Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Talk Time Tuesdaywith Jenna Kernan

Today The Pink Heart Society welcomes columnist Jenna Kernan, who has some great tips for starting off the New Year right! Take it away, Jenna--

6 Guilt-Free Snacks for the New Year!

I know, I know! 2017 has burst in with exercise offers on TV as you contemplate why no one wanted that particular last Christmas cookie and solidifying chunk of fudge.
Writers do not have a reputation for healthy eating and are often portrayed surviving on nothing but cigarettes, grain alcohol and a strong sense of ennui.  I personally know more than a few writers who survive for long periods on black coffee and Skittles. But this is New Year even writers are thinking healthy.  So tuck away those pies, cookies and coffee cakes and try these 5 power snacks for a guilt-free boost.

1. Unsweetened Greek Yogurt and Walnuts

Ingredients: Walnuts, plain yogurt, Stevia.  Optional - fresh fruit. 
The walnuts give a nice crunch and the yogurt is creamy and sweet. The protein in the Greek yogurt will keep you satisfied longer and Greek yogurt has less carbohydrates and sugar than regular yogurt.  Add some Stevia to improve sweetness. The walnuts have healthy fats that are good for your skin and brain health.

2. Beat the Sweet with Hazelnuts

Ingredients:  Chocolate/Hazelnut Spread on large whole-wheat/whole grain cracker topped with sliced banana and/or almond slivers. 
Chocolate/hazelnut spreads ARE high in fat and sugar, but preferable to baked goods if teamed with healthy almonds which reduce blood sugar, cholesterol and help lower blood pressure and bananas that have heart and digestive benefits.

3. Wonderfully Salty and Low in Fat

Ingredients: Baked Tortilla Chips and fresh Salsa
You can buy or make the fresh salsa and glean the benefits of Vitamin C.  The baked chips help you fix the salt craving while leaving the fat behind.  Look up a salsa recipe - it's not very hard and only takes 20 minutes (minus the drive to and from the store).

5. Tutu Fruity

Ingredients: Blueberry Smoothie - Low Fat Soy or Almond Milk, Frozen Blueberries, Ripe Banana and dash of vanilla extract.
Blueberries are wonder foods and easy to keep in the freezer.  They have zero cholesterol and provide loads of fiber, foliate, vitamin C and B6 which makes them very heart healthy.  That soy or almond milk will add protein (plus calcium and iron) to keep you feeling full longer. 

6. Egg-cellent source of Protein

Ingredients: Scrambled or fried egg (6 grams of protein) on 1/2 of a whole wheat muffin topped with love salt sliced turkey-breast cold cut.  (My unofficial calorie count = 157)
You know how long it takes to make this?  Less than you'll sit in line at a fast food joint's drive-through for a 300 calorie (plus 13 grams of fat) breakfast sandwich.
Small steps are better than no steps and adding a healthy snack to your day is a nice start. 
I've switched out my afternoon coffee with green tea and made sure to eat up the last Christmas cookie so it will not tempt me.  Now I'm ready to be that lean, mean healthy-eating machine.



Publishers Weekly Bestselling author, Jenna Kernan, writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.  Her popular APACHE PROTECTOR series continues in January 2017 with TURQUOISE GUARDIAN #1 followed by EAGLE WARRIOR #2, FIREWOLF  #3 and THE WARRIOR’S WAY #4

Get Jenna's FREE forty-two page prequel to her new APACHE PROTECTOR series  HERE.  

Follow Jenna 
@jennakernan, on facebook/AuthorJennaKernan

Monday, January 23, 2017

Male on Monday : I'm Holding Out For a Hero

Today on The Pink Heart Society, author Taryn Leigh Taylor wants your recommendations for the perfect alpha hero.

One thing I've always loved about romance novels is that they have the perfect hero for every palate. 

If you like your heroes responsible and steadfast, pick up a western.

If your perfect man is broody and fanged, paranormal might be your jam.

Does your ideal guy have a great sense of humour and a knack for? Check out the romantic comedy shelf. 

But despite the smorgasbord of hero archetypes, there is still one hero to rule them all. That's right, I'm talking the alpha hero. The enduring and beloved power player who loves deep--but not until he meets the strong-willed heroine destined to be his kryptonite, natch. Best of all, like his book-boyfriend counterparts, the alpha males comes in a variety of flavours:

He might work hard, play harder, and wear a suit like it was made for him:

Gabriel Macht as Harvey Specter in Suits

He might be dangerous and gritty, and know how to handle his weapon:

Charlie Hunnam as Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy

He might be stoic and reserved and be worth ten thousand a year:

Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice

Or he might be a smart-ass battling his demons in his quest to save the world:

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural
I'm currently hard at work on my next project, and I need a little alpha inspiration to keep the words flowing. 

Help a girl out, and tell me which sexy alpha heroes get you hot and bothered in the comments below. (I'm not picky! He can live on screen or in the pages of your favourite novel.)

Taryn's latest release, Playing to Win, is available in e-format wherever Harlequin Blaze are sold.

Playing to win means playing dirty...

Holly Evans is intelligent, educated and crazy about sports--so how did she end up prancing about in a miniskirt and teasing her hair like some broadcasting bimbo? Of course, since she's already iced her journalistic integrity, Holly might as well indulge in a little fangirl lust for the ripped captain of Portland's hockey team.

Luke Maguire sees right through Holly's bunny disguise, and he's ready to pull her into the locker room and strip it all off. Then Holly discovers someone on the team is profiting from a little over/under betting. Suddenly her lusting for Luke is going head-to-head with her reporting instincts. And if she's caught offside, there's no telling what the penalty will be...

Taryn Leigh Taylor likes dinosaurs, bridges and space, both personal and of the final-frontier variety. She shamelessly indulges in cliches, most notably her Starbucks addiction, her shoe hoard and her penchant for falling in lust with fictional men with great abs. For more on Taryn, check out her website, or catch her on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#WriterWednesday: Putting In The Work

Pink Heart Society columnist Kristina Knight talks about putting in the work - even when you don't want to.

I've always been able to see the accomplishments that other people have made so much more clearly than I can see my own. That is both a blessing and a curse. I've never been a conceited person (benefit). On the other hand I think its important to self-esteem to really 'see' what we've done.

RadioMan and I started biking two springs ago. I don't care what they say, riding a bike for the first time in ... well, too many years, isn't easy. It's hard. There is balance to be re-learned, peddling to master. That first ride I barely made it around the outside loop of our neighborhood (a 3 mile stretch). I had to stop once and I wasn't fast; I think those 4 miles took a solid 30 minutes. I liked biking but I wasn't at all sure I could do it.

The next day, same result.

The following day, same result. And an added pain - literally - in my, ah, rear end. I wanted to quit.

Obstacles aren't just in exercise programs. Obstacles can be anywhere - a particularly hard class in school, chasing a dream or making a change from Job A to Career B and most definitely in our writing. Every time I start I new book the same fear hits me: this will be the book I can't write.

The same summer I started biking, I really thought I'd hit the writing wall because I started a book that I just couldn't get a handle on. I started it, stopped it, re-started and stopped again so many times I wanted to scream. I tweaked characterization, motivation, goals and conflicts so many times I just wanted to toss the project in the trash. So I started something completely different...and the messed up characters from The Project That Wouldn't Let Me Write It bugged me until that new project imploded, too. So I started tweaking and fiddling and tweaking one more time.

No, there was no lightbulb moment and at no point did the heavens open and angels begin singing...but hard-fought-for-word after hard-fought-for-word made it onto my pages. Conflicts and resolutions came into that book that I'd never imagined. Good conflicts and good resolutions and eventually I was able to write The End - something that, had you asked mid-summer, I'd have said would never happen.

I don't have any great advice on how I worked through the block that was that book except this: every day I made a little bit of progress. Some days it was a thousand words, some days it was figuring out a single conflict moment. And all those little bits of progress turned into a book that I'm really proud of (The Daughter He Wanted, my very first Superromance for Harlequin).

What is better is that I can look back at the battle of this book and I can see how this particular battle changed my writing process and how I approach a story. It changed how I look at writing, in general, in a good way. This book, as awful as it was in the middle of it, has made me a better writer and has inspired me to open another blank document and start the process all over again. This time, I'll remember the battles I fought to write that book. I'll draw on the strength that kept me on that bike for 18 miles and I'll remind myself that I can....even when I think I can't.

Oh, and the biking thing? I kept trying, even through the pain, because each time I rode there was a moment when I didn't hurt and when I remembered how much fun I had riding my bike as a kid. My goal was to be able to ride 20 miles per session by the end of the summer...I hit 18, and I think that is a good accomplishment. 

How do you work your way through a block?

Kristina Knight's latest release, What the Gambler Risks, released October 3 from Crimson Romance:

Twenty-something ice queen Sabrina Smith enjoys fame and fortune writing about her life of celibacy. The fact she's the Oldest Living (Supposed) Virgin in Vegas? Just keeps her readers interested in how she juggles dating in Sin City.

Jase Reeves knows Sabrina's secret - that she's not nearly as cold as she would like people to think - and he's through keeping it. He didn't intend to have a one night stand with the Vegas Virgin but he can't get her out of his head.

When Jase returns to Vegas Sabrina has one goal: stay away from the handsome gambler before he melts her career - and her heart.

Amazon  B&N  KOBO  iBooks 

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Talk Time Tuesday: Male Beauty versus the Intensity of the Beast by Melinda Curtis

My husband and I recently discovered that one of our college age children had upgraded our Amazon account from regular prime (free shipping!) to prime with video. Being busy adults who barely venture onto Netflix, we decided to be daring and check out some Amazon shows.

Nothing we've watched so far would have what I used to call Heartthrob Heroes. But once you get into a series and fall prey to the intensity of what society might call "Average Joes", you tend to fall in love regardless.

For example, take Sneaky Pete. Giovanni Ribisi plays what should be a very unlikable guy - a thief and con man, who needs money to rescue his brother from a mobster. After three years of listening to his cellmate Pete talk about his estranged family (who was in the "bond" business), our hero decides to impersonate Pete and try to swindle or steal the money needed to save his brother. As the series progressed, I began to realize Giovanni's got something sexy going on. It's his confidence, his swagger, his street smarts, and his heart.

Who knew?

Or take Goliath, starring Billy Bob Thornton. Now, I'm not much of a Billy
Bob fan and I can't really say why. But this non-traditional hero (a drunk lawyer who's burnt out and washed up) sinks his claws into a woman (now there's an image). Billy Bob played a smart, tortured hero and got his sexy going on.

And this is why I love reading different authors who take regular guys and make me root for them - not just to save the ranch, win the big game, or come home safely from war, but because they make me fall in love with Average Joes who face the crappy hand they've been dealt or the impossible situation they've backed themselves into. They face it. They endure. And they win my heart.

Are there any unlikely heroes you've fallen for without meaning to? Guys you wouldn't classify as a traditional hunk or what Hollywood used to call a romantic lead? Tell me about it.

Melinda Curtis is an award-winning USA Today bestselling author of over 30 books. Her latest release, The Bridesmaid Wore White, is installment #5 in the popular sweet romantic comedy series.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Crafting Characters

For today’s Writer’s Wednesday I’ve decided to share an excerpt from my tutorial “Crafting Characters: Strengthening Your Motivation To Write”. This is a brief publication that I decided to create when asked by new writers what it takes for me to keep my head in the writing game. You may obtain this title in full online at no charge.

In addition to delving into the soul of your characters, giving focus to their backgrounds is yet another method/way of maintaining motivation to complete your story. This is a bit more of a task when the characters are brand new. When the characters are part of a series, this gives the author the chance to flesh out facets of the character’s persona that may have been planted in earlier stories in the series.
For instance, the readers already know that the hero of A Lover’s Beauty Taurus Ramsey and his cousin Quest Ramsey (A Lover’s Dream, A Lover’s Soul) don’t get along, but the reader isn’t given the benefit of knowing why when Taurus is first introduced in book one in the series A Lover’s Dream. Taurus’ appearance in the book is brief, but it was memorable enough to peak the reader curiosity to know more about him.
When a book is a standalone, it is just as relevant to flesh out character aspects which have been planted earlier. In my 2004 release In The Midst of Passion (Kensington/Dafina Books) my hero Alex Rice was extremely complex. We discover early in the story that he owns a paper but spends little time there- why? We learn that he has a love/hate relationship with his cousin Melissa-why?
As the story progresses, we return to this seed and others planted. We learn that Alex desires to have a legitimate interest far removed from his former occupation as a killer-for-hire. This seed opens up a host of other issues within the story. We also learn that Alex’s strained relationship with his cousin has much to do with racial issues revolving around the disapproval from his mother’s family towards Alex’s father.
As earlier stated, occupation can open another trail of issues within your story. For my first traditionally published novel Remember Love, our hero, Trinidad Salem’s profession did not mix well with his wife Dominique’s career as a reporter. The emerging events created chaos in their marriage and well-being.
Personal interests go a long way in bringing life to your characters- making them more real to the readers and to you the author. Giving focus to your characters’ food or clothing preferences, musical tastes, sports interests even their choice of transportation can offer many entertaining insights into your characters and often allow for various plot twists.
**Remember: Make the most of character interests. Use them to add substance to your plot instead of simply adding numbers to your word count.**

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Talk Time Tuesday: Rating the Guys on Grey's Anatomy

Heidi Rice - coming late to the Seattle Surgical Soap - has given scores out of ten for the main man candy in Seasons 1-3... All in the interests of provoking an interesting and informative debate about hot men in scrubs.

I'm not gonna lie to you, I'm sure that someone's done this before on PHS, because I am about a decade and a half late watching Grey's Anatomy. But I've been binge-watching it all over Christmas and I am now officially obsessed... So bear with me people. Here are my ratings for the guys of Seattle Grace Hospital (that I've seen so far). If you've seen this show and have an opinion join in!

Doctor Derek Shepherd (aka McDreamy aka Patrick Dempsey) 


Meredith Grey's main squeeze right from the opening scene of the opening show, McDreamy scores points for being Meredith's go-to guy for the three series I've watched so far... He's cute, charming, has great hair and the best puppy dog eyes in the business - especially when Meredith is being a bitch to him which is quite a lot frankly (maybe that should be whipped puppy dog eyes)... But sorry, folks, this guy has NO EDGE. Everyone beats up on him, his ex-wife, his best mate McSteamy, even his dog dies! At the close of season three all I want to do is smack him (and not in a good way).

Intern George O'Malley (aka TR Knight)


I found George a bit annoying at first (even more sulky and pouty and puppy-doggy than McDreamy to start with)... He's the guy next door type - who kept accidentally sleeping with all his pals. But at the end of Season three he seems to be leaving Seattle Grace (no spoilers folks, if you know different), and I actually felt kind of sad and fond of him. So I think he must have snuck up on me a bit with all his pouting.

Doctor Preston Burke (aka Isaiah Washington)


Focused, intense, ambitious, our resident heart surgeon Preston seems at first to have had a bit of a heart bypass.  Until he meets his ultimate match in Sandra Oh's Christina Yang. Preston also has the most chiselled jaw I've ever seen this side of Mount Rushmore. But he is also a control freak. Which can be sexy, but only in small doses... ie: this guy has a bit too much edge. That said, the wedding vows he never got to deliver made me sigh.

Doctor Mark Sloan (aka McSteamy aka Eric Dane)


As you know I cannot resist a bad boy, and plastic surgeon McSteamy is a very bad boy. Flirty, dirty, shallow, selfish, and self-absorbed, not only did Mark sleep with his best friend's wife (see above) but he is also a self-confessed man whore. He's handsome (never a bad thing) also has great hair and did I mention dirty... But this guy had slept with or hit on pretty much every woman in scrubs within three episodes of joining the cast. So he's dirty, but not always in a good way. ie, this guy would DEFINITELY give you a communicable disease.

Dead Guy Denny Duquette (aka Jeffrey Dean Morgan)


Be still my beating heart, Denny is poetic and gorgeous, the patient that Katherine Heigl's Izzy has a mad tragic love affair with - and who has stubble to die for. That he managed to make an impression while being hooked up to an IV and wearing sickly green heart-condition makeup for nearly a whole series is impressive. Unfortunately though he became a corpse by the end of season 2 or he would have scored higher. Although he did get an encore as a ghost which gave us a brief glimpse of what he would have been like if he had not had such a dodgy ticker (who knew he was so tall and was swathy not sickly green).

Intern Alex Karev (aka Justin Chambers)


Fellow intern Alex was  a slow-burn through Seasons one and two... Basically just your resident dickhead sleeping with everyone he could get his hands on. But as soon as he started scrubbing in with McDreamy's ex Meredith and getting proper storylines involving sick babies and amnesiac ferry disaster survivors, he turned out to be the dark horse of Grey's Anatomy man-candy. Alex is a good guy in bad boy's clothing.. A good guy who can't commit. And I have a feeling there's something tortured and traumatic in his past, which is why he can't commit. Which means he has LAYERS... He's also sexy, but not too sexy. And his hair is NOT great. And LAYERS people!! I think there is much more to discover about Alex, which may involve more sick babies and possibly puppies. Seriously, this show could run and run... Oh wait a minute, it did, and I missed it.

But not anymore.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know who you would scrub in for at Seattle Grace in the comments?

While I get stuck into Season 4.

Heidi's first classic Presents Vows They Can't Escape is out this month in the US and next month in the UK. She also tutors a 7-week online writing course - An Introduction to Writing Hot Romance - which will be running again from 20th February for anyone interested in finding out how to write hot romance. Obviously.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Writer's Wednesday: All the More Unfamiliar Places

PHS Columnist and Harlequin Historical author Nicole Locke asks: Can a writer reinvent themselves?

I love to write in all the more unfamiliar times and places. I don’t write only in the morning, afternoon or evening. I write at any time. I certainly don’t have a writing spot in my house. It’s the red chair, the sofa, or on top of my bed. Sometimes I even sit in the hallway.

I gallivant as well. I write on buses, on trains, and on tubes. I’ve written in almost every museum in London (except that one at UCL, which had very little space). Oh, and benches. I love benches. And cafĂ©’s, and sometimes libraries (often too quiet). I write indoors, I write… I think you get the picture.

I am a Creature of the Unhabit.

Does it work? It doesn’t…unwork. After all, I have actual finished novels that have been published. Better yet, these stories have given me inspiration for more stories. So good, right?

Yet, should I tell you how long my writing process has been?  I found a floppy disc dated 1999 with bits of my first story. I know for certain I thought of the story before that date. When did it get published? Once I split the story (it had two storylines), the first one was in 2014, and the second one in 2016.

In other words…I think you get the picture. Oh, sure Life happened. Kids, my insanely demanding day job. We moved countries. It took me six months to try all the different cheeses suddenly available. Oh, and we travelled. A lot.

Through it all, I wrote here and there. I entered writing contests. I tried to find my storytelling voice. I adored finding new words; I soared when I wrote that perfect moment between characters.

Yet, how did I possibly get published with this much dribble and drab of words? Because I persisted with those words. Every year I wrote a bit more until I finished the manuscript and started querying agents (all to no avail). Along the way, I fixed stories. I joined groups and met other writers. I kept trying.

Then in 2014, I met a Harlequin editor, and laughed that my manuscript sent over a year before hadn’t been rejected yet. Three days later, I received a series of emails that ended up being The Call.

I tell people that the only reason I’m published was because of an administrative error. In truth, the only reason I got published was because I persevered. I kept with the struggle; I kept dreaming.

Now that I have contracts, do my unworking, unhabit practices work? Not at all.

Because let’s face it, I dreamed, but I got in my way.  And that doesn’t work in the publishing world. That doesn’t work when I have characters vociferously demanding their stories (inspiration is great until you have too many voices in your head). It doesn’t work with editors and never for the reader. I, too, am a reader. I know how demanding I can be for the next book.

So I must become familiar. I must find habit. In 2017, I think I’ll dream a little less; I’ll struggle a lot more. In 2017, I want to soar with more perfect storytelling moments.
-- Nicole :-)
Nicole's fourth book in the Lovers and Legends series, In Debt to the Enemy Lord, is out now!

“You have a debt to pay. You owe me your life.”

Anwen, bastard of Brynmor, has fought hard to find her place in the world. But she’s forced to re-evaluate everything when she’s saved from death by her enemy Teague, Lord of Gwalchdu. Instead of releasing her, he holds her captive…

Teague trusts no-one. And with ominous messages threatening his life he must keep Anwen under his watch, no matter how much her presence drives him wild. And when passionate arguments turn to passionate encounters, Teague must believe that the strength of their bond will conquer all!

To find out more about Nicole Locke, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter.