Friday, May 29, 2009

Proud moments

Working on: Character workshop for upcoming event
Listening to: Nothing at the mo
Reading: Home Again, Jules Bennett

A quick mention that I've added another book to the read total for this year in the form of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier which I really liked and wished there was more of. :-)

Today's post is about proud moments. Work-wise, I am very proud of what I do and today Diana Duncan explained it perhaps the best of anyone I've ever heard. She posted on the Silhouette Romantic Suspense blog with a touching story that had me wiping my eyes.


The other proud moment is a mommy moment. Yesterday my eldest had her hair cut. She grew it out and we went to the salon so she could have her ponytail cut off and the hair donated to charity. The charity in this case is Angel Hair for Kids. This program provides wigs and other hair solutions to kids who have lost their hair for medical reasons - not just cancer, but perhaps burns or other illnesses. You can read about the particulars in their press kit.

We measured, we tied, and then our lovely hairdresser Andrea sawed it off...I say sawed because like most of the people in our family, DD1 has very thick hair.

I am not posting an after picture because, well, I don't post pics of my kids, really. But she looks beautiful. The style suits her so well and it is like she turned into a young lady before my eyes. She loves it too, and now her little sister has decided she'd like to donate her hair as well. I'm all for it. It's a good cause and it does mean easier care during the swimming months.

Now I should blast off and try to get some work done. My brother is here until this afternoon and this weekend is puttering about the house on Saturday. Sunday my inlaws are arriving for a night so we will hopefully be planning a relaxing supper and the weather is supposed to be nice so hopefully we can chill out on the deck.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Crazy week, part 2

Working on: One Last Time
Listening to: Paul Potts
Reading: Her Own Private Hero, Julianne MacLean

I have picked up another of Julianne's for my next read. I would really love to finish her American Heiress series. However it does mean I am missing 2 of her following trilogy, and so I will pick those up during my next book order and the one I already have will wait.

Last week was crazy week and this week was supposed to be quieter. But things change. Now, I had a great writing day on Monday, that's true. But yesterday was a field trip. Last night I didn't think we had any Guide or Brownie meetings, but dd2 DID so there was carting her back and forth to that. THEN we have a slight dental problem so Dd1 is off for a dental appt this afternoon. As well, my brother called on Monday night and he is flying in tonight and will be spending a few days. Tomorrow is the last day for yoga and badminton for the girls, and the husband is out of town starting tonight. In the meantime, my word count has been sucking out loud. I'm in the middle of this book and the momentum hasn't picked up yet. And it has to. We're nearly to June, and I have to have this finished because the first three weeks of July are non-working - first company here for 10 days and then me off to Washington DC for Nationals.

So. Taking a deep breath, hoping next week is indeed quieter and determined to at least get some work done TODAY.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Book Blogs

Working on: Nada, school field trip today
Listening to: Probably 40 kids on the bus, ick!
Reading: next on tbr

Adding a few book blogs today and then dashing out the door. Found out last night that my brother will be in town tomorrow through to the end of the week so the hideabed needs to be made out. Plus there is the last week of badminton and yoga for the girls and a haircut on Thursday. My "lighter" week doesn't feel so light at this moment.

Ok so for the book blogs:

Such Sweet Sorrow by Katie Flynn

My CP sent me this book for Christmas knowing that I am particularly fond of WWII stories. It is quite different, set in Liverpool and definitely not a romance but firmly a fiction with a few romantic elements. Once you get used to the Liverpool accent, it can be quite enjoyable though I found it heavier on narrative than I'm used to. It took me quite a while to read the first half, and I figured out why: it was the stakes. There were the stakes of the war and the bombing raids, but the PERSONAL stakes were very light. However when you get into the second half, there is a lot more issue within the family - a bit of a love triangle and new story and an accident and it was much easier to turn the pages.

But it is one of those books that I think I will remember more than I expect long after I finished reading it.


Playboy Boss, Pregnancy of Passion by Kate Hardy

This is released as a Modern Heat - US release upcoming

This is the second in Kate's "To Tame A Playboy" Duet - I blogged the first book last week. I enjoyed both books a lot although I think Karim stole my heart just a little bit more than Luke.
However there is always something in Kate's books that is just so seductive. In the last - it was the food. Oh, the food. In this book, it's the seaside. And the really really NICE hotel. And mostly- the apple orchard. I grew up on an apple farm. Sarah's family home - the farmhouse, the orchard....when I read one of Kate's books I seem to just settle into somewhere that is familiar. I love how I can relate to the characters. And just when I think I will make it through without crying....page 182. And the book is 184 pages long! LOL

Thank you Kate for another great read!

This puts me at 33 books for the year so far. A bit off my goal but I have done some catching up lately. I should have 2 more to add by the end of the week. :-)

Monday, May 25, 2009

A change...

Dashing in quickly in a bit of inspired excitement.

Sold to the Highest Bidder is going through a title change. Henceforth it will be called One Last Time and I love it. It fits the story much better I think.

Next I'll be changing the sidebar. :-)

Saturday's Event

On Saturday, my local chapter (Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada) held an author panel at a local library. It was a great time! We divided into groups to speak - first up was me with Superromance author Stella MacLean (and my word, is that woman savvy). We continued on with Pam Callow talking about thrillers - she recently sold to Mira in a two-book deal - and then Jennie Marsland and DC Clark on the e-book market, Renee Field and Cathryn Fox on cross genre and paranormal. I have to add that Cathryn gave one of the best definitions of erotica that I have EVER heard. I am hoping she'll post it to our chapter loop because it was fantastic.
We closed with the lovely Julianne MacLean and Deborah Hale, our chapter "anchors". We also had tons of free giveaways as well as a book draw. I think everyone who attended went home with a book!

Here are a few pics of our panel:

From left to right: Deborah Hale, Julianne MacLean, Stella MacLean, Donna Alward

From left to right: Pam Callow, Renee Field, Cathryn Fox, DC Clark and Jennie Marsland

Once upon a time a group of us named a gathering of romance authors as a cleavage...this doesn't quite fit that bill but it was a fantastic group to spend the afternoon with. A huge thanks to our chapter executive for setting it up, the Keshen Goodman Library for hosting and all those who came out despite it being a glorious sunny Saturday.

Friday, May 22, 2009

In support of Fine Arts

Working on: info for tomorrow's Author Panel
Listening to: Preview of Mandy Moore's new album
Reading: Home Again Jules Bennett

Tick another day off the list. I had a minor panic this morning when I had no internet but when I got back from walking the mutt, it was back and I heaved a sigh of relief. It is another crazy busy day but I am determined to get it done. I am only one person after all.

However my post today is a gush about the school spring concert that I attended (twice!) this week. Twice because half the classes go one night and the other half the next - it would be impossible to fit it all in on the stage not to mention parents etc. in the gym. Never in all the years of school have my girls been on the same night, by the way.

This year's concert was a musical, but not a typical musical. It was completely the brainchild of staff and inspired by the fantastic music teacher. Each grade developed their own segment based on something straight from their curriculum, under the umbrella title of what a wonderful world. Each class performance had three elements: dance or movement, poetry, and music. A local artist (and parent) oversaw all the costumes and they were simply marvelous. In many cases, the poetry or song lyrics were brainstormed by the children themselves.

I knew it was going to be good when the first act started with flowers, butterflies and bluejays dancing to Grieg. There were segments on gardening, under the sea, the cutest ever baby chicks (the kindergarten/primary classes), ancient egypt, fossils, and our responsibility to the earth. Two of the acts used blacklighting - under the sea, where the kids dressed in black and had gorgeous sea creatures that they danced across the stage, and fossils, where the kids were also in black with the glowing bones pinned on. The dance they did was fantastic. And their music was not sung - it was percussion and it was unbelievable. The final number's dance was percussive dance using only hands and feet. And again...fantastic.

I spoke to the music teacher afterwards because what struck me is this: Music is language and language is music and this presentation put it all together with a theme that was RELEVANT. That's a tall order. And she did tell me that the intent wasn't for a traditional musical but something that combined many of the arts - brilliant visuals, dance, poetry and the written word and music, all together.

Fine arts are often pooh poohed, but I am a firm advocate. We could exist without them perhaps but so much of our enjoyment from life comes from the arts. Do you listen to the radio? Watch tv? Read? Appreciate things like the ballet, painting, sculpture?

Art is what makes us HUMAN, not just biological creatures. Art is how we express ourselves to each other. To dismiss the fine arts as fluff is to dismiss our humanity.

When words of cuts comes down, it always seems fine arts are the first to go. And yet, when we see a production like I did this week, we are also the first to say how great it is.

Support the fine arts in your area. Go to a play. Purchase from a local artisan. Read books. There is much out there to be enjoyed.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thursday...each day is a bit closer...

Working On: Sold
Listening to: window's open, birds are singing
Reading: Home Again, Jules Bennett

It is Thursday which means really only 3 more days of craziness. Today is perhaps the busiest. Dd2 has yoga at 4, dd1 has badminton at 6 and dd2 has to be at the school for her spring concert at 6:30. Dd1 is being picked up by a friend as I will be at the concert, and then I will pick her up on the way home. I also did NOT get the weeding done as intended. I mowed the grass yesterday and started to weed, but was interrupted.

Perhaps I should mention the three things that told me I should have ended my day at 3:30 yesterday.

1) while moving things to get the lawn tractor out, I didn't realize the dh had left a saw on the worktable as it was partially covered. I uncovered it by accident. Then I went for a bandaid or two.

2) while weeding the flower bed, I hear the call from the house: "Dreamer threw up in her kennel!" Which means weeding halted and I spent 20 minutes taking apart and hosing down her crate and washing her blanket.

3) while trying to go downstairs quietly after the girls were in bed, I slipped and fell down the hardwood stairs, bruising my bum, arm, and knocking the wind from myself. Daughters woke with a start, rushed to my assistance and rubbed my back. I shooed them back to bed and took myself and my pride back upstairs to have a shower.

A definite bright spot though was finishing Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh by Kate Hardy.

I devoured this book.

There were a couple of things I adored. First of all, I'm the first to admit that Sheikh books are a big turnoff for me. I have read a few that were good, but if we're being honest, if I had to choose among a month's releases on the shelf, I'd pass over the sheikh book first.

That being said, I LOVED Karim. He is not your typical Sheikh. When Kate says in the dear reader that she said no sand and no robes, I had a feeling it would be different. Karim was Sexy with a capital S. I believed his conflict. He was dead sexy, did I mention that? And he is a leader. After recent discussions about alphas, I realized that while it was with some reluctance, Karim would be the best leader of his country that he possibly could be. It isn't in him to be second best. Or to not get what he wants.

The other thing I absolutely adored was the food. I was so hungry reading this book. And I kept thinking, does Kate actually taste test all the foods she puts in her books? Because if she does, I'm coming for dinner.

I'm looking forward to reading the next in the playboy duet...it's on my coffee table right now. :-)

But first - word count. And my bedding is on the line. I might even get some weeding done before I have to put on my chauffeur hat this afternoon....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

This just in...

Talk about a mid-day pick-me-up.

I just had a note from my editor that has me so excited I'm about ready to burst. I found out titles and release dates for the duet...and it is sooner than we originally thought!

Here's the skinny:

You will meet Andrew Laramie in A BRIDE FOR ROCKING H RANCH - a holiday novella paired with Patricia Thayer in November in Montana, Mistletoe, Marriage.

Then you get Andrew's story in January in ONE DANCE WITH THE COWBOY.
In March you get his brother Noah's story in HER LONE COWBOY (love that title btw).

The duet is called "Cowboys and Confetti" with a shoutline of "Home to Lazy L Ranch".

These three stories were a lot of work, but I'm ecstatic that they are coming out all together.

This and that

Working on: Sold
Listening to: Il Divo - The Promise
Reading: Surrender to the Playboy Sheikh - Kate Hardy



Don't forget to pop over to Romantic Ramblings for the latest in the Ask an Author promotion! I think the latest question is really interesting! And as always, there are some great books up for grabs.


I also decided that going for a run with the husband yesterday would be a great way to get into the OMG you really need to get in shape swing of things. Unfortunately my body thought I was clearly crazy and after the first half mile, which went really well I thought, my right hip suddenly developed this huge pain right in the joint. I couldn't run - and it hurt to even walk. Picture me in a jacuzzi bath in the middle of a Tuesday afternoon after yoga did nothing to help. And then limping my way around last night. Today it is still sore and I'm limping a bit but I managed to walk the dog around the "short" loop - about 20 min.

But talk about discouraging.

However the mail brought some treats including 2 Modern Heats by Kate Hardy. I am devouring the first one. My choice of words is deliberate. This book is making me SO hungry. Just when I've decided to be very, very good, we're talking about sorbets and dark and spicy chocolate and choux pastry.

I have to run to the bank and post office after 12 pm and the lawn must be mowed today - I think it grew four inches after all the rain we had...

But first - attempting word count. It is slow going right now...very slow. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ugh

Working on: Sold To The Highest Bidder
Listening to: husband snoring
Reading: Home Again by Jules Bennett

Tuesday already, and my to-do list keeps growing. Is it Sunday yet? Because I'm looking forward to the end of this week.

I do have another quick book blog and reel review. We watched GET SMART the other night and OMG I laughed SO much. I adore Steve Carell by the way. And also Anne Hathaway, so I was prepared to be entertained (and I was). GREAT one liners and silliness but Max was wayyyy more capable than I expected. He really was quite lovable.

Is it just me or is SC really handsome? Not in your drop dead sexy kind of way but really handsome???? I find him quite attractive. GREAT eyes and very sharp in a suit. And he makes me laugh and that goes a long way.

And don't forget Dwayne Johnson (the Rock). He was great and Alan Arkin made for some great laughs. My one complaint was language, as there was a LOT of low-grade swearing and this was something I watched with the girls.

And book-wise I read Hawk's Way - Carter and Falcon by Joan Johnston. They were...meh. I think perhaps the style is just not my cup of tea. This book was lent to me by a friend, who liked Carter's story best. Not me. I liked Falcon's best, once we got over the very unheroic beginning. It was like he went through a personality transplant without the arc being quite clear enough, but the man he became was quite wonderful.

The husband is home today and I am working on Sold...I really need to start making word count on this thing. Then tonight one kid has Brownies and the other her spring concert and we're trying to coordinate arrival and pick up times....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Holiday Monday

Working on: housecleaning
Listening to: nada
Reading: don't get me started.

Welcome to hell week, people. This is the week where there everything SPRING happens. Concerts, camps, etc. and trying to coordinate schedules. This is a holiday Monday but I am not feeling very holiday-ish. Today's events include 2 different birthday parties in 2 different locations in opposite directions of each other.

However I do want to point you in a few directions. First of all I've got the Male on Monday slot at The Pink Heart Society with a spectacular find for hero casting for Moi.

Secondly there is a new post up at the Harlequin Romance Author Blog by fab author Nicola Marsh that you might want to check out.

Now I'm off to fold clothes for 20 min before heading out to event number 1.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Out of Steam

I have run slightly out of steam. That being said, paperwork is pretty much done and it is a boring but necessary chore. But the old accomplish meter hasn't moved far yet today.

I must do another load of clothes, and I must finish dd1's curtains if I do nothing else for the rest of the day. I have a date with the girls to watch Get Smart after supper. And there is still tomorrow.

Here's an interesting article though on reading aloud from the NY Times. Reading aloud is something I am a huge fan of for several reasons. One, I tend to retain more when the information is auditory. When I was in university I used to listen to Shakespeare Plays rather than reading.

I also try to read aloud my manuscripts before they go to my editor. Awkward sentences and dialogue are things I pick up on, as well as repeated words that I might not notice otherwise.

But more than that, our family is very "together" oriented. We do a lot of things together rather than one person doing this and another doing that. One thing we still do, even though the kids are older, is read together. I still read to the girls almost every night. Gone are the days of fairy tales and Dr. Seuss. Now it's Harry Potter, Narnia, Louisa May Alcott. It is like our own reading club. We share the books, we discuss the books, we decide what to read together next...it might only be 15-20 for a chapter each night, but it's OUR time.

Reading aloud is an investment, of your time and attention. But it has taught me a lot about the importance of reading and also about language.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Book blog and reel review

It's the weekend and I'm puttering. This morning I finished Liz Fielding's Secret Baby, Surprise Parents...Liz's books are always just a little bit different - she does a great job of coming up with unique twists on hooks. But this one definitely stands out, with a huge emotional conflict and an adorable baby caught in the middle. :-)







And last night I was totally indulgent and watched Australia.


















All I can say is OMG and this is going on an I want to Own wishlist. I hadn't heard it called "Australia's Gone With The Wind" but then today when I showed my kids the trailer on Youtube I did come across that which is funny because I did get that feeling a few other times (although Sarah was much more likable than Scarlett in my opinion). But it's the epic feel of it that makes that comparison plausible. And a nostalgic, timeless feeling reminiscent of Casablanca.

















Nicole Kidman was splendid and with a lovely lovely character arc. And Hugh Jackman was, well, beyond description. I could try to explain his depth of emotion, his sexiness, his totally ripped body....my word. Total package might be the way to describe it. Their first kiss actually made me sigh aloud. And there is a scene near the end where he cries and I was just a blubbering wreck.


It was definitely a three-hanky watch for me, with the boy Nullah being the clincher. Oh, those big eyes, the cheeky grin, the innocent wisdom. There are so many good takeaway lines here too, and the whole Aboriginese theology is so profound. When Nullah says "I will sing you to me, Mrs. Boss" and she replies, "And I will hear you." I was a goner. And all set in one of my favourite time periods with a gorgeous, sweeping backdrop. One of the clinchers was the musical theme of variations on Sheep May Safely Graze. It added such a poignancy.


David Wenham (Faramir, Lord of the Rings) plays the villian and did it well. I couldn't help but resent it the tiniest bit as Faramir is one of my favourite LOTR characters.



If you haven't watched it yet, do it.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hablas espanol? Italiano?

Working on: bits and bobs
Listening to: Still Paul Potts
Reading: Still Secret Baby, Surprise Parents

I know, I know. Not much progress on the reading front. There has been little time as I have been spring cleaning and gardening and oh yes, the revisions that went back to my editor yesterday. I am hoping to get some reading done this weekend though, in between more spring cleaning and running around like crazy for birthday parties.

I do have a list of odd jobs to do including paperwork (yuck) as well.
Don't miss this week's question over at Ingela Hyatt's Ask An Author event! There are some great books up for grabs this week, and you'll learn something new about me as well. :-)


Sometimes I miss the excitement of having a book out, in the months between releases. It sometimes feels like you're writing in a vacuum. So what is super cool is knowing that you have foreign editions hitting the shelves. This month I have 2 - Un Cliente Special which is the Italian version of Falling For Mr. Dark and Dangerous. Italy skipped over The Soldier's Homecoming and instead put out the 3 Windover books in fairly quick succession. Also in Spain Enamorado de una princesa is out this month which is The Rancher's Runaway Princess.




Thursday, May 14, 2009

More Hours in the Day...

Working on: final pass of revisions
Listening to: Paul Potts, One Chance
Reading: Secret Baby, Surprise Parents

I could really use more hours in the day. The weather is nice today but supposed to be yucky for the long weekend, so I have my white curtains finishing in the wash and nearly ready to hang outdoors. I need to unload the dishwasher. I need to run the swiffer over the floors desperately. I need to finish my revisions.

Last night was a prime example of time getting away. First of all, our brand new trees are delicious. Or so say the local deer. So the dh and I put kids and dog in the truck and drove to the garden centre for blood and bone meal. The theory is you put it in a sac (like using old pantyhose) and hang it from the tree and it keeps the deer away. Time will tell. While we were at the garden centre, we picked up some bedding plants. Most of my gardening is perennials, but I do have urns for either side of the front door, and the kids and dh got me this cute 9 pot stacking thing for the deck for Mother's Day. So I got my plants. By the time we got home, hung up the bone meal, walked the dog, etc. it was time to read to the kids. Then I was about to get into the shower when my mum called. After the shower I read for a whole 5 minutes before the dh came in and wanted to watch something with me, and so I spent an hour with my husband instead.

And since the weather is nice today, it means curtain washing/bedding plant transplanting/flower bed weeding/grass mowing in addition to kiddie yoga and badminton. The dh will be helping but it's a lot to get through before it rains.

It also means that the inside stuff I've been doing won't get touched today.

At least a rainy long weekend means I might get a lot of INSIDE housecleaning done....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New CD's!

Working on: Revisions
Listening to: Paul Potts, One Chance
Reading: Secret Baby, Surprise Parents

I should finish the first pass at revisions today, and then tomorrow go through it all for a fine tuning pass. The exciting news for me is that I got my new CD's - Paul Potts. Now I don't get Britain's Got Talent and really didn't know much about it at all until the infamous Susan Boyle clip exploded on the world. So I didn't know who Paul Potts was.

Visually, he's very plain. Like Boyle, at first sight he appears to be an unlikely star. But then he opens his mouth and aahhhhhhhhhhh. Being a fan of Groban, Il Divo, Bocelli, etc. this is RIGHT up my alley. In fact, one of the things I love about ONE CHANCE is that it features AMAPOLA. When I first heard Amapola on my Bocelli cd, AMORE, I cried.

The low spot for me was both Music of The Night and A Mi Manera which I didn't really like of Il Divo's either...and let's call a spade a spade - the orchestrations of many of these tracks are nearly identical to ones by other people on other cd's. I can overlook that because, well, I LOVE the orchestrations. Music of the Night was lacking the passion of the Phantom, to be honest. It was well sung, but you have to do more than sing Phantom of the Opera. You have to be the Phantom, full of darkness and terrible beauty. I'd take Gerard Butler's less than perfect but passionate version over this.

However, Time to Say Goodbye, Amapola, Nella Fantasia, Nessun Dorma and Cavatina make it SO worthwhile.

In fact, Cavatina is the perfect song for my playboy prince in PPBA and the torture I am going to put him through. Originally from The Deerhunter, the lyrics go like this:

She was beautiful,
Beautiful to my eyes.
From the moment I saw her,
The sun filled the sky.

She was so, so beautiful,
Beautiful just to hold.
In my dreams she was spring time,
Winter was cold.

How could I tell her
What I so clearly could see.
Though I longed for her
I never trusted her completely
So I never could be free.

It was so, so beautiful,
Knowing now that she cared.
I will always remember
Moments that we shared.

For it was beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful to be loved.

So that's me being a happy duck.

I also got his second album, Passione. And Liz Fielding's latest book. And a book for my eldest that I'm hiding until she finishes New Moon. :-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stretching my muscles

Working on: Revisions
Listening to: Il Divo - wish my new cd's would arrive though
Reading: Still Hawk's Way - reading time at a minimum this week

Today I'm over at Tote Bags 'N' Blogs with a post on stretching my writing muscles. It's good timing - lately I've thrown a lot of balls up into the air hoping they'll be caught. I did promise myself that this year would be a year that saw some growth with the writing career and I'm on track with that - at least the part I can control. Whether or not I get to sign on the dotted line - well, that part isn't up to me.

I do have a partial with a couple of agents, and yesterday I signed up for an agent appointment at Nationals, so the agent search is well underway. My editor asked for the new Modern Heat proposal I'd worked up so that's on her desk as I work on my Romance revisions. And Sold To The Highest Bidder has grabbed someone's interest, so right after revisions I'll be working on finishing that up and sending it off with fingers crossed. Fingers in lots of pies. But it's good. And most of all I'm having fun. For a while work wasn't as FUN as I'd like, so it's good to get back to the pure enjoyment of it. I'm just hoping that all this bears some fruit. And that's probably enough of the mixed metaphors for today.

One fun thing that happened yesterday though was receiving copies of Marriage at Circle M in Italian and The Soldier's Homecoming in Greek. :-)

Otherwise I am making slow progress on the spring cleaning. This morning I took down the upstairs bathroom blind and put it in the tub. I detest cleaning blinds, and our upstairs ones are aluminum. But they came with the house so I won't be replacing them as there are twelve windows (at about $50 a blind if we got the ones to match the downstairs.) That being said, if I manage my time right, I might just be able to get the whole bathroom spring cleaned today and cross another room off the list.

But for now, until 2:30 when the kids get home, it's on to revisions.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monday, Monday

Working on: Revisions
Listening to: Il Divo, not sick of it yet.
Reading: Hawk's Way - Carter and Falcon

I am making little progress reading as Saturday night we had company and last night I was cursing at the sewing machine until 10 p.m. after which I promptly fell into bed.

Today I'm working on revisions - and already I'm excited about the changes. They are not big but they are significant as it really is bringing out some threads and minimizing others and making it shine. It is amazing how a line here or there or a small paragraph shifted can make such a big difference.

I also got an agent request this morning so that's good as well.

And head on over to the Harlequin Romance Author blog as there is a good news post that is guaranteed to make readers of Romance very happy. :-)

Before I dash out again I wanted to address Janet's question in Friday's comments. She said "In the Modern romance editor's top tips on the M&B forums, one of the tips is:"Ideally, construct two or three emotional conflicts that can be played out and resolved through your story". I took that to mean three related conflicts (all stemming from the core conflict?). Maybe one being the H's emotional conflict, another the h's. But what sort of thing would a third one be?"

Good question Janet and I'm following that thread on the M&B forum as well, so I'll be interested to see how Jenny responds to it.

I'm going to go back to the bit I wrote about The Rancher's Runaway Princess for a second. When I talked about central conflict, I said this:

Lucy doesn't disclose her true identity to Brody because she longs to feel at home at his Ranch and to be treated normally, not like a Princess. But when she starts having feelings for Brody she knows she should come clean, and if she does she knows that it will be over. Brody already doesn't completely trust her at the beginning but he too develops feelings, even though he's been burned by his exwife. And yet they need each other - she needs to broker this deal and he needs the alliance with her father. That's it. They need each other and if the truth comes out, it'll screw up everything.

So we have Lucy's and Brody's conflicts, that's two. But then there is another conflict that you'll find cropping up, and that is the conflict caused by the developing feelings for each other. That too creates a conflict because usually being together creates a problem for the first two conflicts. Lucy needs to broker the deal - but if he finds out she's been hiding who she is, the deal will be off. He needs the alliance. If he alienates Lucy, he stands to lose that. And then, OH MY, attraction shows up, and feelings, and gasp! LOVE. HOW INCONVENIENT. Because Brody is in Alberta and her life is in Marazur and they are worlds apart.

Take some of your favourite category romance novels and see if you can find the 2-3 strands of conflict.

Then my argument for core conflict would be this. Heroine's conflict + hero's conflict + the resulting conflict = core conflict. The problem with TOO much conflict is if you give any one of those elements too much.

Here's an example straight from my current revisions - my hero's conflict is really with himself and dealing with the changes in his life. But as a continuing thread I also have him dealing with his mum. Mum = too much conflict, because it detracts from the central issues, and so it weakens them. Now I can't get rid of mum altogether, because that would be weird. But I can tweak it so that the thread loses it's "conflict power" and becomes merely a continuing thread and not a conflict point.

That's how I see it, and I'm going to be really interested to see what Jenny Hutton says about it on the M&B thread. :-)

Thanks for asking though Janet, because it's a different perspective I hadn't thought of.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Friday

Working on: Banking and bits and bobs
Listening to: zippers in the dryer
Reading: Hawk's Way - Carter and Falcon

It's Friday. I have decided to let revisions percolate over the weekend. I don't want to start today and have to stop until Monday and lose the flow. And I have learned not to underestimate the value of thinking time. Even now, I have realized something I left out that can actually help solve a few of the minor issues my editor has brought up and I think add something really great to the story.

I have, instead, been doing odd jobs like banking and reorganizing some things and I keep hitting roadblocks i.e. webpages that will not load, etc. It is a bit frustrating. And the morning is almost over! This afternoon too, I need to clean up the house as tomorrow is a very full day.

I did however finish To Marry The Duke by Julianne MacLean last night. Here's my review from Eharlequin:

To Marry The Duke is the first in Julianne's American Heiress series. Each of the books does stand alone, but after reading Clara, Lily and Martin's stories I went back and picked up the first book.

Julianne is very quickly becoming one of my favourite authors EVER. I adore her books. Feisty yet feminine heroines, gorgeous but flawed heroes, always a whiff of scandal and a dash of humour. LOVE THEM. Sophia and James' story is no exception, and I found myself laughing a few times and wiping a tear a few others. James is a terrifically alpha wounded hero. And Sophia is spunky but with such a big heart you love her immediately.

I'm off to try to cross something else off my to-do list.

Forgot to mention - I'm also blogging at the Pink Heart Society today.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Good stuff

Many thanks to everyone who popped by for the last 3 days bits on conflict. Appropriately, my revisions for Noah and Lily just arrived and yep, they have to do with conflict. Thankfully nothing BIG. But tweaks to strengthen what is there and make the arc stronger and better. To keep with the apple tree analogy - there is a small bit of pruning to be done to shape the tree even better. One thread is going to be minimized (as it detracts from the main conflict a bit) and another is going to come into play sooner for the reader, and over all it's all about making the impact stronger.

On the plus side, and believe me I am clinging to these comments like crazy, she loves my hero. As do I. It was a big challenge writing a hero with a disability that will NOT heal. We're not talking walking with a limp, we're talking a whole body part GONE. So the fact that I did take that on and my editor has said he's "amazing, compelling and outrageously sexy" just warms the cockles of my heart. That was the point. He might not see it, but the heroine sure does. His disability doesn't take away from his hotness one bit. *happy sigh*. But I'm biased. I ADORE Noah.

In other good news, Publisher's Weekly ran an article on Harlequin's first quarter. I wasn't sure what to expect - I mean when we heard the 4th quarter sales last year were up 32%, you kind of expect a slump. But nope. Still going strong. Here's the article.

On Conflict 3 - Bits and bobs

Working on: Sold to the Highest Bidder
Listening to: whatever tickles my fancy when the house is empty in exactly 36 minutes
Reading: To Marry the Duke - it's fantastic!

Before I launch in, I wanted to mention that I forgot in the hubbub of stuff at the first of the week to send you over to Romantic Ramblings for Ingela Hyatt's Ask an Author event. This week's question is about travel...and there are some great books up for grabs. If you use the above link, scroll down to the bottom to find me. :-)

Ok, now back to conflict, and there were some questions in the comments I wanted to address and also some further points that Michelle and I talked about yesterday through e-mail.

Michelle made a couple of points that I agree with 100%. The first is that the conflict has to be in the present, not the past. Again, this can be tricky. ESPECIALLY with shared pasts. Look at it this way. A lot of internal conflict comes from what's happened to the characters in the past, but if you write a story where the characters meet for the first time, it becomes all about how that past affects the now. The problem is in the present. But that's not so if you've got a marriage in jeopardy or a reunion story or high school sweethearts.

Two examples of it working and not working. The book that is waiting to go into my editor is a shared past, and a bit of a traumatic one. But when the story starts, the problem is in the present. Gina is trying to reinvent herself, and be more independent whereas Dante is trying to make amends and prove himself. Underneath it all - and I emphasize the underneath - is their past relationship and how it ended. But it is not front and centre.

However, One Dance With The Cowboy gave me some problems because it is about high school sweethearts. I made it, in the first version, too much about "you left and you're not going to hurt me again.". It took my editor 2 rounds of revisions to get me straightened out - and it was hard. At one point I thought, but if you do that, I'll lose my conflict half way through the book! DUH. Because it's the WRONG conflict. Many thanks to Biddy who brainstormed on MSN with me and was utterly brilliant in making my mind shift.

The other thing Michelle said is about yearning. And listen up - yearning is NOT enough. This is why I had trouble with the first half of Twilight. I thought it was boring! What was it about? Yearning. It isn't until we get half through and Bella clues into WHAT he is, and the impact that has on them that the story really picks up. It is NOT enough to build a story on.

Lacey asked in yesterday's comments: If the heroine is pregnant and becomes ill (flu etc) giving the hero a chance to look after her and perhaps demonstrate that he cares for her even if he does it through the book is it unnecessary conflict?

Well, Lacey, if it ties into the core conflict, no. It can be a complication. For example if part of the heroine's conflict is that she hates being taken care of, and she needs him right now as she's sick, you can work with that. Honestly I thought more about the overuse of the flu than I did about unnecessary conflict. But that's a personal thing with me...the heroine gets sick and is gross and the hero somehow still finds her sexy. Or she is just barely better and she's up for...well, you know. And I'm thinking, dude, when I've just heaved my guts out for 24 hours or had a fever and chills, all I want is a nice bath and some toast.

Lorraine also asked if there are any conflicts too heavy for a romance novel, and I'm going to say NO with the caveat that it is all in the execution. My first editor told me that it is good to take those risks. It's how you handle it - if it's in a positive or negative way. The book that I'm waiting for revisions on could be a downer except the hero doesn't wallow. He is always looking forward, even though he can't ignore his scars. When you use heavy conflicts though, you have to make sure there is forward motion, that it is inspirational rather than a downer. You have to LIKE the characters after all, and no one likes 200 pgs of pity party.

I hope that helps, and now I'm off for errands and working.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Conflict, Part 2 - When is it too much?

Working on: AA's for ODWTC
Listening to: Nada - dh working from home this morning
Reading: To Marry The Duke, Julianne MacLean

Today's post should be much shorter than yesterday's, or at least that's the hope. I did get a bit carried away. But I wanted to touch on Lacey's original question about how there can be too much conflict.

It's a bit of a tricky balance, to be honest. As you're writing you're always looking for, as Donald Maass puts it, "tension on every page". You need sustainable conflict. You need goals and motivations. If that's lacking, you have a flat, uninteresting book. Without strong conflict, the framework collapses and so does your story.

You would think after this much time, I would know this when I reached book 7 for Romance. But I fell into the trap. Most of you remember the struggle I had with my novella, and the conflict was a big part of the reason why. It didn't feel right as I was writing it, so I kept piling on the conflict. Something would happen and I'd need to know the why, so I'd throw in another issue. I didn't realize that was what I was doing at the time, of course, or I would have known better. As much as I hated doing 2 heavy sets of revisions on it, my editor was right. She saw what needed to be done and made me do it. Imagine my surprise when I got the copy edited text and read it through and could actually SEE the potential in it. I do think that come November, readers are in for a lovely, heartwarming, emotional Christmas story.

One of the consequences of having TOO MUCH conflict is that your book lacks cohesiveness. It lacks, as I said yesterday, that central leader, guiding it towards that fruitful ending. (I know, enough with the apple tree analogy, but it works.) Kate Walker did a brilliant post on conflict a while back and the title of it is something that is stuck in my mind for all time.

Keep it simple. Go deep.

My CP, who most of you know is Michelle Styles, also told me this once and again - in my brain forever and ever. Don't add conflict, add complication.

Once again - CORE CONFLICT. Keep your conflict simple, but don't skim the surface. Complicate it. Make things worse. Solve one problem but create another. But remember that conflict is your SUN. Everything revolves around it. You can't serve more than one god at this point.

So now I can hear your minds buzzing....how do we know when we're adding complications and not conflict?

Ask yourself if this is part of the same issue rather than a different issue altogether. Is it tied in or out of the blue? Do you know how I can tell if someone has gone really deep with conflict? When I get to the end of the book and I think, gosh, how did the author fill up all those pages? And yet I was never bored, always turning and turning. It was because the core conflict was strong and the complications drove it forward.

If I think about The Rancher's Runaway Princess, for example, the core conflict is this: Lucy doesn't disclose her true identity to Brody because she longs to feel at home at his Ranch and to be treated normally, not like a Princess. But when she starts having feelings for Brody she knows she should come clean, and if she does she knows that it will be over. Brody already doesn't completely trust her at the beginning but he too develops feelings, even though he's been burned by his exwife. And yet they need each other - she needs to broker this deal and he needs the alliance with her father. That's it. They need each other and if the truth comes out, it'll screw up everything. Not to mention hearts in the mix.

All the other things that happen - the tension, the development of the romance, those are all just complications of the main story idea. It is so strongly tied in with goals. Ask yourself what your characters want. Ask yourself what stands in their way and why. Then complicate the hell out of it.

I don't know how to explain it any better than the simple principle of Keep it Simple, Go Deep. If you want to do a litmus test of your conflict, write your blurb, or just try writing out your conflict. Not the complications, but what it REALLY is about. If I did this for Marriage at Circle M, for instance, it would read "Mike wants to rekindle a romance with Grace, but she's hiding a secret that will change everything." Everything else relates to that - before and after the secret is revealed.

You should know right away if you have too much.

I hope that helps, ask any questions and I'll answer and maybe have a lightbulb of my own.

***EDIT*** Michelle just e-mailed me with another great point and I have been caught in this one too. Make sure the conflict is in the now and not in the past. What happened in the past can complicate what is happening in the now, but it can't be the main conflict.

Keep it simple and keep it in the present.

This is especially true of shared past stories. The backstory always brings conflict to the table, but it is all about the NOW.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Exciting news, and some words on CONFLICT (part1)


Working on: Copy edits of Once Dance with the Cowboy
Listening to: Il Divo, The Promise (the novelty hasn't worn off yet)
Reading: To Marry The Duke, Julianne MacLean

Ok, let's start off with the BIG EXCITING NEWS, shall we?

First of all, I can now safely say that I have a title and release date for Andrew and Jen's story, and it's ONE DANCE WITH THE COWBOY and will be out in May 2010. It's the first of a duet about brothers, and I'm waiting for revisions on Noah and Lily's story. But I have the copy edits of ODWTC to work on as I wait.

Secondly, and this is SO exciting. Well, maybe I should be more blase. It would probably be more becoming, but after doing this for three years the novelty of good things happening does not wear off, and I still feel the thrill, you know? THE SOLDIER'S HOMECOMING is a finalist in the Golden Quill Awards! Winners will be announced on June 1. I'm still trying to find out who else is among the finalists - so far my friends Nicola Marsh and Fiona Harper are there with me in the Traditional category.

Also - I finished reading Forbidden by Suzanne Brockmann last night. I really enjoyed it. A nice blend of action and romance, lots of sexual tension and internal conflict...wonderful. At 250 pages, I realize it is published by Bantam but it could have been a category novel so easily. In fact I checked the inside to see if the initial release was in the category market, but it said Bantam. The way it was constructed, the affluent cowboy, the conflict, the pacing...fits category so well. That is NOT a criticism. Merely an observation that the form works.
It is the first Brockmann I've ever read, and I'd definitely read more. My neighbour and sister are both big fans.

Now, I promised some words on conflict, and I think I'll do this in two parts. Lacey asked about something I said a long time ago about having too much conflict. When you're trying to get published, time and time again you hear "Lacking emotional punch" and "not enough conflict to carry the story". I'm going to look at this from two angles, and bear in mind that everyone's mind works differently and everyone articulates things differently (look at Kate Walker's ALPHA series going on right now) and so hopefully the way I think and put things will make sense to someone other than me.

Every time I start a new book I get to about chapter 4 or 5 and think, OMG, do I have enough conflict to carry this to 260 pages of courier new? And somehow I always do. But a couple of times I have put in TOO much. Wait a minute, you say. Too much conflict? How does that happen?


There are two kinds of conflict and both SHOULD be present in any story. The balance changes according to the kind of story you are writing. So for me, Harlequin Romance is very internal conflict/character arc driven. For Intrigue, the balance will be different with loads of fast-paced external conflict and a smaller internal conflict arc operating within it. I used the word balance for a reason. If you take a book that needs high external conflict and add in too much internal, what happens? You bog down the action. You kill the pace, filling up crucial moments with introspective narrative. And yet you need SOME, so that the reader cares about the characters making it through.


In Romance, (and I'll talk about that because it's what I know best), the external conflict is a place to hang your hat, so to speak. It's the hook that brings the two characters together in the same place at the same time, with problems to solve that have nothing to do with each other. A classic hook is the marriage of convenience. The hero needs a wife because....the heroine needs a husband because....and they fit the bill. But guess what - here's where the internal conflict takes over. WHY does the solution to the problem now BECOME the problem? Because of the internal conflict each brings to the table.

If you look at my very first Romance, Hired By The Cowboy, this demonstrates the principle perfectly. Connor needs a wife to access a trust - if he has a hope of saving the family farm. He can't wait until he's the age stipulated on the trust. He needs it NOW. The kicker is, the money is released if he is married. Alexis is pregnant and abandoned and determined to do whatever she has to, to provide for her child. Connor's proposal is CRAZY. But the glimpses she gets of his character show her she can trust him. And it is only a temporary solution. They both agree. They help each other. They just have to go through with a farce of a wedding first, and after the baby is born, he gets his ranch and she gets a fresh start with baby.

External.
But it's not that easy, because they fall in love. And they don't WANT to fall in love. They are unsure of each other, they know it's temporary, and the long and short of it is they are afraid. Afraid to show each other how they really feel. Afraid to put their hearts on the line. Internal. This is what really drives the story. I like to say that the external conflict forms the framework of the story, but the internal is what fills it up and operates within it.

Does the external make a reappearance? Of course. Sometimes, like if you're writing a suspense or something plot heavy, it's a constant. In Falling For Mr. Dark and Dangerous, the external conflict - the reason why Nate was at Mountain Haven to begin with - is an important line all the way through the story. But it is SO tied to the internal - what he does for a living is really important to the internal conflict. And what he's doing THERE at that particular time is another complication. In Hired By The Cowboy, Connor gets some news close to the end that has to do with the external conflict that forms a turning point for him. But again, it too is tied in with the internal conflict, and demonstrates his character arc - what he wanted in the beginning isn't nearly as important as what he wants RIGHT NOW.

So can you have too much conflict? And surprisingly yes. Because what you really need is a CORE conflict - and complications that branch off from that. The core conflict is your trunk, the complications are the branches. If you have too much conflict, you end up with too many trunks and not enough branches. Not a very pretty tree. LOL. Think of summarizing your book in a one paragraph pitch, or a back blurb. What do you state? WHO the hero and heroine are, and what the PROBLEM is. ONE problem. Core conflict.

Before I run, because this is going long, and I'm going to talk about core conflict more tomorrow, I want to share something of my farm roots. When you are pruning a tree (I was brought up on an apple farm), you trim so as to promote what's called a central leader. That's the branch that's going to go right up the middle of the tree and form the structure. If you don't prune for that central leader, you get competing branches. The tree does not grow as well as it is trying to support all the leaders, and you get mayhem in the structure of your tree. Nor will it produce to its potential. The same thing happens with your conflict. Too much conflict competes, creating NOISE as I like to put it. Your structure will be off. And your story will not reach its true potential because without a central leader - a core conflict - you lose the heart of your story.

I'll be back tomorrow to talk about core conflict and complication more.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Monday News...

Working on: updates and Sold To The Highest Bidder
Listening to: Il Divo, The Promise
Reading: Forbidden, Suzanne Brockmann


Happy Monday. I am going to throw my whites in the washer shortly as this is likely the last good drying day of the week. This weekend was mostly nice - Saturday was a bit wet, but I had Spring Fling with the kids and then selling Guide cookies at the grocery store (she sold, I shopped). And yesterday was my monthly RWA meeting which was a joy as always.


Not much happening for me right now, just continuing on with some work and enjoying the lack of deadline pressure. But yesterday I was sent a link to a new review for The Rancher's Runaway Princess which is great! NikiLee reviewed it for Joyfully Reviewed and said "With a fairy tale ending, this is a classic romantic adventure."
And I finished Breaking Dawn over the weekend. On the whole, I enjoyed the series and would recommend reading it, though there were parts that I was just meh about. There were some opportunities missed to up the stakes that made other parts a bit too pat for my liking. I was not unhappy with how it played out (for the most part) but getting to that conclusion at times lacked an intensity. I could go into it further, but I don't want to leave massive spoilers. Suffice it to say that sometimes Meyer was a little too easy on the characters.
But I still liked it.
:-)
Ok I'm off - laundry beckons and then proper work!

Friday, May 01, 2009

May 1 - Great things starting up!

Working on: Synopsis for PPBA
Listening to: Yanni Voices
Reading: Breaking Dawn

It's May 1 - the start of a new month and lots of goings on.

But first - a note. I'm reading Breaking Dawn. It is approx 750 pages. I am about half through. Here is the problem with long books. They make it very difficult to work, because you want to finish. It is tempting to knock off work and just READ. With a category novel, you get sucked in but within a couple of hours you emerge. With this - it would be my whole day to finish. Sigh.

Ok now back to announcements and random stuff!

First, congrats to Marcie Robinson, the winner of April's Contest! Marcie will be getting a selection of DA goodies - mousepad, pen, magnets, reading material...oh yes and bookmarks and a keychain. :-)

May's contest is much the same - a prize pack with goodies and a copy of my June release, HIRED: THE ITALIAN'S BRIDE. Just send an e-mail to donna@donnaalward.com with the title of MAY CONTEST in the subject line.

Also, The Soldier's Homecoming snagged an Honourable Mention for Best Category Romance of 2008 in Love Romances and More's Golden Rose Awards. Congrats to Tawny Weber whose title Risque Business took top spot!

Today I am tweaking my chapter 3 now that it's back from my CP, writing the synopsis so it's ready for my editor, and doing my first of the month stuff like updating my website, doing up my newsletter, and writing the month's guest blogs ahead of time like a good girl. :-)

What else is going on? Oh yes, it's May 1 which means it's day one of Brenda Novak's Online Auction. Brenda does fantastic work in support of diabetes research and her auction grows every year. You should see some of the stuff up for grabs! The auction site is HERE.



I have a couple of offerings - some autographed books and also inclusion in a basket put together by the Calgary RWA (CaRWA) chapter that is chock full of goodies!

And finally - May 1 also marks one of my favourite things about eharlequin and the Mills and Boon sites. They make books available a full month early online, which means as of TODAY you can order a copy of HIRED: THE ITALIAN'S BRIDE. Here are the links you need if you want to beat the official release date of June 9 instores. It bears noting that the e-harlequin print version is on special in a Men To Bring Home sale where you save an extra $2 off 2 books (over and above the automatic 20% discount).

Eharlequin Print

Eharlequin E-book

Mills and Boon Print and E-book

And - if you want a taster, on eharlequin you can read an excerpt, or you can Browse The Book by using this widget!