Saturday, September 23, 2006

Saturday Surprise: Kidlets: Contraception on legs...or not?

First up, let me make something clear: I adore kids. Love them. Would've liked to have had a netball team of them (7!) if I was younger (and crazier?!)

However, for me, I don't usually equate kids with romance. After all, what's so romantic about sleepless nights and pooey nappies? So imagine my shock when my new editor early last year said 'I like this synopsis but I really think you should give the hero a child to up the ante.'
Huh?

The first 5 books I'd sold had been kid-free, couple-focussed with plenty of time for romance. Suddenly, I had to write my first child-book and doubts plagued me: when would the couple have time for romantic interludes let alone nooky? Who would look after the child while the couple was off doing...well, coupley-things! Would the child accept her new mum by the end of the book? How to make it true to life without sounding trite or concocted?


As you can see, the questions swirled round and round in my head till I sat down and wrote the book. The result? WIFE AND MOTHER WANTED, featuring delightful 5 year old Molly who many readers have loved.

Phew! I could do this. Suddenly, I found myself entranced by the thought of having kids in my books. I found they upped the tension between the hero and heroine while giving the happy couple plenty of scope to get up to those 'couply-things' I mentioned before. Rather than kids keeping the couple apart, they brought them closer together, bonding them on a deeper level in so many ways.

After writing that first book with a child as a secondary character, kids weren't contraception on legs for my romantic couples anymore. Uh-uh. So much so that I wrote FOUND: HIS FAMILY, featuring cheeky Toby and INHERITED: BABY, with 14-month Chas hot on the heels of Wife and Mother Wanted.


As you can see by the covers, Molly, Toby and Chas are major features and sooo cute!

Do you like having kids in romance novels?

I'd love to hear your thoughts,
Nicola
My blog
My website
For those interested in Toby's story (I loved writing him so much, I even ended the story in his POV!) FOUND: HIS FAMILY is out October in North America as a Silhouette Romance.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Film Night - Someone Like You


This weeks choice for Friday Film Night at The Pink Heart Society is Someone Like You, (released in the UK as Animal Attraction)…

“The story about the one that got away and the one she never saw coming…”

Alright, so the fact that Hugh Jackman was in this film wouldn’t at all draw women to it in the first place, would it? Nah – didn’t think so…And ladies, he’s gorgeous in this film!!!

Jane: What is on your neck?
Eddie: I bit myself shaving.

As our hero, Eddie Alden, Hugh is a real ladies man, of the worst variety! He’s cocky, arrogant, King of the One Night Stand, and has a wise-ass answer for just about anything. And yet there’s just something so darn appealing about that bad boy image that you can’t help but know why women fall for him!

Enter our heroine, Jane Goodale, played by Ashley Judd (who I hadn’t seen in a film before and knew only as part of the country singing group The Judd’s). She’s a career girl, working on a Chat Show with a female host (played by Ellen Barkin) and it’s our heroine’s job to help co-ordinate the guests. When the show gets a new Producer (Greg Kinnear), he initially comes across as a good guy – Mr. Perfect in fact…

Jane: What are you thinking?
Eddie: You and Ray will live happily ever after with matching Volvos and chocolate labs.
Jane: Did you have *any* friends growing up?

So our heroine dates Ray, it’s perfect and wonderful and eventually she decides to move in with him, giving up the lease on her own apartment…. So they can live happily ever after…

Short film at this point you’d think…

But in the tradition of all good Romantic Comedies, and any Category Romance, the path to love is never smooth. So when Jane’s *perfect boyfriend* breaks her heart and she’s left homeless, she ends up moving in with the gorgeous Eddie. Lucky girl! And it’s only then the story really begins…

Jane: There are few things sadder in this life than watching someone walk away after they've left you, watching the distance between your bodies expand until there's nothing... but empty space and silence.
(Can’t tell you how much I want to have written that line!!!)

Enter the hilarious New Cow Theory. With an obsession borne from a broken heart, Jane researches an article she reads in a paper and becomes obsessed with why men do the things they do. She compares their behavior to the behavior of animals and Eddie becomes a prime source of research information for her…

Eddie: These are *people* not cows!

Jane’s best friend (Marisa Tomei) convinces her to put her theories into a magazine column, under a false identity of course - and the whole world seems to take to reading it. Which means it’s only a matter of time before the chat show Jane works for wants to interview the *author* of the column!!! But Jane doesn’t want the world to know it’s her… She doesn’t want Eddie to know it’s her… you see, her opinion of Eddie is changing…

Eddie: It's over. Why can't you just let it go?
Jane: I can't.
Eddie: Why?
Jane: Because I was happy. Because if this theory is wrong, men don't leave all women, Eddie, they leave me.
Eddie: I know it hurts. I know. It's so hard to believe that something that wonderful can ever happen to us again.

‘Cos Eddie isn’t as shallow a guy as she’d like to think he is. Oh no. Eddie has had his heart broken too… He just chose to handle it differently from Jane…

If you want a film that takes the troubles of Modern Day romance and approaches them with humor, a smidge of realistic heartbreak and a healthy dose of hope, then you’ll enjoy this film as much as I did. It’s not up there with the classics of our time but its fun, it has plenty of LOL moments… and it has Hugh, with and without a shirt….Nuff said…

Warm & Fuzzy Rating of 7.5…

Trish's latest release is White-Hot!

Her Website

Her Blog.

Thursday Talk-time with Charlene Sands

"Why I Write Westerns -- The American Cowboy"

Storytelling has always been a part of my life. As a young girl, every Saturday morning, I’d ask my very inventive father to “tell me a ‘tory” and our mornings would become a cast of characters from the Old West. My father was well-versed in American history and had a gift for inventing fun, interactive stories that drew me in and made me hunger to write my own tales of the west. And years later, hopeful romantic that I am, my stories had to have wonderful hunky heroes that sweep a woman off her feet!

So who are these heroes? And why do I love them?

These men aren’t your Average Joes, that’s for sure. They are men who maintain law and order; lawmen, army officers, territorial marshals, ranchers, cowboys and skilled gunslingers. They are good versus bad. Virtue versus evil. They are white hat versus black hat.

In the most recent Cowboys and Indians Magazine, my fav country singer, Tim McGraw was described as “Black hat, Good guy” which made me smile. Yes, sometimes our heroes live on the brink between good and bad; the “edgy” hero, the “almost bad boy” all women fantasize about, but they always come through in the end. They solve the case, they get the bad guy, but mostly, they fall in love with our feisty, met-his-match heroine.

Back in the day before channel surfing with remotes, (am I dating myself?) you couldn’t turn on the television set without coming across a western. The TV shows ranked high in ratings, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Rifleman, The Virginian, Cheyenne, Rawhide, just to name a few. And those shows brought us our hunkiest heroes.

What woman didn’t want to see adorable, Little Joe Cartwright with that cocky smile and those gorgeous dark eyes, fall in love and live happily ever after? Of course, if Little Joe had a girlfriend, we all knew her fate; she wouldn’t last past the hour.

Cheyenne Bodi, the tall, dark and quiet-spoken hero, with the broadest shoulders and killer pecs, roamed from town to town, leaving a string of would-be heroines in his wake. I have to admit, Cheyenne was my favorite. Gotta love a man who wears buckskin fringe so well.

Clint Eastwood, back in the day, quaked a few hearts as well. Playing Rowdy Yates on Rawhide, he wasn’t the star of the show, but we all sat up and took notice when Rowdy walked onto the scene speaking with that low, raspy voice.

Western movies and feature films also depicted heroes of nobility, strength and courage. From Gary Cooper in High Noon to Kevin Costner in Dances with Wolves, our early American heroes span a wide range of diversity and good looks. :)

True American cowboys led tough, rough and tumble lives. Their jobs and the obstacles they faced from forces of nature and human adversity are greater than anything I write in my western romances, yet I always try to capture their essence, to depict them with clarity and honesty.

The heroes in my westerns are sheriffs, ranchers, half-breeds and gamblers. Often scarred men, making their way in the world until meeting my spirited heroines who change their lives forever.

I love these heroes, both contemporary and historical. For me, there’s nothing sexier than a hard-edged, gun-toting, attitude-ridden cowboy wearing boots and a Stetson.

Are you a cowboy lover too?

Abducted at the Altar

Charlene writes for Silhouette Desire and Harlequin Historical.

Her latest gorgeous cowboy can be found in ABDUCTED AT THE ALTAR which is out now in North America!

Visit www.charlenesands.com

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Writers' Wednesday with Fiona Lowe

Mills and Boon Medicals author


ABOUT FIONA


As a Community Health Nurse, Fiona Lowe followed the adage, ‘write what you know,’ and medical romance seemed the obvious choice. She lives in Australia with her husband and two sons and sees herself at the raiser of two potential heroes or at the very least, two domestic Gods.



THE ROAD TO PUBLICATION

I started writing in 1995 when I was at home with a six-month-old baby. I was trying to work out how to return to work but still be around a lot for my baby. I heard a radio interview about Harlequin Mills and Boon had this great idea I could write books and work from home. I mean how hard could it be? Insert here, how deluded could she possibly be? And so the journey began. I sent away for an instructional ‘cassette’ entitled ‘And then He Kissed Her.’ I never thought it would take a decade to be published or that by then cassettes would hardly exist!

My first idea came to me as I pegged nappies out on the line and I raced inside, dashed down three chapters and sent it off to Harlequin Sydney. Wrong! It came back with instructions that it needed to go to London. I posted it off. Three weeks later I unexpectedly found myself living in the United States where medical romance wasn’t even sold. My mother started posting me books. I received a letter asking to see the complete manuscript. Not only wasn’t it written, I had no computer.

Two months after arriving I saw a community announcement in the paper saying that the Romance Writers of America, Madison Chapter were having a ‘pot luck’ dinner and meeting. I got all brave and headed out to the potluck dinner, clutching my Pavlova. I left the evening with 20 requests for a Pavlova recipe and a connection with a great group of women who shared a dream just like mine.

When the baby slept, I wrote. I send off Labour of Love at the end of 1995 and started a new story. Meanwhile I was offered the chance to join a writing class…the teacher was a published romance author. I will never forget the night I went to class with my rejection letter. As I read out the stinging comment ‘we have shredded your manuscript per your instructions,’ to the teacher, she nodded and said, ‘of course they did.’

Ouch!

So, I did what my heroine would have done. Took a deep breath and threw myself into my next project. It was tough writing for a UK line with stories set in Australia, being critiqued by people show didn’t know the medical genre and spelled differently. I had many moments of doubt. I felt pressured to write my hero completely differently from how I saw him. I justified this by saying if an editor ever asked me to change things I would need to do this. Along the way I developed a tough hide and worked on improving my writing. As I posted off my second manuscript in September 1997, we returned home to Australia.

Again came the rejection letter. I just didn’t realise that a full-page rejection was special. I got pregnant, we moved again, I had a baby and sick in laws and a part-time job. Writing got hard and I stopped for about three years.

But when kids get to 3.5 years life gets easier. My husband pointed out that there was to be a writing seminar in a seaside town close to where we live and big names like Marion Lennox and Stephanie Laurens were going to talk. I ditched the family for the day and off I went. Marion Lennox told me at her workshop to go back to writing. Ever obedient, I did J

May 2002, I pulled out my first book and rewrote it. By now three of my critique partners from the US were published. They all said, ‘this is THE one, this will sell.’

I got a two-page revision letter six months after posting it. I tore it down, I built it up, I sent if off. Six months later the book was rejected on reasons that were NEVER mentioned in the revision letter. A ‘with compliments’ slip was enclosed…send more work.

It was the first rejection letter that didn’t make me cry.

They liked how I wrote.

I set to and wrote a story based around themes I had been told were popular in Medicals. I stepped way out of my comfort zone. I wrote about two doctors whereas before I had always written a doctor and a nurse. I made the doctor pregnant…I wrestled with that idea for a long time, as the hero isn’t the father. How would I make that work?

I sent it off, six months after the rejection.

Twenty-three weeks later after an enquiry phone call I got an email. “When is a good time to ring?” Most of me thought revisions…part of me cried out for ‘sale’. My editor spent 25 minutes on the phone with me and sent me a 2.5 page revision letter.

I was still working closely with one of my US crit partners and just as this revision letter arrived her life changed dramatically. I faced the rewrites alone. But sometimes things happen for a reason. My editor had said on the phone, ‘sometimes your voice disappears.’ What did that mean? I think it meant I took on board too much of my critique partners voice. For the first time since the very first manuscript I depended on myself.

It took me four weeks to do the revisions. Six weeks later on a Monday night, September the 6th 2005 at about 7.25pm I got a phone call which I ignored as I was reading my son a story and it was sure to be a telemarketer.

It wasn’t. After scrabbling around I found the London phone number and rang back. My editor was ‘not at the desk’. I emailed. She rang back. She wanted to buy Outback Baby, now to be called Pregnant on Arrival.

That was 11 months ago. I’ve sold three more books and have just sent off a fifth to my editor. I rewrote my second book with the hero the way I saw him and it sold without revisions so learn to trust your gut! It took me a long time but then again I learned heaps.

This week Pregnant On Arrival went on shelf in Australia and I’ve had a big party, three book signings and a library talk. It has been monumentally exciting.

So if you have a dream, polish it, beat out the dents that it takes along with way, get a network of support happening and hold fast to it.

When I hold my three published books in my hand the travails of the last ten years vaporise. Now I have a new journey…the one of a newly published author…lots of learning still to come!

Fiona's first book, PREGNANT ON ARRIVAL, was released in Australia and New Zealand last month!

She would love for you to visit her website, and come natter at her blog.

The Nurse’s Longed-For Family September UK/October 2006

Her Miracle Baby November UK/December USA/Aus 2006

Thanks Fiona!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Traveling Tuesday...to the Outback

"I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains,
I love her far horizons, I love her jewel sea,
Her beauty and her terror - The wide brown land for me."

"My Country" by Dorothea Mackellar

Think Crocodile Dundee proudly overlooking

Kakadu National Park. Think kangaroos bouncing through golden grass in much need of rain. Think long straight flat roads leading through brick red desert. Whatever your idea of the Australian outback, it is diverse, harsh, rugged and breathtakingly beautiful.

The Australian outback has long since been a favourite location for the setting of category romances. From Margaret Way's strong sweeping tales, to Barbara Hannay's delightful love stories, and Bronwyn Jameson's hot rugged heroes, it seems to lend itself naturally lends itself to a kind of romance and mystery.

Australia’s major cities are almost all coastal, scattered along the gorgeous verdant coastline. We are almost the exact same size as the United States, yet we have a tenth as many inhabitants. Mostly because much of our vast red centre is all but uninhabitable.

Don't you love that? Huge dry tracts of barren wasteland upon which families try to eke out a pastoral existence. Country folk living in small towns with one road, one post office, one dilapidated train station and five pubs. Yearly Bachelor and Spinster balls for local farm kids who live three hundred kilometres from the next farm. Great stuff with which to fill a novel!

Uluru, the largest rock in the world. Thousands of hectares of National Park in the Kimberleys. The gorgeous Blue Mountains that killed any number of explorers trying to find a way through. It is tough, unforgiving, and some of the most beautiful land in the world. And don't get me started on the beaches, the rainforests, the mountains!

A big time city girl, I have actually set a couple of my latest books in the Outback. All that wide open space and peace and quiet and those blindingly clear night skies. All that mystery. It was irresistible. And a truly different experience to writing a city book.

I found I had to be in a different mental place to write the words to evoke such a place. Rather than the hard, bright, sharp, fast, kinetic language needed to describe a bustling cityscape at night, I had to think differently in order to provoke peaceful, haunting, raw, difficult, sweeping, dusty, rugged, images in the reader's minds eye.

As part of my Dear Reader letter at the beginning of A FATHER IN THE MAKING, I wrote:

Think wombat holes hidden in tall grass, fallen logs that double as homes to families of wild rabbits, and yabby filled dams which are haunts of families of grey kangaroos. From abundant hilltop farms, panoramic views reveal the smudge of the city skyline to the south, tracts of clear-cut green pastures to the west, distant eucalypt scattered hills to the east, and sweeping, burnt umber sunsets the likes of which you have never seen...

Which was very different from the Dear Reader letter from my previous book THE SHOCK ENGAGEMENT:

I am a city girl. Give me freeways, football stadiums, and fresh food delis on every corner and I am in heaven. As such, my books are often set in my fabulous hometown: the dynamic, glorious, and graceful city of Melbourne.

Can you feel the difference? The length of sentences? The pace? The choice of words? The punctuation? The feel? the tone? And then when you add in the characters, the locations, the things that country people get up to... and a whole new world opens up to you as a writer and as a reader!

Do you like Outback romances? Do you too feel like they take you away from it all? Or are you a city book lover through and through?

Ally

Check out "the country" page on Ally's website for lots more about the beautiful rural parts of Australia.

Her latest book, WANTED: OUTBACK WIFE, is set in some part - surprise, surprise! - in the Aussie Outback as well as in Melbourne and London.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Male on Monday - Fitzwilliam Darcy


Okay, so I’m cheating. I know Fitzwilliam Darcy is a fictional character – but I was faced with the prospect of following Hugh Jackman!

Don’t you think I’ve hit the jackpot with Jane Austen’s creation? And I get to post truly lust-worthy pictures of loads of men!! I mean ‘inspirational’ pictures. Of course, I mean ‘inspirational’. *g*

‘Pride and Prejudice’ was first published in 1813. Almost two centuries later, survey after survey still makes him our number one choice when it comes to the man we’d all like to date. So, why do we all love him so much?

We meet him first in chapter three …

‘… But his friend Mr Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mein; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance of his having ten thousand a year.

It all sounds very good to me! In fact, the perfect hero for almost any Harlequin book.

And, of course, he also has a very beautiful house. Chatsworth House stood in for Pemberley in the most recent film adaptation starring Matthew Macfayden as our hero.



And who didn’t fall a little in love with his Darcy when we saw him walk towards Lizzie in the misty morning. Personally, I fell completely when he struggled to say ‘I love you’. ‘Twas a brilliant piece of work by a very fine classical actor.


For many it’s Colin Firth who still holds the crown as ‘the’ Darcy. I must admit he has a special place in my heart. This BBC production first appeared in 1995 when I was heavily pregnant with my third child. I very carefully went in to labour midway between episodes three and four. I then watched it all many times over on video (it *was* a fair while ago) in the early hours when my newborn needed feeding. (I never did master the attach-while-sleeping-thing and my husband found the slurping disturbing. *VBG*)


Colin had one or two advantages on the Darcy front. Thirty-four at the time of filming, six foot tall and really very sexy in a wet shirt.

So, one kind of wonders whether Darcy’s appeal might be the regency clothes … but no! He’s still ‘the’ romantic hero when he’s brought slap-bang up-to-date.

Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mark Darcy in the Bridget Jones movie had women of all ages swooning – even while wearing a reindeer jumper.

And what about Martin Henderson in the Bollywood style ‘Bride and Prejudice’? In that movie Darcy was transformed in to an arrogant American tycoon. Though he still had an awful lot of money and a really very beautiful hotel.

So, what is it?

He’s described in the novel as ‘the proudest, most disagreeable man in the world’. He’s certainly proud. He’s repressed. Morally upright (though that’s a good thing). Taciturn. Remote.

I think … he speaks to the twenty-first century woman because it taps in to our fantasy of being the only woman who’s able to unlock a man’s tortured soul and set his passions free.

Tall, dark (in my imagination anyway), handsome and redeemed by the love of a good woman, I believe Fitzwilliam Darcy belongs in the Pink Heart Hall of Fame – in all his many guises.

Natasha

Natasha's latest release is: Accepting The Boss's Proposal a Harlequin Romance.

Check out more about this book at her website!

Or check out what Natasha is working on now at her Blog.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sunday Spotlight on Lucy Gordon

Our spotlight is being shone this week on best-selling Harlequin Romance author, Lucy Gordon who has a book out this month. In the past month she has won both the Cataromance Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Harlequin Romance and The Booksellers Choice award.

InformationFIRST UP, LUCY TELLS US:

I'm English and live in the Midlands of England with my Italian husband, one dog and a cat. We have no children. I once worked on a magazine and met some very interesting people, including Warren Beatty, Roger Moore and I also met the real Maria Von Trapp, (Sound Of Music) who I asked if she had ever thought of remarrying after the Baron died (in 1947). She told me that she could never remarry, because for her, he was still alive...

UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT!

Where do you get the inspiration for your books from?

My chief inspiration has been my husband. If I hadn’t married an Italian from Venice I would never have learned so much about Italy, (and Italian men) and been able to set so many of my books in Venice and other Italian cities. For details of how we met please go to my website, www.lucy-gordon.com and click on the biography link.

What makes you mad?

People who misuse the language, who confuse ‘flaunt’ and ‘flout’ and put apostrophes where they don’t belong – DON’T GET ME STARTED!!!!!!

What’s the most romantic thing that has ever happened to you?

Meeting my husband in Venice and agreeing to marry him in two days.

What in a hero makes you drool?

Sensitivity.

If you weren’t a writer what would you be?

An opera singer.

What do you do to relax and wind down?

Watch television. Luckily the digital channels are showing all my old favorites, Starsky & Hutch, etc.

How do you get out of a writing rut?

Have a hot bath.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

Rome

Who would you most like to give a hug to?

My husband.

Name a fabulous book you’ve read?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarrĂ©. It’s one of the all-time greats.

What music do you listen to when writing?

Grand opera. The grander the better.

Tell us a secret nobody knows about you?

Hm! I think I’ll save my secrets for a sensational autobiography to fund my old age.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

I’m saving that one too.

What have you had to celebrate in the last year?

Winning in the Traditional Category of the Booksellers Best Award, with THE ITALIAN’S RIGHTFUL BRIDE, and winning a CataRomance Reviewers Choice Award for THE WEDDING ARRANGEMENT.

What’s beside your computer when you’re writing?

My cat. He regards me as his servant and likes to keep an eye on me. He also eats on my desk, so when he wants attention I either have to stop work, or try to type between his legs (not easy).

If you could kiss anyone in the world who would it be?

My husband.

What are you working on now?

I’ve just finished Carlo’s story, the fourth book in my series about the six Rinucci brothers. Now I’m about to start number five, Ruggiero’s story. The first three books came out this year, and I’ve had a lot of kind messages from readers, hoping that I’ll write the other three. They’ll be published next year.

ZyWeb

Lucy would love for you to visit her at her

website and for more about the book, check out her publisher's website.

And watch this space over the next month as Lucy is giving away a signed copy of MARRIED UNDER THE ITALIAN SUN.

Thanks Lucy!