Tuesday, 29 April 2014

My Five Favourite Books/Series

 by Annette Gallant
Save the Cat series – Blake Snyder
I was a dedicated pantser until I read this series. (Mostly out of desperation after writing too many meandering plots with threads that went nowhere.) I can’t say enough about these books and how helpful they’ve been to me when plotting my stories, no matter what the genre.   

Lonesome Dove – Larry McMurtry
There’s much to love about this book, but it’s mainly the bromance between ex-Texas Rangers Augustus “Gus” McCrae and Woodrow Call that kept me wanting to read on after this book clocked out at over 800 pages! Fortunately, there is a sequel, two prequels and a miniseries for fans like me who can’t get enough of this western. No surprise here it won the Pulitzer.
Something Borrowed/Something Blue – Emily Giffin
These were the first two chick lit novels I ever read and they hooked me on the genre. Something Borrowed taught me that even a character who does the most unsympathetic things can be root worthy if the story is executed well enough, while Something Blue taught me that the best characters are ones who redeem themselves as they grow and arc throughout the story.
All-of-a-Kind Family series – Sydney Taylor
Set in New York City just prior to the First World War, this series is about five sisters (and later a baby brother) growing up in a tightknit Jewish family. The setting and characters were completely different than what I’d experienced growing up as a Roman Catholic in a small fishing village in PEI, and I was completely fascinated with these stories and characters. I’m also pretty sure it’s where my love affair with NYC began.

Little House series – Laura Ingalls Wilder
I loved this series as a child, and I still love it as an adult. While I’d hate to give up my modern conveniences, there’s a part of me that wishes I have could time travelled so I could hang out with Laura and the rest of the Ingalls clan as they traveled from place to place in covered wagon. Visiting each of the Little House sites is one of the things at the top of my bucket list.

What are your favourite books? What is it you love about them?

When an old book gives new lessons

by Stella MacLean

I have a personal philosophy. What am I saying? I have many philosophies or what I prefer to call life statements. Today I want to talk about one in particular because it relates to writers and writing.
It is not which sorrow or hardship enters your life, but how you deal with it, and what you learn from it that matters.

After being ill for only six months my husband Garry died of ALS in July 2013. ‘Devastated’ doesn’t begin to describe my feelings when I left his bedside for the last time. What I experienced in the following months, and what continues today is the soul-crushing, life-altering experience of grief. There have been days when I wondered if trying to survive was worth the effort. I don’t have a magic formula for surviving grief, and how I’ve gotten this far in the grieving process is still a mystery to me.
But through it all one event really stood out for me.

I have a dear friend to whom I had given my hardcover copy version of Debbie Macomber’s book, Twenty Wishes. When I read the book in 2008, I found the story of hope, love and reclaiming life as inspirational. A few weeks ago my friend arrived at the door to return my book and to encourage me to reread it and make my twenty wishes.

I reread the book, and this time the story spoke to me in ways I hadn’t experienced before.
Because of the book’s renewed impact on me I emailed Debbie and asked her a few questions about how this story came about.

Here are the questions and Debbie’s very thoughtful answers:

This is a very uplifting story for anyone going through the grieving process. What inspired you to write this book?

I met a reader at a signing who had recently retired and in order to fill her time she made a list of all the things she'd been wanting to do, places she hoped to visit etc.  It wasn't a bucket list but a simple list to help her adjust to retirement. I thought it was such a great idea that I took it a step further. My first question was who would make such a list and why. I didn't want my protagonist to be retirement age so created the story line for widows.

Was Anne Marie based on someone you know, or a collage of friends' experiences? 

No. I do know of women who married older men but they accepted the fact there wouldn't be children.

Why did you choose twenty wishes rather than ten or thirty? 

I actually don't remember, but I think the woman who inspired the idea had 20 wishes and it felt like a good number so I went with it.

What is the single most important message you would like the reader to take away from this book?

Hey, I thought these questions were going to be easy. Off the top of my head, I'd say that I wanted to let those who have suffered significant loss know that life continues. We may not want it to, we may even fight to remain in the past, holding onto it with both hands, but we are forced to move forward.  There is still plenty of life left to be lived and we are meant to live it to the fullest.

Anne Marie is clearly the heart and soul of the book, and very vulnerable mostly due to the complicating factors in her marriage. Did you know when you started to write this book that she would go through all these steps to reach where she belonged in life? Or did she simply evolve as you wrote? 

I'm a plotter and I like to have a fairly good idea of where the characters are headed before I write the book, however in any book the characters take on a life of their own and evolve into far more than the author could anticipate. 

Thank you, Debbie.

Speaking of wishes, my one wish for all those who read this and who have experienced loss is that someday you will be able to walk in the light of life, your heart open and your spirit restored.

Stella MacLean is author of five Super Romances including the first book in the Eden Harbor series—The Doctor Returns.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Fashion Forward

by Jennie Marsland

In my final year of my Animal Science degree, I took a course in the social history of clothing. I needed one more credit and I’d had my fill of science courses by then. Frankly, I also expected the clothing course to be a no-brainer.

I was mistaken. The professor, a no-nonsense Englishwoman, assigned a lot of papers and graded them rigorously. I learned more about academic writing from her than I did in any of my science courses.

One other Aggie signed up with me. Two mornings a week, the two of us would come straight from the dairy barn, strip off our coveralls, clean up and head for the Home Economics building in our jeans and sweatshirts. The Home Ec girls wore skirts and cute sweaters, but I don’t recall feeling out of place. Being a history buff by nature, I loved learning how clothing mirrored the morals and attitudes of the times, and it was very good for a young woman to find out that our concept of the “ideal” body changes with the times, too.

Never was this more true than in the 1920s, the setting of my current work in progress, Flight. The changes in women’s clothes between 1915 and 1925 are as sweeping as the changes in society as a whole. 

Here’s a dress from 1910 and one from 1920. Imagine a mother who had worn clothes like the dress on the left – with appropriate corsetry – in her youth, watching her daughter go out the door dressed as a flapper. It must have seemed like she was going out in her underclothes.

During the war, there was no fabric or time to waste on frills, and women needed practical clothes to wear doing all the work they’d taken on while the men were in the trenches. Afterwards, no one could put the genie back in the bottle. The ‘New Woman’ had arrived for good.

Georgie O’Neill, the heroine of Flight, is a new woman with a capital N. She also loves clothes, and I’m having fun finding them for her.

I love Jazz Age fashion. It’s elegant and deceptively simple, with colour and pattern as its art form instead of shape and draping. Fitting for women standing on the brink of a brave new world.

Jennie Marsland

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The “I-Told-You-So” Hero

by Paula Altenburg

I love this type of hero. Angel, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is this kind of guy. He’s jaded, and tortured, and he’s seen it all.

Wolverine from X-Men also falls into this category. I thought I was in love with Hugh Jackman. Hugh’s okay. He seems really nice in interviews. Loved him in Van Helsing and Les Mis. But it turns out I am all about Logan. I don’t even notice the pointy hairdo anymore. At least not as much.

The “I-Told-You-So” hero is the one who knows how to stand back and let the heroine learn her own lessons.

“You want to go into that cellar and check out the funny noises?” he’ll ask her. “Be my guest.”

Gentleman that he is, he’ll open the door and hold it for her. Then he shuts it behind her. Because he’s the “I-Told-You-So” hero, not “I-Need-to-Prove-That-I’m-Right.”  Because, remember, this hero has Seen. It. All. He might have the heroine’s back, but he’s not into running her life.

He lets the “I-Need-to-See-This-for-Myself” heroine, well, see it for herself.

Blade (Black Widow Demon, book #2 in the Demon Outlaws series) is this type of hero. He’s a retired assassin who’s had his fair share of hardships. He’s incredibly protective of Raven, the heroine, mostly because he sees her making the same mistakes he did in his life. Raven is determined to have her revenge. It’s hard to stand back, but he knows she has to make her own choices. Revenge ultimately destroys a person’s soul. So, however, will passivity. He’ll explain all this to her, but he won’t try to stop her.

This creates inner conflict for him:

And if Raven could not relinquish her conscience, as she had been unable to do in the burned-out village when Blade had pushed the limits of her demon, an assassin’s training might very well destroy her. Either way, she could not win.

That, in turn, raised a disquieting question for him. If an assassin’s training destroyed her, what might being with him do to her? (Black Widow Demon, November, 2013)

Blade made an appearance in The Demon’s Daughter (book #1) as the hero Hunter’s best friend.  Blade can be counted on to do what needs doing. Hunter turned to him when something needed to be done that he couldn’t do himself:

Blade looked at him. “You don’t have to go back out there. You don’t owe those people anything.”

Hunter handed the pack to Blade. “Give this to Airie. I do have to go because I made a promise to them. Besides,” he added with a lopsided grin, “there will be demons to kill.”

“I’ll kill this one if I have to,” Blade warned his departing back.

Hunter froze but did not turn around. He appeared to be thinking Blade’s words over with careful consideration. “I know,” he admitted finally, then opened the gate and stepped through it. “But you won’t have to.” He latched the gate behind him.

Blade sat for a long time on the step listening to the cold desert night, hoping his friend’s instincts were good ones. If he did have to kill Airie, it would be the death of a friendship as well. (The Demon’s Daughter, March 2013)

It’s possible I love Blade almost as much as I love Wolverine.

But the thing I love most about the “I-Told-You-So” hero?

He keeps his opinions to himself during those times when the “I-Need-to-See-This-for-Myself” heroine doesn’t want to be told.

He knows she already knows it.

Stay tuned for The Demon Lord, a short novella in the Demon Outlaws series, coming April 28th. The third and final book, Demon Creed, is a May 27th release.

Paula Altenburg

Monday, 21 April 2014

Why I Love RWAC…and Mark Lefebvre and Marie Force!

by Julianne MacLean

I’ve been a member of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada since its founding in 2000 by Victoria Leblanc. If memory serves me correctly, we were the first RWA chapter to be founded in the new millennium. I was a fresh faced debut author at the time, with my first book hitting the shelves of bookstores.

It’s now 2014 and I can hardly believe so much time has passed. Through the years we have been blessed with many dedicated volunteers who have stepped forward to run the executive and keep our mighty little train chugging.  We’ve hosted some stellar workshop speakers—often our own members who bring a wealth of experience to the table—but we’ve also brought in some illustrious guests who provide a fresh outlook and new knowledge on many subjects that are important to writer types like us.

A few weeks ago, our members enjoyed a superb session with Mark Lefebvre (aka Mark Leslie) from Kobo, who flew in from Toronto. He joined us for dinner and attended our chapter meeting to share his expertise as both a book retailer and author.  (Thank you to published author Shawna Romkey, who organized the Halifax book signing event and invited Mark to join us!)

Any working author who has met Mark Lefebvre agrees that he is salt of the earth (must be those charming Canadian roots!) and he is the perfect person for the job at Kobo, since he comes to the position as both an author and a bookseller. How lucky we were to entertain him in Halifax!

This past weekend, we welcomed the stunningly beautiful and fragrant New York Times bestselling Marie Force to our quaint seaside locale, and not only did she join us for dinner on Friday night, she talked to us for three hours straight on Saturday morning—without a break!—about her experiences as a hybrid author and how she has managed her career so far.  My head is still spinning from all the information she shared with us, and I left the session inspired and enlightened – and with a giant indie author “To Do” list which thrills me from brain to toe.

How fortunate I feel to be part of such a friendly, supportive, and ambitious group of writers.  Though we all come from different levels of experience, at the end of the day, we all laugh together, cheer each other on, and help each other in many different ways, both personally and professionally.  I count myself lucky to be a part of such a wonderful group of women (and the occasional gentleman).  Thank you RWAC for being a part of my life.

Julianne MacLean

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Friday, 18 April 2014

Literary Friends

by Tory LeBlanc

If the measure of a person can be assessed by the company he/she keeps, I imagine it must be equally true of the books he/she reads. For most devoted readers, books are friends - true blue, life-long friends. In today's blog, I'd like to share some of my literary memories and milestones.

As far back as I can remember, I have always been surrounded by books. The leap from reading picture books to chapter books happened the summer between first and second grade with HEIDI, by Johanna Spyri. Oh, the wonder and power of being able to read that magnificent story all by myself! I was hooked!

In grade school, I lived in the world of fantasy and ploughed through stacks of children's books, bouncing between the classics, contemporary fiction, and crap. At that time, non-fiction books were synonymous with school projects, thus were considered elements of torture. I didn't venture into the other half of the library until the middle grades when I had a burning question about Napoleon Bonaparte's absent hand. (Call to mind his portraits and how he always had one hand resting inside the front of his jacket. Why? Missing fingers? Indigestion? No one claimed it was a good question....) I devoured biography after biography about him - including some that were rather risqué and clearly meant for more mature readers. (Did you know that Napoleon demanded Josephine not bathe for two weeks before their rendezvous because he liked her natural fragrance? Or that she dampened her chemises and let them dry on her body so they would cling more provocatively?) Finding these fascinating details gave me a life-long love of research.

DAVID COPPERFIELD, by Charles Dickens, slapped me upside the head with its very first line: "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anyone else (these pages must show.)" Good question. Who will be the hero of my life?

I pilfered my first adult novel from my mother's bedside pile in my early teens. THE FLOWER AND THE FLAME, by Kathleen Woodiwiss. She's not known as The Woodiwiss for nothing! My, oh my, what an education that book was! It's seared into my brain and heart forevermore. Important to note: the hero called the heroine Tory. It just doesn't get any better than that.

Over the years, my love of books has never dwindled. Through good times and bad, they have been my staunchest friends. They entertain and educate me. To this day, I still read whatever classic, contemporary fiction, or crap catches my fancy. I love it all.  Even <gasp> non-fiction.

Tory LeBlanc reads, writes, and researches in Nova Scotia. As far as she knows, Napoleon stood that way for effect.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Crocuses and Lemons

I had high hopes of getting my gardens cleaned up this week, so the long-suffering crocuses that are finally bursting forth would not have to fight their way through all the debris of winter. What with the polar vortex and record snowstorms, the poor things have had to wait long enough for the chance, almost a month later than usual. Here it is the middle of April. Most years they are flaunting all their purple, white and sunshine yellow glory long before the end of March.

But no. No gardening for a while. Life has handed me a whole lapful of lemons. I did something small and
silly that resulted in a damaged meniscus in my left knee, and I’ll be using a walker or crutches until I can actually put weight on my left leg.

Still, there’s a bright side.  I’m making some pretty sweet lemonade from those lemons. Instead of raking and clipping I’ve been getting in a lot of writing time. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. There’s a position that doesn’t hurt at all.

This weekend our RWA chapter, Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada, is having a workshop with thewonderful Marie Force. She’s a terrific writer and a guru in the self-publishing world. If this knee thing doesn’t keep me away from that session I will be content to write all week, hobble off to Marie’s workshop, and wait patiently until I can tip-toe through the tulips, daffodils and crocuses.

While sipping lemonade.

Author Heidi Hamburg

Friday, 11 April 2014

The little things …

By Cathryn Fox

I’m sure everyone will agree with me when I say it’s been a horribly long winter! With storm after storm, and dark and dreary weather, sometimes it’s hard to stay positive and happy.

The other day the temperature finally came above freezing.  I think it actually reached seven degrees Celsius—with sunshine.  SUNSHINE! It was like a healing balm to my soul.  I stood on the deck and as I worked on curing my vitamin D deficiency, I started thinking about how happy a little sunshine made me feel. Then I started thinking about how little it took to put a smile on my face.

Here are just a few things that make me feel happy and positive:

  • Sitting on the deck in the summer with my IPad loaded with good books—or even bad one—just as long as I have books!  
  • An evening by the bonfire with family and friends, sharing a glass of wine.  
  • Dinner and laughter with the girls after a long week alone in my office.  
  • A walk along the waterfront.  
  • Double dating with my good friends, except when bowling is involved…still recovering.
  • An evening in with my hubby watching a good movie.
  • A rich, chocolate brownie.
  • Coming downstairs in the morning to find hubby making the coffee.
  • When the kids call, excited about something in their lives. 
  • When I have a tear in my eye after writing The End on my current work in progress.
  • Getting to hang out with my niece and her seven-month-old daughter.   Baby B, always brings a smile to my face!

These are only a few things off the top of my head, but now I’m wondering, what are some of the little things that make you happy? 

Cathryn Fox

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A to Z Blog Challenge -- H is for Hal-Con

Welcome to Day 8 of this year's A to Z Blog Challenge.

I just finished my first writing event for the year -- the Halifax Author Event, co-produced by my writer friends Tara MacDonald and Shawna Romkey.

It was a wonderful day.

The event I'm most looking forward to is coming up this November here in Halifax --

H is for Hal-Con

My first year at Hal-Con, I shared a table with fellow Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada member Lilly Cain, who writes erotic paranormal and futuristic romance.

Last year -- my second Hal-Con -- was also my first year co-presenting a panel on Heroes and Villains. Thankfully, my co-presenter was Shawna!

 Really looking forward to this year's Hal-Con -- it's so much fun to meet readers in person, to chat with other genre artists and most especially to see all the costumes. Hope to see you there!

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