Saturday, June 14, 2008

Weekend Wind-Down - Saturday Night TV

This weekend, Fiona Harper talks about everybody’s favourite way to wind-down and chill out after a hard week. Put the kettle on, grab some snacks and slump in front of that little magic box in the corner of your sitting room…

Saturday night television is not what it used to be, that’s for sure. As a child I used to love sitting down and watching all those family oriented action shows like the A-team, The Bionic Woman and Starsky and Hutch. They might have been cheesy, but they were good clean fun!

In the UK, Saturday night telly is now dominated by reality shows and celebrity competitions, such as Strictly Come Dancing (the UK’s Dancing with the Stars), Britain’s Got Talent, Dancing on Ice and The X Factor (from the same team as American Idol, but with groups and the over-25s too). And I, like many other millions of people find them absolutely addicted. Probably because I consider myself an armchair expert on whatever field of performing arts is being showcased, whether I have the foggiest clue of what I’m talking about or not.

The varying kinds of talent shows are my favourite, and they fall into two camps: celebrities grappling with a new skill and unknowns fighting for a chance to live their dream, whether that be performing at the Royal Variety Show or landing the starring role in a West End musical.

What makes this type of show such compulsive viewing? I think it’s exactly the same thing that makes a story gripping – the characters. All the things I want in a good book and seek to put in my own writing are there in these shows, if you know where to look. The contestants ('characters', if you like) are thrown outside of their comfort zones and work their socks off to achieve a set goal, stretching themselves beyond their own limits. Who will whine and give up? Who will face the challenges placed before them with grit and dignity? You think you know the answers to these questions when the first show airs, but the answers often take everybody—even the contestants—by surprise.

We're gripped by these shows because we worry about the people, the 'characters', (and I'm sure some editing goes on to pigeon-hole people and make them fit what the producers think is a good role for them) and we worry whether they are going to achieve their goals or see their hopes come crashing down around their ears.

In a good story, the central character goes on a journey, facing obstacles as the stakes getting increasingly higher and they emerge changed, either for the better or the worse. Sound familiar? How many times have you heard judges applaud the competitors on shows like this for having gone on a journey during the competition? It’s not a coincidence that often the most popular person, as far as the public is concerned, is not the consummate professional, who has shone right from the very start, but the rank outsider who has blown everyone away with their dedication and personality while developing a hitherto untapped talent. Of such things are heroes made.

I don’t know a writer who isn’t an avid people watcher, and this kind of programming is a great way to delve into people’s characters and observe goal, motivation and conflict in action, with high stakes and very real consequences. So, next time you flop down on the sofa on a Saturday night and grab the remote, bear in mind that, not only are you getting a nice bit of entertainment, but you’re actually soaking up a bit of research on the side too!

Look out for Fiona's latest release, Saying Yes To The Millionaire - the Summer Bride in the Bride For All Seasons series. To learn more about all the blushing brides in the series, visit our Bride For All Seasons blog!

When cautious Fern Chambers is challenged by a friend to say yes to every question, she never expects to spend four days with dreamy Josh Adams in a charity treasure hunt!

Saying Yes To The Millionaire is available now in stores in North America and the UK and at eHarlequin and Mills&Boon.

And here with MASSIVE APOLOGIES from the Eds for the delay (pesky things deadlines!!!) we have the latest installment of A Book With Biddy... so what has Biddy been up to??? Are those revisions done yet?! Let's see...

Where did May go? One minute it was here and then… poof… gone! I had great plans for May; May was the month of revisions. May was the month of opportunity and layering and deepening emotional conflict. Sadly May ended up being the month of dusty manuscripts and TV interviews. But I did have one break through… sadly it wasn’t until the end of the month but it was quite a fundamental one. I realized that I was trying to both revise AND polish at the same time. Now I am as good at multi-tasking as the next person but these are quite different beasts, well I think they are. One is trying to get the plot and story sense settled, layering in and the other is all final finishing… you know ‘polishing’. And I kept polishing when I should have been paying attention to plot and layering and emotional ‘how’s your father’. But I seem to have figured that out just in time and am now a third of the way through the revision bit and still on for my end of June deadline (maybe.) Now I ask all you in the know out there, how do you tackle revisions?

That explains the dusty manuscript but what about the TV interview I hear you cry… well I couldn’t tell you about May without mentioning my brief flirtation with TV. I was contacted by BBC 4 about a documentary they are putting together on Mills & Boon. I was thrilled! When would this be happening I asked, in my head I was making diet plans to lose a stone, lots of preparation, great new hairstyle… you know the drill. Well it didn’t quite work out like that. I had three days! And there are not a lot of weight loss programmes that work in three days, not even the no-eating plan. So running round panicking I realized:

a) I had no idea how to act when interviewed on TV. I can do radio… somewhat but TV, no!

b) I had nothing to wear!

So I called in the media trainers, commonly known as my sister and her friend Stacey. These two usually media train heavy weight business types (and charge heavy fees for it too!) And I could see why they are successful… an hour and a half later wrung out and brain stuffed to overflowing I had a whole plethora of sound bite answers to all possible questions and also a crash course in body language.

Now I had a) dealt with I moved on to b). This consisted of hitting Thomas Pink, buying a tailored white shirt and a sleeveless jumper (so I could look cool and professional).

And then came the day of filming, I was banging on the door of the hairdressers at 8.30am. I can’t be trusted to blow dry my hair into any semblance of chic and sophisticated, I think this comes from my hair turning curly in my twenties. You see I did all my hair experimentation in my teens when I wanted my straight hair to be curly. I then hit twenty three and suddenly… per-ching… curls! And I only knew how to make straight hair curly, not the other way round. But I digress.

Hair beautifully glossy and styled I leapt in a cab and was whisked to a private members club near Portobello Road and met the production team and the lovely Stella Duffy who was interviewing us. Now Stella is a writer, actress, playwright and general all round good egg. Her task in this documentary was to try and write a Mills & Boon and as a result was going round talking to different people, editors, the curators of the new M&B exhibition and the super fans, of which I was one. Except I realised that compared to some of the fans involved I am maybe a dedicated fan rather than a super fan.

We spent an exhausting two hours chatting about M&B and listening to an extract from Stella’s attempt and discussed it. There were many retakes for wider angles, Stella walking in and greeting us (quite a few times) and also some of us reading aloud from our favourite M&B book (I chose Liz Fielding’s ‘The Bridesmaid’s Reward’). I was asked about my own writing journey which was wonderful to talk about and then to have the super fans eager to read my books when (fingers crossed) they get published.

In between all this our little group gossiped and chatted about everything not just M&B. It was a lovely morning. I’m not a 100% sure that I followed any of my media training but I think I looked ok! We all parted at the front door and with Stella’s words of “Get on and finish revising the book or you’ll have me to answer to!!” ringing in my ears, I jumped in a cab and rushed back to the real world.


You can follow Biddy's continuing adventures at Her Blog - Go get em Biddy!!!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Film Night - Sense and Sensibility

Donna Alward brings us a remake of a Jane Austen Fave....Sense and Sensiblity!

A while back I taped the new Masterpiece Theatre version of Sense and Sensibility. I had my doubts I will admit. I ADORE the Emma Thompson version (wasn't that in 1995, the same year as Firth's Pride and Prejudice? I digress...), so I was worried this wouldn't live up to expectations. No cozy cottage here....good lord, all dismal and dreary on the edge of a cliff. And actors I didn't readily recognize (except Charity Wakefield and Janet Mc Teer). How could anyone possibly live up to Greg Wise's Willoughby, or Emma Thompson's Elinor? Or the meddlesome Mrs. Jenkins?

Well, ladies....move over Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant. There's some new casting in town and it's DELICIOUS.

No one does reticence like Rickman but it was easier to tumble in love with Colonel Brandon in this version. The essence of Brandon was there, but with a sense of gentleness and greatness that was lovely. David Morissey was wonderful. Kate Winslet fell for Brandon because he was a good man. This Marianne fell because he was WONDERFUL. :-) The one she'd been waiting for all along, only hadn't realized it. There were some truly great scenes.

And Hugh Grant...well, the scene where he tells Elinor he is, and always will be, hers, is lovely, but you know every time he was on screen I kept hearing the song Froggy Gone A Courtin'. He always looked so trussed up in his vests and collars.

Enter Dan Stevens. Gorgeous eyes, a ready smile, and hair you just want to SINK your fingers into. He does all the right things, and through it all comes through as a man you'd just like to get to know and share a pint (and a life) with. He was gallant, but he was also young, and with a sense of fun beneath the surface.

Dominic Cooper plays Willoughby. Not my cup of tea but great chemistry with Charity (Marianne). The scene where he cuts her lock of hair...oddly enough, the way he does it and pulls her shawl UP over her shoulders is just as intimate as if he were UNdressing her. It's the little touches...when he shows her his house and their fingers graze on the bannister, it's very sensual.

And Hattie Monaghan (did I spell that right) really grew on me as Elinor.

Thompson's script might have been heavier on the wit, but this was so romantic. Definitely a keeper.

Donna's next release is FALLING FOR MR DARK AND DANGEROUS and is out in hardback this month! Currently she is settling into her brand new home on Canada's east coast.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thursday Talk-Time:: The Anatomy Of A Continuity

This Thursday at The Pink Heart Society Romance author Melissa McClone is here to talk to us about the Anatomy of a Continuity Idea...

Shirley Jump recently wrote a Thursday Talk-Time post about mixing business with pleasure when six friends proposed a six book continuity series for Harlequin Romance. I was one of the six and thought it might be fun to take an insider peek of just how this happened since normally continuity series are thought up the editorial staff, not authors.

On Thursday, June 22, 2006, Shirley emailed the following to a yahoogroup list made up of former Silhouette Romance authors who were invited to submit to the new Harlequin Romance line:
Here's an idea for us here... What if WE proposed a linked series of friends books? We pick a home base city (but one of the characters could go to Australia, for instance, for a vacation or something, so we can write a city we're comfortable with :-), come up with a group of friends for continuity, and then each write a friend's story. I'd like to see us as a group reap the benefits and I think we've all gotten closer here over the past year or so.
I think if WE came to the table with an idea, editorial would be tickled and hopefully go for it :-)

We all agreed it was a fantastic idea, but Judy Christenberry bowed out because she already had too many books to write! The six who were interested decided we wanted to put this together fast and get it out due to other deadlines and projects we all had. Shirley uploaded a first scene she'd written and the brainstorming began. On Tuesday, June 27, 2006, Susan Meier posted this:

So...What if we had a group of women, all of whom go to the same spa, who decide to do something good for one of the spa's employees, who has hit upon hard times.

Say for instance find her a new apartment, build her a house, help with her house or her other kids when one of her kids is in the hospital for an extended period of time, throw her a wedding --

Frankly, throw her a wedding is something that would work because it would take a long time to plan and everybody could have a different part and each person's part could be her book. […]

But when each does her good deed toward the wedding that they are throwing for this wonderful spa employee who can't afford a wedding, they also find their man...

Sort of like no good deed goes unrewarded...That could be our tagline. So we could call it Wedding Belles...making them southern belles...

We all loved the concept. Shirley offered to rework the scene she'd uploaded with the day spa/wedding angle. On Wednesday, June 26th at 4:37 am, Shirley sent this to the loop:

I reworked the first chapter and couldn't seem to make a Day Spa fit into this. Instead, I made them all the Wedding Belles, a wedding planning company, which I think makes it easier. […]

Anyway, give me your take on this. And someone please grab these other women and tell me what you want to do with them :-)

The Wedding Belles were born! It was time to pick which heroine we wanted to write about. There were four in the original scene and we'd need to add two more to make the continuity work for six books. Shirley claimed Callie from the get-go since she'd written the first scene from that character's point of view and this would be book #1 of the series, Sweetheart Lost and Found. Now it was up to the rest of us.

At 5:30 am, Susan Meier wrote: Now...If we're picking, I'd like Diane, the financial gal...except I have a sister named Diane so I'd have to change her name.

This character became Audra and is the heroine of Book #5, Millionaire Dad, Nanny Needed

At 6:57 am, Myrna Mackenzie wrote: Anyway, if no one objects, I'd like Regina. She sounds like a tough one (a married couple? Yikes) and I'm working things up right now, Shirley. I'll try to get that to you today or tomorrow if no one else has a problem with me voting for Regina.

Myrna, author of Book #2, The Heir's Convenient Wife, wrote this when I mentioned what I was going to blog about: That's funny about choosing the characters, so here's an addition, one I don't think I ever mentioned here. When we were choosing characters, I remember thinking "no one is going to want to take the married couple," so I raised my hand and said "I'll write Regina and Delll" or words to that effect (as if they were some poor, ugly puppies at the shelter that I felt sorry for--what kind of a reason is that for choosing characters, anyway LOL). Later, though, when I was struggling to figure out why a couple who had been married for a year couldn't be together but still ended up together I was cursing them myself for awhile.

At 7:36 am, I wrote: Can I have Serena? I already did a wedding planner who didn't believe in happily ever afters (she kept a divorce scrapbook of her clients!) so I'd rather have a character who thought it was possible, but then gets the rug pulled out from under her again. I like the idea of showing her having this boyfriend and then as others get lucky in love, her luck changes throughout all the books until she's the one without anyone.

At 12:50 pm, Linda Goodnight wrote: I could see myself doing the cakes (a heroine with a little extra hip who likes the chocolate ganache a bit too much. No, wait that's me. LOL!) My gal would ALWAYS bring the baked goodies to the Friday night poker game and the others don't know whether to hate her or love her for it. I like tossing babies or single dads in mine, too, so those may be my hooks.

Her heroine ended up becoming Natalie, widowed mom of two mischievous twins in Book #4, Winning the Single Mom's Heart.

At 2:09 pm, Melissa James wrote: I'll re-read the chapter and see what I like - but you know, if nobody else wants it, I could have the original wedding? She could be going through all these doubts and fears (maybe she's Aussie as well - transplanting nations permanently is scary) but they're giving her the wedding of the year and everyone's kinda depending on her...

This heroine became Julie, the beloved assistant of The Wedding Belles. Her story, Book #6 The Bridegroom's Secret, wraps up the series.

In just a few hours, we each had our characters. Not bad for all the different time zones and continents involved. Now it was time to figure out our books. I sent to this loop that same day at 12:08 pm:

Serena James dreams of marrying her Mr. Right. Even though she'd had her heart broken in the past, she hasn't given up on a happily ever after. In fact,she believes she's found her "one". Her boyfriend, Geoffery Oliver, is everything she wanted in a man. She's so certain he is her future husband that she begins designing her dream wedding gown. When her birthday rolls around she's positive she'll be receiving an engagement ring from him. Unfortunately, Geoffrey breaks up with her instead. Now she's alone on her birthday with only a box of tissue and a half completed wedding gown for company. What's a girl to do? All her friends and coworker are finding their Mr. Rights and coupling up and she's the single one. Serena resolves concentrate on her design business and forget about men (especially finding Mr. Right). But when her increasingly popular wedding gowns take her to a photo shoot for a magazine (or something else dress related), Serena meets DANGEROUS BADBOY. He's so-not-the-marrying-kind and her ultimate Mr. Wrong. Or is he?

By 7:43 pm that evening, the story had changed a little:
Still working on my characters' GMC, but here's what I'm coming up with so far plotwise. It's very rough, but I wanted some input before going on and with the time difference I may have it by the time I wake up! Do you think a plane crash is too far-fetched? I just need these two to spend time together somehow and [spoiler deleted], but I wanted to make sure it wasn't too much:)

My story: Belle, realizing the business is in trouble, asks Serena James to take her wedding gowns to a big regional bridal show to publicize Wedding Belles. Serena doesn't really want to go, but she seeks approval and avoids failure at any cost, so agrees. Belle arranges for a pilot (our dangerous bad boy, Kane Wiley) to fly Serena there and back. At the show, the two do not get along for a number of reasons, but the gowns are a big hit so Serena's pleased. On their way home, the plane experiences mechanical difficulties and has to make an emergency landing in the wilderness (where exactly will depend on our setting). The two are banged up and bruised, but otherwise okay. Somehow the plane ends up in a lake, swamp, on fire, in pieces, something...

Anyway, is the plane crash, middle chapters LOST scenario okay with you guys? I think (hope) once I know what makes these characters tick it won't sound so hookie.

Everyone else was doing the same with their stories. We spent the next few days putting together a proposal. The emails flew back and forth at light speed. We had it finished by July 3rd. A few things needed to be fixed, but it was pretty much good to go. On July 4th at 3:20 am, Melissa James posted this about the proposal:

So Kim wants to see it tonight and promised to read within two weeks...are Thunderbirds good to go???

They were, and the rest as they say, is history.

Melissa's contribution to The Wedding Planners is Book #3 SOS MARRY ME!, a June release and on the shelves now. Be sure to visit The Wedding Planners blog where you can enter a monthly giveaway by posting a comment. The pictures of Linda, Melissa, Shirley and Susan are from the 2007 RWA conference in Dallas.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Writers Wednesday : : Out of control

Anne McAllister, no stranger to messy middles, talks about what happens when the whole book unravels . . .or worse.

We talk a lot about ideas and inspiration and such. And that's all well and good. But eventually, you know, you have to write The End.

Even if you don't write it, you have to get there.

You have to Fin-Da-Boo, line up the ducks who've been milling around your manuscript for weeks or months or maybe even years, kick them out of the house and call it quits.

It's the goal, after all.

Well, maybe getting published is the goal. But it's a goal you can't control all by yourself. That takes two. You and someone who wants to publish your book.

And that part of the equation is not entirely up to you. You do the best with your part and then it's out of your hands.

But what about while it's still in your hands and it seems to be slithering through your fingers or bouncing away down the hall? In other words, what do you do when you're still in control, but you don't feel in control at all?

There are a few things to look at that might set you back on track.

Go back and re-read everything you're written simply as a reader. Send your Inner Editor out grocery shopping with a list as long as her arm. Or shut her in a box and nail down the lid. This time through is just for you to enjoy your story and your characters, to remember why you were excited to spend months with these people in the first place.

This is where you put away the red pencil. This is where you put away all your pencils and just read. Right now you want to experience your story as a reader would.

And after you have, go for a walk. Or put your feet up and think about what your original spark was. Does your book capture it? Does it depart from it in a way you are happy with?

The answer to that may help you either change your direction or give you the impetus to continue on down the path you're going down.

Think about what parts you zipped through. What made them so appealing? Consider what parts you slogged through? Why did you? What made them slow?

And finally, what parts did you skip?

Anything you skip, you might as well delete. If you're skipping it, your readers will, too.

When you finish that, you should have a sharper cleaner manuscript that gets you somewhere -- even if only to the middle of the book.

If it got you all the way to the end, more power to you. Polish it up and send it off.

But if you're stuck, go back and think about your characters this time. Do you know them well enough to know what they'd do given the situation you've thrown them in?

I'll admit up front that I'm very much a character-driven writer. When I get hung up, it's often because I haven't put the screws to my characters hard enough. They're keeping more secrets that they haven't shared yet.

Those secrets are almost always in the backstory or in the earlier part of the book. Not spelled out. God forbid your characters should be so helpful as to tell you anything straight out. No, you'll probably have to get out the thumb screws, too. Or bribe them. Or write morning pages for them. Or drag in all their relatives and grill them until someone spills the beans.

Or maybe it's not a secret.

Maybe you just don't know their lives well enough.

When I was writing The Eight-Second Wedding some years ago, I needed to know the exact order in which my bull rider hero and my PhD candidate heroine went down the road from rodeo to rodeo during the months of June and July. Until I knew it, I didn't have the structure to hang my story on.

Finding out what I needed to know -- closing a bar with a rodeo cowboy -- gave me the push that got me going through the part of the book that had, until then, stalled.

So if your characters are keeping secrets, maybe they're just waiting for you to learn more about their day to day lives.

Or not.

Sometimes it just doesn't work. You've re-read. You've pondered. You've used the thumb screws. You've taken out a subscription to Mercenary Soldier or Harper and Queen. You've picked the rodeo cowboy's brain. You know everything there is to know -- except your book is dead on page 126 and nothing will revive it.

Been there. Done that.


So what did I do?

I started over. In one case I began an entirely new book. I felt sure the people in the old book did have a story to tell and it was close to where I was, but I wasn't going to get there by the deadline.

Happily at that point another couple waltzed in just about that time and with none of the angst and uproar of the first couple, proceeded to write their own book in a matter of weeks.
When I got back to the first book, several months later, I re-read the story to that point, thought to myself, "Well, of course. . . " and continued straight on.

What happened? God knows. I certainly don't. But all of a sudden the characters knew what to do and took me with them.

This is an argument against over-thinking characters, I suspect. Anyway, it worked.

In the second case, I had a terrific synopsis, worked a treat. I thought so. My editor thought so. But apparently Charlie and Cait, whose story it was supposed to be, didn't think so.

They refused to go beyond page 30. We didn't even get to the middle. We got to the pool table in the Dew Drop Inn in Elmer, Montana, and we'd be there still, balancing quarters on the edge and waiting for someone (anyone!) to come up with a line of dialogue, if I hadn't finally offered to find them a different story.

I did. Completely re-thought it -- how they'd met, when and where, what their backstory really was. Much of it changed. I actually killed off my hero (which now that I think about it is probably significant), then brought him back to life because he had unfinished business in this one.

My characters stood up and cheered. They said, "Yes, that's our story!" They also said, "What took you so long?"

Again, God knows. But the other story is still here, waiting for the people it's apparently really about. I wonder when they'll turn up.

The moral of this is -- there are as many ways out of a messy middle as there are books. Sometimes it's the people, sometimes it's the story. Sometimes it's time to start a different story all together.

The important bit is to keep writing. Keep turning up at the computer. Keep playing with the characters. Don't stop the brain cells turning over. Don't wed yourself to one way of doing something. Even your most favorite scene might be the problem you need to get past.

Be open. Don't panic. You'll finish.

It will happen. If you persevere, trust me, it always does.

Anne is in the happy position of having finished one book (with NO revisions! Yea!) and not yet having really started the sit-down-and-get-to-work part of the next one. So she is spending a lot of time staring at handsome men trying to find the perfect hero. She thinks she's found the right one for the next book. You can see him on her blog.

If you haven't read
One-Night Love Child, which came out in March, there may be copies still kicking around somewhere. She'd love it if you tracked one down.

And keep an eye out for
Antonides' Forbidden Wife coming from Mills & Boon Modern in November, 2008 and Harlequin Presents in January, 2009. She also has a reprint coming out in a By Request in October called His Child (with Sharon Kendrick and Catherine Spencer), but so far no one has told her whose child (or book) it is!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Temptation Tuesday:: Location, Location, Location...

This Tuesday at The Pink Heart Society we are pleased to welcome Harlequin Romance author Barbara McMahon, who is here to talk to us about... Location, location, location

When I first started writing, ages ago actually, I tried to incorporate the setting of the novel as an integral part of the story--almost another character if you would. I did oodles of research, visited whenever I could, and really tried to get the feel of the place integrated into every aspect. It’s important to me that a reader can identify with a locale and feel part of it as she immerses herself into the story. I don’t want the flow to be interrupted while a reader struggles to imagine what the setting is.

Since Harlequin Romances are distributed in a world market, I try to keep in mind that not everyone is familiar with the same places I am. If a woman lives in a small town in Norway, can she easily envision and relate to the arid land of Arizona in summer? If a reader lives in Japan, can she relate to written words describing Key West in Florida? The world had grown smaller in many ways with the universality of television shows and the Internet. So the answer is--maybe.

To seamlessly integrate setting to me means painting pictures in people’s minds that clearly gives them the visual aspect as well as the feel of a locale. It’s harder to describe Manhattan, Kansas, to someone who has never been there, than it is to describe Manhattan, New York. There are large cities in almost every nation, so people have a concept of that and can easily relate. Small town America is different from a small village in Andulucia. Activities on a ranch in Wyoming are vastly different from working in a bakery in Tuscany.

In an attempt to make it easy for readers to picture the locale, I try to use places I think have a universal appeal. I love San Francisco, it’s my favorite city. And not just because I once lived there. I also love New York, but for different reasons. And London and Rome. Japan is a favorite country of mine. When writing a book set in what is to me a foreign location, I usually use places I have visited. No amount of study from books or the Internet can substitute for the vibrant feel of a place.

Over the years, I’ve gradually changed in how I approach a story. Now I focus more on the interaction between the hero and heroine, but location still plays a role. A captain of industry would be out of place in a small town in Wyoming. Is that the situation I want to create? Sometimes a “stranger in a strange land” is the exact situation I’m striving for. Other times, it just isn’t right. Most dynamic businessmen live in dynamic major cities--such as London or New York. The west coast sensibility is different from America’s east coast, and I try to play that up as an aspect of the book. So in the end, the people in the book reflect where they live. There may be a universal appeal, which I do hope is true, but the setting influences their lives.

One dream for many harried Americans is to move back to a small town, embrace a more tranquil life. Reality is quite different. It can be too quiet if a person is used to amenities a large city offers. But this dream is not necessarily that of everyone--even in America. A woman in London may fantasied more about traveling then moving to a bucolic prairie town. A woman in Paris may wish to move to the Riviera. Actually, some American women fantasize about moving to the Riviera. I try to keep all that in mind when writing. I want the book to have as much appeal to everyone as possible.

So as a reader, what do you think about location? Does it matter at all? Do you like to read about places you know, or about locales you have never explored? Do you want the setting to be integral to the story, or is it merely a place to have them live, but the real action is in the conflict, motivation and ultimate goal of the protagonists? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Barbara's latest release for the Romance line is The Pregnancy Promise and it's out RIGHT NOW in the USA, Canada, the UK and Ireland.

To find out more about Barbara and her books you can visit her Website

Monday, June 09, 2008

Male on Monday - Ignancio 'Nacho' Figueras

This week our Natasha brings you a Male on Monday to set your pulses racing .....

I was 'googling' deserts, as you do, and I happened across a Ralph Lauren advert which, naturally, led me to YouTube. A few more Ralph Lauren YouTubes and I discovered Ignacio 'Nacho' Figueras. Definitely one for the files, I thought.

I was feeling particularly smug but then I discovered India Grey had already found him and has nearly finished a book with him as her inspiration. You'd have thought she'd share, wouldn't you????? With friends like that .... :)

But, well, here he is.

While you may recognise him as the face of Ralph Lauren's Polo Black fragrance his 'day job' is as a polo player for the award-winning Black Watch polo team, based in Palm Beach, Florida and Bridgehampton, New York. Oh and he breeds horses, too.

And, actually, he's quite a difficult subject for a Male on Monday because everything you read about him on the web varies. I'm not even sure I have his date of birth right! But, then, in the world of the romance author that really doesn't matter.

So here goes ...

Born to an affluent family in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Nacho was introduced to the polo at age 8 (although it could be 9) by his father, an environmental engineer and polo enthusiast. By 17 he was a professional. It's a dangerous sport and Nacho has had a broken nose, broken collarbones, a concussion and 25 stitches so far ..

Birth Name: Ignacio Figueras
DOB: May 25, 1977
Relationship: Wife Delfina Blaquier

Children: son (although some sources say a girl) Hilario and daughter Aurora
Height: 6'1" / 185 cm
Shirt: 15.5 X 35
Waist: 33 / 83
Inseam: 34 / 85
Suit: 42L
Shoe: 10 / 43
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Brown

It's always useful to know a man's inseam measurement. :)

And, really for Trish because she judges a man by how he sits on a horse, here's another YouTube. Worth it for the rest of us because you can hear him talk!

2.55 minutes well spent!! What do we think??

Much love

Natasha's latest Harlequin Romance Wanted: White Wedding is on the shelves in Australia now. It's available in the UK here. And in NA here!

Romantic Times Magazine says: 'Natasha Oakley's Wanted: White Wedding (4.5) has its share of deeply touching moments, but what makes it stand out are the humor and the wonderful characters.'

You can find out more about it on her website and you can hear her moan about her sheikhs and other assorted disasters by visiting her blog.

Her contribution to the Niroli series, 'The Tycoon's Princess Bride', is available here and won the Romantic Times Magazine Best Presents of 2007 and is nominated for a RITA®.

'Crowned: An Ordinary Girl' has finalled in the National Readers' Choice Awards.