Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tish Thornton

My alumni magazine came in the mail yesterday and as always it was quite enjoyable, until I reached the last few pages and some news that made me immediately reach for the tissues.  I am not sure how I missed hearing of it, to be honest. Because a woman who was a profound influence on me passed away. 

I did the last 2 years of my degree at St. Thomas University, a liberal arts university in Fredericton, New Brunswick.  It was the finest 2 years of learning I ever had.  I always felt like it was about growing minds and expanding horizons and fuelling enthusiasm.  Two professors stand out as being incredibly influential and I dare say I might not have had the confidence to write if not for them.  The first was Fenton Burke, who died a while ago, making me reflect on memories of sitting in his various classes, enjoying his dry wit and love of literature and a fair amount of Maritime salt.  The second was quite a contrast - statuesque, elegant Tish Thornton, who was scary-smart, put together, and might have been quite intimidating if it hadn't been for a soul deep love of literature and a wonderful tendency to push - and encourage - her students.  She always had an open door if I wanted a chat or had a question. She was the kind of professor who motivated me to want to do my best for her.  I never wanted to be responsible for disappointing Professor Thornton.

Tish Thornton-Bird died in March.

Tish Thornton taught me American Lit and opened my mind to Edith Wharton and Hemingway and Faulkner. She taught me Women's Lit - Kate Chopin and Virginia Woolf, Austen and Dickenson.  She also taught me Creative Writing.  She encouraged me to enter a Postcard Story contest (which I won) and the first money I ever made as a writer was The Creative Writing Prize the year I graduated from university for a collection of poetry I'd written.  The money disappeared long ago.  I still have the letter with her signature that was presented to me during Convocation.

Tish Thornton also made it possible for me to attend the Maritime Writers Conference at the University of New Brunswick that summer - on a scholarship.

Sometimes I wonder if educators really understand the lasting effects they have on their students.  How their encouragement helps set someone along their path.  I stopped writing for a long time, but the love and desire remained and when I picked up pen (or keyboard again) those past "victories" gave me the confidence to try again, even if it was only to rediscover the joy of creating worlds and characters and happy endings.  I have always been so grateful that I finished my degree at STU and that I had such wonderful professors.

Knowing Tish is gone feels a little like someone blowing out a candle.  And I wish I'd had the chance to thank her in person after all these years.

Break out the Tootie Horns! Strike up the band!

Ok, that might be a little over the top but you can't imagine my relief when I heard from my editor yesterday letting me know that Under Argentine Skies has been accepted! The title will change and I don't have a release date yet, but I'm sure I'll find that out soonish.

It took me three hours before it sunk in that this is my 15th book (11 for Harlequin Romance). It feels like a very nice number.

It doesn't mean, however, that I can slack off.  I chilled out to The Eagles last night and had a flash of inspiration for the current WIP - which I want to finish and deliver ASAP.

Before I dash off, I'm in the Author Spotlight chair at Minxes Of Romance today.  The Minxes are an awesome group of ladies who I think are destined for great things.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pink Heart Picks

Crazy day here and yet nothing significant to say...so I'll point you in the direction of the Pink Heart Society as today is Pink Heart Picks Book Club day and my review for The Surgeon's Miracle is up - along with announcement of what we're reading for July.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Fun happening at the Junction!

This week is a whole lotta fun at Petticoats and Pistols.  There's a passel of first lines from the Fillies' books (including mine) and chances to win lotsa books.  Head on over every day this week!  There's a grand prize at the end, and the more you participate during the week the better your chances of scoring a win.

I'm working away at the WIP and tomorrow is the last day of school, Thursday is Canada Day and we have company coming so it's going to be crazy crazy, but I've named this summer the Summer of Fun and while work must be done I'm taking time to make sure I relax.  You know I get the sneaky feeling I'm just about as productive anyway and I'm a lot nicer to be around.  LOL

Have a good 'un - will check in during the next few days.  One never knows when there may be new news to report!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Friday

I looked at my blog today and was amazed to find I haven't blogged since Tuesday!  Where did the week go?  Wednesday I spent the day driving to Moncton to pick up the husband and then having lunch with him and driving back.  Yesterday was hard at work on the book and here we are at Friday - with a chapter I absolutely MUST finish today and an interview to do in a few hours.  I am hoping to be very efficient as it is GORGEOUS here today and I'd like to get in the pool and also mow the grass.

But I have to say - I am feeling the push to race to the finish line with this book - not because I want to get it handed in (though I do) but because things are coming to a head and it's very exciting.  I had a lightbulb a few days ago and since then the pieces have started to fit.  It might take some finagling to get it right within the chapters, but I'm excited because I sense some nice heartstringy moments in this last 15k.

Which means I'd better get to it.  And hopefully I will have some more garden pictures on Monday.  Several things are on the cusp of blooming...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Did I mention my weekend?

Blackberry blossoms
I don't think I mentioned my most awesome last weekend.

Friday was crazy between writing and banking and grocery shopping etc. but took a turn for the better when the girls and I picked up Fish and Chips for dinner (bad for me, but omg good) at the chip truck and came home to a no-mess no clean up dinner which meant we could get in the pool right after.  I watched some tv and just generally vegged.

My urn on the front step

Saturday was shopping.  My kids have grown faster than the weeds in my garden and what we thought would fit for summer 2 months ago is small.  We needed dog food and cat food and a few other things and as we were finishing we exited next to a Greek restaurant.  It smelled so good.  We had lunch.  On the patio.  I had Mousaka that was delicious, and half of my daughter's salad (as her portions were far too big for her little tummy!).  Once again it meant that we could come home and hit the pool straight away.







My irises finally bloomed
Being lazy sorts, the dh and I decided we'd finally get off our behinds and clean the downstairs while getting supper ready.  We had barbecued ribs and fresh corn for supper and invited our neighbour over. I walked the eldest to her babysitting job and came back in the most gorgeous evening. Had a snuggle with the youngest, watched some tv with the husband, read while waiting for eldest to come home.  Sunday morning we slept until nearly 9, and only got up when the youngest informed us she'd gotten up and made us all pancakes for breakfast.  We cleaned the upstairs, I read read read, mowed the grass, the dh and I got our patio stones/firepit organized, weeded, ate outside, had a campfire, made bush pies (so yummy!)....


It was just awesome.  A little work, a lot of fun and relaxation.

And I took more garden pics.  So here you go.  I am loving my garden this year.  The lilies, phlox, peonies and blazing stars will be blooming in the next few weeks.  I can't wait. 






My weigela in full bloom


Universe redeemed

Doglet appears to be doing better - sleeping on the couch and no more *ahem* incidents. I am going to cook her up some rice and ground turkey and see if I can get her eating later tonight- we've fasted her since about 4:30 yesterday afternoon.  Fingers crossed.

AND

I forgot a detail and so went back to my master manuscript document to do a check.  While I was reading I had a HUGE lightbulb moment.  MASSIVELY HUGE.  Like the whole key to my hero.  Crazy thing is it's all foreshadowed there.  Sometimes I think it is a matter of clearing your mind and looking at something from a fresh angle. Bam, there it is, an added dimension that is so vital.

The great news about it is I now have upcoming scenes filtering into my head, because I was starting to lose sight of how things would play out after this next chapter. 

I re-read chapters 1-7 and I have to say - I really like these characters. I like them a lot. 

But it is nearly heartstring time.  I can't wait.

First though hanging out clothes and a spot of lunch!

Conspiring Universes

In a week where I have to be strict in making progress on the book, it feels a bit like the universe is conspiring.

Yesterday the dh was home until noon, and so most of the work that got done was answering e-mail etc.  I did take time to hang out with him since he had to leave yesterday afternoon. Then my eldest came home saying I was supposed to make - and decorate - a cake for today.  O-Kay.  Off to grocery store as I needed extra butter and eggs.  And icing stuff. Make cake.  Decorate cake.  There is a very good reason I am a writer and not a cake decorator.

So last night I finally got to putting words on the page - 1800 of them.  Go me.

This morning I woke up to a sick dog who had messed in her crate - she had the runs yesterday so we laid off her food, but this morning it was yuck! Amazingly she managed to keep her coat clean somehow, so there was no bath required. But, right after cleaning her crate (did I mention YUCK?) she started throwing up.  So it looks like I will be making a trip to the vet today unless she perks up by noon. 

Having a sick doglet is just about as bad as having sick kids.

And I have laundry that has to be done today.

Tomorrow is my own fault.  The dh will be finishing his trip 2 1/2 hours away, but to fly home it means leaving at 7 in the a.m. and not getting in until 6 p.m. because of schedules.  That sounded silly to me.  So I am taking the morning to pick him up in Moncton and we will drive home and be here by 1 o'clock, rather than him flying to Toronto and back to Halifax.  Besides, he's been traveling a lot and I've been really making an effort to grab time with him when I can.  With kids in school, it means 2 1/2 hours just us and maybe even a stop for lunch.

And hopefully not leaving a sick doggie behind.

Anyway, laundry in the washer first, and then my first chunk of 750 words...

Monday, June 21, 2010

What Have I Read Lately?

With revisions and a book due and a garden out of control, reading pace has slowed.  But I have read four books in the last few weeks:

A Wedding at Leopard Tree Lodge by Liz Fielding - her Botswana book and part of the Escape Around The World miniseries with Romance.  I was transported to Botswana - the setting was stunning, and Liz always writes the most delicious characters!

The Sicilian's Bride by Carol Grace and The Italian's Forgotten Baby by Raye Morgan - both Romances are included with mine in an anthology this summer.  It is one of the perks of being in an anthology - getting to read the stories by the other authors!

But I want to spend more time on a debut I read this weekend - DAMAGED by Pamela Callow (MIRA).  Pam's a chapter mate here in Halifax and she has exploded on to the scene with a great thriller.  I had to put it down at times yesterday as duty called, but I kept picking it up over and over again and finished it last night before bed!  Here's my review:

DAMAGED is Pamela Callow's debut for MIRA and she's launched her career with a fabulous, chilling tale!


Damaged's heroine, Kate Lange, is a lawyer trying to earn her stripes at Halifax's premiere law firm. After months of working family law cases, her big break comes when she's assigned to a litigation case for TransTissue, a company who processes cadaveric tissue for medical procedures. When teen Lisa McAdam is found murdered, Kate's world is turned upside down and she finds herself in the sights of a serial killer.

There's not a lot of romance here, but there IS a lot of what if. Ethan Drake is a detective and Kate's ex. We're never quite sure how he's going to fit into things, but we know there is unfinished business between them. Then there's the managing partner at the law firm, Randall Barrett. There's a connection there, too, and the tension of whether or not will they explore it is always present when they're in the room together.

I read this book pretty much in one go - all but 50 pages of it yesterday. I was turning pages at a fast rate getting towards the end - just as I should be with a thriller as things rise to a fever pitch. What really impressed me was the depth of character development. It's been a while since I read a thriller, but sometimes because they are plot heavy character is sacrificed for that. Not here. These characters are human and we like them or hate them as the case may be. There is a lot of medical and police procedure too, but for the most part Callow weaves it into the narrative seamlessly so it doesn't read in an instructional sort of way.

A really solid debut with a satisfying ending that left just enough questions to make the reader NEED to get the next book in the series (which is Indefensible and out in 2011).

What happened to Lisa's mother, the judge?
What happened to Kate and her sister when they were younger?
What will happen between Kate and Randall? This is HUGE once you've read the teaser for Indefensible!
Will Finn be back?

Well done Pam! Can't wait for the next book!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tick Tock

June is slipping away and so I wanted to remind you that this month's contest ends June 30 and is open to newsletter subscribers.  I sent my "summer" issue earlier this month and if you sign up I'll forward that to you with details on entering the contest.  There's a sign up box on the sidebar.  :-) 

Today is Absolutely Gorgeous.  And a prime example of why I need to "book" myself time off in the summer.  I have a book to finish but OH what I want is to be outside and if I take my laptop outside I will not be very productive.  I am too easily distracted. It is supposed to hit 30 degrees today and the sky is perfectly clear. So far this morning I got kids off to school, walked the dog, visited the neighbour who was outside with his dog near the end of the walk (doggies need playtime too), came home and hung out a ginormous load of colours as it is perfect clothes drying weather, came in to a message from youngest who left an assignment on the kitchen table this morning, came back from the school and got a large glass of water, and sat down at my desk.  I have to do the banking as today is payday, the grocery cupboard is bare so we need FOOD, the darks are waiting to be washed and hung out after the colours are dry and by George the ONE thing that MUST happen today is getting in the pool.  But first I have to put the vacuum in and let it do its job...perhaps while I'm getting groceries? Then I can have a dip and the kids can stay in while we grill something for supper and eat on the deck....

And I'm supposed to be getting word count in there too.  When what I really want to do is the above list and then maybe sit on the deck with a book and a pina colada.

Tomorrow is errands and we would like to get our fire pit set up as we're building a pad for it.  And more pool. The whole weekend is supposed to be gorgeous.

But first - word count. I am actually looking forward to getting into the next few chapters as an idea came to me yesterday that I quite like.

Have a good weekend all!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Hooray for Rain!

Not normally a blog title but today it works.  Yesterday we got a huge load of mulch and spent last evening putting it on the beds etc.  Then we mowed the grass. Today it is raining, giving my garden a lovely drink.  It is just good timing. It even held off for me to do the dog walk this morning.  :-)

Just a quick post though because I MUST send chapter seven to my CP before going to the Volunteer Appreciation thing at the school for an hour.

It is hard to believe school is nearly out for another year.  My babies are growing up so fast!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Before and After

Yesterday I sent in my revisions and today it's back to work on TRRMF.  June is going by WAYYYYY too quickly.

My husband and I have been doing a new exercise program.  After a few months of working out again but not being consistent - I missed my workout buddy when he was traveling and he found working out on the road a huge challenge - we invested in Beachbody's Power 90 program.  After starting it we were really glad we didn't get the P90X - I don't think we're ready for that.  LOL.  We did a lot of looking at dvd programs and chose this one because the only equipment you need is a dvd player and resistance bands.  He can take it with him when he's traveling and when he's home we work out together.  This is huge for me.  There have definitely been days I was on the fence, tempted to not work out, but he had sneakers in hand ready to go. We keep each other honest.

When you start you take a before picture.  I am NOT posting mine.  It was pre-haircut which sounds silly but the picture is horrid (if it were only about size, I might have, but it's not).  Last night we took our 30 day picture.

We have missed days.  A couple we were too busy working in the yard.  One or two I was so tired I wasn't sure I could drag my butt downstairs let alone do anything high intensity.  We were away for the long weekend in May.  BUT we always get back on the horse and keep going. I've moved up to a new resistance band since starting.  I feel better for sure.  On the weekend I actually RAN.  This is big because my hip usually stages a huge protest.  I think the combo of running on forest paths (rather than concrete) and a stronger hip helped a lot.

I haven't lost a lot of weight on it - 4-5 lbs I think (added to the 12-13 I lost before we started it).  But here's what I noticed about our 30 day pic.  My size - not so different.  My posture - HUGE difference.  In picture one there is a visual of middle roll.  In picture two, there is not (I'm wearing the same shirt in both).  The dh says my face looks thinner too.  I think it's not a case of lighter but tighter, and hey, I can live with that.

So we're keeping on.  And if the weight creeps off, great, because maybe I'll KEEP it off.

Today's agenda?  If all goes right, we'll be in the pool this afternoon.  And then the dh and I are going to get a load of mulch for the garden.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Blogger has new bling...

I visited Fiona Harper's blog today and loved her new look and so I took a peek at blogger's new template options.  I really like it - only thing I had to do was adjust my banner to fit better which took me longer than it should since I'm an IDIOT when it comes to graphics. 

Today it's back to work on revisions and hopefully getting a truckload of mulch.  I took so many weeds out of the big flower bed that our huge compost bin is full (and it was just dumped on Friday during green week pick up).  You can actually SEE plants and shrubs - several of which will be blooming in the next few weeks.  I also put out the "spare" annuals I had left from doing planters to fill in some of the bare spots in the smaller beds.  Mostly Snapdragons which are the fave of the eldest, and Marigolds which are the fave of the younger.

We were also in the pool twice this weekend, once I got it ready to go Saturday morning.

But it is a grey, foggy-misty sort of day to it's chained to the desk I am.  :-)

Friday, June 11, 2010

Your Magician's Book

Head over to Michelle Styles's blog to see the basis for this particular post.  It won't take you long.  It does bring back many memories of my childhood.  And I did read some perfect books in that time...read them several times, actually.

I lived in a community with no library, so unless I bought books on a trip to town, whatever was on the shelf was what I read (hence the re-reading).  Many of those books had belonged to my sisters. But particular favourites that stand out are:

The Bobbsey Twins: The Red, White and Blue Mystery.  I read several Bobbsey Twins books, but this one got read time and time again. I think it was the mystery element that I liked.

Donna Parker: On Her Own - you know, I don't remember a lot about this book. But I remember the feeling of the hardcover and jacket in my hands, and lying on the couch in the sun porch on summer afternoons.  This too had belonged to my sister.

Anne of the Island. (LM Montgomery) I have two favourite Anne books - this one and Rilla of Ingleside.  I didn't read Rilla until I was much older, but I read Anne of the Island as a child over and over again.  I loved how Anne went off to school, I loved her chums and their quirks, I loved their cats, and Royal Gardiner, and the ongoing thread of her friendship with Gilbert.  This might actually be my very first "romance" because that is so much of what I love about it even if it is subtle.  Phillipa and the Reverend Jo...so much to love.

And, like most girls, I went through a horse stage.  I read every single one of the Black Stallion books several times.  I was a popular fiction girl right from the start, I think!

And when I got tired of re-reading, I spent a lot of time with my WorldBook Encyclopedia "Childcraft" books.  A LOT of time.

I think I missed the boat on a lot of kids classics growing up.  There were many I hadn't read and I have rectified that with my children as we have read many together over the last four or five years.  The Secret Garden, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Wind in The Willows, Little Women, A Wrinkle in Time (the whole quintet).  We've also done the whole Harry Potter series aloud.  I have to say I've enjoyed children's and young adult lit far more in adulthood!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Development...

During the walk this morning I saw a very large bird that I have never seen before.  After some research, I have an idea what it might be, but if I am right it is VERY EXCITING and so I need to see it again to be sure.  I saw it once the street below us and it was gone too fast for me to see properly.  But as we turned up the path on to our own street, I saw it again - for several seconds.

So after finding my SD card I took my camera and went for a little walk towards the last place I saw it perch.  Alas, I came up with nothing.  I will be keeping the camera with me and my eyes peeled though.  And perhaps someone else in the neighbourhood will have seen it too.





Coming back though I didn't let my camera go to waste as the garden is coming on.  We pulled out the old stump and planted a flowering crab this year, so I took a picture. 











My main bed is in DIRE need of weeding but I also took a quick pic of my largest hosta, the firebush and heuchera - in the foreground is the new (and still small) bleeding heart and behind you can see bits of the lilies and blazing stars that will come along later.  It is supposed to be nice this weekend so I hope to get it cleaned out and a fresh layer of mulch on to make it pretty!  The firebush turns a brilliant red in the fall (it's the one in the middle).




The woodsy area is full of bunchberry blossoms.





My weigela is just beginning to bloom.  By the end of the weekend it will be FULL of gorgeous pink blossoms.  I love how the colour deepens as the blossoms age.  When it is in full bloom, there are so many shades of pink!







But the best of all is my husband's clematis.  After several failed starts for me in our last house, I told him if he wanted a few clematis that he would have to do them himself.  He just planted them last year but they are blooming already.

In the other bed, the larkspur is starting and so is the tradescantia (thank you Michelle for reminding me of the name!).

Now back to work.  But it was kinda fun taking a few pics again.

Thursday

Quickie post - today I am at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs talking about summer plans.

Laundry, dental appts for the kids and revisions are on the to-do list.  :-)

And for right now - the dog walk!

Happy 5th Selling-To-M&B anniversary to my CP Michelle Styles!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Revising...again

I'm into the revision cave again - hopefully not for as long as the last time! - so this post is going to be short.  Besides, it's a nice day, and I need to do a post office run and fill up my truck...

But I had to tell you that my kids make me laugh and sometimes amaze me.  Just with small things.  Like this morning.  It's Sports Day and there is a hot dog barbeque at school.  They do like barbequed hot dogs.  But they both asked if they could have a chicken and spinach wrap instead.  I wanted to check for fevers, but they assured me it was what they wanted.

Not to worry though.  The "kid" part is still in tact.  They were excited over the prospect of popsicles.

I will say my kids are good eaters.  There are certain things they don't like, but they are very open to different tastes and dishes.  I think perhaps because we ate a wide variety and I never made special meals - if you don't like something, you pick it out.  It makes cooking for the family so easy.  One of their favourites is marinated grilled salmon, roasted vegetables and asparagus. Curry night is a huge hit and the prospect of going for Thai or Greek food excites them.   When we went to my mom's a few weeks ago, their dinner request was some sort of pot pie (we ended up having turkey) and raspberry pie for dessert.

The flip side?  I fear they may grow up with expensive tastes!  LOL

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

That elusive ingredient - MAGIC

Working on: Chapter Seven of TRRMF
Reading: Wedding at Leopard Tree Lodge, Liz Fielding

Last night as I was cooking dinner, my daughter was re-watching the ice dance competition from the Olympics (yes, we bought the dvd collector set.  Go Canada.).  Figure Skating was generally on past my bedtime (there is a four hour time diff between here and Vancouver) so I hadn't actually seen much beyond highlights.  But last night I watched Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir skate their short program and free dance and it was so amazing.

It got me thinking about WHY.  And it got me thinking about why some books are good but others just blow you away or touch you in some way you don't expect.  What makes a standout performance?  What makes a bestseller?  Can we bottle it and sell it?

I watched the Russian pair who were world champions skate as well.  There really was no comparison. It wasn't that their skating was bad, but it just didn't have the spark that Virtue and Moir did.  I think there are several reasons for this and I can parallel them ALL to writing romantic fiction.

CHEMISTRY.  Chemistry doesn't have to mean sex, as we all know.  Chemistry is about a connection. As I watched the Canadians skate, I realized there were times it seemed there was no separation between his body and hers.  I don't mean touching.  I mean intuitively moving as a single unit.  Hand movements, the way they would change into a new position or do footwork.  They showed up and were in the moment. And you could FEEL it.  Can you quantify it?  Nope.  But you can feel the chemistry between them.

Chemistry is important in romantic fiction too.  I know that sounds like a no brainer but you wouldn't believe the writing I've read that is devoid of this crucial ingredient.  Your characters don't just need desire.  They don't just need love.  They need chemistry.  A connection strong enough that a touch on the hand can be a reason for living. 

Years ago I watched Sale and Pelletier skate to The Blower's Daughter by Damien Rice.  I was blown away.  This is skating. Body parts are covered.  There are no lewd movements.  But the chemistry was so wow that it was incredibly intimate and powerful.  Watch this and look at their eye contact (It doesn't hurt that the lyrics say "I can't take my eyes off of you").  We need that for our characters, too. This performance impacted me so strongly that this song was what I imagined playing when Noah and Lily danced in his living room in HER LONE COWBOY.


PACE.  Here's another thing that struck me about Virtue and Moir - in both their performances.  They were wonderful the whole way through, but in the last 1/3 to 1ast 1/4 of their programs, things suddenly open up even more and the energy shifts (in a positive way). We're left breathless to the finish.  I like my books that way too.  Books that keep me turning pages the whole way through, but as we reach the climax and end it's IMPOSSIBLE to put the book down.  That pace definitely contributed to the "magic" of their performance.  You can tell because the energy of the audience shifts and even the announcer says WOW at one point. (Not on this clip, I watched from the official dvd set).

Isn't that what you want your readers to experience?


KEEP IT SIMPLE.  I've read far too many books that try to be too many things.  And I don't mean mixing genres, though that can be true too - generally I think a good rule of thumb is to mix two genres or subgenres but not three or four - not just for placement but for "grounding" your novel.  Anyway, I'm going to pick on the Russians for a moment or two.  In the free dance, their music shifted several times.  I never quite felt connected to the dance because I never got a sense of story.  I think their program was ambitious and tried to do too many things.  And it didn't work.  I just felt jolted from section to section without anything to make it smooth. 

Too many conflicts, too many characters, too many storylines, not enough depth - they can all contribute to your novel feeling episodic.  Keep it simple.  Tell a story - and make us part of it. Jolting from place to place isn't the way to do that.

FOCUS.  This goes hand in hand with the keep it simple thing (and I'm going to pick on the Russians again).  What the heck was up with those costumes?  What were they supposed to represent?  Yes, they were flowy and stuff, and the belt was maybe an innovative way to incorporate the function of the clothing into the routine. But all in all it felt like window dressing, trying to fancy up something that was lacking in...yeah, Chemistry and Focus.  It was distracting.  All flash and gimmick when the skating could have just spoken for itself (and man, I just sounded like Len Goodman for a moment). 

And the problem with trying to do something different and innovative is that sometimes it can work incredibly and other times it can flop, big time.  I would much rather have seen a tighter focus on a solid program than something attempting to be cutting edge and failing.  Same applies to writing.  Taking risks is important.  But it's in HOW you take that risk.  Perhaps break out with one risky element at once.  Tackle subject matter but leave form alone.  Or change your form but use it to tell a familiar story.  It is wonderful to find a fresh way of telling a story.  But trying to be too different all at once can backfire.  Which leads me to:

THERE ARE REASONS THEY ARE CALLED CONVENTIONS.  Moir and Virtue skated in fairly conventional costumes to fairly conventional music.  (Aren't their short program costumes GORGEOUS?) They worked within that form to make it extraordinary.  They also skated to something their audience could relate to and be comfortable with.  Know your audience. Never forget your reader and your promise to them. 

Finally, I'm going to talk about TECHNIQUE.  Technically both these couples were solid. Neither would be at the Olympic level if their technique wasn't there.  If you watch Moir and Virtue's clip above, look at their side by side spins and footwork.  They are in complete sync.  You need technique too.  You need to know how to write romantic fiction.  You need to practice - a lot.  You need to study and improve and put in the hours.  Window dressing, chemistry - these don't matter if you haven't got the technique to back them up.  But once you have that technical expertise, you're in a position to make that magic happen.

It's like I always say - success happens when preparation meets opportunity. And you can calculate and try to make the most solid performance ever and still fall short.  That is why you can't bottle it, or sell it.  It almost seems like there needs to be a perfect storm of conditions that culminate in that magic performance.  It is why I feel frustrated when some books have it and some don't.  Why some are sprinkled with fairy dust, as I like to say.

But... and this is a big but:

If you have the technique, and if you pay attention to what works, the chance of making that magic is a lot greater, and you'll do it with more frequency.

Monday, June 07, 2010

It's Stupid O'Clock....

and I'm up because my inlaws had to leave at 5 a.m. for the airport.  I knew I wouldn't go back to sleep after they left, so...here I am.  Maybe getting a little work done before my dental appt later this morning.

The weekend was great - Saturday was a day long workshop with my RWA chapter.  Four great workshops and lunch out was a real treat.  The weather has been utter crap - it was raining by the time we'd finished lunch and headed back to the library, and I came home to the dh's supper of homemade spaghetti, french bread and salad.  I watched Valentine's Day on Saturday night and basically just chillaxed.  Yesterday was cleaning and then the inlaws for supper - roast beef, potatoes, red wine gravy, green beans with bacon and peppers and roasted asparagus and strawberry shortcake with the season's first berries was on the menu.

But now the weekend is over and it is back to the grind.  It's full steam ahead on this story!

The big bright spot of my morning was seeing this review for Her Lone Cowboy. Mystic Reviews (Suzie Housley) said that it "is by far the BEST emotional romance I have found in 2010."  What a compliment!  And I was very honoured when I read  "I feel so rewarded for having discovered Donna Alward’s talents; she has earned a lifelong fan." 


You can't ask for a better review than that.

Before I go - I've got my first post as an official "Filly" at Petticoats and Pistols today!  Come on over for a gander and see what got me into a movie theatre (since I usually just wait and watch in the comfort of my living room).

Happy Monday.  :-)

Friday, June 04, 2010

This is worth the price of admission

It's a grey bleary day, I have too much work and there is not a drop of coffee in the house.

But this was the perfect pick me up. I tried embedding the vid, but it cut off part of the screen.  So go to YouTube to watch.  Librarians are cool.


Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Glam people and stuff

Before I launch back into my next "chunk" of writing, I thought I'd do a quick post giving a high five to RWA chapter mate Pam Callow.  Her debut book is out and she has to be exhausted - I'm sure she has writer's cramp from signings at Book Expo America and at the Harlequin offices in Toronto.  But last night she appeared on our regional news broadcast looking very glam and poised and well-spoken.  Way to go Pam!  I really admire anyone who can get behind a camera or microphone and be so composed.  Personally I get nervous and have a tendency to babble and talk with my hands...

In keeping with the "be nice to myself" vow lately, I've been playing piano more.  Usually I sit down once every day or two but I realized I hadn't played in several weeks!  Ack!  It does relax me and so this is what I've been playing lately (though this is NOT me).


Lastly - Happy Birthday to India Grey and a Belated birthday wish to Liz Fielding. :-)

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

June 1

It's June 1, which means admin day.  I'm updating my site, sending out my newsletter, that sort of thing.  Not to mention word count. 

My newsletter is a summer edition - I'm paring back some things over the summer months so I can enjoy working on a new project, spending time with my kids and maybe even basking in the sun (weather permitting).  There's a contest too, but only open to my subscribers, so if you want to subscribe, just scroll down and fill in your addy in the box on the sidebar.  My newsletters are generally short and sweet and come out a max of once a month.  The next one will be in September.

I'm also at the Pink Heart Society today, talking about a different kind of staycation.  :-)

Something cool happened this morning.  I logged on to find a facebook message from a school mate from wayyyy back.  She happens to have a few poems I wrote years ago and wanted to know if I wanted them.  It is weird and cool all at the same time.  I am dying of curiosity about what I wrote.  Seeing as it was dead smack in the teen angsty years, I'm a bit afraid.  I tell my kids that they are responsible for their actions, but looking back I really cringe! Any time we start to get full of ourselves I really think we should zip back to when we were teens as it is very humbling (and sometimes makes me want to hide in a closet).

Off to finish up my site!