Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Writer's Wednesday: The Writing Grail

Pink Heart Society columnist and Harlequin Historical author Nicole Locke asks - Is there a Writing Grail?

I’m in trouble. It’s been going on for a while now, and although I’ve made valiant efforts to deny or overcome it, I’m finally in the acceptance stage.

I’m not writing anything. I have a story I actually like. In my head, my characters are carrying on epic movie quality dialogue and scenes.

So I sit down to write, and the richness of the scenes aren't spilling forth. I’m about 30k words in. No, that’s not true. I’m 20k words in. But I’m not going to tell you how long I’ve been writing it.

Alright, I’ve been writing it for a month. I can write 1k words in 1 hour, and 2k if I'm motoring. Those 20k words are blood drawn, and with little exception, they’re all bad.

So am I procrastinating? Is this perfectionism, fear of failure or a feeling of inadequacy? Am I purposefully self-defeating myself because I deserve not to tell this story?

I know first drafts are awful. I know that around the 18th draft, I’m elated with the story, and that feeling is indescribably amazing. I want that feeling again, or at least that feeling I get when I write a good sentence.

So I’m looking for the Writing Grail to fix my trouble. I read inspiration books such as Bird by Bird and On Writing. I read the ‘how to’ ideas in the Snowflake Method and Plot from the Middle. The inspiration books were inspiring; the 'how to' books helpful. But they weren't the Writing Grail.

So I spent four hours searching for the best headset for speech recognition. The hope is sound. I’m fidgety. My sit down ability is one hour tops and on a bad day 10 minutes. This isn’t just with writing. It often takes me a week to watch a film. So the headset for speech recognition might work.

Now I have my headset, and the speech recognition apps I have aren't working for me. After another eight hours of training bad apps and researching new apps, I settled on Dragon Naturally Speaking 13. Even though I know it's bound to have a release soon; even though I tried DNS before.

Did I tell you I tried this before? Yep, and I quit because training the program didn't work. But when looking for the Writing Grail, I have to be optimistic. I have to hope the technology has improved since the last time I tried.

Because what if it has? What if this is all me and my fidgety self and I only need to find my writing pace? Except....

Except, I fear what lurks beneath my hopes. I fear there’s a bad writing seed planted in my head and heart that’s going to stop me again. So I thought it should be acceptance time, and tell my troubles.

Because I have one certainty left, if there is a Writing Grail, it’s the camaraderie of writers and readers. 

--  Nicole :-)

Nicole's third book in the Lovers and Legends series, The Highland Laird's Bride, releases in June. She's celebrating with a Goodreads Giveaway beginning May 10th!

He wants to amend the past. She wants to kill him.

Lioslath of Clan Fergusson has defended her clan and her orphaned siblings against countless enemies. So when Laird Colquhoun, the man responsible for the death of her father, arrives at the gates of her crumbling keep, she'll fight him all the way!

It's soon clear Bram's famed tactics of seduction and negotiation won't work on this guarded, beautiful woman. But when sparks between them turn to passion, and they're forced to wed, Bram must do whatever it takes to win over his new bride...
To find out more about Nicole Locke, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Tuesday Talk Time - Spring Cleaning with Kate Walker

Kate Walker is back at the Pink Heart Society, talking about her take on Spring Cleaning...

No - not the cleaning your house and getting rid of the dust, washing the curtains and throwing out the rubbish sort of ‘spring cleaning’...

Well, yes, perhaps I do mean some of that. It’s Spring. Or it’s supposed to be but the fact that there is rain/sleet lashing at my windows and the drop in temperatures that makes me want to add another layer of clothing or – can you believe it – put up the heating; makes me doubt that it really is Spring. 

But there is a new degree of light in the days and the evenings seem so much longer than before,  enough to make me thinks about cleaning and sorting and organising. We’ve had the bedroom and the hallway newly redecorated. This week, new wardrobes are being put in. And that means that my clothes - which are currently lying on top of the spare bed, waiting for somewhere to put them into – will all need to be sorted, ready to go back into their new spaces.  

No, not all of them. This is my opportunity to organise and prune – put the clothes that don’t fit/I don’t wear/don’t like anymore into bags for the charity shop and only the ones that will earn their keep are staying and going back into the cupboards for the future.

While I’m waiting for that to happen, I’m sorting out my office.  The same process is happening here., I need to organise, prune, plan – and only things that will earn their keep are staying as  the need for space means I can’t keep everything.   

'Historic document' - the original of The Chalk Line
Books – oh dear, this is hard, but some of the hundreds of books just have to go.  The ones I’ve read and am not likely to read again – ever. The ones I tried to read and have had to admit I’m giving up on them. 

I can usually manage to persist with most books – five years at university and 2 degrees gave me the staying power to keep going most of the time. But there are some I just have to admit are not for me – so they are really just clutter.  

And I’m not going to part with my collection of signed books – signed by friends or authors I’ve met or my precious collection of signed Mary Stewart first editions. They’re not clutter by any meaning of the term.

I have such a collection of foreign editions - more than I have shelf space for – so I’m always on the lookout for charities or libraries or community projects what will be able to use the editions of my books in German or Italian or French – or Japanese... but when I get into my writing files – that’s when things slow down considerably.  

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as an author, then it’s the fact that no piece of writing, however bad, is really wasted. In the past, trainee craftsmen used to make their apprentice pieces, miniature chests of drawers, chairs etc, to show how they were mastering their crafts.

So I have my old ‘novels’ – all in longhand, all filed away, gathering dust. Surely these should end up on the ‘discard’ pile – to be shredded or burned and stop them wasting space.  

No way!

I’ve kept everything I wrote – from my childhood scribblings to the  ‘failures’ in my first attempt at writing for Harlequin. They might not have worked when I wrote them but, in the main, they have been rescued, reworked, revived. and finally – hurrah – published.

I always advise my students to hold on to their first attempts – and their second...  Those stories are like seeds, lying dormant in the dark, waiting for the author to return to them when she knows  better what she’s doing so that they can be revised and polished and turned into successfully published novels. 

I did this with ‘Garrett Of Stoneroyd’  first written in 1983 -  and returned to me with the comment  that it ‘failed to deliver the vital emotional punch’ (how many of us have had that criticism of our work?  ‘Garrett’ became Broken Silence.  Then there was Chase the Dawn – the book I hoped would be my second published novel after The Chalk Line, but I was trying to write it at a bad time – my mother was dying of cancer and the book just never took off.  Some years – and a couple of rewrites later – it was published in 1989 . But my favourite ‘write-off’ book is the one that a long ago editor (who shall remain nameless) told me Harlequin would never publish because my hero was so adamant that he never wanted children.

Hmm – I was so convinced by that adamant declaration that I pushed the ms to the back of the filing cabinet and tried to forget about it. But it wouldn’t be forgotten. And Morgan, my ‘non-family oriented’ hero just wouldn’t leave me alone until I’d told his story.  I did that, reworking the original with a much more sympathetic editor - and His Miracle Baby was published nearly 8 years later – and has been one of the most popular books I’ve ever written with huge sales that are still mounting up.

So – the lesson is as I said before. Don’t throw anything away. It can always be looked at again, reworked, revised – and may well be published at a different time, in a different publishing climate. 

I have the perfect example of this with  the book out this month by one of my past students.  Rachael Thomas  brought her  first draft of a story to the one-to-one I ran at the Fishguard Advanced Romance Writing Course 4 years ago. That version didn’t work but I knew Zafir and the horse whisperer heroine Destiny’s story had potential. So I was delighted to see it reworked and ready for publication as The Sheikh’s Last Mistress out this month.

Of course there’s one script I have never tried to rework – Double Love was the very first thing I wrote aimed at Harlequin Mills and Boon and it’s the one that came back fast, with just a printed rejection slip. I’m not surprised.  It was not good! But I keep it to remind myself of how bad my early attempts could be. I haven’t even dared to look at it for years.

But I’m still sticking by the important point - don’t throw away, shred or burn anything you’ve written because, no matter how small a bit of it – a single line, a theme – a character  that might be worth saving, It might just give you the seed that could, open out into a whole new story. If you’ve put it away for  6 months – a year – you might just see it with new, objective eyes, and find a way to take that old, messy story and turn it into something new and exciting.

I’m only sorry that I have no more ‘unsuccessful’  novels left.  Though perhaps in this time of spring cleaning and looking back at older stories perhaps I might have another look at Double Love...

Or then, perhaps not. 

My latest Modern Romance/Harlequin Presents was Destined For The Desert King - which was published in December 2015  and I'm thrilled to say that my earlier 2015 title Olivero's Outrageous Proposal has been republished in the Best Of The Year  Collection.  

A new title  Indebted to Moreno will be published in October  this year - and  if you missed A Throne For The Taking the first time around, that will be reprinted in the 3 in 1 By Request Collection: Claiming His Princess in August 2016.

Visit Kate Walker's website  and blog for up to date news; or find her Facebook page here.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Male on Monday: Country Bad Boys

Pink Heart Society columnist Jill Kemerer looks to country music for her cowboys...

I've been plotting a new series set  in Wyoming. The books will be heavy on cowboys, ranchers, and all things rugged. So when I started casting my heroes, I knew exactly where to look for inspiration--country music!

Country music has been providing hero inspiration for decades. I'm sure there were plenty of ladies swooning over Johnny Cash and George Jones back in the day. Then there were the 90s heartthrobs like George Strait, Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks. Soon Tim McGraw, Kenney Chesney and Brad Paisley took over.

And now we have a new breed of country bad boys, and I, for one, am loving it!

Let's start with Luke Bryan...

Luke Bryan sings about how corn makes whiskey, catfish dinners, kicking the dust up, trucks, tractors, honeys and strippin' it down. Maybe I've never eaten catfish, rarely kick the dust up, and know next to nothing about making whiskey, but who cares? I like his music!

Next up, Jason Aldean:

Jason is another true country boy. His songs are heavy on farming, tractors, partying and 4-wheel drives. Jason's songs remind me of my roots in Michigan with cousins and uncles who farm. Here's my favorite Jason Aldean song (an oldie but a goodie!).

Moving on to Sam Hunt!

Then we have a newer style of country song with singing/talking by Sam Hunt. Sam's songs are pretty romantic. We feel his pain after his girlfriend breaks up with him and starts dating someone else in town. We wish he would bring us a house party when we're curled up in our sweat pants on a Friday night. Mm-mmm! Sam might just be the ideal Harlequin hero!

Here's Sam getting his heart broken:

I have to include Hunter Hayes...

Hunter Hayes is a young 'un, but he's so cute! Plus, his songs remind me of high school and first loves. He's all emotions and I can relate!! Here's one of my faves. The lyrics remind me of why I read romance novels. I think we all want crazy. :)

There are so many more cute country guys out there. Look up Thomas Rhett, Justin Moore, Brantley Gilbert, Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban!

Do you like country music? If yes, who is your favorite country music singer/group?

Jill's April 2016 release, Her Small-Town Romance, doesn't feature any country music stars, but Bryan Sheffield is still extremely hunky. You can find purchase links to all major book outlets HERE:

Finding Her Way Home...

Cozy Lake Endwell, Michigan, seems the perfect place for Jade Emerson's new T-shirt shop—and perhaps a fresh start. After a lifetime of letdowns, she is finally ready to face the future on her own. 

So when local wilderness guide Bryan Sheffield offers to help Jade overcome a past trauma, she warns him they will remain strictly business. But soon, with the help of Bryan's big, complicated family and a boisterous St. Bernard named Teeny, Jade's frozen heart begins to thaw. 

Now Jade wonders if she can return the favor, bringing a little happiness to a man who has long kept his own sorrow under wraps…

Jill Kemerer writes Christian romance novels with love, humor and faith for Harlequin Love Inspired. Jill loves coffee, M&Ms, fluffy animals, magazines and her hilarious family. Visit her website,, and connect with Jill on Facebook, Twitter and sign up for her Newsletter.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Weekend Wildcard - And I'm Talking New Covers

Pink Heart Society columnist Barb Han is talking about how writing doesn't always command the respect it deserves...

Getting an e-mail with a link to a new book cover is like Christmas morning. There’s so much  anticipation leading up to the big reveal. Knowing the approximate date a cover should arrive in my Inbox has me hitting refresh more times than a day trader trying to sell a hot stock.

I wait. Refresh. And wait. Refresh.

Time drips by as my right index finger aches. Desperation creeps in and I worry that it’ll never show. My fears take over. Will my book be coverless and sad sitting all by itself on the shelf with no one to play with because it’s ‘different’ than the other books? *reaches for chocolate*

And then I tell myself to get a grip. There will be a cover and it will be fabulous! I stop checking and resolve to. Walk. Away.

Which, of course, is when it arrives and my reaction is something like…

Except without the bacon. :)

I open the e-mail with that same giddy anticipation of a child unwrapping that first present Christmas morning. My breath catches when I get the first glimpse, and it’s love at first sight!   

The Harlequin art department nails my covers. All. The. Time.

I mean, they’re even better than bacon! Seriously. And I love bacon.

I’d like to take credit for my covers turning out so spot on and fabulous. All Harlequin series authors fill out an Art Fact Sheet to help guide the art department. But it’s my editor’s vision and the art department’s creativity that shine through every time. They’re rock stars!

And they’ve done it again.

Here’s a first peek at my fresh-from-the-Inbox cover for my July 19th mass market release, STOCKYARD SNATCHING. This book kicks off a six-book miniseries set on a cattle ranch, Cattlemen Crime Club. And I LOVE this cover. The cattle. The setting sun. The cowboy. *drools*

In a word? Perfection!

For me, it’s Christmas in May.

I’d love to hear what you think of my new cover, or we could just talk about Christmas. Or bacon. I’m pretty much good with any of those topics…  

Barb's latest book, Texas Hunt, is out now:

She had a secret that could rock her hometown—and unleash a killer 

When Ryan Hunt receives a dead-of-night call for help from his childhood friend Lisa Moore, he knows the emergency is real. After barely surviving a brutal attack, Ryan is the only person Lisa trusts. Convinced the assault wasn’t random, he realizes she is hiding a dark and potentially deadly secret. 

Ryan can’t ignore Lisa’s silence any more than he can resist the Texas heat between them. He risks his life—and heart—to protect her. But if he can’t get Lisa to confide in him, the secret could bring the town of Mason Ridge to its knees. And destroy the only woman he has ever loved.

You can find out more about Barb Han's writing on her website and Goodreads. Follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest for regular updates and pretty pics!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Little Something for the Weekend - Dangerous Anti-Heroes

Pink Heart Society editor, Ali Williams, is talking about those dangerous anti-heroes that we can't help but be fascinated by...

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with dangerous anti-heroes - especially when it comes to romance.

But wait a moment, let me clarify what I mean by a dangerous anti-hero...  I don't mean a typical bad boy, just as I don't mean the alpha hero who's all gruff on the outside, but secretly has a heart of gold...

I'm talking about the anti-hero who will kill anyone who gets in their, who's ruthless and violent and altogether rather fascinating.

So yes, I'm not really sure whether they have a place, per se, on a blog that predominantly deals with romance, but there's something about the internal conflict in a dangerous anti-hero, that makes them altogether fascinating.

Next week, Peaky Blinders returns to the BBC.  For those who haven't seen it, it's a brutal depiction of a violent gang in Birmingham (North England) after the end of the First World War.  And yet, Cillian Murphy's depiction of Tommy Shelby is intricate and complex and makes us face the question of whether anyone can ever be wholly bad or wholly good.

It's a gripping tale, with roots in truth, that places its viewers firmly on the side of criminals, and it even has love narratives interwoven with the deception and violence.  I fell a little in love with enigmatic, complicated Tommy Shelby in a way that wouldn't be understandable if I'd met him in the real world.

Plus, Tom Hardy, sporting an incredibly bushy beard, makes a welcome appearance in the second series

Similarly Sons of Anarchy, with Brit Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller, follows the ups and downs of a motorcycle club, and the gang warfare that follows in its wake of destruction.

There were scenes in this that I simply couldn't watch, but yet I was absolutely hooked, wanting to know what would happen with Jax, the love of his life and his entire circle of family and friends.

None of them were particularly nice people, but that's kind of why we like anti-heroes.

They do things that we could never do ourselves, and follow a strict moral compass that is all their own - whether they're fighting to protect family or their home, or simply dolling out what seems to be a particularly brutal brand of justice.

But it's the complexity that makes them all the more fascinating, and I can't help that feel that any writer could learn from watching these two series how internal conflict and external conflict can compliment each other, as well as being a masterclass in internal conflict itself!

Are you a fan of dangerous anti-heroes?  Join the 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!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Fun - Spankilicious!

Bella Francis, one of the #3Amigas, is talking to the Pink Heart Society about heroes and tropes...


I'm serious! It's a perfectly appropriate topic of conversation for romance readers and writers. It might not quite be everybody's way to spend a half hour but you've got to admit that since Fifty Shades we've gotten a whole more liberated about it. 

The psychology behind why some people will and some people won't, and some people will even though they pretend they won't is absolutely fascinating. I read recently that experiences in early childhood can have a huge impact on this type of behaviour forming - being chastised is a way of making sense of an intense emotion and linking the punishment with pleasure can be how a young mind files it away for the future. 

Whatever the source, the pleasure is all tied up in the relationship. Could you spot a spankee or a spanker at fifty paces? We don't have a clue what sorts of things people get up to. And I have to confess that when I started writing the romance of Marco and Stacey I had no idea WHATSOEVER that this pair would take their rekindled teenage romance in this direction. Honestly, they were having a really hot kiss one moment and he was instructing her to bend over the next. Took me totally by surprise. And her!

But you see, she trusts him. Implicitly. She trusts him to open herself up to this kind of sensual pleasure. She trusts him and it's with that knowledge that she can explore herself a little more deeply. Isn't that what love is about at the end of the day? Self-knowledge is a wonderful thing. And imagine what a lovely surprise it must be to find out you're a spankee! All those cute new outfits and accessories :)

As I write, I'm almost finished this book, second of a duet for Harlequin Presents and due out, with the story of Dante and Sophie early next year. I've left Stacey draped over Marco's shoulder - John Wayne style - in the penultimate chapter. 

 I'll admit I'm slightly nervous to see how this scene goes. But hopefully, dear reader, it'll make it past the censors aka the lovely editorial team at Harlequin Mills and Boon. 

If you're any in doubt there's precedence! Amazing writers like Jane Porter (in The Italian's Virgin Princessand Jennifer Hayward (in Reunited for the Billionaire's Legacy) have already spanked for Harlequin Presents. So to speak.  I'm sure those ladies would agree - It's all about the love - as ever. Bottoms up!

Are you a fan of spanking in your romances?  Join the discussion in the comments!

Bella's latest book, The Playboy of Argentina, is out now:

Hot Nights In Buenos Aires! 

Polo-playing legend Rocco Hermida once blazed through Francesca Ryan’s life like a hurricane, leaving behind a trail of emotional devastation and unfulfilled desire. Meeting him again, Frankie’s horrified to discover that the passion Rocco ignited is still simmering… and one scorching kiss drives it to boiling point!

Rocco has always seen Frankie as unfinished business, so a brief fling at his luxurious Argentinian villa seems the perfect solution! Seduction is easy for Rocco – but then one night with Frankie isn’t enough…

Can he risk letting her in on the dark secrets he hides – his toughest challenge yet?

Bella lives in Scotland with her family. To find out more you can follow her on Facebookand Twitter.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Time-Out Thursday - Coloring!

We're delighted to welcome back Michele Hauf to the Pink Heart Society, as she talks about how coloring helps her relax!

Hey! Thanks for the invite to the blog. It's awesome to be here. So what do I do when not writing? Well, it seems lately that's about all I DO. I've been blessed recently to sign two new contracts with publishers, and that adds up to 9 books due by the end of 2017. Whew! I will be busy.

But when not writing I like to let my mind just…crash. Not think too hard. But still engage in something creative. You know what I'm addicted to? Coloring!

Yep, you heard that right. I've actually been a coloring book addict for over twenty years, and have been collecting coloring books that long. It's about time the rest of the world is finally getting on the band wagon and discovering the joys of coloring.

If you read a lot of articles online they'll tout the 'stress-relieving' benefits of coloring. But seriously? I get a little stressed out sometimes when I'm coloring. I worry about using the right color combinations. Coloring outside the lines. Coloring in those tiny little areas that would require 20/20 vision or better to see! Aggh!!!! 

Whew! You know what coloring does for me? It sends me back to that eight-year-old kid I once was. The one who used to love to scribble in coloring books with her crayons. And it also revisits the teenager who loved art class and at one time thought she'd become an artist for a living. Coloring honors that creative part of me that really needs attention from time to time. And by sitting down and spending an hour here and there just coloring inside the lines, I do honor that artist has always been with me and always will be with me.

How do you honor your inner artist? And if you've been ignoring her for years, can you think of a way to give her a hug and remind her that you still love and remember her?

In April, Michele’s latest release, Her Werewolf Hero, is out now:

Retrieve the purgatory heart… 

A "find and seize" mission that should have been easy for Retriever Bron Everhart. Except the werewolf had no idea the object would be inside a breathing, beautiful woman. Kizzy Lewis needed the heart to live. But others—even more desperate than Bron's employers—desired the heart at any cost. 

After just one touch, Bron knew he would do anything to protect Kizzy. The only way to truly save her was to journey into Purgatory itself. And for that, he had to hope he could return before she was lost to him forever.

To read more about Michele Hauf's books, stop by her website, follow her on Twitter and Facebook, as well as checking out her Pinterest and Tumblr.

Michele has a Facebook page dedicated to big kids obsessed with coloring: The Coloring Club! Find it here:  Also check out the Pinterest page: