Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Trouble with Mistletoe

Hollywood might be a little slow in waking up to the buying power of women viewers, but a group of three women filmmakers certainly aren't. Their subscription movie service, Passionflix, is Netflix for women who love romance novels. In the US, the site offers a wide range of romantic movies, including many golden oldies, but for us here in South Africa, we only have access to their original content.

The best thing about Passionflix is that all their original movies are adaptations of successful romance novels. Wisely realising that romance readers are a built in audience, they're tapping into this pool of ready-made stories by turning some of the biggest selling novels of the genre into movies.

In last week's post I spoke about my love for Hallmark movies, especially all their feel-good Christmas movies, but they do have flaws: the plots are often thin, the conflicts weak, the characters' motivations inconsistent, the dialogue corny - and that's just the writing! This is where Passionflix has gotten it so right. By adapting books that already have great writing, strong conflicts and well-developed characters, they already guarantee a much higher quality movie experience.
And unlike Hallmark, Passionflix doesn't keep the content family friendly. These are movies made for adult women, and they don't close the bedroom door!

Of Passionflix's three full length movies (and one 'quickie'), my absolute favourite so far is (surprise, surprise!) a Christmas movie, The Trouble with Mistletoe. Based on the second book in Jill Shalvis' Heartbreaker Bay series, this movie features a steamy love story, some snappy dialogue, gorgeous lighting and settings, and, best of all, a gorgeous hero (none of those rather bland, square-jawed heroes Hallmark favours, but an honest-to-goodness swoon-worthy hero).

I've known of author Jill Shalvis for years (and heard her speak at the RWA conference in San Diego), and I've had a number of her books on my Kindle for ages, but it was only after watching this movie that I started to read her Heartbreaker Bay books. I'm loving the books, and now I can appreciate how closely the Passionflix writer(s) have kept to the original story, which is a rarity in movie adaptations.

Whether you choose to read the book or watch the movie, do yourself a favour and explore the world of Heartbreaker Bay. And if you're in South Africa, and not yet ready to commit to a subscription to Passionflix, The Trouble with Mistletoe is also available to watch through Amazon.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Now that's my kind of movie!

If you've been to a movie theatre in the last five years, and you're a woman, chances are you shook your head and asked "but what is there for me to watch?" Unless you're into paying an arm and a leg to watch Superhero Movie #183 or Fast & Furious #800, the answer is "nothing"! (Well, except Star Wars, but seriously, who doesn't want to watch Star Wars?) I remember a time when my local cineplex used to offer 'Girls Night Out' themed evenings. They haven't done that in ages.

Hollywood says they don't make movies for women because women don't go to the movies. I beg to differ. Women don't go to the movies because Hollywood doesn't make movies that women want to watch.

Instead, it's been left to TV networks to make the kind of movies women want to see, mostly the Hallmark and Lifetime channels. I'm not ashamed to say I love Hallmark movies. Yes, they're schmaltzy and low budget (after all, they are made for TV rather than big screens), and sometimes the scripts and acting are cringe-worthy, but they have all the feel good emotions of the romance novels I love.

Clearly I'm not alone in this. According to the Washington Post, more people watched Hallmark's The Christmas Train than went to the cinema to see the new big budget Murder on the Orient Express. Hallmark's holiday movies are so popular that last year the company made 33 of them!
(The freelance film crew member inside me rejoices, as that meant paying work for 33 film crews!)

This last Christmas, Netflix also joined the fray with their original movie A Christmas Prince. This movie is completely far-fetched, hugely derivative, and is a complete cheese fest. (And clearly Netflix couldn't afford researchers who could tell them that Europeans don't speak with English accents, or that the aristocratic titles they used for the fictional country Aldovia are real towns in England). But so what if it contains the corniest plot lines and dialogue of all time? Viewers are loving it!

Hollywood, take note: viewers are so starved for happy and romantic movies, they'll even binge watch an incredibly cheesy Christmas movie.

A Christmas Prince has all the feel good factor of a romance novel, and a guaranteed happy ending, and as the Washington Post article pointed out, the world is a dark enough place right now that we all crave something light and happy. Best of all, it's not only women who are watching!

If, like me, you're a dedicated romance reader and you'd love to see your favourite romance novels brought to the screen (but you'd prefer them without a side order of cheese) then I've got great news for you! But you'll need to check back here next week to find out what it is...

Friday, December 8, 2017

Release day for 'Recluse Millionaire, Reluctant Bride'

Since I live way down at the bottom end of Africa, most of my fellow Harper Impulse authors are only online friends. As a result, the very few I've actually met in person are very, very special to me. Sun Chara is one of those special people.

Sun and I met in San Diego at the RWA conference in 2016. My first impression was that she's tiny. My second impression was that what she might lack in height, she more than makes up for in heart. She is one of the warmest, most generous people I've met, and I am honored today to share the news of her latest release.

Recluse Millionaire, Reluctant Bride is another in her global millionaire’s series, and it releases today. Read on for an excerpt.

To find out more about Sun and her books here on her Amazon page, or you can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
Is his reluctant bride a business risk or a personal necessity?

Stan Rogers, recluse millionaire, must negotiate a risky deal with Stella Ryan, the exotic beauty from his past, to gain custody of his son. But how can he close the deal with her, the one and only woman who flips his switches and pegs him as the enemy?

Martial artist Stella knows she should steer clear of Stan, the man who had shattered her heart and could still destroy her. Four years have passed since their hostile business deal, and now, the American financier is proposing holy matrimony…but she’s the reluctant bride wondering, what’s he up to?

"What’re you doing here?" She leaped up and swayed at the sudden movement. Calm as you please, he lounged on the sofa, watching her beneath his bushy brows. Feeling at a distinct disadvantage, she swept up the pillow and blanket from the floor, and hugged them to her bosom.
Stan had the urge to snake his arm out and haul her into his arms, burying his face in her hair, sliding his hands beneath her disheveled jogging suit…sweat and all. He didn’t care. Her warmth and her scent with a hint of the Ivory soap she’d used during her shower, lassoed him. His gut jerked, or was that his heart?
Her eyes a deep sapphire from slumber, mesmerized. He wanted to nuzzle her nape, taste… abruptly, he checked the motion. Utter foolishness.
Hadn’t he learned his lesson in college when he got hitched on a dare? She’d taken him for a ride…every penny he had…and still after his scalp…and his son. Then, he’d been young, proud, reckless. Now, older and he hoped wiser— What the heck are you doing with this woman here? He shrugged the irksome thought aside.
If he wanted a woman, he could get one at the snap of his fingers. They were easy to come by when one was endowed with wealth. He wondered if they wanted him or his loot—if they’d even glance his way if he pumped gas at the local garage. He curled his lip in a silent snarl, and thinking it was directed at her, Stella took a step away from him.
Blood pulsed through his veins and pooled in his groin. He bit down an expletive. He didn't want a woman, not now. And certainly, not this one. Too stubborn, too shrewd, too outspoken, too beautiful...he sucked in a breath and let it blast out between his teeth.
“Is it time to go?” she asked.
Let her go? Never again.
“A change of plans,” he said, not quite meeting her eyes.
"Oh?" Stella moistened her lips with the tip of her tongue.
Sexual awareness flared. Stan tightened his jaw.
"You won’t be leaving today, after all.” At her outraged expression, he was quick to add, “A problem with the truck.” Under the circumstances, he had trouble believing the lame excuse himself. Just happened to be true s’all. Whether she believed him or not was her problem. Yeah, right.
"How convenient."
"Actually, it's not," he muttered. "The group wanted to get to town and stock supplies before first snow.”
He ignored her query. "Fred was going to check on the limo and halfway there, the Hummer broke down. He had to hike back.”
“Poor him.”
He didn’t even blink at her sarcastic rejoinder. “The outing will be postponed until tomorrow, together with your return.” A pause and, “Poor you?”
“Go to he—”
“I’ve already been,” he ground out. “Don’t recommend it.”
About to shoot back, she thought better of it. Stoking the already volatile situation wouldn’t get her out of there. And that’s what she wanted. Definitely.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Double page magazine spread

I'm currently featured in a double page spread in the October edition of South African magazine Your Family (on sale now). I am so honoured to have been included in this article on local writers, and really pleased how it turned out - it's the first time an article has correctly quoted me all the way through!

If you'd like to read the full article in a more legible version, the magazine can be purchased digitally here.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The end of an epic journey

Not epic in terms of scale, but rather in terms of major events in my life.

Day 7 of my first trip to the US (hopefully the first of many) started slowly, with a lie-in and a continental breakfast. Since I only needed to be at the airport late in the afternoon, I decided to explore this new city.

But with less than a day in Atlanta, how best to see as much as possible without blowing my constrained budget? I wanted to see as much as I could of the city and the answer was the electric car tour run by ATL-Cruzers. Advertised as a one and a half hour overview of Atlanta's attractions, I figured I could see a large swathe of the city without missing my plane.

I took an Uber into town (the only way to travel in Atlanta if, like me, you're too intimidated to drive on the wrong side of the road) and arrived early enough to stroll around the downtown area, taking in the Olympic Centennial park, Peachtree Centre and a Starbucks frappuccino before the tour.

Olympic Centennial Park

The electric car tour was great fun, and the tour guide very informative. I really felt as if I got a glimpse of the city, which is smaller than I'd originally thought, with a population about one eighth the size of my home town of Johannesburg, and a land size of about one fifth that of Jo'burg's.

In an hour and a half we toured the downtown area, Martin Luther King Jr. historical district, The Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, Midtown, the university campus part of town, and finally back to Centennial Park.

Martin Luther King Jr's final resting place

Martin Luther King Jr's childhood home

Shotgun houses in the Old Fourth Ward (Martin Luther King Jr Historical District)

Inman Park historical trolley barn

Delta Park Lock Box:
keeping miscreants in holding from 1890 to 1905

Leafy suburban streets

Candler Mansion

Beath-Dickey House

A carriage mounting block from the good ol' days

The house in which Margaret Mitchell wrote Gone With the Wind
while recovering from a broken ankle

When the tour was done, I had one more thing on my To Do list: taste some traditional Georgia food and the famous sweet iced tea of the South. A Google search led me to Mary Mac's Tearoom, an elegant restaurant en route back to my hotel, where I not only sampled sweet iced tea, but also Southern fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits and fried okra.

By now the clock was ticking loudly so I hurried back to my hotel for a quick shower and change, packed up my bags and headed to the airport. The Uber arrived not a moment too soon. No sooner had I got under cover, then the heavens opened in the kind of downpour we usually have here at home - the kind of downpour I had written into my Georgia-set novel When September Ends (which is still trying to find a home!)

A few things I learned during my single day in Atlanta:
  • almost everyone in Atlanta is from somewhere else
  • most of the traditional Southern foods appear to be brown and battered
  • Their sweet ice tea is a vast improvement on the Californian concept of iced tea, but still nowhere near as nice as South African ice tea
  • Cars only have license plates at the back of the car, which makes it difficult to recognise your Uber when it arrives to pick you up.

I really hope I get the chance to return to Atlanta some day. Not so much to see more of the city (I'm not that keen on visiting the CNN Center, World of Coca Cola or Turner Field) but I have friends there I didn't manage to see, and I'd love the chance to explore further afield, not least of all to visit the town of Madison where my novel When September Ends is set.

But for now it's Adieu USA. Until we meet again...

The plane that brought me home

Friday, August 5, 2016

Goodbye San Diego, Hello Atlanta!

As much as I wish the RWA conference could carry on and on and on, the sad reality is that eventually we have to pack away our glad rags and go back to yoga pants. Besides, most writers are introverts at heart. I think we'd implode if we sustained that level of excitement, enthusiasm and sociability for too long!

I woke on Sunday morning with a terribly deflated feeling, which would have been worse if I didn't have something to look forward to: Atlanta.

But first, breakfast with my lovely fellow HarperImpulse author, Lynn Montagano. This time I was even able to hold up my end of the conversation. And thank heavens Lynn has mastered the art of the selfie because I'm useless at it!

Lynn's selfie of us

At last it was time to pack my bags, shop for presents to take home, and head for the airport. Continuing the theme of meeting people in queues and elevators, it was while waiting in the queue for a cab outside the front of the hotel that I got chatting to Mills & Boon editor Kat Cheshire, who is as lovely as every other M&B editor I've ever met.

Farewell Marriott Marquis & Marina San Diego

Just in case it had already escaped me, the curb-side check in at the airport in San Diego reminded me why I find the USA so impressive - it's organised! That level of organisation and convenience really appeals to my OCD side!

Then it was "Goodbye San Diego..."

View from the plane during take-off

And "Hello Atlanta."

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Travelling across the States in daylight is an amazing experience. Seeing the country from the air not only reinforces how large the country is, but also how varied. From the arid browns of California and Texas to the surprising green of Oklahoma City and the forests of Georgia, it really is colourful.  (Through from the air all rivers look brown!)
Georgia is especially attractive - so many trees, with pockets of humanity carved out of the extensive woodlands.

It was evening but still light in Atlanta, so I was able to soak in the sights on the Uber trip from the airport to my suburban hotel. From the first, I loved this city. It's as muggy and humid as Durban, the town I grew up in - and just as green. Its streets and highways have the same sprawl as my current hometown of Johannesburg. But the architecture and atmosphere are so different from anything we have back home in South Africa that it feels exotic as well as familiar.

I stayed at the The Highland Inn, as different from the Marriott in San Diego as night from day. It's an old building, with uneven floors and a sense of being lost in the past, but it was a clean and comfortable place to sleep for the night.

The Highland Inn courtesy of Trip Advisor

The Highland Inn courtesy of Trip Advisor

For dinner I decided to treat myself to a quintessential American experience: a burger and fries in a real diner. Within a block of my hotel was The Majestic, a local landmark that could have stepped straight off a movie screen. And the burger and fries were quite possibly the best I've ever tasted!

Sadly, I didn't have my camera or cell phone with me (everything was charging back at the hotel!) so I'll have to rely on these Google images:

To walk off my meal, I went for a long stroll along Ponce de Leon Avenue, enjoying the sultry evening air and the relatively safe feeling of being able to explore the neighbourhood after dark. (Though I did see quite a few homeless people sleeping on the streets in Atlanta, something I hadn't noticed in San Diego).

Still too buzzed from the conference and the excitement of a new place (not to mention the time zone changes) I returned to the welcome air conditioning of my hotel room and the first book in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series, inspired to read it by her Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech the evening before.