Friday, October 29, 2010

Weekend

I'm gearing up for the weekend - activities which include massive amounts of cleaning and getting ready for Halloween. This morning I hope to clear up the last of my admin for November - I need to get focused as I now have a LOT of writing to do! So look for a website update and newsletter in the next few days.

This week has been possibly the best week since getting the call and I'm feeling very, very thankful.  We're making a bit of a change family-wise - a good change - but knowing that I have work for the next 15 months takes a lot of the pressure off!  It came at a great time. Talking to my agent and editor etc. and feeling the support I have behind me is wonderful, too. Publishing can be a hard business, but it's weeks like these that make it so worth it and they need to be cherished.

Right now I'm working on an online read for eharlequin that will be up in February to coincide with my US/Canada release of Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle. And after that, I'm really thrilled to share that I'll be writing another book set in Larch Valley - the setting for my Cowboys and Confetti duet that was out this year. I have had a character NAGGING me to write his story for the longest time and now I get to find just the right woman for Clay Gregory. Of course, I have someone in mind and someone who really deserves a happy ending - and a strong, protective rancher to give it to her.

So that's what's on the agenda. And with the new deadlines in place I think it's time to dust off the "chunk" method of writing for better productivity!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New beginnings

Today is settle down and get to work day. I've just put down the first words for the new story which is going to be tremendous fun (I think!) and is a shorter story for Harlequin. Ever since my CP put crazy ideas in my head, I've had scenes flash through my mind as well as motivational threads. I got the go ahead for the idea and the title yesterday, so it feels good to get it started! It's for a free read on Eharlequin to coincide with the North American release of Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle in February. To be honest I'm simply THRILLED to have been asked, and naturally I'll be posting more info when the time comes.

I'm supposed to be talking to my editor today too about what's up next for Romance and when. I guess I didn't post it here, though I did on twitter and facebook - I have a new contract for 3 more Harlequin Romances and I'm very excited about it. My editors and agent have made me a very happy girl this week. So we'll be chatting about what I'm writing after the short and I have my fingers firmly crossed. It is good to know I'll be employed for the next year or so for sure!

And then there's 2 loads of laundry to do and my niece is coming for supper. A full day for sure!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

An EPIC surprise!



I've got several things on the go today but a quick log on revealed the nicest good-morning kind of news! SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER  is an EPIC E-book Award finalist!

I can't seem to get on to the EPIC site to see a finalist list, maybe I'll be able to later in the day. But it is a lovely lovely surprise! Especially since SOLD comes out in print in just a few months - February 2.

Now I'm off to help with multiplication before school and then counting hot lunch money. Stay cool. :-)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bits and Bobs

Today is Pink Heart Picks Book Club and I've read and reviewed Jeannie Lin's Harlequin Historical debut, BUTTERFLY SWORDS. Come on over!

If you ever wondered why I love my CP so much, I'm about to tell you. Again. I stopped counting the reasons as I think we must have been getting close to a squillion.

First of all re: the writing process - I followed her twitter link today to Writer's Digest quotes and found 2 that I especially liked today. I'm not one to rip a manuscript apart and look at elements and analyze the thing to death.  I end up going around in circles and get frustrated. So I love this quote from Tom Clancy:

“I do not over-intellectualize the production process. I try to keep it simple: Tell the damned story.”



—Tom Clancy, WD

I see a lot of writers determined to write it "right" but they forget the element of storytelling, which is so crucial!

I also love this quote, because it speaks to the importance of symbolism and imagery as writing tools to convey emotions and theme. Drawing your reader in, making them ask questions - that's important. Plus SK is brilliant.

“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work. … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”



—Stephen King, WD

Now, moving on. I have an opportunity coming up and Michelle and I have been e-mailing back and forth this morning. She does know how work my creative muscles!  Today she was sending me hooks and just little hints and it was like bloody flashbulbs in my brain! So many possibilities for stories, and soon I am going to have to settle down and make sense of some of them so I have something concrete. One idea in particular is challenging and I do love a challenge, and I am already seeing scenes in my head which is a good sign. So today is putting some of that on paper so that when final word comes down, I'm raring to go.

Other news - foreign releases are kicking in after a few months of sporadic activity. I will admit that I find translations horribly exciting. While I'm sitting here in yoga pants and a cup of tea, the idea of someone reading my book while sunbathing on a Greek beach seems very exotic, you know?

So....

HIRED: THE ITALIAN'S BRIDE is out in Germany starting today and it is going to be out in Greece next month, and A BRIDE FOR ROCKING H RANCH is in an antho in Finland and Denmark in November as well.  HER LONE COWBOY is out now in Spain, too. Look at all these pretty covers!


Monday, October 25, 2010

The Cover Fairies Delivered Again!

Yesterday I found the cover to Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle - the North American version. All I can say is wow.

At first it was the darling baby girl who got my attention. Lordy, she's sweet! And I love the pink ruffles. And yes, she's a little "old" for the book since in the book Darcy is a newborn, but it is forgiven because she's just so darn cute!

But then I got a good look at the cowboy who is Wyatt. Handsome? Check. Muscles? Yep double check. I mean a man with a baby is sexy ANYWAY but this is a whole other level, I think. In the book Wyatt is a strong, independent rancher who depends on himself and his own elbow grease to get things done, and he's not used to being around children - especially babies. And yet the heroine sees him with Darcy and melts, because inexperienced or not, she can tell he loves her. He has a way with Darcy. Now maybe I'm reading too much into it but I GET that from this cover.

So cover fairies - well done. This might be my favourite cover yet, and considering I LOVED the one for Her Lone Cowboy, that's saying something.

AND

I also got a review for Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle from Realms on our Bookshelves.  Marissa read and liked, and she finished the review with "With this story I now have Donna Alward on my radar. Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle is a powerful, emotional and classic love story. It kept me captive and rooting for Elli and Wyatt to the last page. It is feel-good romance at its best and I loved it!"

She said lots of other nice things too, so go have a read if you're so inclined. :-)

Now I'm off to a full day of STUFF - some of which is stuff I didn't get done on the weekend. Catch you on the flip side!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Great Way to Start The Day - and sad news

The day started great - a reader review for SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER showed up on eharlequin, giving the book 5 hearts and saying lots of things an author loves to hear. :-) The review began with What do you get when you mix an author who writes highly psychological, well motivated romances with an author who writes really ‘hot’ lovemaking passages that are strikingly fresh and free of clich├ęs? You get Donna Alward in “Sold to the Highest Bidder”. And kept on from there. It really made my morning - which otherwise is going to consist of looking after a bunch of promo I have set up for November as well as doing the banking, never a fun chore watching all the money disappear!

The sad news is that Eva Ibbotson has died. I knew she was in her eighties and I wish we had discovered her books sooner. My youngest, on recommendation by Michelle, read The Star of Kazan and Journey to the River Sea and loved them. I read The Secret Countess recently and fell in love with Ibbotson's writing. So much so that I ordered 2 more books for me and as we speak amazon has shipped The Dragonfly Pool and The Secret of Platform 13 - I ordered them a few months ago for the youngest and they've finally shipped.

Many many condolences to her loved ones.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Babies in Danger

Another gorgeous fall day. We had a heavy frost last night, so as I was walking the dog this morning, the leaves were dropping. So many, in fact, that it sounded like rain. It was so cool. And the firebush had frost on it so it sparkled like it had glitter on it. Did I mention I love fall?

Today is finishing up the novella and writing the synopsis. I thought I was going to escape having to go out today, but I'm out of milk and need it for dinner so I'll be picking that up and making a trip to the post office as well.

In the meantime, you can check out my guest blog at Cataromance about Babies in Danger. A mother's worst fear is that something will happen to her children... There is a reason why I love writing happy endings. :-)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I love fall

I love fall. It's my favourite time of year and this year it's been a little late. When my mom and step dad were here for Thanksgiving the colours were not that great and we wondered if we were going to be shortchanged in the colour dept this year. But this week, with cool temps and sunny days, the hues have really come out. This morning's walk was a stunner. Brilliant sunshine, crisp air, the birches and poplars are finally turning golden yellow. The maples are showing their colours ranging from orange to red to rust; the firebush and Virginia creeper are a brilliant crimson. It is impossible to feel anything but happy and contented when walking on a morning like today.

Of course I also noticed the deer have been at my apple trees again so today new pantyhose bags of mothballs and bone meal will be hanging from the branches.

I have a dog sleeping nearby after her walk and the kitty cat curled up on the futon behind me. He is not a cuddly cat but he likes being close to people. When I was on the Wii Fit last night he was on the loveseat behind me supervising. Cats are not cheerleaders. They are immovable coaches who open one eye and say, "You can do better."

So what am I working on today? Well, for starters I'm beginning edits on the novella since yesterday I completed the first draft. This is where the real work of shaping and refining happens. I know there are pacing problems and other areas that need layers. I also clued into a couple of conflict/motivation gold mines as I neared The End so now I have to layer and foreshadow those things through to make it more cohesive. I'm looking forward to it though. While it is hard work, the hardest is getting that first draft on the page. NOW I have something to work with.

I've been reading some and watching movies too. Last weekend I read Barb Hannay's Miracle for Their Secret Son and was once again transported to Australia - this time to the seaside where I could nearly taste the salty tang of the air. I'm currently reading GAME OVER by Taylor Keating - a collaboration of two of my chapter mates and out next month from TOR. It's good, y'all. If you like paranormal romance with a techie edge, you're gonna love this. Actually - even if you don't (it's definitely not my usual reading fare) you will probably love it anyway.

I watched a couple of movies on the weekend. We took Saturday as a lazy day and watched Star Trek with the kids (we'd seen it, they hadn't) and then later in the afternoon the dh put on The Soloist with Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx. I have to say I did not enjoy it at all. Which is unfortunate because I love RDJ. I could get into my thoughts on movies whose points are to not have a point but I won't. I ended up reading through most of it and I might have actually nodded off...

Saturday night (it really was movie day!) after the kids went to bed the dh and I watched It's Complicated with Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin.  We both liked it. There were a few things I wondered about and thought perhaps got cut in editing. Like her girlfriends in the beginning, and then in the middle, but then at the end they weren't there. Even if you don't believe in the rule of three, from a story arc standpoint each section of the movie represented a stage and so not having them there felt unfinished. But on the whole we liked it and laughed a lot. I especially liked how Alec Baldwin seemed to not take himself so seriously. There were times when he looked like he was poking fun at himself - and enjoying it.

Anyway that's about it - now I'm off to perhaps make a cup of tea and get to work before heading into Staples to pick up something I ordered....

Monday, October 18, 2010

Contest Winner and good news

Congrats to Anne Muller who won the e-arc of BREATHE that was up for grabs this month! I have a great prize waiting for November's contest...stay tuned because I'll be announcing it November 1. And then for December I've just confirmed with all the authors and the 12 Days of Christmas will be back!

Breathe was reviewed by SingleTitles.com too. The reviewer said "I liked how Donna Alward took the feelings of both Jace and Anna and brought them out throughout the story, not all at once but delicately as you watch them overcome the outcome of the past and move toward a future together." It kind of echoes what my editor said too - that she loved how the characters were flawed but so deserving of a second chance.

And in other news: Hired: The Italian's Bride was a finalist in the Aspen Gold Awards this year. The list went up last week and congrats to Laura Iding who took the category. It was a lovely surprise for me just to see HIB on the shortlist. :-)

Now do you suppose I can finish the first draft of my novella today?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

For 24 hours...

I got to be one of my heroines. :-)

We drove to the Annapolis Valley in the midst of a gorgeous fall afternoon and the first stop was at a winery for wine and some gorgeous dark chocolate truffles. 




Before long we were on the road again towards our destination of Victoria's Historic Inn in Wolfville.





We'd booked the executive suite which is on the third floor. Complete with antique furniture, a gorgeous four-poster bed, fireplace, and flowers and champagne on ice. We left the champagne for later and instead walked downtown for dinner.

Wolfville is a pretty university town and is one of those places where I always feel at home. We decided not to go fancy for dinner which worked out great because we had a wonderful meal at Rosie's - mouth watering bacon-wrapped filet and dessert to go as we were full - creme brulee cheesecake for me (Kate Hardy, I know you'll appreciate that I couldn't say no!) and Irish creme cheesecake for the dh.

Speaking of Kate Hardy: I took this pic especially for her: stained glass as you climb the stairs to the second floor. Even prettier close up.



The weather turned cold and wet in the morning, but it didn't prevent me from having a champagne breakfast and then we drove out to Blomidon Beach and then back to another winery, the fromagerie for gelato and cheese and the market for apples and corn and pumpkin. We were home early in the afternoon, but it was a lovely trip and wonderful to just get away and leave everyday worries behind.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fifteen

Yesterday was a lovely day for me. First of all, my post celebrating being the Mills and Boon Book of the Month is up at the Mills and Boon community. It was a very personal post to write but timely, I think, as my tenth book for Harlequin Mills and Boon also deals with the reason why I began writing in the first place. And it took ten manuscripts for me to get published.

Then I found out that in addition to being out in the UK this month, Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle is also out in India.

AND

I will have my first ever German release later this month!  This TOTALLY made my day. Hired: The Italian's Bride is coming out as Picknick Mit Einem Playboy.


It was the sort of day that really helps when you feel you're possibly writing into the void. And I solved the problem with my novella too - it was really dragging and going so slowly and then voila! I realized what my heroine was really afraid of. I can write the ending now and then go back to the earlier chapters and adjust and foreshadow correctly. :-)

BUT

As lovely as yesterday was, today is nicer. Because fifteen years ago, on a similarly gorgeous autumn day, we said "I DO". When I think of all the changes that have taken place in that time, it is staggering. How young we were. How much was ahead of us! And here we are - not without our scrapes and scars but stronger than ever, I think.

So here's to my real life hero - I'm sure my editors will forgive me if I take the day off to celebrate a wonderful anniversary. :-)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Feeling Old...and ponderings

Today I'm at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs talking about my ingredients for a perfect night! It's crazy to think that as of this week the dh and I have been married for 15 years.  That we've been together for 19 - half my life. WOW.

I'm feeling a bit old today, maybe a little weary and a little wise. Maybe those 2 things go together. I can definitely say I'm far happier in my 30's (ahem, late 30's) than my 20's when it comes to being comfortable with myself. I know what I want far more than I did then. I'm focused and luckily I'm still at the age and state of health that I have the energy to make it happen. LOL

My kids are getting older too and with that comes wanting to help them and knowing they don't really want my help - even when they ask for it. I was reminded of that last night. I am lucky that they talk to me but I know that sometimes my advice doesn't sound "right" to them (because like most people what they want is for me to confirm what they already think!). *I* know that it would be easier for them if they listened. But sometimes you have to let people make their own mistakes and learn from them.

It is disheartening and sometimes hurtful to know that you genuinely want to help someone because you can see a train wreck coming and they dismiss your advice for various reasons. And there are reasons.  Sometimes you do what you can and then you have to sit back and hope that what follows is...well, not the train wreck.

Today I have been thinking a lot about Marianne and Eleanor.  Marianne is very lovable; young and enthusiastic and sweet and idealistic. But she is not sensible of her actions.  We can see the heartbreak coming. She does not want to listen to Eleanor but in the end knows where she went wrong. And luckily for Marianne there was a Colonel Brandon waiting for her.

I'm not sure my ramblings today make sense, but I was feeling a tad philosophical. :-)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Good News!

Friday was so busy with a school field trip and preparing for my mom and stepdad's visit that I didn't blog - and I even had good news!

I heard from my editor on Thursday and she let me know that my latest has gone through. A FAMILY FOR THE RUGGED RANCHER will be out in the UK in June and hopefully will follow in the US within a few months of that. I'm particularly excited about the June date because it means I'll be shelfmates with Soraya Nicholas - my pitch contest winner who recently sold to the line. Being out in the month of her debut is just cool. :-)

Today I'm back over at The Pink Heart Society talking about a rangy, sexy cowboy and I'm also at Petticoats and Pistols chatting about a special trip.

Today is a holiday here in Canada, so I'm not exactly "working". It's a beautiful fall day and I expect we'll all be taking some time to enjoy it - even though my youngest is a bit under the weather.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Getting there...

Light at the end of the tunnel! At least with a few things this morning, which is good. I really need to clear my desk of some items.

I'm also at the Pink Heart Society today, talking about my favourite read so far this year. It's not often I read an author that I glom, but after reading this particular book I ordered 3 more for myself. Come on over to see which book it is and do let me know if you're familiar with this author - or share what your favourite read has been lately!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Lightning Rod of Positivity

I was chatting to my friend Jenna Bayley-Burke today and she was so upbeat it was absolutely contagious. When I called her on it, she said she was a lightning rod of positivity. It made me laugh.

It was definitely catching. Jenna won a super prize at a conference last weekend and as a result we're going to be meeting - IN PERSON - in New York City next June for RWA Nationals. I am beyond excited about the 2011 conference. My roomie and I (romance author Fiona Harper) have made tentative plans for working in sightseeing and I already know my agent will be there. Having gone to Washington in 09, I know what the Harlequin party is like and I can't wait to go again.  I can feel the energy of it already - and it's only OCTOBER.

As a result, and thank goodness I'm between deadlines, I've been involved in putting together some proposals for workshops. Three, to be exact, each one offering something different. Each one exciting in its own way. I'm hoping that one of them will get picked. Competition for slots is going to be TIGHT. And the deadline for those is next Friday, which means I have to get my butt in gear and get things done and dusted.

I'm also working on a novella, and it's taken me a little longer than I expected, but I have until Nov 1 to finish it up and today I hit the 13,000 mark so it shouldn't be too bad, getting to 20,000. If I can get the first draft to 18 or so, editing should look after the rest.

Meanwhile, I have a field trip this week, groceries to get, a house to clean, all in preparation for my mom and stepdad arriving for Thanksgiving Weekend. It should be fun. The leaves are finally starting to turn and there's something wonderful about turkey leftovers.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

New Buzz: Discovery Draft

Sometimes it's hard to label your writing process. There's plotter and there's pantser, of course. There are planners and "organic" writers. And of course there are combinations of all these things. Trying to figure out your process is hard enough, let alone labeling it. And then of course as your writing grows, so can your process, so what was true last year might not be exactly true now.

The RWR has been a great source of articles lately. First Jo Beverley talked about "writing into the mist" - how she is a complete pantser and that it's perfectly okay. I took a lot of comfort from reading that article, because there are a lot of plotters out there who look so organized when they lay out a new story. Then there are the people who need to know ahead of time what the story is about - and not some vague description. Actual things that happen. Character goals and motivations and conflict and OMG resolutions. People like your agent and your editor. It can be really difficult trying to come up with something solid when you JUST DON'T KNOW. It's easy to think you're doing something WRONG.

There was another article in the RWR about the "Discovery" phase - all that preplanning. Figuring out your characters, making a soundtrack, maybe a collage, conflicts, whatever. The idea is that doing all the ground work means that when you sit down to actually write the story you're better prepared. I like the idea, I really do. I really enjoyed the article. But for me, I had to take it a step further. Because I usually have pics, and music, and some backstory/character work done, and maybe even a prelim synopsis. I usually THINK about the story a lot. But honestly? The discovery phase lasts longer for me - to the end of the first draft. Because no matter what I *think* I know, I'm usually wrong. I discover things as I write. Things that sounded brill on paper don't work in the story, so I have to take a different tack. The characters show me bits about themselves that I didn't know until I put them in a certain situation at a certain time and asked myself WHY.

It takes a lot of pressure off knowing I don't have to have it all nailed down. That's what the first draft is for. I ALWAYS know more at the end than I did when I started, and so I go back and revise and layer things in or cut things out or just re-shape things. Symbols that I didn't know about in the beginning, I find closer to the end and I can go back and foreshadow. The thing is, I don't HAVE to know it beforehand. It's okay to discover it as I go - as long as the end product is COMPLETE.

I'm not the only one who has been talking about discovery drafts lately.  My CP Michelle Styles has been talking about how characters aren't fully rounded until you get to the end and you can go back and fill things in. You can't foreshadow things you don't know are important, so you go back and add richness, texture, resonance.

Julie Cohen says that too. Her first drafts are messy but once they are done she goes back and works her magic with an efficiency that is terrifying. Check out her post-its by clicking on her name.

The thing is, your process is your process, and if it works, don't try to mess with it. It might be tweaked for individual books; some are simply harder work than others. But if writing a "discovery draft" is what it takes for magic to happen? So be it. Maybe it takes you twice as long to write a book as someone else who works differently, but the goal is always the same - create the best read possible.

So how do you put something together for your agent and editor ahead of time? I still don't have the answer to that one. My current thing is a one page summary that hits on the hook, basic character goals, conflicts and motivations. But that might not work for you, and certainly not for every editor.

Hey, I didn't say it was perfect. :-)

Monday, October 04, 2010

Yes, I washed walls.

Last weekend I blogged about washing doors and cupboards and I got quite a few comments, lol. Well yesterday I washed walls. You see, I didn't actually get spring cleaning done and things have been bothering me. The downstairs walls got done. My husband has asked if it is because my mother is coming to visit. Yes, partly, but I confess it was getting to me knowing they hadn't been touched all year.

Of course that made me realize that now that the walls are clean the blinds really do need to be done...

I also washed the valances in the kitchen.

This week is insane - extracurricular activities are in full swing, I am trying to finish the first draft of my novella, I have a field trip on Friday and I have to clean and get groceries for the weekend. Somehow it will all get done. At least I still have a washing machine.  Last night it was making a horrendous noise and we discovered the load of towels still soaking wet. The dh took everything apart and discovered "someone" had left a lip gloss in her pocket which had broken and pieces got in the pump. NOT GOOD. Being the handy guy he is, he fixed it and the pump wasn't ruined. Stern lecture about cleaning out pockets ensued.

Meanwhile, it's back to the WIP.

Friday, October 01, 2010

We have a winner! And a new contest!

This month's winner is Barbara Semeraro of New Jersey! Barbara, your prize will be in the mail on Monday.

So...now it's October, and time for a new monthly contest.This one is a little special. Charge up your e-readers (or computer) because this month's prize is an ARC (advance reader copy) of my November Samhain Publishing release, BREATHE.

BREATHE releases on November 2, so this contest is only going to run until the 15th of October. I'll pick a winner and send them an advance copy of BREATHE in pdf format.

I'm so excited this book is coming out.  It is one of my favourites and I love love love the cover.

Send me an e-mail with the subject line BREATHE ARC to be entered and good luck!

October 1 - already?

I cannot believe it is October 1. Today I shall finish up ALL my admin so that Monday I'm back in word count mode. I have heard back from my agent on a new project and am excited about getting back to it, I need to finish my novella, and I'm working on finishing up a workshop proposal with the help of buddy Fiona Harper. Lots of good stuff going on, and I'm hoping by the end of October I can look back at the month and feel like I got lots accomplished.

So...be on the lookout for news, updates on my site, the announcement of my contest winner, my October newsletter...