Saturday, May 16, 2009
Today, Fiona Harper talks about the joys of writing and reading about women who might have the odd grey hair and worry about their spreading backside, but still have the verve to go after their dreams and find happiness.
Most little girls love to pretend to be the princesses from their favourite fairy tales (see evidence to the left!) and I suppose this spills over into our reading and viewing habits when we are older – we like to read books or watch films with good-looking heroes and heroines. We can live vicariously through them and, as we identify with them, we get a taste of what it is like to be rich or stunningly beautiful or just plain fabulous!
But, in a world where youth and beauty are worshipped by the media and women will go to extraordinary lengths to keep looking like teenagers, I have to say that I love reading stories with heroines who aren't 22 with a figure like a supermodel. It’s nice to read about women who aren’t way out of my league but, maybe, are a lot like me. There’s something very identifiable about a real woman who is worried about finding grey hairs or fretting about her body parts heading steadily southwards. I worry about these things too (sometimes).
And if women like us can find love and happiness in the books we read, it gives us a sense of hope too – that life isn’t only for the young and fabulous and we don’t have to give up and resign ourselves to our rocking chairs just yet!
People often think of Harlequin/Mills & Boon heroines as always being young and gorgeous, which isn’t accurate. I’ve read books with main female characters with a wide variety of ages, from teens to forties. Personally, I’ve tended to write heroines who range from mid-twenties to mid-thirties. However, I turned forty last year and when I got the opportunity to write a heroine the same age as me, I jumped at the chance.
In my head, I don’t feel much different to how I did when I was in my twenties – although I hope I’ve matured a little since then! I liked the idea of having a forty-year old heroine who was still very much young at heart (maybe too young at heart sometimes…). Enter, Grace from Blind-Date Baby, whose mission in life is to grow old disgracefully. However, her plans are thrown into a turmoil when she meets sexy, suave and very grown-up novelist Noah Frost.
It was such good fun writing Grace. She was a little bit naughty, a little bit sassy, but I hope she proved that forty-somethings can feel just as deeply and fall in love just as hard as their twenty-something counterparts. And, if you want to find out a little bit more about what it feels like to be a forty-year old single mum who’s not sure whether keep behaving like a teenager or finally come of age, then come and read Grace’s very own blog all this month.
Fiona's next release is Blind-Date Baby, part 2 in the Blinddatebrides.com trilogy from Harlequin Romance
From first date to wedding date!
Meet three very different women from around the world and follow their stories as they find friendship, love and their happily-ever-afters with a little help from the world of online dating!
Watch the stories unfold @ Blinddatebrides.com !
Buy it here in the US, here in the UK and here in Aus/NZ
Friday, May 15, 2009
To escape from the quicksand that is prepping a house for sale, I tucked into a Blaze from one of my favorite, never disappoint, authors - Sarah Mayberry. Burning Up is the story of the sexiest man alive and the gourmet chef hired to serve him cottage cheese. Imagine, being able to create dishes that make people want to be your slave, and having to serve "yogurt gone wrong"!
I love food in most forms, but food on the page really does it for me. I'm a believer that what a person eats tells a lot about them, and so I think describing what characters enjoy can really make them pop. And personally, I'm never sure if I can trust a person who claims to dislike chocolate...
Whether a character goes for spicy or sweet, hot or cold, comfort or exotic, shows so much about who they are and where they came from. And it makes for a delicious read!
For inspiration, just turn on Food Network, the Fine Living Channel, or HGTV. Cable networks abound with cooking shows that have made household names of food pornographers. Who doesn't love listening to Nigella describe what she'll be making? Who can take their eyes away from the dishes Michael Chiarello entertains with?
Go ahead, take an indulgent vacation to Italy for 30 minutes and see how Giada De Laurentis claims Italians eat all the time...really, it's enough to make a girl sign up to be the Italian Millionaire's Hungry Bride!
Jenna is hard at work on getting her house ready to sell - it keeps her from thinking about what her editor might think of her next title for Mills & Boon Modern Heat. In the meantime, Compromising Positions is available with chocolate, Kama Sutra yoga, a decade old crush and a steady addiction to sugar. To find out what Jenna is up to now...check out her website or blog.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
In the normal course of the publishing world, a novel gets published like this: an author comes up with an idea for a story, writes a proposal (usually several chapters and a synopsis), and submits it to an editor. If the editor likes the story, the publisher issues a contract, and the author then finishes the book.
With a continuity series, the opposite occurs. A group of editors at a publishing house gets together and brainstorms an idea for a series of books. The series is usually based on some sort of overriding element, such as a mystery that needs to be solved (that’s where the “continuity” comes in). Once the editors have developed the idea, they hire authors to write the books.
So this year, in celebration of Harlequin’s 60th anniversary, the editors at Silhouette Romantic Suspense decided to launch a continuity series called LOVE IN 60 SECONDS. The series consists of six books and takes place in glamorous Las Vegas, the playground of the rich and famous.
It kicks off with the murder of Candace Rothchild, a wealthy socialite. Someone wants revenge on the powerful Rothchild family, and has vowed to eliminate them one by one. To add to the mystery, Candace’s diamond ring -- a priceless family heirloom -- goes missing during the murder. Even more intriguing, this fabulous diamond has an unusual curse attached to it. In the right hands it brings love at first sight, and in the wrong hands, chaos ensues. (Remember, this is Harlequin’s 60th -- diamond -- anniversary, thus the title of the series and the significance of the diamond ring.)
The project sounded fun, so when my editor invited me to participate, I quickly accepted the offer. I was given the second book in the series, a good position for someone who has never done this before. I didn’t have the tricky task of setting up the series and introducing the overriding mystery. That job fell to seasoned veteran, Marie Ferrarella. I also didn’t have to worry about keeping track of the myriad of details that come out in the later books.
Once all six authors were on board, we set up a yahoo group so we could keep each other informed about what we were doing, clearing with each other any changes that might impact the other books. Also, we each received a copy of the “bible,” which is a packet of information the editors compiled about the main characters in the books, the setting, and the overall mystery that needs to be solved.
Since I’d never participated in a continuity series before, I was really curious to see what the bible would include. It turned out to be very detailed on some points, surprisingly vague on others. For example, the bible included photos of my hero’s penthouse and mansion, which was pretty cool, but nothing about what motivated him, his background, or even what his goals were. I had to fill in the blanks.
Although each author was responsible for writing her own book, we did collaborate on a few things. For example, since the diamond ring plays a prominent role in the mystery, we needed to figure out what it looked like. We spent a few days surfing the internet for photos of possible diamonds and passed them around. One of the writers told us about chameleon diamonds, so called because they change colors. We liked that idea so much we made our diamond a chameleon and named it Tears of the Quetzal after the colorful Mexican bird.
Before I agreed to work on the series, I worried that I’d have little creative license and would end up writing someone else’s story. This fear turned out to be unfounded. Although I did have some restrictions, I had far more leeway than I’d expected. I was given a general sketch of my main characters (billionaire casino-mogul hero, down-on-her-luck single mother heroine with an abusive past), details about the beginning and ending of my book to make it link to the others in the series, and instructions about a few characters they wanted me to work in. But otherwise, I was on my own.
Constructing the plot turned out to be more of a challenge than I’d anticipated. Not only did I have to keep the series’ mystery going (finding Candace’s killer and the whereabouts of the missing diamond ring), but I also had to come up with a high-stakes suspense plot that directly involved my characters -- and the two plots had to mesh. I also had to take care not to make my story too similar to any of the others in the series. In the end, I came up with a story with shades of Ingrid Bergman’s 1944 movie Gaslight, where the heroine fears she is losing her mind. I’d never written a psychological thriller before, and it turned out to be lots of fun.
As you might imagine, I was very curious to read the first book in the series, THE HEIRESS’S 2-WEEK AFFAIR, which came out last month. My hero, Luke Montgomery, appears as a minor character in that book, and it was fascinating to watch him in action in a story I didn’t write. And I must say that Marie did a great job with him. Luke is one very sexy guy!
As with any series, the best way to read these books is in order. You’ll get more information about Candace’s murder and the missing ring if you do.
But it isn’t essential. Frankly, since I’d never participated in a continuity series before, I wasn’t sure how much to show about the other characters, so I opted to focus mostly on my own hero and heroine. I do mention some of the other characters, but not so much that you’d be confused if you haven’t read the first book. You’ll just be a bit more “in the know” if you have.
Here is a list of the books:
Book 1 - The Heiress’s 2-Week Affair, Marie Ferrarella, April
(For more information on the series, click on the logo.)
If you’d like to read an excerpt from my book, HIS 7-DAY FIANCÉE, you’ll find it at my website:
Romantic times called it: “Action-packed... a compelling, passionate love story...a lovely read.” And Cataromance said it's “Thick with hidden dangers and perilous intrigue, HIS 7-DAY FIANCÉE is a gripping romantic adventure. Your heart will be rapidly pumping along with the characters!”
So that’s the story behind my first-ever continuity book for Silhouette Romantic Suspense. Would I write one again? Absolutely. And I’m anxiously awaiting the moment the third book in the series arrives in stores. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
So what about you? Do you like to read books in a series? Have you ever read a continuity series before? If you do like series, is there a maximum number of books you’ll read before you call it quits?
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
As I write this my eyes are tired and a little blurry and I feel fatigue creeping over me. Last night I didn’t get anything like a full eight hours sleep. Not quite sure I can remember the last time I got that much sleep in one stint, but I am used to some interrupted snooze time. Unfortunately it’s not just babies who get ill in the night…
Lack of sleep can breed other problems. Too long without decent rest and I find I’m more likely to see challenges, like editorial ‘tweaks’, as impediments the size of Everest, rather than something I can hurdle with a bit of effort. Stress levels rise without sleep and creativity seems to wane. Yes, I can get by, but after a period of sacrificing rest in order to keep up with the needs of the book, the family, the day job, the renovations or whatever, I feel like I’m taking from the well and not refilling.
Factoring in enough sleep time has to be a writer’s secret weapon. Even if it’s almost impossible to achieve, it’s worth trying.
And then there’s the other huge benefit, the one I’d never have believed in the days before I wrote. Sleep, or even letting yourself drift in that almost-sleep state of relaxation, is a wonderful way to connect with your story. It must be the sub-conscious ticking away while the rest of you nods off. Sometimes I go to bed pondering how on earth I’m going to achieve something in my story and wake next morning to an idea which gives me a way forward. Other times I wake to the certainty there’s something wrong with the text I wrote the previous day, like a sleep-induced alarm going off. So far it’s been right every time!
I’ve met writers who dream their first scene before they ever have a notion of the story, or even wake with a title in their head. For me that little relaxed period between sleep and full waking is when characters often drift into my head and reveal things about themselves that will make the next scene so much easier.
Have you ever found you dreamed the beginning of a new project or the solution to a problem? (And I don’t just mean writing projects). Have you woken to inspiration you thought you’d lost?
Annie’s thrilled to say she has two books available. BLACKMAILED BRIDE, INNOCENT WIFE is a May UK Modern release and
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Anna Cleary investigates the temptation of an alpha hero.
Hello, Pink Heart Lovers. Anna Cleary delighted to be signing in for some musings on the fascinating complexities of the male-female struggle in the modern romance novel.
Much has been written about the Alpha Hero. Too much, some might say. There’s a strong possibility that many of those earnest blogs telling us how much we love to read about a tough, cool guy being brought to his knees by a hot, lovin’ woman are really just sly opportunities for gratuitous chest ogling.How many times have you started to enjoy a witty, well-conceived discourse on the psychological attributes of the alpha male only to be confonted by some bare, bronzed expanse of rock hard, powerful pec like this? And what’s the point? We all know what they look like under their Armani business suits. Like this. Oops. Where did that come from?
This is why I’d prefer to concentrate today on the Alpha Heroine. Contrary to popular belief, the alpha female is not necessarily one of these kick-ass chicks who pour themselves into lycra and spend their time in the gym lifting weights and sucking from a lucozade bottle. Not at all. The AH has many more strengths than mere muscle power and the ability to sweat. While she can do these things, and does when the need arises, she has a wealth of other talents. She’s funny, witty and clever. She’s sophisticated, elegant, and possesses an arsenal of subtleties the male animal sometimes finds perplexing and intriguing.
When confronted with the sort of arrogant assumption of his right to dominate often projected by the alpha man, the AH doesn’t just lie down and offer herself as a footwipe. She stands up and faces her adversary, as sassy and caustic as the guy can take without disintegrating.
Often, sensitive to the fragility of the male ego underneath all that hard-packed muscle, she cushions her cunning riposte in flirty, casual language it takes some time for the guy to puzzle through. This is why you often see a Clooney or a Depp suddenly halt in the middle of a street and wince Ouch.
While our heroine is a moral being who cares for herself and others, she is a red hot, flesh-and-blood woman, comfortable with her sexuality and not afraid to express it. When the occasion demands, she can be as sultry and seductive as any siren of the silver screen. (Often an occasion with some alpha male, like
him, him, or him!
She can be relentless in the pursuit of justice and truth, but at the same time she’s a well of compassion. Her heart is bigger than the average, I believe. She’s a passionate and generous lover, a wonderful mother, and a loyal and trustworthy friend. She’s intelligent, honourable and supportive, and beautiful on her good days.
In other words, she’s just like you and me, dear readers, and exactly the sort of woman a guy like him needs.
I’m thrilled to say that in my recent publications, including Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin, the cover angels at Mills&Boon have been brilliant in their selection of actors to portray my heroines. They appear to have taken some care with the guys, too. Hope the lovely readers in North America manage to catch my beautiful virgin while she’s out in the bookshops in May!
And, it would be my absolute pleasure to send a gift copy of Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin to the first person who contacts me through my website at www.annacleary.com.
Anna Cleary's latest Untamed Billionaire, Undressed Virgin features a wonderfully sexy alpha hero and a fiesty alpha heroine -- just the thing to tempt you into a reading binge.