Monday, May 02, 2016

Male on Monday: Country Bad Boys


Pink Heart Society columnist Jill Kemerer looks to country music for her cowboys...

I've been plotting a new series set  in Wyoming. The books will be heavy on cowboys, ranchers, and all things rugged. So when I started casting my heroes, I knew exactly where to look for inspiration--country music!

Country music has been providing hero inspiration for decades. I'm sure there were plenty of ladies swooning over Johnny Cash and George Jones back in the day. Then there were the 90s heartthrobs like George Strait, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks. Soon Tim McGraw, Kenney Chesney and Brad Paisley took over.

And now we have a new breed of country bad boys, and I, for one, am loving it!

Let's start with Luke Bryan...

Luke Bryan sings about how corn makes whiskey, catfish dinners, kicking the dust up, trucks, tractors, honeys and strippin' it down. Maybe I've never eaten catfish, rarely kick the dust up, and know next to nothing about making whiskey, but who cares? I like his music!





Next up, Jason Aldean:

Jason is another true country boy. His songs are heavy on farming, tractors, partying and 4-wheel drives. Jason's songs remind me of my roots in Michigan with cousins and uncles who farm. Here's my favorite Jason Aldean song (an oldie but a goodie!).



Moving on to Sam Hunt!


Then we have a newer style of country song with singing/talking by Sam Hunt. Sam's songs are pretty romantic. We feel his pain after his girlfriend breaks up with him and starts dating someone else in town. We wish he would bring us a house party when we're curled up in our sweat pants on a Friday night. Mm-mmm! Sam might just be the ideal Harlequin hero!

Here's Sam getting his heart broken:



I have to include Hunter Hayes...


Hunter Hayes is a young 'un, but he's so cute! Plus, his songs remind me of high school and first loves. He's all emotions and I can relate!! Here's one of my faves. The lyrics remind me of why I read romance novels. I think we all want crazy. :)




There are so many more cute country guys out there. Look up Thomas Rhett, Justin Moore, Brantley Gilbert, Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban!


Do you like country music? If yes, who is your favorite country music singer/group?


Jill's April 2016 release, Her Small-Town Romance, doesn't feature any country music stars, but Bryan Sheffield is still extremely hunky. You can find purchase links to all major book outlets HERE:


Finding Her Way Home...


Cozy Lake Endwell, Michigan, seems the perfect place for Jade Emerson's new T-shirt shop—and perhaps a fresh start. After a lifetime of letdowns, she is finally ready to face the future on her own. 

So when local wilderness guide Bryan Sheffield offers to help Jade overcome a past trauma, she warns him they will remain strictly business. But soon, with the help of Bryan's big, complicated family and a boisterous St. Bernard named Teeny, Jade's frozen heart begins to thaw. 

Now Jade wonders if she can return the favor, bringing a little happiness to a man who has long kept his own sorrow under wraps…



Jill Kemerer writes Christian romance novels with love, humor and faith for Harlequin Love Inspired. Jill loves coffee, M&Ms, fluffy animals, magazines and her hilarious family. Visit her website, jillkemerer.com, and connect with Jill on Facebook, Twitter and sign up for her Newsletter.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Weekend Wildcard - And I'm Talking New Covers

Pink Heart Society columnist Barb Han is talking about how writing doesn't always command the respect it deserves...

Getting an e-mail with a link to a new book cover is like Christmas morning. There’s so much  anticipation leading up to the big reveal. Knowing the approximate date a cover should arrive in my Inbox has me hitting refresh more times than a day trader trying to sell a hot stock.

I wait. Refresh. And wait. Refresh.

Time drips by as my right index finger aches. Desperation creeps in and I worry that it’ll never show. My fears take over. Will my book be coverless and sad sitting all by itself on the shelf with no one to play with because it’s ‘different’ than the other books? *reaches for chocolate*

And then I tell myself to get a grip. There will be a cover and it will be fabulous! I stop checking and resolve to. Walk. Away.

Which, of course, is when it arrives and my reaction is something like…


Except without the bacon. :)

I open the e-mail with that same giddy anticipation of a child unwrapping that first present Christmas morning. My breath catches when I get the first glimpse, and it’s love at first sight!   

The Harlequin art department nails my covers. All. The. Time.

I mean, they’re even better than bacon! Seriously. And I love bacon.

I’d like to take credit for my covers turning out so spot on and fabulous. All Harlequin series authors fill out an Art Fact Sheet to help guide the art department. But it’s my editor’s vision and the art department’s creativity that shine through every time. They’re rock stars!

And they’ve done it again.

Here’s a first peek at my fresh-from-the-Inbox cover for my July 19th mass market release, STOCKYARD SNATCHING. This book kicks off a six-book miniseries set on a cattle ranch, Cattlemen Crime Club. And I LOVE this cover. The cattle. The setting sun. The cowboy. *drools*


In a word? Perfection!

For me, it’s Christmas in May.


I’d love to hear what you think of my new cover, or we could just talk about Christmas. Or bacon. I’m pretty much good with any of those topics…  

Barb's latest book, Texas Hunt, is out now:

She had a secret that could rock her hometown—and unleash a killer 

When Ryan Hunt receives a dead-of-night call for help from his childhood friend Lisa Moore, he knows the emergency is real. After barely surviving a brutal attack, Ryan is the only person Lisa trusts. Convinced the assault wasn’t random, he realizes she is hiding a dark and potentially deadly secret. 

Ryan can’t ignore Lisa’s silence any more than he can resist the Texas heat between them. He risks his life—and heart—to protect her. But if he can’t get Lisa to confide in him, the secret could bring the town of Mason Ridge to its knees. And destroy the only woman he has ever loved.


You can find out more about Barb Han's writing on her website and Goodreads. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest for regular updates and pretty pics!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Little Something for the Weekend - Dangerous Anti-Heroes

Pink Heart Society editor, Ali Williams, is talking about those dangerous anti-heroes that we can't help but be fascinated by...

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with dangerous anti-heroes - especially when it comes to romance.

But wait a moment, let me clarify what I mean by a dangerous anti-hero...  I don't mean a typical bad boy, just as I don't mean the alpha hero who's all gruff on the outside, but secretly has a heart of gold...

I'm talking about the anti-hero who will kill anyone who gets in their, who's ruthless and violent and altogether rather fascinating.

So yes, I'm not really sure whether they have a place, per se, on a blog that predominantly deals with romance, but there's something about the internal conflict in a dangerous anti-hero, that makes them altogether fascinating.

Next week, Peaky Blinders returns to the BBC.  For those who haven't seen it, it's a brutal depiction of a violent gang in Birmingham (North England) after the end of the First World War.  And yet, Cillian Murphy's depiction of Tommy Shelby is intricate and complex and makes us face the question of whether anyone can ever be wholly bad or wholly good.

It's a gripping tale, with roots in truth, that places its viewers firmly on the side of criminals, and it even has love narratives interwoven with the deception and violence.  I fell a little in love with enigmatic, complicated Tommy Shelby in a way that wouldn't be understandable if I'd met him in the real world.

Plus, Tom Hardy, sporting an incredibly bushy beard, makes a welcome appearance in the second series


Similarly Sons of Anarchy, with Brit Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller, follows the ups and downs of a motorcycle club, and the gang warfare that follows in its wake of destruction.

There were scenes in this that I simply couldn't watch, but yet I was absolutely hooked, wanting to know what would happen with Jax, the love of his life and his entire circle of family and friends.

None of them were particularly nice people, but that's kind of why we like anti-heroes.

They do things that we could never do ourselves, and follow a strict moral compass that is all their own - whether they're fighting to protect family or their home, or simply dolling out what seems to be a particularly brutal brand of justice.

But it's the complexity that makes them all the more fascinating, and I can't help that feel that any writer could learn from watching these two series how internal conflict and external conflict can compliment each other, as well as being a masterclass in internal conflict itself!

Are you a fan of dangerous anti-heroes?  Join the discussion in the comments!

Ali Williams grew up in Croydon and spent her teenage years in a convent girls’ school. She then fled to university where she discovered champagne cocktails, a capella singing and erotica.

These days she blogs about perceptions of romance, chick lit and women in society and spends the rest of her time promoting #StrongRomanceHeroines on Twitter, and cracking on with her first novel, Breakfast in Tunford.

Editor for the Pink Heart Society, guest blogger for Mills & Boon and Harper Impulse, and occasional columnist for For Books' Sake, she defies you to slam romance novels within her hearing!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Fun - Spankilicious!

Bella Francis, one of the #3Amigas, is talking to the Pink Heart Society about heroes and tropes...

Spanking. 

I'm serious! It's a perfectly appropriate topic of conversation for romance readers and writers. It might not quite be everybody's way to spend a half hour but you've got to admit that since Fifty Shades we've gotten a whole more liberated about it. 

The psychology behind why some people will and some people won't, and some people will even though they pretend they won't is absolutely fascinating. I read recently that experiences in early childhood can have a huge impact on this type of behaviour forming - being chastised is a way of making sense of an intense emotion and linking the punishment with pleasure can be how a young mind files it away for the future. 

Whatever the source, the pleasure is all tied up in the relationship. Could you spot a spankee or a spanker at fifty paces? We don't have a clue what sorts of things people get up to. And I have to confess that when I started writing the romance of Marco and Stacey I had no idea WHATSOEVER that this pair would take their rekindled teenage romance in this direction. Honestly, they were having a really hot kiss one moment and he was instructing her to bend over the next. Took me totally by surprise. And her!

But you see, she trusts him. Implicitly. She trusts him to open herself up to this kind of sensual pleasure. She trusts him and it's with that knowledge that she can explore herself a little more deeply. Isn't that what love is about at the end of the day? Self-knowledge is a wonderful thing. And imagine what a lovely surprise it must be to find out you're a spankee! All those cute new outfits and accessories :)

As I write, I'm almost finished this book, second of a duet for Harlequin Presents and due out, with the story of Dante and Sophie early next year. I've left Stacey draped over Marco's shoulder - John Wayne style - in the penultimate chapter. 

 I'll admit I'm slightly nervous to see how this scene goes. But hopefully, dear reader, it'll make it past the censors aka the lovely editorial team at Harlequin Mills and Boon. 

If you're any in doubt there's precedence! Amazing writers like Jane Porter (in The Italian's Virgin Princessand Jennifer Hayward (in Reunited for the Billionaire's Legacy) have already spanked for Harlequin Presents. So to speak.  I'm sure those ladies would agree - It's all about the love - as ever. Bottoms up!

Are you a fan of spanking in your romances?  Join the discussion in the comments!

Bella's latest book, The Playboy of Argentina, is out now:

Hot Nights In Buenos Aires! 

Polo-playing legend Rocco Hermida once blazed through Francesca Ryan’s life like a hurricane, leaving behind a trail of emotional devastation and unfulfilled desire. Meeting him again, Frankie’s horrified to discover that the passion Rocco ignited is still simmering… and one scorching kiss drives it to boiling point!

Rocco has always seen Frankie as unfinished business, so a brief fling at his luxurious Argentinian villa seems the perfect solution! Seduction is easy for Rocco – but then one night with Frankie isn’t enough…

Can he risk letting her in on the dark secrets he hides – his toughest challenge yet?

Bella lives in Scotland with her family. To find out more you can follow her on Facebookand Twitter.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Time-Out Thursday - Coloring!

We're delighted to welcome back Michele Hauf to the Pink Heart Society, as she talks about how coloring helps her relax!

Hey! Thanks for the invite to the blog. It's awesome to be here. So what do I do when not writing? Well, it seems lately that's about all I DO. I've been blessed recently to sign two new contracts with publishers, and that adds up to 9 books due by the end of 2017. Whew! I will be busy.

But when not writing I like to let my mind just…crash. Not think too hard. But still engage in something creative. You know what I'm addicted to? Coloring!

Yep, you heard that right. I've actually been a coloring book addict for over twenty years, and have been collecting coloring books that long. It's about time the rest of the world is finally getting on the band wagon and discovering the joys of coloring.

If you read a lot of articles online they'll tout the 'stress-relieving' benefits of coloring. But seriously? I get a little stressed out sometimes when I'm coloring. I worry about using the right color combinations. Coloring outside the lines. Coloring in those tiny little areas that would require 20/20 vision or better to see! Aggh!!!! 

Whew! You know what coloring does for me? It sends me back to that eight-year-old kid I once was. The one who used to love to scribble in coloring books with her crayons. And it also revisits the teenager who loved art class and at one time thought she'd become an artist for a living. Coloring honors that creative part of me that really needs attention from time to time. And by sitting down and spending an hour here and there just coloring inside the lines, I do honor that artist has always been with me and always will be with me.

How do you honor your inner artist? And if you've been ignoring her for years, can you think of a way to give her a hug and remind her that you still love and remember her?




In April, Michele’s latest release, Her Werewolf Hero, is out now:

Retrieve the purgatory heart… 

A "find and seize" mission that should have been easy for Retriever Bron Everhart. Except the werewolf had no idea the object would be inside a breathing, beautiful woman. Kizzy Lewis needed the heart to live. But others—even more desperate than Bron's employers—desired the heart at any cost. 

After just one touch, Bron knew he would do anything to protect Kizzy. The only way to truly save her was to journey into Purgatory itself. And for that, he had to hope he could return before she was lost to him forever.


To read more about Michele Hauf's books, stop by her website, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, as well as checking out her Pinterest and Tumblr.



Michele has a Facebook page dedicated to big kids obsessed with coloring: The Coloring Club! Find it here: facebook.com/thecoloringclub  Also check out the Pinterest page: pinterest.com/coloringclub

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Writer's Wednesday - That All Important Opening Line

Pink Heart Society columnist Jenna Kernan is talking about her usual workspace, and also those more unusual, moving workspaces!


I was once at a workshop given by literary agent Donald Maass on the topic of opening hooks. 
One of the more terrifying moments of the workshop was when he asked for volunteers to read our opening line and Mr. Maass asked the audience to raise their hands if they wanted to hear the second line. Would you have read yours?
If you had, how many hands would have gone up? 
Several of the opening lines gleaned no hands.   

Ouch.  A few got the entire room.  My first line got fifty percent.  I have since rewritten that line.
This brutal eye opener does make me pause and ask the question—why should a reader, editor or agent read my second line?
Sometimes it takes more than one try to get it right and you can always come back to it.  In my current release, Tribal Law (#3), in the Apache Protector series from Harlequin Intrigue, I not only struggled with the first line but with where to begin the story.  I often have to write a chapter or two to get to know my characters and then I end up cutting those chapters which are more prewriting than opening. 
My 1st Try - When the FBI called, you answered, even if you were Apache. 
This begining raising a question of why the FBI is calling and that my hero is Apache.  Ultimately I thought that beginning with answering a phone call was worse than opening with weather.

My 2nd Try - Selena Dosela wanted her father to come home, didn't she? 
This raises the question of where her father has been and why she might not want him back.  Still no action.

My 3rd Try - Selena Dosela’s heart beat so hard in her chest she started gasping.

Yup!  That’s the one.  Who is Selena and what is she doing to make her heart beat so fast?  This one raises questions and has action.
Tribal Law is a RT TOP PICK so I think I finally got it right.  Here are the opening lines from each of the books in my Apache Protectors Series:
Shadow Wolf #1 – December 2015
Kino Cosen wondered if this trail might be the one that would finally lead to his father’s killer.
Hunter Moon #2 – January 2016
Izzie Nosie lay low over the mare’s neck hoping to make herself less of a target for whoever was shooting at her.
Tribal Law #3 – May 2016  RT TOP PICK!
Selena Dosela’s heart beat so hard in her chest she started gasping.
Native Born #4 – June 2016
If Cassidy Walker had known what would happen that Monday morning, she most certainly would not have worn her new suit.

So, where can you go for inspiration when crafting your first line?

Begin on your keeper shelf.  Then go to the bookstore and read only the first line of the books on the bestsellers list. 
Here are writers that hooked me right away!
“My twin brother is the one wanted for murder.”
Angi Morgan, SHOTGUN JUSTICE, Texas Rangers: Elite Troop
Special Agent Ashton Stryker’s heart pounded fast and hard with anticipation and a rush of adrenaline.
Lisa Childs, AGENT UNDERCOVER: Special Agents at the Altar
I’m twenty, and already, I’ve got nothing to lose.

Jeaniene Frost, THE BEAUTIFUL ASHES

The motel room door was ajar.

Elizabeth Lowell, PERFECT TOUCH


“But how can I?”      

                        Connie Brockway, THE BRIDAL SEASON


“Lady Hawksworth, your husband is not dead.”    

                        Lisa Kleypas, STRANGER IN MY ARMS

So what works best in an opening line?  

Raising a question in the reader’s mind.  Foreshadowing trouble ahead.  Opening in conflict.  Starting with action. 

I hope your opening line brings gads of eager readers flocking to your second sentence and your third and fourth…
What are your top tips with working with editors?  Share your advice in the comments! 

Jenna's latest book, Tribal Law is the third book in her popular Apache Protector series for Harlequin Intrigue, and is out now:

Only the warrior from her past could save her now… 

Tribal police chief Gabe Cosen would do anything to protect his people and their reservation. This sheer dedication to the law had even cost him his fiancĂ©e. Selena Dosela had never forgiven him for sending her father to prison. But with trouble back on her doorstep, Gabe vowed to keep her safe. 

Only extreme fear for her family would allow Selena to accept Gabe's help. Despite all they had been through, Selena knew she could trust him with the lives of those she loved. The lawman would never break his word…but if she wasn't careful, he might break her heart again.


Jenna Kernan writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue, Western Historical fiction and paranormal romance. Winner of the Book Buyers' Best award and two-time RITA nominee, Jenna has just published her twenty-fifth romance novel.  Tribal Law (#3) in her popular Apache Protectors series from Harlequin Intrigue release on MAY 1.  Look for the other books in this series: Shadow Wolf (#1), Hunter Moon (#2) and Native Born (#4) in June 2015.

Jenna is forming a new review team.  If you are interested in getting free pre-release copies of Jenna's latest visit her website to apply.


For more details about Jenna Kernan's stories, visit her EXTRAS page, subscribe to her newsletter on her website, visit her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Tuesday Talk-Time - Fearing Slowness

Today we're joined at the Pink Heart Society by Harlequin Heartwarming author Liz Flaherty, who's talking about being afraid of ever-dwindling word days...

The writers’ group I belong to assigns us writing prompts each month. They’re often fun. 

My problem is that just like when I was in school and did my homework on the bus, I leave it until the very last minute. The very last minute, as in if I could drive and write, I would. This month’s assignment was fears and phobias, or something like that—we pretty much take off on our own with the prompt.

What is written below, while it has nothing to do with what I’m doing here at Pink Heart Society—thank you so much for having me, by the way—maybe it does, too, because my writing habits are changing. And not, sigh, for the better.

“I do.” When she’d handed him the cup, he nodded thanks. “I’ll be glad to deliver a tree, but you’ll need to come to the farm and choose the one you want.” He gestured toward the store’s front door. “I’ll throw in a wreath as a welcome gift.” 
“That’s kind of you.” She hesitated, taking her time about putting the cookies on a Santa platter. “There’s a lot of that here, isn’t there? Giving and sharing.” 
He shrugged. “We help each other.” 
Ellie looked at the empty space where the tree would go. “Do you know anything about the orphanage?” 
“It’s outside of town, past Reindeer Meadow. It’s on one side of the road and the assisted living apartment complex is on the other. The toys-for-the-needy boxes at the stores in town take care of Christmas for them—the children and the elderly both. I’m surprised no one’s brought you one yet.”

There are 152 words in the paragraphs above. Some of them will possibly stay in the manuscript. Some of them will go. Either way, the 152 are the sum total of how many words got written on my work in progress yesterday. 

In addition, I wrote two promotional blog posts, swept up lady bugs, stared thoughtfully into space, and played numerous games of computer Solitaire.

When I was young, I feared growing old above all things. I would become wrinkled, for God’s sake. I’d be unable to get up from the floor, carry bags of salt to the water softener, or remember the names of...well, anyone. I would become deaf, break at least one hip, and refer to younger generations as “those damn kids.” My clothes would have elastic waists, low heels, and underwires. Sex would become a sweet, abstract memory. Everything would slow down.

And at the end of it I would die. Even as a Christian who believes pretty firmly in the afterlife, I’m not all that eager to find out what that afterlife is.

Some of those things have indeed come to pass—never mind which ones—and at this point I’m not sure what I was so afraid of. So far, the whole being old gig is a lot of fun. 

So now I have a new fear. I remember writing days when I would get 2500 words. I remember one memorable weekend that I wrote 50 pages. And now I’m having 152-word days. I don’t even want to figure up how many of them it will take to write a 70,000-word book. 

Lots.

So, at the end of the day, my big fear is slowness.

Really? I just spent 435 words talking about being slow?

I can live with that. 

The assignment ended there, without crossing out the ending words, on a little wave of laughter because most of us in the group are there. We’re not as fast as we used to be. Well. Crap.

I’d like to end this post on something a little more proactive, such as stay in the chair until you reach your page goal!, but I don’t feel that way anymore. So, yes, here’s what I’m going to do in this stage of my writing life. I’m going to stay in the chair until it’s not fun anymore, make sure my deadlines don’t exceed what I can do, and stop and smell the roses. I’ll get there when I get there.

Do you struggle with getting all those words on a page?  Join Liz in the comments!


Despite her slow writing and the slight possibility she procrastinates, Liz’s latest book, Every Time We Say Goodbye, is out now on Amazon, B&N, Kobo and Harlequin:


He had her at "hello again…" 

After the prom night accident that had stolen the innocence of his small lakeside hometown, Jack Llewellyn had run. The guilt—especially facing his high school sweetheart, Arlie Gallagher—had been too much. Now he had no choice. He was back in town, and on Arlie's radar. 

Arlie couldn't believe that after all these years, she still had him under her skin. He was such a changed man…a responsible business owner, a single parent. Would he understand the changes she'd gone through, the secrets she lived with? She was ready to forgive him but was he ready to forgive himself? And did they have to say goodbye this time?

Liz Flaherty thinks one of the things that keeps you young when you quite obviously aren’t anymore is the constant chances you have to reinvent yourself. Her latest professional incarnation is as a Harlequin Heartwarming author and she is enjoying every minute! 

She’d love to hear from you at lizkflaherty@gmail.com or please come and visit her website, or friend her on Facebook.