Friday, October 31, 2008

Reel Review and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Today's Halloween and you can find me over at the Pink Heart Society talking about some of my favourite creepy movies and books, while my cohort in crime Jenna talks about costumes...she's clearly more of a Halloween spirit than I am.

I indulged in watching a movie last night.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age was on On Demand. I'm not sure how historically accurate it was, though it bore some resemblances to the 2 part series of Elizabeth I that I watched a while back.

But I enjoyed it. A lot.

And most of that enjoyment, shallow thing that I am, came from Clive Owen.

WOWZA.

Favourite scene: 2 actually. One where Raleigh and Bess get it on - even though there is no nudity, it's HOT. And the second is Mary's execution. It was BEAUTIFULLY shot. Stunning. Really affecting.

Ack! Off to do the school run!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Dear Ron Moore:

Dear Ron Moore:

For season four, could you pretty please make the dvd all extended versions of the episodes?

Sincerely,

Me.

Ok, this is a bit silly, but still.

Last night I watched one of the episodes from BSG Season 3. I have been working my way through BSG since the summer- I started with the mini series and now I'm part way through season 3. When the episode menu came up, I could choose the regular episode, or the extended version.

I always wonder what makes it on the cutting room floor, and WHY. Granted, a lot had to be cut from this one as it ran an hour and ten minutes - nearly a half hour longer than it needed to be. But there were some bits that really really really really should have stayed!

If you haven't watched UNFINISHED BUSINESS, go no further, cuz it's about to get spoilery.

There are three scenes that I KNOW I didn't see when I watched Unfinished Business, two scenes that explained a LOT about the Starbuck/Lee/Dualla dynamic.

First of all, Lee and Kara sleep together, and after they shout to the skies that they love each other, it cuts. In the extended version, Lee says more. Lee says he didn't really know how much he cared until just now, saying it out loud. When Kara asks why, he admits that he never wanted to admit he needed someone that much. That he needed HER that much. Then, quieter than shouting it out like an idiot, he looks in her eyes and says, "I love you, Kara." And she says it back.

It made it a really potent set up for the next morning when she marries Sam, because the betrayal was even stronger. They hadn't just slept together. Those words were a type of commitment and she broke it.

Then, right after, Lee proposes to Dualla. When she says something about Starbuck, he says that her marrying Sam has made him think about the life he wants NOW. Stupid mistake? Hell yeah. We know he's hurt and this is his way of trying to prove it doesn't matter. Dualla even knows. She says she'll marry him and love him until the Cylons come back or Starbuck decides she wants him again. Well...duh! For anyone who's seen the Eye of Jupiter episodes, we know exactly how this turns out.

And finally, the boxing match. Lee has never told Dualla about sleeping with Kara. So when Dee jabs, "Why don't you two get a room", Kara comes back with, "Been there, done that." Dee is understandably hurt, and Lee tries to brush it off with an "It was a long time ago" line but Dee doesn't buy it (Can you imagine if he'd admitted it was the night before he proposed? OUCH!). She leaves, Lee looks at Starbuck with pure hatred and shouts, "Mother Frakker!" (personally, I liked this moment a lot). This also brings the sloppy seconds comment earlier into context.

During the boxing match, Lee and Kara talk a bit and I think in the broadcast version this was edited out. And that was the right thing. I wear a bite plate to bed, and Lee and Kara with mouthguards in talking was more funny than anything. Leaving it to the "I missed you" and "I missed you too" at the end was enough.

But I do wish we got to see more extended episodes because it gave so much more depth to one of my already-favourite episodes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

INTRODUCING.....

Some exciting news now...I have pretty much finished with the website changes. There are a few additions coming with my next update, but on the whole, it's done and I'm very excited!

On my main site, www.donnaalward.com:

I've changed the navigation and pages a bit, so now we have a Press Page where you can find my biography, any scheduled appearances, links to articles and interviews and industry stats.

My foreign releases page is now in a clearer, easier format.

I've added a brand new, exciting feature in my Recipe Corner. Here you can find recipes that have appeared in my books - like Maggie's Pasta e fagioli soup and Mountain Haven Pumpkin Cake with Caramel Sauce. The recipes are all available in a printable format. Just click on the recipe and it opens in a word document.

And the biggest of all is a new "subsite" - dedicated to my books set in Larch Valley!!!!! Here you can read about how my "town" came to be, get a glimpse of Behind the Scenes of the books, what music inspired me, and read an excerpt. I also have a Fun and Games section with a printable bookmark currently available, more fun stuff to come.

Pop on over an have a visit!

All this is in anticipation of my next release, The Rancher's Runaway Princess, which will be available for order in hardback in November, in paperback on eharlequin in December, and in stores and everywhere else in January.

Now I'm off for a wee snack and diving into the WIP!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Post at the PHS and another book blog

Tuesdays are becoming the craziest day of my week, so this post isn't going to be over long. I have laundry to do, and five dozen mini cupcakes to make for the Girl Guide/Brownie parties tonight. Not to mention a phone call to make and oh yes, that pesky WIP to work on.

BUT

I am over at the Pink Heart Society today for Temptation Tuesday, and talking about fall baking - funny considering the cupcake thing. There are some recipes over there too so you might want to pop over to see what's in my cookie jar.


And I've finished another book - this time CJ Carmichael's Christmas With Daddy, the final installment of her Three Good Men trilogy.

I liked how the love story and Nick's growth as a man coincided with the police case. So many times you see a cop story where the case and the romance are connected but not this intimately intertwined. And being a new dog owner, I really connected with the doggie parts too. Every family should have a Lefty.

A great ending to a fantastic series!

Monday, October 27, 2008

A false start -and a lighthouse

The logline is probably my single best take-away from Save The Cat. It's that bit that you say when someone asks, "What's it about?" It's the narrator's voice at the beginning of the trailers you see in theatres.

I first used it in my novella I was writing and it really helped clarify things. Then I wrote one for Sold to the Highest Bidder.

I recently started Rescued by the Rancher and something kept feeling off. I wrote a whole first chapter and it was all wrong. I have started in the wrong place. Today it's my job to decide what the RIGHT place is, and so I thought perhaps a logline would give me a clue.

The first one I wrote down was this:

Veterinarian Andrew Laramie is back in Larch Valley to make amends, but how can you make things right with a dead man and a woman who doesn’t want to be rescued?

Well, well. It's rotten. It told me right away what part of the problem was with my chapter one. Number one, the focus is on the hero. Which works with some books but not this one and generally not in the Romance line (there are always exceptions). Maybe my logline isn't just WHAT'S it about, but WHO is it about? Is it about Andrew making amends? Or is it about his relationship with Jen??? AHHHHH. DUH. It doesn't have the right focus. So I thought, let's put this from the heroine's point of view.

This is what I came up with:

Jennifer O’Keefe has lost everything, and will do whatever it takes to get her business back. Until Andrew Laramie arrives back in town, and she realizes the one thing she won’t do is be rescued by the man who broke her heart in the first place.

I think this works much better. I'm focused on the heroine - right where I should be. I've set up the problem, and I've also set up the conflict between her and Andrew.

The logline needs to be something I can go back to when things get fuzzy. It needs to be an anchor. It needs to be something that solidifies what the book is about at it's core. And it's about Jen losing her own business, Andrew providing a way out, and whether or not she'll swallow her pride and accept help from her childhood sweetheart.

There are always lots of twists, turns, layers of conflict and developing of the romance. But the logline really does provide a lighthouse when the fog creeps in.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Take that, html.

Consider yourself defeated.

To you, the readers, if you see broken links or images, wait 24 hours before telling me.

For now...I'm going to have supper with my family.

)@*&$%)*&#)$%*)*&%)*$%

For the record, I hate HTML. I really, really do. I was up at 4:30 yesterday morning and got to work. I quit at 12 midnight and had a bath and got to sleep close to one o'clock. The dog started whining at 4 a.m. and didn't stop until I finally let her out at 6:45 and she had the world's shortest pee...what the heck is up with that? I finally got some sleep between 7 and 8. So then I get up, just catch the garbage man with our trash, put sheets in the washer, make coffee, and sit down in a very hopeful mood to continue website work.

I am very nearly at the point where I would pay ANY amount for someone to do this for me rather than the "OMG I can't spend this much, I'll do it myself" frame of mind I was in last week.

The kids are home from school today as well so I've had to self edit which is actually very difficult when you're throwing a tantrum and really have the urge to curse like a sailor. As it was I jammed my keyboard and it took tools to fix it. When the kids said, "are you alright, mum?" I was honest. "NO." Not that they care about html and uploading and ftp sites, but they've sort of got the hint that I'm beyond a normal, tolerable level of frustration.

Right.

Sigh.

I will defeat it. Then I will crow with triumph before collapsing in a heap.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Book Blog and Reel Review

I finished reading a few books on my trip, and when I got back I watched a movie I'd had on my dvr for several weeks. So let's play catch up and blog my latest!

First up is RUN AMONG THORNS:

This is my friend Anna's debut with Medallion and at first I was surprised. Anna's blog is filled with these beautiful, lyrical descriptive passages, but immediately I was thrown into a world of espionage and rogue agents. Once I got over the shock, I held on for the ride...loving both the hero and heroine. This book has got lots of ptq (Page turning quality) and you really are rooting for them even as you keep turning pages to see what the real deal is.

On a personal note...I'm just so damn happy for Anna and this release because she is truly one of the purest, nicest people I have EVER met. So congratulations on a cracking debut, darling!




Next is CREATING CHARACTERS:
Creating Characters - How to Build Story People by Dwight V. Swain. You know, I expected something else out of this book. It wasn't that it was bad. It was just that nothing really stuck with me. Maybe the clarity and logic that was Save the Cat spoiled me. But for some reason I just couldn't relate to it.
It happens. Not all craft books resonate the same way for everyone.

And finally, my reel review. I watched an "unknown" film called "Almost Heaven" starring Donal Logue. For those of you who say "WHO?" you'll know him from ER where he played paramedic Chuck, from The Patriot where he played one of the villagers who joined Mel Gibson's militia, and currently he's Damian Lewis's (Charlie Crews) boss in LIFE (one of my must-watch shows at the moment, LOVE it).

The IMDB plot blurb goes like this:

In this quirky and hilarious romantic comedy, MARK BRADY (Donal Logue) is a charismatic, alcohol fuelled Canadian director of a television fishing show filming in Scotland. He's struggling to stay sober and work with the shows temperamental star TAYA HONEYWELL (Joely Collins) - his ex-wife!

Everything that can go wrong does and an awkward incident with a dead fish catapults Mark into the path of feisty local fishing guide NICKI McADAM. He is instantly drawn to her. But are Mark's feelings for Nicki strong enough to keep him away from the bottle and on the straight and narrow?

I loved this movie. I laughed out loud in several places, and thought it really well written. There was a save the cat moment when Mark's exwife Taya gets stung and he very efficiently administers an epipen and calms her even though they are usually constantly fighting. Nicki is GORGEOUS, and her daughter the cutest thing ever. But I think the true gems in this are the characters at the Tweed Valley hotel where they stay...Tom Conti as Bert is hysterical. Even my husband was snickering as Bert attempts a speech after a little too much drink. And Georgina Hegedos as Georgina added great colour.

One of my biggest laughs came from Bert near the beginning where he says, "I have to tell you, I don't like Americans." When his daughter corrects him and says "Canadian", he says, "Oh, Americans without money, you poor soul." Cracked me up. There are little colourful splashes of humour throughout that made it such a pleasure.

If I had one complaint it would be about the ending. As a writer, I would have explored, in a short yet tender scene, Mark with Nicki's daughter close to the end because I thought she would have felt responsible for his accident. There is also a key scene near the end where Mark tells Bert the real story behind his divorce and what his house means to him. This, to my mind, and maybe I'm thinking too much as a category author here, but it really is the black moment. He can't stay. He's not sure he's even capable of love anymore. It was a missed opportunity because it is really poignant and if it had happened between the hero and heroine would have really made it an all is lost scene.

At the HEA, I had to remind myself that she didn't know about it. I did and Bert did, and she didn't, and that made it just the teensiest bit unsatisfying.
But on the whole...really well worth a watch. For a peek of some great highlights, have a look at the trailer.





Worth a mention - the ex-wife Taya is played by Joely Collins, Phil Collins's adopted daughter and Phil does the ending song for the film.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Prep work - and Brand New Casting!

I have spent the last few days doing prep work for Rescued By The Rancher - namely doing up character sheets, jotting down notes for scenes that are popping into my head, and of course, my casting. Tomorrow morning, HALLELUJAH, I'm starting Chapter One.

I really like my hero, Andrew Laramie. He's a touch of prodigal son, fully aware of mistakes he's made but not always going the right way about making amends. And one of the people he needs to make amends to is the heroine, Jen O'Keefe.

Jen's the hometown girl, sweet with a bit of spunk and in some ways clear eyes when it comes to seeing Andrew. Of course clarity really isn't much of a defence against first love. She used to own the town bakery, until a brand new grocery store was built and put her out of business. And while Andrew has a plan to rescue her as well as his horses, she has no intention of being rescued at all.

I think there is lots of potential for heartstrings moments as well as some spark, and I'm looking forward to diving in. For now - here's my casting:




Celebrations and polite kids

Today there's a post up at the Harlequin Romance Author blog to celebrate Jessica Hart's 50th book, out this month. Pop over and have a read and offer your congratulations...

On a personal note her RITA award-winning book Christmas Eve Marriage was one of the ones I read when I first started writing and stood out as a shining example of what I wanted to write. I'm still really humbled to be able to call her a writing friend and am so happy for her.

Another thing that struck me yesterday...kids around here are polite...at least the ones I've met. Two birthday party incidents have stuck out. The first, my youngest went to a few weeks ago. They had scads of fun but he didn't open his prezzies until after everyone had gone home. The next week at school, a homemade thank you card came home, thanking her by name for the present (again by name) and included pictures of all the kids. It was nice, you know?

Then my eldest was invited to a party on the weekend but she was at camp, so she bought her friend a book anyway and gave it to her Friday at school. Yesterday she came home with a treat bag - her friend had saved her one even though she hadn't attended the party.

I think both incidents, though small, were really nice.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Research and Irony


I recently visited Bear Valley Rescue Ranch to do research for my next book. The owners, Mike and Kathy, invited me after I'd e-mailed and so on a gorgeous fall day I made my way there - in the heart of one of my favourite areas of Alberta.

Kathy works a day job so Mike was there to show me around (along with a couple that went with me) and meet the animals. This is a home for more than just horses, though they do make up the majority of the "family". I say family because everyone has a name or, in the case of Mike, everyone is "sweetie". I lost count of cats, saw at least 3 dogs, several chickens, 2 geese we immediately realized were the MP's of the barnyard, and turkeys. There are also five pigs. I'm not particularly a pig person but I did find their antics funny. Mike assured us that no resident ever finds itself on their table.

We met lots of horses - including a brand new foal, four new additions and a couple of old girls with no teeth. The whole place is on 40 acres surrounded by woods, making you feel like you're in a world away from everything else. I rubbed a lot of noses while Mike and I talked.

When we were on our way out, we stopped at a quarter section across from them, where they pasture most of the herd. It's donated land, and it's gorgeous. I came away with so many ideas it was crazy, and I'm really looking forward to writing this book.

I have to mention that the bulk of Bear Valley horses come from those destined for slaughter. I won't go into all the details of the horse slaughter industry here in Canada, to do that visit their web site and you can read for yourself. But on Friday there was a crash in Calgary - a trailer of horses overturned.

Twelve horses died in the crash - either at the scene or in later euthanasia. There is lots of talk about how wonderful people were who stopped to help, and they were. They put up a pen, helped get the other horses out, and yes, it's a feel-good story.

Except.

Except the horses were on their way to their own death anyway. They were off to a slaughterhouse. I think what strikes me is the irony. All these people came out to help when there's trouble. It became a major news story. But the fact that they were destined for slaughter - no one gives a damn. It makes me shake my head.

That's about as political as I dare to get today...and I haven't made my word count either, so I'm off.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Booksigning


I'm back and have a few pics of the signing on Friday...including meeting an e-harl denizen that was a bit of a thrill for me and then a group photo of all the authors signing. The first of me is awful - eyes closed. But from left to right - Cara Colter, me, "Kaelee", and CJ Carmichael.


Then the group photo: Front is Rebecca York and Vivi Anna, and in the back, CJ Carmichael, Cara Colter, me, and Pamela Yaye.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Squishy moment

My husband got me a card yesterday.

Before I tell you what it says, I have to tell you about my new favourite song. It's "Gotta Be Somebody" by Nickelback, off their upcoming album. I love it. I love how it's a "drive on the highway with the windows down" kind of song, I love the beat, I love the words. Believe it or not, Nickelback has put into a rock song what I feel about writing romance. So we listened to it several times on the way to and from Thanksgiving with the outlaws.

So on the inside of the card, he simply wrote, "You're my gotta be someone".

AWWWWWWWWW.

:-)

To listen to it, here's a youtube clip.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Anniversary

I'm over at Tote Bags n Blogs talking about the dh's and my anniversary today. 13 years ago we were married...it's hard to believe in some ways. I could probably start feeling old except I spent the majority of the day at the spa getting a facial, manicure, pedicure and massage. Can we say HEAVEN people???? Ahhhhhhhh......

However life with Girl Guide meetings and empty pantries intrudes, so the rest of the day is going to be OMG crazy. It started out so nicely though - my sister dropped in for an overnight stay, we walked this morning and had breakfast before we both headed off to our pursuits.

Anyway for now I'm off...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall Colours

We're back and my week is already getting away with me...what the heck! But I thought I'd post a few pics I took yesterday when we were in the Cocagne/Notre Dame area in New Brunswick.





Saturday, October 11, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Even though our initial plans fell through for the weekend, tomorrow at noon approximately 20 of us will be stuffing ourselves with turkey and various other yummies at my in-laws. It will be boisterous and loud and wonderful, and Monday we'll be back home for a few last hours of R&R before launching into another crazy week.

I have made coleslaw, have the fixings for a spinach and cranberry salad in the fridge, have cranberry sauce ready to go and 2 large apple pies.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Heroes, present and future

I have several projects cooking right now - one about 1/3 through, another I'm starting this week, and the partner to that one bubbling around in my brain. Then there's a future duet that popped into my head this week that I'd like to put on the back burner for now...and all of these stories have come with heroes almost pre-cast.

So I thought I'd have some fun, and give you working titles and pics of my heroes present and future.

First - from Sold to the Highest Bidder - Dev McQuade

Then, from Rescued By The Rancher - Andrew Laramie

From Captured by the Cowboy - Ryan Laramie



and from a book wayyyy in the future.... The Prince and the Nanny - Diego Navarro


There, that should do!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Peace and quiet

You know when we lived in the city, I used to live for days when we'd jump in the car and drive to the mountains or a park and spend some time around trees and water and the wind and what have you. I somehow just NEEDED to get away from traffic and noise and that closed in feeling. As I was walking the dog this morning, coming down our street, I realized I now have this every day, and how lucky I am. The air is chilly, the sky blue, the leaves really starting to turn, and I could hear the wind rustling through them instead of sirens and horns.

We went to a nearby provincial park the other day which is now closed to traffic, but people park outside and walk the trails. Here's a picture...and an example of what I get to see pretty much every single day.


It's not much wonder that while I'm busier than ever, I'm also happier. :-)

Now back to work for me.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Heartstrings

Part of my to-do list today was research. In an effort to put a twist on a rancher story, I have a veterinarian starting up a rescue ranch. My good friend Trish Wylie, who has vast experience with horses, warned me I would become emotional.

She was right.

I found the bit of reading I did today very heartbreaking. And while I don't believe my book should be a soapbox, what I'm learning about the slaughter industry, about Canada's lack of response in stopping it, and what is happening, is truly mind-blowing.

Next week I'm visiting a rescue ranch in Alberta as part of my research. And the more I read and research, the more proud I am of my hero, for making a life-altering change on his way back to Larch Valley. Of course in my mind, Andrew Laramie was always a good guy. But now...researching more into the choice he's made...well, it says a lot about him. And it says a lot about how he's going to treat the heroine.

If you're interested in reading at all about what brought me to tears today, go to these 2 links, read what they have to say, and look at the pictures.

http://blog.rogersbroadcasting.com/gross/2008/08/20/5/

http://www.bearvalleyab.org/index2.html

Booksigning

Next Friday, October 17, I'm signing copies of Falling for Mr. Dark and Dangerous in Calgary. The venue is the Dalhousie Station Chapters/Indigo and it runs from 4-6 p.m. There are going to be lots of authors there: Rebecca York, CJ Carmichael, Vivi Anna, Pamela Yaye, and Cara Colter.

Pop by if you have a chance and say hi!

The new spotlight is up on the Harlequin Romance Author Blog - and this month we shine it on Aussie author Ally Blake.

At some point, I'm actually going to be able to find time to read again. Not sure when, but I hope it's soon. Worst case scenario is that I read on the flights next week. Now I'm off to tackle more of the to-do list.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Whizzing by

I can't believe how fast time is whizzing by. I have a long to-do list STILL, I've realized how time consuming painting woodwork is, and I'm updating my website today with the latest news, and that includes my monthly contest.

This month visit my webpage and find the names of the hero and heroine from The Rancher's Runaway Princess. E-mail them to me at donna@donnaalward.com and at the end of the month I'll draw for an advanced signed copy!

Right...now back to that to-do list. I PROMISE I'll have something more interesting later this week...once I've stuck my head out of the organizational cave again.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Quick posting

I just realized I hadn't posted since Wednesday, which is a little unusual for me. Between painting and cleaning and having company, it's been a bit hectic, but fun. But I am going to be very busy for a few weeks so I'll try to keep posting regularly. The just might be really SHORT posts.

One thing to look for is a new newsletter sometime in the next week as well as an update on my webpage. I'm also doing some research for my new ROMANCE that I need to get started, as well as a bunch of promo 2009 stuff and trying to tinker with my "fun" story. Added in kids and commitments and I'm really running on a constant to-do list.

But stay tuned as things get crossed off one by one...as my new contest news should be up very soon.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Contest Winner

I'm in a flurry of home improvements this week - taking advantage of Mr. Muscle being home and we're painting and building and gardening. But it IS October 1 and that means my September contest is over.

The winner this time is Cynthya Petzen. Cynthya please e-mail me your mailing address so I can put your prize in the mail!

Now I'm off to start painting woodwork....hopefully the whole to-do list will get finished before company arrives on Friday.....