Reviews Published

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Ship of Brides

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes is a classic example of how to write a cross between Literature and chick lit. The formula goes as follows:
· Select your characters, 3-4 girls in their early twenties.
· Create a love interest for each.
· Throw them together into a physical space (in this case, a ship instead of a flat).
· Throw in some history-appropriate research. Not too much.
· Remember to hold back a mystery or two about one of the characters’ past.
· Add a pinch of injustice.
· And a recipe using powdered eggs in post-war England.
· Make someone die.
· Break the rules by telling the entire story as a back flash with more back flashes.

Having said that, it’s a good book. Fun to read, hard to put down, and it gives you something to think about.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Writing S3X

Following the earlier thread about sex in books, here is an interesting take on the topic, Things your mother never told you about sex – now you’re writing sex: Also there, you can find:

  • Interview with Jennifer Mueller

  • Reader expectations

  • New Release from Ann Patrick and Anna Campbell

For a sample of how I personally handle the topic, have a look at my "Small Price to Pay",

And this is what I had to say in an Erotica Workshop For Writers, held in Auckland over Easter 2003:


It is extremely difficult to define what constitutes erotic writing. It's often said that one person's porn is another person's erotica. I disagree. Although it's true that different people get aroused by a different amount of explicit detail, the difference between porn and erotica is equivalent to that between Botticelli's Venus and Playboy Centrefolds, or Playboy Centrefolds and close-up photos of genitals.

What is a pornographic story?

· Gratuitous dirty talk

· Immediate and usually continuous action, with little introduction - if any - to the characters or their motivation

What is not erotica?

· A pornographic story

· An ordinary story with a sex scene

· A sex story with no other point to make

What elements should an erotic story contain?

· Characterisation

· Scene setting

· Suspense

· Gradual progression from stage to stage, build-up

· Mystery


Just as romance writing can be divided into categories like "sweet dreams" or "dark passion" or "chick lit", so can erotica writing be sweet or peppery, depending on your market.

Descriptions are crucial, but whether you call a spade a spade or "his bronze manhood", concentrate on the context - not on the action. Don't give a sports commentary (after all, we do know which bit goes into where). Show us the participants' emotional responses instead.

Alliterations may work for you: sizzling sex, luscious lips, dangerous derriere… whatever the type of story you're writing.

Use sexy language: sweltering, luxurious, succulent, creamy, silk, full.

Don't say what you mean. Implication is sexier than revelation.

Having said that, there is a time and a place for straightforward dirty talk (e.g., from the mouth of a very prim protagonist who's driven wild with desire).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Death of a Dutch Uncle

Today we're talking to M.E. KEMP, author of Death of a Dutch Uncle, Hilliard and Harris (web site: for more information)

1. Marilyn, as a writer, what do you think about the way sex is written nowadays? I don't mean the moral aspect of it, but do you think that writers do a good job when they write about it?

A. Sex is probably the hardest thing to write, period. It's easier to write murder scenes. I don't claim that I write good sex scenes but I write funny ones -- I'm writing from experience here -- use what you know....

2. It's a good thing you don't write your murder scenes from experience, then! Tell me more about your novels.

A. My detective, Hetty Henry, is a lusty woman -- she's young, widowed twice, and when she likes a man she doesn't hesitate to go to bed with him. Hetty is a Puritan from Boston, and is much closer to historical truth than the narrow-minded Puritan of stereotype. The Puritans were Elizabethan, not Victorian, and they enjoyed a good romp in the hay as much as they do in the daytime soaps. In my new book, DEATH OF A DUTCH UNCLE (Hilliard and Harris), Hetty gets it on with a hunky Mohawk (Native American.) She's the animal and he's the suave sophisticate in bed... or beneath the pine trees, as it were.

3. Mmmm, I know which book I'll be buying next! Do historical novels usually include sex writing?

A. Medieval historical mysteries usually have monks (i.e. Brother Cadfael), nuns, priests and other religious as detectives so there's very little sex there. I decided to have a Puritan minister as my detective --Increase "Creasy" Cotton is a little naive but there's no doubt he likes women. Creasy Cotton and Hetty Henry are antagonists at first but they are learning to work together to solve crimes. There is some sexual tension between them -- they had 'pity sex' in the first book, MURDER, MATHER AND MAYHEM (Xlibris) but they're really involved with other people.

4. What in your opinion is the difference between "contemporary fiction" (where it's not uncommon to find sexual encounters, e.g., the Stephanie Plum series), "erotica" and "porn"?

A. Contemporary mystery novels are pretty tame when it comes to sex -- it's more of a tease than 'erotica'. I like classic erotica but I haven't read any since Edith Wharton. As for porn, it's just stupid and unimaginative. But then I don't really read the 'noir' type mysteries by contemporary writers-- except for Tony Hillerman -- I read the cozies. In my limited reading experience, I haven't found any male writers who know how to write a good sex scene -- but then I haven't found many women who can do it, either.

5. How does your favourite writer handle sex in their books?

A. My character Hetty was really a reaction to historical mysteries where the handsome hero and lovely heroine are stuck in an isolated cabin, they are attracted to each other, but all they share is a passionate kiss. Now I admire Anne Perry no end, but her theory is no sex without marriage, and then it's only implied. A single kiss is more romantic to her -- well, it is romantic but it's not realistic. If our ancestors were all Saints, we wouldn't be here today. As for Janet Evanovitch, whose work I really enjoy, the biggest disappointment was her sex scene between Stephanie and Ranger -- after an amazing amount of tension build-up it's strictly 'bang-slam-thank you-sex.' Maybe my Mohawk hunk, Billy Blue Bear, is a reaction to that, too. (Blue Bear has a big 'war club' that he offers to show Hetty almost from the start of the book.)

6. LOL. Anything else you'd like to add?

A. I really enjoy smashing some of the myths about our ancestors -- I do my research and my research shows they were a bawdy lot. They also drank vast amounts of liquor -- even a Puritan minister from Boston could drink any of today's toppers under the table --and they drank strange concoctions of it. The men had more fashion sense than we do today -- all those silks and laces and gorgeous colors didn't make a man any less manly. Check out the birth rates!

Marilyn, thank you for your time. And now I'm off to explore 'war clubs' on

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Small Price To Pay

What should you do with an unfaithful husband, particularly one who considers you too fat to have an affair of your own?

For the answer, you'll need to look to my very own comedy novella, Small Price to Pay. Yes, this is blatant self-advertising, but with good reason: the story won the February 2007 contest organised by Echelon Press, USA ( and I’m dizzily, irrationally, bubblingly proud of it.

And before you ask.... No, the heroine of Small Price to Pay is not based on me or my own experiences. My husband is not having an affair, and I don’t know a gorgeous Italian named Antonio....

(As you may know, Small Price to Pay is my third title published by Echelon Press. The first, Murder @ Work, appeared in 2004, with Murder @ A Little Bead Shop following in 2006.
Also, watch out for my “Interview with the Dragon”, due to be released by Echelon Press later this year. Woo-hoo!)

Review Snip for Small Price To Pay: A deserving winner of the Fast and Frisky 2007 contest.

To win a copy of Small Price to Pay, please visit my website to find my address and send me an email with the subject “Small Price to Pay - competition”.


At the dinner table, over a romantic arrangement of oysters, seared tuna and a bottle of the best white I could find, I told Rob and Hannah to start packing for their summer camp.

"Perhaps you and I can have some time off together while they're gone," I told Nick when the children's hoorays had wound down and they'd skipped out of the room to pick out t-shirts and togs.
I leaned forward to display my ample cleavage. I had dressed in a little black number... well, in a big black number that was kind to my curves. I even wore perfume. I tossed my hair and a lock fell across my cheek in textbook fashion (How to Woo a Man Using Your Hair 101).
Last chance, I thought. "You know, just you and me. A second honeymoon."
"The thing is," Nick stammered, not looking at me, "I have to be in Auckland next week."
"The whole week?" I feigned surprise.
"A conference," he murmured. "No point driving back and forth."
I sighed. "All right. But I don't feel like staying home all by myself. Perhaps I could go to Auckland with you," I teased. I already knew the answer.
And that's how I got Nick's okay for my week away in Melbourne.
The city greeted me with a cold breeze (was this really the warm Australia I'd read so much about?) and bright sunshine. I checked into the Melbourne Marriott and called Antonio's number.

Purchase Info:

Friday, March 02, 2007

Visions of Heat

If you're a regular, you will notice that this is an unscheduled post. The questions, however, were too delicious to resist. They come from Nalini Singh on to promote her book "Visions of Heat" (you can read the excerpt here:

1. Which psychic power would you most like to possess?
Making people do what I want them to do.

2. If you could see the future, what would you like to see?
Nothing. Seeing the future would be pretty awful on so many levels! Do I for instance want to see my future bestseller? Absolutely not. Do I want to know when I'll die? Nope.
OK... if I could see danger to my loved ones and me, I'd like to be able to do that PROVIDED I could do something to avoid it.

3. Imagine you woke up one day and could shape shift - what would you shift into?
A dolphin - in a marine reserve. When I'm done playing, I'd like to shape shift into a wealthy person, walk into their bank and withdraw all the money they have on the premises.

4. What kind of a paranormal creature would you invite over for dinner if there were no limits on who you could ask?
A unicorn - my daughter would love that. Um, are unicorns paranormal or just magic? Paranormal... paranormal... don't like vampires... or werewolves... witches are cool. Can I have a witch, please?

5. Which future innovation do you wish would hurry up and get here already? i.e. flying cars, a transporter, computers with artificial intelligence, an auto chef?
- A mouse that you can operate with your foot or with your eye.
- Cars that run on sea water or solar power.
- Publishers who pay attention to middle-list authors.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Shopaholic and Baby

I feel a lot better reading the Shopaholic series now that I know that their author, Sophie Kinsella, is actually the well-respected writer Madeleine Wickham. So while I wait for Madeleine to come to her senses, I enjoy the substitute.

The heroine irritates me on many levels (she is an irresponsible spendthrift and not super-bright), what I love about her is that she is a good, decent, fun-loving girl, loyal to her friends and family. I would be a richer person for having her number in my address book... well, not richer in the money sense, because she would take me shopping for cute preschooler dresses cuter still t-shirts for my children, but you know what I mean.

You see, I hate shopping. Whether it’s the weekly groceries, a hunt for a new TV or a summer dress, it’s just no something I would choose to spend my precious time on. The exception being baby clothes. Now that I’m a mother, I can look without gagging at a pink dress with roses and fairies and actually think “aaaw”. My monthly budget is blown on a regular basis by unscheduled visits to Pumpkin Patch. You get the picture.

This is why I could relate to “Shopaholic and Baby” and why I didn’t think five prams was too many. And I wished I also had a Circus Nappy Changing Table.

If you’re in any doubt that the author is a good writer, read the chapter towards the end about what it feels like to gaze upon your newly born baby. Totally authentic!