Monday, December 22, 2014

Male on Monday - Santa

It's Christmas Week and Ali Williams is talking about the Pink Heart Society Male on Monday to rival all Male on Mondays...Santa!

I'm a big fan of winter holidays, and an even bigger fan of the main man himself.  Whether you know him as Father Christmas, Kris Kringle or just plain old Santa, he's an absolute delight.  And, when you break it down, pretty much an alpha hero...

Santa the International Businessman

Not only does he own his own business, he also has a veritable army of underlings to do his bidding.  Plus, he has runs world class factories that deal exclusively in stocking-fillers.


He flies all over the world every year, and clearly has had some of the best marketing executives working on his all important image.

Santa the Lumbersexual

Everyone's crazy about the lumbersexual look these days; who doesn't love a well-groomed beard when paired with the very best leather boots?  Well guess where it started?


Got it in one!  Kris Kringle's been rocking that beard for years now, and boy does he wear it well!

Santa the Animal Lover

But just because he's the ultimate alpha male, doesn't undercut how sweet and sensitive he is.  We're talking about someone who has his own team of reindeer, who looks after them and makes sure that they're well-fed.  Carrot anyone?


Santa the Secret Billionaire

Despite the fact that he's clearly incredibly well-off, he still has time every year to give to children all over the world.  All paid out of his own pocket, and despite numerous attempts by children to wait up and catch him, he never sticks around to take the credit.


Santa the Married Man

However, ladies, there is disappointment afoot.  He is, of course, married to Mrs Santa Claus, aka Angela Lansbury.  Making him a legend.


So if you're looking for a Santa of your own, why not try Tori Carrington's Red Hot Santa.  We're talking Santa with sass...


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!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Jenna Kernan - My Holiday Rounds

The Pink Heart Society is delighted to welcome Harlequin author Jenna Kernan today, as she talks about her winter traditions...

It’s the holiday season and every year I make it into NYC for a dose of bright lights. Christmas just wouldn’t be complete without the annual outing to my favorite New York holiday spots. 

I’ve even made a map of the must see store windows. 

My hands down favorite every year is Barneys. Nearby are Bloomingdales, Bergdorf Goodman and of course, the Harry Winston jewelry on Fifth Avenue. Now, that’s a sight to warm any girl’s heart! 


Add to that another of my favorite free stops, the tree at Rockefeller Center. You don’t hear free and NYC very often, but my window tour cost only a bag of warm chestnuts and the cup of hot chocolate that I get in a snack bar under 30 Rockefeller Plaza. There is a very nice observation area of the ice skating rink here. 

Once I saw their skating Santa in the snack bar fetching a coffee while still on skates. 

I always stop into St. Patrick’s Cathedral to light a candle and visit the indoor nativity that is life-sized. A little farther south I stroll past the Saks windows, the store itself is decorated like a gigantic building-sized package in a glittering red bow.
 
Farther south, on Fifth Avenue outside the main branch of the NYC Public Library, I visit the lions (named Patience and Fortitude), bedecked in their evergreen wreaths. That sight always puts me in a holiday spirit. There is also a beautiful tree inside the library, along with an enormous Lego lion. Did you know there is a free museum just inside as well? On my last visit I saw the original Winnie-the-Pooh and friends. Just delightful! A few steps south I visit Lord and Taylor. Their windows always tell a holiday story with miniature moving figures.   
 

On my way out of town I make sure to glance up at the top of the Empire State Building which glows in seasonal splendor all red and green. Finally, once inside of Grand Central Station, I pause amid the bustle. Though there is no tree here, GCT does have a light display in the huge panels of windows. There is also a transit museum, tucked off the main atrium. At Christmas, they have a large toy train set up with several kinds of trains zooming about on three levels. I feel very lucky to be so close to NYC yet far enough away for the quiet I need to write.
 
I have extra reason to celebrate this season with two releases. I have a novella in the anthology collection WILD WEST CHRISTMAS, which is a Western historical romance. And this month my newest paranormal romance, THE SHIFTER’S CHOICE, arrives from Harlequin Nocturne. Many of my fans have written to ask when to expect Johnny’s story. 

This is it, the tale of the werewolf who cannot change back to human form. I’ve given him a feisty street-wise heroine. Unlike my heroine, Johnny understands the risks involved in her loving a monster. But as they grow closer, he isn’t sure if he’ll be able to do the honorable thing…or protect her from the enemies intent on keeping him in werewolf form forever.

For an excerpt or to join my mailing list, please visit my website, and do follow me on Twitter.


I’ve enjoyed sharing with you my favorite holiday activities. What are yours?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The #3Amigas - What a Difference a Year Makes

Today we have have one of the Pink Heart Society's #3Amigas, Amber Page, talking about how writing can become incredibly difficult, and how so many things can change of just one year...


Last Christmas, I spent my holidays making the first round of revisions to what became All’s Fair in Lust & War. I didn’t have a contract or even the promise of one.

But I did have an editor in my corner. One who seemed to know in her heart of hearts that I could make my manuscript sing.

I wasn’t so sure. But, in classic “fake it till you make it” style, I decided to pretend I was.

And in the end, the manuscript did sing. It did make me part of the Harlequin family. And it did get published.

Even better, it earned me the chance to spend more time with Jessie—my main character’s best friend in All’s Fair.

Jessie’s story, hitting the shelves under the title Dating the Enemy on January 1, 2015, picks up where All’s Fair ends. We get to watch as Jessie does battle with her own powerful ad man, igniting sparks of all kinds along the way.

It’s a fabulous story, and one I’m proud to have written. But it was a bitch to write.


I was dealing with some heavy stuff—including the suicide of someone very close to me. I didn’t want to write anything. Especially not the story I had plotted out. It seemed far too light and fluffy.

But I had a deadline. A really tight and unmovable deadline. I had to write something.

So Jessie and I sat down and had a little talk. And she told me some things about herself. Some things that cast her story in a completely different light. Some things that let me express a bit of my own pain, without making the story a total downer.

After that, my fingers started moving on the keyboard again and the story started to come together.

It still wasn’t easy. Jessie and I had a lot of fights along the way. I shed more than a few tears. Drank more than a few glasses of wine. Lost countless hours of sleep. But it was worth it.

I am ending 2014 as not just a published author, but a multi-published author. I’ve written two books in less than a year. That’s pretty unbelievable.

I have no idea what’s next. I’m writing one book that I hope to sell to Harlequin, and I have ideas for others.

But again, there are no promises. There’s no signed contract with my name on it.

However, there is one big difference. I know I can write a book that rocks. A manuscript that sings. All I have to do is prove it to my new editor.

Here’s hoping I publish at least two more in 2015.

What do you find difficult when you're writing? 

Amber’s latest book, Dating the Enemy, is available now for pre-order on the Mills & Boon website:

The dating game…

Jessie Owens is determined to live life to the fullest so her only rule after meeting the delicious Nick Thornton is to get him into bed!

But things get complicated when Jessie discovers Nick is her company’s biggest rival and that she’s been dating her enemy! By day, Nick seems determined to destroy her company, but by night his sizzling kisses show so much more…

Amber lives in Indiana, USA with her husband and daughter. When she's not writing, she's an advertising copywriter. You can find out more at her website or on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Fun - What's Your Must-See Christmas Movie?

Heidi Rice asks the ultimate Yuletide question of Pink Heart Society readers... What's the movie that means Christmas to you? 

We've all got them, films we love to watch over and over come Christmas time. Most of them have Christmas settings, some are Christmas classics, others might just remind us of great Christmas viewing experiences of old. Here's a few of the obvious contenders, but feel free to enlighten me if I've missed a hidden gem, or a classic corker that is you (or your family's) big must-watch movie over the festive season.

It's a Wonderful Life

A Christmas classic with bells on (literally) when suicidal savings-and-loan man Jimmy Stewart re-discovers the meaning of life (and Christmas) courtesy of a trainee angel who's obviously been reading too much Dickens.


 
Love Actually

An all-star cast of great British luvvies turn the festive season into a kaleidoscope of love, laughs, sweat, tears and really rubbish pop songs!



The Polar Express

The children's picture book brought to glittering, gloriously animated life with a cast of characters that all look and sound (a bit creepily) like Tom Hanks.



White Christmas

Bing croons, Danny prats about and they both do a sing-song in a Vermont snow lodge while wearing sparkly Santa suits. Proof positive that there's no such thing as overkill come Christmastime.


The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton's spook-tacular festive animated fable as weird as it is wonderful.



The Sound of Music

Because nothing says Christmas to me like Julie Andrews singing her heart out to the Swiss Alps and managing to upstage not one but SEVEN far-too-cute child performers.



The Grinch

Jim Carrey in green-face as Dr Seuss's Christmas grump with a heart two sizes too small - and a potent message to deliver about Christmas consumerism that will probably go right over the heads of most wee-ones.



Scrooge - A Christmas Carol

The creakily good 1951 version of Dickens's much-filmed cautionary tale with Alastair Sim as the definitive miser...


A Muppet Christmas Carol

What the Dickens! Michael Caine joins Kermit, Piggy and the gang and vies for top spot with the 1951 Brit film (see above) for the best movie version of Charles's yuletide yarn... IMHO.



The Apartment

A fine romance unfolds as lonely hearts Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine get together over the Christmas season in 60s New York.



Elf

Is there anything funnier than Will Ferrell in his over-sized leprechaun outfit playing it totally straight as the biggest (sweetest) Santa's Little Helper who ever lived? I don't think so.



Home Alone

A movie I hate, but my sons think is hilarious - which I suspect has something to do with all the extra-curricular assault and battery masquerading as slapstick comedy.



The Wizard of Oz

Just because... There's no place like home in the holidays, and the BBC used to play this sparkling musical fantasy on a loop every Christmas Day for yonks.

 

So there are a few of the festive films that we will be watching this Christmas... What about you?

Heidi is currently working on her first big book, but she has a Christmas anthology out called Misbehaving Under the Mistletoe with Charlotte Phillips and Nina Harrington:

’Tis the season to be naughty…

Christmas is all about fun, so Cassie is throwing caution to the wind to find herself a bad-boy-turned-billionaire for a just-for-Christmas fling! 

Jace Ryan is the perfect candidate, but she only has one rule: Do not start falling in love…  

You can find out more about Heidi through her website, blog, Twitter or Facebook.  Eye candy may or may not be present.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Time-Out Thursday - I’m obsessed, so kick me – but do it with a six-inch heel!


The Pink Heart Society is in total agreement with Avril Tremayne over her love - nay obsession - with shoes.  I mean, who doesn't love a good pair of heels?

I have an obsession and its name is shoes.

Card from a friend on selling my first book
Two of my clearest childhood memories are:
  • my pre-school red suede desert boots; and
  • lusting after my eldest sister’s apple green patent leather flats.
My first ever job – the one I lied about my age to get – was in retail, at a shoe shop that was not exactly a stockist of Manolo Blahnik, if you get my drift; and so devoted was I to matching the right shoe to the right foot, I became one of their best-ever salespeople. So much so, there may have been a tear or two shed when I left for university.
Not my real feet, but close!

However, being the possessor of a relatively unattractive pair of feet (think a cross between a hairless hobbit and a multi-cloven hoof), attached to Incredible Hulk calf muscles…? Well let’s just say I never really thought I’d be a candidate for foot modelling.

(And no, I will not risk a global nightmare epidemic by posting a photo of my actual feet!)

I traversed my university days wearing thongs (flip-flops for the non-Aussies) in summer and Uggs in winter.

But the moment I got my first corporate job and I was actually earning real money, everything changed; hideous feet notwithstanding, my thong-and-ugg days were soooo over.

And I blame my husband.

Some of my flats - a little kooky


It started innocently enough with the purchase of a pair of green suede ankle boots that looked like they belonged on a pixie. My husband (then boyfriend) The Hon persuaded me to buy them, even though they cost a whopping hundred bucks and sent me into a mid-store meltdown!

And boy, does he regret that moment, which was when the world of shoes opened up before me like Aladdin’s cave.

I have since bought shoes in a constant stream, from all over the world.

A little selection from China and India
Once, on a visit to Shanghai, I bought twenty pairs – and I was only there for a few days. 

I’ve bought hand-made silk shoes, and glittery shoes, and complicated shoe boots; black shoes and blue shoes and pink shoes; unbranded cheapies from market stalls; and designer ‘look at me’ numbers from high-end stores – and I love them all. 

Making their debut at RWAus15


My last trip to New York two years ago netted me a pair of high heels in ginger that are still waiting for their first outing (I’m seeing their debut at the Romance Writers of Australia’s 2015 conference). 

 And don’t get me started on the collection I amassed while living in the Middle East, where shopping is a national pastime and my heels climbed higher than ever before – oh those halcyon days!

Perfect present from a friend who knows me well

Needless to say, The Hon is no longer giving me any encouragement whatsoever! In fact, he’s encouraging me in quite the opposite direction.

During our morning walk today, he actively steered me away from looking at a pair of sneakers because ‘you already have so many pairs’. Short, sharp argument ensued over that! 

My faves, heavy on the glam
A little like the short sharp argument that ensued three nights ago when we walked past my 'local' and I dropped a hint or two about Christmas coming up and how ideal the fabulous pair of cork-soled wedges in the window were for a Sydney summer. That one required intervention from our daughter @KdeR, who gave him very short shrift and told him to just give in and get on with buying the shoes. (That’s my girl!)

Some of the 'brands' - wish I could photograph them all!

I guess The Hon’s view is that when I was working in corporate public relations, there was at least some justification for the glamorous footwear. But now that I’m a writer, have stopped earning real money (sigh), and am sitting behind a computer all day wearing airline pyjamas, should I be returning to thongs and Uggs?



Well, you might think so – but you’d be wrong.

You see, the weirdest thing happened a few months ago. My hobbit feet and bulging calves decided to mutiny against my new habit of sock wearing and sneaker donning. They started aching every time I started walking for more than five minutes in flat shoes. They didn’t even care if I was wearing my ultra-glam Avril Tremayne custom-printed Converse sneakers. They wanted heels, dammit, and they were going to keep complaining until I gave them heels!


So now you can imagine me, sitting hunched over the keyboard, hair unbrushed, no make-up, crappy twenty dollar glasses bought from a pharmacy slipping off my nose, pyjama-clad…

But with my feet looking amazing under the desk in their six-inch splendiferous heels!

Because it's Christmas... some of my tree decorations

And although I have two new books coming out in February, in honour of shoes and shoe lovers everywhere, this month I’m shining the spotlight on my first Harlequin Kiss book, Here Comes The Bridesmaid, with its shoe designer heroine, the absolutely fabulous Sunshine Smart. 

(And you can bet she would never be caught dead looking at a pair of sneakers, Mr Tremayne!):

Can she make organizing her friend's wedding any harder?
  1. Sunshine Smart has only got two months until the big day!
  2. She has to include the grouchy, surly best man Leo Quartermaine—a top chef and her complete opposite!
  3. Said best man is extremely handsome and sexy—and knows it!
  4. He has no interest in decor, flowers, clothes or shoes…but has an uninformed opinion on all four!
  5. And just a few days in she's already slept with him. Rookie mistake...
To find out more about Avril, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Riding the Writing Roller Coaster: Getting Ready to Ride in 2015


For her final Pink Heart Society column this year, Barbara Wallace shares a few tips for Riding The Writing Roller Coaster in 2015.

And so our ride on the writing roller coaster draws to an end for 2014.  Of course, anyone who’s plugged away in this industry for a while knows that the ride never really ends – not with the first completed manuscript, not with publication, not even with the bestseller list. The best we can do is buckle ourselves in, hang on tight, and hope the twists and turns don’t make us too sick to our stomachs.

As you get ready to ride the 2015 version, here are few end-of-the-ride reminders:
  • It’s all about the writing.  Careers are built by writing one quality story after another.  Don’t let yourself be distracted by all the outside “noise”.
  •  
  • Furthermore, you can’t control the writing gods.  You can’t make a publisher read your submission faster.   You can’t force a contest judge to place you in the finals.  You can’t make readers give only five star reviews. The only things you can control during this ride are yourself and your writing.
  • Stay true to your own timetable and goals – don’t be led astray by news that an editor is acquiring or a market is hot.  Unless that is, that market/editor is something that you really want.  Remember, the ride is for life.  Once on a certain track, you are there for a while.  So unless you want to write a lot of paranormal erotica or series romance , don’t jump aboard the bandwagon.
  •  
  • Do not compare your ride to the roller coaster to anyone else’s.  It’s difficult not to get frustrated or thrown off track when you hear about others’ success.  Remember, in this industry successes are trumpeted loudly while failures are kept quiet.  Don’t wrongly assume you’re the only one suffering setbacks or rejections.  Others are too, they simply aren’t sharing.
  • Know why you want to write.  (Remember February’s discussion about personal GMC?) Understand your underlying motivations.  I cannot stress this lesson enough.
     
  • No matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid failure.  Everyone fails in life.  The only way to avoid it for certain, is to never attempt anything in the first place.  Which means avoiding life itself.  Never forget, you are stronger than you think. Thousands of wannabe writers never get beyond talking about riding the roller coaster.  The fact you are here, putting words on the page is a testimony to your fortitude. 
  • Understand your psyche’s fragile spots, and honor them.  Do not force yourself to do anything that puts you in a dark place.
  • Finally, never forget all you’ve accomplished. Make sure you lavish as much attention on the positive steps in your career as you do the negative.
Nothing in the columns I wrote this year was particularly original.  Truth is, most of it was plain old common sense.   Problem is, when we’re in the middle of plunging down a hill or chugging up a new one, it’s easy to get tunnel vision.  We simply need someone to remind us from time to time of what we already know. Consider yourself reminded.  :-)

Now, go enjoy your holidays and get ready for the ride 2015 has in store.  May it be full of more ups than downs, and may the tracks lead you to where you want to go.  Just keep the safety bar down and your hands and feet in the car at all times….

Speaking of planning - I'll be back next year.  What sort of topics would you like to see discussed? Do you want more talk about Writing Demons or would you prefer something else?  Share your thoughts below.
Happy Holidays!

Barbara Wallace is published with both Harlequin and Entangled Publishing. Look for her new Harlequin Romance series "Dating the Boss" coming this summer.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Talk-Time - Getting Up Again

Today, Ali Williams is looking at those things that help you get back up, and thanking her lucky stars that her journey brought her to the Pink Heart Society.

Usually I spend my posts gurgling along about romance and intersectionality and all the happy delightful things that make up my life - which are many.  I'm a pretty chirpy person.

This is not - exactly - one of those posts.

Two years ago, over Christmas, I had what I'm pretty certain was my worst panic attack.  I can't even remember what triggered it, but I do remember crying and shaking in a heap on the floor of the kitchen.

I was in the midst of a nervous breakdown.  It had started with the odd panic-y moment here or there and culminated in between 4 and 5 panic attacks a day, every day.  

I comfort ate.  I binge-watched entire television series in a weekend (which I still do, but now because I <3 them as opposed to because it's an escape).  I stopped doing anything even remotely creative in my life.  

I stopped reading.

And even after that panic attack, two years ago, it took nearly two months before I could bring myself to do something about it.

So I quit my job, moved back home and for about two months spent every waking moment searching for a job - any job - that wouldn't send me back into that spiral of depression.

But why am I talking about this now?

Everyone has crappy times.  Many people have had far worse experiences that I will ever go have.  But sometimes I think it's important to stop and appreciate the things that helped us get back up.  So this is me, appreciating my go-to get-back-up things:

Family and Friends

This is pretty standard, no matter who you ask.  It's those around you that lend you the strength to get up and carry on.  And I''ve got the best damn support group.

Whether that's friends humouring me in my determination to take as many pictures of men reading Mills & Boon books as possible, or a family that's half-Italian and half-Irish and delights in attempting to feed me half to death, they're vital.  


Writing

This is pretty personal to me.  Fed up of not having done anything creative in nearly a year, I started blogging and reviewing romance novels.  It was taking a step into the unknown for me, worlds apart from writing poetry in tattered notebooks, and the first time that other people got to see my writing style.

I'm so damn pleased that I did this, it's opened so many doors and especially as it led me here, to the Pink Heart Society and to a community that's so funny, intelligent and caring. 

The Ellen Show's YouTube Channel

Whether it's a giveaway for a good cause, or celebrating the talents of all and sundry, these videos help me appreciate just how nice people can be.  Plus, adorable kids!!



Mock Karaoke

Namely me, a hairbrush and my iPod, dancing around my living room like a wild thing to a playlist of Guns 'n' Roses, Bruno Mars and McFly.  Particularly if said playlist includes the best medley I've ever seen live (and yes, I was actually at this performance):


Being a Superfan

And I started reading again.  I turned back to romance novels and discovered heroes and heroines who are strong and sassy and who overcome the things that hold them back.   

That's why I read romance.

So yeah.

I got back up and I'm staying up.

What or who do you turn to when you need help getting back up? 

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 coercingmale 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!