Friday, July 31, 2009

The Soldier's Homecoming

Working On: Edits for Sold To The Highest Bidder (aka One Last Time)
Listening to: the air conditioner
Reading: Just Friends, Allison Leigh

I have a few book blogs and movie reviews to catch up on, but I think I'll leave that until Monday. Instead, I wanted to share some coolness about The Soldier's Homecoming.

First of all, in the mail the other day I received copies of it from South Africa. I love these copies, as they come in the Mills and Boon wrapper, but in trade paperback size. The print size and paper is lovely as well. I've scanned the cover so you can see the title. Any time one of my books is translated, it is a small reason to cheer. One of the things I love about being published with Harlequin/Mills and Boon is the global distribution. It's wild to think of my books being in several languages all over the world.


And then yesterday I got e-mail from the coordinator of the Aspen Gold awards, sponsored by the Heart of Denver Romance Writers RWA chapter. The Soldier's Homecoming has finalled in the Contemporary category! Definitely a reason to celebrate. No word yet on their site about who the finalists are with me or in the other categories - but I'll post a link when it goes up.

All in all, this book is doing me proud. And I'm so happy, because this was a story that meant a lot to me from the get-go.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

DC - The End, in pictures

Sunday morning, Fiona and I had some breakfast and jumped on a trolley tour bus outside the hotel. Our driver was funny - and took us straight to the Lincoln Memorial to catch the Orange Line trolley that would take us to many of the high points of DC.

We went inside the Lincoln Memorial first, oohing and aahing at the pillars, the statue, the inscriptions, the view from the reflecting pool straight down to the monument. I had a laugh at myself, too. When my mum visited DC several years ago, she was backing up on the steps to get a picture. She very nearly backed DOWN the steps! I caught myself doing the same thing!

Here is a photo of Mr. Lincoln, one of the Memorial itself, and one of Fiona and I taken by another lovely woman named Elizabeth who had been at the conference and ended up with us for the first leg of our tour.











While we were there, we also visited the Korean Memorial - seeing the statues in the evergreen bushes was a little eerie - it really does give you the feeling of them walking through the brush.




And Fiona is truly a girl after my own heart. She wanted to see the Vietnam Memorial after watching an episode of NCIS - I knew the exact episode she meant! It is really touching seeing all the names on that wall. And it all begins with the inscription - Freedom is not free.

Fiona and I then hopped aboard the Orange Line trolley for an animated, fun trip around the core of the city. Some pictures we snagged from inside the trolley (thank goodness for open windows!). So here is:





The White House








The National Archives









The Willard Hotel








The FBI Building







The Bell at Union Station (also forged in Whitechapel, same as the Liberty Bell)




And then Fiona and I got off at the Capitol.

The grounds are beautiful and we wandered around, enjoying the sun, the east and west sides, and also getting a peek at the Library of Congress...kind of significant for a couple of Harlequin authors! This isn't your typical post-card pic of the Capitol, but it's the favourite one I took, because I love the trees and fountain that you don't see from the distance photos.

The trolley dropped us back at the Lincoln Memorial again, and we had hotdogs and lemonade for a quick lunch. After that we caught the "red" line across the Potomac to Arlington Cemetery. At this point, Fi had to catch the metro back to the hotel as she had a flight to catch, and I spent 2 lovely hours in Arlington exploring. Here are pics of the Kennedy Memorial, The changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier...and a small sample of what you see around every corner. Arlington House overlooks it all - the house of Robert E Lee before he joined the Confederacy. It is a very quiet, dignified and respectful place, and I'm very glad I went.











That night, after a shower and some prelim packing, I met Kate Walker and her husband the Babe Magnet for a long, leisurely dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was lovely to kick back knowing that there was nowhere else we needed to be. The next morning we met for breakfast too, but before that I made a quick trip to the National Zoo. I was too early for the visitor centre to be open, and it was very very humid. But I did manage to snag a pic or two for my kids. Cute, huh!

Then it was time to catch my flights. I loved DC but I was ready to be HOME. Coming into the airport and seeing my girlies was the best thing EVER. We spent the night at my mum's, and the next morning packed everything in the truck and made the drive home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DC - Part 3

Before I launch in, today is my youngest's birthday. I am working this morning, and then this afternoon will be spent poolside with a dinner of barbequed something or other, cake, and presents. In lieu of a party, we went to see Harry Potter yesterday and stopped at McDonalds (her choice) on the way home.


OK...so on to Friday night and Saturday.

Friday night was the Harlequin Party at the Ritz Carlton. When the doors opened to the ballroom, it was just wow. Big screens around the room, flashing the 60th birthday logo and covers from over the years. Tables with lovely floral arrangements and candles. And tables and tables of decadent desserts. Here is a picture of me with Shirley Jump, just as things were getting started.


Here's the sad thing. I didn't have ONE THING chocolate. Not one. I could have. But when we arrived I wasn't really hungry, and later on I was too hot and the music was too good to think about eating ANYTHING. And that's kind of a shame. Because I totally would have loved one of the individual pecan pie thingies that Fiona had.

You know, I didn't even overindulge in the drinks - maybe 3 cocktails the whole evening. I did promise Liz Fielding I'd have a G&T for her before spinning out on the dance floor, and I was true to my word. But lining up for beverages meant not dancing, and a choice had to be made. When I did leave the floor, most of the time it was for water! (Here is me, with Jennie Lucas, and our Gin and Tonics)


The DJ was amazing. Apparently the same guy that was in Frisco last year, and rumor has it he's on board for Nashville next year. Not hard to see why. I was a little infatuated, to be honest. He has IT. I think it was the fact that he seemed to have fun. Sang along with the lyrics, danced a bit, came down into a throng of crazy women and worked the crowd...Shirley Jump was right there with me. I think it came down to the fact that there's something really sexy about confidence.

ANYHOO - I danced my feet off (and have the blister to prove it) and had a marvelous time.

Saturday morning I was tired but thankfully (because of water) not hungover. Had breakfast with my Calgary chaptermates and then went to a workshop Kim Young and Joanne Grant were doing called "Don't Let the Plot Get In The Way of Your Story". Had several lightbulbs, actually, and lots of laughs. They had a powerpoint presentation with the funniest graphics!


After that, Kim and I had coffee. Kim is my senior editor, and it was great to sit in the garden and just chat. :-)

Lunch was at the Lebanese cafe close to the hotel with Fiona and Kate Hewitt. The food was spectacular!!!!! Whether it was a hang-on from the 4 hour workout the night before or what, Fi and I were really, really hungry. The rest of the week we'd been just meh with food, commenting on reasonable portion sizes etc like good girls. On Saturday, we were STARVING and my mixed shawarma was excellent. We even - sinful girls that we were - ordered baklawa for dessert.

Saturday afternoon I had Rita rehearsals, and then attended an excellent workshop with Nina Bruhns and her agent, Natasha Kern.

Fi and I knew we should eat before the Ritas, since if we didn't we would be wayyyy too hungry at 10 p.m., so we had a much lighter meal at the pub. Then it was off to dress in our finest. I was filling in for Jessica Hart, who had finalled in the Short Contemporary category with her 50th book, Last Minute Proposal. Which means I got to sit in the GOOD seats. Kate Walker sat with me, and we sat next to Jennie Lucas and her crit partner, who was up for a Golden Heart.

The Ritas were fun - Anne Stuart was hysterical - what a character! And there were several touching acceptances. First for Jeannie Lin, who not only won the GH but who got "the Call" on the Wednesday of conference. Her acceptance made me sniffly - and I am really looking forward to her historical set in CHINA!

Gwen Cready and Kathleen Creighton's acceptances were also particularly poignant.


When it was all over, I met up with Fiona and Julie Cohen and we mingled about, sipping wine, nibbling a few appetizers at the reception. Here is a picture of the three of us looking all glam!

And thus ended the conference. But I still had one day left...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

DC Part 2


So here we are at Thursday. Thursday morning brought breakfast with the "newbie loop" gang. We headed across the street and had a grand old time. After breakfast, I went to the opening session with Janet Evanovich in the ballroom. It took on the form of a Q&A and she had the crowd laughing. It was also interesting to note that Janet, like so many of us, was a stay at home mom. She made light of the fact that she was never any good at the various jobs she held either. Well, she's damn good at the one she's got now, so I'd say she's found her niche. :-)

There is a break in Thursday that I don't quite remember what I did, between Evanovich and the luncheon. I suspect I may have been in my room on Mr. Darceee, updating the Pink Heart Society and/or sending e-mail to my husband and kids. Workshops didn't start until Thursday afternoon. At noon, Fiona and I went to the luncheon with Keynote Speaker Linda Howard.

Linda Howard could do stand up. Deep southern drawl, deadpan expression....we were in stitches. The food was good too, at least I thought so. We started with a salad, followed by grilled chicken on pasta with a light marinara and lots of veggies. Dessert was a chocolate confection that was very yummy. :-) I sat beside a friend of Debbie Macomber. I might never have realized it but we chatted about the signing and I said the only thing I missed was trying to meet Debbie, but she was already gone by the time I got away from my table. When she said she was a friend I'm afraid I did a fangirly gush. But she was lovely, asked for my card, and had me sign a few books. It was a totally surreal moment for me, and I was so excited I called my husband on the cell phone. He answered with a "Why are you calling me, roaming charges are like a million dollars!" When I told him he laughed and understood and then said..."Ok, now hang up the phone!"

I never did meet Debbie, by the way.

In the afternoon I went to a workshop session, and then the Romance line authors met for a trip to the Washington Post.

First we went for iced coffee, then met up with Sharon Kendrick, Karin Stoeker, Lynn Raye Harris and Tessa Shapcott for a tour of the Post. It was so cool! We got to sit in on their story conference and see how the next day's paper would be laid out and what the top stories were. We even got to go "upstairs" and catch a glimpse of the executive offices....very nice. :-) Here's the group of us - from left to right, Lynn Rae Harris, me, Shirley Jump, Barb Wallace, Kim Young, Teresa Carpenter, Susan Meier and Fiona Harper.

And after that, Fiona and I met up with Kate Hewitt and we went to a local italian for dinner. Yum, yum, yum. I recommend the veal!

Nine p.m. found us attending the eharlequin Pyjama Party. I am NOT posting any pictures from that event. They are horrid. Trust me. It was fun to catch up with people and Elaine Knighton helped me boost my mojo for my agent appointment scheduled for Friday a.m. Unfortunately I was operating on one brain cell at this point, and it decided to leave the party at 10. I didn't leave until after 10:30. The end of that party is seriously a haze. I realized afterwards that I hit the "conference wall". I only wish I'd clued in earlier, and had disappeared for sleep.

Friday I had my agent appointment first thing in the morning. After that I went to a workshop by Suzanne Brockmann that was fantastic. And after that was the Awards Luncheon and a talk by Eloisa James. It was lovely, and inspiring, and highly emotional.

After that, I had intended on going to the Donald Maass workshop. I showed up early. Still, the only seat available was on the floor and I knew I couldn't take 2 hours of that. I had lined up an alternate as I KNEW his workshop would be full, so I went to "Do You Really Know What A Bigger Book Is?" The truly serendipitous thing happened after that. I met up with Tessa Radley in the lobby, which I wouldn't have done if I'd been in the Maass workshop. She introduced me to Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates. Jenn and I had a quick coffee, and then ending up meeting up several times during the rest of the week. In the end, not going to Maass got me an agent I'm thrilled about!

Later in the afternoon, I revitalized with some time spent with my "twins", Kate Walker and Holly Jacobs. Holly and I met in the elevator once and shocked another occupant with the claim that we are twins. When we said we were meeting another twin, he said, "Oh, triplets!" and very quickly and in complete unison, we said "No, three twins!" I'm sure he thought we were on something at that point as we cracked up. But it was just what this tired soul needed. We found a corner upstairs and just VEGGED for an hour or so. And laughed. A lot.

Dinner Friday night was at a Thai place. Fiona and Shirley Jump of the Shoes (honestly - her shoes were the stuff of legend) were with me and we had yummy summer rolls and soup for dinner. And then it was off to prepare for the Harlequin Party....which I'll blog about tomorrow. :-)

Monday, July 27, 2009

DC - Part One

I know I've already posted some stuff about Nationals so this is mostly to share some pictures with you.

On Tuesday I arrived at the Marriott courtesy of Air Canada and then the DC Metro. After an afternoon of waiting for my room to be ready, and feeling exhausted after being up shortly after 4 a.m., it was such a relief to see Fiona Harper checking in. I saw her room, she saw my room, we took an hour to rest etc and then met downstairs for drinks.

One of the first people we saw was Michelle Willingham, who recognized me right away. Bear in mind NO ONE has name tags at this point. It really puts one at a disadvantage! But I knew it was her too, and it was so great to meet her. Michelle and I sold within weeks of each other, and that has always kind of linked us in a special way.



Once we finished chatting, we found Jennie Lucas and had dinner at Harry's Pub. Jennie cracked me up right away. Being tired I had a glass of wine only with dinner, but Jennie ordered a lemondrop. Those things are lethal. When she couldn't finish it, the "waste not want not" in me was appalled at the thought of pouring it down the drain. I finished it for her. And stood up and remembered that lemondrops kick my butt! We then went to the lobby lounge for coffee (smart) and off to bed.

Wednesday morning I met Fiona in the lounge again as well as historicals author Ann Lethbridge - she'd registered and I saw her nametag! We grabbed coffee, fruit and pastry and munched in the lounge and then I went off to register. The first person I saw was Holly Jacobs, as I mentioned before. After a hug and the Hollyworld speech, I got my name tag and bag and promptly ran into Kate Walker for another hug - Kate gives the best hugs in the WORLD.

Kim Young, Fiona Harper, Me, Elaine Knighton at the Museum of Natural History


Since Wednesday I was free until 1 p.m., I joined a group going to the Smithsonian. Michelle Willingham, Fiona, Kim Young, Joanne Grant, Elaine Knighton and her friend Mary-Lou (Mary-Lou if you are reading this, why didn't I ever get your last name?) and of course yours truly took the metro down and first went to the Museum of Natural History. My fave was the bling - the Hope Diamond and all the other lovely jewels and gems. I was in heaven. I'm like a crow - if it glitters and sparkles I'm inexorably drawn to it.







After that it was off to the Museum of American History where we saw the Inaugural Gowns of the First Ladies. I'm putting a pic here that Fiona sent as she took FABULOUS pictures. This is Mary Todd Lincoln's gown.





Joanne was hit by jet lag and I had a lunch at 1 so the two of us caught the metro back to the hotel. Jo was gracious enough to snap a picture of me with the monument behind me. :-)

My lunch was with the Heartbeat chapter, and though I'm not a meds author, it's organized by a Calgary chaptermate, Julie Rowe. I was happy to go along and see old friends and chat to some new ones, and to see Brenda Novak get an honourary membership for all the work she does for Diabetes Research. It was great to see Brenda again as well - we first met over a year ago when we sat together at a signing. She is so lovely!





At 5:30 I was seated at my table at the Literacy Signing. When I sat down there was a postcard with "Girl From Mars" on it by Julie Cohen. I was like, what the...and then I flipped it over and it read: "Love you man! J". It made me laugh and relax. I saw Julie lots throughout the week which was awesome. This pic makes me look slightly evil, I think. But I was smiling a LOT, and quite widely too. LOL




I was seated with Starr Ambrose who was signing her debut for Pocket titled "Lie to Me". Starr was great and I got to meet some of her chaptermates who were a blast. I signed some books along the way as well, and met Jen McAndrews from Eharlequin, FINALLY! This isn't a great picture of me, but here we are. I'm pretty sure I've cracked up because one of us (ok, it was probably me) made a comment about our dangerous necklines.

I've known Jen online for YEARS. It was great to see her in person.

After the signing, Fiona and I went to the Bookseller's Best Awards as she was nommed in the Traditional Category. I stood in for Jessica Hart. In the end, Myrna MacKenzie won (yay Myrna!) and Kim Young accepted for her.



Then we ended the day by joining Mills and Boon authors in the lobby lounge for drinks and food - hosted by the legendary, lovely Sandra Marton. Here she is chatting to Janette Kenny and Kate Hewitt.

And that was Day One. Phew!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Over at the HRA blog...

I am puttering about the house this weekend, but over at the HRA blog you'll find a short version of what the Romance line authors were up to at Nationals. :-) Back on Monday.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why I had great conference mojo

Working on: Critiquing my CP's deadline final chapters, bwahaha
Listening to: Kids watching SpongeBob
Reading: Suddenly One Summer, Barb Freethy

I am going to post photos etc from DC next week, but I wanted to take today to write this particular post while I am still "glowing". Nationals exceeded all my expectations, it truly did. And I arrived and considered booking a flight to go right back home. Those of you who met me in DC are probably really surprised at that. But I made it to the hotel, had to wait 3 hours for my room to be ready, and I spent the majority of the afternoon alone in the lobby lounge. I had several "What the hell am I doing here" moments.

Finally, after an hour of positive self-talk, I got up the courage to approach a group that I knew to be RWA authors. I recognized Trish Milburn right off, and with my heart in my throat I asked if I could join them. Being Romance authors they were, of course, lovely and fun and I felt much less alone for the hour I had left to wait for my room. Thank you Trish, Terry M, Merilee, Terri R, and everyone else for helping me break the ice. And to Jennie Lucas, who had dinner with Fiona Harper and me. I met Jennie, shared a lemondrop, and made a friend for life. Here we are at dinner.

The next morning, one of the first people I met when I went to register was Holly Jacobs. Bliss! I adore Holly and we had already planned to meet up later seeing as we're twins and all, but meeting her changed my life. I mean that. She gave me the Hollyworld speech.

In Hollyworld, there are two kinds of people. Those that know you and love you, and those that don't know you and WILL love you. (Of course there are those that maybe don't love you, but pretend that they do. It'll piss them off.)

As a theory, that's damn good. And I determined right then and there that I would NOT be afraid. This would be the only chance for at least a few years to meet so many wonderful people in person, and how dumb would I feel going home knowing I'd been too chicken to do it? Nope. I WOULD do it. I would smile and introduce myself.

And so the mojo began. The first thing I did was register at the desk. I smiled and said, "Hi, I'm Donna Alward." The lovely lady behind the desk said..."Donna Alward! I love your books. Welcome to conference."

Victory!

And so it went on...at the Heartbeat Luncheon where I met Kevan Lyon, Roxanne Rustand and her lovely daughter Emily; at the Literacy signing where I met Starr Ambrose and Patti Schenberger (here we are at the lit signing) and other members of the Detroit chapter who feel like old friends at this point. On Thursday at lunch, I ended up beside a friend of Debbie Macomber who was simply delightful and very indulgent as I had a bit of a gush. In the end I signed a couple of books for her - one to Debbie. At this point I called my husband who said "Why are you calling me? Roaming charges are like a million dollars." When I told him, he laughed and said, "Ok, that IS big. Now hang up the phone."

And the more I did it, the easier it got. At the PJ party I introduced myself to Harlequin Executive Editor Marsha Zinberg, who blogged with the Pink Heart Society. My new friend Elaine Knighton gave my conference mojo a boost when she pressed a crystal in my hand and did this thing...good vibes followed.

On Friday, I did it with Miriam Kriss at my agent appointment. That afternoon Tessa Radley, (I owe her dinner now, I swear) introduced me to my new agent, Jenn Schober. I said hello to Suzanne Brockmann, Eloisa James.

Quite a departure from the scared woman in the lobby on Tuesday.

The thing is, and this really is the whole point, there is POWER in the positive. And I was effervescently positive all week. More than that, I was GENUINELY happy to be there, to meet people, to experience the whole thing. When I said to someone I was happy to meet them, I meant it. I really really was. Those of you that know me know I cannot be blase, even when I try. I find joy in the smallest things. And how can someone hate you if you SMILE? (if they do, do you really want to know them anyway?)
One of my favourite things was meeting Elaine's friend MaryLou, a pro member who at our first meeting looked an awful lot like I felt that first Tuesday afternoon. So I hung back, rode the escalator at the metro station with her and met someone really great. (Waves at MaryLou)

I truly believe in the power of positive thinking. And yes, I have crows of doubt days, frustrating days, down days. But on the whole...life is a series of opportunities. Reach out and grab them, enjoy them, savour the ride. I coined a new personal phrase while I was gone.... Joy me, baby!
If you need proof that positive mojo works, well, quite unplanned I met Jenn, and now I've got a brand new agent that I'm so excited to be working with.

So try it. Who knows where it might lead you?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New cover, and an amazing gesture

Working on: admin
Listening to: maybe something later
Reading: Suddenly One Summer, Barbara Freethy



Today the admin carries on, but that's good. It's productive, and necessary.


One thing that happened at Nationals was such a fantastic gesture it still makes me smile in amazement.


Back in June of 07, right after my first Romance release, I did a newcomer's interview for Germany's LoveLetter Magazine. I'd never seen it as I didn't have a copy. I was sitting at the Literacy signing on Wednesday night and this lovely, quiet woman came by and handed me a copy. I was thrilled! It was Kris Hohls, and she told me that when she knew I was going to be there she knew she had to bring me a copy. It was SO sweet.


Doubly amazing was opening it up later to realize that 2 chaptermates - one from Calgary, Pamela Yaye, and one from Halifax, Renee Field - were both in the same article. Thank you Kris!



AND....



The cover of Montana, Mistletoe, Marriage showed up on Amazon!!!!!!! I adore the cover. ADORE it. This is the 2 in 1 I did with Patricia Thayer. My contribution is A Bride For Rocking H Ranch. What do you think? I love the blue, the classy print, the single title kind of feel to it. The art department did a great job and I e-mailed my editor right away to let her know how much I love it.


Now I'm off to get to work - hopefully with more news to share tomorrow-ish.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Nationals Top Ten List

Lynn Rae Harris posted her top 10 conference moments and I thought how great! There is so much to talk about that a list of 10 is perfect. So here we go....

1) The Harlequin Party. Stuff of legend. The field seems to be polarized on the "hot or not" of the DJ. I was firmly on the HOT side. I seriously partied like a 20 yr old and woke up feeling 40 (or older!) as I might have mentioned before. And at one point, Nora was dancing a few feet away. LOL. I don't think I'll listen to BEP's "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night" again without thinking of this party...

2) Meeting authors...and more authors....and more authors - so many I daren't list them as I know I will forget someone. A special mention to the Three Twins (See post by Holly Jacobs) and some relaxing time with my sisters, and to Jennie Lucas who made me laugh my butt off.

3) Meeting READERS - a few from eharl (sending out a big wave!) and perhaps a bigger wave to those perfect strangers. One sticks in my mind - a lovely woman who stopped by my table and simply gushed. Wow.

4) Being in the line to register for an appointment and having 2 of the NY editors recognize me and introduce themselves. I was completely shocked.

5) Fiona Harper. Fiona and I met up on the first night as planned and from that moment on, I had a buddy for everything. I never had to eat a meal alone, we caught up on what we'd been doing, and on the Sunday we did some sightseeing together. Fi is a HOOT and I had such a good time with her. We're hoping to hit the Big Apple in 2011 if things go right.

6) Fan moments - of my own. It was a thrill to shake hands with people like Eloisa James and Lori Foster; to say hello to Suzanne Brockmann and at one luncheon I was seated next to Debbie Macomber's friend/assistant who gave me many surreal moments throughout that hour or so.

7) Sightseeing with Mills and Boon peeps - including the Smithsonian on Wednesday (and a special wave to MaryLou, our "pro" representative that I enjoyed meeting very much) and the Romance author trip to the Washington Post on Thursday. The Post was wayyyy cool. So was the Hope Diamond.

8) Holly Jacobs' "Hollyworld" speech - which is basically that there are 2 kinds of people in the world - those that know you and love you, and those that don't know you but will love you. It set the tone for my whole experience. I figured no one could hate me if I simply smiled and introduced myself. And if someone DOES hate me when I smile and shake their hand, I don't want to know them anyway.

9) Sitting in the VIP seating for the RITAs with Kate Walker - even if I was a fill-in for the lovely Jessica Hart. It was great fun.

10) Taking an extra day or so and being nothing but a tourist. Washington is a beautiful, beautiful city and I only had time to scrape the surface. I would LOVE to go back with the family and spend time simply exploring. I'll be doing a blog post on the tourist part on my "home" blog really soon - as soon as I organize my pictures.

So there you have it. A great, fantastic week. But it is also wonderful to be home. I was very ready to hug my kids and hear about their week, and get home to the bestest husband in the world. :-)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Washington, Hot DJ's and OUCH

Last night was the Harlequin Party here in DC. Let's just say the DJ was hot, I acted half my age on the dance floor and got a stark reminder from by body that I'm getting on forty. The longer the day goes on, the stiffer I become. Holy cow. The DJ, by the way, was HAWT.

You can read more about it at The Pink Heart Society.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

DC Bound...

There is clean laundry and groceries galore for the husband, as tomorrow I leave him to his own devices and head to the RWA National Conference in Washington DC. First I'm driving to my mum's, and then Tuesday morning I hop on a flight (or two) and voila! Me in a brand new city, attending my very first RWA conference.

I'm excited, nervous, tired, energized...you name it. I've left blank spots in my calendar on purpose, but already I'm meeting an agent, my senior editor, several authors for drinks/lunch/breakfast; participating in the literacy booksigning on Wednesday night, attending a few get togethers put on by my publisher, as well as hitting the legendary Harlequin party. Saturday night is the RITA Awards, and while I'm not a finalist, Jessica Hart has asked if I'll be her stand in. I said yes because, well, I adore Jessica (not to mention her books). And because this might be the closest I ever get to VIP seating. My writing "Mum", Kate Walker, is sitting with me. When Jessica asked me, I thanked GOD I'd gone shopping and splurged on a new outfit... and we're NOT going to talk about the shoes crammed into my suitcase...

ANYWAY, this is my last blog post for a while, but I AM of course taking Mr. Darceee with me to Washington. I am not sure if I'm going to post here or not, but one place you'll be able to find me for SURE is on the Pink Heart Society blog as I'll be posting there throughout the trip.

Until then...adios!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vacay pics

Our friends flew out last night and in the 2 days I have to get ready for DC, I'm in a flurry of laundry and organizing.

First of all - long overdue is the announcement of my contest winner for June. This month's winner is Jan Vautard of Kentucky! Congrats Jan!

Contests are on hiatus for July - but will be back in August.

And the rest of my post is visual - a few pics of our week-plus. The weather was icky for the most part, though the rain held off it was overcast and chilly. Until yesterday.

Without further ado:


Seals during our whale watch tour


Lunenburg-from the boat


Lawrencetown Beach

And finally - in my backyard

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Reviews

Noveltalk has reviewed The Rancher's Runaway Princess - calling it "a page turner". You can read the whole review here.

And Romance Reviews Today has reviewed Hired: The Italian's Bride. My favourite line of the review is "Passionate romance and dark secrets from both Luca's and Mariella’s pasts line the pages of HIRED: THE ITALIAN’S BRIDE." The whole review is up here.

And I'm not sure if I posted this already - the days are all running together. But Cataromance also reviewed it and said "A dream locale, laughter, tears and passion are the perfect mix in this heartwarming story by Donna Alward."

Our guests are here until tomorrow night so we're cramming in as much fun as we can until that happens. Then it will be two days of washing and packing and looking forward to seeing everyone in DC.....

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Movies and books

Reading hasn't been that great lately but I did finish A Weaver Wedding. I really enjoyed this book - at times the large family seemed unweildy and hard to keep track of. But it kept me turning the pages and I read like a reader, which is a good sign of an engaging read. Also, looking back when I finished I learned a lot about how to build a series. Because I TOTALLY want to read more of the Double C stories. I'm dying to know what the deal is with Ryan...

Now I'm reading Halifax at War. The tourism stuff I've been doing lately has piqued my interest and I'm loving learning more about the area 70 years ago....

And one thing I have been doing is watching a lot of movies. Brief reviews:

Tropic Thunder - a total concession to watch my husband's choice. Totally stupid and Tom Cruise is creepy. A few funny lines is all this movie had going for it IMO.

The Dark Knight - hello, Christian Bale. Good movie, creepy joker. Dark and with an ending I didn't predict. The only thing that drives me crazy is Bale's "Batman" voice.

Ironman - LOVED it. Robert Downey Jr. is so not my type but he is sex-ay in this movie. Great casting choice. I didn't realize Gwyneth Paltrow was in it either.

Ghost Town - Ricky Gervais is so funny. We enjoyed it a lot. Being a fan of Greg Kinnear, I laughed a lot. It's definitely worth a watch.

Passchendaele - I had really high hopes for this movie - it's written, directed and starred in by Paul Gross. Canadian productions can be total crap and I knew this one wasn't. It takes place on the WWI battlefield and in Calgary (and it looked like a lot of the filming was done at Heritage Park). It WASN'T disappointing until the end, and without spoiling it altogether I'll say it went for the "Oscar" ending and not the "Hollywood" ending which totally ruined it for me. I ranted for a good ten minutes.

That being said, the writing and plotting was really well done. In places there could have been holes but Gross's writing filled them so that there were NO gaps in motivation. With an alternate ending this WOULD have been one of my favourites of the year.

I think that's it...this afternoon the girls and I are going shopping for a few hours as shoes are on the necessary list, as are the makings for kung pao chicken for supper...

Monday, July 06, 2009

Checking in...

I'm checking in since I haven't been here since Thursday. We have been having a blast with company. Saturday we drove to a very wet Peggy's Cove in the morning, stopped for a picnic in Mahone Bay along with a trip to Amos Pewter, and then on to Lunenburg for Whale Watching in the afternoon. The rain held off for us and the swells were small. We almost missed it though. Seriously it was almost a comedy of errors. First we changed our day due to the forecast (which we could have left, it's been nothing but overcast and showery no matter what the day). Then there was a screw up with the rental vehicle that had my blood pressure sky high. Finally, my husband took a wrong turn going to Lunenburg.

The one time we needed to actually be somewhere at a specific time.

The problem was with what he'd typed into the GPS, and the fact that I saw the sign with the arrow in the opposite direction was met with an order to be quiet. However when we hit another sign that said Welcome to Bridgewater he conceded I had been right. We made it by the skin of our teeth. The tour operator as a joke said she didn't have our party booked in. I must have looked like a crazy woman on the edge since she quickly admitted she was funning me.

No one got seasick. I love being on the water so it was great. And while the group before us only saw seals and puffins, we saw a pair of minke whales who were feeding and put on a nice show. The kids were leaning on the railings having a great time. When we finished, we had supper at a little hole in the wall diner. Yum.

Yesterday we went to Lawrencetown Beach and played in the surf before heading to Eastern Passage for lunch. Their fish and chips is lovely and my friend had a seafood linguine that she said was fantastic. Our rental car needed to go back last night so today we spent close to home - walking the neighbourhood, reading, and I made lasagna for supper.

My latest author alterations came last week as well, so I grabbed snatches of time to read through. I have finished and now have to type up my changes. So much for my determination to NOT work over vacation. It couldn't be helped.

We have a few more days with our friends here and then I have to get ready for Nationals. I am looking forward to it but any of you who are mums know how hard it is to go on a trip when you have to make sure everyone else is taken care of during your absence.

Before I know it it will be September and we will be wondering where the summer went..

Now I'm off for bed as tomorrow is another day....

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Setting my teeth on edge....

In my rwa enotes that came today, there was a link to a news story in the Rapid City journal about the popularity of the romance genre. Romance has experienced some great press this year so I forgot to go in with my "realistic" hat on.

The whole thing set my teeth on edge.

We start out quite promising: "She knew she shouldn’t be so drawn, but she couldn’t help herself. It was just so easy to do; the attraction was undeniable. She didn’t think she could bring herself to let go of the addiction. It always made her feel so good.

Even if it was just a trashy romance novel.Whether you favor a racy bodice-ripper with cover art of a half-naked woman in the arms of a shirtless lover, or a dive into the paranormal world of vampires and demons who interfere in the world of mortals, romance novels are seeing an increase in readership during these tough economic times."

I've seen this before - the cheeky, sensational opening followed by a strong article of numbers and support. But not this time. No, this wasn't done tongue in cheek at all. I couldn't believe a bookstore manager would call it "mindless reading" - shame on you Ms Barrows, for you've just insulted the millions of readers who support your business.

Not to mention Clare Hafferman, who used to work in a bookstore and was even more insulting by saying “I think a lot of the romance novels are drivel,...I was amazed at the number of romances that we sold.”Hafferman is a fan of mysteries herself, because “I like a plot.”“I wouldn’t waste my time,” Hafferman said.

Not only are millions of my readers wasting their time reading plotless stories, but I am clearly wasting my time by writing drivel. And horror of horrors, I'm making a living at it! Shame on me for selling out.

Newsflash, Ms. Hafferman. Mysteries are genre fiction, just like Romance. Just because you don't like the romance genre doesn't mean they aren't well written, at times thought provoking, inspiring, and entertaining.

I don't often get on my soapbox about this kind of thing and maybe it's a reaction to enjoying the GOOD press the genre has had recently. But the whole thing smacks of literary snobbism and totally made me grit my teeth (and just ask my dentist, I'm not supposed to do that).

Now, I'm going to go enjoy my company and vacation while plotting out my next book. And I'll thank my most lovely readers for keeping me employed in a job I adore.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Happy Canada Day



Happy Canada Day! We're celebrating by having friends over for a barbeque - rain or shine. We're hoping for no rain - even cloudy would be good as the humidity would require a dip in the pool. There isn't a breath of air, I swear. Plus there will be 10 of us - the deck will be the best place to be! Not to mention fireworks. So please weather be good to us!




I'm not hanging out long but I did get a review for HIRED: THE ITALIAN'S BRIDE from Cataromance. It starts off with a bang: A dream locale, laughter, tears and passion are the perfect mix in this heartwarming story by Donna Alward. You can read the rest of the review HERE.

I'll try to pop in later in the week, but with company and vacation type goings on, It'll be erratic.