Saturday, December 22, 2007

What Are You Waiting For???

Last January a number of our fathful readers pledged to FinDaBoo...Finish the Damned Book....and the year is almost up so we have to know...did you? Did you take all that lovely advice shared with you by Harlequin's finest authors and spin it into your own romance novel to share with us all?

If you did...then you have no excuse but to take the information offered by the I ♥ Presents blog and win the latest writing contest to send the publishing world buzzing!

A brand new writing competition from the world’s best-selling romance series is about to hit the blogosphere!

It’s an exciting time for Harlequin Presents: from January 2008, there will be 12 of our intensely passionate romances available every month (some of them from the line I write for, Modern Heat!). And with this increase of titles comes a great opportunity for aspiring authors – we will be looking to buy more books for publication!

The old saying goes that first impressions are lasting impressions – and when it comes to reading a Harlequin Presents, that certainly holds true. If the first chapter doesn’t immediately grip the reader with its pace, passion and intensity, then she won’t continue to turn the pages.

So Presents is inviting unpublished writers to show us how they can grab the attention of our readership with first chapters that really sizzle. The INSTANT SEDUCTION competition offers prizes that are chances of a lifetime for the lucky winner and runners-up:

*First prize – win yourself an editor for a year!

*Two runners-up will be given editorial critiques of their first chapter entries and also a personal telephone consultation about their writing!

Visit the I ♥ Presents blogsite for full details of the competition – and the chance to prepare for publication with an exclusive series of writing tutorials prepared by the editorial team at Harlequin Presents, including advice on First Chapters, How to Write a Synopsis, Loving the Alpha Male and Generating Emotional Conflict.

Entries for the competition will be accepted as on-line submissions only from 1st January until 14th February 2008. Entries should comprise of the first chapter and a synopsis of a previously unpublished/unsubmitted novel aimed at Harlequin Presents. Address for entries:

**Even if Presents/Modern Heat is not your ideal line, the information offered as a build up to the contest is a wonderful education for anyone who wants to write for any of the Mills & Boon lines. Everything is cooperative in the London office, so the basics of what they are looking for in Presents, Romance, Medicals, and Historicals doesn't waver. A solid chapter one, focused conflict, and knowing your characters will make your submission a winner for any line.

We asked some of our author members for their best tips for those entering the contest. Here's what they had to say ::

Nicola Marsh ::
*make your hero unforgettable. Think power, persuasion and plenty of heat!
*make your heroine a match for him in every way
*think glamorous: settings, characters, clothing, whatever. Make your Presents story glam!

"If you're targeting Modern Heat make sure you really know your characters, their foibles, their conflicts and what it is that's stopping them from committing despite their incredible chemistry. And then, once you have that established, have FUN writing it - unleash your inner saucy, sassy self and free up the wit, the cute come-backs and all those things you 'wished you thought of at the time' - and get your characters to say it on the spot!"

Anne McAllister ::

In all short romance novels, but especially in Presents, there is a very tight focus on the relationship. There can be lots of other people in the book, but every one in there had better contribute to some part of the relationship between the hero and heroine. If they don't, get rid of them!

And......Sandra Marton wanted to help out as well!!

My Best Tips for Writing for Presents? Start by loving the line, not just wanting to write for it because you've heard good things about it. Understand it, too. A new voice is always welcome but Presents is Presents and ignoring its standards and properties probably won't work. And, of course, be the very best storyteller you can be.

Beyond that:

1. The romance in your story is EVERYTHING!
2. Your hero should be a very sexy Alpha male. Are you crazy in love with him? If you are, a Presents editor will be, too.
3. Your heroine should be able to take him on. Except when it comes to his seductive talents in bed, she can face him down, anytime.
4. Use lots of sharply written, meaningful dialogue.
5. Sex should be hot and romantic and tender and exciting. Okay, maybe not all at once but sex is passion and passion is what Presents is all about.
6. Create a storyline that grabs the reader and sweeps her along.
7. Conflict is the heart of a Presents relationship but it has to be the kind that presents a real stumbling-block, one your hero and heroine will have to try hard to overcome. No cheating by letting them squabble for 200 plus pages when they could have solved their problem if they'd have had one meaningful conversation.
8. Use a sophisticated setting. And no, that doesn't mean the setting must necessarily be exotic. It means sophisticated. The kind of setting an Alpha man-of-the-world belongs in. One that he can dominate by virtue of his authority.
9. Provide your reader with a really satisfying HEA.
10. Have fun writing your book and it will show.

Congratulations to everyone who FinDaBoo'd with, thank you to the authors who shared their wisdom, and best of luck to all of those who enter the contest. XOXO -- The Pink Heart Society

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.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Thursday Talk-time :: Why I Love Silhouette Romantic Suspense

We asked Linda Conrad to come by and share with us why she loves Silhouette Romantic Suspense. After reading what she had to say, I think anyone would!!

The very first romance book I ever picked up was a Silhouette Intimate Moments by Merline Lovelace. I fell in love with the romance, with the suspense, with the style. From that immediate love at first read, I vowed to someday write my own.

I’ve read hundreds more Intimate Moments over the years. Grand stories by people like Linda Howard, Nora Roberts, Lisa Gardner, Suzanne Brockmann, Ruth Wind, Sharon Sala and on and on. So many best selling authors came from Silhouette Intimate Moments background that I can’t even name them all. I wanted to write like that too.

It took me a while. I wrote twelve books for Silhouette Desire first, which I really enjoyed doing. But I finally saw a book with my name under the Silhouette Intimate Moments banner in 2006. Of course, shortly afterward, Silhouette changed the name of the line. What used to be Silhouette Intimate Moments is now called Silhouette Romantic Suspense. Do you think it was me?

Well, even if it was, I still love writing these books. No matter what they call the line. I love the feel. Slightly retro, but contemporary in subject and style. According to the editor’s guidelines: ‘Romantic Suspense novels are big, sweeping romances amid dangerous and suspenseful settings.’ Yep. That’s what draws me to them.

Some of us Romantic Suspense authors are adding touches of paranormal elements to our plotlines these days. In the mini-series I just finished, the heroes were battling Navajo Skinwalkers! In my upcoming trilogy, a big Texas ranching family has been cursed by Mexican witches! Nothing too chilling, mind you. The romance is still the central theme of each book. But the extra element raises the stakes just enough to make things even more interesting. I have a ball writing them.

A couple of other terrific reasons to love writing for Silhouette Romantic Suspense are the wonderful editors. Patience Smith, the senior editor, and my own editor, Natashya Wilson. I call them the dream team. They make it easy to create complex heroines and heroes who are both formidable and conflicted. They look for classic romance plot lines, but they aren’t adverse to seeing them twisted into something entirely new.

When my work is done, together we come up with fabulous titles and amazing covers. What more could you ask?

For more on Linda, be sure to check out her website and her latest release, Shadow Whispers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Writers' Wednesday - Writing Resources on the Net

Today on Writers’ Wednesday, Fiona Harper is telling us one of her favourite places on the internet for writers' resources, articles, networking and support.

I first discovered when I was browsing the internet shopping for books, and thought what an interesting site it was - not only a place to stock up on your favourite romances, but a wealth of resources for writers too. A couple of years later, when I decided to take a leap of faith and write a romance novel myself, I hunted it down again, and I’m so glad I did.

Now, don’t be mistaken that you only have to be interested in writing category romance to benefit from what’s on this site. Sure, there’s plenty of advice specific to writing for Harlequin, but there’s lots of great general advice on the craft of writing too. Let me take you on a little guided tour…

Let’s start at the very beginning…
First of all, make your way over the home page. If you’ve got a story, or an idea for a story, first stop is the writing guidelines, to see where it might fit. There are guidelines for all the Harlequin and Silhouette lines, Luna (fantasy and paranormal), MIRA (single title), HQN, Kimani Press (African-American), Red Dress Ink (Women’s fiction), Spice (erotic fiction) and Steeple Hill (Inspirational). Not only are there guidelines for each imprint and series, but tips on how to format your manuscript and how to submit your work.

Ready, steady, go!
The next place to browse is the Learn to Write section. How about writing a book in a year? If you’re one of those people who has always wanted to write a book but never got round to it, or someone who has got the first three chapters done and never got any further, this might be the place for you! Each month there are workshops on different aspects of novel writing – plot, characterization, conflict, voice, sexual tension, editing… And just so you don’t feel all on your lonesome, there is a special section of the online community for you to chat about your experiences and urge each other on.

Once, you’ve got your feet wet, why not try the writing challenges? There are often contests to win a chance to get your work looked at by an editor, and a chance to find out which lines are actively looking for new authors. Talk about straight from the horse’s mouth!

You can also check out the profiles of some of the new authors to see how they managed to clamber their way out of the slush pile, and a further set of articles on subjects as diverse as query letters, publishing terms and proofreading.

Come and join us!
Now, I think the best bit by far of eHarlequin in the online community. Writing can be a lonely occupation and here’s your chance to meet aspiring and published authors and chat about just about anything! The beauty of this kind of socialising is that nobody minds if you turn up in your pyjamas or you haven’t got any make-up on. I’ve made friends from all around the world, including other writers in my home town!

Now, before you jump on in, it’s wise to read the community guidelines and maybe lurk (read messages without posting) just to get the feel of the place.

If you’re serious about your craft, start with The Write Stuff – a board full of threads (discussions on various topics) on different aspects of writing, from grammar to research to the struggling writers club. How about checking out the discussion on writing a good sex scene is currently going on in the Writing Techniques thread?

If you want to chat, try Café Social. There are threads for people with all sorts of interests. If you are interested in writing for a particular line, there are threads dedicated to each one. I was blown away the first time I visited the In The Mood For Romance thread (Harlequin Romance) and realised I was chatting with, and getting advice from, some of my favourite authors! Star struck? Moi?

I'm going to let you in on a little secret - when I decided I wanted to write a book, I wondered if I was insane. What made me think someone like little old me could do something like that? Was I having delusions of grandeur? Serioulsy, I thought that writers were a completely seperate breed of human being. Higher mortals who didn't breathe the same oxygen as the rest of us, but specially-imported, rarified air. But, after spending some time on the eHarlequin community, I realised that many of the other writers were women just like me – busy mothers who were juggling kids, a home and a part-time job – and it gave me the confidence to believe that maybe I could do it too!

So, don't be shy! Come on down for the annual Christmas Open House (December 19th) and introduce yourself!

And, of course, once you’ve worn yourself out reading all the articles, doing the challenges and discussing the beauty that is Hugh Jackman in a towel (a pause, while everyone fans themselves), you can find some great books to read and get them sent to your door. Which is just as well, if you’re like me and you are shopping in your jammies! Or you can buy them in eBook format and not have to wait at all!

If, also like me, you’re not in North America but in the UK, a good place to buy is Harlequin’s sister site Mills& and there is a link there at the bottom of the page to all the different international sites. What are you waiting for? Check it out!

Fiona Harper's next release English Lord, Ordinary Lady, in the shops in February, will be available a whole month early if you get it from or the Mills&Boon website.

Temptation Tuesday :: ‘Tis the Season... of Temptation

Who better to have over for a Temptation Tuesday than an author with a title like...Does She Dare? Talk about tempting! Let's all welcome Tawny Weber, and her decadent list of things to tempt us all...

I love the holidays. The fun of coming up with the perfect gifts, making a wish list, baking up a storm... it’s all wonderful! Best of all is the child-like thrill of wishing for that perfect gift. You know, the one thing you’d love to have but would NEVER get yourself. The ultimate temptation, as it were. So what better to ask you on Temptation Tuesday than this:
What particular temptation would YOU ask Santa for? Here are my options...

Chocolates? Something deliciously decadent to tease your sweet tooth. I’m partial to Sees Nuts & Chews, myself. If only they were calorie free!

Maybe a sleek new laptop? For a writer, there’s no sweeter gift than the gift of electronics! And I admit it, I’m an electronics junkie. But I have no fewer than 5 computers in my house (only 3 are mine, I swear!) so I’d probably skip the laptop this year.

Ooooh, I know! A spa weekend. Massages, facials, mani/pedi adventures! Best of all, the utter indulgence of being pampered! But... ‘tis also the season of family time, so I can’t run off to indulge myself until well into the New Year.

Let’s see... what else could I ask for?
What about a day of reading curled up by the fire? Oh yeah... this one has a HUGE appeal. Especially since my TBR pile is teetering in a scary way. The only drawback? I don’t have a fireplace. Hmm... back to wishing.

Ahhhh, yes! A new pair of Jimmy Choos. The ultimate in sexy footwear, for a shoe addict like me, this is ever-so-tempting!

It’s so hard to choose! Poor Santa, I wonder if his lap gets tired as people sit there, dithering over their perfect wish.

Okay, I’ve got it! In the spirit of the season, I’m going to take a page out of my January release, Does She Dare? and wish for my ultimate fantasy guy!

My ultimate temptation of the season would be Johnny Depp!
I mean, what better gift to ask for than one that can keep on giving the whole year through?
So –that’s the tempting treat *I’d* ask Santa for... how about you? What is the most tempting wish you’d ask for?

Thanks Tawny!! XOXO - The Pink Heart Society

For more about Tawny and her latest release, Does She Dare, be sure to checkout her website and blog.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Male on Monday :: Men Who Can Cook

The reason I bring this up is this...

A few months back, a lovely writing friend of mine by the name of Marion Lennox had a thought. She wanted to put together a book of recipes and short stories created by the gang of us who lunch together so that in a hundred years time we can look back and remember what a great thing we had.

This gorgeous germ of an idea grew and grew and grew until it became “SIZZLE, SEDUCE & SIMMER”, a saucy collection of recipes and matching short stories as created by 26 down under romance authors. And it’s out now in Australia and New Zealand!

One little worry for me in participating in the creation of a recipe book in the beginning was because...

I can't cook. Never have been able. Okay, so I'm exaggerating. There are maybe...four "meals" I can whip up without a recipe when called upon to do so. If I was left to my own devices I could quite happily live on toasted cheese sandwiches, torn chicken salad, omelette and chocolate cake.

So, it’s a no brainer that when I nabbed myself a husband, I found one who could. And not only that, but in many of my books my heroes can do the same. Sticking a hero in the kitchen in an apron may at one time have been seen as girly, but for me, looking through the heroine's eyes as he takes it upon himself to whip up some fantastic gastromical feast, just for her, is about the clincher to any great romance!



Just about the biggest on the planet right about now is one JAMIE OLIVER. Our blonde, boisterous, Brit. He's a charming, witty, ruffled, uber-successful family man with a rough mouth and an even rougher way of cooking. He loves his food, he loves his bikes, he loves his family.

He has a big ego but an even bigger heart as witnessed by his School Lunches campaign and the international series of Fifteen restaurants in which down and out street kids are given a second chance by learing how to cook.

But is he away from home too much for us to believe in a happily ever after?


This guy is an Aussie TV chef and I used to have a huuuuge crush on him. He's adorable, cheeky, has a terribly corny sense of humour and for a girl who can't cook to save her life I used to watch his TV show every day.

He owns a beautiful farm in country Bowral where he grows his own produce and takes cooking classes. The chance to get up close and personal perhaps?

Geoff says: "I hate recipes. They are too rigid and rob you of the greatest pleasures in cooking, that is to be playful and expressive."

Doesn't he sound like fun?


Okay, so he's no international TV personality. But he is a fantastic cook. And he cooks for me almost every night. His father his Italian and his mother learnt how to cook Italian when she married him. Therefore food has always been a big part of his family household.

Fond memories of when we first started going out include the women of the family sitting around the kitchen making panzarotti’s while the men sat outside drinking beer waiting to be fed. I know, I know, it felt very 1950s but there was such history and community and spirit about the whole thing it was sooo much fun!

Going to a family wedding of one of my hubby’s uncles where the aunts did all the cooking so catering literally cost zilch. Can you imagine. How much per head? ZERO! And we all ate until we were sore.

My hubby is one of those cooks who simply grabs ingredients from the pantry, throws them together and comes up with something unique and fabulous every time. Whereas on the nights when he just looks too forlorn and too tired to bother, I jump in with the limit of my culinary skills - microwaved party pies with tomato sauce.

So as I am out there on a bookshelf somewhere with my name on a recipe book, do remember, sometimes it is all about the man behind the woman ;). And every time real romance is less about flowers and chocolates and much much more about the little things your man can do to look after you.

Ally’s current release is Mills and Boon Sweet Romance MILLIONAIRE TO THE RESCUE is available now in Australia & New Zealand!

The hero of this novel, Danny, cooks too! And he washes up. And he plays touch footy with the heroine's kids so she can take a break lying on the grass. Isn't that about as heroic as a guy can really get???

Check out her website for more about the book!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weekend Wind-Down: Tall, Dark and just a little Dangerous

Our columnist Annie West thought long and hard about a suitable topic to tide us over the weekend. After much deliberation she realised that one thing everyone here at the Pink Heart Society has in common is an appreciation of a great hero. As a result, this post is dedicated to the talk, dark, fascinating men that haunt so many great romances.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes but for me there’s none that can beat the archetypal tall, dark, delicious and preferably just a little dangerous. That’s my fantasy hero. I can picture him now looming behind the heroine at some gothic mansion as the mist swirls around them, or appearing (complete with cape) at her window on the night of a full moon. He could be shouldering his way through a crowded regency ball room to single out the only woman who sparks his interest, or swinging off his horse and pushing back his Stetson as he takes in the sight of the woman who’s invaded his territory.

In my own books he’s more likely to be wearing a tuxedo, or prowling around a board table intent on closing the deal of a lifetime, or even welcoming the unsuspecting heroine into his exotic palace.

One thing about Mr Tall Dark and Dangerous – he’s wonderfully flexible. You can take him anywhere and he’s guaranteed to cause a stir. He’s been sighted on the Spanish Main, causing a ruckus in the fleet and sweeping some damsel off her feet. I’m sure I’ve seen him stalking across a Scottish moor with a claymore and tartan. He ventures regularly into the world of urban fantasy, into the corporate jungle and into hands-on roles as detective, firefighter, spy or ultimate warrior.

I grew up reading gothic romances where the hero was just as dangerous as the villain – and the readers revelled in that ambivalence. At school I devoured Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and though I never wanted Mr Rochester or Heathcliff for myself (in real life I think that intensity would wear me out), my little heart went pitter pat nevertheless. I was soon hooked on romance, searching out more recent stories and finding so many fantastic heroes.

But why? What is it about Mr TDD that reaches out to women the world over? Could it be as shallow as great looks and a mighty fine form in a pair of buckskin breeches? Surely not! Though I have to say broodingly handsome does work for me... Ahem, Where was I? Could it be the aspirational aspect? Think of Mr Darcy and his vast Pemberley estate (and yes I do count him as dangerous as he has the power to disrupt Elizabeth’s life and her sister’s so easily). So many of these heroes are wealthy, often in direct contrast to the heroine’s restricted circumstances.

However, there’s much more too it than that. Some of the best heroes don’t have a cent to their name and yet they’re compelling. Nathaniel in ‘Last of the Mohicans’ is a great example (the movie, definitely not the book).

Often these are men of mystery. There’s a sense that they’re holding something back from the heroine, or even from themselves. That impenetrable air can be very sexy if done well. We’re all intrigued by a mystery and a mystery man who’s attractive, powerful and focused on us (er, the heroine) has enormous potential. Instantly we want to know more about him. Who he really is and why he’s like that. What is it he’s hiding?

These men are above all capable, men of action. They excel in their field – whether that’s wearing a mask and righting wrongs (think Zorro or Robin Hood), surviving on deserted islands (think ‘Lost’), saving their country (007 hits the mark every time) or getting his own way when he finally meets the one woman he’ll claim as his.

That’s one of the reasons he can be so dangerous to our heroine. He’s a man used to succeeding, a powerful man. The question then is how far will he go to win the woman he wants? That far? Surely not...

Which brings us to one of Mr TDD’s best qualities. His absolute focus on the heroine. When he meets the woman he wants for himself nothing, absolutely nothing, will stop him from getting her. He may deny his feelings, he may need to save the world first, but there’s no doubting that she’s the one. One of the most seductive things in the world (emotionally as well as physically) has to be a man whose total focus is the woman he wants. The man who will move heaven and earth to save her/win her for himself.

My favourite TDD’s also have a strong code of honour, even if it doesn’t fit the society they find themselves in. They can be wonderful protectors of those they love.

For me Mr Tall Dark and Dangerous has it all – the looks, the terrific physical presence, the power to succeed, the hint of mystery, the aura of danger and an unswerving desire to win the heroine. He even appears time and again in stories that aren’t strictly romances, which surely is testimony to his natural charm.

Do you have a favourite Tall Dark and Dangerous hero? Who is he and what makes him so special? I’ve barely skimmed across his qualities. I’d love to hear other people’s thoughts on why Mr TDD keeps popping up so often, and so successfully.

Some of Annie’s best writing times have been when she's channelling Mr Tall Dark and Dangerous. She thinks he’s the most fun to write except that he has a mind of his own and it can be difficult to wrest control of the latest story from him. If you’d like to investigate his latest incarnation, check out the excerpt from her new year release ‘The Greek Tycoon’s Unexpected Wife’ on her website. You can by the book in January (UK), February (Aus/NZ) and May (North America).