Sunday, May 29, 2016

Weekend Wildcard - Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

We're delighted to welcome back Alison Stone as she talks to the Pink Heart Society about following your instincts when it comes to writing...

I’d never call myself an adventurous person, but I’ve had adventurous moments. Flashes, if you will. Like the time I decided to go to Georgia Tech when home was in Buffalo, NY.  (That’s 893 miles for those of you with Google Maps. And since we didn’t have a lot of money, that meant not coming home until the end of the term.)  Or the time I decided to go to the RWA conference in Atlanta and pitched my book to an agent. 

I remember the flush of dread that washed over me when I started pitching my YA novel to Karen Solem and she told me they didn’t represent YA.  I almost got up and walked away when Karen started chatting with me and I remembered that category book that I had been working on. So, I pitched that and she invited me to submit a partial. If it hadn’t been for Karen’s kindness and my last minute bravery, I wouldn’t have signed with Spencerhill Associates a few months later.

But between those moments of bravery, I prefer yoga pants, my couch, and my laptop. Lately, I’ve noticed something. Comfort begets more comfort. I’ve come to the conclusion that once Amazon Fresh grocery delivery comes to the Buffalo market, I may never leave my house again. Like ever. And as great as that day will be, I’ve decided it could be a slippery slope.

You see, my few moments of bravery over my lifetime have lead me to many wonderful things: an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, which lead to a great job, which lead to a wonderful husband, my kids…the list goes on. Our choices shape who we are.

However, the older I get, I have to remind myself to make those leaps. Last summer, I was at the RWA conference in NYC when my agent suggested I write something for Waterfall Press, Apub’s Christian imprint. I knew just the project, but it was completely outside my comfort zone of writing for Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense. Despite that, I went home and let it rip. I mean, really, just let it rip. I wrote a partial in a short time, submitted it to my agent, and fully expected her to say, “This is good, but…”  However the “but” never came. My agent loved it and it turns out, so did Waterfall Press.

I’ll never forget my agent’s phone call telling me that Waterfall wanted to buy my book. I had a sort of out of body experience. I was thrilled that Waterfall offered me a contract based on my partial, but another voice was growing louder, “Now, you have to write the book.” (Panic often rears its head about this time.)

As the voice grew louder and louder, doubt crept in. Oh, what have I done? But as much as I love comfort, I also despise letting anyone down. Because I had a contract and a deadline, I had to push through and write the book. There was no maybe. Pointe and Shoot, my Dance Moms meets Blue Bloods book is in the final production stages and already up for pre-sale on Amazon. Have I mentioned how much I love this book? A book that would have never existed if I hadn’t stepped outside my comfort zone.

Even as the temptation to stick to the known is always going to be appealing to me, I will continue to push myself out of my comfort zone because more often than not, it has been worth it.  So worth it.

Are you a risk taker? What risks have you taken? Or what risks would you love to take, but you’re afraid to?  Join the discussion with Alison in the comments!

Alison's latest novel, Plain Protector, is out now:

When an unknown assailant attacks Sarah Gardner shortly after she moves to Apple Creek, she doesn't know which of her fears has come true. Is someone trying to tell her that meddling strangers aren't welcome in this tight-knit Amish community, or has her abusive ex-boyfriend found her? The social worker doesn't want to run again, not when she's finally putting down roots. But she may not have a choice, unless deputy sheriff Nick Jennings can protect her. 

The former army ranger knows that Sarah has secrets…and women with secrets only bring heartache. But serving the community is Nick's job, and he can't turn away a woman in peril—especially when he can't imagine a future without her.

Alison Stone lives in Western New York with my husband of twenty years and our four children where the summers are absolutely gorgeous and the winters are perfect for curling up with a good book--or writing one. You can find out more information about her on her website, sign up for her newsletter here and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Little Something for the Weekend - The Romance Writing Merry-Go-Round

Amber Page, of the #3Amigas, is back at the Pink Heart Society, talking about what happens when things don't go quite to plan in publishing...

Romance writing is not a career for the easily discouraged. Everyone knows this, of course, but I keep getting more and more proof.

Picture this: I’ve just finished dotting the last i and crossing the last t on the book proposal I’ve spent the last three months perfecting.The story is one I’ve created specifically for Harlequin Blaze. It’s got a hunky blue-collar hero, a spunky heroine, and a premise built to allow for lots and lots of time between the sheets (and on the floor, on a boat, in the sand, etc.).

I’m feeling really good. I’ve even conquered the synopsis. I am just opening my email to send it off to my editor when the tornado siren goes off.

“Shoot,” I think to myself. “I guess that will have to wait” (actually, the first thing I think is “Ohcrapwearegoingtodie.” Then I think the other thing.).

Ten minutes later, I’m crowded into the half bath with my daughter, husband, and 70-pound mutt waiting for the Funnel of Doom to hit our house when the Facebook-notifier-thingy pops up on my phone.

It’s from one of my author friends, and mentions Harlequin Blaze within the first five words. Because I clearly have my priorities in order, I tap the notification to see what she has to say.

She is reporting the somewhat imminent death of the line.

“No, no, no, no, NO! Are you freaking kidding me?”

My husband looks at me in alarm. “What, did a tornado hit somewhere?”

“No, Blaze is shutting down.”

“Oh no. That’s awful. I’m sorry, honey.”

That’s why I love this man. He totally gets me—and my screwed up priorities.

Obviously, my story isn’t going to find a home as easily as I had hoped. I spend the next week or two sulking (thankfully, a tornado does NOT hit us, and we don’t die). First KISS, now Blaze. Is any imprint I choose to target doomed to fail?

I’m choosing to believe that’s not true. There are rumors that Blaze will be replaced by something even sexier, so perhaps I’ll still find a home for my story there. Or perhaps I will find a place for it somewhere else—romance is still a multi-billion dollar business, and lots of other publishing houses are looking for writers.

And if all else fails, there’s always the indie route.

And of course, there are no shortage of story ideas in my head. I’ve got a couple that could even work for Harlequin Presents—although I’d hate for that venerable line’s demise to be on my head, should I choose to look there.

So what’s next for me? I’m going to finish writing Dan and Lily’s story. I have no choice—they’re taking  up far too much space in my head to be ignored right now.

I have no idea what comes after that. Maybe I’ll end up with something that’s right for the new Harlequin line. Or maybe I’ll shop it around to other publishing houses. Or maybe I’ll try to get an agent interested.

The path forward is uncertain. All I know is that there is a path to success somewhere. I just have to find it.

Are you bewailing the death of Blaze?  Do you think this isn't quite fair?  Join our discussion in the comments! 

Amber’s latest book, Dating the Enemy, is available now:

The dating game…

Jessie Owens is determined to live life to the fullest so her only rule after meeting the delicious Nick Thornton is to get him into bed!

But things get complicated when Jessie discovers Nick is her company’s biggest rival and that she’s been dating her enemy! By day, Nick seems determined to destroy her company, but by night his sizzling kisses show so much more…

Amber Page lives in Indiana, USA with her husband and daughter. When she's not writing, she's an advertising copywriter. You can find out more at her website or on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Fun - Jane Godman's Call Story

We're delighted to welcome Jane Godman to the Pink Heart Society, as she shares her call story with us...

My ‘call’ from Harlequin started in July 2013 and ended in January 2015! Let me explain…

I already had a few historical romances published with a small company, but I wanted to write a gothic romance, encompassing all the best elements of the tradition--brooding, atmosphere, setting as character, dark secrets--with some newer touches including increased edginess and sensuality. 

I had no idea, when I started writing it, that Harlequin were looking for gothics. I’d finished writing and was just polishing my book, when, quite by chance, I read an interview with Malle Vallik at Harlequin, who said she wanted to see more gothic romances. 

I submitted my book and sat back to wait the 12 to 14 weeks Harlequin said on their website was standard. Exactly a week after I submitted it, I was in work and checked my phone. I had two missed calls from an unknown number and a voicemail. I never gave Harlequin a thought.

The voicemail message started: ‘This is Malle Vallik, calling from Harlequin in Toronto about your submission which we loved …’ I had to listen to it about five times before it sank in. 

That was the start of my career with Harlequin. I had five gothic romances published with Shivers, which was part of HarlequinE, the digital only line. Sadly, HarlequineE came to an end and I thought my time as a Harlequin author had ended with it. 

Then a wonderful lady named Denise Zaza, who is one of the Harlequin Senior Editors, asked if I had considered writing paranormal romance. I hadn’t. I had always considered paranormal a difficult genre to write. Like science fiction, you have the freedom of world building, but within that you have a huge responsibility to your readers to get it right and make it work.

Anyway, Denise’s question got me thinking. Could I write paranormal? More importantly for me, could I write with a North American voice? Harlequin Nocturne, their paranormal line, may be set anywhere in the world, but I’ve read enough of them to know the voice is American. I’m English. 

There’s only one way to find out if you can write something. Just write it. A few months later, Otherworld Protector, my first paranormal romance, was born. I submitted it to Harlequin Nocturne and began the lengthy waiting process all over again.

My second Harlequin ‘call’ wasn’t a call at all. It was an email, again just a week after submission. It was from Denise Zaza saying that she and Ann Leslie Tuttle, the Senior Editor who oversees the Nocturne line at Harlequin, both loved my ‘wonderful’ and ‘fascinating’ story. They wanted to offer me a three book contract. Yes, three. After I picked myself up off the floor, I naturally accepted!

I now have five books contracted in the Otherworld Series and also have a gothic Nocturne (gothic, my first love!) coming out in December 2016. I also have three books contracted with Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

Oh, and I have a six book series coming out with St Martin’s Press in 2017 in their digital only romance line SMP Swerve. Guess what? It’s paranormal. Turns out Denise was right. I can do paranormal! 

I hope this long-winded call story highlights the roller-coaster that happens in this business. My story took me through the high of that first call from Malle to the low of HarlequinE coming to an end all the way back up again to my first contract with Nocturne and even higher again now I’m published with two Harlequin lines. The message is clear ‘never give up, no matter how bleak things may look’. 

And on that subject…while I was writing Otherworld Protector, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I’m lucky. My tumour is low grade and slow growing. I tell people this story to give the message that you should go for your goals, no matter what life throws your way. Climb the mountain, run the marathon…write the book. 

The latest book in Jane's Otherworld series, Otherworld Renegade, is out this month:

Claiming her felt like his destiny…but could prove to be his ultimate undoing. 

Desperate to flee a horrific arranged marriage, Princess Tanzi turned to the only man who could help. Lorcan Malone, infamous necromancer, had vowed to come to her aid whenever she needed him. And even as they traveled from the mortal world into the fantastical Otherworld, Tanzi knew her true need ran deeper than just a rescue. 

She was his enemy's daughter. A renegade like Lorcan had no business craving a Fae princess, one intended for a greater calling. Yet he was powerless to resist the pull to do more than protect Tanzi… 

For more information about Jane Godman and her books, check out her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Time Out Thursday - Gardening

Romance author, Susan Sleeman is talking about the things that get her out of bed and into the good weather...

When I’m not writing and the weather is good, you’ll find me out in my garden and yard. I love, love, love to dig in the dirt and tend to plants.

The colors are so vivid and I find that man cannot create colors with such depth and beauty. Take these flowers from my yard for example. Even the white is so vibrant it’s nearly impossible to recreate.

Then of course, there’s harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables for my family. There is nothing better that a tomato fresh from the vine. And you can grown fun veggies like purple carrots and potatoes.

But I guess the main reason I like it so much is that it gives me time to empty my brain from all the thoughts I have to keep straight to write suspense and mystery novels. Though I have to admit, sometimes I sneak outside to work out a problem I’m having with a particular book.

And, life is extra special when I can incorporate my two loves—writing thrilling suspense books and gardening—together. It’s a given that I have characters who loves gardening in my books, but in Web of Secrets, my latest book release in my Agents Under Fire series, the two combined in a bizarre way.

As I researched how search dogs located buried bodies, I learned how plants and tree roots carry the scent of decomposition along their roots and this is the location where the scent can be the strongest. So the dogs often light on a spot away from the actual body. Now, when I’m digging in the yard and find a large tree root, I think about how amazing these search dogs are in locating a body. And let me say, I have a lot of trees in my yard with lovely roots like these.

What about you? Have you ever read something in a book that has changed how you look at some of your favorite things?

The first book in the series, Web of Deceit, is out now:
When agent Kaitlyn Knight’s brother-in-law, the notorious cybercriminal Vyper, kills her sister then goes on a murderous spree taunting Kait, homicide detective Sam Murdock must find Vyper before he takes another life. 

As the body count rises, Sam discovers the killing spree is really about striking back at Kait, and he must put everything on the line—including the relationship he’s developed with Kait—to ensure her safety. 

Vyper is waiting, watching her every move, and he won't stop until he's exacted his revenge and reclaims his rights to raise his daughter now in Kait’s custody.

For more information about Susan Sleeman and her writing, check out her website and blog, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Writer's Wednesday - Fitting It All In

We're delighted to welcome back Elisabeth Hobbes to the Pink Heart Society as she talks about just how to fit everything in!!

I’m not the world’s fastest writer. I’d love to be able to sit down and rush off pages at a time like Jessica Fletcher in the opening titles of Murder, She Wrote but that’s never going to happen. I get sidetracked by the cats, the weather or suddenly realising I haven’t had a cup of tea for at least 30 minutes (I’m English- it’s a stereotype for a reason).

The internet is a killer too. On one hand it has made research so much easier with an abundance of facts, images and documents readily to hand. 

 On the other, I’ve lost count of the hours I’ve spent looking at examples of swords for my blacksmith hero to craft or what a medieval forge would look like, to say nothing of finding the perfect model for the hero himself (ahem…Aidan Turner). Since I started writing this piece I’ve broken off three times to check she really was called Jessica Fletcher, to watch the opening titles (there’s a lot more walking by boats and peering through doors than I remember) and again because the cat rolled over and chirruped and I felt guilty for not stroking him.

With all that going on I’m constantly amazed that I’ve written a single page, never mind four books.

Something I’ve heard so many times is ‘I’d love to write a book if I had the time’ or ‘I wish I had as much time as you to write’, but I’m discovering more and more that isn’t how it works. There isn’t a Writing Time Fairy who whizzes down and sprinkles a few extra hours into the day from a glittery bag. It’s a clichĂ© but the truth is you don’t find the time, you make it.

Juggling the ever-ever-increasing demands of my day job as a teacher along with family life isn’t easy. I grab every moment I can to write whatever and whenever I can because I firmly believe that every word helps. A phrase becomes a sentence, becomes a paragraph, becomes a chapter and so on until you have something you can delete half of and start again because your characters turn out to have been married before, or adopt a dog, or something else you didn’t expect to happen. 

That’s why I’ve run down the road muttering into my phone so I don’t forget lines of dialogue when I’ve got into the swing of things so it comes as a shock that it’s five minutes before the school run and I can’t bear to abandon my characters mid scene.

It’s why every room in my house is littered with post-its, half used notebooks and pens. The notes I write in the dark, leaning over in bed when I wake up at 2am need more deciphering than the Dead Sea Scrolls to make sense.

It’s the reason that while my kids are at their swimming lesson on Tuesday evening I’m sitting by the pool scribbling out plans for my next chapter rather than going for a swim and why the Friday evening supermarket wine run while they’re at band practice also involves a cafĂ© stop to get another few hundred words down.

Sometimes it can get embarrassing. I once glared at friends in the supermarket when they interrupted an argument my heroine was having with the hero and I’d got so caught up I forgot where I was.

Even a trip back to visit my mum turns into research. The Blacksmith’s Wife, is set in my hometown of York and on the surrounding North York Moors so every visit for the past year has involved persuading my poor mum to walk around the snickelways (isn’t that a lovely word, shame it’s too late for my heroine to use it) and medieval buildings while I take photos and lose myself in one piece of research or another. That’s the beauty of picking somewhere you know well to write about. It makes creating a setting so much easier if you already know it, though comes with the drawback of agonising over small details such as whether it really is possible to get from one street to another in a certain amount of time which the majority of readers probably won’t question.

Though as I discovered on my most recent visit describing Spring in York as ‘warm enough to walk around with only a light cloak’ turned out to be one example of artistic licence too far!

How do you fit it all in?  Is there a balance between your writing life and everything else?  Join in the discussion below!

Elisabeth’s newest book, The Blacksmith's Wife, is available now: 

A passion forged from fire

Rejected by her favoured knight, Joanna Sollers knows she will never love again. Especially when the man she’s now forced to marry is none other than her beloved’s half-brother!

For blacksmith Hal Danby, marrying Joanna makes his life-long dream of entering the Smiths’ Guild possible, even if the secrets in his past mean he’ll forever keep his distance. But everything changes with one stolen night, and in the arms of his new bride, Hal wonders if this loveless arrangement could transform into something real…

To find out more about Elisabeth Hobbes and her books you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Male on Monday - #KissACanadian

Today on The Pink Heart Society, contemporary romance author Taryn Leigh Taylor shares some good news and the hot men from up North who help ward off the Canadian chill.

I got the most wonderful surprise--my debut Harlequin, 
KISS AND MAKEUP, has been shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer prize in the romance category! I am incredibly excited and very, very nauseated as I wait for the results of this contest.

In support of my book, or maybe just to distract me from said nausea, Harlequin Blaze is asking people to tweet using #KissACanadian to celebrate. 

That being the case, I feel it's only fair that I step up and present a list of the Canadians I would most like to kiss:

5 - Joshua Jackson

Joshua Jackson stole my heart playing Capeside's resident bad boy, Pacey Witter, on Dawson's Creek and I gotta say, this Canuck just keeps getting better with age.

4 - Brendan Fraser

I would definitely get my smooch on with Brendan Fraser circa The Mummy...or should I say The Yummy? 

3 - Ryan Reynolds

Funny? Check. Charming? Check. Abs for days? Check. Ryan Reynolds hits the big three on my kissable list!

2 - Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling is not only handsome and talented, but the dude is a real life superhero! You can't open the internet today without reading about how this big-hearted hottie saved someone from peril. How could you not want to kiss him?

1 - Paul Gross

Canadiana runs through Paul Gross' veins, whether he's playing a mountie in Due South, a curler in Men With Brooms, or a World War I soldier in Passchendaele, he knows how to set hearts "eh" flutter!

So tell me in the comments below (or tweet me at @tarynltaylor) and tell me which Canadian you'd most like to kiss? #KissACanadian

Taryn Leigh Taylor's debut Harlequin Blaze, KISS AND MAKEUP, is available wherever ebooks are sold.

A hot shade of lipstick calls for a hot, sexy guy.

Makeup artist Chloe Masterson has a look for every occasion. Flying home for your sister's wedding and famiy torture? Easy. Bring out the sarcastic wit and black eyeliner. Bonus--the look catches the eye of the corporate hottie sitting beside her on the plane. Turns out Ben has the exact same last name, and everyone assumes they're married.

When they get stuck in a hotel room together, Chloe decides to accept the gift the Fates have bestowed upon her. (Tip: a bold lip color does wonders for seduction.) But as their lies begin to snowball, Chloe and Ben find it harder and harder to distinguish between what's real and what's all just smoky eyes and mirrors.

For more information, check out or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.