Saturday, April 14, 2007

Saturday Surprise :: Fun With FinDaBoo

Writing a book isn't rocket science. Truly, nothing will explode no matter how you mix things up. Now that we are in month four, I think it's time I showed y'all a few of my infamous writing shortcuts.

Point-And-Click Characterisation :: using the internet to create people

The internet is a wealth of information on how to write. So much, that you can read it all and never write anything! Make your websurfing time work for you, instead of against you.

Google :: The Google image search is the perfect way to get an idea of just what your characters look like. Meet Xavier, the hero of the book I should be writing as I type this, Driven to Distraction.

Monster :: Your characters have jobs, right? Look up their occupation on Monster for job descriptions, salary guidelines, and educational qualifications.

The Colors of Sex :: I get to write steamy, so I think it is good to know how my characters would act BEFORE I have them acting. Xavier is RED: People who like red tend to be tigers in the sack. They are easily aroused and enjoy sex in every way imaginable. Once the sexual spark is ignited, it may take hours to extinguish. When two reds get together, the ensuing erotica could make Lady Chatterly blush. Lovers of red tend to be aggressors and weaker colors should be aware.

Hero Archetypes :: This is a great site for heroes & heroines. It helps solidify their character in your mind. Xavier is a CHARMER: fun, irresistible, unreliable, creates a party, smooth operator, playboy, rogue. Leo Dicaprio. (why does Leo keep coming up?, astrology, ennegrams...I need to embrace Xavier's inner Leo!)

Emotional Baggage or Internal Forces Keep Lovers Apart :: Inkalicious has great cheat sheets. This is good for making sure you have a handle on your characters' internal conflict.

Enneagrams :: A lot of writers swear by ennegrams. Xavier is Type Seven: The Enthusiast. However, I use these mainly for motivation. Knowing that sevens "want to maintain their freedom and happiness, to avoid missing out on worthwhile experiences, to keep themselves excited and occupied, to avoid and discharge pain" helps me keep perspective.

After I gather this information online, I turn to two books I can't create characters without. A simple Astrology book. These are great for basic character traits. Grab one on any bookstore clearance table, they are everywhere. Then, there is a modern relationship Astrology book I adore -- He's Just Not In The Stars. It goes deeper into the nuances of each sign, and therefore, deeper into character description.

Do you see how much work you just got done on your FinDaBoo! Congratulations, you deserve a cookie and a chapter in that novel you're reading. Don't let month three scare you. We're all doing this because it is great fun, no matter how frustrated you get along the way!

XOXOXO -- Jenna

Right now Jenna is in her writing cave, completely stocked with coffee, Girl Scout Thin Mints and Pink CD's, working on her latest story, Driven To Distraction. Her latest release, Cooking Up A Storm was crafted using the ideas listed here. When she is procrastinating, she has lots to say on her blog, website, and reading group, We Call It Research.

Friday Film-Night - Sixteen Candles

This week we go back... Waaaay back. To a different time. A different place. Yet one that feels so familiar the moment the opening credits roll you feel like you‘ve been there before. It’s the eighties. And we are in the godlike hands of John Hughes for…


John Hughes. Those two words bring forth images of Chicago suburbs, Molly Ringwald, teenage angst, the best of high school romance of the 80s, and pre-brat pack comedy brilliance.

Compared with the likes of The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Weird Science, Sixteen Candles is one of his sweeter films.

It’s Samantha Baker’s sixteenth birthday. It’s also the day before her older sister’s wedding, and in the rush and excitement and fights over use of the family bathroom, her big day is forgotten. By her parents. Her brother and sister. Even hyer grandparents who are meant to “live for this stuff!”

Her sixteenth. Seriously. Can you imagine? At that age every little thing is of the utmost importance. Bad day begins.

She is a regular girl at school. Not a geek and not in the popular group. But she has a huge thing for Jake Ryan (is there a better name for a romance hero??). As she tells her best friend in a note passed during home room. A note than Jake himself finds. Oh God! Can you imagine the shame!!! I’m having grade eleven flashbacks so bad my neck is coming out in a rash.

But rather than ensuing shame, there begins our romance. Hot jock knows that sweet girl likes him. He likes the fact. Sweet girl never finds out he has the note, but as she gazes fondly in his direction he begins gazing back.

Michael Schoeffling plays our hero. He hasn’t done all that much else which is surprising. He’s tall dark and handsome. He has a gorgeous deep husky voice.

And as you’ll often find in a John Hughes classic, our heroine has her very own geek who loves her too. This geek is the geek to end all geeks. In fact he’s billed as just that – The Geek. and he even has a spot on the poster. He’s funny, sweet, setting her a rung closer to Jake by his very geekness and in the end he becomes an enhancer of the romance as he becomes Jake's only link to the girl he wants to know more about.

Added to the mix, our hero Jake has a beautiful girlfriend Carolyn. Built. Gorgeous. Been together forever. And actually pretty nice. A big time party girl but not all that hateable. Not the kind we want to shove aside so our couple can find true love. Mmmm, this is becoming harder and harder to find a happy ending!!!

But the truth is, Jake likes Carolyn. He gets why they should be together. But he has one problem. A big gorgeous lovely, sigh worthy problem.

JAKE: “I want a serious girlfriend. Someone I can love who’ll love me back.”

And who else better than smart, sweet, spirited, generous, Sam to fill that role.

So in the end the Geek gets the babe (waking up in the front seat of Jake’s dad’s Rolls Royce wearing his head gear after a night of passion with the hottest girl in school;)).

And Sam gets Jake. The hot high school guy who dumped his perrfect girlfriend to go out with the goofy unpopular nearly invisible high school sophomore. How could a generation of high school girls not think it the bestest movie ever made?

The beauty of John Hughes films is in his world-building. The honest picture of Chicago suburbia. The caste system prevalent in any high school. The true angst of being a teenager, trying to keep your grades, your friends, your family, and the boy you adore balanced.

The wall flower boys at the school dance who are more interested in their swap cards than the girls. The poor tall girl with the back brace who still somehow is above the geeks in the social hierarchy. The pleasant Chinese exchange student staying with Sam’s grandparents who gets drunk and crashes their car. The light switch that matches the wallpaper. The private phone line in Sam’s bedroom (does that really happen in America? Cause I promise that NEVER happens in Australia!) The dorky little brother who trips up the stairs after pinning her with a great one liner.

And the music. Aaah, the age of soft rock. And times when a redhead with freckles and a regular girl look could be the biggest thing since sliced bread.

Amazingly the first words our couple actually speak to one another are in the final scene. He shows up after her sister’s wedding, in a red Corvette. Takes her home. Lights her birthday Candles and wises her a sweet sixteen.

JAKE: Make a wish.

SAM: It already came true.

And they kiss. Big sighs all around...

Warm and fuzzy rating: 9!

Ally's current release, her first ever Modern Extra, GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS, is out in the UK right now. As we speak. Heck there may not even be that many left on the shelves so you'd better hurry.... ;)

Though you can be one of the first to read about Abbey and Flynn by checking out an except online now!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Thursday Talk-Time - The Historical Hero

This Thursday at The Pink Heart Society we continue with our Blogs from the RNA Romance Prize finalists as part of the run up to the prize giving at The Savoy Hotel, London at the end of this month... This week, finalist Anne Herries talks to us about the Historical's Hero...

When you pick up a historical novel what are you looking for? Period detail that isn't intrusive, of course, a feisty heroine who is prepared to overcome all the inevitable trials thrown in her way, but most of all you want a hero that makes you long to find him in your Christmas stocking. You want to feel the curl of desire as the heroine first sees him, witness the growing tension between them, and the way he sets out to seduce her (you)! In a book of this kind the reader must feel that a wholly delicious hero is seducing her.

So how do you set about creating a hero who fills your reader's mind with lustful thoughts, making her thrill every time the main characters meet? Tall dark and handsome is too much of a cliché. Quite often my hero isn't perfect. His features are sometimes harsh, but for me he must always have the kind of smile that sends flutters down the spine, and the kind of body that makes you want to tear his clothes off. His eyes should be penetrating so that when their eyes meet she feels a jolt, similar to picking up a live wire. More important than looks is strength, of body and character. A historical hero must be larger than life. He is never defeated by small problems, taking them in his stride. His enemy might capture him; he might lie near to death after a dastardly rogue has stabbed him in the back, but you just know that with the heroine's help he is going to make it through. Heroes are virtually indestructible. They can be hurt and it is great to bring them low now and then, just for the pleasure of seeing them fight through the pain, but you know that like the phoenix they will rise from the ashes.

In Nicola Cornick's book Lord Greville's Captive, the hero and heroine are thrown together in time of civil war. Simon Lord Greville is determined to subdue Grafton, a stronghold for King Charles 1 and must be ruthless even when dealing with a woman who fills his senses and his dreams. Can Lady Anne make him love her despite the fact that they are enemies?

In Michelle Styles book The Gladiator's Honour, Julia knows that the gladiator Valens is forbidden to her. She should have nothing to do with him, but his strength, courage and splendid body hold her spellbound. Yet how can she ever give herself to such a man? Only if Valens passes the final test of courage and valour can he hope to claim his love – who wouldn't fall for a man like?

And in Anne Herries book An Improper Companion, Elizabeth has become companion to one of her Mama's best friends. When Daniel Earl of Cavendish comes to stay with his Mama, Elizabeth is caught in a dangerous web of mystery and deceit, drawn by the mocking charm of the Earl as she falls in love. Can she discover the truth that lies behind his enigmatic smile?

Three heroes, three different stories, but all have that one magical factor – a hero that makes the reader melt inside. These three books are amongst six short-listed for the RNA Romance Prize. It is good to see so many of this genre on the list this year.
We agree Anne! And we wish all the Historicals Authors the best of luck! Next week we'll be looking at Contemporary Hero's...

Anne Herries is a firm favourite among historical readers. She won the 2004 RNA Romance Prize for A Damnable Rogue.
Her latest North American realease -- Forbidden Lady is out this month, and in the UK it is the final part of the trilogy that started with An Improper Companion -- A Worthy Gentleman.
To learn more you can visit her Website.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Writer's Wednesday featuring Cynthia Reese

Cynthia Reese believes in New Year’s Resolutions. After all, a 2005 New Year’s Resolution to finish writing her first manuscript ultimately led to the publication of her debut novel, THE BABY WAIT (Harlequin Superromance – April 2007).

I’ve always scribbled, and I had at least half a dozen manuscripts started over the years – manuscripts that I promptly abandoned at Chapter Three. But in December of 2004, I made one New Year’s Resolution for 2005: to finish a book.

I finished writing that novel in March of 2005, and then tucked it safely away under the bed. I knew it wasn’t ready for publication, but I had another idea – and a Harlequin editor who was willing to hear it. I was so excited about the characters that I finished the rough draft in an amazing 23 days.

That book, after three rounds of revisions and a few near-misses of offers from editors, eventually became my debut novel, THE BABY WAIT.

THE BABY WAIT, the tale of a couple who are battling to adopt a baby from China while trying to save their marriage, is on the shelves now. I have just a little experience with international adoptions: my husband and I adopted our own daughter from Changsa, Hunan, China in March of 2002.

I knew the process, certainly, but our adoption, while long – 18 months for the Wait – went much, much more smoothly than Joe and Sara’s, the main characters of THE BABY WAIT. Basically, all this could happen, possibly has happened, but never, thank goodness, to one couple.

Already the book has garnered stellar reviews and looks to do well in sales. I am glad, not just because it’s my first novel, but also because I’ve pledged a portion of the royalties to two charities that benefit Chinese orphans. One is Love Without Boundaries, and the other is Our Chinese Daughters Foundation. I’m excited about being able to help the orphans that are left behind – and perhaps will never have the chance my own daughter had to be adopted by a loving family.

I've had more than a little practice in writing. Since 1992, I've had a weekly slice-of-life column in three small-town weeklies, The Soperton News, The Montgomery Monitor and The Wheeler County Eagle. The column garnered two first place Humorous Column awards from the Georgia Press Association. In 1998, I became a reporter and a news editor for The Soperton News.
Currently, I attempt to balance writing with a demanding day job and family, not always an easy task. But the struggle is worth it.

Find Cynthia Reese’s THE BABY WAIT (Harlequin Superromance) wherever Harlequin/Silhouette Romances are sold. The book will be in brick and mortar stores through the month of April, and available online at, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Look for Reese’s upcoming novel, WHERE LOVE GROWS, an October 2007 Harlequin Superromance. Check out her website,, as well.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Male On Monday - Christian Clark

This week at The Pink Heart Society's coveted Male On Monday slot Trish Wylie introduces us to Australian Actor Christian Clark and asks for info on him from anyone who might know... cos it would appear he's a bit of a mystery...

This is what you get for taking a break from writing to eat lunch... Cos in the UK that's when Neighbours is on. Now don't laugh!!! I know. Neighbours wouldn't normally be a fountain of research in the romance writing department - but just lately here they've been running a couple of story arcs and they are most distinctly category romance related!!! Trust me.

Let's see if this sounds at all like a category romance plot to you...

Tall, good looking guy moves into street - works as a bartender, seems like a genuinely nice chap - but has mystery guy turning up every now and again to try and hand him wads of cash and a better place to live - good looking guy wants left alone - meanwhile, meets girl - falls in love - then someone finds out good looking guy is actually secret millionaire hotelier and that someone threatens to tell girl - good looking guy reveals that all his life people wanted to know him because of his money and position and not because of him and he just wanted to escape and have a normal life - good looking guy then tells girl and girl wants nothing to do with him cos he lied to her... and she can't have a relationship built on a lie - she'd have loved him for who he was so long as he was honest...

*Cough* Uh-huh. Sounds like a category romance and a black moment to end with to me... Only thing is good looking guy then leaves... Whereas we all know the category romance would have had a happy ending... But isn't it jolly interesting how the kind of romances we all love to write and read can appeal to a TV audience too???

I'll confess I was so wrapped up in this story line and so impressed with Christian Clark's ability to step into the romantic hero role so easily that I just HAD to find out - who is this guy???

Well, information is not easy to come by - Christian, if you're Googling your name - GET A WEBSITE!!! I can tell you he's 26, I can tell you he's 6ft 1 tall, I can tell you he's from Sydney and that he was a personal trainer for a while...erm... I can tell you he has a myspace... Oh, and I can tell you he's landed a film role now... but after that I can tell you zip.. nada... not a thing...

And trust me ladies - I LOOKED! Because I take my Male On Monday research VERY SERIOUSLY... On YOUR behalf of course... Mind you, it was worth doing this for the pictures alone if you ask me! But then, in fairness, I am working on a new Modern Extra at the moment... so some of these pics were jolly inspiring!!!

Anyone with any additional information come let us know! Especially if you're Christian Clark! Fan bases are built this way you know... ;)

Trish's latest release is for the Romance line. Rescued: Mother-To-Be is a Romantic Times Top Pick for April! And was recently reviewed over at The Pink Heart Society's Review Blog...

The book is available at both Amazon and EHarlequin. To find out more you can visit her Website or her Blog.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Sunday Spotlight on Wendy Warren

This week The Pink Heart Society spotlights Special Edition author, RITA winner and Waldenbooks bestseller, Wendy Warren.

About Wendy:

Wendy lives with her husband, Tim, and their dog, Chauncie, near the Pacific Northwest’s beautiful Willamette River, in an area surrounded by giant elms, bookstores with cushy chairs, and great theatre. Their house was previously owned by a woman named Cinderella, who bequeathed them a garden of flowers they try desperately (and occasionally successfully) not to kill, and a pink General Electric oven, circa 1948, that makes the kitchen look like an I Love Lucy rerun.

Wendy is a two-time recipient of Romance Writers of America’s RITA Award and was a finalist for Affaire de Coeur’s Best Up-and-Coming Romance Author. When not writing, she likes to take long walks with her dog, settle in for cozy chats with good friends, and sneak tofu into her husband’s dinner. She enjoys hearing from readers and may be reached at P.O. Box 82131 Portland, OR 97282-0131.

Spotlight on Wendy:

Where do you get the inspiration for your books from?

Ordinary people who behave extraordinarily toward each other always inspire me.

When I was a little girl, my family lived in a small apartment building owned by two people who survived the Holocaust. I remember running away from home—upstairs to the second floor—where the gentleman, Leopold Page, showed me the numbers tattooed on his forearm and explained how important it is to cherish our families, even when they upset us. He and his wife raised a son and daughter. They ran a business and worked to bring Oscar Schindler to the United States. After everything they’d been through it was still love and family that guided their steps.

The discovery that we are bigger than our fears is a theme that gets my creative juices flowing, and I never cease to be fascinated that the human heart can be both achingly fragile and indefatigably strong.

What makes you mad?

Bullies! Oh, I just can’t stand bullies! And crime. Especially crimes against women and children. Nothing personal, fellas--I certainly want you to be safe, too--but crimes against women and children have run unchecked around the globe for too, too long. (Okay, now that you’ve got me going :-D…) Religious intolerance drives me crazy, as does the fact that gay and lesbian couples cannot legally marry, but felons can.

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

My husband was working nights on two movie shoots. He’s an actor, loves working on movies and had been really looking forward to leaving full-time dad duty behind for a while in favor of diving into his career. He left the house in the afternoon and didn’t return until five or six AM the next day. Early one morning, I was snuggled in bed with our daughter and awoke to see him standing over us, looking exhausted, but with the softest, sweetest smile I think I’ve ever seen. “What are you doing?” I asked, and he said, “Watching you two. Towards the end of the night all I can think of is coming home. I miss my girls.” There’s something about watching your husband watch his child….

What in a hero makes you drool?

Integrity, gentleness and humor rolled into one amazing man.

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

Very frustrated.

What do you do to relax and wind down?

READ!!!! Way, way, way too late into the night…. Also—maybe this is kind of weird, but—when my husband and I are really tense, we imitate each other. Usually we wind up laughing so hard we choke. (Note to Tim in the event you read this: I do NOT look like that when I’m concentrating.)

How do you get out of a writing rut?

I use acting techniques I learned from Robert Cohen (ACTING POWER) and Michael Shurtleff (AUDITION). Essentially, I try to connect to the heroine’s most vulnerable point, the secret need she has that she might never have told anybody. If I can get emotional on behalf of my heroine (this could even mean that I’m laughing with her), then I can get out of a rut.

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

Cannon Beach, Oregon!!!! And I’d have a master bath that overlooks the ocean. And a path to the beach where I’d run my dog every morning. Ooh, I want it, I want it, I want it :-D

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

What a great question. You know, right now it’s not a hug for a fabulous book I’ve read, but a hug for a series of sermons and short essays that I think are amazing. So I’d hug pastor Rick Skidmore, a holy guy--funny, smart, endlessly thought provoking—and I’d coerce him into writing a book, if I could.

What music do you listen to when writing?

It depends on the character, but usually some musical theatre score, because the lyrics slot me into the emotion.

Tell us a secret nobody knows about you

Okay. After you promise not to tell anyone. Ever.

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Um, that would be the real answer to the above question.

What have you had to celebrate in the last year?

Loads of stuff! I’m Jewish, and we have a tradition of saying “Baruch Hashem” (loosely translated in this case, “Way to go, G-D”) a hundred times a day. I’ve never made it to a hundred, but the practice of noticing turns every hair on your kid’s head into a celebration. Also, our most important holiday is every Friday night! A time to celebrate life with friends and family.

So here’s a very fun thing I’m celebrating: My book THE BOSS AND MISS BAXTER is the first romance I’ve written featuring a Jewish family, Jewish humor and a Jewish Bubby. I’m so thrilled my editor extraordinaire, Susan Litman, worked on this book with me, and now it’s a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice finalist for Best Special Edition of 2006 and a finalist for the RWA RITA. It was also a Waldenbooks bestseller, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to do more romances with Jewish characters. I grew up around people with big, wonderful personalities that helped them walk through heartache and joy, and I would love to write about them.

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

The cup of tea my husband is forever telling me will spill and ruin the hard drive.

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

My mom and dad, because it’s been such a long time. I still feel them with me every day, but I would love just one more kiss. And, oh how I would love to see them kiss their granddaughter (although she tells me that they do :-D).

What are you working on now?

On deadline, I’m working on continuity for Silhouette. Concurrently, I’m working up a proposal for a trilogy about three ex-showgirls, also for Silhouette. Then, a couple times a week, I noodle a single title romance featuring two elderly Jewish bookies who decide to “go straight” and become matchmakers.

As my reward for a good day’s writing, I give myself ten to fifteen minutes in the evening to work on a women’s fiction about a middle-aged alcoholic who is trying to find the courage to hang onto life and who meets an aged Holocaust survivor, a brilliant artist, trying to find the courage to let go.

I used to delve into one thing at a time; these days I get excited about so many things, I can’t limit myself. Or is that ADD?

Wendy's latest book, THE BABY BARGAIN, is out now in North America through Silhouette Special Edition!

Check out her website for more...

Thanks Wendy!