Saturday, January 05, 2008

Findaboo 2008:: A Book With Biddy



Here at The Pink Heart Society last year we launched our FinDaBoo project aka Finish The Damn Book and over the year we had lots of helpful advice from authors about the gentle art of writing Category Romance. You guys seemed to like it... so it's back again this year... With a special new friend...


On the first Saturday of every month we'll have our FinDaBoo post with a Blog from an author on writing and staying motivated. And this year we're adding an extra feature in the form of A Book With Biddy.


Biddy is an aspiring author just like so many of our FinDaBoo-ers and once a month for the whole year she's going to Blog a frank and honest account of how her writing is going - the good, the bad and the slumped head against keyboard days. So we hope you'll all make her feel very welcome and that you'll be here with us cheering her on from the sidelines as she attempts to FinDaBoo in 2008 - Over to Biddy:


Hi I’m Biddy and I’m a struggling writer. Well actually I am Brigid Coady, a non-techie IT consultant, country music radio presenter, voice-over artist, daughter, sister, friend AND struggling non-published writer. Because lets be honest, when you say you are a writer everyone asks if you have had anything published. You sheepishly say no and watch their interest in it go out the window. So as a result everything else I do seem to be the labels that comes before the whole writer thing. But that doesn’t mean that is where it is in my world. No, in my world it is one of the front runners, up there with country music radio presenter (and I suppose I should say daughter, sister and friend but you know it has just been Christmas and I am feeling rather gorged on that stuff…) And I can tell you the non-techie IT consultant straggles in at the end but it pays the bills so at the moment that is what I am 8.30 to 5.

I have always written. Well except for a time about ten years ago when it fell of the radar, and it wasn’t until I went to a counsellor to sort out my stress problem did I realise what I had been missing. But when did I decide I wanted to add writer as a label?

It was the beginning of 2003, I wanted to write romance and so instead of writing I searched the web and discovered eHarlequin, Harlequin’s online community of writers. And suddenly I had a whole host of new friends and ways to not write. So now almost five years later I have some great friends, have been to some great writing related parties (join the RNA or your nearest Romance Writer's group it is the way to go!) and am still not published.

But this is a new year, 2008 is all sparkly and clean with no marks on it (if we can just over look that incident in the early hours of New Years Day or call it a good idea or even research). So 2008 is sparkly and clean with no marks on it from a WRITING point of view. In fact it is wonderful because at 4.28(ish)pm GMT on Monday 31st December 2007 I placed (with a kiss and a prayer) a requested partial for my Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern Heat book in the post box.

So how did I get a requested partial? We have to roll back to this time last year when a requested partial wasn’t even a spark in my eye. One of my New Years resolutions was to finish a book. Yes I hadn’t even finished a book, lots of half started manuscripts littering my central London flat but nothing complete. But before the whole writing lark for the year I had all these wonderful writing related social activities to go to!!

The first was Abby Green’s book launch in Dublin in January. This event was a great way to start a writing year. Not just due to the raging hangover I had from Abby’s pre-book launch tour of Dublin’s finest hostelries that caused the actual launch to be seen through a haze of the hair of the dog that bit me. It was great due to my meeting with some old friends like Kate Walker and Abby Green and various M&B editors but also meeting new friends like Trish Wylie (oh and Maeve Binchy which was cool but she doesn’t keep in touch).

As the year went on and I was lucky enough to be invited to a celebration for Kate Walker’s 50th Book I had a bit of a shock. Looking around that room I realised that of my little gang of unpublished writers who I met back in 2003, I was the only one unpublished. In fact I was the only one without even an unfinished manuscript under my belt. That was when I started feel an impostor… what right did I have to call myself a writer? And as I realised another September was only three months away and I had two M&B authors staying with me to go to the annual AMBA champagne reception… without me, well something had to change.

At about the same time all this was going on I got an email from an editor at Harlequin Mills & Boon. Would I, as an avid fan of M&B, be interested in being part of Radio 4’s documentary for Mills & Boon’s centenary? Would I hell? I jumped at the chance. And then it dawned on me. Here I was friends with M&B authors (in fact unofficial B&B to M&B authors) known by M&B editors (they have my email address!) and I have never tried to write for them… You’ll realise as this year goes on that I can be a little slow. Hints, signs and the like pass me by unless they are like New Years Eve fireworks and someone has jabbed me in the stomach and pointed me in the right direction. But even I noticed this one.

So as my present IT contract was coming to an end I decided to take August off and write a book. No excuses. No procrastination. Well maybe a little bit. And I had a goal; to get the first chapter in to a competition being run by M&B with Lewisham Libraries. So Kate Walker’s 12-Point Guide to Writing Romance clutched in my hand and the latest guidelines for Modern Heat I set off on my journey. And you know something it was fun! I’m a project manager by training so I did my research, divided the month up into work packages (i.e. chapters) and set off. I promised myself that I could write complete rubbish and not care. When I got stuck I could skip ahead and not worry.

Well it kind of went to plan… some days it was just easier to watch television or read a book and who am I kidding about being a good project manager? That work package thing was the first to go! But by 5th September I was finished and the first chapter was somewhere in Richmond being read. So what do you do when that happens? Yes you drink champagne!! At every opportunity! Celebrate every milestone I say!

About a week later it was the results of the competition and sitting in the meeting room with all the other nervous entrants waiting for the editors to deliver the news I realised I wanted to win. Quite desperately I wanted to win. You can tell I’m just a tad competitive can’t you?

Well it wasn’t a storybook ending; I didn’t win… BUT I was short-listed. And crucially I had some feedback from the editorial team and they said these magic words… we love your voice AND send in a partial. And yes more champagne was consumed after that I can tell you.

Good yes? It got better. Much much better.

That AMBA reception I mentioned… well I had to pick up my guests. Can’t have some of your best-loved authors wandering the streets of London so I sacrificed myself. While loitering outside I was spotted by Karin Stoecker, Harlequin Mills & Boon Editorial Director who announced she had read my first chapter. I started to shake. She then demanded I send in my partial ASAP and that they loved my voice. Blimey. Isn’t this what happens to other people? As I wafted out on a cloud of wonder I would like to say I celebrated with champagne yet again but I can’t.

Just when you would think I would be top of the world, champagne flowing, I wasn’t. You see your body isn’t always a team player and mine decided to throw in the towel for a while around the end of September. Which meant that much as I wanted to revise my first three chapters and send them off I was in no state to do it. And as I was shaking off the illness I started to get depressed. There was no new contract in the offing and I was worried about money. Anytime I had I should be spending looking for work not writing. And was I really good enough? Was I wasting my time?

Luckily for me I had the world’s best break in November. I had a press pass for the CMA (Country Music Association) Awards in Nashville!! It was heaven and I got to ask Kenny Chesney a question, which he answered! And as he had to look at me as he answered he now knows I exist so I expect the wedding to happen at some point in the next six months! After that it was a weekend shopping with the girls in New York. If that doesn’t reset your stress levels I don’t what will.

Then the week I got back I got a new contract and went to the RNA Winter Party! See this writing lark is just social event after social event! So there I was at the party chatting happily to Fiona Harper when this small Canadian dynamo accosted me. It was Karin Stoecker again demanding to know why I hadn’t sent my partial in. She’d noticed? As I got my excuses lined up she told me that I had a great voice and I shouldn’t waste it and she wanted to be at one of these social events and be buying me champagne because she’d bought my book!

Everyone should have that shot in the arm. Although when Fiona Harper then told me it was now up to me I started to groan. This means I have to do something. Me. Why I can’t just fall asleep and wake up to find the writing fairies have visited I don’t know!

So that is why on Monday 31st December 2007 at 4.28(ish) pm I was sending off a requested partial. It also meant I was actually allowed to go to my sister’s New Year’s Eve Party and guess how I celebrated?? Yes pink champagne!

What will happen in 2008? Who knows but the hopefully you’ll join me here every month and help me celebrate all my achievements, give me cyber chocolate for any set backs and listen to my rants and recriminations. Trish has likened it to a reality TV crew in my writing world; I hope that won’t make you change channels.



Biddy

So are you planning to FinDaBoo in 2008? If you are then let us know!!! And don't forget to pop by here on the first Saturday of every month for FinDaBoo tips and an update from A Book With Biddy to see how she's doing as well as our Writer's Wednesday posts when we'll have a host of subjects throughout the year!



If you want to check in on Biddy between posts then you can pop over to her Blog.



GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!! We're RIGHT HERE BEHIND YOU!!!







HAMPER WINNER:

To round off last year we had a few books for you to win in our last hamper* until our birthday next September. And hopefully starting off a better year for our winner Nat D we have:

Nicola Marsh - The wonderful Romance book Princess Australia

Natasha Oakley - 'Accepting The Boss's Proposal' and 'Mothers-To-Be' (a UK Mothers' Day anthology with novellas from Julia James, Natasha and Amy Andrews).

Trish Wylie - A copy each of her new 2008 releases, the Modern Heat book His Mistress: His Terms and the Harlequin Romance Her One And Only Valentine

Donna Alward - A large print copy of Hired By The Cowboy her hard to find first release from 2007

Kate Walker - A copy of her wonderful Harlequin Presents book The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife

Heidi Rice - Her fabulous second Modern Heat The Mile High Club (which Trish tells us is great read!)

Kate Hardy - the lovely Kate is donating her Medical book The Doctor's Very Special Christmas

Liz Fielding - the book nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for 2007 The Secret Life Of Lady Gabriella (CONGRATULATIONS LIZ!)

Margaret McDonagh - a copy of the gorgeous Christmas Weddings anthology (which contains her Medical Romance story "Their Christmas Vows" along with a Modern story by Carole Mortimer and a Romance by Shirley Jump)

So Nat just email us at thepinkheartsociety@hotmail.com with your addy and we'll pop all these goodies in the post for you!!!

*And don't forget to visit regularly as we offer spot prizes throughout the month!

Friday, January 04, 2008

Film on Friday - Jane Eyre

This week Donna Alward talks to us about the latest version of one of her favourite books of all time.... Jane Eyre!



I'd heard lots of good things about this version (which is a Masterpiece Theatre production) and so I bought it over the holiday and watched it on New Year's Eve. The cover, btw, isn't that evocative, so I was hoping the chemistry would show itself throughout.


I was not disappointed. While a few liberties were taken with the story, it has been sufficiently long enough since I read it that I didn't really notice. And I admit that I was anxiously waiting to get past the childhood segment and into the love story.



Toby Stephens was delicious. Another confession - I did not really like Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff was wayyyy too brooding and uncompromising for me. Perhaps what he was missing was a sense of humour. I've always preferred Jane Eyre. And Stephens's portrayal of Rochester was gorgeous - an alpha all the way but he also teased Jane which I loved.


Rochester: There you are! You're back! Ungrateful thing, I give you leave for a week and you're gone a whole month! I want my money back, since you have me so little in your thoughts.


Jane : I said I was going to be gone for as long as I was needed. And I was. And you still owe me wages.


He had a very human side. And Jane (Ruth Wilson)was lovely. When Rochester tells her that she has a way of looking at him that doesn't judge, it is too right and we thrill to see that look over and over again.



And never - I mean never - has a man stroking a woman's neck been so SEXY.



When we get to the end and he realizes she's come back to him it is stunning. He CRIES. *happy sigh* And he has such power behind his emotions, yet Jane is his equal match:


Rochester: Jane, I want a wife. I want a wife, not a nursemaid to look after me. I want a wife to share my bed every night. All day if we wish. If I can't have that, I'd rather die. We're not the platonic sort, Jane.


[Takes his face in her hands as she faces him] Can you see me? [Rochester nods yes] Then hear this Edward. Your life is not yours to give up. It is mine. All mine. And I forbid it.


And I have to add that Toby Stephens reminds me very much of Damian Lewis so that was a win/win for me.


All told it is a very good adaptation and I give it a 9/10 warm and fuzzy rating for the satisfactory ending factor alone!

Thursday Talk Time - Favourite Category Romance



This Thursday at The Pink Heart Society we have Natalie Anderson to tell us all about her favourite Category Romance...



My Favourite Category Romance is…

Now isn’t that just the most impossible sentence to complete? It is simply impossible to sift through all those favourites to just one – like trying to pick the best in a box of chocolates. It all depends on mood, season, appetite, the stars… any sort of whimsy! So, of course, I am going to have to cheat.

I’m not even going to bother with recent books – there are so many wonderful ‘keepers’ and I refuse to start a list that would be unending anyway – for fear of missing many out! Instead, as it’s the start of the Mills & Boon centenary year, I thought I’d go back to the first Mills & Boon novels I ever read.

In a box on my mother’s landing, is a collection of about 60 books that my grandmother kept – and that we then kept after her death nearly 20 years ago. A voracious reader, across genres, she was a true romantic and a true M&B fan – often reading one or two a night and scouring libraries and second hand bookstores for ones she hadn’t read. And I read all her favourites, lying on her spare bed – all of them more than once.
So to research my ‘favourite’ category romance book I got Mum to bring that box to my place – bad move because I then reread every single one and ignored my own work for quite a few days! But it was great fun – those books had fostered my desire to travel, my love of reading, of writing and yes, that wonderful ideal of finding a life partner – a life long lover – Mr Tall, Dark & Handsome, enigmatic and strong please!
So these old books are ALL my favourites – let me explain why…

First off: the locations – in particular Africa and small Spanish islands. The wonderful descriptions, the sense of colour, and the adventure had me yearning to travel to these warm, lush locations where anything seemed possible (even meeting my Mr TD&H right?)

The sky reminded her of a sapphire bathed in milk, and the distant trees, which apparently surrounded the settlement, were thinly veiled by a mist which softened their strident green into a hue which vaguely reminded her of leafy roads in England. The houses were white and square and neatly thatched with banana leaves; each had its small veranda overlooking a flower-bed, but there were no fences, no gardens.
- "Plantation Doctor" by Kathryn Blair (1962)

For more than half an hour their conversation was of this amazing country of Mozambique. Gwen gazed, entranced, at groups of palms, at grasses six feet high, at undulating acres of waving green sugar cane, at dense plantations of bananas and pineapples. "The Golden Rose" by Kathryn Blair (1962)

The settings themselves contrast, foreshadow and reflect the relationships – the humid sleepless nights, the tropical storms, the fevers of body and heart as both malaria and love strike! (I’m a sucker for those ones where she gets the fever/has some calamitous accident and he carries her for miles to safety and then guards/cares for her round the clock until she’s in the clear – he does all this with a kind of savage fury – angry that she allowed herself to end up in such a position (if only she’d listened to him and done as he said!).


Take this example from "Whispering Palms" by Rosalind Brett (1963):

He saw her then, a small, slight figure clinging to the great exposed roots of a tree and feebly waving an arm and he splashed towards her.
"Dios!" he said under his breath, and lifted her against him, For endless moments Lesley was rigid, her face hot against his cold wet shirt; then suddenly she crumpled and quivered, murmured a cracked, "Fernando!" and bean to shake like an aspen.
He stood it for about thirty seconds; then he took a grip on her shoulders. "Enough!" he said harshly. "We have to get to the other bank…"
[he gets her safely across the treacherous river and to his house]
W
ithin a few minutes they were in his bedroom, and he was calmly and swiftly taking off sandals and unfastening the back of her frock.
"Don’t," she whispered. "I want to go home."
Through his teeth he said, "You are going to bed, little one, and the doctor is coming. Neville has gone to fetch him now."
She raised her hands as if to press her face into them and it was then that he saw the palms, red and swollen with purple lacerations where the thorns had torn the flesh. He took one of them into his own hands and at last looked into her colorless, ravaged face. Hs nostrils dilated, his eyes blazed and his mouth became a thin hard line. Without a word he ripped her frock right down the back and thrust it open her shoulders and onto the floor. A bath towel enveloped her, a suit of pyjamas was taken from a drawer and tossed on to the bed.
"I will give you two minutes," he said curtly and went out of the room.
Even in her state of stress Lesley knew that he meant it. Fumblingly she got out of the wet undergarments and into blue silk pyjamas which were so big that her feet could not find the floor…. Fernando was back… He took up the towel and sat beside her on the bed, and he seemed to put all the anger he couldn’t speak into that savage rubbing of her hair and scalp....

When I went on my ‘OE’ (overseas experience – a mandatory voyage for Kiwis in their early twenties) – I did go to Africa and to Spain and loved my time in both – even though as a soft-hearted vegetarian there were experiences that were hard for me to swallow sometimes! (I’ve never eaten so many baked beans cold, straight from the can, as my time in Africa!!!). And no, I didn’t find my strong, silent Mr T, D & H nor anyone to speak commandingly to me in faintly ‘alien’ tones. I found Mr T, D & H in London and he spoke with humour in the broad accent of my own country folk.


But enough digressing, back to the books!

The heroine was generally young and sweet and unsophisticated – ‘unawakened’ in terms of love and loving. Well the hero thought she was unawakened – of course the poor girl was suffering terribly over him and determined never to let him know it:

She was as capable as any other woman of disguising her sensitiveness with cool indifference. At least, she would be in a few minutes, when she had recovered from the shock. "Full Tide" by Celine Conway (1964)

The hero has an immediate and devastating impact – often negative,

She turned around with sudden awareness, stared unbelievingly at the tall, dark, debonair man who stood watching her as though she were some unusual but interesting type of domestic pet….
"Good afternoon," she said, firmly quelling the flurry in her veins. "I expect you want my uncle."
"The Golden Rose" by Kathryn Blair (1962)

And so the clash begins between the autocratic man used to being in control and the young woman newly freed into adulthood and overflowing with ideals and good intentions.

He was deep, this Dr Sinclair… But no, you couldn’t imagine him bothering at all with women, let alone allowing one of them to shape his future. Lyn had never before encountered a man so entirely self-sufficient and coolly charming. His attitude set him above the other men; he was arrogant, yet without conceit, imperturbable to a tantalizing degree, yet capable of swift decisive action – as witness his abduction of her from Cape Bandu. And more aggravating than any of these qualities was the conviction that he would never permit himself to get angry. Disapproving maybe, or coldly aloof, but never fiery and furious as Lyn had been with him yesterday… "Plantation Doctor" by Kathryn Blair (1962)

Often there’s also some charming, terribly sophisticated, incredibly beautiful other woman whom the heroine thinks the hero is all for and then there might be a dissipated young man who leans on the steadfast friendship of our solid heroine – much to our hero’s displeasure and jealousy!

When trying to set up a path to guide her towards him, she thwarts his every angle – because she’s battling to protect herself. He’s the ultimate alpha male – so used to being in control of everything – not least himself! Suddenly confronted by the ‘slip of a girl’ who turns his neatly ordered, managed life – and emotions – into chaos.


Tall, enigmatic, masterful he’s the strong, silent and often sarcastic type.

She looked up at him, and what she took for a faint sneer at the corners of his mouth made her ache to say something which would stab… To Lisa just then Mark’s face looked cruel; tanned, tight-jawed and tyrannical. "Full Tide" by Celine Conway

She rebels against his commands, demands and domineering personality, and against the extent to which he can affect her. She fights her love, fearing it will never be returned – he is in another league from her, he’ll never settle, she thinks he’s in love with another… and so she drives him away just as he’s trying (in his forceful way) to get close.

Possibly it was the first time in his life that Renaldo had been dismissed by a woman. He stiffened, bowed, and was gone from the range of her vision. She heard his car start up and reverse on to the road at speed; then he was gone, and Gwen found herself slumped against the house wall in a soundless surrender to grief.
"The Golden Rose" by Kathryn Blair (1962)

Ultimately there’s some sort of showdown – an event or meeting in which declarations are made. She realises the extent to which she has power over him – the power they have over each other – to make them desperately unhappy, or divinely happy. Fortunately, they go for the latter.

"You’re still angry."
"The remedy for that is in your hands," he said.
For a further minute or two she leaned against him, still trembling with excitement and incredulity. But soon she was able to raise her head, to look into his narrowed, leaping eyes, to hold his face tenderly in his hands and kiss his lips tenderly and warmly.
A flush replaced the pallor and her eyes shone up at him, blue and very deep.
"Say it Lyn," he begged. "Even if it isn’t true yet, say it."
"I love you," she said. "I love you – and it’s absolutely true."

"Plantation Doctor" by Kathryn Blair (1962)

While today’s heroine might be less innocent (mine generally are!) they still have that spirit and ‘pluck’ in common with their sisters of the romance novels of forty years ago. They share that sense of adventure and that contrariness that makes them stand up to the man who might be trying to dictate to them – even if he’s working from the best of intentions, even if he happens to be right! Independence and dependability are often her biggest character traits – both as strengths, both weaknesses.

This is what I love most about category romance – old, new and across the lines – that wonderful rollercoaster of a ride as a relationship begins – bumpy as anything –
while the hero and heroine strive to endure, overcome and sweep aside the challenges that stand in their way. They have to grow, to reassess their suddenly changing worlds and selves. It’s that lurch from the horrible angst of vulnerability and uncertainty to the joy when at the end, all is resolved – happy ever after!

If ever you get the chance to read one of the ‘classic’ Mills & Boon novels of the past – take it, they’re GREAT!

But if you don’t have access to any of the old ones, how about a newbie? If you’d like to win a copy of my Australia/NZ release, BEDDED BY ARRANGEMENT, leave a comment telling me the most exotic destination you’ve read about in a Mills & Boon that you’d love to travel to!

Happy reading!

Natalie has two releases in January – ALL NIGHT WITH THE BOSS is out in North America as a Harlequin Presents Special Release while BEDDED BY ARRANGEMENT is out in OZ/NZ as a Sexy Sensation. If you’re in the UK don’t fret! You can get her third book MISTRESS UNDER CONTRACT online from M&B (http://www.millsandboon.co.uk/) now or pick it up from the shelves in February!


Swing by her web (http://www.natalie-anderson.com) or blog (http://www.natalie-anderson.blogspot.com) anytime and say hi. She’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - New Beginnings



Being January 2nd and the start of a brand new year here at The Pink Heart Society the lovely Bronwyn Jameson is here to talk about new beginnings...which she says is particularly fitting because her new book VOWS & A VENGEFUL GROOM is the launch title in a brand new continuity from Silhouette Desire titled DIAMONDS DOWN UNDER...



How do you feel about the start of something new? I'd love to say I find beginnings -- to a new year, a new career, a new kind of book, a new project -- exciting and empowering and exhilarating. And I do…mostly. Except when the new start means letting go something old and much loved, which can be difficult and sad and at times straight-out terrifying.

I love the start of a new year because of the symbolic clean slate. It’s lovely to look back on the past year’s achievements and to consider what I learned from the mistakes. That’s much more positive than considering them failures. I like setting new goals -- hate resolutions; love goals! – because with them comes the opportunity to shed old, bad habits in favour of a stronger, healthier (mentally as much as physically) me. I also love the start of a new year for the fireworks and champagne, but that's digressing. J

Even more than starting a new year, I love starting a new writing project. I adore the process of developing an idea, of adding substance to the initial shadowy characters and conflicts. I love deciding on settings and jobs and other externals, and linking them to character and conflict. I love all the thinking and building and get tingly buzzes of excitement when the internal and external connect in (what I think is) a clever way.

You might have guessed from that statement that I’m a plotter not a pantser. Actually I’m an over-plotter. I wish I could just dive in and start writing and discover my story through the places my characters take me. That would be such beautiful bliss.

But, alas, I am not good at starting to write. When it comes to typing that first sentence to start the story, just hand me the Olympic gold in procrastination and be done with it. I can write a book of excuses for not starting in the time it takes me to get that first scene down. I actually prefer writing the synopsis -- yes, shock, horror!!!--to chapter one.

It's not that I don't know where to start. I always have the inciting incident, the point of change. I know what throws my hero and heroine together and how they'll react. I’ve GMCed them to within an inch of their lives.

My problem is coming up with The Opening Line. (Capitalised because of the significance and importance.) Some writers are brilliant with openers. Sadly, I am not one of them. Often during the plotting and thinking stage I will come up with what I think is a decent opening, but when I start writing it doesn’t work. At least not as line one.

I think this is just me and my personal need to set up that golden line...kind of like the punchline of a joke. It's all about the timing. A few sentences setting character, situation, setting, and then kapow! Hit ‘em with the punchline. Other authors do brilliantly by opening with the killer line, and one of these days I swear I am going to join them!

While thinking about starts, I recalled that old adage: Start as you aim to continue. I think that’s applicable to the start of a year or a project or a book or a day, don’t you? It covers everything from attitude to tone to commitment. I have this scene checklist. I don’t use it for every scene; I don’t consult it before starting a new scene; but that’s partly because it’s buried somewhere in my writer’s psyche. I think I subconsciously run the check, and one of the items on it is “dominant tone”. I want to start a scene – or a book – in the dominant tone with which I aim to continue.

So, what do you love about new starts and how do you like to start a new project? Do you plunge right in or do you test the water one toe at a time? Are you a plotter, do you collage, conduct character interviews…or do you need nothing more than a starting situation to launch you into chapter one?

There’s a copy of VOWS & A VENGEFUL GROOM, Bronwyn’s brand new book, as a giveaway to one of the commenters, to be drawn January 3.

Visit the website at http://www.diamonds-downunder.com/ for the skinny of this unique author-led series and for the chance to win some fabulous prizes including editor critiques and a diamond pendant. Jewellery and a chance to sidestep the slush pile -- what more could a writing gal want?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Temptation Tuesday :: New Year's Resolutions

Are you tempted to make a resolution this year? Wondering if resolving to change something can alter your life? Read on for the most popular resolutions, and how to avoid throwing them out before the end of the week.

Every year we get a fresh start, a new chance to live the life we want. The new year gives us a clean slate, a year in which we haven't consumed a carton of chocolate ice cream in one sitting, one where we exercised every day, found time to laugh with our loved ones, and finally started writing that book we are meant to. And that is just January first!!

Everyone is terribly sincere about their resoultions, and yet we make the same ones each year. Everyone wants to ::



* Exercise more.
* Losing weight is the most common resolution.
* Quit smoking.
* Quit drinking.
* Enjoy life more.
* Get out of debt.
* Learn a new skill.
* Volunteer.
* Get organized.
* Half of Americans vow each year to spend more time with family and friends.

So, how can we make this year the last time we resolve to do something, and instead actually do it? Here are some hints.

FOCUS ON JUST ONE THING. If it is weight loss, leave the organization for the summer. Let your new goal be your focus.

BE SPECIFIC. We all want to lose weight, but how much and by when? Set a goal. If you want to volunteer look for a program that makes it easy for you and your lifestyle. And get started right away.

REALLY WANT IT. If you like spending money on shoes, even if it makes your credit card bill as terrifying as cottage cheese thighs in a bikini, odds are you won't stick to the resolution. Look inside and find something you want to change, not something you think you should.

DON'T BRING OUT THE WHIP. If you beat yourself up too badly over every slip up, you'll be less likely to stick with it. If you get a cold and don't exercise for a week, you are not a bad person who can't commit to anything more than a houseplant. You are a person who'll start exercising again as soon as you can breathe without wheezing. And that is okay.

DISTRACT YOUSELF. If your every waking thought is about not smoking, cigarettes will forever be on your mind. Instead, have a plan for what you'll do when you get the urge. Gum, hard candies, medication, whatever it is you need to succeed. Those with a shoe fetish, I don't think there is a medication available yet, but an at home pedi works nicely.

If you stick to these strategies you'll find acheiving your goal is actually atainable. Your resolution will be completed, not a yearly attempt at a better life. Who knows, next year we may all need a new set of resolutions because of how amazing we've made our lives in 2008!

Confession time :: WHAT IS YOUR RESOLUTION FOR 2008?








Jenna is hard at work on her next title for Mills & Boon Modern Extra. In the meantime, check out her website, blog, or reading group, We Call It Research.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Male On Monday :: New Year's Dream Dates

This is it, your last chance to take a twirl around the dance floor and get swept up in a kiss at midnight with your dream date. When you close your eyes and give in to temptation, who is it you wish were picking you up this New Year's Eve?

There are so many to choose from, and since this is a fantasy, why in the world would we pick just one?

Let's begin our evening with Eduardi Verastegui playing some soothing Spanish guitar...

Watch Channing Tatum get dressed for the evening, because it really matters which style of underwear he selects...



We'll have drinks with James Bond, er, Pierce Brosnan...


And then another with Jason Lewis...







Before all that alcohol goes to our heads, we'd better have something to eat. Perhaps Rocco DiSpirito will show up at our table...





Chris Noth is at the restaurant as well, so we have to chat him up and get all the info on the Sex and the City movie. He tells all, as long as we keep it between us...


Since a half hour has gone by since eating, we cool off by surfing with Matthew McConaughey...





And then...


Come on now...you finish the tale! Who would you like to end the evening with? (Why do I think this will be a battle between the Richard Armitage army and the Hugh in a towel die hards?)






Jenna is hard at work on her next title for Mills & Boon Modern Extra. In the meantime, check out her website, blog, or reading group, We Call It Research.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Weekend Wind Down :: Party Planning


It's almost here...the night where everyone takes a moment to celebrate the New Year. Some do it by getting dressed up and sashaying about town, others by cuddling on the couch and watching the world celebrate on television. Whether you are at one extreme or another, these cocktail recipes will be a sure hit - whether your party is for two or fifty-two...

Pink Champagne Cocktail

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

70g Raspberries
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1-2 drops rose water
1 tsp almond-flavoured liqueur, such as Amaretto
1 bottle of pink Champagne, chilled

Method:

1. Mash the raspberries well with a fork, stir in the mint and put a teaspoon of this mixture into the bottom of each glass.

2. Add the Rose Water and Amaretto, stir well and top up with the chilled champagne. Serve immediately.

With love from

Trish

Mulled Wine


Servings: 12

Ingredients:

2 bottles Red wine
150ml green ginger wine
150ml water
50g Sugar
1 small orange
3 tsp Cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 a nutmeg

Method:

1. Pour the wine, ginger wine and water into a large saucepan. Add the sugar and mix in well.

2. Stud the orange with cloves and add to the wine with the cinnamon and nutmeg.

3. Heat gently for about 15 minutes without boiling. Serve the hot mulled wine in heat-resistant glasses.

With love from
Natasha


Long Island Iced Tea
Ingredients:
1 Part vodka
1 part tequila
1 part rum
1 part gin
1 part triple sec
1 1/2 parts sweet and sour mix
1 splash Coca-Cola

Method:

1. Mix ingredients together over ice in a glass. Pour into a shaker and give one brisk shake. Pour back into the glass and make sure there is a touch of fizz at the top. Garnish with lemon.

With love from
Ally

Sugar & Spice

Method:



(a 'mocktail' for all those wanting to bring in 2008 with a clear head :) )

1. Rim a heatproof Irish coffee glass with cinnamon sugar

2. Add 11/2 oz.of chocolate milk

3. 1 oz. of mint- flavoured syrup

4. a pinch EACH of powdered ginger and cinnamon

5. top with hot coffee( decaf if you prefer)

6. garnish with fresh whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon

With love from
Nicola


Orange Sherbet Punch

Fun version...

1 container of Orange Sherbet
1 two liter of Ginger Ale
1 bottle of Champagne

1. In a punch bowl pour the ginger ale and champagne. Add scoops of sherbet. Voila...

Or the when you are with children (born or unborn) version ...

1 container of Orange Sherbet
1 two liter of lemon lime soda

4 cups orange juice

1. In a punch bowl pour the soda a juice. Add scoops of sherbet. Presto...

With love from
Jenna

And to round off the year we have a few books for you to win in our last hamper* until our birthday next September:



Nicola Marsh - The wonderful Romance book Princess Australia

Natasha Oakley - 'Accepting The Boss's Proposal' and 'Mothers-To-Be' (a UK Mothers' Day anthology with novellas from Julia James, Natasha and Amy Andrews).

Trish Wylie - A copy each of her new 2008 releases, the Modern Heat book His Mistress: His Terms and the Harlequin Romance Her One And Only Valentine

Donna Alward - A large print copy of Hired By Cowboy her hard to find first release from 2007

Kate Walker - A copy of her wonderful Harlequin Presents book The Greek Tycoon's Unwilling Wife

Heidi Rice - Her fabulous second Modern Heat The Mile High Club (which Trish tells us is great read!)

Kate Hardy - the lovely Kate is donating her Medical book The Doctor's Very Special Christmas

Liz Fielding - the book nominated for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award for 2007 The Secret Life Of Lady Gabriella (CONGRATULATIONS LIZ!)

Margaret McDonagh - a copy of the gorgeous Christmas Weddings anthology (which contains her Medical Romance story "Their Christmas Vows" along with a Modern story by Carole Mortimer and a Romance by Shirley Jump)

All you have to do is tell us what your ideal New Years Eve would be and the skies the limit so would it be Times Square or flying across the datelines or what??? You tell us...

*And from January on don't forget to visit regularly as we offer spot prizes throughout the month!

Wishing you all the best with your New Years celebrations!




The Pink Heart Society Gang