Saturday, February 10, 2007

Saturday Surprise - FinDaBoo Tips

So, in the year that Pink Heart Society members have pledged to Finish The Damn Book we're a month into the new year and we're back with some tips from our very own Natasha Oakley...

I have to hold my hand up here and say I'm an instinctive writer. I don't fill out character charts, I have the vaguest idea of where I'm headed, I don't do a rough first draft but tidy everything as I go and I've not spent much time reading 'how to' books.

For this reason, unlike Ally, Trish and Nic, I've not attempted to blog about my writing progress in any detail. You really don't want to know!

I decided to write my first book soon after my husband was diagnosed with cancer. At the time my youngest child was a year old and we had four others all under the age of seven. I kind of looked around me, thought about the responsibilities I had, and made the decision that I was going to have to stop working as an actress. There was no way I could pack my bag, wave at my children and say 'mummy will be home in ten weeks'.

It was an incredibly painful decision. Since the age of fourteen my entire life had revolved around theatre. It was 'who' I was and what I did but, when I looked at things clearly, I knew I had no choice. We settled ourselves into a routine of childcare and chemo.

By eight in the evening the house was quiet and everyone but me was in bed. That was when I first flipped open my husband's laptop and thought 'lots of actors write so I'll try that'.

Within the first couple of evenings I was fairly sure I'd found a new direction for my life. I'm blogging on eHarlequin this month and I've already said something there about how transferable the skills are between acting and writing. Writing dialogue and creating three dimensional characters came very easily to me.

Other things did not! My first 'book' had no plot at all. I kept going because it was theraputic and because I rather liked the characters I'd created.

Then I decided to get serious.

The first decision any aspiring author has to make is about what they want to write. At this point I'd never read a Mills & Boon and, if I'd thought to give an opinion on them, I would have been as scathing as anyone you've ever heard.

I decided to target M&B because they were short - and I'm essentially lazy and don't like to put in too much effort - and because I thought it would be easy. I often think about that when I'm struggling!

I borrowed eighty or so titles from the library over the course of the next few weeks.

The very first M&B I read was 'The Convenient Fiance' by Jessica Hart and, much to my surprise, I loved it. (How can you not love a book with a heroine in it who shares your passion for shoes???)

That's my first top tip. Read. And read some more. I made a mistake here in that I borrowed all my books from the library (and that's a good idea, too) but I should have made a point of looking at the 'breakthrough' books of new authors alongside the 'bestsellers'.

As of today, the newest 'Presents' author to be bought is Kate Hewitt - and you won't be able to read her book until December 2007 at the earliest. Remember that books hitting the shelves now were, more often than not, written about a year ago and lots can change in that time. It's not one hundred per cent reliable but new books by first time authors are the most up-to-date information about what is being bought for any particular line and you need to be aware of that.

My first submission hit it entirely wrong. At the time the 'traditional' line was pushing 'fresh, fun and flirty' and I knew I wasn't writing that. I aimed for 'Presents' and came very close. I had two lots of revisions, an editor who 'loved it' - but the book failed to sell because it sat on the cusp between two lines and that wasn't where they were acquiring.

Kimberley Young, sitting on a grassy hillock at an RNA conference, said her gut feeling was that I should aim squarely for 'tender'. She felt my characters were 'tender' and my plot pure 'presents' and, on the basis that plot is much easier to change than character ...

I went with her suggestion!

My second top tip - is Kate Walker.

Joining the RNA was a stroke of genius. As an unpublished member of the Romantic Novelists' Association you're given a critique on one manuscript each year. I had no way of knowing who my critique was from but a cursory glance told me I needed to pay very close attention. Not only were there five pages of detailed criticism in a 'report', my 'reader' had gone through my ms and put little pencil ticks where I'd done something she liked and lots of 'cut for pace' notes through chunks of dialogue she thought should be gone.

I wrote my thank you letter, opened my wip and hit delete at all the 'cut for pace' parts. What was left became the basis of my 'near miss'. Later Kate came forward and introduced herself, giving me generous encouragement. Without the lessons I learnt from my RNA report I doubt Kimberley Young would have offered to 'hold my hand through my next submission'.

Fortunately, Kate has written the book. It's the only 'how to' book I've read and I can't think there's much more that needs to be said.

Kate has agreed to blog here for us this month on The Common Mistakes you should avoid when starting to write a Category Romance - so pop by and pick up some sterling advice from the author of the 12 Point Guide and take advantage of the chance to ask her some questions!!! If we get enough interest we might even twist her arm to do a follow up on the Loop... where Pink Heart Society Member, Kate Hewitt, has JUST SOLD to Harlequin Presents!!!! Our VERY FIRST! (Look out for her in next months line up of Call Stories on Writer's Wednesday!)

So how is your FinDaBoo going - have you been plotting and planning, doing lots of reading to decide on a line or have you actually started? Come by and tell us...Get some moral support... and some words of encouragement... Or even a word or two of advice!

Natasha's newest release, 'Crowned: An Ordinary Girl', is available in store in both the United Kingdom and North America. Also online eharlequin.

Read an excerpt here.

You can check to see how Natasha is getting on with her life, her diet and the misbehaving daughter of her current hero at her Blog.

And, throughout February, Natasha is blogging on Come and play by clicking here.

Friday Film Night ~ Funny Girl

For my first Pink Heart Hall of Fame nominee for 2007, I put forward a classic, perhaps a controversial one too...


I remember the first time I saw this film. My Mum’s very favourite. I remember going to bed way past my bed time, looking out the blinds at a full moon sending shafts of silver light through heavy clouds and crying for hours. Absolutely hours. I had to have been all of sixteen and very angsty, but still, this love story moved me that much.

Funny Girl . was originally a stage musical. The movie version, directed by the unsurpassed William Wyler, became the biggest grossing film of 1968. In 2006 this film ranked #16 on the American Film Institute's list of best musicals.


The semi-biographical plot is based on the life and career of Broadway and film star and comedienne Fanny Brice and her stormy relationship with entrepreneur and gambler Nicky Arnstein. Based on the classic A Star is Born formula of poor talented entertainer makes good, earns success beyond her wildest dreams and the love of a gorgeous man. The problem is, her guy simply can’t see his way to being happy with her level of success and he falls into old bad habits and disrepute. And in the end she loses him.

THE HERO: Nick Arnstien. Card shark. Omar Sharif at his charming best.

Tall, dark, handsome, elegant, charming, and utterly enraptured with our working class heroine. He falls for Fanny so fast, so quick, so completely and for such a strong alpha brigand to do so is just scintillating to watch.

THE HEROINE: Fanny Bryce. A true life heroine. Played by the fantabulous Barbra Streisand in the performance of her career.

She is bawdy, self-conscious, funny, ambitious and uber-talented.

Who can’t love a heroine who begs to b given her big chance to be a showgirl, promising the head of the club that of course she can roller skate, only to discover as she heads out onto the stage with ten other beautifies, that she in fact can’t. Skate. Hilarious! Not only that, it makes her endearing, down to earth, a woman with such hope she is willing to put everything on the line to achieve her dream.

But does that ‘anything’ include the man she loves?

THE ROMANCE: Boy oh boy, do these two sizzle! Omar Shariff is just gooooorgeous. Barbra Streisand is hilarious and that voice. Phew! And the romance is just a delight. It is sweet and funny and nerve-wracking and romantic by turns. Both characters are flawed and doing their best. You want Nick to go straight and you ant Fanny to have a happy ending.

But real life just gets in the way. Petty jealousy and human nature win out.

Nicky falls off the rails and goes to jail. Fanny is left in the spotlight alone. And that final song, ‘My Man’, (which was also the original title of the film) in which she laments her lost love and tells the world that no matter where he is, not matter what he has done, she’ll always be his...

I love this song I can’t listen to it without crying. I even have imaginings that if I ever made it to the Australian Idol top twelve this would be the song that would endear me to the nation.

Natasha Oakley might argue that this is not a romance, as it does not have your classic romantic happily ever after. What do you reckon? Can a movie or a book without a happily ever after truly be a romance?


Ally's latest book, Sweet Romance Meant-To-Be Mother is available now in Australia and New Zealand.

For more about the book, with blurbs, excerpts and behind the scenes info and pics, check out her website.

And on her blog this month she is talking about the process of writing her next Romance in her Between the Sheets series so come along and ask any questions you please!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Thursday Talk-time with Liz Fielding

This month sees the relaunch of what amounts to the line that began it all. Harlequin Romance has reinvented herself like all forward thinking heroines and is now bigger, brighter, shiner, prettier, more contemporary and selling like hotcakes across the globe!

In celebration we have asked one of her brightest stars to tell us about the minisieres that helped merged two great characters: Silhouette Romance and Harlequin Romance. Take it away Liz Fielding!

"Writing a Miniseries"

Readers often seem to be under the impression that the book I’m writing now will be on the shelves in a week or two. Just how long it takes from start to publication became obvious to me when I dug out my file I opened when I was commissioned to write THE VALENTINE BRIDE, the final book in the BRIDES OF BELLA LUCIA series.

It all began in the spring of 2005 with a phone call from Senior Editor, Kim Young, asking me if I’d be prepared to be part of a continuity series which was to include Harlequin Romance and Silhouette Romance authors; part of the bonding of the two lines at the launch of “Romance”. She explained the basic premise, which sounded interesting, told me who had already signed up and – because I was thrilled to be included in such an important project, and okay, I can’t resist a challenge – I said, count me in.

Then the “stuff” started to pour into my inbox. First came the basic outlines to each book. Very sketchy, leaving a lot of room for each author to develop something that would be entirely her own – the published books are a testament to that. After that came a spread sheet – yards long and requiring considerable dexterity with sticky tape – laying out the timeline. Then the basic cast of characters and how they were related, or linked together. Oh, and their ages, height, body type and colouring! Clearly, when setting up a series like this, it was important that the characters were easily definable, individual. Left to our own devices we could so easily have all come up with tall, dark and blue-eyed heroes and petit, green-eyed, blonde heroines!

Okay, I got lucky. Max, my hero, was dark, around six feet, in his late thirties and, uh, had blue eyes. (Lucky me!) He was also a workaholic without a personal life. Louise, was blonde, tall, elegant, a darling of the gossip mags and, despite being in her early thirties, a bit of a Daddy’s girl. She was also a hot-shot PR consultant. Actually, I have to confess that my first reaction to their back story was that Max needed to get himself a Blackberry, and that Louise needed to grow up and get over it. Okay, finding out you’re adopted that late had to be shock, but honestly...

No. It’s like this.

My characters come from some place inside me where their stories gather depth, resonance, until they demand to be written. It sometimes takes years, but in that time I’ve got to know all their heartaches and pain. I know them. Having a couple of total strangers dumped in my lap left me struggling for motivation.

It took me a long time to write this book, because I had to get to know what was driving them. I had to dig beneath that basic premise of the continuity bible to find the heart of two people who, on the surface, seemed to have everything. I needed to understand why Max would put the restaurant ahead of everything, everyone, to the point of sabotaging his personal happiness. Learn to respect Louise for what she’d achieved entirely on her own – once Max had thrown her out of the family business. Only then could I write them a story that gave them the chance of a new beginning.

And of course tie up all manner of loose ends. Write the big meeting between Louise and her birth mother. Reconcile her with the family who’d raised her. Settle the long running family feud between Robert and John Valentine. No wonder it came in at over 60,000 words!

The very best part of writing a mini series is, of course, that you get to hang out with other authors. This was my first “continuity” and writing with seven other authors – some of whom I’d met – some I’d never even heard of, was huge fun. From the beginning we bounced ideas of each other, talked through scenes – especially the Christmas party where nearly all of the characters were in the same place at the same time.

Louise’s bad-girl Christmas outfit was born out of an hilarious exchange with Linda Goodnight who wrote Married Under the Mistletoe – Daniel and Stephanie’s story. And that outfit led to a career move for Ally Blake’s heroine in Wanted: Outback Wife -- the story of Louise’s half sister, Jodie and Heath. Ally and I then worked closely together as we exchanged scenes where characters crossed over, ensuring that we had each other characters “voices” just right.

It wasn’t all plain sailing. No matter how carefully I had things covered, the unforeseen happened. I had Louise talking up the arrangements for the upcoming royal wedding in Meridia (The Rebel Prince, Raye Morgan); I’d checked with Raye that she hadn’t written the wedding in her book so I thought I was safe, only to have the series editor inform me that the royal couple had appeared, already married, at that Christmas party (Crazy About the Boss, Teresa Southwick) so it was back to the drawing board with that scene!

Writing is normally a solitary business, but The Valentine Bride taught me a lot about working with other authors. First that it requires real enthusiasm for the project from everyone concerned. Patience, too; we were all at a different place in this series, had other projects claiming our time. Understanding that we all approach what we do differently, have individual voices, different styles. That listening is as important as talking and that we can all learn from each other.

Being a part of The Brides of Bella Lucia was a real joy and I’m delighted to thank Ally Blake, Linda Goodnight, Barbara McMahon, Raye Morgan, Teresa Southwick, Patricia Thayer and Rebecca Winters for their co-operation and friendship.

THE VALENTINE BRIDE is published in the UK on 2 February, in the US on 14 February and in Australasia in mid-March. It also received a 4.5 star rating from Romantic Times!!!

For more about the Brides of Bella Lucia series, check out their website!

And for more about Liz's books, check out her website.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Writer's Wednesday with Terry McLaughlin

This Wednesday we bring you Terry McLaughlin's story of her road to publication as a brand new SuperRomance author...

About Terry

Terry lives on a tiny ranch in northern California's redwood country with her husband of nearly thirty years. Their son, his wife, and a new grandbaby live just down the ranch road, and their daughter lives in Oregon.

Before she started writing, Terry was a teacher with experience at every grade level from Kindergarten to the elderly. Some of the subjects she's taught include world history, drama, British literature, architecture, anthropology, and music appreciation.

Journey to the Call

I never would have written anything other than the basics--homework assignments, grocery lists, office memos--if a college professor hadn't praised my work and suggested I write a book some day. I never, ever (no, not once) gave a thought to the possibility of becoming a writer, not until he planted that idea in my imagination. For the first thirty-five years of my life I viewed writing as a necessity, not something to do "for fun" when I didn't have to. I never kept a journal or wrote poetry or did any of those things writers do.

Five years after my teacher paid me that fateful compliment, I decided to give writing a try. I dreamed up the plot for a massive, multi-generational epic historical, something along the lines of Michener and Rutherford, did some preliminary research, and sat down to begin my novel.

After three excruciating days of work, I had produced exactly one page. And it was a stinker--we're talkin' peee-yuuww awful. Since I figured I'd be dead long before I typed The End (no real loss to the literary world), I decided to end my short-lived writing career while I still had my mental health.

A friend loaned me the book that brought me out of retirement five years later--a terrific mystery with a fun mix of who-done-it and to-sigh-for mushy stuff. I walked into my local bookstore and asked a clerk if Nora Roberts had ever written anything else. What luck--she had! Lots and lots of books, as it turns out. One problem: they were all shelved in THAT aisle. You know the aisle I'm talking about. Eeeyuuww.

A serious crisis of conscience ensued. I desperately wanted to read another Nora Roberts book, but I couldn't be caught dead with my nose buried in something with a writhing couple on the cover. So I compromised--a Nora Roberts book with a flower on the cover. And then another. And another. Within a week, I was hooked on romance. Within another week, I knew I wanted to write stories that would make people feel the way these books made me feel--filled with that first flush of new love and ready to kiss the stuffing out of my hero-husband when he walked in the door at night. (Although it was several months before I could bring myself to buy a book with a writhing couple on the cover.)

I sat down at my computer one night and started writing a story that didn't need any research, a story about something that had happened to me. (A slender and gorgeous twenty-something version of myself, with a hunky guy waiting to come to my rescue.) Several hours later, I glanced up from the monitor to discover the house had gone dark and my family had gone to bed--and I'd written fifteen pages as if by magic.

The Call

I'd like to say that every writing moment since that first magic one several years ago has been every bit as sublime, but that would be as fictional as...well, as the stuff I write. I finished my first manuscript, and then I bought a book telling me how to do it correctly. I contacted dozens of the wrong agents, and then I joined Romance Writers of America and learned how to go about contacting the right ones. I attended lots and lots of writers' conferences, so many I had no time to write anymore.

Eventually I got a little more serious about my fun new hobby, and I settled down to write a novel that had all the important ingredients--things like a plot, for instance. I finaled in the Golden Heart contest for the first time, and I got my first request from an editor, and I met several new writer friends who were making their first sales. It was all terribly exciting, and I felt I was on my way, as though I'd soon become published, too, by some sort of osmosis.

By the third time I finaled in the Golden Heart, I was feeling a bit discouraged. I sat down one afternoon with all my rejection letters and read them through, one right after the other, trying to discern what it was that was preventing me from making that magic first sale. I figured I had a long, tough road ahead of me, because the manuscripts I'd written weren't going anywhere. I was holding the proof in my hand, letters like the one about Learning Curve, my current Golden Heart finalist which told me it would "never sell," and that "no one wants to read a book about high school teachers."

A couple of days later I was dashing around in a panic, my mind filled with dozens of details as I packed for a long trip that would begin with our son's wedding in Oregon and end with the Romance Writers of America's annual conference in Reno. I still had to collect some cookies at the bakery before it closed, pick up the dry cleaning, hem a dress--dozens of things, all needing to be done within the next few hours. I turned on the shower, stripped, and was about to step in when the phone rang. I was tempted to ignore the call--I had to get those cookies!--but I thought it might be my husband adding one more important wedding-related item to my list of errands.

It wasn't my husband. It was someone named...(telephone static)...Laura...(telephone static)...Harlequin...(telephone static)...liked Learning Curve...(telephone static)...Golden Heart. I thanked the pleasant woman for calling, wondering why in the world someone from Harlequin would call just to tell me she'd enjoyed a contest entry...


My Golden Heart finalist. Someone from Harlequin. An editor, since they're the final judges.

Oh. My. Gosh.

I was standing there naked, and all the hot water was disappearing down the drain, and I HAD TO GET THOSE COOKIES BEFORE THE BAKERY CLOSED! But I figured if I skipped blow-drying my hair, I could ask her to repeat herself.

And since she wanted to buy Learning Curve, I decided I could take a cold shower and break several speed limits on the way to the bakery.

My story has a happy ending, just like all the stories I write. Although I'd never dreamed of becoming a writer, I was about to begin a dream-come-true writing career. And though I'd done lots of things the wrong way, it seemed I'd written one thing that was just right. Learning Curve, my first book for Harlequin Superromance, appeared on bookstore shelves ten months after that magic phone call.

And I got the cookies, too.

Thanks, Terry! What kind of cookies? We're dieting here, so we need to know -- Jenna

For more about Terry, visit her Web site or catch her contributions to the Wet Noodle Posse e-zine and blog.

upcoming releases:

second in the three-book BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG SKY series
Harlequin Superromance, February 2007

third book in the BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG SKY series
Harlequin Superromance, August 2007

No Temptation Tuesday - The Diet Club Weigh In

Yes it's that time again here at The Pink Heart Society, when all those of us taking part in the International Ban-The-Butt Campaign have to pop in and fess up to how badly we've done in the first month of The Pink Heart Society's Diet Club... But first, Trish Wylie looks at a few more of the fashionable diets available for the connoiseur...

Well, seeing as and how January was and is traditionally the month that every magazine, newspaper, TV Show, Blog (including ours), Radio Show and passing pink elephant seems to have something to say on the subject of Dieting... It wasn't too flipping tough to find an article or two on current Diets... I hate them all for constantly mentioning it to be honest... But more about that later...

For me, it was Now! Magazine's breakdown that made the most sense... so I'm bringing you a few of the books they featured - and the categories they placed them in...

First up we have what the magazine calls the 'I want to be spoon fed diet'... you see, that's kinda selling me on it already...

The Food Doctor Diet Club by Ian Marber is apparently a ring-bound version of a book suited to those who prefer a step-by-step manual for weight loss rather than a diet book per-se. The practical preparation phase includes a food diary, a questionnaire to help you assess your current state of health and comprehensive shopping lists to help you restock and organize your kitchen cupboards (useful! - I wonder if it hoovers too...) so that you have everything you need for the 30 nutritious daily diet plans. There are lots of useful tips, recipes for all meals and space to write what you've enjoyed eating and how you're feeling... The highlights being really prescriptive eating plans that leave you in no doubt as to what you should be eating... According to the magazine this means you will never say 'I thought double choc fudge cake was allowed...'

Next up is what they call the 'Food and wine loving Diet' (and with Natasha in mind I knew I had to feature this one!!!)

The Sonoma Diet by Connie Guttersen claims to not be about cutting carbs, finishing with fat or curbing calories (I have your attention already, don't I Natasha???) It promises to focus on making food and eating a pleasurable, enjoyable experience. (Still have your attention...Wait for it - here's the real selling point...) One glass of wine is allowed per day (and she's off to Amazon already...get out of her way people!) and food plans are based around the same principles of healthy eating that apply to the Mediterranean diet - plenty of fresh fruit and veg, lean meats, fish and extra virgin olive oil - with the added advantage of helping you lose weight too! The highlight of this one being that it's worth it for the wine - even just the one glass! According to the magazine on this diet you won't ever be caught saying, 'Pass me the lard...'

And finally - the one that caught my eye is what they call 'The Dormouse Diet'...

The Duvet Diet: Sleep Yourself Thin by Jane Worthington and Adam Fletcher (can you see why it caught my eye???) claims that research shows that broken nights disrupt our hormones and metabolism, leaving us prone to overeating and weight gain. Studies such as the one carried out on over 6, 000 people at Columbia University found that sleeping for four hours or less a night makes us 73% more likely to be obese than those who get seven hours sleep (73% folks!!!!!!!!) So the book explains how a lack of sleep can cause weight gain by disrupting appetite-controlling hormones and blood-sugar levels. Apparently it's particularly important to cut back on caffeine and alcohol, especially during the evening... (Natasha would hate that!) The highlight of this one, obviously, is the theory that you can lose weight by staying in bed! (My kinda diet!!!) And the magazine says that you'll never be caught saying 'A nightcap? Make mine a double espresso with a shot of brandy, please...'

They had a tonne of good diets listed in the article, including ones for The adventurous dieter (that didn't seem to me to be for any of us Ed's then...) - The I don't do deprivation dieter (which was a possibility if I had been able to pronounce any of the foods never mind find them at the local supermarket) - The If only I had more energy dieter (which was very close to the GI one I'm following so I skipped that) and the I don't do diets dieter (which was another possibility except it tells us tonnes of scientific stuff about why thin people are thin - and I'm sorry but talking or reading about naturally thin people would only depress me and force me to eat!) But just the same as us lot here at The Pink Heart Society, the magazine came to the same conclusion... It's about finding something that works for you and sticking to it...

So let's see how we're all getting along...

Natasha's Progress:

This month has taught me why I 'suddenly' put on weight when I simply hadn't had a problem before. Somewhere along the line food has become much more than the thing that nourishes my body. I eat when I'm bored, when I'm tired, when I'm sad, when I need an excuse not to write, when I socialise ....

WeightWatchers is clearly a plan that will work because it makes you look at choices. I don't honestly think I'll ever be able to eat a Magnum again. 9 points! I could have steak and chips for that.

And I can still have a 120ml of wine. I budget for that!

The big downside is that so many of the low-point choices are not things you chew - soups and stewy things. All nice, but I've discovered I like to chew. I also like cheese which is a suicide points choice.

Jenna's Progress: Oh wow. I do not want to be here. You see...I started out well. I was doing great. Then life started tripping me up. Family, kids, writing, cash flow...and I, know. Don't make me say it. I could truly rock this thing since I have so much more to lose, but I crumbled when faced to choose between cookies and crying.

Next month I promise to keep on it, if only so I don't have to embarass myself here, because...yikes! Do you see how great Trish & Natasha are doing

Ally's progress:

I've been a fairly good girl this month! My diet was to excercise, cause I never do. And I also knew that if I promised to cut out bad food I would fail before I'd even begun ;) So I've been on the rowing machine almost every night. Have done some yoga. A few evening walks. And today I went for a swim!!! (Gorgeous warm sunny day in Brisbane while on holidays eating too much of everything!!) I have certainly lost some of the muffin top. And my arms are less wobbly. No idea what I ewigh, but I feel better already!

So, for next month... A study came out in Australia last week claiming: participants who went on an excercise bike for 20 minutes three times a week, cycling for 8 seconds super fast, then 12 seconds at a normal pace for the whole twenty minutes, lost 3 times as much weight as those who cycled at a regular pace for 40 minutes three times weekly. That's my February plan!!!

Trish's Progress:

I wish I could tell you that it'll keep going at this rate every month! But I know better. And being the *expert* on the whole dieting thing - I also know myself well enough to know that this is a pattern with me. I tend to lose more right at the start (mostly water retention I would guess) and it's gonna be about halfway down this ticker thing that I start to run into the most difficulty... that's when I'll have to settle for a pound here and a pound there...

This month I got off to a great start - LOVED the food on the plan - had BAGS of energy (which was useful cos I exercised lots) and everything seemed to be running along swimmingly... Then I got sick. I talked about it a bit on My Blog but basically this is also a pattern for me - I diet and exercise and lose weight and I get sick. And then I rest lots cos I don't feel well and I eat *get better soon* food and before I know it I've put weight back on again!!! And that's exactly what happened this month. I GAINED three pounds at one point and just wanted to cry!!!
But I've kept going - I've eased back into the exercise - and I've upped the vitamin supplements... All I can do is stick with it, not weigh myself any more than once a week, take any weight loss no matter how small as being a good thing - AND KEEP GOING... Or pay for liposuction a month before the conferences...

So how is everyone else getting on???

Pop in and let us know the highs and lows of this first month of the International Ban-The-Butt Campaign and we can all help each other to keep going for another month... Come on... Don't be shy... And if you haven't already stood up to be counted and to have your name added to the list of PHS Diet Club Members on the sidebar then please yell and we'll add you straight away!

Don't forget to regularly check the Diet Clubbers Blogs during the month to see how they're getting along and we'll be back here on the first Tuesday of March to WEIGH-IN again...

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Male On Monday - Colin Farrell

This Monday The Pink Heart Society's very own Trish Wylie brings you an Irish Inductee into The Pink Heart Hall of Fame in the form
of actor, Colin Farrell...

So, anyone in need of a *bad-boy* hero for their next book??? Cos Colin Farrell can play that role both on and off-screen you know... If you listen to all the rumors that is...

Colin James Farrell was born on May 31, 1976 in Castleknock, Dublin and, as a teenager, hoped to follow in his father's footsteps to soccer stardom (Dad, Eamon Farrell, is an Irish football player). But after attending the Gaiety Drama School in Dublin, and taking some time out in Sydney, Australia, he eventually dropped out to play Danny Byrne on the BBC series Ballykissangel. And his acting career began...

In Sydney he was apparently just like thousands of other Irish backpackers who blow through town. He waited on tables, crashed on people's couches, spent a lot of time at Bondi Beach and toyed with the idea of trying to break into acting. But those who remember him as a 19-year-old tourist were not surprised at his success. Photographer Stuart Campbell met Farrell through a mutual friend and ended up giving him a place to stay when he first arrived in Sydney. "He slept on my couch in Bondi for a few nights," Mr Campbell recalled. "Colin mentioned that he wanted to be an actor so I offered to take his pictures. He was totally, absolutely charming."

While shooting the snaps at the old Colgate Palmolive factory in Balmain, Campbell introduced Farrell to NIDA head of acting Tony Knight, who pointed him in the direction of Performance Space where he landed the role of Steve Hart in Kelly's Reign, a play about the life and times of Ned Kelly and his gang.

He got his role in the Dublin gangster movie Ordinary Criminals thanks to co-star Kevin Spacey, who suggested him for the part after catching his riveting performance in the play "In a Little World of Our Own" at the Donmar Warehouse in London. But it was his role in Tigerland that would bring him under the gaze of Hollywood. In the story of American soldiers taken to the backwoods of Louisiana in 1971 to play war games in preparation for their first tour of duty in Vietnam, his role as Bozz, a roughneck Texan (played by an Irishman?!) recruit who helped his boot-camp buddies avoid combat, garnered him a Best Actor Award from the Boston Society of Film Critics.

And Colin cites the movie's director Joel Schumacher as the catalyst for the career that has since seen him take on the role of Jesse James in American Outlaws, have a starring role in Phone Booth (with Schumacher again), co-star with Bruce Willis in Hart's War and even work with legendary director Stephen Spielberg in Minority Report - all by the time Colin was 25!!!!! Not bad going when you think about it, for the boy who would have settled for owning a Chipper (chip shop) in Dublin if he couldn't make it in football like his dad! And that's before we even move on to talk about his roles in films like Veronica Guerin or S.W.A.T or Miami Vice or Alexander or... really, need I go on???

Now let me see what else I can tell you about the man who carried the moniker of "the lusty leprechaun"...

He has a brother and two sisters (one of whom is his PA)...

He auditioned for Irish boy band Boyzone but was turned down (lucky escape there then)...

Has suffered from chronic insomnia since he was 12...

Didn't use his own Irish Accent in a film until 2003 in Daredevil... and many of the people who worked with him were stunned to find out he was Irish...

He's five feet eleven tall (as a potential hero we could of course *enhance* that...)

His childhood hero Al Pacino called him 'the best actor of his generation'!!!

He speaks German and French...

Oh, and he was once a line dancing instructor in a nightclub in Limerick...

You can't say I don't research a potential hero for you! But let's just go back to the start and look at this *bad-boy* image before we finish up, shall we??? Well we all know that the tabloids can help things along when it comes to that kind of a reputation - and there's no doubting that Colin likes to party and to hang out with beautiful women... But then you get quotes like this from co-star Rosario Dawson who worked with him on the film Alexander:

"I wouldn't have thought this from the things I was reading about him before I met him. I knew more about his drinking and personal life than I knew about his talent and his acting. The level that he brought it to in this scene and the complexity that he was able to bring to such a dynamic character and make him so human. He was able to weep, and still be someone that you believed was Alexander. I was really glad to meet someone who is a phenomenal person beyond the rumors. It opened my eyes up to Hollywood..... And now I just refuse to let anyone make petty little comments about him."

And from Colin himself:

"I'm not seduced by it all. I swear to God. I'm easily pleased, yeah. Don't get me wrong, I'll indulge in it. I'll be in Los Angeles for two weeks and I'll have a laugh, get battered and have a buzz, but at the end of the day, I'll go home. It's just me earning a few more stories to tell everyone at home and all."

So, a bit of a *bad-boy*? Yeah, I don't think even Colin would disagree with that. But when it comes to writing a category romance these days, a bit of bad-boy can go a long way! All I know, is when I asked the visitors to my Blog to vote for a hero to cast as Rory Flanaghan in Breathless!, Colin was the runaway winner. And with the help of that image Rory became one of the cheekiest, sexiest, most truly gorgeous hero's I have ever had the pleasure to create...

And having researched Colin Farrell for this Blog, I have to say, he had me at "Being Irish is very much a part of who I am. I take it everywhere with me." Cos I get that. And when it comes down to it, we Irish do know how to party...

H's & K's Trish

Trish's latest release is her favourite book to date! Breathless! is available to order on the Mills & Boon website or on Amazon and now from Harlequin Australia too!!!

To find out more you can visit her BRAND NEW Website or see what she's up to at her Blog

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday Spotlight on Linda Cardillo

It's February...the month of romance. And the month that sees the launch of the brand new Harlequin line - Everlasting Romance. This week at The Pink Heart Society we are proud to bring you a very special guest in the form of Everlasting Love launch author Linda Cardillo!

About Linda:

Words have always been a source of fascination for me as well as the focus of my professional life. I’ve edited college textbooks, marketed a magazine for entrepreneurs, written business books on marketing and corporate policy, and taught English and creative writing. Writing fiction now is a dream come to fruition, and I am eager to tell more stories that I hope will resonate with readers.

Spotlight On Linda:

Where do you get the inspiration for your books from?

My inspiration comes from many sources. For my novel Dancing on Sunday Afternoons, the idea came from love letters written by my grandparents and given to me as a gift one Christmas. For my upcoming novella in The Valentine Gift from Harlequin Everlasting Love TM, I drew upon my experience living among the vintners in the Rhine Valley in Germany. Sometimes, I’ll get an idea from a striking photograph or an overheard fragment of conversation. Like many writers, I’m an observer and an eavesdropper, watching and listening.

What makes you mad?

Those who treat others unjustly or without civility.

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

My husband is a serious sailor who keeps a journal when he is at sea. He once made an Atlantic crossing entirely under sail on a tall ship—a journey that took 42 days. When he returned he handed me the journal—a record not only of his daily life aboard the schooner, but his daily thoughts of me. Having those words are a precious gift.

What in a hero makes you drool?

Eyes that see into a woman’s soul.

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

I’d open a restaurant.

What do you do to relax and wind down?

I sit with a cup of tea every Sunday morning and do The New York Times crossword puzzle, or I grab one of the books stacked on my bedside table and READ.

How do you get out of a writing rut?

I learned a few years ago to free write with a timer. I’m like Pavlov’s dog when I set my trusty electronic timer to twenty minutes and pick up my blue fine point pen and a narrow-ruled pad. No matter how blank my brain feels, those simple physical tasks seem to trigger the words. I’ve trained myself to be disciplined and do nothing but write when the timer starts silently blinking away the seconds.

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

I used to think it would be in the hills above Florence, Italy—and that is probably a close second. But at this point in my life, I’d choose to be within sight of the sea. For the last five summers we’ve been spending time living in an isolated cottage surrounded by water on three sides, and it is paradise.

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

So many wonderful writers! Most recently, Sarah Dunant, for The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan; Gregory Maguire for Wicked; and Elizabeth Kostova for The Historian.

What music do you listen to when writing?

I seldom listen to music when writing, but when I do I go through cycles. Recently, I’ve been listening to Jesse Cook and Loreena McKennitt. During the past year the stack of CDs by my computer has included Handel’s Wassermusik, the soundtrack to the movie “The Piano,” and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Tell us a secret nobody knows about you

Secrets are meant to remain hidden.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

I am one of those animated talkers who cannot express herself without using hands that appear to be conducting an orchestra. Invariably, those hands make contact with wine glasses, usually filled with Pinot Noir, on elegantly set tables covered in white damask.

What have you had to celebrate in the last year?

A family reunion on my mother’s side, with over 90 aunts, uncles and cousins ranging in age from 3 months to 98 years; my children all home together at Christmas after far-flung travels to Germany, Thailand and Scotland; and my first reviews of Dancing on Sunday Afternoons.

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

A cup of tea, Italian and English dictionaries, and my notes.

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

My husband. His kisses are passionate, playful, and a source of joy. We kiss many times every day—in greeting and departure, whether we’re leaving the house for a few hours or a few minutes; in gratitude for any of the many small tasks we do for one another; and in love.

What are you working on now?

A novella, tentatively titled “True Harvest,” for inclusion in The Valentine Gift, due from Harlequin Everlasting Love TM in February 2008.

Dancing on Sunday Afternoons, Harlequin Everlasting Love TM is available now in North America. You can find out more about Linda and her upcoming books at her website.

Thanks Linda!!!