Thursday, December 29, 2011

Best Books of 2011

To date I've read 56 books this year - less than last year, but on average one a week. After seeing lots of "top" lists, I thought about which books really captured my attention and so rather than a top list, here are my categories and faves!

*not all books were released in 2011. Some are tbr backlist.


Favourite Category Romance: Tie between Her Best Friend - Sarah Mayberry and The Heart of a Hero - Barbara Wallace

Favourite Debut: The Outlaw Bride - Kelly Boyce

Favourite Series: First Comes Marriage...the series by Mary Balogh

Favourite Historical Romance: The Duke and I - Julia Quinn

Favourite New To Me Author and Most Likely To Be Glommed: Before the Scandal - Suzanne Enoch

Favourite Contemporary: Bring Me Home For Christmas - Robyn Carr

Honourable Mention: Sherryl Woods and A Chesapeake Shores Christmas

What were your favourite reads of the year?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Montana, Mistletoe, Marriage

Montana, Mistletoe, Marriage is featured on Super E-Reads today! For more info, check it out!

http://super-e-reads.com/2011/12/montana-mistletoe-marriage-by-donna-alward/


In other non-writing news, the girls and I did our post-Christmas gift card spending shopping trip today. We did great. They got new clothes/footwear/purses/makeup sorts of things and I got new slippers, new jeans, and a new shower caddy for the ensuite. We went for lunch together like we do every year, and now they are home and happy and vegging.

Is everyone still eating turkey? Tonight's dinner is one of our favourite turkey casseroles.

Friday, December 23, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I can hardly believe it's the 23rd of December. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and we're ALL READY for the big day here. Last night my husband and I went to a work party and when we got home there was a note waiting that said the girls had finished cleaning the house - which meant I got up today and was free to have a coffee with the husband, a leisurely breakfast and then work! :-)

To make it even better, it started snowing before we got up and it's STILL snowing and we are definitely in for a white Christmas! Look at this!



Before I go, I want to mention a few holiday things going on - today I'm at The Pink Heart Society for Must Watch Friday chatting about a movie tradition in our family! 




There's also a chance to win my novella OFF THE CLOCK at the Long and Short Reviews holiday event - Stuff Your Stockings with Books!







And starting on December 24, you should really visit the Romance Author Hotspot Holiday Bash for a chance to win books AND a Kindle FIRE!

Fun, right?

In the meantime - have a wonderful, blessed holiday. Travel safe if you're on the road. We're sticking pretty close to home, eating lots of turkey, and probably playing a bit of Rock Band and enjoying a few new toys.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What's on your Christmas List?

Today the fabulous Sea and Be Scene site has a holiday feature asking "what's the best Christmas present you ever got?" It got me thinking about all the presents over the years, big and small, and how hard it was to pick just one. But I did, and you can read about the faves of lots of East Coast personalities.

Then a few minutes ago I saw a tweet asking what writers were asking for for Christmas. My list was small this year and not a whole lot writerly on it - except for some books. I asked for the George RR Martin Game of Thrones series. Otherwise, hopefully Santa is putting a new can opener beneath my tree. Seriously. I asked for a new can opener.

What's on your Christmas list? Practical or indulgent?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sweet Treats

It's my day over at the Harlequin Romance Author site and I'm giving away a copy of Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses which includes 4 stories in one! Plus you're not going to want to miss my recipe either. It's soooooo good. And totally addictive.

Check it all out at www.harlequinromanceauthors.com!

I'll be back tomorrow - the last of the school concerts are today and tomorrow Christmas holiday officially begins!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Recharged

I'm mostly recharged this morning - it was a great weekend and if I'm a little behind the 8-ball it's just because I didn't sleep that well last night. Plus my internet died this morning and I had to trouble shoot it which wouldn't have been a huge deal except I'm teaching this week and I had my first lesson all ready to go. I hit post and lost everything. It's Monday.

But the weekend was great. We kicked it off with my niece and her husband here for supper - I made lasagna and garlic bread and salad and we had Christmas treats for dessert and ate wayyyy too much and then played Rock Band for about 2 hours. Saturday I had coffee with a friend and then the girls and I hit Michaels craft store and spent more than I'd planned as their ornament kits were on 1/2 price. We did crafts all Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening. Saturday night I read, Sunday morning the husband and I took the dog for a long walk, and in the afternoon I wrapped stuff and made a roast beef dinner. It was really great.

And now here we are - Monday, and the last week of school before Christmas holidays. I've got lots to do - work on the WIP, teaching Blasting Through Blah at Passionate Ink, 3 concerts and who knows what else. S'ok though. We're ready for Christmas here.

This is also the last week for the Harlequin Romance Author site relaunch complete with recipes and prizes, so don't forget to stop by. A winner's list will be posted on the 19th.

And Mills and Boon Australia is having a sale right now, so if you're down under and looking to do some shopping:

Friday, December 09, 2011

Christmas

We're hard core Christmas here this week. Tuesday I did most of the shopping, Wednesday I picked up the last little things and did a mess of wrapping before heading to the youngest's Christmas concert. It was our last elementary school holiday concert which might be sad except the parking and chaos is particularly insane at the elementary school and I'm not going to miss that. :-)

Yesterday we had a huge storm and lost power for most of the day, so I indulged myself by reading a Christmas book from my shelf - Bring Me Home For Christmas by Robyn Carr and it was sooo good. Then last night the girls and I did a whole mess of Christmas baking. There will be lots of choices for dessert tonight when my niece and her husband are here for dinner. Tomorrow I have a coffee date in the morning but otherwise the weekend is free - so I am thinking lots of Christmas movies and down time. The eldest's concert last night was cancelled because of the power outage, so we still have 2 more concerts to go next week before we can really let down our hair and relax for Christmas.

I had my hair cut this morning, which means I had some time while my *coughgreycoveragecough* was setting to start my next book - in keeping with Christmas stories I'm reading A Chesapeake Shores Christmas by Sherryl Woods - trying to get caught up with this series and I also have An O'Brien Family Christmas by Sherryl on my TBR to help that along.

A couple of work-y type things - don't forget to visit www.harlequinromanceauthors.com because our recipes and giveaways are still ongoing and as far as I know it all ends a week from today.

And starting Monday I'm teaching Blasting Through Blah hosted by the Passionate Ink RWA chapter. You can still register! http://www.passionateink.org/workshops/

See you Monday!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

BREATHE is out in print!

Today is a "second" release day for my book, BREATHE, as it is finally released in PRINT!  You can snag it at special new release pricing at Samhain Publishing or get it from booksellers - if they don't have it in stock, they can definitely order it in for you (or you can order it online).

I loved writing this story and I adore the cover. It's kind of cool that it gets a second release date. :-)

Monday, December 05, 2011

Redux

As you can see, I didn't quite make my NaNo total but I got over 40k written in November which, considering how crazy life ALWAYS seems to be in November is pretty good. I finished, sent, and sold a novella, started my next story, sent the partial to my editor, carried on with the story, took a long weekend to visit my mom, and spent a lot of time chaufeurring kids around. I'm happy.

Today I'm working on the copy edits of The Rebel Rancher (coming out next June) and I've cried twice and I still adore my hero, so yay! This was possibly my favourite book to write. I told my editor it IS actually hard to write the next book after a "fairy dust" book, but after her thoughts on the partial I've had a good think about it and I'm excited about making a few tweaks and carrying on.

Today I'm at Petticoats and Pistols talking about a Down Home Family Christmas and I'm also talking about the Harlequin Romance Author site relaunch at The Pink Heart Society. Don't forget to drop by the site for your chance to win Harlequin Romance books and get a few fantastic recipes!

This past weekend my sisters were here and we did a huge shopping trip on Saturday. They left Sunday afternoon around 2:30; my daughter had to be at a local community centre to sing for a seniors party at 2:50. She did great. Last night, to unwind, we put White Christmas on and decorated our gingerbread house. It was the perfect way to end the crazy weekend.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Brag Board and Hodge Podge

There is nothing that makes me any happier than celebrating the achievements of my kids. I'm always proud, of course, but the last few weeks has seem my youngest really excel at something new. She's done such a great job and amazed a lot of people. She started playing flute in September and is doing so well that she's playing a fairly complicated solo with the school choir at their concert next week, as well as having a part in the school drama and doing another flute solo with one of the classes. Last night she had her concert with the district Honour Choir - they sounded beautiful.

I think that every kid has a "thing". For some it's sports, for some it's music, whatever...but finding that interest and talent is great. She's blossomed so much this year and it's been lovely to watch.

Hodge-podge wise - after months of losing a few pounds, putting it back, losing, putting it back...last Friday I was exactly where I was before I left for New York last June. Sigh. I knew I had to get strict, so a week ago today I decided to go "cleaner" with my eating (as I'd remained active but hadn't lost any more). I cut out caffeine and wine, and had green tea 3 evenings and last night I had 1 cup of black tea - my first all week. The withdrawal headaches lasted for nearly 4 days, but I'll confess I've been sleeping so much better! I also cut back on dairy - very little cheese (I think I had it once all week, beyond a sprinkle of parmesan on my salad one night) and mostly greek yogurt. And I cut back on gluten, some days having none at all, or if I did it was only at one meal. It really was not a difficult week despite the cut backs - I ate a LOT of fruit and vegetables and lean protein and drank a lot of water. Today I was down 4.4 lbs - in ONE WEEK. Tell me I wasn't hanging on to some goo?

I'm out of eggs, so this morning I made quinoa for the first time and put apples and cinnamon in it. It was okay. Not something I'd want to eat every day, but a decent gluten-free substitute for porridge that's high in protein.

And before I dash off - today is crazy busy - today's author at the Harlequin Romance Author website is Lucy Gordon - with a taste of Italy courtesy of her husband and a holiday book to give away. Pop by.

Have a good weekend! I've heard a rumour that one or both of my sisters may land here this weekend, though no one's really let me know either way...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Website relaunch and prizes!

The blog's been quiet this week and for a very good reason. Today the Harlequin Romance Authors launch their redesigned website! Thanks to Anne MacFarlane of Annespired Web Design who made us this gorgeous new template - and set it up so that I could add information so easily! I've been busy adding author profiles to the Meet The Author page and a few photos to the Fun Stuff page with more to come!

To celebrate the launch, we're holding a party that will last long into the MONTH! Stop by each day for a chance to win a book and snag a recipe from the contributing author. There are some real goodies - we kicked it off with Barb McMahon, a 2 in 1 Holiday book AND her recipe for Chocolate Truffle Cookies that look delish (and that my kids are dying to make, must pick up some baking chocolate!)!

Head on over to www.harlequinromanceauthors.com to join in the fun and drop by each day for a new chance to win. We'll be posting a winners list after we run out of books and not before!

Today being December 1 also means that my biannual royalties arrived - woo hoo! I celebrated by treating myself to a massage. Then I ran some errands and finally I'm home to get to work. There'll be a newsletter hitting subscriber inboxes shortly and after that an update to my website....



Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Madness

Today instead of writing much today, I'm on homework duty. The youngest had an assignment that we did first thing this morning. The eldest had a science project that required me to videotape her and her sister like a news broadcast...tonight we'll put all the pieces together into a movie. I have to run into town to buy a wig for youngest's drama part and then there is choir practice for youngest - the last before her concert on Thursday. Add in a few loads of laundry, working on the Harlequin Romance author website and I think it's pretty good that I got 1000 words on the manuscript this morning.

I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going to hit 50k for NaNo. I'm a bit disappointed, but I also did more than I did last year which is good. I'll be over 40k by the end and that's still pretty good output for a month, especially considering how hectic November has been.

And it does still put me on track for finishing this book when I want to finish it. :-)

What are you working on this Monday? How close are you to reaching your NaNo total?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday - again?

I just realized I haven't posted since TUESDAY! Where the heck did the week go?

Wednesday we had a storm here - officially at the airport we got 35 cm of snow, which is the better part of 14 inches. It was a mess. Schools weren't cancelled so both kids were late getting home. The dh got home early and started to blow out the driveway while I shoveled the walk and steps.

We woke up yesterday morning to a street that hadn't been cleared, a truck that wouldn't get out our driveway...it meant that I had to take the dh's car (which is an AWD) to my doctor appt. The 2 minute drive took me 30. Once we got out of the unplowed subdivision the roads were a bit better, BUT traffic was so backed up that we were at a standstill. When I got home at 9:30, the roads still weren't plowed except for our tiny cul de sac. The problem with that was now there was this giant heavy snowbank blocking my driveway and keeping me from getting in. Out came the shovel again so I could put the car in the garage. It made for a late start writing, never mind I also had to go out again to pick up youngest from drama after school.

To top it off, dh came home and went to blow out the drive again, and the tractor wouldn't start. Finally got it started, and the blower broke. Thank heavens for good neighbours with tractors who cleared us out enough to use both sides of our driveway. I can now get my truck out.

There is a good side to this though - looking out the window at all the whiteness has totally put me in the mood to work on the Christmas story and I'm currently just taking a break from writing a really great scene. There's nothing like decorating a Christmas tree, mulled cider, and a big strapping rancher to put me in the holiday spirit. :-)

In keeping with that, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. A friend and I are taking our girls to Mahone Bay to their Father Christmas Festival - lots of food, crafts, decorations, activities, carols...perfect. The girls have been saving their money for some shopping!

And otherwise - I need to eat lunch and do another #1k1hr to get my word count done for the day - I enjoyed having a clean house so much last weekend that I'm going to try and "git'er done" today so that on Sunday we can break out the decorations and really get into the Christmas spirit.

It's Black Friday in the US, so what are you doing today? Business as usual, or grabbing major holiday deals?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If you missed it last week...

If you missed my BLASTING THROUGH BLAH workshop last week, it's running again in a few weeks through Passionate Ink. It's a five-lesson course to help you break through the blah scenes in your manuscript. Seriously, I used at least 2 of the techniques in the course to fix my work-in-progress as I was teaching. In particular I had one scene that was just so BORING and I was trying to sort out what was wrong with it and then bang! I realized I needed technique number 2.

The cost is only $15 for members and $20 for non-members. You can find out more information about signing up, etc. here on the Upcoming Workshops page.



Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Musings

Here we are back at Monday again - and I'm just about ready to kick off my first #1k1hr to get some word count done. But first a few things to share - I heard from my awesome editor at Samhain and the second novella in the First Responders series is a go - so IN THE LINE OF DUTY will be out sometime in 2012. :-) It's a follow up to OFF THE CLOCK and now I just need to write the final installment, INTO THE FIRE. :-) 

And yesterday was our RWA chapter potluck. As always there was tons of food, a lot of loud conversation and a cutthroat book draw at the end of the afternoon. I drew number 17 which meant I had my pick of a lot of books already opened. I came home with the new Robyn Carr holiday book and a Debbie Macomber I hadn't read yet, so I've got more good reading ahead!

Michelle Helliwell, Annette Gallant, me, Kelly Boyce
And it was also the last function for the current executive. It's been a fantastic year - I couldn't have asked for a better group to work with. All easy going, no drama...it hardly felt like work at all.  The chapter was really active this past year AND we hosted a weekend editor event that pretty much turned out awesome. Now after two years of VP I've stepped aside but I'll confess I'm going to miss chatting to these three on the exec loop.

Kelly Boyce and Michelle Helliwell were new to the exec last year but Annette and I did Prez and Veep 2 years together and I think I'm going to miss her the most.

Thanks for a great year, you guys.

Friday, November 18, 2011

How did it get to be Friday?

How did it get to be FRIDAY already? It was a short week here with the kids off school, I guess, and there was a volleyball game in there, a practice, 2 days of drama, grocery shopping, badminton club, study dates and me teaching a course as well as writing so I guess I managed to fill the time without too much trouble. I'm doing a work "blitz" this morning because my niece and her husband are coming for dinner tonight and I need to do SOMETHING with this house. Being gone all weekend last weekend meant it didn't get a good cleaning as usual, so as soon as I make my 2000 words, I'm getting out the vacuum and duster.

It was snowing this morning! The blue sky is peeking through now, but there's NOTHING like a dusting of snow to perk up a writer working on a Christmas story, or to make a school bus late. Nearly 20 minutes late, and the same bus picks up my eldest during the next run so I drove her to school so she'd be on time and took a couple of her friends with. It's bloody chilly outside, so I poured a second cup of coffee, with Dulce de Leche creamer in it. It's a good Friday.

And once the house is cleaned up it's dinner...my "nephew-in-law" can eat like a horse (where he puts it, I don't know, he's a bean pole!) so we've got a ginormous package of ribs we're going to grill. My husband usually does them but I'm on the "pre-boil" detail. We sometimes add beer to the water, and usually some garlic and seasonings. Once they're boiled, the dh puts them on the grill and uses his favourite bbq sauce - President's Choice Stampede Barbeque. The secret is to not scrimp on the sauce. Messy and delicious. I expect I'll make a big pot of rice and some salad etc. to go with it. And I should probably make a dessert. What I'll probably do is get the girls to bake something when they come home from school. They love to cook. Wish they loved to clean up the dirty dishes as much, but alas...not.

Anyway have a good weekend...it's our RWA chapter potluck on Sunday which is always a fun time!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Feeding the Writer's Soul - plus girl time

I am a homebody. Seriously - by the time the day's work is done, I've worked out, made supper, etc...I really don't feel like going out and running around.

But last night I made an exception because Kelley Armstrong was in town and doing a reading and signing at the library.

It was a time that fed my writer's soul. I got to watch how "the pros" do it - that is, talk to a room full of people about their books, answer questions, etc. And I mean a room. I don't know attendance numbers but I'd guess at over 60 people easily. Very different than speaking to a dozen (which is my usual number). I also liked listening to the Q&A...from the typical first "where do you get your ideas?" question to some of the others. What would it be like to be asked about characters in that many books? What would it be like to have a following like that? It's pretty darn cool. And listening to Kelly talk about life as an author made me realize that while our process is very different, we think a lot the same too. Nothing is more comforting to a writer than another writer who GETS IT.

I took my girls with me. My eldest is a fan so she was pretty jazzed, but my youngest is a little too young yet so about 3/4 of the way through she snuck off with my library card to lose herself in the stacks. When she came back we were in line to sign and she had two big books in her arms that she'd checked out.

The eldest had wanted to ask a second question during the Q&A but ran out of time, so she thought she'd ask when she got to the table. Instead she was so excited that she got her book signed and floated half way to the door before I reminded her that she'd forgotten. She said she didn't care - she had her book signed! And a bookmark! LOL. So Kelley - if you're reading this, my daughter would like to know what you would be if you weren't a writer.

We got home around nine so it was straight into bedtime routine, but it was worth the effort for this hermit to get out of the house.

Readers - do you go to author events and what's your favourite part? And authors - how do you feed your writer's soul?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Family Laughs - and Stuffing my Face

This past weekend we travelled to my mum's for the long weekend. It was totally worth the three pounds I gained. THREE. In three days. I'm crossing my fingers that the sheer volume of water I'm drinking is going to address some of that problem.

It started with stopping at my mother-in-law's on Friday afternoon - we dropped off her Christmas present and a few other little things that the dh had done up for her, and we had supper. She'd made baked beans, brown bread rolls, baked ham and scalloped potatoes. YUM. And then...strawberry shortcake. Gah! We also picked up our Christmas stuff including about 100 lbs of fruitcake. When we were up over Thanksgiving (October here in Canada) I got her a Bulk Barn gift card to buy the fruit etc. and in return we get really great fruitcake and mincemeat. It's a fab deal.

Then it was on to my mum's. We spent the night there, got up in the morning and deliberately ate a breakfast of fruit and yogurt because we were going to market.

Market is great. I could spend a million dollars there without a lot of trouble, I think. Between the artisans and the food vendors... Anyway we wandered around but really just spent money on food. Of course. The kids and husband got Kurt's Sausage on a bun - the mister with sauerkraut and spicy mustard, youngest with ketchup, and the eldest? Well, she got hers with hot chili sauce. I got a beef donair. Being a generous sort, I offered the mister a bite when we got back to our truck. He opened his great maw and took a huge bite that left me seriously miffed. However the majority of the meat and sauce is towards the bottom, so ha ha on him. He got mostly onions and tomatoes. I only got one dollop of stuff on my jacket. Because I'm that classy and I always get donair drips.

We also bought a dozen beef and chicken samosas for the family potluck - which happened Saturday night.

Saturday night my sisters came for supper. My mum had made (more) baked beans and brown bread, and a chicken and broccoli casserole that was yummy. One sister brought a Chicken Penne Alfredo that was TO DIE FOR and also Oreo Delight dessert which was a tasty concoction of oreo crumbs, vanilla pudding, and Cool Whip drizzled with chocolate sauce. My other sister came with most of her brood (and their significant others) in tow so she brought a big pot of Sweet and Sour Stew (a personal fave, I brought a dish home and we had it for supper last night), a Shepherd's Pie, a Caesar Salad and my niece brought potato salad. In addition to the samosas I made a chocolate chip cheese ball served with cookies (recipe courtesy of Debbie Macomber's site). My mom's rhubarb and mince pies were barely touched - there was just too much food. It was one of the best potlucks we've ever had.

After supper we crowded into the living room to watch Great Niece (who is 19 months old) perform, and she's a real ham. Who needs entertainment when you have a little angel in a pink frilly dress? On top of that we had lots of laughs. One sister's alter-ego came out to play which had us in stitches, as well as the story of her driving her ATV off the trailer into the truck, or trying to swing the generator into the back of the truck and spraining her ankle. I teased my niece's boyfriend about his Movember effort and met my nephew's new girlfriend (hopefully we didn't scare her away) and my sister in law came late - she'd had to work until 7:30 and then went home and bless her heart made my husband a lemon pie. Her lemon pies are out of this world. It was still warm and not quite set, so we heated up some supper for her and saved the pie and...had it for breakfast yesterday morning, along with bacon and pancakes. Does your belly hurt? Mine did.

I'd spent the last several weeks making things for holiday baskets for the family, so I'm happy to say they are all delivered now, complete with bows and homemade tags.

Yesterday we didn't bother with lunch, instead heating up stew and leftover brown bread rolls for an early supper around 4:30.  Thank goodness.

But it was so good to get together. To share a bunch of laughs. My mum was in heaven despite the noise and commotion and said to me yesterday that Saturday was her Christmas.

But now it's back to normal (in some ways thank goodness! I'm lucky 3 lbs was the total damage now that I write all that down!). I'm teaching a course at Savvy Authors this week, have chatted to my editor about the new book, and trying to knock a few other things off my to-do list.

All in all though? I'm really glad we went last weekend rather than waiting until the madness that's December.

What did you do this past weekend?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing a Christmas Story

So this week I started my next book for Harlequin Romance - a Christmas story that will be in a trilogy with my fab colleagues Fiona Harper and Shirley Jump. Even though I'm a pantser, there's always some prep that goes into starting a new book. You have to know your characters, their problem, their basic motivations and goals. The setting, the timeline. Doesn't mean you have to do a chapter by chapter outline, but you need the basics.

When you're writing a story with other authors, you need more than that too. We're writing about 3 sisters, so there's backstory, timelines, intersecting points, etc. that all need to be ironed out.

But still...I can't speak for Fi or Shirley but I know that things change when I start writing the novel. Oh, the basics might stay the same - who my characters are, their big problems and conflicts, etc. But other things. I've focused a lot of WHY Blake and Hope are the way they are, but on the page I have to think about making sure they are both sympathetic to the reader - why should they root for this person? I heard Liz Fielding say something the other day - that the heroine, despite her conflicts, should be someone the reader would want to be friends with.  I struggle with that a bit, especially as my heroine tends to distance herself from getting personally involved with people.

And then the other thing that changes? Christmas. I want this book to fairly DRIP holiday spirit. Up to now, I've focused so much on the whys of the story but now, as I've started writing, I'm looking for ways to make the Christmas season an integral part of the plot - so that it's not just a romance that happens to be set at Christmas but a Christmas Romance.

I wanna grab a lot of heartstrings, and give my readers romantic, swoony sighs.

As I was writing today I came up with another surprise that just makes me smile. My heroine doesn't stand a chance. I love it, and I think it's going to be big fun - as big as Santa's sack of toys.

Now, I think I'll have to break out the Christmas playlist - what do you think?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Preview of my life for the next 6 years

This week - well, and to be honest, last - has been crazy on the kid front, and I don't even have the girls in anything overly crazy. I realized last night, as I went to pick up my daughter at 8:15, that this is a preview of my life for the next 6 years - or at least until they're both driving (and that's a whole other level of OMG - the idea of them taking the car and driving themselves!).

Monday required some juggling as the youngest had to be driven to choir (our other arrangements fell through) and then I left there to go to my eldest's game. We got home within 20 min of each other.

Yesterday I had to pick up youngest after drama and drop her at a neighbours for a twice-weekly after school job. Then after supper, eldest had a short babysitting job and so I drove back and forth to that (since the kids she was babysitting were already in bed). This morning she had to be at school early for practice, it's a half day because of Parent-Teacher, so I have 2 interviews this afternoon in addition to youngest having her job after school and eldest working the book fair at her school during interviews.

Tomorrow? Drama pick up, eldest has badminton in the evening.

It requires a certain amount of juggling and, well, gas. BUT there are so many good things about it. It's good for them to be involved in music and sports - there are important lessons to be learned, and it's far more beneficial than coming home and plunking down in front of the television. We try to keep commitments to one per term with the odd extra here and there, to allow for enough homework time and sleep. They still go to bed pretty early, actually.

It's good for them to have little jobs too, to earn their own money, decide what they want to spend it on, and to know that when it's gone I'm not filling the gap.

And it's good for them to do some things for no pay at all - the eldest is volunteering her time this afternoon and that's cool.  Sometimes you do things to help people out and do the right thing, with no expectation of money crossing palms. It's not a bad way to view things once in a while, IMO.

So I'll grouse and complain about running here and there, but really I'm proud of who they are turning out to be and if a little running back and forth is my contribution...it's not that big of a deal.

Now I'm off to make some word count - after all, another 2 1/2 hours and the first one will be home and I'll have to put on my mom face for parent teacher!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sports Season and A New Review

It's sports season here again and I'm over at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs chatting about being a sport mom and the life lessons to be learned from competitive sports.

I also got a new review for OFF THE CLOCK today! The Romance Studio gave it four hearts and said that it was "pure emotion and real". You can read the whole review over at their site.

Meanwhile I'm not having any trouble keeping busy. Early work is ongoing for the Christmas book and I've been critiquing some stuff for people the last few days, not to mention trying to stay caught up with admin. At this rate I'm simply looking forward to Christmas break! LOL

Monday, November 07, 2011

B-day: Behind the Book, Blasting Through Blah

First up - I'm over at Petticoats and Pistols today talking a bit about the inspiration behind HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART. Feel free to drop by for a spell to find out a little more about Clay and Meg - and also for a chance to win a copy!

And I have a workshop called Blasting Through Blah beginning next Monday at Savvy Authors and there is still room to register. The course description is as follows:

Most authors have written a scene that just doesn’t feel quite right, or lacks that certain spark. Saggy middles?  Stilted dialogue?  Can’t seem to see what’s wrong?  This one-week workshop will introduce some fun techniques to blast through the blahs of your manuscript! Come prepared with a work in progress, as each day attendees will try their hand at employing the day’s technique.  This is a five part (one week) workshop with assignments for participants.  Assignments will not be graded. Target Audience: Mixed. Must have a work in progress ongoing.

Topics covered by this online class will include:

Lesson 1: Say What?

Switching dialogue to tease out motivation and conflict.

Assignment: take a scene and change dialogue attribution

Lesson 2: Get Out Of My Head

Play with POV: the benefit of trying opposite points of view.  Assignment: take a scene and change the POV

Lesson 3: Let ‘Em Have It

Holding back on that crucial plot point?  Do it now, and let the chips fall where they may. Assignment: introducing a crucial element earlier than planned

Lesson 4: Everyone Can Do With A Change Of Scenery

Moving the scene to a different setting can make all the difference!  Assignment: take a scene and put it in a different setting.

Lesson 5: You Big Meanie!

Take away your character’s security blanket. Assignment: examine a scene for what your character wants most – and then take it away.

This day will also be for any lingering questions/observations.

You can register at the Savvy Authors site.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

I've been watching my friend Liz do this and got quite intrigued, so this week I'm giving Six Sentence Sunday a go with six sentences from my October release, How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart. Meg has always been a bit of a tomboy and Clay has never noticed her the way she wanted - until she agrees to go to his Aunt's wedding as his date and knocks his eyesballs out. Leading to this:


    His arm came around her, lifted her feet clear of the porch floor as he kissed her: hot, demanding, and all-encompassing.
      His mouth was soft, hot, and devastating. Megan let the shock ripple deliciously through her as she clutched his shoulders. There was a small thunk; the house key dropped to the step. Even through the layers of his tuxedo and her coat Meg felt the hardness of his body against her.
     It was the most wonderful thing she’d felt in her whole life.


You can find out more about Six Sentence Sunday HERE.

Friday, November 04, 2011

November Christmas

Last weekend, I watched a Hallmark Movie from last year called November Christmas. I taped it because it was filmed not too far from where I live, and hey, it's Christmas! But it's languished on my dvr all that time. Finally, with space running out on my dvr, I curled up with a glass of wine and a box of tissues and watched.

Hallmark movies are unapologetically sentimental and schmaltzy and this one was no exception. We have a couple (John Corbett plays the dad) who are struggling as their daughter has cancer - they also have a son and balancing a marriage and caring for a sick child and keeping things "normal" for the healthy kid is really tough. Then we have Jess, the neighbour, played by Sam Elliott, and his wife, who lost their son in an accident when he was 13. The movie is all about the two families connecting and making the holidays special for a very sick little girl. Yep - schmaltz abounds.

You could even say it's cheesy, but it's very, very good cheese, you see. At one point I was crying so hard I had to lean forward so gravity would help my nose unplug and I could actually blow it. It pulls on every single heartstring in happy and sad ways. Sam Elliot is so awesome (as usual). Tough and gruff, tender and gentle and strong as an oak. Just as you would expect him to be. It's set in a small town, so you have that close-knit down home feeling that warms the cockles of your heart (yes, cliches abound, sue me).  He promises the little girl that she'll be home for Christmas, but her treatment isn't going well. When they have to stop it until she gets stronger and send her home, things don't look so good.

But as the family drives home (in November, hence the title), they see Jess's house lit up with Christmas lights. And then they drive through town and the WHOLE TOWN is decorated and lit up for the holidays. See? Unapologetically schmaltzy but it's so good you don't care. And they get to the house and all the main players from the town are there waiting for them to get home and give that family a November Christmas.

Truthfully? Some people will dismiss this kind of movie the same way they dismiss genre fiction as predictable, cliche, and stupid. But for me - this is the kind of movie that touches your heart and makes you realize that the world really isn't always a bad place. I cried buckets but cried them at tender loving moments as well as dark ones (and emptied the tissue box as my husband laughed at me).

It's also the kind of story that I'd love to be able to write someday. Deeply emotional, small-town rallying around kind of story. You can check out a trailer and more facts about the basis for it HERE.

So what are your thoughts? Do you ever watch Hallmark movies/made for TV movies like this? Love 'em or hate 'em?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart Hardback Cover

I finally got around to scanning the cover for HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART in hardcover. It released on October 21. I really like the cover - actually in all three covers I've seen so far, the heroine has had short hair - thank you art departments!

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Winners!

The winner of the Novel Trick or Treat is LINDA FARRELL ROLFE! Linda, please send your mailing address to me by using the link, and I'll get your prize on the go!

Also - the Small Blogs Big Giveaway winners have been drawn - go HERE to see if your name is on the list!

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Novel Trick or Treat!

This Halloween, join seven authors for virtual trick-or-treating!  Visit me, Julianne McLean, Michelle Willingham, Deborah Hale, Diane Gaston, Darlene Gardner and Deb Marlowe to win chocolates and other goodies to brighten your holiday.

Here's how it works - head on over to my Facebook Page and answer a question I've posted there. Leave your answer in the comments on Facebook, and then come back to my blog and find out which "house" you visit next on your trick or treat route! I'll pick a winner from those comments to win a copy of my latest book and a special Halloween treat!

The next house is Diane Gaston's - at www.dianegaston.com/blog !

Good luck and have fun!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Think Pink: Families of Those with Cancer with Eryn Grace

Please welcome Eryn Grace to the blog today, to share her perspective and also details on how you can download her book for free!


I never quite understood what my husband and his family went through when his mother underwent breast cancer surgery.  She had it before I met him, and she’d been cancer-free for years.  It wasn’t until my sister was diagnosed with uterine cancer in the early 2000s that I really understood.  It was devastating.  I lived in Kansas at the time and my sister lived in Pennsylvania, near my parents.  Every time I’d call home, I’d hear the latest news, all eventually spiraling into the horrifying word of terminal.  But my sister put on a happy face and didn’t share a lot of the news with her coworkers at the school where she taught.  Even her principal didn’t understand the toll on her, assigning my sister to parking lot duty about a month before she died, which really left my sister with no energy for quite a few days.

My family was angry.  Not only was this disease taking my oldest sister from us, but the general public didn’t seem to understand the front my sister was putting up to others, just so she wouldn’t get pity.  She even made a tape to be read at her funeral.  She said ‘find out your mission and get it done.  You’re stronger than you think you are.’  So even at her own funeral, she put on a front to the rest of the world, telling everyone to get their mission done in this world, because time is short.  She impressed my younger sister so much, that she became a celebrant (eulogist) in Los Angeles, so that everyone could have the funeral they wanted.  (The minister at my dying sister’s funeral didn’t allow many of her wishes allowed in the funeral.) 

The entire experience brought my family closer together.  While I was snowed in up here in Wisconsin, my brother and two other sisters went to Pennsylvania to see my oldest sister.  She was diagnosed as having only weeks to live on her 49th birthday, in February.  It was heart wrenching, but my sister took it in stride, surrounded by the rest of my family while I was on the phone with her. 

Cancer is a horrible silent disease, no matter what kind it is.  My wish is for that disease to be cured so much, that future generations don’t even know what it means, on a personal basis.  I hope for all cancer patient caregivers not to have to endure the physical and emotional toll of watching their loved one go through chemo and radiation, seeing doctor after doctor for treatment, or even having to sit in on that meeting where the doctor tells the patient they have cancer at all. 

To give everyone hope for life after breast cancer, I wrote ‘Whisper a Prayer,’ where the main character, Pam, is a breast cancer survivor who’s hunting for her real parents.  She’d been adopted as a child, and finds herself in Austin, Texas, with a private detective named Jake.  Jake wants to date Pam, but she considers herself ‘damaged goods’ because of the chemo.  Jake won’t let that stop him, because his sister-in-law has had the disease.  He’s ready for the challenge, if the cancer returns, and doesn’t even consider that a hurdle for them to date, surprising Pam. 

The book is written for the Christian market, but it’s what I call ‘Christian lite’ with very little religion in the story.  However, I suspect that many cancer patients do get closer to their faith, as did my oldest sister.

If you’d like, I’m offering a download of this book, free, on Smashwords.  Go to www.smashwords.com/books/view/96940.  Use coupon SJ92K when checking out.

Bless you all,

Eryn Grace

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Think Pink: Bev Clarke

One of the things I love about eharlequin is how I'm able to meet authors, aspiring writers, and readers all in one place. I met Bev Clarke through a thread called I AM CANADIAN, and so when I thought about posting Breast Cancer stories, I wondered if she'd care to share hers. So here is romance reader Bev, with her experience with Breast Cancer. Thanks for being here Bev!

My mother had cancer, and she died in 1946 after an operation. I am lucky my Dr. kept a good watch over me.  I'm also lucky that I  got cancer at a good time in my life and times. My Dr. said at it might not be very agressive at my age. I get a mammography every year and still do.

In June 2007, the mammography showed there was a mass.  I'm not sure why I didn't panic, I just became resigned I guess. In July I made an appointment for a needle biopsy. My daughter drove me up to that. The technician said she could see cancerous nodes with ultra sound. After the radiologist did the needle biopsy she went over my breast with the ultrasound. She seemed sure there was no cancerous nodes so I chose to have a lumpectomy instead of  a full Mastectomy.

When I saw the surgeon after the operation he said, "There is good news and bad news." There was a margin around my lump that means he couldn't find cancer in the rest of my breast. But, they took out 8 lymph nodes and found 2 cancerous. After that I went through a battery of tests and exrays for about a month.

The upshot of this told them I didn't have any cancer in my body. (Good!) I then went to the oncologists who would look after me. I have two - a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist.

The medical oncologist gave me percentages.  I took the percentage that had the highest forecast -  22% in ten years or hopefully not at all. The apparently couldn't be sure if the nodes had something there they couldn't see.

I started Chemo. It went on for 6 sessions, a session every 3 weeks. In my first session I developed fever and I had to get myself to the ER. It was discovered that the white blood cells in my body had gone down. That required a week in hospital and a nurse to come to my house 24 hours after each session to give my a shot. I also (through my own stupidity) didn't drink the right types of liquid and ended up with a problem there. During the first 3 sessions I was really very ill.

I could work quite easily around the house. My big problem at the time was my husband, Des. He knew what was happening but because of his own illness I couldn't look after him properly. His judgement was off and it was necesssary to have him go to nursing home.

During the first three sessions they removed all the medicine that I was taking. The seniors took me to the sessions, because they weren't sure how each patient took the Chemo. Whle I was away those three sessions my friend Marilyn would look after Des for me. During the last three sessions they changed medicine. This medicine took my taste away Everything that I ate tasted like dry stale bread. They also put cold mitts on my hands to help my nails. Although that didn't help much my nails are in very bad condition.

My friend Marilyn would come over occasionally and take me out to lunch. I couldn't eat a lot and she knew it but she would do it any way. I have had good friends. She is one of the best. I went down to 140 pounds then although you wouldn't know that now. I have to say I also lost all my hair during the first week. I lost every bit on my body except a small piece on my eyebrows.

After the treatments are finished you go ring the bell. I did it but I tried to get out. Some have people there to take your picture.

After the chemo I started into my radiation treatments. That was everyday except weekends. My radiation oncologist said "we are going in after those lymph nodes." The radiation isn't very bad. I was only on the table for a few minutes at a time and they pointed the rays where they needed them. I now have 5 tattoo dots on my breast area but I can only see one. How anyone would want to get a tatoo is beyond me. It hurts! I still see my Drs about every six months and I take tamoxifen once a day for five years. I'm 4 years clear and I cross my fingers when I say that.

When you have a disease like this your friends are your help. Des died 3 weeks after I finished everything. Marilyn, my seniorsgroup and my friends at the Canadian Legion got me through a year - and still do.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Think Pink: Courtesy of the Harlequin Blog

A tweet sent me to the Harlequin Blog, and I couldn't resist sharing here. After all, I'm all about educating people about Breast Cancer Awareness this month. I was so keen to learn all I could from this video that I watched it TWICE. Now THAT'S dedication.

So here you go - your public service announcement for today. Be sure to do a self exam. These guys will give you the TLC.

Word.

A Halloween Trick or Treat

 Stay tuned: On Monday, I'm participating in A Novel Trick Or Treat.

On Halloween Day I'll be posting instructions on this blog, telling you to go to my Facebook page and answer a question. One winner will be selected to win a book and some great chocolate!

Then I'll direct you to the next "house" (blog) on the Trick or Treat list.

There are seven authors participating: Deb Hale, Julianne McLean, Michelle Willingham (the head witch of our coven), me, Deb Marlowe, and Darlene Gardner.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Small Blogs, Big Giveaways - Win Books!

I'm featured over at Small Blogs, Big Giveaways today and there is a chance to win my current releases, OFF THE CLOCK and HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART! There are TONS of prizes to be won, actually, so head on over and see what's what!

Currently I'm just working away on my WIP and finishing a book that I'm reviewing on Thursday...and smelling the pulled pork that's cooking away in my crock pot. Oh YUM!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Last Chance to Cast your Vote!

The voting for the New Voices competition second chapters ends TOMORROW. I am trying not to get too nervous for my mentee, after all she is probably already biting her nails to the quick waiting for the results of the top four. I really hope she makes it through - she was a delight to work with and I loved both her chapters.

So please go have a read and vote! The final four are based on reader votes and editorial ranking so every vote counts. You can read her chapters on the New Voices Site - it's Temptation Finds the Rancher by Vanessa Eicher!

And I'm a little late putting this link up but believe me it was a major highlight of my week last week! USAToday's Happy Ever After blog reviewed HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART! WOW! And it was a GOOD review - after all you see the link and there's that moment of holding your breath wondering if it will be good or bad.

I let out that breath when I read the opening paragraph:

What do you get when you throw a lonely bachelor rancher into the path of a stubborn cancer survivor? With Donna Alward's latest, How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart, you get a moving love story showcasing characters who inspire sympathy and admiration, conflict that's genuine, and a resolution that refuses to be taken for granted. You also get to put another box of tissues on your grocery list.

Check out the whole review at the USA Today blog: How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart Review

And that's it for me today! I'm a bit chilly so I'm going to spark up a fire, maybe make a cup of tea and some serious word count. :-)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Think Pink: Cancer's Silent Victims with Nancy O'Berry

Today we have another special guest on the blog! Please welcome Nancy O'Berry with a special post from a different perspective - and she's also giving a copy of her book, Stormy Weather away so read on! Thanks for sharing with us, Nancy!


To hear that your mother, sister, or aunt has breast cancer changes your outlook on life. It's not a single diagnosis, but an all-encompassing crusade that a family and a family member will wage for the rest of their lives. In that fleeting first moment, that one sentence, "you have cancer," will change everything and nothing you ever do will be the same. In that instant, the burden is shifted to your shoulders to become their pillar of strength. In that second breath, you realize how quickly your odds at hearing the same words have increased.

The word cancer is a game changer.  You are speechless. Thoughts rush through your brain. How did this happen to my mother? She went to church, to synagogue, to confession every week. She is a perfect example. How could God betray them this way? How could this be happening? Surely, there is a mistake. But, there is not. You sit beside them as the doctors explain the diagnosis, the treatment, and you wonder what will happen next. You think about the pictures of women without hair, the IV's, the hospitals.  You reach out. Your hands touch. Fingers intertwine and you hold on - for life.

In many ways, the family of the cancer patient are the silent victims of this disease. I know, because I am one of the hundreds of thousands who have lived through this scenario not once, but three times. You see, my mother and her sisters, all three were diagnosed with breast cancer. All three went through mastectomies and while breast cancer didn't claim them per se, side effects or the disease mutating to other forms did. The golden lining in this is that my mother and her sisters showed me that to overcome cancer's attempt to ravage not only one's body, but your character ,makes you become a far better person than even you imagine.

Psychologists give you seven stages of grief. Cancer families go through each one of those almost with every doctor's appointment you make. The shock and disbelief never goes away.  You pray that this is the one trip where things turn out better. You deny the existence of the disease praying that maybe it will have gone away. You bargain with God asking for it to be you instead, or say if you take this away, I will be better. You glance at your loved one and feel guilt because all you can do is provide love and support. You cannot take this burden away. You - the family- become that silent victim. This is the reality of Cancer. Having the disease is a family affair and fighting it takes so much more.

Anger and frustration set in but you can't show your family member this. It has to be held within or expressed when you are not within hearing distance of your loved one. You are furious that this disease has taken your bright tomorrows, their ability to feel secure, and their physical appearance. Worse, you can't stop it. You have to rely on the intangibles, drugs, surgery, radiation to stem the tide of this black plague. Your power 'to make things all right' is now null and void. You suddenly find you need your own support system so that you can maintain that level of strength your loved one needs. It is hard to smile through the cascade of tears that seem to never stop inside. A family member can drown in the sea of overwhelming helplessness that engulfs cancer families.

Then how do you cope? The answer is simple; often many of us cope through laughter. We find that deep strength inside our own selves we never knew existed. The Martina McBride song, I'm gonna love you through it, is an example of the strength, the support, the laughter families struggling to overcome cancer go through. In that video, we see a gentleman with a tattoo, Cancer Sucks, on his arm. He probably wouldn't have gotten that had a family member not had cancer and he needed a way to show support. In that video, you hear the desperation in voices. You know they are reaching out and need to find a way to show support.

In October, we celebrate the good fight, the winners against the greatest evil. Go to those walks for life and watch.  You will see survivors, because they can be there. You will also see behind them others - because their loved one can't. The acceptance of the spirit to survive when the body can't is the hardest part for the silent victims of cancer. It may come to you to have to lean down and whisper, "It's okay, I love you, but it's okay to let go."

Inside, every memory you have plays itself out as you watch. You hold their hand, you stroke their brow, you feel their last breath, and you understand they have transferred their courage to you. It takes big shoes to pick up that banner and become the new face of cancer - the face of hope. They have taught you the steps and put in your hands the will to carry on the fight. You will not let them down.

So join the battle. Support Susan G. Komen for the cure. Stand up, become a voice and remind a loved one to get that yearly mammogram. If you know a person or a family struggling with the disease, remember not only those fighting but those standing behind who need your support as well.  

I will pick a commenter at random today to win a print copy of my tribute to survivors of breast cancer Stormy Weather.  Let's all step up and work for a cure!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Think Pink: Day Leclaire and the "Blessing" of Breast Cancer

Day Leclaire is a legend and for me the kind of author who comes with a "the" in front of her name - THE Day Leclaire. This past June I had just returned from sightseeing in New York with Fiona Harper and we got a text from Jennie Lucas saying "meet us in the bar". When I got there I noticed a very relaxed, very lovely woman sitting a few seats away. I'm not sure who did it but someone said, "Donna, this is Day Leclaire."
I was so thrilled to meet her in person and was delighted to discover she was the sort of woman with whom I was instantly comfortable. I switched chairs and we had a great chat. And then I met up with her several times during the week. I am so very glad we got to meet. I'm happy that I can list her among my friends. :-)
When I first thought about having special guests on the blog this month, Michelle Styles said why don't you ask Day? I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before. I knew very well that Day had gone head to head with the disease. I don't think Day would mind if I say I simply forgot. Because Day isn't the kind of person to let breast cancer define her. And as you read on, you'll understand my relief when she assured me that I didn't stare at her boobs when we met...

Thanks for being here, Day. :-)

 
The “Blessing” of Breast Cancer

So, one of the things you hear when you’re diagnosed with breast cancer is “the blessing of cancer.”  Apparently there is one.  People keep claiming there is.  But I’ve never found it.  As far as I’m concerned, there is no blessing to having cancer.  There is fear.  A lot of it.  There is pain.  A lot of it.  There are endless doctors’ visits and tests.  A lot of them.  And then there’s fear.  More of it. 

For a long time I lived from test to test, making promises that if I could only get an all-clear on this test I’ll eat better, live better, be better, anything and everything if only I managed to survive the latest test without a reoccurrence.  The euphoria that comes when I’d get that all-clear is mind-blowing…until the fear creeps back into my life again as the next test draws closer.

My body isn’t the same since cancer.  And when I tell people I’ve had breast cancer, the first place their eyes flash is to my breasts.  Are they both still there?  (Yes.)  Are they the same size.  (No.)  Are you dying?  (News flash:  We all are.)

After 6 long months of treatment, I tried to get back to “normal” again, which is totally ridiculous since I never had it to begin with.  My creativity dried up—for three full years.  And people would act pleasantly surprised when I’d show up at writing conferences.  Since I wasn’t at last year’s, maybe I bit the dust.  They lean in and whisper, “Are you okay?”  This would be annoying if I couldn’t see from their expression that they were utterly sincere and totally concerned.  That they cared.

Something else strange happened to me.  I started meeting people who’d gone through what I had and would offer me comfort and advice.  I started meeting people newly diagnosed who were afraid and didn’t know what to do or how they’d get through the experience, and just wanted someone to tell them that they could and would survive the “blessing of cancer.”  I found I could talk about it, when before I just wanted to pretend it had never happened to me.  I met people who’d had close calls.  And after a while they weren’t people anymore, but friends.  Little by little I discovered that I could share my experiences with them and it actually helped them deal with what had been, what was happening, what would come.  And it helped me come to terms with the “blessing” that had been dropped on me.

Over time my fear diminished and I began to learn more about myself, my body and what I wanted out of life—even more importantly what I didn’t want.  I chose how to live my life versus allowing life to simply happen to me.  I became closer to the people who meant the most to me, quietly closed the door on people who were simply users and takers.  And I celebrated each day that brought me further from what was and closer to what is meant to be.

I’ve now been cancer free for ten years, eleven months and one week.  Most days I don’t even think about cancer.  I think about life and living it.  I’ve changed in those eleven years and I think it’s been for the better because I’ve been so much more aware of what life has to offer and how special—and fleeting—every moment is.  I love more completely.  I hug more exuberantly.  I cherish what I have and chase my dreams with more determination and enjoyment.  And I’m happy.  Truly happy.

Huh.  I still can’t say cancer has been a blessing.  But it sure has brought many blessings into my life.  Who knew?

Clearly Day's creativity is back in full swing! Here's the cover of her next release - isn't it gorgeous? And I love the title. You can visit her site at www.dayleclaire.com.



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Am I Up To This Week?

I've been tidying some odds and ends that needed doing, and today I re-started IN THE LINE OF DUTY since I wrote over 16k and hated it. I read it over and it's not that it was bad, it just wasn't...me. It also wasn't what I wanted this story to be either, so I abandoned the file and opened a brand new one. Wrote nearly 3000 words on it today and I love it. I realized that it's good to write something different but if you go too different it might not work at all. Anyway I'm liking where it's going and feeling good about it. I made peace with the delete key long ago.

And the other thing I've been doing this week is working with New Voices finalist Vanessa Eicher on her second chapter of Temptation Finds The Rancher (you can read the first chapter here). I'm so excited for her. It's been fantastic working with her, exciting and fun and it's a delight to realize that after two chapters I want to know what happens next!  She's got her chapter 2 ready to go and now we're waiting - rather anxiously I think - to see which four of the 21 finalists go on to the next round.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fun Numbers

So I'm late putting this on the blog (as I instantly squeed about it on twitter etc) but on Friday I sold my 15th Harlequin Romance and my 20th book overall. They are fun numbers, right? It's just over 5 years since I sold my first book, so I'm pretty happy about that when all is said and done. :-)

The sweetest part is that this is the first time I've had a book go through without revisions. This week I'm taking it a bit easier - doing some admin/website buggy stuff, and being at the beck and call of my New Voices mentee. :-) I'm enjoying working with her so much. Yesterday was also the beginning of volleyball season with the first game, and the other kid had choir and so there was much running around - dinner came in a crock pot last night (though when we arrived home at ten to five, my husband was making baking powder biscuits that were delicious!).

Anyway the books, as far as I'm aware, will be released in North America next May and June as the Cadence Creek Cowboys duet. The first book is called The Last Real Cowboy - and I'm waiting on the title of the second book that was just accepted.

But my rest will be short-lived - I'm working on a novella at the mo and then it's right into the next story that is due first of February, and will be out next November. :-)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Think Pink: Life After Breast Cancer with Jennifer Haymore

I remember the day Jennifer went public with her diagnosis. I didn't know her, but it didn't matter. Romance Writers are a community, and so it meant, to me, that this was happening to One of Us. I admired her bravery, her humility, and also watched an outpouring of support heading her way. If positive attitude can lick this thing, Jennifer is set.

So I'm so pleased that she's here on the blog today, talking about her experience and what life is like now that the treatments are *mostly* over.

Thank you, Jennifer. For being here, and for offering up a prize of your "cancer book", Confessions of an Improper Bride. We'll pick a winner from the comments - please leave contact info so I can get in touch with the winner.


Life After Breast Cancer

I went public with my breast cancer diagnosis almost a year and a half now. I have to say, the past months have been the most intense, difficult, yet amazing months of my life. Difficult and intense because of the treatments and the overall stress of having cancer. Amazing because I developed a new appreciation for the kindness of human nature. So many people came forward to offer me help, it was incredible. I’m so thankful and appreciative for all the people do for cancer patients out of no more than than the kindness of their hearts. I could not have written CONFESSIONS OF AN IMPROPER BRIDE (which was completed during chemo and radiation) without the support of so many friends, family, and acquaintances.

Now that my treatment is over (except for the drug, Tamoxifen, that I will be taking for another 4.5 years, and the constant check-ups),  I’m trying to get back into life, but I realized long ago that my life is permanently altered--it will be never the same as it was before breast cancer.

Treatment definitely is tough, and chemo is certainly no cakewalk, but for me, the major struggles came afterward. Here I am, technically well but still healing from the physical effects of the drugs, and with a new appreciation for life, family, and friends. Like the heroine in Donna’s HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART, I want to embrace life and live it to the fullest, and I don’t want to think about cancer anymore. Yet the cancer is always there, at the back of my mind. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder if a single cell escaped and is now multiplying like crazy somewhere in my body. That’s a scary thought. Petrifying, at times. And…well, the internet doesn’t help!

Yet I don’t want to live life in terror of recurrence  of cancer. So I fight it. I try to push it to the back of my mind and continue on living my life. That’s the challenge I face every day. But it’s only been a year, after all…and less than a year since the treatment ended. It will get easier--I’m sure of it. In the meantime, I continue to embrace the beauty of life, enjoy my family, and appreciate my career.

For those of you out there who have been a caregiver for someone with cancer, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. You are truly the unsung heroes. For those of you struggling with cancer, I wish you the very best, and if you ever need someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on, I’m always here. You can contact me over at my website, jenniferhaymore.com.

Thanks so much, Donna, for having me here!
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