Saturday, July 03, 2010

Wild Card Weekend -- 1776

On this Fourth of July weekend, PHS editor Michelle Styles attempts to explain the glory that is 1776

The cast is almost entirely male. The action takes almost entirely in a single chamber. The subject matter – politics, specifically the late 18th century. It is a musical that should never have been. It became a huge hit and was made into a movie. It is still performed across the US today. 1776 – the musical.
The musical tells the story of John Adams’s struggle to get the Declaration of Independence passed. For a number of reasons, it is one of my favourite musicals of all time but it is not your normal light fare. It is full of dry wit and songs which get into your mind.

I first really discovered it in the summer of 1980, having taped it on hot Fourth of July. There was just something about William Daniel’s portrayal of John Adams. He was obnoxious and disliked, did you know that sir? But he was a man willing to fight for his cause. A life long admiration of John Adams and his wife Abigail began. Adams’ relationship with his dearest friend provides the romantic element of the story. The songs between Adams and his wife are taken directly from the letters he and Abigail wrote to each other. Yours, yours, yours and Compliments show the loving relationship they had. I also adored the mini series John Adams but that is a whole other blog!
Equally good to my 16 year old self was that having watched it several times, I found AP US History an absolute doddle. Triangular trade – not a problem with the song Molasses to Rum to Slaves! 1776 also showed the divisions within the Continental Congress were not clear and that men had differing opinions. It also proved a good way of discovering who was who in the American revolution. As my father pointed out, Adams’s nemesis in Congress John Dickinson (Cool Considerate Men is brilliantly song -- orginally at the request of President Nixon, this sequence was cut from the movie but restored on the dvd) may have refused to sign the Declaration but he went and fought for the American cause as a private. He knew full well the meaning of integrity and hold true to one’s principles. Dickinson College is named after him, and he helped to frame the US Constitution with all its checks and balances. And once having gained a reputation for being good at history, I became determined to keep at it and really started reading around the subject.
The song Hey Mama Look Sharp which is about the dispatch rider’s remembrance of the Battle of Lexington and Concord and the death of a close friend shows the poignant horrors of war.
The song Is Anybody There goes through my mind whenever the Crows of Doubt strike. This was particularly true when I was waiting to hear about The Gladiator’s Honour and various people in the know told that it would never happen. It is underrated but it speaks to passion and vision of Adams. It encapsulates for me the importance of believing in dreams, commitment and holding true to your ideals.

The musical also affected my life in another way. I forced my younger sister to watch. Several years later, she fell into a conversation about the musical and how great it was with a man at a party when she visited a friend at UCLA. That man became her husband!
Because I live in the UK and the film has never been released here, it was a long standing joke that they would get me a copy...They sent me a cd of it years ago. The cd is played every Fourth of July. For some reason my husband, a very loyal British subject just doesn’t get it! I think I lost him with the line – And to England I say goodnight for ever good night... Anyway in the interests of good Anglo-American relations, I deemed it politic not to get the dvd and make do with the cd. I play the cd as I am making the various foodstuffs for our annual Fourth of July bash, rather than having it playing during the party.
If you haven't seen it and get a chance, do. It is the perfect fare for a Fourth of July weekend.
Michelle Styles writes historical romance for Harlequin Mills & Boon. You can learn more about her works at her website.

Friday, July 02, 2010


Julia Justiss has drawn the winners of her contest:
Robinl and Laurie.

If you could send your postal addresses to thepinkheartsociety at hotmail dot com, they will be passed on to Julia.

Must Watch Friday - Some Kind Of Wonderful

Today on Must Watch Friday, Fiona Harper gets all nostalgic and delves into her movie treasure chest…

Sometimes you want to see something new and exciting when you turn on the television or go to the cinema; sometimes you just want to turn to old favourites. They’re like a cup of hot chocolate, a beloved pair of slippers or a warm bubble bath. Comfort food for the eyes and soul. Romantic Comedies do this for me, but my absolute must watch, never get tired of films are Eighties Teen flicks. (Guess I’m giving away my age now, huh? Oh, well…)

My absolute favourite is Some Kind of Wonderful. I didn’t know why at the time, but now I look back on it, it’s probably because the love story works the best for me. Keith (Eric Stoltz) is dreaming of a date with the popular and beautiful Amanda Jones – a girl way out of his league – and much to everyone’s surprise when he asks her out, she says yes (mainly to make her jerky boyfriend livid, but he really deserved it). Keith’s faithful best friend is Watts, a tomboy who lives for her drums, but she’s harbouring a secret… Despite the fact Keith hardly sees her as a girl, she’s had a crush on him for ever. When Keith’s big moment arrives, and it’s time to impress Amanda Jones with a dream date any girl couldn’t resist, he starts to realise that maybe Miss Jones isn’t really his dream date after all…

Rumour has it that John Hughes made Some Kind of Wonderful after the studio producing Pretty In Pink insisted he change the ending (in which best-friend Ducky used to get the girl instead of the indecisive Blaine). I was interested to hear this, because I’d always had mixed feelings about the ending of that film, and had always wondered whether I’d have preferred it if the devoted Ducky should have won Andie’s heart. So, a couple of years later, he wrote another script, flipping the sex of the lead part so it was written about a guy torn between two very different girls. In some ways, I’m glad things ended up the way they did – otherwise Some Kind of Wonderful might never have been made.

And there are so many great moments in this film: Watts’s drumming to Propaganda’s Dr Mabuse as the credits roll (and I love the non-poppy, alternative soundtrack); Keith befriending the detention dudes; Amanda’s no-good boyfriend’s final comeuppance. Oh,yes. Sweet memories.

Here’s a YouTube clip of one of my favourite scenes:

Fiona's new book The Bridesmaid's Secret is available now online in the UK and North America and will be in the shops in July!

In her designer suits Jackie Patterson, editor of Gloss! magazine, can take on the world. Yet the moment she arrives in Italy for a big Bella Rosa wedding, and sees her old boyfriend Romano Puccini, her groomed façade disappears. She has a seventeen-year-old secret to tell him from that fateful, sultry Italian summer…

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Thursday Talk Time: Secondary Males

Debut Superromance Author Liz Talley talks about the other important men in books -- the secondary male.

Males on Monday. I suppose we only need them once a week otherwise we could get too distracted and end up staring at the broad shoulders, strong jaws and piercing eyes and forget we’re supposed to be writing. Sigh. Some of them are just too absolutely hot to tear ourselves away. Am I right?

But today, I’m not going to talk about the fantasy heroes we put front and center in our stories. Nope, I’m gonna talk about our secondary males. I know, some of them can be pretty darn cute too – so smoking that we write them their own stories. I guess this subject is on my mind because as my first book hit the shelves a little less than a month ago (Vegas Two Step, June Superromance,) many of the people who read it didn’t comment on the hero Jack. Oh, my beloved Jack, he of the lovely blues eyes and rippling six pack. No. Not him. They wanted to know about Bubba.

Who is Bubba you ask? Well, he is what his name suggests…but a little more. Bubba is a big ol’ heaping of redneck mixed generously with good ol’ boy. He’s big, he’s bald, and he has an uncanny knack for knowing what to say to my heroine. He’s country as a turnip green with a bulbous nose, delicate ears, and a bad sense of style. He makes Larry the Cable guy look like George Clooney, yet he’s endearing. And readers like him.

I’ll be totally honest. I modeled Bubba after my youngest brother who himself can be a little rough around the edges yet still settle down to watch a chick flick at the drop of the hat. Strong and suble. Big and tender. Rude and gentle. Bubba is a big oxymoron and absolutely intriguing to write. I have had such fun with him, and the man pops up in all my books, providing necessary comic relief and spot on advice to other characters. He’s the perfect secondary character, so I had to reward him and give him a sideline romance which will continue throughout books four and five. Hey, the man lost him momma to cancer and willingly puts up with all my other characters. He deserves some happiness with a butt-kicking, tattooed feminist.

Secondary characters are pretty darn important in a story. Now I know in category we have to give tight focus to our hero and heroine and there’s not much room for expanding our secondary characters, but if you can take some time to think about what a secondary character brings, you’ll end up with a person readers want to know more about. And that’s a good thing. :-)

So, I’d love to hear about your best secondary characters…and if he’s male, all the better. Gotta stick to the theme, you know. Leave a description of your favorite secondary character, and I’ll choose a lucky poster to win a copy of my June release and a $15.00 Barnes and Noble gift card.

You can learn more about Liz and her upcoming books at on her website!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Writer's Wednesday - Lynn Raye Harris

Please give Presents author Lynn Raye Harris a huge PHS welcome!  Lynn's here to talk about deviating from a normal pattern - when desperate times call for desperate measures.

How to Write a Book in Three Weeks (or, What I Learned from Following an Outline)

Writing a 50,000 word category romance in three weeks sounds terrifying, doesn’t it? It did to me, and it wasn’t what I intended to do. But other projects, revisions, deadlines, and a trip to the RT convention in Columbus, Ohio, left me with three weeks to write and turn in my next contracted novel.

However, don’t hate me just yet. Because, though I did it, there is a secret. One my pantser heart just hates to admit.

I had an outline.

For you plotters, this won’t come as any surprise that writing with an outline was easier, but it’s not the usual way I work. Nor will it be the way I work in the future. (She didn’t learn a thing, the plotters wail!)

I did, but you see, the outline wasn’t mine. The project I was working on was part of a continuity, which means the editors already thought up all the story details. All I had to do was follow the path they’d laid out.

Which wasn’t easy! And I can’t say I completely followed it to the letter, either. Because, as usual with a pantser, things occur to you during the writing that sound better (more organic) than the path you were following. I did not hesitate to take those side roads when they promised to be more scenic, I assure you.

Though the verdict is still out on how I did, my editor did tell me she absolutely loved what she’d read so far. I can only hope the love continues all the way through the book. ;)

On a related note, I gave a library talk last week about plotting and pacing. I sort of felt like an idiot talking about plotting, since I don’t consciously do it, but of course I know that I DO plot. We all do. It’s just that our processes are varied. My process involves a lot of thinking, a lot of what-ifs, and a launch into the story when I feel I know who the characters are and what they want.

But on my quest to provide the best plotting information to the people at my workshop, I did try to look at various ways of plotting. And I kept coming back to one word: conflict.

That’s what it’s all about, right? In a romance, you need an external and an internal conflict. In a Presents, for instance, you need a lot of internal conflict. External conflict is secondary in the books I write. But it is there.

What the editors had done for me on the continuity was think very long and hard about the internal conflicts of the characters. They gave me a roadmap of events that needed to occur, of course, but the internal conflict was so strong there could be little doubt how my characters would behave when confronted by the external events.

That was the secret to writing the book in three weeks. Strong internal conflicts and a roadmap of events.

Not that you want to write 50K in three weeks, but if you want to write quickly, make sure you’ve thought your characters’ backgrounds through completely. Then either plan a list of things that can happen, or go ahead and write the dreaded synopsis if you enjoy that kind of thing. So long as you’re willing to toss the roadmap out and take the side road from time to time, you’ll have a template that will get you to the end a lot quicker than if you’re constantly thinking about what happens next as you write.

I’ve already started my next book, and though I don’t have an outline, I know I have really great internal conflicts. I have a word document I saved in notebook layout (it has tabs, which I love) where I can jot things about plot issues, character issues, or just find and paste a lot of pictures for inspiration. Through the course of seven stories for Presents, I’ve learned what my process is – and what it isn’t. This saves a lot of time and trouble once you know who you are as a writer.

So if you’re just starting out, you’ll probably write a bit slower as you learn who you are and how you write. Experiment a bit. Don’t think you have to do it any particular way. If detailed outlines work for you, do it. If a combination of outlining and writing by the seat of your pants is your thing, you’ll figure it out. Just be willing to change the process as you go, to see what works for you, and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing it wrong.

What other lessons did I learn from writing a book in three weeks? There will be a lot of take out meals, a lot of dirty laundry, very fast showers (if there’s the chance to take any), very little sleep, and a sort of dazed zombie look that lasts for several days after you’ve turned the book in. Other than that, piece of cake! ;)

My latest book, THE PRINCE’S ROYAL CONCUBINE, was not written in three weeks. ;) RT Book Reviews awarded the story 4 ½ stars and gave it a Top Pick recommendation. This book is also a USA Today bestseller.

Two glittering royal houses…

Prince Cristiano di Savaré hunts his prey by ruthless means. Tonight’s pickings…Antonella Romanelli, crown princess of a rival country and part of a dynasty he has every reason to despise…

…one majestic seduction

Antonella is rocked by Cristiano’s unexpected magnetism. But there’s ice in his wolfish smile… She’s far from the promiscuous, spoiled socialite he believes her to be, but Cristiano is here to persuade her into compliance. If bedding her is what it takes, then it will make his mission all the more pleasurable…

For more information about my books, please visit me at

Lynn Raye Harris is a USA Today bestselling author who writes glamorous, sexy romance for Harlequin Presents.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pink Heart Picks Book Club - The Surgeon's Miracle

Donna’s back with our monthly Pink Heart Picks Book Club review – and the announcement of the selection for July!

This month our Pink Heart Pick selection was from the Medicals line – The Surgeon’s Miracle by Caroline Anderson. It’s been a while since I read a Medical. Getting them in North America can be a challenge – ordering online is a possibility, but if you want to pick it up off the rack, you have to pay attention and check the Presents/Presents Extra line to see if they have released any that way. Every now and then you'll find them, but it's quite unreliable. I really wish they’d change that. Because Medical Romance works. There’s a lot of interest in medicine, and it comes with built in external and internal conflicts for the characters. Then you have sexy doctors, nurses, alternative practitioners… loads of great stuff to work with.

There was simply so much to like about Caroline’s book. The hero, Andrew, and heroine, Libby, were lovely characters – both kind, both in pediatrics but also from different worlds (Andrew is heir to a lovely estate) and with their own bits of baggage. Andrew was just lovely - easy to fall in love with -  and Libby’s reasons for her actions were right on the money for her conflict (and I don’t want to give more away, because I want you to read the book if you haven’t already!).  The conflicts are really believable, so much so that you really ache for Libby and Andrew as they have to face their, well, deficiencies head on when they fall in love.

What I truly loved about this book though, and what really set it apart for me was the setting. I am such a sucker for English settings and a particular fondness for countryside and quiet, elegant estates. Andrew’s family home is magnificent, and Libby is awed by it – wonderful! And yet his parents are down to earth and welcoming (perfect!), his brother is refreshingly normal and there’s a dog. I’m already sold. Then there’s champagne and a birthday party and a ball. A gorgeous touch of glamour amidst all this down-to-earthness. Honestly, when Libby borrowed a jacket and a pair of wellies for them to go walking around the estate, I nearly swooned with delight. It had just about everything I like when I think of an idyllic English setting.

The hospital and the estate provide a fantastic backdrop to an emotionally charged story that had me wiping my eyes in a few places. Well done, Caroline, and you can bet I’ll be picking up another book of yours in the future. Thanks for such a great afternoon of reading!

Now – the heat’s on in July and I thought it might be a good time for a sizzling summer beach read. So July’s pick is BORN ON THE 4th OF JULY - a Harlequin BLAZE by Jill Shalvis, Rhonda Nelson and Karen Foley. I love anthologies and you put a guy with dog tags on the cover and I’m SO there.

We’ll meet back here on July 27th – synchronize your watches!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Male on Monday : Mr. Fix It

Every Monday The Pink Heart Society delivers a delicious male speciman for your ogling pleasure...but on occasion we ask you to have a little thought along with your dose of testosterone. What makes a hero...a hero?

It's the rescue. While in real life we want our XYs to listen and not try to fix everything all the time, in our books and movies we want a fixer. We want our heroine friends to have an easier time of things because of the man who rides into her life on a white horse...or a Harley.

Surgeons are a popular hero choice because they literally save lives and fix problems. Very attractive. But in real life...surgeons put their hands inside people and that's not normal. They aren't the sanest bunch. Kind of like writers who have entire worlds going on in their heads. A couple of them at any given time. :D

Detectives are another recurring theme. They don't know what happened, but they are sure going to find out and justice will be served. Swiftly. This usually involves something scary our heroine slipped into, but I'd take a side order of one right now to find my car keys.

Or, you know, buy me a new car. That's the lure of billionaires. They can cure every financial yearning our friend the heroine has. Student loans, motgages, credit card debt from an annoying ex -- all disappear in a fast swipe of his American Express and then it's off on his yacht to a private island for a little R & R. Hey, a girl can dream...

And then there is the real Mr. Fix It - the builder, construction worker, rough around the edges and good with his hands. They can literally fix it. And our heroine can watch from behind her sunglasses while sipping a glass of tea. (Isabel Sharpe does a brilliant job of this in Indulge Me, FYI) And ya know...I could use one to work on my fence...

But, while they are fabulous in fiction, these men on action might not be the easiest to live with. My man unit spent last night helping me talk a friend down from the pinacles of listening to her. I'm sure my fence would get fixed faster, and I'd have a newer car with ever-present car keys...but sometimes the heroes in real life are even better than those designed to please.

Compromising Positions just finalled in the Passionate Plume Contest. Was it the Kama Sutra yoga class, the chocolate, or something even more decadent that earned the honor? Check out Jenna's website and blog for more about her stories.