Saturday, July 04, 2009
This Saturday will be a family 4th of July celebration for me, my husband and children. We’ll travel about 200 miles to connect with others in the family and enjoy the day together.
That means a day off from working on my upcoming book, but I’ll probably be thinking about it in the car on the way. I love writing historical romance, and several of my past books fall into this category.
My Maine Brides series featured different generations of the Hunter family. In each book, the hero was somewhat of an outcast. But by the end, the family had reason to celebrate. Family, forgiveness, and reconciliation are themes in many of my books, and those things dovetail nicely with holiday celebrations.
In contemporary books, I love to work in holiday celebrations—Christmas, Memorial Day, 4th of July. It takes a little more work in historicals, because you have find out if that holiday was celebrated in that place, at that time, and if so, what the customs were.
My characters in Frasier Island, first book of my American Heroes Series, were isolated on a remote island in the North Pacific. One of the few naval officers on the island brought sparklers along for the July Fourth celebration. When you’re far from home, keeping traditions can be especially meaningful.
I like to read about holidays in books. If major holidays are “skipped over,” I wonder why. So I use a calendar when I’m planning and writing, to make sure I don’t do that. If the book is releasing near a holiday, that makes it even more fun.
Whatever your idea of a perfect Independence Day celebration, I hope you enjoy it with your family and give thanks for the freedoms it represents.
Susan's latest Love Inspired Suspense is On a Killer's Trail, Feb. 2009.
Friday, July 03, 2009
Yep, I am absolutely delighted to talk about Amelie ...although I must admit it wasn't my first choice. I was going to do a piece on Cinderella movies, with a smooth segue to the Cinderella touch in my July book Magnate's Make-Believe Mistress. (I love everything about segues, you see, including the feel of the word on my tongue.)
But a quick search of the PHS archives revealed that both my favourite Cinderella-themed movies, Pretty Woman and Ever After, have been done already. Sooo, I thought I could do Gossip Girl but that's only "must watch" television if you want to study the Upper East Side and soap opera excesses of bad behaviour. My third thought was The Proposal, which I saw this week, but it's not out in the UK until later this month so that wouldn't be fair, would it?
And then, serendipity. One of my all-time favourites on pay-TV! Smiling, I settled in to enjoy...and didn't stop smiling until long after The End. That's one of the reasons why Amelie. sits at the top of my favourites list -- no matter how many viewings, I'm left feeling completely satisfied and joyous. And smiling. And wanting to make others feel good as well. The perfect choice for a Must Watch Friday.
So, Amelie. . It's told in a different narrative style--the narrator and subtitles are part of the story, part of the appeal!--quirky, very French, and irresistible. Because Amelie, played brilliantly by Audrey Tautou, is irresistible. She's a naive young Frenchwoman embarking on a new life as a waitress in a Montmartre coffee shop, and through the opening series of vignettes of her childhood you learn why she is such an extreme introvert. That backstory is comic and poignant and, for the writers amongst us, a master class in showing-not-telling backstory.
The story proper commences when Amelie moves to Paris, although she is still an observer of life and of people -- in the coffee shop where she works and in the apartment building where she lives. The first turning point is when she discovers, in a secret hidie-hole, a box of treasures from a previous tenant's boyhood. She sets out to find him, to return the treasures, but because of her shyness she does so from a distance...although she watches and when she sees the man's joy, she has found her life's mission. She will stop observing, listening, she will start doing something about the inequities she sees around her.
I should mention at this point the movie's logline. Amelie -- she will change your life.
Amelie's missions are many and, given her imagination and her extreme shyness, they're not approached in a usual or straight-forward fashion. At the coffee shop, she dabbles in a spot of match-making which provides some of the movie's funnier moments. She convinces her housebound father to follow his dream of world travel with true inventiveness and the help of a garden gnome (I did mention this movie was quirky, yes?) She turns around a neighbour's sadness over her cheating husband, and her vengeance against a pig of a shopkeeper is a thing of charm and beauty. I defy anyone not to fall in love with Amelie based on this alone!
In betwixt all her anonymous do-gooding, Amelie becomes embroiled in a minor mystery involving pictures of a man taken and discarded in rail-station photo booths. The photos have been found and collected by a mysterious stranger, Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), to whom Amelie is drawn. She melts, literally. Although her shyness proves a huge barrier when it comes to meeting the man. And so we get to the real heart of the story: Amelie has been busily changing other lives, but what about her own? Can she stop observing life and grab it for herself? Can she change her own life?
Amelie has developed a friendship with a housebound neighbour, who spends his life painting Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party over and over. There's a girl in the centre background (observing the central characters!) that he can't get quite right and their dialogue about this girl, about the parallels with Amelie, bring her inner conflict to the fore. The movie's climax is her quest to meet Nino although, being Amelie, this is neither straightforward nor simple. It is, however, whimsical and charming and original. Which pretty much sums up Amelie, the character, and Amelie. , the movie.
Why do I love this movie so much? For its joie de vivre, its touches of dark humour, its unexpectedness, its bright colour and detail (I swear, I see something new with every viewing.) For Amelie's unique character; she is what Regency novels refer to as a "true original". For Audrey Tautou, who lives and breathes the character. For Paris, as seen through Amelie's childlike eyes. For how all the subplots play together to enhance the theme. For its core message, that little touches can bring the most happiness.
And for our irrepressible heroine's own happy ending. Hooray!
Warm and fuzzy rating: 10 out of 10.
What is top of your Must Watch list? Which one movie is your perfect 10 out of 10 feel-good experience?
Bronwyn's current release Magnate's Make-Believe Mistress--the one with a touch of Cinderella--is a July, 2009 release from Silhouette Desire. It's a story about a woman who needs to find her own happiness instead of always looking out for those around her. Read the behind-the-book stuff at her website.
Thursday, July 02, 2009
We writers love to talk about our craft. Today is travel/settings day, so I thought I'd talk about setting, aka atmosphere, background. The overall setting is the town or city where the story happens-including those little details that bring the place to life. On a smaller scale, setting is where each scene takes place. Setting plays a role in any story, sometimes a huge role. Take a story where characters must battle the elements in order to survive. Those elements, whatever they are, become so key that they are every bit as important as the main characters.
Sometimes setting serves as metaphor. A raging storm and a hero's anger that he can't control a situation. Fireworks in a star-studded sky while a couple enjoy great sex. A childhood home burning to the ground just as a character forgives the past.
Setting can have a huge impact on who the characters are and how they view life. Take a character, say the novel's hero, born and raised in Big Sky country, where the population is limited and the terrain is vast and open.
How might these two view the world?
Chances are, not at all the same way. Your Big Sky fella might be used to a slower tempo, thinking huge and speaking his mind. If he needs to get away, he might hike or take a long drive. Whereas Ms. Manhattan might be on espresso time, fast, fast, fast. Her world might be limited to the people in her apartment building or her work. Maybe she hides her thoughts in order to get ahead. When she needs a break, she shops or dashes into a coffee bar. The hero might quickly feel overwhelmed in the Big Apple, and the heroine would quite possibly freak out at the quiet and space in Montana.
In Harlequin American Romances the sense of community is all-important. Setting can augment that community feel. My American novels take place in small towns to underline the community element, but a writer can do the same in any big city. It's all in how we present the atmosphere and background and the characters involved.
For my Halo Island series, I chose a small island with a big summer tourist business. I like the sense of separateness and intimacy created by the island. Some of my other story settings have been in fictitious towns on the Oregon Coast, in towns on the outskirts of Seattle, and in a fictitious Midwest town. Each is a unique atmosphere that in some way highlights or adds to the story.
What kinds of settings do you enjoy? What settings would you like to see in future novels?Looking forward to your comments, and thanks for letting me visit today.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Join the editors today as they talk about their favourite summertime drinks!
Summertime. Hot days, gorgeous evenings, by the beach or on the deck or in the garden. What would it be without a glass in hand?
Donna: I love lemonade. We don't usually squeeze our own, but we do buy lemon juice at Costco as in addition to lemonade I use it often for marinades (barbequeing - a whole other post!). The husband is master of lemonade. He knows just the right proportions for a balance of sweet and tart. Lemonade is SO refreshing. And we have been known to sneak a little vodka or gin in if the neighbours happen to stop by for a drinkie... rim the glass with sugar and it's lovely.
My other summer favourite is one we don't have often, but it's summer in a glass. And that is pina coladas. Last year gadget man (aka the husband) bought a margarita maker. Really, it's a fancy blender. Anyway we did pina coladas one afternoon when our friends were over for a swim. Gorgeous, smooth, coconutty flavour. It reminds me of the sun tan lotion we used to use before we worried about SPF.
Michelle: It stands to reason that Donna would get there first with fresh lemonade. I love lemonade. It is why we have a lemon tree in the sun room. Lemonade with fresh mint (chop 3 lemons. Put in a bowl with a handful of mint leaves. Pour 1 pt (500 ml) of boiling water over. Leave to infuse for a couple of hours. Strain into a jug, add sugar to taste and pour over ice)
I also enjoy Blackcurrant cordial ( 1lb/450g black currants stalked, 2pt/1.25 litres water, 1lb/450g sugar -- place fruit and water in pan,bring to boil, boil for about 5 min, add sugar, stir until dissolved, again boil for about 5 min, strain into sterilised bottle) mixed with sparkling lemonade/7 up. Else you can use ribena. It is also good served hot. My children used to love orange squash. I prefer the homemade variety -- take 3 oranges and1 lemon. Wash and dry the fruit. Squeeze the juice and reserve. Chop the fruit skins fine, Then put the chopped fruit skins and pulp(having first discarded the pips) into a pan, add 2pints/1.25 litres of water and boil for 5 minutes. Strain the liquid into a jug and stir in 1lb/450 g sugar. Once it is cool add the reserved juice and 1 0z citric acid (you can obtain citric acid from a chemist). Bottle. Serve either diluted with water or sparkling lemonade.
For an alcoholic drink, what would the English summer be without Pimms? Pimms was first invented in London by James Pimm in 1823 and originally it was sold to aid digestion. Pimms No 1 cup is a gin based drink. There were other cups with different bases but Pimms No 1 is the most common.
One part Pimms No 1 to three parts sparkling lemonade in a large jug. Add various fruits such as oranges and lemons, strawberries or even diced cucumber. Stir. Serve over ice and float a borage flower on top to give a really summer look.
It is the perfect accompaniment for playing croquet or watching cricket. It is also traditionally served at polo matches.Jenna :: It's fun to see the differences an ocean can make...I've never had orange squash (as a drink, I thought it was a veggie), black currant anything, or Pimms.
We're beer people in the summer. The hubster is even talking about putting a keg-or-ator in the garage at the new house. There is something refreshing and relaxing about a light summer lager while stretching out on a chaise on the deck while the kids work out the slip-and-slide on the lawn...
When we want to step it up, we go for margaritas of all flavors. I like really lime-y versions, while my cousin makes a killer blackberry margarita. And when strawberries are in season we'll freeze them, toss them in a blender with some tequila and whirl until you can't wait for a taste. I wonder if the healthy fruit makes up for the alcohol...
With the kids, water is key. They'd Kool-Aid all day long, so I try and keep water interesting by having pitchers in the fridge that have cucumber, mint, or orange slices floating. It gives a hint of flavor and seems to keep the kids from balking too much.
***WHATCHA DRINKIN' THIS SUMMER?***
Monday, June 29, 2009
Fiona Harper investigates the hit TV show NCIS and lingers a little on one of the stars for this week’s Male on Monday.
I’m an addict. There. I’ve said it. I just can’t live without watching NCIS. The award-winning TV show about the American naval crime investigation service was originally a spin-off from naval legal show JAG and, although I missed the first few seasons when it aired in the UK, it has quickly become one of my favourite shows.
I love NCIS for the characters: strong and silent Gibbs (who could merit a Male on Monday post of his own), gothic Abby, quirky Mossad assassin Ziva and computer geek McGee, but the eye-candy on this show is definitely Michael Weatherly, who plays agent Tony DiNozzo.
Now, I’m not normally one to see the attraction of bad boys, but Special Agent DiNozzo is just delicious. He’s naughty but loyal to this team, immature but charming, and the series where he went undercover and fell in love (for the first time) with the daughter of the arms dealer he was trying to get close to was full of wonderful heart-breaking moments that really added depth and vulnerability to the character.
If you believe reports on the web, the actor Michael Weatherly’s bio reads a bit like a novel. His father is a billionaire who made his money importing Swiss Army knives, but Michael's family weren’t pleased with his decision to drop his university studies and pursue music and acting and word has it that his inheritance was cut off.
His big career break was playing as Logan in the popular TV show Dark Angel. He actually dated and became engaged to his co-star Jessica Alba, but their relationship ended in 2003. Thankfully, the show’s producer cast Michael as Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo and the rest, as they say, is history – or at least, very good television. So, if you like your heroes with a few flaws and a cheeky charmer personality, check out the show. You won’t be disappointed.
Watch out for Fiona's September release, Invitation To The Boss's Ball from Harlequin Romance.
In this modern-day Cinderella story, plain Alice's world is turned upside down when she's askes to organise tycoon Cameron Hunter's charity ball...