Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thursday Talk-Time with Linda Goodnight

Finding The Perfect Man

Creating characters is my favorite part of writing category romance, especially discovering that perfect blend of tough but tender hero. Usually, he dances around the edges of my imagination for several days, his personality not quite clear, his features blurry but still obviously handsome, of course! And then one day he says something and his voice begins to take shape. Right away, I go to Google and search for him. Yes, yes, I realize we writers have a hard lot in life, being forced to look at all those manly faces for hours on end, but I’m not one to shirk my sworn duty.

Collin Grace, the hero of my December Love Inspired, A SEASON FOR GRACE, arrived in my heart almost fully developed. I knew him. I knew his quiet, intense personality, his emotional wounds, his strength of character and innate goodness. I knew that he loved long and deep but was afraid to reach out, though as a cop he’d swear he feared nothing. I even knew he’d spent his entire life trying to keep a childhood promise. But I couldn’t see him.

Off to Google I went, self-sacrificing soul that I am, where I spent hours perusing one handsome hunk after another until at last, there he was! Collin Grace in the flesh.

So, let’s have a contest. Well, not a real contest, but a really fun contest called “pick a hunk”. Readers have already sent suggestions about which actor should play Collin in a movie (if ever there was one). I thought I’d post a few and see which you would choose.

So, here we go: Look over the photos. Which hero do you prefer?


We have: Adrian Paul, Colin Farrell, The Rock, and Jesse Bradford.

















Check my blog next Thursday for the photo that hung over my computer during the writing of A SEASON FOR GRACE!

One last thought before I toddle off to the dinner table yet again: Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends. Indeed, we have a lot to be thankful for.


Linda's last book MARRIED UNDER THE MISTLETOE was a part of the fabulous Brides of Bella Lucia miniseries and received a 4 1/2 star Top Pick rating from Romantic Times!

Next out is A SEASON FOR GRACE the first in a series entitled The Brothers' Bond.

Check out her website for more!

Writer's Wednesday with Anne Oliver

This Wednesday we bring you Anne Oliver's story of her road to publication as a brand new Modern Extra Sensual author...

About Anne

Anne Oliver has lived in Adelaide, South Australia, all her life. She holds a bachelor of Education degree and has taught in Early Childhood Education for 30 years. She’s raised two children, sold her own paintings, quilts and quilted jackets, researched her family history and is a keen amateur astronomer.

The Call

The two magical words that published writers talk about and unpublished writers dream about. Mine came on 16th December, the last day of the 2005 school year at 8.20 pm. So how did I get there?

I’ve always loved reading, especially fairy tales. The first story I remember from childhood was Hans Christian Andersen’s “Little Mermaid.” I cried for days. L M Mongomery’s “Anne” books and her “The Blue Castle” followed. I love stories that evoke emotion.

In 1996 I began researching my family history. In the process I unearthed a few skeletons and rattled a few bones, including my own. A visit to a clairvoyant (yes, I’ve also always had an interest in the paranormal), was a defining moment in my life. I came away with a story I had to tell. I’d never felt the urge to write until that night. Suddenly it was an obsession. My reincarnation story linked two star-crossed lovers across 150 years and two continents. And of course it was going to be snapped up as soon as I submitted it to an editor.

A year later with my manuscript still unfinished and growing to epic proportions I joined the Australian Chapter of Romance Writers of America who held regular workshops and critique groups in Adelaide and discovered that I needed a lot more writing practice. What the hell was Point of View? The Hero’s Journey? Emotional intensity? I’d read it, loved it, but couldn’t translate it into my own work. So I joined Romance Writers of Australia, Romance Writers of America and Romance Writers of New Zealand and began entering contests.

A trilogy of fantasy/time travel/futuristic novels followed — linking star-crossed lovers across time and other worlds. These early manuscripts did well in contests and after submitting and waiting over a year for a reply, a major US publishing house who shall remain nameless, requested the full. It was favourably received and the partial of the second requested. I never heard from them again despite three follow-up letters over the following eighteen months. This was a devastating set back.

After four manuscripts of 100,000 words each, I decided to write something shorter. A Mills and Boon? Why not? They’d be easy enough to write. (Hah!) So I began reading them and discovered a new world of books that I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the emotion, they were easy to read and because they were relatively short there weren’t too many distracting subplots, they had gorgeous heroes and I could read lots.

Around this time I joined a critique group which was an invaluable source of support, friendship and advice. I wrote a story aimed at Intimate Moments but they were changing and it – surprise! – was rejected with a form letter. I wrote another aimed at what was becoming my favourite line, Desire. Sent it off to contests. It finalled, came second in the Clendon in New Zealand but was rejected by Desire because the hero was an ex rock star. So I began looking more carefully at what Mills and Boon wanted and at what they didn’t.

Another manuscript followed, finalled in contests but didn’t reach the top three, so didn’t reach an editor’s desk.

2005 was a horrible year for me. My father passed away, my dog died, my marriage ended. Desire’s guidelines changed and my latest manuscript did not fit those new guidelines. I was close to giving up and going back to sewing quilts when I came second in RWNZ’s Great Beginnings contest and my entry went to Kimberley Young who requested the full. But I wasn’t getting my hopes up again.

Then at ten pm on the 24th November, almost a year to the day today, the phone rang. It was Kimberley! I’d gone to bed early. I couldn’t find my voice or my glasses – she must have wondered if she’d made a serious mistake. They were asking for revisions. With a few changes my manuscript would suit the new Modern Extra line (of which I knew next to nothing). She wanted them back in early December, the busiest time of the teaching year with reports, concert etc. Still, I polished and polished, reluctant to press the Send button in case I remembered something that absolutely had to be there.

I sent it on Tuesday night and she rang on the Friday night. Once again, totally unprepared; no glasses, no pen and paper for the expected ‘further revisions needed’. She said something like, “We’ve reread your manuscript and the changes…” P-a-u-s-e. I think I mumbled an ineffectual “oh…” Then she said, “we love it and we want to buy it.”

Now I’ve held my first book in my hands. Yesterday I saw it on the shelf in my local shopping centre. I had a launch last week and signed my own books. My second book is due out in the UK next month and Australia in April. Finished polishing my third novel today, a day ahead of my deadline. What a ride this past year has been!

So I’m going to give myself a couple of weeks to read those books other people have sweated and agonised over before the school end of year gets into high gear. As for book four – it’s something I started a year ago and is my Christmas holiday project…

Anne's first book, Behind Closed Doors is out now as a Sexy Sensation in Australia!

Check out the excerpt at her website. It's a doozy!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Temptation on Tuesday...Men with Mos

In Australia it is this month is otherwise known as Movember - a month in which men across the country are encouraged to grow themselves a mo and make their friends pay for the privilege of watching it happen!!!


So what do you think of a guy with a mo? A nice hadlebar was once all the rage. Those skinny ones that end in a goatee still rise up every now and then. There is some conjecture that mos to the Australian cricket team are like hair to Sampson.


But here, now, for Movember, I reckon the go should be a full on, porper, no holds barred mo. Tom Selleck wore them beautifully. As did Burt Reynolds. Guido on Hill Street Blues was an infamous moustachioed guy.

And I don't mean no five o'clock shadow, or some tuft balanced on the edge of the top lip. I'm talking full-bodied, curly, scratchy, need to be trimmed with scissors mos.

In the height of mo fever in the 70s and 80s mo's on men seem to havve come with hot sports cars, hairy legs and too tight pants. Many came with their own porn video as well.

Look how dashing these fallas are! Hot stuff right? Pure hero material! Now, one David Beckham managed to single-handedly bring back the mohawk and the mullet, shall we get him started on the mo?

In Australia, Movember is a fundraising event to raise money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, and to raise community awareness of Men's Health Issues.

Go get 'em boys!!!


Ally has a book out in North America this month, HOW TO MARRY A BILLIONAIRE released through Silhouette Romance.

No mos in sight. Though her hero does have a very nice head of hair.

For more, check out Ally's website.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Male on Monday...More Males!

I thought I might take this chance to talk about some hero inspiration material that might get overlooked. Three of my favourite fabulous men of the past...


Cary Grant

Suave, sophisticated, with a voice like smooth dark chocolate. Cary Grant filled out a suit like they were put on this planet to clothe just him. In fact his suit from North By Northwest was recently voted the best men’s suit ever to appear on film. If we’d seen that suit on Hitchcock himself do you think it would have won? Na-ah.

He was the epitome of tall dark and handsome. Of smart, sharp, and determined. Those long lanky legs, broad shoulders, the flat stare. The sensuous mouth. Especially pitted against a cool ice blonde the likes of Grace Kelly or Eva Marie Saint.

But he could do funny just as well – Arsenic and Old Lace, Bringing Up Baby, and then there was An Affair To Remember. Aaah, Niki Farranti. The most perfectly gorgeous hero ever created. A handsome, alpha, world renowned playboy who turns the head of every woman he meets. And funny! The guy could do dry humour better than anybody. But beneath the showy exterior, he loves his grandmother, has an artistic soul. And when he meets the woman of his dreams he gives away all his riches and fame in order to make himself a better man in order to deserve her. Sigh...

Other fave Cary Grant moments: To Catch and Thief, The Philadelphia Story

Paul Newman

When I was a kid, my mother was in love with Paul Newman. She introduced me to the likes of The Sting and Bush Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and I just didn’t get it. I loooved Robert Redford. Loved his cheeky smile and floppy blonde hair. I mean the guy was Hubble for goodness sake! Paul Newman just didn’t flip my switches.

Years later, I stumbled upon a little movie called Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and suddenly everything came clear. The Paul Newman mum had grown up with, the young handsome stud was revealed in all his splendour. Humona humona. Truly. The guy was exquisitely beautiful. Chiselled nose, short ashen hair, gooorgeous blue eyes, and that mouth – carved by the gods. Oh boy!

Now Mr Newman in his twenties is so ready to be an Ally Blake hero one day. Maybe even a salt and pepper hero. I have a bit of a thing for a handsome guy with greying hair. And I’m not the only one. Natasha...

The fact that the guy is still madly in love with his wife of almost fifty years doesn’t hurt. Neither does the fact that he owns The Hole In The Wall Gang Camp, a summer camp for children with cancer and other blood-related diesases (and their siblings) in Ashford, Connecticut.

Other fave Paul Newman moments: The Hudsucker Proxy, The Color of Money

Peter O’Toole

It’s the Irish blue eyes, pale skin, and self-deprecating humour that grab me where it matters. The fact that he’s 6’3”, once walked with more fluid grace than any man on the planet, and managed to out gorgeous Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia also helps.

This was an actor whose name I had heard many times over, but I kind of always thought of him as an overweight English thespian type with a beard. I imagined him playing Polonius in Hamlet. Until I went through an Audrey Hepburn kick and discovered a film called How To Steal A Million.

In this Audrey Hepburn is the daughter of a rich art forger and she catches Peter O’Toole attempting to ‘steal’ one of her father’s forged Van Gogh’s. Little does she realise he is in fact an art forger catcher by trade! The fact that he is burgling her house in a tuxedo, is more enamoured than afraid when he is caught, then asks her to drive him back to the Ritz in his posh car after she shoots him in the arm doesn’t seem to enter her subconscious.

Audrey: "I can't drive a stolen car!"
Peter: "Same principle, four gears forward, one reverse."

Most famous of Lawrence of Arabia, Peter did maniacal egoists with god-complexes better than anybody, but my favourite moments are those when is he found looking at a heroine with such blatant humour, and adoration, like has truly never met anyone of her ilk before. Glorious!

Other fave Peter O’Toole moments: The Lion in Winter, The Stunt Man

Do you think they make them like they used to?



In Ally's latest novel, Silhouette Romance HOW TO MARRY A BILLIONAIRE her hero and heroine have a running gag involving Cary Grant.

You'll have to read it to find out what it is!

Check out her website for more about the book!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sunday Spotlight on Sandra Marton

This week, we here at The Pink Heart Society are thrilled to shine our spotlight on Presents author Sandra Marton...

ABOUT SANDRA:

I’ve been a writer as long as I can remember but I didn’t become a professional writer until 1984, when I sold the very first novel I ever wrote to Harlequin. I’ve been writing for them ever since. To my delight, I’ve been a RITA finalist four times, twice for Presents (short contemporary), once for Romantic Suspense and once for long contemporary. I’ve won RT’s Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Harlequin Presents of the Year seven times, and RT honored me with its coveted Career Achievement Award for Series Storyteller. That I get paid for telling stories still seems like a dream!

SPOTLIGHT:

Where do you get the inspiration for your books?

Inspiration is everywhere! I’ll notice a couple seated in a restaurant, deep in conversation. What are they talking about? Why is she reaching out to touch his hand that particular way? I admit, shamelessly, that I often eavesdrop on conversations in public places.

I’m big on visual inspiration, too. For instance, a couple of years ago, driving along a road at night in the rain, I saw a motorcycle spilled on its side, a car with a crunched fender and a man in a leather bomber jacket squatting beside a woman seated on the grass, trying to shield her from the rain. That scene triggered an immediate reaction in me and, ultimately, it was the seed of a Presents I called The Sicilian Surrender. More recently, I watched a big, good-looking guy peering into a toy-shop window. He looked out of place and wistful at the same time. Next thing I knew, I was sketching out my current Presents, THE SICILIAN’S CHRISTMAS BRIDE.

What makes you mad?

Cruelty, especially to animals.

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

I met my husband when I was fifteen. Several months later, when I turned sixteen, he gave me a locket. He’d had his name and an infinity sign inscribed on the back. I still have that locket and cherish it to this day.

What in a hero makes you drool?

The courage to stand up for his convictions. Never turning away from someone who needs his help. Physical strength combined with a tender heart. And, in more down to earth terms, I love a guy with a pony tail and an earring. (My husband has both!) Add a hard body and I’m good to go!

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

A wildlife biologist, working with wolf or grizzly populations. Growing up, I alternated between dreams of that career and dreams of becoming a writer. Writing—my first love—won.

What do you do to relax and wind down?

Read. Everything from romance to suspense. Walk in our woods. Bird watch from our deck. Travel, go somewhere for a weekend or a month—I’m happy either way. The Gulf Coast of Florida is a favorite for relaxation. So is the Caribbean.

Actually, I don’t have to get away to relax. Going for a drive along our narrow country roads is wonderful. So is having a glass of wine by the fireside on a snowy evening.

How do you get out of a writing rut?

By writing. I just sit down at the computer and write, even if what I produce is far (very far) from perfect. Sooner or later, the creative gates will open. At least, they always have so far. (That sound you hear is me, knocking wood.)

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

Can I have two choices? Winters, I’d live in a house overlooking the beach in Hawaii, just like the one we rented a couple of years ago. White sand, cerulean-blue water, golden sun. A private pool. Best of all, nobody around but us. It was wonderfully romantic.

Summers, I’d live in Alaska, in a cabin in the hills overlooking a valley crossed by braided rivers. We stayed in a place like that when we visited Mt. Denali. It was a beautiful cabin, complete with fireplace because even in the summer, Alaska can be chilly. It had a deck, too, and we sat out there one evening and saw a caribou stroll by! A trail wound behind our cabin. We shared it, very respectfully, with grizzlies and a wolf pack.

On the other hand, I love living here in New England. We have the most beautiful springs and autumns imaginable.

Who would you most like to give a hug to for a fabulous book you’ve read?

Barry Lopez, a sort of naturalist/philosopher, for a book called ARCTIC DREAMS. Nobody can express understanding of and respect for the natural world the way Lopez can. (If you’re starting to think I’m hung up on nature, I have to admit that you’re right. But I love cities, too. Paris. London. New York. Restaurants, theaters, museums and oh, the great little shops…)

What music do you listen to when writing?

I love music, everything from hard rock to soft rock, from medieval chants to Beethoven. Unfortunately, I find I can’t do much listening when I’m writing. Believe me, I’ve tried. The score from Last of the Mohicans. A wonderfully romantic collection of 13th century music called Love’s Illusion. Chopin. Fleetwood Mac. Pink Floyd.

Nothing works.

I end up humming, conducting an imaginary orchestra, getting up and dancing, even—I’m shuddering at the thought—singing. When I don’t do is write. So I’ve learned to pop in a CD only if I’m taking a coffee break. Then, music’s a great idea.

Tell us a secret nobody knows about you?

I’d sooner starve than eat snails.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

In what I think of as my former life, I was president of a board of education in New York State. In that capacity, I was touring one of our high schools with the principal and one of the deans. As we passed the teachers’ bathrooms I stopped, excused myself and stepped into what I thought was the ladies’ room.

It wasn’t. I figured that out as soon as I saw the urinal… and the guy standing at it. He was, mercifully, zipping up! He turned red. I turned redder. “Just checking to make sure everything’s ship-shape,” I said briskly, and walked out.

What have you had to celebrate in the last year?

Professionally, seeing all four of my 2006 novels on the Waldenbooks list. Also, completing my 65th novel. (I can’t believe it, either.) Creating a new trilogy my editor’s very excited about. Seeing my Knights Brothers trilogy break new ground for Presents by combining hot passion and high-octane danger.

Personally, seeing my not-quite five year old granddaughter confidently climb on the bus the first day of kindergarten. She has the kind of self-confidence all little girls should have. Watching my three year old grandson changing all too quickly from baby to little boy. Now, if he’d only really, truly give up diapers…

And, always, my heart celebrates the amazing fact that I still adore that guy I met at age fifteen.

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

Everything. I am, I guess, a pack rat. While I’m working on a book, things just pile up.

Right now, for instance, there’s a two inch stack of notes about Andalusian horses to my left because my current hero—an oh so sexy Spaniard—breeds them. Beneath it are some articles I clipped from the NY Times, from Vanity Fair magazine, from Vogue. Let’s see… what else is here? To my right, there’s a telephone I forgot to put back in its cradle. My portable computer, open alongside my desktop computer for absolutely no good reason. My cell phone. Two, no, three flash drivers. A cup of cold, forgotten coffee right next to the electric warmer pad I meant to stand it on. Honestly, I don’t think you want to hear any more. As I said, I’m not the neatest person in the world when I’m working.

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

Why stop at one? I’d kiss the character Daniel Day Lewis portrayed in Last of the Mohicans. Talk about sexy! I’d kiss Lucas Davenport, a hero created by suspense writer John Sandford. And if I could be sure I’d survive it, I’d love to plant a kiss right between the eyes of an Alpha wolf.

What are you working on now?

The final book in the trilogy I mentioned earlier. It’s about three good friends: Nicolo Barbieri, Damian Aristedes and Lucas Reyes. The men are all royals, all pure Alpha. They’re rich, powerful, sexy and, yes, gorgeous. They’re also quite human, as my heroes always are, meaning each has a good heart, a sense of humor, and they’ve all had to fight their way to where they are now. Not a one is ready for love or marriage or, heaven forbid, fatherhood, but that’s what Fate (and I) have in store for them.

Sandra's latest Presents novel, THE SICILIAN'S CHRISTMAS BRIDE is out now in North America!

Check out her website and blog for more.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Saturday Surprise - How to Books

‘WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL’ by Donald Maass

I was lucky enough to attend an all day workshop based on this book with Mr Maass in Melbourne last year. And it was FANTASTIC!!! He is a big time literary agent so he knows what he’s talking about. And his focus is on writing a breakout novel. A novel that will take you from being a newbie or a mid-list writer and sending you stratospheric. Helping you write a book millions of people will talk about and remember long after they’ve put the book down.

Some things among the trillion notes I took away were:

SCENE: add heroic quality in first five pages

WHY?

· Make the reader care

· Reader must want heroine to succeed

· Readers must cheer for her and have a sympathetic bond

SCENE: Have her act against her defining characteristic.

WHY?

· Creates internal conflict

· Opening extra character dimensions/other sides/layers

· Room for growth

SCENE: Find 3 moments where the heroine realise she wants the exact opposite of her main goal.

WHY?

· Desire for opposing goals creates inner conflict – this last moment ends up getting faster speedier, zooming to the end...

· How can you make a character that readers will talk about, think about, worry about even when the book is closed?

· Don’t be half-hearted! Go all the way so readers can’t see what is going to happen.

‘STORY’ by Robert McKee

Based on creating the ever popular three act structure for movie scripts, this book still holds many valuable hints for novelists. Or so I’m told. I’ve tried. I really have. But I just find it all so cumbersome. It’s like the guy wrote his how to book then changed every second word to a much bigger one with the use of a thesaurus.

Anyhoo, I know lots of authors who loooove this book and live by the three act layout which goes something like this:

INCITING INCIDENT

ACT I

Scenes

Climax - twist

ACT II

Scenes

Climax – Black moment

ACT III

Scene - Resolution

I am a more organic writer, and though I think I accidentally work like this a lot of the time, its more through osmosis of being a fanatical movie watcher than from any concerted effort to do so.

‘ON WRITING’ by Stephen King

I bought this book for my Dad one Xmas. He loves Stephen King, I love writing, I thought it might be a way to bridge the two. And he raved about this book so much I had to buy a copy for myself. This is a wonderful whimsical book about one man’s way of doing things. He does not hope to teach others to do the same, he merely holds up a camera on the processes he has found work for him over the years.

I learnt about closing the office door from this man which was a lifesaver many times over! Mr King also claims most other books on writing are filled with bulls#$t. Excepting ‘THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE’ by Strunk and White. I own that one too. Great fo those pesky punctuation queries that crop up now and then.

Best quote about why he writes: ‘I have the heart of a small boy. I keep it on the desk in my office.’

‘NO PLOT NO PROBLEM’ by Chris Baty

This is the book written by the guy who created Nanowrimo several years ago. At ~50,000 words it is the same length as a Harlequin Romance novel. And it is hilarious!!!

If you’ve ever thought about writing a book in a month, this is the guy who can motivate you to do it. Whether by encouraging you to tell everybody you’ve ever met that you plan to write a book in thirty days so that they will shame you into finishing the job, or encouraging you to wear a Viking helmet while writing in order to connect with your inner muse, this guy, for me, has all the answers.

Others in my pile on my desk?

ROGET’S THESAURAUS

DICTIONARY

HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU

SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS

THE ART OF ROMANCE WRITING

CREATING UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS

HOW TO WRITE DAMN GOOD FICTION

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES

I haven’t read them all, some don’t even have spine creases. I think the thing is to find what works for you – whether it’s new ideas or finding solace in the fact that others out there write the same way you do.

Ally

Ally's latest release, HOW TO MARRY A BILLIONAIRE is available as a Silhouette Romance in North America this month!

For more , check out Ally's website.

Any other books you guys have found helpful, let us know!