Sunday, May 29, 2011

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 56

For the first twelve scenes posted for the Weekend Writer's Retreat, we followed Scorpius as a seven-year-old, fetched from the nursery by a falconer to become his apprentice.

The next twelve scenes followed ten-year-old Scorpius as he discovered the dangers of serving the nobles he'd once imagined were family.

The third set of twelve scenes gave us a thirteen-year-old Scorpius, who discovered the true extent of his master's attempts to shield him from the cruelties of life outside their falconer's cottage.

We rejoin him at age sixteen.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 56

Lord Thibault’s weight dragged upon Scorpius’ shoulders, and upon his master’s, also. Every movement sounded so very loud in the stillness of night, but they kept onward all the same.

They could not afford a light, but Richolf’s years in these woods made their path clear. Stopping so the noble could rest every so often, they picked their way past branches and over stumps until Scorpius heard Lord Thibault’s mount jingling his tack in the darkness.

A wash of relief spread through Scorpius’ chest once they’d hoisted the noble into the saddle. He tried to look at Richolf through the gloom, but only his form stood out from the night woods.

“Scorpius,” Lord Thibault whispered.

He moved close to the horse, standing beside the noble’s boot snug in the stirrup. Realizing Lord Thibault was tapping the saddlebag, Scorpius’ fingers slid along the leather until he found the buckle. Unfastening it as quietly as he could, he reached into the deep pouch until his hand bumped against a cloth sack. He pulled its heavy weight up out of the saddlebag and moved to hand it to Lord Thibault.

The young noble wrapped his hands around Scorpius’. Looking up to see Lord Thibault’s silhouette against the trees, he heard the command to pass the sack of coins over to Richolf. But his heart started to pound with frightening insistence.

Dizzy with dread that pierced him like the killing talons of their falcons, Scorpius stumbled forward until Richolf stepped in front of him. His master’s familiar, weathered hands covered Scorpius’, helping him to withstand the burden of the coins for a long moment.

Tears burned down Scorpius’ face as Richolf took the sack and set it on the ground. Grabbing Scorpius by the arm to steady him, Richolf turned and Scorpius followed until they both stood beside Lord Thibault astride his stallion.

“My family is grateful for your service, falconer,” the noble said in a voice still weak with pain.

Richolf bowed even though it was so dark. “My lord.”

“We would not see you suffer on my behalf. Those who would have killed me here will send others to make you pay for their failure.”

Richolf took a deep breath, then said, his voice breaking, “I understand, my lord.”

Scorpius felt sick. He could hardly get his breath.

“He will come with me,” Lord Thibault said, as if Scorpius was not right there. “I cannot afford to lose him.”

It took a moment for Richolf to force the words out. “As you will, my lord.”

“Master,” Scorpius whispered. If only he could see Richolf’s face.

Strong arms wrapped around him. Scorpius grabbed hold of Richolf as if his embrace could stop this from happening.

“Take care, Scorpius,” Richolf said, stepping back, still holding him by the arms. “Promise me.”

“Where will you go?” Scorpius said, his voice thick with the sobs that were far too dangerous for this night.

His master grabbed hold of his face and kissed him hard on the forehead. “I will send word when I can. When it is safe enough.”

Scorpius trembled. This couldn’t be happening. But Richolf released him, bent to scoop up the sack of coins and disappeared into the black arms of the forest.

Gazing over to see the patient form of Lord Thibault upon his horse, Scorpius fought the urge to knock the young noble to the ground, wishing with all of his might that this lord had never ridden around the curve of the road that led to the home Scorpius had shared with Richolf for a decade.

It wasn’t too late. He could run after Richolf. The two of them could find another place for themselves, a place far away from all of the murderous games these nobles played, not caring whom they eliminated along the way.

He listened closely, but the forest was still. No sign of his master, nor which direction he’d taken.

There was only Lord Thibault, the memory of the weight of him Scorpius still recalled as he'd dragged the young noble to safety beneath the rock ledge and the roots of the ancient tree. The hair on the back of Scorpius’ neck prickled as he remembered the shrieks Lord Thibault had made as the arrowhead was dug out of his shoulder. Scorpius flexed his fingers, almost feeling the knife handle he’d gripped, ready to use it when Ingerith slid through the window with a healing draft for this young noble.

Swiping the tears away, Scorpius strode forward, taking his new master’s outstretched hand to haul himself up onto the horse. With silent signals between stallion and rider, Lord Thibault turned them away from the falconer’s wood, plunging deeper into the forest.


Friday, May 27, 2011

5 on Friday - Set 68

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

Which takes us to my Supernatural obsession, which knows no bounds.

Season 6 just finished airing, and I'm still trying to process what happened.

*insert Luke Skywalker "No!"*

Since it's on my mind, here are five of my favorite Supernatural fan videos from my You Tube playlist.

Can you tell I'm a Dean Girl?

WARNING: violent images / screams / series spoilers if you haven't watched it yet

1 - Somewhere a Clock is Ticking - Snow Patrol

2 - Don't Let the Darkness Eat You Up - Jose Gonzalez

3 - Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad? - Moby

4 - Imagine - A Perfect Circle

5 - New Divide - Linkin Park

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 212 - 13 Randoms From My Life Right Now

1 - Just donated to a funding campaign for a dance film starring two of Canada's most exquisite dancers - Rex Harrington and Evelyn Hart.

This is the coolest idea ever. A site where you can run a limited campaign to fundraise for independent projects.

CLICK HERE for Rex's fundraising campaign - only 2 days left

2 - Met with my film editor at 902 POST last week and put together the assembly edit of the book trailer in a few hours.

Doug Woods - making my dreams come true. SO thrilled to be working with you.

3 - On Friday I'll be attending a Women in Film and Television Atlantic event with my producer Tara featuring cinematographer Becky Parsons.

4 - Was watching the first part of the 2-hour season 6 Supernatural finale when my fellow Ryerson film school grad Adam Reid showed up as the H.P. Lovecraft expert.

Didn't see that coming.

He was awesome!

5 - Got my bookmarks designed and printed thanks to Caroline and Tara.

6 - Met with my web designer Anne MacFarlane and set up a schedule for the launch of my very own dot com site.

7 - I applied for my passport in preparation for my trip next month to New York City for the writers' conference.

8 - Signed up online for my agent and editor appointments at the conference.

9 - Starting to practice my story pitches for the conference.

10 - Spent Victoria Day weekend critiquing a friend's manuscript. A perfect thing to do when the weather was cool and soggy.

11 - Mucho backlogged-io at the day job, but finally getting to the point where I can see a faint light at the end of the tunnel.


12 - Did manage to wash a dog blanket, a people blanket and a load of clothes, and hung them on the line on the one day that had some sunny breaks and a gentle breeze.

Mmm. I love fresh clothes off the line.

13 - After weeks of unrelenting wetness here in the Maritimes, I managed to get the lawn mowed.


Friday, May 20, 2011

5 on Friday - Set 67

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

Just a peek into how I've been feeling lately.

To understand why, please scroll down to Thursday's post.

1 - I'm So Excited - The Pointer Sisters

2 - Let the Good Times Roll - Ray Charles

3 - Nothing But the Best - Frank Sinatra

4 - Seventy-Six Trombones - The Music Man Soundtrack

5 - La Copa de La Vida (Cup of Life) - Ricky Martin

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 211 - 13 Sneak Peeks at the Making of My Book Trailer

I shot the trailer for my upcoming vampire novel a few weekends ago. Here's a behind-the-scenes view of an incredible day.

All photos courtesy of Caroline Ruyle

1 - Scott Baker as Peredur

2 - Stevie Cooper as Tanwen

3 - Bernie Matthew as Melnak

4 - Brennan Handy as the Saint

5 - Brad Smith as the Vampire Lord

6 - My dream-come-true producer, Tara MacDonald stands beside me at far right.

My husband Brad gets ready to press the amulet against Scott, at left.

7 - I give direction to Scott regarding the amulet ordeal.

8 - I go over the battlefield scene with Bernie and Scott.

9 - Stevie and Brad rehearse a more complicated blocking for their shot.

10 - Tara applies really great-looking blood for the vampire-bite shot.

11 - Director-slash-art department-slash-wardrobe fusses with Peredur's cloak.

12 - My DOP - or Director of Photography - Luke Hudgins, left, sets up the next shot, while Tara and I get Scott ready for his next scene.

13 - The beautiful bouquet of flowers which Tara presented to me on set as we wrapped the shoot.

In her words: "For coming out of the director's closet after sixteen years."

I would like to take this moment to thank everyone who worked so hard on the shoot. It was a joy to work alongside people who gave their very best.

An absolute joy.

Stay tuned for more updates - I just met up with the editor last night and we've already got an assembly edit of the trailer.

It's freakin' amazing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 55

For the first twelve scenes posted for the Weekend Writer's Retreat, we followed Scorpius as a seven-year-old, fetched from the nursery by a falconer to become his apprentice.

The next twelve scenes followed ten-year-old Scorpius as he discovered the dangers of serving the nobles he'd once imagined were family.

The third set of twelve scenes gave us a thirteen-year-old Scorpius, who discovered the true extent of his master's attempts to shield him from the cruelties of life outside their falconer's cottage.

We rejoin him at age sixteen.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 55

His master’s tiny room grew stale with Lord Thibault’s fever sweat. The young noble shoved away the blanket or clutched it close in a rumpled knot, worrying Scorpius that the dressing would loosen.

Keeping to their normal schedule, Richolf saw to the falcons, took hunting parties out onto the field and prepared meals until Scorpius longed for nothing more than to have his old chores returned to him. But his master saw how Lord Thibault responded to Scorpius.

“He trusts you,” Richolf said in a low voice as Scorpius joined him for a brief supper at the table. “He’ll heal more quickly if he’s not on guard.”

Scorpius nodded wearily, wishing he could have even an hour to walk out into the forest. But when he gazed up at his master, he saw the deep lines in Richolf’s face, the shadows beneath his eyes, the hunched curve of his shoulders.

“Would you not care to sit with him awhile, sir? It will do you some good. I can see to the rest of the work before turning in.”

A rueful smile tilted his master’s lips. “Best for you to stay with him.”

Scorpius nodded, looking down at his plate of food, the weight of his responsibility to restore the young noble to health making it hard to take a breath. It wasn’t long before he sat on the stool beside the bed, coaxing Lord Thibault to take sips of broth from a worn mug.

The young noble trembled with the effort to sit upright. His color remained pale, his hair damp and plastered to his forehead. Had there been any complaints from this noble? Not even after they dug the arrow from his shoulder. He’d suffered through it all without a cross word.

Looking away in shame, Scorpius thought of the healing salve he’d need to mix up later this evening. He didn’t see the noble reach for him, and was startled by the touch of Lord Thibault’s hand on his own.

He dropped the mug into the noble’s lap, warm broth soaking into Lord Thibault’s trousers.

For a long moment, neither of them moved.

As though freed from a spell, Scorpius jumped to his feet, whisking away the mug and grabbing the blanket to sop up the mess.

“I suppose that’s one way to make sure I get a bath,” Lord Thibault said.

“You needed one long before this,” Scorpius said, dumping the blanket in a sodden heap in the corner. The words were already out of his mouth before he realized how annoyed he sounded, how little like a falconer’s apprentice addressing a lord.

He stopped what he was doing and turned to Lord Thibault, bowing his head low. “Forgive me, my lord.”

The silence stretched in the stuffy little room. Scorpius’ skin prickled as he waited, until at last the young noble said, “Come.”

Risking a glance up, Scorpius saw that Lord Thibault had moved as far from the damp spot as he could manage on his own. That effort had broken him into a new sweat. Scorpius strode forward and knelt close to the side of the bed.

Once again, the young noble reached his hand out and covered Scorpius’ with his own. Scorpius looked down at Lord Thibault’s fingers squeezing his with the promise of renewed strength.

“I was trying to thank you,” Lord Thibault said.

Scorpius shook his head, still not looking up. “No need, my lord.”

“Well, you don’t make it easy, I’ll say that.”

Gazing up then, Scorpius looked into Lord Thibault’s eyes. They twinkled with unspoken laughter. The young noble squeezed his hand again and let go, his body suddenly racked with coughing.

Passing him the only kerchief left – the one tucked in his own doublet – Scorpius watched as Lord Thibault checked the color of his spit. No blood.

The young noble looked at Scorpius with relief and gratitude so raw it made Scorpius uneasy. How hard it must be never to feel free to trust in anyone. He thought of how much he’d longed to leave Richolf to all of this nursing, but his master had known how it was for Lord Thibault.

“Shall I fetch you more broth, my lord?”

“As long as I may finish it this time.”

“The thing to remember is to get it into your mouth, my lord.”

Lord Thibault’s eyes widened, his lips opening to speak – but nothing came out. Scorpius couldn’t hold back a smile before he ducked out of the room for the kitchen.

© Julia Smith, 2011

Friday, May 13, 2011

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas today / 5 on Friday - Set 66

I'm blogging at The Popculturedivas today - drop by for a look at how my junior bridal party blossomed into brides and a groom when I wasn't looking.

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

I'm currently in post production on the book trailer for my vampire story - for more on that, scroll down to yesterday's post. Not to mention final revisions on the book itself!

Since I've got my vampire story on the brain, here are five songs that represent the five main characters.

1 - Clocks - Coldplay - representing Peredur, a Dark Age warrior who becomes a vampire

2 - You Make Me Wanna Die - The Pretty Reckless - representing Tanwen, Peredur's love interest

3 - Touch Me - The Doors - representing Cavan, who is consumed with unrequited love for Tanwen

4 - Gabriel - Lamb - representing Melnak, Peredur's vampire mentor

5 - It Don't Come Easy - Ringo Starr - representing the Saint, whose bones became amulets used by Peredur's vampire brotherhood

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 210 - 13 Film-y Type Things I've Been Doing Lately

Here's a brief update on what I've been up to lately:

1 - A mere 15 years after graduating from film school, a brainstorming session at last year's writer's retreat led to a producer approaching me with the offer to work together. This producer is also a writer from my writers' group, and we really connected during that brainstorming session.

So it really is true about networking. You never know when you're going to meet up with the right person.

2 - I finally finished my vampire novel just before last November's NaNoWriMo, and sent it out to readers for feedback. My producer suggested we shoot a book trailer for this story as our first project together.

3 - In the fifteen-year gap between film school and this shoot, I'd worked sporadically on several projects, with the last job being about 8 years ago. I had to lay it out for the producer and director of photography (the DOP) that I was technically behind the times and would be very 'layman's terms'. Luckily, they were both very cool with that.

4 - My producer arranged a meeting between myself and the DOP. I was very nervous.

He was 21. He was apparently very nervous. But we were of course too cool to show it. He was not put off by my utter lack of techno-savvy. I was not put off by his being 21.

5 - I wrote the script for the two-minute trailer. It was four pages long.

In film/TV, one page = one minute. The script was two pages too long.

My producer pared it down to a workable two minutes. I approved the changes, and we were good to go.

6 - I drew horrible storyboards which are par for the course, unless you hire a storyboard artist.The producer and DOP approved them.

7 - The producer sent the cast requirements out to a casting agent, who found me three perfect actors for the lead roles.

8 - I looked over three costuming sites and chose Iron Age tunics and a woman's gown from the lowest-priced site.

9 - I got the measurements for the actors and headed out to Frenchy's, Value Village and Salvation Army for used clothing to remake into costumes.

My mom then set to work refashioning scarves, belts and skirts into Iron Age clothing.

10 - I met with the actors for a script read-through and rehearsal. It was thrilling to see these actors - even at a distance I knew which ones were which characters. SO, so thrilling to see my characters come to life right in front of me.

11 - I turned and saw a wonderful sight during that first rehearsal. My producer's eyes shone with excitement because she'd gotten chills from one of the scenes. We could feel that elusive magical thing happening.

12 - Shooting day arrived, and a very long, exhausting 9 hours later the footage was shot.

Exhausting, yes - it took me 4 days to recover from the shoot - but that one day gave me my life back. I have rarely experienced happiness quite that intense.

13 - This week I'll finally be seeing the footage, and next week I'll be working with my editor.

Stay tuned to A Piece of My Mind for more making-of book trailer updates.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Weekend Writer's Retreat - 54

For the first twelve scenes posted for the Weekend Writer's Retreat, we followed Scorpius as a seven-year-old, fetched from the nursery by a falconer to become his apprentice.

The next twelve scenes followed ten-year-old Scorpius as he discovered the dangers of serving the nobles he'd once imagined were family.

The third set of twelve scenes gave us a thirteen-year-old Scorpius, who discovered the true extent of his master's attempts to shield him from the cruelties of life outside their falconer's cottage.

We rejoin him at age sixteen.

You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.

Scene 54

Lord Thibault squirmed restlessly on the falconer’s bed, soft sounds of distress escaping into the little room. Tiny bumps erupted over Scorpius’ skin as he tried to sense the position of the guard outside, poised beneath the window.

The young noble’s face lined with pain, his body stiffening as he coughed. Then for the first time in a day and a night, his eyes opened.

Scorpius’ heart swelled with relief, though his fingers gripped the concealed knife handle even tighter.

Gaze roaming the unfamiliar room, Lord Thibault at last settled upon Scorpius’ face. Tension fell away as he smiled a wan smile.

Scorpius leaned forward, placing a hand on the noble’s hot brow, watching Lord Thibault’s lips working to form Scorpius’ name.

The noble’s thready voice became an urgent whisper.

But it was a female’s voice – “Scorpius!”

Cocking his head, certain he must be hearing things, Scorpius caught a glimpse from the corner of his eye. Shiny hair smoothed back into a complex design followed by a finely-woven cloak rose up over the window ledge.

Scorpius surged forward to grasp the shoulders of the woman who slid down into the room. Kneeling to follow her descent, breaking her fall as well as he was able, Scorpius grunted as she turned with speed and force, pinning him to the ground.

Her fingers pressed hard against his lips.

Scorpius looked up into her eyes - and lay still.

It was Ingerith.

She saw his realization and relaxed her grip on his mouth. Scorpius’ chest seized with emotion as she held a single finger before her lips. She waited until he nodded before climbing off of him.

Lord Thibault, too weak to defend himself, pushed upright in the bed as far as he was able, holding his gaze steady if this was to be his last breath.

Thrusting a hand out to grab Ingerith’s skirts, Scorpius held up his other hand to stop her. Scrambling to his knees, he sought Lord Thibault’s gaze.

Then he looked up at his master’s lover, who had helped Scorpius to mend Richolf’s broken body after he’d been put to the question. Taking her hand in his, gazing over at Lord Thibault to be sure he watched, Scorpius bowed his head before her hand and then kissed it.

Ingerith looked down at him, her face flushed with emotion. The gaze they shared could only reach between two people who have made terrible memories together.

Swallowing hard against them, Scorpius took her hand and moved it towards the bed, gesturing towards Lord Thibault with the other.

Nodding deeply twice, Scorpius saw the young noble’s recognition of their offer. Lord Thibault relaxed and slid back along the pillow, again coughing painfully.

Crawling as quietly as he could, Scorpius grabbed up the ointment prepared by the apothecary’s assistant and offered it to Ingerith. She brought it to her nose to discern its contents, dipped a finger in and rubbed the mixture between her fingers to get a feel for it.

Then she jerked her head forward to call for his assistance. Working together in silent swiftness, Ingerith and Scorpius peeled back the previous dressings on Lord Thibault’s wound.

When it was treated, and before they let him collapse, Ingerith slipped a glass vial from her pocket, uncorked the lid, and tipped a mouthful into the young noble’s mouth.

He downed it without complaint other than a sour face. Ingerith turned to Scorpius and made gestures to indicate different positions of the sun in the sky, then counted out how many doses Lord Thibault must take.

Scorpius accepted the vial with a bowed head. She had once crossly forbid him to call her a lady, but these gestures of respect were the only ways he could think of to signal his understanding.

His heart leapt wildly when she pulled him close to her chest and placed a long kiss on the back of his head. Her skirts rustled, and when he looked up she was already being pulled back up through the window by the guard still waiting outside.

In a heartbeat she was gone, the only indication she’d ever been here being the glass vial in Scorpius’ hand, and the tinge of color finally returning to Lord Thibault’s cheeks.

© Julia Smith, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

5 on Friday - Set 65

Travis at Trav's Thoughts invites everyone to lay down a short set of music that takes their fancies for his 5 on Friday meme.

I'm currently in post production on the book trailer for my vampire story, and as is my habit, I'm obsessively listening to certain pieces of music over and over and over.

I find this happens to me when I'm in a creative state. Obviously, it serves as a ritualized short cut, telling my brain to PRODUCE NOW.

For today's 5 on Friday, here are a few of the songs that are currently waving me over to the Quick Check-out Lane in my head:

1 - Micro Cuts - Muse

2 - Plug In Baby - Muse

3 - Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin

4 - Gallows Pole - Led Zeppelin

5 - Black Dog - Led Zeppelin

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thursday Thirteen - 209 - 13 Questions For Donna Alward, Author of Honeymoon With the Rancher

Look who's dropped by at A Piece of My Mind!

Harlequin Romance author Donna Alward, one of my fellow writers from Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada.

That's Donna above during a trip to the Harlequin head office, with Birgit Davis-Todd, Senior Executive Editor shown at left and Donna Hayes, President and CEO on the right.

1 - Donna, you're a Harlequin Romance author with a dozen titles published by this signature house. What are some of the best things about being a Harlequin writer?

So many good things!

No commute, I can work in jammies or yoga pants, I get to make up stuff and get paid for it!

I also get the backing of a wonderful editorial team at the biggest publisher of romantic fiction in the world. As a working writer, one of the best things is Harlequin’s distribution network. After a book goes off the shelves, it often gets a second life making the foreign market rounds.

I visited head office in Toronto recently and I can also say it is great to write for a company with such cool people.

We all know it sucks to work with people you don’t like and I’m happy to be spared that ordeal. There’s a “team” aspect to it that is fab and I’ve made so many friendships with other HQ authors and members of the team in all sorts of jobs!

2 - But Harlequin isn't your only publishing house. What is it like to write for Mills and Boon?

Mills and Boon was bought by Harlequin many moons ago, but kept its name. I’m a Mills and Boon author because I’m edited out of their offices in London, but it’s really all under the Harlequin umbrella. My Harlequin Romances come out in the UK as Mills and Boon Cherish – same books, different packaging.

I love being edited out of London. The editors are top notch and so very friendly! They are accessible and really work with their authors to make sure each book lives up to its potential.

I’m also a bit of an anglophile, so I love chatting with my editor and hearing her accent, lol! Being a Mills and Boon author provided me the opportunity to go to London a few years ago – my first trip overseas. I had a brilliant time (as they’d say) taking the tube and doing lunch for the better part of a week. This is the tenth book I’m working on with my current editor (Sally Williamson) and I hope I don’t go anywhere soon.

3 - And you also have four titles with Samhain Publishing. Is there any change in your writing voice between houses, or do you find that it makes no difference?

I think I write with pretty much the same voice, and deliver the same type of story. There’s a slight difference in sensuality level – my Harlequin Romances keep the bedroom door closed and my Samhain books keep it open.

The main difference I find is in editorial style. I like that, actually. I think I learn things about my writing from both my editors that make my writing stronger across the board. I’m really fortunate to have great editors at both houses!

4 - You've had multiple releases almost every year since you've been published. How do you manage the multiple contract deadlines that come with that?

I’m not sure “manage” is the right term because sometimes I don’t feel I manage it very well!

I learned that whatever I think I can do I need to add four weeks. So if I think I need 12 weeks to write a book, I ask for 16. I might be done early, but if life gets in the way, if the book doesn’t go well, if I get massive revisions… those things can really snowball.

If I hand in a book on time and move right into the next, it’s great, but if heavy revisions come suddenly my 12 weeks is down to 8 or 9. THAT creates a problem. Add a month and save some stress. If I have “spare” time (haha!), there’s always admin, promo, working on something else, or…gasp…downtime.

5 - Which was your first writer's conference? How did it feel to be surrounded by other people following the same creative path as yourself?

My first writer’s conference was actually RWA Nationals in Washington DC in 2009. It was amazing!

I’m a bit introverted so at times I had to escape to maintain my sanity, but it was so inspiring and awesome.

I met a lot of people I had only known online for years.

I met industry professionals.

I met my agent!

But the most inspiring thing was listening to the keynote and special speakers, and going to the RITA ceremony and I’ll tell you why.

I was sitting in a room with hundreds of other writers – some unpublished, some the biggest names in the business. But we were all the same – and I was in awe. Hearing Janet Evanovich talk about being down and out before getting the call was something I will never forget. Sitting in those rooms you realize that anything really is possible. I can’t wait to hit New York for this year’s conference!

6 - Me, too, Donna - and it will be my first conference! So, what was the defining moment for you, when you realized you were a 'real' writer?

Oh gosh. I’m not sure there is one.

There are definitely milestones. Finishing my first book and making my first submission.

Getting the first rejection.

Selling my first book. I’m pretty sure I felt like a real writer then.

The firsts after that were icing on the cake – holding that first author copy, seeing books on the shelves, first reader mail. It never gets old. I still have to pinch myself.

7 - You write contemporary stories featuring corporate heroes, but you tend to write more stories featuring cowboys and ranchers. Can you tell us the appeal for you with those western characters and settings?

I fell into writing westerns, you know. My first Harlequin Romance was the first western I ever wrote and it did very well, so I was encouraged to write more.

I love me some tycoons and every day men, but I learned that you just can’t take the farm out of the girl. It’s a “write what you know” thing.

I love escaping with other types of stories and I’ve written a few, but when it comes right down to it, I like my guy in a pair of dusty jeans and a t-shirt.

I have a connection to the land and that translates into my ranchers and cowboys. Sometimes, like my characters, I like to get off the ranch, but I always go home again to wide open spaces.

8 - You write for a group blog called Petticoats and Pistols - how did you find one another?

I did a few guest blogs for them when I had new releases…I don’t remember when I first visited the blog, but I was looking at places to promo western romances and reach western readers. Last year they approached me to be a regular, and it’s a great group.

There’s a really wide variety of people on board from all areas of romance publishing – a lot of historical westerns and inspirational westerns too in addition to the contemporaries. Come on by and sit a spell.

9 - What attracted you to the Argentinian setting for Honeymoon With the Rancher?

My editor asked if I’d like to write a story for a series within the Romance line called Escape Around the World. I thought of several locations I could write about, but in the end I wanted to do something different while still giving my readers the sort of book they’d come to expect from me – especially since I’d talked to my editors and agent about branding and consistency.

Something twigged me on to Argentina and I did some online research and fell in love.

I watched a lot of videos and did a lot of reading. I realized it was perfect – I could deliver a western with a twist.

Something new and exotic, but with a lot of the elements that my readers have come to expect. In the end the Escape Around the World miniseries was discontinued, and the book is being released as a straight Harlequin Romance. I’m really glad now that I chose something a bit familiar as my “departure” from the ordinary. It fits in with my direction even without the branding.

10 - Ooo - can you tell us about your Argentinian rancher, Tomas Mendoza?

Tomas has a big old guilt complex. He was engaged once and his fiancée died and he blames himself.

He turned his back on a lot of things in his life and used his resources to help his fiancée’s parents convert their ranch (estancia) into a guest ranch. The idea of agri-tourism is interesting to me so I had a lot of fun with it.

He’s kind of a recluse there until Sophia arrives and really shakes things up. He has to face some things he’s been hiding from as he falls in love with her.

11 - And Sophia Hollingsworth?

Sophia does what I hope I’d do if I caught my dirty, low-life fiancée cheating. She calls off the wedding and goes on the honeymoon all by herself.

She puts on a brave front even though she’s a bit terrified. And she’s been told what to do all her life. Taking charge isn’t easy for her even though she’s determined to do it.

I loved watching her grow and face her own demons to find her HEA with Tomas!

12 - Did this couple give you any surprises as you 'introduced' them to each other in your first draft?


That was the sound of me falling off my chair.

To be honest, I have tried to block out the first draft of this book as a traumatic event. I got myself into SO MUCH TROUBLE.

The problem with doing a lot of research and being so enamoured of a particular aspect is the potential to overdo it, and I did. I sent the book to my editor, who was not happy with the result.

I ended up rewriting the entire thing from scratch, except for maybe 20 pages. The second version was MUCH better than the first, because I started focusing on the right things and went deeper with my characters.

When I wrote that draft, I did realize a crucial thing about my heroine that really opened up her whole backstory. Some books are like that. And hopefully not often. LOL!

13 - Donna, thanks for giving us this exclusive sneak peek at Honeymoon With the Rancher!


“Something smells delicious.”

He nearly dropped the bowls when she appeared in the doorway behind him.

Her hair was down but slightly tousled from sleep, the curls falling softly over one shoulder. Heavy-lidded eyes blinked at him and she was several inches shorter, thanks to the fact that she’d left her shoes in her room and appeared in bare feet. That was why he hadn’t heard her approach. His gaze stuck on ten perfectly painted coral toenails. She had extraordinarily pretty feet, and even without the shoes he could tell she had a great set of legs hiding beneath her straight skirt.

It was the princess, unwrapped, and he swallowed, realizing he found her very appealing indeed. At least physically.

That was the last thing he needed.

“Did you sleep well?” He turned away from her, putting the bowls on the table.

“Yes, thank you. I feel very refreshed.”

Her voice was soft and Tomas felt it sneak into him, down low.

“I didn’t mean to sleep so late,” she apologized, and he swallowed as the husky tone teased his ears. “Whatever you’ve cooked smells wonderful.”

“It’s nothing fancy.” He turned back to her and steeled his features. He would not be swayed by a pretty face and a soft voice. Damn Carlos and Maria. If they were here, they could handle Miss Princess and he would be in the barn where he liked it. “I do not usually do the cooking.”

“I’m not used to a man cooking for me at all, so that in itself is a treat.” She blessed him with a shy smile.

His pulse leapt and he scowled. His physical response to her was aggravating. “I expect you’re more accustomed to five-course meals and staff to wait upon you, right?”

A look of hurt flashed across her face and he felt guilty for being snide. He was just about to apologize when the look disappeared and she furrowed her brow. “What makes you say that?”

querida.” The apology he’d toyed with died on his lips and he reached into a drawer for cutlery. “You practically scream high maintenance. It is clear you are used to the best. Which makes your presence here alone all the more intriguing.”

“High maintenance?” A pretty blush infused her cheeks. She really was good, he thought. An intriguing combination of innocent ingénue and diva. Maybe a few days mucking around a ranch would be good for her. It had certainly done wonders for him.

She stepped forward, the soft, injured look gone. “I see,” she said. “You think I’m some sort of pampered creature who lives to be waited upon.”

“Aren’t you?”

“Not even close.”

“Oh, come on.” He finished setting the table and turned to face her. “Designer clothes, perfect hair…is that even your natural colour? You expected to arrive at some retreat or spa, didn’t you? Not a working estancia. Admit it.”

Her cheeks blazed now, not with embarrassment but with temper. “Okay, fine. Yes, this is not what I expected.
You are not what I expected.”

He smiled with satisfaction. “No, I am not. If you’re not up to it, say so now. I’ll arrange for you to return to Buenos Aires tomorrow.” There, he decided. He’d given her a perfectly legitimate out. The few hours it would take to drive her back to the city would be worth it to have the rest of the week free to work. Better yet, she’d be gone before Maria and Tomas got back. Maria would get ideas into her head. She’d been prodding lately about Tomas getting away more. That he needed to stop hiding. That he should find a nice girl.

Not that a woman like Sophia, on her solo honeymoon would qualify in Maria’s eyes, but it would be better all around if the potential was erased altogether. Tomas didn’t want a nice girl. He didn’t want to get away more. He wanted the life he’d chosen here on the pampas. Simple and uncomplicated. He’d chosen it to help him forget.

His insides twisted. Some days now he tried to remember. Forgetting seemed so very wrong. Disloyal.

“And you’d like that, wouldn’t you.”

Her saucy tone turned his head.

“Are you trying to get rid of me, Mr. Mendoza? Get me out from under your feet? This wasn’t my mix up. You think by threatening me with some honest work I’ll run and hide away somewhere where staff will wait on me hand and foot?”

“Isn’t that what you want?”

She paused for a moment, then leveled him with a definitive glare. “No.”

“No?” He raised an eyebrow.

“No. I want to stay.”

“I checked the books and spoke to Maria, by the way.”


“And the refund isn’t notated in the regular spot and Maria doesn’t remember. She said she will straighten everything out when she comes back on Wednesday.”

“And then Wednesday you will see,” Sophia replied confidently.

“You realize what I’m saying, right? People who stay at the estancia participate in all kinds of activities. Working with the animals, in the barns. Even in the house. They become one of the family. With the hard work and the benefits too.”

“You don’t think I can do it?”

He looked at her, all hair-do and perfect makeup and pedicured feet. “No, I don’t.”

“Then perhaps we’re in for a week of surprises.” She flashed him a superior smile. “Maybe now you can surprise me with what’s cooking in that pot. I’m starving.”

- Donna Alward, 2011

Monday, May 2, 2011

It's Voting Day, Canada!

Please keep this in mind:

Canadians have been asked to go to the polls 4 times in 7 years.

During his time as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has prorogued parliament - not once, but twice - because the minority government wouldn't do as he requested.

For those who live in countries where this couldn't possibly be tolerated, proroguing parliament means ending the current parliamentary session before it has taken care of all legislation tabled during its sitting. This is like ending your computer session early without saving to the hard drive. Messy business, indeed.

One of these events was triggered by rising pressure from Opposition for Harper's government to explain why it knowingly handed Afghanistan citizens over to be tortured by local Afghan authorities, when Canada is known around the world for its human rights work.

In March of this year, and triggering the current election, the House of Commons found Harper's government in contempt of parliament.

That's right - the sitting government is in contempt of its own governing system.

So I ask all of my fellow Canadians - PLEASE VOTE.


In other news:

I am currently in the midst of a final revision of my vampire novel, as well as in post-production for the book trailer.

My regular schedule at A Piece of My Mind will pull back considerably, but all for a good cause!

Updates to follow...