Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hiatus

I'm going to be cave dwelling. Seriously, seriously cave dwelling for the next while. So the blog will be quiet until Dec 1 when we start the 12 days of Christmas!

Please come back then for the spotlight on Rebecca York and your first chance to win the prize pack. There are at least 15 books in the Christmas Box not to mention other random author goodies. It's not to be missed.

Until then, I'm taking my flashlight and heading into the cave.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Judging



I've been hearing some buzz lately about judging for the RWA RITA and Golden Heart contests. I'll be honest, most of it I ignore...or at least the negative part. I think there are a lot of pluses to judging and one of the first things I did when I joined RWA was sign up. As a PAN member I would judge even if I didn't enter.

But I did enter and so one of the reasons I judge is because if I expect someone to read my books, the least I can do is return the favour.

Also, what other chance do you have to be guaranteed anywhere from 5-8 free books in the genre/subgenre of your choice?

Duty, and fiscally sound. Well, that's a good start. FWIW the retail for the books would cover my entry fee for a book, so yay!

Then there's the added bonus of being able to discover new favourite authors. That happened to me last year, and I ended up with several of this author's backlist in my tbr. Making new discoveries is fun.

As a writer, it's also beneficial to read outside of one's subgenre. I'm a short contemporary author, so it's really neat to read longer formats, shorter formats, historicals, suspense, paranormal...more than just for the enjoyment, but to stretch my own writing by seeing what works in other kinds of writing, and simply LEARNING from people who are great writers - or even not so great.

I think everyone who is eligible to judge SHOULD. I know I'm very appreciative of those writers who will be taking their time to read my books this year. I just hope that the ones I've entered resonate with them in some way.
Oh...and today I'm blogging at the Pink Heart Society with a freakin' amazing Christmas wishlist. It's all destined to remain wishes, but I had fun putting it together.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Exciting Holiday plans!


It's that time of year again - for my TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS contest! This year is bigger and better than ever, because some very special friends are joining in. I've been sitting on this news for A MONTH and it's been killing me - I'm SO excited!

Starting on DECEMBER 1, each day my blog here and at eharlequin will be highlighting a different author and book. These amazing authors have all contributed books to my Christmas box...and one lucky winner will get ALL of them. It's going to be a wonderful prize!

How it will happen is this...readers can enter a maximum of once per day, by giving a holiday clue from the post in their e-mail. (Only one e-mail per IP address please). At the end of the 12 days I'll be putting together all the entries, and on Friday, December 14, I'll be announcing the winner!



You are NOT going to want to miss this. The retail value of this prize alone is over $100. Immediately after drawing, the box will go in the mail so hopefully it will land in the winner's mailbox in time for Christmas.

So remember - December 1, my blog, where you can read about my first featured author: Rebecca York!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Snow, Power Outages, and Number 53.

It was miserable yesterday, cold and rainy and just uck. But then, after the kids got home from school, it started snowing. And blowing. The fact that it started sticking was a surprise, after all the rain we'd had. After supper, the power flickered, but then seemed okay. Until 7:45, when everything went black. And stayed that way!

I lit a few candles and sparked up the gas fireplace, took a flashlight and got out the hurricane lamps and lit those. I read to the kids by lamplight and then tucked them in with their fuzziest jammies and an extra blanket in their very dark rooms. I read for a little while, folded a load of laundry in the semi-dark, and went to bed at 9:30.

At 12:15 the power came on - for all of 30 seconds. I woke up immediately as the television came on (which is weird, I thought it would stay off) and I came downstairs to turn it off. I did. And it went black. And I hadn't brought my flashlight! LOL

So back up to bed until 6 a.m., which is when the phone line also went down because when that happens the alarm system beeps out a notification that says "Hey, dummy. Your phone's out" every 20 seconds.

The kids got in bed with me (yes, hubba bubba out of town until tonight) and we got up around 7 and turned on the radio. School is ON. So we turned on the fireplace again, lit the lamps, and had breakfast until it got light enough out to have decent light in the kitchen. Then just as we were putting our coats and boots on, the power came back on, huzzah! If it hadn't been back on by now, I would have turned on the generator simply to power the fridge and freezer. I'm glad I didn't have to!

This is out my office window shortly after 7 this morning


I should have been finishing chapter four yesterday, but instead I read - e-cover to e-cover - Donald Maass's The Career Novelist.


Review: My CP recommended this book a long time ago but it was impossible to find. But this fall Donald Maass offered it for FREE as a pdf download on his agency site and I jumped at it. I have to admit, I put writing aside to read it - ALL OF IT - yesterday.

The last chapters were more of a skim for me as some of the information is outdated - the book was published in the 90's so some of the market bits were not quite as relevant as they might have been. But the beginning chapters were FANTASTIC and I think anyone who really wants a career in this business should give it a look. For one, it made me feel confident in the desire to not just be published but to make this a career and a successful one. It also made me look at my motives and way of thinking in relation to where I want to go, and what sort of agent I'm going to want when the time comes.

The book is free, you've got nothing to lose and lots to gain. It can be downloaded at http://www.themaassagency.com/.


Right - I really should finish this chapter now as when it's done I need to clean the house and prepare for company tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book Blog - NUMBER 52!!!!!!

I reached my personal goal of 52 books today. I figured one a week was reasonable factoring in deadlines and moving and whatever other crazy stuff life throws my way. But now it looks like I'm going to surpass that goal...and now I'm aiming for 60 by the end of the year.

The book that was number 52 is also by the author of my favourite book of the year - Julianne MacLean. I read Surrender to a Scoundrel in nearly one sitting (I had to feed my family) late last winter and I've had more of hers in my tbr. Number 52 was An Affair Most Wicked from the same series and it was wonderful. An Affair Most Wicked is part of MacLean's American Heiress Series published by Avon.

It follows the story of Clara, an impulsive, generous, and unconventional American in London, staying with her sister Sophia (from To Marry The Duke). An accident of invitations puts her and her chaperone at a very inappropriate ball where she meets Seger, the Marquess of Rawdon - also extremely inappropriate as husband material.

Sparks fly, the sex is HOT and the pages turned very quickly. It's always a good sign when a reader says "Just this chapter" and inevitably starts another. Clara's a loveable heroine and Seger a sexy, bad-boy with a good-heart hero. There's also a great twist at the end. It's not often I get so caught up in a book that I read like a reader and not a writer, but I've done so with both of MacLean's books I've read this year.

Not since reading the historicals of Judith McNaught have I been so taken with the ton. MacLean blends it all with a great sense of wit that I love. I laughed out loud when Clara is having to put up with Seger's cousin and she has the thought I am going to blow a gasket.
FABULOUS and there are more of hers in my TBR, yippee!

I think next year I'll aim for one hundred. I do know that moving across the country put a big dip in my reading time what with selling the house, packing, moving, renovating and unpacking. Surely I can add a few extra books to what I managed this year!

Currently reading: The Career Novelist, Donald Maass; Hell or High Water, Lance Goddard - about the Canadians in Italy in WWII.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Charlotte Gray


I have yet another reel review - last night after kids were asleep and I finished up some odds and ends, I put on Charlotte Gray which was on my DVR. So two nights of Rupert Penry Jones which isn't a bad way to start off the week. :-)

I love WWII movies and this was pretty good...not wow but there are definitely bits that will stay in my mind and be played over and over again later. At times there seemed to be gaps, where I sensed there were deeper motivations behind Charlotte's eyes. I wanted to know WHY she'd fall for the handsome, boyish aviator (beyond the fact that he was, handsome, boyish, and a pilot). I absolutely believed in her wanting to go to France as a spy - because she felt strongly for the cause but even more because she had heard that Peter had gone down over France. But I was puzzled why she didn't work harder at finding Peter. I understood she got embroiled in the local situation, but there was really only one reference to her being torn between Julien, the local resistance leader, and her MIA lover (and you can understand the attraction of him in his uniform - and without it). Now I wonder if those missing pieces were present in the book and simply didn't make it into the movie.

Michael Gambon was amazing as usual and totally believable. An old crusty frenchman with a clear eye to his faults and a good heart beneath it all - and one that was quite fond of Charlotte. Billy Crudup as Julien was lovely. And FWIW I understood why she went back to him in the end instead of being with Peter. Peter was too pretty. And when he told her in the beginning that war changed people, she realized in the end it was true. It had changed her, and had shown her where her heart truly lay.

The movie was good but with a few added elements could have really been a sweeping drama.

Up tomorrow - A book blog as I only have 100 pages left and that's just because it was getting wayyyy too late last night to finish it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reel Review: Pullman vs. Austen

This post contains spoilers.

I've been watching less TV but more movies and as you've probably noticed a lot of my movie watching ends up being courtesy of Masterpiece theatre.

I recently watched two Sally Lockhart mysteries and liked them a lot. Right up until 2/3 through The Shadow in the North and then I had much the same feeling as I did at the end of the Golden Compass (also originally by Pullman). It was a "WHAT????" moment.

Maybe it's the romance author in me. But there is something fundamentally wrong when you kill the hero of TWO movies 2/3 of the way through the second one. DEAD DEAD DEAD. I was horrified. Even a Princess Bride-ish "mostly dead" would have been fine. And the feeble attempt for a satisfying ending with the baby nursery fell completely flat for me. The endings of both this movie and The Golden Compass ruined the experience for me...too bad since I enjoyed The Ruby in the Smoke immensely (the first one) and was really looking forward to the developing relationship between Sally and Fred.

My other movie watch was Persuasion, the latest version of the Austen novel. Persuasion was one of my favourites of hers. Anne is an interesting heroine. Very rarely do I equally want to slap and hug a heroine. I get so angry with her for being passive, but at the same time my heart aches for her because I know she loves so deeply.

Rupert Penry-Jones (Spooks) is FANTASTIC. Loved him lots. Some of the other characters were forgettable (or should have been, her sister in law Mary was nuts and I wanted to slap her too) with one or two standing out - like her cousin Mr. Elliot who was played by Tobias Menzies (Brutus in Rome). Not as brill as other Austen adaptations I've seen, but quite enjoyable nonetheless.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Book Blog and Christmas

My mum is visiting next week which means I need to finish my shopping for my family that lives in her area in order to save on postage costs. So this morning I'm heading out to do what I hope will be the bulk of the holiday shopping I have left for everyone other than my husband and girls. I'm then spending an hour or so at the school volunteering and back home to hopefully go over the third chapter I got back from my CP.

I did finish a book yesterday and my review's pretty short as I have to be out the door in five minutes and I still have to brush my teeth and dry my hair! LOL.

I read a book that's been in my TBR for a while: Inferno by Vivi Anna.

Inferno picks up where Hell Kat left off...only this time we see a kinder, gentler Kat despite the fact that she's got the Dark Dweller virus running through her veins. It was a little odd, seeing Kat be so sentimental, but the story pace was fast and furious like everything I've read of Vivi's and exciting enough to keep me turning the pages to read it quickly.

Have a good weekend all!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Progress

I wrote well over 2k yesterday, which has put me over the 10k mark, and past 20%. That's a really, really good feeling. Lots of book to go, but a really good start.

I am loving the 2 songs I've picked - or I should say, they picked me - for this book. Both are by Josh Groban and both are on his "With You" CD that was released by Hallmark for Valentine's Day.

WITH YOU is my hero's song, and the lyrics really seem to fit. Have a listen:



The next song is my heroine, Jen's, and I already have a pivotal scene in my head because of it:



Here's hoping I continue to be inspired right through to the end!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wednesday

Today I have an interruption free day to write. I've already done about 1500 words on chapter three, and am going to have a break to make some lunch and throw a load of laundry in the washer. I am totally allowing myself to write crap...and giving myself permission to then simply fix it. I am determined not to stress any more on this book. That's not to say I won't reach a point where I will, but for now, increasing my word count and trusting my characters means progress, and that's the name of the game. Tweaking and layering is where it's at!

Yesterday I meant to work (and I did squeeze in about an hour and a half last night after the kids went to bed), but Remembrance Day ceremonies took up most of the morning, and in the afternoon we went to the park with the kids, dogs, and neighbours. It was great, we let the dogs off-leash and they ran and ran and ran. Then they had a swim....brrr, but the dogs loved it. Let me tell you, our pampered pooch was SO tired last night. After the park we had leftover birthday cake at the neighbours.

It was a fun day, and the fresh air was a definite bonus, so I don't feel too badly about it. All I gave up was tv time last night which is no big deal.

Right - lunch and laundry. :-)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I Believe

I'm blogging over at Cataromance today about my beliefs and how they translate into my books.

We're off to Remembrance Day ceremonies this morning, and then coming home and puttering.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Catching up

I didn't do a lick of work on Friday. The bug that sidelined both my kids caught up with me and by Friday afternoon I was flaked out on the couch. I slept so much between Friday afternoon and Saturday night that I shouldn't ever be tired again. Then my niece was here this afternoon, so tonight has been the first chance I've had to catch up. ACK!

One of the things I'm going to catch up on is a couple of books I read for the Book Blog. It took me longer than it should have for Kate's, being that I would get about four pages in and keep falling asleep - totally the fault of nefarious virus and not the book, as you'll soon see.

Anyway, without further ado:

Bedded By The Greek Billionaire - Kate Walker

There is a reason why this book is getting Kate such lovely reviews. It might be my favourite of hers so far. I found the pacing so tight, and really the word that comes to mind for the whole thing is "sweeping". Sweeping drama, sweeping love story....it just pulls you along to the end in a grand fashion.

I remember her fretting while writing The Black Angel (the hero) but I loved him...and loved him lots. He is what I think Presents heroes should be...that tough alpha exterior with a backstory that makes him sympathetic and enough tenderness to make him meltworthy.

And the other really great read last week? The Magnate's Indecent Proposal by Ally Blake.

The four best words to describe this book?

Slick, sassy, sexy, and sensational.

WOW, and I mean wow. Not very often does a book grab hold of me and beg me to finish it, but this one did. So much that I nearly remembered everything I needed to but forgot the clothes for the fashion show my youngest was supposed to participate in at Brownies. I felt like the world's worst mother. I seriously finished a chapter and herded them out the door to parent-teacher interviews and onwards.

Damien is HOT, and Chelsea is lovely and you want them to be together from start to finish. Beautifully emotional, slightly naughty, and very, very satisfying.

Thanks Ally for the great read!

I hope to be back tomorrow or Tuesday with more posts, but I'm a wee bit behind so it will totally depend on the productivity level. Tomorrow is a Remembrance Day assembly and then birthday celebrations for a friend, and Tuesday is a holiday for Remembrance Day, and I'll be over at www.cataromance.com blogging about how my beliefs translate into my books.

Until then...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Blogland

I'm over at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs today with a post about DIY (Do It Yourself). Pop on over to the insanity.

The bug that afflicted my kids the last week or so is now bugging me, so I'm a little slow on the draw today. It's a little rainy too, so it might just be a day to pick up a book and lay around.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

My Muse is Back in the Building

I don't usually talk about muses as concrete beings that come and go. And if the writing isn't going well, it's usually because there is something wrong with the story itself, and that once I make the connection it all runs freely again.

But the last few months have been different. I definitely felt like I was "writing into the mist" with my Christmas novella, unsure of myself, of what I was doing, if what I had done worked (sometimes it did, sometimes it didn't and my editor's discerning eye told me which was which). Briefly the old muse returned as I raced through the front third of a totally different story than the one I was scheduled to write. It was fun and I had a blast working on it...but I've had to put it aside briefly to get to work on the first of my rancher duet.

I was even excited to get to work on this story. And then my muse went on vacation. I'd say she went to Sorrento with my critique partner Michelle, only Michelle was only gone a week and my muse has been flitting about for longer than that. I started this silly story three times, finally thinking I might have started in the right place with number three. And I sent it to my CP.

Well. The letter that came back was wild...the gist being, what the heck is wrong with you and do I need to call? I'm worried. (See, this is why I love my cp). Ok...number three in the trash heap.

So maybe what my muse needed (and me too) is Michelle's very firm boot up her arse. I know why the first attempts failed, all three were for different reasons and reason number three was the worst of them all. So I opened a new document. I'd read a couple of posts lately on opening lines and I thought, I need something meaningful. I changed my font, double spaced my document, and wrote CHAPTER ONE.

Beneath it, I wrote "There were times in life you either had to go big, or go broke."

In that one sentence, my confidence came back with a rush. I could either shut myself away and be negative, or I could come out swinging. I've always preferred the swinging end of things. Suddenly questions Michelle had asked were answered with some clarity. Suddenly I had characters who were acting.

Today I found a couple of songs too...the way songs come to me for books is random and usually out of the blue...not sure why I thought of Josh Groban, but I found a youtube clip of a song not on his main albums and ended up finding two songs that just spoke to me. I LOVE it when that happens...and it usually does, if I wait for it.

Between yesterday and today I've written chapter one and the start of chapter two.

And I'm excited.

And I love my heroine.

And I love my hero.

The muse is back in the building!

I'm so relieved.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

US Elections

Today the world is celebrating a historic event: The first african-american President in the White House.

I don't remember an election ever getting so much interest here north of the border, or even south of the better. Voter turnout speaks for itself.

I was very impressed with McCain's concession speech. He was gracious and patriotic.

But I will admit - I cried when I watched THIS...

Today, despite not being an American, I'm damned proud of democracy.

Change is here.

Monday, November 03, 2008

First of the Month Housekeeping...

It's the first Monday of the month, which means housekeeping...not of my house, that happens every Saturday. Nope, it's time for web page updates and contest winners, etc.

October's contest winner is Anita Yancey who correctly said the hero and heroine's name from The Rancher's Runaway Princess are Brody Hamilton and Lucy Farnsworth. Anita gets a hot-off-the-press copy of the book - it hasn't even arrived HERE yet but I expect the box any day and will be mailing her copy straight afterwards.

My webpage is being updated this morning. I did some major things to it over the month, so hopefully in about an hour from now it should be good to go. Pop over and see what's new! I'm also sending out my monthly newsletter...so if you're on board, it should be arriving in your inboxes later today. If not, you can always sign up! It's easy - just look over on my sidebar where you can enter your name and E-mail address.

This is the time when I normally announce a contest for the month, but I'm not for November. I know, I know. BUT the reason being is that I have a FABULOUS contest on the way for December and I'm in the midst of planning for it. I'm very excited and will have more details on the blog later this month.

In the meantime, happy reading and writing!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Family Time...

Had a great weekend, though I have quickly realized the folly of crantinis. Last night we had friends over for nibblies that were so good - the dh made his hot wings, we made sweet potato fries, some puff pastry hors d'oeuvres, dry garlic pork, and tortilla chips with dip. The boys sparked up the margarita machine and I had the shaker making crantinis. But it was a good time!

Before they came over, I spent a few hours with the kids making christmas ornaments. We make them every year, buy the kits at the craft store, get out the wire cutters and pliers and get going. We really enjoy it and give many of them away, but we always keep one of each design for inclusion on our tree...we are getting to have quite a collection of homemade ornaments.


And today I had a writer's group meeting, but before that, the family sat down and watched The Golden Compass.

My review is going to be short. Basically...loved it all the way through - great characters, twists that kept me guessing, but completely lacking the payoff in the end. I know the intention was to make sequels all that are up in the air for the moment. But the movie didn't end. It's okay to leave a thread or two unsolved but not this many and not this big. My mouth fell open and I yelled, "That's IT?" I was mad. I felt so cheated.

So shame on you, Golden Compass makers who didn't make a standalone film with a satisfying ending.


The other thing I did last week was read Cara Colter's latest Harlequin Romance. It's the first of hers I've read and it definitely won't be the last. Her Royal Wedding Wish had mystery, great characters, and I want to e-mail her now and ask if she watches THE UNIT, because the hero is a special forces soldier and I ate it up with a spoon. It was a GREAT read, with a spunky heroine and a sexy guy I could definitely fall for. I met Cara a few weeks ago when we sat together at a book signing. She's super-nice and so I'm doubly glad I enjoyed her book so very much.

Right - I'm pooped, knackered, tuckered out and various other forms of fatigue, so I'm going to read a bit and then hit the hay.