Monday, October 31, 2011

A Novel Trick or Treat!

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

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

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

Good luck and have fun!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Think Pink: Families of Those with Cancer with Eryn Grace

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bless you all,

Eryn Grace

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Think Pink: Bev Clarke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 28, 2011

Think Pink: Courtesy of the Harlequin Blog

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

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

Word.

A Halloween Trick or Treat

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Small Blogs, Big Giveaways - Win Books!

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

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

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Last Chance to Cast your Vote!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2011

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

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

Thanks for being here, Day. :-)

 
The “Blessing” of Breast Cancer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What Am I Up To This Week?

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fun Numbers

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

Think Pink: Life After Breast Cancer with Jennifer Haymore

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

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

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


Life After Breast Cancer

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks so much, Donna, for having me here!
Leave a comment for a chance to win Jennifer's latest!

Friday, October 14, 2011

New Voices - A little tough love

There's a lot of buzz still going on about the New Voices comp - the top 21 were announced yesterday and I've already chatted to my mentee, Vanessa, about her first chapter, what's coming next, and all sorts of other things. Before I go any further, let me just say two things. Vanessa is absolutely lovely. And so is her chapter. I read it and seriously had some writer envy going on. Her voice shines through, she's got conflict, both external and internal, distinctive characters, sexual tension, and spark. No small feat for 3000 words or so.

So it frustrates me just a bit when I read comments that put down the finalists, or cast criticism on the judging team and the company that sponsors this contest.

Mills and Boon doesn't have to hold New Voices. Believe me, there is enough slush passing through their office that they don't need another 1000 plus chapters. It's an immense undertaking, from coordinating to maintaining the site, providing a community, and of course, judging the entries and narrowing it down to 21. That 21 represents a mere 2% of entries. Naturally there are going to be a lot of good entries that don't make the cut.

For the most part the response AFTER the announcement has been positive - of COURSE people are going to express disappointment and even frustration. But most have been VERY supportive of the top 21 and wish them the best.

And yet there are the others. Sigh.

Yesterday I unfollowed someone on twitter simply because while I enjoy half of their tweets, the other half are venomous attacks on a celebrity. It blows my mind that someone passes judgment and dislike on someone they don't even know and who has no effect on their day to day life whatsoever, and then feels the need to spread it around the net. Negative energy - they haz it. And I'm out.

So here's the deal. I'm a firm believer that you get back from the universe what you put out there. There are a few sayings I like to adhere to - one being on the net for the most part it's usually in your best interest to smile from the wrists down. Not always easy, mind you. And the second being - don't post what you wouldn't want on the home page of your website. I thought about that as I considered writing this post, and then I decided yes, I have something important to say. Something that I hope helps writers in the trenches trying to break into publishing. Heck, trying to accomplish ANYTHING. Because anything worth having doesn't come easily.

And the truth is - you need to focus on what you can control.

This is not a business where you can afford to have hurt feelings. Because it is, first and foremost, a business. I think people forget that because it's also creative and especially with Romance writing it is based on emotion. But every publisher out there is in it to make money. So if your feelings are hurt because you didn't make it, it's not Mills and Boon's job to hold your hand. If it stings to feel you're not good enough, fine, but it's not their place to make you feel better. Truth is - you weren't rejected. Your story was. That is an important distinction. So what are you going to do about it? Take your toys and go home? Well, if you can, go for it. Paula Graves (Harlequin Intrigue) said once that if you can quit, do it. I agree. This is a tough business. I came close to quitting lots of times, but in the end I wanted to be published more than I wanted to be right.

So if you didn't make it - that's out of your control. What IS in your control? WHAT YOU DO NEXT. Michelle Styles always says it's what you do after the rejection that counts. So if going on a public forum and telling the publisher that they know nothing about their brand and they didn't make it clear what they wanted is your way of handling it, so be it. However, if you take the feedback you received and rework your chapter and submit it the usual way - and then finish the book - and then start another - if you understand what M&B is looking for by reading within the line you're targeting, joining a critique group, reading tips from authors within the M&B stable - well, in my books that's the road to success. Which one seems more productive to you?


I'm definitely not saying it's not okay to feel badly about it. Of course it is. Lord, that's what stocks of wine and chocolate are for, and sappy movies, and a bit of a wallow.

But going at the publisher and sour grapes is not doing you any favours. It is what it is. You need to decide what YOU are prepared to do. I used to say Don't Get Even - Get Published. One of my favourite biographies is David Foster's Hitman. Two things that stuck with me and I think nearly every day - because even after publication this is not easy (hah! I see pubbed authors nodding!) - is 1)the road to success is straight, and 2) look at everything as an opportunity.

The road to success is straight is what reminds me to focus on the prize and not get distracted. Everything I do should be intended to get me closer to that goal.

Look at everything as an opportunity. THIS HAS GREAT POWER, PEOPLE! It takes a negative and makes a positive. What did you get from this contest? Feedback? Meet someone who can be important to your road to publication? How are you going to take what's happened and work it to your advantage? Because you can. I promise you, you can. As Tony Horton says - you just need to get your head right.

And be gracious. I can tell you after writing 20 books now that editors know what they are doing. Every book I've ever written has been improved by my editor's keen eyes. The top 21 are there for a reason and nothing should take away from their success.

Get your head right. Mourn if you need to - it can be an important part of the process. And then - if you really want it - pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Truly - the romance community is a fantastic place. You'll have lots of support  - if that's what you put out into the universe.

Best wishes to all of you.






Thursday, October 13, 2011

Think Pink: Misty Evans and a Very Special Book

Today author Misty Evans joins me at the blog with a special post about how she's been affected by Breast Cancer. She's also got a copy of a book to give away - a very special book with the proceeds going to charity. Thanks for being here today Misty, and for sharing your story!

In my teens, I lost an aunt to breast cancer. I watched my cousin, only a year older than me, lose her mom and that experience changed me forever.

During my business career, I worked in public health and was thrilled to manage a breast and cervical cancer program, assisting women who had no insurance obtain screenings and treatment. At the time, I was surprised to find many women who needed the screenings but refused to go, even though the program paid for all of the testing and treatments. I couldn’t understand their thinking and repeatedly belted out statistics and hard facts, sure that my logical approach would convince them they needed to have an exam.

Meantime, I walked at Susan G Komen events, wore my pink ribbon pins with pride, and passed out breast self-examination cards everywhere I went.

My own scare with breast cancer came right after my twins turned four years old. It had been a rough summer. My father-in-law passed away after a five-year bout with a rare type of blood cancer. One of my sons starting having separation anxiety, afraid to let me out of his sight for fear I’d die too. There were issues in the family that were wearing on me. My writing career had stagnated and I had a growing stack of rejections from agents staring me in the face.

And then I found a lump in my right breast one morning in the shower.

All the other problems disappeared. At first, I didn’t believe there was really a lump. I kept checking the area, thinking it was just breast tissue. I tried to reason with the nagging voice in my head that kept telling me to see my doctor. I tried rationalizing it away. I’ll give it another day, I told myself. I’ll have hubby check it and see if I’m crazy.

He did and I wasn’t.

Still, I was terrified to go to the doctor. For some reason, not having the lump confirmed by my doctor seemed less frightening.

I confided in a couple of close friends and one of them went with me the doctor’s office. Once he told me it was indeed a lump, another friend went with me to my first-ever mammogram. In the end, the lump turned out to be benign and my friends celebrated with me. I was lucky, and I finally understood why those women in the health program had sometimes refused our free service. It wasn’t about the money or insurance or lying on that cold, sterile exam table. It was about knowing your life was about to change forever.

Last summer, one of my childhood friends underwent a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation. She’s doing okay now, and I pray for her every day. Another friend and fellow author is a ten-year survivor. Yet another author I know is fighting a very tough battle against this disease even as I write this. All of these women inspire me. They make me wish I could write breast cancer out of our world.

I encourage all of you to do self-exams and have regular mammograms. If you do find a lump, remember it’s normal to be scared. Normal to wish it away and want to ignore it. I’ve been there. I understand. Please, though, for me, stomp on that fear and see your doctor anyway. Take a friend. Take me in spirit. We’re stronger together than we are individually.

Which brings me to Entangled, A Paranormal Anthology. This book is a prime example of what women can do to help other women. The anthology features stories from eleven different authors, including two of the women I mentioned above and myself. All the stories have a Halloween theme, and ALL of the proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. For $2.99, you can support BCRF and thousands of women struggling with breast cancer. Because BCRF gives 90% of its donations to research, you might in fact, help find a cure. You might save future women the scare of finding a lump.

Thank you to Donna for having me here today. I appreciate you letting me share my story and I’m giving away a free ecopy of Entangled to one lucky commenter. Has cancer touched your family or friends? Even if it hasn’t, join me anyway in spreading the word about breast cancer, self-exams, and research. We’re all in this fight together.

Buy from Amazon: http://amzn.to/r9voje
Buy at Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/q8uXmZ
Buy at All Romance eBooks: http://bit.ly/occN8B
Buy at Smashwords: http://bit.ly/rq9KEo

Misty Evans writes romantic suspense, light fantasy and dark paranormals. Her story in Entangled, SWEET DEMON, is the prequel to her new Kali Sweet urban fantasy series. She likes her coffee black, her conspiracy stories juicy, and her wicked characters dressed in couture. When not reading or writing, she enjoys hanging out with her husband of twenty-two years and their twin sons. Learn more and sign up for her newsletter at www.readmistyevans.com. Like her author page on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.



And don't forget my current release, HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART, my latest Romance set in Larch Valley and featuring Meg Briggs, a breast cancer survivor heroine. It's on shelves now.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Hair

Yesterday I got a new haircut. Shorter (just to my shoulder), lighter (I have insanely thick hair) and darker (very close to my normal colour). I love it. I can still put it in a ponytail for working out, but it's light and swingy.

A haircut should not be that big of a deal, but it's a huge pick-me-up! August and September were so insane, and I went right from the last deadline into working on a new novella and trying to keep tabs on two new releases. My next few months are going to be very busy - revisions, a new book for Harlequin Romance, mentoring the New Voices competition, and having all my *out of town* Christmas stuff ready for the 11th November when I will see my Mom.  My eldest made the volleyball A team yesterday so I'll be chauffeuring practices and games until mid-December. My youngest has district choir rehearsals and concerts leading up to Christmas. Truthfully - I'm looking forward to when everyone is off over the holidays and we can hang out in our jammies all day and play Rock Band (which was how we spent last Christmas).

Sometimes 2 hours out of the house having your hair done is just what the doctor ordered. The only thing better would be a massage, but I'm waiting until next month for that to happen. :-)

Meanwhile - OFF THE CLOCK is out if you haven't had a chance to pick it up yet. It's the first of my First Responders novellas (I'm working on number 2 right now!). It is available wherever you like to buy your e-books, but here are the links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Samhain's Store.

And don't forget to come by tomorrow as there is a very special guest coming!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Turkey Brain - and around the web

I have a severe case of turkey brain. We just got back from celebrating Thanksgiving at my Mother-in-Law's. I need to double my walks and workouts this week, oh my goodness. We had Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday - turkey, dressing, potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, coleslaw, carrots, sweet potatoes and squash. And of course PUMPKIN PIE. It was soooo good. We did the turkey on the barbeque and it was delicious. The weather was fantastic all weekend (I wished I'd packed shorts, it was mid-twenties!). Yesterday we had hot turkey sandwiches which were so scrummy. And this morning we drove back home with our car packed full of leftovers and pickles that we made on Saturday afternoon.

However, I *AM* around the net today. You can read about my "word of the month" at Petticoats and Pistols and you can visit me at Romance Book Paradise - huge thanks to Nas Dean for hosting me this week!

I'm off to mow the grass since it's still very summery and it does need at least one more mowing.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Shop for a Cause!

Need to do some shopping? Here are a few ways you can support Breast Cancer Awareness!


Get $20 off any purchases $80+ at ProHealth.com for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Valid 10/1 -10/31.




During Breast Cancer Awareness month, Save 15% off orders $75+ at ExclusivelyWeddings.com, Coupon code: AAJRG

Breast Cancer Awareness Month Coupon Code
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Bejool.com is offering 15% off with coupon code BCA15.  Valid for the entire month of October.
Offer valid: 10/1/11 – 10/31/11


Save up to 30% on Cardstore using this link -
Think Pink - Did you know that 40% of Pink Card Sales go to Breast Cancer Research?



And check out these deals from SEVENTEEN! Lots of companies donating proceeds to the cause!

Friday, October 07, 2011

Around the World

It is funny how foreign releases are like feast or famine - and the last few months have definitely been more of a feast, which is fantastic! Here's where I am in October:

AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND
How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart is out down under! I love this cover. Love that so far I'm 2 for 2 for short hair on covers...well done art departments!










SCANDINAVIA:
The Rancher's Runaway Princess is out in Sweden, Finland, and Norway. :-) It's my first time in Sweden and Norway which is very exciting!







TURKEY:
Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle is out in Turkey! What's cool about this is that I'm paired with the only other Canadian author for the Romance line, Cara Colter. :-) It's a beautiful cover too, I think!







I wonder where I'll turn up next month?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Think Pink: Special Guest Julie Hilton Steele

One of the things happening on the blog for Breast Cancer Awareness Month is Special Guest Thursday.  Today welcome Julie Hilton Steele to the blog!  Thanks for being here, Julie!


 
Breast Cancer is the reason I read romance. Yes, you read right.  Sure, I had always read books with romantic elements but never a Harlequin or a mass market dyed-in-the-wool romance.  But seven years ago, my mother, a five year survivor, suffered a reoccurrence and died ten days after she was diagnosed. I turned to my love of reading for solace but unfortunately read two books with unhappy endings in quick succession. I can show you the dents in my wall from where I threw those books at critical moments in the stories. I didn’t trust myself to read for pleasure anymore. Life had handed me enough bad endings at the time. But I missed reading. I heard romance authors were required to give the reader a Happily-Ever-After.  I picked up a few, found them fantastic, and a romance fan was born.
Julie's mom
My mother and my mother-in-law were the reasons I worked for a while at Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a non-profit dedicated to breast cancer education, research, and helping women who can not afford preventative measures and treatments get the care they need. While my mother’s situation was a worst case scenario, my mother-in-law’s experience with breast cancer was at the other end of the spectrum. She is a thirty year breast cancer survivor. Thirty years! She was diagnosed when diagnosis was harder and treatment more severe but has thrived.  Today, mammograms, annual visits to doctors and self-exams detect breast cancer in many women at an earlier stage. But there are many women who don’t know where to go for education or who cannot afford medical treatment. I worked for Komen because I wanted to do my part to make sure women (and men, yes, men get breast cancer too) had the hope, the help, and support they needed.

Julie's daughter - because as Julie says,
"breast cancer education and fundraising
 are for all generations"

In this day and age, it is hard to miss all the October breast cancer awareness messaging appearing in the news, magazines, blogs and social media. But breast cancer is a year round disease. A woman may remember to schedule her mammogram with the October prompting but what if she finds out she has to have a biopsy or a close friend is diagnosed in January? What if a person, like me, just wants to do something to make sure the disease is eradicated from the face of the planet or help women who are too poor to get the help they need when diagnosed?  Here are just a few suggestions of places to go for information and assistance:





1)      Check out the Susan G. Komen for the Cure website, http://ww5.komen.org , a one-stop shop directing you to help based on your needs. Buttons at the top of the website lead you to the resources for persons diagnosed, if you know someone who has been diagnosed, if you want to know about early detection or if you want to advocate for the cause. You can find out information about programs in your area receiving grants to provide mammograms for women who can’t afford them or university medical centers receiving money for research.

2)      If you like your information straight up or are a medical science geek, The Cancer Institute through the National Institutes of Health gives basic information about the disease, statistics, and news about medical trials and research. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/breast

3)      During October, be sure to watch for stories on the local news about organizations in your area. These inspirational stories will be appearing throughout the month in your newspaper or on the television or radio. People often hear about a program or person who may be able to give them support through the media.

4)      Better yet, become the story.  Hold your own fund-raiser in conjunction with a local agency. Participate in a fund-and-awareness-raiser held by others.   Celebrate survivors with their own day of pampering or celebrate your own survivorship. 

5)      One important note: There are a lot of stores, organizations and individuals that “go pink” in October. Pink shirts, pink mixers, pink shoes and much more, all with the promise a portion of your purchase or your donation goes to support breast cancer research or programs for breast cancer patients. Jars for donations may appear, a certain percentage of a service may supposedly go to a breast cancer organization, or someone may appear at your door. I have learned to ask questions and do my research to make sure my money is well spent and supporting the cause. Check www.charitynavigator.org for larger organizations. Call local offices directly if you want to make sure a fundraising organization is working in conjunction with a breast cancer service provider.


I am thankful to Donna for asking me to contribute this month.  It is one small way I can give back to the world of romance for helping me through a rough time and honor those authors who are survivors.  




Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Think Pink - Proctor and Gamble

Today's Breast Cancer Awareness post is brought to you by Proctor and Gamble.
P&G Everyday Solutions
Great Values and Expert Advice.
Rise & Shine - Proud Supporter of Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation


1 Play = $1 (up to $30,000)

We're giving $1 to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation every time a Get Up to Something Good video is played.

Throughout October we'll be posting a series of hilarious videos starring Canadian comedians. When you click play and watch the video we'll give $1 to the Foundation – it's as simple as that.

Rise & Shine
At P&G, we believe in helping women start their day with the confidence that comes from looking their best, while taking pride in supporting a cause they care about. That's why in addition to our Get Up to Something Good video views, we're giving the Foundation $275,000. That means our total contribution can reach $300,000.

Visit facebook.com/riseshinegift to watch and share the videos.