Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wildcard Weekend : Favorite Category Romances of 2011

The Pink Heart Society celebrates all things category romance. We asked some of our favorite contributors to share with us the best category romance they read this year.

Cort Mason - Dr. Delectable by Carol Marinelli Combines loads of heat with heart-warming medical drama.  Amy Andrews

Sarah Mayberry's HER BEST FRIEND ... because BFF-to-lovers stories are my fave! Mira Lyn Kelly

HER SINGAPORE FLING/RED-HOT RENEGADE by Kelly Hunter, Nicola Marsh says electrifying!

The Power and the Glory by Kimberly Lang, Heidi Rice says 'Obama's not the sexiest guy in DC anymore!'

Tempted by Trouble, Liz Fielding - if I can hyphenate the one word description it's "ice-cream" :) (otherwise it's a real fangirl comment of "fabulous dialogue, fabulous characterisation, and this is why Liz Fielding  is my favourite category author of all time") -- Kate Hardy 


Here Comes The Groom by Karina Bliss FABULOUS! -- Jenna Bayley-Burke

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE CATEGORY ROMANCE READ IN 2011??
Jenna's stuck in the hospital, trying to write while on pain meds. It's comical. 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.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Date With Kate - Countdown to Christmas

So   are you ready for Christmas?   Are you one of those efficient people who’s made a list, checked it twice, planned  the perfect gifts, bought them – wrapped them? Have you written and posted all your cards? Decorated the house?  Bought in all the food and planned menus for meals for  the 5000 – well, the dozen or so  - visitors you’ll be having all over the holiday period?

You have? Well congratulations –  though I’m not sure if I believe you! And really, what would Christmas be like if it wasn’t for those last  minute dashes out to the shops for something you’ve forgotten, the replacement present for the one that you accidentally dropped, the ingredients for that special dish that your DH has said he’d love to eat . . .and while you’re out there, will you pick up a gift for his mother . .. ?     Christmas is wonderful but it makes for a lot of work – and  let’s face it,  most of the work is  done by the women in the family.

I was reading Trish Wylie’s Wednesday post before I wrote this  ( Welcome back Trish! It’s great to see a new book with your name on the cover) and I was nodding along at so many of the points she made. There are times when life just seems to run along so smoothly – and times when it turns into a mad whirling tsunami of events that turn you upside down and inside out and  leave you wondering if you have chance to snatch a breath before something else happens  to hit you in the face.   I’ve had one of those years – ill health  ( family, fear friend, myself) bereavement (we lost my Mother in Law suddenly and unexpectedly) the loss of two dear cats, including the wonderful Sid the Cat who has done such a brilliant  job of picking the winners of my prizes winners for so many years.  Every time I’ve thought that was ‘it’ – something else happened to prove it wasn’t.

So what has this got to do with writing romance (apart from the fact that it’s been a struggle to do much of that  ‘writing’ bit? ) Well, the thing is that thinking about this and about Christmas  reminds me of one of the most important reasons why I do what I do – why I write romance – why I read romance – why I love these novels that the late great Charlotte Lamb called those complicated little books.  It’s because they are  precisely what the critics often call them dismissively –  short, easy reading, aimed at a female audience. And they are about love.  Love that means something to everyone no matter what colour creed, age or  nationality you are. And isn’t that what Christmas is about too - about telling the people we love that we do love them, showing it with cards, gifts, hospitality . . .   And that is so important – believe me, having missed one last chance to tell someone very important in my life that I loved them – and just barely getting away with not having to do that more than once this year, I ‘m saying that with real feeling. 

At various points in this year the chance to escape into a book  - and particularly a romance novel – has been a vital, almost life-saving – certainly sanity saving  time in a stressful year.  And  there have been times when I’ve appreciated a that short, easy-reading nature of these novels when I didn’t know  if I wold soon be interrupted or  couldn’t concentrate on some long, complicated twisting plot. And most of all when I wanted the reassurance that in this book at least things would turn out all right and  there would be that happy ending that  we promise our readers. 

It gave me a whole new appreciation of what we offer our readers – and how great it is when we get it right – when we offer them that little bit of relaxation, of switch-off, of me time in the middle of  a year that seems to have had so much gloom and doom in the headlines every day.


So now, with the run up to Christmas in mind, I’ve been thinking about that – and about  a way that perhaps I can pass on that feeling to someone out there who might need a break  right now.  Over on my blog I’ve been running a Countdown to Christmas  with a  book giveaway every day . I’ve asked readers to come over and chat with me, tell them about themselves – about the way they’re celebrating Christmas.   So today’s PHS post is part of that -  but with a difference.

Today I have a copy of my 3 in 1 collection Claimed By the Sicilian to giveaway. It contains  3 of my bestselling novels with hot Sicilian heroes  -  The Sicilian’s Wife,  Sicilian Husband;  Blackmailed Bride  and The Sicilian’s Red-Hot Revenge.   And just as on my personal blog, I’m asking you to post in the comments to win – but  not to win this prize for yourself but as a special Christmas gift for someone else. Do you know someone who’s had a tough year? Someone who has spent more time looking after others rather than themselves ? Someone who just deserves a treat?  Well – let’s face it,  that just about describes most mothers .

So why not post and tell me about them – you don’t have to go into too much details if you don’t want to  - but tell  me  who you think you’d like to give this prize to. And then I might not have Sid the Cat to pick a winner – but  he did train up his apprentice, young Charlie the Maine Coon who will now take over this task in the future. Charlie has already put his training into practice by picking all the winners of my recent Big Blog Tour giveaways – and he will be picking all the winners in the Countdown to Christmas too if you want to join in with that.  And Charlie will pick a winner here today too –  though I'll have to get  him down from the Christmas Tree first!  - and I’ll send the book to you to give to your chosen ‘heroine’.

Happy Christmas  to all the Pink Hearters – and I’ll see you in 2012


Kate is Celebrating the fact that  her April 2011 novel The Proud Wife - has been nominated by Romantic Times  Reviewers' Award of Best Presents Extra 2011. Looking forward to 21012 she has  a new title coming out soon. This will be The Devil and Miss Jones and will be out in March (UK) and in Harlequin PresentsExtra in April. This will be her 60th title for Harlequin.

Sorry that I didn't get back to comment yesterday - it turned into one of those crazy too much to do days. I was so happy to see that there were these lovely nominations and as it's Christmas and as I have some spare copies of this book - and as Charlie was feeling particularly greedy! I'm going to send a copy to each of your nominees,   Mary, Rita and Kaelee. I think I have some addresses but please email me again kate AT kate-walker .com with the address to be sure

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Writers Wednesday: When Something's Gotta Give


This week Trish Wylie, one of the founder members of The Pink Heart Society, returns to discuss some of the things she discovered during a particularly rough writing patch.

I can’t tell you how good it is to be back! I could call it ‘taking a break’, I could say I was suffering from writers block, but the simple fact is there’s an eighteen month gap between my last book and the new one because for a couple of years my life went to hell in a hand-basket. As I attempt to make a come-back I’ve talked with other authors who have hit bumps along the way so I thought I’d discuss what I’ve learnt and pass it on in the hope it might help others.

Authors are individuals and what works for some won’t necessarily work for others. There’s a very good chance you may disagree with some of the points I make. You may also have things to add which I haven’t mentioned. Naturally all comments are welcomed and I’ll be taking notes.

Prioritize:

Your writing has to come first and that means things like online loops, Facebook, Twitter, Blogging and everything else you feel you have to do to promote your work doesn’t matter a damn if you have nothing to promote. Readers want books, we need to eat, so if it means being brutal with the editing in this department, then so be it. Ask yourself how much good it’s doing, whether or not it has an impact and at the very least ease off when working on a story and then, when the book is released, make time in your schedule for promotion. Personally I’ve become a passionate fan of Twitter. It limits my word-count which means time-wise it only takes minutes. I also love things like Tweetdeck which allow me to be in two places at once but at the end of the day if it’s a choice between an hour spent online and an hour spent writing...

Remember the best form of promotion is your work. Consistently produce well-told stories and the reader will return to your books again and again. I know I do with the writers whose books I love. Don't you?

Pace Yourself:

Presumably you’re in this for the long haul, not a sprint to the finish. Like any artist you need time to grow and stretch your wings. In business terms you could call it product development. Like all authors I had to discover what worked for me, how I could continue to grow as a writer and I had to stop worrying about how many books my peers were producing in a year compared to me. Yes, there is a correlation between books and income, but it may not necessarily be as much as you may think when related to the time you spend working on a book. What you have to decide is how many books you are comfortable producing without risking burn-out while still making time for things like promotion or doing talks or updating websites or any of a dozen admin tasks. If you don’t make time for those things you have to do them while writing and it can have a knock on effect on the quality of your work. Obviously if you can delegate some of the tasks it frees up writing time and good organization can relieve a lot of the pressure, but there is a reason publishers don’t look for six books in the first year of a new author’s career. Their investment is long term and allows the time you need to discover what you can handle. My suggestion would be to look at your career in the same way.

Mental & Physical Health:

The latter may seem more obvious than the former but apart from the obvious dangers of RSI’s, back pain, eye strain and lack of sleep close to deadline, writers are also in danger of suffering from work related stress and depression (It was even listed as one of the top ten professions in danger of suffering depression). We work in an isolated environment, more often than not surrounded by people who don’t understand the nature of our work or how delving into characters feelings may lead us to take the emotional rollercoaster ride with them. We also have to survive on an irregular income and the difficulties which can result from that in real life; often experiencing extreme highs and lows. As a result some of the down time we schedule between books needs to be solely for us, so we can take care of our mental and physical well-being.

This may mean the simplest of things like spending time with family and friends, taking a walk, a weekend spent doing something you love or curling up with a tub of ice-cream and a pile of DVD’s-but regardless of how it is spent that time has to be yours. This is also important from the point of view of refilling the creative well. The seeds for story ideas are sown everywhere, but there are more of them outside the writing cave than within those closeted walls.

Communication:

It’s all fine and well for a single girl who writes full time to say you have to be selfish with your writing time, but for those with other jobs, families and children it can be quite the juggling act. What you need to do first is admit when there is a problem, start seeking solutions and talk to others to see how they can help. This may mean sitting down with members of your family to explain why you need them to work with you until a book is finished; offering to allow them time of their own when you are done. It may mean delegating tasks to others who are either willing volunteers or people you can afford to pay. It may mean talking to your editor about adjusting your schedule or the possibility of an extension on a deadline. Obviously the latter can be avoided with realistic time-frames but good communication skills are vital and an editor would rather know what is happening than find themselves under the kind of pressure which will ultimately be passed down the line to you. I’m not suggesting you make it a habit, but we all have times when things don’t go according to plan or life throws us a curve ball we weren’t expecting. The thing to remember above all else is professionalism and a big part of a successful professional career is the ability to communicate with others. When it comes to personal relationships not only is that same communication essential (as all Romance authors should know from their work), you also have to be honest with yourself. Many of us make the mistake of feeling we have to do everything but we all have moments of weakness. It's OKAY to admit you need a helping hand or to re-prioritize when something has to give, so before you do anything else, give yourself a break. None of us are machines.

Learn From Your Mistakes:

Last but not least you have to remember you are on as much of a journey as the fictional characters in your books. There will be times when things go well and you experience highs. There will be times when you hit a low point and it may seem all is lost. As is the case with all heroes the successful ones are those who don’t stay still but continue moving forwards; seeking solutions to their problems, learning from their mistakes and fighting for their reward. It’s up to us to be the heroes of our own stories and turn the next page.

Trish’s long-awaited new release The Inconvenient Laws Of Attraction is available now as a Riva in the UK and Ireland and can be purchased through the Mills & Boon Website, Amazon or ITunes. It will be released as a Harlequin Romance in the USA & Canada in March 2012. To find out more you can visit her Website or follow her on Twitter.

Meanwhile a signed copy of The Inconvenient Laws of Attraction is up for grabs. Trish will select a random winner from the comments on Friday so come tell us what you thought of her tips, let us know if you have tips of your own for coping with tough times or simply say 'hi'.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

DEADLINE RECIPES: Grandma Polly’s Recipe for Many-Ways Cookies

Harlequin Presents Extra author Mira Lyn Kelly shares a favorite short cut recipe, and a little about the woman who used it.

Anyone who knows me in real life, knows about Grandma Polly. Though she passed away a few years ago, she remains one of the most special and influential people in my life…and she pops up in casual conversation fairly regularly. Reason being, in addition to all the hugs and kisses and her general grandmotherly knack for making everyone feel like they were the most special person on the planet, Grandma Polly was a woman with whom I had much in common.

Our affection for card games. That quiet competitive streak that most often revealed itself during heated games of Scrabble. Our appreciation of Mother Nature’s majesty. And our propensity to use the wrong word in a sentence. And of course, our deep and abiding love of the hard earned, leave me breathless through the journey, HAPPILY EVER AFTER. Yes, it was GP who traumatized me at 14, by shipping a crate of her old romance paperbacks!

But more significantly in my adult life, our families. When I found myself overwhelmed by the prospect of having four children within three years, Grandma Polly (mother of four sons within four years) assured me that it could be done. That I would be able to do it, just as she had. That it was a matter of remembering my priorities. Making smart choices. And above all, it was about love…something she’d had for me in abundance…even after raising those four wild boys!

Sadly, Grandma Polly didn’t get to see me become a romance writer for Harlequin. It would have tickled her like nothing else. But she did get to see me loving my family and learning to juggle a life that often leaned toward chaos. It made her smile and laugh, and of course, offer up more of those hugs and whispered assurances that I could handle anything. She was full of advice, tips and recipes whenever I needed them. And here is one recipe of hers that I make with my kids… and usually have to wipe a tear or two away while doing it…

MANY-WAYS BUTTER COOKIES (for the busy mom who wants a special cookie plate, but doesn’t have time to whip up a zillion batches of dough)

1C Butter
1C Sugar
1 Egg
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
2 2/3 C sifted flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, salt, and vanilla and beat well. Blend in flour. Divide into 4 parts and shape as directed below. Bake at 375F for 7-10 min.

Shapes:
1. Drop cookies (rounded tsps.): Flatten slightly with a glass, buttered and dipped in colored sugar.
2. Spritz cookies
3. Molded peppermint cookies: Shape into tsp balls. Roll in a mixture of 1Tbs finely crushed peppermint candy and 1Tbs sugar before baking.
4. Cut-out cookies: Roll on flour surface to 1/8 inch thickness

Monday, December 12, 2011

Male on Monday : : Hugh Again

male on monday chestAnne McAllister went to New York City last week. She’s still recovering . . .

Yes, yes, yes. I know Hugh Jackman has been our Pink Heart Society Male on Monday before. I think he was our first. I just don’t have time to go back and check because I’m writing this right before it goes up on Monday in New Zealand and Fiji and other places far to the west of me. Or east as the case may be.

Doesn’t matter. He could be the PHS’s Male on Monday every week as far as I’m concerned. He’s been mine since back in 1997 when Lucy Gordon and I were sitting in a cafĂ© in Bath, and I was casting about for inspiration for a book I was going to be doing next. And she said, “You know, you should use that Australian actor who’s playing Curly in Oklahoma in London right now.”

And I rolled my eyes, unable to imagine an Australian playing an Oklahoman in London.

My mistake.

Turns out she was right.

hugh 1So, Mr Jackman has been on my radar for a long time, and I’ve appreciated him vicariously in various books, including the one I’m currently working on.

But I don’t think I ever appreciated him quite as much as I did last Wednesday when I went to see him on Broadway.

In case you aren’t up on all things Jackman at the moment – and if you are a regular reader of this blog, I find that hard to believe – there is a one-man show, starring Guess Who, currently enjoying Standing Room Only status in New York City.

Called “Hugh Jackman: Back on Broadway” it gives those of us who have appreciated his turns as Wolverine and as a song-and-dance man and as an emcee of such things as the Tonys and the Oscars and as a dramatic actor a couple of hours to just bask in his extremely well-rounded talents.

Granted that this show, by virtue of its venue and the lack of cinematic special effects, allows the ‘song-and-dance’ man and the emcee more sway, I suspect those who only know him as Wolverine might also enjoy it. And they’d certainly have their horizons broadened!

We were in the fourth row, so we got a good look at the sweat on his brow as he sang his way through Broadway medleys, tap danced his way through Gene Kelly, and channeled all eight salesmen on the train at the beginning of The Music Man.

We got to enjoy his engagement with the audience, and it isn’t hard to imagine that every show is a bit different depending on who’s there, who he coaxes up on stage, and who he mercifully leaves unsummoned because they would clearly be overwhelmed.

hugh 1_0001aHe admits to the self-indulgence of the one-man show. At the same time he so genuinely obviously enjoys what he’s doing that you can only be glad he’s doing it – and regret that he’ll only be doing it for three more weeks. Then he’s off to play Jean Valjean in the big screen musical of Les Miserables. And then Wolverine. Again. Ah, yes. Did I mention he’s got a lot of strings to his bow?

To say that he’s taken Broadway by storm is not really to overstate the matter. I talked to several dozen New Yorkers, many more than a little cynical in their outlook on life – and entertainment. And every single one of them was either gushing because they’d gone to see him and had been blown away, or was regretting that they hadn’t, and now they couldn’t get a ticket.

While most of the reviews have been lavish in their praise and enthusiasm, one, in the LA Times (that west coast bastion of cynicism regarding east coast events) said that it was all well and good, this one man show, but it really was just a very splendid song and dance and witty repartee routine which, while it was entertaining, didn’t allow us to ‘really know’ Hugh Jackman.

hugh back on broadway 1Er, well, it is entertainment, isn’t it?

He wasn’t up there to bare his soul or let us in on all the details of his life. He did, in my estimation, communicate some pretty clear details about what matters to him (good Male on Monday stuff).

Briefly, he’s devoted to his wife and his kids, he loves his work, so it really isn’t work at all. He admires and respects his father and his father’s commitment to and love for his family. He has pride for his Australian heritage, and values all the people and cultures who make up that great country.

He is amazed and delighted by the opportunities life has brought his way and he’s open to ‘giving it a go’ whenever he can.

Also, by late last week he (by auctioning off t-shirts he wore in the production and the gold lame Peter Allen hugh 4belt from his Boy From Oz production segment) had raised over $1,000,000 for Broadway Cares, Equity Fights Aids.

I don’t need to know any more than that.

As far as I’m concerned, he’s a Male on Monday worth celebrating again. And again.

Definitely worth the trip to New York -- even if I hadn’t been able to get a lot of research done as well.

Anne is back with her nose to the grindstone. Her most recent book was the thenightthatchangedeverything_us_for_webHarlequin Presents Extra, The Night That Changed Everything.

She has another Presents Extra, Savas’s Wildcat, coming sometime in the spring. When she finishes the current book, she’ll take the time to figure out when.