Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Favorite Spot To Read A Romance - Michelle Monkou

As I was riding on the metro train heading for the day job, I opened my current romance novel and settled in for the 20-25 minute commute. Needless to say, there were commuters sitting, standing, talking on their cellphones, talking with each other. Let's just call it like it is - a zoo!
At those moments, I long for a quiet room with a chaise lounge to enjoy my romance book. But in my hectic lifestyle, I can't get picky with my reading settings. Thanks to the authors who hook me from the beginning of their stories, I can block out the pesky distractions. I've even managed to miss my stop because I forgot to look up when the train pulled into my station.

Counting the train as one of my settings, let me run through a couple of my other favorite spots of enjoyment:

Bathtub soak (Honestly, that was in my high school days. Actually, I did manage to read while soaking in the bathtub on a child-free vacation.)

On a rainy day (I love thunderstorms), curled up in bed or on the couch.

Sticking with the bed/couch theme, curled up next to my young teen daughter while she reads her book.

Reading poolside or near a fountain. I think that I've got something for the sound of water.

Sitting on the patio in the backyard when the sun is making its descent.

(And when a book is particularly good) propping it up at the dinner table while eating a huge bowl of cereal (oatmeal in the winter, Rice Krispies any other time).

Share your favorite spots for reading those wonderfully romantic stories.

Michelle Monkou

Available now in stores or on
Romantic Times Bookclub: Multilayered characters, intertwined lives and stories with an unexpected twist make Straight to the Heart (4), by Michelle Monkou, intriguing.

Single Titles.Com: Straight to the Heart is like smooth dark chocolate, and got this reader’s attention from the very beginning. Omar and Stacy are realistically created characters that felt remarkably like close friends. When they shared a scene, there were fireworks. Both are intelligent and self-reliant, warm and loyal to those they care about, passionate and sexy. Manager, Brenda is a little on the “hard-edged” side, but understandably so; she adds that extra “something” to make the storyline fresh and original. Author, Michelle Monkou is a gifted writer with the uncanny ability to draw the reader right into the lives of her characters. Definitely an author to watch, she has certainly made a fan of this reader.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New occupations & New obsessions

Shadow Whispers, the final book in the Night Guardian series, is on the shelves at last! All the secrets of the Navajo Skinwalkers are revealed. Plus, it’s a fun story of two tough and lonely souls.

But when this book is put to bed, it’s really over. After writing six books in the series (and one connected online serial,) seeing those characters go is bittersweet. I lived with the wonderful Brotherhood heroes for the better part of three years, and not having to think, dream and write about them feels a lot like my best friend moved away.

At this point I can’t even remember how I came up with the men of the Brotherhood. One was an FBI agent. One both a medicine man and a western MD. Another one was a reservation cop, and his friend a college professor at the local college. I wrote one of the men as an artist—a silversmith and sand painter. Ah, but he was both a dream and a challenge. And the hero of the last book, Shadow Whispers, is a bounty hunter stranger who comes to the reservation for his own agenda and stays to help the Brotherhood.

Interesting. But how did I get there? I’m in the beginning stages of plotting a new series and I’m stuck. What interesting careers can I give to my new heroes and heroines? I googled new careers and found careers such as: a life coach, a professional organizer, a home stager and a pet behaviorist. Then I went to another site and found: a disease mapper (ewww- they do global maps of malaria) a Radiosurgeon (zaps organs with a Cyberknife) and a Second Life lawyer (who works mainly in the virtual world.)

All note worthy, and I’m sure fine and upstanding, career possibilities. But none of those really captured my imagination. I need help! Are there any particular jobs that you just love seeing in books? Do you pick up every cowboy/ranch-owner book you can find, for instance? Or maybe pilots really turn you on. Perhaps I should stick to undercover agents for real or imagined government agencies.

I’ll take all the suggestions I can get. Do you know of any careers few people have heard of yet? Do you have a job in mind that you’ve never seen used in a book but would love to see? Or would you rather read a new twist on the old cop story?

Any and all ideas will be gratefully accepted.

Friday, August 24, 2007

What I Did With My Summer Vacation...

posted by Christine Rimmer...

Note the picture at left. Me and the DH in Napa, California. Tasting bubbly at the Mumm winery. We had a great time in Napa. Five days of nothing resembling work or home life. Sleeping late, sitting out under the trees in the lush backyard of our B&B, sharing a bottle of wine with cheese and these amazing herb and garlic Triscuits. Yes. That's what I said. Triscuits.

And then it was over. That was it. Pretty much all that's happening in my family this year that could remotely be called a vacation. I came back home to write a couple of proposals--and to start a new book by 9/1.

Also this summer, we're doing home improvement. Actually, around here, we're always doing home improvement. We think of it as entertainment. Nothing so fun as being covered in paint splatters, changing the color of the living room. Or the family room. Or a bathroom. Or the kitchen...

I also moved my office this summer. (That's the new space at left) From half of the formal living room in the front of the house to a bedroom near the back. Now I have more privacy when I work. I think that's good. Though I confess I miss the chance to scream "shut up! I'm working here!" at the top of my lungs at least twice a day.

What else? Oh, I attended the RWA conference in Dallas. Great fun, very exhausting. But I got to catch up with all my good buddies and wear all my favorite clothes. What's not to like about that?

Here I am in the published author's lounge with, clockwise from left, Eileen Rendahl, Eve Gaddy, Lenora Worth, Kathy Garbera, Susan Crosby, Cindy Gerard--and that's me in the red.

So now I'm home, here at my desk, wondering how the summer flew by so fast. Time to finish up this second proposal--and move on to that book I'm starting the first of September.

How 'bout you? What did you do with your summer vacation?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Sandra Marton says: LAST CALL FOR COUPONS!

I sent out an email telling readers of my newsletter that I have available a few (very few!) coupons good for $1.00 off on any Harlequin (or Silhouette) book. One of you kindly wrote me and said I should have mentioned those coupons here... so, I am!

If you want one, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to me at P.O. Box 295, Storrs CT 06268 but first, please drop me an email at so I can set a coupon aside for you. As I said, I only have a handful left.
Sorry, but these are only good in the USA.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Conference High - Annie West

I’ve been home a week and I’m still on a high. Exhilarated and just a tad exhausted after attending the wonderful Romance Writers of Australia Conference. It’s held every August and each year it seems to get better and better. I always come away feeling so glad I write romance, so enthused about writing, so thrilled at having such a lovely time and so tired from the late nights. This year at least I came home with a voice. In the past I’ve suffered from laryngitis. Really! It’s absolutely NOT a case of talking too much. No way!

This year we gathered in Sydney and it was a real treat. Our plenary speaker was Jennifer Crusie who started off proceedings in such a positive way that we were grinning for days. There were editor pitches, chats with lots of published authors, great plenary sessions and informative workshops. There was lots and lots of talking (how surprising), lots of familiar faces and plenty of new ones to get to know. It’s rather sad that no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get to talk to everyone. We had our second Pink Breakfast, with all proceeds going to breast cancer research. Honestly, donating to charity has never been so much fun!

On a personal note, I survived the experience of running my first writing-related workshop, and even better, so did the participants! I presented with friend and Avon author, Anna Campbell on ‘Unleashing the Alpha Hero’. Lots of fun and even a few chocolates thrown in (literally). It was such a terrific feeling to have other writers talk to me later and say they’d got something useful from the session, (apart from the chance to stare at pics of fantastic heroes).

We had a glittering awards dinner where successful authors received awards for competition wins and other successes. Our own Aussie RITA winner, Barbara Hannay finally got to collect her lovely RITA statue since she’d been unable to attend the Dallas conference this year. There was another fantastic cocktail party sponsored by Harlequin Australia. This year’s theme was Venetian carnivale. I’ve never seen so many glittering masks and costumes in one place. Here’s just a glimpse of how it looked! From left to right here are Anna Campbell, Sharon Arkell, Fiona Lowe and Judy Griffith.

Already I’m planning for next year. Melbourne promises to be another fantastic conference and the venue, the Langham Hotel on South Bank, is just gorgeous. So if anyone wants an August treat, do consider popping in! This year there were attendees from all around Australia, New Zealand, the USA, and Europe.

What do you like best about conferences? Or don’t you attend? Do you like large and fabulous or small and friendly? Seeing familiar faces or learning more about publishing? Or maybe getting home and starting to put those good ideas into practice?

Annie’s smiling because she’s just sold her 6th book to Harlequin Presents. Meanwhile her latest release, ‘For the Sheikh’s Pleasure’ is on sale now in North America. To read an excerpt, or to enter a contest to win a copy, visit her website at

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Room With A View - Susan Mallery

I have a writer friend who writes in an office on the top floor of her house. She has a view of most of the area where she lives, along with a lake. Storms whip by, rain hits the windows. It’s inspiring and beautiful.

I have this fantasy office in my mind…actually it’s two rooms. A place for a desk and tons of storage with piles and books and folders and manuscripts cluttering every surface. Then, beyond that, a calm oasis in pale green with windows and a view, light and a desk with nothing but my computer and notes on the chapter in progress. There’s a sofa on one wall, an ottoman, maybe a ceiling fan and nothing else. Just total, relaxing peace.

My reality is much more the cluttered space than the calm oasis, which makes me wonder if calm is a good idea. I’ve always crammed too much furniture, too many papers and books into too small a space and I’ve never had a view. My first office was also the guest room, with high windows that showed nothing but electrical wires and a slice of sky. While living in eastern Washington State, I had an office in a walkout basement. (I was from California—what did I know about basements?) Not only was the space always cold and dark, my window was level with the ground. Even the spiders lived above me.

I tend to find rooms with high windows or back windows. My current office is a loft with skylights. I see treetops. There is one “real window” and from that I see the neighbor’s backyard. My computer faces a corner, so when I’m working, there’s no view at all. Except I’ve realized I tend to close my eyes a lot when I’m writing so I can “see” what’s happening in my book. I turn to check on the dog every few minutes and she wags her tail at me, but other than that, there is only the screen and the words.

Maybe it’s better that way. I’m not distracted by a warm breeze or the pattern of rain. I can lose myself in my characters and the mess they’ve made in their lives. A view might take me away from that. But still…it’s nice to think about.


Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sandra's Computer Woes

Stand back, because I'm about to reveal my age. Are you ready for this? I am old enough to remember writing by hand. Yes, with a thing called a pencil. No keyboards, no monitors, just pencils and paper.

That's how I wrote my very first Presents. In longhand, on pads of yellow lined paper. Then I typed that manuscript, all 250 pages of it, on my trusty IBM Selectric typewriter.

Harlequin Presents bought the book.

I took my advance check and sank it into a computer. It was a Franklin, it had (gasp) 64 megs of memory... and I didn't have the slightest idea how to use it. Everyone in my family had suggestions but nobody knew anything more than I did so, finally, I shut my office door and warned them that to open that door was to court disaster. After a week of hell, I'd learned enough to begin writing my second book.

Over the years, I bought new computers. Many new computers, at first because I fell in love with the technology and then for less happy reasons, like fried motherboards or dead hard drives.

Last week, we had a death in our computer family. The corpse was my husband's desktop unit. It was time to replace it.

This was the plan: I'd give him my desktop computer and buy myself a new laptop that I could use when we travel and I could also plug into my big flat-screen monitor and my ergonomic keyboard for use at my desk.
(I already have a laptop but that's a whole other story.) Sounds simple, right?


I spent days and nights, literally, researching what to buy. The brand I'd relied on in the past was now getting awful reviews, including from me. The only good news was that I'd just finished writing my latest Presents, so I'd have a couple of weeks in which to select a new computer, order it, receive it, set it up...

Anyway, I finally placed my order last night.
The new computer is gorgeous.
It has zillions of bells and whistles. I love it... Well, I hope that I'll love it. Despite its great reviews, its good looks, its excellent components, its hefty price-tag, I won't know if I made the right choice until it arrives. Or until I start using it. Or until it either becomes my steadfast friend or my worst enemy and yes, I had one computer that was precisely that.

I have to admit, sometimes I'm tempted to go back to pencils. Or typewriters. Or further back, maybe, to papyrus or stone..

Hmm. I went through erasers like crazy when I wrote in pencil. I bought White-Out three bottles at a time when I used a typewriter. Didn't anybody ever make a mistake, chiseling on stone??? What happened then, or don't I want to know?

Anyway, I'll let you know how things go on my own blog where I'll also keep you updated about my books. Oh, and right now, if you go there you'll see that I'm giving away $1.00 (one dollar) off coupons (a very, very limited number of them) as well as gorgeous bookmarks. Why not drop by and say 'hello?'


Monday, August 13, 2007


What is it about the trilogy that is so potent? Readers seem to love them and, for the author the benefits, in the form of extra promotion, a “buzz”, means that we all strive to find that little extra something that give an idea wings and takes it beyond a single title.

Having done it once, with Boardroom Bridegrooms, I had caught the “trilogy” bug, but these books aren’t written in the same casual way as linked stories in which characters flow from one book into another. A trilogy is almost always published in consecutive months and for a single writer it means producing three books within six months. Story outlines and artwork ideas are required by editorial before even the first book is finished. It’s a pressure cooker environment and the author needs to cancel any idea of a “life” outside the work before she takes it on.

Following eye surgery, it was not a scenario I felt able to commit to, but there was another way. Not one author writing three books, but three authors writing three books linked by a theme.

I approached my editor with my proposal for three books, three authors, three continents. She thought it was a workable idea and all I had to do was persuade the two authors who I thought were a style and emotional “match” to come and play “trilogies” with me. It helped that I’d met both Barbara Hannay and Jackie Braun in New York and London. Flatteringly, they were enthusiastic, a great start, and we burned up cyberspace brainstorming “themes”, settings, the initial “meet” that would set everything off. Were they to be long term friends? Had they only just met? What event had brought these women, from America, Australia and the UK, together in one place?

We discarded weddings, funerals and a whole heap of scenarios before Barbara’s sister, with her charitable cycling adventures in the Himalayas, provided us with that opening scenario, the kick-off point, the moment in time when the world turned back on itself for our three heroines. We were assigned an editor who would work on all three books to ensure continuity and, heart-in-mouth we sent in our proposals. Her response to mine was a heartfelt “You never make it easy for yourself, Liz...”

It isn’t me – honestly.

Belle (she would insist on being called Belinda, despite the fact that I stamped my foot and said “No, no, no!”) was there from the moment the theme was set. Believe me, my objections weren’t just to her name. I was also saying “No, no, no” to the whole idea of a blonde bombshell breakfast television presenter as a heroine from the moment she wandered onto the page.


I mean, really...

In the end I let her have her own way since I know from experience that a character who has a mind of her own from the word go is always going to be winner. I also knew that this book was going to be dark, emotional, difficult, although unexpectedly, once I started writing, the humour crept in.

As soon as we got editorial approval, and because I was first up in the schedule, I wrote the set-up as my first chapter – you can read an excerpt at my
website. It’s published almost exactly as I first wrote it, which is unusual – although I was asked to write a short prologue when I’d finished. As soon as Barb and Jackie were happy with the way their characters had been portrayed, we were off and running.

Since each of our books stands completely on its own, once we had actually started writing, it was simply a matter of keeping in touch, organising time lines so that when our characters lives touched whether by email or SMS, it “worked”.

I can’t speak for Barb and Jackie, but working with them was a truly rewarding experience. I’ve already read Barb’s book, which is available now online and retail next month, and it truly lives up to the promise of heartrending secret it contains. I’m now anxiously waiting for the postman to deliver a copy of Jackie’s book so that I can find out how she wraps up the story!


In the breathtaking peaks of the Himalayas, three women, on the most challenging adventure of their lives, share the secrets of their hearts and make a pact that will change everything.

Three extraordinary women.
Three unforgettable heroes.
Three emotionally charged books.

Reunited: Marriage in a Million, August 2007,
Liz Fielding
Needed: Her Mr Right, September 2007,
Barbara Hannay
Found: Her Long Lost Husband, October 2007,
Jackie Braun

“Liz Fielding begins “Secrets We Keep” with Reunited: Marriage in a Million, a moving yet frequently amusing tale. Highlighted by truly great characterization, it’s one of the author’s best.” ...Romantic Times, ****½

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Meet KiKi the Chaotic !

Want to know a great way to fall behind on your deadlines or any other VIC ? (Very Important Chores) Get a puppy! What was I thinking?

I had resisted getting another animal since my beloved cat passed away a couple of years ago. But my sister informed me one day that my house was like a tomb without an animal. She grabbed me up and we went looking for a new member of the family. (my husband helped- reluctantly)

If you ever fall into a moment of weakness like that, please remember the house training, the chewing on everything (shoes, rugs, the frigging walls!)
and the constant need for attention until they grow and become more independent. I forgot.

Gladly, I forgot! Because now that she's part of our family, I wouldn't give this darling baby up for anything in the world! KiKi loves people and wants to please and we love her in return. She brings me the greatest pleasure and she'll grow to be a fantastic companion. If we all live through puppyhood, that is.

By the way, she has gotten her first haircut since these pictures but I haven't managed to get a new photo of her. She looks more like a Bichon Friese now. Like she's supposed to look. And next week we start training classes! Thank goodness.
Maybe then I'll catch up with my deadlines and finish this darn book!

If any of you have any suggestions to make our life easier or any stories of new puppies you would love to tell, please let us know! I can use all the help and commiseration I can get!


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Time Flies - a brief sojourn out of the writer's cave

How can it possibly be August already? I much regret how time has flown. It is far too long since I have been here to post - although you might all be very glad of that! Truth is I have been stuck in the deep, dark deadline cave finishing two urgent manuscripts, both of which will feature in 2008 amongst various exciting new projects to mark Mills & Boon's centenary year.

I am now blinking against the light through bloodshot eyes, dragging the decrepit body around a long-neglected house buried under layers of dust and ever-growing TBR piles of books, trying to get as many things done as possible before I shut myself back in the cave to embark on the next book. I'm also giving myself a few treats and making a raid on the TBR piles as a reward for getting both books finished on time.

I love to lose myself in my characters but I always find starting a new book a scary experience. I am not a plotter. I have a vague idea where I am going, but it is my characters who take me there, often by a scenic or unexpected route! I know them and their back stories, I fling them together, and then they lead the way, often taking hold of the reins and ignoring all my attempts to control them and get them back on track again. Some are more sure of themselves than others, some more willing to discuss things, and some determined to go their own way and stuff their author's ideas, thank you very much!

The saddest part is saying goodbye - even if it is only temporarily because I might meet them again in linked books. I get so involved with them and their lives, and it takes a while to get them out of my head and ease the next cast in. Now I am at that turnaround point, sadly trying to let Seb & Gina venture out into the world without me, knowing I will catch up with them again in future Strathlochan stories, but sad to cut the apron strings. On the plus side, I get to welcome back Lauren, best friend to Chloe whose story I have already told and whose romance with the delectable Oliver will be out in the summer of 2008. Lauren's turn has come. She has a bumpy ride ahead but a scrumptious French hero called Gabriel is waiting in the wings to smooth out the choppy waters for her - if she'll let him.

Gabe & Lauren will soon be pulling me back into that cave and I will be able to lose myself in their story, hanging on to their coat-tails as they lead me on their journey through trials and tribulations, learning to love and trust, seeking their happy ending. And all the while the layers of dust and piles of books I'm yearning to read will begin to grow again.

Time flies when you are having fun - and despite the self-doubt, the times when things won't flow and the fright of staring at the blank first page, fingers poised over the keyboard, there is nothing quite like the feeling of launching out into a new ficticious world with a new cast of characters.

My current book, One Special Night, is out now in the UK and in Australia/New Zealand, available in bookshops, via Amazon or via Harlequin Mills & Boon's websites in those countries.

His Very Speical Nurse is now available via Harlequin's North American website.
Happy reading,

Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Perfect Romantic Setting - Michelle Monkou

I have a voracious appetite when it comes to romance novels. I read just about anything and have a keeper list of my favorite authors that span over thirty years when I started reading in my young teens.

From all those titles, authors have lit my imagination with wonderful romantic settings. I thought it would be nice to share some of those settings and the emotions they evoked. Feel free to jump in with your favorites.

Argentinan horse ranch - ok, you will notice a definite trend toward the cowboy hero.
Australian sheep ranch
Texan cattle ranch

Greek isles - ancient history, beautiful seaside views, perpetually sunny
Coastal Italian towns

British castles - anything royal-related.

Caribbean island - tropical, relaxed, sexy interludes

Now that I've started the discussion on the important stuff, let me close with who I am :-)

I'm Michelle Monkou an author of eight and counting novels. I'm new to the blog and looking forward to meeting many of you. I write under Harlequin's Kimani imprint where my third book - Straight To The Heart - will be released in September; 4 stars from RT Bookclub.

Looking foward to hearing about your favorite romantic settings.

Michelle Monkou