Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Madness

Today instead of writing much today, I'm on homework duty. The youngest had an assignment that we did first thing this morning. The eldest had a science project that required me to videotape her and her sister like a news broadcast...tonight we'll put all the pieces together into a movie. I have to run into town to buy a wig for youngest's drama part and then there is choir practice for youngest - the last before her concert on Thursday. Add in a few loads of laundry, working on the Harlequin Romance author website and I think it's pretty good that I got 1000 words on the manuscript this morning.

I've pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I'm not going to hit 50k for NaNo. I'm a bit disappointed, but I also did more than I did last year which is good. I'll be over 40k by the end and that's still pretty good output for a month, especially considering how hectic November has been.

And it does still put me on track for finishing this book when I want to finish it. :-)

What are you working on this Monday? How close are you to reaching your NaNo total?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday - again?

I just realized I haven't posted since TUESDAY! Where the heck did the week go?

Wednesday we had a storm here - officially at the airport we got 35 cm of snow, which is the better part of 14 inches. It was a mess. Schools weren't cancelled so both kids were late getting home. The dh got home early and started to blow out the driveway while I shoveled the walk and steps.

We woke up yesterday morning to a street that hadn't been cleared, a truck that wouldn't get out our driveway...it meant that I had to take the dh's car (which is an AWD) to my doctor appt. The 2 minute drive took me 30. Once we got out of the unplowed subdivision the roads were a bit better, BUT traffic was so backed up that we were at a standstill. When I got home at 9:30, the roads still weren't plowed except for our tiny cul de sac. The problem with that was now there was this giant heavy snowbank blocking my driveway and keeping me from getting in. Out came the shovel again so I could put the car in the garage. It made for a late start writing, never mind I also had to go out again to pick up youngest from drama after school.

To top it off, dh came home and went to blow out the drive again, and the tractor wouldn't start. Finally got it started, and the blower broke. Thank heavens for good neighbours with tractors who cleared us out enough to use both sides of our driveway. I can now get my truck out.

There is a good side to this though - looking out the window at all the whiteness has totally put me in the mood to work on the Christmas story and I'm currently just taking a break from writing a really great scene. There's nothing like decorating a Christmas tree, mulled cider, and a big strapping rancher to put me in the holiday spirit. :-)

In keeping with that, I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. A friend and I are taking our girls to Mahone Bay to their Father Christmas Festival - lots of food, crafts, decorations, activities, carols...perfect. The girls have been saving their money for some shopping!

And otherwise - I need to eat lunch and do another #1k1hr to get my word count done for the day - I enjoyed having a clean house so much last weekend that I'm going to try and "git'er done" today so that on Sunday we can break out the decorations and really get into the Christmas spirit.

It's Black Friday in the US, so what are you doing today? Business as usual, or grabbing major holiday deals?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

If you missed it last week...

If you missed my BLASTING THROUGH BLAH workshop last week, it's running again in a few weeks through Passionate Ink. It's a five-lesson course to help you break through the blah scenes in your manuscript. Seriously, I used at least 2 of the techniques in the course to fix my work-in-progress as I was teaching. In particular I had one scene that was just so BORING and I was trying to sort out what was wrong with it and then bang! I realized I needed technique number 2.

The cost is only $15 for members and $20 for non-members. You can find out more information about signing up, etc. here on the Upcoming Workshops page.



Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Musings

Here we are back at Monday again - and I'm just about ready to kick off my first #1k1hr to get some word count done. But first a few things to share - I heard from my awesome editor at Samhain and the second novella in the First Responders series is a go - so IN THE LINE OF DUTY will be out sometime in 2012. :-) It's a follow up to OFF THE CLOCK and now I just need to write the final installment, INTO THE FIRE. :-) 

And yesterday was our RWA chapter potluck. As always there was tons of food, a lot of loud conversation and a cutthroat book draw at the end of the afternoon. I drew number 17 which meant I had my pick of a lot of books already opened. I came home with the new Robyn Carr holiday book and a Debbie Macomber I hadn't read yet, so I've got more good reading ahead!

Michelle Helliwell, Annette Gallant, me, Kelly Boyce
And it was also the last function for the current executive. It's been a fantastic year - I couldn't have asked for a better group to work with. All easy going, no drama...it hardly felt like work at all.  The chapter was really active this past year AND we hosted a weekend editor event that pretty much turned out awesome. Now after two years of VP I've stepped aside but I'll confess I'm going to miss chatting to these three on the exec loop.

Kelly Boyce and Michelle Helliwell were new to the exec last year but Annette and I did Prez and Veep 2 years together and I think I'm going to miss her the most.

Thanks for a great year, you guys.

Friday, November 18, 2011

How did it get to be Friday?

How did it get to be FRIDAY already? It was a short week here with the kids off school, I guess, and there was a volleyball game in there, a practice, 2 days of drama, grocery shopping, badminton club, study dates and me teaching a course as well as writing so I guess I managed to fill the time without too much trouble. I'm doing a work "blitz" this morning because my niece and her husband are coming for dinner tonight and I need to do SOMETHING with this house. Being gone all weekend last weekend meant it didn't get a good cleaning as usual, so as soon as I make my 2000 words, I'm getting out the vacuum and duster.

It was snowing this morning! The blue sky is peeking through now, but there's NOTHING like a dusting of snow to perk up a writer working on a Christmas story, or to make a school bus late. Nearly 20 minutes late, and the same bus picks up my eldest during the next run so I drove her to school so she'd be on time and took a couple of her friends with. It's bloody chilly outside, so I poured a second cup of coffee, with Dulce de Leche creamer in it. It's a good Friday.

And once the house is cleaned up it's dinner...my "nephew-in-law" can eat like a horse (where he puts it, I don't know, he's a bean pole!) so we've got a ginormous package of ribs we're going to grill. My husband usually does them but I'm on the "pre-boil" detail. We sometimes add beer to the water, and usually some garlic and seasonings. Once they're boiled, the dh puts them on the grill and uses his favourite bbq sauce - President's Choice Stampede Barbeque. The secret is to not scrimp on the sauce. Messy and delicious. I expect I'll make a big pot of rice and some salad etc. to go with it. And I should probably make a dessert. What I'll probably do is get the girls to bake something when they come home from school. They love to cook. Wish they loved to clean up the dirty dishes as much, but alas...not.

Anyway have a good weekend...it's our RWA chapter potluck on Sunday which is always a fun time!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Feeding the Writer's Soul - plus girl time

I am a homebody. Seriously - by the time the day's work is done, I've worked out, made supper, etc...I really don't feel like going out and running around.

But last night I made an exception because Kelley Armstrong was in town and doing a reading and signing at the library.

It was a time that fed my writer's soul. I got to watch how "the pros" do it - that is, talk to a room full of people about their books, answer questions, etc. And I mean a room. I don't know attendance numbers but I'd guess at over 60 people easily. Very different than speaking to a dozen (which is my usual number). I also liked listening to the Q&A...from the typical first "where do you get your ideas?" question to some of the others. What would it be like to be asked about characters in that many books? What would it be like to have a following like that? It's pretty darn cool. And listening to Kelly talk about life as an author made me realize that while our process is very different, we think a lot the same too. Nothing is more comforting to a writer than another writer who GETS IT.

I took my girls with me. My eldest is a fan so she was pretty jazzed, but my youngest is a little too young yet so about 3/4 of the way through she snuck off with my library card to lose herself in the stacks. When she came back we were in line to sign and she had two big books in her arms that she'd checked out.

The eldest had wanted to ask a second question during the Q&A but ran out of time, so she thought she'd ask when she got to the table. Instead she was so excited that she got her book signed and floated half way to the door before I reminded her that she'd forgotten. She said she didn't care - she had her book signed! And a bookmark! LOL. So Kelley - if you're reading this, my daughter would like to know what you would be if you weren't a writer.

We got home around nine so it was straight into bedtime routine, but it was worth the effort for this hermit to get out of the house.

Readers - do you go to author events and what's your favourite part? And authors - how do you feed your writer's soul?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Family Laughs - and Stuffing my Face

This past weekend we travelled to my mum's for the long weekend. It was totally worth the three pounds I gained. THREE. In three days. I'm crossing my fingers that the sheer volume of water I'm drinking is going to address some of that problem.

It started with stopping at my mother-in-law's on Friday afternoon - we dropped off her Christmas present and a few other little things that the dh had done up for her, and we had supper. She'd made baked beans, brown bread rolls, baked ham and scalloped potatoes. YUM. And then...strawberry shortcake. Gah! We also picked up our Christmas stuff including about 100 lbs of fruitcake. When we were up over Thanksgiving (October here in Canada) I got her a Bulk Barn gift card to buy the fruit etc. and in return we get really great fruitcake and mincemeat. It's a fab deal.

Then it was on to my mum's. We spent the night there, got up in the morning and deliberately ate a breakfast of fruit and yogurt because we were going to market.

Market is great. I could spend a million dollars there without a lot of trouble, I think. Between the artisans and the food vendors... Anyway we wandered around but really just spent money on food. Of course. The kids and husband got Kurt's Sausage on a bun - the mister with sauerkraut and spicy mustard, youngest with ketchup, and the eldest? Well, she got hers with hot chili sauce. I got a beef donair. Being a generous sort, I offered the mister a bite when we got back to our truck. He opened his great maw and took a huge bite that left me seriously miffed. However the majority of the meat and sauce is towards the bottom, so ha ha on him. He got mostly onions and tomatoes. I only got one dollop of stuff on my jacket. Because I'm that classy and I always get donair drips.

We also bought a dozen beef and chicken samosas for the family potluck - which happened Saturday night.

Saturday night my sisters came for supper. My mum had made (more) baked beans and brown bread, and a chicken and broccoli casserole that was yummy. One sister brought a Chicken Penne Alfredo that was TO DIE FOR and also Oreo Delight dessert which was a tasty concoction of oreo crumbs, vanilla pudding, and Cool Whip drizzled with chocolate sauce. My other sister came with most of her brood (and their significant others) in tow so she brought a big pot of Sweet and Sour Stew (a personal fave, I brought a dish home and we had it for supper last night), a Shepherd's Pie, a Caesar Salad and my niece brought potato salad. In addition to the samosas I made a chocolate chip cheese ball served with cookies (recipe courtesy of Debbie Macomber's site). My mom's rhubarb and mince pies were barely touched - there was just too much food. It was one of the best potlucks we've ever had.

After supper we crowded into the living room to watch Great Niece (who is 19 months old) perform, and she's a real ham. Who needs entertainment when you have a little angel in a pink frilly dress? On top of that we had lots of laughs. One sister's alter-ego came out to play which had us in stitches, as well as the story of her driving her ATV off the trailer into the truck, or trying to swing the generator into the back of the truck and spraining her ankle. I teased my niece's boyfriend about his Movember effort and met my nephew's new girlfriend (hopefully we didn't scare her away) and my sister in law came late - she'd had to work until 7:30 and then went home and bless her heart made my husband a lemon pie. Her lemon pies are out of this world. It was still warm and not quite set, so we heated up some supper for her and saved the pie and...had it for breakfast yesterday morning, along with bacon and pancakes. Does your belly hurt? Mine did.

I'd spent the last several weeks making things for holiday baskets for the family, so I'm happy to say they are all delivered now, complete with bows and homemade tags.

Yesterday we didn't bother with lunch, instead heating up stew and leftover brown bread rolls for an early supper around 4:30.  Thank goodness.

But it was so good to get together. To share a bunch of laughs. My mum was in heaven despite the noise and commotion and said to me yesterday that Saturday was her Christmas.

But now it's back to normal (in some ways thank goodness! I'm lucky 3 lbs was the total damage now that I write all that down!). I'm teaching a course at Savvy Authors this week, have chatted to my editor about the new book, and trying to knock a few other things off my to-do list.

All in all though? I'm really glad we went last weekend rather than waiting until the madness that's December.

What did you do this past weekend?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Writing a Christmas Story

So this week I started my next book for Harlequin Romance - a Christmas story that will be in a trilogy with my fab colleagues Fiona Harper and Shirley Jump. Even though I'm a pantser, there's always some prep that goes into starting a new book. You have to know your characters, their problem, their basic motivations and goals. The setting, the timeline. Doesn't mean you have to do a chapter by chapter outline, but you need the basics.

When you're writing a story with other authors, you need more than that too. We're writing about 3 sisters, so there's backstory, timelines, intersecting points, etc. that all need to be ironed out.

But still...I can't speak for Fi or Shirley but I know that things change when I start writing the novel. Oh, the basics might stay the same - who my characters are, their big problems and conflicts, etc. But other things. I've focused a lot of WHY Blake and Hope are the way they are, but on the page I have to think about making sure they are both sympathetic to the reader - why should they root for this person? I heard Liz Fielding say something the other day - that the heroine, despite her conflicts, should be someone the reader would want to be friends with.  I struggle with that a bit, especially as my heroine tends to distance herself from getting personally involved with people.

And then the other thing that changes? Christmas. I want this book to fairly DRIP holiday spirit. Up to now, I've focused so much on the whys of the story but now, as I've started writing, I'm looking for ways to make the Christmas season an integral part of the plot - so that it's not just a romance that happens to be set at Christmas but a Christmas Romance.

I wanna grab a lot of heartstrings, and give my readers romantic, swoony sighs.

As I was writing today I came up with another surprise that just makes me smile. My heroine doesn't stand a chance. I love it, and I think it's going to be big fun - as big as Santa's sack of toys.

Now, I think I'll have to break out the Christmas playlist - what do you think?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Preview of my life for the next 6 years

This week - well, and to be honest, last - has been crazy on the kid front, and I don't even have the girls in anything overly crazy. I realized last night, as I went to pick up my daughter at 8:15, that this is a preview of my life for the next 6 years - or at least until they're both driving (and that's a whole other level of OMG - the idea of them taking the car and driving themselves!).

Monday required some juggling as the youngest had to be driven to choir (our other arrangements fell through) and then I left there to go to my eldest's game. We got home within 20 min of each other.

Yesterday I had to pick up youngest after drama and drop her at a neighbours for a twice-weekly after school job. Then after supper, eldest had a short babysitting job and so I drove back and forth to that (since the kids she was babysitting were already in bed). This morning she had to be at school early for practice, it's a half day because of Parent-Teacher, so I have 2 interviews this afternoon in addition to youngest having her job after school and eldest working the book fair at her school during interviews.

Tomorrow? Drama pick up, eldest has badminton in the evening.

It requires a certain amount of juggling and, well, gas. BUT there are so many good things about it. It's good for them to be involved in music and sports - there are important lessons to be learned, and it's far more beneficial than coming home and plunking down in front of the television. We try to keep commitments to one per term with the odd extra here and there, to allow for enough homework time and sleep. They still go to bed pretty early, actually.

It's good for them to have little jobs too, to earn their own money, decide what they want to spend it on, and to know that when it's gone I'm not filling the gap.

And it's good for them to do some things for no pay at all - the eldest is volunteering her time this afternoon and that's cool.  Sometimes you do things to help people out and do the right thing, with no expectation of money crossing palms. It's not a bad way to view things once in a while, IMO.

So I'll grouse and complain about running here and there, but really I'm proud of who they are turning out to be and if a little running back and forth is my contribution...it's not that big of a deal.

Now I'm off to make some word count - after all, another 2 1/2 hours and the first one will be home and I'll have to put on my mom face for parent teacher!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Sports Season and A New Review

It's sports season here again and I'm over at Tote Bags 'n' Blogs chatting about being a sport mom and the life lessons to be learned from competitive sports.

I also got a new review for OFF THE CLOCK today! The Romance Studio gave it four hearts and said that it was "pure emotion and real". You can read the whole review over at their site.

Meanwhile I'm not having any trouble keeping busy. Early work is ongoing for the Christmas book and I've been critiquing some stuff for people the last few days, not to mention trying to stay caught up with admin. At this rate I'm simply looking forward to Christmas break! LOL

Monday, November 07, 2011

B-day: Behind the Book, Blasting Through Blah

First up - I'm over at Petticoats and Pistols today talking a bit about the inspiration behind HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART. Feel free to drop by for a spell to find out a little more about Clay and Meg - and also for a chance to win a copy!

And I have a workshop called Blasting Through Blah beginning next Monday at Savvy Authors and there is still room to register. The course description is as follows:

Most authors have written a scene that just doesn’t feel quite right, or lacks that certain spark. Saggy middles?  Stilted dialogue?  Can’t seem to see what’s wrong?  This one-week workshop will introduce some fun techniques to blast through the blahs of your manuscript! Come prepared with a work in progress, as each day attendees will try their hand at employing the day’s technique.  This is a five part (one week) workshop with assignments for participants.  Assignments will not be graded. Target Audience: Mixed. Must have a work in progress ongoing.

Topics covered by this online class will include:

Lesson 1: Say What?

Switching dialogue to tease out motivation and conflict.

Assignment: take a scene and change dialogue attribution

Lesson 2: Get Out Of My Head

Play with POV: the benefit of trying opposite points of view.  Assignment: take a scene and change the POV

Lesson 3: Let ‘Em Have It

Holding back on that crucial plot point?  Do it now, and let the chips fall where they may. Assignment: introducing a crucial element earlier than planned

Lesson 4: Everyone Can Do With A Change Of Scenery

Moving the scene to a different setting can make all the difference!  Assignment: take a scene and put it in a different setting.

Lesson 5: You Big Meanie!

Take away your character’s security blanket. Assignment: examine a scene for what your character wants most – and then take it away.

This day will also be for any lingering questions/observations.

You can register at the Savvy Authors site.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

I've been watching my friend Liz do this and got quite intrigued, so this week I'm giving Six Sentence Sunday a go with six sentences from my October release, How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart. Meg has always been a bit of a tomboy and Clay has never noticed her the way she wanted - until she agrees to go to his Aunt's wedding as his date and knocks his eyesballs out. Leading to this:


    His arm came around her, lifted her feet clear of the porch floor as he kissed her: hot, demanding, and all-encompassing.
      His mouth was soft, hot, and devastating. Megan let the shock ripple deliciously through her as she clutched his shoulders. There was a small thunk; the house key dropped to the step. Even through the layers of his tuxedo and her coat Meg felt the hardness of his body against her.
     It was the most wonderful thing she’d felt in her whole life.


You can find out more about Six Sentence Sunday HERE.

Friday, November 04, 2011

November Christmas

Last weekend, I watched a Hallmark Movie from last year called November Christmas. I taped it because it was filmed not too far from where I live, and hey, it's Christmas! But it's languished on my dvr all that time. Finally, with space running out on my dvr, I curled up with a glass of wine and a box of tissues and watched.

Hallmark movies are unapologetically sentimental and schmaltzy and this one was no exception. We have a couple (John Corbett plays the dad) who are struggling as their daughter has cancer - they also have a son and balancing a marriage and caring for a sick child and keeping things "normal" for the healthy kid is really tough. Then we have Jess, the neighbour, played by Sam Elliott, and his wife, who lost their son in an accident when he was 13. The movie is all about the two families connecting and making the holidays special for a very sick little girl. Yep - schmaltz abounds.

You could even say it's cheesy, but it's very, very good cheese, you see. At one point I was crying so hard I had to lean forward so gravity would help my nose unplug and I could actually blow it. It pulls on every single heartstring in happy and sad ways. Sam Elliot is so awesome (as usual). Tough and gruff, tender and gentle and strong as an oak. Just as you would expect him to be. It's set in a small town, so you have that close-knit down home feeling that warms the cockles of your heart (yes, cliches abound, sue me).  He promises the little girl that she'll be home for Christmas, but her treatment isn't going well. When they have to stop it until she gets stronger and send her home, things don't look so good.

But as the family drives home (in November, hence the title), they see Jess's house lit up with Christmas lights. And then they drive through town and the WHOLE TOWN is decorated and lit up for the holidays. See? Unapologetically schmaltzy but it's so good you don't care. And they get to the house and all the main players from the town are there waiting for them to get home and give that family a November Christmas.

Truthfully? Some people will dismiss this kind of movie the same way they dismiss genre fiction as predictable, cliche, and stupid. But for me - this is the kind of movie that touches your heart and makes you realize that the world really isn't always a bad place. I cried buckets but cried them at tender loving moments as well as dark ones (and emptied the tissue box as my husband laughed at me).

It's also the kind of story that I'd love to be able to write someday. Deeply emotional, small-town rallying around kind of story. You can check out a trailer and more facts about the basis for it HERE.

So what are your thoughts? Do you ever watch Hallmark movies/made for TV movies like this? Love 'em or hate 'em?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart Hardback Cover

I finally got around to scanning the cover for HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART in hardcover. It released on October 21. I really like the cover - actually in all three covers I've seen so far, the heroine has had short hair - thank you art departments!

What do you think?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Winners!

The winner of the Novel Trick or Treat is LINDA FARRELL ROLFE! Linda, please send your mailing address to me by using the link, and I'll get your prize on the go!

Also - the Small Blogs Big Giveaway winners have been drawn - go HERE to see if your name is on the list!