Saturday, October 04, 2008

Weekend Wind down :: Is it possible?

This weekend, mum and writer Ally Blake wonders if there really is such a thing as a weekend wind down, and if there is, how she can get one!

So, it's the weekend. I hear the words and I think lazing about on a sunlounge in the backyard with a Harlequin book on hand. Because once upon a time that's what my weekends used to be about. Years ago. Many many years ago. So many if must have been another lifetime.

Now my weekends are about lists.

The Shopping List:

Groceries galore. And the minute I get home I’ll realize I’ve forgotten something and have to start a new list. Baby stuff. Nappies, always nappies. Wipes. A new sip-a-cup a mum at Mothers Group swore by. Ooh, and isn’t Target having 20% off kids’ clothing this weekend?

The To Do List:

The fruit and vege purees I need to cook and freeze for bub for the next week. The PHS birthday book giveaway I have to post. The tax hubby and I have to sit down and complete when bub’s asleep so we can use every inch of lounge room floor for scraps of paper.

The Work List: Email web host about a gremlin in the machine so another weekend doesn’t go by before I get an answer. Transcribe notes for the course I am taking at the Victorian Writers Centre in a couple of weeks before they get lost in the fuzzy recesses of my mind. Downloading words I have written on the Alphie this week so I don’t accidentally lose the lot. The PHS posts I have coming up…surely I can get a month ahead if I grab an hour on Sunday ;).

And then there’s my poor hubby, looking forward to a sleep in, a bit of time lazing in front of the telly after working all week. Ah, nope! ‘Cause who’s gonna look after my energetic little crawler while I’m doing everything else!

So, please, if anyone else out there really does have a relaxing weekend planned, keep it to yourself ;).

This month Ally has TWO, yes TWO books out in the UK!! HIRED: THE BOSS'S BRIDE is a Romance, and is also out in North America right now. A NIGHT WITH THE SOCIETY PLAYBOY is a Modern Heat which will hit US shores in November.

And if anyone else has a beautiful blank weekend ahead, she hopes they might get to enjoy lying back and reading one of those!

Check out more news behind the books at her website and her blog.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Friday Film Night - Wedding Videos!

OK. So they aren't anything you can rent from the video store, but this week Pink Heart Society editor Jenna Bayley-Burke is taking over the Friday Film Night slot to celebrate something every romance reader can't get enough of -- wedding videos!!

Wedding videos have come a LONG way. I remember when they were just a video camera set up on a tripod, capturing footage that should have been edited...but never seemed to be. Still, we watch the videos even though the quality doesn't hold up to our current digital age. It's not clarity we're looking for after all, but glimpses of loved ones who've passed and the chance to show our memories to those who weren't there to share them.

I love watching different ceremonies, seeing what new and old traditions people chose to weave in. I was fond of when the parents of the couple lit a candle and the couple used that to light their own candle...until I saw my neighbors wedding video -- their parents blended wine for them to drink.

A slide show of pictures of the couple that plays during the reception is a favorite and for good reason -- everyone loves it! Who doesn't like seeing pictures of cute kids? Plus it gives the guests and those watching the video a chance to picture what the babies to come will look like!

Wedding videos are a must, if only to capture the toasts. I've never seen macho best-men blubber more than when doing the toast at a buddy's wedding. If it wasn't for the video proof, no one would believe it.

Watching one video is never enough. After watching my neighbors, I was compelled to bring out my own, my girlfriend's, my just wouldn't stop! And you know what? I feel fantastic. There is just something about a wedding...


Jenna is working on her latest for Modern Heat - so far it has cake, champagne and moonlight. In the meantime, Par For The Course is out, with car sex, an interesting approach to learning to golf, and a love story hazardous to your hankie supply. Oh, plus exploding toads.. Check out Jenna's website, or blog.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Thursday Talk Time - Cheryl St. John

This Thursday we welcome Cheryl St. John - with novellas and Christmas and babies, oh my!

Sometimes when I’m invited to write a novella, I pull out my binder of story ideas that haven’t come together and plots that didn’t pan out for a novel-length book. I select something that sounds fun and then I work in the theme. When I was invited to be in this Christmas anthology with Carolyn Davidson, she had chosen “babies” as the connecting theme. I didn’t have an idea waiting.

The first thing that came to mind, however, was that I wasn’t satisfied with one baby. Oh no. I had to have two. Twins.

Now how do you give single characters babies? Well, you either have to kill off their spouse or give the heroine a cad lover who ran off or spring someone else’s baby on them. But what about an emotional connection? This person with the babies needs to be passionate about loving and wanting them. Ah ha. Family. And from there I came up with Gabby Rawlins, a misfit with a devil-may-care cousin who is her antithesis. Willow is obsessed with an outlaw lover, to the point of chasing him across the country while pregnant. Concerned, Gabby follows her cousin all the way to Ruby Creek, Colorado, where a stubborn blacksmith has discovered two newborns in his stable. Oh yeah. Turner Price is a brooding sexy alpha male. Need I say more about him?

But back to the babies. What was I thinking? One baby is a challenge in a romance; two were even more difficult. Which is which and where is each one in the scenes where they appear? New mothers out there know how tough it is to care for one newborn. Some of you might know about twins. But in primitive conditions—there were no Pampers or baby wipes—and with a budding romance to orchestrate? Well, it wasn’t easy, but writing A BABY BLUE CHRISTMAS sure was rewarding in the end.

Photographs always inspire me, so I search for photos that capture the essence or the spirit of the story or I find a character or something that portrays the theme. For this story I found a picture of a main street in a small town. Locations and setting take on a personality for me, and this town was no different. Ruby Creek had a personality I wanted to revisit, so I’ve already proposed a book in the same setting for a story I’m calling HER MAKE-BELIEVE HUSBAND. (Just a little teaser there.)

The first thing I did when I got my author copies was to read Carolyn and Vicki’s stories to see how they handled their babies. I do declare I am in good company with these ladies and their holiday stories. THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS anthology is an October release.

Read an excerpt and order a copy here:

Congratulations to EVA who has won Lee Hyat's fabulous wind-up birthday prize!

Eva, if you could drop us a line at with your mailing address, we'll pass it on and your prize will be in the mail!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Writer's Wednesday - Pink Heart Travels

An important part of writing is taking time to fill the creative well...and meet with other writers. This Wednesday the editors bring you a taste of where their wandering feet have taken them this summer!

Nicola Marsh had to make do with a research trip and a conference. Cape Schanck's on Bass Strait and the only thing standing between it and Antarctica is Tasmania so you can imagine the biting winds and the frigid temperatures. She didn't get to see the lighthouse...which she really, really wanted to see. And then she says.... "Oh well, there's always summer." Which is a really stark reminder to those of us in the other hemisphere that our seasons are opposite and summer is WINTER!

But she did make it to the RWAus conference looking very glam indeed! Here she is with Medicals author Fiona Lowe.

Our world-wide traveling winner this year has to be Trish Wylie. She made it to New York. But she also turned into a real California girl when she hit not one...not two...but THREE fab destinations.

There was Comic Con in San Diego.

There was shmoozing, sleepless nights, and bags of fun at RWA Nationals Conference in San Francisco.

And then there was...well, naturally - HOLLYWOOD.

Atta girl, Trish!

Ally Blake and Donna Alward had something in common as they both ended up at family weddings. Ally was dressed in her finery for her sister's big day, and Donna attended her mum's wedding. (By the way, Donna still thinks it's cool that her mum got remarried at 75! Go Mum!) Here are Ally and Donna celebrating with family:

Ally also hit the Aussie conference with Nic...and really never has work been so fun than when you can get together with other writers in such a fabulous location. The pics of the hotel are STUNNING. Here's Ally with some familiar faces!

What else did Donna get up to? Well, after her big move, Donna didn't wander too far. But she LOVES daytrips, so she took the kids to Grand Pre in Nova Scotia...a national historic site dedicated to the expulsion of the Acadians in 1755. The grounds are beautiful and the day was gorgeous: here's the church.

Jenna Bayley-Burke had a "staycation" with her family - sticking close to home for bags of fun. Who needs to travel when you can do this?

And technically classed as "work"...booksignings at the beach sound pretty good too.

Finally we have editor Natasha Oakley who took a well deserved trip to France with her family for summer holiday. Traveling to Normandy, the Loire and the Dordogne ...well the pictures just speak for themselves.

Oh my gosh...doesn't it make you want to jump on a plane?

Where did YOU go this past summer???????????

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Temptation Tuesday - Writing Friends

Today columnist Kate Walker joins us with a wonderful post on one of the loveliest things about writing - Writing Friends.

I’ve just spent a wonderful weekend in the company of two of my favourite people in the world – Michelle Reid and Anne McAllister. Two of the special friends that this writing career has brought me as an unexpected, but so valued extra bonus from doing this weird job of writing romances. Anne flew in from America, we (that’s the Babe Magnet and me) drove to Manchester airport to meet her and then we drove further North to Michelle’s lovely home overlooking the sea.

We started talking from the moment of ‘Hello’ at the airport – or the garden gate in Michelle’s case - and we talked and talked and talked, pausing occasionally for sleep . . .we were still talking when we had to be practically dragged apart in order to get home or get Anne to catch a train to her next destination. We talked about books, about writing, about heroes, about heroines . . .plots, dreadlines, word counts . . . Between us we have perhaps -eek – 55 years in the writing world. So we have a lot of things to share, to look back , to look forward to.

But we didn’t just talk about writing. We are each individuals and we have such very different life experiences. We also live in very different parts of the country and have very different interests. And being writers, we’re interested in each others’ interests . . . Writers are always greedy to find out, about things, about history, about psychology, about people. It’s what feeds our imaginations after all, fills up the well for the next story we have to write.

And because we all know such different things, we bring new things to each other – or, as so often happens, they bring new ways of seeing things we already know about to us and we venture into something new and intriguing as a result. We make new discoveries by showing our friends things that are commonplace to us and so open new windows, shine new lights on to things that were so famililar we had perhaps almost stopped seeing them.
As an example – Because Anne had never been in that part of the country before, we visited Cartmel and wandered round the beautiful Priory there. To Michelle, this was familiar territory, and I’d been there once or twice before. One of the things that had always intrigued me – and sparked off my novelist’s curiosity – was a particular memorial set on the church wall. A sad, poignant memorial that brought tears to my eyes in the same moment as it made my curiosity itch to find out more.

The inscription reads ‘In memory of Charles the only and beloved child of James and Sarah Goring whose opening life of bright promise was suddenly closed by a most lamentable occurrence on 11th May 1843 in the 9th year of his age.’

It can’t stop there, I’ve always thought. A most lamentable occurrence – What? How? I’ve been intrigued by this for so long – but this time Anne showed me a ways to discover more about it. Her fascination with genealogy give s her knowledge of census records, death certificates etc. So before I knew it we were investigating what the records of the past showed us, and learning more. I don’t yet know what happened to poor little Charles – I’m waiting for his death certificate to find out that. But I learned so much more about him – where he lived, who with . . . a whole new dimension to this intriguing story.

Because that’s what friends do. And writer friends do it so specially well. They spark of ideas, open windows, plant seeds that can grow into wonderful stories, create tendrils of imagination that will sprout and grow and wander in who knows what directions.

I’m talking about Anne and Michelle this time – but it could be anyone – our own Trish Wylie and Abby Green who had revived my passion for Ireland and reminded me of my family’s roots there. Kate Hardy who spends hours talking history with the Magnet so that all I have to do is listen and learn. Holly Jacobs whose fascination with the differences between American English and English English makes me want to look at my own language all over again.
And these are just a few of the people who come to mind when I think of the friends spread far and wide that I connect to by the internet and occasionally, wonderfully, and never for long enough, in person. There are dozens of others. I’ve been very very lucky in making the friends I have.

It’s often said that a writer’s life is a lonely and isolated one but there are many compensations for that in the quick and easy contact that the internet gives us. Because no one really understands a writer like another writer. We are all so much the same in so many ways – and yet so very different in so many others. That’s what makes our writing unique and special – and so very different. And it’s finding out about the similarities and the differences that makes these particular friendships so rewarding.And so tempting. Because once we start talking about writing then it can be hard to stop,. There’s always so much more to debate, so many different ways of looking at things.

And then there are the books – because a book by a friend is always so tempting. Because friends’ voices sound clearly in their work, giving it an extra depth and fascination that is missing in even the most wonderful book written by someone you don’t know.

So I’m sitting here with staring at a pile of books, the authors of which are all known to me. I want to know what Michelle, or Anne, or Abby or Trish or Donna or Liz . . . has written this time. And those books are tempting me away from my own WIP, whispering promises of new discoveries and new lights on even the familiar, well trodden paths of romance. I’m going to have to resist for a few days more until this book is off my desk and on my editor’s – but then I’m going to settle down and indulge. And although my weekend with my friends is over now, once I open their books and start to read, I know I’m going to recognise their voices and it will be almost as if they’re back with me again and I can hear them talking to me in their words.

Kate's latest book, Bedded By the Greek Billionaire is on sale now in the UK (M&B Modern) and will be out in the USA in Presents in November. Romantic Times called this book "a delicious melodrama full of dizzying emotions as the reader goes along with the highs and lows as this couple finds each other again," and they also selected it as one of their Top Picks for November.

...As a big wind-up to our birthday celebrations, Lee Hyat from TOTE BAGS has offered up a WONDERFUL prize. All you need to do is leave a comment today, and one lucky person will win:

The Sheik and the Christmas Bride (SSE) – Susan Mallery

Having Her Boss’s Baby (SSE) – Susan Mallery

Millions To Spare (SSE) – Barbara Dunlop

Overheated (Nascar) – Barbara Dunlop

The Tycoon’s Virgin (HPresents) – Susan Stephens

Desert King, Pregnant Mistress (HPresents) – Susan Stephens

UNDRESSED, A Blaze anthology - Vicki Lewis Thompson, Suzanne Forster, and Alison Kent.

A huge thank you to Lee and these authors for the amazing prize!

And...a big thanks to ALL the guests who participated in our birthday celebrations...and to our readers, for keeping us going, and for loving reading category romance as much as we love writing it!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Our Birthday!

PHS Ed Ally Blake is finishing off the last crumbs of cake on the leftover plate in the fridge if you want to join her!

So our second birthday month is coming to a close. I'm feeling a little worse for wear; somebody kept filling up my champagne glass when I wasn't looking, I ate far too many salt and vinegar chips, and I slept every night on the Li'l Pink Dancing Guy's fold out couch so I woulnd't miss any of the fun.

Did you celebrate Hugh Jackman Day? If not go here, check out the comments and see who posted your fave pic of our handsome mascot.

Did you go in the draw to win a signed book? Yes? Yay you!! Happy reading! No? Well that's why you have to visit every day and read all the way to the end of the post to find out how ;).

Thanks to everyone for your lovely personal wishes on our biffy, to those authors who joined in the fun and gave our guy piles of pink pressies, and a big smoochy kiss and Happy Birthday to the Li'l Pink Dancing Guy. I've started saving for next year's birthday gift already!

Ally's first Harlequin Presents THE MAGNATE'S INDECENT PROPOSAL is out now in North America.

Readers have called it "sizzling", "addictive", "warm", "wicked" and "the funniest book" they've ever read. It's been a Waldenbooks best seller two weeks running and Romantic Times rated it a TOP PICK! How nice are they???

Now...Ally's got her own prize for the Pink Guy pop over to HER BLOG to see what she's offering up! And you can win a prize for yourself as well - your choice of one of her newest releases - she has THREE this fall!

Come back tomorrow for our final present to wind up celebrations - the ever generous Lee Hyat is donating a whole BAG of books! You're not going to want to miss it!