lot of them!

Q: Rumour has it you’re an avid reader — has that always been the case? Do you remember your introduction to romance and Harlequin books?

MTH: I’ve always been an avid reader and I started out young in series — Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames, and all the other series like that. They learned to hook me from an early age!

When I was eleven we were spending three weeks in Ireland (my parents were born there), and I’d run out of books to read and was going crazy. So my aunt volunteered her Mills & Boon collection and I was hooked! The first one was “The Master Fiddler” by Janet Dailey and I devoured them all. Then, when I was back in NY, I discovered the library carried these books and used book stores and I was a goner. I got my first bank account so I could write checks to subscribe to the Loveswept series! My parents are not readers (though they read to us every night at bed and encouraged it), and are bewildered by it, but resigned as well.

Luckily I’ve got a commute where 40 minutes each way is on a subway, so I have some solid reading time that I reserve for printed books. And I’ll often go to the park at lunch, or curl up at the end of the day to finish the book. So that gives me an advantage!

Q: You mentioned reading series from an early age — are you still a fan of connected books, series and continuities?

MTH: I do love connected stories and read them for preference. There is a balance however, that needs to be addressed to make the stories move along in characters and plot in a way you can trust them. The J.D. Robb Death series moves the relationship along between Eve and Dallas but focuses on the mystery in a way that’s very pleasing.

But sometimes a series with a single character begins to feel forced and the author has to hold back some decisions or hard choices because of the impact down the road. I have trouble with that, because I like each book to deliver the strongest punch possible and want the author to trust her own creativity to fix it or deal with it.

Still, a world that I can return to heightens the level of trust and comfort and eagerness to return to a series. Lois McMaster Bujold has a SF series that in the first batch of stories she jumped around in time as well so we caught glimpses of Miles at various stages of his life (though the last four or five have been pretty much consistent).

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro did that with her Saint Germain series as well. I admire that and think it allows an author to experiment and keep things fresh.

Q: It seems you read widely across the genres — do you have a favourite genre or subgenre? An all-time favourite romance?

MTH: I find it hard to pick favorites. I like romance and fantasy and mystery and thrillers and paranormals and most of the subsets of those genres. I’m not really a women’s fiction reader; I’ll often prefer non-fiction over literary fiction as well. And what’s my favorite can depend on the mood. I’ve been unpacking boxes of books I’ve had stored for a while and falling in love with the books all over again. In the romance section, I’ve saved a lot of Essie Summers, Kay Hooper, Justine Davis, Rachel Lee, Sara Seale, Iris Johansen, Billie Douglass, Emma Darcy, Susan Napier, Susannah Hart and oh so many more!

Q: Obviously these older favourites are print books, but are you an eBook convert?

MTH: I’ve got mixed emotions. I was an early reader on eBooks and supporter in the company. I’ve probably read about thirty or more, but it’s not my first choice. There’s nothing that compares to the feel of the book in your hand, the words on the page, knowing how far you’ve gone and how far you have to go. Though the bars are there in e-formats, when you’re holding the book in your hand and you see that there’s only a few chapters to go, the excitement level rises as you wonder how it will be all wrapped up! And I love flipping back a page to catch something and carrying the book wherever I go. I generally carry a few books on my PDA, and am looking to do more on an ereader, but it’s not fully converted me yet.

And I’m still trying with audio books, but am struggling there.

I find myself getting distracted fairly easily and losing the import of the words and phrases, even when the readers are strong. But I keep trying to see if I can learn to enjoy it, as I know many others really find it satisfying.

Q: I’ve always wondered, is it difficult to discard your editing pen and read purely for pleasure?

MTH: It is sometimes hard to read for pleasure, but I try to approach the books I read with a clear mind whenever possible. The minor typos and incongruities bother me, but I can let them go. I do often reflect on what I would have suggested to the author to change. What irked me about the characterizations or conflicts or perhaps how to tighten or expand areas. But if I tried to do that all the time I’d never be able to enjoy the book on its own terms, so I can usually limit it.

Q: Have you ever considered writing a book?

MTH: I have sat down maybe twice and got to page two before stopping. It bores me and I really have no interest in writing on my own. I love brainstorming and interacting with authors and am astonished by the commitment it takes to finish a novel. But for me, I’d much rather read someone else’s book!

To finish up, we posed a couple of fun complete-this-sentence questions…

The best part of my job is…

Dealing with the creative, interesting, challenging people in the office and out-the authors and readers as well as colleagues.

On my desk you will always find…

A mess! Tons of papers, magazines, books, pens in various colors. And I have an unopened gift that I leave there for a really bad day. It’s a potential treat that gives me a sense of hope and mystery and fun. Luckily, I haven’t had to open it, and its packaging is pretty so I can just smile at it!

If I wasn’t an editor, I would like to be a…

Hmm. Photographer — for children perhaps!

My favourite place in the world is…

Changes a lot! But I keep coming back to a hill I climbed in Ireland in Kerry twenty years ago. The grass was green and slightly damp, a waterfall was trickling nearby, the wind was freshening, the sun was peeking through the clouds, some mountains were behind for a cradling feel, and the sea stretched out before me dotted with islands that glistened in greens and browns amid the blues and grays and greens of the water that was shot with silver and white as the light caught it.

Whenever I’m stressed or tired, I can call that image to my mind and feel ready to take on the next task.

I have always wanted to…

Go into space! Perhaps one of these years I will….

My favourite piece of jewellery is…

A “History of Ireland” silver bangle bracelet my parents gave me a few years ago. It’s unusual, creative, a discussion point, and the images lead to so much more.

To continue the Q&A theme and start this week’s discussion, Matrice has a question for you: What makes you choose a book by a new author? What makes you try something new?

Your comment this week will enter you in the draw to win a 3-pack of books, handpicked by Bron to include new-to-YOU authors. (Prize drawn June 21.)

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SPECIAL EVENT: Join us for the drawing of Melissa Jeglinski’s critique on Friday, June 20 at 7.30am Australian EST–that’s Thursday, June 19, 5.30pm American EDT. All commenters in the Q&A with MJ are eligible for this fabulous prize. Full details here.
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Q & A with Diana Ventimiglia, Associate Editor with Silhouette Desire

Posted in guest blogger with tags , , , , , , , on April 22, 2008 by jan colley

Please accept my apologies for posting late, but I’m sure you are all going to love hearing what this lady has to say. We are so excited to bring you the following Q&A by Diana Ventimiglia, Associate Editor for Silhouette Desire. Many published and aspiring authors already know Diana as Melissa Jeglinski’s Editorial Assistant until her promotion last year. Diana kindly agreed to answer the questions we dreamed up for her, but even more fantastic, she has offered to critique a full or partial manuscript from a randomly-chosen winner who comments on this week’s blog. If you are not in a position to take advantage of this prize there will be a parcel of books from our Downunder authors. Feel free to comment on the blog anyway, just stipulate whether or not you want to go in the draw for Diana’s critique or the book prize. We will draw the winner on Sunday 27th April.

Don’t be confused with the critique offered by Melissa Jeglinski, which will be drawn in June and is still open for comments. Check out Melissa’s Q&A in December to enter. 

1/ The Desire line is home to many different voices, settings and tones – perhaps now more than ever! What do think epitomizes a great Desire?

I think a great Desire is sexy and packed with lots of conflict. If an author can give me passion, scandal, and an alpha hero I’d love to date myself I think they’ve nailed Desire. I also think Desire has very strong heroines. They are nurturing and sensitive, yet can stand up for themselves.

2/ Your podcast with MJ last month on eHarlequin generated a lot of interest. I was interested to hear you would like authors to push the envelope, go deeper or more over the top. Can you expand on that a little?

By pushing the envelope I mean moving out of ones comfort zone. If an author had an idea and thought, ‘hmm this might be a little too dramatic’; I say go for it. Don’t be afraid to add different elements. For example, the hero gets into a car accident and is left with amnesia. He returns home and marries the wrong twin sister he slept with months ago. Then it turns out she’s pregnant with his brother’s child. OK maybe not exactly the above, but just that idea of not being afraid to be a little too dramatic. It’s always easier to cut down than to tack on at the end.

3/Can you give us your take on the differences between the Presents and the Desire Alpha Hero?

I think the biggest difference between the Presents hero and the Desire hero is that the Desire hero shows his feelings more. The readers have a better idea of where he came from and his transformation in the end.  For example, although he is out for revenge, readers still see his sensitive side as he feels for the heroine throughout the manuscript. 

4/Can you give us a brief idea of the path of a contracted manuscript after it lands on your desk?

Once a contracted manuscript lands on my desk, I first give it a read through to make sure it follows the proposal and has all the elements of a Desire. Once I complete this, I then begin the line edit. After this stage, the manuscript is sent out for copyediting, and I contact my authors with any important questions the copy editors may have. The author also receives a copy of the line edit, so she can get back to me with any changes she may have

5/What’s your personal favourite storyline – MOC, secret baby, seductive revenge etc? And do you have an all-time favourite romance?

I love secret baby stories. I just think they can be so juicy. I also think it makes for a great connection between the hero and heroine. I love seeing the hero taking on a more fatherly role. He really appeals to me in those scenes. So I’m very excited about the Billionaires & Babies series that starts in August 2008 with Maureen Child’s Baby Bonanza.

My all time favorite romance is when Harry Met Sally. I could watch that movie everyday for the rest of the year and be just as sappy.

6/I think you have a couple of Downunderers  in your growing stable of authors. Is it a hassle dealing with time differences, international postage, contracts whizzing here, there and everywhere, or not much different to dealing with American authors?

Well I love my down under authors and dealing with them is never a hassle. Really, it’s pretty much the same with American authors. The only difference being the time delay via telephone. I feel like those cell phone commercials where someone says something and the other responds but doesn’t hear anything and then thinks they said something horrible!  Haha so this sometimes can be tough, but other than that proposals and other materials are sent just as regularly as the American authors

7/Did you collaborate on the Diamonds Downunder series at all or was that down to MJ and the continuity editors?

Yes, that was all MJ.

There you have it. I will attempt to load the gorgeous pic Diana sent me but as my technical ability is now legendary on this blog, don’t hold your breath. Sorry again about the delay. What an interesting lady Diana is. Get polishing those secret baby stories, I say! And don’t forget, the winner for her critique or the books prize – you stipulate which when you post – will be drawn on Sunday 27th April. Best of luck, everyone!

Guest Blogging With Robyn Grady!

Posted in guest blogger on March 9, 2008 by yvonnelindsay

We’re thrilled to have as our guest blogger the gorgeous Robyn Grady. Robyn is a very busy lady writing for both Silhouette Desire and Mills & Boon’s Modern Heat (Presents Extra in the US.) But she’s kindly agreed to be available to us this week to answer some questions on writing for two different lines/houses and working with an agent. So, without further ado…heeeerrrrre’s Robbie!

Thanks so much, Yvonne, Bron, Tessa, Maxine, Jan and Paula for the invitation! If the world doesn’t know it yet, let me say again how much I’m enjoying your Diamond Downunder Series. I’m totally hooked!

Agent representation is the topic of the day! It happens to be one of my favourite subjects. After almost eight years of writing and submitting – submitting and writing – late in 2006 I was offered representation by a New York Agent and it made all the difference!

The DDU ladies have kindly put together a few questions. If anyone has any other questions, fire away! I’ll answer as best I can.

Firstly – the big question. How did you acquire your agent?

That’s a good story. Robbie Williams had been touring Downunder. On the Romance Writers of Australia loop there were a pile of messages with the heading ROBBIE!!! A good friend rang to see if I’d finally sold. I explained the misunderstanding and said I was still waiting for The Call. Waiting, waiting, waiting…. My friend suggested I contact her agent in New York. The week before, I’d emailed off a revised manuscript to the London editor I’d been working with for more than two years. Although the editor hadn’t rejected my two previous stories, this was the third manuscript to receive a revision request from her desk. I was going a little crazy: how long would I need to wait this time!? I decided, ‘What the heck do I have to lose?’ So I ran a brief email off to Spencerhill Associates outlining my background, including my working relationship with this editor and my US contest finals, which numbered 13 in 2006. (Contests are a very good thing J) The return email came back so quickly, I thought it was an auto reply. Then things started to happen!

What is the biggest advantage of having an agent (as a category author)?

From my experience, there are many advantages. The biggest would be that I feel I have an expert in the industry in my corner. Editors expect agents to follow up. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll always hear back sooner, but, rather, you don’t have to worry about when or how to approach again if you haven’t heard back. A good agent will be on top of things and keep you up to date. Which leaves more time for writing! J

What do you see as the key requisites in an author-agent relationship?

Honesty, patience, professionalism. I work mainly with Jennifer Schober from Spencerhill and we’re a great fit. I’ll be honest about any concerns or questions I might have, she’ll advise me on what she believes to be the best course of action, although she’s always clear that ultimate decisions are mine. When I say patience, I don’t mean hanging out forever for a reply to an email. I can’t think of a time that either Karen or Jennifer haven’t replied to an email the same day/night. Rather, I mean respecting the other person’s point of view and, from the author’s perspective, looking at the bigger, or smarter, picture.

I also think it’s important to keep in mind that an author-agent relationship is a professional relationship. I’m stoked that Jenn and I get on so well (it wouldn’t suit me to work with someone who’s abrupt or doesn’t share a similar sense of humour), but I’m very aware that everyone’s time is precious. We talk only when something pertaining to work needs to be discussed or addressed or celebrated. But social chit-chat emails I save for others.

How do you manage working for two lines?

 It’s a challenge! But a wonderful one. My first year, I had revisions on my first Desire, plus two other books to write. I also had a 10,000 word online story to write and chat about on eHarlequin for the eight weeks leading up to Christmas, which was fabulous!

But alongside that went line, copy and final edits. Art Fact information to supply. A website to create. I realised there was a lot to do besides writing the book. By late last year I knew I needed to rearrange my life to accommodate the workload. I have someone in to clean my house regularly (I refuse to feel guilty!) Our eldest daughter, who’s in university now, drops off and collects the younger two from school, which means two more working hours in my day. I don’t cook every night. (If anyone else wants to, they’re welcome to it!) But I give myself two nights off a week, more if I’m on a major deadline. The afternoons and early evening I spend with family, but, because I’m a night owl, it’s not unusual for me to write till two or three in the morning. Which is handy for talking to Jenn on New York time J

Why do some stories suit Desire and not Mod Heat and vice versa?

It comes back to the promise of each line – what a reader expects when she sits down to enjoy either a Desire of a Modern Heat (Sexy Sensation Downunder and Presents Extra in NA). Desire promises powerful, passionate, provocative reads – books “filled to the brim with strong, intense storylines”. Although they’re contemporary stories and in every way relevant to today’s women, they’re more traditional in tone. I always feel swept away by the fast-paced plots that impact on the characters and drive the romance to a heart-stopping and inevitably satisfying HEA.

Modern Heats are also gripping reads — but the tone tends to be flirtatious rather than dramatic. The heroes are still alpha — wealthy, dynamic, powerfully alluring — but he can be a bit younger and tends to share his fun side more. Think urban, big-city, jet set, girl-about-town lifestyles, and there’s no need to be shy about being creative with the characters and the passionate romance. When I write a story for either line, I pay close attention to tone (dramatic or flirtatious?), and use of hooks (more traditional or ultra contemporary?). At the heart of both lines, of course, are characters to identify with and care about

What is your schedule like writing for two lines?

 I work pretty much every day, whether it be actual writing or business relating to it. I’m always mindful of upcoming deadlines. I haven’t missed a deadline yet, although I once sent through copy edits at 6.55am, which is 4.55pm New York time after I’d worked through the night. That was a close one! When I was offered the 3 book deal with Modern Heat/Presents in January, my agent spoke with both my editors to make certain it could all be done, and done to everyone’s satisfaction. So I have four books to write this year (two Desires and two Modern Heats – one already complete). There may be another Desire toward the end of the year (fingers crossed!). I have another Modern Heat due in March 09.

Did you ever believe you would be where you are today?

No! LOL. Certainly not writing for my two dream lines, anyway. Eighteen months ago, I was pulling my hair out. I knew I was close but struggled with the idea that, no matter what I did, I wouldn’t be able to cross that shifting, invisible line into Harlequin/Silhouette Publication-land. How I wished someone would please just hand over that magic ingredient! I remember one night, putting our youngest to sleep, lying beside her with tears rolling down my cheeks. All the hours, months, years, I’d put into my writing…would it ever pay off? But, of course, I could never, and would never, give up. (Determination is my middle name J ) Not long after that night, I sold to Melissa Jeglinski and then to Kimberley Young. It’s taken me a year not to wake up and want to pinch myself.

Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates has very kindly offered a three chapter and synopsis critique as a prize to one randomly chosen lucky winner who comments on this blog and if you’re a reader and not looking for agent representation Robbie is giving away a copy of FOR BLACKMAIL OR PLEASURE and a copy of A WILD NIGHT & A MARRIAGE ULTIMATUM to one randomly chosen lucky winner. So there you have it DDU bloggers, we look forward to your comments. Remember to say  which draw you want to go into, i.e. Agent draw or Robbie’s books draw.

UPDATE!!! The agent and book prize winners will be drawn at the end of the week, Saturday 15 March Aussie time (Friday for most of the rest of the world 🙂 )

We welcome guest blogger NALINI SINGH!!!

Posted in guest blogger with tags , , , , , , on February 17, 2008 by yvonnelindsay

Nalini Singh was one of the original Diamonds Down Under Divas to be invited to participate in the continuity. As with Fiona Brand, her contract commitments meant she couldn’t come and play with us but in the meantime she’s agreed to guest blog with us today. So, here she is, hot off the NYT extended best seller list with her latest release MINE TO POSSESS, please welcome Nalini Singh!

I’m so excited to be here on the Diamonds Down Under blog. Thanks to the DDU authors for inviting me (of course, they kind of had to, given that I know where they live and everything *grin*). Since this blog is dedicated to a continuity, I thought it’d be fun to talk about series and why we love them. Here are some of my reasons: 

1. I  love going back to meet characters from previous stories – but only if they’re still themselves in the next book. For example, Judd, my ice-cold Psy assassin from Caressed By Ice, is still remote and scary (to outsiders, not his heroine, of course!) in the books following his own. He’s changed and developed, but he didn’t magically turn into a teddy bear (I can’t even imagine that!) 

2. I love seeing the development of the world itself, whether that world is contemporary, paranormal, historical or something else. We get to see parts of the universe we might’ve only glimpsed previously, along with layers of relationships – I liken it to each new book opening a different curtain into the characters’ lives. 

3. I love the sense of something familiar and yet new. I go into a new installment of a favorite series with very high hopes. I know I’ve loved the previous books, so chances are high I’m going to love this next one. And yet, I’m on tenterhooks as I wait to see what the author does with this particular couple, or installment. I guess a good series combines the comfort of a keeper, with the excitement of an unknown story. So, those are some of my reasons. What about sharing some of yours? Why do you love series? What are some of your favorite series / continuities / mini-series?  

Giveaway: Nalini will draw a random winner from the comments to win a signed copy of a book (winner’s choice) from her backlist (excluding current release) AND as an additional giveaway, a copy of Yvonne Lindsay’s ROSSELLINI’S REVENGE AFFAIR will be drawn by Nalini to go to another random winner–be sure and note which prize draw you would like to go into when you comment!

The Diary of An Almost Down Under Diva — FIONA BRAND

Posted in guest blogger with tags , , , on January 13, 2008 by yvonnelindsay

I’m thrilled to introduce to you all the wonderful Fiona Brand, who very nearly was a Diamonds Down Under Diva. Fiona is one of my favourite auto buy authors and her current trilogy, DOUBLE VISION, KILLER FOCUS and BLIND INSTINCT, is garnering rave reviews from readers and reviewers alike. Seriously, the prospect of working with Fiona was one we all leapt at… but I’ll let her tell the story~~Yvonne

 

Diamonds Down Under: six books, dazzling concept—fabulous group of authors—and more fun and debate than you can poke a stick at.   

 

I’ve just received the first book in the series, Vows & A Vengeful Groom by Bronwyn Jameson.  It’s sitting on my desk as I type.  Thank you Bron!  It arrived two days ago.  I felt such a rush of warmth when I realized what it was.  You see, way, way back I almost became part of the continuity but, owing to tight deadlines, I had to bow out.  

 

But that few days of tossing ideas around and formulating a story—which I later had to chuck away!–was exhilarating, and the most writing fun I’ve had in years.   After spending so much time writing in isolation, being part of a group and hearing everyone else’s take on how to put together a story was invigorating—and time consuming.  I couldn’t wait to read my email, and I had a new appreciation for editors.  It was hard enough getting my head around one story, let alone six.  Especially since, in the few days that I was an Almost Down Under Diva, the story lines, to put it politely, were fluid.  And every time there was a change someone would say, “Oh, but that impacts on my story!” so we would all try to juggle the wildly varying elements and come up with a mix that suited everyone.   

 

To get to the point, you may have noticed that I said I had to jettison a story.  No big deal, really.   Except that I’d begun to get attached  

 

Writers are an eccentric lot.  There’s something about the rush of getting the basic elements of a story established.  Like getting behind the wheel of a car, you know you can take it almost anywhere, as long as—in the case of Silhouette Desire—you don’t drive off the romance road map.   That moment when you step into your fictional world can be both powerful and scary.  The story can be fraught with difficult characters, structural flaws and plot holes.  Worst of all, it could be boring.  

 

The great thing about the Diamonds Down Under story line was the inbuilt conflict between the Hammonds and the Blackstones.  Opportunities for the characters to be ruthless, manipulative and downright conniving were rife.   I was given a story that had no chance of being boring.  I had a lawyer heroine with a secret agenda, a ‘back from the dead’ character, a lost diamond mine with a legend attached, and a really rich, tough hero.  How cool is that?  I already liked him.  

 

I had a lot of my research in place.  My hero was going to have a mining background, as well as being as rich as Croesus.  (Did I mention he was about 6’ 3” with green eyes, dark hair and a great tan?)  Luckily for me my Dad had done some mining in Western Australia, mostly digging up tourmalines, amethysts, garnets and gold.  I had maps of the outback stations, pictures of the Kimberleys.  I had holidayed in WA a couple of times.  I could practically feel that WA red grit between my toes.  I was so ready to write that book.  

 

But…all is not lost.  I didn’t get to do that particular story, but I got so hooked on the fun of writing short contemporaries, that I did eventually put together one of my own.   A rich Italian hero, a marriage of convenience, that Western Australian setting and plenty of interesting conniving…    

 

But, in the meantime, I’m opening Book #1 in the Diamond series to find out what interesting things those girls ended up doing with their plot lines.    

 

Hmmm….Ric Perrini’s demanding total surrender.     

 

There goes my night’s sleep. 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS! Fiona has generously offered a book prize to one randomly chosen comment (well, to the person who makes the comment, of course) on her blogpost of a double pack of DOUBLE VISION and KILLER FOCUS. The winner will be announced at the end of this week!

Q & A with Melissa Jeglinski, Silhouette Books Senior Editor

Posted in guest blogger with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2007 by jan colley

Here it is! What all you aspiring authors have been waiting for: the real oil from Melissa Jeglinski, Senior Editor of Silhouette Books in New York. When someone suggested that as Desire authors from Australia and New Zealand had doubled in the last couple of years and maybe we should get together and write a continuity, Melissa did not flinch. She supported, encouraged and brainstormed and the Diamonds Downunder series was born. She even offered to critique some lucky winner’s manuscript as one of our major prizes to promote the series. Naturally, we weren’t going to turn that down! To kick this series off and lead up to this fantastic prize, we asked Melissa a few questions, just to whet your appetites!

1/How many author-led continuities have you been involved with?

MJ: Not sure if by Author-led you meant the authors came up with the concept – if so, Diamonds is just my second. Millionaire of the Month in Desire was my first.

If you meant the broader concept, here’s my response: At least a dozen, if not more. I’ve been working on them since I was an editorial assistant. My first author-led continuity was Montana Mavericks and I was very hands-on in that concept brainstorming. Since then I’ve worked on numerous continuities for multiple lines and I currently deal with two Desire continuities per year.

2/Why do you think continuities hold such great appeal for readers? Is it the whole ‘collectable mentality’ or that we still love and miss the great dramas of the ‘80’s, the snapshot view into the lives of the rich and famous and all their skeletons in the closet, like Dallas, Dynasty, and Sons and Daughters?

MJ: Readers tell me that they love to find out what happened to characters from prior books, so continuities give them a glance beyond happily ever after. It also creates a ‘family’ for the readers to become connected to…much like the nighttime soap operas of the past and those that are seemingly making a return nowadays. I think readers like the connection they feel to the characters, the stories. They enjoy discovering what’s coming next, maybe trying to uncover the secrets before the characters themselves do.

3/What intrigued you about the Diamonds Downunder premise?

MJ: I loved the machinations the authors created…the juicy factor of the feuding families and missing heir and scandalous plane crash. There was a lot to the concept…more than just several siblings in a cool location. The fact that the family were diamond dealers was also very compelling…what woman doesn’t love jewelry? I could see the covers from the moment the idea was formed and that usually means it’s a concept readers will enjoy as well. And, Desire had never done a continuity set in either Australia or New Zealand, much less both. The locations were so exotic, I just had to do it!

4/We know you’re busy but do you have any plans to visit your downunder authors anytime soon – say, if you received an invitation to a conference down here?

MJ: It is my deepest desire to visit Australia and New Zealand. Of course, a business trip would be great, but that’s not always up to me. I’d say yes in a heartbeat if the company offered to send me. Otherwise, I’m saving my frequent flyer miles and my pennies for a trip on my own. 🙂

5/Australian and New Zealand authors seem to be popular with Harlequin and Silhouette lately. Given that the market is so much smaller than the US, do you see this trend continuing, and why do you think so many have been bought recently?

MJ: I know, I can’t believe how large a pool Desire has of downunder authors. I think it’s just great because they all offer such unique voices and such different story locations. Although I will admit, as an editor, I’m always confused about your warm Christmases and chilly July’s. 🙂 I think I’m finally getting the hang of it, now.

I know I bought both Tessa and Maxine from the eharlequin.com online story pitch. I was already working with Bronwyn and Jan. And then suddenly other downunder authors were getting agents and those projects were being sold to Desire. It was like a new door opened and I was so excited to see all the talent. With Desire’s editorial guidelines changing, I think it also made the fit easier. My downunder authors have NO problem doing the alpha male dead on! I am totally open to more downunder talent and do see this trend continuing as veteran authors share their knowledge and mentor new writers.

6/Are there any storylines you are seeing too many of – or not enough of – at the moment (talking specifically Desire here)?

MJ: I’m seeing a lot of revenge plots without a lot of emotion behind them. I love a good revenge plot, don’t get me wrong. But there needs to be something behind the characters’ motivations besides “you destroyed my father.” I need it to go a step deeper. I’m also looking for books with western setting or western heroes – not the “aw shucks, mam” guys, but really rugged alpha men… who are also quite successful. And I always love a good boss/secretary story.

7/Do you have the time to read for pleasure, and if so, what do you like to read?

MJ: I love to read romance in my spare time, really! I actually read a lot of historical romance, specifically European settings. Regency is my favorite. I do like some contemporary romances and I love J.R.Ward’s vampire books, although I haven’t gotten very involved in other paranormal stories, except for Stephanie Meyer – I love her series.

8/Are you a diamond girl yourself or does something else push your buttons romantically?

MJ: I love anything with bling! The more sparkles the better. I just bought myself a pair of diamond stud earrings while I was in St. Thomas this past May. I love them. And I have tons of costume jewelry that I enjoy wearing. Jewels just make you feel so happy, you know?

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There you have it! We thank MJ for her valuable support. Please post your comments here. One lucky person’s post will be randomly chosen toward the end of the series. The winner will receive a critique of a partial or full manuscript by the Senior Editor of Silhouette Books in New York, OR a twenty-minute phone call at MJ’s expense, to chat about anything to do with writing, submitting and publishing romance. Details will be posted on the Contest page of our DDU website soon. Good luck to all, and remember, you’ve gotta be in to win!