Saturday, November 24, 2007

Weekend Wind- Down: Who Can Resist a Cowboy?

As we've decided to forgoe a November hamper in favour of a bumper Christmas Hamper this year, this weekend at The Pink Heart Society we have columnist Donna Alward here to talk to us about the temptation of a modern day cowboy...After all Who Can Resist A Cowboy???

Right off the bat can I just say that I dedicate this post to Jenna. ;-)

I have to admit, there’s something tempting about a cowboy. And not just cowboys, farmers in general. Maybe because I’m a farm girl at heart, I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s coincidence that my first two Romances were cowboys and that they’ve asked me to write another one.

There are a few physical things that make cowboys Hot. The top of the list for me is a nice bottom in a fine pair of faded jeans. Mmm. Mmmm. Mmmmmmmmmm. The right pair of Wranglers or Levis can turn a butt into a work of art. Now let that work of art be attached to a pair of long legs and whoooeeee! I’m a goner. And yep, I’m just that shallow.

In keeping with that we get to boots. There’s your typical pull-on, pointy-toed boots with a glint of metal on toe and heel that you come to expect, and there’s also “working” boots like lace up Ropers which I absolutely adore. My current heroine is also a horsewoman and she’s a Ropers girl all the way. And by the way, if you DO have your cowboy in boots, there are two hot benefits. Number one he’s instantly taller (I like tall men, have you guessed that yet?). Number two they need to be scuffed and dusty to be sexy. And shined up if he’s courtin’.

The third prerequisite is the hat. Let me say straight off that I don’t require the hat to be a Stetson, though that’s quite sexy too. It can also be a ball hat, with a peak that’s hand-shaped to the right angle. In Hired By The Cowboy, Connor tends to wear ball caps. But in Marriage at Circle M, Mike usually doesn’t go anywhere without his cowboy hat. And my current cowboy wears a dark Stetson that shades his nearly black eyes and adds that little bit of mystery. It all depends on the man.

Farmers…well they’re a little bit different but to me just as alluring…the ball cap is definitely more common, or sunglasses. The uniform is still jeans and t-shirts for the most part, but then you have the footwear thing that can range from sneakers to steel-toed work boots to rubbers (Wellies to some of you). The common thing is that little bit of dirt and sweat that tells you this is a man whose biggest tool is his physicality, and there’s a whole lotta sexy in that.

But what else makes a cowboy so tempting? LOTS of things. Cowboys…farmers…tend to know where they belong. They tend to know who they are and they are comfortable in their own skin. They have a relationship with their environment that grounds them. They have a code of honour – they want to do what’s right – and a need to protect their women. Cowboys are not complicated people, which is not to say they are without conflict or complication. But there is a solidness and security about them that we love.

Who are some of your favourite cowboy characters, either in books or the movies?

And, seeing as it’s holiday season (Thanksgiving in the US and Christmas coming) I’ll do a random draw from the comments for copies of Hired By The Cowboy and Marriage at Circle M. If you haven’t read them yet, this’ll get you caught up for book three, Falling for Mr. Dark and Dangerous, which will be out next summer!

Donna sends out a monthly newsletter where she frequently holds subscriber-only contests....sign up at her website and blog!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thursday Talk-Time - Why I Love Love Inspired Historicals with Linda Ford

Today at the Pink Heart we welcome Inspirational author Linda Ford, who talks to us about how exciting it is to write for a brand new line! Welcome Linda!

You probably haven't seen many of these books...well, none. They hit the stands for the first time in Jan. 08 joining the full range of books available under the Steeple Hill umbrella—Love Inspired (contemporary), Love Inspired Suspense, Café and Women's Fiction.

These books reflect their mission statement of featuring wholesome Christian entertainment that will help women to better guide themselves, their families and other women in their communities toward purposeful, faith-driven lives.

I consider myself fortunate and privileged to be involved in this new line.

The premise

Captivating historical romance: love and faith throughout the ages.

I love writing about historical settings, especially the pioneers, settlers, and those who conquered the west. One lovely thing about writing historicals in this time frame is the research. I've done road trips to various places where I poke through museums, visit historic buildings, and generally transport myself into a different time, a different place. I collect books on pioneering history. I'm in awe of some of the recorded stories of men and women conquering the challenges of their world. I once had a letter from an elderly lady who insisted there was nothing romantic about the good old days. But I feel the circumstances tended to bring out a degree of strength we perhaps don't need quite so much in our modern day. Imagine facing a winter without adequate heat or worse, adequate food, or being the first white woman to venture across the prairies. Picture coping with illness and injury by relying on your own resources. Talk about strong characters.

The characters

This new brand in the Steeple Hill imprint is a series of historical romances featuring Christian characters facing the many challenges of life and love in a variety of historical time periods.... Each story should be set in the past and focus on an emotional, satisfying and mature romance. Drama, mystery and even a touch of humor all have a place in the series. The conflict between the main characters should be an emotional one, arising naturally from the characters.

Heroines who face the constraints of their society, sometimes unable to own property, not free to decide who they will marry, or where they will live, and often treated as a piece of property, yet who found ways to impact their environment while maintaining a sense of humor . . . these are my kind of heroines. Strong yet sweet, idealistic as well as practical. One comment by my editor in the margin of an edited manuscript indicates the type of heroine that suits these stories. I have the heroine standing up to a man who is trying to control her. The editor says, "Yeah. You tell him."

The heroes, too, are shaped by their environment and dictates of their society. A man was a man and had a job to do. And yet, they had a soft side, especially when it came to the heroine. How fun to take such a man and show him the joy of revealing that soft side because these stories are, above all, rich romances.

The setting

A strong sense of time and place is necessary. Rich details interwoven into the fabric of the story should place the reader right there. ...complex stories rich in period detail that will sweep readers into the past ...from page one.

My first three-book series is set in the Dirty 30s. From the first page I hopefully put the reader into the setting with words such as drought, dust, depression, and the sight of a campfire among the trees and the heroine's expectation it was another hobo.

The faith element

An element of faith must be present in the books and should be well-integrated into the plot.

Some might find the restraints of the inspirational market restrictive. I find them challenging in a positive way. To take my characters through a conflict or struggle, to challenge their faith under adverse circumstances, then to have them grow to conquer these events is exciting. And even more exciting is to put a man and woman together to work through these things as allies or perhaps, initially, enemies. To show their attraction leading to love while upholding the boundaries of this market (Any physical interactions should emphasize emotional tenderness rather than sexual desire) is a challenge I love.

The covers

The preliminary covers look fabulous! I love mine! Romantic, evocative, just lovely. They speak of hearth and home and are very welcoming.

For upcoming titles and news, see my website at (I promise to update it real soon).
For flotsam and jetsam of my life see my blog at

Thanks Linda for joining us!

Writers Wednesday :: Getting in the Mood to Write

When I grew up I wanted to be the next Peter Weir (a great Australian film diretor for those of you not on this side of the ocean). As such, I spent my formative post-University years working on film-sets, none of which any of you would have seen ;). But that grounding meant that I still come at writing a book from the angle of managing such a production.

call sheet

Be on set on time!

My writing day begins at midday. Before then I can do as I please: check emails, sleep, blog, watching Grey’s Anatomy repeats, eat, sleep, stare into space, “research” pictures of Marat Safin…

But at midday, I am at my desk, ready to turn off all other distractions, and write. If not, the producer inside of me gives me quite a rousing.


Discover which location is best for your story.

While my timeline is decided, the location of my writing day is not. I have on office, my set if you like, and while everything there is familiar, comfortable and conducive to writing, sometimes it feels stale. Sometimes it helps to go out on location; with my Alphasmart on the sofa, my laptop at a local café, or a pen and paper in the backyard. I mix up my writing locations to keep my muse inventive.


Keep pictures of your hero and heroine within eyesight.

Many of you I’m sure do this already – google pictures of movie stars and the like. Well, it’s not just a good excuse to keep pictures of hot guys on file. The right casting works. Finding that one perfect photo which encapsulates your hero or heroine is a godsend.

But be careful, the wrong casting can be disastrous. Picture Gone With the Wind starring Groucho Marx. Or Indiana Jones starring the kid from Napoleon Dynamite. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

I had a gorgeous piccie of the lovely Hugh Jackman all picked out for my last Romance. Problem was, he was the complete wrong guy for the book I was trying to write. Far too nice. Even his hair was all wrong! Yes, it is possible to miscast hair. I am living proof. It hampered me for weeks until I let go and recast. And just like that everything fell into place.


Punctuate your story with mood music.

A filmgoer may blink, or look away to check out a cute guy in the next row, or spend half the movie with their nose buried in their popcorn, their ears never turn off. Sound pervades.

Those in charge of music in movies who do it well choose songs that create a kind of soundtrack of their characters’ lives. Think Mad World in Donnie Darko. Or God Only Knows at the end of Love Actually. I love that. I get that. And I use that.

For each book I write I have a CD that gets played over and over. In a normal world this would drive me crazy, but in the world of writing a book it can be really helpful in getting you in the right mood. Pick a CD or make a mixed tape of songs that bookmark the memorable moments in your characters’ journeys. I’ve used Robbie Williams for fun books, Moulin Rouge for a book set partly in Paris, and for my last Harlequin Romance FALLING FOR THE REBEL HEIR I was deeply into Jeff Buckley’s Grace for a much more moody evocative book .

craft services

Cater to your creative side.

I once heard that it is wise to study in the manner in which you plan to sit your exam. For example, if you eat buttered toast and drink scads of tropical juice while studying, do the same thing before going into your exam. It helps you tap into that part of you brain you used while studying - like some kind of sense memory.

I stick by the same habits when writing. Every day as I sit at my computer I do so with a cup of coffee, big glass of iced water, and a tub of M&Ms at the ready. Even if I never finish the coffee, might forget about the M&Ms (unlikely, but every so often it happens) the fact that I am surrounded by the same comfort foods each and every book helps immeasurably.



or collaboration?

Are you an autonomous writer or someone who needs to surround yourself with interested parties?

I am an auteur, without a doubt. Creative control, not diluting my idea, is a big deal for me. Only because I know that I am easily affected by outside influences. Therefore nobody gets to see my work until my editor.

But there is something to be said for working with the same crew over and over again. Look at Woody Allen. Kenneth Branagh. Successful creators who trust those they use to support their vision. If you find a group, or a critique partner, or a family member who fits into your production, hang on tight. Share the load. Delegate away.

that’s a wrap

The key is finding what works for you. Sounds of the ocean or Metallica full blast? A one room set, or jump cut to Starbucks at lunchtime? Celery sticks and bottled water, or salt and vinegar chips and coffee on tap? Orlando Bloom or the Rock?

Find out what kind of production values get you in the mood to write, and go for broke. Budget be damned ;).

Now keyboard, monitor, action!

Ally's November release, STEAMY SURRENDER is also out now in Australia & New Zealand as a Sexy Sensation.

This is the one with the sexy Italian hero who owns his own string of gelatarias. Could it get any better? Yuh-huh! Add in a beautiful cabin in the snow, designer duds for our heroine and a sidetrip to Paris and life's a dream.

For more check out an excerpt on her website...

And if you are looking for that perfect Christmas gift, check out SIZZLE, SEDUCE AND SIMMER a collection of romantic recipes with matching original short stories by collated by Marion Lennox and written by a bunch of your fave down under romance authors.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Temptation Tuesday :: Traveling For Research

Bestselling author Emilie Rose joins us this Tuesday to share romance writings greatest perk (well, at least in the top three) -- TRAVELING FOR RESEARCH!

Books are supposed to take you to another world. Sometimes, if an author is very, very lucky, the research can too.

A year or so ago I had exactly that opportunity when I was offered the chance to write my November 2007 Desire. SECRETS OF THE TYCOON’S BRIDE is a “continuity story.” That’s when the editors come up with two pages of the basic premise, the main characters and the location for a series. The author fills up the rest of the 200+ pages by expanding on all that plus putting her spin on whole deal. One of the best parts of a continuity is getting to play with the other authors in the series. More often than not my teammates are some of my favorite authors. When I wrote the Napa Valley continuity 2 years ago Sara Orwig, one of the other authors, was kind enough to take the Napa trip and send us all pictures and stories. This time, I elected myself for that job.

For those of you who don’t know me, let me tell you a secret. I can be a pushy broad. Never more so than when backed against a wall and in desperate need of a vacation. Picture me enduring my second year without a vacation. Not pretty. My husband knew better than to argue when I informed him we were taking a research trip. And FYI, the publisher doesn’t pay for the trip, but I must have had a crazed look in my eyes that warned the husband not to argue about the expense.

SECRETS OF THE TYCOON’S BRIDE is set in South Beach (SOBE), a ritzy, hip segment of Miami Beach. And trust me when I say, this semi-redneck North Carolina girl (neither ritzy nor hip) had no idea what Metropolitan beach was like. Because of a plot complication I also had to work in a trip to the Bahamas. Tough job, eh? So I planned to spend three days in South Beach and then take a short cruise (my first) to the Bahamas. Bonus: we were leaving our 4 sons at home.

Things started going well the minute we arrived at the hotel. Our room wasn’t ready and we were consequently upgraded to a posh suite half the size of my house at no extra charge. Nice. Desires are currently set around the world of affluence and privilege. I caught a glimpse of that milieu when I opened our hotel fridge and spotted champagnes, wines and liquors priced around the cost of car payments. I didn’t open any of those too-rich-for-my-blood-and-bank-account bottles, but I was impressed enough to take a picture of the contents of the refrigerator. (I told you I have redneck roots)

The beach itself was eye opening. Picture studly guys wearing dress pants strutting down the sidewalks—shirtless. Okay, so now my job was really getting difficult. I HAD to look. South Beach is known for buff bodies, oh, and fake everything. Tans, boobs, pecs, calves, whatever. If it can be surgically enhanced, you’ll see it in SOBE. My husband enjoyed the beach where several sets of those enhanced breasts were on display. (We don’t see that in NC.) No, not everyone went topless or squeezed into a Speedo or thong, but there was enough skin there to make life more interesting than the book I’d brought along to read. And I FORCED myself to look—for the sake of my author teammates, of course.

The coffee shops were another shocker for this country girl. I usually need a couple of cups of coffee to wake up. (okay, a quart) But my eyes received a jolt on our first morning that negated the need for caffeine. We went to a nearby coffee shop for breakfast and right there next to the power shakes, croissants and gum were condoms. Five brands of condoms. Big boxes. Think party/orgy pack. Now I don’t know about you, but buying breakfast and a side of prophylactics seems a bit…unusual. Need I repeat we don’t have that in NC? You know I had to put that in the book.

The cruise could have been trouble with a capital T. You’re given a card that is your room key, your ID and your credit card. You don’t spend cash onboard ship. You just swipe that little magical card in the gift shops, the bars, the spa… Dangerous unless you’re very anal about keeping up with expenditures. If I had been with anyone other than my spouse who is a recovering alcoholic, then I would have had far too many of those cute little umbrella drinks that came in collector glasses that you could keep—if you could fit them in your luggage. As it was, keeping him sober meant keeping me sober. (next cruise I’m going without him)

I wanted to kidnap a few of the cruise line’s employees and take them home with me. Why? Besides the fact that 90% of them were gorgeous, young and buff? They waited on you with such attention to detail that you usually had whatever you needed before you realized you needed it. I could and would like to get used to that.

For the most part being an author means sitting at home alone, talking to imaginary people and staring at a computer all day, but once in a while the research can be a real blast. My only question is…where should I set the next story? I feel the need for a vacation coming on.

ME TOO!! Thanks for sharing with us here at The Pink Heart Society. For more about Emile be sure to check out her website or the Desire Authors website.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Male on Monday - Matthew Macfadyen

This Monday it's our Natasha's turn to come up with hero inspiration ....

It's okay, I do know this photo isn't of Matthew Macfadyen. I'm starting with a picture of Richard Armitage to annoy Trish. It has to be done. You see, this week she decided to tease me on her blog. Go see.

I've now found solace with the Armitage Army and C19 - and very good fun it's been. (Trish thinks I've joined a cult and I'm on a mission to have her tarred and feathered! What are friends for???) So today, especially for 'Yellow Rose', I'm going with her choice of Male on Monday.

David Matthew MacFadyen was born on October 17th, 1974 in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, England. Most delightfully he's a sexy 6ft 3".

In all honesty, I can't say I think he'll really want to be here. He's not an actor that interviews well. He's ... er ... defensive. Not so surprising, perhaps, since he ran the gauntlet of the British tabloid papers when he fell in love with his Spooks co-star, Keeley Hawes. She left her husband of just five months and married Matthew in 2004, as soon as her divorce was final. They were hounded and I'm sure that would make anyone cautious.

Interviewed for the Sunday Mail in 2005 Matthew was quoted as saying:
"It was an awful situation because I realised I'd fallen for her. When you're confronted with something like that, what can you do? We weren't having an affair and it was a slow process. But I knew the effect she had on me. She's gorgeous. Everyone who meets her will tell you the same thing."

The couple both quit 'Spooks' and married in the October, weeks before Keeley gave birth to their daughter, Maggie. In the same interview he's quoted as saying:
"In a matter of a few weeks last year, our lives changed completely. We eloped to Richmond-on-Thames register office on October 8. We rang a mate each to come along as witnesses and people brought little throwaway cameras to take pictures. I read a poem and Keeley cried her eyes out. It was wonderful and romantic. Keeley was heavily pregnant with our daughter and the whole thing seemed perfect to me."

Their second child, Ralph, was born in September 2006 and Matthew is stepfather to Keeley's son, Myles.

His career is seamless. He's a real actors' actor, if that makes any sense, and his choices are incredibly interesting. Hollywood really doesn't hold much allure for him and he searches out roles he finds challenging.

Matthew graduated from RADA in 1995 and quickly found work in theatre - Antonio in 'The Duchess of Malfi', Charles Surface in 'The School for Scandal', Benedick in 'Much Ado About Nothing' - the latter played as a officer buffoon. His TV breakthrough was arguably as Earnshaw in the 1998 ITV production of 'Wuthering Heights'. He sprung to my notice, however, in 2001 as Felix Carbury in 'The Way We Live Now'.

That same year I saw him as the scarred submarine cammander in the movie 'Enigma' and didn't recognise him as the same actor. And, that's his skill. He's one of a rare few who can so inhabit a character you believe his portrayal absolutely. It's impressive stuff.

He followed that with a Stephen Poliakoff drama 'Perfect Strangers' and then, 'Spooks', in the United States it was aired as 'MI-5'. After 'The Reckoning' in 2003 and 'In My Father's Den' in 2004 we come to 'Pride and Prejudice'.

Who didn't fall in love with him walking towards Lizzie on a mist filled morning?

"I find Darcy very sympathetic, I find it heartbreaking that he's seen as very haughty and proud - and he is those things - but he's a young man who is still grieving for his parents. He's from an ancient family and has this huge responsibility, but it seemed to me that he's still trying to work out who he is and how to be in the world. I found that very interesting, and I found him very sympathetic."

Like Lizzie I do find the sight of him against the setting of 'Pemberley', actually Wilton House, very attractive! :)

But, how about this? Matthew hadn't read Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'. He based his performance entirely on the script.

Post P&P he's played Clay in 'The Pain and the Itch' at the Royal Court Theatre.

"I would hate not to do a play every couple of years. I think it's not me. I did four or five years in telly, and by the end of it was drained. I was a bit sick of myself. I didn't feel like an actor anymore. That sounds silly, but when you're doing a play you're using different muscles, and it blew all the cobwebs away."

And I last saw him in a one-off Channel 4 drama 'Secret Life' in which he played a paedophile. I told you his choices were interesting!

So, what do you think?

With love

This July saw the start of a brand-new series in the Presents line - The Royal House of Niroli.

"The Mediterranean island of Niroli has prospered for centuries under the Fierezza men. But now, as the King’s health declines, and his 2 sons have been tragically killed, the crown is in jeopardy. Who will rule? "

Natasha's book, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride', is available NOW and is a
Romantic Times Magazine Top Pick.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Welcome To The Weekend :: Getting Ready For The Holidays

The next few weeks are some of the busiest of the year. Holiday parties, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, shopping, the kids holiday pageants, trying to coordinate how to see everyone when it is logistically anyone else tired yet?

This weekend is technically pre-holiday, and yet I have the tune-up for the car so it will make it over the hill and through the woods, packing for that trip to Grandma's house, getting my hair done so people will recognize me, the annual neighborhood event Gingerbread Lane, early morning sales at toy stores...and the usual stuff that keeps life running.

If I sit and think of all I will accomplish in the next six weeks, I'd need a drink. And since I'm off the sauce until at least Mother's Day (unless the babe is late), that ain't gonna happen. Instead, I'm taking it one day at a time, and trying to remember my best tips to get through the holidays, sanity in tact.

1. Bring a book. It seems to get good seats at concerts and good buys at stores, you need to get there early. I always keep a book tucked in my handbag so I don't get so bothered.

2. Do the dreaded holiday letter. You'll never finish your holiday cards otherwise. Trust me, mine from last year are still in the box.

3. Make a list, check it twice. It's the only way to make sure you got gifts for everyone...and to keep track of sly hints as to who wants what.

4. Wear loose clothes. You have enough to do without thinking about sucking it in. Besides, layers are practical AND forgiving.

5. Take time at each function to breathe and smile. Sometimes I get so wound up I can't even recall the details of what I've done. Taking a minute to look around and appreciate makes every gathering more memorable.

6. Bring the digital camera. You never know who might pop into family gatherings. Looking back at pictures is one of the highlights in life.

7. Get some help from the store. You have my permission to buy your fudge. And dinner rolls. And anything else that might help you enjoy your holiday season.

8. Light a candle. If Hanukkah is your gig this year (who decided it could come so early?) or if it is not, light a candle for your loved ones no longer able to share the holidays with you. Acknowledging your loss can ease the ache.

Those are the tricks that keep me going through the holiday season. I know you have many, many more. Let's spend the weekend sharing how to enjoy this time of year.

Jenna is hard at work on her next title for Mills & Boon Modern Extra. In the meantime, check out her website, blog, or reading group, We Call It Research.