Saturday, September 05, 2009

Weekend Wind Down: Weddings

Columnist Annie West can't resist a good wedding.

Recently I sat with a number of other Harlequin authors, discussing publishing trends and issues with Silhouette Executive Editor, Mary Therese Hussey. Magic! We were in a hotel meeting room in downtown Brisbane, completely absorbed in fleshing out some interesting points. Then someone glanced out the window and noticed the stretch limo pulled up on the other side of the road.

The whisper became a clamour of excitement. Within seconds everyone one of us was standing, glued to the spectacle across the road. The bridesmaids in their long dresses, the bouquets, groomsmen, parents of the bride and groom, the red carpet so lovingly rolled out from the car. The bride. Sigh. There was a rush of collective breath at the sight of the bride, lovely and elegant, complete with train and veil.
Later, after the ceremony, when the bride and groom appeared
at the top of the church steps, we all stopped again, sighed and chattered and drank in the sight.

As romance writers, tales of happy ever after are out stock in trade. But I guarantee our interest had nothing to do with research for future books. It was a spontaneous reaction of delight, curiosity and excitement.
What is it about weddings that made us all pause and shift focus so completely?

There's something about a wedding that catches our attention and makes us stop in our tracks. And not only romance writers! Nor is it just the fantasy of a wedding ceremoney with all the fairy tale trappings. I've seen a packed office of busy workers reduced to absolute, engrossed silence for the 3 minutes it took to view a recording of a colleague's 'quickie' Las Vegas wedding.
Perhaps it's the promise of happy ever after that appeals so much. The notion that 2 people believe in other so strongly they're prepared to commit to a life together.
Weddings are hopeful, usually joyous occasions. Maybe that's why they capture our attention. Like a satisfying romance story, they hold the promise of good things for those who trust to love.

And then too there's all the fun of planning the dress (retail therapy at its most challenging!).
Weddings and brides are staple fare for category romance and with good reason - they're such draw cards for readers. Sometimes the wedding is the payoff at the finish, when we enjoy the happy ending. Other times the wedding is a traumatic event that emphasises how far away that happy ending is.

I had a wonderful time starting a book (Blackmailed Bride, Inexperienced Wife) describing a heroine going to her wedding with a sense of utter doom, then twisting it so the heroine didn't have to face marrying the man she didn't want to wed. Whew! But instead she discovered another man she wanted to wed even less, demanding marriage. (What? Me devious? Never!)

Tying yourself to another person in marriage is one of the most significant, emotional, life changing things you can do. Perfect fodder for a writer who's interested in emotions! Not only are there the emotions and intentions of the bride and groom, but weddings also seem to affect other participants profoundly and not always happily: relatives, friends and even bystanders often have strong reactions to such events.

The other wonderful thing about weddings is they're all so varied. From scuba dive ceremonies to day long outdoor services, wonderful colourful weddings following various ethnic traditions, civil ceremonies, ones assisted by Elvis impersonators, ones with paparazzi photographers and of course elopements.

Do you have a favourite wedding memory? One you attended or participated in? One you read about or have always wanted to write? One you're planning for the future? I'd love to hear!

Annie's latest release is THE SAVAKIS MISTRESS, available now in Australia and New Zealand or on line. You can read about the story on Annie's website. Plus you can enter an easy CONTEST there to win it and some other new books.

No wedding in this story (but in December Annie has two weddings on the shelves!).

Friday, September 04, 2009

Must Watch Friday - Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Inspirational romance author Lyn Cote chooses Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day (2008) as her favorite Netflix movie so far this year.

A brief blurb from Netflix: "When her gruff demeanor costs her yet another nanny position, desperate Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) wangles a job as the assistant of an aspiring American actress (Amy Adams) and soon gets swept up in a dizzying world of glamour and high society. Ciarán Hinds, Lee Pace, Shirley Henderson and Mark Strong also star in this charming 1930s-era comedy based on Winifred Watson's best-selling novel."

I had never seen Frances McDormand, a really gifted actress before—or I hadn't noticed her. But I agree with Claudia Puig, USA Today:

"Frances McDormand is pitch-perfect as Guinevere Pettigrew, a dowdy middle-aged governess whose employment opportunities have run dry…. Adams and McDormand's performances and winning chemistry are the heart and soul of this screwball comedy set in London in 1939."

I think that I enjoyed this so much because it is romance at its best. And I love the fact that English actresses don't botox or butcher their faces. Frances McDormand has wrinkles and I loved every one. I hate those "pulled back so tight" faces that look as if the actress gave an actual smile, the skin will burst open! Shudder.

Ruthe Stein of the San Francisco Chronicle gave it 5 stars and another more important reason that I loved this movie. "Guinevere feels an immediate attraction to a lingerie designer, Joe (Ciarán Hinds), whom Delysia introduces her to because he's old enough to remember World War I and knows it was no party. They whisper to each other about the horror of war and then keep on whispering."

I love to write generational stories in my historicals. Guinevere and Joe stand in the background of all the hectic youthful froth that they know is doomed. A look, a touch, a few words is all it takes for them to infuse the tragedy poised to crash over all of them--again. Such deep emotion is what kept the movie alive in my mind for all the months since I watched it.

I also love to write and read brave stories of strong women. Guinevere Pettigrew is a strong woman who has been forced to go it on her own. Near the end of the movie, she gives this advice to the ingénue, paraphrased: "I lost my love in the war. He wasn't an important man. But every time he looked at me, he smiled. We could have built a life on that."

Isn't that the essence of romance—what a woman and man can build on life on?

To read more:

My latest category romance is a Love Inspired Classic reissue of my two book series Finally Home-Finally Found

After their mother develops leukemia, the three Kirkland sisters decide that they must discover their mother's birth parents so that they will have another pool for bone marrow transplants if it reoccurs. In the meantime, Hannah in Finally Home falls in love with a handsome carpenter in Wisconsin while the other sister Spring in Finally Found falls in love with a dedicated Latino MD in Florida. Both stories are filled with tears and laughter.


To read more stories of strong women, drop by my blog . Also I always giveaway one copy per week of my latest release in its debut month for those who leave a comment. But don't forget to watch Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

What Are You Reading On?

What would you do if you had to pack up all your books. All of them. Pink Heart Society editor Jenna Bayley-Burke faced down this unmentionable terror, and has come up with an action plan...

We spent our summer selling a house, looking for a house, and moving. The sale and the move did not line up. To the kids, I played our temporary homelessness off as a big adventure, a vacation even. But what terrified me was my lack of books.

Reading is my comfort, my escape...OK, maybe my addiction. A bookshelf crammed full of titles to be read and already loved brings a peaceful contentment to my life. A world where the only thing to read is the room service menu and the obligatory King James made me itch.

So, I managed to sneak a few books into our cramped suitcases and hotel room. I couldn't stop myself. But it got me thinking, there has to be a better way. (Insert head thwack here.) Ebooks!

I'll always crave a cup of tea, a cozy chair, and a paperback whose pages turn. But it's not exactly on par with my life right now. I'm on the go, toting kiddos here, there, and anywhere, and my books get ruined more than they get read. (Yes, I'm one of THOSE who doesn't like to bend the spine or curl the corners of pages) What if I had something I could leave in my purse (or diaperbag, or minivan) that had a virtual library at my fingertips?

I've been shopping, trying to decide exactly what will work best for me.

Kindle? Great features, no versatility.

iPod Touch? This one has me hooked, but the small screen isn't reeling me in just yet. It can do so many things, plus it has a touch screen...and it fits in your pocket...and it has wifi, internet, email, games, calendar, weather, calculator, music, photos...not sure I could read a whole book on that screen, though...

Sony Reader? This seems to react best to multiple formats for ebooks, but it doesn't have a touch screen...

Sony Touch? Adds in the touch screen, but not all the apps of the iPod Touch.

Sony Daily? Sony's answer to Kindle...with a Kindle sized price...

Decisions, decisions...

Any ebook reader owners out there care to chime in?

Jenna is not writing much of anything, and won't be until September. In the meantime, Compromising Positions is available with chocolate, Kama Sutra yoga, a decade old crush and a steady addiction to sugar. To find out what Jenna is up to now...check out her website or blog.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Writer's Wednesday: Making the Move to single title

Best selling novelist Lori Foster discusses moving from category to single title.

I’m one of those people who likes a sure bet. I get comfortable, and I want to stay that way. Back when my category novels (Temptation, Duets, etc...) were doing pretty darned good, and I could get 5 or 6 book releases a year, I felt... settled. Happy. Back then, the process was that Harlequin gave me contracts, I wrote the books, done. Few if any revisions. Pretty decent sales record. Nice and easy!

You know, I’d spent so many years and so many books just getting sold (over 5 years and over 10 complete manuscript that were rejected by everyone) that the idea of facing rejection again on single titles didn’t appeal to me. At one point I gave it a halfhearted effort, but I didn’t get great feedback, and so I figured, heh, I’ll just stay where it’s all safe and secure and happy.
Then a funny thing happened. I got invited to write some novellas for Berkley. The Winston guys – who are now one of my most popular series. The first one was in an anthology titled “Hot Chocolate.”

I was pretty sneaky with that. I wrote that first novella in a way that (I hoped!) would have my editor anxious to read about the hero’s brothers. I do love writing brothers, as many of my various series will prove. So anyway, my then-agent told me that it didn’t work that way, that publishers didn’t do series in novellas. She didn’t want me to get my hopes up, and I understand why.
But... ta da! My Berkley editor called for another novella and loved the idea of me doing another Winston brother. And then she called again after that. I ended up with 3 of the 4 brothers published as novellas, Cole in “Hot Chocolate,” Chase in “Charmed,” and Mack in “Sinful.” That left only Zane Winston to be in a book.
And my editor wanted me to write him as a single title.
I remember it so well because she was in town for a conference, it was freezing outside, we were shivering in the back seat of a car going... somewhere, and she asked me to write him as a single title. I hedged. I told her I was comfortable where I was and didn’t want to be rejected again.
She insisted I should try. She told me I could even make it a shorter single title, like 90,000 words instead of the usual 100,000 plus. She reasoned that I was already writing 60,000 plus for category, so it wasn’t that much more.
So the point is, I sort of moved to single title very reluctantly with a little coercion.
But I did move.
I wrote “Wild,” which featured Zane Winston. And somewhere along the way in that book, Joe Winston showed up. He’s a rogue Winston cousin, the black sheep, the baddest of the bad...and for whatever reason, he resonated with readers – and with editors.
I went from reluctantly writing a single title to being in a fantastic, super-exciting bidding war between two publishers who both wanted Joe Winston’s story. It was surreal. And yeah, very, very fun! In fact, that “big break” still boggles my mind. I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but luck definitely played a role.
And from there, I haven’t looked back. I LOVE writing single titles now. And best of all, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work with some of the very best, most enthusiastic editors in the business. I’ve loved them all, and count them as dear friends.

Last June, Harlequin reissued my first-ever book, a category from the Temptation line, titled “Impetuous,” as part of their 60th Anniversary “Famous First” program. And not long after that, I signed a 4 book contract to do single titles for Hqn.
I’m back where I started, but with single title novels instead of category. All I can say is that it’s been one heck of a ride!

You can find out more about the fabulous Lori Foster on her website.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Travel Tuesday - Linda Ford

Please welcome Linda Ford with a delicious post for Travel Tuesday!

Travel. A guilty pleasure or necessary research? To soothe my conscience, I claim the latter. Let’s see, there was a trip to Montana to see it for myself when an editor said she wanted three of my books set in the States. Yes, definitely research even though I loved it.

And then there have been trips to historic ranches of Alberta. Again, double duty travel.
Even North and South Dakota constituted writing research. 300 miles of NOTHING wasn’t so great as I crossed the southern tip of Alberta and across the north of North Dakota. But it was an adventure. And the things I found at the end of the journey made it worth the long miles.

Vancouver provided a welcome break from winter as I attended a writing workshop. And San Francisco was another workshop-excuse for travel.

But Paris? I did lots of ‘research’. Sure I did. I studied all sorts of things. See the cute fireman who posed for me on the Eiffel Tower where he and his buddies were practicing rappelling up and down the heights. I can’t imagine ever having to rescue someone but just in case…

There were lots of other ‘studies’ as well.

I observed all sorts of romantic poses. Paris truly is a city for love. I’m certain I learned lots that I can apply to my writing.

But apart from the serious study I partook of I refilled my creative well. So much color. So many temptations.

I inhaled the creative energy of the place and observed artists at work. I saw the pink light Paris is famous for and sat at the café where Hemingway worked.

Oh who am I trying to fool? Paris is a delight for the senses and laden with creative energy. I’m sure it stimulated my senses and could thus qualify as being writing-related but I wouldn’t need the excuse of work or research to go back. It’s a city to enjoy. It’s truly a guilty pleasure.

Linda Ford’s next release in Dakota Child, out September 09. She hopes the romance between the pages will provide her readers with a few guilty pleasures. You can visit her web site at

Monday, August 31, 2009

Male on Monday: Rupert Friend

Michelle Styles examines the slightly surprising appeal of Rupert Friend.

Rupert Friend first crossed my radar as Wickham in Pride and Prejudice (it is also where he famously met his current girlfriend Kiera Knightley). And I will admit to slightly baffled. Pleasant enough but no competition with Mr Darcy. Then I happened to see him as Albert in The Young Victoria and I realised what an excellent hero he was. This is in spite of the moustache and the German accent. When you watch the film, you can see the chemistry growing between the two, and how even though Albert is an alpha male, he is prepared to pay lip service to his wife's role as Queen.
Friend plays Prince Albert so that the viewer can see the appeal for Queen Victoria. Apparently when he was preparing for the role, Friend spent hours staring at statues of Albert, wondering what made him so good. He wanted to give a well rounded portrayal of the man and to go beyond the weeds, mourning and grief of Victoria's later years.

Rupert Friend, born 1 October 1981, went to the Webber Douglass Academy of Dramatic Arts and has managed to pack a lot of work in the last five years including playing Cheri in the recent film with Michelle Pfieffer. Upcoming work includes the starring role as Kevin Lewis in The Kid which is based on Kevin Lewis's memoir of being involved in the London underworld.
When not acting, he is a close personal friend of Kiera Knightly whom he met on the set of Pride and Prejudice. It does tickle my fancy that Elizabeth Bennet ended up with Wickham after all! He keeps his private life very private. And while there are pictures of them together, he resolutely refuses to discuss her. He only does the press for work and does not have a publicist.
His leading lady in The Young Victoria, Emily Blunt described him her definition of a real man.

Given his razor like cheek bones, green eyes and slightly indie look, one has to wonder why he has never been cast as a vampire.
There is something about him that says -- fighting inner demons, even if they are simply a desire to live other people's lives rather than his own as he recently said in an interview with the Independent.
Michelle Styles is currently hard at work on her latest early Victorian. Her next book to be released will be The Viking's Captive Princess as a Harlequin Historical in December 09. She has not plans to write a vampire novel...