Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Barbara Hannay!

Today I'm so happy to introduce you to my fellow Romance author and RITA finalist, Barbara Hannay. Barbara's books are wonderful and in my opinion no one can write a setting like she can. When I read her books, I breathe the air in her story and smell the get the idea.

Thanks for being here, Barb!

Donna, thanks so much for this opportunity.

It’s often said that we don’t choose the stories we write – they choose us, and I suspect this is probably true, certainly where settings are concerned.

My very first novel was set in the Australian outback and it was actually called Outback Wife and Mother. At the time, the setting was an instinctive choice. I loved the outback and the cattle properties and people of North Queensland and it seemed natural to write about them, but I was also dreaming of other stories set in Hong Kong or on tropical islands…

To my surprise the editors said: ‘Give us more outback. Write as many books as you like with an Aussie outback setting.’

Luckily, this wasn’t a chore.

To me, the outback life, despite its many hardships and challenges, is truly romantic.

I think this fantasy started when I was young. Even though I grew up in the city (Brisbane to be exact) I’d always loved what we Aussies call ‘the bush’.  Our suburb was nestled in the leafy foothills of Mt Cootha, so gum-tree studded mountains dominated my view. Added to this, my parents took regular weekend drives into the countryside, which is possibly why I still have a fondness for picnics on creek-banks.

Later, I married a man who loved the great outdoors with a passion that surpassed even mine and, as our four children arrived and our purse-strings tightened, we spent most of our holidays camping and canoeing.

Yes, it was economical, but our kids loved these outdoor adventures. Later, when my son returned from three years of working in London, his first impulse was to get back to the bush and a campfire with the smell of burning gum leaves.

We were also lucky enough to have a friend who owned a beautiful cattle property on the Burdekin River and this homestead and its surroundings has remained the inspiration for most of my stories.

No surprise – I live in the country now, on a misty hillside with views of hills dotted with cattle. Even so, there are times, every so often, when my muse gets bossy and demands that I head west to the real outback to soak up new sights and sounds and smells.

Recently, my husband and I visited Robin Hood Station in Far North Queensland’s Gulf Country.

This property is huge – covering 330,000 acres and its red dirt and blue skies and rugged terrain were enough to set me grinning – not to mention the impressive cattlemen with their loose-hipped strides and low-slung jeans and easy-going, understated manners.

An added bonus on this property is Cobbold Gorge, not unlike the gorge I described in Rancher’s Twins: Mom Needed. The amazing thing about Cobbold is that the property is so big, the gorge was only discovered by its owners in the early 1990s.

I must say I’m truly honoured that a story set Downunder is a finalist in the RITA contest run by Romance Writers of America. I often wonder what it is that overseas readers most enjoy about the outback books. The settings? The quiet, still-waters-run-deep heroes? The fish-out-of-water heroines?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I’ll be sending a signed copy of Rancher’s Twins: Mom Needed to one of you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Done books, new books, and another special guest

SUGAR AND SPICE has been handed in to my editor, and now I wait for revisions. She will definitely have some, but I look forward to them because I know her suggestions will make the book stronger. I sent it last night and after sleeping on it realized this morning that there is one change in particular that she'll probably ask for.... this is not a unique phenomenon. I hear writers all the time saying that they submitted a book only to find a mistake right after hitting send. So I'm not going to worry.

What's next? Well, I have a title for the very last FIRST RESPONDERS novella. As far as I know it's going to be called BEHIND THE BADGE. This means that the print version of OFF THE CLOCK and IN THE LINE OF DUTY will be out in one volume hopefully in the first half of 2013, with INTO THE FIRE and BEHIND THE BADGE to follow in print after they've both been released in ebook.

Next up on the to-do list is my art fact sheet for Sugar and Spice, and doing my revisions on Hideaway Hill. I can't wait to dig into those!

So it's nose to the grindstone for me for another while yet. In the meantime, come back tomorrow as I have another special guest - RITA finalist (and fellow Harlequin Romance author) Barbara Hannay!

Friday, June 22, 2012

New Look, Contest Winner and a "day off"

Hey all! In case you haven't noticed (?!) the blog has a new look. The awesome Kim Killion of Hot Damn Designs created my AWESOME banner for the First Responders series, and I've redecorated around here a little to be colour coordinated. The first book is already available, and the second and third ones are coming this summer and fall. I've also filled out all the info for my publisher regarding the print version - I'm just waiting for a release date. But I can tell you that OFF THE CLOCK and IN THE LINE OF DUTY are going to be in one volume together.

Thanks to Tanya Michaels who visited the blog this week! The winner of Tanya's books is Cathy Shouse, so I'm just waiting to hear from her with her information so Tanya can send out her prize.

Today I'm taking a day off. Yesterday I finished Sugar and Spice and I'm letting it "rest" for a day or two before launching back into it. I know there is one scene that is in the wrong point of view; I also need to do a little refining when it comes to character arcs. Letting it percolate and coming back with fresh eyes does wonders. So instead I have made rhubarb crisp, cooked potatoes for potato salad, put chicken to marinate in fresh herbs, folded towels, gone to the bank, picked up some groceries. As soon as I am done here, I am finishing a quick 10 minute sewing job and then I'm making jam with the berries I bought at the grocery store - local ones that arrived while I was shopping so I know they are super fresh! They were also on sale. So there's a quart saved for shortcake tomorrow night (along with the pork roast I bought to make pulled pork!) and the rest is for jam.

Have a wonderful weekend - back to the grindstone on Monday. :-)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tanya Michaels is in the house!

I'm so excited to have Tanya Michaels on the blog today! We "met" after the RITA announcements and incidentally also realized that we are in a Mother's Day anthology together. I can't wait to meet her in person - but until then, she's popped into the blog to talk about one of my favourite topics: Cowboys. :-)

I have Cowboys on the brain.  No surprise there—while recently visiting the Texas cattle farm where my husband grew up, I met my deadline for an upcoming Harlequin American Romance (about a cowboy), leaving me free to FINALLY read all the great books that have been patiently waiting for months on my Kindle (starting with Donna Alward’s RITA-nominated How A Cowboy Stole Her Heart.)

And I’m not the only one with cowboys on her mind. It seems as if half the book covers I walk past feature these rugged heroes. There’s been a resurgence in cowboy television shows and miniseries (let’s pause for a moment to appreciate how nicely Timothy Olyphant wears that cowboy hat).  It made me curious. Why do these heroes have such an enduring following? To answer the question, I began with a very scientific poll.

First, while sitting at my computer, I wondered aloud, “What do you think of when I say cowboy?” My third-grade daughter put on one of her dad’s cowboy hats and galloped around on an invisible horse while my son burst into song, “On a steel horse I ride… I’m wanted, dead or alive.” The third respondent, our hyperactive bichon, squeaked a toy at me, then threw it at my head. (That dog’s aim is uncanny.) Okay, so perhaps not the most scientific poll ever—Dr. Sheldon Cooper would definitely not approve of my research methodology. I further pondered the question of cowboy popularity while doing dishes and folding laundry (ahhh, the glamorous lifestyle of the romance writer) and came up with some thoughts.

            The cowboy archetype is a man of action and morals. He may not play by the rules, necessarily, but he follows his own code and has a strong sense of loyalty. He’s not given to flowery speeches or witty repartee, but what he says, he means. And I’d much rather have a guy in my life who sees something that needs to be done and accomplishes it than someone who makes me grandiose promises but fails when it comes to follow-through. Cowboys are capable. They tame frontiers and are good with their hands. They know how to build barns and fences (and in the case of my husband, a kick-ass walk-in closet.) They have a sense of family and legacy; they can recognize women as equals but still protect them against rattlers, wolves, or really large spiders.

            Escapist reading is great fun. I enjoy historicals set in long ago ballrooms and I like reading a good paranormal about a vampire or shapeshifter. But cowboys are real, which can boost their appeal. I like knowing there are men out there who look damn good in a saddle, men who might smile at a woman from beneath the brims of their hats with a lazily drawled, “Yes, ma’am.”

            If you find yourself craving some cowboy for your summer reading list, consider Donna’s highly acclaimed How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart, the Teagues of Texas series by Trish Milburn, Barbara Dunlop’s A Cowboy Comes Home, my own Claimed by a Cowboy or, for those who love a great cowboy historical, any of the Rock Creek Six books (released electronically by bestselling, RITA-winning authors Linda Devlin and Lori Handeland). Meanwhile, I’d love to know your favorite aspect of a cowboy hero and any great cowboy romances you’ve read lately! I think my Kindle’s still got space for a few more…

 Leave a comment and be entered in a drawing for Claimed by a Cowboy and Tamed by a Texan, her two Harlequin American Romances this year!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


I've gotten some great reviews lately and so I thought I'd post a few links!

First up - Wendy the SuperLibrarian (who is made of awesome) reviewed both THE LAST REAL COWBOY and THE REBEL RANCHER.

For THE LAST REAL COWBOY, she said "These final heart-wrenching moments, with dialogue that just about made my heart beat out of my chest, really seal the happy ending. " You can read the whole review on SuperWendy's blog.

Her review of THE REBEL RANCHER went up yesterday and it is so fantastic it brought tears to my eyes because I really feel that she GOT who Ty and Clara really were. My favourite bit is "These two are so perfect for each other it's hard to think of one without the other." She also says that every choice I made was the right one - that's so fantastic. Check out the whole review, because it's fabulous!

Guilty Book Pleasures also reviewed THE LAST REAL COWBOY and rated it a true gem and gave it a 4.75/5! The reviewer noted: "I love books that take serious issues facing our world way to often and don’t gloss over the issue just to have a plot conflict." She also had great things to say about the backlist book (The Rancher's Runaway Princess) that was a bonus in this edition.

And Cataromance also reviewed THE LAST REAL COWBOY, saying that  "Award winning author Donna Alward spins an intriguing yarn filled with healing and romance." You can check out the whole review here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday! Pass the coffee...

You know how sometimes you just get slammed with one of those weeks where there's just not enough coffee/chocolate/wine/xanax? That's been my week. Things just did NOT go as smoothly as they should have. And anyone who knows me at all knows I don't do well with things that are NOT written into my schedule. I think I've probably been a real gem this week. I should probably work over the weekend to make up for lost time, but seriously, I think my brain will be much better off if I unplug for a few days and come back Monday ready to hit it hard.

The good parts of this week? Getting a few new reviews that were very nice indeed, figuring out a key part of my current story (now if I could just get a good uninterrupted block of time to actually write it!), and watching my kids be amazing as the school year winds down. Oh yes and sunny weather and extra walks with the dog with the husband tagging along. I'd seriously planned for us all to be winding down for the summer together, but instead I'm lagging a few weeks behind. Oh well. Eventually it'll all come together. The pool and pina coladas are beckoning.

Have a great weekend - I have a feeling that a big feed of something rhubarb-ish is in my future, yum!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Linda Warren visits the blog!

I'm so excited to have Linda Warren on the blog today! Linda's a RITA finalist this year and I remember the first time I saw her in person - at RWA 09 in Washington DC (when she was incidentally also a RITA finalist). Now you can meet her too - and learn about her very odd and scary trip to DC!

Houston. We. Have. A. Problem.

Living in Texas I’ve heard that saying many times in connection with the space program. Never in a million years did I imagine they would affect me personally.

In July of 2009 I was headed for the Romance Writer’s of America’s conference in Washington, D.C. My book, Texas Heir, was up for a Rita and I was excited out of my mind. I would get one of those little green flags to place at my station at the Literacy Signing. I always wanted one of those.

Texas Heir was about two people surviving a plane crash. I researched planes and plane crashes so much that they became very real to me and I was a little nervous about flying. But I dredged up the courage to go to nationals. Nothing could go wrong. It was all in my head. When we got in our seats, the plane was very hot and people started complaining. The stewardess said it would get cooler once the plane was in the air. It didn’t. It got hotter.

The complaints started again and we were told to be patient. At this point, I think everyone on the plane knew something was wrong. I had an aisle seat. You know how small those seats are. The back of the other seat was right in front of me. I felt as if I was in a dark, deep hole and I was getting claustrophobic.

After about twenty minutes, the pilot’s voice came on the intercom, “We have a problem. We’re headed back to Houston.” About that time we could smell something burning. Yes, the plane was on fire. I kid you not. It felt like a sauna in that closed up plane. We were sweating bullets, literally. People demanded answers, but they didn’t get any. I was just trying to breathe. And not panic. We were told to buckle our seatbelts and that we would get details later. The plane became very quiet.

When we finally landed safely, I took a very deep breath, as did everyone else. The plane was immediately surrounded by fire trucks and emergency vehicles and they wouldn’t let anyone off. People were angry, wanting off that plane. We were told to stay in our seats. Firemen came aboard in aluminum looking suits with high powered extinguishers and went into the cockpit.  Evidently there was a short in the AC unit and it was on fire. After ten minutes, we were told to quietly and quickly leave the plane. We were instructed where to go to board another plane. At this point, I just wanted to go home.

I called my husband. He didn’t answer. After dropping us off at the airport, he went to the Bass Pro Shop and evidently guys turn off their phones in there. It’s like a shire or something. So reluctantly I boarded the other plane and went to DC.  By the time we arrived, the Literacy Signing was over. I’d missed the whole thing, but I got my green flag. And had the time of my life!  Now I enjoy writing, but I don’t want to personally experience some of the scenes I write.

So once again I have a book, The Texan’s Bride, up for a Rita and once again I’ll board a plane for the conference. And you can bet I’ll be nervous and I’ll have my fingers and everything else crossed. Nothing can go wrong. Right?    

Have you had any frightening experiences and managed to stay calm? (That’s the hard part. And not screaming.)



Friday, June 08, 2012

Friday Mish Mash

Today's a bit of a post of randomness of things I found particularly noteworthy today. First of all, like I really needed ANOTHER reason to love Nathan Fillion...I mean, my lunch break consisted of me youtubing the kiss scene from this season's finale of Castle...but then I got to this via Twitter: Nathan Fillion loves books

And then if you pop over to Dear Author you can read this article about a new line for Harlequin and a recap of the latest news from Entangled Publishing, including some great success for my good friend Barb Wallace. She totally deserves it.

For my own part, I've spent WAYYYY too much time trying to solve a band instrument issue (fingers crossed we've got it sorted now). And I've done laundry. And written a few words. But the best thing was talking to my agent yesterday about The House on Hideaway Hill and getting her feedback. There's work to be done but it's all GOOD work that is more building on things rather than tearing it apart per se. I am so excited about it, and can't wait to dive in, but I do have Sugar and Spice to finish up and I did manage to finally start a new chapter on that today.

But first - shoe shopping - for the Mister. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Busy Little Bee

I've been a busy little bee, so sorry for not posting much on the blog this week. Yesterday Deb Hale and I did a signing here in Halifax - and believe it or not we did NOT coordinate our outfits! I walked into the store and saw her and burst out laughing. Are we good or what?

The staff at this particular store (Sunnyside IndigoSpirit) are top-notch. I wish all stores were as gracious and welcoming and helpful to customers and authors alike.

Yesterday edits for INTO THE FIRE also hit my inbox, so I worked my way through those, and also tuned into a webinar put on by Harlequin.

Realizing how much I have to accomplish before the end of the month prompted me to make a list so I don't forget anything - and so I can see what I have accomplished and hold panic at bay. Right now I'm dancing in my  seat a little bit as I'm going to be chatting to my agent shortly about The House on Hideaway Hill. There are good things going on, which is just awesome.

And today I did a second round of edits on INTO THE FIRE as well as filling out forms for the print version of the first 2 First Responders novellas.  I have it on good authority that galleys for SLEIGH RIDE WITH THE RANCHER will be with me before the end of next week. I have to finish SUGAR AND SPICE...

It sounds like a lot, but I am so so so lucky.

What are you feeling blessed about this week?

Monday, June 04, 2012

Cover Reveal and Contest Winner!

Congratulations to Carol Woodruff, who won my monthly contest and will receive a copy of THE GREATEST GIFT: A MOTHER'S DAY COLLECTION!

My June newsletter will be going out later today, so keep your eyes peeled for that to hit your inbox and if you haven't signed up, you can - there's a box right on the right sidebar and it's easy peasy. :-)

I also got the go ahead to reveal the final cover in my FIRST RESPONDERS series. INTO THE FIRE will be out in November. I had bags of fun writing this novella. I got to give a little glimpse of insight into my dog (and cat!) lover self. If you are looking to add a pet to your family, please consider adopting a rescue. :-)

I'm really quite excited to have the last 2 stories in the series releasing this year!

Now I've got a long to-do list and my daughter's end of the year band concert today, so no time to waste. Catch you tomorrow! And be on the lookout for the June newsletter!

Friday, June 01, 2012


So this morning was walking the dog, writing some words, going over my workshop for tomorrow, printing out my handouts, and then meeting my man for lunch. Not a bad morning, and I'm about to go start cutting the grass but it's also a release day of sorts - THE REBEL RANCHER is available at Harlequin and will officially hit store shelves on Tuesday and THE LAST REAL COWBOY is out in Australia this month!

It's always neat to see the different covers and I kind of like this one and how the hero is looking at the heroine.

Have a good weekend - I'm going to be talking about writing a satisfying ending at my chapter day-long workshop tomorrow and I did promise cupcakes....