Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Writer's Wednesday - Finding the Write Rhythm, Annie West

Today our columnist Annie West shares some thoughts with the Pink Heart Society on getting into the writing rhythm, whether you're a multi-published author or a beginning writer or somewhere in the middle... 

You'd think after having more than 25 books published writing them would become easier, wouldn't you? Well in some ways it does. I've learned not to get into utter panic when things don't play out the way I'd expected. I've learned that sometimes that's a good thing when the book is unpredictable. Who'd have thought it?
We've all heard of those writers who have a strict routine for their writing - certain hours in the day are sacrosanct to their work and, usually, a certain place and routine which help them produce their stories. More power to them! I long for that. That's the sort of rhythm that appeals to me enormously. I understand why it would work so well - training your brain to expect to create is half the battle of creating, and keeping yourself at your work instead of following distractions is the other half. 

Alas, I'm either far less disciplined than some writers or I have a messier life, but I find my days not quite that regimented. And yes, before you ask, my family understands and respects the fact that I write for a living and they try hard not to interrupt. But between appointments, tradesmen's visits, medical emergencies, smaller crises and commitments, I find my writing life is 'fluid'. That means I've had to learn to adapt.

First of all I learned the times of day I'm most productive. Early morning (or anytime in the morning) since I'm anything but a night owl. I work hard to preserve those early hours for writing, or if not actually putting words on the page, for musing on my plot while I get in some exercise. I've discovered a time late in the afternoon too, when I get a second wind and, if I keep at it, can produce some really exciting work. So my rhythm for writing is  a stint before breakfast, a walk, then a long productive morning, followed by lunch and some chores and another burst of creative energy in the latter half of the afternoon.

My advice? Discover the times of day (or night) when your brain and body are most likely to cooperate in creating and devote them to your writing. If you're not a morning person then try later - whenever the ideas spark. Discover too, where and how you work best. Computer or notebook? Desk in a quiet room or at the kitchen table with the family or even under a tree somewhere? is rarely simple. Even with the best of planning, there are days when I just can't use my preferred times for writing. So, what do you do when your 'creative' time is unavailable?

If you say you'd stop writing till you could use that preferred time again, I'd know you're someone who writes for pleasure, not publication. Those, like me, who make (or want to make) a living from their writing, need another approach.

Having once found your preferred rhythm for writing, I'm sorry to say the next step is to learn to break that rhythm when you need to. Again, if you're writing solely for fun, you're excused this step. But if you're writing for regular publication, you'll need to adapt.

At first I believed I could only write in the morning because I'm not a night person. But what do you do when half your mornings one week are taken up with outside commitments? Not write at all? It's going to be far harder the following week to get back into your normal rhythm.

My advice when the rhythm is broken is to create new one. TRY writing at a different time of day, even if it feels like you're walking in wet cement and you just know the words are trash rather than gems. Experiment with a few different times, maybe in short bursts if that's all you have available. 

I've been surprised at how, often after an initial period of discomfort, I adapt to trying something new. 

For instance, you know that post lunch slump when your body slows and your mind drifts and you wouldn't mind closing your eyes? I read somewhere that you're at your most creative when you're tired. I'm not sure if it's true but recently I decided try writing then when my instinct was to do some other chores. I found, after an initial battle during which my brain screamed that I was CRAZY and there would be no words today, thank you very much, that I had one of my most productive sessions in ages.

My preference is solitude and early hours to write, then solitude and late afternoon for more writing. That rhythm works for me on most days. But there are days (lots of them) where the luxury of my natural rhythm is denied me - whether in timing or location. On those days I've had to try something else. 

It's not easy. In fact it can be an exercise in frustration. But in the end I've found breaking the routine can be almost as productive as sticking to it. Don't be too quick to tell yourself something won't work for you. Try it. Don't give up after a mere half an hour. You may just be pleasantly surprised at what you can achieve out our your writing rhythm as well as within it.

Where and when do you work best? Alone in your study? In a café? Late at night while everyone else sleeps? Have you broken your routine and found it worked for you? 

Annie's current release is The Sultan's Harem Bride, a sizzling hot yet emotional desert romance which received a 4 1/2 star review from Romantic Times.:

WANTED: Desert princess to join harem 

Sultan Asim of Jazeer has hundreds of women at his beck and call. So why does he want the only one who threatens to reveal his family’s shameful secrets?

Journalist Jacqui Fletcher jumped at the chance to write a history of the harem- not to become a sultan's plaything! But it's hard to remember her assignment when the sultan's sensuous caresses spark a fire she's never experienced before...

Asim is looking for a pliable princess for a marriage of duty. Brave, beautiful Jacqui couldn't be more wrong for him. So why does holding her feel so right?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tuesday Talk: Do Smart Phones Affect Creativity?

Today on Tuesday Talk Time, Pink Heart Society editor and Harlequin Superromance author Jeannie Watt discusses the effect of smart phones on creativity.

I’m a daydreamer. I was the kid in school who snapped to attention after the teacher called her name for the second time and wondered briefly what planet she was on. Daydreaming made me a writer. It also got me through many a long and boring car trip, afternoons at the homes of elderly relatives with only one television channel, the pain of waiting in long lines. When I got a job many miles from my home, daydreaming kept me sane during the commute. I plotted books in my head. Characters played out scenes. I debated motivations.

And then I got a smart phone.

I’m not one of those people who check their phone while talking to other people. I tend to keep it in my purse during social events and family time.  But whenever I hit a boring patch in life—a wait in line, a long drive—or, let’s be honest, even short break between classes, out comes the phone. I want to know what’s going on!

It took me a while to realize that I wasn’t spending my down time dreaming any more. I was checking email, Facebook and Twitter feeds.  I now have a two-hour commute to and from work. My husband drives, so in the morning I write. On the drive home, however, when pre-smart phone I would have been going over scenes in my head or dreaming up new books, now I’m checking email and playing solitaire.

I think this has the potential to damage my creative health. I’m not writing in my head as much as I used to. Instead I’m checking the news. I’m not playing out scenes as the miles pass, but instead updating my status—Only two miles to a glass of wine!

The solution? That, of course, is easy. I have to put away my phone. Not use it to entertain myself, but rather as a means of communication. I need to avoid the urge to check anything and everything and instead settle back as I used to do, close my eye and let the dreams begin.

Have smart phones changed your life in ways you didn't expect? Please comment and explain.

Jeannie Watt writes fast paced, character-driven stories set in the American West—a place where cell phone coverage can be hit or miss. To find out more about Jeannie and her books, please check out her website or Facebook page.

A bigger challenge than she expected! 
Shae McArthur once had it all. Perfect job, perfect fiancé. And when she lost everything, it was her own fault. Now she's starting from scratch with one last project—turning the Bryan Ranch around. If she succeeds, maybe she can pick up the pieces of her former life. 
The only problem is the ranch's stubborn—and captivating—owner, Jordan Bryan. He's fighting Shae on every change. What gives? True, his scars prove Shae's not the only one starting over. Still, shouldn't he, of all people, be able to see beyond the surface? Because she thinks maybe they could be each other's perfect new beginning….

Monday, January 26, 2015

Male On Monday - Swoonworthy Fictional Heroes

Desere Steenberg is here at the Pink Heart Society, talking about literary heroes v television heroes...

This is my first time gaining the Male On Monday slot and I literary went into shock! I don’t watch a lot of TV shows or movies, I am honestly always reading. And only occasionally I will get interested in a series or even a romantic movie. 

But truly movie wise it is always action, action and more action. The more bullets flying around and the more exotic the location is and of course the more mysterious the plot is the more I am interested and of course it’s always a total bonus if it involves hot military men.

I am completely addicted to marines, soldiers, Navy seals, the GIGNs, French Foreign Legion, you name it!  The more danger the men face, the sexier they are! 

6.7.11MattBomerByLuigiNovi1.jpgYet as I mentioned I went into total shock because I could not for the life of me come up with anything at all simply because knowing that most of our readers here prefer romance  and the romance candlelit dinners, he said she said ,all lovey-dovey stuff does not really happen in action movies. Yes there is the occasional super-hot sex scene literally happening for two minutes before all hell and drama brakes lose again and let’s face it it’s kind of hard to be romantic while you have bad guys chasing you and for all intentional purposes what you dead and preferably before the end of the movie.

So I started talking to my friends and family who love to watch romance and let me tell you they all suggested quite the list for me to watch - and find inspiration for the most romantic words spoken or actions taken in a movie. I watched them all, the most romantic scenes all laid out for me!  From George Clooney in Intolerable Cruelty, to My Boss’s Daughter with Ashton Kutcher and yes even The Lake House with Keanu Reeves.

I am delighted to let you all know I found some of the scenes very moving, as oppose to the usual “I am not feeling it, because there seems to not be the level of emotion I get in books”. I know that sounds awful but honestly some of the romance movies I have seen in the past were absolutely terrible. No chemistry, no emotion, everything just too plain fake, which of course is why I have always read so many books. 

George Clooney 66ème Festival de Venise (Mostra) 3Alt1.jpgWill I trade my romance books for romance movies?  Never! Well maybe just a little now and then because clearly I have had my nose inside the pages of books for far too long I mean, HELLO MR CLOONEY, COME SIT ON MY LAP AND TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT FOR CHRISTMAS!   Excuse my momentary new found Clooney induced madness and  let’s get back to the point of this post.

Keanu Reeves 2013 TIFF (cropped).jpgMovies, no matter how romantic, just don’t seem to fit the bill of a good romantic book for me.  There is the occasional one, as I have recently learned, that stands out from the slush pile; but is it the hot men that really make the movie because it’s a real life image you can fall in love with? If it, is then what happens when he stars in the next movie and it's a new heroine he ends up falling in love with ?

It is that very question that brings me to my next point, in a book the author is always giving me a new hero to fall in love with.  Yes, it’s a new plot - just like in the movies - but it’s not the same hero: he doesn't say the same thing as before, does not take the same actions as before, it’s all new, all the time and that’s what makes books so much better than the movies. Thank you to each and every single romance author out there that bring me a new hero each and every single time!! 

Is it the heroes from the movies or the book that get to you the most? Are the heroes in books hotter or not? Given the chance, would you pick the hero from a movie because he’s real and can be touched in the flesh, or would do you prefer the amazing heroes authors dream up...? 

To find out more about Desere, you can read her romance reviews on Romance Book Haven, and follow her on Twitter or Facebook

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Weekend WIldcard - Real Life Heroes

The Pink Heart Society is delighted to welcome Jules Bennett as she talks about real life heroes, and has a GIVEAWAY for one very lucky reader...

Who doesn’t love a real life hero? The cops, the soldiers, the doctors…the firefighters...

I knew when I started The St. Johns of Stonerock series for Harlequin Special Edition that I wanted brothers who were real life heroes. Human, flawed, vulnerable, but they’re still out to put others first and continue to serve. My brothers were all hellions as teens, then they served in various branches of the military and now they’re all back with powerful positions in the town: doctor, fireman, police officer. 

In The Fireman's Ready-Made Family, Drake St. John is healing from losing his fiancée. I won’t go into specifics (you’ll have to read it yourself), but I knew this hero needed to be saved. I also knew it would take another broken, tender heart for him to recognize the need to heal, too. Oh, how I love creating the torment off page and seeing happiness and love click into place on the page.
My favorite type of heroes are the real men who aren’t afraid to admit their feelings, who go out of their way to protect the heroine, no matter the cost. My favorite hero is also the man who has a hard-working job that he takes pride in. Drake is seriously my favorite type of hero – he embodies all of my desired qualities.
Oh, and when he meets the heroine’s little girl *sigh* HEART. MELT. MOMENT.  
As I was researching for Drake’s character, I kept seeing images on Pinterest with various firemen resuscitating animals. These images have just stuck with me. How loving, how caring for someone to put their life on the line to rescue an animal from a burning building? I’m such an animal lover that this just really hit me hard. There are everyday people who save lives and make a difference that we never know about. They don’t require fanfare or recognition, they’re just doing their job. How amazing is that? 

I’m always looking for that hero who is powerful, yet gentle, maybe a bit vulnerable and definitely ready to put himself on the line for the sake of love. 

What’s your favorite type of hero? Whether he’s a millionaire or a blue-collar guy, what qualities does he have to possess for you to fall in love with him?

Jules is giving away a signed copy of my latest release, The Fireman's Ready-Made Family, to one random person who comments with their favorite real-life hero qualities:
For days, burn unit nurse Marly Haskins has noticed a handsome firefighter sitting vigil at patients' bedsides. Chief Drake St. John's concern touches the single mother deeply. But despite the warmth in Drake's cobalt-blue eyes, tall, strong, powerful men only remind Marly of the abusive ex-husband on her trail…and the dreams she's long since given up on.

With his own harrowing past, Drake recognizes that Marly is running scared. His life and career are about saving others from harm, but there's something about Marly that makes his protective instincts more…personal. Helping Marly and her daughter feel safe in Stonerock is his new mission—one that might heal his own burned heart.

Jules Bennett loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her contact page on her website, and readers may like her fan page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter to stay up-to-date on all the happenings in Jules’ writing life.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Writer's Workspace - Tara Pammi

We're delighted to have Harlequin Presents author Tara Pammi here at the Pink Heart Society, talking about where she writes...

Thank you so much for giving me a chance to post on Pink Heart Society. I’ve followed the column for a long time as a category reader first and then writer.

Today I thought I’d share a quick glimpse of my workspace.

In August of last year we moved to a new house and since I used to work from him even when I was on non-writing dayjob, I quickly snagged the downstairs study.

Smart Guy (smart because he married me!) who also works from home wanted an upstairs office anyway since he’s ALWAYS on the call.

And here it is:

As you can see, I have a nice little desk with a wireless mouse and a huge monitor. I started on the gallery wall recently and still hope to find a lot more pieces to fill it up.

A bookshelf that Smart Guy put together and put baskets in so that I could store things in place. Which I don’t.

Yeah, Smart Guy is an anal retentive organizer/planner while I thrive on chaos. So while I hunker down at the desk when it’s time for revisions, because I really like switching back and forth among the pages to fix things quickly, my first drafting is usually not done at the desk.

Which is why Smart Guy is always threatening me that he will take the study back. But for some reason, the study and the desk feel way too structured for the puking of words that I usually do at that stage.

So you can usually find me in the couch in the living room or the kids’ bedroom or just at the dining table. I won’t go into our bedroom because then I’d just feel like napping then.

Although recently, I have decided that I should maybe step out of the house and head to a coffee shop or library but I’m afraid that I’ll just do a lot of people watching then.

If you’re a writer, where do you write? Or if you a reader, do you have a special reading nook or a comfy chair that you always curl up in?

Tara’s latest Harlequin Presents, The Man to Be Reckoned With, should be hitting the bookstores anytime right now:


She wanted peace… 

Riya has always lived in the shadow of elusive billionaire Nathaniel Ramirez, her adoptive father's son. Determined to reconcile and put the past behind them, she lures Nathaniel home with the one thing he's always wanted: his family estate. 

But she's started a war! 

Even though he's furious that Riya has brought him back to face his past, Nathaniel can't refuse her bait. The only glimmer of hope is the attraction he sees burning in her eyes. He'll use every sensual weapon in his considerable arsenal to claim his heritage and get her in his bed!

Tara Pammi lives in Texas with her real life hero and her two little girls. When she’s not writing or reading, she can be found failing in the kitchen, watching tv or making resolutions to exercise more, or even a little.