Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wild Card Weekend: How does a writer find inspiration?

Harlequin Historical author, Louise M. Gouge, talks about what inspires her…

I’m so pleased and grateful to be back as a guest blogger on The Pink Heart Society. As a writer, I always have lots to say about the craft, and today I thought readers would like to know where I find the inspiration for my stories and characters. It’s a questions I’m often asked at book signings.

Let me begin by telling you that these days I write historical fiction, but my first two books were contemporary. In fact, my entire writing career began the day in 1984 when I gazed out of my bedroom window and saw a man and adolescent boy tossing a football in a field beyond my home. How did that simple scene turn into two novels?

It began with an assumption: A father and son were enjoying some time together. How nice. Every father needs to spend time with his children.

Then came the questions. Is that really the boy’s father? Let’s say yes. But what if the boy doesn’t know the man is his father? What if this boy’s dream has come true and his favorite NFL quarterback is in the area and just happens to drop by the diner where the boy’s single mother works? And who is this mother? Every question (and more) was eventually answered in Once There Was a Way Back Home (Crossway Books 1994) and its sequel, The Homecoming (Crossway Books 1998).

Another one of my inspirations came from reading the classic novel Moby Dick. In 1995, I returned to grad school to broaden my worldview so my novels would have more depth. Taking a class in the works of Herman Melville, I found in his greatest novel a short reference to Captain Ahab’s “young girl-wife.” As a romance writer, I knew a love story when I saw one, and the result was my master’s thesis, Ahab’s Bride. (Yes, I know about Ahab’s Wife, but when I was writing my novel, I hadn’t yet heard of it.)

Inspiration can come from anyplace and at any time. I’m a college professor, and sometimes my students will do or say something that sparks my imagination. An unexpected act of kindness by a “big man on campus” toward a girl in a wheelchair. The class clown making some witty observation about the day’s assignment. The light that brightens a student’s eyes when she connects with the subject matter. All of these can be incorporated in my stories to add depth and realism to my characters.

And of course, discovering a tidbit of history I hadn’t known before can make an entire series of books. I have lived in Florida for thirty-one years, and yet for twenty-five of those years, it never sunk in that this state was once a British colony. Florida? Spanish colony, right? Yes, for most of two hundred years. But during one of those many European wars of past centuries, Spain had to hand over this colony to England in 1763. Out went the hapless Spanish settlers, many of whom had been born here. In came the eager English AND a bunch of Americans from the northern colonies. Many settled in the capital, St. Augustine, and others established plantations, where they grew oranges, lemons, rice, indigo, and many other products. Then, when the thirteen colonists rebelled against England, many loyalists had to flee their homes and come to Florida, which had no wish to separate from the mother country. Of course, all this conflict makes a wonderful setting for a romance novel. In my case, it’s been the inspiration for a series of three books.

The first book, Love Thine Enemy (July 2009), takes place on one of those indigo plantations along the St. Johns River, and the hero and heroine are on different sides of the Revolution. Then, in one of those fun fiction happenings, a secondary character from that story asked for his own book, so along comes The Captain’s Lady. Again, the hero and heroine are on different sides in the conflict. For variety, this story takes place in London. What fun to imagine the drawing rooms and manor houses of England!


For the third book, At the Captain’s Command, I wanted to do something different, so I began to ask myself more questions. What if my hero and heroine are on the same side? Furthermore, what if they are both in favor of England winning the war? What conflict could I create? Easy. She’s an American Loyalist of no particular social status who has vowed never to marry a seafaring man. He is an English naval captain, the son of an influential earl who would forbid his son’s marriage to a “common American.” Conflict enough? I think so.


Most authors I know have an instinct for a good story. We find ideas anyplace, any time, in people we see, in places we visit, even in our dreams. We examine conflicts, the essence of any good story. We ask questions. And often come up with some crazy, wonderful answers as we try to entertain our readers. When we succeed, it can be the most gratifying experience any artist can experience.

Louise M. Gouge’s latest release is At the Captain’s Command. Find out more about her books at http://blog. Louisemgouge.com.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Must Watch Friday: The Royal Wedding

Harlequin Historical Author Michelle Willingham explains why she is up early today.

It's finally here! The Royal Wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton is being televised and streamed via Internet today at 6 a.m. EST (11 a.m. in the UK), but guests will be arriving as early as 8:15 UK time (3:15 a.m. EST). By the time you read this blog, the wedding is either in progress or has already happened. It will be televised on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, BBC, and all major TV networks.
Did you watch? I'll admit, I'm planning to get up early, and I'm curious about Kate's dress. What did you think? Was it worth all the secrecy?
When I got married, I went through every bridal magazine and visited every bridal salon within a twenty-mile radius. I tried on hundreds of dresses, searching for the one. Buying your wedding dress is such a hard decision because it will be in all the photographs, and every woman wants to feel special and beautiful on her wedding day.


After months of searching, I finally picked out my wedding gown. I bargain-shopped and was ready to place the order when my mother asked to talk with me. All her life, she'd wanted to make my wedding gown. It was important to her, and I was caught between being sentimental and being upset because I'd already picked my dress. I wanted that dress, not a homemade one. But I also didn't want to hurt my mother's feelings.
With regret, I passed up my dream wedding dress, and took my mom shopping. We bought a white silk shantung dress with short sleeves, off the sale rack, for about $300. I gave my mother a photograph of my dream dress, not knowing what to expect.
She ended up transforming the plain dress into my dream dress, using sequins, lace, and endless hours of time. I couldn't believe she'd done it. Did we save money? Perhaps a little, but more importantly, I gave my mother back her dream and she, in turn, gave me the perfect wedding dress. Not only was it everything I wanted, but it had pieces of love in every stitch. No daughter could have had a better dress. You can see the before and after pictures here (pardon the quality of the photos—they're almost 13 years old, and the before picture of the plain gown was torn out of a magazine. I'm wearing the "after" picture where it was transformed into a long-sleeved dress).
The dress is now preserved in a box, if my daughter ever wants to wear it. I hope she does, but I'll let it be her decision. Or perhaps, she'll let her grandmother make a dream dress.
What about you? If you're married, tell me about your wedding gown. And what did you think of Kate's? I'll give away a signed copy of my latest book, Claimed by the Highland Warrior. Sadly, there are no wedding dresses in it—only hunky medieval Scots with big…er…claymores.



Michelle Willingham is the author of over a dozen historical romances from Harlequin. Her latest releases are the royal short story "Lionheart's Bride" and Claimed by the Highland Warrior. Visit her website at: www.michellewillingham.com or interact with her on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/michellewillinghamfans.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pink Heart Picks: HER BEST FRIEND

PHS Editor Donna Alward reviews this month's pick, HER BEST FRIEND by Sarah Mayberry - and announces the read for May.

April got crazy and my reading fell off and so I left reading HER BEST FRIEND until the last minute. And now I wish I'd read it a whole lot sooner. Let's cut straight to the chase - this is the best category romance I've read all year. I loved it. I have 2 more of Sarah's books on my TBR and now I'm doubly excited about reading them.

The premise is simple: Amy is fulfilling her lifelong dream of restoring the local theatre, but she's hit a snag and enlists the help of lifelong friend, Quinn. She's been in love with Quinn since she was fourteen, by the way. And being close quarters with him now - and knowing he's only weeks away from finalizing his divorce - is playing havoc.

The dialogue is sharp and witty and keeps the pages turning. The pacing is really well done - just when it might slow down, Mayberry throws in a new complication. Like something happening with developer Ulrich (the villain). Like a kiss. Like too much wine and a friend who calls her a coward, prompting Amy to make a drunken declaration. That declaration was so utterly brilliant on its own, but when Amy realizes that she's actually had an audience...my jaw dropped and I felt so damn sorry for her. And when the soon-to-be-ex arrives - who, incidentally, is also a childhood friend, well, I got to the last 20 pages and thought how is she ever going to pull a HEA out of the hat?

But she did.

I had so many moments of writer envy it was ridiculous. I posted on my blog once about the Rule of Three and Mayberry used it to perfection with the interruptions by Amy's mother. The last one got a response from Quinn that I had to read twice to be sure he actually said it AND HE DID.  Just when you think that Quinn realizing he cares for Amy is going to suck out all the tension (where do you go now?) Mayberry adds a new dimension and depth to the conflict that makes you ache for Quinn's dilemma. I'm not sure whether I should be inspired by the strength of the writing or just feel horribly inadequate!

And it's hot. Even the scenes where they stop are deliciously hot. She knows how to do sexual tension. And did I mention that this book even had a flashback AND a dream and both were done well?

Happy sigh...

HER BEST FRIEND is a wonderful blend of emotion, humour, and sizzle! My fave Category Romance of the year, and I'm excited to dip into the other 2 of hers I have waiting! Thanks for such a great read, Sarah!

And now...drum roll please... the pick for May!

TEXAS HEIR by Linda Warren - from Harlequin American. It was out in 2008, but you can get it for kindle HERE or from eharlequin HERE.

Come back on May 26th to chat about it and find out what we're reading in June!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

WRITER'S WEDNESDAY: Blogging for Authors



Love Inspired author Lyn Cote joins the Pink Heart Society with a giveaway and a few thoughts on Blogging and Brand identity.



Blogging for Authors--Why Blog? And Blog What?



It's hard to recall when there weren't blogs, but they haven't really been around that long. Now most authors and many others have a blog, but are you using them to your best advantage? Here's some questions that might help.



To begin with, Why blog?



A writer must decide what is the purpose of her blog. The most common reply would be to gain more readers. However, that is tricky since it isn't like a business which could say their blog's purpose is to sell X amount of products. The purpose of a writer's blog is more amorphous than that.



I blog for these reasons:


1-To interact with my readers and attract new readers


2-To build a supportive community of women


3-To reveal "me" not just my books (Transparency)


4-To attract more people to my website. So that's why.



Now Blog What?



I was very reluctant to begin a blog because I couldn't think of anything that would be different from hundreds of other writer blogs. But at the 2008 RWA National Conference in San Francisco, Malle Vallik who's in charge of Harlequin's digital planning, asked me in a "Harlequin authors only" workshop, what my brand was. I said, "Strong Women, Brave Stories." Then she asked, "What on your website reflects your brand?" And a bolt of understanding of struck me!



Nothing on my website reflected my brand. And in the next instant, I had the answer to what to blog about. I would relate stories of strong women, from me, from other authors, from readers. Now drop by http://www.strongwomenbravestories.com (Yes, I even registered my brand as one of my domain names.) Now look for any elements which reflect my brand. Note at the top of the left column that I put into words the mission of my books and blog.



Now I know another author has just shared her knowledge on branding so I don't want to redo her work. But to me, branding is more than what you are writing about and how, it's about who is attracted to the stories you write. I'm going to use my longtime writing friend Roxanne Rustand, as an example. We were friends working together toward publication so we still support and help each other. Rox could not think of what her brand was.



However, since I know her and her writing intimately, we talked and talked until we came up with her brand. We still haven't been able to come up with a "jazzy" tagline. But now visit her at http://roxannerustand.com/ and then click on her blog http://roxannerustand.blogspot.com/ . Her brand appeals to women who love the simpler life, in say, a setting like Wyoming and her readers and she both love animals. So Rox's blog isn't like every other writers blog. She invites other authors to talk about their beloved pets and any animals in their stories. And pet lovers are loving her blog! A great way to tap into a new pool of readers.



BTW, I also added something new to my blog this year. I'm serializing and posting my very first (never published) manuscript, La Belle Christiane, on my blog--a scene every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This has been a fun venture and I've gained many new blog readers. As a courtesy, I post each finished chapter on my blog so newcomers can start at the beginning and join in the fun.



So Authors, what is your brand? Do you blog? What's your blog's theme or slant?



Readers, which author blogs do you enjoy and why?



I'm including a giveaway this time. My latest Love Inspired romance is Daddy in the Making. Leave a comment and your email address with (at) and (dot) to confuse spammers and I'll choose a winner!


For more about Lyn and her books check out her website at http://www.BooksbyLynCote.com


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

DEADLINE RECIPES: Deadline Pizza

When Tracy Wolff gets stretched thin, she's got a recipe to get her through...



I’m always on a deadline … or so it seems. With three different pen names, six different series and three different editors, I feel like I’m on a marathon writing treadmill all the time. Most days I think I manage to balance writing, teaching college and raising three rambunctious boys pretty well (don’t ask me how—it’s a complex recipe that requires getting by on very little sleep) but occasionally I feel the pressure—usually in the week before a book is due. That’s around the time I’m writing around close to around the clock, my brain is burned out and the last thing—absolute last thing I want to think about when the book is really rolling is what I’m going to fix for dinner.



During those weeks, I have a few, quick fail-safe recipes that help balance out the Subway and Chinese food runs. These are usually recipes the boys enjoy—and can help with. They’re also recipes that help me help them get their vegetables, which is usually a struggle. So for deadline recipe day, I thought I would share my boys’ favorite recipe—Make-Your-Own-Deadline Pizza.



Early in the day, usually right after I get the kids off to their three different schools, I slice up a bunch of vegetables—eggplant, asparagus, zucchini, red peppers, summer squash, Portobello mushrooms—and roast them in the oven while I exercise. Then, a few hours later, when I’m taking my twenty minute break from writing, I mix up a quick batch of pizza dough with the following recipe, which I stole from my mom many moons ago:



Pizza Dough:


* 1 package active dry yeast


* 1 cup warm water


* 2 cups bread flour


* 2 tablespoons olive oil


* 1 teaspoon salt


* 2 teaspoons white sugar



Directions


Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.


In a separate bowl, combine 2 cups bread flour, olive oil, salt, white sugar and the yeast mixture; stir well to combine, until a stiff dough has formed. Cover and let rise at least 30 minutes (until about double in volume).



When it’s time for dinner, I preheat the oven to 375. Then I quickly roll out the dough on a board dusted with semolina flour, one crust per person. When that’s done, I let the boys go at it. They load the crust with pizza or pesto sauce, turkey pepperoni, their choice of veggies and fresh mozzarella cheese. I bake the pizzas until the crust has just turned brown and voila, dinner is served! Happy smiles all around.



I like my pizza loaded with as many veggies as I can get. How about you? What are your pizza toppings of choice? Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of both my April books, Deserving of Luke and Hidden Embers.



DESERVING OF LUKE



Stepping into her Oregon hometown, Paige Matthews remembers why she left. Being the subject of the local rumor mill should be old hat to her. Maybe the reason she's a little touchier this time around is her son. One look at him and there's no doubt Logan Powell is his father. With the past between her and Logan, the gossips have a field day with that.


The grown-up Logan is very appealing, but is he parent material? Paige's top priority is giving her son the family he deserves. Can she and Logan do that? Can they overlook their differences? The attraction simmering between them suggests they might be partway there….







For More about Tracy and her books, check out her website at www.tracywolff.com







Monday, April 25, 2011

MALE ON MONDAY: Chris Hemsworth

Harlequin Presents Extra author Mira Lyn Kelly takes a good long look at the God of Thunder.








Hellooo…



Eyes over here ladies…


If you wouldn’t mind prying your attention away from the pics a moment, I’d like to introduce you to my new pretend, celebrity boyfriend, Australian born Chris Hemsworth—most recently known for his upcoming role as Thor, the God of Thunder…and, yes, that IS a hammer in his pocket.


What happened to my former flame, Chris Evan’s? Well, things just burned out between us. But fortunately this hammer wielding hunk full o’ hotness, was there to catch me on the rebound.


So the deets. The truth is Chris and I got off to a rocky start when he wrenched my heart out portraying ill-fated George Kirk in the opening scenes of J. J. Abrams' 2009 film Star Trek. As a rule, I’m not a fan of men who make me cry. But Chris was determined to show me he was more than just a Lycra sporting, self-sacrificing baby daddy to James T.


He was also 6’3” and had recently upgraded his already flawless physique with a jaw dropping additional 20lbs of solid muscle for his role as Thor—a part he beat out is brother, Liam, for. That additional bulk took his status from mere morsel of man candy to one massive slab of all powerful man-god. I was swayed.


Of course, it’s not all about the looks *clears throat, glancing guiltily away*. Chris and I have more than just thunder rumbling chemistry between us. We have tons in common.


Chris was born 11 August 1983, a year I remember fondly. He’s incredibly strong, and I need someone incredibly strong to carry me around princess style without gasping for air. We’re both married (hence the unfortunate “PRETEND” qualifier).


Anyway, a bit more bragging on my man…


Recent film credits include:


The Avengers (pre-production) - Thor


2011 Red Dawn (completed) - Jed Eckert
2011 The Cabin in the Woods (completed) - Curt Vaughan


2011 Thor - Thor


2010 Ca$h - am Phelan


2010 Ollie Klublershturf vs the Nazis (short) - Chad


2009 A Perfect Getaway - Kale


2009 Star Trek - George Kirk




And a couple more gratuitous hot shots...just for kicks.




















Enjoy!!



Mira



Sunday, April 24, 2011

Marilyn's Review Roundup


Book Description:

Ruby Delisantro never blushes… …but after one glance from the infuriating Callum Westmore’s bedroom eyes she’s flushed redder than a glacĂ© cherry. Her body has the right idea, for now Callum’s convertible has crashed into her life nothing will ever be the same…

Cupcake baker Ruby has always been in the driving seat when it comes to relationships, but something tells her that Callum sees straight through her snappy one-liners to her soft-as-buttercream heart beneath. For Ruby’s in danger of losing control and – worse still – of liking it!

Here's my review.  I adored this book!

Book Description:

‘You don’t know me, but I’m having your baby.’

Dominic Pirelli’s carefully ordered world falls apart when a female stranger phones with staggering news: an IVF mix-up means she is carrying the baby that he and his late wife dreamed of having!

Though he distrusts her motives, Dominic is determined to keep waif-like Angelina Cameron close. Taking her to his luxury home, reluctantly the hardened tycoon begins to admire Angie’s strength and gentle beauty as her body swells with the precious life inside her.

But when their baby is born, who will have custody of the Pirelli heir?

Another great book by Trish Morey.  Here's the review

Then I started a new series, Bad Blood with the first book being Tortured Rake by Sarah Morgan.  A sweet costume designer and a Hollywood movie star or should a say a "tortured" movie star?  It was such an incredible romance and I can't wait for the next book in the series.



The Easter feeling does not end
It signals a new beginning.
Of nature, spring and brand new life,
And friendship, peace and giving.
The spirit of Easter is all about
Hope, love and joyful living.
(Author unknown)

Marilyn