Wednesday, September 30, 2009
For those who missed it, everyone who entered had to tell me their favourite holiday tradition. I had over 100 entries and I had so much fun reading them! I nodded my head with ones that we do the same, laughed over some, and got some fantastic ideas for new traditions, and even books from others. Thank you, thank you to everyone who entered. It was more fun than I expected - a lovely gift.
Selina's entry was one of those that made me laugh and with her permission, I'm going to share it with you today.
My favorite tradition would have to be the adding of an additional ornament. My husband and I add one new ornament each year to signify a special event for us that year. For example, an Atlanta Braves (hubby's favorite team) ornament was added when they won the World Series that year. Each ornament is dated and decorating the tree is such a fun stroll down memory lane for us.
I must mention, one year in the early 80's was particularly uneventful...with the exception of one bone-headed stunt I pulled. Being from the north, but living in the south at the time, I was unfamiliar with natural gas heaters. They are almost like small space heaters in each room with a gas line running to each. There are ceramic grates in the front with flames shooting up behind them. I had never seen open flames like this in home before except in a fireplace. My husband explained, "The trick is to back your rear end up to the unit and lift your shirt or nightgown outward to allow the heat to flow up your clothing and get you all toasty." It worked and I actually began to enjoy this little ritual we had. However, one very cold night, I backed too close and wasn't paying any attention. Next thing I knew my husband grabbed a nearby blanket and threw it over me and rolled me on the floor. Yes, I'd lit myself on fire and didn't even know it. It completely took out the back of my gown and singed the entire top layer of my hair in the back. Fortunately, I wasn't burned at all.
About a month later, I was at a loss for a new yearly ornament. One evening my hubby came home with the most adorable ornament of a little girl polar bear backing her little white fuzzy tail over a fire and there's a little spark starting to smoke on the tip, but she is smiling and unaware. I laughed my head off. Perfect!
Congratulations Selina! Your prize is going in the mail later this week.
October 1 also marks the day when the November books go on sale at the Mills and Boon site and Eharlequin - both in print and e-book. That means you can order them - or download them - now. Today. And Montana, Mistletoe, Marriage is there for the reading. Click on the M&B widget and you can get a sneak peek.
When I look outside, the colourful leaves and green grass make Christmas feel a long way away, but the cool nights and shorter days kind of get me into the right frame of mind, you know?
There is a great prize pack of books up for grabs for one lucky commenter, so don't miss out on your chance to come over and party with us.
It is the end of the month, which means time for newsletters and website updates and contest announcements! I'm very excited. Be on the lookout over the next few days.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
There is a wonderful tribute by Sarah over at SBTB.
I subbed to Kate once, when I was still unpublished. That letter is in my rejection file, but I remember clearly reading it and telling my CP that Kate Duffy had said I could write.
Sunday, September 27, 2009
We finally won a game on Friday night, after a number of tight scores but somehow with us on the bottom. Last night we played with neighbours as well so it meant three pairs and three decks of cards. Crazy. Our team won that one too, but most of all we had so much fun I think we kept the kids awake.
It's been a crazy weekend - Friday we went to the Annapolis Valley. It was rainy and cold so we didn't pick apples, we ended up buying at a market. Along with cranberries and some other goodies. We went to two wineries, one cheese farm (yum) and walked the beach at Scots Bay.
Then yesterday we went to Peggy's Cove and Mahone Bay. The weather was stunning. Simply gorgeous. We stopped for dinner on the way home and shortly after getting back our neighbours came over.
Today is low-key - I think we're going to church this morning, kids are doing homework this afternoon and dinner is courtesy of "Grandma" as we've all requested she make her stuffed pork chops.
I will be working more this coming week, as I think our guests are slipping off for a few days to do some real touring. I think the idea is for them to be back on the weekend so we can do stuff together.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I'm hoping that the end of the week holds some apple picking and sightseeing opportunities. Both the kids and the husband are off on Friday, so we have a three day weekend to tote around.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Listening to: Michael Buble - Call Me Irresponsible
Reading: Do you have to ask???? Making progress though...
Today is odd jobs day. We have company coming tomorrow, which means today is laundry, maybe making my garden slightly more appealing, and tomorrow is cleaning before they arrive.
It also means me sending my partial off to my editor (working on the synop now). And putting the finishing touches on an interview. And sending off a few info type e-mails. And wondering where the heck my new printer is. It is hopefully shipping today. It was supposed to be 24 hours. But since I ordered it on Friday, I am thinking that's 1 business day, right?
But I hope it's soon.
The day got off to a dodgy start - we didn't wake up until 7:30. We leave for the bus at 8. I don't know why my alarm didn't go off, but we did make it. It was a bit busy though, doing the do you have everything check. Lunch - homework signed - fundraiser sheets - hot lunch orders - and for my eldest - clarinet and book for band today.
But I think we got everything.
Now I'm off to grit my teeth and fine tune my synopsis.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I suppose I should finish the mittens I have on my needles first though, right? and we're not going to talk about the cross stitch ornaments in my craft box...
Friday, September 18, 2009
Listening to: Katharine McPhee
Reading: STILL the Inn at Eagle Point
This week has been, as Kate Hardy would say, "a bit pants" for reading. I've barely had time to crack a book and when I do it's 20 or 30 pages. So I'm STILL reading The Inn at Eagle Point. I hope to finish it this weekend.
The flip side of that is that the new book is going well, and so some of the time I would be reading I've spent writing.
I did hit a glitch though. My printer has crapped out. Now, I love this printer but it's one downside is that it has a permanent print head. One print head went bust last year when it was still under warranty. This time it's not and to replace it....well, I've just ordered a new printer. Which is asinine. How 2 print heads alone add up to more than the replacement cost of the printer is beyond me. And I NEED a printer. Heck, even the eldest had to print something for school yesterday and the colour portion printed but it wasn't as vivid as it should have been (it's the black print head that's gone). Print straight text and the sheet comes out blank.
Anyway I'm going to have a bite of something and then get back to the book. I did realize a few places that need revising in the opening 2 chapters, but it won't be hard changes and I think the opening will be the stronger for it. It is better to see it now, because my editor would surely see it.
That reminds me of another Bickham point, and so maybe I'll visit that on Monday. Otherwise - have a good weekend. I'm hanging out with the kids and probably sneaking in a bit of work.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
The other thing is most of my books usually have a theme song or two. And this is harder, because it's not always readily apparent. I don't often know it's the right song until I hear it. But I don't worry about it, because at some point, it ALWAYS comes to me. And bingo! Today I found it. I shed tears...scenes started playing behind my eyes just like a movie. I love it when that happens. It also helped me solidify conflicts and themes....lovely. I can even take it and make it into a duet...which words fit which character.
Anyway I am sure another song or three will pop up over the next few weeks, but for now, have a listen and enjoy.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Listening to: Most Relaxing Chamber music album in the world - ever! (Ever after known as "chamber music" LOL)
Reading: The Inn at Eagle Point and The Writer's Journey
Michelle has blogged today a bit on Gladwell's Outliers, which I reviewed last month. I was reading her blog today and nodding my head - I think we're of similar opinions.
One thing about it though is the consolation that one doesn't need to be a genius to succeed. Nor does he/she need to be particularly privileged. What you really need to do is work very hard, perhaps for a very long time. And you need to sieze opportunities, even when they are in disguise as setbacks or road blocks. Turning things to your own advantage is really key. The examples in the book demonstrate this well - how attitude truly affects outcome.
I was reminded today about my school days, in particular elementary and junior high years as I was in a small school and had the same classmates year after year (not so much in high school). I had a reputation of being one of the smart ones. I was very popular come test and project time, not so much on a regular basis. At home, it was simply expected that I would do well.
But I will confess it did not come easily, nor am I a genius. Some things were not so difficult, like reading, because I was a keen reader from an early age. But general school work was WORK. It didn't come without study. And at times, a lot of it. I guess in some ways I learned that self-discipline early on. And I enjoyed learning.
But I had to work hard. Especially in high school and university. I suppose, though, that paid off because I also had to work hard to be published AND it's even harder work staying published.
That brings me to Bickham's 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes and his fourth point - DON'T EXPECT MIRACLES.
My sister once told me that all my rejected mss were like doing my internship before I could become a "real" doctor. Oddly enough, Bickham uses a similar analogy in his fourth point - comparing learning to be a doctor and learning to be a professional writer. He says that writing may "become an art, but only by first being consummate craft." How do you learn craft? See Outliers and Gladwell's 10,000 hours theory.
What I really loved about this was his positive take on it. He says "Why should that be such bad news? If the task were easy, everybody in the world would be a writer, and your achievement would mean little." He also says it's worth the time you put into it. If you persevere, chances are good you will be successful. If you're in the game for quick money and fame, you're pretty certain to fail.
All of us want that response at the end of the day to be "We want to buy your book" instead of "not right for us" or whatever terminology happens to be in that letter. And yet, if we're looking at things as opportunities, each rejection is an opportunity for us to try again, to do it better, to learn something new, to become masters of our craft.
His penultimate point, number 37, is titled DON'T GIVE UP. There are myriad excuses we can come up with, that old negative vs. positive thing. It boils down to this: "Optimists - doers - have a chance. Pessimists - who do nothing - spend all their time defining the nature of their failure, sometimes even before it takes place." He also says that as long as you are working towards the goal, you're still in it (that old in it to win it bit, right?). "Your quest cannot be lost unless YOU choose to throw in the white towel."
We all get discouraged, struggle to keep faith in ourselves and our abilities, wonder if it's worth it. If a writer tells you otherwise, don't believe them. And if they mean it, well, see Bickham's point number 2, DON'T CONSIDER YOURSELF TOO SMART. It's only in our doubt that we strive to be better. And only in striving that we learn the craft. You're in good company. What binds the published author to those on the quest is simply the common task of putting hands to the keyboard and writing.
Monday, September 14, 2009
Listening to: Haydn - String Quartet in B flat
Reading: The Inn At Eagle Point
It was quite an eventful weekend. My husband got home on Saturday morning and went to bed for a few hours - not much sleep on the red-eye. We got up in the afternoon, dropped one kid off for a play date and then went to get groceries. Picked up kid and put stuff away and at this point I was still fighting the headache. Yuck. Anyway the evening was fairly quiet with the girls and I watching more Pride and Prejudice. We're almost done now. We're debating if Mr. Darcy ever smiles or simply appears to or does but only in an almost sort of way. We are all agreed however that he smiles with his EYES.
Sunday morning was housecleaning. Then in the afternoon i had my local RWA chapter meeting. Deb Hale gave a workshop on Chunk Plotting but what was really about structure. It was excellent - comparing her Chunk Plotting technique to Vogler's Writer's Journey and also to the Three Act Structure. Lots of us had great "aha!" moments and my personal fave was the three act. It gave me a lot of clarity.
Then it was home for supper - a neighbour was over for that - and then my mum and step-dad stopped in for the night on their way home from a trip to Cape Breton. Never a dull moment.
I did want to catch up on some book blogs though. I'm simply going to cut and paste my reviews from eharlequin as I blogged them there first for the challenge. I am happy to report I've surpassed last year's reading - I am currently standing at 58 read to last year's 56.
Pleasured At the Playboy's Penthouse - Natalie Anderson
At the red hot millionaire's mercy!
Bella has always felt like the ugly duckling in her family, but after one night wiht super-sexy Owen Hughes she feels like a beautiful swan. Until she realises Owen isn't the ordinary guy she thought...
But Owen won't let Bella shrink back into her shell. Two weeks of pleasure in his penthouse and he'll have her begging for more...
Super sassy, sexy and satisfying, Natalie's got a real strength for cinderella type ordinary girl stories. I loved Bella's independence and how she finally discovered what she really wanted - and how Owen's support gave her the strength to try!
Between The Italian's Sheets - Natalie Anderson
Scorching Nights in the Italian's Bed
Infamous Italian Luca Bianchi has sworn off women and is dedicated to his million-dollar business. Yet Emily Dodds' unadorned beauty and closeted lifestyle are tempting him...Luca's body has woken, and it's taunting him to show her a good time!
Emily's always had to be Miss Sensible. With Luca, Miss Sassy wants to come out to play - and for once she's going to let her! Exquisite nights between his sheets are all Luca can offer. But now Emily's tasted such sweetness - how can more be forbidden?
Another one of Natalie's plain Jane heroines, and one who has so much to give. Luca keeps her at arm's length for much of the story, but when the dam finally breaks things get emotional pretty fast. A beautiful ending for a very hot read!
A Swiftly Tilting Planet - Madeleine L'Engle
Third in the "Time" quintet, so far this is our favourite. We couldn't wait to read more each night. I am constantly in awe of L'Engle, and the way she blends science and religion and myth. The mythical story element in this one was what really made it special for us. And how it all tied in together...just very cool.
This is book 57 for me for the year, which is one more than I read all of last year. I probably won't make my goal of 100, but at least I have read more than previously.
38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham
Trish Wylie did a series on this book during National Conference this summer, and my critique partner Michelle Styles also read it and so it came in my last amazon order.
There is a lot of good information in this book, and a certain number of things I notice I do. In fact, reading one point (Don't Warm Up Your Engines) made me realize I'd started my book in the wrong spot and I went back and cut the opening of chapter one. There are also things that I know I DON'T do which is heartening. LOL.
I'm probably going to do a couple of blogs about some of the points. There were a few things that I am cautious about, things that if a newbie were to read them they could misconstrue the points and commit further mistakes.
But it is a good little book and worth the read.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Sadly - yesterday and this morning are the only days it's been missing but already I have a cracking headache. And it's not like I drink a lot of caffeine either. A cup in the morning and a cup of tea at night. That's it. But miss a few days...and I'm grumpy as all get out and usually sport a nice headache.
To top it off, my schedule's been crap. I really enjoyed Tuesday. It was how a work day should be. I am going to attempt it again today with the exception of a few errands. I have to do the banking, then stop at the bank machine, then go to the post office (as I've been waiting to send some packages) and I'm stopping at Tim Horton's and buying an extra large coffee. At least then when I come home the pile of bills will be off my desk and the pile of books to be mailed will be off my cabinet.
I desperately need to add to word count today. I realized last night thanks to Jack Bickham that I didn't start my first chapter in the right place. Thankfully I think the scene is salvageable, but I had to axe the first 2 1/2 pages. Deleted pages always hurt, especially when you're struggling to add to word count. But better for the story, for sure.
Anyway Banking etc. first in the hopes I can ward off the headache with a good cup of coffee.
Oh and before I go - Mills and Boon are celebrating one year of offering e-books by giving some away! Just head over to http://www.everyonesreading.com/ and download any or all of the 10 books they have to offer. These are different titles than the ones Harlequin are giving away for their 60th Birthday celebrations. A few are ones I've been wanting to read for a while, so I'm thrilled.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Listening to: Albinoni - Adagio
Reading: Between The Italian's Sheets
I am carrying on today, getting a late start because of an appointment this morning and the husband was home until just a few minutes ago as his day is stretching long. We did get to have lunch together and walk the dog together though which was nice.
I was thinking this morning how writers can be really neurotic and how we simply require certain conditions to work. For example, I like quiet/lack of distractions. I can't always achieve it, but my favourite writing days are when I can put some classical low in the background, I am alone in the house, with no appointments, no phone calls...that solitude is BLISS.
More than that, though, I was thinking about what motivates me and why I either succeed or fail at focusing. It is a bit surprising, actually. Most people who know me know that I like to run the show. I have a vision of how things should go and when they need to get done. I think it is a case of not wanting to control other people, though, and more of a case of wanting to control the organization of the work so I know it will all get done, and done right. I have a habit of not trusting others to do it on their own too. It can be a big flaw. I wasn't so good at group work in school...I liked working alone, and if we had groups the other kids loved it because they knew I'd do the lion's share of the work and they'd get off easy. No way was I trusting MY mark to someone else's standards.
Like I said - a big flaw. Although I can think of times when I wish I'd been more diligent with group situations - because the few times I HAVE trusted people to follow through, it hasn't always ended up well..
I think it's more controlling work rather than people though because I can and do take direction. In fact I LIKE it. I enjoy people telling me what to do (don't let on to my husband, okay?). If I know, concretely, what's expected of me, I can then just DO it. It takes the ambiguity and guess work out of it. Here's what I need/you need to do. I can roll up my sleeves and launch in.
My appointment this morning was a little disappointing, because I was hoping for this kind of clear direction kind of advice. I was hoping it was a "do this and this and this and see me in a month". But it wasn't. I don't feel any further ahead. It's up to me to issue the directive, and I don't always obey myself as easily as I do other people!
Anyway this whole line of thought popped up after my agent e-mailed the other day saying how I sounded focused and energized since talking to my editor about stories. She's right.
And now I'd better channel that energy into some word count!
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Monday, September 07, 2009
Then while he was raking up the mess from the woodpile, I mowed the grass. The girls and I are now going to make our favourite fall cookies, Hermits, for after school treats this week.
But in the midst of all that there's a very special guest over at the Pink Heart Society today. It's Robert Nuzzie, the cover model from my June book Hired: The Italian's Bride. Robert's a real hoot and nice to boot, so pop on over and read his interview and take a look at his pics. It was a real treat to have him guest with us.
Friday, September 04, 2009
Listening to: Ooops! Should put a cd in!
Reading: same as yesterday
I had to take my truck in for its motor vehicle inspection this morning, so I took doglet with me and we walked back from the garage. It took us 45 minutes. So that was my morning walk. Yay!
I'm over at the Eharlequin Romance Author Blog today talking about the honeymoon period of starting a new book.
Otherwise - just carrying on. It's a long weekend here, so I think the dh wants to clean the house tonight so we can enjoy the weekend. Oh well no rest for the wicked, I say.
Thursday, September 03, 2009
What do you think? Meet Wyatt. :-)
The only trouble - I had so much fun that I forgot I have another set of sheets to go on the line! Better run and do that....
Listening to: Harry Connick Jr. "30"
Reading:Pleasured in the Playboy's Penthouse - Natalie Anderson
I am much relieved today. While I was excited about a new contract, I also knew that my last was rejected and that the two proposals I sent weren't going to work either. It tends to make a girl a little gun shy. So this morning I talked to my editor and the good news is I now know what I'm writing next and when everything is due.
Over the weekend during the flurry of domesticity I came up with a concept and a couple of characters I hoped would fit the bill. My hero is a cowboy named Wyatt Black who has pulled himself up by his bootstraps and a hell of a hard worker. My heroine is Elli (Ellison) Marchuk, a divorcee who is housesitting for Wyatt's neighbours. I figured I might as well throw them into the middle of a problem - and so one crisp autumn morning, Wyatt discovers a baby on his doorstep.
After lovely editor and I talked backstory a little bit she was pretty keen on the idea, so I'm off to the races so to speak.
Most of all I'm just hugely relieved and happy to be working on something new.
Wednesday, September 02, 2009
Listening to: Michael Buble - Call Me Irresponsible
Reading: The Inn at Eagle Point - Sherryl Woods
School is back! This morning, my heavily laden children trudged to the bus stop while I followed feeling very skippy. We have a new kid at the stop - starting his very first day of Kindergarten. So cute. I even misted up as he and his backpack - nearly bigger than he was - clambered up the bus steps. Milestones.
Speaking of, we are at the "impending teenhood" stage in my house. First of all, my "don't drag me out of bed until after 7" kid was up at 6:15 to shower. Then when we said no flip flops to school, so she could show off her toenails, we got the subtle stomp and flounce. It's only just beginning.
Then I walked the dog in the sunshine.
Today I am listening (at least for the moment) to Michael Buble. It is impossible to feel blue listening to Buble. Today's blog title is an homage to the lyrics of the current track - my fave on the cd. Me and Mrs. Jones. I sing along, and add just a little grit to the Mee-eee an-and Mrs, Mrs. Jones bit. My high school band instructor used to sing this to me as I came down the music department hallway (my maiden name is Jones). Good times.
Plus I can turn it up and there is no competing television etc. or kids going "Mo-om!"
Anyway, I'm off for now, trying to put together a proposal my editor will go for. Fingers crossed, as we're going to chat tomorrow morning about what's first in the brand new contract!
Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Listening to: my inner voice cheering that it's the last day of summer hols
Reading: next on tbr
I am cheering that it's September 1 which means kids are back to school tomorrow. And yet...a little sad that summer is already gone. It's sped by, and we can't get it back. Kind of a weird feeling. And yet...getting back to a regular schedule makes me blissfully happy.
Today I am working on admin and perhaps finishing my current chapter. So...first of all, the winner of my August contest! Congrats to Jean Mess, who gets a signed copy of Hired: The Italian's Bride.
Which brings us to a brand new contest! I know it's only September, but I've started thinking about Christmas already. Why? Well, besides my practical streak that hates shopping in December (and snags buys all year round simply to avoid it), I have my first ever holiday story out this year. A Bride for Rocking H Ranch is my novella in Montana, Mistletoe, Marriage with Pat Thayer. It's out in November, and I'm giving away an advance copy at the end of September. All you have to do is send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line of "Donna's September Contest", and answer the following: What's your favourite holiday tradition?
I'll draw at the end of the month. :-)
So...new contest, and my newsletter has just been sent out as well. If you haven't signed up, there's a handy dandy box here on the sidebar to do so.
Now I'm on to updating my website, and that should take care of the admin for this month. Then on to the chapter, and this afternoon I am baking a double batch of banana chocolate chip muffins for school lunches.