Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wildcard Weekend - So Long, Farewell...

Brigid Coady bids the Pink Heart Society a fond farewell


I hate goodbyes. I hate the thought of anyone leaving. I'm choked up and angry. I even get really stroppy with the person going and as a result they can't wait to see the back of me. Those calm and stoic types that tell their lovers they are leaving unless they straighten up are an anathema to me. Yeah, so pretty much I'm saying, saying goodbye sucks.

But that is what I'm doing today. After *does quick mental calculation* four years as a columnist (blogmist) at the Pink Heart Society I am hanging up my keyboard. I have had a blast here for all that time. I started off writing a monthly column about my journey to be published as a Harlequin Mills & Boon author. What a rollercoaster that was! Sadly it was not to be but I learnt a lot. I also had such great support from people on here to keep me going.

Things moved on. I spent a long time trying to work out what I should be writing. Lots of heartache and brainache. And now I think I know what it is. I want to write YA Fantasy. In fact that is what I am writing and have quite a bit of interest. But the problem, as always, is time. I have an almost revised manuscript, a killer day job and other stories bashing against my door. Something has to give.

So here we are. For me it is the end of an era. I'll miss my monthly missives but I will still be hanging around like that annoying relative who doesn't know when to leave. And maybe, if the stars align and pigs fly, I'll be back with my first call story.

So farewell Pink Hearters. I've had a blast. Thanks!

Brigid Coady has left the building...

Friday, December 09, 2011

MUST WATCH FRIDAY: Drive

Rive/Harlequin Presents Extra author Heidi Rice finds a compulsive and compelling romance in the wreckage of this violent action drama.


Now, before we get started I should warn everyone that Drive is at times an extremely violent movie. There are sequences in it that literally made me hide my eyes - and I'm a professional film reviewer so not usually at all wussy about screen violence. IMHO, the violence here is depicted to shock, not to excite or titilate, so it isn't what I'd consider gratuitous. And that violence is also in keeping with the shadowy, twilight world in which the film's characters exist.

Ok, public health warning aside, I have to say that this film really moved me. It's beautifully shot, and the faltering romance - between getaway driver Ryan Gosling and prisoner's wife Carey Mulligan - manages to be both subtle and yet wildly erotic, despite the fact that in the course of the film all these two actually have is one kiss. But boy, is that some kiss.

I have to admit, until I saw this movie Ryan Gosling wasn't an actor particularly on my radar. But he's certainly on it now. From the nail-bitingly tense opening action sequence - when he makes a slick getaway from the scene of a botched warehouse robbery - to the burgeoning romance between him and his next-door neighbour I've rarely seen such a controlled and yet compelling performance. This guy is the epitome of the anti-hero, not just a bad boy, but a bad man (verging on a sociopath) who's only really redeeming feature is his loyalty - but as we all know what he really needs in his lonely life is love. Carey Mulligan is the perfect match for him as the young vulnerable single mother who is drawn to this strong, silent man, while also being a little scared of him.

I won't go into the thriller plot, but needless to say it's grim, gritty and does not end well. These are two people adrift in a violent world who's connection comes too late, for both of them. But I've gotta say I was totally mesmerised. And I did at times think of Ryan in this film as a bit of a Presents hero — particularly those dark, brooding and emotionally damaged men that writers such as India Grey and Abby Green and Lynn Raye Harris do so well.

A film I would definitely recommend, if you don't mind a not-so-happy-ending, and you've got a cast-iron stomach!



Heidi's latest book, On the First Night of Christmas, is currently out in the US, the UK and Oz simultaneously. And she's doing a happy dance about that. Come have a chat on her blog, her Facebook page, her website or on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice).

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Finding The Calm Within The Chaos- Mira Lyn Kelly


RIVA/Presents Extra author Mira Lyn Kelly takes a minute out from the madness to talk about what puts her in the holiday spirit...

Yep, it's that time of year already. I don't know how, in forty years, I haven't gotten used to the way the holiday season flies up so fast. It seems like I just got the kids situated with being back in school, the house barely under control, and then --bam!!--the season of chaos is upon us again.
Now don't get me wrong. I love switching out the fall decorations for all the Christmas ones, the cards, the cookies, the kids' growing excitement. But along with holiday magic...there's a bit insanity in the air this time of year too. That countdown to the big day... countdowns to the little days (holiday parties, cookie exchanges, shopping and shipping deadlines)...and I'm a girl who feels the pressure, lol.
So it was an utter joy to take a moment out last night and complete a task I always dread, but then leaves me smiling in the end. Christmas Cards.

I plugged in the earbuds, got the tunes going and then, flipping my address book open to the letter A, got started on the list that gets just a little longer each year.

The magic of the Christmas card experience is that it forces me to slow down and pay attention to just this one thing I need to get done. It's a bit mindless, writing out all those addresses, but with each one I think a bit about the family behind it. The memories associated with an address I may not have visited since our last move. Maybe there's a name change because of a wedding. Maybe this year I'm writing THE SMITH FAMILY instead of JOHN AND JANE SMITH. Maybe I'm seeing the girl I was the last time I actually laid eyes on this friend I've kept in touch with through all these years. And innevitably, by the time I've licked my last stamp, I've surrendered to the holiday spirit and have nothing but joy and love on my mind.

Wishing all of you, all the best through this holiday season!

Mira
www.miralynkelly.com

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: Amy Knupp interview and giveaway

Stepping into the spotlight, Amy Knupp...and she's brought a giveaway with her!

Bio:

Amy Knupp lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with her husband, two sons, five cats and a turtle. She graduated from the University of Kansas with degrees in Journalism and French and feels lucky to use very little of either in her writing. She’s a member of Romance Writers of America, Mad City Romance Writers and Wisconsin Romance Writers. Her ninth book, Because of the List, is available now from Harlequin Superromance.

Amy, thank you so much for joining us today. Can you tell us a little about your latest story? What inspired it?

My latest story, Because of the List, is about an Army helicopter pilot and his best friend's younger sister, who is an insecure brainiac/computer geek. Not my usual types of characters (lately I've been writing firefighters for heroes, and I tend to write confident, strong heroines.) I love romances with military heroes, so I guess in a sense, all the awesome mil rom authors I've read inspired me to finally try my hand at it. :)

BECAUSE OF THE LIST

Taylor McCabe likes equations. They make sense. But one buttoned-up computer whiz plus an injured army pilot simply does not add up. It's time to get over her childish crush on Alex Worth, her brother's best friend, and find a husband. Enter The List – Taylor's ten must-have traits for a viable suitor.

But her plan goes awry when Alex insists on vetting each contender. The way he dismisses them feels like the actions of a protective boyfriend. Strangely, his attitude makes her even more attracted to him. Too bad he doesn't meet even one of her requirements….

To read an excerpt, visit
http://www.amyknupp.com/botl.php

BECAUSE OF THE LIST sounds wonderful! So, in addition to military romance, what are your favorite genres? Least favorites?

Of course I like reading all kinds of romance, especially contemporary (both single title and category) and paranormal. I also love young adult lit and wish I could do nothing but curl up and read all the amazing YA books out there. So much good stuff! When I need a break from fiction, my favorite is military non-fiction.

What’s in your TBR pile and why?

My TBR pile is kind of large, especially considering I'm a slow-ish reader. I have lots of YA, women's fiction, contemporary romance, category ( especially Supers, Desires and Blazes), and paranormal. I have a little bit of fantasy and urban fantasy, a few general fiction books and lots of non-fiction, from military to stuff I use for research (currently books by paramedics and firefighters.) I've cut down hugely on buying print books but my digital library is starting to get out of control now. In a good way. :)

What’s your favorite flavor of romance? (Sweet? Spicy?) Do your tastes vary when it comes to reading versus writing?

I like to read a range. I don't really choose my books based on sensuality level, I just want a good story whether there are love scenes or not. As far as my writing, I wouldn't classify it as sweet, but it's not up there with erotic romance either. So middle of the road, really, for both reading and writing.

How do you pick your story settings?

In ten books, I've really only written 4 settings because I love to create a contemporary, fictional world that becomes real for me and that I can reuse for more books. Places I visit can definitely inspire my settings. San Amaro Island, which is the setting for all of my Texas Firefighter books, is loosely based on South Padre Island. Lone Oak, Kansas, the setting for my Salinger Sister books, came to me after visiting Atchison, KS, which is my mother's home town. I have several other settings in mind to use for future books. No stories for those settings yet, but I'll get there. :)

How long have you been writing and what prompted you to begin?

I was friends with Maya Banks back before she was Maya Banks. When my younger son was 2 months old, she challenged me to write a story with the intention of becoming published. We started together and critiqued each other's dreck and got better and researched the market, me with my baby boy nursing every hour while I typed. :) That was 10 years ago. It took me 4 years to sell my first book, and Maya sold hers shortly after that (and has since written circles around me!)

When pursuing that first sale, what line did you target?

I've always targeted Superromance. When I decided to start writing for publication, I read up on all the lines at that time and quickly narrowed it down to a couple that resonated for my own writing style. Supers seemed like a natural fit because of the realism of the stories and characters. I also loved the variety of plots, hooks and characters in the line.

Plot or Pants?

A combination of the two. I tried hard to be a detailed plotter. It would make me very happy to be able to plan out a story so I know what's going to happen and all I have to do is just…write. (My favorite part!) But no matter how detailed I got, I always had to scrap about 75% of the plot when I actually wrote the story. So I stopped plotting so much. Now I have to turn in a long synopsis to my editor, which like any sane writer (does such a thing exist?) I detest, but it helps me grasp the big picture of the book. Then when I write, I don't follow the synopsis much. When I actually get into the writing, the characters dictate things differently than I planned, even if the plan is vague. I'm learning to accept that and trust my instincts, but it hasn't been easy.

What’s the best piece of advice you have to offer to an aspiring author?

I would say, especially if you're targeting a category line, learn to revise. Not just edit and band-aid, but learn to rip the heart out of your story if there's a problem with it, and reconstruct it into something stronger. I know for a fact my ability to do this was why/how I sold my first book. Revisions are ugly and can be a drag, but when you have good editorial or critique partner input, incorporating it into your story can make it into a stronger story. How to learn this? Practice, I guess. I use a spread sheet ONLY for revisions, (I'm not much of a chart or spread sheet kind of girl, otherwise) and that helps me keep the old version and the new version straight in my head. Sometimes they're two very different beasts. If you can make a story evolve in the revisions stage, you'll be much better prepared to write for Harlequin, in my opinion.

What has been the biggest obstacle in your writing career?

Chaos. I have 2 young children and actually started writing when the younger one was 2 months old. So my time is not really my own for most of the day. I've been lucky enough to stay home with my kids, but having two boys running around with Nerf guns isn't exactly conducive to writing a love scene! It gets better as they get older, but I spent a year home schooling my older child and getting up at 4am to get my writing time in. I'm the kind of person who thrives on routine, and it's been tough to have a consistent one from one year to the next. But that's just the way life is for all of us, I think, so we just have to adjust. I'm still trying to master that!

Thanks for having me on The Pink Heart Society! I'd like to give away a copy of Because of the List to one commenter.

To be entered into the random drawing for a signed copy of Because of the List, just tell me what your favorite romance novel hooks/themes are. (Mine are best friends to lovers, reunions, and military characters.) Thanks for reading my interview!

And Amy, thanks so much for joining us! Amy will be back tomorrow to select a winner, so be sure to check back through the comments to see if it's you!

For more about Amy Knupp:

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Amy-Knupp/253309601369486
Twitter name: @amyknupp
Website: http://www.amyknupp.com

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Deadline Recipes :: Red Velvet Beet Cake

The mommy-guilt can really get to a writer who's had her head in a novel for an entire month (ahem, NaNoWriMo anyone?). The Pink Heart Society editor Jenna Bayley-Burke step into the kitchen to try and ease some of the angst her family collected while surviving on skillet meals and crockpot fare.

My eldest is allergic to red food coloring. If you're kid is going to have a food allergy, it's teh one to get. I mean...if it's red, it's not for him. Easy. And he gets a rash, not some scary rection. No big deal most of the time.

He only really mentions it for two things - Fruit Punch Kool-Aid and red velvet cake. Not a lot I can do about either, being red is part of their schtick. Except I got to thinking...what if there were a natural way to color the cake?

I found lots of recipes online, with lots of different results. I combined a few in what I hoped would give me the reddest cake. The cake...is reddish brown. BUT it tastes like red velvet cake. That dense, rich with hint of cocoa flavor. I suppose it's not the best recipe for Valentine's Day, but I think the tall boy appreciated the effort.

1 ¼ cup - sugar
1 cup - (1 stick) butter, softened
3 - eggs
2 cup - cake flour
½ cup - unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp. - baking powder
½ tsp. - baking soda
1 tsp. - salt
1 cup - buttermilk
2 tsp. - balsamic vinegar
2 tsp. - vanilla extract
1 can shoestring beets, pureed

Cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs. Sift the flour and dry ingredients. Add the beets to the butter mixture, then half the flour, then the buttermilk, vanilla, and vinegar, then the rest of the flour. Bake as you'd like to serve, we tend to bake in 13x 9 pans (45 minutes).

I frosted it with my go-to cream cheese frosting. 1 brick of cream cheese, 1/2 a stick of butter, 3 cups powdered sugar, 1 t vanilla.

Jenna's trying to decode what she wrote for NaNoWriMo. Oops. Be sure to check out her latest release. Private Scandal is ripe with secrets, sass, and sensational sex. Jenna's ode to retail, For Kicks, will be out in just a few weeks to help everyone through their post holiday shopping haze. Keep up with Jenna's spin on things on her website & blog.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Food and Books and a Website "Relaunch"!

Harlequin Romance author and Pink Heart Editor Donna Alward stops by to let you know about a fab event going on right now!

The Harlequin Romance line authors are re-launching their website right now and to celebrate, we're holding a contest that is going on as long as the books hold out. We're still at the same URL - www.harlequinromanceauthors.com but you'll see a new look: a front page with new and current material, a "Meet The Authors" page where you can have a gander at our mugs and read a bit about us, and a fun page where we've posted some candid pics from different events. We're really excited about our fresh new look and so of course the best thing to do on such an occasion is throw a party.

We launched officially on December 1, but our party is going on as long as there are books to give away. Stop by and visit each day as the spotlighted author is sharing a recipe (and personally there are a few that I'm DYING to try) and then giving away a book. All you need to do to enter is leave a comment, and when the bookshelf is empty we'll be posting a winner's list.

There are Christmas books by Lucy Gordon and Shirley Jump, anthologies from yours truly and Barbara McMahon, new releases by Liz Fielding and Nina Harrington and backlist titles too...

And the FOOD. You know it's gonna be good when you kick things off with Chocolate Truffle Cookies. Sweet or savoury - there are some real keepers for the recipe box.

We'd love it if you stopped by to help us celebrate - both the new look for the site and Christmas too, of course!

Donna's latest release is the print edition of BREATHE. Single-mom Anna has nowhere left to turn except to her old friend - and old flame - Jace Willow at Two Willows Winery. But rebuilding her life means she has to face their past once and for all - and maybe just discover the chance to love again.