Saturday, May 12, 2007

Saturday Surprise - Are You Sitting Comfortably???

This month Natasha Oakley shares the one bit of advice she wishes she'd been given before she FinDaBoo'd for the first time!

So, you've decided 2007 is the year you're going to finish writing a book. You've bravely faced the blank page and flicking cursor. Words are streaming from your fingertips. Your shoulders are aching from hours hunched over the keyboard ...

Then you'd better stop! Right now!

Presents/Modern author Kate Walker recently sent me some questions to answer for the new and updated version of her wonderful '12 point Guide to Writing Romance' and one of those questions was 'What's the writing advice you wish you'd been given before you started writing/once you were published?' and that got me thinking.

Funnily enough I didn't immediately think of 'writing craft'. I suppose that's because it's a constant journey. My thoughts were distressingly practical.

Apart from steps I wish I taken to prevent my 'writers' bottom' developing, I really wish I'd paid more attention to where I did my writing. Getting that part of the business wrong can have serious consequences and I have the headaches to prove it.

When I first flipped open my husband's laptop I didn't have many options. My first book was written hunched over the dining room table. After I'd sold I had deadlines and I needed to write when the house was full of children. 'The Business Arrangement' was written at a desk on the landing. Daft place because it's a total thoroughfare.

So, I decamped to the bedroom and wrote 'A Family To Belong To' propped up on pillows until my shoulders were so sore I had to lay down and prop up the laptop! A better idea but hardly ideal.

Post extention I now have my own 'writing cupboard' and a PC. I'm also lucky in that I can touch type - curtesy of my dad who sent me on a secretarial course the moment I uttered the fateful words 'I'm going to be an actress'. I'm sure that's why, so far, I've managed to escape the wrist ache which plagues many of my peers. The twinge I experience when I've spent too long messing about putting pictures into blogs does remind me I need to be careful. It's that sideways movement with the mouse that causes me trouble.

Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is an increasing problem in the workplace and is a real issue for writers. Let's face it, our bodies just weren't designed to spend hours hunched over a keyboard. Basically, overuse of any muscle can cause an inflammation which, if you persist in repeating that movement daily, won't have the chance to recover.

RSI seems to start as a slight ache which most people ignore. Time passes and people start to experience pain when they're actually performing the repetitive action. If RSI becomes severe it's possible to be in pain almost constantly. It's certainly worth doing everything you can to prevent it happening to you.

The keyboard and mouse often gets the blame but that's not the whole story.

I do think learning to type is time well spent. Crazy though the QWERTY keyboard is, it seems to be here to stay. (Did you know it was invented to slow typists down so the keys of a manual typewriter didn't bash together?) If you touch type you're at least using ten fingers and don't have to look down at the keyboard.

Of course, you could decide to go the 'voice activated' route. That has a certain appeal. I like the idea of kicking off my shoes, laying back and dictating ... But there's something about the actually process of physically writing I'd miss.

The alternative is to give some thought to how you set up your workstation. However limited your space it's worth investing in a chair which can be adjusted to suit you as that'll reduce the strain you're putting on your back.

- Try and keep your knees level with your hips.
- Sit up straight while at your desk and adjust your chair to support your back.
- If your feet aren't flat on the floor you may need a footrest. (I'm currently using a box file!)

Now think about the position of your monitor. Recommendations as to the distance you should have between eyes and screen vary but I like the 'an arm's length away'. That seems to have a certain logic to it. The top of your screen should be at eye level. If it isn't you can prop it up with your TBR pile. :)

To protect your eyes you need to position your screen so that nothing is reflecting on it. The ideal position is at right angles to a window. Some people swear by an 'anti-glare' screen and clever computer types adjust the brightness and contrast.

Avoid stetching for things you use often. Most articles refer to things like the telephone and mouse but I take that to mean my coffee cup!

Your elbows should be by your side and directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your wrist straight over the keyboard.

I'm sure you now feel like you're standing on one leg, patting your head and rubbing your stomach but there's one more thing - TAKE A BREAK.

The recommended 'ideal' in one article I've read is to spend no more than twenty minutes without taking a 'stretch' break. I think I'd find that a little too frequent to be practical.

Another article suggested that every hour you should give yourself a five to ten minute rest. I think I'm probably on a natural 'coffee run' after an hour but if you're not you could simply sit a little straighter in your chair and focus on something in the distance for a few seconds.

I would suggest a picture of Jeremy Northam would do just nicely but feel free to replace him with your own 'hero'. Though, for the life of me, I can't see why you would .... :) He's turning out to be excellent casting!!

With love

Natasha








Natasha's latest release, 'Crowned: An Ordinary Girl', is available online at eharlequin now.

Read an excerpt here.



Friday Film-Night ~ Return To Me

This week, Ally Blake brings you the ever-popular, three hanky weepie…

‘RETURN TO ME’

If you’re not in tears at the twenty minute mark of this film, well then I just don’t know what I’m going to do with you.

Written and directed by the fantabulous Bonnie Hunt – I want to be her when I grow up if I don’t end up being Helen Mirren. She is sooooo smart, and funny, and dry and she has written a script that is so real, and natural, with entire scenes that do noting at all to propel the plot as they simply focus on the wonderful array of rich characters who carry this story.

THE STORY

Bob is happily married to Elizabeth who he has been with since he was 15 years old. She is badly hurt in a car accident.

Grace has had congenital heart conditions since she was a baby. When we first meet her she is in hospital awaiting a heart.

Elizabeth dies. Bob falls apart. And Grace gets a new heart and a new life. Fast forward a year and…

THE HERO

David Duchovny is adorable. Sweet. Handsome. Shy. Fun. Loving. And just fantastic as our gooooorgeous hero Bob. An untidy, popular architect.

THE HEROINE

Minnie Driver is a delight. Decked out in a sad wardrobe of mismatched florals she shines as a modern day, believable and sympathetic virginal heroine. Sassy when she needs to be, shy much of the rest of the time, and absolutely real.

THE MEET

Bob goes on a blind date at Grace’s family’s restaurant. In one of the greatest scenes in the film, in which Bob’s date proves to be beautifully horrible (she will only drink non-Swiss bottled water – long story), and Grace shows herself to be a little naughty (she empties said date’s bottle of Perrier and fills it with tap water – which Bob sees to his eternal delight).

Bob is enamoured with the waitress. Grace thinks him the dishiest guy she’s ever met. And they think they’ve met before. Remember, Grace has Bob’s wife’s heart. Oh heck, can this possibly lead anywhere but heartache?

THE SUPPORTING CAST

Bob has a friend, Charlie, who used to work with his wife, who tries to get him to date, but the real gems are Grace’s extended family who not only add humour and levity, they also bring pathos, love, and another reason why Grace is who she is and Bob can’t help but fall for her.

Grace’s cousin’s family. Mum Bonnie Hunt, Dad Jim Belushi, and the what, five kids? They live a running gag of blaming one another for who taught the kids their latest swear word. Whole five minute blocks are dedicated to it – and it’s hilarious. Delightful. Real.

And then there’s Grace’s grandfather and his septuagenarian cronies who own ad run O’Reilly’s Italian restaurant. Yep, O’Reilly’s…Italian. Funny huh? Of the four of them three are Irish and only one Italian, giving them plenty to argue about – the best baseball players, the best singers. You could seriously watch just them for an hour and a half and not feel jipped. If only the romance wasn’t so very very brilliant.

The development is just lovely. Old-fashioned. Sweet. Warm and fuzzy stuff. As ouor two darling lovebirds fall for one another with absolutely no idea of the connection they already have.

Until the inevitable happens and our poor Grace discovers that she was the one who took his Elizabeth’s heart. I’ll leave the rest in the dark. Ready for you to discover. But this is truly a three hanky weepie. With heart – if you excuse the pun.

Okay, but I’ll give you one small hint towards the end. When Bob tells Grace’s grandfather how he feels:

‘I miss my wife,’ he says in that gorgeous deep husky voice. 'I’ll always miss her. But I ache for Grace.’

Warm and Fuzzy Rating – 9

Ally’s next Harlequin Romance, BILLIONAIRE ON HER DOORSTEP, hits bookshelves in the UK and North America next month.

But it is available online already! Yep, right now! So head on over to eHarlequin to pick up a freshly minted, super-scented, fairy dust sprinkled hot off the presses copy today!

Check out an excerpt here...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thursday Talk Time - Harlequin Romance Report 2007 Pt2


This week at The Pink Heart Society we look at some of the International Results from the Harlequin Romance Report 2007… so are we all that different from one country to the other? Apparently, yes we are

Forgive and Forget?

While 67% of French men say that they would forgive their partner for kissing someone else – only 33% of them could forgive their partners for sleeping with someone else…

According to the women of Switzerland, Germany and Italy; flirting is 100% forgiveable! The women of Spain and France however, are not quite so forgiving, since only 40% of Spanish women and 43% of French women could forgive their partners for the same act…

So is it still cheating of you’re not having sex the survey asked? Apparently the jury is still out – but some would appear more tolerant than others… 33% of Brazilian women would forgive their partners for having sex with someone else! (REALLY???) But in the UK only 1% of women said the same thing! Hell hath no fury like a British woman scorned the report says…

How Romantic Are You?

Well, it would appear the most romantic women in the world can be found… wait for it… DOWN UNDER – where 61% of Aussie women consider themselves to be very romantic… (might explain the number of lovely romance authors per head then?) Not far behind are Swedish women at 57% and Greek women at 50%...

So what about the men? Cos let’s face it – that’s info we could with, right? A staggering 77% of men in the Netherlands believe that romance is reserved solely for special occasions and 19% of American men claim they don’t have a romantic bone in their body! And in the UK – well – only 9% of the men feel the same way as the Americans… So does that influence where you’d like to live? Do you agree???

So where are the world’s most romantic men? Well, thankfully for all those romantic women down under – Australia tops the list, along with Brazil and France – a third of men in those countries claiming to be hopeless romantics…( bodes well for single gal Trish Wylie whose visiting Aus this summer doesn’t it???)

Fast-Track Into The Sack

And here we are with the biggie… 91% of British men have at one time or another used a compliment as a conduit for sex! While 44% of Australian men and 67% of Japanese men admitted to the same tactic. And compliments work on men too ladies! 67% of the Dutch and Polish women, 60% of the Spanish women and 29% of the French admitted to using the exact same approach for the same result…

So that brings us to those three little words: I love you – as a fast-track method…

According to the survey, 67% of French men have used it as what they hoped would be a straight path to la chambre….58% of the Dutch, 43% of the Swedish and 42% of the British agreed! So ladies beware!

Women however, will resort to other tactics… Greek women (75%) use their culinary skills as do 29% of Japanese women. But in Brazil it’s sexy lingerie – an astounding 90% using that method to entice their man. And wait for it – in Germany 33% of women would consider plastic surgery in the hope it leads to sex!!! (a tad of an expensive method we here at the Pink Heart Society feel…)

And so onto our first Thursday Thirteen where we list some of the Whats Hot and What’s Not in the age of the Romance Revolution!!!! And don’t forget to pop back next week here at The Pink Heart Society when we look at what the Harlequin Romance Report had to say about Romance Resuscitation and we invite you to take the Inner Romantic Test!!!



Thirteen What's Hot and What's Not from the

HARLEQUIN ROMANCE REPORT 2007!!

1. NOT: Going Steady.... HOT: Dating Exclusively

2. NOT: Sappy Poetry.... HOT: Sweet text message

3. NOT: Long Walks On The Beach... HOT: Walking the Dog Together

4. NOT: Red Roses.... HOT: Daisies

5. NOT: Serenading.... HOT: Playlists

6. NOT: Older Men/Younger Women.... HOT: Older Women/ Younger Men

7. NOT: One-night stands.... HOT: Romantic Encounters

8. NOT: Arrogance.... HOT: Confidence

9. NOT: Drunk Dialling.... HOT: Goodnight Phone Calls

10. NOT: Dinner By Candlelight.... HOT: Picnic in the Park

11. NOT: Box Of Chocolates.... HOT: Personalized Candy

12. NOT: Making Out In Public.... HOT: Holding Hands In Public

13. NOT: Dating A Friend's Ex.... HOT: Online Dating

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!


1. Jenna Bayley-Burke

2. Trish Wylie


Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Writers Wednesday with Kate Hewitt

This week we here at the Pink Heart Society all feel a bit special about higlighting the journey of this gal. For she is the very first unpublished Pink Heart Member to have sold a category romance!!! There we were, happily nattering on our yahoo group about, oh, I don't know, hot heroes most likely, when up sprung the lovely Katharine Swartz with the news!

ABOUT KATE...

After living for six years in England, Katharine, her husband, and three children moved back to the U.S. where they live in Connecticut. She wrote her first story at the age of five--it was two sentences long, but it had a lot of emotion! Now her stories are a bit longer, and still just as emotional.

THE JOURNEY TO THE CALL...

I’ve been reading Harlequin romances since I was a young teen--my mother used to put them in my Christmas stocking. Even though I ended up trying to write for Tender/Romance for a long time, Presents was the line I personally liked to read.

I started writing my first romance novel when I was just out of college, living in New York City, and mistakenly thinking it would be a breeze. Four manuscripts, rejections, and years later, I’d managed to final in the Golden Heart in 2000, which was a great experience, but nothing came of it in the end--the finaling manuscript was rejected at the partial stage by Mills & Boon Tender and at the full stage by Silhouette Romance.

I decided to put romance to the side for awhile and concentrate on short stories and serials for women’s magazines in the UK, which was a flourishing market for me. I also connected with a terrific group of women, The Wild Geese, who write for these magazines and offer absolutely fabulous support.

Still, every once in awhile, I jotted down various notes and ideas for different romance novels, and told myself I’d get back to it when I had time... with three young children around, that time never seemed to come!

Then in the summer of 2006, I had my first book, a rewritten serial, accepted for publication by a small UK publisher, Robert Hale. Realizing that I actually could write a novel--and get it published--made me decided to try my hand at romance again.

I’d had a story in my head--and in particular, a hero--that I really wanted to write, and so I wrote the first 100 pages of that story in little over a week, which was a record for me. By mid-July, I sent my partial to Presents (the first time I’d targeted this line) and settled down for what I hoped was only a two or three month wait.

Five months later, a few days before Christmas, I got a thick letter from Mills & Boon and opened it with trembling fingers. They liked the story and my voice, but there were three pages of revisions. Fortunately, I’m someone who actually likes revisions and my parents offered to watch the children for a few days so armed with a large cup of coffee by my computer I got to work.

I finished the revisions in just over two weeks, sent the manuscript in, and settled down for what they had said would be a sixteen week wait. Fortunately, this time I heard from my editor just two weeks later, requesting more revisions but in a very positive way. Afraid to be too excited, I worked on the revisions and sent them to her within a week. Another e-mail just one day later... more revisions! Now there was a deadline because I was going on vacation that Thursday, and if the book was accepted, it needed to be ready by Friday.

I spent most of the night on those revisions, sent them in, heard back the next day... one last revision! Another night of writing and finally on Thursday morning--the day I was leaving for vacation--I got the official call.

The funny thing is, for that whole crazy week of phone calls and revisions, my husband was away with no e-mail or phone access, and I was alone with my kids and had no one (except internet friends) to share the news with--at least, no one in real life who would really understand. Still, it didn’t stop me from being just about wild with excitement--the buzz is still going on!

The Italian’s Chosen Wife is out in December 2007, and Kate just recieved news that her second book has sold!!! Seduced by The Greek is out in March 2008!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Male on Monday...The Deadliest Catch

There are the suave millionaire heroes, the brilliant doctors, the dangerous spies...and then there are hardworking men you know won't stop until the job is done right. If you know what I mean. You find these Male On Monday worthy contenders everywhere...mechanics, contractors, soldiers, and even fishermen.

Usually, I don't watch much television. The prime time hours are when Hubba Bubba watches the boys so I can write. But post-book I take a break and follow his routine, which led me to discover one of the Discovery Channel's most popular shows, The Deadliest Catch.

A documentary-style reality show that chronicles the crab fishing season in the Berring Sea, the program is riveting. Extremely well produced, the action flops from on deck pranks to thirty-six hour shifts to rescue attempts. Crab fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations around, and this show doesn't pull any punches when documenting rogue waves knocking boats on their sides or men falling overboard.

But why would someone who won't leave the house without nail polish like moi be interested? This show is polished, high octane, and full of...you guessed it...hero material. Everything is research. Check out a few of my favorite rugged hunks ::

Blake Painter - Last season he was the engineer of The Maverick, set to take over as captain. When a crew member threatened to leave if Blake was made captain, he had to wait until this year. Due to creative editing, I thought he'd left after being told he' d have to wait another season to be skipper. He actually stayed the course and came back this year to run the King crab season. Due to his father's health, he couldn't make the Opilio crab season.

Edgar Hansen - Youngest of the Hansen brothers who own and operate The Northwestern. He's always the first to make a joke to crack the tension, more comfirtable in front of the cameras than most of the men. We love confidence, don't we?

Andy Hillstrand - He and his brother, Jonathan, run the Time Bandit.

XOXO -- Jenna


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And some lovely news to add! A brand new hero has entered our midst. Our very own Pink Heart Society editor, Nicola Marsh, has had a bouncing baby boy! Mum and bub are both doing well. Tune in tomorrow for Nicola's "goodbye" message as she goes on maternity leave. Written before bub was born!!!
Congrats Nic!!! From all at the PHS...
xxxxx

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunday Spotlight :: Kate Austin


This week The Pink Heart Society
spotlights NEXT author Kate Austin

About Kate:
I’m a water baby – even though I’m an Aries (the fire sign), so where I live in Vancouver, Canada is right on the beach and you can find me walking the Seawall almost every day. I’ve sold ten books in two years – six published and four more in the offing. I write for Harlequin’s women’s fiction line NEXT. My July 2006 book, Awakening (Harlequin Next), was nominated for a Reviewer's Choice Award from RT (though my fellow Next-er and friend Stevi Mittman won). I love reading almost as much as I love writing, reading an average of a book a day ever since I could hold them in my own little hands.


Spotlight On Kate:

Where do you get the inspiration for your books from?

Just about anywhere – I often get them when I’m walking on the beach or I see a piece of graffiti or I hear a phrase. Not often more than that – if I hear too much more, then there’s too much of a story for me. I like a simple, single image or phrase that I can then play with.

What makes you mad?

Not that much, actually – but the one thing that drives me crazy is when (it’s always the government who does this) someone says you can’t do something in public (smoking, for example, and I don’t smoke so this isn’t personal!) but continues to allow it to be sold so they can collect their money on it. Smoking, drinking, those kinds of things. I don’t know why but that really rubs me the wrong way.

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

Falling in love with my best friend. How cool is that?

What in a hero makes you drool?

Two things – a sense of humor and kissing. A man who can kiss me until I can’t breathe and who can also laugh with me has got it all. I’m not averse to a great body, but that’s kind of secondary for me.

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

I don’t know. I’ve been a writer for so long (although only recently making a living at it) that I don’t know if there is anything else. If there was, I think I’d be an art curator.

What do you do to relax and wind down?
I walk on the beach. Or I go out with friends and have a few drinks and talk. Or I read a great book – that always relaxes me. Or call a friend who I know will make me laugh – there’s NOTHING more relaxing that a great belly laugh.

How do you get out of a writing rut?

I try not to get in one – it’s much harder to get out of one than it is to avoid getting in one. I have a metaphor that I use when I talk about writing – think about it like a jet plane. It takes a whole heck of a lot of energy to get that plane up in the air, but once it’s up there, it’s just cruising. Come back down to earth (stop writing), and you have to expand all that energy all over again. I try and write all the time. Makes it easier than getting back up there again.

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

Paris, I think, or New York, both of which I love passionately. I’m definitely a city girl. But I’d also like to have an apartment on the beach in Vancouver (which is where I live now).
Who would you most like to give a hug to for a fabulous book you’ve read?

Tough call. I read at least a book a day so there are a lot of them. Lately? I’m just reading Michael Ondaatje’s (he wrote THE ENGLISH PATIENT) new book, Divisadero. I want to write just one sentence like him.

How astonishingly beautiful is this? With memory, with the reflection of an echo, a gate opens both ways. We can circle time. A paragraph or an episode from another era will haunt us in the night, as the words of a stranger can.

Although I have to say that I’d like to hug Michael Ondaatje just because he’s also beautiful.

What music do you listen to when writing?

I don’t – I’m too easily distracted. Okay, occasionally, when I’m feeling like things are going really really well, I might put on some classical music – almost always Bach, either the cello concertos (I have three or four versions of them) or Glenn Gould’s version of the Goldberg Variations.

Tell us a secret nobody knows about you

I don’t have many secrets – maybe that’s the secret no one knows. I can’t keep my mouth shut, I tell everybody EVERY THING!

What have you had to celebrate in the last year?

A million things. Selling and publishing more books (I’ve sold ten books in the past two years and Last Night At The Halfmoon (Harlequin Next) is the sixth book out). Getting great reviews. Growing my hair. Making almost enough money to live on from writing. Getting fabulous covers. The success of my friends. Meeting wonderful new writing friends. Joy, I think, pretty much covers it.

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

I change the quotes at the beginning of the year, usually, but I do keep the art. A Weisbuch print called L’ange est venu c’est soir (the angel comes this evening) which is a drawing of an angel (the muse) touching the head of a musician. A drawing by a friend of the Pont Neuf in Paris. A painting – very abstract, very strong and dark – by Antoni Tapies. Another small painting call Verse – a take on the Japanese character. A quote by Mark Messier when the Rangers were fighting for the Stanley Cup – you can’t be afraid to slay the dragon. A magnet that says joy. A stone that says create. Candles.

If you could kiss anyone in the world who would it be?
The best friend and lover I ever-so-foolishly gave up. I’m working on it.

What are you working on now?
A new book for Next called THE LOSERS’ CLUB. A group of men in their forties get together every week to play poker and commiserate about the plans they had in college and haven’t achieved. Ben wanted to be a rock star, Teddy a hockey player, Joe the chief of police, Vince the next Basquiat. I’m really enjoying writing this book, lots of great characters, and each of the guys has a significant woman in their life who hates the losers. That makes the book a lot of fun.

Thanks, Kate, for spending time with us here at The Pink Heart Society. Check out her latest title, Last Night At The Halfmoon, on shelves this month. Look for the review coming soon at Pink Heart Society reviews, and a copy of the book will be included in this month's Hamper. To learn more about Kate, check out her website, blog, the NEXT author's blog, or Witchy Chicks. Kate is also particpating in Brenda Novak's 3rd Annual On-line Auction for Diabetes Research as part of the NEXT authors & Witchy Chicks.