Thursday, March 05, 2015

Time Out Thursday - Me, The Roadtrip And I...

It's the turn of guest author Nikki Logan to take to the road as she tells the Pink Heart Society all about her love for road trips...

Thank you for having me along to the Pink Heart  Society, ladies, and especially for having me on Time-out Thursday, because it gives me a fabulous excuse to talk about one of my favourite time-out activities—the road trip.

It’s been a few years since I’ve had much downtime (between volunteer activities, work-related travel, work and writing) but when I steal back some time I like to throw my fur-family in the car and head down south to a little town called Augusta which sits where the Southern and Indian Ocean meet.

Gorgeous sunsets, wild ocean, fantastic wines
Augusta sits on the most south-west point of my home state, Western Australia—next stop Antarctica, they like to say—and it comes at the end of a long string of gorgeous but over-populated tourist towns as you drive down from the capital, Perth. But Augusta has somehow managed to survive the over-development that comes with gorgeous weekend escape destinations which is why we like to go there for our time-out.

It’s all about the smells when we’re on the road
The fresh, cold bluster coming off the ocean. Wet dogs galumphing around in the river mouth.  Whales you can see breaching from the shoreline. Sunsets that burn your retinas…


It’s perfectly situated for all things coastal (boating, diving, swimming, fishing), is ten minutes from cave-country, fifteen from tall-tree country, a half hour from the wine district. Ugh… there’s just so much to do, which is a shame because—as a rule—when I’m having time-out I like to do pretty much nothing.

As long as we’re together, the fur-kids settle anywhere
Just me, my man, my dogs, a Sauvignon Blanc, fresh caught fish-and-chips from the local and something good to read.

I’ve never understood people who throw their dogs in kennels to take a holiday; for us, the pack stays together. We’d bring the cat if we could (and if he’d tolerate the long drive). Our dogs are used to being harnessed up and settling into the back of the Landcruiser for the four-hour drive south and they love the freedom (and together time) that holidays bring. We always pick pet-friendly destinations and as long as long as we’re all together they pretty much relax anywhere.

I featured Augusta as a setting for my latest release which finds a woman in the middle of the ultimate cross-country road trip—visiting every town in Australia while hunting for her missing brother.  In Her Knight in the Outback, Marshall and Eve manage to come together and connect in Augusta—just like those two oceans.

Writing this has me thinking about our next trip. It’s the end of a long, hot southern summer right now and I’m hanging out to head down as autumn begins (to the internet…!). Thanks so much for the chance to relive a little bit of my favourite time-out activity.

Do you love a good road trip?  Have you been on - or read about - any particularly exciting road trips?

Nikki Logan's latest book, Her Knight in the Outback, has a road trip to remember:

She didn’t know she needed rescuing…

Eve Read doesn’t need help from anyone. She’s searching for her missing brother and doesn’t want any distractions. Yet sharing her burden with mysterious leather-clad biker Marshall Sullivan is a relief, and soon Eve can’t resist the sparks igniting between them!

Meteorologist Marshall spends his life on the road, but there’s something about Eve that makes him want to stay put…

Has Eve finally found what she’s been searching for all along?
Find out more about Nikki and her books on her website; and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for regular, nature-filled, updates!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Founders' Day - The Lost "Voice"

Today at the Pink Heart Society we have Founder Natasha Oakley talking about what happens when you lose your "voice".

Apparently, finding your "voice" as a writer is the holy grail. It's what agents and editors look for when confronted by intimidating slush piles.

I read that somewhere, years ago, and I thought how odd. "Voice" is you, isn't it? My writer's "voice" is what I bring to the business. It's my life view, my values, how I think and feel, filtered across a story. It's as distinctive as a thumb print - and all you have to do is "let go" and write.


Thinking about it now, I came at writing from an acting perspective which is why it all felt familiar and why I found my "voice" easily. Actors use different words for the same process. In acting we talk about "truth". I bet you know what I mean. There are actors who, even if they are limited in shifting their physicality, make you believe. They are the actors who transport you into the story and make you forget it's a story at all. Think Emma Thompson in Love Actually.

That was a brave performance. She tapped into her own experiences and made "truthful" fiction. I defy anyone to watch that movie and not ache for Karen.

How about that lovely proposal scene in 2005's Pride and Prejudice? Did you know Simon Woods (Bingley) and Rosamund Pike (Jane) met at Oxford and dated for two years before he realised he was gay and ended their relationship. Watch the scene again.

It's enchanting - and, given those actors have a history, their performances are incredibly brave.

Where the writing process really differs is that ... it's just you. Me. In a room by myself and I am the product. That can be a great thing, but it can also be a challenge. Right now, I'm finding it a challenge and I've mislaid my "voice".

I know why it happened. I've changed. Life experiences have altered me and I feel differently now. The last time I blogged here I wrote about the life events which had put my writing on hold. They were all external and beyond my control. What I didn't share was the experience which has altered how I see myself.

Simply put, the people around me let me down.

You may well be screaming at your computer screen that if it took me until my mid-forties to discover people let you down I haven't got much to complain about.

Only .. there was a week a few years ago where we were facing a combination of circumstances which meant there was no more flex. Nigel had discovered a new lump and we had an oncology appointment looming. That was hot on the heels of his stem cell transplant in which he'd picked up a superbug. I had said what I was prepared to do and what I simply couldn't do.

This time it was a real "no". I will freely acknowledge that the only person who was behaving in an unusual way was me. Until that week I'd always shrugged silently and absorbed the consequences of what I'd imagined was unintentional selfishness. But, this time, I wasn't prepared to pretend being "landed in it" was okay.

Was I surprised no-one listened? Not really. Not initially. What did surprise me was what happened when I stood my ground. I really thought they'd respond with a "I'm so sorry. We just hadn't thought where that would leave you." Instead I got a "why should we?"

As months passed, I realised there wasn't going to be any epiphany of understanding. To them I wasn't a "treasure", but a "dogsbody" and when I refused to continue in that role I met with anger. It was then I realised there would never be a circumstance where I mattered.

I think I'm cross with myself for allowing myself to be treated like that. I know I'm hurt. And I'm certainly re-evaluating ... everything - and there's a couple of decades to cover.

What that means for my writing is yet to be seen. I'm writing again, but deliberately without commitment. At the moment I want to write spontaneously and enjoy it. I feel an overwhelming need to be kind to me.

Last week I stood in a bookshop and decided I would buy a book simply because I wanted to read it. Not because it was written by a friend (in fact, I'd mentally banned those written by anyone I know), or as "research". I wanted a new-to-me-author. It might not even be a romance...  It would simply be a book which touched my imagination.

You know, I couldn't do it. True enough I'd picked a rather cavernous bookshop in Oxford which gave me so much choice I might still be there if my parking hadn't been "up". But, still ... it should have been possible.

I've clearly got some work to do. I'm giving myself to the start of the summer - and then I'm going to be brave and commit. Bottom in chair, fingers on keyboard .. until I reach "The End".

Until then, come and play at my food blog.  I'm being equally undisciplined with that so it would be lovely if you'd join me on Facebook and then I'll appear in your timeline. I'm doing it for fun and in the vague hope my boys might one day be interested!
Many of Natasha Oakley's fantastic romances have been released on EBook in the last few months. So, if you haven't read one before or want a shiny new copy of an old favourite for your EReader, get thee hence to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or your usual online retailer.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Tuesday Talk-Time - What I Learned From My Mother

Kate Walker is telling the Pink Heart Society what she learnt from her beloved mother...

Today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 99. She was born in Clones County Monaghan in Ireland - the same place as the boxer Barry McGuigan but years apart. She was, quite simply, an amazing woman. But then I would say that – wouldn’t I?

But that little girl, born March 3rd at a time when Ireland was torn by deep divisions and violent rebellion, grew up to become the young woman who won not just one but three different scholarships to Trinity College Dublin, but was unable to take even one of them up because she became ill with tuberculosis. 

In order to recover, she went to live in Davos, Switzerland where she met, amongst others, the poet Llewelyn Powys. The truth is that she wasn’t terribly impressed by him as a person, but I have several books he gave her that are signed to ‘a beautiful young poetess’ – so he seems to have felt differently about her!

The outbreak of the war brought her home to Ireland and to marriage to my father. She had met him in Dublin, when her brother brought a friend along when they went to a production of Julius Caesar starring James Mason. She spent most of the war years in England, looking after children in a nursery and becoming the Warden of ‘a club for directed women workers’ in Newark, Nottinghamshire. Later, she and my father moved to Yorkshire. She had five daughters, of which I was the third.

Sadly, as I’ve already mentioned, my parents’ family broke down. She moved out and started training to be a teacher, gained her teaching qualification, a degree, became a teacher, then the deputy head at a junior school, then a counsellor at the local Catholic High School. She worked tirelessly for the local church and community and finally became a female deacon, being awarded a Papal Medal by John Paul II in 1981. 

She was deeply involved in bringing together differing faiths and communities and even travelled to Pakistan as part of a group wanting to strengthen links between them. When she died we had a dozen different priests of different denominations who all wanted to take some part in her funeral because they valued her so much.

And that’s the briefest summary!

Cancer took her from us too early, just at the very start of my writing career, but at least she did know about it. In the same summer that we learned she had the terminal illness, I got the letter (we didn’t get ‘The Call’ then!) from Mills & Boon to say that they wanted to buy my very first book. It came just in time. I was able to tell her that I had achieved my dream of becoming a published writer and in the last few months of her life to show her the contract when the revisions were accepted and the book finally bought.

Sadly, she never read that book – she wanted to wait, to see it in print and read a published copy, but died six months later without ever having seen it. But she did know about it and for that I will always be grateful.

My mother taught me to read. She instilled in me a love of books and reading. Because of her there were always books available at home to feed the reading hunger she created. She also dreamed of being a writer herself and had several poems published in her early twenties. 

I have one hazy memory of her sitting at a writing desk we had in our Yorkshire home, writing away on what I thought were letters, but later, discovered that in fact she was working on some children’s stories. I don’t know what happened to those tales – which is such a pity as I think she would have been a magical story teller herself. My sisters and I spent many happy hours listening to the stories she told us as we settled in bed, ready to sleep. None of those stories came from books but were the creation of a vivid imagination that wove long, fascinating stories about ‘Toodie in Booland’ - a place where Rosa and Fanny Rosa lived in a cottage by a pond, with their friend Duck - and ‘The Land of The Beeweedonians’!  

Another vivid memory I have is of her reading  Irish Folk tales and legends to us as we all sat round  a coal fire on a dark winter’s evening.  It was a  night for telling ghost stories but my mother would never let us hear any really spooky tales. ‘If you knew what the dark was really like,’ she would say, ’then you wouldn't  want to mess with it.’ I often wondered what sort of experiences when she lived in a big, gloomy house on the outskirts of that small Irish town, were behind that statement, but she never explained.  I grew up to love a good ghost story in spite of her warnings!

Later, there was Mother's bookcase  available to me and my sisters. From that I grabbed books by  Dickens, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronte. There were some  by  local authors - and friends of my mothers - Phyllis Bentley and  Marguerite Lees; Marguerite Lees's books were the very first Mills & Boon novels I ever read.

My mother gave me a love of reading, but more importantly she gave me a love of stories and the old-fashioned art  of story-telling. 

I have no doubt that listening to those stories and then drifting off to sleep with them in my head, I took the first steps on the road to becoming the writer I am today, with a storytelling skill learned, literally, at my mother’s knee! Though I have to admit that I always say that I got my first book published when I mentally told my mother to go away and stop peering over my shoulder when I was trying to write.

She never actually did, of course, but it was just that thinking about her - or anyone else - reading what I'd written - was terribly inhibiting and stopped me from writing freely. So I had to put all thoughts of that out of my mind. But I would have loved to have seen her holding and reading that very first book of mine.

Thanks Mum – and Happy Birthday. I wish you could see the books that are lined up on my shelves now – and I wish we could be celebrating your 99th  birthday and the publication of my 63rd book together! 

Who taught you to love reading  and stories?  Can you remember  being told bedtime stories - or the first books you ever read?

That 63rd book of mine  Olivero's Outrageous Proposal will be out at the end of March /early April.

My  latest releases are two reissues -  first there's Kept For Her Baby which is out in the 3 in 1 By Request called Secret Love -Child. 

And coming up next, there's the reissue of The Konstantos Marriage Demand  again in a 3 in 1 collection - His Revenge Seduction.

And the 12 Point Guide To Writing Romance is now available on Kindle. (I hope to have some extra news about that 12 Point Guide - for people who prefer print books - very soon.)

You can catch up with all of Kate's news on her website  or on her blog.  You can also find her on her author page on Facebook.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Male on Monday – Irish American Month

Pink Heart Society columnist Barb Han is swooning over Irish American Actors for today's Male on Monday column...

March is Irish American Month, so for Male on Monday I thought it would be fun to celebrate those Irish American men who make us swoon and the reasons we love them…

What’s so great about Irish American men? I’m a sucker for a wounded warrior or recovering bad boy, and my list of Irish American men teams with both. What makes a man like that irresistible? It’s more than his good looks, power and charisma, or charm (although I want those, too). For me it’s all about the flaws. There’s nothing sexier than a man who has to face his own demons in order to get what he wants. The darker his demons, the better.

And there are plenty of Irish American men who fit that bill…

First of all, George Clooney is the epitome of power and confidence wrapped up into one seriously hot playboy package.
Plus, there’s just something about his smile that makes my heart pound and my pulse race.

Confidence is sexy.
Which brings me to the next name on my list. Tom Cruise had me at, “Top Gun.”


Think strong jawline, thick neck, prominent brow, and deep-set eyes. Oh, and chiseled abs.

He might be the shortest man on my list at 5’7” but he comes up tall where it really counts, sex appeal.

The only thing hotter than confidence is confidence behind a tortured soul. If ever there was a lost soul, it’s Johnny Depp. Born in 1963, he’s an actor, an occasional musician and always a thinker. And he’s oh-so-tortured…
Need I say more?

Robert Downey, Jr. makes my list for all of his work and especially Iron Man. As Mr. Stark, he makes his own rules and has the finances to back it. He’s powerful. Confident. And just look at him…

Another man worthy of my list is Mark Wahlberg. This former bad boy turned boy bander turned bankable movie star took his high school equivalency test after having children because he wanted to be a better man and a better example as a father.


Serious hotness!
The man who doesn’t belong on any list of Irish Americans but is Irish and frequently acts in American movies is...Colin Farrell.


Because just look at those eyebrows! Another plus? He’s one serious bad boy turned good.
I’m pretty sure I’d get in serious trouble if Jamie Dornan didn’t make my list. Dornan is the epitome of a powerful-but-broken man played out in his Christian Grey role. 
Power is far and away one of the most attractive traits in a man. Power is why women sleep with their bosses and not the mail boy. Power is why BDSM is such a turn on. Power made 50 Shades of Grey one of the bestselling books of all time…

Plus, Dornan is just hotness in a suit!

*fans self*

Deep breaths.

What’s not to love about Irish American men?

Coincidentally, I just turned in a new series proposal to my Harlequin Intrigue editor that features four Irish American brothers. The O’Brien boys are Irish on their mother’s side. Fingers crossed that my editor loves the series! And, if so, I won’t have to look far for inspiration for my heroes. :)

I want to hear from you. Tell me about your favorite Irish American man and why he makes you swoon in the comments…

Barb Han's Noir, Atomic Beauty, is available now:

"You wouldn't call me angel if you really knew me," Erika said.

Erika Nile knows her devastating beauty always leaves men begging for more, but her lust for Jace Mitchell is raw and powerful. And although she's just obeying orders when she cozies up to the rogue agent, giving in to temptation is the worst possible idea. 

Still, how can she ignore what her body craves: to be with Jace, no matter the cost. And that cost will be high. Because there's a lot more to this case than anyone is telling her—including Jace. Trust and feelings have no place in her work, or in her life. And yet there's no denying Jace is a distraction. They're perfectly matched as adversaries—and as lovers—and if this mission goes wrong, it could be Erika's undoing. Especially once the kill order comes in and it's clear only one of them will get out alive…

Since selling her first story to Harlequin, Barb’s written seven books for Harlequin and is hard at work on her eighth. You can find out more about her writing on her website and Goodreads.  Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for regular updates and pretty pics!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Weekend Wildcard - A New Creative Way to Tell A Story

Lindsay McKenna is visiting the Pink Heart Society, and is talking about the innovative new way that she's embracing ebooks...

I am working with Harlequin to do something rather innovative for my many loyal readers.  I got a lot of emails begging me to right a novella epilogue for Never Surrender (Bay and Gabe, the main characters).  I did that, but I also wanted to take a secondary from that book, Mike Tarik, and add him to this 11,000 word novella.  I married the two of them into it so that the novella was not only an epilogue regarding “what happened next to Bay and Gabe,” but also became a bridge to Mike’s book, Taking Fire.

There are actually THREE books, with Zone of Fire coming out first to set up Mike’s book.  Then Taking Fire comes out and is Mike and Khatereh’s story.  It is followed on by On Fire, ebook only.  It is what I term a “director’s cut” to their story.  Unfortunately, in paperbacks, a 100,000 words is the max amount one can write about a story.  I over ran that mark by roughly 40,000 words!  And I did not want to delete it and forget it.  My editor, Tara Gavin, agreed and so did Harlequin.  

When I found out I was 40,000 words over the limit, I did not want it scrapped.  Without the digital age, it would have been.  But now, my ‘directors cut’ could not only be saved, but used and seen by readers.  

When I approached my editor, Tara G., with the idea of putting it in an ebook format, she was for it.  I can’t tell you how joyful I was, because books are like birthing a baby to a writer.  And each one is precious, unique and greatly loved by the author.  I did not want to “kill” my baby even though I’d overwritten by 40,000 words.

I’m grateful Harlequin has supported our request to make this an ebook on its own.  The readers get a complete book without it, of course.  But for those readers who want to know “what else” happened at the end of Taking Fire, they now get the CHOICE to read it or not.   

And everyone has to remember: in the old days, over writing meant the extra written? It was circular filed into the waste basket.  Gone, never seen, never read by a reader.  And I, the author, was crying because I spend a lot of time crafting my characters, my book and story.  It’s like getting my arm cut off.  

Looking at it from the author’s perspective?  On Fire is simply the cherry on top of the Taking Fire cake.  You can eat the cake and be satisfied.  Or, you can not only have your cake, but eat it too with that cherry on top of it ;-)
TAKING FIRE is a story of US Navy SEAL, Mike Tarik, who is an American citizen, but 1/2 Saudi and 1/2 American, through his mother, Annie.  His father is a world renown cardiac surgeon.  Dr. Bedir Tarik met his wife, Annie, over in Saudi Arabia where she was an American school teacher.  Bedir, who is Sufi, believes firmly that love is the only way to peace and harmony in the world.  He falls in love with Annie, and they marry in Riyadh.  Later, she gets pregnant with Mike and he is born in San Diego, California.  

Bedir takes his young son over to Saudi Arabia for three weeks every year.  He has a charity in Riyadh, and he and Mike take a pickup and distribute clothes, food and money to the poor at the fringes of that city, as well as to  many others areas.  He teaches his son generosity, giving back and being grateful for what he has.  

Mike grows up wanting to become a Navy SEAL.  Bedir has already shown him his family's lineage and tells his warrior son that he has the genes of his warrior great-grandfather.  Mike's view on it is that he wants to help the poor and oppressed, to rid them of tyrants who kill or make their lives miserable.  When he deploys to Afghanistan with Seal Team 3, he works with NGO charities to bring food, clothing, and shoes to the desperately poor Afghan villages near where his team is located.  

He carries on his father's belief in always helping those who have less.  But on one mission, he finds himself in need.  He and his four-man SEAL team are out on a mission.   And it is a black ops US Marine Corps sniper who saves his team and him from a deadly ambush.  And she's a woman!  Mike's entire life changes in the moment he is injured and saved by this mysterious operator who cares for him deep in the cave systems of the Hindu Kush Mountains near the Pakistan border.  

Sergeant Khatera Shinwari is wary of this SEAL, must maintain her deep black ops cover and although she's powerfully drawn to Mike, there is no way she can act upon it.  Mike, before he's picked up by a Night Stalker helicopter once he's ready to leave her care for FOB Bravo, promises her, he will see her again.  

Khat doesn't believe him, as much as she wished she could.  Her life is not her own.  Her loyalty is to her Afghan people, not to a single man like Mike.  But life has a funny way of changing up, and Mike isn't about to just let this enigmatic, beautiful woman disappear out of his life.  No way.....    

I had great fun creating this story and it's unlike anything my readers have read.  I'm very excited about it, about the sympathetic characters that you are sure to cheer on!  

And toward that end?  I’ve created a “Director’s Cut” of a much longer ending to Taking Fire.  Don’t worry, the book you’ve bought is complete with an HEA ending.  But if you want to know more of “what else” happened,” then On Fire, digital only, 40,000 words long and $2.99, will be available to you to continue their twisting and dangerous destiny with one another!  

And an HEA ending, of course!

You can find out more about Lindsay McKenna and her writing on her website and her blog.  Follow her on Facebook and Twitter and subscribe to her newsletter for regular updates.