Friday, August 29, 2008

Weight Loss Challenge Report

I weigh exactly the same this morning as I did last Friday morning (148.0). I'll admit this is disappointing, because I've been doing the walking:

August 22 - 11,739 steps
August 23 - 14,311
August 24 - 13,185
August 25 - 12,710
August 26 - 11,239
August 27 - 11,329 + surely at least another 1,000 steps without the pedometer*
August 28 - 12,428

However, there is some cause not to be upset. For one thing, on the 25th, after a weekend that involved a birthday, hence cake, I weighed in at 149.0, so I'd gained back a pound.

There was left-over cake. Yes, I had some. Also, I think a baked potato is, for me, the equivalent of a piece of cake.

*On Wednesday, we had company for dinner, which meant dessert. I went with fruit, but also made cookies. I was sweating like a marathon runner on a hot day during the prep, so broke down and had a Coke. Not a good idea, that. Should have gone with juice, or water would have been even better. Worse, I had lemonade, too. Calorie double-whammy.

To prevent myself from eating more cookies, I had one the next day and froze the rest. I'll see how that works out.

All in all, I think I can be happy I didn't gain more weight. And I've discovered a bonus I hadn't really thought about, but makes perfect sense: Shins o' Steel!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Villains to heroes, Part II

It occurred to me after posting yesterday that perhaps I made it sound as if the villain's transformation to hero is simply a matter of the hero waking up and smelling the coffee, as in, "Hey, I don't have to be bad and if I'm good, I get the girl!"

It shouldn't be nearly as simple as that.

For the villain-to-hero transformation to really work, the villain has to already be a three-dimensional, interesting character, and that means having an understandable reason for his bad deeds, and one with which the reader can empathize. The reader should be able to think, "Yeah, if that had happened to me, I might want to do those things, too." Not that the reader necessarily would, but he or she can understand and appreciate why a character might.

And the more powerful that motive, the stronger the character, and the stronger the character, the more he's going to resist altering his path. His goal is so important and so fixed, it takes a major upheaval to make him want to change.

That major upheaval is provided by the heroine, and his love for her. Note I don't say her love for him. That certainly helps, but I truly think it's the hero's love for the heroine that is the catalyst for his change. That's why the villain-to-hero can do good before he will even admit to himself that he's in love, or the heroine has revealed her true feelings. He can act on that change even if he doesn't yet know if his feelings are reciprocated -- and oh, what a gut-wrenching moment that can be, if he thinks she'll never know how she's affected him and that he loves her.

The villain's metamorphosis from bad to good should be a long, tough, intense struggle for him. He should resist, fight it, try to ignore his feelings, refuse to admit he cares, act worse before he acts better, or do any combination of these things and more until he realizes that his feelings for the heroine have changed him and there's no going back -- but he doesn't want to. Because of his love for her, he wants to change. He wants to earn her respect and be worthy of her love. He obeys the promptings of his troublesome conscience and gives in to better impulses he's been trying to ignore. And what he wanted so much before no longer seems so important.

It should take nearly the whole book for this transformation to occur and for the hero to realize that he's not the man he was and his initial goal isn't number one any more. He should struggle against his changing feelings the whole way.

Because the harder the struggle, the more satisfying the victory. And that, I think, explains why this type of hero can be so effective.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Remaking the villain into a hero

I think some of the most interesting, compelling heroes in romance novels are the ones who began life as a villain in another book.

One of my first heroes was Urien Fitzroy, in THE WARRIOR'S QUEST, who began life as the yes-man of the villain in my first book, A WARRIOR'S HEART. In A WARRIOR'S HEART, Urien's job was a simple one: to give the villain someone to talk to, to explain his dastardly plans.

But then, as I've told many people, he suddenly developed a conscience. It was one of those times I was writing along, just going with the flow, and boom! The man was not happy about what he was supposed to do.

To my mind, a true villain may occasionally feel the prick of conscience. If he's intelligent and not mentally ill, he knows right from wrong. The difference between a villain and a hero is that the villain is able to ignore those little nudges, or rationalize them away (it's a dog-eat-dog world, they'd do the same to me if they had the chance, the world owes me). A hero will do what his conscience tells him is right.

For a villain-to-hero transformation to really work for me, the potential hero has to be bothered by the pricking of his conscience before he even meets the heroine. He tries, but he can't quite rationalize his choices. He does what he does because he thinks he needs to, but his methods do keep him awake in the wee hours of the night.

So it's not "the love of a good woman" alone that changes him. For me to believe he's truly changed for the better and that the change will "stick", I have to believe there was already the potential for change -- a willing heart, if you will. He just needed the incentive and the strength falling in love with the heroine provides.

Because the change from bad to good hasn't come from outside factors alone (the love of the heroine) but also from within (his own willing heart), I can believe that even if something happens to the heroine in the future, he won't go back to his evil ways. I can believe love has truly made him a hero, and that he'll stay a hero, no matter what.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Embracing the digital age...

I'm slowly accepting that I have to get more with it when it comes to new media. I've been concerned about the time it will take away from writing and the rest of my life, but I don't want to be left out in the cold, either.

Therefore, I have finally signed up for MySpace and Shelfari. I'm adding and/or changing those pages slowly, because I have a lot on my plate for the next few weeks, and there are always, as I've discovered yet again, things that crop up unexpectedly, too. But hey, if you want to "friend" me, please do! If I'm slow getting back to you, please be patient. I'm baby-steppin'.

Monday, August 25, 2008

I want Trixie Belden's house!

One of the unexpected bonuses of my Weight Loss Challenge Walking has been the discovery of all sorts of places in my neighborhood I didn't know existed.

Today, I went down a side street leading to the lake that's in the opposite direction to the one I usually take. Now, given the proximity to a large body of water, there are many million-plus dollar homes, with more older homes being torn down and replaced by mansions seemingly daily. I went on a tour of one yesterday. Very posh, very lovely, not quite my cup of tea even if I could afford it.

Then today, I saw a house that made me drool.

It was not large. It was not on a lake lot, although its lot was enormous (probably half an acre). It was small, white stucco with stonework and a veranda (I crave a veranda nearly as much as a mudroom).

I've been thinking about renovating our house, and one look I keep coming back to is white siding with black shutters.

And it suddenly occured to me -- I want Trixie Belden's house. Or my mental image of Trixie Belden's house. Not Honey Wheeler's cavernous mansion (although I'd likely love her closet space). No, it's Trixie's house for me.

Even after all these years, the influence of those books lingers.

The epiphanies you have while you're walking...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friday Progress Report

So, it's the end of the first week of my weight loss challenge, and here are the stats:

Last week's weight: 151.4
This week's weight: 148.0 (whooo hoooo!)

Daily Step Totals, beginning with last Friday (so today's will count toward next week's total):

Aug. 15: 10,048
Aug. 16: 11,605
Aug. 17: 9,280*
Aug. 18: 12, 533
Aug. 19: 15,964**
Aug. 20: 9,746***
Aug. 21: 10,387

* I worked on de-weeding the driveway, which meant a lot of sweaty work with the weed wacker, not so much with the walking, so I think I could probably add 1,000 steps to compensate, which brings me over the 10,000 step count.

** This was actually too far, because it was murder on my feet. It also took me two hours, which was a tad too much time, too.

*** I discovered at the end of the day that, because of what I was wearing, the pedometer was, in fact, missing steps, so I think I could safely add at least another 300.

Some days the pedometer seemed to add a few, but I don't wear the pedometer from the moment I get up to last thing at night, so I'm assuming the "false" steps minus the uncounted steps will basically balance out.

I'd have to say one of the problems with this method (10,000 steps a day) is that the pedometer only counts the number of steps. It doesn't matter if they're uphill or down, or if you're strolling or walking briskly. For instance, yesterday, my walk included a long stretch uphill, so that would burn more calories.

I should also mention that because yesterday was a celebratory day, I had a few treats, including a wee chocolate sundae in the late evening (about the worst time of day for it!). There will be cake tonight. Last week, I lost no weight over the weekend at all due to treats, but did well during the week. It may be that it will prove to be enough if I can simply maintain Friday's weight over any given weekend.

Today, I'll be going to check out the local Curves, which is having a membership drive, offering a 66% discount. One possible problem: plans are afoot to renovate the plaza, so how long will that Curves be there?

But hooray! Three pounds in one week! Here's hoping I don't gain over the weekend!

Reforming your Destiny

As I was on one of my long walks this week, I saw a sign for an astrologer that also noted the astrologer was a "destiny reform specialist."

This baffled me, because it's my understanding (and Merriam-Webster's, too), that one's destiny is pre-determined and therefore not subject to change.

Reform, on the other hand, means to change or improve, or re-make.

It's an interesting concept: You have a pre-determined, immutable fate -- but hey, don't worry! I can fix it!

But if you believe in astrology enough to consult an astrologer, don't you have to believe your destiny is already written in the stars? And if it's written in the stars, how is the astrologer going to change it? Make a few new planets?

Or (what I think is more likely and the only answer to "how" I can come up with), is the astrologer going to show you how to work with your pre-determined destiny for the best possible outcome...except wouldn't that then be changing your destiny, which is supposed to be immutable?

I was scratching my head the whole way home.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Dear Author likes A LOVER'S KISS!

Here's an excellent way to start the day: Jayne at Dear Author likes A LOVER'S KISS!. She gave it a B-, which means she had a few quibbles, but overall she appreciated Juliette and Drury and thought their relationship developed well.

Whew. Whew, whew, whew.

I'll confess I go to Dear Author every day, but I've never sent in one of my books for review. Why not? 'Cause frankly, they scare me! It's not that I think their reviews are wrong or bad or anything. But they are frank, and having been the victim of some pretty snarky reviews on the web in my day, I tend to regard internet review sites with dread.

See, I remember when hard-hitting reviews first appeared on the internet, in all their blunt snarkiness. I'm well aware that extreme emotion creates interest, and I'm sure readers appreciated the blunt honesty of the reviews, but there also seemed to be a sort of malicious glee to some of them.

It's one thing to have your work criticized; it's quite another to be mocked.

I'm happy to say I think things have evened out and calmed down. Now, many of the reviews, while still bluntly honest, are more genuinely critical rather than mocking.

But still, once bitten, twice shy and all that.

So my initial reaction when somebody told me A LOVER'S KISS had been reviewed (because it wasn't there the last time I looked), was fear. I asked if it was good before I went to look. And lo, it was. B- might seem lacking to some people, but not to me. Best of all, no spoilers!

As for the reviewers' quibbles, points taken, although I will say that if she'd read the previous books, she might not be so surprised Brix would announce Fanny's pregnancy to his best friends. That's Brix. If he were alive today, he'd be the guy proposing via Jumbotron. But mea culpa nonetheless, because I never assume everybody's read the previous books in a series. I clearly didn't make Brix's personality quite clear enough in this book.

Nevertheless, I'm over the moon and relieved and inspired to work hard on Buggy's book, especially Chapters Five through Ten.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Author Envy

I heard some news last week that gave me a serious case of Author Envy. An author who sold years after I did got a book deal for major, major $.

I felt we'd taken the same test and she got A+ with gold stars and I got C- and a note to meet the teacher after class.

This isn't the first time I've had this feeling, and I don't think I'm alone when it comes to feeling like this. In fact, I bet most authors know what I'm talking about.

There are two ways people can deal with envy, one good and one bad. One looks inward and can spur positive changes (I better study more), the other is spiteful and malicious, seeking to diminish the other person's accomplishment (she's just the teacher's pet).

I won't say people fall into one category or the other all the time. I think it depends on several factors: how you're feeling when you hear the news, your perception of your own career up to that point, what else is going on in your life, and, if you've met the author, the impression she may have already made upon you.

I don't begrudge that author her success. I don't think she's the literary equivalent of a teacher's pet, she just got lucky, or she must have known somebody. I think she deserves it, because she works hard, she writes to the market (which I suspect also -- and happily -- coincides with what she truly enjoys writing, which is the best of all possible worlds for a writer of commercial fiction) and she's a PR whiz.

I've never read her work, so I can't speak to her gifts as a writer. However, talent is a subjective thing, so I'm taking that out of the equation.

So what I suddenly felt when I heard of her success was not that she had somehow been sprinkled with magic fairy dust and rewarded without any effort on her part. What I felt was a combination of dismay and discouragement, specifically that I haven't worked hard enough, I've ignored the market too much, I haven't done nearly enough PR, and (most discouraging of all) I've made bad career decisions.

There's no doubt I don't write as quickly as Big Sale Author. But I can't -- I've tried, and I was one miserable, stressed out woman. I also don't think it did my writing much good. So I'm willing to work hard, but not at that pace.

Perhaps I should be doing a lot more PR, especially on the web. I can certainly up my presence on other blogs, and join Shelfari. I'm still on the fence about MySpace or Facebook, but even if I decide against those, there are other avenues to explore that I simply haven't taken the time or trouble to investigate. I can, should and will do more.

Maybe I should be writing with the market much more in mind. I have to say, this has been brought home to me big-time this past year, so any changes I make in this regard will be as much a function of my own recent experience as any envy I may be feeling.

Nevertheless, this brings me to the most discouraging thought of all: that I've made some bad career decisions.

Well, I know I have.

But here's the thing: There's nothing I can do to change them. And I did what I thought was best at the time. That said, I can learn from those experiences and try to act more wisely in future, and in my case, with more long term goals in mind.

So yes, I get envious of another author's success. And it makes me feel bad -- but Author Envy can also be a catalyst for positive change, for thinking about my own goals and what I can do to reach them.

And that's a good thing.

Blown off course -- in a really good way!

I'm late blogging today because of a very exciting family development over the weekend, which is also going to be providing me with major incentive on my Weight Loss Challenge. It involves one of my children, so I'm not sure how much I should say publicly, but I will say I am over the moon with happiness.

Which is quite a change from how I was feeling last week, and why I thought I'd be blogging about Author Envy today.

I'll blog about that later this week, because it's a thing I think all writers feel at one time or another, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Blown off course and my weight loss challenge

You know how you can plan your day? And have a to-do list of things you hope to get done? And then something happens that, even if it's good, can blow you right off that course?

You do? Then you know what happened to my morning.

But to get to what I was going to blog about:

I was incredibly skinny as a child. I could eat anything and never gain an ounce -- not that I ate much. I was all of twenty before I could finish an entire hamburger in one sitting. I was not anorexic nor did I have food issues. I just didn't eat a lot. Also, we never had snacks like cookies or muffins or pop in our house. We would get a Coke once a year, with a chocolate bar, to have during the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz on TV. The only other time we got candy was Hallowe'en and maybe some at Christmas, although not in our stockings. We only got nuts, oranges and apples in those, which sounds like something out of Little House On The Prairie, but what can I say? That's the way it was, although we lived in cities. I'm also small boned, so when I say I was skinny? I do mean skinny. I'm about five foot four, and I weighed 113 when I got married.

Now, this was swell for the first few decades of my life, and when my kids were little, they kept me pretty active. I weighed about 120 in those days.

But then they grew up and I wasn't chasing after them anymore, or having to do so much for them. I sold a book, and began a sedentary career. I got older.

And next thing I know, I discover I can no longer eat whatever I feel like and not gain an ounce, because I have obviously gained several ounces, and thus, pounds. This was no secret -- I could see it, so I knew what was going on. I occasionally weighed myself and didn't always like what I saw, but I had my notion of what was an "okay" weight -- 150 lbs. Under that, I was...not too bad, even if that I have the dreaded, deadly "belly fat."

Then we drove to Boston in June, and I ate way too much junk in the car. I was shocked when I stepped on the scales when we got home.

But then came the real epiphany, and I know I'm not the only one who's had a similar experience: I saw a picture of myself that really shocked me.

Now, I could blame the outfit (in hindsight, not at all flattering and a very bad choice) and my hair cut (too short, even for me), but I'm not. I think this was the wake-up call (and how) that I needed.

I know what to do -- eat less (well, I still don't eat a lot, so it's eat less junk) and move more.

I got myself a pedometer, after reading that most people walk about 3,000 - 5,000 steps a day, and you should do at least 10,000. First day I wore the pedometer? I didn't break 1,000. Maybe if our house wasn't a bungalow, I would have done better, but there it is.

So I've been trying to do at least 10,000 steps a day, even at the cottage.

Sadly, I also consumed too much junk at the cottage, which is why I got up to 151, after getting it back down to 148. I'm working on the junk thing, having only one Coke this week (instead of every day).

However, I've heard that if you want to be successful at losing weight, you should make it public, to keep yourself on track. Although I don't believe this was specifically said, pride can be a powerful motivator.

So I'm following this advice, in an attempt to keep me motivated and posting my personal weight loss challenge:

I want to get to 145 by Sept. 12 (social events loom), and down to 125 by next summer. I think that should be doable, if I stay consistent. On Fridays, I'll post my weekly step total for the previous week (so today's final tally will go on next week's total) and morning weight. Come on by and see how I'm doing, and maybe comfort me if I slip too badly (I have two birthdays in the next two weeks, with cake) or cheer with me when I'm doing well.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Top Pick!

A LOVER'S KISS is a Top Pick from Romance Reader at Heart!

"A LOVER'S KISS is a suspenseful, tragic romance of the first order! I recommend A LOVER'S KISS especially to readers who enjoy the Regency period knowing that there is just a smattering of intimacy and plenty of drama."

I'm going to put a link to the entire review, with a caveat -- there are what I consider major spoilers in the review, so if you haven't read the book yet but are (I hope) planning to, you might want to wait.

The Review

And as if that wasn't terrific enough, my DVD of Season Two of Robin Hood (another caveat -- don't click on the link if you don't want spoilers because I did and ARGHHHHHH! but I'm putting them out of my mind as much as possible) featuring my favorite bad guy, Sir Guy of Gisborne, played with smoldering intensity by the delightful Richard Armitage. Again, there may be spoilers here -- but there's also an intriguing suggestion that, if my computer had sound that worked, I would be listening to right now.

AND I also went shopping. You know, sometimes I forget that Chapters is not a library until I'm at the check out and have to, you know, pay. But hey, it's books!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Starting a story

Once again, I've started a book, THE VISCOUNT'S KISS, which is the sequel to A LOVER'S KISS (out now!). THE VISCOUNT'S KISS is about Drury's good buddy, Buggy.

Some books are easy to start, because the "seed scene," the idea that first came to me for the story, was the opening.

This was not the case with Buggy's book.

After going 'round and 'round trying to decide just how to start the story and in whose POV, I finally thought, "Just write something!"

So I did, and for now, this story starts with Buggy and the heroine in a mail coach.

I know I shouldn't do the Regency equivalent of a heroine sitting on a plane thinking about her life, so while I start with the heroine in the coach, she's not focused on where she's going and why and what just happened to her. Instead, she's watching a rather attractive, well-dressed young man pretending to be asleep while really staring at a fellow passenger, or so she believes. She's not thinking about herself. She's wondering about Buggy.

But even then, not for long, because that would get boring, too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mother Nature hates me...

Before we left on holiday, we had a mouse in our kitchen, in the cupboard under the sink where the cats couldn't go even if they wanted to. We managed to catch it before we left and set traps for while we were away.

Yesterday, I discovered a colony of wasps building a nest in the air intake pipe to the furnace.

So today I am late blogging because after my hour's walk in the morning and writing, I had to wait for the exterminator and also clean up the bedroom in case he needed to check the attic.

(Sidenote: Am I the only person who leaves a tidy house before going on vacation in case of a break-in? The one and only time we've been robbed, my bedroom was in such a state of disarray before I'd left the house, it took me about half an hour to realize it had been ransacked while we were out. What can I say? I had a baby and a toddler and I'd gone to emerg thinking I'd broken my ankle. Leaving a tidy room was not a top priority that day.)

The wasps are gone, except for one lonely fella who was flying around the pipe, clearly thinking, "Hey, where'd everybody go?"

The poison is out for mice, and we have a few potential entry portals to close.

As if that's not enough, both the boy cats need dental work. Not cheap, that. And the weeds are running rampant from all the rain we've been having.

Please, Mother Nature, enough!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back to the real world...

I iz home. I stepped on the scales (fool!) and discovered, yes, I ate too much pie. And several other items (pop and chips and pretzels and Mini-Tootsies and Gummy Bears). Oh my.

I also had a dentist appointment this morning. Why does it always seem as if the hygenist is mining for gold?

In my zeal to work off the pie, I got off the bus several stops before the usual. I got home just before it started to pour.

Then I had some pie.

I'm just trying to preserve a bit of that holiday feeling. Well, that's my story and I'm sticking with it, until tomorrow, when the holiday's really over, because...I've got a book to write!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Lover's Kiss is out now!

Greetings from the Land of Pie and Sloth! What kind of pie? Blueberry and cherry. With ice cream.

I've waited FIVE YEARS for Drury's story to be told, so I've commandeered a lap top to note that the time has finally arrived!

And now I get to start working on my favorite Regency geek's story, THE VISCOUNT'S KISS. I've even been working while I'm on holiday...when not eating pie and ice cream and, reading in the hammock.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Gone Fishin'

I'm off on holiday. Back around the 12th -- it may take me awhile to get back up to speed!
Worms? Eeeeuuuwww!

Friday, August 01, 2008

'Cause it's all about the folks....

Today's special is about character and conflict. I really don't think you can separate the two when it comes to your book. Different characters = different conflicts = different reactions to situations = different decisions = different actions.

When people say romances are "all alike," this is what they're not getting. The situations may fall into certain categories (marriage of convenience, for instance); however, it's the characters and their reactions and the backstory that causes those reactions and motivates their decisions that make each story unique.

So here are the links to my character/conflict worksheets intended for use in my workshops More Than Just A Pretty Face: Creating Unique and Interesting Characters and What Lies Beneath: Adding Layers to Your Characters and Conflict.

ETA: the links have been deleted.

Characters/External Conflict Worksheet

Character/Internal Conflict Worksheet

These aren't intended to be the last word in character development. Nor do you have to have answers to all of these questions when you start writing your book. Some may not need answers and I'm sure you can come up with plenty of questions for your characters on your own. These are just some things to think about, and may also come in handy if you're stuck.