Monday, February 28, 2011

Update on reshaping

After about 2 weeks of doing the Jillian Michaels 6 Weeks Six Pack Flat Abs Fast, I can report that the reshaping continues. I was able to tighten my belt another notch yesterday. Considering two weeks after I started the Shred, I couldn't even reach the first notch, I take it as a huge positive.
 I have started mixing it up with her Banish Fat Boost Metabolism which is pure cardio. Again Jillian is her usual motivating self. I suspect that No More Trouble Zones is mostly strengthening -- this might be a treat to myself later in the year.  6 weeks 6 Pack is mainly focused on abs. 6 week 6 pack takes 40 minutes whereas Banish Fat takes 50 minutes. I ended up dripping sweat after each. It is all about doing more each time. The post workout high is something to be savoured.
Since I started really thinking about mindless eating, and making sure that I sat down and had protien with each meal/snack, my weight has been decreasing. I am now seven pounds lighter than when I started the Jillian Michaels regime. That makes 32 lbs lighter than this summer. I still have more to go before I get within my Healthy Weight BMI but am now well within the Overweight rather than the Obese section. Small victories are worth celebrating. It is about me taking charge and responsibility for my body.
If my journey inspires anyone, I would recommend starting with the 30 Day Shred (beginner, level 1). It does not matter about your past, or how fit you were in... name the year, it matters about today and making positive starts. I am always happy to provide  support. Let me know how you are doing. 
 If you haven't discovered The Healthy Writer blog -- it is also a useful place to lurk. I know  Trish Milburn's posts on the Biggest Loser inspired me to buy The Shred as I knew about Jillian Michaels from her.
Accountability and keeping myself on track are part of the reason why I keep posting about my reshaping process.

With positives, I gained insight into my current wip at the weekend and think I have FINALLY figured out my hero's conflict and how the heroine is going to help him to grow. Always a positive. It is all about BLEEDING on the bloody page but this one is a weepie. Hopefully it will have people reaching for the handkerchiefs.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ebook uptake

One of the big questions that has plagued the publishing industry is how large is the ebook market? Will it consume the print market? Will it make bookstores unprofitable?
For example, since the early 1980s, people have predicted the death of the cheque book. The market size for the cheques (ie number of cheques written) is certainly smaller BUT it still exists. The fact that banks still produce cheques means that some company somewhere is making money printing the cheques.

When markets are in flux, lots of things happen. Winners and losers. People can be seduced by great rates of growth without really considering market size. This happened during the early days of the Internet when certain Internet start up ventures were given huge valuations. Bubbles and mania ensued. Some (such as Amazon) have gone on to great things, others have folded.

The rise of Internet bookbuying has had a profound effect on bricks and mortar stores. The economies of scale come into play. What other things drive people to bookstores? Bordedom during lunch? Hours to kill while waiting for children to complete activities? Nobody really knows what is going on and people's predictions keep being blown out of the water.

One of the best places to learn about such things (if you are interested) is Mike Shatzkin's blog. He did a great blog the other day about ebooks tipping points as well as one about the trouble with the industry saying that you *buy* an ebook (you don't, you are licensed to use one -- a problem IF the ebook provider suddenly goes under but that is a whole other concern).  The ebook tipping point blog had my jaw on the floor. I knew they were expecting huge growth rates, but Sourcebooks (a small independent publisher who has recently gone into the romance genre in a big way) had 35% of its incoming dollars in January 11 from ebooks. The slides showing the growth are incredible. The BIG question is does this growth continue or was it an uptick because of Christmas presents. Ebook readers surpassed sales expectations at Christmas. Will people keep using them? And will others buy them at the same rate? How will that effect margins etc? Are more people moving towards buying all their books (print and electronic) online? Is browsing in a bookstore a dying activity? Or merely confined to certain places?

I am very grateful that my publisher Harlequin is ahead of the curve and determined to remain there.
The one thing that will not change is that ebooks like print books merely deliver the content. Authors create the content and  ultimately that comes down to the author's imagination.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The editorial cat didn't like my post

Heathcliff decided my post on creating vivid detail was not worth it and deleted it. Suffice it to say -- vivid specific detail works better than vague and general. Little details bring the world into focus.

Thankfully he did not delete my wip where I am adding more specific detail as my editor pointed out places where I had forgotten to.

My exercising goes well and I find I really enjoy doing the workouts.  The latest Jillian Michaels I have -- 6 weeks six pack abs is harder than the Shred and I can see definite improvement. It is the SWEAT portion of my reshape.

Heathcliff is now sitting on my forearms as I type so I think he wants attention. Or possibly feeding.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dig deeper

You always have more to give. Dig deeper. These two statements are the theme of my recent workouts and it feeds into writing as well.
When writing it is not about going for the easy option or looking for the obvious solution. Sometimes it is but more often it is about digging deeper and going for the hidden motivation. Why else? What if? Why?
Yes, it is not easy. It isn't suppose to be. It is about creating something powerful.
When going deeper, look at the connections. How does one fear play out in their lives? Something major touches every part and influences habits and behaviours. Little details do count.
How can you give your characters' depth? How do the truamas influence them? How can you give an implied past and make everything that much bigger?
When you are writing, you can always go deeper. It is about squeezing that last drop of emotion out. And it does burn. And it is not easy but it is worthwhile.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Take a moment

I've just completed day 2 of the Jillian Micheals 6 week 6 pack. I'm better at it today than I was yesterday but what she said during the cool down really struck home.
It is important to take a moment when you finish something and appreciate the accomplishment.
Your accomplishment might not seem a lot to someone else but it should mean a lot to you.
So for everyone who has submitted a manuscript recently, take a moment and think about the accomplishment. Think about the effort that it took to get it there. Savour it. It is worthwhile and time well spent. You did it.
Sure, next time your writing  might be stronger (I always hope mine is!) but that doesn't take away from what you have accomplished.
Take that moment, savour it. Enjoy the buzz. Really focus on that. Then put it to one side and be prepared to WORK on making the next one even better.
When I am doing the workout, I am focused on making that workout the best it can be, pushing my muscles that little bit more. Doing that bit extra. I am not think about yesterday's workout. I am in the here and now.
So it is with writing. Focus on the here and now. You can do something about that.
Savour the moment when you finish a project but leave it behind when you go on to the next one.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

30 days of The Shred completed

I have reached the end of my 30 Shred and so what happened?

* I went down a dress size and my stomach is flatter than it has been in YEARS!!!!!
* My energy levels have increased
* I love the buzz I get from completing the workout and find I actually crave it.
* I did not lose 20 lbs (about 3 lbs instead) BUT it didn't matter because it is all about how clothes fit and I went down a dress size.  Note: I had been on a diet before starting the shred and had lost about 20 lbs with that so this might have contributed
* I gained enough confidence to go jeans shopping and ended up buying a pait of skinny jeans and jeggings in my new size ( UK 14/ US 12). They fit and my bum doesn't look big. I wore the jeggings in public yesterday.
* I read Jillian Michaels Winning by Losing which details her thoughts on self and science. The dvd gave me the sweat part! I have stopped mindlessly grazing and have started scheduling my snacks and making sure that I eat protein with every meal. I also have stopped going more that 4 hours between eating. This should help with the weight loss going forward.
* Personal triumphs for me were being able to do full travelling push ups, jumping lunges and rock star jumps. It was not easy! At times I felt like I was gargling my heart and wanted to die but seeing my fitness improve daily was fantastic.

At the weekend, I caught Losing It with Jillian on the Style Network. I now understand why she is the toughest trainer. And she is hugely motivational. As I watched the people struggle with the exercises -- I thought ah yes, I know how hard it is. I suspect that I shall continue to watch it as it is inspiring to see the transformation. Because she does work on self, it is also interesting to hear about other people's demons. (I am a writer after all!)

Where to next?

I bought Jillian Michael's  6 week Six Pack abs dvd for my birthday. Some of the reviews on Amazon said that they were pleased that they had done the 30 Day Shred first as it follows the same format BUT has more circuits.  I like her *bootcamp* style (can't do dance moves me), her acknowledgement that yes it is tough, and her intense focus. I want to keep it up. There is more of me to lose. Plus given that my job is hands on keyboard, bottom in chair, I need something that makes me SWEAT
This is not a quick fix operation and I like the challenge, plus I like the mental sharpness. The fact that I can do the dvds in my house, with hand weights and a mat and don't have to think about driving to the gym is a bonus. Although I do have a rowing machine, I like doing things upstairs rather than in the basement.  Plus I like the motivation that  Jillian uses. Unerringly, she seems to say something that makes me continue and push myself. So I shall be making the time to do it daily. (There are 2 other Jillian dvds which I can get...)

As I know some people who read this blog  (Kate H, Maisey Y, Biddy, Michelle W to out a few) have been inspired to start  their own 30 shred, can I say -- stick with it. It is not easy but it is worth it. You will find your clothes start to fit better. If I can do it, so can you. You can make 20 minutes in your day for you. It is ALL about you, baby, and your journey.
Let me know how you are doing so that I can cheer you on. And don't forget to go to jeans shopping when you reach the end!

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Lady Soldier is republished as an ebook

Embrace Books launches today with a huge party and The Lady Soldier which I co-wrote with Kate Allan back in 2004 is republished as one of the launch titles. A few of the steamy cut scenes have been put back in! Isn't the new cover wonderful?
The Lady Solider came about because Kate Allan who was my critique partner had an idea that wouldn't let her go on bright November morning in 2003. She thought about it all the way to work and emailed me asking if we could cowrite this book together.  I agreed as the subject matter was something very close to my heart. Ever since I read about Deborah Sampson in grade school, I had wanted to write something about a woman who pretends to be a man in order to serve as a soldier.
At that point in time, I had turned my back on romance and was trying to writ a Roman set thriller. Writing The Lady Soldier with Kate really reawakened my love of the genre and my determination to write historical romance. After writing the first draft of TLS, I wrote the first draft of The Gladiator's Honour.
TLS went through several incarnations (and rejections). And was eventually bought by Robert Hale and published in hardback in 2005. (On the day it was published originally I received my revisions for GH and became totally focused on building my career with HMB). Kate's path went in a different direction and among other things she is now a successful agent and publicist.
 We reacquired the rights to TLS late last year as it went out of print. At the same time Kate had a launch party for her Polish set Regency. Jane Holland attended and bought a copy of The Lady Soldier. She stayed up all night reading it and asked if Embrace could publish it. Kate and I were delighted.
It is great to be part of the launch.
There are seven wonderful books and here's hoping that Embrace goes from the strength to strength.
Available wherever good ebooks are sold, including Amazon kindle.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Being inspired.

On Wednesday I took my daughter to Newcastle for a university visit. She is visiting everywhere where she had offers before she decides. We went on the train. I always get a thrill now as that particular railway has featured in a number of my books.
I also love walking around Newcastle as it has the largest collection of Regency/early Victorian buildings outside of London and Bath. It boasts of the first planned city and one of the oldest railway stations. Central Station is iconic as it was the first use of space in this fashion combining glass and steel. It is just that loads of other railway stations were based on it and so it now looks very samey but I always get a little thrill.
To fully appreciate Newcastle, you do need to look up rather than concentrating on ground level. On ground level, your eye is distracted by shops and shop windows. Looking upwards, you see the little bits that remain unchanged or the sweep of Grey Street or the statue of Earl Grey that towers over the main shopping district.
I hadn't been on Newcastle's campus for ages. They are doing loads of building work but the university has a good solid feel about the place. I had to laugh when one of the professors mentioned the royal seal of approval as one of Prince Andrew's daughters is currently attending the university.  I wasn't sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing. LOL.
They did serve lunch and I found it relatively easy to be good and avoid certain things. It was about being picky, rather than mindless. So an improvement there. I also made sure I did the JM dvd before we left...
Upon returning home, I realised that I did need to add more emotion to my current chapter. My editor wants the emotion NOW, not when I turn in the revised full as the emotion can pull your characters in different directions. We are doing this one slightly differently in hopes of avoiding some of the problems that have plagued me recently. So the early stages take longer. But the trip made me inspired to bleed on the page which is always the long run.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Winner of the Christina Phillips giveaway

Christina has drawn the name and it is  --Caroline.
Caroline if you could email me with your postal address, I will forward it to Christina.

I drew Jena Lang from my part of the swap and have emailed the download off.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Confessions of a Mindless Grazer

One of my BIG problems with food is that I am a mindless grazer. Bad habit. I tend just get a handful of something because handfuls don't really count. Or not enough to matter. This is particularly true when I am working and the words are not coming.  Of course handfuls count. And eating standing up doesn't burn more calories either.
Jillian Michaels makes the point in her book (and it is not rocket science) a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. It is simply a unit of measure. And even if something does not seem to have many calories per serving size, eat enough of them and your daily calorie count gets blown sky high.
She gives the example of a client of hers who used the spray I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. The client was going through a can a day. When she was challenged, the client exclaimed but the serving portion info says no calories. A can has 900 calories. A serving size was a quick spray. She was using a lot more!
It would be far better for me to schedule my snacks and to sit down to eat them.
She also is an advocate of metabolic typing for determining the type of diet you should follow. It turns out that I am a fast oxidizer or that I am insulin responsive. It means if I take niacin on an empty stomach, I get a bright red flush. (Been there, done it) Fast oxidizers from my reading around the subject are more likely to get type 2 diabetes. Glucose enters the blood stream more readily as it were. This is why going over to a diet which limits carbs to low GI carbs and makes sure I have protein at every meal works for me. It also means I should have scheduled snacks instead of mindless grazing. And make sure that I don't skip meals and that I eat every 4 hours.
The theory of oxidation also explains why not all diets work for every one. Know your oxidation rate in general terms and you can plan your diet better so you are less likely to fail. Slow oxidisers should have carbs at every meal and go for lighter proteins. Balanced oxidisers should go for -- a balance.
Everything kept within calorie limits.
And I am one of the UNLUCKY people who gain weight all over rather than putting it on my top half or my bottom. When you gain weight all over, it means even your feet can become fat! (Yes my shoes now fit better) In theory I am an hourglass shape. Knowing what shape you are helps. It means you can look at pictures of the appropriate stars. For example, Marilyn Monroe was pear shaped. People who are apple shaped can end up looking like Barbie or a Gibson Girl.
Hourglass I think is Betty Grable. at the ideal. People can look good no matter their basic shape is. But knowing your shape can help.
Two days of not mindlessly grazing and the weight is starting to drop off. Which is good. Not getting discouraged is important.

In other news:
My editor phoned yesterday. I should be doing a couple of library talks in March for International Women's Day. More details when I have them.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Shredding and fitted blouses

Today is day 22 of The Shred and the scales are staying stubborn. However,  my clothes are telling a different story all together.
Two Christmases ago, my husband gave me an expensive fitted blouse. The only trouble was that it didn't fit.  I could not button it. It was in the size that I used to be. He had no reason to think my clothing size had changed but it had. And I kept thinking I would fit into it. Nothing doing. Yesterday I tried it on and it does fit. Barely and there is room for improvement but I was able to wear it to Mass without feeling like I had been squeezed into it. Rather that I am on upper range of a UK size 14 (US size 12). Considering I was on the upper limits of a UKsize 16 (US size 14) when I started this shred, I am well pleased. Do the Shred, lose a dress size in 3 weeks. I can handle that.
Inspired by The Shred, I have ordered Jillian Michaels' book -- Winning by Losing which details her diet plan. It should be here today. With Amazon's look inside feature, I decided it was worth spending some of my birthday money from the in laws on (and for under a fiver, the price was right). I also ordered the 6 week six pack dvd at the same time. My Mother in law was pleased to learn that I was spending the money on me for a change rather than on something practical.
I happen to like Ms Michaels' philosophy and the no nonsense way she approaches things. It is possible to sign up for a free daily newsleeter from her. At least the newsletter keeps me focussed. Her site costs $4 per week if you want access to more but I figure with the book and the dvds I am pretty well set.
Being able to regain clothes is a HUGE incentive to keep going. After the Shred, I have 6 weeks of  6 week six pack to look forward to. It is good to sweat!

My fitness is improving and I find I have more energy. I am also ignoring the jibes from my youngest. He is 15 and fit. I am 47 and definately an unfit matron type, The fact that I can do star jumps for  the enitire 2nd 30 second interval in circuit 3 is something to be celebrated!

Friday, February 04, 2011

A new book by Donald Maass

As long time readers of this blog know, I do rate Donald Maass's books on writing. He does a regular column on Writer Unboxed. First Thursday of every month. This month, he did an post on depth of character. Nothing new or startling.  He says the same thing over and over.  Funny how often people nod their head and then ignore it.  But you shouldn't. He knows what he is talking about. Orson Scott Card was writing much the same thing in the late 1980's. The craft of writing doesn't change but sometimes, the way it is explained can open new vistas.

He also has a new book coming out. The Breakout Novelist.(March 2011) It combines the best of his other books -- Writing The Break Out Novel, Fire Into Fiction and most importantly an updated version of The Career Novelist. The final section of the book looks at what it takes to be a novelist in today's world and how novelists can prosper. Does PR work for everyone? etc.  I suspect even though I have the other books, it will be worth getting for the career advice. I know I learnt A LOT from the Career Novelist and can't wait to see what his updated one is like. My copies of Writing the Breakout Novel workbook and Fire into fiction are rather worn now.
I suspect because he has a new book out, he will be giving a workshop at the RWA Nationals this year. It will be good. Last year's was.

In other news: it is blowing a gale here and so I am writing, working on deepening my characterisation so that the reader can get the best read possible.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Guest -- Christina Phillips with giveaway

Today, my blog is being taken over by Christina Philips ( I am Christina's). Christina and I go back to unpublished days and so I am delighted that she is here talking about her second Roman set book --Captive

Britannia, AD 50 – Sexy Warrior Heroes & Magical Druid Heroines

When Michelle and I realized we both had Roman set books releasing this month, we thought it would be fun to swap blogs for the day – so here I am, and thank you Michelle for having me!

I’ve always loved history and grew up in England surrounded by the rich heritage of our Roman, Saxon, Viking and Norman influenced past. At school I loved nothing better than to write tragic stories that involved time travel to ancient Rome or the fascinating Pharaohs in Egypt, but it never occurred to me to write a historical romance with the aim of publication. At least, not until Maximus, the Roman centurion hero of my debut novel, Forbidden, stormed into my head late one night.

Even though I knew Romans, Druids and ancient Wales were all considered a hard sell in romance, I had to write the book (Maximus was very persuasive ) As Michelle can attest, I was thrilled when Berkley Heat offered me a two book contract!

Set during the first century AD, during the early years of the Roman occupation of Britain, my Forbidden series has sexy warrior heroes and magical Druid heroines.

Between a warrior and a princess comes an erotic passion as all-consuming as the hatred between their warring worlds…

In Forbidden, book 1 in the series, Maximus, a proud Roman centurion, discovers Carys spying on his bathing ritual and is instantly captivated. Who is this woman, and why hasn’t she been seen in any of the villages the Legion has vanquished?

Maximus has been charged by his Emperor to eliminate all Druids. And Carys, a Druid princess and acolyte of Cerridwen, Goddess of Wisdom, has sworn to rid her land of the barbarous invaders. Yet despite everything that conspires against them they are irresistibly drawn to each other.
Trained in sensuality, a Druid priestess finds herself falling for the wrong man—the warrior who’s taken her prisoner…

Captive begins six months after Forbidden ends. The heroine, Morwyn, is not only recovering from the realization that the man she once loved brutally betrayed his own people, but has also turned her back on her Druidic heritage. She sets off to join the rebels fighting the Roman invaders but is ambushed and captured by a tough Gaul mercenary.

The hero, Bren, is haunted by his violent past and, far from being Morwyn’s bitterest enemy as she imagines, has been undercover in the Roman Legions for the last three years. The problem is he can’t tell Morwyn the truth, because the truth could get them both killed.

He was a master of seduction - but no match for the magical allure of the woman he wanted most...

Carys knew from the moment she first spied on Maximus in his naked barbarian glory that he was a dangerous Roman centurion - his taut, battle-scarred flesh marking him as a fearless warrior. But her desire for him was as undeniable as it was illicit.

Charged by his emperor to eliminate a clan of powerful Druids in Britain, Maximus never expects his mission to be thwarted by the clan's ethereal princess, Carys, his daring voyeur. Falling under her spell, he doesn't realize her true heritage - until he captures her heart as well as her body.

As Carys's loyalties are twisted, and freedom is no longer her single-minded obsession, an avenging former lover threatens to crush Maximus's people into oblivion. Now Carys and Maximus must overcome the devastation of war and face the ultimate sacrifice if their forbidden love is to survive.

Read Chapter One of Forbidden (Over 18s only, please!)

Romantic Times BOOK Review

"Set in the time of the Roman Empire, Phillips' wonderful story of the romance between a Roman soldier and a Celt is more than entertaining"

She is a prisoner of her sworn enemy - and her own desire...

Having lost her faith when Roman invaders destroyed life as she knew it, Morwyn took a vow of celibacy to spite her goddess. But before she can join up with the rebels, she's captured by a Gaul mercenary whose animal charms and chiseled body will test her conviction... and make it harder to kill him.

Bren, pledged to the true Briton king, has spent three years undercover in the Roman Legion. So when his own unit attacks and brutalizes a fiery Celtic beauty, he saves her the only way he can - by claiming her as his prisoner. But unlike his men, Bren would never take the woman by force, no matter how obviously she burns for his touch.

As they near Roman headquarters, Morwyn resolves to honor her vow of celibacy - but if the Gaul were to ravage her, could she be blamed for enjoying his body? With just a hint of seduction, sooner or later the Gaul will succumb to his exquisite captive...

Read Chapter One of Captive (Over 18s only, please!)
Romantic Times BOOK Review

“Phillips’ second in the Forbidden series is just as hot as its predecessor. Readers will be held Captive by the magic between Druid priestess Morwyn and Bren.”

I’d love to give away a copy of either Forbidden or Captive to one lucky commenter. Just leave a comment, ask a question or let us know what you love about ancient or unusual historical romances!

The giveaway will stay open until 9 February.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The Perfect Concubine and Breaking The Governess's Rule are out today

Rome, 68 B.C.

Valeria's life is in the hands of Piso the Greek—the very man who had risen from a common sailor to wealthy ship owner following their doomed romance. He is the only man brave enough to sail the dangerous seas to Alexandria to reunite Valeria with her missing brother and restore her family's fortune. But Piso demands a high price for his help: Valeria must become his concubine and share his bed once more....
This is my first Undone and it is a Roman set. The hero Piso previously appeared in Sold & Seduced.
The Perfect Concubine is available for download from today in the US and the UK.
E-Harlequin is having a 14% off sale of ebooks in time for Valentine's Day.
Breaking the Governess's Rules is out at Mills and Boon today. It goes on general release in March.Mills & Boon has the first chapter to browse.  Breaking the Governess's Rules will be out in Australia as part of a 3 in 1 with Diane Gaston and Ann Letherbridge in April (on the Australian site in March)

My newsletter will go out later today.