Friday, March 30, 2012

Fitness Friday: The Last 20

Immediately after finding out I'd finalled in the RITAs, I realized 2 things. One, I was going to go to California - WOOO! And two, I was going to need a formal dress. More specifically, I think I said "I need to lose 20 lbs and find a dress.".

In the year and a half before last year's conference, I lost 35 lbs and the good news is I kept it off. The bad news is I really had 50-55 to lose. And for the last 9 months I have not lost any more. I did for a while - about 5 lbs, but it crept back on this winter, leaving me at the same weight as I was when I returned from New York last June.

Now, though, I really want those 20 gone.

There are a couple of good things about staying the same for the last year. I have managed to maintain, which is huge. And it's allowed my body to adjust, and sometimes when that happens, things move quicker when you finally do REALLY start trying to take off the rest.

The good thing is I don't have to make BIG adjustments - just small ones with a good dose of diligence. Here's the plan:

No more skipped workouts unless I'm sick. That means 6 days a week. P90X is my soul-mate workout, and it works out perfectly as a new "round" of it is 90 days which takes me until about mid-June.

Cut back on the wine. This is a tough one because we do make our own. But really, like other things, it should be a treat. I mean I KNOW red wine is good for me but it STILL has calories. So keep it for the weekend.

Watch my starch. This is a BIG THING. There is a lot of research about celiac disease and gluten intolerance.  Here's what I know, simply from listening to my own body. I don't  cut it out completely, but avoiding wheat/gluten reduces bloating and I replace those calories with veggies most of the time. When I eat starch, I keep it to a small baked potato or a whole grain, and if I can avoid gluten at the same time all the better. The whole family likes brown rice pasta, we also use whole wheat pasta and eat brown rice. We also LOVE glass noodles, which I use when I make Thai. I don't eat much bread, though now and again I'll have a whole wheat tortilla. But saving the starch for dinner seems to work best. It's either post or pre workout, and as we sit down as a family it is our most elaborate meal.

Realize I don't have to have a "little something" with my tea after dinner. Just the green tea is fine.

Reduce eating in the evening. If I'm really super hungry (for example, if we had a lighter dinner and/or I had an intense workout), make it a cheese string/half a dozen almonds.

Those are really all the adjustments I need to make. My diet doesn't require an overhaul. What it needs is diligence to keep extra starch portions from creeping in, and eliminating mindless eating.

And after just 3 days the first 1.6 lbs are gone - I don't count Monday because we celebrated with homemade pizza and yes, the husband and I toasted with some wine on Monday night.

What works for me probably won't work for everyone, but eating more veggies and eliminating mindless eating are good strategies for everyone, I think. As far as exercise, I think it's truly important to find something you LOVE and can commit to with excitement and not have it feel like a punishment.

Now, if I could just find a dress....

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

There and Now

Yesterday was a release day of sorts - THERE AND NOW by Linda Lael Miller released as part of Harlequin's Bestselling Author Collection, and to my delight one of my backlist is included as a bonus book. If you missed MARRIAGE AT CIRCLE M the first time around, you can find it in this volume of Linda's.

I've come down from the ceiling, have registered for conference and booked my hotel room. I'm insanely excited about going and can't wait to start building my "schedule" of events - I know there'll be meeting up with my agent and also a tea or lunch or something with the Romance line authors, not to mention the Harlequin party (yay!) and the Eharlequin PJ party. I also plan to take part in the literacy signing...great fun!

But for now I have a story to finish, so I'd better get a move on. Tick tock!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Celebrating Success

It's only right that since my last post was titled Embracing Failure that today's be titled Celebrating Success. Because today is a BIG day. Today I got a call from Romance Writers of America telling me that HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART is a RITA finalist in the Contemporary Series category.

In Romancelandia, the RITA is a Big Deal. It's like the fricking Oscars. Or maybe the Golden Globes because the ceremony is way fun. Every year romance authors submit books for judging and for one day mayhem ensues as the top ranking books in their categories get the nomination nod. I knew I wouldn't get any work done. While finaling is a major long shot (there are 1200 entries across the different categories, with, I believe, Contemporary Series being the largest), there's always that little bit of hope. That chest-crushing anxiety when the phone rings and it's the chiropractor confirming your massage (yes, that happened, about 5 minutes before the actual call). Then there's seeing the news roll in and sending congrats and feeding off all the excitement.

And then today the phone actually did ring. And when the voice on the other end said she was from the board, I did something that I didn't even do when I got The Call from Harlequin.

I burst into tears.

I'm pretty sure I babbled something incoherent while trying to breathe. I know she said something about mailing my five copies to the office straight away for finalist judging. And that I'd be getting a packet in the mail.

And when I hung up the phone, I couldn't stop shaking.

In order: I tweeted, called my husband, e-mailed the Harlequin Romance author loop, my Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada loop, my agent and editor, and Michelle Styles.

I think I'm done shaking now. I've spoken to my editor who called from London and I have my fingers crossed that she is going to make the trip to Nationals in Anaheim because I'm going. I wasn't going to unless I got nominated, but I wouldn't miss this for the world. I just wish I could take the whole family with me.

I'm just so pleased. This was a very special book - my breast cancer survivor book - and Clay and Meg were such lovely characters to write.

And I'm in some pretty fantastic company :

A Bravo Homecoming by Christine Rimmer (Harlequin Special Edition; Gail Chasan, editor)

Donovan's Child by Christine Rimmer (Harlequin Special Edition; Gail Chasan, editor)

Doukakis's Apprentice by Sarah Morgan (Harlequin Presents; Lucy Gilmour, editor)
How a Cowboy Stole Her Heart by Donna Alward (Harlequin Romance; Sally Williamson, editor)

I'll Catch You by Farrah Rochon (Harlequin Kimani Romance; Glenda Howard, editor)
A Mother's Homecoming by Tanya Michaels (Harlequin American Romance; Kathleen Scheibling, editor)

Rancher's Twins: Mom Needed by Barbara Hannay (Harlequin Romance; Meg Lewis, editor)
The Texan's Bride by Linda Warren (Harlequin Superromance; Kathleen Scheibling, editor)

Check out the full list of finalists.

And a special congrats to my RWAC Chapter mate Nikki Figueredo who has finalled in the Golden Heart (for unpublished). Way to represent, chick!

Tomorrow I'll be back slogging my way through word count. But for today, I'm just going to enjoy the glow. I'm too distracted to focus on anything else!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Embracing Failure

This week the Crows of Doubt have come out in force. I'm smack dab in the middle of my current work-in-progress, sitting at the 40,000 mark. Usually I'm wrapping up a story at this point, and moving into the last chapter or two. Not so this time, because I'm writing something that is bigger than anything I've ever written before.

It's unfamiliar territory. My footing isn't so sure. And right from the start I knew I was going to have to embrace the "write crap" attitude and just get to the end so I can see what I've got. If I worry about things being perfect as I go, I'll never reach the end. I need to reach the end first and then see the work as a whole.

The whole problem in a nutshell is that I'm writing more external plot, more subplots, a bigger cast and about more than just the romantic relationship. Which is exciting and yes, I'm loving exploring the different bits that normally I have to forego in a 50,000 word book that is focused on the romance specifically. The problem for me is cohesiveness, making sure that scenes happen for a reason, that they all tie together in a certain way, in a correctly paced way, so that it all comes together in the end.

Enter crows.

A few nights ago I tweeted the following: The crows of doubt are circling, ya'll. The "why did I ever think I could do this" variety. Sigh.

And it can be tempting to go back to what I'm good at. It's easier. It's COMFORTABLE. But I can't. For a few reasons. First of all, I want to do this. Really, really want it. If I give up, I'll always regret it. I KNOW THIS.

Secondly, I know that the only way through writing difficult books is to just get through them. It's not like each and every Harlequin Romance has been a breeze either.

Then there's the fact that I KNOW I've been keeping an insane pace for several months now and I may just need a day or two off to refill the well.

And perhaps most importantly of all, I know that I'm taking a risk. This book may never ever see store shelves even after I've invested a LOT of time into it. I remind myself that in the "old days" before publication, none of my writing was wasted. I tell this to unpublished writers all the time.  Why should I be any different? If this book doesn't cut it, does that mean it was wasted? Of COURSE not. Because I will have learned something - probably a lot - by writing it. And like before, I just have to try again and keep trying until I get it right. Yes, it's scary because writing a book this size means taking time away from work that guarantees me pay. This is when I have to remind myself that it's OK to embrace failure. It's okay to accept that I might fail at this because that is where the most growth happens.

Oddly enough, and in a rather serendipitous way, my friend Barb Wallace posted on her group blog The Moody Muses that very day. Her post was about the best advice she ever got and it was "Don't compare your journey to anyone else's." SO timely for me. I see huge successes happening all around me and here I am struggling through a book that I am not at all sure about. But they have their journey and I have mine. I tell people all the time that things happen when the time is right. Doctor, heal thyself, right? (In other words, take your own advice, Donna!)

Then yesterday Katy, one of the other Muses, posted this about Failing to Succeed and how we have to be willing to suck in order to get better.

I needed to read those posts pretty badly. And in fact, I felt so much better after that I wrote a LOT of words yesterday. Because the important thing is to just DO IT and not let the fear cripple me into second-guessing every word I put on the page.

In the end, it'll work or it won't. But I KNOW I'll be glad I've done it.

What risk are you taking these days?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Purging

Spring has arrived - or at least, spring-like conditions have arrived a few days ahead of the 21st. We've had a few great sunny, warm days and just like every year, I get the urge to clean. Organize. Tidy.

I've also been feeling a bit burnt-out-ish lately - the last 6 months have been really, really busy without much let-up - granted I took a few weeks writing off at Christmas but then everyone was home and it was just as busy but in a different way.

And as a result - a little of the weight I lost and had been at least maintaining has managed to creep back on (about 5 lbs worth).

So purging sounds like a good idea. 

What am I purging? Well, for starters, yesterday we cleaned the house and I also cleaned a lot of stuff up in the basement. We also got 3 garbage bags ready for goodwill - we went through the kids clothes and took out anything that didn't fit and I also finally let go of a bunch of clothes in my closet - the "nice" clothes that were too big but that were dressier and hadn't been worn much. My penny-pincher side didn't want to let them go. But the side of me that never wants to be able to fit into them again put them in the bag. The bags are in the truck and today I'll drop them off. We got our bottle recycling ready too, and I sorted out foreign editions to donate to libraries - no sense in them taking up room in my basement.

There's a lot more purging to be done but it was a good start.

Today's task is a little more difficult - today I need to purge the  bad habits that have snuck back into my life. Taking a day off between workouts (even though I've been doing a lot of walking. It's not the same thing). Giving in to starch cravings (bread, bread, bread, pasta, bread...). A glass of wine during the week (weekend treat only!). Not drinking enough water.

Those changes are the difference between staying the same/gaining and staying the same/losing.

Do you do a spring purge? Have you had the urge to do a massive clean and organize things?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Fitness Friday: Pancakes that pack a punch

One of the things I often do is try to add extra nutrition in regular recipes. In this case, I took a whole wheat pancake recipe and took it to a whole other level. The result is a yummy, soft, light pancake that is jam-packed full of goodness.

Ready?

POWER PANCAKES

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 tbsp flax seeds
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk (or 1% milk, slightly soured with 1 tsp vinegar)
1/2 cup blueberries
pinch of cinnamon if desired

Mix your dry ingredients, add your wet and mix until smooth. Stir in blueberries and then fry using non-stick spray. Will make 12  4-5 inch pancakes.

We always eat them with a little light syrup.

I find the addition of protein powder adds to the tenderness which balances out the whole wheat flour nicely as well as giving them a protein kick. Then you have the great vitamins in blueberries, the fibre of the flax and whole wheat... yum.

If you wanted to reduce the fat and sugar content further, you could use egg substitute for the egg and stevia or splenda for the sugar. I don't recommend losing the oil though - it helps keep things from getting tough.

Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

First Responders

I had e-mail from my Samhain editor today - good news for those of you waiting for the second and third installments of the FIRST RESPONDERS series! The date for IN THE LINE OF DUTY has been moved up to August 28th, and INTO THE FIRE will be out on November 13.

I'm thrilled both will be out before the end of the year! I can't wait to see the cover art, either. As soon as I've been through edits, look for excerpts to show up on my website.

In other news, we're in the middle of a winter storm here today, and I soon have to brave the elements to take doggies for walkies, otherwise they get too restless and drive me crazy. We're sticking close to home, though. I'm working on Hideaway Hill and doing laundry - exciting times.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

THE LAST REAL COWBOY on NetGalley


If you're a romance reviewer, this post is for you: THE LAST REAL COWBOY is up on NetGalley and available for review. If you're a reviewer and not yet on NetGalley, you can apply and once approved, download books for review.

The NetGalley link to THE LAST REAL COWBOY is right here!

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's all Crap. Well, Almost All.

So on Saturday I took my girls shopping and to lunch. Believe it or not, I could NOT decide on a book at the bookstore. It might have to do with having a bunch of "I really want to get to these" books on my shelf. So while they came home with FOUR, I came home with a note pad. Or more specifically, a CRAP pad.

You see, I'm always saying that I have too much crap on my list. Well lo and behold here I can put all my crap on its own crap list. There's crap to do, crap to buy, and other crap. You can even rate your crappiness.

It tickled my funnybone so I bought it. I love it. I've already used it. LOTS.

But it's not ALL crap. I did get a lovely phone call today, with the news that A FAMILY FOR THE RUGGED RANCHER and HOW A COWBOY STOLE HER HEART are both finalists in the Colorado Award of Excellence. That's a nice way to start a week!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Fitness Friday: PUSH

The first book I read after finishing all my RITA reading is PUSH by Chalene Johnson. Chalene's involved with Beachbody and because I'm fairly active on their site and use their programs her name was familiar to me. I've been wanting to try TurboJam or Turbofire for a while now, and a friend of mine lent me some of the TurboJam dvds and also this book to try. No one wants to lay down a whole bunch of cash on a program they don't like.

I liked TurboJam, and found the lower body jam a bit easy to be honest, but then I was stiff the next morning so I think it worked more than it first appeared. I also liked that it was 30 min and not an hour - I'm not rushing out to buy it yet, but the big thing for me is liking the leadership of a workout. If I don't like to follow you I'm not going to care how awesome you'll make me. I have to want to spend 30 min or an hour with you. Which is why I didn't like 30 Day Shred. Jillian Michaels just isn't for me. Tony Horton rocks it all day long. Also why another one of my dvds is gathering dust. I tried it for something different one day and realized that you really want to work out with a buddy, not someone you want to reach through the tv and strangle (or mute!)

But back to the book - PUSH. Chalene has a great sense of humour and this is a book as much about success in life as it is about health and weight loss. There's a lot of talk about goals and prioritizing and lists which is right up my alley. There's less instruction on the mechanics of diet and exercise than there is on what Tony calls "getting your mind right". And I agree 100% with her distinction of the terms "On a diet" and "having a diet". I have a diet. I don't go ON diets. I also agree with her term "soul-mate workout" because that's what I find with P90X. It's why I always come back to it now, even if I take a few days off and do other stuff.

I was especially impressed with the chapter at the end on relationships. Seriously - this is a woman who has her $hit together. PUSH is about living your best life and not all about hitting your ideal weight.

If there is ONE thing that drove me bonkers (and it did!) it was the insistence on having a smart phone. Maybe I'm the only one on the planet who doesn't have one. But everything she insisted you do on your phone, you can do in other ways. It would drive me crazy to be attached to a phone all the time. Oddly enough, I don't seem to mind being attached to my computer. Maybe my phone phobia has to do with the few years my husband was attached to his blackberry...

Anyway, enough with the phone. I'm plugged in so much now that the idea of apps and stuff just...ick.  To me that doesn't simplify, that complicates, and I'm big into simplifying lately. Instead I have a notepad with the day's list for each day, and use my outlook calendar to keep things straight. It works for me.

But seriously - I don't want to scare you off with the phone thing. This book is really worth reading.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Lazy Critters

This week has been crazy-busy as usual...is it April 1 yet?...but by 8:00 pm or so we generally wind down around here. At least the pets do, and their favourite thing to do is hang out on the couch in front of the television. Especially if there happens to be a human body on one end of the couch. Last night that human body happened to be the Husband. Who managed to snap this pic of his couch buddies on his iphone. Our dog HATES having her picture taken and runs away if someone so much as points a phone in her direction, so it's a testament to her exhaustion/extreme laziness that she didn't even blink when he clicked it.

It's a dog's (and cat's) life, isn't it?

Back tomorrow.



Monday, March 05, 2012

Drive By....

What I had hoped to be a snow day turned out to be a regular Monday with a to-do list the size of the Nile, so you can read about my Snow Day that Wasn't over at www.petticoatsandpistols.com.

I have been tackling said to-do list with a vengeance, so instead I'll leave you with a photo that was in Halifax's SNAP magazine, from our Hearts on Fire event that took place on February 9th. Lots and lots of red - the perfect colour for Valentine's Day. :-)

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Put to bed...

Today is one of those blah days where my motivation is at zip. A day where I busy myself with small jobs to feel like I've done SOMETHING when in truth I have the energy of a slug. BUT, I've posted the first lesson in my To Agent or Not To Agent course and chatted with some of the attendees, AND I've talked to my agent and also my editor who perked up my day by telling me that the copy edit changes I sent back yesterday are all good AND Sleigh Ride with the Rancher is also accepted - my revisions were fine.

It feels really good to have both those projects put to bed. And my WIPS word count meters on the side have been reduced substantially in the last few weeks. At one point I think there were five or six up there. Now we're down to...two.

Amazing.

Anyway I should actually go make some word count before the day gets away from me, AND I have to work on a blurb and art sheet that is giving me fits right now.

It's either that or...*shudders* the ironing.