Monthly Archives: February 2011

Excitement

I’d like to announce that this Tuesday I finished the complete rewrite of my 2006 Nanovel, Moonshadow’s Guardian. This project has been through several rewrites and the story has changed drastically over the years. That said, this rewrite was more about splitting up the book into two novellas.

The first half, which has kept the name of Moonshadow’s Guardian, is about a demon named Riana who is summoned to protect the kingdom of Moonshadow. A plague has struck the kingdom-a strange plague which they believe to be caused by Telars, mages gifted with telepathy. Riana’s job is to find out who is causing the plague and to bring an end to it before it kills the heir to Moonshadow’s throne. She has two constant companions-a dragon named Rolf, and the king’s brother Andre, who she falls in love with on the journey.

In the second half Riana colonizes and restores what was once an endless wasteland and is quickly becoming fertile again. She makes many friends along the way-but when the telars strike back, Riana’s life is torn entirely to pieces. The war was originally with a different country, but I’ve decided that it makes more sense-and it’s more interesting-if the war is fought against the telars.

I’m very excited to start editing this project-but every writer knows that you have to let it sit for a while. So in the meantime, I’m going to finish the worldbuilding for Some Secrets Should Never be Known, and then I’m going to start the book.

But first I’m going to celebrate with some good friends and good chocolate…

How do you celebrate when you finish a project?

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Author Interview: Jamie Grey

I’m really excited to present today’s author, Jamie Grey. Most of the interview choices I’ve made so far have been based on publisher-with a special focus on MuseItUp-or nationality, the latter usually being Canadian. I chose Jamie Grey from a list of MuseItUp publishers specifically because I thought her story sounded fantastic, and I’m hoping I can get my boyfriend to buy it for me since I don’t have a credit card.

I hope you enjoy this interview and I hope that you check out Princess for Hire when it comes out on March 1st. Jamie will be hanging around today to answer any questions you might have.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your story with MuseItUp Publishing, Princess for Hire?

Here’s a short blurb about my short story, Princess for Hire:

After winning his kingdom in a legendary poker game twenty years ago, Princess Mina’s father loses the kingdom just as easily. Now alone and penniless, Mina must rely on her sword to support them both. When the princess-turned-mercenary is offered a contract to save a prince that will pay enough to keep her father in luxury for yet another year, she and her business partner snap up the deal. Dragons and all.

2. When and how did you decide that you wanted to become a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I could read. I used to make up little books for my mom with illustrations and everything. But I finally got really serious about writing three years ago, found some critique partners and started working on my craft.

3. How did you first come up with the story of Princess for Hire?

I wanted to write something that was a bit of a twist on the typical handsome Prince rescues beautiful, helpless Princess story so often seen in Fantasy. And I wanted to play a little with changing gender roles and expectations. Somehow, Princess for Hire was born from that.

4. What does your writing process look like? (Give us an idea of how you plan, write, and edit, and how long it takes)

It varies for each project, and if it’s a full length novel vs. a short story, but usually, I try to come up with a basic plot outline to work from. I try to hit the important plot points, get a sense of the characters, and ending. Then I write – I basically just get the words on paper as fast as I can, not worrying about editing as I go.

The editing process takes a bit longer – I usually sit down with the manuscript and do a read through, marking plot holes, inconsistencies, problems, etc, and then come up with an editing plan. After that first pass is complete, I start working on the details – wordsmithing, description, characterization, setting.
On average – a novel takes me 6-9 months to have polished and ready to submit. A short story might only take me a couple of weeks.

5. How did you find MuseItUp Publishing?

One of my fantastic critique partners submitted a novella to a brand new Canadian ePublisher last year and really loved working with the Muse team. When I found I had a short story I wasn’t sure what to do with, she suggested that I try submitting it there. And the rest is history!

6. What’s your favourite thing about working with MuseItUp Publishing?

Everyone that I’ve met at Muse has been fantastic! The other authors are friendly and supportive, and Lea, the publisher, goes above and beyond to take care of her writers and editors. It’s just been a really great first publishing experience. I’m afraid I’m spoiled for anyone else!

7. Do you think ebooks will take over and that print will… go out of print?

I have to admit that I am a total bookworm. I love the feel and experience of reading a “real” book. That being said, I do think ebooks will take over – probably sooner rather than later. The ease of immediate downloads, the ability to read anywhere/any time, and the availability of millions of works at your fingertips will almost guarantee that ebooks are the way of the future.

I don’t think print books will ever entirely go away though. There’s just something about having that book in your hands. But what I’d really love is if publishers moved toward the DVD model – you buy the physical DVD and also receive a code for a digital download at the same time. That would be the best of both worlds!

8. Your story Princess for Hire isn’t a full novel. Are you planning to move to writing novels?

It’s funny – Princess for Hire is actually a bit of a departure from how I usually write! I am most definitely a novelist. I love the freedom of having 80k words to play with to craft a story. However, my crit partners and I came up with a short story challenge last year and this was my attempt at playing with the form. It’s actually the first short story I’ve written in a really long time! I’m back to writing novels now, but I may take a stab at another short story in the future. Maybe I’ll even continue Mina’s story!

9. What are you working on right now that readers can look forward to?

I am working on a full length YA novel set in Japan. It’s a contemporary fantasy about a Dragon, and the two girls from two different eras who must save him. I’m hoping to have that out to query by late spring.

10. What are you reading right now?

The book on my nightstand right now is The Marbury Lens by Andrew Smith. It’s an interesting read – it’s targeted as YA, but it definitely feels much older and darker than what I’m used to. I also have Paranormalcy by Kiersten White sitting beside my bed. I can’t wait to get to that one!

If Princess for Hire sounds like something you might be interested in, I have an excerpt up at my website: http://www.jamiegreybooks.com and you can check out my blog there as well. Princess for Hire will be available March 1st from the MuseItUp bookstore.

Bio: Writer. Geek. Tech enthusiast. Tea diva. I’m either a multi-faceted young-adult author or a commitment-phobic escapist. Probably a little of both.

Residing near Ann Arbor, Michigan, I spend my days writing as an instructional designer. At night, I try to create fantastic worlds populated with remarkable characters. Some days are better than others.

Did you find this interview interesting?

Prompt of the Week

I believe that writers must always be committed to learning. We must be committed to learning more about the world around us. We must have a desire to know all kinds of things-different languages, more about our language, history, mythology, science-and we must be able to follow through on that. Everything we learn has an influence on what we write, and the more we know the better our stories become. That’s why I made today’s prompt:

Write 500 words about Learning

My Response:

Learning
I learned almost everything that I know from Evelyn. I was only ten when she found me in the streets, begging for change. To this day I do not know why it is me out of a dozen begging children that she chose to take under her wing, but I am eternally grateful.

Evelyn gave me a home, my very own room in the temple. It was the first time I’d ever had a room of my own; I had lived inside a small house with my parents and my brother before that, but the plague took all three of them. My brother and I had shared a room, and it was a miracle that I did not get sick too.

It would seem that my life up until the day Evelyn died was full of miracles. My survival was the first one, and Evelyn finding me was the second. She was not an ordinary woman; Evelyn was said to have grown up in the Wilds, and while she never admitted nor denied it, it was not hard to believe if you knew her well. She knew how to hunt, how to trap animals, how to make things grow. Her skills exceeded those of ordinary city people.

Now that I was making my way in the forest, everything Evelyn had taught me was incredibly useful. It was she who taught me how to set up the traps which caught the rabbits; she who taught me skills with a bow to shoot the deer from afar; she who taught me how to skin the animals and clean them properly. It was even Evelyn who had taught me how to fight.

I was practicing fighting with a tree when I heard them coming. There were no horses, only the sounds of voices coming out of the forest. I picked up my sword and drew it, stepping away from the tree and looking around.

A woman and a man walked into the clearing, arguing about something. The woman had red hair and green eyes and looked to be feisty, and the man had brown hair, brown facial fuzz and brown eyes with a sparkle to them that made it seem almost as if he were smiling. Each was carrying a bucket. They stopped by the pond to collect water and it was only then that the woman noticed me and nudged her friend. Both pairs of eyes landed on me and stayed there.

“Who are you?” the woman asked.

“Does it matter? Who I am is just a name,” I said, raising my eyebrows.

“Then you will not ask us who we are,” she said.

“Perhaps not, but I might ask why you are here.”

The man narrowed his eyes. “Who are you working for?”

“Nobody. I am merely finding my own way.”

The man and the woman looked at each other. Their eyes met and she raised an eyebrow at him. He whispered something in her ear and she whispered something back. They stayed on the other side of the little sparkling pond. After a moment’s whispered conversation, he turned back to me.

“Then perhaps you should find your way among my people,” the man said. “We live in a small village a half day walk from here.”

“Are you the barbarians they tell us about in school?” I asked, grip tightening.

The man chuckled. “I suppose we are, though we can read and write just like you can. They call us barbarians because it makes us look bad.”

“So if I come with you I will find that your village is well taken care of, that you treat your women well, and that you worship the Gods of Llyr?”

“Perhaps. I would let you be the judge of that though.”

I sheathed my sword. “Then I will follow you.”

“Good,” the man said, filling his bucket with water. “Then come along, we haven’t got much time to get back before sunset.”

The 10 Commandments of a Serious Writer

So far I’ve talked a lot about goals. The 10 Commandments of a Serious Writer are rules which every writer should remember. These rules, if followed, will allow you to reach your goals much more easily. But it’s not just for your current goals-these rules will help you throughout your whole writing life.

1. I Shall Write
Writing is obviously the most important part of being a writer. This commandment is about writing regularly and writing the best that you can. It’s about butt in chair.

2. I Shall Read
It’s not just important for writers to write, it’s also important for writers to read, and not just in their genre. Reading not only expands the mind but it allows you to analyze other writers’ technique and to learn from the masters.

3. I Shall Edit Thoroughly
This means making sure that the story makes sense, that the characters stay in character, and that the plot flows properly. It also includes making sure that you haven’t used a semicolon wrong or missed an apostrophe; it’s not just about story, it’s about grammar. You want to edit it at least partially before you let anyone else see it-even your critique group.

4. I Shall Hear Criticism With an Open Mind
Writers must always be open to criticism. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with every comment somebody makes on your work; but it does mean that you have to seriously consider what they’ve said before you dismiss their opinion. And remember, if four or five people read your work and all agree on something, the one or two who like it are probably wrong.

5. I Shall Always Be Learning
While it is important to hone your craft and to put a large amount of focus on becoming a more skilled writer, it’s also important to learn other things. The best writers don’t just know about writing-they are always going on new adventures and looking for new things. They observe the world around them and take everything in. And they learn all kinds of things, not just about writing but about every aspect of life.

6. I Shall Push My Boundaries and Step Out of my Comfort Zone
I believe that all of the best writers-and all the best artists-challenge themselves. Not only to become better, but to try new things, to step out of their comfort zone. As writers this usually means experimenting with form or genre. It’s not just about writing though-stepping out of your comfort zone and facing your fears in all aspects of life can help you grow as a person.

7. I Shall Submit My Work
A writer does not need to submit; an author does. Somebody who wants to turn writing into a career needs to submit. Somebody who wants to make writing their future needs to submit. If you don’t submit, you can’t complain about not getting published. If you don’t submit, you’re not taking it seriously as your future, you’re treating it like a hobby.

8. I Shall Not Submit Too Early
This means that you edit your work, submit it for critique, edit it again, submit it for critique, and edit it again. It means that you spend time making sure all the character arcs go the way they’re supposed to and that the plot just comes together. It also means that you spend some time working on your query and your synopsis, so that the whole package is appealing. If you submit before you’ve edited, you’re dooming yourself; you’re submitting crap.

9. I Shall Accept Rejection Graciously
Every writer gets rejected. You must learn not to take rejection so hard; it happens to everyone and all it means is that you’re trying. Collect your rejections. If you get a specialized rejection, jump for joy and put it on your wall. It’s hard to see your baby rejected, but in the end, those rejections are like badges of honour.

10. I Shall Give Back to My Community
It’s important to give back to your community in one way or another. As a writer you can do this by volunteering your writing for local causes or by volunteering in your real life community. But you can also give back by blogging about your writing, by creating a newsletter, or by teaching a course. It’s important to give back to other writers and to help those who are not as far along the path as you are. It’s also important to give back to the wider community-but a writer must always be connected to other writers.

These ten commandments separate the serious writers from the would-be writers. They are the mark of a professional. Somebody who never gives up and who always follows these rules is a lot more likely to be a publishing success story.

I try my best to follow these rules each and every day. I am always looking for new ways to better myself both as a person and as a writer.

Author Interview: Susan Juby


Today’s interview is with Susan Juby, Canadian YA author.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your Alice series?

Alice, I Think is my first book. I began writing it after a long period of not writing any fiction. I began writing it long hand on the bus ride to work and finished writing it in a coffee shop. It was published first in 2000 by Thistledown Press and was later picked up by HarperCollins and republished in 2003. It’s a comedy about an adolescent girl with an eccentric family and is written in the form of her diary.

2. When and how did you decide to become a writer?

I didn’t decide to become a writer. I just tried writing and it worked out. I always wanted to be one, but felt it was an impossible goal. Writing a bit every day and hoping for the best is still my approach.

3. What was the first story you remember writing about?
It was a story about a girl who goes to the moon or Mars or someplace equally excellent. She’s accompanied by her trusty dog. I remember working harder to make my printing neat than on any other aspect of the story. I wrote that manuscript, which I believe was 60+ pages, when I was in the second grade.

4. What did your path to publication look like?

It was bumpy. No one knew what to make of Alice when I sent around the manuscript. Many publishers said it was too old for their children’s list and too young and focused on comedy for their adult lists. I was very grateful that Thistledown was willing to take a chance.

5. How do you think being Canadian influences you as a writer?

Being Canadian has shaped my approach to place. I like to write about places that I’ve lived. Not the cities, but the smaller towns. It’s also given me a bit of fondness for the cultural underdog!

6. What do you think is the most important piece of advice for aspiring writers?

Read as widely as possible and write and write until you find the stories that matter to you. Remember that it’s about the writing, not all the stuff that goes along with it (i.e. publication, fame, groupies, etc.)

7. What author do you think influences your writing most?

I was a chronic reader of JD Salinger when I was younger. Holden’s voice is still one of my favourites. I am also devoted to P.G. Wodehouse.

8. What do you think about the future of epublishing?

Important but hard to predict. I realize this answer is a cop-out.

9. What are you reading right now?

Beyond Blonde by the wonderfully funny Teresa Toten.

10. What are you working on right now that readers have to look forward to?

My first novel specifically for adults will be out March 8. It’s called Home to Woefield in the U.S. and The Woefield Poultry Collective in Canada. It’s the story of a young woman from Brooklyn with dreams of living a sustainable, back to the land lifestyle and becoming an admired vendor at the local farmer’s market. She inherits a derelict farm on Vancouver Island and, with a team of three unlikely helpers, tries to make it productive with decidedly mixed results.

Thank you for your time Susan, it’s an honour to have you here.

Bio: Susan Juby’s novels have been published all over the world and nominated for many
awards, including the Amazon/Books in Canada First Novel Award and the Stephen
Leacock Award for Humour and an Edgar Award. She is the author of the bestselling
Alice MacLeod trilogy, which was adapted into a thirteen part television series called
Alice, I Think that aired on CTV and the Comedy Network. Her memoir, Nice Recovery
(Viking), was published in 2010 and called “quite simply, an inspiration” in the Globe
and Mail. Publisher’s Weekly called her latest novel, The Woefield Poultry Collective, “A
… funny and touching yarn about an endearing band of social wrecks who are impossible
not to love.”

Susan was raised in Smithers, BC and teaches creative writing at Vancouver Island
University. She lives with her husband and their dog in Nanaimo, B.C.

Susan will be hanging out here to answer any questions you might have.

Prompt: Meditation

Preparing to become a professional writer means making myself more disciplined. It means learning to say no to distraction. It means learning to ensure that writing time is always writing time. It also means that I must stay productive, even when I’m not actively working on a novel project. Prompts are one way to ensure that you stay productive, even if you’re not producing your highest calibre of work.

Today’s prompt:

Write 500 words about Meditation

My Response:

For the first several days I stayed near a small shrine to Astra, Evelyn’s goddess. It was only half a day’s ride away from the city but it was a land of solitude. I lived in a small cave and set out traps for anything that might come across them. I meditated by the river each morning when I woke up. I sent words to the sky to Evelyn. I might not have cared about the Gods, but I didn’t believe that this life was the only life.

At the end of a week, with a rabbit in my pack, I moved on. I traveled southward, towards the city of Duranth. I stayed on the road and kept my senses focused on the forest. Barbarians and terrible monsters were said to roam the woods; I had seen no such things, but Evelyn spoke of them as though she had. I believed in Evelyn more than I believed in the Gods she worshiped.

I traveled slowly; I did not know what I sought, and I was in no rush to find it. I hunted and scavenged food and I kept myself alive. I slept near the road, under the canopy of tall silver birch trees and once an oak tree. I did not get lonely. I preferred the company of the trees and the birds, to be honest.

At the fork in the road, just a day away from Duranth, I stopped. Something, perhaps the call of a strange bird, perhaps the sound of a woman singing, called me away from the road. I jumped down from Taea and led her along by the reins. I could see something blue and sparkling in the distance, and it enchanted me.

I reached a clearing filled with a small, sparkling blue pond. It was not connected to the river, and it seemed cleaner too. I dipped a hand in and it felt fresh and clean. Taea drank from it and she seemed to be smiling at me afterwards.

I set up camp and then sat down by the pool cross legged. I closed my eyes and focused on the world around me. The birds were quiet and the sun would soon set. The air was clean and the energies of this place pure. A deep calm washed over me, filling me with peace. Evelyn’s face appeared in my mind’s eye, smiling down upon me. My own mouth smiled instinctively, as though she could see my response.

Perhaps she could. And perhaps she had led me to this place… Perhaps I would find my destiny here.

I ate only a small meal that night. I drank the water from the pond and it tasted clean and perfect. My final thought before I fell asleep was that this pond could be a sign that I was going in the right direction.

Living Life to the Fullest

As writers it is easy for us to stay inside our houses and ignore the world around us, but it is also the most crucial mistake that we can make. Our writing grows as we grow and we grow through experience more than we grow through age. Every writer should live their life to the fullest, not just so that they can tell their grandchildren stories, but because it adds depth to the stories we share with the world as well.

I do dream of making a living off of my writing by the time I am twenty-five, but that doesn’t mean I will not experience life fully. While I hope to make a living off of my writing by the time I’m twenty-five, I don’t necessarily want to be just a writer when I’m twenty-five. I’ll probably want to have a part time job of some kind-both as a backup plan and just to gain experience in the ways of the world.

Really, how I want to experience life is by traveling and studying. I want to see the world and I want to study it, its myths, its stories, its history. I want to learn about different cultures, from the Scottish that I am descended from to the Japanese whose cartoons I avidly watch. I want to study them, but I do not want to study from afar; I want to study right there, among the people of that culture. Being a full-time writer and traveling around the world is a big dream, but it is a dream.

But how does the average writer live their life to the fullest?

Slow down

Slow down and take in the world around you. Appreciate the details. If you walk through a park, note each tree as you walk by, connect to the earth beneath your feet. If you’re on a train, look out the window and watch the world pass by-you never know what you might see, and there’s something thrilling about how it all seems to run in the other direction. Don’t eat your meals at top speed; slow down and savour them, appreciate the taste-and don’t forget to file a description in the back of your mind for when your characters eat the same thing.

Take the time to really appreciate life. Notice the little details in the world around you, especially the little details of nature-the call of each bird, the design on each leaf. You will be rewarded with a greater appreciation for the world around you and extra depth in your descriptive passages.

Break Out of Your Routine

Try new things, break away from the norm. Take your first yoga class or buy your first yoga mat and training DVD. Try a bellydancing course. Experiment with group meditation. Go to a center of learning from another religion and ask questions-but always ask them with the utmost respect.

Ultimately living your life to the fullest includes having some adventure. Some people are more adventurous than others; I like to go on fairly regular adventures, often with no real destination in mind. Follow your heart instead of your mind for a day and see where it takes you. Break away from the mundane and into the magical. Go out for a walk on a route you’ve never taken before. Go out to a poetry slam or a night of songs. Find something interesting to do and do it.

Adventure allows you not only to meet new people and have new experiences, but it gives you a feel for what true spontaneity is like. It adds depth to the strange turns of events in your novel if you’ve experienced a few strange turns of events yourself.

Be Open to Other People’s Views

You don’t have to accept somebody else’s point of view, but it’s important always to listen and consider. If somebody makes a statement you disagree with, ask them why they believe that. Listen to their story; you might learn something about humanity, and the more you know, the more your writing develops. You don’t have to initiate conversation, but if somebody starts talking to you, listen to what they have to say. (Unless they’re trying to shove their religion down your throat.)

Remember that every story has value, and no story is a waste of time. You will take something away from every conversation, even if you don’t consciously know what that is.

Face your Fears

It is often said that only by facing our fears can we overcome them, and that is part of my argument in favor of facing your fears. If you’re afraid of heights, not only will standing near the edge of a cliff or a tall building help you overcome your fear, it will also make a great descriptive exercise. It will give depth to both the fear in your characters and the scenes where they must face that fear.

I’m not telling you that if you’re scared of spiders you should go hang out with a tarantula; I am telling you that you should get out of your comfort zone and do things that make you squirm. You’ll grow as a person and you never know, you might find something wonderful sitting outside of your comfort zone.

Learn something New

Specifically I am talking about skills. It is one thing to read something in a book; it is quite another to go out and learn a new skill. Learning a new skill has all kinds of advantages. If you’re learning carpentry or basic plumbing, not only do you have a new skill, but you can also fix up your house, and you can write about a character who is a carpenter with more authenticity. To me the best kind of person is the one who is always seeking to make themselves better in a variety of ways, and the greatest writer is the one who seeks to make each story better than the last.

As a fantasy writer I would love to learn to ride a horse, shoot a bow with more precision, and to properly fight with a sword. I know that these things would add unimaginable depth to my writing and I believe it is almost essential to know these things to write medieval style fantasy, but I also think that they would be fun to learn. Never learn something just because you feel the need to learn; always seek out something that you enjoy.

Putting it all together

To be a great writer, you need to experience more than just the writing life. You need to experience and learn all about the world and the people around you. So when you plan out your days, make time for writing, and make time for adventure. Make time to walk around and enjoy the world. Make time to go out and learn new things, because without life experience, your writng will always be just words on a page.

Book Review: Harvest Moon By Krista D. Ball


I meant to review this one a while ago but I didn’t get the chance to read it until just a couple of days ago. Before I start I’d like to say thank you to Krista D. Ball for sending me a copy of this novella to review. I quite enjoyed it and it’s been an honour to work with MuseItUp authors. You can buy this book here.

Here goes:

Book Trailer

As a Reader

As a reader I really enjoyed this novella. It’s short but I don’t feel like I’m missing anything. Dancing Cat, the main character, is well developed and beautifully written. When Dancing Cat confronts the sacred bundle of her tribe and asks the ancestors if they are still watching over her, she is turned into a man by her fallen grandmother. She is wounded and then she is rescued by a man named Bearclaw. He is also well developed and the two form a beautiful friendship which eventually turns to love.

As a reader I was deeply touched by this story. I was also fascinated by the bits of native culture that were shown in this novella.

As a writer

As a writer I was impressed with this work. I didn’t find myself stopping to correct things very often and I enjoyed the story. I thought the characters were well written and that the story was beautiful. I’m glad to have had the chance to read it. It felt believable. I find that very few books accurately portray native culture and that is one of the things I appreciated most about this book.

The Verdict

I officially recommend this novella to anyone looking for a short, poignant read. MuseItUp has continued to impress me with its authors.

You can buy the book here.

Making A Commitment to Yourself

Over the last few weeks I’ve talked a lot about creating-and meeting-your writing goals. I’ve made it clear that 2011 is going to be a year of Discipline in my writing. But it’s important to remember that while writing is certainly a part of me and always will be, there are other aspects of life where I need to put in effort and set goals. Taking care of me is the most important factor here, and I must remember that taking care of me doesn’t just mean focusing on my writing.

So what else do I need to focus on to take care of me? Well, it’s a pretty basic list:

School

This one is the obvious one and, depending on your standpoint, it is the most important thing for me to focus on right now. By focusing on school I don’t mean that I need to pass, because I haven’t been failing. But I do need to make an effort to work harder. I am capable of high marks in most of my classes, but I’ve been doing just enough work to get by, and most of that at the last minute.

My commitment to school is a commitment that I will set aside an hour each week specifically for homework. I don’t get too much homework; most of my work can be done in class fairly quickly. But just because I can do half my class work in the last week doesn’t mean I should. That means most of my semester is easy and there’s one week that really, really sucks. I come out of the end of that week too drained to write. While I do end up having fun with my friends all weekend, I should be able to get at least some writing done every weekend.

Health

As a writer, it’s really, really easy to ignore the rules of good health. It’s not hard at all to forget to leave your house for days on end; it’s even easier to bypass the healthier meal in favour of the faster meal. Apparently less than 20% of Canadian adults get the weekly physical requirement of exercise, which is approximately two hours of moderate exercise a week. Some weeks I know I get a lot more than this-but other weeks I barely make it out my front door. And while I’m confident that I get two hours of exercise most weeks, I also know that I don’t walk in the recommended increments: 30 to 40 minutes five days a week.

Because I can’t cook and I don’t do the grocery shopping around here, I don’t have all that much control over what I eat. But I can make a commitment to walk for 15 minutes every day. It’s not quite what the doctor ordered, but it’s close enough. Besides, that’s about how long it takes to walk to the nearest 24 hour store and back. As part of my effort to quit smoking, this is a non-smoking walk. If I want a smoke, I have to wait until after I’m finished the walk.

Family

As somebody with a lot of friends who make up their own family-in fact, having been adopted into two families of friends-I don’t spend a lot of time with my birth family. I don’t necessarily need to see them all of the time, but it is important to make sure that they know I care, and that it’s a two way street when it comes to communicating with my family.

My commitment to my family is that I will make an effort to maintain regular contact with my close relatives.

Renewal

Perhaps this last one could be placed under health, but in that section I wanted to focus on the body, and here I focus on the mind. Living a busy life is often stressful. Having a lot of friends is great, but it means you’re three times as likely to get a call from somebody in tears or to have to help somebody deal with a bad situation. There are rewards for helping people, and it’s a good experience. The whole thing feels good all the way around. But it does take its toll on a person, especially a person who is also going to school and trying to write the next great Canadian novel. I need to learn to take more time for myself, and when I do have time to myself, I need to remember to actually renew myself. I can do this by meditating, free writing, connecting with nature, and listening to certain kinds of music, particularly African drums. Dancing around a bonfire is the most renewing thing I’ve ever done, but it’s not something you can just do.

My commitment to renewal is that I will spend ten minutes every day meditating or free writing. This will give me a little bit of extra calm every day, and you never know just how much that ten minutes will change your life. I’m probably going to do it before bed as a way of winding myself down from the day’s events, but lots of people would recommend such a thing in the morning.

Staying Committed to Yourself

Once you’ve made a commitment to yourself to take better care of yourself, you need to make sure that you stick with it. Calling it a commitment rather than a goal is part of that: if it’s a commitment, it’s your responsibility; if it’s a goal, it’s just something you’re trying to do. Write your commitment down and put it somewhere that you’ll see it all the time. Reward yourself when you accomplish something. Since the goal here is to take care of yourself, junk food shouldn’t be your reward; stickers work well for small rewards, and if you manage to keep your commitment for six months, plan on taking yourself out to have some fun.

It’s important to be committed not just to your writing but to yourself as well. You are a writer, but you are not made up entirely of words. You need to take care of yourself and pursue your other interests in order to write the best that you can write, and it all starts with making a commitment to yourself.

Author Interviews: Donna Alward

This week’s interview is with Canadian romance author Donna Alward.

1. Can you tell us a bit about your books?

I write contemporary romances with a home and family sort of feeling – lots of westerns as cowboys are totally awesome, but every now and again I sneak in something slightly different – a soldier or businessman and I’ve also had a winery owner. My tag line is Emotional, Feel-Good Romance and that’s what I strive to deliver every time. Currently I write for Harlequin Romance and Samhain Publishing.

2. When and how did you first decide to become a writer?

I always loved words and wrote things, enjoyed creative writing and toyed with the dream of writing. But I really decided to be a writer after I finished my first full manuscript. I was hooked. I knew then that this was what I really wanted to do with my life.

3. What was the first story you remember writing about?

I started writing a story about a girl with a crush and unrequited love. As you can imagine I was quite young and it had an autobiographical bent. J It was never finished. But it makes sense that it was a romance, doesn’t it!

4. What did your path to publication look like?

It felt long but it was shorter than many. It was four and a half years of writing and learning and submitting and rejection. It had its ups and downs and it wasn’t easy, but I am pretty stubborn. The writing got better and I started getting editorial feedback. I got The Call in 2006 and I’m currently working on my 18th title.

5. Which authors do you think influenced you most as an aspiring writer?

From an “I wish I could write like that” point of view, I read a lot of LaVyrle Spencer, early Nora Roberts (oh, those McGregors!), and Judith McNaught. From a mentor perspective, my critique partner Michelle Styles kept me going on a daily basis (and still does) and I also had Liz Fielding and Trish Wylie cheering me on in particular. The romance community is spectacularly generous and supportive.

6. What does your ideal writing life look like?

It looks quiet and orderly. I strive for that every day and achieve it in varying degrees. When I have tamed writing chaos, the house looks like something exploded. There are only so many hours in the day.

7. What, other than writing, interests you most?

My kids. The world. People. I like experiencing things. I wish I could travel more and I hope to someday. I’m an introvert but I think a lot and I love learning.

8. What is one piece of advice you think it is important for all writers to remember?

It ain’t easy, and it’s never going to be easy. But it’s worth it, so don’t give up. You only fail if you give up.

9. What are you reading right now?

I can’t tell you, it’s a big secret. Actually, that’s true. I’m in the middle of reading the books I’m judging for the RWA RITA awards. It’s a great way to find new authors and read something different. I look forward to it every year.

10. What are you working on right now that readers have to look forward to?

I’m just putting the finishing touches on my latest Harlequin Romance that I hope will be out late this year or early next. And once that’s handed in, I’m revising a novella for Samhain Publishing that’s hopefully the first story in a series. I don’t have an official release date for it yet. The first quarter of this year is looking extremely busy, but it’s very good to have the work!

Bio: A busy wife and mother of three (2 daughters and the family dog), Donna Alward believes hers is the best job in the world: a combination of stay-at-home mom and romance novelist.

An avid reader since childhood, Donna always made up her own stories. She completed her Arts Degree in English Literature in 1994, but it wasn’t until 2001 that she penned her first full-length novel, and found herself hooked on writing romance. In 2006 she sold her first manuscript.

From her new home office in Nova Scotia, Donna loves being back on the East Coast of Canada after nearly 12 years in Alberta where her Harlequin career began, writing about cowboys and the west. Donna’s debut Romance, Hired by the Cowboy, was awarded the Booksellers Best Award in 2008 for Best Traditional Romance.

With the Atlantic Ocean only minutes from her doorstep, Donna has found a fresh take on life and promises even more great romances in the near future!

Donna loves to hear from readers; you can contact her through her website at http://www.donnaalward.com, visit her facebook page, or through her publisher.

Twitter: @DonnaAlward

Do you have any questions for Donna? She’ll be hanging around here today to answer them.