Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Fun :: Pulling it all together

Anne is celebrating the end of a series -- her books about the Antonides and Savas families-- which she has loosely called her "Beware of Greeks" books.  She's looking back . . . and looking forward at the same time.  It's the writer's version of tennis-watching neck.

Yesterday in the mail I got a box from England containing the last of my Savas-Antonides books, The Return of Antonides. It is generally a moment of trepidation because sometimes, frankly, upon seeing the cover, I'd really rather not have.  HOWEVER . . . this time they got it right.

Boy, did they get it right.

This is Lukas Antonides, youngest son in the Antonides family (oh, heavens, yes, it looks just like him) -- the one who, through all his siblings' books, had always looked as if he'd just got out of bed or was just on his way out the door.  He did, in fact, go out the door for most of the series. He was rarely around unless there was a wedding he was required to attend in which case he showed up, said something sarcastic, then left.

I loved him, but I privately despaired of him. When it was his turn, who on earth would put up with him?  Good question, as it turned out.

When it was his turn, he found the wrong woman the first time around.  He and I suffered through half a book before he pointed out how bored he was. He was bored? What about me?  So we tossed that and started over.  That was when Holly showed up.

Holly had more than enough moxie to deal with Lukas, but the idiot got himself engaged to Grace in the meantime.  We finished that book, Lukas and Holly -- and Grace -- and I.  The editorial team had one major suggestion: lose Grace.

That was a nice idea -- except it meant losing at least half of Lukas's motivation for anything he did, including why he couldn't get the right girl.  Because he had the wrong girl already, see?  I saw. Lukas saw.  Even Holly saw.  Grace was busy, and frankly she was interested in Will at the library, but she didn't tell Lukas that.  Editorial said again: lose Grace.

Well, Grace couldn't go entirely. She's there -- just not very there.  And not engaged to Lukas. This time around he had the brains not to pop the question.  I suspect she's happier that way -- and perfectly capable of getting herself engaged to Will at the library without any help from me (thank God).

But that meant writing another book in which Lukas was the hero, minus Grace (mostly), but with Holly who was his dearest enemy.  This time, it worked!  Well, except for the 100 or so pages I cut out because, well, it wasn't short.

So . . . Lukas has got his happily ever after (that's a spoiler, I guess, but if you read romances, you know he's going to get her, don't you? You just don't know how. And frankly, neither did Lukas for a very long time indeed.)

He also got a dynamite cover on the UK version (see above).  This is Lukas, down to the ground.  He figures he deserves such a great cover. So do I.

The US cover is, well, okay, I guess. She doesn't look like Holly at all.  So if you get the US version, you'll have to imagine your own Holly.  I'm sure you can do that.  And the Lukas is better than Holly, but not the UK Lukas.  Love the UK Lukas.

So I've been having fun this Friday reading back through all the Savas and Antonides stories which began in The Antonides Marriage Deal when the oldest Antonides brother, Elias, got the company almost literally pulled out from under him when his father, Aeolus, lost a bet to Socrates Savas who then installed his only daughter, Tallie, as head of the company.

Since then there have been eleven more books, including Lukas's.  They are all -- except Lukas's because I am just sending the info to my webmistress so stay tuned -- listed on my website on their own "Beware of Greeks" page.  You can read excerpts for each if you so desire.  I'll be posting an excerpt of Lukas's book there, too, very shortly.

And now, with the last Antonides happily sharing his ever after with the woman he'd loved for years, I am looking forward to four new guys -- I call them the Hard Broke Creek men.  They knew each other in high school and college in Montana. They cowboyed together for a time.

Now all except one have been away about a dozen years. Then fate conspires to bring them home again to face their past, to come to terms with the demons they have never dealt with, and to meet -- or meet again -- the women who help make their lives whole.

I'll miss those Antonides and Savas folks. Maybe another one will come along some day. But for now I'm having fun getting to know the Hard Broke Creek men -- and the women who may finally tame them.

The Return of Antonides comes out in late September or early October in both UK and US editions. It may be out in a venue near you -- even if you don't live in either of those places -- around the same time.  

The kindle edition (UK) has a slightly different look -- same guy! -- if you read electronically these days.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Time Out Thursday - Discussing the Romance

Pink Heart Society editor, Ali Williams, is talking about talking about romances...

I've been looking to join a book club recently - we moved to a town in Sussex about six months ago, and I've been finding it hard to meet people - and I discovered that our local Waterstones is starting a book club that'll meet once a month.  So naturally, I signed up.

But it got me thinking.

When we talk about romance novels, what are the questions that we're asking?  What are the themes and tropes and topics that we're looking to talk about?

Romance is such a broad genre that I find myself splitting discussion questions into two rather distinct categories:  discussion questions for those who regularly read romance; and discussion questions for those who read.  Either way, there are groups of questions that I always end up discussing:

Sub-Genre Questions

There are so many sub-genres of romance, that I like to try and contextualise the book being discussed - either to ask about the sub-genre if it's not one I read regularly, or to ask how this book compares to other books within the same sub-genre.  This is my chance to really understand where this author's coming from, and where this book fits within the wider romance writing narrative.

Trope Questions

One accusation often leveled at romance novels, is that they're all the same.  I think this is where the trope questions come in handy.  Have the writer taken a typical trope (whether that's a reunion story, or amnesia plot, or a secretary heroine) and done something a bit different with it?  Is the secretary the hero?  Or the reunion something high school sweethearts said they'd do if they were 30 and still unmarried?

I love the way that romance authors manage to keep their stories fresh and exciting, and discussing how they do that is always fun!

Intersectionality Questions

I'm a big fan of intersectional romances, whether it's the inclusion of LGBTQ characters, more POCs or heroines and heroes breaking away from the usual stereotypes.

that's not to say I don't enjoy novels that don't do this, but there are more and more intersectional romances that I believe challenge the stereotypes that the public domain has of romance, and that can only be a good thing.

Emotion Questions

And one of the best things about romances, is the way that they manage to capture a broad spectrum of emotions - from elation to devastation; from mistrust to openness - and there's nothing better than discussing how the book in question managed to capture your heart.

What are the questions that you ask of romance novels?  And are there any questions that regularly pop up when you discuss them with others?  Join our very own 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!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Writer's Wednesday - Collaborating on Tule's the Secrets of Cherry Lake Series

Today on the Pink Heart Society, PHS editor and author Jeannie Watt discusses collaborating on Tule Publishing's new Montana Born series, The Secrets of Cherry Lake.

What happens when you take four authors who don’t know each other and put them together to develop a series? Well, in the case of The Secrets of Cherry Lake, a kind of magic happened.

Cherry Lake, Montana, is a fictional community set on the east side of Flathead Lake, where, as the name implies, cherries are grown.  [Side note—I was just in Montana a week ago and bought some Flathead Lake cherries at a roadside stand and they are superb!] Jane Porter used Cherry Lake as one of the settings in her book The KidnappedChristmas Bride, and it was such a neat place that the Tule team decided to develop it as the setting for future books--thus The Secrets of Cherry Lake.

When I joined Roxanne Snopek, Paula Altenburg, and Joan Kilby as a member of Team Cherry Lake, they already had  a rough map of the town and the back story. Four brothers—the Jacksons—returned to Montana from WWII and started a cherry orchard. Each of us would get a brother and write about one of our brother’s grandchildren. Great idea, except do you know how many people you can generate in just a couple generations? We had a hard time keeping the patriarchal brothers straight, plus their children and grandchildren.  It was time to pare back. So we had one brother—Nate Jackson—return from WWII and start a cherry orchard. His four children and resulting grandchildren were much easier to keep track of. 

One neat aspect of developing the town was combining our businesses and characters into a cohesive community. When I joined the team, I added an historic hotel in need of renovation to the town. Writing the history of the Montreau Hotel was almost as much fun as developing a character--but not quite. Developing Clinton Calloway, our resident bad guy, was the most fun. He figures in several of our stories.

Roxanne, Joan, Paula and I live in three different time zones and when it was evening here in Nevada, I think it was morning where Joan lives in Australia. It didn’t matter. Despite distances and time zone issues, we communicated full time, describing characters and businesses via email and Google Docs, and Cherry Lake came alive. 

Please check out Roxanne Snopek’s kick off novella—Small Town Secrets—which was released yesterday, along with Joan Kilby’s full length novel, The Secret Son.  Paula’s Her Secret Love releases on September 1, Roxanne’s Her Secret Protector releases on September 8, and my The Secret Bride releases on September 15.

Do you enjoy books that share a setting and characters? Or do you prefer stand alones?

The Secret Bride--
After a decade away, Jacie Rose has returned with her daughter to Cherry Lake to renovate a historic hotel…and to lay some ghosts to rest. She knows she’ll have to confront mistakes she made in the past, but she didn’t expect to be living right next door to the guy she once asked to be her husband.
When Brett Jackson was approached ten years ago by Jacie Rose with the wild scheme of marrying her to help her out of a jam, his white knight instincts kicked in and he agreed to be her emergency groom. The only problem was that the bride didn’t show up for the wedding. How’s he supposed to get used to seeing the woman he’s never forgotten every day now that she’s his neighbor?
Determined to provide the secure home life for her daughter that she never had, Jacie is not about to bring a man into her life—even one that she sometimes thinks should have been there all along. But Brett and Jacie soon discover the spark between them is even stronger than before… Now that their paths have crossed again, will they lead them back to the wedding that almost was?

Jeannie Watt writes fast-paced, character driven stories set in the American west. When she’s not writing, she teaches in a small rural high school, sews and, of course, reads romance. To learn more about Jeannie and her books, please check out her website.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday Talk Time: Summer Round-up

Summer is coming to a close here on The Pink Heart Society, so columnist Jenna Bayley-Burke is here to find out just what did you do this summer?

We got a jumpstart on our summer this year. As soon as the kids were out of school we headed to Sunriver, the high desert playground of Oregon. We explored an ice cave, hiked through a lava cast forest, climbed a mountain, and I got to put the kids in funny poses for pictures. Because you know if it didn’t get posted on Facebook, it didn’t really happen.

For us the summer is all about being in the outdoors. My boys kayaked the Hood Canal, went on cycling adventures, hiked Saddle Mountain, went to the coast, and are currently at my parents cabin at Crater Lake. While at Big Obsidian Flow we even saw a rainbow cloud! Soon enough, the rain Oregon is known for will show up. We have to spend the summer enjoying the sunshine before it turns liquid.

I had a couple adventures of my own, thanks to writer and reader conferences. In May, I was in Dallas for the Romantic Times Conference. I got to meet lots of readers, and got a lesson in Uber. And in July, New York City, for the RWA National Convention. New York was kind of wasted on me because I had pneumonia. But I did manage to use the subway for the first time, have a chocolate martini at Max Brenner, cheesecake at Juniors & get served by a kilted waiter at St. Andrews. Maybe I didn't fail New York after all...

What did you do this summer? Anyone find a beach to lounge about, or some cabana boys?

For more info on Jenna and her books you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Male on Monday - The Men of Masterpiece

Pink Heart Society columnist Donna Alward is back for a Male on Monday post that is taken directly from one of her addictions: Masterpiece Theatre.

I'm a Masterpiece Theatre addict: in particular Masterpiece Classic. And IMO the shows just keep getting better and better. Those who used to scoff at watching public television now find their Sunday nights glued to series such as Downton Abbey and Poldark. And not much wonder - they're FABULOUS!

Many of my friends live in the UK, and get these programs first, so by the time they hit North America I'm so flipping ready to watch I've got things set up on the DVR way in advance. Even my kids (girls, naturally) look forward to the new shows and are of an age to appreciate eye candy. Here are some of our favourite heroes from series in the recent past:

AIDEN TURNER: Ross Poldark. Sexy, swoony, willing to get his hands dirty and loyal to his friends, often at risk to himself. Demelza is one lucky girl.

DAN STEVENS: it was a toss up between him as Matthew Crawley or as Edward Ferrars, but the vote is unanimous. Edward all the way. It only made good sense.

It wouldn't be a Masterpiece post without Downton Abbey. And there's a lot to choose from. But we came up with ALAN LEECH as Branson. Apologies to Barb Wallace, but Thomas just wasn't working for us on a MoM level.

GREGORY FITOUSSI: Henri LeClair from Mr. Selfridge. We were a bit torn on this one. I mean, Henri is a bit of sexy business. But we also LOVE Jeremy Piven as Harry Selfridge because charisma. But Henri gets the vote by a narrow margin.

RUPERT PENRY-JONES - The 39 Steps. We LOVED this one, and we also thought he made a great Captain Wentworth in Persuasion.

And there are many, many more.... not to mention the other series we've watched and drooled over like Call The Midwife, The Paradise, Cranford, North and South, and The Forsyte Saga.

I don't know about you, but I like to support Public Television. :)

Donna's next release is The Cowboy's Christmas Family, out in November from Harlequin American:

Madison Wallace is determined to make this Christmas extra special for her twin boys. Money is tight, but at least Maddy can do something about that…unlike the rumors of her late husband's infidelity. So the part-time job at Cole Hudson's ranch is a perfect solution, and kind, sexy Cole is darn near perfect, too. Unfortunately, Maddy can't trust her heart—or a man—ever again. 

Cole only intended to help Maddy out with the holidays. But the moment she and her boys arrive at his ranch, they capture his heart completely. Convincing Maddy to give him a chance won't be nearly as easy. He's got the Secret Santa presents covered, but the gift Cole really wants to give Maddy is his love. Will Maddy be brave enough to accept it?

You can catch up with her at her website at

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Weekend Wildcard - My Perfect Boyfriend

Jennifer Rae is back at the Pink Heart Society talking all about her perfect boyfriend...

No great romance ever started with a hunky dory beginning. The best of romances are filled with childhood trauma, dysfunctional relationships and bad breakups. The more torture a character endures, the sweeter the happy ending right?

The other day I got asked who my ‘Free Pass’ would be. You know. The person you would sleep with if the opportunity came up regardless if you were in a relationship. Well, anyone that knows me will attest to the fact that I take these questions seriously. Ok – perhaps too seriously. But nonetheless I like to think about my answer. I mean you only get one free pass right? He totally better be worth it. 

So I wondered whether it should be just about looks? No. I mean looks are important in a free pass, but I would imagine I would be talking to this Free Pass at some stage so he should have a good personality or he’s going to annoy me, then I’d be angry I’d wasted my free pass on a knob-head. So personality is important. 

He’d also have to be funny and relatively smart and with some sort of charm. The list kind of went on (which is indecently why people who know me well don’t ask me questions like this) Which led me to consider – who is my perfect man? I’m always thinking about men. That is I’m always thinking about hero’s. For work. Totally not because I’m still as boy crazy as I was when I was 13. Totally not that. 

So I decided to sit down and write a Bridget-Jones-esque list of the qualities my perfect boyfriend would possess. (Then I circled it in hearts and wrote my initials next to a dreamboat I know and worked out the percentage we should be together and we totally got 92% so I think we totally should be together in real life)
10. He must have Rough Hands

You know what I mean. My Perf Boyf doesn’t have to be a tradie or a carpenter (drool) but maybe he just hammers things into other things on weekend and gets a few callouses from fixing things that need grease and oil and other dirty things. Stop.

9. He must Dress Well

Now I’m not expecting Italian lothario levels of dressing, but a man who possesses a good tailored, well cut suit and wears it well will always have a place in my heart. Especially when he keeps the jacket done up on one button and puts his hands in his pocket so the jacket flaps a little. Dayum. 

8. Must have a Hidden Talent

Now seriously. Have you ever met a man who hasn’t got a hidden talent? They all do. And they usually don’t pull it out for a few months. You’re sitting on the lounge, looking at you’re hot new man thinking, ‘I’ve seen all his tricks, is it time to start looking around?’ and then he busts out Mozart’s concerto on the piano or whittles a bird whistle from a piece of old wood or cooks a gourmet meal. Sneaky buggers always keep a few tricks in the bag to keep us interested and if he did not, I’m afraid, he’s off the list.

7. Dat Smile

You know the one. The one when you tell people that you hardly ever get angry and you have such inner peace that you don’t let anything get to you and out of the corner of your eye, boyf’y gives you that smile. That sly dirty smile that says, ‘Gurl – I seen you crazy. I know you.’ Boom. Straight in the feels.

6. Strong

So this is a simple one. If one cannot lift me up, hold me hard against a wall and manipulate me so we both receive all sorts of forbidden pleasures, one cannot be my perf boyf.

5. Silent

I know some of ya’ll go for those wild crazy life-of-the-party-jokers. I love those guys. But he’s not the man I want to take home. The one sipping his drink in the corner, maybe talking quietly to a few friends? He’s the one I’m watching. Because, see - he could actually be Batman. Batman wouldn’t make a spectacle of himself. He’d be all elusive and mysterious and quiet and calm. Until we get back to the bat cave where, I’m hoping like hell, things are gon get bat-shit crazy.

4. Nice to Animals and Good with Children

Men know this one. It’s why we see hot men posting pics on social media with dogs or cuddling up to their cute nephews. They know this slices us right in the heart. And although I hate to be typical or ‘normal’ in ANY way, I cannot deny that a man whose kind to animals and able to get along with children is always welcome in my bosom.

3. Body for Sin

It’s high I know. Three. I shouldn’t be so shallow. But hey, this is a Perfect Boyfriend list. So I’ll do want I want. And I want him to be hot. And he’s gunna have muscles and slightly tanned skin and he’s gunna have the ‘V’. I know you know the ‘V’.

2. Funny AF

Now I don’t mean he’s gotta be busting out the funnies 24/7. I just mean that he’s not so stuck up his own arse that he allows himself to be silly and say stupid things just so I can laugh at him. A man who is unafraid to be laughed at is kinda the sexiest thing ever.

1. Puts Up With My Crazy Shit

This is my no.1. You thought it was going to be funny didn’t you? Or hot? But no. A man who puts up with my crazy (and trust me crazy is nek level at times) is not only a fooking miracle, but also the man who can soften my old hard boiled heart. He’s basically saying I see you with all your flaws and your insecurities and your bratty behaviours, and I still love you. Now that man deserves a heart drawn with an arrow damn right through the middle.

What qualities would make up your perfect boyfriend?  Do you want him strong and silent or dorky and funny?  Join the discussion with Jen in the comments!

Jennifer Rae's latest novel, Who's Calling the Shots?, is as much about the need for powerful female friendships as it is the need to fall for a man you can rely on to love you when you need it the most:

Lights... Camera... Sizzling attraction! 

Contestant Brooke Wright's idea of fun is not a dating reality show! But it's an incredible chance to promote her family's sports brand if only she could ignore the maddeningly hot director, Jack Douglas!

When the cameras stop rolling, how long will they be able to keep their eyes on the prize... and their hands off each other... ?
To find out more about Jennifer and her books, you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

#3Amigas - Nina Milne - My New Dog and How She has Affected my Writing World

Nina Milne of the #3Amigas is back at the Pink Heart Society as she talks about her adorable new dog...

In the three months since I last posted I have become a dog owner and this post is how this has impacted on my Writing World (It is truly not that I wanted an excuse to share photos of my beautiful dog)
So firstly the whole ‘let’s get a dog’ was a personal epiphany. I have never been a dog person - AT ALL – if anything I have always been a little scared/ wary so to have crossed the line to becoming a dog person is a fundamental change for me. It has also been a bit stressful and a steep learning curve….see where I am going with this?

Over the past year I have been transitioning from writing KISS books for Harlequin to writing Romance books for Harlequin. My first Romance book comes out in December and I am working on a second one and yes it has been a change and a bit stressful and a steep learning curve but ultimately very rewarding. 

So I hope over the next years to write many more Romances but I am also very aware that the publishing world is changing all the time and I need to be able to change as well. And now I feel more confident that I can do that. Who knows - one day I may even cross the line and venture into a different genre - historical, fantasy, murder, mystery and mayhem…… hey if I can have a dog I can do anything! 

Now of course there is always a down side and in my case it is the time hit. Now at least an hour and a half of my daily writing time is taken up by walking the dog… and yes this has had a detrimental effect on my word count

BUT it has also made me spend some time exercising - time outside walking in our local woods, taking in Nature….something I haven’t taken the time to do in ages, something I wouldn’t do if it were just for me. It’s made me actually talk to people – dog owners are a friendly lot. And I can use the time to let ideas percolate in my mind – work out what happens next to my hero and heroine. 

Plus it’s been good for the family – my husband and I take Dottie for a walk together most evenings, my kids and I have had a few heart to hearts as we’ve walked the leafy glades, plus the time they spend outside means they are not glued to a screen!

Most of all it has made me see that there is a world beyond my writing world and I think in my desire to be published I had lost sight of that.

And finally there is the ‘you don’t always know what you want’ element…..

I have never had a dog before and my sole experience of looking after a dog was looking after my best friend’s border terrier (pictured here) for two weeks. And thanks to her I realised the joys of having a dog.

So when we decided to get a dog I had a very specific tick list and one of the major requirements was size – I wanted a small dog.

And look what I ended up with –meet Dottie - all 33 kilos of her!! Is she small? Nope – she is huge but I took one look at her and fell in love!!

Just like my current heroine who is very very sure of the type of man she wants. Someone ordinary and average and kind and safe. Nothing like my playboy, billionaire, opportunistic, live life to the full hero. 

Hmmm…perhaps, like me, she will end up with exactly what she didn’t want and it will turn out to be exactly what she does want after all.

Does having a pet change your writing routine?  Join the discussion with Nina in the comments...

Nina's latest book, Breaking the Boss’s Rules, is out now:

Joe McIntyre’s three rules of dating:

1. Never Mix Business and Pleasure

2. One Night Only

3. Never Look Back

Imogen Lorrimer knows that her temporary boss is completely wrong for her – so why does he insist on appearing in her dreams… naked? Perhaps it’s time for Imo to try out his infamous dating rules herself… ?

One business trip to Paris later and they can kiss goodbye to Rule One. Then Imo agrees to be Joe’s plus-one at a wedding… Sticking to Rule Two and Rule Three is hard enough already – on the sun-drenched shores of the Algarve it’s going to be impossible!

Nina Milne lives in Sussex, England with her husband and three children. Prior to becoming an author, she worked as an accountant and a recruitment consultant. To find out more you can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.