Saturday, February 28, 2009

Changes

Working on: housecleaning
Listening to: the rain
Reading: Such Sweet Sorrow, Katie Flynn


I don't think I'm nearly as grumpy today as I was yesterday. I'm still not happy with the weather forecast and I still believe in happy endings, but at least I'm not so nearly out of sorts. I didn't have a great writing day and that didn't help. Everything felt static and pointless. And by the time I figured out why, I had to leave the computer alone. But at least now I know. Sometimes just the smallest shift opens up the writing so it makes sense. Usually when I get stuck like that, it means something is wrong. Figuring out what it is is sometimes the hard part.

My eldest is growing up. Kids go through different stages - babyhood and toddlerhood and childhood and then a shift in that childhood which is where she is now. We left toys behind a while ago and there was no longer any sleeping with stuffed animals. It is technology and books and clothes that are the big items these days. She'd definitely becoming more aware of herself as well. We're entering the realm of sleepovers and giggly girls and angsting over what to wear. It's not all bad. When the attitude emerges, I want to pull my hair out but sometimes it is fun to watch.

She was at a sleepover last night with other giggly girls. I got a call this morning asking if she could go shopping. Shopping! I blinked and asked for details. I ended up going over and picking up her stuff and taking her a purse with her hard earned allowance dollars in it. Three girls going to the mall to spend some cash and, well, giggle and say the word "cute" a lot. I pity the parent in charge.

And it's not with me, or with her little sister.

It feels kind of weird and kind of great, all at once.

Now the test is to see what she bought with her money and if it meets the mom approval test (you want to wear WHAT to school?).

Update: She bought a pair of flip flops at Garage - cute! LOL Had lunch and spent the majority of her money at Build A Bear making a teddy bear to give to her sister. Now the two of them are gabbing a mile a minute, catching up from their 24 hours apart.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sick of Winter and Unhappy endings

Working on: Chapter Five of CBTC
Listening to: The Most Relaxing Classical Album in the World...Ever
Reading: North and South

I felt the need for some relaxing classical this morning as I am very out of sorts. First of all, I need some breakfast before I do the yucky chore of banking. There's the fact that the husband is on the road too. A funny thing happens every time my husband travels. It's a phenomenon even greater than Il Nino in my opinion and the neighbours are starting to agree. Every time he goes away, we have a weather event. Even last summer, it would manifest in tropical storms, hurricanes, thunderstorms that knocked out power...and his absence every single time. But winter has been horrendous. It doesn't matter if he's gone 36 hours, in the middle we'll have a bout of snow or freezing rain or howling winds that knock out power. I am thoroughly sick of it.

This time the forecast looked clear right through to his return and we thought maybe this would break the cycle. Oh, how glib we were. The forecast for the weekend is horrendous. Tomorrow - rain. Sunday - about 6 inches of snow. Monday - another 6 inches. Tuesday - somewhere between 8-12 inches. Add it all up - yep, we could have close to 2 feet of snow. I know snow is expected in my neck of the woods (unlike my friends in the UK) but this is a lot even for us. Not to mention potential snow days from school. The possibility of power outages and the driveway to keep plowed out. IMO He just needs to stop going away. So in all actuality, I am dreading the mess of the next four or five days.

The other thing that has set me off is that I am getting sick of watching movies with bad endings. I've blogged several times already about watching movies where it ends but there is no actual ending. The story just drops off and it drives me mad. Well even more than that, I get really ticked when there is no happy ending.

Of course I know the whole art imitates life thing and that life doesn't have happy endings all the time so if movies are to be a reflection...to that I say blah, blah, blah. If I take 2 hours out of my life to kick back with a movie, by all means I don't mind if you make me think, but at least give me the payoff in the end. In this I support the Hollywood machine all the way. The principle is simple: guy gets the girl, good triumphs over evil. It isn't that hard of a concept. It starts to feel like these depressing endings are in themselves a contrivance in an effort to make things more "artistic" and "literary" and I think it's a load of claptrap. I'm sorry. At the end of the day I want to be uplifted.

Imagine Dirty Dancing and Baby saying, "You're right Johnny, it doesn't matter what you do...they fired you anyway." And then ending the movie. Johnny gone, Baby left feeling like it's not worth it to stand up for other people, love story cut off at the knees. Lovely optimistic statement, yeah?

I watched Atonement last year and no, I hadn't read the book. But I was meh over the movie and totally let down by the ending. What was the point. Oh yes, right. There IS no point, what an elevated way of thinking. YUCK.

If you haven't seen PARTITION, don't read any further because I'm going to spoil it for you if you do.

So PARTITION is what has set me off this morning and I think it's because I absolutely loved it up until the last 10 minutes. It is GORGEOUS. Beautifully acted...Jimi Mistry is amazing...loved seeing John Light (Hello, Henry Lennox!), Neve Campbell okay, Kristin Kruek a surprise though looking a bit gaunt. But stunningly shot and a compelling, beautiful love story.

The whole time you want this to work out, this beautiful, larger-than-life-and-differences love for each other and their gorgeous son. But oh no. Heaven forbid we have a happy ending. It was a simple choice. Throw the bad guy in front of the train. Seriously. For GOD'S SAKE, don't kill off the hero. But that's what they did, and ended with some supposedly significant narration about his ashes being spread around some stupid tree and the tree making new trees and I couldn't give a good damn. I felt COMPLETELY RIPPED OFF, especially after I invested myself in it.

Here's my alternate ending: stupid bad guy/heroine's brother dies, they stumble on to the train together with their son, and since they can neither live in India or Pakistan really (the partition) they go to England as a family, not just the heroine, who is there with her son at the end. It's really not a difficult thing. Hell, if you want significance, how about the idea that being from different "places" left them no place and they had to make their way to another land?

This is why I'm a romance author I suppose. I want to be uplifted. I want hope - not the death of hope or the exhaustion of futility. If the point is THERE IS NO POINT, then sorry...I'm not interested.

And that was a really long rant.

If any of you know of movies that I shouldn't watch because of unhappy endings, please let me know in the comments.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Book Blogs and Reel Reviews

I have really neglected blogging books I've read and a couple of movies I've watched. But I have to be brief...the schedule hasn't truly slowed down that much. Before I launch into it though, there is a special guest at the Pink Heart Society today - Silhouette editor Susan Litman! She's talking all about Special Edition and some fantastic opportunities so please pop over and see what she has to say - especially if you're an aspiring author.

Books I've read: Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife by Michelle Styles. This might be my favourite of Michelle's...except A Christmas Wedding Wager might give it a run for its money. Actually all her releases set in the Northeast are my particular cup of tea. IMCW is out in April in the UK I believe.

Claimed by the Rogue Billionaire - Trish Wylie's latest Presents release, AKA the Gabe book.

And I read my fourth and final book for the RITA's...RITA reading was quite enjoyable this year, but long as I did longer categories.

I have watched a couple of movies too. I watched Poldark - which I learned afterwards is based on several books. Once I knew that I understood why it had ended as it had. It did not however alleviate my annoyance at that ending. Still a good cast and I did enjoy it until I got to the credits and yet again said "Wha???????????"

I also watched the 1977 version of The Four Feathers with Beau Bridges and Jane Seymour (my word, speaking of timeless beauty and all). It was great. I will confess to not having seen the Heath Ledger version but I really enjoyed it. I am now trying to figure out where I've seen the actor who played Jack - A brief trip to IMDB should sort it. I kept trying to picture him older. I wondered if perhaps he played Mr. Bell in North and South but no.

Speaking of North and South - I'm also reading it right now. It is NOT a fast read, but I AM enjoying it a lot and smile lots when I see little bits from the mini. And may I say the casting for Mrs. Thornton is DEAD ON. She is perfect.

Now I have to run!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Covers and such

I am at the Pink Heart Society today talking about working smart (ie offline) which is a hoot considering, well, I'm obviously online. But it's okay. Read the post and see why.

I'm also at the CataNetwork Readers loop along with several other Harlequin Romance authors, where we're having a special Romance day! If you are interested there should be links to the loop at http://www.cataromance.com/. I do know that there are several prizes up for grabs.

And Amazon has the North American version of my cover up, yippee! Here's a gander, and now I'm off to walk the dog and come back and plod along on the wip.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Announcing - THE PERFECT PITCH WINNER!

Working on: Captured By The Cowboy
Listening to: nothing at the moment
Reading: Cordero's Forced Bride

Well, I have read all the pitches, I chose the final five, and those five writers sent me a first chapter. Yesterday, I read all five chapters and critiqued them and had the job of agonizing over picking just ONE to be the winner of the contest.



Before I give you the name, I have to say that reading yesterday was a great pleasure. I think all five voices are publishable and they all have the ability to make it. I had only intended to read one chapter each day this week, but after reading one wanted to read another and before I knew it I'd done all five!



There was a lot of strong writing; many things done right. But in the end, it came down to one story, one that I couldn't get out of my head and that I enjoyed so immensely!
So.....(drum roll please).....



Congratulations to Sri Pammi with her first chapter of The Greek Tycoon's Substitute Wife!



Sri's got solid conflict and characters that leap off the page. Her hero is a fantastic alpha male that is ruthless and sexy all at once, and her heroine is independent and spunky despite being faced with a terrible task at the beginning. I love how they went toe to toe and the sexual tension shimmered.



Sri will be sending me the rest of her partial for critique, and then I'm here when she needs me over the next year as hopefully she gets this manuscript into the editors in Richmond. I'm pleased for her and very excited to be working with her!



Congratulations Sri!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday stuff

Working on: Captured By The Cowboy
Listening to: kids watching Mythbusters
Reading: Impoverished Miss, Convenient Wife

Everyone should have received their pitch critiques by now, so if you haven't please drop me a line and I'll see what happened. This week I hope to pick the big winner!

On the weekend I also had a phone "meeting" for research and came away with tons of great info. I'm thinking a pressie of some sort will be in order. Anyway it does make me feel more in the zone for the WIP which I am continuing on with today - I handed my revisions in at about 7 p.m. Friday night.

Today's also a little crazy as I am the "guest speaker" in my eldest's class. They are starting their story writing unit so I'm going in to talk about what I do and also about story telling. I'm leaving the mechanics of it to the teacher. This is the great part for me, because I get to talk about what makes a great story and hopefully generating some ideas and enthusiasm.

And then it's dual dentist appts for the offspring. And a load of laundry.

No sweat, right?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Are you ready for it?

As the pitch contest comes towards its conclusion, I have to say I have learned a LOT about pitching. It makes a huge different sitting in the other seat - the seat where you are reading the pitches and not writing them. I can see things in the ones that were sent to me that perhaps my blinders prevent me from seeing in my own. It's been a good thing.

I promised to critique everyone's pitch, and that's pretty much done - if you entered and haven't heard from me by the end of today, drop me an e-mail at donna@donnaalward.com .

But the hardest part for me is critiquing. For one, I look at the few paragraphs in front of me and what I see is, well, what I see. I don't necessarily know who is on the other end, or at what stage they are in their journey to publication. I have two objectives when it comes to critiquing. Once is two encourage. If nothing else, every single person who entered is writing, is wanting to tell stories, is interested in publishing. That in itself is a big step. I always say something positive. If it doesn't seeem so, let what I said sit for a while and come back. There are positives in there. I promise.

The other objective is to be honest. I will shoot straight with you. I truly, TRULY believe that I am not doing you any favours if I am not honest. You will not find snark. I promise that too. Behind every critique is, as I told someone last night, a sincere desire to help you get to the finish line.

So do you want to know what I learned from you?

Since most of the pitches were for either Harlequin lines or single title romance, here's some common things I picked up on and in the process figured a few things out for myself.

1) Your pitch can be a few lines or a few short paragraphs, but what it MUST include is enough information about the story so I can visualize it. It has to grab me, I have to see it.

2) The leave 'em guessing tactic doesn't work. Go figure...I'm guilty of this one. You don't want to reveal too much. You want to dangle the carrot. Well, the carrot isn't enough. The information you give has to be concrete.

3) Many of the pitches simply missed having some zing - and many were easily improved by a little bit of tightening and getting rid of unnecessary words. I also learned that it is easier for ME to eliminate those unnecessary words in someone else's pitch than it is my own!

4) In the end, what I wanted to see were the high points: the hook - what premise throws them together, the inner conflict - what are their goals and how do their goals complicate things, and the romance - the reason why these two set sparks off in each other.

One pitch in particular I worked on with an author last night and I felt in the end we really ended up with something that would grab an editor or agent's attention. I was certainly excited about it.

I just wanted to say to those of you in the trenches, don't let any feedback or rejection slip get you down. As my CP drilled into me enough times - Dedication, Determination, Desire and Discipline. I hope something I might have said in my replies helps the teensiest bit on your journey. That was and is my objective in holding the contest.

And thank you for trusting me with your work. It isn't always easy sending things out into the world...especially to be judged.

Next week I'll be back with the big winner. :-)

UPDATE:

If you are in the 12 that didn't hear back yet, I truly truly meant to get back to you today and things went sideways. The hope is to finish them all this weekend. Right now...I have 2 more chapters to polish before I send my revisions back. Abject, sincere and groveling apologies!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Music

Working on: Revisions to RBTR
Listening to: The Climb - Miley Cyrus
Reading: Claimed By The Rogue Billionaire

I'll admit it - today I'm tired. I stayed up late trying to kick the stuffing out of my to-do list, and I made some good headway but thanks to some html problems didn't finish. So today is finishing the first go round of my revisions so I can polish tomorrow. And finishing Trish's book at last, because I meant to do that last night as well. And maybe actually sitting down and watching an hour of tv rather than my computer screen.

I am listening to "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus right now. I am not generally a fan, and my girls don't enjoy Hannah Montana either, but as Michelle and Kate and Biddy all agree over at the PHS today for Michelle's post on Soundtracks, sometimes it's individual tracks that speak the loudest, and I love this song. The lyrics are very inspirational with a great driving beat. Take for instance the chorus: There's always gonna be another mountain/I'm always gonna want to make it move/Always gonna be an uphill battle, sometimes I'm gonna have to lose/Ain't about how fast I get there/Ain't about what's waiting on the other side/It's The Climb

And I'm going to sound like my mother for a minute but I like how Miley is covered up in the video. And yet she's sexy at the same time...which just goes to show that it's not skin that equates to sexiness. I'm glad to see that as a teenager especially she's sexy without being slutty.

That phs post also inspired me for today's CD choice as I'm working - Josh Groban's CLOSER. I have seen Josh live twice and the husband and I promised that next time we will take the girls. The stereo is also a long way from my piano now, and so as a late Christmas present the husband got me a nice set of bookshelf speakers on sale. They sit on either side of the piano and pipe Josh music into the sitting room, where I can play along to my heart's content.

So on goes the CD and me back to revisions.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hired: The Italian's Bride!

Working on: Revisions for RBTR

Listening to: kids watching Mythbusters

Reading: Claimed by the Rogue Billionaire


My hardbacks arrived yesterday! I was so excited to see the box, alas I was the driver and my husband had them on his lap. He opened them...stared into the box and said "Oh My God." It really was cruel of him, as I had yet to see cover art or blurb.


But I love the cover. It fits the story and the tone and yes, even the characters. In the North American version, I think you will be able to see more of the Rockies out the window. So without further ado:


Dream job - enter hot new Italian boss!

Mariella Ross has built a new life for herself at the Fiori Cascade hotel, and she isn't going to allow the new owner's devil-may-care attitude to disrupt her hard work! Even if secretly she finds Luca Fiori's laid-back charm infectious and his smile intoxicating...

Luca's showing Mari a side of life she's almost forgotten. Overcoming her dark past won't be easy, but with Luca by her side Mari's beginning to feel that anything might be possible...
In other news, huge congrats to my CP Michelle for her new 4 book deal! Readers can look forward to some more great historicals coming their way very soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Review

Working on: Revisions for RBTR
Listening to: CBTC playlist
Reading: Claimed By The Rogue Billionaire, Trish Wylie

I finished my RITA reading yesterday and logged my scores. I had some good books this year, some that were more enjoyable than I expected which is always nicer than the other way around. I like judging for the simple reason that sometimes it breeds ideas, and this year certainly did that.

I also responded to five more pitches after dinner last night, so I'm working my way through, and I am knee deep in revisions. But I did feel like I got a lot accomplished.

I also got a new review for Falling For Mr. Dark and Dangerous from Book Illuminations. Debbie gave it a 4.5 and said some lovely things about my writing. You can read it for yourself at the site. :-)

I'm also at Travel Tuesday over at The Pink Heart Society.

Now I'm off for a quick snack and revisions. :-)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hard at work

Working on: Revisions for Rescued By The Rancher
Listening to: Josh Groban, Closer
Reading: Last Rita entry

This week sees me hard at work. I really need to focus. My revisions for Rescued By The Rancher arrived Friday night. They are involved, only because they are threads that move throughout the whole story, rather than specific bits. However all the suggestions made perfect sense to me, and I can already see how the story should be emotionally much stronger. But I cannot waste time. I only have six-odd weeks to finish Captured by the Cowboy - and I'm just over a quarter of the way through. I figure revisions will eat up about a week of that time.

Plus, I got stopped up on research and got truly frustrated with dead ends last week. I put out a call for help which gave me a few leads, but truly the best find was Saturday and I will be drafting a set of questions this morning to send off. The hope is very much that by the time the revisions are sent, I'll have my research in order and can carry on with my story. It's a matter of timing and plausibility really rather than specific detail. But it is something that does need to be right.

And I'm still making my way through pitches and chapters, and am about half through my last Rita book for judging.

Anyway I will likely still be blogging, it just might be a little less rambly and more to-the-point.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Books, flowers, and friends

Today I had a booksigning with Julianne MacLean here in Halifax. Julianne and I had never actually met until about 5 min before the signing, and we fell into chatting immediately! She's lovely, and I totally don't think I made an idiot of myself as a fangirl. It was nice to have someone to chat to.

I did sell out as getting copies had proved difficult - basically the stores in the city shipped over their surplus as we were a little late placing our order - it was kind of a last minute thing. At least I know there are several copies that will not be on my reserves. LOL Julianne went through her titles like hotcakes. At one point a lady came up with a box of Julianne's backlist to sign! Very cool. I of course had to grab a couple of copies of her latest - one for me and one for my sister who is also a fan.

A whole lotta members of RWAC made it out too - that's the local chapter of RWA. I'm still getting to know many of the ladies in the group so it was great to chat again. This group is fabulous and in true Maritime style laugh - A LOT.

I also got to meet someone from e-harlequin and that's a real joy. It happened in October as well in Calgary when I met "Kaelee", and this time I met Lynne. It is special, knowing that someone who doesn't know you takes time out of their day to come see you and pick up a book. Lynne and I have something in common - we're both fans of Julianne's books! Unfortunately I forgot my camera and didn't have one until later when my husband came, so I don't have a picture of Lynne...next time. And my neighbour Phyllis also popped in!

And when my dh came he also brought flowers. Lots of the RWAC girls were around and so he came off looking the hero again. Which of course, he is. They are now in a lovely vase on my table.

Now I'm off to watch a movie with Mr. Hero and have a glass of wine. Tomorrow is hosting a tea party for a few young ladies. I will be baking shortbread and making finger sandwiches tomorrow morning!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day Deals

Tomorrow is Valentine's Day and that means some of the great deals are on NOW. I won't be posting tomorrow as I'm at a booksigning in the afternoon - from 12-2 at the Sunnyside Indigo in Bedford, NS.

Harlequin has some great deals on right now. There is a three day sale starting today. Head on over - you save an extra 14% off on top of the normal 20% savings, AND you get a free book! This sale ends on Feb. 15 so don't miss out. Just click on the banner below.






Starting tomorrow, Harlequin is also offering a collection for FREE DOWNLOAD. In it you will find a special story by Catherine Mann, as well as 60 - that's one for each celebratory year, by the way - personal
stories from their popular blog bashes with favourite authors. You might even find an entry by yours truly in there.



You can download your free treat beginning on February 14, at http://www.ebooks.eharlequin.com/ and it will remain available for a limited time.


Mills and Boon are in on the fun as well - with a Valentines Collection and also a fantastic 5 for 4 sale - five books for the price of four. This includes e-books as well. Click on the link below to take advantage of this great deal!


Grab a bundle of romance this Valentine's Day - Click Here!



I think that just about does it for me. Happy Valentine's Day to all of you...back on Monday for me!


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wasted Hearts, and a little respect

School was canceled yet again. Apparently the roads are very slippery and there is rain and freezing rain forecast for the day. I dunno. Maybe I just haven't been out on the roads so I'm skeptical. But it feels very springlike outdoors and there have been a LOT of snow days this year that have little to do with, well, snow.

Anyway, the twenty-odd handmade valentines each of my kids made for today are now sitting in backpacks and I am assuming that they will be handed out etc. on Monday as tomorrow is a PD day. That's right. No school until Monday.

In the words of Daffy Duck - what a way to run a railroad.

The last few nights my winding-down hour or so has been spent rewatching the first four episodes of Battlestar Galactica's final season. I've long been in awe of the writing on this show. And maybe it's a tad bit of sentimentality on my part knowing this is the last season. But as I was watching the other night what struck me was the commitment.

I have a lot of respect for Ron Moore. Not only because I think he's a writing genius, but because I think he put together a show, and a crew, and a cast, with great thought and respect for them. Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) said the first time she did a scene with Ron he thanked her when it was over, and what a rarity that was.
I think a good part of the reason why the show is a success is because Ron knew the secret. Surround yourself with good people. He did that. People that were excited and committed and then he fostered it. You can see it, in the performances, in the camera work, in the set design. In the way the cast and crew speak of the show.




A few moments in particular of recent seasons have stuck with me. The first being Lee Adama's monologue at the trial. When he finishes and says incredulously, "That's justice!" and then quieter, "Well not to me. Not to me." It is a brilliant moment.




There are other moments this season that I will only allude to because some people here might not have seen them yet. But one is the development with Dee in the season opener. Kandyse McClure's character was under the radar in a lot of episodes. Steady, always there, playing a more pivotal role than she got credit for. And she pulled out all the stops in her performance in Sometimes a Great Notion.

And in the latest episode, when Roslin is responding to Tom Zarek from the baseship. Roslin is scary in this moment. She is passionate with absolutely nothing to lose. More importantly - and I saw this on the second viewing, check out Six (Tricia Helfer) in the background and her reaction to Laura's words. Laura's got the cylons fired up. Six is ready to roll. If you don't mind being spoiled....here's the clip.




Why does this get to me so personally? Because when I watch, what I see is a group of people always giving their best work, and then trying to make it even better. They believe in what they are doing and they have great leadership.

I'm gonna miss it when it's gone.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Pics and Playlists

Working on: Chapter 3 of CBTC
Listening to: CBTC playlist
Reading: second to last RITA book

Well, you've seen all the pitches, and now it's up to me to make it through the rest and e-mail all the entrants. I've done about 13 or 14, which means I have about 30 left. My lofty goal is to get through the rest of them by next Monday, so I can start looking at the first chapters of the pitch winners.

I am enjoying writing the new book, and yesterday after the kids were home and it was too crazy noisy to try to concentrate, I finally made up a playlist. Some of the titles crack me up a bit knowing what I do about the story, but they are all songs that somehow speak to me about these characters and plot. Here's what I've got on the list:

Bring Him Home - Ryandan
Broken - Lifehouse (the song that actually started it all for me)
Marry Me - Amanda Marshall
Beautiful - Christina Aguilera
Hemorrhage - Fuel
You're Beautiful - James Blunt
Your Body is a Wonderland - John Mayer
Hello Goodbye - Live on Arrival
Gotta Be Somebody - Nickelback
Skin - Rascal Flatts
Best I Ever Had - State of Shock
Just When I Needed You Most - Bread (Go ahead and laugh)
The Blower's Daughter - Damien Rice (this is going to be for one scene in particular)
So Far Away - Staind


I think it's clear from this list that I'm a sucker for sap and a rocker at heart. :-)

The other VERY inspirational thing that happened yesterday is that I got a new picture of Jamie Bamber that is just WOW. For those of you in the UK the pic and interview is in this month's Glamour. My daughter is at the age where she is thinking of putting pictures on her bedroom walls. I said, "That is SO eighties." Then I minimized my e-mail. "No honey," I said, you put it on your desktop."

Here's my new desktop, and possible hero inspiration for a future book:


Happy Hump Day, and that's all I'm sayin'. I'm off to make that word count meter move.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Pitch Number Five - Nikki Cole

Another review made its way to my inbox yesterday, this time from Once Upon A Romance. The review is here, and Robyn has given it a 4.5 rating!

And here is our very last pitch! Take it away Nikki!

Hi Donna,

Happy New Year! Hope everything is well with you and your family and that your current book is back on track!

Below is a pitch for your contest for aspiring writers. I'm having a huge crisis of confidence at the moment so it's probably rubbish! But as the saying goes "you've got to be in it to win it" so I thought I'd send it to you anyway.

Acting CEO Nick Blake wants a wife but not for the usual reasons. Nick’s life has been hell since a UK newspaper published an article on the country’s richest men and he found himself at number two! Now his name gets mentioned in all manner of glossy women’s magazines that he’s never heard of and would rather not find himself in. For a man who takes his work very seriously, it’s more than a bit annoying to hear thinly veiled suggestions that a bachelor being chased by paparazzi possibly isn’t the best person to run a company. He figures the way out is to find himself a wife.


Professional negotiator Kara Hartley needs money fast. Her brother – her parents’ golden boy who could never do any wrong – has gambled away their hard earned fortune and the deeds to the family home. She’s looking for a solution before her parents find out.

So when Nick finds Kara in his office in tears, he offers her a deal she can’t refuse – a 12 month marriage contract in return for paying off her debts. Nick and Kara marry to solve their immediate problems only to find they’ve created another - will they be able to walk away when the 12 months is up?


Take care,

Nikki

I had to have a little laugh at Nikki. You see I've "known" her for quite a long time, so it is perfectly okay for her to let me know she's had a crisis of confidence. However, I would recommend that when pitching to agents and editors you all leave those illuminating tidbits OUT of your letter! LOL

Besides, it was easily forgiven when she used one of my favourite quotes, "You've got to be in it to win it." Amen!

Nikki didn't tell me what line this was for, but off the cuff I pretty much guessed Harlequin Romance or perhaps Modern Heat as it does have that sense of a flirty office and hip-kind of tabloid hook. But the more I read it, the more I thought a 12 month contract sounded Romance-ish. Nikki has since told me I'm right, and I'm really looking forward to reading her first chapter.

I didn't find a lot to red flag in this pitch. You simply can't get all the motivations into a few paragraphs, I don't think. He has a reason, she has a reason, and I am left with a feeling that there is enough internal conflict to carry the story the rest of the way and the reasons will hold water with the correct execution.

So there are the final five, and I'm starting to receive their first chapters so hopefully before you know it I will be back to announce the big winner!

As an aside - it never rains but pours, and I received my copy edits for my novella yesterday, so I apologize for the delay in getting your pitch critiques back. I haven't forgotten. :-) Everyone who sent a pitch will hear back from me eventually. Just bear with me.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Pitch Number Four - Sri Pammi

Ah, a weekend of house cleaning, reading, knitting, and a drawer or two cleaned out. At least some odd jobs got done that have been needed doing.

The weekend also saw a brand new review for The Rancher's Runaway Princess at Romance Reader at Heart. Kay James gave a wonderful review and said "I think the things I enjoyed the most about this story were the down-home, normal touches. A fiddle, a dance, a stand taken over a horse’s well-being, as well as kisses in the moonlight and fluttering hearts, make this tale shine. They are small touches but when pulled into the tender romance they add a layer that brings Brody and his princess fully to life. "


The whole review is HERE.

And we're back at Monday again, so as promised, here is finalist pitch number four.

Hi Donna,

Here's my pitch for the contest. This is a completed manuscript geared towards Harlequin Presents line.

I'm attaching a word file of the pitch. If you want me to send it in the body of this email, please let me know and I will send it right back.Thank you so much for doing this for aspiring writers.

Thank you once again.

Sri.

The Greek Tycoon’s Substitute Wife-Pitch
Sri Pammi

After finding her fiancé in bed with another woman the night before her wedding, Catalina Dowling has given up on men. But she agrees to marry the Greek shipping tycoon Theron Dionysius when her half-sister Fiona runs away hours before the wedding. It wasn’t marriage; it was war with the gorgeous playboy who threatened to sink her father’s business if she didn’t become his substitute wife.


What Cat hadn’t foreseen was that under the tough exterior of her husband lay a caring heart. But she has the memory of the love of his life and her half-sister Fiona to fight. Dare she ever hope to be more than a substitute?


Theron Dionysius’s best laid plans to thwart his mother crumbled to dust when his fiancée ran away but he was determined to not return to Greece without a wife. He has met one too many women like Catalina Dowling and he was determined that she would pay for her half-sister’s disgrace. So, he gave the prickly Catalina an ultimatum- become his wife or see her parents ruined.

But having the voluptuous redhead as his wife, opened up old wounds and new desires from which he thought himself impervious. With every layer of her revealed, she set a fire to his body, his heart and his soul. Suddenly, he wants forgiveness. He wants a chance to prove himself worthy of her love. Dare he trust himself this time around?


Doesn't this sound exactly as a Presents story should? Already I know that Sri is targeting this for the right line. And my critique partner will be smiling a knowing smile today as she reads this because we have just been talking about Presents and the Beauty and the Beast plot.

The few things I mentioned to Sri in my e-mail were with regards to the half sister and the old fiance. I did think finding her fiance with another woman should be definite backstory for Cat and Sri did tell me that it is (hooray!). I also wondered about having the half sister being the runaway bride. I think the conflict could have been crystallised a bit more so I got a better sense of how it plays out, but if the execution is right this could fall right in line with Presents.

Come back tomorrow for the last of the winning pitches.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Saturday Morning Walks


It started out so peaceful and lovely like this:




Then we got a little slower, through this:

Phew....getting tired at the end! (Thanks for the lift, Uncle O!)



It was a great morning.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Pieces of a puzzle

I am dodging my cp's whip because I DO need to be finishing up chapter 2. I am really enjoying this story so far. Maybe because I had time to think about it so much while working on the last, as they are a duet. But I love both my characters dearly.


I don't think I've posted a pic of my heroine casting. This is Lily. Lily's kind of neat, I think. She is positive that marriage and babies and all that fuss is not for her. And she's got a good reason for that. And yet, she's a strong, soft hearted woman with a nurturing side that continually does for others. I love that about her. She is upbeat and positive, but with such a squishy centre underneath it all. She is a woman that really has a lot to give, and is just afraid to give it.


The other thing that happened this morning is that a piece of the puzzle finally came together for me. I have been thinking and thinking about a single title story. But something was always missing. Sometimes you just have to wait for the pieces to click into place. I read a book recently that I really enjoyed that got me to thinking. And then this morning I read a blog post elsewhere about something entirely different and bang bang bang it all fit together. Or, like keys unlocking doors one by one. Which is a similar metaphor to what will happen in the book once I sit down to write it.


All I know is that suddenly it makes sense, it feels like it could be very evocative and I'm terribly excited about it.

Pitch Number Three - Soraya Nicholas

Before I get started, I'm over at The Pink Heart Society today, for Must Watch Friday. I'm chatting a bit about the HBO miniseries John Adams that I finished watching recently.

We're up to pitch number three now - here's Soraya Nicholas's pitch for Second Chance Soldier:

Hi Donna

I would like to pitch my story, Second Chance Soldier, to you. Here goes . . .

"When Luke Brown finally arrives home from 3 years of active duty in Iraq, it’s not to the homecoming he had hoped for. His wife and son might be waiting for him, but he’s been a crappy Dad and an even worse husband, and he knows it.

Olivia has lived like a widow for years, and raised her son alone. So when her husband turns up and wants another chance, she has no intention of saying yes. She has the divorce papers ready. But the truth is, she still loves the memory of her husband, and when he asks for one month to prove himself, Olivia gives in.

Luke knows 30 days isn’t long, but he’s willing to do whatever it takes. Can this soldier be the Dad and father he so desperately wants to be? He thinks so, now he just has to convince his wife."


Hope you like it, I would love to send you the first chapter!

Soraya

A couple of things grabbed me about this pitch. First of all, I'm a sucker for soldier stories. In fact, I'm writing one at the moment. There is something about a hero in uniform that just does it for me. So I'm already intrigued.

Even better is that this is a marriage in jeopardy story. I love them when they are done right and I don't see them as often as I'd like (I have yet to be brave enough to try one). I saw potential in this right away.

What red flag popped up for me? Well, growth arcs. The easiest (and fastest) way for me to explain is to post what I put in Soraya's e-mail:

"...beware of making your hero too self aware. Yes, he’s been a crappy dad, and not a great husband. But if he KNOWS it right away, where’s the conflict? What is going to keep them apart? What things has he suffered that he thinks they won’t understand? Go deep with your hero and there is lots of internal conflict to be found. He wants another chance, and asks for a month. How is he going to struggle? What mistakes is he going to make?

Also…make sure Olivia also has a growth arc. It can’t just be Luke that grows and changes. She needs to too. I think if you give Luke more conflict, then it forces Olivia to look at herself as well…and give her the opportunity to fall in love with not only the husband he was but the man he has become. Just some food for thought!"


I am really looking forward to reading this and seeing how Soraya handles it.

It's Friday, and I've done a good job at making my word count. Things are a little crazy today but I'm determined to finish chapter two. :-)

I'll be posting pitches four and five first of the week.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pitch Number Two - Caroline Witt

Yesterday was a brill day in that I accomplished everything I had on my list. I love days like that. I critiqued five pitches, posted Chelle's here, wrote 2000 words on the new manuscript, finished the RITA book I was reading, and did my 30 min of exercise. I also knit as I was watching EMMA again. I haven't for a while and forgot how scrummy Jeremy Northam is in it.

So now we're on to the next finalist, Caroline Witt. Here's her pitch:


Hi Donna,

I am a frequent lurker on eharlequin’s subcare—and hope one day to have something out there to be “waiting on”.

Until that day, I’ve started entering contests to gage “where I’m at”.

So, please accept my entry into your Pitch Contest. Billionaire’s Baby is targeted at the Desire Line.


Tyler Benson is the last Benson in a long line that built Australia’s third largest financial services conglomerate. When a rival CEO falls pregnant with his child, family history tells him it’s no accident. But can he put aside a burning need for revenge to claim the heir he needs to continue his family line?

Already fighting a mysterious hostile takeover, Main Street CEO, Madison Morgan, learns that due to a fertility clinic blunder, the paternity of her child is in question. So, who’s the daddy? — Maddie’s deceased husband, or could reclusive billionaire, Tyler Benson, stake a claim to both her company and her child?

Regards,

Caroline Witt


A helpful bit of information is knowing where she's targeted this story. It SOUNDS like a Desire IMO, so that got my first nod. It's also to the point, with enough of the conflict to keep me interested. There are 2 levels of conflict which I like - the company side and the paternity side, and so I am confident there is enough conflict to carry the story. What family history? What hostile takeover? And a deceased husband? I want to know more. This pitch grabbed me.

Of course there is always a bit of caution and in this pitch it's the fertility clinic blunder. It can be done, but it needs to be done well for it to be plausible. So my advice to Caroline was to be sure that Tyler's motivation for using the sperm bank is solid. I got a feeling as I was reading that it is tied up with the heir part, but it really does have to work and not just be a coincidence.

I do want to mention too a big thank you to the finalists for giving me permission to put their pitches on the blog for all to see. :-)

Come back tomorrow to see the next one!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pitch Number One - Chelle Sandell

In random order, here's the first pitch. After Alice's comment in the previous posts, I thought it would be a good time to explain what I meant about intro, pitch and thanks. I said that if you were meeting someone to pitch your story, you wouldn't just say your pitch. You'd say "Hi, I'm Donna. It's nice to meet you." At the end, you might say, "Thanks for your time today." It doesn't have to be a big deal...just a beginning and an end. If I didn't make that clear, my apologies...I automatically send opening and closing sentences with any correspondence or submission and so never gave it another thought.

Here is Chelle's pitch:

Thank you so much for presenting such an incredible opportunity for unpubbed authors!

Chelle Sandell

Kiss Me Cowboy

Kyla Jacobs thought a divorce after seventeen years of marriage, drowned out by her husbandʼs descent into depression and alcohol, was the worst she would ever have to deal with. Until her ex-husband is killed in a car accident, and her teenage son begins to follow the same self-destructive path. But Kyla will have to battle more than her heart to keep her son out of hand-cuffs, and the last thing she wants is a tall, dark and sexy sheriffʼs deputy from her past telling her how to raise her son.

Sheriffʼs deputy Colt Stephens walked away from Kyla once knowing she chose the wrong man. He has the opportunity for another chance, but has competition--her boss, the local district attorney who doesnʼt exactly fight fair. The badge that once saved Coltʼs life is the barbed-wire fence keeping Kyla and her son from letting him into their lives. He refuses to give up on her this time, but Kyla can only see the badge and not his need to help save a boy who reminds Colt of himself.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Chelle (followed by links to her blog and webpage)


Why did I like this pitch? First of all, I got a good sense of story that said Superromance or Harlequin American. The premise and conflict were solid...this is a story with potential. She hits the high points and hooks, and it makes me ask myself questions. This is a story I'd want to READ.

When I e-mailed Chelle, I sent feedback, and these were the two red flags: one, the romantic interest of the DA, which I thought would detract from the main conflict rather than adding to it. Not to say the character has to disappear, but how he is used could change - and Chelle and I have already chatted a bit about it. Second, I wasn't sure if they actually needed a shared past. This is something that's come up in my own writing often lately and there is lots of conflict in the NOW to carry the story. I threw out a few options, like how knowing of each other in the past could lend itself to the conflict now without it having been a romantic relationship. Either way, I'm looking forward to seeing how Chelle sets up the story and reading her first chapter.

I'll be back tomorrow with another pitch. :-)

The Final Five (or, The Perfect Pitch Finalists!)

Ok, so I admit I chose that title because I'm still very squee-ish over this last season of Battlestar Galactica. But this time I'm not talking about cylons...unless these people know something I don't.

Nope, I'm talking about the Pitch Contest and the five finalists! I didn't want to delay with this part of the process, so over the weekend and today I went to work. First, I narrowed the field by about 2/3 - a shortlist of around 16. And then...I sat with my pen and those pitches and made notes and deliberated and moved things around and finally came up with five pitches.

Before I announce the winners, I should mention that the number one thing I looked for was an engaging story that intrigued me. A story where I could see possibilities.

Other things that I paid attention to, but that did not trump story was:

The format of the letter. A nice, brief intro line or two is nice, the pitch, and a thanks at the end is appreciated. I prefer the pitch in the body, not as an attachment, but since I didn't particularly specify that, I didn't really take it into consideration. But, for reference, I do think pitches in the body is the norm of most agents/editors.

And I did look at the writing. If there are a lot of spelling errors, well, I take note. Correct spelling and attention to the sentences and structure show me you've put thought into it. I'm a big spelling freak.

But when it was all said and done, the pitch had to sell me on the story, and these are the five ladies that managed it, without further blathering from me!

Chelle Sandell

Caroline Witt

Soraya Nicholas

Sri Pammi

Nikki Cole

These five writers will be sending me their first chapters for a critique, and one will then put up with me for the remainder of the year!

I've had several requests to post the winning pitches, so as soon as I have the go-ahead from the authors, I'll post one a day, with comments on why I chose it, and even what suggestions I may have made regarding the story...

If you sent a pitch and didn't final, I WILL be replying to your pitch with comments, so hang tight. I do hope to get to everyone over the next few weeks.

One thing I'm learning from doing this is putting myself in an editor or agents shoes...it's a reminder of how diligent I need to be when I query - so that I stand out from the pack.

So there you go! Congrats to the finalists!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tuesday - Heroes, Contests, Signings and a neat blog

Lately it seems there is no shortage of info to put on the blog...in fact, a lot of the time I think of things and promise to post them tomorrow or the next day...so today is a bit of those things bundled up in one.

Over at eharlequin, the featured line this month is Romance and there is a spotlight on heroes called "My Favorite Hero". (Last month was the Desire line, incidentally, and I really enjoyed reading those posts.) Anyhoo, today's featured hero is Brody Hamilton from my current release, and the post is tied into the book I just handed in. You can pop over here and read.

Yesterday I updated my webpage for February and sent out my newsletter. The February contest is also tied into Harlequin's Spotlight Series on Romance. In celebration of their Diamond Birthday, all six Romances this month are in a series called Diamond Brides. There is also a chance to win a diamond necklace and your proposal in a future book. And because they look so fabulous, this month's prize is a selection of Diamond Brides books. Send me e-mail to donna@donnaalward.com with the subject line Diamond Brides to enter.

The other announcement is that I'm participating in a booksigning for The Rancher's Runaway Princess on FEB 14 - yes, Valentine's Day - with one of my favourite authors, Julianne MacLean. I love Julianne's historicals, and I'm beyond thrilled that we're signing books together. We'll be at the Sunnyside Indigo in Bedford, Nova Scotia from 12 - 2 pm.

And finally, time got away with me with this announcement. Suzanne McMinn's blog, Chickens In The Road, was nominated for a Bloggie award in the "Best Kept Secret" category. I meant to post it earlier and forgot, and voting ended last night. But that doesn't mean you can't go visit. It's a very cool blog and the recipes that woman posts....wow.

That's it for today...tick on item off the list and onward we go...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Monday odds and ends

I have to make a trip into Sackville this morning, so I'm going to pop into the post office and mail Maureen's prize. I did take a picture of it. There is the Harlequin Vintage Calendar, A signed cover flat from The Rancher's Runaway Princess, a bookmark from me and one from chapter-member Julianne MacLean (who happens to have a new release this month) and a small plaque.


I saw the plaque last summer at a store called The Rustic Rooster and I laughed. I bought it saving it specifically for this contest. It reads: I didn't ask to be a Princess, but if the crown fits...


It just was Lucy to a "t" for me.


Anita Mae Draper also reviewed TRRP this weekend over at her blog. She said " Using the majestic Rockies as a backdrop, Donna Alward weaves lonely despair and heartbreak together into an emotion-packed story that had me crying on pg 46 no less." She also gave it a 5 rating and put it on her top 10 of 2009! Thanks Anita Mae!


After the Sackville run it is home to do up my character sheets and then start on chapter one. The CP doesn't have to crack her whip - I'm well aware there is no time to waste. :-)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Results are IN!

WOW, what a crazy amazing response to my January contests!

First up - my newsletter contest. Many thanks to all the new subscribers this month! I've drawn the winner and the calendar etc. goes to MAUREEN EMMONS! Maureen, drop me a line at donna@donnaalward.com with your address. I am planning to take a quick pic of the prize this week and post it on the blog. :-) One item I bought last summer on a whim and saved it for the release of The Rancher's Runaway Princess! There will be a new newsletter out soon, with news on the next contest.

And then...well, double wow on the entrants for my Pitch Contest. I really did not expect to receive as many entries as I did. How many? FORTY EIGHT. 48. Holy smokes. Almost fifty entries. It is going to be really tough narrowing it down to just FIVE to send me a first chapter.

I have printed each pitch out and I'm going to go through them all, so please bear with me. I think I might just have an idea how my editor feels, lol. Most of you know I'm under some heavy deadlines this winter - I just handed in one book and I have another due the end of March - so I'm asking for your patience. The reason being...every pitch is going to receive feedback. I haven't yet decided if I am going to post the finalling pitches here or not, but I'd like to because it might be neat to explain why a particular pitch stood out.

I do hope to be fairly prompt and not keep people waiting too long, and the goal is to have the first chapters and the final winner all announced by the end of February at the latest.

Many thanks to everyone who entered. I am really looking forward to this whole process.

Today I get to be writerly and I am going to the local RWA chapter meeting. January's was cancelled and I missed December's due to deadline, so I'm really looking forward to re-meeting everyone again.