Friday, September 30, 2011

Something new...

Are any of you watching new shows this year? We've started watching a few, which is kind of fun as by 9 p.m. both of us are ready to kick back and veg. So far we're still watching the faves of Castle and the NCIS's, and also The Big Bang Theory. But we've begun watching 2 more "cop" shows that are a little bit different - Unforgettable with Poppy Montgomery and Person of Interest with Jim Caviezel.

I was particularly happy to see Jim Caviezel hit the small screen. Person of Interest is a different show and after the first episode I wasn't quite sure what to think about Mr. Finch. But after watching the second show I realize we're going to see the layers of Finch bit by bit (as opposed to knowing more about John Reese from the get go).

What really struck me last night though was finally getting the proper hero casting for my new novella, IN THE LINE OF DUTY. I've been struggling with getting this just right for a while. Ben Rogers is older than the heroine and more experienced. He's a former cop who now does personal security. He's also the one person the heroine, Kendra Givens, trusts when her career is on the brink of destruction.

It just works, at least in my head. So happy Friday - here's a glimpse of my hero casting. :-)





Thursday, September 29, 2011

Housekeeping

Still feeling kind of meh here, boy this is a bug who moved in and made itself at home despite sleep, meds, and vitamins. :-) Another day or two should set it to rights - my eldest is feeling much better now so five days seems to be the trick.

So I'm doing housekeeping tasks today - some promo stuff coming up in October to mark my 2-release month, and another request for info, and dealing with some interesting e-mails that mean some fun things for next year's schedule. I've also started work on a novella as I wait for my editor's verdict on the book that just went in. Fingers hugely crossed.

What do I REALLY want to be doing? Finishing THE DUKE AND I by Julia Quinn. I love it. Tortured hero, spunky heroine, scandal and a deliciously wonderfully drawn family...I'm going to end up glomming the whole Bridgerton series, I bet.

Like my TBR isn't big enough already.

Speaking of - you can find me over at The Pink Heart Society today with my Pink Heart Picks review of THE HEART OF A HERO by Barbara Wallace. Fab book. Seriously great. And I also announced what I'm reading in October, so check it out.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Secrets Uncovered

If you're thinking of entering the New Voices competition, or even if you're simply working on writing a romance and want some great tips, Mills and Boon have a free e-book available now called Secrets Uncovered. It's full of tips from the editors and several Mills and Boon authors. There's even a bit from Fiona Harper and me - condensed from our workshop we did in New York in June.

You can download it on the Mills and Boon site - just scroll to the bottom of this page and look at the right sidebar. It's in epub format, by the way.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Positivity

I'm medicated and thankfully no longer feverish, and taking a break from edits so I thought I'd post a quick blog while I contemplate whether I want tasteless soup for lunch or tasteless toast (Everything is pretty much tasteless at this point, sadly).

We were watching the Big Bang Theory reruns last night and Leonard told Sheldon that he'd catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Sheldon's response was, "Well you'd catch more flies with manure, what's your point?"

I've used the flies with honey comment lots over the years. If you look at trying to motivate people, it's far better to be positive and upbeat and encouraging rather than negative. If you're a boss, it's the difference between people resentfully working for you/being scared of you and people WANTING to work for you.

I try to be positive. I try to be easy to work with. I'm sure there are times I am not - I'm human after all. I get tired and frustrated and annoyed like anyone else. But on the whole, I try to stay upbeat and take the attitude that everything will work out. Maybe I do it because the concept of it NOT working out is too scary to contemplate. But I think I do it because being negative is a waste of energy. Being negative means you're only moving backwards, not forwards.

That's not to say you shouldn't stand up for yourself. Being easy to work with doesn't mean being a doormat, either. It means you pick your battles. It means you have to analyze what is really worth taking a stand about and what is just...annoying. It means you take care of business but you do it with a smile.

And before you know it, that positive attitude nurtures positive relationships. I'm a writer, so the positive relationships I want to nurture are the ones with my editor, my agent, my readers, other authors, and anyone I work with at my publishers. I try to bring enthusiasm to my work. I strive to be on time and reliable. And I work at communicating in a positive way so that if I DO run into snags, everyone is in a happy frame of mind to come up with a solution.

I also think that positive energy is catching. There's nothing worse than going into a room and asking someone how they are and you get a "meh," and a laundry list of how much their life sucks. It takes all the positive energy out of the room. Negativity is EXHAUSTING.

Of course I'm not positive all the time. As I said, I'm human. But I do believe in catching flies with honey. I do believe that if you're positive and flexible and easy to get along with, opportunities will come your way. I do believe that if you view things as a series of opportunities rather than roadblocks, that's what you'll get.

My short blog post turned into something kind of long, but positivity is something I really believe in.

Monday, September 26, 2011

It never fails

It never fails - the moment a book is done and I relax, I get sick. This time I can sorta blame my eldest, who got up Saturday morning feeling like crap with a virus. Neither of my kids are nappers, especially at this age, so for her to go back to bed and sleep for another few hours, and then fall asleep again in the afternoon, it's a significant thing.

I got up this morning with my throat feeling like I'm swallowing glass and no get up and go whatsoever. I've been up for nearly 3 hours already; I really should eat something and nothing sounds appealing. So ugh. Thank God the book is written, because at least now I'm down to editing and I do feel a lot less pressure than I did on Friday. Friday, by the way, was a crazy writing day. But the closer I got to the last scene or two the more I knew I couldn't stop until it was all there. Endings are like that. :-)

Eldest, at least, is at school, with mostly a little head congestion but all other symptoms gone.

Now I'm off to hang out laundry - despite having this bug the weather here is like summer - sunny and supposed to go to 25 today. And then maybe I'll put something in my stomach other than throat lozenges and coffee...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Quickie

There are groceries in the house. All curriculum nights are done. It's FRIDAY and I'm *this* close to the end - well, within 5k or so. I want to finish, and I have already warned the husband that I will probably work tomorrow if I don't finish today because leaving a book over the weekend with ONE scene to write will drive me crazy. When I get this close to the end - so close I can taste it - I pretty much eat, sleep and breathe the book.  Every time. And since there is nothing going on this weekend other than the normal clean/cook/laundry routine, I may just lock myself away for a few hours and pound out those last satisfying pages.

And then next week I can work on layering things together, knitting up motivational and conflict threads, cutting repetition, and hoping for the best.

Before I run, I do have 2 smilies - okay, 3 really - to share. First of all a neighbour toddler who is adorable makes me smile every day at the bus stop. He gets so excited to see the bus and watches his brother get on. Then when everyone goes their separate ways, he offers a cheery "Bye!" about a half dozen times. You can't help but smile. Then during the dog walk, I saw the cutest little girl - less than 3, I'd guess, retrieving the paper at the bottom of her driveway in her little blue undies and flip flops. That made me smile.

And finally, since yesterday was grocery day, yesterday's lunches were a little "thin" so I gave the eldest $2 to buy some fruit or yogurt at the cafeteria to go with what I'd packed. This morning when I got home from walking, there was 75 cents in change on my desk and a note that said, "Change from the toonie you gave me yesterday. Thanks. Love you. :-) ".

How can you not smile after all that?

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pinpoints of light in a crazy week!

I love back to school. I love having my office to myself all day long and only needing to feed ME at lunchtime and the quiet of this time of year which is only interrupted by crickets, the dog snoring, and the cat chasing a housefly.

That being said, the beginning of the school year does tend to be a bit...hectic. This week there have been some "housekeeping" things with school that are taking some time - school pictures came back for one kid, hot lunch orders came home, last night was Curriculum Night at the eldest's school and tonight it is at the youngest's. Monday the youngest started a district choir which meant a parent meeting, tonight the eldest begins badminton club, and we have a science project due tomorrow which required a shopping trip earlier in the week and will require about 15 min of help on my part this afternoon.

And I'm into the last 10,000 words of my book due...end of next week. It has been INTENSE around here people - and that's not even mentioning that I was gone most of last weekend to a workshop and the fact that we're basically down to one vehicle because the husband is working on getting mine back into shape - in between teaching, prepping, and marking tests.

I am SO glad we started making wine.

Anyway it's actually been quite fine, with just a few moments of panic cropping up here and there. I've been making tremendous strides on word count, kept up with the laundry, kept people fed and watered, and even had time to enter the RITAs yesterday and socialize a bit on twitter for the sake of my sanity.

And the pinpoints of light? Well, thanks to my October book being up on NetGalley, I've gotten a few more reviews than usual and for the most part they've been great. This book is one of those "special" books - I'd wanted to write a cancer survivor story for a while, and I'd also been looking for the right girl for Clay Gregory for a long time too. I loved returning to my Larch Valley setting.

So here are a few snippets from the latest reviews to come through! It's only a few more weeks until release day in North America, and it'll be out in November in Australia! Unfortunately those in the UK will have to wait until March to pick it up, unless you snag the NA edition in e-book. :-)

From BookWorldTravels (4 stars) : "a story so full of emotion and one so beautifully written that I couldn’t help but fall in love with the characters and the author’s writing."

Cataromance.com (5 stars!) : "Keep your hanky close, Donna Alward works her story telling magic to tug at our heartstrings with HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART."

Siren Song Reviews (5 stars!) "Alward writes consistently beautiful romance novels and How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart is no exception – make this one for your keeper shelf."

Judging The Book By Its Pages (4 fairies) : "...a heartfilled story filled with the struggles that many woman go through on a daily basis."

Maldivian Book Reviewer : "Light hearted and fluffy is certainly not what this romance is about, but engrossing and a good deal of emotion it certainly delivers and I would recommend this one for fans of Donna Alward."





Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Unpredictability, and a word about feedback (or two)

So I mentioned in yesterday's post that Senior Exec Editor Birgit Davis-Todd visited our chapter on the weekend and gave us a gold mine of tips and info about this crazy business. One of the buzzwords many of us heard in New York at the RWA National Conference was UNPREDICTABILITY. So one of the questions put to Birgit was what is unpredictability and why is it so important?

As I've been reading through the New Voices entries, I've seen several chapters that are "by the book" so to speak. There are reasons why tried and true hooks work. But at the same time, it's quite obvious when you read other chapters and see how the author has taken the tried and true hook and twisted it with something special and different to, well, make it stand out. They do something unpredictable, and that is what editors love and will tell you makes a story fresh and innovative. Oh yes - in addition to unpredictability, there's also an editorial saying that goes "Innovate, don't imitate".

There is absolutely nothing wrong with writing a marriage of convenience, secret baby, runaway bride, marriage in jeopardy story. It's what you do with it that matters. A few years ago in Washington at Nationals, editors Joanne Grant and Kim Young did a presentation on Cliches. As they were going through their slides, I had a sinking feeling those cliches sounded familiar. Why? Because I think I'd done seven out of the ten of them. BUT the difference is - and they did point this out - is that when you take a cliche and twist it and add something different and fresh, it works. It's all in the execution (Speaking of cliches...I seem to be full of them today).

So getting back to Birgit's talk - she mentioned several books that twisted the usual themes and made the books unpredictable. I wrote down 3, because the authors happen to be personal friends of mine and I was super-pleased to hear them mentioned. I'll give you a basic reason why each was unpredictable, too.

Claimed By The Highland Warrior: Michelle Willingham, Historicals: Marriage in jeopardy story. The hero and heroine have been separated by circumstance without consummating their marriage. When they reconnect, he's still a virgin. She isn't.

Molly Cooper's Dream Date: Barbara Hannay, Romance: Very current with the addition of texting and e-mail and using social media and a romantic medium.

Surf, Sea, and a Sexy Stranger: Heidi Rice, RIVA/Presents: Hero is not your typical Presents Alpha with an abundance of sexual prowess. In fact, he's got impotence issues.

Even when I sold - more than 5 years ago now - I was told that one of the reasons Hired By The Cowboy worked was because I took a secret baby and marriage of convenience story and twisted it (the baby is not the hero's).  If you care to read it as an example of taking a stock theme and making it your own, you can download it for free at www.tryharlequin.com.

Anyway, as you're writing, keep in mind ways you can twist your plot/theme to make it different and stand out. It can be scary - heck yes! Taking risks is always a little scary because sometimes they work and sometimes they don't. BUT taking risks is important, too. My first HQ editor once told me, it's far better to take risks and have editorial pull you back than write something unspecial and predictable.

Now - a quick word or two about feedback. I KNOW all you entrants in New Voices are hungry for comments and excited or discouraged. Boy do I get it - for those of us published that stuff comes in the form of reviews. And you can get 20 wonderful comments but it's the one bad one that sticks in your head and makes the self-doubt demons come out to play. I get it - I've had some absolutely wonderful reviews for my October book BUT I had one recently that wasn't so great and it is the one that is sticking in my mind, of course.

But at the end of the day, you need to do one thing. You need to shut out the voices. You need to forget the comments, forget the reviews, and tell your story.  So many people are stressing over comments and ratings and forgetting to do the most important thing - work on getting your chapter two finished and polished. And if you're truly serious about pursuing publication - finishing the book. This contest is wonderful but in 2 months it'll be over. Look at the big picture. Look at where you want to go. Stop sweating the small stuff, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. And have fun.

For more about that, you should read the fabulous Kate Walker's Pink Heart Society blog about worrying about the right things.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Fab weekend and using the knife

This past weekend was a busy one - we had Harlequin Senior Executive Editor Birgit Davis-Todd in town to speak to our chapter and it was a wonderful day! We kicked it off with dinner at Ela on Friday night - yummy Greek food and lots of fab conversation. Then on Saturday we got together at the Future Inn where we'd booked meeting rooms for the day.

The sessions were fabulous as Birgit talked about compelling submissions, career management and Harlequin's role in a digital world. After lunch Birgit spent the afternoon taking pitches from our members while those in the queue did writing exercises in the main meeting room. I was on stopwatch duty to make sure we stayed on schedule. It was all hugely exciting and the energy in the air was incredible. We have a fantastic chapter here, and I was really proud of everyone who was brave enough to walk into that room. It's not easy but it's good experience and everyone seemed thrilled with the feedback and advice they received.

After the session a few of us stopped in the bar and had a quick drink with Birgit before going on our way. I finally confessed something that had been weighing on me for a few days - that the part of my WIP that I was writing didn't feel right and that I was feeling rather insecure about it. Saying it out loud helped. So did knowing that if it isn't right my editor will tell me and we'll fix it. Anyway, I was driving home when the solution hit me.

On one hand this is really exciting. It felt RIGHT. On the other hand it's disheartening as it means deleting a really big chunk - like over 4000 words worth. On a tight deadline this sucks. I was so happy that I'd hit the 35k mark. Now I'm back to just under 31k.

But if it's not right, it's not right. And actually, this works better because the replacement words will mark a big turning point and set up the last 1/3-1/4 of the book. It will put the focus back in the right place - on the romantic journey and the character arcs of Ty and Clara.

At the same time...OUCH. It still stings.

So now it's off to turn on the crock pot, start the washing machine and get set up for my first #1k1hr of the day. Here goes nothing...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Reads Roundup!

The last time I did a #FridayReads was ages ago, so here's what I read over the summer! I've stopped the reviews at the end of August, so next week we'll see what I've read since the first of September! Here we go:

THEN COMES SEDUCTION: Mary Balogh. A good read, but I didn't enjoy it was much as the first book in the series (First Comes Marriage). I did love the ending though and how Clarrie got his comeuppance. :-)

AT LAST COMES LOVE: Mary Balogh. The third in the Huxtables family series - this time Margaret's story. I REALLY enjoyed this one. I loved how Duncan was "not handsome" at all when she first met him but as bit by bit she gets to know him, tells him that he is beautiful. The "unwrapping" of Duncan's character is beautifully done and well-paced so that at the end you can't help but absolutely love him.

SEDUCING AN ANGEL: Mary Balogh. Book 4 in the Huxtable Series and very good! At first the heroine, Cassandra, doesn't seem very sympathetic, but the author does a good job of showing the "other" side of Cass - the one who will do anything to protect her "family". Stephen notices that her house, while slightly shabby, is a home with love and acceptance.

I love Stephen. Was he flawed? Perhaps slightly. But really, Balogh kept him fairly perfect and built the conflict around it. Stephen is optimistic, honourable, handsome, does the right thing. Doing the right thing is what causes problems a good part of the time, and he forces Cassandra to shed her mask by just being himself.

The scene before the betrothal ball was swoonworthy!

A SECRET AFFAIR: Mary Balogh.  The 5th and final Huxtable book.I really didn't think I was going to like this book. I was pretty sure I didn't like the heroine at the beginning and that's a big deal, right? My impression of the Duchess of Dunbarton was the same as that of the ton. I did not think much of her at all and certainly not deserving of Constantine.

I understand WHY it was written in such a way - so the reader could change impressions just as the rest of Hannah's (the Duchess) world did. BUT personally I would have been on side with her faster IF the good parts had been easier to see in private. There is a big difference between what other characters need to know and what readers need to know.

HOWEVER. Once the walls around Hannah start tumbling down, I ADORED her. AND Constantine was just....gah. Constantine made me cry in SEVERAL PLACES. Particularly in a crucial scene that did not even involve Hannah. And again at the end.

The tougher they are, the harder they fall - and Constantine fell big time. It was glorious. Who knew someone referred to as The Devil could be such a romantic and soft touch?

I've given it 4 stars rather than 5 simply because of the opening. I'm really glad I read the whole series and apparently there is a new series on the way...

SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS: Dave King and Renni Browne. I really didn't need to read this - because my CP has. She told me that a lot of it would be stuff I already knew and she was right. She's been critiquing me for years using a lot of the terminology in this book - like talking about beats, RUE (resist the urge to explain) and 1+1=1/2.

I'm not sorry I read it, but it was more reinforcing things than lightbulbs going off. That being said, the first chapter on Show Don't Tell and the last chapter on Voice were really worth reading and I think all beginning writers should read them.

WE ARE NOT ALONE: THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA: Kristen Lamb. Read this on the recommendation of my CP, Michelle Styles. There were some real gems of info that I highlighted to "organize" my strategy (I read this on my kindle for PC. Love the highlight and notes thing). There are also a lot of basics that I agree authors need to do to kickstart their presence.

But I did have issues with some of the info. The assertion that Myspace isn't dead is perhaps true, but the stats (60 million users) are from March 2010 - a year and a half ago. And I also wondered if the 60 million users are active users or have left and just not deleted their profiles. I may rejuvenate my myspace profile, but I'm not sold that it's as great as Lamb has made it out to be.

Another example is tweetdeck being used to manage twitter. I used tweetdeck. After a lot of frustration I switched to hootsuite which I like so much better. But Lamb never mentions hootsuite. It seemed that she mentioned the utilities that she personally uses rather than presenting other options.

She also mentions going to where the readers are and finding groups - but then fails to mention reader communities like goodreads or shelfari, etc. I know about these places but someone new may not. I've also had the benefit of several digital online workshops courtesy of Harlequin's team that other authors may not. It makes a difference, and since the book spends a considerable amount of time on HOW to set up profiles, it presumes that people are reading it who are not overly savvy.

That's not to say it's not a worthwhile read. It is. As Michelle says - for the cost of a latte it's good information (especially the strategy part for me). But I tend to look at it like I look at all advice - you take what works for you and leave the rest.

PROMISE CANYON: Robyn Carr. Part of the Virgin River Series. I really enjoyed this book! Clay and Lilly are great characters, and while I haven't read books leading up to this one, I never got confused with characters etc. who were part of this long-standing series. That is really tricky to do in a series built around a town and cast, so well done! I even had a little stinging in my eyes at the end which took me by surprise. I also wondered the importance of secondary plots as they seemed so unrelated to the core story, but in the end it all really did tie in together. It was lovely.

The only thing I noticed occasionally was when the author wanted to make sure that the reader understood certain terminology, and kind of jumped in to TELL it. One instance was explaining what colic is - it read like an author inserting a definition rather than flowing within the dialogue or emotional beats of the story.

But that's a minor thing and I have 2 other of Robyn's books on my TBR - and I'll be digging them out soon. :-)

THE BABY PROJECT: Susan Meier. It's been a little while since I read a book by Susan - the last I read was the Christmas duet she did with Barbara Wallace. I loved this book. I knew a bit about it as Susan and I share an editor AND I knew she'd picked some tough conflict for her heroine.
But she handled it so well it was a marvel. A true lesson in how to have a heroine face a tough conflict and STILL be proactive and sympathetic! I read it with awe as I've been dealing with handling my own heroine in my WIP....

The hero was lovely and she totally did a great set up to the next 2 stories in the trilogy without letting Darius's brothers take up too much story time.

And the attraction literally dripped from the pages even though the characters never take it all the way...

Thanks Susan for a fab read - all your hard work and hair pulling was SO worth it!

MAPS AND LEGENDS: READING AND WRITING ALONG THE BORDERLANDS: Michael Chabon. The back cover says "Maps and Legends is a love song in 16 parts - a series of linked essays in praise of reading and writing...Chabon energetically argues for a return to the thrilling, chilling origins of storytelling, rejecting the false walls around "serious" literature in favour of a wide-ranging affection...written with characteristic verve and wit."

I had to skim the last 100 pages because the word that comes to mind is "laborious". For a book rejecting false walls around 'serious' literature, this was seriously literary only without a compelling plot to pull me along and an entertainment factor of 0. And while I realize this is NON fiction, I also think that a writer's voice has to have something in it to connect to the reader. I had zip.

IMO, do yourself a favour and read Stephen King's ON WRITING instead.

SOLDIER ON HER DOORSTEP: Soraya Lane. This is the debut from Romance newcomer Soraya Lane. It's a lovely, heart-rending story of a soldier-come-home, his friend's widow, and a very special little girl. I zoomed through the last 50 pages and loved the scene with William's parents especially, wiping a tear from my eye.

The setting is both spectacular and different and it is a fantastic launch to what I'm sure is going to be a wonderful career.




Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pre-Order

It's only a few weeks until the release of my novella, OFF THE CLOCK, and so I should mention that you can pre-order it so that it's delivered to your device on release day (Oct. 4).

You can pre-order it at the Samhain site, or you can pre-order it from Amazon and have it delivered to your kindle.

Right now I'm swamped work-wise - with copy edits to finish up, a deadline, a special event weekend and trying to keep up with the fabulous New Voices entries. So I'm blasting off to tackle some jobs - how did it get to be Thursday already, anyway? Tomorrow I hope to be back with a #Fridayreads round-up - I haven't done one of those in a while.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Inside Romance

So the THIRD piece of good news I had this week came in the mail box. As many of you know, Harlequin puts out a newsletter called INSIDE ROMANCE every quarter. It highlights new series, special projects, and some of the upcoming books as well as listing all the category releases during those months in the back. It's fab.

So the great news for me is that my October book, HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART, is spotlighted as the October Classic Bestselling Author. Which gave me a whole lot of squee in case you didn't notice. :-)  Isn't the page pretty? The cover is stunning - I love it! I can't wait for this one to come out. I've got some great release stuff going on here at the blog in October as well.

Anyway I thought it was lovely. You can view INSIDE ROMANCE on eharlequin. Right now it's still the summer edition (and the linked page also has a thingy about my July book and a link to my free online read at eharlequin). I'm sure the fall edition will be online soon, and it should also turn up at the Harlequin display racks of your local bookstore.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New Voices is LIVE!

Today is September 13 which means that the Mills and Boon NEW VOICES competition is now live and writers can upload their first chapter. Readers can rate and comment, and an editoral team will select 20 finalists to go on to the next round.

I mentioned last week that those 20 finalists will each be given an author mentor and editor to help them through the next round(s) and that brings me to the second piece of good news that I've been sitting on for MONTHS - I'm honoured to be one of the author mentors for the competition! (I found out last spring and was sworn to secrecy.) I'll be helping one of the finalists polish up their second chapter and then hopefully a pivotal moment as well (for the top 4).

You can read the first entries, the mentor bios, and also hear from the editors involved as they chat about the competition and give a little bit of info about the authors on their team. You can find a little about me by watching Carly Corcoran's video.

It's all very exciting! I've already read a few really great entries! The judges are going to have quite a job on their hands! There will also be some top tips on the site as the first round continues, and I'm guessing those blog posts are going to be really fab even if you're not entering.

Now...word count waits for no man - or contest. Time to get to work!

Monday, September 12, 2011

HIRED BY THE COWBOY for FREE!

After lots of anxious waiting....I can now tell you that my debut Romance, HIRED BY THE COWBOY, is now a free read at www.TryHarlequin.com!!!!!!!!

All you have to do is scroll through the titles, click on the cover, and you'll be taken to the download screen. It's in PDF, but it should show up at places like amazon etc. in other formats as well.

Just a note too - the blurb that accompanies it is incorrect, but I've sent a note off to my editor about it. I did download it and it IS the right book, so never fear! This is the book that won the Bookseller's Best Award for Best Traditional Romance in 2008.

I have more news to share tomorrow, but since I'm in dreadline mode, I intend to keep the glow going by spreading out the good stuff as much as I can. LOL.

Now back to the word count...made myself cry this morning which is usually a good sign.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Gearing up for New Voices?

Four days remain until the big kick off of the Mills and Boon New Voices competition. Last year Leah Ashton won and joined the ranks of the Harlequin Romance line (and we're thrilled to have her!). I got to meet Leah in New York this summer and she's absolutely lovely. Not only that, two other authors have been bought as a result of the competition: Lucy Ellis and Louisa George! (Interesting how all three start with the letter L!)

It's a fun, crazy, whirlwind time that was hugely successful last year, and this year is geared up to be even better. Jodie Prenger is the celebrity judge for this year, as well as a judging team from Mills and Boon. 20 first chapters will be selected based on criteria of voice, content, and overall writing skills.

Each finalist will be assigned an author mentor and an editor to help them through the next stage(s) of the competition. Cool, huh? Those 20 finalists will then upload a second chapter, and then the field is narrowed to 4 finalists who will be invited to upload a "pivotal" moment, and then narrowed to the final winner. The prize? A publishing contract!

Rather than put all the Terms and Regulations here, you can read them on www.romanceisnotdead.com . The site is going to be updated soon with tons of new info. And please note - while the competition begins on September 13, you have until October 10 to upload your first chapter.

I thought it would be fun to give a bit of advice to those who are entering or perhaps sitting on the fence wondering if they should enter.

  • Some people have wondered if it is worth it. Last year there were over 800 entries.  Well, M&B receives thousands of queries every year. The truth is - good stories are good stories no matter how big the field. Someone has to win it. Why not you? What do you have to lose? Nothing! You stand to gain at the very least knowledge from the experience. At best a publishing contract. If you're vascillating, don't. You can't worry about someone else's story - just your own.

  • Watch the rules and guidelines, but don't sweat the small stuff. I know it's easy to panic about if your formatting gets screwed up, or you forgot quotation marks somewhere, or stressing about word count. What is REALLY important is STORY. So - as long as you've accounted for under 10,000 words for all THREE stages, don't worry about length of chapter one. And as long as you proofread, you'll be fine (though please do proofread. It sometimes is glaringly apparent who hasn't). Last year's winner had her formatting mess up. It was not the end of the world. She did win, right?  

  • When it comes to chapter one, a common mistake I see is too much set up. So much time is spent explaining who the characters are and what led them to where they are. But you want to engage the reader in the story right away so throw your characters right into the action. Don't show your heroine going somewhere (like on a bus or a train or driving in her car). Put her at the destination. If the hero is there messing things up, so much the better. Give them an immediate problem. For example, if the heroine is going to a party and she shows up half an hour late, put her at the door or on the steps. Tell the reader why being late throws a monkey wrench into EVERYTHING. Throw in a hero who complicates the whole works and we've got action and sizzle.

  • Make sure the hero also has a problem to solve. He needs to have his own conflict too. So if showing up half an hour late is problematic for the heroine, show how it's effecting the hero, too. If she's the baker bringing the cake and she's lost the engagement ring that's supposed to be cushioned in the buttercream, show how losing the ring is the worst thing that could happen to the hero. What's his deal? Maybe he's the potential groom's brother or best friend, in charge of ordering the cake and making sure the family heirloom ring is in place.

  • And finally - dig deep. What I've described thus far is only the hook - it's not really the conflict. The conflict is the deep down WHY - the characters' deepest desires and goals and why the other person is the worst - and best - person to make it happen. It's the heart and not the head. Maybe your heroine's goal is to be a high end pastry chef or baker to the rich and famous. But why? Perhaps she is determined to be independent so she doesn't have to rely on anyone. Who did she rely on in the past and how did they let her down? How has she decided not to ever let that happen again? How does the hero threaten that? Clearly the heroine would have to learn that sometimes it's okay to trust someone - to rely on someone - to trust LOVE, right? But you have to get to the root of that emotion and insecurity. THAT is your conflict. And the same for your hero. Why is it so important to do this job right? Does he want to marry his younger brother off so there is less pressure on him to keep the family line going? Why is he so determined not to get married (again?). What secret desires does he have and how does the heroine turn it on its head?

That's what's going to make your entry come alive. Sparkling characters launched right into the action.

If you haven't already, check out Liz Fielding's latest blog post. It has some great succinct info for crafting that first chapter. And beginning next week, there will be loads more information and advice for entrants on polishing up those chapters! Just keep checking www.romanceisnotdead.com and also join in the chatter at the New Voices Facebook page.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Hodge Podge

Today is a hodge podge post - I'm taking a few minutes to blog while I'm waiting for my lunch to cook. I've already managed about 1500 words this morning, so I'm taking a break to shake out the cobwebs before getting back to the story - another 1000 words would make me really happy and on track to hit the 25k mark tomorrow.

I spent the first 2 days this week working on the first 3 and a half chapters again. I was seriously put out with my heroine. She was driving me crazy. Because of her backstory, she's sweet and has ISSUES. Problem was the issues were too much. She was not proactive, but reacting to everything. I didn't like her very much. I didn't see her taking control of situations. Ugh Ugh Ugh.

So I had to go through and sort of put her in a different mind space. It wasn't always easy. Sometimes, though, a simple change to body language helped. It also helped to actually come out and state what her goal is - independence. I also had to shift the why and how she feels afraid. Once I figured it out, it was a lot easier than reading through and just thinking Ugh Ugh Ugh. LOL Now I'm writing new scenes and really loving it. Ty is such a great hero.

News that totally jazzed me yesterday: Scott Foley is joining the cast of True Blood!!!!!!!!!!!! Huzzah! Made me want to break out my UNIT dvd's.

It's also only a few weeks until premieres of my go-to shows of CASTLE and the NCIS's. And the dh and I found another series we LOVE (but man, the epis seem to be taking a long time to air!). We're watching STRIKE BACK and I have a serious thing for Philip Winchester.


Being back in a regular schedule has been good too. I finally got my eating back on track, and the workouts too. After a few weeks of craziness and little workout time, my body was feeling it. After 3 days of being back in the saddle, I feel better already. I'm on my last week of P90X, then I'm going to take one week of easier workouts before doing my second round.

I did try an old workout dvd the other day and after 10 minutes I had to shut it off. I couldn't stand the woman leading the session. I do think the Beachbody products have spoiled me for other programs. I like Tony's chatter and wacky sense of humour even if it is corny at times. Even in an hour long workout I'm not bored. I also discovered that I'm far more about muscles and fitness than weight loss. When I look at celebrities it's rarely the thinnest, graceful types that I find most attractive but those in the best shape. I kind of like the kick ass girls too. So Rutina Wesley in True Blood, Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck (her decline pushups jazz me to no end), and Daniela Ruah in NCIS LA (though I can't do anything about the height. That girl has legs to her neck). For me it's strong strong strong.  That's what makes me feel good!

And the toaster oven just dinged, which means my chicken breast is ready to put on top of a yummy salad for lunch! Then another writing session, and on to Kenpo X to burn some goo.

Have a good'un - I'm doing fine organizing my time so far but as deadline draws closer, the blog could get quieter! I do find that focusing for chunks of time is working great for productivity.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Goodreads Giveaway for HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART




Goodreads Book Giveaway





How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart by Donna Alward



How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart


by Donna Alward



Giveaway ends October 04, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.




Enter to win


Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Back to school, and new reviews

Today it is back to school for the whole family - the kids, their dad is back teaching today, and I'm back to work on the WIP with a vengeance.

It does feel good to be heading back to a normal schedule. I am a creature of routine!

A good way to kick off the first day of school is with some positive news, so here are two new reviews for my upcoming novella from Samhain, OFF THE CLOCK, which is releasing on October 4:

Joyfully Reviewed says "The push and pull of Carly and Gabe’s relationship kept me on the edge of my seat in Donna Alward’s Off the Clock. The chemistry between them simmered throughout the book even as the events forced them to work out their issues. In typical man fashion, there were times that Gabe seemed really dense regarding Carly’s feelings toward him but his heart of gold easily soothed Carly’s fears. Off the Clock is a book you want to curl up with when you are in the mood for something light and sensual."

And  SensualReads.com reviewed it as well:  "A story about second chances, I really liked that this was completely believable. It always amazes me how unspoken words can create a detour in the life you were meant to have. A short but delightful read."

I have some release date news as well. First of all, an adjustment. HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART is out in October in North America, and in Hardback in the UK in November. However, the paperback UK edition won't be released until March 2012.

And I have release dates for the duet I'm finishing up - May and June of 2012 in North America. The first book is called THE LAST REAL COWBOY - isn't THAT going to look fab on a cover????

Right - back to school means blank pages, and it's time I went about filling them.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Going International

I'm thrilled that I have several foreign releases this month!



The Soldier's Homecoming is out in France beginning on the 15th! :-) Surprising as this was my third ever release and I love the cover! Here's the link on amazon.









Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle is out in Italy.







And it's also available in Mexico and Argentina.










For right now, I'm enjoying the Labour Day holiday with a swim in the pool and a barbeque later! Happy long weekend!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Heroes are not all gone

Ralph Alward: 1940 - 2011

The blog has been terribly silent simply because for a number of days I was not able to "smile from the wrists down" as Kate Walker puts it - and I didn't want to drag the blog down with negativity. You see, my husband's dad has been very ill since the first of June. Almost 2 weeks ago he took a turn. He stabilized somewhat, but only briefly. My husband was called back to be with his family while I stayed here at home, waited for news, and worried. Worried about my father in law, and worried about my husband, his mom, and his siblings as they dealt with what I think we all recognized - but didn't want to believe -was an inevitable outcome.

When the call came, my husband said, "The suffering is over." It was a relief and heartbreaking all at once.

My husband came home last Monday, after the worst of Irene had blown through, and we all went back to Moncton last Monday afternoon (we live a few hours away). Monday night the brothers and sisters were all together with his mom. There were some tears and also a lot of laughing at funny stories and remembrances as everyone gave input on the eulogy. On Tuesday we had visitation at the funeral home. I was particularly dreading it - I have not very nice memories of visitations to be honest - but I should have known that it would be fine. My inlaws are not the long-faced, quiet kind of family. It was more informal, with lots of talking and laughing and hugging. And the more the week went on the clearer it seemed to get - Ralph was the heart of the family, and even in his death he had a way of bringing everyone together that was just beautiful.

My sister in law gave the eulogy, and in keeping with the vibe of the week, there were laughs as well as tissues required. A close friend of ours flew in from Calgary and we made our own little unit: my husband with his arm around me and my head on his shoulder, our youngest in my arms, and my eldest being hugged by our friend. We hadn't realized but his sister ended the eulogy with a bit my husband wrote. He, by the way, continually amazes me. Julie had said in her words that the heroes are not all gone. She is right. Ralph was one. And his son is one, and I'm so very, very fortunate to call him mine. He did something so incredible at the burial that it still makes my heart swell up.

One thing was abundantly clear - the path isn't always smooth, but his family loves each other and stands together, so much stronger together than they ever are individually.

My mother in law was a brick. After the summer she's had, the worry and the wait and the uncertainty, she managed to put up with close to 30 people running through her apartment at various times all while dealing with arrangements and grief. The day after the funeral we took a drive to a very special place for a final goodbye. It was quiet and peaceful and perfect. They spent 50 years together. They had five children, several grandkids and 2 great grandchildren. They, as Julie said in the eulogy - personified love. Their marriage was very special, and it is hard to believe that Ralph's blue eyes won't be greeting us at the door anymore. For all we will miss him, hers is the greatest loss.

So now we are all home; catching up on laundry, putting groceries in the fridge, carrying on. And yet something is different and always will be, I think. Not just in the missing, though that goes without saying. But how we learned things about each other over the past week.

And how, by his death, we learned a lot about living. And loving.

Rest in peace, Ralphie.