Friday, February 29, 2008
When we got there, the room was full. Maybe one or two empty chairs and that was it. The first few moments were a little frenetic as I got started, but we settled down, found our groove, and generally had a really good time. They actually had to come in and tell us the library was closing. LOL.
I know this is the LAST day of the month (Happy Anniversary Breck and Sherry!) but I'm going to allow this one last day for entries into my February contest. Send me an e-mail at email@example.com telling me your favourite kind of chocolate, and I'll draw on Monday (Happy Birthday sweetie!) for the winner of some Bernard Callebaut chocolate, a commemorative postcard, and some really cool bookmarks.
Don't forget, if you're in the UK, put UK COUPON in the subject line for a chance to win a whole booklet of coupons only good in the UK.
And then on Monday I'll also announce March's contest. There are some special happenings in March in conjunction with the release of THE SOLDIER'S HOMECOMING, so stay tuned.
Now I'm off to do the banking and then my physio appointment.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
My post is short today though because in addition to that we're getting some snow and I have a zillion things to distract me today. I also have a library talk scheduled at the Calgary Library - Crowfoot called Writing Romance for Today's Market. I'm giving it with Vivi Anna and it's sure to be a good time (It always is with Vivi!).
So for now I'm off...and I suppose I should shovel the walks....
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
"Once upon a time I had questions about London as I was writing a to-be-rejected book. :-) I asked on one of the threads here, which has since become The Mouse and Pen thread, and Michelle offered to answer them.
This was I think about the end-ish of 2003? I think around then as Michelle sent me her recipe for christmas pudding. LOL What followed was her offering to read a manuscript for me. If you've read Michelle's posts you've probably gathered she's really smart and I thought, why not. The other thing Michelle is is honest. I got that critique back and cried and considered quitting (she probably hates that I never leave this part out, lol). "
Of course Michelle and I were e-mailing yesterday and talking about it.
There IS a reason why I never leave that part out of the story. In an e-mail to her, I said, "It was a hard lesson to learn but one that a lot of writers NEED to learn in this business. It is sometimes hard to hear the truth but you need to recognize it for truth and be willing to work. In some ways there is a certain amount of ego that has to come with writing and then there is a certain place where it doesn’t belong at ALL. You need it to keep going sometimes….a belief in yourself rather than blind ego, if that makes sense. But you really need to open your mind to the fact that there is always a better way. To see possibilities rather than needing to be RIGHT."
As writers we love what we create. But you cannot be married to your words. You need to accept that you WILL be asked to change things and make adjustments. The writer that refuses to change anything because their writing is perfect, or simply because they say this is THEIR story....those writers are shooting themselves in the foot. They will likely miss out on a contract, and more than that, they are missing a learning opportunity. I can honestly say that revisions always make my books stronger. And that means the changes I make based on critiques or the ones I make at my editor's urging.
When Michelle sent that critique, I wasn't ready. Full stop. The difference is, an editor sent me a form letter and Michelle pointed out WHY. She gave me something to work with. There was no place for pride...I could either be right, or I could learn and work towards getting published. No one is going to coddle you and urge you along, editors and agents are just TOO busy. So with that first critique, I cried because my pride was hurt. Then I knew that despite it, I WANTED to be published. I couldn't imagine quitting. So I looked again, and rolled up my sleeves.
I think I feel so passionately about it because I know how hard I worked. I know how much I worked learning craft and submitting and being rejected (and by the way, the learning never ends). I know some people sell right away, but for most there's a learning curve and it takes however long it takes. And I think it's a part of my upbringing that says, if you can't do it, then quit. If you can, look forward and hitch up your britches for hard work. If you are willing to take the journey, you'll get to the destination.
For what it's worth, a few years later the rewrite of that first book she critiqued became HIRED BY THE COWBOY, my first Harlequin Romance.
Food for thought.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Credit given where credit is due...this one I printed off the Oprah website wayyy back in 2003 and it remains a very special, and rare treat. For one thing it takes a long time to make, and for another it's stupidly rich, but worth every calorie.
The Smith Family Twelve-Layer Cake
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (room temp)
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs (room temp)
3 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup unsalted butter, cut up
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Pecan halves, coconut, chocolate shavings for garnish if desired.
Position racks in the centre and bottom third of the oven and preheat to 375. Lightly butter four 8 inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Flour the pans and tap out the excess.
To make the batter: Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Sift again, set aside. Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl until light in colour and texture (I use electric beaters as I don't have a mix-master). Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour in 3 additions, alternating with 2 additions of the milk. Add in the vanilla. Using a scant cup for each layer, spread the batter evenly in the pans. It will make a thin layer. (Note: Most of the time I end up with 10 layers, not 12, but who's counting?)
Staggering the pans on the racks so they are at least 2 inches from each other and the sides of the oven and NOT directly over each other (another note: I only have 2 pans, so I cook them 2 at a time, not 4, increasing prep time but lowering my probability of screwing this part up), bake the layers until they feel firm when touched in the centres and are beginning to pull away form the sides of the pans - about 12 minutes. Cool IN THE PANS for 5 minutes. Remove to cake racks, remove parchment, and cool completely. Wash and prepare the pans. Repeat until all layers are baked and cooled (Yet another note...I peel the parchment off, but then as they cool re-stack the layers with the parchment loose but in between to keep the layers from sticking together until the icing is ready).
Bring the sugar, cocoa, butter and evaporated milk to a full boil in a large saucepan. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until it has thickened slightly (Resembles choc syrup but will thicken as it cools) about 3 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Let icing cool until thick enough to spread but still pourable.
Place a layer of cake on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet. Spread with a few tbsp of the icing, letting the excess run down the sides. Stack with the rest of the cakes. Pour the remainder over the top of the cake and smooth over the sides. Garnish.
Now, if you have extra syrup, it's excellent used as hot fudge sauce on ice cream. :-) Also, it doesn't mention anything about moving the cake to a serving platter. What I've found works best is to use 2 large, very sturdy spatulas to lift it A SHORT DISTANCE to a waiting plate. It's a damned heavy cake. But gorgeous, and when you slice it it looks like ribbons on the inside. MMMMM.
This one is a LOT easier....seriously it takes 5 min to make and a half hour or less to bake. If I have unexpected company for dinner this saves me as far as dessert goes. It's also from my Food-For-Life friend and so is low in fat, unfortunately not so low in sugar. :-)
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup white sugar
2 tbsp cocoa
1 cup milk
2 tbsp melted shortening (I use margarine)
1 tsp vanilla.
Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cocoa. Add milk, shortening and vanilla. Mix until smooth, and turn into an 8x8 greased pan.
Mix together 1 cup brown sugar and 4 tbsp cocoa and sprinkle over top of the brownie batter. Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over top and DO NOT STIR! (yes, it looks funny. Trust me.) Bake at 350 for approx 30 min.
What comes out is delicious dark brownie smothered in hot fudge sauce. :-)
So there you are...two of my favourite chocolate recipes.
The Art of Romance Writing by Valerie Parv
My husband got this for me for Christmas and I've absorbed it over the past 2 nights.
I really wish I'd had this book around the time when it was published - 2004. (Note: this is the second edition) It is a fabulous book for those aspiring to publication. That doesn't mean I still didn't learn things. Learning does NOT stop with publication and as well it is always a comfort to read about the romance genre, especially when it's written by someone who gets it, and whom I like and respect.
My one caution is the market section at the back...some of it is now outdated which is not surprising considering how lines change and disappear. The blurb on Bombshell comes to mind. But there's also scads of great info that make it well worth it.
As an overview of the industry as well as the basic components of writing a romance novel, you can't go wrong with this one.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Today I hit my first milestone. I've sold The Cowboy's Princess, making it my 5th Harlequin Romance.
I don't have an official title yet, but it is slotted for January 09!
I promised Christina Hollis last week I'd post a couple of chocolate recipes after her post on the Pink Heart Society. I have to run to work and then my physio appt as well as other errands today, but come back tomorrow for 2 recipes, one so easy it's crazy and the other more time consuming but SO WORTH IT.
For now I'm off.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
First of all, pop on over to Love Is An Exploding Cigar today as I'm putting in a guest appearance. And come read about my non-topic and ask me anything!
Also, I'm at the Calgary Public Library tonight - the downtown location - from 7-8:30 with fellow Calgary authors CJ Carmichael and Vivi Anna. We're talking about our latest books, (For me, The Soldier's Homecoming) reading from them and also signing! It will be a hoot...so if you just happen to be in the area, come on down. Rumour has it we also have some free stuff to give away.
And over at the Harlequin Romance Author Blog I'm posting all the cool special releases from our authors this month. As well as details about how to win a copy of Nicola Marsh's Executive Mother-To-Be.
For now I'm off to do the other zillion things I have to do today. No rest for the wicked. ;-)
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
First of all, I'm now the Vice Prez of our local RWA chapter. Vivi Anna is the new prez, and she's a hoot, so I'm looking forward to working with her and the rest of the executive. Actually, the whole chapter is FANTASTIC, and last night's meeting was great with tons of fab discussion.
The second very cool thing is that my August release, Falling For Mr. Dark and Dangerous, is up on amazon, though without a cover as yet. Still....it's a thrill to see another book show up.
And the best for today...I got a phone call from a lady who apparently has done some of my copy edits. She phoned to pay me some compliments on my writing and I was pleased as punch. It's the first time anything like this has happened to me and it was lovely. So often we feel like we're writing into the ether and when feedback comes...especially the good kind...it makes such a huge difference.
So that's all - now I'm off to my meeting and then the day job....
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Yes, ladies, take a moment and enjoy.
It also lets me use the pictures from last summer, when we were at a winery in the area where I've set the book.
Unfortunately now I have to make a phone call and then go to the day job, but I'm having fun nonetheless.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Read number five was Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Last year I started reading all of the HP book to my girls at night.
Of all the February Romance books, this was the one I promised myself I would buy. The cover alone should see it flying off the shelves...see Trish's post with the cover artist on the Pink Heart Society Blog for Valentine's Day...
It's a lovely Valentine's Day story with a spunky heroine, a loveable hero and a cute as a button daughter.
Fave scene: rolling in the hay...er...straw...and I always pick a favourite detail from Trish's book and this time it was when the heroine ran her fingers through his hair the first time....I could actually SEE it in my mind, and feel it in my fingers. :-)
Friday, February 15, 2008
I've seen lots of couples be in love and blissfully happy until there's a kink in the works and then everything falls spectacularly apart.
But then there's the steady relationships. The ones where everyone is comfortable, and perhaps even a little bored. Where little faults take on more importance than they should. And maybe you take each other a little too much for granted.
No one wants bad things to happen, but sometimes trouble can have a silver lining.
We've had some troubles lately. But one good thing that's come of it is a very real appreciation for the man I married, and WHY I married him. After nearly 17 years together, sometimes you forget. And then something happens that pulls you together and it all becomes very clear.
I got a lovely ring for Valentine's Day, but more than that I realized I've got a guy that will do anything to look after me and his children. Who is a good person. Who stands beside me and worries about me when I'm worried and is happy for me when I'm happy.
Sometimes it takes a little bit of trouble to remember it, that's all.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Today at e-harlequin, you can read THE WEDDING DRESS by Sherryl Woods in e-book mini format for FREE! Just go HERE and add it to your cart. Easy peasy.
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
For now, pop over to Cata and read my smooch for THE SOLDIER'S HOMECOMING.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I guess some stock has shifted. If you have been looking for it and couldn't find it, the link is:
Of course on the amazons you can download the kindle version, and on eharlequin you can get all three of my Romances in e-book:
And The Soldier's Homecoming is out on eharlequin's website now.
There is an article in the Sunday Sun - Newcastle that features my critique partner and others. It is nicely done with a personal touch and very little disparaging about the genre. The link is http://icnewcastle.icnetwork.co.uk/lifestyle/lifestyle/tm_method=full%26objectid=20457275%26siteid=50081-name_page.html
On a personal note, I watched a PBS Masterpiece Theatre I'd taped and I absolutely had to write down a bit of dialogue. It is between Jane and her brother's housekeeper. The program is called Miss Austen Regrets and I quite enjoyed it.
Jane: "Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance."
H.: "But the fuss we make aobut who to choose. And love still dies. And money still vanishes. And every woman - spinster, wife - every woman has regrets. So we read about your heroines, and feel young again. And in love. And full of hope. And if we can make that choice again..."
Jane: "I'd do it right this time."
H.: "It is the gift God has given you. It is enough, I think."
This is exactly how I feel about it. Young. Love. Hope. Books with optimism in the face of adversity. The silver lining. That leave you with a smile on your face. These books have value. More value than they are credited with and I hope when a reader picks up one of my books she - or he - gets those same feelings. If they have I have done my job.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Thursday, February 07, 2008
This morning I will be at the Calgary Philharmonic with my eldest's class. It should be wonderful. It helps a little with the "I wish I could be in London for the Mills and Boon Centenary cocktail party" feelings. I have several people supposed to toast and drink for me (and I won't get the hangover) and duty-bound to give me complete reports.
Kay James has reviewed TSH at Romance Reader at Heart. I am THRILLED so I'm posting it here:
I loved THE SOLDIER’S HOMECOMING! Now that I’ve said that, I’ll tell you why I loved it so much. First of all, although this is a romance and does have the requisite happy ending, there are parts of this story that are so real, so heartbreakingly poignant, that they gripped my soul. I could feel this hero’s pain. Too, the woman he left behind, then met up with again, loves with such intensity that it would have been impossible not to feel the sincerity behind every word she speaks.
Jonas Kirkpatrick is a complex character who returns home from war a different man. He guards his emotions and seems utterly closed off from everyone. Shannyn feels her heart lurch the instant she sees Jonas again, but he barely looks at her. She doesn’t really need him to, though, because she knows exactly what his moss green eyes look like. She sees them daily on the daughter she has, the sweet child named for Jonas’ dead grandmother—the child Jonas doesn’t know exists until he sees her fly into Shannyn’s arms one afternoon.
The emotionally gripping aspects of this story make it so much more than an average love story. THE SOLDIER’S HOMECOMING tells not just Jonas and Shannyn’s story, but the stories of countless men and women who return from serving their country to find their world, and themselves, changed forever. This portrayal of a stirring subject makes for excellent reading.
THE SOLDIER’S HOMECOMING by Donna Alward is a story of love, commitment and the strength of the human spirit. Well done!
See you on the flip side, gang!
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
There are a number of eyewitness accounts to the event. Two with FAB pictures are on Kate's own blog, and on Liz Fielding's.
CONGRATS Kate! So happy for you.
And, I wonder if I should have started keeping count the first time I gave a reason why I love my CP. I will pick a random one now and it's probably a lowball figure...but Why I Love My CP #100 001.
She more than critiques my work. We talk about the industry a lot, or where we want our careers to go, or just random things about writing. It doesn't matter what it is, I always feel better and like I'm going in the right direction after talking to her. Today's topic has been single title markets. I am doing some RITA reading and the one I just finished was amazing...so amazing I've actually added this author's series to my amazon wish list. And we got to talking about reading in the genre etc. and well...it just made me feel good. I got a little silly about LaVyrle Spencer. She is, and probably always will be, my favourite author. Her stories touch me, very deeply. They are human and emotional and very real. I know I re-read Then Came Heaven at the end of last year and when I shut it, I said I wanted to write one book that good before I die.
It comes down to this: reading great books makes me want to write great books.
Now, back to the WIP for me. Oh and Mills and Boon has a fan club on Facebook now. Go sign up! I did.
Monday, February 04, 2008
There's lots of "new" stuff going on though starting this month. New books out, new book being started, new schedule....
As far as new books, The Soldier's Homecoming is available on eharlequin. One of the neat things they do are links to excerpts and posting Dear Reader letters. And the month's official new releases are up on the Harlequin Romance Author Blog. Which reminds me - stop by the Romance blog often. This month there is a fab spotlight on one of our authors (complete with a book giveaway!) and a special Valentine's Day post.
And the new schedule part of the month is that I'm filling in at the old job for five weeks, so it means really focusing on writing in the mornings since I will be gone from about 11:30 a.m. onwards. It should be a good time though, and I believe I'm all finished on March 6.
And then we get to the new book.
Yep, with revisions done and dusted, it's time for me to start on a new project. I brainstormed this one last fall and did up a fairly comprehensive synopsis. And with Biddy's help and pointing out Trish's hero and heroine database, I have cast my characters.
Meet Ethan and Lizzy.
These two have a history...though not a romantic one. That doesn't mean they weren't thinking about it. They were. But there were bigger things at play. It all comes down to timing, doesn't it? And after having her heart broken in every possible way, Lizzy leaves home, determined to never come back.
But then...her Mum is getting married, and even Lizzy is smart enough to know that if she doesn't go home for THIS, she'll regret it for the rest of her life. And she already has enough regrets. So home she trots - tail between her legs - and everything she ran from years ago is still there waiting for her. And then some.
There will likely be more of ME in this book than anything I've ever written. Those that have known me since childhood will recognize places, and even shades of people and events. But don't be mistaken. This book isn't my story or the story of anyone I know. This is Ethan and Lizzy's journey. It's their story.
Now it's time for me to get at it. And to type in those exciting two words:
Friday, February 01, 2008
It's a really great article about the expansion into the Indian market and featuring Andrew Go, who many of us met in London.
Pop over to the article and have a read. It's really quite interesting.