Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday Fun - What's Your Must-See Christmas Movie?

Heidi Rice asks the ultimate Yuletide question of Pink Heart Society readers... What's the movie that means Christmas to you? 

We've all got them, films we love to watch over and over come Christmas time. Most of them have Christmas settings, some are Christmas classics, others might just remind us of great Christmas viewing experiences of old. Here's a few of the obvious contenders, but feel free to enlighten me if I've missed a hidden gem, or a classic corker that is you (or your family's) big must-watch movie over the festive season.

It's a Wonderful Life

A Christmas classic with bells on (literally) when suicidal savings-and-loan man Jimmy Stewart re-discovers the meaning of life (and Christmas) courtesy of a trainee angel who's obviously been reading too much Dickens.


 
Love Actually

An all-star cast of great British luvvies turn the festive season into a kaleidoscope of love, laughs, sweat, tears and really rubbish pop songs!



The Polar Express

The children's picture book brought to glittering, gloriously animated life with a cast of characters that all look and sound (a bit creepily) like Tom Hanks.



White Christmas

Bing croons, Danny prats about and they both do a sing-song in a Vermont snow lodge while wearing sparkly Santa suits. Proof positive that there's no such thing as overkill come Christmastime.


The Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton's spook-tacular festive animated fable as weird as it is wonderful.



The Sound of Music

Because nothing says Christmas to me like Julie Andrews singing her heart out to the Swiss Alps and managing to upstage not one but SEVEN far-too-cute child performers.



The Grinch

Jim Carrey in green-face as Dr Seuss's Christmas grump with a heart two sizes too small - and a potent message to deliver about Christmas consumerism that will probably go right over the heads of most wee-ones.



Scrooge - A Christmas Carol

The creakily good 1951 version of Dickens's much-filmed cautionary tale with Alastair Sim as the definitive miser...


A Muppet Christmas Carol

What the Dickens! Michael Caine joins Kermit, Piggy and the gang and vies for top spot with the 1951 Brit film (see above) for the best movie version of Charles's yuletide yarn... IMHO.



The Apartment

A fine romance unfolds as lonely hearts Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine get together over the Christmas season in 60s New York.



Elf

Is there anything funnier than Will Ferrell in his over-sized leprechaun outfit playing it totally straight as the biggest (sweetest) Santa's Little Helper who ever lived? I don't think so.



Home Alone

A movie I hate, but my sons think is hilarious - which I suspect has something to do with all the extra-curricular assault and battery masquerading as slapstick comedy.



The Wizard of Oz

Just because... There's no place like home in the holidays, and the BBC used to play this sparkling musical fantasy on a loop every Christmas Day for yonks.

 

So there are a few of the festive films that we will be watching this Christmas... What about you?

Heidi is currently working on her first big book, but she has a Christmas anthology out called Misbehaving Under the Mistletoe with Charlotte Phillips and Nina Harrington:

’Tis the season to be naughty…

Christmas is all about fun, so Cassie is throwing caution to the wind to find herself a bad-boy-turned-billionaire for a just-for-Christmas fling! 

Jace Ryan is the perfect candidate, but she only has one rule: Do not start falling in love…  

You can find out more about Heidi through her website, blog, Twitter or Facebook.  Eye candy may or may not be present.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Time-Out Thursday - I’m obsessed, so kick me – but do it with a six-inch heel!


The Pink Heart Society is in total agreement with Avril Tremayne over her love - nay obsession - with shoes.  I mean, who doesn't love a good pair of heels?

I have an obsession and its name is shoes.

Card from a friend on selling my first book
Two of my clearest childhood memories are:
  • my pre-school red suede desert boots; and
  • lusting after my eldest sister’s apple green patent leather flats.
My first ever job – the one I lied about my age to get – was in retail, at a shoe shop that was not exactly a stockist of Manolo Blahnik, if you get my drift; and so devoted was I to matching the right shoe to the right foot, I became one of their best-ever salespeople. So much so, there may have been a tear or two shed when I left for university.
Not my real feet, but close!

However, being the possessor of a relatively unattractive pair of feet (think a cross between a hairless hobbit and a multi-cloven hoof), attached to Incredible Hulk calf muscles…? Well let’s just say I never really thought I’d be a candidate for foot modelling.

(And no, I will not risk a global nightmare epidemic by posting a photo of my actual feet!)

I traversed my university days wearing thongs (flip-flops for the non-Aussies) in summer and Uggs in winter.

But the moment I got my first corporate job and I was actually earning real money, everything changed; hideous feet notwithstanding, my thong-and-ugg days were soooo over.

And I blame my husband.

Some of my flats - a little kooky


It started innocently enough with the purchase of a pair of green suede ankle boots that looked like they belonged on a pixie. My husband (then boyfriend) The Hon persuaded me to buy them, even though they cost a whopping hundred bucks and sent me into a mid-store meltdown!

And boy, does he regret that moment, which was when the world of shoes opened up before me like Aladdin’s cave.

I have since bought shoes in a constant stream, from all over the world.

A little selection from China and India
Once, on a visit to Shanghai, I bought twenty pairs – and I was only there for a few days. 

I’ve bought hand-made silk shoes, and glittery shoes, and complicated shoe boots; black shoes and blue shoes and pink shoes; unbranded cheapies from market stalls; and designer ‘look at me’ numbers from high-end stores – and I love them all. 

Making their debut at RWAus15


My last trip to New York two years ago netted me a pair of high heels in ginger that are still waiting for their first outing (I’m seeing their debut at the Romance Writers of Australia’s 2015 conference). 

 And don’t get me started on the collection I amassed while living in the Middle East, where shopping is a national pastime and my heels climbed higher than ever before – oh those halcyon days!

Perfect present from a friend who knows me well

Needless to say, The Hon is no longer giving me any encouragement whatsoever! In fact, he’s encouraging me in quite the opposite direction.

During our morning walk today, he actively steered me away from looking at a pair of sneakers because ‘you already have so many pairs’. Short, sharp argument ensued over that! 

My faves, heavy on the glam
A little like the short sharp argument that ensued three nights ago when we walked past my 'local' and I dropped a hint or two about Christmas coming up and how ideal the fabulous pair of cork-soled wedges in the window were for a Sydney summer. That one required intervention from our daughter @KdeR, who gave him very short shrift and told him to just give in and get on with buying the shoes. (That’s my girl!)

Some of the 'brands' - wish I could photograph them all!

I guess The Hon’s view is that when I was working in corporate public relations, there was at least some justification for the glamorous footwear. But now that I’m a writer, have stopped earning real money (sigh), and am sitting behind a computer all day wearing airline pyjamas, should I be returning to thongs and Uggs?



Well, you might think so – but you’d be wrong.

You see, the weirdest thing happened a few months ago. My hobbit feet and bulging calves decided to mutiny against my new habit of sock wearing and sneaker donning. They started aching every time I started walking for more than five minutes in flat shoes. They didn’t even care if I was wearing my ultra-glam Avril Tremayne custom-printed Converse sneakers. They wanted heels, dammit, and they were going to keep complaining until I gave them heels!


So now you can imagine me, sitting hunched over the keyboard, hair unbrushed, no make-up, crappy twenty dollar glasses bought from a pharmacy slipping off my nose, pyjama-clad…

But with my feet looking amazing under the desk in their six-inch splendiferous heels!

Because it's Christmas... some of my tree decorations

And although I have two new books coming out in February, in honour of shoes and shoe lovers everywhere, this month I’m shining the spotlight on my first Harlequin Kiss book, Here Comes The Bridesmaid, with its shoe designer heroine, the absolutely fabulous Sunshine Smart. 

(And you can bet she would never be caught dead looking at a pair of sneakers, Mr Tremayne!):

Can she make organizing her friend's wedding any harder?
  1. Sunshine Smart has only got two months until the big day!
  2. She has to include the grouchy, surly best man Leo Quartermaine—a top chef and her complete opposite!
  3. Said best man is extremely handsome and sexy—and knows it!
  4. He has no interest in decor, flowers, clothes or shoes…but has an uninformed opinion on all four!
  5. And just a few days in she's already slept with him. Rookie mistake...
To find out more about Avril, you can visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Riding the Writing Roller Coaster: Getting Ready to Ride in 2015


For her final Pink Heart Society column this year, Barbara Wallace shares a few tips for Riding The Writing Roller Coaster in 2015.

And so our ride on the writing roller coaster draws to an end for 2014.  Of course, anyone who’s plugged away in this industry for a while knows that the ride never really ends – not with the first completed manuscript, not with publication, not even with the bestseller list. The best we can do is buckle ourselves in, hang on tight, and hope the twists and turns don’t make us too sick to our stomachs.

As you get ready to ride the 2015 version, here are few end-of-the-ride reminders:
  • It’s all about the writing.  Careers are built by writing one quality story after another.  Don’t let yourself be distracted by all the outside “noise”.
  •  
  • Furthermore, you can’t control the writing gods.  You can’t make a publisher read your submission faster.   You can’t force a contest judge to place you in the finals.  You can’t make readers give only five star reviews. The only things you can control during this ride are yourself and your writing.
  • Stay true to your own timetable and goals – don’t be led astray by news that an editor is acquiring or a market is hot.  Unless that is, that market/editor is something that you really want.  Remember, the ride is for life.  Once on a certain track, you are there for a while.  So unless you want to write a lot of paranormal erotica or series romance , don’t jump aboard the bandwagon.
  •  
  • Do not compare your ride to the roller coaster to anyone else’s.  It’s difficult not to get frustrated or thrown off track when you hear about others’ success.  Remember, in this industry successes are trumpeted loudly while failures are kept quiet.  Don’t wrongly assume you’re the only one suffering setbacks or rejections.  Others are too, they simply aren’t sharing.
  • Know why you want to write.  (Remember February’s discussion about personal GMC?) Understand your underlying motivations.  I cannot stress this lesson enough.
     
  • No matter how hard we try, we cannot avoid failure.  Everyone fails in life.  The only way to avoid it for certain, is to never attempt anything in the first place.  Which means avoiding life itself.  Never forget, you are stronger than you think. Thousands of wannabe writers never get beyond talking about riding the roller coaster.  The fact you are here, putting words on the page is a testimony to your fortitude. 
  • Understand your psyche’s fragile spots, and honor them.  Do not force yourself to do anything that puts you in a dark place.
  • Finally, never forget all you’ve accomplished. Make sure you lavish as much attention on the positive steps in your career as you do the negative.
Nothing in the columns I wrote this year was particularly original.  Truth is, most of it was plain old common sense.   Problem is, when we’re in the middle of plunging down a hill or chugging up a new one, it’s easy to get tunnel vision.  We simply need someone to remind us from time to time of what we already know. Consider yourself reminded.  :-)

Now, go enjoy your holidays and get ready for the ride 2015 has in store.  May it be full of more ups than downs, and may the tracks lead you to where you want to go.  Just keep the safety bar down and your hands and feet in the car at all times….

Speaking of planning - I'll be back next year.  What sort of topics would you like to see discussed? Do you want more talk about Writing Demons or would you prefer something else?  Share your thoughts below.
Happy Holidays!

Barbara Wallace is published with both Harlequin and Entangled Publishing. Look for her new Harlequin Romance series "Dating the Boss" coming this summer.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tuesday Talk-Time - Getting Up Again

Today, Ali Williams is looking at those things that help you get back up, and thanking her lucky stars that her journey brought her to the Pink Heart Society.

Usually I spend my posts gurgling along about romance and intersectionality and all the happy delightful things that make up my life - which are many.  I'm a pretty chirpy person.

This is not - exactly - one of those posts.

Two years ago, over Christmas, I had what I'm pretty certain was my worst panic attack.  I can't even remember what triggered it, but I do remember crying and shaking in a heap on the floor of the kitchen.

I was in the midst of a nervous breakdown.  It had started with the odd panic-y moment here or there and culminated in between 4 and 5 panic attacks a day, every day.  

I comfort ate.  I binge-watched entire television series in a weekend (which I still do, but now because I <3 them as opposed to because it's an escape).  I stopped doing anything even remotely creative in my life.  

I stopped reading.

And even after that panic attack, two years ago, it took nearly two months before I could bring myself to do something about it.

So I quit my job, moved back home and for about two months spent every waking moment searching for a job - any job - that wouldn't send me back into that spiral of depression.

But why am I talking about this now?

Everyone has crappy times.  Many people have had far worse experiences that I will ever go have.  But sometimes I think it's important to stop and appreciate the things that helped us get back up.  So this is me, appreciating my go-to get-back-up things:

Family and Friends

This is pretty standard, no matter who you ask.  It's those around you that lend you the strength to get up and carry on.  And I''ve got the best damn support group.

Whether that's friends humouring me in my determination to take as many pictures of men reading Mills & Boon books as possible, or a family that's half-Italian and half-Irish and delights in attempting to feed me half to death, they're vital.  


Writing

This is pretty personal to me.  Fed up of not having done anything creative in nearly a year, I started blogging and reviewing romance novels.  It was taking a step into the unknown for me, worlds apart from writing poetry in tattered notebooks, and the first time that other people got to see my writing style.

I'm so damn pleased that I did this, it's opened so many doors and especially as it led me here, to the Pink Heart Society and to a community that's so funny, intelligent and caring. 

The Ellen Show's YouTube Channel

Whether it's a giveaway for a good cause, or celebrating the talents of all and sundry, these videos help me appreciate just how nice people can be.  Plus, adorable kids!!



Mock Karaoke

Namely me, a hairbrush and my iPod, dancing around my living room like a wild thing to a playlist of Guns 'n' Roses, Bruno Mars and McFly.  Particularly if said playlist includes the best medley I've ever seen live (and yes, I was actually at this performance):


Being a Superfan

And I started reading again.  I turned back to romance novels and discovered heroes and heroines who are strong and sassy and who overcome the things that hold them back.   

That's why I read romance.

So yeah.

I got back up and I'm staying up.

What or who do you turn to when you need help getting back up? 

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 an extraordinary amount of time coercingmale friends to pose with her favourite Mills & Boon books to the bemusement of the Twittersphere.


Genre reporter for chick lit and erotica at For Books' Sake and guest blogger for Mills & Boon, she defies you to slam romance novels within her hearing!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Male On Monday - Men With Awesome Facial Hair

This Monday at The Pink Heart Society, columnist Jennifer Rae brings us her Beard Appreciation List. And there's not a jolly man in a red suit anywhere in sight!

It’s my turn to talk about my man-crush. But friends, this isn't easy – I’m not good with decision making. I have to pick just one? One man out of the hundreds and thousands of beautiful, gorgeous, annoying, frustrating men out there? I couldn't do it. So I've decided to put together a ‘group’ of men that I’m currently crushing on.

You see, I’m a lover of men. Yes I am. All men. The smart ones, the stupid ones, the pretty ones, the plump, happy ones, the funny ones, the serious brooding ones…they all have something I like. But how does one man stand out against another? 

Their eyes. Yep. I’m an eye girl. Nothing beats a man with gorgeous eyes. Whether it’s piercing, almost frightening like football player Chris McQueen or deep and dark and lovely like the beautiful Henry Cavill, it’s a man’s eyes that get me.

But sometimes there can be something on a man’s face that detracts from his eyes. Thin lips. Short chin. These things are distracting and I can’t get past them to focus on his eyes. But the hipsters have solved all that. Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the trend sweeping the world. The gorgeous, heart pounding trend of facial hair.

I admit it. I’m a beard lover. There’s just something about lots of hair on a man’s face (and head) that makes my heart skip a beat. Technically it’s possibly something about the biological makeup of a woman who is attracted to a caveman-type man is something to do with that fact that she’s looking for someone to take care of her and provide for her and keep her family safe ensuring the survival of the species etc etc. But for me – a beard or stubble, even a saucy little moustache makes a man look rugged and manly and all sorts of mysterious while allowing me to focus on his eyes.

So allow me to present you with my Beard Appreciation List of Men with Awesome Facial Hair and Skin-Tingling Eyes. You’re welcome.



1.      Khan Porter
Crossfitter, athlete and motivator. Khan is rockin’ the stubble and mo in this picture. He is. If you’d just look up a little, away from the amaze-beans ab situation you would see it.


2.      Michael Dorman
Gorgeously cheeky Australian actor. My secret (ie. In my own head) love affair with Michael Dorman started when he was in a little known and let’s face – pretty bad – TV series called Wild Boys as seen here. He was the inspiration for my ‘Bushranger phase.’ Oh yes, that’s a thing.


3.      Ryan Corr
Wait. Hang on…just let me breathe before I tell you about Ryan Corr. Ryan is another Australian Actor who is reppin a very neat and tailored beard and moustache situation here. But those eyes…I mean…I literally can’t even…


4.      David ‘Wolfman’ Williams
This handsome chap is the whole reason I have a thing for beards. I spotted him on a TV ad a few years ago and could not tear my eyes off him. Then – of course – I googled the crap out of him and found dozens and dozens of photos of him sporting a glorious, well-fed beard. And he was almost naked in most of the pics but that’s beside the point. It was the beard. I’m sure of it.

Whenever I discuss bearded men with my friends, there’s always a great debate – seems you’re either a beard lover or you ain’t – so which side of the fence do you sit on? 


What’s your stance on facial hair? Do you like it? Have you ever asked a man to grow a beard? Or cut one off? (WHAAAATTT??? NOOOOO!!) Whose your favourite Hairy Mister? 

Jennifer's latest book is Who's Calling The Shots and it will be available January 1st!

Lights...Camera...Sizzling attraction! 

Director Jack Douglas needs a hit. High ratings keep his volatile father sweet and therefore his mother happy - and she's the only thing Jack cares about. New TV show Perfect Match looks ideal. 

A dating reality show is not contestant Brooke Wright's idea of fun. But it's an incredible chance to promote her family's deluxe sports brand and give something back to her adopted sisters. If only she could ignore the maddeningly hot guy in charge! So 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 FacebookInstagram orTwitter.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Little Something for the Weekend with Janice Maynard

The Pink Heart Society are delighted to welcome Janice Maynard today, as she talks about how family impacts both her Christmases and her writing...

Ah, December… you roll around every year, faster and faster, it seems!  I love all the bells and whistles (or garlands and lights), but no matter how hard I try, I never can get the “jumpstart” I’m hoping for.  So I ride the wave of holiday merriment and hope I don’t drown.

I love the holidays.  I’m fascinated by the way that people seem both nicer—and possibly grumpier—depending upon the circumstance.  Do you remember the “scary” old neighbor in Home Alone?  I always get teary-eyed at the end when you see him reconciling with his family.

Lucky for me, I have a great family.  We experience our moments, of course.  But over all, we get along just fine.  I lost my dad when I was in college, so we’ve always had an empty spot there.  I think of him at Christmas, especially, and know that he would have loved to see my daughters grow up.

It took me awhile to understand that my writing had a theme.  It seems that I love creating stories about families.  The Men of Wolff Mountain was my first family saga.  Throughout those seven books, I explored the idea that a childhood trauma can have lasting consequences…but also that strong characters learn to move on with life even in the midst of tragedy.


Now I am working on a new “family” series, The Kavanaghs of Silver Glen.  Seven brothers, seven personalities, seven ways to fall in love.  It’s a genuine pleasure to create heroines who are perfect matches for my heroes.  Not that anyone recognizes the rightness in the beginning.  Few couples fall in love without a bit of fireworks along the way.  And not always the good kind.  :)


I married my high school sweetheart.  We grew up together.  We’ve had good times and bad, but each year grows sweeter.  In the midst of my happy nest, I am well aware that this time of year is very tough for some people.  If you’ve lost a loved one recently…if you’ve suffered through a broken relationship…if you’ve struggled with money woes or other issues, it’s hard to be jolly.

I firmly believe that books, particularly fiction, and especially romance, offer a blessed escape from reality at the times in our lives when we need a place to hide out.  As a kid, I read anything and everything.  I enjoyed Mutiny on the Bounty, and of course, Gone With the Wind.  I’ve loved writing and books for as far back as I can remember.  Even now, I savor the smell of libraries and bookstores.

For me, there is a special bond between reader and writer.  Sometimes I find myself on one side of that equation, and sometimes the other.  Nothing gives me more enjoyment than to lose myself in the latest J.D. Robb tale or the newest Mary Balogh historical.  I write because there are always stories in my head.  I read because nothing else can replace the rush of excitement I experience while gobbling up a really fabulous book.

It is fitting that in the darkest season of the year when the days are short and the nights grow cold, my Christmas tree lights up the room.  Some ornaments are older than I am, perhaps.  Some I bought last week.  The tree is a symbol of hope…hope for a world that seems impossibly broken at times.  But I believe that light always conquers the dark. 

Many thanks to the Pink Heart Society for inviting me here today to share my meanderings!  I wish for each of them and for all of you a happy, safe, and blessed December and a healthy and peaceful 2015.

God bless,
Janice Maynard

Janice Maynard's latest book, Christmas in the Billionaire's Bed, is part of her Kavanaghs of Silver Glen series: 

Taming the Untamable 

Secrets have never appealed to Liam Kavanagh. Not since his father disappeared, leaving Liam responsible for the Kavanagh family and their empire with little room for anything else. 

But when the mysterious Zoe Chamberlain breezes into his life, stirring up all kinds of pent-up frustrations, Liam knows there's more to her vagabond lifestyle than she's letting on. He can see the secrets in her eyes—and he wants her anyway. 

Will she be more than his orderly life can handle? Or will Liam's strong embrace finally allow this free spirit to put down roots and love again?


To find out more about Janice's writing, visit her website, follow her on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up to her newsletter