Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Emotional Eating because of characters

This week on reshaping my writer's bottom line I learnt that in times of trauma and stress for my characters, I am ever likely to mindlessly graze and over eat. I have cornered the market on tissue but what shocked me was that suddenly I was finding excuses to eat.
I knew that I get wrapped up in my characters' lives but seriously? Does this happen to other writers?
The real heavy lifting of emotional trauma has been done. So hopefully my eating will revert to normal. Sometimes though it is interesting to discover patterns. It is what to do about it. I suspect exercise more...and refuse to mindless graze even when your heroine's life has totally collasped!

I am doing my Jillian Michaels dvds in rotation -- though I have tweaked it a bit and am switching them each day. I have also gone back to level 1 of the Six Week 6 Pack with heavier weights as that is where  a lot of the sculpting takes place. Interestingly, it is  SO much easier in ways and I could do side planks with twists. I was, however, marinated by the end. I really found I could push it far more during the cardio and I made sure that I was doing the advanced version -- spider planks with push up for instance. I was capable of more than I realised.

And with my wip, I am capable of more than I realise.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Operation Auction: critique live

My critique offering is now live. You can see it here.  Hopefully someone will bid. I do promise to do a thorough critique.

The ARC for To Marry A Matchmaker is still open for bidding. I thank people from the bottom of my heart for bidding. Currently this book ranks as one of my faves. I am super proud of it.

There are all sorts of interesting lots. If you like the romance genre, you are bound to find something that suits. You can find the full listing here.

In other news:

I had a good chat with my editor about my current wip. It is all about stretching and making sure I fulfil the promise of the first few chapters. She has faith! It should get finished this week. Currently I have cornered the market on tissue...She does remind me of Jillian Michaels though -- she firmly believes that I am capable of MORE and she intends to get it. It is my story and I am supposed to make the most of it!

My airline tickets have arrived so I am all set for NYC and RWA conference. It is terribly exciting.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Operation Auction live

Operation Auction -- the effort by members of the Romance community to raise money for Fatin, a long time support of Romance who lost her husband in tragic circumstances is now live. There are a host of items to bid on including 1.A hardback copy of To Marry A Matchmaker (I will send it anywhere in the world) and 2. A Critique for a partial from me (this has not gone live. I presume this will be live tomorrow) Hopefully someone will bid...
Among other items are critiques by people like Brenda Chin, Leslie Wainger and agent Laura Bradford. You can see the full listing of live items here.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

RIP Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones died today. I discovered her books in the late 1990s when she was re-released because of the Harry Potter craze. My eldest and I enjoyed her works very much before he moved into Terry Pratchett. My favourites tended to be things like the Dark Lord of Derkholm which is a send up of cliched Fantasyland. She also wrote Howl's Moving Castle which was turned into an animated film where Christain Bale voiced Howl  and Hexwood  which has complicated plot and involves a teenager who is not what she seems -- both books bear re-reading. I loved how her mind worked. The Homeward Bounders and Dogbody linger in my mind. Although sometimes, I had to wonder if she couldn't have gone deeper into her characters or maybe I just wanted to spend more time inthe worlds she created.  My daughter preferred the Chrestomanci series. She knew how to create a world that totally drew you in. Plus she had this wonderful sense of humour. They couldn't be classifed as just one thing -- were they sci fi or fantasy? They often had elements of both. I suspect she drove the marketing bods insane!
When I first started writing, my editor Helen French learnt that I liked Fantasy and reccommended Tough Guide to Fantasyland. It was a singular lesson in cliche and thinking outside the box. If you are interested in the genre at all, it is worth a read...provided you can find it.
If you haven't discover DWJ, she is worth reading. Luckily with the authors, their work is their legacy and can be enjoyed by future generations.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Trying a another Jillian Michaels dvd

Belatedly I realised that Banish Fat Boost Metabolism was a companion dvd to No More Trouble Zones. So I have purchased No More Trouble Zones which is the sculpting or strengthening part of her programme.
6 week 6 pack targets the abs. BFBM is ALL cardio (and no weights) 30 Day shred is short (20 minutes) but combines all 3 for a killer workout. Anyway I can do things in a rotation now. 3 days per dvd and can schedule rest days as and when they crop up. If I have less time, I can do the 30 day Shred.
No More Trouble Zones involves weights. It is mainly concerned with arms, hips, bum and thighs. Being a Jillian Michaels dvd, it has a few killer moves. The Surrender is akin to torture. And I still do not like side plank lifts. She suggests using lighter weights, because well you are trying to shred and tone rather than build up bulk muscle. Plus your arms know about it. Have I mentioned the Surrender? I wanted to die!
By the end of the 55 minutes, I was sweating but not as much as BFBM or the level 2 6 week 6 pack. However everything also ached. One would think after doing these other dvds that I wouldn't have sore arms or legs...uh no. I suspect as I get used to the moves, I will be able to work harder and really push. Change happens when you really push hard. JilThis reshaping has not stopped. I am enjoying the after workout buzz too much.

My daughter found Woman in Fashion at the Lit and Phil -- it had been wrongly shelved. I happened to re-read Moore's exposition on waists. The cut of a dress can effect how big your waist appears by up to ten inches. The three governing principles are 1. contrast -- for example  shoulder pads or in the case of the 19th century a bustle or flowing train will make your waist look slimmer. 2. trimmings and decoration to carry the eye away from the waist and help camouflage less than slender figures. 3. Delusive focus which works the best. Basically by means of folds and emphatic converging lines, the eye is drawn to the centre point where there will be a point, buckle or ornament which takes attention away from the width.
I have taken to wearing a belt with my jeans making sure that my shirt is tucked in and the folds go towards the centre. It does work to a certain extent. My husband suddenly -- oh you have really lost weight!
Moore's theory about shifting waistlines and loose flowing gowns is that it shows the status of mature women in society. The Regency period and the 1920s were particularly favourable to fashionable women above 30 and waist lines were not emphasized.
And finally she pointed that the correct under pinning does much to support a figure. The correctly fitted bra and corset (or in 2011 magic knickers) can make all the difference!
I note in the coverage of Liz Taylor's death, there are a few comments about how she knew the angles at which she should be photographed. A good camera angle can help as well. KNowing how to hold your body -- shoulders back, chest out, head up etc can make a difference.
But it does start with SWEAT and working at it.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Which figure? Betty Grable or Kate Moss?

After Evangeline's  comments  yesterday, I started looking at other Hollywood starlets vitals from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and came across a very interesting article in the Daily Mail from 2009. Basically it was comparing the average women's physique in 1949 when the pin up was Betty Grable (5' 4" 36-24-35), Diana Dors ( 38DD-26-36) to the 2009 woman when the model of the day was Kate Moss (5' 7" 32-21-32) or perhaps Victoria Beckham (5' 34-23-33). The 1949 woman was on average 5' 2" and  37B-27-37. The 2009 average woman (5' 4" 38C-34-40). Shoe size has also increased  from a 3 to a 6. 
On the face of it seems obvious. The silhouette in 1949 must have been easier for the average 1949 woman  (or indeed today's woman) to obtain, particularly in regards to bust size.I can understand that for designers, it is easier to design pencil shapes, sacks and clothes that good on hangers -- particularly for the mass market. When you start putting in tucks, stays and pleats, fitting becomes difficult. Busts and their different shapes make life difficult.
But is it really?
The size of the waist has increased dramatically for the average woman but not for the unattainables. Victoria Beckham's waist is not as small as Marilyn Monroe's for example. But given the difference in heights etc, are we comparing apples to oranges?

First  look at the difference in bust to waist ratio (ie waist divided by bust -- and here I am using the straight bust measurement, not adding the cup size). For example Betty Grable had a 0.66 ratio while Kate Moss has 0.71. Marilyn Monroe had a 0.62. Victoria Beckham has a 0.68. The average 1949 woman had 0.73, and 2009 had 0.89. So the difference in bust to waist ratio was 0.07 for the 1949 woman using Betty Grable as an unattainable. And the 2009 version comparing the average 2009 woman to Kate Moss shows a difference of 0.18. So yes, there is a disconnect but more because the average woman's bust to waist ratio has increased, rather than the unattainable changing significantly.  Because bust to waist proportions have increased for the unattainables, it should in theory be easier to get that 2009 figure.
And the hip to waist ratio has increased for average woman. The average woman 2009 was 0.95 and 1949 was 0.73
For the unattainables, if you will, it has remained at about a constant 0.7, although Marilyn Monroe was an amazing 0.63. She had a tiny waist -- rather than large hips to her bust. In fact her hip to bust is about the same, as is Kate Moss's. As indeed was Miss Average 1949. Those stacked starlets such as Diana Dors (38 DD to 36) Jane Russell (38 D to 36) tended to be around the 1.05 range. Victoria Beckham is in the 1.03 range. Whereas Miss Average 2009 was 0.95 -- becoming more pear shaped.
So what I have learnt (other than it is fun to procrastinate as I have to put loads of emotion in my current scene?) -- basically if you want to look like you have a good figure, make sure your waist is about 0.7 of your hips and bust measurement. If your hips are slightly smaller than your bust, you looked stacked.
Also it is not your clothing size that matters, it is the ratio of your bust to your waist and waist to hips plus bust to hips. Start with your bust size and work to that.
A  waist larger than 32" means you are more likely to have undiagonosed diabetes type II. There are reasons why focusing on your waist size makes sense.
Doing ab firming exercises does help to reduce your waist size. It is not easy though.
Obtaining a perfect figure is always harder than it look.
And I should have been a lot more appreciative of my figure in my early twenties, rather thar than focusing on losing that extra ten pounds or trying to fit into a smaller size.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Marilyn stats

There is a persistent rumour that Marilyn Monroe was a size 16. Or that she was just bigger than today's stars. As I got curious about sizes, I went looking.
Her statistics were  height 5' 5" 1/2.  Her bra size was a 36 D. According to the studio, she was 37 -23 -36 and according to her dressmaker she was 35 - 22 - 35. In other words, she had a near perfect body. It is not a today size 12 or 16, more like  a 4 or a 6! But I can well imagine that she was a size 12 in 1950 sizes. She had an hourglass figure and was perfectly in proportion. Disgusting really.
And as I happen to  like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, I  became curious about her co-star who recently died -- Jane Russell. Howard Hughes  made great play of the fact that he needed to engineer a special bra for her)
Jane Russell was a 38 D bra size (so much for needing a specially constructed bra) Her stats were 38 -25- 36. She was 5' 7".
Sometimes, though you just have to say that nature made them that way. (But I suspect it was not easy to keep it up)  Sweating does help. As does not eating processed foods. Plus youth was on their side.
I bring these women up because when I was a teen, it was very much flat chested and slim boyish hips. This is not a body type I will ever get. And I know having an hourglass figure means you are often over looked in the clothes stakes. Being 5' 6" with a bust and a waist (even if it is currently larger than I'd like), it is good to find role models or people to shoot for.
It is all about finding appropriate bodies to aim for.  Kate Moss, Kiera Knightley, and many others, I will never ever get that figure even if I starve myself. BUT I can do hourglass... If you look around, you can find them. It is about doing things with what you have got, rather than hankering after the unattainable. And just as an aide- memoire for anyone who also suffers from an hourglass:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Weekly reshaping my writer's bottom line

It is really easy not to push harder. This is true  of my writing as well as my working out. One thing I have learnt this week is to keep pushing. I can drive myself harder and not faint! I may dissolve in a puddle or be marinated by the time I am done but I don't die. Not even close!
In this weird sort of way, it is enjoyable. The pounds are not melting off but I can feel myself getting stronger.
My measurements continue to improve. Not as dramatically but slow and steady. I happened to look at the measurements in the Land's End catalogue and was surprised to discover that a UK 14 is now a US 10! Clothing sizes have definitely become bigger in the US. For example, I have a skirt from the early 80s with a Land's End size 14 label. It barely fits. If I went for a current size 14 US Lands End, it would be way too big. (I know this as some of the clothes I discarded were Lands End). I also looked at the measurements.
It is funny you get used to thinking of yourself as a certain size and then you realise that your perceptions were all wrong.
Anyway, it is all about what fits now. And I can understand why I might eventually be a US size 6 (UK 10)...which would be odd to say the least. The measurements for that size are: Bust -- 35, Waist 28 Hip 38. My current ones are B-- 38, w --29 1/2. hips 39. It is my target now. When I started back in August my measurements were bust 45, waist 39, hips 48. So I have come a long way but still have some ways to go.

With my writing, it is about pushing and not taking the easy route. My editor believes that I am capable of so much more. Funny that! It is about putting the emotion I feel down on the page rather than hugging it to my person.

The Girls Night In at the Wellwood pub went well. I am not sure if it was the large glasses of wine that were served, but after we had finished, the entire audience of about 17+ stuck around, chatting and buying books. I forgot my camera but Janet MacLeod Trotter had hers and promised some photos.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

To Marry A Matchmaker

My hardbacks arrived yesterday and this is possibly my favourite cover ever! It works for me at any rate.

This is the book that is up for grabs on the Authors for Japan auction. There are 150 other lots so I have to hope someone will bid for this (and the critique).

The blurb reads:
The Matchmaker's Wager
Lady Henirietta Thorndike hides her lonely heart behind playing Cupid -- some might accuse her of interfering, but she prefers to think of it as improving other people's lives!
But Robert Montemorcy knows it has to stop -- his ward has just fled from a compromising situation in Lodnon, and the last thing she needs is to be embroiled in Henri's complusive matchmaking! He bets Henri that she won't be able to resist meddling...only to lose his own heart into the bargain!

From the front page teaser:
'I can stop any time I want,' Henrietta replied, her face taking on a muntinous expression as she crossed her arms over her full bosom, highlighting rather than detracting from her curves.
'Prove it.'
'What are you suggesting Mr Montemorcy?' Her carefully arranged curls shook with anger.  'I enjoy helping. People need me.'
At last. She'd walked straight into his trap. 'I am suggesting a wager to demonstrated that you are  addicted to arranging others' love-lives and you have no sense of discipline in these matters. He watched her bridle at the words. He wondered if she knew how desirable she appeared when she was angry. Desirable but very much off-limits...

The first line -- as I happen to like it: Precise planning produced perfection.

It comes out as a paperback in July.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Authors for Japan

I'm participating in an auction to help raise money for the British Red Cross Tsunami Appeal -- Authors for Japan. A variety of items are on offer including a critique of a partial from me and a signed ARC of To Marry A Matchmaker (this is the one which comes out as a paperback in July 11). Hopefully some money can be raised and go to help the devasted region.
For many years until his death, my maternal grandfather lived in Japan and my step-grandmother still lives there. (She lives in Yokohama and apparently didn't feel a thing or realise what was going on until she watched the news!)  So I have a great affection for the country. One of the big things when I was growing up was getting the Christmas presents from Japan. We used to have hide them from my grandmother but that is another story...But my goodness they were exciting!  My sister knew all about Hello Kitty long before it ever appeared in the US and I had a big thing on the Japanese fairy tale books we were sent.
My cousin's wife is Japanese and does have relations in the affected area. Hopefully there will be a happy ending there. Prayers are always good.
And I know the Japanese people will come back strongly from this, but sometimes practical aid is needed.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beyond Her Book Bash and giveaway

I'm at Barbara Vey's 4th anniversary bash today! A signed copy of  Breaking the Governess's Rules is up for grabs along with  6 e-readers and 68 other books from other historical and contemporary authors and assorted items. Please join in the fun and leave a comment.

My talk in Walker Library went well. A cozy group of dedicated Mills and Boon readers. One of the librarians also volunteers at the local theatre so they had costumes set up to illustrate my books. They had also done a display of my titles.  All in all a very pleasant evening. (I do have photos and will get them up)

Monday night will see me in Amble with another Girls Night In. Then my speaking will be done for awhile.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Step up on reshaping and a writerly rule of thumb

First the rule of thumb: if your characters cry, the reader doesn't have to. The character is doing the work for the reader. If the character resists, the reader is more likely to cry and be emotionally connected. It makes perfect sense to me, but then I am ever likely to have my characters cry and I do try to remember not to as some readers find crying makes for water pots, but never knew the justification.
Have I said how much I love Characters & Viewpoints?
There is a lot packed into a little book.

This morning I moved up a level on the Jillian Michaels 6 week six pack abs dvd. I had thought that perhaps the dvd was more focused on strength and core than cardio. Umm no. Can I whisper -- plank moguls? Or jumping jack knifes? I am pleased I had 3 weeks at level 1. Even then I have learnt -- start with the beginner moves and work up. My heart rate was through the roof. This is cardio plus with a heavy emphasis on abs. I know I have already changed my shape with the first 3 weeks. I lost about an inch and a half from my waist.
I suspect it will continue. The workout is incredibly intense, insane but goodness me, I felt good after doing it.  Sweat is good. Taking care of my body does not come easy. And every time, I carry a large bag of dog food (15 kg) I remember that I have lost more than that!

Now to get back to my wip and to get ready to give the first of my library talks this afternoon. It is wonderful that International Women's Day is being supported by Daniel Craig...It is the 100th celebration of the day.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Hearts, Flowers and Power: The Romance Genre and Women

I am giving two library talks for International Women's Day. The theme of the day is enpowerment through education so I am going to talk about how the romance genre empowers women. I am also going to discuss my writing and how I do it.
They are on 8 March 2-4 Denton Burn Library and 10 March 6-8 Walker Library.

You can find out more info here.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Breaking the Governess's Rules published

Breaking the Governess's Rules was officially published yesterday. So it means it should be in Tesco, Asda, WH Smith and all the other places that Mills & Boon are sold in the UK. It is also available from and The Book Depository.  It is also on all the ebook formats offered in the UK, including kindle.
At the RNA Northumberland meeting yesterday,  romantic comedy novelist Abigail Bosanko kindly showed me Breakingthe Governess's Rules on her kindle. She had preordered it and as if by magic, it was on her kindle when she woke up on 1 March.  As I don't have one (yet), it was lovely to see. Apparently a new feature will be actual page numbers rather than percent read. But for anyone who struggles with font size, I can see how an e-reader could be a real boon. Abigail adores hers and waxed lyrical.
Luckily she also adored Breaking the Governess's Rules. I always worry. Like Donna Alward, she wants Nella Blandish to have her own story. I was treated to reasons why and who should be looking after Nella when the time came for Nella to have  her season.  This is what happens when you have authors as friends.
Does anyone else feel this way about Nella? Should I write her story?
I should mention that there is Sophie to come in To Marry A Matchmaker...and I am actually fond of a certain secondary in my current wip.
Oh and there is an excerpt up at Unusual Historicals and I will be there on Sunday with two copies of Breaking the Governess's Rules to giveaway. It is leave a comment

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Back from uni visiting

Yesterday was my last university visit with my daughter. University of Birmingham this time. She needed to visit them all to get a deeper understanding of how the courses differed and what was on offer.
 The campus is lovely. The sun shone. We arrived early and so I insisted on visiting one of the museums on campus -- The Barber Institute of Fine Art. Normally university museums yeild something interesting and this was no exception.  For a small museum, the collection contains some remarkable works.  My favourite was an Elizabeth LeBrun protrait. My daughter's favourite was a Renior. They had had Van Gogh, Degas, Picasso, Money, Manet, Turner, Giansborough, Courbet etc. I also loved the protrait of Lady Martha Constance Hattie Onions Barber. who was the driving force behind the Institute.
It is now up to my daughter to decide where she wants to go and which course will be the best for her. Sometimes you have to go with your gut. And my gut might be different from my daughter's. Tis hard to be a parent.

Because the train journey was SO long, I did a lot of writing yesterday. It will be a small matter of typing up the spider scrawl and bleeding on the page. Deepening the emotions. It will get there.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

My Viking trilogy published in French

I was very pleased to discover that Harlequin France are publishing all 3 of my Vikings in the next three months.  The first one Captive du Viking is out this month and the others follow. They can either be order through the French Harlequin website or via Amazon. They have included a bonus book by Juliet Landon with the first book. I spent many years learning French in high school and at university so it always makes my day when one of my books is published in that language.
Captive du Viking
Captive et viking, Michelle Styles

793 après J.-C., Scandinavie. Plutôt mourir que se soumettre à l'emprise de Haakon Haroldson, le chef arrogant des barbares qui ont saccagé son existence ! Si Annis a dû renoncer à sa liberté lorsque Haakon a fait d'elle sa prisonnière, elle n'ira pas jusqu'à lui abandonner sa dignité : jamais elle ne sera son esclave ! Mais alors que, dans un élan de désespoir, elle envisage une impossible tentative d'évasion, le ténébreux Viking lui propose un marché qu'elle n'attendait pas : si elle accepte de devenir sa maîtresse, il l'affranchira de sa condition de captive pour l'élever au rang de concubine. Une offre scandaleuse... qui laisse Annis face à son destin.

À propos de l'auteur :

Intéressée par l'Histoire depuis son plus jeune âge, Michelles Styles nous fait découvrir sa passion grâce à des récits qui mêlent avec art véracité historique et souffle romanesque. Captive du viking est son quatrième roman publié dans la collection Les Historiques.