Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thanksgiving a tad early

We're going to be in Italy for Canadian Thanksgiving, so we're having! Yep, the turkey's going in the oven, I've made the cranberry sauce (recipe will be posted here while I'm gone), and I'm heading off to buy a pumpkin pie.

I'm also working on my sixth draft of my book that's due Friday. I thought I'd be done with the fifth draft, then discovered it was too short. By 7,000 words.

So what do I do? Well, I go through the manuscript again, looking for places where I can add new material. There's always several places. For one thing, I tend to write very lean and neglect description, so that's a place to start. Sometimes I find a place for a whole new scene; not in this case, but there's a very obvious place near the end to expand a scene.

Does this mean I don't cut anything from the next draft? Nope. If it doesn't fit or feel right, it's going out - because I can always find places to add. And so far, after seven chapters, I've added 2,000 words.

And let me just add - what the heck is up with Chapter Twelve? I swear that chapter, or the next one, ALWAYS needs more work than almost any part of the book except the first page. Which I've revised about oh, say, fifty times. That's par for the course, though.

Now, to work with me!

Monday, September 28, 2009

To boldly sign....

On the back of the New York Times' Sunday book review section is an ad for a 1997 first edition, early printing, of HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER'S SON, "boldly inscribed by J.K. Rowling." The price? $9,500.

Okay, first - the price made my eyes bulge.

But then I got to wondering, what does "boldly" mean in this context?

Did she press hard on the pen?

Did she say something like, "I will be the best-selling childrens' book author ever!"

Whatever "boldly" means here, I bet she never imagined that a single copy of her first published book would be selling for that amount twelve years later.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Amazing Race begins again!

Whooo hooo! It's that time again - a new season of The Amazing Race begins tonight! Yes, that's me with the philicious host himself, Phil Keoghan. We met at a TARCon event (The Amazing Race convention) in New York City, when fans of the show gathered at the sports bar at Madison Square Garden to watch the final episode. Exciting? You betcha.

My daughter, who got me watching the show, came with me. And we got the lovely Phil to "eliminate" us. We also met several of the racers from that season, and seasons past, including the Guidos, the Cha-chas and the Frats.

That's not the only time I've gone to a foreign land to express my fanitude. We planned a research trip to England to include a sci-fi convention because James Marsters (aka Spike) from "Buffy" was going to be there.

I have never claimed to be mature.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Procrastination: How do you stand it?

If you've been stopping by my blog lately, you know I'm both trying to finish a manuscript and get ready for a trip overseas. I've planned as much as I could to avoid last minute rushes/hassles/problems, but there's only so much you can do. Unforeseen problems have cropped up, giving me things to do at the last minute despite my best efforts.

And I've been wondering - how do people who procrastinate stand the strain? Seriously.

I do as much as I can as soon as I can when I have a project or trip coming, just so I don't have to do a lot of last minute rushing around. Because that? Is so stressful.

Also, do you not forget things? I keep remembering things to take/add to my list/do. How do you not forget or lose track of things if you're doing everything at the last minute?

Are there really people who enjoy the "adrenalin rush" of that sort of method, or have they simply gotten used to it?

Or are they really that mellow?

One thing's for sure: I am not. That mellow, I mean. Because these last minute snafus? Are driving me nuts!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Weight Loss Challenge - keeping up

I haven't been able to exercise as much this week because of deadlines, PR duties, trip preparations and a minor Family Crisis that meant time on the phone. I also gorged myself on many treats at a party on the weekend. Nevertheless, at one point this week, the scale was down to 133.8. Truly, overeating one day isn't the Kiss of Death. Overeating less but over more days? Not good. And I am trying to do some exercise as often as possible. I want to be able to scamper up to the ruins of Tiberius's villa on Capri. Or at least not be totally winded!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Welsh Lord's Mistress is available for pre-order!

My ebook short story, THE WELSH LORD'S MISTRESS, is now available for pre-ordering at Harlequin!

You can read more about it and an excerpt at my website.

If any of you followed my blogs about my JaStoWriWeek (January Story Writing Week, Jan. 3 - 9, 2009 - see the archives at the sidebar if you're interested), this is the project I worked on that week. I wrote the first draft in a week, but believe you me, there were revisions. Still, at the time, I wasn't even sure I could write a romance with so few words. Obviously, I could! And surprisingly for me, I had a great time doing it.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why does it always happen this way?

I swear it is some sort of cosmic law that on the days I plan to get a lot of work done, there will be some sort of mini-crisis that prevents me from doing so. It happens every, single time. Fortunately, I got more done on the weekend than I'd planned. I'd planned to do no work at all on the weekend, and got a few chapters revised.

Maybe that's the trick - tell myself I'm not going to get anything done instead of thinking I will.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Busy days!

Not only am I'm busy with the revising the work-in-progress, I'm preparing for a trip to an overseas destination in two weeks. While I'm away, I'm setting up some guest blogs and other fun things to be posted during my absence.

Where am I going?

Here's a picture of the first destination.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weight Loss Challenge - inching off the plateau

Yesterday I weighed in at 134.8, a wee bit off the plateau. Then I gorged myself on barbeque potato chips and had a cola last night, so -- no surprise - back up to 135.2 this morning.

So here's the take-away, as they say in marketing: If I keep up with the exercising every day, I can eat junk occasionally and maintain my weight. But if I want to lose? Nope.

This week's step/treadmill tally:

Friday, Sept. 11 - 1 hr. on TM
Sat. Sept 12 - at least 10,000 steps shopping downtown, meeting a friend for lunch, and walking to and from the subway (I didn't wear my pedometer).
Sun. Sept. 13 - nothing, because I wore new shoes on Sat. and my toe was sore and I'm getting old enough to know not to push things
Mon. Sept. 14 - 1 hr. on TM
Tues. Sept. 15 - 9,451 steps (no quite 10,000 but I've got a deadline, so no more two hour walks for awhile)
Wed. Sept. 16 - 58 min. on TM
Thurs. Sept. 17- 1 hr. on TM

Next week, maybe less junk food. But I've got a looming deadline, so I make no promises!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Revisions: Not a pretty picture

Just so you know why I have to take a break from blogging right now, here's a picture of a page of the latest draft of my manuscript.

This isn't the first draft. Or the second. Or the third. It's the fourth. There will be at least one more.

And it's due at the end of the month.

(I'll still be doing my weight loss challenge blogs on Friday, though!)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Still revising...

Once again, just when I thought I would have an easy revision pass through a manuscript, the book has other ideas. So blogs may be sporadic for the next little while.

Because the book comes before the blog.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Where there's a will....

In addition to revising my work-in-progress, I had another revision to get started today: my last will and testament. I haven't had that done in over 25 years, so it was about time. And lots had changed - we had a second child and I got a new career as a writer, to name two of the most major.

Being a writer meant making a significant addition to the will, naming a literary executor in addition to general executor. The literary executor is in charge of everything to do with your published and unpublished works after you die. Here's a general explanation.

Talk about a different way to start my week!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Craft Corner: Baby Quilt without Quilting

I recently finished a baby quilt using a method I learned from a friend. It's easy, although not particularly fast, but neither is regular quilting. You tie reef knots (or surgeon's knots ) instead of using a running or straight stitch, although you do use a running stitch around the edge as described below.


1 meter or yard of print fabric*
1 meter or yard of plain fabric, to coordinate
1 meter or yard of quilt batting
regular thread for basting
embroidery thread for edge and knots (amount depends on pattern on print fabric)

* You need fabric with a pattern that lends itself to this sort of quilting - it needs a place suitable for the knots, such as:

You can see where I did the knots in the star/button fabric (this was in progress). In the alphabet with white background, the knots will go in the little swirls. In the fabric with the blue pattern, the knots will go in the center of the flower. In the flower fabric there are small white dots that don't show clearly here, but that's where the knots will go. And in that wild alphabet print? I haven't figured it out yet!

Is it just me, or is it getting more difficult to find fabric clearly designed for babies and/or nurseries? Also, you can use 100% cotton or a cotton/polyester blend.

To make:

1. Lay quilt batting over plain fabric and baste together at edges. You can do this with a machine, but my presser foot kept getting stuck in the batting, so I found it easier to do it by hand.

2. With right sides together, sew print fabric to plain fabric and quilt batting, either by hand or machine, leaving opening to turn right sides out. (For the same reason I sew the batting to the plain fabric by hand, I sew the pieces together using double thread and the backstitch.) Trim quilt batting close to seam.

I've turned back the corner to show the right side of this animal fabric; unfortunately, it isn't very clear.

3. Turn and sew opening closed.

4. Using embroidery thread and a running stitch, sew around outside about 3/8 - 1/2 inch from the outer edge.

5. Using embroidery thread, make reef knots according to pattern. You can do this from the "top" (printed side), going through print and up again to tie knot, or (although this is more difficult), from the bottom, so that the extra thread from the knots will be on the plain side, and only the "dimples" from the knots on the pattern side.

6. When all the knots have been tied, trim excess threads to about 1/2 inch.

And here is the finished quilt:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weight Loss Challenge: not just the weight has changed

So my weight this week is still 135. But more than my weight has changed since I started my weight loss challenge last year. We were late for a movie on Monday, so I dashed up a one and half story escalator. I was shocked to discover I wasn't even winded when I got to the top. Yep, I scampered up that thing like a squirrel and wasn't panting. Last year at this time, I don't think I'd have been able to run all the way up, let alone find myself breathing normally at the top.

Still, this plateau is getting rather boring, so yesterday, I added even more of an angle to ye olde treadmill by putting boards under the front end.

I also started with the leg lifts again. I stopped them last March because I thought it might be doing some damage. The doctor thought not, but I'd taken the air out of my exercise ball and do you think I could find the pump? So I didn't bother - but recently, I've been thinking that I can see a (not good) difference in the ol' belly. So as I continue to search for the ball pump, I've found another use for a box from Amazon. I'm feelin' it this morning, even though I only did 20.

I managed to stay on the cola wagon until Wed. when I had a little can. Yesterday, alas, I had a full one plus a handful of chocolate chips (justifying myself by saying I'd raised the treadmill and done the leg lifts). But I also had chocolate chip cookies and cake this week, so...maybe this week I can avoid the sweet stuff, except for the premiere of Survivor. Must have treats for that! (On a sidenote - I had no plans to watch the Dr. Oz show, but I've just learned they're going to have Tim Gunn and Taj from Survivor on sometimes.)

This week's walking/treadmill/lift tally:

Friday, Sept. 4 - nothing
Sat. Sept. 5 - 1 hr. on TM
Sun. Sept. 6 - 1 hr. on TM
Mon. Sept. 7 - 13,151 (birthday cake)
Tues. Sept. 8 - 45 min. on TM
Wed. Sept 9 - 1 hr. on TM
Thurs. Sept. 10 - 1 hr. on TM, 20 lifts

Here's hoping increasing the angle on the treadmill and more lifts help get me off this plateau, but hey! Clearly I'm in better shape overall than I've been in years!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Why Spock was sexy...

I caught part of a classic Star Trek marathon on Space on Monday. I'm dating myself here, but I remember when Star Trek was on TV for the first time. I was in junior high. And oh, the crush I had on Mr. Spock!

I was not alone. Apparently the adoration of the Spock character really took off after the episode where he got the disease that stripped away his emotional restraint. Yep, there was one passionate, wounded guy beneath that logical exterior. He was the epitome of the strong, silent type nursing hidden vulnerabilites.

Cue the swoonin'!

I note that his appeal was never about looks. It was all about restrained passion and hidden vulnerabilities. Emotional depth, not washboard abs.

That's one reason I wasn't too keen on the notion that he's had a relationship with Uhuru in the most recent movie. It doesn't go with my idea of Spock as a person who's been lonely for a long time, who wants to love and be loved, but is held back by his own (and his culture's) idea of how he should behave. Without that loneliness and vulnerability, I don't find the character nearly as fascinating.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Back-to-school cookies

Ever since my kids started school, I've baked chocolate chip cookies on the first day of the new school year. Today is no exception, even though my kids don't live at home anymore (sigh).

Here's the recipe I use. It used to be on the Chipits package of chocolate chips, but now they've doubled it. That makes sense, since the double recipe uses a whole 350 gm. package of chips. On the other hand, that's a lot of cookies.

MM's chocolate chip cookies, with my variations and comments:

Preheat oven to 375

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup shortening (the new recipe says you can use butter, too, but I never do)
1 tsp. vanilla (in the double recipe, it calls for 1 1/2, which means less vanilla. What's up with that???)
1 egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt or less (I just sprinkle a little on, because too much salt is bad for you and I like my cookies soft.)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. I don't like to wash dishes, so I try to conserve wherever possible, so I measure the two sugars first and put in large bowl, then the shortening. Cream together. (This is the most tedious part of the process.)

2. Add egg and vanilla (taking a moment to savor the smell of vanilla and wonder what the heck bakers did before it) and beat into sugar mixture.

3. Measure flour, dump in but don't mix. Measure baking soda and dump on top, then sprinkle salt on top. Using the measuring spoon (see above re saving on dishes to wash), mix the flour, baking soda and salt together a bit on top of the moist ingredients, then stir in. (Easier than combining flour, baking soda and salt in another bowl and then adding!)

4. Stir in chocolate chips.

5. Trying not to eat the yummy, yummy dough, put in spoonfuls on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 10 - 12 minutes. If you use a dark cookie sheet, they will bake faster and be crunchier than if you use an aluminum sheet. This recipe yields about two dozen medium-sized cookies.

When slightly warm or cool, get a glass of milk or cup of tea and enjoy!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

It happens every time....

I'll be working on a book, thinking I have plenty of time until it's due. Yep, plenty of time. Still plenty of time. Then what the - ? No, I don't!

Despite the frequency of this occurrence, I don't usually feel full-blown panic. In fact, I can only remember being really, really panicked once, when my mom had been seriously ill in the hospital and I had four books to write that year. I learned a hard lesson. Always give yourself plenty of extra time when it comes to setting deadlines.

Which I did this year, because of my son's wedding and other family stuff.

I did indeed have plenty of time. And I knew enough to get as much done early, so I'm certainly not panicking. I'm just realizing that...this book needs to be ready to go at the end of the month.

Just before we leave for Italy. And just before The Welsh Lord's Mistress is due to come out.

Wait a minute.

Maybe I should be panicking....

Friday, September 04, 2009

Weight Loss Challenge: Back on the Plateau

I think my body has decided that I should weigh about 135, because despite lots of walking, I weighed in at 134.8 today.

Okay, confession time: lots of walking, not so much with the healthy eating. For instance, on Monday, I had a Dairy Queen blizzard (810 calories). I told myself that if we walked to the DQ and back (about 6,000 steps), it would negate the unhealthy snack, which was actually dinner. Let me say right here, replacing a healthy meal with a calorie and fat-laden treat? Not good.

I managed to go without my cola for a few days, then fell off the wagon while watching So You Think You Can Dance Canada. Not only did I have a Coke, I indulged in Cheese Nips. Not a lot of calories, but enough salt and bad fat to send dieticians into finger-wagging mode, I'm sure.

So, to draw some obvious conclusions: exercise without changing to a more healthy diet? Not going to lead to weight loss.

And I really do think that walking on ye olde person-powered treadmill burns several more calories than walking outside. However, walking outside yields other benefits in terms of sunshine and general overall stress reduction, so I'm aiming for a mix of indoor and outdoor exercise, depending on the weather.

I seriously doubt that I'll make my goal of 130 pounds by Sept. 19 unless I go on a crash diet. But I'm not going on any crash diets, as I think that's a recipe for disaster in terms of overall health. If I make close to 130, great. If not, I'm back on the exercise track, and I know that will pay off whether it's getting my weight a bit lower, or in general good health.

This week's step/treadmill tally:
Friday, Aug. 28 - 1 hr. on TM
Sat. Aug. 29 - 1 hr. on TM
Sun. Aug. 30 - 13,131 steps
Mon. Aug. 31 - 1/2 on TM, 11,696 steps
Tues. Sept. 1 - 18,329 (but full size can of Coke and many Cheese Nips)
Wed. Sept. 2 - 11,533 steps (mini coke and 18 Cheese Nips because they give the calorie count for that many on the box - 90 - for a total snack count of 190)
Thurs. Sept. 3 - 1/2 hr. on TM, because my legs were weary and I had yard work to do
(and discovered our weed wacker that we had repaired? Had died again. Argh.)

Next week, I'll try to do better with the snacks, especially the cola, but if it's hot... Also, I must make the traditional back-to-school chocolate chip cookies, even though there's nobody at home going back to school. (Sigh.) Fortunately, the recipe I use only makes about 1 1/2 dozen, so the temptation and extra calories will be short-lived.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

School Supplies

Yep, it's that time of year again, and once again, I could not resist the lure of the local Staples. I simply had to go, on the pretense of needing new glue.

Which was true.

And photo paper to print pictures.

Also true.

I even incorporated it into my exercise regime, which was a good idea for another reason. You can't go nuts when you have to carry your purchases all the way home (at least 3,000 steps).

So I was strong. I did not even look at the Crayola display. But did my eyes deceive me, or can you now get 90 different color pencil crayons? Or was that regular crayons. I don't know because I literally rushed by.

But I did find something cool and exciting that I'm sure is absolutely going to have a huge impact on my writing.

Well, maybe not huge, pens with erasable ink??? Huzzah! I can (almost) hardly wait for the next round of revisions on the work-in-progress. Almost, because there's still a lot of work left in the work-in-progress.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

So I go to the dentist and come home with new shoes

I didn't get the shoes at the dentist. I got the shoes from the shoe store near the dentist's, which is also close to other stores, like the one where I bought a purse the last time I went to the dentist. I'm thinking there's something about having my teeth cleaned (which isn't always the most comfortable thing in the world) and a need for a reward....

In other news, I'm being followed on Twitter by Hoarders on A&E. I can't tell you how this tickles my funny bone. But seriously, that show? Has me so inspired to clean and get rid of stuff, I can't tell you.

I'm also taking an online course on branding this month. When I have a book due. There's going to be homework. However, since it's a free course, I suppose I can put off the homework until maybe...December...if need be.

Because I recently realized that it's possible that I may be able to do NaNoWriMo this year, if I get my book in before we leave the country for a couple of weeks in October (Italy, here I come!) and if my editor has time to read it before I get back, and if it doesn't require toooo much in the way of revisions. That's a lot of "ifs", but what the heck. I can hope, because it would be great to get that first draft of the next book done, or even almost done, before the Christmas hoopla gets underway.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Hoarders affects me in the following ways...

Sunday I did something I've done maybe once before in my life.

I got together all the various rags in the house, put them in the washer, rinsed them, washed them, rinsed them again and dried them, then ran the washer with vinegar to clean it. I threw out several that were too yucky to ever use again (so why was I keeping them???)

I know exactly what prompted this, as well as certain other cleaning binges over the past couple of weeks: the new show on A&E about hoarders.

Well, that and watching a decorating show while enjoying my morning tea, although I'm finding that this particular decorator's finished rooms all have a sameness to them, and it's not exactly my taste or what I'd do.

Yep, TV is inspiring me to clean my house and get rid of stuff I don't need or use, and to better maintain what I do have.

So you know what I think would be cool? A show about writing or writers that would similarly inspire me to get - and keep - my butt in the chair. :-)