Saturday, 28 September 2013

Hi everyone, I have had a change of address. Please join me at my new blog
http://ruchivasudeva.wordpress.com/

It's been great sharing my writing journey with you all and hope you'll extend the same support at my new venue. So looking forward to seeing you there! Ta!



Here's the link to my new 'nook' once again :) http://ruchivasudeva.wordpress.com/

Many thanks and love
Ruchi


Saturday, 24 August 2013

For my online friends

Now I'm finally a published author one book old and this morning finishing a convo online I realised what was the best thing about this writing journey. 

Of course the book is a unique award and it's absolutely thrilling to have a published work and be able to say I've written this. But what I got were the priceless friends I've made on the way. Friends who've supported me sometimes in unexpected ways. Surprised me. Friends I can talk to in troubled times and those who understand and totally 'get' it. 

So this post is for my friends. I can't name you because I might miss someone, there are so many of you who helped in each of your unique special ways. But at the risk of getting soppy, much love to you all and thank you. Because without your contribution, I wouldn't be feeling so great at this point in my life. 

So as I finished the chat this morning,  I was filled with this warm fuzzy feeling and grateful to my book because it brought me inadvertently in contact with such awesome people. 

Do you have awesome friends? What is more important in being published?  The book or the journey?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Excerpt from my book - Bollywood Fiancé For A Day

Here's an excerpt from my book. Vishakha has been waiting for Bollywood actor Zaheer to show up. She's already upset over her broken engagement and waiting for him makes her even more angry. Who does he think he is. But the unrepentant actor is more than just annoying, she finds. Read some of their word exchange :

‘A girl like me?’ She threw his words back at him. ‘By the
way, what exactly do you mean by that?’
He shrugged, showing off sinewy shoulders. ‘Stuck-up.
Starchy. Clinging to trivialities.’
He didn’t believe in pulling punches, did he? ‘There’s no
need to be insulting or to act like I’m in the wrong. You were
aware of the whole schedule of this event. Or weren’t you?
These things get arranged months in advance, but you still
didn’t bother to turn up on time. Of course, you think you’re
entitled to do anything, being a celebrity.’
‘Well, it has its advantages.’ He raised his brows at her near
gasp. ‘What? Did you expect me to deny that?’ He grinned,
totally unconcerned, his famous, oddly endearing cheek clefts
showing up.
Frustration made her breathe in a quickened rhythm. For a
moment they looked at each other, locked in a silent exchange
of vibes—provoked and seething on her side, mocking but unruffled
on his. He spread his hands in a peace-making gesture.
‘Hey, don’t get uptight again. It only makes me want to
push your boundaries and see how uppity I can make you.’
Gold flecks showed in the warm hazel eyes. Somehow
they sent some errant signals to her system, which had her

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Today's post is at Mills and Boon India club about how love strikes unexpectedly.

Unexpected Love Encounters


Hi everyone,

I came across this very cute saying...
The best relationships usually begin unexpectedly

Do you believe in this? And if you don’t...have you heard about the couple who met through Facebook because they have the same name? Yes, really.
Isn’t it amazing when things happen at a totally unexpected place and time, yet turn out to be so right?.... 

Read the rest of the post here
and comment on their blog to win a copy of Bollywood Fiancé for a Day

Friday, 2 August 2013

Get To Know Sheritha Singh,

Hi everyone, please welcome Sheritha Singh on my blog. Sheritha is a writer of New Adult genre. Today, she'll share with us something of herself and her journey in the writing of her book 'Only Yours'.

1. Tell us something about yourself and how you got into writing?
I started writing at the age of twelve.  I loved reading and wondered what it would be like to write my own book.  I got started and haven’t stopped since.

2. What was the experience of writing your first book – easy as pie or as hard as nails?
My first “real” book – I say real because I took a writing course last year and identified common writing mistakes – was the most difficult thing ever.  Once I learned the dynamic of plot and writing style book two, which I am querying, became much easier.  I wrote Book one in a year and book two in a month.

3. What motivates you to write?
The characters who live in my head.

4. What inspired Only Yours, your manuscript on submission?
The sudden interest in New Adult. I wrote a New Adult book years ago and it wasn't well received.  The growth in this genre has been beneficial for me because I am stuck in this growth phase of my life. Lol.

5. Please describe your book briefly.
Twenty year old Riley Hart thought she left behind her traumatic past behind her when she settled on South Africa’s east coast two years ago and started over. When she snags a job that helps pay the rent and her college tuition fees Riley believes she’s truly moved on from her dark past. However her romance with her cricket star boss Liam David, is strained when subtle reminders of Riley’s past surface. Riley is forced to choose between Liam’s love and his safety – if she doesn't choose fast she’s risking Liam’s life.


6. Tell us about your main characters in your book?
Riley is an orphan, a loner who’s started over after being raised in an orphanage. She’s a part time student and a full time employee. Liam is an international cricket start who’s just taken over the reins of his father’s business.  Liam is instantly attracted to Riley and tells her so. He lives by the philosophy – life is too short to live in slow motions.  Riley’s traumatic past makes her more reserved. I've included memes from the book.


 


7. How do you overcome writer’s block?
I watch a lot of Indian movies.

8. Does writing get in your way of life?
Not really.  I’d rather write than waste time doing nothing.

9. What’s next in your writing plans?
I’m querying Only Yours.  If I don’t garner any requests I will self publish.

10. What is the best thing about writing?
Living the characters’ lives for a short while.  I learn a lot while researching my characters.

11.  And here comes our rapid fire round…
Favourite Movie?
My favourite movie of all time is Avatar. I also love grande Bollywood stories complete with song and dance like Om Shaanti Om and Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gam. 
Worst Movie?
It based on the book by Stephen King.  I am scared of clowns.
Any secret habits?
None really.
Actor you’d fall for in a heartbeat?
Salman Khan
Favourite Book?
Twilight
Fallback Option when the fridge is empty
Nandos Portuguese styled grilled chicken.
What comforts you when things go bad?
My nephew
Your most comfortable outfit?
Leggings and a long t –shirt.

You can keep up with her latest news at her author page. 
You can follow her on Twitter @Shersinghzn

Thanks, Sheritha. Best wishes for your book and hope to hear its acceptance buzz soon!

And here's another of her lovely memes




Hope you enjoyed looking at those as much as I did. Thanks everyone! 
Ciao :)



Sunday, 28 July 2013

Cover reveal and Blurb

My book is going to the town (well, out there anyway) and now I finally have the costume ready. And what a dress it is...can't wait for it to step out in this finery. Do have a look and see if you agree!


Oh, what is it I hear? You know nothing about it?  Nobody is fond of blind dates, so I'll tell you something to get you better acquainted with it. Here's the blurb which will give you a look in how it is.


The man of her Bollywood dreams 

Winning the chance to meet the ultimate Bollywood heart-throb, Zaheer Saxena, is just what Vishakha needs to take her mind off her recent humiliation—being jilted the week before her wedding! And when gorgeous Zaheer offers to be her fake fiancé, the chance to save face with her family is just too tempting… 

It’s a deal that benefits them both—Zaheer is warding off any unwanted female attention until his next film is finished—but can Vishakha trust herself not to hope that her dream fiancé for a day will be her forever man?


So are you ready for an evening with my book? It will be near you soon. Hope you'll have a good time! :)



Btw, pop over to my page to keep up with my book updates https://www.facebook.com/RuchiVasudeva

Friday, 19 July 2013

Author interview – Get to know Shoma Narayanan

Today I'm hosting Shoma Narayanan on my blog. Shoma is an author for Harlequin Mills and Boon and also holds the prestigious position of senior vice president in HSBC. She has three books published till now, one under publication, releasing in November and is currently working on her fifth book for Harlequin.
Her most recent release is 'Secrets and Saris.' 

Let's get to know more about her and the book through a question and answer session.

Q1. Tell us something about yourself and how you got into writing.
I got into writing completely by accident.  I used to write a little in school and college – nothing serious, and I gave it up when I started working.  I saw an ad for a writing competition organized by Harlequin India in a bookstore, and sent in an entry on impulse.  I was one of the contest winners, and got a shot at writing a book for Harlequin.  Then the book got picked up for a global release, and the next thing I knew, I was offered a four book deal with Harlequin….

Q2. What was your experience of writing your first book? Easy as pie or hard as nails? *smile* 
Somewhere in the middle!  I loved most of the experience, and my editor was a dream to work with.  But there were still bits of the story I struggled over, and even after I’d re-written those bits, I’d still keep coming back to them, wondering if I could have done a better job!

Q3. What motivates you to write?
The high I get from the writing process – and the quiet feeling of satisfaction when I hold the first few printed copies of a book in my hands.

 Q4. What inspired this story?
The initial idea was sparked off by a conversation on how lots of people move from small towns to big cities, but very few do the opposite – that made me think of writing a romance novel set in a small town.

Q5. Please give us two lines describing the book. 
It’s about two ‘big-city’ people thrown together in a small town. Neil is a TV celebrity, and also a single dad. Shefali was brought up to be the perfect wife and mother  - but after she was jilted on the day of her wedding by the man her parents had chosen for her, she decides to strike out on her own. The book is about the two of them finding happiness with each other (after their due share of fights and misunderstandings!)

Q6. Do share two prominent traits about each of your two main characters in the book. 
Neil is half Indian and half British and combines very traditional Indian sensibilities with a fiercely independent outlook to life. He’s a single dad, and is far more mature and responsible than most twenty-eight year olds, but he has a quirky side to him - of course, he’s stunning to look at as well!  Shefali is a little stiff and uptight at the beginning of the book. As the story progresses, she loses a lot of her hang-ups, and comes out as a strong, loving and independent woman who’s not afraid of the depth of her own feelings.

Q7. All writers dread the writer's block. How do you overcome it?
I’ve not had a bad case of writer’s block yet (fingers crossed!) but there have been days when I’ve found it tough to write more than a few pages – on those days, I just stop working on the book and go off and do something with my kids.  When I come back to the book after a couple of days, it’s a lot easier to pick up wherever I stopped.

Q8. Does writing get in way of 'life'?
No, but my life gets in the way of my writing often enough L

Q9. What's next in your plans?
I’ve just signed a contract for another four books with Harlequin – now I need to sit down and actually write those books!

Q 10. What's the best thing about writing – other than it gives you a great excuse to avoid housework? *wink*
Well, I don’t do much housework other than cooking the odd meal with my kids…. The best thing about writing romance novels is that they are as much of an escape for the author as for the reader.

Q11. This last is a rapid-fire round. Brace yourself to give some quick responses. Say the very first to come in your mind. Be honest! *gives a stern look*
Here goes…

- Most hated movie:
Jeepers Creepers – I watched it on a trip to London with a bunch of colleagues – it was so bad, it wasn't even funny

- Your one secret habit no one knows about. (getting tough here?):
I tell myself stories every night before I go to bed

- Actor you'd fall for every time (don't worry we won't tell hubby J): 
Daniel Craig

- Book you would laminate to preserve it:
“To Kill a Mockingbird”

- Fallback option when the fridge is empty:
Salads from Subway

- What comforts you when things go bad? 
My kids

-What sounds better? A party or a quiet evening at home?
Depends on my mood

- Your most comfortable outfit?
Shorts and a well-worn T-shirt

-Which is a better pastime – a book, a movie or a game?
Always a book.


Thank you so much, Shoma for the interesting answers. 

Here's the blurb, excerpt and the buy links for the book. Go enjoy! :)

Blurb:
Jilted at the altar, Shefali Khanna should be humiliated. Instead she takes the opportunity to start again. Top of the priority list: do not tumble headfirst into another relationship! But even moving from Delhi to a small town can't keep Shefali out of trouble—especially when she catches the eye of TV celeb Neil Mitra. To add to the complications, Neil is divorced and a single dad, and his four-year-old daughter Nina is one of Shefali's students. There is no way she can risk a getting into another relationship. He might be gorgeous, but he's totally off-limits…right?

Excerpt: Please follow this link to the Harlequin website to read the excerpt

Buy links:






Saturday, 13 July 2013

Kashmir Trip

A trip that will remain in my memory for ever. Kashmir is rightly called 'A Paradise on Earth'. Everyone who has been there, knows it.
Funnily enough it wasn't in our plans at all to go to Kashmir or even anywhere at all for summer break. Suffering from wilting July heat I urged my husband that we should take kids somewhere cool for a short trip. We hadn't planned anything. I thought of Shimla which wouldn't take much time out of my schedule. But a weather check turned out a rainy week prediction. My husband suggested out of the blue we opt for Kashmir.
Things moved fast. One day I was talking to DH about going and by evening we had the tickets booked and by next afternoon, excited and breathless we were landing at Srinagar. After checking in, we took off and enjoyed the shikara ride on Dal lake.










Next up was a fifteen minute stop at Chashme shahi. 
 With beautiful flowers in the garden.



And refreshing ..brr.. cold water.

The curving road went back and on towards the lake. A cool breeze had started tinged with the scent of flowers. The road wound round the water and we clicked on the lake-marks that the shikara rower and guide had pointed out.
Nishat Bagh was our next spot. Imagined the moguls roaming the grounds :) 



Magnolia tree which I had heard praised of but not seen.

Shalimar garden was much smaller but sat and enjoyed the breeze there. Flowers filled all the gardens in profusion.

 

The next day brought an uphill curving road ride to Gulmarg. The slopes were dotted with flowers. White ones looked like snow drops. Delphiniums abounded. Enjoyed the views


During the horse ride, the guide pointed out the sites for movie shots. This is where 'Hum tum ik kamre mein band ho' from film Bobby was shot according to him.

Ksheer Bhawani  amd Jyashta mata temple next on the list.


Pahalgam is not to be missed. 
After the ride the day before, we were tired of and allergic to horse rides but the trail would take two hours on foot, our driver told us. Still we were brave enough to set off. However it was so steep and we were unconditioned, so were soon out of breath. Plus we couldn't make out the trail by ourselves. The villagers helped but soon the spot was totally deserted.

So we succumbed to the guide's persuasions and again mounted on ponies.



The trail wound continuously upward. Frightening at places as the edge of the foot wide trail dropped precariously away to running stream below. Too tightly holding on to the horse to click pics so managed only few.
At the end of a grueling half an hour we reached the mini Switzerland. Ah, sheer natural loveliness!


However, the way downward was even worse than up - at least for me! Kids told me they enjoyed it. The horses were stepping on dusty slope with steps for horses carved in spots in between the hardened roots of trees. Horses proceeded step by step following each other. Almost vertically downward or so it looked and I closed my eyes when it became too steep and just prayed. The guide brought us out to vista of Kashmir valley. We looked at it from the edge of the out-curving road.


He aimed us to go right down the dropaway edge and I could only say you mean go down where? Here? Here was no place but air. Anyway his implicit faith in the horse and obvious un-maneuverability on foot had me sighing and submitting. Again hung on for dear life. Though if you tore away to glance at the views they were amazing! Tall green trees. The running stream over the stones way down below. The green slopes. The cool still air which can't be described, only felt. The only thing was you couldn't keep from gasping at the steep downward direction. At least I couldn't. My daughter was blithe later. She thoroughly enjoyed it. And son was also pretty cool. So maybe it's just me getting old!
Then the horse suddenly seemed to go mad and walk right into the river. While I panicked the guide was insouciant as ever. I realized belatedly the animals needed watering.



Later we had to stop for rafting. Which was really out of this world! So much fun. Here's a short video.
video

On the way back our driver took us to apple gardens.

He asked us if we had tried kehwa, the Kashmiri tea and we said yes, over at Nehru park in the lake. But he sneered at that and took us to a stall by the numerous dry fruit shops lining the road. It was indeed quite different there, tasting great with the crushed almonds, cardamom, cinnamon, saffron and other spices. We went in the shop and bought dried figs and blackberry. Also saffron which Pampore is famous for.
The next morning we went to Shankaryacharya temple. The only pic I have is the sighting we did from Dal Lake as camera wasn't allowed inside.

All in all it was a great trip. Here's some shopping I did. Though I was short of time to do much.


So how did you spend your vacation? Do share.


Ciao!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Exercise?...Gah!


This is an out of way post for me as it has nothing to do with writing but it has everything to do with a topic that's most important to all of us. HEALTH.
Health relates to that awful thing : exercise. Which none of us mostly  feel like!
But reading this will make you WANT to exercise because this happened to me when I discovered this illuminating fact that I'm about to share.
Each one of us knows exercise is important and that it's important to keep moving. But what we don't know is that not moving can be lethal. Or eventually WILL be lethal.
How?
I found this when I was helping my daughter on a biology lesson. She had asked me what is lymph? I told her the usual answer given in the textbook, that it's a straw coloured fluid which contains lymphocytes which are part of the body’s defense system. It helps to transport substances, it flows through lymph capillaries to lymph vessels and it drains into blood. But she still didn't know what to make of it. Why is it there in our body when there is blood to transport substances?
Now, lymph is something which is a mysterious entity to even medical people. We know it is very important in immunity. But the exact role is somewhat vaguely understood.
To explain better to my daughter, I read up lymph and was struck at how important its function was and how ignorant I had been about its true significance.
To explain briefly, lymph is formed from interstitial fluid, which is the fluid surrounding the cells. It flows in vessels which have valves, much like the hole-less belts which can go forward but not slide back. When it is formed it has composition like tissue fluid but on its way it accumulates lymphocytes from lymph nodes.
What has lymph to do with exercise?
Our body fluids by the way of lymph get exposed to a rich plethora of immune cells like lymphocytes – which are enough to get rid of most of the heaps of pollutants and toxins we are exposed to in daily life. That is its job. To form from fluid in between tissues, hence contain much of the toxic waste from the cells, and take up immune cells from lymph nodes on the way. But lymph needs help in one thing: circulation. Its circulation is totally dependent on muscles. When muscles contract, lymph is pumped up and the empty vessels are filled up. If the circulation is proper, more amount of body fluids are exposed to the action of immune cells because of better lymph flow.
Here’s the crux.
If you keep moving, you're doing your body a huge favour. As the immune cells are the ones which have capability of destroying cancer cells and eliminate many disease factors, so exposing body fluids to immune cells works to clean your body from these threats. I'll repeat, the more you move, the more the lymph circulates. Rest and inactivity lead to sluggish flow and accumulation of the debris inside your body. The immune system and lymph still works but it's slowed down considerably and toxins can build. Cells come under stress and can change into cancer cells. 
That's why regular exercise is important.
Even if it's a brisk daily walk, it will cleanse your system. Lymph circulation is hastened. Boo toxins! Defeat of disease. the health flag unfurls.
What more can you do to boost this?
*Eat more of fruit and veggies. Fatty and greasy food has more free radicals which are reactive entities, causing damage to your cells, stressing your system and eventually overloading the immune system.
*Eat more salads and fast one day a week by eating only fruits to help your lymph clean up the toxins.

Nature has designed your body to heal itself. Help yourself maintain it.
GET WALKING NOW!
One thing : a fast one day a week eating fruits or even restricting yourself to one meal can help you lose weight and add to the world’s food stores. I fast every Monday, though I keep it for religious purpose and do eat something made of wheat and sugar one time besides fruit. You can make your own version of detoxifying diet, without being too hard on yourself.
Do let me know if you got anything out of this post. But if you are going to comment below, take a walk NOW and then come back and tell me about it.
Make it your mantra from now on. Exercise. Get rid of your toxins. Stay healthy.

Ciao!

Thursday, 27 June 2013

When the words won't come...

A writer is most happy writing. Yet sometimes our jobs, family life or even writing schedules become so humdrum that words are difficult to put down. Even more likely, the words are there but the will to capture and put them down in proper order just isn't. This last happens to me more often than not. I can happily daydream perfect sentences and even scenes in my head but when it comes to putting them on paper or the keyboard, it seems too much like work! There is no FUN that writing is supposed to be. So what do we do when we need to get the words from our head to our fingers? Or even get them forming in our head, when creativity just seems as elusive as rain in an Indian summer.

First is it a block? Or just a pebble you are looking at from very close up?
Are you making too much of a minor problem? Are you just tired ? That's the first thing which dries up the drive to write. A good night's rest or playing hookie from writing if you don't have a deadline looming can do the trick. It's very well to tell ourselves we must be regular but Sunday was made for a reason, you know. New experiences, meeting friends, even cooking a new recipe, trying out a new eating place, can all get you away from dwelling too much on your frustrations. Distract yourself from the problem. It has the scientific basis of freeing our synapses from impulse overload so that transmission can resume without the offending psychological fatigue. The reference of psychological fatigue brings us to the next question,

Are you sick of your work in progress?

This doesn't imply that your work isn't right or not proceeding the right way. It can just mean that the routine  has got overwhelming. You've been 'living' inside the heads of the 'same' characters day in and out. Thinking in their skin. This can get tiring. It does for me because I write emotional stuff and and to write with feeling can be exhausting. You need to replenish the store. Or sometimes the characters can for whatever reason not just talk to you. (you'll either get this or think I'm a lost cause.) Staring at the blank page is just not helping. You can do any of these in such a situation :

i) Take a walk. I read somewhere it was someone's top Writer's Block Curing Tip and it is mine as well. A walk, preferably somewhere you can admire the serenity of nature, will do wonders. Must be why Keats wrote 'Ode to Autumn.' 'Ode to a Nightangle' (cool recital), Robert Frost wrote 'Birches', Wordsworth wrote 'Daffodils'. Nature has the magic spray a whiff of which can cure writer's block and a daily dose serves as a tonic which builds your resistance like Vitamin C building resistance against colds :)

ii) Mull in isolation. This isn't always possible. But even if you're shut up in a room or just not talking to anyone else, it can serve. At a crutch, you can pretend to be reading. If you have music blaring in your ears, it can serve. For me, waiting for something to cook, when family thinks I'm busy in kitchen does the trick ;) Activities which keep your hands busy while not requiring active mental engagement can serve. Washing dishes, cooking, maybe driving for some...you can devise your own. You can feel and think your characters through in those minutes and sometimes get startling ideas. Of course keep your device or pen handy for these times as memory can be very short term. A blink and it is gone!

iii) Read over what you have written. This can provide insights you have missed. But you must read the right way. The 'right' way for me means taking apart every dialogue and thought of the character or characters and see if it really fits them. Have I missed some hidden motivation because I was in too much hurry to pour my thoughts on the keyboard? Or too taken up by the 'beautiful' metaphors my brain had come up with? Language and expression has a way of cloaking your character's real thoughts and motivational twists, I'm still learning this, though it's happening less frequently than when I started. A chance phrase would crop up and I would ignore what my character really would say in a scene just so I could use that phrase which at that time sounded witty. Writing is trickier than driving an obstacle course, I tell you.

Face it, you could just be acting lazy

Yes. Writers are also human beings so why can't we have our weak moments? But too few of these and you get into the habit of shelving your work. It just wouldn't call out to you that alluringly if you start to feel it's a drag. So you have to dredge up enthusiasm when it isn't there and suddenly after you type half a page, you are IN the story and it's there. It's happening. I read in a Reader's Digest article that the motor system of the brain can influence our emotional state. For instance, smile, even when it's a plastic smile and sometime later it can become a real one. Start writing, move those muscles, act like you love it and viola! a minute later, you are! Okay, okay sometimes it takes half an hour. BUT YOU GET SOMETHING DONE. Yes, writing is supposed to be something we love to do, but mothers will remember how sometimes kids can make you feel so unloving, yet you mother them. Same is the way with writing. You have to DO it even when you don't love it. Kick that writer's block by banging your head against it.

Slack off but only in very small doses. Make up in a big way. Write with love or by gritting your teeth but just write.
Which reminds me, I still have to type the scene that came to me yesterday when I was staring out of the bus window :p

So did you get anything out of this post? What are your secret tips on beating writer's block. Do share!

Ciao!




Sunday, 16 June 2013

First Chapter Writing Tips

Mills and Boon is hosting medical fast track in which you get rapid feedback in just two weeks! All you have to do is submit the first chapter of your medical romance story. It ends 30th June '13. Here's the link for details :

http://community.millsandboon.co.uk/content/medical-romance-fast-track-open-now

For those who are thinking of submitting, I'm sharing some writing advice here.
They say, well begun is half done. Or in other words, well prepared is target secured.
Any contest is both difficult and rewarding. Difficult as it takes nerves to enter and rewarding because one always learns from experience. Writing contests are no different except that an aspiring writer contestant is especially sensitive to rejection. It's important when you enter a contest to first keep in mind that ANY outcome is possible. Second, to repeat to yourself, 'I'll give it my best shot.' Over and over. If you do, you'll have no reproach for yourself at least, however it ends...and who knows you may be next one shortlisted!
From my experience of entering writing contests, and winning two of them, I've compiled some tips. Also I've included the input from all I learnt during the writing of the first chapter of my first book, Bollywood Fiancé fora Day.
I've listed them in order of what seems important to me:

Opening scene: The opening scene should draw the reader in. Right into the world you have created. What is your character doing as the story opens? What is she/he feeling? Is your character worried while driving? Does she accidentally miss the turn signal of car in front? What happened then? Create a situation where the readers (or your judges) can't help but read on to find out what happens next. 

Build a problem: Is your heroine (or hero) in trouble? Why? Who could help her? Why wouldn't she take help from him? Always go deep into a character's reasons. Why. That simple word leads to so many possibilities. The late Penny Jordan, romance author extraordinaire once said, the most important of the tips her editor gave her was: always ask why.

Interaction of characters: In romance you have two main characters. Have them in the scene together as soon as possible. That sounds like a tall order for a first chapter. You would say, what about explaining the setting, the situation, the background? But just think, if you don't show them together here, you may not get another chance! First chapter is all you have for putting up in this contest. So have them interacting. Show what the heroine feels for the hero and he for her. How do they happen to be there? Is it planned? Or coincidence? Does she want to avoid him? Will she succeed? Build up the curiosity factor.

Tension: Show the tension between the characters. Awareness. Attraction. Conflict. Does she drop something in her confusion when near him? Most heroes aren't bumbling but a little tug at his necktie would be endearing, don't you think? Tension between Hero/heroine is a must in a Mills and Boon! :)

Sympathy for characters: Have the reader sympathize with your character. If the hero turns heroine's troubled aunt out of her house, it's a very strong conflict between the characters but would the reader sympathize with someone like that? Would you? You'd most likely kick such an insensitive brute. Always keep your character lovable.
For more on characters, go here.

Make it read-worthy: Last but not least the grammar. Spell check. Read. Revise. Watch your tenses. Double check your verbs. Make your presentation the best it can be.
Also always follow the specifications given under the contest rules. For genre submission, it's important to follow the guidelines. For more guidelines to know how much 'medical' your story needs to be, click here.  

So do remember, begin with a strong opening scene, build a problem, have your characters interact and show tension between them. Make your characters lovable, always spell check and make your work presentable.
Hope I have been able to help. :)
Sharing your work can be scary. If you've submitted or made a decision to submit your entry, you're already to be congratulated.
If you're reading this to improve it, double congratulations, because you have decided to go after this writing thing and you're already interested in making it better. 

So are you trying your luck? 
Good luck to all the entrants and remember, if you're pursuing your dream, you're a winner!

Write with love,
Ruchi.