Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Day

Today either you're celebrating or you're tuning out the world because it's THE WEDDING.

Being on East Coast Canada, coverage started at 3 or 4 a.m. depending on your network. I just couldn't get up that early, plus my girls want to watch. So we set up the DVR to tape all seven hours of coverage. The great thing about the timing was that the actual wedding was on at 7 a.m. and so all of us - even my husband - sat down to watch the bridal procession to the Abbey and the ceremony. We'll watch the "before and after" after school.

So the highlights according to the Alwards:
The Mister: completely taken with Pippa. She was stunning and the tulip skirt of her dress was hugely flattering. All he could say was "WOW" and a few other things I will not put on this blog.

Also he had a fabulous time doing a play by play of various hats. He thought Princess Beatrice's topper looked like moose antlers. (I also thought she could have laid off the eyeliner a bit. Oi.)

The offspring: Loved the pomp, the dress, crushed they missed any kissing, commented on the resemblance of a member of the boy's choir to a schoolmate. Full opinion to follow after complete viewing.

Me: I got emotional. First of all - the dress. I was so surprised. LOVED the bodice. I did not think she would have sleeves, or all that lace but it was stunning. I didn't love the skirt, though. I totally thought she'd go with something less full and with her figure she could have pulled it off. Plus how heavy was that train she pulled around? And the tiara was sooooo pretty and suited her perfectly. I imagined she'd have a longer veil, too.

My daughter did not understand why I got choked up as they drove in the landau through the streets. I explained that when I was a girl, I got up in the middle of the night and watched Charles and Diana get married. And then I watched Diana's funeral, and William and Harry making that horrible, silent walk through the streets of London. Something happened when I saw the new Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smiling and waving as they drove down the Mall.

I loved the simplicity of it - yes, despite the huge event, it felt simple and not ostentatious. I loved the trees in the Abbey making it feel so springlike, I loved how Harry looked over his shoulder, grinned, and whispered to William. I loved that there weren't a zillion bridesmaids. My husband remarked that it was relaxed. And I think that comes from a feeling of certainty that this is a couple who, despite all the official stuff, simply loves each other.


I am very glad that Kate wore her hair and makeup with the same simple style she always does. She looked like herself. And I'm sure hearts all over the world are swooning over Harry, looking so roguish and dashing in his uniform, playing with the kids in the carriage during the drive to Buckingham Palace.

The perfect ending was, for me, the fly-past. The Typhoons and Tornados were all well and good, but I choked up at the Hurricane, Spitfire, and especially the Lancaster. When I saw that beauty bearing down in all her glory I had a moment. I cannot explain why. But there is a reason, somewhere, why I've kept airplane pictures out of the house (not always easy with a husband in aviation) but that there's a painting of the Lancaster Dambusters above my mantle.

A special day. Happy Royal Wedding Day!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pink Heart Picks Day

Today is Pink Heart Picks Book Club day at the Pink Heart Society. I've read and reviewed HER BEST FRIEND by Sarah Mayberry - head on over to read my review (the book was awesome) and find out what I'm reading in May!

Otherwise I'm working away today, moving on to my next chapter. I'm looking forward to blowing things up. :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#WW - Are You Going Too Easy on Your Characters?

How did it get to be Wednesday - again? It seems like I just did my post on grinding halts and here I am again. I'm going to explore that a little further today by talking about one of the problems in the WIP right now - and that's going too easy on my characters.

I mentioned before that I stopped and read through what I have, and I realized that a few chapters were flat. Some of that is caused by needing more dialogue, I think. Dialogue is (or at least should be) action that moves the story forward. Circular conversations need not apply. But with dialogue you have built in opportunity for subtext - in other words what your character says vs. what he's REALLY saying or thinking. It's the what's behind the action or words that add depth. I'm reading a book right now that has fantastic dialogue. It is keeping me turning the pages!

The other thing I did was miss a huge opportunity to make it harder for my hero. His arc doesn't arc very much, and that's because I hadn't really developed his conflict enough.

It's easy enough to do. We like our characters. We want them to fall in love. We resist making them work really hard for it. For my part, I tend to focus on the heroine which isn't necessarily a bad thing. But there has to be enough conflict driving the hero to balance it out. He needs to make hard choices. What's worth having (the heroine) must be worth sacrificing for. And what he has to sacrifice has to be meaningful. She has to mean more than it does, and up until now, IT has to mean everything.

Which it kind of did. But he wasn't fighting for anything. He was fully content in his life. Which means sure, in the end, he'll choose her over it, but right now - in the middle - he's not really in conflict. His life is mostly great, just busy. There's nothing truly at stake. I've made it far too easy.

Remember in the grinding halts post where I said take a day or two off writing to jump start things? I was away over Easter which meant not working. It gave me lots of time to think. I know now how I am going to jump start my hero's conflict, and I know how I'm going to make the decision for the heroine heartbreaking. I'm going to give her the one thing she's always wanted - but she'll have to give up the hero to have it. Yes - again with the grinding halts post - I'm going to hit her with what she wants most and take it away.

So you see, by thinking about it I ended up employing a couple of my own workshop techniques to breathe a little more life into the story. It's good to know I'm not always full of crap! :-)

Now fingers crossed it all works in the execution. I'll let you know how I get on next week, when we talk about writing endings.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The trouble with going away

The trouble with going away for a long weekend is what you come back to. A few extra pounds courtesy of too many yummies, a huge pile of laundry, no food in the house, the weekly cleaning not done, a mountain of e-mails and 5 days worth of work jammed into four. The weekend was good, though, with a trip to the farmer's market, canasta, too much ham and my mum's pumpkin squares. Not to mention seeing my great-niece - I haven't seen her since she was about 6 weeks old. She's now just over a year. And she's adorable.

But...my to-do list is ginormous, y'all.

So I'm keeping this short so I can get a prize ready to mail, send out my monthly PHS reminder e-mails, put in another load of laundry, start some pizza dough in the breadmaker, and attempt to fix the latest chapter back from my CP.

Ready...set...go.

Friday, April 22, 2011

#Fridayreads

A quickie post - after all it's Good Friday, I'm taking Easter Weekend off and that means hopefully some reading! Here's what's ongoing:

THE OUTLAW BRIDE - Kelly Boyce's debut Western Historical from Carina Press.










HER BEST FRIEND - Sarah Mayberry. This is the Pink Heart Picks Book Club selection of the month.









MAPS AND LEGENDS - Reading and Writing in the Borderlands, Michael Chabon








And once those are done, I'm FINALLY going to curl up with my CP's latest: TO MARRY A MATCHMAKER by Michelle Styles. Fave cover of hers ever. I adore it. I want to take the hero home.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

#WW on Thursday - Grinding Halts

I totally forgot that yesterday was Wednesday and missed my #WW post, but I'm going to make up for it today. First of all and totally off topic may I just say that I loathe mating season for Northern Flickers. We have some that nest in a nearby tree which is fine. It is also nice to hear the peep peep peeping of babies when they are born. BUT when they are nesting, the male sees a need to announce to all that he is LORD OF THIS TERRITORY. The best and most resonant way to do that? OUR EAVESTROUGH.

So far it has not been at 5 in the morning, but rather 9 while I am working. BUT it's also been grey and dismal all week. Wait until we get a lovely pink sunrise. That bugger will be out there at 5 a.m. hammering out a warning. Argh! It's time to get the holography-foil type paper to hang up in the bedroom windows. It doesn't look pretty, but for a few weeks I don't care.

Ok now on to today's subject - grinding halts.

This is in complete contrast to last week's post which was all about riding the wave of inspiration when it comes. Remember I said that if I write too fast sometimes I make a mess? And that I need the weekends to think? That's what today is about. Look at it this way. In the last 2 weeks I've written approx 20,000 words in addition to doing 2 rounds of edits for my next Samhain novella, Final Line Edits for same and my proofs came yesterday. It's been busy. I've been charging ahead and it felt great. But suddenly I'm at a grinding halt.

It is a good thing.

While ultimately it is lovely to think of a book coming out fast AND pretty, it's rarely the case. There are a couple of key points to remember here and very positive. First of all, I do have something to fix, which is much better than having x number of blank pages. Secondly, I was duly inspired so that tells me I did something right (even if I did make some mistakes).  I also reached a point where things DO change for me as a writer - the last 1/4 of the book. There's a shift at this point - into black moments and happily ever afters. Everything comes to a head in this section. It is the perfect place to grind to a halt. Not because I don't have a clue what I'm going to write, because I do. I have a very good idea of what's coming and had a flash of inspiration the other day about how my characters are going to be forced into making choices.

So why aren't I moving forward?

Because I went quickly, and I feel a need to stop, reflect, get my feet. I've read over the first 8 chapters and know that 2 of those chapters need some cutting for pace AND I realized that my hero's arc isn't quite right. I have made it too easy on him, and as a result there's too much narrative and not enough tension. It's all fixable, and quite easily too I think. I also started writing a synopsis.

I hate synopses. But I learned something cool with my last book. My editor had asked if I would do up the Art Fact Sheet and that meant writing a synopsis. Writing it out can really illuminate where the weak spots are. I was just about at this point of the story too - moving into the end - and it really crystallized the story in my mind, making it easier to move forward. Since I can access the AFS at any time, I decided now is a good time to start working on that. I didn't have a chance to finish the whole synop yesterday, and I hope to today.

The thing is, I'm not a planner. So writing a synopsis at the beginning of the book rarely works. BUT writing it at this point means I already KNOW what happens through 3/4 of the book. By seeing where I might have some weak spots, I can jot down notes about what needs to be layered/fixed etc. I also map out the ending - a tentative mapping mind you, because I still don't know exactly how it's going to happen until I get in there. But it also helps me feel confident and on track with starting those last really emotional chapters. I have a tentative plan. As my CP puts it - things "concentrate minds".

Considering I had minimal revisions on the last book (they still took me a long time, but there was no rewriting involved - just fixing a character arc), this might be a method that works.

But that's me. What do you do when your work comes to a grinding halt?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Make a list. Susan Meier does a great workshop on this. Julie Cohen talks about it from time to time too. Look at all the possible problems/solutions/whatever you're stuck on and make a list of what the answers could be. It can start to get really ridiculous, but suddenly an answer will pop out that will make you go aha!
  • Write a synopsis
  • Take a day to NOT write. I know that sounds counterproductive, but sometimes you need to fill your creative well especially if you've been writing very quickly. Taking a day to THINK about your book can be time very well spent.
  • If your last scene(s) are the trouble, have a look at them and see where they are missing. There are some fun tricks to jumpstarting a scene that I talk about in my workshop BLASTING THROUGH BLAH. Try writing the scene from the opposite point of view. Try attributing your dialogue to the other character (that one can be particularly fun and illuminating!). Move your scene do a different locale.  Take away the one thing that your character cherishes most. That last thing? That's sort of what was missing from my hero.
Anyway, grinding halts don't have to be a bad thing. It's an opportunity for you to take stock of what you've got and figure out how best to move forward. As long as you don't stay halted for long. It's an opportunity, not an excuse to not write! :-)

Have a good week,

Donna

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Short Days...

I'm head down this morning as there is only a half day of school and my youngest will be home at lunch, to be followed by Parent-Teacher interview #1, and then another Parent-Teacher interview after supper. I have a load of laundry to do in addition to my workout. I need to make the most of my time.

The good news is I've made great progress on the WIP the last 2 weeks. I feel really good about that. In fact, I finished chapter 8 yesterday and realized that as I go into the last 1/4 of the book I need to go back and read what I have so far to make sure I've got things lined up properly. With my last book, my editor asked me to do the AFS at about this point and I did a synopsis, which helped immensely. In the end it didn't finish exactly as I'd planned in the synop, but it only meant a few adjustments. It was great though to put my head in the right spot for finishing. So that's where I am now...with about 3 chapters left to write.

But first...my tummy has some rumbles and is demanding sustenance! I need to scrounge in the cupboard!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Things That Make Me Grumpy

Things that make me grumpy today include:

Going to fill up my vehicle. I use a gas card and pay at the end of the month. The gas card automatically shuts off at $100. Today, it shut off before I was full. OUCH.

Elections. I can't wait for election day, because then all the bs chirping in my ear will be done. It's bad enough when the candidates do the mud slinging. But I'm sick to death of social media being used to sling it. I'm not sure when thoughtful, intelligent discourse went out of fashion (was it ever in?) but sites, tweets and FB posts about how candidates are horrible human beings are annoying to say the least. I'll speak with my vote, thank you.

Liars. Three Cups of Tea.  You know the idea of how a few teens can make all teens look bad? Well, crap like this ruins the credibility of not just the author who wrote it, but others too.

Anyway, at least it's just a short list. And there are things that make me not grumpy. Good books. Upstairs Downstairs (we watched part 2 last night). Toast with butter and raspberry jam. The fact that my heather is blooming and the grass is turning green.

Now I'm off to write - it's go go go on chapter eight!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

We have a winner! Lynne Mauro is the lucky recipient - I'll be mailing her prize this week!

It's Monday, which means the start of a short week - with Good Friday cutting things short for a day, and early dismissal/parent teacher interviews taking up the second half of Thursday. Lots of work to be done, too - final line edits have arrived for OFF THE CLOCK as well as Chapter 7 back from my CP for the WIP. And I'd like to at least get chapter 8, maybe 9 written this week so no rest for the wicked as the saying goes!

The weekend was good, though. Saturday I took the girls shopping in the morning, cleaned in the afternoon (and a little after supper, the spring cleaning continues in bits here and there), and watched some TV with the dh in the evening. Yesterday was miserable weather-wise, but my chapter exec had their meeting here which brightened things up considerably! My dh cooked us lunch and we chatted about all sorts of exciting plans.  Then I hung out with the girls - we watched Harry Potter 7 (part 1 of course) as we hadn't seen it yet and generally vegged. It was just the sort of down time we needed, I think!

So now I'm off to grab a late breakfast (ah, Monday mornings) and get started! One final thing though - congrats to chapter mate Kelly Boyce - her debut OUTLAW BRIDE releases today from Carina Press! I hope to review it by the end of the week!

Friday, April 15, 2011

#Fridayreads: Julianne MacLean Appreciation Day - and giveaway!



I'm writing a special Friday Reads post today because I <3 Julianne. She's a fantastic writer, she's a great friend and she's always willing to share her perspective about this crazy job we're in. So today is officially Julianne MacLean Appreciation Day on the blog!



When I first discovered Julianne I fell in love with Surrender to a Scoundrel. Immediately she gained a fan and I went in search of backlist. I gobbled up all her Avon Historicals. And as much as I love the ton and a good old scandal among the lords and ladies, I was thrilled when she said she was writing a Highlander trilogy. Captured By The Highlander was out last month (and was a fantastic read!), and Claimed By The Highlander is out now.

I'm reading Claimed (and wish I had more time to read this week, darn it!) and I'm dying to see how Gwen tames Angus, who is one of the strongest, no-chink-in-the-old-armor heroes I've ever met. The third in the trilogy (Seduced By The Highlander)will be out in October. And this week, Claimed By The Highlander is on the USA Today Bestseller list for the 2nd week in a row. Hooray!

I was surprised to learn in my searching for backlist way back when that Julianne also published a few books with Harlequin - I haven't been able to get my hands on the historicals, but she does have a Silhouette Desire that has been re-released digitally - Sleeping with the Playboy. And then there's The Rebel - a prequel short story to the Highlander trilogy that I haven't read yet - as much as I pride myself of reading EVERYTHING of Julianne's, clearly there are some gaps that need remedying!

But now I come to something new, and this is also where the giveaway comes in. Julianne also writes as E.V. Mitchell and she's published a story called The Color of Heaven. It's been available on kindle for a while, but I waited until it was available in print because I wanted it for my keeper shelf (Julianne is an automatic keeper for me).

The Color of Heaven is soooo different from her other books. It's a contemporary women's fiction, not a passionate, witty historical. The voice is completely different which astounds me - I'm not sure I could write so differently if I switched genres. It's in first person POV rather than third. It switches between the past (Cora) and the present (Sophie). And it tackles the hazy question of what happens in the space between life and death.

Sophie has lost pretty much everything and it breaks your heart, but it's only in that precarious space in time when she's...well, when she's dead, that she gains clarity. Because of it we learn about Sophie's mother, Cora, and the secret about her father and the break up of their family. It's only through learning all these things that Sophie is ready for a true HEA.

If I had to describe the writing in this book it would be with two words - Simplicity and Honesty. Working together, they create a beautiful story that I read in an evening. In that simplicity was truth, and the truth made me cry at times. It is truly powerful writing. I kept thinking - this shouldn't make me reach for tissues. But it did.

And Julianne, being her typical generous self, has given me a spare copy of The Color Of Heaven to give away today.  Not only that, but I'm giving away a prize pack. The trade paperback of The Color Of Heaven, a cover flat of Captured By The Highlander, a Julianne bookmark, and a copy of my May Harlequin Romance release, Honeymoon with the Rancher - just because.

Send me an e-mail to enter, please, and simply tell me if you've ever read any of Julianne's work. If you have I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't yet, well, here's your introduction. I'm sure you're going to become good friends with her work. :-)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

#WW - Going with the Flow

I nearly forgot this week's #WriterWednesday post - because after the million kajillion things I had to do last week, this week is quieter. Still busy, but not quite as manic and the good thing is I'm writing words. Lots of words.

When the going is tough, when I'm under the gun, etc. I do prescribe to a "word count goal" because it keeps me from feeling behind. Chunk writing works - anywhere from 750 - 1000 words and then a break. A minimum of 2 chunks a day is good forward motion. 3 is fantastic. And I can over write sometimes. If I write more than 3000 words in a day, I've usually skimmed over something.

In January, when I was pressed, my aim was between 2000 and 2500 a day, every day, during the week. I do still like to take the weekends off to refresh my brain and to think. Thinking time is important.

But there are times when I throw word count goals out the window, and that's when the flow is going. I ride the wave. I don't force myself to stop. The 3000 word over write? Sometimes results in a mess, but most of the time just results in me having to go back and layer and clarify. Most of the time those words don't get deleted, they get padded out with what I might have missed - reactions and motivations mostly.

I think it's important to go with the flow, at least for me. If things are moving and the words are coming, it usually means I'm on the right track (even if I've skipped a few stops). When the words are coming slowly, it often means something isn't quite right, and I have to really think about the why behind things. Sometimes a question from my CP will open up an angle I was missing. And it's not uncommon for me to slog up a bit around Chapters 4 and 5, and again around chapter 8 and 9 as I move towards the black moment.

Right now things are flowing, and I'm going with it. It gives me something to fix, it shows me things about my characters, hopefully it's moving the story forward. Hopefully it's complicating the conflict and developing the romance. And hopefully the things I'm learning and discovering about my characters will be things I can layer and use to make the rest of the book richer when I edit.

My philosophy is go with the flow. It's what discovery drafts are for and anything is fixable.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Why do we worry about what can't be changed?

Why is it we worry about something we've done that we can't change? It's a futile thing simply by definition. As of right now, we can't go back in time and change something so why do we obsess and feel guilty when there is not a single blessed thing we can do about it now?

And I'm not talking about the BIG questions in life. I'm talking about the little stuff. Like last night. My eldest had a meeting and we forgot. She forgot, I forgot, and I only remembered when I dropped her off at school today. It's not like we can turn back the clock and make it right. Nor is it likely that the world is going to end. Yes, she made a commitment and she should honour it. But no one is perfect and it's the first meeting she's missed all year.

But I feel horribly bad about it - disproportionately bad.

We beat ourselves up about stuff all the time like this. And really, nothing can derail good intentions or progess like screwing up and then not rebounding from it. Like weight loss. If you screw up - miss a few workouts, eat some things you shouldn't - you can't fix it now. You can only control TODAY and what you do TODAY and there is not much sense in letting one or two days ruin all your progress. And that's why it's important to get into habits.

My Beachbody coach sent his weekly e-mail and confessed that birthday food happened during the past week. And that he felt horrible. Not guilty horrible but physically horrible. That's what happens when you set up habits. That's also why I allow treats. Sometimes it satisfies a craving but other times it makes me feel horrible and I remember why I want to eat better. The last time I ate McDonalds (burger and fries, not a salad) I thought I was going to be ill.

Anyway you can't change yesterday, you can only control today. It's actually quite a liberating thought. Easier said than executed though!

Speaking of, my workouts have been...sporadic. Between running club and kidlet tournaments etc. we haven't done our Power 90 in over a week. The good news is I HAVE been running twice a week, walking twice a day most days, and I spent the entire weekend cleaning, and if you've ever washed walls by hand you know you burn some calories. My weight actually went down a little and last night I had a fab run on the treadmill - 30 minutes. We're hoping tonight we get back in the cut. It's a sculpt day and I never thought I'd say that but I'm looking forward to some pushups.

Otherwise it's working on the WIP, which I'm starting to like quite a bit and which hopefully now that I've cleared my desk of many other things is going to start coming together a little faster. :-)

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mondays

Mondays mean back to work. This is a good thing and I do like it when the house empties out and I'm free to work on writing. Right now it's showering outside and the robins are making a racket - I can hear them even with the windows closed. Spring is definitely here.

But I confess I'm starting the week a bit tired, which is actually a little surprising considering I was in bed at 9:30 last night! I spring cleaned the upstairs on the weekend - enlisted the help of the offspring to do their rooms (ooh, tidy closets and desks are great!) and at one point my eldest was even on her hands and knees doing the hardwood floor in the upstairs hall. The walls and blinds were washed, the comforters and curtains were washed and hung to dry outside, and last night the whole upstairs smelled like outdoors. Now if I only had the downstairs done...unfortunately that will require some assistance by the mister as it's good to have help moving furniture.

That being said, I did manage to read on the weekend which felt like a lovely indulgence.

Today I'm doing a crit and working on more of the WIP - thankfully I got some good writing done on Friday and finally moved forward.  My CP has handed in her book so she's now cracking the whip. I must say I might like it better when she's distracted! LOL

Right now I'm going to put my towels in the dryer and then get to it! Oh and I'm over at Petticoats and Pistols today talking about Green Ranching which I find particularly interesting. It's so cool to see how traditional farm practices meld with new technologies!

Friday, April 08, 2011

#Fridayreads - reviews and ongoing

REVIEW:  MCSHANNON'S CHANCE by Jennie Marsland

There are reasons why I write western romance, and reasons why I love reading them too. Jennie Marsland's McShannon's Chance demonstrates a lot of those reasons - she's got likeable, hardworking characters facing the challenge of making a life on the frontier, she's got wonderful, complex secondary characters, a gorgeous setting of Colorado, and a close-knit town.


Beth and Trey are well-matched, and it's clear that they heal each other and that together they are far stronger than alone. Beth, while not a country girl, finds herself rather suited to the wild, independent life there, probably because she's a very independent woman to begin with. Trey is carrying around lots of old wounds, and Beth helps him get past them. I liked how an old "neighbour" Nate was a part of the story and that for a long time we're not quite sure whether we should trust him or not, and I really liked how that was all resolved in the end. The secondary cast was so strong that several times I thought...hmmm, I wonder if she's going to write THAT story????

Marsland's choice of genre and writing style blend together for a great comfy read - a little like settling into your favourite rocking chair on a warm summer afternoon.

I've got Marsland's next book, McShannon's Heart, on my TBR.

REVIEW: A MCKASLIN HOMECOMING by Jillian Hart (Pink Heart Picks Review, March 30)

This is the first book of Jillian's I've read, and the first Love Inspired I've read in a while. I really enjoy the Love Inspired books when they are inspirational but not preachy. In this case, the family is a good living family, go to church, believe in God, pray. When inspy works best for me, it's when faith is intrinsically part of the characters' lives, rather than feeling "pushy". Hart does a great job of this! For that reason alone, I'd read another of her books in a heart beat. I love how the faith element is interwoven so seamlessly into their every day life.

Caleb is a GREAT hero. You kind of forget he's a cop because throughout most of the story he's a cowboy. And the extended family is great, very individual and memorable. It was a really enjoyable read, and can totally stand alone even though it's part of a really big series. That being said - Hart also does a great job with the other characters. She gives just enough insight to make the reader wonder about THEIR stories. That balance can be really tricky to achieve when you're writing a family/town series so major kudos to Hart for doing such a great job of it, at least in my opinion!

If I have one gripe at all, it's about conflict. And this is something I come across in many of the inspies I've read so I don't think it's limited to Hart's writing at all. The characters are so GOOD. Which I know makes sense in an inspirational romance, and of course you don't want to have characters who are unlikeable or unsympathetic. There are certain dos and don'ts I'm sure, having to do with the promise to the reader, etc. But when I looked at Lauren's family, everyone, with the exception of Spence, welcomed her with open arms. I kept waiting for something to be awkward, painful, tense, but it didn't happen. There are hugs and PJ parties and clothes sharing, which is all great but each time Lauren met a new member of her family I was waiting for it to be difficult. It was hard to see their flaws, although I know they must have had some somewhere. And I think for me, as a writer, I was probably more sensitive to this than maybe readers are. I tend to let my characters show the good, bad and ugly, so I did find it harder to buy into because everyone was so perfect.

But on the whole...that's a teensy issue for a heartwarming, memorable story. Have any of you read it or read other books in Hart's McKaslin series?


What am I reading now? MAPS AND LEGENDS: READING AND WRITING ALONG THE BORDERLANDS by Michael Chabon. Newest additions to the TBR? THE COLOR OF HEAVEN by EV Mitchell and TO MARRY A MATCHMAKER by Michelle Styles.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Worth Posting Twice

This is totally worth posting twice in one morning. I LOVE it. I love the back blurb. I love the kid, I love how they got the colouring of Luke and Sam right, I adore the dog. My good friends are going to love it too because the dog looks quite like their pup Belle (same breed). This cover gives me a happy sigh. Just click on the image for a larger version to make it easier to read the blurb. :-)

Thursday Thoughts

Well, some of the stress is working its way to GONE, partly because things went well yesterday and the sun is shining and...well, it just is. Having a few things off the to-do list is good.

I am SO glad I took the afternoon to go to my daughter's tournament too.  The tournament on Monday meant she qualified for yesterday's (she came first on Monday) and she came 2nd in the Regionals yesterday. It was wonderful watching her play (and a little nerve wracking) but her coach was equally pleased. I can make up a few hours somewhere else. These are things that I will NEVER regret sacrificing work for. :-)

As well, the scale was friendly this morning. It's coming off SOOOO slowly, but it IS coming off. I am within 4 lbs of my "first" goal. Then it'll be on to the last 15 lbs.

For now, it's time for the dog walk and breakfast, work, and the webinar from Harlequin.  This afternoon is running club - fingers crossed I can keep the hip from crapping out. :-)  So far so good!

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

#WW - Doing it All

Aren't you so lucky that every week you get a fresh glimpse of what challenges I'm facing at the time? (yes, that's sarcasm. You're probably not feeling super lucky at all). Today I'm going to talk about doing it all, juggling projects, what I'm good at, where I fall short, and ultimately what the solution is.

On my to-do list this week is:

word count - this book is due May 15. I don't have enough done on it. Some books go together more quickly than others. This one is going slowly. It just is.

a critique - my Authors for Japan winner has sent through her synop and three chapters, and I don't like to keep people waiting

edits for Off The Clock - my novella edits have come through, and the sooner I get them back the better, for various reasons

web update - I do a monthly update. Usually on the first day of the month. And here we are on the 6th. I believe in the necessity for fresh, up-to-date content. Not having this done is driving me crazy.

Harlequin Webinar - tomorrow I have a one hour webinar. Harlequin hosts these for their authors. Last week I did one on websites, and so while I'm doing a lot right on mine, I made notes for tweaks. Which is why this month's update is taking so long (I've prioritized the changes, doing the most important ones first). Tomorrow's is on building a mailing list/newsletters.

In addition to the work to-do list, I have running club twice, my eldest has 2 tournaments in different areas of the city, and I have a dental appointment on Friday morning (getting the stitches out from the second surgery).

This week exemplified the "doing it all" principle. And it also exemplifies the "I can't do it all" response.

Is there anything I can drop? I confess, I have put the critique at the bottom of the list. Partly because I have so much work and partly because I want to give it my undivided attention. This person paid good money for a crit and I don't want to rush through it. I know that by next week, several things on the list will be gone and I will be able to sit down and really look at it. And I could drop the webinar, BUT after doing the first one, I realized how great they are and after all this is one of the things HQ does for its authors. I will make time for the hour.

The word count and edits? Have to be done. The web update? Well, I got the main things done yesterday, so the rest I can putter with. Like I mentioned - I prioritized. I have changes to make to each individual book page, so I've started with the most recent first, and I'm working my way backward. The home page etc. changes are done. We won't get into the total technology fail from yesterday, though. Even after a dripping-with-sweat work out and a hot shower, I was too keyed up last night to get to sleep very easily.

This is what you can expect after you embark on this crazy career, people. And the only one who will be able to figure out how to handle it best is YOU. For example, I found delegating certain tasks didn't work all that well because I still spent a large amount of time putting materials together, and, to be honest, doing it myself saves money. And it's not ALWAYS like this. It just so happens that there are weeks where everything seems to hit at once and my solution is simple:

Do the best you can.

There's no sense beating yourself up about it because it will only take you longer. I am trying to work through each item and cross it off the list.  I've tried working on more than one thing at once and it makes me panic because I feel like nothing is being accomplished and my focus is split. Personally I'm far better off to tackle one thing and finish and move on to the next. That's just me. You'll find what works for you.

And I'm refusing to be chained to my desk. I'm going to the tournament and I'm going to enjoy watching my kid. I'm not skipping running club - the run is good for me. I need the time away so that I can be productive when I sit down. Which at this point is STILL more of a 12 hour day than a 7 or 8.

Anyway like most things, this too will pass, and it will all get done because it always does. Can you do it all? Yes. And you can do it well. You just have to figure out what works for you. And give yourself a break. You don't need to do it all TODAY.

Now I'm off to do the dog walk, and then come back to knuckle down!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Fingerprints

I took a snap of the plaque that arrived from the Dunes and Dreams Picture Perfect Cover Contest.

Because of the lighting today and shiny nature of the plaque (notice the fingerprints? argh, sorry about that!) I had to take about 20 snaps before I had one that was close to looking okay. But here it is. It's a lovely plaque! Almost as lovely as Kanaxa's cover!

Monday, April 04, 2011

Doggie woes

I love my dog. She is the meekest, sweetest thing. I have never heard her growl at a soul. She rarely barks. When the cat torments her by hovering around her food bowl, she coughs at him. 

But we have an issue with other dogs.

My niece put this in a way I hadn't thought before - fear agression.

She's really timid, you see. And so when we're walking, if we see another dog, or if we go past a house where a dog is outside, she stops walking to my left and hides behind me. There are some dogs we meet that she is okay with. And she loves playtime with her buddy Belle, but that's because they've been friends since she came to live with us (and if there are any issues, they work it out).

But it has made things...interesting, let's say, when we meet other dogs and owners on our walk. Because most of those dogs want to investigate. And she's already nervous. So I watch very carefully and if I see her lip start to curl and her body tense it's time to back off. Sometimes she growls and snarls if the other dog is too much "in her space". And I don't know what to do about it.

I've taken to cautioning owners...she's friendly but timid and she gets overwhelmed. Which is true. I mean if I were wearing a dress she'd be hiding underneath my skirts. With small dogs, she's okay until they decide they want to jump up. With big dogs...well, if you had someone twice your size barrelling down on you, how would you feel?

But it does irk me that I have to explain. It irks me that a lot of people - not everyone, of course - think it's perfectly acceptable for their dog to come charging out to say hello because he's friendly. And they don't understand when I say my dog is afraid. One example is at the park the other night. There was a beautiful Burmese there (I adore that breed!). Burmese Mountain Dogs are gentle giants and this one was lovely. But playful and after some sniffing Dreamer had had enough. It is why I left her on leash. Burmese are HUGE. And Dreamer is simply not outgoing. The flip side of it was meeting a Westie yesterday. Dreamer showed signs of wanting to say hello, so I let her, and just watched. The Westie had great manners. After a brief round of polite sniffing, both dogs went back to sit beside their owners.

So I'm left wondering what I should do to help her. She's 8. Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Is it acceptable that she puts other dogs in their place when they get a little too exuberant? Is some owner going to totally wig out on me someday?

Friday, April 01, 2011

April 1st, no foolin'

I don't quite have the energy to fool anyone today - I have my second dental surgery thingy going on later and the kids are home today for a PD day and there is so very much to do. But that's partly because it is first of the month, which means all kinds of good things.

Her Lone Cowboy is out later this month in Argentina, for one.

And my May release, Honeymoon with the Rancher, is available in several ways. You can get the UK edition from the Mills and Boon site, or from any online retailers like the Book Depository or amazon.co.uk - it was out in March over there so while it's likely off shelves by now, it's still widely available online.

It's also available a month early online at eharlequin and Mills and Boon Australia. It'll be on store shelves in May, but if you're looking to get it early you can buy it at both places. It's also available in ebook at eharlequin and M&B Australia and M&B UK.

I thought it would be fun to look at all three covers...which one do you like best?