Monday, July 31, 2006

Sappy Stuff

First of all a huge thank you to all of you who have sent their congratulations here and on the various loops I'm on. It makes a girl all warm and fuzzy inside!

The vacation break was needed and I'm seeing the results already. I didn't touch a lick of work when I was home and am now recharged and ready to go. I got home Saturday night and yesterday put together my bio, dedication etc. for my editor and also critiqued four chapters. :-) As well as doing some thinking about the proposals I have to put together this week. I desperately needed to refill the well and get excited not only about sales but about WRITING again. My family (especially my very sweet husband) has put up with a lot from me but hopefully now the prospect of actual BOOKS will help!

I'm going to cut and paste my posts from my party thread on E-harlequin. They say as well as anything how I feel about the writer friends I've made along the way.

Ok - here we go....

Just before I left for holidays, Maddie let me know that she loved the revisions and that she'd passed it up for a final decision. I was exhausted at this point. I took work home (vacation) but didn't touch it. I checked my e-mail on the 17th, but there was nothing so I didn't check it again until the 21. Lo and behold there were two rather excited e-mails from Maddie asking me to call her as she had news. I think I knew at this point but you know you have to hear it for real for it TO be real. Of course figuring the time difference it's afternoon in the UK on a Friday and I'm at my in-laws and panicking about calling the UK on their phone and/or missing her and having to wait AGAIN.

She answered, told me to hang up as she'd call back when she had a conference room. She called, and said, I have great news, we want to buy your book.

I don't remember what I said. I know I sounded excited but I was quite rational when all is said and done. She gave me the new title - Hired By The Cowboy, and the release date of May 07, as well as some other details of the contract. My Mod X is going by the wayside as they want me to focus on the Romance line and I'm really very happy with that! I think what blew me away most is her talking about building a career. Also she said that she'd done a few line edits and so I have no other revisions to do, just that first set. Anyway then she told me to go party and when I hung up I *might* have whooped in a very ladylike way of course and also may have jumped up and down with great decorum. We bought champagne and celebrated with my in-laws that night. My FIL insists that when I'm on Oprah I have to buy him a convertible. LOL.

It's hard to take accolades when I really feel that a lot of this book was a group effort. It would never have happened without some very key people that I respect and care about very much.

A few of you may know that this book started over 2 years ago, with a different setting and different hero. It was the first manuscript that Michelle Styles ever critiqued for me and after I got that back, I cried and considered quitting. But I didn't, and she's been a rock, a voice of reason and a real guiding force for the last 2 years. Her critiques while writing this ms were dead on.

And I probably wouldn't have thought of rewriting what was once titled "The Reluctant Husband" if a very good friend of mine, Michele in Fredericton, NB hadn't told me how much she loved it. I knew there were parts of the premise that really worked, but the setting of Southampton and my shipping hero just did not. So I took the basic idea, moved it to a beef ranch in Alberta, complete with hunky, strong, loyal cowboy hero. And a whole new book was born before my eyes.

Next up - Trish Wylie. Trish read a first chapter contest entry of mine last summer and asked if I wanted a critique of it. I wasn't about to say no - she writes for the line I was targeting! That manuscript was ultimately rejected - with feedback - and went on to sell at another publisher, as well as another novel that was rejected, again with feedback. It's no coincidence that every book I've written since teaming up with her, as well as Michelle, has sold somewhere. It's been a privelege and a joy to be her cp.

What really should strike everyone on these boards is the unequivocal generosity of the harlequin writers. When I started, writers like Karen Templeton, Kate Walker, Valerie Parv, editors such as Kate Paice and Leslie Wainger didn't hesitate to take the time to answer a newbie question or offer encouragement. You only have to spend a few minutes reading subcare posts to know how supportive this group is, devoid of petty jealousy or cattiness.

Another special author to me is Liz Fielding, who's doing a little RITA celebrating of her own today.

Liz also had a quick look at a partial for me over a year ago and offered some advice and lovely comments. She's been a class act, a voice of experience and support. Her generosity is a beautiful thing. Thank you Liz, for being who you are. You, along with great friends like Trish, Michelle, Julie C, for that matter, all the wonderful people on these boards, make me want to be a better writer. Here's hoping I can live up to your expectations and support.

This just in - e-mail from my editor. My bio etc. are "perfect". What a relief!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

I SOLD TO HARLEQUIN ROMANCE!

Well readers thanks for being patient with me while I was on holidays. I got fantastic news while away that preempted any other posts I might have made about the good time I was having - which I'll post about later. Right now the news is that I've sold TBB - The Baby Bargain, now entitled "Hired By the Cowboy", a title I like a lot!

Details are that it's out next May. There was popping of champagne and perhaps some squealing when I got off the phone.

I'm very excited and also really happy that my editor is Maddie Rowe, who's been an absolute dream to work with. I could hardly wait to get back so I could get back to work...but while "home" (back in New Brunswick visiting our families) I didn't even touch the zipper of the laptop bag. I knew I'd need to conserve my energy!

More gushy, thank you, Oscar-type posts to come but right now I'm still on NB time which means it's only a wee bit after 5 a.m. here.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Ducks in a row

I think I've got my ducks in a row now, with a plan of attack. I got my contract for Almost a Family in the mail yesterday, so that's filed and put away. Both my critiques are back and saved to my flash drive so I can work away at the partial, and once that's done, I have Original Sin to finish. Added into that edits for my September release, and that's all I have planned from now until the end of September. I have to go slow and steady.

But first on the list is a break. There's nothing like people telling you your WRITING sounds tired to make you realize you're running on empty creatively. I'm giving myself PERMISSION to take a few weeks off. I'm hoping some R&R will refill the well more than adequately. I might even pop in here occasionally and post some pics of what I'm up to! Who knows!

For now, I'm going to be entirely self-indulgent and watch an episode of Battlestar Galactica on the PC in my bathrobe while the kids play. :-)

I could possibly get used to this.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Relief

I have sent my Romance partial - the very first rough draft - to my cp's for their thoughts and last night I stayed up and drafted out a synopsis. Writing a synopsis for a book that is in the early stages was pretty interesting. I did however come up with a modern angle that I'm excited about. The relief I felt on finishing chapter three was profound. It took a lot of work to put together nearly 10k since Saturday night. A lot of other things got put to the wayside.

Here's hoping it's not complete drivel. The jury's out.

In other news, I bought a new suitcase last night. I shall never have to worry about the husband using it. It's MINE. It might have something to do with the funky pattern and colours - turquoise with lime green, white and black accents. :-) I also take heart that whenever I use it, I'll be able to see it as MINE when the bag carousel brings it around at the airports.

I'm just proud of myself for buying something that wasn't black, navy or solid brown. LOL

P.S. Adding this as a ps. later...it's not COMPLETE drivel. But close. I can see what my cp is saying. What I thought I may have accomplished, I didn't, but that's ok. I need to refill my well, take my time and get this right. It's the approach I've always used before and it seems elementary, but lately I think I've put so much pressure on myself that I have tried to get a lot done and forgot that sometimes slow and steady is much more effective. Slow and steady. And some time for R&R.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

What did you learn from your last manuscript?

I don't know about you guys, but I learn something from every manuscript, whether it's published or not. Some of it my characters teach me, some of it I realize as I go, and sometimes it's something my cp's work with me on and I improve (or at least I hope I improve).

With The Girl Most Likely, I learned from my rejection that I can rely too heavily on external plot. The external plot brings them together, but it's the internal that has to both keep them together and keep them apart (and don't get me started on THAT balancing act!)

So I applied that to The Baby Bargain, and when my revisions came there were comments about external conflict but they were minor and for the most part easily fixed.

What did I learn from Almost a Family? I learned that I could push through a manuscript that had to be written when I wanted to be writing something else. It was a manuscript that I had started but left to write something else and then went back to. It was hard to write, and the sad fact is some books ARE harder to write than others. But you know I'm pretty happy with the end result.

What have I learned from The Baby Bargain?

I learned about heroes. I learned that a hero needs to be tough. Now I for one don't like the strict, hard alpha type. I like sensitive guys. So I have a habit of making them too nice. Through my cp, and then with editorial guidance, I learned how to toughen up a hero without making him abrasive. Sometimes it's a matter of simply changing his body language. Making him more decisive. I also have learned to cut down on hero introspection. I'm trying really hard to show his character through his actions and less through his internal thoughts. And guess what else happens when I do that? THe pacing picks up. LOL Go figure.

I can see that difference, I think, in my latest partial. He doesn't let the heroine off the hook, but he's not rude or offputting either. He's just...solid. He acts. At one point she's crying in her car and he taps on the window. She rolls the window down and after a brief moment he says, "Open the door." She starts to say something and he says, "(ins. heroine name), just open the door." When she obeys and gets out, he simply holds her and lets her cry. Cuz he's that kind of man.

I am also about 3/4 of the way through the first draft of Original Sin (and yes, lovely editor has e-mailed to say she'll get to it ASAP). And I know I'm gonna learn OODLES from this story, which is a blessing and a curse. But I can tell you one thing I've learned for sure. I really really prefer having my cp look at things a chapter or two at a time rather than 7 or 8 chapters. I like being able to fix the big stuff as I go, so that the next chapter makes sense. Because I have a LOT of work to do on this one. :-) I AM going to finish it though, even if it doesn't pass muster with M&B. I've never left a manuscript partially finished and don't intend to start now.

What sorts of things have your manuscripts taught you?

Monday, July 10, 2006

Beginnings

Trish Wylie has been posting on her blog lately about the Blank Page, or starting new projects. She's posted about knowing your characters and also about what a great beginning needs to accomplish. I commented that I sometimes hate beginnings, but that's not strictly true. Nicola Marsh pointed out that beginnings are wonderful...the thrill, the rush, and she's right. Many times I have a story just waiting to be told and I can't wait to get at it.

The series is particularly timely for me as I'm putting together a partial for the Romance line right now.

But beginnings do have big challenges. There's a lot that needs to happen in a first few chapters, and it's like this very intricate dance. Everything needs to balance, just so...or else it seems either awkward and clunky or rushed and incomplete.

I think my biggest challenge is deciding how much, and what, needs to be revealed in the first few chapters - establishing the threads, the themes, the characters and conflicts. And these all have to be done with a delicate hand...not too little information, not too much. Add in to that you need to keep pacing snappy so that your reader wants to turn the page, it becomes a huge challenge. I end up going over those first 3-4 chapters more than any other section in the book, guaranteed.

That being said, I've made gangbusters progress on the new wip, to the tune of 4,300 words since yesterday. It's all rough, and I'm sure my cp's will have oodles of suggestions for how to tune it up...but it's a beginning, so I fully expect that. It's like anything else...you lay a good foundation and what's built on top of it will be much, much stronger.

To read Trish's series on Beginnings link here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Reader Appreciation Week

Just a note to let you guys know that Samhain is holding a Reader Appreciation Week next week at the Samhain Cafe. From Monday to Friday, over 30 authors are taking part on different genre days, chatting about their books, posting excerpts, and giving away prizes. Contemporary Romance day is Friday, however I'm sad to say I won't be around to take part. Still, tons of other authors WILL be and it'd be a great chance to go talk to some of your friends that you know that have pubbed with Samhain or discover some new authors! Saturday and Sunday are going to be Author Blitz days, loads of fun with giveaways and more, so if you're so inclined, go pop in!

Right now for me it's SUCKOPSIS time. :-) Now that Trish is out of the cave, and since I know she cleaned it yesterday, I think I'll move in. She's been there so much lately I think she's made it quite comfortable, which is a good thing because I don't anticipate being out again until, Oh, October or so. :-)

Happy Friday everyone! Especially my friends who are at the RNA conference this weekend. Jealous? Me? Never....

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Confession Time

ACK!

SOMEONE (and I have an idea who, LOL) let it slip to lovely editor that I was also working on a ModX. *taps fingernails and stares towards the Atlantic* LOL I didn't mention it in my e-mail to her yesterday as I thought she would want me to focus on the Romance line. Then she e-mailed me today and asked about it. :-) I've been caught!

Actually, it's ok. At least that project is 3/4 finished the first draft, it'll come in short but I know it'll be not much problem to add 10k during edits. My biggest concern is flow and pacing simply because I've had to stop and start this ms so many times for requests and edits. I know, cry me a river. And I'm really not complaining. It's a wonderful reason to be busy! Although lately I feel like I'm constantly trying to keep up and I keep slipping behind little by little...

As most of you know, the Modern Extra was a bit of an experiment. It's a new line, unfortunately one I don't have easy access to, so I've only read a few. It stretched my writing legs a lot and *most* of the time it's been fun to write. So at this point I think the best thing to do is let the professionals be the judge as to whether I'm a fit or not.

And also put together the proposal for the new WIP....I found a heroine model yesterday too. Thankfully the pic is black and white. My heroine has green eyes, this lady has brown but everything else is just perfect. She's exotic and dreamy looking. I'll post a picture later.

For now I'm off. :-) And a big wave to my CP's Michelle and Trish who have put up with me using them as a sounding board almost daily for the last four months, since things really started moving. You guys are awesome.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Baby Bargain - Update

I heard from the LOVELY LOVELY LOVELY editor (did I mention she's lovely?) about my revisions. She was pleased and passed the ms to the senior of the line.

If that wasn't pulmonary shock enough, she also asked if I had any other projects she could look at.

Guess what I'm doing over the next 10 days? That's right. Proposals. :-)

Once I stop hyperventilating.

Dear Lord.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Benefits of a Clean Bathroom and The Joy of Revisions

Please note that the title of this post means two different topics and in no way are they correlated!!!!!!!!!!!!! LOL

First of all, who knew that scrubbing toilets and tubs could be so productive?

I cleaned the house yesterday afternoon and was finishing the bathroom in the evening. So I go to clean the toilet, move the magazines from the top and happen to glimpse what is on the bottom - People's Sexiest Man Alive issue from last year.

What the heck, I thought, I haven't had any luck finding the perfect man anywhere else, let's have a flip through.

I FOUND HIM.

Now I have to come up with a name. I thought of Luke but my heroine I've already named Lily. But may I just say how happy I am to have found this picture:



Ok. Now on to the joy of revisions, as I promised earlier to blog about it.

When I did my first round of edits for Samhain, it was mostly technical things like garbage words, taking out numbers and replacing them with the word, that sort of thing. Strengthening deep Point of View. Very general things. I'm waiting for the next round, which will get into the meat of the book. I've now taken that first level of edits and made it my polishing process. It's a wonderful guideline and if I do this sort of thing before sending full mss then it saves the editor - and me - a lot of time.

But my M&B revisions were a different story.

All in all there were probably 3+ pages of changes to make. When I read through the first time, I got a little overwhelmed, but the requesting editor made me feel really, really good. There was almost a page of comments pointing out all the things I did that were right. And she told me that while it seemed like a lot of work, it was really just building on the great story I already had.

Ok, I thought, this chick knows what she's doing. I decided to trust her - this is, after all, her job.

I started with the line edits, and some of the easiest fixed things, and just focussed on working my way through. I remember distinctly one point, where I had to delete about 10 lines. It was a cute bit of humour and I really, really liked it. It hurt to delete it out, but I did it, put the paragraphs back together and was...amazed. As cute as the teasing bit had been, by taking it out, suddenly I read it and it was sweet. Poignant, even. And I was just....wow.

I also realized that what sounds, on paper, to be a major change can be something as easy as changing body language and tags. Even with keeping most of the same dialogue in a scene, if you change HOW the hero says it, the way he holds his body or the look in his eyes, suddenly the whole tone changes. Very, very cool. At one point I had to make my hero stronger, so that HE was making the decision rather than the heroine. I left the essence of the dialogue, and switched who was saying it. It changed everything.

It was so much FUN being told exactly what to change, for the most part WHY, and then in doing it see my book become stronger. I was proud of this book before. Now, seeing some of the changes, I love it even more.

Finally, working with this particular editor was such a pleasure. When she got my full, she e-mailed to say thanks. She sent the revisions so quickly, and while telling me what to fix, explained WHY. She also took the time to say some very good things. She told me to e-mail her with any questions. I did have one, and she answered quickly and clearly. When I sent my ms back the next day, she e-mailed again to say that it had arrived safe and sound. For the most part the whole process was fast, but relatively stress free.

It's certainly something I learned from, and any time I do something new and learn from it I always feel like I've made progress.

OK - Last assignment - PLEASE help me come up with a hero name!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Oh! The Agonies of Research

I've spent the last hour surfing for pictures of hot guys.

Life's a %itch, ain't it? LOL

Seriously though, I think part of the problem I'm finding is that my hero has to be late 30's, definitely 35-40.

I've come up with 2 possibilities that I could age a bit in the WIP with laugh lines. My other option right now is going through my dvd's and thinking of individual characters.

Here's what I've come up with:
Tahmoh Penikett



Andrew Lincoln

Josh Lucas

Paul Walker


Hair's gotta be darker, but the eyes work. What do you guys think?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hermitsville

Sweet relief.

I am, thankfully, descending into Hermitsville. LOL Some of you remember me posting earlier this year about how I could easily become a hermit. Well folks, I'm getting closer. I definitely am making some progress in uncomplicating my life and unburdening myself of some commitments. For the next few weeks at least, I have the regular housework, the kids home to spend some quality time with, and regular writing time that doesn't require me to be up until eleven o'clock at night when my day starts just before six.

Another step on the journey towards bliss. :-)

In the morning, I have my first "research" e-mails to fire off, the final two chapters to critique for Michelle Styles and then I'm starting my character workups for the new book. I need a working title so I can refer to it by something other than "the wip". I'm hoping after I do the character sheets (courtesy of Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance") that I'll know them much better, and that their motivations will be nice and clear and, well, angsty.

There's something to be said about making a nice, clean start!

Casting Call!

After nearly a week off, letting my poor body and brain recharge, I'm starting a new wip on Monday. I'm READY.

BTW, the doc has said I have viral bronchitis and I'm just going to have to "wait" for it to go away. In the meantime I have some "elixir" with codeine in it to help me sleep. It didn't really help last night so tonight I switched to a nice shiraz cabernet. :-)

ANYWAY, back to the new WIP.

I have no title. But I have a basic conflict, a basic sense of my characters, and I have need of a male prototype.

Funny, but I hardly ever picture my heroine from a celebrity photo or character. I almost ALWAYS do with my hero. In Windover it was Jason Behr. In TGML it was Ric Hearst and in AAF it was Mark Collier.

I, however, am at a loss as to this hero. HE doesn't even have a name yet.

But I think it's time I have something different from the dark haired dark eyed type.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find me a hero. If you give him a name all the better. My only criteria....he must be tall - over six feet. He must have blue or green eyes and brown hair. Not black, not blonde.

If it helps, he is prinicipal of an elementary school, he's gotta have alpha qualities but he's also incredibly good with kids from troubled backgrounds or with special needs.

You can post your suggestions in the comments section or e-mail them to donna@donnaalward.com!

Cheers...and good luck!

Donna