Saturday, August 01, 2009

Wildcard Weekend - Fiona Lowe

Escape the daily grind this weekend with Fiona Lowe!

A few weekends ago my husband and I ‘escaped’ for a weekend away…well 29 hours actually… to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We had a lovely time visiting the big smoke of Melbourne, taking in art exhibitions, enjoying the shopping and just soaking up a cold and windswept winter’s day as the crowds swept by. I had a lovely time determining where people were going from the coats they wore!

It got me thinking about how weekends away used to be a large part of our life before school sport on a Saturday intervened in our lives! Before children DH and I would work a full day, drive six hours to Mt Hotham on a Friday night arriving around midnight, ski for two days and then drive six hours home and still make it to work bright and breezy on Monday morning…yeah we were younger!

When we lived in the US for a few years we would go away one weekend a month because we were ‘tourists’ and we had to ‘see’ everything we could in our 2.5 years. So we dragged our baby and then toddler everywhere, loving the breakfast on the farms in the summer and the cross-country ski-ing in winter.

When we came home I tried to keep this “weekend away” thing going but another baby arrived, we had a garden that needed tending and once a month was just too much. So we did picnics instead and as we live on one of the prettiest coasts in the world, there were lots of beaches and small towns to explore.

And yes all of our weekends away and day trips are fodder for books! When I was writing Miracle: Twin Babies, and creating Port Bathurst...or ‘Port’ as the locals in my book call it, I instantly thought of Mallacoota which is a sleepy fishing village at the end of a dead end road. When I decided there needed to be a children’s camp in ‘Port’ I remembered of Queenscliff with its Cottage By The Sea. Then tumbled into the mix was Apollo Bay, Barwon Heads, Port Albert and just about every little town on the coast of Victoria between Mallacoota in the East and Portland in the west.

No matter where you live I think that in Port Bathurst you can probably recognize a small seaside town that you know in your part of the world, and a perfect place for a weekend away.

I’d love to hear your favourite places to visit for a well- earned weekend away!

Fiona Lowe is an Australian Harlequin Mills & Boon Medical Romance author and her 11th book, Miracle: Twin Babies is available from August 1st in the UK, USA & Australia

Friday, July 31, 2009

Must Watch Friday:: You're Not A Romance Fan?

PHS Founder Member Trish Wylie looks at her viewing preferences over the years and comes to the conclusion her career was inevitable. Think you're not a Romance fan? Trish says you might not realize you are until you look more closely at what you're watching...

I was young. My annoying brother and sister were old enough to ask questions like 'Who is that?' and 'What are they doing?' and the inevitable 'What happens next?', which in fairness didn't change for most of my Movie going childhood, but doing the Math that means I must have been about seven when I saw the film that set me on the path to a career as a romance writer. That Movie was Lady And The Tramp. As is often the case when you're young, the fact they had four legs (in this case dogs) merely added to my enjoyment. But what really captured my attention and kept my starry eyes riveted to the screen to the point where I was able to ignore 50% of the annoying questions from those younger and infinitely more irritating than me, was the love story. The scene where they were eating spaghetti to the sound of Italian waiters serenading them was bliss. I mean, who can forget the moment when they worked their way from different ends of a string of spaghetti until they KISSED. *Sigh* That just never happens in a romance novel you know. I guess dogs falling in love doesn't sell to adults the same way. Well, unless you could werewolf love stories. Wolves/Dogs... TomAto/TomatO...

As I got older this trend for ro
mance continued. There were more Disney films but even as I left the realms of cartoon romance, I was being drawn into the love story in practically everything I watched. As head-over-heels in love as I fell for Christopher Reeves Superman with Margot Kidders Lois Lane (Who can forget the 'Can you read my mind' flying sequence?!), my heart was OWNED by Han Solo and Princess Leia's romance. Han Solo was my first serious onscreen crush. He was cocky, irreverent, had an incredibly cheeky smile, was a bit of a space pirate all things considered and if a PRINCESS could fall in love with him, who was I to argue? Yes, there were space ships and bad guys and lots of stuff that made my eyes practically pop out of my adolescent head (and sowed the seeds for a life-long love of Sci-Fi) but THAT kiss in The Empire Strikes Back was everything I wanted a kiss to be. And the end scene where Han was lowered into a pit to be frozen and shipped off by a bounty hunter, where Leia called out to him 'I love you!' and he answered with a lop-sided smile and the words, 'I know.' - Dear Lord but I bawled! To have them reunited and in danger in The Return Of The Jedi where the lines were reversed was just HEAVEN. Sure, the good guys won, Luke's father was Darth Vader, he lost a hand when he found out yada, yada, but the most important thing to me was Han and Leia got their happily ever after...

The trend continued into TV. Once again Superman followed me, but this time it was in the MUCH sexier Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman. Dean Cain as Clark Kent... mmmm... Oh, sorry, having a moment there. There was the classic love story and F
LYING (can't beat a guy who flies in my opinion) mixed in with a weekly dose of bad guys and a Lex Luthor with HAIR. By now my greed for romance was growing and along came Maddie and David in Moonlighting. David was cocky, irreverent, had an incredibly cheeky smile, was a bit of a scoundrel all things considered (anyone seeing another pattern here?) but I watched and watched and WATCHED until he got together with Maddie. Sad thing is, I don't remember their first kiss the same way I do Han and Leia's. I feel a trip to Amazon coming on after this. Sadly I DO remember how the show went downhill at speed once they DID get together. Maybe I'll not need that trip to Amazon after all. But by then I'd moved on again and it was time for Mulder and Scully in the X-Files where I learned the true meaning of antic...i....... pation... and was thwarted along the way by varying different monsters that went bump in the night, or the drain, or in ice and a BEE before eventually getting the kiss I'd been waiting nigh on a DECADE for and a baby William. Oh, poor, poor baby William! But despite poor baby William, the most important thing for me? Even in last years X-Files movie where I had ice and aliens, there were NO BEES and Mulder and Scully are STILL together! Hooray for love!!!

For me the love stories were never about angst ridden love quadrangles or dodecahedrons in soap operas or teen dramas. Though to be honest Joey and Pacey in Dawson's Creek were must-see viewing for me once Joey got rid of Dawson. And with scenes like this one HERE who can blame me? Yes, I know it's teen angst, but some of it is just so beautiful. Some people would argue that our emotions are at their strongest and virtually uncontrollable in those years, and watching this kind of a love story I would tend to agree. The main thing with Joey and Pacey? Years later, when the series was over, they came back and filmed a special with the characters all-growed-up. Yes, Jenn died and left her baby girl behind, it was all very sad. But Pacey and Joey found each other again and got their Happily Ever After. Everyone say awwwww.

So several thin
gs have stayed with me over my many years of viewing a screen. First and foremost I'm a big Movie fan and I collect them on DVD's along with box sets of some of my favourite TV shows. I'm a Sci-Fi Geek and a Superman fanatic and avoid horror Movies like the plague. But the shelves upon shelves of Rom-Com's and period dramas like Pride & Prejudice and North & South all have the one origin. As does my writing career. It all goes back to that first starry eyed fascination with two dogs falling in love over a bowl of spaghetti. From Lady And The Tramp to The Empire Strikes Back to Moonlighting to the X-Files and yes, even to Dawson's Creek (heaven help me), my love of a good romance has remained. Yes, I can enjoy a good action Movie or adventure or major blockbuster with a superhero or undercover Guinea Pigs with the best of them, but that little added something that can take them from 'meh' to my DVD collection is ALWAYS the romance. I even spoke to a few friends on Twitter and discovered some of their earliest Movie loves were romances too, so I'm not alone! For Liz Fielding it was Cary Grant movies, for Fiona Harper it was Sleeping Beauty, for Biddy Coady it was Bambi. My question for you would be what was YOUR first romance on screen?

If like me you kept focussing on the romances in the story as you got older then the chances are you'd enjoy the little romance books we all love so much, even if you haven't tried one yet. But if you're someone who claims they don't enjoy or watch romance and would never be seen dead with a book that focusses on that very thing? Well, I'd say this: Take a good close look at what you're watching. Because if the romance in the movie is adding something special to it for you, you're more of a romance fan than you might think you are...

for me. I'm open to suggest viewing wise this weekend. Got a movie or TV show I might have missed the romance in? Action, adventure, thriller, family movie, cartoon - I'm open to suggestion here (so long as it's not a horror Movie). And did I mention I bought new shelves for my DVD collection? There's SPACE now. And with your help I could fill it.

Trish has two books on the shelf this month, and if you hurry you can catch them before they disappear to make way for August's goodies! For the romance line you can find His L.A. Cinderella, and in a Mills & Boon special release you can find all three Irish Mills & Boon Authors; Lynne Graham, Trish Wylie and Abby Green, under the one cover for the very first time in His Irish Bride.

To find out more about Trish and her books you can visit her Website or her Blog or follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thursday Turntable: Movie theme tunes and first drafts

Michelle Styles discusses movie theme tunes and writing.

By the time, I finish the first draft, I can listen to songs with words but when I am writing the first draft, I tend to listen to classical music. For a variety of reasons, including the digital radio my husband gave me a few years ago at Christmas, I listen to Classic FM. It plays a wide variety of light classical music including lots of movie theme tunes. It is amazing but I do find when one comes on, my fingers move across the keyboard much faster.
The great thing is that there is a certain amount of serendipity in this madness. For example, when I was writing Impoverished Miss Convenient Wife and near the end, Indiana Jones blared out. I think I wrote an entire pivotal scene during that five minutes.

Other great movie themes include Pirates of the Carribean. Say what you like about the movie, but the music makes me want to write!

And then there is Lord of the Rings. Particularly when I am writing about Vikings, I enjoy hearing the music.

But one of the great things about listening to a radio station is that sometimes, you discover theme tunes you never thought of. As I was typing away on my latest, The Young Victoria came on. It inspired me to get the dvd as it was exactly the right time period, plus the music is beautiful.

Does anyone else have favourite movie theme tunes that they like to write to?

Michelle Styles is currently trying to finish her 1837 set manuscript which is due in a few short hours.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Writer's Wednesday: A Writer's Instincts

Dara Girard talks about instincts and the writer

“Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.” Rita Mae Brown.

Instincts. So many authors want the well worn path to writing success, but more often than not if you talk to a bestselling author it was instinct that shot them to fame. I didn’t think about that much until I was working on my latest release ROUND THE CLOCK the fourth and final book in The Black Stockings Society series. I was making progress then I reached page thirty and realized that I had to throw them all away. Why? Because the story didn’t have the right momentum.

The story was about Anna Marie Williams a people pleaser who gets an inheritance and an invitation to the club, but the point of view was all wrong. I tried dialogue. It didn’t work. I tried back story. Same thing. The story was nice and publishable, but something was still missing.

So I started again. Fortunately, I’ve been down this road before. I’ve learned that even when I can’t identify a problem to just go with a gut feeling. That in order to be true to my readers, my character(s), and myself, sometimes I have to scrap all that I’ve written for the integrity of the story. I don’t worry about the pages lost of the hours gone. I think of it as a warm-up. When I’m in the warm up stage I do the four L’s—listen, let go, let loose and love and you can too.

First, listen to your instincts and be true to yourself. Don’t fall into the trap that your words are your precious babies. Come to your manuscript like a surgeon. If your manuscript is dying, slice and dice, put in, take out and sew up until it comes alive again.

Second, let go. When you’re writing, learn to crush that inner critic. Let go of all the expectations you have for your work. Refuse to refer to your work as a masterpiece. Using such words is the quickest way to writer’s block. Let your self write crap and be happy about it. Remember fertilizer helps plants grow.

Third, let loose. Just write, free flow. Let your creative juices rush onto the screen or page.

Fourth, love. Put your heart on the page. Remember your first crush? Your first heartbreak? Your biggest disappointment. Use that feeling. Writing romance is all about emotion. Be melodramatic. Expand. Entertain. Gush. Go all the way.

That’s exactly what I did with ROUND THE CLOCK and soon the pages were piling up and Anna Marie came alive to me as did her story. Most successful writers trust their instincts, they don’t follow the trodden path, they create their own, and they use their voice to stamp their work.

Do you think you have writer’s instincts? Have you ever gone against advice and come out all right in the end? I’ll give away an autographed copy of ROUND THE CLOCK to a random commenter.

Rebel made good meets good girl gone wild…
Anna Marie has spent too long trying to please everybody else. Now, thanks to an unexpected inheritance, she’s got a new lease on life. Her first step? Accepting the invitation to the Black Stockings Society. Still, the scandalous fishnets she receives in her first package must be a mistake. Anna Marie would never dare wear something so outrageously sexy to a meeting with her lawyer…would she?
In high school, Desmond Rockwell was a rebel barely aware of Anna Marie’s existence, or the fact that she had a major crush on him. But he can’t ignore the bold, seductive woman who has come to him seeking legal advice, unleashing a sizzling attraction that proves that some things are definitely worth the wait…
Find out more about The Black Stockings Society by watching the video here:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Temptation Tuesday - Barbequing

PHS Editor Donna Alward brings us a post on a summer way of life - the barbeque.

Whether you call it the grill, the barbeque, or the "Barbie", there is something deliciously wonderful about cooking outdoors. When I was a kid, the only time we barbequed was on Sunday night. My mum hated it. Of course, that was when we had the old circular bit that you had to actually put lumps of charcoal in, douse with lighter fluid, and wait until the coals burned down to the right heat. She also hated dragging dishes and condiments outside, but once a week my dad took over the manly chore of meat grilling and she gave in. I loved those barbeques.

Now of course grilling is taken to a whole new level. Instead of charcoal, there's gas. You can add wood chips for a smokier taste. And forget about it being burgers and hot dogs. Now there are baskets for cooking veggies, skewers for kebabs, rotisseries, you name it. If you like gadgets and cooking, it's paradise.

In our house, everyone has their specialties. A while ago I did scallops - and I must clarify that these were nice, big, fat DIGBY scallops - on skewers. I simply basted them with garlic butter and oh my. Yum. My husband is the Rib King. He boils them in some secret spices for about 45 minutes and then puts them on the grill and says his secret is not to skimp on the sauce. The last batch he made were to die for. Add in corn on the cob and it was a great meal.

I also make grilled Mediterranean chicken which is chicken breasts marinated in a combination of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano. Swap the oregano for dill and you've got the perfect marinade for salmon fillets or steaks. Either of those meals my kids are in heaven.

But the lastest yum-fest was the recipe with the high-class name of Beer In The Butt Chicken.

Sounds appetizing.

Seriously, it is. For 2.99 we bought the rack to faciliate the undignified posture of the chicken. Here's what you do.

First, cut the top off a beer can and drain out about half the beer (drink it, don't be daft, unless you're already drinking wine or various summer slushie drinks, in which case give it to your husband/significant other).

To the beer add various spices - my faves are garlic, rosemary, thyme. But you can use just about anything.

Put the beer can in position in your beer in the butt rack.

Put the chicken on the rack, so that the beer can is inside the cavity of the bird (the worst part of the recipe, I told you it was undignified).

Our rack doesn't have a tray beneath it, so place on an old cookie sheet or in a foil pan that will catch drippings. Rub the skin with a little olive oil, place on the barbeque grill on low for a few hours - basically just let it slow roast. If it's done and you want your skin crispier, up the heat for a few minutes.

Let it sit for 10 minutes after it's done, and then carve.

We frequently have it with potato salad or pasta salad.

But hands down, the favourite part of barbequeing for me is eating outside on our deck.

Donna's latest release is HIRED: THE ITALIAN'S BRIDE. You can find out more about the book and her upcoming releases at her webpage at

Monday, July 27, 2009

Male on Monday - Those Paranormal Guys

This Monday Donna Alward rhapsodizes about those mysterious, sexy, paranormal guys...

I will be the first to admit that I'm not a paranormal junkie, yet there are some shows that just suck me in with their mystery and dark, sexy edge. And the heroes - or anti-heroes - that populate them send hearts a-twitter, so I thought I'd mention a few today.

First let's be current - Harry Potter. I also admit that a lot of my paranormal watching is via YA material, and I'm heading to the theatre this week to see the sixth installment. Is it just me or is Daniel Radcliffe looking better the older he gets?

And for the more "mature" watcher....don't we just love to hate Luscious Lucius? Jason Isaacs is deliciously evil and yet somehow incredibly magnetic!

Then there is, of course, Twilight. I've already done M0M's on Rob Pattinson (Edward, for those of you who have lived in a bubble) and Peter Facinelli (Carlisle). What about Billy Burke, who plays Bella's dad, Charlie? He's so NORMAL. Protective of his daughter and trying to do the right thing by her, which is kind of hard when he's a man of few words.

I couldn't mention paranormal heroes without talking about Buffy, now could I. Raise your hand if you're a Spike girl - yes, I thought so. James Marsters started a cult following I think. By the way, I didn't quite recognize him in PS I Love You until halfway through the movie and the lightbulb went on.

The other camp are Angel fans, right? And David Boreanaz has gone on to a fantastic career in the ever popular BONES.

My personal latest paranormal watch is True Blood, based on Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse books. Bill Compton, very OLD vampire is played by Stephen Moyer, and there is something so dark and sexy (do you see the recurring theme here?) about him. Besides that, it's set in the south and there is something about the way he says "Sookie" that puts me into meltdown. Yum, yum, yum.
So what paranormal heroes have turned your crank lately?

Donna's latest book is Hired: The Italian's Bride, a July Harlequin Romance release that's still on the shelves, and hitting the stores in Australia and New Zealand in August.