Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sundre

Last night I went to Sundre, the town where I set HIRED BY THE COWBOY and MARRIAGE AT CIRCLE M, to speak at the library.

The weather's been fantastic, and the drive between the town of Olds and Sundre in particular is so beautiful. It's ranch land, gas land, stunning rolling hills and grass so green it hurts (at least at this time of year). Fields of cattle and horses, calves and foals scampering about. And just before you get to Sundre you hit the top of a hill and it's like seeing ribbons....charcoal gray for the hills ahead, a lighter stripe for the foothills and a pearly, hazy top which is the Rockies.

It felt like going home. Which is odd because I never lived there, but I visited so many times and I've spent so much time in my head at the fictional Windover, that it simply felt GOOD.

Their new library is bright and spacious and a treat. We set up in the romance area, complete with rug, sofa, love seat and coffee table. It's a small town so it was a small group, and after I gave an intro, I launched into what I'd prepared which went well.

But the real fun began after I finished and we sat around and gabbed. What a fun bunch. It really reminded me about all that is good about a small town. I shared the story about how I first discovered Sundre, being that I was looking for solar fleece sheets and none were to be found in Calgary, so my sister in law suggested I try V&S (a small town department store chain). We found a V&S listed for Sundre and away we went! LOL. We talked about writing and plotting and livestock incidents, had our picture taken for the local paper, and I signed books. Little did I know that I was sitting in a room full of writers....what a treat it was.

The only worry was hoping I did their area justice in my books and that they won't read it and think, huh???? LOL I wrote it as I remembered and, well, it IS fiction. :-)

I drove home with the full moon rising over my left shoulder and the setting sun just beyond my right.

So thanks to Wendy and Sandra for being such wonderful hosts and for the lovely women who attended and made it such a great time. I know it won't be long and I'll be back there again for one reason or another...and I did promise to donate a hardback of Marriage at Circle M for their stacks. That's a good excuse, right?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Down Under and Facebook

First of all, I always just shrugged when someone mentioned facebook to me. But then yesterday one of my best friends said that another friend I'd gone to school with was wondering if I was on it...so I signed up.


Why didn't I do this before?


Myspace is great for promotion I think but facebook is better for personal contact. Within moments I had four or five "friends" who are actually people I lost touch with over 15 years ago for the most part. It was fun catching up! And I really like how no one can view your profile unless they are your friend. I know I can set that up in myspace, but when that purpose is promotion, it's a little contradictory.


ANYWAY, onwards....


HIRED BY THE COWBOY is out in Australia and New Zealand, or so I'm told. It seems so funny to me to think that my book is all the way across the world in a bookstore. I think the cover is beautiful...essentially the same cover but with a different layout.


Today is another crazy day so I'd better get to it!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Where in the World is Donna Alward?

No, it's not Carmen Sandiego. (Note: that might not be the right spelling) But I am flitting around a bit so this is where you can find me.

Today I'm guest blogging at The Pink Heart Society about Heroes in Uniform...and there are pictures so don't miss it.

Tomorrow, if any of you are in small town central Alberta (ok, I know the chances of that are minimal) I'm at the Sundre Public Library doing a talk on The 4 D's of Achieving Your Dream and then signing Hired By The Cowboy.

And starting next week, there's a read with the hosty event happening on eharlequin, so if you've read Hired By The Cowboy, come on over when I post the link and join the discussion!

Yesterday I had a lot of fun when I should have been writing. I had a brainstorming session with Trish that was such a hoot and I don't consider it slacking off because brainstorming exercises my brain so much....I love asking the what if questions! It's especially not stressful when it's not MY book that we're brainstorming about, LOL.

Now I'm off AGAIN for 2 school runs this morning.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Back to Mr. and Mrs. and an expanded TBR pile


I read Shirley Jump's "Back to Mr. and Mrs." and absolutely loved it.

I bought it for several reasons. For one, we're shelf-mates this month, and the cover is stunning.

And this is Shirley Jump. 'Nuff said.

But the other reason is because I wanted to see how she handled a marriage in jeopardy hook. And boy, did she do a great job. I loved the characters, the conflict, the way they both grew, and then grew together as opposed to how they'd grown apart over the years. Marriage in jeopardy is tricky in a way...I mean how to you make new discoveries, make things fresh and exciting for a couple who has been there, done that, and is on the verge of checking out? The flip side is that there's history and emotion to draw upon....anyway well done Shirley! :-) Can't wait to read Carter's story next.

And Saturday before my signing I hit the church yard sale. I donated lots of stuff but they had tables...yes PLURAL...of books. Dangerous territory for me. Occupational hazard. In the end, I came home with some treasures. A Debbie Macomber, a Rosamunde Pilcher (yay!), 2 backlist Presents, a Judith McNaught, a huge Betty Neels (double yay!), a 3-in-1 Signature Select, and two Liz Fielding "Scarlets"....so my TBR pile has grown considerably.

I also found a treasure...a pair of navy, lacy, vintage 1930 pumps in excellent condition. They will not fit me...a bit small for my huge gorilla-sized feet, but I saw them and fell in love. I know there's a story in the shoes. And I thought of Liz Fielding and her purple shoes and I knew I had to have them. Got them for $10 and considered it a bargain.

Now I'm off to the lovely enjoyable job of critiquing for my CP in between loads of laundry and hopefully getting a few words of my own chapter 2 down.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

My first Booksigning!

It went well...thanks to my peeps who I love because they bought in QUANTITY....




I'm posting a few pics and I have to say huge thanks to my girlies who stayed with me all afternoon and were my "Signed by Author" sticker gals...and to my husband who came back with a rose for me...and picked me up with a bottle of shiraz waiting.

All in all I felt like an author and I sold some books and made some new friends, so it was a good afternoon.


This is me with my friend Joyce who is a riot...as you can see by our smiles we laugh a lot when we're together!
Now it's back to the drudgery of cleaning house and making something for a potluck. :-) Oh, and laundry. LOL

Friday, May 25, 2007

Chapters Book Signing

A reminder to those in the Calgary area, I'll be signing HIRED BY THE COWBOY tomorrow from 1-4 at the NE Chapters - Sunridge.

The new book is ticking along and I've sent the first chapter to my CP, who I am afraid is going to say, what have you done???? LOL. My consolation is that as long as she thinks the story is viable, I can fiddle with the rest.

Now I'm off to do the thankless chore of banking. Ugh. And I should clean my house. Seriously. Especially if I'm going to be out most of the day tomorrow.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Snow????

Yup - that's right. SNOW. On the 24 of May.

Got up this morning to about 4 inches of the stuff...my poor dwarf lilac is droopy and sad. I know it won't last, but YUCK YUCK YUCK. It's too late for this. I'm just glad it didn't happen when we were camping last weekend.

I got my dh a new laser mouse yesterday because the old one crapped out. It's supposed to be a top of the line thing...good for gaming, etc. I hate it. Seriously. Like might have to buy myself a cheap USB mouse to use.

Now...off to do school run and then come back and dig my teeth into new story. And my eldest's class is hosting the school assembly today so I'm going to show up for that this afternoon.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Back to work!

After camping on the long weekend and hardly even THINKING about work...I'm back. And I'm still excited about starting TISP which is a good sign.

Yesterday I spent the morning critiquing and doing laundry and checking messages, lol. But today I dug in and did some more prep work. I'm currently taking a break from synopsis writing...which will change as the book gets written. It's inevitable, but it does give me a road map and a reference to the motivations of my characters...what's going to drive them throughout the story. I had a second look at my character sheets and I did a little research...mostly finding a correct job title for my heroine, and getting some pictures that encapsulate what I'm going for as far as setting and atmosphere. It's not hard to work with - this one is set in Banff, heart of the beautiful Canadian Rockies. Can you imagine a more romantic place????

I'm also gratified that I have some imagery and themes that will work throughout the book, odds and ends that I liked and that suddenly I realized all meshed together. Fiori is Italian for flower, so I googled Italy's national flower. It's a white lily. My hero, Luca, has an heirloom ring featuring a lily...and it's also a part of the Fiori Resorts logo in my mind. But that's not all. My heroine is uptight, pressed and starched and black and white. All dollars and cents and staying in the black. But last week when I was putting my thoughts together I mentioned that Mariella was going to blossom in this story....that was before I ever even thought of the lily. Funny how things like that just happen and then simply seem to fit.

Then there was googling some of the local hotels for images I liked and didn't like....ones that made sense to the transformation of Fiori's Banff hotel...and I got the sudden urge to glam up, drive there, and drop a cool thousand just at the mention of some of the spa treatments. And the food...don't get me started on the exotic food. DROOOL.
This picture in particular made me think of the movie Titanic and the stairs leading to the dining room...maybe not as steep, but check out those railings. Not just opulence but class and romance....sigh.
Anyway now that the atmosphere is set in my mind, it's my job to keep it there...in the back while my characters come to the fore. It's their story, after all. So now I'm off to finish up the initial synopsis so I can finally get to writing the blasted thing!


Thursday, May 17, 2007

A new WIP!

I'm getting really excited now. I set up an empty word count meter for the new WIP and I've picked a suitably buzz-wordish working title - The Italian's Surprise Proposal. Which will probably change once I get going but oh well.

I did my character sheets this morning and it was SO much fun. With the focus on internal conflict, I really let loose and tried to get to what makes these characters tick. And let me just say...my hero is scrumptious and he is going to drive the heroine crazy. He's going to threaten everything she believes and tries to accomplish whilst being charm and gorgeousness itself....or at least that's the hope.

The hard part was finding casting and maybe I don't need to do it but it grounds me when I start. As things go on, my vision sometimes gets tweaked. And it should because they take on lives of their own.

For a heroine I wanted someone pretty, dainty, someone I could make uptight and rigid at the beginning and then blossom at the end. I ended up with Rebecca Herbst from General Hospital. This picture encapsulates the whole "blossom" idea:


Then there was my Italian. Coincidentally, this guy ISN'T Italian but the look is right. I wanted someone who is fun, who really knows how to enjoy life...but who is also focused and works hard, a real competitor.

If any of you watch the US Dancing with the Stars, you'll recognize Maksim. I love watching him dance because it really looks like he does it for the love of it and that's something I needed in my hero.

It's a long weekend here so I won't start any writing until Tuesday of next week, but I don't remember when I was so primed to start a new story. I'm falling for the characters already, and can't wait to see them fall in love.

Marriage at Circle M


I got my hardbacks yesterday, scanned the cover, and then frustrated myself trying to get it to look like this.....so thanks upon thanks to TRISH who so graciously did it for me in about 30 seconds flat (if I didn't like her so much, I might just hate her for that!).


I have to say, they got the scene exactly right. :-)


It was wonderful to hold it in my hands and I confess I read it cover to cover. :-)



Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Fear

At last night's RWA chapter meeting, one of our published members talked about "breaking the rules" a bit...and believe me, she's the poster child for working outside the box. Then she moved on to what holds us back....Fear. Told us what her fear was and then we went around the room revealing our fears.

It was a meeting I really needed and I'm glad I went. I have been thinking I've been stressed because I've been doing things wrong but the real reason is because I'm thinking too much. It's a catch 22, really, because the more you know the more you know you don't know, and so you try to put all the elements into the WIP that you know need to be there.

So my fear ended up being: Delivering a manuscript that is not what my editor expects. I don't think any writer ever feels secure in their position these days. Because I want them to keep buying, I have been working really hard at writing a book that fulfills the "promise" of Romance. And as a result it's created more problems than it's solved. I need to let go of the fear, stop worrying so much and just write the damn story.

Time after time I'm brought back to Marriage at Circle M, because as far as Romance goes, it's the kind of story I need to be turning in.

So here's the plan. I'm going to do my character sheets and I'm going to do a basic synopsis. I'm going to throw them together - put them in a situation where they need to be in the same place at the same time. And then I'm going to back off and let their demons take over. I'm not going to let the plot take over, or the setting, I'm just going to let them be stuck with each other and a growing attraction. I'm going to let them explore what they want, what they think they want and even what they don't know they ever wanted. I'm going to let myself bleed on the page. And then I'm going to turn it in and hope for the best. My editor tells me I'm good at the story and the emotion...so I'll hold on to that. She also says that I need to tell the story I want to tell, not the one I think I should tell.

Good news. I want to tell Lukas's and Mariella's story. I want to give Mariella the happy ending she never had the first time. I want Lukas to lose his carefully guarded heart, the one he hides beneath his charm. :-)

Now I'm off to do a critique and get started!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Gobsmacked! (and thank you)

I have to post today because I am simply awed and humbled by the happenings of the last few days. It seems I can't turn around without the phone ringing, or new e-mail, or a friend/colleague stopping to tell me they've picked up HIRED BY THE COWBOY.

It started Sunday with my sister in law and my niece calling as well as the friend that sits next to me in choir announcing she'd bought all the copies at the local grocery store. My sister told me that she'd bought out her local Chapters. LOL. Then yesterday on e-harlequin I heard many times how people had seen it in the store, bought it and read it....then some e-mails from friends out of town. Today I volunteered at the school and 2 of the staff came to me and said they'd bought it, and one rushed up to give me a hug.

I'm tellin' ya, it's a warm, warm feeling to know so many people are celebrating with me. Overwhelming, to be honest. Because that's what you are doing...sharing in a celebration. I only wish we all lived close enough together I could throw us all a party with apple martinis!

So this post is to say thank you to ALL of you who have turned my launch month into something TRULY special. I only hope my stories live up to your expectations!

Cheers,
D

Monday, May 14, 2007

P.S...Me and Mrs. Jones...we got a Thing Goin On

I had a few errands to run this morning and ended up face to face with Michael Buble's latest cd. Should I or shouldn't I, I debated.

I did. Because one of the tracks is "Me and Mrs. Jones."

Jones is my maiden name. And in high school I had a wonderful, wonderful music and band teacher. His name is Hugh Kennedy and everyone loved him. He was kooky, occasionally had small fits of temper, lol, but for the most part made everyone want to play their best for him (oh Lord, now I'm channeling the Little Drummer Boy).

Anyway, often I'd go down the narrow, yucky music dept hallway and he'd stand in his office door and sing "Me and Mrs. Jones". I would make a face and blush but secretly I loved it. It made me feel special. And I think of him every time I hear it.

So buy the CD I did. As well as remembering some really great things about high school and how much joy music actually gives me. And how much a band teacher in Fredericton, NB influences me even today. Thanks, Mr. K.

The Weekend

I had a good but busy weekend. I sent FFtM on Friday and vegged in a big way on Friday night. Saturday I cleaned out my flower bed, trimmed the hedge, finished the laundry, and got our trailer ready for camping season. Only we had some "issues" so it also meant a trip to the RV dealer and then to the grocery store.

I looked a fright- a pair of work-out capris and a ratty t-shirt and a ball cap. But I thought I'd check out the book section to see if HBTC was up.

They were all gone. But there was a dedicated romance reader in the section and we chatted quite a while....she honestly knows more about other lines/authors/industry than I do!! She was absolutely lovely and asked for my information. I gave her a card and also the names of other H/S authors in the area. :-)

Saturday night I watched "The Breakup" and had wine. And while I appreciated the ending of the movie, I really really wanted the happy ending. I suppose that was the point. LOL

Yesterday I found out where the grocery store copies had gone - a friend in the choir had gone in and bought THEM ALL. LOL I puttered in the afternoon. Mother's Day was low key but nice- I had breakfast in bed and then my girls brought me a bag with a pair of crocs inside. My feet were happy!

And I had two calls from family last night that had read HBTC. I jokingly said I was taking fan calls between the hours of 7 and 8:30 on Sunday nights. LOL.

Anyway today is back to the grind- little jobs that need to be done, a visit from my financial planner and possibly even some prelim work on my next romance.

And I'm thinking I'd better sign off because this was probably a REALLY boring blog post. :-)

Friday, May 11, 2007

It's gone!

Falling for the Marshal is sent.

I think it's a good story. Whether or not it's the right story I'm not sure. Time will tell...at least this one was without firm deadline so there is some room to get things right.

Now...I'm taking the weekend to do the wash, clean, garden, and think about what's ahead for next week.

And definitely looking forward to the long weekend next weekend!

Off for now...take out for dinner tonight! LOL

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Second Drafts

I've just finished the second draft of Falling for the Marshal. I still have to polish tomorrow, but the edits are done and I've also written up the synopsis.

I didn't realize when I agreed to do the Q&A on eharlequin on second drafts that I'd be doing a second draft myself that same week. Kinda funny how things like that work out. Doing the Q&A I hope has been helpful to those that have popped in, I know it was a bit scary posting some of my "mistakes" but when you're trying to get published I think it's comforting to know that even pubbed authors make mistakes, get heavy revisions, struggle. I know I appreciated every scrap of help I received especially on eharl so if some of my ramblings make sense to anyone I'm happy to do it.

The theme for the month is "Secrets and Lies" and I wasn't sure how "Second Draft to Sale" fit in to that, but you know I think part of it is demystifying the whole editing and revision process so people don't panic, especially the first time they get a revision request.

ANYWAY, Falling for the Marshal is going in tomorrow, I got called in to the old day job again today so I'm off to work and then next week, barring anything popping up, I'm going to get caught up with the house and garden. :-) I have given myself permission to not start a new story until June 4. That's basically the end of launch month and a lot of commitments and I will start fresh. Can't make any promises though. You can't keep a writer down for long. :-)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I saw my book!

I was dropping off some signage for my book signing later this month and decided I should check to see if HIRED was on the shelves yet.

It was. I saw it. For the first time, I saw one of my books on a store shelf.

I gave a tiny squeal and the lady working the romance section turned around. I said, "This is my book." She looked a little quizzical. "Your book?" I said, "Yes, mine." She wrinkled her forehead and said, "What do you mean, your book?" I ran my finger under my name and said, "This is me."

Well. She came over and we had a great chat. Rita was lovely, let me put local author stickers on the books in the rack and would have taken a picture for me if my camera had worked. Rita, if you happen to pop in, the SD card had a tab flipped on it which is why it wouldn't work, lol. She showed me the table where she'd put the extra books and there I was looking at books with names like Debbie Macomber and Susan Wiggs etc. on the same table with me. It didn't seem real, somehow. I felt like a total fraud!

My dh took me out later but the closest store didn't have their May Romances on the shelves yet. We'll keep checking.

Also...HIRED BY THE COWBOY has been reviewed at the Pink Heart Society! Reviewer Marilyn said "I would have never guessed this to be a debut book. I found Connor and Alex’s story sincere, sweet, romantic, having all of the elements which make a great love story!"

If you want to read the whole review, head on over to http://www.pinkheartsocietyreviews.blogspot.com.

Now I'm off to edit, keep up with the Q&A on eharlequin, and possibly work today at the old job. Not that I'm busy or anything.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Big Launch!

Today is the official launch of HIRED BY THE COWBOY!

So...I'm putting together a newsletter that will go out this week outlining what's going on for me during this most exciting month!

I have yet to make it to a store to see if it's on the shelves, but that's coming soon and I promise to post pictures. Whether or not I'll be in them, I don't know, as I look like a basset hound - all floppy hair and droopy eyes from whatever virus it is I've got (it doesn't feel like a regular cold, but not like the flu either). But I will at the very least post a pic of the book! W000000T!

Stay tuned for "What's happening"...and the Q&A is going on all week at e-harlequin so don't be shy, come on over and visit!

Monday, May 07, 2007

On Dignity

After choir practice Thurs night, I thought I'd be silly, chase the choir director's four year old daughter to catch her and put her in their car (she hates having to leave). I started the chase, she weaved through the shrubs....only we'd had an inch and a half of rain. I slipped in the mud and went down like a ton of bricks.

Of course I laid there laughing my butt off.

When I got up, I was thick black mud all up my right side and it was caked on my hands. We went back inside and I at least got my hands cleaned.

A crying 4 yr old was getting buckled in her seat, lol, and I looked at the director's husband, grinned and said, "I'll just take what's left of my dignity and go home."

Hell, if you can't laugh at yourself, it's a sad day.

In other news....I have a cold.

AND....I'm facilitating a Q&A session on e-harlequin this week. The topic is "Take Two - Second Draft to Sale" and we're talking about what happens during the editing and revision process. Come on over to see what's going on and add your questions or comments!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

A surprise

I got a small, but lovely surprise this morning.

ALMOST A FAMILY showed up on amazon. ca. The release date for my second Samhain title (print) is July 17, so it just showed up for preorder. It's not up at amazon.com yet, but I assume it's coming. Funny, though. Amazon.com doesn't show many "versions" of my books....while the other sites show large print versions, hardbacks, etc....

Anyway, without further ado, here's the link: ALMOST A FAMILY

AND.....HIRED BY THE COWBOY was reviewed by Romance Junkies, scoring a 4. The link is HERE.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Mother's Day/Debutante Contest WINNERS!

The draw's been done....drum roll please....the winner of the Grand Prize is JONNA SMITH of Kentucky!!!!!!!!!!

The Runner Up prize goes to SHEINA ALINSUG of the Phillipines!!!!!!!

Congrats to both of you. Sheina, you'll be getting a signed copy of Hired By The Cowboy, All Night With The Boss and Her Irish Warrior. And Jonna, you'll get the books as well as some fab bonuses from Canada, the US and New Zealand!

A huge thanks to all who entered....launch day is just around the corner for me and I'm trying really hard not to wiggle from all the excitement!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

WINNER and Back with a Vengeance

I had a FABULOUS week off. My inlaws were in town and I laid pretty low...checked e-mail now and then, read a few books on my TBR shelf, hit the zoo, played cards... Now it's time to diet, detox and get back to it!

MANY HUGE THANKS to my guest bloggers who posted during the week. And honestly, I didn't pay them a red cent. They were so very sweet. :-) Michelle is right about finding the right combination for CP's - one of the reasons I believe we've lasted so long is that we know that any criticism is coming from a desire for success. And we do work much the same way schedule wise and it makes it SO much easier!

Trish, you are too cute. I will definitely agree that the people I've met online have made this whole writing gig so much better. And how adorable are you with your snorsies? Hmmm?

Kris - one of these days I get to be the evil twin. She is right though...we'll frequently be on messenger and we'll type the same thing to each other at the same time. (Cue twilight zone music). Kris is one cool babe.

And the newest of my friends...Diane - thanks for coming and posting...chick lit and mystery...not sure if I could swing that but I could totally relate to your structuring worries. I'm currently half-way through Diane's Never The Same and it's such a cool premise for a story!!!!

Soooo.....here's what's new. I drew the winner of my Newsletter contest this morning and a huge congrats to Suzanne Munn of Fredericton, New Brunswick!!!!!!! I zipped out to the garage, told my husband to pick a number and came back inside to see who the lucky winner was! Suzanne works with a dear friend of mine so I'm doubly pleased for her. Copies of Hired By The Cowboy and Teresa Southwick's The Sheik's Contract Bride will be in the mail later this week!

Also while I was "vacationing", HBTC was reviewed at All About Romance. Renowned for being tough on category, I was beyond thrilled to receive a B! The reviewer said this:

"Maybe I’ve read one too many erotic tales, or encountered too many alpha heroes, but I was totally taken in by this sweet, romantic tale. It’s kind of like a fairy tale for adults, and there are times when we need them. Hired By The Cowboy Donna Alward’s first book and she makes a strong debut. If you love sweet stories, this is exactly the book for you."

Despite the preponderance of the word "sweet" throughout the review (and the fact that apparently HBTC is as "endearing as a basket of fluffy kittens"...I am simply pleased that she liked the book and found it a breath of fresh air. Seeing as the Romance line is a blend of the old Silhouette Romances and the Harlequin Romances, a sweet fairy tale is right on the money. The whole review is available HERE.

Also congratulations to Nell Dixon who won the RNA Romance Prize last Friday at the Savoy in London. Marrying Max was, I believe, the only non-Harlequin Mills and Boon entry. Hooray for Nell....and fingers crossed she joins the M&B family soon!

Now....keep checking back, because Michelle Willingham, Natalie Anderson and myself will be drawing for the winners of our Mother's Day contest very shortly!