Thursday, June 26, 2008

THURSDAY TALK TIME - V is for Virtual Vacations

Presents Extra/Modern Heat author Heidi Rice joins us today with a Grafton-esque title topic -

V is for Virtual Vacations.

Or rather, how I learned to turn procrastination into an art form and finish my damn book.

I have a little secret. Actually, it’s not much of a secret because I brag about it to everyone I meet. But I think of it as my Thelma and Louise secret. It’s the way I cope with all those crap days when my writing’s going nowhere, the kids are bickering, the laundry’s not doing itself or I’ve just had another killer list of revisions.

What’s my not-so-secret secret?

Every two years I make a date with my best mate Catri and we leave husbands and kids behind and take two weeks off to hit the open road in the US. Catri lives in Kildare, Ireland and I live in London so, barring the odd low-cost Ryan Air flight, we don’t see nearly enough of each other. Those trips keep us sane, reconnect our friendship and give us two precious weeks of being young, free and almost single again. (I love my husband and my boys, but you know what I mean, right?).

Why America? Because it’s the can-do society. It’s got so many different and wonderful landscapes to explore and people to meet and because Catri and I are both mad keen movie fans. For us, being in Monument Valley, or the Great Smokey Mountains, or the Shenandoah River Valley is like being in a movie — of course, on one memorable occasion, we thought we might have ended up in a slasher movie, but that’s another story.

So, what’s so virtual about this – and what’s it got to do with my latest book, The Tycoon’s Very Personal Assistant?

Well, I’ll tell you. To get the maximum enjoyment out of our trips (and to stay sane until the next one comes along), Catri and I do lots and lots of online planning. We check out luxury resorts (which we can’t afford). We investigate possible excursions (like a mule-train trip into the Grand Canyon which Catri totally chickened out of), We salivate over B&B menus and generally live these holidays in our heads and on our computer screens and via email. We rarely book anything because we like to be spontaneous but all that virtual travelling keeps the flame alive and builds the anticipation until we’re practically hyperventilating by the time we meet at the airport. Not to mention providing me with a great form of procrastination in the months leading up to take-off.

Google is our guilty pleasure. our nirvana. Deferred gratification? You betcha.

So, for our trip last October we were planning the heck out of California and at the same time I was trying to jump-start an idea that had totally stalled. Needless to say I went into denial and instead of working on my story, I spent all my time googling cabins in the Redwoods, motels near Death Valley, driving distances from LA to San Luis Obispo and the like. And while I was Virtual Vacation planning — and busy giving that uncooperative manuscript the cold shoulder — I discovered a luxury resort in Big Sur on the Central Californian Coast.
It was breath-taking. Dramatic cliff-top cabins, open fireplaces, hot tubs on the deck, huge four-poster beds, private coves, a luxury spa, a cordon bleu restaurant, the works. And inspiration struck. I thought, I can so see my ex-gambler-turned-hotel-tycoon hero wanting to leave his life in Vegas behind and live here — and driving him wild when he got there would be my heroine Kate, a penniless English girl who’d been caught in her bra and knickers trying to beat down a door in his Vegas hotel.

You see, so far I’d only written that opening hook. Kate wrapped in her bathrobe and a bad attitude being interrogated by a sexy Vegas hotel tycoon — and after that my story was a complete blank, and getting blanker by the day. But once I’d spent a morning browsing the delights of my Big Sur resort all those blank sheets just seemed to fill up and slot into place. Zack’s hopes; his dreams; the traumatic incident from his childhood that had formed him; Kate’s recklessness, her independence and the fear of being powerless that lay right behind it; and even an exceedingly hot strip-poker scene.

Three months later, Catri and I went to Big Sur and watched the sunset over the Pacific with a cold beer in our hands on the deck of our Yurt. (Don’t know what a yurt is? Look up the Treebones Resort on Google. Better yet, go stay there.) And during that holiday I got an email from my editor accepting Zack and Kate’s story (having taken a bit of time out from all my virtual vacation planning to actually write the flipping thing). Holidays, virtual and otherwise don’t get much better than that.

So, here’s a sneak peek of Zack and Kate and the strip-poker game inspired by my virtual vacation in Big Sur…

Kate watched Zack frown at his cards and couldn’t resist a grin. Another bum hand for Mr Poker Man. After trying every seductive trick she could think of in the last twenty minutes his game had gone to pieces.

Pretending to study her own more than adequate pair of tens, she slipped her fingertip under the lacy edge of her bra and ran it down the plump swell of her breast with a lazy sigh.
He swore under his breath.

‘Pair of twos says you take the bra off, now,’ he snapped, throwing the pitiful hand face up onto the rug.

‘Well what do you know.’ Kate waved her cards in his face, savouring her moment of triumph. ‘It appears my pair of tens wins.’ All he had left on were his Calvin Klein boxer shorts. She pointed at the obscenely-stretched cotton, her own sex throbbing with anticipation. ‘Hand over the Calvins, buster.’

‘Not till I get the bra.’

‘Sorry, no can do.’ She flapped her tens at him again. ‘I won.’

To her utter shock, he clamped strong fingers round her wrist, whipped the cards out of her hand and flung them into the fire. ‘Game’s over, sweetheart.’

‘You can’t do that!’ she shouted staring at her winning cards as their edges curled up in the flames.

‘Wanna bet?’ he said, standing up and hauling her with him.

In one smooth move, he trapped her arms behind her back, manacled them in one hand, and covered her gaping mouth with his.

Now if you want to tell me your favourite Virtual Vacation destination (a place you’re planning to visit, want to visit, or just dream of visiting) I’ll pick a winner for a copy of The Tycoon’s Very Personal Assistant — which is my July Modern Heat release in the UK and will be out as a Presents in the US in September.

If you want to read some other Sneak Peeks from Heidi’s books or find out some of the Cool Places she’s visited in the USA and elsewhere go to her website on or her blog on

For more info on other Modern Heat releases and authors there’s also their super-duper joint blog at


  1. My dream vacation is to take a cruise of the Greek Isles. I look at pictures online and just sigh. My husband and I really hope to take this trip...someday.

  2. Hi Cheri,

    Good luck with your Greek Isles idyll, hope you get there some day.

    Should add, there were some pictures with my post but they don't seem to have come out (on my computer anyway). I'm investigating...


  3. Loved the Big Sur story. And, having read your book this week, I can say that you caught the whole aura of the place really well!

    My Virtual Vacation destination? I have two places. Pompeii (I keep using it as a setting but DH hasn't taken the hint yet) and Tromso (because I want to see the Northern Lights). Oh, wait - make that three. Iceland for the ice hotels and hot springs (that sneaked into the book I delivered this week).

  4. Oh cool, Kate, I quite fancy Pompeii myself and it just so happens I've done some Virtual Vacation planning on Iceland because we sent my brother and his wife there as a fortieth birthday present. We found this incredible spa hotel right on the edge of the glacier. Cordon Bleu food, beautiful nordic cuisine and a hot spring apparently although not made of ice. Maybe you could drop a few more hints and I'll send you all the info to sprinkle strategically round the house when your next birthday is coming up....

    BTW, if anyone's interested I posted my piccies on my own blog at for the time being.

    Cheers Heidi

  5. This ThelmaandLouising sounds so much fun, Heidi. In your virtual plan, do you have a move worked out for the night you run into Brad Pitt at some downtown hotel? LOL. Just kidding. I'm sure Brad has too much on his mind now with baby formula and nappy changing to do the downtown trawl. But as you pointed out, can't hurt to dream!

    Now when can I get my hands on this hot little sexy book you've given us such a scintillatin' taste of?

    Afraid I can't come to you, have to wait for it to float over to this side of the planet.
    anna x

  6. I agree with Anna - the ThelmaandLouise thing sounds a blast.. such freedom...
    hmmm. Virtual vacation??? I'm thinking warm (its freezing here right now) - so I'm going with Italy - great food, great art, great music, great scenery, fashion... hmmm, and yes, the scene I'm working on right now? You guessed it - is in Italy!
    Can't wait for the rest of the poker Heidi!

  7. Heidi - I just got your e-mail. Not sure what happened, they all showed up when I loaded your blog. I'll have a peekie now, ok?


  8. Heidi I hope you can view your pics now!

  9. My dream vacation is to go to Australia.

  10. Hi Donna,

    Thanks so much for sorting that out for me. Don't know what happened, but have a feeling it probably has something to do with the cyber gremlin that seems to follow me wherever I go.

    And Anna.

    Funnily enough, Brad Pitt does have a place in my Thelma and Louise fantasy. Crikey, I hope my hubby ain't reading this (or Angelina for that matter! )

    And Crystal,

    So where are you going to go on your dream vacation to Australia? Have you googled any luxury resorts on Rottnest Island or the Cairns Colonial Club...? go for it.

    And Nat,

    So want to read your Italy scene now. Can you give us any more hints....??


  11. Hi Heidi,
    I would love to go to Egypt and visit the archaeological sites at Karnak, Luxor and Abu Simbel. Later we could take a nighttime cruise down the Nile.

  12. Ooh, Jane,

    Now you're talking. I can definitely see some romance novel material in there. I'm thinking hunky Egyptian guy (who just happens to look a lot like Brad Pitt) on the night boat to Cairo...


  13. My virtual vacation would take me to Europe -- Denmark, Scotland, Sweden, Norway,or Finland. I taught World Geography for 20 years in high school(altho I taught 35 years total) and those places always fascinated me.

  14. Oh wow, Heidi, your Thelma and Louise vacations with your best friend sound fabulous!!!!

    As do your virtual vacations! Mine usually include any exclusive 5 star resort around the world, usually somewhere hot...Caribbean, Mexico, Tahiti...lovely :)

  15. Thanks everyone for commenting and giving me an idea of some other Virtual Vacations. Mmm, a luxury resort in the Caribbean sounds right up my street Nic.

    I'd like to pick Ellen as the winner of the free copy of Tycoon.20 years of Virtual Vacation planning in a high school definitely deserves a reward.... If you want to email me at with your snail mail addy I'll post you the book.

    Heidi x

  16. :Robbie fans herself:

    Well, after that snippet, your latest goes to the very top of my TBR pile. I'm in love with him already!

    Good for you, Heidi, and your virtual then real trips with your best mate. Now you have an even better reason to's tax deductible!

    Did someone mention Italy? :sigh: