Saturday, January 14, 2012

Writer’s Workspace :: Heidi Rice + Giveaway

The Pink Heart Society is excited to peek into the office of one of our favorite Harlequin Presents authors, Heidi Rice! Not only is she letting us voyeur, she's giving away a copy of her latest book. Read on...
I have a terrible confession to make here, especially to all those published authors and soon-to-be-published authors who manage to write at kitchen tables, on their alpha-smart or iPad while doing the school run and in any available corner or snippet of time they have… I dare say they’re a lot more productive than I am, because I have to have total calm, a designated desk (although it doesn’t have to be tidy) and a lockable door (especially if teenage children are in the vicinity) to get anything done at all.

You may have already guessed that my work ethic isn’t quite as focused and prodigious as I’d like it to be. Plus I have the added handicap of being a master procrastinator. As a result it took me many years after I got the general inkling that I would like to write a book (which let’s face it pretty much everyone in the world has had at one time or another) before I actually got down to attempting to finish one of those half-finished projects in a tidy but mostly unopened file on my Apple Mac.

Now that’s not to say that I hadn’t been writing stuff. When my oldest son was three I left my full-time job as a journalist on a TV magazine and started writing film reviews for a newspaper on a computer in a tiny desk in the corner of our bedroom in our two-bedroom flat. It was cramped and rather crap – having to write in a space that was distressingly close to a nice big double bed — but this wasn’t a problem when writing 100 word reviews. Your attention span doesn’t have to be that great, you can stop and start at will and weekly copy deadlines keep you remarkably focussed. But when it came to writing my ‘great romantic novel’ that slap-dash & panic work habit didn’t really fly. So I never seemed to find the time to actually open that damn file and finish a story.

Then after my second son was born two years later we moved into a four-bedroom house! Suddenly I had my own study, my own work station. And no more excuses. Because I was still writing film reviews, it took me four solid years to finish that first manuscript, because despite my lovely new workspace, my work ethic hadn’t really improved. But that said, when I did find the time between kids and husband and film previews and coffee dates and generally mucking about, I discovered that I loved the actually business of creating my own characters, having conversations with them in my head and getting their story down on paper right to their happy ever after.

That first manuscript got rejected by Silhouette Special Editon…. But I’d learned so much not just about the craft of writing and how to develop my own unique voice, but also about my own particular process. I learned that I don’t do particularly well spending long hours sitting at a keyboard… That for me putting in time each day just day-dreaming about my characters and their journey is important too… And I can do that anywhere.

My second manuscript got accepted (which I managed to write in a Speedy Gonzalez fast for me ten months!!) and I was offered a two-book contract. And I have to admit then panic set in. Somehow or other I managed to write another book, and not only that but I did it in six months… But now, whenever I’m struggling at my desk, I give myself permission to get on my bike (literally!) and cycle down to the gym, or even just pop downstairs and make a cup of tea, while I mull over my latest problem.

But I still love my workspace. I have all my film books and my favourite romances on custom-made shelves — not to mention my own books, to remind me I can do it when I’m doubting myself. I have a sofa when I’m reading through my AAs and rough drafts, etc. I stick a sign on my door when I’m under the deadline cosh to tell my now teenage sons to bugger off or I’m canceling Christmas/Holidays/Pocket Money, etc! And I have posters of my three muses Marlon, Jimmy Dean and Paul Newman looking down on me. For those moments when you just need that added incentive of gazing at super-hot bad boy tottie to inspire you.
Well, it works for me – most of the time!

Now, I also have rather a lot of free copies of the US edition of Cupcakes and Killer Heels (out in March as a Harlequin Presents Extra) currently cluttering up my workspace… So I’d like to give a copy away to one lucky commentator. 

Keep up with Heidi on her blog, her Facebook page, her website or on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice).

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fill The Well Friday :: The Fun Plan

As The Pink Heart Society looked toward a new year, editor Michelle Styles thought to set aside her Fill The Well column. Jenna Bayley-Burke picked it right up, deciding she wanted a turn. Be sure to check back the second Friday of each month to see what she's done to Fill The Well.

I made a list. There is something so exciting about putting down a plan, especially when you're thinking about having fun and not what to pick up at the grocery store. I had a bit of a health scare at the end of last year, so this year I'm going to do all those things that wind up in the 'someday' file.

I'm talking things I can do, if only I make the time. As much as I'd love to say that this year I'll see Paris, Anguilla and the Northern Lights, those aren't in my budget - with time or money or ability to bribe babysitters.

I'm thinking more in terms of going to a comedy club for the first time, getting a henna tatoo, riding in a hot air balloon. I'm going to have to work hard to top last year's thrills -- zip-lining, rafting, kayaking, Las Vegas, New York, pole dancing, the Highland games & a makeover.

Having adventures, big and small, is a wonderful way to refresh the creative spirit flowing through us. I'm of the mindset that most any experience will eventually resonate with my art - whether that be cooking, crafting, photography, or writing. And so it is important to have as many positive experiences as possible to keep my well from going dry.

What did I do this month, besides make my list? I got a massage for the first time ever. It was at my health club, so wasn't as quiet and relaxing as I'd hoped (I could hear the men's locker room). I liked having to focus on myself for the entire time, even when my mind wanted to wander to dinner prep and character maneuverings. I found it strange to have a stranger's hands on me, but not in a creepy or sexual way. It was just, odd.

As much as I tried to focus on relaxing and the muscle groups being soothed...I came up with a great plot idea for a follow-up to the story I am working on. Who knows...maybe I'll wind up with a masseuse story. Wait, would that make my massage a write-off?

Check in with Jenna Bayley-Burke the second Friday of each month to see what she's doing to Fill The Well. Keep an eye out for Jenna's next release, For Kicks, available January 24th.
"This was very entertaining read with an uber hot ex-athlete with an inventive use of chocolate. This is a great book to spend a cold afternoon absorbed in." - Night Owl Reviews

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Setting the Scene with Christine Johnson

Welcome and thank you for joining me today at The Pink Heart Society!  This is my first appearance here, and I’m thrilled to meet fellow lovers of category romance. 

Ever made the wrong turn in the road? 

I’m not speaking figuratively here.  Rather, have you ever ended up somewhere you didn’t intend to go?  I, for one, have made quite a few wrong turns and have traveled many miles out of the way before realizing my mistake.  If I hadn’t been so focused on the end destination, I might have discovered something truly amazing on that wrong path, but more often than not, I just turned around and went back the way I’d come. 

In my new release, All Roads Lead Home, the heroine travels by automobile from New York City to Montana in 1922 and takes a wrong turn that leads to an unexpected encounter.  Like me, she’s intent on reaching her destination.  Unlike me, she stops long enough to look around, talk to the people she meets, and learn something about where she mistakenly ended up.  That decision ultimately changes many lives.

I should learn from her!

In my travels, no place has touched me more than the “big sky” of Montana.  The vastness of the prairie and the enormity of the Rocky Mountains remind me how small I am, something that’s easily forgotten when immersed in everyday life.  The magnificence of God’s creation never fails to awe me.  I wanted to share my love for the area in this book. 

I have a copy of All Roads Lead Home to give away today.  Just leave a comment and tell me if you’ve ever made a wrong turn and where you ended up.  The coffee is on.  Let’s chat.

Christine Johnson
All Roads Lead Home
Love Inspired Historical
January 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ALMOST PUBLISHED: Abbi Goes for the Gold

The Pink Heart Society proudly brings you a writer we predict will be the next big thing. Join us in welcoming aspiring author Abbi Cantrell as she shares the wild ride of the ALMOST PUBLISHED.

 "Almost there . . . "

Remember that scene in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker sits in his X-wing fighter zooming through the trenches of the Death Star? After two failures, he’s the only hope to defeat the Empire.

Luke sure had a lot of people gunning for him – the Rebel Alliance, several star systems, and entire movie theaters as viewers sat on the edge of their seats.

Sitting in the seat as an ‘almost published’ writer kind of makes me feel that way. All the writers and authors I’ve met since I started this journey now look at me to join the world of the published. Why shouldn’t I?

“What if I don’t make it?”
“What if I miss that tiny window of opportunity no bigger than a Tatooine wombat?”

So over the next few months, two things are going to happen: We’re going to party like Han Solo or do the Grand Moth Tarkin shuffle in condolence.

Isn’t that how publishing goes? The upswing: You get a request for that full mss you’ve been working on for 6 months. You’re feeling good.

Then you get this e-mail from the Dark Side.

While we love your story, it doesn’t fit our needs at this time.
P.S. I am your father.

Back to square one. Or something like that.

But, in my mind, if you keep holding on, you’ll get there. Persistence will get you everywhere.

So who’s going to be around to remind me and others of this roller coaster ride never ends? The friends and family who've been around since day one. That's what important. That's what counts.

There’s two things about being a writer I tell myself:

1) It’s all about being positive
2) It’s not a competition. It’s about being yourself and achieving your goals.

So, I’ll be here once a month sharing my ups and downs (with more ups than downs hopefully).

I’d love to how other writers feel about the ‘almost published’ phenomenon. What are your thoughts?

Til then,

Abbi ☺

Check back the second Wednesday of each month to share Abbi's journey. In between, be sure to check out her website, @abbi_cantrell and group blog, Seven Sassy Sisters.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

WRITE AT HOME MOM: Talking 2012

USAToday Bestselling author and mom to four, Mira Lyn Kelly, is kicking off her new column and the new year with one resolution that covers them all… Balance.

In a perfect world, I would be the kind of mother who joyfully gave my family everything I was, every second I had… and it would neither suck the life out of me, nor turn my children into a lot of spoiled psychopaths. My house would be immaculate. Dinners, healthy and delicious every night. My husband, family and friends would have my undivided attention, as long as they desired it. I’d be totally fit and I’d have five to eight books releasing every year. Oh, and it would all be effortless.

Yeah, yeah. This, is not a perfect world. I am not a perfect mom, an effective housekeeper, or a prolific writer. And my jeans are too tight. As for giving everyone the time they want…with four kids, I could dole out my attention twenty-four-seven and it wouldn’t be enough.

Essentially, I’m a perpetually busy mom with a million responsibilities, a passion for a career I can’t seem to find enough time to really get going, and a life that seems to forever be just a bit beyond my control.

I want to do better.

Notice I didn’t say I wanted to do it all. I can’t. There aren’t enough hours in the day, enough of me to go around, or even enough slots available in my line to handle all those books, lol. But better I think is possible.

Which means this year I’m all about making a better balance my resolution.
I’ll be taking a look at my priorities, seeing what room there is to wiggle, and then making some tough choices. Checking out techniques to maximize my effort/output ratio. Working toward a healthy mind/body goal. Testing tips on ways to keep my home from becoming a hovel. Basically trying anything and everything to turn out the books while making sure my highest priorities know they are number one… and, ideally, not losing my mind in the process.

So if you are like me, a determined mom trying to squeeze out as much of IT ALL as you possibly can, please join me the second Tuesday of each month to share tips, advice, experiences and maybe even the occasional consolation as we take a Write-At-Home-Mom’s journey toward a better balance.


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 yea ago, Claire has turned her life upside down: new business, new friends, new life. 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!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Male On Monday with Merrillee Whren

Please welcome to The Pink Heart Society, Love Inspired author Merrillee Whren as she takes a different view of our Male on Monday, looking at the heart of a hero.
When I get ready to start a book, I look through the collection of pictures I have accumulated over the years. They come from magazine, catalogues and calendars. The picture above came from a calendar that featured pets, and it became the inspiration for the physical description of Parker Watson, the hero for Montana Match, my January 2012 book from Love Inspired. Not only was the picture the inspiration for my hero, but it inspired part of the story. I’m an organic writer and start with the barest of outlines for my books. I never planned to include a dog in the story, but one day I pulled out the picture to remind myself about the hero’s appearance. While I studied it, the idea of including the dog blossomed, and it fit seamlessly into the story. 

There is definitely more to a hero than what he looks like. I want my hero to be someone my readers care about as much as the heroine does. Some of my favorite heroes are guys with troubled pasts. Parker is no exception. If he is going to win the love of the heroine, he has to forgive the people who hurt him and made him a near recluse on his ranch.

The idea for this story came about because I wanted to write the stories of the three teenagers who were secondary characters in a couple of my earlier books, Love Walked In and The Heart’s Forgiveness. Brittany Gorman, the heroine of Montana Match, was the petite red-haired cheerleader who captured the interest of the heroine’s son, Max, in Love Walked In. I knew when I started to write Brittany’s story that she wasn’t going to wind up with Max, so I had to come up with the guy who could help Brittany get over the recent breakup of her eight-year relationship with Max and a guy who would make her think again and reconsider the things she wants out of life.

Who would bring them together? And why would this troubled man capture her interest?

Brittany’s best friend brings them together for a fun ski weekend in a Montana resort, not far from Parker’s ranch. He is a single dad, and his love for his adopted twin girls makes it hard for Brittany to say no when he offers her a job as nanny for his children. She sees him as hero material when she learns the story behind the adoption.

What is your favorite kind of hero?

Merrillee Whren is an award-winning author who writes for Harlequin Love Inspired. She is married to her own personal hero, her husband of thirty plus years, and has two grown daughters. She has lived in Atlanta, Boston, Dallas and Chicago but now makes her home on one of God’s most beautiful creations, an island off the east coast of Florida. When she’s not writing or working for her husband’s recruiting firm, she spends her free time playing tennis or walking the beach, where she does the plotting for her novels. Please visit her Web site at connect with her on Facebook at

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Penny Jordan -- An Appreciation

From Diane Gaston's blog
 The Pink Heart Society was very saddened to hear of Penny Jordan's recent death. She lost her fight with cancer on 31 December 2011. She had known for awhile but chose to keep the news quiet, instead she concentrated on living her life, including continuing to write. Penny's work ethic was legendary. Her like will not be see again.

Several authors who knew her well agreed to write a few words in appreciation.

From India Grey Harlequin Presents Author:

On December 31st the romance world didn’t just say goodbye to 2011, but also to one of the biggest, brightest and most beloved stars in its galaxy. Penny Jordan had been privately holding her own against cancer for a long time, even when she knew it was a fight she wasn’t going to win. She finally submitted to it last week, with the grace and dignity that were the cornerstones of her character.

It’s impossible to know where to begin to sum up her life and her achievements as she was so many things to so many people, and she accomplished so much. In that respect the figures speak for themselves – in the 32 years since her first novel Duchess in Disguise was published under the pseudonym Caroline Courtney, she wrote over 200 novels under 5 different pen names and sold in excess of 100 million copies across the world. (Gosh. I wonder how many hours of reading pleasure that equals?)

Numbers like that don’t stack up by themselves: Penny was jaw-droppingly hard-working and the romantic imagination that enabled her to create her glorious stories was coupled with a steely professionalism. In 1985 alone she had 17 books published, written on an old typewriter balanced on a card table in the sitting room of the home she shared with her husband, Steve. (She said he always used to be able to tell when she was writing a sex scene as the clicking of her fingers on the keys would become even more frantic.)

Beth Kendrick admiring one of Penny's fabulous shoes
 The essence of Penny the person is harder to encapsulate.  It would be impossible to talk about her without mentioning elegance and glamour – both of which she had in effortless spades – but if she could hear me say that she’d wave a dismissive hand and tell me not to talk rubbish. Because the second thing you noticed about her was that she was incredibly down to earth. Given how phenomenally successful and well-loved she was, she could have been forgiven for being just a tiny-weeny bit complacent, deep down. But she wasn’t, not one bit.  There was an undercurrent of insecurity and vulnerability in her that was as endearing as it was incomprehensible. Her success only made her more conscious of her responsibility to her readers, and she had a genuine and generous desire to share it with others. She devoted considerable amounts of time and energy to encouraging and mentoring aspiring authors, as Susan Stephens and I – amongst many others – can gratefully attest. Like a modern-day Fairy Godmother, she changed things for the better.

During even the toughest times in her own life her capacity for hard work didn’t desert her – perhaps it even kept her going. But not only did she keep writing, she also managed to keep on top of the market (and the bestseller lists) by adapting her stories and her characters to suit the mood of the times. She did this quite naturally – by reading newspapers and magazines voraciously, collecting snippets to spin into stories. She did it by people-watching – whether it was on the elegant Via dei Tornabuoni in her beloved Florence, or in a coffee shop in the small Cheshire market town where she lived – and just by engaging in conversation, both in real life and online, which she did with irrepressible interest. She adored fashion and could shop for Britain (especially with the Mses Stephens or Kendrick as her partners in crime!) and her love of clothes and shoes and jewellery echoes through her books.

From Lucy Monroe's photo album
And of course, it’s her books that are her greatest legacy – her lasting gift to us all. Through them she has touched millions of lives; brought numberless hours of joy to women around the world and immeasurable comfort during dark days and long nights. They will endure, as will the memory of Penny’s warmth and wit and generosity in the minds of those who were lucky enough to know her.  She will be missed so much, by so many.

Sandra Martin Harlequin Presents:

We've lost a wonderful writer and a true friend. If you knew Penny through her books, you probably imagine her as feminine, beautiful, elegant, determined and strong. That's exactly what she was like in person. Penny never let life defeat her. She kept to that to the end, by leaving this world with amazing dignity and grace.

Michelle Styles Harlequin Historical author:

Penny Jordan has been a huge influence on me. First of all I loved her books and they provided an escape from university reading, work and then a lifeline to home when I first moved to the UK. It may seem strange as she was from the UK but Harlequin (Mills and Boon) made those first few months bearable as they were familiar. Later when I lay sick in hospital with gall stones, a lady in the next bed told me you couldn't go wrong with A Penny Jordan and I knew the sort of books I wanted to write books you could turn to in times of trouble or need and somehow find the strength to carry on after escaping. Still later, I got to know Penny via several yahoo loops and even had the pleasure of meeting her on occasion. She was unfailingly kind and patient. In short she was the sort of author any young author could look up to. She set a very high standard and her like will not be seen again. I feel very honoured to have known her.

Please feel free to add any personal thoughts or remembrances of Penny.