Friday, June 19, 2009

Wildcard Weekend: Those handymen in our lives

Missy Tippens celebrates Father's Day by honouring the handy and not so handy men in her life.
I’m so thrilled to be with the Pink Hearts today! And since Father’s Day is tomorrow, I had to talk about the men in our lives and in the books we write and read. The men who are our real life and fantasy heroes.

In my bio, I talk about my husband being my hero, even though he’s not very handy around the house. Which is always a big joke around here. My dad can do anything—build and repair furniture, electrical work, plumbing, auto work and on and on. But my poor husband. He is NOT gifted in any of these areas. He likes to say God blesses other people with talents so he can hire them to come use their gifts to do our repair and maintenance. :)

And my favorite part of his inability to do these things is when he tries and actually has a bit of success. He comes in flexing his muscles, singing “Handy Man” by James Taylor. (Hey, baby, I’m your handy maaaan.) It just cracks me up when he has a measure of success and acts so proud. You have to love a man who’s secure enough to make fun of himself. :)

In my June release for Steeple Hill Love Inspired, His Forever Love, my hero is a self-deprecating kind of guy. He’s this brilliant physicist, but he grew up feeling like (and treated like) a geek. And the poor guy comes home and finds he once again bumbles around whenever he gets near the heroine—who happens to be his big crush from childhood.

I guess I may have modeled this guy a little bit after my husband (and didn’t realize it until writing this blog!). No wonder I loved this hero so much and wanted him to find his happy ending. Ahhh…there’s nothing like a story where the resident nerd gets the popular girl and lives happily ever after.

I’ll be giving away a copy of His Forever Love today from among those who comment. So please leave your contact information! (Or you can email it to Missy Tippens and put Pink Hearts in the subject line.) Also, be sure to tell us about the special men in your life! I’ll be at a meeting and book signing today. And just got word that a critique partner made her first sale!! So we’re going out for dinner to celebrate. Woo hoo! But I look forward to checking in later to find out about your heroes. What makes a man a hero to you?

Missy Tippens’ hero hubby provided lots of childcare and moral support for the 10+ years she pursued her dream. She finally made her first sale of a full-length novel to Steeple Hill Love Inspired. Her debut novel, Her Unlikely Family, was a February 2008 release. Her next, His Forever Love, is on the shelves now! It will be followed by A Forever Christmas in November. You can learn more about Missy at her website.

Must-Watch Friday - On the Waterfront

Modern Heat author Heidi Rice goes all retro and comes up with a ground-breaking story of labour relations on the New Jersey docks which also happens to have a powerful, poignant and provocative romance at it's heart featuring Marlon Brando in his prime and the beautiful Eva Marie Saint. 

All right I'll admit it, I wasn't originally planning to do my favourite film as a Pink Heart movie because it ain't exactly a chick flick. I actually had Dirty Dancing all keyed up and ready to go - with a great blog about bad boys, curly perms, young love, Patrick Swayze's naked chest and 'not keeping Baby in a corner', etc - only to discover that Ally Blake had beaten me to it three years ago!!

So, with a great big hole to fill and no time to watch another movie I decided to push the envelope a bit and go with a now little seem black and white social drama that I absolutely adore - I can still quote whole scenes of dialogue from it (because I'm a bit nerdy like that). It's not a romance, but it has at its centre a love story that is so real and so beautifully evoked in only a few scenes it's bound to touch your hear. Plus it's performed by surely the greatest film actor of all time (long before he became the size of a small semi-detached house) and an actress who is not only luminously lovely but also sadly underrated IMHO.

Now, as it happens their love story takes place in only a few keys scenes so I'm going to dwell on those and not the rest of the movie (although that's pretty spectacular - anyone ever heard of Brando's 'I coulda been a contenda' speech? That comes from this multi-Oscar-winner too).

So let's do a quick plot recap. The setting is the New Jersey Docks in the 1950s, where the longshoreman's union is controlled by corrupt thug Johnny Friendly and his right-hand man Charlie the Gent. Charlie's younger brother Terry (a thirtysomething has-been ex-boxer) has been inadvertently involved in the killing of Joey, one of the longshoreman who was threatening to squeal to the crime commission. Terry feels bad about it, but that's life on the docks. He's not about to rat out his brother. Until he meets Joey's sister Edie....

The drama is about Terry's battle with his conscience, and the harsh life of America's dock workers... It's social realism through and through with a cast full of brilliant method actors, a wonderfully understated script by Budd Schulberg and haunting black and white photography... But it's the developing relationship between Edie and Terry that drives the story and is the heart and soul of the whole movie.

From their first meeting, when the rough, raw and inarticulate Terry tugs on Edie's glove and sits on a kids swing while chatting to her with off-hand bravado about his miserable childhood.. And Edie responds with quiet class and a gentle naivete, which isn't really naivete at all - but the simple belief that if people are loved they can rise above their circumstances...

To the scene in a dingy neighbourhood bar where Terry (not knowing what to do with a nice girl) takes Edie on a sort of date:

Edie says, a little drunk: 'Shouldn't everyone care about everyone else?' 
And Terry replies: 'Boy, what a fruitcake you are.' 

But as he says it, the tender astonishment in Terry's eyes shows he's already falling in love with this girl who's sweet and innocent, but has the strength of character to rise above the roughness of slum life rather than be beaten down by it as Terry has been.  

Then there's the powerful, intensely dramatic and heartbreaking moment when Terry finally confesses his involvement in Joey's murder to Edie. We don't hear the words, they're drowned out by a ship's blaring horn, but we see Edie's face, going from love to horror....

And then the wildly passionate and provocative scene when Terry breaks into Edie's apartment and they kiss... I defy anyone not to be blown away by this kiss:

Okay, so this movie doesn't have Patrick Swayze's sweaty pecs to recommend it. But it's got everything else. And maybe it's not one to watch during a Girl's Night In, but it's definitely worth a peak if you like your romance occasionally raw and realistic and heart-breakingly honest. Plus Brando in this movie is absolutely gorgeous (but then I do have a soft spot for bad boys).

Heidi's latest Modern Heat, Hot-Shot Tycoon, Indecent Proposal is available now in the UK and due out in September in the US. 

Look out for the linked story Public Affair, Secretly Expecting in November in the UK. And also a great offer to download a free ebook copy of her Waldies topper Pleasure, Pregnancy and a Proposition starting this July on the M&B website.

She loves to hear from readers through her website or on her blog, where she can often be found waffling on about an author's life or her bad boy obsession and frequently both.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What Are You Reading Thursday: Celebrating Success with Marsha Zinberg

The Pink Heart Society is thrilled to introduce Harlequin Executive Editor Marsha Zinberg! Ms. Zinberg has been on tour talking about the Harlequin Famous Firsts – current romance superstars who published their very first novel as a Harlequin or Silhouette category romance. The Famous Firsts program is part of Harlequin's 60th Anniversary celebrations and as our readers know - we LOVE call stories.

How lucky are we that Marsha has joined us with the call stories of some of our absolute favourite authors?

Welcome to the PHS, Marsha!

As Lori Foster observed, there are not a lot of overnight successes in the publishing business, and most of our Famous Firsts authors worked long and hard to reach their goals and achieve significant milestones. I asked a number about them about how they marked two obvious turning points in their careers: the sale of their first book, and their first placement on national bestseller list.

Debbie Macomber remembers that her children were quite young when she sold her first book. They didn’t quite understand what the fuss was about, but they knew it had to be big, because their mom ordered them a pizza for dinner! Many years later, when she first learned her book had hit the New York Times bestseller list, she had just come home from swimming. She walked in the door, soaking wet, learned the news, and burst into tears. Good thing she was already wet!
Anne Stuart wasn’t in a hurry to spread her good news. She didn’t tell anyone else for an hour and a half, so she, like Debbie, could have the indulgence of a good, long cry!

Stella Cameron stood up in her home office and looked out at her children playing, when she learned that someone actually wanted to pay for something she had written. She had been given a gift of validation for all the determination she had shown, and thought she might be floating! When she first hit the Times list, the floating transformed into a grin that wouldn’t stop. The flowers that kept arriving made her feel as if she were present for a run-through of her own funeral!

While Vicki Lewis Thompson was attending her very first Romance Writers’ of America Conference many, many years ago in Washington, D.C., a trip for which she had scrimped and saved, she was fortunate to be staying at the home of a friend. It was to the friend’s house that her telephone was forwarded, and she learned just two days before the conference that her book had sold. On her friend’s suggestion, they celebrated by drinking champagne on the Capitol steps while watching a Marine band!

Gold bracelets were the order of the day for Linda Lael Miller. She, too, knows there was some champagne consumption when Daniel’s Bride made the New York Times list in 1992. Also, dinner. And, probably, shopping!

For Joan Johnston, there were lots of flowers, cake, and a celebratory breakfast with her writer friends.

The news couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient or unexpected time for Lori Foster. She was in the midst of moving house when she learned that Casey, a reissue, had placed on the NYT list. With her typical business aplomb, she restrained herself from getting overly excited. She was grateful that taking so long to get published in the first place had really taught her how to write. After all, she maintains, this is not a business for wimps!

It’s wonderful to get good news, and even more wonderful when you can share it. I hope this week brings each and every one of you a triumph large or small to celebrate!

My final stop on the tour will be at The Misadventures of Super Librarian on Monday, June 22. I’ll have a bit of a recap and answer any questions that haven’t been answered yet, so please ask away!

As a special treat The Pink Heart Society has one very cool nostalgia Harlequin tote bag (pictured above) and some Famous First novels to giveaway. It's a great prize pack! Just post in the comments and on Saturday we'll draw one lucky name!

Don’t forget that you can enjoy 16 free Harlequin novels by downloading them at

Has anyone had a recent success they would care to share?
Thanks Marsha for being here - now's the time gang, to ask questions, make comments, and put your name in the running for this great prize!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Writer's Wednesday: Ethan Hawke as Inspiration

Sharon Kendrick explains about how Ethan Hawke is inspiring her writing and how she creates her heroes

I’ve never really “got” Ethan Hawke. Always thought of him as one of those moderately good-looking but uncharismatic individuals - more famous for their off-screen antics (in that phrase beloved of the tabloids!) than for his acting ability.
But that was last week. Before I saw him in The Winter’s Tale. Before he swaggered across the stage, eyes dancing with mischief, every sinew sizzling with subliminal promise. And proceeded to charm and to captivate every member of the audience. I was wrong. Very wrong. Whatever “it” is – then Ethan has it in spades. Call it attitude or Alpha-ness – he seemed to possess the essential quality which is at the heart of every Harlequin hero I write.
And then I tried to download a picture of him (because I’ve noticed that all you Pink Heart bloggers pepper your script with sharp, sexy photos of beefcake which you claim is all in the name of research!). And….well… Unfortunately, this is the only shot I could find of him looking straight to camera. Ethan seems to have trouble maintaining eye-contact. Or maybe his agent told him that he looks more hunky if he appears to be focussing on some object in the far distance. Like the all-protective male who has heard the thunder of threat on the horizon.
It made me realise why I rarely use still photos to inspire me when I’m writing. Because I find myself concentrating on the entire photographic process involved instead of being enthused by the subject. I can picture the stylist rifling through a wardrobe of clothes, narrowing her eyes as she decides what kind of image she wants to present of her client. And can imagine the photographer firing instructions in that murmured yet slightly frantic way they do: “Come on, Ethan - brood! Brood!”
And then I start remembering all the things I’ve read about Mr. Hawke’s life which have made their way into the international press. Most of them are probably untrue, or exaggerated – but they are still faintly distracting. How can I create my own kind of fantasy man if Uma Thurman’s indignant face keeps hoving into view?
My hero exists solely in the land of my imagination. He is mean and lean and dangerous to know. He’s a mixture of men I’ve met, men I’ve seen and men I’ve wished existed.
My latest hero is a Sheikh – and he is….well, he’s simply irresistible. At least, I think he is, and I hope you agree. Discover him in THE SHEIKH’S VIRGIN STABLE-GIRL.Happy reading – and please write to me on or visit my website
Sharon Kendrick is the author of over 65 Harlequin Presents and teaches the art of writing at various seminars and workshops.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Temptation Tuesday: Let Us Eat Cake (or at least adecent brownie)

Lynne Marshall explores the temptation of cake against the reality of writer's bottom!

As the years tick by, and my writing career expands, so do my hips. Yes, I’ve been fighting the same battle that many of you face - middle-aged spread - and I’m here to tell you I’m hanging on for dear life!

The facts tell us, according to “Calories for Dummies,” that for each year after age thirty we women burn off seven fewer calories a day. It doesn’t sound like much, but twenty years down the line that process speeds up even more. This is where our double chins and wingspan develop, and our dress size modulates up the chart, if we’re not careful.

Here’s the kicker, we still want to eat like we’re twenty-five, but if we do we sure as heck don’t look like we did at twenty-five. If we ate 2000 calories a day and maintained our weight back then, we’d have to settle for 1800 calories a day now, plus exercise to tip the scale back anywhere near the good old days.

Why, you may ask, do I bring this topic up on Temptation Tuesday? Because I want my cake and to eat it too! And I figure if I want to enjoy something that soothes my sweet tooth but doesn’t come out of one of those dang 100 calorie snack-sized bags that pretends to be dessert, so might you.

And because I love each and every one of you, I’ve gone out on the limb to find lower calorie, yet “real” tasting desserts that will fulfill that deep desire that dwells in all women – to consume chocolate and carbs! And, as an experiment, I have baked each of the recipes to make sure they are worth eating and sharing with friends. In other words, I’ve sacrificed my expanding waist to discover an almost guilt-free dessert that tastes like dessert and doesn’t blow the diet all to H – ee – double toothpicks!

As long as we accept that gone are the days when we can eat half a pan of brownies, or six chocolate chip cookies, warm out of the oven, with a glass of whole milk,
we have a fighting chance to enjoy a dessert every now and then and not have to kill ourselves at the gym for a month afterwards. My goal in writing this blog was to find a dessert that was less than 300 calories and lower in fat content, but not in taste.
I’ve chosen double chocolate cake, chocolate caramel brownies, and chocolate chip cookies. Do you see a theme here? After baking all of them, my favorite, the one that tastes the most like the “real” thing, rich and comforting, was … THE BROWNIES! Each serving is 2 x1 inch and has 141 calories (so you can have two and still be under that 300 cal goal! YAY) and only 25% of those calories are from fat, which is great.

Here’s some bad news: The cake recipe was terrible! And the “healthy” cookies were worse. I wouldn’t feed them to an enemy. There is just no way to compete with Toll House cookies, you know? Though I did make a different batch with the left over chocolate chips, using the regular Toll House recipe with a bit of doctoring up (see how cleverly I’ve slipped Medical Romance into this blog?) on the fat and calorie content by using fake egg liquid and Smart Balance spread instead of butter to make decent tasting diet pleasing cookies. I’d feed those to my mother.

I don’t want to take up unnecessary space on this blog, but if any of you are interested in the chocolate caramel brownie recipe, you can contact me via my website and I will gladly pass it along.

And because I’m a nurse and I write for the Medical Romance line, I feel it is my duty to inform you about the average piece of chocolate cake per serving (106g-wt.): 440 calories (300 calories from fat), 34g total fat, 16g saturated fat, 155mg cholesterol. My suggestion is to use egg substitute, and scout out those newer boxed mixes that are made with 50% sugar reduction by including Splenda. If you prefer your favorite tried and true cake recipe, you can cut the calories in half with smaller servings, which are better than no servings at all, right?

What have I learned from my weekend of baking? Something I already knew before I started – All good things must be doled out in moderation. Dang it!

Come on then, repeat that annoying mantra with me – all things in moderation, and please pass the brownies!

Lynne Marshall writes Medical Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon. Her current UK release is Temporary Doctor, Surprise Father 6/09, and she looks forward to her North American release of Assignment: Baby in July 2009.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Male on Monday : : Damian Lewis

Anne McAllister is in the last week of finishing a manuscript so she is looking forward to taking the time to go back through the last couple of months of Males on Monday that she has missed while working. But even on deadline, she made time this week to appreciate this one.

I can't remember exactly when Damian Lewis came to my attention. It was quite a few years ago now. I suspect, like most Americans, I became aware of him when he starred as Lieutenant Richard Winters in the HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers.

In any case, he's been on my radar for a while.

And every time I think I've got a handle on what he can do on the screen, he does something different -- something that makes me sit up and take notice again. And again.

I suppose I should admit right off that he didn't have to do much because I'm a sucker for redheads.

And when you combine red hair with articulate observation, interesting choices, and vast acting talent, well, I"m hooked.

I was thrilled when he took the lead role in the American police drama, Life, two years ago. And I'm seriously annoyed that it will not be back on NBC next season.

Life's police detective Charlie Crews, after 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, was not an easy sell. It would have been easy to make him too dysfunctional because of his backstory.

But Charlie's combination of quirks and common sense, delivered in the flat deadpan almost midwestern American accent that Lewis gave him, made him imminently watchable and, in fact, compelling.

He took the role, Lewis says, because he liked that the series was character-driven. I watched it because more than character-driven, Life always seemed to be Damian Lewis driven.

He gave Charlie a believable detachment at the same time that, by his very determined flippancy he hinted that beneath the apparent detachment Charlie cared very very much indeed.

Charlie is certainly not the first wounded buttoned-up character Lewis has played. Regarding some of the more memorable ones, Lewis said, "I guess I'm just good at playing repressed individuals. I'm lucky because those are often the roles that catch people's eyes. It's the Steve McQueen element, all that bubbling energy bottled up inside. It's a very compelling quality on the screen. I've been lucky that I seem to be able to pull it off."

Certainly he pulled it off with Charlie Crews. There were intense moments, off-the-wall moments in the episodes that told Charlie's story, but they were all the more revealing of his character because the rest of the time Lewis gave him a decidedly 'less is more' spin.

"If you set up an intensity and a stillness to someone, you only have to show a flicker of a smile and it will show volumes," Lewis says.

On the "more is more" side of things, Lewis's interpretation of Benedick in the BBC's Shakespeare Retold version of Much Ado About Nothing was funny, glib and almost, but not ever quite, over the top.

You never quite know what role he's going to take next. His choices have been all over the map, from the intense and possibly mentally ill father of a missing child in Keane, to the conflicted Soames Forsyte, a man you'll quite possibly hate in The Forsyte Saga.

He played a hitman, called Milo in The Baker, a film written and directed by his younger brother, Gareth Lewis. And he recently played a college professor called Jonesy, a "really sweet guy," according to Lewis, in Stephen King's Dreamcatcher, in which he was possessed by an alien and walked around killing people.

Asked in one interview about career strategies, he said, "I'm not very good at strategizing. All you can do is attach yourself to the good work. If you think you don't want to play another psychopath, but the script is amazing, and the director is fantastic, and the story is incredible, then you may end up playing your third psychopath in a row. You have to go where the good writing is. That's the only way you can be stimulated, fulfilled and in the end, good -- probably."

As for what you can see him in next, there is Love and Virtue in which he stars with John Malkovich and Peter O'Toole, now in post-production, and The Escapist, also starring Joseph Fiennes, in which Lewis plays the crime boss Rizza with reportedly chilling effectiveness.

Who is this very talented man when he's not being someone else?

Damian Lewis was born in London on February 11, 1971. He has an older brother and sister as well as director brother, Gareth. At the age of eight Lewis went away to boarding school after which he attended Eton.

Saying he found the experience blissful, he is also quick to add, "When you go to boarding school at an early age, you learn to cope very quickly with your environment. That can create extraordinary social dexterity, but it can also leave you rather emotionally arrested, even if you appear superficially sophisticated and poised. If someone sees through that to who you really are, then those are... interesting moments."

After Eton he attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and later joined the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years. He then got roles in television series Warriors and Hearts and Bones.
It was after he played Laertes in Ralph Fiennes' Hamlet that he was asked to read for the Richard Winters role and won the lead in Band of Brothers.

Since Life begain, he has been living in Los Angeles with his wife, actress Helen McCrory, and two children, Manon, 2 1/2, and Gulliver, 1 1/2. Now that Life is apparently dead, though, it's not clear if he will remain in the States and pursue other acting projects there or if he and his family will choose to return to London.

A man of many talents, Lewis could go in any direction -- and probably will.

A few months ago, asked what he would do if he wasn't an actor, Lewis said: "I'd be a professional ping-pong player."

I could enjoy watching him do that, too.

Anne McAllister needs to go work on finishing her book. If you missed the last one US: April, UK: May, Oz/NZ: June), it took place in Seattle on a houseboat with a lot of animals and, incidentally, a heroine and a hero. The hero, Sebastian, sadly, did not have red hair, but she loved him anyway. The bloodhound is sort of a redhead.

Check out
Savas' Defiant Mistress on her website or visit her blog for recent news.