Wednesday, February 29, 2012

THERE AND NOW WINNER

And the winner of THERE AND NOW is..... (drum roll please)

LINDA!

Linda, I've sent you an e-mail.

I loved Linda's surreal moment of delivering her baby at home. Childbirth hurts like hell but it's also wonderful, and because my first labour was short I often wondered about what it would be like to deliver at home if there wasn't time to get to the hospital. We did make it both times (labour with my second was only a few hours long), but I've thought about it lots of times.

What I really liked about so many of the entries is that several had to do with celebrating the achievements of our children. As a mom, I know there's nothing greater than seeing your child succeed. In a lot of ways, our children are OUR achievements. :-)

Thank you all for sharing. It was really fun and interesting to see the variety of experiences you've had!

Off to make some word count. Appointments are KILLING me this week, so I'm trying to make the most of the few hours I have. The word count meter is slowly going up. :-)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Surreal Moments

Every now and again (quite often actually) there are some really surreal moments in doing what I do for a living. Today is one of those moments. One of THE BIGGEST moments, really. And if I weren't wearing old yoga pants and a ratty hoodie with my hair in a messy ponytail (standard work wardrobe), I'd take a picture for posterity.

Today my author copies arrived for THERE AND NOW - which is a reprint of THE Linda Lael Miller's and my book Marriage At Circle M is included as a bonus book.

Holy moly. My book is in with LLM. My name is on the frickin' cover, y'all. Very tiny, but THERE. On the same cover as LLM. My BLURB is on the back.

*falls over*

In honour of them arriving on my doorstep and totally MAKING my Monday, I'm going to give a copy away. Just leave a comment and tell me about the most surreal thing that's ever happened to you. Because surreal moments are AWESOME and I think we should share and be all filled with awesomeness.

Oh and PS - here's something cool. Marriage at Circle M was, until today, the ONLY title I've ever kept with Harlequin. Until today. My short story, Second-Chance Mother, is going to keep its title for THE GREATEST GIFT Mother's Day anthology, coming in May.

So fire away! What's the most surreal thing that's ever happened to you? I'll draw late tomorrow for a winner!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Goodreads Giveaway of THE LAST REAL COWBOY


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Last Real Cowboy by Donna Alward

The Last Real Cowboy

by Donna Alward

Giveaway ends April 01, 2012.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lookeee!

So yesterday I finished my revisions and sent them back - only things left on my list now are finishing the last 2 RITA books and getting my taxes together. However my office is a disaster area, so today is all about getting that in order. I know a lot of writers who end up tidying their offices after a book has gone in, and here I am. I think part of my...well, it's not really anxiety, maybe restlessness is a better way to put it...this week has been because I like an orderly workspace and it's been getting more cluttered every day. So that's top of the list.

Yesterday I had some great news - It looks like INTO THE FIRE will be on the 2012 schedule! That means IN THE LINE OF DUTY comes out mid-October and  INTO THE FIRE will be out either in November or December sometime - the exact date isn't nailed down, but that's okay. I'm really hugely pleased that they will be out so close together!

AND

My editor sent me the cover for THE REBEL RANCHER. It comes in PDF and I cropped it and saved it as a jpg, but the color always changes in my program which is weird. So here it is, bearing in mind it's slightly lighter and sort of softer in reality. I adore it. I love the colours and I love the scene and the fact that Ty is almost kissing her. The covers for this duet are fantastic!

Now I'm off to get the day started...lots to do! I hate paperwork....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Two Down, One to Go

Friday was a pretty busy day here. I finished my revisions for Sleigh Ride with the Rancher and sent them to my editor, and I also got the contract for Into the Fire, so the 3rd First Responders novella is officially sold. :-) I had physio on my arm and things are really coming around which is really great news.

This week is another hectic one between kids, physio, and the "odd jobs" I had accumulating on my list. So far I've caught up on e-mail, sent a few people what needed to be sent, got books ready to mail, pre-loaded some blogs, wrote a Dear Reader letter, got two workshop proposals ready AND did up a back copy blurb and art sheet for In The Line of Duty. I still have a 3 chapter crit to do, 2 books left to read on my RITA pile, I need to get my tax stuff sorted for the accountant, and revisions have arrived for the short story I did for HQ. Still, my list is MUCH shorter than it was and I know I can get all this done this week.

It's been a busy few months, but in the end it's worth it. I have 3 Romances and a short releasing with Harlequin this year, and at least one of the novellas with Samhain is out before the end of the year - no release date on Into the Fire yet.

Now my lunch break is over and it's time to get back to work!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fitness Friday: Working through Injury

Last week I had no idea that this would be my topic for this week. Unfortunately this topic is now very timely as I've injured myself and am dealing with a lot of both pain and frustration.

It hasn't come out of the blue but waking up Tuesday morning in extreme pain was a surprise none the less. For the past several weeks, the front of my shoulder/top of my arm has been tweaky. As a result, I've kept working out but stopped when it hurt. So lighter weights when lifting above my head or to the side, not going as deep into my pushups, and trying to keep it stretched out.

There is a moment when you hurt yourself that you ask yourself do I stop and baby it or do I lighten the load and keep working it, hoping to strengthen?

You know what I did and it was clearly the WRONG choice. My Monday night workout was only a 30 minute run. It felt awesome. There was no weight in my hand, no poses where I was supporting my body weight with my arms. The last thing I expected was to wake up Tuesday morning unable to move my shoulder without pain. Even completely still, it hurt. I couldn't put on a jacket or reach for anything. Moreover, ice and ibuprofen were not cutting it. Neither did an ibuprofen/muscle relaxant combo. Sleep on Tuesday night was a nightmare - this injury was actually more painful than when I broke my wrist! Finally at 3 a.m. I tried extra strength Acetaminophen WITH an added 200mg of ibuprofen. It was the only thing that would touch the pain. Notice I said touch, not alleviate. But resting my arm on a pillow and those meds finally allowed me to get some sleep.

My niece, who has a Masters in Kinesiology, was visiting and agreed that it seemed to be a deltoid issue or possibly a biceps tendon. By Wednesday morning I had called the doctor and left a message. I did NOT want to go to emerg and wait for 7 hours again. Though maybe I should have. All I wanted at that point were some drugs to work on the pain and any possible inflammation going on in there.

I didn't get in to see the doctor until Wednesday afternoon. The diagnosis was anterior bursitis, so I had the deltoid part right. As a result, I'm taking anti-inflammatories and obviously can't use the arm until it stops hurting and I've done some physio - at least a month's worth, according to Doctor's orders. Doctor was also sure to point out that this might have all been avoided if I'd treated it when it first started troubling me rather than leave it to exacerbate. She told me a good rule - when it comes to sports injuries and joints, they tend to come in pairs (knees, hips, shoulders, etc). If one feels different from the other, there's probably a reason. For someone who is usually good at listening to her body, I messed up.

I had my first physio appt last night and the diagnosis is slightly changed - not bursitis after all but tendonitis around my rotator cuff. That makes MUCH more sense to me, actually. I had some TENS type treatment with ice, did some range of motion assessments and got an exercise to do. I have to go back today and three times next week just to start. Fun.

I also filled the pain meds after a night of little sleep and a lot of pain. Last night the pain was greatly reduced while sleeping, and they didn't knock me out like I expected. I woke several times but went right back to sleep again. So no grogginess but I DO feel rested. Good move on my part. Made starting the day much easier. The PT suggested a hot shower to loosen muscles, alternating with ice for the inflammation. I have to admit - the shower felt heavenly.
Which is all well and good for the right now, but the question is - as I'm trying to lose more weight and I don't want to go backwards in fitness level, what do I do? First of all, I know I have to watch food a lot more closely as I won't be getting the same amount of burn from my workouts.

It is shocking to realize how much you use your SHOULDERS. Yoga's out - I can't do down dogs or cobras or any other position that uses my arms. I can't do my P90X cardio - it starts with yoga, goes to Kenpo which is punching and kicking and ends with Core which uses a lot of stability aka using your arms to support your body weight or hold poses. Kenpo's out. Stretch is probably okay. Any of the upper body strength workouts...nope. I can probably do plyometrics, modifying anything I need to use my arm for. I can make it through Ab  Ripper - modifying a few moves where arm balance is required. For example, the lateral hip raises where you balance on your elbow is out, but I did an alternative oblique exercise by doing a spinal twist and then oblique crunches to isolate the muscles.

I'm also doing Legs and Back, without the Back. Lunges, calf raises, squats - all good. I just can't add any weight like I normally do, because I can't hold it in my hand. Even running, the front and back arm motion is KILLER.

And there's walking. I hate to say that because it's not a high enough intensity for me, but at least it's moving and burning calories which may keep me from putting any weight back on.

Once things start to heal, I'll be able to add in exercises like running and very light weights along with my physio treatment.

The important thing to remember is something that I heard Tony Horton say: you injure your arm, you work your legs. Injure your legs, work your arms. Just don't stop. Keep moving whatever it takes. I know that feeling so frustrated makes it tempting to just QUIT until things are better. But I know I'll regret doing that. So until things are healed, it's up to me to be creative and keep my butt moving.

Any suggestions? I hate cycling, but for the first time in years I wish we had an exercise bike!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hearts on Fire

CTV has put the interview up on their Live at 5 Facebook page which is fab since it means people outside our region can now view it! I think it turned out quite well, they gave us wonderful press and my pal Bev Pettersen kicks off the segment - she's one of my favourite people in the world and I was so happy she got some exposure! Her horse racing/mystery/romance books are fab - she's a previous Golden Heart Finalist and it's easy to see why.

The voice reading a snippet of my book is the fabulous Harlequin author Deborah Hale, who was a lifesaver since I have a very difficult time reading my own stuff. There's a shot of Deb and I chatting over books as well.

Anyway you can head on over and have a look - the segment runs around 4 minutes. Personally, I'm pleased that the Romance genre has gotten some GOOD press.

Thanks to Tara MacDonald and Charlie Mac Productions and Shawna Romkey and Dogwood Consulting for sponsoring the Hearts on Fire evening for RWAC. The Halifax Club was absolutely lovely.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day! I'm busy working on revisions and trying to stay on top of stuff  - a real challenge this week. But there's some neat stuff going on. First of all, I found out this morning that HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART is the winner of the Cataromance Reviewer's Choice Award for Best Harlequin Romance of 2011 (along with Bridesmaid Says I Do by Barbara Hannay)! That's a nice way to start the day!

The Harlequin Romance authors are also holding a contest starting tomorrow as we share what we did on Valentine's Day, so you'll have to wait and read about my plans with the other half over there (and after the fact). One winner will get a huge amount of prizes from the participating authors.

And tonight I'll be on CTV's Live At 5 - along with Bev Pettersen I was interviewed last Thursday during the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada's HEARTS ON FIRE event at the Halifax Club. I think you'll also be seeing glimpses of Harlequin author Deborah Hale! It was a great time and I'm both nervous and excited to see how it turned out.

Back to revisions for me!

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Familiar Face and Love is in the Air!

So first up - I was out most of the day today, and missed posting a Fitness Friday post. I'll be back with it next week.

The kids and I just finished catching up on the first epis of The Voice. I love this show. There's tons of talent and the chemistry between the judges is awesome. I laugh a LOT. I listen to a lot of good music.

But tonight there was a familiar face on the screen. I kept thinking he looked familiar. My daughter said so too. And then she asked what his name was. I said Chris Mann. She freaked. She said, "Remember Mom? I had his picture on my computer."

Well, yes indeedy. I remembered going to his site and listening to his music. I don't remember what led me there, but I remember loving it. But then I forgot.

And then tonight I remembered.

And I visited his site. And I listened to his take on "Beautiful Life"  and realized I had another song for my playlist for the next book.

Anyway I can't wait until the next episode.

Before I dash off - it IS Friday night after all - I'm going to give you a link to an interview I did with Stephanie Beaumont, the awesome lady that runs the Sea and Be Scene website, which features talent in all forms from across Atlantic Canada. She interviewed me for "Love Month", and it was great fun. Check it out!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Sammies

The blog's been quiet - this week has been crazy crazy and hopefully by the end of next week things will have settled down A LOT, and I'll have some news to share. But I did want to post a quick mention that Samhain Publishing's Annual Sammie Awards are open for voting! OFF THE CLOCK is in the 2011 E-book Best Book and Best Cover Art Categories, while you can find SOLD TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER and BREATHE in the print categories.

Check it out! The survey/voting link is here.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

January Reading Round-Up

I had a great reading month in January! So many good books, it was really enjoyable! The list will be much shorter for February, as I have 6 books to judge for the RITA competition and that's all sooper seekrit. Now hang on to your hats, here's what I read in January and my thoughts:

UNVEILED by Courtney Milan. This is the first book of Courtney's I've read, and I had high expectations as I love Historicals (particularly Regencies). Initially I was very "meh". I just wasn't FEELING the characters. And part of that is because I read this right after reading After the Scandal by Suzanne Enoch, which I adored and thought was awesome with sauce. Anyway, as I went along, it got better. And better. And it didn't take long for me to really get into it and enjoy it a lot. So maybe, if I had to rank it, it wouldn't be a five-star like Enoch's book, but it would definitely qualify for a solid four-star.

Shifting gears, here's the first of the non-fiction I read this month: IGNITING THE THIRD FACTOR by Peter Jensen. It doesn't get very high marks from me, possibly not because of bad writing but simply relevance. It is about taking that "third factor"  - the something that is more than talent (nature) and fostering it (nurture), but the extra special something within people, tapping into it, and making them exceed expectations. There are a lot of olympic coaching anecdotes in here and I was interested because hey, what mid-lister doesn't want to shoot to the top of the best seller list? I think I was hoping there would be something in this book that would relate to that, but it just kept, well, misfiring for me. I know I had problems with Gladwell's Outliers, but it made more sense to me than this book. My husband says he is better in person than in the book, and a great speaker.

Next up, THE BIRTH HOUSE by Ami McKay. I've had this on my shelf for far too long, and simply put, it's a treasure. It follows one main character who becomes a mid-wife to the locals (having trained under the last midwife, who was, as the Cajuns call it, a traiteur). Set mostly during WW1, it takes place in the village of Scot's Bay in the Annapolis Valley region. I've been there, and the reference to going "down the mountain into Canning" was lovely to me. This is the same area where I've set my First Responders series.  The Birth House is all that literary fiction should be - well-drawn, likeable (and hate-able) characters, an engaging voice, wonderful setting that is as much a character as any person in the book, and a good ending. I really hate books that end in an unsatisfactory way, and that doesn't mean it has to be a happy ending either. But if I get to the end and it's "What's the point", and the point is there is no point, I get grouchy. I always end up feeling like the characters have changed and worked hard through the book and they deserve a decent ending. Anything else feels like the author trying to be clever and make a point that goes far beyond what storytelling should be...anyway, before I launch into a rant about THAT, let me just say this is a wonderful story well-worth reading.

LETTERS FROM HOME by Kristina McMorris was my favourite book in January. Letters From Home has a lovely story behind it - visit her page here on her site to read about it.

It's the story of a WWII infantryman and a woman he meets at a USO club. There's an instant connection, but she thinks he's really only interested in her glam friend, Betty. Besides, Liz is practically engaged. But Betty asks her to please write him a letter on her behalf, and when Morgan writes back, Liz knows she MUST reply. The problem is, he thinks she's Betty. And she doesn't know how to tell him she's not. The book also follows Betty's story as well as their other friend, Julia. Those stories are wonderful in their own right and I was particularly curious about what happened to Julia after the book ended. It's beautifully written, and the characters stay with you long after the book is over. It's like stepping back in time and yet the writing has a fresh, modern style at the same time.

There is a lot of home front stuff, but there are some scenes from the front as Morgan goes through the war, and if you're a fan of Band of Brothers you'll hear echoes of that through Morgan's experiences during the Battle of the Bulge. I'll confess tissues were required in a few places. It was my favourite book of the month, and I'm really looking forward to her follow up release, BRIDGE OF SCARLET LEAVES, releasing later this month.

Next up is the other non-fic book I read this month: my friend and mentor Liz Fielding's LITTLE BOOK OF WRITING ROMANCE. It's a real gem, full of information for both novice writers and veterans alike. No lofty or intimidating terms, it’s got all the basic ingredients for a Happy Ever After. As I was reading it I had a lot of lightbulb moments about the story I was working on, and that's always a good thing.

And my final read for the month was THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins. SO GOOD. It definitely lived up to my expectations and I'm really looking forward to the movie. It took me a few chapters to get into it, but once Katniss and Peeta are on their way to the Capitol, I was hooked. Tons of tension and stuff I didn't see coming, and a great ending that still left the door wide open for the next book. I am going to read Catching Fire and Mockingjay next, right after I finish my RITA books.







Friday, February 03, 2012

Fitness Friday - Don't Let the Plateaus Sabotage You

After reading Tawny Weber's post over at the Healthy Writer blog, I got thinking about plateaus. They happen. Sometimes they happen for a looooong time, and it's frustrating as anything. Sometimes they happen after the first 10 lbs, after the first 20. Sometimes you drop and then bounce back up by a few pounds and they just won't come back off again. And after days and weeks of it you can kind of start thinking, what's the point? It doesn't seem to matter what you do, so who really cares if you splurge on a cheeseburger or miss a workout. It's not like it's doing you any good anyway.

We've all been there.

Sometimes it seems like I've been on a plateau since last June. After Nationals, I dropped by teeny tiny increments until in November I reached another mini-goal. And what happened? I bounced right back up by about 3 lbs and stayed there.

Christmas added another couple of pounds and now guess what. I'm right back where I was last July. After a year and a half of fairly steady loss (and nearly 40 lbs), this is where I am.

It's a bit maddening.

When plateaus happen you need to look at a lot of things so that you don't get utterly derailed and start with the negative self-talk. It helps me to look at the big picture. If this were all about the number on the scale, it'd be downright frustrating. BUT each time I make a good food choice and workout when I'd rather be watching tv, I know I've contributed something to my health, and that's a GOOD thing. It's empowering when that stupid scale number is not. Forget about body fat for a few minutes and think of all the good things you've done for your heart, lungs, and muscles.

It also pays to look at your diet. If you've been a bit lax lately about letting in some bad choices, then that might be keeping you from losing. I know I'd probably be down more than I am if I hadn't gone off the rails last weekend at a neighbour's - there was a lot of red wine flowing and some delicious pita chips with jalapeno greek yogurt dip. That dip was AWESOME. I had way too much of that AND the wine. I can't do that and expect results. Plus the night before my niece made dinner which was a gorgeous stuffed beef roast, carrots, and garlic potatoes. And she made trifle. Come to think of it, staying the same was probably a miracle.

And of course you can look at your activity level.

But what if you're doing all the things that you know WORK and you're still not seeing results?

My answer is, look elsewhere for results.

Do your measurements. After a week of watching calorie count and doing 1 - 1 1/2 hours of exercise a day, I was only down a little over a pound. But I lost a half inch on my waist just in that week. SOMETHING was working.

Remember that if you're working hard and you've added significant weights to your routine, muscle weighs more than fat. It also ups your metabolism, so don't let that stop you. It takes a lot of muscle to compensate for loss, so don't use that as a total excuse. But your shape may be changing even though the scale is posting minimum results. Look at how your clothes fit.

And speaking of clothes, Michelle Styles got me on a little trick last year when things seemed to be not moving. Sometimes our big clothes still "fit" and we think we're not going anywhere. But what you should be trying on are the smaller clothes. When I was particularly frustrated last spring, she told me to do a try-on session. I tried on summer clothes that I hadn't worn in nearly four years. I didn't have to buy any shorts last year because I fit into them again, even when I didn't expect to. Just last week I wondered if I could fit into a formal dress in my closet. Turns out it's actually a little bit big, even though when I wore it I was 15 lbs lighter than I am now. And a favourite suit I wore in London in 2007 is now too big and ill-fitting. Just when you think you might not be going anywhere, poof - there you are.

And remember, too, that the big picture is you're in this for life. Not just dropping the pounds but a healthy lifestyle. Everytime I've plateaued or stumbled, I didn't quit, and eventually the number started dropping again. You just have to keep on, knowing that eating better and exercising make you FEEL better, and that's way more important than a number on the scale.

Have a good week!

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

I just can't wait...

I can't wait to post this tomorrow. Because it's so PRETTY and I love it and I also love the blurb.

Here's the cover of my May release, THE LAST REAL COWBOY! (also, the bonus story? Appears to be The Rancher's Runaway Princess.)


The back strapline says: Cadence Creek Cowboys: They're the rough Diamonds of the West

And here's the blurb. I got so excited, because A Diamond Like No Other was my working title!
 
A diamond like no other…  

From the moment he turned up late to her charity’s meeting, placating everyone with a tip of his Stetson and a lazy smile, Angela Beck knew that Sam Diamond was going to be trouble with a capital T.    

Angela is the prickliest woman Sam Diamond’s ever met—let alone had to work with! He’d love to still her sharp tongue with a kiss, but first he has to get close enough to awaken the complex woman beneath the deliberately cool exterior. And that’s something only a real cowboy can do…

And here's the blurb for Ty's story, THE REBEL RANCHER, coming in June:

Unlocking the rebel's heart
With his break-your-heart smile, Ty Diamond is trouble that Clara Ferguson shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. The black sheep of the Diamond family, rodeo star and rebel, he’s got a reputation that should have Clara running scared—not straight into his arms!
Ty knows he needs to take it easy with Clara—her past has left her with a bruised heart and determined never to rely on a man again. But Ty isn’t all he seems—and his gentle side shakes Clara’s resolute independence to breaking point…

Now do you see why I'm full of squee???? Happy sigh....

January, was that you?

Someone posted that today and I thought it particularly appropriate, since January now seems to be a blur. It was super productive and for that I'm glad. February and March aren't going to let up, so I'm counting my lucky stars that while crazy busy, I'm not yet freaked out (see yesterday's post).

I just finished my RWAC (local RWA chapter) bootcamp writing session, adding just over 1000 words to my story. But seeing as this is the first day of the month, there are also some admin tasks that need doing. If I can add another 1000 words today, I'll be very pleased. Unless revisions hit, this story will be ready to go to my editor at the end of next week.

So what's up today? Well, I'm looking at sending some materials to Romantic Times's BOOKSTORES THAT CARE program, so I've started the initial design. Problem is, I'm waiting for cover art for my May book, which I hope arrives soon since the April authors have theirs and some of the May lines do already as well. The back lists all my releases for this year. As of now, there are five plus one reprint. Three full novels, a novella and a short story in an anthology. 2012 is lookin' good. I can't wait to see covers and blurbs!

I'm about to update my site a bit (not drastically since I'm sans cover art) and also get a February newsletter ready to go.

AND I've got to send some info for a few other newsletters coming out soon.

Let's not forget Valentine's Day either. Later this month the Harlequin Romance Authors will be holding a fun contest on our site at www.harlequinromanceauthors.com , so stay tuned for those details. And right now, Susan Mallery is holding a Bouquet of Books contest where you can win a huge selection of Harlequin books (including one of mine!) and a Kindle Touch. You have to be a member to enter, but all that requires is an e-mail address signup. Check it out on her Members-Only page under "contests": www.susanmallery.com/members.

Anyway, Happy February. Right now I'm looking outside at snow falling and wishing we were heading somewhere with lots of sun and sandy beaches. Oh well. Maybe next year...