Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sometimes life gets in the way

This blog has been neglected recently I have been attempting to finish my Viking. Many apologies.
My first draft is now done and I am on editing. It has potential and I really want to make it stronger (plus a bit longer as I am under the required word count by a few thousand!) I am really excited about it. But it is a small of matter of polishing amking it sing. The character arcs have to make sense.

In Tracy Anderson Method news: I am on Level 8 Day 4. My continuity is backordered (boo hiss). My fingers remain crossed that I will get before I finsih the Meta portion. Otherwise I will be repeating levels 7,8 & 9. I am currently using ankleweights for the MS work and can really feel it in my legs. The 2.5 lbs ankle weights give an added pull and burn to the leg lifts.
 My weight has dropped slightly but I remain within my green zone. I have done a ton of reading on nutrition. Elizabeth Lipiski Digestive Wellness (4th edition) is very good. Tracy seems to have used a variety of good digestion techniques to try to get people's bodies to absorb the nutrients. There is a theory that we overeat and have cravings because our bodies fail to digest the proper nutrients.

The Times had a piece yesterday that pointed out that lutein is particularly good in fighting wrinkles. Kale is full of lutein. Spinach, watercress and red papers are also good but not as good as kale.

My children are home from university and the house is full again. My eldest objected to my exercising so early so I have compromised and now do the MS before the DC so he can sleep. I don't like it as well but obviously my endurance has improved a bit as I am not falling asleep at 9 pm!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Winner (s!) drawn for 7 Dec Take A Break giveaway

I was so excited to see over 450 entries that I have drawn two names for the Take A Break gift box.
Venetia Atherton and Elizabeth Pawson. I have sent emails and look forward to sending the prizes out.
If your name wasn't chosen, all is not lost. ALL entries go forward to the grand prize draw on 23 Dec for the kindle.
Many thanks to all those who enter.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar Dec 7 giveaway!

Today is my day for hosting the Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar!
To enter  Take a Break Gift Box  (includes a signed copy of your choice of one of my books, tea mug, tea, and biscuits) giveaway:
Please email with the answer to What year is To Marry A Matchmaker set in? (hint read the excerpt) Please put Advent Calendar 2011 in the subject line.
To get an additional entry please like the Michelle Styles Romance Author page on Facebook. All entries will go forward to the Grand Prize draw for the Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar to be held on 23 Dec. The Take a Break contest will be drawn on Saturday 10 December but I will continue to accept entries for the grand prize until 22 Dec.
Full details of the Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar here.

Monday, December 05, 2011

The Tracy Anderson Method Meta Omni: L6 Day 4 -10: digestion

Today was a measuring day and basically my measurements remained the same. Given that I had a bad Friday and ate 2 slices of chocolate cake. I was reasonably happy. I have been snacking too much on peanut butter and apples as well as handful of raisins. I am in full writing mode as my deadline looms.
It is about being in for the long haul. I do have to get a camera cord as I have reached the 60th workout and need to take pictures. My arms are much more sculpted than before and my abs firmer. I have come to realise how much of this is a journey and that my body will continue to shape up and change.

Because I am seeking to understand why Tracy's Lifestyle Menus worked so well for me, I have been doing a lot of reading about nutrition and digestion.  It is also to help me formulate a workable maintenance plan. The theory of the gut as a second brain is one which is gaining prominence. There has been a lot of academic research which does show that moods etc are affected by what you absorb.There are reasons for cravings. And it is possible to reset your body. This is what Tracy's diets are attempting to do. Being over weight/a slow metabolism is often a function of your digestive system not working as efficiently as it could.
I have started reading Patrick Holford -- Improve Your Digestion and will probably go on to Elizabeth Lipiski. As I did suffer from gall stones and had my gall bladder removed, it is a subject which interests me greatly. I also know that I have so much more energy when  I am eating in a way which really babys and pampers my digestion. It also has given me advice on how to stave off cravings when I am writing. And why certain food stuff work better than others. I was interested to read about oatmeal(porridge) and how that does contain gluten and can cause cravings in some people. For me, I used to find that after eating a huge bowl of porridge at 8 am, I was starving by 10 am. If on the other hand I eat a steamed apple combined with blueberries, I'm not hungry until 1 pm. Apples provide a different sort of carb than oats.  I am beginning to understand the importance of eating slowly and making sure that my food is well chewed, rather than rushed. Digestion  starts in the mouth.
As anyone who reads this blog knows -- I am determined to keep the weight off and stay within my green zone. I am NOT going to become one of those people who gain all the weight plus back. TAM workouts are the foundation but I have to understand in my own head the reasoning behind the diet and see how I can apply it.

On Wednesday, it is my day for the Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar.  There will be a couple of bonus ways to enter. The grand prize is a Kindle Fire.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Harlequin Historical Advent Calendar

Win a Kindle Fire! The Harlequin Historical Authors Holiday Giveaway is back. In the spirit of an Advent calendar, the authors are giving away daily prizes and a Grand Prize of a Kindle Fire. Play every day for more chances to win.

The Rules:

Each participating author will have an activity planned on their website for their special day. You may be asked to comment on a blog, find an ornament, or visit a Facebook page. For each d ay you participate, your name will be entered into the Grand Prize drawing. At the end of the month on December 23, one day from the calendar will be randomly selected. One of the entrants from that day will then be randomly selected to win the Kindle. The more days you visit, the better your chances! My day is 7 December and there will be a Taste of Northumberland bunch of goodies up for grabs. For international readers: THE PROMOTION IS OPEN TO U.S., UNITED KINGDOM, IRELAND, CANADA, AUSTRALIA, NEW ZEALAND, AND EUROPEAN COUNTRIES WHERE A KINDLE MAY BE SHIPPED. Official rules and eligibility
Participating Authors

michelle willingham elizabeth rolls charlene sands diane gaston annie burrows elaine golden barbara monajem michelle styles deborah hale marguerite kaye lynna banning carol townend blythe gifford julia justiss terri brisbin ann lethbridge bronwyn scott sarah mallory kate bridges amanda mccabe jeannie lin harlequin historical authors

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tracy Anderson Method: Meta Omni L 5 - L6 Day 4

This was Thanksgiving weekend and my daughter coming home for the first time since I took her  university. There was no way I was going to miss out on eating and socialising. And I also refused to feel guilty for doing so. It was not about being *good* but having that 20% guilt free enjoyment of unhealthy eating. So I did enjoy clam dip with tortilla chips, two types of pie, chocolate cake and quick croissants. I also did not weight myself and kept up with my workouts (including taking a rest day on the Sunday). But now it is back to the 80% controlled nutrition. Splurges are fine as long as they don't become the norm. It is a mental thing -- the weekend is over and therefore it is time to get with the programme again. Weight is much easier to put on, rather than take off and I did make sure that i was well within my green zone before the Thanksgiving splurge started. Hopefully when it comes time to measure and weigh myself when this level is done, I will remain in my green zone!
Among other books I read  this week were The Inflammation Syndrome and Stop Prediabetes Now (both by Jack Challam). I started with The Inflammation Syndrome because of a remark by the TAM community moderator that Tracy had worked hard to remove all possible inflammation culprits from her diet. Basically I wanted to find why I felt so well on her Lifestyle Menu and why I didn't have cravings etc.  The Stop Prediabetes Now came about because I thought it might have more info on obesity, prediabetes and diabetes (type 2) and the whole connection. Prediabetes means you are living a lifestyle that makes type 2 diabetes much more likely. Indicators include a waist over 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, the need to take naps after eating a heavy meal, and feeling mood swings.  I know I was definitely headed that way in August 2010 as my waist was about 35 inches (it is now 23 inches). And while I don't have any symptoms currently, I am aware that I did have quite a number. Type 2 diabetes is a disease which is caused in large part by lifestyle and if a person changes their lifestyle before the onset of full blown type 2 diabetes or before type 2 becomes firmly eastablished, it is possible to utterly reverse the effects. The recent University of Newcastle study is the most recent confirmation.
Although Challams diets are different from Tracy's, I did find out lots.
For example,  the Lifestyle Menu is definitely designed to stabilise blood sugar. It is a Protein and Produce type diet,  rather than high protein diet. There is a difference. A P and P type diet does emphasise both, rather than exclusively focusing on one particular food group/building block as it were. And the emphasise of the produce is on non starchy, high fibre type fruit and veg.
To stabilise your blood sugar -- the first thing you do need to do is cut out all gluten products and porridge. Oats despite their low GI can cause problems for some people. I know for myself, I feel less hungry when I don't eat porridge for breakfast.  High quality protein like an egg, chicken, turkey or cold waterfish  or fresh fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or kiwifruit will go a long a way towards making you feel full.  Processed foods because of their high sugar, trans fat and high salt content sabotage diets and make cravings worse. Equally eating grain fed beef rather than grass fed beef can lead to more cravings. (I thought this interesting as Tracy does specify grass fed beef in her dynamic eating plan). Caffienne makes you feel thirsty and it is easy to confuse hungar and cravings with thirst. So it is best to cut all coffee. Green tea helps.  Eating slowly and making sure you are consuming nutrient dense food goes a long way. Ease of digestion can really help as your body is getting the nutrients it requires delivered in quickly. Fresh food is best.
This is one of the reasons when they talk about Tracy's diets are being baby food diets that it gets me so annoyed. Tracy is all about pureeing and juicing fresh food, rather than buying jars of baby food. There are sound reasons why she says to steam apples and pears rather than buying apple sauce, for example.  Purchased apple juice and apple sauce will probably have added sugar and stabilisers.  Equally the vitamins do start to deteriorate fairly quickly. You want to consume fresh apple juice within 15 minutes before it starts to oxidise to get the most kick from the vitamins sort of thing.
Anyway I am starting to understand why her Lifestyle Menu worked so well for me and why they do such a good job of containing my cravings.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Swooning with Boon and Sara Craven

Yesterday was the Swoon with Boon event at the Stockton Central Library to help celebrate the refurbishment of the library. The library looks wonderful with the books in pride of place. The other speaker was the great Sara Craven.  Sara's first book was published in 1976. She had been a journalist in Stockton before that but now lives in the Midlands.
When I was  at university, and later when I first came to the UK, Sara was one of my go to authors. There was just something about her heroes. So it was a fantastic opportunity for me to hear her speak and generally chat with her.
Sara Craven is wonderfully witty and the entire evening was a joy.
Given how much I love my editor, I now know to be worried if she takes me out somewhere really and truly posh as according to Sara they tend to do that when you are being shifted to another editor. Although her last lunch with her editor was at the Ivy, just because. She currently adores her editor and was more than a bit apprehensive but her editor soon put her at ease.
I loved hearing about Alan Boon and her first editor, the legendary Frances Whitehead, and the past as well as her extensive reading list as a child. It somewhat mirrored my own. Sara chose her pen name (in those days most M&B authors had pen names plus she was a journalist) in part because of her deep love for The Secret Garden.  I happen to love this book and one of the reasons we bought our current house was the garden gave me the feel of a secret garden, waiting to be brought to life again.
Several in the audience said that they had never read a M&B, although their mother in laws were avid readers and because of the talk, they were now tempted to have a go. One lady was very intrigued by my Vikings.
I came back home thoroughly refreshed and ready to really push forward with my current Viking.

Monday, November 21, 2011

TAM L5 Day 3 - 8: Differing Centrics

The big thing this week was the launch of Tracy Anderson's Body calculator. If you know about her Meta, you know that in order to order it, you have to decide if you are hip, glute, ab or all of the above/unsure. For me, I know I put weight on all over and so have always assumed that I was omni.
Lately I have wondered if I was glute but then my stomach still has fat etc etc. Lots of people have and so Tracy and team offered to look at photos but quickly became overwhelmed so they developed a short survey programme.
Two things happened which really enhanced my knowledge. First, a lovely TAM lady emailed to ask if I could tell what she was -- hip or glute as she had emailed Tracy's team and hadn't received a reply. And then the body calculator came out, plus Tracy's team started to reply to those people who  emailed the photos so I could tell more about what the thinking was.
This lady's photos taught me that it is far easier to tell what people are at the start of Meta, then when they are going through it, and you need to know what you are looking for.
This is what I decided about the centrics for the info I could glean.
Glute means you tend to  gain weight  first at the back -- on your backside, your back and the BACK of your thighs and you lose it last there. Your bottom tends to flow into your thighs and you could really do with a butt lift. If you are sitting, balancing on the edge of a chair, your weight will flow to the back.
Hips means you tend to  gain weight first on your hip bones, and the SIDES of your thighs as well as at the sides of your calves. You lose it last there. If you are balancing on the edge of a chair, your weight will flow to the sides.
Abs means front. You have a pot belly.  Depending on your physical condition, you might carry weight on your thighs and hips but really it is the stomach region that gains. In worst case scenarios people will ask you if you are pregnant. Or pat your stomach to make it quiver. Siblings can be such fun when you are growing up.
Omni means you have a combo of problems or simply that you gain weight all over.
People being people often have a multitude of problems and there is a spectrum. Equally people may be more sensitive about one area than another (for example their mother harped on about the stomach but really they have saddle bags) , even though once they start that problem shapes up very quickly. Or they find they were thinking hips but it was really back of hips sort of thing. Plus there is the whole I am putting a hell of a lot of time and effort in, I want to know syndrome. In other words, there are emotions involved, rather than pure objectivity. You try telling someone that her abs are not the biggest problem when she has spent 30 years hating her stomach because she was teased at summer camp. It is hard. It doesn't fit with her body image and that causes problems...
Anyway, I looked at the lady's photos and to my eye, it was obvious she was glute. In her before picture she was sitting and you could see the weight hanging from her thighs, rather than flowing out over the rock. (With me, I think my thighs would have flowed out to the side as well as to the back...) With her other pictures, it was far more difficult because this lady is absolutely stunning and her legs are to die for (imho) except she has a little bit of a bottom and weight to the back of her thighs.
I said glute. She heard back from Tracy's team who said glute. I wiped the sweat from my brow with relief. I think I have FINALLY figured out the rationale. Front, back and sides. But ultimately everything will be sort if you have the patience.
I took the body calculator and didn't measure my hip bone to hip bone right (guessing)  and came out with Hip. I knew this was wrong. I definitely have a stomach. It is less than it was but it is still there. Plus my backside needs a lift and I do put weight on my back. Anyway, I went back, remeasured.accurately and came out omni. I tried again to make sure and again came out omni. I am omni and it suits my ego so I am staying that way.

Omni means all parts are going to be hit and eventually everything will really tone up. I don't have to worry because my front, back and sides are all going to get hit.
 Some of it is being patient and letting Tracy work her magic. It took Gwyneth Paltrow 3 years to get her current body. It took Tracy herself about that long for her body to be pulled in tight. My body has changed so much since 25 August when I started. It is continuing to change.

Because I have also realised that the POSITIONING is really important. The order in which you do the exercises so that the contraction is held is also important, but with the leg lifts (from what I can glean) you work different angles. I have really concentrate on making sure my knee is turned out the way Tracy wants.  But I know she will be working my thighs from all angles and eventually the weight will go from my hips and bottom. And some day, I might not have a pot belly (or loose skin there)

And TOMORROW I will be doing the Girl's Night In: Swoon with Boon lecture at Stockton Central Library at  6 pm. It should be fun. Luckily a friend is coming with me so I won't have to walk in alone and I know there will a friendly face in the audience.  Always useful. The great Sara Craven is also speaking so I will be able to soak up her knowledge. I used to love reading Sara's books when I was a teenager, at university and in my early 20s.  I only hope I give a good account of myself. An account will be posted on Wednesday.

Friday, November 18, 2011

No more excuses

My editor emailed me early today. She really liked my Viking partial and wants to see the full, rather than needing me to rework the partial or put in the next 3 chapters. I had been prepared for her to hate it and have to do both options. But apparently it has a good structure and well-motivated characters. I need to make sure the emotional complexity of the main characters, in particular the hero, is there but other than she is very happy to see the full. (NB I expect her to tear the full apart and help me to make the story as  strong as possible)
Emotional complexity does tend to come for me after the first draft is done. It is no fun knowing absolutely everything. But I will re-read the Collins book so that I can make sure the characters have several inner values which end up at odds with each other.
Anyway I have run out of excuses for not writing. It is back to chunking the words -- ie writing 750 words and then taking a break. It is going to be an excellent story when it is done.
Not getting this story in before the 1 January deadline is not an option!

Monday, November 14, 2011

The TAM Meta Omni: L4 Day 6 - L5 Day 2:The key is balance

This week I did my first measurements since starting Level 4 and reached several key decisions. First was that I do enjoy doing the Dance Cardio first. When I do it second, I tend to fall asleep around 9 pm. Luckily someone on the TAm community pointed me towards a Youtube video of Tracy explaining which one to do first. I do not tend to bulk up and do has loose skin aka surface fat so doing the Dance Cardio first was the correct choice. I have also started really trying to put the everything in moderation/nothing forbidden 80% controlled direct nutrition thing into force. My weight did go down by about 2 lbs. And it is slightly freeing to know that I won't be weighing myself until the end of L5. The weighing myself every day did help me to realise which foods helped to trigger my bloating and weight gain so I am pleased that I did it. It is about learning to eat in moderation, listening to my body and keeping up with my workouts. ANd yes, the holidays are coming up, so it is about having a plan to deal with them and listening to my body when it says it is full, rather than overeating. I don't have to be a fully piad up member of the Clean Plate Club any longer.

 One of the things which really attracted to TAM was Tracy's attitude that she does not promote a diet for life or fad diets. She likes to eat and so workouts. Her appearance on My Last Supper was a case in point. She does have a healthy attitude towards food. Equally I have enjoyed reading the Skinny Chicks book. The author's assertion that people have different metabolic rates and therefore need to think about their individual combinations of exercise and eating hit a chord. Some people have naturally faster metabolisms and don't have to exercise as much as I do. I choose to eat a bit more liberally but like wearing UK size 8, so it is getting the exercise, and in particular the Dance Cardio right for that. Note I have no desire to be a UK size 6 or US size 2.
This journey is about me developing the body I want. It is NOT about the woman with the smallest size wins.
I have noticed much more definition in my upper arms and that some of my loose skin in my stomach region is starting to disappear so this is good as I had no wish to resemble a Sharpie dog.
I also now know that I can take rest days and then look forward to restarting the next day.

Level 5 is much difficult for me than L4. I really feel it in my abs and legs. I am trying to be very precise with how I hold my legs -- the angles and where I put my knee down in the lifts. Part of the whole centric thing does involve the various angles and it is important to really pay attention to how Tracy is doing things. The exercises in each level are often variations on a theme from what I understand but where you put your foot or how your knee is turned out changes. Little things to really activate the cross vectors.
I do feel my body is stronger. I like the buzz I get after the workout and I do crave it.  Another Skinny chick tip which I have put into action is to write a list of changes that I like about my body since starting TAM and to say them out  loud every day. It is about owning my new body, rather than thinking that it is borrowed.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

So You Think You Can Write...

Harlequin's Second annual So You Think You Can Write kicked off this week. If you are inspired you can enter your full manuscript in their contest which closes 15 Dec. The best manuscript will be published.  So the website for full details.
However even if you just want inspiration, it is worth reading some of the posts as various editors and authors give hints and tips on writing. Personally I found Leslie Wanger's post on asking yourself Why do I need to write this manuscript really useful. It gave me a whole new way of thinking and opened up a load of possibilities as well as helping me solve a conflict problem.
I loved the Meet The New York Editorial Team video. I have had the pleasure in the past of seeing some of the editors at the RWA and it was great to hear how passionate they are about what they do.  Obviously I am hoping for a London one but the editorial team are just recovering from NV... NY might be lovely but London totally rocks. Not that I am prejudiced or anything...
There is a ton to inspire..even for a multi-published author. So take some time and explore SYTYCW.
It is a wonderful opportunity.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Tracy Anderson Method: L4 Days1 - 6: Secrets of being fit and fab

This last week included a rest day and two dinner parties.  Note the picture is from AMBA and does show off my new figure. The second party proved problematic as I ate too much.  Simon Hopkinson's Stilton biscuits and cheese at the end proved too much. My husband had made this really rich meal -- chestnut and wild mushroom tagliatelle, cassolet, orange and watercress salad and chocolate pithivers. My stomach ached. I had to do the dishes while our friends were still over as I felt so sick. It is the last of the entertaining for awhile and I can back to normal. It is easier when we go out to other people's houses. I really guilty refusing my husband's food as I know how hard he has worked to make it.
Anyway, the scale was heavier on the Saturday so I made sure that I really worked out hard and dialled everything back. The result was that the weight gain has disappeared by Sunday and I am back into my green zone. (Yes I did weigh myself as I knew I'd eaten more than I should)
This week I read The Secrets of Skinny Chicks by Karen Bridson. An awful title for a fantastic book. It should be called the Secret of Being Fit and Fab, no matter what what your jeans size!
It is about looking at how women who are slender or who don't have problems with their body image cope and it is hugely practical. She profiles 21 women and gives 50 tips which are examined in detail with action plans. Most of profiled women are US size 2,4 or 6 with one size 10. The common theme is a six day a week exercise regime. If you want to be size 4 or below, it includes an hour of cardio plus muscular structure work, so it was a huge tick for me there. It is about making exercise like brushing your teeth, something you just do. Very few women look good at my age without working out. End of story.
The women eat around 1600 calories per day but the important thing is that they burn all the calories. If they know they are going to be eating more, they make sure they exercise or dial it down. Everything in moderation. Some allow themselves a designated cheat day.Others just go for the moderation approach as it is a Lifestyle rather than a diet. Once you feel like it is a lifestyle rather than a diet, you are less apt to feel deprived.
When the holidays or dinner parties come up, people who feel good about their bodies develop a strategy to deal with them. For example, looking at menus before hand to decide what to eat if going out to a restaurant or exercising more. If they spend time eating too much, they don't abandon the good work they have already done. It is not an all or nothing approach. They simply return to their programme, making adjustments as needs be.
One of the big take aways for me was the concept of a traffic light system with my weight. To think about it in zones. Red (above 145 or 10 st 5 lbs for me) means immediate retreat to full TAM Lifestyle Menu. Amber (140 - 145 or 10 st - 10st 5 lb) means cut back on portions and watch. Green (under 140 or 10 st) means I can eat  with the family and am allowed a few treats as long as I do the exercise.  The decision of where the zones are is entirely subjective but they should be within a Healthy BMI. Basically I am happy with being a size 4. I don't want to go to a size 2. I want to tone, rather than lose more weight.
A lot of being slender is from your neck up. It is about thinking about those parts of your body that you like and realising that you do have the figure you want (if you work for it).
She also has some strategies for combating emotional eating and other forms of self sabotage.  Except for some of the wording (skinny chicks and gals -- nails on blackboard time for me), the  book was a good read. There are very few books that deal with maintenance after a weight loss and how you restore your body image. This is one.
Much of what she says tallies with what Tracy Anderson's philosophy so that was good.
Level 4 Omni is hard work but fun. I am still really enjoying TAM. I shall see what my measurements are at the end of this level. However, I am v glad that my thighs don't touch any more. There are bits that still need to be toned (I can see them on the photo!) but I am confident that TAM will get me there. Consistency and persistence.
With my writing, I promised my editor my partial today and am not entirely happy with it so I need to work on that. It just needs more depth. Consitency and persitence for that as well! I suspect when it is done, it will be awesome.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Writing: Adding Unpredictability

One of the big buzzwords with Harlequin editorial is unpredictability. However, it can be hard to assess what that means. What it doesn't mean is an end to HEA or indeed the books suddenly not being a romance.
My personal take on this is that is akin to Page Turning Quality and holding the reader within the story. If a story becomes dull and predictable, the reader is more apt to put it down. If she is totally drawn into the world of the story and finds it difficult to guess what is going to happen next and therefore has to keep turning the pages, then the story be definition is a Page Turner. If you can keep the reader (and in this case the hard-boiled editor) turning pages and perhaps even missing a meeting or staying at work late, you will have conquered unpredictability.
How to make the story unpredictable -- it starts with the characters and making sure that they are fully developed and well-rounded. Make sure you really know their personal values and how that translates on the page. In other words, how is the reader going to be super-engaged with the characters? Why is she going to identify with those characters and their journey, and why is that journey going to be different than the 1000 other romances the reader has read?
Characters who are 3 d and who are placed in situations where they have to grow and continually challenged will give  the reader unpredictability.
Long ago, there used to be an idea that Harlequin was written with really tight parameters. By page 6 a kiss and exactly page 128 you had to have some sort of sexual encounter while on page 157, not 158 or 152, they had to have a fight. Ummm, hopefully you can see the idea was false in the extreme and has led many unpublished authors to have more manuscripts rejected. There has NEVER been a precise formula. Ever.
The only thing that is sacred is that the focus is on the growth of the emotional relationship of the couple AND that there is a HEA with a closed story line. In other words, the reader is not left wondering if this couple will be fine. (Very occasionally, Harlequin has done a 2 part story line but these are well-flagged in advance and many readers can't read the books until they have both parts!)
But other than those two bits, the journey and the manner of the journey is up to the writer. It is dictated by the characters and their reactions to specific events. The line is determined by the type of story that  the author pens. For example, all historicals are set in the defined past. Modern/Presents have an escapist glamour about them etc.
So you want to inject unpredictability in to your story? Make sure you start with two strong well rounded characters who are forced to challenge their core beliefs and see where that leads you. And when you are developing the characters, think beyond the cliche and develop the sort of characters which attract you. Who do you want to write about? What are you passionate about? Why will the hero sweep the heroine off her feet? What is about him that makes him a hero in her eyes? Why are these unique characters? Why will the reader want to read about them? How are you going to show their uniqueness on the page?

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  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.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Starting something new

Revisions went off late on Thursday and my editor let me know she had them on Friday. I spent the weekend researching the Vikings in England and have decided what I want to write. I now get to work on something bright and shiny new until I hear from my editor. Character sketches and plot outlines. I want to know this pair before a word goes on the page. It is going to be fun. My play list is going to include a lot of Runrig. I find writing Vikings to a background of Runrig throughly satisfying.

It is less than a week before my eldest two leave for uni so there has been lots of shopping. I managed to snag a pair of cords (UK size 10! You should have seen my daughter's face when she realised that they fit. The elderly lady who was waiting for someone to emerge from the dressing room gave a snort of laughter.) and shoes. I have ordered a new pair of heels for AMBA. I know what I wanted but they didn't have the right colour in stock...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A war hero horse -- Sgt Reckless

Sometimes you hear an exploit and wonder why it has not been made into a feel good movie. Sgt Reckless is one such story. The horse served with the US marines in Korea and made 51 trips up a mountain in the height of a battle (Operation Vegas), resupplying the Marines with ammunition.  The horse saved countless lives and was decorated. She retired to Camp Pendleton where there is a memorial to her.
You can read more about Sgt Reckless here.
And there is short video about her: I do hope that they will do a movie about the horse. It does sound like the sort of tug at your heart movie for all the family.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Reshaping my Writers Bottom: Healthy BMI reached!

Today is Day 20 of the Tracy Anderson Method 30 Day Boot Camp. The last ten days have made a believer out of me. So much so that even though I haven't finished my revisions, I have ordered the TAM 90 Metamorphoses and have enrolled in her continuity programme for after the 90 days are up. (Metamorphoses is only available on via her website . You can get the book that I have been using: Tracy Anderson Method 30 Day Boot Camp from Amazon)
Right so the good news. I am finally at a Healthy Weight BMI for my height. Just. But it has been a long time coming. Back in August 2010, I started trying to reshape my writer's bottom with a BMI of 32.3. I wince as I write this. I was fat by any measure.  When I started the TAM 30 Day bot camp my bmi was 28 or in the over weight region and stubbornly refusing to move.  My BMI is now 24.9 or just healthy.  I would like to lose 15 lbs which would put me at a bmi of just under 23.
Because I am in a healthy BMI, my reward will be NOT to do the TAM cleanse -- five days of pureed foods but rather to continue on with her lifestyle menus. The purees sound disgusting. I understand the chocolate blueberry mousse is great but corn and sweet potato puree, no thank you. I did brave the kale juice this morning and it is fine -- mostly tastes of apple with an underlying tone of kale. I can understand why people would do it, but I don't think it necessary. I figure with the cleanse you will lose more weight but I am already losing a fairly good clip. Thus far, it is 18 lbs. The first ten days saw the most dramatic weight loss of  13 lbs and the last ten days have seen 5 lbs.
My inches are going down.  To go back 20 days ago, 19 inches have been lost. I am now wearing things that I haven't worn in years! Included amongst are silk tops I made when I was in my early twenties and which I dearly loved wearing. When I went to NYC at the end of June, I couldn't even button them.
I fit into an orange A line skirt that I have had since I was about 16.  Again, I couldn't fasten it when I was going to NYC. Not sure why it was kept either but that is another story.
I have come to enjoy getting up and doing my exercises. Today is a change day so I had some new and killer moves to learn for the mat portion.  I can tell they are effective. I have also increased the cardio to 60 minutes. 50 minutes full on with 10 minutes step-touching.  I love that NO weights are involved. Just me, the mat and a kitchen chair. The dance  cardio is actually fun.I never ever thought I'd say that!
I have so much more energy! The lymph oedema in my arm continues to improve as well.
Anyway it is tremendously exciting. It works for me which is all that really counts. I suspect with this, I shall check in after the 30 days are up to give my final stats but really having reshaped my very large Writer's Bottom, there is no need to keep updating publically. I am just so glad that I FINALLY found something that worked for me. And yes, I have sweated tons and it has been hard work. If you have plateaued and are in despair, do think about trying The Tracy Anderson Method. It has worked for me.
My revisions are on going.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Sometimes you have to change the POV.

I have been working on my revisions and reached an important scene. It worked in the heroine's POV, but it wasn't right, considering the scene which now has to follow. So I changed it to the hero's POV and it is working better. The words are also flowing.
Sometimes, it is worth seeing if a scene doesn't work better from the other character's POV.

New Voices 2011 is now open. See for more details and details of the author mentors (not me this year...but a whole array of writing stars) Good luck to everyone!

And I have cut my hair short, very short. Picture to follow when I get around to getting it taken.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Debunking a few Daily Mail created myths about the Tracy Anderson Method

I have seen the Daily Mail do hatchet jobs over the years but I was surprised to read the inaccurate info in a March article about the Tracy Anderson Method. The journalist claimed alternatively to be on the 30 Day Method and then on the follow up 90 Day one -- Metamorphoses.  The photos claim she was on the 30 day Method and she states in the article that she was on the 90 day one.
I can only say that she obviously did not read directions. For example she started with the Cleanse/Detox for a week. If you are on the 30 Day Method, it comes at the end and is only 5 days. Yes the Cleanse is severely limiting and hard but it is done as a detox (if you want it) at the end after your endurance is built up. Tracy Anderson is quite specific. She wants you to have enough energy to do the cardio and exercises as they are the main part of her programme. The portion size is a guide. The main emphasis is on her muscle design mat work and the cardio.
The Lifestyle menu is really built on the concept of low sodium, low starch, reasonable amount of protein, and lots and lots of fruit and vegetables. Very little diary. It is about using the freshest ingredients to create delicious and filling meals. the portion sizes are a guide but if you are hungry, you are supposed to eat more of the menu, rather than supplementing from other foods. No powders or pills or processed foods.
My blender has been getting a workout as there are blended soups and drinks.
I was also surprised to see Wilcox saying that all you had for lunch was a protein bar. Lunch on the 30 Day Menu has been  things like grilled salmon salad, carrot ginger soup, turkey roll up, grilled chicken salad. There are no protein bars in sight. In fact, in the 30 Day Method, Tracy Anderson makes it quite clear that she wants fresh foods, simply cooked. The recipes do not take long. Suppers are generally white fish, chicken or turkey with roasted or braised vegetables. There is a snack which tends to be more desserty -- so fruit or her version of a chocolate pudding. She also does some savoury ones -- cucumber mint relish or fresh chopped veg.  Breakfasts vary from strawberries and mint or fresh fruit to egg roll ups -- egg white omelettes filled with vegetables.
Anderson is also quite clear that it is a diet and is not intended for the long term. It is to help you lose weight and learn to reconfigure your eating habits so you know what full is and what is good to eat.
Wilcox also claimed that the 30 Day Method Exercise portion took 3 hours per day and involved over 40 exercises. Ummm no. Depending on your fitness level, the cardio portion will take as little time as 10 minutes step touching or as much as 60 minutes full on dancing. You work up to the 60 minutes. It is about building your endurance. It was comforting to read that Gwyneth Paltrow and a few other celebrity clients of Tracy's started with step touching. The dvd consists of 2  10 minute cardio dance sequences which you do.  Because there are no instructions, you can mute it and choose your own playlist.
The over 40 exercises in the book are divided into three ten day segments. When you finish 10 days, you move on to the next segment.  Each segement consists of 15 exercises.  One of Tracy Anderson's abiding philosophies is that muscles get bored and you need to constantly challenge those muscles and make them work in different ways. You need to do the reps on both sides and you do increase the reps. You start at 20 if you can and work up to 60. If 60 is too easy and you can do them ALL without stopping, you can move on to ankle weights.
So it would have been helpful IF  Rebecca Wilcox had managed to read the directions and follow what she was supposed to do rather than making it up as she went on along.
Perhaps the 90 Day metamorphoses has a completely different menu. Perhaps she skimmed read the 30 Day Method book and didn't bother to read the chapter headings. Perhaps she was after good copy. Who knows what her agenda was but she obviously didn't bother to read the 30 Day Method in anay great detail.
Currently I am on Day 15 of the 30 Day Method. I have not fainted, nor have been in any danger of fainting and I have strictly followed the diet. I have also not bothered with some of the snacks as they didn't appeal.  I know enough about nutrition to know that it is a reasonably sensible diet -- lots of fruit and veg with reasonably sized portions.
Time wise it  takes me 2 hours per day to do 50 minutes of full on dance cardio and the 15 exercises required for this portion. When 50 minutes becomes easy, I will move up to 60 minutes but won;t go beyond that. I am on 50 reps and am working on being able to do them without stopping.
In terms of weight loss, I have lost 16 lbs so far and 16 inches from my thighs, waist, hips, and stomach combined.   When I did Jillian Michaels 30 Day shred, I lost inches but only about 5 lbs.
I haven't measured my upper arms as I have lymph oedema, BUT it has been a marvel for my left arm. My wedding ring is now loose and I have to remember to  wear my bandages. I suspect it is a combo of the low sodium and the arm exercises which is helping the arm to drain and the fluid to move.
I remain undecided about doing the Cleanse as some of the food sounds disgusting and I don't think I will need it. the lifestyle menus are working just fine. It might not be Anderson's exact method but I think she will forgive me.
Once I have done my revisions, I am planning on ordering the Metamorphoses 90 day dvd set as a treat. I may eat my above words after seeing it, but right now all I can compare Wilcox's article with is the 30 Day Method and she made mistakes
You can order the book -- Tracy Anderson 30 Day Method from Amazon. The 90 day programme is only available from her website.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Revisions and rethinking

My revisions have hit and I had a long and productive conversation with my editor about the way forward.
A good editor's eye is crucial. She saw some things that mean the entire reading experience is going to be so much better. She also challenged me to think about how I done things and why.
It turns out the one scene that I thought was central to the novel wasn't and there is a BETTER way.
I shall now retire to my cave and work things out. (My daughter points out that I don't have cave per say, just a study. However she likes the idea of me having a cave as I would make a very good cave dweller.)
This is going to be a great book when I get done.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Suddenly my baby is an adult

21 years ago I became a mother. The c-section was supposed to happen a week later but my son had his own ideas (he always does). They weren't overly busy in maternity that day and it did seem like I was in labour, so out he came. He had been breech -- just to be different. My other two were normal births but he was the c-section. It is a MAJOR operation and people just toss the word around like it is normal. It takes a long time to recover. It is not an easy option. I still sometimes talk about how my eldest scarred me for life. He doesn't find it amusing.
When he was about 6 weeks old, I can remember taking him to the clinic and thinking that I had all the time in the world before he turned 5 and started school. After all at  that point with a child who didn't sleep, every day felt like a lifetime. But I had once stitched something for a friend that said at the end, I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep. And I did remember that.
 Five rolled around and he started school. It seemed like an age until... But now it doesn't and he is an adult. Luckily I remembered that children don't keep either. And despite absent mindely agreeing to let him to go Moscow once when I was writing, I like to think that we made time for each other.
I am terribly proud of the adult that he has become. Life and all its wonders beckons.
All I can say is hug your babies and enjoy your children at whatever age they are because they don't keep.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Reshaping My Writer's Bottom: The Tracy Anderson Method Boot Camp

It came to a crisis point last Tuesday. I knew for several days that my clothes were getting tight. There were the excuses -- my son had just come home, my daughter did wonderfully in her A levels and we had family celebrations which included champagne and cake. But this time, I had had pasta and one of the last pieces of cake. My head started spinning and I realised I was at a crossroads. Either I could buckle down or I could go back up to the weight I was. (There are reasons for wearing non elasticated clothing) I knew I'd plateaued but I was not about to climb.  I opted for -- buckling down.
But I wanted to do something different. I hate dance cardio so I decided to stop fearing it and start doing it.  I had read about the Tracy Anderson Method and saw she has a book -- The Tracy Anderson Method 30 Day Boot Camp. I ordered it. It arrived the next day.
In the first chapter, she asks for a month and promises she can remake your body if you follow her plan. This includes doing her muscle strengthen exercises, her cardio and eating her meal plan.
I have been learning to love Dance Cardio. 40 minutes of performance cardio rather than instruction plus performance. She provides a dvd with 2 routines 10 minutes each and then you repeat. If you get good enough, you go up to 60 minutes. I can do 40. I am no longer tripping over my feet. I do the cardio first as otherwise I'd find an excuse. It is now oddly enjoyable.
The mat workout is something else. Tracy Anderson focuses on accessory muscles rather than the large muscle groups.  You start at 20 and keeping adding 5 more per day. She demonstrates how to do the exercises on the dvd and has illustrations in the book. You do them at your own pace. The pain is addictive. This takes about 40 minutes.
The menus are based on FRESH food -- lots of fruit and veg with mainly white meat. She isn't anti anything. The dishes are delicious and surprisingly filling. Strawberries with mint and agave syrup, poached cod with roast asparagus, puree of broccoli soup. It is not baby food by any stretch of the imagination. I am on the meal plan for 25 days and at  the end is the Cleanse with lots of purees. (I am not looking forward to the cleanse). Mainly she wants to reeducated your palate and make sure you have enough energy to do the exercising. It is low sodium, low carb, low fat and controlled calories. She give portion sizes which certainly fill me up. You can eat more of the foods on that day's menu if you are hungry.
So I have been on for 9 days and have lost 12 pounds!!!! I broke through the plateau and am hoping to see a lower figure in the tens column tomorrow. My clothes are much looser. But the best thing is my left arm, the one with lymphoedemia. It hasn't moved for ages. My wedding ring has generally been tight, although sometimes after I have worn my sleeve, it loosens. Even without wearing my sleeve, my wedding ring is loose.  My hands and wrist look about normal. I don't know if it is the exercises for arms or the low sodium in the diet, all I know is that it is BETTER and that's all that counts.
I can't wait to see what the next 21 days bring.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ballet Shoes hits 75!

One of my all time favourite books -- Ballet Shoes by Noel Streafeild has hit 75. Penguin  has just released a special 75th edition.
As a child I loved the story of the Fossils -- Pauline Petrova and Posy and the way they go to stage school. I think I read all the Shoe books that my local library had. I loved the world Streatfeild created. I suspect all of the shoe books contributed to my love of England and eventually helped me make the decision to come over here for my Junior Year Abroad.
However,  the true reason I remain in Streafeild's debt is her in valuible advice on afternoon rest periods. When I read the book to my children, my eldest was about 7, my daughter 4 and my youngest 2. It was during the summer holidays. The squabbling reached a cresendo and then I read about afternoon rest periods and how the Fossils spent an hour on their beds each afternoon, reading. I implemented this straight away. The children didn't need to sleep but they did have to stay on their beds. Amazingly, it cut the squabbling down to nothing. It allowed they all to get some rest.
They all needed a time out. It also helped develop a love of reading that remains to today.
My daughter tells me that they used to play games with the timer.
As my youngest wasn't  sleeping very well, I used to rest as well.
You do not know how much of a lifesaver this was.
There are also many great ideas in the book like having children learn Shakespeare. And showing that children can contribute to a household. Equally that stage and dance is a lot of hard work. You do have to be dedicated. I loved the detailed descriptions of everything worked.
I think my favourite Streatfeild heroine was Rachel from Dancing Shoes who over comes a wicked aunt and spoilt cousin to become the lead in a movie version of A Secret Garden (another favourite book of mine). The Streafeild books had different names in the US to take advantage of the huge popularity of Ballet Shoes.
If you haven't encountered Ballet Shoes, do.
So what was your favourite Straetfeild book/heroine?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Small Blogs Big Giveaway Reminder

A reminder that Small Blogs Big Giveaway has 2 more days to run. Have you entered yet? Lots of lovely prizes including signed copies of my latest two -- Breaking the Governess's Rules and To Marry A Matchmaker.

This weekend is being spent working on the novella -- a prequel to Compromising Miss Milton. It is tremendously fun as I have wanted to do Tom Milton and Kamala's story for ages!
I finally have a bit of writing time (having spanked my deadline last Monday) and am determined to get it done. In my writing world, contracted work comes first so I do have to make sure that it is done and on time.

My youngest has gone off to walk part of the Pennine Way with two friends as his reward (?) for doing so well on his GCSEs. It is wet out there. They are walking 60 miles in 3 days. I suspect they will have great fun but will be glad when it is done. My youngest and another lad are very prepared with lists, training walks etc. The other friend seems less prepared but no less determined.
The drive up to Bryness was lovely despite the rain. I always forget how truly wild the Border region is. Beyond the relative gentle rolling of the Tyne Valley, you have Redesdale -- this is the area where you did have the Border Reivers and the Border Wars. It remains rugged moorland with few transport links and the odd ruined castle or more likely bastle. With the mist rolling in waves, it was very much the land that time forgot.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dans Les Bras Du Comte Giveaway

To celebrate A Question of Impropriety being released in French next month, I am giving away one signed copy of  the American version. Simply email me at  with the answer to the following question: In which year does A Question of Impropriety take place? Hint read the excerpt. Please put QI Giveaway in the subject line. The winner will be drawn on 31 August.

I love the French cover btw.

Northumberland, 1813.Après le scandale provoqué par son fiancé, dont elle ignorait le passé dissolu, Diana Clare part oublier Londres sur les terres de sa famille, en Northumbrie. Dans cette campagne anglaise, aucun vil séducteur ne viendra bouleverser une deuxième fois son existence. Du moins, l'espère-t-elle de toutes ses forces. Cependant, quelques semaines à peine après son arrivée, elle est secourue par le comte de Coltonby alors que sa voiture s'est embourbée dans un champ. Lord Coltonby, le plus célèbre débauché de Londres qui était présent le soir où le scandale a éclaté... Troublée par les souvenirs que cette rencontre ravive en elle, effrayée à l'idée que le comte ne révèle son sulfureux secret, Diana décourage l'entreprenant libertin. Mais lord Coltonby n'est pas le genre d'homme à se laisser éconduire ... 

The French version can be purchased at Harlequin Francais or 

The English language version  of A Question of Impropriety can be purchased as an ebook whereever ebooks are sold.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

New Voices 2011 Some Stats

New Voices 2011 -- the Mills and Boon contest where one unpublished author will get a chance to be published  in one of the series  starts on 13 September. More info plus lots of hints and tips on

There are lots of stats on the Internet about how easy it is to fail. For example 95% of first time authors do not publish another book or 90% of people who start writing a novel fail to finish. Yes, make no mistake about it  publishing is a tough business (as well as being crazy). It also remains many people's dream.

So if you are wavering  about entering  here are some stats:

1. 100% of all Mills and Boon authors once had not finished a manuscript
2. 100% of all Mills and Boon authors once did not have a Mills and Boon editor working with them.
3. 100% of all Mills and Boon authors once had a dream of being published and did some thing about it.

If you don't enter, you can't win. Mills and Boon bought 3 authors as a result of last year's contest -- Leah Ashton who won, Lucy Snow who made the shortlist and Louisa George who did not even place but used the comments to make her manuscript sparkle and submitted it through normal channels.

Mills and Boon has a very good track record at building authors. They have quality editorial, good distribution and unparalleled  good relations with their customers. The vast majority of their authors publish more than one book with them. A significant percentage have published more than 25 books with them.  When you reach 25, you get a diamond  pin. Same for 50. 75 is a keyring. It is a big ceremony.
  They are also notoriously tough to get published with. Some 90 -95% of slush is rejected. They only take on about 10-20 new authors per year in a GOOD year.  The number of submissions is astonishing. BUT you can't think about other people, you can only think about your voice.

So why the contest? Most of their authors are long time fans of series romance and they know that many of them had a dream. The contest is their way of kick starting the dream and there is lots of help. The best way to find out about the series is to read the books as Mills and Boon does make a specific promise to the reader.
Do visit for more information.

Remember no one is born published. It is what you do to follow your dream that ultimately decides whether it remains a dream or becomes a reality.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Small Blogs Big Giveaway

34 books+ 9 GC = 43 prizes!

Follow the event on twitter


Organized by: Reading Romances

hosting other giveaways now? US$100 gift card giveaway!

Letters Inside Out
hosting other giveaways now? Yes – Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. It will be international.

Reads With Wreckless Abandon
hosting other giveaways now? Monthly Book Giveaway- It’s international your choice of 1 from 5 books.

So Many Books, Here’s Mine
hosting other giveaways now? Yes

Laurie’s Thoughts & Reviews
hosting other giveaways now? YES – A Bonus Giveaway
Will be giving away a $10 Gift Card (winner’s choice, Amazon, B&N, Book Depository) and more books.

The Magic Attic
‪hosting other giveaways now? Blog tour for Static by Tawny Stokes, and a The Faerie Ring by Kiki Hamilton swag giveaway

Frequent Reader, Infrequent Blogger
‪hosting other giveaways now? a tour giveaway from Stacey Thompson Geer on the 24th + 3 other contests still open one for a DVD of Something Borrowed, My 300 Follower Giveaway and another Tour Giveaway for the Gift of Illusion.

Red Hot Books
hosting other giveaways now? Storm’s Heart by Thea Harrison (paperback) — US/Canada

Frugal Experiments
hosting other giveaways now?The Spa For Ma Giveaway Event $100 spa basket giveaway Runs from Aug 18-31st
and The Back To School Giveaway Hop $25 school supply package Runs from Aug 22-26th

Book Nerd Reviews
hosting other giveaways now? August giveaway will be running from August 1st – August 30th. This month the winner will win two books though instead of one. And they will be able to chose from three genres. It will be international – anywhere Book Depository delivers to.

Can’t Put It Down
hosting other giveaways now? it ends when my Facebook page gets 150 Likes.


Nicola Marsh
hosting other giveaways now? Yes, 2 double prize packs featuring current release Girl in a Vintage Dress & Overtime in the Boss’s Bed

Sign up to HOST the 3rd edition of this event, by answering this form!



We’ll be selecting a random participant to win a gift card for every 100 entries till we reach 600!The first winner will choose 15 items from the prize list (including the maximum number of 1 gift card)

The 2nd will choose 12 items after the 1st winner has chosen (2 gift cards maximum)

The 3rd will get 10 items after the 2nd winner has chosen (2 gift cards maximum)

The remaining books and giftcards will be given to one of our lucky hosts – who’ll be selected using!


1.Sign up using the RAFFLECOPTER tool.

1.2Read the blog rules to know how to sign up for the prizes other blogs might be providing.

2.This is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway

3.You must be at least 18 years or older, or of legal age in your country.

4.The contest will end on AUGUST 29th at 11:59 pm GMT and winners will be posted after they have been selected.

5.Winners will be selected using the RAFFLECOPTER tool or

5.1The winners will be notified by email and announced on all hosting blogs.

5.2 The winners will have THREE days from the date they are posted to provide a mailing address. If you do not contact me within three days a replacement winner will be selected. NO EXCEPTIONS.

6.Each blogger will be responsable for mailing the prize they provided. No replacements will be made. Your email address will not be saved or used for any other purposes then to contact the winner in the contest for their mailing address.

6.The Bloggers not responsible for other prizes that are not honored, distributed in a timely manner, lost, stolen, or damaged during transit.

7. Prizes are subject to change/cancellation without prior written notice.