Saturday, December 08, 2007

Weekend Wind-down - Here come the English lads ....

This week at the Pink Heart Society our Natasha Oakley picks up the gaunlet.

Cowboys??? An Irish boy????? Why?

Here come the English lads .....

I've had real difficulty narrowing the field which isn't bad considering England is quite small in global terms. For those of you who manage numbers its area is 130,395 km2 (or 50,346 square miles).

If you've been labouring under the misapprehension that English men come with a bowler hat and a rolled up copy of 'The Times' under their arms - or worse wearing sandals and socks together - you'd better take a seat. Maybe pour yourself a glass of restorative whisky ...

Let it not be said I'm fickle. I have to begin with Richard Crispin Armitage, born in Leicester on 22nd August, 1971 - and my first Male on Monday choice of 2007.

Clearly you'll need to break off at this point and do a little more research. That would be here and here (that one is specially for the black leather).


6ft 2" tall. Voice that melts you from the inside out??? Pretty darn perfect.

How about Hugh Laurie, my final 2007 choice for Male on Monday (23rd December)? Born James Hugh Calum Laurie on 11th June, 1959, in Oxford, England. Here in the UK he made a name for himself playing upper class English twits but worldwide he's now best known for his role in 'House' - with his, apparently, faultless American accent. I wouldn't know about that, of course!! He was educated at Eton (that's posh) and at Cambridge (that's clever!). Oh and he's 6ft 2" as well. Such a nice height for a man! :)

Next up I'm giving you Matthew MacFayden, Keira Knightley's Mr Darcy in the recent movie adaptation of 'Pride and Prejudice'. Born 17th October, 1974, in Great Yarmouth, England.

Matthew was my choice for Male on Monday last month, or rather more accurately 'Yellow Rose's' from the Armitage Army.

This one is mainly for Ally - because Robbie Williams does absolutely nothing for me. Robert Peter Williams was born 13th February, 1974, in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. Ex-band member of 'Take That' he's now an internationally successful solo artist. Oh and 6ft 1". Nice, but I can't help but feel I'd have to 'mother' him and I have enough to do!

Here's a recent export to North America. Come across him yet?? Damian Watcyn Lewis was born 11th February, 1971, in St Johns Wood, London. He's another Eton educated English boy. Also standing at 6ft 1".

Or if you're not a fan of red-haired men, though I don't understand why, what about one of his drama school contemporaries? Daniel Wroughton Craig was my December 2006 choice for Male on Monday. The current 007 was born 2nd March, 1968, in Chester, Cheshire. Who didn't need to lie quietly in a darkened room after seeing Daniel in those blue swim shorts???

All told, it was a good time at the Guildhall School of Speech and Drama. Here's another contemporary. Joseph Alberic Fiennes was born 27th May, 1970, in Salisbury, Wiltshire. And, just for Trish, I'll tell you he spent a part of his childhood in Eire. He's also 6ft 1" and a twin! How lovely!!! There are two of them. :) What's more he's apparently 8th cousin to HRH The Prince of Wales.

And what about elder brother Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham Fiennes? He was born 22nd December, 1962, in Ipswich, Suffolk. Okay his reputation has been a little tarnished by the sex in the sky scandal earlier this year. Remember??? Quantas flight attendant, Lisa Robertson, was suspended and subsequently fired for having sex with Ralph in a business class toilet during a flight from Darwin to Mumbai on 24th January, 2007. See, what a wonder our tabloid papers are!!!! How would I have managed without that information?

(By the by, why would anyone want to have sex in a toilet? I must be missing something.)

Oh, his defense was that he wasn't the 'aggressor' in that relationship!!!! Poor love!

It's nearly Christmas so it wouldn't be right not to include recent Male on Monday Jamie Bamber in 'the other towel picture'. Full name - Jamie St John Bamber Griffith. 5ft 9" tall. Looking very good in not alot.

When asked what four things he'd need to survive on a desert island he answered:

"I'd take a good book - Dante's Divine Comedy, because you can never plumb the depths of that. I would also take a mask and snorkel so I could check out the fish, because I love wildlife. And I'd take my laptop, so I could surf the 'net to find a way to get off the damned island! I could write my novel then as well - and decide what the meaning of life is."

Not only does he look pretty fantastic almost in a towel he studied at Cambridge University leaving with a 1st Class MA Honours in Modern Languages. That's as good as it gets.

Next up is, imo, one of the world's most beautiful creations. Adrian Lester. He might be new to some of you because he tends to make 'arty' choices rather than commercial ones. Born 14th August, 1968, in Birmingham. A smidge under 6ft 2" I understand. Personally, I'm all for not exporting him.

This Englishman misses me a bit. I will give you he is photogenic, but he has the silliest voice and not much content in what he says. But ...

David Robert Joseph Beckham was born 2nd May, 1975, in Leystone, East London. Something of an iconic figure he was Captain of the English football team from 2000 - 2006. A mere quarter of an inch off 6ft.

If you're set on an English football player might I put my vote in for Michael Owen? Born 14th December, 1979, in Chester, Cheshire. He's married to his childhood sweetheart and the couple had their third child in October this year. And how about this???? Michael bought an entire street for his extended family to live in. Awwwww.

Well, that's the first dozen and I haven't even begun to run out of English lads. Keep watching for Part 2 ...

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? "

Book 1: The Future King's Pregnant Mistress - Penny Jordan
Book 2: Surgeon Prince ... Ordinary Wife - Melanie Milburne
Book 3: Bought By the Billionaire Prince - Carol Marinelli
Book 4: The Tycoon's Princess Bride - Natasha Oakley
Book 5: Expecting His Royal Baby - Susan Stephens
Book 6: the Prince's Forbidden Virgin - Robyn Donald
Book 7: Bride By Royal Apointment - Raye Morgan
Book 8: A Royal Bride At The Shiekh's Command - Penny Jordan

Natasha's book, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride', is available NOW in the UK and North America - and is a Romantic Times Magazine Top Pick.

Come visit Natasha at her blog!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday Film-Night :: La Femme Nikita

I’m here today to present to you one of my favourite movies ever, ever, ever.


Don’t you dare mistake this for the TV show, or the horrible John Badham remake starring Bridget Fonda. This is the film directed by the magnificent Luc Besson at the height of his indie powers. And one of his many films with kickass leading women - see also JOAN OF ARC, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, THE PROFESSIONAL.


For the fun of it, our heroine, the aforementioned Nikita, played by Anne Parillaud, begins the film a drug-addicted cop killer. Nice huh?

Sentenced to life imprisonment, she manages to make a few court guards bleed before she is taken away. And it is enough for her to catch the eye of sub-government group who take in in with the intention of training her as a hit man. She is locked away, taught to fight, to flirt, to smile, to shoot, to win people over.

The world outside believes her dead, and as she finds herself locked in an underground basement at the behest of others, she wonders if she might be better off that way.

How this kind of heroine works is that for a bad girl, she is utterly likeable. She is sad, scared, asks for her mother. She cries at the drop of a hat. And for all that there is an underlying sweetness and vulnerability that makes her endearing.


Bob. Nikita’s mentor. Mysterious, handsome, always wearing a dark suit, debonair, accomplished, and the only one in the underground lair who sees potential in her. Who saves her from herself time and again as she lashes out at the establishment who have her imprisoned, and stubbornly refuses to play the part she’s been given. Who saves her from truly being dead when his bosses too think they’d all be better off with her that way.

And did I mention he is handsome? Very handsome. Edgy, European, Tcheky Karyo type handsome.

From the moment he walks into Nikita’s bare white room, we like him. We feel like he’s kind, understanding, on her side. Bringing her birthday cake on her birthday, watching her silently, amazedly from the sidelines as she bests her teachers again and again. While he gives her gifts of TVs and clothes and posters to make her feel more at home.

We know he’s never met anyone quite like her, with as much moxie, and passion, and vulnerability. We see it in his eyes. We love a man who loves our heroine.

Until we discover, bit by bit, that every nice thing he does turns out to have an ulterior motive. The hardest, the first time she is let out of the institute in four years, he takes her to dinner for her birthday. She is so excited, he is so mesmerised by how beautiful she has become, the moment is ripe for romance. His gift? A gun with a spare bullet clip so that she can perform her first hit.

She cries and so do I!!!


It is not a classic romance by any means. The hero and heroine are NEVER in a relationship. Their feelings for one another are NEVER verbally expressed or broadly hinted at. By half way through the film, once she leaves her training and heads out into the real world as agent "Josephine" she quickly becomes engaged to someone else (piccie to the right), and a lovely, sweet, darling someone else at that.

The love affair between bad girl come hit man Nikita and cool, mysterious cop Bob isn’t about words, it’s about actions. It’s about a minute lifting of the lips in a smile whenever he is in a room with her. It’s about the gleam in his eyes whenever he lays eyes on her. It’s about her reliance on him, her trust in him, the way she blooms under his guidance.

It’s a love affair lived beneath the surface. And it’s so very moving because of it.

Beware, it’s in French. Beware, it’s gory. Beware it’s confronting. Beware it has dodgy eighties fashion. Beware the love affair may not have the happy ending you might be hoping for.

But it is romantic, and tragic, and hopeful, and endearing, and loveable. And in the most heartbreaking moment in the film our hero and heroine do kiss . Just one kiss. After which she tells him "I will never kiss you again". Even writing it I tear up. Truly!

And add in the fantabulous Jean Reno as The Cleaner – the guy who tidies up after a botched job - and you have my vote!

Moody, and moving, and original, and wonderful. Warm and Fuzzy ratingrating: 10!

Ally’s December release, MILLIONAIRE TO THE RESCUE is out now in Australia and New Zealand.

Brooke has lost her celebrity husband in the most sordid of circumstances and he has left her with nothing. Nothing bar the shoulder of his best friend, a man who may well have been in love with her all along...

Check out her website for more about the book!

Thursday Talk Time :: Why I LOVE Writing For Blaze with Lori Borrill

I hope y'all are enjoying these 'Why I Love' posts as much as I am. Of course, it could be because I am crazy about category romance, but I so enjoy hearing what sparked authors to fall in love with the line they write for. With us this week is Lori Borrill, who just might have read more Blaze novels than me!

Most people who've hung around me long enough know that I didn't start out my writing career targeting Blaze. My focus had been on Desire, primarily because at the time I was entirely intimidated by the thought of writing a book that was 75,000 words long. Like most newcomers, I'd set my sights on one of the shorter lines, feeling I'd have an easier time filling 200 pages instead of 280.

I was aware of the differences in guidelines, story themes, language and such, but like lots of new writers, I'd ignorantly dismissed the importance of tone when it comes to selling to a particular line. And to boil it down, when it came to my voice, me and Desire were like whiskey and cabernet.

If you've read my books, you know I'm not the most poetic writer on the planet. I can't write love scenes in terms of crashing waves, cresting over the horizon and smoothing like velvet over sand of sated breath. Okay, so maybe I could--once. But you aren't going to get a lot of books out of me if I can't ultimately start speaking in a way that comes natural to me, and for me that's pretty blunt, direct, humorous and…well… maybe a little Jack Daniels, if the situation warrants. If it's a duck, I'd prefer to call it a duck and move on instead of spending my afernoon trying to morph it into a feathered, quacking water fowl, IF you get my drift.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "So….Lori Borrill loves writing for Blaze because Blaze lets her say cock?" Well, in a symbolic sort of way, yes. But on a more global sense, it's the line that withdraws from convention and dares to push the boundaries, language only being one of them.

While it was the tone that turned my focus toward Blaze, I've discovered in every other way the line has fit me like a warm, fuzzy glove. You won't find much conservative about Blaze, and for a woman like me who is the product of the bra-burning sixties living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'd have a hard time choking out traditional story lines over and over again. At Blaze, the HEA doesn't have to be a wedding ring, the characters don't have to want babies, and the heroes don't have to be millionnaires. Heck, in some cases, the heroes aren't even human, which goes to show how wide the margins have become. The boundaries are endless, and so is the variety you find within the line.

Which is another great thing about Blaze. Really, if you can think it up, it can become a Blaze. I find that very liberating as a writer, particularly since I have the attention span of a gnat, bore easily, and hate to be told "No". Sure, there's a promise to deliver plenty of heat, which is what gives Blaze its continuity across the line, but if I want to pair two coworkers in one book, a sheik and an assassin after that, then a ghost and a waitress next, the editors aren't simply open, they're encouraging.

And in the current world of publishing, how many writers get that?

It was through fate that I ended up writing for Blaze, the natural order of things placing me where I fit best, and now that I'm here, I feel extremely lucky. I can stick with the editor I love all the while sating my need for variety, playing with all different types of characters in as many different settings and not worry about having to hold back.

Oh, and then when I'm done, they hand me a totally delicious cover.

(Sigh) Don't they just? Thanks for joining us Lori. Come back anytime...

For more on Lori and her latest release, be sure to check out her website and her blog, the Sizzling Pens, where Jenna will some day become a pen pal.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Writer's Wednesday - THE SECRET

Today, Harlequin Romance author Donna Alward reveals her not-so-secret to getting published!

No, I’m not going to blog about the book that’s already taken the world by storm. I’m going to talk about how to make YOUR book take the world by storm. I’m going to chat briefly today on what it is that makes authors published.

Writers write.

There! All done! Can I go home now?

Of course I’m not going to leave it at that, but the point is that it really is that simple.

But wait! I can hear the minds working now. “There’s so much to know! What about character development, knowing the market, finding your voice, plotting vs seat of your pants, showing vs telling, conflict and motivations….” There are a million valid questions, all leaving you banging your head against the wall.

And I say again…writers write.

Twice in the last few weeks I’ve had this belief confirmed. Most recently Julie Cohen said it in a blog post elsewhere. And before that, Brenda Novak said it in essence at a workshop she gave to our local RWA chapter (and by the way, she was FABULOUS!).

It is SO easy to get caught up in the little things when you are trying to reach publication. I know it – I’ve BEEN there! My first manuscript…oh my. It was horrible. Full of inactive scenes, cardboard characters, missing motivations and without a distinctive voice…I do not even want to venture a guess where I’ve put the floppy it’s saved on. It’s truly horrible. Sometimes I could I have let this happen??????

But now I look back at it and acknowledge it as my starting point. So, how did I get from there to here?

I get asked a lot what people should do. Is there a secret? Some insider knowledge that can speed up the process? Some magical kernel of wisdom that is suddenly going to make it easier?

Well, yeah, I guess there is, but you’re not gonna like it. The secret is work. You've got to get in the trenches.

You have to keep writing. And writing. And writing some more. And I don’t mean taking that first manuscript and beating it to death with revision upon revision. I mean letting it go and starting something new. You can read about how to write all you want and you can attend workshops every weekend but they won’t make you a better writer unless you park your butt in that chair and put down the words.

That’s all there is to it. You will learn more by doing it than by reading about it and thinking about it. You WILL improve with each book and you WILL find your voice. You will submit, and likely be rejected, and perhaps get some feedback, and apply that knowledge to a new manuscript. You will gain confidence. Do I still write crap? ABSOLUTELY. I do. Did I used to freak about it? You bet. But one thing experience has taught me is that I can allow myself to write dreck because I have the ability to fix it. I am confident I can shape it and mold it into a decent story, and then my editor will help me get it the rest of the way when I’ve faltered. There was no shortcut to that. It was all from experience. At last count, I’ve been writing for six years, one month and some number of days, and am working on my 15th manuscript.

You need to put in the time. Full stop.

Now this might sound a little harsh and perhaps even discouraging. No shortcuts. No insider secrets. But wait a minute. I’d argue that this is LIBERATING.

Because this means there’s not something you’re missing. It means that this whole business is an equal opportunity venture. You can do this! EVERYONE can put their butt in the chair and hands on the keyboard. All you need from this point…the one where you’re staring at the screen, hands poised over the keys…is the determination and dedication to the goal. You write, and learn, and write, and learn.

November was NaNoWriMo. I would argue that rather than one month a year to challenge yourself, do it every month, week, day. You can do it! Writers write, so what are you waiting for?

Diet Club Finale!!

Remember when we all jumped on the PHS Diet Club bandwagon back in January? The year is coming to an end. It's time to fess up to how you did, and whether you plan to continue this healthy journey into 2008. Joining us this month is gorgeous Presents author Jennie Lucas, here to share the things she's learned on her own weight loss journey.

The heroine of my first Harlequin Presents novel, The Greek Billionaire's Baby Revenge, has no trouble losing her pregnancy weight—Anna is so desperate to escape her baby's ruthless father that she runs away with their newborn! (Being chased around the world burns calories even quicker than a treadmill!)

But after I had my own second baby a year ago, losing the postbaby pounds wasn’t so easy. I hate diets, and since no billionaires were hunting me across the world with an army of bodyguards, I didn’t get much exercise either.

So instead, I found some simple diet tricks that helped me drop seventy pounds. Here are my Top 6 diet tricks:

1. Get on the scale every day before breakfast. Don’t take any particular number too seriously as weight can fluctuate, but stay aware of the trend.

2. Swap out the calories you won’t miss. Switch to the non-fat latte. Skip the butter and try sugar-free syrup on your waffle. You might not even notice the difference.

3. Be lazy. Brush your teeth right after dinner—you’ll nix that midnight snack, because who wants to brush again? And walk all the way to the bakery for a donut? It’s just not worth the trouble!

4. Read a good book. Lose yourself in something you’re passionate about. Laugh with your children. Seduce your man. Have so much fun you forget to eat.

5. Never, ever clean your plate. Only eat when you’re hungry, and stop before you’re full. The first few bites are always the best anyway.

6. Be picky. Don’t settle for two-day-old pizza if you’re craving a tangy souvlaki pita. Be stubborn: hold out for your gyro. Like a really great kiss, the longer you wait for it, the better it will be!

Just take a look at these results!! Congrats Jennie, on your hard work! With the PHS baby boom (number 3 due this May) we'll be living your tips!

Jennie’s first book, The Greek Billionaire’s Baby Revenge, is out this month in the U.S. Her second book, The Spaniard’s Defiant Virgin, is out this month Down Under! To see more of her weight-loss tips, along with photos, book excerpts and contests, please visit