Monday, September 01, 2014

Male On Monday - Joe Manganiello

This Monday at The Pink Heart Society, Harlequin Blaze author Juliet Burns talks to us about her latest hero inspiration, the very delicious, Joe Manganiello.

SPOILER ALERT! Do NOT read the next couple of paragraphs if you haven’t caught up with this season of TRUE BLOOD! (Just look at the pretty pictures and start reading beside the second one)

Okay, you were warned. 

I need to rant and cry about Joe-er, I mean Alcide. Then I realized some people might not have watched this season of True Blood, yet. Now I’m going to cry. And rant. Alcide, oh Alcide! Say it ain’t so! I’ve always been on Team Bill, because I believe there’s nothing like first love=true love in a Romance, but, still… *sniff sniff* That doesn't mean you had to die!

Why did you have to die? As Sookie said, you were so big and strong. And SO sweet! You deserved a happy ending!

Okay, yes, you’re right. He’s not a real person. And at least we still have the beautiful Joe Manganiello to soothe our mourning souls...

Joseph Michael Manganiello was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania on December 28, 1976. His father's family is of Italian descent, while his mother's is Armenian, Croation and German. Growing up, he was the captain of his football, basketball and volleyball teams and went on to play at varsity level in all three sports. He won the role of Jud Fry is his senior year's production of Oklahoma! and was involved in the school's TV studio, where he borrowed equipment to make films with his friends and became interested in becoming a better film-maker.

After a series of sports injuries, Joe auditioned for the Carnegie Mellon School of drama. Though unsuccessful at the first attempt, he didn't give up and was admitted with sixteen other students a year later. While there, he participated in numerous theatre productions and traveled to New York and Los Angeles, where he made several contacts in the entertainment business. After graduation, he re-located to Los Angeles, signed with a talent agent and landed his first major on-screen role in the Sam Rami directed Spiderman. (Biography Source: Wikipedia)

So, do you consider yourself a Joe fan? How many of these questions can you answer without running to Google? 

1.   In which sitcom did Joe play a guy named Brad Morris? (Hint: It had its series finale this year) 

2.  Which comical “baby” movie was Joe in just before Magic Mike? 

3. What is the title of the documentary Joe directed about male strippers? 

4.   In which TV series did Joe have a part with the equally sexy Josh Duhamel? (who was also an inspiration for a hero in one of my books) 

5.   Other than True Blood, in what TV series did Joe have a large role? (Hint: he played a pro Slamball player) 

6.   Joe is also an author. Last December, he released a fitness book. What was the title? 

And I hear Joe’s making a Magic Mike 2, ladies. Yay! Don't you love him even more for that?!

He is, after all, the reason for this blog. He’s my inspiration-in every sense of the word- for my latest Blaze hero, Joe Tedesco. MY Joe is a New York firefighter and the winner of a Sexiest Average Joe contest run by fashion blogger Carly in my September Wrong Bed Blaze Cabin Fever

So, to celebrate my new release and in honor of the very sexy Joe Manganiello, I’m giving away three copies of my book to the Pink Heart Society readers who provide the answer to this question:

To support himself before he got his first part in Spiderman, Joe worked as a bodyguard and a bouncer. What occupation would you like to see him play if you could write a movie for him?

Let the fever burn… 

Fashion blogger Carly Pendleton figured the "Sexiest Average Joe" cruise winner would be, well, sexy. But up close, fireman Joe Tedesco is insanely good-looking. Still, with exactly one chance to prove herself to the cutthroat fashion industry, not even the hottest hot dude will make this frosty fashionista break a sweat…. 

Until she wakes in the middle of the night to discover Joe in her bed. 

They have nothing in common…except for a combustible chemistry that quickly turns delectable kisses into even more wicked nights. And when the cruise ends, so does the fling. But a fireman never runs from the heat—even if it means getting burned. 

To find out more about Juliet Burns and her books, you can visit her website, or follow her on Facebook and Twitter

If you're not one of our three lucky winners, you can buy a copy of the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or any of the usual outlets.

You can follow the gorgeous Joe Manganiello on Facebook and Twitter
A very worthy Male On Monday, we think you'll agree!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Male on Monday on Thursday: Clothes to make a hero

PHS editor and Historical Romance author Michelle Styles looks at clothes to make a hero via Bonobos.

Bonobos clothes
When my eldest son was in high school, he was part of the t-shirt and jeans brigade. However after he spent his second year of university in the US, he came back completely transformed about his fashion ideas and his look. Gone were the jeans and t-shirts, and in their place well-cut  shirts, various coloured chinos and jeans. He had worked out that in order to interest members of the opposite sex (the sort he is attracted to), he actually had to look good, not like he had crawled through several hedges backward and under several rocks. I believe it achieved what he wanted as he has not gone back to the t-shirt look…(and he does his own ironing, always a plus)
At Henley
To help him on this transformation, he found a number of places – J Crew, Brooks Brothers but his favourite by far was  The cut, the fit and the quality are excellent. The price was right as well.   
Unfortunately the shipping to the UK is prohibitive (they are working on it), so when anyone goes to the US, he gets them to bring back  clothes from Bonobos. 
 I believe he was wearing a pair of Bonobos chinos with his rowing club blazer when a photographer from the Sunday Times took his photo at Henley earlier this summer and used it illustrate their article. (My son is the one squinting and no, I don’t know why he buttons his blazer…)
Bonobos suit

Bonobos shirt

Recently Bonobos contacted PHS because they liked the blog. I suspect it has to do with the Male On Monday. They were having a giveaway and could we highlight? Unfortunately the timing was slightly off. The giveaway ended on Sunday. But their digital media manager sent some photos through of models wearing some of their latest offerings. They are rather good and I thought worth posting as they might prove inspiring...
It is important if you are writing contemporaries to get the look right. And I do think, Bonobos does get the look right.  It also provides good eye candy…

Michelle Styles writes warm witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical, Her most recent is Saved by the Viking Warrior which is out now. You can learn more about Michelle on

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Destination: Life ~ The Roads Not Taken

This month Anne McAllister  is contemplating roads not taken – and is about to make a foray down one of those roads.lifes journey bigger_thumb[2]

Back when I was a Spanish major at university in California, I read a short story by Jorge Luis Borges called “The Garden of the Forking Paths.” Most of what I remember about it now is exactly what I’ve told you up to this point. But it struck me then, as someone pretty much just embarking on the “main” path of my life, that there were decisions to be made, and that by choosing one – and then by extension, all the paths that grew out from that one –  I would by leaving others behind.

That’s life, my dad reminded me.  Well, yes.  And I have always enjoyed the path I chose.  It’s brought me a great man to spend my life with, a bunch of kids – and by extension, grandkids – who have enriched it over the years and continue to do so to this day.  It’s given me cold winters and hot summers, and a Master’s degree in Theology (wasn’t expecting that!) and the opportunity to write almost seventy books along with all the traveling and researching and great friends all over the world who have come my way as a result.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00003]Nope. No complaints. None at all.


Sometimes I think about those other paths.  I wonder what it would have been like if we’d moved to my grandparents’ place in Colorado as my dad considered, and I’d spent my formative years on their small ranch.  There’s a ranch person lurking inside me, I am virtually certain. My inner cowgirl has often found itself coming out in my books. And the time I did spend there has been formative, too, even though it wasn’t a long part of my life. 

It drew me then, and in some ways it still does. Yet as we contemplate moving full-time to Montana, I find myself looking in town, not in the country.  I think my inner rancher may have to wait for another lifetime.  Or live vicariously through my books and others’ in this one.

800px-Kingsmill_Plantation,_Dependencies,_Kingsmill_Pond_vicinity,_Williamsburg_vicinity_(James_City,_Virginia)Another of my early paths of temptation was archaeology, particularly underwater archaeology.  If I hadn’t imprinted on a cowboy at the age of five, I might have imprinted on Jacques Cousteau! 

One of my boys early on imprinted on Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. The summer he turned ten he went on an archaeological dig with his dad.  I lived vicariously through that dig – and the couple of actual days I got to go, too.  It wasn’t underwater, but it was – for Iowa – quite good enough.  It still has tugged at me from time to time.

So this year I decided to do something about it.  Next month I’m going down one of those forking paths, taking a week in Virginia around Williamsburg and Jamestown participating  in an archaeological dig through a Road Scholar program.

A week isn’t much – but my inner archaeological is thrilled at the prospect.  I may do no more than grub around in the dirt and/or wash potsherds.  No matter. It’s a taste.  And I am eager for the taste.  I’m eager to learn more, to experience first hand a small part of what an archaeological life can be like.

800px-The_Coronation_of_Powhatan_John_Gadsby_ChapmanI used to wish I could get old enough to go on a Road Scholar program (back when they were ElderHostel). But now they’ve lowered their age limit to 40! And there are quite a few programs that allow you to take family members (or go with family members who do qualify).  So ‘waiting’ is not such a huge issue anymore. 

I am making a list of other great places to see and things to do. I can spend hours just paging through the catalogues and coming up with ideas (the finances are a different issue entirely).  Some of them I hope I will get to do down the road a piece.  Some of them I will look longingly at and then decide that even for a week, I can’t do it.

But this – the archaeological road – it’s going to be mine for a week.  I can hardly wait.

If you are looking to spend some vicarious traveling time, check out Road Scholar online.   Also, please tell me what paths you didn’t take that you’d still like to have a taste of.   You might very well whet my appetite for a forking path I haven’t even considered yet!



1) Kingsmill Plantation near Williamsburg, See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

2) John Cadsby Chapman, Coronation of Powhatan.  Work in the Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, August 22, 2014

GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS: Everyone needs an editor

This month  columnist Donna Alward talks about why editors are so crucial to a book's success...             


I’ve written close to 40 books – well, closer to 50 if you count the ones that are buried on my hard drive and will remain there forever.

Here’s what I know. Every single book I’ve published has been made better by the work of an editor.

And it doesn’t matter how strong your editorial skills are. Editing your own work is a bad idea. For one, you’re just too close to it to see flaws. Not only that, but it’s too easy to read through and mis-read. You can see things that you think are there but aren’t, and your mind will correct things automatically that you might miss.

And that’s just with punctuation and grammar, during the final stages before your book gets published. My editors also look at STORY. They look at characterization, conflict, pace, plot…you name it. They look at it with clear eyes that aren’t already emotionally involved. They can see things that you don’t…possibilities of another way that may be a better way to proceed. A conflict point that needs teasing out. Characterization inconsistencies, slowed pacing.

Sometimes my editors will give me specific examples of how to fix things, and sometimes they’ll simply point out the trouble spot and leave it up to me to find a solution. Sometimes if their remedy doesn’t work for me, I simply have to figure out WHY they want a change and then I can fix it my own way. I think each time I’ve done that, my editor has put the change through. It’s not really about whether I’m right or she’s right…it’s about the story being right for the reader.

With the heavy self-publishing market happening right now, editors are in demand, and they should be. You can tell when a book has been properly edited and when it hasn’t. And if you hire a freelance editor, check their qualifications and maybe read some of the material they’ve edited. Not all editors are created equal. One great thing about the romance community is that we share info, so talk to other writers about who they’ve used for their editing and get recommendations.

I’m in the process of self-publishing another backlist book, and even though this book has been previously published, I hired an editor. One thing we did was find areas to update things like, well, technology! When the story first came out, it wasn’t strange for my veterinarian hero to have a beeper. But my editor picked up on it and we changed it to a cell phone. And I seriously couldn’t believe how many grammar and syntax changes she made that really tightened the story. She was ruthless and I loved it!

When I finally release this book (hopefully on September 1) I’ll feel pretty good about the level of care that went into making sure it was ready.

I know some people don’t think they need an editor, or they don’t want to be told to change things in their story, or they don’t have time. But I disagree with all those things at some level. An impartial eye is always beneficial to pick up what we might have missed. You also can’t be married to your words…sometimes you have to kill your darlings in order to make the story stronger. No one writes perfectly. No one. And time? This is your career, your readership, and readers are smart. Not to mention they deserve your best work, so the extra time it takes to revise and edit your manuscript is crucial.

One last thing…if you’re writing for a traditional publisher, cost is not an issue. But if you’re self-publishing, you’ve got to lay out the cash for that up front. It can be a challenge, but it’s still important. Why? Because you want this venture to be a success, and success happens with a strong product. You’re not just selling this book, you’re relying on this book to sell your next, and your next.

Food for thought. And now I’m off to finish my current book, so I can get it to my editor. She’s got a very keen eye and knows exactly what my stories need to take them to the next level.


Donna’s current release is the backlist release of THE GIRLMOST LIKELY.
No one wants to take a risk on The Girl Most Likely To Have Fun...except the one person in the world she'd rather not ask.

Katie Buick dreams of opening her own niche restaurant, but finding a financial backer for a reformed party girl is proving impossible. Until she makes a final desperate plea to Ric Emerson, former geek and high school friend turned successful businessman. Too bad they haven't spoken since she humiliated him before their prom. The last thing she expects is for him to say yes, or for him to have made such a complete transformation from old friend to heartthrob. But she learned the hard way that nothing good comes from mixing business with pleasure.

Ric knows Katie's idea is brilliant, and with his business acumen and her work ethic, they're sure to be a success. Building the business brings Ric and Katie closer together. Chemistry still simmers between them, blurring the lines between personal and professional despite their best intentions. Ric trusts Katie to make their business a success, but can he trust her with his heart a second time?



Wednesday, August 20, 2014


What If Your Genre Isn't Selling?

The other day, a friend of mine emailed about a paranormal project she was thinking about starting. “Problem is,” she said. “They say the paranormal market is glutted.  Maybe I’m better off working on something else.”

I gave her the standard answer.  “Work on the project that gets your passion going. Worry about the market later.”  

BUT, afterwards, I got to thinking - What do you do when your genre stops being popular?  Over the years, I’ve seen trends come and go, and with them, writers’ careers.  What’s hot today can cool in a second.  (Chick lit anyone?)  For all we know, all those cowboys, vampires and billionaire doms will be sitting on the bargain shelf next year.

The smart author never forgets how ephemeral publishing can be, and has some kind of a contingency plan, whether it’s writing in multiple genres, a breakout project she works on weekends, or simply a plan of action should she find herself suddenly out of contract.  And, even then, there’s no guarantee your reinvention will work.

Contingency planning isn’t so easy if you’re still struggling to sell that first book.  On one hand, it can take two, three, four (or ten) stories before you develop a strong, unique voice. (Heck, I’ve published over a dozen romances and only truly found my voice this past year.)  On the other hand, you could be, like my friend, developing a voice in a genre that agents and editors are increasingly rejecting.  In that case, it’s tempting – so very, very tempting – to jump ship and write what’s selling.

As much as I know you want to sell, I don’t recommend doing so.  Here are three reasons why.
  1. That voice thing.  Like I said in the above paragraph, developing a unique voice takes time.  Yes, you can develop your voice writing different genres, but in my opinion, it takes longer. Why? Because different genres have different styles.  For example, how are you going to hone that edgy romantic suspense voice if you suddenly decide to write historical?  If you are going to jump, at least pick genres that are somewhat related – for example, romantic suspense and thrillers.  Or YA suspense and mainstream suspense.  Save the drastic change for when you have to reinvent yourself.
  2. Editors’ decisions to focus on a particular genre (or subgenre) are driven by marketing and profits.  Likewise, agents’ decisions regarding representation are based on whether they can sell your book to an editor.  Like I told my friend, when they say the market is glutted, or a certain kind of book isn’t selling, what they really mean is that the books aren’t profitable enough by the publishing houses’ standards.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t readers.  As self-publishing has proven, there are plenty of devoted readers in every genre.  Publish it and they will come.
  3. Trends change. Wasn’t that long ago, the publishing world proclaimed straight contemporary romances dead.  Then along came Susan Mallery, Robin Carr, Jill Shalvis and others. Wait long enough and the type of book you’re writing will be back in vogue.  Or, if you need a counter argument – by the time you finish your manuscript, there’s a good chance the trend you’re chasing has peaked.

In the end, good story telling transcends market trends.  When editors stand up at conferences and say “give us a good story” they aren’t kidding.  Your voice, your passion, your words – those are the things that will get you published.  Not copying what’s hot now.  Besides, who wants to be a copycat?  Focus on trend chasing and as soon as the genre goes out of fashion, you’ll be back to square one. Focus on storytelling, however, and you’re building the foundation for a long and lasting career.

Every month, I mention how the writing world is like a roller coaster – up one minute and down the next.  This discussion is just another example.  So getting back to my original question: What do you do when your genre is out of fashion?  Relax and be yourself.  Writing your story, your way is the one thing in this industry in your control.  You might as well do it right. 

An author of sweet romances, Barbara Wallace knows what it's like to take a other, more trendy styles of romance.  She keeps at it, however, taking solace in the fact that there are plenty of readers out there for everyone.  Her latest story, THE MILLIONAIRE'S REDEMPTION, is currently being serialized on  She hopes you'll check out the story.    

Friday, August 15, 2014

MUST WATCH FRIDAY: Good Will Hunting

Harlequin author Heidi Rice revisits her favourite Robin Williams film, to celebrate the career of the much-loved actor/comedian who died far too soon earlier this week.

When the news broke on Tuesday morning that actor/comedian Robin Williams had been found dead at his home, I'm sure just about all of us could recall a role he played that we loved. Twitter and Facebook were soon awash with favourite clips or quotes from Dead Poets' Society or Mrs Doubtfire, people were Instagraming photos of Aladdin hugging the Genie and generally there was an outpouring of public sadness at the passing of such a well-liked and talented individual. Because, frankly folks he was one of those entertainers that the public couldn't help but love. Of course the shock and circumstances of his death probably added to the huge response, but I'd like to believe that it was mostly down to his formidible talent.

That's not to say he didn't make some stinkers, too, of course he did (hasn't every performer?), but I still wanted to do a little PHS tribute this Friday to my favourite movie of his. Weirdly it isn't one of his comedies. I did enjoy those, but for me, Good Will Hunting is one of those films that just keeps on giving and it's the scenes which Matt Damon's Will shares with Williams that are the bedrock of this drama.

The script written by Damon and his pal Ben Affleck launched the two of them in Hollywood and tells the story of a surly, blue-collar kid who works as a janitor but is actually a maths genius. His genius comes to light when he is doing the night shifts at MIT and starts solving the problems professor Stellan Skarsgard leaves on the board overnight just for the hell of it. Skarsgard wants to use the boy's genius, but quickly realises that Damon has some severe problems with authority. Enter Robin Williams as the rumpled, mild-mannered psychiatrist Sean Maguire, who Skarsgard enlists to give Damon some much needed therapy to make him more manageable. But of course Maguire isn't interested in using Will, he's actually a principled, thoughtful therapist who want to help Will for Will and as such, soon realises that Will's problems in relationships, his surly, sulky attitude stems from something terribly traumatic in his childhood. And as their sessions continue, Maguire begins to wonder if  maybe, just maybe, he can help Will overcome these traumas. Or at least confront them, so they won't continue to scar his future as they have scarred his past.

This is not a role anyone would have expected to see Williams in - given his talent for manic stand-up comedy. Sean Maquire is the polar opposite of Williams' on-screen persona. But beneath Maguire's apparently mild-mannered surface is a man who has some demons of his own that he has had to overcome - and that's where Williams' sharp snarky persona gives the character a wonderful edge making it entirely believable that Will might finally respond to him.... So as Maguire forms a real and genuinely strong and supportive friendship with Will - and uncovers and helps him to confront the hideous abuse he has suffered as a child -  we begin to fall in love with them both and with the movie.

Williams won an Oscar for his work here (in one of those rare occassions when they actually gave the Oscar to the right person!) Here's just one clip of him in the movie, that brings a tear to my eye every time I see it. Because Will is not a likeable person, he's difficult, tough, troubled and taciturn. But Maguire sees past that to the terrified child that is cowering beneath.

So now, tell me what  your favourite Robin Williams role is?

Heidi is currently working on an exciting new project that she will hopefully be able to brag about soon. Until then she has a new Cosmo Red Hot Read coming on in October called 10 Rules to Sex-Up a Blind Date. No prizes for guessing what that one's about! Chat to her on Twitter (@HeidiRomRice), Facebook and on her blog.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Confessions of a Sophomore Author – Part VIII -- How I fell in love with Texas in Seven Days

I recently attended the RWA Conference in San Antonio, Texas. It was an exciting conference for me because it was my first as a published author. Although RWA has always been exciting for me. This was the fifth I’d attended, and it’s always inspiring!

This year was exciting for me as well because I was getting the chance to room with my critique partner, fellow Presents writer and bestie, Victoria Parker, who I don’t get to see nearly enough because of our across the ocean addresses! 

We arrived early on the Sunday before the conference to spend some time exploring San Antonio. From my arrival, I knew the seventh-largest city in the U.S. was going to be special. I had my cab driver’s life story by the time we reached the hotel, knew the ages of his children, where they went to college and all the shenanigans they’d gotten up to as kids. And yes, this is me the woman with twenty questions always, but I didn’t  have to work this one at all. This was typical of everyone I met in San Antonio. Lovely, gracious, with wonderful southern manners.

After spending Monday exploring the city in the ninety, one-hundred degree heat, we headed out for dinner with the lovely Dani Collins (who I’d had the pleasure of meeting once before) and Presents writer, Sri Pammi, who I’d never met in person. Sri was just as wonderful as she is in the ‘online’ world and we all spent the evening laughing and catching up. I kept thinking what a fortunate thing to be able to do – to spend time with fellow writers like this. Apparently we capped off the evening with a discussion of smexy times which was followed with rapt attention by the Fertilizer convention men in the bar, although we didn’t realize it until we’d had a bit too much fun!

 After another day sightseeing on Tuesday (did I mention we found the pool?) most people started to arrive. It was so much fun to see the hotel transform from a sea of men to a sea of women. It was also pretty special to put on my speaker and PAN ribbons.

On Thursday we attended the lunch for Presents authors at the lovely Spanish restaurant Las Ramblas. It was amazing to meet many of the writers I’d only talked to online, many of which I’d been reading for years. So cool. Thursday night was the Amazon soiree, then we were off to a pizza party in one of the Presents writer’s rooms. It was great to get to know fellow authors in a more informal setting. I was lucky enough to end up beside Michelle Conder on the king-sized bed. She’s one of those people you feel lucky to have met. In fact, all the Presents writers were great – warm, welcoming and funny.

On Friday, Harlequin author Donna Alward and myself, as well as Harper Impulse authors Lynn Marie Hulsman and Sun Chara did our workshop called a Global Affair. We talked all about our paths to publication, gave our thoughts on what made the difference in the journey and also talked about marketing our books in a global market. It was another full circle moment for me because Sun and I had finaled in So You Think You Can Write together and are part of the Harlequin community. It was so great to finally meet her.

Friday night was the Harlequin party. It was an all-night, dance-a-thon with red Harlequin-branded socks to put on when your shoes came off. And they did come off! Michelle Conder even gave me the green light to order the amazing cowboy boots she had on because I loved them that much. 

Saturday was full of more great workshops. As an unpublished author I soaked these up for the amazingly valuable information they were and this year was no exception. I  couldn’t make it to them all, but I do recommend downloading Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ workshop on Great Characters: The Good, the Bad, the Believable and Sarah MacLean’s wonderful workshop: Mastering the Art of Great Conflict, one of the best workshops I’ve ever been to on conflict.

Saturday night were the RITAs which award the best books of the year.  Host, NYT Bestseller Simone Elkeles made me laugh and cry in equal amounts with her great stories and it was so inspiring to watch writers have their dreams come true being recognized by their fellow authors and readers.

Then it was Sunday and I was totally out of gas and headed home. It made me teary I won’t see my CP for months. But we’ll find a way to get together. We have to because laughing until I cry is now a prerequisite in my life.

My biggest lesson from my time in Texas is the same one I’ve learnt every time I get together with a group of fellow writers. Being with other authors is soul-affirming. That contact, that fun, that sharing of what we all love so much, it refills the well. It makes me want to get right back to the keyboard, which I did working on a new book.

So that’s it! A busy, awesome week. If you’re ever thinking about attending RWA – do it! From the workshops to the networking to the support, it’s played such a big role in my journey!

I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve been to RWA, or if you’re thinking of going!