Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Film Night - the Holiday

This week The Pink Heart Society's very lovely Natasha Oakley takes us to the cinema for an inside look at The Holiday, a brand new Christmas Film...

I so very nearly picked 'It's a Wonderful Life' as my Film on Friday but at the last moment I've gone for this year's Christmas movie offering 'The Holiday'.

This is an unashamed romantic comedy with a wish-list starry cast. Cameron Diaz plays Amanda Woods, the owner of a movie-trailer making company who has a cheating boyfriend. Kate Winslet is the British based journalist, Iris Simpkins, who is suffering unrequited love for the deliciously caddish Rufus Sewell. Both women face a Christmas holiday alone.

Deciding to take herself away from it all, Amanda (Diaz) sees the quintessential English cottage belonging to Iris (Winslet) on a 'home swap' internet site and the two women agree to exchange their homes for two weeks.

Having intimate experience of living in a two up, two down English cottage I can tell you Iris (Winslet) came out on top in terms of accommodation. :) Iris (Winslet) arrives in sunny LA to find the kind of palatial pad with swimming pool that's featured in expensive style magazines.

Amanda (Diaz) meanwhile struggles to adapt to snowy England and a picture-book cottage that requires the wearing of bedsocks. (And, yes, they really do! Quite often!!) Not to mention the kind of plumbing that requires a rose-coloured view of all things vintage.

Amanda (Diaz) is on the point of leaving when Iris's (Winslet) brother arrives, after one too many at the local pub, expecting to sleep it off.

You need to suspend disbelief at this point. Not only does she, a solitary female, let him in, she also suggests they spend the night together. I suppose it is Jude Law at his most charming ....

Their relationship develops and you discover that Graham (Law) has an excellent reason for behaving as he does. He's better than perfection, btw!

Meanwhile, in LA, Iris (Winslet), has befriended an elderly screenwriter neighbour and the friend of Amanda's ex-boyfriend played by Jack Black.

Miles (Black) is less of a prize imo. I think their relationsip feels a bit 'forced'. I may not be the most unbiased of observers, however, because I find Jack Black annoying to watch in pretty much anything. And, of course, Rufus Sewell is not!!

My criticism of this film is that it's too long. On the up-side it confirms my belief that life can change for the better in a moment. For me, Law and Winslet scoop the acting honours - and the houses are wonderfully droolworthy.

Since I'm completely prepared to suspend disbelief, I give this film a Pink Heart:

Warm and fuzzy rating of 7/10.

Lots of Love - Natasha

Natasha's latest release is a Silhouette Romance - one of the books being introduced to Silhouette Romance's readers before the line disappears forever at the end of January...

Millionaire Dad: Wife Needed is available now from eharlequin. For an excerpt or some of the reviews you can visit Natasha's website or pop by her Blog to see if she's out of the deadline cave yet...

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Thursday Talk Time - Stocking Filler Campaign

So is everyone all set for Christmas?? It's hard to believe it's only eleven days away isn't it??

Inevitably we end up looking back at Christmases past at this time of year and you know, it's funny - I remember more about those little gifts I used to get in my stocking... Little mandarin oranges were a real favourite, little bags of mixed nuts, fluffy socks, gloves that every year would be lost before the following Christmas so they were a sure bet for replacement... those little tiny games with the itty bitty metal balls you had to fit into slots and could never quite manage the last one... Sigh. Those were the days...

So, apart from the small gifts you may buy as a secret santa, the box of sweets you may leave for your postman or your milkman or the stocking fillers you get for the kids - what do you get for your friends from Santa??? Mmm??? I wonder...

Which me, being me, led to a dastardly plan....

We all love category romance, right? Those nice little, easily wrapped, cheaply bought little pages of joy...

So - who could we possibly give one to who maybe hasn't read one before??? Who might be a lamb lost from the fold??? Or a convert in the making!!! Wouldn't it be nice if they got a little something - FROM A PINK HEARTED SANTA....

So here is your challenge - should you choose to accept it - there are so many great titles out there to choose from - a world of romance and adventure and happily ever after... So, who deserves a nice surprise from Santa? Let us know who you sent it to or are thinking of sending it to - or maybe who you think we fellow Pink Hearters might convert ourselves...


So what is the one gift that has stuck with you since childhood? Or is there a particular family tradition you would like to tell us about???

H's & K's

Trish's latest releases are out in Australia right now - White-Hot! is her first Sexy Sensation release and is kept company by Project: Parenthood in the Sweet line!

To find out more you can visit her Website or pop by her Blog

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Writers Wednesday - Christina Hollis

This week The Pink Heart Society brings you a brand new author for the Modern/Presents line. So give a nice warm PHS welcome to Christina Hollis...

Christina's journey to THE CALL!
I was born a few miles from Bath, England and have spent my whole life reading, writing and gardening. Given a straight career choice between teaching and nursing, I rebelled and became an office junior.
Then on 28th January 1982 I went on a blind date, and my life really began. It was love at first sight! Martyn is a typical Alpha male, who swept me right off my feet. We were married within months.
Some time later, I was long-listed in a BBC drama-writing competition. At that, Martyn suggested I should give up my job as a Marketing department ‘gopher’ and concentrate on writing full time, to see if I could make a go of it. Determined not to let him down I entered every writing competition I could find, did freelance non-fiction work for national and local magazines, wrote several historical novels and started work on a couple of full-length contemporary ones. Over the years I achieved some success, but never that real ‘breakthrough’ moment.
Our family grew, and life got busier. I began to think I’d never achieve my dream of writing popular fiction. Then I heard about a local college course for writers. I joined, and began learning from the bottom up. One of my assignments was to write the first few thousand words of a romantic novel. We’d just holidayed in a recently renovated Tuscan villa, and it was such a lovely setting I wanted to share the sunshine with everyone! My homework became the opening pages of ‘The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin’. When I read an extract out in class, the tutor and students persuaded me to send it off to Mills and Boon.
I’d had so many rejections over the years that I nearly didn’t bother, but wow, I am so glad I did! The anticipation was incredible: first I was asked to send in three whole chapters. After some tweaks and revisions, they wanted to see the whole thing. A bit more rewriting here and there, then things went quiet…
Fast-forward to my son’s sixth birthday - I am doling out jelly, custard and cake while a dozen little boys hurtle round the house at top speed and full volume. The phone rings. It’s The Call! While I am trying to get pizza off the ceiling, my editor is giving me the brilliant news: I’ve done it - ‘The Italian Billionaire’s Virgin’ has been accepted!
We ALL ate far more party food than was good for us that day, I can tell you! Nine months later, and I still haven’t made it back down to earth. I’ve since sold a second ‘Modern Romance’ and I’m busily putting the finishing touches to a third. This must be the best job in the world. I could never have done it without Martyn. He’s a major source of inspiration, and I really appreciate every working day!
Christina's first book The Italian Billionaire's Virgin is out in January 2007 but you can order advance copies from the Mills & Boon website right now!!!
Thanks Christina!

Temptation Tuesday...Italian Heroes

Ever since I saw The Godfather I wanted to marry an Italian.

I loved the romance, the clothes, the accents, the danger, the strong sense of family. The language, the music, the history, the scene at the very end of the movie where Kay is watching Michael as his henchmen kiss his hands, and then one of them slowly, slowly closes the door. Wow! I mean have you ever seen anything more dramatic? Well, for a born and bred drama queen that was it for me.

A dozen years later I married my very own Italian Australian. Wishes do come true! Then two years ago my husband and I took a two week trip to Italy. I went with great plans to write a book set there. Because:

a) Italian heroes are ever popular – no argument from me.

b) it would make the trip a write off – boy do I love this job!

c) it would give me a perfect excuse to ogle handsome strangers while still in my husband’s company! (Seriously, the partners of romance writers really should be given awards, back rubs and condolences for what they have to put up with on that front;))

My heroine, Gracie Lane, was already clear in my mind, as this was the third book in a trilogy about three girls living in a beach side suburb of my home town Melbourne. And I knew she was going to Rome to find her long lost father, and that she had my very same fixation on The Godfather, though hers was for very different reasons. I, on the other hand, was going to Rome to find her hero.

Luca Siracusa was an enigma to me. I had a fuzzy image in my head. Okay, so the fuzzy image looked a fair bit like the heavenly Raoul Bova from Under the Tuscan Sun. (And to keep Anne McAllister and many more happy here are some lovely pictures of him...not in a towel exactly but near enough!) But that was all I had. So as we traversed the length and breadth of that beeeeautiful country, I was on the look out for real, flesh and blood, Italian hunks to fill out my two-dimensional hero.

Would I find him chatting up girls on the Spanish Steps in Rome? Would I find him posing for a photograph pretending to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Or would I find him sitting back in a café on Capri drinking an espresso with the sun on his face?

I thought I’d found him in Verona, a city full of beautiful people, in which the locals promenade the twining cobbled streets in fur coats, and designer clothes and elegant suits just because they can. The crowd parted to reveal a little girl in a navy velvet dress with white lace cuffs, white stocking, patent shoes and a blue bow in her ringlets. And on the other end of her hand was a man. Tall, dark, and handsome, even from the back ;). He wore a coat that floated behind him like a cape as he carefully led his daughter through the busy street. I kept a close eye on him, taking heed of his movement, his walk, the tilt of his head before I lost him in the crowd.

I used all of that in my book in the end. But it still wasn’t enough. I knew what he looked like, I knew how he walked, I knew how moving it would be to see such a gorgeous man taking such care of a delightful little girl. But I didn’t know him.

As I sat on the steps of the magnificent Trevi Fountain when we returned to Rome for the last days of our trip, alone, with my notebook and pen in hand, while my husband went off in search of cappuccinos, there were people everywhere; tourists throwing coins, local men selling bottle openers emblazoned with the Pope’s face, pairs of nuns sifting through the bottle openers, gypsies “giving away” one Euro roses.

I closed my eyes and let the sounds and scents and feel of Italy wash over me. And when I opened them there he was. Tall, dark, handsome, Italian...ish and holding out a cappuccino he’d gone searching for, on his own, for me, with little more local language in his vocabulary than “ciao” and “mamma mia”.

Of all my heroes Luca has the most of my husband in him; his kindness, selflessness, his innate style, and natural smarts, and of course his irresistible gorgeousness ;).

But I have no complaints about travelling the world over to find what I had under my very nose. I mean come on, I got to see the statue of David up close and personal! But that’s a whole other book...

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!

This post was inspired by a piece Ally wrote for Nalini Singh's Xmas blog party...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Spotlight Sunday on Leslie Kelly

This week at The Pink Heart Society we are proud to bring you HQN and Blaze author Leslie Kelly, whose book Don't Open Til Christmas won both the eharlequin Readers Choice Award of 2005 for Favourite Steamy Romance and Book Of The Year!!!

About Leslie:

"Leslie Kelly is a stay-at-home mother of three who started writing as a creative outlet after one too many games of Chutes & Ladders."

Okay, that's the honest-to-goodness opening sentence of my official bio, and believe me, it's true! But the Chutes and Ladders days have faded away...thank heaven. Have you ever played that game? I think it was invented by Spanish Inquisitors.

Anyway, my three daughters are older now, and they're more into Yahtzee, Sorry, and Clue. That's a good thing, since they have such a game-playing, competitive mother (which, by the way, is the reason they refuse to play RISK with me...I'm not raising any stupid kids!)

I'm still a stay-at-home mom. I still live in Florida with my girls and my wonderful, real-life romantic hero, Bruce plus our woefully spoiled puppy, Cassie .

I still like Dorito's and ice cream when I should be eating carrots and oatmeal. I still make a wicked Pina Colada. And I still much prefer writing on my AlphaSmart--risking it drowning in my pool--to working in some office where I'd actually have to wear big girl shoes and pantyhose. I've been incredibly fortunate since lucking out and selling my first book off the slush pile to an editor at Harlequin Temptation. I've sold a bunch of books, and won a bunch of awards (go figure!?) And somehow still always sit down at my computer and every single day fall in love all over again with this wonderful, fictional world in which I often find myself.

But, you know what? The non-fiction one is pretty darn good, too.

Spotlight Interview:

Where do you get the inspiration for your books from?

My books are primarily character-based, so I am often inspired by people watching! I love to just keep my eyes open when I’m out and about, and quite often, when I hear a snippet of conversation or witness some people in a conversation, I am spinning a story about who they are and what’s going on. In the same way, my stories generally start out with two people--I figure out who they are, and then I figure out what’s going on.

What makes you mad?

Intolerance in all its ugly forms. Religious, sexual, political, social…I just cannot abide people, countries, governments, religions, sexes, races who will not respect the rights of others to be different than they are.

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

I happen to be married to the most romantic man on the planet--he is so much more considerate, thoughtful and romantic than me, and he loves to come up with ways to surprise and delight me. A few standouts include the Valentine’s day when I was doing an appearance at a bookstore and he showed up, dressed head to toe as a pirate, and handed me a long-stemmed red rose. Or when I opened my Christmas present one morning and found a beautiful porcelain bottle filled with massage oil that he had made himself. Bath & Body Works had stopped selling our favorite scent, Plumeria, so he found the essence, bought the oils, squeezed individual caplets of vitamin E, and created his own signature stuff. It was fabulous!

What characteristics in a hero makes you drool?

Physically: I love a hero with a fabulous smile, strong jaw, broad shoulders. In terms of personality, I really like guys who can laugh, who are a little cocky and know how to work around a woman’s defenses. Those are the kinds of guys I like to read about, and the ones I write about.

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

A Broadway star. Seriously--I have always loved to sing and act and have passed that love down to my girls. (My two younger daughters are starring in their school plays this very weekend!)

What do you do to relax and wind down?

I am terribly addicted to my nightly glass of crisp, cold Chardonnay. And my favorite way to spend an evening is with my family--either all of us watching movies or playing games. Or else curled up with my hubby, sometimes talking, sometimes reading, sometimes just enjoying the silence.

How do you get out of a writing rut?

Look at my checkbook and see the balance…or look at the calendar, and see my deadline.

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

Hmm…that’s a real tossup. I have two distinct sides to my personality--I love the frenetic energy of a big city like New York or Chicago. But I also adore quiet, tranquil beauty found in smaller places. I think my dream would be to have a fabulous Manhattan penthouse for part of the year, and spend the rest of it in a cottage by the sea in County Cork, Ireland. (Hubby and I took the kids to Ireland last year and absolutely fell in love with it!)

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

I have so many favorite authors and “comfort reads” that I will pull off the shelf and read year after year, the two most constant ones being John Irving and Stephen King. I think I’d be a little scared to hug Stephen King, so I’ll say John Irving. A man who could create brilliant, unforgettable characters such as T.S. Garp and Owen Meany is someone I’d very much like to know.

What music do you listen to when writing?

Usually Broadway. I can often found a score that matches my mood or the mood of the book/scene I’m writing. When I am working on a frenetic, pulsing love scene, I might put on La Vie Boheme from Rent. When the suspense is building, I’ll put in Jeckyll and Hyde. When digging deep into characters emotions, you just can’t beat Miss Saigon.

Lately, however, I’ve been sticking to Christmas music.

Tell us a secret nobody knows about you?

Despite what I do, I am probably the least romantic person on the planet. My hubby and I joke that in our last lives, he was the chick and I was the guy because he’s so much more sensual and romantic than me.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

There have been far too many to enumerate. I am physically a great klutz, so spills and slips and broken bones have littered my past.

Okay, wait, I have one that I’ve never forgotten: In 4th grade, I really started getting my kicks out of fiction writing. I used to write these long, detailed, in-depth stories with chapters and multiple characters. And my teacher loved them--except she constantly rode me about my spelling, punctuation, etc. So one day I turned in this story, the longest I’d ever done. I was out sick for two days afterward and when I came back, I learned that my teacher had mimeographed copies of my story for the entire class and had everyone correct my errors. I was mortified…but definitely never forgot the lesson about editing your work. (I still have the smeary mimeograph in a scrapbook…and I’ve never forgotten the name of the teacher. Mrs. Bitch…lol!)

What have you had to celebrate in the last year?

Well, after living apart from my husband for a year because of a job change, we are finally together again, living under the same roof. Wahoo! And while it was wonderful and exciting to watch my oldest daughter graduate from high school, that joy was a bit overshadowed by the knowledge that we would be leaving her behind to attend college when we moved away from Florida. I still miss her SO much.

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

I typically write on my laptop, in a recliner, because I have a very bad back. And beside me, without fail, is Cassie, my fuzzy little Shih-tzu/Poodle, who likes to curl up so close, every inch of her body is touching my leg. She’s such good company!

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

Romantically, I get all the kisses I need from my hubby. But if I could exchange a warm kiss of love and well wishes with one person this holiday season, it would be with my mother, who passed away 17 years ago. I miss her every single day, and at this time of year, the ache is even worse. I’d love one more hug, one more I Love You, one more kiss on a bright Christmas morning.

What are you working on now?

I’m finishing up my next mainstream contemporary romance, SHE’S NO ANGEL, which comes out from HQN in July 2007 in the U.S. Then I leap into my next category book, a Blaze for the “Bad Girls Club” miniseries with fabulous authors and great friends Julie Elizabeth Leto and Tori Carrington (aka Lori & Tony Karayianni.) That book comes out in September 2007.

Leslie's latest release is in the UK - Don't Open Till Christmas is a Blaze release and is available to buy now!!!

To learn more why not visit Leslie's super website and don't forget to come back at the end of the month for The Pink Heart Society's December Hamper - where Leslie is giving away a copy of her October Blaze title: Asking For Trouble!

Thanks Leslie!!!!!