October 2015

To read a writer is for me not merely to get an idea of what he says, but to go off with him and travel in his company.”

Andre Gide


This week I’m recapping the Spotlight on Harlequin Series Romance from the Romance Writers of America convention in New York City. Joanne Grant, Senior executive editor from Harlequin’s UK office was joined by Susan Litman from New York and Johanna Raisanin from Toronto in presenting the spotlight, which featured a lot of trivia and giveaways, as well as information about Harlequin’s various series romance lines.

Susan Litman talked about how Harlequin builds careers. Harlequin has over 75 editors with a combined 700 years of experience, working with 545 Harlequin series authors. Harlequin publishes books around the world and has an internationally recognized brand. Harlequin distributes books in retail stores, as ebooks, and through their subscription-based book clubs. They have 15 editorial office world-wide and publish 800 international titles a month. Harlequin titles are translated into 34 languages.

Johanna Raisanin talked about Harlequin’s series’ program. Harlequin has seventeen series divided into several categories. The Passion category includes Presents, Desire and Blaze. These books have strong, seductive heroes; likable heroines and plenty of sex. Presents heroes are always Alpha males and have glamorous, international settings. The Presents editors would like to see heroines involved in traditionally male professions, on a more equal level with the hero. They would also like to see some stories featuring “other women.” Desire stories feature wealthy families and alluring settings, with larger-than-life conflicts. The Desire editors like stories with multiple, well-integrated hooks. Blaze is the sexiest contemporary romance series. Blaze heroes are ordinary buys with extra-ordinary appeal. Books that combine sexiness with humor are popular.

Home and Family includes Medical Romance, Heartwarming, Special Edition and American Romance and Harlequin Romance. All these stories feature “humor, emotion and community.” Medical centers around medical drama with a “heart-racing romance,” Medical would love to see a story featuring a child’s medical transplant, or stories with “royals or shiek doctors.” Special Edition is especially interested in seeing stories featuring parents of “differently abled children.” In Harlequin Romance, the heroine is key. This is her emotional story. The editors here would love more international heroes. Heartwarming stories are clean and contemporary stories that celebrate traditional values, family and communities. The editors would love to see characters with careers that can add external action to the stories. American romance is the place for small town and cowboy stories. The editors here love stories with “lots of babies – twins and triplets.”

The Suspense category is home to Romantic Suspense and Intrigue which combine danger and romance. Romantic Suspense focuses on the developing love story against a suspenseful background. Both heroes and heroines are strong and complex. Romantic Suspense editors would love to see legal thrillers with strong romances, and stories with pregnant heroines – always a favorite with readers. At Harlequin Intrigue, crime-solving and a complex mystery form the foundation of every story. Heroes and heroines work together in these high stakes, fast-paced stories. Intrigue editors love stories with western settings, babies or heroines in jeopardy, and undercover agents.

Harlequin’s Inspirational category is made up of Love Inspired, Love Inspired Suspense and Love Inspired Historical.  These stories all have a spiritual (Christian) component. Love Inspired is looking for Amish romances, stories with twins or tripliets, and stories with heroes and heroines in their 40s and 50s. Love Inspired Suspense is eager to see more secret baby stories, stories featuring mistaken identity, and amnesia stories. Love Inspired Historical romances are set in historical periods from Biblical times to World War II. The editors here would also like to see some Amish-themed stories.

Romance With More is home to SuperRomance – the longest category titles. These are layered stories with true-to-life plots, high emotion and deep romance. Stories often feature small towns and cowboys, but the editors also love the occasional vacation romance.

Kimani Romance features African-American romances and multi-cultural love stories. Kimana heroes may be high-powered businessmen or sexy cowboys. Kimani heroes are ambitious and wealthy. The editors would love to see stories featuring an ex-military hero who is now a successful wealthy businessman, or a story with a hero or heroine with royal bloodlines.

Historical Romance readers love rich, historical settings. Right now the editors are looking for stories set in World War I or World War II and would love to see a fresh take on the marriage of convenience theme.

Paranormal romance is where readers find Nocturne, the line that features sexy romance with paranormal themes. The editors love gothic stories and are open to new ideas.

To learn more about Harlequin series romance, visit their writing guidelines.  Another way to get the attention of Harlequin editors is through their annual So You Think You Can Write contest. You can find out more about that here. Harlequin also sponsors various series-specific contests throughout the year. You do not need an agent to submit to Harlequin.


Once again, Minotaur Books and Malice Domestic are teaming up to sponsor the 2016 Best First Traditional Mystery Competition. The winning entry receives a publishing contract with Minotau (a division of St. Martin’s Press) and a $10,000 advance. There is no fee to enter the contest. The competition is open to any previously unpublished author. You must have a complete manuscript of a story in which a crime is central to the story. The manuscript must be at least 65,000 words. The deadline for entering is November 1, 2015. Find out all the details here.


Vermont Magazine and Green Mountain Power are sponsoring the Vermont Writer’s Prize. The contest is open to all Vermont writers. Submit your short story of 1,500 words or less, which focuses on Vermont. There is no fee to enter and the first prize is $1500. The deadline to enter is November 1, 2015. Get the details here.


Dreamspinner Press is planning A Story a Day — A Walk on the Wild Side in June of 2016 and they are accepting stories now for this project. Submit your gay romance short story that features at least one character who is a shapeshifter. Stories should be between 5,000 and 18,000 words  The deadline for submissions is February 1, 2016. Find all the details here.


Do you enjoy western romance? Check out A Long, Sweet Ride, by me (written as Cynthia Sterling.) This story of two outcasts who find love in a Wild West Show in 1890s Texas features thrills, laughs and an emotional and sexy love story.



Untreed Reads is looking for short stories for an upcoming focus on holiday stories with horror. Stories may be any genre mixed with horror (except erotica, inspirational or children’s). Editor-in-Chief Jay Harman is especially interested in Kwanzaa and Hanukkah stories, but will also accept Christmas and New Year’s stories. Manuscripts should be between 1500 and 5000 words. The deadline for submissions is November 15. Get the details here.


As always, feel free to share the information in this blog with others. Repost, reprint, retweet, etc. Please give me credit as the source of the information and include a link to this blog. For more about me, visit my websites here and here, or check me out on Facebook

“It is impossible to discourage the real writers — they don’t give a damn what you say, they’re going to write.” ~Sinclair Lewis


This week I’m continuing recaps of the publisher spotlights from the Romance Writers of America conference in New York City with a look at Blushing Books. Blushing Books claims to be the oldest ebook romance publisher — publishing online since 2001. The company started in 1991, selling erotica through the mail. Until 2010 they were a small company with only 20 to 30 authors. Since 2010 they have grown from about 30 authors to over 200 authors. They publish 25 to 30 titles each month specializing in erotic romance and power exchange romance.

They publish all lengths above 22,000 words, in all time periods and sub-genres of romance. According to their website, “a romantic storyline with a strong D/s element and spanking will be most likely to appeal to our readers.”

Blushing Books pays advances of $250 – $500 on all titles except editor-generated anthologies and re-releases. After acceptance, the book will be published anywhere from six weeks to four months later.  They pay 50 percent royalties – up to 60 percent for established Blushing authors. They pay monthly royalties.

All books are initially released digitally. Many titles also go on to be produced as audiobooks.

Find all their guidelines here. 


Mysterious Press is sponsoring a contest for the Best EBook Original  Mystery Novel. The contest is open to both established and new authors, and your manuscript must be complete and not previously published in any other format. For this contest, submissions will be accepted only from established literary agents. Your story may be in any mystery sub-genre — hard-boiled, historical, traditional detective, humorous, noir, police procedural. The story must feature a crime or the threat of a crime. No horror, science fiction or fantasy will be accepted. There is no fee to enter the contest, and the top prize witll be $25,000. Submissions will open January 1, 2016 and the contest closes April 30, 2016. Find more details here.


The fun continues with my free online read for Harlequin intrigue. The final chapter is posted this week. Black Canyon Betrayal ties into my Ranger Brigade series for Intrigue. Read the entire novella free here.



Steam Romance is looking for stories between  15,000 and 100,000 words. Steam publishes romance and erotic fiction in all sub-genres, including contemporary, historical, fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk, paranormal and dystopian. Stories should feature strong lead female characters, should have happy endings, and should include detailed love scenes. Steam is an imprint of Kennebec Press, based in Maine. For more information, go here.


HoldFast is a speculative fiction magazine looking for submissions for an upcoming issue devoted to the theme of Love, Sex, Romance. Submit your spec-fic stories that explore this theme — horror, urban fantasy, space opera, science fiction, etc. Stories should be between 100 and 5,000 words. The deadline for submissions is January 15, 2016. Get the details here.


As always, feel free to share the information in this blog with others. Repost, reprint, retweet, etc. Please give me credit as the source of the information and include a link to this blog. For more about me, visit my websites here and here, or check me out on Facebook