Friday, January 27, 2012

Weekly Wind-Up and Stella Makes Good

This week was my birthday :) And my boys made the most beautiful birthday cake EVER. Okay, maybe it was the type of cake that only a mum could love (they decorated it) but it was truly delicious (Granny helped them with the actual baking). My hubby gave me the most lovely card and told me to enjoy myself in Sydney (aka spend/buy whatever I like) when I go to the ARRA Awards in a couple of weeks. My Mum gave me my Kindle (which I got a few weeks back). All in all, it was a lovely day!

This week I also took a break from JILTED edits (while waiting for next round) to write more of MAN DROUGHT. Am loving this book and just hope I can do the story and characters justice.

In the waiting stakes, I'm three weeks into the wait on my revised full of HOLLYWOOD HEARTBREAK. So pray the eds at Carina love it and you all get to meet the sexy Nate and gorgeous Holly!

And, almost best of all, I managed to finish reading another book this week. I've been so slow with reading lately, focusing on writing and edits, that each time I finish one now I feel like throwing a little party.

So, this is my SECOND review in the Australian Women Writers Challenge.


I'm a great fan of Lisa's books - Claudia's Big Break was one of my fave reads of 2011 and Stella Makes Good did it for me too. I find it hard to pin point exactly what I like about a book. This one had a fabulously quirky start - cringe-worthy (in a good way) in fact with the famous sex party Lisa has been blogging about. I don't want to give too much away but the events that spiral from this one party make this book into a truly emotional and enjoyable read.

The characters (Stella and her three friends) are very REAL. They could be your own group of girlfriends and their lives are believable. I like that. And some of the writing is just down-right brilliant. There's a conversation between Stella and her mother-in-law June about marriage and how in the good old days, if you were unhappy you either put up with it or died. That cracked me AND my husband up (yes, this was the type of book where I had to read out certain lines to him)!

The story is also somewhat realistic. It is about marriage and how some can be worked on during tough spots and others are over when they're over. It's about knowing whether to fight or concede and it's about women over-coming difficulties and disappointments to become strong and happy again. It's about female friendship and celebrating these precious bonds.

All in all I found STELLA MAKES GOOD a VERY GOOD read and I can't wait to read Lisa's next book.

Also I'd like to announce the winner of Veronica Scott's blog contest earlier this week - Veronica used a random winner generator and the lucky number belonged to Leah Ashton. Congrats Leah. Veronica will be in contact with you shortly  regarding your prize!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Theory on Thursday with Sami Lee

So excited to have Samhain author Sami Lee visiting today. I first met Sami a few years back at an RWAus conf - I think it was both our first - and immediately fell in love with her. I'm so excited Sami has two new releases coming out this year but in the meantime I can recommend anything from her backlist!! And best of all, she's talking today about something VERY close to my heart and I'm sure to many of you as well - FEAR!

 Welcome Sami...

Stephen King’s On Writing

"When you write a story, you're telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out the things that are not the story."

Sometime after Easter in 2009, I contracted a case of writer’s block. I didn’t know it at the time. Like many maladies it didn’t immediately announce itself. I continued to write as though nothing was amiss--until I started to notice something. Nothing I wrote was any good. Not a single story was worthy of the effort I was putting in. I kept scrapping them after three to five chapters to start something totally new, only to have that story suffer the same fate. I simply wasn’t inspired by my own words. The joy of writing was gone, to be replaced by a horrible, insidious fear that annihilated my creativity. The fear of not selling, of not being good enough, of never living up to my own expectations.

When I finally realised (after around 18 months of insisting all I needed was a serious chunk of time in which to work) that I had a problem, I took a step away from the computer. I read novels, watched movies, played with my kids and baked cookies. I started to see things more clearly. I had so much going on in my life. A day job, a family, friends and Cadbury chocolate. The realisation came to me that if I never had another book published I’d still have a rich and fulfilling life. Ironically, it was when I finally realised I didn’t need writing to complete me that I at last felt able to embrace it again.

It was at this time that I bought a copy of Stephen King’s On Writing, a book which restored my faith in my own vision and made me realise all my problems could be boiled down to one stark fact: I was afraid.

After close to two years of writer's block, to read the words "The scariest moment is always just before you start. After that, things can only get better" made me realise the main thing holding me back from finishing a book was fear. I was afraid it wouldn't be good, that the plot would tie me in knots and I'd lose patience with it, afraid I was wasting my time. Fear is no friend to creativity my fellow writers. It is creativity’s arch enemy.

Another enemy of creativity is guilt. The famous King quote reads: "If you don't have time to read, you don't have time to write." A part of a writer's job it to READ. It is RESEARCH. This seems logical enough, but it's easy when you have such limited writing time to get bogged down in guilt when you spend some of that time reading someone else's work instead of crafting your own. Don’t let the guilts get you. If the writing isn’t working, go read. Refill the well and start again another day, another hour.

Which brings me to another thing this book taught me. King states: “Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around." Writing is not the most vital thing in your life. It's not. Really. IT'S NOT THAT IMPORTANT. Your family, your REAL life is what's important. Writing can totally consume you and sometimes, when you're on a roll, that's a good thing. The rest of the time go be with your family, go for a swim or to a movie. Keep it in perspective and stop beating yourself up for not being Tolstoy.

Toward the end of 2010 I grabbed a notebook and pen and began writing a story. I had no idea what it was or where it was going but the deal I made with myself was to finish it no matter what, even if it really did suck. In order to do that I put the very idea of publishing it out of my mind. By using ye olde fashioned pen and paper I felt like I was transported back to those days when I’d hide my notebooks inside school texts and write with absolutely no plan, simply because I wanted to do that more than anything else. The absence of that intimidating concept of publication took all the fear out of the process.

It took a year of writing and re-writing and critiquing and submitting (ok so I decided to try and publish it after all J), receiving at first a ‘no’ from my editor, and more rewrites until finally the book was accepted for publication with Samhain Publishing. Erica’s Choice will be released in August 2012, and I couldn’t be more proud of the final result. It’s the book I wrote when my writer’s self was learning to walk again, and if it’s not a bestseller or never receives a favourable review, it will still be one of my hardest-won, proudest achievements. Thanks to Stephen King’s book, I won’t forget that my own sense of achievement is what really matters. 

WOW - that's a heart-warming story Sami. HUGE congrats on ERICA'S CHOICE - I can't wait to read it. And thanks for the very important reminder about what really matters in life!! 

If you (like me) found Sami's words inspiring, do check out her website here or find her on Facebook and Twitter

Covers of Sami's gorgeous backlist are below. You can read about all these books and purchase them here :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Do you remember your first...?

My Twitter buddy and stablemate at Carina Press, Veronica Scott is visiting my blog today and I'm stoked about it. Veronica's debut novel looks very sexy and very unique and I can't wait to delve between the pages...

I’m so happy to be visiting Rachel’s blog today! She’s one of my best friends in the world of writers, always generously supportive and encouraging!

Do you still remember the first Harlequin book you ever read? My first was Outback Man by Amanda Doyle. Not only did I enjoy the romance and appreciate the resilient heroine (my recent review of it here ), that book started me off on a lifelong fascination with Australia. Flash forward a generous number of years, to this week and my debut novella Priestess of the Nile…published by…..wait for it – Carina Press, a branch of Harlequin! It’s a double thrill. Signing the contract with the big Harlequin logo on every page still seems a little unreal.

Priestess of the Nile is a paranormal romance novella, set in Ancient Egypt, around 1500 BC and tells the story of Sobek the Crocodile God. Drawn to his abandoned temple on the banks of the Nile by an enchanting song, he’s even more captivated by the sight of the singer herself. Appearing to her as a man, he learns she is Merys, a descendant of his last priestess. Though he desires her greatly, Sobek believes Merys deserves to be more than just his mistress.

Merys is attracted to the handsome stranger, who arouses passions in her that no man ever has. But with no dowry and no hope of ever leaving her village, she dares not dream of the future—or love.
Sobek takes every opportunity to visit Merys, taxing his resolve to leave her pure. When he saves her life, their mutual desire must be sated. But of course in the world of paranormal romance nothing can be uncomplicated, the gods have rules about such romances, the goddess Isis is very unhappy and so the couple face many challenges along the way.

I started writing this book because in my research for another WIP I became fascinated with the idea of the Crocodile God, eventually concluding he was a shifter (as we paranormal romance writers understand the concept).  Therefore he could appear as a fully human man and fall in love with a woman. But what kind of a woman would be the right person to touch the heart of an Egyptian god?

Fortunately for me and the plot of my novel, the Ancient Egyptian society gave women many rights and freedoms, which encouraged them to be strong, equal partners. The head of the household was the man but women were equal in the eyes of the law and could own property, borrow money, sign contracts, appear in court as witnesses, obtain a divorce…sounding pretty modern in a lot of ways, yes? And to an Egyptian, home and family were major sources of happiness and joy. Children were greatly desired and treasured. There are many happy family scenes depicted in various tomb paintings and statuary.

Merys intrigues Sobek at first purely with her beauty and her voice, as well as the fact that she tries to keep his abandoned temple in some kind of acceptable condition. But as he talks to her and visits her, he learns how strong she is, living in her father’s house yet denied a dowry by her stepmother, forced to shoulder a large part of the household burden. Not a complainer, my heroine does what needs to be done and finds time for herself as best she can. Merys has her valid reasons for putting up with her living conditions. Sobek is used to thinking on the grand scale – maintaining the Nile river, standing with other gods in battle against their enemies – but Merys teaches him the simple joys of a human’s life, touches a place in his heart he never even knew he had. And then events threaten to break that immortal heart unless Sobek  can figure out a way to overcome the challenges life throws at them.

I’m thoroughly fascinated with the world of Ancient Egypt, especially with the paranormal twist I couldn’t resist applying to it and I hope you’ll enjoy it as well. The culture, the rich mythology and tradition, the sheer history gave me a lot to work with…and bottom line, the people who lived all those thousands of years ago weren’t that different from you and me.

Veronica is VERY generously giving away a copy of her book AND a $25 Amazon giftcard to one lucky commenter. All you have to do to enter is tell us what the first romance you ever read was!

Blurb - Priestess of the Nile

Egypt, 1500 BC
Drawn to his abandoned temple on the banks of the Nile by an enchanting song, Sobek the Crocodile God is even more captivated by the sight of the singer herself. Appearing to her as a man, he learns she is Merys, a descendant of his last priestess. Though filled with lust, Sobek believes Merys deserves to be more than just his mistress. But the rules that govern the Egyptian pantheon forbid anything beyond a physical joining of a Great One and a human.
Merys is attracted to the handsome stranger, who arouses passions in her that no man ever has. But with no dowry and no hope of ever leaving her village, she dares not dream of the future—or love.
Sobek takes every opportunity to visit Merys, taxing his resolve to leave her pure. When he saves her life, their mutual desire must be sated. But can a love between a human and an immortal survive the ultimate test of the gods?

You can find Veronica on Twitter and Facebook or visit her at her blog

AND you can buy her fabulous book on Amazon, at Carina Press or other e-book shops. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: One Perfect Night

It's been a while since I did a Six Sentence Sunday post, but since I'm faffing about, I thought I may as well do one now. I have every intention to do them more often from now on... will someone please hold me to that?

Today SS, comes from ONE PERFECT NIGHT - which released from Carina Press in December. To set the scene, let me just say, the hero and heroine only met a few hours ago and are currently pretending to be together at his Aunt's place for dinner!

It was all she could do not to visibly swoon as his fingers trekked slowly up her leg trailing a hot path and shooting a delicious heat right to her core.
“Can you pass the potatoes?” asked Cameron, his fist nudging between her knees.
She really should squeeze them together tightly, but two could play at this game and she wondered how far he’d go. Smiling sweetly and lifting the serving dish of crisp roasted potatoes, she opened her legs a fraction.
“Thanks.” He gave a dangerous grin as one hand took the bowl and the other slid up the inside of her thigh. 

If you enjoyed that snippet and would like to see just how far Cameron and Peppa go at the dinner table, you can grab a copy of ONE PERFECT NIGHT from Amazon or Carina Press

Hope you all had a fab weekend. I have some awesome guests lined up this week!

Friday, January 20, 2012

First AWW Challenge book for 2012 (and a winner)!

A HUGE congrats to Gemma Moore - winner of MADE FOR MARRIAGE by Helen Lacey. To claim your prize, Gemma, please contact Helen through her website.

Now, today I'm going to share my thoughts on my first Aussie read as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. This week past I read Loretta Hill's The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots and I LOVED it.

Boots (as Loretta calls it) is a bit chick-litty, a bit rural, a bit romance with a whole host of fabulous characters who are real but immensely loveable. At first Lena, the heroine, seems a bit ditsy and shallow (a city girl tossed in the deep end of life on the Pilbara) but she redeems herself and grows and develops as the story continues into a really strong and like-able woman. Even the blokes who work with her (and her gender is very much in the minority up there) grow to admire and respect her.

It was also great to read a book set in the far north WA - a region that doesn't get much limelight in fiction, especially my favourite genre romance. And while Boots is classified as Women's Fiction, it has a VERY strong romance plot line. The heroine has strong reason NOT to fall for the hero but of course she can't resist his strong, silent charm. His reasons for being with her aren't as strong - although he does have a massive conflict in his own life as well and the book isn't less enjoyable because there isn't a strong reason for him not to fall for her. Dan is just my type of hero - strong, guarded, honest and OF COURSE, deadly attractive.

Boots is an easy read but Loretta has some fabulous one-liners that made me extremely jealous I didn't think of them myself!! This is a well-crafted, enjoyable novel and I'll be eagerly awaiting more books from Loretta Hill.

My next AWW12 book is Lisa Heidke's STELLA MAKES GOOD, which I started on Thursday and am loving! In fact, I'm very resentful of all the things that are keeping me from reading it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Theory on Thursday with Helen Lacey

I'm so pleased to have debut Special Edition author, Helen Lacey joining me today! Not only is Helen the CP of one of my gorgeous CPs, I was also lucky enough to meet her at the RWAus conf last year. She is so lovely and fun and approachable and well... if her book is anything like she is, we are all gonna adore it!

Today though, Helen is talking about something that makes romance writers twitchy - the FORMULA!! Over to you Helen...

Category + Romance = Formula?

Last year I attended a writer’s dinner, which was held the evening before a regional day long writing conference. This was my first official ‘do’ as a published author. Well, a contracted author at least. As an unpublished writer I had attended several Romance Writers of Australia functions and always felt comfortable in my skin and in the kind of books I wrote. This was a little different. Although I knew several writers who were there and some were RWA members, the majority of attendees were mainstream writers – some young adult, some straight fantasy, some literary, a few poets and some working on their memoirs.

I introduced myself as a romance writer and Harlequin author and received a few cursory smiles and everything seemed to be going well until mid introduction to someone I was asked, “So – how exactly to you write one of those books? To a formula, right?” Of course I smiled, and determined to answer politely I said, “Not exactly. I work to publishers guidelines of course. There are specific parameters within the line I write for.” She looked at me and said. “So, yeah, like I said, to a formula?”
To which I smiled again and replied. “In my experience, romance novels are no more written to formula than say, a crime novel.” To which the lady in question looked at me again, clearly  perplexed. “Oh, you know,” I went on to say, “you have a good guy, a bad guy, and a crime to be solved. In a romance you have a hero, a heroine and they fall in love.” I was just about to continue with my – “And like in fantasy novels where there is always a quest….” But she lost interest and left me to my internal ramblings.

But it got me thinking. Of course I’d heard the word ‘formula’ being bandied around for years. A hero, a heroine, a love scene, two arguments and a happy ever after – that’s the secret, right? If it was that easy I figured everyone would do it – and not just the committed thousands who submit a manuscript to Harlequin every year. Of course, in this secret formula there’s no mention of the conflicts keeping them apart, the maintaining the tension, the characters development, the emotional journey for the reader. There’s a great article here at My Romance Story. com which talks about the fabled formula for writing a romance novel.

The first ‘How To’ book I read on romance writing was by Valerie Parv I can’t remember reading any chapters on a secret formula that would help me write a better book. Not even in Romance Writing For Dummies by Harlequin Editor Lesley Wainger did I see a chapter instructing me on how This + That = Book That Will Get Published. Oh, there are chapters on Goal/Motivation/Conflict, on creating compelling characters, on maintaining pace in a novel, on creating the perfect love scene, writing and outline etc. But a secret formula? Not anywhere.

And that’s okay. Because it means we can take our hero and heroine on a journey that isn’t constrained by any scientific way of expressing information symbolically – we can simply let them fall in love.
Thanks Rachael for having me on Theory on Thursday. I have a copy of Made For Marriage to give away to one commenter. 

Equestrian Callie Jones was used to difficult parents at her riding school. But Noah Preston took the cake.
How dare he question her teaching abilities, after his headstrong daughter paid no heed to rules—her teacher's or her father's?

Single dad Noah was ready to apologize for overreacting. But he wasn't sorry for the way the stunning American riding instructor made him feel. And he soon learned that there was more to Callie than her smarts, sass and fire: a shattered heart that threatened to splinter even further. Could he make her see that he—and his family—were for keeps?

Buy Links:

Amazon        Amazon UK      Book Depository

 Helen Lacey on the web:

Website     Facebook     Twitter     Blog           Helen's Page at RomanceWiki

For full itinerary on Helen's Celebration tour check out Helen Lacey- Author Page.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Guest Blogging and Good News

I'm over at the lovely Shannon Curtis' blog today talking about EPILOGUES!! I'd love you to come and over and offer up your opinion on this heated topic - do you love em or hate em?

Also, I was absolutely STOKED and totally GOBSMACKED to find out yesterday that I'm a finalist in the contemporary romance category of the fabulous Australian Romance Reader Awards 2011 with my debut novel ONE PERFECT NIGHT from Carina Press. I'm up against some HUGE and really TALENTED authors, some of whom happen to be close friends of mine, so I'm not expecting miracles but just to be up there is more than I ever imagined.

So HUGE thanks to those people who nominated me. I'm so grateful and I hope you continue to enjoy my stories.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What I'm NOT blogging about!

Today I'd planned on doing my first review of a novel for the Australian Women Writer's challenge. I'd planned to review (or write what I liked about it cos I'm not really comfortable reviewing a) as a writer and b) a friend's book) Loretta Hill's The Girl In Steel-Capped Books.  I decided I'd do a write up of one Aussie women's fiction book every two weeks, but maybe this'll have to start next week. I have started Loretta's book and I'm REALLY loving it, but there's a number of things that have stopped me reading as much as I'd like this week.

1) Copy-edits landed for JILTED - these are not actually that bad and more involve going through the document and accepting or rejecting minor changes my editor as made. I'd say I'm accepting 99% of such changes because let's face it, he's the editor and he knows what he's doing. Every time I read his changes I think - WOW why didn't I think of that. They're mostly minor - deleting a word here and replacing it with something else or even just shifting around the words I already have but its amazing how such small changes can really improve the writing. So, I'm very grateful to have worked with two fantastic editors on my books. For JILTED my editor is a man and this has been particularly useful in making sure the male pov in my book is spot-on!

2) It's school holidays here. Not only is it school holidays, but we are away from home in Perth for two weeks, which equals daily swimming lessons for the boys, social outings to catch up with friends and a whole load of fun school holiday type activities. So far in six days we've been to AQUA (WA Aquarium), a really cool play centre, a park with a massive fake volcano that actually ruptures, San Churros (to eat loads and loads of chocolate), the Zoo, the drive in movies (to see Alvin and The Chipmunks Shipwrecked), I've had a pedicure and my Mum also took the boys to see Happy Feet 2 at the cinemas. THIS is only the first week. My men have been good and have let me have a bit of me time but most of this precious time has been spent on copy-edits.

3) Before the copy-edits landed - I'd been trying to get stuck into my current wip (working title MAN DROUGHT). I love the concept of this story but am at the stage, where I'm just writing myself into the story (anyone else do that?) and hoping like hell it all works out!

So, unfortunately I'm gonna be late with my first installment for the Australian Women Writer's challenge, but I promise there'll be a write up on The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots. Soon!

Friday, January 13, 2012


Today I used to choose the winner's of last week's two book contests.

Huge congrats to Bec (the first one who commented on Jennifer Weiner's book post), winner of Jennifer Weiner's THEN CAME YOU!!

Huge congrats to Eleri Stone, winner of Ruthie Knox's RIDE WITH ME!!

If you could email me at Rachaeljohns at gmail dot com I'll arrange for delivery of your books!


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Theory on Thursday with Louise Cusack

Today I have romantic fantasy author Louise Cusack visiting. Not only is Louise an award winning fantasy author whose Shadow Through Time trilogy is about to be released by Pan Macmillan’s eBook arm Momentum Books.  She is also a highly successful manuscript developer, writing mentor and tutor with several clients published and many more winning prestigious competitions.

Louise is going to tell us a bit about her manuscript assessment service, but first, don't forget - if you haven't already done so - to read the two posts below and comment for a chance to win a book by Ruthie Knox and a book by Jennifer Weiner. Only a couple of days left to enter both.

Here's Louise...

Getting serious: Manuscript Assessment

There comes a time in every unpublished writer’s career when they wonder what they have to do to get across the line, to get a publisher or an agent to take them on.  They might have been writing for years, doing well in contests, and have crit buddies who love their work, but still… no contract.

So what can they do?
Well if this is you and you can’t see a way forward, you might decide to give up your dream of being published by Harlequin or Berkley or Avon and go with a smaller ePublisher or even self publish, not realising how challenging it is to drum up sales when you don’t have the huge distribution machinery of a big International publisher behind you.  And while there are the rare, celebrated authors who rise from self-publishing obscurity to become International best sellers, the vast majority of authors who have long, successful careers have been published by big publishing houses.  So if you also want to go the traditional route, what can you do to lift the quality of your work to a standard that will excite publishers and agents?

One way to give your career a jump-start is to have a manuscript assessment by an industry professional, and the Australian Writers Marketplace among other sites will give you a range of assessors to choose from.  Always query them first to see what you get for your money, but to give you an overview I’ll tell you what I do, so you can see if an assessment might help you.  I charge a touch under $400 for a sixty thousand word manuscript, and my clients consider that to be an inexpensive way to help them bridge the gap between where they are and where they want to be: signing a contract that delivers thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars if they can create a novel publishers will bid on.  Every business spends money on development, and career writers are no different. 

A good assessment can help you eliminate the craft issues that are holding you back, and clarify and strengthen plot structure and characterisation.  Every manuscript is different, but the number one flaw I see in manuscripts is lack of tension (most often caused by a goal/motivation/conflict structure that is unclear or not compelling).  Other problems I’ve diagnosed in the 150 manuscripts I’ve assessed are structural flaws that affect tension or pacing, characterisation weaknesses (either due to viewpoint control issues, lack of internalisations or clichéd reactions) or problems with dialogue, visuals, pacing or grammar.   The most heartbreaking are manuscripts that have been beautiful written with faultless grammar, but have either no viewpoint control, predictable plots or clichéd characters.  On the surface these manuscripts shine and their authors don’t see the critical flaws that are stopping them being published, so I find it very satisfying to help these talented writers uncover their Achilles Heel and offer direction towards overcoming it.

Knowing what isn’t working is half the battle.  Having clear direction on how to fix the problem is vitally important as well, and that not only helps you edit to make your novel more saleable, it also makes you mindful of that craft issue in the next story, ensuring that each future draft is stronger.

If you’d like to check out my webpage on manuscriptdevelopment or the rest of my writingtips website you may find something that helps you turn your good story into a great story, and my New Year’s wish for you is that your manuscript snags the attention of a jaded publisher or agent searching for the next big thing.

Remember: Luck happens when opportunity and preparation meet.  A big contract can happen, but you need to work to make it happen for you!

Thanks Louise - sounds really helpful! I'm curious, have any of you tried a manuscript assessor? If so, how did it work for you?

Monday, January 9, 2012

How I Got over My Sex-Scene-Writing Embarrassment with Ruthie Knox

I'm so delighted to have Ruthie Knox back on the blog today, talking about something that I think will relate to all of us who write on the spicier side of the fence. 

But before I hand over to Ruthie, I'm over at Everybody Needs A Little Romance on the 10th (US time), and I'd love some comment love - hint hint!

Oh, You Scandalous Woman! or, How I Got over My Sex-Scene-Writing Embarrassment

I recently had an appointment for my annual lady-parts checkup, and when my (female) gynecologist unfolded the stirrups and asked me to scoot my butt down to the edge of the table, I said, “Oh, I have something interesting we can talk about for this part! I’ve been writing romance novels. They’re really sexy.”

And somewhere in rural Ohio, the Ruthie Knox of twenty years ago keeled over and DIED.

You see, when I was a teenager, my mother was a practicing midwife. There was a pelvic model on our dining-room table. There was, at one time, somebody’s placenta in our refrigerator. My mom had long, involved telephone conversations with strange women about mucous—the private kind of mucous. And I Would Not Talk about Sex. Not with my mother, not with my friends, not with anybody, anywhere, ever.

I did, however, read a lot of sexy romance novels. I liked to think about sex. I certainly assumed I would some day be having sex. It was just the whole conversation thing. The whole being-at-ease-with-the-fact-that-actual-human-people-have-sex thing. I couldn’t handle it.

I don’t have a dramatic story about how all of that changed. I just grew up, I guess, in the usual way that people do. I went to a liberal college and got more comfortable with my inborn feminism, et cetera, and so on. If one wants to have sex, one needs to be able to talk about it. Particularly if one wants to have good sex. So I fumbled my way through the awkwardness and got over it.

But when I started writing romance, there was another level of discomfort to get past—a sort of knee-jerk siren in my head that screamed SEX! SEX! YOU’RE WRITING ABOUT SEX! EVERYONE WILL READ IT AND THINK ABOUT YOU WHILE THEY’RE READING IT AND THEY’LL KNOW YOU HAVE SEX AND THEY’LL WONDER IF IT’S ABOUT YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND OMIGAAAAAHD!

I’m pretty sure every romance writer has this siren, although volume levels may vary.

Mine was remarkably easy to switch off—all it took was one person. In the early months after I started writing, a friend of mine said she’d love to read the manuscript that turned out to be Ride with Me. I was thrilled, but also extremely nervous. “There’s sex in it!” I told her. And this friend—a wonderfully blunt woman—asked me, “You do know I’ve had sex, right? I’ve even read books with sex in them. I think I can handle it.”

So I took a deep breath and sent her the file. And then later I sent it to my parents. And after that I let my husband read it. And several of my friends.

And it was fine.

Getting comfortable with being someone who writes sex scenes for public consumption is a multistage process, but so is getting comfortable with sexuality generally, as a human woman. We get so many mixed messages about our bodies and what we’re supposed to do with them, what we’re supposed to want to do with them, what we should want other people to think about them/us—it’s tricky business, with a large Sidecar of Shame that threatens to slam into us if we navigate it wrong.

But it’s only fictional sex, you know? It’s not like I’m killing puppies. So when I heard recently that a few of my relatives by marriage who I don’t know particularly well have preordered Ride with Me, I gulped, and then I let it go. I hope they like it! Since these relatives all have children, I’m going to go ahead and assume they’ve had sex. They can probably handle my smutty, romantic, monogamous novelized version. Maybe they’ll even like it! Maybe my fictional sex will make the real, live lady parts of these real, live women feel happy.


But also, yay!

As for my gynecologist, I left her with my website address and a promise that I’ll still come back for my annual when I’m glamorous and famous. If she’s lucky, I’ll autograph her stirrups.

RUTHIE's fab debut Ride with Me is available from Loveswept on February 13, 2012!

In this fun, scorching-hot eBook original romance by Ruthie Knox, a cross-country bike adventure takes a detour into unexplored passion. As readers will discover, Ride with Me is not about the bike!

When Lexie Marshall places an ad for a cycling companion, she hopes to find someone friendly and fun to cross the TransAmerica Trail with. Instead, she gets Tom Geiger — a lean, sexy loner whose bad attitude threatens to spoil the adventure she’s spent years planning.

Roped into the cycling equivalent of a blind date by his sister, Tom doesn’t want to ride with a chatty, go-by-the-map kind of woman, and he certainly doesn’t want to want her. Too bad the sight of Lexie with a bike between her thighs really turns his crank.

Even Tom’s stubborn determination to keep Lexie at a distance can’t stop a kiss from leading to endless nights of hotter-than-hot sex. But when the wild ride ends, where will they go next?


 Ruthie Knox figured out how to walk and read at the same time in the second grade, and she hasn’t looked up since. She spent her formative years hiding romance novels in her bedroom closet to avoid the merciless teasing of her brothers and imagining scenarios in which someone who looked remarkably like Daniel Day Lewis recognized her well-hidden sex appeal and rescued her from middle-class Midwestern obscurity. After graduating from Grinnell College with an English and history double major, she earned a Ph.D. in modern British history that she’s put to remarkably little use.
These days, she writes contemporary romance in which witty, down-to- earth characters find each other irresistible in their pajamas, though she freely admits this has yet to happen to her. Perhaps she needs more exciting pajamas. Ruthie abhors an epilogue and insists a decent romance requires at least three good sex scenes.

One lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to win a digital copy of Ride with Me. Good luck to all!  To win, all you have to do is let us know what you do shamelessly today that would mortify or disappoint the high school version of yourself!?

Rachael's answer - I eat Avocado!! Okay, so it's not very exciting but I despised the stuff then and now I actually quite ADORE it!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

This year, my good friend Penny is trying to get me to join a number of reading challenges on Goodreads. One of them is pledge to read a certain number of new-to-you authors this year. This is a bit scary to me because there are already so many authors I want to read and am unable to keep up with, however, I think the universe must be sending me a message that I must look to widen my horizon because this week I got a lovely email from Carol at Simon & Schuster offering me a copy of Jennifer Wiener's latest book THEN CAME YOU and another copy for one lucky reader of my blog.

I have never read a Jennifer Weiner novel but have only heard good things about her. This one sounds fabulous and I can't wait to read it:

With her trademark humour and tender insight Jennifer Weiner brings us the heartfelt story of four women from very different walks of life.
Drawn together – in some cases reluctantly – by one woman’s quest to become a mother, the four women build a bond that will last forever.
Jules is a college student planning to use the $20,000 she will be paid for donating her eggs to save her dad from addiction.
Annie married her high school sweetheart and is a stay-at-home mother with two small boys. After years of surviving on her husband’s small wage, could surrogacy give them the extra cash they need?
India, 38 (really 43) wants to bind her relationship with her older husband Marcus. But when nature fails, she turns to Jules and Annie for help.
Bettina, 23 is India’s reluctant step-daughter who becomes the guardian to India’s unborn child when Marcus dies and India disappears.
This timely tale interweaves themes of class and entitlement, surrogacy and donorship, the rights of a parent and the measure of motherhood.
Through her unforgettable, true-to-life characters, Weiner deftly reflects how the family we build round us – from strangers we meet along life’s path – is often the family we are closest to.

Jennifer Weiner is the international Number One bestselling author of nine novels, including Fly Away Home, Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and Certain Girls. In Her Shoes is now an internationally acclaimed film starring Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz. A graduate of Princeton University, Jennifer is also the executive producer for the ABC America Family TV show State of Georgia. She lives in Philadelphia with her family.

To win a copy of Jennifer's book, please like me on Facebook , leave a comment on this blog telling me you've done so and also answer this question - Tell me about someone in your life who isn't legally family or blood related but who you cherish as if they were?

One random commenter will go in the draw to win a copy of THEN CAME YOU! The competition closes Friday 13th at midnight Australian EST and the winner will be announced next Saturday.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Theory on Thursday with Loretta Hill

After my Christmas and release hiatus, Theory on Thursday is back in 2012 and first up in the hot seat is fellow WA author Loretta Hill. Her book The Girl In Steel-Capped Boots released only this week. I cannot wait for my Kindle to arrive (hopefully today) so I can download Loretta's book. I don't want to wait until I head to Perth next week :) 

But what I'm really excited about is Loretta's topic for Theory on Thursday. So I'll stop rambling now and hand over to Loretta. I do hope after you've read Loretta's post, you'll stick around to discuss!

Firstly, thanks for having me on your blog Rachael. It’s a real pleasure to be here.  I wanted to talk about an issue that I stumbled over in the last couple of years and had to really nut through before I could move forward with my writing.  My question was, “What’s the difference Between Mainstream  Commercial Women’s Fiction and Genre Romance?”

I happen to be a reader of both these genres and since forever I thought they were one and the same thing.  They’re not. If you’re a reader this shouldn’t really matter to you. But writers need to distinguish them so they can figure out which publisher they’re supposed to be targeting.

I’m an engineer by day and for that reason I tend to like to deal in absolutes. Yes, I know - with writing there are no rules. So let’s just call this table below a loose guide. J There are no hard and fasts here.  I’ve just found these characteristics to be the case (in general) and it has helped me figure out where I fit.

Mainstream Commercial Women’s Fiction
Genre Romance
The story is all in the heroines POV
The story is in the hero and heroine POV
The main plot can be anything but a romance. Ie. suspense, mystery, family saga, coming of age, science fiction, fantasy, historical etc.
Romance is the main plot
Romance is a subplot
Sub plot could be in a secondary genre. Eg. suspense, mystery, family saga, coming of age, science fiction, fantasy, historical etc. But it can also be another romance (between a different couple)
The heroine’s journey is the focus of the story. Her character must achieve growth by the end of the story.  
Hero’s journey and Heroine’s journey is given equal importance in the story.
The hero’s journey doesn’t matter, except in how it affects the heroine’s journey. His growth is optional. He can be constant through the book if you like.
Both hero and heroine must have grown and/or achieved change by the end of the book and their love for each other must be the catalyst for that.
Secondary characters are important. Some may be given equal page time as the hero.
Secondary characters are not so important.

To illustrate, how you can stretch these rules, or push the envelope, I thought I’d talk about my debut novel with Random House, “The Girl in Steel-CappedBoots” freshly out in stores this month! J  

This novel fits under the category of Mainstream Commercial Women’s Fiction. It is all in the heroines POV, the main plot concerns my heroine’s struggle to prove herself as a good engineer while living and working in the outback. There’s a lot of resistance to her goal from the people she works with, her own troubled past and her lack of knowledge. The genre for my main plot, I would actually say is comedy more than anything else.  It’s a light hearted tale of personal growth and driving yourself to the absolute limit and just praying it works out. Here’s where I pushed the envelope on the rules: the romance in this story is more than just a subplot. When I think sub plot, I usually think maybe 30% of the novel. I would say I gave Dan and Lena’s romance about 50%. Lena’s journey is definitely the focus of the story but Dan’s love helps her to realise her own strength as a person, so it’s valid to my main plot too, if you know what I mean.  My secondary characters are also very important. Like Dan, they too contribute to Lena’s self realisation, so I gave them plenty of page time.

While “The Girl in Steel Capped Boots” is all in Lena’s POV, I have seen commercial women’s fiction with many POV’s. However, usually they are other female secondary characters POV  rather than the heros. Sometimes there are even double or triple heroine stories. The focus is always on the female’s journey.

Anyway, I hope my blog has helped somebody else asking this same question. And thanks again for having me, Rach. 

Thanks Loretta. That was VERY interesting and informative. I know this post has been really helpful for me and I can see I most definitely write genre romance!

I'd love to hear from readers about whether or not you agree with Loretta's take on Women's Fiction vs Romance and if you have anything to add. 

BLURB - The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots
'Let me burst your city bubble for you. This is the Pilbara. And it's the Pilbara that makes the rules' Lena Todd is a city girl who thrives on cocktails and cappuccinos. So when her boss announces he's sending her to the outback to join a construction team, her world is turned upside down. Lena's new accommodation will be an aluminium box called a dongar. Her new social network: 350 men. Her daily foot attire: steel-capped boots. Unfortunately, Lena can't refuse. Mistakes of the past are choking her confidence. She needs to do something to right those wrongs and prove herself. Going into a remote community might just be the place to do that, if only tall, dark and obnoxious Dan didn't seem so determined to stand in her way ...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My New Year Pub Crawl

Hope you all had a fantastic New Year weekend. I went away with my gorgeous hubby and boys to visit his mother in Southern Cross (a rural/mining town in Western Australia for those who aren't from these parts).

Although not raised in the country, I've lived in a small rural community for the past seven years and there's something about being out in the bush that agrees with me, which is probably why I set JILTED - my June 2012 release - in a small country town.

 I love the fact that everyone knows everyone (although this is not always a good thing) and that you can pretty much guarantee what you'll find in a small town. These include a big oval or rec centre (country towns love their sport), a post office, a small supermarket or general store, a town hall of some kind, a service station, maybe a bank and almost always at least one pub.

My current manuscript - tentatively titled MAN DROUGHT - is also set in a small rural community. Whereas JILTED centres around the romance AND the revival of the local theatrical society, MAN DROUGHT centres around the romance and the goings-on at the local pub! There's something about country pubs that are begging for stories to be told in them. There's so much potential in these places. So today, while we traveled home, I took photos of pubs in some of the places we drove through.

My vision of the pub in MAN DROUGHT is most like the pub right above. I'm itching to get stuck back into this story and hope to finish it by the end of April but first I must finish my revisions for HOLLYWOOD HEARTBREAK!!