Friday, June 24, 2016

Friday Fun - Who's Your Protector?

Pink Heart Society columnist Jenna Kernan is talking about her usual workspace, and also those more unusual, moving workspaces!

This month finishes up my first Harlequin Intrigue series: APACHE PROTECTORS.  I'm happy to announce that I will have a miniseries: APACHE PROTECTORS: TRIBAL THUNDER in January 2017.

My heroes, Kino, Clay, Gabe and Clyne Cosen, all protect their families, their tribe, their heroines and their heritage. 

We are surrounded by protectors

Writing so many protectors has me thinking about protectors.  I'm a resident of New York State.  Yesterday I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  On my way through Grand Central Terminal I passed at least eight national guard personal, two NYC police and a police dog.  On my walk uptown, I was passed by a fire truck with siren wailing.  Today I have a team from my electric company working on the natural gas lines outside my house to keep us safe.

When I was a child, we had a dog, Spooker, a big gray Weimerainer.  She would not let any of us kids, "her babies" set out of the yard.  If we tried, she grabbed us by the seat of our pants and sat us down.  That dog was my protector as I was learning to walk.

Two summers ago, I swam out to two exhausted swimmers on an overturned jet-ski and swam them in to the sandbar where the police boat picked them up and transported them to medical attention.  I guess that day, I was their protector.

My teachers, my parents, the lifeguard who taught me to swim.  The physician who set my arm and the dentist who repaired a cavity.  They are all protectors. 

I'll bet a lot of the readers of Pink Heart Society are protecting someone and have been protected by someone.

So who have you protected and whose your protector?  Let me know in the comments! 

Jenna's latest book, Native Born is the Fourth book in her popular Apache Protector series for Harlequin Intrigue, and is out now:

Heritage or Heartbreak? 

Apache tribal counsel member Clyne Cosen needs the FBI's protection. But having Agent Cassidy Walker as his personal bodyguard presents its own dangers. His involvement in the custody battle for Cassidy's adopted Apache daughter muddled the lines between personal and professional. Now he has feelings for a woman who was not native born. 

Cassidy will do her job at any cost. But being so close to Clyne means the FBI agent sees him as more than just the man who could take her daughter—he might also steal her heart. Duty. Desire. Which path will Cassidy take…or will a bullet make that decision for her?

Jenna Kernan writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue, Western Historical fiction and paranormal romance. Winner of the Book Buyers' Best award and two-time RITA nominee, Jenna has just published her twenty-fifth romance novel.  Tribal Law (#3) in her popular Apache Protectors series from Harlequin Intrigue release on MAY 1.  Look for the other books in this series: Shadow Wolf (#1), Hunter Moon (#2) and Native Born (#4) in June 2015.

Jenna is forming a new review team.  If you are interested in getting free pre-release copies of Jenna's latest visit her website to apply to Jenna's Review Team.

For more details about Jenna Kernan's stories, visit her EXTRAS page, subscribe to her newsletter on her website, visit her Facebook page and follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Time Out Thursday: Reading Outside Your Go-To Genre

Today on The Pink Heart Society, author Taryn Leigh Taylor discusses reading outside the lines.

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."  

Now I grant you, Ferris Bueller was not speaking implicitly about being a devoted romance reader, but in some ways, he kinda nailed it.

It's easy to get stuck in your genre of choice if you're not willing to see what else is out there. So from my bookwormy heart to yours, here are three books that I happened upon outside of the romance section...and I'm glad I did.

YA - I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak

This one I happened upon browsing a forgotten area of the bookstore - young adult. The cover was beautiful--and the reason I picked it up--but it was the back cover copy that stole my heart. By the time I'd flipped it open and read the first page, I knew this book was coming home with me. The premise of a young man with no discernibly redeeming qualities following cryptic messages left for him on playing cards by an unknown puppet-master who is leading him to redemption...or is it ruin?...well, let's just say, this book was a page turner.

Literary Fiction - Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Full disclosure: this one I had to read for a University English class. I was convinced I would not enjoy it at all. Nothing about it would have called to me from a library shelf or bookstore, and yet... this book was haunting and raw and difficult and unsettling. Much to my surprise, it consumed me, and far more than some of the classics I was actually looking forward to reading. Sometimes you really can't judge a book by its cover.

Memoir - The Long Walk by Slawomir Rawicz

This book came to me from the Russian History section ( mind still can't believe I ventured there) on the recommendation of an elderly coworker I knew only in passing. And he changed my world. This engrossing tale of a former Polish POW who escaped from a Soviet Gulag in 1939 and walked to British India. It was unputdownable (my reading brethren knows that's a word!) and I was shocked at how many times I had to remind myself that I hadn't plucked it from the fiction wall at my local bookstore. Astounding.

So there you have it. And don't get me wrong, romance novels will always be my go to. But on a semi-regular basis, I try to ask myself, "What would Ferris read?" Because if you don't stop and look around Amazon now and then, you could miss out a really great book.

You know I'm going to challenge you to read something out of your comfort zone now, right? And help a reader out! What was the last book that blew your mind even though it wasn't a romance novel? I'd love it if you'd leave the recommendation in the comments.

Taryn Leigh Taylor's first novel, KISS AND MAKEUP, was shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize.

If you'd like to learn more about Taryn or her novels, check out her website. If you'd like to connect, she can be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Writer's Wednesday (Tara Taylor Quinn)

Anyone who knows me can tell you that I 'work' pretty much non-stop. I am generally in front of my computer (or Windows tablet from which I sometimes work) seven days a week. The tablet travels with me and I start every morning on it, even when I'm away from my desk. Recently, I've been doing a self-check. Am I consumed? A workaholic?

Perhaps. There's no real easy answer to that. Just in asking myself, I came up with several answers! And qualifiers.

And then I came to the truth. I am not a workaholic, because writing, while a career, is not just 'work'. My writing pays the bills. It supports me. But I wrote even before it did. I wrote when I was six years old. And fifteen. And twenty-two. And all points in between. I don't just write to get paid. I write because I am a writer. I write in my mind when I don't have a keyboard beneath my fingers.

I was given a talent. It came with me to this earth. I didn't choose it. I didn't decide to be a writer. I came that way. From the time I was little I had stories in my head. They entertain me when I'm doing other tasks. When I drive. When I ride. When I pull weeds or do laundry. It's exhausting sometimes, but it's also the greatest ride on earth.

And it's more than that. I was given the talent, not so I could enjoy the ride, but so that I'd do something with it. I was given the ability as a means for me to contribute something to this world in which I take up space. It's a really good thing I didn't realize that sooner or I'd never have started writing. I'd have been paralyzed with the fear of not saying the right thing. Or giving the right thing. Or using the talent in the right way. But instead, as a little girl, I just wrote. I learned from before I actually knew how to write, how to listen to the stories in my mind. How to 'watch' those 'movies'. I grew up putting those words on paper. Just because it felt natural. It was fun. I liked it. By the time I realized that I would do this for a career, I was already so trained to listen, I didn't even stop to ask myself what to write. It was just there.

And now, as I realize that this is what I have to contribute to the world, I know something else. It's not up to me to determine what the world needs to hear, it's up to me to listen to the voices inside me. To give them sound. And feel. To give them life.

And so I do. With the sure knowledge that: Writing is not what I do. It's who I am.

Yesterday, I had a fun moment in my 'writer's' life. I got a package in the mail with a frame-able little poster and lovely card from my editors to celebrate a very hard to believe book birthday (I'm a writer NOT a photographer!):

If you pre-order the book (click on the cover at the top of the post to easily do so), or any of my nine releases this year, and would like to enter to win a Kindle Fire for having done so, you can do that here:


Kindle Fire with Six Pre-loaded TTQ Books (books 1-6 from Where Secrets are Safe series)
US only
Ends August 31st

To Enter: Submit your receipt online for your pre-order or purchase of any of Tara Taylor Quinn’s six releases being promoted on her Heart Stopping Tour (Love By AssociationHis First ChoiceThe Promise He Made HerStrangers in Paradise: Sheltered In His ArmsSheltered In His Arms Audiobook, and For Love Or Money). Enter as many times as you purchase. One book purchase equals one entry (one receipt per entry and must be uploaded at time of entry).

Monday, June 20, 2016

Male on Monday - Dominic Cooper

Pink Heart Society editor, Ali Williams, is talking about the star of her favourite new tv show Preacher - Dominic Cooper...

I first came across Dominic Cooper at the age of 17 when I went with one of my best friends to the theatre to see the original producttion of The History Boys.

It was a seminal production - launching the careers of Dominic Cooper, James Corden, Russell Tovey and Jamie Parker amongst others - and for a teenage me, an introduction to a completely new way of approaching essays.

Cooper played Dakin, a cocky, confident teenager, and he shone on stage, amidst a cast of sheer perfection.

Since then he's made it big on both small screen and big.

There was his role in Mamma Mia, as Amanda Seyfried's fiancĂ©, which featured a particularly steamy number where the two lovebirds sing Lay All Your Love On Me - part on the beach, part in the ocean a la From Here To Eternity...

From the musical to the classical...  

Also in 2008, he started in the BBC's adaptation of the Jane Austen classic, Sense and Sensibility as rake and heartbreaker Mr WIlloughby.

Speaking of dashing and debonair...

There's his role as eccentric playboy billionaire inventor Howard Stark in the very first Captain America film; a role he recently reprised in both the first and second television series of Agent Carter.

From one spy to another...

There was his turn as Ian Fleming, the British secret agent and creator of the infamous James Bond in Fleming:  The Man Who Would Be Bond.

So how do we get from these roles to his current in Preacher.

In Preacher he plays Jesse Custer, a Texan preacher who is accidentally possessed by a supernatural creature.  

Based on a comic book series of the same name, the tv show is brutally violent, full of humour that's undeniably in bad taste at times, and turns typical fantasy tropes on their head.

It's gripping and I'm more than a little addicted to the series - and am especially impressed by Cooper's performance.

As a character, Custer is torn between trying to do the right thing as a preacher in a small town, as he promised his father, and his previous life of crime with his ex Tulip.  

It's a show filled with promise and potential, and I'm definitely going to be following along...

Have you seen Preacher? Do you thinker's Dominic Cooper's best role? Let Ali know 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 as well as curating The CatRom Project, which looks at the way that social issues are addressed and engaged with in category romance.

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!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Jennifer Faye’s…Lessons learned with the aid of chocolate!

This blog post is dedicated to Ali, for inviting me back to the Pink Heart Society for a visit and to Viv, for giving me the subject of my post. Thank you both. ;-)

Viv suggested I share a bit of what I’ve learned since being published…I asked her how long she had because I’m constantly learning something new: from research for my books to feedback from readers on Facebook. So here are some of my thoughts and some questions that Viv suggested. I hope you find them interesting/helpful.

·         The most important lesson I learned is that I’m capable of more than I give myself credit for. When I started this journey, I thought writing one book a year was my capacity, but thanks to my editor pushing me along, I learned I was capable of more—much more. Of course, I pick up speed with my writing as I go along. I heard someone say that your brain is like a muscle, the more you use it, the more you’re capable of. But take a big break and it gets lazy and it takes a bit to get up to speed again. Before I was published, I was excited about writing one full manuscript a year. When I got published, I wrote three manuscripts a year. Last year, I had seven titles out. And this year, I’m on track to have six titles published.

·         How do I deal with deadlines? With lots and lots of black tea. ;-) But other than that it’s pretty much the same routine I had with my office job. I write each deadline in my day planner. And I also have an Excel spreadsheet for tracking the progress of each book. I know that my editors and other people are counting on me to hit my deadlines. It doesn’t matter if it’s a traditionally published book or an indie title, I have obligated myself by setting deadlines with content editors, copy editors and graphic artists. They have put me on their calendar and expect me to give them what they need to do their jobs. If I miss my deadline, it messes up their calendars. Does that mean that real life doesn’t throw up some serious roadblocks now and then? Sure, it does, but those are the exceptions and I let everyone affected know asap.

·         Revisions are my friend. I never thought I’d say those words, but then of course, I don’t have any revisions currently awaiting me. ;-) Though I drag my feet to do revisions and wish that everything I write is perfect, alas it is not. So while revisions are not fun, they are necessary. And with the aid of a little chocolate…okay a lot of chocolate, I complete them. In the end, my books are stronger thanks to digging deeper into my characters and their motivations.

·         How do I deal with reviews? With lots and lots of chocolate on hand. Lol. Seriously though, in the beginning, I read them all the time. And though the good reviews made me smile, it only took one unhappy review to wipe me out and stall out my muse. That’s definitely not a good thing when you have a lot of deadlines to meet. So now I read them sporadically. I had to accept that no matter how much I want to entertain every reader that’s not realistic. Sad but true. Have I learned things from reviews? Definitely. When I was first published, no one told me how much readers love epilogues. And I was advised by another writer that if one was needed, the editor would tell me. So my first two books came out sans epilogues. Readers were not happy and I felt awful. The next book had an epilogue. In fact, most of my books now have epilogues. And if there’s no epilogue, I’ve done that intentionally and with a lot of thought. I try to make the readers happy where possible.

·         How do I deal with the ups and downs of being published? This business is a constant roller coaster ride. One minute there’s a new book cover and the next moment, you find that someone didn’t connect with one of your characters. There’s always something going on and it’s so easy to get distracted. That’s why when I’m on a tight deadline, I have to make my world as small as possible to avoid distractions, which means limiting my time on the internet. It’s definitely not an easy task.

·         And lastly, I’m still learning to trust my gut. I have this habit of overthinking plotlines. Sometimes adding unique qualities to a storyline can be good…as long as you are not forcing things and ignoring that little voice in the back of your mind that says “Danger Will Robison. Danger.” Too dated for you? ;-) Anyway, when I try to anticipate what I think my editor will want, I get it wrong. It’s kind of like when I took exams in school and they would say if you’re not sure of the answer to go with your first guess/your instinct, instead of overthinking it. Case in point. The last proposal I sent my editor, I was trying to make it more unique so I switched up a plot point. It made things really difficult for myself to write, but I was determined I could make it work. My editor wrote back and said instead of doing X, Y and Z , why not try A, B and C. She’d suggested what I’d had originally—what my gut was telling me was right for the story. But instead of listening to my little voice, I was worried about impressing my editor. *head desk* Needless to say I was more than happy to incorporate her suggestions.

Jennifer Faye’s new duet, Brides for the Greek Tycoons, is available now ~ THE GREEK’S READY-MADE WIFE (book 1) and THE GREEK’S NINE-MONTH SURPRISE (book 2).

Business is Cristo’s and Niko’s first—and only— love. So when marriage becomes necessary to secure the future of their hotel empire, they vow to approach it like any other deal. Available online (print and digital) at AmazonAmazon-UK, iTunes & Nook as well as other locations.

Find out what Jennifer is up to by visiting her website.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Weekend Wildcard: Working When You Can

kristina's summer view
Pink Heart Society Columnist Kristina Knight talks about writing in the middle of a hectic schedule.

We have become a swimming family. I'm not quite sure when it happened, but somewhere between living in land-locked Nebraska and moving to water-rific Ohio, we became swimmers. Oh, RadioMan and I always enjoyed playing around in the water, but bebe has taken that enjoyment to a whole new level: the swim team at our local YMCA.

This picture to the left? It's going to be my writing view for most of the summer as I spend at least two hours each day with bebe at practices and meets. I've already scoped out the best seat - optimal for viewing, far enough away that I can zone into my writing when she's not racing.

Last week, we got the final schedule for meet times, practices, and the rest of the summer schedule, so I took a little time to update my calendar. It's a little mind-blowing just how much time we'll be spending at the pool - the one at the Y and the one in our backyard - and as I was updating the calendar, I realized a couple of other things.

First, I can write while she swims. Those first moments of blocking out big stretches of time for her swimming, and figuring out my own writing schedule were scary. Then I realized I can write while she swims. I'm not sure why that was a mental block for a while, but it totally freaked me out that I was losing at least 3 hours of writing time with pool time. The truth is, she doesn't need me pacing the deck or watching every single minute...if I tune in during her races, she'll be happy.
these kicks are a great core workout

Second, I can work on my health while she swims for fun. Over the past year, I've made some decent health strides, but I've also been lazy about a few things. I need to cut the cord on my soda intake, among other things. One thing I've started is doing training/toning moves with her - like leg kicks off the side of my bed, push-ups, using those stretchy band things. It's so easy to get lost in writing, but I'm determined to take hold of my health this summer.

Third, I really, really love this part of being a writing mom. She is quite the fish, and, really, I don't mind it at all. Watching as she pushes herself to learn new strokes? It's a reminder to me to never stop learning new things - be those things writing related or...not. Seeing how much enjoyment she gets from the water, especially with so much of her water time regimented with perfecting strokes, improving endurance, and the rest is a reminder that even in the dregs of a fifteenth editing pass or another run at characterization or - sigh - yet another written synopsis, that I love what I do.

Kristina Knight's latest release, What the Heiress Wants, released May 23 from Crimson

Denver publishing heiress Miranda Clayton craves more from life than society parties and shopping sprees, but her tycoon father refuses to take her seriously. Her solution? Beat him at his own game by going to work for his top competitor, Connor Reeves, in Las Vegas.

Connor isn't fooled by Miranda's new plan for a second. He knows exactly who she is; what he doesn't know is why she's pulling him into her games. After their first meeting, Connor knows what he wants - Miranda in his bed! But the more he's around his new vice president, the more he wants something deeper than a short-term fling. The question is does the lady want Connor - or his business?

Sensuality Level: Sensual

Amazon  B&N  KOBO  iBooks  Crimson Romance

You can find out more the book and Kristina on her website, and feel free to stalk follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Friday Fun - Where I Get Story Ideas by Melinda Curtis

It's probably the most-often heard question writers are asked: Where do you get ideas for your stories?

My answer is usually boring: life.

It's important to remember that one idea doesn't make a story go for all those pages. Like planting, you need a rich base of soil, fertilizer, sunshine, water, nutrients - a veritable kaleidoscope of ideas that work together to keep that story moving forward, that keep your story looking different than other stories out there.

I like writing about family dynamics - whether it's a real family (siblings are great fodder for stories) or a blended family or a community family. My Harmony Valley series is about a small town that has been dying - the only people left are retirees and the elderly, because they can't sell their homes and move elsewhere. For those books, I often use the dynamics I see in my elderly parents and their friends: the die-hard volunteer who has served as president for the garden club, the travel club, and meals on wheels; the curmudgeonly loner who sits in his webbed lawn chair watching the world go by (wearing his bathrobe); the gossip who refuses to age (dying her hair and wearing inappropriate clothing). The backdrop of setting and community are important to the story.

Then I draw from heroes and heroines I enjoy writing about: firemen, businessmen, nurses, bakers,
bloggers, winemakers, twins, etc.. And I wonder how those characters would interact within my settings/community, primarily looking for sources of conflict. For example, Duffy, my hero in A Memory Away, is a vineyard manager who likes to keep to himself, but when he moves in next door to the town gossip...built in conflict! Warning: that's only external conflict. Certainly not enough to carry an entire book!

I also draw from the emotional struggles of those around me. Mr. Curtis (my husband) is an optimist. He doesn't believe any person or animal should ever give up or die. While I was writing Summer Kisses, we learned that Mr. Curtis' sister was losing her long battle with cancer. True to his character, Mr. Curtis flew to South Dakota and called me every night, saying how well his sister was doing. "The doctors are wrong," he said. "She's got months or years left in her." He absolutely refused
to believe the cancer would take his beloved sister quickly. She was gone within a week. I used my man's strong belief for Flynn, who refused to believe his grandfather, the man who raised him, could possibly die of heart failure. Those kind of inner beliefs can provide rich fodder for character growth and conflict with other characters (in the case of Flynn and Summer Kisses, the heroine is his grandfather's caregiver, a woman who is determined not to care for those on the brink of dying any more since her heart can't take more loss).

So all you budding authors (and interested readers), here are some hints for finding great story ideas:

1. Next time someone in your life (work, family, church, gym) is stressed out about something, try to understand what belief they have that is causing their distress. A friend of mine is a retired cop, but he works part time as a custodian. He cannot believe the amount of disrespect a custodian gets. He's used to telling people what to do and having them do it. This belief (that what he says goes) could translate well to a man who lost everything in a bad business deal and is now working as a (fill in the blank) or an officer in the army who is adjusting to civilian life. Get the idea?

2. I love great lines of dialogue spoken during black moments/turning points in movies. It tells you a lot about the beliefs of the character and how the conflict impacts them. You can trace every bad decision back from that painful admission. For example, there's a recent comic book movie out where the hero thinks (in voice-over) that cancer sucks because it hurts the person left behind worse than the person dying (paraphrasing). That belief impacts every decision the hero makes from that point forward. You can take that idea out of the action hero genre and into a gentle romance, making the story your own.

3. Use your own life experiences. I can be wardrobe challenged and have experienced wardrobe malfunctions, which was the basis for many plot lines in Always a Bridesmaid. I've worked at a winery, which helped me seed external plot challenges Christine had to face in A Season of Change. Whether you work the front desk at a hotel or are a Starbucks barista. You have story and character ideas around you all the time.

4. And finally...Relax. Take a shower, go for a walk, nap. If you take the pressure off yourself, you can come up with some really great story ideas.

So there you have it. You can draw ideas from the tapestry of life around you and create your own type of tapestry on the page.

Melinda Curtis is an award-winning, USA Today Bestseller. Her latest release - A Man of Influence - is a sweet romance from Harlequin Heartwarming, and is inspired by several real life stories about recovering from car accidents, reinventing yourself, and moving on after parents die.

Are you sweet or sexy? Sign up for Melinda's mailing list and receive a free read: a sweet romantic comedy or a sexy romance.