Friday, December 30, 2011

Be A Healthy Writer in 2012

I've been working really hard to lose weight I'd gained as a result of a Thyroid malfunction. It hasn't been easy and many of my readers have watched me slowly lose the weight over the course of 6 months. In addition to losing 19 pounds with 11 pounds to shed, I've also increased my fitness levels. I have worked out hard and the results are showing in a firmer and more toned body.

As a writer I am very sedentary because it requires sitting in front of a computer screen, whimpering on occasion, and writing in a fixed position. Sometimes I don't want to leave my fictional world to go to the gym because I'm so involved in the story I'm crafting. Sometimes I am unable to leave my writing to take a full hour or more to workout because I have a deadline to meet. Sometimes I don't want to workout just because I'm feeling lazy. But I do. The greatest challenge for me is when I have a deadline.

No. I am not published yet, but I have deadlines. I enter contests to put myself into that position. I hold myself accountable and treat myself as a published writer because once I am published I will have to meet deadlines all the time. There is no time like the present to hone the skill of meeting a professional deadline.

But I must take care of myself. Here are my strategies for protecting myself from a widening derriere and writer's bloat in 2012 particularly when I am in deadline mode.

*Go to the gym and vary my workouts. I attend Zumba and Pilates classes as well as use the weight machines.
*When in Deadline Mode, force myself to get up every hour and move for 15 minutes. This can be stretching, dancing in front of the TV to a music channel, or doing Max Capacity. You can access Max Capacity here.
*Walk. I've discussed this with a writing buddy. We plan on alternating houses every week and writing together. We'll set the timer for 60 minutes, then when it beeps we will walk for fifteen. We'll talk while we walk.
*Get the Fitbit. You can learn more about the Fitbit here. I plan to walk 10,000 steps a day. This will hold me accountable to remaining fit and strong.
*Pay myself a quarter for every workout. A healthy writer is a strong writer. This all contributes to my writing fund which pays for writing activities.
*Look for unique ways to ramp up my fitness levels by doing Wii Dance Programs and attending different classes which challenge my strength and flexibility.
*Feed my body healthy foods so I can increase my health and brain power.

What are your plans for staying strong and healthy in 2012? Do you have any tips for me? I'd love to learn all about it!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Facebook and Current Status

I'm working a bit today. I have been working for about an hour a day except for Christmas Eve, Christmas, and Boxing Day. I'm not writing a lot as I am in revise mode, but a little every day will prepare me to write faster and smarter when the new year begins.

I'm excited about the new year. 2012 has tons of possibilities. I've got a lot to catch up on from 2011, a new goal list to make and a brand new critique partner to add to my cadre of critique people. It's small, but I am excited about the level of their writing, the commitment they've made to writing, and the way their work will help me achieve my goals, too.

I've got a few "housekeeping" details to take care of as well.

Here is one. I have a Facebook Fan page and I'm trying to drive up the numbers of "likes" I have on it. If you click here, you can check it out and "like" me.

I also have to go back on my dreaded diet. No more Twinkie Tiramasu for me. I'm working out, but the food intake is not balanced by the exercise. A bit of a weight gain. Nothing substantial, but I can't go backwards. Stay tuned and stay with me in 2012 when I start posting my healthy recipes and diet/exercise adventures. I've got roughly 10-12 pounds left to lose and then the maintenance. I'm on Weight Watchers Online and will ramp up my use of the tools in 2012.

There are a lot of loose ends to tie in the personal department. Teen is checking out colleges, I've got an overflowing in-box. And the house needs some handyman touchups. The good news is I have a wonderful clean floor thanks to my new MINT floor sweeper and mopper. This tiny robot really does do a good job. It's worth every penny. If it could vacuum it would be perfect.

I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday with your friends and family. On Friday I will check in and share my goals with you for 2012 as well as review my 2011 goals. And if you haven't got a Top Five Priority list, I will walk you through the steps.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Boxing Day and Gift Review

Well I had a fantastic Christmas Day. I was thrilled with all my presents. I got everything I asked for and more. I don't ask for a lot, but they came through in spades this year. The Physicist and the Teen gave me a MINT floor cleaner which I have wanted ever since I saw my friend's MINT to it's cleaning tasks. I can't wait to use it today to see how it cleans. Then I got Sirius Radio for my car and I am super happy with that, too. I am getting it installed this week. I also got tons of Bath & Body Works lotions, shower gels, body butters and fragrance spray in my current favorite scent, White Citrus. They gave me cool gloves which allow you to text while wearing them! Santa brought me fun mints, hand cream, thisis and thatises. All fun.

I'm also really thrilled with the surprise the Physicist and the Teen concocted for me. I got a headshot session to set up in 2012. This makes me happy on all kinds of levels. I wanted to set one up for the new year just in case, maybe, one day, in the near future I actually need a decent back cover shot. And that they believe in my dream enough to give this gift means the world and more to me. I'm super super super happy and excited about this gift.

The best gift I received was time spent with my family. We chilled out, we went to see a fantastic movie, we cooked a lovely meal, we watched a fun television show series on DVD. Simple things. Simple pleasure. Simple life. But a life I cherish.

I hope your day was equally as bright and merry!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Health and Happiness through the Holidays

Holidays can be more stressful than any other time of the year. Expectations rise. Disappointments occur. Illusions flop. And with all the added stress, some people turn to food to fill the empty hole in their hearts. Even if one isn't sad or stress throughout the holiday season, there are a lot of temptations out there calling our names. Fattening meals, sugary treats, succulent and savory treats.

Over-indulgence is almost expected. Cheered on. Dieting? Through the holidays? Not so much. So what is a person to do if she is on a diet and trying to lose weight for health reasons? Give up? Cave in? Gain a bit?

Maybe. But this girl isn't giving up or caving in. She's seeing results so she's not willing to see that scale go up. That would stress this girl out.

My solution to the holiday temptations? Balance.

I'm not denying myself a slice or two of my favorite cheeses nor am I eating a frozen low cal meal for Christmas dinner. I've got two heavy meals planned for this week. One is a Disney Themed meal which will have some pretty high calorie dishes including Twinkie Tiramasu. I can't wait to make it and to taste it. I've also got my favorite pot roast planned for this evening along with a dreamy chocolate lava cake for dessert. I've decided to make Oreo Truffles with my daughter as well as our favorite Chocolate Sambucca cookies. They're tradition.

I don't want to lose weight right now. But maintaining the number is important. First weapon against gaining is working out. I've been to the gym every day or out walking for at least half an hour. I'm adding additional time to the gym next week to offset the calories. I'm also weighing every day to make sure that the scale remains in balance. Frankly, I've worked too hard to lose this weight. I don't want to lose it again and again and again. I also am eating very healthy and low cal foods during my other meals. Same low cal breakfast and lunch and dinners with large salads.

And best of all, my family is on board with this plan. It helps. A lot!!

I'm doing my best to remain on track during the holiday season. What are you doing to keep on track?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Clean Shave -- What's in Your Shower Stall?

On Saturday I gouged my poor leg with a new razor blade. I've used this brand for a lot of years and I loved it, but now they have all these extra skin smoothers built into their shaver which increase the likelihood of my getting nicked and cut. Since I got the new "embrace" shaver I have had 1 major gouge and 5 or more minor nicks. Those nicks BLEED a lot! And they are a pain to deal with when I'm trying to get ready for the day. Any rate, someone suggested I go back to using the original cartridges by my brand's company. I thought GREAT I will. But when I went to the store to buy them, they were not there. The company no longer makes them. Then I thought, well I'll just get another brand's shaver. No luck. They all have this ridiculous goop built into them and I am not using them again. I ended up coming home with 3 disposable shavers. But I'm determined to find one that doesn't have the goop on it and to get a  more permanent shaver in the shower.

Why did they change their shaver methodology? Why? I am on a mission to find a new razor blade which I can use in my shower. One without the stupid goop on it. I like my skin just the way it is. Anyone have a suggestion for me? What's in your shower stall?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Ah, Statistics & Triumphs

I've been on a diet program to lose weight since the end of July. The weight gain wasn't really my fault--thyroid went wonko on me--but I sure did want to lose it once we adjusted the medication dosages. I can tell you it is mighty frustrating to have to lose the same 20 pounds 3 times in 3 years due to thyroid issues, but I am determined to beat this once and for all. I talked to my doctor and said I was declaring war on the thyroid. As soon as the scale stops cooperating and going up, we are testing my levels ASAP. No more "waiting" or "blaming myself" then "hiding from the scale because it is so darned frustrating!"

Nope. Nada. Nix.

I have worked very hard to lose this weight. I go to the gym 3-5 times a week, I walk and do other exercises when I can't make it to the gym, and I have actively followed the Weight Watcher's Points Plus program. The weight hasn't slid off my bones quickly, but it is coming off. I have a way to go before I will be satisfied, but for now I am thrilled with the results.

Yes. Yup. Uh Huh. I am going to brag about the losses and share my stats.

Since the end of July I have lost the following amounts:

19 pounds!!
5.5 inches off my waist
3.5 inches off my hips
1 inch off my thighs (they were already tiny and as small as they were when I weighed 20 pounds LESS than my current weight)
0 off my arm (I work out regularly. Arm is normal sized)
7 inches off my navel circumference
3 inches off the bust line

I am so happy! I can fit into all my old jeans comfortably and my energy levels are much higher. Now when I work out I don't see the "fat person" in the mirror. I see my old self. A reasonably fit and healthy woman who takes care of herself. I feel like taking on the world and I am so happy my doctor is on board with my battle plan.

I am sharing this with you because if you are over 40, female, and noticing changes in your ability to fight the weight, I know you might not be to blame. Your thyroid might be the cause.

In my case, I have Hashimoto Disease. Hashimoto Disease, the most common autoimmune thyroid problem, is not something you can fight by yourself. So if you feel you are battling these symptoms, then run to your doctor and establish a battle plan for yourself. If you are over 40, your TSH levels should NOT go above 2 or 3. Trust me!! If your doctor is the old school doctor who thinks you should just eat one less cookie and you'll lose weight when that number is over a 3 and you're over 40 years old, then run to another doctor who will listen and work with you.

Other things to consider when trying to stave off the weight and keep the thyroid function good are to avoid white carbs and exercise regularly. Even if you only walk for 30 minutes a day, you'll notice a change in your energy levels.

This isn't about being high school skinny or a size 0 (which is very unhealthy for women going through the change -- a little fat is good). This is about being in good shape and feeling good about yourself as you age.

I'm determined to live well into my old age as a strong, fit, vibrant woman. Are you?

Friday, December 16, 2011

What Happens Next? Why does it Matter? Lessons to Think About

I live in a fictional world where the main question is often "What happens next?" What are the characters doing, where are they doing it, and why are they doing it and does what they are doing matter to them and to the story?

What happens next? Sometimes I don't know. Sometimes I think I know. Sometimes I fool myself about knowing which leads to many revisions. I believe this is because I haven't sat down with my characters and discussed why they are doing what they are doing next. What drives the characters drives the story forward.

More than anything in the past year I have learned that if I play Goddess of My Manuscript, my characters rebel. This means slowing down, looking at what I've written and asking is this really what they are doing next? How do I know for sure? Well, I don't. I just have to write it out, mull it, look at it again, and play with the story until the manuscript gels.

And even then I know that someone will come along a poke holes into what I believe has been the solution all along. First it will be critique partners. Second it will be contest judges. Third it will be editors and agents. And I know I will have to write again. And again. And again.

BUT I do know one thing--I must first write the story as I see it unfold from beginning to end before I make monumental changes to it. I must first revise it at least once before I start sending it out to my critique partners. I need to discover my story before I let other people tell me what the story should be about and mess up my relationship with my characters.

Oh, I can brainstorm. I can call up a CP and tell them I have an idea about a scene in the current WIP and what do you think? They might agree or disagree, but it's called bouncing ideas off someone to see if the ideas can work. There's not point in writing something if it won't work.

I have to be in my characters' heads. I have to think with their thoughts. I have to react as they would react. And I have to do all of this on blank pages by filling them with words. Words I have written to the best of my ability.

So here are my basic rules for writing:

1. Write the first draft for YOU and the CHARACTERS. Don't let anyone TOUCH your story or CRITIQUE IT without knowing it well enough.

2. Brainstorming is a good thing. Bounce ideas off people to see if they will gel with the story regardless of where you are in the process. They'll either be affirmed or not. BUT ultimately, it is YOUR STORY so you must decide how to fix it in the end.

3. Be prepared to MAKE CHANGES after you have completed your manuscript.

4. Even when you think you're finished--even if it you are published and have an editor--be prepared to make MORE CHANGES.

5. In romances CHARACTERS TRUMP EVERYTHING. Write them well, make them jump off the page and YOU WILL GET INTEREST. And then guess what?

6. Be prepared to make changes to YOUR CHARACTERS based on editorial and agent input.

7. Stay with your story and think about it every day so you can be open to the revelations your characters send you when you are in the shower, in the bath, driving long distances, sitting through boring meetings, putting on makeup, cleaning floors. Trust me. If you stay with your story every day, you will find ideas popping into your head at odd times.

8. Judges comments are to be taken with a grain of salt. They are NOT THE FINAL WORD. They CAN BE WRONG. They CAN BE RIGHT. But ultimately, the reason you enter a contest is to get to the FINAL JUDGE--an editor or an agent. I personally have incorporated GOOD COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS into my writing, but NEVER UNTIL I GIVE IT THOUGHT AND TIME.

9. Editors and agents send revise and resubmit letters. It is up to you to decide if they are right about their suggestions. If you decide to Revise and Resubmit, YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING THEY SAY EITHER. They are giving you suggestions based on their instinct and knowledge. BUT ULTIMATELY IT IS UP TO YOUR CHARACTERS TO MOLD THE STORY.


So this is what I have learned. I hope it helps. Happy Writing!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Counting in Life

We're counting all kinds of things in the Glover Household. 

Tonks is counting sleeps till she has her Cone of Shame removed and her stitches taken out. Total left for Tonks before she is liberated is 5 Sleeps. Darling Teen is counting sleeps till school lets out. Total sleeps till she is liberated is 6 Sleeps. I am counting sleeps till the Physicist returns from Germany. Total sleeps till she's hugging her hubby is 6 sleeps. We're all counting sleeps till Santa shows up. Total sleeps till we unwrap the day is 11. 

I'm counting calories and watching the scale numbers. I've lost 19 pounds and hope to lose 1 more pound before the Physicist returns from Germany. Darling Teen is counting calories as well. She's losing weight, too. 

There are a lot of things to do on my lists before Christmas arrives. Lots of counting and checking off the accomplishments. Personal tasks left to accomplish before Christmas are cleaning house, shopping for the holidays, wrapping presents, sending Christmas cards, making our family calendar, making a photo book for a family member, meeting with friends to exchange gifts and spend time together. On the work front I am counting contest entries, writing blogs, story boarding a current WIP, and making decisions about my future as a writer. 

There's a lot of counting. But the most important thing I've learned is that when I am down and out and feeling overwhelmed because the Physicist has been out of the country for 15 days and counting that I count on my friends to pull me up and out of the doldrums.

Who do you count on? 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Survival Guide

I've been a single parent during most of the Christmas season due to darling Physicist being away for massive work in Germany. The teen is fairly self-sufficient, but there are problems that rise up and must be dealt with on an regular basis. It's tough to be a girl in this world and she's not always happy with herself or her looks despite all that I've done to encourage her to be focused on her brains, her talents, her compassionate heart. But of all times for the Physicist to be gone, this one is the hardest. I feel for the military families out there who have loved ones deployed and in dangerous zones. They have it far worse. But pain is, as they say, relative. So how have I survived these past few weeks when I have no family here and I am new to the area--fairly new as I've been here 3 years but it's hard to find new friends.

Here's what I've done to survive a Christmas season without hubby by my side:

*arranged for lots of fun day things to do with my few friends. I've been to Historic Decatur and Historic Albany for a tour and a lovely lunch with a writing friend.
*My weekends are planned for me. I had a great time in Florence on the 2nd as I watched my daughter perform in her theater department's one act play competition. Her cast won Best in Show and is going to Chattanooga, TN in the new year to participate in the Southeast Regional Theater/Trumbauer Competition. Best of all, I got to share this happiness with a new friend and her daughter.
*Another weekend was planned via my writing chapter's Christmas party on the 10th. It was during the day and it was nice to see the people I have missed spending time with due to so many obligations and commitments. The food was nice, too.
*I ordered almost all the Christmas presents from Easy peasy lemon squeasy. I'm wrapping as they arrive. Darling Daughter helped order her dad's presents one night. We sat in the Master Bedroom with Tonks (who is confined to the MBR suite area due to her spaying surgery) and had fun ordering presents.
*I have been working out regularly and taking care of my body. With the Physicist out of town for three weeks, I haven't had to cook much so we're living on Weight Watcher's frozen meals, rotisserie chicken and bananas. I've lost 2.5 pounds since he left on the 30th. I'm happy to announce I've lost a total of 18 pounds!! I am almost at my first major goal -- 10% of the way to my final number. I have 12 more pounds to go to reach my happy number.
*I had my cat spayed during the time he was away. It's easier to stay in the MBR Suite without having to worry about keeping the Physicist company.
*I've scaled back my usual Christmas running around and baking agenda. I made the cards on iPhoto and ordered them with only a four sentence letter inside. I haven't worried about the building of our usual Calendar which we give away and I'm not worrying about the photo book I will make for my mother. I haven't baked or made homemade goodies for the neighborhood, either. This is my year to relax and not do it all.
*I haven't cleaned the house. I just keep up with day to day maintenance.
*I am enjoying my writing and my reading time.

So that's how I am surviving the holiday season without my hubby. How do you survive?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yesterday's News

Tonks got spayed on Monday. We have to use special kitty litter until she is healed--for two weeks. Yesterday's News is recycled newspaper shaped into pellets. Tonks doesn't care for this new litter at all, but she has used it. However, before she figured out that it was a place for her toilet habits, she thought it was either food or a toy. Either way, it wasn't fun seeing it flung about the crate I tried to keep her "quiet and still" in and the bathroom where it all got moved to minus the crate.

The crate didn't help. Sigh.

Ever try to keep a 4 month old curious kitten "still and quiet?" Yah, oxymoron for sure.

So Yesterday's News is working, I've got my baby girl kitty back in the house. All is not "still and quiet" like a Christmas noel, but spaying one's kitten or puppy is the right thing to do if you are a responsible pet owner.

So what's your Yesterday's News?

Monday, December 5, 2011

Airing Dirty Laundry

I've been BICHOK for several days to get ready for the Golden Heart contest run by the Romance Writers of America. I have no idea how any of my entries will do--that's luck of the draw with judging. Not every entry finals but that doesn't mean the entry wasn't excellent. The entries that do final deserve to be there, but this contest is as much a golden lottery to me as a real lottery. So many elements have to be in place. I almost finaled last year, but the statistics weighed against me. This year I stacked the deck with 4 and I hope one might make it through the golden gauntlet. I'll write more about that later--in my letter to all the judges--but I'm happy to say that I am pleased with my growth as a writer and the entries. They're solid contenders and have done well in the past.

Moving on--I took a mini break from ALL writing for a few days. I hung out with a friend and went to the Huntsville Museum of Art. It was lovely. I had a great lunch, viewed some amazing exhibits, and deepened my relationship with a new friend. I also went to the state theater competition to watch my daughter's school drama team perform their one act play--so funny-- and they placed BEST IN SHOW and are going to the regional competition in March 2012 in Chattanooga. I'm looking forward to that trip.

So now I'm sort of back in the chair. I have a few stories to polish, one to really polish, and more to do during the month of December. I am not going to push as hard and work as many hours as I usually do, but I am going to work. At least 100 words a day on the weekends and 2-3 hours of writing during the week.

Meanwhile, I promised to air some dirty laundry on today's blog. Here we go:

1. I am nice to everyone I meet, but I don't like everyone I'm nice to. I've just learned to be nice and keep my opinion private and my attitude in public squeaky clean.

2. Sometimes I want to throw in the towel *cliche alert* and just be a mom, a wife, a friend, a sister. I hate that I am working for quarters and I hate that I am always waiting for someone to determine my fate. It's tough. Really tough. But I don't give up because my stubborn side is stronger than my impatient side. So I'm stubborn.

3. The difference between me and a published author is one phone call or email. I put in the same amount of time and the same effort. I think I am a decent writer and if I had an editor to back me, I'd become a better writer overnight. I respond well to direction. I know plenty of published authors who remember being on my side of the fence and who don't think they're better than me as a person because one day the phone rang and they got a contract. I know of a few, a minority, who do think they can treat me differently because they're published and I'm not. And they are not nice about it at all. Of course, I'm nice to everyone I meet. Even them. *evil grin* Any rate, I am a career writer, not a hobbyist. I take this writing gig very seriously. Ask my friends who want to see me or talk to me when I am in full writing mode. They miss me.

4. I am sad that my husband is out of town for 3 weeks during the holiday season. However, I am not sad that I don't have to cook meals for him. I am living on weight watchers frozen meals for lunch and dinner unless I go out with a friend. I am on a diet. This is good. I lost a pound and a half since he's been gone. Yay!

5. I like my wine. I don't limit myself to one chaste glass or two if I'm feeling wild. I drink however much I please whenever I like after a certain time and if I am in a nice restaurant for lunch I'll *gasp* order a glass of wine to go with my meal. I believe it is the only vice I have left to dump and I'm not dumping it.

6. Being alone has its benefits.

7. I know a lot of people but I don't have many close friends. The friends I have are all super high quality people.

8. I don't like to waste my time with idle chit chat unless I'm with people I don't really know very well. Then I am the Queen of Idle Chit Chat.

9. I am very loyal but if someone betrays me I will sever the relationship. I don't hold grudges, but I won't let anyone stomp all over me or use my vulnerability against me.

10. I am a strong person who has had to fight hard for every thing she's gotten in life, but I don't believe I deserve what I have received. I believe I got lucky and that my God is very good to me. And deep down I am just as scared and vulnerable as the person sitting next to me.

So that's my dirty laundry. What's yours?