Saturday, December 26, 2009

What's Coming for 2010...

Today's Boxing Day, and in lieu of a Christmas Box, the editors bring to you a taste of what's ahead for 2010!

We're so excited to be writing this post, because we've been thinking about the year ahead for a long time. 2010 is going to be a blast! We're still going to be bringing you our favourite theme days - so you can get your visual treats on Mondays with our ever popular Male on Monday feature, find out what your favourite authors are reading on Thursdays, read posts on writing craft on Wednesdays, do a little armchair travel on Travel Tuesday, and get to know so many of your favourite category romance authors that much better...

But there's more. So, so, so much more!

One of the things we're thrilled about is a new feature called Industry Insider. Each month we're having a special guest join us for a little insight into their corner of the publishing industry. Join us in January when Borders' own Sue Grimshaw pays us a visit. Come back in the months ahead to chat with an agent, a publicist, special guests from Harlequin's foreign offices, even a cover model...we've got lots of stuff lined up! It all kicks off next week - on the 29th of December with Kimani editor Kelli Martin, who joins us to chat about Kimani Romance and the pitch contest going on over at eharlequin in early January!

PHS editor Jenna is jumping feet first back into the slush pile this year, so you can join in the nail biting and chocolate nibbling each month with Slushing Through. Consider this the aspiring romance writer's support group where you can chat about what you're working on, submitting, requests, or the (gasp!) dreaded R. (Thanks for the vote of confidence, Donna! Geesh!!)

Once a month follow Mira Lyn Kelly as she takes us from first sale through the first year of publication in First Things First. She kicks it all off with her call story in January, and we can't wait to help her celebrate her first release later this year!

PHS editor Michelle Styles brings the ultimate in armchair travel with her column Destination: Life. Consider this a cross between a travelogue and a Bucket List of things to see. Our feet are already itching in anticipation of where she might take us first and what wonders we'll discover!

The last new addition to our features is Donna Alward's monthly column and one that requires YOUR participation! The Pink Heart Society is launching its very own book club called Pink Heart Picks Book Club! Each month there will be a new category romance selection, and at the end of the month we'll blog about it and launch a discussion! The new month's pick will be announced at the end of that blog! The monthly pick will also be put on the PHS sidebar along with the bookclub date for the following month.

To kick it all off, Donna's first book club pick of the year is India Grey's latest, Powerful Italian, Penniless Housekeeper! We had a hard time choosing one book out of all the Harlequin and Silhouette stories out in January, but in the end we couldn't resist a Cinderella story with a deliciously human heroine.

The book should be available everywhere - via eharlequin , or at amazon, Mills and Boon, and in e-book from any of those sites.

We'll be discussing it on January 26, and then I'll reveal the new pick for February!

So that's what's in store in the year ahead, in addition to our already wonderful guests and columnists! Many thanks to the fabulous Ally Blake for designing our new avatars - Ally you are awesome!

We hope you'll join us as we keep saying it loud and proud.....

Category Romance Rocks!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

For our Christmas Eve post, the editors have gotten together to share their favourite Christmas Eve traditions!

Donna Alward:

Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the Christmas Season. I guess me and anticipation are great friends, after all it is the anticipation of falling in love that makes me adore romance novels, and it's what I love about Christmas too. We have a couple of Christmas Eve traditions that I look forward to each year.

The first is a carry-on from my husband's family. What a surprise when we started dating and I discovered that Christmas Eve dinner consisted of a barbeque! And no matter what the weather, if it's mild or -30 and blowing a gale, it's barbequed steak for dinner. The first year I had it I was amazed and thrilled. After all, barbequed anything is pretty rare after September. Grilled steak, onions, peppers, mushrooms, potatoes done in foil, caesar salad and carrots. Usually some wine to round things out and something great for dessert - our family tends to gravitate towards chocolate, or torte or lava cakes are big hits.

The other thing we do is let the kids open one present before bed - and it's ALWAYS new pyjamas! There is no longer any surprise - they figured out it was the same thing about the time they were preschoolers. But they still love it, opening it to see what I've picked out and the chance to wear brand new jammies to bed. Of course we've left frilly pink things behind now for flannel sleep pants and t-shirts, but it's more fun now than ever!
Michelle Styles:
One of the big traditions in my family (besides having fondue!) is attending the village crib service (nativity service). The various churches take it in turn to organise.
One memorable year when I happened to be in charge and due to a slight miscommunication, two Marys appeared and it was very nearly fisticuffs over baby Jesus. All was settled amicably when Joseph developed a case of severe stage fright and refused to appear, running shrieking from the church. Both Marys decided to support each other. For some reason, the crib service is now enshrined in village folk lore and I have never been put in charge again... After the crib service, we walk back home singing carols.

Back at home, we have hot mince pies and a cup of something warming while we watch Carols From Kings on the BBC (to make life easier and less frantic I tend to tape Carols from Kings and am able to make the mince pies. But a surfeit of mincemeat one year -- same year as the crib service near disaster as it happens, I now buy the mincemeat rather than making my own).

Jenna Bayley-Burke :

It's good to be a Jew. My holiday memories include heading out to the movies, playing board games and gorging on Chinese food. I used to console my stressed-out friends who were frantic with holiday madness. And then I married a Catholic, so we have to create new traditions for our little Cashew babies.

My husband's family does a traditional Swedish Christmas Eve party - complete with lutefisk (which I believe is a gifilte fish cousin since neither are appetizing), Swedish meatballs, and rut-mus (pronounced 'root moose' or what happens when you ruin perfectly good mashed potatoes with rutebegas). For me and the kids, it means eating lots of the spritz cookies and begging to go to a drive-thru on the way home. Hey, bonding comes in all forms - even the avoidance of bad ethnic food!

Christmas morning is fantastic. Since the kids get most of their gifts during Hanukkah, Santa only leaves them stockings and maybe a present under the tree....if we have one. This year we do, and they'll be very pleased with Santa's choices.

Wishing Everyone a peaceful Christmas and a Joyous Holiday Season!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Writer's Wednesday: Write What You Know

Write What You Know: Myth or Words to live by?

One of the great exhortations of writing is to write what you know.

This poses a problem for many people particularly when thinking about writing glamorous locations or about careers they have never had or times they have never visited. After all life is one of the best forms of training a fiction writer can have. How can you write if you have no direct experience of a place, character or fill in the blank?

Actually writing historical is all about writing something where you can only have researched. Historicals take place in a specific time, while contemporaries take place in the eternal present. So while life can add a richness and depth to your writing, it is not the only thing. You do not need to have directly experienced something to know it.

Write what you know simply means make sure you have done the research so you can create a vivid and believable world. Ultimately, it is about getting the reader to suspend her disbelief. It is the little details that you get wrong that will pull the reader out of the story. Get enough of them wrong and the reader stops forgiving. How many you can get wrong depends on the quality of story telling. But the problem often comes in the unknown unknowns or in the think you knows instead of the things you know you do not know. And the mistakes happen to the best of authors. For example, PD James tells the story of sending a woman up to the North East via the train but having her go out of St Pancras rather than King's Cross. The stations are next to each other in London. But one will take you a lot longer and many more changes. To this day, she is not certain why she did it. It bothered some people.

Mistakes happen but as a writer, you need to make sure the story is so compelling that the astute reader is willing to forgive and needs to keeping reading to the end because they care about the story and the characters.
Write what you know means you must first know the world of the story. But how do you get to know a world beyond your own day to day experience?
I will admit to loving to travel and I do get a lot out of actually having been to a place where my stories are set. Little connections get formed in my brain and I think the smells and the sights add a richness to the world. Also the quality of the light and how sound carries. Sold & Seduced (which comes out in North America in February Harlequin Historical Direct) is a direct result of a trip I took to Rome and staying on the Aventine -- looking at the vistas, seeing the distances and the old temples.
But there are other ways -- for example watching programmes on a place, reading books about that place, speaking to a native or someone who has visited there. For example when registering a hotel, do you have to show your passport? If you don't know, then find out. Or leave out the scene. What shots are required for entering a specific country? Why would your characters be up to date on them?
When researching a historical time period -- it is a lot of reading and discovering things like when a specific pub got its name, and was a street there in 1815? Or when did the roads improve? Or when did people actually start drinking whiskey in England? Or how did champagne taste in the Regency period? Or what happened to your clothes if you travelled third class on a steam train?
The setting is not the only thing, authors also have to research characters and their attitudes. So write what you know also means you need to know your characters intimately.
Psychology and why a character behaves in a certain way is important. Understanding the stresses and strains on a character's psyche and why they made certain life choices as ultimately the way an author creates empathy with a character is through those choices made under pressure. Why would a character be desperate to marry? And would they know what they were giving up? Why would someone who is afraid of heights be willing to climb a cliff face? And what happens to them if they succeed? Who will they put their fears to one side for and why? Human nature has not really changed in thousands of years -- the same emotions exists but the stresses and expectation society puts on that nature has changed.
Also, an author needs know if a character given their specific background would behave in a certain fashion or not. Knowing the channels someone would have to go through to achieve something is important. It is the little details that can make or break a story.
Equally important for an author as there are ALWAYS revisions is know what traits, aspects and back story the author is willing to change and what has to be there to make the story yours.

So yes, write what you know but also know what you write and why.

Michelle Styles writes for Harlequin Mills & Boon Historical. Her latest The Viking's Captive Princess is out now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Travel Tuesday: Gaylord Opryland Hotel

Love Inspired author Terri Reed gives a sneak peak at the hotel where the 2010 RWA National Conference will be held. Michelle Styles was very excited to see the pictures as she is planning on going. Who else will be there?

Hi, Love Inspired Author Terri Reed here. This past November I traveled to Nashville Tennessee to stay at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, the site for this summer’s RWA National Conference and 30 Year Anniversary Celebration. While I was there the hotel was decorated for Christmas and preparing for a month long holiday celebration with live music shows and other fun activities. Since Christmas is just days away I thought I’d share these photos with you (these were taken with my iPhone).

This is the inside the hotel.
I love this stair case.

This is inside the court yard looking over one of the restaurants. You can see the balconies to the guest room in the background.

I love this gazebo. One of the days we were there, they had a wedding set up here.

This is the river that runs through one of the garden areas. Off to the left is a rotating bar.

There are numerous waterfalls throughout the gardens and many little benches where one can sit to enjoy the ambiance of the hotel.

I think having RWA’s 30 Year Anniversary Celebration Conference in such a beautiful and peaceful setting was a brilliant idea. I hope to see you all there!

You can read more about Terri Reed's novels at the blog she shares with other Christain suspense writer.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Male On Monday - On the Bright Side

Blaze author Hope Tarr visits with shades of light and dark and a whole lotta hunkiness...

I’ve got a confession to make: I don’t ordinarily go for blondes.

Gentlemen may prefer them, but this natural brunette (hey, I’m just sayin’) ordinarily comes squarely down on the side of tall, dark, and handsome. Add a dash of “strong” and a pinch of “silent” into the mix and well, we have us the ingredients for an angel fallen from heaven.

And aren’t fallen angels the absolute best? (Note: not really a question). ;)

As Smart Bitches Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan attest to in “Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels,” while modern romances (versus those from the “Old Skool”) boast a diversity of heroic types as well as diversity, period, the dark-haired alpha hunk still rules the roost in “Romance Landia.”

Amen and As It Should Be.

My hero of my Christmas Historical Blaze, TWELVE NIGHTS, Callum Fraser, is the classic romance hero, a raven-haired warrior and rogue with abs of steel, and a sexy, penetrating gaze that can see straight through to a woman’s soul, not to mention her…unmentionables. Who better to serve as a role model-cum-muse than the “Dark Knight” himself, multi-talented actor, Christian Bale?

His most un-heroic mommy-shoving episode aside, Bale is hands-down “hawt” not to mention one of the few child actors in Hollywood (“Empire of the Sun”) to ace consistent box office wonder-dom as a grown-up.

But then every so-called rule has at least one exception and my Tall, Dark and Swarthy Rule is no different.

Ralph Sylvester, scalawag turned semi-respectable private secretary in THE TUTOR (August 2010), my Victorian Blaze work-in-progress, is inspired, dare I say modeled, on fair-haired Aussie TV and film actor, Simon Baker.

I’ve followed Simon Baker’s…career for some time now. My fan-ship started late in the game when Baker starred as Nick Fallon on the short-lived CBS drama series, THE GUARDIAN (2001-2004). A recovering coke-addicted attorney, Simon’s Fallon found redemption through child advocacy despite being thwarted in love. I so wanted to help him out. With the love part, I mean.

But it’s Baker’s current portrayal of yet another tortured anti-hero, Patrick Jane on the hit crime solving series, THE MENTALIST that gave me the idea for THE TUTOR. As a former con artist turned police investigator with razor sharp observational skills, Baker’s vest-wearing Jayne strikes the perfect balance between being tortured by the past and exhibiting jaunty cockiness in the present. Sublime! I hope my Ralph Sylvester will prove equal to the task. I’m still writing so fingers crossed…

Ok, so I’ve shown you mine. It’s your turn. Do you like your heroes dark and brooding or light and easygoing (on the surface, anyway)?

Hope Tarr is the award-winning author of a dozen books (and counting) including TWELVE NIGHTS, her current Harlequin Blaze Historical Christmas release. Look for THE TUTOR in August 2010 and her novella, “Tomorrow’s Destiny” in a Harlequin Victorian Christmas anthology with Betina Krahn and Jacquie D’Alessandro coming December 2010. In the meantime, please visit her website and blog at