Friday, January 30, 2009

Buy, Buy, Buy - Sale ends soon

Working on: research for CBTC
Listening to: silence!
Reading: RITA book #3

This morning has been a mish mosh of work - first I did the banking, then I did some research, I have answered e-mail, had a phone conversation with my husband, and then did more research and sent out a few inquiries. I still feel a little shy sending out an e-mail introducing myself and asking for research help. But I am nearly always glad I've done it, so I bite my lips and hit the send button - like I did this morning. At least I am getting better at navigating the Canadian Forces site. :-)

But this post is really about a very boring subject - MONEY. Some of the phone and e-mail convos this morning have been about the new tax free savings accounts available to Canadians. It's a very cool new development. You can deposit 5k a year into this account, and pay no tax on the dividends. You can open one as a mutual fund account, or a GIC, or cash. Either way, you do not pay capital gains on any interest earned. If you do not use the whole amount in a year, it carries over. So if I put in 3k this year, next year I could put in 7. If I put in five but took out two, next year I could replace that 2k and add 5 more. In theory, in twenty years I could have 100k that I could draw upon completely tax free, as opposed to registered funds which provide the tax break now but you pay tax on when you withdraw.

Will I use this as a long term savings? Probably not. BUT it is a fantastic way to put money away and keep it liquid.

I then received an e-mail from our financial planner with some general info and I e-mailed him back, as, like everyone else on the planet, the economy is a major topic right now.

You know, things are tough. We see it all over. People are losing their jobs. Their homes. Their savings. The headlines are full of how tough things are. Am I personally feeling it? A little. Not so much in my day to day life. We can still buy groceries, we cringe at the heating bill, and yes, we think twice before spending huge amounts of money. But through it all, my overall feeling is that of prudent optimism. When things look bad I think there is value in looking beyond the NOW, even though sometimes beyond feels very very far away.

There are times I feel guilty for talking about investing when there are so many who don't have enough to live on. But then...if I invest, I am boosting the economy. This is a good thing. And the truth is, right now I can invest and buy scads of units at bargain basement prices. If you ever wanted to buy low...this is the time people.

As my planner said in his reply: I too am optimistic and trying to encourage as many clients to your way of thinking as I can - buy buy buy, sale ending soon!

Shirley Jump did a post on propping up the economy on Romancing the Blog the other day and I loved what Kimber Ann said in her comments about being greedy when people are fearful and fearful when people are greedy. If you can manage it, I truly believe the silver lining in this financial mess is the opportunity it can pose.

On the flip side of that...I cannot forget that there are many struggling, so please when you're buying, put a little in the food bank jar. One of the hardest hit areas during a downturn is charities.

Food for thought....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Working on: prep work for CBTC
Listening to: The Most Relaxing Classical Album in the World Ever
Reading: Rita Book number 3



Today is a special day as it marks the official birthday/anniversary of Harlequin - sixty years! I'm particularly proud, as from small beginnings this Canadian company has gone on to be the world's largest publisher of romantic fiction. And how lucky am I to be a part of it! Wow!


To celebrate, Harlequin has launched a special website - http://www.harlequincelebrates.com/ where you can have some fun. There is a listing of special stories coming to you each month. Next month is Romance's Diamond Brides and readers can enter to have a chance to win a diamond necklace and a proposal in a future book. There are special continuities planned, as well as a holiday celebration in November with thirty holiday titles coming your way (one of which appears to be my own A Bride For Rocking H Ranch in Montana, Mistletoe, Marriage.).


But for immediate gratification, you're going to want to go to the site today because you can download a free e-book. Not just one free ebook, but one from 16 different series. Sixteen books. That's a retail value of $60.



I know what I plan to do with mine - besides read them of course - I plan to review them for Harlequin's 100,000 Book Challenge. For each book reviewed, Harlequin donates to the National Centre for Family Literacy.




In other news, schools are cancelled here again. The weather has cleared but the roads are treacherous. We had several hours of freezing rain overnight, after the snow stopped. I know because it was hitting the windows like grains of sand, waking me up frequently. The driveway is a mess of slush now that it's above freezing and I'm deliberating whether pushing the slush will help what is going to become a slippery mess or make it worse. Miraculously our power has not gone out.


And the cold is better. Not gone, but better. The youngest is a chip off the old block. When I said there was no school, she said, "But mum! My book talk!" She had an oral presentation due today. I told her she would likely do it tomorrow and ruffled feathers were soothed. But I am glad that the girls look forward to those things rather than dreading them.


Now I'm off to do some prep work as I do not have any time to waste before launching into the next book - due end of March. I gave my ms another look, a kiss for luck and hit the go button. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reviewer's Choice Awards

Cataromance has listed its annual Reviewer's Choice Awards for 2008. I got the e-mail a few days ago and was so pleasantly surprised - Falling For Mr. Dark and Dangerous has received the honour for Harlequin Romance along with Jessica Hart's Last Minute Proposal and Claire Baxter's The Single Dad's Patchwork Family.

The full list of winners is found HERE.

And I was mistaken when I thought the absence of sore throat yesterday meant all was well. The cold has firmly moved into my head so that it feels like a hot turnip. I am drinking hot lemon, using vicks and taking meds, but I still feel like crap. Sometimes there are days when you just want to go back to sleep. Oh well. There is work to be done.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's all Greek to me...

Working on: Article, edits of RBTR

Listening to: David Foster, Hitman

Reading: A Wrinkle in Time, and a new RITA book :-)

Yesterday turned out to be a good work day for me despite being so tired. Some of it I'll be able to tell you about soonish, but I also finished tidying the last 2 chapters that Michelle sent back to me, and nearly got my article whipped into shape (I'll finish that this morning and send it on).


I also got 2 parcels in the mail yesterday - I got my spanish copies of Falling For Mr. Dark and Dangerous, and I got Greek copies of Marriage at Circle M. I didn't know it had been translated into Greek, so it was a lovely surprise. They have now picked up both Hired By The Cowboy and Marriage at Circle M, so I'm hoping they pick up Dark and Dangerous as it rounds out the threesome.

Anyway any time there is a new foreign edition, it's a reason to be pleased.

I actually DID sleep last night, even though I woke frequently, I actually slept in between times and other than my throat feeling raw, I feel almost normal this morning.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What's happening....

Working on: bits and bobs, and starting the editing of Rescued By The Rancher
Listening to: about to make a soundtrack for Captured By The Cowboy
Reading: A Wrinkle In Time, and also RITA stuff

Well, here I am, a bit worse for wear but not bad. Mostly because I have a scratchy throat that kept me up a good portion of the night. What makes it more annoying is that other than the scratchiness, I don't feel badly at all. Grrrrr. Stupid colds.

I took the weekend off, and it was great. Got caught up on some odd jobs, kids had fun with friends, we had company over yesterday afternoon that stayed for supper. I watched Made of Honor - which in a very brief Reel Review I will tell you was just Meh and didn't really do it for me. I think it tried to be several things but didn't exactly achieve them. I also started watching John Adams which is proving to be LOVELY and I am enjoying a lot.

So today is another day, and while I wait to get my final chapters back, this morning I am catching up on a few bits and bobs. Putting the finishing touches on an article so I can send it soon, loading up a few blogs for the PHS and Harlequin Romance authors, and sending out a newsletter update.

This is the last week to enter my contests - first being for my newsletter subscribers, so if you haven't and would like to, the sign up box is on the sidebar. Then I'll send you the latest update with the contest info in it so you will know how to enter (and what the lucky winner will receive!).

The other contest is for aspiring authors - send me your short pitch (a couple of paragraphs) about your latest romance and I'll pick five to get a first chapter critique. One of those chapters will win the author a partial critique and me as a mentor throughout the rest of 2009.

The address to send it to is donna@donnaalward.com and put Pitch in your subject line!

Now...it's minus a zillion here (well, it was -22 at the bus stop this morning) so I'm going to make some tea and keep warm. But before I go....

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHELLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Update

Check out this youtube clip. Then look at my wordcounter on the right sidebar for Rescued By The Rancher. I'm sure you can tell what's happened. And by the way...this clip is insanely funny IMO.



I will be scarce this weekend, but you will be able to catch up with me at Praire Chicks Write Romance. This is a brand new group blog starring some great ladies I met last year, and they asked me to be their first guest!

Until then....

Friday....

Just keep swimming...just keep swimming....

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I've done it, and I'm doing it, and yes, I know.

I've done it - I've registered for Nationals In Washington and have put in my room form and hopefully will have confirmation that there is indeed a hotel room with my name on it. I am so excited - equally about the conference AND about going to DC. It is a city that has been on my "list" of places I wanted to go in the US, so it's very cool.

I'm doing it - I'm taking off some unwanted pounds and hopefully will have a good portion of it off before the conference. A lot of this is thanks to the wii fit we got. I LOVE it. And I'm down about 4 lbs in 2 weeks which is a very nice pace. I love how it weighs me every day. Not when things fluctuate of course, but because I KNOW I'm going to step on it and I want the numbers to creep downwards, I am more conscious of what I'm putting in my mouth. Last night I was very snackish, but I actually missed my workout yesterday and I didn't want to compound things by snacking before bed. Anyway even though the weight isn't that different, I do feel better simply by mixing the fun aerobic part with yoga poses.

And yes, I know. Your whip is out, isn't it Michelle. I'm just going to have breakfast and then my butt's in the chair and my document is open. I promise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Exciting stuff

Tuesdays are routinely crazy day here at the Alwards and today is no exception.

Happy Birthday Nellie...I will call you later! :-)

And I'm over at Novel Thoughts today guest blogging about why I needed to create Larch Valley and why it took me so long to really get it.

In other exciting news....today is conference registration day for Nationals in Washington, DC. This is so exciting for me. It will be my first conference, and it will also be my first trip to DC. I can't wait.

And speaking of DC, today is the big inauguration. I won't be watching it live, I'll catch up with CNN later. I'm volunteering today and the deadline is still, well, a deadline. But it is indeed a historic day.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Exsanguinating

Ok, so I know the title of today's blog is a little quirky, but you'll get it in a moment.

I have taken a slight wrong turn in the WIP. Ok, a big wrong turn but I JUST made it so it's not like I have to backtrack that far. Really, half a chapter, with some remodeling of the beginning of chapter 10. It could be much worse. Though on a tight deadline, it's much more preferable for things to go tickety boo and you don't have to stop or worse, back pedal. Oh well. It's my own fault.

I spent the weekend NOT working but doing a lot of thinking and chatting back and forth with my CP. Of course she will use any method in her arsenal to reinforce her input so imagine my laughter when I visited her blog this morning and read:

Turning points should change characters and their relationships... And I know with my own writing -- I may know the concept and good practice, but then why don't I apply them? Why do I like being nice to be my characters? Sometimes there is a temptation to not want to bleed.

OK! I give up! I get it. LOL

The thing is she's right, and there is nothing more frustrating than knowing you know better and yet somehow still falling into traps. (Actually, there is ONE thing more frustrating, and that's knowing something isn't right but you can't put your finger on WHAT so therefore can't fix it.) Anyway, that's what I've done. I've taken a couple of the most elementary concepts and buggered them up. One: I took a turning point, but didn't make anything turn. It should have progressed the relationship. It should have changed things and it didn't.

Why did I do this? Because I was also breaking rule number two - I MUST BLEED ON THE PAGE.

Now do you get the title?

We know we have to do it, so why do we fight it? Of course we don't REALIZE we're doing it until after we've skimmed the surface and missed the opportunity. Which, for a group of writers that considers itself fairly enlightened, makes us pretty daft. But we're human. We don't like pain, and we do feel the emotions of our characters. So tearing their world apart is painful.

In an effort to avoid this, I missed the opportunity to develop the romantic relationship. I mean, before you tear up someone's life, you really need to give them more to lose. So you have to give them that HOPE that things are going to somehow work. They have to have more at stake. Then when you take it away, it should be gut wrenching.

So, I'm going back and reconstructing chapter ten, moving the relationship forward, building them up so I can rip their hearts out later. You know it might be easier if I were a bit of a sadist rather than a romantic!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Do Unto Others

I recently heard a really great question that made me think, and so here goes. Does being tolerant mean being tolerant of ALL things? How far does it extend? And if we have limits to tolerance, does that make us intolerant?

Kind of bears thinking about, doesn't it.

If the answer is yes, then I don't think there is a single tolerant person on the planet. I do not know of anyone who tolerates all things. I mean, I really try to put myself into the shoes of others and see where they are coming from. Actually writing flawed characters has helped me a lot. And recently I know of someone who made a decision I can't imagine making. I just can't. But I immediately follow that up with the statement that this person is just making the decision they think is best. I am not in their shoes. I don't know what it's like.

But I have limits. And that does, I guess, make me intolerant on some level. And things that I won't tolerate aren't the same as things someone else won't. And here's my next big statement:

TOLERATING SOMETHING IS NOT THE SAME AS CONDONING IT

I may be able to empathise with someone's motivation for doing something, but that does not necessarily mean I condone that decision.

This all brings me back to one thing that I have difficulty with and it's negativity and it's something that has been on my mind for a while. And again, I'm sure that much of this feeling is due to past experience on my part. And I do my share of complaining. I'm human after all, and have bad days like anyone else.

I could go back and give specific periods in my life where the glass was definitely half empty rather than full and so perhaps my attitude is based on avoiding those feelings again. But I get so tired of doom and gloom prophesies. Honestly, the more I hear about how awful things are, the more I have to close my mind. It is enough to make a person not want to get out of bed in the morning. It's like the experiment where you go shopping and smile and people and they smile back, growl at people and get treated like crap. How you go into life, people, is how you're going to go out. Negative people say they are being realistic. No, they're being negative. Realistic people know the facts. The difference is that positive people look at ways to make it better while negative people despair and are inactive.

Beyond that, this is the one other thing that I will not tolerate and that is those who attempt to make themselves look better, brighter, smarter, wittier - by tearing someone else down. It does not make you better. It makes you small. It makes you a bully. I freely admit I hate snark. Snark is not fun and it's not entertainment. It's cruel. And it's negative.

That's why I surround myself with positive people. That's why I love the quote from David Foster's book: If you look at everything as an opportunity, you'll get to the top. If you look at what happens as opportunities rather than roadblocks, think of what you can achieve. Positive outlook is why I love writing romance novels; it is why I'm proud to be a part of sites like The Pink Heart Society that celebrates category romance rather than criticize it. You will not find me in places where entertainment is "witty ridicule" of other authors. It is why you will not read negative posts about other authors here. I know how I would feel if someone did that to me. How could I do that to someone else and call it fun?

I could go on and on and I'm sure I've opened myself up to some criticism and that's fine. For me, kindness breeds kindness and contempt contempt.

Now I'm off to actually get some work done before my CP comes through my monitor with her whip telling me to get to it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thursday blog things

Working on: Chapter Ten of RBTR
Listening to: nothing - the husband is sleeping after flying all night
Reading: RITA entries

Today I'm over at Romance Reviews Today with a Q&A interview.

I'm also working big time as I NEED to finish chapter ten this week, so I can finish the first draft next week.
I finished reading Deb's book last night so here's my review:

The Last Champion (Deborah Hale) is a really great read. One, it's 12th century, so it's rugged, a little primitive, with a spunky damsel in distress (who is pretty darn capable all on her own) and a hero riding to the rescue in a Lord and Lady type fashion. Add in a dastardly villian without a conscience and it is very much like the highland historicals (except it's set in the Norwich area and is Norman/Saxon instead of Scots and the hated English). Next to regencies, these are the kinds of historicals I LOVE LOVE LOVE to read. Case in point - one of my favourite books of Nora's is Rebellion.

Two, the construction of plot and motivation is very, very tight. I saw no plot holes, no moments where I got frustrated with the characters (well, except for Armand, but how Deb brought him 'round in the end made it just right). I was swept along nicely and the last third especially seemed to fly by! Props to Deb for constructing such a great story!


I also watched a movie last night, as I have been meaning to for some time. I watched PS I LOVE YOU.

Surprisingly, I didn't cry as much as I expected. I've certainly cried more at movies. That being said - it's a great movie IMO. I did not read the book first (I'm making a disturbing habit of that) but if it is like the movie it's well constructed.

Let's have a look at the cast: Hilary Swank. There were times I heard her voice and it seemed like she was channeling Julia Roberts. I'm generally "Meh" about Swank, and she was fine in this role. Nothing for me to jump up and down about, but she was good. And if they ever do another movie about Judy Garland, she should play it. The combination of the sing along as well as the dresses she wore throughout the movie really branded the idea on my mind.

Gerard Butler. Oh. My. Funny, quirky, accented (thank GOD) and the scene when they first met and he kisses her is swoonworthy. Good choice.

Harry Connick Jr. You know, for the first part of the movie when he was so blunt and blurted things out, I wasn't sure if he was serious, putting on an act, or really did have a mental issue. That got cleared up in the end, but I normally love HCJ and this time all I could think was please don't let him be The Guy. I'll take him in South Pacific anyday.

Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon - funny as all get out as Holly's friends. I especially liked it when James Marsters (John) told Kudrow's character why she wasn't married, and the moment of vulnerability on her face before she responded in grand fashion. And the two of them on the trip to Ireland - as a friend I would have wanted to hug them and throttle them at the same time! Great.

Kathy Bates. Nuff said. Her name should say it all, I loved her, and the scene at the end where Holly rushes in crying was the one that really set me off.


And finally, Jeffrey Dean Morgan. WOW. This isn't heart patient Denny from Greys, or the dad of two grown men on Supernatural. This is super sexy hotness that comes with an accent. This is me melting on the sofa every time he came on screen. This is me hoping beyond hope as we got to the end that it wasn't the end. When she offered him a drink and he asked if he should lick it off the counter, I was absolutely, for all time sold. And then he proceeded to pick her up as if she weighed NOTHING (which is close to true). I saved him for last because for me he was the BEST thing about the movie and I LURVED him. He was The Package. For me, he is a Romance hero.

So yeah, I enjoyed the movie. And I'd watch it again. I might even want to pick it up for my dvd library.

The other thing it did was make me realize more and more how much I love contemporary romances and also how much I love relationships with other characters. Even though the focus was always on Holly and the relationship with Gerry (is it with a J or G?) you really got to see her develop through her friends and through her relationship to her mother. It certainly got the wheels spinning.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Special Event, and the Deep Freeze

Working on: Chapter nine of RBTR - slow going
Listening to: the wind and rain
Reading: The Last Champion - Deb Hale

Wow, that doesn't look quite so great does it. The book's going a little slower this week, and today I realized I had a scene in the wrong place. So the rejigging is taking up a little bit of time, and while I'm not stuck, it's not flowing like it did last week. It's okay. I know where it's going and I'll get there.

And yes, I'm STILL reading The Last Champion. I've been busier than a one armed paper hanger and reading at a pace of 50-60 pages a day. I should finish it today or tomorrow. And then...well, the reading part will be quiet for a bit as my RITA books came yesterday and it's all very top secret. LOL. So I'll be reading them.

Then - there's the weather. The storm of yesterday was for naught and we got no snow, only rain. That however has made a slushy mess and now we are getting an arctic mass coming our way and temps are plunging. Tomorrow this time it will be -13! And the forecast says the Friday commute will be -20. All I can say is BRRRR. As a result, school is being dismissed at this moment and the kids will be home early in anticipation of the roads being an ungodly mess. Then, knowing that we are headed for some prolonged cold weather, I thought checking the guage on the oil tank was a good idea.

Holy sweet cannoli, we were down to 1/4 of a tank. I called our provider who said delivery could be scheduled for mid next week. I'm thinking...1/4 tank - one week - frigid temps. Cutting it close. But it turns out the truck was actually a street over when I called and five minutes after I hung up the phone, it turned in the driveway. Thank goodness! It's not good on the pocketbook...I nearly passed out when I saw the bill...but I'll take the heat, thank you very much. And we will be wearing heavy sweaters. Up until now, the heating bill hasn't been bad. But this one...oh MY. Thank GOD oil prices are down, is all I can say.

So now all my griping aside, it's time for something fun. In the midst of all the crazy guest blogging, I didn't really explain what's happening over at eharlequin.

I have an ongoing thread over there called..."Welcome to Larch Valley". I'm posting about The Rancher's Runaway Princess and some of the inspiration, about exciting things going on, and I am having a little help from Agnes Dodds, who runs Agnes' Antiques on Main Avenue. NOTHING gets by Agnes. And you get to meet her in The Rancher's Runaway Princess.

There are some fun entries coming up and it's also your chance to get some hints as to who the next characters are and little snippets about them. Just click on the above link to come visit and read my earlier entries.

Now I need some lunch and I shall finish chapter nine if it kills me and sent it to my CP!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Blogging About Town and Tea Parties

Today is release day for The Rancher's Runaway Princess! Whooopeee!



To celebrate, I'm blogging all over the web this month and three of those posts - yes THREE - are today.


First of all, come on over to The Pink Heart Society as I talk about one of my favourite travel destinations that I won't be visiting quite so often anymore.


Then pop over to Tote Bags n Blogs, where I'm geeking it out over my fave tv show. I mean really showing my inner fangirl - and how it all relates to writing romance.

And finally, pop on over to the Wedding Planners blog where I reveal about the non-stress wedding that turned stressful in the last 24 hours before the I do's.

I didn't get as much done yesterday as I hoped which means amidst all the festivities, bank runs and post office errands I need to get the lead out today. Shoveling snow, paperwork, a headache and the arrival of the Wii fit were my excuses yesterday. But I do like this story a lot and now I'm getting into the last third and it feels good.

And the kids and I had a chat last night about extracurricular stuff. Mostly about what they're enjoying and about what they're not so much, about fulfilling commitments (yes, I turned into my mother. I paid xxx amount of dollars for you to go, so you'll see it through) and then moving on when the commitment is done. It is ok if they don't want to keep on. Sometimes you have to try things before you know if you like it or not.

I do think things are going to change next year though as both are very interested in music and it is one thing I have let slide this school year. My fault, not theirs. So I'm actually kind of excited for some plans we have and I'm going to talk to their music teacher about it. I was pretty happy with how the conversation went, they told me what they were liking and not liking, and so now I know. It helps that I agree. I just remember wanting to join 4-H when I was a kid and the only course I was allowed to take was sewing. I hated sewing (and still do for the most part). I wanted horses or cows or cooking. I won't force my kids to do something they don't enjoy.

The other thing going on is that my youngest wants to have a Valentine Tea Party. Just one or two girls, I think. But she suggested hot cranberry instead of tea and I have no idea how to make it (is it just water and cranberry?). I can also ask the girls what they like and do heart shaped sandwiches and dainty shortbread cookies and strawberries and cream. She asked to use the china cups which I said yes to and I could polish the silver I suppose as I have a tiered tea tray for the goodies.

Any other suggestions? I was never the tea party type. Ironically one of my dearest wishes now is to have a full tea set. I may have to check out an estate sale or two...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Review for The Rancher's Runaway Princess

Working on: Chapter 8 of RBTR

Listening to: Somewhere - Katherine McPhee

Reading: The Last Champion, Deborah Hale


Romance Junkies has reviewed The Rancher's Runaway Princess and given it a 4.5 rating. A big hooray that the reviewer saw in it things that I feel as well....she calls Lucy "down to earth, witty, spunky and brokenhearted" which is fabulous because I love Lucy and I think of all my heroines I empathised with her the most. I wanted her to have her fairy tale SO much. The review also says "This is a truly heartwarming story with an utterly charming ending that had me sighing in appreciation." Hooray again as the ending is my favourite part. Charming and sighworthy...I feel as if I've done my job.


Thanks RJ! You can read the whole review HERE.


Now it's back to chapter 8 - deadlines wait for no man. Oh speaking of men - there is a FANTASTIC article on Mills and Boon's only male author, Roger Sanderson. He is called Mr. Romance, and it's utterly lovely. I met Roger briefly when I was in London in 2007, and he's friendly and charming and fun. You can go here to read the article. And you should.


Right. Snow is shoveled and I have no excuses now!



Sunday, January 11, 2009

Book Blogs - the first four of the year

I'm off to a great start - four completed books with another on the go. I need to read 7-8 a month to hit my goal for the year...wow that sounds like a lot.

Anyway, here are the blogs for the first four:

HITMAN - David Foster with Pablo F Fenjves

Before Christmas I watched the PBS special HITMAN, which was a celebration of David Foster's career. It was really great, and after it was done, I ordered the dvd pack from PBS. It came with the dvd, cd and also David's new biography, Hitman, which I wanted anyway as I have been a fan of his for a very long time.

This book can be uncomfortable at times simply because while it is not a tell all about celebs, David IS rather candid about himself and his faults. And boy has he had a life! It was conversationally written and I ate it up.

There are lots of gems of wisdom for those of us in the creating business; in some ways it reminded me of Stephen King's ON WRITING, only by someone in a different field. A couple of times I laughed out loud and other times my mouth dropped open.

During a commencement address: "Don't be a musical snob...Probably every keyboard player here today plays better than I do. And although that's impressive, it won't take you to the top. But attitude will. And if you look at every single thing that comes your way as an opportunity, that will take you to the top too."

Quoting Abraham Lincoln: "Things may come to those who wait...but only the things left behind by those who hustle."

"The things you say no to in life are just as important, if not more important, than the things you say yes to."

"Keep the blinders on - the road to success is straight, not full of curves."

MY FAVORITE HUSBAND - Caron Todd

A very unique setting and plot revolving around Canada's far north and the diamond industry. And one of the best first lines I've ever read..."As soon as she saw him, she wanted to feel him inside her."

FRONTIER COURTSHIP - Valerie Hansen

A cute story with a spunky heroine and a great hero about wagon trains crossing the west. Two things that niggled - the sister Charity because I really wanted to find a redeeming quality (strength) and came up short, and Irene, who was fine as a character but IMO someone should have said something to her long before they did.

But it all worked out right in the end.

And my personal favourite of the bunch, and I'm giving a link to the review at eharlequin as it spawned some interesting discussion.

LITTLE WOMEN - Louisa May Alcott

I must be the only woman around that didn't read this as a girl, but I didn't. I got it for my girls and we have read it together before bed. I will be so sad when they are older and no longer want to do this...they are 10 and 8 now and it is our favourite time of day.

I don't generally rate books here but I'm rating this one because there is a reason it is a classic. What a marvelous read, and you care so much about all the girls and each is so individual and special. I am a weeper and so at a certain part I was doing fine and so was my youngest, but she got up to get her sister a tissue and that was the end of the dry eyes all around. It has spawned conversations about life outside of the book and its characters and there are times when the girls will laugh at something...

What strikes me SO completely about this book is that Alcott's voice is so modern. If I didn't know the story or the author and I simply started reading I would think it was a contemporary author writing a historical story. The language flows off the tongue in such a simple, charming way. And the way she forms the words that the twins use cracked me up with their perfection.

A first class read and one I wish I'd read much sooner. I'm just so pleased I could share it with my girls. Next up for us is the Tales of Beedle the Bard!

So that's it for the first four. I should have another one or two by the end of this week.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Give me Five - A Friend in Need

This is LONG overdue but today I'm doing my Give Me Five post which is what happens when I get paid and give a portion to charity.

Today's blog isn't about charity though, it's about a friend. A friend who has had a nightmare of a year (and hopefully 2009 will be much better). A friend who I know is really struggling. Recently, I found out she's dabbling in writing again and I was thrilled to know it.

If you look at the beautiful lilac and apple blossom banner here, or the design of my webpage - well, that was done by my friend Melissa that I grew up with in New Brunswick. We were in the same class from grade 1 to 9 and went to high school together. I was good friends with one of her brothers at one point as well, and I think I knew even then that he was going to be one of the good guys when he grew up (he is). They are a great family all around. Good people. And I was thrilled to be back in touch with Mel again. Doubly thrilled that she was looking at writing some romances!

Last year, though, the troubles began when at 7 months pregnant, she was hit by a drunk driver. Thank god for angels because her 2 little ones were in the vehicle as well and help arrived to get everyone out of the van. She was taken to hospital, and everything was okay...not great, as Melissa had some injuries and the trauma, but okay.

BUT. But then baby Wyatt was born in June and the news was staggering.

Wyatt was around 16 lbs at birth and had Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension. Basically - his breathing was compromised and the prognosis was grim. VERY grim. He was put into a drug induced paralysis just so they could connect all the tubes necessary to keep him alive. He was baptised right in the neonatal ward of the hospital. It wasn't looking good.

It has been a struggle for the family and that is putting it lightly. Months of hospital time, doctors, experimental drugs, worry, financial strain...you name it, this family has had it.

Melissa set up a blog - Baby Wyatt's Story - to talk about Wyatt's journey. It is through that site that I made my donation. Wyatt's struggles are not over by a long shot, but the faith and resilience of this family is something you should read. Most of all, have a look at the latest pic of Wyatt that Mel has posted. And if you don't melt looking at those bright, happy eyes...well there's no hope for you. :-)

God Bless you Mel and Len and the Madsens and Leavitts. It's not much, but I hope it helps the teensiest bit.

Love Donna

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Whip cracking

Working on: Chapter 7 of RBTR
Listening to: My Heart was Home Again - Josh Groban
Reading: The Last Champion, Deborah Hale

My CP is definitely cracking her whip, so this isn't a very long post. I am enjoying writing again which is a blessing. This book isn't what I'd call "easy", but it's not making me pull my hair out either so I still hold a lot of affection for it. It is going cautiously well, and I do think the break I took over the holidays was beneficial in refilling the well and also making me forget certain pains and regaining some confidence. As hard as the novella was, I did learn things. One being that even when it's really really hard, I can pull it out of the fire. I'm not sure I'd like to be such a student again for a while, but there are positives.

I've put on my Josh Groban, which instantly transports me into the spirit of the WIP so that is good as well.

And I did want to remind you that my newsletter contest is still ongoing as well as the PITCH CONTEST for aspiring authors. I have had several entries but I'm looking for several more. If you missed the initial post, it's HERE. The deadline is Jan 31 and I'm open to all forms of romance.

Wow. Got up to sun and mild temperatures, and just looked out the window to see a band of ominous grey hurrying across the sky. Better batten down the hatches, it looks like cooler air and snow on the way....

***in answer to Joanne's comment about what a pitch is, I decided to go to the master- that being Donald Maass in his book The Career Novelist.

Maass has summarized like this:

The key to a good summary is distilling the essence of your story. What would you tell me about your plot if you had only one minute in which to pitch? There is your focus. Build your pitch around that core. If you are still having trouble getting a handle on it, go back to the first three questions I listed above:

1. Where is your story set?

2. Who is your hero or heroine?

3. What is the main problem they must overcome?


That's all. Hook me in a few short paragraphs about who, where, and the big issue. What I want is to be hooked, intrigued. Answer Blake Snyder's "Save the Cat" question - What's it about?

If you want to practice, take a book you just read and summarize it in this way. Then see if you can do the same for your own story.

If you want examples of pitches both good and bad, go to the BookEnds Agency blog written by Jessica Faust. Her posts at the end of the year are very informative. Just before the holidays she had an online pitch day and afterwards she critiqued some of the pitches.

I hope that helps Joanne and any one else interested!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Letting myself go...

I like how Kate Hardy does this on her blog, so I'm going to start:

Working on: Chapter 7 of RBTR
Listening to: my kid talk silly talk to the dog
Reading: The Last Champion by Deborah Hale

The good news is I made my 2000 words goal for the day, yippee, AND I ran out for gas and to pick up BSG Season 4, AND I critiqued two FABULOUS chapters for my CP. Perhaps by saying how fabulous they are she will put away her whip for 2 minutes. But truthfully...it IS a great story and I'm very put out she doesn't have more for me to read.

The bad news is, I really did let myself go last year quite dreadfully. Other than the obvious weight gain, the place I'm seeing it most is in my range of motion. All over. I am stiff and inflexible.

Yesterday in keeping with the get your butt out of the chair "determination", I did legs and core exercises while hubby took his turn on the treadmill. I could have done more strength moves but instead I focused on core stuff and stretching. I couldn't believe how much better I felt even after 15 minutes of stretching and doing some twists after the weights. So one of my goals is not only to drop the pounds but improve in those areas as well.

We did order a wii fit but do not know when it will ship as they are as rare as hen's teeth around here. Maybe I'll drop a stone before it comes and that initial assessment won't be so bad when it happens. Hope does indeed spring eternal.

Right now it is freezing rain and I am waiting for the mister to get home from work. And we are taking our 3o minutes of reading time together. :-)

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Taking a breath...

I'm taking a breath to do a proper blog because 2009 is underway and there is lots going on.
We have to say Happy Birthday to Harlequin as it celebrates 60 years of fantastic romantic fiction! I'm particularly proud to be a part of the company as it is Canadian and, well, so am I. In fact, my contest this month for newsletter subscribers has a prize related to the birthday celebrations. You can sign up in the box on the sidebar and I'll forward you the latest newsletter so you can enter.


There are exciting things going on all year for the birthday. One is a special website that will be going live at the end of the month, and when that happens I'll be posting the link. There will be sixteen books available for download for FREE!!!!!!!!!!!! Very exciting - I can't wait. A great chance to increase your digital tbr without making your credit card groan!

Each month on eharlequin, a different line will be featured. This month it's Desire...next month it's Romance. The Romance books are all themed together as "Diamond Brides" and let me tell you readers are in for a treat!

Also, something is happening with me over at e-harlequin starting this month. We're kicking off the Larch Valley books with a special thread. We're just getting started - I'm going to be updating later this morning with a new post. Come on over and join in the fun!

In other news, the RNA has listed the finalist for this year's Romance Prize. The award will be presented at the RNA’s Awards Lunch on 10th February 2009 at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington. The winner will be selected from the following books:

What's Love Got to Do With It? - Lucy Broadbent (Little Black Dress, Headline)

The Wild Card - Beth Elliott (Robert Hale)
Mistress: Hired for the Billionaire's Pleasure - India Grey (Harlequin Mills & Boon)
Sold to the Highest Bidder - Kate Hardy (Harlequin Mills & Boon)
Saying Yes to the Millionaire - Fiona Harper (Harlequin Mills & Boon)

Promoted to Wife and Mother - Jessica Hart (Harlequin Mills & Boon)
Congratulations to the finalists - and yay for my friends who have made the list! Kate Hardy won last year, Fiona has been nominated before, and Jessica is a past winner. India is our virgin finalist. Way to go sweetie!

I have scads of guest blogs going on this month - the schedule is on my homepage at www.donnaalward.com. Some of the appearances have giveaways attached and regardless I'd love to hear from you anyway. I do hope you'll join me around cyberspace as I celebrate my first release during this special year.
Now I'm off to do the school run and then get to work - it's the first day that it's just me and the dog since the 19th of December and I'm hoping to make some real headway on the WIP.





Monday, January 05, 2009

Must Love Yarn

I dug out my knitting needles again the other night, and just in time too. I'm over at Heidi Bett's MUST LOVE YARN blog today! Come on over and leave a comment!

More news coming tomorrow...currently working away on chapter six!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Contest Clarifications and Reel Reviews

I have been asked a few questions since announcing the contest and rather than answer in the comments, I'll do so here.

First of all, I'm very willing to read other subgenres and heat levels, so if you're writing spicy to inspirational, paranormal to contemp to historical, it makes no difference. Send it on. I read widely and enjoy reading all types of stories.

Secondly - I neglected to mention a deadline, but send your pitches by the end of the month. :-)

One of the things I've enjoyed over the holidays is movie watching.


The first movie I watched was Christmas night and it was one I've been waiting for a long time - Lady Audley's Secret. My dh got it for me in a four pack of Victorian Dramas (and so that means I have 3 more to watch!) from PBS.

Lady Audley (Lucy) has a secret - she has married while still married to someone else- George Talboys. Talboys went to Australia to find his fortune to support his wife and child. In the meantime, Lucy sheds her former life, fakes her own death, leaves her offspring with relatives and moves on to bigger and better things. What she doesn't expect is Robert Audley returning with Talboys in tow, threatening to expose her for who she really is. Talboys disappears, and everything starts to crumble.

Acting wise this wasn't flawless, but I didn't see all the twists and turns coming and I did find it quite riveting. There was a twist at the end I did not expect either.


Next up was a fun romp - Mamma Mia. My MIL is a huge ABBA fan and so we picked it up while we were visiting and the "girls" watched it while the men were puttering on a snowblower. Meryl Streep was wonderful, the "women" all fabulous including the beautiful, natural Sophie. The men - led by Pierce Brosnan as Sam - were not so great, but easily forgiven for sheer enjoyment alone and the 'nads it must take for an actor to step out of that comfort zone and sing in a musical.

It was a lot of fun and at some point I'm going to watch it in the singalong version because my MIL and I were bopping about the kitchen a bit.




Then the other night the dh decided he wanted a movie so we watched The Bucket List. I'm a huge sap, so I wasn't sure how this would go but Jack Nicholson can really save someone from being overly sentimental. It isn't a bad thing, it's just who he is. I laughed a lot, enjoyed it and finally did get a bit misty when he crossed off one of the items - Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world. It is a great movie. And fantastic casting all around - including Sean Hayes.


Last night I watched The Other Boleyn Girl. I was hoping to read the book first but I haven't gotten to it yet and since it was on the movie channel I decided to go for it. (I usually wait to watch movies after I've read). I watched Henry VIII with Ray Winstone a while back and this was a very different take. I do not as a rule like Scarlett Johansson but I did like her as Mary. Natalie Portman looked like an un-frail Kyra Knightley and was very, very good at being both innocent and sympathetic and devious and cunning. Eric Bana....well, yum. Duh. What intrigued me was that this particular perspective painted Henry as being particularly weak about women and his relationships with them were his achilles heel. In some ways, the women controlled him rather than the other way around. Henry then would save himself by weilding the power of the crown, but not power as a man. Like I said - a different perspective.


So - that's my movie watching over the last few weeks. Tonight I may watch PS I Love You as I haven't seen it yet either!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

For Aspiring Authors (and readers)

I just sent out my newsletter - if you are signed up but didn't receive it, I do have several undeliverable notifications in my inbox, so check your subscription...and if you're not signed up, now's a good time as I have a contest running for newsletter subscribers only. There's a sign up box on the right sidebar.

My other contest this month is for those of you seeking publication in romance. The winner will get a partial critique from me as well as being able to pick my brain for the remainder of the year.

Here's what you do - send me a pitch of a finished story or a work in progress. The pitch should only be a few short paragraphs long. Of the pitches, I'll pick five and ask for the first chapter. Then I'll pick one winner to send me their partial for critique.

You can send your pitches to donna@donnaalward.com.

Starting off 2009...

Today I'm over at the Pink Heart Society talking about how great our new year is going to be. Come on over and see what's going to be happening with the lil pink dancing guy!

We had a wii party last night at our friend's house and many many parts of me hurt this morning. This is a good thing. Perhaps I worked off the nachos and dip and the bacon wrapped scallops and the red wine. The kids even managed to make it to the magical hour, and slept in nearly 2 hours this morning.

It will be a lazy day as we are in the throes of a major blizzard. It has been snowing and blowing since 9 p.m. last night.

What's for your New Year's Dinner? Often we'd have ham at my grandmother's when I was growing up. At our house tonight it is fresh pasta in a veggie loaded marinara, and salad. :-)