Friday, February 29, 2008

The Best Laid Plans and your LAST CHANCE

Last night Vivi Anna and I gave a workshop at a local library called Writing Romance for Today's Market. We were a little late getting there after some directional mishaps, but I'm learning to be much more easy going about things like that. I said, "It's like in the Princess Diaries. We're not late. Everyone else is early."

When we got there, the room was full. Maybe one or two empty chairs and that was it. The first few moments were a little frenetic as I got started, but we settled down, found our groove, and generally had a really good time. They actually had to come in and tell us the library was closing. LOL.

I know this is the LAST day of the month (Happy Anniversary Breck and Sherry!) but I'm going to allow this one last day for entries into my February contest. Send me an e-mail at donna@donnaalward.com telling me your favourite kind of chocolate, and I'll draw on Monday (Happy Birthday sweetie!) for the winner of some Bernard Callebaut chocolate, a commemorative postcard, and some really cool bookmarks.

Don't forget, if you're in the UK, put UK COUPON in the subject line for a chance to win a whole booklet of coupons only good in the UK.

And then on Monday I'll also announce March's contest. There are some special happenings in March in conjunction with the release of THE SOLDIER'S HOMECOMING, so stay tuned.

Now I'm off to do the banking and then my physio appointment.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sweet Romances Day

It's Sweet Romances Day over at the CataNetwork Readers group. I'm over there talking about my books and THE SOLDIER'S HOMECOMING in particular. Lots of other authors are taking part, so come on over.

My post is short today though because in addition to that we're getting some snow and I have a zillion things to distract me today. I also have a library talk scheduled at the Calgary Library - Crowfoot called Writing Romance for Today's Market. I'm giving it with Vivi Anna and it's sure to be a good time (It always is with Vivi!).

So for now I'm off...and I suppose I should shovel the walks....

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I never leave out that first critique...

Over at eharlequin on the UK M&B Editors thread, there's been a bit of a discussion about critique partners. I told my story, because I love to. My relationship with my CP is very possibly the most important one in my career; certainly it's the longest running. And I continue to tell the part where I almost quit writing. Read on to see what I wrote:

"Once upon a time I had questions about London as I was writing a to-be-rejected book. :-) I asked on one of the threads here, which has since become The Mouse and Pen thread, and Michelle offered to answer them.

This was I think about the end-ish of 2003? I think around then as Michelle sent me her recipe for christmas pudding. LOL What followed was her offering to read a manuscript for me. If you've read Michelle's posts you've probably gathered she's really smart and I thought, why not. The other thing Michelle is is honest. I got that critique back and cried and considered quitting (she probably hates that I never leave this part out, lol). "


Of course Michelle and I were e-mailing yesterday and talking about it.

There IS a reason why I never leave that part out of the story. In an e-mail to her, I said, "It was a hard lesson to learn but one that a lot of writers NEED to learn in this business. It is sometimes hard to hear the truth but you need to recognize it for truth and be willing to work. In some ways there is a certain amount of ego that has to come with writing and then there is a certain place where it doesn’t belong at ALL. You need it to keep going sometimes….a belief in yourself rather than blind ego, if that makes sense. But you really need to open your mind to the fact that there is always a better way. To see possibilities rather than needing to be RIGHT."

As writers we love what we create. But you cannot be married to your words. You need to accept that you WILL be asked to change things and make adjustments. The writer that refuses to change anything because their writing is perfect, or simply because they say this is THEIR story....those writers are shooting themselves in the foot. They will likely miss out on a contract, and more than that, they are missing a learning opportunity. I can honestly say that revisions always make my books stronger. And that means the changes I make based on critiques or the ones I make at my editor's urging.

When Michelle sent that critique, I wasn't ready. Full stop. The difference is, an editor sent me a form letter and Michelle pointed out WHY. She gave me something to work with. There was no place for pride...I could either be right, or I could learn and work towards getting published. No one is going to coddle you and urge you along, editors and agents are just TOO busy. So with that first critique, I cried because my pride was hurt. Then I knew that despite it, I WANTED to be published. I couldn't imagine quitting. So I looked again, and rolled up my sleeves.

I think I feel so passionately about it because I know how hard I worked. I know how much I worked learning craft and submitting and being rejected (and by the way, the learning never ends). I know some people sell right away, but for most there's a learning curve and it takes however long it takes. And I think it's a part of my upbringing that says, if you can't do it, then quit. If you can, look forward and hitch up your britches for hard work. If you are willing to take the journey, you'll get to the destination.

For what it's worth, a few years later the rewrite of that first book she critiqued became HIRED BY THE COWBOY, my first Harlequin Romance.

Food for thought.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

By Request...

Here are the two chocolate recipes I promised.

Credit given where credit is due...this one I printed off the Oprah website wayyy back in 2003 and it remains a very special, and rare treat. For one thing it takes a long time to make, and for another it's stupidly rich, but worth every calorie.

The Smith Family Twelve-Layer Cake

Ingredients:
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (room temp)
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs (room temp)
3 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Icing/Ganache
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup unsalted butter, cut up
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Pecan halves, coconut, chocolate shavings for garnish if desired.

Position racks in the centre and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 375. Lightly butter four 8 inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Flour the pans and tap out the excess.

To make the batter: Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Sift again, set aside. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl until light in colour and texture (I use electric beaters as I don't have a mix-master). Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of the milk. Add in the vanilla. Using a scant cup for each layer, spread the batter evenly in the pans. It will make a thin layer. (Note: Most of the time I end up with 10 layers, not 12, but who's counting?)

Staggering the pans on the racks so they are at least 2 inches from each other and the sides of the oven and NOT directly over each other (another note: I only have 2 pans, so I cook them 2 at a time, not 4, increasing prep time but lowering my probability of screwing this part up), bake the layers until they feel firm when touched in the centres and are beginning to pull away form the sides of the pans - about 12 minutes. Cool IN THE PANS for 5 minutes. Remove to cake racks, remove parchment, and cool completely. Wash and prepare the pans. Repeat until all layers are baked and cooled (Yet another note...I peel the parchment off, but then as they cool re-stack the layers with the parchment loose but in between to keep the layers from sticking together until the icing is ready).

Bring the sugar, cocoa, butter and evaporated milk to a full boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until it has thickened slightly (Resembles choc syrup but will thicken as it cools) about 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Let icing cool until thick enough to spread but still pourable.

Place a layer of cake on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet. Spread with a few tbsp of the icing, letting the excess run down the sides. Stack with the rest of the cakes. Pour the remainder over the top of the cake and smooth over the sides. Garnish.

Now, if you have extra syrup, it's excellent used as hot fudge sauce on ice cream. :-) Also, it doesn't mention anything about moving the cake to a serving platter. What I've found works best is to use 2 large, very sturdy spatulas to lift it A SHORT DISTANCE to a waiting plate. It's a damned heavy cake. But gorgeous, and when you slice it it looks like ribbons on the inside. MMMMM.

This one is a LOT easier....seriously it takes 5 min to make and a half hour or less to bake. If I have unexpected company for dinner this saves me as far as dessert goes. It's also from my Food-For-Life friend and so is low in fat, unfortunately not so low in sugar. :-)

Brownie Pudding

1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup white sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1 cup milk
2 tbsp melted shortening (I use margarine)
1 tsp vanilla.

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa. Add milk, shortening and vanilla. Mix until smooth, and turn into an 8x8 greased pan.

Mix together 1 cup brown sugar and 4 tbsp cocoa and sprinkle over top of the brownie batter. Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over top and DO NOT STIR! (yes, it looks funny. Trust me.) Bake at 350 for approx 30 min.

What comes out is delicious dark brownie smothered in hot fudge sauce. :-)

So there you are...two of my favourite chocolate recipes.

Book Blog 7 - The Art of Romance Writing


The Art of Romance Writing by Valerie Parv

My husband got this for me for Christmas and I've absorbed it over the past 2 nights.

I really wish I'd had this book around the time when it was published - 2004. (Note: this is the second edition) It is a fabulous book for those aspiring to publication. That doesn't mean I still didn't learn things. Learning does NOT stop with publication and as well it is always a comfort to read about the romance genre, especially when it's written by someone who gets it, and whom I like and respect.

My one caution is the market section at the back...some of it is now outdated which is not surprising considering how lines change and disappear. The blurb on Bombshell comes to mind. But there's also scads of great info that make it well worth it.

As an overview of the industry as well as the basic components of writing a romance novel, you can't go wrong with this one.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A magical number

For some reason, book sales tend to fall in groups of five. Milestones of 10 books, 15, 25, 50....

Today I hit my first milestone. I've sold The Cowboy's Princess, making it my 5th Harlequin Romance.

I don't have an official title yet, but it is slotted for January 09!

I promised Christina Hollis last week I'd post a couple of chocolate recipes after her post on the Pink Heart Society. I have to run to work and then my physio appt as well as other errands today, but come back tomorrow for 2 recipes, one so easy it's crazy and the other more time consuming but SO WORTH IT.

For now I'm off.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Social Butterfly

It's a super-hectic day today but I need to pass along a few things in between making beds, working the day job and what not.

First of all, pop on over to Love Is An Exploding Cigar today as I'm putting in a guest appearance. And come read about my non-topic and ask me anything!

Also, I'm at the Calgary Public Library tonight - the downtown location - from 7-8:30 with fellow Calgary authors CJ Carmichael and Vivi Anna. We're talking about our latest books, (For me, The Soldier's Homecoming) reading from them and also signing! It will be a hoot...so if you just happen to be in the area, come on down. Rumour has it we also have some free stuff to give away.

And over at the Harlequin Romance Author Blog I'm posting all the cool special releases from our authors this month. As well as details about how to win a copy of Nicola Marsh's Executive Mother-To-Be.

For now I'm off to do the other zillion things I have to do today. No rest for the wicked. ;-)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Some cool things today...

A couple of cool things have happened over the last 24 hours that make today a bit brighter....but I have to post quickly as I have a meeting at the bank in 30 minutes...to see how much rope they'll give us to hang ourselves with as far as a mortgage. :-)

First of all, I'm now the Vice Prez of our local RWA chapter. Vivi Anna is the new prez, and she's a hoot, so I'm looking forward to working with her and the rest of the executive. Actually, the whole chapter is FANTASTIC, and last night's meeting was great with tons of fab discussion.

The second very cool thing is that my August release, Falling For Mr. Dark and Dangerous, is up on amazon, though without a cover as yet. Still....it's a thrill to see another book show up.

And the best for today...I got a phone call from a lady who apparently has done some of my copy edits. She phoned to pay me some compliments on my writing and I was pleased as punch. It's the first time anything like this has happened to me and it was lovely. So often we feel like we're writing into the ether and when feedback comes...especially the good kind...it makes such a huge difference.

So that's all - now I'm off to my meeting and then the day job....

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Bride at Willow Bend

Sometimes you have to write what calls to you, and I may or may not work on two mss at a time. For the moment I have the luxury of choosing what I want to write, and so I pulled out the chapter of A Bride at Willow Bend that I started last fall and had to abandon. I was only five pages in.

I was instantly reminded of why I was compelled to write this story in the first place, and over the last 24 hours have managed about 4k on it. Not only that I've ended in the middle of a scene (I LOVE doing that) and now need to write the rest of it. There is lots of background and animosity and attraction between these two and it is working. Thankfully my cp is a genius and found lots of places lacking in that first chapter, but today I went through it and it is MUCH stronger.

Personally, I love stories where the hero and heroine know each other and have some sort of history. It all feels very real and rich to me with conflicts that seem to have a special depth. I did it in Marriage at Circle M and in The Soldier's Homecoming. One of those seemed to trip off my fingers (though there were trying moments) and the other was agony start to finish, but oh-so-worth it in my opinion.
So here we are at Willow Bend, a winery in the Shuswap part of British Columbia, with oddly enough, two Italian characters, Dante and Gina. And Gina's two rather small children.

Of course, perhaps I am inspired by the fact that my hero in this case is in my mind modeled a little on this lovely gentleman:



Yes, ladies, take a moment and enjoy.

And then I have the heroine, who has had her life change utterly, but is still a bit of a firecracker, or at least I hope she is:

This is Gina. A bit of a fashionista, with a Gucci bag full of regrets and a new commitment to her children.

It also lets me use the pictures from last summer, when we were at a winery in the area where I've set the book.





Unfortunately now I have to make a phone call and then go to the day job, but I'm having fun nonetheless.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Book Blog 5 and 6

I forgot to blog number five, so I'm doing it now, along with the book I finished on the weekend.

Read number five was Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

Last year I started reading all of the HP book to my girls at night.

I really like the HP series. At times some of the writing is onerous...the term "cut for pacing" goes through my mind a lot...but I can't ignore how compelling the books are.

Maybe it's the romantic in me but I'd heard criticism of all the teenage angst and feelings in the later books, and yes, at times it did take away from the focus of the plot, HOWEVER I quite enjoyed it. The kids are getting older. To avoid the whole subject of crushes and the like would be wrong. Remember when you were 16? What did you think about most of the time? Hermione's feelings for Ron, Harry's for Ginny, even the way Luna looks after Neville was all compelling to me.

And the ending was superb. And so here's the thing I've found with just about ALL the books...I enjoy the story, coast through chapter after chapter, but then the last 6 or 7 chapters the action suddenly gets racheted up. I sometimes wish the whole book was paced that way.

Book Six is Her One and Only Valentine By Trish Wylie.

Of all the February Romance books, this was the one I promised myself I would buy. The cover alone should see it flying off the shelves...see Trish's post with the cover artist on the Pink Heart Society Blog for Valentine's Day...

It's a lovely Valentine's Day story with a spunky heroine, a loveable hero and a cute as a button daughter.

Fave scene: rolling in the hay...er...straw...and I always pick a favourite detail from Trish's book and this time it was when the heroine ran her fingers through his hair the first time....I could actually SEE it in my mind, and feel it in my fingers. :-)

I'm still getting through the end of my RITA reading and have found some real gems. Once all the RWA Nationals hubbub is over, I plan on posting reviews of some of those books as well. I had a look at my tbr last night. I really do have some varied reading to look forward to this year.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A quick development...

The postie brought my amazon parcel.

The Deathly Hallows! Hooray!

Happy reading will ensue.

Everyone needs a little trouble

Trouble can make or break a relationship.

I've seen lots of couples be in love and blissfully happy until there's a kink in the works and then everything falls spectacularly apart.

But then there's the steady relationships. The ones where everyone is comfortable, and perhaps even a little bored. Where little faults take on more importance than they should. And maybe you take each other a little too much for granted.

No one wants bad things to happen, but sometimes trouble can have a silver lining.

We've had some troubles lately. But one good thing that's come of it is a very real appreciation for the man I married, and WHY I married him. After nearly 17 years together, sometimes you forget. And then something happens that pulls you together and it all becomes very clear.

I got a lovely ring for Valentine's Day, but more than that I realized I've got a guy that will do anything to look after me and his children. Who is a good person. Who stands beside me and worries about me when I'm worried and is happy for me when I'm happy.

Sometimes it takes a little bit of trouble to remember it, that's all.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day


There are so many things going on today, so this post is about fun and freebies pure and simple.

Today at e-harlequin, you can read THE WEDDING DRESS by Sherryl Woods in e-book mini format for FREE! Just go HERE and add it to your cart. Easy peasy.

And also at Harlequin, you can see their special Valentine's webpage at http://www.harlequinspecialtreat.com/. There are games, free online reads, all kinds of fun to be had.

Over at the Harlequin Romance Authors blog, we have Valentine's Day with Trish Wylie. Trish's release this month is Her One and Only Valentine and it's the book with the GORGEOUS cover and is getting rave reviews. Come on over and read her post, and then scroll down to read the Spotlight in Six with Nicola Marsh. Nic is giving away a copy of her book this month, Executive Mother-To-Be. Instructions on how to enter are on the HRA blog.

Kate Walker is also holding a contest today, so venture over to her blog and see what's up for grabs.

And over at the Pink Heart Society, Trish has posted an interview with Lawrence Roibal, who does several of our lovely Romance covers. He does stunning work. He did Hired By The Cowboy and we know how beautiful that one is. Pop over and get a little insight into how our covers are made. I think Larry has a lot to do with why the Romance covers have been so gorgeous over the past few years.

And don't forget to enter MY contest - e-mail me and tell me your favourite kind of chocolate and you're in the running to win chocolate, bookmarks and a commemorative postcard of an early Mills and Boon cover. The addy is donna@donnaalward.com and if you are in the UK put UK COUPON in your subject line and you're entered in a separate draw for Mills and Boon money off coupons.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Show and Tell, Blizzards and Valentines

Michelle Styles has a great blog today about Showing and Telling. I commented but I want to say here and now that her constant nagging, er....persistence....in getting me to use physical and emotional beats and active instead of passive language improved my writing SO much. (She has moved on from that to nagging me about motivation, so I'm glad I have enough flaws to occupy her time.)

We had a bit of a freak blizzard last night and my husband, bless him, shoveled the walks before he left for work. I'm still babying my wrist and we got enough snow that he said I couldn't have just pushed it off to the side. The world is white but blessedly not too cold. Which means at lunch today we WILL be going outside and we WILL come in very wet and everything will smell like wet wool. Eeeeew.

The kids also have a few days off for Teacher's Convention, so all Valentine's Day celebrations are today. I baked 70 small shortbread hearts last night. The girls made all their valentines on the weekend. This morning we went to the garage to go to school and I dropped the tin containing the cookies for my youngest. Wailing and crying commenced. Cooler heads prevailed. Only the top layer popped out of the tin - the rest were unscathed. She was only short one cookie - thank goodness I'd made lots extra. We divvied up the extras from my eldest's container and everyone has enough + a few just in case.
They asked what would have happened if they'd all been lost.

I said I'd end up baking again this morning. LOL.

And I got my Valentine's present last night....dh was going to hold on to it but we've had a rather rough week and he thought I could use a pick me up. THis isn't it exactly, mine only has four stones across and then some gold shaping, but this is close:

For now, pop over to Cata and read my smooch for THE SOLDIER'S HOMECOMING.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stock shifting

To my surprise, I realized Hired By The Cowboy is once again available on amazon, though the large print seems to be out of stock this time. For several months I haven't been able to find a copy so this made me excited!

I guess some stock has shifted. If you have been looking for it and couldn't find it, the link is:

Amazon.ca

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Of course on the amazons you can download the kindle version, and on eharlequin you can get all three of my Romances in e-book:

E-books

And The Soldier's Homecoming is out on eharlequin's website now.

Defending Romance

Just a quick post today as I'm off in a very few minutes to a dr. appt to get some stitches out.

There is an article in the Sunday Sun - Newcastle that features my critique partner and others. It is nicely done with a personal touch and very little disparaging about the genre. The link is http://icnewcastle.icnetwork.co.uk/lifestyle/lifestyle/tm_method=full%26objectid=20457275%26siteid=50081-name_page.html

On a personal note, I watched a PBS Masterpiece Theatre I'd taped and I absolutely had to write down a bit of dialogue. It is between Jane and her brother's housekeeper. The program is called Miss Austen Regrets and I quite enjoyed it.

Jane: "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance."

H.: "But the fuss we make aobut who to choose. And love still dies. And money still vanishes. And every woman - spinster, wife - every woman has regrets. So we read about your heroines, and feel young again. And in love. And full of hope. And if we can make that choice again..."

Jane: "I'd do it right this time."

H.: "It is the gift God has given you. It is enough, I think."

This is exactly how I feel about it. Young. Love. Hope. Books with optimism in the face of adversity. The silver lining. That leave you with a smile on your face. These books have value. More value than they are credited with and I hope when a reader picks up one of my books she - or he - gets those same feelings. If they have I have done my job.

I'm off.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Reading for a Cause

I posted this on the HRA blog on Friday, but the general release is out so I'm now posting it here:


The following is excerpted from a press release from Harlequin Books.

National Center for Family Literacy to receive up to 100,000 books with estimated valued of $700,000

Toronto, (February 11, 2008)—eHarlequin.com (www.eHarlequin.com), the online site for Harlequin Enterprises Limited, is challenging its community members to read an astounding 100,000 books in one year in the 2008 eHarlequin.com 100,000 Book Challenge. When the reading challenge ends on December 31, 2008, Harlequin will make an unprecedented donation of an equivalent number of books to the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL). The estimated retail value of a 100,000 book donation to the NCFL by Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. is $700,000 U.S.

In addition to promoting literacy, the 2008 eHarlequin.com 100,000 Book Challenge encourages readers to discuss the titles they have read on the eHarlequin.com website in their own blogs. Those participating in the challenge share their thoughts, reviews, opinions, recommendations and progress. Another remarkable and unforeseen aspect to the challenge is that many people who were not bloggers—or who even knew what a blog was—are now passionate blog hosts and are spearheading online discussions in the forums.

“Our readers are very passionate,” says Jayne Hoogenberk, community manager for eHarlequin.com. “They read, talk, think and dream about books 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. The median number of paperbacks read in one year by Americans is 12. The median for Harlequin readers is 30. Since we’re always looking for ways to inspire and challenge our community members, we wondered if, as a group, they would be able to read 100,000 books in a single calendar year and through our donation of 100,000 books, share that love of reading with others who don’t have such easy access to entertaining and engaging literature for women.”

“The response of the past two years was so overwhelmingly positive that we had to keep going,” states Hoogenberk. “We also knew that we had to up the ante. And so the 2008 eHarlequin.com 100,000 Book Challenge for literacy was born. Last year we capped the number of participants and still easily surpassed our target. Since the event has generated such positive feedback, and in order to reach our goal of 100,000 books read, we’ve decided to leave registration open-ended this year.”

There are no hard and fast rules other than participants being asked to have at least 50% of their list be novels published by Harlequin. This allows readers to discover the outstanding breadth of editorial Harlequin has to offer. The other 50% of books can be any genre by any publisher. Likewise, all formats—print, eBooks, audiobooks, etc.—are acceptable, and readers are encouraged to seek them out and give them a try.

The range and diversity of Harlequin readers is not confined solely to the type of books they read or the medium in which they enjoy them. The online nature of the eHarlequin.com community illustrates the significant power of books to unite readers in a global way. Geographic boundaries have become meaningless in this venture as the challenge brings together readers from countries as varied as Germany, France and the Philippines, as well as Harlequin editors in Toronto, New York and London and Harlequin authors from around the world.

This is such a great cause! Just think...by YOU reading you can help someone else have access to books and LITERACY.

Several of the Harlequin Romance Authors have a team in the challenge, including Jennie Adams, Donna Alward, Claire Baxter, Ally Blake, Fiona Harper and Nicola Marsh.Come and join the fun, and hey, grab a Romance while you're at it!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Where Am I? (and TSH's first official review!)

I guess the blog isn't completely silent. :-) I'm blogging over at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs today about one of my favourite things in the WHOLE world.

This morning I will be at the Calgary Philharmonic with my eldest's class. It should be wonderful. It helps a little with the "I wish I could be in London for the Mills and Boon Centenary cocktail party" feelings. I have several people supposed to toast and drink for me (and I won't get the hangover) and duty-bound to give me complete reports.

Kay James has reviewed TSH at Romance Reader at Heart. I am THRILLED so I'm posting it here:

I loved THE SOLDIER’S HOMECOMING! Now that I’ve said that, I’ll tell you why I loved it so much. First of all, although this is a romance and does have the requisite happy ending, there are parts of this story that are so real, so heartbreakingly poignant, that they gripped my soul. I could feel this hero’s pain. Too, the woman he left behind, then met up with again, loves with such intensity that it would have been impossible not to feel the sincerity behind every word she speaks.

Jonas Kirkpatrick is a complex character who returns home from war a different man. He guards his emotions and seems utterly closed off from everyone. Shannyn feels her heart lurch the instant she sees Jonas again, but he barely looks at her. She doesn’t really need him to, though, because she knows exactly what his moss green eyes look like. She sees them daily on the daughter she has, the sweet child named for Jonas’ dead grandmother—the child Jonas doesn’t know exists until he sees her fly into Shannyn’s arms one afternoon.

The emotionally gripping aspects of this story make it so much more than an average love story. THE SOLDIER’S HOMECOMING tells not just Jonas and Shannyn’s story, but the stories of countless men and women who return from serving their country to find their world, and themselves, changed forever. This portrayal of a stirring subject makes for excellent reading.

THE SOLDIER’S HOMECOMING by Donna Alward is a story of love, commitment and the strength of the human spirit. Well done!

See you on the flip side, gang!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Out and About...

I'm over at the Pink Heart Society today talking about OCR software for Writer's Wednesday. This is the tool I used to help make deadline when I ended up with a broken wrist. It really is very cool.

Also, a huge piracy issue has come to light with a website and torrents. Thankfully neither of my books are on there - yet. But several are. I was reminded of Isabel Swift's blog recently about the subject of copyright. Hopefully this site will be shut down soon. You know I don't feel the same about lending books or sharing books. My theory is, if I really like one, and I pass it on, chances are I'm going to BUY more books by that author, and by introducing their work to someone else, that person may buy them too. It's a whole other animal than file sharing.


And tomorrow the old blog will likely be silent as I'm on a school field trip. Sometimes I think, should I take a day away from writing but inevitably I always learn something and everything I learn contributes to what I write. I've been waiting for this particular field trip for a long time - to the Philharmonic. It should be wonderful.


Til then....

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

We Interrupt this WIP writing....

To bring you fab news. Congratulations to KATE HARDY who won the RNA Romance Prize - the Betty Neels Rose Bowl - for her book BREAKFAST AT GIOVANNI'S.

There are a number of eyewitness accounts to the event. Two with FAB pictures are on Kate's own blog, and on Liz Fielding's.

CONGRATS Kate! So happy for you.

And, I wonder if I should have started keeping count the first time I gave a reason why I love my CP. I will pick a random one now and it's probably a lowball figure...but Why I Love My CP #100 001.

She more than critiques my work. We talk about the industry a lot, or where we want our careers to go, or just random things about writing. It doesn't matter what it is, I always feel better and like I'm going in the right direction after talking to her. Today's topic has been single title markets. I am doing some RITA reading and the one I just finished was amazing...so amazing I've actually added this author's series to my amazon wish list. And we got to talking about reading in the genre etc. and well...it just made me feel good. I got a little silly about LaVyrle Spencer. She is, and probably always will be, my favourite author. Her stories touch me, very deeply. They are human and emotional and very real. I know I re-read Then Came Heaven at the end of last year and when I shut it, I said I wanted to write one book that good before I die.

It comes down to this: reading great books makes me want to write great books.

Now, back to the WIP for me. Oh and Mills and Boon has a fan club on Facebook now. Go sign up! I did.

Monday, February 04, 2008

New month, new starts!

It's February, and I'm tempted to ask "Where has the time gone" but that's a stupid question. We all know time flies when it's in short supply.

There's lots of "new" stuff going on though starting this month. New books out, new book being started, new schedule....

As far as new books, The Soldier's Homecoming is available on eharlequin. One of the neat things they do are links to excerpts and posting Dear Reader letters. And the month's official new releases are up on the Harlequin Romance Author Blog. Which reminds me - stop by the Romance blog often. This month there is a fab spotlight on one of our authors (complete with a book giveaway!) and a special Valentine's Day post.

And the new schedule part of the month is that I'm filling in at the old job for five weeks, so it means really focusing on writing in the mornings since I will be gone from about 11:30 a.m. onwards. It should be a good time though, and I believe I'm all finished on March 6.

And then we get to the new book.

Yep, with revisions done and dusted, it's time for me to start on a new project. I brainstormed this one last fall and did up a fairly comprehensive synopsis. And with Biddy's help and pointing out Trish's hero and heroine database, I have cast my characters.



Meet Ethan and Lizzy.

These two have a history...though not a romantic one. That doesn't mean they weren't thinking about it. They were. But there were bigger things at play. It all comes down to timing, doesn't it? And after having her heart broken in every possible way, Lizzy leaves home, determined to never come back.

But then...her Mum is getting married, and even Lizzy is smart enough to know that if she doesn't go home for THIS, she'll regret it for the rest of her life. And she already has enough regrets. So home she trots - tail between her legs - and everything she ran from years ago is still there waiting for her. And then some.

There will likely be more of ME in this book than anything I've ever written. Those that have known me since childhood will recognize places, and even shades of people and events. But don't be mistaken. This book isn't my story or the story of anyone I know. This is Ethan and Lizzy's journey. It's their story.

Now it's time for me to get at it. And to type in those exciting two words:

CHAPTER ONE.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Food for thought...

This link came in my RWA enotes bulletin and the title "Most Indian Males read Mills and Boon" just demanded to be read.

It's a really great article about the expansion into the Indian market and featuring Andrew Go, who many of us met in London.

Pop over to the article and have a read. It's really quite interesting.

Contest Winners, New Releases and February's Contest!

Drum roll please....the winner of the January contest (The Soldier's Homecoming, Commemorative postcard and 2008 Magnetic Calendar) is............................................


NICOLE REISING!!!!!!!!


Cole I'm sending you an e-mail so I can get your mailing address! Congrats!



So, speaking of THE SOLDIER'S HOMECOMING, one of the things I love about eharlequin is that they release the books a month early. That means that TSH is up on the site today, available for order! Wheeee! If you want to run over and have a gander (and add it to your shopping cart) just click HERE!


And of course, February also means Valentine's Day and this month's contest is in keeping with that.


To enter to win the next M&B cover postcard, bookmarks and some of my favourite chocolate in the whole world, send me an e-mail at donna@donnaalward.com and tell me what YOUR favourite kind of chocolate is!


In addition...if you are in the UK, put UK COUPON in your subject line and I'll also do a draw for an M&B coupon PACK which includes coupons for all the Mills and Boon lines!!!!!!!!!!!!


Well - that should do for today! Have a good weekend everyone!