Saturday, March 29, 2008
Here's a funny little twist of fate. I'm ready to blog about the series fiction RITA finalists .... only to find I'm one of them. ggg. Not that I'm complaining you understand.
First, I'd better introduce you to RITA. This one belongs to Barbara Hannay who won last year's Traditional Category (which is now no more) with her wonderful 'Claiming His Family'.
And then, for those of you who don't know, I'd better explain what a RITA is. Named after the Romance Writers of America's first president, Rita Clay Estrada, RITA Awards® are presented annually to the best published romance novels of the year. It's the romance world's answer to the Oscars and all very glam. As with the Oscars a nomination is really exciting.
[Britain's RWA, if you follow me, is the RNA (Romantic Novelists' Association). In the UK the Romance Prize is awarded annually for the best category fiction book. That's a monetary prize and the Betty Neels Rose Bowl. All other romantic fiction published in the UK is covered by the Romantic Novel of the Year Award. Think Baftas.
Australia has the R*by, but that's only open to Australian authors so I don't know so much about it. Ally, Nic ... help me out here.]
Since I have finalled for the RITAs I can tell you what it's like to receive the 'call'. First off, I'd forgotten it was 'the day'. Partly, I suspect because I very nearly forgot to enter. I also forgot to renew my RWA membership. It's been that kind of a year!
So, I wasn't waiting for anything. I was busy doing something else when the phone rang. My husband picked it up and I heard him say 'Sorry? Who?' And then to me, 'It's a call for you. From America.'. And still I suspected nothing.
I think I was quite sensible, though it took a while and a couple of glasses of red wine for the news to really sink in.
Since I am a finalist I'm going to be supremely selfish and show you my competition. vbg.
2008 RITA for Contemporary Series Romance Finalists
Always a Bridesmaid by Kristin Hardy
Harlequin Enterprises, Silhouette Special Edition - (0-373-24832-6)
Gail Chasan, editor
Fall From Grace by Kristi Gold
Harlequin Enterprises, Everlasting Love - (0-373-65404-9)
Beverley Sotolov, editor
Make-Believe Mom by Elaine Grant
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin Superromance - (0373714459)
Victoria Curran, editor
Night Mischief by Nina Bruhns
Harlequin Enterprises, Silhouette Nocturne - (0373617720)
Natahsya Wilson and Tara Parsons, editor
Sleeping Partner by Kelly Hunter
Harlequin Enterprises, Sexy Sensation - (978 0 733 58182 3)
Joanne Carr, editor
Snowbound by Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin Superromance - (0-373-71454-8)
Laura Shin, editor
The Mile High Club by Heidi Rice
(available in the US as The Millionaire's Blackmail Bargain (Harlequin Presents))
Harlequin Enterprises, Mills and Boon Modern Extra - (9780263854008)
Bryony Green, editor
The Tycoon's Princess Bride by Natasha Oakley
Harlequin Enterprises, Harlequin Presents - (978-0-373-12667-5)
Jenny Hutton, editor
Impressive company to be in, isn't it! And you can find the full list here.
Winners of the awards will be announced August 2nd at the RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony to be held at RWA’s 28th Annual National Conference in San Francisco, California.
Can I just point out that's 5371 miles away from where I live? 8645km. 10 hours flight time, not including the inevitable delays and other assorted problems where I get lost because I have no sense of direction at all!
'Tis very tempting. It's not going to happen, though. After the year we've had I'm taking the children to the Dordogne in France. Which means, if I win it'll be our Trish Wylie making her way up to the podium on my behalf.
Since she's representing me I feel I should have some say on how she presents herself. What d'you reckon - red or blue?
Kate Winslet's had both dry-cleaned and returned them to Trish now so either one is fine. Donna says I ought to mention footwear but Trish is really picky about shoes.
I can't say I'm holding out much hope for these.
And now I'd better get on with updating my shamefully neglected website. Also need to decide whether I intend to pretend I'm still twenty-seven. Probably is time to grow up a tad.
Natasha's next Harlequin Romance Wanted: White Wedding is released in NA and the UK in May.
You can find out more about it if she gets round to updating her website and you can hear her moan about her sheikhs, dying people carrier, broken boiler, broken sofa and other assorted disasters by visiting her blog.
Her contribution to the Niroli series, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride', is available here and is nominated by the Romantic Times Magazine for Best Presents of 2007 (And I'm missing the Romantic Times convention too.)
Penelope Cruz made a reputation for herself as a relationship buster during a period of the nineties, but her most famous conquest was Tom Cruise after together they made the horribly incongruous, messy, self-aggrandising "Vanilla Sky", one of the worst films of all time.
Yet the film flopped. Was it it because she allegedly broke up a marriage? Was it because they were too pretty for we mere mortals to comprehend? Is there a lesson in that for romance authors? Or was it because they hugged far too much in public?
Okay, so the film was bad and that may have had something to do with the poor box office. I concede a point there.
So why did Tom Cruise's films with wife Nicole Kidman fail to light up the screen?
Okay, so none of these films performed to expectations bar Days of Thunder which was offically pre-Tom&Nic as Tom was married to Mimi. Right?
So was the discomfort in watching Tom and Nic romance one another a married couple thing?
Was the spark de-sparked through having a young family and seeing one another every day and not having that "getting to know you" reality to buoy them through their performances? Or were Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise simply too blah as a couple at the best of times none of us particularly wanted to see them lock lips on the red carpet much less at the end of a $12-00 parting of money from our wallets?
How does this Time cover grab you? Sexy? Or creepy?
Hmmm, the plot thickens...
Especially when you throw Proof of Life into the mix.
PROOF OF LIFE
Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan's relationship, and the bust up of her marriage and his relationship with his now wife Danielle Spencer was so over exposed this movie didn't stand a chance. I remember being able to read about the two of them in every magazine around. Over exposure killed this movie. And that is such a great pity.
Proof of Life is a truly fantastic film. A+. The dramatic performances from ALL players are top notch. And there is a truly heartbreaking romance between Russel and Meg's characters born out of a life changing situation. Meg Ryan is a mother of one, married and happily in love with her engineer husband who is working out of war torn South America. Her husband, played with beautiful nuance by the lovely David Morse is kidnapped and held for ransom. Bring in Russell Crowe, a soldier of fortune, who is hired to find him and bring him home.
Russ moves in, and becomes Meg's only point of reference, the only man she can trust as forces beyond her control threaten the life of her husband, and the sanctity of her family. The fact that day by day she falls in love with Russ only makes the situation all the harder. Is Russ willing to put his life on the line to save the man the woman he loves loves?
Rent it and find out.
Another gem. Created by the talented Kevin Smith who brought us Chasing Amy and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. This movie came out around about the time Bennifer fell apart - that's Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez for those not addicted to magazines found in supermarkets. Which is suuuuch a pity as it's a gorgeous movie.
Ben Affleck is happily married to la Lopez when she dies in childbirth, leaving him to raise his daughter alone. Once he gets over himself enough to realise that's it's not the little girl's fault, he leaves behind his fancy job in New York City to move back to New Jersey with his dad.
This movie is simply lovely. Poignant. Real. Funny. And there is a romance... And it doesn't involve our two folk. So why did the movie flop? Too cruel pre-press and overexposure to be sure.
Rent it. Please.
This was one out of the box.
A film that broke up a marriage and brought a Hollywood power couple together in one of the more heralded romances of recent times. Brad Pitt left America's sweetheart Jennifer Aniston for the edgy heartbreak kid herself, Angelina Jolie. Together they are simply too beautiful, unmarried, living the world over, dancing to their own tune, adding to their hybrid family. And seriously overexposed! Surely this had every potential for movie disaster...
So why did this one do big box office when acording the history it should have been the biggest flop of them all?
Can you watch a movie starring a couple together in real-life and find the fantasy believable without real life casting it's shadow? Let us know the films which have done it for you!
Ally's latest novel FALLING FOR THE REBEL HEIR stars one heck of a gorgeous Aussie bloke. Think rugged good looks, too long dark hair, three day old growth, battle scars and that long, lanky, laid-back thang Aussie blokes do all to well.
To read more about Hud Bennington, check out Ally's website or better yet buy the book!
Friday, March 28, 2008
I think one of the most exciting parts of the publishing process is seeing my cover for the first time. It's always a thrill to see what the artist comes up with based on the write-up I provided them. Do the characters look like I'd envisioned when I wrote the book? Is it sexy, or sassy, or dark or--gulp--dull? We're always dying to have those questions answered, and I have to say that in the case of my April Blaze, I'm thrilled with it for a number of reasons.
For one, yes, these characters look exactly as I'd pictured them in the book. Sticklers for cover characters matching the author's descriptions will be pleased this time around. That sexy stud you see there is most definitely Matt Jacobs, exactly how I'd pictured him and exactly as he's described in the text.
Secondly, I had no idea until seeing the cover that my book had been tagged a "Blush". For those unfamiliar with Blush, it's an imprint within the Blaze line for those books with a lighter feel, a bit of a throwback to Temptation but maintaing the Blaze heat. Some might consider them romantic comedies, or at least leaning in that direction. So as a big fan of lighthearted romances, this was definitely a pleasant surprise.
But for me, the biggest excitement in seeing the cover is the little teaser that's too small to read in this picture. It says, "Cheating on a sex survey.....What's the worst that can happen?"
I have to say, my editors couldn't have summarized the plot any better than that. And ironically, it's exactly the thought that spurred the original idea for the story. You see, I'd been watching those eHarmony commercials on TV forever. You know, the ones with the couples who look absolutely perfect for each other, expressing the joys of finding that soul mate put on this earth only for them? You can tell just by looking at them they'll be together forever. And me, having the sick and sordid mind that I do, kept thinking there was a story in there somewhere--but not the easy bliss they show on TV. No, I couldn't shake the thought of someone cheating on one of those surveys, lying through her teeth about every romantic and sexual preference, who she is and what she loves, then getting stuck with Mr. Wrong.
Of course, no one genuinely looking for Mr. Right would do such a thing, which was the big kink in my idea. I had to come up with a reason someone would A) take the survey, and B) lie when answering the questions. And once I worked out those details, I had a book that was a whole lotta fun to write (muahahahaha).
In 'Putting It To The Test', my characters are asked to fill out a romantic survey in order to win a spot on a hot project at work. And when my heroine gains some inside information about how the results will be tallied, she sets up her survey answers to make herself the guaranteed winner.
Of course, being the winner means she's been matched perfectly to our hero, a coworker whom she not only hates but who is her greatest rival on the job. And now she's got to pretend to be perfect for him to avoid getting caught in her little ruse.
It's the kind of "I Love Lucy", gee-I-never-thought-that-far plot that makes for a really fun read, and I'm thrilled the cover did such a good job portraying that to prospective buyers.
So being that I've brought us to the subject of matchmaking, let me ask this question: Do you think you'd ever look for a soul mate through an on-line matchmaking service? Or have you? I have a friend who found her husband through a matchmaking service, and after a year she still has a smile on her face.
Post your thoughts in the comments and you'll be automatically entered to win a copy of "Putting It To The Test". I'll announce the winner here in the comments Friday morning.
For more on Lori and her latest release, be sure to check out her website and her blog, the Sizzling Pens.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
No, this wasn’t an excuse to include the inspiring Hugh in a Towel. I wouldn’t stoop to something so obvious. Would I?
I began thinking about the strange and wonderful ways in which we get story ideas, how we collect snippets of information and weave them into something unique. I’ve been inspired by titles, places and no doubt many things I’m unaware of. Occasionally I look at my stories and see where inspiration came from, even if I didn’t realise it at the time. For instance, in the first scene of For the Sheikh’s Pleasure, Arik, my dashing sheikh, is confined by a plaster cast and wheelchair after an oil rig accident. He’s bored and spends the dawn with binoculars watching the beautiful stranger on his private beach. Yes, I freely admit to having seen Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ several times, where the wheelchair-bound hero solves a crime while watching neighbouring apartments through binoculars and the lens of his camera.
I began to wonder where other writers found inspiration. For instance, my good friend, historical author Anna Campbell, insists she gets her best ideas in the bath, but admits the idea for her next release Tempt the Devil, came from watching ‘An Affair to Remember’ too many times to count.
Here’s what some other authors have to say on the subject:
Bronwyn Jameson says “Sometimes it's a spark that inspires a storyline, or a relationship within the book, and sometimes it's a scene idea. One thing I've noticed is that the end result rarely matches the original thought by the time you've twisted and adapted it to fit the new characters and situation...but that's beside the point. The point IS that the inspiration triggered something which resulted in another interpretation. One example: the first Desire I ever read was Private Reasons by Justine Davis. I loved that book for a whole lot of reasons; one was the complex relationship between the hero (an uptight accountant) and his teenage daughter and the free-spirited heroine. That inspired me to write Seb (my slightly uptight accountant) and his teenage daughter Torie in Beyond Control (Harlequin Desire), AND to pair them both with a slightly bohemian heroine who tested his strictures of control and his way of looking at life and love.”
Ally Blake says “The idea for Falling for the Rebel Heir (March 08 M&B Romance), came after watching 'Cocoon' on telly with my hubby....much is set in a beautiful elegant indoor pool that looks like something out of a Grace Kelly movie. My hubby, the guy who usually is only allowed to name the pets in my books his ideas are so terrible, suggested a great way to start a book would be for the hero to find the heroine swimming in his pool. Colour me surprised, I loved the idea! The pool in my head had the same beautiful, eerie, magical quality and I think that rubbed off on the whole story.”
Michelle Douglas says “I set my stories in the season I'm writing - I can use my experience of the weather, see what plants are in bloom etc. ... With His Christmas Angel (M&B Romance) I didn't set out to write a Christmas book, I just started writing it in December. The hero and heroine and their conflict were firmly fixed in my mind when all of a sudden it occurred to me that Christmas and New Year - a time for families and new beginnings - was the perfect frame for telling Cassie and Sol's story ... It definitely added depth and resonance.
The latest story rattling around in my head is a direct result of my mother demanding to know when I was going to dedicate a book to her? (LOL) My reply was that I'd have to think of a story with a mother's day theme....BUT, thinking about Mother's Day got me thinking about Father's Day (of course!) - and suddenly I have two characters and a situation full blown in my head and that's the story I want to tell next.”
Harlequin Presents/Modern author Helen Bianchin is inspired by images. “Sometimes I can build a male hero from a picture in a glossy magazine ... it's the facial features, particularly the eyes, I think. Some men can portray intense sensuality with just a look. It's a brooding sexy quality that promises much. In an early book set partly in Port Douglas in the far north, I envisaged the final scene before the book was even written ... the heroine had escaped to a beachside bach, she's walking along the sandy foreshore lost in thought the hero could possibly love her the way she loves him, when she feels that prickle of awareness, glances up to see a male figure in the distance moving steadily towards her. She pauses, waiting, hoping ... recognizing the hero as he draws close, and it becomes the moment. I knew whatever transpired in the writing of the book, that scene was how the book would end.
Modern Heat author Kelly Hunter, on the other hand, says she isn’t picture-focussed: “Collaging doesn't work so well for me. A trip to the movies works better - the muse will often notice an aspect of character that I can use in the story I'm writing. I do find music inspiring when it comes to writing, though. I usually select a theme song for each book. The song invariably captures the overall tone of the book - be it passionate, bittersweet, or something I can't quite name but can feel when I hear the music. Play the song when I sit down to write and all of a sudden I'm back in the zone.”
Harlequin Historical author Annie Burrows says she’s always made up stories in her head. “Some of my best ideas recently have come to me when I've been working at really boring jobs (like reception work). Also, when stuck in traffic jams, sandwiched in between huge lorries. I guess I just send my mind somewhere more interesting instead!”
Harlequin Medical author Fiona Lowe uses whatever is around her. “I have used real medical situations, unusual things and tweak them to suit. eg upcoming book has little girl whose trachea is ruptured by a rooster. It happened and I clipped it out of the paper and used it about 1.5 years later. One episode of ‘Australian Story’ (television documentary) generated the idea for The Surgeon's Chosen Wife. Obviously my hero was nothing like the guy on ‘Australian Story’ but the seed was there.
Oh and I remember scrumming around in the dark during a play last year and writing down a line from the play, 'a secret wears you down' and The Doctor Claims his Bride is based around that line.”
Nicola Marsh finds inspiration from articles in magazines. “My first book, The Tycoon's Dating Deal (Harlequin Romance), came from an article I saw on speed dating in a glossy magazine between patients when I was working full time as a physiotherapist. After I read the article, I thought 'what a great theme for a book!' The rest is history!
Another Harlequin Romance, Princess Australia, came after reading an article on Melbourne hotel concierges in the Herald Sun travel section. I like to put a twist on themes so cast my heroine as a stand-in concierge for a week, where she meets a prince going incognito!”
Abby Green says: “When I was on holiday in Greece a few years ago, we were on an island that had a military base. One night myself and friends went out and some extremely handsome pilots turned up in the bar. One of them, the most handsome one, took a fancy to my friend who is very Irish looking, very pretty - black hair, pale skin, blue eyes - and that gave me the kernel of the idea for 'Chosen as the Frenchman's Bride' (Harlequin Presents/Modern) when Xavier, the hero is a debonair pilot who sees and seduces Jane. So while the story took place in France, and the hero was French, not Greek, that's where the story originated!
I think I get most of my ideas for stories from small impressions, something in a film or a picture in a magazine. It can be the smallest thing, literally the way two lovers in a film might look at one another and that'll spark a chain of thoughts/ideas.
For Bought for the Frenchman's Pleasure which is out now, my idea came from another story...which ultimately didn't go anywhere. Sorcha, the heroine was a secondary character from that book and I had this idea: what if she was a top model - but a top model who was as down to earth as you could get - someone who hated all the trappings and limelight. But, she'd been involved with a bad incident in her past, which made it impossible for people to see her as she really was. And I loved the idea of a very alpha male coming along and assuming that he had her all summed up, only to find out that he was wrong. Now if you were to ask me where I got the idea for the original story that gave birth to Sorcha in the first place...I have no idea! Being open to new ideas and searching for inspiration is one of the nicest things about writing.”
Isn’t it fun hearing how authors have been inspired to write their books? What inspires you? If you’re a writer, do you know what sparks the creative process for you? Do you recall something specific triggering a story or a scene? And if you don’t write, what things inspire and motivate you?
The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife is available from Amazon UK. It was inspired by a range of things – stories from friends who lived in South America close to guerrillas and fabulous emeralds, a lovely Greek Island and a frog wearing a crown. (Yes, it sounds bizarre but it’s true. You can read about that on the book page of Annie’s website).
A 2nd story, The Billionaire’s Bought Mistress is available now in an anthology edition Mills and Boon Presents... The edition includes novels by Annie Burrows and Margaret McDonagh, with an introduction by Penny Jordan. Inspiration for that story came from a mental image of a girl alone in an alpine churchyard, grieving and oblivious to everyone until a man with a face like a fallen angel steps out of the shadows and into her life. The anthology is available in the UK only (you can buy it from Mills and Boon or Amazon UK). You can read an excerpt or enter a related contest to win free books at Annie's website.
Soon enough I'll be mired in sleep deprivation, dirty diapers, and more laundry than childless people can possibly fathom. But...until reality hits me upside the head, I'm still floating in the fun of all things baby.
Just look at the cover for Jackie Braun's April release, Expecting a Miracle . Wouldn't you love to have that snapshot up on your fridge? I personally plan on copying the photo on Trish Wylie's Project Parenthood once my baby gets here. Baby covers are just too cute!
Baby themes are ever popular in romance novels. The sweet little baby ups the ante, making readers doubly sure there will be a happily ever after at the end.
The infants in books are either sick (the medical stories), unexpected (the passion stories), or considered by half the couple to be an impediment to true love (the homey stories). Of course, all the obstacles are overcome, which gives anyone who's ever had a bump on the road to a happy baby hope that it will work out.
I think some women like to read the baby books to look back fondly on raising their own babies. Just as our heroes are idealized, the babies rarely have colic, reflux, or supersonic gas. They are always cute and cherubic, making every character warm to them instantly. Which is how we think of babies before reality pukes on us.
For now I am content to shop for baby clothes (the pinker the better), daydream of all the cozy moments I'll get with my girl, and practice by cuddling my friends' babies until I get my own. Reality will come in its own time.
Jenna is hard at work on her next title for Mills & Boon Modern Heat. In the meantime, Her Cinderella Complex is available with a millionaire, secretary, engagement of convenience, private island, and a hot pool sccene.
Check out her website, or blog.
Monday, March 24, 2008
This Monday at The Pink Heart Society our very own Trish Wylie introduces us to hero inspiration she would never have found had it not been for the *curse of Hugh*... meet Justin Bruening...