Saturday, May 09, 2009

Winner from Jillian Burns' blog

Jillian had her daughter draw names from the fish bowl and the winner is

cas2ajs (Cheryl S)

Cheryl can you please contact Jillian and she will post your prize out.

Many thanks to all those who entered

Wildcard Weekend : : Kids in Books

Anne McAllister is helping out with a new grandson and his 20 month old big sister -- and remembering how she multi-tasked raising four kids and writing books

It's Mother's Day this weekend on this side of the pond -- and perhaps other places, too. I'm not sure.

But as many of us are celebrating mother's day this week -- either as mothers and grandmothers ourselves or with our own mothers, I thought it was time to talk about all the kids and babies in romance books.

At first glance there doesn't seem to be very much romantic about kids and babies. They're an outcome, often, of where 'romance' takes couples, certainly. But once they're here, from what I remember the further outcome is usually sleeplessness that has nothing to do with romance at all.

Judging from the dark circles under the eyes and bleary hollow looks I've been getting this past week from my son and daughter-in-law this week, nothing much has changed.

My son actually left the house at 5 this morning to go into the office -- where, he said, he intended to sleep on the couch! But only because he'd been up since before 3 a.m. with the 20 month old so his wife could get some much needed sleep.

So babies, though cute, are not exactly conducive to romantic love scenes. So why are there so many kids and babies in books?

Because they are the promise of an enduring union.

Kids and babies have a habit of making the hero and heroine confront the issues that really matter. They ask our heroes and heroines for maturity, for commitment to family, for responsibility, for selfless love, for devotion to a legacy that will outlast their lives.

With the right answers, we know that our hero and heroine are up to the challenge of making a relationship that will work.

I knew this instinctively 25 years ago though I probably couldn't have articulated it then. But the second book I wrote, Starstruck, had a heroine who was divorced and raising five kids.

Kids were not thick on the pages of books in those days. My editor took a risk on a new writer and a storyline that wasn't common then. She was proved prescient, I think, because the book did very well. A lot of women identified with Liv James and her need to keep things together and put her kids' welfare first.

Liv definitely had trust issues. And my slick and glitzy hero (He was a heart-throb Hollywood actor for heaven's sake!) had his work cut out for him trying to prove himself as potential husband and father material.

She couldn't believe he'd bother. Couldn't imagine why he'd want to. But he did. And in doing so he discovered that deep down where it counted, he wasn't nearly as shallow as he -- and everyone else -- thought he was.

Kids provide the ultimate test.

There are plenty of fabulous books around these days that show the same thing in their own way. In April Liz Fielding's wonderful Secret Baby, Surprise Parents hit the stands. It demonstrates clearly the challenges that sudden parenthood thrust upon Josh and Grace. It asks much more of them than their earlier relationship did.

Lucy Gordon's upcoming Italian Tycoon, Secret Son makes Renzo Ruffini confront responsibilities he didn't count on. The child he didn't know he had makes him take another look at his life, to open up again to possibilities he never expected. It's not only the making of his marriage. In a real way it's the making of him.

I have an entire Waldenbook's triple revolving book display at home. I bought it when a local bookstore consolidated with another one. It's fabulous because it's so compact and currently it has over 700 books in it, most of them romances, all of them 'keepers.' Many of them are romances with babies and kids in them.

They speak to me because, I suppose, I have kids of my own. I remember the sleepless nights. I remember the inane dinner table conversations and the extra-inning baseball games and the countless socks that never ever match. I remember sticky mother's day cards and homemade Christmas ornaments and the visits to the emergency room.

And I always remember the man who stood by me all the way. We both know first hand that babies and kids promise not just sleepless nights, but hope for the future.

In romance fiction they do the same.

They are the promise that a marriage will endure, that the hero and heroine will love each other through thick and thin -- and lack of sleep -- and that the family they create together will make loving honorable strong people of those very children.

Do you have 'keepers' on your shelves that feature babies or kids? What makes them special to you?

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms who are celebrating this weekend.

Anne is trying to remember how to type one-handed while she cuddles the new grandson in the other arm. It's coming back -- slowly.

Her most recent release, Savas' Defiant Mistress, is out in the UK now, and will be released in June in Australia and New Zealand. It was an April Harlequin Presents.

If you missed it on the stands, it's still available online. You can read
an excerpt on her website.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Must Watch Friday: Recommendations?

Donna Alward is back begging...pleading...for some springtime watching ideas!

I sat down to write this post and though, hmmm, what can I blog about? What great movies have I watched? What series is keeping me glued to the telly?

Guess what I came up with. BUPKUS. NADA. ZILCH.

Well, there was The Unit, but I did that one already. Then I thought, hey, what about TWILIGHT? But Heidi beat me to the punch. The truth is, lately I've been doing a lot more reading and spending time outside than watching tv. And what I have been watching are dvd collections (am on season 3 of The Unit right now).

So I'm asking the pros. What should I be watching? Picture me curled up on my leather sofa with a glass of red wine, some high-quality chocolate (or potato chips, depending on the craving) and my big screen. What is going to knock my socks off? What will make me sigh at the end, or get my pulse racing? What will make me reach for the tissues?

I'm counting on you - the alternative is me weeding the garden. Please - save me from myself!

Donna's next book is HIRED: THE ITALIAN'S BRIDE, currently available for presale in print and e-book at eharlequin and the Mills and Boon sites!

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Thursday Tunes: The Soundtrack and other inspirations for Let It Ride

Jillian Burns discusses the music inspiration for her new novel Let It Ride and why sometimes it pays to go to Vegas.

I’m always curious to learn what sparked the idea for a particular book. Over the years when I’ve asked that question of authors, I’ve received answers as varied as, “an article in a magazine”, or “These people I saw in the mall.” Then there’s usually a “What if” moment.
For LET IT RIDE my initial inspiration was a movie called DOGFIGHT starring River Phoenix.
Marines, about to ship out to Vietnam in 1963 San Francisco, hold a contest to see who can bring the ugliest date to the party. The purpose—consciously or subconsciously--is to make sure they don’t get involved with someone since they might not make it home alive. But River’s character ends up falling in love. It’s a wonderfully romantic love story. And I thought, What if a modern day military officer rolled into Vegas and had a similar contest with his buddies? But the challenge was get the “Ungettable” girl instead.
But if I was going to have a hero do such a jerky thing, he’d have to have a really good reason, otherwise he’d be unredeemable. I knew I wanted my story set in Vegas and started researching the city. I discovered Nellis Air Force base is only 8 miles north of the city and that is where an elite team of instructors teach fighter pilots air combat. And that was it. What if my hero were a daredevil fighter pilot who couldn’t fly anymore? An adrenaline junkie who’d lost every outlet for his passion. But one.
My hero was inspired by Eric Bana and I pictured him riding a big Harley and wearing a black leather jacket. Then a few months later, a movie came to theaters called LUCKY YOU.Hey! There was MY hero, in Vegas, riding a motorcycle just like my fighter pilot! I bought the Lucky You soundtrack as soon as I could and listened to it every day as I wrote. The song LET IT RIDE by Bryan Adams was the inspiration for my title.A few other songs made their way into my story’s soundtrack. Chris Daughtry’s CRASHED is my hero’s, Major Cole Jackson, anthem.And WHAT IF YOU by Joshua Radin from the movie Catch and Release was one of the songs I played while writing love scenes.
And purely to put me in a Vegas frame of mind, I listened to the soundtrack from OCEAN’S ELEVEN.
Of course I had to take a trip to Vegas. I’d never been there before and I felt it was crucial to get a feel for Sin City for myself. Purely for research purposes, I promise. (wink) My fave hotel was the Venetian, with the Paris coming in a close second.

I’m giving away a DVD of the movie LUCKY YOU or a copy of my Harlequin Blaze, LET IT RIDE to one random commenter today. Just let me know, have you ever been to Vegas? And if so, which hotel on the strip is your favorite?

Let It Ride is Jillian Burns first Blaze Romance and promises a wild ride of passion set in Vegas!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Writer's Wednesday: Chicken or the Egg?

Jessica Matthews discusses that eternal question --What comes first Character or Plot?

I’ve noticed that people (i.e. non-writers) are fascinated by the mechanics of story-telling and invariably, they ask what comes first in my creative process – the characters or the plot. I’d like to give a resounding simple answer of one or the other, but the truth is, it depends.

On what, you may ask. The short answer is, on the idea itself.

We’ve all met people who had an interesting career/profession or hobby or experience. It may have been someone you met or someone you simply read about in an obscure news article buried on page ten, but there was something about this individual that grabbed you and wouldn’t let go. You simply knew that you had to develop this person into a hero (or heroine). Let me give you an example.

A number of years ago, a local doctor had announced he was closing his practice and leaving medicine. He was in his mid- to late forties, and I remember wondering what would make a physician decide to give up his profession after working so hard over the last ten, fifteen years to achieve his goal. I filed away the idea for future use until one day, I knew it was time to tell his story (or my version, anyway)!

I created Dr Ethan Locke--a physician who’d turned his back on everything he’d worked for in order to find a new place for himself in life. Next, I had to ask myself why he’d make such a choice, so I decided that he’d simply lost one too many critically ill patients, including his own son. And what better plot could I dream up for him than one where he had to choose between hiding himself away or preventing another parent from going through what he did? Out of those ideas, The Baby Doctor’s Bride was born.

Then, there are times when an event, a plot concept or a particular emotion sparked an idea and I could picture two characters in the middle of a particular scene. I didn’t know anything about them, but I knew what they were doing at that given moment. The Royal Doctor’s Bride is a case in point. One scene popped into my head and began rolling like a motion picture—the one where my heroine meets the hero and at the end, suspects that the hero is more than a doctor; he’s a prince. Which made me wonder how she, being an ER doctor in regular, everyday America, would suspect this in the first place! So, I began my research on royal families, asked myself the familiar questions of “why” and “what if”, and let my imagination run wild. Before long, I had my story.

As you can see from my examples, anything and anyone can spark an idea that results in a story. For me, the question of which comes first—characters or plot–is as pointless as debating the chicken and the egg issue because ‘plot’ is simply a series of events or situations that reveal who the characters are deep down inside, where it counts. The two must be woven together so closely that they simply can’t be separated without the story falling apart. Now, when I’m asked which comes first, I simply smile and say “both!”


Jessica loves hearing from readers and can be contacted through her website, She’s currently working on her 30th novel for Harlequin!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Travelling Tuesday: The lure of Venice

Michelle Styles investigates the age old appeal of Venice.

There is a lure in the name, a hint of mystery and magic for Venice is a city like no other. To visit Venice is to step back into a world where there are no cars. Everyone walks or takes a boat. Life proceeds at the sedate pace of a gondola.
The ever changing light on the water ensures that Venice’s mood shifts and changes. As your ears become accustomed to the silence, you begin to notice little things like the sounds of bells echoing across the water, feet tramping over a bridge or even the laughter of children as they play football in a square, using the door of 18th century hospital as one of the goals. And you suddenly realise that it is a place to slow down and relx, to stop and have a cup of espresso and perhaps one of the chambella biscuits, or simply to be.
Venice because of its longevity has provided many things to the world. The words ghetto and arsenal come from actual places in Venice. The Arsenal was a large scale factory for producing ships. Among others things, it meant that Venice was at one time, the largest manufacturer of sail cloth in the world. This in turn meant that artists began to use the cloth as canvas for their painting, rather than paint on wood or plaster. And Venice became one of the biggest treasure troves of art in the western world. Its art and architecture continue to inspire.
Venice also can be over crowded and at the height of the hot summer its canals can be pungent. Pick your time to go, and Venice becomes magical. My husband and I went in early March, and experienced five glorious days of sunshine with relatively few tourists. I understand that November is also good for experiencing an uncrowded Venice.

Of course, even when the tourist season is in full swing, you can find places to get away from the crowds and truly enjoy Venice. Most of the tourists are concentrate in St Mark’s Square and around the Rialto bridge and the Accademia. Other lesser known churches, off the tour guide track yield their treasures up to the discerning visitor. For example Tinteretto’s parish church of Santa Maria della Orto is often uncrowded. When my husband and I went in early March, we were the only visitors. And if you take the number 2 water bus across to San Giorgio Maggiore, it is possible to take the lift to the top of campanile and get a good view of Sat Mark’s, rather than waiting to climb the stairs of the campanile in St Mark’s Square.

Venice is also a city in peril -- many of its buildings are crumbling, and it suffers from the effects of climate change. The Acqua Altes ( or high water floods) are becoming ever more frequent and things like motor boat wakes serve to undermine the city's foundations. But its faded grandeur make Venice all the more special.

Venice is a place where you can walk past ten mask shops before you find a place to buy a pint of milk, but it is also a vibrant place for those who love food. The daily Rialto markets provide a treasure trove of fresh ingredients and even if you are simply looking, you can get an idea of what might be good to order at the restaurant.

The one thing people should do with Venice is to make the time to see it properly and to enjoy the Venetian lifestyle.

One of the things that Venice did for Michelle Styles is to give her a new appreciation of what various Regency aristocracy must have gone through on their return from the Grand Tour. How did they cope? Michelle's latest book, Impoverish Miss, Convenient Wife is avaliable from Mills & Boon. She is currently hard at work on her next Regency romance.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Male on Monday: James Marsden

Medical Author Fiona Lowe talks about James Marsden, a Male on Monday to enchant your hearts.
I’ve been a PHS ‘Male on Monday’ devotee for a long time. I love being able to pop over knowing talented women who get out more than me will have put up a picture of a bloke who might just be inspiration for a hero. But I’ve never thought I would ever actually be given a Monday slot. Truth be told, the idea scared me silly. See, I’m pretty hopeless on popular culture, I don’t watch much TV and I have a terrible habit of re-watching favorite films and re-reading favorite books which leaves me in a lovely but limited world ;-) Many of my hero collage pictures are pulled from menswear catalogues and to quote Jane from Coupling, “ooh is he knitting pattern handsome?’

When I looked at the calendar and saw May 4th was a Monday I got chest pain! Then I thought about my Harlequin Medical Romance author mate, Emily Forbes, and I remembered last year she’d sent me a picture of a guy with a smile to die for. So, I rummaged through the files and found him. THANK YOU, EMILY, and without further ado, I’d like to introduce, James Marsden….or Jimmy as his mates call him.

Who is he? Well, thanks to Wikipedia and IMDH I know LOTS about the gorgeous Jimmy. Born September 1973, he’s American, and grew up in Oklahoma. After a year of studying ‘Broadcast Journalism’ he left college to pursue his acting career. His first job was on The Nanny as Margaret Sheffield’s boyfriend. It seems I would have seen him in season five of Ally McBeal (in the days before I had kids and I got to watch TV) and it was in his role as Glenn Foy that he proved that not only could he act but he could belt out a tune. A CD was pressedJ

He went on to play Lon Hammond Jr in The Notebook, and Cyclops in X-Men, starring with a PHS favourite, Hugh Jackman. Apparently he had to wear lifts as he’s 5’10”, well shy of the 6’3”required by the character.

The first time I recall ever seeing him was in Hairspray (those of you who read my blog know of my younger son’s affection for a musical so of course I’d seen that film) where he played Corny Collins and he sang two songs, ‘The Nicest Kids in Town’ and ‘Hairspray.’ Then I ran into him in Disney’s Enchanted (he was the foppish singing Prince Edward, but he still made me smile)
and then in 27 Dresses where he starred with Katherine Heigl from Grey’s Anatomy. I watched that film on DVD last year with a group of women ranging from 60 down to 12, and we all agreed, Jimmy was gorgeous!

PHS editor, Donna, will be excited to hear that James is a huge fan of the Canadian band, Simple Plan. He’s modeled for Versace and GAP and he’s married to Lisa Linde and has two children. He’s still busy making movies so expect to see him on the big screen in The Box, starring with Cameron Diaz.

As an actor I reckon he’s an all-rounder ….comedy, action, serious and he can SING!

Anyone who has read my books knows that my heroes often have dimples. Why? I’m a sucker for a man with a bone-melting smile. As you can see, James fits the bill very nicely indeed.

Callum Halroyd is the dark-haired smiling hero in Fiona’s latest release, The Surgeon’s Special Delivery which is out in the UK this month and available online in Australia in May and on shelf in June. To read an excerpt and to see pictures that inspired the book visit Fiona at her website.