Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tuesday Talk-Time - Talking About Pets

We're delighted to welcome Love Inspired Historical author, Lyn Cote, to the Pink Heart Society, as she talks about pets and her addition to the Sweet Christmas Kisses boxset...

PETS, my necessary writing companions and often characters in my books
by Lyn Cote

V-8, my lapcat  helping me write early in the morning

Writing is a lonely job and my cats are my writing companions.

I warned my dh before I married him that I would always have a cat. When I met him, I already had Professor, one of the smartest cats I’ve ever known. And my dh from a dog family soon adapted to this fine feline.

The cat our children grew up with, Shadow, a beautiful Siamese mix passed away when they were both at college.

So when my husband and I moved to our present home in Wisconsin, we went to the local animal shelter and picked out two cats--one for me and one for my man--Sadie and V-8 (for the engine, not the juice) respectively. We did this the Wednesday before Thanksgiving for a specific reason. Neither of our children who still lived in another state--were coming to Thanksgiving dinner. We decided cats would not turn us down!

Sadie, the “boss cat” taking a nap

Three years later, my daughter finally found her way home to our house and promptly moved in with her cat, Tricksy, short for Trickster (not Trixie). And what fun adding a third cat was!

Tricksy enjoying a chin-wag with my husband-his grandpa

Then my mother in law passed away  and we inherited her 14 year old cat Mutzie. (Mutza is the Slovenian word for “cat.” And Steve’s mother was of Slovenian descent.  Mutzie had never lived with another animal and again Sadie did not think we needed yet another cat! And she was not shy about stating this once again in loud yowls and hisses!

Mutzie sitting up and taking notice

You can image our sadness when our senior cat Mutzie reached the end of his days.

Mutzie giving us THE LOOK
It’s hard to say good bye to our little furry friends, isn’t it? But that’s because they add so much to our lives.

Mutzie was only with us for just over four years but he brought us many laughs. I often say to my husband--”What would we laugh about if we didn’t have our cats?”

And that’s why I often add cats (and dogs) to my stories. In my holiday novella, “Mistletoe and Sage,” my hero and heroine go to an animal shelter to find a dog for her little boy. It’s a scene I’m familiar with and the need for our furry four-footed friends is one dear to me. 

“Mistletoe and Sage” is part of a boxed set of 17 sweet romance novellas from best-selling and award-winning authors.

To purchase, click here.  http://tinyurl.com/jf8jjha

Do you like it when an author does that--add a pet to a story? Why do you think readers like animals in their stories?

PS: Here’s our grandpuppy, Ambrose. Can’t leave him out!

Author of over 40 books, award-winning author Lyn Cote writes contemporary and historical romance. Her homepage blog features "Strong Women, Brave Stories." Visit her website/blog at http://www.LynCote.com and find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Weekend Wildcard - Halloween on the Horizon

Pink Heart Society columnist Jenna Kernan is talking about how to use videos for marketing your books...


That’s Captain Jack Sparrow at end of the first Pirate’s movie.

I feel the same way about Halloween as he does about sailing.  I love making my costume.  That’s right; I make them and its past time to begin.

During my years of working a day job, I would dress up for Halloween.  Lots of us did, but my costume was always a bit more than the typical cat ears and black tee shirt gig.  My two favorites were Effie Trinket from The Hunger Games and Maleficent from the Disney film with Angelina Jolie.  I spent weeks making the headpiece for Maleficent and was very pleased with the result.  I used a YouTube video to make the headpiece using black cardboard, bailing twine, electrical tape and plastic garbage bags.  The video is in Spanish so I had to watch it over and over.  I love the theme song, “Once Upon a Dream” so that was no trouble.  It drove my husband a little crazy though, I think. 

I like this headpiece because it does not involve a form or papier-mache. I can’t tell you how many I previewed.  Most didn’t look right and one was made from the woman’s hair!  That would make my costume have devil horns as I am a natural redhead!

If you start right now you can finish by Halloween!

Jenna Kernan in her Halloween costume

One costume that I’ve been collecting for years is my pirate.  I got the hat first, then the bustier.  My husband bought me the boots.  I’ve worn it for Halloween and plan to take it to Disney World this year, if I can get tickets for the Halloween bash.

What does this all have to do with my writing?  Not a thing.  It has to do with having fun and recharging the battery and pretending to be a kid again.  Some adults change into kids at birthdays or Christmas or on another holiday.  My kid day is Halloween. 

You had me at chocolate!

You know it isn’t all about the candy, but…Chocolate?  Yeah, I’m in.  As I get older it becomes all about the costume and becoming someone you are not, taking on a role and letting that inner child come out and play if only for a day.  Being an adult is mostly serious work.  It’s important to take time out to do something fun just for the sake of your innate need to play.

Jenna made this 40 lb pumpkin into soup!

Please share your favorite costumes in the comments section.  I can’t wait to see who you have been.

The next book in Jenna's Apache Protector series, Turquoise Guardian is out soon:

Her Warrior Protector

Carter Bear Den is a proud Apache of the Turquoise Canyon Reservation. The former US Marine is a member of the Turquoise Guardians working to protect his people and their land. When he discovers a grisly mass shooting at the Lilac Copper Mine, Carter's one thought is to find Amber Kitcheyan.

After breaking her engagement to Carter and relinquishing her membership with the reservation, Amber found work at the mine. Now she is the sole survivor of the shootingat best a witness, at worst a suspect. But Carter swears to protect the only woman he has ever loved, even if it means losing everything else.

Bestselling author, Jenna Kernan, writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue, Western Historical fiction and paranormal romance. A Publishers' Weekly Bestselling Author, winner of the Book Buyers' Best award and two-time RITA nominee, Jenna’s popular APACHE PROTECTOR series for Harlequin Intrigue continues in January 2017 with TURQUOISE GUARDIAN and February with EAGLE WARRIOR.

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

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Fun: Move Over, Crazy Cat Lady...

Today on The Pink Heart Society, author
Taryn Leigh Taylor discusses the slippery slope of collecting things.

My name is Taryn, and I'm an addict.

I've loved dinosaurs my whole life. They are awesome. I've seen Jurassic Park too many times. In fact, I'm still a little bit sad I didn't become a paleontologist. And all this new talk about feathers? I'm in heaven.

Truthfully, I always thought it was a pretty good thing to love. Unlike books and shoes and stationery products, dinosaur love doesn't present itself in the form of shelves and shelves worth of stuff. I just watched documentaries and read articles and streamed YouTube videos. And I had one adorable little dino stuffed animal, and life was good.

Meet Romantosaurus Rex.
 But then something awful happened. 

Dinosaurs became a whole new level of cool...the level when they start be available as moderately expensive home decor.

Yes. I own a T-Rex side table.

But that's okay, right? One tasteful dinosaur table tucked into a corner beside the couch. No big deal. Until giant T-Rex fossil head hit the stores and I HAD TO HAVE HIM.

T-Rex fossil head decked out in his holiday best.
And then, just last week, I was innocently browsing bookends, and these bad boys practically begged to come home with me. What was I to do? I couldn't just leave them there.

Dinos + Books = Taryn's Happy Place
And that's just the stuff I caved on! There are a bunch of amazing statues and pictures and I already know that if I ever find a dinosaur lamp it's going to take all of my will power not to bring it home with me.  

I live in constant fear that I'm becoming the crazy dinosaur lady whose whole house is going to end up looking like the prop room for Jurassic World, Chris Pratt not included.

The missing piece to my collection.

So make a girl feel better, and tell me about your out-of-control collections and how much you love them in the comments below!

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

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

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Weekend Wild Card: Writing Connected Stories with Other Authors by Melinda Curtis

As a Harlequin author, I've been part of continuities and connected novellas in anthologies, but up until last year, I hadn't been in a set of connected stories/continuities that had more than 5 authors. Read on if you'd like to learn about writing in a box set of connected stories - both what goes on behind the scenes and advice to authors considering putting a set like this together.

Originally, Anna J. Stewart, Anna Adams, and I came up with an idea for a little holiday anthology (3 novellas) and pitched it to Harlequin Heartwarming. Ms. Adams was in love with small towns in Boston. She had the idea to create a town square with a gazebo, and she was probably behind calling it Christmas Town, too. During a Skype brainstorming session, we came up with the local legend that a kiss beneath the gazebo in the town square on Christmas Eve means wedding bells in the new year. We based our story on siblings and started the stories after Thanksgiving (Ms. Adams' tale), ending on Christmas Eve (my story).

For the last few years, box sets have been the rage and I wondered if we could gather some Harlequin Heartwarming authors together and have them all write stories in Christmas Town. But I wanted to keep the connected story aspect. Last year, I went a little crazy and gathered 11 other Harlequin Heartwarming authors and we put out a "box set" of 12 connected holiday themed stories all set in the same town: Christmas Town, Maine.

This year, our number is 15! And we garnered some support from Harlequin - there's a coupon inside both box sets for 20% off a Harlequin Heartwarming book! (That's about $1, which makes buying the box set almost free - lol!)

So what's it like to write with a group of 14 other authors in a town that's already had 15 stories (and characters and locations) written about it? Incredibly fun chaos! Here are some of our posts from our loop:

Who was the sheriff last year?
Has anyone written about a stocking store?
I need someone to get married around Christmas. Who has a couple from last year?
What was the name of the donut shop?
Does anyone mind if I write a story about a Christmas in the past?
Is it snowing at Christmas? How much snow?

We try to write a bible each year - honest, we do. But they tend to be brief notes on a spreadsheet. And we try to honor the heart of Christmas Town from the original stories, but we try to offer diversity, as well. Last year we had a second chance romance (h/h in their 50s? gasp!). This year we have a romantic suspense story and a few stories with a bit of holiday magic.

Since every three stories are connected, the trio of authors is required to plot together, share characters, and read each others' stories. Additionally, we have an editorial team among us for final reads of consistency in story within the three stories and across all 15 stories! This isn't exactly a thrown together box set.

So what kind of advice can I give to other authors who want to write connected stories?

  1. Think twice. LOL - you need to have authors who take connecting their stories seriously and who want to make the time to absorb the feel of the setting you've chosen (or the family you create). You'll need to choose a Han Solo (your driver of deadlines) and a Yoda or two (someone who honors the setting/theme).
  2. Make Google Docs your friend. We log our hero and heroine names to try and avoid names that are repetitive or sound the same (we aren't always completely successful). On another spreadsheet, we claim jobs and create businesses with holiday themed names, like Boxes and Boughs. We talk about hooks and themes. 
  3. Embrace diversity. You're all in this together, which means you need to respect the process of others. Much as you might love to have a story outline from an author who shares characters with you, that author may be a pantser. Also, your voice will be different from someone else's and that's okay - readers enjoy diversity and discovering new authors.
  4. Make subsequent versions a little different. This year, we allowed our authors to choose from three holidays - Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. This gave a little more logistic breathing room (i.e., so the hero from one book wasn't having coffee the night before Christmas at a place where a heroine from another book was supposed to have closed the coffee shop early - yes, logistics are important in connected books!). 
  5. Hone your target. We are targeting sweet/clean romance readers who enjoy holiday stories that are connected and don't have cliffhanger endings. None of our novellas are lead-ins to bigger books (i.e., prequels to characters an author is using in a full-length novel). A lot of box sets don't share anything other than being contemporary or all suspense or all vampire stories. In a crowded market, you need to stand out even more.
  6. Have an objective. Our objective is to build awareness of the Harlequin Heartwarming line, but also to build our readership base. If we make a list along the way, that's the cherry on top! But if we don't, we won't consider it a failure.
So there you have it. A little behind the scenes chaos. A little advice. And a whole lotta holiday cheer! Happy reading and happy writing!

Melinda Curtis is an award-winning USA Today bestseller. Her next release is A Heartwarming Holiday (a steal at 99 cents with a coupon for $1 off your next Heartwarming purchase). Her November release is Marrying the Single Dad, where an auto mechanic and a hair stylist fight over ownership of a once classic car.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

TIME OUT THURSDAY - Adventures in Packing

Today Pink Heart Society columnist Jeannie Watt discusses one of the banes of her existence--packing for a trip, or "I'd better bring this, just in case..."

I’m not only in the process of moving my household from one state to another—I’m also in the process of packing to go to Florida for a writer’s conference. The good news is that the clothing I plan to wear is actually in the house I’m living in, not the house 600 miles away. The bad news is that it still has to be packed. Decisions have to made. Backup plans established. What if I forget something I need?

Periodically I read fashion blogs that showcase capsule travel wardrobes—five tops, three bottoms, one dress, a warmth layer, comfy shoes (in some of the blogs, the comfy shoes have four-inch heels, but whatever), either sandals or boots, depending on the season, and pumps if necessary. This all fits into one small suitcase, and you wear the boots, thus either annoying or amusing the people behind you in the security line at the airport as you hop around on one foot trying to get your boot off. The theory is that you can wear the articles of clothing in many different combinations, creating several unique outfits. It’s a good theory, and as long as I stayed far away from coffee, red wine and tomato sauce, it might work. Unfortunately, I love coffee, red wine and tomato sauce.

The nice thing about going to Florida is that I can pack for a relatively small window of weather extremes, since the hurricane season is waning. When I visit my mom in Montana I have to pack for a broad window of weather extremes—frigid to frying—in addition to needing three categories of clothing—ranch, town and comfy. For the longest time I ignored comfy, only to suffer watching late night television in my Levi’s, which is not the same as watching late night television in yoga pants or sweats.

My goal on this trip to Florida is to pack in one carry-on bag. If other people can travel the globe for months with one suitcase, I should be able to pull off five days. My plan—wrinkle free maxi dresses. Sandals and flip flops. A sweater and a sweat shirt. A pair of shorts, a couple of casual tops. No boots are necessary, so the people in the security line will have to get their entertainment elsewhere. Everything I pack will be in the colors of red wine, coffee and tomato sauce. That’s the plan, and if I roll everything and manage to talk myself out of bringing all of the last minute “necessities I’ll come up with, I should be fine. 

How are you at packing? One of the minimalists I so envy but will never be able to emulate? Or a bring-it-all-just-in-case type of packer?


She will not be his second choice…

When champion bronc rider Ty Harding returns home after four long years on the road, the first thing he does is look up Shelby O’Connor—the woman who begged him to stay. The woman he still loves.

Horse trainer Shelby O’Connor truly believes she’s over Ty—until he shows up on her family ranch and turns her world upside down. Shelby isn’t a big one for second chances, but she’s all about proving that she and Ty are done. But when she discovers that Ty plans to head back out on the rodeo circuit, despite his injuries, she has to come to terms with the fact that maybe she isn’t as over him as she thought she was. And now she has to decide what to do about that.

Will history repeat itself, or will Ty and Shelby get another chance at love?

To learn more about Jeannie and her books, please check out her website.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tuesday Talk Time - Bring on the Writers of Tomorrow

I seem to be a rare bird in romance circles in that I’ve never experienced a look-down-the-nose snotty response when I tell people what I write. On the contrary, the usual reaction to my career change from high-level corporate life to romance writing, from friends and business acquaintances alike, has almost invariably been along the lines of ‘Good on you, I’m jealous’. Of course, I have a reputation for toughness, so it's possible they're not game to say anything derogatory to my face, but I choose to take them at their word.

In fact, I choose all sorts of things when it comes to attitudes about the romance genre.

I choose not to care that there are lazy critics out there who think flung out ‘heaving bosom' and 'throbbing tumescence' clich├ęs are acceptable short-hand for the genre, despite never having read an example of what they’re writing/talking about.
I choose not to care when I read eye-rollingly outdated critiques of romance that are stuck in the 1980s with the old skool bodice ripperswhich, I love, incidentally (they helped addict me to romance in the first place) but reading tastes do evolve, like just about everything else in life.
I choose not to take umbrage when I hear about a person who's never written a romance thinking they'll be able to pen one in a week or two and make a fortune out of ithey, give it a try, by all means!

In short, I choose not to go on a temper-laden rampage defending our genre, because in my view it needs no defence except its dedicated readership and impressive sales figures.

But there's one thing I do choose to care about, and that is the future.

I care about giving the readers of tomorrow meaningful stories they can relate to. And I care about growing our genre to make it as diverse and inclusive and representative and relevant as possible for new generations. 

There's a really fabulous movement to make romance more diverse. Here's just one article that gives a bit of perspective on that subject: Inside the Push for a More Diverse Romance Genre. I support this push 100 per cent, and for quite some time, I’ve been thinking about this issue in relation to Australian romance. 

Where, for example, are all the Australia’s First People romance genre novels? Now, if I’ve missed the wave and you have stores to suggest, please let me know in the comments – but the answer, as far as I can tell, is that they’re locked in the heads and hearts of our yet-to-be published authors.

That’s the first reason I jumped at the chance to be an Ambassador for the Pen to Paper Challenge for the Sydney Story Factory, which offers free creative writing workshops to marginalised young people, including Indigenous youth. We all need more stories in our lives, and we need them coming at us from everywhere. So I want to know what our youngest writers are producing.I want to read their stories, and I want to know what's on their minds.


The second reason I jumped is a little more emotional. It has to do with the wonder of reading that I felt as a youngster growing up in South Western Sydney. My favourite stories were always romantic, passionate tales of love and adventure, but I read across the boardliterary fiction, biographies and nonfiction, left wing propaganda (thanks, Dad!), crime (true and otherwise), and all up, every permutation of book known to humankind. 

As well as being a voracious reader, I started writing at a young age – furtive efforts, dashed off on scraps of paper and hidden way from any eyes except my own, not knowing what I was doing. And let me tell you, those efforts were excruciatingly bad, because I didn't know how to tell them.

So how wonderful it is that we now have organisations like the Sydney Story Factory who can rescue such scraps of paper and story ideas, expose them to the light of day, and help the writers of tomorrow learn their craft and hone their talent – whatever they’re writing. I just hope there will be some romance genre writers among them.

If you feel like slinging a few bucks my waywhich isn't really my way when you think about itclick HERE and do so, by all means. I'm aiming for 20,000 words by the end of September and a little sponsorship encouragement will do a lot to encourage me to actually get there.

Please connect with Avril via her website, or on Facebook and Twitter.