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Monday, October 31, 2011

The Tracy Anderson Method Meta Omni Days 26 - 30: To AMBA and beyond

Last Friday saw me at AMBA, the annual gathering of Mills and Boon authors in London. We meet for lunch and in the early evening, the editors host a toast. Its origins go back to the legendary Charlotte Lamb.
Anyway, it was motivation to keep doing TAM as I wanted to look good.
I succeeded.
People didn't recognise me and I spent a great deal of time talking about Tracy Anderson and her programme -- both to authors and editors. One of the editors reminded me that she had lost a lot of weight a couple of years back. She looks great now and was very interesting to talk to about the whole adjustment process.
When Kate Hardy sent me the photo of my back (I'm in the centre of the photo), I had visual confirmation that I am no longer FAT but tiny. It means I have to tone and maintain, rather than try to lose weight.
There are lots of books about losing weight, but relatively few about what happens after you have lost the weight and how your world view changes. This is why talking to that particular editor was so useful. I know I suffered or still suffer from body dysmorphia. I tend to think of myself as heavier. It is only when I see myself out of my surroundings or put on one of the UK size 8 (US size 4) clothes that I do have to pause and readjust my image.
But I have accepted what everyone said and I don't want to be a UK size 6 (US size 4) or smaller. It gets hard to find clothes. But I still have a lot of toning to do. Your skin is always the last thing to return to the muscle and I can see my saddle bags etc. Also I know TAM helps my lymph oedemia. I shall have to sweat 6 x a week for the rest of my life.  But it was a lot of fun to go and have people be astounded. A number of the editors and senior management had seen me in NYC in June so they knew what I looked like then!
Today was the last day of Level 3 and tomorrow starts Level 4.
I am taking my rest day on a Sunday. I had 3 rest days because of London and discovered that I did not magically balloon up. My measurements stayed the same on Monday as they had on Thursday.
I am also starting to do the MS and then the DC. I do still like doing an hour of DC as I enjoy sweating and the feeling that I can eat more freely. I tried it this morning. It was fine and I know that I will do the Dance Cardio. I have previewed Level 4 and as per usual it looks tough. It will get better once I start doing it.
Now though I do have my deadline looming. Having heard some many positive things from the senior management about what is going on in the publishing revolution, I need to make sure that my stories play their part. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Tracy Anderson Method Meta Omni: Days 20 -26 Dealing with Transitions

Last week marked the end of Level 2 and the start of Level 3. Level 3 has no planks! In theory this makes it easier. But the challenge is to really be precise.
I was super pleased with my measurements, but this week also marked the point at which I reached 140 and I bought a pair of UK size 8 jeans (US size 4) and have been wearing them as they fit. My super skinny H&M pencil skirt also arrived. It fits (just). The new goal is ensure the super skinny pencil skirt fits comfortably and then to work towards maintenance and toning.  In other words, I don't want to go to a size 6.  I have already noticed a distinct lack of stock in M&S and other places.  It is all about balance and learning to make healthy choices so all the hard work is not destroyed. I know that the Dance Cardio and the MS work will be done for the rest of my life, but I love my food too much to be on a constant diet.
The losing weight has happened far more quickly (in some ways) that anticipated. I did plateau for a long time around 170. But it is also coming to terms with my image in the mirror. I find I see myself as a size 14/16 UK (10/12 US). Before I put the skirt on, I thought how tiny and there is no way... then it fit so I am that tiny even if I don't see it. Aspirational clothing does help as you do lose from more than your measurement points.
One of the ladies who is currently doing TAM, Leah, has a blog Rumspringa and she talked about how a book The Secrets of A Former Fat Girl by Lisa Delaney helped. As I was struggling, I downloaded it. It proved an enlightening read. Delaney lost her weight over 20 years ago.  The book is part memoir of  her struggle and part helpful hints for dealing with some of this. Delaney is the former executive editor of Health.  I was gratified to learn that some of my tactics she employed. For example the Not An Option mantra. I first used this when I was trying to get published and have found it works wonders with exercise as well. At the moment, it is Not An Option for me to skip workouts. I know that you are supposed to rest after 6 days but...I worry about my little voice, the one who continually tells me that I can loaf off. It is part of the reason that I do 1 hour of Dance Cardio and do the Dance Cardio first. I know I'd skimp otherwise. Dance Cardio is hard work. While it is enjoyable in a sado-masochistic way, I know that given a ghost of excuse, I'd be finding reasons why it should be less. My results depend on DC and so it is NAO.  Equally, NAO about upping the reps on the leg work when I can do them easily. It is about pushing. And it has always NAO to miss writing.
I was gratified to learn that she didn't diet until her exercise regime was firmly established. This happened a bit to me. I did get exercising into my blood with the exercise dvds earlier in the year and it was part of the despair at plateauing that led me to TAM.
She also gave strategies for dealing with people etc. If you have a lot of weight to lose, I do recommend the book.  It is a very positive life-affirming sort of book and shows that just because you have lost weight, it doesn't mean that you are destined to gain it all back. You do have a choice to choose  the new you.
This Friday is the annual AMBA lunch and I should get photos from that. (Still being lazy about a camera cord here). The dress I was going to wear is now slightly too big but that is fine. It still looks nice (I think)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

News of a sort

On Thursday, my editor let me know that the book which was accepted in May has now been scheduled -- August 2012 in both the UK and US/NA markets. It will be going as an ebook and print in both markets. No title yet. I think I sent loads of suggestions way back when it was accepted. It is my Regency businesswoman who has to find a husband or risk losing the family business due to her stepfather's will. The book is very close to my heart and I feel so relieved that it is now in the schedule.
Still no word about the three book which are going digital exlcusive in the NA market -- Compromising Miss Milton, Breaking the Governess's Rules and To Marry A Matchmaker. They should in theory be out in the first half of 2012. They have already been out in the UK and Australia as well as several foreign markets. This has to do with the move to simulataneous publication in the UK and US markets due to the growth of ebooks and online buying habits.
I turned in the prequel to Compromising Miss Milton to my editor last week.  For people who had read CMM, it is about the heroine's brother in India and helps to flesh out the CMM backstory. All being well it should go out as promotional short when CMM is released in the NA market. She has passed it on to the Historical team for their thoughts and will get back to me with collated thoughts after her holiday. Because it is to be promotional, I want it to be AWESOME.  Harlequin have been very supportive with this idea so my fingers are crossed about it. 
In family news:
The duckling is thriving. This is the single duckling who I had thought would be harrier fodder as it kept getting separated from its mother. It has now adjusted to life in the pen...
The dogs are fine. Chile the Labrador gets slower as he is nearing 15 but still enjoys life. The collies are busy.
Mr Darcy and Heathcliff know they are in charge of the house. Last night, Mr Darcy decided that Tess's tail was a cat's toy. Rather than confront him, Tess moved away and tucked her tail under her, protectively.
The bees are ready for winter. Fingers crossed here.
My youngest has started working at Langley Castle as a waiter for wedding in the same way that my eldest did when he was in 6th form. It teaches good people and life skills.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Writing: Sunshine and shadow

One thing I have to remember is that you want a variety of emotion when you are writing  women's fiction. The intensity of the emotion matters but too much makse it samey. If everything is light, it can feel airy and insubstantive. Equally if everything is dark and brooding, you can end up very quickly being depressing. You are looking at the full palette of emotion and how it is portrayed rather than just one aspect.
The contrast can help to ring the changes. Think about shadows and how much darker they look against the bright sunshine. If a painting is monochrome, you lose that intensity. Show  the changes when you are writing, think about the contrasting emotions and how you can show the mood shifts. There are always gradation of moods.  You can't just protray anger in the same way all the time. The character becomes one dimensional and wooden. She always screams. He always clenches his jaw.  Equally your characters should not always be angry. They need to have moments when they lighten up. When they are amused or find a measure of peace. The opposite of anger is not always happiness. It can be peace, tranquility, contentment, acceptance or resignation.
When you want to show a passion at its height, it will show up most clearly when you contrast with its opposite. The conundrum for every novelist is how to portray its opposite in a convincing fashion.  How can you show both in a scene?  Hint: look within your characters, Find more than one inner value for the character. How can these two values be in opposition to each other? What will finally drive your characters that height? What is your character passionate about? Strong emotions require strong characters and they deserve to be shown in their complexity.
Do not be afraid to show the opposite of an emotion to increase whether the sunshine or the shadow. Make sure you understand the different variations of emotions and how the character will react. The inner value + conflict = emotion.  But to really make those emotions stand out, you need the contrast.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tracy Andreson Method Meta Omni Days 12- 19: A jumbo sack of dry dog food

I realised on Friday that since starting TAM I have lost the equivalent of a jumbo sack of dry dog food or one of the sacks of poultry layers pellets (they weigh about 15 kg). I know how hard it is to carry that for even a short distance so it is little wonder that I have so much more energy!
Tomorrow is my official measurement day but my clothes are getting looser. I think I am now more a size 8 UK (US size 4) than a size 10 (US size 6). It means though I need a whole new wardrobe from underthings on up. This will take time. I have ordered a H&M pencil skirt size 8 as a reward. It feels strange to shop in a shop where fashion is on the cutting edge, rather than thinking I can't. However, I do like the styles at the moment and they do show off my waist. My body type is currently in after years of being neglected...that sort of thing spurs me on.
Level 2 has been challenging for me as my balance is not stellar. At first I kept falling over but I have mastered it. One of the main things I have learnt is to keep my weight on my forearm, rather than on my knee.
The Dance Cardio remains doable. I do have to really focus while I am doing it, rather than allowing my mind to drift. It is so important to really perform the cardio, rather than going through the motions. It is all about being bathed in sweat.
I also discovered that salt really makes me bloat. A low sodium diet is supposed to help with idiopathic lymphoedemia. See www.actiononsalt.org.uk  I was utterly amazed to see the amount of salt in bread, particularly high end bread and other places. There is a lot of hidden salt, particularly in processed foods. Unfortunately, I love salt. Olives and salami are some of my favourite foods. The salt bagels I had in NYC live in my memory. I routinely added salt when I was cooking and then at the table. Now I don't to either.  I shall just have to be really cautious. Such things need to be absolute treats and on days when I know I am going to really work out (and on the day after).
I also learnt why my dairy requirement is best served by Greek yogurt. It has to do with the bacteria and the fact that strained yogurt has more. Dairy can make me bloat as well. But it is lucky that I love and adore smoothies made with Greek yogurt. They take very little to prepare in the morning and I find I am full most of the day as opposed to porridge where I'd feel full but was tempted to snack mid-morning.
Next TAM update: Monday
Next writing update:Wednesday

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Creating warmth in your ms

If you are writing series romance or really commercial women's fiction in general, one of your most important tasks is to create warmth. You want the readers to love your characters as much as you do. Remember these are comfort reads or escapist reads for people. It is not about making readers feel uncomfortable.
My senior editor sometimes says to me that often I have the warmth in my head and not down on the page until after the revisions.Apparently I talk about my characters with great warmth and humanity but sometimes it is not translated on to the page. It is a lesson I learnt well when I had that ms rejected (asked to put aside) last December. Part of the problem was a lack of warmth, particularly in the early chapters.
So how do you go about it?
First love your characters. Sympathise with them. Understand where they are coming from.
Second, make sure you give the readers early on a reason to like your characters. Writers often write lists of points of conflicts but you also need to know why they will get on. What is there to like about this character? And why? Why should the reader like this character and feel sympathy. A small note; Depressed heroes or heroines can be hard to like. If you are writing a redemption story, show possibly via a prologue that character is capable of being redeemed.
Show a small act of kindness. Give an insight into why the character is angry with the other. If you are doing a revenge story, show the reasons why the person feels driven towards the revenge? Why are they doing it? The other character doesn't have to know but the reader should.  Have a *Save the Cat* moment for each character in the opening chapter. The heroine doesn't have to fall for the hero straight away but the reader does. Why is the reader going to love this hero?  Why will she want to walk in the heroine's shoes?
You are the character's best friend. What little thing do you notice about your friend and how can you show that in the first few pages? How is the reader going to identify with that character? As Orson Scott Card says in his book Characters and Viewpoint  we like what is like us. First impressions in books as well in real life matter.  It is hard in a series romance to overcome a bad first impression. In longer books, yes you might, but it takes a lot of work.  To create that moment look to the character's dreams and hungers. What is their motivation? Why is that dream important?  Where is the integrity? What about courage? Dependability? Creating warmth and likability starts with the very first time the character walks into the story.
Above all make sure that warmth is on the page and not in your head!
Donald Maass did a brilliant blog last week on warmth on Writer Unboxed. It is well worth a read.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tracy Anderson Method Meta Omni Days 1- 12

Because I have received so much inspiration from reading other blogs about women's journeys with the  Tracy Anderson Method Metamorphosis, I have decided to blog about mine.
As regular readers will know, I did her Bootcamp from 25 August to 25 September, hit my Healthy BMI and generally became a huge believer in her system. I order the Omni centric because I tend to gain weight all over.  It arrived after a spell in customs and I started it on 28 September.
Rather than doing the Meta eating plan, I am sticking mainly to her Lifestyle Menus from the Bootcamp and eating with the family at night. My husband likes to cook, so it is a small matter of keeping my portions smaller and making sure that there are lots of veg.
I love the Omni. It was a change to do only one hour of exercise and I kept thinking with the Dance cardio -- is that all there is? So I have started repeating the Dance Cardio to get in an hour of DC as well as doing the muscular structure work. Because I have AMBA and the Toast to the Authors at the end of the month, I haven't been taking rest days. Professional pride kicking in here.
 I do my workouts in the morning first thing and I do the DC first because otherwise I'd be tempted to skimp. Contrary to what some might say, the Dance Cardio does not take up that much space. I do it in my study and move the carpet every morning., creating a 6' by 7' free space. The upside is that my floor is no longer littered with papers. The Muscular Structure work is confined to a yoga mat.
My weight is continuing to go down. I have lost 4 more pounds since starting the Omni and 4 3/4 inches. This means since starting TAM, I have lost a total of 28 lbs and about 28 inches. On Friday, I bought an aspirational UK size 8  LBD dress (US size 4). I can fit into it but it is a tight fit. The UK size 10 dress I bought near the end of the bootcamp fits like a dress (this is the one I plan to wear to AMBA).
Level One was relatively easy for me because I had done the bootcamp. Level 2 is more challenging. I have trouble with getting my balance right and keep falling over when I do the hand to foot thing. However it is only the second day on Level2 and I know by the end, I will have mastered it.
Apparently there are a lot of planks in Omni and it is important to distribute my weight  through out my abs. I have also learnt the importance of putting a lot of weight on my hand, rather than on my knees.
My favourite part of the MS work is the standing abs. It feels great to learn how to wriggle.
I love the empowering feeling of doing something to change my body. I love how I feel after I complete the workouts.  I like the fact that something is finally really working.
The next Meta update will be next Monday.
Tomorrow I will do something on creating warmth in your wip so a writing post as Chris pointed out that I hadn't done a writing post in awhile.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Sweetness of acceptance

Late yesterday my editor emailed to say that my revisions did the trick and my latest wip has been accepted. I burst into tears. I had been convinced that there would be more revisions and that I hadn't done enough. I had.
I don't think it will ever get old -- having a book accepted. As an author I put so much time and energy into the story that means a great deal when a book is accepted. I never take it for granted.
I know my editor worked very hard to get the book up to the standard required and I can't thank her enough. She has been absolutely marvellous.
Hopefully when it comes out, people will enjoy Kit and Hattie. It doesn't have a title nor does it have a release date. Those will come. For right now, I can savour the acceptance.
It means onto the Viking and making my deadline.
But for now I am celebrating.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Keep Calm, Eat a Cupcake and The Heroine's Journey

The wonders of skype. I was able to see my daughter's room. She has a lovely pink and white poster which says Keep Calm and Eat a Cupcake. It made me smile.
There is also a slight irony as my daughter would much prefer a biscuit or proper peice of cake as she finds cupcakes a bit too sweet. But the sentiment is there.
She seems to be doing fine. Okoay more than fine. She looks like she is having a great time.
I really recommend skype for any parent whose children are far away. We discovered its advantages last year when my son was in the US and so it has continued. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Because of a post on The Healthy Writer's Blog, I dug out my copy of The Heroine's Journey by Maureen Murdock. Less well known than Joseph Campbell/Chris Vogler's The Hero Journey. The Heroine's Journey gives a structure for a more internal conflict type book. You can find it in use in many works of commerical ficition.  She developed it because Campbell told her that there was no need for a woman to go on a journey as she was already THERE.  Murdock knew she wasn't. The heroine's Journey is all about healing the psyche. It is about the integration of the feminine and masculine.
Many authors of commercial women's fiction already use elements of the journey in their work. For example, the father's daughter who has turned her back on her feminity only to have it reawoken by the hero and in the process to discovering her true and strong identity is standard fodder for series romance.
Anyway, it is useful sometimes to remind myself that such structures do exist and for good reasons.

Good luck to all who are entering the New Voices this year. Remember it is not the end of the journey but the start and it is what you do after, and how you continue to pursue your dream that is important.
Equally keeping calm and eating a cupcake is a good thing to do in times of stress.

Monday, October 03, 2011

The weight of expectations

This Saturday was spent ferrying my two children to university. For my son, it was a return to where he'd spent his first year after spending his second year abroad. I was used to him going. He is an adult.
For my daughter, this is her first year at university. She has chosen to go where her father went, where I went as a JYA and met her father and where her brother goes. She is in a different college and studying a different subject.
My daughter also pointed out that not only did her mother go to university (Carleton and Lancaster) but my mother went (Vassar) and my mother's mother also went (University of Minnesota). I believe both my maternal great grandmothers went to finishing school/teaching college. Education is a big deal on that side of the family. I know at least one of my paternal great grandmothers went to college (Converse) the same as her mother before her. My paternal grandmother went to USC. My other paternal great grandmother went to music college and was for a time a concert pianist. Going further back,  I am less certain. While my daughter was waiting for her results, she kept thinking about this and worrying.
I told her that it didn't matter. For one thing, my husband was the first person in his family to go to university. For another, although I loved going to university and really believe in the concept of a liberal arts education, I do know that other people have different routes to success. It is about what you do with your choices.
Now, having got the trauma of parting behind us, I am looking forward to hearing about her adventures. I hope she finds it as wonderfully exciting as I did. The opportunities are there but you have to reach out and grasp them. University has so much to offer.
My daughter has already decided that she isn't sporty and won't be trying out for any teams. I don't think she even owns a pair of trainers. She is going to be going on a trip to the Lakes instead which the Student Union has organised. Very sensible. She marches to the beat of her own drum and has always done.
My only expectation for her and for my two boys is that they work hard and make the most of it. Then years later they can look back on the time with great fondness rather than regret.