Friday, May 22, 2015

Friday Fun - Netball Rediscovered

Author Heidi Rice talks about her not-so-secret passion for a sport she hated in school, but now plays once a week with a group of like-minded mums in a team... And sometimes wins!


If you’re anything like me you would have hated playing team sports at school. In my case I particularly loathed and despised playing netball... Which we play in British schools but which Americans and most Europeans know sod all about (think basketball meets handball.. sort of). 

All I remember from my school days was all those rules that I didn’t understand; the silly little gym skirts I had to wear that showed my pants every time I jumped; and those Amazon sports goddesses who always picked me last for their team (with good reason) and then proceeded to pass the ball over my head and make me look like a total idiot. 

Well, a good twenty years after I was freed from the indignities of playing a game that I didn’t understand and was utterly rubbish at I was lured back into the fold — and discovered, much to my amazement, that netball is actually a fantastic team sport: fast-paced, fitness inducing, competitive and most of all fun — and the rules aren’t nearly as mind-boggling as you might think once you have the help of a good umpire. 

I play for The Agents, a team of mums who originally got together when our kids were all in the same primary school. 

Back then, we used to meet up once a week to play in an outdoor league - cue: cold wet rainy windswept Tuesday nights in an empty school playground with your fingers feeling like icicles and the kids going feral on the sidelines. 

Pretty invincible in pink (we wish): The Agents ready for action
Ten years later we're still at it, the kids these days are going feral on their own and we play what's called versatility netball which means it's indoors (Yay!), there's only five players (which keeps you on your toes) and you change positions each time your team scores (very good for keeping dementia at bay when you're struggling to figure out whether you're the shooter or the goalkeeper - and which way were we shooting again?).  



We’re all women of a certain age and we love playing together which, in our view, is more important than winning — although we do like to win too. A few team members have gone and others have joined over the years and we've seen each other through house moves, job moves, milestone birthdays, sickness, health and some pretty ignominious defeats — mostly against aggressively competitive Aussies with thighs of steel who are half our age! — but we still carrying on going every week.
I love these women and I love playing with them, and even though I'm still pretty crap at the actual game itself, once in a while I'll drop that perfect shot, make a great intercept or snag a rebound and feel young and fit and agile again (the way I never did when I was actually young, fit and agile). It's a great feeling....


But no doubt about it, my old gym teacher Miss Emmens would die of shock if she knew!

Heidi is currently working on her first book for Tule Publishing, which will be out in June and is part of the Fairy Tales of New York quartet featuring stories by Kelly Hunter, Amy Andrews and Lucy King too. 

She is off to NYC herself in July to attend the RITA awards where she has finalled for her Cosmo Red Hot Read 10 Rules to Sex Up a Blind Date. Heidi Rice loves to chat on her blog, Twitter (@HeidiRomRice), Facebook or her website.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Writer's Wednesday: Getting Out of Your Head

Pink Heart Society regular Barbara Wallace talks about what she does to keep from being a Crazy Cat (or Dog) Lady.

Quick.  What do volunteering at food pantries, teaching CCD and going out for coffee have to do with writing?  If you answered nothing? You’re right. And that’s the whole point.

Like every writer, I spend a lot of time in my head.  Too much time actually.  Once upon a time, I had a day job and a son to remind me that there is indeed a world outside of manuscripts and publishing industry “drama.”  These days, however, I make my living writing full time, and my son is 52 Sundays away from graduating college.  This means I’m alone most of the time and treading dangerously close to crazy cat lady territory.  (Not that there’s anything wrong with being a crazy cat lady. The dog however would find the concept highly insulting as it means there would be less time for him.)

Power struggle among my pets aside, it’s not healthy for a writer’s world to get too small. I’ve seen what happens when it does.  Your perspective shrinks too.  Suddenly things that shouldn’t be all that important – like industry politics or bad reviews – seem like Titanic-sized icebergs.  The last thing I want to become is a person whose focus is so narrow that I lose track of what really is important.  You know, things like life and death and taxes.  Or, for that matter, so isolated that when I do face a real problem (like life, death, or taxes) I hyper-focus, unable to keep my perspective in check.

Beyond that, though, I simply don’t want to be dull. (Although, technically I suppose if you’re a crazy cat lady, you can’t be dull. ClichĂ©d, maybe, but not dull.)  You all know what kind of one-track person I mean though, don’t you?  The one who can’t discuss anything other than one or two subjects?  Like their book and their cats for example. (“Or a more superior breed of pet.” – THE DOG)  I don’t want to be that kind of one-dimensional person. Nor, like I said above, do I want to forget what truly matters in this world.

That’s why, a few years ago, I began a quest to “get out of my head.” 

This quest is similar to the artist’s dates we so frequently talk about at the Pink Heart Society although rather than filling my creative well, I’m filling my social interaction well. This is a lot harder than it sounds, by the way, as I am the queen of social anxiety and introversion.  I’m much better at mingling on social media than I am at Starbucks. And I’d rather send email than chat on the phone.  

All the more reason, I realize, to force myself to get out.  Thus, I’m doing things like volunteering at the local food pantry.  For two hours every month I’m reminded there are people with far bigger problems than bad reviews.  This year, I also taught religious education to sixth graders. While my little heathens tried my patience every week, they also reminded me how fun it was to hang around kids again. Then, of course, there are coffee dates with friends, girls’ nights out or even “write outs” where my fellow writing friends and I create a virtual office so we aren’t working alone.  

All of these activities expand my focus to beyond myself. Ultimately I’d like to spend a couple hours every week doing something that involves interacting with real people, just so I stay sane. I urge those of you who stay at home typing all day to do the same.  Because, honestly, don’t we post enough about our pets on social media?

Join the conversation.  What do you do to get out of your head?

Barbara’s latest release is A MILLIONAIRE FOR CINDERELLA, part one of her In Love with the Boss series for Harlequin Romance.  The book releases June 1.

If you live near Massachusetts and Rhode Island in Massachusetts and want to have coffee, drop her a line at BarbaraWallace.com. (You can pre-order her title there as well.)

You shall get your happy ending!

Patience Rush has never wanted a knight in shining armor. She's perfectly happy cooking and cleaning for her elderly charge. Here Patience feels safe, secure and protected for the first time ever, until rich and incredibly gorgeous Stuart Duchenko arrives, determined to figure out his great-aunt's unlikely housekeeper! He's sure Patience is hiding something…but what?

Except as this unlikely pair grows closer, Patience realizes that letting go of her past might be the key to a blissful future with Stuart…

For more information about Barbara Wallace, follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Talk-Time - Talking About Romance

Pink Heart Society editor, Ali Williams, is talking about the Popular Romance Project.

Romance novels are culturally relevant.

It's an argument that I've made many times - primarily because people rarely believe me - so I'm putting it to you now...they're relevant.

They reflect social change, often echoing permissive attitudes, and this side of romance is one of my favourite topics to read about.

And for me, it's all about the Popular Romance Project:

The Popular Romance Project explores the fascinating, often contradictory origins and influences of popular romance as told in novels, films, comics, advice books, songs, and internet fan fiction, taking a global perspective—while looking back across time as far as the ancient Greeks.


What I really love about the community, is the sheer diversity in its scope.  Articles and video interviews cover everything from whether popular romance is different across the world, to how to go about teaching romance!

There're discussions being had that are fascinating and engaging, and the kind of thing that I get really rather geekily excited about!

So here are ten of my favourite Popular Romance Project articles - and |'d highly recommend that you go and find some favourites of your own:


A video interview in which editor Sarah Frantz talks about how societal worries and concerns can cause a shift in romance...


Gwendolyn Osborne writes about how more and more romances are being geared towards an older readership.


The Sheikh hero has been popular since the birth of the Mills & Boon line, but academic Hsu-Ming Teo discusses how current and previous conflicts have impacted their representation...


A video interview with Gwen Osborne, in which she discusses the history of the African-American romance.


Hero or Stalker?  Deborah Kaplan's article looks at the concerning behaviour of the YA hero, and questions whether things have changed all that much...


In this video interview, Doreen DeSalvo argues that women are tired of being judged for what they read.


Jayne Ann Krantz (or Amanda Quick, or Jayne Castle, depending on the genre she's writing in) discusses archetypes and the power of genre fiction in this video interview.


Academic Pamela Regis writes about the point of no return in romance novels, and how they can be arguably seen as ritual death.


Writer Eloisa James (and Shakespearean professor Mary Bly) talks about the fairy tale element of romance novels, and what it is that makes them quite so satisfying.


And finally, we turn to that stalwart of romance, Nora Roberts, as she talks about creating her alter ego J. D. Robb.

What discussions do you think we should be having about romance?  Are there any articles that you would add to my list - either from the Popular Romance Project, or from elsewhere?

Ali Williams grew up in Croydon and spent her teenage years in a convent girls' school. She then fled to university where she discovered champagne cocktails, a capella singing and erotica.

These days she blogs about perceptions of romance, #StrongRomanceHeroines and women in society and spends an extraordinary amount of time coercing male friends to pose with her favourite Mills & Boon books to the bemusement of the Twittersphere.

Passionately vocal about the wonders of romance, Ali defies you to slam romance novels within her hearing!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Male on Monday - Mark Strong

Avril Tremayne is back at the Pink Heart Society this week to talk about the rather delectable Mark Strong...

Mark Strong.  If that’s not a name that screams ‘I am hot’, I don’t know what is.

Oh, yeah, on second thoughts, I do. The name he was actually born with: Marco Giuseppe Salussolia. Hot, hot, hot, hot!

Now, there are a lot of names that routinely come up on 'hot' lists: Aidan Turner (AKA Ross Poldark - be still my heart), Richard Armitage, Chris Hemsworth, Henry Cavill, etc, etc – but you don't generally see Mark Strong amongst them.

I therefore decided to fly the flag for him today, and give you ten reasons to join the Mark Strong Fan Club.

1. He has done Austen

And not just any Austen, he remains for me the quintessential Mr Knightley (opposite Kate Bekinsale’s Emma).

Authoritarian yet compassionate. Trustworthy, honest, responsible. Exuding that strength of character that can only exist when a person is completely at ease in his or her own skin. And yet, he’s not beyond a little insecurity when it comes to falling in love. Check out his declaration of love:


2. He can play one hell of a villain. 

In fact, I think I love him just a little bit more when he’s playing the bad guy. That voice. That cold gaze. That suave urbanity that is charismatic and terrifying at the same time. Check him out playing the lethal head of the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate in Body of Lies


3. He can, actually, play anything

Good guys, bad guys, Brits, Arabs, leads, character parts. He’s stolen just about every scene he's ever been in, and he’s been in a pretty diverse range of movies – just for starters, Green Lantern, Syriana, RocknRolla, Sherlock Holmes, Zero Dark Thirty, The Imitation Game. Seriously, I could go on forever, but I will just add that he’s even filmed a comedy – Grimbsy – with Sacha Baron Cohen, Rebel Wilson and Isla Fisher.

4. He's just as awesome on stage as he in on screen.

He was named Best Actor in the Olivier Awards, courtesy of his performance as Eddie Carbone in Arthur Miller’s tragic A View From The Bridge (a play I’ve seen a few times but how I wish I could have seen that particular version).

5. He is 6’2”

And we all know that is THE height for heroes – as well as being gorgeous with or without hair. 

6. He speaks German and a little bit of Italian. 

(Come on, who isn't a sucker for a man who can speak a few languages?)
 
7. He was smart enough to ditch a career in law to go to drama school.

8. He knows how to wear a suit better than just about any actor in the world.


In fact, he is now a customer of Huntsman, the Savile Row tailor that provided most of his much remarked upon wardrobe for Body of Lies.

9. He named his kids Gabriel and Roman. 

(Definite hero names.)

10. And this perfect quote, from his interview with Edward Douglas for comingsoon.net: 

“I have a family, so with all of the things that I do, something to consider is how long a job is going to take me away from my family." (and you can read the whole interview here.)

So many writers love to ‘cast’ their novels in their head as they write, including me. 

One thing I am very sure of, is that on the strength of Mark Strong’s look in Day of the Falcon  alone, he’ll be the man I envisage for the cover should I ever write a Sheikh romance.

Oh dear, I have in fact  just had a brilliant idea for a desert romance starring a guy who looks a lot like Mark Strong. 

I hope this is not going to prove too much of a distraction as I am in the throes of finishing the follow on to one of my latest books, The Contract, and do not need to be daydreaming...

Meanwhile, I'd love to know if you have a similar crush on any actor who's often the baddie! Or, of course, Mark Strong...

 
Learning the art of seduction has never been so much fun. 

Lane Davis has never had time for love. Hard work, dedication and focus got her through uni and now she's a successful economist with qualifications in all areas - except the bedroom.

When a colleague airs those bedroom sheets in public, Lane decides it's time to upskill. She's always studied her way to success, so why not hire a teacher to help her out now? It's just a business deal - three months of private tutoring, no strings attached. Easy - or it would be, if the lessons didn't make her weak at the knees...

Her proposed teacher, Adam Quinn, has his own agenda. His sister - one of Lane's best friends - wants him to scare Lane into giving up her crazy scheme. But once he meets Lane, he can't quite bring himself to reject her.

If Adam's going to teach Lane just one thing, it's that love can get in the way of even the best intentions...

To find out more about Avril Tremayne, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Writer's Workspace - Louisa George


Louisa George is back at the Pink Heart Society, talking about her workspace... 
 
I’m pretty lucky, I reckon, because I have a dedicated place to write – although I do have to share my ‘office’ with the rest of the household’s business affairs/folders/schoolwork/filing (which is rarely filed and mainly a very large teetering pile of paper- but I know where everything is, right?). I have carved my own space out and try to surround myself with things to inspire me and motivate me (sadly, procrastination is an everyday visitor…).

So I have displayed a couple of gifts from my publisher and some important inspirational but sweary words from Nora Roberts (not to me personally, obviously, and I won’t share here in case they offend- but basically the gist is: there are no excuses- just write.)…plus there’s a writing award I won last year (KORU Award in NZ) on the shelf.
 
And there’s Chris Pine, just because…
 
He’s at my eye level and we gaze into each other’s eyes regularly. Usually because I’m searching for inspiration, or trying to remember my credit card number (I’m an online shopper repeat offender. You see the tape measure next to the keyboard? Yes, well, every women’s clothes shop has a different idea of what a size 12 is…but that’s another blog post all on its own.). 
 
Chris is telling me, in his own sweet way, to get my a** into gear and do some work: ‘Sweetie, stop tweeting, facebooking and looking at Pinterest…you should be WRITING!!!’ Poor bloke has to say this to me a lot…
 
I do try to keep myself in check and have a 1500 daily word count, which is doable but hard to achieve on some days. I have done a lot of research on writers block and procrastination (!)- and have discovered a great way to help focus the mind and increase the output. 
 
This is from a book by Rachel Aaron (2k to 10K, Writing Faster and Writing Better, Google it up, better still get a copy if procrastination is a regular visitor to you too) so I have this to help me sharpen my resolve. 
 
She describes a triangle of writing metrics that we must implement and observe when we sit down to write: Knowledge (know what you’re writing before you do it, this way you don’t stare at a blank page for hours), Time (track your productivity) and Enthusiasm (Be excited about what you’re writing). I’ve tried it, and it really does help…if I can keep away from Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and the Next online shop in the first place.
 
I write new fresh words in my office, but I like to edit elsewhere.,. not sure why, but for some reason that’s my process. If it’s a sunny New Zealand day I sit outside and often get help from my critique partner, Tana…who is wondering where I am in this picture…
 
Or I will sit and look at something pretty – this is my back yard (I don’t go in the pool- but it is nice to look at and hope it stimulates the mind.
 
 
 
 
 
Where is your favourite place to hang out?  Or…do you have any ideas on how to stop procrastination before it takes a hold?

I have two releases in May, so I’d love to give away either a paperback copy of Tempted By Her Italian Surgeon or a digital copy of A Deal With The Devil (your choice!) to two commenters!

The doctor everyone’s talking about!

When a deliciously naughty photo of paediatric transplant surgeon Matteo Finelli goes viral, social media expert Ivy Leigh is called in to discipline him. It will be a challenge... especially as Ivy is far from immune to Matteo’s charismatic charm herself! The chemistry between them is sizzling, but can Matteo persuade ever-cautious Ivy to give in to an irresistible temptation?

 
When the only thing worth fighting for is love …

There are two things ex-boxer and casino tycoon Rey Doyle is an expert in: fighting and gambling. He trusts no-one, but he needs a fiancé to help seal a business deal and part-time casino waitress Kate Wilkinson agrees to the pretence.

Kate is on a mission to expose Rey Doyle for the pitiless criminal he is, but the more she learns about Rey and his past, the more she begins to admire the man. When the chance to bring him down arrives will she take it? Or will this bad boy claim her heart instead?

Award winning author and RITA® finalist Louisa George writes fresh, flirty and fun contemporary romance. For news of releases and giveaways sign up to her newsletter at www.louisageorge.com or connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.