Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Construction Zone – 1. Ideas and basic characters


I’m jumping on the bandwagon of the newest trend to blog about how I construct a book. Nic Marsh and I seem to be on the same page in some regard; we both agree that the actual planning is the most fun. Everything is fresh and new. You don’t have to fight with characters who refuse to go along with your plans. You don’t have to worry about point of view (POV) or how a particular scene is working. In the planning stage, it’s all about the possibilities, and I love it.

I just handed in my third Harlequin M&B Romance and I’m waiting for the verdict, (and yes, it CAN still be rejected, just because I’m pubbed does NOT mean I’m safe) so this is the perfect time to start planning the next work.

I sent my editor 2 proposals for 2 more books this year. I haven’t heard back, but for now we’ll go with the assumption that I’m going to write the US Marshal story first.

Every writer is asked…where do you come up with your ideas? For me, it’s usually a pretty sparse idea. Just a what if. I’ve wanted to write Maggie’s story – Mike’s cousin from Marriage at Circle M – for a while. I had a basic idea of who she was. I know she’s going to be an older heroine, and I know she’s widowed. I know she runs a bed and breakfast in a small town in central Alberta. So then it’s finding the right hero. And I started that by saying a simple “What if?” What if she’s put in a situation with the kind of man she’s most afraid of? And the idea was born.

Once I do that, I cast my characters. Not all people are fans of this technique, but for me I find it anchors an image, an impression. And it’s more than just finding the right PERSON. You have to find the right look. You can have two pictures of the same man or woman, and one will work and one won’t. The casting pictures are a starting point for me only. ALWAYS…and I do mean every single time…my characters take on a life of their own. They have quirks that are all theirs. Body language, the sound of their voice that you hear as you’re writing dialogue. And that is how it should be. To be “true” 100% to your casting pictures or any preconceptions (like an actor in a particular role) runs the risk of creating one-dimensional characters. And you sure don’t want that!

I’ve cast both my characters for this book that I’ve tentatively titled “Falling for the Marshal”. I’ll introduce you to Maggie Gardner, 42, widow and business owner with a talent for making her guests feel special, and Nate Griffith, US Marshal, her latest lodger…




Come back tomorrow for the next step….research!

Monday, January 29, 2007

What do I write about today?

Today's post is a mish mash of random things that have happened....sort of like my life right now. Lots of tidying up of loose ends.

First up is congratulations to my CP Michelle Styles and another friend, Nell Dixon, both of whom made the shortlist for the RNA prize this year, along with other fabulous M&B authors. The winner gets the Betty Neels Rosebowl. :-) Michelle made the point about not finalling if you don't enter. Before you are published, you are told you can't sell if you don't submit. After you've published - you have to swallow shyness or modesty and promote yourself. Enter contests and not let yourself be afraid of not being GOOD ENOUGH. Congrats to both my friends on being so brave!

We had a fun weekend here. We bought a tent trailer for camping. We can't haul a larger one with our vehicle, so we went with a tent-style which I love anyway. The box is a 9 foot, with a stove, 3 way fridge, sink, and the beds on either side fold out to be a queen and a double. The big plus side for me is not having to cart all the gear up and down stairs every time we go camping. Dishes, pots and pans, towels, bedding, etc. will all remain in the trailer. No putting up the tent or blowing up air mattresses either!

I will be doing a webpage update later this week, and I sent my editor 2 new proposals today. I've started organizing my taxes, the house is clean and the laundry is pretty much done - only folding and putting away left to do on that score. AND...I'm back to eating normally. I realized something over the last few days. It's not WHAT I eat but HOW MUCH. If I eat too much I get discomfort which disappears after an hour or two. BUT, if I keep my portions down, I'm okay. Which is how I'd rather have it anyway.

AND....I got another 5/5 review! Fallen Angels gave Almost a Family 5 Angels and the reviewer Jaymi said "I enjoyed the lighthearted moments; I really enjoyed how the playful times could turn to full blown passion so seamlessly. This is my first book by Donna Alward, and I’m intrigued to see what else this talented author has up her sleeves."

That just about covers me for today. Tomorrow I'm at the school all day as I've totally neglected volunteering for January, plus there's a very cool assembly happening in the afternoon.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

My MS is sent!

The edits went much better than expected, and I sent the full ms to my editor about a half hour ago - a bit before deadline, which makes me happy.

I will confess to being happy that it is gone. Home Fires (or whatever it'll be called if/when they buy it) was really hard to write. I know why, and it's a combination of balance and conflict and focus, so at least I recognize WHY. And will probably steer clear of similar character arcs for a good long while. At least until the next time.

So what's up for me next? I need to update my website. I need to make a few phone calls regarding PR, and I need to put my proposals together. Plus I anticipate a good hearty set of revisions. LOL After that, I'm working on another, shorter project and I'm going to try to do it at the same time as I start my next Romance. I already have a working title for the next Romance - Being The Boss. :-)

But for now, I need to muck out the pigpen and feed the critters. And oh yeah, see if I still recognize my husband.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cataromance Readers Choice Awards


It's that time again. Time to nominate your favorite book of 2006 for the Best Book of 2006. There are dozens of categories and hundreds of wonderful books to nominate. Learn how...

Voting will be done via the database at our readers Yahoo Loop this year for easy counting. You must be signed up with the group in order to vote. To sign up, go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CataNetwork-Readers/ and click Join This Group or send a blank email to: CataNetwork-Readers-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Once you're a member of CataNetwork-Readers go to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CataNetwork-Readers/database

There will be several databases for you to choose from. You can nominate a book in each category. You may not nominate the same book for the same category more than once. (IE. You can nominate Wonderful Book by Susan Q Author for the Best Ebook of the Year and the Best Paranormal Ebook of the year, etc. but you may not nominate Wonderful Book by Susan Q Author for Best Ebook of the Year more than once, or in any category more than once.

How to make a nomination: click the database of your choice (IE Category Romance). Fill in one of the following in the first column (this is so we can keep track of who's voted and make sure that you're nominating fairly) your email address, your yahoo ID, or your CataNetwork Message Board username. You should use the same form of ID each time you nominate a book. Then start nominating books in the other columns. Look at the top of the page to see which categories are available for you to nominate in. We need the TITLE and the AUTHOR's NAME.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Lovely End to a Great Week!

The week ended with one more visit, this time from the UPS guy (and you know, I just realized he wasn't wearing brown). He brought my author copies of The Girl Most Likely! It's so funny...2 of my books in my hands in the same week. The book itself is bigger than I thought it would be.

What this means is that my contest winners from WAYYYYY back in September will be getting their books soon, as well as the December hamper winner from the Pink Heart Society. I've got them all packaged and am heading to the post office today.

Otherwise, I'm not writing this weekend. I'm going to let the first draft settle and breathe before going forward with edits on Monday.

Friday, January 19, 2007

First Draft Complete!

I finished the first draft of Home Fires last night and my cp has already sent it back, so I'll be tidying that up today.

On Monday, I'll start editing and layering. I also have a scene to add, so with the layering, my word count will be fine. Considering how pressured I felt, it's incredible to me that I wrote chapters 5-14 since Dec. 27.

Now...for the pic. I hesitate to post one of myself (I'm not very photogenic) but I do have one of the stack of hardcovers.



Have a good weekend all!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

And so it goes (on)....

More good news for my friends and family and all other Canucks!

The Girl Most Likely is available on amazon.ca!!!!!!

The shipping time is considerable, but it is there, you can pay in CAD, and have it sent right to your door!

The link to the correct page is HERE.

Hired By The Cowboy is also available for pre-order. The hardcover is available March 2nd, so ostensibly you could order both and have them at approximately the same time. AND...if you bought both, I believe you'd be eligible for free shipping (as the hardcovers are considerably more expensive). BUT you'd be getting HBTC a good two months before the masses. ;-)

Are you sold yet? LOL.

Of course, amazon being what it is, TGML and HBTC are ALSO available on the amazon.co.uk site. Click on this link and be immediately tranported!

Tomorrow I'll be posting a pic of me holding my book. That's if I can bribe my daughter to take the picture. :-)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

And if that weren't enough.....

My hardbacks arrived for Hired By The Cowboy.

Today, I cannot believe I am holding my book in my hands. I keep touching it. I get misty and then start laughing. I opened the front, read the blurb, Dear Reader letter, dedication and biography. I called my mom and e-mailed my cp.

It's here. It's real. Holy moly.

What a week!

First the amazon thing, then my smooch went up, and now reviews are in!!!!!!!!



The Girl Most Likely was reviewed by The Road To Romance. They do not give a rating system, but it was a good review. The reviewer said, "What makes the book even most delightful is the loving persistence of the hero, which finally makes for the inevitable happy ending."

You can read the whole review HERE.

THEN,

The Romance Studio reviewed Almost a Family and gave it 5 out of 5 hearts!!!!!!!




"Donna Alward has written an emotionally packed tear jerker...She shows that, even though attraction is still sizzling, sometimes chemistry is not enough to secure a future together. The story is sweet and loving and a true winner."

That review in its entirety is HERE.
Phew....and it's only WEDNESDAY!!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Monday, January 15, 2007

THE GIRL MOST LIKELY is up at amazon!

FINALLY things are moving along with the print release!

The Girl Most Likely is up at amazon.com. Here's the link.

It is also listed at Barnes and Noble, although currently shows out of stock: Here.

And of course, it's available at Samhain's My Bookstore and More.

No word on when it'll be up on Chapters or Amazon.ca, but I keep checking!

The CCA Embargo

SOOOOOOOO,

I went to see a doc this morning. After a couple of days of tummy-agony, I knew I needed help. Copious vials (how appropo I started to spell it vile) of blood later, an ECG, blood pressure, urine test (let's not even GO there)the verdict is gastritis. Which brings me to the CCA Embargo.

That man had some nerve telling me no Caffeine, Chocolate or Alcohol two weeks before deadline.

However, I feel just bad enough to actually listen to that piece of advice. So this is me, going CCA free for the next while. I'm also on meds. Which will hopefully work, so I won't keep my husband up tonight while I flip and flop trying to get comfortable.

FWIW, I also can't have a variety of completely yummy, NUTRITIOUS foods. Like anything citrus or tomato, sob! Or SPICES. DOUBLE SOB!

And, I lost a morning's writing. We have a meeting tonight but hopefully I can make some of that up by working tonight after kidlets are in la-la land.

By the way, do y'all like my slide show? I hope so. Much cursing went into getting it on my sidebar. I'm an html idjit.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Cosmos is laughing at me

Because after yesterday's "I have it all figured out" post, I got my crit back and pretty much have to rewrite maybe 2/3 of the last chapter.

My CP is right, and the truth of the matter is this book is one big fight from start to finish. When I get down and out I'm reminded of Trish's O'Reilly's Bride, which she terms her "pineapple". Horribly hard to write but when I read it I bawled buckets. I don't think she could see how good the finished product was because it had been so challenging. I'm finding HF challenging in the extreme. Fingers crossed that when HF is finished and revised it will be the book it needs to be. That others will see what I can't seem to as I'm hammering it out. Some books are crafted...like MCM. Others are pulled out with blood, sweat and tears (and not the good kind)and that's HF.

I heave a sigh, go to have breakfast and face what needs to be faced.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Leaps and Bounds

Today's been one of those days where things keep popping up and put other things in perspective, writing wise that is.

First of all, I realized what part of the problem was with HF, my WIP. I've blanked a few things out...I don't want to give much away, but I said to my CP, "It is partially the problem with having a hero with significant issues. I was making this too much HIS story…and it is a lot HIS story because of (leaving out issue here, lol) and the effect (of something else) on him….but it has to first and foremost be Shannyn’s story...Granted there are still bits that MUST be in Jonas’s pov, but I always need to be aware that this is Shannyn’s story."

I need to put myself in my heroine's shoes. When I do that, everything falls into place better.

I also realized I am missing a much earlier scene that will change very little of the ending, per se, but for pacing and making sense as to the development of the romance, must be there. It won't be a long scene, but it's necessary I think.

Also, I had some fun today and brainstormed with a friend. First of all, it made me realize how far I've come. We were talking about beginnings and describing characters and I made the point that you need to know your characters. Who they are and what makes them tick. Your job as a writer is to show your reader those things over the course of the story. If you do a lovely big info dump in the beginning and detail who he is, what he looks like, and all the baggage he's bringing with him, and the same for the heroine, you've accomplished two things. One, you've probably bored your reader to death. And the second, you've now outlined all your inner conflict, left nothing for us to wonder about and now the whole rest of your book will rely on whatever external plot you devise. Neither of these are good things. There's nothing like chatting with someone else to remind you of these facts, because at times we can be apt to forget them. For the record, I've made these mistakes and many more. I am reminded of my first manuscript, and that says it all, trust me.

I also said that your opening needs to present questions. And the rest of the story is answering those questions. Why are these two people here? Who are they? Why are they going to want or deserve to be together?

I just released my second Samhain book, and my writing took a big leap when I wrote it, I think. I also think it took another leap when I wrote Hired By THe Cowboy and possibly an even bigger one with Marriage at Circle M. I looked at my opening pages of MCM and realized I'd done just that. I put my 2 characters directly in action. You know that they know each other. You learn a few other things too. But boy-o, there are lots of questions posed. It's one of the reasons MCM is so close to my heart.

THe lessons I'm learning from the WIP are hard ones...not "What to do" lessons but more "What not to do", but that's ok. Learning is learning, and sometimes the hardest learnt lessons teach us the most. THe important thing is to keep learning and growing.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Contest Winner!!!!!

A huge thank you to everyone who entered the contest for Almost a Family yesterday. The winner is....(drumroll please).......

Elle Fredrix!!!!!!

Elle, I've e-mailed you to get your preference of formats and I'll get it out to you ASAP.

And just FYI, Almost a Family is not only available but ON SALE this week for $4.05 (or so my e-mail tells me) so now's the time people!

You can get it here.

Also, Kris Starr is holding a contest on HER blog today...(seeing as she pimped mine so graciously yesterday...hang on, can I really use the words "pimped" and "graciously" together? But I digress...) ANYHOO, I've already entered. So go do it already.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

ALMOST A FAMILY Release Day!


Almost a Family is released today, available at Samhain Publishing!

FIRST THINGS FIRST. If you haven't entered my contest yet, WHY NOT??? Do it now!

I'll even make it easy for you. You won't even have to visit my webpage. I'm going to post the excerpt right here. Find Molly's nickname and send it to me at donna@donnaalward.com with CONTEST in the subject line. I'll be drawing later today for a copy!

I've mentioned it elsewhere, but AAF is the first book I've set in my home town of Fredericton, New Brunswick and I also set it in January, which makes the release date rather timely! I'm especially happy with the job the cover artist, Vanessa Hawthorne, did. And I STILL maintain that the hero, Jason, looks like Nathaniel Parker. :-)

Okay....so as a taster...here's an excerpt for you!

“Don’t,” she warned him, her words a shaky stutter in the cold afternoon.

His voice was soft, deadly. “Don’t what? Don’t wash your face? Don’t start what you can’t finish, Molly m’girl.” His lips were teasing, his eyes flashing fun as he raised a snow-filled hand menacingly.

Her eyes changed from shock to fear. Not of his strength, of that he was sure. But because she was realizing, as he did, that she still mattered. Discovering that there was still so much between them, and he was torn between knowing this should be the end and the increasing realization that it felt like a beginning. It wasn’t what he’d wanted and she’d made it clear it wasn’t what she wanted either. But there it was, and he had no idea what to do with it.

He let the snow in his hand flutter back to the ground as his smile faded. He was used to being in control of situations, and knowing this one was rapidly getting out of hand only added to his confusion. “That was a stupid, childish trick, and you know it.” His voice was silk lined with steel. “That sled popped up in the air and I saw Sara fall out first-she’s so small-for a moment my heart just stopped.”

“It was just a joke,” she answered, her voice small and childish, her jaw jutting out defensively. Sara grabbed the rope to the toboggan and tried to turn it over to clean it off.

He clapped a black glove to his forehead in exasperation. “What am I going to do with you, Molly?”

She didn’t answer, just stared up at him with wide eyes while he became acutely aware of the intimacy of their position as he sat squarely on her hips.

He braced a hand on each side of her head, dropped his eyes to her mouth, and followed with his lips.

Hers were cold on the outside in contrast to the warmth of her mouth, and he poured everything into that punishing kiss – his anger, his hurt, his confusion of what was happening between them now. Her hand rested on his left thigh as he pressed more weight into her, feeling all the pressure points where their bodies were connected. This couldn’t go anywhere, it couldn’t. He had to stop it, now. They’d only get hurt again, the voice of reason intruded. But his heart spoke louder, and for once, he listened. He took the kiss deeper; darker.

Molly knew by the look in his eyes what was coming, but she hadn’t been prepared by the force, the passion, the anger that poured from him into her. She didn’t know what was happening to her lately, only that they kept hurting each other without even intending to. She rested her hand on his thigh, desperately trying to keep up with him as his body pinned her to the hard, snowy ground and his mouth translated his frustration.

Seconds ticked by and his lips gentled, prodding instead of punishing, deep, soul-searing contact that spoke to her more clearly than his words ever could. He didn’t hate her. He cared. Cared more than she wanted to admit to herself. Not only cared…but had probably never stopped. All that was said, and more, as they kissed in the icy snow.


So there you go! Go forth and enter!

Monday, January 08, 2007

On Writing

First of all, I was distracted from writing first thing by this headline: "Woman gives birth to sextuplets in Vancouver hospital." If that doesn't scare the bejeebus out of you, I don't know what will.

But, onward to today's topic. Perhaps it should be procrastination because I really should be writing on the ms, and I did get a start. But I really want to talk about this because it's very timely to me personally. And THEN I'll get back to the ms.

I am currently reading Stephen King's book "On Writing". It's sort of a blend of memior/writing instruction book. I'm currently in the instruction part where he talks about a writer's "toolbox". And I'm enjoying everything immensely. At times in the first part, where he describes several episodes of his childhood, I was laughing so hard I wiped tears from my eyes.

But the best parts for me are the little bits of writerly wisdom he sprinkles in. You know writing can be a very solitary business. It's easy to feel isolated. When I read his introduction, and he said "We are writers, and we never ask one another where we get our ideas; we know we don't know", I knew Mr. King and I were going to be great friends. LOL

Or how about a quote like: "Put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write, remind yourself why it isn't in the middle of the room. Life isn't a support-system for art. It's the other way around."

But it's this one that hit me as especially appropriate right NOW.

"...the realization that stopping a piece of work just because it's hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position." Seeing as I've been feeling like I've been shoveling my fair share lately, I really appreciated this vote of confidence.

In the second foreword, he says "This is a short book because most books about writing are filled with bullshit...the shorter the book, the less the bullshit."

I shall follow that example and simply say, Thank you, Stephen King. :-)

P.S. Don't forget - tomorrow's the last day to enter my Almost a Family contest! Release day is tomorrow!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Weight loss

I'm going to try this since I saw it on Trish's site.


Congrats to Michelle Willingham!

Michelle has a new 2 book deal with M&B Historicals!!!!!!

She sold her second and they bought the third blind - apparently just from proposal. YOU GO GIRL!!!!!!!!

Congrats... I think we all knew when she sold that it was only the beginning and things would take off very quickly.

I am making progress. I realized tonight I have 27 days to finish HF and ironically enough, about 27 000 words to write. Technically that's 1k a day, doable, right? But I need editing time and I don't usually work weekends...so that translates a little closer to 2k a day.

It will get done.

Also sending out fortification in the way of cyber hugs to Michelle Styles as she's going into unchartered territory tomorrow in the way of photographers and interviews. Ride the PR pony, BABE! LOL

I shouldn't make fun at all. My turn is coming, and I think PR is one of those necessary evils all authors must face.

Now...back to previously scheduled 2k. :-)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Almost a Family contest

Don't forget, Almost a Family comes out in e-book on the 9th!

The contest is still open, so zoom on over to my website for details on how to enter to win a copy. THe odds are still really good! The winner will be announced on launch day!

Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year's Revolutions

My 6 yr old daughter asked me today what my "new year's revolutions" were.

I liked that so much. A resolution - meh. Same old same old. But a revolution, now there's something I can get excited about!

Last year my resolution was to sell a book. And doggoneit, if I didn't go ahead and sell four. I still can't believe how 2006 started - and then ended!

But this is only the beginning. I have goals for this year. For one, I want to deliver 4 mss to my Romance editor. This is about building a career, so I want to strike while the iron's hot...and build up momentum. And like my CP Michelle, I have a lot to learn about PR so I'm joining my local RWA chapter and hoping to find some great ideas there.

On the personal side, I sold four books and gained 3-4 lbs for each one, so that's gotta come off. Especially if I'm planning on going to London for AMBA day in September. I know how to take it off- I did it 3 years ago and kept it off until this last summer...so it's time to put the gloves ON and hit the heavy bag. And watch what I'm eating. LOL

But most of all I look back on 2006 and wonder how I can possibly top it. It saw a lot of dreams come true. And I don't want to bury that feeling of wonder and accomplishment by worrying about what's to come. I want to remember it and hold it close, so that I'll never forget how grateful I am to be able to do what I'm doing.

Happy 2007, everyone.

D