Saturday, December 02, 2006

Saturday Surprise: Judging a book by its cover

This month, the topic of covers is close to my heart (as you will soon hear!) so I thought I'd throw it open for discussion. (Mind you, I just had to rewrite that last sentence. I originally had 'throw it up for discussion'. Hmm...can you tell I'm still not over the morning sickness yet?)

When I buy books, I look for my favourite authors first. However, there's nothing surer that will grab my attention than a great cover.

Personally, I go for covers with striking heroes or couples.

Here are a few that grabbed my eye in an instant. (Interesting that the tough guy on Nancy Gideon's "Warriors Second Chance" has a gun. If I'd noticed that before I uploaded the pic, I probably would've bypassed it.)

I've been lucky enough to have had some great covers to date, most of them cosy couples in sexy cinches.

Which brings me to the point of this post: my latest cover.

It's a baby.

A big, very cute, baby.

At first, I was in shock. For me, babies don't portray romance (yes, I'm still changing nappies!)

I adore writing romance and I absolutely, positively love reading it and for me, a sexy cover goes a long way to making me pick up a book. So what's so appealing about a baby cover? The 'awww...' factor? The knowledge that a baby will definitely up the stakes for the hero and heroine? Hmm...

Since I first saw the cover, I've had many people comment how cute it is and how well baby books sell so I've shut up! And it's grown on me, it really has.

So what draws you to a cover? Any particular favourites?

So here it is!

My big, beautiful, baby cover, out in North America and the UK now.

To check out my other covers, visit my website.

Enjoy!

Nicola

Friday Film Night... Love Actually

For my December nominee for the Pink Heart Hall of Fame, I put forward a new Christmas classic...

LOVE ACTUALLY

Richard Curtis, the brilliant rom com screenwriter who brought us Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary and my nominee for last month, Notting Hill, wrote and directed this love fest.

BEHIND THE SCENES:

His thought at the beginning of this was that it takes him a good couple of years to write a script, and since he didn’t see that many more years ahead of him to write all the great love stories he wanted to write, he thought, ‘Why not stick a dozen love stories in the one film”! Genius? You bet.

LOVE STORIES:

Every time I watch this movie I have a new favourite story.

But the moment’s that break my heart, and bring a tear, and touch my soul every single time are:

The guy in love best friend’s new wife. When he tells her how he feels using the Bob Dylan cue cards, and the walks away saying “Enough. Enough.” I lose it! I feel his pain, his release. Truly brilliant screen moment.

Emma Thompson receiving the Joni Mitchell CD instead of the heart necklace she is expecting. And then when she takes it upstairs and plays “Clouds” all the while keeping herself upright while her world crumbles around her feet. If anyone can get through that scene without bawling, I just don’t know how!

Laura Linney having to turn away Rodrigo Santoro, Nic's previous Male on Monday, giving away her chance at a great love affair with the most beautiful man she has ever met, as her love for her brother is far too strong.

Hugh Grant, just after he meets the gorgeous buxom assistant. when is is finally alone in his office afterward he says to himself "That's not good”. The Prime Minister. In loove at first sight! My little heart just goes pitter-pat.

And there are funny, heartwarming moments galore as well.

Hugh Grant dancing around No. 10 Downing Street to "Jump". Making out backstage at the play. And at the end where his Natalie runs up to him at the airport and leaps into his arms. I love it!!!

The bar scene in Wisconsin where Kris Marshall as Colin meets the bevy of American beauties exactly how he always imagined he would.

Colin Firth proposing, badly, in Polish.

The stand-ins on the porn film having the sweetest courtship of them all.

And the music. Boy oh boy does the music make some kind of impact on this film. "All You Need is Love" at the wedding. "Love is All Around" the number one Christmas song. "All I Want For Christmas" sung at the end of year play. And finishing off with “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys. Sigh...

If you don't have all that much time on your hands, but are in need of a great big wild wonderful romantic lift, this is the film to do it!

WARM AND FUZZY RATING: 8.5

Ally's latest Silhouette Romance, A MOTHER FOR HIS DAUGHTER is her first book set outside of Australia. It was the winner of the Cataromance Best Tender Romance for the first half of 2005. Think Rome, Tuscany and a gorgeous Italian hero that Romantic Times says "could tempt almost any woman".

For excerpts and the behind the scenes inspiration for this book, check out her website!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thursday Talk Time - Heroes and Bad Hair Days

Today's Thursday talk-time is brought to you by Historical author Claire Thornton. She asks...

CAN A HERO EVER HAVE A BAD HAIR DAY?

Until I decided to write a series of linked books set during the reign of Charles II, I’d never asked myself that question.

My previous heroes had certainly always had hair. And they always looked sexy - whether they were rescuing their heroine from danger or romancing her in less hazardous circumstances. But they were all responsible adults and, just as I didn’t nag them to wash behind their ears, I left the finer details of when they combed their hair up to them.

But the stories in my CITY OF FLAMES trilogy are all set in 1666, during the reign of Charles II. Long natural hair had been fashionable for men for a while, but now periwigs were coming into vogue. So, for the first time, I had to give some serious thought to what my heroes were going to do with their hair.

The reign of Charles II, is a wonderful, colourful period. Actresses appeared on the London stage for the first time (until then, female roles had been played by boys). There were great steps forward in science and commerce. And one of the most famous events in London’s history – the Great Fire which destroyed nearly all of the medieval City – took place in 1666.

As befitted an era of such drama and change, every aspect of fashion was flamboyant. Men wore lace edged cravats and brocade or velvet coats. And some of them wore periwigs.

But, despite their flamboyant finery, these were active men. They managed their estates, conducted business, practised their swordsmanship and even fought duels. They didn’t wear their periwigs every waking moment - as you can see in this picture of Rufus Sewell from the BBC production of Charles II: The Power and the Passion.

I soon realised there were more options available for my heroes than I’d first anticipated.

I decided that Gabriel, Marquis of Halross, the hero of the first book in the series, THE DEFIANT MISTRESS, would look magnificent with his own rippling waves of dark brown hair falling around his shoulders.

When Lady Desire Godwin, the heroine of the second book, THE ABDUCTED HEIRESS, first sets eyes on her hero, Colonel Jakob Balston, he has just climbed over the parapet of her rooftop garden. The evening sunlight makes his long blond hair shine like liquid gold.

The hero of the third book, the Duke of Kilverdale, is the only one who wears a periwig. When THE VAGABOND DUCHESS begins, he has been travelling incognito, and his own wild black hair makes him look like an enticing vagabond. Later in the story, when he assumes the extravagant finery of a duke, he wears a magnificent black periwig. But, when he is alone with his heroine and he removes his wig – oh – what wonderful sensual possibilities his deliciously cropped hair offered.

So can a hero ever have a bad hair day?

Absolutely not. Whether he has glorious, flowing locks the heroine simply can’t keep her hands off, very short hair, or something in between – his hair is always as magnificently sexy as the man himself.


Claire's latest North America release is book one of a trilogy!

THE DEFIANT MISTRESS is out in NA this November.

But in December lucky UK readers are up to Book 3 in the series with THE VAGABOND DUCHESS.

More at her website @ http://www.clairethornton.com

Writer's Wednesday with Maxine Sullivan

Today we have the fabulous tale of Maxine Sullivan, a newbie Desire author who made a fabulous decision to pitch in a very unusual way which led to her first sale! (And check out her first cover below - humona humona!)

From Maxine

I currently live in Melbourne, Australia but have traveled to New Zealand, the UK, and USA. In my own backyard, I have visited and lived in many places in Australia, including spending many years in Darwin in the tropical north, where some of my books are set. Therefore I find it very fitting that I sold my first manuscript on January 26th 2006, which is Australia Day in my country. I am married to Geoff, who has proven his hero status many times over the years. We have two handsome sons and an assortment of previously abandoned animals. Romance novels offer such wonderful affirmations about love and relationships that I can't imagine not wanting to share my stories with others.

The Call

If anyone had told me a year ago that in 2006 I would sell four books to Silhouette Desire and one single title book to another publisher, I would have said they were crazy. But on January 26th this year my dream of being a published author came true. I became an overnight success – after twenty years. J

And it almost didn’t happen, but I’m so thrilled it did. You see, I’d been feeling incredibly disheartened about my writing. The emotional rollercoaster of years of submitting manuscripts and being asked by editors to revise, only to receive a rejection later on was getting harder to take. Nothing was working no matter what I did.

And then I made a decision and for the first time ever I truly meant it. I could give up writing or I could go back to writing for the sheer love of it. I chose the latter and somehow that was the turning point.

Of course that still didn’t stop me from trying to make my own luck. I would still enter contests, and still send in manuscripts, but now I had no expectations. I would see what came of it all, but I wasn’t going to stress about it. I would just continue with my writing.

And it was one of those contests that led to my first sale. Having decided to enter the Desire Pitch Challenge on eHarlequin.com, I submitted a couple of sentences about one of my manuscripts and won the chance with 9 others to do an online pitch to the senior editor of Silhouette Desire, Melissa Jeglinski. During the pitch, Melissa asked a couple of questions about the story, then said to send her the full manuscript.

Two weeks later I was having my morning coffee when I received an email from my agent asking me to call her before I went to work. I froze. I told my husband and he said to get on the phone. I said I couldn't and that it was probably a rejection anyway. Talk about fear of success!

Anyway, I bit the bullet and picked up the phone. My agent said she had some good news for me - that the senior editor had called her and she loved my manuscript and wanted to buy it. I was stunned, then I told my agent that I had to tell my husband. I threw open the study door to tell him but he was already waiting on the other side and had heard me talking. So we were laughing and talking and I was saying I couldn't believe it. I'm not one to scream and shout but you can bet I was happy, if not a little numb.

Now, ten months later, I haven’t stopped smiling. With that one call from an editor every word I’d ever written was validated for me. I’ve since sold another three manuscripts to Silhouette Desire. It took me a long time to get here, but as an author friend recently said - God’s timing is perfect. I’ve got to agree.

Maxine’s first book, “The Millionaire’s Seductive Revenge” is due for release in North America in February 2007, followed by “The Tycoon’s Blackmailed Mistress” in May 2007, and “The Executive’s Vengeful Seduction” in August 2007.

For more, check out her website!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Temptation Tuesday - Pampering Time


So when was the last time you made some time for you? Fresh from the deadline cave, The Pink Heart Society's very own Trish Wylie seeks ways of relaxing after a particularly difficult book...

Well it's a fact of life these days, isn't it? S-T-R-E-S-S. We all know the word only too well - busy workloads - busy looking after family - busy doing housework and laundry and and and.. and basically stressing ourselves the whole time as we try to balance them all at once - and that's before we authors find time to write! Everyone knows what it feels like when you're constantly chasing your own tail. And there's simply never enough time... Especially as we now hit that madness known as Christmas (which is another example of time disappearing when we're busy - where on earth did 2006 go to???)...

So, now that I've emerged into the light I've decided it's time we Pink Heart-ers made some time for ourselves!!! I for one feel like a Spa break myself - you know, nice relaxing surroundings, lovely crisp white bathrobe and matching slippers to live in, sleeping poolside between treatments with hunky male masseurs... sigh... But we can't all afford that kind of luxury, so I thought I'd see what we can do for ourselves on a budget... Can I tempt you???

Planning the time is the key for relaxation according to experts. And that kinda makes sense - we schedule time to do all those other things, so why not a specific time each week to be good to ourselves? Music, a long soak in the bath, a walk in the park or by the ocean and of course, curling up with a good book... We just gotta make sure we make that time!

A nice hot bath is almost an event in itself these days as we all turn to ten minute showers - so make it an event I say - light those candles, froth those bubbles, pin that Do Not Disturb note to the door! Maybe even try some good old fashioned aromatherapy - it's the big thing now - and in most bath products - so you'll even be fashionable at the same time!

aromatherapy: aro·ma·ther·a·py - Is the use of volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being. (Sounds good to me!) I even found a recipe you can use for a nice little massage at home or for a few drops in your bath:

Calming/Relaxing Aromatherapy Blend

  • 1 ounce carrier oil such as sweet almond
  • 10 drops Roman Chamomile
  • 5 drops Lavender
    Directions: Mix the oils well and add to a clean, air-tight dark glass container. Massage gently into the feet of the individual who requires increased calm. Giving yourself a foot massage with this relaxing oil is also delightful. Roman Chamomile has a strong sedative effect, so do not plan to drive or concentrate after using this blend.
    If you prefer to make a diffuser blend, make a blend with a ratio of 2 drops Roman Chamomile to 1 drop Lavender and add to your diffuser.

Alternatively - how about some music, a glass of wine, and a nice home-made, all natural ingredients face pack while your hair is still wrapped in a towel? I even managed to find you a recipe for one of those:

Avocado-Banana Masque recipe (For dry or sensitive skin.)

  • 1/4 mashed ripe avocado
  • 1/2 mashed ripe banana
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt (not low-fat)
  • 1 teaspoon wheat germ oil
    Mix all ingredients. Apply mixture to face and leave on 10 to 15 minutes. Rinse with tepid water.

More stressed than that? I tell you, after this book I may even try some meditation... if nothing else in the hope it might help me re-discover my muse along the way- what do you think? At the lovely BBC Health Website they even give you a technique for that kind of simple relaxation:

  • Choose a quiet place where you won't be interrupted.
  • Before you start, do a few gentle stretching exercises to relieve muscular tension.
  • Make yourself comfortable, either sitting or lying down. Start to breathe slowly and deeply, in a calm and effortless way.
  • Gently tense, then relax, each part of your body, starting with your feet and working your way up to your face and head. As you focus on each area, think of warmth, heaviness and relaxation.
  • Push any distracting thoughts to the back of your mind; imagine them floating away.
    Don't try to relax; simply let go of the tension in your muscles and allow them to become relaxed.
  • Let your mind go empty. Some people find it helpful to visualise a calm, beautiful place such as a garden or meadow. Stay like this for about 20 minutes, then take some deep breaths and open your eyes, but stay sitting or lying for a few moments before you get up.

Anything sound at all tempting to you? I may try all three in the absense of the free Spa-time avec hinky male... So what are you going to do to be good to yourself this next while? Come share your favourite methods of relaxation with us and maybe I'll find something else to try. I'm desperate at this point - help me out gang!!!

And let's all promise ourselves to schedule that *me time*, shall we??? I'm in.

H's & K's Trish

Trish's latest Romance is PROJECT: PARENTHOOD and is out now on the shelves in the US & Canada and direct in the UK & Ireland!

And White-Hot! is her first Sexy Sensation release in Australia and is available online at the Australian Harlequin site now!

For more info on her current releases you can visit her blog or her Website!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Male on Monday...and the winner is...

Anne McAllister here. About this ‘Male on Monday’ slot. . . I didn’t grovel. Or beg. Or plead. I offered. Really. It was the least I could do.

Trish, Ally, Nic and Natasha are dreadfully overworked. Last week they didn't give us just one male on Monday. They gave us three! Their devotion to duty is obsessive. Next thing you know they’ll be falling behind on their deadlines, staying up all night, working their eyeballs to the bone ogling all these gorgeous men. We can’t have that.

So I did what any kindhearted, thoughtful, self-sacrificing romance author would do. I said, “Would you like me to take one of those arduous difficult Monday blog pieces off your hands? Give you a break? Spare you one week of having to track down yet another gorgeous hunk?”

And if I appeared to be drooling in anticipation, it was not because I always drool when I think about James Purefoy. Never.

Well . . . almost never.

However, as you can see, James Purefoy is a very tempting male indeed.

James first came onto my radar as Edward, the black prince, in The Knight’s Tale. There were, of course, other gorgeous men in that film -- Rufus Sewell. Heath Ledger. But the minute my gaze locked on the enigmatic Edward, I said, “Who’s he?”

And thanks to IMDB, I found out. As far as I was concerned they told the wrong knight's tale in that movie. But at least it woke me up, and I kept an eye out for James Purefoy after that.

With his dark good looks, ability to brood and smoulder, then turn on a toe-curlingly sexy grin and twinkling eyes, not to mention do a very nice love scene whenever required, he could have spent his whole career as a handsome leading man.

Instead he's been all over the acting map -- from the Royal Shakespeare Company to the cast of the sci-fi horror video-game film Resident Evil.

When he played the lead in a docu-drama Blackbeard, a man James calls, "the best pirate of all time . . . an extraordinary man who was really good at his job," he could have been speaking of his own career when he added, "You never quite knew what he was going to do next."

He played alcoholic Tom Bertram in Mansfield Park, the am-I-straight-or-am-I-not Irishman Brendan in Bedrooms and Hallways, the psychopathic rapist in Calling the Shots, Becky Sharp’s handsome besotted gambler husband in Vanity Fair, the sartorially elegant Beau Brummell in the BBC production of the same name, a conflicted soldier in Sharpe’s Sword, a self-absorbed actor in Maybe Baby, a dragon slayer in George and the Dragon, and, most recently, Mark Antony in the television series, Rome.

The breadth of his choices is by design.

He says, “I think if you want to have longevity in this business, then you have to do lots of different things . . . it's crucial to keep moving as it stops people putting you in boxes.”

So as Rome finishes, he is moving in a different direction yet again to a Showtime television pilot, Manchild, based loosely on the British series, in which he'll play Joe -- wealthy, virile and determined not to date any woman over 25 -- the unspoken leader of a group 40-something men in mid-life crises. It might be enough to get me to subscribe to Showtime!

And who is James Brian Mark Purefoy when he's not busy being all these other people?

Born 3 June, 1964 in Taunton, Somerset, he grew up in Somerset, goes back as often as he can, and says it's still the place he feels most at home. He was educated at Sherborne School in Dorset, after which he worked two years as a porter at Yeovil District Hospital a job which he says opened his eyes to a great deal of the world he hadn't seen before.

After studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama, he spent two years with the Royal Shakespeare Company and has since divided his time among theatre, film and television projects. Though he's never married, he had a long-time relationship with actress Holly Aird with whom he has a son, Joseph.

He says single parenting is "tough, but you just get on with it." Apparently getting on with it includes building a terrific treehouse for his son which he enjoyed so much he said he'd love to build more -- "just contact his agent."

Besides his obvious good looks and charisma, it's his very expressive face that makes me keep seeing my tall dark-haired heroes as characters James Purefoy might play.

His glib self-absorbed actor in Maybe Baby could have been one of my heroes before the heroine shaped him up. Rawdon Crawley's love for his son was so vivid I ached for him when they were separated in Vanity Fair. The personal anguish and final desperate honor he invested in Jack Spears in Sharpe's Sword were starkly visible and real.

He goes straight to the emotional core of characters. A self-confessed "blubberer" who can cry at commercials, he can find a humanity in characters who can seem brutal or crass.

The more I watch him, the more I add to my list of favorites -- small moments on screen in which James perfectly captures an aspect of a character -- his hopes, his dreams, his pain, his joy, his bemusement, his anguish, his delight, his despair.

It's research, after all. And they're all performances that make wonderful grist for the writer's mill.

And then, too, as Lucy Gordon said after seeing Beau Brummell, "He does strip beautifully, doesn't he?"

Er, yes. He did in Rome, too. And here. James-not-quite-in-a-towel. Wouldn't you know?

Definitely a man of many talents.

Anne

ps: the 'leftover' pix are on my blog.



Anne's upcoming release is: The Santorini Bride a February 2007 Harlequin Presents.

Check out more about this book at her
website!

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

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sunday Spotlight on Pat White

This week we shine the spotlight on Intrigue author Pat White!

ABOUT PAT

With a degree in Journalism, Pat White spent the first ten years of her career as a newspaper reporter and public relations manager, and the next ten writing fiction. She is a Romantic Times Reviewer's Choice winner for Best Contemporary Romance, and a six-time Golden Heart finalist. Pat writes romantic comedy with a touch of mystery, dark intrigues and paranormal suspense.

SPOTLIGHT!

Where do you get the inspiration for your books from?

Movies, books, people I meet on the street, friends.

What makes you mad?

Mad as in, I’m mad about Christian Bale, or mad as in angry? ;-) If it’s the latter, hmmm, when the cats fight and break stuff.

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

My husband resizing my engagement ring and giving it to me on our anniversary trip to the Rocky Mountains.

What in a hero makes you drool?

Strength, fortitude, a sense of humor. Oh, and abs. A six-pack works.

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

An actor, or restaurant owner.

What do you do to relax and wind down?

Watch Law & Order reruns or BBC America: MI5, Wire in the Blood, What Not to Wear.

How do you get out of a writing rut?

Chocolate works. If not, I’ll take a walk, hike up a mountain or treat myself to the movies.

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

I’m here—Seattle; second choice would be Scotland.

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

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird.

What music do you listen to when writing?

Changes with each book. Sometimes country, sometimes rock and roll, many times new age. Currently a rock band called Muse.

Tell us a secret nobody knows about you?

I prefer dark chocolate over any other kind. (It’s all about the chocolate, you know.) Also, I wear mismatching socks most of the time. A shrink would have a field day with that one.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Hitting the wrong note on the piano during a recording we were making in the Jazz Band – I mean, I went flat when I was supposed to go sharp. Yikes!!

What have you had to celebrate in the last year?

My son going off to college! My first three-book contract with Harlequin Intrigue. My first Intrigue receiving a Top Pick from RT.

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

Besides a cat? Crystals: rose quartz, amethyst, smoky quartz; and my shake ‘em up globe of the Space Needle with multi-colored stars.

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

My husband, Larry. As I write this, he’s 1,200 miles away – BAH!

What are you working on now?

Saving Destiny, my dark and sexy NOCTURNE, AND a new series—Billionaire Superheroes, what do you think about that one?

Pat writes both dark and dangerous as well as sweet and sassy books. Come next year she has three books out in three months, fabulous titles all, beginning with The American Temp and the British Inspector! Check them out here.

Her debut intrigue, the RT top pick Silent Memories, will be a part of the November Hamper! Did you go in the drawer for the big prize yesterday?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

November Hamper... Who Will Win?

Yes, another month is coming to an end...

Now we have changed the look of the blog in the past few days to make it easier to load, with only seven days worth on display in one hit. We are archived weekly as well so if you want to check back on all the fun and games from the past month, go right ahead!

We had some eclectic films, and some seriously hunky men, many of whom are still alive today! Lots of lovely spotlights and news from brand new newbies which is always lovely. We hope you had a grand old time reading all the wonderful books currently available from our Pink Heart Society members too.

So here it is! The November Hamper!!!

Now just because we are so fabulous and wonderful and giving, we have a great hamper of prizes to giveaway thanks to the wonderful authors who participated this month. One lucky Pink Heart Society member will win the lot! The best comment as judged by your editors extraordinaire will win.

Hamper Question: Which couple make up your favourite television romance (or hoped for romance for all you shippers out there) of all time????

PRIZES TO GIVEAWAY!

Sharron McClellan's Bombshell HIDDEN SANCTUARY
Sandra Marton's Presents THE SICILIAN'S CHRISTMAS BRIDE
Kate's Hardy's Medical THEIR CHRISTMAS DREAM COME TRUE
Jeannie Watt's Superromance A DIFFICULT WOMAN
Annie West's Sexy A MISTRESS FOR THE TAKING
Pat White's Intrigue SILENT MEMORIES


The faaaabulous Leena Hyatt of the Tote Bag has given us:

VIRGIN FOR SALE - Susan Stephens (Mills & Boon 'Uncut' Modern Romance)
PRODIGAL SON - Susan Mallery (Silhouette Special Edition)
THE SHEIKH'S DISOBEDIENT BRIDE - Jane Porter (Harlequin Presents)
MARRIAGE TERMS - Barbara Dunlop (Silhouette Desire)
PRACTICE MAKES MR. PERFECT - Patricia Mae White (Silhouette Romance)

Don’t forget to come back through next month to find out if you won!

And next month is going to be even bigger. Jam-packed. The best month ever! So come along and play and spread the word. Remember, at the Pink Heart Society it's all about the love.

Hugs and kisses,

Ally, Natasha, Nicola and Trish

x x x x