Monday, August 31, 2015

Male on Monday - My Heroes have Always Been Heathcliffs

We're delighted to have Lenora Worth with us at the Pink Heart Society today, as she talks about how all of her heroes have that little bit of Heathcliff in them...

I have to admit that I put a little bit of Heathcliff in all of my heroes. What woman doesn’t love a man with just a little bit of mystery and torment in his eyes?

I write sweet romance so I don’t get too out there on the edge, but even characters who are plopped down into sweetness have to have some sort of past. I try to give my heroes realistic problems with a bit of dramatic flair thrown in for good measure.

In my September release Lakeside Hero, the first of the Men of Millbrook Lake series for Love Inspired and Love Inspired Suspense, I found just such a hero in Alec Caldwell. 

He’s a former marine who was wounded in battle. He has a physical scar (this book is a bit Beauty and the Beast too) and he has scars of the heart. He is noble and kind but he is also battling with the aftermath of serving his country. He tries to hide his weaknesses but my heroine Marla sees right through his scars and finds his heart even though men like Alec scare her with their intensity.

That’s what I love about the Heathcliff type characters, that intensity that masks hurt and fear and doubt. It draws readers and captivates every woman’s heart. Of course, this type can also drive women to distraction and sometimes push them away.

Do you like Heathcliffs? Maybe a little bit? Remember, I said I have a bit of Heathcliff in most of my heroes. Just a tad to make them interesting. I wish Heathcliff could have had his happy ending so maybe that’s why my heroes always find women who can not only understand them, but also can heal them and love them and … stand up to them!

Do you like Heathcliff as a romantic hero? Do you think that intensity makes for a perfect hero?  Join the discussion with Lenora in the comments!

Lenora's latest Heathcliff-inspired hero can be found in Lakeside Hero, available now: 

A Soldier Returns

Former marine Alec Caldwell is happy to return home alive. The scars he carries—inside and out—are a burden he plans to face alone. All he wants is a quiet life devoted to helping wounded veterans. That is, until he meets pastry chef Marla Hamilton—who's just too sweet to resist. But the single mother is fighting her own battles. 

The last man in Marla's life hurt her and put her daughter in danger, leaving the child frightened of strangers. Alec seems like the thrill-seeking men Marla avoids. But can becoming a family give these wounded hearts a chance to heal?

For more information about Lenora Worth, check out her website, and say hello to her on Facebook, and Twitter.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Writer's Workspace - Writing on the Underground

We're delighted to welcome back Nicole Locke at the Pink Heart Society, as she talks about writing on London's underground train system...

I can’t work from home. Either home stuff interrupts writing stuff or writing stuff interrupts home stuff. It’s the oddness of a writer’s life that you can’t get laundry done because you’re writing, but you can’t write because you have laundry. So much so, that by the end of the day you have a cranky writer, and equally smelly clothing (there’s a teenage boy in the house).

Moreover, I’m not welcome at home. No, really, I’m not. I live in London and our place is naturally small. It becomes not so much I’m feeling claustrophobic from the four walls as much as the four walls are feeling claustrophobic by me. During the day, I can hear them grumble that I need to get out of their space (but only after cleaning the laundry).

So I go. Oh, I have a local café I call my office. The boys there take such good care feeding and watering me. There are no walks yet, but we’re working on that. Then there’s the trips I take to the museums, the parks, the benches. 

But for my most productive writing, I head to the underground for a game I play.

It’s a great writing game because it’s simple, anyone can play and it truly works. It has two simple instructions: 1. Take your portable computer or writing pad and pen. 2. Don’t. Get. Off. (Until the writing’s done). 

Why does this game work? There are no toilets on the tube. 

So when there’s a deadline or I’m behind in my word count or I just can’t suffer through a difficult scene, I get on at one station and ride the tube all the way to the end and back again (or around and around).

I write until I’m done with the scene that’s bothering me or the dialogue that won’t work. I write because I can’t do anything else, and I know, at some point, I will have to use the toilet.

Now, I don’t set myself up to fail. There are no copious amounts of tea before I get on the tube. This tube writing is serious business. Am I worried about not finishing a scene before that all-important break? No. I think my body and fingers live in fear of this happening. 

Tube writing is not all fearful time. As I look down at the computer in my lap, I can see the different arms and shod feet of other passengers. They add to the tapestry of my writing, and certainly most smell better than my laundry at home. But more than that, I like to think that they are encouraging me. After all, these arms and feet are busy. They’re on their way to work, and may be in need of a bit of entertainment. They, too, deserve to know how the scene will end. 

So, yes, I sit on the tube; I finish that writing. And the best bit? This transportation takes me away to 13th Century Scotland just as easily as it takes me to the gates of my daughter’s school in time for pick up. By then, the laundry is dry and the walls of my home welcome me again.

Do you have a special place that inspires you to get writing? Share your stories with us and Nicole in the comments!

Nicole's debut, Her Enemy Highlander, is out now:

In the wilds of Scotland...

Impulsive Mairead Buchanan’s only goal is to track down the man responsible for her brother’s death. Until a shameful encounter with Caird of enemy clan Colquhoun proves a distraction she can’t ignore...

Nothing could prepare Mairead for the path she’s thrown onto when the secrets of a jeweled dagger are revealed and she finds herself kidnapped by this sexy highlander! With Mairead’s recklessness a perfect foil to Caird’s cool command, can these two enemies set their clans’ differences aside and surrender to the desire that rages between them?

To find out more about Nicole Locke, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Writer's Workspace - AlTonya Washington

We're delighted to welcome AlTonya Washington to the Pink Heart Society, as she talks about where she writes...

When speaking in terms of a writer’s workspace, most writers would agree that a workspace can be just about anywhere! 

I’ve worked on rough drafts, final drafts, copy edits...from such pristine spaces as city buses, bus stations, college cafes, in the car at the football field during my son’s practices-and yes I’ve even had the chance to do actual writing work in library’s and my own home office. 

The point is that a writer has to be crafty and flexible when it comes to selecting his or her workspace. For me, I can easily lose myself in work at a bus station, football field or my car and write for hours. 

Being flexible also has its place during the research process. I enjoy introducing my readers to an array of characters and diverse plots as well as settings that are definitely off the beaten path. The trouble with that is I rarely have the chance to add an actual visit to my research and use aspects of those personal accounts in the storylines of my work.

That changed somewhat this past June with a trip to California. I’m extremely fortunate in that books encompass a great deal of my life. 

In addition to being an author, I’ve worked in the library field for over ten years. I’ve worked as a reference librarian for the past three years and this year had the chance to attend the annual ALA (American Library Association) Conference. This year’s gathering took place in San Francisco. Besides, wanting to make the city my home at one time, San Francisco is the setting for my latest book release under Harlequin’s Kimani Romance imprint.  

Treasure My Heart is the follow-up to my March release Embrace My Heart

The setting is San Francisco with California Wine Country as the backdrop. 

In addition to his responsibilities as a well-known property developer, my hero Oliver Bauer run his family’s renowned vineyard with his sister Vectra. Our heroine Minka Gerald is executive assistant for a well-known finance broker and the love of Vectra’s life Qasim Wilder. In ‘Treasure’, an extraordinary project will require the combined efforts of several businesses Oliver’s and Minka’s among them. Oliver; already thoroughly intrigued by Minka, intends to devote quite a bit of their business time to pleasure. He’ll be rather unsettled to discover that pleasure is but one of the things he’ll want from Minka. Moreover, he’ll be rather irked by the fact that pleasure is all Minka expects.

While Treasure was completed before my San Francisco trip, having the opportunity to visit the town was beyond amazing. Locales that I’d only had the chance to view through my computer monitor or TV screen were suddenly live and in living color. Visiting Fisherman’s Wharf and taking my first Cable Car ride allowed me to revisit my research in a most spectacular way. Next time, the travel box will be checked before the manuscript is completed.

Do you take research trips, or do you have to do all your setting research online?  Join the discussion with AlTonya in the comments!

AlTonya's San Fran-inspired book, Treasure My Heart, is available now: 

The man every woman wants…wants her 

There are flings, and then there's real life. Minka Gerald, assistant to one of the country's top financiers, is too smart to confuse the two. But a business trip to Miami is the perfect place for a workaholic to let loose, and Oliver—brother to her boss's fiancée—is the ideal partner-in-pleasure. And with his heartbreaker reputation, that's as much as she expects. 

A ladies' man doesn't become a one-woman guy overnight. But once property developer Oliver Bauer has a taste of real connection, he wants more. Outwardly reserved but full of fire, Minka could hold his heart forever. Can he make her believe in him, before an old enemy's quest for revenge puts her safety and their sizzling new love in jeopardy?

For more information about AlTonya Washington and her books, check out her website and her blog, and say hello to her on Facebook, and Twitter.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Fun :: Pulling it all together

Anne is celebrating the end of a series -- her books about the Antonides and Savas families-- which she has loosely called her "Beware of Greeks" books.  She's looking back . . . and looking forward at the same time.  It's the writer's version of tennis-watching neck.

Yesterday in the mail I got a box from England containing the last of my Savas-Antonides books, The Return of Antonides. It is generally a moment of trepidation because sometimes, frankly, upon seeing the cover, I'd really rather not have.  HOWEVER . . . this time they got it right.

Boy, did they get it right.

This is Lukas Antonides, youngest son in the Antonides family (oh, heavens, yes, it looks just like him) -- the one who, through all his siblings' books, had always looked as if he'd just got out of bed or was just on his way out the door.  He did, in fact, go out the door for most of the series. He was rarely around unless there was a wedding he was required to attend in which case he showed up, said something sarcastic, then left.

I loved him, but I privately despaired of him. When it was his turn, who on earth would put up with him?  Good question, as it turned out.

When it was his turn, he found the wrong woman the first time around.  He and I suffered through half a book before he pointed out how bored he was. He was bored? What about me?  So we tossed that and started over.  That was when Holly showed up.

Holly had more than enough moxie to deal with Lukas, but the idiot got himself engaged to Grace in the meantime.  We finished that book, Lukas and Holly -- and Grace -- and I.  The editorial team had one major suggestion: lose Grace.

That was a nice idea -- except it meant losing at least half of Lukas's motivation for anything he did, including why he couldn't get the right girl.  Because he had the wrong girl already, see?  I saw. Lukas saw.  Even Holly saw.  Grace was busy, and frankly she was interested in Will at the library, but she didn't tell Lukas that.  Editorial said again: lose Grace.

Well, Grace couldn't go entirely. She's there -- just not very there.  And not engaged to Lukas. This time around he had the brains not to pop the question.  I suspect she's happier that way -- and perfectly capable of getting herself engaged to Will at the library without any help from me (thank God).

But that meant writing another book in which Lukas was the hero, minus Grace (mostly), but with Holly who was his dearest enemy.  This time, it worked!  Well, except for the 100 or so pages I cut out because, well, it wasn't short.

So . . . Lukas has got his happily ever after (that's a spoiler, I guess, but if you read romances, you know he's going to get her, don't you? You just don't know how. And frankly, neither did Lukas for a very long time indeed.)

He also got a dynamite cover on the UK version (see above).  This is Lukas, down to the ground.  He figures he deserves such a great cover. So do I.

The US cover is, well, okay, I guess. She doesn't look like Holly at all.  So if you get the US version, you'll have to imagine your own Holly.  I'm sure you can do that.  And the Lukas is better than Holly, but not the UK Lukas.  Love the UK Lukas.

So I've been having fun this Friday reading back through all the Savas and Antonides stories which began in The Antonides Marriage Deal when the oldest Antonides brother, Elias, got the company almost literally pulled out from under him when his father, Aeolus, lost a bet to Socrates Savas who then installed his only daughter, Tallie, as head of the company.

Since then there have been eleven more books, including Lukas's.  They are all -- except Lukas's because I am just sending the info to my webmistress so stay tuned -- listed on my website on their own "Beware of Greeks" page.  You can read excerpts for each if you so desire.  I'll be posting an excerpt of Lukas's book there, too, very shortly.

And now, with the last Antonides happily sharing his ever after with the woman he'd loved for years, I am looking forward to four new guys -- I call them the Hard Broke Creek men.  They knew each other in high school and college in Montana. They cowboyed together for a time.

Now all except one have been away about a dozen years. Then fate conspires to bring them home again to face their past, to come to terms with the demons they have never dealt with, and to meet -- or meet again -- the women who help make their lives whole.

I'll miss those Antonides and Savas folks. Maybe another one will come along some day. But for now I'm having fun getting to know the Hard Broke Creek men -- and the women who may finally tame them.

The Return of Antonides comes out in late September or early October in both UK and US editions. It may be out in a venue near you -- even if you don't live in either of those places -- around the same time.  

The kindle edition (UK) has a slightly different look -- same guy! -- if you read electronically these days.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Time Out Thursday - Discussing the Romance

Pink Heart Society editor, Ali Williams, is talking about talking about romances...

I've been looking to join a book club recently - we moved to a town in Sussex about six months ago, and I've been finding it hard to meet people - and I discovered that our local Waterstones is starting a book club that'll meet once a month.  So naturally, I signed up.

But it got me thinking.

When we talk about romance novels, what are the questions that we're asking?  What are the themes and tropes and topics that we're looking to talk about?

Romance is such a broad genre that I find myself splitting discussion questions into two rather distinct categories:  discussion questions for those who regularly read romance; and discussion questions for those who read.  Either way, there are groups of questions that I always end up discussing:

Sub-Genre Questions

There are so many sub-genres of romance, that I like to try and contextualise the book being discussed - either to ask about the sub-genre if it's not one I read regularly, or to ask how this book compares to other books within the same sub-genre.  This is my chance to really understand where this author's coming from, and where this book fits within the wider romance writing narrative.

Trope Questions

One accusation often leveled at romance novels, is that they're all the same.  I think this is where the trope questions come in handy.  Have the writer taken a typical trope (whether that's a reunion story, or amnesia plot, or a secretary heroine) and done something a bit different with it?  Is the secretary the hero?  Or the reunion something high school sweethearts said they'd do if they were 30 and still unmarried?

I love the way that romance authors manage to keep their stories fresh and exciting, and discussing how they do that is always fun!

Intersectionality Questions

I'm a big fan of intersectional romances, whether it's the inclusion of LGBTQ characters, more POCs or heroines and heroes breaking away from the usual stereotypes.

that's not to say I don't enjoy novels that don't do this, but there are more and more intersectional romances that I believe challenge the stereotypes that the public domain has of romance, and that can only be a good thing.

Emotion Questions

And one of the best things about romances, is the way that they manage to capture a broad spectrum of emotions - from elation to devastation; from mistrust to openness - and there's nothing better than discussing how the book in question managed to capture your heart.

What are the questions that you ask of romance novels?  And are there any questions that regularly pop up when you discuss them with others?  Join our very own discussion in the comments!!

Ali Williams grew up in Croydon and spent her teenage years in a convent girls’ school. She then fled to university where she discovered champagne cocktails, a capella singing and erotica.

These days she blogs about perceptions of romance, chick lit and women in society and spends the rest of her time promoting #StrongRomanceHeroines on Twitter, and cracking on with her first novel, Breakfast in Tunford.

Editor for the Pink Heart Society, guest blogger for Mills & Boon and Harper Impulse, and occasional columnist for For Books' Sake, she defies you to slam romance novels within her hearing!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Writer's Wednesday - Collaborating on Tule's the Secrets of Cherry Lake Series

Today on the Pink Heart Society, PHS editor and author Jeannie Watt discusses collaborating on Tule Publishing's new Montana Born series, The Secrets of Cherry Lake.

What happens when you take four authors who don’t know each other and put them together to develop a series? Well, in the case of The Secrets of Cherry Lake, a kind of magic happened.

Cherry Lake, Montana, is a fictional community set on the east side of Flathead Lake, where, as the name implies, cherries are grown.  [Side note—I was just in Montana a week ago and bought some Flathead Lake cherries at a roadside stand and they are superb!] Jane Porter used Cherry Lake as one of the settings in her book The KidnappedChristmas Bride, and it was such a neat place that the Tule team decided to develop it as the setting for future books--thus The Secrets of Cherry Lake.

When I joined Roxanne Snopek, Paula Altenburg, and Joan Kilby as a member of Team Cherry Lake, they already had  a rough map of the town and the back story. Four brothers—the Jacksons—returned to Montana from WWII and started a cherry orchard. Each of us would get a brother and write about one of our brother’s grandchildren. Great idea, except do you know how many people you can generate in just a couple generations? We had a hard time keeping the patriarchal brothers straight, plus their children and grandchildren.  It was time to pare back. So we had one brother—Nate Jackson—return from WWII and start a cherry orchard. His four children and resulting grandchildren were much easier to keep track of. 

One neat aspect of developing the town was combining our businesses and characters into a cohesive community. When I joined the team, I added an historic hotel in need of renovation to the town. Writing the history of the Montreau Hotel was almost as much fun as developing a character--but not quite. Developing Clinton Calloway, our resident bad guy, was the most fun. He figures in several of our stories.

Roxanne, Joan, Paula and I live in three different time zones and when it was evening here in Nevada, I think it was morning where Joan lives in Australia. It didn’t matter. Despite distances and time zone issues, we communicated full time, describing characters and businesses via email and Google Docs, and Cherry Lake came alive. 

Please check out Roxanne Snopek’s kick off novella—Small Town Secrets—which was released yesterday, along with Joan Kilby’s full length novel, The Secret Son.  Paula’s Her Secret Love releases on September 1, Roxanne’s Her Secret Protector releases on September 8, and my The Secret Bride releases on September 15.

Do you enjoy books that share a setting and characters? Or do you prefer stand alones?

The Secret Bride--
After a decade away, Jacie Rose has returned with her daughter to Cherry Lake to renovate a historic hotel…and to lay some ghosts to rest. She knows she’ll have to confront mistakes she made in the past, but she didn’t expect to be living right next door to the guy she once asked to be her husband.
When Brett Jackson was approached ten years ago by Jacie Rose with the wild scheme of marrying her to help her out of a jam, his white knight instincts kicked in and he agreed to be her emergency groom. The only problem was that the bride didn’t show up for the wedding. How’s he supposed to get used to seeing the woman he’s never forgotten every day now that she’s his neighbor?
Determined to provide the secure home life for her daughter that she never had, Jacie is not about to bring a man into her life—even one that she sometimes thinks should have been there all along. But Brett and Jacie soon discover the spark between them is even stronger than before… Now that their paths have crossed again, will they lead them back to the wedding that almost was?

Jeannie Watt writes fast-paced, character driven stories set in the American west. When she’s not writing, she teaches in a small rural high school, sews and, of course, reads romance. To learn more about Jeannie and her books, please check out her website.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday Talk Time: Summer Round-up

Summer is coming to a close here on The Pink Heart Society, so columnist Jenna Bayley-Burke is here to find out just what did you do this summer?

We got a jumpstart on our summer this year. As soon as the kids were out of school we headed to Sunriver, the high desert playground of Oregon. We explored an ice cave, hiked through a lava cast forest, climbed a mountain, and I got to put the kids in funny poses for pictures. Because you know if it didn’t get posted on Facebook, it didn’t really happen.

For us the summer is all about being in the outdoors. My boys kayaked the Hood Canal, went on cycling adventures, hiked Saddle Mountain, went to the coast, and are currently at my parents cabin at Crater Lake. While at Big Obsidian Flow we even saw a rainbow cloud! Soon enough, the rain Oregon is known for will show up. We have to spend the summer enjoying the sunshine before it turns liquid.

I had a couple adventures of my own, thanks to writer and reader conferences. In May, I was in Dallas for the Romantic Times Conference. I got to meet lots of readers, and got a lesson in Uber. And in July, New York City, for the RWA National Convention. New York was kind of wasted on me because I had pneumonia. But I did manage to use the subway for the first time, have a chocolate martini at Max Brenner, cheesecake at Juniors & get served by a kilted waiter at St. Andrews. Maybe I didn't fail New York after all...

What did you do this summer? Anyone find a beach to lounge about, or some cabana boys?

For more info on Jenna and her books you can visit her website or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.