Monday, February 28, 2011

Monday Goodness

Today is full of goodness. School is back in, the house is blessedly quiet. Well, a little too quiet - we're done dogsitting, but our precious pup is also at the vet today and it seems odd here without her.

Anyway here's what's up:

Chapter Seven of Remember Me, Cowboy is up at eharlequin! I've linked to Chapter Seven but there's a menu on the side where you can access all the chapters to get caught up. The read finishes Friday.

Today is day one of TO AGENT OR NOT TO AGENT as well, an online course I'm giving at the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter of RWA. I'm really looking forward to meeting everyone and getting started!

And finally - Romance Junkies has reviewed BREATHE and given it four ribbons. The reviewer says "If you are a fan of contemporary romances with happy endings and enduring love, then this is the perfect book to curl up with." She says other stuff too, so you can read the review here.

Tomorrow is March 1, so that also means today is the last day to enter my current contest - details on my website at http://www.donnaalward.com/. Tomorrow I'll be drawing the winners as well as sending out my latest newsletter! Stay tuned!

Friday, February 25, 2011

#Fridayreads - Keeping up with the transformation....

Oddly enough Friday is weigh in day and I was up today, which is frustrating as I've been very good this week. I had one treat and I haven't missed a day working out - and we've upped our workouts to the next level. So I stepped on the scale and said Dammit.

How does that fit into #Fridayreads? Because I've started reading YOUR BEST BODY NOW by Tosca Reno.

I'm coming off of RITA reading and so I'm very much in the #amreading phase of this book. I've flipped through - I like what's coming, I think - concrete health info. But so far I'm in the Story of Tosca bit. Not sure I like the way she uses the term "housewife" to be honest. Actually - I had a whole long post written and spent a long time on it and still wasn't happy with it. Let's just leave it at...a lot of parts of the personal story turned me off for various reasons.

Ok so there's the stuff that annoyed me out of the way, and it's highly possible I've been fairly harsh in my assessment (I have an issue with a ME ME ME outlook). The good news is the bulk of the book is full of info on diet, exercise, and anti-aging tips. I will say this - I think she's right on with her diet assessment and it's VERY similar to Body for Life in theory - a mix of protein and complex carbs, smaller meals more often, lots of water.  It's the type of eating program that works well for me. As well, I like the section on all the vitamins. And I absolutely agree with the assessment of strength training vs. cardio. Cardio will drop the weight. Strength training reshapes.

So...have any of you read it? What did you think? Do you relate to Tosca's story better than I did?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pink Heart Picks and a Loathsome Task

Today is Pink Heart Picks day! Pop on over to The Pink Heart Society for my review of February's selection, RED WINE AND HER SEXY EX by Kate Hardy, and find out what we're reading next month!

Otherwise my morning is filled with a loathsome task: paperwork. It boggles my mind to realize that my first job(s) were mostly accounting and filing and they are the two things I loathe the most now. But I'm getting my accounts and numbers ready to give to the accountant and I'm tackling the stack of filing that has been piling up since January. UGH.

Every year I say I'm going to be more organized. And every year starts out well but falls off and I end up having to search for things come February...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

#WW - Filling the Well

Before I get started, I'm at the Samhain Publishing site today talking about how dogsitting teaches me about characters.

AND...Chapter Five of Remember Me, Cowboy is up! You can read it and all the previous chapters at eharlequin.

This month in the RWR the "theme" in the Well Writer is looking after your physical self. I'm going to touch on that a bit today because yesterday I realized that I need to take a few days off.

The RWR articles are well worth reading as they cover topics like weight gain/loss, stress, and repetitive strain injuries. I deal with all three because I spend a lot of time in my chair.

My CP remarked today that my recent exercise should be taking care of my stress, and in a way it has. February was bananas schedule wise. Revisions on a novella, revisions on a full book, trip to Toronto, PR for my current release, a course beginning Monday, cover art forms, speaker forms for RWA, and anything else that popped up in addition to a 2 week break for my kids and several appointments. My headspace got pretty crowded, and there was a lot of changing gears and long days. Now, we're almost to the end of the month and I've done pretty well, until I hit the last task of the month - accounting in prep for tax time.

I know part of the reason is I am used to working in quiet and solitude, and I haven't had that for the last 2 weeks. I could feel lots of stuff tightening up, both in my head and in my body, and when that happens, I have learned to listen.

On the weight loss front, that's going well, albeit slowly. I'm eating better and moreover I've figured out how my previous "good" diet needed tweaking to turn into a "loss" diet. We've moved to the next phase in our exercise program which is kicking my butt. I'm wearing clothes I haven't worn in a few years - pretty much since we moved in 2008. I feel good.

But my neck and shoulders are a mess again, so today I am booking myself for a massage. The last 2 nights my eldest has worked on the knots in my neck - she has fabulous hands and I tell her that she should go into massage therapy or PT. I do that whole neck forward thing and so I get a lot of tightness in my upper back and neck. In the articles in the RWR, I didn't see massage recommended which surprised me (or maybe I missed it). I recommend it A LOT. I find it helps me immensely and I should have had one before now...my last was in November. Christmas and a January 31 deadline put it to the bottom of my priority list.

Both of those things help with stress but really the easiest fix for me is to just take a day or two off. My kids go back to school Monday, and I've worked through their whole break, so taking a few days to hang out, play rock band, read, whatever, sounds good. Because doing that clears my headspace and refills my well. It's not just about energizing my body, it's about energizing my brain. And as writers, we live in our own heads A LOT. As women, we multi-task A LOT. There are massive amounts of things going on in our brains and it makes sense to give it a rest now and again.

And guess what? I'll never miss those two days, because next week I'll be far more productive. And happy about it.

How do you recharge your batteries?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What *IS* it with the world, anyway?

As I was finishing my revisions last night, news started trickling in about the earthquake in Christchurch. I immediately thought of 2 writer friends, Natalie Anderson and Soraya Lane. Nat lives a ways away in another town and Soraya is more rural but both are close enough that without knowing much info it was a worry. Both are fine, their families are fine. Both are understandably devastated about the condition of their beautiful city.

It really made me think. It was only a few weeks ago that our "circle" of writers was worried about Olivia Gates in Egypt. Before that it was Barb Hannay during Cyclone Yasi. And before that, Ally Blake during the flooding in Brisbane.

It kind of freaks me out. The news out of north Africa these days is disturbing and unsettling as things shake down. The world is crazy. I'm not much of a doomsday prophesizer, but more than once I have thought...is there something bigger really going on here?

And then I think maybe no...it's just that we're so connected globally that we KNOW what's going on as it happens.

Either way...I went to bed counting my blessings.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Hodgepodge

On Saturday Michelle, who is doing a lot of Jillian Michaels stuff right now, suggested I try on some clothes I haven't tried on for a while. The last time I tried a bunch of clothes on was Dec 1, when things weren't quite as bad as I feared BUT the scale was telling a scary story. Since Dec 1 I am down nearly, as they'd say in the UK, a stone. Considering there was 3 weeks of Christmas gain/losing the Christmas gain, and then a nasty plateau, I'm really happy with that.

Anyway, I tried on some stuff. There are a few shirts I can wear now that I haven't worn since 2007-8. I also tried on some pants. The navy pair that I could get on but couldn't fasten now fit, and the dressy pants I couldn't even get over my hips I can now fasten but they are too tight. Michelle made a point of telling me to try on things that were tight because it is hard to see results in looser clothes and she was right.

We got off track with our workout plan for a week or so while dh was on antibiotics, and during that time I treadmilled a lot and kept up with dog walks. But we're back on track and today we start phase 3-4 of our Power 90 workout and I'm looking forward to it. We talked a lot during our last cardio workout which tells me that we're ready to kick it up a level. Good news considering we could barely breathe through it when we started...

Ok so other hodge-podge type news:

Chapter Four of my online read Remember Me Cowboy is up at eharlequin.

And a week from today I start my workshop To Agent or Not To Agent with the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal chapter of RWA. You can still register...if you're a writer and wondering if you need an agent now or in the future, whether you're unpublished or published, this is the workshop for you. :-)

Now I'm off to give my book one final pass before sending it back to my editor with firmly crossed fingers.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mills and Boon is having a sale




Mills and Boon is having a sale this week! Here are the details. It's also great for me personally because HONEYMOON WITH THE RANCHER is out now in the UK! You can get it for a steal!



Friday, February 18, 2011

#Fridayreads: I'm really sorry...

Revisions came at the end of last week, which means I've been eating and breathing my book and honestly, when I finish I don't want to read. Revisions take a stupidly huge amount of brainpower. So as a result I haven't finished my RITA books yet, though I *am* on the last one.

In lieu of #Fridayreads - and I promise this is the last week! - I'm going to talk about housecleaning.

I cleaned the house last night. I could not stand it any more. I actually HAD to do it rather than revising. I don't generally work at night, but having the house dirty was driving me crazy, and it takes away from my focus. Now I can hear lots of you groaning. OMG, Donna, let it go, you are probably saying. And you see I have let it go. I've done what is for me the bare minimum for the last few weeks (because February is crazy month, remember?). But when I do that there comes a point I can't stand it anymore, and that point was yesterday.

Maybe it was the full moon, I don't know. But I do know that when I'm revising or really close to deadline,  my head is full of the chaos of my book. So to balance that, I need my world to be in order. Clean laundry, vacuumed floors, a decent dusting and fresh toilet is LIBERATING.

I know. I'm weird. But honestly - if it helps me work better...

And look at it this way. Now I don't have to clean on the weekend!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Complete and Utter Craziness

Yesterday I couldn't get out the driveway. We had snow, then rain, then cold, and the drive is a sheet of ice. I don't have enough weight in my back end (of my truck, lol) and so I just could not get up the drive.

Which yesterday was inconvenient, but the husband tried to get it up to the road this morning so I could go to an 8 a.m. appointment and no dice. It is his week to drive to work (he carpools) but his buddy drove this morning so I could have the car. AWD is awesome with sauce. I made the appointment. But boy what a pain. It is supposed to be mild the next few days so I'm hoping things MELT.

The appointment? We're entering the wonderful world of orthodontia in my house. I figure by the time we're out, the eldest will be ready for college. Must add write more books to the to-do list!

In other news, I have been struggling through revisions, making some things better but still feeling like I was missing something. And then about 20 minutes ago I GOT IT.  It pains me to think that it took me a week of slogging through for the light to go on. If I had figured this out earlier, I might have been done by now.

But that's not how it worked out, so the most important thing is I HAVE figured it out and now know what I have to do.

I did mention this was crazy February, right? I'm still planning on getting these revisions done, and getting my tax stuff done by the 28th.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

#WW - Taking Advice

First things first - don't forget to pop over to eharlequin to read Chapter Two of Remember Me, Cowboy!

I confess I had to think of a suitable topic for today. It was wayyy easier when I was in the middle of a book and dealing with the actual writing. But this week I confess I'm not writing anything new. I handed in some revisions last week, sent my editor at Romance a brief proposal for a new duet, I took a short trip to the Harlequin offices in Toronto (see my post at the Harlequin Blog yesterday), and I did up my speaker form for RWA Nationals. I've worked on a workshop I'm giving online at the end of the month and right now I'm in the middle of revisions on my latest.
So.

Drumming fingers.

And then I thought about all the craft books I've read, and all the editors I've worked with, and the writers who talk about their writing and I realized that there is writing advice everywhere I turn. Needing advice doesn't stop when you're published. You're always learning. You still get stuck. Sometimes you have to relearn what you thought you once knew - Twlya Tharp calls this polishing the clock face. And then I realized how overwhelming it is. Because there's no way that all of that advice will work and you will drive yourself crazy trying to follow it.

I think it was Donald Maass who said there are three things to remember about rule breaking. 1)Know the rule 2)Know why you're breaking it and 3) Own that you broke it. And I think that advice can loosely fit into two categories: Advice you really shouldn't ignore and advice that you should take if it applies to you.

Advice you shouldn't ignore are things like:
  • Check an agent/publisher's submitting guidelines before submitting
  • Remember that what happens online stays online
  • The person you piss off today could be your boss tomorrow.
  • Romances have happy, satisfying endings
  • You need to create sympathetic characters
  • Responding to negative reviews usually isn't helpful
In other words, be smart. And if you have questions, ask someone. The romance community is generally a friendly bunch. There are many more things that you shouldn't ignore, but those were a few that popped into my head. These are things that are universal in this business, I think. Though I did see a smashing response to a negative review lately. Always exceptions, I suppose.

And I don't know about you, but it drives me crazy when people tell me I can't do something. It just makes me want to do it bigger and better. I love the saying it's all in the execution. But you'll notice my list doesn't really talk about the actual WRITING of a story. Bear with me...

So take for instance the old caution that sports/celebrity heroes and heroines are taboo. And then you see six books on the shelf all with singers or artists or football players. Whose advice do you take? The voice that says it'll never sell, or the one that says the proof is on the bookshelf? Again - be smart. Don't ignore the first advice just because it isn't what you want to hear. Know the rule. Celeb romances are a hard sell. That means yours has to stand out, be absolutely fantastic and unique. And then make a decision about whether that's the best path for you.

So much advice out there relates to process. When I had my first baby, my sister said something very wise: take the advice that works and forget about the rest. That doesn't just apply to raising children, but writing novels. I'll go first at confession: I read books on the writing craft and then I put them on the shelf and let them go. What I need to remember, I'll remember. Often when I read a new one, I put it in the perspective of the book I'm currently working on and it solves story problems. I learn from that so hopefully I won't make the same mistake again.  If you go to workshops, people will have advice like "do this and this and this to make your story great". Which is great - if it works for you. But if it doesn't, don't freak out. Don't think there's something wrong with you. There will be another way.

And sometimes you're simply not ready to hear what is being said. Last year I'm sure my critique partner was ready to throttle me. She kept telling me about subtext and what was missing in the story and I wasn't getting it and I was so frustrated. I was freezing up and the story wasn't working and arrrrgh!

And then I got it. And once I got it - well, there haven't been huge volumes of "Where's the subtext?" comments on my chapters since. Sometimes it takes a certain person saying something a certain way that suddenly clicks - even if you've heard the same advice for YEARS. Seriously. It's happened to me LOTS.

This is especially daunting when you're trying to discover what exactly your process is, and the only way to get there is through it. Trial and error will show you what works. Follow your instincts and do what is RIGHT and not what's EASY.  Don't feel like you're missing something if a piece of advice doesn't make sense or doesn't work for you. No one writes a story in the same way, and while there are absolutes it's also true that we all get there in different ways.

In other words, keep reading my Writer Wednesday post, and feel free to ignore me. Though I do hope that I make sense to you once in a while.

Until next week,

Donna

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Perfect Way to Launch A Book

As I mentioned last week, I spent launch day for PROUD RANCHER, PRECIOUS BUNDLE in Toronto visiting the Harlequin head offices. Now Harlequin has graciously allowed me to tell you about my trip via their blog! Head on over to the Harlequin Blog to read about my amazing, amazing day and see a few pics.

You know, at times I do feel a little like Jacob in New Moon - I run hot. Everyone was bundled in sweaters and I was walking through the office in short sleeves and wasn't the least bit cold! And I had to laugh when Birgit Davis-Todd pointed out that only another Canadian would venture to Toronto in February. It was bitterly cold while I was there!

Anyway it was a wonderful trip, and the fulfillment of a bit of a dream to be honest so a big thank you to everyone at Harlequin who made me feel so welcome and special.

And the readers have spoken - the favourite Harlequin hero is the cowboy! In celebration they're hosting a sale, and guess what? PROUD RANCHER, PRECIOUS BUNDLE is discounted!

Now it's back to revisions for me, and a trip to the library later.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day! Wooo!

Today is Valentine's Day and that means not only do I love my honey after all these years but I also have some fun things going on!

My online read kicks off today at eharlequin. REMEMBER ME, COWBOY will have a new chapter up each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next three weeks and there will be a thread for commenting and asking me questions too! It's my first online read and it was SO much fun, so pop over to read the first chapter!

And today I have a special guest - we blog traded for the day. You can find MY blog over at Sally Clement's hangout, and now here's Sally taking over my blog space for her own very special celebration!  Welcome Sally!

Hello everyone! I’m delighted to be here hijacking Donna’s blog, while she’s hijacking mine - each of us partying with each other’s friends! Well it’s the day of love. The commercial day of love anyway, although romance can blossom anywhere, at any time, just read any of Donna’s stories for proof of that!



I’m here today because as well as being Valentine’s Day, it’s also Launch Day for new English publisher, Embrace Books, and my new (second!) book, Bound to Love is one of the launch titles!


I’m very excited about it, because as well as e-book, Bound to Love is also available in print, so for the very first time I’ll be able to hold a copy of a book with my name on the cover! It’s a fast paced, romantic suspense set in London and Paris, and it’s a story that I absolutely loved writing – and I hope people are going to love reading!






Here’s some info about the book…


Jake Forrester, a controlled, self-reliant security expert scarred by his father's murder, is pursuing his goal of an independent life, relying on himself and logic, until he's forced to accept the help of an impulsive, spirited goldsmith who follows her instincts, wherever they may lead. When Tempest MacKenzie witnesses a gorgeous stranger being bundled into a van, she tries to help him, but becomes tangled in a complex web of intrigue. Tempest finds stubborn Jake attractive, compelling and infuriating, his logic the complete antithesis of her reliance on her instincts. And Jake is fascinated and attracted to the feisty redhead. As they spend time together trying to thwart a heist at the British Museum, the attraction between them flares out of control. The thief has a grudge against Jake, and danger stalks their every move. Will Jake learn to trust Tempest's intuition, before it's too late? 


It’s available from today on Amazon.co.uk here


And from Amazon.com here

and here's the link for Salt Publishing's Page!



And now I’m off to read Donna’s online read – thanks so much for having me here today, Donna!

Love and Chocolate: Sally's Blog

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The end of Crazy Week



This week felt like a major PR push, which was fun but exhausting! And now I have revisions on Surrender to the Cowboy to do up so it is back to "real" work for me (aka the actual writing!).




But I did want to share a few pics from an event I attended on Thursday night. It was really, really something - and our local chapter marketing committee went over and above setting it up. It was a chance for our local chapter authors and writers to connect with members of the business community and we had some wonderful sponsors: Argyle Fine Art provided the location, George and Lito's provided food, Bconnected hooked us up and EnviroWeb Consulting gave us a major helping hand getting the word out, not to mention some cool visuals and planning from Charlie Mac Productions. AMAZING.

All of us had sample books on hand, and we each spoke briefly about who we are and what we write. It is something I find particularly challenging but everyone was very excited and enthusiastic and I just love the buzz of a positive atmosphere!

So thank you to everyone involved - it was a great evening!

And a big thanks to Julia Smith who took the pictures!

Friday, February 11, 2011

#Fridayreads - An Exercise in Futility

So last week for #Fridayreads I blogged about culling the TBR. It was painful. In the end, I took 8 books out of my stacks. They are destined for a better place than languishing in my bookcase.

So briefly, I felt a little lighter. It *was* a bit liberating. I remember in university taking courses and while I mostly loved my books there were some I just hated feeling like I HAD to read them. For example, I am not a Dickens fan. This was like that - only I know there's no exam at the end so I really did give myself a break.

But then I went to Toronto. And I experienced The Wall of Books.

For those of you who don't know what the Wall of Books is, there is a hallway lined with all the boxes of the current releases. Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle was there which was pretty cool. And when I was asked, "are there any you'd like to have?" I was wishing I'd brought a bigger bag and at the same time very glad I didn't because it's like putting me in a chocolate store and saying Go to it.

In the end I added five books to my TBR. I know. I just got rid of eight and I added five more in about a 30 second span. And you know what? I have even more I'm buying soon because our RWA chapter is having a group signing. Getting rid of the TBR is an exercise in futility. But what a lovely dilemma to have!

What came home with me?

Laurie London's debut, BONDED BY BLOOD
Courtney Milan's UNVEILED
2 Sarah Mayberry's - her current release, THE LAST GOODBYE, and also HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS because Jayne said it made her bawl buckets
and Tosca Reno's YOUR BEST BODY NOW

The good news is, next week I may actually have a real #Fridayreads post as I only have 1 more book to read for the RITAS.  I finished one on the plane on Monday and read half of another on the return trip Tuesday.

Also as a brief PS - yesterday I received a new contract. OFF THE CLOCK (the novella on the sidebar) has sold to Samhain Publishing. :-) Yay!

What are you reading today? And what are you looking at adding to your TBR?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Crazy February. I haz it.

Well, it's firmly back into reality today. The lovely glow from my trip to Toronto is waning as I deal with healthy kids but an under-the-weather husband, having to bake Valentine's Day shortbread this afternoon, a PR event this evening, 3 admin jobs that need doing ASAP, and the revisions that just landed in my inbox. Just in time for the 2 week school break! Thankfully as long as I limit the Rock Band time on the wii (you can't possibly concentrate when someone is playing drums!) the kids are usually pretty good about letting me work.

On the revisions end of things, I'll spend today and maybe tomorrow really thinking about how to approach the things that need fixing. They are not, I think, hard changes, but sometimes those sorts of changes take the most time as you deal with a thread or arc that runs throughout. But I have once again bypassed the revisions panic stage and have moved directly to the come up with ideas for making the changes stage. :-)

Right now it is a load of clothes in the dryer and lunch and those admin jobs out of the way. And cookies...

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Catching up

I had a whole #WW post written for today in case something happened I didn't make it back from Toronto last night - and boy am I glad I did because school is cancelled today. Yesterday was a wonderful, wonderful day, and I'm going to make you wait to hear about it as the deets are going to be up next week at the Harlequin Blog.

But I came back to lots and lots of stuff and so I need to hook you up with some things going on:

At the end of the month, I'm doing a workshop with the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal RWA chapter. The title of that workshop is To Agent or Not To Agent, and yesterday I blogged about what the workshop's about, etc. You can head on over to the Fantasy, Futuristic and Paranormal Chapter Blog to read it - if you're wondering about getting an agent or going it solo this might be a good workshop for you.

The lovely Marilyn Shoemaker of Romance Author Buzz interviewed me and posted it to help me celebrate the launch of Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle (which was yesterday!). There's an opportunity to win a signed copy if you pop over to the Author Buzz interview.

Also Wendy the Super Librarian reviewed Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle. This review all started when Wendy mentioned babies on covers and we chatted. Well, PRPB has a baby on the cover and a doorstep baby plot but Wendy gave it a go - and a fab review. Yay!  You can read the review over on her blog. My fave part? I've always felt that traditional romance needs to have a place at the table when we're discussing the genre as a whole, and this latest for Alward is a fine example of a traditional story that didn't feel hopelessly "old-fashioned" or "outdated."  Yes we have a baby on the doorstep, but dang if the author didn't make me believe ever blessed word of this fictional tale.

Oh - and the part about her wanting to take my hero home to meet Mom. :-)

Also - I blogged at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs yesterday about something quite personal and I will admit the comments thus far have made me tear up. Tomorrow Bell (phone service provider in Canada) is donating 5 cents for every text message or long distance call made to their "Let's Talk" initiative which is in support of mental health. It's something people don't talk about often and since post partum depression played a personal part in why I wrote Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle, I felt compelled to blog about it a bit.

Right. That just about covers it I think...come back next week for a real #WriterWednesday post!

Monday, February 07, 2011

Progress

Last week was not a good week for the Power90 plan we've been doing. We managed one night, Tuesday I did treadmill instead, and Wednesday and Thursday were major snow removal days - and our workout hour was supplanted by 3 hours of digging out. The dh isn't feeling well, so other than shoveling (lots) he's been laying low, and now his back is bugging him.

So to make up for it, I did some treadmill days and finished off with the ab workout at the end of the cardio segment - it's easy to remember so no need for the dvd. For the first time in months I was able to RUN. I made sure I walked the dog (except for in the pouring rain yesterday). I shoveled some and cleaned house. In other words, just because we weren't working "the plan" last week, I made sure I got up off my butt.

And other than some microwave popcorn on Friday night, I didn't really take a "free" day either.

The result? Another pound and a half gone this morning.That makes ten and a half since Dec 1, and bearing in mind the 3+ I put on over Christmas and had to lose again. I'm very pleased. It also means that in the last year I've lost nearly 20 lbs. I'm not setting any records, but at least I'm moving in the right direction.

Now I'm off to enjoy some breakfast, do a few "admin" jobs (I'm waiting for revisions to strike!) and run a few small errands. It is good to be checking things off my list!

Friday, February 04, 2011

#Fridayreads - Culling the Herd

I confess: there are books on my TBR that I don't want to read.

It isn't that they are BAD books. I'm sure they are not. But I always bear in mind that not everyone will like MY books - people have different tastes. So I too have tastes and I have held on to some books simply because they have been on my tbr and I have resisted taking them out.

Today I am culling the herd of my TBR.

How did I come by these books? Some of them were freebies from events, some were gifts. None of the books I'm pulling out are ones I bought for myself. And there are not many that are going to go. But With 80-some books on the pile, I am letting go of the feeling of obligation and setting them free. They will be donated to worthy causes.

I've resisted for so long because of my upbringing, which isn't such a bad thing. I was taught not to be wasteful. And I was taught to be a finisher - or at least that's a personality trait of mine. You start something, you finish. You guys, pulling these books out goes against a LOT but I know I'm going to feel strangely liberated at the end.

So here goes. I'll come back with the final tally....

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Snow Day

Last night supper was delayed as I shoveled off both the upper and lower decks and then realized that the belt had blown on the snow blower. My youngest and I worked with scoop and shovel to clear out most of one side of our driveway so at least we could get out if need be, though the plow didn't even go until late last night so the road was buried. We were almost done when the blower was fixed, so the husband continued with the snow removal while I cooked dinner. There was a lot of snow. When I cleaned off the deck, there was close to a foot. By the time I finished, there was another inch + and I cleared it all over again.

This morning there was close to another 6 inches on the ground - I think total we got about 40 cm. Snow removal is on the go so it means that a lovely big pile was at both ends of the driveway from where the plow went. This morning schools and the college were closed, so I put the kids to work shoveling steps and deck and at one point, the kid had to sit on the tractor while the husband shoveled snow into the blower - the drift was so high that the tractor couldn't move forward in it.

But the sun is out and things are clearing and by this afternoon hopefully the roads will be much better. I am working on revisions and finishing up reading one of my RITA books. Later we'll take the dog for a walk in the snow and sun.





And here's something a little more summery - the cover for my May North American release!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

#WW - How an Idea becomes a Book

#WritersWednesday

This post is logically where we should have started: a blank screen, an idea in your head, and wondering where to start. Unfortunately I started #WW when I was immersed in a deadline and so you got posts that reflected where my mind was at the time. :-)

But that book is handed in, and I'm faced with having to chat with my editor about what is next.

My process of coming up with a new idea isn't much different than it was when I was unpublished, except now I have to run it by my editor and get the thumbs up before launching forward. Editorial tends to have an idea about where they want you to go and so it's imperative they have a first look at what you're planning.

I'm not going to concern myself today with what format that proposal takes, actually. Because it varies. If you're published, you may be locked into a proposal being a synopsis and first three chapters, or perhaps just a synopsis. As a pantser, that puts the fear of God in me. For my last book, I had to write a synopsis before the book was completed for the Art Fact Sheet. The stuff that happened up to the point where I was writing was fine. But the last 1/3 of the synopsis changed, because what I thought would happen didn't. I want to digress for a moment and tell you why - because when I write a synopsis before I've written the story, I write the surface story. But every single time, as I'm writing, something happens where I really delve deeper. The delving deeper is a good thing. I get right at the root of what the problem is which is good for the story. But it's hell on a preliminary synopsis. It goes right back to my post on "What's it really about, anyway?"

Because of that, my proposals to my editor are something we've worked out between us with consideration for what she needs to know to be confident I can pull it off (and it fits what they want) and also consideration for how I work. I am very grateful she is willing to be flexible about it.

But say you're unpublished? Well, for one thing, I've already said finish the damn book. In that case, you've already written the story, can put together a good synopsis and polished chapters.

So forget the proposal. How does an idea become a book? How do you get to that moment where you start putting words on the page?

There are several ways you can go at it and there is no one right way. It is all about how you think and what your process is. Some see the plot first. Some see characters. Some start with a hook and build from there.  Me? I see a world. Setting plays a huge part, because it anchors me, and the characters are part of that. The plot? I have a basic understanding but plot evolves from characters for me. Maybe that's why my synopses skim the surface. I know my characters but I don't REALLY know them until I get into the story and get my hands dirty.

I'm planning my next books now - because it's a duet, I need to see two books, how they'll link, how the first will lead into the second while still standing absolutely alone. Here's my beginning process:

*I've got nothing. Well, wait. Remember that walk-on character? I think she should have her own story. But I don't want to set it where we saw her before. So let's move her.
*What's made her move and where did she go? What is she doing now/what career change has she made to put her in a new place?
*Where am I going to set this town? Where haven't I been before? Made up or real? Made up. Ok...what am I going to call it? How big is it? Affluent? Where do the people work? How does my heroine fit into this place?
*Ok, I know why she's there, decided she doesn't QUITE fit in, because she's an outsider. Not that people aren't friendly, but most of them have a history there that she doesn't.
*Who is the hero? Why is he the WORST person for her and how am I going to throw them together?

At this point, the hero distracts me, and I spend time googling pictures and picture him walking on the scene, etc. I know how I'm going to throw them together, too.  So I have a basic set up: I know who the heroine is, where the story is set, what she's doing there, who the hero is, and how he's going to throw a monkey wrench into her plans.

It's a good start. But it's not nearly enough. Why? Because we're missing something HUGE. Motivations.

And this is the hard work. You have to know their backstory, because as we all know what's happened in the past shapes today's perspectives. Why did she choose the job she did? Why doesn't she want to fall in love? Why does she hide behind her clients rather than living her own life? Why is he so angry? How does he feel about where he is in life? What did he want to do that he didn't? What does he want now, or does he want anything? Has he put his dreams away for good or just for now?

Then there's the conflict you put them in with each other. What's going to keep them apart? I know a lot of the first book is about making flash judgments and then coming to realize how that's wrong. They both think things about the other that aren't true and the layers get peeled back. But what else? Once those layers are peeled all the way back, what's going to be the deal breaker?

To be honest, I don't have this answer yet, but I know it will come. And I'm truly not a plotter. But sorting out WHO my characters are is crucial. I only have a first scene in mind for this story and the rest will come as I go along. But at least with that first scene, I know what the heck they are doing there and who they are.

If you're a plotter, you might want to write out a synopsis now, or I know some people use charts for 3 act form or whatever. Do what works with your process.

Other things that help before you start writing: I cast my characters and that way I have a visual. The visual usually goes out the window after the first few chapters, but that visual anchoring is really great for picturing the opening scene. A lot of times I have a soundtrack, too - a group of songs that speak to me in some way. That put me in the right frame of mind or mood. Sometimes the songs have some great meaning to the story in the lyrics and other times it's just something else that works.

Oh, and I've had to do this for 2 books, since it's a duet. So I also know who the two characters are, how they tie into the first book (walk-on roles), and how the resolution of the first book leads into the conflict of the second.

All in all, I'm pretty excited, which makes me very nervous wondering if my editor is going to like it!

Questions about getting started? Go ahead and post in the comments. :-)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

It's a big day!

Today is Tuesday and it's February 1 which means it's a Big Day!

Releases: SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER releases in print today! You can buy it directly from Samhain's store, or from amazon, but the great thing about print is that it's available in bookstores too. If your local doesn't have it, you can request it and they'll order it in from Ingram.

Other releases worthy of mentioning today: my critique partner has her first Historical Undone out today from eharlequin. Pick up The Perfect Concubine and revisit Roman times - I do enjoy Michelle's Romans!

Pink Heart Society Editor Jenna Bayley Burke also has a print release from Samhain today: Pride and Passion is out.

AND a special release of note: Olivia Gates, who lives in Egypt, is unable to promo her brand new release as internet communications have ceased in her country. I do hope she's okay, and want to give a special shout out to her new book To Tempt a Sheikh. You can visit her site at http://www.oliviagates.com/.

My newsletter has been sent! Already I have had some "undeliverable" messages in my inbox, so if you've signed up and didn't receive your newsletter, please sign up again. Most of the ones being returned are addresses that no longer exist.

Finally, I updated my website last week and posted a new contest. Here are the details but please be sure to send your entry to the right e-mail address. Here goes:

To celebrate the release of Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle and Sold to the Highest Bidder, I'm offering up 2 prizes!



First prize is a signed copy of Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle, a mug featuring the cover, a tote bag, keychain, and bookmark.

Second prize is a signed copy of Sold to the Highest Bidder, a t-shirt, keychain, and notebook.


To enter, send me an e-mail with the subject February Contest and answer the following question: Which of my books won a Bookseller's Best Award?


I'll draw for the prizes on March 1!



PS: I'm waiting to hear about when the new books will be available on TryHarlequin. I thought they would be up by now, and do hope it's soon.