Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Writer's Wednesday -- Who Are Those Guys, Anyway?

Anne McAllister is putting together a new series.  There are lots of new people inhabiting her head, moving furniture -- and brain cells -- around, and otherwise making her crazy.

I wondered occasionally while I was writing my umpteenth version of Lukas Antonides' story, if he was going to be it.  The End.  The last gasp.  I didn't refer to him as "the last Antonides standing" for nothing.

It wasn't that I didn't have ideas for him. It's that he had ideas, too. And so did Holly, his heroine. And so did Grace (don't ask), as did his old mentor Skeet and Holly's friend and sister-in-law Althea.  So, in fact, did my editor. She said, "Cut Grace."  Well, I couldn't cut her entirely. But she has a much smaller part these days.

And eventually, as all good stories do, the book, now called The Return of Antonides (God, I hope not! Personally -- not back to my house, at least), left the room, taking all its people with it.

My brain echoed.  I liked that. For a while.

But then, the door creaked open and some guy stuck his head in.  He reminded me that he was Cole McCullough's brother (from Last Year's Bride), he'd had one heck of a terrible month or two (all my fault -- I could see it in his gaze) and since last year I'd said I'd write him a book, I'd better get on with it.   He was tired of standing on the porch waiting for Lukas and Co to exit the building.  And he needed -- really needed -- a happy ending. Not that he believed in them.

Just what I wanted, a brooding, grouchy Man With Problems invading my head.  But for all that I tried to ignore him, he didn't go away. He hung around, leaned over my shoulder as I prowled through images online trying to see what he looked like.  "You?" I murmured periodically, nodding my head at suitably brooding specimens.

He was silent.  That means no in hero-speak.

So I kept looking.  Meantime I asked him what was so bad about the past couple of months.  He told me.  I agree with him.  I do think he deserves a happy ending (but he's going to have to suffer a while and learn a couple of lessons first).

He also needed a heroine.  She turned up almost at once, as if she'd been waiting for him which, in some respects, I suppose she had.  They knew each other some years ago.  He was her brother's best friend. And, oh, by the way, her brother could use a happy ending, too.

And so could a couple of other guys they'd gone to college with.

Before I knew it, I was having a convention in my head.  All four guys were moving in, banging around, shifting furniture, drinking beer, watching hockey, trying to discover if by coming back to Montana, they can go home again.  But not doing anything to solve their own problems, I pointed out.

That, Brooding Man With Problems told me, was my job.  He looked at me expectantly.

They all did.

I'm tempted to toss them out on their collective ear(s).  But honestly, I'm becoming kind of fond of them.

Man With Problems has had his life turned upside down and a whole lot of things he was sure would Never Happen have just happened.  He's not happy, but he's adjusting -- or trying to. I like him for the effort he's making.  Of course he's not making the one big change that would really make a difference.  And he has no intention of ever falling in love again. Ever.

I guess that's what he and his heroine -- and I -- will be working out in the next few months.

And his friends?  They're apparently sticking around, too.  I think they may be betting on whether or not I can actually find them happy endings.  Right now they're all pessimists.  But I keep telling them, don't bet against me. If I can sort out Lukas Antonides, you guys -- whoever you are -- don't stand a chance!

So guess what Anne will be doing this summer?  Sorting out the Men With Problems (no, that's not the name of the mini-series).  She's got her work cut out for her. But right now she's prowling through pages and pages online and off, ogling handsome brooding men, and some who aren't brooding, and assuring her husband, The Prof, that it's all just work!  She'd show you some, but copyright prohibits -- and she's pretty sure you can find your own, anyway.

Tuesday Talk-Time - Book Struggles

Pink Heart Society regular, Desere Steenberg, is talking about the struggles of a romance reader...

Being a reader is not always fun and games. It’s a tearful journey of heartache, living through pain along with the characters, wanting to personally shoot the heroes and wishing you could sometimes change the ending of a book, even if you loved the ending there is just that little something you wish you could add.  I love every minute of it!

But there is something far more emotionally challenging than the above. Most readers refer to it as book nerd problems, but I like to call it my daily book struggle. Because it really is a struggle, every single day! A long list of them and for some there is a very simple solution, as suggested by other readers or the occasional light bulb moment, but sadly it doesn't always work out quite the way I want it to.
Open Book, Reading, Sunglasses, Page
Let’s take a look at some of the irritating, frustrating, get-out-of –my-face issues that I face and I’m sure no doubt others have faced as well.

First there is the constant choice of having to decide which book to read next. You look at the covers, the titles, read the back blurb, or even just the author’s name and it should be an easy choice which one you want to read first, ha, ha, ha!

Girl, Sad, Crying, Raining, Rain Drops, Window, PeopleThat has never worked for me, on more than one occasion I have sat staring at 4 to 5 books and wanting to read them all at once, if only I had a way to clone myself!  It’s like I want to be all the heroines at once, I want to know everything, experience their heartache, passion and journey of love of course if I could do this I am sure people would think I was suffering from multiple personalities, because let’s face it every reader turns into the book’s character on some level whilst reading the book. My solution to this is a TBR jar, filled with little notes with all the titles of my current TBR list, I close my eyes, pick one and voila! NO! I still think about all the other’s so you see it’s definitely not the perfect solution.

Cat, Hiss, Siamese Cat, Fur, Charming, Animal
Next issue, being interrupted whilst reading. I turn into the most crazed, freak of the reading world anyone has ever come across.  I have been told I get the “I am going to have to hurt you, can’t you see I am reading” look. Of course this is not what I want to do, but darn it I am falling in love with my next book boyfriend don’t interrupt me!  I literary within seconds go from sweet as sugar to being on a mission of destruction, pretty much bringing out the cat-claws.
Then there is the entire the movie was better than the book debate. Really, the movie let you in on what the characters were thinking, feeling and the internal demons they faced? Huh? Not a possibility, it never happens. Not for me anyway. I have never been able to see what the movie goers do, it’s just never the same and it infuriates me, I am constantly having to remind myself “ Everyone has their own opinion” , but why don’t you agree with mine?!

Anger, Angry, Bad, Burn, Dangerous, Emotion, Evil, FaceThe list goes on from people telling me I read too much and me going from polite to shouting out “ Silence or I kill you!”, to having to deal with the death of one of my favorite characters. I go into this deep, dark depression mode where I wish I could find a way to kill of the author instead. I bet I am starting to scare the heck out of you, in my defense I am nuts about reading and anyone that reads will get me, but yes I agree I do sound pretty darn mean, so I won’t tell you what happens if you borrow one of my books and bring it back damaged. Nope let’s not go there!

But all of the above aside there is one daily book struggle that drives me completely insane…… when someone says they don’t read. Excuses vary from It’s a waste of time (yeah so is looking at a fashion magazine), why escape into a world that will simply never come to life (hello that’s what re-reading is for) and the worst one I've ever heard “It’s all make believe so why get all emotional about it, put the book down and rather just never read again”. Yeah right like that will ever happen! 

Tell us in the comments what book struggles you face. Do you get all dark and depressed?  Do you develop a sudden personality change no one ever knew about?  Or do you simply not have any at all?

To find out more about Desere, you can read her romance reviews on Romance Book Haven, and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Male on Monday -- Bradley Cooper

Welcome to Male on Monday! Today Harlequin author and Pink Heart Society editor Jeannie Watt offers up some information on actor and producer Bradley Cooper

Bradley Charles Cooper was born in Philadelphia in 1975 and grew up in Pennsylvania. He attended Georgetown University where he graduated, with honors, in 1997 with a BA in English. He was a member of a rowing team and became fluent in French when he spent six months as an exchange student in Aix-en-Provence, France. Bradley received a MFA in acting from Actors Studio Drama School in New York. While attending he worked as a hotel doorman. 
His professional acting career started with a small role in Sex and the City in 1999. Over the next ten years, he was cast in many television shows and movies, including Alias, Kitchen Confidential, Failure to Launch and Wedding Crashers

In 2009, he starred in the hugely popular movie, The Hangover, which boosted his career, and  won a Razzie Award for his role in All About Steve. His All About Steve co-star, Sandra Bullock, also won a Razzie shortly after winning her Oscar. 

Bradley has since received several Oscar nominations himself--Silver Linings Playbook (Best Actor 2012), American Hustle (Best Supporting Actor 2013)  and American Sniper (Best Actor 2014). He's the tenth person ever to be nominated for an Oscar for three consecutive years.
In addition to acting, Bradely was recognized by GQ UK Magazine as the 2011 International Man of the Year and People Magazine chose him as the 2011 Sexiest Man Alive. Go Bradley!  Personally I think he should join Paul Newman, Steve McQueen and Frank Sinatra in the Blue Eyes Hall of Fame. Just look at those eyes!

I fell in love with Bradley while watching Silver Linings Playbook. How about  you. Do you have a favorite Bradley Cooper movie?

Jeannie Watt writes fast paced, character driven stories set in the American West. To find out more about Jeannie and her books, please visit her website or her Facebook page. Her next book, To Tempt a Cowgirl, will be released in July 2015.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Weekend Wildcard - Fashion: Yay or Nay?

The Pink Heart Society is delighted to welcome back Jules Bennett as she talks about fashion, and has a GIVEAWAY for two very lucky readers...
You know what is fun? Looking through old pictures of your parents, grandparents, etc and seeing the fashion trends. Some were classy, stylish and timeless while others were ugly, unfortunate and should never be seen again.

You know what’s not fun? When you look through old pictures and the fashion nightmare is you! LOL! I’m *cough* 37 *cough* and I’ve gone through a few fashion trends I’d rather just leave dead and buried.

First, let me start with my haircut when I was five. I was a tomboy. My mother couldn’t pay me to wear a dress or even comb my hair. You know what cut I ended up with? You guessed it, THE BOWL. *cringe* Did anyone ever sport this unisex cut? My kindergarten pictures are so laughable, but they do make for a good time. 
Moving on. Let’s discuss the shoulder pads of the 80’s. This was the stage of my life where I thought my mother was the most beautiful woman on the planet and everything she did, I wanted to do…including the shoulder pads. I was in middle school sporting silk blouses – BLOUSES – with shoulder pads. Can I just tell you how hard that was to admit? Oh, there are pictures, but those I’ve hidden away.

Frizzy perms? We’ve all had a bad perm which we tried to correct with Aussie scrunch hairspray, a scrunchie or a pick where we teased the hell out of our hair. Oh, the perm days. Those were a good time, weren’t they? 
And while we’re on that topic, the scrunchie. They didn’t just go in your hair, they were also bracelets! I mean, you couldn’t leave the house without one, or two, on your wrist. What if you got out in public and your wayward curls from that fresh perm started blowing everywhere? Just whip that scrunchie off your wrist and ba-bam. You’re all set J

Grunge phase? Anyone want to raise their hands for that? No? I will. I went through that homeless, I don’t care what I look like stage. I’m happy to report it didn’t last long.

The stacked bob cut? I rocked that style for YEARS! Not only did I rock it, I went to beauty school to learn how to perfect that art. Now that style is back and I’m over here holding my shears trying not to go back to it! Oh, but when it’s cut right it just lays so perfect *sigh* But, I think my years as “bob” are gone.
There are so many styles and trends that come and go…then come back again. What trend did you try that you cringe when you think about? Is there a style you wish would never return again? This could be such a fun conversation. I can’t wait to hear your answers!

I’ll be choosing 2 lucky winners to receive signed copies of my latest release, FROM BEST FRIEND TO BRIDE from Harlequin Special Edition.
Jules' latest book, From Best Friend to Bride, is available now:
Marrying his/her best friend?
Therapist Megan Richards provides her patients with expert counsel…but she can’t remedy her lifelong love for her best friend. 
Police chief Cameron St. John is the perfect man—kind, thoughtful and oh-so-sexy. Megan doesn’t want to confess her feelings and risk their closeness…even if it means finding the happiness she’s always longed for.
Cameron keeps citizens safe for a living, but even he can’t protect his own heart from Megan. He’s always steadfastly been by her side, but as a buddy. Until he realizes that his feelings for her are anything but friendly—and that by declaring himself, he might lose her friendship, but gain so much more.

Jules Bennett loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her contact page on her website, and readers may like her fan page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter to stay up-to-date on all the happenings in Jules’ writing life.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The 3 Amigas - Climbing over Writer’s Block.

Today we have one of the #3Amigas, Bella Francis, at the Pink Heart Society talking about combating writer's block...

As a part time writer, it’s easy to claim, rather arrogantly, to have never had to step over writer’s block.  Surely every time I sat down to write and produced – nothing – it was because I had to prepare a teaching plan, make a Baked Alaska (never happened) or check emails, media or do just a tiny bit of online shopping.

But when the weeks ratchet by there are only so many times you can claim to have been THAT busy, not when the word count still hasn’t reached a four figure sum.  So this week, when the long-fingered grip of guilt slid silkily round my neck, I knew that I could pretend no longer.  I’d hit The Block.  Of course there were a million mitigating factors: some of them the delicious distraction of falling in love (sigh), some of them the full-on life dramas that accompany cohabiting with teens, but ultimately, I had written, hmmm, zip.

Writing back story, getting to know characters, writing the rough draft – all legitimate excuses.  But writing absolutely nothing is not acceptable.  It’s just  - lazy!  And more importantly, it’s the aspect of writing that separates the sheep from the lambs, the Noras from the….you know what I mean.

Advice from the great and the good (ergo the successful) is to get a routine, knuckle down and just DO IT!  Roll out the rewards after – four thousand words, and not before!  Turn off the router and focus.  And then it will all happen, right?

Well, pretty much.  

Today instead of writing, I met an old friend, a dear friend, a friend so full of life, wisdom and love for her fellow (wo)man that I realised that the pointlessness of guilt. 

So I wasn’t sitting at my laptop, but I was catching up, learning, reconnecting, storing shared memories and absorbing another thousand wiles that will find themselves onto the page, one way or another.  My friend congratulated me on becoming published and reminded me that in the twenty five years we’ve known each other I’ve always written.  

And so I have, consistently, if not unremittingly.  

There’s no point weighing ourselves down with perceived failure: life is to be lived, time is not to be wasted, but sometimes we need a little stock-take to remind ourselves of our priorities. 

Mine are to finish my next book – the story of Dante and the Duchess, to make that Baked Alaska (I bet Jennifer Hayward has a great recipe!) and to spread a little bit more love in the world.  Who could possibly feel guilt about that?

What are your tips for getting over writer's block? Join the debate in the comments!!

Bella's latest title, The Scandal Behind the Wedding, is available as Presents in the US and as ModernTempted in the UK:

A wedding of convenience!

Recently jilted schoolteacher Georgia Blue refuses to mope over her lousy ex—she's taking on Dubai, one wild party at a time! Escaping a scandalous police raid so wasn't part of her plan…not to mention her superhot encounter with fellow party-escapee, sexy entrepreneur Danny Ryan!

Danny might be Dubai's latest darling, but even he can't afford to be papped leaving a hotel room with a thoroughly seduced-looking Georgia—not with the business deal of his life about to close! A quickie temporary marriage should let them both off the hook—except there's nothing quick about Danny's plans for celebrating their wedding night!

Bella Francis lives in Scotland with her family. To find out more you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Fun - Combining Obsessions

The Pink Heart Society is delighted to welcome Love Inspired Historical author Allie Pleiter as she talks about how her hobbies sneak into her writing...

I like to have fun in my writing.  I figure if Im having fun, you the reader will have fun, too.  Plus, lifes just too short not to have fun, dont you think?

This explains why knitting shows up in so many of my books.  Its not just that readers knit and knitters readthats a happy symbiosis.  

And Ihave a knitting blog that lets me go on and on about my love for yarn and needles, so its not as if my muse is lacking expression.  I run our churchs prayer shawl ministry, so I knit for charity as well as for myself.  Ive got plenty of outlets for my knitting obsession.

Knitting ends up in many of my books because when I pour my passionslike knittinginto books, they become better books.  I write about things that interest me, excite me, and call me on adventures.  I like to think that interest, excitement, and adventure overflows off the page and into your reading experience.

I feel the same way about French macarons, but I havent put too many of them in books yet.  Guess I have a little work to do.  Anyone for a French pastry chef hero?

Of course, an historical romance isnt about knitting, its about history and romance.  

The Doctors Undoing is about much more than just orphans who get gifts of hand knit socks.  Knitting and painting are just two of the ways Ida Lee Landway infuses her world with color.  And its a world that needs her infusionDoctor Daniel Parker is all about efficiency and duty.  Hes left his joy behind somewhere, and Ida is just the woman to help him find it again. When Daniel and Ida discover love, it overflows their hearts and into the lives of all those children in their care.

What about you?  What are your passions?  Have you found ways to integrate them into new areas of your lives?

Allie's latest knitting-infused book is The Doctor's Undoing, available on Amazon now:

When Dr. Daniel Parker requested an army nurse to help with his orphanage, he expected an organized, sensible matron. Instead he gets young, beautiful, obstinate Ida Lee Landway, whose vibrant outlook and unrelenting optimism turn his work and his life inside out.

Army life was easy compared to the discipline at her new workplace. Yet Ida is immediately smitten by the children in her care…and impressed by Daniel's unfaltering dedication. Adding color and warmth to her new surroundings is one thing. Can she also help the good doctor embrace joy—and in so doing, find the family they both deserve?

To find out more about Allie Pleiter, check out her website, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Time-Out Thursday: Campervaning in Cornwall

Heidi is a happy camper.
Harlequin author Heidi Rice refills the well deep in the heart of Poldark country (with the help of her Mum and a campervan)

I am not a natural camper, and up until two weekends ago I was not a big fan of Cornwall either. Or rather, I was a big fan of it in fiction - the dark brooding romance and dramatic scenery of Jamaica Inn and Frenchman's Creek and of course the currently ubiquitous Poldark, I adore. The reality not so much, after one horrendous camping holiday five years ago when we got rained on for six days straight (in a tent!) besieged by wasps and caught in a six-hour traffic jam on the way home. So Cornwall had become a no-go for me.

Ready to roll...
Then my Mum mentioned that she had booked to take her Murvi campervan on a Murvi rally to Cornwall for a long weekend, and couldn't find anyone else to go with her and help with the driving (it's four hours from her place in Wiltshire). Despite the fact I love my Mum, I didn't exactly jump at the chance to accompany her... Because, well, Cornwall (see above), and I also had the small matter of a book that I was struggling to finish and was already a week past it's deadline... But she's 78 and although she drove all the way to Italy a few years ago with a friend, I adore her to pieces so if she needed someone to go with her, I wasn't about to let her go alone.

South West Coastal Path heaven
And at least we were talking a campervan and not a tent, I thought. And at least my Mum's always great company, good for a natter and a giggle, I thought. And it was only four days, I thought. And maybe I'd pick up the Poldark vibe, I thought. How bad can it be, I thought? (But I did buy three Loretta Chase books to binge read after 'discovering' Lord of Scoundrels - as a fail safe just in case I started to go mad).

So off I popped on the train to Tisbury one Wednesday afternoon to stay the night at my Mum's cottage and head off for Cornwall the next morning. The forecast for the weekend was predictably unsettled, but I had my trusty Apple iBook and I figured if nothing else being holed up in a muddy field in a freezing cold camper van might force me to finish the damn book....

As it turned out, I couldn't have been more right, but for entirely different reasons.

The only free Wifi in the village... Shame!
The campsite, on the unspoilt South Coast of Cornwall near St Mawes was quite simply idyllic, with gorgeous views of the sea and a path through the fields which led onto the South West Coastal Path that winds it's way alone the cliffs and inlets of the Roseland Peninsula (isn't that a gloriously evocative name). Ten minutes walk along the path to the East was the picturesque small harbor town of Portscatho - where the cosy Plume of Feathers pub had free Wifi, so of course I had to keep popping back there (to check my emails! the pints of Cornish ale were purely coincidental). While a two-mile walk in the other direction took us to the long sandy beach at Towan which came complete with it's very own Tea Van serving amazing chocolate brownies (just to be on the safe side we checked how amazing they were, twice). Mum had equipped the campervan with a microwave, cooked a hearty Beef stew to heat up and packed enough wine to float a kayak, so our evening meals were sorted!

Paella anyone?
While it rained hard during one night, Mum and I were tucked up safe in the campervan and the sun came out blazing the next day for our eight-mile cycle ride to St Anthony's Head and back. The Murvi group were a jolly lot and although we didn't spend much time with them because we were happier wandering off on our own adventures, we had one enjoyable Paella evening when a couple of guys from the local Hidden Hut beach cafe did a campfire cookout as we quaffed wine and watched the sunset.

Apart from that one storm, the weather was glorious, hot and sunny for two days and crisp and clear on the others with NO RAIN. Result. And I did finish the book, while seated in the campervan one misty morning. Gazing out over the cliffs to the sea and imagining Ross Poldark galloping past, the atmosphere proved to be mighty inspirational as it happens... Who knew?

Nekkid Poldark spotting...
So that's my Time-Out Thursday recommendation. Next time you're struggling to finish a book or just need to refill your creative well, binge watch Poldark, grab your nearest campervan and head out to Treloan Farm caravan site on the Roseland Peninsula...You never know, you might spot himself emerging from the waves. Although I'd have to say the sea was freezing while we were there, so he might want to consider wearing a wetsuit instead of doing it butt nekkid this time of year or Demelza might have something to say about it.

Heidi is currently working on a proposal for her next longer book (or rather, frantically trying to come up with a workable idea that doesn't involve shirtless Cornish gentry from the 18th century!) and celebrating becoming a RITA finalist for her Cosmo Red Hot Read 10 Rules to Sex Up a Blind Date (has she mentioned that already?). She loves to hear from readers (or Poldark spotters) on her blog, her website, her Facebook page or Twitter (@HeidiRomRice)