Sunday, July 31, 2011

End of an era...

We went to see Harry Potter on the weekend as part of the youngest's birthday celebrations. It was, in the words of the eldest, EPIC. Really, really good. As we got to the end I was very clappity in a quiet way of course as I knew what was coming. And my favourite line was when Mrs. Weasley took on Bellatrix and said "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" Mrs. Weasley spent 7 movies being the stable, nurturing one. It was great to see that Mama Bear spirit manifest in a duel. Wooo!

I really wish Ginny had been drawn with a more colourful brush. Harry LOVES her. And while the story is really about the trio of Harry, Ron and Hermione, Ginny was very, very strong and ends up under the radar. Luna has her quirks to make her stand out. Neville is the underdog we all love. But Ginny is just...Ginny. Which is a shame because she is strong, loyal, brave, and it's got to be hard to love someone as famous and as MARKED as Harry but she does it and without a lot of fuss. My fave scene with her was when Harry returns to Hogwarts and she comes in and they just look at each other across the room. It is a look that says a lot. Ginny never demands, and I love her for it.

I teared up in a few places (and saved the napkins for the eldest who is a crier and did sniffle a bit) but to my surprise the moment I cried - and I still well up - was the moment it cut to the end credits. It was suddenly ALL OVER. All of it. No more stories, no more movies, no more Voldemort.

In a lot of ways we grew up with Harry. I started reading the books to the girls when the youngest started Grade 2 and I didn't worry about them frightening her. We read every word of them OUT LOUD before bed. And as you probably know, the books get longer as Harry gets older.  The girls got older too...and the reading before bed no longer happens. I miss it.

But there was always the movie to look forward to, right? But now it's over and done and when those credits popped up on the screen I had a real moment.

Thank you, JK Rowling, for writing such splendid adventures. And thank God for DVD's. We're already talking about our first HP marathon. :-)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Kickin' the weekend off right

It's the youngest's birthday today, so a good portion of the day has been birthday celebrations. Like tubing on the lake and a barbeque for dinner. Tomorrow we're going to see the new Harry Potter.

Lots of other good things happened today too. First of all, I woke up to this review - a fantastic review for Sold To the Highest Bidder on Romantic Rose's Bookshelf. It is lovely and a "keeper" review!

Then late this afternoon I got word from my editor that my 14th Harlequin Romance has sold! Woo! This is part of a duet so no word on title or date yet. I expect we're waiting to have both books lined up before making anything official.

She also read over my new first chapter and gave it the go ahead - with some brilliant adjustments. The opening for this story was giving me fits, so I'm very pleased that on the whole it was fine and my direction wasn't way out in left field. Next week I'm going to work on getting the partial into shape!

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hard time getting inspired during the summer?

I'm giving a fun workshop with my RWA Chaptermate Michelle Helliwell next month - just the thing to get you back in the groove of writing. And the setting is beautiful. I don't know about you, but I find summer the hardest time of the year to write. If you've misplaced your muse, you might just find her (or him) here.
 
 
 
 
 
Writers Workshop -Finding Your Muse
Prescott House Museum, Port Williams NS
August 13, 2011
 
Join local romance writers Donna Alward and Michelle Helliwell for a day of inspiration

Admission
$10 lunch included, please pre register

For additional information:
Diana Baldwin
902 542 3984

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Blurby Goodness

So I have the blurb for HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART and I love it. I also found out that it will be available on NetGalley for reviewers, and when it goes up I'll be posting a link.

Without further ado:
From best friends…to bride and groom?
Clay Gregory’s known Megan Briggs her whole life, and he’s been plenty worried about her while she’s been getting medical treatment. Now she’s back home and hiding away on the family ranch.
Knowing the stubborn cowgirl won’t accept his help willingly, he invites her to a family wedding to help him avoid his aunt’s matchmaking!
He plans to remind Meg she’s still the girl who can beat him in a horse race! But as she steps out in her curve-hugging red dress, her skills on a horse are suddenly the furthest thing from his mind.…

Monday, July 25, 2011

Back to Work

The great thing about vacations is that it usually doesn't take me long to feel like I NEED to write. In this case, 10 days. I am back to work today on the next story and I'm glad.

But there are challenges. Everyone is home now until school goes back in. EVERYONE. And there are times I don't WANT to work. It would be easy to shut off the computer and go outside and work in the yard and what not. As I'm typing the husband is out washing the siding. There are weeds. It's a gorgeous day.

So the plan of attack is to chunk write - 2 chunks each morning, leaving the afternoons free to work in the yard/swim/hang with the fam. 2 chunks is 1500 words, so it's not a huge output but it is enough that it will add up consistently.

Yesterday we had company over and I ate wayyyyyy too much. We had crackers/cream cheese/wine jelly, wings, and tortilla chips and nacho dip for the SNACK. And then barbequed burgers and had salads for supper and our neighbour brought 2 chilled pies - a cream cheese strawberry and a mojito pie which were delicious. Thank goodness there was swimming in the pool, a game of 500 up and some badminton in the yard to counteract all the food. Because I didn't mention that the margarita maker was in service either, did I?

How's your summer going?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Do we know how to vacation or what?

Today's vacation activities included taking our bottles into the bottle depot and our electronics recycling to the depot. When we got back, the kids had packed a picnic so...get ready for it...the next event was taking a truckload of stuff to the dump. Exciting, yes? We had a great drive, and after we got rid of our stuff we stopped at a park, ate our yummy picnic lunch (salad with chicken for me) and let the dog have a swim in the river. It was a real treat for her!

It's all high class around here.

It was really fun though, and even a trip to the dump can have a sense of occasion. :-) After we got home we had a swim in the pool and a quick visit from my niece and her husband who are just back from their honeymoon.

I am not even going to venture a guess what tomorrow will bring!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gone Fishin'

Today we went fishing with some friends on his 17' boat. We left from the Terence Bay wharf and did most of our fishing in the Prospect area. The day was gorgeous. The fishing was great. Within five minutes the eldest had landed her first cod and the youngest wasn't far behind. My first catch of the day was this pollock which we did throw back:
Then I caught a perch:


But then the rocking motion got to the girls and some seasickness happened. :-( Our friend Fred called his wife, who came and picked up the girls at a nearby dock and they ended up going back to the house and watching movies and having snacks. :-) Meanwhile the husband and I stayed out another few hours and oh my...it was a target rich environment!

At one point I was proudly holding a line with four pollock and the the husband promptly outdid me by hooking 5. We kept the biggest and also some mackerel for our friends to use as bait later. You could hardly get your line it without hooking something. But then...well the motion got to me, too, and the husband confessed he was feeling a little woozy as well. It's the closest to being seasick I've ever been. Instead we puttered through some little inlets and bays, dropping lines occasionally but having a marvelous time. The scenery was beautiful:



And our day ended like this: yummy! Beer battered pollock!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Speechless

On Staycation

This week I'm on staycation. It's like vacation but not going anywhere, which is infinitely cheaper than traveling (especially as I did go to New York). It's great because the husband has been on course for 3 weeks and is now off for 5. My revisions got handed in last week as well so fingers crossed this go-round did the trick. We're all under the same roof for the first time since about June 20, and by George we're going to enjoy it.

I have a list. I know, it doesn't sound like vacation with a to-do list, right? Oh, but it is. If I'm not "working" then I am puttering away on odd jobs that have been put off...and put off...and put off. Already the house has been cleaned and the laundry done, the grass mowed, getting the weekly chores out of the way. I have deadheaded in the garden, weeded the ditch (yuck) and taken 5 big bags of castoffs to the goodwill. Honestly the kids seem to grow WEEKLY around here, as we discovered when we went through their school stuff and decided to do their closets and drawers at the same time. The upstairs carpets have been steam cleaned - another item off the list, thanks to the husband who fixed the steam cleaner and then had it all nearly done by the time I arrived home.

I still have a large list but there are FIVE weeks in which to do it all. Today it is cloudy and supposed to rain, so once I walk the dog I'm coming back to do the accounts. And I've been READING. I'm telling you - all this non-working productivity is THE BOMB.

Just in case this doesn't sound very fun, let me give you a run-down of yesterday afternoon. We swam in the pool. We drank pina coladas. Eldest went to a friend's for a barbeque and the three of us left at home had bbq'd hotdogs and strawberry shortcake. We went outside and played badminton and then threw the softball around and had lots of laughs. I did yoga, and the husband and I watched the new epi of True Blood. It's not all work and no play. :-)

Right - dog walking is next! See ya on the flip side!

Friday, July 15, 2011

#Fridayreads - Roundup

Today I'm going to catch up on a few reads I've finished lately:

First up is THE PROUD WIFE by Kate Walker - you can find the full review on June 30 at The Pink Heart Society.

CHAMPAGNE WITH A CELEBRITY by Kate Hardy:
The second book in a duet, which begins with the marriage of the previous two characters (Red Wine and her Sexy Ex). :-) Just like the previous book was a beautiful glimpse into the life of a vintner, this one immerses the reader in the world of a parfumier. It has Kate's trademark yumminess (I am always hungry when I read her books!) and a generous helping of hot sex. :-) I zoomed through this book - it was once again like I was on a dream holiday in France.

Amber kept insisting that she was a fluffy airhead socialite, but I never saw it. Instead I saw her as a lovely, genuine, very social person but not a party girl. Definitely more extroverted than Guy and accepting of the positive and negative side of celebrity and the paparazzi, but she was never an airhead, or fluffy. She was LOVELY and caring. Guy, too, was a delicious hero.

NANNY NEXT DOOR by Michelle Celmer: I read this in one sitting!

While I didn't quite like Sydney in the beginning - she seemed to be a bit passive and yet angry - I really warmed to things after a few chapters and as her growth arc really started to curve. :-) It's clear that her behaviour at the beginning of the book is because of the years she spent enduring a horrible marriage and then a horrible divorce. It was great to see her grow calmer with her increased confidence and trust.

Daniel was a great hero too and his love for his "daughter" April was sweet. I loved how he wasn't intimidated by Syd's ex (who is the mayor) and I also really liked the addition of his family to the story. The storyline of Syd's daughter was great too, as she had her own growth arc and it was nice to see her come into her own and stand up for herself.

The one thing I would have liked to see? Jeff (the ex) really getting what he deserved, though I suppose the point is for Syd to move forward and be happy (which is probably the greatest revenge). I still would have liked for their to be some real consquences for his bullying tactics, though. He was - as my teen would say - greasy.

A really enjoyable warm and sexy read!

ON SHADOW BEACH by Barbara Freethy

The second in the Angel's Bay series by Freethy. I liked this one even better than the first (Suddenly One Summer). It really ramped up towards the end with a bit of a twist I didn't quite see coming.
Some pieces did fit together rather conveniently at the end, and I wished that the epilogue had been another page or two longer - it felt rather rushed for such a momentous moment. But it was a great read that had me reaching for the tissues twice in the last 60 pages.

Now my big question is...when do we get Charlotte and Joe? Pretty please? I'm hoping their story is one of the ones Freethy's already written in the series!

THE REBEL by Julianne MacLean

This was in the Mammoth Book of Scottish Romance and then released on its own as a short, which I downloaded to Kindle. It's classic Julianne, lovely romance, lovely characters, and my only complaint is that it is too short! It was over too soon. :-)

NAKED TRUTH by Lilly Cain (Carina Press)

Naked Truth - Second in the Confederacy series. If you like your sci-fi with a bit of heat, check this one out. Neatest form of healing and interrogation you will ever see. :-) What I really liked about this one was the focus and depth of emotion of the main characters. I enjoyed the first book in the series but was more emotionally invested in this pair.

MARRIED BY MISTAKE - Abby Gaines

I read this on the plane to NY - it's been on my e-reader a while. I really enjoyed it - a unique premise and lovely characters made it a fresh, fun read.

FIRST COMES MARRIAGE - Mary Balogh

Can you believe this is my first Mary Balogh book? The first half was...okay. Good but not OMG I have to finish this. Vanessa was slightly annoying in all her always cheerful perfection. BUT once I got to the half way mark - and she and Elliott got married, it all picked up. In fact - I was going to go to bed early last night but stayed up to finish it. The marriage was really the turning point for me where it became unputdownable. And Elliott's former mistress really was a witch.

I did like how she set up Constantine, so we don't know if he's really the scoundrel Elliott believes or if there's something deeper at work. The doubt makes him a redeemable hero and guess what  - I got his story at RWA in New York.

Meg and Katherine's story are on my shelf (the first 3 are on loan from a friend) so it means the only one I'm missing is Stephen's story...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Revisions are out of the building

Revisions are back with my editor(s) and I am utterly BAGGED today. I think it is a combo of staying up late to finish as well as a cold and bleary day. I did the banking, checked e-mail, and basically have done some reading and little else. Today I have the energy of a slug!

Thank goodness my P90X routine for today is Stretch. It's no where near as intimidating as, say, Core Synergistics or Chest, Triceps and Shoulders. :-)

Oh look! And the girls are putting on HP and the Order of the Phoenix. I think I hear a blanket calling my name, and some cuddle time.

Catch you tomorrow!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Stampeeeeede! and New York, Final Post

I'm over at the Harlequin Blog today, talking about the Calgary Stampede for their Western Week celebrations. There's a copy of my current release (A Family for the Rugged Rancher) to give away, and then at the end of the week all 5 books from the Western Week guests will be awarded. So mosey on over and leave a comment!

Back to NY - and the last 2 days. Thursday was another early morning - I had new headshots taken in the morning and I was pretty nervous. Being in front of the camera feels kind of awkward, but Marti Corn (of Corn Creative, who does the RWR and Romance Sells mags) was fab.

Then it was straight to Starbucks for a banana and yogurt for breakfast before needing to be at the Harlequin book signing at 9:30. It was fun! I was seated next to THE Carla Neggers - gah! And she was absolutely lovely. I met some new readers, some old readers, my Italian and Spanish editors, chatted for a moment with Donna Hayes. It was really cool. Here's a pic of me with Leah Braemel - always great to meet a fellow Canuck and tweep! (Thanks Leah for the pic!)

After the signing I had a few moments until the Awards lunch and Sherrilyn Kenyon's speech. It is amazing to see how some people have overcome huge hurdles to reach success. There was a lot of sniffing and eye-wiping going on. She beat the odds and deserves every bit of her success.

At this point I was pretty tired so I relaxed for an hour or so before going to the Harlequin Feature and Custom Publishing reception and then from there to my agency cocktail party (Spencerhill Associates). Then it was a quick change of clothes and hairstyle before meeting Jenna in the bar for a quick bite before the Harlequin Black and White Ball. At this point I think I was operating on auto pilot.

The Waldorf is stunning. I whispered to the girls if it would look stupid if we all whipped out our cameras. We did anyway. There is a magnificent chandelier that steals the show as you walk in. We snapped a few pics and then headed upstairs to the Starlight Roof. We were checked off on a list and it felt all very VIP as we made our way through to the ballroom. A photographer was on hand to take pics as we entered - and then those pics went up on the screen in the ballroom. Jenna snapped this one as it was on display - her, me, and Kelly Boyce.

Kir Royal was the drink of the night. Is there ever a bad time for champagne? Really? But once the music started, we laid it all out on the floor. After the first 3 hours I was really thanking Tony Horton for the hard workouts as I just kept going....and going... SO MUCH FUN. Thriller anyone? (Thanks to J for taking this pic!)

Friday. Oh, Friday. Fiona and I had breakfast in the hotel restaurant. I have a mental gap between then and 10 o'clock when we were supposed to meet Mills and Boon peeps for coffee. We ended up sitting in the hotel bar, which wasn't open, and not having coffee. Considered Starbucks but the line was sooooo long. At 11 was the PAN Harlequin Author panel where the brass gets to talk to the authors. There were some major topics to discuss and the meeting was really informative.

Fiona and I then grabbed a quick lunch in the bar as we needed to grab our things and be at our workshop room a few minutes early for set up. Our workshop was titled How To Write Sizzle Without Sex and Emotion Without Tragedy.  To our surprise - after all it was the Friday afternoon of conference, when everyone's energy is flagging - it was really well attended. I think the room was set for 100 and we had 90. Our editor, Bryony Green, did her bit first on what editors are looking for and then I launched into the Sexual Tension bit. Half way through Fiona's netbook spontaneously rebooted. After an "OMG!" moment we carried on as Fi (being brilliant) had made paper handouts and everyone could still follow along as she got us back online with slides. It did it again through her bit as well but it really just broke the ice and I think it went really well.

And then it was a big rush for me to get 2 floors away to the Samhain Signing within a five minute window. Honest to God, biggest fun I've ever had at a signing. Chatted to a lot of new people and signed a lot of books and to my surprise they had ARCs done of my December print book, BREATHE! I didn't know - I thought I was signing Sold to the Highest Bidder. It was the perfect ending to a hectic, bananas week.

I think finishing that signing was the big signal that I could relax, and about 5 p.m. I finally hit the conference wall. If you're going to hit it, the timing is pretty good if you can last until the very last day. We skipped across Times Square to the McDonalds and I got a salad. And fell asleep holding it in my hand as Fiona was getting ready for the RITA awards. I managed about half, worked on packing my bag as I had to leave in the morning. The RITAs were great and we sat with my CP Michelle Styles, her daughter, and Victoria Parker. I had a dress issue so was thankful I had packed a backup - this pic is of me with 2 of the RWAC exec members after the RITAs - Kelly Boyce and Annette Gallant.

As a final hurrah, we went up to The View for a last drinkie. I said goodbye to the editors and had a glass of prosecco with Fiona, Victoria, Michelle, Katharine and Jackie Braun. When Michelle and K left, I had a bit of a wibble. We didn't really get to see enough of each other, especially any quiet moments to just CHAT. But it was time to buck up, wipe my eyes and finally head back to the room as I'd had a brilliant flash of packing genius. At 1 a.m. I had everything out of my suitcase giving it another go.

Unfortunately, while everything FIT I discovered at the airport that it was over the weight restriction. I ended up redistributing right there at check in. I was early and there was no one behind me so it was okay.

And then I slept - at the gate, on the plane to Toronto, and most of the flight from Toronto to Halifax. It was so good to get home and see my girls and husband waiting at  the baggage claim.

Monday, July 11, 2011

New York - Post 2 and Western Week

It's Western Week at the Harlequin blog - and there are prizes to be won! You can find me there tomorrow, but there are books to be won all week as well as a bigger prize at the end. I'll post a link tomorrow.

Also today you can find me talking about some western-y stuff (including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge) at Petticoats and Pistols and The Pink Heart Society.

Allrightythen - back to NY, shall we?

I left off with the Librarian's Day events, which led into the Literacy Signing. The lines were huge. Ginormous. We were asked to stay past 7:30 because some people hadn't had a chance to get in yet. I sat by the very friendly Laura Marie Altom - it's so great to have a seat-mate you can chat to! I also knew that Meg Cabot was signing a new YA, so the generous Kaily Hart got me 2 copies, signed to each of my girls. I was particularly excited about it and so were the girls when I pulled the books out of my carry-on!

During the signing I also got to meet my editor in person for the first time! There was no mistaking her as she looks just like her pictures! After I'd paid for my books I hot-footed it to the Bookseller's Best Awards.

The Detroit RWA chapter does it up right - including a reception with food and a cash bar. It gave me time to unwind with a glass of wine and I was joined by Linda Fildew, Sr Editor for HMB Historicals. Shortly after my Sr Editor Bryony Green arrived and then my editor, Sally Williamson. We all sat together and to my delight (and amazement) Her Lone Cowboy won! You just don't expect that when you're in a category with Marion Lennox, Jessica Hart and Myrna MacKenzie! Aftewards we celebrated by going for drinkies at The View, the revolving restaurant/bar at the top of the Marriott.

So Tuesday was absolutely crazy.

Wednesday morning was an early start - breakfast with my chapter mates! It was great to catch up and then it was off to Opening Remarks - Steve Berry, Diana Gabaldon and Tess Gerritson were fantastic during their Q&A and it was particularly cute to see the chemistry between Steve and Diana. Lots of laughs.

From there it was directly to the Mills and Boon Meet and Greet for the editors and authors, and then a meeting with my roomie Fiona Harper and Bryony Green to go over our presentation for Friday. Then it was lunch - with speaker Madeline Hunter. Sadly the audio wasn't working great, we were seated at the back and really couldn't hear much of anything.

There was a bit of a lull and then it was off to Sarabeths' for Tea with the Romance authors, just off of Central Park. Hailing a cab proved a bit of a challenge, so Fiona and I walked back to the hotel - it was quite nice, actually. And then the Pink Heart Society editors met for a Pink Champagne toast before Jenna (in pink) headed off to the PASIC reception and Michelle and I changed into PJ's for the eHarlequin PJ party.



The PJ party is always lots of fun and I had a great time, staying later than I intended and finding myself really glad I'd a)stopped the alcohol after the champagne toast and b)gobbled down a protein bar before the party. It's really easy to overdo in all the excitement, and I had a big day on Thursday, so thankfully I kept to water during the party as I chatted to lots of people and stuck Pink Heart Society stickers on their chests! Here I am with RWA peep and Carina author Kelly Boyce.

Tomorrow I'll wrap up with Thursday and Friday's events!

Friday, July 08, 2011

New York - Post 1

So finally I am ready to post about my trip - I've been home since Monday afternoon and have caught up on a lot of my to-do list. I've been swimming in the pool, gotten back to working out (and oddly enough the 2 lbs that I lost in NY is back on) and I'm looking forward to a weekend of going nowhere and just hangin' with the family.

I flew out to NY on June 26- the Sunday before conference. I got into La Guardia before 2 p.m., but it took nearly an hour by cab to get to the hotel because several streets were closed off for a Gay Pride Parade. My roomate, Fiona Harper, was waiting in the hotel room and we had a quick catch up and a snack at Starbucks before heading to the pier and catching a tour bout.

Looking back, this was maybe my favourite sight-seeing bit of the trip. I love being on the water; it was a gorgeous soft evening and the wind was brisk and the tour guide funny. It was so neat to see Manhattan from the water; to see the bridges and the empty space where the towers used to be (and are on their way to being again), to motoring past Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

After we finished our tour, we took a cab up to Rockefeller Centre, bought our Top of the Rock tickets and then went for an easy dinner at TGIFridays as we were a)hungry and b)waiting for it to get dark.

Then we went up to the top to see New York "by the lights". It was gorgeous and vast and cool to see the Empire State Building lit up in rainbow colours because of the day's celebrations. While we were up there, there were fireworks. It is really neat to watch fireworks from that far up.

We walked back to the hotel - it was a short walk - and then the next morning were up early to go to the Empire State Building and do our Hop On Hop Off tour.
We'd bought VIP passes meaning we could avoid all the lines. Truthfully the lines weren't long (though I suspect they might have been later in the day) but it was fun anyway to see the rope moved for us so we could be rushed through. The morning was beautiful and we could see lots! Right down to Ellis Island and the Statue. It tends to get hazy during the day especially when you're high up. I'm really glad we went early - you can already see the haze building and this was around 9 a.m.

After the Empire State we went for breakfast and then got back on the bus. First stop was the Flatiron Building - cool, right? Then we got off in Greenwich and did lots of walking - all through Greenwich and Soho and Tribeca, down to Ground Zero and the financial district and then walked all along the river to Battery Park. I was disappointed in Ground Zero - it's really just a construction site right now, and I know a great memorial is coming, but I expected...I don't know. More. I do know I was walking through towards the river and had a moment where I tried to imagine what it was like on the morning of 9/11. I saw the news and my imagination rarely fails me. But I really couldn't imagine what it was like actually STANDING there and knowing those buildings  were coming down and that there were people inside. It made goosebumps stand out on my skin. It still does.

The walk along the river is gorgeous. We stopped for a bit and put our feet up (see my toesies in my fit flops!), then carried on, catching the bus at Battery Park, going past the UN and on to Central Park. The UN is having a facelift and I expected it to look different too - it's flat and tall and just kind of sticks out there.

Central Park is lovely and I wish I'd had time to see more of it. Fi and I grabbed a hotdog from a cart for lunch and found a quiet bench to sit on as we ate. Being a nature kind of girl, the river and the parks were my favourite parts of New York. I loved walking along the pathway back to catch the bus, taking us to Times Square and our hotel.

We weren't back long when Fi got a text from Jennie Lucas saying a bunch of people were in the bar. A quick freshen up and we were off for hugs and drinks and Michelle Willingham organized a spur of the moment meal - for 14 of us. RITA finalist Abby Green is a VBI (very bad influence) and the Italian where we went for supper was great. We ordered wine for the tables and Abby kept teasing the waiter that we should get a free bottle of wine. In the end we didn't get one but my love of Cannoli reared its head and somehow a gratis plate of dessert arrived. Fiona, Abby and I split it. Bliss!

On Tuesday the "official stuff" began for me at 10:30; Fiona didn't have to be anywhere until late afternoon so she went on an excursion to The Met and the Alexander McQueen exhibit. I had a focus group at 10:30 and then went straight to the Librarian's Day Luncheon where I got to see the amazing Super Wendy and hear Julia Quinn speak. Afterwards there was a networking event with librarians and booksellers, and then at 5:30 the Literacy for Life Booksigning began. And that's where I'll start on Monday....

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Seriously? Again?

You know, I don't know if it's because I just spent a week with the most amazing, thoughtful, passionate writers in the world or what, but seeing today's article in the Telegraph really got my goat. There have been a few such articles lately and I have sighed in disgust and moved on. But today it's annoying me more than usual. And I think it's because, well, the facts are just WRONG. And therefore not facts at all. The article (or rather the report it is based on) is a fiction all on its own.

"Far from being a slice of innocent escapism for millions of female readers, romantic novels are a danger to relationships and sexual health. That is the verdict of an article in the Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care." Really. A story about two flawed people finding - and accepting each other - and falling in love and entering into a committed relationship is a danger to relationships. Having sex based on love is a bad idea apparently. As opposed to having sex just because it feels good or for whatever other reasons people have sex these days. I wouldn't be up to date, apparently I am the exception to the rule because as a long time reader - and writer - of Mills and Boon novels, I've been with the same man for 20 years. As you can see it's been horribly damaging to my relationships. And yes - my tongue is very firmly in cheek, just in case you missed it.

"the values of romantic fiction "run totally counter to the [messages] we try to promote"

What values, pray tell, are you TRYING to promote? I write Mills and Boon novels. My characters are adults who know how to think and make decisions for themselves. They use protection. Sometimes that protection fails - just like in real life, by the way. My characters have to deal with consequences and sometimes they are heart breaking. Sex is never easy, and if it is, the consequences never are. Because there are emotions involved. Just like real life.

"We warn of the stresses of pregnancy and child-rearing, and we discourage relentless baby-making as proof of a relationship's strength. Above all, we teach that sex may be wonderful and relationships loving, but neither are ever perfect and idealising them is the short way to heartbreak. But are our lessons falling on deaf ears when compared to the values of the Regency heroine gazing adoringly across the Assembly Rooms to catch a glimpse of her man?"

And this is the part where I say, FOR REALS? And now I know that this person has never read a Mills and Boon novel - especially one published in, I don't know, the last DECADE? I can't think of ANY M&B book with "relentless baby making" (that actually made me snortle) and my current book out now has a single mom and if you want the stress of child rearing, this is it. The whole heroine situation was based on my own worries about what would happen if I were suddenly left alone to raise my kids. As far as the Regency heroine gazing adoringly across the Assembly rooms....since the beginning of time girls have been gazing adoringly at boys across rooms/the Garden of Eden. It's called attraction. *facepalm* Surely anyone reading a romance novel relates to that breathless feeling of seeing that certain someone and wondering if he'll ask you to dance. And there is not a darn thing wrong with that.

Women who read romance novels can "suspend rationality" in favour of romanticism, Miss Quilliam said, including "not using protection with a new man because she wants to be swept up by the moment as a heroine would" or being persuaded to give up contraception a few months into a relationship.

"It might mean terminating a pregnancy (or continuing with one) against all her moral codes because that same man asks her to... or judging that if romance has died then so has love, and that rather than working at her relationship she should be hitching her star to a new romance."

Living the life of a romantic heroine can also have serious sexual health implications, Miss Quilliam said. "To be blunt, we [sexual health professionals] like condoms - for protection and for contraception - and they don't."

Well, congratulations on insulting the vast majority of women out there who can actually tell the difference between reading a book and living life. Because we read romance novels apparently we lose all sense, morality, and judgment. (Tongue in cheek again). Miss Quilliam needs to read more. She might find a LOT of condoms in M&B novels. She might even find characters ABSTAINING. Waiting because they are not ready. Because they are unsure. She might find a marriage in jeopardy being worked out rather than "hitching her star to a new romance". Goodness, even a heroine "swept up in the moment" knows enough to ask if the hero if he has protection, or, more importantly, have it herself. Because women - and heroines - know that it's important to look after their own sexual health rather than leave it all up to their partners. And blaming terminating a pregnancy because the partner demands it? I think my jaw dropped reading that. Today's heroines are strong, independent women who would make that choice on her own and refuse to have it dictated to her. And then - just like in real life - she'd have to deal with the fallout no matter what decision she made. M&B publish an astounding number of books a year, and I haven't read each and every one, but I'd like to know WHICH book prompted this assumption. I can't recall a single one where the heroine has been "forced" to terminate a pregnancy.

The M&B spokesperson was absolutely right - the novels are meant to REFLECT reality and not provide a manual for life. Maybe there's a fantasy element involved BUT the reason why they are so popular is because those characters have real emotions and problems and have to overcome them - that's why they are relatable, sympathetic heroes and heroines (and every romance writer I know is nodding their head right now because we all know that sympathetic characters are the basis for any novel!). They are also right in that the readers are smart. I have never heard a reader say, "Well, the characters in xxxx did it, so I thought it would be a good idea and it destroyed my relationship/got me pregnant/gave me an STD."

Romance novels are perhaps the ONE form of entertainment where the emphasis is on LOVE and COMMITTED RELATIONSHIPS and not the relentless barrage of sexual images we see on television other forms of media. Watch a music video sometime. Then read a Mills and Boon.

And I think that ends the rant portion of my day. :-)

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Catching up and France

Part of catching up after conference is realizing that along with a release I need to send a newsletter. Well, it's just been sent, and so now I need to announce the Summer Contest!  Here goes:

My summer contest is for a prize pack with a retail value of nearly $100!

The winner will get a tote bag filled with goodies: a Donna Alward mug, notebook, magnet, keychain and pen; signed copies of my 4 2011 Harlequin Romances - PROUD RANCHER, PRECIOUS BUNDLE, HONEYMOON WITH THE RANCHER, A FAMILY FOR THE RUGGED RANCHER, and HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART, an ARC of my upcoming Samhain print release BREATHE, and a Samhain gift card valued at a free book ($5.50).

To enter, e-mail me at donnaalward@hotmail.com with the subject line of Summer Contest and tell me the name of the series of my October Samhain Publishing release. Good luck!

Also - I found out that PROUD RANCHER, PRECIOUS BUNDLE is out in France this month - hooray! Lovely!

At some point I will actually post stuff from RWA Nationals. For now, you can catch some of the pics over at my Facebook fan page. Here's my favourite so far...a totally candid shot taken by Fiona Harper, but it really sums up the whole conference experience for me. The other person is Jenna Bayley-Burke, my fellow Pink Heart Society editor, and we're waiting to go into the ballroom for the Harlequin Black and White Ball. :-)

Ok, one MORE great thing....

I forgot until someone else tweeted it - today is the official North American release day for A FAMILY FOR THE RUGGED RANCHER! Wooo!

I really loved this book and am so excited to have it on the shelves!

I've also had to start a list because I suddenly have several jobs that need doing!

Anyway, happy release day to me. I'm celebrating by going for a swim in the pool this afternoon!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Two wonderful things

I'm back and this coming week I'll be chatting about some of the exciting things that happened while in New York. But tonight I'm exhausted, I have some editing to do before going to bed and BELIEVE ME I need sleep. So I'll leave you with two of the big highlights.

The first "official" night of conference included the Literacy Signing (crazy!) and the Bookseller's Best Awards. I'm thrilled that HER LONE COWBOY won the Traditional Category...and it was made extra special because my editor, Sally Williamson, my Sr. Editor Bryony Green and Historicals Sr. Editor Linda Fildew were there too and got to share in the evening. After the ceremony Sally, Bryony and I went up to The View - the revolving bar/restaurant for a celebratory drinkie. Huzzah!



And yesterday my niece, Beth, married her Prince Charming, Ryan. Y'all, she stood in the door of the church and there was a collective gasp. And then a mass reaching for tissues. They are young and in love and a wonderful example of how commitment should be - they set an example even to those who are old hands at this marriage thing (like us). It was beautiful.  In the words of my wise daughter: You know he really loves her because of the way he looks at her.


Too right, sweetheart. Congrats to Ryan and Beth!