Saturday, 29 June 2013

Playing for keeps Book Blitz!

I am pleased to help introduce the release of this awesome new book by Emma Hart Playing for Keeps. 


 From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Emma Hart, comes the second book in The Game series, and the story everyone wanted after The Love Game…

 She's in love with him. 
He's trying not to love her. 
One night changes everything.

Aston Banks never meant to get close to Megan Harper – not even for that one night. Haunted by a childhood he refuses to face, he knew she could break through every wall he’d ever built and tear them down without even realising she was doing it.

Betraying Braden by starting a relationship with Aston wasn't on Megan’s to-do list, but the second she sees a glimpse of someone other than the arrogant ass she’s come to know, she can’t walk away.

Aston’s childhood is worse than Megan ever guessed, but as he tries and fails to push her away, it’s clear her love is stronger than the demons that cling to him every day. And now, because of it, he finally has to deal with what he’s buried deep down.

What he doesn't want to face. What he’s fought against for so long.

And they have to do it all without Braden finding out.

Keeping a relationship secret has never been harder.

 **This book can be read as a standalone novel, but reading The Love Game (The Game, #1) beforehand is advised.**


“You okay?”
I shake my head. “No. Every time. Every fucking time he brings her up. I thought he wouldn’t in front of you, but he did.”
“He has his own pain,” she says softly. “It doesn’t excuse it, but he does. He feels guilty for what happened to you – that he couldn’t stop it.”
My mind reels for a second and I look down at her. “He told you that?”
She nods, letting her hand drop from my back and standing in front of me. I stop.
“You’ve never let him tell you.” She reaches up and cups my face. “He hurts, too, Aston. You both hurt. It’s not something that will go away, but you can’t let it rule your lives. If you let pain rule you you’ll get lost in it.”
“What if I’m already lost?”
“You’re not lost. You’re hiding, but you’re not lost. I won’t let you get lost.”
I let my hands come up and rest on her back, pulling her into me. “What if there’s no map?”
“Then I’ll get lost with you,” she whispers. “I won’t let you let them win, Aston. I won’t let you get sucked in by those demons. I won’t let that happen. I care too much.”
And she does. I can hear it in her voice.
She wraps her arms around my neck, and I hold her to me tighter, our foreheads resting against each other.
“I’ll try, Megs,” I promise. “I can’t say I won’t, but as long as you’re here, I think I’ll be okay.”
“And you’ll talk to your Gramps? Just once?”
“I’ll think about it. How about we just focus on stopping me from getting lost for a bit?”
“You just need a place to aim for, that’s all. You need a place to go to.”
“Go on then.” I smile. “Give me a place.”
“Okay.” She pauses for a second, closing her eyes and chewing her lip.
“I’m waiting…” I tease her.
Her blue eyes open, shocking me with their vitality. “Aim for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”
“I don’t need to aim for the sky. The only star I’ll ever need is standing right in front of me.” I brush my lips over hers. “Maybe the place I need to aim for is nowhere other than where I am right now.”
“Maybe I’d go with you wherever you ended up.”
“Maybe I’d never ask that of you.”
“Maybe you wouldn’t need to ask. Maybe you’ll never need to ask me for anything, because I’ll always be here.”

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Read Chapter One of Playing for Keeps



By day, New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author Emma Hart dons a cape and calls herself Super Mum to a terrible two year old and growing bump, due September 2013. By night, she drops the cape, pours a glass of juice and writes books.
Emma is working on Top Secret projects she will share with her followers and fans at every available opportunity. Naturally, all Top Secret projects involve a dashingly hot guy who likes to forget to wear a shirt, a sprinkling (or several) of hold-onto-your-panties hot scenes, and a whole lotta love.
She likes to be busy - unless busy involves doing the dishes, but that seems to be when all the ideas come to life.

Find Emma online at:
Twitter: @EmmaHartAuthor

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Query Letters resolved

Sorry this has been a while coming, it's been a crazy week!
Whether you are just starting to query or been doing it for a while, you've probably noticed that there is A LOT of conflicting information about the "right" way to query. Even reputable query letter blogs can conflict each other! It's just because every agent and editor has different preferences. Even so, there are basic rules that will keep you safe if you follow them.

This next bit might be hard to hear but it's important so it must be said. It's really easy to screw up your query letter enough to get excellent writing consistently rejected. That's because many agents only take query letters, and many agents and editors won't read past a bad one.
To make it easier, I'm going to break it down, and highlight some of the biggest query mistakes. You'll find some hard truths here so be ready to don that thick skin.

It can be difficult to establish exactly what needs to be included (and what shouldn't be) in your query letter. Here's a basic run down of what should make up your query letter.

No 1. Business letter format
Yep this is a business letter. So before you start writing here are some rules. FORMAT IT PROFESSIONALY!

·         Set 1inch margins.

·        Select a professional font. Some choices are Times New Roman, Arial, Courier, Verdana or Calibri. If in doubt choose Times New Roman. A "special" font won't make you stand out and look unique—it'll make you look armature.

·         Set font size to 12point.

·         Put the date in the top right hand corner

·         Under the date type the name of agency or publishing house. Under that type "Attention: and the name of the agent/editor or if specifically instructed "Query Department".

·         Under that type the address, first the street address, then on the next line the state and post code. (If emailing queries an address may not be supplied, in which case just put the date, agency, and agent name.)

But your can be creative right? The agency specifies a one page query letter so if you use 8point and set margins to narrow, you can make your two page query letter fit!
No. Just no.
Agents and editors have seen it all before. Don't bend rules, follow their guidelines. Not doing so is a good way to get your query rejected without even being read.

No 2. The introduction
·         Start by addressing the letter to the agent you are querying. The only exception is if the guidelines demand that you address it to the queries department.  There is no good enough reason to address a query with "Dear Agent". I promise you will be starting off on a very bad foot if you do.

·         Next is your line of introduction. I start with "I am seeking representation for..."

Tip: Yes less is more, and you don't need to write anything that is implied. So some people would say this opening is not necessary and to launch right into the book details. I don't know, maybe it's because I'm a girl, but I need the buffer and I think it's perfectly acceptable. But you could always launch right in.

·         The remainder of the opening paragraph should include; the title of your book, the word count, and the genre (You need to nail this down; Speculative, Urban Fantasy, Romance, with Steam Punk elements, is not going to do).

·         Tip: if your book has won an award include it with the title. Eg. "Book Title, winner of the 2013 Professional Book Society's, Awesome Book contest."

·         Nothing else. Don't clutter this section. You want to give the agent/editor the essential info then hook them in with your blurb.

No 3. The Blurb
In the end it all comes down to this! 2-3 paragraphs of awesome hook to snare the reader! I have blogged about how to do this before.

·         Here

·         And Here

No 4. Closing paragraph
Include any pertinent information.
·         Your writing credentials/awards/publishing credits.

·         The details of any standing requests by Publishing Houses.

·         Personally address the agent/editor. If you follow their blog, twitter, interviews, and something they do or have said applies to you, or makes you think you would be a fit with them, or if you are a fan of their writers and think your writing would be a compliment to their list, or have taken a workshop with them, include this here. Keep it professional and relevant.

·        Optional: You can include something like "Would appeal to readers of..." Some agents and editors want this but many don't. Also it's essential that the authors you associate your writing with are not the current bestsellers. Your comparisons will reveal either your ignorance or solid industry knowledge.  

No 5. The very tricky personal info
Now this is where people get stuck. Some agents/editors really want to have a little bit of information about you. Many though, find it very irritating to read through thousands of queries and get bogged down in unnecessary information like what you do for a living if it doesn't give you unique qualification to write your book. The best way to handle this is to read interviews, follow the blog of, or twitter account of the person you're querying and find out how much info they want here. Otherwise, assume they don't want it unless it is MUST know information. If you are going to include it keep it brief; two to three lines. This can be included in your closing paragraph.
·         Unique qualifications to write your book.

This means: You're a former detective writing crime. You're a double amputee writing amputee recovery stories. You're lawyer writing court based drama. You're a Greek history professor and writing Greek Mythos which is your area of expertise.

This does not mean: You have researched your book (you had better hope you have!). You are divorced and your character is divorced. You are a doctor and therefore you are real smarts...

·        You can include a brief line about your ambitions/writing career objectives. But keep it brief. You don't need to ramble on about "your dreams".

No 6. In closing
·         Thank them for taking the time to consider your query.

·          Sign your letter.  You must include your pseudo name (if you have one and use it in your social media) and you real name. So if you have both sign like this.

Author Fabulous

Pseudo name for Jane Johns

·      Provide all your contact details under your signature like you would in a professional business signature. Include your website and social media accounts.

Query Letter Boo Boo's
The mistakes that WILL get you rejected
·         Not following guidelines.

·         Not following guidelines.

·         Not following guidelines and then trying to justify why. "I know you said you wanted a one page query/synopsis but" = Auto-pass.

or "I know you asked for one chapter but my book doesn't get going till chapter five..." = then cut your first chapters and also they will auto-pass.

·         Addressing your query "Dear Agent/Editor."

·         Spelling the agent/editors name incorrectly.

·         Not understanding the genre of your work.

·         Presenting your query unprofessionally; colour fonts, script font, ALLCAPS, etc. 

·         Sending mass generic queries and especially when you include the email chain/forwarding history in the email.

·         Comparing your book to Twilight, Fifty Shades, Harry Potter, The Davinci Code and other Bestsellers.

·         Rambling on about yourself.

·         Rambling on in general.

·         Including too much in your blurb.

·         Failing to hook in your blurb.

·         Including things not requested. Copy of your manuscript, marketing plans, cover designs.

·       Selling yourself short. "My writing may not be the best but I'm willing to put in the work."
    Just don't put yourself down.
    It's not professional. Besides, if you tell them your work isn't that great they'll assume you're telling the truth...

·         I'm sad that this needs to be said but I keep seeing agent/editor tweets about this. Arrogance/boasting. This includes telling an agent/editor (who receive hundreds of queries each month) how privileged they are to have the chance to represent/publish you. How your book is going to be a bestseller, how much your family like it, how much someone you paid likes it, etc. Presenting a polished professional query and polished outstanding manuscript pages is the only way to impress an agent/editor.

My final tips
Improve your chances.
·         Research the people you query. Learn their preferences and personalise!

·         Query in rounds so you have a chance to improve your query/pages after feedback.

·         Take feedback graciously and apply it.

·         Get someone who knows queries to critique your query letter.

·         Never send an angry response to a rejection—no matter what.

·         Get someone to proofread your query.

·         Give your manuscript time to "breathe" before you send it out. You'll be surprised at how much you can improve it with fresh eyes.

·         If in doubt, less is more. No one ever got rejected for being too professional. Even if the agent/editor would have liked to learn more about you, they won't reject a stellar query and awesome writing because you decided not to tell them about your collection of cat figurines.

Query Letter Resources
·         Query Shark

·         Miss Snark

·         Agent Query

·         Absolute Write

Does this help? Let me know if you have any more questions!


Monday, 17 June 2013

Query and Blurb Workshop Week!

I've been thinking of doing something for a while. Y'all seem to like it when I blog queries and blurbs. I kinda get that from your feedback and bloggers stats—hint taken!

It can be really hard finding good critique and advice when it comes to queries and blurbs. Even those who have craft nailed often get stuck when it comes to this. The stinker is many agents will make requests based solely on a query letter. So no matter how good your writing is its something that must be mastered if you want to take the traditional publishing route. If you're Self-Publishing then the blurb sells your work and you need it to shine.

So this week I'm having an open query/blurb workshop. All you need to do is comment on this blog post and let me know what you want help with. You can comment with a question, something you're stuck on, anything really and I'll do my best to answer.

If you're willing to put your blurb or query up publicly for critique, I'll give one person a critique of either a blurb or query, so go ahead and post that too. I'll be picking based on who I think I can be most constructively helpful to and announce the winner next Monday. There's a week to enter! This is open to all followers of my Blog. Make sure you include a method of contact in your comment so I can let you know if you're chosen.

Of course all opinions are my own, gained via obsessive stalking researching of Agents and Editors, and various workshops. But even after so much research the most helpful thing for my own learning process has been good critique from people who know what they are talking about.
I'm so grateful I've had people to show me the ropes. So please start your questions!

Thursday, 13 June 2013

What I learnt about writing from Bruce Lee

How to create distinctive three dimensional characters PART 1
Last post, when I talked about POV I touched on something I really wanted to expand on.

"It then becomes crucial (and I believe this is true for every POV style) that the characters be distinctive and easily identifiable within themselves. They should have their own voice (including distinct language choice, way of speaking, syntax) as well as body language and mannerisms. You shouldn't need to say their name to feel their skin—and with 1st person you have no leeway not to achieve this." 

Easier said than done, right? Obviously, it happens when you have the misfortune of picking up a book where all the characters feel the same, or you read different books by the same author and they may as well be the same character dressed up with a different name. In my opinion overcoming this and insuring your characters are distinctive and three dimensional comes down to three things.
  • Your character's unique profile; Goals, motivations, background, and characteristics.
  • Authentic and informed body language and mannerisms
  • Authentic and informed dialogue and internal narrative
I'm focusing on the second two points, because I think the first is rather obvious—the second two are harder.

Part 1 - Authentic and informed body language and mannerisms
So where does Bruce Lee come into it you ask? Well... I was lucky enough to be sitting next to my husband one day when he was watching a Bruce Lee documentary. It was pretty interesting but then suddenly something happened that was a total light-bulb moment.

A clip came on of a young Bruce Lee being interviewed; and man did that guy drip swagger. I mean he oozed it from every pore of his body. I had to sit forward and watch him. He spoke to Hollywood big shots like he was king of the world, like it was their privilege to be speaking to him (and just think about the context­. 1960's America and the number of Asian's on—or rather not on— television).
They asked him a question, and he raised one brow slightly, turned his head a little and shot the camera such a look of supreme masculine confidence that nearly fifty years later it was able to jump out of the screen and hit me in my errr thinking bits. He then stood, subtly rolled his shoulders, adjusted a lapel of his jacket, and spoke with an elegant sweeping hand gesture.

It was just wow—a complete lesson on confidence, masculinity and body language. I know without a doubt that if the author I talked about in my last post had written her hero with even a hint of this kind of unspoken masculinity, I would never have mistaken him for someone with a vagina—even if the POV change hadn't been identified.
But if that was not enough of a writer's gold mine, it got better. Yeah, better. Another clip comes on and this time my guy Bruce is talking about Chinese Opera. He proceeds to show the camera how in Chinese Opera characters can be immediately identified by the way they walk. A warrior walks with distinct powerful movements and a scholar (who he refers to as weaklings but we scholars will kindly ignore this) has a more effeminate walk.

Here's a clip of that interview. It's long so you might want to jump ahead to about the three minute mark.

Now, I don't mean the walks he demonstrated should be applied to modern fiction. Not at all. But the concept, the idea that characters very walks should serve to identify them is completely transcendent.

So the point is, your character's every moment should embody who they are. Don't tell me your hero is a playboy SHOW ME HIS SWAGGER!
Talking about swagger, I think this video clip for Blurred Lines is the very epitome of playboy swagger. Yeah I know it's sexist and objectifies woman, shush. I'm talking about characterisation and this hits the nail for a certain romance hero type that begs to be reformed. Watch out Mr THICKE I will be writing about you—prepare to be domesticated.  

Writers make YouTube your best friend. Want to know how a high-powered attractive CEO moves, their expressions, gestures? Find a clip of someone like Mark Bouris speaking. Want to know how a supermodel moves? Well, you get the picture.

Happy viewing.

Monday, 10 June 2013

When Point of View Fails

Last week I mentioned my sample chapter test for picking a good book. Well, something snuck past my test and I'm fuming. I sampled a chapter that was amazing! I was thrilled. I had to download the full even though it was of the major pub variety that charges the same for eBooks that I usually spend on paperbacks. But hey, when a book is good it warrants the expense.

It only had a three star rating but I prefer my own judgement and loved the first chapter so who cares; ratings aren't everything. So with the magic of one-click I download the full and picked up where the sample left off. Except... Things weren't making sense. Really, weren't making sense. I read a few more pages and then the heroines cock twitched—Ummm her what did what now!

No, it wasn't a transsexual plot twist, although it would've been a more satisfying read if it was. The author had simply changed point of view. So that happens, nothing wrong with a dual POV. Obviously the POV changed and I just missed it. But it kept happening. The hero suddenly has tits and the heroine thinks about her dick... It was jarring and prevented me from being able to follow the story let alone immerse myself in it.

Some of the best advice I ever received was from a multi-published author/editor who explained to me the importance of POV, and that the one you choose should always be a considered choice made with understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of that particular style. It's advice I took to heart—so much so that I eventually changed the POV I write in because I understand why I'm writing in it, and what that does for my story.  I couldn't help but feel if the author had considered her choice, and understood the limitations of the style she chose, she could have had an amazing book.

POV changes are tricky, but this author had a few extra challenges and lost her way on several levels. For starters it was 1st person, so the "I" character was changing. This is the most delicate POV style to change. I'm not saying that dual 1st person should never be attempted; I am saying that it comes with a range of limitations that need to be understood and overcome.

For one the author cannot depend on the crutch of being able to identify who is in the scene immediately by name. If the character is walking down an empty street then; "I crept through the deserted street." There's not the ease of being able to write "Jessica crept through the deserted street." So you can see how if things are moving along the POV character may not be identified as anything other than "I" for several pages.

It then becomes crucial (and I believe this is true for every POV style) that the characters be distinctive and easily identifiable within themselves. They should have their own voice (including distinct language choice, way of speaking, syntax) as well as body language and mannerisms. You shouldn't need to say their name to feel their skin—and with 1st person you have no leeway not to achieve this. 

In the book I mentioned the hero's and heroine's internal narrative and body language were so simular there was no real way to distinguish who was who, other than when they each thought about the other, or specific details about their own life that would distinguish them to the reader. They simply weren't distinct enough. To make it worse they were of different genders so it should have been obvious.

Furthermore the major disadvantage seemed missed. Changing an "I" character is difficult for some readers to accept. It's jarring. Think, if you're in 3rd you can change POV but Jessica is still Jessica, and Peter is still Peter. But in 1st one moment Jessica is "I" and the next moment Peter is "I". It's far more uncomfortable. So the writer needs to make sure that transition is handled with utmost care. This wasn't.

Which brings me to the last issue—considering the why of the choice. Why does this story need to be told this way?  I couldn't help feeling in this book the author failed to seize the advantages and overlooked the disadvantages. For example the greatest advantage (IMHO) of 1st person is the intimacy of the storytelling; you can really make it a particular characters story. So if you plan to split it you really need to know why you are writing in 1st person and not 3rd deep POV? If you still decide that this is the right choice for this tale, then you need to consider how you are going to treat it. Who does the story belong to and why? This story seemed to not belong to either character and alternated at times because it was that characters 'turn', not because at that time the POV character was driving the story.

Please don't take this to mean I think there is anything wrong with 1st person or even dual 1st person. I have written both. But I do think no matter what POV you choose, know why you're choosing it, know the advantages, disadvantages and limitations, and most of all make sure it is handled with purpose and intention. 

Got any POV questions or tips?

Monday, 3 June 2013

Finding a great read—Navigating the Bookiverse

There's nothing quite like curling up with a book that you just can't put down—a book that makes you devour it's pages, that makes you cry, laugh, think. I have talked before about how I'm finding it increasingly difficult to find great reads. There was a time when my reading selection was based on the bestseller shelf at local bookstore, or what was on the 20% off stand at Target.

Not anymore. Not just because I'm fussier (and I am BIG TIME), but because the book market has evolved. Forget about being limited to what's stocked at the bookstore, we have eBooks available instantaneously!  Not only do we have eBooks, we have more producers of them than ever before. The big pubs and all their digital imprints, small press, and then there's the almost infinite Indi market.

All this boils down to two things; more reader choice, but also market saturation. We have so much to choose from and reading has never been more affordable. But to find those great reads we now have to navigate through the virtual haystack of good and not-so-good, well-produced and not-so-well-produced choices.

So how do you navigate all this choice, expand your horizons and find those gems? Well here's what I've learned.


Most of us have been using Amazon or Goodreads reviews to scope out potential reads for a while. I no longer make choices based on them though. While ratings are a good gauge (1-3 not great, 4-5 better), these reviews are so subjective and have steered me wrong too many times. We all have such different expectations of what makes a book good. Some people don't like alpha heros, some love them. It's all subjective and reading too many reviews tends to spoil the book for me.

Personally, good writing trumps everything, so if I skim and see reviews that say a book is poorly edited, full of mistakes and errors, this will make me cross it off my list. That is a better guide for me than personal opinions and preferences.

The best way I have found to navigate reviews which lead to relevant recommendations is to follow the reviews of like minded people. Whether it's a friend, a book blogger, or a reviewer who shares the same taste, finding reviewers whose preferences match your own will lead to more meaningful and credible recommendations. So go find your friends on Goodreads and Amazon! 


So, I mentioned recommendations by like minded people? There's no one that takes reading quite as seriously as a devoted book blogger. Finding a book blogger who's on your literary wave-length can be a fabulous source of inspiration. If that's not a good enough reason to follow a few good book blogs, I'll give you some more. Giveaways, author interviews, sneak-peaks, and cover reveals. I have won several free books (good ones that I would have purchased), Amazon vouches, not to mention the excitement of getting the heads up on the awesome books coming soon that I may not have otherwise known about.   
Here are a few of my favourite book blogs—for romance of course!


When I was a teenager and wanted to broaden my reading horizons, I found nearly all of my inspiration from Amazon's 'So You'd Like Too' guides. One of the reasons they're so good, is that if you visit your favorite book and scroll down, you'll see the three most popular guides with that book on it. Again like-minded people with like-minded suggestions.

On Goodreads try Listopia. The only thing I don't like about Listopia is that books are voted into position. That ruins it for me because what I love about lists is finding the quirky reads I wouldn't have know about rather than the most popular books.


Many small publishers and digital imprints are turning out good quality and affordable books very quickly. There are a few I watch closely because there lines match my tastes, and because they have produced some of my favorite recent reads. It's worth watching their websites and twitter accounts as they often announce one-day book giveaways, and discounts. Here are a few I just can't get enough of.

Entangled - This has to be mentioned first because it produced two of my recent top three reads! Not only that, but the editing rivaled the big pubs. Whether you're into romance or YA this is one to watch.

Momentum - Another producing some favorites! Momentum produces some really edgy Urban Fantasies and Paranormal Romance's all with great editing. They frequently giveaway books too!

Escape - A division of harlequin, Escape really covers all bases when it comes to romance. I've read romantic comedy, scri-fi and contemporary, and loved them all.

There are many more out there. This is by no means a comprehensive list of the best, just a few I have enjoyed stalking reading.


With the seemingly billions of self-published books, how do you know if one's any good when it is so easy to slap anything on the internet? It's hard. Some authors put the work in, get editing, do it right... and some don't. But there are a few telltale signs. 

Firstly, you know how you were told not judge a book by its cover? Well kind of forget that... What I mean is, if an author has sourced professional cover design it's a good indication they are taking a professional approach.  Also if they have several ratings, if they have reviews by bloggers, these are signs the author is putting the work in, marketing their product, and being professional.

But by far the best way to navigate self published work is to download a sample. It provides a preview of the story, the writer's voice, your ability connect with it, and also an insight into the editing. 

To be honest I download samples of everything now. The few times I haven't I've ended up regretting it. A word of warning—downloading samples doesn't just screen out the 'bad' books it makes it impossible not to buy the great ones because by the end of the sample you're hooked! So hold on to your credit cards.


With social networks, asking your friends for suggestions or what they are reading is easy. Send a Tweet asking for suggestions, or make a Good Reads recommendation request, or simply stalk your friend's (in the nicest way of course) currently reading shelves, and recent ratings.

How do you find your reading material?