Monday, 11 November 2013

how not to diet like a writer...

A few weeks ago I decided to go on a diet. I approached this latest plan like any good writer would and started with research. I went to the library and borrowed every book on dieting that I could find - low fat, low carb, eat for your blood type, only eat soup, fast for two days, the LBD diet... Then I bought a copies of all the latest slimming magazines - so that I was up to date with the latest diet info.

As soon as the kids were in bed, and hubby at work, I sat down to research. As we all know, a well informed person always succeeds - right? Ten minutes into reading I was hungry. Concentrating is hard work. I picked up the phone and ordered a pizza and chocolate cake. I happily munched my way through a meat lovers pizza, while keeping one eye on the latest episode of Castle, and reading through my research.

After my pizza, and research, I came to the conclusion that the worst thing about dieting was deprivation. I didn't want to miss all those foods that I loved. So I made a list. I put everything I love to eat on it - pizza (of course), cake, fudge, chicken Korma, creamy pasta carbonara, bacon and eggs, exotic breads, steaming hot chocolate with cream - you get the idea. The plan was to keep that list pinned to the wall and remind myself that once I'd lost the weight I could indulge again - in moderation of course. I'd read a LOT about moderation during my research. The main thing to tell myself was that foods I loved weren't gone forever, just for a while. I was optimistic.

Then I had another idea. Why not give a proper farewell to all the foods I love and eat them before the diet starts? That way I could get wanting them out of my system and I'd be able to focus on the diet a whole lot better. It was genius. I spent about ten days eating my way through everything on the list - it was a big list. I ticked each item off as I went, feeling very smug that my diet was going so well already. I'd researched everything I needed to know, I was prepared and I was eliminating the temptation of all the foods I craved. Meanwhile, so that I wasn't distracted from my mission, I kept reading the diet books while I ate through my list and I started a spreadsheet for all the low carb/low fat meals I would eat after I got rid of the temptation.
I even dusted off my treadmill and spent hours planning a walking/running programme for me to follow. I worked hard. In my head.

When the ten days were up I had gained 6 pounds. I was so sick of reading diet books that the mere thought of anything to do with a diet made me feel nauseous. And I was so lethargic from all the food I'd eaten that I couldn't step on my treadmill let alone look at it.

I'd like to say I've learned from this experience, but the sad truth is I probably haven't. Part of me STILL believes that my approach was completely logical. Unfortunately, it's the same part of me that's now 6 pounds heavier...

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

sharing the book bounty...

Just a short, and sweet, post to let you know that I'm running a competition on my website. I'm giving away a bundle of new romance books that I got from the Romance Writers of New Zealand Conference! 

a mysterious bundle of the latest and greatest in romance!

There are a variety of romance genres, big names and new names and they're all looking for a new home. All you have to do is answer the question to enter the draw. Competition ends September 30th and anyone can enter, no matter where you live. I hope you'll join in!

see you there,

Sunday, 18 August 2013

confessions of a fashion phobic writer...

Okay, this is going to shock some of you, I know it. For about ten years now I've been living in jeans, T-shirts and a variety of sneakers. I can't remember the last time I wore makeup and my hair is always tied up in a messy bun on top of my head - which means I can skip days wrestling with the curls. If Oprah was sitting here right now she's be doing a segment on women who let themselves go! I'd like to clarify that I don't look like a troll. I just don't dress up! (just in case your image of me is a tiny hairy creature who barely changes her clothes...)

With two tiny kids, who have permanent sticky hands, there never seemed any point in making an effort. I'm all about function and comfort. Which was fine, but now I'm off to the New Zealand Romance Writers conference next weekend, and the dress code for the Saturday awards dinner is glam!

So I went shopping for glam. The first thing I did was buy a pair of high heels. And when I say high, I mean stilts high. Why I did this, I have no idea. The shoes called to me. It was as though I was in a trance. I have no recollection of paying for them. One minute I was drooling over them, the next I was home trying them on. Honestly, I wish they'd called to someone else, because I've never worn heels higher than an inch. The new shoes look kind of like these, only mine have a peep toe and no gold lightning bolt.
I put them on as soon as I got home - to practice walking. And a 6.6 earthquake hit our region. I was on stilts and the floor was moving. It took about 30 seconds for me to land on my backside. Now I don't have the courage to try them again. I did however google "how to walk in heels" - you have no idea how many videos there are showing you how to walk. And much to my disgust, I've been doing it wrong all these years. I thought, heel then toe, but when on stilts it's toe then heel. I tried this, just in bare feet, and I look like I a constipated chicken. Might have to rethink the shoes.

Today, I went looking for a dress. I should point out that the last time I wore a dress was twenty years ago. I didn't even wear one when I got married, I wore trousers. (You all think I'm a tomboy slob now, don't you?!) Anyway, I took my two tiny girls on an hour's drive to the next town to go shopping. I tried on every dress in the shop. Some of them more than once. My girls were very well behaved for the first hour, then started chanting "we're so bored" for about twenty minutes. Then they got bored of that too. So they decided to peek under the changing room curtain while I was undressing. The curtain gaped and I flashed my wares to the shop staff and a very embarrassed middle aged couple. I had to wait until they left before I came out of the changing room. I was hoping that if they saw me around the mall, they wouldn't recognise me with my clothes on. 

This is the dress I picked.

That's not me wearing it - sadly.

So now I have makeup I can't use (see the last blog post for that one), shoes I can't walk in, a dress I can't zip up without help and underwear that takes a team to tug on. Oh, forgot about the underwear. A friend of mine told me I needed Spanx, so I dutifully bought some. When I asked the girls at the counter if you bought it in your size, or the size you wanted to be, there was much hilarity. In case you were wondering - you get your own size!

I'll let you know how the big event goes. I may even take a picture of me looking glam! It's funny though, I thought I was just going to Wellington was a fun weekend away. Instead I'm visiting another planet - one without black T-shirts and sneakers. There's a possibility I won't return. Already I've developed an unhealthy attachment to my mascara and every shoe shop I pass whispers my name...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

this is my life...

Thought I'd walk you through a week in my life. I'd like to say this isn't typical, but it pretty much is.

Monday: Discovered my pet sheep is "with child", which means I'm about to have another pet sheep. Husband shook his head and went over our options - sell the lamb, turn the lamb into sausages. I covered my pet sheep's ears - it would be like selling a family member. I told him he'd just have to come to terms with being a grandparent, and then I told him off for leaving the gates open, which enabled the ram to find my pet. At which point he left, muttering under his breath.

Tuesday: Pet sheep is hormonal and keeps kicking the back door to demand sandwiches. Meanwhile, I have the dentist tomorrow and I'm getting an anesthetic for the first time ever. I'm completely convinced that I will have a bad reaction to it and die in the dental chair. Instead of spending the day working on my new book, I spend it writing "last letters" to my family... I debate whether or not to leave a video message, but decide I'd like to loose a few pounds before doing that and there isn't time if I'm going to die tomorrow. Husband shakes his head and mutters.

Wednesday: I spend my waiting time in the dental surgery breathing into a paper bag - much to the horror of other patients. Meanwhile husband rubs my back and sings Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Relax" to me - NOT helpful! After grilling the anesthetist with many stupid questions, I get an IV in my hand, feel dizzy for about ten seconds and wake up an hour later. I don't remember anything about it and although I'm minus a wisdom tooth, I have no pain for hours. I now LOVE anesthetic. I should have it for everything, in fact it would be great it keep it on hand for those days when I need a little time out. In my whoozy state I write a thank you card and send it to the dentist.

Thursday: I'm in pain. The sheep is demanding more bread and her baaing is like a dental drill on my brain. My 8 year old wants to put on a dance show in the living room. The throbbing in my jaw is at odds to the rhythm of the music. I discover I can't chew, so everything has to be blended. It's a liquid food diet. After a two hour dance show I'm wondering if a person can live on vodka - that's a liquid, right? I don't drink, but it isn't too late to start. To cheer myself up, I call the local beauty counter and book a make-over for the following morning.

Friday: With a swollen face and dark circles under my eyes, from being awake and in pain all night, I go for my make-over. The make up artist is wearing LOTS of blue eye shadow and black eye liner. She looks like someone punched her - twice. I emphasize that I want a natural look. 45 minutes later, I have so much foundation on that my face looks it's been vacuum formed out of plastic. My eyebrows, which are bushy already, now look like two small hairy creatures that are living on my forehead. And my eye shadow is blue. I smile, firmly refuse to buy anything she used on my face and leave to wipe it all off. Before I can remove the makeup, I run into my dentist. He's grinning widely. "I got your note," he says. "I'm glad you love me that much, it's good to know." I hang my head in shame and go home.

Saturday: My jaw is feeling better. I actually get some writing done. I put the girls in the bath, tell them to play and then I knock off a chapter while they splash about. Then the call of "muuuum" rings out - apparently my three year old thought it was a good idea to put a marble up her bum. Yep, you read that right. And the thing that upset her the most was that it was her favorite purple one. I get them out the bath, call my husband, who's working as a nurse in the Emergency Department, and ask him what to do. After a short conversation, which was mostly made up of him laughing, I'm told that all I can do is feed her lots of fruit and monitor what comes out the other end.

Sunday: I am the toilet monitor. The marble comes out and my three year old cries when I throw it away. Seriously, she wanted to keep it!? I've put my sheep in her paddock because her mood swings are driving me mental. My dog has stolen my mobile phone again and buried it somewhere in the garden - the girls are looking for it now. The chapter I wrote yesterday is too dark for a romantic comedy - it also mentions teeth a lot - so I'm starting again. Oh, and it's soup for dinner. On top of all this - I have another appointment with the dentist tomorrow...

Sunday, 28 July 2013

the things earthquakes make you do...

Life in Kiwi Land is a little rocky. Last week we had several large earthquakes in the Cook Strait - the water between the two islands. Wellington took a bashing, but nowhere near as bad as the slamming Christchurch has been through in recent years. Still, it was enough to make everyone in the earthquake zone nervous. And it was more than enough to make me prepare a survival kit - just in case.

Here's a list of what I put in our family survival box:
  • Sleeping bags
  • candles
  • gas stove and canisters
  • can opener
  • flashlights
  • toilet paper
  • laptop
  • kindle ebook reader - fully charged
  • some paperback books
  • notebooks and pens
  • earplugs
  • reading light
  • adapter for car so I can charge everything
  • chocolate

When my husband got home from work, I proudly showed off my emergency container. After a minute patiently listening while I listed everything, my husband gutted himself laughing, which I found offensive after all my hard work. 
"Where's the emergency food?" he asked through giggles. "What's a can opener without cans? I see a stove, were you planning on eating the pets?"
"Ah..." I replied.
"Family medications?" he said. 
"Ah..." I replied, wondering how I could have missed these things.
"Passports? Birth certificates? insurance numbers?" he carried on with a grin.
"Camping dishes? Or are we using leaves as plates and eating with sticks?"
I was silent.
This is I had thought about.
"We have a stream," I said proudly.
He just laughed. "How about water purifying tablets?" He said when he'd calmed down. "Or food for the animals? A mobile phone? Radio? Kids toys? Change of clothes? Waterproof gear?" 
By this stage my survival kit wasn't looking too impressive. 
He ruffled my hair with a grin on his face. 
"I know you THINK it's an emergency when you're separated from your kindle," he told me, "but there's more to surviving a disaster than having a book to read."

Maybe so, but  if there's a disaster and I'm stuck camping in my garden with my kids and all of our animals - I'm going to NEED those books and earplugs! The ultimate survival of our family might depend upon it. I can totally see me snapping under the pressure. As far as I can see - chocolate and a good book are an emergency kit! 

Needless to say, we've come to a compromise. Husband is now going to pack the family kit and I'm going to pack a smaller "Janet Survival Kit" - and nobody is getting my chocolate!

So what about you? Do you have an emergency kit? Is there something you couldn't live without if everything went pear shaped? 

Sunday, 30 June 2013

six things a romance novel must have!

Okay, I'm ranting. You have been warned! :) Been reading a LOT of romance novels these past few weeks - while on a break between writing books. Some of them grabbed my attention, some of them made me mad. In turn it got me thinking about what is absolutely essential in a romance novel. So, I'm making a list! This is just my own personal rant, I don't expect you to agree with everything. If you have anything to add, let me know!

So here we go. Six things a romance novel must have:

  • Romance!  

Seriously, people, I've read so many books recently where there is little, if any, actual romance in the book. Sure there's lots of sex (and we all love that) but it isn't romance. I miss the seeing the sparks fly between the couple and witnessing each glancing touch. I want to read about those thoughts you never thought you would have, but find they run riot in your head. Or even more delicious, that first look. The moment when you know, without any way to back it up, that that person is meant for you. Sigh. You can keep your whips and chains, I want more romance in my romance novels!
  • Love! 
I want romance that leads to love. Not to a break up, or a declaration that it was all friends with benefits, or some other "mature" version of that cop out. No. I want to see the hope of love. Otherwise what's the point? (I can already hear people reminding me about the sex again!) There's been a real dearth of actual, self-sacrificing, life-changing love in the books I've been reading. I want to see it develop, I want to feel that it's real, I want it to have depth and meaning and lead to acts that are selfless. I want to see real love, people!
  • Sexy men! 
I'm not talking about the taciturn ex-cop/army/CIA/fireman with six pack abs and a chiseled jaw. (Although, having written that, it doesn't sound that bad!) I'm talking about real men, with faults and flaws, whose histories don't define them, men who aren't afraid of love or commitment. Honourable men who know how to lead and how to nurture. Scars, muscles, hair colour - they're all well and good - but give me a hero who knows how to love a woman and I'll fall at his feet.
  • Believable heroines! 
I'm tired of reading about mousy women who don't seem to have anything going for them,  YET the gorgeous Adonis of a hero falls madly in love with them!! If I can't see what's so compellingly attractive about this heroine I sure as heck don't know how the hero spotted it! I want to see women who are attractive in every way, women who have personalities that draw you in, women without the angst of a past hanging over them, women who aren't afraid to love themselves and let someone else love them. I want to see heroines that actually suit the heroes, and not just bland women with fantasy/cartoon men!
  • Plot! 
Seriously, there has to be something more to the book than the couple having sex in a million different places, in a million different positions. Something has to happen. How about writing an actual story? How about characters that change and develop? How about background story that's captivating, or a mystery on the side, or drama that takes you on an emotional roller coaster? I want people to tell me a story, not just describe the sex scenes, otherwise I may as well just dig out that old copy of The Joy of Sex and read that instead!
  • A happy ever after! 
I want to see resolution. I don't want to get to the end of the book and find out it's part of a never ending series that will leave me with no idea as to how the characters get together. Leave something else in the book hanging, but resolve the romance. Please! I want the characters to have their day in the sun, to see love triumph and hope win, to have everything shiny and perfect for a moment - I know, melodrama much! But I HATE getting to the end of a book and discovering it only outlines the start of the story and you have to buy the other books to get the end. I want the whole story. And I want it now!!!

Okay, just read through my rant and it looks like I hate sex! :) I'm laughing as I write. Who doesn't love a good sex scene? But I'd like the rest of my romance novel too please!  So what do you think? Am I right, or have I gone overboard again? Let me know! :)

Friday, 21 June 2013

I'm freezing my socks off...

Winter has hit New Zealand. Pretty much the whole of the South Island is under snow. The news is full of it. Which I can't understand. We're the nearest country to Antarctica, we get snow every year - why is this still a surprise to people?! It was the same when I lived in the south of England. Every winter British Rail would grind to a halt because - shock, horror - leaves fell on the train tracks!! And every year trains were late and cancelled, and every year a representative from British Rail would comment on the news that they had been caught unawares... I'm shaking my head here people!

This is the South Island. Pretty - but cold! It's one of the worst storms in decades...

Anyway, I live in the North Island and although most of us aren't under snow, we're still being hit by a huge storm. And it's freezing. I know, I know, I'm Scottish and should be used to the cold. I will NEVER get used to the cold!! In fact, if my husband's head didn't turn beetroot red when the temperature went over 27 degrees Celsius, I'd move to the tropics. To make matters worse, not only am I genetically incapable of dealing with the cold, I'm also genetically incapable of building a darn fire.

Okay, if I opened my front door to that, I might have called the news too!

Like most Kiwis we have a wood burning fire in our home. Unlike most Kiwis it takes me about two hours average to get a fire going. It takes my husband five minutes tops, which is hysterical to everyone who lives with me. My tiny girls stand around while I try to get the fire going, saying things like - "Papa would have done that by now?" and "You're doing this wrong, that's not how Papa does it?" - it's very helpful...

 Hubby making a fire, cat sleeping and my book ready to proof on the treadmill...
I've watched how he does it and I still can't replicate his success. It's gotten so bad, that when my husband is out for an evening and I can't get the fire going - I just give up. I end up in bed at 7pm, with my electric blanket on high, reading a book. (Oh, how I suffer!)

Anyway, as I said, it's freezing, it's pouring and the wind is howling. My four cats are asleep on the couches. My dog is under the duvet on my bed and my sheep keeps trying to sneak in the house. I can't say I blame her, woolly coat or not, I'd rather be in the house too!

Hope the weather is much better wherever you are. If you're sitting in the sun, I want to know about it - then I can live vicariously through you! :)