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Author Photos

During our recent cruise I took the opportunity to get some nice portrait shots to use as author photos. I was really pleased with the final result. To see all four portraits go to my About Shelley page and scroll down. Feel free to let me know what you think and which is your favorite.

Shelley Munro

Photo credit: Princess Cruises.

Do you like to see an author photo at the back of a book?

A Visit To New Zealand, Land of the Long White Cloud

Have you ever wanted to travel to New Zealand?

I’m lucky enough to live in New Zealand, and today I give you a virtual tour of my beautiful country. I’m visiting Lisabet Sarai at Beyond Romance today where I discuss New Zealand and books.

Writer Tip: Shelley Munro

Read. You’ll probably hear this from every published writer you meet. You’ll probably hear it at every conference you attend too. It really is important to know how the romance genre works and the classic hooks that are popular with readers. Analyze each book you read. Treat them like textbooks and learn from every book. Discover what works for you as a reader, learn how other writers deal with dialogue, narrative and love scenes. As you read, you’ll absorb quite a bit of craft and you’ll probably find that you do things instinctively after a while.

A bonus tip: Take the time to exercise. Not only does it keep your mind alert and give you down time to plot and work through problems, it helps keep the dreaded bottom spread at bay. What? You thought bottom spread was an urban legend put out by published authors to scare you off? No, unfortunately. It’s quite true. If you spend all your time writing and don’t exercise you will end up with a large backside. Heed my warning and exercise! :grin:

Visit Shelley Munro’s website
Purchase Shelley’s latest release, The Bottom Line

Writer Tip: Shelley Munro

“My advice is to keep hope in the mail ie. always have more than one submission out with editors or agents at a time. If you receive a rejection, this means you’ll still have another submission to pin your hopes on, and it will cushion your disappointment about the rejection.

During my pre-published days I found the hope in the mail method worked well for me. I entered contests. I submitted manuscripts to editors and agents. I worked out a plan for each manuscript, and if I received a rejection, I’d evaluate the feedback and move on to the next part of my plan. Since becoming published, I still adhere to the hope in the mail method as much as possible. Having more than one submission floating around really does help cushion disappointment if you receive a rejection.”

You’re already at Shelley’s website. Why don’t you explore a little while you’re here?
Purchase Shelley’s next release, The Bottom Line.

A Healthy Heart

Thursday Thirteen

This month All Romance eBooks is running a campaign for heart health. Twenty-eight authors (myself included) have donated short stories and all the proceeds go to the American Heart Association. I thought this week I’d cover snippets about heart health.

Thirteen Things About Hearts and Heart Health

1. The heart is a hard-working organ that pumps oxygen-carrying blood through the body. It functions like two pumps in one. One pump controls the flow of blood from the heart to the lungs where carbon dioxide waste is exchanged for fresh oxygen. The other pump sends the blood to cells through out the body.

2. Heart disease is one of the biggest causes of death.

3. It takes about one minute for a drop of blood to travel from the heart down to your toes and back again.

4. The heart pumps around five litres of blood a minute during rest periods and up to 33 litres per minute during exercise.

5. If you have a family history of heart disease, your chances of suffering a heart attack are increased.

6. Some factors such as smoking, excess weight, diabetes, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, high blood fats, and excessive stress also make a person susceptible to heart attacks.

7. The heart muscle needs to be strong to pump blood around the body efficiently, which is why it’s necessary to exercise.

8. Common symptoms of a heart attack include sudden severe chest pain that may spread to the arm, neck, shoulder or lower jaw; nausea, changed or erratic pulse, pale or bluish skin, sudden perspiration, shortness of breath and a feeling of heaviness or a squeezing pressure around the chest.

9. If you suspect someone is having a heart attack call emergency services (911 in the US – 111 in New Zealand). Make the person comfortable and keep their activity to a minimum. Stay with the person and be prepared to do CPR if necessary.

10. A Dutch study found that eating fish on a regular basis (2 – 3 servings per week) cuts the chances of fatal heart disease in half. The French claim drinking red wine fights heart disease because of the high level of flavonoids.

11. It’s said garlic can not only deter artery clogging but may even heal destroyed arteries.

12. Reduce your risk of heart disease by quitting smoking, exercising regularly, keeping weight within normal limits, maintaining a low-fat diet, learning how to deal with stress effectively and keeping a check on blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Finally, enjoy a balanced lifestyle.

13. Purchase one or more of the 28 stories in the 28 Days of Heart series from All Romance eBooks. There are a variety of genres available including contemporary, historical, paranormal and gay romances.

Wild Child My story is called Wild Child.

Here’s the blurb:

Seize the day…

Zoë Underwood loved Matt Cantrell from the moment her mother married his father. She definitely thinks of him as more than a big brother and even though he moved away from home the moment their parents got married, her feelings for him have grown stronger, bigger. More. No one presses her buttons like the tall, dark and gorgeous Matt. If only he can get over the eight-year age difference.

Now, Zoë is determined to snare her man. She wants one thing—Matt’s love. It’s time for her to make a move, stir things up a little and take a chance on love.

Purchase Wild Child by Shelley Munro

My husband is on medication to control both his blood pressure and cholesterol and we try to live a fairly healthy lifestyle. Red wine is strictly medicinal :grin:

Do you have a history of heart disease in your family?

Visit the Thursday Thirteen Hub.

A White Box

A book is a sum of things—characters, setting and description, dialogue, pace and plot. It’s the combination of all of these elements, done in the right way that makes a book exciting and sought after by readers.

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It takes a lot of work to get a book to a standard that’s saleable. My first drafts are like white boxes. People inhabit the white box—my characters that is, but they’re quiet and in shock from the lack of scenery. It’s all white in there, after all.

During the first stages, my characters are a bit superficial and half the time they have no idea what they’re doing, what their purpose is in the box. It’s almost like the first run through of a play where the cast are strangers and feeling their way into their parts.

It’s during the second and third run through that I add the color and turn my white box into a real world, complete with real people. Adding setting and description is a skill I’ve fought to learn—it certainly doesn’t come naturally.

Not so long ago, it was normal to read very flowery descriptions in books. These days descriptions in fiction are briefer and spare at times.

Here’s a paragraph from Powder and Patch by Georgette Heyer.

The Apparition wore a coat of the palest apricot cloth, with a flowered vest of fine brocade, and startling white small-clothes. Red-heeled shoes were on his feet, and his stockings were adorned by sprawling golden clocks. He carried an amber-clouded can and a jeweled snuff-box, while ever and anon he raised a cobwebby handkerchief to his aristocratic nose. He minced down the street towards the market-place, followed by the awestricken glances of an amazed population.

That’s a lot of description for one person, although I have to say I’d love to see him in person. You probably won’t find this amount of description in a modern romance, not focused on one person. We’re more likely to add it in more sparingly in bits and pieces.

This snippet is taken from Dark Lover by JR Ward.

When she was finished with the Twinkie, she flipped open her phone, hit speed dial, and put in an order for beef with broccoli. As she walked along, she looked at the familiar, grim landmarks. Along this stretch of Trade Street, there were only bars, strip clubs, and the occasional tattoo parlor. The Chinese food place and the Tex-Mex buffet were the only two restaurants. The rest of the buildings, which had been used as offices in the twenties, when downtown had been thriving, were vacant. She knew every crack in the sidewalk; she could time the traffic lights. And the patois of sounds drifting out of open doors and windows offered no surprises either.

With this paragraph, we get a little characterization along with a feel for the neighborhood. We learn that although the district is run down, the place is home for our heroine.

In another book, that shall remain nameless, the description of a room sounded like a shopping list. It mentioned an antique rug, hardwood floors, a Victorian sofa and the color of the brocade, a coffee table and the type of wood, the silver tea service on top, two Victorian chairs, a gas fireplace, silver-framed photo frames, the photos inside them, the mantelpiece, a cherry and glass counter and quite a few other things.

The actual story wasn’t too bad, but this description, done list style, made me roll my eyes. I’ve edited the list quite a bit. The descriptions took up over half a page.

What I try to do is show the character experiencing the setting, give sensory details. I show them walking across a thick carpet and wondering if their shoes are going to get lost in the pile or holding out their hands to catch snowflakes, feeling the cold and dampness or tasting it melt on their tongue. They might notice the cars buried in snow or hear the chains on the tires as they fight for purchase. I try to involve the character’s senses of sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing to make the description come alive.

Here’s a paragraph taken from Tea For Two by Shelley Munro

“I see a line of dots.” Hayley Williams peered solemnly into her customer’s white china teacup. Outside her colorful curtain-partitioned area of the tea tent, children shrieked with excitement as they lined up for the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. Her assistant chatted to one of the ladies in charge of the tea, extolling the high points of a reading by Madam Deveraux. Somewhere in the distance, a toddler howled and a brass band played “Rock Around the Clock”. Closer, touts shouted spasmodically about the exciting things available at their stalls. The clatter of china and the muted gossip of the ladies in the makeshift café added to the cacophony of fairground sounds.

For me this is actually quite a long description, but I hope it plops you right in the middle of a fairground.

When it comes to describing characters, I’m typically very brief because as a reader, I like to imagine myself as the heroine. If there’s too much description I think it gets in the way of my imagination. Just a brief hair color, eyes, build etc is all I need. You might think differently.

How much description do you like to read in your books? Do you like lots of description or a bare minimum? Do you like detailed description of characters? And writers: what approach do you use when it comes to description? Do you have a white box like me or is your world colorful from the start?

Almost the Kitchen Sink…Examining Handbags

I met two girlfriends for coffee this week and the subject of handbags came up. I’ve been thinking about doing a blog post on handbags and their contents for ages so I con…ah, persuaded them to let me photograph what they were carrying in their bags. Note – they both censored their contents a little!

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This is what my friend Tessa Radley had in her handbag.

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This is what my friend, Jo had in her handbag.

I’ve been carrying around my briefcase this week. It contains my alphasmart, wallet (credit cards, driver’s licence etc), house keys, flash drive, camera, Palm PDA (e-reader), small makeup bag, canvas bag (instead of using plastic bags), chewing gum, about five pens, notebook, a library book about Distance Relationships, bus ticket, iPod, tissues, sunglasses, business cards in silver case, and cell phone.

Maybe you should call me Gadget Girl. :grin:

The typical handbag of a typical woman in 1945 contained:

One or two lipsticks
A compact(the won’t close)
1 fresh handkerchief
2/3 crumpled handkerchiefs
A package of letters
The laundry bill
3 tickets from the cleaner
1 nylon stocking to be repaired
1 address book
1 pack of cigarettes
3 packs of matches
1 leather picture folder
All ration books (including expired ones)
Several cards with address of a furrier,
a wholesale place for children’s coats, a beauty parlor, a graphologist, etc.
2 scraps of paper with telephone numbers
and no names
1 hairnet
1 bottle of vitamins
3 samples of slipcovers
1 fountain pen
2 pencils
1 parcel of V-mail letters covering
several months held by a rubber band.

The typical handbag of a typical woman today:

ATM Card
Cell Phone / Blackberry
Change Purse
Checkbook
Crumpled Tissues
Hand Cream
Hair Brush
Keys
Lip Balm
Nail File
Makeup case filled to capacity
Pens
Wallet and credit cards

One bag is not enough
Our contents spill over into our totebags,
where you will find:
Agenda
Bottled Water
Paperback Book/Magazine
Newspaper
Shoes to change at work
Umbrella

I thought the differences were quite interesting.

Source: Accessory Web

Do you carry a handbag, and if so, what do you have in it? (note – if you’d like to send me a photo of your handbag contents I’ll post them next week)

A Stroll Through the Past

I’ve had a bit of a rough week and took myself off to the doctor today. Since I’m not feeling too clever, I thought it was the perfect time to revisit some of my favorite posts from the past.

1. Classic Romance Plots – The secret of writing a great romance is to take a classic plot and twist it to make the story unique…

2. Penises in Paranormals – the curious case of interesting bits…

3. Gifts for writers – is there a special person in your life who writes?

4. Collaborative Writing Partnerships – the wonderful Josh Lanyon and Laura Baumbach share their experiences…

5. Marcia James shares her views and ideas about promo for writers…

6. Do you like paranormal romances featuring feline shapeshifters? I discuss some of my favorites…

I leave you with a puzzle of sorts. Male writers are from _______, Female writers are from _______.

What would you put in the blank spaces?

Blog Participation Winner for Nov 2009

Congratulations to Mary K who is my blog participation winner for Nov 2009. Mary, your prize is in the mail.

Congratulations also to Ilona F, Carol B and Jacqueline R who are my newsletter winners for Nov 2009.

Remember, if you would like to receive my newsletter, complete the signup form to the right of this post. Your address will NEVER be sold, nor will I do anything shady with it!

Reviews & Sale (of sorts)

I really admire the people who review books–it’s a job I couldn’t do. I have to admit that before I wrote, I never read them. These days I read my own, of course, but I’ll usually flick through the other reviews that come through at the same time. A review doesn’t usually sway my purchases, but if I see lots of good reviews, sometimes I do get tempted to buy. I never search for reviews before I buy a book. Do you check out reviews before you purchase a book?

I’ve received reviews recently for House of the Cat and Make That Man Mine.

House of the Cat Make That Man Mine

Megan at Veiled Secret Reviews says, “With an abundance of lovable characters playing against a backdrop of stars and alien worlds House of the Cat is a rollicking thrill ride that will keep you turning page after page…With so many secondary characters steeling your heart and the mystery of Ry’s origins to unravel I can only hope that Ms. Munro plans another visit to the exciting world of House of the Cat.” 4 Dragons. Read the full review here.

Hockeyvamp at Bitten by Books says, “I was totally enthralled with this short novella from start to finish. The erotic play between the two main characters was both flirtatious and arousing. The perceptions of themselves as less than desirable because of the flaws they saw within themselves could be both accepted and desired by the other. I only wish that this had been a full length novel as the sexy and fun banter between the main characters was very entertaining.” 4 1/2 Tombstones. Read the full review here.

In sale news, my story Wild Child has been chosen as one of the stories in All Romance ebooks’s 28 Days of Heart charity campaign to benefit the American Heart Association. The stories will be released in February 2010 and Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series is doing the forward. Very exciting!