Saturday, July 09, 2011

Wild Card Weekend - Terri Reed

This weekend welcome back Terri Reed, back home and still recovering from RWA National conference...

Terri Reed here, I’m knee deep in deadlines but am coming up to breathe to write this post.  I just spent nine days in New York City for the Romance Writers of America’s national writers conference.  There were over 2000 writers in attendance at the Marriot Marquis in Times Square.  Being back in New York was a blast.  I lived in the city back in the late 80’s early 90’s.  So much has changed since then.  Times Square is a safe and busy place to be.  I was overwhelmed by the amount of people.  When I lived there, you didn’t ‘hang out’ in Times Square.  Other things have changed.  My favorite restaurants are gone.  The subway was clean compared to what I remember.   Central Park was still as beautiful as ever.  I love walking through the greenery smack dab in the middle of all the hustle and bustle of New York.

I brought my daughter with me.  She’s never been to New York and of course she loved it.  All the energy, the things to do, the ease of getting around by foot or subway.  We did some sight seeing, which was fun.  We went to places I’d never gone because living in New York City is so different than visiting.  We hit the Guggenheim, the American Museum of Natural History, the seaport, and my daughter got to visit the Met while I was in workshops.  We saw a Broadway play, Anything Goes.  Fabulous! My daughter saw How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying starring Daniel Radcliffe.  Being a big Harry Potter fan, she was ecstatic.    The trip wasn’t all fun and games, were we there to look at colleges as well.  She viewed The New School and New York University.  She loved both schools.  Next week we’re heading to Chicago to look at three schools then driving to Iowa to look another school.  The college search is draining, exciting and overwhelming for both of us.

If anyone has some good advice on how pick the right college, I’m all ears.

 I’m doing a blog tour right now promoting my latest release, The Innocent Witness. To see my stops use this link.

Faith sustained Vivian Grant through her horrible childhood and loveless marriage, but how much more can she take? Her husband has been killed. Her autistic son is the only witness. And someone is twisting the evidence to place the blame on her. Viv has no one to trust—and danger is closing in.

A failed protection detail cost former Secret Service agent Anthony Carlucci his job—and his self-confidence. He's not going to fail anyone under his care again. Anthony will risk anything to keep Viv and her son safe…including his heart.

Friday, July 08, 2011

MUST-WATCH FRIDAY: Love & Other Drugs

Just back from RWA in NYC and feeling good, Riva author Heidi Rice waxes lyrical about a wonderfully romantic and very sexy new take on the old Love Story formula which she watched on the plane back...

Okay, everyone knows I've got a little soft spot for Jake Gyllenhaal, not only is he super hot but he can also act (Brokeback Mountain anyone!). But I have to admit I'm also a big fan of one of his co-stars in Brokeback Anne Hathaway, who like Jake has managed to break out of the teen fare that originally defined her (namely The Princess Diaries) and make a name for herself as a class act. So Love and Other Drugs seemed like a no-brainer when I spotted it on the in-flight movie menu, and despite terrible airplane sound, and constant interruptions for announcements and toilet breaks, etc, I was hooked by this movie.

Love and Other Drugs is an entirely new take on the old heroine-dying-of-an-incurable-disease formula once popularised by that old tearjerker Love Story. So entirely new in fact that it defies the formula completely. For starters, we know when we first meet Anne's character Maggie Murdock that she is stricken with a rare form of Parkinson's Disease. And despite her illness Jake's character Jamie Randall falls instantly in lust with her. Not only is she smart, sassy, sexy and facing her prognosis with remarkable pragmatism and wit, but she's also keen to keep things as shallow as possible... Something that Viagra salesman and all-around slick operator Jamie already excels at.

How their relationship changes and evolves as Maggie's illness becomes more pronounced and she is forced to reveal a more vulnerable side and Jamie falls in love — firstly because he wants to save her, but eventually because she ends up saving him — is both intelligent, romantic and devoid of the usual manipulative heart-string tugging melodrama that this subject matter an often promote.

This isn't a film about Maggie's death, or even her illness, it's a love story in the truest sense of the word. It's a romance between two people who both have a lot of growing and changing to do before they can get to their happy-ever-after or rather happy-for-as-long-as-it-last.

Bravo to both actors and to an intelligent script which actually acknowledges that the most important thing about terminal illness isn't really about how you die from it, but how you live with it.

Heidi is currently racing through revisions on her 11th book for M&B. Her latest Riva, Cupcakes and Killer Heels is still available in the UK. While her latest Presents Extra, Surf Sea and a Sexy Stranger is available in the US. Come have a natter on her blog, Facebook, her website and on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice).

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Thursday Talk-Time - Liz Fielding

The Fabulous Liz Fielding returns to celebrate a special anniversary!

This month sees the anniversary of the day I signed my first contract with Mills and Boon – “Whereby it is mutually agreed between the parties hereto as follows respecting a work of fiction of approximately 50-55,000 words entitled AN IMAGE OF YOU (hereinafter referred to as “the work”) the complete typescript of which has been delivered to the Publisher and accepted by the Publisher.”

Even now, reading that, I get a bit goosey. Remembering the phone call from my first editor to say they’d bought it, signing the contract, the day the first box of books arrived. My first sight of the cover. Holding my book. Opening it and reading the first few lines and knowing that it wasn’t all some mad mistake. Rushing to my parents to show them.

It has been a long journey, with a few ups and downs on the way. Some rejections — yes, contracted authors do get rejections — and a few books, not many, that have whizzed through without a word being changed, which is wonderful and yet vaguely disturbing. I miss that chance to give it a final tweak.  

There have been covers that I’ve loved — my latest, a Riva called Tempted By Trouble is coming out very near the top! — and some I’ve hated. I’ll gloss over the titles. We all know that they are nothing to with the author and everything to do with marketing.

There have been award nominations, I have two Rita statuettes tucked away on the shelf under the stairs; sadly I had to give back the Betty Neels Rose Bowl at the end of the year. And I’ve been fabulous conferences in New York, Denver, Washington, Leicester and Egham and this weekend I’ll be at Caerleon for the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Forget “messing about in boats”; there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to beat spending a weekend with romance writers en masse.  

And in April I delivered FLIRTING WITH ITALIAN, my sixtieth story, to Mills and Boon. A diamond moment if ever there was one.

What I remember most, though, are the wonderful friends I’ve made during the last twenty years. Writers, who are the only people who understand exactly how you’re feeling when the words won’t come. Or when they do. Editors who have taught me so much, made me write better than I knew I could. But most of all readers. God bless you for buying the books. Thank you for posting lovely reviews on Amazon. For befriending me on my blog and on twitter and writing to me when a book has delighted you. Rushing to buy the latest title.

You are the ones who keep this industry going. Your enthusiasm, eagerness for new stories, your joy, anticipation as you open a glossy cover, click “download” onto to eReader. We do it for you.

So here I am, raising a glass of champagne to all of you.

Thank you for twenty wonderful years.

Liz's latest release is TEMPTED BY TROUBLE.

Elle Amery has grown up a fighter—her late mother's bad-boy-loving reputation was not the best inheritance….

So when smooth-talking Sean McElroy turns up with a pink-and-white ice cream van called Rosie that's apparently hers, Elle tries to ignore the traitorous flicker of attraction!

Family-oriented Elle is the last girl Sean should want, but as they embark on a journey filled with unexpected twists, these two misfits may discover they are the perfect fit for each other!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Writers' Wednesday - Turning an Archetype into a Real Hero

Today our columnist Annie West talks about turning your favourite archetype into a 'real' hero, a man you can believe in and who will be perfect for your heroine.

One of the things I love about romance is reading the wonderful, intriguing heroes. The ones that make your heart patter faster, tug a wry smile to your lips or make you search for a set down even while you're secretly enjoying his take charge attitude. A well painted hero is worth his weight in gold. Strong but not completely overbearing. Wounded perhaps but salvageable. Charismatic and fascinating or maybe endearing. Witty or stern. Heroes come in all types. The trick is to make them believable.

We recognise the archetypes whether we label them or not. Types like the Bad Boy, roaring in on his bike. The Warrior, finding release if not redemption in action and the need to protect. The Charmer, always ready with wit and charisma. The Professor, clever but perhaps not in the ways of the world. The Boy Next Door, decent and dependable. The Best Friend, the Lost Soul, and so on.

But the best romance heroes aren't memorable because they fit the mould of some archetype. They're memorable because they're real. They're vulnerable as well as strong, unique individuals who are perfect in their own way for the heroine.

I can't claim to be a guru on the subject of creating fantastic heroes but along the way I've picked up a few thoughts to share with you.

One of the things I've noticed in reading contest entries for instance, is the number of times a hero is referred to as being strong or decisive or troubled or whatever yet we never see him being any of those things. It's not good enough to TELL us the hero is a natural leader if you never show anyone following his lead or jumping to do his bidding. If he's the ruler of all he surveys with the power of life and death over his nation, so awe-inspiring the heroine trembles at the thought of standing up to him, it's no good only showing him being hen-pecked by his female relatives. SHOW him as a statesman, a strong leader.

Give the man a past. It doesn't have to be a terribly troubled past, but the man we see today was forged by something. Was it a loving family? War? Loss? If he's a warrior he'll have scars. If he's a charmer what made him into a man who uses his charisma to get what he wants? If he's a bad boy, what impact did that have on him? I don't mean merely giving us a chunk of back story. I mean having those past experiences reveal themselves in his way of thinking, his actions and his preferences. When does he feel comfortable and why? What does he shy away from?

Remember, even though he's your hero, he's allowed to be afraid. A man with no fear is a scary specimen and not one I'd like my heroine to fall for. Even if his fear is not for himself, but that he may not be able to protect those he loves, that will make him more real, more believable, and more appealing. Does he fear love? Or loss? Or failure? Show us his secret weakness and then make him face it. He'll be all the more heroic then. One of the mistakes I fell into in my early writing days was trying to make my hero too perfect. I'd rather a flawed hero who was realistic.

Being imperfect doesn't mean he has to be wrong all the time. A heroine who is continually finding fault (and being proved right) can get annoying. As can a hero in the same situation. Make sure your hero is competent at something. Whether it's boat building or being a father, protecting the weak or keeping the peace, allow him to shine. Give him a purpose.

Dialogue is a fantastic way to make your hero real. We can see him being heroic, but hearing his words in our ears, possibly witty or self deprecating, authoritative or seductive, will add colour to the man you're creating. Let the changes in dialogue reflect changes in mood and feeling, perhaps highlighting the way this character changes in a big way due to his interaction with the heroine. Remember too that man tend to be much more concise with their words than women.

Finally, the big ace up your sleeve is to use your hero's point of view. Whether you prefer to see the story from his perspective or find it easier to stay with your heroine's outlook most of the time, think carefully about how you can use his point of view to best effect. It's a great way to show his attraction to the heroine for instance. But don't forget it's also perfect for revealing his innermost fears and hopes, the things most men would die rather than voice out loud. Use this to show the weakness he's fighting to overcome and the feelings he'd rather hide.

Do you have a favourite hero? A hero you're grappling with perhaps? What makes a hero stand out for you? Have you any suggestions to share about what makes a hero real?

Annie's thrilled to have TWO releases out this summer. RAFE'S REDEMPTION is a Presents release available now from eHarlequin. Sadly it's not in stores but you can buy it in paperback or ebook from their site. It's been described by one review as "sizzling, emotional and poignant". Meanwhile PRINCE OF SCANDAL is an August Presents release (actually on sale 19 July) which scored a lovely 4 star review from Romantic Times. It's available from all the usual places. If you want to read more about either book or enter a contest to win copies, visit Annie's website.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Travelling Tuesday :: The RWA National Convention in New York City!

3/4 of The Pink Heart Society editorial staff is mired in jet lag, but this year's RWA National Convention was worth every tired minute!

The idea of going to New York City terrified me. Really. I felt like that cowboy in the Pace picante sauce commercial - New York City! I live a short drive from the Pacific coast, and now I'd be waving at the Atlantic. Scarier still was the cost. Cross country flights, a hotel in Times Square, conference fees, party tickets, clothes (since Donna insisted my zebra pajama writing pants were innapropriate), food (sonce one cannot live on conference chicken alone)...
Lucky for the attendees, the RWA staff managed to get the hotel for less than half price. A huge savings considering most attendees stay for four nights, some stay a full week! Many RWA chapters and publishers hosted breakfasts, which saved money for attendees as well. And I was blessed with a scholarship from the amazing Cherry Adair through her Finish the D@mn Book Challenge. The financial stars aligned so I could attend!

Once we arrived at our hotel, every attendee had to get used to the Jetson's-like elevators at the Marriott Marquis. The glass elevators were operated by a keypad outside, telling you which elevator to take to your floor. Then, you were blasted skyward as teh atrium below shrunk to Lego-scale. Usually. There were a few times the sheer number of romance authors trying to get to their room to drop off books frightened the system into confusion.

The conference kicked off Tuesday night with the ever popular "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing with 400 authors packed into a tiny room to sign books for charity. It was a crush of people, but romance fans raised $47,000 for adult literacy in two hours. AMAZING! 

Wednesday found authors attending the RWA general meeting (a kind of state of the union for the romance writing community), the PAN (Published Authors) or PRO (Aspiring Authors) retreats, the Keynote Luncheon with Madeline Hunter, publisher spotlights and workshops. No, there was no way to attend it all!

Donna, Michelle & I gathered to toast another fun year with The Pink Heart Society with pink champagne!

The cutest romance authors ever - Kristina McMorris, Jennie Lucas, Kate Hewitt, and Jackie Braun
Elle James, Jenna Bayley-Burke, Fiona Harper
And then we all had to skedaddle because that night was filled with parties like Passionate Ink's Burlesque Cocktail Party, PASIC's Industry Reception at The Algonquin, and Harlequin's Pajama Party. So much of our job is done by ourselves, it seems we really like to pary the one week a year we all get together!

Thursday was filled with workshops and publisher spotlights as well, plus the editor/agent appointments and publisher sponsored signings began. Having the opportunity to pitch your book to editors and agents is one of the big draws of going to conference, and having your favorite authors sign books to you for free is one of the bonuses! So many books were handed out many attendees opted to ship the books back home right from the hotel!

And that night anyone who's ever worked with Harlequin angled for a ticket to the fabulous Harlequin party at the Waldorf Astoria. Harlequin prides itself on throwing the best party at conference, and this year's endeavor was the best yet. A black-and-white theme, polished white dance floor, fantastic DJ, open bar, a photographer taking pictures as we entered like we were celebrities, and enough dessert choices to make the king of Candyland proud. And that was before the dancing started!
The only pause in the party was honoring the authors who've hit milestones this year - like Jackie Braun's 25th book, Joanne Rock's 50th, and 2 authors made the 100 mark! A little hint...once you hit 50, they start handing out Tiffany boxes! And of course, being in the presence of such awesomeness made us want to party all the more!

Friday brought more workshops, 7 publisher signings, and the RITA and Golden Heart Awards - which is the Oscars for romance writing. Everyone got dressed intheir finest in hopes of hearing a name of a friend called so they could scream like sorority girls. And yet, I skipped out. I know, I know. But this was New York City and I'd seen the inside of a hotel. So I took a ride on a double decker bus to see Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Saturday most everyone packed up and headed back home. My son had spent the conference in DC with my brother, who broght him back for our flight on Sunday night. Which meant two days of exploring NYC through the eyes of a just-turned-ten-year-old. The Empire State Building only held his attention for ten minutes since it was a bit muggy out, which made visibility low. Then it was on to The Beast jet boat ride to the Statue of Liberty thanks to a tip from RITA nominee Melissa McClone
On a tip from the photographer at The Beast, we found a hole-in-the-wall place for pizza & Greek food. YUM!  We explored Rockefeller Center and on our way back, we found a street fair. That night we attended The Addam's Family and had dinner at an Italian restaurant at 11pm! Both were right across from the hotel, making the experience seem very New York. And, the perfect tourist day.
Sunday was to be Central Park and the zoo, but it was raining. We opted for the Museum of Natural History, and then remembered we're Oregonians. The rain was barely a drizzle, and though New Yorker's were carrying umbrellas, back home no self-respecting Oregon native would be caught with one. (We only break out umbrellas for torrential downpours.) And so, we walked Central Park, finding the Shakespeare garden, turtle pond, game house, Belevedere castle...I loved it. Central Park felt like home with all the lush greenery and trees. 
And then it was back home to real life...where we write books instead of pretending we're as posh as our characters :D

Jenna's dealing with line edits, waiting to hear back on a new story, and finishing the road trip book right now. Until it's ready, be sure to check out her latest. Private Scandal is ripe with secrets, sass, and sensational sex. Keep up with Jenna's spin on things on her website & blog

Monday, July 04, 2011

MALE ON MONDAY : Jason Statham

Presents Extra author Mira Lyn Kelly explains why Jason Statham is a man she’s willing to make a few exceptions for…

Let me preface by acknowledging that I generally prefer my fantasy celebrity boyfriends to be at least 5’10”. I know it’s uncool, but it’s just a thing with me. A quirk. A hang up. Whatever. So what the heck is actor Jason Statham (5’9”) doing as my Male on Monday?

I’ll be honest. I was waffling a bit. Blake Shelton (6’5”) was a tempting alternative and I have been riveted to THE VOICE this season. But he just got married and it seemed sort of tacky to publicly acknowledge him as one of my pretend celebrity boyfriends when he’d barely gotten back from his honeymoon.

But aside from Blake being otherwise engaged, there’s just something about Jay (as his friends call him) that is really, incredibly watchable. He’s got that cocky swagger, and the kind of body to back it up if it comes down to it. And those eyes—there’s a sort of reflective, thoughtful intelligence in them. A brooding intensity.

And yes, definitely, a dangerous vibe. This guy is a martial arts expert and performs nearly all of his movie fight scenes and stunts himself.

Add to that, he was born in London, so that roughed up voice of his sports a sexy accent that would sound spectacular around 3am in the bedroom of his ten plus million dollar oceanfront house in Malibu, California.

Not convinced? Don’t worry, there’s more. He’s a former Olympic Diver, fashion model, and…black market salesman. That’s right ladies… Hot bad-boy, with a heart of gold. Totally.

And that’s why Jason Statham is my Male on Monday this week.

THE S BEFORE EX by Mira Lyn Kelly is available this month from RIVA - Mills & Boon.

The only man with the X-Factor! There’s one thing even the tabloid hounds haven’t managed to dig up about celebrity Ryan Brady: he is married! He may be one of America’s most desirable men – but his secret wife has just filed for divorce… Since their separation six years ago Claire has turned her life upside down: new business, new friends, new Claire. But when she sees Ryan to hash out a settlement her body tells her one thing hasn’t changed: he’s still the only man who really does it for her. With all other guys guaranteed to be totally meh, she’s in last-chance saloon: it’s either an X-rated fling with her ex – or straight to!