The truth about second-hand bookshops

I’ve always been a book lover. Not just the fabulous stories inside, but for as long as I can remember, I’ve simply loved books. I love the smell, I love holding them in my hand, seeing them on my shelf, simply buying them.

But I must confess, that I’ve never been much of a fan of second hand books. My hubby collects all these old, tattered hardback books. He doesn’t really care what the story is, he just likes having old books. Me? I like my books NEW! Call me a snob, but that’s just the way it is. So because of this, I’ve never seen a great appeal in second hand bookshops. I can understand that maybe you might find an old, out of print gem in one if you hunt hard enough, but aside from that… meh.
However, until I started writing seriously and getting to know other authors through writing organisations, blogs, etc, I never thought about something that now REALLY bugs me.
If you buy a book from a second hand shop, the author won’t get royalties for it.
Writing is a career like teaching, baking, medicine is for other people, yet we expect to pay for these things. I understand that everyone likes a bargain but I actively tell people now that if they are a BIG FAN of a particular author, please buy that book new – print or e-book, doesn’t matter but buy it new. Because with each sale, you are making it easier for an author to continue writing fabulous books.
If you can’t afford new, there’s always the library. In Australia at least, authors who register for PLR make some money each time someone borrows their book.
Am curious… what are your thoughts on second hand bookshops?

Theory on Thursday with Coleen Kwan

This week on Theory on Thursday I’m excited to bring you debut author, fellow Aussie and Carina Press buddy, Coleen Kwan. I downloaded Coleen’s book on Monday and as soon as I recharge my e-reader, I’m reading it. Can’t wait. The book sounds awesome and the cover is fab. So here’s hoping Coleen shares with us some secrets to her success 🙂
Take it away, Coleen:

When Rach invited me to do a blog on my favourite craft book I couldn’t narrow it down to just one, so I cheated and picked two.

When I’m in the midst of writing, my favourite craft book is Jessica Page Morrell’s ‘Between The Lines.’ The subtitle of this book is ‘Master the subtle elements of fiction writing’, and I think this sums up the book very well. It’s not a how-to book but rather it highlights areas where our writing could be improved. The author’s writing style is engaging, and she uses many examples from popular fiction to illustrate her points. In her chapter on Suspense, she uses excerpts from The Lovely Bones to show how the author builds up a truly horrifying scene without going into gratuitous detail.
‘Often this sort of understatement is more potent than a blow-by-blow depiction of violence because the reader’s imagination, fuelled by suspense, fills in the details.’

A good lesson for me as I sometimes find myself slipping into melodrama. When I’ve finished my first draft and into revisions, I like James Scott Bell’s ‘Revision & Self-Editing’ by my side. Bell says ‘Writing a novel is like falling in love. You jump in and write. At some point you pop the question and your novel says Yes. You’re married to it now. The commitment has begun. Then some problems surface. Bad breath in the morning. Crankiness. A shouting match. What happened to the bloom? You begin to doubt. But you’ve made the commitment, so you are determined to work things out. When you do, your marriage comes back stronger. Revision is like the counselling process that renders a better relationship.’

I keep reminding myself of this while I slog through revisions. Bell’s book is divided into two parts. The first part is a sort of checklist of all the usual areas: character, plot, dialogue, etc. The second part gives some practical advice on how to tackle the editing part. I like his suggestion of ‘ping-ponging’ if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a big fat mess of a story. He says when he’s revising a manuscript he’s also writing the first draft of another or planning another.

‘This gives the mind a rest but keeps it active as a writer. So the boys in the basement will be on call, sweaty, warmed up, ready to work.’ Don’t know if that image works for everyone, but you get the picture!

WOW – those two books sound AWESOME Coleen! I might have to stop this series soon, before all my money is spent on craft books. Thanks again for coming and can’t wait to hear about more books from you.
Coleen’s debut book, WHEN HARRIET CAME HOME, is now available at

After ten years of exile, Harriet Brown is back in town. Things have definitely changed, but so has she. Now the confident owner of a catering business, she’s no longer the shy, overweight girl everyone—including her hot teenage crush—used to ignore. In fact, she’s determined to make peace with Adam Blackstone for her part in exposing his father’s secret affairs and corrupt behavior as mayor.
But Adam has changed as well. No longer a pampered, rich pinup boy, he just wants to reestablish his family’s good name. He reluctantly agrees to a truce with Harriet, and is surprised by how changed she is. He doesn’t want to be drawn to her, but he can’t seem to resist her allure.
As Harriet struggles to come to terms with her past, her adolescent infatuation with Adam morphs into something more serious… Will she ever be accepted again? Or will ancient history ruin the chance of a future full of possibilities?

Shhh.. Your Character Has a Secret!

I have lots happening in the writing part of my world at the moment and I’m hoping to have some good news to share but at the moment, it’s a secret.

And as it happens, I’m also starting a Savvy Authors writing course today, entitled ”Shhh… Your Character Has a Secret.”
I love books about secrets – they give that touch of mystery that I love to read in a romance – and I have sketchy ideas for my next two books about characters with secrets, so can’t wait to get started in this course.
I haven’t done a Savvy Authors course before but have heard only good.
Here’s the spiel for the one I’m about to start:

Sshhh… Your Character Has A Secret

Instructor: Sue Viders and Becky Martinez. Secrets are a staple in fiction. Just about any great leading character has some sort of secret he/she does not want the world to know. How can you come up with a secret for your hero or heroine and how can you use that secret to build conflict?   Join two published authors and teachers for a week-long class who will introduce you to the power of secrets—from big to small—from old to new—and who will show you how using secrets can build tension, provide conflict and make your character much more believable. 

So what about you? Have you done a fabulous writing course lately that you’d recommend to other writers?

Theory on Thursday with Shona Husk

Today on Theory on Thursday I have fellow Carina Press author (and author from a zillion other fabulous places too), Shona Husk. Shona’s the only person I know to write a Goblin book and I can’t wait to read it. More about her latest release after her book chat. As well as goblins (and lots of other cool characters), Shona writes hot sex. And today, she’s going to share with her one book that helped her in her mission to do so.

Take it away Shona 🙂

Back when I started writing romance I knew I was going to have to eventually tackle a sex scene. At the time the idea totally freaked me out. I mean it was one thing to imagine the characters making love (or having angry sex, or make-up nookie) but it was another to actually put it on paper. So I decided the best thing I could do was jump in the deep end and read a bunch of scorching hot erotic romances from Ellora’s Cave (I don’t do things by halves).

People that know me, or who’ve read some of my erotic romances are probably now blinking and scratching their heads going, really? It wasn’t that I was embarrassed by sex; it was more that I didn’t know how to put it on paper and make it…well, sexy.

I can’t remember where I found Passionate Ink by Angela Knight but it has become a favourite craft book of mine. It doesn’t just cover how to write sex scenes but how to write erotic romance as a whole: hero, heroine, villain, plotting, fight scenes, everything.

There is a fantastic romantic conflict chart which I always use (if you can’t fill it in you haven’t got conflict which means you don’t have a story). She also touches on GMC, BDSM using those four letter words and all manner of kink and bedroom choreography, (yep, you don’t want the reader stopping and wondering how the hero and heroine could possibly get into that position).

So, if you intend on writing sex scenes and are looking for a general romance primer this is the book I’d recommend.

Thanks so much for that Shona. I must admit I won this book at a Romance Roadshow a couple of years back and so far have only flicked through it. Considering that I stress a bit about whether my sex scenes sound okay, think it’s time to take it out again!

What about you? Who writes sex scenes and how to you make them sparkle? Have you read this book?

Shona’s latest release is The Goblin King from Sourcebooks – and don’t ya just love that cover?

Cursed by a Druid millennia ago, Roan lives a bleak existence in the Shadowlands, desperately trying to retain his soul and not succumb to the goblin horde. When a beautiful human summons him to grant a wish, he sees a glimmer of hope. But will she ever agree to be his queen?

The down-side of writing…

Okay… there are TONS of fabulous reasons to write but there are probably more than one not to. I’ve heard it said, if you can give up writing, then you probably should. It’s an obsession, a compulsion, a calling much more than a decision to most people.

I feel that it’s my calling and most of the time, I love it. There’s nothing more exciting than the opportunities that come with a blank page or the knowledge that you’re only a couple of chapters off completing a book. I’m thriving on the latter at the moment. But there’s one thing I’d do a LOT more of if I didn’t write… it’s probably the thing that led me to write in the first place.
You guessed it.
When I’m writing hard on a book, I barely have any time to read. Writing takes up the time that would equal relaxation/leisure time in most people’s world. I don’t watch tv much, because that’s the time when I write. I only read a little just before bed because any free time on evenings and weekends is taken up writing.
As a result, I am so depressingly behind on my TBR pile. I think I’ve probably finished two novels this month and one of them I may actually have started last month. There are SO many books out there I want to read. I keep buying them even if I don’t have the time to read them.
So… as I head towards the finish line on my current wip – Hollywood Heartbreak – I’m already planning a reading vacation, some time off from writing where I indulge my love of books.
Is there anything aside from reading, you miss because of writing?

Six Sentence Sunday

For my second Six Sentence Sunday, I thought I’d share an extract from the book I got my cover for this week – ONE PERFECT NIGHT.

Hope you enjoy 🙂
She nodded slowly, pursing her lips together and then catching the lower one between
her teeth as if digesting this information. Still her gaze remained on the bed. He followed it,
unable to stop the image of her lying naked in the middle of it rushing to the forefront of his

Dammit. One of them needed to say something before all his plans for seafaring flew
out the porthole and he seduced her fast and furious without even turning back the covers.
Words eluded him but he gripped her wrists and tugged her out of the bedroom,
yanking the door shut behind them. There’d be plenty of time for that later.

If you’d like to read other Six Sentence Sunday participants of sign up for SSS yourself, head on over to Six Sentence Sunday!

Let me know if you’ve done SSS this week, so I can check yours out!


I’m so excited to share with you my very first cover – the cover of my debut book ONE PERFECT NIGHT, which will release at Carina Press Dec 19th!!

I absolutely ADORE it! I think it’s hot but classy and I love the colours. My favourite colours are pink and purple, so I couldn’t have been more excited to see these colours featuring prominently! And whoah – I LOVE the hero’s arms.
If you haven’t yet read the first chap of ONE PERFECT NIGHT you can do so on my webpage – hope you enjoy it!!

Theory On Thursday with Fiona Lowe

I’m stoked to have my good friend, Fiona Lowe on board today. Trust me, this lady KNOWS her craft. After reading her post, Book Depository got YET ANOTHER purchase from me 🙂

WARNING: Do NOT read if you don’t want to add to your craft book pile!

I love me a craft book! But I love some more J I have a few on the shelf and some have worked for me and some haven’t, but that said I’ve dipped into them all at various times.

The first one that really spoke to me was Christopher Vogler’s ‘The Writer’s Journey’ and I became the person you never wanted to go to the movies with because I would deconstruct the film. It helped my writing though.

The first craft book I fought with (and lost) was Dwight V Swain’s ‘Techniques of the Selling Writer.’ I took SO long to understand that book, but I finally got it and am a scene-sequel convert. I frequently flip through Donald Maass’ ‘Writing the Breakout Novel’ which is great when you’re in the pit of despair, but the book that is on my desk ALL of the time is ’45 Master CharactersMythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt (Writer’s Digest Books). The wonderful Barbara Samuel recommended it in 2008 and I love this book.

The introduction by Ms Schmidt says it all, “ I wrote this book for every writer who has ever felt weighed down by the rules of fiction writing……(when) you’ve got so bogged down with structure and plotting, you lost the creative spark that made you face that blank page in the first place.”

Ms Schmidt presents us with archetypes which help you create unique characters. Once you have them, then you can do whatever you like with them because the archetype provides you with the foundation or beliefs of that character. Anyone who’s heard me speak will know that I can go on (and on) about how conflict stems from the character’s beliefs about themselves. Archetypes help with this-a lot!
The exciting thing about ’45 Master Characters’ is that the author has written the Heroine’s journey which does differ from the hero’s journey…usually a lot less swashbuckling and a lot more emotional growth. She outlines nine plot stages so you can easily map out your story direction, or not with archetypes which help you create unique characters. Once you have them, then you can do whatever you like with them because the archetype provides you with the foundation or beliefs of that character. Archetypes help with this-a lot! in the first place.”

Do I hear you say that using Archetypes ties you down? To that I say, ‘No’. It gives you a framework and forces you to ask the tough questions-

What does your character care about?

What does your character fear?

What motivates your character?

How do others view your character?

Digging deep pulls together a complex and interesting characters. In Career Girl in the Country I wanted to write a female surgeon and Poppy was very comfortable in the male world. She was Athena her father’s daughter. She cared about aligning herself with powerful men. Surgery is still very male dominated profession in 2011 and to get ahead she needs to align herself with powerful men. She loves to win and will go to any lengths to make that happen. She wants to study and broaden her mind and she never does anything she can hire someone to do it for her, after all, she’s a busy woman with a punishing schedule.

What does Athena fear? Female friendship because it reminds her of her own femininity which she tries to suppress. Athena saw women as the weaker sex. Poppy, who was the daughter of a man who only ever wanted a son, fights her femininity for a different reason. Athena can handle losing a battle but is terrified of losing the war. Poppy’s fighting for head of surgery. Athena needs to remain in the city and going into the wilderness would separate her from her books of learning. Poppy is a city-girl through and through.

How do others see Athena/Poppy? She’s neat and professional. She’s considered to be unemotional, hard and at times calculating and she can’t relax with other people so she’s not very social.

Knowing all that information about Poppy it became obvious to me what had to happen to her so she could take her heroine’s journey and grow and change.

Matilda in Boomerang Bride is so not Athena. She’s Demeter, the Nurturer, but she’s lost too much of herself to others and needs to learn she’s important too. Of course she doesn’t know that at the start of the book, but I knew, and that meant I could plunge her into situations so she could slowly start to learn.

There are eight female and eight male archetypes in the book along with the male and female journeys. What I also find really helpful is the villainous side of every archetype what happens when our driving forces are tipped from good into evil or ‘character traits gone wild’? It’s a great way to beef out a character. It helps you create complex characters because although our protagonists are not villains, a perfect heroine is boring and not very relatable. We all have a dark side, we all crack at times and say or do things we regret…our heroes and heroines need to as well.

If you’re getting rejection letters about lack of conflict or two dimensional characters or if you’re published but feeling the lack of creative spark then this book will probably really help.

It surely helped me.

Fiona Lowe is an award-winning, multi-published author of romance fiction with Harlequin Mills & Boon and Carina Press. When she’s not writing stories, she’s a weekend wife, a mother of two boys, and she’s trying really hard to instill in them heroic characteristics like cooking and ironing. She’s an avid reader, a guardian of 80 rose bushes, attempts to stay fit and is often seen collapsed on the couch with a glass of wine. She hangs out at Face book, Twitter and loves to hear from readers and writers. This month she has two books out!

Boomerang Bride and Career Girl in the Country

My first Six Sentence Sunday

I may have put it out there on Twitter last Sunday that THIS week, I’d join the Six Sentence Sunday Fun.

Have NO idea if I’m doing this right but I’m going to share with you six sentences from my current WIP, Hollywood Heartbreak and hope you enjoy them.
It’s an extract from just after the first sex scene, which Holly my heroine at first thinks was a mistake and that the hero, Nate must be regretting. Then, he sets out to prove that it wasn’t a mistake at all…

Where her boldness came from she had no idea? Perhaps it was the thought that this really was an aberration in her life, a holiday fling, and so what did she have to lose? But suddenly she heard herself asking, “Are there any other parts of me you find beautiful?”

“Oh yes.” He tickled her knees, drew mesmerizing circles at the back of them with his thumbs. “These should be put on display in national gallery.”

So… that’s a tiny snippet of what I hope to finish over the next two weeks (actually I hope to finish in the next week but I’m being generous to myself)!

If you’d like to read other Six Sentence Sunday participants of sign up for SSS yourself, head on over to Six Sentence Sunday!

Let me know if you’ve done SSS this week, so I can check yours out!

Also, I have a COVER for ONE PERFECT NIGHT!!! It’s absolutely beautiful and hot and I cannot WAIT to share it with you. Am just waiting on confirmation that I’m allowed to and then I’ll post it!!

Theory on Thursday with Ruthie Knox

Today is another Theory on Thursday with a difference. I’m very excited to bring you new author Ruthie Knox talking about what she has learnt about writing beginnings!! I had so many light bulb moments reading her post and I’m sure you will do too…

Welcome Ruthie 🙂

How to Begin a Romance Novel: Seven Revelations

It recently came to my attention that I have a problem with beginning.

Now, I know the beginnings to my novels aren’t awful. I’ve managed to get an agent and sell two books and even win a couple of contests with the beginnings I’m writing. But something is definitely amiss, because before I sold my second book, my editor asked me to rewrite the first few chapters. Then she asked for some changes that led to a rewrite of the beginning of the first book she bought. Then she turned down a third book and because of issues with—you guessed it—the beginning.

Hmm, I thought. Also, WTF? and Halp!

My beta readers were liking my beginnings. My agent likes them. My mother likes them. Yet my editor, who knows the romance market like nobody’s business, sees a problem. The characters are hard to sympathize with, she told me. I don’t really feel like I know them yet. She pushed me to get more emotion in, more background, more exposition.

And I found myself stumped, because I didn’t know how to take her advice in a way that would square with my instincts as a writer. I don’t want to tell that part yet, I thought. Don’t make me put in more backstory. I loathe backstory dumps. This heroine isn’t ready to be that vulnerable. Blah blah blah defensive-pants.

So I chewed on the problem, and I came to suspect I’ve been writing the wrong sort of beginnings—that I’ve established a set of expectations from a lifetime spent reading literary fiction, and I’ve carried them over to romance, where they don’t really work. Since I am, by nature, a geek, I decided to carry out a study of romance novel beginnings. I put together a syllabus and everything.

Having spent a few weeks alongside my partner in crime, Serena Bell, intensively studying the best of the best in romance—including Nora Roberts, Jennifer Crusie, Jill Shalvis, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Vicki Lewis Thompson, and others—here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Character is everything.

Somewhere along the line, I got it into my head that readers are impatient for the story to get moving. This is silly. The primary thing readers expect from the first few chapters of a romance novel is that they will get to know your characters. If your characters are compelling and sympathetic, readers will tolerate all manner of tedious exposition and backstory dumping. Which isn’t to recommend poor technique—only to point out that characterization is the first, most important purpose of the beginning of a romance.

2. But stuff still has to happen.

It is possible, however, to overdo the getting-to-know-you thing. There’s the slow unfolding of a story, and then there’s the sort of book where the hero and heroine spend three chapters folding laundry and cooking dinner, and nothing happens. That doesn’t work either. The key is to find a place to ease into the action that establishes and telegraphs your plot — What sort of story is this going to be, and what kind of things can the reader expect to see happen? — but leaves you some breathing room to introduce your people before the tale picks up speed. Which leads me to Point the Third…

3. “Start where the story starts” doesn’t necessarily mean “start at the beginning.”

Characters become most interesting when you put them under pressure. If your story begins with a low-pressure meet scene, maybe the meet isn’t the best place to launch into things. Jill Shalvis begins The Heat Is On (a really excellent Harlequin Blaze title) on the morning after Jacob and Bella meet and have a one-night stand, because Bella is a flighty sort, and walking out on Jacob doesn’t put the screws to her. What puts Bella under pressure is finding a dead body outside the bakery where she works and discovering, in consequence, that (a) Jacob is a homicide detective and (b) she’s going to be seeing a lot more of him now. Uh-oh, Bella thinks. This is trouble. You want that uh-oh moment. You want emotion and intensity in scene one. Ideally, you want your characters squirming. Choose the opening scenario accordingly.

4. Beginnings set up the dominoes.

There’s a reason agents and editors who request partials ask for the first three chapters of your book. By the end of chapter 3 of a romance, every key element of the story ought to be in place. The reader should know who your characters are (in a deep sense) and what drives them. She should know what they’re going to fight about and why they belong together. The rest of the book will ideally be a matter of tipping that first domino and enjoying the experience of watching them all fall down.

5. Readers sympathize with actions.

A human being is the sum of her past, her thoughts, and her behavior. So is a character. But readers won’t like your characters on the basis of what they think or what has happened to them. They will only like them on the basis of what they do and what they say. So if your hero is being a complete asshole for three chapters straight, it doesn’t matter why. I can’t love him now, and I probably won’t really warm up to him later. Likewise, if your heroine spends the first three chapters of your book thinking and bathing and writing in a diary rather than talking to the hero and advancing the plot, I will yawn and put the book down. Make them do stuff. Make the stuff they do and say be appealing. This doesn’t mean they have to or should be perfect—only that their actions and words have to reveal their core likability, even if they do so against the characters’ will.

6. Everyone breaks the rules.

Nora Roberts head-hops! Jennifer Crusie rewrites the same scene from two different points of view! Susan Elizabeth Phillips sits her heroine down on the roof of a car and has her Think About the Past for a surprisingly long period of time! But these women write damn fine books, and they earn well-deserved plaudits for them. There are no rules. There are only stories, told better and worse. Tell yours the way you need to, even if that requires some rule-breakage. (But always be prepared to revise.)

7. A well-crafted beginning has hypnotic power.

Susan Elizabeth Phillips taught me this. I read three chapters of Dream a Little Dream, and I didn’t like the hero or the heroine. I didn’t like the set-up. I thought, This book is not at all my sort of contemporary. Too serious, too desperate. Yet I couldn’t put the damn thing down. Man oh man, does Dream a Little Dream ever begin well. It has solid characterization-through-action, useful dialogue, well-timed snippets of backstory and internal monologue, good introductions to secondary characters, excellent pacing, and deft treatment of difficult scenes. It’s a master class in miniature. Even though I didn’t especially like reading it, I couldn’t stop.

That’s what I’m aiming for, and I’m nowhere close. Which means it’s time to revise.


Thanks so much for visiting Ruthie! Wasn’t she just fabulous? If you want to read more of what Ruthie has learnt from her studies click here to go to her website where she’s currently sharing more!

Ruthie Knox writes contemporary erotic romance with a dash of humor. She has two novels coming out with Random House’s new Loveswept imprint in 2012. Ride with Me, a love story with bicycles, will hit e-readers everywhere in mid-February, and The Morning After, the tale of a brassy Chicago bad girl reluctantly falling for an unexpectedly hot London banker, will follow in the spring. More details, along with a variety of excerpts and humorous posts about commas and grand examples of overthinking about the romance genre, can be found at