Tuesday, January 31, 2012

By my calculations....

One thing about juggling multiple projects is the occasional panic attack when you realize how very much you have to do and when and how to do it so you don't get behind.

So far I'm really really enjoying this year. I'm writing a lot and I'm having fun doing it. I also set some pretty ambitious goals as far as projects go for this year, and I came to the conclusion a few days ago that while it's great to have completed stories in to editors, those completed stories also mean a lot more work that take away from the writing of the next stories. Things like revisions (which are, for the most part, inevitable, and not having them is a big anomaly rather than the norm). After revisions come proofs. There are art fact sheets. Every time one of those things hit, it means time away from a day's word count (or two, or ten).

My Harlequin editor is looking at 2 projects from me this week; one is a continuity book and the other is a short 15k story (the one with the quick turnaround time). While I'm working on the last of the First Responders series for my Samhain editor (and having great fun and making good progress), I know this means that I am probably going to have 2 sets of revisions hit my inbox in the near future.

I will have to do my AFS for my October Samhain release fairly soon, too.

And I have 2 more projects that need to be finished by the end of June. And I'm teaching 2 courses in March.

So let's look at that: 13k or so left on my First Responders book, 2 sets of revisions, 2 sets of page proofs, one art fact sheet, and somewhere around 130,000 new words before June 30.

Holy. Old. Doodle.

But wait. While nothing is written in stone, I know how I usually work so I know revising the short will be a few days' work, and the book will be a few weeks. 13k on the novella and editing can be done easily in 2 weeks. This means that all those things are off my desk before the end of February.

The proofs will take 2 days tops, and the AFS shouldn't take more than a morning.

That just leaves the two courses in March, and then writing new words right up until the end of June. Four months. It's not a lot of time, but it's doable.

And suddenly, by breaking it down into a plan on how much time I'll spend on each task (based on how long it's taken me in the past), it doesn't seem so overwhelming anymore. Yeah, I still stress now and again. But not as often as I used to. I just stick my bum in the chair and get on with it.

And I like it. :-)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Fitness Friday: Ten Minute Trainer

Today I've giving a quick look at another Beachbody product, Ten Minute Trainer.

I got this for my husband for Christmas. Problem is, he gets home from work at 4:30, and if he doesn't workout before dinner, he's probably not going to. No one wants to work out right after they eat dinner and it's just too easy to NOT do it by the time it's 7:30 or 8 and you've put in a full day.

So the hour + of P90X just wasn't going to work for him.

I'd heard great things about 10 Minute Trainer and we've had great luck with Beachbody so far, so I ordered it up.

After 30 days I'm not sure if he's lost any weight - he doesn't weigh himself often. But I did notice that things seemed to be fitting better. And that's the only change he's made to his diet (other than watching portions a little bit more diligently). For my part, it wasn't enough. Not just on the scale but from a "feeling fit and fabulous" standpoint. So I've started another round of P90X and I'm glad - and now and again I'm doing 10 Minute Trainer with the husband in addition to my P90X workout. Major burn on those days...

Here's the skinny:

Ten Minute Trainer consists of 5 different 10 minute workouts: Cardio, Total Body, Lower Body, Abs, and Yoga. The training schedule gives you three options for each day - you can do one, two, or three segments so that your workout is 10, 20, or 30 minutes long.  There is a warm-up/cool-down option which adds 4 minutes to your time, and it's probably a good thing, but I find the 2 min warmup rushes through the moves so quickly it's not enough. (Not enough is probably my buzz word for this program).

The program works on the principle of stacking, aka moves that work multiple muscle groups for maximum benefit. And I can tell you that by the end of 10 minutes I'm pretty sweaty and out of breath (at least from cardio and total body, not so much from the other ones). You might only work for 10 minutes but you work HARD.

The ab workout is harder than P90X's Ab Ripper X in my opinion - and Ab Ripper X is hard. 10 Min Abs is probably my least favourite of the workouts because there are several exercises in a row where you start in plank and it's horribly hard on my arms and shoulders - more so than my abdominals. Alternating these exercises with ones in other positions would have worked great. Granted, I've got a bum shoulder right now which is making it harder - it's getting better but I'm having to lighten my weight and my pushups aren't as deep right now.

It's probably also the most complicated program we've done in terms of setup (though only for the cardio segment). You wear a band around your middle and have a resistance band anchored through a door hinge. Problem is, do you have a door in the right position to be able to follow the workout? Our basement is unfinished so there are NO doors and concrete walls. My dh bought anchors and actually drilled into the concrete to install a hook so this could work. You can do the workout WITHOUT using the band, of course, but the added resistance really amps things up.

Would I give it a buy? Yes. It's something the dh has stuck with for the last month, it's good when you're in a time crunch, and you DO work up a sweat.

But it's not my favourite Beachbody program. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however you want to look at it), I'm afraid I'm going to be a P90X girl for a long time.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

What Does "Write What You Know" Really Mean?

I got thinking today about how writers are always told to "Write What You Know". It doesn't make a lot of sense sometimes. What we know can be very limited. We didn't live 200 years ago, or even 60 years ago (most of us anyway) so how can we really KNOW that time period? And yet historical fiction is HUGE. Neither can we know what is to come in the future, but Sci Fi/Futuristic flourishes. I'm pretty sure I'm not familiar with sailing on a yacht on the Med or what it's like to investigate a murder (or kill someone either). Let's face it, the purpose of fiction is to take us on an adventure away from what we know.

And as writers, that's what research and imagination are for.

So what does write what you know really mean?

I've been thinking a lot about the term "core story" lately. Your core story isn't about writing the same plot over and over. My core story has little to do with ranchers and cowboys. Rather, ranchers and cowboys tend to be a natural fit with my core story (and is probably why the first story I sold to Harlequin after years of submitting was a western).

Your core story is bound up in theme and characters.

I didn't get this for a while, not until I had several books under my belt. Let's face it - we're all learning as we go along. There are themes that run through all my stories, and here are a few: finding a place to belong - home is where the heart is. Forgiveness, acceptance, and my heroines tend to want to be seen. They want to know that someone is willing to fight for them, to put them first, to value them. It sounds a little all about ME, doesn't it? But my heroines are also nurturers and caregivers. They're only asking their due, I think. They want a partner.

My heroes are often on the tortured or wounded side of things. They are also strong, hard working, honourable men (you can see how the ranchers and cowboys are a natural fit, as well as the odd soldier thrown in now and again). 

Hard working men, nurturing women. Yes, there's a reason why I write western set and small town stories.

And that's where I write what I know. I'm a farm girl who loves open spaces, harvest time, and a little dirt on her boots on occasion. I'm a nurturer. I'm also a woman who wants to be valued, seen, and appreciated (don't we all?). As much as I understand and enjoy reading and watching stories about other types of characters, that's not my core story when it comes to writing.

I adore chick flicks, for example. I enjoy police procedurals, my favourite subgenre to read is Regency, and I simply adore adaptations of classic literature and miniseries (Downton Abbey, Austen adaptations anyone?).  But when push comes to shove, it's different when I'm at the keyboard with my fingers on the keys.

For example, in my last book, the heroine wasn't working. I didn't like her a lot. I had solid motivation, real reasons why she acted the way she did. In the hands of another writer, she could have been the woman I initially made her out to be. But in MY hands, she just came across as abrasive and cold.  I had written a heroine who was too departed from my core story, and it showed. I dug a little deeper, adjusted some motivations, and suddenly I was liking her a lot better.

I needed to write what I knew.

So take a little time to think about your core story, the  types of characters you gravitate to and the common themes that seem to run through all your stories. Once you've got it, you can use that strength to really craft strong, emotionally satisfying stories.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And another one bites the dust...

A few weeks ago my editor phoned to ask if I could do a short special project (more details coming as I have them). What I can tell you is that it's slated for release later this spring, so clearly the timeline for writing it is really short. And because I handed in my last a few weeks before deadline, I had the time to spare (sort of, I just pushed back what I was planning to write by a few weeks).

I finished the first draft today which makes me very happy. However it is pretty rough, so I'm going to be spending the next few days editing. It's missing some anchoring details and a better idea of the heroine's goal when the story starts, and I'm just 75 words shy of my word count target so not a lot of wiggle room.

But the important thing is to have a complete draft, because now I have a whole story to work with and refine.

In other news, I discovered today that I can handle subzero temps and clear sunny days much better than I can handle grey, rainy, dismal days. It's not the temperature but the greyness that is so dispiriting, makes me tired and want to stick my head in a bucket of carbs. :-)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Off the Clock featured....

Off The Clock is featured today on Ereader Daily News. Check out the first book in my FIRST RESPONDERS series - the second is coming later this year(Oct 16 to be precise). Book 1 has a paramedic hero, and Book 2 features a cop heroine (In The Line of Duty)! And you can probably guess what profession is in Book 3, Into the Fire...

It's Monday, and I've spent the morning putting together my RWA chapter's newsletter....the previous editor was and is a whiz and made it look so pretty so it is big shoes to fill, but I just about have it licked!

And as it's Monday, it's also crazy day for extra curricular stuff, but only in the afternoon. Once we hit 6:30, all quiets down again. I wonder if we'll have time to watch Downton tonight?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fitness Friday: P90X

Today we come to my current favourite program: Beachbody's P90X. A lot of people have seen the infomercials  - if you haven't, just head on over to www.beachbody.com and you'll see lots of stuff for P90X.

P90X stands for Power 90 Extreme. There are three configurations: Lean, Classic, and Doubles. Lean has 2 strength workouts a week, Classic has 3, and Doubles is Classic with extra Cardio workouts scheduled on strength days.

I've done Lean and most of Classic and my fave is Lean. I love the strength workouts, but I find that with Classic I miss some of my favourite routines - notably cardio and core. Core Synergistics especially works to support all the other programs. My balance and stability improved so much doing the core routine. It is one of those love it but hate it workouts, as there are particular exercises that are just horrible for me (like prison cell pushups). But love it for the results.

The plan works on a 3+1 week structure - Three works of high intensity followed by a recovery week that focuses more on yoga, stretch, cardio, etc. and it is fantastic. During that week, that's when you really see your body change. During the last segment, you do 4 weeks before your final recovery week.

The one thing I'm doing this next round is swapping out Cardio now and again in Lean and putting Plyometrics in its place. In the Classic version, Plyo takes the place of cardio, so it's a good swap. I didn't think I'd enjoy Plyo, but it's one of my favourites.

And just because you do lean doesn't mean you're not building strength. You do 2 strength workouts a week, and the other workouts all contain some sort of weight bearing exercise - like pushups and squats. If you've ever held the warrior pose for long, you KNOW how hard it works your quads. Even if you're not lifting weights, you are working your body HARD.

Speaking of yoga - the P90X yoga is 90 min long. I hated it. My beachbody coach suggested I try Tony Horton's (Tony is the P90X instructor) Fountain of Youth yoga which is 48 minutes. I love it so much more.

There's not much designer about this program when it  comes to staging and clothing and all the fancy stuff. The designer stuff is all put into the science of the exercise and it works. I may not have been utterly ripped last summer, but before RWA Nationals conference I left the plus size stores behind and shopped in a regular store. I lost inches off my waist and hips and felt so much taller.  It's hard because it's supposed to be. It's going to push you big time. But one thing I like about Tony is his motto "Do your best and forget the rest". You do what you can, with the assumption that you are going to go not just until "oh that's enough" but to failure (I can't do one more). The moves are also not difficult if you are challenged with bad coordination. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of the conditioning I did when playing sports (especially Plyo. Who thought I'd end up loving the exercises I cursed back then?). Less glam, more boot camp. Suits my personality to a "t", so I like it. My fave workout of all is KenPo - kickboxing. It is an hour of awesome.

And you do a LOT of warm up and cool down, which adds to the workout time but prevents a lot of injury. Like Power90, it has the clock in the corner so you know how far you've got to go. When I hit the 20 min left bit, I'm like hell yeah I can kick this thing. 20 min used to be a whole workout! Now it's the homestretch!

For specs at a glance:

90 days of workouts, on average 1 hour a day
Food plan included - and you're doing a major burn so you can eat a LOT on this plan - in fact, I could never eat all that was listed for the third phase. All good stuff, of course!
Mix of strength and cardio
Advanced level - not to say beginners can't do it, but they should be prepared so they don't get discouraged at first.
Equipment needed: resistance bands for sure. A pull up bar for pull ups but there is a band modification. Personally I like using free weights for a lot of it - I use anywhere from 3 lbs to 20. But the bands will do it.
Cost: The program retails for around $140. For that you get 12 dvds, the food plan, the wall chart, and I believe a resistance band. And you can log on to Beachbody and have online support in the forums there.
Optional equipment: extra bands, hand/free weights, yoga mat, and my personal fave since I have tweaky wrists: push up stands.

Recommended: Oh yeah. Well worth the money in my opinion. Depending, of course, on what style of workout you prefer.  Favourite DVD program I've ever done hands down.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Cover Squeeee!

Monday didn't start out so great. It's the coldest day of the winter so far and we woke up to no power. That means no heat and no lights and no water. No one could shower but nothing was cancelled, so we lit the hurricane lamps and got dressed (brrr!) and the husband fired up the generator so we could run the propane fireplace fan and my space heater that is usually in my office. We closed the doors to the other rooms and the kitchen was soon warming and the sun came up so we could see. Still no water though - we got enough out of our cooler to brush our teeth.

The dog walk was also quite chilly (and therefore short) since the windchill was at -25.

But just as we were going out the door, the power came back on so I have water and my computer and the furnace is running. :-)

And things definitely started looking up when I discovered the cover to THERE AND NOW was up on amazon. It's a reprint of Linda Lael Miller's and Harlequin has included a reprint of Marriage at Circle M with it so my name is in tiny print on the cover but it is there just the same. :-)


I could stare at it all day, lol, but I have to get to work. I'm starting a brand new project today, one I wasn't expecting and just found out about late last week. The deadline is very tight so I need to get my butt moving. I'll have more about it later as I get more details. I will say that I am revisiting past characters and a familiar setting and I'm very excited about it.

Have a good Monday and stay warm!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Fitness Friday: Power 90

Today's program review is going to focus on Beachbody's Power 90 program. Beachbody is the company behind the very popular P90X (which is going to be reviewed probably next week). Power 90 is the predecessor to P90X (which is short for Power 90 Extreme).

When we bought Power 90 it was because both my husband and I wanted to work out but were finding it difficult because he was traveling so much. What attracted us initially was the 30-45 min workouts and the lack of equipment needed - just resistance bands. If I remember correctly, the dvds came with one band, and we ordered another set of 3 of varying resistances. I did some comparison shopping, and nowhere could I find a set of bands as cheaply as I did on their site (and as I mentioned before, or at least I think I did, their bands are great quality. We love them.).

We were clearly out of shape when we started Phase 1-2 as our breath was heaving, sweat was rolling and we thought we might pass out. Basically you alternate a cardio day with a sculpt day, and after 45 days you move up to phase 3-4, which is slightly longer but still easy to follow because for the most part it is adding an extra set to most of the exercises. There's also the Ab Ripper 100 and 200, which is 10 exercises x ten reps for the 100 and 20 reps for the 200.

The bands are easy to travel with and so are the dvds. Tony Horton is my favourite workout leader EVER. I usually laughed a bit, and he is easy to follow. The exercises are not super fancy you must be dancer-like coordinated to do - this is more like boot camp. By the time I was in Phase 3-4, I could run again. I did running club and didn't feel like my lungs were going to explode. I also stopped having the constant hip pain I'd had for a few years, because the exercises support the whole body structure. I was simply amazed.

Tony is very big on a good warm up and cool down as well, which really helps with the soreness. In the corner of your screen is a counter, too, so you can see how much time you have left. And the time flies by while you're doing this workout, thanks to doing repeating sets of various moves.

The program comes with a food guide etc. for those who want nutritional support.

If you're not ready for anything extreme, but you want a good workout without having to have a lot of extra equipment, this is perfect.   While the workouts do get "easier" (you don't feel like you're going to die), you still break a good sweat and your heart gets pumping. Did I lose weight? Yes, not as fast as I'd like but I put that down to diet more than exercise. If I'd been stricter with myself, I probably would have lost more, but while I was doing it my weight did keep creeping downwards.

Definitely a recommended buy.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I'm Cold

It makes no sense. I keep the heat set at 20 degrees celsius. I have on yoga pants and a sweatshirt, socks and slippers. I should NOT be cold.

But from now until about APRIL, I will be cold almost ALL the time. My mother was always cold. Granted, I still find she keeps her house crazy-hot, and I'm not quite at the point where I need a blanket in summer, but I'm starting to understand. I'm not quite 40, so I'm not sure if this is an age thing, a hormone thing, or what. But does it matter? I'm just COLD.

My next knitting pattern is fingerless gloves. I wear slippers or wool socks because the coldest things are my hands and feet. But really, no part of my body is exempt. The tip of my nose is cold. My arms are cold and so is my butt. And right now I've got a blanket around my lower half AND my infrared space heater about 3 ft away (set to 72 fahrenheit).

Just wait until April though. It won't take long for me to start complaining about the heat and humidity. Apparently I only have 2 thermostat levels: ice cube and on fire.

Monday, January 09, 2012

HELL ON WHEELS

Is anyone watching AMC's HELL ON WHEELS? I've blogged about it over at Petticoats and Pistols today, and here's a little teaser to entice you to see what I had to say:


And in other Monday news, I'm giving away copies of Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle on Goodreads!


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle by Donna Alward

Proud Rancher, Precious Bundle

by Donna Alward

Giveaway ends February 15, 2012.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Friday, January 06, 2012

Fitness Friday: Wii Fit

I'm going to try to post a series of Fitness Friday posts on the blog this year. Like most people who have struggled with their weight, I've tried lots of different things with varying rates of success. Last year I lost close to 40 lbs (and put a few back on over the holidays, darn it!) but I'm far from where I should be (another 20 would do it, I think!)

So I'll be talking different workouts, probably sharing recipes, linking to articles, and various other fitness related stuff throughout the year.

Today I thought I'd give a bit of a review of Wii Fit. I know a lot of people get gaming systems for Christmas at the same time as they make weight loss and exercise goals. We've got Wii Fit, so here's my run down.

The Wii Fit is fun - you can personalize your Mii to look sort of like you. Mine has long dark hair, extra weight around the middle, and glasses.

You also do a fit test each time you log in - it records your weight, your posture, and then gives you a few balance exercises to calculate your Wii Fit Age. I'm not sure how this works, to be honest. If I've worked out a lot, I'm tired and my posture may be off a bit, making me 45. If I do certain tests, I score better and I might be 23. But the recording of your weight is a neat tool, and it is also accurate within .2 of a pound usually to my digital scale. It'll give you your weight and your BMI, but I have to admit it drives me crazy when the little voice chimes out, "That's Obese". A polite way of saying "More time on the Wii Fit Board, Lardass."

The workout:

The exercises are divided up into four groups: Aerobic, Strength, Yoga, and Balance. In the original wii fit, you do one exercise at a time and then have to pick the next, rather than making a program or "playlist" type set up, which is time consuming. As you use it more, more exercises are unlocked.

In aerobic, there's basic step and advanced step, running in place, boxing, and hula hooping.

For strength you can pick individual moves and do a certain number of reps. There's often a "balance" component to make sure your form is correct. The same goes for yoga, only those exercises focus on holding the pose rather than reps.

Balance games are fun - there's ski jump, slalom skiing, tightrope walking, a fun thing with penguins and fish...

Once you do 30 minutes you also get a way-to-go type announcement and a star. Woo hoo.

Ultimately though what you get from this program is going to depend a LOT on your current fitness level. If you're sedentary and not used to exercising, this might not be a bad place to start. It is also good for people with joint issues as there is very little impact and it is what I'd call a "gentle" workout. A few years ago when the daily dog walk was my exercise, I broke a sweat with boxing and hula hooping. But when I stepped on the other night, it really didn't work me physically much at all.

So if you're already up and moving and looking to up your fitness and develop some real strength/cardio health/endurance - give this one a pass. You need something higher intensity to really get a burn. Wii fit will get you moving, but you won't be on fire.





Thursday, January 05, 2012

Book Blog Thursday

This is a great time for me to update you on what I've been reading! I've been reading a lot lately (or at least a lot for me) and had some stellar reads towards the end of 2011.

BEFORE THE SCANDAL by Suzanne Enoch

I loved it! This is the first I've read by this author, but I already have the other 2 in the trilogy in my amazon cart! Totally likeable characters, both on the "outside" due to scandals. I liked how they were old friends, each with their own external conflicts. Many times solving one problem would only create a bigger problem for the other, so the solution wouldn't work. And it was so easy to see that Alyse and Phin belonged together because they were good friends and not just lovers. I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out how it was all going to play out, and it wasn't predictable.

One of my favourite books of the year. I wish it hadn't sat on my tbr shelf for so long!

SUITE FRANCAISE by Irene Nemirovsky

I confess I bought this book for the cover - the moment I saw it I was intrigued, and doubly so because it is set during the German occupation of France.

Did I like it? I'm not sure. It certainly unromanticizes the period with stark reality and a dark side to "French manners" as the back cover copy mentions. The first part of the book was getting to know the characters, though several are introduced and I ended up wondering why when several of them disappeared for one reason or another.

I think my problem was this: the book is more of a statement than a plot. The language is beautiful and evocative, and yes, the book made me think....but in the hands of not just a wordsmith but a storyteller it could have been very different. What would have made this far better for me was if each of the independent characters might have seemed unrelated but in the end had a crucial part to play as things come to a head. To be honest - as the book comes to a close there is FINALLY some tension and high stakes...Lucile must choose love or loyalty, people may get caught, Russia has finally entered the war.... I wanted to see her choice and what would happen.

And what happens? It ends. After 338 pages, I was left thinking "but it was finally getting good!".
It's the kind of book that will have me thinking for a long time, but not entertained. And honestly- I like to be both.

AN O'BRIEN FAMILY CHRISTMAS by Sherryl Woods

Really enjoyed this one - the O'Briens take a family trip to Ireland for Christmas, where Nell meets an old flame and Matthew and Laila get their HEA.

Only bad thing? I missed books in between last year's holiday story and this year's, so I have to go back and fill in the gaps in the series. :-)

A CHESAPEAKE SHORES CHRISTMAS by Sherryl Woods

Ah, Mick and Meg! I've looked forward to seeing their reunion marriage, and visiting Chesapeake Shores again. It was good but honestly...Mick got on my nerves. He is SOOOOO bossy. It is a good thing Meg is strong-willed to match him in a way she wasn't when they were younger. I wanted to throttle him more often than not. Their daughter Abby had chats with her mom that were geared to make us perhaps see a different side to Mick's bossiness, but...

I found myself comparing this series to Nora's McGregor series. Daniel MacGregor was definitely head of the family and a first class meddler, but he never got on my nerves like Mick O'Brien. That being said, he and Anna always had a good marriage while Meg and Mick had split and so putting them front and center to work out their problems is different than Daniel and Anna being secondaries and in a supporting role.

Overall though I liked the book and especially the Connor storyline...and I adore the Chesapeake Shores setting. I'm looking forward to reading more in the series (especially Mack and Suzi!)!


SEDUCED BY THE HIGHLANDER by Julianne MacLean

The last in the Highlander trilogy by Julianne MacLean, and wow, was it hot!

Oddly enough, through most of the book the hero has vowed to be celibate because of a curse put on him at the beginning of the story. But the attraction between Lachlan and Catherine is so sizzling that it really heats things up as he tries to help her discover who she is AND get the curse lifted. Sometimes all that restraint is quite sexy!

Catherine has lost her memory, but it didn't take me long to figure out how things were going to unfold and her "place" in the family. What did surprise me was the past that she forgot. When it finally comes back to her...I wasn't expecting THAT. It was a nice twist.

I'm a sucker for highlander romance and Julianne's trilogy was marvelous! I'm a bit sad it's over, but looking forward to her next trilogy coming out in 2012 - and it has the polish of royalty about it!


BRING ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS by Robyn Carr

The Christmas-themed reading continues.... yesterday I was craving a reading day and mother nature obliged by whipping up a big storm and leaving us without power for over 5 hours. I read this is pretty much one sitting.

The very beginning was slightly confusing - there was some shifting back and forth with time and POV for backstory, but after about the 40th page or so it settled into place and I couldn't put it down. Becca was a little annoying at first, but she really "grew up" as the book went on, especially when she realized that she hadn't been there for Denny when he needed her years earlier. Her caring nature really started to shine through, and the Virgin River townspeople are as charming as ever. Denny is a fantastic hero! It didn't take long for me to see that all other men would pale in comparison to him. And as he and Becca reunited I really rooted for them! The ending was simply beautiful and completely sighworthy. It was a fantastic way to spend an unexpected day off!


THE FIRST LOVE COOKIE CLUB by Lori Wilde

This book was given out at RWA Nationals and I saved it for closer to the holidays to read. I really enjoyed it - loved the characters and how layer by layer we got to see them grow. I really liked how the heroine, Sarah, got stronger by the end and really put herself out there for the family and man she loved. It's a real feel-good Christmas story with the magic of a close-knit, small town and chock full of traditions.

HOTLY BEDDED, CONVENIENTLY WEDDED by Kate Hardy

One of the great things about Christmas break is more reading time, and on Boxing Day I settled in with a glass of pinot noir and one of Kate's backlist - Hotly Bedded, Conveniently Wedded. It was ten o'clock, I figured I'd get a start on it and and finish it on the 27th.

Instead I turned the last page at just a hair past midnight, only breaking to refill my glass.


Alex and Bel are some of the most likeable characters I've ever had the pleasure to "meet". It's very hard to make a marriage of convenience plausible in this day and age and so Kate bolstered the initial reason with family involvement - both families were very behind the marriage and with Alex's mom being ill, neither of them wanted to disappoint everyone by confessing it wasn't "real".

Alex's reasons for not wanting to fall in love aren't perhaps the strongest - but the reader doesn't care so much because it's so obvious that despite his assurances, Alex is ready to settle down and start a family. He's a workaholic who's getting clucky and it's pretty adorable - and he's also pretty good to Bel, too. He treats her so well - they don't just say they are best friends but they ACT like best friends. They share interests, and their professions were different enough that it gave the book a very fresh feel and made it interesting.

Bel's reasons for being afraid are much stronger and I really felt for her...at first it's easy to believe that she's focused on her work because she's dedicated but as the layers are peeled back we see how wrecked she is every time she sees babies and happy families. When Alex promises to try to give her everything she dreams of, that was it. I think *I* wanted to marry him. And when he ends up starting his new job and working late and travelling, I really felt Bel's loneliness, because at this point she knows she loves him and is fairly sure he'll never be in love with her the same way.

Without giving more spoilers, I will say that the black moment had me in tears but Alex showed what a good man he was and the ending was lovely.

If you're looking for a sexy, feel-good, emotional read that's like a breath of fresh air - snag this one for your e-reader (or find a rare print copy online).

I'll be back early February with a January roundup!

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Today is the official start of the New Year for me. Why? Because school is back in, the house is empty, and I'm back to work. The Christmas decorations came down yesterday, and I'm raring to go with the WIP which is due in just over a month.

Already this morning I've showered, had breakfast, tidied the kitchen after packing lunches, taken the eldest to her orthodontist appointment, walked the dog, had my favourite almond milk/protein powder/banana shake, ordered flowers for my mom's birthday, checked my e-mail, and put out the call for my first #1k1hr of the new year.

It was great sleeping in, having the downtime (because trying to structure any work with everyone home is a sure way to drive myself crazy) but boy am I happy to get back to the regular schedule!

I did some reading over the break and watched some movies too. In particular I enjoyed The King's Speech and Just Wright for movies and for books...well, the best one I read over the holidays was BEFORE THE SCANDAL by Suzanne Enoch.

As far as resolutions, I don't really make them - I make plans. I have a lot to get done this year so if there is any resolution at all, it's to keep the focus and maintain the productivity I saw through September - November. AND other than my RITA reading (which will start in a few weeks), this year I'm indulging myself and reading whatever grabs me from the shelf. Right now I'm reading Unveiled by Courtney Milan.

So happy new year...time for me to hit that deadline and give it what for!

What are your plans for the new year? Do you make resolutions?