Friday, November 28, 2008

Weight Loss Challenge and The Treadmill of Terror

Okay, "terror" might be a bit strong, but going on ye olde non-powered-save-by-my-feet treadmill is one major workout, so much so, I've decided I can't do that two days in a row. Plus, I miss getting outside now.

Of course, the key question is: Does it work?

This week, I did get down to 141.2 -- whooo hooo! -- although today I am 142.2.

This week's step/treadmill tally:

Nov. 21 - 4423 plus an hour on the treadmill
Nov. 22 - no tally, due to a family thing that came up unexpectedly
Nov. 23 - 1173 plus an hour on the treadmill
Nov. 24 - 1644 plus 40 min. on the treadmill (and this was the day I realized two days in a row on the treadmill was a bit too much)
Nov. 25 - 15,538
Nov. 26 - 4303 plus 50 min. on the treadmill
Nov. 27 - 16,362

I'm really, really hoping to get to 139.9 before Christmas.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all those south of the border, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

I'm nearing the finish line for THE VISCOUNT'S KISS, so that's what I'll be concentrating on while you all are chowing down on turkey and pie. I'll be with you in spirit, though!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Some things never get old....

I just received my author copies of my January book, THE WARLORD'S BRIDE and I gotta say, it's still and always a thrill to hold a copy of my own book in my hands. I am always tempted to stroke it whispering, "My precious, my precious." Sometimes I do.

I think one reason it continues to be such a thrill (beyond the fact that I get paid to produce books) is that by the time I'm actually holding the finished book, I've forgotten why I was so traumatized by Chapter Six (for instance) and the hours I spent trying to decide the best sequence of plot events, etc. etc. All the angst has receded. I no longer have to work at the creating; it's done.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's all Welsh to me....

If you're familiar with my books, you'll know I love me some Welshmen. It's the voices and accents, frankly. Take a listen to Ioan Gruffudd on the DVD extra of King Arthur to hear what I mean. The hero of my next release, THE WARLORD'S BRIDE, is -- you got it -- another Welshman.

In Madoc's honor, I present this little gem from

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures

Here's what happened (another cautionary email tale), courtesy of the BBC:

"When officials asked for the Welsh translation of a road sign, they thought the reply was what they needed.

Unfortunately, the e-mail response to Swansea council said in Welsh: "I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated".

So that was what went up under the English version which barred lorries from a road near a supermarket."


Monday, November 24, 2008

Ur Mornin' Smile

Check out The Devil's Writing Dictionary at Paperback Writer. I laughed and laughed (and sighed a few times, too, because some of those entries are scary true.)

I need all the laughs I can get'd think I'd have a clue after forty or so books, but nooooooo. Yet again, I am revising my revisions back to the original order of events in the book.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Weight Loss Challenge -- off the plateau at last!

At last, at last! Let the bells ring out and the banners fly! I'm at 141.8!!! Whooo hooo. I haven't been this light in, well, a few years.

I don't think I've mentioned my new short-term weight-loss goal. Well, not so much a goal as an incentive.

When I hit 139 (even 139.9), I get a new outfit. Whoo hoo!

Unfortunately, the cold weather has arrived and so today, because of the wind chill, I'll be using the antique treadmill. I call it antique because it isn't power-assisted. The only thing that makes that sucker move is my tender tootsies, so it requires more effort. Which is good. Bad? It doesn't register steps on the pedometer. I can measure time (easy) and distance (it has that function), but not steps. But that's okay, because I figure one step on that is not the equivalent of one step on the sidewalk or path anyway.

I wore my new snow sneakers on the slushy street and sidewalks yesterday. My feet were toasty warm and dry.

This week's step count tally:
Nov. 14 - 16,734
Nov. 15 - 5025 but 40 minutes on the treadmill (didn't measure distance)
Nov. 16 - 17,864
Nov. 17 - 16,737
Nov. 18 - 16,292
Nov. 19 - 15,636 (and a little snow shoveling)
Nov. 20 - 12,772 plus snow shoveling plus 2.37 k. (1.47 miles) on the treadmill

Oh, and there were no white potatoes on my menu this week. I substituted salad with low cal dressing. I think that helped, too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Feel-good Christmas Shopping

Despite having a book due December 15, I've already started the Christmas shopping, either the gifts I plan to make (hello, crochet hook!) or buying from charitable institutions on-line.

The UNICEF order arrived quickly and I'm so impressed with the mugs in particular, I'm ordering more.

In the name of a family member currently working in the mental health field, I'm providing some Gifts of Light at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

As I've done in the past, I've purchased a goat, some pigs, some chickens and (new this year) some baby chicks for those in need in developing countries via the Christian Blind Mission.

I choose goats because it's been a long-running joke in our family that goats will be the bridal or dower gift when our kids get married. Pigs are chosen because of the example question in the old home version of Jeopardy. ("What is a shoat?" is the correct response.)

And as for the chickens...apparently I fled in terror from a little black chick on my grandparents' farm when I was a wee bairn. I myself think this was a natural reaction to a Dick and Jane story featuring a particularly aggressive chicken. At least I seem to recall such a story. Just goes to show one's childhood reactions can haunt one...and also lead to some smiles when gifts are exchanged years later.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Different Perspectives

No, I'm not going to be talking about point of view.

I'm going to talk about how the research I do affects me. Because it does. Sometimes there's the obvious -- learning more about a specific time period leads me to think about how what happened then is similar to what's happening now. For instance, when Gutenberg came up with the printing press, a lot of learned folks were not happy. Because producing a book became so much faster and especially so much cheaper, why, then anybody can write...anything! They can say and mass produce whatever "nonsense" they want! It'll be the downfall of civilization!

Sound familiar? It did to me, too.

The hero of THE VISCOUNT'S KISS, "Buggy" Bromwell, is a naturalist who loves spiders. Keep your horses and your hounds, and give him a spider in a web to stare at and he's a happy camper. And now guess who doesn't just glance at a spider or brush it away, but who gives them a long, lingering gaze whenever she encounters one, like the specimen rapeling down the front door the other night? Yep, c'est moi.

It also means I get to visit websites I never would have otherwise, like this one and that one. It means I find and buy obscure publications like SPIDERS, MEN AND SCORPIONS .

Recently a New York Times bestselling author of historical romances came to speak at our chapter and she mentioned her research assistant more than once. Even if I could afford it and believe me, there are times I would love somebody else to find out things like the names of the various parts of a mill for THE UNWILLING BRIDE (I spent a whole morning on that one), to do away with research would be robbing myself of one of the parts of my job I really enjoy.

After all, it's one of the main reasons I write historical romance and not...something else.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How much is too much?

I visit Romancing The Blog daily.
Yesterday's post
and specifically some of the links got me to thinking: When is a lot of information too much information? When does an author learn enough to help and when does it become overpowering? Or seem as if the only way to publish is to slavishly follow the trends?

I've also seen too many authors who have a story and who will try to twist that story depending on what's hot at the moment. Vampires are hot? I can make my hero a vampire. Romantic suspense is this year's golden goose? I can throw in some more suspense.

I just about get hives when I hear that sort of comment, because editors and agents (and yes, other writers) can practically smell that sort of thing and it ain't gonna fly.

I'm not saying ignore trends -- there are many successful authors who jump on the various bandwagons. But if you want to write with a trend in mind, don't think you just stick a glossy trendy element in your story and call it a day. If your hero is a vampire, the fact that he's a vampire has to affect his character on several levels, the action, reactions, the decisions the characters make, the dialogue, the descriptions -- in short, everything in the book. He shouldn't just seem a little moody and occasionally take a sip of blood.

Monday, November 17, 2008

To tickle your funny bone....

Courtesy of The New York Time's Book Review section comes a literary term used in reference to sea-faring type novels a la Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey books and the Horatio Hornblower saga:



This was in a small paragraph about a contest at Book Ninja for repackaging books. Some of the "new" covers that don't at all reflect the book's actual contents are pretty hilarious! Take a look.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Weight Loss Challenge...Day of Frustration

Okay, so not only am I still stuck at 143 pounds, this has been my morning so far: Wake up after dreaming I was on the Amazing Race and for some reason, we were going to have to do a task in a dress and high heels. I'm late and can't find either my belt or pantyhose. I wake up at 5:30 a.m., unable to get back to sleep, because I also have to take the car in to get the brake light fixed and want to get there early.

Take the car in, and it takes about 45 minutes. I sit and read (so hey, could be worse, right?); however, I suspect I may be sitting there yet if I hadn't stood up and stretched and reminded guy behind the counter I'm there. But I could be wrong, so am philosophical (and hey, did I mention it was a good excuse to sit and read?).

Then I get home and hear the garbage truck a-comin' down the street. I have the compost bin out, but no others. I rush to get the garbage, affixing the tag because the city still has not delivered the proper bin (that's a story in itself, trying to get an answer about that). Then I schlep out five bags and five other assorted containers of leaves. I have to dump some leaves from a plastic bag to the proper paper bag and spill several in the process.

The truck gets closer. I have just made it...and then the truck zooms right on by. What the...? Was it full? I peer down the street. There are other containers still unemptied. I hope I haven't missed the collection, but if I have? The man o' the house, who was home but hadn't gotten to that yet, will be schleping the leaves back to the garage.

In all fairness to Mr. Man, the pick-up schedule is beyond erratic. Sometimes they come early, more often it's later in the day, including the afternoon. There's no telling when the truck will actually show up.

This weeks' weight loss decision: I've upped my step count and there is visual confirmation that the long walks are doing me good.

I had decided to have a larger breakfast and avoid the mid-morning snack but I'm going to revert to smaller breakfasts and go with the snack, but fruit of some kind, saving the carbalicious snack for after my afternoon walk.

There was also a birthday in there, with cake.

This week's step count:
Nov. 7 - 14,226
Nov. 8 - 14,637
Nov. 9 - 15,087
Nov. 10 - 13,812 (Birthday, so out to dinner sans pedometer; did at least another 200 steps, so the total should be over 14,000)
Nov. 11 - 17,716
Nov. 12 - 15,379
Nov. 13 - 15,895

I don't think I can go for walks for much longer than these, though, because we're looking at approximately two hours. Last weekend, we got a treadmill (used, so a bargoon) to use when the snow flies. One problem: when I tested it wearing the pedometer, it steps. I'll have to see what I can do about that!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Excerpt Posted!

If you'd like to read an excerpt from one of my Christmas novellas (and my personal favorite), "Comfort and Joy," hie yourself over to The Writer's Vineyard. Check out the great holiday contests while you're there!

Trusting Your Instincts...Or Not...

While on a long ramble yesterday, I picked up the new O magazine. There's an article there about Sissy Spacek which makes for some interesting reading - I didn't know she wanted to be a singer first.

However, it's another article that talks about following your instincts. Listening to your gut.

Here's the thing about that: We generally hear these sorts of stories from people who've succeeded.

But you know, I've listened to my gut/instincts and lemme tell ya, the G/I can be wrong. Very wrong. Because most of the time, they are telling me not necessarily what is, but what I want to hear.

Which means that I'm happier listening to my G/I, but not necessarily more successful in the way success is measured in the publishing world.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It's Remembrance Day, a day to pause and reflect on the role our military and the people who serve play in our lives, past and present.

My dad is a living reminder, having served in the Navy during WWII, as did his two brothers. I was proud and thrilled to follow in his footsteps, albeit in a much smaller, humbler and safer way by joining the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve. This was in the mid-seventies, and it may be hard for younger people to realize this, but at the time, this was a pretty radical thing for a teenage girl to do.

It proved to be one of the best, most important and yes, fun times of my life. I still think of that first summer as the Golden Summer of my Youth. I made one of my best friends in the first couple of days, and we were so tight, people thought we'd known each other before. Nope. Just clicked.

What else did I get from those days, when I was both training and instructing?

Self-discipline. There's no whining when you're given an order (although there can certainly be much complaining in the barracks after). There is no negotiating. You do what you have to do when you have to do it.

There's a time to goof around (in the barracks, before lights out) and a time to get serious (on parade or a training exercise) and you better learn the difference.

Women under stress can do some pretty wacky, vindictive things. I've been criticized by some reviewers (well, okay, Mrs. Giggles) for writing about women who conspire against other women. Or as she says, "The author is very trigger-happy with the evil women gun." Write what you know, Mrs. G. Write what you know.

There are all sorts of arcane rituals/methods available for the shining of shoes. I myself prefer the spit shine, only using water instead of spit.

In a pinch (or when inspection is imminent), you can use sticky tape to hem a skirt.

They will always put the smallest, lightest person to row in the bow of a whaler (a large rowboat, like the ones that carried the harpooners out to the whales). Which makes the bow rise higher out of the water. Which makes it more difficult to row. They did that with me; they did it with my dad. Ah, tradition.

However tense and miserable some of the situations I encountered in the reserves were, I'm well aware I had the Military Lite experience. Even so, it changed and profoundly influenced me.

So on Remembrance Day, I think about the brave men and women who experienced the intensity and camaraderie of the military life which I barely tasted, and who paid for that experience with their lives.

Monday, November 10, 2008

As it is with lipstick, so will it go with paperbacks?

According to yesterday's New York Times, the Lipstick Index rose 40% in the last few months.

What is the Lipstick Index?


An indicator based on the theory that a consumer turns to less expensive indulgences, such as lipstick, when she (or he) feels less than confident about the future. Therefore, lipstick sales tend to increase during times of economic uncertainty or a recession.

This term was coined by Leonard Lauder (chairman of Estee Lauder), who consistently found that during tough economic times, his lipstick sales went up. Believe it or not, the indicator has been quite a reliable signal of consumer attitudes over the years. For example, in the months following the September 11 terrorist attacks, lipstick sales doubled.

I'm hoping the same holds true for paperbacks. Readers might not be able to afford a trip, or a night out at the movies, but will go for a book that costs under $10 (and that they can even sell at a used bookstore afterward), especially if it promises a happy ending.

Although maybe I should buy a few shares of Cover Girl, too....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Weight Loss Challenge - Inches, if not pounds

Well, the weight seems to be stuck at 143.6 or so but I've lost an astonishing 3 inches from around my waist. Not only are my clothes looser -- I had to move to other belts -- but I'm now below the "danger zone" for weight circumference in women. So what that tells me is that I'm losing fat and gaining muscle.

When getting out the other belts, I found the Coach belt I bought way back before I was married, when I worked in a Major Canadian Department store. In those days, spending $50 for a belt seemed the height of extravagance -- and not just to me, because there were plenty on hand when the price dropped (it was store policy that items would be reduced in price after they'd been in the store a certain length of time). So I got my Coach belt for half price (and continue to regret not getting a handbag, too). I can tell from the wear pattern that the belt fit my waist of 28 inches.

Twenty-eight inches? EGAD!

I felt like Scarlett O'Hara in that corset scene, complaining that her waist was no longer 18 inches.

Unlike Scarlett, however, I think aiming for my pre-baby weight is not a worthwhile goal. I'll gladly settle for being able to wear that belt at it's loosest.

Step tally this week:
Oct. 31 - 14,250 (up and down to answer the door for tricker-treaters)
Nov. 1 - 13,919
Nov. 2 - 12,459
Nov. 3 - 12,465
Nov. 4 - 14,142*
Nov. 5 - 13,388 (I walked to pick up my nephew at school. I thought I had plenty of time, then discovered it was farther than I thought, so had to really pick up the pace.)
Nov. 6 - 14,786 (plus raking leaves)

* It's occurred to me that if I want to break what seems like the weight loss equivalent of writer's block, I should aim for a higher daily step count. Time could be an issue, though, what with a deadline looming. And we were blessed with gorgeous weather this week. But the one thing I can't do now is stop, or I can see the weight creeping back on.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

TV miscellany

Just a quickie because my shoulder doth ache. I suspect I had my desk chair at the wrong height yesterday.

Ugly Betty -- Why are they dressing her like a clown? Seriously, I get she's not supposed to be fashion savvy, but unless she's really a dim bulb (contrary to what we're led to believe) she would be picking up some kind of clue while working for a fashion magazine. I think they had it right in the first episode, where she tried to dress fashionably, using a souvenir poncho. Close, but no cigar.

Survivor -- It's never as interesting when one team keeps losing and losing and losing. It's painful. And yet, I cannot look away...

Amazing Race -- Phil's dad! How great was that??? Mom and Son are my favorite team. Two other teams cannot be gone soon enough for me.

The Tudors - already mentioned, but I have to say, it's not as interesting now that we're into such well-trodden paths of history.

Chuck - I love Chuck. And while Chuck himself is cute, it's Adam Baldwin who does it for me.

Heroes - back on track, although still not as awesome as the first season.

Project Runway - I want to go to that fabric store in NY, Mood, like you wouldn't believe. Seriously. Next time I'm in the Big Apple? I'm going. The irony? I've actually been in their neck of NY, more than once. ARGH.

Crusoe - Sam Neill and Sean Bean are the only reason to keep watching this ridiculous show. To give you an example: You lose a ring in a rock fissure. So you take a sizable quantity of your limited supply of gunpowder (although I expect to learn RC can make his own, because he's so clever, doncha know?) and blow up the fissure. Yes indeedy, that's not going to destroy your ring or send it flying way out into the forest. No, your ring is just gonna lie there. And that even wasn't the wackiest part of the episode.

And finally, the Christmas commercials are coming fast and furious. But hey! How else would I know the Swiss Chalet Festive Special is already available?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

No NaNoWriMo, but....

If you're an unpublished writer, you may have heard of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, also known as "November."

During November, a writer tries to write a 50,000 word in one month. To write, as the site puts it, with abandon.

I've never done this, because it's never fit in my schedule. Also, 50,000 words is about half the length of a historical romance novel, so...the novel wouldn't be finished in one month even if I met the goal. That said, I think it's a fun way to get people to simply sit down and write the dang book, the book they may have been mulling over and talking about for oh, say, years. And keeping track of the word count strikes me as similar to keeping track of my steps during my Weight Loss Challenge. It's a way to measure progress.

I note that Harlequin thinks this is a swell idea. They've organized a NaNoWriMo sign-up in the community section on their site.

That doesn't mean that whatever you come up during that month will be in any way publishable; it does mean, though, you'll have something concrete to fix.

So while I'm not going to participate this month (see above re schedule), I'm seriously thinking of declaring February MaNoWriMo - Margaret's Novel Writing Month. My current plan is to take time in January to make a rough outline -- because I think for something like this to work best, you need a plan -- and then spend February churning out the pages. I'm going to set myself a slightly different sort of goal, though. I'm going to challenge myself to write two scenes a day.

I'll admit that when I came up with this goal, I thought, "Whoooooa, Nelly! That's a bit much, isn't it?" But the idea of NaNoWriMo is to challenge yourself to get words on the page. They aren't "finished" words, or polished scenes. The idea is simply to get your butt in the chair and write.

The other reason to choose February? It can be one dark, snowy, depressing month. I could probably use the kick in the pants.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

And you are there!

There used to be a show on TV, back when I was very young (although I see by the dates, I must have been watching reruns), hosted by Walter Cronkite, looking at historical events as if they were happening in the present day.

Every episode ended with Mr. Cronkite saying, "What sort of day was it? A day like all days, filled with those events that alter and illuminate our times... and you were there."

I suspect this is one reason I write historicals.

There's a new show in a similar vein, History Bites. Although History Bites is primarily looking at history from a comic angle, it's fact-based and fascinating.

Today, wherever you live, this is a historic day because of the presidential election in the US. Like many others, I'll be watching the results roll in off and on during the day.

However, I'll also be watching The Tudors tonight.

Which brings me to something I often think about when I'm watching historical shows based on facts.

What was it like if you were the Tudor-era equivalent of, say, Joe the Plumber? How much did you know about what was going on in the corridors of power? How much did you care? Or were you just worried about what the taxes were going to be?

Monday, November 03, 2008

It was the best of time, it was the worst of time...

I believe I may have mentioned that I hate it when we return to standard time. I hate having it get dark so early in the evening.

However...I've discovered that I missed the light early in the day, too. And I've actually been sleeping in too late. That's been a problem, since I have a book to finish and the middle is, shall we say, a bit of an issue at the moment.

OTOH, yesterday I came up with a new scene that should be fun and by that I mean puts the hero of THE VISCOUNT'S KISS in even more of a pickle. Ah, these are the moments I write for!