Donna Alward's Blog: Donna's Blog, page 13
July 16, 2015
A new anthology is out this month and it’s full of delights, including a novella from Shirley Jump! It’s called ASK ME WHY and each contributing author has included a novella from their ongoing series.
Shirley’s is part of the Southern Belle’s Book Club: Wrapped Around Your Finger: Maggie McBride is just one of the guys in the hard-knocks world of construction. Until she’s dared to ask Nick Patterson to a wedding, enticing her to knock down some walls—and risk falling in love.
Other authors are Jodi Thomas, Marie Force, and Virginia Kantra. For more info:
And you can visit Shirley at her website at http://www.ShirleyJump.com!
July 15, 2015
Before I became a writer, I was a huge Nora Roberts fan…still am. I would read her books over and over and over again, until one day I started wondering who she was. Was she old? The name Nora suggested to me that she was old. But the ideas in her books were young, fresh. (Remember, there was no Google back then!)
When I began to write, one of my greatest fears was that people would start trying to figure me out from my books, the way I had Nora! LOL So I worried that using “what I knew” would absolutely clue people in on things I might not want revealed. Worse, using ‘what I knew’ I could insult friends and neighbors. LOL If I wrote about the conflicts I knew — bad neighbors, goofy bosses. even marital spats — I might as well name names and I couldn’t have that.
But the more I dipped into this career, the more I realized the real way an author connects with readers and readers inadvertently connect with writers isn’t through the external plot points of a book, but through the deep stuff. The stuff that doesn’t have to have a neighbor’s goofyness or a boss’s idiosyncrasies because it’s what we feel, what we believe — about ourselves.
The greatest relationship we have is with ourselves. And the greatest way a book can impact a reader is by changing how she feels about herself.
In the TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS, the heroine, Eloise is alone, and deep down feels she’ll never be connected to anyone because she screwed up the beginning of her life so badly. Haven’t we all felt like that at one time? I have. So I hoped that by showing readers how she picked herself up and got herself together I would inspire them to believe one mistake doesn’t ruin a life. Oh, it can come close. Eloise kissed failure square on the mouth. But when you fall, you have to stand up again.
In HER BROODING ITALIAN BOSS, the heroine, Laura Beth, has hit one of those unexpected life shifts. Not only did she get pregnant by a man who didn’t love her, but also both of her friends had found the loves of their lives. They were her roommates so when they left, she could no longer afford her apartment. Suddenly, she was alone and broke, homeless and pregnant. Her life changed in the blink of an eye — mostly through no fault of her own — and she wasn’t prepared to deal with it.
But the interesting thing about Laura Beth’s situation is that what looked to be a problem was actually life shifting gears, turning her in the direction she needed to go to fulfill her destiny.
Ah. Haven’t we all looked back and realized that something that seemed AWFUL was actually the Titanic of our life shifting AWAY from the iceberg. LOL
That’s what I wanted readers to see. That sometimes what looks like the gates of hell at our doorstep is actually just another door.
That’s the connection that I want to make with readers. I don’t want them to think that I once had roommates who left me or that I ran away from home my first year at university. I want you to see that I’m an optimist. That I genuinely believe that problems serve us. They don’t hurt us. I believe in love. Not just “love” but LOVE. All caps. Change your life. Change the world kind of love.
And I like to think people who read my books see that and think…Yeah, I believe too.
Or if they don’t believe, they read my books and a little part of their hearts stirs enough that they can think…Maybe that’s true.
And if they can’t get to the point of even thinking maybe that’s true…at least the story lifts their spirits, makes them happy.
That’s what I want you to see. That life can be good or great if you take another look at your bad times. Because that’s what I believe. That’s me in a nutshell.
In honor of Happy Thursday…Beer Friday Eve…I’m going to give away a copy of HER BROODING ITALIAN BOSS and THE TWELVE DATES OF CHRISTMAS to two people who comment below.
Believe in love. Believe in yourself. Just believe.
July 14, 2015
Because we’re focusing on Connections this month for our Happiness Project I thought I’d Google “Connection and Happiness” just to see what came up. What I discovered will come as no surprise to you—we humans are social creatures, therefore, relationships matter a great deal to us. Research has shown that people with strong and broad social connections are happier, healthier and live longer.
Strong and broad social connections. Let’s think about that for a moment…
We have strong (and deep) connections with our families, friends, and often our work colleagues. I expect none of us need an explanation for why those relationships are so vital to our happiness. But what about broad connections—the connection we feel to our wider community?
Apparently, these broader connections are vital to our health and wellbeing too. Research indicates that the more diverse our social networks are the better—it might impact how long we live and even how resistant we are to catching colds. These networks give us a sense of belonging and community.
So take moment to jot down your broader social connections.
This is what I came up with for me:
Member of a regional writers centre (where I run a book club plus there are functions I attend during the year)
Member of a local professional writing network that meets 4 or 5 times a year
Member of RWAust, which has an annual conference that I attend diligently, and there are also email loops that keep me up to date on industry news plus provide a place to connect socially with other members
Member of the Australian Romance Readers Association (locally we meet for lunch a few times a year, annually there’s a dinner, and every two years there’s a conference)
Member of RWA. While I’ve yet to attend a conference, there are email loops that keep me up to date on industry news plus provide a place to connect socially with other members
As a PhD student, I meet once or twice a month with other students—we have a writing circle were we work, and a social circle where we drink wine. My faculty also has the occasional morning tea for both staff and students
My husband is heavily involved in field hockey and has been ever since I met him over twenty years ago. So while I don’t play, I’m certainly a part of the broader network there (at both a local and state level)
I’m a member of two group blogs. I haven’t met 7 of the other Chocolates face-to-face, but I’d call all of them friends!
I’m on Facebook (and I chat there almost daily)
I know a lot of people in my street—not well, but enough to stop and say hello and chat for a few minutes
Some of my networks overlap, but some of them don’t. I didn’t know I knew so many people!
So here’s the thing…while these networks give us a sense of belonging and community, apparently happiness is contagious across social networks. It appears that happiness depends not only on the happiness of those in our direct social network, but on the happiness of the people they know too.
In other words, happiness ripples out through groups of people*. So our own individual happiness makes our wider social connections happier, which then in turn makes their wider social connections happier. Now doesn’t that sound like the kind of epidemic our world needs?
* Here’s the link if you’d like to read the article by James H Fowler and Nicholas A Christakis, “Dynamic Spread of Happiness in a Large Social Network: Longitudinal Analysis Over Twenty Years in the Framington Heart Study.” http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.a2338
We’ve been taking about connections this month, and something happened to me last week on Facebook that made me realise that (a) the way I connect with people often involves music, and (b) how awesome the internet is, because you can talk to people all over the world who like the same things that you do (and I think that if I met the people in real life that I talk to on social media, we’d get on really well).
In real life, these are awesome. I love going to gigs and singing my heart out with a crowd of people (probably the most awesome was with 20,000 people singing ‘This Is War’ at a 30 Seconds to Mars gig). Or in the car (the teens and I do that quite a lot to Oasis and Radiohead). I used to do it as a teen myself with my mum. Sharing music like that makes me really happy.
I loved it, commented, and pinched it for my own timeline. And then suddenly I was in the middle of a singalong with friends who also knew the song and posted a line from it. Friends ALL OVER THE WORLD. All of us ‘singing’ together, connecting and enjoying the song (and probably all of us having an earworm all day). How awesome is that?
So, yeah. Music connects me to people. Sharing songs I love and that I think others will love – and getting new music right back in return. It doesn’t matter where you come from – music transcends everything. Religion, race, skin colour, gender, prejudice – music connects.
And because it’s about connecting, I’m giving away a book. To be in with a chance to win, either sing along with me to the song above, or tell me which song the title of this post comes from (or who made it famous). Post a comment and I’ll add you to the draw for a copy of my new release ‘From a promise… to a proposal?’) – I’ll draw on Saturday morning UK time.
Kate’s latest releases are Bachelor at her Bidding (the cake book), and A Promise… to a Proposal (out in July, and contains has really romantic bits of Prague!). You can find out more about the books, and Kate, on her website (http://www.katehardy.com/) and her blog (http://katehardy.blogspot.com/) – or find her on Facebook
July 13, 2015
For more than a decade, I lived outside of Washington, DC. I worked just 5 miles away from American’s political hub and many evenings had dinner in the city. I worked as a reporter on Capitol Hill and learned that connections are about what someone can do for you. That’s how everyone seemed to view a person: “What can you do for me?”
I believe this is more the philosophy of politics.
I never really agreed with that philosophy because for me, knowing someone, is more about “What can you teach me?” or “How can you help me grow in life?” I also believe that helping others is more important.
I like writing and reading stories about communities that come together to help each other. There can still be conflict. This weekend, I discovered a great movie. It’s a very old movie starting James Stewart called ‘The Shop Around the Corner.’ It’s not about a community, but the members of a small corner shop in Budapest that work together and help each other.
And there is, of course, a love story that grows along the way . . . Very cute one, I must say.
For me, the best connections are ones where you can learn and grow. Thoughts?
P.S. I think you’ll hear about some great connections this week and next as writers head to the Romance Writers of America’s annual conference in New York City.
July 10, 2015
It might sound strange, talking about solitude on a month when we’re focusing on connections, but of all the connections we have in this world, none is more important than the relationship we have with ourselves.
My mom and I talk about being alone a lot. She hates living alone. Ten years after my father passed away, she’s still doesn’t like having an empty house or doing things on her own. According to her, no one likes being alone.
Granted, a large part of her view is colored by grief. She misses my dad. However, I disagree that no one likes being alone. As an empty nester as well as the wife of a man who travels for business, I’m alone a lot, and am learning to enjoy the experience.
What my mother’s talking about isn’t so much being alone as it is loneliness, and as I’ve come to learn, being lonely isn’t the same as being alone. You can be lonely in a room full of people . I know because I have.
The key to banishing loneliness is to become your own best friend.
When I first found myself alone on a Saturday, I too, felt lonely and bored. There’s only so much cleaning and Lifetime movies a person can take. But then I read a book called FEELING GOOD. In it, Dr. David D. Burns points out that most of life’s basic satisfactions are actually solo actions. Things like enjoying your favorite ice cream or reading a good book are solo experiences – even when other people are in the room. We’ve conditioned ourselves to believe we can’t have these experiences without other people. Truth is, though, there’s absolutely no rule that says we need a friend with us to have a cup of coffee at the coffee shop or anything else you feel like doing. And so, on those days when I find myself completely alone, with no friends to call on, I’ve started asking myself, “What do you feel like doing today, Barb?” I’ve taken myself out for coffee, I’ve gone shopping. I’ve even gone to a movie by myself. I’m learning.
My next battle in becoming my own best friend is to really get to know myself. Usually when I’m alone, I distract my thoughts with background noise or a good book. That’s another thing we’ve become conditioned to do – to be busy and distracted all the time. Like the speaker in Fiona’s video pointed out earlier this week, we’d rather distract than think uncomfortable thoughts.
But how can you truly connect with yourself if you don’t spend time in your head? Solo dates are great, but in some ways they are also a form of distraction. A way of not thinking about why I feel lonely or bored or whatever.
And so, starting Monday I’m undertaking a month-long project that I read about in Psychologies Magazine. (You’re seeing a trend in reading subjects here, aren’t you?) Starting Monday, I’m going to spend 30 minutes a day doing nothing. No music, no journal, no meditation. Just sitting and connecting with my thoughts for a half an hour. I’m hoping the silence will help me learn a little more myself and help me enjoy my company that much better. Anyone with me?
This is where I usually post a tidbit about my latest release. This week, however, I’m doing something different. Friend of the Chocolate Box, indie author Amy Rachele, lost her husband to illness this week. Amy writes about mobsters. Her stories are a labor of love, published more because she loves telling stories than any need to make a living. We at the Chocolate Box wanted to show her our support during this difficult time. Amy’s latest e-book went online last week. Romance writers and readers are among the most generous people in the world. Therefore, we’re asking our readers if they wouldn’t purchase a copy, even if they aren’t interested in reading the book, to show they are thinking of her and her family.
The link to Amy’s website is www.amyrachiele.com if you are interested. Thank you.
July 8, 2015
My name is Megan Ryder and I am a knitaholic.
Yes, I do believe there should be support groups for us to stop us from buying more yarn, more patterns, and more accessories than we could ever use in a mortal lifetime. I started knitting when I was nine years old. No one in my family knitted so I got a book from the library (my true happy place back then) and got to work. I think I still have my first needle somewhere around here. Only one because I lost in the other in the sea of knitting supplies in my house.
I was a quiet kid, loving books and yarn more than almost anything else. For me, they were the perfect complement – quiet, peaceful and meditative. With both activities, my mind could wander freely, travels the worlds of Middle Earth, Narnia, Green Gables and Avonlea.
Then I discovered romance and the die was cast. I couldn’t get enough romance and spend hours reading the classics like Jude Deveraux, Judith McNaught, Nora Roberts, Julie Garwood. I loved historicals back then, but now I’m a contemporary and paranormal girl all the way.
So, when I decided to start writing, romance was a natural choice. And I sat down to the typewriter and… nothing. I had no idea where to start, what to write or anything. And yes, computers were just starting out back then and I didn’t have one yet. So, I did what I always did when I was stressed.
I picked up my knitting. Slowly, as the stitches grew and rows were added, something else happened. Plots formed. Characters started speaking to me. Ideas seemed endless.
Even today, knitting is not only a form of meditation for me but a true plotting technique. If I’m stuck or not sure where to go, I pick up my needles and start knitting. I empty my mind and the ideas just flow. It’s not unheard of for me to suddenly drop the knitting and grab the computer or a pad of paper or even start talking out lines of dialogue.
For every book, I pick out a project to work on. Usually, it’s a fairly simple project. My heart and soul belong to lace knitting but that’s too complex when I am working on a book. So I stick to shawls, socks, or even the occasional sweater with a simple pattern. For me, the goal is not the knitting project but how it keeps me on track with the book.
After every writing session or plotting session, I put the writing down and pick up the needles, letting the day’s writing and brainstorming settle into my subconscious. Inevitably, when I wake up the next morning or finish knitting for a while, the brain is calm and quiet and the writing ideas just float to the surface.
Knitting serves another purpose for me. It calms my brain too. When I am in the flow and writing quickly, I can’t seem to shut down the ideas. That translate into no sleep for me and the cycle leads to no creativity. So, I plan my schedule around a few hours of writing, then some knitting before bed. Even if it’s only a couple of rows. Knitting is rhythmic and meditative, soothing the author voice within.
But there is the flip side of knitting, the side where I need a support group sometimes. I love knitting. You instantly see results as does everyone around you, and there is immediate gratification. You don’t always get that in writing. You can go months or years without any feedback or praise. And with knitting you have a pattern so you are kind of assured of the outcome where writing, not so much.
So, when the going gets tough, it’s much easier to grab your knitting and bury yourself in yarn. Here is a lovely image of a project I worked on for my first novella that’s being published in an anthology this summer (July 14), SMALL TOWN SUMMER. The pattern is called Celestarium and is a representation of the Northern constellations. There isn’t any knitting in the book, but it is a small town, and I know there’s a little knitting shop in that town. But I’m keeping it a secret so I can have all of the yarn to myself. Sssshhhhh.
For this post, I’m giving away a free electronic copy of the anthology SMALL TOWN SUMMER to be released on July 14. To win, tell me what crafts you like and how they help you in your daily life.
From warm sunny days to long sultry nights, spend your summer falling in love in a small town! These nine contemporary romances featuring sassy heroines, sexy heroes, and lots of heartwarming romance make the perfect beach read. Whether your pleasure is sweet small town romance or smolderingly sexy love stories, there’s something in the SMALL TOWN SUMMER box set for everyone!
July 7, 2015
At the moment I’m writing a story where shame plays a big part in both my hero and heroine’s journeys. Shame, while also being a bit of a toxic feeling, can also sabotage our relationships, because shame causes us to hide ourselves – or pieces of ourselves – from other people, the very opposite of being connected!
And, according to Brené Brown, being connected is what makes us happy! All I’m going to do now is leave you the link to her TED Talk on the subject, because she can tell you all about it much better than I can. Do you want to know what it takes to live wholeheartedly? I do!
Fiona Harper writes romantic comedies about, funnily enough, men and women who are either seeking or need to brave enough to seek connection.
July 6, 2015
It’s easy to walk into a patient’s room and proclaim, “Good morning, Mr. Soty, it’s time to get you bathed, then out of bed and up for a walk.” Shift starts and there’s a to do list that could stretch 20 yards or more to complete. That doesn’t even include the ‘to-dos’ that pop up as the shift goes along.
Well, let’s see the doctor has ordered a whole new set of antibiotics for Ms. Donaldson and Mr. Higgs decided to pull his IV out. Or the patient in B Bed has a procedure you haven’t done in awhile so you need to brush up on the facility’s policy.
It’s hard and stressful because as a nurse, you want to get everything done. You hate to leave something at the end of the shift. Inevitably, the nurse has to pass something along. But, the fewer, the better.
All the tasks and the burden of trying to get everything done sometimes makes the nurse forget what’s most important: the patient. Not just knowing the patient but understand what the patient truly needs.
Sure, the patient wants a bath and to get up, but have they had a meal? Was it enough? Maybe there’s a morning show they like to watch as part of their morning routine.
What will make them happy at that particular point in time?
And there’s something else patients want. It took me years to learn this. They want to know the nurse caring for them. They want a connection. More, importantly, they want to know we care.
When a nurse walks into a patient’s room, they know everything about that person from home address right down to every procedure they’ve had over their entire life. And, yet, the patient knows nothing about the person telling them to take this medicine or get ready for this procedure.
It took me a long time to open up to my patients. It takes a long time for me to develop trust. When I did, I felt different about what I was doing. It had more meaning for me. I also found a way to make the grouchy patient no one wanted to care for smile.
I created a connection. If the patient had a military background, I told them about mine. If they were a football fan, I shared my favorite team. Or I made sure they knew how to tune into the next big game on their TV.
My connection with patients has taught me a lot about life and to look at the other side of the equation. Sometimes the answer you need is there.
And, yes, it makes me happy to know I’ve made a difference beyond instruments and medicine.
A connection on both sides helps makes the healing process go a lot quicker.
July 5, 2015
by Donna Alward
This month’s Happiness theme is Connections. I love that we started with this particular “project” because it’s RWA National Conference month and the one time of year I get to see many of my friends in person. We’re spread all over the globe, though most in my inner circle are from North America, the UK, and Australia and New Zealand. Still, geographically that’s a really big area.
One of the benefits of technology is that we’re all able to stay in touch at the touch of a “send” button. I can’t tell you how important that is… I don’t know what I’d do without my close friends. We check in with each other daily. We share our burdens and our good news, new baby pics (from new additions to grand babies) and those connections are really important.
But as an introvert, sometimes my biggest challenge is to make connections with actual people – not by sitting in front of a keyboard. Which seems a little strange considering I’m in the romance business. But then I realized I could use that business to also help me get out more.
One, I’ve started meeting a friend for a “write-in” one morning a week. No wi-fi, and we only talk a little, but we work, and chat a bit, and get out of the house. I get some really good word count during that time.
I’ve had a few meetings where we chatted over coffee outside a local “Second Cup” instead of skyping or being stuck in the house.
It’s true that a lot of my friends are in the writing business, but that’s okay. Getting out to my RWA chapter’s day-long workshop in June was a day away that I needed so much! Even visiting my family proved to be something I needed very much. I spent a weekend chatting IN PERSON with my mom, step-dad, and my sisters. I don’t see them very often, so it was good to catch up in real life and not over the phone.
I got tickets to the NS Royal Tattoo which is always a great show. I went to the high school graduation, too, and chatted with some of the parents I know.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to do things like that, though you probably wouldn’t know it to see me. But getting out “into the world” and connecting with not just people but the world itself is pretty important.
And I can hardly wait to see everyone in New York at the conference. We don’t see each other often, but when we do, it’s really special. And I always come back home feeling refreshed and refilled.