Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Fun - TV Weddings To Remember

As the world winds down from the #CastleWedding, Ali Williams takes to the Pink Heart Society to talk about her favourite TV Weddings...

My favourite hashtag on Twitter at the moment is #CastleWedding.  There are very few words to describe how excited I am at the that fact that Castle and Beckett have finally tied the knot.  (And not just because of the deliciousness of Nathan Fillion in a suit).

Yes, there was that abandoned wedding day last season - due to Castle's untimely disappearance at the end of last season - and we'd already seen Beckett all dressed up in a stunner of a dress, but it was still pretty exciting.

Because we get to celebrate a TV wedding.

TV weddings are amazing:  all of the fun and usually with a high dose of scandal and/or comedy thrown in for good measure.  They can make us cry, laugh and remind us that there are good things in the world.

So here are my favourite television weddings...

WARNING:  This is spoilerific!!

Cam and Mitchell - Modern Family

It's the wedding of the century, especially when it's Pepper (aka the sublime Nathan Lane) planning it.  Of course, nothing quite goes right on the day, but that makes it all the more fun for the rest of us to see how it's all going to turn out. 

It's also worth mentioning that the episode itself is intertwined with minor heartbreak that I'm praying that the writers sort out this season.  #HayleyandAndy

Ross and Rachel (in Vegas) - Friends

Friends is known for the numerous weddings over all ten series ("I take you...Rachel", the Bings and Phoebe and Mike in the snow), but my favourite has to be the quirky, drunken Vegas event...

They say that your inhibitions disappear when you're drunk and that's exactly what happens for Ross and Rachel.  Their true feelings for each other end up shining through, resulting in a morning-after-the-night-before scene for the history books.

Alex and Izzie- Grey's Anatomy

I've only recently come to love Grey's Anatomy, having devoured as much of the previous 10 seasons as I could before NaNoWriMo took over my life.

Izzie and Alex's wedding is simultaneously heartbreaking and wonderful.  And that moment when George steps out to help her down the aisle?  Yeah, it pretty much ruins anyone with a heart.

Suffice to say that this is the weepy wedding in my artillery.  I got through an entire box of tissues whilst watching this one episode.

Chuck and Blair - Gossip Girl

The final episode of Gossip Girl and boy had the writers keep us on the edge of our seats.  We'd been waiting for Chuck and Blair's HEA since halfway through season, and yet they held off until the very last moment before giving us what we wanted.

Perhaps the shortest TV wedding, it was still perfect with the whole gang surrounding them, Blair wearing a sublime dress and with that dip from Chuck before he's hauled away for questioning by the police. 

Laura and Paul - Him & Her:  The Wedding

In Him & Her the wedding isn't particularly romantic or happy.  The entire fourth (and final) series is set at the most terrible and mismatched couple imaginable's wedding.  The bride is a horrific character and the groom really doesn't want to marry her.  It's the last thing you'd imagine to be in a top TV weddings list.

And yet the characters of Becky and Steve - the bride's sister and her boyfriend - are who we are rooting through the entire way through.  It's this couple who we've come to love over the previous three series, and it's them that we watch as the entire wedding seems to fall apart.

Plus, for all the cringy moments, it is hysterically funny at times.

What do you think makes a perfect TV wedding?  And which TV weddings have we missed out?  #JointheDiscussion in the comments...

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, chick lit 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.

Genre reporter for chick lit and erotica at For Books' Sake and guest blogger for Mills & Boon, she defies you to slam romance novels within her hearing!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Time Out Thursday - Get Happy

Jennifer Rae talks to the Pink Heart Society today about how CrossFit changed her outlook on life, helped her realise her strength, and gave her back a community of friends.

I’m a friendly person. I like having friends, making friends and being a friend. I like laughing and going out and eating too much and drinking too much wine and falling over and losing my phone and eating kebabs and regretting it and doing it all again the following weekend. 

I’ve never had trouble making friends. I’ve moved a lot but it’s always easy to find like-minded party goers – at work, playing sport, through mutual friends.

But when I was in my 30s I moved to a country town and found myself in a situation I’d never been before. I had no friends. 

No. Friends. 

That for me was unthinkable. But it was true. I worked from home so found it hard to meet new people and I had three small children. I was often so busy with them I wasn’t able to focus on meeting friends. For two years I lived in this town feeling increasingly isolated and frustrated and sad. I was reminded of growing up on a farm. For a highly social person – farm life is almost torture. I couldn’t wait to move away from home. But here I was again – alone and lonely, spending way too many hours watching mindless TV.

Finally after a 10 day straight rain storm that had me locked in the house with three small children and massive tantrum (me – not the kids) I snapped. I realised the reason I was lonely and sad was not because the bitches at the preschool wouldn’t talk to me. It was because I was sitting in the house feeling sorry for myself. So for punishment, I looked up the stupidest, cruellest, craziest sport I could find, called them up, payed my money and turned up.

Bugger. What have I done? Would they notice if I turned around and left? I can’t do this. What the hell have I done? All those thoughts rushed through my mind when I entered the box at CrossFit. 

CrossFit. The Sport of Exercise. Apparently. All I could see were a bunch of strangers grunting and sweating and yelling and high fiving each other. Torturing themselves lifting weights and climbing ropes. Their hands were calloused, their legs bruised and there were NO girls in pretty gym gear or pumped up bodybuilders here. They dressed in black and grey and wore weird colourful shoes. Not that it mattered what they looked like – there were no mirrors.

I felt like the new kid at school. Standing awkwardly to one side. Hoping my drink bottle was cool enough. Trying to look like I didn’t care that I had no one to talk to. Pretending I knew what they hell they were talking about when they started rabbiting on about WOD’s and snatches and double-unders. I wanted to leave. They were all fit and strong and knew exactly what was going on. But I didn’t leave. Because I remembered the way I’d yelled at my family. And the days I’d spent lying in front of the heater crying ‘cause I had no friends and I wanted to eat worms.

So I sucked it up and kept going.

Best thing I ever did. CrossFit cops a lot of criticism. They call it a cult. They talk about bad form and ‘losing gains’ (don’t worry gals – that’s a boy thing) But CrossFit has become more than just a way of meeting new people to me. I’ve tried things at CrossFit I would never have imagined. 

I’ve deadlifted 80kg. I’ve hauled a 40kg bar over my head. I’ve punched out 60 toes to bar in under three minutes. I’ve climbed a rope so high that I’m pretty sure every bone in my tiny body would break if I fell. I’m strong. Not just in my body but in my mind.

It takes being low to realise how high you can be. It takes trying something completely mad and impossible to make you realise you’re stronger than you think you are. You’re smarter than you ever imagined and your body is an absolute machine.

Like all women, I’ve had body issues throughout the years. Too fat, too thin, if only I could change this bit….But CrossFit has changed all that. I don’t look at my body as something that has to look good anymore. I see myself as fit and strong and the shape I’m supposed to be.

But the most important thing CrossFit has given me is a community of real friends who care if I achieve a personal best in my clean and jerk. They worry if I get injured. They ask me about my relationships and my kids and my life. 

I’m not lonely anymore. I’ve found the peeps who make me laugh and I’ve found a great bunch of people who laugh at my jokes when I’m drunk, find my phone when I lose it and shout me a kebab on the way home.

Jennifer's latest book release is Sex, Lies & Her Impossible Boss:

'There's no such thing as "just sex", Cash'

When the new boss of Faith Harris's TV station, the famously ruthless and annoyingly gorgeous Cash Anderson, tells her he'll be cancelling her sex and relationships show she knows she's in for a fight. She's worked her silk-clad butt off to get her high ratings, and no man's going to take them away from her - however hot under the collar he secretly gets her...

But sugar's better than vinegar any day, so Faith decides to prove to Cash just how meaningful her show really is. The only trouble is, it's also rather... risque. And there was enough chemistry between them even before Faith set about proving just how riveting sex can be...!

To find out more about Jennifer and her books, you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook, Instagram orTwitter.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Writer's Wednesday - Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

In this month's Riding The Writing Roller Coaster column, Barbara Wallace discusses the inevitability of change and what we can do to cope.

“Time may change me, but I can’t trace time” ~ David Bowie

We have a saying here in New England.  If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.  It’ll change.  Sounds like the publishing world, doesn’t it?  In fact, change might be the one constant our industry has.  Marketing trends, publishing trends, buying trends – you name it.  Heck, just look at the industry changes that have taken place since I started writing this column last January. 

For some, the ever shifting publishing landscape means an opportunity for growth; for others it’s a career-ending mudslide.  How do we know what side we’ll end up on?  We don’t know, for sure.  That’s the problems with continually shifting landscape – you can’t with 100% certainty predict the end results.  

That’s not to say we’re at the mercy fate.  On the contrary, a smart writer prepares for change the best she can.  Going back to my New England weather scenario: Just because we don’t know how much snow this winter is going to bring doesn’t mean my husband isn’t going to make sure the snow blower is in good working order.

How does a writer prep for change?  Here are five tips.  And by the way- these tips apply whether you are published or still working on your first novel.  It’s never too early in your career to be prepared.
  •   Diversify.  The days when an author wrote for one publisher for her entire life no longer exist.  For one thing, you can’t predict that publisher will stick around.  As the saying goes, “don’t keep your eggs in one basket.”  Always keep an eye out for new opportunities, be it another publisher, going indie, etc.

  •     Have a back up plan. Okay, so there are only so many hours in the day, and you don’t have time to balance multiple projects right now. That doesn’t mean you should pull an ostrich and pretend change won’t happen. Give some thought to what you’ll do if your current career path dries up.

  •  Don’t fear reinvention.  So your career path does dry up. The genre you’re writing loses popularity, or your royalty checks aren’t earning you a liveable wage anymore.  Become someone else!  (This is where developing a contingency plan helps.)  There are many authors out there who have had second and even third reincarnations.  They’ve created new names and tackled new projects.  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.  What matters is that they weren’t afraid to try.  

  •   Don’t burn bridges.  I cringe every time I hear an author dissing her old publisher or agent in public. For all its shifts, the publishing world is still small.  People talk.  And the truth is, you may need those contacts from your previous career path someday. 

  •   Maybe it’s you.  Not all change comes from the outside.  Sometimes you’re the one that changes.  Okay, not sometimes.  We all change.  We grow older, and we grow creatively.  Those stories you were writing last year might not challenge you anymore.  This is why it is so important to ask yourself periodically what you need to do in order to stay happy as a writer.  (Coincidentally, we’ll be talking about planning next month and will touch on this very subject.)
The bottom line here is yes, change is inevitable.  But change doesn’t have to be scary.  It can be a great adventure.  Kind of like New England weather.  

What advice to you have to surviving change? Don't be shy! Let us know in the comments below.

Barbara Wallace is published with both Harlequin and Entangled Publishing.  Her latest book The Unexpected Honeymoon, was an October release with Harlequin's Romance line.  

A holiday to remember...

Widower Carlos Chavez manages La Joya del Mayan, the most romantic resort in Mexico. On good days, the romance passes unnoticed; on dark days, it only reminds him of his loss.

But the honeymoon suite's latest guest, Larissa Boyd, has rocked his steadfastness. Stunningly beautiful, she seems lost. And no wonder... she's on a honeymoon for one! 

The chemistry is instant - and their similarities run deep. Could it be that the two loneliest hearts in Mexico have found the most unexpected of places?

To find out more about the lovely Barbara and her writing, follow her on FacebookTwitter or and visit her website

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Tuesday Talk Time - Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

So Avril Tremayne's talking on the Pink Heart Society today all about one-star reviews, and why not to give up when someone doesn't like your book!

I had a reputation in my old corporate life for being tough.

One or two people have suggested over the years that I can’t possibly be as tough as I appear – and I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong.

I was the chief media strategist for one of my country’s highest profile corporate brands – and believe me, after day-in-day-out, year-after-year public scrutiny and criticism…? Well, let’s just say that without a hide as tough as a crocodile’s, I would have had a nervous breakdown PDQ.

That tough hide stood me in good stead when, within two months of my first book being published this year, I was hit with the 1-star stick!

Yeah, it stung – ouch! but after a short reflection and shot of whisky, I borrowed Brad Pitt’s attitude after his Chanel perfume advertisement was parodied to within an inch of its life, and said: ‘Fair play.’

The bald truth is, I already knew not everyone was going to love my books, because nobody’s books are universally loved. I used Gregory David Roberts’s Shantaram as my guide in this. A 900+page tome that was lauded as ‘A masterpiece’ (The Age) and garnered 5-star ratings aplenty…but also, to my surprise, generated a swag of scathing 1- and 2-star reviews.

'That Bridesmaid Book'

I also knew it because my mother felt the need to tell me that she’d ‘started reading that Bridesmaid book’ but she’d ‘only made it to page 40’ before cashing in her chips. A DNF (Did Not Finish, for the uninitiated) from my own mother.

Yeah thanks, Mum!

Actually, I didn’t even need a shot of whisky for that DNF, because Mum’s partial to a long, heavily dramatic saga – and that's not my forte.

In retrospect, I’m glad Mum gave it a go though, because there’s something worse than people not liking your book: nobody reading it!

Obscurity is not a problem for well-established authors – but it is a clear and present danger for a newbie!

On that basis, I developed my six-point new-author philosophy:
1.    Produce the book
2.    Hope people find the book
3.    Hope people buy the book
4.    Hope people have an opinion about the book
5.    Hope people tell their friends about the book
6.    Hope more people then buy the book

And the only thing in there that I have any major control over is #1 – produce the book.

Everything else is in the lap of the gods.

Well, in the lap of the gods and on the keyboards of the reviewers.

Because it is reviewers who help give our books visibility. They bring our books to the attention of people who might not otherwise have found them. And perhaps warn others who may have similar likes/dislikes to theirs that our books might not be for them (hello Mum!) – and there’s nothing wrong with sounding that warning, if our goal is to build a base of readers who actually like our books.

As a passionate and voracious reader, I consume a lot of books – and even though I can't remember a time I thought a book was a 1-star effort, because there's always something to admire, I’ll confess that there’s no way I could give every book I read 5 stars, either. Even author-specific I couldn’t do it.

I’m a huge Georgette Heyer fan, for example – but amongst her uniformly good books, I have my 5-star favourites, including Venetia, Friday’s Child, Frederica, Sylvester, The Grand Sophy, and Devil’s Cub. I would feel I was doing those books a disservice if I starred every other book of hers the same as those.

On the other hand, I’m sure plenty of readers would put what I'll call my 'other' Heyers – for example, Simon the Coldheart, Beauvallet, The Conqueror, An Infamous Army in their own personal 5-star selection.
And surely that’s the principle at the core of book reviews: different people like different things.

As a real-life illustration, I’m going to share five snippets from the Goodreads ratings/reviews of my latest book Turning The Good Girl Bad:

1-STAR: Rating only – no review

2-STARS: …Didn't like the writing style and couldn't connect with the two characters that didn't seem real...

3-STARS: I assumed it wouldn't be that well written but was delightfully surprised at how structured and erudite it was. The characters were well thought out...and the situation they were placed in was interesting

4-STARS: Tremayne has attempted to throw the spotlight on quite a few serious issues in this short romance. I think the playful fantasy role-playing, in regards to the infamous book featured in the story, doesn’t balance well with the serious intent…

5-STARS: I highly recommend this read for all fans of romance with a twist! This author knows how to grab your attention, entraps you in her world and once you're there trust me you will never want to leave!

Quite a range, right? And in response I say: fair play. (And okay, I'll admit to preferring the 5-star review because I'm not a saint.)

An author’s most valuable asset is his or her voice. And a strong voice is like a strong opinion – some people are going to agree/love it and some people are going to disagree/hate it.

Some people will give you glowing 4- and 5-star reviews that have you walking on air. Others will give you a 1- or 2-star review – maybe with some thoughtful criticism, or maybe more in the vein of an indiscriminate pasting! Perhaps you’ll be frustrated by readers prefacing a negative review with the words ‘I don’t normally read this kind of book, but…’ Or you’ll be left mystified with a low rating without any reason given.

I've experienced most of these things this year. And each time I go back to my 6-point philosophy and remind myself that I have control over only one thing: producing the book. Once that’s done, I have to hope like hell someone is going to want to read it, and that – if I’m really lucky – they might also want to share their opinion by reviewing it.

Because much as I love to get 5-star reviews and I really, really do! even a 1-star rating is a little twinkle for me.

And remember, fellow authors, it could always be worse. You could be a celebrity reading a mean tweet on Youtube… 

Now, where’s that bottle of whisky?
Avril's two latest books are Turning The Good Girl Bad (sneak peek available hereand her globe-trotting medical romance From Fling To Forever (read the start):

What started as a fling…could lead to forever

When fate conspires repeatedly to throw together kindhearted nurse Ella Reynolds and deliciously sexy documentary filmmaker Aaron James, it's not long before this unlikely couple finally gives in to their irresistible chemistry. Their hearts might be locked away, but what does it matter when it's only a fling…?

Spending time and saving lives together is bound to break down barriers. Yet with so much heartbreak and loss to overcome, can their fling ever lead to forever?

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